connect with your cause

connect with your cause

I’m a really private person. Yes, I like to talk with others, but it usually depends on the day, topic, relationship I have with the other person, etc. When I stop and think about it, I’m more reserved than I thought I’d be as an adult, considering I minored in Theatre Arts and played music in a live band in my twenties.

But I’ve also come from a background where rigid beliefs were held by my family and passed down, most of them rejected by me at an early age. Yet, I felt a sense of shame for rejecting those beliefs which transformed into an outward defiance from assuming I wouldn’t be accepted by those around me. After all, my family isn’t accepting me for who I am, so why should I assume others will?

I no longer think or feel this way. I stand in my truth and validate myself. And I hope to do the same for others. But I think partly what makes it difficult for me to want to give myself to a cause or volunteer for an ecological organization, for example, is that people who have their causes can many times hold their own set of rigid beliefs around those causes.

I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with people who, even for the sake of a good cause, think it’s their way or the highway.

Can we connect with causes (such as recycling, sustainable farming, etc.), that ignite us, while trusting we’ll be given space to be ourselves, not a cookie cutter version of other people passionate about the same cause? I think I’m entering a phase of life where I’m ready to give more of myself while being myself. I’m no longer afraid if someone validates any of my beliefs because, more than ever, I’ve learned to validate myself, while remaining open to hearing other points of view.

Just because we connect with like-minded people on our causes doesn’t mean we have to be identical in every belief, even within that cause. What are we so afraid of? As long as we’re promoting healing and well-being for our planet, that’s the important thing.

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed, it seems there are so many causes in need of our attention. Where to start?

By taking small steps. What areas interest you? Make a list, Google them, start reading, and let the process unfold. Maybe we give an hour a week or a month. Whatever we can do… but, at least for me, the overwhelm from all the causes out there is lessened if I’m doing my little part to make the world a better place.

Cliche? Yes.

Truth? Most definitely. 

Over the course of her life, Joanna has given much thought to the moral and psychological challenges presented by nuclear weapons and energy production. If you visit her website, you’ll see the books she’s written and what she’s been involved in. What struck a cord for me is her workbook Coming Back to Life – The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects. 

This workbook is a form of group work designed to foster the desire and ability to take part in the healing of our world.

It works off the premise that,”instead of privatizing, repressing and pathologizing our pain for the world (be it fear, grief, outrage or despair), we honor it. We learn to re-frame it as suffering-with our compassion. This brings us back to life.” In other words, we’re no longer overwhelmed by what is going wrong in the world and we can do our part to change something for the better. See the image below, illustrating the cycle involved:

 

Starting with gratitude, these consecutive stages reflect a natural sequence  common to psychological growth and spiritual transformation. The Spiral is like a fractal, governing the overall structure of the workshop while also arising in its component parts. Within a given workshop, we can move through the Spiral more than once, and become aware that with every cycling through, each stage can yield new and deeper meanings.

 

Taken from Coming Back to Life – The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects, here are a few questions to think about:

If there was NOTHING to stop you, what would you do as your unique contribution to the healing of our world?

What are the resources you already have to bring this gift of yours to the world?

How would you stop sabotaging yourself from doing it? How would you overcome this?

Click here to check out Joanna’s website and click here to buy her book if it strikes a cord with you! (The link connects to goodreads.com, but, if you Google the book, you can find it other places, too.) I plan to buy the book. There are group workshops to take part in, too.

validate yourself

validate yourself

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, validation means the following: to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of

With that in mind, the let’s delve further into this topic of validation. We hear alot these days about how we need to validate ourselves, and that’s a good thing. It means we’re growing, becoming more self-actualized, not relying on anyone else’s opinion of us! This is how we find true freedom. Of course we do the things, like take a refresher course or interview an expert, to give us the chops to offer legitimate support, too.

But what about the times others criticize us, when we’ve offered our best, and it gets us down? I remember once, after I played a piano piece I’d written for my friend’s wedding, a woman I didn’t know came up to me afterward and said in a snarky tone, “But are you classically trained?” I guess she’d seen my satisfaction since I’d played the piece beautifully. It’s like she wanted to swoop in and wash away the sense of accomplishment I’d felt.

And you know what? It worked. Her comment slid right under my skin because, no, I’m not classically trained. As if that’s a prerequisite for writing and performing a piece of music beautifully at a friend’s wedding! I’d co-written many songs prior to that, but this woman’s comment made me feel my performance had been subpar. Mission accomplished: she’d made herself feel better and me worse.

From a young age we develop how we feel and think about what we have to offer. Depending on a plethora of factors, we either decide we can give our gifts to the world or we can’t. It’s amazing how many ways the mind tries to focus on the negatives, the reasons why we’re not good enough, rather than on the things we want. But this is something we can and must work on so we can live true to what we want to put out there.

It’s a no-brainer! We’re born with certain things we love to do, things we’re drawn to, and this is what we’ll benefit from most when we allow ourselves freedom to pursue it! Cherry on top, this is what the world will benefit most from, too!

Other people’s ideas of perfection don’t matter; let it be something that holds them back, not you. It’s unfortunate we have those who stand on the sidelines criticizing others, but it’s only because they’re not allowing themselves the freedom and building bravery to express themselves. They’re not validating others or themselves. And anyone who is expressing themselves, yet sits back on their laurels and criticizes others, is deluded by their sense of self-importance.

Let’s do ourselves and the world a favor, and offer our gifts. I’ll write future posts on how to unearth our gifts and use them. Today’s resource is focused on self-validation basics.

This article does a good job in relaying what healthy validation is and how to give it to ourselves.

In our world of social media, I’ve thought a lot on this topic of validation. Before I post anything, I run it through my validation meter: is this something I enjoy sharing with others or am I need approval after posting it? Of course we all want “likes” on our posts, but if it’s going to affect how I feel about myself one way or the other, depending on the number of “likes” I get, I don’t post it.

Basically validating ourselves is treating ourselves like we would our favorite friend. According to the article, “Self-validation is a skill that takes practice. It won’t be easy at first.”

Wow! That alone should make anyone feel validated! Who knew self-validation is a skill we need to practice?! That means the norm for us is to go negative with ourselves rather than focus on our positive aspects.

The article tells us the four steps to validating ourselves are as follows:

1. Notice how you feel and what you need.

Example: I feel angry. I need time alone.

2. Accept your feelings and needs without judgment.

Example: Its okay to feel angry. Anyone would feel angry in this situation. Taking time alone will help me sort out my feelings. That’s a good thing.

3. Don’t over-identify with your feelings. We want to accept our feelings and also remember that they don’t define us. Notice the subtle, but important, difference when you say I feel angry vs. I am angry or I feel jealous vs. I am jealous. Our feelings are temporary, they come and go.

4. Remember, practice is an important part of learning self-validation!

The article goes on to give us examples of self-validation and tips for giving it to ourselves. Click here to read the article! I believe it all starts here: validating ourselves. When we can master this skill, we’ll have more streamlined success with giving others the best of ourselves.

flex the positive thinking muscle

flex the positive thinking muscle

It’s not lost on me how there are more posts in the “relationship with self” category than any other on this blog. It’s because I’m introspective and want to always move toward being happier with myself. If you’re reading this, you probably want the same.

I’m more consistent than ever with implementing good habits. This helps show my unconscious mind I’m capable of accomplishing the things I’ve set out to do. The other evening I was in bed working on my writing, and a flash of feeling like my future self washed over me; it was as if I was experiencing the beginnings of that future self in the present. This future self is humbly confident, focused, independent, and moving forward with intention. Currently, I am that person in many aspects, but still in the process of extricating myself from the past.

That’s where it gets tricky… past thoughts, past ways of living, past relationships, past experiences… and I’ve had a good life, but I haven’t experienced freedom and joy to the extent I’ve wanted to… so my mind sometimes tries to slyly slide into a more greyish, negative undertone, perhaps from underlying anxiety, particularly in the beginning of the day, even if I’ve had a stellar week of staying focused on my goals! What’s this about? Seems to me it’s from years of habitually allowing the negative undertone to be the boss. The cool thing is, now I realize, I have a choice! Instead, I can flex the positive thinking muscle. 

How do we continue to move on from the past?

We reframe our thinking patterns and focus on what we want rather than on what we don’t want.

We focus on what is working in our lives rather than what isn’t, but we’re honest about the things in our lives that aren’t working, so we can change them… but remember, there are pros and cons to most change, so hopefully it betters the situation overall.

We take the valuable lessons from the past, the situations that gave us insight, and hold them close, while the rest of what didn’t serve us disinigrates to ash and blows away.

It took a really long time for me to understand positive thinking is more than just a cliché. We’ve heard it so many times, it can be difficult to take a step back and implement positive thinking into our lives through practice.

I like this Healthline article because it gives us concrete actions we can take, to practice positivity. The article tells us we can do the following to practice positive thinking:

1) focus on the good things

2) practice gratitude

3) keep a gratitude journal

4) open up to humor

5) spend time with positive people

6) practice positive self-talk

For me, number 6, practice positive self-talk, is huge. It’s the one I’ve failed at the most when working toward becoming version 2.0! Which means I haven’t had my own back nearly enough. This is definitely changing, and I hope it does for you, too. The next time we’re tempted to put ourselves down, let’s reframe it in a positive light, encourage ourselves, and have our own backs.

I also like how this article tells us, “Positive thinking isn’t about burying every negative thought or emotion you have or avoiding difficult feelings. The lowest points in our lives are often the ones that motivate us to move on and make positive changes.”

Brilliant! This isn’t about being fake. This is about facing what is real, working through it, and then training our minds to focus on the positive, to help move us forward quicker.

Click here to read the article!

black holes (much like toxic relationships) can die

black holes (much like toxic relationships) can die

I’m fascinated by space and, in particular, black holes. When I started working with a therapist, and I talked about my relationship with my ex-love, the visual that came to mind for my therapist was a black hole. I’ve mentioned this in another post but wanted to check in on this topic again today, quite some time later after my ex-love and I have stopped speaking, and say that, yes, much like how a black hole can eventually shrink down to nothing and pop away, so can a toxic relationship, once you finally get the hell out of it. Don’t get me wrong— I love this person and always will, but the ways he viewed me influenced the ways he interacted with me and it did not help me thrive. In other words, by my estimation, he was treating me badly.

Okay, so the estimated amount of time it can take for a black hole to shrink down to nothing is an incredibly slow process. Thankfully, once we finally cut off our energy from someone who is not contributing to the relationship, it doesn’t take as long for a human connection to dissolve.

After we broke up and remained friends, I was the one expending much more energy to build the relationship while he constantly withheld energy. I see now I was wanting things to change, and that kept me in the gravitational pull of our toxicity.

My advice? Give up on change and set yourself free! You’ll find that, once you cut the cord, the pull you felt a week ago will lesson… keep going and eventually you’ll find yourself in a fresh new mental state! He used to bring that up, too, how he felt so much freer after breaking up, and, like an idiot, I just listened to that instead of saying, hey buddy, you’re contributing to how I still feel sucked into a shitty hole, it’s not just about how I was affecting you. But since he couldn’t change how he interacted with me, (basically by just being more considerate in general), I had to change my life and cut the cord.

Maybe one day we’ll be friends again, maybe not. But whatever the future holds, at least we will have finally allowed the black hole to dissolve. The future is bright and free. 

 

 

We’re talking science today! I love the black hole visual because it’s so incredibly powerful and ominous, yet learning that even a black hole can dissolve is, for me, enlightening. According to the article, “a good size black hole— say, a few times more massive than the sun— will take about 10^100 years to eventually evaporate through this process, known as Hawking Radiation.”

What is Hawking Radiation? Well, I’m glad you asked! This article explains that back in the 1970s, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking discovered through an interaction between the boundary of a black hole — known as the event horizon — and the quantum fields that make up reality, black holes can slowly evaporate.

“So they’re not entirely black,” the author tells us. “They do give off a little bit of energy, which causes them to lose mass. It’s not much since a typical black hole will emit only one particle every year, but it’s not nothing. Over time they shrink down to nothing and simply pop away in a flash of energy.”

Do it today, cut the cord in your toxic relationship, and begin to feel stronger, tuned into who you know you are, not to how someone is treating you shitty… 

Pop!

old habits die hard… or not at all

old habits die hard… or not at all

Hear ye, hear ye! One and all! This is epic what I’m about to tell you.

6 years ago, when my ex-lover and I first got together, we would have a situation where I would text him something sweet like, “have a good day,” and sometimes it would take hours before receiving a reply.

How do you think I handled it? Yup, I’d stew over it, wonder how he could be so insensitive. And so, hours later, usually, when there wasn’t a reply, I’d text him while feeling quite pissed off. I’d say something like, “Where are you? How can you not reply to my good morning? To which he’d respond something defensive or rude. Our texting patterns were an ongoing problem with us. He just seemed so insensitive.

Okay, fast forward y-e-a-r-s later, and now we’re friends who rarely text. But at least we remained friends. One day recently I woke up to a short text from him, where he asked me a question, and I answered the question then said, “hope it’s a great day!” To which, once again, I received crickets… all day.

How many thoughts do you think I had? Yup, a ton of them. Everything from even as friends he’s pulling this, to how can he be so rude, to this is the last time I’m dealing with his shit. So, by the end of the night, after I’d had time to talk to a girlfriend about it, I sent him a straight forward, non-emotional, friendly text, and I asked him if, going forward, one of us says “have a good day” the other person makes a point to say “you too” after reading the first text, and that’s the end of it. No more hurt feelings, that simple.

I wasn’t sure if he’d get mad, laugh, or think I was ridiculous. And guess what? I didn’t care. I felt that if I couldn’t be honest about how I needed us to handle that type of situation in a specific way, then we didn’t need to text at all anymore. Period.

His answer to my text: “Had a very rare mega oversleep day and read your text the second I woke up and then was off and running immediately, so it just slipped my mind you had even said that. If that happens, another text a bit later saying HEY, YOU OK? would be awesome too. Then you’d get two responses back. Hope it’s a great day on your side today!”

I was like, wow! What a nice response! I’d finally gotten to the place where I could text what I needed nicely, even though I was frustrated. And he got to the place where he could answer my request for handling the situation differently in the future nicely! No more drama! Done! And we celebrated our communication success! It was a milestone.

And then after thinking about it more I realized the patterns didn’t change at all. After 6 years of this type of thing going on, it didn’t change AT ALL. He did the same type of thing, woke up, read my text and was off and running without a quick response. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lived through this scenario with him. And it was far worse emotionally for me when we were together because I’d left my husband for him, was going through a divorce, had kids to raise and everything else, yet he’d do this type of thing and I’d feel so abandoned!

When this happened this time, I didn’t feel abandoned, just pissed and like he was insensitive. After reading his reason for not responding, I realized he was just feeling behind on his day, which happens a lot with his mindset. Being an entrepreneur definitely contributes to that. Being self-employed isn’t easy in that regard. But still, it’s a pattern in his behavior. How hard would it be to lie in his bed for ten more seconds and type a simple “you too!” Especially when it’s caused us so much angst in the past. Ten more seconds to type that would have made a difference in my day, and it’s tempting to think I’m just not important enough to him to type two little words before starting his day. The fact things like this couldn’t change along the way definitely contributed to why we are strictly friends now.

So, bottom line here peeps—all my complaining about this type of thing happening, and it happened AGAIN! But the way in which we handled it was completely different, which was great. Of course I wish it wouldn’t happen in the first place… and I realize his solution was for ME to send a follow up text asking if he’s okay rather than HIM thinking maybe next time he can just take a minute, stop reacting out of habit by immediately jumping out of bed, and send a two word text before starting his “already-behind” day.

I’ve realized “it is what it is” and “we are who we are,” and he has no intention of changing in this area and never has.

The success came in how we communicated our viewpoints nicely! I’ll take that as a definite win.

According to this article, we need four steps to change a habit for good. I will highlight the main points of the aricle and provide a link at the end so you can read it all.

Step 1. Mindfulness: being aware of the present moment

Step 2. Train your mind, train your behavior. The author gives the following example:

Situation-Thought-Feeling-Behavior

Situation – I have a meeting.

Thought – I don’t like this meeting.

Feeling – Anger, frustration, anxiety

Behavior – I go to the meeting but feel agitated and checked out the whole time. I to to the vending machine right after the meeting and get a sugary fatty snack food. Now I have a habit.

Step 3. Implement a new rewarding routine

Situation – I have a meeting.

Thought – I don’t like this meeting, but I know it’s important for me to be there.

Feeling – Ease, contentment

Behavior – I go to the meeting with an attitude of receptivity. I also make a plan to go for a walk afterward as a reward.

We change our habits by changing our routine to a new rewarding one.

4. Create a Compassionate Action Plan

Research from Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion shows that when we have a critical thought, our nervous system goes into fight/flight/freeze and from this place we can only respond from our reptilian brain (we are in survival mode). From a place of fight/flight/freeze we are unable to see the bigger picture, be creative or compassionate toward the perceived stressor. Criticism makes us feel more anxious, more depressed, and more afraid of failure.

The author of the article tells us she believes the antidote to criticism and greatest motivator is compassion.

Wow, this last step is really intriguing to me because, first of all, I’m a big believer in being compassionate with ourselves, and it took me a long time to realize my ex-lover’s choice to not send me a quick two-word text before getting out of bed is because he overslept and was already feeling behind on his day. Which means he was feeling self-critical. Instead of being compassionate with himself and me, he quickly read the text, probably feeling a bit shitty for having slept so late, and he hurried out of bed, completely forgetting he’d seen the text at all. A more compassionate response, to both him and me, would be, in my opinion, to take ten seconds for a two-word text.

To read the article, on how to change a habit, in its entirety, click here!

 

sucked dry

sucked dry

Sometimes we stay in a relationship to the point we’re sucked dry. Is it that we’re too needy or the other is too insensitive?

A recent podcast I listened to (Do You F*cking Mind podcast, episode 42, hosted by Alexis Fernandez), made the point we shouldn’t rely on our partner to have our needs met. I love this podcast, but I have to wonder about this comment. I mean, if her guy continuously walked through the door and treated her in a way in which her needs weren’t met, eventually, she’d move on.

But she makes a good point in saying the best kind of love flows from being secure within ourselves.  So it’s a mix of both— being sensitive to one another but also taking responsibility for our emotional health. It’s a tricky thing, balancing the needs of another with our own.

My ex lover rarely wanted to meet my needs. I was the one sending cards, or a letter, or a sweet note, or feeling sentimental, or asking for more tenderness, or saying I was sorry, yada, yada, yada. I can count on one hand the times he apologized to me. It really would have helped; instead he seemed to think conflicts were almost always my fault.

I was always looking for that one little action on his end that would tell me he loved me. This grew worse once we moved into a friendship. Now I see why: I made the mistake of ex sex, and that bonding, mixed with a looser commitment, resulted in even less of my needs met but more neediness. Toxic mix.

I was always looking for more tenderness, more validation in our friendship. I was the one considering his feelings, even in friendship, far more than he considered mine. Like a bone dry water well in the middle of a dried up field, I’d lower my bucket into the depths, only to pull the bucket up empty… again. No real affection or validation sent my way from him. I was always longing for more.

It’s so clear to me now, I should have left long before I did. When someone ignores your needs for that long, somehow you begin to believe it’s your fault, you’re wanting too much. Now I see I was used and he was selfish.

I’ve moved forward with my ex-husband and we’ve reconciled, which, of course, in my ex-lover’s mind, is lame, weak, needy and whatever else unhealthy. So the validation I craved from my ex-lover is never going to be there, no matter what, because now I’m with my ex-husband, the last person my ex-lover thinks I should be with. But what does he know about it? He wasn’t able to bend and meet needs in a relationship. Obviously, I reconciled because many needs are being met with my ex-husband. I know it’s not a typical solution, to reconcile with the ex-husband, but so far it’s been the right move for me.

According to this article, our core needs are non negotiable.

Successful relationships come down to basic questions about our core needs:

  • What do I need in a relationship in order to feel loved, happy, fulfilled, and secure?
  • What do you need in a relationship to feel the same?
  • Are you willing to meet my needs in this relationship?
  • Am I willing to meet yours?

Basically, this article reiterates what I’ve felt to be true! If someone is important enough to you, if you want your relationship to succeed, then you try to meet that person’s emotional needs.

It’s a quick read but a good one! Click here to read the article!

Of course we can’t expect our partner to fulfill our every emotional need. And it makes us a stronger person when we soothe ourselves instead of relying on someone else. But like everything else in life there’s got to be balance.

Read this next article written by Sheri Stritof on soothing our own needs while being mindful of our partner’s.