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Posts tagged ‘behavior patterns’

School of Thought: Pre-K

Man, I just re-read that article on thought in my last blog and it was pretty intense. Some good basic info… but just enough abstract stuff to lose me at times: you?? I’ll try to break future articles down into more manageable bites! (Although my warning stands: this topic of “thought” is some thought-provoking stuff!!  Just take in what resonates for you right now!)

Thinking CapI guess one of the big concepts around “thought” that we don’t learn in kindergarten is: WE are not our thoughts.
Eckhart Tolle for kindergarteners: hmmmm?! 
Without the benefit of any teachings on this concept, there’s a general assumption that the voice that we hear in our heads is a private “Mini-Me”: sitting in there and directing our lives through silent conversation so as not to have to share everything with everybody until we darn well choose to.  Mini-Me takes everything in, filters it, edits it and then instigates action that represents who we are and how we want to live.  Not so fast:  that little rogue also makes stuff up!! He doesn’t default all input through our “values” sieve so that only the good, healthy stuff gets through to create our outcomes; he throws his two cents into the mix – whether reasonable or not!

Lost? Let’s see if we can paint a picture:

You’re a university student trying to finish a term paper by tomorrow. Your current dream is to become an engineer; you’ve worked hard to get to this final semester with decent grades and this paper is important. You’ve set your good intention and you’re gonna work your a** off all night – get this done and do it right!!! 

But wait for it — here it comes… a THOUGHT: “Hey, let’s go to the pub for one drink”.  Now if YOU were your thoughts you’d put that idea right through the “likely-to-produce-good-results vs. likely-NOT-to-produce-good-results” funnel, which is directly connected to your values sieve and the outcome would most definitely be: you WOULD NOT be going to the pub tonight.

Mini-Me, however, reshapes this whole concept: this time, driven by a scent that just wafted intothoughts mini me your dorm room, subconsciously reminding you of that “hotness” that you’ve been crushing on all year and the high likelihood that they’ll be in the pub!  All of a sudden: there’s room for a change of plans in tonight’s professedly rock-solid schedule! Even though YOU are pretty clear on your current direction and priorities, YOUR THOUGHTS can hijack the situation- without you even being conscious of it (i.e. that sneaky smell).  Mini-Me presents with something resembling a reasonable idea worthy of consideration, yet… “where did that come from”?! You weren’t even slightly contemplating anything but homework tonight!!  That rascal!

It’s actually quite a simplistic fact when you think about it: how could we be our thoughts when they are so malleable and can be so easily manipulated: can you say flakey much??  And if some of our thoughts are sub-conscious, then reason says: we can’t possibly know ourselves very well – and yet it is entirely possible to know yourself inside-out!

This article from Inner Frontier introduces us to “automatic thought” (now also being considered amongst the idea of “cell memory” in some of the new neuroscience research). It brings awareness of our unmanaged and “mindless” habits of thought; and gives a little peace of mind that our learning curve around changing our thoughts and behaviours come by us honestly! Whew!

Read More: The Value – or Overvalue of Thinking (page 2)

Could You Be a Scarcity Model?

 scarcity2

“The real reason that you find it necessary to compare yourself to others, is that you’ve fallen under the spell that says: good things are always scarce.”

I came across this statement when I was exploring the psychology of why we feel the need to compare ourselves and our situations in order to assess self-value. It’s referred to, in a behavioural sense, as “the scarcity model”, and at its centre is the perception that unless you “have” – and stockpiled, somehow you won’t survive.

Hmmm… It’s an interesting concept, born presumably from our oldest reptilian brain remnant, the amygdala, originally facilitating our escape from dinosaurs or tigers.  The functioning of the amygdala has most recently been accused of being somewhat “dysfunctional” in it’s fight-or-flight talents, not having adjusted yet to what this means in civilization today, and triggering limitless hormones and neurotransmitters at every stressor – real or imagined. It might make sense then, this connection to being less than, and therefore, requiring more.

Never run out.

Ahhh, all is well!

I can definitely think of examples where I have felt the need to “stock up” – never knowing when the bottom might fall out: be it t.p. when my money is low, or seeking some validation when my spirit is low. I suppose I’ve compared things a little: I’m sure my friend so-and-so would never be so irresponsible as to run out of t.p. (i.e. funds to buy it); my friend what’s-his-face must be totally secure owning his own business, nice house, dining out whenever, wherever – but thankfully, those thoughts are few and far between! I’m so much happier and at peace since I’ve established a definition of success that works for me: and I am successful!  I no longer have a need to compare my life to others, and don’t give these comparisons a second more credibility than acknowledging that they are imagined and meritless thoughts: I have a nice little chuckle at their persistency to sneak back into my consciousness, and then boot their butts back into oblivion where they belong! I know now that everyone has their own challenges relative to their own definitions of success; some completely aware of this and doing their own butt-kicking of those momentary doubts; but all too many, completely oblivious to what brings them fulfillment, and stuck in deep-seeded comparison games to validate that they are really happy!

One of my fave speakers and behavioural psychologists, Brene Brown, has written about “scarcity” in two of her books, The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, a relevant quote from the latter being:

“Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when we’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability) we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”

In an interview about The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown elaborates:

These are anxious and fearful times, and everywhere we hear the lexicon of scarcity. We are not rich, thin or beautiful enough; we are not safe, perfect or powerful enough, and ordinary lives are completely dismissed. But success and high achievement will not gratify us when our self-worth is tied to the mindset of scarcity. We think the opposite of scarcity is abundance — more time, more money — when really the opposite of scarcity is “enough.” Just enough.

Another duo, behavioural economist Sendhil Mullainathan and the cognitive psychologist Eldar Shafir have written a whole book on the feeling of scarcity, brilliantly comparing it to the realities of scarcity in purely political or economic terms – a very interesting read!

Scarcity mindset.

So what are we really talking about – what is the “scarcity model”?  To tippy-toe into the concept, here are excerpts from a few recent articles I’ve come across, and then a link to a more detailed article on the Mullainathan/Shafir book.

splat

It’s Time To Give Up The Scarcity Model

The scarcity model says that if the person that you’re comparing yourself to is (arguably) more attractive than you, then that person has grabbed up too much of that thing called attractive and now there’s less for you. Same thing goes for

Next: Comparison Battle – More on the Scarcity Model (page 2)

Amazing vs. Insanity. Your Choice.

Here’s a challenge for you:
Go outside and find the best possible stick.

Why aren’t you going? Perhaps because the request is ridiculous. What do I mean by “the best possible stick”? For doing what? Digging? Toasting marshmallows? Poking a weasel? A stick that’s ideal for one purpose might be useless for another. And that is why the “comparing mind” is:

insane green2

If your energy and time is spent just being a little bit better than the next person, you miss out on getting to be better for you.  Being better than someone else keeps the bar low and keeps you from exploring the depths of what you can be:

YOU’LL NEVER KNOW HOW AMAZING YOU CAN BE!

Last week we talked about fruit salad and not comparing the sweet vs. the tart, the colourful vs. the bland: just enjoy how every different juicy morsel brings a new surprise in every single bite, and contributes something special to the overall tasty satisfaction. Life can be sweet or tart; you may be colourful or bland: together, your inherent nature and the nurture of your thoughts will drive your future – with a few choice choices from you.

Martha Beck has a few choice words for you; and I like what blogger Tera Warner has to say:

Who cares what they say about the things you should do or say and how you should live your life?!  Be inspired by the lives of others, but do not follow their path and pretend it’s your own. The most valuable be you SUPERDOGthing you have is not your health, it’s not your time, it’s not your purse, your car, your fancy pants designer jeans or even your friends.

It is your self-determinism – your ability to choose the path you take in life, make your own decisions and stand for the things that you believe in. In a world where we’ve been fed a deep-fried, glitter-coated version of what Life should be, how it should work, and told to whom we should defer our power, creativity and authentic expression, it takes some serious [insert male/female sex organs here] to think for yourself! Question what you hear and stand in your truth, no matter how lonely it feels to do so sometimes!

Are You an Apple, Orange or… Bananas?

If you can’t stop comparing yourself to others, you’ve got a case of what Asian philosophers call “monkey mind”, and, honey, it will only drive you bananas.
adapted from article by Martha Beck

Our ability to rank-order things is invaluable in making choices and setting priorities. But problems arise when comparing mind is the only mode of perception we access. Every gathering, conversation, or friendship becomes a stressful contest: Will I “win” in this situation, or will someone else turn out to be prettier, smarter, richer, thinner…in a word, better?

This way of thinking is absurd, because outside the realm of human perception, the concept of better is MEANINGLESS!  This makes comparing mind a setup for failure. Even if you can be the world’s best at one thing, you’ll be the world’s worst at something else, case in point:

Supermodels make pathetic sumo wrestlers.

A brilliant orator who speaks only one language
sounds like a babbling fool in another.

If you spent your life mastering all languages, you might still suck at engineering, croquet, watercolor, etc. Since comparing mind hates being less than best at anything, you lose. Always.

Comparing is insane.It seems that no matter where you are on the planet, the competitive madness was bred into your cells and reinforced in countless social interactions. But you can learn to watch for comparing mind or “monkey mind” to appear, and to notice when it starts tainting your life. Like a virus, it generally sneaks up on you unseen; what you’ll observe are its symptoms. Here are some telltale diagnostics:

Next: Is Your Mind Going Ape? (page 2)

Who’s The Boss? Mind, Body or…

Lissa Rankin, M.D. has quickly become one of my favorite people to listen to in the area of integrative medicine, particularly as it relates to the state of our minds and thinking. She has a relatable attitude and light-hearted delivery of “new medicine” info that appeases both the impassioned and “evidence-based”  sides of my learning.

A physician, author, speaker, artist, and founder of the online health and wellness community, OwningPink.com, Lissa was discouraged by our broken health-care system; and fueled by a passion to determine what really makes people healthy and what really predisposes them to illness, her research led her to discover that patients have self-healing powers beyond our wildest imaginings, and science proves it. She took this new perspective and dug into the medical literature to study how doctors might better care for patients.  She is a leader encouraging the health-care industry to embrace and facilitate, rather than resist, collaboration reconnecting health care and spirituality, and empowering patients to tap into the mind’s power to heal the body.

For you skeptics and newbies to the idea of integrative medicine, Lissa  shares her scientific findings in her book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself.

Mind…Body…
Friends or Foe?

mind

by Lissa Rankin, MD

What if… I told you that caring for your body is the least important part of your health . . . that for you to be truly vital, other factors are more important?

What if… the key to health isn’t just eating a nutritious diet, exercising daily, maintaining a healthy weight, getting eight hours of sleep, taking your vitamins, balancing your hormones, or seeing your doctor for regular checkups?

Certainly, these are all important, even critical, factors to optimizing your health. But what if something else is even more important?

What if you have the power to heal your body
just by changing how your mind thinks and feels?

I know it sounds radical, especially coming from a doctor. Trust me, I was just as skeptical when I first discovered the scientific research suggesting that this might be true. Surely, I thought, the health of the human body isn’t as simple as thinking ourselves well or worrying ourselves sick.

Or is it?

A few years ago, after 12 years of conventional medical education and 8 years of clinical practice, I had been thoroughly indoctrinated into the dogmatic principles of evidence-based medicine, which I worshipped like the Bible. I refused to trust anything I couldn’t prove with a randomized, controlled clinical trial. Plus, having been raised by my father, a very conventional physician who made fun of anything “New Age,” I was as hard-nosed, closed-minded, and cynical as they come.

doc old

The medicine I had been trained to practice didn’t support the idea that you can think yourself well or make yourself sick with the power of your thoughts and emotions. Sure, my medical-school professors diagnosed some illnesses that lacked biochemical explanations as “all in the patient’s head,” but those patients were promptly and quietly referred to psychiatrists, while eyes were rolled and heads were shook.

It’s no wonder the notion that the mind might have the power to heal the body would be threatening to many mainstream doctors. After all, we spend a decade learning the tools that supposedly give us mastery over other people’s bodies. We want to believe that the time, money, and energy we’ve put into becoming doctors isn’t wasted. We’re professionally and emotionally invested in the idea that if something breaks down physically, you must seek our expertise. As doctors, we like to believe we know your body better than you do. The whole medical establishment is based on such a notion.

Most people are happy to function within this paradigm. The alternative—that you have more power to heal your own body than you’ve ever imagined—lobs the responsibility for health back into your court, and many people feel like that’s just too much responsibility. It’s much easier to hand over your power and hope someone smarter, wiser, and more experienced can “fix” you.

So true!

But what if…
we’ve got it all wrong?

What if…
by denying the fact that the body is naturally wired to heal itself and the mind operates this self-healing system, we’re actually sabotaging ourselves?

As physicians, things inevitably happen on our watch that science simply can’t explain. Even the most closed-minded doctors witness patients who get well when, by every scientific rationale, they shouldn’t. When we witness such things, we can’t help questioning everything we hold dear in modern medicine. We start to wonder if there is something more mystical at play.

Doctors don’t usually discuss this possibility in front of patients, but they do whisper about it in the doctors’ lounges of hospitals and inside conference rooms at Ivy League universities. If you’re curious and you pay attention—like I do—you hear stories, stories that blow your mind.

You hear people whispering about the woman whose cancer shrank away to nothingness during radiation. Only afterward did the doctors discover that the radiation machine was busted. She hadn’t actually received one lick of radiation, but she believed she had. So did her doctors.

miracle energy

They talk about the man who had a heart attack who refused heart surgery only to have his “incurably” blocked coronary arteries open up after changing his diet, beginning an exercise program, doing yoga, meditating daily, and attending group therapy sessions.

As I heard these stories, I couldn’t ignore the gnawing voice within me. Surely, these people couldn’t all be liars. But if they weren’t lying, the only explanation was something beyond what I had learned in conventional medicine.

It got me thinking. We know spontaneous, unexplainable remissions sometimes happen. Every doctor has witnessed them. We just shrug our shoulders and go on about our business, usually accompanied by a dull, unnerving sense of dissatisfaction because we can’t explain the remission with logic.

healing mind

But in the back of my mind, I’ve always pondered whether it’s possible we have any control over this process.

If the “impossible” happens to one person, is there anything we can learn from what that person did?

Are there similarities among the patients who get “lucky”?

Are there ways to optimize the chances of spontaneous remission, especially when effective treatment doesn’t exist in the standard medical toolbox?

And what, if anything, can doctors do to facilitate this process?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Recent books by Lissa Rankin, M.D., OwningPink.com.

 Heal yourself.  LissaRankinBooks

Why Worry Is a Choice

-By Deepak Chopra

conflict10

The demands you put on yourself can create more pressure than you know how to handle. Deepak Chopra has a series of articles and strategies to help you break the cycle of anxiety by changing the way you respond to stress, this included:

Anxiety is like a shortcut. When faced with uncertainty, the normal response is to stop, consider what might happen, and make a decision based on the best prediction you can make.

But the anxious person doesn’t go through this process; they jump right towards feeling afraid.

No one enjoys uncertainty. There is always a tinge of anxiousness when you don’t know what the future holds. But going straight into fear is the worst way to handle the situation because fear is almost never a good advisor. It blocks clear decision-making, and exaggerates the risks and dangers that might lie ahead.

If you are an anxious person, you need to stop making the leap into fear. But how do you do that? It requires a new way of approaching uncertainty.

Life is always uncertain, and until you can embrace this fact, you will imagine risks, dangers, and threats that never materialize.

Yet, suffering in your imagination is just as painful—perhaps more painful—since dealing with a crisis is always easier than waiting for one in a state of dread.

The Anxious Self

There are many sides to me.

Many spiritual traditions speak of separation as the real cause of human misery. Depending on your school of belief, separation can mean being apart from God, your soul, or the higher self/consciousness. But the terminology isn’t important; even the word “spiritual” isn’t crucial. What is crucial is that people are divided inside. One part of the self opposes another part. With guilt, the good fights against the bad. With anxiety, the strong part of the self is at war with the weak part.

When a situation arises that can be handled well, the strong part feels confident, competent, in charge and in control. When uncertainty crops up, the weak part feels afraid, helpless, and hopeless. Anxious people never settle this inner conflict. They are so divided that when they feel afraid, the weak part is “the real me.” When they are not afraid, the strong part is “the real me.” In fact, neither is the real self. The real self is beyond conflict; it is whole and at peace. So the long-term approach to anxiety is to rise above the inner war to find a self that is more whole.

What self-judgment really sounds like

When the self is divided and in conflict, there is always a hidden aspect of judgment against the self. Anxious people judge against themselves so much that they usually seek a stronger person to handle the uncertainties and difficulties that seem so overwhelming. It can certainly mask the problem for a while to marry a strong spouse or rely on a powerful parent. But finding a substitute isn’t the same as finding yourself. Anxious people are blocked from finding themselves because they quickly run into self-judgment, and this makes them even more insecure. Self-judgment is the voice inside that says:

STOP. You are good enough.

“You can’t handle it. Remember the last time you fell apart?
This time will be the same.”

“You’re too weak. Inside you’re still a helpless child. Other people stand on their own, but not you.”

“You aren’t smart enough. Other people can find the right solution, but not you. You just stand there looking blank.”

“You aren’t good enough. All these fearful things are a punishment. You deserve what you get.”

As you can see, to live with a divided self is misery and anxious people dread themselves more than their imaginary dangers. The main thing they dread is anxiety, of course, but anxiety is more than a bad sensation. It is rooted in the weak self that quickly jumps to conclusions. The first part of healing is to realize what is going on. The second part is to identify with the real you; then the war inside will be irrelevant.

Your real self is always present, but it’s masked by the trappings of everyday existence. Whether you recognize it or not, everyone lives in a state of separation, which means the divided self is the one you identify with. People with anxiety have a tougher time than others, but even the healthiest and most secure person is divided. If you weren’t, you would be in contact with God, the soul, or the higher self twenty-four hours a day. I mention this only to emphasize that moving out of the divided state doesn’t happen overnight. Any anxious person needs to learn how to deal with fear and panic on a day-to-day basis while at the same time never losing sight of the long-range goal: finding the real self.

How to Move Towards Healing

Escapism is healthy - sometimes

You can’t find something if you are looking in the wrong place. This holds especially true for the real self, because we all look for solutions from our divided self, and then we trust its answers. For anxious people, fear is actually a kind of solution. It provides a shortcut. It keeps the person vigilant. It gives the feeling of being concerned, engaged, and busy. And since fear is unwelcome, it drives people into all kinds of escapist activities. Every distraction from alcohol and drugs to television and movies is constantly available. It’s no surprise that millions of people would rather accommodate their lives to being afraid rather than seeking authentic healing.

Yet real healing does exist. Because anxious people are insecure, they need to pursue a path to healing that reinforces itself.

Outside help is valuable, of course, but anxious people tend to use stronger people as crutches; that’s where impartial mentors and counsellors can be extremely useful.

The trick here, though,  is to accept that self-healing is the only way. Once you can accept this truth, which is quite painful to anyone in a state of insecurity and fear, the next part is to keep reinforcing the process. Every day needs to be seen objectively as a step in the right direction.

The daily checklist to end anxiety

One method is to keep a simple daily log to track the positive things you did to abate your anxiety. For the sake of being realistic, it’s also good to record the negative things, but avoid the urge to become discouraging or self-pitying. Rather than keeping a full-fledged journal, which most people can’t find the time to sustain after a few weeks or months, make your log a simple check list, ticking off what went right and what went wrong. You can insert comments if you like at the bottom of the page.

Affirmations WORK!

POSITIVES

I stood up for myself, I spoke my mind.

I felt strong.

I had a moment of being real with someone.

I dealt with a panicky moment.

I started to feel anxious but it didn’t progress.

I felt optimistic about myself.

I had hope for the future.

I felt some peace and calm.

I survived a difficult situation.

I appreciated myself; I congratulated myself.

I felt worthy; my esteem was high.

I didn’t fall into my usual reaction.

I had a bright idea.

The world seemed like a safe place to be.

I felt accepted.

I didn’t cling to anyone or use them as a crutch.

I faced a difficult choice.

There is hope.

NEGATIVES

I didn’t stand up for myself; I wanted to speak my mind but didn’t.

I felt weakness.

I didn’t get real with anyone.

I suffered through one or more panic attacks.

I had a lot of low-level anxiety that didn’t go away.

I felt pessimistic about myself.

The future looked hopeless.

I felt no peace and calm.

I caved in to a difficult situation.

I criticized myself and fell into self-judgment.

I felt unworthy; my esteem was low.

I related to people who made me feel bad about myself.

I gave in to someone else’s negative views.

I didn’t feel safe.

I felt rejected.

I was clingy.

I procrastinated and put off a difficult choice.

I wanted someone to rescue me.

I kept wishing that things would get better on their own.

The key to breaking the cycle of anxiety

If you decide to include the negative roster, be sure to note if the items you have checked Take time for yourself.off are improving. Negatives can be useful if they show you what you are moving away from, but they’re not useful if you use them to fuel your self-judgment, since self-judgment is the root of the problem.

It’s key to have more positive events than negative ones. Happiness is built up by having good days, not by reaching for an unattainable ideal in the future. The same is true for being non-anxious. You must find it today, as best you can. By paying attention to your anxiety one day at a time, the hidden healing processes in your mind and your body can begin to work, because you are giving them a real opening here and now.

In the end, however, the best healer is the real self.

It is found by walking your own path: call it the path to self-awareness, God, or higher consciousness – whatever appellation works for you.

The methods for discovery have been outlined in all the world’s wisdom traditions. First and foremost, you need to make a real connection with the level of peace, silence, and security that lies beneath the turbulence of daily stress and strain. The most reliable method is meditation. If that seems unworkable, then sit for fifteen minutes twice a day in a quiet place, close your eyes and breathe. Place your attention on your heart and simply be. If you notice that your thoughts have distracted you, breathe again and once more place your attention on your heart.

This technique will accustom you to being with yourself. Anxious people misjudge being alone. They identify it with fear, loneliness, and insecurity. That’s perfectly understandable given their history of fear. But being alone is your ground state, the basis of your existence. It’s not your enemy. It’s not a danger zone. So take some time to undo the mistaken judgment that alone and lonely are the same. They aren’t. The doorway to a lifetime of safety, security, and self-worth lies at the level of the real self, and you were born to open it.

adapted from:
Oprah.com   |   December 31, 2010

Highly Sensitive People: Not Your Grandmother’s Introvert!

sensitive & A-OK!

Samsara HSP Blog

In her national bestseller, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, author Elaine Aron defines a distinct personality trait that affects as many as one out of every five people.

According to Dr. Aron’s definition, the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.

Additionally, she says, the success of The Highly Sensitive Person is cause for celebration: “We’ve done it ourselves. And not surprisingly, since we are 15 to 20 percent of the population – that’s fifty million in the United States. Highly sensitive people are real, we exist, and we’ve proven it. That alone is something to celebrate.”

Another cause for Aron and her fellow HSPs to celebrate is the acceptance into mainstream psychology of the HSP personality trait. After numerous in-depth interviews, as well as surveys of over one thousand people, Dr. Aron’s findings have been published in Counseling Today, Counseling and Human Development, and the prestigious Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Elaine Aron has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and a thriving psychotherapy practice. She is the first therapist to tell HSPs how to identify their trait and make the most of it in everyday situations.

Highly Sensitive People have an
uncommonly sensitive nervous system…

– a normal occurrence, according to Aron. “About 15 to 20 percent of the population have this trait. It means you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted.” An HSP herself, Aron reassures other Highly Sensitives that they are quite normal. Their trait is not a flaw or a syndrome, nor is it a reason to brag. It is an asset they can learn to use and protect.

In defining the Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Aron provides examples of characteristic behaviors, and these are reflected in the questions she typically asks patients or interview subjects:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?

Dr. Aron explains that in the past

HSPs have been called “shy,” “timid,” “inhibited,” or “introverted,” but these labels completely miss the nature of the trait.

Thirty percent of HSPs are actually extroverts. HSPs only appear inhibited because they are so aware of all the possibilities in a situation. They pause before acting, reflecting on their past experiences. If these were mostly bad experiences, then yes, they will be truly shy. But in a culture that prefers confident, “bold” extroverts, it is harmful as well as mistaken to stigmatize all HSPs as shy when many are not. In the Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Aron reframes these stereotyping words and their common application to the HSP in a more positive light and helps HSPs use and view these aspects of their personality as strengths rather than weaknesses.

Sensitivity is anything but a flaw.

Many HSPs are often unusually creative and productive workers, attentive and thoughtful partners, and intellectually gifted individuals. According to Dr. Aron, HSPs could contribute much more to society if they received the right kind of attention – and her national bestseller proves that this 15 to 20 percent of the population is eager to get off on the right foot in asserting their unique personality trait.

Read more:  There are many websites from both the medical and personal perspectives on HSP (including http://livingsamsara.com/)  and of course Dr. Aron’s book is a classic.

Read Me

THE HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D
http://www.hsperson.com/

BONUS VIDEO! from Marie Forleo, renowned life & business coach… well in her own words:
“I often say if Tony Robbins, Richard Branson, Oprah and Jay-Z had a love child, it would be me.  That’s because I’m part business strategist, part marketing maven and part spiritual ass-kicker with a side of hip-hop swagger.”
Marie is highly entertaining – and SMART!

Read/see more from Marie on YouTube, or:  http://www.marieforleo.com/archives/

Counselling: Who Gets It? For What? Who Doesn’t? Why Not?

Here’s one perspective:

Trends and barriers to getting folks
the counselling they need.

adapted from Psychology Today, April 2013
Susan  Heitler, Ph.D. with Linda McKinzie

Reach Out. Just Do It.For what do folks seek help?

The pie chart above shows what kinds of emotional problems led over 1500 folks last year (2012) to seek help from Denver’s Maria Droste Counseling Center’s 30 or more counsellors.

Maria Droste’s analysis indicated that anxiety and depression together accounted for the primary troubles of almost 40% of people who sought help.  What triggered their anxious, stressed and depressed feelings?  The something going wrong in their lives, MDCC’s staff believes, has often included long-term or chronic unemployment.

When people face a life problem, which usually is about the work or the love aspects of their lives, they typically first feel anxious.  Looking ahead they feel uncertain about what if anything they can do about the problem.

After a period of anxiety, which they may refer to as stress, people become at increasing risk for feeling angry, blaming others for their dilemma, for depression with hopelessness about finding solutions, or for self-injurious habits like drinking and smoking, and for relationship problems.

Note that the two biggest reasons people seek help are depression and relationship troubles.  That should be a heads up that internalizing our thoughts and feelings is a societally widespread problem, desperately requiring more life-skills training earlier in life, and a perspective shift regarding the freedom to be ourselves and speak our truths without fear of judgement.

It’s probably a bad sign that there’s twice as many folks seeking help for depression as for anxiety.   Depression suggests that folks are giving up on finding a fix.  This disproportion could indicate that people wait out their difficulties while they are anxious rather than seeking help in response to this initial distressed feeling.

“Depression is the leading source of disability in Canada at a rate slightly higher than the world average.”
~ Bill Wilkerson, Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health

For many folks, it’s only when they have fallen into a dark hole of hopelessness that they finally feel so bad that they reach out  for professional mental health services.  Better late than never, and yet that’s sad because often it’s easier for folks to find solutions to their problems when they are still feeling anxious than after they’ve given up.

Intake workers at Maria Droste noted another unexpected factor when they looked at these statistics for the past year’s intake records.  They noticed an increase in calls about relationship issues.

Claudia Gray, Maria Droste Intake Manager, said, “This year in particular, we had a lot of people requesting couples and family therapy for a variety of reasons.”

“Mental health disorders represent the greatest business and public health challenge of the 21st century. We must understand that. And in a hurry.”
~ Bob Lord, Chairman of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants

One of those reasons Gray speculates, has been the country’s economic downturn. “If couples are already struggling with insufficient communication skills for talking over their difficulties cooperatively and productively, and then you add the stress and struggle of economic and financial worries, weaknesses in communication become more pronounced.  Couples seek out counseling to help them find better ways to communicate with each other.”

Sue Kamler, Director of Maria Droste’s intake services, added that the calls coming in last year also seemed to be more complex. “For example, when someone called in saying they were experiencing depression and anxiety, during the assessment process we often discovered a history of childhood abuse or domestic violence. The depression and anxiety needed treatment, and at the same time it was important also to address their earlier issues of loss or abuse.”

Employees experiencing high work/life conflict have absenteeism rates three times those of employees with low work/life conflict.
~ Duxbury, Higgings: “Work-Life Balance in the New Millennium: Where Are We? Where Do We Need to Go?”, 2001

A recent study by compensation consultant Watson Wyatt Worldwide found the estimated direct cost of absenteeism to business is 7.1 per cent of the payroll, up from 5.6 per cent in 1997. Again, stress-related disorders accounted for the lion’s share. In 2000, the only year studied, there was an additional 10 per cent indirect cost for overtime, replacement personnel and loss of productivity.
~ The Globe and Mail, July 15, 2002

 Why don’t more folks reach out
for the help they need?

“Mental health is talked about more now than ever before.  With the high profile media coverage and analysis of incidents such as the Sandy Hook shootings, public forums such as Dr. Phil and Oprah, and corporate involvement to bring mental health issues to a more commonly recognized part of life (such as Bell Let’s Talk Day), it is now the subject of discussions at national through to community through to dinner table levels.

Yet only a small proportion of the people who would benefit from counselling actually seek it out.  Why??

Ms. McKinzie offers the following explanations for why many people delay seeking support:

“One major reason that many people, especially men, do not seek support and therefore needlessly suffer for long periods of time from emotional pain, anxiety, excessive anger, old resentments and depression, is their perceived stigma associated with receiving mental health care. They regard getting help as embarrassing, something others do but not themselves.  Better to grin and bear it than to admit that they need help.

“Another concern is expense.  Only one of the costs of meeting with a counsellor is paying for the sessions, which health insurance or extended benefits may or may not help to cover.  In addition, missing time at work for weekly daytime therapy sessions can be costly in terms of not getting work done, docked pay, and supervisor disapproval.  Evening and weekend sessions may require payment for babysitters.

“Finally, there is a documented shortage of affordable mental health care in most communities. If everyone who genuinely needs mental health help were to seek it, there would be far too few resources to meet the challenge. And, there needs to be more options for talk therapy readily acknowledged to meet both a person’s comfort level and financial level, such as community programs, clergy, and mentors.

“Mental health is fundamental to physical health as well as to experiencing life’s most positive blessings such as happiness, gratitude and supportive loving relationships.”

This was one of the key messages in the first-ever Surgeon General’s report on the topic of mental health and mental illness released way back in 1999. Now, 15 years later, we still have far to go in terms of getting mental/emotional/spiritual health support to all who need it.

What can give us hope?

Fortunately, there are more options being recognized for folks who are feeling that they just have to grin and bear it:  don’t know where to turn, think they can’t afford help, or fear the stigma of being labelled with an “inferior mind” or weak.  One of the most exciting new trends in our internet age has been the offering of SKYPE, phone and web-based mental health services in any form, from anywhere in the world.

The bottom line

Services are available far more broadly and less expensively than many might think.  If you are feeling down and out, mad or stressed, do consider giving mental health services a try!

When is talk-therapy useful?  Any time you:

Need someone on your side — someone who is knowledgeable

Are stuck and need help resolving a particular problem

Need coaching support to meet a specific goal, such as career, relationship or social

Have concerns about your relationship and want expert help to improve it, or to make decisions about the direction the relationship should take

Have a need for strict confidentiality in regard to your concern

Need a fresh look at your life and where it’s going

Are feeling depressed or stressed by specific events

Are sad, lonely, or anxious and don’t see a way out

Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is the author of many books, including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two. She is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University.
Co-author Linda McKinzie, is executive director of Denver’s  Maria Droste Counseling Center.

Co-Dependency 101

codependency_

by Pipa Gordon
The Raphael Project, 2010

Co-dependency essentially is another addiction that life can throw our way. It is a huge minefield and we are just going to scratch the surface here in order to open the door to conversation and thought. If it is something you you find yourself relating to, it might be a good idea to look deeper into it and/or seek some counselling.

A Co-dependent person is someone who is often more orientated to other people’s reality than their own. They have the ability to know and understand everyone elses’ needs but yet they can not tell you what they need for toffee. They are what is referred to as the finder and the fixer. From the outside, this person may come across as the modern day Mother Theresa, people may look at them and be inspired and wish they had it all together like she does but unfortunately, in this situation, when it is a co-dependent person acting out the role of everyone else’s fixer, they are hiding from their own pains and needs and getting their ego fix from being seen as the hero. Of course there is nothing wrong at all with being the good samaritan, but when this pattern of behaviour becomes someone’s identity and addiction, it is because of deeper issues at hand.

A Co-dependent relationship is perhaps best described as a non productive relationship that you are addicted to, feel bound to and can’t get out of your mind. These relationships can sneak up on us, are often the closest we have and are layered with guilt and “I should…” along the way. Unhealthy is an understatement as these relationships are emotionally imbalanced and leave you feeling drained; your thoughts and emotions go beyond those of normal healthy self-sacrifice and caring relationships and you feel beholden to keep up your side of the deal, often fearing that the other person might fall apart if you were to walk away – which even if it were the case, would be the making of you both. The healthy need of each other has gone beyond extremes and become an I need you to need me type of need which is suffocating and often causes the feeling of being trapped.

codependent4

Co-dependency doesn’t only occur between partners, but also often between parent and child. The longer it goes on for, the more the guilt and need runs deeply and almost feels like the life force of the relationship. Often you find that people in a co-dependent relationship are compeltely oblivious to it as they don’t know any different and often genuinely think they are caring for the other person. For example:

  1. a Mother is having a co-dependent relationship with her 32 year old son who still lives at home and is borrowing money, eating into her inheritance because she says he lost his job, again…..yet her allowing him to keep taking from her is feeding his not pulling himself together and acting responsibly and equally feeding her need to be needed.
  2. the Wife has a husband with a gambling problem so she’s working two jobs to make ends meet…she says he’s “trying to quit” but he’s not, because she’s making up the shortfall in their finances anyway.
  3. a Daughter phones her mother every day not because she wants to but because she feels she has to. She’s unable to make decisions without her Mother’s say so, is there at her Mother’s beck and call and carries guilt about being the perfect daughter even though she is married with her own family to look after. (nb, many daughters phone their mum regularly because they WANT to, this is perfectly healthy, we are talking about the feeling of “I need to” here).

So let’s break it down, what are the signs of a co-dependent relationship?

  • Secrets from the outside world
  • Guilt at not fixing their problemtoxic enter
  • Shame
  • Repressed Anger
  • Low Self-esteem
  • Compromising own values to avoid the other person’s rejection or anger
  • Power imbalance in a relationship

How do you know if you are a co-dependent person?

  • Do you get obsessed with fixing and rescuing needy people?
  • Are you easily absorbed in the pain and problems of other people? Do you find yourself feeling someone else’s pain beyond empathy?
  • Do you find yourself being controlling? Are you easily controlled within relationships?
  • Do you do more than your share….all of the time?
  • Are you always seeking approval and recognition? You need to be seen as important and integral?
  • Would you do anything to hold on to a relationship? Do you fear being abandoned?

Codependent support

Co-dependent women often burn out as they are entirely focused on the pain and suffering of someone else. There is a stark difference between a compassionate woman and a woman who is drawn to someone else’s pain as they feel that in being there to fix and help gives them a sense of worthiness.  There is also a difference between someone who works hard, and someone who is  a workaholic! Often you find co-dependent over achievers felt loved by  their parents because of what they DID, not who they were…and hence  they bring that learned behaviour into their adult lives and behave in  an almost martyr like fashion which not only is therefore wasted energy, but can also be damaging to their own spouse and children and the pattern becomes in danger of repeating itself.

Here’s a big one – you know he has a good side and you’re hoping that it will come back again….? Familiar? That’s a co-dependent relationship, you’re fixing him, you’re trying to change him, you’re hoping that one day things will get better and in the meantime are holding it all together. I know it’s a terribly painful realisation – it doesn’t mean the relationship is over, but it does mean that as long as you are protecting him and waiting for him to change, odds on, he won’t. You need to find your own independence, your own healthiness in this relationship and hope to goodness that he bounces back and does the same.

Neediness is an absolute red flag of co-dependency as one person’s happiness depends on having the other person right there, right now to the extent that their behaviour can become possessive, jealous and obsessive….calling them pointlessly throughout the day just to check up on what they are doing…. asking questions which have the underlying motivation  “Do you still love me? Am I still important?”…. these are all clear tell tales of a co-dependent relationship.

Repressed anger is also a deep one linked with shame. Often someone hasn’t been allowed to show their emotions as a child and so has never developed the ability to be rational with their reactions and feelings, their shame and low self esteem causes them to repress their anger as they don’t know what might happen to them if they were to express it.

neglected

What causes co-dependency? This can come from all angles of life! Often from childhood where the child has been loved for their actions rather than who they are, this in turn has built in a pattern, an integral belief that says “if I do good, I am loved” thus the over achieving fixer, mender, superhero over achiever is born. It can also be that as a child, the youngster wasn’t allowed to develop naturally into an independently thinking teen and young adult, perhaps because they were parented by an alcoholic, an abuser, someone with control issues or other family problems. This meant that their own mind was not allowed to function as they were controlled by their parents/care-givers telling them what to do, what to think, how to be, where to be, what is right, what is wrong etc, therefore, they have never learned how to be independent, but have literally been trained in co-dependency behaviour from the beginning.

As well as resulting from relationship issues; we also see that co-dependency can arise from mental illness such as depression, all types of abuse, chronic illness within the family, divorce, even moving home – any trauma without the correct support system around can also trigger and set the stage for codependency, this is because the natural reliance on oneself can become stuck which can then trigger an incomplete sense of self, a sense of inadequacy and an inability to stand on one’s own feet.  The person then feels vulnerable and begins to give with the motivation to receive stability and strength which somewhere along the line they lost.

How do we overcome co-dependency? We learn how to step across into inter-dependency. This is a healthy form of leaning on each other as an independent person, not a dependent one. There is a monumental difference between someone who is a free unconditional giving person versus one who gives because they need to feel needed.  The Mother Daughter relationship can often be co-dependent as it is naturally a very close bond but this is can be abused by emotional issues which can then create unhealthy links and bonds. A daughter can feel immensely guilty at wanting to break free from her Mother who has become all encompassing and involved in every decision in her daughter’s life. The Mother’s need has become larger than her ability to freely give and the daughter knows no different and so feels trapped.

change10

The first step with any addiction is of course to acknowledge it and then reach out for help. There are loads of books available but if you can, I would also opt for a course of counselling as as each case is intricate and different to the one before, it would be helpful to get a professional’s eye on the situation as this is a tough  nut to crack alone. What is very important is setting healthy boundaries and having a good support system because we are talking about changing the fundamental way that someone has done life so far.

There will be a small element of co-dependency in all of us, but you know heart of hearts if it is a problem. We touched on this lightly but do remember that co-dependency can arrive in your life at any given stage or equally can be the fruit of other things such as child abuse and bullying in those formative years. It’s always good to trace back as far as possible to find the root. We all know when weeding, that if you get the root, you’re laughing!

Pipa Gordon and the Raphael Project is a blog/site on wordpress, paraphrased as follows:

There are way too may people who walk this planet alone, who face trials of one degree or another singlehandedly. This is why I wanted to create a space where we can address all kinds of issues, some light some heavy, but those issues that we don’t always know how to deal with or where to go with. The ones that we’re not quite sure who to turn to about.
What this site is about is lifting the lid on life and discussing the lot! What makes it, how to survive it, how to look good whilst doing it but even better, how to do it fruitfully, happily and with one another. (Notice no use of the word successfully!).

For more info:  http://theraphaelproject.com/about

Belief Systems: Big 5 Culprits

The Big 5 That Develop Your Belief System

by Cathy Campbell, Inspired Personal Developmentprincess frog

From the moment you come into the world, you begin developing your belief system. And just how do you do this?

That first sentence contains a major hint of a notable attribute of developing beliefs… your system of beliefs forms from irrational input as well as rational!

Obviously as a newborn you don’t have a well formed capacity for logical deduction, so developing your belief system is not necessarily a rational process. Rather, it’s a process based on your experience of the world.

Whatever information comes to you in a form that you can digest, (ie. you have the necessary perception to process it), you file appropriately into your fledgling belief system.

As you mature, your abilities and understanding expands, and ultimately you are developing your belief system based on 5 primary methods of gathering information. Note that: only one of these stems directly from your personal facility of critical thinking!

Five Main Reasons You Believe

It can be very helpful and enlightening to know why you believe what you do. You might be surprised to realize some of the shaky ground you have formed your belief system on.

The big 5 are:

  1. Evidence
  2. Tradition
  3. Authority
  4. Association
  5. Revelation

Evidence Based Believing

Evidence shows that one thing causes another. The understanding of causation appeals to the analytical and critical thinking part of your mind.

Developing your belief system through this method is very rationale and based on the use of logical thinking.

The skills associated with evidence based believing develop as we mature, and become more honed through education. In this mode you look for facts. You look at events that are measurable, and where one thing directly causes something else. Scientific studies supply results from research and critically tested hypotheses to support evidence based beliefs.

You can also establish beliefs based on your personal experience of cause and affect. You might continually witness a consistent outcome from your actions. For example:

  • If you drive a certain route at rush hour, you know you will be 10 minutes late and upset yourself and others. Therefore you believe it’s best to take an alternate route during rush hour.
  • When you make dinner for friends, they express their appreciation, and you feel great. Therefore you know you will get enjoyment by creating dinner for friends.

This method of forming beliefs is also responsible for ‘learned helplessness’. If you consistently perform a behavior, and always get a negative outcome, you may come to believe that you have no power or influence in creating what it is you are aiming for. For example:

  • Because you are always 10 minutes late when driving that certain route at rush hour, and it is the only route possible to take, you know you will be 10 minutes late. You will feel upset, and you will upset others. Therefore, you always feel distressed in this situation.
  • When you make dinner for friends, no one expresses their appreciation, and you feel like a failure. Therefore you stop cooking dinner for friends.

The trick in the learned helplessness scenario is to adjust the elements that you can, and accept the things you cannot change. This might possibly include altering the physical elements such as setting alternate meeting times or places, or cooking different meals or inviting different friends!

But certainly one thing you can change, through gaining understanding, is how you view these events. For example, you could say:

  • If that is the only route possible to take during rush hour, and I cannot change appointment details, I will be 10 minutes late. That is reality.

Therefore, I have 10 minutes in traffic to put to use as I wish by listening to relaxing radio, personal development recordings, or reviewing the things I’m thankful for today. I will explain this situation to any other people affected. Whether they decide to make the best of the situation, is up to them. I am not responsible for how they view reality.

  • If I cook dinner for friends, and no one expresses appreciation, I can ask myself exactly why it is that I want to cook these dinners. If you feel like a failure when no one expresses appreciation, then you are likely looking to others to reinforce your self worth. That shows it’s time to recognize that your self worth is something always with you. To tap into it, spend some time talking to a life coach for personal development.

Adopting Traditional Beliefs

The traditions perpetuated through families and societies are a major factor in developing your belief system. We are often showered with traditions day in and day out when growing up, so they can be extremely easy to adopt, without even questioning. When you believe in a tradition, recognize that they have served some generation well. Yet it does not mean they are based in truth, nor necessarily have continued usefulness for your life.

There is a funny and telling story about a woman from a certain family where the women always cut their roasts in half prior to roasting. The third generation daughter said she did it because she understood that it made the meat more tender. Her mother said that she learned it from her own mom and thought it was to reduce the cooking time and save on energy usage. When the oldest woman, grandma, was asked about it, she said that the oven she had when raising a family was very small and it was necessary to always cut the roast in half to fit it in!

So not only was there a belief being passed down that it was important to cut the roast in half, the reason behind the belief was totally lost, and no longer relevant to the women’s lives!

It is through family and cultural tradition that many people formulate their primary belief system. Social culture, family bias, and societal prejudice all strongly influence formation of:

  • global beliefs such as:
    • what God is
    • political theory
    • science
    • personal value
  • topic specific beliefs:
    • the specific religious practice to support
    • which political party to vote for
    • which sport team to cheer for

Ask yourself ‘what role has tradition played in developing your belief system?’.

“We are so conditioned, so heavily burdened with belief, with tradition, with the past, that this actually prevents us from seeing or listening.”
-J Krishnamurti

Authority Steers Beliefs

Many beliefs are adopted from people that have a role of authority in our lives.

Sometimes these figures of authority also fall in the category of tradition, as you can imagine. For example, your parents play a role of authority in your early life and they are regularly passing traditions down to you.

Other times authority figures are independent to tradition. Some examples of authority figures who may influence your beliefs (while theirs are not necessarily based on traditional beliefs) might be:

  • a new age religious cult leader that espouses having a special direct line to ‘God’
  • doctors who tell you they absolutely know best about your health and all conflicting ideas re rubbish
  • a school teacher who you look up to, whether or not they follow ‘tradition’

Beliefs by Association

Who do you hang out with?

Whether you run with the ‘in crowd’ or the ‘nerds’, you will be adopting compatible beliefs to your own, as well as reinforcing common beliefs that you hold with your group. It is pretty much a case of ‘what you see is what you get’. As you are continually faced with particular ways of thinking within the group, you start to adopt and reinforce those ideas as the ‘right way’ to think.

Basically, by sharing time and activities, you rub off on one another and mutually influence one another’s belief system.

If you associate with hard working people who feel they are short on time and money, chances are you will be developing your belief system based around those ideas as well. Alternatively, if you spend your time with people who feel they have a very rich blessed life spending their time for their own delight, your attitude will likely be quite different.

Revelations Induce Beliefs

The definition of revelation referred to here is “disclosure of information to man by a divine or supernatural agency”. Basically, this is the experience of attaining information through what you might describe as:

  • a feeling or sense about something
  • a hunch or an inkling of an idea
  • an intuition or premonition about something
  • an insight through your sixth sense
  • a gut feeling
  • your minds eye or imagination

There are two primary and common understandings of how you may have ‘received’ this enlightening communication of knowledge:

  1. the information has been fed into your subconscious through external stimuli. It was just bubbling below the surface, and then some obscure occurrence brought it to your attention.
  2. your developing intuition, a sixth sense of perception of our world that everyone has. It may be that this 6th sense is just as powerful and ‘real’ as our other 5 senses. It has the ability to tune into other aspects of reality that humanity does not yet fully understand, nor have accurate measurements to assess.

Such inspiration can strike at any time; in the shower, driving to work, gazing at the ocean. Where ever it might have originated from may be interesting to ponder. Yet, I think the really interesting question is, ‘is the information valuable to you and how can you use it’.

Certainly Albert Einstein asked this question of the wild ideas he came up with, and look where it lead him and the world. He ushered in a raft of new beliefs for humanity. Just some of Einstein’s words of wisdom on the subject:

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.
For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand,
while imagination embraces the entire world,
and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

The Art and Magic of Believing

It is widely understood that most beliefs you hold have not originated with you. Rather, you have primarily adopted what makes sense to your experience and understanding at the time. You continue in developing your belief system largely by agreeing with ideas that come into your awareness.

Once you understand this, it gives you great strength to:

  • review your beliefs, and ask with nonattachment, “do they have a solid basis and do they serve you well?”
  • drop any feeling of threat when your ‘adopted beliefs’ seem to fall short, or come under attack

You have accepted your beliefs based on what you knew at the time. As you learn more, it is reasonable that your belief system will undergo change and growth.

© 2008-2013 inspired-personal-development.com

The Mental Shift That Can Change Everything

…RESPONSE-ABILITY at work and at home.

adapted from Fred Kofman, PhD. April 2013

“Sorry I’m late.
Traffic was awful!”

How many of your meetings start with this lame excuse? You know it’s a cop-out, yet an irrepressible urge makes you take the easy way out over, and over, and over again. It is not your fault, I know. It’s the irrepressible urge that makes you do it.

In Control versus Out of Control There are two types of causes: those within and those beyond your control. You have a choice about where to focus. The latter makes you look innocent. You are not to blame. The former makes you powerful. It is your “response-ability.” Being “response-able” means focusing on what you can do to respond to a challenge. It’s about taking ownership, rather than assigning blame and playing the innocent victim. As I wrote here, the price of innocence is impotence.

You can explain any result as the balance between these two causes: the challenge versus your ability to respond. When your ability is higher than the challenge, you succeed; when it is lower, you fail. Think of it as weight lifting. If your strength is bigger than the weight, you lift it; if it isn’t, you don’t. There is a funny asymmetry, though. When you lift, you call yourself “strong.” When you don’t, you call the weight “heavy.”

Has anyone ever told you that he was not capable enough to do the job? Yet how many times have you heard, “the job is too difficult!” The missing terms at the end of the sentence, the most important ones to avoid the victim mindset are “for me,” as in, “the job is too difficult for me.

Both explanations are (partially) true. The victim story gets you stuck in resignation and resentment. Someone is harming you and there’s nothing you can do. Life is not fair! The responsibility story empowers you. The ball is in your court. How are you going to play it?

Why are they stuck? My colleague Andrés found himself under the gun. While he waited for his garage door to open in Buenos Aires, two armed thieves assaulted him. “Get out of the car!” they threatened. He did. “Open the door of your house or we’ll shoot you!” they barked next. Andrés teaches people how to be response-able. Shaking, he calmly said, “My wife and daughter are in the house. I will give you my car, my money, anything you want. But I will not open the door.” The thieves took his car, his money, his watch, his phone and his laptop, but they didn´t take his life. I asked Andrés what he thought at that crucial moment. “If these guys were going to shoot me for not opening the door, God knows what they would have done to my wife and daughter inside. If they shot me in the street, they would have had to run. I could have died, but I would have protected my loved ones.”

The ability to respond does not mean the ability to succeed. Response-ability does not guarantee that you win, or even survive. It only reminds you that you can choose how you play and how you live.

Asleep with the Enemy We all want to be liked, as Dave Kerpen writes. The problem is that rather than following Dave’s counsel, many of us attempt to be liked through Idiot Compassion. We collude with the person stuck in the victim mindset. We blame, we moan and we groan.

“I can´t believe they did that to you!” “They shouldn’t have!” “You deserve better than that.” “They should fix it right now!”

These comments are soothing – like a drug – and equally deadly. They calm you down with sweet protection and rev you up with righteous indignation. But they don’t give you a way to address the situation. You may think the person making them is on your side, but your drug dealer is not your friend.

Fight Back! I am always tempted to collude with my clients. They are in pain and I want to be compassionate. However, I want to offer them wise compassion. For example, a call center manager whom I coached had a bad case of victimhood. His automatic response when his boss asked him about poor customer satisfaction was to blame his employees for poor manners, the finance department for small budgets, and the training department for lack of skills. I listened to his story, feeling for him. I expressed my sorrow and then asked him if he wanted my help.

When he agreed, I challenged him with these questions:

  • What is the challenge you are facing? (Instead of “What did they do to you?”)
  • How have you responded? (Instead of “What should they have done?”)
  • How has that worked out for you? (Instead of “How are they wrong?”)
  • What could you do now? (Instead of “What should they do now?”)
  • If you need help, whom could you ask? (Instead of “Who should fix it?”)
  • What can you learn from this? (Instead of “How should they be punished?”)

The pattern is simple: turn “they” and “should” into “I” and “could.” Stop blaming them, but don’t blame yourself either. Ability to respond does not mean guilt. It doesn’t matter who is responsible for the situation. What matters is that you see yourself as able to respond, improve and learn when confronting the situation.

What my client found is less important than what your colleagues can find when you ask them these questions with intelligent kindness.

A final word of caution: Remember that to earn the right to challenge someone out of victimhood, you must first listen, acknowledge his or her pain and ask permission to help. I have seen too many relationships broken by eager friends and spouses who interrupt with, “Oh c’mon! Quit being a victim and start thinking of what you can do to solve this problem!

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior
is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge,
while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”
— Don Juan, Mexican shaman (quoted by Carlos Castaneda)

Question for readers: What is your favorite victim explanation?

Fred Kofman, PhD. Economics, is Professor of Leadership and Coaching at the Conscious Business Center of the University Francisco Marroquín and a faculty member of Lean In. He is the author of Conscious Business, How to Build Value Through Values.

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