The Optimistic Pessimist

My father loved to tell a story of the two twin brothers. One was a pessimist, the other an optimist. On their ninth birthday, the father led the pessimist son out to the backyard and presented him with a beautiful pony. The boy fretted, “What if I fall off and hurt myself!”

The father went to the optimist son and led him to a room. When the boy looked inside the room, he found a pile of manure. Delighted, he exclaimed, “Oh boy! Underneath all this manure, there must be a pony!”

How do you explain the events in your life? The lesson here is that it makes a difference how you respond to whatever life presents you. To cope with the unpredictability of life, some of us think optimistically. A positive mental attitude empowers you to be aligned with your goals, values, and dreams. For others, with a pessimistic mindset they think of what did or might go wrong and only consider the downside. In both cases, the optimistic and pessimistic mindset is the driving force to protect against future disappointment or hurt. Continue reading “The Optimistic Pessimist”

Welcoming Our Struggles

Life is filled with countless emotions and experiences. When things are going well, we tend to glide easily through life. However, when suffering arrives, we struggle with it. Our difficulties usually bring us to a redefining moment. They challenge the way we look at ourself and our life. Our unfulfilled plans, mistakes, doubts and disappointments are all part of sorting through our life. All our experiences are valuable in some way.

Each day, we have the opportunity to welcome whatever emerges. Life is a full range of emotion. They arise when we arrive at a place in our life that fills us with joy, happiness or laughter. Or, we could reach a crossroad in our life that is filled with sadness, tears, and discontent. Sometimes, our pain gives us reason to wonder whether we will ever be OK again. A wounded heart can be just as alarming and unwelcome as a broken arm or an illness. However, just like physical pain is a call to action, our emotional pain needs to be welcomed and given attention. Give your hurt feelings, your physical healing and your unmet needs the kind of support that allows you to more easily shift your approach in how you look at your circumstance.

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Let Your Self Shine

The other night in preparing for my youngest son’s wedding, we sat looking at old family pictures in my living room.  After my son left, I went outside to reflect on my feelings.  Looking back at the pictures, I was overcome by my beauty, but also a bit saddened by the fact that I didn’t feel attractive internally as a young girl. Then I felt a surge of gratefulness for my life and the lessons I’ve learned. I am no longer compelled to hold onto the emotional influence of my past and when it does surface, I am able to manage it. I’ve come to an age where I know real fulfillment comes from self- acceptance, from daring to be just as you are and expressing it. The sooner we are aware of our reactions the sooner we can find balance.

To grow and expand as a person of strength, we need to validate our feelings, fears, and struggles that we had. Understanding is the key to balancing and managing the experience of who we are. It’s a worthy endeavor to be familiar with those precious wonder children!

Continue reading “Let Your Self Shine”

Thinking the Worst

 My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes . . . most of which never happened.  MARK TWAIN

The human imagination is quite creative and can take us on an emotional adventure.  We imagine going into space and make it happen. We have the ability to create stories, put them on film, and engage millions to dream along with us.  Imagination unlocks the door to endless possibilities.

The problem is, sometimes we think up the worst possible scenarios for our own lives. These scenarios cause our self unnecessary worry.  The good news is, like Mark Twain suggests, most of these scenarios never come true.  Unfortunately though when we continually think the worst, it will cause us unnecessary suffering.  “What-if” questions are usually only possibilities and not reality.

Buddha has taught us that the mind is everything; what you think you become. Every moment of the day, we are faced with the choices of our own thoughts.

Being able to imagine the worst can be useful. It enables us to gather information and to make contingency plans so that we are prepared to deal with the ‘what-if’ if it does happen. However, often times, we don’t just stop there.   Instead of just laying out alternative possibilities for us to consider, our thoughts make a great drama out of the ‘what-if’.  Before we know it, we are drawn into the intensity of the scene, and the feelings are as if it is all happening now. And our body responds.  We are in it as if it is already happening.
It is natural that we do get caught up imagining the worst from time to time.  After all, we are only human. But the trick is to catch ourselves in it so that we can find our way out. Mark Twain said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”  So how can you bring your imagination under control and make it work for you  rather than against you?

Moving Past Disappointment

Whatever path we are on in our life, along the way, we are bound to encounter disappointment. An old proverb says, “Every path has its puddle.”  In life, disappointments are bound to happen. It’s natural to have expectations of ourselves, and the people and situations in our lives. Unfortunately, when we rely too heavily on the expectations, and they become especially meaningful, the resulting disappointment can overwhelm us.

We become so focused on our desired outcome that we lose our footing and get caught feeling ill-equipped when it doesn’t happen.

Disappointment makes us feel that we failed somehow, and we are left disillusioned.  In disappointment, we feel at a loss of an idea of ourselves and what would be. We were expecting to arrive at an intended destination and when that doesn’t happen we begin to question ourselves, our abilities, and our worth.  As a result, we need to regain our balance.

How do we ease our disappointment? How do we sustain ourselves through let-down?

Continue reading “Moving Past Disappointment”

Step Out of Stuckness

We all experience feeling stuck from time to time in our lives. It is natural to experience these impasses. Either we encounter them at the end of something; a change or a transition in our lives, or we simply become stuck in a feeling. We find ourselves retreating. I like to call it cocooning. Either way, we get caught in uneasiness, self-doubt, avoidance, and confusion about ourselves and our future.

In his book, “Getting Unstuck”, Timothy Butler describes the fact that impasse is developmentally necessary. He believes that impasse is an internalized notion of inadequacy, and a request for us to change our way of thinking about ourselves. The impasse starts with feeling stuck and ends with finally taking action.

When we find ourselves in the midst of an impasse, it means that we need to rework our approach, and adjust the things we say to ourselves. Old recurring feelings of anger, shame, self-doubt may have crept in. What identity or familiar feelings do you get caught in? It may feel like a comfort zone but it really becomes our stuck point and not very comforting.

When we find ourselves  stuck in an uncomfortable emotional loop, there is something inside us that is being ignored.

To get back on the path where everything seems to flow with ease, it’s essential  to face reality for all of what it is, and is not. With acceptance, understanding and clear seeing, we give the stuck feelings space to move, dissolve or step out from the loop.
Ask yourself ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘when’ questions. Do not ask yourself ‘why’. ‘Why’ questions are guesswork and keep you in your head.

Perhaps you can ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • “What are the thoughts I am thinking that keep me in a stuck mode?” 
  • “What benefit do I get being in my stuckness?”
  • “What are my personal worries and fears?”
  • “What can I begin to say to myself to over ride my personal worries and fears?”
  • “By staying stuck, what am I taking away from myself?”
  • “What good qualities am I ignoring in my stuckness?”
  • “What am I grateful for?”
  • “What are the things I enjoy?”
  • “How can I encourage myself?”
  • “What specific things can I say to myself to activate good-feelings?”
  • “How will I take responsibility for choosing what action is next?”
  • “What specific actions can I do to build my confidence?”
  • “When will I decide to take these actions?”

With a strong dose of listening, a seed of inspiration can begin to grow. Gather your inner victory team together. Join forces with your strengths; the feel-good feelings. Align with your goals and core values. Build inner-reliance and inner-cooperation. With your inner support team you can balance your strengths with your fears and weaknesses.

In the movie, “A Beautiful Mind”, Nash says, “I still see things that are not here. I just choose not to acknowledge them. Like a diet of the mind, I just choose not to indulge certain appetites.”

Let’s not indulge our self-doubt. Agree to go beyond your insecurities and weaknesses, and   nourish your personal strengths and uniqueness. “The only thing greater than the power of the mind, is the courage of the heart.” Begin to embark on the idea of saturating your mind with the good stuff of the  heart.

Core Issues

We all have certain core issues that need our attention.  Core issues are emotional memories that anchor us in emotional fears and negative beliefs about ourselves. They can hold us back, form our reactions, and shape our thinking.  The challenge with core issues is not necessarily the negative experience we had but the emotional charge that gets attached to it. The emotional charge becomes our frame of reference and keeps re-surfacing throughout our lives.

Look for a theme that runs through your upsets. Core issues gone unnoticed will either keep us stuck or push us off-balance. They can destroy our ability to find healthy solutions that are in sync with our true desires and they sometimes subconsciously force us to act in a way that sabotages what we truly want for ourselves. Core issues interfere with love and create opposition and resistance against our self.  And if we are not careful they keep being recreated and replayed throughout our life.  In most cases, core issues touch us at our deepest level and will remain embedded until we address them.

We all have core issues that emerged in our lives as a result of growing up.  As Ram Dass said in a lecture, “If you think you are enlightened—spend a week with your family.”   We are continually evolving in our lives as the adult child of our parents.

We all have a certain frame of reference that holds us back in self-doubt.  Emotional fear is at the core of these feelings. When fear is activated, we could feel overcome. We may be frozen in apprehension or worry, or confused, or sense feeling rejection or disregard. We may even feel physical pain, tension or a sensation in our chest or stomach.  In those times of emotional fear we instantly become reactive, we judge, criticize, blame or withdraw, all in order to defend ourselves from more hurt. Those triggers or intense feelings are our core issues. They are our embedded wounds from feeling unheard, unloved, unworthy or feeling helpless or hopeless or left-out or unable to express our desires or simply scared we would get into trouble.

We need to be aware of our core issues so we can monitor ourselves more productively and the quality of our reactions can be managed with self-respect and self-understanding. The more ‘real’ and true to ourselves we are, the more we can welcome our limitations. Experience your emotions so that you can be in tune with your place of vulnerability.    When we can honestly be with our feelings it provides the space to have more freedom to choose to respond from a place of strength and clarity. When you are emotionally charged you can neutralize it with words that a nurturing loving parent or friend would say.  Pause a moment.  When you pay attention to your breath you have the ability to soften the intensity of the moment. Take a step back and see what benefit you are getting out of being offended, enraged, or angry.  Pay attention to your needs and what you feel you are lacking.  Parent or make friends with the part of you that needs attention or a dose of confidence.  When you become clear of your core issues, you become much more empowered to override them in order to create what you truly want in your life.  Life is difficult and also beautiful.    If you are at peace with the truth of all that you are, you can more easily see a solution.  Be gentle with yourself. As an adult child of parents that we had we deserve to treat ourselves with loving kindness.