Tag Archives: NYC

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?

The Lazy Song

Very cute video.  As I was on my treadmill, struggling with running after not having run for several days, I heard this song on the radio.  It struck me that while he did not feel like doing anything, he in fact, wrote this song, set it to music, and directed the video, had friends/associates that could do the video with him, and it became a number one hit.

There is nothing wrong with taking a mental health day, feeling lazy, or laying on the couch all day on the weekend watching tv…but the fact is, that you do have to show up for yourself and do the things that you don’t feel like doing.  Exercise, eat right, meditate, work, pursue your goals and your dreams.

The issue that gets most people though is not ‘being lazy’, but feeling ‘not good enough’ or ‘not enough’.  Once you have the knowledge of what you would like to be doing in order to feel better, or accomplish your goals – you have to take all the thoughts that come afterwards, that are obstacles to you taking the next step, and put them in a locked box.

Or maybe you can write a song about it…

 

 

 

 

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day – a day for us to renew our awareness of our connection to the Earth.  As we go through our daily routines, especially those of us that live in urban areas, it is easy to forget about the ground we walk upon.   It is deeper than the sidewalk in front of our house, the road that leaves town; or the bicycle lane that takes us to work.  Even in more rural areas, we may still focus on the day to day troubles and fail to contemplate the gifts of the earth.

Along with the idea that we need to take care of ourselves – mentally, physically and spiritually comes the much bigger notion that the earth is what sustains us all on each of these planes.  Our gratitude for our life does not begin nor end with our ‘thank you for this day’; it begins with the simple actions that enhance or diminish our lives on a daily basis, that also enhance and diminish the quality of life on earth.  Think about it.  Think about the things you do to enhance your own personal well being.  There should be no incongruity between self-care and care of the earth.  The reverse holds true as well, if you know how to take care of the earth – you have the fundamental knowledge of how to take care of yourself.

doing the next right thing

Sometimes our thinking can get in the way of progress.  We complicate things beyond recognition and become immobilized.  The concept of ‘doing the next right thing’ is a way of removing the thinking clutter from our minds and focussing solely on the next step that will move you forward towards your desired goal.

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

 

 

 

secondary gain

One thing to look at when thinking about unremitting problems is what is the secondary gain from staying stuck?  Just as an alcoholic who gets sober suddenly finds themselves with a whole lot of time on their hands, so do others who make significant changes in their life.   What would you be doing if you didn’t have your situation?  Do you know?

Looking at this a little more concretely, we can look at alcoholism.  With the elimination of alcoholic drinking, an individual will then have a whole lot of time, and probably extra money, on their hands.  There is no more time spent hungover, recovering from the night before; and no more time spent ruminating about the all too vague semi- recollections of what was done while drinking; no more time spent regretting or in remorse, apologizing, for something done while ‘tight’.  An important part of the recovery process is finding healthy ways to fill that void, otherwise, there is a greater risk of relapse.

When other types of changes are made, the same thing happens : you are left with a whole lot of time that you don’t know what to do with.  There are life-cycle changes that are (more or less) out of your direct control, such as all the children  growing up and leaving the house;  or the death of someone you have been caregiving for years.  You are then suddenly faced with what are you now going to do with yourself.

There are some problems, though, that are more under our direct control – possibly more than we see right now.  Sometimes, on some semi-conscious or unconscious level, we keep our problem in play.  We become an actor in the play of our life, new people come into the picture, but they are all signing up for a repeat performance of our same script; we think we are starting new relationships, but we quickly find ourselves repeating the same old tired lines.  Always getting into the same type of relationship; the sense of feeling betrayed or hurt in the same manner, by different people.  It’s not so much that we find exactly the same type of person, but that we have the same types of reactions/fears/expectations.  What is the secondary gain in repeating this same type of scenario?  What are you missing, or avoiding, by not changing or moving on?

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

no magic wand, no crystal ball

The therapist only knows what you tell them.  Sure, if the therapist has experience, they could probably surmise some things that you may not have spoken about yet, and hopefully, ask you directly to see if certain things are true for you.  The more you work therapy, the more it will work for you.  The amount of help a therapist can provide is directly proportional to how much work you are willing to do.  This is important to realize because at times, therapists are seen as having some form of magical qualities that will make you ‘better’.    This is not so.  YOU make yourself better by working at making the changes that you want to, and need to, make.  Therapy is useful when you need extra guidance, support or insight into how to make changes and/or address whatever blocks your path.

 

pass the scalpel, please

If you are contemplating going into therapy for the first time, chances are you are not in a good place in your life; and chances are that you are worried you are entering into psychotherapy hell – will you actually be helping yourself by spending all this money to talk about your past?  Will the therapist diagnose you as crazier than you had thought you were?  Or worse yet, maybe the therapist will laugh and think you’re silly.  Will they understand – and will you be able to explain?

All these are possibly valid questions related to the fears you are having, and ultimately it is up to you to enter and/or leave a psychotherapy relationship.  There is a financial commitment, a commitment to yourself.  If you have tried self-help books; talking to friends; late night postings on related-to-your-problem sites to no avail, maybe you need to try therapy.  The biggest difference is the fact that you will have a live human being in front of you; you will be having a conversation – in real time.

Therapy is not like surgery, however.  The therapist will not pick apart your brain and take the bad, diseased part out.  If only…

This is a core fear about therapy – about finding out there is something inherently wrong with you – some ‘diseased part’.  Actually, there is no ‘diseased part’.  The aspects of yourself that give you the most trouble are probably strengths taken out of context;  coping skills and other behaviors that no longer work for you;   survival skills that are no longer necessary; knee-jerk reactions from past events that you just can’t erase.

Therapy could also be about finding out what is right with you and how to use your strengths more effectively.  Who knows, you could even become happier with yourself just as you are.

 

 

inner child

I see this song as sung by the singer’s inner child to the singer.   In Pink’s Family Portrait, the child is her as they are dressed in the same clothes and even have the same beauty marks on their faces. It’s not until she acknowledges this inner child that she gets to a better place.

 Pink – Family Portrait

So much has been written about inner child work.  The main premise of inner child work centers on the idea that there is an aspect of the adult that remains a child and holds the emotional memories of events and experiences as well as reactions.  This inner child needs to be given a voice.  Usually, as adults, we reject ideas or feelings that intellectually we know are not ‘appropriate’ for us to feel, or that we don’t want to feel, and so these feelings are never verbalized.  They usually leak out, however, in ways that are difficult to control, like when we are very upset,  and that we usually later regret.

Therapy is a forum to give voice to all the illogical parts of you – in a safe, non-judgmental forum.  Parts of you that are exasperating because you already should ‘know better’, but you still cannot stifle.