Do Justice in this Very Moment

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I often see people with their shoulders up, taking fast and exuding the feeling that there is not enough hours in the day for all they have to do. Their pace is hypnotic and their habit of rushing through life can be hard to break.

Do this very moment justice. What are your eyes, ears and other senses telling you about where you are right now? Are you aware of your breath? Are you really noticing how you speak and what you say? Life is not meant to be lived in constant stress.

Focus on the present moment. A feeling of contentment arises from acknowledging oneself. In a day, anything can be accomplished perfectly just by pacing oneself to accomplish only what can be should be done in a day.

Emotions and Reality

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It can be quite difficult to distinguish feelings and thoughts when feelings run high. When feelings overwhelm a person, the brain creates a story that accounts for the feelings. It is hard to tell in the moment whether the story is true or not. This is a survival mechanism.

It can be especially hard to control emotionally-based stories when dealing with family members or loved ones. One’s feelings may link to an earlier time in life when one could not protect oneself. Feelings have no sense of time! So a story created by strong feeling can bring the past into the present moment, often with disastrous consequences.

Here is a another way to think about it. Because a horse is a prey animal, even a rabbit crossing their path unexpectedly can cause them to run for their lives. If you happen to be riding that horse, it is imperative that you pull in on the reins and soothe the horse. The reins represent your thinking mind.

When strong feelings create a distorted story about a person or situation, pull in the reins!. The emotions you feel are real, but they may not be the facts. Instead of reacting in the moment, stop and think it through. You will be happy you did.

Caught in Our Own Trap

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Although it may feel like it is others who trap us, we only trap ourselves. Human beings are blessed with volition and can always decide to leave what feels like a trap. That is, if they are not too proud, deluded, angry or scared to do so.

Why does the delusion of being trapped seem so real? Because we take our isolation to be real. We believe that we are all alone and refuse to share our burden except in complaint. So we are looking at others, and not ourselves.

Complaining and then doing nothing is a state of rationalization. Rationalization is living in fantasy of our own making. Saying “they made me feel, they made me do...” and then not listening to wise counsel only feeds the fire of denial.

We become a part of what we project onto others. So instead of projecting, admit that some parts of our lives may not be perfect. Have the courage to acknowledge when we need support. Being open to wise counsel helps us to acquire the tools we need for positive change. By sharing our troubles – perhaps first on paper, then with others we trust – we become open to the goal of finding personal freedom from traps that once seemed real.

Thinking of Starting Therapy?

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A lot of people think about going to therapy five or six times before they actually make a call to a therapist. I think one of the the biggest fears people have is that therapy won’t work and they will be even more stuck.

Indeed, sometimes the person they contact is not a good fit. But more often than not, it is. Therapy provides a place to find the answers within. Decisions get made that may have seemed impossible to make, and burdens that don't go away can be lessened. Therapy can reduce one's stress and help to heal a broken heart.  It can be an invaluable tool for growth.

So all in all, I think therapy is worth investigating. Feel free to call me for a free 15 minute phone consultation to see if therapy might work for you. If it doesn't feel like we would be a good match, I am happy to help you to find someone else. After all, you have nothing to lose, and perhaps everything to gain.

Destiny or Self-Effort?

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People often believe they are destined for a certain fate from deep in the core of their being. Sometimes they believe they are destined to a particular future that may be great or tragic. But which has more power – destiny or self effort? I say self effort. Whether you make yourself into a better or a worse person, it is what you work toward that determines your good fortune.

If you find yourself thinking “But I can't help it – my family always ____”, or “other people might be able to do that, but not me” this is not destiny. It is victim-hood. Ridding yourself of victim-hood is perhaps the highest form of self-effort.

Please note that one of the myths about self-effort is that it means you have to do it ALL by yourself. This is rarely true. The support of others is practically essential. Isolation is a core factor in feeling like a victim, while having support (but not pity) buoys one toward success.

Never Underestimate the Present Moment

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In the rush of everyday living, life itself can be neglected!

The stories we tell ourselves about what we should be doing, and why we need to hurry can rob us of a sense of all the moments where life really takes place. The devil is in the details – it is the quality of the small moment-by-moment actions that determine how much happiness and contentment we can find in living.

If we do not pay attention to what we are doing and feeling in the the small moments of our lives, the big moments will not feel as precious either. Life is not a race. Slow down a few microseconds before embarking on the next detail and in doing so, become more present. 

There is no present in life that is as valuable as that of the present moment.

Change - the Portal of Opportunity

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During times of change, all of us have greater access to our inner selves.  We are given the opportunity to make new decisions and connections.  We have access to the energy it takes to create a better reality for ourselves and those we care about.

At the same time, change is stressful and even exhausting.  Friends and loved ones may only be able to listen to us for so long.  We may feel uncertain about strong and conflicting feelings, and feel little unmoored in our daily lives.

This is an natural time to share your changes with a professional therapist.  A therapist can help you to make sense of where you find yourself today.  They can also help you reorganize your life in a way that is more effective than ever before.  A therapist can help to ameliorate your painful feelings and improve your relationships with the people that are important to you.

Feel free to contact me today for a free, 15 minute consultation as to whether therapy might be be right for you.


Risk Taking

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All of us have areas of our lives that we would like to change. What stops us? Risk. There are small risks, medium risks and risks that would make major changes to our lives, even risks that feel like death.

Small risks are those like finishing a task that one has put off. Things that we know we will eventually follow through with.  Medium risk might be something like leaving a bad job.  But a life-changing risk is something else. It feels like it takes more courage than one has. Like a divorce, for instance. It can feel like death.

Many people live with all three levels of risk present in their lives, although most of us try not to look at life-changing risk if possible. At what level does risk become foolhardy? The truth is, it is usually not foolish. When a risk is being contemplated, it is usually worth taking in the service of being true to oneself.

Being willing to take risks is a courageous endeavor that can lead to a great contentment with oneself down the line. If you are contemplating a risk that seems overwhelming, now is the time to shore up your courage and move forward in the service of your own best destiny.

When Change Feels Magical

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When change feels magical, be grateful! Failure is common. It is easy to feel derailed or give up. But once you find yourself changing, know you have discovered a pathway that was always there, just waiting for you.

Sometimes change seems to happen out of a longing for things to be different, without much real effort. If this happens, you are very lucky because this is not usually the way it happens!

Change most often comes when one becomes consciously willing to try something different, even if it means being uncomfortable, vulnerable or even exposed. It can be hard to take the first step toward change, and even harder to take the second. But eventually, doing things differently becomes easier, and then one can look back and see that real and positive change has occurred.

Unfortunately, many people grow up in situations that kill the belief that their lives can ever substantially change for the better. Worse, they may look at those who try to change as being a bit foolish. What a recipe for staying stuck!

There is magic in the power of looking past one’s limiting beliefs. For change is always possible if you will work for it.


Seven Tips for Making Friends With Your Mind

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A mind turned against its owner is a sad sight. The person may see good in the world and in others, but be unable to see the good in themselves. Even when others point it out their good, they do not believe it is true.

What causes a mind to be one's enemy? Often, a past and present condition, and sometimes even a person's physiology. However, a lot can be done to change these sad circumstances. Below are a few steps one can take to make friend of one's mind:

  1. Take care of your body. Eat, sleep and exercise can go a long way to righting one's frame of mind about oneself.

  2. Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Make sure to set aside time when them when they can really listen.

  3. Take a break from the people who bother you. Go off by yourself if necessary. A walk in the woods, a mental health day, or other solitary activity can allow you time to make better friends with your mind.

  4. Meditate. If you don't know how, sit by yourself in quiet for 5 minutes. Close your eyes, breathe, and allow your thoughts to stream by without getting caught up in them.

  5. See a doctor. If you have an unpleasant feeling about yourself that you cannot shake, there may be a physiological disconnect happening in your body. Depression and anxiety, forgetfulness and other states can show up in testing. Even a vitamin deficiency can wreck havoc with your mood.

  6. Thought stopping. Just say to yourself the next time you find that yourself picking on yourself: “I choose not to have this thought”, and change the dialog with your mind. You can actually do that. Try it!

  7. If you still find that you are down on yourself after all these suggestions, maybe it is time for you to see a professional therapist, psychologist or counselor.

Mistakes

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Everyone makes bad decisions - unless of course you are perfect. Mistakes made cannot be unmade However, harm done can almost always be mitigated and the results can help fertilize your soul. On the other hand, when a mistake is denied or continues to be repeated, can become a recipe for eventual disaster.

The mind is a funny thing.  It can say "It's alright. No one will find out, no one will get hurt."  But in the meantime, what happens to you?  Are you still at peace with yourself?  Do you find yourself distancing from people you care about, or worrying about being found out?

Since mistakes are inevitable, admitting them as soon as you can and making amends is often the best course of action. However, if a mistake is big enough and serious enough, you may first need to find someone that you can trust to talk to about it. Otherwise, you will be left listening to the distorted advice of your own troubled mind.

Most people who make mistakes overestimate the amount of harm they do to others, and underestimate the amount of harm they do to themselves. It takes bravery to rectify a bad decision, but it is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. Even more importantly, taking responsibility for your mistakes helps to develop the priceless gift of humility.

Why Worry?

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“I am an old man and have a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” - Mark Twain

What did you worry about a month ago? Did the things you worried most about happen the way you thought they would? After listening to people worry over a 20 year career as a therapist, I have come to believe that 90% of the things we worry about either do not happen or happen very differently. The actual bad things that do happen in a day usually were never foreseen.

The truth is, it doesn't pay to worry! Worry robs sleep, makes us unhappy and takes up too much precious energy – energy that could have been used to take care of the real challenges faced in a day.

I have a theory that worry is simply a fertile imagination gone rogue. Our complex brains allow us to anticipate what might happen in advance so we build scenarios that help figure out what we want to do in the future. We can imagine all sorts of futures before we ever actually do anything.

When imagination is under the grip of a strong negative emotion, such as fear, anxiety, anger or depression, worrisome scenarios can haunt us. Our imaginations create and recreate all kinds of trouble. But rarely do these scenes play out the way we think they will.

We can decide to deal with our emotions before they morph into worry. We can redirect our imaginations to ideas of how to be happy, healthy and helpful to others. By examining what emotions our worries stem from, we can rein in our imagination and put it to good use. So if you absolutely have to worry, worry about your own feelings. If that feels like too much, get support to help cope with what you feel.

Humility

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Humility is perhaps the most precious of all virtues.  It can create a good outcome where a bad one seems inevitable.  It can save a life. It can promote peace. As is with most things that are precious, humility doesn't often come easily, and disappears as soon as you think you have it.

So how does one be humble?  I think humility is an intentional set of practices that one can get better at over time. Some ways to practice humility include:

Not wondering that someone has wronged you,

Not demanding deference,

Realizing you don't have all the answers,

Setting boundaries - admitting what you are capable of giving and what you are not,

Not doing someone else's job.

Can you think of other ways to practice humility? There are many, too many for a blog post I am sure!

A Well Lived Life

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"Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself."

- Richard Bach, Illusions

When one is true to oneself, the losses and gains of the world are secondary to one's peace of mind and purpose.  Being true to oneself is the ultimate security in a world where everything chages.

Living with one's eyes open to one's inner truth takes effort, courage and conviction.  But it is the heart’s most priceless asset.


Work Anxiety

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Is work eating up too much of your life? Trying to finish all your deadlines perfectly? Doing more and more with less and less heart, spirit, time and clarity? You may have work anxiety. This takes a toll on one's performance and leads to a “hollowed out” feeling that negatively affect all your relationships.

Anxiety is often behind overworking. Temporary relief can come from getting ahead in one's work, but this only raises the bar for what is “normal” for you and leads to impossible standards and from there, more anxiety.

Anxiety about work is isolating. In fact you may be getting rewarded for working too hard. To change this pattern you may need to talk to someone other than one's boss, family or coworkers.

Talking to a professional can help you sort out whether your job is actually too demanding or if the way you are doing your work is making it harder than it need be. It can introduce you to tools such as cognitive behavioral techniques, mindfulness and healthy work boundaries. It can also help you to discover the origins of anxiety. Did one grow up around anxious or demanding parents? Does your anxiety have a biochemical component? Are you avoiding a less than happy home life?

One can also find ways to cope with workplace anxiety by reading books such as “Feeling Good, the New Mood Therapy” by David Burns, or “Dare, the New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks” by Barry McDonagh.

Whatever method one uses to disrupt one's anxiety, the first step is to reach out for support. If you could do it all alone, you would have already!

Finding Control Over Unwanted Thoughts by Thought Stopping

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Thought stopping is the habit of watching one's own thoughts and deciding when they are helpful or not.  If they are not, you can literally say to yourself "I chose not to have this thought" and then actively decide to think other thoughts.  It is a deliberate not going down an unhappy, obsessive path inside your head.

A lot of people feel they cannot do this simple thing.  But in most cases, they can..  Painful and intrusive thoughts are often the result of habit, pure and simple. There is no reason you have to pay attention to a particular thought just because it wants to play in the field of your mind.

Habits are ruts. You know you are in a rut with your thoughts when your thinking does not resolve a hurtful problem or situation.. You can also tell that you are caught in runaway thoughts when your your friends and family are not as sympathetic or patient with your problem as they once were.  

So try redirecting your unhappy thoughts, over and over again until you find one day you are thinking of them a lot less. If you try this without success, you may want to try going to therapy.  A supportive trained professional can give you the tools to support you in moving more quickly through your problems

What are Your Values?

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Having a set of values in life is important. Knowing what you value and acting on it can enhance self esteem and self knowledge. When you can trust yourself to do the right thing, it increases self esteem and others may also appreciate your integrity.

Having a set of values can sometimes be uncomfortable, especially if you have different ones than those around you. But as long as your values are not too rigid or black and white, being uncomfortable is perhaps the price you pay to feel good when you look at yourself in the mirror.

Here are three ways to help grow one’s sense of personal values:

1) Pay attention to how your choices make you feel.

2) Notice what you admire and value in others, and consider whether you would be a better person yourself by integrating similar values.

3) Trust your gut.