"A revelation of insight into the foundations of human suffering & transcendence. It not only lays out essential steps for inner freedom and joy but illuminates the way to true human potential." Paul Rademacher, author: A Spiritual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe

"The masterwork of a profoundly gifted healer of the soul. Dazzling, challenging, wondrously useful." Peggy Rubin, author: To Be and How To Be, Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre

"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world and practical. The implications are profound." Peter Shepherd, author: Daring To Be Yourself

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What's In Your Psycho-Spiritual First-Aid Kit?

We all know that our normal first-aid kits requires items such as gauze, iodine, antibiotic cream, aspirin, etc., but we generally don't look at the well-being of the rest of ourselves - the mind and the spirit - as requiring an equally (if not much more) important first-aid kit.

  • when you have a headache, you may take a nap, take an aspirin, or rub a slice of lime over your forehead
  • when you're running a slight temperature, you may take an aspirin
  • when you step on a rusty nail, you will either wash the wound with hydrogen peroxide and apply anti-biotic cream, or you'll make an appointment to get a tetanus shot
  • when you have diarrhea, you eat some bananas, or have some anti-diarrhea medication
So what do you do when:
  • you're feeling low
  • your best friend has betrayed you
  • you've been down-sized
  • the gray, damp weather is driving you to distraction
  • your spouse/partner has given you a weird look and you know, judging by that feeling in the pit of your tummy, that something is going on
In both sets of examples, you get my point, but in the second set, there are no easy aspirins or bandages to apply. That's why it's so necessary to have your very own psycho-spiritual first aid kit available. This may consist of supportive friends, inspiring or motivational literature or audio programs, the knowledge that if you go out into nature, or choose to focus on gratitude, it will help turn a leaf on how you are feeling, and so on. But in order for it to work, you must
  1. have some of it in place, because you've explored it, worked with it, done it and felt the effect it has on you at good times
  2. begin one or more of it immediately when you notice something is going on. In the same way that you know that if you don't get the tetanus shot in time, there may be more serious consequences, so you should also take on board, that if you don't undertake to do something about your inner state immediately, there may be more serious consequences.
A final point to remember: the more you choose to do this, the more it becomes a habit, the less you need to think about it, and the more it will have a positive effect on your state of mind very quickly.

Related Posts: (the first post below is so related, that you owe it to yourself to read it!!!)

Photo Credit: EM/SM

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Great Thinkers on Happiness

Happiness, a topic I've blogged about over and over again here in these posts is, nevertheless, a topic that continues to remain elusive for so many. Here are thoughts about it from some of the world's greatest thinkers. Isn't it interesting that they insist on either letting go or loving others?
  • Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness. The Buddha  
  • Do you know what it means to depend on somebody for your happiness? It is not the mere physical dependence on another which is so binding, but the inward, psychological dependence from which you derive so-called happiness; for when you depend on somebody in that way, you become a slave. Krishnamurti
  • The secret to my happiness is that I don't mind what happens. Krishnamurti
  • If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
    the Dalai Lama
And this last one: The purpose of our lives is to be happy by the Dalai Lama, brings home yet again the message that somany of us have not yet assimilated. If you really were to believe this - that the purpose of your life is to be happy - what would you choose to do differently?

Photo Credit: Arvind Balaraman

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Being Kind

Such a simple thing to be kind, so why aren't we always kind? Think of the number of times you've found it necessary to impress upon someone that you are right, or know better (or are better), as opposed to being kind. Ugh. Makes you shudder with yourself, right? Certainly makes me shudder with myself.

I hold these two quotes close in order to remind myself frequently:

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
Dalai Lama

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.

Let us make a practice of always being kind.

Photo Credit: Evgeni Dinev

Monday, September 27, 2010

Belief & Confidence in the Self

Isn't it fascinating that Seneca said the same thing in 50 BC as Emerson said in in the 1880's, nearly 2000 years later? Both insisted on the importance of belief and confidence in the self as follows:

There's one blessing only, the source and cornerstone of beatitude -- confidence in self.

Self-trust is the first secret of success.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you believe that you can live a life filled with joy and peace, harmony and freedom without having given some time to the development of this belief in yourself, you will certainly find that those qualities escape you over and over again.

Consider this: if you want to develop your triceps you practice by lifting weights or going to the gym, or swimming, or rowing, or doing some kind of exercise suitable for that development over and over again until you reach the desired result. Did you have strong, firm tricepts prior to this? Were you able to do many repetitions of the necessary exercises prior to this? Of course not. But did you believe that you were going to be able to develop those triceps? Of course. So many people have done so before you, so you know it works.

Developing confidence in the self is similar. It requires a belief in the fact that it can be done, it requires discipline in activities aimed at achieving that goal, and it requires enough love for the self that you are willing to do those activities again and again in order to acquire this confidence and belief in the self.

Seneca knew. Emerson knew. Knowing that they knew, and knowing that millions of others in the 2000 years that separated these two great men also knew can help you to know this as well and to use that knowledge in order to implement it in your life.

Photo Credit: Francesco Marino

Friday, September 24, 2010

Your Children-in-Law

How do you react when your daughter comes home with the man she wants to marry, or live with, or maybe even just date? How about when your son brings home that girl he is clearly into?

Numerous people have come to see me professionally to talk about their difficult relationship with one of their off-spring's partners. Or more than one. Their children-in-law. And of course when they come to talk about this, it is almost always the son-in-law or daughter-in-law who is at fault. Members of my own extended family have also been there.

Years ago, when my eldest son was a toddler sitting on my lap at a public event, another young mother with a little girl, just a bit older than my son sat close to us. And that little minx, why she made eyes at my son and once she had his attention, made faces at him to frighten him! And he started crying! As I felt my anger rise, my tiger-like instinct to care for my child, I thought to myself: oh my God, this is what it probably feels like when you get a daughter-in-law. And I immediately decided that it was not going to happen to me. Not for my sake, and most definitely not for my sons' sakes.

So I did some thinking about it. And of course, years later, when people come to see me about this dilemma in my private practice, I essentially say this: isn't your relationship with your daughter or your son more important to you than being - possibly - right about whether or not the person they are with is the best or the right person for them? And if it is, then doesn't it make sense that you protect that relationship by taking the conscious decision to accept the person they have chosen? And trying your very best to create a good relationship with that person?

But what can you do if it's already years later ... you and the child-in-law have a rough relationship in part at least, because you did no such thing way back when. So my idea is this: arrange a meeting with that person, have a coffee or a meal, just the two of you and put your cards on the table. Here's what I believe I did wrong in the way I began my relationship with you all those years ago and I would really like to improve on that ... do you think you could meet me halfway? (or some version thereof)

Of course, that takes some humility. It may even take you having to swallow a lot just to get those words out, because perhaps a part of you still believes that none of it is your fault. That may be so. But you can try to change things, and since you are the one having these thoughts and reading this post, then you are also the one who can take the first step. You might be surprised at the results!

Related Articles:

Photo Credit: Francesco Marino

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Finding it Hard to Love Yourself? Check Out Your Boundaries

Judging by much of the self-help literature available today, by the clients that walk through my door, and by typical current events in the news about people and their relationships and their pain, loving oneself appears to be one of the hardest things for most of us to do.

Not a High Priority

Loving oneself is generally just not very high on our list of priorities, nor is it always instilled in us as we grow up (see also How Important Is It To Be You?). Only once we begin to realize that it just might be one of those things that is actually holding us back, and we begin to try to work on it, do we realize how potentially difficult it is to achieve. There are many reasons why we don’t love ourselves, most of which are absolute myths, but which we often firmly believe. What follows represents only a few of these reasons:
  • There’s nothing lovable about me
  • I’m a bad person
  • It’s a sin to love oneself 
  • It’s selfish to love oneself
  • The Bible says love thy neighbour 
  • I’ve spent so much time not loving me, that I don’t know how to begin  
  • I’m so ashamed of myself 
  • How can I love myself if I don’t like myself? 
  • I’m so afraid to love myself 
  • It hurts so much to love myself 
  • I’m not good enough to love myself 
  • My mother/father/partner told me I’m useless/worthless/stupid/clumsy/fill in the blank 
  • I’m not worth it 
  • I’ll love myself when I get a promotion, lose 20 pounds, make a million dollars, get him/her to love me, etc. 
How Did You Get Here?

Let’s backtrack a moment. How did you get to this place where you find yourself unlovable, or afraid to love yourself, and so on? Were you born like this? Look at a baby. It may scream when it wants food or is uncomfortable, but wouldn’t you say that when it does that, it is manifesting its supreme belief in its right to be fed or comforted? And who does that? Only someone who instinctively (we’re not even talking about being rational here, merely instinctual) believes he or she is lovable (for more information on our instincts and the broad neurological base they derive from, see also: Introducing Our Second and Third Brains: We Do Think With Our Heart and Instinct). When a toddler comes up to your knee, sticky fingers on your clothes, and looks trustingly into your eyes, he or she believes he has a right to be there and hence believes he or she is lovable.

Healthy Boundaries…What’s That?

But – what happens when the baby is not fed or comforted, and just ignored until it cries itself to sleep? Or the toddler gets yelled at, pushed away, and told in no uncertain terms that he is not wanted there because he is dirty, or disgusting, or bad. You get the picture. I won’t go into the hundreds of scenarios – more or less dysfunctional, because many of them happen in great homes - I could describe, because you’re probably aware of your own, or at least, you’ve heard lots of the scenarios that bring about a lack of self-esteem, a fear of being you, a lack of self-respect and self-confidence, and so on.

Fast forward a few years. You now have a child – youngster – teen – young adult – who finds it hard to say what he or she wants. Or prefers. Or what opinion she has about a particular subject. Or what she’s feeling. And because this person finds it hard to say things of this nature, he allows others to say or do things that are not right, that are unacceptable, maybe just not quite right, but nevertheless, something not right is being allowed. All of that describes behavior by a person with poor boundaries as opposed to healthy boundaries. And before you jump at me, I’m not necessarily talking about hard-core abuse here, it can be much less, it can even just be something the first person perceives. Partially this behavior stems from this person’s assumption that by saying what he wants or prefers, etc. (as opposed to what the other person is saying), he/she will not get what he most wants: love and appreciation…that commodity that somehow was missing part of the time when he was little, so it is better to say nothing, because then he just might get some love…some few crumbs of love… (see also: Emotional Unavailability).

So we now have a person with low self-esteem, or a lack of self-love, or respect, and hence we have a person with poor boundaries. And this of course perpetuates into adult life as long as it is not recognized and dealt with as an unresolved issue. And it can do untold damage to the unfolding of the life of the person involved. His or her lack of belief or love in the self is forever perpetuated by the people chosen to participate in the life, because these are precisely the sort of people who are able to enact the kind of behavior that persons with poor boundaries should object to, or speak up about, and yet they do not.

Wounds, Pain, and the Pain Body

Most of us have childhood wounds. Even if we had terrific parents. Something almost always happened. And whatever the wounds were (I could do a whole series of articles just on wounds), they cause pain (see also blog posts about pain). Often this is not conscious pain. We only feel it when it is triggered again by a person in our adult life. A person who has nothing to do on the surface with the original person who engendered the wound, but this person in our current life somehow triggers the pain, because this person is a good hook for whatever it is that our wound-causing person from childhood did. In other words, the person from the current life situation brings out reactions in us that are similar in nature to how we might have reacted earlier in life when faced with pain. So perhaps we put up with something just to be accepted or loved or approved of, even if putting up with the behavior in question makes us feel awful. It becomes a vicious circle.

And because there is that similarity in the feeling, we are familiar with it. We know it. It pulls us in the direction of the pain, and so we re-live it over and over and over again. Basically what is happening is that our psyche is trying to guide us towards a resolution of the wound, but unless we become aware of what is happening, our chances of resolving it are slim. And so we get pulled by the familiarity of pain we know. Eckhart Tolle calls this the pain body. Chris Griscom calls it the emotional body. (See also my article: Entering the Now Moment by Leaving Unawareness Behind). Both say similar things about it: we wallow in the pain because it seduces us, it sticks to us, we go in its direction, rather than running away from it, because we know it, it’s familiar. Its pull on us is very strong, and so when someone behaves in a way that triggers a childhood reaction due to a wound received then, we tend to go in the direction of the pain, we maintain those unhealthy and dysfunctional boundaries, almost in the way a child cries itself to sleep at night, in pain, but finding some strange measure of comfort in the act of crying.

Note, however, that although I am pointing towards the past in order that you understand where the poor boundaries originated, I am not suggesting that you spend any time whatsoever on determining exactly what happened then. That is not nearly as important – if at all – as it is to change your present behavior in favor of yourself so that you may begin to love and respect yourself.

“Feeling” Your Way to Healthy Boundaries

Clearly, boundaries are an important issue and everyone who has poor ones needs to learn how to establish healthy ones. Some ways this can be done have been discussed in a previous article: Do Your Relationship Boundaries Contribute To Your Well-being? 

But there is also another variation on the same theme. Start by gauging how you feel when certain things are said or done to you. You know when you are feeling good and when you are not. The times that you do not feel good pursuant to someone’s behavior or words, are the times that something needs to be done. Use your feelings as a barometer in order to correct as needed (see also The Energy Barometer: Make Your Mind Body Connection Work For You). I’m not talking about correcting the other person’s behavior. Hopefully that will happen. But what I really mean, is for you to correct you own behavior. In other words, begin by speaking up. Begin by indicating that what has just been said or done is not acceptable. Begin by indicating in no uncertain terms (this can be done courteously and calmly), that when you are treated in such a way, or spoken to in that way, you feel hurt, or denigrated, or angry, or sad, or whatever. State clearly that you wish not to be treated that way again, nor spoken to that way again. And decide on a consequence if the behavior is repeated, i.e., if your expressed desire is ignored. It is very important that you choose a consequence that you are capable of carrying out (don’t say you will leave the relationship, if you feel you will not be able to do that), and that will bother you less, or cause less of an upset in your life, than it will bother the other person. This is not a punishment, it is a consequence of someone not respecting your boundaries.

What you are attempting to do by all of this is not only to get the other person to understand that you will no longer tolerate or accept this behavior, but more importantly, you are showing yourself – perhaps for the first time in your life – that you are worth speaking up about. That your respect for you is more important than being accepted, or loved, or approved of, by another – no matter who the other is. I don’t mean to pretend that this is easy. I also don’t mean to pretend that it can happen all at once, or that, even if you manage it once, you will manage it again each time thereafter. It’s a learning curve, like so much else in life. But I promise you this: if you begin to make a practice of this – using your feelings as a barometer – you will begin to feel better about yourself. You will begin to empower yourself. And you will begin to love yourself. And that is worth gold and this takes you another step down the road to inner freedom.

Note: there are many other manifestations of not loving oneself…having poor boundaries is simply one of them. A future article may deal with further ways in which this appears in an individual’s life.


Photo Credit: Dan

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Problems & Their Gifts

There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts. Richard Bach

Every situation, properly perceived, becomes an opportunity to heal. A Course in Miracles

These quotes, both of which I've used occasionally to illustrate my writing, are so illuminating if we but take the time to think about them. And of course the more we think about them, the more we are able to put their wisdom to use in our lives in the way we perceive our problems or challenges.

Think back: what have you learned from the major problems in your life? I lost my mother at the age of 19, long before I was anywhere near being prepared - if one ever is - for such an event. Furthermore it happened while I was traveling abroad and she was there one moment, and gone the next when the phone call came. What did I learn? To make every moment count. To use such a devastating situation to grow and understand more about life so that her death would not be in vain. I became so much more of a self-responsible human being due to that. I also learned how important it was to never neglect an opportunity to tell those that we love, that we do indeed love them.

Then my only brother died when I was 23. I went to the funeral with my eldest son of barely three weeks in my arms. More devastation. He too, just as my mother, had died of cancer. What did I learn? The above lesson was reinforced. I learned about the fragility of life and the need to live it at its fullest as long as you have it. I grew a few more inches.

Scarcely 18 months later when my second son was less than one month old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the end it was a false alarm, but until I knew that, it had caused me to take a look at my own mortality. What did I learn? That my own mortality scared me much less than the well-being of my children. That I knew I could deal with this. It showed me another portion of my strength.

About two years later, my third son, then nine months old, was found at the bottom of the pool. It appeared he had drowned and for several very frightening and long drawn-out minutes, it appeared he had died. What did I learn? That I was able to keep my head in an emergency. That I did what was necessary to manage a situation that was totally out of control. It showed me a portion of my strength. 

Only a little later, with those three very small boys of 6, 4 and 2, I went through a very contentious and acrimonious separation and custody battle. It was everything but pretty. I was alone, without my family of origin (they were mainly dead), not in my country, and with very few friends other than those that had befriended me via my spouse. I had never worked. I had no money. And even though I was the one that left, I was deeply, terribly alone. And frightened. So what did I learn? That I was very strong, that I was a survivor, that I was flexible in ways I had never even imagined - a flexibility that allowed me to turn my life around, and above all, I learned to see through other people's eyes and I learned to forgive. The lesson of forgiving, when based on a desire to clear the past of its hold on you, is perhaps one of the most important lessons we can learn in life.

After that there were many more lessons to learn, many more difficult moments. Perhaps one of the most significant was in 2006 when I was diagnosed with cancer again. This time it was the real deal. No false alarm. In the end all was well, but not before going through a very difficult inner process. What did I learn? That the mind is at least as important as the body in a process of healing. That my inner strength was serving me very well. That love is crucial to the process.

Obviously your problems will be different from mine. Better or worse is not a comparison that is germane to this post, because problems are what we make of them. Perhaps what for me was horrendous at some point of my path, for someone else would have been easier, or vice versa, what I was able to bear with relative inner ease, for others would be insurmountable. Problems and challenges are subjective, but we can all look for the gifts in our problems. Because, as Bach says, we have them because we need their gifts.

Photo Credit: Francesco Marino


Also visit my book website: www.gabriellakortsch.com where you may download excerpts or read quotations from any of my books.

Books by Dr. Gabriella Kortsch

Note: If you are wondering why this blog is now only appearing on alternate days (excluding Sat/Sun), it is because I also post on my other blog on the others days. That other blog is The Tao of Spiritual Partnership, so named for another one of my books. Click here to visit the blog and/or to sign up for the feed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Being a Fabulous Parent

It's always going to be the example. And the example you give is always going to be better if you have begun the process of becoming aware of yourself by looking at yourself, by knowing yourself, by loving yourself, and by taking full responsibility for yourself: all you think, feel, say and do.

That's it.

Make the choice to do that and you will be a fabulous parent.

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Photo Credit: Michelle Meiklejohn

Monday, September 20, 2010

Walking Away From Anger: Forgiving

This topic is so multi-faceted, that entire books could be - and have been - written about it. Today I merely want to touch on a tiny aspect of it. But a hugely important one.

When you experience great anger around a relatively small incident ... say, for example, that you return to your parked car and find that the driver's side is blocked by a motorcycle, parked in such a way that you can scarcely open your door, let alone get in, meaning you now have to climb in from the passenger side and maneuver over the gear shift, and you notice that the anger that surges in you makes you want - even if only in your mind - to do physical harm to the inconsiderate being who did this to you.

While we can all understand anger, it is important to recognize that such strong anger over an incident that is  - in the grand scheme of things - something relatively minor, is anger that does not in fact come specifically due to the incident, but has its roots in something different. It might be childhood hurts or being abandoned (physically, emotionally, psychologically), it might be feeling misunderstood in other earlier moments of life that were never addressed, and so now, whenever something happens that causes you to feel mistreated, ignored, or "dumped" in some fashion, anger arises that is generally far greater than the situation merits.

Understand that this is a message from you to you. A clue that something is amiss. A signal that you might wish to examine what is going on under the magnifying glass of your past.

And once you have done that - even if just in cursory fashion - you are ready to take the next step in order to resolve, or begin to resolve this thing in you that creates such anger: you are ready to consider that you might wish to forgive ... that you might wish to choose to forgive. Not for the other person's sake, not for anything or anyone else but yourself. In order to be able to lay this to rest. In order to be free of it. In order to be able to live in peace. And as you do it, as you begin to forgive, you begin to show yourself that you love yourself.

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Photo Credit: Arvind Balaraman

Friday, September 17, 2010

Conversation With the Ego

The way I use the word ego in this post is not related to egotist, or self-serving and selfish, but in the way many writers including ACIM (A Course in Miracles) use it to indicate the part of ourselves that creates mindless chatter through our continual thoughts that come unbidden and willy-nilly, that is so loud that we do not hear another part of ourselves that is the part I would like to call our true self. Some, among others C.G. Jung and Joseph Campbell, call it the higher self, or the divine self, the eternal self, the intuitive self, or the individuated self. What we call it is not terribly important, as long as we know what we mean by the terms ego and "not-ego".

So in a conversation between these two, about any topic at all, due to the fact that most of us are not yet very much acquainted with the true self, the louder and more insistent voice would come from the ego. At best, it would be convincing in the way it insinuates itself about all manner of things that are not ncessarily what are best for us, and at worst, we would not even be aware of it, let alone be aware of the true self, because the thoughts that the ego befuddles us with, confuses us with, lies to us with, are so haphazard, and so - seemingly - out of our control, that when people are first confronted with the idea that we have this ego and then another part which I am calling the true self, they can't even fathom it, as they have lived with this "white noise" all their lives without being aware of it.

Sometimes you can catch the other, the one that is really you, and that has your best intersts at heart, when, for example, - just before exploding into an argument with someone who has provoked you (or so you think, and therefore you are justified in exploding, you say to yourself), - you hear a little faint voice that says this is actually not necessary. Or perhaps it says there are other ways of solving this. So you become aware of this faint voice, just briefly, just for a nano-second, but because the voice is so faint, or the words so brief, you plunge into the other action (the explosion), because the words and thoughts that underscore the rightness of it are so much stronger in you. We might say that the neural pathway connected to that particular decision and action is very, very stong indeed, and the neural pathway connected to the other one is very, very weak.

And so, in hindsight, if we care to remember, we become aware of the existence of this other part of ourselves, that is so fragile, so weak, so undeveloped, so not there in our conscious awareness on a 24/7 basis, that we scarcely even believe that it belongs to us.

But it does. And we need to strengthen it.Without it, the ego will always win. Without it, we will never win.

Photo Credit: Francesco Marino

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Autonomy in Love

Typically when autonomy in love gets discussed in my office, people object, because we believe, we feel, that when we love, when we are in love, there is no longer any room for autonomy, as we are, so to speak, glued at the hip.
Oh, we all know that you leave in the morning to go to your job, and I go to mine, and that you have your poker night out, or perhaps it's football, or even opera, and I have my bridge club night out, or perhaps it's my book club night or even night classes at law school for the next who-knows-how-many years ... so of course we aren't glued at the hip. Don't you see, we do so much apart, we even have some friends we don't share and all these activities. Really, glued at the hip - not us, we are of another generation than our parents.
I agree. We do all of the above and more and so apparently we are no longer glued at the hip the way so many previous generations were. We make our own money, our own decisions and have become quite emancipated in all matters pertaining to love, no matter our gender.
But this is what is missing, not with everyone, but with mostly everyone: we continue to be glued at the hip because we still fall apart if our partner is not in a good place with us. By that I mean that if you see his/her face over the breakfast table in a certain way, or if he/she comes home from work looking a certain way, you already know something is wrong and it affects you in your innermost self, in that place where you feel good or bad about yourself, even if your partners swears it has nothing to do with you.
In a nutshell, what is happening is that your well-being is hung up inside the place where you feel good only as long as the beloved is also in a good place. When he/she is not, due to any number of reasons external to the relationship, and is not in a good place him or herself, then you find it very difficult to extricate yourself from that place where you feel - against all logic - that it must have something to do with you and therefore you continue to feel not as optimal as you could until this element that is external to the relationship has been resolved.
An example that is slightly closer to home is when the partner actually feels upset or annoyed or impatient or jealous or whatever about something you have done - or they simply believe you have done, and are now in this not-so-good-place with regards to how they behave with you, and your inner world tends to collapse, and you will often do whatever it takes to re-establish the equilibrium.
That's what it means being glued together at the hip. And it's not a pretty picture. Not for you and not for your partner because they will have similar reactions, even though one of the two may notice it more than the other, or hide it better than the other. That is generally the dominant partner.
Here's the thing: until you are emotionally independent of your partner in the sense that you are taking such good care of yourself on all levels including the one where you love yourself, and unless you have reached a point where your responsibility for yourself embraces absolutely all aspects of your life, you will not be able to totally unglue yourself from the hip of the other. This is a process that begins with becoming aware of excatly what is going on.
Related Articles:

Photo Credit: Francesco Marino

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Refusing to Believe in Your Limitations

Argue for your limitations and sure enough they're yours.
Richard Bach

Akin to self-fulfilling prophecies, what Richard Bach, one of my all-time favorite authors (he wrote  Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah and Jonathan Livingston Seagull and One and The Bridge Across Forever: A True Love Story and Running from Safety: An Adventure of the Spiritas well as several others) is telling us in this quote is that if you think or talk about what you believe you are not able to do, then you will surely not be able to do it.

Henry Ford has another way of expressing the same thought: Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right. And Napoleon Hill states it in yet a slightly different way: There are no limitations to the mind except those we acknowledge.  

So remember this the next time you don't believe in yourself. Practice using your mind for the purpose of refusing to believe in your limitations, as opposed to believing in them. If your cats wail (as mine used to) when you sing in the shower, clearly you are not meant to be the next Celine Dion or Fergie. If you are around five feet tall, about 1m52, clearly you are not going to be playing in the NBA. But those are not the kind of limitations I'm talking about. Believe in your abilities and do as Thoreau recommends: go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. 

Photo Credit: Francesco Marino

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Plant Your Own Garden

Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers, why not plant your own garden?

These thought-provoking and inspiring words, from an anonymous source, made me lean back in my early morning hunched-over-the-laptop-position with that amazing café con leche at my side to ask myself how much of planting we really do. Our own gardens --- metaphor for ourselves is my take of this --- means turning the soil, placing the seeds or plantlings into it, covering them (or their roots) carefully, watering, fertilizing, weeding and ensuring they get enough light, but not too much.

When we want approbation, when we want admiration, when we want kudos from others, when we want to hear words of love, compassion, forgiveness or gratitude, when we want tenderness, consideration and kindness, we might take a lesson from our anonymous source and plant our own garden by offering all that we wish for from out there to others.

How often do you utter words of love? Of admiration? Of kindness? By planting them out there, seeds will fall, and soon you will have your own garden of breath-taking blossoms.

Photo Credit: Francesco Marino

Monday, September 13, 2010

Your Hands Are Tied

You know how it goes when your hands are tied, don't you? It means you are unable to move forward, you can't progress, or help someone, or do something for some cause because your hands are tied due to circumstances beyond your control. So you are not responsible for your lack of action. Right?

And that is true, of course, if you are Nelson Mandela imprisoned in Robben Island for several decades, or
Victor Frankl, imprisoned in Auschwitz long enough for most members of his family to be gassed, or
Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, imprisoned for ten long years in the Gulag. It was also true for Christopher Reeve, imprisoned in his quadriplegic body that no longer allowed him to fly - Superman-style - through the skies. It's also true for Aimée Mullin, with no legs below the knee joint, Sabriye Tenberken with no sight, Helen Keller with no sight, Randy Pausch getting ready to die prior to that last lecture, and so on. We all understand that these people have now or have had their hands tied and therefore could not do anything for others. Right?

Wrong, of course, because we know, or at least some of us know, how much good precisely these people, despite the overwhelming odds against them did for others!

So you might like to re-evaluate your particular situation of having your hands tied. Is it truly so? Or are you just in your physical, emotional or spiritual comfort zone? What would happen if you stepped beyond its threshold? What could you do?

Photo Credit: Filomena Scalise

Friday, September 10, 2010

Soothing the Self

Where do you go when life troubles you? What do you do when life is too much? What do you focus on when you are hurt, angered, saddened or feeling lost?
What we do under those circumstances, is what we call self-soothing. So a typical way to self-soothe is to drink, smoke, shop until you drop, find someone to have sex with, party, work even harder, stare at the tube, gossip and criticize, etc. etc. You get the idea. We distract ourselves from the problem or negative emotion by doing something in the hopes that we will feel soothed, although the typical result is something much more counterproductive.
Why do we do this? Because we just never learned to self soothe. No one taught us. No one that we grew up with knew how to do it either, becasue if they had, they would most definitely have taught us how to do it, because they would know how very, very important it is for our healthy development and later life.
So how can we self soothe? There are many ways, but some easy ones you can begin with are these:
  • focus on feeling gratitude for something immediate in your life, as opposed to focusing on the anxiety, stress, pain or other negative emotion. This can be as simple as focusing on feeling gratitude for the blue sky outside your window, or the beautiful plant in your home that you have been nurturing for some time, or your dog, or the sound of the rain on your patio.
  • read something that inspires you (if it inspires you, it is also soothing you ... it's comforting you)
  • listen to something that inspires you

Related Articles:

Photo Credit: Filomena Scalise


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Knowing Your Calling

My internet radio show is one of life's pleasures. Since I switched to it, as opposed to a show where I did all the talking, it has allowed me to speak to some amazing individuals and discuss their work, their thoughts and frequently what you might call their "calling".

Yesterday's show with Gregg Levoy, author of Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, was another great one. I encourage you to listen to it here.

But I wanted to offer you this nugget from the show: Gregg's take - based on his many interviews of individuals who believe they have found and pursued their calling - regarding my question about how we know when a calling is a calling and when it is wishful thinking or daydreamoing or fantasizing. Here's what he said:

You know a calling is true when it comes from the soul and not false when it would be coming from the ego (see also Self-Esteem, the Ego, Achievements & What Others Think of You) when:
  • it keeps coming back
  • it comes through many different directions, people and opportunites that are offered, such that you may notice a clustering effect and you begin to connect the dots
  • your enthusiasm sustains itself over long periods of tine
  • you have a true affinity to pull off the mundane "crap" that needs to be done in order to bring your calling to life
  • however ... you are only going to be able to figure out whether it truly was a calling by the results.
Hence Gregg recommends: do it! Commit to it for at least six months and see what happens.

Related Articles:

Photo Credit: Filomena Scalise (Desert at Night)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Subclinical Hypothyroidism: Why Aren't Our Doctors Talking About This?

Sub-clinical hypothyroidism means that your blood work appears to indicate that you have no thyroid-related issues. Your doctor has assured you that all is well. But you don't necessarily feel well, or you feel you have unexplained symptoms that no one is paying much attention to. There is controversy about this subject in the field of medicine simply because traditional doctors go by blood tests and appear to refuse to want to look at the research, some of it from as early as the 1800's with many clinical studies, and all of the years between then and now (see sources below), that indicates that the blood work is not enough. It may be necessary to delve deeper and make a diagnosis based on symptoms and other methods.
Here are some sample symptoms for you to think about, although there are many more:
  • dry skin
  • hoarse voice
  • brittle hair and/or nails
  • vitiligo (white spots on the skin that don't tan. Sometimes they are progressive, i.e., they spread, sometimes they do not)
  • unexplained weight gain or inability to lose weight
  • puffy eyes or eyelids, puffy face
  • blepharitis (eye condition)
  • thinning of the eyebrows on the upper outer edge
  • headache, migraine
  • TMJ
  • teeth clenching
  • poor teeth and/or gums
  • bleed or bruise easily
  • vertigo
  • tinnitus
  • insomnia
  • sleep apnea
  • depression
  • some psychiatric disorders, bipolar, schizophrenia, psychosis
  • myxedema (try this to see if you have it: pinch a bit of the skin on the back of your hand and lift it away from the hand...easy, right? Now try to do the same with the skin on the upper outer arm. If you find that you have to grab a whole bunch of arm - fat and muscle - in order to get the skin, even if you are thin, then you have may have myxedema). The word myxedema was, in fact, once the term for hypothyroidism
  • PMS, profuse bleeding, irregular menses
  • miscarriage
  • fertility issues ... the Starr book (see below) refers to numerous cases of infertility (male or female) successfully resolved once the underlying hypothyroidism issue had been tackled!
  • fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts
  • hysterectomy
  • melanoma
  • breast cancer
  • stomach cancer
  • constipation
  • acid reflux
  • eating disorders
  • umbilical hernia
  • pneumonia
  • hypoglycemia (reacting poorly to lack of sugary or sweet foods over time)
  • hypthermia (chilliness of the hands and feet ... you never really feel warm, even in bed)
  • arrested growth
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • atherosclerosis
  • congestive heart failure
  • clumsiness resulting in falls
  • gall bladder problems
  • bladder and/or kidney infections
  • auto-immune diseases

OK, so let's say you've read through this list and identified a number of symptoms that apply to you or someone you know. But your blood work says you are fine. Here is a simple test you can do at home, according to the work of Mark Starr, M.D. in his magnificent book Hypothyroidism Type 2 and Broda Barnes in his book Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness whose work is carried on via his foundation. Another endocrinologist, author of The Hormone Solution: Stay Younger Longer with Natural Hormone and Nutrition Therapies and researcher who is highly acclaimed in this field is Dr. Thierry Hertoghe in Brussels.
Using an old-fashioned glass thermometer (not digital), take your rising temperature under the arm before leaving your bed in the morning for about five days. Leave the thermometer in place for ten minutes. Do not adjust the reading for it not being oral. If it is lower than 97.8 - 98.2 F or 36.6 - 36.8 C, you might like to look for an endocrinologist in your area who is interested in treating this even if your blood work says you are fine. The least you should do under those circumstances is get more information.
Interestingly, it appears this tends to pass from the mother to the children and not from the father, even when the father himself has inherited it from his own mother and in all likelihood needs to be treated.

I cannot stress enough how eye-opening the Starr book is (it was the first one I read about hypothyroidism). Whatever your gender, if you happen to know that your mother had any kind of thyroid condition at all, you owe it to yourself to check this out, whether by buying the book or getting as much information as possible. If you don't know whether she had a thyroid condtion and can't ask anyone but feel that you have some of these symptoms, simply take the temperature test.
For anyone wishing to venture even further, you might wish to google some of these terms:

  • kefir
  • oil pulling
  • lysine
  • horse tail

Disclaimer: The information in this article is for purely educational purposes and should not substitute professional advice from your physician.
Photo Credit: Marc Aert

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Judging & Love

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
Mother Teresa

This wonderful quote by Mother Teresa came across my desk today and made me pause to think. She is so right, she was so filled with love (who but someone filled with love could have done what she did?), and so was able to see - perhaps more clearly than most - what we so often are obfuscated about. When we judge we don't have time to love. And how often do we choose to judge rather than love?

It's logical, we say. How can we not judge if people do or say this or that? Don't we judge celebrities? Lindsay Lohan for not controlling her drinking? My friend who does the same? Or consider how many of us judged Angelina Jolie while she was out there filling vials with Billy Bob's blood, and then of course, we changed our minds when we saw all the wonderful work she does for humanitarian causes. Need I mention Tiger Woods and how we judged that? How about Bernie Madoff ... now there was one we couldwe could indignantly and self-righteously judge ... and how many of us think of Judy Garland or Marilyn Monroe without immediately judging their suicides - in some fashion? Sarkozy for strutting off with Carla Bruni, and Clinton for Monica. It's endless, and I chose these well-known figures so we could more easily relate, but we both know - you and I both know - that we do this on a daily basis with our nearest and dearest, even if it's for much smaller acts.

And when we do it, there is no room for love.

Here's the thing: we can choose. Before we fall into judgement, we can choose not to judge. We will need to make a conscious habit of it, because it's not going to come naturally. We've spent too much time doing the other thing.

And one final point: since we're already taking advice from Mother Teresa for this, let's also - in order to help us in this process of choosing love - remember one other element of her work: we are all one. Not one of us is more or less.

Related Posts:
Photo Credit: Arvind Balaraman

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Emotional and Energetic Vampires

What a way to think about some of the people in our lives! Most of us have been conditioned to regard vampires as the very substance of our most dreaded nightmares. The absolute epitome of horror. And yet … many of us lead lives with more than just a nodding acquaintance with one or more emotional and energetic vampires.

Perhaps the most daunting aspect of this – if we wish to do something about it - is that a good number of people with this type of personality often appear to be anything but emotional or energetic vampires. They appear to be kind, generous, considerate, and hospitable. And certainly, in many ways – at least on the surface – that is exactly what they are. So why do you feel so awful when you are with them? Weakened, drained, exhausted, sapped. Your energy is gone. Your vitality is gone. Your good mood is gone. You’ve been sucked dry in the truest sense of the word.

How to Recognize When You Are in the Presence of These People

(Use Your Feelings as a Gauge)

Feel a tightening in your gut? A restriction in your chest? A queasiness? An uneasiness? These body sensations, as well as what follows, which is taken from the way we feel, gives you a hint that you might be in the presence of an emotional or energetic vampire. Remember: the way your body feels when you spend time with someone, and your feelings in the emotional sense of the word, are always indicators of something going on that you want to investigate. It may not always mean you are faced with a person of the type I have been describing, but it certainly warrants some careful consideration.

  • Guilty (we feel guilty as we ask ourselves how we can possibly be feeling some of the things we are feeling, if this person is being so good to us or so helpful and hospitable.)
  • Drained and sapped
  • Tired and weak
  • Unenthusiastic (or if we were enthusiastic earlier in the day, after a bit of time in their presence, our enthusiasm is gone)
  • Pushed and pulled in directions you don’t want to go (ever heard of subliminal manipulation?)
  • You may even feel befuddled, less clear in your head, as if you had been mildly drugged
Who Are They?

They can be anywhere and everywhere. Or not. What I mean is this: if you have someone like this in your life, that person, or those persons, could be in any sector of your life. Very close to you. Or more distanced. But if they are emotional or energetic vampires, you will know it because of the way you feel when you are with them for more than a few moments.

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Co-workers
  • Neighbours
  • Superiors
  • Acquaintances
Some Typical Scenarios

  • The “nothing you do or say is ever valued” vampire: This type never is happy for you if something good happens. Or, rather than showing happiness when you tell them about something good, or something you are proud of, they find a reason to put it down, or to show you how it could go wrong, or why it will never work. If, after many of these situations, you finally say something about it, there is a good chance that they may defend themselves by telling you: well someone has to be realistic. If you mention that they never seem to be happy for you when something goes well, they may seem puzzled and ask: but what do you mean? Of course I’m happy for you. If you don’t catch on, you won’t see the connection between your low feelings after being with them, and their lack of joy about your good news. Or you may find yourself striving to do something really spectacular, just to get a favorable reaction from them. And when it does not come, the circle repeats itself, with your vitality and enthusiasm going lower and lower each subsequent time. 
  • The “I know it better than you do” vampire: This vampire is not a vampire because they actually do know something better than you do. I mean when they talk about those areas where they truly have expertise, you do not feel drained or empty. What happens here is something different. You tell them about something. You are enthusiastic. It could be something you did, or experienced or heard about or read. And immediately they have some kind of one-up-man-ship. It could be that they heard about it long before you. They were dong this when you were still a baby. Or they know all about feeling that way (if you had been describing feelings), but now they are well launched into their own description of their experience of this type of thing. Whatever it is, they have been there, done that, or know about it. You begin to feel flattened, drained, sucked dry whenever you speak to them.
  • The “victim” vampire: This one can actually be putting on a very brave face, interlaced however, with much possible sighing, and a soft, suffering voice. Here there has been a great injustice done to the vampire, perhaps it is the family that has let the person down, perhaps it was a spouse, or friends, occasionally this vampire may even blame him or herself for some events, but nevertheless, because they view themselves as victim, albeit brave and all-suffering, you are put into the untenable role of someone who is expected to help this person, generally at the expense of your own well-being. Your help may come in the guise of marathon talk sessions, ideas, something you physically do for the other to help them get stronger or better, but whatever it is, it drains you. And of course, if you stop accepting the role of helper, builder-upper of strength (the other’s), you feel guilty for being such a bad friend (or relative, or partner).
  • The “monologue” vampire who never lets you get a word in edgewise: This one isn’t just talking endlessly about what is not going well in his/her life; the endless talking can also be about potentially interesting subjects, but there is simply no interest whatsoever in what you might have to say about it. So the monologue goes on and on. And since this particular vampire has never done anything to offend you, you feel you would be rude or discourteous by complaining. And so you continue to listen as your life blood (your energy) drains out of you. This can go on for decades.
  • The “I just want to be like you and do everything you do” vampire: This one suffocates you by their desire to emulate you to the nth degree. They may begin by dressing like you, going to the same tailor or designer, using your salon, picking up your discards when you no longer date someone (or after you’ve divorced someone). Later they may actually try to date them even when you are still with someone. They want to go everywhere you go, participate in all your activities, they may decide to sign up at your gym or your yoga class, they may show up unbidden at restaurants when you are dining out with other friends. But basically, because all they are really doing is trying to be like you – which we often take as something complimentary – you may not notice how much you are being suffocated until it has reached a point of strong frustration. And then, if you want to keep your head over water, you may need to disappear from their life.
  • The “please take care of me” vampire: This one is another type of victim vampire, but comes dressed in new clothing. This vampire comes right out and says he/she needs your help, needs you to take on responsibility for some portion of their existence. And for some reason, you fall right into the role. It could be because at the beginning it makes you feel good, or strong, or valuable. Or perhaps they admire you as go about whatever it is that you do for them. But eventually it suffocates you. Because you are now in the strait-jacket of having to be responsible for the other. And to remove the strait-jacket, to stop being suffocated, you may need to take drastic measures, never an easy step. To begin with, it will probably make you feel highly guilty to refuse to continue in the role. But if you do continue in the role, you may feel, apart from suffocated, very resentful, low in energy and enthusiasm, because life just is no longer very good. How can it be, if your life blood runs through their veins? Don’t forget, that in some fashion, vampires are parasites.
  • The “I can’t live without you” vampire: This is a cousin of the please take care of me vampire, i.e., another type of victim vampire, but this one is bigger and stronger. This one may even get the kids to help reel you back into the fold in order to re-establish the status quo. This one may have been feeding off you for an entire marriage. Or as your sibling an entire lifetime. Or your parent, or even your child. You know that you feel drained and empty, perhaps even hopeless in their presence (hopeless because you just don’t know how to stop it). So finally you take the big step and give them an ultimatum – or, even more drastic - remove them from your life. Now they use strategic tactics to undermine your recently-found strength. They pull at your heart-strings by sending you the children (possibly adult children) to let you know how they are not able to live without you. Or they send you your parent (in the case of a sibling) to pass on the same message. The result? You feel so guilty, so terrible about your own selfish behaviour (for wanting to be out of their presence), you feel so responsible for their well-being, that you may capitulate. Don’t. It’s your life that is at stake. You are responsible for you. They are responsible for themselves. They need to learn how to exist without feeding off you, and it is not your role to teach them how.
  • The “I need to know everything about your life” vampire: This one really suffocates as well, but here the suffocation has nothing to do with imitating you or behaving like a victim who needs you to be responsible for them or who can’t live without you. Here we’re talking about someone whom you have become used to giving blow-by-blow accounts of the details of your life. You may be friends and talk on the phone every day and all the fine points are gone over in minute detail. Or you may be colleagues with a similar scenario. At the beginning it just happened. If someone asked you how it came about, you might say that you aren’t really certain. It felt good, and it was lovely to be able to share with someone in such intimate fashion. At some point however, it started to become an obligation. Perhaps a moral obligation. You felt guilty if you didn’t share all. You sometimes began holding some bits back, noticed it, and then felt resentful if the other pried, or prodded you into saying more. In time, you started feeling drained as you recounted your daily life to the vampire. But by now – at least on the surface – you are so close, that it seems to make no sense that you want out, or that you have any negative feelings, so guilt builds up on more guilt. And you feel more drained.
Note: This listing is not meant to be definitive. There are many, many other versions of emotional and energetic vampires. Some, who appear in the workplace as your superiors, have not even been touched upon here, and they can make life a living hell. Others can appear in your bedroom. That will eventually also turn into a living nightmare.

What Does it Mean?

  • There is high degree of manipulation in the art of being a vampire – manipulation directed at you in order that you will offer your neck (and your life blood) willingly
  • In the early stages of the relationship, you may have a feeling of being worthy, of having value, but when you begin to feel drained and robbed of energy, you know that those feelings were merely part of the unresolved issues in you that need work 
  • The vampire:
    • Does not have to take care of the self
    •  Does not have to work on being responsible for the self
    • Feels alive by draining others
    • Feels powerful by draining others
    • There is something very needy about the vampire – why else would they be draining you of your life blood? However, this kind of neediness is highly dangerous for you, if you decide to “help” them with it. Where they are needy, they are dysfunctional. And that is totally their own responsibility. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t be a supporting friend or partner, should they decide to do something about it. But as long as they expect to get their blood from you, and you comply, you are both highly dysfunctional.
What Can You Do About It?

Try talking openly. Maybe you can salvage the relationship, although I don’t think it’s very likely (in order for this to happen, the other person will have had to do some growing of their own, and more often than not growth takes place at different time in individuals’ lives). Try explaining. If none of that works, keep as much distance as you can, both physically and emotionally. Examine everything that is being said and done, and remember that whatever it is that is being said and done has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the other person. Consciously choose to hear it and observe it, but to not let it affect you the way it has up to now. Leave the presence of the other person as soon as you can. But in some cases you may need to walk away … perhaps in a definitive way, by ending the relationship.

Why Do You Have Someone Like That in Your Life?

Let’s start with the premise that the reasons I enumerate are in line with the spiritual philosophy of psychology I’ve been offering in these newsletters over the past four years There are numerous possibilities. However, I just want to touch on one of the most obvious and frequent reasons that pertain to inner growth regarding the reason why people have emotional and energetic vampires in their lives.

Having emotional and energetic vampires in your life eventually teaches you about boundaries … about the fact that you have poor boundaries …about the fact that you have now (as you truly become aware of this in your life) developed a real allergy to this ... to people who do not respect you. In either calling them to order, or in ridding your life of them, you become much more aware and conscious about yourself. Due to this you are now in a position to move to a whole new level in your life because of this new awareness and your conscious decision not to let individuals of this type continue to be an influence in your life.

This reorganization of your inner self and the subsequent move to a whole new level is immensely important. It means you become responsible for your entire self, not just for your physical well-being, for example. By so doing, you ensure that your environment – in this case the type of persons that people your world – are healthy for you. Another magnificent step to inner freedom.

Related Articles:

(all are available here)

  • Claiming Responsibility for the Self 
  • Controlling Ourselves, Our Lives, and the People in Them
  • Do Your Relationship Boundaries Contribute to Your Well-being?
  • Emotional Unavailability: An Introduction
  • Finding it Hard to Love Yourself? Check Our Your Boundaries
  • Gratitude Choice, and the “Why Did This Happen to Me?” Syndrome
  • Grow in Richness: Stop the Blaming
  • I Need You, I Need You Not: Does Love Imply Needing?
  • Intentional Focus, Your Happiness, Your Success, and the Law of Attraction
  • Making Choices: Taking Responsibility For Our Lives
  • Rejection: The Devastating and Paralyzing Effect it Can Have on Us
  • What Are Your Addictions?
  • When Love Walks Out the Door: Six Tips For Intelligent Survival