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To Learn to Love Ourselves

“There is luxury in self-reproach.  When we blame ourselves, we feel no one else has a right to blame us.”  — Oscar Wilde

Just as we don’t have the right to judge someone else, we don’t have the right to judge ourselves.  Our unhealthy script in the past was that when we did something we felt ashamed of, we judged ourselves guilty.  All too often, we then punished ourselves. Was that behavior an expression of our shame and sadness because of our defects? Punishing ourselves won’t stop our unhealthy behaviors; loving ourselves will.

We are grateful that our growth in our emotional health has taught us the difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt lets us feel remorse and sadness when our actions violate our values.  Guilt helps us know when we’ve acted badly; shame tells us we are bad.  Guilt gives us a way back to ourselves through making amends; shame leaves us hopeless.  To give in to shame and self-hatred only harms us and intensifies the power of our unhealthy behaviors.  There is a better way, and that’s to learn to love us.

Opinions, Feedback, Comments and Judgments

 

“Treat a work of art like a prince; let it speak to you first.” — Arthur Schopenhauer

There have been many times when I felt that I always had to have and offer an opinion about everything right away. After a movie or a concert, such as, I often wanted to step right in with my comments and judgments. I would just “shoot from the hip”, without thinking or being attentive to my feelings, or the feelings of others.

This can be a way of warding off the experience, enclosing it within certain words. I’m quite certain that all of us have feared that we might be caught off guard and compelled to change or expand our own ideas. We feared being too vulnerable!

Images, sounds, poems, and plays can cause us to open ourselves to the unfamiliar and the new, and if we are quiet and attentive, we can come to fresh insights and understandings. And so it is too, with people. If we are patient and willing to listen, we will always be learning and growing through contact with others.

The beauty and joy of life dwell within differences. I am learning to be open and attentive to what has not been part of my existence up to now, so that it may come to color and enhance my life.

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Feeling is the Inner Life

Expression is the Outer Life

I’ve realized that there’s a difference between my ability to feel, my ability to express my feelings, and my ability to let go.  I know there are many painful emotions I learned to suppress when I was young, particularly anger or sadness.  Other emotions might be difficult to feel because they are connected to past pain.

Yet there’s no letting go, no moving on, until I stop trying to avoid feelings such as sorrow, anger, rage or despair.  I have found the way to begin working through difficult feelings is to reach out to people with a phone call, email, or blog comment.  Other ways I have found to help are writing (blogging or journaling); having a good cry, or plan a healing ritual which can be as simple as taking a couple of days alone, just to think.  For some of us, turning to our Higher Power, as we know it provides the spiritual help and nourishment we need.

The release that will come as a result of expressing our feelings will help to ease the pain.  It’s not realistic to release all the pain from our past all at once, but we can begin by letting go of a little piece today.

When Decisions are Made Out of Fear

Declare your independence of all fear based limits. — Alan Cohen

I have found fear to be one of my most worst and ineffective tools for making decisions.  By “tools”, I mean the emotional coping mechanisms our mind creates during our life time and from our own set of unique and personal experiences.  These tools may be useful during a certain time period in our life because they protect us.  As humans we change, and some of our tools must change as well.  As a child, fear may have been an important tool, because it kept us out of harm’s way from something.  For example, I have a friend who has a two-year old, and to keep the child away from certain things around the house tells the child, “It’s hot.”  So now, when the child wants to touch something, he asks, “Hot?”  My friend has been effective at keeping his child away from certain harmful elements, but obviously, as the child matures, this tool must change.  As adults, I find that our tools don’t change often enough.  Fear based tools are common for us to carry with us into adult hood.  Fear based tools may distort reality, giving one an unrealistic platform for certain functions, such as decision-making.

Fear is the absence of love. Fear is where our higher power (God or the Universe) is not. Making choices out of fear keeps us from looking at the true cause of our pain or anguish. Pain, misery, aggravation are just a few of our negative emotions.  Our mind, our Ego, tells us that something out there in our world is causing us fear. We then believe we must resolve an issue or problem to get rid of the fear.  This process tends to distort reality, blinding us from the true source of our fear, the Ego.  It is our Ego, our mind, causing the fear. Our mind hides this fact from us. If we knew the true cause of our fear, we might feel we were wrong and put ourselves to blame, which then creates guilt.

Our Ego shelters us in this same way from guilt with all of our emotions.  Anger, frustration, embarrassment and sadness are not ours to own responsibility for; it is the outside world to blame.  Something or someone “out there” is the cause of the emotion.  The problem with this tool used by the mind is that it leaves us feeling powerless.  It leaves us feeling unable to change our feelings.  Our power is surrendered to something outside of our own self and at the mercy of this “thing”.  Many of us have learned by now that we can’t change another person.  So we believe we cannot change “it” nor can we change our own emotions or feelings.  We believe that this “thing” in the outside world must change for us to feel better.  The same holds true for every one of our emotions. If the outside world or something or someone in it is the cause of our emotion, then we are not to blame.  Clearly, it is that “thing” “out there” that is responsible for our emotions. This way of thinking makes us feel we are not to blame and not at fault.  The only way to truly heal the problem is to heal the fear.

Through our awareness that it is our reaction to an event and those stories we have fabricated in our mind creating what we believe to be the truth, our power is restored. We have the power to create change and happiness.  We begin realistically and authentically to heal the fear.  No longer is there a dependency on the outside world for our own true joy.

Making choices or decisions out of fear are actions not from God or the Universe.  When an individual has even a remote feeling that a choice or decision is being made from a fear based emotion, I recommend one to stop and take time to do the necessary inventory of one’s own feelings.  Do not make a decision based on fear.  Some of my personal friends and acquaintances go so far as to even do the opposite that a fear based decision may suggest.  I recommend that if one becomes aware that a decision is being made with fear as a driving force, to stop. Breathe deeply in and out and go inside one’s inner Self for direction. I often suggest the use of a simple technique I refer to as “STAR”.  STAR is an acronym for:  Stop, Think, Assess and Redirect to a healthy alternative.  Even the simple exercise of breathing deeply in and out will help to release the fear.  Susan Jeffers, a life coach and spiritual guide suggests, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Words Can Hurt

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Never forget what a man says to you when he is angry.”  — Henry Ward Beecher

Do we speak the truth when we’re angry?  I know that I am often quick to say, “I really didn’t mean it,” and I may even try to make amends for my thoughtlessness.  But people, especially children, rarely forget what was said to them in anger.

Angry words hurt and mark people; especially when trussed up with dishonesty and distortions.  Even if our parents didn’t really mean it, those angry voices and words are still with us.  We often come to believe that our parents didn’t love us or respect us; otherwise, how could they have said those angry things that still hurt? We still may believe this way, or “make up in our minds” that the source of the verbal onslaught of ugly may hold some sliver of truth.

We will always have moments of anger.  But we can think twice before letting anger, dishonesty, and distortions dictate our speech.  Words can hurt and people remember.