F.E.A.R.

Once again, I got pulled into fear. My mother-in-law was going to have surgery. Knowing how some of my friends reacted when they had the same type of surgery, I began to worry. A few family members also expressed their concern. Over time, a few of us were in a full-on fear frenzy. I could feel the fear, worry, and concern mounting in me and others. Unfortunately, at the time I was not able to gain any perspective. After the surgery, when everything turned out fine, I remembered that FEAR is really an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real.

False Evidence:  The worry I had before the surgery was all conjecture. Yes, my friends had had struggles with the surgery, but I had no concrete proof that my mother-in-law would have the same issues. My worry was based on false evidence. I took a few small facts and the experiences of others, and my mind began to blow them out of proportion. How often have you taken something out of context and make it into a mental reality? When have you made a mountain out of a mole hill?  Our minds are programmed to look for danger so we can keep ourselves and those we love safe. Unfortunately, our minds often work overtime creating problems where there are not any. In the desire to remain safe, we create stories of what we need to keep ourselves safe even if our fears are not true or inevitable.  

Appearing Real:  I took my thoughts and mental stories as fact. The more I replayed the story in my mind, the more it made me think it was a forgone reality. I created the story. I was the one who replayed it. I was the one through repetition who started to believe my own lies.

Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash

Enough things in this world exist to worry about, we don’t need to create more. Here are a few ways to stay out of the slippery slope of F.E.A.R.:

Just the Facts, Ma’am:  Don’t create false news. Look at the reality of the situation. Look at what you know as a hard, cold fact not what you fear may happen. Stick to the facts and the reality of the situation not your perception or embellishment.

No Instant Replay: The pain of fear happens in us replaying our fears again and again. Something has not happened, yet we are experiencing it again and again and again by our replaying the potentially negative situation in our minds. Stay out of your mind and stick to the reality of this moment.

Address in the Truth: The time to take action is when something actually occurs. Stop acting on “what-ifs.” It is ok to be prepared for the bad, like stocking up on hurricane supplies, but if you barricade yourself in your house before a storm is officially announced, what good does that do?  

What fears are currently plaguing you? Are they true, eminent, real concerns or the story you made up of what could happen? Are you replaying your story again and again until you are terrified? Are you acting on your fear instead of the reality of the moment? 

When Mother’s Day is Tough

The experience of Mother’s Day can be diverse depending on the person and their childhood. This is the first Mother’s Day for my niece. I love receiving the photos and stories of her first born. She and her husband love their son and are active in his development. It is beautiful to see. I wish her the happiest of Mother’s Days this year and in the future. She is a beautiful expression of the ideal mother and what Mother’s Day is meant to be. For some of my friends, this Mother’s Day is difficult because they have lost their mother, their best friend, to age or disease. They are mourning the loss and remembering the good times. For them, Mother’s Day is perhaps bittersweet. This post, however, is for another set of people.

Two years ago, my friend Lisa Lamont posted a poignant message on Facebook. “Recently there was a post going around with daughters sharing pictures of their mothers who had passed and wished they were still here because they missed them very much. The post said that there is no bond like that of a mother and daughter. When I saw it, shame kicked in. Because I do not have (nor have I ever had a bond with my mother).” In working with clients over the years, I know my friend is not the only one who did not have a Norman Rockwell relationship with her/his mother. For many, Mother’s Day is a time of shame, regret, and anger that their relationship with their mother is not what others appear to have.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Mother Tucking Children into Bed,” 1921. Cover illustration for “Literary Digest,” January 29, 1921. Norman Rockwell Museum Digital Collections.

Perhaps you felt abandoned by your mother, or smothered, or attacked, or any of the toxic patterns listed here. We don’t all win the lottery of being born to two highly emotionally-developed individuals. In my experience, most of us are challenged with some emotional defects which negatively affect those around us. Our parents are no different. They may be battling their own emotional demons, leaving no room for them to make perfect parenting decisions in every moment. Many times, our mothers do the best they can do after having their own less than perfect relationship with their mothers. Being a parent is a very difficult position. Expectations of perfect parenting are thrust upon a new parent even when they do not have the role model to emulate or the means to learn how to best perform their role.

The result for us may be that we are angry at our mother or the fact we were born to the mother we were. I challenge you instead to find the gifts you were given because of the parents you were born to. What did you learn about how to treat others? What did you learn about embracing your own self-worth? What did you learn about accepting others? What did you learn about unconditional love?

This Mother’s Day, if you are one of those who bear scars from a less-than-ideal childhood, release the anger that things should have been different. Find acceptance and forgiveness that your mother did the best she could at the time. And work every day to be the best mother to your children or mentor to those around you. We heal not by fighting or resigning to what was, but by consciously choosing to embrace a healthier life.

demanding queen

Do It for Me

For over three years now, I have been helping individuals manage unexpected job transition. I love the variety of people I speak to and the different goals and challenges they have in defining and creating what they want next in their professions and lives. One type of candidate, however, always makes me sad.

These individuals are angry that the services they are receiving (for free mind you) are not doing all the work for them. They expect their resume and cover letters to be written for them. They expect me to search and apply for positions in their name. And they are REALLY angry that things are not being done for them.

demanding queen
Photo by Alice Alinari on Unsplash

Part of me laughs. How can you expect me to write your resume when I don’t know your professional history and accomplishments? Do you want me to go on the interview for you too?! Then I wonder, if you can’t get the will power to look and apply for positions, are you going to have the initiative to actually perform the position once you have it?

Most of the time however, I am sad. These candidates are so angry and are only making the issue worse. Yes, they were laid off. It is a horrible situation to be in, especially, if it comes without warning and if the family is already having financial or medical issues. But avoiding pain by putting the onus and unreasonable expectations on others, holding on to resentment, and not making any effort of their own, only creates more problems.

Blaming / Attacking Others

The first thing I see are individuals who want to blame everyone else for their problems. My manager was a jerk! This was total ageism! Why aren’t you writing my cover letter for me? You are supposed to get me my next job, where is it? In Rising Strong, Brené Brown calls this Bouncing Hurt. “The ego likes blaming, finding fault, making excuses, inflicting payback, and lashing out, all of which are ultimate forms of self-protection.” These candidates are hurt and instead of addressing their anger, fear, and sadness, they attack those around them.

Sitting in Resentment

When we are angry, it is ok to feel that emotion. Journal about it. Explore the stories about why we were hurt. Emotions are great tools for helping us understand what is working and what is not in our life. But we are not meant to sit in the emotions forever. Feel them, explore them, then release them. Holding on to the anger and resentment only creates more anger and resentment. We experience what we focus on so the more we focus on the bad experience, the more our life is unhappy.

Make an Effort

Stop waiting for the situation to change or for someone else to rescue you. What can you do right now to make your situation even a little bit better?  We are often blocked in making an effort because it means we have to stop blaming others and take responsibility for our lives. Have the courage to move past the pain and into action.

Life can be difficult. We experience disappointments, sudden losses, and heartbreak. It happens. We can not control what happens, but we can change how we react to things. Be aware of holding on to your anger, blaming others, or expecting someone else to fix what is wrong. Our lives become amazing when we step up, accept responsibility, and take even a little action toward what is better for us.

hiding true self

Letting Go of ME, to be me

As I mentioned recently, surrendering my ego is one of the current challenges, goals, liberations I am working on. The ego is who I think I am. The ego is the persona I have created based on where I was born, how I was raised, and what I look like. The ego is how I choose to see life, the purpose of life, and how life should be lived. But the ego isn’t really me. A few months ago, I defined what ego is and is not. At this point, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what ego is, how it can negatively affect me, and why I should let it go. My ego, however, has different plans.

The ego has its own survival mechanism. It does not want to be easily discarded. If we don’t believe in and protect our ego it goes away, and like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction our ego will not be ignored. Like any change, releasing the ego is scary. For half a century I have believed myself to be one thing, defining myself as an intelligent driven compassionate woman who has scored some victories and made some mistakes. My ego is how I describe myself, it is how most people see me, it is what gives my life meaning. It is my boundaries and my framework. And the ego is also a trap. When we hold on to a rigid definition of who we are, we limit what we can experience. When we protect our ego, we distance ourselves from others. In protecting this persona, this role we have taken on, we can become confrontational toward anyone and any circumstance that pokes holes in what we believe we are.

hiding true self
Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

To be truly me, truly deeply Type-Me me, I need to release what I think defines me – family, nation, body, job title, ambition, accomplishments, beliefs, perspective – and instead embrace my true inner self. I had a glimpse of being me without my ego when I returned from Peru. I had shed the beliefs. I had shed the labels. I had shed the judgments. I was just present. I was unaffected by the world and the people around me. Don Miguel Ruiz talked about being without ego when he said, “I don’t take anything personally. I am a secondary character in other people’s stories. I know that whatever people say about me is just a projection of their image of me. It has nothing to do with me.” When are without ego, we can not be defined, we can not be hurt. Whether others are projecting their image on me or I am projecting an image on myself or others, it is all make-believe. It is not reality. The ego is “the idea or opinion that you have of yourself,” it is not a fact. Like the old saying goes, “sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Words can only hurt my ego; they can never hurt my true self.

Being without ego is pure peace, very empowering, and a bit terrifying. It is frightening because it is not how many of us commonly live. We believe that the life we have crafted is hard fast truth, when it is really perception and interpretation. To let go of this perception leaves us floating without a tether. We are ungrounded. It is pure bliss and yet our ego sees it as alarming because everything has changed; the reality we knew no longer exists. The ego wants to feel loved. To feel loved it needs to define something to love. The ego wants to be recognized. To be recognized it needs to define what is good and what is bad. The ego wants to endure. To endure the ego needs to exist and be defended. Being without ego is living without definition, good/bad, and individual existence.

When I have those moments of releasing the ego, I do not disappear. Yes, the persona I wear fades away, but my truth, my true being shines strongly. Without my self-created ego, I am the a free powerful being beyond restriction. I am tapped into the powerful oneness of the universe which is and will be eternal.

Hopefully in some of my existential babbling you received the message you need to hear today.

Hope for the Future

Many of us are happy and joyful as we celebrate this Christmas Day. And many of us also have some sadness, some worry and some concern about the future. Years ago, I stopped watching the news and it released me from depression and hopelessness. Lately I have noticed that after two minutes on Facebook my warm fuzzies of happiness change to devastation and political divide. For my sanity, I may need to begin limiting my social media consumption soon too. The truth is, even if we remove the news from coming to us, essentially hiding our heads in the sand, the world will still continue to get worse, right?

Or are things really getting worse?

I found two great TED talks you should check out. The first talk I found by Hans Rosling was in 2006. In this first talk, he begins to question what we really know about what is happening in the world.  I encourage you to watch the video and see how what you think is actually based on your perception of the world and, if you are like me, you don’t know much more than the literal monkeys surveyed. The point of this talk was that if we don’t look at the real hard data, we don’t see the positive changes in and the real progress of the world. The negativity we see and experience every day is based on our perception. Our perception is based on what we learned in the past. Therefore we are living in the non-progressing negativity of the past instead of the hopeful reality of today.

Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash

The second talk by Hans Rosling and his son doesn’t just show how our thinking is skewed. Instead, they also provide us with tangible ways we can look for and truly see the real data. It is when we can see the real data that we can create ways to make real change, or at least sleep at night knowing life is progressing in a positive fashion.  These gentlemen postulate that we all have embraced preconceived ideas as reality. Our beliefs are based on our personal bias due to growing up in homogenized neighborhoods, to the unfortunate fact that we are taught outdated world views in schools, and due to biased news which focuses on rare events and sensationalized fear.

Here is what they suggest to help us start creating a realistic worldview:

  • Instead of focusing on and believing that everything is getting worse, focus on the fact that most things do improve (and they have the data to prove it).
  • Although there is a real gap between the rich and the poor, remember that most people are in the middle of the curve. And that the middle of the bell curve is growing, meaning more of us are living better.
  • Money is not needed to make social improvements. The inverse is true. Social improvements actually lead to increase in personal and national wealth.
  • We may have news, and now even fake news, but we control our consumption. We are often drawn to sensational and unusual events therefore we are fed more and more of these. Stop consuming the sensational, stop feeding your fears, and focus on the true daily facts of our world.

As we move into 2019, don’t focus on the past. Don’t expect things to get worse. Don’t let the past hold you back. Don’t bring the heartbreaks of the last year into the new year. Look at things with open eyes. Look to the new year with hopeful eyes. And usher in the positivity and hope the world needs today.

mask of ego

Ego and Surrender

Yoga and other mindfulness practices talk a lot about the ego and surrendering the ego. Thinking that the ego meant the self and being raised a Catholic where I heard many times it is better to serve and give to others, I interpreted surrendering the ego to mean that we are meant to be self-sacrificing. That we should release our desires and remove all selfishness. That we should be humble and put others first no matter the personal discomfort. For me this led to a life where I did not take care of myself. By putting everyone and everything else first, I became a neglected last. I thought that surrendering my ego meant surrendering my basic needs.  I’m going to attempt to explain what I have learned over the years.

Self Care

First, unlike what I assumed, surrendering the ego is NOT giving up our essentials needs. You are the only person responsible for you. Therefore, feeding and caring for our own bodies, minds and spirits is and should always be our primary concern. This does not mean intentionally harming or taking from others to satiate our desires. It does mean that we need to care for ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can not care for anyone else nor truly live our purpose.

Ego

mask of ego
Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

If our bodies, minds and spirits are not are ego, what is ego? The Cambridge Dictionary defines ego as “the idea or opinion that you have of yourself, esp. the level of your ability and intelligence, and your importance as a person.” Ego is not you, not your body, not your mind, not your spirit. Ego is what you think of your body, your mind, your spirit, and your position in the world. Our responsibility is to care for our physical and spiritual being, ourselves. What we are exploring is how to release what we believe about our human presence.

Our ego, our thoughts about our self, is often out of balance. Sometimes we have a much grander opinion of ourselves than reality dictates. Maybe we think we are “the best” and superior to others. For whatever reason, our opinion of ourselves is inflated. Sometimes our ego is deflated. We can’t see our good and what makes us amazing. We downplay our accomplishments and our worth. Whether high or low, what is important to remember is that our ego is our self-created opinion. It is not fact. It is a thought or belief.

Surrendering the Ego

Surrendering the ego is letting go of our opinion, good or bad, of who we are. The first reason we strive to surrender our ego, is that our ego, how we think of ourselves, is often misguided. Whether we inflate ourselves or put ourselves down, our ego is based on our beliefs, not hard cold facts. When we surrender the lies we tell ourselves, we can reconnect to the reality of who we are.

The second reason we strive to surrender our ego, is we release viewing the world through our perception of ourselves and begin to see the reality of the world. We stop seeing people as actors in our play, and begin to see them fully and truly as they are. We stop interpreting events through the filter of our ego and begin to see the facts that surround us. We stop seeing the world as a reflection of our opinion and see it more clearly.

The third reason we strive to surrender our ego, is it allows us to connect to the universal. Releasing our opinion of ourselves, opens us to see the truth of who we are in and of the world. We let go of the personal entity we have created and can begin to see ourselves as part of the whole collective universal spirit. When we can release our ego, when we can release the belief that we can creating who we are, who others are and what the world is, we can surrender into the truth of life.