Posts Tagged With: fear

A New Venture, A Familiar Fear

sandbox.jpgI’m taking on a new role as an adjunct professor for Dr. John Townsend’s Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Concordia University, Irvine CA. Initially I was thrilled about the opportunity to teach for his Master’s and Certificate programs in Counseling, Organizational Leadership and Executive Coaching. I went through the hiring process, check. I navigated setting up my email and access to the online portal, check. Perused the Online Blackboard and froze in my tracks with fear! I unsuccessfully attempted to navigate this completely unknown program. I couldn’t find the information I needed to tell me how to make sense of everything in front of me. I was supposed to create my own practice-course to prepare for using the program but I couldn’t even figure out step one. That was a few weeks ago. I logged off the system and ignored it. I considered resigning before I had even begun.

Recently, a thought entered my mind: I could call one of my friends who has already been teaching and likely knows how to use Blackboard. I could call the man listed as my contact person for help. I relaxed some as I realized all is not lost. I don’t have to jump ship before weighing anchor. Yesterday I logged back on to the system. I accidentally ended up finding the learning modules but quickly got myself lost again and couldn’t find them. Panic ensued.  “I’ll never be able to do this. What am I thinking? My brain is getting too old for learning new things.” Defeat began to settle in again. Then a small yet courageous voice starting making itself heard in my mind, “You CAN do this. Your brain is NOT too old. Stay with what you know is true right now. This is hard, yes. It is new, yes. Remember you have a few life lines–the help person and your friends. Oh yes, that’s right. I can at least give this a try.”

Before calling my life lines I searched one more time. Low and behold, I found the Instruction Modules. They call it The Sandbox. I think of a sandbox as a fun place to learn. Up to this point the sandbox hasn’t been any fun. I had to find the sandbox. I did it the hard way, on my own. I could have asked for help. I just wanted to see what I could find on my own first before I asked and heard, “The title you are clicking on is the one you will use when you are ready to create your own practice course. The one you need is just below it.”

I like that I figured it out on my own. It took a bit more time and included more frustration but I did it and that feels good. I like that I was freaked out by this unknown world. I don’t want to stay only with the known. I need to keep my 51 year old brain learning new information or I will get stuck.  Fear can do that to us. It can keep us stuck. What do we gain if we stay stuck? Maybe ease in some way at the moment but not down the road. By regularly challenging ourselves and stepping into our fears we keep our brain active by creating new neural pathways, we grow in our confidence and we develop more compassion for others.

It was this new fear that helped me connect more deeply with my clients and those near me who are facing their own fears. I get the fear. I feel it regularly. And I welcome it! I’ve read in several different books to do something everyday that scares me. Something that is bigger than me, something new. Not to torture myself but to stretch and grow my abilities.

Come and join me in the sandbox. You might have to find it first but once you do, it will feel so good to be here.

sandbox.jpg

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Panic or OK? Mind Over Matter!

I had dental work done last week. I generally don’t like going to the dentist. I don’t like poking, scraping, prodding or pain. After the dreaded shot of novocain, the back of my throat felt like it was swelling to the point where I thought I couldn’t breathe. I was not having an allergic reaction but my mind was telling me to panic. I could feel it starting to take over. Then I remembered to think this through. If I didn’t focus on the swelling sensation, I could take a deep breath through my nose. I put my hand on my stomach and began to take slow, easy, relaxing breaths. I told myself, “You can breathe. You are OK.” The swelling sensation was still there but as long as I kept my focus on “You are OK” then I was OK.

human_mindOur mind is so powerful but we don’t often spend time thinking about how much control we actually have over it. It’s a potent weapon that, when unchecked, can cause devastating damage; however, when we learn how to manage its potency we become Jedi masters (not like we can make things move with our mind but you get the reference!). We can stop intrusive, unhealthy thoughts. We can shift our focus from grumbling to appreciation. We can recognize and live out our own freedom. Life is full and rich and satisfying when we use our brain’s influence for us, not against!

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fear or Freedom?

Notre Dame Paris France

Notre Dame in Paris, France with David (my husband), Anna (my daughter) and Sebastian (Norwegian son)

I have returned from my European adventure. I did not want to come home I enjoyed it so much! The irony here is that before I went I did not want to go. That sounds snobbish to me…countless people would love to have the opportunity I had and I was whining about it. I had an attitude problem and it was rooted in fear. Traveling away from home is scary for me. It isn’t paralyzing fear because I go but before I leave I think of all the reasons I shouldn’t be going. I think of better uses for that money, I think I shouldn’t leave my clients for long, I think I shouldn’t give up the chance to make money (when I don’t see clients, I don’t get paid – the pros and cons of the self-employed), I think I shouldn’t put myself in harm’s way, I think I should just stay home and play it safe. Oh my! As one friend recently said, “There’s a lot of crazy in here!”

I believe the crazy thoughts have only as much power as I choose to give them. I got on the plane bogged down with anxiety. The moment I settled into my seat for the long journey over the Atlantic I was at peace and noticed excitement taking root in every cell. I began to think of all the sites we would see, food we eat and people we would meet. The fear vanished and was replaced with the anticipation of a fresh experience canvas being filled in.

Living in the fearful should/shouldn’t zone is life-quenching. It brings with it those nasty bindweeds that strangle joy and freedom. Recognize this when it’s happening to you. Name it for what it is then reclaim your freedom. Remind yourself that life is meant to be lived with depth and richness, with experience and risk, with freedom and joy!

Categories: Acceptance, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Mind: Friend or Foe?

Taking a break from the “I Have A Question” series to remind you about the power of your mind. Most of us, barring any major mental health disorder, can choose what we want to believe. It seems like we don’t but we do…always.

Be aware of your thoughts and notice how they affect your emotions. Emotions follow thoughts. If the thought is negative, the emotion will be, too. For instance, if you make a mistake, then start thinking of every mistake you’ve made and end up in a depressed tailspin, you have chosen to go down an unnecessarily brutal path. Keep your mind focused on the one mistake you just made and use it as an opportunity to learn something. You can be mad but don’t dwell on it for too long.

The dialogue, either audibly or in your head, might sound like this: I totally screwed up the report. Ugh! I am so mad at myself! This is going to take time I don’t have! Ahhhhh! OK, take a deep breath in and out…in and out. Now, what can I do about this and what went wrong? Oh yeah, I didn’t double check my work. I was in a hurry, rushed through it and skipped proofreading. That’s on me. I don’t need to beat myself up over this, that won’t help. Just recognize it and learn from it. Deep breath in and out again…let go of the anger…and move on. I have other things I need to be doing right now and wallowing in this will not help me at all. I am human. I make mistakes. I can learn from my mistakes. Now, I’m going to work on this next task. You will need to repeat this each time the negative thoughts start creeping back in. They are kind of like cockroaches…hard to get rid of but if you’re persistent you will!

If you veer off the path and start recounting every time you screwed up or start telling yourself you are a loser, STOP! That won’t help you one bit. Literally say stop to yourself. Say it aloud if you can and start the above dialogue to get out of the old way. I can tell you from personal experience this works! Every time I use it, I have success and feel so much better. An added benefit is I usually have more clarity and energy to use on productive, life-giving tasks.

The shift is not easy. Meaning it won’t come naturally. We all have many horribly unhelpful neural pathways that are as strong as the fastest highway you can imagine. When we get on this learned neural pathway it seems like it’s a reflex but it isn’t. We learned it over time from a young age. It was likely modeled for us or it’s just part of how we are wired or it’s both. Knowing the origin and working through it can be helpful but you don’t have to in order to change the pathway. Be super intentional. Take this seriously and you will see results!

 

Categories: Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fear is Essential to Growth!

I remember hearing Dr. John Townsend talk about a man he knew who made sure he did something every day that stirred fear in him. He wasn’t looking just to be frightened, not like telling ghost stories, but doing something that put him outside of his comfort zone. Lately, I am noticing that nearly every day I feel fear. I am taking strides to increase the ripples of my work. I genuinely want to help more people than I currently am. Since February I have been working on some secret goals. Someday I’ll tell you what they are, but not yet. I bump up repeatedly against a part of me that is scared out of her pants! Sometimes I freak out and talk myself out of going for it. I’ll say things like, “You can’t do this.” “Who do you think you are?” “No one is going to like it.” And a variety of other lovely self-sabatoging statements. Right now, I’m giggling because I know they are ridiculous. Sure, they could be true but I’m not going to let that stop me because I won’t know if they are true if I don’t try. I would rather go for it and fail than not try at all. At the end of the day, or the end of the self-sabatoge session, I get back to a place of peace knowing I want to go for it despite the risks of failure.

What are you afraid to do? Why? With whom can you talk about your fears? If I tried to go through this experience alone, I’d be a mess! We all need trusted people who can sit with us as we go through life. We especially need them when we want to grow!

Categories: Acceptance, Growth, Recovery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside Out Is Right Side Up

I saw the new Pixar movie, Inside Out with my daughters the other day. They were by far the oldest children with their parents. At 23 and 22 it’s still fun to hang out with them! I thoroughly enjoyed the movie…ok there were a few moments where I thought it was dragging but they had to give us our money’s worth I suppose. So much of what I explain to my clients about the value of all of our emotions was right there on the big screen with color and animation rather than abstractly defined. The movie also clearly displays the importance of sadness in creating healing, connection with others and staying integrated internally.

I think I’ll add watching this movie to my homework assignments! 🙂

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Processing Thoughts and Emotions | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You Always Have A Choice!

Viktor Frankl space choose

What I love about these words from Viktor Frankl is the clear communication that we have a choice. We can choose how we are going to respond or what we are going to think or how we are going to act. Now I know it sometimes doesn’t feel like we have a choice but that is an illusion. Unless you have a diagnosable brain malfunction that makes it literally impossible to choose, you can choose. Viktor Frankl survived being a prisoner at Nazi concentration camps in the 1940’s. I think he knows what he’s talking about. Think about your circumstances, how they seem so awful and you think you don’t have a choice about how you respond. Now think about being in a concentration camp where you literally have no visible choices. Dr. Frankl has communicated to us from real life experience that we always have the ability to choose how we will respond in any circumstance.

What is it that you are facing right now that you think you don’t have a choice? Is it true you don’t have a choice? Do you have to yell at your partner because you are so angry that she won’t listen to you? Do you have to believe you are not enough because that’s the message others have told you? Do you have to go on ruminating on everything you have to do because that’s what you’ve always done? The answer to all three and many more is, No! You get to choose. Right now you can choose to believe that you have value and worth. You do. Simply because you exist, you matter. You can choose a healthier way to communicate your frustration with your partner. You can stop those runaway-train-like thoughts. You really can. I know all of these for a fact because I have done each one.

It seems really hard at first to start choosing and not being a victim to the world around you. Don’t give up. Stay with it. If you find you need help, then reach out for it. You may need a counselor/therapist. Go for it! You have a choice there, too. 🙂

Categories: Boundaries, Emotional Healing, Forgiveness, Growth, Healing, Parent-wounds, Recovery, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Clinging to the Present

At times in our journey through life, it becomes increasingly more difficult to live in the present. We don’t know what is going to happen regarding our health, our finances, our children, or relationships. Much of life is out of our hands, so what do we do? Continue to live in the knowledge of this moment. No matter what is happening. Your boyfriend may be ending his interest in you, your daughter may be moving hundreds of miles away, your bank account may be draining rapidly without much hope of deposits, your job may be on a precarious ledge. We may react to these occurrences with fear or perhaps sadness, and that’s ok. Keep your focus on the emotion connected to the in-the-present situation. It’s sad when a loved one leaves or ends a relationship with us, it’s scary when we aren’t sure how things will work out for us.

Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you can get through this. Talk to good, trusted friends about how you are feeling and ask to be held accountable to not creating stories about how your situation will end. Remember that rearview mirror? You have made it to today. You will make it through the next breath. That is your focus, this breath, this moment.

I’m feeling this right now. My daughter and I are heading back to North Carolina for a check-up. She is not doing well. She has lost 10-15 pounds since we returned home, she is lethargic and not feeling well. She has done what she can to let her transplant coordinator know of her situation without any concern from her. Maybe all is well. I do not know. I can only look at what I see, feel my fear, take a breath and let it go. We will have answers in about a week. I will deal with the answers when we get them. Until then: No stories, feel my fear for a moment then let it go as I take a long, slow deep breath. The God of the universe is in control, I can rest knowing that whatever the answers are, He will help me.

Categories: Depression, Growth, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Freedom from Expectations

I’m having surgery on my foot in a few days.  Several people have asked me if I am nervous about it.  I’m not at the moment.  I think about the surgery now and then.  I remind myself that I will most likely be in a lot of pain for awhile.  I don’t know how long.  I don’t know how intense the pain will be.  I don’t even know if I will come out of the anesthesia.  Chances are I will.  I don’t know if the surgery will solve the pain that is the impetus for the surgery.  So many unknowns before me create a state of curiosity, not fear (most of the time) courtesy of an adventure to Afghanistan in 2010 with a humanitarian organization.  I participated in training prior to our departure to prepare for the cultural differences I would experience.  One of the trainers suggested a technique to help rid our minds of expectations.  The technique was useful as I entered a land and culture completely new to me with a sense of awe but few expectations.  This approach meant I could not be disappointed as I had no idea what to expect.  Each moment filled in the color and shape on my canvas until, at the end, I had a complete picture of my experience that was filled in moment by moment.  Only a small portion needed to be erased and then filled in with reality because reality was the majority of that which existed on the canvas.  It was a powerful lesson.

I have used this technique many times since that adventure.  I teach it to my clients as well.  It is what I call the Blank Canvas approach.   When I have unknown situations approaching I visualize them as a blank canvas, which for me is actually a meadow that has been untouched by human hands.  It has no paths through it, just gently swaying meadow grass, groves of Aspen trees, and high alpine flowers.  The sky is a crisp, rich high altitude blue, with a few wisps of cotton ball clouds in the sky.  It’s the perfect summer day in my sweet Rocky Mountains.  This visualization replaces my fear with peace. It becomes the springboard for any upcoming adventure into the unknown.  It is from this place that I begin my journey into a space I have never travelled and I get to see it unfold before me.  I do not  bulldoze my meadow and fill it in with manmade experiences, rather, I use the meadow scene to bring my mind back to a peaceful state prior to my experience.  As soon as the moment of the new experience starts I shift my mind to simply taking that experience in and letting the pieces fall into place one by one, creating a whole new memory for me.

Back to surgery.  I am focusing on my peaceful meadow.  I’m getting my prescriptions filled, stocking the kitchen with healthy, body nourishing, comfort food (are healthy and comfort an oxymoron when referencing food?), cleaning the house, doing laundry and in general preparing for the days of inactivity ahead of me; all the while not really knowing what I’m going to feel or experience.  There’s a balance between preparation and freedom from expectations.  It’s a precarious and attainable balance.

Categories: Boundaries, Depression, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vulnerability Leads to Freedom

I have mentioned in previous posts about my participation in John Townsend’s Counselor Training Program. I’m with talented people who inspire me to grow. We get down deep into our own issues, letting all parts of ourselves rise to the surface in a sweet dance of vulnerability. I have a history of being a people-pleasing, perfectionistic co-dependent. In December, Dr. Townsend gave us a chance to practice leading a role-play method of group counseling. I really wanted to take a shot at it, but I felt a lot of fear as I blurted out, “I’ll volunteer!” Dr. Townsend sensed my fear and asked me about it. Over the next ten minutes tears streamed down my face while I faced the group and let them know how fearful I was of their judgement and rejection. It was a pivotal moment for me. After hearing authentic affirmations from the group, I dried my tears and bumbled my way through leading Dr. Townsend on a mock role-play. After the initial fear died down, I felt exhilaration coursing through my veins. I got into it and put aside any need for approval. It didn’t matter if i did it “right”. I was totally open to the journey of learning, not the destination of perfection. In that moment I crossed the threshold into freedom. This was one of those experiences that you simply must have for yourself to fully grasp the power of that moment. Some of us get so locked into wondering what others want and trying to please them, that we miss out on actually living our own life. That is not how we must live. For me, freedom was found in opening up with a trusted group and sharing my deeply ingrained fear of rejection. Vulnerability was the path and genuine acceptance of me, flaws and all, was the antidote.

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