my space tracker

Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Foggy Drive

I've suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened. - Mark Twain 

A friend of mine recently told me that last week she was driving to work up the New York State Thruway and there was a ton of fog.  There were times that she absolutely just could not see.  She was moving slowing and carefully and the fog was in and out.  There were times that the road appeared again, clear as day, and then the she'd drive into a patch of fog.  It was only for a moment or so, even at its darkest.  But those moments seemed so long, especially when she could not see the road.  She said she began thinking about just pulling over to the side and waiting.  But she also realized that although she could not see it at times, she knew the road was there.  She knew the road well, and she knew she was headed in the right direction.  She knew she would get there.  Sometimes she had to slow way down.  Sometimes she could travel a little faster, but she trusted that she was still on the road.  She could feel it.

So (driving safety aside), I'm thinking we can use this.  It's sort of like gravity, we don't question gravity.  We just know that it operates all the time, at all times on earth, without exception, unless we create very special circumstances.  We don't  let go of our coffee mug in mid air, because we know instinctively that it will fall.    My friend just trusted that the road was there.  

It's the same way with our innate wellness and wisedom.  Many people walk into my office and want to be fixed.  They believe they are broken.  They feel broken.  Often they believe someone else broke them, or they were never well or wise to begin with.  But just like the road, just like gravity, our wellness and our wisdom is there.   Sometimes the fog rolls in.  Sometimes our innocent human thinking and our emotions run through us and cloud our wisdom and our wellness and our vision.  Sometimes we even want to believe we are broken.  We want someone to fix us.  We want to be rescued or saved or taken care of.  We believe that if we have to do it ourselves, or take care of ourselves that means we are not valued or worthy or that we matter.  We hook all of our self worth to how others treat us or take care of us.  We need to feel broken in order to get fixed in order to believe that we matter.

Of course we need human care and love and nurture from others.  We need to know we matter. And these things help us clear the fog.  But really, the road is always there.  There is always gravity.  We are well and whole and wise and we can get glimpses of it, insights, relief, when we trust that we may be in a foggy patch, but that it will clear,  and we will move through it.  It will move through us, if we let it.  Sometimes, we do have to wait it out, sometimes we keep moving, but the fog will lift.  And the road is still there.

I'm not suggesting anyone drive unsafely, literally, in bad weather.  But I think we can use the idea to help point us to how we can move forward with faith, even when we can't see so clearly at times, as long as we know we are generally on the right road.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Power Lines: It's Not Our First Thought That Matters

Many of us have the idea that we cannot control our thoughts.  Sometimes we are ashamed of our thinking, or we feel ruled by it.  Sometimes we question it, and other times we just take our thoughts as givens.  We don't even know we are thinking sometimes, let alone feeling what we are thinking and reacting to it.

Especially in the world of addiction work, we often hear the idea that we are powerless.  And we are, I think, to some degree.  We are powerless over certain things and certain situations and certainly when it comes to other people.  But to what extent?  To what extent are we not powerless? To what extent do we effect other people?  To what extent are we effected by others? To what extent can we tune in to and work with our thoughts? Where are our power lines?

We all have a natural human flow of thought that moves through us.  And we are powerless over those thoughts as they initially run through us.  But we are not powerless over how we respond to them.  We are not powerless  to increase our awareness of them. We are not powerless to question them, slow them down, examine them and decide if they are true or false, or if we are assigning good and bad to them based on how we think of them.  And we are certainly not powerless over putting or not putting ourselves in places, or with people or in circumstances that we know will trigger thoughts that we may not want to have running through us.  We are not nearly as powerless as we think we are, or even as we might like to be sometimes.  I'm not saying that its easy necessarily, but I am saying that life can look pretty different and so many things can get so much better when we open up to the idea of opening up our minds to how we see things and what we believe.

Many times while we are unpacking the pain and examining the thoughts and the stories and our assignment of good and bad to things, we bump into our own inner competing priorities, needs, parts, morals and desires.  It's not always easy to sort it all out, but we stand a much better chance when we at least have some idea of where our power lines are.

Friday, December 23, 2016


“If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all.”

― Yogi Bhajan

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
-Viktor Frankl

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value"

"We cannot try to solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them"
-Albert Einstein

"Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must start with small steps."
-Saul Bellow

"You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day.  This is a power you can cultivate.  If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind.  That's the only thing you should be trying to control." - Elizabeth Gilbert

"Its funny:  I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience.  But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty end old tools - friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said 'Do the best you can with these, they will have to do' and mostly, against all odds, they do.
-Anne Lamott

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it"
-Helen Keller

"The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive.  You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity.  Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever have earned"
- J.K. Rowling

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference"  - Reinhold Niebuhr

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Pointing in the Right Direction (What do we really want?)

We have all probably been there, and most likely over and over again.  There  being that point and place where we have in mind what we should be doing, or how we should be handling something, or responding or behaving, and how we do end up handling it or responding or reacting.  There being how we want to act or feel or respond. Or at least, think we want to.  Sometimes its with our temper (this is step one in anger management), with our food, with our relationships, with our wellness routines.  We think we know what we want.  And we do.  On some level.  Mostly.  Probably.  Consciously.
But when we don't follow up with actions that support it, and when habit starts slipping into obsession, or out of control behavior, or even just too many slip ups, we can be well served by taking another look at want we want and where we are really pointed any why.

Slip ups and set backs are a normal part of any quest for better.  They are a learning opportunity, a source of information and a reason to stay curious about life and about our minds and hearts and psyches and bodies.  Sometimes we don't respond the way we seemingly want ourselves to because old habits are deep grooves in our psyche.  Sometimes its because we are in the same mindset that we've always been in.  And usually the mindset that got us into difficulty is not the same mindset that can get us out.  Even if we say we want to.  We need a new way of looking at how thought works, and how to work with our mind.  We need to start, and restart, and restart and look again and again at where we are really pointed and why.  Even if we think we know.  Especially when we think we know.  If we keep slipping up too much, its a signal that we need to take a look at what we really want. And its sometimes not as simple as it appears.  We sometimes have compelling, innocent, understandable ideas and thought stories that end up ruling our responses, instead of what we say and "know" we should be doing, saying.

All the great techniques and therapies and programs in the world (and there are many!) won't take hold if we are pointed unconsciously in the wrong direction.  And we often are!  And for good reasons! For example, someone who repeatedly picks fights with their spouse and knows they shouldn't or is trying to work on things because they know words and communication and language are so important in creating relationships, may keep engaging in fights anyway.  Someone who wants to stop bingeing may keep doing it even though they think that don't want to.  There are so many examples!

But sometimes, underneath, we have competing reasons.  We are often ashamed of them, or think we should be.  We often think we don't have a right to them, so we can't acknowledge them.  Sometimes our only communication seems like it is through what we are doing, or we, want to be understood, feel right, or feel powerful or understood or avoid emptiness.  Sometimes we feel punitive or we don't want to let someone off the hook.  It's usually anger on top of fear on top of desire.  And we don't give ourselves permission to unpack our motives honestly.   Especially if our mood has slipped out from under us or if we are lacking sleep or nutrients or a place to talk it through.

We can do it though.  We can have mixed motives and forgive ourselves for them. We can take a look at what our priorities really are, where we are pointed, what effect we really want to have and why.  We can do it without shame, without filtering and without letting anyone else off the hook.  There is so much freedom in this, and then we can begin to walk where we want to really be walking.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Just Because

When we get curious about our minds,  we sway back and forth between philosopy and technique, mind and body, validation and exploration, and in doing so, we uncover many personal truths and insights that help us move forward to the better place we are seeking. In my chair, I listen well and deeply to the pain, the thoughts, the confusion of mind and heart.  I listen to human experiences -  universal, yet unique too.  And somehow, usually,  healing flows, through all the doubts and through life being life and thoughts and feelings being what they humanly are.  And mostly in the not-alone-ness of the process we start to find ourselves, and find clarity.  And so when I came across this poem, by Phil Maher I was reminded once again of the power of thought, of how we often believe our innocent human minds in any give moment and  that what flows from there, depending on how we tend to it, can pull us down, or lift us gently above the turbulence, without ever having to do a thing.  Just because being open can point us there.

Just Because

Just because I know something
Doesn't mean I have to say it
Just because I'm right 
Doesn't mean I need to show you that you are wrong.

Just because I know a negative truth about someone
Doesn't mean I don't have to be kind to them
Just because I'm attracted to someone
Doesn't mean they are going to like me

Just because I believe something strongly
Doesn't mean I have to make others believe too
Just because I see a lot of evil in the world
Doesn't mean there isn't a lot of good too

Just because I can't see God's plan
Doesn't mean He doesn't have one
Just because I'm tired of waiting, that it's taking too much time, or won't happen
Doesn't mean I'm supposed to do something to make it happen.

Just because I'm strong or good at something
Doesn't mean I can take advantage of others.

Just because I think something is true
Doesn't mean it is true.                             

-Phil Maher (February 2016)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Quaity of Our Lives

"The quality of our lives comes down to the quality of our choices.  If we accept responsibility for the quality of our choices, nothing can stop us.  If we always blame the world, nothing will move us.  The degree to which we accept responsibility is the degree to which we can move our lives forward, gain perspective, humility and joy." - Dr. David Lieberman

There is a lot of talk in my office about shame.  About blame.  About whose fault things are.  Not just in our relationships with others, but in our relationship with ourselves.  There is a lot of confusion, on both a spiritual/psychic level and a physical/external level about what causes what, what influences what, or who, and how, and to what extent.  Why do we think the way do?  React the way do?  What shapes us?  Why are we "shape-able" to begin with.  And whose job is it to work on things? To tend to the dynamics of things.  To care for us, to take care of our feelings, our needs, our desires.  What exactly is our responsibility?  And our ability?And our capability? What are we aiming for?  What do we need? Why do we need it?

Okay, lots of good questions.  Overwhelming questions sometimes, depending on how we are addressing them, if we are even willing to or interested in addressing them.  And of course when we are in emotional pain, or we don't have, or don't believe we have, the things that we need, or long for, or want, these questions take a back seat.  We often don't even want to know about them.  But that does not mean that they are not there.  That they are not bubbling quietly underneath the surface, quietly niggling at us.

I think that when we are afraid to notice them we stay stuck in what we think is shame, or laziness, or fear.  And when they become part of our consciousness, even when we don't have quick or easy answers, relief starts to flood in.  We somehow find ourselves tooling around in the solutions instead of wallowing around in the problems.  If we are pointed toward looking not only at the external circumstances, but also at our deeper questions, we see that things get better.  That tending to the internal and external together often goes hand in hand toward better feelings about ourselves that are genuine and lasting, and not built on distraction, avoidance and auto-pilot.  There is a feeling of movement and self acknowledgement that we can access that erases the shame, the blame and the anxiety, and points us toward something much, much, better.

photo credit:
©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Instant Better

"You feel good when you do good"

Sometimes, there is an instant fix to our moods.

Sometimes, we are just a thought, or an awareness away from a different feeling, a different experience.  And sometimes, an action can transform us.

Here are a few of my top picks for simple instant not-on-line, not-substance-related, not-purchase-related, not-time-consuming, pick you ups:

1) Do something kind for someone anonymously.  You can do it not anonyomously too, but anonymously can be more fun.  It's private and precious and yours.  When you do something kind, you are instantly kind.  Your character is instantly elevated, and you have evidence of your contribution to the betterment of the world and human kind.  Pay for someone's coffee.  Pay the toll for the car behind you.  Leave some flowers for someone.  You never know who needs it, or who is hurting, but you can know that you did a good turn in the world. Trust that it worked.

2) Say something kind to someone. Someone you know, or someone you don't.  Doesn't matter.  Keep it short and simple.  Give a compliment.  Love your dress.  Nice tie.  Good idea.  

3) Say thank you to someone.  Thanks for holding the door, pushing the elevator button, taking out the garbage, sending you info, giving you a call.  Mean it.

4)  Let someone go ahead of you in line.  Be gracious.

5) Feed someone's meter.

5)  Smile.  Yes, I know, its cliche.  But it works.

Of course, these are not cover ups for our emotional pain, or our struggles, but sometimes when we get out of ourselves for even a moment, our thoughts can shift, the way we see things can shift.  Our biochemistry can shift.  And we can go back to dealing with the things we need to deal with, to letting them run through us without running over us.  Try it.