Tag Archives: strengths

rewriting history


Rewriting history
We all come with baggage
Things that happened to us as children; as teenagers and as adults
Maybe a family member was insensitive to our needs; perhaps there was cruelty either accidental or intentional. There is remorse or regret over something we did: maybe we were the bully ; or we were the abuser. At times the victim becomes the victimizer.

You can gaze at the past but do not dwell on it.

We have learned – through self help books and therapy that we need to ‘work through’ our issues; which we dutifully do – we journal; talk about it; cry over it; confront the individuals that wronged us.

At some point though, we are just left with ourselves. We are left with the effects of the past and our perceived ruins in the present. What if we could just let it all go? When do we say enough with the processing? What if there is an escape hatch in our brain that we can open and get rid of all the pain we have been hoarding?

Ask, and it shall be.

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…

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

making changes

Anaïs Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”

Changing is difficult; taking risks; going down a new path.  Familiar misery feels safer than the unknown leap into something we desire.

At times, it is difficult to really see ‘why’ is nothing changing “even though I desire it so?”.  One difficulty is that an individual looks at the horizon, their goal or destination but then does not look at where their feet are planted, nor do they take the next step.   All these inspirational messages are for naught when we cannot apply them to our own lives.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”.  Hmm – how does this relate to my own complicated life?  This sounds sweet, but my situation is unique.   The distance between the present and the destination appears insurmountable.  I’m different.  Or worse yet, I’m not different, I’m just a loser, a dreamer that won’t get anywhere.  I know better, but still I don’t do it.

Looking at this through a ‘cognitive -behavioral’ perspective, how you look at yourself and the steps you need to take is what ultimately helps or hinders you.  The most common reasons that an individual doesn’t take the ‘first’ or the ‘next’ step are:

it’s not enough

I need to do more than that

If it’s already months/years later and you are still saying the same thing to yourself, it’s time to look at this more closely.  It’s time to turn this around and do it even though you don’t think it’s enough.  Make the step so easy, that you know that you could do it with your eyes closed.  So small, that when you’re done, you feel like taking more steps.  Don’t!  But you already know the drill.  You then burn yourself out, and stop altogether.  Keep things slow and steady; take it very slow and keep it easy.

For every step forward – you will still have to contend with your self esteem and self confidence that will start clamoring for you to go back to bed or to do more than you planned.

Making changes is difficult; one cannot do this alone – if you could, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.  It’s important to get others involved in the changes you want to make.  Sometimes it’s good to get someone outside of your primary support network.  Sometimes they may have their own stakes in whether or not you change.  Getting involved in a support group with others who are trying to make similar changes is one way to expand your network of support.  Getting a therapist is another.

What changes have you been wanting to make?   Do you keep making the same plan over and over again, expecting it to be different this time?  Do you stop yourself before you even start?  It’s time to turn to the sun and unfurl your petals.

 

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?

practice makes progress

Practice makes progress.  You can aspire to perfect, possibly, but only if this aspiration does not leave you feeling like you are eternally falling short.  Self esteem and self confidence come from doing esteemable things.  Doing those things that you would admire yourself for if you were to do them regularly, if they were part of your identity.  What could those things be?  Having plants that live because you are able to take care of them.  Pets that thrive and are happy.  Calling people back.  Not gossiping.  Saying no when you want to say no.  Asking for what you need.  Asking for a raise.  Being a hard worker.  These are only a few.  Some are big and long term – like having a pet, and some involve less steps, but not necessarily less intense – like calling someone back.

The other aspect to this is that you may be very successful in one area of your life – you may be very successful on your job; or successful as a parent or very outgoing.   Sometimes people hang their hat on their strengths and avoid looking at their limitations.  Part of becoming well rounded – emotionally, physically and spiritually fulfilled – you need to look at the aspects of yourself that are not working for you.

Working on improving some aspect of yourself does not take away your successes or your strengths.  In fact, often times, your strengths are usually the source of your weakness when in a different context.   Take a look at your strengths and your limitations.  No matter what you may be thinking, you do have both.  Are you feeling emotionally, physically, and spiritually satisfied with what you are doing?