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How to Stop Leaking onto Others and Yourself

What is it about the American culture that makes us feel powerless whenever we feel emotional pain? It seems that we have grown weaker in our ability to feel pain with someone, to walk someone through pain, and/or deal with painful topics because it triggers our own painful experiences from our past. We somehow have come to the place where we avoid topics and conversations that are painful for fear of how the other person will react, and so we stay in a powerless place instead of dealing with that which is painful. We have been talking about powerlessness in our communication a lot this week in my office. Our words can reflect powerlessness through the need to argue, correct someone or devalue what someone states because whatever they are saying is triggering emotional pain in us. For example, we may have an unexpected event occur at work, and we leave work feeling powerless and arrive home only to be argumentative, critical or disagreeable with our family or friends. If we were able to express our powerlessness and what we need to our family and friends upon our arrival home, much of our reactions would have been averted. So, how do we keep our own powerlessness and triggers from seeping out onto those whom we interact? Self-awareness is the answer. Self-awareness allows us to understand what we can and cannot deal with on any given day. Jesus himself was very self-aware. He knew what he could and could not deal with on any given day and instead of taking back his power in how he communicated with his friends, he stated what he needed for himself and he stated what he could or could not do. Jesus never needed to argue a point to prove he was right because he simply knew what he needed. Self-awareness is built by daily reflection on my own emotional and spiritual state and moving toward the things that will fill the need or void. When I fail to do self-reflection, I put myself in a position where I will be surprised by how I interact with a person, surprised in my yielding to a temptation or feeling unfulfilled. It’s time to reflect on what you are feeling and needing so that we can walk one another through difficult times instead of reacting to people. So what are you feeling today? What do you need?

“Find a quiet, secluded place, so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Matthew 6:6 Msg)

I Am Woman! Hear me…Meow?

I remember a commercial from my childhood vividly in which the woman proudly declared she could bring home the bacon, take care of the home, and extend value to her relationships because she was a woman! It was an empowering message for women in the 1980’s who were breaking out of the constraints that had been placed on them by society, but it was a myth that grew in strength and has created a loss in many when they were not able to be everything to everybody. Every choice has positives elements that bring peace or life, and every choice has losses that are tied to that choice. For example, as a working woman, I may decide that I do not have the strength to make a homemade dinner and might opt for takeout. The choice is positive for me in that I have extended self-care to myself by the choice takeout has brought me, but the loss is in finances and maybe health quotient. So how do you make decisions when each decision brings loss? This is where I, as a woman, have to include my spirit. This is where I consult the higher power of the Holy Spirit because the Bible says the Spirit of God knows what we need when we do not. I will be honest: there are times I want with all my heart to make a choice for self-care and ignore the losses, but only caring for self can sometimes numb the loss. On a recent afternoon, I arrived home exhausted and laid down in my dark bedroom and watched “Christmas in Connecticut” thinking there was no way I could make dinner. However, as I gave myself care for that half hour things evolved and when I asked the Holy Spirit about making dinner, I felt encouraged to make dinner and did it with an ease that had not existed the previous hour. Where did that strength come from? God. It says in the Bible that Jesus is before the throne of God interceding for us and supplying our needs, but what we need changes daily and we have a God who knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows the power inside of us when we do not. Next time you are questioning what you should choose, ask God to show you. He knows what you do not and can direct you to deal with things you did not know you could deal with today.

John 16:13
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

1980’s commercial I referred to in my post
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q0P94wyBYk

Pushing Beyond the Waves

Have you ever tried to navigate a boat from the bay to the open ocean? It is not an easy process depending upon how large the waves that are coming in are sized. Fighting against the waves is a complicated process, and many choose not to push through the waves to the freedom of the open sea. Instead, they stay in the calm waters of the bay. The same goes for choices in life. Many make decisions based on the amount of resistance the decision will incur, not on the freedom on the other side of the wave line. The waves can be like so many things that resist you moving to freedom and, let’s make this clear, waves only move in one direction. They do not change course; you have to wade through them to get to the other side of the wave line:

1. Your psyche that has been doing things the same way for years on end.
2. Your family or friends who like what you do for them and resist your making changes.
3. Your psyche that feels guilt and shame when changes are made, and people are upset.
4. Finances that seem stuck in holding patterns.
5. Jobs that do not create opportunities for advancement.

The list could go on forever, but the theme is the same. There will never a time when the waves of life are not preventing you from moving forward, be it emotionally, socially, behaviorally, financially, etc. So how do we have hope to go through the wave line to the freedom of the open seas that will take us to new destinations? The answer is hope. Hope is like the lifeline of a life preserver – that when I cling to it, I do not go under the water but stay on top. What you put your hope in becomes the larger question. Is your hope in your attitude, your hard work, your plan, your family, your friends? Your government?

I put my hope in God, and God becomes my flotation device as I face the waves that come my way. There will always be waves, but there will always be a true God and I put my hope in Him.

A psalm of David when he fled from his son, Absalom.
1 LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! 2 Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” 3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. 4 I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. 5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 6 I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side

Transitioning with Your Family Flock

This morning, there were many Canadian geese flying through the sky and honking at each other, and it was downright noisy as they passed over my head. After the raucous choir overhead had left me, I decided to investigate on the internet why they were all honking to one another. I found it interesting to read the various reasons they were honking at one another; the main reason being they are family members communicating during a flight to keep everyone together. This communication process is right for humans in changing seasons as well as Canadian geese! What once I was able to do while grounded is not what I can do while I am in the process of moving with the changing seasons. As people change and as the season of life changes, the amount of communication with family and friends needs to increase; otherwise, people will get confused as to where they are going and what is happening. My household is in the midst of several huge changes and the level and detail of conversation have had to increase for everyone to be aware of the path we are taking and what will need to happen during these changes that are different than they were in the past. Here is a brief list of what needs to occur in family (flock) communication and positioning if you are in the midst of some significant change of seasons:

1. Flock members need to communicate more on their whereabouts and simple day-to-day planning more than usual so that anxiety is not heightened by a lack of communication on simple things. Geese communicate in flight much more than on the ground.
2. Flock members need to honestly share their emotional state during the transition so that others do not misunderstand their silence or “excessive honking” as something other than what is occurring. While isolation can be comfortable during phases of being overwhelmed, greater depth of vocalization needs to happen.

3. Flock members will require more love and reassurance during times of transition. Do you know your family member’s love language? You need to give them what they need, not what feels good to you. If you are not a hugger, but your family member needs physical affection, then you need to give them what they need and vice versa. Geese communicate in many different ways in flight, sometimes as means of reassuring other flock members of their presence.
4. Flock members need a general roadmap of where this transition is taking them and how it will affect them. Before moving south for the winter, families of geese practice flights of various lengths to become confident in traveling as a group. What does practice look like when it comes to transition during different seasons?
5. Flock members will need more rest during migration due to the toll the change is taking on them. Planning large chunks of rest is necessary and essential to the completion of the transition.
6. We will need people to move with us through the change of seasons, but the group size will be smaller than it was when grounded.
7. A greater need for contact with the Creator is required during a transition. Just as Canadian Geese flying south for the winter is an awe-inspiring endeavor that God orchestrated when he created them, we need time to interact with the God of creation to move in the right direction.

• Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).

How Do I Know When to Help?

Watching someone die is very difficult. If you have been through the process with a loved one you know exactly what I mean by that statement because you, yourself, have walked through that valley of the shadow of death with someone you love. As the onlooker, all you can do is try and bring comfort to the process, but rarely can you empower the dying individual in ways they do not desire to be empowered. Rarely can you change the ravages of what the disease is doing to the person. Walking with the dying is a powerless place to be and yet we, as the helpers, try to do all sorts of things to try make ourselves feel more powerful and less powerless. This same journey with the the dying can be replicated a thousand times in our daily life with those with whom we have relationships. Be it parent, child, spouse, friend, coworker or stranger there are people all around us dying emotionally in one way or another through various means and we try very hard to not feel that emotional pain with them. Be it the friend who cycles through one bad relationship after another, the teen that makes impulsive choices, the spouse who numbs themselves through isolation, the family member who fails to take responsibility for their actions, or the coworker who always blames others for their mistakes, we feel their pain with them because their choices make us feel powerless. So how does one not feel powerless when most of us were taught to give care to others? People generally do one of two things: they create strong emotional boundaries to prevent themselves from feeling vulnerable, or they do a lot of self-medicating. Neither option promotes good mental health because rock solid boundaries prevents good from penetrating the hard exterior and self-medicating in excess usually brings forth some sort of self-sabotage to your own personal goals. Being around other people’s pain and feeling powerless will affect us, but you have the choice of how much you allow it to affect you. Medicate in measure and use boundaries in measure. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “not my circus, not my monkeys”, but how does that apply to how you interact with those you love? The following are five questions to ask yourself when faced with the pain of others:

1. Does this situation require me to be involved?
2. If I am required to be involved, what are the boundaries I need to establish so I take care of myself?
3. If the situation doesn’t really involve me, what is my motivation for getting involved?
4. What are the costs to me and my family and friends if I do get involved? Emotionally/ Financially/ Socially/ Physically, etc.
5. What are the costs to me if I do become involved?

Life is not about just caring for the masses, but caring for yourself and your own purpose. Jesus himself many times left the care of others in other people’s hands as he went off to care for self. When it doubt, prayer and meditation often helps to determine what your place is in the situation but in the end, you will be the one who determines what power you give away in the process of walking with others through pain.

Fall is Here so New Can Come

 

I love the season of fall to take walks and hike because there is something richly exhilarating about the crisp air that has not yet become frigid, the sky which seems to be vividly blue due to a lack of humidity in the atmosphere, and the lovely colors emerging in the leaves that were once green. I find myself pondering transitions in life as the leaves slowly change color and drop to the ground, and today I was pondering the idea that nature sows its seeds for the next season as the pods of plants drop to the ground in fall. Most people perceive spring to be when new life emerges and yet spring is the product of fall and new is the product of nature releasing old. In order for us to embrace new in our lives, we have to release the old. So what does that mean for you and me when we look at the transitions happening in our lives? We may need to look at some of the things falling away in our lives as the transition to allow new into our lives in the next season. Be it children heading off to to college or to pursue their dreams, deaths, changes in jobs or even relationship changes, while the seasons change, they do not stay the same and new comes again. Are you grieving losses right now? Though the season change there is God whose love remains the same.

Ecclesiastes 3 1:15 New International Version (NIV)
A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.

Are you “Eating” the Things That Make you Emotionally Healthy? 8 Emotional Needs that You Need to “Eat” Regularly

I remember thinking as a child that all adults must eat healthfully because they were constantly monitoring what I was eating. However, now that I am fully into adulthood, I realize many adults have the same problem that children have with their eating: THEY FILL UP WITH JUNK FOOD ON THE RUN! I live on protein bars. I use them for meal replacements for quick meals on the go for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Is it healthy? Of course not, but as my mother once told me, “Once you are over the age of 45, you stop wanting to cook a lot because you will have so many other things to do with your time.” The truth is, I do not eat a lot of junk food, but I do eat the same boring things over and over, and most of the time my diet is boring because I am too tired to whip up something healthy. In the same way that we need to have healthy food in our diet, we need to give ourselves the things we need to be emotionally healthy. What is emotional health? It is the ability to process the daily emotions that come our way in manners that do not adversely affect us or others physically, relationally, spiritually, etc. Our emotional reactions to people and self tell us that we need to ingest something other than what we are eating. My personal belief is that all people have inborn needs that must be fed regularly in order to remain healthy.
Here is a list of 8 emotional foods we need to eat to remain healthy;
1. A Need for Love – We were designed to be in community and we need to be heard, validated, hugged and basically have connections with people that bring us a sense of belonging.
2. A Need to Create – We were designed by the great Creator and we need to operate in our creativity to feel more energized. Be it art, music, cooking, writing, decorating or gardening, you have been designed to create because you have been made in His image. For some people this means creating order, structure or even cleaning, but somewhere in your life you like to create.
3. A Need for Beauty – Visual stimulation via color, style, beauty, the outdoors, etc. The way that colors and patterns helps to develop the infant’s brain is the same way in which we need continual exposure to visual stimulation. We need beauty because God has created our brain to be stimulated by it in ways that create positive or negative emotions.
4. A Need for Joy – Having a good laugh is food for the soul. We need to seek the people or things that make us laugh.
5. A Need for Peace – Being quiet, being alone, and doing things that bring peace to your body soul and spirit. Silence and lack of stimulation allow our brain to be creative and figure out problems. Scientifically, it has been proven that people are the most creative in silence and silence is where we are most likely to hear the peaceful whisper of God.
6. A Need for Passion – Excitement brings forth motivation and vision for our lives. New experiences, new knowledge, and healthy sexuality bring this forth.
7. A Need to Feel Safe and Secure – who are you allowing to fill your time? People need to feel safe in order to reduce depressive or anxious symptoms and make good decisions. When there is an absence of this in our lives we tend to make self-sabotaging decisions.
8. A Need to Make an Impact on Others and Our World – operating out of our spiritual gifting and purpose for which we have been created brings forth life. I have watch many a person spark to life as we sit in therapy discussing how they can fulfill their purpose for themselves and how that will impact others positively. When people are not making an impact they tend to have more self-hate and depression.
What do you need to take into your emotional health on a more regular basis? The above list can be your nutritional plan for healthy emotional intake

I Kicked A Snake Today

Today I kicked a snake on my morning walk with the dog. I felt pretty proud of myself when I looked back to see what I had just stumbled over on the sidewalk. I let out a mini yelp when I saw the foreign object I stumbled over was a snake flicking it’s tongue, but then I thought to myself, “ why am I yelling? I already kicked a snake and there is nothing of which to be fearful of after the fact.” I would have been fearful of the snake had I seen it before I kicked it, but after the fact the same level of fear was not there.
This same phenomena is true with fear of many other things. We fear what could happen and yet rarely does that fear come true, but somehow a negative emotion from our past is what we associate with that fear and from that day forward, we associated the feeling of a negative emotion with fear and specific things. When I was a child I learned to fear roller coasters from a negative experience at age five and I assumed I did not like roller coasters. At age five I begged my mother to take me on a roller coaster at a small local amusement park and the ride did not turn out well. My mother could barely hold me into the coaster because the straps were not designed for a five year old and on one occasion I almost fell out of the coaster. Between my mother’s fear and my physical fear I was quite sure I did not like roller coasters for many years. I was avoiding the feeling I felt at age five that were quite traumatic. I tried roller coasters again at age 15 and discovered I loved the thrill more than I felt fear and I would have never known it if I continued to avoid that feeling of fear.
Paul says it this way in I Corinthians 13 when he talks of making decisions based on emotions. “11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” What are your childhood or adult fears that you continue to hold onto as a result of a bad experience? Under what conditions will you decide to release that fear? Here is what I know to be true when it comes to fear; in addition to avoiding possible negative feelings, we may be avoiding joy and empowerment too. Kicking the snake today made me slightly more empowered in dealing with my fear of snakes. Whether it was a fluke or not, kicking the snake made me feel more in empowered with my fear of snakes. What fear is holding you back from joy and empowerment? And by the way, I am pretty sure I will never love snakes.

Ultimate Fail Days

There are days when you navigate life with tremendous skills and days when you have Ultimate Fail days. Sometimes I have days that I unintentionally let people down and the one who feels the worst about it is usually me. Today was one of those Ultimate Fail days. I forgot to call someone, I missed an appointment, and I forgot to email someone something – all within the course of few short hours. I had a choice as to how I was going to navigate those failures. My past was littered with pity parties and self-hate sessions that would last a whole day; however, I am trying to look at failures differently these days because I am learning that there are benefits to failing. Most successes are usually built upon previous failures and failure usually comes before success. Failures show me where I need improvement and failures are packed full of lessons on how to do life differently, but there is a catch; how do I do different if I do not know how to do something different? This is the question that can be addressed with others through therapy, your job, church, school, friends and sometimes your family. It seems we all know what we need to do, but we don’t necessary know how to achieve it because we need someone to teach us how to do that new way of living. Many times how we learned to navigate life is through the patterns our parents and grandparents taught us to deal with life. Alas, many of us enter adulthood lacking the essential skills necessary to be successful in multiple areas: having friends, pursuing education, pursuing purpose, making financial decisions, intimately relating to those close to us in our lives, etc, etc, etc.. Where are you lacking skills? Who do you see who is successful in those areas you are lacking? These are the people we need to learn from because we are never going to be able to teach ourselves something that was never modeled to us unless, of course, the person who is teaching us happens to be named God.

Sometimes good can be the enemy of best. We can fill our lives easily with things that are good to do and ignore doing the things that are best for us. Be it spending time listening to our spouse, playing with our children, doing self-care or spending time with God, we can often choose good over best. If you are a people pleaser choosing to not do good in the effort to do what is best is particularly hard because you may disappoint others. What is Best for the rest of your day? Go do Best! – SW
Ephesians 5:15-16 So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the times are evil.