Tag Archives: Thoughts

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.

Advertisements

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.

You Teach People How To Treat You

19 Mar

As you read the title of this blog, I don’t want you to think that starting now you should begin teaching people about how you want to be treated. The title is meant to inform you, that this is already happening. When you understand that you teach people how to treat you, you can begin to determine your own accountability in relationships, you can stop pointing the finger and you can recognize your role in what went wrong.

When a relationship is in trouble and/or falls apart, both parties can easily agree that something went wrong, but they find it much more difficult to agree on who is to blame for the relationship’s demise. I am not suggesting to you that finding the culprit be your end goal, but if you are going to take the time to look at the two parties involved, you might as well ask yourself if you have done your part by teaching your partner how to treat you.

Some people are famous for keeping the peace. They say things like, “Whatever you say, Dear” and “No, really, I’m fine.” The reality is these peacekeepers are not feeling very peaceful on the inside. As they stay tight lipped to avoid conflict and drama, a storm begins to brew. The resentment builds, the anger increases and before you know it they say something ludicrous like “He never listens to me or considers my feelings” and “She doesn’t even know when I’m upset.” Hmmm… I wonder why.

Boundaries. They are not recognizable to others when we don’t enforce them. In fact, they become invisible and unknowingly trampled upon.

Feelings. They are not understood by others when we don’t communicate them. In fact, they become lost even within ourselves.

Thoughts. They are not valued by others when we do not share them. In fact, they disappear and are replaced by the thoughts of others.

Expectations. They are not appreciated by others when we do not express them. In fact, they slip away and often leave us feeling disappointed by others.

While it can be scary to set boundaries, I assure you, the boundaries you set will serve their purpose in bringing some people closer and pushing away the ones that needed to be pushed. When your boundaries are clear, people will know how to be in a relationship with you.

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, we leave in a world of “doing” where only behaviors can be seen. Unfortunately, behaviors live in the land of judgment and in the land of what is right and wrong. Most people are not trained to see the thoughts, feelings, and expectations behind the behaviors. There is a function to every move we make. There is a feeling behind every behavior. I guess it’s an option to leave it up to your partner to try to guess the function of your behavior, why you might be stomping around the house mumbling under your breath, or why you quietly cry yourself to sleep at night, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact, I’d say it’s unfair. Chances are, they’ll guess wrong, that will likely stir up another feeling inside you that you aren’t willing to share and then the cycle continues. It sounds exhausting to me. For those of you living this way, I bet you’d agree that it drains you on a daily basis.

I wonder what it would be like to find your voice. What would it mean to share your thoughts, feelings and expectations? What might happen if you established and enforced some personal boundaries? Wait… I know this one. You would be teaching people how to treat you.

Letting Go

3 Jan

So the New Year came and I did what I was expected to do. I dutifully declared my New Year’s resolutions to include the obligatory weight loss goal and I even reached a little deeper and declared I’d get back on my faith walk and refocus my energy on a man who will not disappoint. I call him God.

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions and hope for change, I did what most people do. I started thinking of all “new things.” I’ve spent days thinking of new ways to change my wardrobe, new ways to manage my time, and new ways to spend more quality time with my kids. I also focused a lot my thinking on new ways to take better care of myself. In the midst of all these thoughts my life began to feel a bit cluttered, and then it hit me. I’m adding all these new things and yet I’ve made no room for them. I had no plan for ridding my life of the “old things”, the things that no longer serve me well, the things that detour me off my life’s path and limit my growth as a human being. For me, these “old things” fell under three categories: thoughts, behaviors, and relationships.
I no longer have room for thoughts that say I’m not good enough, I’m too fat and I don’t deserve true love. I cannot save any more space for the kind of behaviors that lead me down a path of destruction and isolate me further from the kind of people I truly want to be around. And when it comes to relationships, I have to take inventory of who is helping and who is hurting. Nobody is hurting me without my consent, I am accountable, and I know that means it is up to me to let go of people in my life that I have come to love in my own bizarre way. They mean something to me.

I am finding with the help of mantras and writing, my old thoughts are fairly easy to replace with new ones. Even old behaviors are being replaced by new and healthy ones in a short amount of time with some conviction. It’s the letting go of relationships that brings me to my knees. The tears flow and my heart literally aches. I’ve sat and wondered why it is so painful to let relationships go and now I am beginning to understand. Relationships have two people in them, the other person and us. When we decide to let the other person go, we have decided to let a part of ourselves go as well. We are saying, this relationship isn’t working for me and I can no longer do this. I can no longer be that person. We let them go, and we let go of a part of us that no longer works to our benefit. Maybe we are letting go of the part of ourselves that allowed others to take advantage of us, to use us, to hurt us. Even when it is in our best interest to let go of the “old us,” it can be scary. At least we are familiar with the old part of ourselves; we know what to expect in the way of thoughts and behaviors. Change on the other hand, can be terrifying. In fact, letting go of relationships will cycle you right back through to your old thoughts and your old behaviors so make sure your new ones are securely in place before you say your goodbyes. Goodbyes are tough so it helps just a little to acknowledge that you’re not just saying goodbye to the other person, but also to an old part of you that isn’t serving you well anymore.

So with the New Year, I have new thoughts. They come from a place of strength and an in-tact self-esteem. The thoughts about being good enough and worthy of love are here to stay. My behaviors are in check and leading me in a healthy direction towards my goals. I have intimate conversations with my God every night. He is the last call of the day for me. As for some of my relationships, I’m letting them go, and yes that includes parts of the “old me” as well. As necessary as they are, goodbyes are never easy.

“Stinkin’ Thinkin” – Recognize your Cognitive Distortions

6 Jul

If you are having trouble in your life and are ready to take some accountability for it, this is a great way to figure out what’s going on in your head. If you don’t recognize yourself, ask your friends if any of these sound like you!

Cognitive Distortions

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

What’s a cognitive distortion and why do so many people have them? Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves.

For instance, a person might tell themselves, “I always fail when I try to do something new; I therefore fail at everything I try.” This is an example of “black or white” (or polarized) thinking. The person is only seeing things in absolutes — that if they fail at one thing, they must fail at all things. If they added, “I must be a complete loser and failure” to their thinking, that would also be an example of overgeneralization — taking a failure at one specific task and generalizing it their very self and identity.

Cognitive distortions are at the core of what many cognitive-behavioral and other kinds of therapists try and help a person learn to change in psychotherapy. By learning to correctly identify this kind of “stinkin’ thinkin’,” a person can then answer the negative thinking back, and refute it. By refuting the negative thinking over and over again, it will slowly diminish overtime and be automatically replaced by more rational, balanced thinking.

Aaron Beck first proposed the theory behind cognitive distortions and David Burns was responsible for popularizing it with common names and examples for the distortions.

1. Filtering.

We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. For instance, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it exclusively so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.

2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking).

In polarized thinking, things are either “black-or-white.” We have to be perfect or we’re a failure — there is no middle ground. You place people or situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and situations. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

3. Overgeneralization.

In this cognitive distortion, we come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat.

4. Jumping to Conclusions.

Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us.

For example, a person may conclude that someone is reacting negatively toward them but doesn’t actually bother to find out if they are correct. Another example is a person may anticipate that things will turn out badly, and will feel convinced that their prediction is already an established fact.

5. Catastrophizing.

We expect disaster to strike, no matter what. This is also referred to as “magnifying or minimizing.” We hear about a problem and use what if questions (e.g., “What if tragedy strikes?” “What if it happens to me?”).

For example, a person might exaggerate the importance of insignificant events (such as their mistake, or someone else’s achievement). Or they may inappropriately shrink the magnitude of significant events until they appear tiny (for example, a person’s own desirable qualities or someone else’s imperfections).

6. Personalization.

Personalization is a distortion where a person believes that everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to the person. We also compare ourselves to others trying to determine who is smarter, better looking, etc.

A person engaging in personalization may also see themselves as the cause of some unhealthy external event that they were not responsible for. For example, “We were late to the dinner party and caused the hostess to overcook the meal. If I had only pushed my husband to leave on time, this wouldn’t have happened.”

7. Control Fallacies.

If we feel externally controlled, we see ourselves as helpless a victim of fate. For example, “I can’t help it if the quality of the work is poor, my boss demanded I work overtime on it.” The fallacy of internal control has us assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around us. For example, “Why aren’t you happy? Is it because of something I did?”

8. Fallacy of Fairness.

We feel resentful because we think we know what is fair, but other people won’t agree with us. As our parents tell us, “Life is always fair,” and people who go through life applying a measuring ruler against every situation judging its “fairness” will often feel badly and negative because of it.

9. Blaming.

We hold other people responsible for our pain, or take the other track and blame ourselves for every problem. For example, “Stop making me feel bad about myself!” Nobody can “make” us feel any particular way — only we have control over our own emotions and emotional reactions.

10. Shoulds.

We have a list of ironclad rules about how others and we should behave. People who break the rules make us angry, and we feel guilty when we violate these rules. A person may often believe they are trying to motivate themselves with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if they have to be punished before they can do anything.

For example, “I really should exercise. I shouldn’t be so lazy.” Musts and oughts are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When a person directs should statements toward others, they often feel anger, frustration and resentment.

11. Emotional Reasoning.

We believe that what we feel must be true automatically. If we feel stupid and boring, then we must be stupid and boring. You assume that your unhealthy emotions reflect he way things really are — “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

12. Fallacy of Change.

We expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough. We need to change people because our hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.

13. Global Labeling.

We generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. These are extreme forms of generalizing, and are also referred to as “labeling” and “mislabeling.” Instead of describing an error in context of a specific situation, a person will attach an unhealthy label to themselves.

For example, they may say, “I’m a loser” in a situation where they failed at a specific task. When someone else’s behavior rubs a person the wrong way, they may attach an unhealthy label to him, such as “He’s a real jerk.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded. For example, instead of saying someone drops her children off at daycare every day, a person who is mislabeling might say that “she abandons her children to strangers.”

14. Always Being Right.

We are continually on trial to prove that our opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and we will go to any length to demonstrate our rightness. For example, “I don’t care how badly arguing with me makes you feel, I’m going to win this argument no matter what because I’m right.” Being right often is more important than the feelings of others around a person who engages in this cognitive distortion, even loved ones.

15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy.

We expect our sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone is keeping score. We feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.

References:

Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapies and emotional disorders. New York: New American Library.

Burns, D. D. (1980). Feeling good: The new mood therapy. New York: New American Library.