Life Is Like a Book. 



Letting Go Of the Past to Appreciate the Present

Suffering doesn’t make us grow –

But what we do with our feelings could make us grow. ⚡️💡

It’s an interesting saying though. Where did it come from?  Perhaps it’s because anguish and acute awareness sometimes occur near one another, in time and space.dreamstime_m_43975880

For me, however, what makes us grow is understanding our feelings, questioning the thoughts behind them, seeing the cause-and-effect of it all.

If we utilize this information the next time these feelings arise (anger, sadness, depression, confusion, fear), we can remember the awareness, aha moment, or insight we discovered before. We can  notice that what we are experiencing in the here and now is separate from the past.

Uncomfortable feelings are nearly always preceded by a stressful thought, and when the feelings come, we can isolate the stressful thought, idea, or assumption and question it thoroughly.contemplation

I find journaling a powerful aid here. Just write your rambling thoughts about a situation that made you uncomfortable (in your mind or in reality – doesn’t matter). Then let it set. You probably will already feel better because the act of writing is cathartic. But for true growth to occur, go back later and read what you wrote. Pretend you are a scientist!  Your job is to (compassionately) dissect your writing to find the threads of connection…

Try asking these questions:

1. Have I ever felt this way before? Are there any other similarities?

Personal example:   I had to  go to my son’s junior high school to deliver his medicine.   I noticed I had a racing heart, a sense of urgency to complete the task, and an overall sense of shame.

It made no sense in my logical mind.

 Have I ever felt this way before? Are there any other similarities? 

Junior high was very scary for me. I was picked on by other girls and I was even beaten up a number of times. The threats often occurred when students were moving from one class to their next, so I was especially scared when that bell rang!

2.  What were the beliefs / thoughts around the event? 

Thoughts– (that caused the racing heart, urgency and intense fear.)

(BTW – I think I ‘should’ be embarrassed to share this, as the discovered back-thoughts seem so clearly absurd and immature… but, I wouldn’t have known these were the thoughts if I hadn’t compassionately asked and listened...)

THOUGHTS:  I might be attacked!.. Did I do something wrong???… If I can become unnoticeable, I might make it… Hopefully the bell won’t ring!

Well – pretty obvious right? But my body didn’t know that , so:
junior high  –>  made mistake (let son run out of meds)  –>  fear….

Let me say, I’m not reactive to junior high’s anymore.

By listening, compassionately, to your own mistaken innocent mind, you can become free… from this,  then that,  then…

How To STOP Overthinking Everything

“We all do our best to stay positive, but occasionally we can slip into negative thinking patterns that can wreak havoc on our lives. We might worry about our past mistakes or current stresses, and how these could lead to negative outcomes in the future. We might obsess about or over-analyze regular experiences and interactions, reading into them things that aren’t actually there. We might find that as soon as one bad thing happens, we associate it with all the other bad things that have happened in our lives and begin to feel miserable. We might feel anxious in the present, having a hard time getting out of our own heads as we worry and obsess about the things that could go wrong.”   ~ Thinking Minds

If overthinking interferes with your general sense of wellbeing, here are a few tips to Take Back Control of Your Brain!

1.  Understand “Normal”

The brain is actually hardwired to think out all the possible outcomes of a situation.  Thanks to the decision-making frontal-lobe, we’ve evolved to think about our problems.  But overthinking keeps the brain in an agitated cycle while dumping fight or flight chemicals into our blood system(Research shows that overthinking releases cortisol, the stress hormone, that will get you even more distressed).

2.   Jot it down

When you notice your thoughts are recycling the same scenarios, taking a few deep breaths will help calm the brain down. Then put your thoughts on paper. By getting it “out of your head” and putting it in black and white on paper, you effectively short-circuit the brains need to remember! And looking at it, instead of thinking about it, you get a new perspective.

3.  Practice mindfulness meditation

When we’re racked with too many thoughts, we feel over-stimulated. Mindfulness meditation can quickly calm you down, making it easier to make sound decisions. Try it now – close your eyes. Focus on the air moving in and out as you breathe. Tune into your tactile sensations: your weight on the seat, the feel of the fabric of your clothes, the warmth of the sun on your skin…. If thoughts arise, notice, and allow them to float on by….

4.  Get moving

Changing your environment, walking, hiking, biking, getting the heart pumping, can loosen the closed-circuit cycle of relentless thinking. You don’t need to try to clear your mind – just let your thoughts roll through your head at their own pace.

5.   Check your beliefs

Underlying all anxiety and all overthinking are a set of beliefs. Have you ever asked yourself where they came from? Or if you actually really believe them? For instance, most people are mortified by the thought of tripping or falling in public. Why??? “People who fall are idiots”. Hmm… I actually do NOT believe that. “People who fall are weak”.  I don’t think that’s true either. But maybe being perceived as weak means you’ll need to be removed from the herd! Well, thanks to the frontal-lobe, I no longer need that instinctual response, so I can choose to dismiss it.

What a relief!

 

If you wrote it Autobiography, What Would the Chapter Titles Be?

What links your life together?

Start with ten.  (This is one of the assignments I frequently give my clients.)

You can choose life events, demographics, influential people you’ve known, talents, even “aHa” moments.

Mine might be:

  1. Born female, in the USA, to a progressive, liberal mother.
  2. “Abandoned” at four years old (for a year).
  3. Abused by my stepfather, resulting in their divorce.
  4. Moved, age 10, from a middle-class neighborhood to poverty neighborhood. I was suddenly a “minority”.
  5. My mother worked 18 hours a day, so my siblings and I raised ourselves.
  6. Growing Up in the 70’s.
  7. Studied spiritual philosophies, finding an affinity with Christian, Buddhist, and Taoist ideas.
  8. Became a mother of twin boys.
  9. Started my own business as a psychotherapist.
  10. Killed a person in a car accident.

(Wow! I just did that off the cuff! Very powerful!).

Next, you fill in the chapters. What about (That) affected you? What characteristics were created because of ________? You might ask yourself:

  • How did ____ influence you?
  • What did you discover about yourself?
  • What did you have to learn to overcome?
  • How did ______ wound you? Strengthen you?
  • Define your gratitude for these occurrences/events

Using one of mine as an example:

Yes, I killed a person in a car accident.

  • I discovered that life can change – drastically- in an instant. And in THAT particular instant, I didn’t even know it. For a long time, I’d have terrible dreams, I’d have flashes of people appearing in the road before I could do anything about it… I struggled with my connection to God (I’d like to have made it through my life without killing someone).
  • I discovered that I loved and understood myself, even if society didn’t. I confirmed my value of always telling the truth, as I knew it, and that I continue to do what I think is right – even if others disagreed (I wrote to his family against the advice of my attorney, who thought such an act would be misinterpreted as guilt).
  • I had to learn to live with knowing most people would make up stories about me that weren’t true (“she must have known!”, “She must have been drinking!”).  I had to overcome needing people to understand me.
  • I will always have this heavy burden in my soul.
  • I am grateful for the people in my life that tried to help me. I’m grateful to learn that other peoples  opinions of me no longer affects what I think of me.

 What have been the greatest influences in your life? What ties your life all together?

 

How to Communicate Effetcively

Communication Skills using the

Awareness Wheel

I remember reading somewhere that the average person has about 3000 thoughts per minute, along with the corresponding emotions, expectations, and conclusions. I don’t know how they came up with 3000, but lets assume it’s true – That’s a lot of stuff going on! If you want to be clear and congruent in your communications, it’s essential that you slow this process down. You have to learn how to check in with yourself.

One of the tools I use with my clients in therapy is called The Awareness Wheel. Once mastered, it helps the user understand their experiences (awareness), and, if desired, communicate clearly to someone else.

Each experience can be broken down into the following five categories:

AwWheel

  • Sensing or the Facts- what you have seen or heard. They are behavior descriptions, as if seen from a video camera, without evaluation or ascribing meaning.
  • Thoughts – what you tell yourself the facts mean. They are the interpretations, beliefs, conclusions, or stories you tell yourself about what is going on.
  • Feelings or Emotions – Keep it simple: Happy, sad, mad, or afraid.
  • Wants or intentions– What you think will fix the problem.
  • Doing or ActionsWhat you actually do.

Becoming a better communicator

  • Perception Check: This is my guess, am I accurate?  Sometimes it is a good idea to test, clarify and alter your interpretations by moving back and forth between the sensory data and your interpretations. (FACTS and THOUGHTS)

A common problem in relationships that often occurs is the result of confusing FACTS with interpretations about what is happening. Our interpretations generate emotions, and we can be caught up in our anger or hurt because our interpretation is different from our partners. The model helps you to clarify interpretations and emotions by going back to the original sensory data (what you saw, heard or felt) and checking each other’s interpretations. You may or may not get to agreement on the meaning of what you witnessed, but it’s helpful to know what each of you is thinking and perceiving.

  • Use Responsible “I” Statements  

Speaking as though we know the “other’s” intentions, feelings, or thoughts is offensive. By using “I” statements, we show that we are speaking responsibly about something we should be an authority about – ourselves!

  • Reflective Listening or “Mirroring”

Reflective listening consists of slowing the conversation down, while assuring your focus is on being a good listener and not your defense! After a sentence or two, you, the Listener, repeat back in your own words what you think your partner is saying. You then ask if you heard them accurately and completely. You keep trying this until your partner says, “Yes, I feel understood.” Then you switch, and you say a few sentences to your partner, and they repeat what they heard back to you.

Exercises using the Awareness Wheel

  1. Get to know yourself. Journal regularly about your experiences using the Awareness Wheel. Learn the difference between FACTS (what you have seen or heard); THOUGHTS (interpretations/ stories I tell myself about the Facts)); EMOTIONS (body-feelings – Happy Sad Mad Afraid); WANTS (goals or intentions – what you think will fix the problem) and the ACTION taken. Keep in simple.
  2. Practice expressing your Awareness Wheel, through writing first, to another person. Remember to use responsible “I” statements. Ask yourself:*** “ How can I say this in a way that the OTHER person is most likely to hear me?”

For example:

“When _(Facts)_   I thought    (Thought/Belief)    and I felt  (Emotion)  . What I’d like is  (Request/Want)What do you think?” (invites sharing)

Or:

“I felt _(Emotion)  when you _(Facts)_ because  (Thought/Belief)  , and I want _(Request/Want)_. What do you think?”

For example:

Let’s call my clients Joe and Jess.

Jess comes home after a frustrating, but productive day at work. She gets out of her car, and notices, again, the dead spots on the lawn (sensory data). She scowls (feelings- anger) and thinks (thoughts), “How many times do I have to ask Joe to fix the sprinklers!!!” (Wants and actions).

She enters the house and hears a football anouncer blaring from the TV (sensory data). She roles her eyes (feelings: sad/disappointed)  and thinks, “He’s not even with the kids. It’s like I have THREE children instead of two.”

Jess goes into the kitchen to find her mother feeding the kids their dinner, and is so thankful that she at least has her mother!  Jess thinks she wants a divorce.
Because Jess has worked with me for a while, she decides to not act on all these conclusions, but goes to her room to journal about first. 
After summarizing the last 5 minutes (as written above), she asks herself : 

“ok, so WHATS the issue?”.

I don’t feel supported;  and I’d like a more equal partnership. 

She practices her approach in the journal first, remembering the advice :”How can I say this in a way that Joe is more likely to HEAR me?”

Can I talk to you about some things? (Invites participation). 

Ok. This is just my perception, ok? When I got home today, I noticed the dead grass again, then I walked in to find you watching TV while mom was feeding our kids. (SENSORY DATA). And I Thought to myself ‘Joe isn’t taking our talks seriously!’ … because – I mean – how many times have I asked you to help me take care of the house better? How many times have I told you that the kids need more time with you (prior Wants and Actions)??  Naturally, I am incredibly frustrated (Feelings)! I’m seriously getting to the point of giving up (Want), and I may want a divorce.(future Action).

Leaning Into Uncomfortable Emotions Actually Makes You Happier!

Worth reading – from Off the Web!

Why Leaning Into Your Uncomfortable Emotions Actually Makes You Happier

2971831831_7ebf8e6860_oby Dina Overland

Life is the most amazing teacher.  It offers us the exact lesson we need, precisely when we need to hear it.

So that means that if you’re feeling emotions like anxiety, anger, sadness, jealousy, or bitterness, then life is offering you an opportunity to understand where you’re stuck in your growth… where you have more to learn… where you could focus your attention.

That’s why you should LEAN INTO those emotions and really FEEL them. Explore them. Consider WHY you’re feeling that feeling. Think about what lesson you can learn from the situation and the feeling you’re having.

It’s when we truly feel and experience ALL of our emotions that we’re able to move past the emotional pain and start receiving more happiness and peace in our lives.

In fact, these so-called negative emotions are actually quite positive — if you take the time to SIT with them. View them as messages to stop what you’re doing and look these feelings right in the eyes.

“To stay with that shakiness — to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge — that is the path of true awakening,”  ~ Pema Chodron 

I know this firsthand. Although I have accepted and come to peace with the fact that I will most likely only have one child, I still feel sad that I can’t have what I desperately want in my life — more children. In fact, I felt deep heartbreak earlier this year when I learned that three of my close friends were all pregnant.

I knew I had two options — ignore the crippling emotional pain, pretending I was fine with the news or open up my heart and really explore my honest emotions that were stirred up as a result of my friends’ pregnancies.

I opted to follow the advice I give to my clients and feel my feelings. So I gave my sadness and despair a space to exist by limiting my to-do list and social obligations. That freed up my time to practice good self-care tools like journaling, sharing my honest feelings with my husband (and he shared his with me), and meditating so that I was able to fully process the sadness and upset out of my system.

From an outside perspective, it looked like I was moping about for a few days, but I was really letting my sadness have a place to exist — without judgment. I wasn’t stuffing it away, hoping it would just miraculously disappear so I could avoid feeling crappy.

And I felt so much better for my choice to feel my feelings. It was like I healed a part of myself by releasing these emotions.

If you find yourself in a painful situation, and you think you can’t bear a minute more of whatever you’re feeling, follow these three steps:

  1. Become aware that you’re resisting and pushing away the feelings. Simply being mindful of your tendency to avoid feeling emotional pain is a huge step toward moving past that pain and feeling more happiness. That’s because you can’t change a thought or behavior if you don’t know you’re thinking or doing it.
  1. Observe your feelings without judgment. Don’t push them away, but don’t obsess over them either. Just acknowledge them and let them go. One way to do that is to observe your feelings and thoughts simply as “feelings” and “thoughts.” Don’t qualify them as good or bad, positive or negative. Just allow whatever feelings you have to come to the surface and remind yourself with compassion and kindness that you’re merely feeling a feeling or thinking a thought. To help prevent those feelings and thoughts from taking over your life, use this affirmation: I accept all of my emotions and thoughts. It is safe to feel those emotions and think those thoughts. 
  1. Refrain. As I mentioned in Step 1, we often try to distract ourselves from feeling sadness, loneliness, bitterness, and other so-called negative emotions. But try to refrain from diverting your attention away from those feelings. It’s when you refrain — by pausing and being mindful of those feelings BEFORE you take any action based on them — that you’re getting to know your deepest fears and able to heal the wounds that caused the fears. For example, if you’re feeling particularly hurt and lonely after your estranged spouse makes an insensitive comment to you, don’t just lash out in response. Instead, sit with that hurt and loneliness and use the opportunity to consider where else you can work on healing yourself.

Essentially, if we live our lives seeing everything as a chance to heal, then every single moment and experience — even the especially hard ones — is truly a gift helping us grow and welcome deep peace and happiness.

About The Author
Dina Overland is a Spiritual Life Coach helping people (especially mamas) move past their emotional pain so they can stop feeling angry, anxious, bitter, depressed, and alone and start feeling more happiness, love, and peace. Watch her FREE video — From Pain to Joy:  4 Steps to Finding Peace Through Emotional Suffering — connect with her on Facebook, and check out her website.
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Original source: http://truththeory.com/2015/10/29/why-leaning-into-your-uncomfortable-emotions-actually-makes-you-happier/

 

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The Value of Journaling

Introspection Overload? The Value of Journaling by 

~ Worth Reading from Off the Web

Introspection Overload? The Value of JournalingTo my fellow over-thinkers, ruminators, and introspective-dwellers: I know what it’s like to feel “stuck in your head.

It’s those moments when your mind starts to wander, and all your reflections and ponderings (whether they may be trivial or significant) begin to simulate a mountain that’s too exhausting to climb. I like to refer to this as ‘introspection overload’ — thinking that decides to examine a subject matter intricately and closely, inviting further thoughts to join the party, even though you reason that it’s probably time to take a few steps back.

This is one of the reasons why I love journaling. I have drawers devoted to several years of journal-keeping (including a precious gem from my second-grade self).

Besides my interest in writing and jotting down various notes, happenings, or musings that strike my fancy, journaling has become an integral component in reining in introspection. The transfer of your thoughts from your mind onto paper is a symbolic release in and of itself.

Phylameana lila Desy’s article suggests that journaling serves as a therapeutic outlet of sorts:

“Journaling can be a healing process to help you get in touch with your deepest yearnings, find resolve for problems, and deal with personal issues. Whatever type of painful emotion you are experiencing (grief, sadness, fear, isolation, etc.) expressing yourself in writing can help ease your discomfort.”

Besides the basic ‘daily diary’ that’s best for making sense of your experiences, try these alternative kinds of journaling:

  • a gratitude journal – focusing on the positives is beneficial to any kind of healing
  • a dream journal – symbolism/scenarios in dreams may have important meanings, and self-analysis may help to uncover what that is.
  • a memory journal – writing down childhood stories may be a way to preserve memories for future sharing, but it also may spark further understanding of the past.

In The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Julia Cameron suggests experimenting with various writing exercises to induce greater internal clarity.

  • The Morning Papers” –  Take three sheets of blank paper and allow your pen to mark down your stream of consciousness, writing down anything and everything that surfaces.

While these pages are not meant to be kept, Cameron advocates that writing can generally serve as a cathartic tool to release negative thought processes.

According to Sandy Grason, author of Journalution: Journaling to Awaken Your Inner Voice, Heal Your Life and Manifest Your Dreams, journaling is an overall proficient method to simply get to know yourself better.

“I believe each time you give yourself fully to the blank page, you get a little bit closer to your true Self… It’s the place that your greatness can whisper to you and remind you of all that you came to this earth to be.”

So, my fellow over-thinkers, ruminators, and introspective-dwellers: there are probably other avenues that can quiet all the chatter in your head. Maybe a long walk is soothing, or maybe meditating and focused breathing exercises do the trick — it’s all up to you. I, for one, will always be an avid supporter of the journal. I should probably start creating more space for my collection.

Source: Introspection Overload? The Value of Journaling | World of Psychology, edited for readability

Also see https://janeweisslcsw.com/2015/01/08/why-journal/