Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Should-ing All Over Yourself

Do you use the word "should" very often? In the conversations you have with yourself or others, do you frequently say things like, "I should really finish my homework"? Or, "I should call her back"? Or, "I should eat more vegetables". If you're like most, you have some awareness of using this word but, no idea of how often. I think we have integrated this word, like so many others, so fully into our discourse that we don't even recognize our use of it or the affect it has on our experience. This isn't just semantics. Language affects the way we think, feel, and act. And, hearing certain words more frequently than others perpetuates thoughts, feelings, and actions of a certain kind. Language can motivate (think cheerleaders), stimulate (academic lectures), and, unfortunately, denigrate (undeserved criticism). So, for anyone interested in personal growth and reclaiming their experience of authenticity, it would be a useful exercise to examine the automaticity of using this particular word and how it affects your mood and attitude.

Our choice of words and specifically using the word should, can indicate how we think of ourselves in relationship to the world around us. Reflecting on your use of this particular word, you may see it expresses an obligation and contributes to your stress. As if we do not already have enough of either. Using Should expresses a need, even when want may be a more appropriate word to use.

"I should really return his phone call".  "I should take advantage of this opportunity". "I should tell her how I feel".
       But, do you want to?
"I don't know".

This is a fairly common exchange which occurs between myself and my client in session. This exchange also reveals something fairly common yet unconscious for most of us. And, that is that we are more familiar with what we should do than what we want. And yet, given a choice, I think it's fair to say that most of us would prefer to do more of what we want than what we should. We just don't realize we actually have a choice. We can all live our lives more consistent with what we want. It's just that without knowing how to distinguish between shoulds and wants we are not able to be true to ourselves.

If you spend more time invested in thinking about what you should do than about what you want, you should all over yourself!

Look at the frequency and context in which you use the word, should. Explore using the word, want, in it's place. Practice replacing should with want. Consider using want in conversation at least to the same degree as you use the word, should. Notice and, if possible, write down your thoughts and feelings about the exchange of words.

In my experience, when we use the word, should, and imply a need to do something, it is not always possible to justify it as such. "I should do..." this or that? Is your life dependent on it? Is someone holding a gun to your head? Threatening to pull the trigger if you don't comply? Of course not. I believe that we use the word, should, to perpetuate a familiar, though not necessarily flattering Self concept. This Self concept holds our worth and value as a person captive to an achievement not yet accomplished. Therefore, our acceptability is conditional.  It is dependent on doing something more, less, or different than we currently are. That we are not yet unconditionally acceptable. Want implies just the opposite. When we use want, rather than should, we more often consider ourselves to be complete, unconditionally acceptable, even deserving, exactly as we are. This may be a difficult, even uncomfortable, concept to buy into. But, if you are interested in your personal growth and developing a stronger sense of Self and Self esteem, why not give this exchange of words some consideration and see what happens?

Friday, July 29, 2011

How To Break A Pattern

Patterns. They're everywhere. Even within our ways of being. Most of us, I believe, have at one time or another recognized such a pattern in their life. Maybe you are aware of a pattern in your life today that you'd like to see change. A way you act or behave in certain circumstances. Or a way you express yourself in certain situations. Or maybe you see a pattern in the way certain things keep turning out. If this is the case... If you are witnessing something in your life taking place or showing up more frequently than you would like, you're at the perfect starting point to transform it for good. 

Patterns can be insidious. And, insidiously frustrating to avoid. But, patterns have a beginning. And, therefor, they have an end. The difference is that when a pattern began, it did so with very little, if any, conscious effort on our part. To end a pattern, however, will require a much more deliberate effort.  

If you are presently upset by some pattern... And, are willing to, right here and now, declare yourself committed to getting past it... Read on.....

Essential to transform a pattern is to examine 3 things. That consciously or not, you chose to think or behave a certain way at some certain moment in your life. That you are the source of it's continuation. Whether intentionally or not, you continue to operate that same way in those same situations. And, that only conscious intention will allow you to be the source of it's end. Accepting these 3 ideas are absolutely essential to the process of moving beyond the patterns set in place. What took no consciousness to begin will take much greater consciousness to transform. And, developing that level of consciousness takes commitment.

I say, transform, because that is what will happen. The pattern will not so much stop, as  become something else. Some new way of being will show up in the moment that was once occupied by that reoccurring behavior. And, though we may not know now exactly what that will be, following these steps will result in it being a far more authentic, rather than automatic, way of being. We will have the power to transform a pattern only when we can recognize the power we use to keep it in place and accept this reality. Until then, we will continue to find ourselves stuck and claim others and our circumstances as the cause. One of the most essential tools we seem to lack is the consciousness to see our role in maintaining the status quo and the compassion to accept its truth .

When we object to taking responsibility for something that is primarily within our control we fall into the role of victim. If we presume something outside ourselves to be the cause for what we feel, think, do or say, it is in that moment that we invest in the idea that we have less power than that thing we are claiming as cause. And, no person thinking of themselves as a victim of the circumstances will produce the kind of transformation we're talking about.

Step number 2, for those of you keeping count, is to take 2 to 3 minutes nightly to reflect on your day, and try to identify times you observed some aspect of the pattern you want to transform, and writing down whatever you see. Could be an incident in which you blamed another for something only you had control of. Or, a person or circumstance that you thought of yourself as a victim of. 

The intent is to start reflecting on this theory that ONLY YOU are the source of your experience. Journaling is a way to bring more consciousness to this idea and begin to reclaim your control and response-ability for the quality of your life. 

If you do nothing else, this one simple exercise will give you ownership of the automaticity that's been keeping the pattern alive. And, only one who owns their experience can transform it.

If you ever feel inclined to examine any of this further or be coached in becoming more true to your Self, please call.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Are You Too Sensitive?

Have you ever been called "too sensitive"? Do you think you are? What does "too sensitive" mean anyway? Does it mean you feel too deeply about things? Or, is it meant to imply you're feelings are too frequently given more attention then they should? Whatever it may mean, it seems pretty clear it's not a compliment. More likely it's something negative. Bad or detrimental in some way. Like hearing the phrase.. "The problem with you is that you're just too sensitive".

Growing up, I was often accused of being "too sensitive". Losing at a board game, or the way I was being responded to, or somebody failing to keep a promise. These were just a few of the circumstances that I would get upset about. And, no sooner would I express my feelings than I would have my sensitivity to them challenged or criticized. I developed the assessment about myself that I'm just too sensitive. And, with this negative assessment, I began being on guard. I tried to avoid the feelings. Or tried to at least avoid any outward demonstration of having them. I was able, however, to define my feelings. I knew I felt hurt. Sadness. Fear. Loneliness. disappointment. And, each emotion reminded me of my failings.

I knew, however, that there were other feelings present also. Love. Admiration. Enthusiasm... And, more. But, I was at this point so self conscious about being too sensitive, I even found myself concealing these. I had basically come to think of whatever I felt as most likely inappropriate. And, careful not to feel too much of anything.

Until I began coaching.

As I developed my practice of coaching individuals to be more authentic I would often suggest that a prerequisite for authenticity would involve being able to know our feelings. Know them so well that we could distinguish each one from another. The idea that our feelings and emotions are somehow critical to our ability to live authentically began to evolve. I noticed that some of us are more or less feelings oriented than others. I found that those who were less in touch with their feelings were challenged more than others in developing a stronger sense of Self and the ability to express themselves authentically. In other words, I became aware of the connection between one's ability to feel and their ability to create a foundation for living life with self regard and satisfaction.

Maybe a good way to look at this sensitivity issue is to think of it as a commodity. Something that has value. And, as such, something to cherish rather than guard. Like a gift. And, as with any gift, the most profound experience comes from how it is received. We are certainly less likely to dismiss or negate what we think of as having value. And, we are far more likely to utilize something valuable in ways that contribute to our quality of life.

It is through our ability to feel and know what we are feeling that we are able to relate to others in the most intimate of ways. The closeness experienced between people depends on how each perceives the others ability to understand and empathize. And, a prerequisite for empathy is our emotional intelligence.

So, if you've thought of yourself as someone who is just too sensitive, remember.... You have a leg up on many others. Take time to distinguish your feelings. And, find a way to accept them. Whatever the feelings may be. And, in doing so, you'll find a deeper experience of Self acceptance. Honor your feelings and you honor yourself. By respecting you're feelings, you respect yourself. And, my guess is this will feel much more satisfying than finding fault with yourself.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Changing Your Experience of Victim to Source.

Let me start by pointing out two beliefs that most of us share.

One, is that our experience of living is affected by others and the circumstances of our lives.
The second, is that there is such a thing as "good" and "bad" thoughts and feelings.

And, though you may not immediately recognize any lack of logic that these two beliefs share, it is the active participation in these two beliefs that contribute most to our experience of being a "Victim".

My definition of "Victim": Someone who assigns responsibility for what they are thinking or feeling to another person or set of circumstances outside of themselves.

When someone says or does something we don''t like it's human to interpret their expression to have some meaning. And, as we do, some emotion will become present as well. But, rarely do we ever consider exploring the legitimacy of our interpretations. Likewise, we will consider that even the most painful emotion associated with this is something we have little choice about. But, neither thoughts or feelings alone, no matter what they they may be, cause us to feel like a victim. An experience of victim can only be produced by the way we perceive and account for these thoughts and emotions. Believing that the source of them lies outside of ourselves we succumb to the idea that we are less powerful than that person or thing we've assigned cause to. This diminishes our sense of Self and our ability to recreate satisfaction. We've just weakened our position and will likely end up feeling stuck and wrestling within some situation we don't want. This is the role of a victim.

The truth is, no thing or person, or persons behavior or communication can cause us to feel or think anything. If that was so, then everybody that witnesses an event will have the exact same thoughts and feelings about it. But, that's not the case. There are ample examples of horrendous circumstances that have impacted large groups of people. Yet, in spite of these events, different people have had different experiences. Now, I'm not saying that you should have certain thoughts and feelings rather than others. What I am saying, is that whatever thoughts or feelings you do have are yours. They are not forced upon you without any process of your own involved. And, they are neither "good" nor "bad". Maybe you've found yourself reacting to certain emotions in ways that have left you upset. But, that doesn't make the feelings "bad". That just suggests you've not learned how to just experience them without reacting.

Interpretations (thoughts) and emotions are separate from behavior. We do not have to behave in some manner just because we experience a particular emotion or thought. Our behavior can be chosen regardless. And, the sooner we learn to distinguish these from one another, the sooner we will begin reclaiming the power we've been giving away. In essence, we will begin transforming our experience of living from "victim" to "Source".

And, just a side note.... A "victim" mentality is not limited to feelings and thoughts we have considered "bad". Any emotion that we do not take responsibility for being the source of, including love, is part of that mentality. The people in our lives can present us with circumstances. And, that is something we can make requests about. But, what we feel and think is just that. What we feel and think!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Say what you mean. Mean what you say.

Being true to ourselves can often be a challenge. First and foremost, because we just don't concern ourselves with the concept as much as we may want to. So much of our thinking is spent on analyzing and trying to predict what our circumstances or a particular individual may require of us, that the question of how to be true to ourselves rarely ever gets asked. But, one area we can look at in order to gauge and promote this way of being is by way of our communications. When we are distracted by what we're thinking someone else may be expecting of us there will be a discrepancy between our public and private communications. In other words, what we are saying to ourselves in the moment will be different than what we are saying to the other person. And, since verbal communication effects how others respond to us, we may frequently experience less satisfaction than we'd hoped for within that relationship. We can take steps, however, that will result in speaking more authentically. And, by doing so, we will shift our experience from being at the effect of our relationships to being the source. We will notice confusion give way to clarity and frustration give way to satisfaction. But, having the courage to risk making waves will be an essential element. Not that waves will occur. But, not like they absolutely won't either. If we have a history of not saying what we mean or want, the people in our lives will not be accustomed to hearing what we have been suppressing. So, it's important to bring this perspective to the moments we think our words have hurt rather than helped a situation. Knowing that the bridge between our being inauthentic and authentic may travel over troubled waters.