I’m currently in the midst of recovering from a severe shoulder injury. My injury creates an inability to move my arm above my head, to carry weight with the arm, and to do anything that would require the twisting of my arm. It’s been a hassle and frustration to deal with the loss of ability. However, I’m slowly learning to be more ambidextrous. I realize the number of times I can use the other arm to do the same thing that I’m used to doing with my primary arm. It’s fantastic to understand that I am capable of doing the same task with a different limb, and I’ve never done it that way before this point in time. The same can be true when we’ve had a significant loss in our life. Be it the death of a family member, a loss of a spouse, or change in a relationship, we think we know what we are capable of doing but many times we are capable of doing much more than we perceive because we’ve never done it that way before. Emotional ambidexterity (which is my made-up word) is my way of explaining that you are capable of doing something different and ,with practice, you will become skilled at doing it differently. At the moment I am talk typing because typing with my right arm is virtually impossible, and typing with my left arm is slowly progressing. How about you? Do you stop trying when what you’re used to doing things one way and that can no longer be done? Or do you try to learn new ways of doing what you used to do? It’s very empowering to think that we can do things differently when we force ourselves to learn new ways of doing things. The first time I did something with my left arm I felt a little proud of myself because I was learning how to develop a whole other part of my being that has been virtually unused. I have to remind myself always to use my left hand because the old way keeps kicking in and taking over and then the pain comes from doing it the old way. How about you? Are you learning how to use different emotional muscles than you used before this point in time? Even as I type with my left hand, I feel more powerful to be using a skill I never developed before today. You may be used to doing things one way, but the reality is you hold unlimited capability within you that has yet to be tapped from the inside! Keep reminding yourself to do it the new way, and soon you will find yourself skilled in areas you never knew you were skilled.
Isaiah 43:18-19 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The other day I found myself walking the dog before the sun had risen and I reflected on the fact that I now enjoy the solitude and peace of our early morning walks together unlike seasons past. There was a time that walking the dog before sunrise would have been repulsive to me; however, as my season of life has shifted and what I value in this period is different than the last. One of the keys of embracing the season you are in is not focusing on the season to come or the season from the past but concentrate on embracing the good in your current season. People tell me things they don’t like or don’t want for their future, but we change just like the seasons and what is of value to us in the seasons to come may not be of value to us to us now. When I look back on my life in the last five years, I can see that I was changing through those years to the point that I am now a morning person and a person who likes walking the dog before dawn. Who knew I would enjoy that habit of pre-dawn walks, or be a morning person for that matter?! If you look to your future to be filled with the same elements of today, you will be disappointed because life, people, circumstances, and everything else changes. Five years from now you will be a different version of yourself. Have hope, friends. Life will not be as it is today. In fact, life will be a better version if we continue to push toward the disciplines our heart is calling to us right now.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
People ask me all the time how they keep winding up in relationships where there is abuse. They hate the concept of abuse and feel frustrated to find themselves again in this situation and yet, they feel drawn to it. In the world of counseling, we call this hard to explain “addiction” trauma bonding. Trauma bonding comes from people walking through typical stages of bonding with people, but if their bonding in their childhood was bonding mixed with abuse, abuse is normalized in a relationship. So how does one change a cycle established in their childhood when bonding was combined with abuse? We need to change our belief systems. Let me share my own story as an example of how you change your belief system about abuse in relationships. As a child, my mother would leave my brother and me with my mentally ill grandmother as a form of childcare. I think her belief was that as long as my grandfather was present nothing bad was going to happen. However, there was frequent abuse that occurred inside the house while my grandfather was outside working on projects. My grandmother had very high perfectionistic beliefs, and those perfectionistic standards were impossible for a child under the age of 8 to maintain. Hence I would be beaten for making mistakes – mistakes such as not cuffing my socks correctly or standing too close to the door of a room I was not allowed to would result in a beating. I was forced to make perfectionism my standard and shame had to become my means of punishment for myself. If someone shamed me for not being perfect, I learned to completely embrace their shame as a means of striving for greater perfection. The shame would push me to higher standards of behavior and higher standards of interaction with people and tasks. It was an exhausting and anxiety-provoking endeavor that would end each time perfection was achieved, or shame was given by myself or others. It was when I began targeting the belief system that held this behavior in the place that I was able to change how I interacted with others and what I allowed from others. Somewhere along the line I had learned I deserved to be punished and humiliated when I made mistakes and understanding the beliefs that kept that behavior in place, I was able to renew my mind. So what is your addiction? What are the beliefs that hold your addiction in place? What are you doing to change that in your own life? For me, it was a combination of surrounding myself with truth via people, a personal therapist, reading articles on topics related to my beliefs, and spiritually trying to come to understand how God perceived me. Today, I am able to stop disrespectful or shaming conversations by telling the person speaking to me they need to stop or I will end the conversation. I am able to feel the physical feeling of shame or disrespect and I ask people to change how they are communicating or the conversation is over. It took a concerted effort on my part to not use perfectionism as an addiction, but I’m happy to say today that there are times I wish I were a little more anal than I currently am because mistakes are common and now acceptable in my world. I extend love and forgiveness to myself when I make mistakes because I’ve changed the way I think about myself and what is accurate and godly in judging how other people interact with me. I am now able to state I no longer am addicted to shame, and I’m proud of it!