Tag Archives: acceptance

how to save the world

Last Sunday, my spouse and I decided to go for a late afternoon walk in the park. It was our lazy way out of doing a 3 mile run. Instead, we decided to walk the 3+ mile loop of our park with our dogs, as a way of getting the miles in but not over-exerting ourselves. This of course, is not the point of this post, but I need to set up this scenario.

We walked around the park, but although it was already late afternoon, it was pretty hot, and our dogs are not used to the heat; and although they are fit, 3 miles was a big jump from their usual 1 mile max on a walk. So, we carried them, looked for water, sat in shady areas, got their bodies wet to cool their core. Eventually we sat in a cool shady area for a longer period of time, where the dogs (and us) could rest, and watch the people in the park.

While sitting there, watching kites fly, people playing frisbee, or paddle ball, sitting around, eating, reading to their child. I lay back and enjoyed it all. Though the park was full of people, it was peacefully quiet.

I turned my head, and looked at the curve of the hill that I was on, that flattened out to the path. Beyond that was a lamppost, a fence, and then more greenery beyond that. I thought about the earth, the dandelions all over, imagined the hundreds of people that walk through this area; imagined the iron worker that must have taken pride in the lamppost they made, or not. The people that installed it in that spot, and the others that repaint it a shiny black every so often. Were they proud of the work or indifferent? I went on to think how the fence must have been installed by someone – I wondered how they felt doing it – was it a hot, sticky day like today or the middle of winter?. I wondered about the stories that each person in the park had – why were they there, were they happy? serene? miserable? There were also the birds, bugs, and other animals that live in this park – all in a peaceful coexistence. We are all one.

With this thought of one-ness, I then started thinking about the world; caring for the world and how there are some people/organizations/countries that are not taking care of the earth/people/animals/vegetation, and are more focused on profit. How could we be one, and then do this to ourselves? What can I do to stop fracking, or to stop use of GMO’s or whatever other global or local issue that is affecting the world?

We are all one…hmm. The thought came back to me, like the speck in Horton Hears A Who!. Earlier that week, I had spoken to someone about how, within families, we cannot change others, we can only change ourselves. Even if the other person is the one that’s ‘wrong’, we can only control our own behavior – what we say and what we do. We have to focus on ourselves if we want to make progress, otherwise we can wait forever, unhappy, waiting for someone else to ‘see the light’. And then it hit me – well actually, the speck landed on my forehead: maybe this earlier line of thinking also applies to the world – that all I have to do is work on myself. Somehow, this is the key to saving the world – make myself the best person I can be. This new thought has been quite tentative – a thought that can float away on doubt. But it hasn’t, it has rested on the spot right above my nose. I did not swat it away, it was not bothering me, but was also surprised that it remained there, still.

What do you think? Change the world by becoming a better person yourself. Phooey! That can’t be possible, can it?

Cognitive Distortion – Overgeneralization

Overgeneralization is a type of cognitive distortion where an individual generalizes a negative view based on one, or limited, experience. In this song, Billy Joel is singing to someone who has ‘over generalized’ – she has been hurt in and is unwilling to love again.

Does life stop after one is hurt or betrayed? Are there some things that are just too devastating that one simply just does not recover?

We look to people to inspire us, like the guy that cut off his hand in order to live while mountain climbing; or Elizabeth Smart who was held hostage for over 18 years; the triathlon guy who does triathlons with his son, who has cerebral palsy, in tow.

We look to these people and wonder whether we’d be able to face the challenge they faced. Meanwhile, we all face our own particular challenges that we see as ‘different’. Symbolically, are you willing to cut away an important part of you in order to survive? Are you willing to go to any lengths to accomplish something, even if it is harder for you than it is for most? Are you able to face down other people’s possible criticism or judgment? It is safer to fantasize about what would we do if we were mountain climbing and our hand got stuck under a rock; than it is to think about cutting away the dead end job or the unfulfilling relationship. We face similar questions in each situation – what will happen then? What if I don’t succeed? What if I regret my decision?

Overgeneralization can be a distortion that leads us to remain stuck.   It gives us the illusion of safety by avoiding taking any risks. Can we instead, learn from our errors, from the things that go wrong? Surely we can; we must, in fact, learn – even when or especially when the solution is more painful, at least in the short run, than the problem itself.

 

For more information on the above references:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aron_Ralston

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Smart_kidnapping

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_Hoyt

 

 

 

Thanksgiving syndrome

Thanksgiving is long gone right now, but it’s a good a time as any to discuss this ‘syndrome’.  Basically, Thanksgiving Syndrome is the idea that no matter how enlightened you’ve become or you feel, you have this tendency to revert back to your former self when back with family.  If you can relate to this, you’ve probably resolved to not let Uncle Harry irritate you as he usually does or your cousin Lucy to get under your skin.  You play out in your mind the booby traps that you usually fall into every reunion and imagine how this time, you will not fall in.  Some people focus on how the family members should not behave in their usual ways.  Others focus on how they will ‘rise above’ others’ behaviors.  Yet time after time, you come out of this get-together beaten down, relapsed back to old behavior, and really depressed.  Somehow, you end up being the one that acts like the ass with others looking at you with this apparently perturbed look that you are still doing the same old thing…

Family dynamics.  Our family members press our buttons because they installed them.  Even if you ‘ve had surgery to excise them, there still is that darned scar – so sensitive to the touch.

One thing to keep in mind, is that although you may have spent a lot of time in self-reflection, with self-help books; in therapy, your family most likely has not.  The issue is not that your family members have particular quirks, behaviors, or personality flaws that are enraging.  The real issue is how it affects you, and why it affects you.

Lack of acceptance is one cornerstone on issues that keep repeating.  Acceptance of things as they are – good and bad – is a very important part helping to step out of the dynamic that occurs between family members and you.

One tool to address this is to practice the art of mindfulness.  Mindfulness meditation is essentially focusing on what is happening to you right at the moment it is happening without judgement or criticism.  More on that in another post.

 

 

alone again, naturally

This is not a post adressing suicidal thoughts.  If you feel like you are going to hurt yourself, please talk to someone or take yourself to the nearest ER.

The song is about loss: being left at the altar, the mother dying, father dying, relationships ending and being alone.  But the critical word, I believe, is ‘naturally’.  The idea that you are alone again, – of course, what else is there for me; I’m forever destined to be alone.

http://youtu.be/D_P-v1BVQn8

How we perceive an event and the reason things happen to us is one of the centerpieces of our mental health.  If I think that I’m doomed to be alone for the rest of my life, no matter what I do – I’ll be pretty depressed, including feeling helpless and hopeless about it to boot.

It’s important to look at the themes of your perceptions of yourself, about life, about ‘why’ things happen to you to see more clearly what you bring to the table of your life.  Once you identify those themes, you can work on changing your perceptions, changing the possibilities of ‘why’ certain things occur in your life.  Who knows to what bountiful horizons you could point yourself towards!

This is hard to do alone.  Therapy is one tool that can help you out of outgrown mis-perceptions.

i will survive

This song is the mantra for many people who grew up in that era and thereafter.  I remember being on the dancefloor where there was always someone crying while dancing, yelling out the lyrics to the song, possbily after one beer too many.  Songs help people identify their emotions, express them and hopefully move on.  This is definitely a ‘I have moved on’ song.  Or more precisely, ‘I’ve moved on, but you seem to think that I will take you back’.

http://youtu.be/ZBR2G-iI3-I

Sometimes, we hold on to our anger or resentment long after the event has passed.  A person may stay stuck in the grief or the anger of the event that occurred.  It could be death, the end of a relationship, or another significant change that the individual has a hard time accepting.  Maybe there are others around this individual who say ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’ or something else along those lines.  It seems that others don’t understand the pain involved, and it may seem impossible to move on.  This is where psychotherapy can help possibly identify what the block is to letting go and moving on.

Is there anything that you are holding on to?

you owe me nothing in return

Alanis Morissette – You Owe Me Nothing In Return

This is someone’s YouTube posting of mostly the lyrics of the song.  I was not able to find an actual video made by Alanis Morissette.

This song is intended to be from one person to another.  The general message is to be able to love someone else unconditionally – which is great and is something to strive for.  It is also a message against those relationships where basically, one person is held hostage in the relationship through guilting, blaming and or shaming.

The reality though, is that we are all human beings struggling to do the right thing and always imperfectly.   We all have needs and if we come from a dysfunctional background, we have not learned how to appropriately get those needs met.  There is a healthy ‘give and take’ in relationships.  Sometimes expressing your own needs comes to be seen – by yourself, as well as possibly others around you, as being ‘selfish’.  The struggle is, basically, to come to an answer to the question ‘am I being selfish for wanting this?’  The idea of unconditional love gets distorted.  An individual can find themselves stuck in a bad situation due to this confusion and distortion of unconditional love versus setting limits on someone else’s behavior.

This is a difficult topic to address in one posting.  In terms of this song, I hear it as being from a higher power, not another human being.  Your higher power can love you, and does love you,  unconditionally.  No matter how you act or what you do, your higher power will accept you and forgive you.  Even while you experience the consequences of your behavior, it is not your higher power that is punishing you.  You can express yourself and ask for what you need to your higher power, and your higher power will respond.   This is guaranteed, although you may not always hear the answer, or like the answer, your higher power is there for you.

Can you set limits on someone’s behavior and still love them?   Where does the other person end and you begin?  Are you making another human being your higher power?

 

just the way you are

In 2002, I was struggling with my spiritual life.  I basically didn’t have one and was feeling inadequate spiritually.  Whatever I did was not quite the ‘right’ thing or not ‘good enough’.  Then I heard this song on the radio while driving somewhere and it opened up my heart to accept myself and my spirituality just as it was.

Billy Joel – Just the Way You Are

You too, may be struggling with an aspect of yourself.  We get so much information from various places as to what is a ‘correct’ spiritual practice.  Inevitably, we are not as evolved as we would like to be, or that we think that we should be.  We don’t believe what we are told to believe, or lack sufficient trust to simply accept.  Development of your spiritual side actually is a lot of work.  A lot of work, that is done very slowly and at times is painful.  One of the first steps in being able to develop your own spirituality, is to accept yourself just as you are.