rage

Rage and Addiction

Recently, I explored the relationship insights I found through a talk called Why you will marry the wrong person. The talk brought up two other concepts, seemingly distant from romantic relationships, but very top of mind for me right now – rage and addiction.

Rage

Have you seen people losing their shit lately?  Have you been losing it too? As positive as I try to be, I have to admit that I have been a bit judgmental, angry, and dare I say, rageful lately. I like to think that it is not normal for me. I like to think of myself as a mench, a helper fully accepting of others. Truth is, I am at my core pretty judgmental which can morph into anger and rage. In his talk, Alain de Botton explains how rage is linked to optimism.

It is easy to own my being an optimist. I have always seen the world as it could be. I see individuals as the best people they can become. I know at my heart things could be better; we could have heaven on earth. And I have a lot of rage. Alain de Botton explains that optimism drives rage. When we have expectations, hope, and desire for how things ideally can be, we can become angry that things are not positively different now. We can be rageful because things are not how we would hope them to be. Can you relate?

What can we do with the rage we feel? Alain recommends turning rage into grief. Which I took to meaning turning anger to acceptance. Accepting things as they are, not as we hope they will be. Accepting the truth that we as a society are not ready to become our ideal. Accepting that we may have some more bumping times before things improve.

Acceptance does not mean we give up hope or stop moving toward change. Acceptance does mean that we release our expectations that things will be different. Grieving through acceptance, releasing the optimistic expectations that things should be different right now is a positive step toward progress. Instead of fighting the reality of today and becoming angered by it, grieving that we are where we are and truly accepting it, is the pathway to real change and progress.

This transition from rage to acceptance can be seen in the serenity prayer. Accepting – and maybe grieving for – the things we can not change. Seeing things realistically and changing the things we can. And the all-important wisdom to know the difference. If you feel rage, it is probably something that needs to be accepted and grieved. Acting with rage on the things we can not change, even if it is for the benefit of most, only brings more rage and contention. Releasing unrealistic rose-colored glass optimism regarding the things we do not have the influence to change, paves the way to peace.

Addiction

On a wholly other topic, Alain discussed how he did not like defining addictions by the substance people are addicted to. To him, the “what” is not as important as the “why.” The “what” may be drugs, alcohol, sex, Candy Crush, shopping, or a myriad of other benign or harmful obsessions. Although some of these we are physiologically addicted to, we turn to them all because of the “why.” The “why” of addiction is that we can not be alone in our thoughts and therefore we find patterns of behavior that keep us from this self-knowledge.

It is hard to be completely open and vulnerable with ourselves. It takes a strong person to boldly look at our beliefs, assumptions, expectations, and biases. It takes some guts to look at our own good, bad, and ugly. Most of us will not do it, which is why we turn to something outside of ourselves to release the disquiet we feel. When we have the courage to do a self-inventory and learn to have new thoughts and behaviors, our need to look for peace through addictive external means diminishes.

I hope that you found some nugget of support through reading about rage, optimism, addiction, and self-knowledge. Share your discoveries with us here.

curb your ego

I get in the way of my happiness

How I get in the way of my happiness may not be what you think. You may be thinking I refuse to accept things that would make me happy or don’t allow myself to ask for what I need. Both of which I have done in the past, and still do more than I would like to admit. No, the other way I keep myself from joy is focusing on my ego, my needs, my perspective, without allowing myself to see and be in the bigger picture. When I focus on my ego – my little insignificant self, my perspectives, my assumptions, my expectations, my intellect, my public image, ad nauseum – instead of being more secure and happy, I am less.

Years ago, I wrote a post about how taking on a different persona when playing Wii made it easier to take risks and not to take failures so personally. Since then, I have been receiving lesson after lesson about how surrendering myself, my ego, brings more happiness. My new favorite book, The Art of Living, explores this topic. Here are my thoughts on finding joy by releasing one’s ego through living in the moment with humility and equality.

curb your ego
Photo by Orkun Azap on Unsplash

Live in the Moment

We humans tend to live in the present through the filter of our past. Using our past experiences and perceptions, we create a story about what is happening currently. We are not in the present moment. We are in our minds playing out a story about the present moment. The story we create is not the truth about this specific situation. Just because a red car cut us off in the past, does not mean every red car is going to cut us off.

We feel more secure when things are known and predictable. We don’t do well in the unknown and therefore we create certainty by assuming that things will be like they were before. It is a story we create in our minds to understand and make things concrete. We would rather believe a lie than to sit in uncertain unknowing. We want to believe this manufactured truth, because we think we will find peace in the certainty. We don’t.

When we try to define a situation or predict the future based on the past, we miss the reality of this very moment. The past can inform and instruct us, but when we assume that things will be exactly like they were before, we are creating expectations which usually fall short. Instead, if we can be in each moment, experiencing everything fresh and new, we can see the reality of the situation without bias from our previous experience.

Live with Humility

Humility is usually thought of as making one’s self lower than, less than. Humility is actually defined as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” It is arrogant to believe that our firm, ridged views are 100% correct and infallible. We think that being certain in what we know will give as safety and security. I have found the opposite to be true. When I can release my strong beliefs and approach the world with wonder and openness, I feel calm and at peace. Certainty is a rigidity which takes away our power and strength.

If I swear that the sky is green, if my parents believed the sky is green, if their parents believed, I would fight and dispel anyone with contrary beliefs. I need everyone and every fact to align with my thinking to feel safe. Instead, if I thought the sky was green, but had an open mind I could then analyze any new opinions and thoughts, discerning if they were valid. My self-worth would not be victimized and traumatized by new information. I would not need agreement from others to feel ok.

Many philosophies talk about the “I don’t know” mind. Even if you are well-versed in a subject, instead of assuming you know what is right or what is going to be said/done, be open to the reality of the moment. You may have predicted it correctly. You may not have. But holding on to arrogance that you know exactly how things will be, or how they should be, causes stress. Give yourself a reality check. How much of what you knew five years ago is still the hard-core truth of today? Things change and shift. Nothing is set in stone. Be open to receive and discern new information.

Live with Equality

The ego also takes us out of happiness by telling us we are better than, or less than, others. My husband and I listened to a great podcast the other night that showed how a sense of entitlement seems to be invading our society. Humble your ego. Level the playing field. You are not above – or below – anyone else. Stop judging others by self-created differences. Stop putting others down to raise yourself up. Everyone is equal. Nothing raises us above another – not age, race, gender, education, finances, celebrity. We are all one.

To release your ego and find true peace, live in the moment without the taint of previous experience, act with humility and an “I don’t know” mind, and accept everyone, including yourself as equal.

dog on walk

Dog Behavior Training – for me

A while back I shared what I learned from having a stray cat try to adopt me. I am happy to report the cat has a home now and is being taken care of in the way she deserves, and demands. This January, I adopted a dog, Güera, who is teaching me new lessons.

Being an older rescue, I had no history of Güera’s life or personality. I quickly learned that although the rescue center said she was good around other dogs, she in fact seemed scared or aggressive toward them. Because of this, I shielded her from other dogs. I assumed that she was going to start growling. My emotions conveyed that other dogs were a threat and go figure, when we were around other dogs, she was aggressive.

Honestly, I don’t know when it hit me. Maybe it was the nice older dog owner I befriended who would allow Güera to sniff his dog. Little by little, they got to know each other and low and behold, no more aggression and growling. If Güera could be nice to this dog, logic told me she could be nice with other dogs. When we met other dogs on our walks, instead of sending my emotions into fear, I relaxed. I would soothingly say, “Diga hola” and “tranquila,” Spanish for “say hi” and “relax/chill”. And you know what? Unless the other dog was obviously aggressive, Güera was calm.

dog on her walk
Güera chilling on her walk

This got me thinking of all the times I entered a boardroom, an event, or any situation where I assumed there would be conflict. How much of the conflict that ensued was a direct response to my energy of protection and aggression? I started to notice this in my day-to-day life. Being human there are people I dislike or judge. Instinctively and sometimes maliciously, I approached these people with a chip on my shoulder. I wanted or expected a fight. Being self-righteous I wanted to prove how nasty these people were by provoking them. If I succeeded in provoking them, I felt like a jerk. If I didn’t, I still felt awful because I had made myself feel that way.

Instead, I started to approach everyone – those I liked, those I didn’t, those who I had yet to know – with the calm relaxed attitude I embodied when walking my dog. Tranquila Melissa. Not all interactions went the way I would want them to. But every interaction felt good to me. I was peaceful and centered, and really that is all I ever wanted. It didn’t matter how the other person reacted or what they did, I could choose to be in the state of calm.

What scares you? Who disturbs you? When do you put up a barrier? Where do you look for a fight? What if you could, no matter the situation, choose calm?  You can. You can’t control what others say or do, but you can always control your own actions and reactions. Try it today. Ground yourself before you meet someone disagreeable. Center yourself before bringing up a difficult conversation. Embody peace within you and see how all your interactions shift. Tranquila bonita, you got this.

looking into the future

Be the Change

As we move into the new year, many of us have historically created new years’ resolutions. After 2020, we may just be praying to survive, tentatively embracing the unknown. For me, instead of just enduring the new year, my goal is to live purposefully. Inspired by the book, Becoming Better Grownups, I want to live every day making the world just a little bit better.

Tiny Nudges

I seem to have always had a drive to make the world better, to help those around me. Many times, this passion has been a hindrance. It manifested in an expectation that I could and should change the world. I felt a responsibility to make everything peaceful, fair, and just. Obviously, this is a tall order and not within my ability.  Two recent learnings are helping me refocus my desire to save the world.

First, I don’t know what is right. When I was young, I thought I knew right and wrong, good and bad. I thought my way was the right way. What I now know is that there is no absolute right and wrong. What is best can change depending on the circumstance. Sometimes what I believe is the best option, sometimes it is not. I have set aside my immature notion that I know right from wrong or even that there is an absolute right and wrong. I have learned to pause and wait for clear direction and to not act on my ego-filled judgements.

Second, a concept Brad Montague expresses deftly in his book, is that change does not come across in grand gestures. It is not LaRusso winning the championships, Bruce Willis defeating Hans Gruber, or one single amazing event that changes the world in an instant. Change happens slowly through almost microscopic shifts – the kind word on the right day, a reminder of an inspirational book, sharing experience strength and hope. A tiny nudge in the right direction can be one in a line of many small efforts that lead to the big change. Evolution happens slowly over time and so does changing personally and globally for the better.

Make the World Awesome

Instead of looking at what you can do for money or what will impress your friends, live your life by creating awesome wherever you go. What are you good at? What are you passionate about? What do you do instinctively without even trying?  If you focused on using your inherent talents for good, how could you make the world more awesome? Maybe it would be a new vaccine. Maybe it would be a way to make home schooling easier. Maybe it would be an awesome piece of entertainment to bring joy to others.

Don’t look at what the world needs. When I do this, I think of things that need to be done but I personally have no ability to do them. First look to your passion. What is like breathing to you? What can you not help yourself from doing?  Maybe you will know immediately how your inherent skill will help others, maybe you will uncover that over time. Either way, start with you and have the courage to share your special gift with the world.

As we move into 2021, won’t you join me in living a more purposeful life? Dig deep, uncover, and accept what you are uniquely created to do. Have the courage to share that talent with the world. And know that your small efforts will be part of a chain reaction of efforts which will bring about good in the world.

Wishing you all a happy, safe, healthy, and inspiring new year!

rebuild

What’s Next?

As the world is creating the new normal after the pandemic and the United States looks to elect their next president, it only makes sense to explore what we are moving into, what we are moving away from, and what is really important to us.

Growing up in the 80’s, I was inundated with “greed is good” and the pursue of money over all else. I’m not going to lie; I followed that path for a while.  I thought the right job and the right salary would make my life perfect. And as every cautionary tale tells us, money did not buy me happiness. When I hear today that things are good because the stock market is up, I shudder because I know numbers do not create happiness and because numbers can lie, for instance, the stock market is high, but that does not mean all businesses are doing well or that the individuals working for those businesses are doing well. What I find hope in are the emerging new ways of thinking about business which Nick Hanauer shares in his TED Talk. Business is beginning to explore how financial success does not need to be at the detriment of humanity and the environment. The old adage of greed is good is being released in favor of how business success can benefit the community not just some select individuals. Businesses can be successful while focusing on all people, reciprocity, and cooperation.

In his weekly talk, Ainslie MacLeod shared that, “How your soul measures the success of this life is not by the money you make, but the difference you make.” Which begs to ask, what difference are you making? Are you choosing personal success or doing things that benefit more than just yourself? How are you choosing to live? What is really important to you? Is it having money or having health? Is it winning and being right or having close friends and family? Do you want to feel anger and hate or peaceful and content? I agree with Ainslie MacLeod that what we all truly want, what we are all striving for, what our soul truly values are cooperation, freedom, equality, respect, justice, truth, knowledge, understanding, peace, and love. What I think we are experiencing now is the dismantling of the institutions and beliefs that do not support these values. It appears that many of our major institutions are now going through radical changes which reflect a desire for inclusion, respect, and equality, versus the old way of might-makes-right, winners versus losers, and individuals benefiting at the expense of the community.

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

Over the past years, I have watched as people have slowly become aware that institutions and our long-held beliefs are no longer serving us. All of nature has a cycle of status quo – destruction – and rebirth. 2020 is giving us a first-hand look at destruction. As things are being dismantled, some people are stuck in fear. The status quo, the normal, the order we are used to is gone and we are afraid of letting go of the old and moving into the new. Surprisingly much of our fear of this change is not losing the old way, but the discomfort of not knowing specifically what we are moving into. C.C. Scott said it this way, “We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we think about the unknown.” We are uncomfortable sitting in the unknown so we create a known or what we think we know about the unknown. This is why we see so many conspiracy theories these days. We want to have an answer and so we make an answer. Being in the unknown is scary and uncomfortable and, especially for Americans, we are not very good with uncomfortability.

It is important to remember though that after destruction, after losing what was, there is rebirth. Our challenge is to not sit in the destruction and the fear of the unknown, but to actively seek the new and better. What do we want the rebirth to look like? How do we want to experience life? How do we desire to be treated and how should we treat others?

This week take a look at your focus and what you want. Are you striving for answers and “facts” because you can not sit in discomfort? Are you hoping your bank account and stock portfolio will give you the reassurance you need? Is your self-righteous anger worth more than having close relationships? What do you want from this life? What do you want to experience? What do you want to give back? Are your actions and beliefs drawing you to or away from what you really want? How can you incorporate cooperation, freedom, equality, respect, justice, truth, knowledge, understanding, peace, and love? What do you want the 2021 rebirth to look like?

embracing the journey

The Journey

Lately I find myself yet again being consumed by responsibilities. My day job. Writing blogs. Trying to write a second book. Supporting my husband’s business. Rental property issues. Supporting others. My checklist has grown, and my happiness has diminished. I am not complaining. I have chosen to be involved with everything on my plate and, for the most part, I enjoy the things to which I have committed.  My challenge is that when the “doing” is first, foremost and only, the rest of my life begins to fade away. It is not the work that is the issue. It is making the work a priority over living which is the cause of my unhappiness.

I wake up early in the morning, not because I excited for a new day, but because a litany of problems to solve and things to do replay in my mind. I am not truly connecting with those I love, because I am distracted by trying to solve an issue. I am not in the moment because I am planning what I need to do next. I am not stopping to smell the flowers because I feel compelled to complete the next task. I am not enjoying connection with others because I am focused on the project, not their feelings. And I am unhappy.

As usual, the things I am concerned about have not happened yet, may not need to be resolved, or may not need to be resolved by me. Yet I am taking myself out of my life and concentrating on issues that are either not really issues or are not really important in the scheme of things. Somewhere, somehow I learned and believe that life is about responsibilities, accomplishments, making things happen. Over the years, I have been trying to accept and embrace a new belief.

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

I am coming to believe and fully embrace that life is just about experiencing. Learning to accept life on life’s terms. Releasing any meaning, judgment and expectations I have. To just truly be. To release my desires and simply experience what comes to me. To see an experience for what it is, not what I interpret it to mean or what I would have preferred it to be.

Alan Watts shares this as the Chinese concept of purposelessness. Purposelessness is not a negative. Purposelessness is just being. Purposeless removes the meaning. Purposelessness removes the focus on the outcome. Purposeless is simply being. It is The Power of Now that Eckhardt Tolle talks about. It is the enlightenment Michael A. Singer writes about in The Untethered Soul. My friend Dave Werhane sums it up well, “When I accept that my life is truly a journey, then there is no reason to do anything solely as a means to an end.” Let’s stop looking for the meaning, for the result, for the conclusion. Let’s stop worrying about results, fixing things, trying to accomplish things. Let’s stop labeling things, judging them, trying to uncover their meaning.

Instead let’s be, truly – deeply – solely be, in each and every moment. Let’s experience. Let’s let colors and sounds and tastes and touch wash over us. Let’s do what we are driven to do, not what we think we have to or should do. Let’s create to create. Let’s get out of our minds and be fully in the moment experiencing with all our senses. The deepest sense of peace, well-being, and love have always been experienced when I let go of my mental monkey chatter and allow my full consciousness to be in the moment.  

When do you feel most trapped? When do you experience unhappiness? If you are like me, it is when you are trapped in your mind replaying the past or worrying about the future. Try to find time each day to be in the moment without your thoughts. Remove your regret or anger of what happened. Stop playing mental scenarios of what could be. Be. Here. Now. Enjoy the journey!