Sometimes we have a hard time accepting something and as a result we lean into eternal hope. That place where anything is possible; where miracles can happen and what we wish for will come true. Perhaps we hope that a relationship will improve, or an outcome will come out in our favour – perhaps we realize that the boundaries we put in place are respected, or our expectations that someone will change will come to pass. Although eternal hope is usually linked to our emotion brain, we can also use our logical brain to help us accept that what we wish for may not be possible.
My friend Gurlie (and fellow therapist) remarked something to me that she had learned from a client that indeed could help us to accept what will come to pass – “While it’s possible, it’s not probable.”
We may know it’s possible, yet the facts also allow us to recognize that it may not be probable. What a soft and gentle way to help us accept what we perhaps are struggling with.
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If there are two things that have been confirmed to me as a therapist, it is that we like plan and purpose. We feel better when moving forward (no matter the pace), and when the essence of our being aligns with purpose. We feel comforted by meaning – in our work, play, family life, community. One of the ways to achieve this is through volunteering with an organization or cause that is dear to us. Being service oriented allows us to focus on other; to make a difference:
- Volunteering decreases the likelihood of developing depression. When we volunteer, it most likely includes social interaction which helps to fend off loneliness and depression. It also helps to keep us engaged – an important element to keeping the blues away.
- Volunteering improves our physical health. An article from Harvard Medical school notes that “A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.”
- Volunteering builds empathy. When we are service oriented, our focus is the other – we are more likely to experience what it feels like to be in another life position. We will begin to understand and relate to people in a more empathic way.
- Volunteering can help your career. Never underestimate how volunteering can add to your overall work life – my first job right out of university was with an organization I had volunteered with the previous summer.
- Volunteering allows joy into our lives. In our busy lives, we often forget to actively seek joy. If we volunteer on a regular basis, we are allowing moments of happiness and fulfillment into our life experience.
We are always comforted by plan and purpose. As Mahatma Gandhi once said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
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I love the thought behind this quote: “What if your fairy godmother is the wisest, smartest version of your self – whispering from the future? -Blissimo”
One thing that I know for sure is that I am certainly a wiser version of myself at 52. The knowledge and experiences that we gather along the way help to inform our decisions, allow us to be more aware of our surroundings and can definitely help us to not feel quite so defenseless when faced with adversity. Perhaps what adds to this wiser, smarter version of ourselves is also a conscious decision on our part to always be moving forward, for it is in growth that we find the ability to be reflective. It is about being curious, not only about what interests us, but also about the things that hold us back; to give ourselves permission to expand or change what may not be working for us anymore; to attend to our instincts. Perhaps it is in this evolutionary time and space of growth that we can experience the unfolding of our selves into our own fairy godmother.
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Who would have thought that Newton’s First Law of Physics was going to be useful in helping to understand the cycle of depression? But his Law of Inertia is often a good way to comprehend how depression can take hold of us.
Depression uses two ways to keep us in it’s grip. One is through isolation; it likes to isolate us from the activities we like to enjoy and the people we like to spend time with. The second way is that depression kills effort; we often feel a change in our levels of motivation when feeling blue. Take isolation and no effort and we have the perfect recipe for disengagement.
What is interesting about this, is that disengagement itself can lead to feeling blue. If we purposefully stayed in bed for days (when we weren’t in a depressed state), we would soon begin to experience the symptoms of depression! And so we can turn to Newton for some advice when it comes to beating the blues – get moving! Get up, get showered, make plans, get outside (even if you don’t feel like it); for a body in motion stays in motion and you will feel better for it at the end of your day.
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When our kids are having a meltdown, tough go, or panic attack we can inadvertently compound the situation by telling them to ‘Calm down’ or ‘Relax.’ Most of the time, this is also said with a tone that is less than calm.
Taking a deep breath ourselves before using these alternatives will help to deliver a supportive message:
“You look upset. Do you need a hug?
“I can see that you are struggling with something. Do you need my help?”
“Hold my hand and let’s take a few deep breaths together.”
“Let’s fix this problem together.”
“Let’s start by counting to 10 together.”
“I can see that you are upset. Tell me about what is bothering you.”
As parents, we have the ability to teach our children that the emotions they are feeling are valid. We can give them the gift of normalization by acknowledging their emotional struggle. By focusing in on how to calm when anger or upset takes over, we are teaching them that they have the ability to contain, process and choose an alternative behaviour. It may take a bit of practice on our part, but the outcome will be worth the effort. 🙂
To compliment yesterday’s post on beginnings and endings, this lovely prose by Lang Leav is entitled “New Beginnings.”
If I have learned anything this year, it is that I won’t ever be ready for what life throws at me. I won’t have the right words when it counts; I won’t know what to choose when fate itself is staring me down. But now I know I don’t always need to have the right answer.
I’ve learned I can go on waiting for something, sustained by hope and nothing more – or I can put it aside and shrug my shoulders. Bravely accept the fact that I can’t keep my heart safe any more than I can stop love from taking everything from me.
I have learned to stop saying yes when I don’t mean it – to live as authentically as I know how. To allow the tips of my fingers to skirt the darkness, as long as I remember to keep my eyes fixed on the light. And as one door opens and another closes, I will move forward with the knowledge that unlike so many others, I have another year ahead of me – another shot at making it all the way around the sun, and a chance to get it right this time.
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When we think about the beginning of something, usually something exciting comes to mind. The start of a holiday is always filled with the thoughts of adventure, a new relationship is saturated with the honeymoon phase, the nervous jitters of a new job is often tempered with possibility.
When we think about something ending, usually unpleasant thoughts are quickly enveloped with feelings we wish to avoid. Endings bring about change and a new and potentially uncomfortable reality; they remind us of the fragility present in our lives, the passing of time and how unpleasant being out of our comfort zone really is.
And yet endings are a necessary part of our life’s experience:
- Endings signify transition. We can’t avoid transitional periods in our lives; good ones (birth of a new baby) or painful ones (death of a loved one.) Endings allow us to envelope a new reality; one that allows us to integrate the transition into our lives in order to adjust our comfort zone.
- Endings allow us to gather strength. When we spend time grieving, when we give the loss adequate space, we give ourselves the gift of a strengthened spirit. We tend to not sweat the small stuff quite as much as we used to.
- Endings allow us to move forward. With every beginning, we have the gift of choice. With every ending, we also have the ability to choose.
- Endings allow us to see the beginning. It is never quite so clear at the ending; after all, we must give ourselves the time to let go. But in looking back, we can often see that the ending brought about a different purpose for us. One we may not have chosen, but have gathered strength in along the way.
Beginnings and endings are a part of our journey. Change is a part of our reality and sometimes we have no choice but to adjust our sails and reset our course. As Lazarus Long quoted “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”
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Over-estimating danger is a common thinking trap. Often tied to a core belief or learned from past experience, we can fall prey to believing that something bad is going to happen. For some people, it can be an accompanying thought to a low-level feeling of anxiety that is often described as “a feeling of dread.”
If your childhood was filled with uncertainty or chaos, you most likely live with low level anxiety. Our fight-or-flight system responds to this low level anxiety as “something is wrong.” The same will occur if you have been triggered to a past trauma. This can create a loop of feelings, thoughts and behaviours; therefore referred to as a thinking trap. When we over-estimate danger, we exaggerate the chance that something bad will happen.
We are much better served when we begin to realize that these thoughts are tied to the past and are now misplaced anxiety. We can challenge the thought by asking ourselves “Am I confusing the possibility with certainty?” It is about using our rational brain to comfort our emotional brain; focusing on the facts of “I am safe, I am in charge of me, I have choices.”
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A client remarked to me the other day, “When the why is strong enough, the how will follow.” As I reflected upon this with her, I was once again brought back to one of my favourite words: curiosity.
People come to therapy because they want something to be fixed; they want to feel better. Sometimes that comes with a clarity as to what they are struggling with; other times it is obscure or hidden from them and they are basing their presenting issue on feelings or symptoms. In any case, whether they realize it or not, what they are seeking is the ‘why.’
We often rush to seek solution which makes total sense – after all, we are feeling crummy and want it to end. If we can find immediate relief, we alleviate the symptom. Unfortunately, this type of relief is usually temporary (think of the way we soothe ourselves with food, alcohol or marijuana), and the more encompassing issue is still present, just waiting around for us to do something about it.
And this is where the ‘why’ comes in. When we can gain a greater understanding of how our patterns, core beliefs and relationship dynamics were formed, we can move towards acceptance. The freedom of letting go of something that weighs us down is what allows structural change to form.
When the why is strong enough, the how will follow. Bottom line: we can allow ourselves to push past fear to where curiosity is patiently waiting for us.
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What is a proper apology? I can tell you that any apology that starts out with “I’m sorry but…” is not an apology. Neither is “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
Essentially when you word an apology in these ways, you are negating the whole purpose of saying sorry which is to acknowledge a wrong doing while seeking repair. It is about owning up to your role in the conflict.
Essentially, you wish to say you are sorry for the behaviour you feel guilty about EVEN when the person you are apologizing to may have their own reason to apologize. Example: When you want to say “I’m sorry that I yelled at you but you really pissed me off,” actually needs to be “I’m sorry that I yelled at you when I got angry. It is not the way I want to handle things.” Period. End of story. If you are lucky enough to get an “It’s okay, I got heated too and said things I didn’t mean either” than you are off to a great start in repairing the rift. And if you don’t get an answer, or the person you are saying sorry to is still feeling prickly, then reward the effort. Chalk that one up to a healthy choice in the relationship books and you are free to let go of any guilt that is still lingering around for having lost your cool. 😊
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