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Real Connection – Relationship Reality

“Life delights in life.”  — William Blake

How do we connect with other people?  Do we rely on conflict, suffering, manipulation, gossip or one-up-man ship?  Do we create relationships that can be controlled safely and then call that “reality?”

Real connection requires two people, both wanting to be in the relationship, to approach each other as equals.  A good relationship brings us happiness, growth and a satisfying feeling of closeness.  We can be ourselves, without adjusting our beliefs or behavior to please the other person or to keep up the relationship.  The moment we abandon our equality, we have a power struggle, not a relationship.

Previously, the only connections we made were between us and a hunger and an appetite that was never filled.  Once we began our process of personal growth we began to enjoy the real connections with people; the true joy that comes with giving and receiving.


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That’s Who I Used to Be

“Every forward step we take we leave some phantom of ourselves behind.”  –John Spalding

There are some people who knew all too well the person I was – before I started to focus on becoming a more emotionally healthy person through personal growth.  I know that a person can’t do the kind of work I have on myself and remain unchanged.  However, for whatever reason, these people cling to the toxic images in their minds of my former self.  I know that each day brings more depth to my spirituality, and with that comes change.

A friend of mine once shared with me that he begins each day by saying out loud, “O.K. God, surprise me!”  Although each day brings new challenge, the one thing it won’t bring is perfection.  I know that each day I can expect a mixed bag of experiences and all kinds of emotions to match.

If I begin to feel discouraged because of someone’s inability or refusal to see how different I have become, or even negative about life in general, I cultivate an attitude of gratitude by looking back at how far I have come.  I remind myself, its progress I’m looking for in myself, not perfection.  There’s always something to be grateful for, including the ability to be grateful!

Courage is a Lot Like Love

The Cowardly Lion with Dorothy

From the Wizard of Oz: The Cowardly Lion with Dorothy

“Courage is like love; it must have hope for nourishment.” -Napoleon

In the story, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, on her way down the yellow brick road helps the Scarecrow from being impaled on the pole he has been on, helps the Tin Woodman move again with a simple oil can and encourages them and the Cowardly Lion to journey with her and Toto to the Emerald City. The Scarecrow wants to get a brain, the Tin Woodman a heart, and the Cowardly Lion, courage. All are convinced by Dorothy that the Wizard can help them too. Together, they overcome obstacles on the way including narrow pieces of the yellow brick road, Kalidahs, a river, and the Deadly Poppies.

When each traveler meets with the Wizard of Emerald City, he appears each time as someone or something different. To Dorothy, the Wizard is a giant head; the Scarecrow sees a beautiful woman; the Tin Woodman sees a ravenous beast; the Cowardly Lion sees a ball of fire. The Wizard agrees to help each of them, but one of them must kill the Wicked Witch of the West. The Wizard provides the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion with a head full of bran, pins, and needles (“a lot of bran-new brains”), a silk heart stuffed with sawdust, and a potion of “courage.” Because of their faith in the Wizard’s power, these otherwise useless items offer a focus for their desires.

Courage never operates in a vacuüm; we can always try hard and see ourselves as courageous about something.  We also need to believe that there will be some consequence to our acts of bravery.  It seems we are all looking at the long-term for a deliverance for ourselves and others.

Love, too, needs a sense of future, time to develop and flower.  It is only passion that lives for an instant and passion, like the red rose, doesn’t last out the full year.

So I believe, love and courage are similar and work together for our own good and the good of others.  By working on ourselves through a form of personal growth and development we treasure love and courage as we find ourselves with greater wisdom and more abundance of peace with ourselves and others.  I believe that this is one of the ways we have faith in the long-term and in things that endure. No one is suggesting we can change overnight, but with love and courage and the hope on which they depend, we can all work wonders! I believe in my courage to change day-by-day.

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The Priceless Gift of Personal Growth

“We live each day with special gifts that are a part of our very being, and life is a process of discovering and developing these God-given gifts within each one of us.” – Jeanne Dixon

As I continue along my path of personal growth, I discover ways to share myself with other people. I feel the want to act on things I’ve learned and to apply them in my relationships. This way, I can pass on to others the awareness and knowledge I have been given.

This wonderful urge to take action should be followed, not resisted. A spiritual awakening is just that – an awakening of the spirit, which then seeks to be part of all life itself.

When we discover our talents, whatever they are, we will be true to them and look for opportunities to use them. The challenge of doing this lets such qualities as integrity, courage, self-discipline and compassion to rise to the surface, where they become part of our daily practice. The alignment of who we are on the outside with who we are on the inside is a priceless gift that is received as the result of hard work toward personal growth.

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Your Authentic Self

 

“To thine own self be true…”

 

Most of us associate this quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78-82:

Polonius:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Laertes:
Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

“To thine own self be true” is Polonius’s last piece of advice to his son Laertes; Polonius has in mind something much more Elizabethan than the New Age self-knowledge that the phrase now suggests. To me, what I get from this quote is that unless we can be true to ourselves first, we cannot be true to others.

My path of personal growth has led me recently to wonder, what exactly is one’s “authentic self”? How do we get there? From this exploration, I have summarized what I have learned and am eager to share it with you.

Definitions:

Authentic: Genuine; literally self-authored or endorsed.

Self: Your physical and mental being with all its human and unique characteristics.

Authentic Self: The true you; aligned and congruent self-image, stature, values, beliefs, goals, behavior, word, and public image.

Your Authentic Self and Truth

How many of us have a hard time being true to ourselves?  Those of us that gave up so much of our Self just so that we could be in the life of another did so at the cost of losing who we are in the process. By allowing someone else to define who we are caused us to lose our ability to discover and grow inwardly.  We no longer are able to discern a truth from a lie.  For many of us, we have accepted lies for so long, that finding out what is truth takes time.

Truth is a word that brings out negative reactions to many of us. Accepting truth about ourselves is difficult, especially to those of us who have been abused.  But truth does set one free if we will allow it to; it is a crucial part of healing.  It gives us the freedom to be who we are.  We are able to come to terms with our weakness (without judgment or condemnation) and appreciate our strength.  Truth gives strength; it naturally builds healthy boundaries.

Truth is open; it is honest even at the risk of being vulnerable again.  Truth fears no reaction. Truth is light and brings forth life.  When we walk in truth, we walk in light and when we walk in light we live a healthy life.

Truth is also love.  The greatest act of love towards another is living a life that is truthful.  For those of us who find it difficult to love ourselves, we will find it will come more easily when we are truthful about who we are.  If we walk in truth, we walk in perfect love, and if we walk in perfect love, then we do not walk in fear because perfect love cast out fear.  Because we have been honest with ourselves, we are able to love ourselves with all of our imperfections, knowing that we are a work in “progress” and therefore need not have others approval.

“And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”

The second part of this verse is a natural occurrence if we hold true to the first part of the verse.  So, when in doubt about our motives of not being truthful with someone….look inside, are we being less than truthful to ourselves?

Just what makes up an “authentic person”?  It is someone who:

Has great listening skills: everyone, regardless of who they are, wants to be acknowledged, appreciated and loved. When you are engaged in a conversation with someone, are you truly focusing 100% of your attention on what that person is saying? Or is your brain formulating something to say at the next available opportunity?  Are your eyes constantly roaming the room, wondering who else just walked in? An authentic person’s attention is razor-sharp, making the other person feel like the most important person in the world.

Treats others fairly: When carrying out your role, whether it be a mother, business executive, pilot, waitress, teacher or coach, to name a few, you are always dealing with other people. The biggest secret is how you treat them. Do you treat others with respect or are you condescending, especially if they screwed up?

Has integrity: Everyone wants something. But authentic people are conscious of the operative watchword: integrity. They will do the ethical thing even if it means a loss of personal benefits for themselves.

Has the ability to communicate: Business leaders who conscientiously communicate in the open, especially when there is a lot of uncertainty hovering over the future of their employees, end up earning tremendous amount of trust. Rather than hiding behind the cloak of their boardrooms, they step up to the plate and keep people informed as much as possible. Authentic people make themselves valuable because they care enough to keep others in the loop by communicating.

Has the willingness to show transparency: I’ve done a lot of public speaking in my life. Public speakers who aren’t afraid to stand up on stage and speak from the heart, showing their childlike enthusiasm and not presenting themselves as flawless packages, often win the hearts of their audiences.

Why? Because it makes them real. Authentic speakers go into a speaking engagement with the attitude of “I am grateful all these people are spending time with me and I will give them a reason to laugh, cry and otherwise enjoy themselves without worrying how I look.”

Inauthentic speakers will say, “Well, there’s a bunch of jerks out there, I’ll just get in there, get it over and fool them senselessly with my appearance of great success.” People who are willing to be transparent win the love and respect of others.

Food for thought: Authentic people make more friends in two weeks by becoming interested in other people than in 2 months by trying to get other people interested in them!

Some experts on authenticity assert that if an individual is not living authentically in their lives, then they lose meaning and can fall into chronic anxiety, boredom and despair. People might pursue “quick fixes” to avoid the responsibility of living authentically with quick fixes such as anesthetizing themselves with alcohol or drugs or living in fantasies.

Becoming your Authentic Self

To become your authentic self, begin by knowing yourself. Understand human nature, what you can change and what you cannot, your own personality traits, learned behaviors, your values, beliefs, needs, goals, and motives. Consider the choices, events and people who may have “molded” you. Begin to know what guides you throughout life. Know your true strengths. Apply your true strengths to authentic goals. Gain the confidence to be humble. Begin to integrate and align your values, beliefs and actions.

We must face the fears that block our inner truths from coming out, especially the fear of rejection. Even when we feel strong enough to communicate the truth, we don’t always have clarity about what is true for us.  But being authentic doesn’t mean being perfect.  It just means doing our best to be real.  Sometimes that means exposing our warts and imperfections, but there lays the beauty of authenticity.

Coming into your Authentic Self

Don Miguel Ruiz shares centuries of Toltec wisdom in his book The Four Agreements. To apply this wisdom, choose to create these profound agreements with yourself:

Be impeccable with your word. Carefully look at what you tell yourself, what you tell others, and when you decide to speak. Use your word consistently to express and strengthen your values. Don’t use or overlook factual errors, fallacies or distortions during communications. Express yourself authentically. Earn trust.

Do what you say.

Don’t take anything personally. It’s not all about you. Reject the fallacy of personalization.

Rely confidently on your own well-founded self-concept; it is the only evaluation of your worth that matters.

Challenge and balance your first-person point-of-view.

Don’t make assumptions. Suspend judgment. Readily acknowledge what you don’t know and have the courage to ask questions. Carefully look at the evidence. Don’t attribute intent to others. Retain a healthy skepticism as you avoid cynicism. Develop, refine, and constantly apply your own well-founded theory of knowledge.

Always do your best. Do all you can while you recognize you can’t do it all. All you can do is all you can do. You are good enough. Apply your time and effort toward your well-chosen and enduring goals.

These agreements are essential elements of authentic expression and earning trust.

References

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, by Martin Seligman

Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation, by Edward L. Deci, Richard Flaste

I Am a Strange Loop, by Douglas Hofstadter

Authentic Happiness Website, by Martin Seligman, Director of the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center.http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx

Self Matters, by Phillip C. McGraw

Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, by Nathaniel Branden

The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz

Peaceful Warrior — Dan Millman learns to enjoy the journey in this docudrama.

Everybody Needs a Rock, by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall

Knowing Yourself, an Amazon.com Listmania List

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A Rose Smells Better than a Cabbage

Cabbage

I know that I like many, am justly proud of my ideals as I attempt to live by them in my daily life. Ideals give us hope and help us dream of better worlds. But ideals can easily turn into doctrines and become rigid. They can cause us to shun diversity so that we make false assumptions. The humble cabbage may not fill our idea of beauty, but it can be transformed into say, an excellent soup! 

Many of us along our paths of personal growth are perfectionists who have been brought up to believe in nothing other than the ideal. When we fall away from perfection, we plunge from the heights of idealism to the depths of misery and self-abuse.

We can do better by being less “perfectionistic”. When we can show and accept our real strengths and defects we get a whole new perspective on ourselves and a true sense of balance. We learn to be flexible and to appreciate the diversity of life (even the humble cabbage).

Even if I don’t especially like cabbage soup, I can recognize that all things may be good to those who love life and keep their eyes wide open.

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The Gifts of Peace, Simplicity and Reality this Holiday Season

“Celebration is a forgetting in order to remember. A forgetting of ego, of problems, of difficulties. A letting go.”        – Matthew Fox

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I find holidays to be a real test of my personal growth. I had always been glad I didn’t have to face the holidays alone. Christmas was always spent with my best friend Keith, my sister and her partner. Until this year I was never as acutely aware of how hard as it has to be especially hard for those that have no one.  This is a good time to take care of myself and it is best to be honest, rather than jolly.  For those of us that struggle during this time of year, we can refuse to lose ourselves in old behaviors. We can focus on finding other healthy people to be around.

This holiday season has already offered me the chance to reflect on the impact my mental health issues have had on my relationships and how much sharing these special times with others really means to me.  I am also able to appreciate what I already have, and to better recognize my blessings because I have known the pain and deprivation of my illness.

Peace, simplicity, and reality all are ours this holiday season.  By letting go of expectations, and by choosing an attitude of hope and gratitude, we will soon come to know that there is much more to celebrate than we anticipated.

“A Letting Go” for the Holidays

 

“Celebration is a forgetting in order to remember. A forgetting of ego, of problems, of difficulties. A letting go.”  — Matthew Fox

 

Holidays can be a real test to one’s personal growth. That’s the case particularly for me. I struggle anyway on a day-to-day basis to stay emotionally and physically healthy. I can’t imagine those that must go it alone.

But I find this to be a good time to focus on taking good care of myself. I can reach out and invite my healthy friends, acquaintances and members of my “family of choice” to my home, keep up with phone calls, and try to be honest, rather than jolly. I can refuse to lose myself in my former unhealthy behaviors. I can find other healthy people to be with.

Perhaps holidays offer all of us the chance to reflect on the impact our former unhealthy ways have affected our relationships and how much sharing these special times with others means. We are also able to appreciate what we already have, to better recognize our blessings because we have known the pain and deprivation of our former, negative ways.

The path toward personal growth is my holiday season, offering to me peace, simplicity and most of all, reality. I can choose an attitude of hope and gratitude. In letting go of expectations, I find much more to celebrate than I could have anticipated. My affirmation for today is, “I have enough, I do enough, I am enough.”


 

See Yourself as Changing

 

“The absurd man is he who never changes.” — Auguste Barthelemy

Lately, I find myself feeling sick and tired being me, because it seems I am always the same, never-changing.  My emotional life often seems like a treadmill, never varying in its fantasies or rituals.  I haven’t acted to alter things, I’ve only acted out.  And in acting out I am driven by a compulsion to repeat actions that gave me little pleasure and no joy.

I am beginning to realize that the same feelings come up all the time and throughout the course of each day.  I find myself thinking or saying, “Everything’s just the same.” Or, “I’m just not getting anywhere.”  My day-to-day life seems about the same; nothing dramatic has happened, nothing special is going to happen.  Inertia.  Despair.

If I look around at others; in my community, in groups and check things out, I may be able to see more clearly the changes that have taken place.   Yes, I begin to become aware that “Alan” is different, and less negative, and “Justin” is energetic and outgoing.  Change may take place slowly, but it does happen.  For sure.


Discovering Our Uniqueness

“The search for a new personality is futile; what is fruitful is the human interest the old personality can take in new activities.” — Cesare Tavese

Complete these sentences and if you’d like include your answers in my poll:

Hard, isn’t it?  It’s usually easier to come up with five awful things about ourselves.  Yet, knowing who we are and being able to state it is a good exercise in self-esteem.  It feels good to be able to make positive statements about ourselves and our uniqueness.  We get a new sense of identity, especially when we take the risk of telling someone else about ourselves (Feel free to take a look at my page titled “This Boy’s Life – All about Me” which is this exercise at a much more detailed and intimate level). It’s the small things, our preferences and idiosyncrasies that add color and substance to our personalities.

The longer we work on ourselves through personal growth, or recovery, the more we enjoy our unique combination of qualities.  We begin to feel “comfortable in our own skin.”  We can start by affirming them to ourselves often, “I am unique. There is only one person like me.  I am worthwhile, competent and lovable.”  We can focus on ourselves, not in grandiosity, or self-centered ways, but lovingly.  Getting to know ourselves is an adventure, one we can enjoy each day.