My contribution to The Seeker’s Dungeon “From Darkness to Light” event went live today. You can read it at:
During the first quarter of 2016, I created a series of 12 Challenge for Growth prompts. At that time, the challenges were published one week at a time.
Yesterday, it occurred to me that many readers were not following my blog back then. I have decided to publish a post that includes a list of all 12 of the personal growth prompts.
Since it is easier to make behavioral changes if we focus on them one day at a time, each of the weekly challenges start with “Today, I focus on…….” While I believe you will get the most benefit from a challenge if you focus on it for an entire week…. or longer…. it will be up to you to decide how long you want to focus on a particular challenge— even one or two days during a week will have value.
If you decide to take on these challenges, consider sharing your experiences in the comment section of this post. I’d love to hear about them.
You can, of course, begin or stop the challenge process at any time.
Challenge for Growth Prompts
Week 1: “Today I focus on my needs rather than my wants.”
The nature of the mind is that as soon as one desire is met, it is off to the next one, often without taking any time to appreciate the desire that was just realized. An endless stream of wants leads to the experience of scarcity; we never feel full, we never think we have or are enough.
One way to create a sense of abundance in our lives is to decrease the number of our desires. We can do that by putting our primary focus on meeting our needs and then prioritizing our wants.
The first step for many people is to learn to differentiate their needs from their wants. Some examples: We need water – We want a soda; We need food – We want a big restaurant meal; We need shelter – We want a new house.
This week practice identifying which of your desires are needs and which are wants. When looking at your list of wants, decide which are the most important to you. This week give priority to meeting your needs. If you put energy into obtaining any of your wants, be sure they are ones you have identified as priority wants.
Week 2: “Today I look for the good qualities in others.”
When we are in a bad mood, we may find ourselves focusing on someone else’s faults. When we focus on the negative, we are likely to see negativity all around us. Remember that even a broken clock is right twice a day.
People often get triggered into negative thinking when they are with someone who reminds them of a person who hurt them in the past. In the psychotherapy model I use, we refer to that as “putting someone else’s face” on the present day person. That process is also referred to as projection.
Clients in therapy frequently project their parents’ faces on their therapists. I remember a time in the mid 90’s when a client was always angry with the male co-therapist in one of my therapy groups. He knew that the therapist reminded him of his father, but he was having a hard time “getting his dad’s face” off of the therapist.
This therapist had some unusual characteristics so I said to the client, “Did your dad ever wear an earring?” and “Did your dad sometimes wear red toenail polish?” The client started laughing. His father would NEVER have considered doing either of those things. Seeing the differences really helped him separate the therapist from his father.
This week focus on looking for the good in others. If you have trouble finding anything positive about a person, consider whose face you might have on them. If you decide it is a parent, or a boss, or someone else from your past, identify ways the current day person is different from the one in your past. Then “de-role” the present day person by saying to yourself, “You are not (insert the name or role of person from the past), you are (insert the name or role of the person in the present).” After you de-role the current day person, you may be better able to identify some of their good qualities.
Also consider making lists of the positive qualities of anyone you have negative thoughts about, whether they be from your past or present.
Week 3: “Today when there is nothing to be done I will do nothing.”
In our over-doing world, many of us have lost the ability to simply BE. Our days are filled with doing things and our minds are filled with thinking. We may be bombarded with electronic stimulation such as radio, television, emails, texts, video games, internet surfing, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, etc.
Too often when we are not over-doing, we are over-thinking. We rarely have new thoughts; usually we are just recycling the same thoughts over and over.
It may be that when we are quiet, we are uncomfortable with the feelings and thoughts that surface. We try to shove them down by potentially addictive behaviors like over-doing, substance abuse, obsessive thinking, and over-eating. We can learn to see those uncomfortable feelings and thoughts as indications that there are changes we need to make in our lives.
Most of life’s peak experiences happen when we least expect them. In addition, bliss is unlikely to come when we are thinking or over-doing.
This week take some time to focus on being rather than doing. If there is nothing that NEEDS to be done, don’t do anything. Take the time as an opportunity to simply BE. Watch the internal messages and impulses that come up when you do that. Note them, but don’t act on them. Allow yourself to continue being.
Consider making a commitment that during your being time you will not use the phone or computer and will not have any electronic music, television or radio going on in the background. If taking being time sounds impossible to you consider starting with five minutes- or ten minutes- or fifteen minutes a day. You can build up your being time slowly if you need to.
Week 4: “Today I take time to think before I say Yes or No.”
While some people have trouble saying Yes and others say No to every request, I believe it is much more common for people to struggle with saying No. This struggle often stems from childhood experiences. It may not have been okay, or even safe, to say No in our families of origin. Many of us were taught/programmed to please others by doing what others wanted them to do. As an adult, we may say Yes to things we don’t want to do; say Yes but then not follow through on our commitments; or say Yes reflexively without taking any time to think about the request.
I once heard a joke that addresses this issue. “What happens when a codependent dies?” Answer: Someone else’s life flashes before his eyes.” While it is a funny joke, it is also a sad situation and it may be true. You cannot live your own life and do everything everyone else wants you to do.
The first step in looking at this issue may be to observe struggles you have in saying either Yes or No. At the same time, start pausing to think before you reply to a request. You may need 15 seconds or you may need 48 hours or more to get clear. It is perfectly appropriate to respond, “I will think about it and get back to you.”
This week focus on thinking before you say Yes or No.
Week 5: “Today I repeat the affirmation ‘I am Love’.”
Occasionally I ask my psychotherapy clients what they would think if they overheard someone talking to a child the way they talk to themselves. They often respond that they would think the child was being abused. I believe when we direct endless criticism towards ourselves, it is as if we are abusing a child, but in this case it is the child within us.
One of the tools I have found helpful in stopping negative self-talk is to flood one’s mind with a single affirmation. I’m not talking about saying the affirmation 10 times in the morning while looking in the mirror. I ask clients to say their affirmations a minimum of 1,000 times a day for 21 days. Actually, I prefer that they say it 10,000 times a day or more, or better yet, anytime their minds aren’t being used for something else!
When we flood our minds with an affirmation over a period of time, it may start flowing automatically during the day, and sometimes during the night as well. Imagine what it would be like to have something positive going through your mind day and night, instead of all of the negative messages.
This week internally repeat the affirmation “I Am Love.” I suggest you say it at least 1,000 times a day. (It takes 15-20 minutes to say it 1,000 times.) It will help you to stay focused if you use a tally counter from an office supply store or an app such as Counter +. If you find yourself engaged in negative thinking during the day, start saying the affirmation again. Be gentle with yourself no matter how many times you repeat it. There is no right or wrong way to do this challenge.
Week 6: “Today I listen attentively.”
Sometimes when we are listening to another person, we may find our minds wandering to problems at work or home, or to future plans. At other times, rather than paying close attention to the person’s words, we may start thinking about how we are going to respond to them. Or we may reflect on advice we want to give them when they stop talking. If the person is angry, instead of listening to them, we may start planning our defense. These communication patterns often leave people feeling unheard, discounted and/or disrespected.
This week practice giving people your full attention when they are talking to you.
Week 7: “Today I unplug.”
Don’t panic. I’m not talking about totally unplugging. But think of how much time during the day you spend engaged with emails, texting, instant messages, Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In, Twitter, Snapshot, surfing the Internet, playing video games, watching television, online shopping, talking on the phone, etc. What would you think and feel if you no longer had access to a phone, computer, television or any other electronic device? Does the thought of not having those things bring you a sense of relief, panic or something else?
This week commit to unplugging for some period of time each day. Pick a time of day when you normally use those devices and then set an amount of time to unplug that would challenge you, but not set you up for failure.
Week 8: “Today I stop my repetitive thinking.”
So few of our thoughts are actually new; we recycle most of them again and again as we ruminate about past traumas, feel indignant over ways we were slighted, or obsess about possible future problems. Overthinking keeps us trapped in our heads, rather than living from our hearts. It also leads to depression and anxiety.
We may believe if we think about a problem long enough, we will figure out what to do about it. The reality is that inspiration is much more likely to come when our minds are silent than when we are in a never-ending cycle of analyzing.
This week commit to stopping your repetitive thoughts. One way to do that is to say “Stop…..Be here now” to yourself and then focus solely on the present moment whenever you find yourself in unhelpful thinking processes. Distracting activities such as working in the garden, exercising, reading, writing, walking, etc. may also be helpful. If there is a problem you actually need to think about, set a beginning and ending time for doing that, rather than letting it take over your day.
Week 9: “Today I say something to a child that I wish had been said to me when I was young.”
Did you hear the things that you needed to hear during your formative years? Were you given enough guidance, enough love, enough validation? Are there words that you wish you had heard from your parents or other adults during your childhood or teenage years?
This week give children or teenagers messages that you wish had been said to you when you were young.
Week 10: “Today I do not waste food.”
In 2012, the National Resources Defense Council of the U.S. concluded that Americans waste 40% of their food. Food is wasted at the farm level, between harvest and sale, during processing, during distribution, in grocery stores, in restaurants and in our homes. The study also reported that American’s throw out 25% of the food and beverages they buy. You can learn more about these statistics at: Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. As I searched for more recent statistics for this post, I read that American households throw out 150,000 tons of food each day.
Many children in my generation grew up with parents who demanded that they eat their food because of the starving kids in China. As a result, many of us learned to tune out that message and disregard the fact that there is some truth to that way of thinking. I believe it is important for us to become responsible citizens of the world.
That does not mean we should force ourselves or our children to eat when we/they aren’t hungry. It is also not about shaming people into cleaning their plates. Instead, I think we should focus on how much food we buy, how much we cook, and how much we put on our plates. Children will be more likely to finish eating their food if they are given small portions. They can always ask for more if they are still hungry after they finish the original serving. That is true for adults as well.
While these are U.S. statistics and may be higher than those in other countries, I doubt we are the only country with the problem. This week focus on not wasting food.
Week 11: “Today I do something I’ve been resisting.”
A co-therapist I used to work with often told clients that it may take 75% of the time one is in therapy to do 25% of the work that needs to be done. The remaining work is likely to be completed much faster. I also remember hearing Amma, my spiritual teacher, say that we ask her to clean us up, but then we won’t hold still for the bath. The common factor in these two circumstances is resistance.
Resistance isn’t all bad. It would be unhealthy to walk into a new situation and turn ourselves over to the whim of other people. Blind faith can be dangerous. It also takes time to determine a correct course of action. However, when we know that there are changes we need to make, holding on to resistance often results in us holding on to, or creating, pain for ourselves. It may also stifle our growth.
This week do things you’ve been resisting doing.
Week 12: “Today I eat and drink food and beverages that honor my body.”
Most of us know which foods and beverages are healthy for us to eat and drink. However, when fast food restaurants, sodas, desserts and junk snacks call out to us, we succumb, much like an alcoholic giving in to the call of alcohol.
As alcoholics in recovery know, unhealthy habits are changed one day at a time. This week eat and drink only food and beverages that honor your body. Treat your body as if it is a temple, a temple worthy of great respect.
Nonattachment (or not)
I often say that the only joke I remember is Question: Do you know how to make God laugh? Answer: Tell him your plans for your life. Since we don’t even know what’s around the next corner, when we make plans, we have no way of knowing if we will be able to do them. I used to attend a church that added “If the Lord shall say the same” before any announcement. While there is nothing wrong with making life plans, I think it is important to remember that those events may or may not happen. Holding on tightly to plans can send pain and suffering our way.
I got a good reminder of that last week. I had planned the dates for my Amritapuri trip around the Ganesh Chathuri holiday. Last year, I had discovered that there were amazing bhajans held in the Kalari nine nights of that ten-day festival. The bhajans were led by a group of young men. Some played drums or other instruments. The singing got pretty raucous and I loved it. In fact, I think it would be accurate to say that I experienced unbridled joy. I have been waiting to have that experience again ever since last year’s Ganesh Chathuri.
There was a puja scheduled for the morning of September 13, the first day of the holiday. When I saw the area being set up on my way to my cafe shift, I realized I had forgotten what a big deal that puja was. It is held in the auditorium. The ashram elephant is brought in and there are rituals performed … and lots of singing.
When I went into the cafe, I mentioned it to Chaitanya. She hadn’t thought about the fact that I would want to attend the puja either. She offered to find someone to replace me, but it didn’t seem right to back out on her at the last minute, so I said I would stay. After all, I had the night bhajans to look forward to… and those were my priority.
As the sounds from the auditorium intensified, however, I longed to be there. I began to get agitated. Sreejit walked into the kitchen, so I asked him to relieve me for a few minutes so I could go see what was happening. Being at the puja, even for three or four minutes, was just what I needed. After all, I had the night bhajans to look forward to.
When my replacement came at 9:00 a.m., I was able to go to the auditorium for some of the last bhajan and for the Ganesh Aarati. I was also there when the prasad was handed out. It consisted of numerous types of treats in a small banana leaf bowl. I had already committed to myself that I would take that morning off next year if I’m here, but I felt satisfied with the small parts of the ceremony I had attended. After all, I had 9 evenings of wonderful Ganesh bhajans to look forward to.
On my way back to my room, I decided to go look at the Ganesh Chaturi schedule on the bulletin board. I was horrified when I saw what was written on the flyer. There had been a homa earlier in the morning and then the big puja …. and those were to be the only Ganesh Chathuri programs this year.
Amma had canceled the games and big processions associated with Onam and Krishna Jayanthi in recognition of the pain being experienced by the Kerala Flood victims. I hadn’t thought about that being extended to Ganesh Chathuri as well since there were no games or big processions associated with that festival.
I felt devastated. I started crying and I cried all day. It reminded me of a time years ago when I went to Amma crying to the core of me. At that time, a friend standing near Amma was alarmed. She thought one of my children must have died. The event that brought on my tears that year was not the death of one of my children, but rather was due to the fact that I didn’t have enough money to make my yearly trip to Amritapuri. Up to that point, I had come to India every year since 1990.
I believe what I access when I am in that state is my soul crying for God. And it may be have also brought up longing for experiences I have had in past lives. (For most of my years with Amma, I have cried whenever I saw Ayyappo pilgrims. They sing in that same style of music, raucous and tribal. I speculate that I took Ayyappo pilgrimages in some other lifetime. The yearning to do that again is still inside of me even though my conscious part doesn’t really want to go with them!).
Amma has said that crying for God is as powerful as meditation. I believe the longing I experienced when the bhajans were cancelled was good, but it sure was painful. I also believe that part of my pain was due to my holding on to plans instead of living from a place of nonattachment.
Later in the day, it occurred to me that having Amma’s darshan might help. Darshan was being held in the temple that day. I decided to look for the token table and found it in an unexpected place about 30 seconds later. Within the hour, I was in Amma’s arms. And, of course, being with her did help. Even though I remained teary for the rest of the day, they were not the kind of tears that were painful and wouldn’t stop.
Trust My Inner Wisdom (or not)
In the psychotherapy community I practiced in, we used an affirmation that said “Trust Your Inner Wisdom.” I usually added “except when you can’t.” Most of us have so many voices in our head. I believe it is important to make sure that we aren’t listening to a voice that supports our unhealthy belief systems and/or behaviors.
Decades ago, I heard a minister say that the first quiet voice we hear inside is usually the voice of God. The next messages that come into our mind may be a flood of discounting messages that tell us why that first message is wrong and why it won’t work. If we choose to listen to that second stream of messages, the original “voice” will fade away.
The misery I experienced when I found out there would not be Ganesh bhajans in the Kalari for the next nine days was a good example of my not listening to my inner voice. “Go check the schedule” had gone through my mind daily for about a week. I always responded. “I will …. later.” Later didn’t come until late morning on the day of the event.
As I already mentioned, I knew that Amma had cancelled the games and big processions during the two previous holidays because of the floods. While the night Ganesh bhajans weren’t games, they were raucous and high energy. Having them every night for nine days would certainly have fit into the “celebratory” category. While I was aware of this, I had not allowed myself to seriously consider that they might not happen, I believe that was also a discount to the wisdom of my inner voice.
The 20 Step recovery community extensively uses Portia Nelson’s Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters.
I I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in. I am lost... I am hopeless. It isn't my fault. It takes forever to find a way out. II I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I'm in the same place. But it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out. III I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in...it's a habit My eyes are open; I know where I am; It is my fault. I get out immediately. IV I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. V I walk down another street.
I have found her autobiography to be a very powerful and helpful way of looking at life’s lessons. Years ago, I added another chapter to it… for my own use. In my adaptation, the new chapter came before any of the others. It said:
I receive a warning.
I ignore it.
My experience with the Ganesh holiday was a good example of this additional chapter. I had received warnings in the form of advice and intuitions and had ignored them all. And the result was I brought more pain to myself than if I had listened.
I worry too much about what other people think of me and I don’t like to be laughed at. I cringe whenever people tell stories about me that they think are funny and I don’t. I also get upset when I judge that I’ve made a fool of myself.
An incident that happened in the early 70’s stuck with me for decades. I went to a New Year’s Eve work party with Al (my husband). I worked nights at the time, and for some reason got dressed in the dark. At some point during the party, when we were talking to Al’s boss and his wife, someone noticed that I was wearing shoes that were two different colors. (At that time, I owned two pairs of shoes that were the same style, but different colors. When I had slipped them on in the dark, there was no way for me to tell that they didn’t belong together.)
I was mortified. Other people seemed to be fine about it, and said understanding things, but my inner critic flared. My feelings of humiliation were strong even decades later. I ended up doing some EMDR (therapy) on the issue in the mid 90’s. During it, I started to laugh. I had been divorced from Al for many years and here I was still worried about what the person who was his boss in the 70’s thought about me. My energy about the issue reduced tremendously after that, but it wasn’t 100% gone.
Last week I had a chance to see where I stood on those issues. One morning, I took my garbage to the recycling station. When I returned to my building, there was a group of women residents sitting near the elevator listening to the broadcast of a class that was being offered in the temple. Before the elevator door shut, I saw one of the women smile and lean over to talk to the woman sitting next to her. They were both looking at me. At first, I took their smiles as a greeting but then I realized it didn’t feel that way. I looked down and was dismayed to discover that I was wearing two different kinds of thongs; and these weren’t even similar to each other. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t noticed. Again, I had made a fool of myself and worried about being judged.
The difference between the event in the 70’s and the one that happened last week is that I had so much less energy about it. I still didn’t like that I made the mistake and I didn’t think it was funny, but I had much more of a “whatever” attitude about it.
Long ago, someone taught me the difference between shock and embarrassment. Shock is deadening. We may freeze and turn white as the blood drains from our face. On the other hand, when we are embarrassed about something, it can actually enliven us. We may turn bright red as blood rushes into our face. Some small part of us may even think it is funny.
I realize that the words I chose for these two experiences also show the difference between shock and embarrassment. For the one that occurred in the 70’s I used “mortified” and for the one that happened last week I used “dismayed”. I believe I went into shock during the first event and was embarrassed in the present one.
I’m not happy that I set myself up in this way and know that I still have energy about being laughed at, but I do appreciate seeing that my energy about the issue has lessened so significantly.
[Note: Soon after I wrote this section, I went to work at the cafe. Ziggy, a long term devotee who is also a clown, came up to me and asked permission to put a balloon earring on my ear. I laughed at the synchronicity and said yes. People did indeed laugh at me, and I thought it was fun!]
To read the previous posts in this series click here.
As soon as I finished my entry for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday, another song came to mind. That song, How Could Anyone Ever Tell You, was written and recorded by Libby Roderic in 1990. I first heard it at a psychotherapy intensive and have used it in my psychotherapy practice from time to time since then.
The version in this post was recorded by Shaina Noll in 1992. It is part of Shaina’s CD, Songs for the Inner Child. She wrote this about that album.
The inspiration to record this collection of songs came to me one night as I was singing my children to sleep. As I sat rocking my youngest child, I realized that the singing my children found so calming and nourishing could extend beyond their rooms. I was doing inner child work at the time, personally and in my practice as a counselor. I suspected that the experience of being sung to could be deeply healing for many of the adults I knew. I felt instinctively that the songs my husband and I had been singing to our children could be a blessing to a wider audience.
As you listen to the song, imagine it is being sung to you.
How could anyone ever tell you
You were anything less than beautiful
How could anyone ever tell you
You were less than whole
How could anyone fail to notice
That your loving is a miracle
How deeply you’re connected to my Soul…
Even though the Letting Go of Suffering course is over, you will still be able to access the lessons any time you want to. Before long there will also be an icon on the right sidebar of my blog that will lead to this list.
Table of Contents
Two years ago, in a The Seeker’s Dungeon prompt, Sreejit asked us to fill in the blank in this sentence: “I am a Recovering _________.” There was no doubt in my mind what my behavior would be. If I was at a 12 Step meeting, I would say: “Hi! I am Karuna, and I am a recovering over-doer.”
As I thought about how I would present this topic, I decided to create a new mental health disorder. My fictitious disorder is called “Being versus Doing Disorder.”
The “Being vs Doing disorder” is on a continuum where the center, a balance between being and doing, is the healthy portion of the continuum. The more someone moves to either end of the continuum, the more likely it is they will have dysfunction in their lives.
When I think of the over-being end of the continuum I think of non-productivity, passivity, and lack of motivation. I don’t know as much about that part of the spectrum since I have almost no personal experience there. I have seen it at work in some of my psychotherapy clients and friends though.
Over-doing has many facets. It commonly begins in childhood when the only or main way to get positive attention from parents is to do impressive things. It also develops when parents criticize their children anytime they are relaxing or are doing things the parents consider nonproductive.
As a result, adults with an over-doing disorder may be seeking validation and praise for what they accomplish. An over-doer is also likely to be a rescuer. As such, they do things they aren’t asked to do and are likely to do things they don’t want to do. In addition, they do more than their share of the work that needs to be done and do things for other people that they could do for themselves. Those with this “disorder’ are likely to over-commit and seem incapable of being still.
Over-doing has been a major characteristic of my adult life. At one point, I was raising two children, working three jobs, doing my personal therapy and studying for a PhD. During my therapy, I realized I didn’t want a PhD, I was just seeking attention from the father, who had disowned me. I stopped my schooling but was still overdoing. Before long, I began to experience extreme exhaustion and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
With CFS, I was in survival mode and it was impossible for me to do as much as I had been doing, although I still tried to. When it began dissipating after five years, I went back to over doing. There is no doubt that a part of me believed it was only acceptable for me to stop if I was sick. Eventually I developed high blood pressure and other physical problems.
I reached a point where I had to cut back on all of my commitments. Nowadays, I am putting my emphasis on doing the things I want to do, and am saying no to many requests. I still have trouble with “simply being” but I no longer am into major over-doing. I hope some day I will be much closer to the center of the being-doing continuum.
At one point, I realized a behavior that really fueled my over-doing disorder was the desire to be “in the know.” That put me in the place of being asked for information that I didn’t want to share, which then created stress, whether I shared it or not. As I continue to slow down, I am finding myself holder of less information. I am loving responding to requests with “I’m not in that loop anymore. You will have to ask someone else.”
I learned many skills during my over-doing years. When friends of mine were in a life and death crises, I stepped in to help immediately. There is a time and place for those skills, but it takes discrimination to use them correctly. In that instance, I have no doubt that my choices were appropriate.
I am very committed to my recovery from over-doing. While I may find myself immersed in the old behaviors from time to time, I don’t think I will ever be drawn so deep into them again. I see what I am doing much sooner and and change course when needed.
In evaluating myself on the scale found in Portia Nelson’s Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters, I find I am in generally in Chapter 4 or 5.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
Every time I walk around an invitation to over-do or avoid putting myself in the situation where I know I am going to be tempted, I consider my choice worthy of celebration! I am truly moving towards a life of balance.
Do you have a “Being vs Doing” disorder? Where do you fall on the continuum? How does it disrupt your life?
This post was originally published on April 12, 2015
The more we become immersed in suffering, the more difficult it may be to get out of it. Sometimes it may feel as if we are being pulled down into muck. In this course, you have learned many techniques for letting go of suffering. This last lesson will be about consciously working to “Lighten Up!”
One of the ways to lighten up is to do things that will make you laugh. Decades ago, I gave one of my psychotherapy clients a toy frog and encouraged her to carry it around with her when she was suffering. She was irritated with me at the time, but soon thereafter brought clown noses to group and distributed them. She wore hers whenever she realized she was suffering and found that it helped her to lighten her mood. I imagine seeing her also helped lighten the mood of a lot of other people!
Many years ago, I learned a technique from a therapist named Mary Goulding. She instructed us to push our tongues into our cheeks and then talk nonstop about all of the things we were suffering about. When we say those statements that way, they may lead to laughter instead of suffering.
Another way to lighten up is to talk about the problems that are bringing us down in a dramatic and highly exaggerated way. This past December, I was at Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India when the the Western residents performed their annual Christmas play. There was a point in that play when an actor portrayed his suffering in a way that resulted in the audience bursting into laughter. To me, the scene and the song that went with it, are a perfect example of this type of lightening up. Listen to the song and see if it might be a useful tool for you to use in the future!
You may also help yourself to lighten by going for a walk, immersing yourself in nature, going to a movie, reading a book, watching a funny movie, or listening to music. In the balloons below, write your favorite ways of lightening up.
Every day this week, spend some time practicing ways to lighten your mood. At the end of the day, journal about your experience.
As I mentioned in the beginning, this is the last lesson in the Letting Go of Suffering series. Thanks so much for participating in all or part of it. I hope you find the tools you have learned during the last seventeen weeks helpful in your life journey.
Sometime this week, I will be publishing a post that will provide links to all of the lessons, and will put a widget on the sidebar that will link to that list. I will also be publishing a poll asking some feedback questions.
To find all of the lessons in this series click here.
Photo Credits: Pixabay.
During this course you have been introduced to many tools which can aid you in moving out of suffering. In this chapter, you will have the opportunity to learn how to use seven more tools.
- Stand in a cardboard box (or on a pillow).
- Suffer out loud, i.e. whine, bitch, moan, pout, etc. Say anything and everything that comes to your mind.
- Exaggerate your feelings and thoughts.
- Stick with it until you feel an energy shift (may be 5-10-15-20 minutes).
- Step out of the box
- Identify one thing you will do to work on the situation you were suffering about.
(The Suffer Box was adapted from the Fuss Box concept, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson, Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children.)
- Pick a ring to be your suffer ring.
- Wear it anytime you are suffering.
- Check in with yourself several times a day to determine whether or not you should be wearing the ring.
(Suggestion: Keep the ring on your watch band or necklace when you aren’t using it, so you have access to it at all times.)
- Go for a walk, watch a movie, play tennis, talk to a friend (on any topic other than what you are suffering about), listen to music, read a book, exercise, etc.
- After the suffery energy has shifted, identify one thing you are going to do to solve the problem that is related to your suffering.
- Make a written list of all the things you are angry about. I am mad that_____. I am mad that_____. I am mad that _____.
- Write a poison pen letter saying all of the negative things you would like to say to the person you are angry with. Be sure to destroy the letter afterwards. This is an opportunity for you to vent. No one should ever see it.
- Hit a pillow with your fists or a tennis racket
- Stomp your feet.
- Twist a towel and let your anger flow into the towel.
- Make a written list of your scares. I am scared that _____. I am scared that _____. I am scared that _____.
- Scream into a pillow.
- Call a friend and talk with them about your fear.
- Say positive affirmations to yourself
- Call someone and ask them for an affirmation.
Do a Clearing
If you are feeling distant from someone, or you are aware you have unfinished business with them, then do a clearing. I find the model below to be very helpful.
- I feel _________________ (mad, sad or scared)
- Because when you _________________________
- I think it means ___________________________
- What I need from me is ______________________
- What I need from you is ______________________
- I feel scared
- Because when you didn’t acknowledge me when I walked into room
- I think it means you are mad at me
- What I need from me is to remind myself that I’m okay even if you are upset with me.
- What I need from you is to know if you are mad at me, i.e. check out your fantasy
- I feel mad
- Because when you do things I haven’t asked you to do
- I think it means you believe I’m incompetent.
- What I need from me is to remind myself that I am competent regardless of what you think.
- What I need from you is to know whether you think I am incompetent, i.e. check out your fantasy.
Most often our fantasies are wrong, but if you happen to be right, read what you wrote in the fourth line and focus on that. There may be problems that the two of you need to solve but wait until you are both feeling grounded and ready to work on them.
Sharing Resentments and Appreciations
- Ask a friend to work with you as learn how to share and hear resentments and appreciations.
- Share two resentments with your friend and listen to two of hers/his. Focus on events that have occurred recently. The person giving the resentment uses the format “I resent that you ______.” The listener responds “Thank you” or “I hear you.” When you are hearing resentments, remember that you are hearing the other person’s experience. It does not mean that you are “bad” or have done something wrong or that you have to agree with their perception. Do not defend or argue, simply listen.
- Share two appreciations with your friend and listen to two of hers/his. Focus on events that have occurred recently. The speaker uses the format “I appreciate that you_____.” The listener responds “Thank you” or “I hear you.”
I resent that you left the cap off of the toothpaste tube.
I resent that you didn’t put your dishes in the dishwasher.
I appreciate that you gave me a hug when I came home.
I appreciate that you called me today.
[Note: Thanks to Elaine Childs-Gowell, Jean Illsley Clarke, Al Chase, and the other therapists who created and/or revised the 1) clearing and 2) resentment and appreciation models.]
Every day this week, use one or two of these tools and then journal about your experience.
See you next Monday for the seventeenth and last lesson.
To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.
Suffering patterns often become rigid. Simply thinking about a topic that has brought you pain in the past, might trigger you into suffery behavior. One technique that may be helpful in breaking those patterns is to change your suffering profile.
In Week 2 of this series, each participant identified their personal suffering profile. They did that by examining the following areas:
- The time of day I usually suffer (e.g. morning, afternoon, evening).
- Where I usually suffer (e.g. home, work, bedroom, basement).
- The people with whom I usually suffer (e.g. husband, friend, employer).
- The day of the week I usually suffer (e.g. Saturday, Monday).
- The messages I usually give myself when I suffer (e.g. Nobody loves me, I can’t do anything right).
- Where in my body I usually feel my suffering (e.g. head, stomach, chest).
- Time of year I usually suffer (e.g. holidays, birthday).
- What I usually suffer about (e.g. my children, my family, work).
If you completed that original assignment, go back and look at your answers. If you did not write down you responses, or if this is the first time you have learned about a suffering profile, then create it now. You can either use the list above, or go back to the original assignment and use the diagram.
Once you have identified, or reviewed, your suffering profile, you are ready to start this week’s assignment.
Each day this week, whenever you are tempted to suffer, go ahead and suffer! But this time, be sure you are suffering in different ways than those you identified in your profile. For example, if your profile is to suffer about work, at home, during the evening, with your husband, an alternative could be to choose to suffer about your yard, with a supportive friend, during the day, on a walk.
If nothing is bothering you, then intentionally find something to suffer about, so that you have multiple experiences of changing your profile.
Take a few minutes each day to journal about your experience.
See you next Monday for the sixteenth lesson.
To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Disclaimer – A letter to my former self. A probable epilogue to my “DEAR ME” post.
There is nothing I can say to prepare you for where life will take you in the next ten years.
You will have experiences you never imagined possible or plausible—there will be great heartaches and devastating blows—and you will be taken to places you never knew existed. You will feel like you can’t go on, and you will feel like you will explode.
Your greatest fears will come to reality and you will never be the same, but you will fumble your way through.
I want to tell you specifics, I want to tell you where you should try harder and hold on more and not give up; I want to tell you where you should give in and let go and how to take care of yourself when the unthinkable…
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