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))))))),