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You can check out any time you like… but you can never leave (The Eagles, Hotel California)

People keep asking me if I am still writing my blog.  I tell them yes, but only in my head.  I have written some really good stuff there, but it seems that none of it has made it on to the screen.  So when I was asked again yesterday, I decided I would give it a shot and see what comes out.  Here goes:

I have a few regular sayings.  You may have heard some of them.  One of them is “Therapy is supposed to make you feel better, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen today”.  I usually pull that one out when someone is in a really tough spot and I have no great fix all answer, or I have to deliver news to them that they would rather not hear.  Yesterday was that kind of day.

I sat with a young woman whose life is breaking apart from all that is familiar to her.  It’s painful.  I told her life is painful when you do dumb stuff and screw it up and then have to face hard consequences.  But it’s harder still when you feel like you’ve played by the rules, worked hard, and done it “the right way” and it still doesn’t turn out like its “supposed” to.  It seems unfair.  It seems brutal.  It seems pointless to keep trying.  Most people have this experience at one point or another.  Some people seem to have it at a level of unbearable frequency or intensity. 

So how does one find the energy, motivation, hope, courage or perhaps blind faith to pick themselves up and keep going?  Not everyone does.  Some people give up.  They end their lives.  And some people keep physically alive but they shut down to a level in which they merely exist, waiting for their time to on earth to come to an end.  Sometimes the latter is facilitated with an addiction that keeps one so numb, they are no longer aware of their original pain, but become embroiled with the pain caused by the addiction itself instead.

People in the throes of despair usually feel alone in a private hell believing that not only is their pain too great to bear, but that they are in a hole where no one else can or cares to reach for them.  They feel certain that ending or giving up is personal and won’t really matter to anyone else.  And that even if it does, another’s concern or misery will be short lived and forgotten sooner than later.

As Wally Lamb says “This much I know is true”.  I can only speak from my own experience, both my personal reactions and the stories told to me over the years.  There is a blue plaid teddy bear that sits on the bookcase in my office.  It was a gift I gave to a client many years ago.  It was returned to me a few years ago by her sister after my former client committed suicide.  In the time I had seen her she contemplated it many times and we always managed to talk it through.  When she was in despair, she always told me no one would remember her.  A few years after we finished our work, I learned she had taken her life.  I still remember her.  I don’t need the bear on my shelf to remind me but I keep it there as if to keep some part of her alive and to bear witness to her pain.  When she left, she may have ended her pain.  I hope so, but she also deprived the world of something good and strong, smart and creative, capable and wise in ways she didn’t know and didn’t live long enough to prove to herself.  And most of all, she left the potential of joys not yet known.

Last week I saw a different young woman.  I met her a couple of years ago and after only a couple of sessions with me she made a very real suicide attempt that she survived only by the grace of God.  Today that same woman is getting married soon; to a man that is her best friend.  She has a job she likes and hopes to have a family.  All of these are things she could not imagine when she was in despair.  Had her suicide attempt been successful, her best friend would be looking to a different kind of life ahead.  Her children would have no chance to be born.  Her mother would still be experiencing an unbearable grief and trying to remember how to answer the question “How many children do you have?”

Agreeing to try again provides no guarantee that you will win the prize.  It provides no promise that things will not get worse again.  Trying again only means that you fully accept being human and to fulfill the contract of being here to do whatever it is you are supposed to do, even when you aren’t sure what that is.  Just as your mind takes in a million marketing and social cues everyday unconsciously, so too does it take in interactions as small as a nod or a smile.  You may never know how you being where you are at any given moment affects another person and helps them get along more easily in the world.

So just as therapy doesn’t always make you “feel better” the moment you want it too, this blog, long awaited by some, won’t likely provide the “feel good” message they may have hoped for.  But I hope it will touch just one person who thinks trying again, doesn’t make sense.  More importantly, I hope it will touch people who are in a good place to use some of their grace by looking a little bit longer at the stranger who may be struggling and ready to give up and offer them a smile or an act of kindness.  There are so many ways to do this with so little effort on our part. 

When I drive through the McDonalds (yes I’m admitting this) in Eureka, the person who takes the money hands out a dog treat when I have my dog in the car.  She has done this for a couple of years.  I tried to give the manager some money to go towards the treat fund assuming the employee was paying for this with her own money.  The manager informed me that a gentleman who lost his own dog supplies the branch with treats and makes sure they never run out.  I’ll never meet him.  And it’s not that my dog can only get a treat if she goes to McDonalds.  But the act warms my heart and reminds me that there is goodness in the world and that we always have a choice to turn pain into something productive.

On a final note, I now have “What would Mary Say” bracelets.  Yes, for those of you who enjoy remembering some of the things I say or more realistically, they serve as a reminder to listen to yourself the way I listen to you, stop on by my office for yours.  They are silicone bands (like the Lance Armstrong livestrong).  If you are an out of towner, send me a note. 

And finally, I have a favor to request.  I am trying to be more mindful that we now live in the age of technology and that I should actually join that movement.  If you have something positive to say, I would appreciate a review at Healthgrades.com
If you have something not so favorable to say, I hope you’ll write that to me and give me the opportunity to address it first.

Life’s a Pain


I’m back in the saddle so to speak.  I still have a gimpy arm, but I’m managing pretty darn well and seem to have had the good fortune of having had a lot less pain than most people with this experience.  It’s still a process that will take a few more months to have a “normal” arm.  The rest of me will likely never get there.
In my down time I received so many beautiful notes from many of you.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart and I mean that with all humility and sincerity.  Your notes and calls lead me tot the realization that I will likely never retire.  I am so blessed to have a job I love so much.  Thank you.  Thank you.

As many of you know, I keep a write board on my waiting room wall.  The current quote on that board is “If you aren’t willing to change, don’t expect your life to”.

So often, we think about changes we want to have occur in our life but unfortunately we don’t connect the realization that we are the ones who actually have to take step by step actions in order to make those changes occur.  Even if we do get that far, many of us would like to take the action once or twice, for maybe a week, but certainly not from here on out!.  We want to diet for a day and lose 50 lbs.  Quit drinking for a month and be “over it”.  Or, we want to send out a resume and have a great job land in our lap.  We might date the same type of person over and over, and believe he or she will change “this time”.

Last week I heard myself saying to someone “The illusion of comfort you feel right now is preferable to the pain you will feel if you make a change.

Make no mistake.  Change often brings discomfort if not all out pain.  Often, our perception and anticipation of that pain is magnified in our minds and we believe we can avoid it by not embarking on that change.  We make a mental pro and con list in our head and determine that the comfort we get in this moment (pre change) is not so bad.  Heck, it might even feel good IN THIS MOMENT.  But we miss that it may be costing us a hefty price by continuing the status quo.  

 Continuing to spend what we can’t afford because obtaining an item makes us happy, doesn’t take into account the pain when the credit card comes and we can’t pay the balance.  But in the moment of putting those goods in our shopping cart, we maintain the illusion of our current comfort and don’t want to feel the pain of not going home with our goodies.
Continuing a relationship that is not good for us may feel preferable to the thought of ending and having hurt feelings to consider.  But what about the pain of missing out on a relationship that might be better for us?

I notice this within myself when I want to avoid my “painful” therapy exercises on my arm at a time that I feel completely comfortable doing something else

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.   But not doing them means my arm fails to strengthen and the process goes on longer than it needs to creating far more pain.

Pain is part of living.  The sooner we come to terms with that and stop trying to run, hide or dress it up in lies for ourselves, the sooner we become able to stay in the moment of our present lives.

Beauty and The Beast

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I had an encounter recently that was reminiscent of many I’ve had over the course of my career.  I’m going to describe it as pertaining to a woman, but there are male versions that come to mind as well.   It goes something like this.  I’m sitting with a young woman in her mid 20’s to mid 30’s.  It’s a beautiful, accomplished, smart woman with a lovely disposition.  And she is telling me about her low self confidence, esteem, unattractiveness and perhaps even a lack of merit.  The Beauty and her Beast.

Her beast is the version of herself that lives inside telling her everything that is not only not okay with her, but is the opposite version of what most of us on the outside believe we are seeing when we look at her.  We may seem kind, encouraging and may even believe we have empirical evidence when we try to contradict her Beast, but we are often no match.  The Beast has held her captive for quite some time.

What about those of us who aren’t strikingly beautiful, don’t have stellar credentials, or won’t get invited to Mensa?  How are we supposed to feel great about ourselves when the people we aspire to emulate still don’t get to feel that they are even near the finish line?  Does that mean OUR Beasts are real or justified?

I think not.  I think part of the human condition is that we are a constant work in progress and because of that, we never feel “ready” or complete.  There is some merit to that idea, as it is a motivator towards expanding ourselves.  But how about evaluating the incompletion simply as a stage rather than a judgement?  When I bake brownies, I know that at the half way point they are simply not done rather than flawed and incapable of reaching optimal tastiness.

One of my favorite children’s books is called “There’s a Nightmare in My Closet.  The little boy who is afraid of the nightmare in his closet discovers that his nightmare is equally afraid of him and he has to ultimately comfort the nightmare.  Perhaps our beast is really just an untamed, part of ourselves who may even have been unjustly wounded a long time ago rather than an abusive dictator to whom we must submit.  Maybe we could see our Beast as perhaps uneducated, or lost in an earlier time.  Maybe our Beast is really a product of collective voices that no longer fit in the world we now live within.  Or maybe our Beast is just a scared part of us that needs to be comforted so it will stop being a bully.

Either way, it becomes increasingly clear to me that achieving something on the outside is not what will make us feel better, ready, richer, happier.  We are who we are, and while we hopefully will continue to grow and evolve until our last breath, the state of feeling enough is ours simply for the price of deciding it is so.  Beasts need not apply.

 

 

new audio versions of old posts are now here


Hi audio listeners:

Yesterday I added audio versions to many of the previous blogs.  If you are predominantly a reader- ignore this post-

if you prefer the audio version, the grid below tells you which of all posts to date contain audio.   (you’ll need to go back to the website to hear them)   http://www.drmaryphd.com/blog

Some simply aren’t conducive to an audio format.  This grid is also a helpful tool for passing some on (hint hint)

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.

happy day!

mary

Blog title date published audio avail theme
Aint misbehavin or are they 6/8/2014 Yes what to do when you don’t like how someone else behaves
Mexican fisherman meets MBA 6/4/2014 Yes forgetting to live while you earn a living
Not all who wander pt 2 6/1/2014 no calling your thoughts back to center
Not all who wander are lost 5/28/2014 yes calling your thoughts back to center
Falling forward 5/25/2014 Yes making mistakes
Drum roll please 5/22/2014 no announcement
Can you tell me how to sleep 5/21/2014 yes following your own voice
The Golden Circle 5/18/2014 no coaching- defining your niche
Do one thing 5/14/2014 Yes motivation to get started
Response to a comment- places that scare 5/11/2014 Yes response to a comment about fear
Happy Easter 4/20/2014 no holiday greeting
Another excerpt pt 2 4/16/2014 no notes from a session
another excerpt 4/14/2014 no notes from a session
grrr 4/9/2014 Yes when the kid part of us didn’t get their way
quiet time 4/5/2014 Yes reflecting on what is good
Run to Nebraska 2/4/2014 no movie review/fathers and sons
Flying High 3/29/2014 Yes dreams, fear of success
Deep Waters 3/26/2014 yes fear
Kids vs Dogs 3/23/2014 Yes pet loss, unconditional love
If you give a kid an ipad 3/18/2014 no book announcement
Burning the boats pt 3 3/16/2014 no letting go
Looking for Dinghys 3/12/2014 Yes letting go
Burning the ships 3/9/2014 no letting go
Never Can say goodbye 3/5/2014 yes loss and aging
Everybody’s sad 3/2/2014 no mindfulness
What a difference a day 2/16/2014 Yes gratitude
excerpts from a session pt 1 2/19/2014 Yes session notes on fear
selling the drama 2/17/2014 no culture chaos
iphone apps 2/12/2014 no app recommendations
eclectic or chaotic 2/10/2014 no mindfulness
couldn’t have said it better 2/5/2014 no mindfulness
my favorite stories 2/4/2014 no website update
another one bites the dust 2/3/2014 no stars who overdose
where does the time go 1/19/2014 no quick passage of time
toilet paper up or down 4/23/2014 yes compromise in relationship
hear an angel there an angel 5/7/2014 yes reflection and mindfulness
is it always about me 5/5/2014 yes not taking things personally
crash 4/30/2014 yes mindfulness
the places that scare you 4/27/2014 yes taking risks

 

Response to a comment to an earlier post: The Places That Scare You:


for an audio version of this post,  click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may have to scroll to the end of the post and look for the sound icon

 

Someone posted the following comment to the posting “the places that scare you”

ok, I read this three times now & understand where u r coming from in this process, but it still keeps coming back to me, how does one know where this place is or even how to get there.? This one seemed a bit confusing to me. I sense that maybe because it is a real issue with me where food is concerned, as I do believe its a control issue of mind over body equals sabotage. Are fear & sabotage one in the same? While this article is real in facts, it is confusing in where to start, at the beginning or the end.

Let me try and tackle this:

How does one know where this place is or even how to get there?

—- since the commenter wrote that their issue is food, I would say when you find yourself thinking about or eating food and you aren’t hungry, you are probably contemplating a visit to one of the “places that scare you”. You have a built in radar system that says “uh oh— danger ahead” and it’s called food thoughts.

For someone without food issues, it might be drinking, working, working out, shutting down or a whole host of other behaviors.

Are fear and sabotage one in the same? Not exactly. Sabotage is a behavior, fear is the emotion that drives the behavior. Sabotage is the inner self (or child self) attempting to reach safety by shutting down what it fears will become overwhelming. The adult uses the word sabotage because the behavior seems irrational or unwanted. But the child self is in protection mode- it will use anything that works

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. It’s not as articulate as our adult self- its methods are more primitive.

Attempting to control mind over body equals sabotage. I agree—actually I would extend that to say control period- often leads to failure. This isn’t a test of will. It’s a test of willingness. Lauren Slater writes an excellent piece in her book “LYING” about the difference between will and willingness. This is one of those areas where willingness to go into those places and sit through them is required. Not willingness to avoid something or someone. It’s a paradox like many things. The more you try and control, the less you have… and once you let go (not the same as give up), the fight against you also subsides.

With regards to the order of the process. Let me try and address that by coming full circle. You start with a commitment to yourself that, you are working on willingness to not let fear stop you. Then you wait for about 3.2 seconds for the universe to hand you a situation in which your fear will be summoned forward. You’ll notice it by your desire to immediately run to familiar behaviors (in this case food)… and you do

N O T H I N G

For as long as you can. You let it ebb and flow around you and you just notice- notice what happens if you DON’T eat. Does the situation you were afraid of beat you down? Does it make you cry? Does it kill you? Probably not. Whatever happens will happen…. Whether you eat in the face of it or you don’t. Because other than hunger, food doesn’t fix a lot of other things.

I hope that clarifies it a bit…. I so appreciate this and every comment. And most of all I appreciate that you take your time to read the posts.

 

 

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.

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Flying High


for an audio version of this post, click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may have to scroll to the end of the post and look for the sound icon

 

In my 20’s and 30’s I had a recurring dream that went like this:  I was riding a bicycle and enjoying myself.  Then all of the sudden the bike began to lift off of the ground.  I was marginally startled at first, but I got excited pretty quickly.  As I began to go higher I got more excited.  Then I saw that I was above the treetops.  I looked down, realized how high I was and got scared.   I wanted to figure out how to get back to the ground safely.  That’s where the dream ended every time.

I’ve been an active dreamer as far back as I can remember.  There are probably about 4 or 5 dreams that I can remember as recurring, the above description being one of them.  I often figure things out through my dreams and usually once I do, a recurring one will disappear.  That is what happened to the one I described.

The dream for me was about fear of success.  It’s easy to talk about fear of failure- duh who wants to fail?  But talk about your fear of success and people look at you like you’re some kind of drama queen or searching for a compliment.  “Oh gee poor you, you’re just so burdened with all of your success”.  But fear of success, at least not for me, or other’s I’ve counseled,  born out of some twisted sense of guilt or ego.  It’s about not knowing how to handle the responsibility that comes with success, not feeling legitimate for success and/or not knowing having the confidence to keep it going.  Sometimes fear of success is about not wanting to become a target, or even about loss of familiar patterns, people or environments.  Ask anyone who has ever had a significant reversal of fortune.  The world they knew no longer treats them the same way.  Ask a person with long term sobriety how many friends they had to walk away from, or who walked away from them

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But for me the fear of success had much more to do with my own sense of unsureness.  I am the youngest of 6 children.  No one in my family went beyond high school.  The notion that I wanted to do something more with my life gave me both hope and anxiety.  No one told me I couldn’t pursue higher education, but some told me I shouldn’t.  It’s not that anyone was attempting to be mean, they just couldn’t see the benefit of the path I wanted to move towards.  And they were right.  From where they sat, they had no knowledge of the path I was embarking upon.

So I went forward.  I took a leap.  But it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing all of the way.  It was much more like the dream.  It would start with a little smooth sailing, followed by a burst of fear that, led me to want to figure out how to get back on the ground, then waking up and starting all over again.

So when did I hit the success?  A bunch of times, not actually and I can’t really remember when.  It was a success to finish college at 28.  It was a success to finish my doctorate.  It was a success to wake up this morning with all of my limbs intact and still working reasonably well.   It’s a success when I find my car keys on the 2nd try.  What I’ve learned is that success isn’t the achievement of some event.  Success, not unlike happiness, is a state of mind.  It’s a belief that you are doing what feels right to you when it feels right to you.  And it lasts longer than a minute at a time, but not always.  Sometimes success is in the moments others might call failure, because you know in those moments that it’s just another part of the learning process for you.

Most of us (as I used to spend a lot of time doing), complete the checklist or performance and then look to our audience for their applause.  If the applause is not loud enough, we let the critics, both internally and externally begin their litany.  But an alternative that has a much better impact on our blood pressure is, to resign from the performance and see ourselves as successful because we are living our best life.  To live a life that is informed by our deepest desires, and executed with the confidence that we are capable of living our dreams.  When we stop being afraid to live the way we want to live, we are living successfully.  No one else is in our brain.  Therefore, waiting for someone, anyone else to give you the thumbs up is a short sighted exercise, because they can’t really judge what is successful for YOU accurately.

And what about the part of you that fears others will expect more of you?  It’s not up to others to decide how much you want to give.  It’s called setting limits.  And yes, you can do it.

“You must decide if you are going to rob the world or bless it with the rich, valuable, potent, untapped resources locked away within you.”
? Myles Munroe, Understanding Your Potential: Discovering the hidden you

 

“Nobody ever talks about the pyramids that weren’t built, the books that weren’t written, the songs that weren’t sung. Stop letting your fear condemn you to mediocrity. Get out of your own way. Your dreams are a poetic reflection of your soul’s wishes. Be courageous enough to follow them. There is no greater time than now to experience the full power of your potential. Make this the day you take the first step in the beautiful journey of bringing your dreams to life.”
? Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burning the ships


Burning the boats- Part 1

Today I will wet your appetite with a wonderful story teller and his version of the Cortez expedition in which Cortez burns his ships

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Selling the Drama


Okay the title comes from one of my favorite albums by Live- But the subject matter today comes from the Olympics-

I’m somewhat of a fair weather fan- but I do like to catch a little bit.  My youngest son Andrew is pretty much addicted to watching and so I spent some time with him last night watching the men’s downhill and the figure skating.  There are a lot of great stories that occur during the Olympics- defeat, triumph, perseverance, endurance and so much more.

Last night a particular story really caught my attention.  And today there has been a bit of talk about it on the news as well, thus it obviously affected a lot of people much the same way.

So Bode Miller got his 6th medal.  That’s cool.  More than any other U.S. skier.  Also he is the oldest Alpine skier to medal.  Also cool.

But the attention getter wasn’t actually Miller, but Christen Cooper, a two time Olympian and silver medalist who interviewed Miller right after winning his Bronze.  Miller was obviously in an emotional rush from having just accomplished his feats.  But his success is also impacted by the loss less than a year ago of his younger brother Chelone.  The younger Miller, also a skier was a hopeful for Sochi as well.  He died of a seizure, not his first since sustaining a head injury from a dirt-bike accident several years prior.

 

Cooper met Bode Miller on the slopes.  She asked him  how he was faring emotionally with his brother not present.  He tried to discretely move the topic to the current events.  Cooper persisted as if she had no ability to read his attempted social redirection.    Finally, she opened up the big gun  (quoted to the best of my recollection) “So when you are out there and you look up at the sky, you seem to be talking to someone- What’s going on in your mind?”

With that Miller cracked.  He started to cry.  She moved towards him to give him some comfort- He turned away.  He walked away.  He dropped down on one knee trying to pull himself together.  A teammate approached him and was rebuffed by someone on the sidelines, the first person to see that Miller needed to be LEFT ALONE.  Finally, his wife arrived on the scene, embraced him and  shielded his face from the crowd.

I can’t imagine what was in the mind of Cristen Cooper to make her think this was an appropriate approach.  But at the same time, I can’t imagine why NBC chose not to edit the coverage leaving Bode’s tearful reaction to be dealt with privately.

There were plenty of things Cooper could have asked Bode Miller.  How does it feel to be the oldest guy out here? How do you continue to perform at this level?  How have the sport and the games changed over your long career?

But instead, making him cry over something that was obviously so deeply personal for him became the mission.  And the network found it appropriate and significant to make it a display and a highlight.

Miller came out afterward in defense of Cooper. He tweeted the response ” “Please be gentle w Christin Cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault.”  What a classy guy.

My purpose here is neither to vilify Cooper or NBC.  Okay, well maybe a little bit, because frankly I found it revolting.  But it made me think about how “normal” it is to report and focus on the juicy stuff.   How many times did Justin Bieber get in trouble in the past couple of weeks?  How many stars go to rehab?  How many deaths occurred, houses burned down etc. etc.  Even my own blog in its infancy already contains a report about the death of a star.  Drama attracts.  Drama sells

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Okay realistically, no one wants to turn on the news to hear that “Mrs. O’Leary’s garden is producing a beautiful bunch of tulips this year.”  Or, little Nancy Turner got  her braces off and her smile looks fantastic now.  But do we really have to fill ourselves with a steady diet of other’s vulnerability and shortfalls in order to feel good, or at least “normal”?  More importantly, it is important- no  it is crucial that we are at least mindful of how much negativity we take in from our “regular trusted sources”.  How can one feel optimistic and hopeful in the world when we have spent much of the day feeding on negative messages.

And it’s not simply the news.  It’s everywhere.  Marketing often focuses on something that is a shortfall, in order to make the product a solution.  I remember one night watching late night TV and thinking by the end of the infomercial, that I might need a garden weeding machine.  It was to solve the problems of my back caused by doing it all by hand with a hoe in rocky soil.  Fortunately, just before placing the order I remembered that I didn’t have a back problem OR a garden.  Nor, was I planning to plant one any time soon.  On the other hand, I do have rocky soil, so I am still vulnerable.

Yes it’s Sunday, and that means I have more time to wander through this post.  But in attempting to pull it all together now, let me get to the main point.  If you want to feel good, you have to surround yourself with positive, hopeful, optimistic people, places and things.  If you instead, surround yourself with negative, hurtful or critical people, it’s really hard to feel anything different than what you are taking in.  And you have to be thoughtful about what you are taking in.  Even well meaning, trusted people in your life can sometimes be the source of saying the not so helpful thing.  They might be uninformed, or having a bad day of their own.

Listening to yourself is the key.  Listening to your own voice as a louder tone than the ones you hear with your ears.   And that reminds me of the movie “The Help”.  Remember the mantra that Aibelene repeated throughout the book/movie to the little girl Mae Mobley?

You is smart, you is kind, you is important.

She wanted the little girl to know that at her very core in case anyone (most likely her mother) ever said or behaved in ways that suggested otherwise.  Aibelene wanted Mae Mobley to have that message as her very core and as the voice she would rely upon.  I hope it worked.

If you know that is your core and you live with that type of awareness, then you also have permission to let go of people, places, things, and sometimes just words that don’t fit your model.  You can acknowledge, just like Bode Miller did “it wasn’t her fault”.  He obviously knew that Cooper’s poor choice in interview strategy, was in fact just that”.  He elaborated that it was an emotional time and that the emotions were his.  He didn’t give her the credit for “destroying him” or even bringing him to his knees.  He held his head high and made the drama as less dramatic as he possibly could given the circumstances, rather than adding fuel to the fire.  And for that alone-  I think he deserved the gold!

 

 

Eclectic of Chaotic?


peyote orderAs many of you know I am a self-proclaimed craft-a-holic.  Last week I took a beading class to learn something called freeform peyote.  And no, this is not a drug fest.

I taught myself how to do regular peyote awhile back.  It is a very uniform, neat little stitch and it looks like this:

One of the things I like most about beading is trying new things and stretching my abilities and so I decided to try something called freeform.  This is where you mix up the beads a bit both in color and texture by adding different size beads.  And it means you can also mix in different kinds of stitches as well.

Only when I tried it, it looked like this:

While interesting, It’s kind of gnarly and twisty and won’t lay flat if it is made into a bracelet.

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So, after a few tries and having to sort out a zillion tiny little beads each time I ripped it out and started over, I decided to get some “education” from the pros.

After a couple of hours, here is my practice piece:

peyote flatNotice how the sections lay flat.  And even though there is diversity in bead size and color, there is still a more uniform look within.  It makes sense.

 

Now what on earth does this have to do with therapy you might ask?

Well, remember, my mind works in metaphor.  And as  I was learning the technique from the instructor, I started to recall my first theory class when I got my masters.  Alongside my classmates, I was exposed to a number of theories.  Many sounded interesting and there were useful takeaways in each one.  By the end of the semester many of us where calling ourselves “eclectic”.  And as one professor said ” a little of this, and a little of that”.  At that stage of professional development, eclectic really meant we did not fully understand any one theory.  We just liked the aesthetic or superficial level and ran with it.  I suspect it looked a lot my chaotic bead example above.  It probably looked good in a few spots, but when you put it all together and try to wear it, it just won’t do what it is supposed to.

In my doctoral program, one entire class was devoted to learning how to break down a theory at its fundamental origins and to understand it from the base up.  Our final project was to compare and contrast two theories in this manor.  This exercise taught me that very often, to subscribe to one theory means to exclude another because they are actually in conflict at the origin and thus if practiced faithfully, one can’t move in two different directions simultaneously.

Why is this important?

Again, because of the richness of the metaphoric value

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In learning the bead technique, I realized that you can’t take something to the “next level” until you appreciate the importance of the solid foundation.  This is true in beading, in developing theory, and in life.  Simply throwing something together without a thorough understanding and respect for the foundation gives you chaos.  Some chaos is more attractive than others, but it is chaos nonetheless.  And depending on what elements in the environment test the chaos, it may eventually fall apart.

Learning this new technique reminded me that chaos can in away be planned for.  It doesn’t mean that one has to become rigid and in control of every step.  Rather, it means that if you follow a few basic guidelines, there is still room for creativity and individuality, but it is truly more of an eclectic blending of strategies that are genuinely understood, rather than blindly pulled out of a hat.  When you in fact, do genuinely understand those strategies, you can better anticipate where they will lead and perhaps intersect with other strategies.

Freeform peyote bracelets by people who know what they are doing are some of the most gorgeous and creative pieces.  If you want to see more, just look at google images or pinterest to see more.

When I ask people to write a life or marriage “philosophy”, I am asking them to try and get a picture of what they want the finished product to look like.  That answer should dictate the strategies rather than the other way around.  Simply sticking in things as you go along is far more likely to yield one a hodge podge that may not “fit” very comfortably.  Therapy and or coaching is a way to sort out some of those beads and try a more educated technique.