Ride the Emotional Roller Coaster

roller coasterThe other day I took a ride on an emotional roller coaster. It started at 2 o’clock in the morning. The night before, our one month old refrigerator stopped working properly and started to warm up to room temperature. By 2 o’clock, the motor was running so loudly that we couldn’t sleep. We unplugged it and went back to bed. I tried to go back to sleep, but the excitement of having the refrigerator die was too activating for me. I started worrying about the situation. When I bought the refrigerator two months before, it took two and a half weeks to get it delivered. I started wondering how long it would take to get a replacement. Also, I cook a lot and I keep the refrigerator well stocked. So what was I going to do with all the food? And next week is Thanksgiving and I plan to cook turkey dinner. You can’t do Thanksgiving dinner without a refrigerator!broken refrigerator

I separated my intellect from my emotions. I found some new intellectual messages. I realized that I can return the defective refrigerator and buy a new refrigerator from another store. I planned to check with all the appliance stores in my area until I found one that would deliver sooner. Or, worst-case scenario, I would have to delay Thanksgiving dinner. While this was annoying, it wasn’t the end of the world.

With my new messages, my intellect was happy. But my body and my emotions weren’t so easy to placate. The stress of waking up in the middle of the night plus the stress of dealing with the whole refrigerator issue triggered fear in my body. My heart started pounding and even when my intellect relaxed about the situation, my heart kept pounding. I was on the emotional roller coaster and there was no getting off.

I lay in bed with my heart pounding for about 2 hours. I turned on my MP3 player and listened to a book on tape to entertain my intellect while my body felt my fear. I know from experience that when my emotional organ opens up and decides it needs to feel emotions, I need to just relax into it and let the emotions flow. I don’t try to stop feeling them. I don’t try to talk myself out of feeling them. I just quietly let them flow.

When my body was done feeling emotions, I fell back asleep. Then, when I woke up the next morning, I felt fine. It was time to start my day. I went about my morning errands. I got dressed, drank my soymilk for breakfast and cleaned out the cat litter.

It was when I was cleaning the cat litter that I got back on the emotional roller coaster and hit a high point with joy. The reason I got so happy is because this summer my 17-year old cat’s arthritis started making it hard for her to climb into the litter box. She started having accidents at the entrance of the box. It was a mess. And it took me a few months to figure out. I don’t have the habit of watching my cats use the litter box. So this was a mystery that took a while to solve. In the meantime, I went through a lot of paper towels and cat-urine neutralizing solution. Yuck!

cat litterOnce I figured out the problem, my friend told me about cat wee-wee pads that are plastic-backed absorbent pads that can be set on the floor in front of the litter to catch the accidents. I started to use those pads and they changed my life. Overnight, I went from facing a stinky mess every morning to floating on air as I pick up the wet pad and replace it with a fresh one. I can’t express the joy I feel when I change the wee-wee pad. It is a natural high.

That was the end of the emotional roller coaster ride for that day. After I changed the wee-wee pad, I went out and bought another refrigerator that was delivered two days later. So far it works great. My defective refrigerator will be taken away later this week. Everything turned out fine.

You can live a life where you try to fight your emotions. You can pretend you don’t feel your sadness, fear and anger. You can deny your emotional roller coaster and all its highs and low.

Or you can live the way I live. You can embrace life and live it to its fullest. You can feel all the uncomfortable emotions in addition to the joy. You may have times where you need to stop and rest as your body does its work of feeling. Sometimes the emotional roller coaster ride is long and intense. Sometimes you will feel emotions for days, weeks, months, or even years at a time. You may have emotions left over from the past, emotions you’ve been suppressing that are still inside of you waiting to get out.

The process of riding the emotional roller coaster can be intense and exhausting at times. Some days you may choose to get off the ride and take a break. But you will find that the more you commit to feeling your emotions, the more your body will wake up and become activated and alive. Your joy will be more intense as you open up to all the potentials in your life and see things from a new perspective!happy lady

Nurses Heal Thyselves

nurses groupIt seems that half of my patients lately are nurses. I’m exaggerating a bit, but I am amazed at the number of nurses who see me for management of their chronic pain. They have all different types of chronic pain from headaches to neck and back pain to fibromyalgia to pelvic pain.

I have known a lot of nurses over the years, not only as patients, but also as co-workers and friends. Through my relationships with them, I’ve observed a number of characteristics they have in common. They tend to be hard working and detail oriented. They value cleanliness and they have a tendency to control either themselves or others.

When you are working on healing yourself, it is vital that you understand how your roles within your tribes affect you. Our tribes have an incredible amount of influence over us. They frequently cause us to make unhealthy choices about how we live. The nursing tribe is a good example of this.

Nurses in the United States are part of the Western medicine nursing tribe. If we observe the Western medicine nursing tribe, we see a tribe that is made up mostly of women. Everyone who is a nurse is part of this tribe. Whether they work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, or schools, nurses are all part of the nursing tribe.

The nursing tribe works with the Western medicine physician tribe. The Western medicine tribe is like a family. doctor and nurse and patientThe historically male physician has always been the head of the family. The female nurse has acted like his wife, following his instructions and taking care of the children (their patients).

In the Western medicine tribe, everyone has his or her role to fill. The physician fathers are stereotypically confident and knowledgeable leaders. They can be kind, but they can also be arrogant and narcissistic depending on how they manage the pressure of their role. Nurse mothers are detail-oriented caretakers. Some are gentle and caring while others are cold and punitive. It is the job of the patient children to be passive receivers of care, doing what the physicians and nurses tell them to do.

While being a nurse has always been demanding, in recent decades being a nurse has become even harder. Technology and the economics and politics of medicine have demanded that nurses do more with less. They have less time to spend with patients as they spend more time on computers. They have to take care of more patients per shift as their staffing ratios get smaller and smaller. And patients’ medical problems are getting more complex requiring more time and care.

Because the majority of nurses are women, they also have to deal with the issues that the rest of the Western woman tribe deals with. It is now the norm for women to work and raise a family. While men are helping more, the majority of the work done for children and in the home is done by women. Women are now living two lives in one body. They live the lives that women have always lived, taking care of the family and the home. They also live the lives of the men who work outside of the home. While this gives women more independence and personal satisfaction, they pay the price in lost time and energy for themselves.

As a tribe, women are making inroads as they forge ahead in the male-dominated world. But as individuals, they are killing themselves slowly as they force their bodies to do more than they can handle. This is why I see so many young women with chronic pain. Doing it all sounds great, but it is not sustainable.

Nurses drive themselves so hard at work and at home that their bodies can’t keep up. The Western medicine nursing tribe is a mean tribe. It cares about everyone but the nurses. It cares about keeping the physicians, patients, hospital administrators and bean counters happy. It cares about taking care of the husbands, children and homes. But the nursing tribe always puts the needs of the individual nurses last.

It drives me crazy to see the way nurses abuse themselves for the sake of their tribe. Women like to think that they have won the equality battle. But they won’t have truly become equal until they can live a balanced life the way men do. They don’t realize that together, as a group, they have incredible bargaining power. Both at work and at home, women are the work horses, the ones who get the job done. Without women to do all the work, physicians, hospital administrators and husbands would all be forced to pick up the slack.

If you are a nurse (or a woman who isn’t a nurse but who shares the same stresses of overwork and self-abuse), you need to step back and try to see the world from a new perspective. Observe your tribes and the groups that you are part of. Identify the messages they give you telling you that you don’t deserve to take care of yourself.

Stop and feel the emotions that get triggered as you recognize places in your life where you aren’t honoring yourself. Find new, healthier regenerative messages to replace the old messages that tell you not to take care of yourself. Listen to your body and your intuition as they tell you what you need.

In the end, you will find that taking care of yourself isn’t a selfish thing. In the long run, taking care of yourself is the kindest thing you can do for everyone in your life. If you take care of yourself, you will have more energy to be kind to your patients and your family. You will be less at risk of getting sick and needing other people to take care of you. You will also bring the rest of the Western medicine tribe into balance as the physicians, administrators and husbands have to start taking on their fair share of the responsibility in the tribe. happy nurse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forget Your Regrets

6_11_RegretsWhatDo_976905468I saw a new patient this week who reminded me of how hard it can be to let go of the past. She has had chronic neck pain for seventeen years. Her pain was mild for five years. Then she was in a car accident and the pain got much worse. Her life has slowly become more and more miserable. Because of the pain, she is now on social security disability income and doesn’t work. She has become progressively more isolated and depressed. She has become obese because of her lack of activity.

When I asked my patient about her pain, she told me the story of how the car accident ruined her life. She told me in great detail about how she was injured. Although the accident occurred over a decade ago, she could have gone on for an hour about all the details of what happened. The weather, the speed of the cars, the details about the intersection involved, etc. I was amazed at the level of detail she could give me.

This is an example of a regret. Whenever you look back into the past and use your intellect to tell stories about things that didn’t work out the way you would have wanted, you are regretting. These situations may have hurt you or someone you care about. You can regret what you yourself have or haven’t done. You can also regret what another person has or hasn’t done.

regret young girlIt is natural to review the past as a way to process our experiences and learn from them. If you don’t, you will never learn from your mistakes. The problem comes when you get attached to a regret and you can’t let go. If you get attached to a regret, you can have trouble letting go of the past and moving on toward the future. You can have trouble enjoying the present moment to the fullest because your thoughts are still back reviewing things that happened in the past.

If you get caught up in a regret, there are a few things you can do to work through it and let it go. First, you need to recognize when you are caught up in the thought pattern of regret. Listen to your thoughts and words. If you find yourself continually thinking about something that happened in the past that hurt you or someone else, you are regretting. If you find yourself continually talking about a certain person or situation that hurt you in the past, you are regretting.

Once you recognize that you are regretting, you will want to ask yourself, Is there an emotion connected to my regret? For example, if you were in a car accident that caused you pain, do you have anger, sadness, or fear to feel? When situations hurt us, our bodies naturally want to feel the physical emotions triggered by the trauma. But we get taught by culture that emotions are dangerous to feel. So we block them, and instead we start using our intellects to tell stories and judge and analyze what has happened.

The process of blocking emotions and using your intellect to tell stories is stressful for your body. You have to do a lot of work to not feel what your body naturally wants to feel. You tighten up your muscles and irritate your nervous system as you try to deny your reality. In my experience, patients with chronic pain frequently get in the habit of tightening whichever part of the body has been injured and activated by the accident. If you had a whiplash injury, you might develop the habit of tightening your neck muscles. If you had a low back injury, you might start tightening up your low back muscles. This can contribute to the pain in the body part you injured.

Head in HandsTry to let yourself feel your emotions when you catch yourself regretting. We all have an emotional basement. We keep our repressed emotions in our bodies deep in our emotional basements. If you have a car accident and your body wants to feel fear and anger in response to the accident, you need to feel it. If you don’t, you put the unfelt emotions in the emotional basement and they will just fester inside of you. They will always be there, waiting to come out, even if you pretend everything is okay.

Feel your emotions in a responsible way for as long as you need to. If your heart pounds in fear every morning when you wake up and remember the accident, let your heart pound and feel your fear. Your body deserves to be alive and living its reality. If you are angry over what happened, feel your anger. Remember to never hurt yourself or anyone else when you are feeling emotions. Breathe your anger through you on your own time, by yourself. Remember to keep your muscles loose as you feel your emotions. Shake your hands to stay loose if you need to.

When you catch yourself caught up in a regret, also look for any judgments that might be underlying the regret. This can be a hard thing to do. We have so many judgments we make about how the world should be. It is especially hard to accept when we have pain and disappointment. It can be hard to accept the painful situations in life. It can be hard to understand why we have to suffer. But as hard as it is to let go of our expectations of how things should be, the more we can say, I’ll try not to judge this situation, the easier it will be to work through it and let it go.

When you find yourself getting caught up in a judgment, find a new message. Look for a regenerative, non-judgmental message. If you can’t think of one yourself, ask family, friends, your psychologist or your spiritual advisor for a new message. Watch movies and read books to find a new viewpoint. Try to step back and see life from a bigger perspective to find the new message.

Every time you catch yourself saying the old judgment, take out the new message and remind yourself of the new perspective. For example, the patient in the car accident could say, I may not understand why I had the accident, but I trust that there is a bigger picture reason for it. Maybe it is teaching me how to stop and learn about my inner self. Maybe it is teaching me how to feel my deep emotions.

The process of feeling your emotions combined with focusing on new, regenerative intellectual messages will start to change the way you see the past. It may take some time to clean out your emotional basement. It may take some time for the new messages to start to take root. But you will find that your perspective will slowly shift from the past to the present. This will give you a sense of peace and will help your physical health.  funny-cat-food-regret-nothing

 

Follow Your Intuition

intuitionThe intuition is an exciting part of your inner self. This is the part of you that is your best expert. It always knows what is most beneficial for you. In every moment, your intuition is there giving you information about how you can do things the healthiest way. We each have our own intuition giving us our own individual expert opinion.

The intuition uses a number of factors as it guides you. It takes advantage of your history and what you know from experience. It takes input from your physical environment and what you sense around you. And finally, the most exciting input for the intuition comes from God, your higher power, your higher spirit, the angels or whatever you call that part of the world that is bigger than you are.

gut intuitionThe intuition may come to you as a voice in your head, a feeling in your body, or a picture that you see in your mind. Or you may wake up from a dream and think, I know intuitively that this dream is telling me what I should do.

The intuition is different than the intellect and your emotions. The intuition is non-judgmental and it doesn’t need to think, analyze, or tell you stories about why it wants you to do what it wants you to do. It is also unemotional. It isn’t afraid or angry or sad. It just is.

Sometimes the intuition can give you an intense urging to do something. One of my patients was about to have a car accident on a slippery road and a voice in her head kept urging her to let go of the steering wheel. At first, she didn’t do what the voice told her. So the voice told her again to let go. She finally let go and quit trying to control the outcome of the accident. When her car went into the ditch and skidded a long distance and eventually landed upside down, she was unhurt. The officer helping her out of the car told her it was a miracle she wasn’t hurt. She knows that the intuitive voice in her head is the reason she didn’t get injured.

But the intuition isn’t always so dramatic. Usually, it’s a subtle, gentle voice or feeling. It may simply just be a sense that, This is the right thing for me to do in this moment.

intellect intuitionThe big problem with the intuition is that it usually so gentle and unassuming that the intellect can trample it with all of its stories and judgments. The intuition may say, I need to change my diet and stop eating meat and dairy.  The intellect may get on the intellectual treadmill and answer, No way can I change my diet. Everyone in my family eats meat and dairy. They won’t like it if I stop eating meat and dairy. They will be mad if I change the way I cook for them. They are more important than my intuition.

Another problem with the intuition is that it can recommend that you do something that is scary for you. It might say, I think I need to confront that bully at work. But this is a scary idea. And if you don’t let your emotions flow, they will sabotage your forward movement and you won’t follow through with what your intuition tells you to do.

I love my intuition. It gives me the best advice I’ve ever gotten. The more I listen to it, the more it guides me. Last week in my garden, I was reminded of how my ability to listen to my intuition has evolved over the years.

I have a small back yard that is covered with a flower garden. I’ve been a gardener for about a decade, and from the beginning, I’ve always been trying to figure out what to do with all the garden waste. I’ve also had the job of providing my plants with compost to keep them growing well.

At first, I paid to have my garden waste hauled away and I bought compost from the city. But driving to pick up the compost was a hassle. Then I started thinking, I should compost myself. But I read about composting and it seemed like so much work. The experts had a lot of ideas, but they were all complicated. They required special bins, special ratios of green to brown garden matter and a lot of intensive turning of the piles. A big problem was that I didn’t have much space in my yard and I didn’t have the motivation to turn over my compost pile every week.

I spent a few years making half-hearted attempts at doing things the experts’ ways. Then I got this idea to pile up my garden waste in a neat line behind my garage on the alley and let the plant material compost on its own time schedule. My intellect worried about the size of the pile. Was it big enough? Did I have the right green to brown ratio? Was it still going to compost down if I didn’t turn it every week?

For a few years I ignored my idea. But one year, I just didn’t care. I spent a whole year piling compost on the pile and never turned it. I didn’t worry about green to brown ratios. And low and behold, in the fall, after a year of neglect, I had beautiful compost. More than I needed. I spread it around the garden and started the process again. Now, every fall I spread the compost and start another year of saving garden waste behind my garage. I don’t do anything else all year except let my compost do its work.

My intuition had the answer all along. If I would have just gone with my intuition in the beginning, I would have saved myself a lot of energy. All the thinking and analyzing I did was wasted intellectual activity. While the composting experts know what they are talking about, for me their advice was more than I needed. In the end, I finally listened to my intuition, but I sort of kick myself for taking so long.

Start listening for your intuition. Play around with the idea of it. Ask yourself, Is this my intuition or my intellect? Are there any emotions I need to feel in reaction to what my intuition is compelling me to do? Do this with the big decisions such as, Should I change jobs? But more importantly, do it with all the small decisions you need to make each day. Should I eat this extra slice of pie? Should I call my friend and plan a coffee date? Should I go to bed a little early and get more sleep tonight?

The more you pay attention to your intuition, the more you will find yourself doing the things that are most beneficial for you. Have fun with your intuition and relax as it guides you to the life that is most perfect for you! woman-happiness

Get off the Intellectual Treadmill

fat-man-treadmillIt seems like these days everyone is on the intellectual treadmill. Everyone is busy thinking, analyzing, judging and trying to find evidence to prove a point. Or they are in a frenetic state of hyperactivity as they text, tweet, and monitor their Facebook pages. It has gotten to the point where not just physicians, but everyone else too, is on call 24/7.

When I was a young doctor, I spent all my time on the intellectual treadmill. It got so bad that I had a hard time relaxing and going to sleep at night. I didn’t like how this made me feel. I got tired, run down and irritable. I realized that for my health, I needed to change the way I was living my life. I made it my goal to understand what was going on with me so I could fix it.

I realized that it is important to understand the intellect in order to calm it. The intellect is an important part of our minds. It is the computer that allows us to read and write and text and tweet. It is the part of us that has language and communicates with others. It helps us solve problems and invent things.

But the dark side comes when the intellect gets hyperactive and gets stuck on the intellectual treadmill, obsessing and pushing us to live unhealthy lives. dogs_fighting_over_boneThe intellect is like a dog with a bone- it won’t let go no matter how hard you try to force it. It is like a bully who will do anything to keep its power. When it gets caught on the treadmill, it leads to all kinds of emotional and physical problems. It pushes you too hard during the day and keeps you awake at night. It takes away your inner peace.

When I decided I needed to calm my intellect, it took me a number of years, but finally I figured it out. It started with my slowing down in the evening to let my body relax before bed. I also started doing daytime activities that relaxed both my mind and my body. I started sewing again like I did when I was young. I found that when I was sewing, my intellect was engaged, but it wasn’t as hyperactive as when I was rushing around the clinic trying to do twenty things at once.

Over the years, I’ve done a number of enjoyable, relaxing activities. I bought a bunch of unfinished furniture and finished it myself. I did a lot of craft projects. In the last decade, my focus has switched to garden and cooking. digging-vegetable-gardenIf I’m having a cranky, intense day (which rarely happens anymore), I know it’s time to get out into the garden and dig in the dirt.

There are a lot of things you can do if you realize you are caught on the intellectual treadmill. If you realize that you are spending too much time and energy thinking and obsessing, you can do relaxing activities. Look for activities that relax both your body and your mind.

There is another aspect of the intellect you will want to work with too. Often, just slowing down isn’t enough. Part of the reason we push ourselves to live unhealthy lives is because we get messages from the people around us pressuring us to not take care of ourselves. These messages can be obvious, but they can also be subtle. They may be so subtle that we don’t even realize they are there.

You will want to watch for the unhealthy intellectual messages that work against your inner peace and physical health. Look for unhealthy messages from your tribes (groups you associate with such as friends, family, co-workers). Our tribes can use messages to pressure us into thinking or acting in ways that cause us to go against what is healthy. For example, maybe all your co-workers allow a bully at work to take advantage of them. You know this isn’t good. But if everyone else in the tribe agrees to allow this behavior, it can be hard to break from the tribe and stand up to the bully on your own.

Start listening to your intellect and the thoughts going through your mind. Look for messages you know are not healthy. For example, you may need an hour of exercise every day to be healthy. But maybe your tribes have told you that a bunch of other things are more important including your job, the shopping, the housekeeping, your children’s activities, etc. If you stop and listen to your intellect, you hear the message, I don’t deserve to find time to exercise because my health isn’t as important as taking care of everyone else and having a clean house.  

When you identify an unhealthy message, find a new, regenerative, non-judgmental replacement message. For the example above the new message may be: I need to exercise so I can be healthy and have the energy to take care of my family to the best of my ability. Write down the new message and whenever you catch yourself thinking the unhealthy message, pull out the new message and read it. You might be tempted to hold on to the old message at first. But with time, the new message will start to make more sense.

Also feel the emotions that come up when you are dealing with the situation. You may be frustrated and angry over the fact that without exercise you are out of sorts and gaining weight. Feel the anger. You will find that the combination of thinking the healthier message combined with feeling your emotions will help make the new message become more real. You don’t have to just feel joy to make the new message stick. Any healthy emotion will do it. Anger, sadness and fear are just as important as joy.

You will find yourself relaxing as you replace the old unhealthy intellectual messages with new healthy ones. The process of feeling your emotions will also help you relax. Finally, you will know more easily how to change unhealthy parts of your life, and the changes will add to your sense of calm.

Getting off the intellectual treadmill can take time. You may not even realize you are on it at first. Or you may know you are on it but think it’s okay to treat yourself poorly. Even if you don’t believe you deserve it at first, you will find that the more time you spend off the treadmill, the better you will feel. And the better you feel, the more energy you have to commit to the important causes in your life. DSC01617 reduced

Rest your Muscles, Heal your Pain

pain1Do you have chronic pain? It can be any kind of pain from headaches to neck and back pain to pelvic and abdominal pain. If you do, you will want to be aware of the connection between muscle tightness and pain. Every day in my clinic, I see patients who have muscle tightness that is at least part of the cause of their pain. But a lot of the time, people don’t realize that muscle tightness is involved.

Many pain patients don’t realize they have a problem with muscle tightness. Often, their physicians don’t realize it either. If a patient has migraine headaches, for example, it can be easy to overlook jaw clenching and neck tightness as a cause of the headaches. I’ve seen many patients with chronic abdominal and pelvic pain who have undergone unneeded surgeries because their pain was assumed to be due to something other than muscle pain.

I recommend that you take into account the idea that muscle tightness might be contributing to your chronic pain. You can have arthritis in your spine that is part of the cause of your chronic neck or back pain, but usually that isn’t the only problem. You probably have muscle tightness too. Or you could have had an abdominal surgery that triggered a muscle reaction that led to chronic pain.

It is important to recognize that muscle tightness is a cause of your pain because it is something that can be treated, both with physical therapy and with your inner work. Signs of muscle tightness on physical examination include: pain when your muscles are being palpated, knots or tightness in your muscles, and decreased range of motion of joints in the pain area.

If you find that your muscles are tight, you can take a number of different approaches to work on loosening them up. You can go to a Yoga-Poses-Better-Sleepphysical therapist or try techniques such as yoga to stretch and strengthen your muscles. You can go to a chiropractor or massage therapist for more passive muscle relaxation work. You can get acupuncture. You can take muscle relaxants prescribed by your physician.

The best way get long-term improvement of muscle tightness is to work on certain aspects of your inner self. You can do this by feeling your emotions while you work on relaxing your mind. This combination can’t be beat.

Feel your emotions when they want to come through your body. Don’t block them. Blocking emotions takes a lot of work. It is natural to let your emotions flow. If you don’t let yourself do it, your muscles have to tighten up to hold them in. The next time you are trying not to feel sad or angry, pay attention to your body. I’ll bet you will notice that you are tightening up your muscles.

People tend to tighten up different muscles depending on what their personal habits are. Some people clench their jaws. Some people tighten their neck or back muscles. Some people tighten their abdominal or pelvic muscles. Some people even curl their toes and clench their fists.

When you let your emotions flow, your muscles don’t have to do all that work. They can relax and stay loose.

When you catch yourself worrying or caught up on the thought treadmill in your head, do whatever exercises you find are the most helpful to relax your mind. You can meditate or talk to someone or do the work from my book, Handbook for Physical and Emotional Healing. You will find that as your intellect gets off the intellectual treadmill, your muscles will start relaxing.

When I see a patient with muscle tightness, I’m always sort of excited because I know that there is a lot of potential for healing. If you have chronic pain and it is due at least in part to muscle tightness, you should have hope too. Do the passive therapies, but don’t stop there. Do your inner work and you will find your muscles relaxing naturally. When you relax your muscles with your inner work, you have a long-term pain solution that you can use for the rest of your life.relaxed-older-woman

 

 

 

 

The Power of Your Tribes

Our thoughts have an incredibly strong effect on us. What we think shapes every aspect of our lives. We decide how to look, act and talk based on our thoughts. We decide what to eat, where to live and who to spend our time with according to our thoughts.

If you are going to change your life, first you need to change your thoughts. But it can be hard to do this. The reason this can be so hard stems from the fact that most of our thoughts start as messages we’ve been given by our tribes.

group20of20people20-20520core20valuesOur tribes are all the groups we associate with. These groups take different shapes and forms. The first tribe we are affected by is the family we are born into. Our parents, siblings and close relatives belong to the tribe that helps us learn how to survive when we are young. We pattern ourselves after our tribal members. If your tribe eats bacon, eggs and pancakes for breakfast and steak for dinner, that is what you will eat. If your tribe switches it around and eats steak for breakfast and bacon, eggs and pancakes for dinner, you also will switch the order.

As we grow up, we get exposed to all different types of tribes. School tribes, friend tribes, sports tribes, hobby tribes and work tribes are just some of the groups we spend time with. We are also connected to belief tribes such as political and religious tribes.

Some tribes we are born into (our family tribes) and some we choose (our friend tribes). Sometimes we seem to fall into a tribe that we don’t really like but that we feel we can’t get out of (work tribes or in-law tribes).

There are some important things to realize about tribes. First, they have light and dark sides. On one hand, they can protect you, give you support and entertain you. But the dark side is that when you are part of a tribe, the group is always more important as a whole than you are as an individual. This means that you need to follow the rules set by the tribe in order to belong. If you don’t follow the rules, you have a great chance of being rejected.

The other important thing to realize about tribes is that they control you through intellectual messages. Starting from your earliest moments of life, you are basically being brain-washed by your tribes. Your parents tell you what is right and wrong and good and bad. At school, your teachers and other kids do the same thing. When you grow up, your boss, co-workers, friends and acquaintances are continually telling you the rules of your tribes. Then they give you feedback to let you know if you’re fitting in.group

Tribes use shame, the threat of rejection and the threat of loss to keep you under control. If you don’t do things the way your boss wants, you may lose your job. If you don’t do things the way your family wants, they may shame you into conforming.

If you want to change your life, you will need to start recognizing the tribal messages that are affecting you. To do this, start by listening to all the thoughts going through your mind. Listen to all the messages you tell yourself. Listen for plans, worries, judgments and regrets. Listen carefully, and if needed, write the messages down.

Then ask yourself, Is this a tribal message? Did one of my tribes tell me this message? Did my tribe give me this message because it believes I should think this way? And ask yourself, Although everyone else in the tribe believes this, should I believe this? Is this a healthy message for me? Or is it unhealthy and does it make me to do things that are bad for me?  For example, a common tribal message is, We should pretend it doesn’t bother us when we are being victimized. We are supposed to put on a happy face, suck it up, and think positive thoughts about how strong we are, even if we are trapped in a bad situation that is unhealthy for us. Whether it is at work or in a personal relationship, there is an overwhelming tribal pressure to shut up and put up. You will want to catch yourself if you are telling yourself this message. When you are in a situation that is harming you, catch yourself saying, I know it will be okay, I know if I just keep a positive attitude I’ll survive.

Recognizing unhealthy tribal messages can be difficult because they can be so entrenched in our psyches that they can seem like the law rather than just a message. For example, you may have been told that you need to be married in order to be a successful adult. You may have internalized the pressure to marry even if being married isn’t a healthy thing for you.

When you recognize an unhealthy tribal message, find a healthy, non-judgmental regenerative message to replace the old one. You may need to talk to someone, read a book or watch other people to develop the new message. When you get it, write it down if you need to. Every time you catch yourself thinking the unhealthy message, pull out the new message and say it to yourself. For example, replace the tribal message telling you to pretend to be happy and strong while you are are being abused with something else like, It is not healthy for me to pretend it is okay for me to stay in an abusive situation. I deserve a different kind of life where I feel safe and secure.

As with everything you do, also feel your emotions. Emotional flow will help solidify the new, healthy message into both your psyche and the neurons in your brain. It doesn’t matter if you are angry, sad, afraid or happy, any emotional flow that you attach to that new message will transform it. For example, you may be mad as hell about the situation while you tell yourself your new regenerative message. You don’t always need to be feeling joy to make a new regenerative message become real.

With time you will be able to believe the new messages you practice telling yourself. Then you will be able to make changes in your life to fit the new vision you are creating. Maybe you will transform your tribes. Or maybe you will let go of old tribes that don’t fit you anymore. And you will create new ones that fit your vision for your life.

The process of listening to your thoughts and replacing unhealthy, degenerative messages with healthy, regenerative ones is at times scary. Whenever you dare to disagree with your tribes there is a threat of loss and rejection and that can be very scary. But as you cut through the tribal chains that bind you, your energy will improve and your sense of well-being will be worth it.Friends Playing on the Beach

Use the Mirror to Resolve Your Conflicts

conflict-final-3When you get caught up in a conflict with another person, it can be easy to focus on that other person rather than yourself. You may try to get that person to agree with your side of the argument. Or you may try to figure out how you can change yourself to make that other person happy. The problem is that often the other person won’t change. Or you can’t change yourself enough to make him or her happy. This makes it hard to resolve the conflict.

There is a different way to deal your conflicts. This way will allow you to resolve your conflicts for good.

First, step back and observe yourself and the other person in the conflict. Observe what both of you are saying and doing. Do this by yourself without talking about it to the other person in the drama.

Look specifically at what the other person is saying and doing to you. Be honest and ask yourself, What do I think this person is doing to me? What is he or she saying or doing to me? What thing is he or she doing that bothers me so much? Or ask, What quality in the other person really upsets or annoys me. Focus in great detail about what that person is doing to you. Since you aren’t telling anyone else your thoughts, you can be brutally honest about the terrible things you think he or she is doing. It doesn’t matter how much you like this person. This could be about a conflict with the person you love most. Still be honest about what he or she is doing to you.

Common things that people feel are being done to them include being neglected, abused, disrespected, unappreciated or betrayed. Irritating qualities that bother you about the other person may include things like being lazy, selfish, or controlling.

I’ll give you some examples. Imagine that you are always angry with your co-worker. He doesn’t do his fair share of the work and then he lies to cover his tracks with the supervisor. You think he is lazy and you are sick of always picking up the slack.

If you ask yourself what the co-worker does to you, you think he victimizes you. The qualities you don’t like about him are his laziness and lying.

Or imagine you are a mother who is upset because your husband and children don’t help with the housework and cooking. You work full-time and then have to come home and do all the work around the house. This is making you exhausted and you are only sleeping four hours a night. You may be feeling very angry toward your family. You may get into arguments with your husband and kids and you may find yourself saying hurtful things that you later regret.

Ask yourself, what is it that my family does that bothers me? You may realize that even if they love you, their behavior tells you they don’t respect you. They don’t care about how exhausted and unhappy you are. And the quality in them you don’t like is their laziness.

tropical-mirror-bahaman-sea-blueThe next step in this new way of dealing with dramas is to pick up the proverbial mirror and look at your own self. Look inside of yourself for whatever you think is being done to you or whatever quality you don’t like in that other person. If you see that the other person is being disrespectful of you, look at your own life and ask where you are being disrespectful of yourself. If you think the other person is being controlling, look at your own life and ask where you are being controlling.

In the example of the co-worker who doesn’t do his fair share of the work, look at yourself and ask where you are being a victimizer. It may be that you are victimizing someone in another area of your life. Maybe you are taking advantage of a family member in a totally separate situation. Or maybe the mirror is showing you that by staying in the situation the way it is and continually letting your co-worker take advantage of you, you are victimizing your own self.

Also, look in the mirror for the qualities in your co-worker that bother you. You may see that by staying in the situation and not confronting your co-worker, you are being lazy. It would be more work to deal with all the stress that might come from confronting your co-worker. You should also look for places in your life where you are lying, either to yourself or others. You are lying to your supervisor if you don’t tell him about what is really happening with your co-worker.

If you are the mother who feels your family doesn’t respect you and you think they are all lazy, where are you not respecting your own self and where are you being lazy? The fact that you keep working when everyone else is resting is an example of your not taking care of yourself and not respecting yourself. Maybe in a way you are being lazy. It can be easier for you to do everyone else’s work rather than start what seems like the monumental job of getting the rest of the family to respect you and become more responsible.

When you take this new approach to managing your conflicts, you now become the center of your attention. This is good because you are the only person you can really change. The conflict now changes from being about your drama with another person to being a mirror showing you part of yourself that needs some work.

As you are working on the mirror, feel any emotions that are triggered. Do this on your own time. Don’t create more conflict by accidentally projecting your emotions on the other person.

Once you see what the conflict has been created to show you, you can make the appropriate changes to resolve it. Figure out exactly what you need. Figure out what you are willing to compromise on and what you definitely can’t give in on. Be ready to express your needs clearly, without drama and without projected emotions.

In the example of the problem with your co-worker, you may decide you need to change the division of labor and you will clearly express your plans to him. Or you may decide to talk to your supervisor about the problem.

If you are the mother who feels disrespected by her lazy family, you can change the situation by figuring out what help you need around the house. Figure out the details of what chores need to be done and when they need to be done. Then, in a determined but non-confrontational way, let your family know what you expect from them.

The people in your life may refuse to work with you and they may not honor your requests. In an ideal world, they will want to resolve your conflict. But in reality, they may be more focused on their own selves than on your needs. If this happens, go back to the mirror and work the process again. Again, figure out what they are doing to you and pick up the mirror and figure out where you are doing that yourself. Feel your emotions. When you know what you need to do, act.

The beauty of the mirror is that it works for both painful and joyful relationships. If you are in a wonderful relationship and are having are great time, the other person in the relationship is mirroring the part of you that is fulfilled and joyful. Try to recognize this fact when things are going well, and give yourself credit for choosing the people and situations that give you joy.

Recognize too, the fact that you are a mirror for other people. If you decide to change the way you live your life, you may trigger aspects of other people’s mirrors that are conflicting for them. If you start talking to your co-worker about your problems at work, he may not want to deal with the changes you request. If you are the mother trying to get your family to help around the house, they may not want to help you.

As long as you are acting in a mindful, responsible way to change your own life, don’t stop your forward movement in order to help other people avoid their work. If you are living a healthy life and your life is causing other people to see uncomfortable aspects of themselves in their mirrors, so be it. Let them figure themselves out and let them learn the lessons their mirrors have to teach.

I love the idea of the mirror. You can apply it to all the different dramas in your life. It allows you to get to the root of your problems and resolve your conflicts for once and for all. It may not always be easy to look at yourself and acknowledge your role in your conflicts. But once you start approaching life this way, you will see how a new perspective can change everything. friendsCartoon1

 

REST

1812650937_409fd46a90_m asian lake and dockI spent last weekend on the couch watching television and eating junk food. I had been tired going into the weekend, and I felt like I needed some downtime. I didn’t do anything important. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t cook anything complicated. I didn’t do any house work or other work. I just rested. It was great. At the end of the weekend, I felt energized and ready to go again.

Rest is a truly magical thing. It is a vital part of a healthy, balanced life. When we rest, both our bodies and our minds have time to heal.

The concept of rest seems like something natural and easy. If you are tired, you should just be able to rest. But it often isn’t that simple.

We have created a world in which rest is a dirty four letter word. Instead of reveling in free time and rest time, there is a sense that we are weak or lazy or inadequate if we rest. We get shamed into pushing ourselves until we drop.

Why is this? I think our inability to rest is a result of habit. If you think back to life a hundred years ago, most people didn’t have time to rest. They had to do everything without the effort-saving machines we have today. Imagine a life without a refrigerator, dishwasher, computer, water heater, washing machine and dryer. Imagine life without cars. A century ago, people had to do everything the hard way. It took a lot of time and physical effort. People rested when they could. But in reality, they didn’t have a lot of time to rest.

Now life is physically a lot easier. We have the potential to take advantage of our effort-saving machines. But our minds can’t seem to accept the fact that we can relax. So we’ve changed the stakes and we’ve created a world where we are as busy as ever.

But now our activity is more intellectually driven and sedentary. People drive around a lot, sit at their computers, and talk on their telephones. We listen to messages from our culture telling us how we have to make as much money as possible so we can buy the right things to be successful and fit in. This wakes us up early in the morning, keeps us busy all day, and then keeps us up late at night. In the end, we probably have less downtime than people did a century ago. At least back then, they had the luxury of living slower paced lives and going to bed with the sun.

We have the potential to enjoy our machines and technology and live balanced lives. We have the potential to rest when we need to and enjoy a much better quality of life.

But let’s be realistic. This isn’t so easy. We have all created lives that can’t just be changed overnight. We have families, jobs, mortgages, and car payments. We have responsibilities we can’t ignore. And there is social pressure to not change and rock the boat.

So start small. Maybe you won’t be able to spend the whole weekend resting like I do. But if you have the intention to bring more balance to your life, you will find extra time.

Start watching yourself every day. Be a witness to your life. Watch yourself going through your day like you are watching a reality show with you as the star. See yourself making choices, from what you do in the morning when you first wake up to the last thing you do at night before you go to bed.

Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Are you doing things because you truly think they are important? Or are you doing them because you are trying to fit in and impress someone else? This someone else could be anyone from your parents to your boss to the neighbors to the other parents at your kids’ school.

If you need to make this clearer for yourself, keep a journal of your activities and why you are doing them. Jot down the activities, and when you have time, think about why you do them. You can think about this while you are waiting in line at the grocery store or watching your daughter’s basketball game.

When you find tasks and activities that aren’t really necessary or don’t fit your personal belief system, do some problem-solving about how you can change the situation. You don’t have to change everything overnight. But start to slowly find ways to either stop doing activities that aren’t right for you or do them less often. Consciously use the time you have bought yourself to rest.

This may take some time. But if you make it your intention to step off the treadmill our culture put you on, you will find that before you know it, you will be enjoying the luxury of rest.

The Healing Power of Emotions

Ying3If you want to heal yourself, the healthiest thing you can do is feel your emotions. Whether you are trying to heal your inner self or your physical body, emotions are vital to the process of healing.

Emotions are energy. If you feel your emotions, you give yourself energy. If you suppress your emotions, you block your energy flow and make yourself depressed and fatigued.

Describing how to feel emotions is hard, because the process is experiential. It’s like reading a manual on how to play tennis. You can read all about the tennis strokes, but until you actually get the racket in your hands and try to hit the ball, you can’t really know what the manual is talking about. Read this post, then put down the manual and start practicing.

We are all born feeling emotions. Look at the little children you know. See how they laugh, cry, have temper tantrums and get scared. When emotions come through their bodies, they let them flow. They don’t stop and analyze and try to figure out where the emotions came from. They just let them flow.

I smile to myself when I see a little child having a tantrum in the grocery store. Not because I’m glad the child is unhappy and his mom is mortified. But because I love to see how young children are still in their bodies, feeling their emotions with abandon. They haven’t learned yet to detach from their bodies and suppress their emotional flow.

Unfortunately, as we grow up we get taught to block our emotional flow. We are taught this because the adults around us don’t know what to do with all the energy that comes with emotions. Adults worry that children will not fit in or be successful if they feel their emotions with abandon.

Adults teach children the all-or-nothing approach to emotions. But instead of teaching kids to totally suppress all emotions, adults should teach them to continue feeling their emotions while doing it in a responsible way. Children should be allowed to feel their anger, sadness, fear and joy. But they should also learn that we can’t hurt ourselves or other people by projecting our emotions and creating dramas.

What does healthy emotional flow look and feel like?

Let’s start with sadness. Most people cry when they are sad. When you are sad, you should let yourself feel that sense of sadness in your body and cry. crying_baby

 

 

When you are happy, smile and laugh out loud. Don’t pretend you aren’t thrilled and bursting with joy. Let yourself skip and jump and dance if you feel like it.jump-for-joy

 

 

When you are angry, don’t pretend you aren’t mad. Anger is as healthy and important an emotion as joy. Anger only becomes bad when people don’t feel it in a responsible way. Anger is a physically intense irritable feeling. Your heart may pound and you may feel like exploding. Let yourself swear and shake your hands in anger.

angerBut remember the Black Box Warning about emotions, especially anger: never ever hurt yourself or anyone else while you are feeling emotions. This means you can’t yell or scream or throw things. You can’t create dramas or say passive-aggressive things that hurt other people. If you have trouble feeling anger in a safe way, go off by yourself to feel it at first. Go to another room away from everyone else and swear to yourself and hit a pillow. With time, you will be able to feel the anger without making such a big drama out of it.

 

 

 

I think fear is the hardest emotion to feel. This is because there is such a stigma surrounding it. People think they are weak or lacking in faith if they feel fear. But it is natural for the most courageous and faithful person to feel fear when he or she comes up against the unknown of the future.Signature:baed3687aecc9fc02b05e033f52ab04b5ac34144c6f0702c4e0cfe36f9d34041

Fear is just another emotion. It is no better or worse than any other emotion. It isn’t dangerous. Actually, it is an incredibly energizing emotion to feel. People often feel their hearts pounding and their bodies shaking when they are feeling fear. You can find yourself breathing fast and getting light-headed. If that happens, take some slow, deep breaths and let your body keep feeling the fear while you breathe slower. If you are really worried about having something go wrong with your body when you feel fear, go to your doctor and get checked.  Once you get the clean bill of health, let yourself feel the fear and don’t worry about it.

 

See your emotional flow as just another body process, like breathing and digesting food. Recognize that feeling emotions is something that your body naturally does when it needs to. Emotions are not something to be ashamed of or suppressed. They need to flow as long as your body needs to feel them.

If you wake up cranky and don’t know why, feel your anger. If you wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare, let your body shake with fear. If you are so happy you could burst, laugh out loud. Let your emotions flow as long as they need to. And when I say this, I’m talking about feeling them for hours and days and weeks and months at a time. When you aren’t at work or taking care of business, let yourself feel. For every hour you are awake, you want to spend five minutes thinking and fifty-five minutes feeling emotions. It is always healthier to be feeling than to be thinking.

Your goal is to become as emotional as possible. You want to cry at sad movies. You want to laugh at the silly antics of your kids or pets. You want to shake with fear and quake with anger. When dramas trigger your emotions, feel them. You can deal with details of the drama later. Unless you have an emergency situation to take care of, stop and feel the emotions first. Start to see your dramas not just as conflicts but also as lessons to help you feel your emotions.

Start this as a deliberate exercise. And with time, if you allow your body to come alive again with emotions, you will find that you don’t have to think about it, and it just becomes something you do because it feels right.

Don’t judge what you are feeling as good or bad or right or wrong. Don’t worry about why you are feeling what you are feeling. Feel your emotions so you can be fully in your body. You will be amazed at how much more effective you will be at knowing what you need when you let your body be part of the decision-making process.

If you feel uncomfortable feeling emotions in front of people who might not understand, wait until you can be alone. You don’t need to make yourself vulnerable to criticism or ridicule over your emotions. As you get experience with this, you’ll find that emotions aren’t such a big deal. You’ll feel them whenever and wherever you need to and you won’t need to be by yourself to feel them.

The process of feeling emotions changes many things. First, it allows your muscles to relax because they aren’t trying to hold everything in. Think of a time when your body wanted to cry, but your mind wouldn’t let you. So you used your muscles to tighten up and hold in the tears. When you let yourself feel those emotions, you won’t have to tighten up anymore.

When you feel your emotions, your hyperactive intellect will be able to start relaxing. Thoughts and emotions are somewhat mutually exclusive. It is hard to feel much emotion when your intellect is busy thinking. And vice versa, it is hard to think complex thoughts when you are having a good cry. As your body becomes activated your intellect relaxes.

The process of feeling your emotions combined with the process of calming your hyperactive intellect allows you to hear your intuition more clearly. Your intuition is the part of you that tells you what would be the healthiest thing for you to do in each moment. The hyperactive intellect frequently overrides your intuition. But if you feel your emotions, your intuition is allowed to speak to you without interference.

Emotions are the true secret to healing. Don’t believe what culture tells you about holding it in and being strong. Instead, let it out and feel the true strength emotions have to offer you.