Category Archives: Attitude / Beliefs

“I Should…”

Standard

I Should...This post discusses the concept of “should,” as well as my insights from completing the “I Should” exercise from “You Can Heal Your Life.”

It is my intention to complete at least one exercise from Louise Hay each week and to share my experience and what I learn in this blog.   These posts may be combined with the weekly lesson, or they may stand on their own.

Louise Hay presents an exercise in “You Can Heal Your Life” which is focused on examining our internal “shoulds” and how we can create a more empowering inner dialogue.  The exercise begins with writing or typing “I Should…” and completing the sentence in as many ways as come to mind.  Here are a few of my “shoulds”:

  1. I should be more productive.
  2. I should make more money.
  3. I should get a real job.
  4. I should get up earlier.
  5. I should dress nicely more often.

Why Should I?

The next step of the exercise involves reading each “should” aloud and then asking, “Why?”  The responses to this question reveal where a person is stuck in his or her beliefs and self-imposed limitations. Here are my responses for the statements above:

  1. To get more done, to make myself useful, to justify my existence (re: productivity).
  2. That’s what a person is supposed to do, especially if she’s not a mother; it’s the right thing to do; to take the burden off of my husband (re: making more money).
  3. To make steady and good money, to feel more worthy and necessary, to feel more grounded (re: “real job”).
  4. Most people get up early, to get more done, to feel like less of a “slacker” (re: getting up early).
  5. I have lots of clothes in my closet, to look better, to take more pride in my appearance (re: dressing better).

Should – A Damaging Word…

Louise Hay feels that “should” is one of the most damaging words in the English language.  Every time we say “should,” we are in essence telling ourselves that we were, are, or are going to be wrong. Louise doesn’t believe we need more wrongs in our lives and that, instead, we need more freedom of choice.  She recommends that we replace the word “should” with “could,” as “could” gives us choice instead of making ourselves wrong.

I Could… Why Haven’t I?

The final step in the “I Should” exercise is to go back to each “should” statement and re-write the sentence, this time starting off with “If I really wanted to, I could…” and then asking, “Why haven’t I?” Here are my responses to that follow-on question:

  1. In truth, I am quite productive.  I have some days that are better than others, but so does everyone. I tend to be too “all over the map” and that impinges upon my productivity.  I need to focus more on what matters most and then I will be more productive.
  2. The main truth is that I don’t have to make more money.   My needs are met, so I don’t have to take on work that I don’t want to do.  I have very high standards for the work I will do and will likely need to lower them in order to make more money.
  3. I want to be passionate about what I’m doing.  I want to like what I do.   I also enjoy having variety in my work and many “real jobs” don’t allow for the variety – or the freedom – that I so greatly desire.  I think that instead of focusing on a job, I need to focus on pursuing my passions and working through the fears that hold me back from doing that which most lights me up.
  4. I don’t like to go to bed early and I do better on 7 or more hours of sleep per night.  If I get up by 7 a.m. each day, that is early enough.
  5. I do dress nicely when it matters.  If I am working at home, it’s fine to wear what’s most comfortable.  When I go out, I dress appropriately for my lifestyle.  I don’t usually go out dressed like a slob unless I’m going to the gym (and even then, I’m dressed suitably for the activity at hand).

From Should to Choice

The responses to “Why haven’t you?” often reveal that we’ve been beating ourselves up for something we never really wanted to do or that wasn’t our idea in the first place.  In many instances, the “should” originated with someone else, such as a parent or other powerful adult.  Alternatively, it may be based upon a firmly entrenched societal belief.  My belief that I should get up early is in line with the standard 8-5 job concept which is prevalent in our society.  Since I worked in the corporate world for so many years, I came to associate getting up early with being productive or worthwhile.

One of the benefits of examining our internal “shoulds” is that once we become aware that our “shoulds” originated elsewhere and they aren’t serving us in the present time, we can choose to release them.  As Louise Hay says, the power is always in the present moment.  Awareness can lead to power and choice.

Releasing or Reframing My “Shoulds”

In examining the “shoulds” which I presented in this post, I have chosen to release two and reframe the other three. I decided to release “I should get up earlier” and “I should dress nicely more often” because I realized that I was basing these edicts upon the beliefs of others.  For my life and what I’m up to, I get up early enough and I dress sufficiently well.

For the belief, “I should be more productive,” my reframe is to focus more on what matters most in my life and to center my productivity efforts on those items.  I don’t need to do more; I just need to do the critical few things which will make the greatest difference in my life.

In terms of “I should make more money,” I have decided that I do want to earn a higher level of income, but that I am committed to having that income be derived from work that matters to me.  My empowered action will be to pursue income sources in writing and designing websites for businesses and causes which inspire me.   I don’t need to “get a real job,” but I would like to determine a way to make a reasonably steady income while engaging in interesting and challenging work.

Valuable Insights Lead to Empowering Possibilities!

The “I Should…” exercise provided some valuable insights for me and enabled me to release some long-held limiting beliefs.  I can now move forward with some empowering possibilities for the things I could do.   I’m sure that I will still be confronted by the “tyranny of shoulds” from time to time.  In fact, this subject is of such great interest to me that it will be the topic for another upcoming post…

I encourage you to look at the ways in which “should” adversely impacts your life and to determine if there are any “shoulds” that you might wish to release. I look forward to embracing life from the space of “could” and enjoying more choice and freedom!

Illness as Avoidance

Standard

Sometimes a headache isn’t just a headache… This is something I’ve pondered in recent months as I’ve considered how often I suffer from migraines.

Could it be possible that my headaches serve another purpose beyond causing me extreme pain and discomfort?  My thoughts and realizations on this subject will be the focus of today’s post.

Inconvenient Migraines & Other Such Ailments

Last summer and fall, I attended classes three nights per week.  Every two or three weeks, we would have a project to complete and hand in for course credit.  We would usually be given one class period to use as a “work night” for our projects.  After a few months of class, I noticed that I would almost invariably have a migraine on each project night.  Was this just a mere coincidence, or was something else behind it?

As I considered my project night migraines, I noticed that I would also get migraines on days or nights on which I had certain other commitments, such as a Toastmasters speech or a social function to attend.  It is highly unlikely that my migraines on all of these days happened by chance, so perhaps there were other forces at play…

I’ve also begun to notice that my other health issues have a tendency to come to the forefront at certain critical junctures in my life.   My digestive problems, sore throat and swallowing issues, neck and chest pains, and various other ailments often crop up under times of stress or discomfort.

Avoiding Commitments

Sometimes my headaches or other health challenges allow me to escape commitments in my life.  After all, if I am writhing in pain, who would expect me to attend a party or give a speech?  I am able to “bow out” of certain obligations by claiming illness without suffering the wrath of others or other such consequences.  I don’t consciously create the illnesses, but whenever there is a glaring pattern being displayed, it is worthwhile to examine the situation and any potential “payoffs” therein.

“Payoffs” of Illness

It may be strange to consider the “payoffs” of a migraine, digestive distress, or any other seriously uncomfortable condition.  After all, I am not exactly swinging from the chandeliers and celebrating when I am afflicted with such maladies.  But truth be told, I am getting a payoff from being sick.   I “get” to avoid a commitment that I have perhaps been dreading on either a conscious or subconscious level.  But at what cost?   Is it really better to be at home suffering in my body than to be in a situation with which I am not fully comfortable?  This is something I never really considered until recently…

Shifting Focus

Another “payoff” for me in my physical maladies is that my focus shifts from other problems or concerns to the illness at hand.  I no longer have to think about what else is bothering me; all of my attention moves to my body and its discomfort.  This was the case on my class project nights.  I was worried about doing a good job on my projects, about measuring up to the teacher’s standards and impressing my classmates.  Once the migraine would appear on the scene, however, it was all I could do to stay in class and work on the task at hand.  I didn’t have the energy to worry about my fears of not being good enough, so I just did my best on the project and let that be that.

The Lesser of Two Evils…

Do I like being in physical pain?  Of course not, but that pain is easier for me to bear – and more familiar – than any emotional pain which I may be feeling.  I don’t know what to do with the emotional pain; the possibilities are seemingly endless.  Plus, it isn’t socially acceptable to talk about our psychological pain, yet the discussion of health problems has no such taboos.  How many people will tell their co-workers about an appointment with a physician, yet guard a counseling appointment as a secret from all but their closest confidantes?

Awareness Leads to Choice

Realizing the ways in which my illnesses serve as vehicles of avoidance has helped me to change the ways in which I interact with my infirmities – and with other people. I now give myself permission to say no to commitments I don’t wish to fulfill.  If I don’t want to do something (and it isn’t necessary for my work, relationships, or life), I decline to commit, and I don’t allow any feelings of guilt to enter my consciousness.  If I don’t commit in the first place, I don’t need to create an illness in order to avoid doing something which I’m dreading.

However, if I have already agreed to do something and the time is at hand, I no longer use existing physical complaints as excuses for not honoring my commitments.  Only on a very rare occasion will I now cancel an obligation due to a health issue.  In almost all cases, I do what I have committed to do.  If I am in pain, I do my best not to show it and instead strive to move past it as best as I can.  What I’ve found is that I often end up feeling better once I get out of the house and am engaging with others at a social or business function.  The reason for my ailment (the avoidance) is no longer needed, so the pain gradually dissipates.

A Powerful Decision

I have made a decision not to let my physical pain stop me in life.  If I have decided to do certain activities on a given day, I will do them, pain or no pain.  Unless the pain is downright excruciating, I am not going to let it sideline me.  Pain isn’t going to stop me from living – and enjoying – my life!

I don’t believe that all of my aches and pains (or anyone else’s, for that matter) are means of avoiding commitments or thinking about uncomfortable situations.  But I’ve come to understand that some of my pain serves the purpose of avoidance.

My awareness of the subconscious functions of my pain has helped me to fight back and prevail.  I am no longer a helpless victim to my seemingly endless list of physical complaints.  I can be at choice in my life, and I choose to live each day to the fullest!

Something to Consider…

The next time you get a headache or some other type of pain, stop and consider what might be brewing beneath the surface.  Could it be that you have created your physical pain in order to prevent or avoid potential psychological discomfort?  If so, how would it be for you to face the  challenges at hand and not let your ailments stop you?  Perhaps if our ailments no longer serve a purpose in our lives, they will gradually fade away, and we will be free!

Hope, Inspiration, and “The Biggest Loser”

Standard

I am a long-time fan of the reality show, “The Biggest Loser.”  I’ve watched all but one of its nine seasons and I frequently find myself in tears as I watch this truly inspiring show.  Last night, as I watched the penultimate episode of the ninth season, I was moved to write about my appreciation for this show I’ve come to love.

The four remaining contestants all went home for a month, where they trained to run a marathon while continuing to focus on losing weight to vie for the title of “The Biggest Loser” (and the accompanying quarter million dollar prize).  Two of the contestants were still close to a hundred pounds overweight when they left the Biggest Loser Ranch.  Yet, they all returned and finished the marathon!  The final two marathon finishers ran across the finish line hand in hand, and I bawled like a baby while watching this touching moment.

Moved to Tears

Why was I brought to tears last night?  Why am I brought to tears by this show virtually every week?  Because “The Biggest Loser” exemplifies the power of the human spirit, the power we all have within us to overcome our greatest challenges and triumph over adversity.  The shear fact that four individuals who were close to death’s door from the side effects of obesity only six months ago were able to finish a full marathon is inspiration at its best.

I have always been a champion of human change and an advocate of the sentiment that change is possible for all who seek it out.  Here were four people who had veered extremely far off the path of health and well-being.  I’m sure there were many people who knew them who had written them off as “lost causes.”  It wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to write off 31 year-old Michael, who tipped the scales at 526 pounds at the age of 31.  Likewise, who would have thought that 27 year-old Ashley, who smoked and drank heavily and weighed in at 374 pounds, would have turned her life around?  Yet, both of them did, as did their co-finalists Koli and Daris.

Lessons from “The Biggest Loser”

Why am I writing about “The Biggest Loser” in The Healing Project?  Well, some of you may feel that it’s too hard for you to change.  After all, you’ve been the way you are for many years and you may feel too far gone to turn it around.  You’re stuck in your ways and you feel little hope of becoming unstuck.

I know how that feels, as I’ve felt that way myself many times over the years.  I may not be obese, but I’ve certainly had my share of struggles around weight and food, plus I’ve grappled with a number of other addictive issues in my life.  Yet, as I watched those four formerly obese people cross the finish line after running a marathon, I was filled with hope and inspiration.  If they can overcome their challenges, why can’t I?  Why can’t all of us?

It may not be your goal to lose over a hundred pounds or run a marathon, but I’m guessing you have your own challenges that are equally as daunting.  I know that when I think about overcoming my laundry list of health issues, I feel overwhelmed and discouraged.  But if Michael, Ashley, Koli, and Daris can run a marathon, I can restore myself to full and vibrant health, as well as overcome the other challenges included in my healing project.

Be Inspired, Believe in Yourself!

Let yourselves be inspired!  Believe in yourselves. There is hope for all of us to heal all of our ailments within and without.  Let the chorus of “The Biggest Loser” theme song guide you…

“What have you done today to make you feel proud?”

Do one thing, however small, each day to inspire yourself, to move yourself forward toward your goals, and you will get there!

Missing Tile Syndrome

Standard

Today’s post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I highly recommend this book as a concise and extremely informative book on the often elusive subject of happiness.  Dennis presents a number of life-changing philosophies in his book, but one of the best is the concept of the “missing tile syndrome.”

Imagine this Scenario…

Ceiling TilesImagine that you are in a dentist’s office having your teeth cleaned and are thus focused on the ceiling above you.  As you glance around the room, you notice that one of the ceiling tiles is missing.  Although the majority of the ceiling is pristine and perfect, you would likely be transfixed upon that one missing tile for the remainder of your visit.

As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  That is fine for ceilings, as they can be perfect.  The danger is when we apply the same focus and filter to our lives…

Even if we have a wonderful and full life, there are always areas which we feel can be better.  The positive side of this is that we continue to focus upon learning and growing and bettering our life circumstances.  The downside is that we may end up obsessing on that which is missing to such an extent that it detracts from our happiness.

Examples of “Missing Tiles”

A few examples will help to illustrate this point…  I had a friend who struggled with infertility issues a number of years ago.  She lamented to me that everywhere she went, all she saw were pregnant women and babies.  I also knew a divorced woman who would venture out on the weekends, only to notice couples kissing and holding hands all around her.  These two women were so completely focused on what they didn’t have, a baby or a partner; they felt as if they were the only ones in their respective positions.

I can think of a few personal instances of “missing tile syndrome” in my life.  I mentioned my obsession with straight, sleek hair in a previous post.  I used to feel that every woman I saw had beautiful, frizz-free hair and that I was the only one around who struggled with managing coarse, frizzy locks.  Similarly, I have often lamented my thick hips and thighs and felt they were out of proportion with the rest of my body.  When I would be out and about, all I would see would be slim-hipped women with model slim legs.

Focus and Gratitude…

Of course, not all women are pregnant, not everyone is coupled up, and not all women have sleek hair or slim thighs.  However, when one is suffering from “missing tile syndrome,” the focus is only upon what is lacking, not on what is present.  When we focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right in our lives, we are generally less happy as a result.

As I’ve mentioned previously, gratitude is one of the primary keys to happiness and well-being. If we look for what’s right in our lives, we will surely find a number of things to celebrate.  Similarly, if we look for what’s wrong, we will be guaranteed to find those missing tiles.

Dealing with “Missing Tile Syndrome”

Awareness of “missing tile syndrome” is a first and powerful step, but Dennis Prager offers some additional suggestions for how to effectively deal with this problem.   He suggests that you do one of the following things in regards to your missing tile:

1. Get It

If you determine that your “missing tile” is absolutely essential to your happiness, you can find a way to get that which is missing in your life.  For example, if my friend with the infertility issue was unable to have a child of her own (fortunately for her, she was finally able to get pregnant…), she could have chosen to adopt a child.   Although her initial desire was to give birth to a child, adopting a child would have given her what she dearly wanted, a child to love and to raise.

2. Forget It

Although this option may not seem feasible, it is a viable solution in certain cases.  There are some missing tiles which cannot be gotten.  Dennis Prager wrote about sharing custody of his son with his ex-wife following his divorce.  Whereas he had previously gotten to spend each and every day with his child, that was no longer the case after his marriage ended.  He found himself seriously missing his son when they were apart, but he couldn’t change the fact that they now spent less time together.  Consequently, he had to dismiss the desire to be with his son all the time and instead focus on making their time together as enjoyable as possible.  When they were apart, Dennis would keep busy doing other things he enjoyed and he gradually came to accept the new situation.

3. Replace It

Sometimes, we are not able to get the exact things we want in life, but we can discover a viable replacement with which we can be satisfied.  A somewhat trivial example may concern a man who is fixated on buying a new Porsche but doesn’t have the money to make such a purchase.  This man may choose to either buy a used Porsche in good condition or he may end up purchasing a domestic sports car at a lower price.

A more serious example of replacing a missing tile may involve a woman who wanted to be an Olympic gymnast but never made it to the upper echelons of competition.   This woman may choose to open her own gymnastics studio or become a coach to young children.  By doing one of these things, she can still pursue her great passion for the sport even though her initial goal was not reached.

Personal Conclusions

Let’s get back to the personal examples which I mentioned above.  After my trauma following my recent attempt to obtain straight and sleek hair (see the post “Perspective and Appreciation”), I have decided that I need to forget about getting this missing tile.   I am choosing to accept the reality of my hair and to be grateful for what I have.  If I find myself feeling sad about the hair which I do not have, I will focus on the aspects of my appearance with which I am satisfied.  I will reflect upon my positive qualities and be grateful for those blessings instead of thinking about the “missing tile” of perfect hair.

The same is true for my thighs.  I have done all I am willing to do to make them slim and muscular.  I work out regularly and I eat well, but my thighs have not assumed the desired shape.  Since I am unwilling to pursue liposuction or extreme diet or exercise measures, I feel I need to forget the “tile” of perfect thighs.  I choose to focus on the fact that my legs are strong and effectively carry me through life.  I also choose clothing which puts less emphasis on my thighs and more emphasis on the body parts which I more readily embrace.

Self-acceptance and gratitude are key in terms of dealing with “missing tile syndrome.”   Be grateful for your blessings in life and put your focus there.  Work on accepting yourself and your life as they are, and stop lamenting your supposed “flaws” to the detriment of your happiness and inner peace.   Although I know these topics will continue to surface as I proceed with my “healing project,” I will close with the ever famous and always powerful Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

May we all live in peace and serenity and embrace our life challenges with courage and wisdom!

Uncovering Our Hidden Beliefs

Standard

I recently completed an exercise on beliefs from Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”  The exercise was straightforward and consisted of sentence completion for nine topics.  The objective was to uncover hidden beliefs which may be holding me back in certain areas of my life.  In this blog entry, I will share some of the insights that I gained from completing the beliefs exercise.

The topics which were explored in the beliefs exercise were:  Men, Women, Love, Sex, Work, Money, Success, Failure, and God. For each word, I wrote the various thoughts which popped into my head.  I tried not to think too deeply about the “right” or “best” answers for any of the topics.   I spent about twenty minutes uncovering my beliefs and then took some additional time to review my answers and look for insights or “aha moments.”

Some Surprise Beliefs…

For some of the areas, there were no surprises.  I knew that I had issues regarding Work, Success and Failure, and I will be writing about those topics in a later post.  I also knew that my feelings about Love and God were basically positive in nature.   However, the biggest surprise for me in doing the beliefs exercise related to my feelings about men and women.  I learned that I have basically positive feelings about men and a lot of not so positive attitudes about women.   Because I am a woman, my attitudes about my own gender bear some exploration…

My Beliefs About Women and Men

Here are a few of my statements about women:

  • Women can be catty, petty and mean.
  • Women aren’t nice to each other.
  • Women can be too obsessed with appearance.
  • Women have fewer advantages in life.
  • Women don’t know what they want.
  • Women are too picky.

In contrast, here are some of my thoughts about men:

  • Men have more advantages in the world than women.
  • Men have more fun than women.
  • Men are easier to get along with than women.
  • Men generally feel better about their bodies.
  • Men are not to be feared or hated.

If I read the above statements and didn’t know any better, I’d think they were written by a man!  I was definitely surprised to learn some of my hidden feelings about men and women, but what does this all mean?  I am still processing this information, but here are some of the insights I’ve gained thus far…

Beliefs About Women – Or About Myself?

Many of my statements about women were more about myself than about women in general.  I am picky and unsure as to what I really want in life.  I have a tendency to be obsessed with my appearance and I am often not very nice to myself.  I can be catty, petty and mean, particularly towards myself.  While I have many advantages in my life, I sometimes don’t appreciate what I have and times, I feel guilty for the privileges which I enjoy.   I question whether or not I deserve to have the many benefits with which I’ve been blessed.

I sometimes feel as if I’m not a “normal” woman.  After all, I’m not very maternal, I’ve never really wanted to have children, and my domestic skills are sorely lacking.  While I enjoy being pretty and feminine in terms of my appearance, I have often tried to develop more masculine personality characteristics.  I have believed that I should be more career-driven than is my natural tendency, especially since I was lacking the drive to bear and raise children.  I beat myself up on a regular basis for not achieving the societal vision of success, a goal which men traditionally feel more pressure to reach.

Strength – Masculine or Feminine?

While I know a number of strong women, I think I’ve always associated strength more with the masculine than the feminine.  Unlike many other women I know, I do not fear or distrust men.  I find that I easily build rapport with men and in general have positive feelings about them.  Before I got married, I had more male friends than female friends.

The women with whom I have bonded tended to be other women who don’t fit the traditional female mold.   I feel that more traditional women don’t “get” me and sometimes look at me as if I have two heads.  At times, I feel judged by other women for the choices I’ve made in life, particularly the decision not to have children.  I do not begrudge their decisions, but I feel that they begrudge mine.

Next Steps for Me

Of course, I don’t know that any of my suspicions about other women are true.  We often project our own beliefs onto others and are frequently unaware that we are doing this.  The Beliefs Exercise has helped to open my eyes regarding my beliefs about women.  Now that I am aware that some of my beliefs are not empowering and don’t really serve me, I have a choice and some additional work to do.  I need to decide what I want to believe about women and about myself.  I choose to adopt more loving and empowering beliefs about women in general and about myself as a woman.  As this process evolves, I will share my new insights, as well as the ways in which I am growing and learning in this area of life.

Follow-On Questions for Readers

  1. What are your attitudes about men and women?
  2. Do you find that you have more positive attitudes about your own gender or about the opposite gender?
  3. In what ways do your attitudes about men and women positively or negatively impact your life?
  4. Are there any dis-empowering beliefs which you would like to release?

I encourage you to take some time to explore your beliefs about Men, Women, Love, Sex, Work, Money, Success, Failure, and God.  Powerful change begins with awareness.  As Dr. Phil says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”   The Healing Project is all about self-awareness, empowerment and positive change.  Although some insights can be painful, they often serve as a springboard toward growth.  

Handling Discouragement

Standard

While I would love for all of my blog posts to highlight my tremendous progress and exciting wins, life doesn’t work like that.  Invariably, we all experience ups and downs, and progress occurs more like “two steps forward, one step back” than in an upward slope.  Although I posted two weeks ago about the wins I’ve experienced since starting this blog, this past week has been more of a period of discouragement.  In this post, I will share my feelings of discouragement, along with some suggestions for how to handle such times in your life.

Career & Health Woes…

One of the “wins” I shared in a previous post was that I was attracting more work projects and experiencing increased confidence as a result.  Well, that win turned out to be short-lived…  The inquiries regarding prospective work have led to dead ends and a couple of projects which I believed were “sure things” have fallen through for reasons unknown to me.

I now find myself in the all too familiar zone of uncertainty and negativity regarding work.  Despite my desire to remain positive and hopeful, I am feeling increasingly discouraged about my work prospects.  I know that it does me no good to lament my poor past choices, but I have had to stop myself multiple times from rehashing ancient history and wishing that I had taken a different path.  I sometimes find myself feeling very depressed for not being where I’d hoped to be career-wise at my age.

In addition to my career woes, a few of my health issues have flared up as of late.  I had thought that my digestive problems were mostly in the past, but I’ve been feeling extremely bloated and uncomfortable all week and have been popping antacids like candy to address the painful burning in my stomach.  The bloating has rendered many of my pants un-wearable and has me feeling fat and unattractive, a feeling I know all too well from my many years of eating disorder struggles.

The Tendency to “Snowball”

I have a tendency for my thoughts to snowball in weeks such as this one.  A few bad things happen and I start to think about all of the ways in which my life – and myself – are just plain wrong.

Instead of merely noting that it’s a “bad week,” I start to “catastrophize” and see things only becoming progressively worse.  The result is that I become paralyzed by depression and fear, do virtually nothing to improve the situation, and end up feeling much worse.

How to Deal With Discouragement

Fortunately, there IS a better way… There are some ways to deal with discouragement before you become caught up in that snowball going 60 miles per hour down a huge mountain.  Here are some tips for addressing your discouraging feelings head on:

1. Take a “Time Out”

Opt for a change of scenery.  Get outside in the fresh air or do any activity which will bring you peace and joy.  For me, a good “time out” is taking a walk along the water with my husband or visiting the mall to enjoy a movie or do some shopping. It doesn’t matter what you do, but make sure it’s something you enjoy.  Even an hour or two away from the source of your discouragement can help you to regain a more positive attitude.

2. One Day at a Time

Stop thinking so far into the future!  Adopt the wise 12-step group saying of “one day at a time.”  Plan your upcoming day, focus on what you need to do that day, and don’t worry about anything beyond that.  Life is so much easier and far less scary when taken in small “bite-sized chunks.”  Ask yourself, “What ONE thing can I do TODAY that will help me to feel more positive about my life?”  Then do that thing…

3. Get Into Action

Stop the “paralysis by analysis!”  It’s common to become paralyzed by fear and then be afraid to act.  But I’ve found that if I do even one small thing in service of my goals, I feel so much better.  Take a “baby step.”  Maybe it’s a phone call or an email, or maybe take 15 minutes to investigate something which might be beneficial to you in an area of your life that feels stuck.  Just do something!  Don’t set the bar too high, and give yourself credit for taking even a small action in the right direction.  Those small actions add up and propel you forward in life.

4. Refocus on Your Goals & Gratitude

Sometimes when we are feeling in despair, we don’t remember what’s most important to us.  It can be helpful to revisit our key goals and commitments during these times.  You ARE writing your goals down, aren’t you?  You are much more likely to achieve your goals if you put them in writing.

When you are feeling low, remind yourself of what really matters most to you.  Look at the progress you HAVE made toward your goals and look at what’s right about your life now.  Remember gratitude – we all have things for which we can be grateful.

5. Get Help

You don’t have to do everything alone!  I know it can be hard to ask for help.  It’s a very tough thing for me to do… But the people who love us want to be there for us and they want to help us during our difficult times.  Sometimes all we need to do is ask.  Call someone to talk or ask a friend for a small favor, or just ask someone to spend some time with you doing something you both enjoy.

If necessary, get help from professionals who might be able to assist you in getting unstuck.  It may be a medical professional or a service provider; there are many professionals who can help us with our various needs, and it’s often not as costly as we might think.  Remember, there is no charge to investigate available resources.  Do what you can to help yourself, but don’t be afraid to look outside of yourself when necessary.

Getting Past My Slump…

Here’s what I’ve done and will continue to do to get past my current slump.  Yesterday, I got into action and did something on which I’d been procrastinating for quite a while.  I decided upon what absolutely needed to be done in order for me to feel a sense of accomplishment.  I set a target of “good enough” instead of perfect and approached the task with a goal of finishing it yesterday.  Less than two hours later, it was done and I felt great!  One step toward becoming unstuck… I also planned a fun activity with a friend for a few days from now so I have something to look forward to.

I am taking things one day at a time as well.  To help with my health issues, I’m focusing on eating better foods and getting more rest.  To address the career challenges, I’m taking baby steps in the right direction.  I’m deciding upon a small key action to take each weekday so that I can build some positive momentum in that arena.  I’m also considering ways in which I can get help with these issues, whether it be from a health professional or a personal coach.

Hopefully, I will soon move out of my slump and start feeling positive and hopeful once again.  I know that I will have other times when I feel discouraged.  When that happens, I will take my own advice and stop those negative feelings before they stop me!

“Deservability”

Standard

With this post, I begin working through the exercises in Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”  While you can definitely read my blog and benefit from my insights without doing the exercises yourself, I encourage you to follow along and gain and share your own insights.  Not all blog posts will be associated with YCHYL exercises, but these exercises are an integral part of the Healing Project.

Defining the Concept

We all want many things in our lives and we often wonder why we don’t get those things.  A big part of it has to do with the concept of deserving, or as Louise Hay terms it, “deservability.”  If, at the deepest core of our being, we don’t feel we deserve to have what we wish for, that belief will block those things from coming into our lives.  We end up settling for less than what we truly desire as a result of our limiting beliefs.  To achieve our goals in life, it is necessary to work on our beliefs as well as take concrete actions toward that which we want.

Deservability Exercise

The Deservability Exercise in the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book” consists of seven questions which are designed to help us to better understand the power of this concept.  Below, I have included these questions (rephrased in a shorter and simpler format) as well as some key excerpts from my responses to the questions.  I feel that I have gained some valuable insights as a result of my introspection into the concept of “deservability.”  Now I invite you to answer these questions…

1. What do you want that you do not have now?

  • I want to have vibrant, good health.  I want to wake up feeling energetic, healthy and hopeful about the coming day.  I want to know that I will feel good instead of fearing or even expecting that I will feel bad.  I want to be able to make plans without fear of having to cancel because I don’t feel well or having to endure a headache or other pain while engaged in some type of social activity.
  • I want to feel like I’m making a positive difference in the world.  This difference doesn’t have to be on a grandiose scale, but I want to feel needed and important.
  • I want to feel as if I am utilizing my best gifts and strengths and that I am expressing my creativity.  I want to feel that I am expressing the best of myself in my endeavors and in my interactions.  The specific things that I do to use my gifts are not as important as the fact that I will be using my gifts in some sort of pursuit that matters to me.

2. What did you learn about deserving in your childhood?

I don’t know that I was told that I didn’t deserve, but I often did feel that I have to earn respect and praise.  I felt that I had to “tow the line” and do what was expected of me in order to win approval and love.

Earning would only work for me on a temporary basis. I would get approval in the moment, but it would be fleeting. I feel that I have continued this practice with myself.  I have to earn my own respect and approval and I often feel that I don’t do enough in order to be worthy of my own love or even like.

3. Do you feel that you are deserving of good things, or do you feel that you have to do something to earn them?  Are you good enough?

I feel more deserving than I did in the past, but there is a still a sense of feeling that I must earn things in life, including love and approval from myself and others.

My initial reaction to “are you good enough?” is that of course I am, but deep down I think I don’t feel good enough or worthy.  I feel as if I haven’t lived up to my full potential in life.  So much of my feelings of deservability are tied up in financial earnings and the societal definitions of success. I feel as if I don’t measure up in these ways.

I do feel that I can be good enough.  It will require an attitudinal shift more than an action shift because I know on some level that I am already good enough.

4. Do you deserve to live?  Why or why not?

I definitely feel that I deserve to live, no question.  This hasn’t always been the case, clearly, as I used to engage in such reckless and self-destructive behavior.

Now I feel that I am worthy of life and worthy of good things in life.  I shouldn’t have to earn the good things I have or feel guilty for what I have.  I want to be able to just be grateful and happy for my blessings and to trust that I have them because I deserve them!

5. What do you have to live for?  What is the purpose of your life?

I have many things to live for.  I have my wonderful husband, my adorable kitties, my family and my friends.  I feel that I have my potential to make a difference in the lives of many others.  I feel that I have my potential joy and future happiness to live for.

I am not entirely sure about the purpose of my life, but I feel that it has to do with inspiring and empowering others.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I wrote that, so I know that it’s true.  I feel that I can be a force for good and a person who can help others to release themselves from their bondage, the bondage of their own creation.  I feel that I can help others to be more free and to experience more joy and happiness in life.  I have yet to fully create this meaning or to realize my purpose, but I feel that I am on the precipice of this at this point in my life.  It’s as if I have to make it over just one more hill and I will be able to be more fully creative and expressive.

6. Whom do you need to forgive in order to deserve?

I feel that I have forgiven most of the other people in my life at this point.  I mostly need to forgive myself in order to feel more deserving.  I still feel guilt over things I’ve done in the past and I need to let that go.  I can’t go back and change what happened, so I need to release the past and move forward powerfully.  I also need to forgive myself for the fact that I have changed careers many times instead of sticking with one thing.  That is also something that I cannot change.

My choices and my actions have shaped me into the person I am today and I think that person is a good person.  Yes, I made some bad choices at times, but those choices were primarily motivated by my inner pain and my lack of self-confidence and trust in myself.  I was trying to escape my pain, so I did some bad and hurtful things.  I don’t excuse my actions, but I do need to forgive them.

7. What do you deserve?  Do you believe:  “I deserve love and joy and all good”? Or do you feel deep down that you deserve nothing?  Are you willing to let go of your limiting beliefs about deservability?

You know what?  I do believe that I deserve love and joy and all good!  It’s taken me many, many years to get to the point where I can write and say that.  I know that there are still some undeserving beliefs which need to be healed, but I basically believe that I am a good person who tries my best to be and do good.  I am willing to let go of my judgment and contempt towards myself.  I am willing to embody “I approve of myself.”  I am willing to awake with joy and live my life in joy and peace.  I am willing to change, I am willing to grow and I am willing to love and accept myself fully as I am while working to create the life of my dreams.

Some Affirmations to Try

Here are a few affirmations derived from Louise Hay’s “Deservability Treatment.”  It may be helpful to repeat these phrases either aloud or silently to yourself when you find yourself feeling down on yourself or discouraged about life in general.

  • I am deserving.
  • I deserve all good.
  • I now move past all negative, restricting thoughts.
  • I no longer identify with limitation of any kind.

Next we will delve into becoming more aware of our beliefs, both positive and negative, about various aspects and concepts of life.  We will identify those beliefs which serve us, as well as those which are holding us back from accomplishing our goal and realizing our dreams.  Then we will move into healing the various aspects of our lives, one step at a time…

Principles of Louise Hay – Part 2

Standard

This post is a continuation of the previous post and will cover more of the key principles of Louise Hay’s philosophy.  This post outlines four more of the points which are the basis for “You Can Heal Your Life.”

“Everyone suffers from self-hatred and guilt.”

I believe this principle is important for several reasons.  First, it’s always helpful and comforting to know that we are not alone in our struggles and pain.  Knowing that other people are experiencing the same difficulties as we are can help us to feel more normal and less dysfunctional.  Although I feel that some people struggle with self-hatred and guilt to a larger degree than others, I agree that this is an issue for everyone at some point in their lives. I believe that Louise Hay states this principle as a type of precursor to some of her later principles which work on transforming the painful feelings of self-hatred and guilt, as well as other harmful emotions and habits.

I have experienced a great deal of self-hatred and guilt over the course of my life.  To say that I am hard on myself is putting it mildly, so to speak.  I have a tendency to blame myself for anything that goes wrong and to hold myself to inordinately high standards which are virtually impossible to meet.  I feel guilty for the things which I have done wrong, as well for my poor judgments and missed opportunities.  Although I feel that I’ve improved greatly in terms of being less critical and mean toward myself, I still struggle with this issue.  I look forward to using Louise Hay’s principles to heal my self-critical tendencies.

“The bottom line for everyone is, ‘I’m not good enough’.”

This principle is directly related to the principle above.  We all struggle with feelings of inadequacy and set standards for ourselves which can be unreachable.  It’s common to look at what’s wrong in our lives and in ourselves instead of noticing what’s right.  It’s the proverbial “glass half empty” approach to life which is so prevalent in our society.  What we don’t realize, however, is how this approach to life impacts us.

Many of us are merely carrying on a legacy of thought patterns which were instilled in us from a young age.  We may have been raised by parents who criticized us more than they complimented us.  The tendency to look first for what’s wrong becomes a pattern which follows us throughout our lives.  It is likely that our critical parents were also raised by judgmental mothers and fathers, and the pattern continues from generation to generation.

It is difficult to thrive in the face of intense criticism and judgment.   It’s like going through life with a dark cloud over our heads, only we’re the ones who put the cloud there by our contention that we’re not good enough.  We need to learn that we don’t need to be perfect in order to be good enough; we can make mistakes and still be lovable and “okay.”

“It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed.”

The feelings of self-hatred, guilt, and “not good enough” all spring from corresponding thoughts.  It isn’t true that we are bad or unworthy; we merely have beliefs that state such things as if they were grounded in fact.  As stated in the previous principle, “every thought we think is creating our future,” our thoughts create our reality.   Yet the wonderful thing is that WE are in control of our thoughts!  With a little practice, we can learn to notice our limiting thoughts and to replace them with empowering thoughts.

I have become a lot more adept at noticing when I am thinking negative thoughts, particularly about myself.  One key is to pay attention to your emotions.  If you are feeling bad, it’s a good sign that you are thinking negative thoughts.  If you notice yourself feeling sad or angry, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “What was I just thinking?”  There’s a good chance that you were thinking something negative and maladaptive.   If you get into the habit of noticing your emotions and questioning your thoughts, you will become more and more aware of what you’re thinking.  Consequently, you’ll be able to replace your negative thoughts with more positive and affirming ones.  It just takes some practice!

“We create every so-called illness in our body.”

This can be a difficult principle for many to take on.   It is uncomfortable to feel bad physically and think that you are to blame for your discomfort.  This is especially difficult in the case of severe and life-threatening illnesses.  Yet it is helpful to remember that such illnesses do not come upon a person overnight. The more severe the disease, the more long-standing the pattern of negative thinking which has preceded its genesis.

I rebelled against this concept when I first read “You Can Heal Your Life.”  I didn’t want to believe that I had created the horrendous migraines which had plagued me since the age of eighteen.  However, when I read the probable thought pattern for migraines, as postulated by Louise Hay, it made sense:  dislike of being driven, resisting the flow of life.  I am what one would call a “control freak” and I hate it when things don’t go my way or when others try to control my actions or experiences.   It makes sense that perhaps my ongoing thought patterns had at least contributed to my migraines.  And although migraines run in my family, it’s likely that controlling and perfectionist tendencies have also been passed down through the generations.

If the word “create” in terms of thoughts and illnesses feels too strong for you to swallow, I suggest that you try on the word “contribute.”  It’s easier to accept that one’s negative thought patterns can contribute to the illnesses which he or she experiences.   Either way, the “remedy” is the same – adopt new thought patterns which better serve you.  Positive thoughts have the power to heal us.  Although I am riddled with a number of physical complaints as I write this, I believe that I have the power to heal my ailments.   Accepting that I have the power to create BOTH illness and health is a cornerstone of my healing project!

Principles of Louise Hay – Part 1

Standard

In order to further lay the groundwork for “The Healing Project,” I would like to highlight some of the key principles which Louise Hay outlines in “You Can Heal Your Life.” I will list each principle as stated by Louise Hay, and then I will explain this principle in my own words and relate a bit about what it means to me personally.  As there are a number of principles which I would like to cover before delving into the deep work of my personal healing project, this is the first of four posts on this topic.

“We are each responsible for our own experiences.”

Louise Hay advocates personal responsibility.  Although she asks people to explore their childhoods and past experiences through the exercises in her book, she cautions her readers against laying blame upon anyone else for his or her current life condition.  While it is true that our past experiences and interactions with others have shaped who we are, we are the only ones who are truly responsible for where we are in our lives today.

There is both good and bad news to this principle.  The bad news is that we don’t get to blame anyone else or hold anyone else responsible for what’s happening in our lives.  The good news is that it is completely in our power to transform our lives wholly and completely.    This is, of course, a double-edged sword.  It is in our power to change, we are free to change our lives in both small and great ways, but it is US who must make those changes.

I am completely willing to own that I am responsible for my experiences.   This means that if I fall into “victim mode,” which happens to all of us at times, it is up to me to pull myself out of that abyss and step back into ownership mode.  I am responsible for what I think and what I do.  I am responsible for doing what I say I’m going to do and for honoring my commitments to myself and others.    This is a tall order, but it affords us great freedom to be and to create.

“Every thought we think is creating our future.”

We each think thousands of thoughts each day.  We are unaware of the majority of these thoughts and many of us have more negative thoughts than positive ones.  Our thoughts have both energy and creative power.  Like attracts like and through the powerful Law of Attraction (see “The Secret by Rhonda Byrne for more information), our thoughts are basically bringing about our experiences.

We all have a negative inner voice which exerts power over us.   This is the voice that tells us we’re not good enough, that we’re foolish to want what we want, and that we’ll never accomplish the goals which we’ve set for ourselves.  This voice is sometimes referred to as the “Gremlin” (see “Taming Your Gremlin” by Rick Carson) and it’s amazing how miserable this gremlin can make us!  I once did an exercise in which I recorded all of my negative thoughts over the course of an eight hour time period.  I literally had hundreds of negative thoughts and many of them were repetitive!  This simple exercise helped me to understand how I was limiting my energy, my creativity and my happiness by my limiting and destructive thoughts.

The good news is that positive thoughts are MUCH more powerful than negative thoughts.  If we consciously replace some of our negative thoughts with positive ones, or if we deliberately think positive thoughts throughout the day, we will notice a big difference in our sense of well-being.  One example of an easy positive thought to think is the declaration “I approve of myself” which I mentioned in my last post.  If you find yourself thinking something negative, either replace it with its opposite, say “cancel cancel” to clear the negative energy, or use a mantra like “I approve of myself” to turn your thoughts and your energy around.

“The point of power is always in the present moment.”

We cannot change the past and we have no control over the future.  The only time which is under our control is this moment, right now.  So often, we spend so much time and energy lamenting what we did or didn’t do in the past and worrying about what we might do and what might happen in the future.   These thoughts and worries are really a big waste of time and usually serve to make us less happy instead of more happy.

If you want to be happy and joyous, focus on the NOW.  Not only is this one of Louise Hay’s key principles, but it is also set forward as a precept among many thought leaders, including Eckhart Tolle, who published the best-selling book, “The Power of Now.”

This is a simple but not easy concept.  When one is first starting to live in the present moment, he or she will often find the mind drifting backwards or forward.  This is the time to gently nudge yourself back to the now, just as one might clear their mind or return to a mantra during meditation.  If you find yourself worrying about the future, it can be helpful to ask yourself the following two questions (from “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks):

  1. Is this worry realistic?
  2. If so, is there anything I can do about it right now?

If the answer to the first question is no, then bring your attention back to the present moment; likewise if the answer to the second questions is no.  If the answer to the second question is yes, then do something to remedy your worry.  Even something minor can be helpful.   Then bring your attention back to the here and now, the point of your power.