Monday, September 30, 2013

What Does Self-Soothing Look Like?

I mentioned in my last post that instead of staying in reaction when something upsets us, one thing we can do is bring soothing and reassurance to the inner being that is in pain. I'd like to expand on this process because it is really quite foreign to most people I speak to.

When we find ourselves feeling anxious, fearful, ashamed, sad, guilty, angry, overwhelmed, or pain of any kind there is some element within that is in need of attention. Most of us were taught to actually do the opposite of attending to our inner world; we were taught to buck up, forget about it, distract ourselves and even berate ourselves when we had painful feelings. Many of us ended up believing it was 'weak' to allow any 'negative' feelings other than anger, which is a secondary feeling that gives the illusion of power and control, when we are feeling vulnerable and/or out of control. The problem is that none of these strategies actually deal with the real issue, the one who is in pain.

There is another way.

Self-soothing is a technique whereby we shift our focus inward and focus gentle attention where the pain (emotion) is most concentrated. For example, fear and guilt are usually felt most strongly in the solar plexus or stomach area; sadness is often in the heart region; anger is often in the jaw, neck and shoulders. By focusing gentle attention and taking full, rounded breaths into the place in the body where the feeling resides there is usually a loosening, a kind of space created where there has been tension and discomfort.

When I say focusing attention I mean literally looking at that area in your body with your mind's eye; looking at it with openness, acceptance, gentle curiosity and compassion. In other words bringing a new energy into the pain so that it can be soothed. Words of reassurance can also be spoken into this place because the truth is most of us long to be reassured that we are loved, that everything is going to be OK, that we are not alone. We usually seek this from others but in the end if we can't receive reassure from ourselves we are not likely going to be able to fully let it in from someone else. The truth is the one we really wanted it from may be long gone from our lives or simply unable to give it. So does that mean we can't have it? Not in the least my friend! You have it in you to give yourself what you most need, loving compassionate attention.

Try it the next time you feel upset or afraid or in pain; it is truly delicious and it is a game changer.

Next time lets talk about some things you can do with those thoughts that are generating the pain and discomfort.

Your comments and questions are always welcome!


Saturday, September 28, 2013

What Do I Do When I'm Stuck in a Pattern?

So now you're looking inward for what is going on when you realize you are experiencing a familiar pattern in your relationship (s) whether personal or business. What is it exactly that you should be looking for?

To begin with, feelings of discomfort (fear, sadness, anger, frustration, stress, overwhelm, anxiety, etc) are the physical reflections of thought processes. Thoughts and feelings are expressions of ideas, thoughts being the non-physical expression and feelings the physical, being how the body experiences those ideas. The mind (non-physical) is constantly trying to work out solutions to situations and events that it does not understand or that it categorizes as needing resolution. Our minds are really amazing machines that search, sort and categorize information at a speed that makes it very difficult to even realize what it is up to. Most of it is not happening at a conscious level; we'd likely go crazy if it was.

One of the places the mind searches for answers is in memory. It looks for similar experiences and projects into the space of not knowing what is really going on something that it has stored in memory. When what gets projected into the current situation is something that was fearful or painful somehow then the new event gets categorized as painful as well even though it may have nothing to do with what is really going on.

For example, your partner has a friendly relationship with someone of the opposite sex and fails to let you know about it. You find out by looking through their text messages one day when you were looking for something else. You immediately feel a current of energy moving through your body and you get suspicious and angry. You confront your partner and they evade you or get a sheepish look on their face. You immediately jump to the conclusion that they are lying to you and there is really something going on. A fight ensues where you demand answers and your partner gets defensive. You get nowhere except disconnected from each other (and yourself by the way).

Here are some possible conclusions both might have arrived at that are not based on what is happening in the present but rather some painful memories:
1) I am not valued here.
2) They are cheating on me
3) I am going to lose this relationship
4) I screwed up
5) I have to avoid in order to be safe
6) I am going to be blamed for something even if there is nothing going on
7) I have to defend myself or else I will be hurt or annihilated
8) I have to get you to explain so I will feel safe
9) Insert whatever thoughts came up for you.

If you look at the situation as it happened without the assumptions inserted there are a million possibilities, some of which could be on the list and many that are not. But because we tend to be blinded by our insertions and projections we are not really open to the truth. We are often more interested in being right even if right is painful for us.

If we are going to change the patterns we fall into we first have to step back, take a breath and remind ourselves that we really don't know what this means. Then we can bring soothing and reassurance to the inner being who is experiencing the discomfort. Then we have to say something that is true rather that accusing or defensive, i.e. "I'm afraid", "I just felt a really strong reaction and I know I'm projecting some painful memory onto this situation. The truth is I don't know what is happening I would like to figure it out together."

If you take the time to realize what is truly most important to you it will help you take the step of honesty. By the way, if you are going to say one true thing it is about you, not about the other. You have no idea what is really going on for them even if you are convinced you do. The question really
is, is it most important for you to be right, or is it to connect?

Until, next time...


Friday, September 27, 2013

If Only You Would Change

Have you ever had the thought that if you could get them to change you would feel better about a spouse, friend or business associate? I think most of us have at one time or another, or all the time for some.

When we feel discomfort, fear or anger in a relationship there is often a thought that if we could get the other(s) to change somehow we would feel better. Sometimes we are successful for a while in getting others to change their behaviour but most often one of two things will happen; either they will slip right back into it or we'll find some else who will manage to push that same button. Grrrr. gets exhausting after while trying to control people's behaviour so we won't feel bad. After several revolutions around the sun where the same old feelings keep showing up regardless of your efforts to control how life shows up, you really have to start wondering if the problem isn't with them but rather something in you that needs addressing.

I spent a lot of time and effort trying to manipulate people and situations so that I would feel safe and wouldn't get upset. Never did work really. Instead of getting what I really wanted (which I was completely unaware of) I ended up leaving a lot of relationships. I really wanted 'them' to love me and to understand me but I was not willing to be completely honest about that mainly because I was so caught up in my strategies for getting my needs met that I lost touch with what the needs were in the first place. I see this in clients and friends all the time. It's actually part of the human condition. That isn't to say that there is no way through but rather that we're all in this together and no one is 'bad' or 'defective' for getting caught up in it.

The point is when we finally see and admit to ourselves that we are playing out a familiar pattern when we get upset then we have the opportunity to do something different.  The reason it isn't all that easy to spot the patterns sometimes is that the faces and outer appearances vary so the place to look isn't at what happened but rather how we reacted. The thoughts and feelings are what is being repeated and they are what is causing the upset, not what someone else may or may not be doing.

I often get people saying they've never felt this way before when I first ask them whether this feels familiar to them but it doesn't take long in the conversation to uncover the falsehood of that statement. It isn't because people are trying to lie about it, they just don't know how to recognize the thoughts that are so very familiar that they don't even know they have them.

So the first step in making a real shift when you feel discomfort in your relationships is to stop looking out there for something to change and start looking in your own thought and feeling patterns for what is being triggered.

More on this topic in my next post.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Do You Ever Wonder About Change?

Do you ever become acutely aware of all the changes that have taken place over the years? Now and then I find myself driving down city streets pondering how much things have changed since I first moved here over 40 years ago. I drive down our relatively new ring road, one of thousands of cars that just a few short years ago had to drive through town instead of around it to get from one end of the city to the other and I marvel.

I think of when I didn't have an iPhone or better yet of the very first mobile phone I had which was bigger than a shoe. I'm amazed by all the technology and the things that generations after me take for granted.

Sometimes I watch old movies and feel a yearning for the simplicity of those times, when the world wasn't so full of stuff and people. Then I look up and notice where I am right now and how very blessed I am to be experiencing all the changes that are taking place right now. I look out my window at the Mayday tree which not so long ago was in full bloom and now has dark green and red and yellow leaves as well lots of open spaces where the leaves have already begun falling.

And I wonder, what is it about change that we tend to resist so much? There is so much wonder and beauty in the process of change yet there is often also a feeling of dread as the old falls away and we enter that space just before the new makes itself fully known to us. The place in between, the cocoon, the field of infinite possibility, the unknown...

Making peace with the fact that so much is truly unknown is a wonderful process. What we most often fill with fearful thoughts and projections is really the place from which all is brought forth into manifestation and we are part of that process. Do we consciously know what is coming with any real accuracy? Not really but there is something deep inside that is excited about it all when we stop projecting the old onto the unknown. There is something that knows all is well when we stop and appreciate what is and what is happening. That which we really are is working through what we think of as us to bring forth exactly what we came here to experience and we get to play and marvel and appreciate and be in awe at the wonder of it all.

That's one of the many reasons I'm really looking forward to my workshop this Sunday. It is a constant reminder for me to fully engage and enjoy the process of transformation that is happening right now at every level of existence. It is truly about playing in the field of infinite possibility which is Home


Monday, September 9, 2013

Finding Balance and Harmony in the Unknown

Life is full of surprises and disappointments and opportunities. One minute you may be wondering about what to do next and the next there may be a call leading you in an unexpected direction and the next thing that happens has it all fall out from under you, only to reveal yet another opportunity.

Life waxes and wanes like the cycles of the moon only not so predictably. There are times I must admit that I for one think I would like to have some control over what is going to happen but  the truth is I do not, nor would it be truly helpful or expansive if I did.

Being in control of things means to limit life to what I know and where's the fun in that? But it feels safer you might argue. Perhaps, but that too is an illusion because there likely wasn't any real danger in the first place, only the unknown. Ah, that is what we really want to protect ourselves from most of the time now isn't it?

I wonder what it is that makes the unknown so scary when in fact it's all unknown. We cannot really predict the future or even fully understand the present or the past for that matter. We give things all kinds of meanings, again likely to make ourselves feel more comfortable, but if we were to be totally honest we simply don't know. I invite you to breathe into that space for a moment right now. That vast space of infinite possibility which is the unknown and unknowable in its immensity. Nothing to be done about it, just be present to it. Instead of making it the enemy, another option is to befriend it.

When things are humming along and we are doing whatever it is that we do to stay busy we don't tend to worry much about these things. Hmm, maybe that's why we live in such a crazy busy world these days!That is what it is but this kind of busy-ness can only take us so far. Eventually most of us run into ourselves and that which has been driving the busy-ness in the first place. This often turns out to be fear of the unknown, projections of our unresolved past or some kind of pain we are trying to avoid.

If we hope to live balanced, harmonious lives we have little choice but to actually face our demons, our own driving thought patterns, so that we can realize the truth behind that and open to a new experience instead of recycling old unwanted ones.

That's the whole idea behind the new workshop I am developing and will be facilitating on September 22nd in Edmonton. If you want to check it out there's info on my website.