Things to Know Before You Go

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The jagged spoon

I have a spoon in my utensil drawer that has met the whirling garbage disposal. It hasSpoonfront jagged edges now, not like a spoon should be. A spoon needs to be smooth and curved to do it’s job well. The sharp, ragged edges cut the lips and mouth. It can still hold food and transport it my mouth, and it hurts. I think, every time I see the spoon, “why do I still have that spoon?” Yet, I leave it in the drawer. Sometimes bury it under the “good” spoons.

I believe that a lot of people have tools they keep and don’t use. I think that we, as people, tend to hold onto a lot of things that we don’t need or even, perhaps, hurt us. I imagine this spoon as metaphor for coping skills or behaviors that we choose to hold onto, even though they may hurt us.

When you open your drawer of go-to, even thoughtless, behaviors, reactions, coping skills, do you look at what you grab? Are your reactions instinctual? Do you sometimes end up with the jagged spoon? Cutting and hurting yourself in the process of protecting yourself? Thinking “it will work just fine – if I do what I always have done.”

Eventually, we might need new spoons.

The jagged sharp spoon did not start that way. It was good, until it wasn’t. How do you decide when a behavior or coping skill is not for you anymore? How can you tell if you are hurting yourself? Generally this comes after a behavior or reaction. It is a matter of self reflection and paying attention to what you do. If you find you continue to behave in the same way, which sometimes hurts you, you might want to look at some new tools, new ways to do things.

Grief – the unavoidable process

My grandfather passed away last week. It was a good thing. He was 100! Quite a feat in itself. Even better, he was really healthy up until this last year. He was on a steady physical decline for a few months. His mind was as sharp as ever! It was peaceful for him. We said good bye and wished him well.

I, on the other hand, am not feeling so peaceful. I usually help people through this process. I am now on the other side of unavoidable anguish.

Grief is the emotional process one goes through when there are changes in life. We have to grieve what we lose when we change. This can be simple, like moving from Elementary to Junior High. You still have your friends (usually). It is just an adjustment to more classes, teachers, lack of recess. It doesn’t really seem like grief, but it is. You miss things you are not experiencing anymore. The new things can consume you and make the process easier.  It could also be a major adjustment, like a family member dying, a new baby, or getting married. We grieve the loss of singledom or coupledom when our family grows.

When we lose something precious and do not have a replacement (which can not happen with a loved one dying), the grieving feels painful. It becomes a process of reconciliation. How does this hole, that once was a person, fit in my life now? How do I reconcile the loss of a grandfather who has always been there. I can not remember a time when he wasn’t part of my life. I don’t grieve for him. I grieve for me. I have to allow the sadness and anger to run through me.

People have different ways of grieving. They rely on God, family, or friends. What really needs to happen is permission. Give yourself permission to have ALL those feelings. Whatever comes with grief, allow it. Feel sadness and cry. Feel angry and yell or punch a pillow. Let it come. The only way to “get past” grief is to travel through it. There is no way to avoid the process. You will just get stuck there.  Write your feelings down, create a memory book or page, have a wake for your loss. See grief as the process, adjustment and reconciliation of the changes rather than the loss.

What is optimism?

Optimism: Tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the more favorable outcome. (dictionary.com)

Pessimism: the tendency to see, anticipate or emphasize only the bad or undesirable outcomes, results, condition, problems, etc. (dictionary.com)

You can probably identify if you are an optimist or a pessimist. What is the first thought that comes to mind when something bad, or even not so great, happens? Is it “Oh great! This will ruin my whole day. I am depressed.” or “Oh dear. That’s too bad. I’m glad it was not any worse.”

See the difference. One thought can lead to a sour mood and negative attitude and the other leans toward the silver lining with a positive outlook. Both attitudes will change your day. Like I say How you do Anything is How you do Everything.  If you tend to see things in a pessimist light, you will be anxious, worrisome and sometimes depressed. Things just never look good. Optimists usually see the brighter side, the upswing, the possible great things to come! They are generally more upbeat, excited, goal oriented and outgoing. 

Some people believe they are a “realist” which basically means “Hope for the best, expect the worst.”  Realists are pessimists with some hope. Hope that things will not always be terrible, but they still believe they will be terrible. A true realist can see things for what they are without prejudice or personal opinion. It’s harder to do that you think. Your personal world view is all about the perception of the event/situation which come from your self talk and your ongoing tapes derived from childhood and past events.

What makes an optimist?

In “Authentic Happiness” by Martin Seligman, he refers to pessimist thought as an automatic perception of a setback as “permanent, pervasive and personal: It’s going to last forever, it’s going to undermine everything and it’s all my fault.” Whereas an optimist may see the same setback as surmountable, particular to that problem, temporary and relative to others.  An optimist can see a situation for what it is, who it is relative to and how it can be improved.

The NUMBER ONE act of an optimist is to take the situation as one instance in time. It does not explode to global proportions. They dispute the negative, pervasive devastation a pessimist might assume.  “Wait, does this red light really mean I will be late to work, yelled at by my boss, have to stay late, possibly written up, loose an account….” Probably not. So, what does it mean? You can take a similar situation that has happened in the past to compare the current situation to. Disregard your emotional response, since it might have been exaggerated. What actually happened? When overwhelmed or anxious events, try disputing your own thoughts to replace with more realistic and positive ideas.

You can take an optimism test on Dr. Seligman’s website. There is more information on optimism and happiness. 

How you see yourself matters

We are our worst critic. We scrutinize ourselves relentlessly. We spend more time thinking about how we look and portray ourselves than anyone else. Yep, how much do you think about other people’s appearance, behavior, etc. (That does not include comparing yourself to them) That is about how much they think about you. Usually, fleeting.

How you see your self matters. It is directly related to your self esteem and confidence. It correlates to how much time, effort, and love you think you deserve, from yourself and others. One of the most common symptoms of low self esteem is the fear that if others Truly knew you, all of you, they would leave you, hate you, despise or pity you. So, you keep parts of yourself hidden. You act in a way you think they want from you, not how you might really want to. You withhold things from your self that you deserve: love, attention, nurturing, time. You criticize your decisions, behavior, words and reactions. You give up to others what you should have.

It is a lot of effort for minimal impact. You work very hard to avoid a perceived threat. Believe it or not, people care and love you for who are. No matter what your perceived draw backs are. By giving up the effort for others and giving some back to yourself, which includes giving yourself some slack, you will gain some confidence. One of the hardest parts is figuring out what are doing for yourself and what do you give up. Where is the line? Well, how does it make you feel? Are you resentful and empty after or feel a sense of pride?

Give yourself some slack on the criticism. Give yourself some props on what you accomplish. Give yourself some time and attention. You deserve it.

You attract what you feel you’re worth

Do you ever wonder why a certain kind of person always finds you? Why is it the same kind of guy/girl that you always end up dating? You don’t have good friends, they are flaky, non-commital, never pay, etc.  Do you feel like you have a sign on your head that says “I love losers!”?  Well, it really is your fault that all these people show up in your life. They literally seek you out. I will try to explain this from both sides.

You attract to you what you feel worthy of 

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That means that whatever you feel you deserve in a relationship, job, money, life, youwill attract that to you. Wait! That is not the same thing as wanting something really, really bad. Just because you want it doesn’t mean you think you actually deserve to have it. Listen to yourself very closely after you say out loud that you deserve something your really want. What happened? Did you sigh, snort, “yeah, right” “like that will happen”? Perhaps you don’t really think you deserve it.

Like attracts like

I have worked with all kinds of people. I spent several years working with sex offenders. Sex offenders, manipulators, abusers, violators of all sorts have some kind of internal radar. They can walk into a room of 20 people and find the ONE person who will “take the bait.” Some can not explain how this works, they just know. Some can spot the body language. They can just tell. Abusers tend to stay away from confident people because they stand up for themselves. They don’t allow other people to hurt them. It’s not okay. So, they gravitate to the people who thinks it IS okay to be hurt and manipulated.

EVERYONE deserves love, affection, kindness, empathy and understanding. NO ONE deserves pain, violence, betrayal, loneliness and heartache. You reap what you sow. If you hand out kindness, you should receive it. Unless you hand out kindness to sociopaths and manipulators. Then you get nuthin’. If you want to be treated the way you treat others, you must believe that you deserve it.

This kind of belief system fits with the self talk, affirmation, and visualizing your goal. You create the life that you feel you deserve. Make it better by believing in yourself and your worth. You can start globally with the belief that everyone deserves happiness and love. Include yourself in that “everyone.” List what you want in life, being realistic about what it really is that would make you feel content. Tell yourself, constantly, that you deserve those things. Put it out in the universe (as The Secret might tell you). It will come.

Marriage = Team

I work with many couples. One of the most frequent happenings in a troubled marriage (read committed relationship) is that they take sides. It starts to be “me against you”, the finger pointing, blaming, shaming, guilting, etc. It all leads to distance, emotional and physical, which leads to resentment. Here is a tip, which might sound easier than it really is.

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Marriage = Team

Basically, partners need to remember they are on the same TEAM. The same side, going for the same goal, headed in the same direction. Hold hands and face the world TOGETHER. It is about US against the world, not each other.

However, how does that help trouble INSIDE the marriage. Aha! Take that TEAM principle and apply it to everything.

For example, money issues (common problem in marriages). Take the budget and tackle it as US against the BUDGET. The problem should be outside of the team. Literally put it on the table. What do WE need to do to make it work. The collective “we” shares blame and does not shame. No finger pointing or judging. Here is the budget, how do we make it work together?  If one person is overspending, address it as “It seems we overspent on food this month. How can we fix it?” If one person is having trouble staying on budget, ask for help. “I am having difficulty sticking to this plan. Can you help me figure it out?” You are both on the same team. 

This is mostly about using team oriented language and how you view the relationship. Avoid language that blames, like sentences that start with you. If you find you are having a lot of difficulty with this concept, you might need more help from a professional, book or class.