Saturday, December 30, 2006

Our New Year's Resolutions

I hope that when you look back over the past year you are able to see how far you’ve come and the good that’s been part of your life—no matter what may have gone wrong.

Most people make resolutions that they won’t carry out. I’d like to suggest a different approach to New Year’s resolutions. These are resolutions we may be able to carry out and which will make our lives better and we are more likely to make positive changes in our lives if we begin with these.

Here are the New Year’s resolutions I propose for us:

1) I will celebrate my strengths EVERY DAY.
2) I will find reasons to smile or laugh EVERY DAY.
3) I will wake up in the morning and name three things I am grateful for EVERY DAY.
4) I will go to bed and name three things that happened or I saw or did that day for which I am grateful EVERY DAY.
5) I will celebrate all the good in my life EVERY DAY. I will cherish it and remind myself of the ways in which I am lucky.
6) I will look for people who are happy and who believe in me and these are the people I will bring into my life.
7) I will trust myself. I will look for ways I can succeed at whatever it is I most want to do.
8) I will hug myself and then hug those close to me EVERY DAY.
9) I will treat others with kindness and respect and EXPECT others to treat me with kindness and respect as well.
10) I will treat myself with as much love and kindness as I would treat anyone I truly loved.
11) I will make time to play, to find joy EVERY DAY in something—little or big, I will find reasons to smile and approach life with the attitude of: HOW CAN I MAKE THIS BETTER? and HOW CAN I MAKE THIS FUN?

I truly believe, you see, that when we take the approach of finding joy in our lives we create resilience and strength that let us make positive changes in our lives and make wise choices. When we are happy, we don’t need to numb ourselves with self-destructive behaviors or substances. When we love and accept ourselves, we are more able to love and accept others. When we know that kindness and respect are bottom line what we expect of others in how they treat us we do not have to be afraid of new relationships because we know they will either be good ones or we will walk away. If we know that we can AND WILL make ourselves laugh and feel joy then we will never again be hostage to anyone else’s behavior toward us.

May the New Year bring all of us health, happiness, and much success. Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day

For me, this is a time to look back and see how far I’ve come. Often I feel as if I’m not doing enough fast enough and it’s only when I stop and look back that I realize what a miracle the past year has been. And the year before that. And...

The thing is that often we set impossible standards for ourselves. Worse, we may set them for the child we were who didn’t know, couldn’t know what we know now and certainly didn’t have the strength and skills we have as adults.

I love that on Christmas Day, for me, there’s time to stop and wonder and remember and reflect. I love the symbolism of birth—a birth of our new selves and of hope. I love that most people are able to feel, at least for a moment or two in this season the understanding that we are connected—no matter what our superficial differences may be.

I hope that at this time of year each of you is able to feel hope. I hope that each of you is able to feel at least a spark of faith in yourself. I hope that each of you feels the wonder of the possibility of rebirth of who you are and of your life so that you imagine, even if only for a moment, joy and laughter and that faith in yourself replacing any shame and fear you may feel.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Saturday, December 16, 2006


Holidays can be difficult if one was abused as a child. They may bring back unhappy memories or just plain unhappiness if we don’t have that picture perfect life now, either.

One source of unhappiness can occur if we are expected to give gifts but aren’t getting many or if we have always felt deprived. It is very hard to lovingly give a gift if we feel deprived! But this is a time of year when gifts are expected and if we don’t give them we may stand out (or feel as if we do) as strange or different or acting like a Scrooge.

So what’s the solution? (You know I’ve got one, don’t you?) The solution is to make sure that YOU don’t feel deprived.

NOTE: Let me be very clear! I am NOT talking about spending more money on yourself than you can afford! I am not talking about huge spending sprees for things you won’t care about in a month or two!

So what do I mean? Well, do you remember me saying you should make a list of things that make you smile? Little things as well as big things? Maybe it’s a cup of mint hot cocoa. Maybe it’s a special flavor of tea. Maybe it’s a scoop of rum raisin ice cream. Maybe it’s a sweet scented soap.

None of those things are very expensive. Especially if it’s one scoop of ice cream, one cup of tea or hot cocoa. The key is to very consciously pamper yourself by having them or using the scented soap. The key is to consciously pamper yourself several times during the day—every time you start to feel deprived.

The key is to go into your closet and only wear clothes there that you love during this time of year. The key is to take five minutes and think of all the things in your life that ARE good, that you can appreciate. The key is as you wrap a present for a friend or loved one is to stop and let yourself FEEL the warmth of that friendship or love and remember your happiest moments with them.

Another suggestion: Buy SMALL gifts for yourself and wrap them up. Don’t necessarily open them on the day that everyone else is, but know that you can open one up whenever you need it most. Hey, it could even take you all year! Just knowing, though, that you have presents waiting, presents you will love, that you can open any time you want, can go a long way to making you feel loved and pampered.

Create for yourself an experience of smiles, of feeling pampered, of loving yourself. Because if you can do that, then you will find yourself wanting to give presents to others and making them smile, just as you are smiling.

We cannot change the past. We cannot change the people around us. What we can do is create within ourselves the experiences we want to have. We don’t have to wait for someone else to make us feel happy or pampered.

So as we go through the holiday season, look for little, inexpensive ways to pamper yourself and make yourself smile. Look for things you can genuinely appreciate about your life. THEN shop for and wrap the presents you want or need to give. And on your most difficult day, if it seems like none of this is possible; promise yourself that you will begin NOW to work toward being able to have a holiday season next year when you can smile. Promise yourself that you will begin NOW to look for new ways to make yourself smile and feel happy and loved EVERY DAY—by YOU. Promise yourself that you will find, in time, the perfect way to celebrate the holidays for YOU.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

PS I'm adding this after posting my original message because I read something in Parade magazine today that made me realize I had neglected an important part of the holidays. There is a story about people who invite others over on holidays--frieds or neighbors or just people who are alone. I love this! It is an affirmation that even if our own families were/are not loving we do not have to be alone on holidays. We have choices. We can choose to invite people who will enjoy our company, who will be glad to spend time with us, and who will brighten the day, not diminish it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Mirror Neurons

I discovered something this week that seems really important for anyone who grew up in hugely dysfunctional families. (Note: I’ve seen the same phenomenon in women who were in abusive relationships for significant lengths of time.)

On an email loop I’m on, someone posted a link. I’m going to post it here so you can check it out to see what I’m talking about. It’s: NOVA scienceNOW Mirror Neurons PBS

Why is this important? Well, the idea is that our brains have neurons that mirror the emotions of those around us. I’m paraphrasing but as I understand it, the idea is that we literally feel what others around us feel and that when we see someone else do something our brains respond as if we have done it as well.

Here’s my theory and how it applies to abused children. Note: I have no scientific proof of this, it’s just MY theory. If we grew up in a household with crazy parents, survival and NOT repeating the pattern of abuse may have required that we detach from that mirroring. Not that we couldn’t do it but that we somehow learned not to in order to protect ourselves. In a sense we learned to shield ourselves.

Let me be very clear. We still PERCEIVED the emotions—often more clearly than other children could because it was a survival mechanism to be able to read the moods of the adults around us. We just learned not to mirror what they feel. Because that ability to mirror IS important, however, we may have channeled it into safe directions such as deeply internalizing emotions of the characters when we read a book, listened to music, or watched a movie or television show.

Pretty clever, huh? And no more unlikely than any other survival mechanism that abused children adopt to survive. The problem is that as adults we may find ourselves detached from others. We may tend to be loners. We may be able to see the emotions others are feeling with remarkable insight (perhaps because we can observe without being caught up in the other person’s emotions) but we stay isolated in our own emotions. In other words, if I’m right, we may watch with some bemusement the way others get caught up in crowd emotions when it makes no sense to us—whether it’s sports, politics, or whatever. We still feel emotions ourselves. We still see and understand and CARE about how others feel—sometimes too much—we just do not mirror those emotions in the same way that other people do.

The upside of this is that we may be able to be more clearsighted in evaluating situations and information and less likely to get caught up in the “mob mentality.” We may be able to work with people who are hurting without being overwhelmed ourselves.

The downside is that it does isolate us to some degree. In extreme cases, one could become a psychopath. But that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about those of us who are able to empathize and care about others but not mirror those emotions in the way that most people do.

Another downside is that we may tend to choose partners who lack the ability to mirror emotions as well because it’s too scary to have someone mirror ours. If they are capable of empathizing it may be okay but if we choose someone who literally cannot comprehend the emotions of others we’re in trouble because odds are we’ll know the relationship is lacking something important—even if we can’t articulate what it is.

So, how can we best use this information? How can we perhaps even reconnect the ability to mirror what others feel without losing the ability to step back to clearly evaluate what we are seeing or hearing?

1) Recognizing that it IS a factor in how we interact with the world.
2) We can understand and honor our child selves for finding a way to survive.
3) We can create alternative methods of safety so that we no longer need to detach.
4) We can consciously choose, in nonthreatening situations, to allow ourselves to feel what others are feeling, to allow ourselves to get caught up in group emotions when that would be a positive thing.
5) We can recognize that when others pull away in the presence of our intense emotions, it may not be a rejection of us or what we are trying to tell them but rather that the other person cannot help mirroring what we are feeling and MUST get away for self-protection.
6) We can recognize that this mirroring mechanism may help to explain some of what we felt as a child before we learned how not to mirror the emotions of the adults around us.
7) We can recognize how this explains the power of responding to anger with love and why we can change the dynamics in a room by being the one who is able to smile and feel hope when others do not.
8) We can recognize the power in finding someone who we are able to trust enough to let ourselves mirror the person’s emotions IF that person believes in us and has a sense of optimism about us and about life in general.
9) We can choose to spend as little time as possible with negative people and consciously seek out those who have a positive outlook on life.

I’ll admit that my first reaction to this concept was one of depression. Oh, great, one more lifetime negative impact of abuse! And then I stopped and reminded myself of all the ways in which I had accomplished what was supposed to be impossible in my life. I reminded myself of all the ways I have defied what would have been reasonable predictions for who I would become and what I would do. And so, as I thought about it, I realized how liberating it was to have this information. I realized that deep down I do believe that with this knowledge I will be able to make my life even better than it already is. I realized that I can acknowledge how essential it was for me, as a child, to adapt in this way and at the same time embrace the idea of exploring possibilities including that of reconnecting the mirroring mechanism.

Knowledge is power and this new piece of information feels like just that to me—power. I hope that each of you may find it a source of power for you as well.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hope and Faith

This is the season of hope. I heard someone talk about it today. How do we hold onto hope if things have gone wrong in our lives? How do we keep from feeling overwhelmed? How do we work through past hurts to get to a better place in our lives?

The answer in every case is hope. Hope that things can go right in the future. Hope that we have the strength and courage to cope. Hope that we can create happiness in our lives.

Except maybe the right word isn’t hope but faith. Faith that within us is all that we need to create that happy life. Faith that we will always have courage and strength and resilience and whatever resourcefulness we need to face any challenge. Faith that no matter how bad a situation seems, we will be all right.

Like many people who were abused as a child, I used to expect bad things to happen. I used to believe I was going to get hurt, rejected, look like a fool, and fail at what I wanted most.

And then I began to hope. Hope that it was possible for things to be different. Hope that maybe I could be good enough. Hope that I could be happy, accepted, and even be loved. Because I had hope, I began to see things I hadn’t seen before, do things I hadn’t done before and it began to happen. My life got better. And because it did, I began to have faith that it would continue to do so.

There is real power in hope. And hope fulfilled becomes faith that it will continue to be fulfilled.

The most powerful step I took, however, was to adopt the following habit. Whenever something goes wrong, I ask myself: What good could come out of this?

That isn’t always an easy question to ask. It isn’t always easy to keep asking until I get an answer. But there always is an answer. And it alters everything.

Because I do this, I have seen possibilities I otherwise might not have seen. Even better, instead of putting my focus and energy and emotion into being upset and angry at what SEEMS to have gone wrong, I am putting my focus and energy and emotion into looking for ways to cause/allow/see something good come out of the situation.

There is real power in this approach! I know I’ve written about it before but I think that especially at this time of year, for those of us who may have had less than ideal experiences at holiday time, it’s important to know how we will handle disappointments or difficult days.

So I challenge you this week/month/year/lifetime to ask yourself, the next time something goes wrong, to ask yourself: What good could come out of this? And to keep asking until you get an answer. You may be surprised at how much it changes your life for the better.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Power of Thanks

It’s odd to think, but there is tremendous power in saying “Thank you.”

When we say it to someone else, we may diffuse misunderstandings or hurts or anger. We may find that we can dramatically alter patterns of behavior that have been a problem when we stop to thank someone for what they have done rather than attack them for what we perceive as flaws.

I’ve seen this happen in my own life. And when I think about it, I realize that I, like everyone else, responds far better to thank yous than I do to criticism. It makes me want to do more. I see the person far more kindly than if they took me for granted so it makes sense that it would work with others as well.

There’s another level of power in this, however, especially if we have been through abusive situations in the past. Abuse conditions us to expect negative things to happen to us. Learning to say “Thank you” causes us to focus on what is going right in our lives and to realize that NOW things can be good, things can go right. And that’s very powerful because when we focus on what is good in our lives, the good expands. We begin to expect good and so we find it. We act and react in very different ways when we expect good things in our lives and that causes others to act and react very differently toward us as well.

I also believe that on some level we don’t understand, when we thank the universe and/or God for the good things in our lives, something happens to bring more good into our lives.

And on still another level... When we are focused on the good in our lives, we FEEL differently about life and ourselves. The levels of stress hormones in our system are likely to be lower. We are more likely to smile and find reasons to laugh. All of these things increase our resilience and let us build up emotional reserves so that when we do face a challenge, we can face it with greater creativity, confidence, and courage.

There is tremendous power in focusing on “Thank you,” on being grateful for all that IS good in our lives. I am grateful that I get to write this blog and for all of you who read it.

Sending safe and gentle ((((((((hugs))))))),

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Powerful Choices

I’ve dealt with a lot of challenges in my lifetime including: an abusive childhood, raising a child with Down syndrome, creating a new life for myself after getting divorced after many, many years of marriage. When we are faced with such challenges, we can make some very powerful choices.

1) We can choose to let go of anger. All anger. Harm always comes out of hurt the other person holds inside. Hurt, self-hate, shame—these are what cause someone to do harm. The greater the harm, the greater the unhappiness that other person ALREADY feels! Anger saps our strength. Anger eats away at us. Anger steals our focus so that we can think of very little else—including how to move on with our lives.
2) We can let go of asking “Why?” Any answer would be an illusion anyway. Knowing cannot change the situation or another person. Trying to change another person will only keep us trapped where we are. Trying to change a situation that cannot be changed is a waste of our energy and focus.
3) We CAN ask ourselves: What would be of use here? What would help?
4) We CAN ask ourselves: How would it be useful to look at this situation?
5) We can ask ourselves: What good could come out of this?
6) We can ask ourselves: What would let me feel safe enough to move forward?
7) We can ask ourselves: What would make me smile RIGHT NOW?
8) We can ask ourselves: What would let me feel happy RIGHT NOW?
9) We can make a conscious choice to look for reasons to laugh and smile even on the worst of days—and by doing so prove to ourselves that we do have within us the power to be happy no matter what.

These are very powerful choices to make. These choices can let us move forward and create the best possible outcome in any given situation. It is not the circumstances of our lives that matter nearly so much as how we choose to perceive and deal with them.

What choices will you make this week? I smile as I imagine all of you choosing to laugh and smile, to reclaim the power that should always have been yours.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mistaken Assumptions

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, then you know that I believe what trips us up the most are the assumptions we never think to question. I had three examples of that this past week.

One was minor. I had evaluated a manuscript for a client and sent her feedback. When I didn’t hear back from her, my ego immediately assumed she must be unhappy with me. Fortunately, after a couple of days, I sent her an email to make sure she had gotten my feedback and to ask if she had any questions on it. Turned out she had and had sent me an email. Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten it nor had she gotten any indication that it had bounced. She wasn't upset with me at all! She felt the feedback was quite useful and we could straighten it all out very quickly.

The experience reminded me not to assume someone was unhappy with me if I didn’t hear from them. (It also reminded me to start switching over to a more reliable email address and at the very least give all clients an alternative—just in case.)

The second experience was last weekend when I gave an all day writing workshop. Now I love giving workshops! I love knowing that I make a difference and can make writing easier and more fun and help fellow writers discover what works best for each of them. So that was great. And I found myself thinking how the first time I gave a workshop I was afraid that people (I assumed that people) would listen and then go, “Duh! Why are you telling us what we already know? That assumption had been very wrong and last weekend reminded me how rarely we value or give sufficient credit to the things we can do because we often assume, well, if we can do it surely so can everyone else. We often assume that if we know something then surely so does everyone else.

The third reminder was when I met with a classmate from high school. Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve never gone to my high school reunions. I was so unhappy back then, so much was going on at home, and I was teased so badly at school that I couldn’t imagine wanting to relive any of it. The thing is that meeting with this classmate let me see how much value it would be to revisit that time in my life NOW, as an adult with all the wisdom and maturity I’ve achieved.

I’d always felt a connection with this particular classmate. I’d felt at the time that he also felt something of a disconnect with many of our classmates. I felt at the time he had courage. He had had the guts to be the only guy in chorus (and in my high school that did take courage). So I expected to enjoy seeing him again. And I did.

What it also did, however, was make me realize that I’d never really gotten to know most of my classmates back then. I also realized that my classmates may have seen me very differently than I thought they did. And I realized that we have all grown and changed and it might be interesting to see who they are now and risk letting them see who I am.

You see, as I talked with my classmate, I shared things with him he’d never known about me and he shared things with me I hadn’t known about him. I began to realize that I’d still had, inside, assumptions I was making about how classmates from my school would perceive me that weren’t true.

We are tripped up, limited, shaped by assumptions we often don’t even realize we have. Every time we stumble over one of them, bring it to the surface, and question/alter it we grow, we break through old barriers, and we gain more freedom in shaping our lives.

What assumptions haven’t you realized were there? Or if you did, haven’t really questioned? What power and freedom might it bring you if you did?

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Happiness, pt. 2

I’m posting early because I’m off to give an all day workshop this weekend.

There are two other facets to happiness that I’d like to talk about. 1) Laughter and 2) being our authentic selves.

Laughter. Sometimes it feels as if we shouldn’t laugh because bad things happened—to us and/or to others we know. We feel as if we have no right to be happy if others are having a hard time. I love Wayne Dyer’s answer to this. He says that we cannot be sick enough to make anyone else well, poor enough to make anyone else rich, and depressed enough to make anyone else happy.

My own belief is that when we find ways to laugh and smile we are building our resilience, strengthening ourselves so that when we do need to face challenges or help others, we have the internal resources to do so. It’s good to laugh and allow ourselves the right to feel happy! It’s also good to have friends who help us laugh.

I have one friend I often email if I’m having a tough time. And he almost always responds with jokes. My initial response is irritation—doesn’t he realize how upset I am? Doesn’t he get how tough whatever it is I’m facing? But deep down I know that I’m blessed to have someone who does make jokes and reminds me to laugh instead of encouraging me to wallow—because that’s wasted energy.

Don’t get me wrong—I NEED/WANT to know that he gets what I’m dealing with. But I also need/want friends who encourage me to pick myself up and get on with whatever needs to be done. And who remind me that it’s okay to laugh even if there are also challenges in my life.

Authentic Self. I believe that pretty much everyone is afraid to let people see the true them, right down to the core. Abused or not, most people are afraid, deep down, that maybe they aren’t good enough and try only to show the world what they think is acceptable. If we were raised being told, over and over that we were not good enough, then we will be truly afraid to let anyone see us as we are. We’re afraid they won’t like us, will reject us if we take that risk. The irony is that my experience has told me the opposite is true.

I used to guard my authentic self, sure that people would run the other way if I let them truly see me. And I didn’t have very many friends. I was always the outsider. Then one day I decided: What the heck. This isn’t working. How much worse could it be if I let everyone really see me?

What I discovered was that once people saw the “real me”, they wanted to know me. They didn’t see me the way my parents or other kids had when I was growing up. I discovered they valued who I am and what I have to offer. People WANT to be my friend. There was a time in my life when I would not have believed that was possible.

And it isn’t just me. When my friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, I worried about her. She is often perceived as “difficult” and has alienated a great many people. And yet, the night before her surgery, so many people rallied around. It was a powerful lesson for me in how we do not have to be perfect. We can be our imperfect selves and still find ourselves in a circle of people who genuinely care about us. But it begins with being genuine.

So often we try to play it safe. What I am finding is that the safest way to live, the way that is most likely for us to be able to be happy, is to stop trying to stay safe. We give ourselves the best chance to be happy when we reach out and let people see us as we are. When we take risks and do things that terrify us but which we know will help us achieve our goals, THEN we have a real chance at happiness. When we let ourselves laugh and be happy, even in the middle of very real challenges in our lives, we are more likely to find solutions to those challenges.

So please, this week, find ways to laugh, every day. And every day practice letting people close enough to see who you really are.

One caveat—If your gut instincts tell you someone is abusive and will use any of this against you, don’t let them in. Maybe you need other people, different people, non-abusive people in your life. So that may be part of practicing letting people close. If they don’t all love you, so what? There’s a world of people out there and plenty who will.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What It Takes To Be Happy

What it takes to be happy is: 1) Find a sense of purpose for our lives and 2) Reframe the filter through which we view people and the circumstances in our lives. I’ve said it before and know by experience that this is true. I KNOW that we have the power to change circumstances and how we are treated by others. How?

We change our circumstances and how we are treated by others when we change what WE say and do and how we see ourselves. We change these things when we ask ourselves new questions and take new actions. As they say: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result.

Even when what we do does not work out the way we hoped or thought it would, something changes when we push ourselves outside our comfort zones and try new things. IF we choose to see what happens as information, we grow, we learn, we recognize new possibilities. If one set of actions did not work, perhaps another will. IF we make the choice to keep trying.

We alter relationships in our lives when we begin to ask about others, especially those who are thorns in our sides: What are THEIR hopes and dreams and fears?

The thing is that it’s in our hands, how we live our lives. The possibilities are there but we need to find a way to see them. I ABSOLUTELY KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE!

Over the past few years I have made a great many changes in my life. NOW I see possibilities I could not grasp even a year ago and far more I could not see 5 years ago. Only by taking action and being willing to face my fears and honestly look at the outcome, accepting my own responsibility for my life, could I LEARN to see these new possibilities. I had to be willing to challenge old assumptions I hadn’t known I was allowing to control my actions and reactions.

Why is a sense of purpose so important? Because it gives us something to focus on beyond our own fears and self-doubts and past hurts. It’s important because we feel better when we are closer to being the kind of person we believe we ought to be. It’s important because while we may not be able to find the courage to do the things we fear if it’s just for ourselves, odds are much better we will when we know we are doing so to achieve something we believe matters.

And make no mistake—there is no way past fear except to walk through it and do the very things we think we cannot do. What we gain is priceless. And we cannot fail. Either we succeed or we gain new knowledge and insight and information—even if it’s that we may want to try something a little different next time.

This week I did some new things. Gained some insight, some validation, learned some information that on the surface seems deeply distressing. And yet I know that even with the information I find distressing, inherent in the situation is a gift—the gift of new possibilities, new ways of looking at things—if I choose to accept it.

We have choices. We can stay exactly as we are and we will have exactly what we have now—until the universe comes along and yanks the rug out from under our feet! Or we can choose to go forward, embracing change and new possibilities.

I believe that we can use everything that happens to help us move toward a life that is rich and fulfilling and filled with a sense of purpose. It’s our choice. And once we choose, it’s up to us to take the steps to achieve that life we want to have.

What is your sense of purpose and what choices will you make this week to help you achieve it? How will you move forward toward creating the life you want to have? How will you embrace the power you already, in this very moment, have within you to do so?

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),


Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Gift of Discontent

Yes, I know I posted just yesterday—Losing It—but I hate to leave things like that. You see, today I remembered the power of choosing what to focus on. I remembered that discontent has often been a gift. It has pushed me to make changes in my life and so my life got better—changes I otherwise would not have made.

I stepped back and I looked at the things that have upset me over the past week or two and asked myself: What gift is this? What good could this bring into my life?

And I got answers. I realized that if I looked at each piece not from the point of view of how it scared me or made me angry (two sides of the same coin); I could see it as a gentle nudge from the universe to make some changes in my life. I could see that there might be steps I could take that would make me happier AND maybe help with the things that were upsetting me. I could see, too, an overall pattern. A global sense in which all of these things would work together.

Would I make some of the changes I need to make without such nudges from the universe? I’d like to say of course I would! But I know myself better than that. It would be easy to continue as I am without that gift of discontent.

I would not be living as I am, where I am, in the house I live in without the gift of discontent. I’d be making do. Coping. Getting along. My life wouldn’t be nearly as rich and wonderful as it is these days.

No, change isn’t easy. Most of us feel as if it would be great just to get everything all lined up and never have to worry about it again. After all, if we were in abusive situations as kids, we may have spent most of our lives constantly on the alert, constantly dealing with danger, always expecting the worst, always believing that things were going to go wrong. Everything that we did was about surviving. But now that we’re grown, good things can come into our lives, we make truly can make our lives better. Now it isn’t about surviving it’s about thriving. And as we achieve a given goal, we may feel that gift of discontent, that nudge to go in a new direction. Not because anything is wrong, but because we’re ready

Change happens. It always will. We can fight it and expend our energy doing so. We can pretend it won’t and smack up against it when it does. Or we can choose to race forward to embrace change in our lives. We can look always at life with the questions: What message is the universe bringing me today? How can I use it to make my life better and better?

So if you are unhappy today or in the days ahead, ask yourself: What good could I make of this? What gift is inherent in this discontent?

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))),

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Losing It

What causes you to “lose it?”

For me, it’s feeling as if I’m being treated with disrespect or as if no one’s listening. The more important the situation, the more out of control it feels to me, the less power I feel I have, the more upset I get. Or if I feel I’m not living up to the standards I set for myself—usually in a context where I can’t depend on anyone else to do the right thing and/or do what needs to be done. It happens when I’m afraid—for myself or someone I care about—and I feel powerless to stop whatever it is that’s so scary. One way or another, it ALWAYS comes down to fear.

How do you react when you “lose it?”

For me, I want to withdraw. I want to quit trying. I want to quit doing the things I feel I’m supposed to do. I want to give up because after all, if no one’s going to listen or care or do anything, what’s the point? Or worse, I’ll lash out at people who are doing the best they can and who, even if they might listen if I could discuss things rationally, are not going to do so when I attack them. I also know that odds are I will focus on the least important issues and lash out about those because it’s less scary than really facing my fears about the really important issues I’m facing.

I bring it up because all of us have times when we hit that wall, usually at times we can least afford to “lose it.” But we do. And when we lose it, that’s when we’re least likely to be able to think of anything productive, anything that will work, and we may take actions or say things that only make our situation worse.

And I’ve hit that wall the past week or two. Situations feel out of control. People aren’t listening. I was powerless in situations that matter deeply to me. Lashed out more than once at people who aren’t going to listen to or care what I have to say—especially since I did lash out rather than approach them with respect for their position.

I know, you see, that everyone wants to be the hero of his or her own life. Everyone wants to believe they are a good person. And I know that if I attack, part of them will need to believe there is something wrong with me rather than listen to what I have to say. They will need to find excuses about why they are right or justified in what they are doing.

And I’ve pulled back. Because I’m so tired of trying and not getting anywhere. I even asked a friend if I should quit posting this blog because it seems as if no one reads it or cares.

In short, I’ve fallen into the trap of believing I have no power. It’s appealing, you see. Because if I have no power, I’m off the hook. I don’t have to keep trying. I can quit doing what’s difficult and just give up.

Only that doesn’t get me anywhere. I will end up more unhappy than ever. The only way things change, the only way I will feel better is to take a deep breath, pull myself up and realize that I do have power. If I haven’t found the means to create the effect I want, it only means that I haven’t found the right actions or words yet. Or perhaps I’m focused on the wrong goal. Maybe there’s another way to achieve what matters to me, another way to make a difference, another way to diffuse a threat.

The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is often simply that those who succeed keep trying new things until they find the means to achieve what matters to them.

I can’t control who reads or doesn’t read this blog. But I can choose whether it’s important enough for me to keep writing it or to try to get across my message in some other way. I can’t control whether or not an agent wants to represent me or a given publisher wants to buy a given manuscript, but I can control whether or not I keep sending it out and paying attention to the responses I get. I can’t control what my grown son does but I can choose the ways in which I remain part of his life. I can’t choose what our politicians do, but I can choose to vote and when I strongly disagree with one, I can choose to speak out—whether or not anyone listens. I can’t control what will happen with my friend’s breast cancer, but I can choose how I will support her as she fights the disease—even or perhaps especially when she has a set back as she did this week.

I can make the choices based not just on what outcome I can create but on what kind of person it matters to me to be. I can know that whether or not anyone reads or cares about what I post, it matters to me to try to share the tools I think can help. I can choose to write to politicians knowing that even if no one listens, it matters that someone speaks out. I can choose to share with my adult son my concerns about the choices he’s making even if I know he may choose not to listen because I can’t stop being his mother. I can support my friend even if I know that I am powerless to impact the course of her disease because it matters to me to be there for her so she isn’t facing it alone.

As I’ve said before, being an optimist doesn’t mean things never go wrong for me. Neither does it mean I’m always calm and happy. It only means that I know that when I have times like this when I do get upset I don’t have to stay stuck in those emotions. I know that I have the tools to find a way to change my mindset and take steps to make my situation closer to what I want it to be. I can always be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, new possibilities in my life.

We all run into walls. The choice we must make when it happens is whether to stay there and cry—often quite justifiably so!—about how unfair life is or whether to find a way, no matter what it takes, to get over the wall to where we want to be.

Don’t know about you but this coming week I’m going to be doing some climbing—even if it’s by my fingertips. Wishing you all luck with your own walls—whatever they may be—and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Saturday, October 14, 2006

How Do We Get Through....

How do we get through difficult days? I keep coming back to this theme because we all have up and down days. And it’s important to remind ourselves that we do have tools to cope. As I watched my friend get ready for and then recover from surgery, as I myself went to an event that I knew would be stressful, I found myself needing to draw on my coping skills. I worried about her, I was putting myself out there career wise, and I had to cancel meetings with friends I had dearly wanted to see. It could have been overwhelming but it wasn’t because by now I’ve had practice with these tools and by now I’ve gathered evidence that no matter what, I will be able to cope. Here are some of the things I drew on:

1) Trust yourself. There is a reason you are feeling what you are. It’s useless as well as unfair to beat yourself up over any of it. If you think you are supposed to do something and can’t make yourself, ask yourself what you could do instead that might be useful and/or a good idea.

2) Do things that make you smile. And if someone you care about is going through a difficult time, do something that makes them smile as well. Laughter is healing and lowers the level of stress hormones in the body.

3) It’s okay to cry when you need to do so.

4) It’s okay to tell friends you are going through a difficult time. I do NOT mean expecting or asking them to solve the problem or cry with you, but at the event I went to, when I needed space, I said so.

5) It’s okay to enjoy yourself even when someone you care about is going through a difficult time. As Wayne Dyer says, you cannot be poor enough to make someone else wealthy, sick enough to make someone else well, depressed enough to make someone else happy.

6) It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how we learn. Give yourself permission to be less than perfect and odds are you will actually do a better job at whatever it is you need to do.

7) Focus on what you love to do that you can offer to others. Choose to help or give or care in ways that empower and strengthen and fulfill YOU as well as whoever you are reaching out to help.

We cannot always choose what happens to us but we can always choose how we respond when it does. We can act in ways that empower us and put our energy in finding ways to still be happy—no matter what anyone else around us chooses to say or do.

Wishing all of you a happy and productive week and sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Indomitable Spirit

How easy it is to feel as if life is unfair, to get totally focused on how we’ve been hurt and feel as if the world needs to adjust to us because of it. And we hurt ourselves when we do that. As hard as it is, the best gift we can give ourselves is to let go of the “why me’s?” and focus on the “what’s next?”

I had an example of this over the past week. A dear, dear friend is fighting breast cancer. She went in for a double radical mastectomy on Friday. She came home, by choice, on Saturday! She wanted to be in her own home where she could be more comfortable and sleep better. She wanted to be home where it was easier to get up and move around—despite the pain.

And that’s the key—she wanted to do what needed to be done despite the pain because she knows that’s how she will give herself the best chance to recover, the quickest way to heal. She is in remarkable shape because she is willing to do so. She’s still in pain but she’s far ahead of where she would be if she had just lay in bed, telling herself she deserved to do so because it hurt so much.

For us, the pain may be psychological/emotional rather than or as well as physical. And yet the message, the lesson is the same. When we are willing to do whatever needs to be done to heal, we will. When we are willing to work through the pain knowing it will get us to a point where we do not hurt faster, we will heal. When we accept what is and go for what we want—given where we are starting now, then we will heal.

My hat is off to my friend and I am reminded again of the power of the human spirit. May we all find our own courage when it is needed, may we all find a way to do what needs to be done to heal.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Saturday, September 30, 2006

Breast Cancer

No, I don’t have it. Someone I care about does. And it brings me to all the old feelings of helplessness and also fear of being drowned by this person’s fears and needs.

That’s not admirable to say. That part of me is afraid of being needed too much when her life is at stake. And it’s a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. Day by day she can literally feel it growing and spreading. And it’s taking too freaking long for anything to be done!

Part of me willingly reaches out to her and jokes with her and sends her cards and buys crazy, funky, flamboyant earrings she can wear if/when her hair falls out from the chemo she’ll need.

Part of me is terrified of falling into the abyss that was my life as a child when the adults around me pulled me into their world and wanted me to take care of them and I couldn’t.

How many of you were in situations like that? Overwhelmed by demands of adults? Overwhelmed by having to take care of them and/or your siblings because if you didn’t no one would?

Often kids like us grow up and go one of two ways. We either devote our lives to others, never feeling as if we deserve to have anyone take care of us or we avoid like crazy doing things for others because we had too much of it as kids and sometimes we alternate between the two states, not knowing how to set boundaries when we do help others.

I’ve pondered this a lot because I didn’t want to be someone who isolates herself and refuses to help others. I also didn’t want to be someone who had no life of her own because she was always taking care of everyone else—admirable as that might be. I’ve tried to find a balance. In the end, I came to these conclusions:

1) Whatever I CHOOSE to do, needs to be done in a spirit of love—otherwise I hurt myself and those I think I am helping.
2) I need to make sure I take care of myself.
3) I need to find a way to help that is in tune with who I am and what I passionately care about.
4) I need to know what my limits are and respect them.
5) I need to realize that just as I help others, it’s okay to let others help me and in fact, if I cannot let others help me, I will resent helping anyone myself.

That last one is a tough one. It’s something that friends and I have been discussing online. If we grew up unable to depend on the adults in our lives, we may have also grown up believing we had to be strong and able to handle anything and everything on our own. We may not want to acknowledge need because that’s too scary because what if no one can or will help us?

There have been times in my life when I let others help me. I had to and it took a conscious effort of will. I had to work, too, on letting myself believe I deserved help and the whole time I was terrified that sooner or later—probably sooner—it was going to be yanked away. Even now, my instinct is to always try to do things myself, first, and only if I can’t to ask for help.

It comes down to trust, of course. I used to say it’s like facing a bridge over a gorge and every step I take on that bridge—asking/for/accepting help—carries the fear that any moment the bridge is going to be yanked away and I’m going to fall. Better not to go on that bridge even if it means climbing down one side of the gorge and up the other—a far harder and longer journey, but at least no one could yank the bridge away or worse, refuse to let me on it in the first place!

The other risk, the other way it goes is that we may expect unreasonable levels of help from others. We may not understand where the boundaries should be because the adults in our lives, our role models, didn’t when we were growing up. We may have friends who don't understand either and we see how demanding they can become and either think we should be able to demand the same level of time and attention or we're terrified of becoming like them. And that’s my other fear about accepting help—that I will become a black hole asking for too much from others, which would be a poor repayment for their kindness. It’s one more reason I’m reluctant most of the time to ask—because I don’t want to be like that and know that I sometimes have been.

What are your attitudes toward giving or accepting help? How do you balance the two?

I will continue to reach out to help my friend and remind myself that I am no longer that scared, overwhelmed kid. I will remind myself that now I am an adult able to make choices and that the adult me knows I don’t have to cure my friend’s breast cancer, only be there for her as she fights it herself. I will remind myself that it’s okay to ask for help, sometimes, if I need it. I will also remind myself that there are and need to be boundaries if/when I do ask for help. In all of this, I know I’ll make mistakes and when I do, I will remind myself that’s part of how we learn.

Please keep my friend in your thoughts and prayers.

Know that I wish for all of you that you have good friends or loved ones to care and help when you need help and that you are able to help them. Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),


Saturday, September 23, 2006


One of the issues for many people who have been through traumatic experiences is relationships. How do we keep from getting hurt in the future the way we may have been in the past?

First, we need to recognize our own patterns.

1) Do we tend to choose people like those who have hurt us in the past? If so, we may want to look for someone different. See if maybe we can have a relationship—whether romantic or friendship—with someone we are not intensely drawn to. Because that sense of intense connection often means the person IS like someone we have known in the past and part of us wants to try again and this time get it right. The problem is, the same personality is likely to respond to us in the same way the other person did and we are likely to play out the same roles. It may be better to try someone new.
2) Do we tend to gravitate to people we think are not very successful or well liked? We may do so because we think we can help them and therefore have something to offer so they will like us. Problem with that is they are more likely to resent needing us than appreciate what we have to offer.
3) Or maybe we think that they don’t have many friends so surely they will appreciate us and if we learn how to do this friendship thing we can move on to other people, too. Problem with this is that people who are hurting often lash out at others. They often feel the need to put others down to make themselves feel better. We have better odds with someone healthy because they won’t need to hurt us. This, of course, means looking at how we relate to others ourselves. Do we put them down? Do we look for insults and expect slights?

We need to think about how to relate to people. And yes, this was a huge challenge for me for years—something that surprises people who know me now. They generally are astounded at the idea I might ever have been awkward in social situations. How did I change? Well, I asked myself the following questions.

1) I asked myself how my family related to others. I realized they were hyper critical and almost completely isolated. My parents never did things with friends, never had them over, and generally were isolated. I realized this meant they had never been able to teach me social skills and I was going to have to learn them on my own. I read books and I watched other people and how they related to each other and by trial and error I learned.
2) I looked at how I expected to be treated. This is huge. I realized that how I expected to be treated affected my body language, what I said, and how I said it! I read about a study that had self-avowed shy people go to a party and act AS IF they were confident and outgoing and EXPECTED TO BE LIKED. Ooooookay, I thought. But what did I have to lose? I was so very tired of being isolated. So I tried it. And discovered just how powerful a tool it was. And the great thing was, the more I did it, the easier it got because I had more and more experiences of people relating well to me.
3) I treated myself well. I made lists of things I liked about myself. And the more I liked myself, the less I needed to put down others. The more I liked myself, the easier it was to believe others would too.
4) I got help to deal with the past and my own misplaced sense of shame and guilt. After all, it’s hard to let anyone get close if you’re terrified of what they will find when they do.
5) I found a sense of purpose for my life. I asked myself what I loved and how I could you use that to make the lives of others better. The more I focused on a sense of purpose rather than myself, the better I felt. And that’s not counting the reactions of others to what I was doing. The key was NOT to become a martyr and spend my life endlessly serving others. That would have made me angry and bitter. Rather, it was to share something I genuinely loved doing and that made ME feel good, too. It was finding a way to be happy as well as make a difference for others.

Relationships matter. They remind us we are all interconnected, all human beings. If we choose the right people, we are likely to be reminded often that we matter to others and they like us. And we are likely to be happier if we are focused on a sense of purpose than on ourselves.

Wishing each of you wonderful and rewarding relationships in your lives and sending safe and gentle ((((((hugs)))))),


Monday, September 18, 2006

Dark Moments

It’s not realistic to think we will never have moments when we feel discouraged. Everyone does. The key is to know how we will handle them when we do.

At one point, someone dear to me was depressed to the point of feeling suicidal. When she was past the worst of it, one of the things I asked her to do was to make a list. What was everything she could think of that she could focus on if she got that depressed again? Some of the things I suggested she list were:

1) Who could she call/talk to who would be supportive?
2) What could she do to be physically active? (Walk? Swim? Run? Dance?)
3) What made her smile?
4) What made her laugh out loud?
5) What foods made her feel good? (NOT what did she reach for automatically when she was depressed but what actually made her feel GOOD?)
6) Every reason to find a way to go on. Every reason to find a way to cope.
7) What made her feel good about herself?

Another list I suggested she make was every success she had ever had in her life. Every time she had overcome a challenge. Every time she had done something others said she couldn’t do.

No, I’m not going through a dark spell. Things are good in my life right now. But I often talk with people who are going through a tough time and it just seemed right to mention these lists again now.

The other thing that can make a difference is having a sense of purpose. Do YOU have a sense of purpose? Remind yourself of that purpose often. I believe that part of my purpose is to help others believe in themselves and achieve their dreams. Another part is to touch hearts with what I write and help them see things in a new way.

What is YOUR sense of purpose? It truly will make a difference once you know.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Nine Eleven

Those of you who knew me when I posted at The Wounded Healer Journal know that on 9/11/2001, I was living not all that far from NYC. Like everyone else, I was profoundly affected by that day and the events that followed. This weekend I had to fly for professional reasons and I did so thinking of that day.

Whenever something like this occurs, or we are reminded of such events, it’s easy to become even more afraid than before. But if you’ve been reading my blog for any time at all, you know that I believe in facing fear head on. I believe in being prudent but not letting fear rule our lives.

I also believe that we, of all people, must remember to look at everyone as individuals. We must look beyond labels and expectations to see the person within. How often, after all, have others looked at us and made assumptions based on knowing how we’ve been hurt in the past or on who we APPEAR to be?

What I would love to see us do is to focus on the courage and goodness of so many people that day and in the days that followed. While the acts of the terrorists remind us the world can be a dangerous place, the actions of courage and kindness of so many people remind us that most people are good. We can be a nation and a world where people care about each other, where we are all connected and understand that we are so that we reach out to help each other.

We can remind ourselves of the strength of the human spirit—that it IS possible to rise above tragedy and survive. We can use the memory of 9/11 to affirm to ourselves that we will not waste our lives wallowing in pain or sedating ourselves with food or drugs or alcohol or mindless television, but rather we will choose to LIVE each day!

That, above all else, was what I took from that day five years ago. I realized I had to make changes. I could no longer go on living as I had. I won’t lie—it was scary. I was terrified at the steps I was about to take. But 9/11 made me realize that it was even scarier to think that I might die without ever having let myself try to be truly happy.

It has not always been easy. But in these past 5 years I have grown in ways I didn’t know were possible. I have found contentment and laughter and made new friends and created a new life for myself.

I hope that for each of you this September 11th was a time for reflection and a time to remember how far you’ve come in the past 5 years. I hope that it was a good reminder to you to LIVE and look for ways to create the life you want to have.

As always, sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Kindness and Respect--For Us

A couple of people raised issues that are important. In particular they relate to how we are treated. Even though I don’t usually post this often, it seems important enough to warrant an extra post.

How do people treat you? Is it with kindness and respect?

For many of us, that’s not how we’re treated, not even by people who claim to love us. Does it have to be that way? NO!!!!!

I didn’t used to be treated with kindness and respect. Or if I was, I viewed the person with suspicion. What did they want from me and when was I going to get kicked in the teeth? I thought it would always be that way. Thank God I was wrong. Today, most people treat me well and if they don’t I can shrug it off or turn it around so that they do. It took time and it took changing how I saw myself.

Step 1: I wrote down how I wanted to be treated. For most people, this might be easy but it actually took several tries to do it. And I ended up rewriting that list over time because the better I was treated, the better I wanted to be treated.

Step 2: I began to imagine people treating me the way I wanted to be treated—with kindness and respect.

Step 3: When people did treat me with kindness and respect, I accepted these things as if I deserved them. And I made sure I treated them with kindness and respect in return.

Step 4: If someone criticized me, I looked for what was useful in what the person was saying and thanked them for it and used the feedback to become better at what I was doing. (You should have seen some of the stunned looks I got, but some of those people became my staunchest supporters.)

Step 5: If someone continued to treat me with disrespect, I was polite to them but did not invest in that person emotionally. In other words, I shrugged it off and/or didn’t put myself in their presence again if I could help it.

Step 6: I began to choose far more carefully who I tried to please. I began to look far more carefully at whose opinion was worth caring about. I began to believe I deserved friends who valued me and spent less and less time with those who didn’t. And I found a world of people who valued me far more than the ones I had been hanging around with.

Step 7: I kept visualizing people treating me with kindness and respect. It altered how I interacted with others and how they interacted with me.

Very often, people value us to the degree that we value ourselves. Very often, if we don’t value ourselves, we hang around with other people who have all sorts of problems because we figure they’re the best we can do. If they don’t value us, no one will.

The truth is that healthy people are far less likely to feel the need to put us down to make themselves feel better. If we look around for happy people, we are more likely to find that they treat us with kindness and respect because that’s what feels right and natural to them. And if we see ourselves as being treated with kindness and respect AND ACT ACCORDINGLY then other people are much more likely to do so.

In other words, we do have control over how we are treated, but it begins with changing how we see ourselves and what we expect. Just the act of visualizing people treating us with kindness and respect can be empowering.

With love and respect for all of YOU and lots of safe and gentle ((((((hugs)))))),


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Power of Focus

What we focus on unrelentingly becomes our reality. If we believe the world is a horrible place and people in it are all abusers, that’s what we will see. We won’t notice the times people are kind to us, we won’t trust opportunities that may appear. And abusers will be able to spot us as likely victims.

On the other hand, if we focus on the good things that happen in our lives, if we encourage and welcome kindness and opportunities then that’s what we will find, more and more.

Expectations have a profound effect—on us and on the people around us. Study after psychological study has proven it. Children told they are stupid believe it and do worse than children who are told they are smart. People who are expected to behave well are far more likely to do so.

What does this mean for US? It means that we can affect our own behavior and experiences by what we choose to believe about ourselves. We will act differently if we choose to believe that we are worth loving, that we are intelligent and competent and able to do anything we put our minds to than if we repeat lies we may have been told—particularly by abusers—about ourselves.

We can affect how others treat us. If we greet them with smiles, expecting to be treated kindly and warmly, it is more likely to happen. If we treat others as though we expect them to live honorably and honestly and to treat us with respect and kindness, they are more likely to do so. AND WE ARE MORE LIKELY TO WALK AWAY IF THEY DON’T—both because we know we deserve to be treated better and because we can believe that there will be other people out there who will treat us with kindness and respect.

There is tremendous power in choosing to focus on the positive in our lives. That doesn’t mean bad things never happen, only that we choose to see ourselves as people to whom good things can and do happen.

How will you choose to live your life this week?

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))),


Saturday, August 26, 2006

It Doesn't Have to Feel This Way Forever

For so many things, we may feel as if what we feel now is what we will feel forever. We may believe that we can never be happy, never have anything go right in our lives. That’s the most common fear if we were ever abused.


Case in point: Parenthood. If you were abused as a child, odds are you are afraid you will not be a “good enough” parent. I had that fear. And for a very long time, I distanced myself to some degree from my children for fear I would “taint” them with my own fears and self-doubts and anxieties. Even as I let go of my fears and self-doubts, I continued to worry about being a good enough mother. It didn’t help that I went through some rough patches with my kids.

Don’t get me wrong—they’re good kids. But it wasn’t always easy and I had to learn to ask for respect from my children. I had to learn not to accept abuse from them.

And there was a time I felt as if I’d failed them and would never be able to make it right.

The good news? My kids are fine. Well, okay, one has an attitude but there are signs that may be improving a bit. The other...the other is a shining star in her work and she’s growing closer and closer to me as I trust myself to know what to say to her and she trusts me to be a support and sees me with new respect for who I am and what I can do.

One of my daughter’s endearing qualities is that she doesn’t realize how extraordinary she is. This week she got some indication of how others see her. And it was a reminder to me that others may see me with very different eyes than I see myself.

I look at her and I can see how her perceptions of herself affect the possibilities that open for her. Had she been afraid to take one particular step, she never would have had the wonderful experiences she’s been having this past week. And it reminds me that we can each, all too easily, cut ourselves off from wonderful possibilities as well.

As she turns to me for advice in areas that are my expertise and I see how well that advice works for her, it helps me recognize the value of what I have to offer. And it brings the two of us closer as talk about things we could never talk about before.

We can’t control what will happen to us in life. But if we are only able to see the negative possibilities, those are the doors we will open. If we are able to take that leap of faith and believe that things can be different and better and that we are deserving of good things in our lives, then we will see and open doors and take steps that bring those good things into our lives.

When we stop clinging to the darkness, we find the light. When we let go of the familiar anchors to which we are clinging, we may discover we can fly. When we let go of past anger and hurt and fears, we can discover laughter and love and a whole new world of possibilities.

If we make mistakes, so what? This is how we learn. This is how we grow. This is how we move forward in our lives.

What will YOU let go of today? What good possibilities will you welcome into your life?

Sending safe and gentle ((((((hugs)))))),

Monday, August 21, 2006

Forgiving Ourselves

Comments Brian and John Michael both made reminded me that this is a special category of forgiveness. How many of you find it easier to forgive others than to forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made—or think you’ve made?

That last is important because I think sometimes we assume things are our fault and blame ourselves when we haven’t done anything wrong.

Now I am NOT advocating blinding ourselves to mistakes we DO make! That’s part of the problem with abusers—they find it way too easy to tell themselves they did nothing wrong. What I am advocating is looking at situations as clearly as we can and only take responsibility for the part that is in fact due to our words and actions.

I DO advocate making amends for harm we’ve caused whenever it is possible to do so without causing even more harm. Perhaps I should say that it’s important to find a way to make amends that does not cause additional harm. We need to do so NOT to get forgiveness from the other person but rather so that we can forgive ourselves. Because in the end, that’s what matters. No one can tell us it’s okay to violate the code by which we believe we should live. Even if we try to believe them, there will be a part of us that knows/insists we are doing wrong. Whether or not the other person forgives us, we cannot and will not be at peace with ourselves until we are able to find forgiveness within ourselves for what we have done. And that means making amends if possible and if not then doing what we can so that we do not repeat the harm in the future.

That’s when the harm we’ve done is real. What about guilt we feel that’s misplaced? What about when we can’t forgive ourselves for things that weren’t our fault? Or because we hold ourselves to an impossible standard?

That’s the tricky part—knowing what’s impossible and what isn’t. Often, we look back and with the knowledge we have now, we believe we should have done things differently in the past. And perhaps we would have—if we had known then what we know now and had the tools then that we have now. But we didn’t. We did the best we could at the time.

I look back at choices and decisions I made at various points in my life and wish I had done things differently. It is a struggle sometimes to realize I did the best I could. But that’s the reality.

We can’t go back—we can only go forward. And it is choosing to live our lives NOW with honor and with kindness toward others and with a protective wisdom toward ourselves that we can find forgiveness for ourselves for past perceived mistakes.

It’s crucial that we find ways to forgive ourselves. If we cannot forgive ourselves for choices we made or ways we got hurt in the past, we won’t be open to love now. If we cannot forgive ourselves for past mistakes we won’t dare try new things now. If we cannot accept ourselves as human, our energy will go into trying not to hate ourselves or to blaming ourselves and not into changing and becoming the people we want to be and living the lives we want to have.

If we were abused as children, we are accustomed to taking blame onto our own shoulders because we needed to believe that to survive. We are accustomed to failing because we once lived in situations where we could not win and that became our reality. But it does not have to stay that way. We can love and accept ourselves as human and forgive ourselves. If we need to make amends we can find ways to do so. And for those we may have in some way harmed, isn’t it better anyway to put our energy into making those amends rather than into trying to punish ourselves?

The more we love and accept ourselves, the more we will be able to love and accept others and the more likely we are to become the people we want to be. After all, it is much easier to become good and honorable people if we believe it is possible for us to do so!

I’ve said before that I believe all harm comes out of a person’s self-hate or hurt or fear. Therefore, the more you are able to love and accept yourself, the less likely you are to want or need to hurt others. And if it happens unintentionally, the more quickly you will be able to take whatever steps you can to make amends.

Wishing you all the ability to love and forgive yourselves. Sending safe and gentle ((((((hugs)))))),


Sunday, August 13, 2006


I know—it’s unusual to seem me post so often in a week but...

The third edition of the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse is about to be posted. For more info go to: PTSD Today Carnival Post.

One of the things WW is looking for is a post about forgiveness. And that’s a big issue for most people. It’s an even stickier issue for people who were abused as children.

I believe that for people who were abused as children, forgiveness comes in steps.

Step 1: Acknowledge that what was done to you was horrible. As children, we often took on the blame and protected the abusive adults. It’s important to look at those beliefs and realize we did not deserve what happened and that we have a right to be angry about it!

Step 2: Look at our lives now and realize we do have the power NOW to create the lives we want to have. Decide that we will find a way to be happy and to take the steps we need to take to do so. In other words, take back control of our lives.

Step 3: Really see others with all their hurts and fears. I believe that all harm comes out of the person’s fears and hurts and shame.

Step 4: Forgive the person for being so hurt and scared and needing to hurt us because they were.

NOTE: Forgiveness is NOT:
1) Allowing abuse to continue. We can forgive harm done to us and still take protective action to prevent ourselves or others from being hurt again as we were.
2) Minimizing the harm that was done or saying it doesn’t matter.
3) Forgetting or pretending it never happened.

Forgiveness IS letting go of the hurt and anger inside us. It IS choosing to stop putting our energy into rage and instead put it into creating the lives we want to have. It IS something we do for ourselves. We may never vocalize our forgiveness to the person who hurt us—especially if it’s not safe to do so. But we will immediately feel the change inside ourselves when we forgive. It IS letting go of the past so that we can move forward—loving and laughing and being happy.

Anger held onto too long is like a poison inside of us. We may need anger at one stage to get us to walk away from someone or some situation that is abusive but once we have used it to do so, we only hurt ourselves if we cling to the anger.

The more we focus on creating what we want in our lives, the less we need to hold onto the anger. The more we let go of that anger, the more energy we have to draw on to create the lives we want to have.

So...forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. That’s my take on it anyway.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Last week I made dinner for some people new in town. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it? And yet it was.

Snapshot: Me as a kid. Always hungry. My mother portioned out food and I always got the least. Even when I was the one cooking it. When I went off to college I gained 30 pounds and I was STILL underweight!

Adulthood: Me, still underweight though I don’t want to be. Finding it very hard to cook for other people and offer them food. Hating to entertain. Believing it’s directly because of being starved as a kid and something wrong with me that I didn’t want company over.

Last week: Daughter’s friend and mother new in town. I offer to fix them dinner. I have a lovely time and really enjoy myself—and so do they.

That’s victory. It shows how far we can come, how much we can grow.

As I was sharing this with a friend, I realized that there were other factors going on, too. I realized that it makes a huge difference when you can clean up the house and the people around you don’t instantly mess it up. It makes a huge difference when no one is second guessing everything you do or the food you serve or how you fix it. It makes a huge difference when you aren’t worrying what anyone in your family will say or do.

In other words, I stopped and questioned the assumption that my reluctance to entertain for so many years and to cook for people was a flaw in me. I looked at the past and realized that until recently (i.e. after my divorce), there was never a time in my live—NEVER—when I didn’t have someone second guessing everything I did, messing up the home around me, and sometimes saying and doing things that were really offensive to other people.

I realized that on my own, I LIKE entertaining, I LIKE fixing dinner, I LIKE being sociable.

That was both a huge revelation for me and a huge victory.

As I have said so many times, it is the assumptions we never think to question that so often limit us unnecessarily. What assumptions could you question and rethink today that might make your life better if you did?

Wishing each of you your own victories this week and sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Sunday, August 06, 2006


A post I read on another blog made me stop and think. Do I sound too optimistic here? As if it’s easy to get past the effects of abuse? I hope not because it wasn’t easy to get to this point in my life. And even now there are times when I have bad moments, when old fears trigger panic or old messages tell me I’m not good enough and never will be.

The key is that these are MOMENTS. I know they are echoes of the past and that all I have to do is face them to tame them, to uncover the old mistaken assumptions, and let them go.

As Emily said in her blog, ( know that this is a bad moment and it will pass and I won’t always feel this way. I can also look at the situation triggering these feelings and ask myself: What good could come out of this? And these days, I actually get an answer. Something good always does come out of the situation.

Every human being has these moments. I don’t know anyone—abuse victim or not—who doesn’t sometimes feel self-doubt or overwhelmed.

The key, again as Emily pointed out in her post Black Pit Survival is recognizing that things won’t always be bad. Abuse teaches us to believe otherwise which is why so often I post here the tools that helped and continue to help me recognize I won’t always feel the way I do when I’m scared or unhappy. For me, the most important tools were and are:

1) Creating a list of past times I’ve succeeded.
2) Reminding myself that something that has already happened can’t be changed but I can focus on what to do differently in the future and/or ask myself what good could come out of the situation.
3) Reminding myself of people who believe in me.
4) Reminding myself of all the times I have been able to make changes in my life to make it better.
5) Looking at my list of things that make me smile and do something from that list.

No, it isn’t easy overcoming the long term (or short term) impact of abuse. It isn’t easy learning to believe in ourselves and replace pain with the ability to laugh and be happy again. I don’t ever want to imply that it is! But it IS possible and we need to know that because there are too many people (including “experts”) out there who will tell us it isn’t. I post to share the tools that helped me get to where I am now.

In a couple of days I think I’ll post about a recent “victory” over past conditioning. About assumptions I discovered were wrong that I didn’t even know I had. Because we need to know our lives truly can get better and better and better.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Making Changes

Okay, suppose you know you want to make changes in your life. Where do you begin?

Step 1: For me, it was first imagining what I might try and how I might handle it. Since I had a terror of making mistakes, this was really important for me.

Step 2: Do whatever it was I needed to do that scared me. No way around this step.
• I would remind myself of all the times I had succeeded in the past.
• I would reward myself each time I tried and took a step forward.
• I would make sure I did things that made me smile—every day! Especially when I least felt like doing so.

Step 3: Evaluate the experience. Sometimes that meant listening to feedback I didn’t want to hear. (Boy didn’t I want to hear it!) Sometimes that meant thinking it through myself. What did I like about the outcome? What didn’t I like? What could I have done differently?

Step 4: Imagine the next possible step and take it.

The thing is, as I’ve said before, what we are afraid to look at gains power over us but when we stand and face our fears, often we discover things aren’t as bad as we feared.

When we do things that scare us but will ultimately make our lives better, right there we’ve proven to ourselves our courage and our intelligence in taking steps that will improve our lives. And often we discover that we can do the very thing we thought we couldn’t.

There’s another thing about all of this. Odds are that for you, as for me, the fear lies in part in having other people find out we aren’t good enough or that we’re incompetent. So we avoid things that are public. But when we take public steps that will make our lives better, we get the chance to discover that other people always assumed we could do it. We may discover that they see us very differently and in a far more positive way than we see ourselves.

Making changes in our lives isn’t easy. And it’s tempting to try to stay in a situation/behavior/relationship/pattern that feels “safe.” The trouble is, all too often that “safety” is only an illusion and we would actually be truly safer if we took the steps that scare us. I know that’s been true in my own life and when I look back, I can see lots of places where I would have been better off, been safer if I had risked leaving what felt like “safety” and taken the steps I was too afraid, back then, to take. How about you?

What would make YOUR life better? What steps could you or will you take TODAY to make that change begin to happen?

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Saturday, July 22, 2006


There was an article in the paper today and it was about daydreams. I found myself thinking about mine. All the daydreams I’ve ever had, I think, are about protecting people and/or being loved and valued for who I am—something that seemed so unlikely when they first began when I was a child.

In real life when I was a child, just as in those daydreams, it seemed that people generally saw me as not good enough or outright bad. And the key to the daydreams, the payoff, was that someone special would discover that I was really helping people and really was special and really was a good person.

That mirrors my need in real life to protect others and help them believe in themselves and be happy. I CAN’T not do those things. I think the one thing that cuts me down faster than anything else is to believe I have done something that hurt someone else. Plus, for so much of my life, I desperately wanted someone, anyone to realize what a good person I was trying to be and value who I was.

The thing about daydreams is that they can help us see what we value and what matters to us emotionally. They can show us who we want to be and what we want to do.

Some of my daydreams these days are about hitting the NY Times bestseller list or becoming a famous movie star or a highly successful motivational speaker. I picture myself on Oprah and other talk shows. Why? Because it would feel as if people realized I was special and my words were worth reading or I was someone they resonated to when they saw me on stage or on the screen. Plus, of course, it would be nice to have the financial recompense that goes with those things—without having to take advantage of anyone to get that much money!

To some degree I’ve lived part of those dreams. I have protected others. I have found people who value who I am. I’ve had several books published. I get to give workshops that make a difference in people’s lives. Thinking about this, though, makes me realize that sometimes I let fear keep me from going after these goals in a more focused way. But now that I’ve started thinking about them, that may change.

What are YOUR daydreams and how have you lived them in real life? How could you live them even more?


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Who Are You


I ask because I came up against something this week that made me realize this is a core issue for many of us—maybe for everyone.

If you are unhappy, how much of your unhappiness is because of the gap you perceive between who you are and who you think you ought to be?

I found myself thinking about this over the past week. Where do I think I should be physically, emotionally, professionally, socially? How does that compare to where I am and how does THAT impact how I feel about myself?

It’s good to have a sense of who we want to be. We need to know what we believe makes a person honorable and good and successful. So where’s the problem? Well....

I believe the problem comes from making judgments about what it means not to meet those goals, not to live that idealized vision of who we think we ought to be. In other words, these are GOALS and life is about trying to get closer and closer to being the person we believe we ought to be.

As long as we are moving in that direction, beating ourselves up because we haven’t yet gotten there can do tremendous damage. Yes, damage. So much harm I have seen in my own life came out of the shame, guilt, and even sometimes self-hate people have felt when they weren’t living up to the image of who they thought they ought to be. Sometimes it was bullying and belittling others to try to get them to say the person was who he/she thought he/she should be. Sometimes it was harming others to try to cover up ways in which the person didn’t live up to his/her ideal self. Sometimes it was simply paralysis—the feeling one could never be good enough so why even try? Sometimes it was alcohol or drug use to try to deaden the pain of not being able to live up to the ideal.

The thing is, it’s not an effective strategy to beat oneself up and even can result in serious damage to oneself or others—damage that is directly contradictory to the goal one is trying to achieve.

So what’s the answer? Lists. (You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?)
1) Past successes to help build the belief that you can achieve your goals.
2) Things you like about yourself help remind you the ways in which you do match your image of who you believe you should be.
3) Steps you can take to be more and more like the person you believe you should be.
4) What’s not part of that image that maybe should be?
5) What’s part of the image that maybe shouldn’t be?

You’ll notice the last two suggest re-evaluating your image of who you believe you should be. You can keep that image exactly as it is if really looking at it reaffirms that’s what you should do. But for many of us, that image was formed years ago, shaped by assumptions we learned from our parents and the world around us. It may or may not be what we would choose if we examine it carefully now.

The other bonus, when we examine our ideal image, is that we may realize our judgments about our inability to fully achieve that ideal come from others as well. How many of us were raised, after all, with the focus on what we couldn’t do or weren’t doing? How many of us heard what was wrong with us rather than what was right? How many of us internalized that as meaning we weren’t good enough—or maybe were even told that out right?

The thing is, believing in ourselves, honoring the ways in which we do strive toward and match up to the ideal of who we want to be encourages us to keep trying, it gives us courage and the ability to believe it matters and that it isn’t hopeless to try. It also means we are far less likely to lash out or do things that will hurt others if WE know that we are good enough NOW, that we ARE taking steps toward being who we want to be, if we know that it’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes were unforgivable in my house growing up and maybe they were in yours as well. But mistakes are inevitable and part of how we learn. Mistakes are the ways we understand things we couldn’t otherwise and they are part of being human.

If we strive to be more and more like the person we believe we ought to be and can accept ourselves as we are at the same time and forgive ourselves for mistakes we make, we move toward that ideal faster and we are likely to have more love and acceptance of those around us.

So....who are you and who do you want to be? How will you honor who you are RIGHT NOW and what steps will you take this week to be even more the person you want to be?

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Monday, July 10, 2006

Habit of Hope

What are your emotional habits? Do you easily fall into a pattern of feeling discouraged or sad? If so, that makes life an uphill battle. How do you cope with it? Do you hurt yourself—either directly or by overeating or doing things that you know are likely to add to the hurt? Do you maybe use the idea of snapping a rubber band on your wrist?

If any of the above statements are true for you, I’d like to suggest an alternative: creating a HABIT of HOPE.

First, here’s why I hate the rubber band suggestion that at one point was really popular: YOU”RE HURTING YOURSELF!!! Doesn’t matter what the goal is, it involves hurting yourself. Here’s my alternative suggestion: Surround yourself with things you LIKE that you couldn’t have when you were a child. For me, that includes clothes I love, pretty jewelry, furniture and objects my parents would never have tolerated, food they wouldn’t have eaten or that I wasn’t allowed to have as a child THAT I LIKE.

The reason I prefer this approach is that it instantly grounds me in the present: NOW I am safe, NOW I am happy, NOW I can create the life I want to have. It is also tangible proof that I CAN have things that make me happy, I CAN create the life I want to have, I won’t always feel this way (if in that moment I’m unhappy or scared or hurting).

Which approach is more likely to make you want to hang around and enjoy life? Which approach helps you believe in YOU and your ability to create the life you want to have?

Another really big part of creating a HABIT of HOPE is to find ways, EVERY DAY to smile, NO MATTER WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON IN YOUR LIFE. If you do this when times are good, then when you hit a rough patch you already have this habit. And by smiling, even in the midst of difficult times, you are promising yourself that you will not always feel this way. You are promising yourself that no matter what happens you will ALWAYS be able to find moments of happiness.

The other step to creating a HABIT of HOPE is to make and hold onto a list of everything good about yourself—all your strengths, all your successes, all the good things about who you are. And every time you feel stressed or scared, look at that list and remind yourself of these things!

By creating such a list and creaing a HABIT of HOPE, you’ll find that you are happier and odds are you will also be more successful. Other people will begin to interact with you in new ways as you change how you see yourself and life and the levels of stress hormones will be lower so your brain will literally function more efficiently. In addition, you will not need to hurt others out of fear, you will not need to act in ways that run counter to your own sense of who you want to be, and you will find more and more good things coming into your life as you become more and more able to see the possibilities around you.

So please, begin today. Seek out things you have that make you smile. Surround yourself with them. Make it a point to find reasons to smile at least three times every day (and even more if you can!), and make that list of successes and strengths and good things about yourself. Create that HABIT OF HOPE.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Your Independence Day

What if we declare this OUR Independence Day? What if we declare that as of today we believe ourselves free of past shame and fear and entitled to happiness?

We have both the right and the responsibility to make a choice—are we going to heal or are we going to let ourselves stay trapped in the past forever?

Making the choice to heal doesn’t instantly make everything all right. What it does do is cue our subconscious to find the answers to what we need to do to heal. It sets us on a path where only freedom from shame and fear and the achievement of happiness is acceptable. And if that is our focus, then that is what we can and will achieve.

It begins with a decision. We may not know how we will achieve our goal but if we keep it firmly as our goal the path opens up. People and opportunities appear in our lives to help us achieve that goal. I know because it’s happened to me. Once I accepted the possibility that I could be free of shame and fear and could be happy, I found myself, step by step, getting closer and closer to that goal. When I worked with a therapist, he used to ask what the plan was. I’d always answer that I only saw one or two steps ahead and I didn’t know the rest but I had faith the steps would always be there for me to take when I was ready. And I was right. My life is now incredibly good in ways I could not have predicted ten years ago.

Let this be YOUR Independence Day! Let this be the day YOU choose that the only acceptable course for your life is one free of shame and fear and filled with happiness. That choice won’t bring instant success but it will set you on a journey toward that goal and one that rewards you in ways you probably cannot yet imagine.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Sunday, July 02, 2006

You CAN Do It

How often do you avoid things because you think you can’t do something? Do you tell yourself this is a self-protective move? This way no one can find out your flaws and make fun of you? Or maybe you tell yourself that if you don’t try, you can’t fail and failing would hurt too much.

We all have an internal dialogue and for many of us there is a tendency to shy away from things we think we can’t do. I know—I’ve written about this before. And yet I don’t think it can be stressed often enough—what we run from gains more and more power and what we stand and face we can often overcome.

We think we are protecting ourselves when we avoid things we think we can’t do. And sometimes it makes sense to do so. I do not, for example, foresee myself ever trying to climb Mt. Everest!

What I’m writing about today, though, is avoiding things that would make our lives better. Unfortunately, many of us spend at least part of our lives ruled by our fears. I look back and know that many choices I made out of fear, trying to protect myself, actually made me more vulnerable and ended up hurting me in ways I couldn’t have foreseen.

If we think we can’t support ourselves, we may stay in abusive relationships far too long—or at least hand over control of our lives to a greater degree than is healthy for anyone involved out of fear that if we don’t, the other person will abandon us. The same is true if we are afraid we can’t handle being on our own emotionally.

If we think we can’t do a certain kind of work, we won’t try and may end up being paid far less than we are worth.

If we think we can’t set boundaries or have healthy relationships, we cut ourselves off from friendships and love that otherwise would enrich our lives.

What’s the answer? To do the things we want to do, even if they scare us. I don’t mean blindly doing stupid things but if deep down we know it would be a good thing, then go ahead and try.

One success, doing something we didn’t think we could outweighs all the words of support and encouragement anyone could possibly give us.

One piece of self-knowledge gained offers new possibilities for the future that we could never have had if we tried to stay safe by not doing this thing that scares us.

If we don’t try, we are telling ourselves that we can’t. If we don’t try, we are limiting ourselves far more than any failure could because if we try and fail at least we have gained information and we know we had the courage to try.

Many of us seek the validation of others, believing that will make us whole, that will let us begin to believe in ourselves. But the words of others, however helpful in the short run, count so little compared to what we tell ourselves. If we truly want to heal, if we truly want to be happy and create the lives we want to have, then it begins by changing what WE believe about ourselves and the fastest and surest way to do that is to prove by doing what we have believed we could never do.

Wishing all of you a week of self-discovery, of courage to do the things you’ve been putting off that you really want to do, that you know could enrich your lives.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),