#128 Be Vulnerable

While it can be scary and uncomfortable, the experience of being vulnerable is healthy for us in many ways.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#128

Be Vulnerable

As a mental health counselor, I spend a significant amount of time encouraging people to ‘be vulnerable’. By definition, being vulnerable means that you “expose yourself to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” It means that we must be willing to lose love, admiration, safety, respect, attention, etc… It is not possible to love without vulnerability.

Brené Brown

Dr. Brené Brown has spent much of her career researching and talking about being vulnerable. In fact, it is at the core of her famous TED Talk. She has several books documenting her stance on how life is best lived through the state of vulnerability. Indeed – one of the most popular quotes is “vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experience.”

The Value

While it can be scary and uncomfortable, the experience of being vulnerable is healthy for us in many ways. When we are vulnerable, we are our most authentic selves. In that state of mind, we are able to experience intimacy in our relationships more fully. Our sense of self worth increases and we become more accountable for our actions. We are apt to experience more compassion, be more motivated, and share our ideas more freely. Maybe most importantly, when we accept the feeling of vulnerability, we tend to let go of our need to be in control… opening doors in most areas of our life.

Letting Go

For most of us, the key to vulnerability is in learning to let go. Letting go means that we have to trust in the process most of the time, trust in the people we’ve surrounded ourselves with, and trust in our own abilities to manage life and relationships. We have to be willing to be a little afraid and accept a bit of discomfort as life unfolds in unknowing ways.

In general, life is better all the way around when we allow ourselves to …

Be vulnerable.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#222 Let Something Go

Visualizing this process of elimination, destruction, and emptying of the things we ‘hold onto’ is a powerful way to let go of unwanted thoughts, memories, and pains.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#222 Let something Go

What kind of excess baggage are you holding on to? What are you trying to manage and/or control that isn’t within your realm of change? What do you continue to think about that has been over and done for a while now?

One Story

Pick one of the things you thought about as you read the above questions and write it down. Write down as many details of this thing you want to let go of as you can think of. The goal here is to imagine or remember it clearly – but from a distance; with limited emotion as if it is a story that belongs to someone else.

Destroy the story

Once the story is complete, take the paper in your hands and crumble it up, tear it into pieces, or burn it (safely of course). Embed the action of destroying this story into your mind – taking time to be very present and mindful of the paper’s destruction. Imagine that the story is evaporating, fading into fog, and becoming blurred.

Open Hands

As you dispose of the paper (or ash) – do so with great intention and acknowledgement that the story is now gone. As you move the paper into a trash receptacle and drop it… see your open – empty – hand. Fingers open, holding nothing.

Visualization

Visualizing this process of elimination, destruction, and emptying of the things we ‘hold onto’ is a powerful way to let go of unwanted thoughts, memories, and pains. Once the activity is completed, you can replace the unwanted memory with the memory of eliminating it. Your mind will ‘remember’ that you’ve destroyed this undesirable thought. It may be necessary to remind yourself that you’ve gone through this process and make the connection by observing your open hands.

This technique can be very powerful for those times when you make the decision that it is time to…

Let something go.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#327 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Some of us spend way too much time thinking about how the world or people in it ‘should’ be or what ‘could’ have been done and far too little time seeing things as they ARE so that we can make a difference where it is possible.

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#327

Acceptance

My mother used to say “It is what it is.” She said it so much that it became rather like fingernails running down a long chalkboard when I heard it. Almost simultaneously, she would quietly recite the Serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Each time I heard either phrase, I imagined her throwing her hands in the air as if she was surrendering and it infuriated me because I wanted to have more control than that.

For anyone with ‘control’ issues – accepting our inability to create the reality we want to have is challenging. It is imperative therefore, to learn acceptance. It took me decades to realize that courage and determination were instrumental in learning how to ‘accept’ that I am powerless to change some things; other people for example.

Some of us spend way too much time thinking about how the world or people in it ‘should’ be or what ‘could’ have been done and far too little time seeing things as they ARE so that we can make a difference where it is possible.

If I have a yard sale planned and it is raining – ANY time I spend lamenting about the rain and its effect on my plans is a WASTE of ENERGY. I can be disappointed for sure but anything outside of that is non-acceptance.  If I’ve made a mistake and feel embarrassed or ashamed, moving forward from it requires acceptance – not avoidance of what is.

And… in order to change anything we have the power to change – we must see it clearly AS IT IS – not worse or better than it is – in order to change it accurately and reliably. If we want to turn sadness into something different, we have to stop resisting the sadness and accept its presence. The first step to anything is quite simply…

Acceptance.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#345 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Years ago when I had an estimate for house cleaning, the woman said she had to charge me more for all of the ‘chotchkies’ she would have to dust. Ummm. That’s a fair disadvantage to collecting random baubles.

My goal is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#345

Declutter

Minimizing is a thing these days. From the tiny home craze to the amazing success of Marie Kondō’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up… we are beginning to connect to the concept of ‘less’. Retiree’s are ‘downsizing’; families are embracing a ‘minimalist’ lifestyle; and an entire industry has risen on the concept of ‘decluttering’. After decades of acquiring mentality people are finding peace in the concept of ‘letting go’.

Reducing clutter relieves anxiety. We simply feel better when things around us are in order. Indeed, less stress about our environment allows us to sleep better, particularly when the decluttering is in the room where we sleep. The benefits of decluttering include increased happiness… when we are happier, we are more productive and creative.

Years ago when I had an estimate for house cleaning, the woman said she had to charge me more for all of the ‘chotchkies’ she would have to dust. Ummm. That’s a fair disadvantage to collecting random baubles.

In order to successfully declutter we have to be conscious of what we truly need. How many junk drawers do we have to have – really? Take a good look around at all those knick-knacks you’ve been collecting in the pursuit of making the cover of Good Housekeeping and assess their importance. Are they things you’d grab in the even of a fire? Would you miss it if it was gone?

Start small. Clean out the drawers you rarely dive into. Try the back of the closet and thin out the clothes you didn’t wear this year. Do the basement, the attic, and the garage. By the time you get through those spaces you will have more discernment and can attack the main living spaces.

Think of how much time you’ll fee up when you don’t have to dust/clean all those nooks and crannies after you…

Declutter.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#361 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

My goal, for those of you who are curious, is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#361

Open your hands and let it go.

Coping literature and psychological dictates frequently make suggestions that are parodied into concepts which, insist we “just let it go”, “forgive and move on”, or “get over it”, to name a few. The idea/concept is great and truly I think most of us attempt to follow any advice that implies we will move away from something that instils emotional pain.

I’ve talked to hundreds of people over time that have certainly heard and/or read that advice but have failed in finding peace. Eventually, the question is raised “so how is it done? How do you ‘let go’ of something?”

There are plenty of strategies but the one that has worked the best for me when necessary and is reported to be a successful option by many of my clients is the practice of holding your hands open flat when imagining that you are letting go (literally) of the thing that you wish to disappear. I must admit to the absence of any scientific evidence validating the efficacy of this gesture and yet I know enough about the way our minds organize rational thinking to believe that it simply makes sense.

In a closed position, our hands are capable of ‘holding’ something. In an open position, they are not. Our brains just don’t make the correlation of ‘holding on’ if we imagine it in our open flat hands. One caveat… letting go is not a one and done thing. The trick is to open your hands EVERY time a thought / feeling you are attempting to diminish, presents itself.

Thought arrives > vocalize “let go” while opening hands.

As often as that thought shows up. Try it and let me know how you do!

Just open your hands and ‘let it go’.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Photo by Jlhopgood on Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Owning Your Control Issues

Who wants to think of themselves as a ‘freak’ of anything?

Continued from The Birth of Control Issues

“Surrender to what is. let go of what was. have faith in what will be.” ~ Sonia Ricotti

Yesterday’s post laid out how control issues are born and manifest. When people accused me of being a ‘controlling’ person I would get defensive because I knew in my own mind that my intent wasn’t to manipulate other people. I just wanted to control for the ‘uglies’… I wanted to manage the bad feelings – the sadness – the fear. When we speak about controlling behavior we use derogatory words such as ‘control freak’. Comments like that foster shame and embarrassment. Who wants to think of themselves as a ‘freak’ of anything?

When I notice that someone has the propensity to seek control of their circumstances and/or environment, the first thing I help them do is to understand why the need to control exists for them. And then we talk about managing it with a few simple thoughts.

OWN IT

Just OWN it! Acknowledging and understanding your ‘control issues’ is the first step in coping with them well. Accept them, love them, honor them. They are there because at one time you had a reason to believe that your emotional safety was in danger. We need to love the imperfect parts of ourselves just as much as those things that make us loveable. If one of the ways to soften your hard corners is through compassion… offer it to yourself! Seeking reassurance and comfort from the outside world is fine but if it isn’t available or frequent enough – you need to know how to give it to yourself.

REASSESS

Take a careful look around at the things that ARE within your realm of control. Many things are… you always have a choice unless you are being held captive or are in some way incapacitated… you have choices; even when you feel you don’t’. I remember many times feeling like I didn’t have a choice but that only left me with a sensation of helplessness.

Sure, sometimes we don’t ‘want’ any of the choices that are available but then we must be honest with ourselves and recognize – in that – we are still making a choice.

Can I control whether or not someone drinks? NO. I can only control whether I continue to share space with that person. If I chose to stay with someone who isn’t sharing the load with me, who doesn’t have the same vision as I do… then I have made a choice to accept the load myself and I have to redesign my vision. Understand that many choices are ‘package deals’ – they are bundled with a series of ‘consequences’… make sure you are consciously accepting the entire bundle because unbundling it – is OUTSIDE of your control.

LET GO

More often than not I find that we need to let go of fixed or rigid thoughts – the way we think things ‘should’ be or how things ‘should’ be done. Expand your thinking by eliminating words such as right/wrong or good/bad and replace them with ‘different’. There truly is more than one way to do most things.

Understand that in YOUR emotionally safe world things look a specific way. Responsibility, for example, may be represented to you in the form of a fixed blueprint that is achieved by doing x, y, & z precisely. But… we know – logically – that there is more than one effective building design. People demonstrate responsibility by using a, b, & c too. Letting go of an XYZ design and being open to trust that ABC will work is important.

Keep in mind that letting go is NOT a one and done thing. Thoughts don’t automatically disappear just because we want them to. We may need to let go of something over again every day until our mind remembers that we are simply not accepting that thought anymore. Be patient.

DISASSOCIATE

The things that happened in our past which, contributed to our current control issues are over. Just because the first man I loved died, doesn’t mean that the next man I love will, even though that is the fear. If your parents were horrible at parenting – if they were abusive – it doesn’t mean that other parents are abusive or that you will be as a parent. If someone you love died in a car accident, that doesn’t mean others will as well.

Certainly, bad things happen. But… the things that are creating your control needs are in the past and they need to stay there. Disconnect what HAS happened to what MIGHT happen going forward. Remind yourself… that was then, this is now. Stay present. Focus on THIS moment.

TRUST

“Let go and let God” is about trust. Letting go in general is about trust. We have to trust that if we let go – we will still experience emotional peace / security.

Sometimes I just repeat the word over and over in my mind as a reminder that I must surrender to trust. Generally speaking… things have always worked out in the end and I am reminding myself of that fact.

I find that most of us with control issues have simply learned to DIS-trust that people are working with us in the pursuit of emotional safety. I often remind myself that my children want to arrive where they are going and so they will make every effort within THEIR control to do so. I must trust that.

Trust is easier when we are constantly checking in to make sure that we are on the same page with those that are invested with us. Be sure that you are each moving toward the same vision and trust that you can get there via different avenues.

PLAN B

When all else fails, it helps to have a Plan B. People with control issues often have anxiety – the fear of not being able to control manifests physiologically. If we create an escape route – in case owning it, reassessing, letting go, disassociating and trust don’t completely satisfy our fears… having an alternative plan helps. It many never happen that you use Plan B but just initiating a design for another option allows your mind to experience a sense of relief.  Draw it out, make lists, save money, know where the exit is.

Having an active Plan B allows you to feel in control of something even when you have none.

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LA Bound – Tale#7- Arrived!

… I was getting a sneak peek into the next phase of her life.

Continued from LA Bound – Tale#6

“Never surrender your hopes and dreams to the fateful limitations others have placed on their own lives. The vision of your true destiny does not reside within the blinkered outlook of the naysayers and the doom prophets.” ― Anthon St. Maarten

Our effort to drive into Los Angeles in daylight was somewhat anticlimactic due to the heavy fog and driving rain that greeted us in the morning. Top that off with morning traffic in the second most populated city in the USA where no matter what freeway you pick – and there are LOTS to choose from – it is bumper to bumper. It’s rather comical to see a speed limit sign allowing you to move at 75 mph when most of us could walk faster than our car was moving. The saving grace was the HOV-2 lane because at least that was rolling along…

My goal to accidentally drive by the Hollywood sign was a bust as the fog cover was hovering low enough that you had a sense that God had stuffed a big wad of cotton over the top of LA, trapping the emissions to give it a smoked butter glow. It was better than it had been thirty years prior when I left the area, back when every metropolitan area dealt with smog problems, but it was still evident.

We drove straight to a little restaurant we found near Universal Studios, a healthy ‘California Style’ hole in the wall where Vegan options were well represented. There, we connected with my first cousin and her family – a reunion she informed me had been 34 years in the making. We were simply older versions of ourselves and it was another validation for Erin that she ‘looked just like her mother’. I never tire of the wonder with some people and how, even after several decades, you can just pick up and carry on as if there hadn’t been a massive interruption in your interaction.

This particular cousin was one of the ‘big girl, big sister’ types in my life… a mentor of sorts who had the dream I wanted when I grew up… a home, husband, family & apparent Brady Bunch style contentment. That was my frame of reference – the Brady Bunch. I didn’t think too much about the marital history of Mike and Carol (Mike was depicted as a widower but the networks didn’t want to allow Carol to be a ‘divorcée’ so they just didn’t say), I just wanted a family like they had and my cousin appeared to have it. Indeed, (and maybe sadly??) I recall that my dad – who stayed with her for a few weeks – told me she would have all the laundry from the day before washed, dried, and put away before noon each day. For some reason – I used that information to create a standard by which a ‘housewife’/’good mom’ handles her home but that tidbit of information is for another story…  we will leave it to say that lunch with my cousin was good.

The best part for Erin was that my cousin’s son, her second cousin as lineage would outline it… lives in Malibu and knows people in the television industry. I guess if you live in LA, you are bound to know someone who works in television. It also turned out that my cousin’s granddaughters step-father’s brother-in-law’s neighbor… or something like that also produces a program and yadda, yadda… we’ll just say that numbers were exchanged and it never hurts to pass names along. The farther you cast a net – the more you have the potential to catch! Any and all help is appreciated!

Erin arrived in LA with no job and no place to live other than the AirB&B she reserved for a couple of weeks. She had been busy when not driving to connect with people about both and so this day was about organizing and preparing to find a job and a place to live. She had commented one evening at dinner – earlier in the week – that it had dawned on her that I “was just dumping her in LA and then heading home”. Indeed, my goal was to grab the Red Eye back to Philadelphia and my life there – that night.

I thought about this for a bit as we unloaded her car, the few measly boxes that she had packed to bring with her – none of which included furniture, décor, or kitchen items (outside a waffle maker she got for Christmas and photos of people she loves) … I am leaving my girl here with no family, no close friends, and no job. What kind of a mother am I? Suddenly this felt a lot like throwing a baby in a pool to see if instinct takes over and it automatically swims. I knew logically that this was different. She had been preparing emotionally forever and literally for a couple of months. She had a sizable savings account, lots of soft leads, efficient technology, and most importantly – a good head on her shoulders. I also knew that after we got the car unpacked and put a few groceries away that there was absolutely nothing that I could do. I would want to of course. I could do the apartment hunting for her, I could scour resale shops in search of a dresser and a clean sofa but I also knew that Erin needed to do it herself. Maybe she didn’t ‘need’ to but if everyone was right and she was as much like me as they all claim… she ‘wanted’ to do it and no amount of ‘mothering’ from me would change that.

After unpacking the car of the few meager belongings that she chose to take with her, we completed a Target run for groceries and a few remembered necessities. We sat in her room for a bit as I took it all in. For a brief period, she would be living there – in a rented Air B&B room that was void of her personality but full of her stuff. I was feeling grateful not only for the chance to have spent a week with her but for the moments we were having now… I was getting a sneak peek into the next phase of her life.

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We spent a few hours with her cousin and my Godchild, a student at UCLA in Santa Monica – walking the pier and eating dinner and then it is time. It was time for me to let go. Honestly as I type this I can feel the lump grow in my throat. It sits there because I don’t want to have her so far away from home that she can’t come over for Sunday dinner. It sits there because I know that if she needs me I can’t just hop in the car and comfort her with a hug. It sits there because I am so incessantly proud of her courage and determination. It sits there because I remember being the same way and I imagine that she may learn a few similar difficult lessons; ones that won’t feel good and I desperately want to protect her from them. It also sits there because I know that she can handle it and I am overjoyed with happiness for all the fun she is about to have as she discovers the young woman she is.

It didn’t take long… in just three days she received a phone call asking if she could be at Universal Studios the next day at 6 am. She got her first gig. She’s working on a new show scheduled to air in March, meeting people, networking, and working on the perfect roommate/apartment. She did it!

 

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