Below is an interesting post by Laura Berman Fortgang, a best-selling author and interfaith minister. In it she discusses how much it is up to us to re-educate (Re-Mind) ourselves so we can have a more peaceful and fulfilling life.
She talks about accepting and embracing who we are as a first step then creating an inner-dialogue as a second. And I couldn’t agree more.
While she specifically discusses depression – which has never had a strong hold on me – the process still works for my “dis-ease” – a demanding mind.
First I have had to understand the demands I place on myself – to always be perfect – is not actually holding the bar high – as I used to think – but is instead putting myself in a suffocating prison.
No one is perfect and not allowing oneself to make mistakes is a heavy burden to carry. It sucks the life out of you and sends you down a path where you’ll be beating yourself up on a daily basis.
So, I know who I am. I know my tendencies and when they rear up their ugly heads, I talk to myself. I Re-mind myself (re-educate) that I need to accept that sometimes I’m less than perfect. Then I direct my mind to the big picture. Is this “error” of mine going to have such consequences that justify the beating I’m giving myself? Can I actually learn something from it?
Thinking of the big picture is a great response to the beating up. It really puts things in perspective because in most cases my “error” is really insignificant and if I think about it I can actually learn something from it.
Once, I have talked to myself then I move on with compassion. I forgive myself. I actually say: It’s okay. Then I get busy with others things and I don’t let my mind keep playing the “error” again and again. I get off the rat wheel.
In the end, our lives are not really about the end game. The accomplishments. It really is much more about the in between. The experiences. The relationships. The emotions. The wisdom acquired to be compassionate towards oneself. The wisdom about being present.
Please read on…
Recalculating: You Can Re-Mind Yourself
By Laura Berman Fortgang
I’ve battled depression for most of my adult life. I don’t discuss it much but when I do, like now, it’s to encourage someone suffering from depression. The response is usually one of surprise, like “You seem so energetic and positive!”
“That’s my nature,” I respond. “And I have to fight for it every day.” Continued…
There are moments in life where we feel we are standing in the eye of the storm where different psychological issues are tugging at us to get our attention. In my case now are; my aging parents, my sister who lives far away, and my own fears of what my future will be like. Without getting into the nature and the merit of my issues – they are not the point of this particular discussion – the consequence is that I feel pulled into many directions which generate anxiety, guilt and depression.
Now, I know better. I know anxiety, guilt and depression are paralyzing emotions which have no real benefit to anyone engaged with them on a one-on-one.
Last night I went with a friend to see LA’s last performance of Next to Normal, winner of 3 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. The musical is about mental illness. A subject one wouldn’t usually associate with singing – there is no dancing in this musical.
My friend, who is also a therapist and I really enjoyed the musical. As I was driving home we talked about mental illness and finding acceptance and peace in our own lives.
One of the great values of films and plays is the opportunity they offer us to see situations and relationships through others points of view. They create a safe environment – because we are not personally involved – and then present us with a situation played out by the different characters.
In my life I have been close to a few people suffering from mental illness.
It’s so easy to see other people’s troubles clearly. And it also seems easy to see what they should do to get out of their suffering. The reason for that is simple: we are not emotionally invested and conflicted in other people’s problems. So we think we can see and resolve their problems without much effort.
But, when it comes to our issues we have feelings. We also have all the voices in our head (read yesterday’s blog) vying for their opinion to be the decisive one.
I am not a sports fan. Actually the only thing I watch is the World Cup every four years. . I know the Broncos is a football team but I’ve never seen Kenny McKinley play. But I do know depression and mental illness.
Kenny McKinley committed suicide this past Monday (9/20/10) at age 23. His death makes us stop and wonder how a young man with a promising career would find himself in such a dark place that the only way out for him was suicide.
One of the things that make it hard to treat mental illness is its uniqueness. You can take two people and put them through the same situations and the results will be completely different. That’s because we see, feel and process experience through our own set of inherited and acquired tools. Depression and mental illness are the results of “distorted” ways of seeing things or short-circuits/malfunction of the brain.
I’m not a doctor so I’ll move away from discussing medical reasons for depression and mental illness. What I want to talk about is how sometimes we add to our suffering by the way we see ourselves.
The more we define ourselves as part of a specific group or type, the more we can relish a shared reality. ~George A. Bonanno
I look around and see a world full of hope. Friends dealing with life, looking for direction, wishing they had a blueprint for which way to turn. I have nights when I can’t go to sleep, then mornings I don’t want to get up. I pray for my family, friends, and for myself, to have courage, confidence, wisdom, and balance.
Psychologist George A. Bonanno has written a book based on research for those going through the death of a loved one. “The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells us About Life After Loss” talks about one’s capacity for resilience, the ability to thrive in the face of adversity. Filled with the words of bereaved individuals, the reader can’t help but be touched and learn from their journey through loss.
I knew that Helen Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief model was initially developed for helping dying patients cope with death and bereavement. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For years those five steps have been linked with grief support counseling, as well as emotional response to trauma. Definite stages of emotion that I experienced when my husband got sick. I dealt with denial, anger and bargaining especially when his congestive heart failure accelerated and he was accepted as a candidate for a heart transplant. Depression, absolutely. Acceptance? Now this is challenging. I do accept that he’d physically gone, yet is “he” gone?
I had an experience a few nights ago as I was looking through my husband’s cds. He always talked about having to listen to an entire cd to hear one or two specific songs. So on February 2007 we burned two cds, of songs by his favorite male and female artists. I had totally forgotten about this but listening to them now has given me a sense of comfort. This happened at a time when I had been reaching deep inside for strength.
There are times I feel my husband is still protecting me. He always told me I was hurting myself through often compromising my needs and continually tried to teach me how to set limits. Recently I’ve gone through several situations that made me think how he would suggest I handle things and I found myself having confidence, to take action, and stand up for myself, focus and expand my capacity for resilience. Something I know I desperately need. I think we all do.
It is in those times that I make use tools I have collected over the years that work for me such as:
1 - I seek solitude and reflect
2 - I slow my pace down. I don’t do anything too strenuous to my body or mind.
I love the slogan “Just do it”. Because if you want to make a change; just do it. The how is what can become the issue. So here are a few things to consider when you decide to make a change:
1 – Tell people you trust about your decision. Once it’s out there we feel more responsible to follow through. Plus our friends and/or family will keep us in check.
2 – Have a plan. If you want to lose weight, set up a plan. If you want to stop smoking, set up a plan. In these cases a plan can be a schedule to stick by, and actions to be taken such as: read food labels, weigh food, avoid sugar etc. And if you want to be happier, you still need a plan like: not to indulge in negativity, to busy yourself every time you get depressed, to do something pleasurable every day etc.
3 – Realize that only you can make the change. Waiting for others to change things for us, just keeps us right where we are. No one can rescue anyone. If we don’t love ourselves and are waiting for someone to love us so we can feel whole, it will never happen. If we are waiting for someone to strategize how to get the perfect job; that will never happen. We need to be responsible for our own lives. If we want to live differently and/or better it is up to us.
4 – Don’t give up and don’t expect immediate results. Just because we decided to change something it doesn’t mean the results will happen right after we declared to the world that we are in the process of changing. Be diligent and be reasonable and don’t give up.
5 – Be okay in being off balance. We are creatures of habit. When we decide to change something about us or our lives, every cell in our bodies wants to scream: “What the hell is going on here?” When you feel that way, realize it is part of the change and breath through the anxiety and discomfort.
I found this article on the Huffington Post and wanted to share because it talks about how our own happiness and contentment is up to us. And how much the work we do is within ourselves. I’m a firm believer our journey through life is a journey within.
In an earlier blog I quoted Rumi’s Guesthouse poem in order to convey a radical approach to our difficulties in everyday life. He says:
This being human is a guest-house.Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
However, it’s not always the difficult emotions we’re trying to avoid. Sometimes there’s a subtle, or not too subtle, aversion to the “positive” feelings like “love” or “joy” that come for life or success. Why might this be?
Well, one thing I’ve learned over time in my own life and as a psychologist is that emotions aren’t so black and white. For example, anger doesn’t just come with anger alone; at times it comes with sadness or other emotions. We just have these words to help us better define emotions as we do with other things.
In this same vein, when we’re growing up we often have a natural love for our parents, but this can get mixed up with other uncomfortable emotions. If we grew up in a scary household perhaps love got mixed up with fear or if we grew up in a family of divorce, love may have been mixed with fear or the sadness or anger of separation or failure.
In other words, in order to feel love, we might also have to feel these uncomfortable emotions. So, acting in our best interest to avoid discomfort, some part of ourselves decided to keep the uncomfortable emotions at bay and at the same time keeps the love or joy at bay.
All kinds of tricks of the mind are deployed to have this work out. Perhaps we discount the positive and exaggerate the negative or maybe just go up in our heads and analyze over and over again to avoid the feelings…Continued
When your heart hurts, run and give yourself a hand. You can do it.
In those moments when you feel alone remember you have yourself. Who could possibly better soothe your pain away than you, who has known yourself your entire life time?
Of course partners, family, friends, lovers are great help to show us a door when we feel we are cornered. But the truth is unless we do the rescuing ourselves, outside hands are just band aids.
In my life there are those moments that I actually have to lean against the wall to feel something strong pushing against me. And when I do it, I let it all out; no holding back. I feel the loss of my husband, the loss of a cherished life, my fears, and disappointments.
Once I’m done, I take myself away from the wall – with the love I would with a child with snot all over her face from crying – and I do something nice to distract myself. Music, a film, a book, my dogs, wine, food, a friend; whatever it is that I think I need at that moment. And then I move on. Because that is what we do; we keep living and we keep moving forward.
So next time you feel blue, don’t run away from it. Embrace the feelings, understand where they are coming from and then offer yourself a way to move on. It is only when we are able to embrace our pain that we can truly find happiness.