Thursday, March 30, 2006

Letting Go to Move Forward

Most of us don’t like change. We want the illusion of control we think we have when we know what’s going to happen and where we are and what we can do—even if it’s not ideal. The reality is that if we want to go from victim to thriver, trapped to free, despairing to truly happy then we have to change.

WE have to change. We have to let go of what feels comfortable or at least known and therefore less scary than the unknown. And often we do cling to what we know even when we secretly wish it was something else, something better.

We have to let go of our beliefs about ourselves—what we think we can and can’t do and the kind of person we may think we are--in order to become the person we want to be.

We have to let go of anger we may have kept wrapped around ourselves thinking it protects us. That doesn't mean we don't try to change what's wrong, only that our energy no longer is consumed by anger and instead goes into actions that truly can make a difference.

We have to let go of blame because if we are focusing on blame, we can’t use that energy to make real changes in our lives and move forward to create the lives we want to have. (Note: Forgiveness does NOT mean we must allow ourselves to continue to be hurt by anyone or allow the person to hurt anyone else! It is possible to forgive AND to choose to protect ourselves and others.)

We have to let go of believing we are limited if we want to discover what we can truly accomplish.

We have to let go of believing that if we try and don’t achieve a goal we have failed in order to realize that true failure is not even trying.

Sometimes we have to let go of people, too. Maybe people who have been important in our lives and who we care deeply about. I’m not suggesting walking away without trying to make things work or walking away in anger because that person isn’t meeting our expectations. Let me be clear on this—I value loyalty and trust and acceptance. I value love and commitment and working things out. I also know that sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes relationships can’t be what we would like them to be. Sometimes even when everyone involved is a good and decent person and means well, a situation or relationship is harmful to one or more of the people involved. When that’s the case, we need to love and let go. The temptation may be to get angry because that makes it easier but in the long run, we will be happier if we accept that life can be complicated and no one has to be at fault.

Why do I spend so much time on this last point? Because for anyone who has been deeply hurt by someone at any point in his or her life (true of many readers of this blog), relations are problematical. Heck, maybe they are for everyone. After all, fear of abandonment is the most profound and basic fear there is. If we believe we are essentially unlovable, we will find it very hard, if not impossible to let go of ANYONE who claims to love or care about us, even when we know, deep down, the situation is destructive.

The thing is, if we open ourselves to the possibility that we are loveable, we won’t feel that need to cling. We may also discover that there is a world of people out there who would LIKE to know and care about us! I’ve long since lost track of all the people I know who say with some surprise in their voices that they didn’t know people could like them. And I’m not just talking about survivors of trauma or abuse.

So...what are you going to let go of this week to let yourself move forward? Because when we let go of what isn’t working we open up room in our lives for what will work. But more about that next time.

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


Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Wall

Many years ago there was a television program where a woman told a boy, who had an unhappy situation, that sooner or later everyone comes to a wall. Some find a ladder waiting or an open door or a rope to help them over or past the wall. Others have to find a way over and it’s hard. She told the boy that it wasn’t fair but that didn’t change the reality—everyone had to get over the wall.

At the time, I thought the advice was harsh but it stuck with me because even then on some level I understood how powerful it was. And when I was seeing a counselor to come to terms with my childhood, I kept remembering those words. I realized I had a choice. It would have been easy to focus on how unfair it was that my childhood had been the way it was. No one would have blamed me. If anything, there were times my counselor wondered out loud why I didn’t get more upset about it. But the thing was, I only had so much energy. I could either focus on how awful things had been or I could focus that energy on rewriting the messages I’d taken in as a kid. Because that’s what healing is—rewriting the messages we took in about ourselves, about the world, and about other people. I didn’t have time or energy to do both and remembering that scene from television, I knew that I was darned well going to get over the blasted wall!!!

And I did. Get over the wall, I mean. I rewrote the messages. I took stock of my life and began to make changes. I challenged every assumption I’d ever had about who I was and who I had to be. I went from being terribly unhappy to someone who today is strong and confident and happy.

I share with you the words the woman said in that television scene because I truly believe they are powerful. We can not change the past. We cannot always prevent bad things from happening in the future. But we can choose whether we will stand staring at the wall and screaming at how unfair life is for us or we can put every ounce of energy into getting over that wall. And when we do, no matter what the past has been, life can be pretty wonderful.

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

Sunday, March 19, 2006


When we are afraid, it’s hard to love. We are constantly vigilant, trying to protect ourselves. We dare not risk letting anyone close for fear that the person may want more from us than we have to give or they will see something shameful about us or we may fear that we will be hurt if we risk opening up to that person. Often we fear all these things.

The trouble with fear is that it sucks up all our energy. Worse, it causes us to focus on what could go wrong in our lives rather than what could go right.

What if...

What if we focused on what could go right? What if we focused on giving love freely to everyone around us WITHOUT ANY EXPECTATIONS?

It’s important to understand what I DON’T mean! I don’t mean becoming a doormat—for anyone. I don’t mean letting someone else abuse you. I don’t mean believing that if you love someone you must have sex with them. I don’t mean feeling you have to become who the other person wants you to be. I don’t mean feeling you are incomplete without a partner. I don’t mean jumping into relationships just because that’s what anyone expects.

Love, true love, doesn’t demand anything of the other person. True love is grounded in kindness and respect. Loving someone does not prevent us from saying “no” to the other person if what they ask or want to do is wrong for us.

We can love someone and recognize that they do not love us. We can love someone and recognize they are not safe to be with. We can love someone and let them go. We can love someone and discover that we like who we are when we are with them and that they bring out the best in us and then we may choose to deepen the bond with that person.

The thing about love is that when we withhold it from others, we are actually withholding it from ourselves. When we let ourselves see the good in others, we are more likely to be able to see the good in ourselves. When we are able to respond to others with love, we are more likely to be able to allow others to love us.

That doesn’t mean abandoning commonsense. It doesn’t mean being reckless. It’s choosing to say that even if we have been hurt in the past, we do not want to become shut down and closed off. It’s choosing to say we are strong enough to love and to say “no” when that’s appropriate. It’s choosing to risk loving, knowing we can and will walk away if we realize a situation isn’t right or good or healthy for us and/or for the other person.

Maybe most important of all, choosing to let ourselves love is a statement of power. It is saying that WE choose who we want to be. WE choose how we want to live our lives. WE will not let anyone take away from us the ability to love.

No matter what words were used to justify anything hurtful ever done to us, real love is never harmful. Actions taken out of fear of losing love can be harmful, but love itself never is. And the more we allow ourselves to love others, the less vulnerable we will be to letting someone hurt us (out of fear of being abandoned if we don’t) and the less likely we are to take actions or speak words that could harm someone else (out of fear of being/feeling unloved if we don’t force them to do what we want).

What (and every day) you let yourself interact with others from a position of love? What if today (and every day) you choose to love yourself?

There is real power in love.

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Living in a Box

Do you live in a box? Do you stay within narrow boundaries of what feels comfortable?

It’s interesting how we tend to fall into patterns. After my divorce, for a while I was in a very tiny space. Even when I moved into a house, for a while I lived essentially in one room of my house, a space no greater than what I had left. I had to consciously choose to move out from that room and use all the space in my house. Then, once I was used to that, I had to consciously choose to do things outside my house and expand the area that was familiar and comfortable to me.

It can feel safe to stay in the space we know. Why not keep doing so if it feels safe? Because it’s an illusion. When we stay confined to that safe space, we do not give ourselves a chance to discover new possible places to love and things to do that we will enjoy. Worse, if we are isolated from other people, we do not get a chance to challenge our perceptions about ourselves.

If we have had trouble in our past, odds are our perceptions are distorted in a negative way. Odds are we are harder on ourselves than anyone else would be and we demand more of ourselves than is reasonable. We are likely to focus on our perceived flaws instead of our strengths and accomplishments. We may have negative expectations for how other people will treat us. The only way to challenge those negative perceptions and to change them is to risk doing things we think we can’t do and open ourselves to the possibility that our perceptions are wrong. When we risk interacting with people we have never known before, we have the chance to discover that the people who said negative things to or about us may have been mistaken or we may have changed or that not all people think as they did.

So today I ask you: Are you living in a box? Are you limiting where you go and what you do and who you interact with? Take a step outside that box. Risk interacting with new people and doing new things and going new places. You may discover the world is a much nicer and more welcoming place than you thought. You may discover that even if some people didn’t like you in the past, lots of people out there will like you now.

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


Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Not religion, spirituality. I think of religion as a construct people created to try to explain spirituality. It can be a good force in someone’s life or a bad one. It depends on the construct. For many of us, we have known people who invoked religion to justify their abuse of us and of others. That’s why I think it is so important to distinguish between religion and spirituality. Too much harm has been done in the name of religion.

Spirituality, on the other hand, is always a powerful positive force in our lives. Spirituality is the genuine connection to something greater than ourselves. Spirituality is the realization that we are all connected to each other and to the universal force that is called God. Spirituality is the connection that allows us to find strength and courage and wisdom when we need it most. It is the understanding that we are all connected, no matter what our superficial differences may appear to be. Spirituality is discovering the power of prayer and meditation. It is connecting with God so that we realize who we are best meant to be and who we are capable of becoming.

I believe that all harm is done because someone is afraid or doubts or hates him or herself. I believe that all harm occurs because the person is cut off from their spirituality and awareness of their connection with God.

What does this mean? It means that if we allow ourselves to discover our connection with that power greater than ourselves and allow ourselves to drink in the love inherent in that connection, we will not need to hurt others. We don’t have to be afraid if we know that whenever we need to, we can connect to that universal power and source. As we feel the utter acceptance God has for us, we can let go our own sense of shame and guilt. We can become the person we were meant to be.

If you were hurt as a child, you may be angry at God and wary of anything that asks you to talk to God again. But it wasn’t God who hurt us—it was all too human beings. You may personify God or you may think of it as simply a force greater than yourself. Either way, if we risk opening up to that greater power, we may truly be able to find a sense of peace. We may truly be able to find joy in our lives and trust that we can be happy NOW.

For me, an image that has resonated since I was a young child is to picture myself in the woods. There is a clearing. That clearing is filled with golden light and when I step into that light I feel total acceptance, total love, and I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that here is strength and wisdom and courage to draw on whenever I need to do so.

I hope that all of you will be able to find a form of spirituality that speaks to you and brings you comfort and strength and joy. Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Saturday, March 04, 2006



How do you feel about your body? Very few people are satisfied. If you were abused as a child, particularly sexually abused, odds are you feel as if your body is separate from YOU. Odds are you overeat or under eat or generally try to pretend it doesn’t exist. You may even feel as if your body betrayed you.

Our bodies and our minds are connected. Often the outward appearance is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. The less we like ourselves, the less likely we are to present a pleasant appearance to the world.

I could talk about emotional healing and about how if we do that we can come to value and appreciate our bodies and learn to take care of them. But lots of people talk about that. I’d like to take it from the opposite perspective. If we take care of our bodies, we will feel better about ourselves.

Think about it. If you got a flattering haircut, put on clothes that made you smile, got regular exercise so that you had lots of energy, wouldn’t you feel better inside?

What I am suggesting is that it is possible to make your body your ally. It is possible, by doing what may seem superficial to make the internal you feel much better as well.

I’m not advocating huge, instant changes. I’m advocating small steps that add up to something powerful.

1) Look in your closet and choose a few things you love that you can wear any time you want or need to feel good. (Think how powerful it would be if EVERYTHING in your closet made you feel that way!) If you don’t have anything you love, go find something! If you haven’t got much money, check thrift or secondhand shops. Sometimes there are wonderful clothes there for not much money.

2) Look in your refrigerator and cupboards. Do you have healthy foods at all? Are they healthy foods you love? If not, make a list of foods that are healthy that would feel like a treat to you. Gradually add more and more of them to your meals and odds are you will find yourself eating less and less of things that are not healthy.

3) Get a pedometer. For a while, just observe how many steps a day you take. Then, gradually add more steps. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just add a few more steps each day until you are up to a significant number. (The ultimate goal is 10,000 steps a day but any extra steps will help you get healthier and happier.)

4) If there is exercise you love, find time to do it. If you don’t like exercise, find something that’s fun that maybe isn’t generally thought of as exercise. All that matters is: Does it get you moving?

5) Smile. Every day do at least three things that make you smile. The more we find genuine reasons to smile the healthier we will be. Literally.

6) Get a flattering haircut. Doesn’t have to be expensive. If you don’t like one, it will grow out and you can try a different place next. I’ve paid $50 and gotten wonderful haircuts and I’ve used coupons and paid $8 and gotten good haircuts. I’m not saying it isn’t worth it to pay more when you can afford it, I am saying that not having much money isn’t a reason not to try.

7) Every day wear something that makes you smile. It can be your clothing, it can be a piece of jewelry, and it can be make up or hair accessories. But choose something that makes you smile. Ideally, everything you wear will make you smile. But at least make sure that something you wear does.

If you take care of yourself physically, it will have a profound impact on your emotional health. If you have ever been neglected or abused physically in ANY way, it is a powerful affirmation to yourself that you do not deserve to have that happen. It is a powerful affirmation to yourself that even if no one took care of you when you were a child, now YOU can and will take care of yourself. YOU can and will keep yourself safe and happy NOW.

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

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Do you hoard? Do you find it hard to share? Do you feel the need to surround yourself with lots of stuff?

This isn’t uncommon. Many of us got too little as kids—too little food or too little love or too few new clothes or too little safety--or maybe all of the above. We got so used to never having enough, often when others around us had what they wanted or needed, that as adults we may find we resent having to share or simply can’t do it. We may feel we don’t deserve to spend money on ourselves so we buy lots of cheap stuff and never feel satisfied when one purchase of something really nice would have satisfied us. Or we may binge buy stuff we don’t need and can’t afford because we can’t seem to fill that void inside.

I was starved as a kid. Literally. I had to watch everyone else in my family get their food apportioned out before I got mine and I never had enough. As an adult, I find it very difficult to cook for others. I may find myself resenting others in a restaurant simply enjoying their food when my conditioning is to order the least expensive entrĂ©e because that’s what I was constantly told growing up.

The good news is that like everything else, this kind of conditioning can be broken. We can learn to give ourselves enough as adults that we don’t need to hoard and we can learn to share.

I don’t advocate spending money you don’t have. What I do advocate is spending money wisely. With each potential purchase, we can ask ourselves WHY this is important. Will it make us smile every time we see or wear or eat it? Is it healthy or good for us? Is it what we REALLY want or only a pale imitation that will remind us of what we don’t have? Will it do for us what we hope it will do or are we fooling ourselves?

A suggestion I saw years ago that I thought was brilliant and which has stayed with me (though I can’t remember who said it) was to choose one thing we love and make sure we always have enough that we know we won’t ever run out—even if we share.

For me, this means keeping a refrigerator stocked with healthy food. Not so much that any of it spoils before it can be eaten, but enough that I feel a sense of abundance every time I open the refrigerator door. It means that if I buy chocolate, I buy chocolate I really like and in a large enough quantity that if someone were to walk in the door, I would be comfortable sharing, knowing there would still be enough left for me.

Now you might think this would lead to binging but it doesn’t. I know I have enough—today, tomorrow, next week and next month. I don’t have to rush to eat it before someone else does.

I believe in my ability to create for myself the life I want to have. I believe in my ability to always be able to find reasons to smile. The odd thing is that now I don’t need so many THINGS. I don’t need so much food, either, or chocolate in the house.

If you hoard, odds are that at some point in your life there wasn’t enough of SOMETHING. There may not be enough of something now. Or perhaps you surround yourself with things because it feels as if you can hide behind clutter. That was true for me when I was married. If I hid the things that mattered most to me among lots of other things, my husband couldn’t make fun of them or use the knowledge of what I cared about against me. If I had to focus on clutter, I didn’t have time to think about how unhappy I was.

It’s a funny thing, but I don’t have clutter any more. And getting rid of clutter can have a profound impact. One of the most successful weight loss programs involves the idea of a) learning to love yourself and b) getting rid of clutter. Somehow doing those two things results in people losing weight even when they don’t go on a diet because as they take charge of their surroundings and focus on the good in themselves, they no longer need to use food as a defense or source of comfort.

We all have within ourselves the power to smile and be happy even if we possess nothing!

For someone who has always been afraid of ending up on the streets penniless, that is a profoundly powerful statement and one that I have only recently come to understand. If I have the power to be happy no matter what, then NO ONE and NOTHING has the power to make me unhappy. NO ONE and NOTHING has the power to make me doubt myself or get mired in fear or guilt or a mistaken sense of shame.

I can choose to be happy NO MATTER WHAT.

I share this understanding with you because I know what it is to believe I can never be happy. I know what it is to believe that I will always be afraid. And I don’t want anyone else to have to feel that way!

You may be skeptical but what would happen if you acted as if it were true? What would happen if you let yourself smile several times a day—NO MATTER WHAT? What would happen if you let yourself believe that within you was the power to be happy? What would happen if you began to take steps to be happy KNOWING that no one else had the right to stop you?

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