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…

Awareness, Authenticity, and Assertiveness

As I’ve discussed before…

Without becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings, we are little more than a computer program: Life provides input, our brain rapidly calculates the meaning, and the body responds appropriately.

For example, if I see a snake during a moonlit walk, my body will rapidly prepare me for potential crisis – drenching my body in fight-or-flight chemicals. If I then realize it wasn’t a snake at all but just a fallen branch, my sigh of relief arrests the automatic response.

(Worth reading – from Off the Web!)

Being authentically you is perhaps one of the greatest gifts you can give, not only to those that mean the world to you, but also to the people in your life in general – and especially to yourself.

dreamstime_m_211796

What does it mean to be courageously and authentically you, and why is this a precious gift?

Authenticity is the permission you give yourself to be real, to be who you are, aware of warts and graces. This permission frees you to give and to live in relation to your self and others, especially key others, from a place of love, and not fear.

It’s precious because how you relate – give and receive – directly impacts the balance of your life and relationships.

And, speaking of fears, our deepest fears are not about spiders, snakes or bridges, which are surface fears in comparison. Our deepest fears have to do with intimacy and our deepest yearnings for meaningful connection, contribution, and relationships; they are matters of the heart.

To choose to live authentically is conscious choice to love authentically, a conscious way of feeling safe enough to love and give with your whole heart.

And that means safe enough to set judicious limits, say or accept ‘no’ and ‘yes’ as viable options. Loving authentically with your whole heart means taking essential steps to consciously:

  • Treat others and, at the same time, yourself with dignity and care.
  • Give (to others and self) from a place of love – not fear.
  • Remain open and empathically connected rather than defensive (triggered) when you face what most personally challenges you in relational contexts.

Why set healthy limits on your giving? When you set healthy limits, you  Give and Express yourself from a place inside you that is authentic. It is rooted in your love rather than fear, shame or guilt.

Being an authentic you has a lot to do with getting to know and to fully accept and to love yourself and life in ways that allow you to authentically connect with courage to love with your whole heart.  It is only when you take one hundred percent responsibility for your inner emotional state and responses that you allow yourself to experience emotional fulfillment and personal transformation. It means  Standing up for yourself  from a place that intentionally sends a message that you like and respect yourself enough to treat yourself and the other with dignity even in challenging situations when emotions are pulling at you from another direction.

One of the most important ways to express authenticity is in how you relate to your self. Others know from how you present yourself , what is okay and not okay, in terms of how you want others to treat you.

When you nurture a healthy space inside you, as well as around and between you and others, you send a clear message that you like and respect yourself, that you know what you want and do not want, and, most importantly, that you are aware of what you most need and value in life.

Thus, when you love with your whole heart, a required skill to cultivate, is the capacity to remain open and vulnerable in triggering contexts  without getting triggered.

Nurturing healthy limits in the way you love, give and express yourself is one of the most important ways to improve your relationships and your life, thus, your happiness.

Setting healthy limits simultaneously conveys respect to others as persons, even when you strongly disagree with their viewpoint or feel pain in response to actions they took.

This is impossible to do, if you do not come from a place of deep respect and honor for yourself that is completely not dependent upon whether the other is treating you in the way you most want and deserve to be treated.

There are a number of things you can do to ensure that stress does not negatively affect your personal and relational well-being. You can schedule regular fun time. Eat healthful, nutritious meals. Exercise. Stretch. Breathe. Meditate. All of these are essential practices are proven by a substantial body of research to be effective.

A lifestyle of conscious caring for your health helps remove much of the intensity and reactivity, and needless anguish. When you care for your body, you care for your mental health. You are strengthened to withstand the everyday pressures of life and relationships.

Much of the suffering we experience in relationship conflict, however, is related to limiting belief, and old ways we have learned to think and to talk — to ourselves — and to one another. In addition to a healthful lifestyle, your ability to communicate can be your greatest asset if you want to protect your happiness, and to more effectively deal with the challenges you face in relating to those closest to you.

In other words, what you say and, especially, how you say things matters when it comes to your happiness. It sets the tone for your giving and receiving – in other words, how you relate to your self and others.

Do you nurture healthy boundaries and limits in your relationships? Do your actions send a message that you respect and value yourself, your time and contribution? Do your actions similarly convey that you respect and value others and their  contributions? Do you know how to “teach” others to respect you, or how to communicate your respect, especially in moments when you or others are seemingly unlovable?

Pause for a moment to reflect on the following statements; then use the scale below to rate how true each statement is for you:

0 – Not at all
1 – Occasionally
2 – Somewhat
3 – Moderately
4 – A lot
5 – Nearly Always

____ I find it difficult to stand up for myself.

____ I tolerate hurtful or sarcastic comments out of fear or worry.

____ I say “yes” to things I do not want to do, then resent it.

____ I feel powerless around pushy people and do what they want.

____ I feel others must be shamed or intimidated to do what is right.

____ I avoid ‘rocking the boat’ and go to great lengths to stop conflict.

____ I think “rocking the boat” is the only way to get things done.

____ I feel unsure and hesitant when it comes to handling conflict.

____ I say what I want, when and how I want to say it.

____ I think I must “please” others to feel okay or to not guilty.

____ I take what people say to me or about me personally.

____ I worry about what people are thinking of me.

If your score is higher than 10, you may benefit from developing more courage to be authentic and to set healthier limits. If your score is higher than 20, taking steps to nurture healthy limits and authentic connections with your self and others may need urgent attention. Your personal and relational happiness and well-being depend upon it.

When you are authentic, you love with your whole heart, you feel safe enough to remain open and vulnerable. Authenticity is about fully owning the power you have to make choices at any moment regarding how you will respond, or relate, to yourself and to life around you.

Choose to give the gift of being authentically you, to transform your life and relationships in ways that may surprise and delight you.

Awareness is key when it comes to authenticity.

It takes courage to live and love authentically. Essentially, authenticity is a continuous balancing act. It requires you to be willing to remain empathically connected even when you –  or others – are seemingly unlovable. It’s a conscious way of feeling safe enough to get to know you, and to love – give authentically – with your whole heart.

To live in balance and harmony in your relationships, it helps to become aware of the people and situations that tend to challenge your ability to be true to yourself.

To live in balance and harmony in your relationships, you need to know how to calm your mind and body, to feel safe enough to set judicious limits in your interactions with others, for example, to say or hear the words ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without getting triggered.

The first step in setting limits is identifying the specific situations that challenge or trigger you when it comes to either standing up for yourself with courage and/or doing so in a way that treats the other (thus also your self) with dignity.

Generally, these are certain situations or actions by others that unnecessarily trigger your body’s survival response. They may result from a missed opportunity to express your feelings, to say what you did or didn’t like, or to make a request. In other cases you may have “stood up” for yourself, however, you did so in an impulsive way that blasted, belittled or demeaned another, thus, it left you feeling worse than before.

The purpose of the exercise below is to identify your triggers, that is, the situations in which you do not set healthy limits at this time.

Exercise: Identifying the Triggers

Instructions: Below are four incomplete sentences followed by examples of possible responses. For each sentence, check all responses that are true for you, and feel free to add any of your own in the margins.

I feel guilty when …

“I see a look of disappointment on a loved one’s face”

“I’m asked to do something and do not want to”

“I say no”

“I notice someone I care about looks angry”

“I get angry and say hurtful things”

“Others do more than I do”

“A loved one looks hurt or unhappy”

I wish I had more courage to ask for …

“Quiet time for myself”

“Someone to stop yelling or making demeaning statements”

“Help around the house”

“Privacy”

“More information before a purchase”

“Someone to listen without judging, giving advice, or trying to “fix” things”

“An apology when someone has acted in a hurtful way”

I get frustrated or resentful when …

“Someone dismisses my opinion”

“I am not included in an important decision that was made”

“Someone takes me for granted”

“I say yes when I want to say no”

“Someone says no to one of my requests”

“I get overwhelmed by too many tasks”

“Someone talks over me or interrupts me when I talk”

I wish I had more courage to ask others to stop …

“Blasting me with their anger”

“Invading my personal space”

“Criticizing or judging me”

“Going through my personal belongings”

“Putting me down, correcting or humiliating me in front of others”

“Avoiding discussions to solve our problems”

“Making off-color jokes or comments in my presence”

“Blaming me or telling me I am responsible for their unhappiness”

Look over the triggers you underlined or added above. Then rank order the triggers from the most challenging to the least, with “1” being the most and “10” the least.

STOP letting your brain go into ‘protective mode,’ and you in a defensive mode.

The “triggers” you identify here are the specific situations you want to work on to develop an action plan for being “authentically you.” By mastering the moments when you need to face core fears that surface, you can do so without triggering your body’s stress response, also known as the “fight or flee” system, which puts your brain in ‘protective mode,’ and you in a defensive mode.

* Edited for readability

Sources – http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/12/a-key-aspect-of-being-authentically-you-identifying-your-triggers/ 
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/06/five-essential-steps-to-authenticity/ 
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/12/the-ultimate-gift-giving-the-gift-being-authentically-you/
 http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/06/the-secret-to-being-authentically-you-part-1/

About Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik shows clients how to break free of anxiety, addictions, and other emotional blocks, to awaken radiantly healthy lives and relationships. Dr. Staik is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, Safe Enough to Love™: Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit  www.drstaik.com, or visit on her Facebook fan page DrAthenaStaik

“Good To Be Alive Today” 

Amazing video… Click the link, then read the lyrics HERE

It’s Good To Be Alive Today!

“Everyday I wake up and turn my phone on. I  read the news of the day, just as it’s coming down.  I do my best not to let it get me down.  I try to keep my head up, but it’s  Babylon.  This world’s in crisis, we try to fight it, this changing climate.  The scientists and politicians divided by it.  So many ways we could solve it but they would never sign it.   This mountains tumbling down, but still we try to climb it. 

It’s in the Torah, Quran and in the Bible:   

Love is the message. 

It’s come to people always picking up their rifles.   Another school getting shot up – it’s homicidal. 

Some people trying to fly, some people trying to get high. Some people losing their mind, some people trying to get by.   And when you look in my eyes, you see the sign of the times.   We’re all looking for the same thing. 

But what if this song’s number one… Would it mean that love had won? Would it mean that the world was saved?   And no guns are being drawn today?

What if everybody had a job?

And nobody had to break a law?

What if everyone could say…

“That it’s good to be alive today
Oh, Is it good to be alive today…    Oh… Is it good to be alive today.

People used to feel safer when they would hear a siren.   Like help is on its way but now they only think of violence. Another youth in the streets and police are in a conflict.   And now they hear the guns click.Ebola crisis and ISIS is taking heads off.     A drone is bombing a village and now the kids all signing up to be soldiers, all willing now to do the killing now, now are you willing now?

Some politicians out there making up some problems,   and trying to tell the people that they can solve them. 

With TV shows and soundbites and quotes.  But everybody knows that it’s all about the cash flow. 

They telling you and me, they’re making progress.   But tell it to the millions of jobless. 

It’s like a players club with billions of dollars.  to get the votes you got to make it rain in congress. 

Some people trying to fly, some people trying to get high

Some people losing their mind, some people trying to get by

And when you look in my eyes, you see the sign of the times

We’re all looking for the same thing…

But what if this song’s number one

Would it mean that love had won?

Would it mean that the world was saved?

And no guns are being drawn today?

What if everybody had a job?

And nobody had to break a law?

What if everyone could say

That it’s good to be alive today

Oh… Is it good to be alive today.

And we all say: One day, we all will say
That it’s good to be alive today

One day, one day

One day, one day

One day, we all will say

That it’s good to be alive today”

https://vimeo.com/168031157

Mindlessness Versus Mindfulness

Ellen Langer and mindfulness

Ellen Langer studies the Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness. She asserts that the idea of being in the moment doesn’t feel very instructional because when we are not in the moment we don’t notice. Same with the idea of being present.

Instead, Ellen suggests “noticing.”

As children we have a very instinctual, natural way of noticing things and people. Then they begin to teach us that these things are called names and then they give us their opinions about them which we take as being the facts, or the truth.

Our Experience of Everything is Formed by the Words and Ideas We Attach to Them

Dr. Langer’s take on mindfulness has never involved contemplation or meditation or yoga. It comes straight out of her provocative, unconventional studies, which have been suggesting for decades what neuroscience is pointing at now: our experience of everything is formed by the words and ideas we attach to them. What makes a vacation a vacation is not only a change of scenery — but the fact that we let go of the mindless everyday illusion that we are we need to be in control. Ellen Langer has shown it’s possible to become physiologically younger through a changed frame of mind; and to find joy in what was experienced as drudgery by renaming it as play.

But if you go home tonight and pretend you don’t know anything, no words, no concepts, you will experience a new level of being alive! My husband and I did this for fun the other day. We looked at our houseplants with as few concepts as we could muster. Suddenly the various colors (of green) became vivid. The textures were also alive.  The light danced on the leaves, revealing various twists and bends, shine and mute-tones. It was amazing.

As we evolve, we eventually have the wisdom that there are different ways of looking at things yet our personal way of looking at things remains somewhat constant. When we become aware that there are different ways of looking at things, she calls it “awareness of uncertainty.”

Awareness of Uncertainty

Ellen suggests that we look at uncertainty in two ways – there is personal uncertainty and universal uncertainty.  

Personal uncertainty is “I don’t know – maybe you know” or “I don’t know and I’m gonna pretend I know.”  These are ways of organizing and stabilizing the universe.

Universal uncertainty is “I don’t know you and you don’t know me. In fact in some ways we can’t ever know.” 

From a place of universal uncertainty the conversation proceeds very differently. For example if you do something and I look at it in a kind of a mindless way I’m going to resort to my personal uncertainty and I’m going to think that I know your motives and make all kinds of conclusions about why you did what you did and whether not it meets my approval.

From the universal perspective I can’t know what you did or why you did it, but I can know that, for you, given your life, it makes sense for you, from your perspective. From here ask yourself “why would a reasonable, logical person do such a thing?”

Ellen Langer is a social psychologist who some have dubbed “the mother of mindfulness.” But she defines mindfulness with counterintuitive simplicity: the simple act of actively noticing things — with a result of increased health, competence, and happiness. Her take on mindfulness has never involved contemplation or meditation or yoga. It comes straight out of her provocative, unconventional studies, which have been suggesting for decades what neuroscience is pointing at now: our experience of everything is formed by the words and ideas we attach to them. What makes a vacation a vacation is not only a change of scenery — but the fact that we let go of the mindless everyday illusion that we are we need to be in control. Ellen Langer has shown it’s possible to become physiologically younger through a changed frame of mind; and to find joy in what was experienced as drudgery by renaming it as play.

DR. LANGER: I don’t think you can make a decision that I’m going to be present. What does that mean? People who tell you to meditate assume that over time,  you will become “present”.

But if you’re actively noticing things, you’re going to go home tonight and if you live with somebody, notice five new things about that person. Be very specific. What will happen is the person will start to come alive for you again. And that will improve the relationship.

Article Sources:

Mindlessness and Mindfulness – On Being with Ellen Langer

Ellen Langer and Mindfulness -Harvard

Books by Ellen Langer

“Life doesn’t happen to you – it happens for you”

You are not a victim of fate or circumstances.

Lessons will be repeated until learned.

PemaChodron

In my psychotherapy practice, people often present with superficial problems, as if to distract from the deeper issues. I can see it in their faces – the way they avoid eye contact. I wouldn’t even say it’s a conscious defense- mechanism.  So I ask the deeper questions: “Why?  What would that give you?”  

The answers often surprise my clients.

“Well… I want my family to respect me”. .. And what do you imagine that would give you?  “Validation”.   And what would that give you? … “A sense that my life is worth something.”

That way we are getting somewhere – the underlying, often unknown, motives that drive their actions. 

By making it conscious, we then have choices – Choices about the authenticity of the goal; the strategies employed that haven’t worked, and an opportunity to re-strategize to make the goal achievable.

“Life doesn’t happen to you – it happens for you”  ~ Jim Carey

Love and caring will always lead the way – fear gets in the way of becoming what people most desire. If I can help a person realize this, I can help them create the life they were meant to have – one with passion, with exuberance, one that feels vital and real!

Helping people to NOT suffer has become my obsession. I know it’s possible. That’s why I love my work.

You Are All This …

“The Real ‘You’ Comes and Goes” – Alan Watts

Creative by Nature Worth Reading – From Off The Web!

“The only real ‘you’ is the one that comes and goes, manifests and withdraws itself eternally in and as every conscious being. For ‘you’ is the universe looking at itself from billions of points of view, points that come and go so that the vision is forever new.” ~Alan Watts

John Reilly Art

“There is a Zen poem that talks about ‘IT,’ meaning the mystical experience, satori, the realization that you are, as Jesus was, the eternal energy of the universe. The poem says, ‘You cannot catch hold of it, nor can you get rid of it. In not being able to get it, you get it. When you speak, it is silent. When you are silent, it speaks.’

This phrase—not being able to get it, you get it—is the feeling Krishnamurti tries to convey to people when he says, ‘Why do you ask for a method? There is no…

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Discovering Self Through Stories

Archetypes offer unique windows to our Soul

(~ 2 minute read)DT-GameOfThrones- free reuse Flykr

Archetypal psychology carries with it an approach to life that values the development of the individual soul. There are times when it is developmentally appropriate for people to be self-centered, materialistic, independent, or a warrior. We help people best by honoring the lessons they can gain from each state. Stories and folklore assist in our developmental tasks – using archetypal characters – by helping us make meaning of our lives.

As I’ve discussed in previous articles, both Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell encourage us to discover our purpose in life – or to glean meaning – through the archetypes which are revealed to us in the stories we hear; the novels we read; in our dreams; and the shows that we watch. These two great thinkers suggest that human beings are biologically hardwired to understand the symbolism and expression of character archetypes. These archetypes are consistencies observed throughout the world and all times, providing meaning to otherwise individual experience. We recognize them, and we understand them.

Our reactions to the characters in these mythical dramas offer unique windows to our soul, and a chance to work with the “Shadow” side of our psyche.

Are you willing to tune in to aspects of the self that are ready to be discovered?

I’m a big fan of Game Of Thrones, for example. I typically avoid exposure to violent content – I don’t want to ‘adapt’ or accept violence in my life. But in Game Of Thrones, there is so much more. Every major archetype is explored and exposed in this drama series. There are righteous Kings, wicked Kings, altruistic Kings, and immature Kings. There are old Wise Ones, young Wise Ones, budding Wise Ones. There are Martyrs, Lovers, Jesters, Warriors and Innocents. And many more.

One of my favorite characters is Daenerys Targaryen, the young, wise Queen of Dragons, and the woman who wants to rule the seven kingdoms.

The word ‘hero’ is derived from the Greek word hērōs, which means something along the lines of ‘warrior’ and ‘defender.’  A hero is someone who is ready to sacrifice to protect the greater good.  In fact, the Hero must sacrifice in order to transform herself and the world she is attempting to save, for “the mythological hero is the champion, not of things, but of things becoming.” (Joseph Campbell)

The female hero can fit into the traditional Hero’s Journey—we prove that Daenerys’ experiences match up quite nicely here—but the lack of ancient questing female hero myths forces us to construct our archetype more from the old idea of the great goddesses. Joseph Campbell recognized this necessity.

Daenerys Targaryen and her Heroes Journey

The Hero archetype isn’t just born. They evolve through other archetypal stages. The Hero’s journey, like all journeys, begins with Innocence. The achievement at this stage is the ability to gain others’ trust and optimism because of their endearing innocence.

The next stage is the Orphan. Daenerys has no desire to join her brother’s wish for power after her parents died. But the orphan wishes to regain safety, away from King Robert’s assassins, yet they also don’t want to be exploited. Though her path was thrust upon her, she found her protector in Khal Drogo, the leader of 40,000 Dothraki warriors, in return for the use of his warriors in invading Westeros. She also eliminated her exploiter (her brother).

But when she succumbed to her destiny, she discovered her own Warrior spirit. She discovers she is the Queen Of Dragons, and is determined to fight for her new goal – To claim her title of Ruler of the seven kingdoms.

As the Warrior discovers his/her competence and power, the Caregiver emerges, moved by compassion, generosity, and selflessness to help others. She freed slaves!

But the caregiver and rescuing others, in and of themseves, weren’t enough. Daenerys took her responsibilities to the next level, embracing the archetype of the Righteous Ruler – Not the power-hungry, self-centered and entitled type of Ruler. But one who embraces all the prior journey’s wisdom, of caring, of being willing to be a warrior for what is “right”.DT-GameOfThrones-Free reuse

As her journey continues, what other archetypes will emerge? Stay tuned!

What characters do you relate to? What do these characters reveal to you, about your place in your current journey?

Article sources: Awakening The Heroes Within;  Season 1 – Game of Thrones Wiki – Wikia