Ways to Communicate without Anger

In 2014 I wrote this post based around a client of mine going through a holiday get-together that most of us are all too familiar with experiencing.

I was recently was asked to re-publish this post and as I went through it I thought about how relevant this particular issue is today more so due to the presidential election coming up and the emotional state of  our country as a whole. So now I wonder…

If there was truly a way to work through  this post issue, anger, how would you want to learn to manage it and use what you learn in your small corner of the world? Maybe this will spark some ideas…..

Key West

There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits. Those are the nights the light is needed most.” M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

What I’m learning is that the light is in the asking of the questions and the heart of every human being. The answering is the communication where peace can begin. But I think it matters to go back a little step and start by asking:

Why do people get angry?

Why does anger live so long within us?

Are anger and communication based only on defending, judging, criticizing and/or withdrawing?

Are there rules to communication so that anger can be lessened?

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Aristotle

On a coaching call this week my client talked about wanting to better understand and get control of her anger toward her in-laws each and every time they all get together. She started out our session absolutely dreading the upcoming holiday. Her dilemma revolved around the criticism and judgments thrown at her by her in-laws and her own sensitivity to it all. She did not grow up with this kind of self-centeredness and judgment. Logically she knows that people bring their own pasts and life experiences to the table (no pun intended) but she just felt helpless to look at their way of communicating in a non-judgmental way. The overall feeling of anger toward her in-laws was coupled with the knowledge that this was driving a wedge between her and her husband and creating more problems than they both knew what to do with.

So why do people get angry?

Ryan Martin, Ph.D. wrote an article for Psychology Today about the scientific study of anger. In his article he references Dr. Jerry Deffenbacher’s 1996 model of anger by defining what Dr. Deffenbacher calls the trigger event; the event that happens right before someone gets angry for example, perceiving an insult or being cut off in traffic.

“The implication is that those kinds of events caused the person to get angry directly. If that were true then we would all react the same way to such situations.”

There are more than trigger events at play when anger sets in. Individual characteristics such as personality traits and the individual’s pre-anger state are 2 things that matter.

“Competitiveness and low-frustration tolerance are some ways in which a person’s personality characteristics play into anger. As for the pre-anger state of a person just before the trigger event, physiological and psychological situations play heavily into this arena. Feelings of being tired, anxious, stressed out, nervous are considered to be pre-anger triggers. A nervous person already has an elevated heart rate so he/she doesn’t have far to go to become angry.”

Ryan goes on to explain:

“Dr. Deffenbacher’s model of anger is mainly based on the appraisal of the situation by the person on the receiving end. When a person appraises a situation as blameworthy, unjustified, punishable, etc. it pushes buttons with in that person to react with anger. If the person interpreted the situation a little differently he/she wouldn’t have become so angry. The important thing to remember about appraisal isn’t necessarily that the person’s reaction is inaccurate but there are always 2 sides to every story.”

The next question then is how do we communicate effectively so that anger doesn’t show up or take over?

In his outstanding and amazingly insightful book, Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph. D and author tells of his preoccupation with 2 questions and his attempt to find the answers:

“What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to behave violently and exploitatively and what allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature under even the most trying circumstances?”

“When we give from the heart, we do so out of the joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and the receiver.”

While getting deeper into the coaching session my client started to become aware of her own compassionate nature and how she deeply desired to live on that plane and not engage in anger and despair. She is by nature a giving, loving, and curious person and realized that she always wanted her marriage to be one of love out loud and as an example to others of what real love looks like. That realization turned the whole session around. But how to get through the inevitable anger she will feel at some point during the holiday visit?

Dr. Rosenberg says:

“There are 4 steps to express anger: (1) Stop and breathe, (2) identify our judgmental thoughts, (3) connect with our needs, and (4) express our feelings and unmet needs. The key to all of the anger is empathy. Empathize with the other person so that he/she will be better able to hear us when we express ourselves.”

The coaching session concluded with awareness that although my client can’t change how other people behave and communicate she can change how she behaves and communicates. By showing up fully for her husband and not giving in to her personal feelings she will be able to create an ally in her husband. More than anything she wants him to know how much he means to her and how much she understands that the holiday get together is equally difficult for him. “Living out loud the loving, caring and supportive marriage I always imagined having is so much more powerful than giving in to the anger and judgments of others.” She now has a plan of action and tools to help her achieve her ultimate goal of making this family holiday one in which she will cherish and not regret. My client says:

“I can’t believe how I am feeling at this moment realizing that it is so much easier to love not only myself but my husband and our child. It feels freeing to know that I can choose love rather than defensiveness and anger toward difficult people. I don’t know for sure if love will bring about a more positive atmosphere all around us but it will bring about more connectedness and compassion in my marriage and therefore to my child.”

Whether we are face to face or in communication through email or text messages or any other social media venue we are always in a position to respond with empathy and heart.

I often find myself wondering when I read the comments section of other blog posts or I read text messages or I witness a negative conversation what was going on in the responder’s mind at the time of a negative comment. What life circumstances pushed that person over the edge?

All of this leads me to take a stronger, more open-minded approach to reader responses whether it be to a blog post, a comment to someone else’s writing or a face to face exchange.

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

Communicating needs and feelings without creating defensiveness and anger can be successfully accomplished by using “I” messages. For example: “I feel taken for granted when the laundry isn’t put away” or “I am having trouble managing my worry around our finances and as a result I am not sleeping very well.” These messages are to the point and simple; they are not blaming or accusing.

“Reflect your thoughts and watch others mirror them back to you.” Stephen Richards

Don’t respond immediately to the comment or letter. Take a deep breath, re-read the response or think through the exchange and think about how it truly applies to what was originally said. Time can be your ally. Take your time to respond. Be thoughtful.

“In quiet places, reason abounds.” Adlai E. Stevenson II

People are not bad inherently. Sometimes their life circumstances have caused them to form habits that are difficult to deal with. It’s not personal.

“The sound of the words as they’re said is always different from the sound they make when they’re heard, because the speaker hears some of the sound from the inside”David Levithan, Every Day

A really great coaching tool that has worked for many of my clients is when I have them do an exercise called purging. In the case of an email or text or letter, sit in a quiet space and hand write every single feeling you are experiencing and use every single word that will make you feel justified if you were going to be utterly, no-holds-barred honest. DO NOT SEND THE WRITTEN RESPONSE. Save it. Wait a few days and re-read your own response. Be aware of how you are feeling as you re-read. Are you still so enraged? Has your own anger or shock lessened? How would you like to communicate now? The point is to not meet on the impulse level of the reader. Rise above by getting out of your system all that you are feeling and let those feelings go. As a final step, rip your letter to pieces or stomp on it or just throw it away.

“Transferring my anger and pain onto paper turns it into something tangible, something that can be shredded or burned, or at the very least, sealed shut in a box. ~Call Me Tuesday”Leigh Byrne

If you were seeing the anger from face to face interaction how would you respond in that moment? Would you want to also be seen as someone losing his cool? Think about your own tone of voice and how you would like to sound or how you would like someone to talk to you about their concerns.

“We do not have control over what happens to us in life, but we do have control over how we chose to respond.”
Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life    

If it is important that the other person hear from you right away simply send a follow-up email or text or comment right in that face to face moment by stating that you will respond more fully when you are in a better frame of mind.

Your life mainly consists of 3 things! What you think,  What you say and  What you do! So always be very conscious of what you are co-creating!”
Allan Rufus, The Master’s Sacred Knowledge    

If your response is only in the form of writing then before your response goes out to anyone have someone you trust, someone who knows your heart and intentions, read your response before you send it out. The objective person will be able to stay out of the emotional end of this negative situation.

Merely because you have got something to say that may be of interest to others does not free you from making all due effort to express that something in the best possible medium and form.” [Letter to Max E. Feckler, Oct. 26, 1914]” ― Jack London

Here is where curiosity comes into play: If you sense that your colleague is angry or accusatory ask that person if you are interpreting their response correctly. Don’t assume to know for sure what you are reading or hearing.

“Every man, it seems, interprets the world in the light of his habits and desires.” Richard Wright, The Outsider

Whenever possible don’t write but talk, face to face, person to person. Effective communication is most achievable when we are in the present moment. Stay clear of bringing up the past. Stick to what is happening right now.

“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

There is no substitute for real, live interaction. Your body uses every emoticon there is. Effective communication keeps anger at bay when we remain as calm as possible. Body language can have the same anger inducing affects as something we write. Create breathing space between the parties speaking, reframe when possible for better understanding, keeping advice and opinions to ourselves unless asked to offer that input. These steps all aid in a successful communication process.

We never can completely know what is going on in someone’s life to help us fully understand why they react the way they do. Everyone has something going on that feels overwhelming. Whenever possible put yourself in their shoes and summon a more compassionate you.

Call to Action

How can you begin to speak with your heart so that anger is kept at bay?

Words Are Windows

(or They’re Walls)

I feel so sentenced by your words,

I feel so judged and sent away,

Before I go I’ve got to know,

Is that what you mean to say?

 

Before I rise to my defense,

Before I speak in hurt or fear,

Before I build that wall of words,

Tell me, did I really hear?

 

Words are windows, or they’re walls,

They sentence us, or set us free.

When I speak and when I hear,

Let the love light shine through me.

 

There are things I need to say,

Things that mean so much to me,

If my words don’t make me clear,

Will you help me to be free?

 

If I seemed to put you down,

If you felt I didn’t care,

Try to listen through my words,

To the feelings that we share.

–Ruth Bebermeyer

Who Told you That?

mirrormirror

 

“Understand: people will constantly attack you in life. One of their main weapons will be to instill in you doubts about yourself – your worth, your abilities, your potential. They will often disguise this as their objective opinion, but invariably it has a political purpose – they want to keep you down.”

― Robert Greene, The 50th Law

When I was little my dad used to play at rough-housing with me and my siblings. There was a game he called “King of the Mountain” and the object of the game was to knock off whoever tried to get to the top of the pillow mountain first. We loved this game because first we got to play with dad, always a great time, then we got to make a huge mess of all the pillows we could find in the house and then make a humungous mountain as tall as we could possibly reach. I have to say that to 3, 4, and 5-year-old eyes this was the tallest structure ever created. We then would clear away all manner of hurtful hard objects and proceed to strategize as to just how to climb this monumental structure without getting caught and tackled to the ground. There was a hysterical amount of tickling involved in this game designed specifically to weaken our little bodies enough that we couldn’t find the strength to climb anything at all, all while trying to prevent dad from reaching the top of the mountain and declare himself King.

One could argue that this was a life lesson in how to overcome impossible obstacles that life will inevitably throw at us; how to overcome those demons that are designed and determined to keep us down physically and mentally, philosophically and psychologically whether in words or deeds and life lessons in how to get creative in problem solving all while laughing out loud. Blah, blah, blah; we just thought it was so fun to spend undivided time with dad. But wait, now I’m curious…..

What keeps you feeling down? What mountains are in front of you that need to be climbed? What motivates you to climb those mountains?

There are many important questions that come along in our lifetime. Questions that create angst, change, upheaval, awareness, peace, etc. Of all the questions that I have come across as a life coach, the one question that seems to have the most impact is the one question that attacks the essence of who my client is at any given moment. This question seems to evolve and keeps evolving as we learn and grow and become. This question has the potential of becoming habit forming; a reminder to always check my sources and resources in order to keep fear at bay and inner strength at the ready.

The questions I ask myself on a daily basis are, for the most part, always in helpful surrender to aid in making me the best possible version of who I strive to become. Who I am today is in no way who I will be later in life and although who I was yesterday may carry over into who I am right this moment, my “yesterday” self always has the ability to be better tomorrow. What is this incredible question?

Who told you that?

This question falls under the auspices of false beliefs or limiting beliefs and carries a tremendous amount of weight inside our heads and hearts. Most of us allow that the things we choose to believe, whether we realize it as our choice or not, are the things that hold us back from a fulfilling, productive, purposeful life. For a lot of people, believing the limiting beliefs we cling to holds a lot of fear in preventing us from exploring all kinds of fearless possibilities.

This question has been a constant companion for me for many years. It takes on many faces such as, who told you that you are not worthy of a better life, a better job, or a better outcome? Who told you that you have to compromise on what means the most to you? Who told you that if you experience happiness of any kind you are only allowed that one-time experience and then doomed to misery thereafter? Who told you that the love you have in your life is all you are allotted in one lifetime? Who told you that brown and pink don’t go well together? Who told you that if your children are not successful in their own right that means that you are not a successful parent?

More importantly when did you start believing all of this?

For as long as we live there will be life moments that test our inner strength; that make life feel as if this one time experience is the most impossible mountain to climb. Questions like this one help to keep us grounded and present and focused on being and becoming our best selves. The fear factor here might be, “what if I can’t answer this question or what if I stay stuck in my limiting beliefs?” I suggest taking time to unpack the question step by slow moving step until you come to understand how you got here.

Family therapist, author, marathon runner and professor Cami Ostman teaches an incredible workshop on how to successfully put the “Who told you that” question to the test and how to successfully answer it and use the question and answer to your advantage. When we feel stuck in our fear of not being enough and believing that we are truly not enough Ms. Ostman says that “we are not aligning with our true nature; we are not aligning with our core selves.” She goes on to say, “Our true nature, our core selves, are calm, joyful and centered. Most of our limiting beliefs start in childhood based on what we perceived as a need to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable or hurt or shameful or weak. Our true nature thrives on genuine support from others and uses 4 qualities to help us thrive.” Those 4 qualities are:

*Clarity of purpose: Who does it benefit to take the road less traveled? Who does it benefit to follow the leader?

“People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t EVER stop!” Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

*Faith: Enjoy each step along the way and know that whatever choice you make; all will be okay.

“Realize that if a door closed, it’s because what was behind it wasn’t meant for you.” Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

*Commitment to ourselves and our purposes: What is one tiny step you can take each morning to bring you closer to where you want to be?

“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” John Mayer

*Sovereignty: The unshakable knowledge that we are the supreme rulers of our own minds and choices and decisions. Who has given you permission to question your own self- worth, in other words, who told you that and why are you believing it? When we truly believe that we are sovereign over our hearts, minds and bodies then we are free to come and go, to explore and choose wisely and be impactful in all we do.

“Peggy is a sovereign nation. She governs herself and those around her by her own laws.” Katlyn Charlesworth, The Patriot’s Daughter

According to Ms. Ostman, bringing forth your true nature is a practice of letting go of fear; letting go of limiting beliefs, letting go of those things that were told to you whether to protect you or to scare you to stand still. Ms. Ostman suggests respectfully thanking all the parts of us that tried to protect us from the fears that are holding us back, wishing those parts well and firmly telling those parts that it is now time to take the reins and face the fears and the adventure that awaits.

As If….

A great way to begin your journey of shedding those limiting beliefs, of shedding fear is to take these 4 qualities and start with the end in mind. Let’s play….

Kari always wanted to be an artist. Her talents have been recognized by the obvious people in her life, her art teachers, her friends, her classmates, etc. but for some reason Kari has not taken all of those accolades and turned it into the art studio/gallery that she has always imagined. Kari doesn’t believe within herself that her art work is good enough to sell or that strangers would want to buy what she is creating. She is beginning to feel like doing art of any kind is a waste of time and that she needs to start getting serious about her life and start to make a living. “It feels like there is just too much wasted time in art and I need to pay my bills and just get on with my life at this point.” Who told Kari that art is too much of wasted time? Who told Kari that being an artist isn’t a serious pursuit of making a life? Who told Kari that she isn’t good enough to make art her career? When did those limiting beliefs start to take deep roots in her heart and mind?

There are a few choices Kari can make: She can give up her art completely and get a “real” job, she can only do her artwork for her own pleasure and joy, she can give her artwork away to friends and colleagues as gifts so that at least her art will be “out there” even if it hangs in someone else’s house or office or she can imagine one last time what it would be like to have the art studio/gallery she always dreamed about.

Kari chooses to imagine one last time about her art studio. Kari chose the “as if” option and she lets her imagination run wild with the end in mind, “as if” she made her dream come true and opened her art studio and became the successful artist she always dreamed of becoming. Out loud Kari imagines it is opening night at her art studio and the walls are full of her artwork in every medium. There are lots of people at the opening tonight including people that came as guests of those that received an invitation and the biggest surprise of all is that the media are here tonight to interview Kari and get her story. Kari imagines the gorgeous outfit she is wearing and imagines that her parents are there and feel so proud of her for sticking with her dream and making it come true. Kari imagines the food and drinks being passed around, she imagines the pockets of conversation going on around her studio, she imagines the music playing in the background and how great everyone looks tonight because they came to this special event. At the end of the night Kari imagines her most sacred piece of art being sold to an art collector and Kari being commissioned to do work for businesses in and around her art studio.

The greatest take away for Kari in playing the “as if” game is that she just thought about even more ideas on how to make her studio/gallery a great success. By opening herself up to the possibilities and by letting herself feel the happiness in her core-self, by freeing her mind and heart from limiting beliefs, Kari has experienced more joy in these few minutes than in the past year of struggling to be “practical” about her future.

Call to Action

Find a friend, mentor, coach, or use your own reflection in the mirror and play the “as if” game with your dreams. No limiting beliefs allowed. Dress the part, play the music, set the scene and have at it. Notice everything, the way you look, the way you feel, the way your thoughts expand. Who told you that you can’t make this vision your reality?

One of Ms. Ostman’s most successful practices is to interview fear and listen to what comes up in that discussion. If you are interested in trying this interview with fear, please give me a call. You will be changed from this experience.

On a piece of paper make a list down one side of the paper of all the things that you believe today. On the other side of the paper make a list of how you came to have each belief; in other words, who told you that? On a new piece of paper make a list of all the new things you are now going to believe that will help move you toward the person you want to be. Keep in mind on this new list, that YOU are giving yourself permission to believe these new things, act on these new things, dream these new things and become these new things.

Write a good-bye letter to your old self letting go of the fearful things that you have told to yourself or have been told to you that you are currently believing; letting go of the limiting beliefs that are holding you back from becoming your true self. Before you end the good-bye to old self letter start to write about all the new things your new, free self will be experiencing from now on. What successful, happy, expansive experiences will you be adding to your new life? How much can you honestly feel inside of your core-self that you believe you honestly, courageously, and wholeheartedly will experience in all the amazing life moments that are destined to come to you?

5 Keys to Understanding our Response Ability

 

The dictionary defines the word responsibility as a state or fact of being answerable, accountable, or responsible; of being reliable or dependable; morally right or legally required.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” —Spiderman

In my coaching world responsibility is akin to evolution. If we are in tune with our deepest selves we know when we are facing a crossroads and we also know when that crossroads feels like mud. In order to evolve and grow and become who we want to be we need to face the resistance and hold ourselves accountable/responsible for the decisions we face at the crossroads. The resistance we feel is the one strong emotion we need to make something happen. We tend to lose momentum when we perceive responsibility to be too cumbersome or obligatory.

“The more important an activity is to your soul’s evolution, the more resistance you will feel.” – Steven Pressfield

I say play the odds. Welcome the resistance because at that moment you know you are about to learn something very important and essential to your happiness and well-being. What I have learned most in being a life coach is the mirror effect. Holding up a mirror to my clients and leaving them no room to escape or deny their responsibility to their agenda or their life. A client comes to me most often in order for me to help them with a sticking point on their journey through life and I then have the pleasure of holding them accountable/responsible by holding up that mirror so they can see exactly what I see and so much more by showing them their hidden potential that will help them get through to the other side of that sticking point.

Many times I know when responsibility is being evaded simply because the answer to most questions that I ask is in my answer of ”I don’t know.” The “I don’t know” answer is a safe place to hide, a safe place to put off dealing with what we fear facing. We do know the answer to most questions asked about ourselves but at times we feel shame, fear or denial about admitting the truth of ourselves to ourselves much less to other people.

A great way to alleviate the pressure of an “I don’t know” answer is the one thing I am a huge fan of and that is the idea to “let go of the outcome”. It isn’t the outcome that matters as much as the struggle and education to get through the decision making, soul baring, or truth telling process.  By not attaching ourselves to any specific outcome we are free to journey through endless possibilities and learn with an open mind. Your only concern is to take responsibility for the learning and the doing.

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” –Sigmund Freud

Responsibility or rather our ability to respond to all that life throws at us is a major component toward overall happiness. In his recent blog post, “4 Life Lessons That Lead to Happiness, Success and Longevity

Blogger Eric Barker talks about key components toward happiness. One question he researched for his blog post asks, “Is there someone in your life whom you would feel comfortable phoning at four in the morning to tell your troubles to?” In other words, if you are having a hard time with your response abilities, who can you turn to  help shoulder the process toward your ability to respond to what life is throwing your way?

To see Eric’s full post click here

We all know that feeling irresponsible most of the time feels like a ten ton weight on our shoulders and at times it feels like we are throwing our cares out the window but sooner or later we all have to face the life we designed for ourselves and all that comes with it. So what are we afraid of when we are asked to step up and man up and take up the gauntlet of our responsibilities?

In her book, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, Eleanor Roosevelt speaks of freedom, strength, courage and confidence. Those are some of my favorite success characteristics by the way.

Here are some ways to live a more responsible kind of life but without the burden that the word responsibility carries. See how much of this list you can embrace and honor and engage of your own Response Ability:

1-      “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I didn’t think I could get through some of the tougher coaching classes that I had to take to get my certification. That led to not fully believing that I could change my career path. What I learned by facing those fears was that I was made of tougher more determined stuff than I ever imagined. Now I know that the next time I have an uphill battle to face, which will always include the responsibilities that go along with plans and pathways toward my own happiness, I can get through it.

2-      “It’s your life but only if you make it so”. There are things I want to accomplish in my every day and my life as a whole. I am the only person that can make that happen. I do believe in divine intervention and I do yield to that higher power but I forge ahead where my thoughts and emotions lead me because they are my inner compass and I know that by not ever trying how am I going to know what I am capable of? I am the only one that can take responsibility for me.

3-      “There is no human being from whom we cannot learn something if we are interested enough to dig deep.” As a life coach I help guide the digging deep process with my clients. They know I am that person they can call at four in the morning to tell their troubles to. It is rewarding to give of myself in that way however it is also easy for me to at times to hide behind helping someone else when I know that I myself need to face a digging process. If I am not willing to do the hard work for myself how can I possibly be successful at helping someone else? I am ever so grateful for all the people put into my life and onto my path to help me dig deep. Each person serves a unique purpose with the strengths they have that help me to become my best self in handling the responsibilities that come along with the life path I’ve chosen. With other people’s help I can help someone else.

4-      “If you can develop the ability to see what you look at, to understand its meaning, to readjust to the information, you can continue to learn and grow.” I always tell my children, “Let’s see what we can see”. Lots of times we are so conditioned to pre-conceive what we will see when we get “there” that we miss a lot of what is actually revealing itself to us. Keep an open mind, let go of the expected outcome. Allow awe and wonder to permeate your mind and thought process. You’ll be amazed at what more there is out there to learn and how much happier you will be for the freedom. Take responsibility for the learning and growing and you’ll be amazed at the things you see around you.

5-      “Love can often be misguided and do as much harm as good, but respect can do only good.”  In his blog post Eric Barker talks about how  love manifests itself through large, active social networks, physical activities that create flow and engagement, giving back to those in need, enjoying your career, and cultivating and nurturing healthy friendships and marriages. When these elements are in play and working well we are taking responsibility for the way we want to live our lives. On the respect side when I take responsibility for my perspective, my actions and my emotions I am showing respect for not only me but for those around me. I am teaching others how to respect me. From that respect love can grow; love of self, love toward others, and love from others. It’s a win-win situation!

So, what is your ability to respond when your life is calling you?

Call to Action

What is the great power/responsibility that you hold in your hands right now?

How does this power/responsibility feel? Is it one of obligation, constraint, guilt, burden or an albatross and if so how can you make it one of accountability, dependability and/or freedom?

How can the truth of who you are handle the duty, care, charge, contract, engagement and importance of this responsibility?

What are you not facing head on right now that you know deep inside is something you can handle but just don’t want to because it is too much work?

What do other people know about you that make them believe in your abilities but you choose to shy away from?

What is the fear?

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

 

Remembering Self…

“They would think she was savoring the taste (blueberries, cinnamon, cream-excellent), but she was actually savoring the whole morning, trying to catch it, pin it down, keep it safe before all those precious moments became yet another memory.”
Liane Moriarty, What Alice Forgot

I remember times throughout motherhood when I just knew I was in a moment I wished could go on forever. I tried with all my might to hold on to each millisecond that was flowing by, like leaves falling from the trees on a brisk autumn day, wanting so badly to catch time and make it stop in its tracks so that I could savor and expand the absolute joy of being a mom, of seeing these precious gifts I was given flow and grow. All the while I knew that just like any other 24 hour day this too will come to an end and we would head forward toward another memory to be made and another day in which I would want to hold on forever.

The other day I was reflecting on just what it means to celebrate Memorial Day as my son leaves home and embarks on taking the reins of his life. I’m blessed and grateful that I am not remembering him through tragedy but I am remembering him nonetheless for how fast the time has come and gone from his conception to birth to twenty years later. I can’t help but wonder, did I teach enough, did I love enough, did I connect enough, was there joy enough, laughter enough, or support enough? How does a parent measure success as a parent?

“If that’s what joy is, connection, then to fully experience it requires something terrifying as well as exalting: opening oneself up to the possibility of loss.” – Jennifer Senior, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

The real question for me is what is loss? Is loss the history of time? Is loss missed opportunities? Is loss something had but now gone? If you have ever really, truly loved another human being then you have opened yourself up to the possibility of loss.  Sometimes I feel like I have lost the chance to influence my children differently than I already have; I feel like I have lost the chance to say the things I now know how to say; I feel like I have lost the chance to enjoy their youth more than I already did; I feel like I have lost the chance to connect with them deeper than I already have connected. I am feeling the loss of time.

Or have I lost the chance at all? Even if heaven forbid my children were taken from me and never to return was the chance to see them grow up ever really part of the package of being their parent in the first place or was I only meant to take their souls just so far and then let them go? Was I meant to teach them what I now know or was I meant to teach them what I did know at the moment I was their young mother? Have I really lost the chance to influence my children or will they be willing to hear all the lessons I have learned since being their young mother? Did I lose the chance to connect with my children deeper or is that still possible as they get older? It will still always be a battle for time.

The joy of connection with my children still exists if they want it to exist. It’s up to them now. The loss I feel can stay a loss if I don’t learn how to capitalize on the new order of the relationships.

I might have lost them before I was ready but then again, is a mother ever ready to let go of her children? We would be a case study in perfectionism, all of us, if we got ourselves mired in the reality of knowing that we only have this one moment right here, right now, to get “it” right and well in order to have our children grow up whole, happy, productive, contributing, sane human beings. Alas, thankfully, there is no such thing as perfect and somehow the children manage to grow up despite our imperfections. We each can only do the best we can with what we know right this moment and let love be our guide.

 “There ain’t no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it.” – Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie

He left. He took the reins of his life, like I taught him to do, and he left home. He was so comfortable and so well taken care of that he became lazy and unmotivated and passionless and complacent and entitled and he knew it and he felt it and he wanted to change it all. I didn’t teach him that, although maybe I did, by loving him and taking care of him when he was tired and feeding him when he was hungry and talking to him when he clearly needed a talking to and washed his clothes when he had nothing to wear that was clean and pointing out to him the life lessons he should pay attention to. It would seem that all of the love has empowered him to say through his act of leaving, “Mom, don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

Psychologist and Nobel laureate Dr. Daniel Kahneman has made the distinction of how we remember events that take place in our lives. He talks about the remembering self and the experiencing self. The experiencing self is the self that moves through the world and in theory should be more likely to control our daily life choices. For example, Dr. Kahneman points out that if you are going in to have a colonoscopy and the procedure lasts even 10 seconds longer than originally scheduled and ends with a bit of discomfort, it is the ending that the experiencing self will attach to not the overall painless, not so bad procedure in the immediate aftermath of the procedure. Given time and space the remembering self will kick in and the overall memory of the procedure will not be as bad as it was just following the experience.

However, it is the remembering self that plays a more influential role in our lives especially when making plans for our future. For example, even by choosing to create the reality of my son virtually saying he is ready to take on his own life I am employing my remembering self simply because this milestone and significant change is more vividly alive and emotional to my whole being than anything mundane that I would do during my daily life with frequency. There are painful moments leading up to my son leaving but my remembering self will only choose all the good points. The things we do over and over whether for good reason or habit we tend to take for granted. There is very little of the mundane that stands out as a worthwhile memory. It all just gets lumped together. Although I have said good-bye to my son a dozen times throughout his life I always knew, if all goes well, he would be coming home.  Not this time.

The emotional toll surrounding his leaving is heavy and my experiencing self will always be left with the pain of the last hug and the heartbreaking send- off BUT, I choose to employ my remembering self, long before it is a memory. My son’s happiness, which as a parent is always the highest aim for their child, is what is most important. To this end I can see that perhaps I actually did achieve parental success by somehow instilling in him a sense of wonder, and courage and curiosity and love that is strong enough to see him through life’s challenges whether those challenges are of his own doing or fate based.

My experiencing self is not very happy about the fact that he left but the story has not ended yet, it is still ongoing so right now my experiencing self is sad not to have him in my everyday but my remembering self has been working overtime thinking back to when he was born all the way through the hard times of his late teenage years. “We enshrine things in memory very differently from how we experience them in real time”, says Jennifer Senior.

So on this particular Memorial holiday I choose to employ my remembering self as this being when my son launched his life on his terms and started to become the man he wanted to be and at the same time launched his mom to take a good hard look at her own life and emulate her son by becoming the woman she always wanted to be.

To all those finding themselves in the unique and wonderful position of being in their remembering self I say remember on……

Image by Bing.com

A Passion for Compassion: 8 Thoughts to Kick Start Compassion

Compassion says, “I know how you feel.”

“Both friend and enemy reside within us. One lives by the rule of compassion, the other by the rule of hard knocks. Though potential influence of either extreme is inevitable, our actions bear witness to the one we embrace.” –T.F. Hodge

It’s simple really: What makes you feel more authentic and genuine; when you reach out to hug someone or when you wait for someone to hug you first? What if we dropped our defenses and just reached out first? What are we so afraid of?

The dictionary defines compassion as a feeling of deep sympathy and/or sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

That definition sounds tragic but it is exactly what I did today. I met a former co-worker while at the grocery store and she told me about another former co-worker who is going through an awful health tragedy with her husband. I came home and immediately wrote out a card to her acknowledging her and her husband and express to her that she may never need my help in any physical way but that I am here to do whatever I can and to let her know that the one thing I could do for her right away was keep her and her family in my prayers.

Is it true that the only way for compassion to show itself is in the presence of a tragedy?  What is a tragedy? Each of us has days when even the most mundane of bad news or events can be perceived as a tragedy. Perspective makes it so. What I find really comforting is that although we may not go through universal life experiences all at the same time, we do go through universal life experiences at some point in each of our lives. Knowing that someone out there has experienced the feelings I am going through right now is of great comfort but would be of even greater comfort if I found a way to connect with the person who would understand. By reaching out and asking for help or by reaching out and saying to someone, “I know how you feel”, connects us on a human level that no other species can do.

“The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” –Mahatma Gandhi

I just have to say that bowing in prayer may be the simplest act of kindness when doing something physically is not possible. Kindness shows itself in so many ways. Do something, don’t do nothing at all.

I was walking out of an art supply store the other day and a mom was looking around the parking lot with her daughter in tow. She was confused because the bakery that they usually stop at on their Sunday errands was no longer there. Her voice sounded so distressed. It was really back ground noise to me at that moment because my mind was consumed with thoughts of how to make the next story time project really fun and exciting for my little library visitors.

As I was walking back to my car I replayed the distant voice in my head and let my ears hear what was going on around me. It just so happened that this mom and I passed each other in perfect synchrony and I was able to tell her exactly where the bakery had moved to. You really wouldn’t believe how incredibly thankful and relieved she was to know that not only did the bakery not go out of business but that she knew exactly where it had moved to once I asked her about her bearings.

Clearly there was no real life shattering suffering or sorrow going on regarding the woman and the bakery however, the distress in her voice and the way it touched my heart was enough to draw out empathy and compassion.

Children are really great at compassion. What comes to mind for you when you think about how children show compassion? Who is their go to receiver of compassion? There are 2 actually. The first is a favorite doll or stuffed toy and the second is animals. If you want to get to know the heart of a child and how to cultivate and mature their compassion watch them with these 2 receivers. In most cases it is a natural occurrence. Sharing with another child is not necessarily a natural occurrence but compassion is an inherent human quality and with proper nurturing, practice and encouragement it can root itself in the hearts of children and grow and mature as they mature. What a wonderful world that would be.

I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL

Each life experience we go through creates a connection to someone else; a sense of commonality, whether we know the person or not. We create connection through our flaws, mistakes, humanity, solidarity, and understanding. We are more able to see into the nature of love and suffering all at once simply because we live and learn and feel.

David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and a co-author of “Out of Character: Surprising Truths about the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us” conducted a compassion study. The results were positive and uplifting. “The results of this study suggest that the compassion we feel for others is not solely a function of what befalls them; if our minds draw an association between a victim and ourselves, even a relatively trivial one, the compassion we feel for his or her suffering is amplified greatly. Simply learning to mentally re-categorize one another in terms of commonalities would generate greater empathy among all of us and foster social harmony in a fairly effortless way.”

Have you lost someone special? I was told a story about a man that lost his mom not long ago. He was very close to her and not having her in his life now, especially now that he has young children, has been a heartache that is at times too much to bear. Who among us cannot find commonality in a story like that? Even if you have not lost a mom or dad or that special someone you can put yourself in the shoes of the person that is grieving and wish to alleviate the pain or be a help through it.

And what of self-compassion?

I recently had a birthday and my family wanted very much to celebrate me while I did not feel like celebrating. My self-compassion was quite low at the time but I am the kind of person that doesn’t like to disappoint people, especially people I love so we put a plan together and made a night of it. We had a great time and it felt fantastic to smile and laugh and let go. I realized that it was wrong for me to treat my family with the same lack of enthusiasm as I was treating myself. I was glad for the awareness to put someone else’s needs above my own even though it was hard to feel inside of myself for myself. After all, isn’t compassion just another word for love, kindness, curiosity, empathy, tenderness and presence?

“Unfortunately we treat others as we treat ourselves. We should try being genuinely kind to ourselves and the rest will come naturally, like a Platinum Rule; far greater than a Golden Rule.” –Erica Goros

Simple gestures like when someone holds the door open for you or stops to pick up something you might have dropped or lets you cut in front of them on the express grocery line because you don’t have as many items to check out as they do. Those are small acts of compassion; knowing what it feels like and hoping to alleviate the negative. Just like going to the gym to maintain physical health and well-being compassion, when practiced regularly can be cultivated and maintained with amazing internal benefits. Sure, it may feel awkward at first but give it a month and see how you feel inside and what manifests itself on the outside. I predict you’ll be hooked and have a passion for compassion.

Suffering in any way is inevitable and I daresay necessary. Without suffering on any level we would not appreciate kindness, love, connectedness and compassion. The enemies of suffering are outnumbered and outmanned by compassion. Will you become an enemy of suffering or an ally?

Here is a short example of what I mean. What can you do to show compassion/kindness?

 8 Thoughts to live by

Start where you find your own sense of compassion. You will never know how much deeper your compassion can grow until you start to plant your own seeds.

“Compassion is not a virtue, it is a commitment. It is not something we have or don’t have, it is something we choose to practice.” –Dr. Brene` Brown

Open your heart. A closed heart can never grow and an open heart can never close.

“I could really use someone else’s smile today.” –Richelle Goodrich

Once you realize that other people matter you have created compassion.

“The solution to nearly every problem in the world comes down to greater awareness, compassion, and empathy.” – Bryant McGill

I’m here for you.

“Three of the ten principles governing the City of Joy are:

-Tell the truth

– Stop waiting to be rescued

– Give away what you want the most.” – Eve Ensler, In the Body of the World: A Memoir

Call to Action

How can you start to grow your compassion?

When in your life have you had a passion for compassion?

What experiences have you had that let you know compassion was alive and well?

Where do you witness compassion most?

Who hugs first? Where does the hug start from, the heart or the head?

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building character strengths, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

 

 

Lessons from Mom’s Old Radio

Lessons from Mom’s old Radio

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

I am so blessed to be able to say that my mom is still with me. She and I no longer live near each other due to many unpleasant life circumstances but not one day has gone by, since she has found her new life far from me, where I don’t have her words, her essence, and her love in my life.

Our relationship has been made up mostly of telephone visits and I thought it would be a great loss not to be able to hug her or go shopping with her or share a meal with her. In a way it is a great loss because we had that kind of relationship when we lived close to each other. What I have learned is that on any given morning we can share a breakfast meal and I can send her hugs and kisses through email and snail mail and I can actually go shopping with her if I take pictures of what I am shopping for and want her opinion. Thank you to all those wonderful technology gods out there in the universe. Yesterday I had an amazing visit with mom.

Let me back up just a smidge and tell you that last week I had an awful, down and out, where-the-hell-is-my-life-going kind of week. When I get into that kind of deep funk I read, a lot. As only a mother can, mom heard in my voice that something was not right. In all honesty, when she asks me point blank what’s up I usually hide behind being busy or the cloudy weather or my personal favorite of all time, I’m tired. This telephone visit was really no different than any other. I didn’t tell her very much detail about how things were going but I must have alluded to restlessness in my pursuit of my coaching certifications and so she asked me more about the process I’ve been going through. We finished our conversation and went about our afternoon.

Around 3:30p later that day mom called and read to me my horoscope for the day before. She sometimes gets backed up in keeping current with her newspaper reading. Thank goodness.

In a nutshell my horoscope said something to the effect that although things might be going well, always remember that we bring to bear that which we spend most of our thoughts on.  This can be interpreted 2 ways:

1) If I stay focused on my task at hand I will eventually find my flow or

2) If I continue to concentrate my efforts on what is not happening to my satisfaction then I could lose all that I have gained without even knowing it.

I explained to mom that this is the basic idea behind the “Law of Attraction.” The Law of Attraction states that you attract into your life what you spend most of your time thinking about. If I spend most of my time thinking that building my own coaching practice is not happening fast enough or not producing the results I want quickly enough, then I start to think that I need to go back to getting just any J.O.B. and forget about my ambitions and my purpose. Then came the inevitable and oh so prolific mom story….. Last week the very old radio that sits on the night table by the bed suddenly stopped getting the one and only AM radio station she listens to. The music is fortyish music and comforts her as she falls asleep.

The real attachment to the radio however goes way beyond the fact that it brings to her the music she likes. The real attachment is that it was the radio dad used every day when waking up to go to work. His fingers touched it, his essence is a part of the radio, and the memories for mom are wrapped up in this little and very old radio. In true frustrated fashion as only mom can display she tried to work her Mrs. Fix-It magic and hit the radio into submission. She banged it on all sides, she slammed it on the night table, and she really let that little old radio have it for failing her so egregiously.

While working in the garage a few days later she turned on the newer radio that was placed there for just such events and wouldn’t you know it the radio station came in on that radio. Well, for sure she now believed that the old radio on the night table was just too old to work anymore and besides that she really did a number on it when in her total frustration she probably killed any chance for it ever work properly again. So she decided to start her search for a new night table radio. For one whole week mom worked up the nerve and determination to replace that old radio.

By Thursday night she was worn out. She hadn’t been sleeping well because she missed her music and she still hadn’t completely committed to replacing the radio. It was on her mind all week about trying to understand why it just stopped working and how can she let that old radio go. Thursday night, just before bed, she turned on the old radio one last time and wouldn’t you know but there was the music.

In hindsight she thought, she never stopped even one time to take into consideration that perhaps the radio station signal was not strong that night due to rain storms and so perhaps she just couldn’t receive the transmission at that time. She never stopped to think about going to check with the newer radio in the garage to listen if that radio was receiving the signal needed. Mom jumped to the wrong conclusion that the old radio was not only letting her down but was finally ready to stop working. She believed that if the radio was giving her trouble then it was time to let the radio go. There could not have been another option.

What did that little old radio teach her? When mom called to read to me my horoscope she really called to ask me if I was perhaps blocking my own self from receiving the signals I needed to stay the course. She wanted to know if my radio was working, She wanted to understand what was I attracting to myself that was not working in my favor?

“The universe is always speaking to us….sending us little messages, causing coincidences and serendipities, reminding us to stop, to look around, to believe in something else, something more.”  Nancy Thayer

There have been so many moments of success along my career changing path and so much encouragement from my coaching community. Was it possible that I was not allowing those transmissions to get through because I defaulted and started attracting to myself the wrong signals?  “Don’t give up now”, she said. “Keep learning, keep believing, keep pushing forward because when the time comes for the signal to be received, you must be ready to transmit what needs to be heard.” She said, “For some reason what I went through with this silly radio is a great lesson in keeping the faith and staying tuned in to receive the transmission the universe is sending to you.”

It was probably one of the most chilling, the most inspiring conversations the two of us have ever had. I walked away from that conversation and signed up for my next class with more hope and more determination than I have had in over a year. It has been a very hard, long, winding, and wonderful journey so far.  Lessons can come from anywhere.

What old radio are you listening to? What are you attracting to you?

1)      What would you get, achieve, from reaching your dream? Make your list in adjectives.

2)      What helps you feel aligned with your dream? What activities and relationships help you feel empowered to move forward?   What is already happening that lets you know you are already on your path toward your dream?

3)      What steps need to be taken, one at a time, brick by brick, to get to where you want to be?

The link below is a composite clip of some very inspiring thoughts from the actor, Will Smith. I thought you might find some nuggets of hope to help you along your journey. It is with a full heart and an outstretched hand that I share these thoughts with you. Come along with me and together we can make our dreams come true. Stay open and you just might receive the messages that are being blocked out.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=law+of+attraction&qpvt=law+of+attraction&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=9AAC9CBC82B3AB302C6C9AAC9CBC82B3AB302C6C *Image courtesy of Bing Images

Lisa has been featured in Parent Magazine and in the book Stay-At-Home Mom’s Guide to Making Money by Liz Folger.

Please visit her website at www.journeyoncoaching.com 

Coaching is a great vehicle to help navigate through those sticky tough, tumultuous times of parenting, career and life itself. If you would like to see how coaching can supercharge your spirit please call or write to me and let’s discover your creativity and resourcefulness in a judgment free, empowering, uplifting space. You can reach me at 203-560-3061 or lisa@journeyoncoaching.com. Your personal discovery awaits….