Category Archives: theory

acceptance vs resignation

Before I jump into this week’s post, I’d just like to thank you all for reading last week’s post, and for the bunch of comments I received both publically and privately.  I had no idea when I wrote about Leonard that it would impact people so favorably.  I am humbled and more importantly, I am thrilled that a piece of his life touched others.

This next piece is actually something  I wrote a long time ago.  Since I’ve been referring back to it a lot recently, I decided it was time to dust it off.  I hope you find it useful.

 

Many people seem to be confused about the concept  of acceptance.  I often hear them say, if I accept “this” as it is, “it” will never change, and I simply can’t live with the way things are.  Thus, they draw the conclusion that they can’t accept their current lot.  Maybe you’ve said, “if I accept my weight the way it is, I will never get thin.  And I don’t like my body now.”

I find it helpful to make the following distinction.  Acceptance says this is what it is AT THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME.  It doesn’t require that you agree with the circumstance, that you like the circumstance, or that you hope it will always be this way.  It is merely acknowledgment of what is.  And this is the part people really struggle with:  acknowledge it without judgment of the condition being good or bad.  Rather, it is a relinquishment of the past and the present in favor of being where you currently are.  It is only from there that you can objectively determine the appropriate course of action.  Without your energy in the present, you are instead destined to cloud your choices by old habits and patterns and/or future fantasies.

In contrast, resignation is the inclusion of the judgment.  It says, okay, I’ll live with it the way it is, but I don’t like it.  Resignation is a victimization.

Acceptance is the recognition that where you are at this moment is all you can absolutely be sure exists.  It is an affirmation of the here and now which is the only thing you can impact with any real accuracy.  You might argue that if you change A, you can also impact the future of B.  I would agree that while that is likely in many cases, there is no guarantee that the future will occur at all, much less with the certainty that one might try to predict.

On a spiritual level, acceptance is an acknowledgment of what the universe has offered you at this particular moment.  Standing still in acceptance gives you the opportunity to see if there is anything you can learn, about you, about the world, about life.  Resignation doesn’t provide you with the openness to consider these messages.

I hope you will leave me a comment about any insights you have to share on this subject.

 

 

 

 

Do you have any bad habits?

Do you have any bad habits?

Scientists estimate that roughly 40% of the actions people perform each day aren’t actual decisions, but habits. The good news is that habits can be changed if we understand how they work.

Habits are the result of neurological patterns that become “hard wired” in our brain. Once that wiring path is established, we no longer have to engage in thinking about a behavior. It comes naturally to us. Therefore, if we want to change a behavior, we have to do something to “interrupt” the existing circuit.

The circuit, if you will, consists of a couple of static variables. First is the trigger, second is the behavior and third is the reward. My husband often complains that our dog wakes him up in the morning to go outside. There is a trigger, perhaps one of us stirs or daylight breaks through the window. Snickers begins to bump our bed on Ben’s side of the bed as if it was the boat in Jaws and she is a circling shark. And then he goes into the kitchen, opens up the door, lets her outside and feeds her. And that is what we call a double reward. So it has become a habit.

The interesting observation for me in this circuit however, is that if Ben is out of town, I usually have to wake Snickers up. She will be in a deep peaceful sleep much past her usual wake up time. I often have to call her to get her to go outside, and if I don’t put down food (in the garage) she will jump back up the step to go back in the house without even having gone out to go to the bathroom. She has figured out there is no reward in that behavior, and thus ignores the trigger. My boat is safe from dangerous attack. Before you start to think my husband is just a wimpy pushover, I should confess that the kids have me much better trained to provide rewards.

I imagine if we were to look at brain scans of our dog (not something we do with any regularity), we would find a neuropathway (for those with a science background, forgive me if my grasp of this sciency stuff is childlike), that she has a circuit that gets tripped not only by the light coming in or a sound, but it must also have the information available that someone who cares (my husband) is also home and available. So, Ben being home is also a part of the trigger. She may see the same light of day, but the absence of Ben contributes to a fail in providing a strong enough trigger to motivate behavior.

What does this mean in human terms except that we can do it 7 times slower? Well, it means that if you don’t like a particular habit, you’ll need to examine both your triggers and your REWARDS. Habits don’t really go away in the sense that the brain doesn’t “lose or expunge” them, they just become more like abandoned roads. They still exist, but they become the road less traveled so to speak.

Most of us don’t like to give up our rewards. Even ones that stopped making sense to us along the way. Sometimes what started as a reward for one reason has now become a reward in the sense that it gives us a feeling of familiarity or continuity and so we continue to strive for that. So, any attempt to change a habit means to put triggers in place that will still provide a payoff for us. And, the payoff can’t be so far in the future that, its remoteness strips away our will to earn.

 

As is the case with nearly every blog I write, the key to making progress in habit change begins with mindfulness. Habits don’t change when we are rushed, unprepared, and unable to think clearly because we are depleted and or exhausted. Mindfulness means to start first with understanding what you are doing now, why you want to change, creating a plan with accountability and support and THEN implementing behavior.

Have you had any success in changing habits that you would like to share? What helped you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucy

I’d like to tell you a story about Lucy the dog. While married to my first husband, we owned two female German Shorthair pointers. I had not been familiar with the breed prior to owning them, and in fact, was even a little intimidated by their size and muscular build. But I immediately fell in love with them because of their gentle and lovable nature.   Things were great until we decided to add a third dog into our household.

Lucy was the runt of her litter. We selected her in part, because she was so tiny and that seemed initially to only add to her adorableness. She was timid and cuddly and I carried her in my lap the whole ride home in my lap to introduce her to her new family. But almost immediately upon introducing her to the other two “girls”, we saw a side of Lucy we had not yet seen. The tiny little ball of white fur began hissing and snapping at our other two dogs almost like she was possessed. We snatched her up and tried again at different intervals with little success.

Within a day or two we took Lucy to our vet, the same one who had cared for our other dogs and knew us fairly well. Our vet checked Lucy out despite Lucy’s lack of cooperation. Our vet deemed Lucy to have a poor temperament and recommended we take her back to the breeder as soon as possible. We were stunned and confused as to why we had not seen this side of Lucy before.

Not yet willing to give up, we took Lucy to a doggie behaviorist. Yes, I’m still a little embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true. I was grasping at straws about what to do with Lucy. But as it turned out, the behaviorist turned out to be incredibly smart and helpful. She told us that Lucy’s temperament was just fine. The problem as she saw it was that, Lucy was so tiny, that in the presence of two big dogs (who had obviously arrived at the party long before her and knew the routine) Lucy felt frightened and intimidated. And so, she protected herself with the only productive resource she had: hissing and growling. It’s not as if she had the skill to take either of them on in a physical fight. The behaviorist suggested we separate Lucy from the other girls until she got a little bigger and stronger before leaving them together again. We took her advice and ended up in a short time with three dogs who loved being together.

I am often reminded of this story when I work with some people. I especially recall a family from a few years ago. The husband and son viewed their wife and mother as aggressive, bitter and controlling. It was clear when we worked individually, that this woman, not only did not see herself the same, but felt rather helpless in the relationship with the other two. Similarly, a newlywed woman told me recently that, she often feels like a burden to her husband and not worthy of his time, even though he describes their relationship as her not wanting to be around him.

When I hear these types of stories, I am reminded of Lucy. It describes for me that, it is often a sense of helplessness and insignificance that fuels people into behaviors that, come across as powerful and overbearing to others. When we are the recipient of such behavior, we want to shut them down. Unfortunately, that is the very approach that reinforces their starting feeling and spawns more of the behavior from them that we don’t want. It becomes a perpetuating cycle.

The behaviorist suggested we help Lucy become bigger and stronger to feel less intimidated. It’s hard to think of how to find the willingness to do that with/for an individual that feel is already emotionally pummeling you. The key however, is to try and consider that their outward strength, may possibly be a reaction to feeling vulnerability, intimidation or fear. This shift in your thinking doesn’t require that you put them on the couch and psychoanalyze the other person. In fact, you don’t even have to be “right”. By simply shifting how you respond to the other person you interrupt the cycle. When you aren’t resisting, there is no need to keep fighting. I’m not suggesting you lay down and take a beating, but rather, you use the encounter as an opportunity to learn something more about the other person and what is motivating their behavior. Questions like “I can see that you are really upset, can you help me understand how it feels like I may be contributing to that for you? This is an example of Stephen Covey’s “seek first to understand and then to be understood principle. I genuinely believe it’s one of the single most effective tools in developing and maintaining strong communication with another person.

 

If you are reading this on a mobile site, keep paging down for earlier posts.

Justin Bieber gets religion?

 

For an audio version,   please click on the link below:  On a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the end of the message and click on the sound icon.

 

I heard recently that, Justin has reportedly found God, is doing bible study and trying to use that avenue to turn his life around. The skeptic in me thinks Justin is trying to turn his plummeting stardom and likability ratings around- but who am I to judge. And frankly, I hope the skeptic is wrong. Not because of a religious conviction, but because at the end of the day I do firmly believe that the path to change always begins with the decision to do so followed by a single step in a different direction.

This morning I received a text from an old client I haven’t seen in a while. He told me he had been thinking of coming in for a while. I said I was looking forward to seeing him and we set up an appointment. He said I shouldn’t be too excited, because he wasn’t feeling very proud of himself. I don’t know what we have ahead to work on. Frankly, it doesn’t change how I’m feeling. I’m fairly confident that regardless of what he has to present, the fact that he already has an internal feeling that he knows he is behaving in ways he doesn’t feel good about, and is willing to talk about this, is justification for my optimism.

I am often asked if I think people change. My answer is yes. And it’s based on more than the PolyAnna optimism I’ve been charged with at times. While many people don’t change, I believe more often than not, people are capable of change. However, it is unlikely to happen unless there is something more compelling to go towards, or something compelling enough to motivate them to move away from. What qualifies as compelling varies from person to person.

 

From the outside looking in, we tend to view the need for someone else to change as pretty straight forward. Woman beaten by husband- leave him. Husband using alcohol with poor health- Don’t drink. Wife disappearing in emaciation- just eat. Employee losing wife due to overworking- just set boundaries.

I think the important thing to remember is that people don’t develop problematic behaviors in a vacuum because they are attractive or fun. Behavior is meaningful. It serves a purpose. The woman may tolerate the beatings because she is financially or emotionally dependent. The husband may be using alcohol to self-medicate other issues. The emaciated woman may use her body as a way to set boundaries between herself and others that she has been unsuccessful doing any other way and so on. I do not offer these as excuses, but as explanations or as a small glimpse of what might lie under the surface that we do not see in others when we judge.

That said, dysfunctional or maladaptive behavior needs to be addressed. But change in my opinion is a process that occurs over time, not an event from a short term burst of enlightenment. People can have an “aha” moment, feel the heal, and seal it by singing a little Kumbaya during a group hug. But chances are when they return to the mundane routine of their everyday world, the very factors that led to their choice of behavior will still be waiting for them. Real change involves learning how to be different internally even though the environment hasn’t changed.

Change takes work. It requires introspection, objectivity and honesty. It also requires a willingness to tolerate the uneasiness of stepping out of your comfort zone while you wait for something better to grow in its place. It also requires a willingness to fail and start again, sometimes over and over again.

I think I’ll wrap this one up with a little humor with a joke that although corny, does make the point.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one- but the light bulb has to really really want to change.

 

I hope you’ll leave a comment and pass my blog on to someone else suggesting they subscribe!  Thanks for stopping by and Take care.

 

 

Stick em up

For an audio version, click on the link below.  On a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the bottom of the message to click on the sound icon

 

 

 

Many years ago, while married to my ex-husband, we went to the bank to take care of some financial business. We were waiting to talk with someone and they said it would take a little while so we sat down in the lobby and started to wait. After some time passed, I got up and walked across the room to check in with a clerk, putting me about 20 feet away from where my then husband continued waiting.

As I stood near the clerk’s desk I noticed a man walk in. He was wearing a corduroy blazer even though it was summer time. He did not have any remarkable features that made him stand out. He walked up to the teller, and pulled out a shot gun and said out loud “this is a robbery.”

My immediate thought was exactly this:

“Oh, he must have gotten a gun for Christmas and he is showing it to his friend.”

I do not know what was going through the teller’s head, but she was obviously startled and her reactions were slow. Annoyed, the man now yelled in a much sharper tone, “This is a F—ing robbery”. He then turned and yelled to the rest of us to get on the ground face down. It finally registered to me that they were not friends and I quickly complied.

I’ll save you the rest of the detail except to say we were all safe, he was arrested as soon as he walked out the door and all turned out well. I believe the man was convicted. Yes, it was scary for a bit, but I had no resulting trauma and I doubt anyone else did either.

I’ll borrow a quote from Joshua Prager to introduce why I’m sharing this story. “And it was then I understood that no matter how stark the reality,the human being fits it into a narrative that is palatable.”

Let’s go back and look at that a little more closely. It was summer. The man was wearing corduroy. I could have said “no fashion sense” or “wow I bet he is going to get hot”.

He pulled out a gun. People don’t show their guns to friends in banks. And let’s not forget that given it was summer, why would someone be showing a Christmas gift now?

My intention here is not to highlight my mini psychosis. Actually, as strange as the idea sounds, my mind was doing something to keep from going crazy. And I did not do this simply because it was protecting me from potential trauma. This is what the mind does in everyday situations. When information comes to us that we can’t understand, information that, we don’t have a “template” for, our minds translate it into something we do understand. That is what helps us feel connection to whatever is around us.

I had a template for people making bad fashion choices so that created no confusion, I simply ignored that information. But once I saw the gun, I was at a loss. I did not have a template for bank robbery. So my mind tried to make it palatable by choosing Christmas. It was only after the robber yelled, bursting my protective bubble, that I had room for an alternative view, and probably because it kicked in the fight or flight response allowing me to move rather than think.

But here is the important part. As I stated earlier, this is what the brain does. So if I am in a conversation with another person and they are saying something I don’t understand, my brain creates a story that makes more sense to me. And this happens with big and small stories alike.

Someone tells us about a tragedy in their lives. We reduce it down to something more manageable that we can relate to. They feel discounted.

We tell someone about a fantastic experience we just had. They hear it was like their own trip to the grocery store last week and we feel unimportant to them.

Our partner wants us to “listen” to their feelings about a situation and we hear a practical solution that we offer in our own minds.

As the author of a story, we have to become conscious that our audience does not share the same set of templates in their head as we do. That means the responsibility is placed on the author to create as much detail to make it clear to the listener so they don’t have to rely solely on imagination from their vantage point.

As the listener of a story, we have the responsibility of suspending our current knowledge to try and better understand what the author wants from us. To suspend what we think we know in favor of what we might learn. It is when author and listener come together bearing that responsibility with a focus on the other person, the best stories of life are shared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger Blah Blah Blah

For an audio version of today’s post,  click on the link below.

The question is what are we hearing? We all have a tendency to hear the parts that make the most sense to us. We hear the parts that fit in the story we are writing for our lives at the time. This is true when we are having a dialogue with others by the motives we bring. It can also occur between the voices in our own head- the difference between what our eyes experience,  and what our ears hear.

 

Let’s say I really want my husband to take me to Europe this year.

Hubby: Guess what honey, I got my bonus this year. That means we’ll be able to put the new roof on comfortably without touching our savings.

Me: Or take that European vacation we’ve always wanted to

Hubby: I don’t think we can do both.

Me: You’re right, your bonus isn’t that big. We can just wait until next Spring to do the roof with your next bonus.

Hubby, well I was planning on doing the roof this year. I mean Europe isn’t really a necessity, and the roof is important for keeping our investment in the house solid.

Me: You never want to do what I want. I’m just not important to your list of priorities. I’m always last.

Now in case you’re wondering if this is about me, we actually have a new roof on our house and I don’t want to go to Europe. But in the example, the wife hears stuff that simply isn’t in the dialogue and doesn’t hear stuff that is. Unfortunately, if the husband’s motives are pure, he is potentially trying to show his wife her value by making smart money decisions and protecting their investment.

Here is another example:   If I’m writing a story about a great guy who is going to fall in love with me, take care of me forever and grow old with me in the rocking chairs on the porch, then my hearing filter goes like this:

Event                                                                                My filter tells me

He is drinking excessively                                            wow- he just likes to have fun.

He is working at McDonalds                                        he is so humble, titles aren’t what matter

He is yelling at his mom                                               he is a really emotional guy.

And this works the other way too- If my story is I’m a piece of crap and no one values me- my filter works like this:

Event:                                                                                         My filter:

Nancy invited me to go with her and her and         i’ m sure she felt like she had to because

her friends.                                                                                I was standing there

Ginger’s owner believes Ginger is hanging on his every word. Ginger on the other hand, is only hearing the parts that seem relevant to Ginger. And why? Because most likely, Ginger came to the exchange with a motive. In her case, get out of trouble, and get her owner to play fetch with her.

Are you aware of any motives you bring to conversations? If so, think about how they filter what you hear. If the conversations are ones that take place in your own head, think about how your pre-conceived ideas about yourself or what you are doing color what you hear back from yourself in the moment. To be a really good listener, means to be attuned to what the speaker is saying, or present in the moment of what you are observing without past judgment attached.

 

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. Steven Covey

Love me tender

for an audio version of today’s post, please click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone,  you may need to scroll to the bottom to look for the sound icon- you’ll need to come back to the website to leave me a comment!

 

 

If you have been in a relationship for a while, this one is for you. If you are newly in a relationship, this one’s for you. And if you are not in a relationship but hope to be at some point, this one’s for you.

Boy meets girl. Boy is excited about girl. He thinks about calling her and imagines her on the other end of the line happy to hear from him. He feels good. They go out, have some fun. He goes home, thinks about her and feels good a while longer. Repeat, repeat, repeat.   He picks a daisy for her and brings it to her. She smiles. He feels good.   He leaves a little origami bird on her windshield. He tells her things he hasn’t told other people. He is a happy camper.

Girl meets boy. Girl is excited about boy. She waits hoping he will call, thinking about everything they talked about. He calls and she is happy. They go out, have some fun. Repeat Repeat repeat. She gets to know his preferences. She cooks a meal for him. He likes it. She is happy. She knits him a sweater, thinking with every stitch how happy she is to have found him.

Boy and girl get married. Its good. They have kids. Its better. And then… its not. He has more demands at work. Boy comes to girl looking for relief from the outside world. Girl has been taking care of kids all day. Taking care of boy is not the next thing on her agenda. She wishes he would notice her workload and help out. Frustrated, she zones out, maybe a glass of wine, and a couple of hours of bad TV. After a bit, he stops looking towards her and instead gets lost in hours of internet surfacing to relieve his stress. She wakes up from her numb and sees only that he ignores her every evening.

Inevitable? I don’t think so. Maybe they didn’t have a good foundation. Maybe they weren’t ready to get married. Maybe a bunch of things.

Or maybe something much more simple. When I work with couples, I frequently use an exercise that I borrow from Harville Hendrix who wrote “getting the love you want”. It goes simply like this:

This week do something nice for your partner. Even if you don’t like your partner very much. Do something that you know would make them happy.

Often people will initially resist because they don’t feel warm and fuzzy about the other guy (or gal). But the real target of the exercise is the doer-not the receiver. Because it works like this: when we think on our own about doing something for someone that we know is going to make him or her happy, we have a good feeling about OURSELVES during the anticipating. We like ourselves because we feel powerful and/or effective in knowing that we have the ability or creativity to impact another person in a meaningful way. We fast forward our mind to anticipate the other person enjoying our efforts. We make our selves feel good.

Unfortunately, many of us get settled into a relationship and we stop thinking about how we can make the other person feel good, and instead begin expecting them to meet our needs, usually leaving us disappointed, or even disillusioned. But the real tragedy is that we lose a vital part of ourselves in the process. It is the part of us that we ignited to make our own self feel good and effective. We blame the sense of loss on a shortfall of the other person. Some partners confuse “completing a checklist of tasks assigned by our partner to avoid getting in trouble” as trying to make the other happy. While that may avoid an argument, it does little to make us feel good about ourselves, because there is no “original thought from within to promote feeling good about our own nature—- except compliance which doesn’t have much gusto.

Let me make the argument another way. When we have a new baby (or a puppy), we love it immediately. It hasn’t yet done anything to deserve that love except show up. We don’t really know its personality or potential yet, but we bestow good feelings on to it. We voluntarily make a huge deposit into an emotional bank account that, has their name on the title, and see them as rich—- even though its with our emotional money.

So, if you are a boy, or a girl who isn’t feeling quite so yummy about your relationship, I want to challenge you. When is the last time that you made a deposit in the bank of your partner? Not for his or her benefit, but so that you can feel rich yourself? That’s what you did in the beginning. When our boy made the origami bird, he imagined himself as effective and it felt good. When our girl knitted the sweater she felt significant to another person, long before he knew the sweater existed, or she saw it worn. They weren’t waiting for the thank you certificate to arrive before the feeling good started. We have the capacity within us to feel good about ourselves and our connection to another, long before the receiver of our efforts acknowledges them. In fact, their acknowledgment is only icing on the cake. Don’t make it the cake or the reason to do something.

If you are still new in a relationship or aren’t yet in one, then consider this for future reference. There is a saying “a smart man knows that the things it took to get a woman, are the same ones needed to keep her”. I would suggest that smart partners know that the part of yourself you engaged and enjoyed when you begin a meaningful relationship needs to be nurtured by you throughout the relationship if you want to continue feeling satisfied. That responsibility remains with you, not your partner.

 

 

 

 

not all who wander are lost- but some of us do need directions

For an audio version of this post click here. On smart phones, you may need to scroll to the end of your email message and look for the little sound icon and click on that. I would also appreciate any comments about how well (or not) the audio option is working.

 

 

I used to be a somewhat serious student of yoga. I realize that some of you who know me may find this hard to believe, but it’s actually true. One of the things I most appreciated about yoga was a lesson I learned not about a particular posture, but about the philosophy of yoga. Rather, that yoga IS in and of itself a philosophy.

When you put your body into some contorted posture, you are purposefully (with intention) causing your body to have stress or tension. You hold that tension to increase your awareness of the tension and notice the nuances of your muscles under that stress. (which if you’re out of shape like I am these days, doesn’t take long for that awareness to become front and center in your brain).

Once you have established that the only thing you can now think about is that your are experiencing that tension, the next step is to round up all of your internal resources to try and calm the tension. THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE RELEASING THE POSTURE. At least not yet.

It means you use your focus and your breath in harmony to try and ease the tension. For example, you might try and inhale the image of a soothing light into the tension, and exhale away pain. Use whatever imagery or thoughts work for you keeping the goal of making your breath the power or the tool of your brain to ease your discomfort. Stay in the moment of what is happening in your body right now and deal with only that.

When either you’ve gone as far as you can, or you’ve had some success, release the posture. If you didn’t achieve your goal, try it again later, but try to go a little longer than you did before.

So that is what you do in Yoga on the mat.

But as a philosophy, you have to take the yoga off the mat and it works something like this:

I’m standing in a long line at the grocery store. Or let’s up the stakes a bit. I’m standing in a long line at Hobby Lobby. The tension is mounting. I’m thinking I need to get home, I have stuff to do. I fold my arms across my chest and jut my hip out to one side to indicate to all around me that I am not happy to be sitting in this line once again. My face shows frustration.

Time for yoga.

No it does not mean to drop my packages and go into a tree pose or a downward dog.

But what is happening in that moment is that I’ve left the line. I’m thinking about where I want to be next rather than where I am right now and what is happening as a result of where I am right now.

So to start yoga (philosophy) at this point, I first need to relax my body a little. Uncross the arms, stand up straight.

And then, just like above, I start using my breath to go in and heal any remaining tension. I focus on where I am right here right now.

The magic of focusing on your breath is this: You cannot think of two things simultaneously. When you are focused on the breath, you can’t think about tonight’s dinner or the clothes you left in the washer or how bad traffic is going to be. Those are “not here”. The breath is “here”.

Why is it important to be “here” over being “not here”. Because regardless of where your brain wanders, your body remains “here”. And if you don’t attend to it with the presence of your brain, you leave yourself at risk. It’s kind of like a headless man running around trying to find his way around a crowded room.

When you stay present with your mind, you keep your “head on” making it much easier to navigate which direction you are trying to go towards. You can address the obstacles that come into view in real time, rather than having to deal with the after effects caused by bumping into stuff you didn’t plan on. Think of it like this, You are walking in a room with awareness and you notice the rug is crumpled. Because of the awareness, you notice the crumple, and walk around it or bend down and straighten it out before passing. Without the awareness (because you are instead thinking about where you are ultimately going), you trip over the rug, fall and hit your head. Now you have to stop, prolonging your journey and attend to the bump on your head.

In the next blog I’ll extend this to meditation. And let me tease you by saying that I have always thought probably far worse and boring things about meditation than you might conjure up at its very mention. So try and keep an open mind and check back for Sunday’s post. I promise no caffeine will be necessary to keep you awake through it and you won’t be asked to sit on a small cushion for 3 hours chanting “om”

 

 

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle
– This blog is a little more for folks on the coaching side, although frankly I think its useful for anyone.
I’d like to introduce you to Simon Sinek. Simon is a human motivation author. His TED talk regarding the Golden Circle is one of the most watched TED talks to date. But before I go further, let me not assume everyone knows what a TED talk is.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It is a series of talks 15-30 minutes long that are available on the internet for anyone to watch. They come from diverse industries and disciplines. You can also access the free TED app on a smart phone and be notified when a new talk is posted.
So back to Simon and the Golden Circle. Simon takes you on a journey to understand the different motivations of individuals when they try to attain a goal. According to his theory, most people start with what they want to do and how they are going to do it, but can’t always articulate why. Sinek says that truly successful individuals/companies start with Why. He says people buy why you do something.  (Buying doesn’t simply mean a purchase, but also includes, getting on board with what you feel is important).

For me personally, I loved this concept because understanding WHY I am a therapist is pretty easy for me to think about. I’m curious about people and the processes we use. I love the stories and the meanings of the stories people use to navigate their lives. I believe my primary role as a therapist is to interpret those stories, sometimes to add in new context or change the timing. And ultimately to help my clients to feel like they are their own authors, have a sense of agency, rather than simply playing a role that someone else has written for them.

I’ll let Sinek convince you-  the link for that video is here: (Click on the words The golden circle).

The Golden Circle

Another excerpt part 2

As promised, this entry includes a diagram to help illustrate the practical application of the theoretical concepts I described in the previous blog entry.

 

This diagram is by no means intended to be complete or universal, although some of the items listed actually are fairly universal.

 

Remember, our infant in the crib experiences an overwhelming sense of panic (annihilation) and screams.  Our current self can experience a reactivation of those feelings, or “wake up” or engage that infant self, by events happening in the here and now.  For example, maybe a friend doesn’t call me and I was expecting, even counting on hearing from them today.  Perhaps it activates old feelings of abandonment or shame.

Even though I can feel the emotions of my young child self or even infant self, the adult in me won’t allow me to start screaming in the room, because I know there will be consequences of behaving inappropriately.

 

So I turn to act out the frustration by using something.  In the earlier blog I used food.  It could also be alcohol, drugs, sex, overwork etc.  The symptom language can change but the concept is consistent.  My sense of self has disintegrated or fragmented here by having my multiple “parts” competing with each other.

Recovery or healthier living is based largely on the concept of healing that split and having the parts work together more cohesively.  This requires that my adult part work on behalf of my child parts.  It also requires that my child parts feel safe enough to inform my adult parts accurately.

I have listed out some basic categories of self care.  These are colored orange.  What you choose to prioritize may be somewhat different and so I have created purple spots that are blank to show that more items could be added in to complete this picture.  Other suggestions might be family, pets,  spirituality or finances to name a few.

I worked through the diagram for some, but not all of the orange categories.  Had I worked through them all, I would have drawn a green and a yellow box for each as I did for the completed ones.

The green boxes indicate how the orange item is helpful to the adult part of me.  The yellow boxes signify how the same action is helpful to the child part.  They can sometimes overlap.  The key differences, however is that the adult part usually benefits from the literal result of the category, while the child self, benefits from the symbolic or relationship securing aspect of the act.  It’s more about security or safety and reassurance from our child self.

 

I hope this illustrates why someone might read a self help book- feel better for a bit and then abandon a healthy choice even though it rationally seems like a good practice.  Usually it’s because they are trying to appeal only to their adult self, while still ignoring the needs of the child part within.  So, it’s not simply the act of “doing” the types of things listed, but making a commitment to the child self about why you are committing and then applying the consistency of follow through.

“I’m choosing good relationships because I want you to see how terrific of a person you are reflected back to you.

“I’m going to try starting the day with an affirmation so that I’m in the right frame of mind to take good care of the value that is you today.

“I’m going to try and maintain this schedule of structure so you will know that I’m going to be available and not too scattered all day long to hear your needs.

 

These are only a couple of examples to illustrate this internal dialogue that needs to accompany the actions.

 

I hope this is clear and useful.. I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions for clarification.  Clicking on the picture should enlarge it for clarity.

blog entry jpg

 

another excerpt

Another excerpt:

Although this came from a session revolving around eating disorders, the reality is it is far more universal.  Therefore, I’m going to try and make this more generic, and a little more theory based.  Keep in mind, however, this is an excerpt, and is therefore, an abbreviated explanation.

 

The precipitating idea for this discussion was fear.  Specifically, it was the underlying fear that resulted in someone choosing a binge.  I pressed, as I often do with the questions, then what… then what… and so on.  Usually that takes us to the point where a person has no more words- just an awful feeling.  (nice of me isn’t it?)

But I’m not sadistic- that stage, most often, I believe is representative of a very primal fear.  It is the fear of what the literature calls “annihilation”.  Simply stated, the infant isn’t capable of thoughts like “gee, if mom doesn’t get back here soon with something to eat I’ll just die”.  Rather, it’s a cease to exist- which generates a terror that we all know from watching an infant as a “blood curdling scream”.    As we grow, we learn to suppress the urge for one of those screams, or to be more accurate, suppress the scream.  However, the urge can come out in a myriad of ways that look like an automatic or even compulsively driven urge towards an addictive or bad habit, even when our “adult mind” is unsuccessfully saying stop.

We choose the behavior as a way to soothe that primal tension even though it is present for us in our subconscious rather than conscious mind.

Conscious level:   I had a bad day at work-à I feel tense and uneasyà I reach for M &M’sà I feel calm.

Uncs. Level1:  I had a bad day at workà I feel anxious- what will happen to me, what if I lose my job or do something awful, what if I can’t provide for myself, how will I live, what will become of me,

Uncs. Level 2 (deeper still):  I am a tiny little being unable to provide for myself and dependent on a world/system/mother that is not here to soothe me-à  I will cease to exist.

But now that we are in fact, NOT an infant—we reach for something to soothe that feeling before it can reach our conscious level, and because it has become automatic for us.

When we later try and analyze what has happen it may sound something like this:

I had a bad day at work-à I felt tense and uneasyà I ate M &M’sà, but I don’t know why I keep doing that.  Sure, they tasted good at first, but then I wasn’t really tasting them, I was just shoveling them in until I felt sick and I wished I hadn’t done that.

This illustrates the circular nature of the unconscious addictive pattern:  I feel bad—I do something to feel better in the moment— that something makes me feel better for a moment, but then much worse for much longer— I feel bad—repeat-

 

How does therapy help?

Therapy helps primarily in three ways.   First, therapy is a place to identify the pattern, and illuminate the context in which, the terror (or fear of annihilation) originated.

Second, therapy is a place to strategize new coping skills, practice them and evaluate their effectiveness.

Third, and most importantly, the relationship that develops between the client and the therapist fosters confidence for the client which begins towards the therapist, and then is transferred to the client’s own internal voice.  Once secured, the client can rely on that internal voice to guide, and more importantly, soothe themselves.

Stay tuned- In my next post I will provide you with a diagram to help illustrate this content more clearly, as well as, provide you with a practical application of this theoretical concept.