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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: 2017

Monday, May 29, 2017

I Just Don't Know What to Do....

Across the wide range of topics that come in up my office from relationships, to career, to sex, to parenting, folks often say, in many different ways "I just don't know what to do....."

It's very delicious indeed (better than Rocky Road Ice Cream) when we have clarity.  Not the clarity that comes from anger, or revenge or fear or low self esteem or crazy brain on revved-up thinking.  But the clarity that comes from a calm, cool, sweet, quiet, peaceful place in your psyche or soul or heart and settles in like a soft feather or a cool pool of water.... and stays with you a bit.  And you just know.

But that's more and more rare these days.  We are so very distracted.  Our quiet time in minimal.  Our interruptions are maxed.  Phones buzzing, etc.  So I think we are a bit more blocked than we'd like to be from our own innate health and wisdom.  But there is a go to, I believe.

When we don't know what to do, even when we have a list of good options and we still don't know, we can start with a different list:  The What Not To Do List.  That list, we usually have a bit more clarity on, especially the basics.  

Lets take Parenting for example.  You may not know what particular parenting approach is the best at the moment, or what the right words are exactly, or whether to say yes or no or maybe or I'm not sure ask me later.... Or to validate, or just listen or to suggest or to wait or to reassure or guide, or encourage or give in or hold out or lay low or come close or/and... add your own...But we always can fall back on our list of What Not To Do.  What we know does not work, or is against our parenting creed, or goal or the effect we would like to have, or what goes against common wisdom.  (Hitting, name calling, yelling, condemning,  threatening, bullying, judging, ridiculing, attacking, accusing, ignoring, shaming, demanding, berating...  add your own...).  

Same with relationships.  We are not perfect.  We slip up.  But we generally know what points us towards closeness and what creates distance.  We usually know what not to do and that when we do something from the Not List, we are most likely feeling very angry or hurt or insecure or afraid.  And we are not looking past it (hard to do in the moment, of course, but possible with practice and perspective).

Expanding the What Yes (or Maybe) To Do List can often take some time, some unpacking, some poking around in our hearts and minds and psyches and thoughts, and some talking, of course.  And there is always, my favorite:  Do the Next Right Small Thing.  That is, when we know what that is...

But in a pinch, and there are usually a bunch pretty regularly, we can take heart in Not Doing anything from the obvious Not list.  I am not saying that on some irregular occasions there might be something on the Not list that should float over to the Maybe List. (and I do mean float, as in, calm, and planned and coming from wisdom). But we can take heart and go easier on ourselves and others when we  don't know what to yes do, that at least we stayed away from the What Not to Do List and that whatever else we choose, perhaps with some faith, with turn out to be for the good.

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.