There are so many ways we can lose our way with love, especially when we are living with someone or married. One way is when we can get so caught up with the daily ‘stuff’ that needs to be done that we don’t actually spend any quality time with our partner. We are spending time for sure, but its not quality (talk about our thoughts and feelings) time. There’s a paragraph in the book I’m reading (The Dog by Joseph O’Neill) that I thought put this wonderfully into words:
Always we were in agreement that certain practical things needed to be done right away. Always it was first things first. Always we were in the hurry that postpones the second thing, the good stuff, whatever that was supposed to be. I now see that our idea of the good stuff wasn’t having a good time together, but having a good situation, i.e., the circumstance, rather than the substance, was the good, and vital to the good was the displacement of time and its replacement by activity. This was a category error, but what did we know? I was all new to us, every second if it.
So often I see clients who are not happy in their relationship because, without realising it, life has taken over and time with their partner has slipped way down near the bottom of the list of priorities. Without quality time a relationship will wilt and start to die, just like a plant not given enough water. When I’m helping clients with this I have a number of new routines I get them to instigate, so they are ‘watering’ their relationship regularly and often and it can grow stronger again and blossom. In your relationship are you putting ‘getting stuff done’ above quality time together? If so change your priorities now, before its too late.
This is what happened and what I learned from walking the Milford Track last week. To set the scene, it’s a four-day walk/tramp/hike (considered by many as one of the best walks in the world) in the depths of Fiordland, New Zealand. A wild and remote place that is boat access only at both ends. Accommodation is in huts that are just long bunkrooms with a covered mattress on a slat bunk. There are no showers, hot water, electricity, bedding or kitchen equipment. You carry everything with you on your back including food, clothes, sleeping bag, cooking pots, plates, utensils etc. The walk itself is around 6-7 hours per day, including one day that’s up a mountain and down the other side. Let’s just say that you need to be prepared and in a physically strong place. Here’s what happened to us and what I learned from it: A week before the tramp I broke my little toe. I was still in pain during the tramp. My husband Theo got a cold two or three days before the tramp and he had it for the whole time we were away. I caught it on the last day of the tramp. We both felt completely awful. Of the four days, two of them were heavy and torrential rain. That included the day we walked up and down the mountain. Our rain coats and pants (even though good quality) could not keep up with the huge amount of rain and we were wet with no ability to dry our clothes before the next day. The day we returned Theo took a turn for the worst, was very unwell and got a lung infection. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a great believer in the Law of Attraction. You get what you put out with your thoughts, beliefs, expectations and emotions. Others walk the Milford Track and have four days of beautiful weather and we seemed to have a multiplicity of issues. But I’m not asking “Why”, for two reasons.
Reason number one: Today I was reading a Facebook post about someone I know who has just had a premature baby that is in intensive care and a wife who is “not out of the woods yet”. How on earth can I feel sorry for myself when I read this. That post reminded me that all of my problems are small. They are all short-lived. This is an experience I will look back on and laugh about. Their experience probably won’t be. I am so grateful that my problems are small ones in the grand scheme of things. I have learned to be grateful for my very small problems and my small discomforts. It helps to have discomforts at times to remind us of how great things usually are. I can practice my gratitude even better now and be even more grateful of my usual good health, my usual dryness, cleanliness and warmth.
The other reason I’m not asking “why” is because of something Neale Donald Walsch (author of Conversations with God) says, which is: “Why is this happening?” is the most useless question in the Universe. The only really profitable question is, “What?” As in, “What do I choose now?” This question empowers. The “why” question simply perplexes, and rarely satisfies even when it gets a good answer.
So I’m not going to ask why or what did I do/not do to attract this. Things aren’t perfect all the time. I’m just so happy and grateful that my imperfect parts are insignificant. That they are few and far between. That when they are there they remind me about how great my life usually is and how much I have to be grateful for. Without the dark we don’t always recognize the light. I have a lot of light in my life.
Have you ever found yourself feeling resentful because you are doing something you don’t want to be doing? Or unhappy in a job you don’t want to be in? The way to fix that is to remind yourself that you are choosing to do it. That might sound simple but it really works. For instance a while back I was yet again taking the first steps to make up with someone I’d had a falling out with. I was feeling resentful and grumbling to myself “why do I have to be the bigger person?” Then I reminded myself “you don’t have to be. You are choosing to because that’s the sort of person you want to be”. That helped me immensely. Recently someone who was expecting a new grandchild told me she was worried she would end up doing too much for the baby and would start to resent it. She was a very giving person and I knew she would offer to babysit and do a lot for the family, sacrificing her own time, which was precious to her. She had a bad habit of offering to help others, then when that help was accepted she would start to resent it – yet she had put herself in that position. I told her she didn’t have to babysit or do anything she didn’t want to and she replied that she didn’t feel she had a choice. I advised her “think very carefully about what you are and aren’t prepared to do for this baby now, so you won’t offer anything you don’t really want to do”. I then told her my choosing rule: When you are feeling resentful or unhappy doing what you are doing remind yourself that you are choosing to do it. If you realise you don’t choose it any longer then stop doing it! There are only two options: (1) Don’t do it. (2) Do it willingly and happily. There is no option for doing it with resentment!
I’ve used this with a client recently who was unhappy in his work. If you go by the above ‘rule’ then his only two options were (1) leave his job or (2) remind himself that he was choosing it and do the job willingly and happily. If you are in the same position with your job you might think that you aren’t choosing it, that you have no choice because you need the money and you haven’t found another job yet. The fact is though that you do have other options. You could quit and live on the street. You are choosing to work rather than take that option. You could take a job that isn’t very nice and no-one wants (so they always have vacancies), but you are choosing to stay in your current job instead. You could choose to leave your job and lose your house or your relationship or your kids, but you are choosing to stay in your current job instead. See, you do have choices and you are choosing to stay in your job. Once you have reminded yourself of that, find the willingness and happiness to do the job. The other options are worse. Isn’t it great that you get to choose.
One client told me that on Christmas day her family would arrive and want to moan and complain and tell her all their problems. She said this always negatively affects her and drags her down for the day and asked me advice on how to handle it. The first thing to look at is your beliefs about your ‘role’ in this, i.e. do you feel pressure to help them, give advice or solve their problems? If you put this responsibility on yourself of course you will feel pulled down as that’s a lot of pressure that YOU are putting on yourself. They usually aren’t putting it on you, they are just telling you what is wrong for them and what they are feeling. Look at what you tell yourself you are supposed to do with this information. If you tell yourself that you have to solve their problems and you can’t, then you have just made yourself wrong. Depending on how good you are at making yourself wrong, you will then feel bad for anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
I suggest three things:
Remember, like chocolate, families can be better in small servings. May you enjoy your time with them these holidays.
The new show on TV called Naked Attraction features full-frontal nudity of both sexes. The contestant gets to see six members of the opposite sex (or same sex if they are gay) behind a screen. The screen raises from the bottom, so they see the genitals of their prospective date first. The screen stops raising at the genitals and the contestant eliminates one person based on attractiveness of what they see so far. Then the screen raises to chest level and the contestant eliminates one more prospective date based on the attractiveness of what they see so far. Then the screen raises so they see their face. Next they get to hear them speak. At each stopping point the contestant and the show host are making comments on what they see. At the end the contestant has eliminated all but two prospective dates. The contestant goes backstage and comes back on naked and the two remaining people comment on what they see. The contestant then chooses one to go on a date with. All of this sounds really awful. But it’s not. One of the things I like about it is we come to realise that ‘normal’ is a pretty wide range. You see all sizes, shapes, colours and a lot more differences and variations than you would think. When something is hidden it gives the impression of being bad, wrong or shameful. When its not hidden it seems the opposite and that has to be a good thing. The comments that are made about the bodies are for the most part positive. They comment on what they DO like rather than what they don’t. When the eliminated contestants leave they get to say a few words and they nearly always say that they liked the comments made about them which made them feel good about themselves. For instance “he liked my bum and that made me feel really confident about myself”. I think it’s a positive show. Its not a serious show – actually its absolute rubbish. But in my view the nudity is a positive thing. Why hide what is not shameful or wrong and doesn’t need to be hidden. Anyone watching it will realise that the range for what is ‘normal’ is pretty wide and you will almost certainly fit within it.
As a side note, the show’s host, Anna Richardson has been quoted as saying that if you are nervous before a date use EFT. Click here for a link to the interview.
When someone is experiencing a negative emotion the thinking part of their brain turns off. If you try and rationalise with them as to why you didn’t mean it that way, or why they are getting upset for the wrong reason, it will not work! So don’t do it. Calm them down first so their rational brain re-engages.
Step 1: Make them feel understood
Once people feel understood most of the oomph goes out of their emotion. To make them feel understood you can simply say something like “I understand how you feel”. A statement like this does not mean you agree with them, nor that you see things from the same perspective. It’s simply stating that you understand how they feel (from their perspective). Of course if you don’t understand you will need to ask questions first to ensure you do. For example “Help me to understand why you are feeling X right now”, or “what is it that you are feeling right now”? That might seem like a stupid question if they are obviously upset but ‘upset’ could mean anger, hurt, rejected, abandoned or any number of emotions. They won’t feel understood unless you understand. Remember, you are not seeking to agree with them. Just understand what they are feeling. Do NOT, until step 3, defend yourself or try to make them see things differently or tell them your side of it. Step 1 is to make them feel understood and it is not about you, your perspective or your feelings. That comes later in Step 3.
Step 2: Validate their feelings
Once again, you do not have to agree with their feelings. Just validate them. Why do this if you don’t agree with them? So they don’t feel wrong for feeling what they are feeling. Even if they are wrong, you telling them that will only make them more upset. You don’t have to lie to them to validate their feelings. For instance “I acknowledge your feelings”, or “I can see why you would feel that way” doesn’t in any way indicate that you agree with them, but will still make them feel valued for feeling what they feel.
Step 3: Check the level of agitation/calm
If you have done Step 1 and 2 well the person should be a lot calmer and the rational part of their brain should have re-engaged. If not, do more of Step 1 and 2. Only when they are rational and calm should you try to help them see things from your side, or try to explain why there was a misunderstanding.
Often clients ask my opinion on whether they should or shouldn’t take a certain action. In my effort to empower them to answer their own questions I’ve come up with a simple two question protocol which works wonderfully. The protocol is: ask yourself these two questions and if the answer isn’t ‘yes’ to both questions don’t take that action. The questions are:
Remember, if the answer isn’t a firm ‘yes’ to both questions then don’t do it. This protocol is especially great for those people who don’t tend to put themselves first, don’t tend to say “no” and are people pleasers. I always say that the nice people have the biggest problems.
If you need further help in making a decision here’s what I suggest. Firstly, stop thinking that there are right or wrong decisions. Stop thinking that there are good or bad decisions or paths to take. Labelling things that way does not help and can create guilt which clouds your ability to make decisions even more. There are only choices that take you towards who you want to be, or away from who you want to be. So, another way to make a decision is to ask yourself:
To answer that question you need to know who you want to be. You need to have a clear idea of your values and your goals, especially who you want to be as a person (and less importantly what you want to achieve). If you don’t know this how can you possibly make decisions that will benefit you? If you don’t even know where you are headed of course you will be unsure of the best path to take.
One of the things I help my clients with is gaining clarity on who they want to be as well as where they want to be. When I help them get clear on the type of person they want to be (and it makes no difference if they aren’t that person now) it’s easier to know the most beneficial path to get there. For instance, if the person you want to be is open hearted, loving and helps others, then taking a job as a bouncer might not take you towards that goal. In fact it will probably take you away from it. If one of your goals is to be surrounded by positive, happy people who uplift you, then taking a job working on your own doing admin probably won’t take you towards that. It’s all about being clear about the destination, and the destination is how you want to feel, especially about yourself.
I’ve helped people make decisions on things like whether to leave a relationship. Whether to get deeper into a relationship. Whether to sell or buy a business. Whether to move cities or countries. Whether to speak up or keep quiet. Which job to take or to apply for. I believe that most people come to me already knowing the best decision, but that ‘knowing’ is clouded, so they can’t see it. Our ‘knowing’ is clouded by emotions such as fear, worry, guilt etc. It is also clouded by limiting beliefs from the past. For instance, if someone is having trouble deciding whether to propose to his girlfriend or not, that decision might be clouded by his ‘belief’ (keeping in mind that beliefs aren’t always based on truth) that no one is ever faithful. Perhaps he witnessed one of his parents having multiple affairs and his beliefs about marriage are clouded by what he, as a child, thought that meant. When I clear away the limiting beliefs and the negative emotions, including fear, and we use the protocols above, then it is always obvious to the person what their best option is.
You can change your own DNA. Even if you have the gene for a particular illness you can change the way the gene expresses itself and completely change your health. I was listening to the wonderful Dr Bruce Lipton speak about a study done by Dr Dean Ornish on prostate cancer patients. He divided his patients into two groups. One group received the traditional medical treatment which of course included pharmaceutical drugs. The second group did not receive any drugs or the usual treatment. Instead they had their diet changed and were taught stress reduction techniques, including meditation. After 90 days the group who had received no drugs but had changed their lifestyle, particularly a reduction in stress, showed a change in function (for the better) in 500 of their genes! In the other group no genes had changed for the better. Dr Lipton says you can change your genes every day by the way you respond to the world. It is your mind that controls the genes. It is estimated that around 90% of visits to the doctor are due to stress. I always say that stress isn’t what is (or isn’t) happening in your life. Its what you think and feel about it, and that we can change. If you have a health issue (or want to prevent one) the answer is a change in lifestyle. I can help with that.
Is looking at life through rose-coloured glasses a good thing?
To answer that let me quote cell biologist Bruce Lipton PhD.
“You can choose what to see. You can filter your life with rose-colored beliefs that will help your body grow or you can use a dark filter that turns everything black and makes your body/mind more susceptible to disease. You can live a life of fear or live a life of love. You have the choice! But I can tell you that if you choose to see a world full of love, your body will respond by growing in health. If you choose to believe that you live in a dark world full of fear, your body’s health will be compromised as you physiologically close yourself down in a protection response”.
Millions of people die each year from illnesses that could be prevented by addressing their emotional health. If we change how you think, how you feel and what you believe then we can change your physical health. It is a shame doctors don’t spend more time on helping you feel happier and be more positive. Without the aid of medication I might add, as these treat the symptoms and not the cause.
Some people find it easy to look at life through rose-coloured glasses and others have to work hard to do so. Personally, I do find that it takes continual work. The mind is programmed to be negative and fearful as a default setting and it keeps wanting to slip back into that mode. I find its important to keep a constant watch on my thoughts and use the many tools I have for staying positive and happy – and therefore healthy.
I you need any help with, this many of the tools I use are in my book ‘Heightening Your Happiness’, and of course I help people in private sessions.
No, this isn’t a blog about hot soup or mulled wine or woolly sheets. Those practical things do help but what works even better is a different mindset about winter. I used to think to myself “I hate winter”. In fact, I used to tell people that. “I hate being cold” or “winter sucks”. That was before I learned the connection between your thoughts and your emotions. What we think is how we feel. When I think I hate winter I feel miserable. When I think that winter is part of the cycle of life and I’m in a place of acceptance of that cycle, then I feel happy.
I no longer think or say that I hate winter. Now I do the opposite, that is I find things to be grateful for about winter. For instance, when it’s a cold day outside I send out happy grateful thoughts that I have a warm house or car or clothes. When its so nasty outside that there isn’t much to do, I send out happy grateful thoughts that I’m not too busy and have time to do nothing. How often do you complain that you have too much to do or are too busy or stressed? Winter is the opposite where we want to do things outdoors but can’t. We have forced relaxation. Instead of complaining, send out happy grateful thoughts for the down-time. I remind myself often and regularly of the up-sides to winter, for instance feeling clean (and not sweaty) all day.
I also remind myself that I have a choice. I don’t have to go through winter. You have a choice too, although you might not realise it. If you really wanted to avoid winter you could move somewhere that the living was cheap, like India or Indonesia. You could have endless summer. You are choosing not to because you want something else more. It might be your family or your friends or your lifestyle or the money you can earn here. Maybe you don’t want to sell everything to move somewhere and start again with nothing. Whatever it is that you don’t want to give up, you are choosing it over and above choosing a warmer climate. When I remind myself that I am choosing this situation, I find I accept it more easily and am happier with it.
One of my favourite quotes is by Byron Katie who says “The only time we are ever unhappy is when we are in conflict with reality”. When we have the winter blues its because we are in conflict with our reality, i.e. we don’t want it to be cold or rainy (even though it is). We are in a state of resistance to our ‘what is’. It is only in the resistance that we feel unhappy. Stop resisting ‘what is’ and we stop being unhappy. Your resistance to winter doesn’t change the fact that it comes every year. If you are able to stop resisting it or being in conflict with it, and accept it, you will no longer feel ‘blue’. If you are able to manage acceptance then reach for the next step which is enjoyment of ‘what is’. It takes practice over a period of time to train your mind to think differently, so don’t feel bad if you struggle with this at first. Keep it up and it gets easier.