Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Grounding in the Present

Often if we have had past trauma or deep emotional hurt in our lives, we can be thrown into flashback or worse, because less obvious, acting as if the present is the same as something that happened in the past. By that, I mean what is happening in the present resonates with what happened in the past and we have a gut reaction that may be all out of proportion to what is happening now.

I have read advice to carry ice water or a rubber band around your wrist that you snap to bring you back to the present. My reaction? WHAT THE #@#^%%">#@#^%% ARE THEY THINKING?????

We got hurt in the past so we’re supposed to hurt ourselves NOW to ground us in the present???? To me, that sounds crazy. Who wants to be in the present if it’s going to hurt as much as the past or we have to hurt ourselves to get there?

My solution? Ground yourself in the present in positive ways. Wear something you love that you couldn’t have worn when you were a child. Eat or drink something you love that you couldn’t have had at the time the trauma or past hurt was happening. For me, coffee is soothing and relaxes me because it reminds me that I’m an adult and am safe now. I may wear a bracelet or earrings or a necklace I love that I couldn’t have worn when I was a kid.

By choosing things you love to ground yourself in the present you are not only reminding yourself that this is NOW but you are also reminding yourself that NOW you can be happy, NOW you can have things in your life that you love, NOW you can be safe.

So make a list of all the things you love and surround yourself with them so that any time you start to feel overwhelmed and suspect something is resonating with past hurt, you can do or wear or eat or drink something from that list and ground yourself in the present in a truly positive way.

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

Friday, April 14, 2006

Going Back

This week I’m back staying in a house I lived in for over ten years and it’s like going through a time warp. It’s only 3 years ago that I walked away from this house but it feels as if it’s been far longer. I am lightyears away from the person I was back then. I find myself wondering how I stood it so long.

I should explain that I’m here to take care of my adult son with Down Syndrome while his dad (my ex) is out of town. Several things come up as I cope with my son’s behavior that mirror’s his father’s behavior and I am reminded of some things I’d like to share with you because they are important.

1) Guilt. I can’t help feeling guilty that my son lives with my ex even though I know that all things considered, it’s what’s best for him. Part of that guilt isn’t based on the actual circumstances—it’s rooted instead in the messages I grew up hearing about what a GOOD MOTHER had to do and be. And I need to remind myself that I can challenge those assumptions.

2) My son has extreme behavior issues but now that I trust myself, I’m having better luck dealing with him and helping him adjust at least a few of those behaviors.

3) Dealing with my ex, I am reminded of a book called Controlling People by Patricia Evans. It explains the otherwise inexplicable—the person who could pass a lie detector about how wonderful and loving they are even as they do things that are hurtful to the person they claim to love. It’s the concept of people who live in a bubble and nothing will shake their bubble of belief about who they are. The more someone tries to shake the bubble (or if they refuse to support it) the angrier and worse the person will behave. And often no one is really real to these people except themselves. The good news is that if you recognize the bubble and work with rather than against it, it’s possible to deal with these people in a way you otherwise couldn’t.

4) We really can change and grow. I’m not the person who used to live in this house and stayed in this marriage for so long. I’m able to be happy now, I can believe in myself and I’m creating the life I want to have instead of letting someone else tell me what it ought to be.

I share all of this because sometimes, in the midst of chaos, it’s hard to realize or believe that things can change.

I share the information about Patricia Evans’ book because it used to make me feel crazy that what he did didn’t match what he said or so clearly believed about himself.

I share about my son because I think too many of us get so caught up in guilt or self-doubt we follow paths that aren’t helpful or good for ourselves or others. It’s important to know that we don’t have to accept the messages others give us or necessarily do the things they think we should do. And if we live with a controlling person, it’s helpful to know that maybe we really do know better than they do about certain things even if that other person refuses to believe it.

Going back, this week, hasn’t been easy. So many memories, so many emotions stirred up. On the other hand, it’s good to know that I can go back (briefly!) without being sucked in or pulled back to who I was when I lived here before. It’s good to have a reminder, sometimes, of how far we’ve come.

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


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Reward Yourself

I know—two posts so close together is unusual for me but I’m about to do some traveling and deal with some difficult family members so I’m not sure when I’ll next get a chance to post.

Reward yourself! Does that take you aback? It would have had that effect on me just a few years ago. But I have come to see just how powerful a tool rewards can be.

How do you make changes? Do you try to bully or shame yourself into doing so? How well does that work? Odds are, not very well. At least it didn’t for me. But what I have found does work is to build fun or some kind of reward into any difficult or challenging situation I deal with.

For example, I hate, absolutely HATE going to the dentist! So...I always do two things.

1) I visualize success. In the case of going to the dentist, I visualize myself being calm and happy and meditating through it all.

2) I treat myself afterwards. It doesn’t have to be expensive or even cost anything at all—I just need to do something that makes me smile. It might be going to a favorite place. It might be buying a new lipstick or renting a video that makes me laugh. But I IMMEDIATELY do something that brings me pleasure.

If we do this, we begin to see ourselves succeeding (the visualization) which makes it easier to take the steps we need to take. And when we reward ourselves afterwards, we are conditioning ourselves to associate fun and laughter with making changes and facing challenges. When we do this, we are more likely to find ourselves in a frame of mind that increases our odds of success. We are also giving ourselves the clear message that we deserve to be happy--and isn’t that a strange and wonderful message for us to get!

So....make a list of things that make you smile, that make you feel rewarded, that make you feel happy. List as many as you can—big and small. And get in the habit of rewarding yourself every time you do something that you find difficult. You may be surprised at how much difference it can make.

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


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Is This Working

Dr. Phil regularly asks a really good question: Is this working for you?

We often get into patterns of thinking and acting/reacting without ever stopping to ask ourselves that question. It’s the same thing that I’ve often posted here—that it’s the assumptions we never think to question that trip us up.

Now I don’t always like how Dr. Phil handles things. I think sometimes his advice can be a bit simplistic. But I do think he’s right on the money with this question.

In particular, I believe the question—Is this working for you?—is much more useful than asking—Is this true?—or even—Am I right?

Bottom line: What’s the most useful thing for you to focus on? What are the most useful actions for you to take? What’s the best place to put your energy?

Is anger useful? Yes, if it is SHORT TERM and gets us to set limits and boundaries or to take action. No, if it consumes our energy and we find ourselves stuck in that emotion rather than putting our energy into making changes and moving forward.

It’s important to let go of the anger as soon as we are taking action, otherwise it will do more harm to us than good. It’s especially important to let go of anger if we need to negotiate with that person. What strategy is most powerful? Ironically, the most powerful strategy is to try to understand the other person’s bottom line and negotiate in a way that let’s our own bottom line get met and at the same time come as close as possible to meeting the other person’s bottom line as well. If we do that, we will work out an agreement that will be kept. If we negotiate with anger, then the other person is likely to keep fighting us even when it’s against their best interests as well as ours. On the other hand, if we let go of the anger—no matter how justified!—then the odds of us getting what we want are much higher.

Is shame or self-hate useful? Never! I have seen more harm done because someone felt ashamed or hated him/herself than from any other cause. What works better? To commit to living lives that are honorable and ethical and loving and compassionate and responsible—no matter what has happened in the past.

Are fear and constant worry useful? It can be useful to CALMLY consider possible obstacles or problems that might crop up and CALMLY come up with solutions. If we are calm, our brains will actually function better and we can find solutions that will work that we won’t think of if we’re panicking. In other words, the most USEFUL strategy is to assume things will work out and that no matter what happens we will be able to handle it. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it is more likely to become true if we believe it.

With any situation in our lives that is upsetting us, one of the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves is whether or not what we are doing and how we are acting or reacting is working. And if what we are doing and how we are acting or reacting is not working, it’s useful to ask ourselves what else we could try and how else we could look at the situation.

Wishing for all of us powerful new ways to look at our lives—this week and every week. Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Sunday, April 02, 2006


Do you worry? Do you try to control the outcome of events in your life? Many of us do to some degree.

Many of us grew up in situations that were less than ideal. Sometimes we had to act as the parent in our families even though we were children. Sometimes the only sense of safety we had was in the illusion that we could control the chaos, we felt we must and could anticipate and head off each new disaster. That belief helped many of us get through our childhoods but as adults, it’s often counter productive.

I found myself thinking about this during the week. There was a situation that potentially may cause me some problems. I was impatient for it to unfold so I would know. I tried to anticipate how others might act/react and what I could or should do to head off trouble. Only...I couldn’t know for sure.

I was starting to get rather stressed when I suddenly realized that I should take the advice I had just given someone else facing the possibility of losing her job. I had suggested she ask herself what good could come out of the situation if she did. And suddenly, as I sat stressing about my concern, I realized that my advice could be expanded.

In that moment, I realized that instead of asking myself (rather frantically): What should I do, what should I do? I could ask myself: In every possible outcome, what good could come out of that outcome? All of a sudden, it was okay. All of a sudden, I could see that no matter what happened, I would be okay. All of a sudden, I could see that no matter what happened, something good could come out of the situation or I could make something good come out of it.

I share this with you because I think it is one of the most empowering approaches we can take to life. Yes, it’s good to be generally prudent. And I’m not suggesting never thinking ahead. But the next time you find yourself worrying about the future and trying to anticipate things you can’t, stop and ask yourself what good could come out of each possible outcome. You might be surprised to realize that what you’ve been fearing might mean disaster could actually open up possibilities you hadn’t thought of before.

We often try to control people and the world around us believing that will keep us safe. A far safer strategy is always to be open to the possibilities that change can bring, to look for what could be good rather than focusing on what could go wrong.

As Anthony Robbins says, what we focus on becomes our reality. A focus on what could go right then becomes the most powerful focus we could have.

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