An ever so slight adaptation of a quote from William James.
When things are grim for Christmas in your part of the world, it may help to ponder an old Norwegian saying: “behind those those dark clouds, the sky is always blue”. The old Norwegians did not have an easy life through the long, harsh, unforgiving winter. One group of settlers died out, literally starving to death in Greenland, but even so they balanced their negative thinking with such a positive saying.
In olden times, a negative attitude may not have been conducive to a successful community. They may have had to put emotions on the back burner and concentrate on sourcing or rationing meager food supplies. Life priorities were vastly different and yet, all that time these old people were fostering self-reliance and resilience to adversity.
We can learn much from their attitude if we are open to it.
What do you think? Is action correlated with our level of happiness?
We spend a lot of time in our own headspace, either at work or at home relaxing. In lockdown, some of us might be alone with our emotional thoughts, much more than we have ever experienced before.
This level of introspection, or mulling over problems, can get to a person, especially if they are a deep thinker or highly sensitive.
Concentration, Energy and Motivation
The extent to which we are occupied by our emotional-driven thoughts is often the extent to which energy is diverted away from our working memory, our concentration and motivation. We find it hard to concentrate on our work when we have something on our mind. The monkey mind, it is often called.
Caught Up in Our Emotions
We talk about being caught up in our emotions and it can feel like being trapped inside your own head. At these times, it is hard to re-focus on matters at hand. Our worry or frustration centres switch on and at times, go into, ‘overdrive.’
But those thoughts in our worry centre, are not reality-based thoughts. They are magnified, exagerrated, skewed or biased. We are so much more than those thoughts. Thoughts are not who a person is. Yet we give them power over our moods.
Just like a loud noise that bothers us, trying hard to block it out, will inevitably make the noise appear louder. This is because our focus on the noise has increased. We might even become angry and frustrated.
If we can’t remove the offending noise, we must decrease our focus in order to tolerate the annoying noise, or the many frustrations of our lives. If our attention is diverted away from focusing on the noise or the frustrations, we tend not to notice it and its persistence wanes.
Practising Mindful Strategies to Prevent Worry
Similarly, we can re-focus our attention away from the abyss of introspection, by practising ‘Mindfulness‘ techniques, which are designed to assist us in staying within the present moment. The only time we can act and live is right now, in the present moment. Everything else, the past and the future is only a construct of our minds, so focus on the here-and-now.
The Glennon Doyle and Buddha quotes may have been at odds, but one might assume their objectives were the same.
As if Covid isn’t enough to contend with, have you ever had one of those days when nothing seems to go as it should? Where it seems the forces of the Universe are set against anything going smoothly? Yes, it was one of those.
Chaos Rules or Life by Crisis Management
A friend I haven’t spoken to for over a year sends a message, out of the blue, with only the words, “How are you?” There was no other context to her message and yes it was her – I did check. A little odd or, perhaps, spontaneous. She was just wondering how I was, she said. After a year with out communication!
My daughter rings to make an appointment at a medical specialist doctor and the Receptionist asks her to supply a full length photo for a the appointment. Weird. Full length?
Three out of three kids then had mini breakdowns of sorts on the same night, unrelated to each other, sending us scampering from one to the next in succession. It was a busy night.
That same night the neighbour sent me a message at 7pm that he wants to come sit on my garden bench for a while. Did he have a fight with his partner, I wonder? This is out of character. I only saw the message at 9pm whilst scampering to and fro to said kids.
Finally late on the same day as ALL of the above:
We discovered the new pup had eaten the TV remote control, yes, the plastic controller part. The Moth’s favourite activity is to watch television and you can imagine what the Moth said when it became apparent he could not change the channels or adjust the volume. Not to mention the possible harm to the puppy, which resulted in my daughter having to check the poo for remnants of plastic when she walked the dog around our estate, for the next few days.
Not so strange, I suppose, but given that we live in an area where there are lots of tradie workmen building new homes, you have to imagine the strident scene of strange stares and comments when they see a pretty young teen, now adult, picking up dog poo on the footpath, then examining it closely, feeling it and squishing it around in her hands, (inside the doggy poo bag of course)!
It seems she has a penchant for chewing anything. Here’s more evidence of her dental disasters.
And the final piece of news – we have “worms.”
Not in our bodies thank goodness; we’ve merely purchased a batch of garden-variety, soil-improving worms and installed them in their new home at the Home by the Sea.
At least the worms aren’t having a personal crisis or feeling chocked up with plastic remote controls.
We are often harshest in our treatment of ourselves in the way our inner voice reprimands us for making mistakes.
Rather than an objective assessment of our actions, we strive for perfection in ourselves, and are disappointed or angry with ourselves if we cannot attain that desired standard.
Trying to be Perfect
Perfection is impossible, yet we continue to strive for it. Let us face it, we are all imperfect beings in some way. So it is a natural and normal state to be imperfect.
We may feel anger or diappointment when we judge ourselves to be useless, inadequate or ineffective.
If your critical inner voice is devaluing who you are, answer back with self-kindness … this is the antidote.
Turn negative statements into neutral statements
One easy way to adjust our damaging self-talk is to change “always” and “never” statements into specific truthful ones.
“I always fail at ….” Really, is this accurate? Or, is this statement better?
“It seems like I fail every time I try something I find difficult, but telling myself that doesn’t help or support me in any way and each time it happens, I am learning something about what doesn’t work for me.”
Even in simple situations you might catch your self-talk saying, “You always forget where you put your phone/keys/wallet.”
Imagine how less disappointed you might feel if you change that self-talk to, “When life gets really busy, it is easy to forget where I left my phone/keys/wallet, but that is okay. Next time I might take more notice where I put them.”
If you make a mistake in your work, instead of labelling yourself, useless, using more nurturing phrases under your breath can feel less reproachful.
“I stuffed up this time, but that is okay because I am still learning how best to carry out this task and next time I might do better.”
Here is another example from medium.com
Let’s say your inner voice tells you that you’re fat, and you think: “I did gain five pounds. She’s right, I’m ugly.” You feel miserable, right? Neutralize that negative statement so you feel good about yourself. Paint the situations your inner critic is nagging you about, in neutral colors. Name the facts. Add what you think will help you to make it better.
“Yes, I want to lose a couple of pounds. Last week I was too stressed and tired so I ate more and skipped my exercises. I’m more relaxed now, and I can go back to my usual routine.”
Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.
Carol’s quote came to mind recently, when I received some strongly-worded criticism in response to a post I’d made, on a social media group. Whether my words were truth or lies, seemed less relevant than the individual opinions of the responders making the comments.
It seemed some people relished an opportunity to vent their spleen, albeit in an anonymous way.
Normally, I’d be a little rattled by heavy-handed criticism, but I’m no longer surprised by being hammered with a critical counter-argument, at least on social media.
And yet, in distancing myself from reacting to the negative commentary, I began to feel like some kind of stone-hearted internet troll.
Aristotle was unsurprisingly philosophical about criticism:
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
I wondered should we ignore all negative feedback and scroll on, or respond to critical comments? If so, how?
Criticism of others’ opinions via the internet, and indeed, cyber-bullying, itself, has seemingly reached pandemic proportions. Thankfully the blogging world is mostly immune to negativity, but it did make me wonder how others dealt constructively, with heavy-handed criticism.
An American Politician, Sam Rayburn once said,
Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build it.
What do you think the underlying message says. Does it refer to the support of friends and family that folk find so essential to personal growth and development?
Or, could it refer to the many divergent paths one might consider, or does take throughout life, before we reach our ultimate destination or end goal?
I often find there is profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages, to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.
Nothing is more beautiful and powerful than a smile that has struggled through the tears
~ Demi Lovato (Actress and Singer Song-writer)
This theme of this week’s quotes is power, not raw power, but rather that power of the self, as an entity, that power we find within ourselves.
The less effort, the faster and more powerful
you will be
~ Bruce Lee
We have nothing to lose by trusting the infinite power
of the Self, except the bondage of our own ignorance
~ Mata Amritanandamayi Devi
And finally there are these words:
“You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world’s happiness now.
By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.”
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
Do you like to Help Others?
We are encouraged to help others according to the religious and social conventions of our world. Doing so, promotes joy in others, a sense of, ‘loving kindness,’ in our interactions with others and community.
where are the boundaries between helping others and neglecting our own needs in order to please others?
People-pleasers typically have low self–esteem. They overdo it on kindness and helpfulness because they feel a need to prove their worth. They’re uncomfortable with conflict and negative emotions, so they work hard to always keep their partners happy, with no concern for their own feelings.
This statement goes a little far in finger-pointing, and it could incite feelings of guilt in the person who aims to please. But I take their point on the fundamental issue.
So how do we achieve that balance between helping others and not hindering ourselves?
I think that it’s a learning process for some of us.
People pleasers hope that saying yes to everything asked of them will help them feel accepted and liked. However, no matter how nice they are, some people won’t like you for no good reason.
Do you like every person you meet?
Kindness or Pleasing Others?
Many people-pleasers confuse the act of pleasing people with kindness. When discussing their reluctance to turn down someone’s request for a favour, they say things like,
“I don’t want to be selfish,” or “I just want to be a good person.”
Consequently, they allow others to take advantage of them.
It is impossible to be all things to all people. Trying to be that person will just stress you out.
“Some people-pleasers have a history of maltreatment and somewhere along the way, they decided that their best hope for better treatment was to try to please the people who mistreated them.“
Some People-pleasers seem to spend a lot of time walking on eggshells and neglecting their own boundaries to keep a significant other happy*. For these folks, people-pleasing becomes a habit and a way of interacting with family, friends and other people.
*NB. If this tips over into an abusive relationship, professional help should be considered, at the earliest opportunity.
What You Can Do to Break a People-Pleasing Habit
Start by saying no to a small request or take a stand for something you truly believe in.
Express your real thoughts and opinions to something small or less significant.
Validate the other person’s right to a different opinion before calmly stating your own.
Check to see if this works for you.
A positive or neutral response to this, from the receiver, may help to build confidence in one’s own ability to be more aligned with the true self.
Any adjustments in this communication might mean re-phrasing your words without acquiescing your own beliefs. Validating other people’s right to their own opinion, whilst calmly stating your own, may also be helpful.
“I get why you would think that and it would be nice if I could see it your way/agree with you, but right now, I see it/think differently.”
“The Number 1 reason people fail in life is because they listen to their friends, family, and neighbours.”
Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, mental, or emotional pains of another and themselves, according to Wikipedia
When I was young, I don’t think I was such a compassionate person. I think I may have been caring and kind, but I do not think I was truly compassionate.
I did not go out of my way, nor did I always take the time to remember the details of others’ lives. I came to realize this was important and meant a lot, when someone takes a moment to enquire how they are faring.
Animals have the ability to teach compassion to anyone.
We are possessed by the things we possess. When I like an object, I always give it to someone. It isn’t generosity-it’s only because I want others to be enslaved by objects, not me. Jean-Paul Sartre
I was washing the Schnauzer Dog this morning and the young pup and rest of the family kept interrupting me, pushing open the door hitting me in the shoulder, when I was working with the dog in the tub, full of shampoo.
If it wasn’t the pup pushing open the closed door latch, it was the Moth a.k.a. ‘Man of the House,’ (New homes appear to have internal doors that don’t securely latch closed, unless you slam them).
Each time the door was opened, the very wet and soapy Schnauzer, now full of shampoo would repeatedly try to leap from the tub, and and you can just imagine how slippery a fully soaped up dog was. It was a slightly exasperating situation.
Dog washing complete, I then set about cleaning the laundry and the same scene repeated, much to my dismay. Newly cleaned floors covered with either Schnauzer paw prints or Moth footprints as suddenly everyone wanted to get into the laundry for some reason. Grr.
I felt the tension rising in my body. I was irritated by the door latch not staying closed and the laundry suddenly becoming busier than Central Station. After a few grumbles under my breath, I paused, took a deep breath and tried to remember the wise saying I read earlier this week:
If there is something you don’t like, you can either change it or change the way you think about it.
Each and every day, the real battle for freedom takes place in your mind.
Do you have a way of dissolving tension that works for you?
So many of us seek, even actively chase, a sense of peace and fulfillment. We enjoy the fruits of life that we find bestowed on us, in parochial measure, but can we say that we truly treat ourselves kindly or are content, with ourselves?
Kindness as an act, is something we do in treating and interacting with others. Whatever your beliefs, as a child of this universe, we are all deserving of kindness and respect. It is a fundamental human right.
And yet, we shy away from practising loving self-care towards our own bodies and minds, because it gives rise to feelings of guilt. Or, we see it as some kind of character flaw, a sign of weak indulgence or self-centred narcissistic navel-gazing.
Body Image and Disliking Ourselves
Some of us take this even further developing an intense hatred or discomfort with parts of our bodies, for whatever reason. We seek to change the way we look via cosmetics, surgery or decoration.
We may have been unkind to ourselves over time, seeing ourselves only through others’ eyes. It is all too easy to be hyper-critical of an imperfection, when comparing oneself to others. It is important that we see that this kind of perspective, or lens, distorts the way we think about our own bodies and our sense of self suffers. Over time, these thoughts become hard to shift.
..there is no hurt, no lost or berated part of ourselves that cannot be touched by our own loving kindness. Indeed, little kindnesses towards ourselves made habitual in daily life are enough to turn any tide, bit by bit, day by day.
Whatever we think of ourselves, at this moment, we must not forget that we ARE INDEED unique and valuable to this world.
In apportioning loving kindness to all, we can consciously practice self-care.
Being kind to oneself, on a regular basis, is a useful life skill which can help us more readily soothe and quell anxiety and distress in the face of difficult challenges, or thoughts.
Furthermore, when we are kind to ourselves, (and others), we begin to see that we are indeed worthy of tenderness and this, in turn, may strengthen not only our own self- confidence, but also feelings of comfort and support.
It is never too late to be kind and loving towards ourselves. The past is gone and the future has not yet arrived. Focus on thinking that will sustain and support you.
Before you panic, I’m not advocating opening up borders and businesses in the midst of a pandemic. Far from it, I err on the side of caution and conservatism when it comes to nasty bacteria and viruses.
Rather, I am referring to opening the door to our minds and our lives, which often stays closed, to the present moment.
The Present Moment
When old friends get together, they reminisce about the past. Older people love to chat about those heady, carefree days of youth. Their stories are tinged with regret. Regret that they didn’t do more, see more, love more.
Why is it we close our mind to really seeing the world around us, as each moment passes by, a moment that we will never be able to fully experience again? Many of us appear to prefer our own thoughts and stick with thinking that revolves around plans, or worries, for the future, and regrets or reminisces about the past.
When our minds are fixed in the mental construct that is the past or the future, we are more likely to create anxiety within ourselves.
Our Public Persona
Most of us have secrets and thoughts we stash away in the far recesses of our mind. We rarely show our complete self to another person. Presumably for fear of rejection. Because rejection hurts. So we present a public face and persona to the world and our private self is only for the movie that is running in our own minds.
It seems we now prefer to see what everyone else is doing, via the medium of a glass screen than to be involved in life, with all our senses.
Cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world that occurs when we’re afraid it will hurt us or let us down. Cynics always say “no.”
If we always say no, we miss out on learning and growing. Saying yes leads to firsthand experience and knowledge. “Yes” is for strong, open-minded people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”
Marc and Angel
Why are we ignoring the immediate world around us?
Could we be preferencing cynicism over wisdom?
As Marc and Angel state,
“Accepting some level of risk in life is important. Everything you want to do takes daily practice.
Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.
Live the life you want to live. Be the person you want to remember years from now.
Make decisions and act on them. Make mistakes, fail and try again.”