Who of us does not wish to feel at ease, able to express our fullest self wherever we may find ourselves. The counseling process is an invitation to grow, to remember who we are, to gain ways to fully express our true self and our potential. You will find my style to be both supportive and collaborative, and the environment in which we meet to be warm and welcoming. My education and therapeutic training is in cognitive/behavioral, humanistic and transpersonal approaches.

It is my hope that you may find these topics and stories rich with meaning. May they bring a greater understanding into your life with regard to a particular situation that you are facing. All the thoughts that you will find here are intended in a variety of ways to support you on your life’s journey. If there is a topic you are interested in and do not find it on this page, please feel free to email me and I will include it in these pages.


A Love Letter to You from Me, Your Creator

Love Letter

Dearest Everyone,

I am sending you this love letter because I want you to know the principles of life upon which the world stands. It is important that you know that I make no exceptions to my own principles of conduct nor to the laws of nature that ensure that the sun rises (poetically speaking), or that day follows night, or that rocks are hard and rain is wet.

  1. I make no exceptions. I’m sorry if you find that disappointing, but imagine if I did make exceptions. For whom would I make the exceptions? Would it be for those of you who behave well? Please, if you tell the truth, you are only doing that to avoid punishment or to get a reward. Would it be for those of you who make big donations? If you tell the truth, that is for your own self-satisfaction. Would it be to those of you who give me your prayers of repentance? Give those prayers of repentance to your brothers and sisters, to your friends and acquaintances, to the strangers you step over and ignore. I don’t need those. I don’t hold grudges.
  2. Regarding gravity: count on it. Don’t expect to jump off a roof and float…and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  3. Regarding the weather: it’s unpredictable. If you don’t like that, don’t become a farmer. Try being a dermatologist: it pays more and the hours are better.
  4. No matter how much I love you and how adorable you are, remember to wear gloves when it’s freezing outside. Take my word about this because if you don’t you’ll get frostbite. Just because you’re cute and a good person doesn’t mean I’ll make an exception.
    And, in case you think I’ll treat scoundrels and murderers any differently you are wrong…if they wear gloves outside when it’s cold, they won’t get frostbite (even if you think they deserve it).
  5. If you want to reap apples, make sure you have planted apple seeds. You will not get oranges from planting apple seeds no matter how much you’d like me to change my mind. Be sure to take the seeds out of your pocket, bend down, do a little digging and plant them. I did my part by providing the earth, the sun, the rain, and the seeds…not to mention providing you with the miracle of transformation and if you think that was easy, think again. You try it. It’s pretty tricky. And also,
  6. If it isn’t raining use a garden hose. And if you don’t have a garden hose, keep thinking of solutions. I gave you a brain with the capacity to create infinite solutions for infinite problems.
  7. Read points 5-7 again…I’m not just talking about gardening…I’m talking about relationships and anything else that is important to you and that you value.
  8. If you get angry, it’s because you think you are entitled to have something you don’t have, or you think someone should be some other way. Remember the Flood? Now, that was anger so I know what I’m talking about. The rainbow afterwards was just to let you know I came to my senses and I would never do that again. After all, I created you with free will, so who am I to get upset when you do something I don’t like? Of course, I have my preferences. who doesn’t? After all, wouldn’t you prefer to see your children content than miserable?
  9. Speaking of being miserable, I’m not going to rescue you from the misery you brought upon yourself. That doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion for you…it does mean, as the sign says in the china shop, “You broke it, you buy it. It’s yours.” Sometimes the best way to rescue you is to let you sit with your choice…it helps you get the consequences into your bones so when faced with a similar situation you are more likely to make a different choice.
  10. Regarding death, yours is certain. You will not be the exception. Even Jesus died. Even though you won’t know when you’re going to die or how you’re going to die, it will happen. Having said that, take my advice…it’s still a good idea to wear your seatbelt and respect the speed limits.
  11. Everything you need to know about life can be found in the driver’s handbook that is issued by your state. I’ll send you more about that in my next letter to you.
  12. Remember, you are never alone. Nope, never.

Stand for what is right

Worry Well

Worry Well

SURPRISINGLY, WORRYING SOMETIMES IS HELPFUL…

Most of us worry at least some of the time. We can’t help it. From ‘Will I be late?’ to ‘Did everyone hate the meal I cooked?’ to ‘Am I going to get the sack?’ it’s possible to worry about pretty much anything. And some of us worry more than we are comfortable with and that too we cannot help.

Living a worry-free life is often seen as a desirable—and achievable—goal. But, according to experts, not only is it unreasonable to eradicate all worry, if we did so, we could miss out.

‘We can’t expect to rid ourselves entirely of worry,’ says psychotherapist Andrea Perry. ‘Far better to recognize it as the healthy life force it is. I think it’s important, because if we see anxiety or worry as the enemy, then we want to push it away, stamp it out, get rid of it. But if we see it as telling us something, and we can use it to find ways to take better care of ourselves, that’s far more useful.’

So, how can we better understand our worry, and learn to use it to our advantage? ‘The price we pay for being able to think about the future is to know that we are mortal, and to know we are vulnerable,’ says Dr Martin Rossman, author of The Worry Solution. Our worries are rarely about what is happening right now, in the present moment. If we stop to examine them, we can see that they are about the prospect of some kind of future calamity. What if you are running late? Will your friends be angry with you, disown you, will you be left alone? What if you lose your job? Will you end up penniless and homeless?

‘Worry is often described as an allergy to uncertainty,’ says Dr Kevin Meares, consultant clinical psychologist for the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. ‘For a worrier, only small amounts of doubt are required to set off a large amount of worry,’ he says. ‘If you try to live your life by limiting uncertainty, you end up in a difficult place. You become controlled by routine.’

‘I used to feel terribly anxious about going to new places, in case I got lost or turned up late, so I’d make extremely detailed maps and lists of directions, and always leave at least an hour earlier than I needed to,’ says Theresa, 42. ‘Even then, if there were a traffic jam I’d get panicky and stressed, so I started to avoid going to new places altogether. It wasn’t until my partner pointed out how difficult this was for him that I decided to see a counsellor.’

One of the reasons we find it so difficult to worry less (no matter how much our exasperated loved ones may plead with us to let it go or that it doesn’t help) is that it can give us a kind of comfort. ‘There are psychological rewards for worrying, even when we worry about the things we can’t change,’ says Rossman. ‘Worrying about something can partially satisfy a sense that we are controlling or doing something about whatever is worrying us.’ And when your most worrying predictions fail to come true, it’s tempting to think it’s all down to you.

‘The brain may interpret the connection between the worrying and the fact that the event never materialized as evidence we are exerting some kind of control over the situation,’ says Rossman. ‘It’s easy to see how this kind of “successful” worry can lead us to an irrational yet powerful feeling that we can fend off undesirable events.’

The upside of worrying

No Worry

Although most of us are aware of the problems worry can cause, we may not realize it can have benefits, too. ‘It’s a good way of thinking rapidly about problems and solutions,’ says Meares. Worriers like to be prepared. They will over-rehearse presentations, they will double check everyone has their passport, they will never be without a map or an emergency fund.

For this reason, worriers can be valuable people to have around. ‘The question is, how do you use your anxiety?’ says Perry. ‘Do you use it to make effective choices or does it completely deactivate you? If, for example, it makes you feel you’re not good at your job and you push yourself hard to compensate, then your employer may get fantastic work from you.’

Perry also points out that worriers are like ‘canaries in a coal mine’ – they foresee problems that others don’t. While researching her book on claustrophobia, she spoke to many sufferers who felt anxious about taking the Eurostar train from London to Paris. ‘Then, when a train broke down in the tunnel and people were trapped for 12 hours, the authorities said they’d had no way of preparing for something like that to happen,’ she says. ‘Anyone with claustrophobia could have predicted a train breaking down and people being trapped. In some circumstances, we need those people who have taken every care to make sure the worst doesn’t happen.’

This doesn’t mean that your worry, however productive it makes you, feels any less stressful. But taking time to consider the benefits, as well as the ways you can manage your feelings of uncertainty and anxiety better, is an important first step in learning how to worry well. The goal is not to stamp out worrying, it’s about changing the way you react. It is important to learn to begin to move away from the content of the worry and think about the underlying process.

A tool for self-knowledge

And if we can do this, we come to one of the most useful functions of worry—the insights it can give us to our subconscious thoughts. ‘We all worry about the things that are important to us – our aspirations – and our worry improvises around those aspirations,’ says Meares. ‘For example, someone may say they’re worried about being late for a meeting. When that person explores that worry further, they realize that they are worried about appearing indifferent to their commitment. Understanding what goals drive our worry appears to be an important step in overcoming it.

This can also help us evaluate what is important to us.’ In the case of the individual who is worried about being late for the meeting, he discovered that what is important to him the value of his reputation and wanting to be a person of integrity. Meares often uses the cognitive behavioral therapy technique of the downward arrow (look for the Downward Arrow Technique that I’ve also posted in my Reflections page) to help individuals examine their thoughts. “In this way, worry can be an important tool for self-knowledge,” he says.

If you want to get to grips with it, the first step is to determine whether your worry has a real solution. Talking to trusted friends or a professional counsellor could help. But perhaps the most important thing to remember is that there’s a place for worrying in everyone’s life. We can reduce it, but none of us can stamp it out completely. And we may well become a stronger, more capable person if we can learn to use it to our advantage.

If we are going to worry – and let’s face it, we are – we might as well learn to worry well.

Relax

Dare To Dream

Where Magic Happens

Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of imitative or creation, there is one elementary truth…that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have believed would have come his way.

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.

(W.H. Murray The Scottish Himalayan Expedition)

Himalayas

Having Thoughts versus Real Thinking

Thinking

“I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom.

It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play that I arrive at an original idea, by giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise.

And often even that idea doesn’t turn out to be very good.

I need to think about it, too, to make mistakes and recognize them, to make false starts and correct them, to outlast my impulses, to defeat my desire to declare the job done and move onto the next thing.”

William Deresiewicz, former professor of English at Yale, in his lecture to the United States Military Academy at West Point in October of 2009

Failure

Failure_1

In taking on commitment, be it establishing new habits of any sort—whether it is something seemingly as small as making the bed every day or something as seemingly large as starting a new career or entering into marriage– there will always be failures. That we will experience failure is not the problem, because failing to be consistent or perfect is inevitable. The problem we have with failure is that we think it is to be avoided at all costs, we think it means something negative about ourselves.

Remember:

Failure_2

And it is also important to remember that

Failure_3

Here is something which you might find useful. It is a different definition of failure. Consider this: Failure is either 1) having something you don’t want; or 2) wanting something you don’t have. The idea we have of failure is that is bad, that we have done something wrong, that we are ourselves wrong or insufficient. If we believe that we will then do everything in our power to avoid failure in order to not experience failure. What a terrible bind that is for our heart. But what if just consider for a moment that failure is either wanting something we don’t have or having something we don’t want—well, then we can explore what is missing and continue to take action. And we could be less afraid of failing because now failure gives us information and can inform our choices. Lord knows this way of thinking of failure isn’t easy and may not feel very natural. But think about this: When we were learning arithmetic and we said that 2+2 was 3, we were failing in that moment to understand. But it is the very mistake that is of immeasurable value to our success. It was only when we understood why 3 could not be correct that we become able to learn and see something we didn’t see before.

As long as we can practice being curious about our failures (which might grow easier as we remember failure is an event and not a judgment about us) that we can grow and learn.

When setbacks, missteps, and failures occur, instead of getting stuck in a downward spiral (which can sometimes be the worst kind of stuck), we can begin to course-correct, discover, and create magic along the way—improvisational flexibility becomes an essential art. Failures become a platform, a ladder, a means to fulfill the game we’ve taken on. What failure gives birth to, and what it attracts, what we can make happen, has the power to reshape the course of events.

Failure_4

Habits of Mind

Habits_of_Mind

10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon

THE TRUTH DOES NOT CEASE TO EXIST WHEN IT IS IGNORED

Ignore_Truth

1.The average human life is relatively short
We know deep down that life is short, and that death will happen to all of us eventually, and yet we are infinitely surprised when it happens to someone we know.  It’s like walking up a flight of stairs with a distracted mind, and misjudging the final step.  You expected there to be one more stair than there is, and so you find yourself o ff balance for a moment, before your mind shifts back to the present moment and how the world really is.  LIVE your life TODAY!  Don’t ignore death, but don’t be afraid of it either.  Be afraid of a life you never lived because you were too afraid to take action.  Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss is what dies inside you while you’re still alive.  Be bold.  Be courageous.  Be scared to death, and then take the next step anyway.

2. You will only ever live the life you create for yourself
Your life is yours alone.  Others can try to persuade you, but they can’t decide for you.  They can walk with you, but not in your shoes.  So make sure the path you decide to walk aligns with your own intuition and desires, and don’t be scared to switch paths or pave a new one when it makes sense. Remember, it’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don’t.  Be productive and patient.  And realize that patience is not about waiting, but the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in.  This is your life, and it is made up entirely of your choices.  May your actions speak louder than your words.  May your life preach louder than your lips.  May your success be your noise in the end. And if life only teaches you one thing, let it be that taking a passionate leap is always worth it.  Even if you have no idea where you’re going to land, be brave enough to step up to the edge of the unknown, and listen to your heart.

3.Being busy does NOT mean being productive
Busy-ness isn’t a virtue, nor is it something to respect.  Though we all have seasons of crazy schedules, very few of us have a legitimate need to be busy ALL the time.  We simply don’t know how to live within our means, prioritize properly, and say no when we should. Being busy rarely equates to productivity these days.  Just take a quick look around.  Busy people outnumber productive people by a wide margin.  Busy people are rushing all over the place, and running late half of the time.  They’re heading to work, conferences, meetings, social engagements, etc.  They barely have enough free time for family get-togethers and they rarely get enough sleep.  Yet, emails are shooting out of their smart phones like machine gun bullets, and their day planners are jammed to the brim with obligations.  Their busy schedule gives them an elevated sense of importance.  But it’s all an illusion.  They’re like hamsters running on a wheel. Though being busy can make us feel more alive than anything else for a moment, the sensation is not sustainable long term.  We will inevitably, whether tomorrow or on our deathbed, come to wish that we spent less time in the buzz of busyness and more time actually living a purposeful life.

4. Some kind of failure always occurs before success
Most mistakes are unavoidable.  Learn to forgive yourself.  It’s not a problem to make them.  It’s only a problem if you never learn from them. If you’re too afraid of failure, you can’t possibly do what needs to be done to be successful.  The solution to this problem is making friends with failure.  You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner?  The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.  Behind every great piece of art is a thousand failed attempts to make it, but these attempts are simply never shown to us. Bottom line:  Just because it’s not happening now, doesn’t mean it never will.  Sometimes things have to go very wrong before they can be right.

5. Thinking and doing are two very different things
Success never comes to look for you while you wait around thinking about it. You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.  Knowledge is basically useless without action.  Good things don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who work on meaningful goals.  Ask yourself what’s really important and then have the courage to build your life around your answer.  Remember, if you wait until you feel 100% ready to begin, you’ll likely be waiting the rest of your life.

6. You don’t have to wait for an apology to forgive
Life gets much easier when you learn to accept all the apologies you never got.  The key is to be thankful for every experience – positive or negative.  It’s taking a step back and saying, “Thank you for the lesson.”  It’s realizing that grudges from the past are a perfect waste of today’s happiness, and that holding one is like letting unwanted company live rent free in your head. Forgiveness is a promise—one you want to keep. When you forgive someone you are making a promise not to hold the unchangeable past against your present self. It has nothing to do with freeing a criminal of his or her crime, and everything to do with freeing yourself of the burden of being an eternal victim.

7. Some people are simply the wrong match for you
You will only ever be as great as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go of those who keep bringing you down.  You shouldn’t force connections with people who constantly make you feel less than amazing. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable and insecure every time you’re with them, for whatever reason, they’re probably not close friend material.  If they make you feel like you can’t be yourself, or if they make you “less than” in any way, don’t pursue a connection with them.  If you feel emotionally drained after hanging out with them or get a small hit of anxiety when you are reminded of them, listen to your intuition.  There are so many “right people” for you, who energize you and inspire you to be your best self.  It makes no sense to force it with people who are the wrong match for you.

8. It’s not other people’s job to love you; it’s yours
It’s important to be nice to others, but it’s even more important to be nice to yourself.  You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.  So make sure you don’t start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who don’t value you.  Know your worth, even if they don’t. Today, let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as incomplete as you think you are.  Yes, let someone love you despite all of this…AND LET THAT SOMEONE BE YOU.

9. What you own is not who YOU are
Stuff really is just stuff, and it has absolutely no bearing on who you are as a person.  Most of us can make do with much less than we think we need.  That’s a valuable reminder, especially in a hugely consumer-driven culture that focuses more on material things than meaningful connections and experiences. You have to create your own culture.  Don’t watch TV, don’t read every fashion magazine, and don’t consume too much of the evening news.  Find the strength to fill your time with meaningful experiences.  The space and time you are occupying at this very moment is LIFE, and if you’re worrying about Kim Kardashian or Lebron James or some other famous face, then you are disempowered.  You’re giving your life away to marketing and media trickery, which is created by big companies to ultimately motivate you to want to dress a certain way, look a certain way, and be a certain way.  This is tragic, this kind of thinking.  It’s all just Hollywood brainwashing.  What is real is YOU and your friends and your family, your loves, your highs, your hopes, your plans, your fears, etc. Too often we’re told that we’re not important, we’re just peripheral to what is.  “Get a degree, get a job, get a car, get a house, and keep on getting.”  And it’s sad, because someday you’ll wake up and realize you’ve been tricked.  And all you’ll want then is to reclaim your mind by getting it out of the hands of the brainwashers who want to turn you into a drone that buys everything that isn’t needed to impress everyone that isn’t important.

10. Everything changes, every second 
Embrace change and realize it happens for a reason.  It won’t always be obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it. What you have today may become what you had by tomorrow.  You never know.  Things change, often spontaneously.  People and circumstances come and go.  Life doesn’t stop for anybody.  It moves rapidly and rushes from calm to chaos in a matter of seconds, and happens like this to people every day.  It’s likely happening to someone nearby right now. Sometimes the shortest split second in time changes the direction of our lives.  A seemingly innocuous decision rattles our whole world like a meteorite striking Earth.  Entire lives have been swiveled and flipped upside down, for better or worse, on the strength of an unpredictable event.  And these events are always happening. However good or bad a situation is now, it will change.  That’s the one thing you can count on.  So when life is good, enjoy it.  Don’t go looking for something better every second.  Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they have while they have it.

(adapted from marckandangel, 6/10/24)

The Language of Letting Go… Saying NO

NoFor many of us, the most difficult word to say is one of the shortest and easiest in the vocabulary:  No.  Go ahead, say it aloud:  No.  “No”… simple to pronounce, hard to say.  We’re afraid people won’t like us or we feel guilty. We may believe that a good employee, parent, spouse, child, parent, good friend religious person never says “no.”  The problem is, if we don’t learn to say “no,” we stop liking ourselves and the people we always try to please. We may even punish others out of resentment.  When do we say “no?” When “no” is what we really believe. When we learn to say “no” we learn to stop lying. People can trust us and we can trust ourselves. All sorts of good things start to happen when we say what we mean. If we’re scared to say no we can buy some time. We can take a break, rehearse the word, and go back and say “no.”  We don’t have to offer long explanations for our decisions.  When we can say no, we can start to say “yes” to the good. Our “no’s” and our “yes’s” begin to be taken seriously. We can control of ourselves. And we learn a secret:  “No” isn’t that hard to say. ( The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie)

Nope

Automatic Self-Talk—Not the Friendliest “Voice” in Town

criticism1

We need to become conscious of this thing that has been called “self-talk.”  If you take 15 seconds to listen to this internal monologue that goes on in our brain you will discover that it is automatic and it is actually unlikely that we are generating it.  Consider that if we were the source of it, if we were generating it, then it stands to reason we would know how to stop it, we would know where the shut-off valve is.  Nobody has found it because the valve doesn’t exist.

I would also ask you to consider that this “self-talk” begins to operate in our brain when we are approximately 12-15 months of age. During this time the process is neutral; that is, we are taking in new information, learning to distinguish sounds and words (an ability which actually began in the womb), beginning to learn and process both the receptive and expressive sides of our language ability. We are fully immersed in learning to understand what is being said and how to say it. By the time we are six years old, we have faced many developmental challenges (e.g., feeding ourselves, sitting up, crawling, walking, toilet training, exploring our environment, going to preschool or kindergarten).  During this time our brain internalizes these same attitudes and mannerisms which originated in external sources (e.g., parents, relatives, teachers). Our brain mimics what is heard and experienced.

Every brain has this operational mechanism. If you are human, you have a brain
and—like it or not—your brain is not the exception to this rule.
Therefore, you have this operational mechanism. And—like it or not—this
mechanism within your brain has no off-switch and will be—until your brain
ceases to function—as constant as your shadow in the sun.

The degree to which we experience physical and emotional assurance, the degree to which we experience verbal encouragement is the degree to which we feel a sense of physical comfort and trust; independence, autonomy, and competency. Likewise, the degree to which we face harsh disapproval—physically, emotionally, verbally—is the degree to which we will feel mistrust, shame, doubt and guilt and inferiority—all of which get reinforced by the brain’s capacity to internalize and mimic that which is originally external.

There is an additional component to this mechanical mechanism. If you will take a moment and listen once again to this inherited mechanism (no more than 15 seconds is needed) you will discover this 24/7/365 monologue is only and always only 1) judging, 2) assessing, or 3) evaluating. For example, you may hear something like, “I don’t understand, why only 15 seconds… 15 seconds is too long… this is stupid… what mechanism?… my nose itches”… etc..  If you examine this stream of thought you will discover that it is a never-ending stream of commentary.

There is a tendency to think that this “inner voice” (which at best is demeaning and at worst vitriolic) will motivate us (e.g., “you could do better,” “if only I would have,” “next time I must,” etc. etc., etc.). But the reality is that if that were true, we would only need to hear them once and we’d feel the graceful impact of empowerment and encouragement upon our actions and emotions.

Immediately below,  you will see a conceptualization of these automatic mechanical thoughts. Outside the circle are undistinguished presuppositions about the nature of life (again, based in more judgments/assessments/evaluations).

 

eternal_inner_criticism

 

Here’s another way to capture the essential facet of this eternal inner criticism:

criticism3

 

And here’s another way to capture the essential facet of this eternal inner criticism:

criticism4

 

The constant automaticity of this critical monologue leaves us feeling shamed and guilty, discouraged, defeated and emotionally bruised.

This monologue and its impact are both abusive.

Just as we are not entitled, nor given a legal right, nor a just claim, nor any authorization to be abusive to any individual, so too we are not entitled to, nor given a legal right, nor just claim, nor any authorization to abuse ourselves. Given we are not entitled to be abusive toward ourselves and given we cannot turn off this very mechanism which so greatly disturbs us, is there still any way of being that can deflect this mechanism’s impact upon us and upon our inner equanimity which we so sorely miss?

There is a practice to adopt, to begin to use daily.  And to best understand it let us think of this automatic mechanization of the brain as an ox, an ever-present ox, an unruly ox-a creature whose brutish nature and indiscriminate use of sharp horns must be tamed. Taming the bull, disciplining the bull, requires a constancy of intent which at first we do not have.  It is the practice itself (as described below) that creates the constancy of intent. Here is one such practice:

  1. It is not important whether you begin by taking on this practice for 15 seconds a day, or 1 minute a day, or 2 minutes in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, 2 in the evening, 2 at night.  What is important is that you begin the practice.  Remember, any thoughts you hear regarding this process while you are doing this process are mechanical. It is the machinery wanting to maintain the status quo of its operation.  
  2. Say to yourself:   “Stop” or “No” or “Wait. There is no condition under which I am entitled to assassinate my character or to be abusive.” 
    • If it is helpful either literally or within your imagination extend your hand in a stopping gesture to get your attention and repeat, “stop” or “no” or “wait.”
    • Doing so is like stopping your car at the stop sign. The stop sign does not stop the car. You do. And you may not want to stop the car, but stopping the car, or taming the ox requires that you apply the brakes or pull on the ox’s halter. 
  3. In your own words (or feel free to borrow these) say (out loud is best but if said silently listen with intent): “I am willing to listen to anything there is to say to myself…anything.  From the sublime to the mundane, to the profound to the profane, to the most vulnerable, to the silliest, to the most fearful, to the most embarrassing, to the most frightening…I am willing to listen to anything I have to say to myself—absolutely without any exceptions.”
  4. Then say, “It must be said respectfully, no shoulda, coulda, woulda, etc.” (Refer to diagrams above).
    • One of two experiences will occur:
      • Your mind for a moment or two will be very quiet; or
      • You will find a loophole in the above stop sign diagram and proceed with abusive thoughts.  If that is the case, please add that thought mechanism into the diagrams and return to step 1.
  5. Ask yourself the following two questions:
    • What am I feeling right now? (See the last two pages for assistance in identifying feelings). If you know, name and accept the feeling…or accept you don’t accept the feeling.   If you don’t know, tell yourself, “I don’t know YET.” The word “yet” leaves you with the possibility that you can and will now at some other time in your future.
    • What do I need right now? If you know what you need, name and accept the need and name the steps needed to fulfill the need.  If you don’t know add the word “yet” and tell yourself, “I don’t know YET.”

For the time being, that is all there is to do.   The focus is not on the results. The focus is not on changing the machinery.  When you find yourself focusing on that (which you will), return yourself to the practice of intervening (just as a referee intervenes in the game when a foul has been committed). The focus is an intention practice of stopping in moment the abusive machinery and inviting yourself to begin an intimate respectful conversation.

The Difference Between Self-Discipline & Punishment

First, let’s look at the nature of punishment…

Discipline_1Punishment is a behavior growing out of anger and it can take many, many forms:  a loud voice, a sharp tongue, a rough hand, a glaring eye, a silent look, a turned shoulder. The origin of the word “punishment” means “to take vengeance.” It is used against others and all-too-often we use it against ourselves and are left in the wake of the effects of its destructive shaming and guilt. It is designed solely to reduce the likelihood of the occurrence of certain behaviors which we do not agree with and want to keep from occurring in the future.  When the behavior has stopped, it is not because of compliance. There is no new learning.  Rather, we or the individual on the receiving end of our punishment—have simply decided at some point to no longer wish to experience further punishment. We stop engaging in these behaviors always and only as long as the threat of punishment is immediately present.

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Now let us look at the nature of self-discipline…

Discipline_4Discipline, either toward another or toward ourselves, (self-discipline) is the art of making a “disciple” of one’s self.   The origin of the word, “disciple” means “to instruct, to teach, to learn.” W. J. Bennett writes, in The Book of Virtues, “One is one’s own teacher, trainer, coach and ‘disciplinarian.’ It is an odd sort of relationship, paradoxical in its own way, and many of us do not handle it very well.  There is much unhappiness and personal distress in the world because of failures to control tempers, appetites, passions, and impulses. ‘Oh, if only I had stopped myself’ is an all too familiar refrain”.  In our lives, we will continually be in the process of disciplining ourselves by effectively managing our anger, our appetites, our passions, our impulses, then disciplining (teaching) ourselves (and others) by letting ourselves (and others) to experience the natural consequences of choices, the consequences that flow freely  from the choices that are made. Self-discipline need not be harsh; it can take the form of a quiet resolve or determination that then directs our choices. It is exacting, but is rarely served by our being self-critical or self-denigrating. Self-discipline allows us to make use of whatever power and capabilities have been given us, to be all that we can in the service of our dreams.

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