Thursday, June 22, 2006

Difficult Weeks

If you’ve read my blog for any time at all, you know how important I believe it is to find reasons to smile and laugh NO MATTER WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON IN YOUR LIFE.

I had a reminder of this recently. I had one of those weeks where things just blew up out of control. One of those weeks where it would have been all too easy to ask myself why I even try.

It matters that every day we find reasons to smile or laugh. If life is going well, it lets us set a pattern that carries us through on days when things don’t go well. In a sense, we are breaking years of conditioning that told us to expect to be unhappy and why not? Why should we let ourselves stay hostage to the past?

During weeks like the one I mention above, making sure I found reasons to smile and laugh was a tangible anchor to hold onto, proving that I had the power to be happy no matter what other people did. It was proof to me that I was no longer hostage to the actions of others.

We need that. More than anything else, those of us who have gone through traumatic experiences need hope. We need to have a reason to believe we can make our lives happier, that we can laugh and smile again. We need, when something goes wrong, a way to believe it won’t always be this way.

Mind you, I believe this is an optimal strategy for everyone—whether they were ever abused or not. I believe that life is about always growing—for everyone—and it’s easier to do the work to grow and change and stretch our comfort zones if we are finding ways to laugh and smile as we do so.

As I’ve said so many times, we cannot always control what happens around and to us. Life happens. We ALWAYS, however, have the ability to choose how we respond to what happens.

During that difficult week, I made sure I found reasons to smile and laugh despite the stress. I also made myself ask one of the most difficult questions: What good could come out of this?

I HATE asking that question when something is going wrong! I want to kick and fuss and throw a temper tantrum! And in my head, I often do, railing against the unfairness of life. But deep down I know that the most empowering thing I can do, the thing that will help ME the most, is to ask: What good could come out of this?

And the weird thing is that once I asked that question, I got answers. I realized three or four or five things that were good that came out of that week. Much of it was self-knowledge, but self-knowledge that will let me take steps to make things better for myself in the future. I am profoundly grateful for those answers and the knowledge contained within them.

So every day, please, PLEASE find reasons and ways to smile and laugh—even if it’s just for a few moments at a time. When something goes wrong, for your own sake, to make YOUR life better, stop and ask: What good could come out of this?

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

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day

For many of you reading this blog, Father’s Day does NOT conjure up warm memories. When you hear someone wax nostalgic about a father’s love you want to stand up and scream: But he didn’t!

For so many of us, Father’s Day is tough. The word father conjures up images of rage and fear and hurt and bewilderment and never feeling safe.

How then can we handle Father’s Day, if that’s how we feel?

For me, it was a hard won battle to realize that it only hurt me if I didn’t let myself remember the moments my father was loving toward me. And to understand that acknowledging those moments in no way diminished the wrongness of the other things he did to me.

I also came to understand that there was something powerful and empowering for me in remembering that part of him that was capable of love and that perhaps under other circumstances, if he had not been so deeply unhappy, he might have followed a very different path. Because it reminds me that I have that potential for love and kindness in me even when there are moments when that’s not how I feel.

I also found that on Father’s Day it helps to remember men in my life who have in some way acted as a father to me. Men who in some way helped me feel safe and loved and valued. Mind you, some of them were younger than me but if they evoked those emotions, they helped to give me what the best of fathers give their daughters.

If you had a wonderful father with whom you shared wonderful moments, I am so very glad for you! You were given a wonderful gift.

If you did not try to hold onto whatever loving moments there were. Do it not for your father’s sake but for your own. And cherish those moments with other men when you felt safe and loved and valued. Because those moments matter, too.

Wishing you safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Monday, June 12, 2006

We Can Choose

We can choose how we live our lives. We can choose who we will be. Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows that I believe deeply in these two truths. As Anthony Robbins says: The past does not equal the future! We can choose.

I am not minimizing the impact of abuse. I know what it has cost me to have grown up as I did. I also know the power we have to overcome that impact. We CAN do it!

It is our responsibility to choose—do we heal or do we stay mired in the hurts of the past. Does that sound scary? Again, anyone who reads my blog knows that I believe in building hope, laughter, awareness of our own strength and wisdom, joy, and success into every day—no matter what is going on around and within us!

I know I posted this early on, but I think it might be useful if I post it again—some of the steps that I found helpful along the way:

1) Make a list of everything that makes you smile—big and small, the longer a list the better.

2) Make a list of at least 20 things you can do in 2 minutes or less. The only requirement is that you can do them. (Ex. Tie your shoes, put a dish in the cupboard, put a stamp on an envelope....)

3) Make a list of your strengths—things you do well and/or are proud of.

4) Make a list of things you would like to have in your life.

5) Make a list of people who are supportive of you and value what you do.

6) Write down what makes you feel safe and/or strong.

Once you have your lists, keep them handy and add to them as often as you can. You can also begin to use them to change your life in wonderful ways.

1) Every day, at least 3 times a day, do something that makes you smile.

2) Whenever you feel discouraged or need a boost of courage, do 3 things, right in a row, that you can do in 2 minutes or less. The boost you get will be all out of proportion to the significance of those things and you will feel better.

3) Every time you feel discouraged or overwhelmed, remind yourself of your strengths and times you have succeeded in the past.

4) Look for ways to begin to bring into your life the things you want to have in your life. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing! One little piece of a dream or wish can begin to build the reality.

5) When you feel down on yourself, remember the NICE things that have been said to or about you! We all tend to focus on the criticisms but the nice things are just as real and even more important!

6) Create an image of a place that’s safe, a place where you can feel strong. Use that imaginary safe place as a refuge when you would otherwise feel overwhelmed. And begin to think about how you can create a safe place around you in the real world, too.

7) Consider finding someone to help you along the way. There is real power in finding someone who will believe you and believe in you when you have trouble doing so yourself and in having someone who understands what you are going through.

Healing is always about rewriting the messages we took in as kids and during times of trauma as adults. And we CAN rewrite those messages! We truly do have that power. It begins first with rewriting how we see ourselves. And the steps above will help.

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

Monday, June 05, 2006


I read something recently that said those of us who had very difficult childhoods or abuse in our lives are sometimes too loyal. That took me aback. Is it possible to be too loyal? What I finally concluded is that there are two kinds of loyalty.

One form of loyalty, the form I consider healthy, is the ability to look at someone, see all their flaws, and still care and still value the relationship but still protect oneself from the fallout from those flaws.

The other form of loyalty is not healthy. It’s when we cling to someone, blinding ourself to that person’s flaws and constantly making excuses for them because we are afraid that if we lose that person we will have no one. We fear that we don’t deserve anything better or that the alternatives would be worse. So we take blame on ourselves and tolerate abusive or hurtful behavior and words because we are too scared or unable to set limits and too scared or unable to walk away either.

I believe that healthy loyalty is good. Thank God we can look at a person and not expect them to always be perfect! Thank God if we can value people as they are—seeing and honoring the good and understanding and accepting the human weaknesses. That does NOT mean tolerating hurt or abuse toward ourselves or standing by while the person hurts or abuses someone else! It does mean letting other people be human and letting ourselves be human as well.

If, however, you think maybe you are caught up in the second kind of loyalty, there are some steps you can take. Easy steps. Non-scary steps.

1) Make a list of all your strengths.
2) Make a list of things you have successfully done in the past.
3) Make a list of people who have valued anything you have ever done (and list what it is they value).
4) Keep adding to these lists.
5) Create a safe place in your mind where you can nurture yourself—the scared and flawed self as well as the competent self.

The more you come to value and love and accept yourself, the easier it will be to set limits with people around you. The easier it is for you to accept yourself, the less you will feel dependent on the approval of others. And the more you are able to believe you are loved and loveable (AND YOU ARE!!!), the easier it will be to let down the walls and discover how many people out there are ready to accept and value and welcome you into their lives.

Regardless of whether the loyalty you feel toward someone is healthy or not, it’s important not to let ourselves fall into the mistake of believing this is the only person who ever can or will love or believe in us. If we do that, we are much more likely to shut out all the other people in the world who might love or believe in us, too.

Wishing all of you lots of wonderful people in your lives who value and cherish and believe in you. Every one of you deserves that!

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