tools to make life easier
Last week I posted about the importance of Saying Yes to Healing. In that post I touched on how, when we don’t allow ourselves to experience an emotion, we end up protecting ourselves – more specifically, protecting the part of us that feels hurt, sad, angry, etc. This prevents the natural flow that would cause the emotion to dissipate.
Why don’t we allow ourselves to fully experience an emotion at the time it comes up for us?
There are times when it may not be safe or appropriate to experience an emotion fully – for example, during a meeting at work, in an emergency situation where we need to respond, or in some situations with our young children. Growing up, we may learn that certain emotions are not acceptable in our family so we learn to hide them.
Unless we make a point of making room to feel those feelings at a better time (after the work meeting, when the emergency is over, when we have a little time away from our kids), those feelings go into storage in the body.
One of the primary reasons we resist our feelings is because they can be uncomfortable. We would rather not feel anything than have to be with our suffering.
We add to the discomfort by judging our feelings: we tell ourselves, “I shouldn’t feel this way” or “I don’t have a right to feel this strongly about it; it was just a little thing.” We deny emotions that we think would threaten a current relationship in an effort to keep the peace.
As time goes by, we can make a habit of ignoring or denying our feelings. We develop a strong mind that attempts to deal with emotions by talking us out of them, encouraging us to “be reasonable.”
After a while, we may not even be aware of our emotions in the moment. They may occur to us hours after the event that triggered them, if at all.
These feelings don’t just go away, however; they collect in the body. When we lose our awareness of our feelings, we lose a critical connection to knowing ourselves. Carrying the unfelt feelings can weigh us down and put a drain on our vital energy. Our heart center becomes clogged and closed.
When we give ourselves the time and space to deliberately turn our attention to our feelings, they can begin to move.
Noticing our emotions
If we are in the habit of sequestering our feelings from ourselves and living in our head, then the first step is deliberately noticing what emotions are present for us in a given moment.
Go ahead and ask yourself right now… What am I feeling right right now?
Naming our emotions
Labeling our emotions can be helpful in allowing us to be present with them without feeling swamped by them.
See if you can be aware of your emotions without having to change them – even without having to explain or justify why you feel this way.
Being kind toward ourselves supports us in allowing our feelings to be present without judging them.
When you are having a hard time, imagine giving yourself a hug and saying something supportive to yourself, as you would do for a good friend.
Like changing any habit, it can take some practice before we are aware of our emotions in the moment they come up. As we open ourselves up to this flow, gradually unpleasant emotions stick around for less time and there’s more room in our life for joy, gratitude, and love.
Wishing you abundant joy and love,
What’s the single most important thing you can do to heal?
The answer is: to say “yes” to healing.
When we get hurt, either physically or emotionally, we tend to withdraw. A part of us pulls back and puts our guard up. This could take the form of muscles tensing up around an injured part of the body, or pulling away from other people after a difficult social interaction.
In this pulling back we resist the flow – of energy through the body, of emotions that we don’t want to feel.
This can also happen when an event comes up in our life that goes against our idea of what “should” be. When we don’t want to accept what is, it’s as though an inner part of us crosses their arms, plants their feet and becomes immovable. This inflexible part of us stops the natural fluidity of our emotions and our life force energy.
Without flow, without allowing movement to happen, at least part of us remains stuck in our original hurt state. It’s ironic that our efforts to prevent further pain (in the form of guarding, protecting, hardening up) are the very thing that keep us from healing.
The body and the heart have an innate drive toward healing. If you cut your finger, unless some additional insult is introduced (like bacteria), it will heal on its own.
When we are guarding ourselves, we are essentially saying “no.” No, I won’t move; no, this isn’t really happening; no, I won’t forgive or forget; no, I won’t let this go because I don’t want anything like it to ever happen again.
We put all our focus on what we don’t want — what we are saying “no” to in life.
Saying “yes” to healing begins with giving ourselves permission to heal. It means softening where we had hardened, relaxing where we had tensed up, and being willing to see what is happening now. This doesn’t mean condoning or approving of whatever it was that caused the injury; it means being willing to be where we are. From this place we can begin to envision what we would like instead.
As we say “yes,” we allow the forces of nature to assist in our healing. We allow the movement that has wanted to carry us toward resolution all along.
Where have you not been willing to let something go?
Where are you resisting accepting the facts of a situation?
What are you focused on NOT wanting?
These questions will point you in the direction of where you’ve been withholding healing.
If you are willing, take a moment right now to say “yes.” Close your eyes, take a few breaths, and give yourself permission to heal. Imagine opening up to the energy of life and allowing it to move through a particular situation or through all areas of your life.
Saying “yes” unlocks the door – the one we had closed shut when we got hurt – so healing can happen. We can take this a step further by asking for assistance on our healing journey. Stay tuned for next week’s post about asking for help, especially when you’ve been reluctant to do so.
When I was in training as a creativity coach I was also working on a jewelry show. I had been a jeweler for many years and I liked offering a spring show of all new work. The only problem was that at that point I had no ideas. So when I say I was working on a jewelry show, what I really mean was I was giving myself a bad time for not working on it.
I began to realize how much I limited my creativity. As soon as I would get an idea, I would shoot it down. It started to dawn on me how many rules I had for myself ― rules that were keeping me from starting to work.
I sat down one day and started a list of rules that I had absorbed from my family, my teachers, my culture. I paid particular attention to my rules around my creative work. Here are a few:
- Don’t waste materials.
- Only make things that people will want to buy.
- Save the very precious items for a “really good” project, if using them at all.
Looking at my list, it became quite clear to me why I wasn’t starting: I had boxed myself in. I couldn’t make a move that wouldn’t go against (or have a strong potential to go against) at least one of the restrictions I put on my creative work. Creating, like living, requires some experimentation and that means being willing to risk doing something that bombs.
Nearly all of us have internal rules we follow. I don’t just mean the ones laid down as laws in our society ― I mean “made up” rules we’ve picked up from those around us or created for ourselves after getting hurt (“I won’t ever do THAT again!”). Our rules often come from fears and are held in place by fear.
Here are some other rules we commonly try to abide by in our lives:
- Don’t look like an idiot in front of other people.
- If you can’t do it perfectly, don’t do it at all.
- You can’t call yourself an expert in anything unless you have a certificate or diploma for it.
- Don’t make other people uncomfortable.
Attempting to stay in line with all our rules can keep us from starting a project ― as it did for me ― or it can keep us from seeing options. Usually when we have the sense that we don’t have any choices in a situation, it’s because we’ve semi-consciously ruled out all the options before they even make it to full awareness.
Once I had my list of rules, I re-evaluated each one and gave myself permission to break or ignore some. I still keep to wearing my seat belt while riding in the car, but I’ve completely broken my “don’t write in books” rule. It’s been tremendously liberating! And you know what else? I started a whole new collection of jewelry that spring that felt like the most original work I had ever done.
You can play, too. I think you’ll be amazed (1) how many rules you have and (2) how much energy it frees up when you are able to let go of some of those rules. Even just having the awareness of the way you restrict yourself in your life, your relationships, your work, the way you express (or not) your emotions, and more can help you to make a conscious choice about how you react, instead of being automatically lead by these rules.
What are the rules you live by?
Reflecting on each one, is this a restriction you want to continue following?
If not, give yourself permission to let it go. I found it easier to start by deliberately breaking little rules like the one about not writing in books. Once you discover that these rules are made up, it gives you more confidence in breaking them.
Dreams that point out we are limiting ourselves:
Your Higher Self communicates to you each night through your dreams. Dream symbols that show you are limiting yourself or holding back in some way are:
* boxes (from being “boxed in”)
* the number 4 (similar to a box, like four walls)
“Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.”
― Rosamund Stone Zander, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life
Wishing you freedom, choices, and love,
Most of us have had the experience of not wanting to take responsibility for an issue or area of our life. This reluctance can show up as denial, procrastination or avoidance with following through with tasks.
Our reluctance to deal with a situation can have it’s root in several places, including:
- fear of increased pressure and unmeetable expectations,
- thinking that we’re not capable of handling it,
- fear of giving something up to make the changes we think would be required to address the issue,
- rebelling against responsibility because we took on too much responsibility as children,
- telling ourselves that it’s someone else’s problem to fix or not a problem at all, or
- just straight up not wanting to deal with it.
Dreams will sometimes urge us to take responsibility for a part of life.
Your Higher Self communicates to you each night through your dreams. The primary dream symbol indicating this would be dreaming of a baby (not being pregnant, giving birth, or young children — those have a different meaning). Often times dreams like this feature a baby that is “not our baby,” just to highlight the fact that we aren’t currently taking responsibility for it.
Is there something in your life that you’re not attending to right now? Here’s a process that can help.
Notice what you’re saying to yourself about being responsible. Usually there is a story or belief sitting just below our conscious awareness about what being responsible means for us, about us, and regarding other’s expectations for us.
Grab a piece of paper and a pen right now and give yourself 3-5 minutes to write. Do your best to keep the pen moving, even if it means repeating what you just wrote. Begin your writing with “Being responsible for this means that…”
What did you discover as you did the writing exercise?
Reflecting on what you wrote, ask yourself “Is that really true?” Is it really true if I do this well one time that I should be able to do it well from now on? Is it really true that if I take responsibility for this, I’m letting someone else off the hook for their part in it? Is it really true that I can’t handle it?
As you question your beliefs about responsibility, see if you can identify the actual facts of the situation. What is the cost to you of *not* taking responsibility for this issue or area of your life?
What would being responsible look like in this situation? What might be a small step you could take toward it?
There are times when taking responsibility brings up fear or the feeling of being overwhelmed. Bring your focus of attention to the very next step. If you find yourself generalizing about what taking responsibility means for the future or thinking of all the steps involved, return your focus to today, right now.
I’ll leave you with a poem from David Whyte, below.
Start Close In
Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
way of starting
Start with your own
give up on other
don’t let them
your own voice,
Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
heroics, be humble
start close in,
for your own.
Start close in,
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don’t want to take.
~David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems
In a couple of hours I’ll be taking my aunt to a doctor appointment. This is something we do quite frequently given that she has Alzheimer’s Disease and I am her Power of Attorney for Health-care.
My aunt can be quite an intense person — very judgmental, self-centered and with a strong temper. I still remember the dents in her car which she herself put there by beating it with her briefcase when she got angry one day. That was many years ago, when she still had all her faculties.
A couple of years ago, before each visit I would call in every kind of psychic protection I could think of. I did my best to let her rage and lashing words bounce off of me, but maintaining that level of vigilance could be exhausting.
My interactions with her became so difficult for me that my doctor told me he was concerned I’d have a stroke. And yet, while I could hire help with some things, I couldn’t simply opt out of my relationship or duty as Power of Attorney. I needed to find a better way to handle it.
One day I received this guidance: “be more like a beach and less like a wall.” In my mind I could see the waves rolling onto the beach and then rolling back out again. I understood the message. If I don’t resist her negativity, it can pass just as easily as it came to me. If I argue against it or try to block it then that’s when I feel damaged.
I imagine the martial arts masters who avoid an oncoming attack just by turning to one side and letting the attack pass by them. When there is no place for the attack to land, when I don’t try to block it or attack back, then it simply falls flat.
Here are the secrets I’ve discovered to surviving our encounters:
- Limit my time with her. This includes giving myself permission to leave, even if I’ve only been there a few minutes. Granted, sometimes we have to go to an appointment and, as much as I might want to, I can’t leave her on the curb to get home on her own. A certain amount of time together may be required. That’s when the rest of this list becomes really helpful.
- Don’t take things personally. This is the one thing that, when I forget it, creates the most grief for me. If (ok, I’ll be honest, WHEN) she says something that really gets under my skin, I can usually trace it to something I’ve taken personally that wasn’t really about me. For example, at our last appointment the doctor asked her how often I come to visit. She replied, “3 or 4 times a year.” In fact I had just seen her two days earlier. I have the option of taking this personally and getting wound up about it, feeling defensive or insulted…or I can remind myself that her sense of time and the words she uses about time (months, days, years, hours) are very loose concepts at best. Truthfully it has nothing to do with me.
- Give it a “pass.” I think of many of my aunt’s comments as invitations. They are invitations for me to engage in an argument or an opportunity to allow my feelings to be hurt. Most of the time I’m able to let these invitations go by without responding to them. Sometimes in my mind I imagine stepping aside and watching her words fall on the ground beside me.
- Aftercare. It helps me to talk about our visits. Usually I can just tell the story once or twice and be done with it. If I feel compelled to keep re-telling it, I refer myself to #2 on this list. When I get home I like to shift my attention by going for a walk or watching a clip of kittens on Facebook. A good shower or smudging can help, washing away any residue from our interaction that I might have brought home with me.
My aunt is only in her sixties, so I expect I’ll have time to further refine my approach. In the meantime, I hope this is helpful to those of you who, like me, have family members whose welfare is your responsibility but who can take a toll on your own well-being.
If you have thoughts or comments, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me through the Contact page.
When learning something new, we usually aren’t very good at it. Please know that this is normal. If you want to bolster your confidence with a particular skill, the best way to do that is to practice, practice, practice.
If you are someone who expects yourself to be an expert with new skills or knowledge right away, getting yourself to engage in practicing that skill can be difficult. Try redefining success as being engaged in growing as a person, rather than executing a skill perfectly.
It can be challenging for us to believe in our abilities, even when they are clear to other people. We can distract ourselves from living our own brilliance by comparing our talents to those of other people. We forget that we are our own unique mix of strengths and gifts, different from anyone else and very much needed just as we are.
You may have had an experience growing up, either at school or with your family, of really shining at something and getting in trouble for it. Some of us were discouraged from bringing too much attention to ourselves, as though it were bad manners to be gifted at something. Or you may have drawn fire from someone who was jealous or uncomfortable with your innate talents.
In this case, you may need to give yourself permission to go against the “rules” of your parents or teachers. Doing some work to further separate yourself from their influence may be helpful.
When we lack confidence generally or in a particular area of our life we tend to hold back. Confidence can evolve naturally from having a lot of experience practicing a skill, but if we are holding ourselves back from practicing then we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to develop confidence in that way.
In addition to practicing, here are a few more ways to boost your confidence:
- Remind yourself of past accomplishments and successes. You might want to write about them and keep it someplace you can reread it when you need a boost. One exercise I sometimes invite people to do in my classes is to think of a time when you were bold or courageous and it worked out, then write about it.
- When someone gives you positive feedback that’s meaningful to you, save it someplace you can refer back to. If they gave this compliment verbally, jot it down. If they wrote you an email or a card, you might want to post it in a place where you see it regularly.
- Our body posture actually influences the way we think. You can use this to your advantage by taking 2 minutes to strike a “power pose.” Think of your favorite superhero standing strong with head held high, shoulders back, hands on their hips. Or you can put your arms up in the air like an athlete who has just won a gold medal. Holding this pose for just 2 minutes will actually impact your mood and your thoughts.
- There’s an old saying: “fake it ’til you make it.” This can be helpful when it comes to building confidence. Adopt the body language, posture, gestures, expressions and tone of voice that go along with being genuinely confident and practice acting that way. You can play with this in relatively low stakes situations like when you’re at the grocery store. This way it’s easier to tap into before going into a situation that makes you nervous.
- An affirmation can be helpful with building confidence. An affirmation is basically creating a new thinking habit by deliberately repeating the new thought. Like any new habit, it takes repetition for the new habit to take hold. It helps if the statement you come up with is one that you can believe, at least a little bit. If the statement brings up resistance and disbelief for you then you’re just practicing resistance and disbelief around the thought.
- Notice people who are like you, with similar background, education, or age, who are successful. Instead of comparing yourself to them, see if you can take it as proof that you can do it, too.
Dreams that encourage confidence
Your Higher Self communicates to you each night through your dreams. Though these symbols can hold other meanings as well, dream symbols that convey your Higher Self wants you to be more confident are:
- men, especially a man who is very confident. This is not because men are more confident than woman; it’s because confidence draws on masculine energy, which we all have.
- the number 1–this reminds you that you are unique.
- the color white, especially when mixed or featured with other colors, can reflect faith, hope, or confidence.
- being especially confident in a dream OR having a notable lack of confidence, such as telling other dream characters you’re not capable.
If you’re curious to hear more about how confidence shows up in dreams, hop on over to our radio show archive to listen to this episode.
“We have to risk being full of ourselves in order to see what we’re full of.” ~ Michael Meade
I caught myself the other day, composing a birthday post to a friend on Facebook, about to write “I wish you all good things.” I stopped in my tracks, thinking “is that really what I would wish for them?”
While part of me certainly doesn’t want my friends and family to encounter hardships or to be unhappy, another part of me wouldn’t want to take that way from them, either.
Grappling with challenges is fundamental to our growth and evolution as people. To protect those close to us from those struggles or to wish it away would be to confine them to a life of mediocrity and inertia.
When we undertake a new skill or project, we are bound to make mistakes and have disappointments as we learn, little by little, a new territory. To avoid the experience of falling down, we must never venture to walk. Mastery will always be out of reach unless we risk failure.
Through wrestling with difficult experiences we learn what we are capable of handling — and in some cases we expand our capacity for resilience. Author and mythologist Michael Meade says that when we come through a crisis in our lives, we have the choice to grow bigger or shrink smaller as people. Without these tests of fortitude we have no opportunity to become bigger people.
I recently stumbled on this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, who ventured to take this idea a step further — not just releasing the desire to protect others from challenges, but actively wishing it for them:
“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities — I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not — that one endures.”
Alain be Botton writes about Nietzsche’s stance in his book, Consolations of Philosophy:
“Fulfillment was to be reached not by avoiding pain, but by recognizing its role as a natural, inevitable step on the way to reaching anything good.”
I confess I still find it hard to watch friends make choices in their lives that I predict will lead to misery. And harder still to watch it in the children who are dear to me. Yet, I also would not want for them a watered-down existence of perpetual comfort with no growth.
I find some consolation in this idea, given that we can’t actually protect ourselves or anyone else from hard times. The friend who would choose the path I see as leading to certain disaster would not likely be talked out of it, even if I tried, just as I would not have been talked out of my own foolish undertakings.
History has also shown me that the decisions I judged to be perilous in others’ lives have at times worked out for them. In fact, my prophetic skills in this area have not always been accurate, so who am I to try to persuade them this way or that?
So if I wish you happy birthday on Facebook, I won’t be wishing you “all good things,” because I want much more for you than that. I wish you all the depth and richness that life has to offer, including those experiences that help us to develop into our fullest capacity.
I leave you with this poem from Rilke…
By Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly
I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.
The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.
What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great.
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.
When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers’ sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.
Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.
True Radiance Healing Arts offers workshops and individual sessions for life coaching and healing in Edmonds, Wash. Owner and Healing Facilitator Susan Pullen has more than 20 years of experience in helping people with chronic pain, spiritual exploration, and getting unstuck. If you’re looking for help discovering your life purpose, contact us today!
Although our soul healing, family constellations, spiritual mentoring, and life coaching modalities can be a great complement to working with a healthcare provider or therapist, our work and the information here is in no way intended to substitute for proper medical or mental health care.
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- Friday: 9 am–5 pm
Evening and weekend appointments are available; contact us with your needs.
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True Radiance Healing Arts offers life coaching, family constellations, spiritual mentoring, energy work, shamanic healing,
and more in Edmonds, WA