Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Friend's Visit

I have a friend coming in to town to stay with me for a few days. I’m looking forward to showing off what I’ve created here—maybe because I once wouldn’t have thought it possible.

There was a time when I would have worried what a guest would think. There was a time when my surroundings reflected my inner uncertainty and unhappiness. Now my surroundings reflect my inner peace and order and joy.

I can see, in my reaction to my friend’s visit, how far I’ve come. I realize how much self-confidence I have NOW.

Not that she knew me back when I was so scared and unhappy. Not that she knew me when I didn’t know how to smile. She won’t know how far I’ve come, but I will.

It is easy to forget how far we’ve come if we focus only on where we still have or want to go. But that’s a mistake because recognizing and celebrating the progress we’ve already made is part of what provides us with proof that we can achieve the goals we still have.

I’ve said it before and I know I’ll say it many times again—the more we acknowledge our own real inner strengths, the more true reasons we can find to believe in ourselves, the farther we will get making changes in our lives.

So I hope you take a moment today and realize how far you’ve come. Smile and celebrate and applaud yourself for the work and courage it’s taken to get to where you are right now. And remind yourself that every bit of progress you have already accomplished because each piece is proof that you can create the life you want to have.

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I’m following up on a question about feelings and it’s taken me a while to figure out what I want to say.

For a long time, I tried very hard NOT to feel. Then I began to realize that one cannot feel joy and happiness unless one feels every emotion. It’s not possible to just block the negative ones.

It can be very easy to not feel anything. Especially about traumatic events. Easier not to deal with all those painful emotions. When asked how we feel about something, we may answer: “I don’t know” or “Nothing.” And it’s the truth. We maybe so afraid of what we would feel if we let ourselves know that we block our feelings completely--just like Spock did on Star Trek. And just like Spock, they may sometimes slip through.

The answer, for me, was to realize that I could handle the emotions. I created a safe environment in which to let myself feel. I surrounded myself with things that to me symbolized strength and safety. I set time limits—no more than 15 minutes at a time to let the intense emotions reach the surface. I would immediately do something afterwards that made me smile. I would run through the list of my strengths before I began. I would distance myself one step by imagining the child I had been telling me how she felt and I would imagine myself comforting her and helping her realize it wasn’t her fault and that NOW she was safe and loved.

I had strategies in place if I did get overwhelmed. Hurting myself was not allowed. (I’d had too much of that in my life already from other people!) Instead, I had a list of things I could do that would make me feel safe and/or smile. I had a list of reasons to keep going forward and reasons to believe that I could someday be happy.And I made sure I knew who I could call if I needed someone to help me process what I had felt.

These days I don’t ask myself what I feel so much as I ask myself what I WANT to feel. Do I want to feel the sadness over the shootings at Virginia Tech or do I want to focus on the heroism of individuals who made a difference that day? Do I want to focus on frustration with a friend or do I want to focus on and remember the good times she and I have shared, the times she was there for me when I needed her? Do I want to focus on my anger at someone or on the compassion I feel for whatever hurt or fear prompted the words or actions?

If I want to, in any moment I can feel any emotion I choose. All I have to do is focus on the right triggers. I’m not blocking any emotions or denying them—only choosing where I put my focus.

How do I know what makes me happy or if I am happy? Anything that makes me grin and feel like laughing. In any moment, I can bring up something in my life that will make me grin. And I choose to be grateful for having whatever that is in my life.

If I find myself hunching my shoulders, that’s a pretty good tip-off that I’m feeling shame about something. Then I know that I need to focus on compassion for myself and remind myself of all the things I do like about who I am.

If I feel my neck muscles tense and my shoulders, odds are I’m feeling anger. And then I may choose to step back and look with compassion at whomever or whatever is triggering that emotion. I remind myself that the filter through which I am perceiving things may be flawed—the person may not intend offense or disrespect. I remind myself that if the issue is important, I am most likely to find a way to alter the other person’s actions/words/perceptions if I let go of my anger and try to see things through that other person’s eyes.

If my face takes on a certain shape, I know it’s sadness I’m feeling. And I can choose again to focus not on what has been lost but on the blessings that have or will come out of whatever is triggering my sadness.

I hope this helps answer the question about feelings. Know that you have the power to choose what you feel. It may not seem like it and it may take practice and it may be uncomfortable at first to BE happy.

---It’s not about denying or suppressing emotions but rather about choosing where to place one’s focus.

---It’s about choosing to see life and the world through new and more empowering filters.

---It’s about rewriting the old messages so that we can genuinely let go of emotions that no longer serve us well.

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

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Safety and Change

I talk a lot about how change is good. It occurred to me that I should talk about HOW change happens.

I believe that change is most likely to happen when we 1) feel safe or 2) change is safer than staying as we are or 3) we have no choice. When state 2 or 3 occurs we are often reacting and the changes we make might not be optimal!

The ideal is to be in state 1 where we feel safe and feel ready to consciously choose to make changes in our lives. Choice is good. So is feeling safe as we move out of our comfort zones and into the new and take steps that feel scary to us.

So HOW do we feel safe? Waiting for it to happen isn’t, in my experience, too great a strategy. There’s always something to come along that could scare us if we let it. Much better to create a sense of safety in our lives, a core of something no one can take away from us, a sense of safety that we can call on NO MATTER WHAT.

How do we do that? In my experience there are several things that can help:

1) Create an image of a safe place in our minds—a place that feels happy and safe and truly ours. We don’t need to share it with anyone so no one can harm us there.

2) Keep a list (in our heads if it doesn’t feel safe to write it down so someone else could find and use it against us) of all our strengths and all our past successes. This is evidence, proof that we CAN succeed, we CAN make changes.

3) Create a habit that whenever we do something that is good for us and helps us move forward, even if—ESPECIALLY IF—it scares us, immediately afterwards we do something that makes us smile. This rewards doing things that move us forward and is a reminder that no matter what we can create moments in our lives when we can smile and feel happy—even if it’s only for a moment or two.

4) In that safe place in our mind we can rehearse or practice things we are going to do. We can figure out solutions to the things that scare us most, figure out things we might say and rehearse how to handle possible setbacks. Never mind that it might play out totally different in real life! The key is to help us feel more comfortable and safer taking these steps forward.

5) Create a habit of noticing, every day, what is good in our lives and what we are grateful for. This helps to remind us that we can have good in our lives.

6) Create a habit of seeing the best in others. This does NOT mean tolerating abuse and telling ourselves the person didn’t really mean it! It means seeing clearly all of what is there. In other words, if someone is abusive, it means recognizing this AND recognizing that the abuse comes out of the person’s own fears and hurt. It means removing ourselves from the situation so that we are no longer abused AND doing so without anger or hate. Why? If we cannot believe anyone can be good or trustworthy we will feel like what’s the point of leaving someone who mistreats us because won’t everyone? It is much easier to make changes if we can trust that it might be worthwhile and that we may discover wonderful new people to bring into our lives.

7) Fid a way to bring FUN into the process. Find a way to laugh at ourselves and our fears and focus on what GOOD will come out of the changes we are making.

The more we focus on what is right about ourselves and our strengths, the easier it becomes to believe in ourselves and find strength and courage to move forward. The more we face our fears and do things anyway, the easier it becomes to make even more changes and face down even more fears.

I also believe with all my heart that change comes far more easily when we are focusing not on how flawed we are but rather when we focus on how our lives will be better if we make these changes, on how we will be happier, on how we can have fun in the process of making these changes.

Anyway, that’s my take on change. May each of you discover what lets you feel safe and ways to create that feeling for yourself as you go through life. May each of you discover what can make you smile as you find your courage to move forward creating the lives you want to have. Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Monday, April 16, 2007


This is one of the toughest things to let go of. Often we were blamed for everything that went wrong—in childhood, in a relationship, in any area of our lives. We may have grown up with the idea that someone must be blamed for everything—and too often it was us—so now one of our defense mechanisms may be to assess blame before anyone else can.

Note: I would agree that it is better to place blame on someone else’s shoulders—if that’s where it belongs—than to take it onto our own shoulders! I’m all for NOT accepting responsibility for problems that we did NOT cause! The thing is that blame ultimately hurts us.

Blame carries a heavy emotional toll. It requires anger. It requires reminding ourselves of grievances. It requires putting our energy and focus into what is or was wrong--rather than what could be right. And lurking at the back of it all is likely to be the fear that maybe we’re wrong and the other person isn’t to blame—we are. Maybe that’s even where we start.

What’s the alternative? Recognizing that something went wrong. Acknowledging any part we played in that AND any part others played in that. Doing so NOT as a way to place blame but rather as a way to say to ourselves: Hmmm, what went wrong and how and is there a way NOT to have things go wrong in future situations like this one?

In other words, it’s taking the emotions and the shame out of the equation. It's letting go of the anger that can otherwise eat us up inside.

What if no matter what went wrong or why, we are still human beings worth loving who deserve and can find a way to live fulfilling and happy lives? What if we are able to see that any harm done arises out of hurt and shame and self-doubt (if done on purpose) and ignorance (if done unknowingly)? What would that change? How much easier would it be to forgive and love—ourselves and others?

That does NOT mean we must let others hurt us again! It is possible to see that someone acted out of their own hurt and shame, forgive AND STILL WALK AWAY because it is not wise to be around that person. It is possible to look within ourselves and know that we were doing our best at the time and that NOW maybe we are capable of making different choices and taking different actions but we were not able to do so then.

You see, the more we forgive and love ourselves, the less likely we are to allow anyone to harm us and the less likely we are to harm others. If we can forgive and banish blame, we can let ourselves look more clearly at situations. We can learn from the past and create a future in which we are able to let ourselves be happy. We can know that no one else’s fears or hurts or shame—no matter what it causes that person to do!—in any way alters who we are. No matter what someone else does that impacts us in a negative way, it does not change the fact that we are children of God deserving of love and happiness.

I am not suggesting this change happens overnight. I recall at one point, some years ago, describing to my then counselor a situation in which someone had done something very hurtful to me. I was angry and ready to place blame where it clearly belonged—on this other person! (Which at least was progress since I wasn’t blaming myself this time.) He suggested that I just bless the person and let my anger go. I can’t tell you how close I came to cussing him out that day. Was he crazy???? Was I just supposed to forget what this person had done? Didn’t I have a right to be angry?????

I needed to go through the phase of being able to be angry. I needed to be able to recognize that I didn’t always have to take blame upon myself. It took time—several years in fact—before I was ready to move to the next step, letting go of blame and seeing the world through a filter of understanding and forgiveness.

The thing is, I couldn’t get to the point where I could forgive others and stop blaming them until I could forgive and stop blaming myself. Only then could I let go of the anger that was so corrosive to ME, to the person I wanted to be. Only then could I take the energy that had gone into anger and blame and use it to be happy instead.

Now I bless that counselor for saying what he did even when I wasn’t ready to believe it. Because it stayed with me until I was ready to grasp what he meant. That’s one reason I post ideas here even when I know they might not sit well with those who read my blog. Because I’m so grateful for all the times that people have offered me wisdom before I was ready to hear it even when they knew I might not like what they had to say.

As I said above, I couldn’t forgive and let go of blame toward others until I could forgive and stop blaming myself. I believe that this is our task in healing—to work on loving ourselves and believing in that divine spark which is within every one of us. Healing is bringing to the surface and rewriting those negative messages we have taken in about ourselves and replacing them with messages that empower us.

I’m going on much too long but I wanted to write about this because I know the damage that blame does—especially when we blame ourselves for things that were never our fault to begin with! And I lived with that kind of self-blame for far too many decades not knowing that it was both right and possible to let go of that self-blame.

So I hope for each of you that you are able to practice forgiving yourselves—even if you can only manage to do so for moments at a time. It is a gift you give yourself but also every person in your life who you care about. When we do not love and forgive ourselves, it is very hard to trust or love or forgive anyone else either.

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


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Power of Letting Go

This is sort of my belated Easter post. I apologize if it's confusing for anyone that sometimes I post once a week and sometimes more than that. It's just that sometimes I realize there are more things I want and need to say. So....

I love the image of Easter—which for me is one of transformation, of letting go of the old life to transform into a new and more extraordinary life.

I’ve talked about this before but I think it matters enough to write about it again, now.

Note: None of us lets go of all these things all at once. We need to do it in our own time when we’re ready. In a sense, these are goals. Just being aware that they ARE goals can have an immense impact on our lives—for the better. And the more of these we are able to achieve, the more we empower ourselves to create the lives we want to have.

Letting go:

1) Letting go of old beliefs that no longer serve us. (I can’t make it on my own. I’ll always fail. I’ll never be loved or treated with kindness and respect.)

2) Letting go of old relationships that no longer make sense in our lives—OR letting go of how they have been (and the belief this is the only way they can be) to transform the relationship into something new and better.

3) Letting go of old objects that we no longer need—and perhaps thereby making room for new ones that now serve us better.

4) Letting go of fears—and the belief that we must give in to them—to discover new abilities and new possibilities.

5) Letting go of seeing ourselves as victims, seeing ourselves as flawed and/or broken, letting go of seeing ourselves as helpless—and celebrating the strength and courage and capabilities we have inside.

6) Letting go of (righteous) anger—and transforming ourselves by being willing to forgive.

7) Letting go of blame—and discovering the power of focusing on ourselves and the choices we can make.

8) Letting go of the belief that anyone owes us anything—and turning that energy to creating what we want to have ourselves.

9) Letting go of the belief that God failed us—and discovering the power and comfort when we know we can draw on God’s strength whenever we need to do so.

10) Letting go of any crutches (addictions) we have used to dull our pain—and discovering that when we allow ourselves to feel pain, we can finally feel joy as well.

I don’t mean to claim that rewriting/recreating our lives is easy. It’s hard work and often down right scary! So why do it? Because it is only in letting go of the above that we can create the lives we want to have—and have the chance to be happier than we ever thought we could be. This is the only way to discover that we are stronger, braver and more capable and competent than we believed we could be. This is also the only way to counter the false and hurtful messages that may have been given to us—often by those who claimed to love us but were destructive anyway. This is the only way to free up the energy and focus so that we may end up astonishing everyone—including ourselves.

Our lives are in our hands. Our futures are in our hands. We must choose to be who we want to be and create the lives we want to have. The good news is that we can. And when we are ready, we can tap into that universal something greater than ourselves that we call God to find strength and courage and hope when we thought we had none left.

Wishing all of you a time of letting go this spring and embracing new possibilities and opportunities and beliefs—about yourselves and the world around you—and sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),


Friday, April 06, 2007

Sometimes Things Go Right

It’s so easy to feel, when something goes wrong, that things will always go wrong. It can be so hard to remember sometimes that they can also go right. I lived most of my life expecting things to go wrong and it’s only in recent years that changed.

Ever since my trip to New Jersey I’ve been on eggshells, not knowing if I’d have to fly back. For a while it looked as if that might be the case. Last night I got word that it won’t happen and I can breathe a sigh of relief. I also found out that what seemed like everything falling apart last week, in terms of arrangements for my son, was just a miscommunication. My ex hadn’t thought to ask our son (Down syndrome) a few key questions. And neither had I. (Though I had counseled my ex not to panic until he spoke to someone who could tell him what was really going on.)

In any event, this whole experience has been a reminder that things can go right—even if it looks like they are not. The best case scenario can occur—rather than the worst. I don’t have to always be the rescuer and sometimes it’s better for everyone if I’m not. I was also reminded that it’s time to let go of any lingering addiction to drama.

I say often the things that trip us up are the things we haven’t stopped to question. That has certainly been true since all of this started. I had forgotten what my reaction pattern was to drama because for quite a while now I’ve had peace and calm around me. Then this all happened and I found myself needing repeatedly to stop and remind myself that I don’t want or need drama in my life any more nor do I need to get drawn into someone else’s drama. I can step back, take a deep breath, and be the voice of calm—for myself even if no one else listens.

I no longer need the sense of validation I once got by being the person who could always keep a cool head in the midst of a crisis. I no longer need the approval I might get from stepping in and making things right. I can give up drama as an excuse not to do every day things. I can give up the need to be the one who solves every problem—and actually trust others to find solutions.

That doesn’t mean I ignore responsibility or don’t act when it’s necessary that I do so! It does mean that I strip away the issue of the drama itself and step back to look at the entire situation as calmly and clearly as I can and then decide—rather than continuing to play out old patterns. NOW I can value peace and calm and dealing with every day life instead. In other words, now I can choose to be happy instead of needing to be a heroine. Even if I take the same actions, I do so in a very different state of mind than in the past.

This is important because for a long time I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t a heroine. It was a way of making up for who I wasn’t, a way of atoning for being me—but no amount of self-sacrifice ever felt like it was enough. What a relief to have reached a point in my life when I know that it IS okay to be ME!

I hope that I will always have the courage to do what’s right—even when it’s hard or scary. But I will do so already believing in me, already believing in my right to exist and be who I am, already believing in my right to be happy.

I share all of this because I think so many of us who have had traumatic experiences in our lives fall into patterns of expecting things to go wrong and/or we become rescuers.

I hope that each of you is able to create at least small islands of peace and calm in your lives, that you are able to trust that sometimes things will go right. (The irony is that the more we allow ourselves to believe it, the more likely it is to be true!) I hope that each of you will come to a place where you are able to believe that it’s okay to be YOU—without having to be a rescuer or hero/heroine of some kind in order to deserve to exist. I hope that each of you can see within each challenge the blessings that it brings.

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