Wednesday, August 29, 2018

What Can I Do?

The world's a mess. Our country's a mess. My life's a mess. What can I do? The problems are huge, overwhelming. What can I do? Too much needs fixed. What can I do? I feel powerless. What can I do? 

When was the last time you had any of those thoughts? It is easy and not unusual to get overwhelmed and feel powerless when you are surrounded by so many problems. 

What CAN we do? We all face it at some point or another. And, beleive it or not, there are things we can do!

  • First we must confront our negative thinking. Yes, things can get bad and it can be scarey or frustrating. And we don't have to give power to that to make us feel bad. We can remind ourselves that we have choices. We can remind ourselves that we can't fix everything on our own. We aren't soley responsible for making all the messes go away.

  • We can do small things that affect the big things. For instance, we can work for change with other people to address the problems. We don't have to try to fix everything at once. We can set priorities for our use of personal energies. 

  • We need to identify the specifics of the problems. World hunger? World poverty? War? Refugees from war/violence? What one part of the world's mess calls to you? Join with other like minded folk to work toward changes that address that problem. Maybe you are able to actually go to another country to address its needs. But probably you aren't. So find ways to support those who can. Have a fund-raiser to raise awareness and financial support. Contact those in power to convince them to use their power to resolve the problem.

  • There are lots of things we can do to address the messes in our own country. Be specific about what the problems are and address those that call to you. We can do everything from political pressure to influence those involved. We can elect local and national officials who will address those needs. We can actually serve the people who have the needs for things to survive and thrive. We can be involved in groups and/or donate to groups addressing the problem.

  • And ask yourself if your life truly is a mess, or are you just overwhelmed by all that goes on around you. To change your life you need to be specific about what needs changed. Then make a decision to make those changes, even if you need to ask for help. Asking for help for yourself is just as important as asking for help for the causes you believe in. Because without you they may suffer. You can't give what you don't have.

So basically what is needed is to take the time to be specific about the needs and to be realistic about what you can do to address those needs. Remember, of course, that you can't meet them all. Other folks need to help. 

In order to no longer feel powerless you need to embrace you're personal power to choose what to think, feel, and believe. You can choose to believe that you have nothing to contribute, or you can choose to believe that there are ways you can help - others and yourself.

  • Control your thoughts and you will control your feelings. Really. I know most people don't believe that, but it is true. If you think you can't do something you are choosing to feel helpless or powerless and depressed/afraid. Now. obviously, that doesn't apply to impossible things, like thinking you can jump off a tall building and not be hurt. But think about it. If you think you can't do anything right you will feel like a failure without even considering all the thing you've done right to get you to where you are at the moment.

  • And then there are your beliefs. Many people think they don't choose their beliefs. But where do you think they come from? Someone or something has taught you your beliefs. If they are helping you live a good life, then maybe you need to consider teaching yourself something different.

I used to be a mental health therapist in male prisons and it was easy to see that many of them were in prison because they had faulty beliefs. Some believed that the laws were only made to be broken. Some believed that the only way to get what they wanted was to use violence. Some believed that they couldn't deal with life without alcohol or drugs. And those beliefs were not working for them. As long as they held those beliefs they would keep coming back to prison.

What beliefs are causing you problems? Maybe in the next blog post we will take a look at that. Tell me what you think about all this "personal power" that we each have?

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Who Do You Ask for Help?

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Asking for help seems to be one thing that we have troble doing. What is it that makes it so hard? If we can't do something on our own what is the problem of asking for help? If we struggle on alone we may not do whatever it is as well and we will miss the opportunity to strengthen the relaltionship.

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In our society most people seldom ask for help for themselves. They will ask for your help for a project that helps others. They will ask you for donations for a cause. But when it comes to asking you for help for them they get stuck.

Even family members struggle with it. Not long ago my granddaughter wanted us to babysit her baby but was hesitant to ask. She made kind of roundabout statements about never having time for herself to be with friends without taking the baby. I was more than happy to keep the little one and said so.

Image result for asking for help quotesMaybe she was afraid I wasn't able to do it or wouldn't want to do it and didn't want to create any tension between us. I don't know. But it was the kind of situation where I could have and would have said no if it wasn't o.k. with me and I'd not feel guilty.

So is it fear that keeps us from asking for help? What do we fear? We fear looking weak. We fear being thought of as greedy. We fear will be seen as "less than" in other people's eyes. We fear they will say no to our request. We fear being criticized. We fear becoming dependent. We fear we are imposing on the other.

What fears can you identify in avoiding asking for help?

As I age there are more and more things I'm unable to do myself. And I struggle with asking for help. I'm terribly independent and don't want to give up any of my independence. But does askng for help really diminish my independence? When I look at it logically the answer is "of course not." So what keeps me from asking?

Image result for asking for help quotesI don't want to impose on anyone. That is kind of silly, really. The person I ask is perfectly free to say no to my request. Am I afraid of rejection? Hmm. I suppose. But not asking makes the statement that I don't trust them enough to take care of themselves by setting and maintaining boundaries. When someone says no to a request it isn't about me. It is about them and what they want or need. I really don't have the right to not ask and deny the relationship the opportunity to gain trust and good will.

So what if they say ""no"? Thank them for being honest with you and go ask someone else! Or ask them to suggest someone who could help you. Not everyone will say no. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Can You Be Trained to Be More Compassionate?

In order to make the world a better place we need to spread compassion. Too many people see compassion as a weakness. In reality it is a strength that creates a strong bond with others. And together we can truly change the world

 This article From The Greater Good Science Center tells you how to become more compassionate.

Double click on this link Be more compassionate to read this article.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

What Does Your Fear Do?

Why do we do, or not do, what will get us where we want to be? Why don't we do what we know we "should" do to get us there? What do we fear?

Fear of failure? Fear of loss? Fear of embarrassment? What fears hold you back? And how do you break through that fear?

Check out this YouTube video of One of The Best Speeches Ever.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Where Does Your Anger Come From?

Anger is considered a "secondary emotion" because it is triggered by other "primary emotions" - fear and/or pain.

There is so much anger going around these days. We are in a very anxious/frightening time in our country. And many are feeling pain, emotional pain or physical pain.

So, is anger helpful? That is debatable. Sometimes anger can give us the energy to confront that which we are afraid of or to do something to relieve the pain. That would be helpful if we acted with considerable and thoughtful behavior. All too often, however, we act out with violence, destruction, or denial.

We are seeing a lot of that harmful behavior in the news. Violence is sweeping our nation and taking a toll on all of us. Vandalism as a hate crime, demonstrations that become riots, mass shootings, increased use of drugs and alcohol to blot out feelings, all these are angry behaviors. And they are not at all helpful. They tend to trigger more anger.

We need to examine what is really going on with us when we are angry. Address the fears rationally and take steps to reduce the risks we fear. Address the pain with compassion and care. And refuse to let drugs and alcohol deaden our feelings and make matters even worse.

While this may all sound simple, it certainly isn't easy. That's why anger is being channeled into harmful behaviors. It seems easier than confronting our own fears and/or pain. When we see other people acting out in anger, we need to remember that they are afraid or in pain and to help them deal with their primary feelings.

It really helps when dealing with an angry person to understand that their primary feelings are not being addressed. It helps to know that if we relate in an empathetic manner that the anger can become more useful by using the energy to create resolutions.

So next time you witness someone's anger, try to imagine what it is that triggers that anger, what fears or pain are they experiencing. And treat them with compassion.

And next time you feel angry, check out your primary feelings and see what you can do to help yourself move beyond the anger to resolve your pain or fear.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Are You Generous?

Generosity is intentionally, freely, and frequently giving to improve your life and the lives of others.*
So by that definition, are you generous? Most of my friends are generous. Maybe that is why I have them as friends. Just recently my friends and family donated a total of $549 to send school supplies to needy American Indian Children in S. Dakota.

 It is one thing to be generous with what you have plenty of. My friends and I all have everything we need and much of what we want. So it usually isn't a hardship to donate money. But there are other ways to be generous.

You can be generous with your time. I know that most of us are very busy and sometimes we just can't seem to find the time to do as much as we'd like. Sometimes it feels like everyone wants a piece of your time and you begin to feel used up. Maybe you need to be generous with time for yourself! Take a time out. Do something that nurtures you, that improves your life. Then you will have something to give to others.

You can be generous with your talents. Everyone has something they do well. Yes, you do. So you can share that talent by doing it for someone or teaching it to someone. Do you do needlework? Fix engines, garden, a hobby, even your paid job can be shared somehow.

You can be generous with your spirit. That could be through prayer, through religious education, through, witness, through connecting your spirit with another. Spirit is not just religion. It is much broader than that an encompasses all of our life.

Explore the ways you are generous and build on that to your your life and the lives of others better.

*365 Ways to Live Generously, Simple Habits for a Life That's Good for You and for Others, by Sharon Lipinski

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Do You Have the Courage to Be Kind?

". . . there is a slippery point at which showing empathic concern and enacting kind deeds could go one way or the other: toward discomfort and distress or toward ease and joy."*

When you can feel the feeling of someone in need, you are being empathic. And when you respond with acts of kindness you are acting with compassion. And sometimes those acts of kindness require you to step outside your comfort zone. You need courage to do that.

From something as small as making a financial donation to something as big as risking your life there is an element of fear. It is helpful to identify your feelings in those situations and examine your thoughts and reactions. When we do that we are likely to discover that our fear is either foolish and we set it aside, or our fear is real risk and we can prepare ourselves for what may happen. Either way, the truly compassionate acts will make us kinder and more courageous in other parts of our life.

When we are faced with a situation that can be helped by or financial contribution we can experience fear that we ourself won't have enough for our own needs. Or we will be afraid that our donation won't really help. We may be afraid that if we donate there will be no end to them asking for more. Or any number of other thoughts that keep our wallets closed. It is best to examine what you really think and feel in the situation before we make a decision one way or the other.

A larger painful situation I, personally, struggle with is the problem of homelessness. It brings up sadness, fear, even hopelessness. I have been homeless but I had friends who helped me out of that situation. I know a little of how it feels to not be able to keep myself housed. So I can empathize with those who are homeless. The people I see on the street who are homeless are in much worse situations than I was, so I can imagine how scary and hopeless they must feel.

I have no problem with donating money and/or items to help them with their daily needs to survive. I can do that without leaving my comfort zone. But I confess that I am fearful of being personally involved in their lives. I fear they may be using drugs or alcohol and my help only supports their addiction. I fear they may be a physical threat if I don't keep my distance. I fear they may be mentally ill and dangerous. I fear they will resent me because I have more than they do. I feel vulnerable and fearful. I feel guilty and ashamed  that I have these thoughts and fears.

I wonder if I would be more brave if I were young and healthy rather than being an old woman with disability. Or am I using that as an excuse to push past my comfort zone. I don't honestly know. I do know that if I were more brave I would like myself better.

Am I being too hard on myself? Do you struggle with doing acts of kindness that are outside your comfort zone? What situations are hard for you? What thoughts and feelings keep you from acting with compassion? How are you brave?

*The Kindness Cure, How the Science of Compassion Can Heal Your Heart & Your World, by Tara Cousineau, PhD


Sunday, August 5, 2018

How Does Kindness Cure?

I've asserted that kindness can cure the world, can make it better for others as well as for yourself. Reasearch can tell you how it changes the chemicals in your brain. And that is interesting, of course. But how does it cure others?

Kindness is an expression of empathy, your ability to feel what others are feeling. There is cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. We can imagine cognitively how someone probably feels. Or we can actually feel the same emotion that someone feels. To have motivational empathy, empathy that leads us to act with kindness, we need both.

And the healing comes when we feel happy to help another. That's right, it can make us happy. When we help someone without any thought of gain, when we are truly happy to help, this is the beginning of healing. And each act of selfless acts of kindness brings about deeper healing for us and for the other.
"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."     The Dalai Lama
Altruism is compassion in action, doing things in the service of others selflessly.*

*The Kindness Cure, How The Science of Compassin Can Heal Your Heart & Your World by Tara Cousineau, PhD

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

We Are Born to Be Kind

Compassion and kindness are built "into our cellular blueprint."* So are aggression, competition, and fear. If this is so, why then are some people more kind than others? Why isn't everyone kind?

Our "hard wired" aspects of who we are are trained by experiences that urture and strenthen these instincts. Very young children are kind by nature and nurture. Most babies and young children are treated kindly, which nurtures that kindness in them. However, as they get older other instincts may be nurtured more. Children can and are encouraged to be agressive, competitious, or fearful. And they are often confronted by these same behaviors. Their models may be more of these than of kindness. 

Consider what instincts are nurtured by what children see and experience on television, movies, internet. If this is not offset by kindness in their daily lives they are less likely to be kind. We are trained to be unkind.

The good news, however, is that we can be retrained by nurturing kindness. Each act of kindness makes it more likely you will become more kind. And each time we experience some kindness from others nurtures kindness in us. Intentional kindness not only makes us more kind, it also nurtures the kindness in others. That is how it is contageous.

Raise your awareness of kindness. Affirm the kindness in you and in the kindness of others.

*I recommend the book The Kindness Cure, How the science of Compassio Can Heal Your Heart & Your World, by Tara Cousineau, Ph.D. to learn ways to nurture kindness in yourself and others.

How to become a better person: