Fight to preserve your relationship!

Face it, in any longer term relationship, conflicts will arise.  How you handle these will determine whether the relationship endures or goes down in flames.  This is true in romance, in the family and in business.  Become skillful
at fighting fair and avoid inadvertently killing off the good feelings at the base of any successful relationship.

The research says that relationships need 5 times as much good stuff as bad stuff for people to want to stay in them.  This means that the fastest way to improve a relationship is to decrease the bad.  You can’t avoid or ignore conflict – this will kill off the relationship also, so you have to get good at facing and resolving conflict in a way that is as painless as possible.

The most damaging attitude in conflict is disrespect – showing up in such behaviors as not listening, not validating, talking over, yelling etc.  The essential message to convey to your partner to keep conflicts less damaging is that you respect their viewpoint.  Simple but it may not be easy in the heat of the moment!

Want to build this skill and learn more?  Come to my presentation this Tues 4/17 from 6:30 – 8:30 at 600 Siskiyou Blvd in Ashland!

The Neurology of Change

Change and learning require your brain to develop new neurons and new connections. Understanding your neurology helps you manage your own learning more effectively, reducing frustration and increasing your success.  Check out this brief video on Youtube and subscribe to my channel!

The Ecology of Change

When you change, it impacts both you and your social system – for successful changes, make sure to assess the ecological impact the change will have in all these systems!  Otherwise you may be frustrated in your attempt to change and this will just drain your energy.  If a change you want to make has negative impacts in the lives of others, they may actively sabotage your efforts to grow.

Use Skill Power, Not Will Power

People sometimes feel badly that they do not have the will to stick to a change when actually they need more skill or other resources.  For best success, focus on building your skills and resources, don’t rely on your will to change!
Check out this video to learn more and subscribe to my YouTube channel!

The Process of Learning

Have you ever tried to change and encountered unexpected challenges?  Here is a short video about the process of learning.  The more you understand this, the better you will be able to predict what to expect as you learn anything new.  This prevents discouragement and frustration and will make you far more successful.

Check this out and subscribe to my Youtube Channel!

Using Focusing to unpack your feelings

Focusing is a simple approach developed by Eugene Gendlin for uncovering the meaning behind subtle feelings and emotions. Use it to increase your self-awareness.

Check out this short video and use Focusing to understand your subtle gut feelings and build sensitivity and wisdom!

Transform your Inner Critic into an Inner Coach!

 

When you build a more accepting internal attitude, everything else is easier.  Too many people have an internal relationship characterized by scorn and harshness.  Through practice, it is possible to change this.

We speak of having an “Inner Critic” who treats us with scorn. This sub-personality observes our behavior, and offers comments about how we should act.  It has wonderful 20/20 hindsight and is great at pointing out what we should have done. Often this is done in a shaming way that undermines our self-esteem.

To change, start by honoring the purpose of the Critic (to monitor and improve your performance) and preserve much of his/her skills of observation and analysis.  What needs to be updated is the delivery.  An Inner Coach makes comments on the same things that the Critic might, but the delivery is empowering rather than shaming.

You can begin making this change by simply affirming that you love and accept yourself despite the flaws noticed by the Critic.  For example, you notice that you forgot an important object at home when you left for work this morning.  The Critic starts to attack you for being absent-minded.  As soon as you notice your internal self-criticism, soften towards yourself. Affirm either silently or aloud, “I deeply love and accept myself even though part of me is absent-minded.” Or, “even though part of me is berating myself.”  Using an affirmation with these words will reconnect you to your self-acceptance while at the same time reminding you that this flaw is only a part of you.  Once you have softened in this way, bring the Coach in to notice what you might have done differently and brainstorm how to wire the new pattern in.

It can be a stretch to love yourself during your self-criticism. Even if it feels awkward or contrived at first, give yourself whatever self-understanding and support you can to become your own inspiring Coach.

Playing with this correction requires some vigilance both to notice your Critic when it shows up and to persevere with changing it.  This blog and other reminders are very helpful.  It is not so much that the ideas are new, but that we forget to do these simple practices. Rather than expecting to notice and remember every time, anticipate becoming distracted and forgetting.  What might be some reminders that would help you remember to be self-compassionate?  Some people leave themselves notes, some find journaling exercises a useful tool, or you may have some religious images that might help.  Personally, I find images of Buddha to be very useful reminders to be mindful and self-compassionate.

One of the things to keep in mind here is that you are changing a long held habit.  As with any other habit, you have to notice that you are doing it, stop, and then replace it with a more desirable behavior.  And you have to do that again and again until you have a new habit.  The sooner you start and the more persistent you are, the sooner you will have an inspiring Inner Coach rather than an Inner Critic.

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If you are ready to transform your Inner Critic into an Inner Coach, buy my workbook of the same title or contact me for some personal coaching!

Becoming Your Own Best Friend

The most important and intimate relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. It is possible to have a self-relationship that is marked by love, compassion, appreciation and patience.  The best investment you can make in creating a wonderful life is working through whatever the issues are that have prevented you from having this kind of relationship in the past and practicing treating yourself well now and in the future.

Have you ever longed for a strong and reliable advocate?  For a steady source of wisdom and inspiration?  For someone who would truly have your best interests at heart?  Seek no further than your own self.

Let’s be honest about this.  Unless you create a relationship with an enlightened saint, no one else will ever truly understand your situation.  You will probably never receive consistent unconditional love from another.  Everyone else is more concerned with themselves and their own challenges than they are with you.  Others may love you and at times offer you care, compassion, kindness and guidance, but they will always be on the outside.  If their own life becomes sufficiently challenging, they will no longer be available to support you.
The sooner you face this reality, the sooner you will be able to organize your life based on the truth.  If you wait for someone else to rescue you or tell you what to do, you will become dependent on someone else and their agenda.

There is only one reliable source of wisdom, power and inspiration in your life and that is through yourself.

Connecting with your own source requires that you understand that you are a complicated being, composed of many different parts.  I liken this to a soccer team, where the ball represents what you ­do, and where the team functions best if all the players agree on the rules and the goals of the game.  The team captain or coach keeps the players working together and makes sure that everyone is treated with respect.

Ideally, the inner coach is the manifestation of your wisest and best, your “higher self”.

You may have encountered the idea of “connecting to your highe
r self” in the past.  In contrast, I encourage you to identify with your higher self – recognize that you are that, do not just connect with it.

Most people, when they feel emotional – particularly angry, sad or scared –  identify with the part of themselves that is feeling this way.  This dooms them to either managing the problem from that upset place or hoping that another person will help them.

An alternative is to remain firmly identified with your wisest and best, and from that position to offer comfort, perspective and wisdom to your more emotional and vulnerable parts.  Doing this requires practice.

Practice remaining identified with your highest understanding of the nature of the universe in the face of difficulties and emotional distress.  This is a common goal in spiritual practice – to remain centered and peaceful, to maintain the correct view, to have faith.  But what does one do to make this come about?

Using the soccer team metaphor, when upsetting things happen, the upset team member tries to steal the ball and pursue his own agenda.  He forgets the rules and goal of the game and forgets his team members and his coach.  In that moment, he is a team of one.  When a person in this condition reflects, and asks, “Who am I?” The answer is, “This upset team member”.   Instead we want the answer to that question to be, “My higher self managing and soothing this upset team member.”

In this situation, don’t be like most people and either get lost identifying with the upset or use distraction and denial to not feel.  Instead, act deliberately in a self-soothing way (with intentionally soothing internal dialog and images, and calming emotions and sensations).  It might feel odd or be difficult, but no one starts out being any
good at this.  Some people start practicing young, but no matter when you start, practice builds the skill of self-soothing and being your own best friend.

Your relationship with yourself is the only relationship you can count on to be with you to the grave. It is possible to identify with your higher self and to have a relationship from that space with the troubled human that you are channeling through. Those who have the most effective and satisfying lives pay attention to improving this relationship and maintaining their identification with their highest and best no matter what happens.

Want some help with this?  Contact me today!

And now, put your hand on your heart area. Feel the warmth of your hand on your chest, and the warmth of your chest on your hand.  Acknowledge whatever you are thinking and feeling and whatever is going on in your life.  Validate yourself; “It makes sense that you are feeling the way that you are”.  Deliberately give yourself some compassion and acceptance.  Breathe that in to your heart and carry it with you through the rest of your day!

Three key areas of psychological health

Most psychological difficulties are in three areas: Issues with your past, Poor relationship with yourself, and Poor relationship skills with others. Often my clients and I assess these three areas of personal development and psychological health together to decide where to start.

Past issues:
Most people have an unconscious that is like a huge cluttered back room. This is where we throw all the stuff we do not know what else to do with. Some of it is new, some of it hasn’t been touched for decades. Buried at the bottom of the mess is the rule book we live by and a ledger of beliefs we have about ourselves and the world. Stacked on top like layers of sediment are all the events we have been unable or unwilling to organize. This may include traumatic memories as well as unaccepted or unprocessed emotions or thoughts. Many people have so much stuff in their back room that it effectively runs their lives.

One of the first steps in psychological healing is to clean up and organize this mess. We want to start with the freshest stuff nearest the door and slowly work our way down until we find the rule book. As we pick up and identify each piece of debris we want to put it where it belongs and retrieve any emotional aliveness that may be stuck to it. Gradually the room gets tidier. We put things in labeled boxes, drawers and filing cabinets. We no longer have to be afraid of the mess from our past spilling out into our current life.
Once we find the rule book and the belief ledger, we can shake the dust off and update things.
This gives us more control over our lives.

It is common in my business to work with a person who seems to have his or her life together and yet has a persistent low level anxiety from the mess in their back room. For individuals with more traumatic histories, the mess may spill out into their lives as unusual symptoms or as out of control behavior.

Poor relationship with ourselves:
The next general area is that of how you treat yourself. Most of us are aware of the “inner committee” nature of the mind that shows up when we have to make a difficult decision. The quandary brings to light the chorus of different voices and perspectives within each of us. Most people are not aware of these “subpersonalities” on a regular basis. And yet this is really the nature of the mind. Some of these subpersonalities are named in popular culture – so we speak of the “inner critic” or the “inner child”. The reality is that each of us have a myriad of different parts. Health in these terms is where 1) we admit this 2) we observe our different parts in action without getting too identified with one or another and 3) we cultivate an internal attitude of mutual respect and compassion. Having an internal committee which is feuding, snide or judgmental is a very painful way to live. Developing internal loving kindness and respect is a crucial part of a joyful life.

Poor relationship skills with others:
Lastly are our interpersonal relationships and the ability to create and sustain intimacy with others. A healthy person in the first two areas may still be dreadfully lonely if he or she has not developed these skills as well. Really satisfying relationships are built on communication skills. These are skills around boundaries, expressing emotion, conflict resolution, knowing how to love, listening, and others.

Unlike the first two areas that require a great deal of introspection and emotional processing, developing and honing these skills is refreshingly straightforward. As with any other skill, if you practice these intelligently, you will improve. Doing this requires that you make it a priority and then get a clear idea of how to proceed. Groups, classes, books and honest feedback from friends and family can be invaluable in this process.

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We can all benefit from working in each of these three areas, but some people have glaring weaknesses in one area or another. How do you assess yourself in this regard? What would your friends say about you? The primary benefit of this sort of map is to help you determine where you are, and what area would be most rewarding to work on. To get the most bang for your effort, work in your weak areas – generally we have already played from our strengths.

Working on any of these areas is much more likely to lead to having a happy life than many of the other things we spend time on. If you want ideas on how to proceed, just let me know. If you are putting it off, what are you waiting for?

Each of us deserves a truly joyful life. Go for it!