Knowing When To Quit by Pam Stoddard

“You gotta know when to hold ‘em.  Know when to fold ‘em.  Know when to walk away, and know when to run.”
~  Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

Is it ever O.K. to quit something?  Absolutely.  Someone?  Yes indeed.

Last month’s blog focused primarily on conflict transformation- to see conflict not as a problem to be managed or resolved, but as an opportunity to strengthen a relationship.  The practices shared are relevant to relationship with things, as well as people and other species.  Generalize and apply (put into context for your life).  Six practices were invited (see last month's blog).  If we’ve done our absolute best with practice 1-3 and 4 isn’t a mutual consideration, time to move on to 5 & 6?  Or perhaps it’s a matter of putting aside pride and defensiveness to make way for soul-baring and truth-telling?

Historically I’ve found it’s typically been easier to determine when to quit things (food, sports, behaviors, jobs, etc).  Not so much when it’s come to people.  If you’re like me, “don’t be a quitter” was instilled (installed?) in you by a well-meaning (possibly misguided?) parent, and you’ve never deeply questioned it.  Literally holding onto and generalizing a statement or belief such as “winners never quit and quitters never win” can be the cause of some serious suffering. 

When we’re exposed to unhealthy relationships early on (of any kind), these become our modus operandi (our normal).  In order to unlearn habitual ways of relating that aren’t healthy, we have to learn what a healthy relationship looks like.  Like winning consistently at poker, healthy relationships take skill.  There’s a lot that goes into developing a skill- like readin’ people's faces and knowin' what the cards are by the way they hold their eyes.  In poker, as in life, we don’t have control over the cards we’re dealt.  What we do have control over is how, and even if, we play the game.

So how about celebrating the rest of the holiday season by watching a TED talk each day focused on relationships?  Just go to ted.com, click on Topics, and type relationship in the search bar.  All kinds of “grist for the mill”!  On the subject of relationship to ideas, here’s a playful TED intro-

I really appreciate the work of Dr. Bruce Perry.  I especially like his take on explicit choice.  Again, generalize and apply-

For a shorter, more spiritual take away-

When we figure out who we are, and what’s actually important to us, we consciously choose what and who we connect to and are in relationship with.  We also improve choice in what we do with our resources (time, energy, money, talents, and what-have-you).  We understand why we’re with who we’re with and why we do what we do (aka. value).  We can get into trouble when we stay connected with something or someone and don’t have a big enough why to be in that relationship. The why, of course, is personal.  Always start there.

Learn more about who you are, what’s really important to you, and why.  Give yourself the gift of committing to the practice of being your own best friend.  Increase your skills.  Freedom from frustration is one area we can choose to start with.  Here’s A Guide to Finding Calm & Being Less Frustrated by Leo Babauta- https://zenhabits.net/unfrustrate/

May 2018 be your best year thus far!

Dreading the Holidays? by Pam Stoddard

Holidays can be stressful, even in the healthiest of families.  When unresolved trauma leads to conflict with family members, holidays can feel absolutely overwhelming.  I’m using the definition of trauma as "any negative life event that occurs in a position of relative helplessness".  This could be anything from shame to war.  Conflict can occur when we aren’t aware of unresolved trauma- our own or someone else's.  Unsuccessful attempts to transform conflict without insight and effective tools can inadvertently lead to additional trauma. 

Navigating trauma and transforming conflict are critical to our well-being.  Understanding, along with inner strength, helps us to cultivate healthy relationships, turning holidays into something to look forward to.  Imagine if we related to ourselves and others as if we’d experienced trauma to some degree and are still working through it.  Would we be less reactive and more invested in transforming conflict?  The following video shares the necessity of a bottom up approach for the repair of trauma.  Don’t let the emphasis on age keep this from being relevant to you or anyone else-

Learn more about the ACE study at acestoohigh.com.  Keep in mind, the study only takes into consideration 10 adverse childhood experiences by age 18.  Trauma can occur at any age and in a multitude of ways. 

There’s an emphasis on trauma informed approaches focused on youth development, yet how about for older individuals?  Limited perspective and objectification don’t pave the way to transform conflict, and all too often the conversation goes something like this- “He should know better (be better, do better, etc.) because he's ____ years old.”  Or maybe even, “She is such a_____(expletive).”    Age is irrelevant.  People are not things to be objectified.  A brain is simply an accumulation of its experiences.  Fortunately, brains are malleable! 

In regards to personal change, the goals of conflict transformation are to minimize destructive effects of social conflict and maximize the potential for growth and well-being at a physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual level.  In relationship to others it's to minimize poorly functioning communication and maximize understanding, as well as to bring out and work with fears and hopes related to emotions and interdependence in the relationship. 

Objectivity- the ability to perceive or describe something without being influenced by personal emotions or prejudices- is key in navigating trauma and transforming conflict.  When we do this it’s as if there’s an observer and what is observed.  The experience can then become impersonal.  In the words of Victor Frankl “Between stimulus and response there is time.”  Taking the time it takes to reduce or diminish our reactivity sets the stage for conflict transformation.  I’ve gained a lot of insight through the work of Brene Brown.  Motivational speaker Erik Qualman aka. Equalman put together a compilation of some of her talks he calls 7 Super Tips.   Check it out-

Conflict Transformation is to see conflict not as a problem to be managed or resolved, but as an opportunity to strengthen a relationship- to self or others.  Here are six possible practices:

1. View conflict as opportunity.   When we see conflict as a problem we dread dealing with it. Learn to see conflict for what it is, a valuable look beneath the surface.

2.  Respect your adversary. Pride is the primary obstacle to transforming conflict. When we’re sure we’re right, the other person is wrong, and—even worse—see them as the problem, the conflict is sure to escalate or stalemate.

3.  Identify primary issues. Look beyond the presenting issue to name the real problem.  For example, your spouse (all of a sudden) begins to leave their clothes everywhere despite you asking them to be tidy.  Their behavior may stem from a lack of control in another area.

4.  Envision a shared future. Begin with the question “How can we create something better for both of us?” If, for whatever reason, we can’t envision those we’re in conflict with as part of our future, we won’t transform the conflict.

5.  Know when to quit. A conflict cannot be transformed unless both parties are willing to negotiate in good faith. If the other party is committed to being contentious, you may need to walk away—or at least maintain a holding pattern. Conflict transformation is not the same as capitulation.

6.  Capture the learning. Again, conflict is often related to underlying tension or anxiety due to unresolved trauma, likely to resurface at some point. How might you capture—and communicate—the lessons from the current conflict to possibly assist in the transformation of a future one?

What if you’re in conflict with someone you care about and they’re committed to being contentious or don’t envision a shared future with you?  I’ll contemplate a few of the above practices for next month’s blog.  In the meanwhile, please realize this- another's stance doesn’t necessarily make them wrong, bad, or a _____ (fill in the blank).  The behavior is what it is… until it isn’t (said the self-directed, positive neuroplasticity junkie).  Their behavior may never change.  Perhaps there’s a gift to be found in it. 

I’ll leave off with this quote by DaRa Williams:

"When genuine compassion arises it moves through us as grace bringing together a tenderness and fearlessness that could never come together by other means.  The fearlessness compassion leads us directly into the conflict and suffering of life.  Fearless compassion recognizes the inevitable suffering of life and our need to face the suffering in order to learn."

Happy holidays!

What's the Matter with Memes? by Pam Stoddard

Last month I mentioned living someone else’s life.  If you were wondering what I meant, this month's blog's for you! 

Mythologist, writer, and lecturer Joseph Campbell died 30 years ago this month.  His well-known suggestion “follow your bliss” invites us to get on a track that’s been there all along, just waiting for us, and to live the life we’re supposed to be living.  In other words, if you allow yourself to gravitate toward and pursue what brings you great pleasure, you’ll be on your way to achieving personal satisfaction, true happiness and your ultimate calling in life.  In regards to destiny, there’s a dynamic interplay between what we want, what we need and the environments we choose.

All too often, we humans are living someone else’s life and we don’t even know it.  This has been my conclusion, for the most part, in reflecting on my first 37 years.  Living someone else’s life looks like adopting someone else’s values, beliefs, likes, dislikes, habits, etc. (also known as memes or mind viruses).   Wayne Dyer put it this way- “A mind virus is different in that there is no form to it; these are ideas placed in our heads when we are little. We get programmed by well-meaning people like our parents and their parents, our culture, religions and schools. We get conditioned to believe in our limitations and what's not possible.”  This programming is constant, especially via all the screen time many of us engage in. 

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who coined the term meme in his book The Selfish Gene, points out that “memes, just like viruses, are indifferent to the welfare or otherwise of their hosts and the only thing that counts, from their perspective, is that they persist.”  So, in other words, they’re not always easy to get rid of once they’ve been adopted.  We have to be very intentional in getting rid of and diligent about deflecting any that aren't for us.  Below is an internet meme about internet memes.  It does a decent job of explaining what memes are, in general.  Oh, and please, don't be persuaded to let this video make you angry-

Time to start minding your memes? 

Memes are essentially to the brain what genes are to the physical body.  Research conducted at Stanford’s School of Medicine revealed that genes are turned on and off, not by the genes themselves, but through external, environmental stimuli (experiences).  If I believe and justify my habits based on those of my parents, am I not (at least in part) creating my own reality?  Some genes may be excluded, such as those which are mutated.  We’re learning more about how even our diets can influence our genes.  If internal experiences (our stories) count too, our challenge becomes mind over matter.  I'm using Dan Siegel's definition of mind- “a self-organizing, emergent, embodied and relational process that arises from and regulates energy and information within the body we live in, between our self & other people, and with the planet.”  The Stanford findings differ from the long-held belief that we are genetically predisposed to _____ (fill in the blank).  I’ve yet to learn of evidence of an addiction gene. 

Epigenetics is a new model of gene expression. "Epi" meaning above, so the literal translation of epigenetic control reads, “controlled above the genes.”  It’s the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.  In a nut shell, here’s an analogy of how the “selfish gene” replicates-

Generally speaking, we don’t have to let memes or genes control how we live life.  Wooo whooo!  Adding metaepimemetics to the “pamtionary”-

meta·ep·i·me·met·ics
noun
BIOPSYCHOLOGY
1.    changes in organisms caused by modification of interpretation rather than alteration of the organism itself
2.    our ability to rise above and beyond destructive memes
"metaepimemetics has transformed the way we think about our destiny"

The Search Goes On

Researchers continue to explore the ways life experiences may be passed on epigenetically through generations.  From womb to room we’re learning it’s possible through environmental manipulations to modify our genes, such as with improved conditions.  The same goes for memes if we choose to intentionally nurture our true self. 

A brain is essentially a transducer device.  It converts energy from one form to another.  Brains read environmental signals.  The mind interprets the signals.  The brain then regulates the body’s chemistry that controls the genetic expression of the cells.  A brain doesn’t really have an opinion as to what those images mean.  Interpretation is based on our learning experiences.  If I get bit by a dog when I’m little, and believe all dogs are dangerous, my belief that all dogs are dangerous will stimulate my brain to release neurochemicals that control cell behavior and gene activity to coordinate a protection response.  I’ll steer clear of dogs unless I change my belief.  The change will happen through positive experiences with dogs.  If I learn to read dog body language and keep myself safe, I’ll probably continue to have positive experiences with dogs.  Eventually, there’ll be a tipping point (moment of critical mass) in how I perceive dogs.  No more Cynophobia!  This qualifies as a hero’s journey in my book and an example of transforming trauma.

In honor of Campbell’s contributions to the evolution of people around the world, I’ve included this summary of The Heroes Journey based on the Christopher Vogler’s adaption of Joseph Campbell’s theory.  Yup, it’s a meme.  I consider it a positive one.

Learning to analyze and deflect memes that don’t serve me has been part of my own hero’s journey.  I invite you to question your behavior, challenge your beliefs, discern and pursue your own values (how you invest your time and energy is a good indicator of what your values currently are).  Be aware of when you're the happiest and most fully engaged.  This will allow your natural strengths and talents to emerge.  So, the theory is, stay on track ("follow your bliss"), and eventually you’ll become the person you were meant to be. 

Attention to Intention by Pam Stoddard

As I was going back over last month’s blog to see how I could build on it, the video clip How To Remain Calm With People “jumped out at me”.  I watched the video clip again.  The word intention grabbed my attention.  Intention is essentially an aim or plan.  Intention is critical to get from point A to point B.  While surfing for media content pertaining to intention I stumbled across yet another new label- Intentional Deficit Disorder (IDD).  IDD is characterized by action without meaning or purpose.  I SO have my share of IDD moments.  Usually there’s a television and a remote control involved.  I’m not a fan of labels. I get the need to distinguish things.  I detest labels being used against people.  People are not things.  When I hear labels used to identify someone (ie. he’s an addict vs. he has an addiction, she’s an idiot vs. she didn’t write up the report) I cringe.  But I digress.

Here's a short piece by coach Chelsea Dinen on intentional living-

Intention is important.  It helps us prioritize, manage our time, and align with resources we need to create what we want in life.  Having a big enough why to go with an intention can also be instrumental in seeing it through to fruition.  I set an intention to quit smoking when I got pregnant (need I say why?).  I smoked my last cigarette waiting for the results of the pregnancy test.  That was 25 years ago.  My why was big enough I went “cold turkey”.  I valued a healthy baby, apparently even more than my own health at the time. 

I see my intentions as goals.  For a really big goal, I find it helpful to break the goal down into objectives (aka “bite size” pieces, in the words of coach Kathleen Ventura).  Here she is sharing how to be the active creator of your life and circumstances by living intentionally-

Living intentionally means defining our values and making choices that reflect those values.  It’s about making a commitment.  Living intentionally is about knowing why we do what we do and why we don’t do what we don’t do. 

There’s a technique called The 5 Whys which is more often used as a way to get to the bottom of an issue, but it can also be used for setting intention. The technique starts with a statement, which is followed by the question, “Why?” Once answered, “Why” is asked again and again until the heart of the issue or goal is exposed. “Why” is asked as many times as necessary, although five seems to be an adequate number needed in most cases.

The idea is to get to what’s behind an issue or driving a goal.  Using the technique allows us to more effectively communicate intent. When we understand why achieving objectives and ultimately the goal is important our engagement increases, and we make better decisions.  Here’s an example I found online.  You can do this technique on your own or with a friend-

“I want to lose 15 pounds.”
Why do you want to lose 15 pounds?
“Because I weigh too much for my height.”
Why do you care that you weigh too much for your height?
“Because I’m worried that the excess weight will damage my health over time.”
Why do you care that the excess weight will damage your health over time?
"Because I want to be able to take care of myself as I age."
Why is it important that you can take care of yourself?
"Because I want to live independently"

Now this weight loss goal isn’t just about looking better.  It’s about preserving independence... something even more important and persuasive.

If you haven’t seen the commencement speech Chelsea Dinen referenced, given by Steve Jobs, it’s worth the watch!  

Living intentionally helps us focus our time and energy, increase our effectiveness, and live our dreams vs. wasting our precious time and energy, “spinning our wheels”, and living someone else’s life.  How will you live intentionally today?

Adversity Traversity by Pam Stoddard

The last word in the title of this month’s blog can only be found in the Pamtionary (hey, I went to MSU… Making Stuff Up).  Adversity has been defined as difficulties and misfortune.  The word is synonymous with danger and hardship.  All sound about as much fun as rippin’ your kidneys out with an oyster fork… right?  But, what happens when we change the way we look at adversity?  What if we have a positive attitude about adversity?  As Friedrich Nietzsche said so eloquently- “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”  Lotsa truth in that statement... if we’re resilient.  How does one become more resilient?  You may have heard "attitude is altitude".  My translation, at least in this context, a positive attitude can literally lift us out of the despair often related to adversity.  Lifting ourselves up and out is a what resiliency is all about.

Nick Vujicic (see video in February blog) started an organization called Attitude is Altitude.  AIA's organizational beliefs (and I wholeheartedly agree) are that every person can overcome life’s challenges; that every person has value, that everyone is worthy of being treated with respect, dignity and love.  You can conquer your fears, push past your problems and achieve your goals.  Victor Frankl, neurologist, psychiatrist, holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, wrote- “The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances to add a deeper meaning to his life.”  Love these two guys.  So inspiring!

Our attitudes are a HUGE part of traversing adversity.  They’re formed through learning, modeling others, and direct experiences with people and situations.  Attitudes influence our decisions, guide our behavior, impact what we selectively discern, and can be measured and changed.

If you need a good talkin’ to, Carolyn Myss (bestselling author and internationally renowned speaker in the fields of human consciousness, spirituality and mysticism, health, energy medicine, and the science of medical intuition) aims to give you one in this TED talk-

There’s much I appreciate on this list blogger and author Marelisa Fabrega posted about creating and caring for positive attitudes- http://daringtolivefully.com/positive-attitude

Here's a tidbit from The School of Life (schooloflife.com), a global organization dedicated to developing emotional intelligence-

Generally speaking, we humans have a tendency to filter through our lens (past experience/story), which turn into opinions/judgement.  Our perceptions about our experience/story (true/false, trust/distrust, good/bad, right/wrong, should/shouldn’t, agree/disagree, problem/solution, what’s in it for me-him-her-them?) can lead to resignation & cynicism.  Resignation and cynicism typically fall under the heading of negative attitude.  We tend to hang on to and remember the bad times (self-preservation to avoid the repeat of such experiences?).  When we dwell on these experiences, when they take away from the present moment, hanging on to the past stops serving us and starts hurting us.  But, what if we sought the growth opportunities in these experiences, embraced them, were grateful for them, and moved on?  What if we encountered these experiences to develop our character?

Generally speaking, we humans have a tendency to filter through our lens (past experience/story), which turn into opinions/judgement.  Our perceptions about our experience/story (true/false, trust/distrust, good/bad, right/wrong, should/shouldn’t, agree/disagree, problem/solution, what’s in it for me-him-her-them?) can lead to resignation & cynicism.  Resignation and cynicism typically fall under the heading of negative attitude.  We tend to hang on to and remember the bad times (self-preservation to avoid the repeat of such experiences?).  When we dwell on these experiences, when they take away from the present moment, hanging on to the past stops serving us and starts hurting us.  But, what if we sought the growth opportunities in these experiences, embraced them, were grateful for them, and moved on?  What if we encountered these experiences to develop our character?

What about those people in our lives who have negative attitudes?  Is it possible to develop our character through our experiences with them?  Many of us run screaming for the hills when we see 'em coming.  I tend to wonder though, what happened to them that they now have such a negative attitude?  What kind of adversity have they experienced?  How resilient are they?  Is there something we can learn from them or vice versa?

There are things that have been done to us in life (even in utero/before we were born); there are things we’ve done.  Could it be those of us with negative attitudes are simply not yet able to respond in a more positive way?  Possible to change someone else's negative attitude?  Why not?  Our brains can change.  Modeling is probably the least invasive way to get a shift to occur.  Of course, cognitive and emotional components have to be changed.  A cognitive approach could be to challenge the behavior stemming from the attitude by providing new information-“What’s worked for me has been _______."  Let's say you hear "I don't have enough time to do ______." Explain how you made time in your day to do _____, and share the results.  Providing new information is one method that can change a person’s attitude and therefore their behavior.  In regards to the emotional component, compassion goes a long way (think in the realm of empathy here, not sympathy)-

Compassion (includes the desire to help) and empathy (our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person) can develop the kind of trust needed for healthy relationships.  Healthy relationships can be very influential (you'll set yourself up to be better listened to).

Attitudes are formed over a lifetime through agreement of values and beliefs during childhood years. They're influenced not only by family, religion, and culture but also by socioeconomic factors.  Attitude transformation takes time, effort, and determination, but it can be done. Whether it’s your transformation or someone else's, it's important not to expect to change an attitude quickly. 

May The Force be with YOU!  :0)

 

 

 

Choosing Happy by Pam Stoddard

Is it possible to be dependent (addicted) to being miserable?  I’ve met my fair share of folks who have me thinking the answer is yes.  So how does one gain independence from the always available misery, drama, and “pitfalls” of life?  Commitment seems like a great first step; commit to be happy.  It takes a bit of effort, but research shows it’s possible to intentionally increase our happiness quotient.  Why choose happiness when being miserable is so much easier?  Is the fact that you’re more likely to be healthier and live longer a big enough why?

If you choose to stay miserable, read no further.  You may want to watch and take literally this short, snarky video I found posted on kottke.org sharing 7 tactics to maximize your misery, gleaned from Randy Paterson’s book, How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use-

All sarcasm aside, Paterson’s book can help you identify behaviors that may be making you unhappy and help you discover how you (and only you) are holding yourself back from a life of contentment.  In it you’ll find an invitation to become aware of traps that increase feelings of dissatisfaction, foster a lack of motivation, and detract from your quality of life—as well as ways to avoid them- ya know… like the plague! 

Bettin’ you’ve heard “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.  In other words, promises and plans are useless unless they’re put into action.  So how does one stay committed to the course?  Sharing your plan with those closest to you is a good idea.  Sometimes guidance is in order.  You may want to check out The How of Happiness:  A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, written by research psychologist and university professor Sonja Lyubomirsky.  This comprehensive guide offers a new and potentially life changing way to understand our innate potential for joy and happiness as well as our ability to sustain it in our lives.  Her book starts off with a short diagnostic quiz that can help you quantify and understand your individual "happiness set point", which she and research associates claim determines 50% of happiness, with another 10% attributed to differences in life circumstances or situations.  This leaves a whopping 40% of our capacity for happiness within our power to change.  Lyubomirsky shares a set of 12 activities, suggests you adopt one or more and begin the process of making yourself a happier person.  There’s lots of free resources on her website sonjalyubomirsky.com, including an on-line course called Be Happy. 

For those of us who enjoy writing and reflection The Happiness Planner is available at thehappinessplanner.com.  In it you’ll be encouraged to:

•         Set goals that maximize your happiness level.

•         Practice self-reflection so you understand yourself better.

•         Plan your life around things that truly matter with those who truly matter.

•         Start each week with an exciting and inspiring thought.

•         Cut out things that hold you back.

•         Train your mind to always look at the positive side of things.

•         Learn to master the art of resilience.

•         Strengthen relationships with your loved ones.

•         Spend more time and money on things that truly make you happy

•         End each day with gratitude

Like Ted talks?  Here’s one by Robert Waldinger who shares three important lessons learned from a 75 year study on adult development as well as some practical wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.  

Health & happiness to ya!

Stuffin' the Kids in the Trunk? by Pam Stoddard

I came across the following quote I attribute to Australian business strategist Kerwin Rae- “Emotions are like children.  You don’t want them driving the car, but you don’t want to stuff them in the trunk either.”  Whether applying this concept to personal or professional life, emotional intelligence is certainly worth developing.  How often do we let our emotions dictate our actions, or we ignore, dismiss, and minimize them… to our detriment?  Failing to explore our emotions can bring devastation, often in ways we may not have thought of, such as soft and hard addictions, depression, physical health issues, etc.

Emotional intelligence has been defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions”.  This takes self-awareness, as well as honing our ability to take the time that’s generally available between stimulus and response during our interactions in our relationships (including to self).  In other words, in the moment it can be helpful to think something to the effect of- Does this need to be said or done?  By me?  Now?  Between stimulus and response there is time.  We can choose to use this time however we’d like.

To effectively function in our seemingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, we're often faced with sometimes daunting psychological demands.  Emphasis is placed on being resilient simply to have what it takes to survive.  It seems to me, aiming simply to survive is a short-term outcome.  I'd love to see more on the promotion and nurturing of individual growth in order to thrive.  For those willing to invest time and effort in self-discovery, emotional intelligence affords us this possibility.  Emotions involve both the body and the brain.  You may be surprised by some of the research Heartmath Institute has done on the subject.  I wasn't able to embed the link here, but when you get a few minutes you may want to check it out- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kyfm5_LLxow

I often say there are 4 Fs we have access to in how we can take action in or after an experience.  It’s fairly common knowledge fight and flight are typically the go to when encountering a perceived threat.  Of course, what constitutes threat varies greatly- everything from feeling “dissed” to being physical threatened.  Depending on the situation, freeze can also come in handy.  Less talked about (except in psychology) is the fourth F- feel.  Examples of negative feeling states – angry, anxious, bored and sad, and positive feeling states – contented, peaceful, happy and excited.  How important is it to the process that before we identify what we're feeling, we identify the underlying emotion?  Is feel primarily an affair of the head or heart?  I suppose it depends.  

You may be asking by now, what is the difference between emotion and feeling?  Debbie Hampton, author of Sex, Suicide and Serotonin writes about the difference between the two on her web site-

“Although the two words are used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between feelings and emotions.  Understanding the difference between the two can help you change unhealthy behaviors and find more happiness and peace in your life. Feelings and emotions are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected, but are two very different things.

Emotions are lower level responses occurring in the subcortical regions of the brain, the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortices, creating biochemical reactions in your body altering your physical state. They originally helped our species survive by producing quick reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between in their environments. Emotional reactions are coded in our genes and while they do vary slightly individually and depending on circumstances, are generally universally similar across all humans and even other species. For example, you smile and your dog wags its tail.

 The amygdala plays a role in emotional arousal and regulates the release of neurotransmitters essential for memory consolidation which is why emotional memories can be so much stronger and longer-lasting. Emotions proceed feelings, are physical, and instinctual. Because they are physical, they can be objectively measured by blood flow, brain activity, facial micro-expressions, and body language.

Feelings originate in the neocortical regions of the brain, are mental associations and reactions to emotions, and are subjective being influenced by personal experience, beliefs, and memories. A feeling is the mental portrayal of what is going on in your body when you have an emotion and is the byproduct of your brain perceiving and assigning meaning to the emotion.  Feelings are the next thing that happens after having an emotion, involve cognitive input, usually subconscious, and cannot be measured precisely.” 

So, in a nut shell, feelings stem from our perceptions, interpretations, world view, and underlying attitudes.  For example, think how differently someone could interpret feedback from their partner if they held the opposite attitudes proposed in these statements- “I am happy/unhappy with the person I am”, and “I do/don’t respect others with different views to my own”.  Outcome would vary, open or defensive, depending on the underlying attitudes held.  Increasing our awareness and ability to respond (one indicator of resilience) vs. react is key. 

Of course, there are certainly instances where it’s more appropriate to react.  I have one of those canister style water bottles, a solid purple color.  I took the last swig of water in it and felt something thrashing around on my upper lip.  An Earwig was caught between my lips.  I couldn’t spit fast enough.  The emotion I experienced was surprise, triggering a physical and instinctual reaction.  You can probably imagine my facial expression.  Next, came disgust.  I nearly threw up.  Glad no one was sitting across from me!  After all the spitting and gagging was done, the feeling I associated with this emotional experience was curiosity- "How the hell did that get it there?"  I’m resilient enough to continue drinking out of that canister… after it’s sterilized, of course.

When it comes to increasing resilience, well-being and happiness, can we ever have enough tools?  This next short video from the gang at Heartmath explains a practical resilience model, how it relates to coherence, and to how much energy we have each day to do what’s really important in our lives.

Ultimately, our attitudes about self and others reveals itself through our behaviors (I consistently behave in a manner of someone who has an aversion to eating bugs).  Our behaviors are channeled through our emotions and feelings; they dictate how we manage self and our relationships.  How do we regard our self or others?  How aware are we of our emotions and feelings or those of others?  How do we behave when emotionally “triggered”- are we curious and compassionate or do we judge, criticize, shame, or blame?  

Once we recognize our attitudes, our practice then becomes about perceiving and filtering a stimulus through our attitudes, developing varying levels of awareness and emotional layers, and accurately interpreting the resulting feeling.  We're provided with many opportunities to experience and identify emotions and feelings every day.  Our level of awareness determines how we incorporate them into our actions.  Whether we react or respond to these emotions and feelings determines our effectiveness, resilience, and reality.  The more emotionally intelligent we are, the more we’re conscious of all these aspects coming together in the moment.  Choice is key. 

Here's author of 5 Chairs, 5 Choices, Louise Evans, to share her experience on the subject-

Don't Believe Everything You Think by Pam Stoddard

I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that read Don't Believe Everything You Think. Someone rear ended me on the freeway.  The sticker didn't fare well.   The bumper actually took the impact well.  Go Subaru!  I'd never had a bumper sticker on my car prior to slapping this one on.  It was a great reminder to me to challenge my thoughts.  They're not always true. Thoughts are often our interpretation (story) of something that's happened (fact).  Take being rear-ended for example.  My first thought-  "I bet he was looking down at his cell phone."  I didn't know this of course.  It was just a WAG (wild *ss guess), and how I chose to make meaning of the incident in the moment. Never did ask why he didn't stop in time.  It really didn't matter to me.  The fact was- his car hit my car.  Interestingly enough, his first words to me where "Why did you stop?!" I had to stop myself from laughing.  I managed a compassionate smile instead.  "I stopped because the cars in front of me had stopped." I replied.  "Oh", he said, looking at the ground.  

Oh, to be human!  Blessed with our prefrontal cortex, responsible for executive functioning, we do tend to look for reasons why things happen.  It's as if it's the thing we can't not do (not make meaning).  I think it's important to look for meaning in our experiences.  However, there are certain types of thinking that can be unhelpful.  Especially in the realm of relationships to self and others. The following, commonly called distorted thinking, are ways we humans can be found to make meaning of experiences and events in our lives that typically don't contribute to our well-being-

  • All or Nothing Thinking:  Also called black and white thinking, consists of thoughts such as "We either we do it my way or not at all." or "If we don't go this year, we'll never be able to go."
  • Over Generalizing:  Seeing a pattern based upon a single event, or being overly broad in the conclusions we draw.  Examples of this are- "I always screw things up." or "I'm never on time."
  • Mental Filter: Simply paying attention to certain types of evidence, also referred to as the "confirmation bias".  This also occurs as noticing our failures but not seeing our successes.
  • Disqualifying the Positive:  Discounting the good things that have happened or that we have done for some reason or another- "That doesn’t count.  Anyone could have done it."
  • Jumping to Conclusions:  There are two key types of jumping to conclusions- Mind Reading (imagining we know what others are thinking) and Fortune Telling (predicting the future).
  • Magnification (catastrophising & minimization):  Blowing things out of proportion (catastrophising), or inappropriately shrinking something to make it seem less important (like disqualifying the positive).
  • Emotional Reasoning:  Assuming that because we feel a certain way what we think must be true-  "I feel embarrassed, so I must be an idiot."  or "I feel guilty, but I can't help myself."
  • "Shoulding":  Using critical words like ‘should’, ‘must’, 'had better', or ‘ought’ can lead to feeling shame, guilt, or blame.  "Shoulding" on other people can often result in and from frustration.
  • Labeling:  Assigning labels to ourselves or other people- "I’m a loser." or "I’m totally useless." "He's such an _________." 
  • Personalization:  Blaming yourself or taking responsibility for something that wasn’t completely your fault.  Also, blaming other people for something that was your fault.

I don't know anyone who can't claim at least one of these thinking styles at one time or another.  It's when distorted thinking becomes habitual we can cause ourselves and others suffering.  It takes awareness, intention, courage, and practice to challenge our thinking.  Challenging the thinking of those in our lives we desire to have meaningful relationships with takes all that plus compassion, commitment, and agreement (on both sides).  Our beliefs are agreements we have made.  We choose or decide what we believe.  Below is an introduction to a small book I've found useful-

We can put distorted ways of thinking behind us.  If we don't, we let negative beliefs and behaviors of the past dictate our present, and we end up creating a similar future.  I've found that practicing the four agreements- not making assumptions, speaking with integrity, not taking things personally (my most challenging), and always doing my best- has made a big difference in my life.  You may want to grab a copy of the book.  If you do, post the agreements where you'll see them.  Practice for a month.  See what happens.  Not really your style?  Good thing there are teachers everywhere we look!  Brene Brown is another of my faves, especially when she reads her own books.  Here she is chattin' with Oprah about false stories-

I challenge you (and myself, of course!) to challenge distorted thinking, and to take responsibility (the ability to respond) for thoughts and actions that aren't beneficial.  How will we know? Distorted thinking tends to turn into a persistent complaint about something or someone or a fixed way of being.  Both are reactions to a real or imagined threat.  Is holding onto that story worth losing affinity, well-being, and satisfaction?  In other words, is needing to win, be right, justified, or dominant more important than love, vitality, and fulfillment?  Inclined toward avoidance or a propensity to consider yourself wrong?  Are you really willing to give up self-expression and aliveness?

In recognizing our distorted thinking we're taking the first step to creating and inviting new ways of being.  From there we can imagine something different.  Unlimited possibilities abound!  Imagine a life you want to live into.  Practice, practice, practice showing up in ways that touch, inspire and move you toward that possibility!  Another technique to play around with is Byron Katie's "The Work".  Her book Loving What Is elaborates how to turn around distorted thinking.  If you're up for a challenge, get started at thework.com.  Oh, and please be compassionate in all your practices!

 

 

 

Open to Possibilities by Pam Stoddard

The month of April is awesome.  Watching the emergence of all that was dormant reminds me of possibilities.  New life and abundant growth is all around us.  April, from the Latin verb aperire meaning to open or uncover, brings with it a freshness and glory that can invigorate the soul!  So, what might it look like to be more open to or uncover our own possibilities? For sure it would take being present (mindful, in the moment).  Being fully present can help us "stay out of our own way" and, in a sense, allows for the opportunity to watch all that emerges- especially our stories, beliefs, and "truths".  These are what oftentimes get in the way of our being fully open and limiting us to new possibilities. Oh man, do I know this!

Danielle DiPirro, author and host of positivelypresent.com (where you can subscribe to daily doses of positivity), emphasizes the importance of keeping an open mind.  In brief, her top 7 benefits of maintaining an open mind lend to our ability to:

  • Let go of control.  Opening our mind frees us from having to be in complete control of our thoughts. We allow ourselves to experience new ideas, thoughts and challenge current beliefs.  Full confession- This one still kinda scares me!  I'm getting better and better at it though.  :0)
  • Experience change. Opening our mind to new ideas allows for the opportunity to change what we think and how we view the world.  (Not that we'll necessarily change our beliefs- this may actually reinforce them.)  Thinking with an open mind allows opportunities to create more positive change and better results.
  • Be vulnerable.  This can be one of the scariest (and amazing) things about seeing the world through an open mind- we make ourselves vulnerable. Agreeing to have an open-mind is also admitting we don't know everything.  Here's that letting go of control thing again!  ;0}
  • Make mistakes. Making mistakes may not seem like it would be much of a benefit, but it is. In being open to making mistakes we gain the opportunity to “fail up”.  Failing upward takes viewing and talking about our failures openly and proudly as learning experiences.  In this way, we tend to take more risks, in order to succeed... despite failures.
  • Strengthen ourselves. Being open-minded creates a platform to build on, stacking one idea on top of another.  Experience adds up (especially adversity), strengthening us and what we find ideal and fulfilling. 
  • Gain confidence. When we live with an open mind,  we're not confined by our own beliefs or the beliefs of others.  This can also enhance our relationship to self.  
  • Be honest. Being open-minded means being honest enough to admit we aren't all-knowing. This understanding creates authenticity that permeates the character of those who live with an open mind.

Speaking of "failing upward"- here's a fun TED talk by Jia Jiang.  His experience as a 6 year old "reject" led him to discover a game geared toward overcoming the fear of rejection.  His experience pretty much covers all of Danielle DiPirro's 7 benefits.

You can get the game at rejectiontherapy.com or why not make up your own version.  Be playful!

We can be shaped by our responses and reactions, which stem from our thoughts, stories and beliefs.  I think it's important to realize we are not our thoughts.  We are not what happens to us.  Our thoughts are our interpretations.  What happens (to us or for us) is our experience.  Perception can indeed become reality.  Knowing this allows for endless possibilities.  We have the ability to shift our thoughts, etc. until our experience and our situation align with what we're out to create.

Lastly, in the spirit of being mindful (aka "open and uncovering"), I'll leave you with an invitation- in the words of Frank Outlaw.  Thanks to GP's collaborative ally Lori, I've added the word can... it's more open.  :0)

"Watch your thoughts; they can become words. Watch your words; they can become actions. Watch your actions, they can become habits. Watch your habits, they can become character. Watch your character; it can become your destiny."  

 

Better Late Than Never by Pam Stoddard

March's post is unintentionally quite late.  That said, the title and content occurred almost painlessly.  Almost, in that I woke up considering the April post and realized I never posted March.  What a way to wake up!  Please bear with me while I share a bit of my ensuing thought process-  For a fleeting moment I chastised myself for "dropping the ball".   I then questioned myself about what got in the way.  After batting around a few justifications, I landed on the fact that no-thing got in my way.  It was all me.  I failed to pay close attention to my calendar.  An over-site for sure.  Writing a monthly blog for GP is important to me.  So what can I do to ensure posting doesn't get overlooked?  I thought.  Solution for better results in the future?  Put it on the calendar more than once.  Also, write the blog today.  Better late than never.  Never did occur to me... for a nano second.  I pushed it aside... a bit like swiping the screen on a cell phone to get to the image I really want to see.  My oversight turned into an organic way to create March's topic.  So here goes... better late than never.  

What do you typically do when you overlook (forget, fail, miss, neglect, omit) something or someone important to you- a task, appointment, conversation, etc.?  I've been known to justify my actions.  I still occasionally fall into this trap.  Blaming, avoiding, excusing, defending, pardoning, even apologizing rarely resolves a situation... especially when we continue to make the same mistake over and over again.  My "Achilles heel" is apparently being late.  Taking resolute action can bring, of course, resolution... especially when it doesn't involve any form of justification.  You know, like believing I have an Achilles heel.  ;0}

Good thing we are not forgetfulness, failure, careless, etc.  Keeping this in mind is a powerful way to stay away from justification and move toward resolution.  When not separating what was out to be accomplished from attitudes and feelings about following through (for whatever reason), the risk of identifying as a failure is there.  Very limiting indeed.  When simply recognizing "that didn't work" we create the possibility of something that may work- a strategy, way of being, alternative conversation, etc.  There's no time like the present.  The future is waiting.  No matter how many fingers we're holding up and who they're pointed at, blame is pointless.  There's no resolution in avoiding issues in our relationships.  Waiting for someone else to resolve situations we're able to navigate can be seen as irresponsible and dis-empowered.  Fun clip/case in point-

Sometimes life can show up like an malfunctioning escalator, especially when we take it for granted... like we have all the time in the world to take care of that which is important to us. One of the more common excuses and complaints I hear is "I don't have time".  Really?  Is that true?  Unless we're unconscious or deceased, we always have time to rectify (redeem, amend, improve, change, correct) situations truly important and impacting to us.  You may want to ask yourself- How important is this to me, really?  Could inaction be about avoiding conflict?  Who or what's really keeping the situation as it is?  Realization/awareness is the first step.  As soon as we see infraction we can choose action.   If it's honestly important to get complete on or about something, what's getting in the way?  The how?  What resources are available?  What's the thought process about self, capability, relationship, situation?  How we think can effect how or if we rectify a situation or not.  If it's really important to you, be unreasonable.  Don't give yourself a reason not to take care of the matter.  What the heck!  Be impulsive.  If it occurs to you to do something that may be productive, go for it.  Be prepared to fail and willing to keep experimenting with solutions to get the outcome you're looking for.  Here's Mel Robbins to give ya a TED talkin' to... or not.-

 

 

 

Developing A Brave Heart & Mind by Pam Stoddard

It's only fitting February's post speak to the heart.  I just watched the documentary A Brave Heart:  The Lizzie Valasquez Story.  The film touched me deeply.  Lizzie was born with an extremely rare medical condition.  After many surgeries, she lives with distorted facial features, the inability to gain weight, and a plethora of physical health challenges. After enduring (what I'm sure you can imagine) almost seemingly insurmountable abuse while navigating public school, Lizzie grew to be an incredible advocate in the movement to reduce the impact of bullying.  You can meet her here- 

Lizzie has taken on adversity and created a be-U-t-full life for herself.  Very commendable! Imagine a world where everyone was this "ugly".  Another person I find wonder-fully inspirational is Nick Vujicic-

I believe almost anything is possible, and consider myself a very hope-full person.  I strive to live like I am dying- because I will.  I'm convinced dying is the only thing we absolutely have to do in life, and I choose to pay taxes.  The majority of experiences we have involve choice at one point or another.  Free will.  Lord knows I've had my share of "ugly" moments.  I imagine we've all had moments we're not proud of... where we've reacted in a way that didn't look very "pretty" instead of responding in a way we can be proud.  Sure I'll have more, although my intention is to limit the amount.

I hope you'll join me and strive to live each moment in a way you can look back on your life after you die (if indeed that's an option) and say to your self- "I did my best and I'm proud of myself for the majority of the choices I made".  

Speaking of death, when you have time for one last inspiring video, check out Randy Pausch (Born October 23, 1960- Died July 25, 2008).  You'll likely be glad you watched it-

YOU are Brilliant by Pam Stoddard

First, please keep in mind everything you're about to read is simply my opinion.  It's not necessarily true.  You get to choose whether any of it's true for you or not.  Second, thank you for taking time to show up here to read and carefully consider this blog post. If you arrived here because you followed the link from GP's Facebook post coinciding with this blog you may have watched the documentary Every Brilliant Thing.  If you haven't seen it, I hope you go to GP's Facebook page, follow the links, track the documentary down, and take the time to watch it.  If you've already watched it, I hope it got you thinking about all the brilliant things in your own life.   We are brilliant and we are no thing.  Did you know that the root words per & son means through sound? One of the unique things about being a person is our ability to use our voice to make meaning with words... and that we do.  All the time, every day, out loud.  Sometimes we use our words to create and sometimes we use our words to destroy.  

The topics in Every Brilliant Thing are suicide and depression- two things that unfortunately seem to be more prevalent in our world.  Perhaps you've been impacted by suicide or depression somehow.  Maybe you're feeling down right now.  Maybe it's exactly where you need to be.  It's important to feel grief and sadness.  It's important to express grief and sadness.  It's important to stay in whatever emotional place we need to for however long it serves us.  Whatever we resist can persist, so emote and express away.

I believe life is about invitations and choices.  I believe that music and deep contemplation are great ways to help us possibly navigate those times when we're feeling down and we don't want to feel down anymore.  I don't know anyone who has never felt down here on earth.  Let's face it- gravity sucks!   When we find we're down and it's not where we want to be it could be we are inadvertently (unconsciously) creating that reality.  Perhaps with thoughts alone. We don't have to say what we're thinking.  It comes out in other ways.  Also, how we think about what we're doing effects how we do it or whether we do it or not.  I have this posted on my elliptical!    

Here's are a couple invitations.  When you find yourself feeling down and you are truly done with the feeling because staying there keeps you from living the life you'd rather live- 

 

Granted, not all of us can dance like James Brown, but we can all dance in some way.  We verbally dance with or around things all the time with our thoughts that can turn into our stories that can turn into our actions that can turn into our character or state of being.  Our thoughts, stories, and actions can connect or disconnect us to our self, each other, and our environment.

It can be helpful to "get up off of that thing"- whatever that thing is for you.  Whether it's a thought, a story, an action, or a character trait, get up off of the things that no longer serve you.  If you choose up over down, there are many ways you can "dance"- even if your body's in a wheel chair, even if you weigh 500 pounds, even if you were born with no arms and no legs, even if a terminal illness is part of your life, even if your spouse of 60 years died, even if you feel all alone, even if someone called you the worst names you can think of, even if...(fill in the blank). The list is infinite.  Hopefully you get the point. I appreciate questions and dialog way more than a monoblog, so feel free to contact me with questions if you don't see the point I'm attempting to make here.  

If the thing you want to get up off of is a story you're telling about what's got you down and your story is not based in fact, I hope you'll "dance" with that story.  It could be your story is so powerful it even has those around you who love you feeling down because they don't know the story or don't know how to help you navigate it yet.  Make it a practice not to believe everything you think. Challenge stories you create, kinda like Joe Friday challenging someone he suspects is lying to him or when he's looking for the facts in a case-

Get Dragnet on that story.  Go all kinds of Joe Friday on that story!  Seek and find the facts. Challenge your interpretations (how you made meaning of the facts) of whatever happened before you became down.  If your story wasn't factual, take full responsibility for the story you created. Take full responsibility for any actions you took because of the story you told.  Make amends to your self and to others for any damage due to telling or acting out of the story.  Be unreasonable.  Don't have any reason to stay down when you don't want to stay down.