Tag Archives: self awareness

The Cleansing

31 Jul

Crash! It hit me and it felt amazing. It knocked me off my feet, I had to hold my breath and wait for a chance to come up for air. And then… I could not wait for another. Wave after wave, I was loving my time in the ocean. The weatherman predicted rain and the waves were proof it was coming. The water was rough and I enjoyed it immensely. It was pounding the stress out of me with every rising foam-filled crash. They knocked me down and pulled me back out towards the sea over and over again. It was a cleansing I could not get anywhere else.

In the brief moments when the waves died down, I did what my friend and I call “doing the Jesus.” I laid on my back, arms out to my sides and my eyes to the Heavens. I was floating and offering in sacrifice every worry, every fear, every last bit of stress. “Take it from me!” I’d float until I was pulled under by the next big wave that came to retrieve my sacrifices and carry them far, far away. It was a beautiful thing that left me exhausted and feeling free.

There is something so spiritual about the ocean and the way it is constantly taking from the shore and pulling out to sea the things we no longer need. It is one clean slate after another, erasing and erasing all that we need to let go. We can give our hardships away to the waves and rejoice in the warm sand knowing they are gone, at least for the while that we are there in the presence of the crashing waves. The smell of the air and the sounds of seagulls are simply bonus.

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Self Renovation

28 Jul

I’ve been cleaning and painting a house every day for the last week. It’s my rental house. I have dusted, scrubbed, washed, swept, wiped down and picked at things with my finger nails that I probably shouldn’t have. I’ve taped, cut in, painted and repainted every nook and cranny. I’ve changed light bulbs, put in curtains and air fresheners in every room. The place went from trash to treasure in about 10 days time. To see the change has been nothing short of moving and somewhat emotional.

I was about 5 days in when I began to see the changes really taking place and my first thought was, why haven’t I done this in my primary home? What has kept me from spending money on new lighting, paint and vanilla fragrance in the home I live in every day? It didn’t take much time to convince myself that was what I should do. Another 5 days went by and then I did what I always do, I make meaning. I find a way to relate it to my existence as a human being and learn a lesson. I strongly believe that is what we are all here to do anyway.

If you’ve ever dabbled in any dream analysis and tried to figure out why the heck you keep dreaming you’re late for class, running around naked or your legs won’t work when you’re running from the bad guys, then you may know when we dream about a house, it often represents ourselves. When we explore different rooms in the house, we are often exploring different parts of our being – perhaps our roles as a parent, a sibling, a professional, a creative being and so on. Or perhaps it’s the cynical part, the depressed part, the hurting part, the people pleaser part and the broken parts.

Now back to my task of making meaning and allowing this rental house to represent me for the sake of learning. Before I did the cleaning, the house smelled. It was instinctual to turn away and walk the other direction. Is there anybody that perceives me that way? I’m not asking if I stink, and I’m pretty sure I don’t but I am asking if people are more inclined to approach me or turn away from me at first glance and at first encounter with my energy. Am I positive or negative? Do I attract or repel? And if I did a little more upkeep on my attitude, would I draw more positive people to me? I believe what I put out there comes back to me so it is on my to-do list to refresh my attitude.

The old flooring had stains. It had weird icky gooey stuff. It had years of memories, liquid and otherwise. I picked at some of these trying to clean them up. What kinds of stains am I carrying around? I know when people unknowingly pick at one of my old wounds the feelings come gushing out at a rate that is more than called for in the present situation. In other words, they see me “over reacting.” I’ve been triggered and they don’t know it. I think instead of letting these old hurts continue to embarrass me and cause me to look overly dramatic and then just scab over, I might just try some therapy, some meditation, some healing of the soul. Rumi says the wound is where the light enters so I’ll make sure I don’t make them disappear completely (aka denial) but I’ll take better care to clean them and prevent further scarring.

The most damage and dirt in the house was upstairs. It is also in the “upstairs” of me. It’s in my eyes when I look in the mirror and in my mouth when I say those ugly things about my hair and my body. It’s in my ears when I hear only the negative. It’s in my head, in my thoughts and in the old scripts I’ve repeated over the years. I need a lobotomy. Okay, not really, but obviously it’s time to clear the dust from my eyes and see the beauty in this woman that God created. I will shut this mouth and do what my mother said; if I can’t say something nice (about myself) well then I won’t say anything at all. I don’t know what to do about the way I hear things. I guess I’ll probably encourage those that love me to repeat themselves again and again until I can hear it for what it is. They say I am beautiful, that I am kind and strong and smart. That is worth hearing so I will listen. My brain that has the old scripts is really just that little girl version of me still crying about who knows what. I believe the adult version of me is going to just have to sit her down for a come to Jesus meeting and tell it like it is. I will tell her we’re cleaning house and it feels good.

How You Do Something Is How You Do Everything

22 Jul

I heard this phrase last year at the annual conference for the American Counseling Association. We had invited celebrity and well-known actress Ashley Judd to be the keynote speaker. While I understand she may have some radical political views, I will not be referencing anything of that sort. I only want to share with you a little bit about the powerful messages she so bravely shared with us as she picked through some of her most trying childhood memories and shared her story of recovery.

How you do something is how you do everything. I heard the words and they slowly began to melt over me as if the world were moving in slow motion. I am sure my mouth was wide open as patterns of my life and those I know began to move through my mind. It was as if I’d never heard anything more truthful in my life. Think about the words and how they might apply to you or people you know. When we talk about “doing” we are talking about behavior. Are you always neat and organized and on time and overly structured? Are you a bit messy, frazzled, and always running a bit behind? Would all of your closest friends use the same three words to describe you? Probably, because now I see how true it is, how you do something is how you do everything. Are you a half-asser? Have you ever seen the end of any project? Or do you finish everything you start and give a 110% without a second thought? This is where our labels come from. “Oh, she is such a hard worker!” Or on the flip side, “He’s the laziest guy I know.” Our behavior speaks for us and often represents our character and people begin judging and assuming and lumping us under one big label just to keep it simple. They decide if we’re honest, trustworthy, active, capable, silly, organized, mean, kind, and in general if we are good or bad.

If there were ever a companion phrase that goes along with this one, it would be, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” You guessed it. Because how they do something is how they do everything. I believe in exceptions on occasion, but I rarely chalk things up to random, especially people’s behavior. If you stick around long enough, you will see the patterns. What you thought was random behavior or a one-time fluke can then be filed under “red flag.” You’re next step would be to run in the other direction. Run fast.

I think you’ll find it easy to look around you for patterns of behavior in those closest to you. The harder part will be looking at your own patterns. If you are unable to see it for yourself right away, try to think of things you have heard over the years. What have people said about you? This may be hard because we tend to block out some of the more hurtful comments. If you only heard it once, let it go. If you continue to hear it, then perhaps there is some truth in it.

How you do something is how you do everything. By the time you’re grown, your behavior is fairly predictable and in line with your morals and values. With the exception of chemical imbalances and serious disorders, you are likely presenting yourself to the world in a consistent manner. So… what do people think of you? You don’t know? Find out. There is power in awareness. Become aware of how you are perceived by others. If you don’t like it, change it.

It’s time to HALTT and think before you react!

21 Jul

Parents who are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, or Triggered often struggle to be who they want to be for their children.  To be in HALTT mode means we need to stop and catch our breath before reacting to a child or a situation.  When we are in HALTT mode, it takes 1) thought  2) attention to our own physical and emotional condition and 3) some parenting skills to respond to children with love and care.

 H- Hungry:  When we are hungry, we can’t focus and our attention gets short.  When our blood sugar level gets off balance, we start acting grouchy!  Making decisions becomes difficult.  The stomach growls, “Get out of the way, I need to eat!  No more patience!”

A-Angry: Angry people cannot hear.  When we’re angry, our breathing tends to be shallow and fast.  The heat gets so intense inside our bodies that it almost seems as if an explosion is building.  Completely out of patience; we send the message, “Don’t mess with me!”  No matter what someone else is doing, they are wrong.

L-Lonely:  Loneliness saps us of our energy.  Sighs… wondering… sadness… But NO conflict please!  We are often very needy when lonely, yet sometimes want to be absolutely alone.  We tend to communicate, “Nobody cares about me and now I don’t care about anyone else either!”

T-Tired: Tired for most of us means exhausted. When we’re tired we’re in no mood to discuss anything.  We feel overwhelmed and all we want to do is sleep.  Decisions seem harder to make and we don’t have the energy to argue – although we can snap at anyone who tries to push us!  All we want to say is “Go away!”.

T- Triggered:  To be triggered is to feel your body reacting – and many times you do not know why.  We want to fight, or we want to run.  We may feel outrage, disgust, or intense sadness way out of proportion to what is currently happening.  In some way the person, the message, or the situation in front of us reminds us of another time and place that was painful.  Often we are easily agitated, even ready to cry.

Hungry?  Angry?  Lonely?  Tired? Triggered?

Take care of these things first.  Delay making crucial decisions.  Realize that when someone is in HALTT mode, that person will have a tendency to react rather than respond.

When I am working with parents and teaching HALLT, I often add in Chronic Pain which can definitely affect someone’s mood and cause them to want to react rather than respond.  Are there others that you think are worth mentioning?  Ilook forward to your comments.

Children Learn What They Live

11 Jul

As parents, we are a constant model to our children.  Their eyes are always on us, watching how we interact with others, how we handle situations, and how we allow others to treat us.  We pass on our values to our children by the way we lead our lives.  It’s big I know…   For those parents who struggle to make the connection between their children’s behavior and the way they run their household and lead their lives, I offer this.  It is the work of Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph. D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.

If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.

If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

* I look forward to your comments!   Thanks for reading!

Identifying Your Outer Child

5 Jul
  • Excerpts taken from Susan Anderson, The Journey from Abandonment to Healing

Most of us whether we are in the counseling profession or not, have heard the term, inner child. This is the little girl/boy in side us who was hurt a long time ago. We have held onto feelings of frustration, resentment and rage. Our inner child has needs that have not been met.

Susan Anderson took it a step further by introducing the concept of our outer child. The role of the outer child is to act out the inner child’s anger. Do you see where this can get messy? The good news is, once you have awareness of your outer child, you can gain access to your primitive, unconscious defenses that interfere with your relationships and your life plans. Now you’re interested right?

We’ve all been there. Cruising along and everything seems fine when out of nowhere, we find ourselves doing something extremely childish, against our better judgment, and ultimately sabotaging our lives in one way or another, be it in our relationships, our careers, or life in general. Sound familiar? I’d like to introduce you to your outer child. This has been the hidden saboteur in your life. It rationalizes its maneuvering by claiming it wants to protect you. It poses as your ally but acts out rather than asserting your true needs.

Left unrecognized, your outer child can subvert your best intentions. Recognizing behaviors that stem from your outer child is the first step towards positive change. Congratulations, you are on your way!

It’s important to see the difference. Your inner child is representative of valid emotions. Your outer child is acting out undesirable behaviors, especially entrenched patterns that stymie your growth. Once you can separate behavior from feelings, you’ll gain enough psychological distance from which to observe the interaction between the two.

Here comes the tough part. Read through the list and allow your awareness to build. This list is not all-inclusive, but there are plenty that will stand out to you. Trust me, these are less than flattering behaviors which can make it hard to own them. Read the list more than once until you begin to recognize your outer child. The better you come to know your outer child, the more likely you’ll be able to choose more constructive responses to stress.

Outer Child Inventory

1. Outer child is the selfish, controlling, self-centered part of all of us.

2. Outer child encompasses all of the outwards signs of inner child’s vulnerability – all the scars, the warts, the defenses that show on the outside.

3. Outer child is developmentally around seven or eight. Self-centeredness is appropriate for the outer child.

4. Outer child wears many disguises, especially in public. Since other people’s outer children are usually well hidden, you may think you are the only one with an outer child.

5. Outer child is the hidden Chuckie of the personality. Even the nicest people we know can act like a seven-year old with a full blown behavior disorder when they feel threatened enough.

6. Outer child is developmentally old enough to have its own little executive ego (much to our chagrin). It’ sold enough to forcefully exercise its will but not old enough to understand the rights and feelings of others. (Inner child isn’t old enough to have it’s own ego so it has to appropriate ours).

7. Outer child steps right in and takes over, even if we had every intention of handling a particular situation in a mature, adult manner. Outer child handles things its own way, leaving us holding the bag.

8. Outer child can dominate your personality if you’ve had a history of repeated abandonments. Many abandonment survivors of childhood are mostly outer child.

9. Outer child throws temper tantrums and goes off on tirades if it feels criticized, rejected, or abandoned. If your outer child seems emotionally disturbed, it’s because of what you’ve been through. Don’t blame your outer child – it doesn’t react well to blame.

10. Outer child takes revenge against the self. It sees itself apart from you and your inner child and will create a schism when an opening presents itself.

11. Outer child likes to blame it’s faults on your mate. It tries to get you to imagine that your unacceptable traits belong to your mate.

12. Outer child doesn’t like to do things that are good for you.

13. Outer child would rather do something that will make you fat or broke than thin or fiscally responsible.

14. Outer child is a hedonist.

15. Outer child talks about your friends behind their back.

16. Outer child thrives on chaos, crisis, and drama.

17. Outer child enjoys playing the victim.

18. Outer child distracts you when you’re trying to concentrate.

19. Outer child loves to play martyr.

20. Outer child is a world-class procrastinator.

21. Outer child makes huge messes that take forever to clean up.

22. Outer child makes you late for appointments.

23. Outer child loses things and blames it on others.

24. Outer child can find excuses for anything.

25. Outer child tries to look cool and make you look foolish.

26. Outer child is the “yes but” of the personality.

27. Outer child is reactive rather than active or reflective.

28. Outer child explodes when it encounters difficulties with its own abilities.

29. Outer child can never be wrong.

30. Outer child hates asking for help.

31. Outer child acts like a tyrant but is secretly a coward, afraid to assert its needs.

32. Outer child acts gracious when a friend steps on one of your toes and then holds onto the anger for the next twenty years.

33. Outer child specializes in blame; if it has uncomfortable feeling, somebody must be at fault.

34. Outer child uses crying as manipulation.

35. Outer child criticizes others to keep the heat off of itself.

36. Outer child has a phony laugh to cover up stray feelings.

37. Outer child acts on its own, rather than consulting with us, the adult.

38. Outer child needs total control to avoid having to feel inner child’s feelings, especially hurt, loneliness, disappointment, or loss.

39. Outer child can’t stand waiting, especially for a significant other to return your call.

40. Outer child doesn’t form relationships – it takes emotional hostages.

41. Outer child doesn’t like to show its vulnerability; it keeps its injuries hidden.

42. Outer child will demand, defy, deceive, ignore, balk, manipulate, seduce, pout, whine, and retaliate to get is needs for acceptance and approval met. It doesn’t see this as a contradiction.

43. Outer child ahs a favorite feeling: anger. In fact, outer child’s only feeling is anger.

44. Outer child has a hole in its pocket when it comes to either anger or money. Both must be spent right away and damn the consequences.

45. Outer child wants what it wants immediately. Yesterday.

46. Outer child wants to get right in the middle of things when you try to start a new relationship. It becomes more reactive, more demanding, and more needy than ever before.

47. Outer child may be found in our mates. Sometimes we marry a person who can act our own outer child wishes. Hopefully, our mate’s outer child doesn’t act out against us.

48. Outer child may be found in our children’s behavior. When we get into power struggles with one of our real children, we find ourselves battling our own outer child. Sometimes we secretly encourage our real children to fulfill our outer child’s needs. They act out the anger we don’t want to own.

49. Outer child goes off on a rampage if it detects even the subtlest signs of abandonment. This leaves your inner child in jeopardy, unprotected.

50. Outer child strives for its own self-interest while pretending to protect your inner child. But your outer child wants one thing only: control.

51. Outer child is a people pleaser with ulterior motives. It will give others the shirt off your back. And what have you got to show for it? Nothing. You’re left cold and naked.

52. Outer child is not old enough to care about others. Only you, the adult, can do that.

53. Outer child tests the people it looks to for security – to the limits.

54. Outer child tests new significant others with emotional games. Its favorite is playing hard to get.

55. Outer child can be very cunning, putting its best foot forward when pursuing a new partner. It can act the picture of altruism, decency, kindness and tolerance.

56. Outer child can also be seductive, funny, charming, and full of life. When it succeeds in catching its prey, it suddenly becomes cold, critical, unloving, and sexually withholding. Outer child makes us pity the person willing to love us.

57. Outer child is the addict, the alcoholic, the one who runs up your credit cards and breaks your diet.

58. Outer child enjoys breaking rules. Your best friends may have very dominant outer children living within. Their rebelliousness might be what you enjoy most about them.

59. Outer child actively ignores you, the adult, especially when you try to tell it what to do. Outer child just goes right on doing what it wants to do.

60. Outer child strives for independence. Maybe someday your outer child will become independent to leave home, but don’t count on it.

61. Outer child gains strength during dormant periods. Then, when you really feel vulnerable, your outer child acts out, jeopardizing the new relationship.

62. Outer child tries to defeat the task of intimacy, which is to get your inner child to become friends with your mate’s inner child. Intimacy is when you nurture each other’s inner child and don’t take each other’s outer child too personally.

63. Outer child loves to hook up with your mate’s outer child. They instantly get into power struggles. It is futile to try to control each other’s outer children. Your best bet is to find something for your outer children to do other than interfere in the relationship. If you can’t ignore them, send them out to play.

64. Outer child has enough vanity and pride to try to conquer an emotionally dangerous love, one who is potentially rejecting, distancing, and abandoning.

65. Outer child thinks emotionally unavailable people are sexy.

66. Outer child is attracted to form rather than substance.

67. Outer child wants what it wants – emotional candy. This goes against what is good for your inner child who needs someone capable of giving, love, nurturance, and commitment.

68. Outer child seeks all the wrong people. It can’t resist a lover who won’t commit.

69. Outer child refuses to learn from mistakes. It insists upon doing the same thing over and over.

70. Outer child developed during the rage phase of old abandonments when there was no one available to mitigate your pain.

71. Outer child becomes most powerful when You and your inner child are out of alignment.

72. Outer child believes laws and ethics are for everyone else.

73. Outer child obeys rules only to avoid getting caught.

74. Outer child can dish it out but can’t take it.

75. Outer child can be holier than thou.

76. Outer child loves chocolate and convinces you that its good for your heart.

77. Outer child beats up on other people’s inner children – especially the inner child of a significant other.

78. Outer child bullies its own inner child.

79. Outer child tries to get self-esteem by proxy by chasing after someone who has higher social status.

80. Outer child can deliver a subtle but powerful blow if it perceives a social slight, no matter how small.

81. Outer child covers up in public. Some people are better able to hide their outer child than to hers. Of course, some outer children are easier to hid than others.

82. Outer child can’t hide from your closest family members: they know. That is what intimacy is all about – the exposure of your outer children.

83. Outer child can express anger by becoming passive. A favorite disguise is compliance. Outer child uses compliance to confuse others into thinking that it doesn’t want control. But don’t be fooled; outer child is a control freak.

84. Outer child finds someone to take for granted and treats them badly without having to fear rejection.

85. Outer child expects new significant others to compensate it for all of the hurts and betrayals inflicted by old relationships dating all the way back to childhood.

86. Outer child protests against anything that reminds it of being on the rock.

87. Outer child refuses to stay on the rock. Unlike the inner child, outer child climbs down, picks up the hatchet, and goes on the warpath.

88. Outer child has a chip on its shoulder, which it disguises as assertiveness.

89. Outer child is like the annoying older brother who constantly interferes in the guise of protecting you.

90. Outer child doesn’t obey the golden rule.

91. Outer child obeys its own outer child rule: Get others to treat you as you want to be treated, and treat others as you feel like treating them.

92. Outer child needs to be disciplined, but don’t expect limit-setting to go smoothly.

93. Outer child provokes anger in subtle ways, then accuses others ob being abusive. Outer child loves to play the indignant injured party.

94. Outer child submits so it can seethe at being dominated.

95. Outer child knows how to wear the white hat.

96. Outer child is master at making the other person look like the bad guy.

97. Outer child behavior ranges from mild self-sabotage all the way to criminal destructiveness.

98. Outer child can gain control so early, the individual doesn’t develop any true empathy or compassion for himself or others. The extreme outer child is a sociopath.

99. Outer child needs to be understood, owned, and over ruled by an airtight coalition between the inner child and the adult.

100. Outer child holds to key to change. Inner child beholds our emotional truth, but can’t change. When yo9u catch your outer child red-handed, wrest the key from it’s hands and unlock your future.

If you’ve made it this far. Don’t give up. Recognize your outer child and begin the greatest journey of your life. I’m behind you all the way!