Can't Say Enough About Avoidance

I realize I wrote about avoidance just a few weeks ago but the subject is so important I find myself coming back to it.  There is  new research that shows that  struggle and anguish is connected to avoidance.  Hope you find the following article as helpful as I did.

 How Avoiding Emotions Keeps Them at High Intensity

The normal wave pattern of emotions get interrupted and extended by three maladaptive coping strategies. The first is emotion avoidance.   It’s important  to realize how the attempt to control and avoid emotions paradoxically maintains, even intensifies, emotional distress. The effort to suppress painful emotional experiences can take multiple forms (situational, cognitive, somatic, protective, and substitution-based avoidance), but the outcome is always the same: increased suffering. The following describes the forms of emotional avoidance and some of its possible negative consequences.

Consequences of Emotion Avoidance

There are at least five types of emotion avoidance that researchers believe are at the root of many emotion problems.

Situational: people, places, things, and activities

Cognitive: thoughts, images, and memories

Somatic: internal sensations such as racing heart, palpitations, breathlessness, overheating, fatigue, or unwanted sexual arousal

Protective: avoiding uncertainty through checking, cleaning, perfectionism, procrastination, or reassurance seeking

Substitution: avoiding painful emotions with replacement emotions, numbing out, alcohol, drugs, bingeing, or gambling

Why not just keep on avoiding? Because the consequences of emotion avoidance are usually worse than the experience of what we try to avoid.

  • Since distress, discomfort, and anxiety are all a guaranteed part of life, emotion avoidance is often only a temporary and superficial “solution.”
  • Emotion avoidance reinforces the idea that discomfort/distress/anxiety is “bad” or “dangerous.” It reduces your ability to face and tolerate necessary pain.
  • Emotion avoidance often requires effort and energy. It’s exhausting and time-consuming.
  • Emotion avoidance limits your ability to fully experience the present.
  • Emotion avoidance can keep you from moving toward important, valued aspects of life.
  • Emotion avoidance often doesn’t work. When you tell yourself not to think about something, you have to think about not thinking about it. When you try to avoid an emotion, you often end up feeling it anyway.
  • Emotion avoidance often leads to suffering: addiction, helplessness, hopelessness, depression, damaged relationships, and lost opportunities.

By allowing yourself to experience fears—and difficult thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges—you can learn to decrease your suffering. To explore how emotion avoidance impacts your life, identify one or two strong emotions that show up frequently. Then examine which strategies you typically use to avoid the emotional experience:

  • Situational: avoiding people, places, or things
  • Cognitive: avoiding thoughts, images, or memories
  • Somatic: avoiding unpleasant physical sensations
  • Protective: avoiding uncertainty through frequent checking, procrastinating, or assurance seeking
  • Substitution: avoiding by numbing, suppressing, addictive behaviors, or replacement emotions (i.e., replacing shame with anger)

When you’ve identified and listed frequently used avoidance strategies for a particular emotion, examine consequences (see the Emotion Avoidance Consequences Worksheet in the book Emotion Efficacy Therapy). There are always advantages (pros) for avoidance. Be sure to acknowledge those--and even write them down. Usually the advantages are immediate (brief suppression of emotion) and short-lived, but they are real. It’s important to validate that there is often a short, positive effect from emotion avoidance.

Now examine the disadvantages (cons) of avoidance. What negative outcomes have you endured from your avoidance strategies? Have there been costs in the form of increased anxiety, depression, or shame? Have there been costs in the form of feeling stuck, damaged or lost relationships, or addictions? Finally, determine both advantages and disadvantages of experiencing this particular emotion. Document all the pros and cons.  

(From Praxis Website) 


The Feedback Loop

 This week I said good-bye to a client because she took a new job out of state.  When I first met this young woman (lets call her Sue) she was new to Sacramento, lonely, frightened, extremely depressed and very anxious.  Sue was convinced that at age 28 she was doomed to be alone forever and that she had made a disastrous  mistake in moving to CA.  She had moved here for a new job and for a blossoming romance.  Shortly after her arrival to CA the romance ended and she found herself alone and feeling very lonely.  The sadder she felt the more trapped Sue got in a  brain feedback loop which went something like this "if your feeling sad, its all your fault, you made the decision to move - clearly it was a bad decision"  the sadder she got the louder the loop in her brain got, telling her that she was a poor decision maker, that she could not trust herself and that if she was sad that that was evidence of what a bad decision she had made.  

Gently, Sue and I worked on separating feelings from thoughts and helping Sue to see that her thinking loop was adding struggle to the sadness.  Of course she was feeling lonely and sad, she was brand new to the city and needed time to meet people and readjust to her surroundings.  She also needed to grieve the break-up as well.   Things were all ready painful and tough and the feedback loop was making things so much worse.  The brain loop was creating the anxiety and depression and beating up on her, making it hard to go out and make friends.   

We've all been caught up in these loops.  Its an interesting part of the brain that can actually have thoughts about our thoughts so when Sue observed her sadness she started having thoughts that said it was not OK to feel sad.  We have a culture that is forever giving people messages of you always have to feel happy or else something is wrong and therefore you are somehow wrong and defective if you are having uncomfortable feelings.   So poor Sue got caught up in the if I'm sad I did something wrong loop and then felt bad about herself for feeling sad which started an entire cycle of beating up on herself which just made her feel worse.  

If your reading this your human and therefore I know you know the loop.  Its a hard one to break and the work is to become the watcher of the loop and of the thoughts.  Mark Manson writes about this in his book THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F**K (p. 5)   - I highly recommend this self-help book.  The more we step back from our thoughts and observe them with curiosity and without judgement the more clarity we have in our own lives.    

True mental health is allowing ourselves to feel everything - not just happiness or joy but the whole range of emotions.  

At our final session, Sue was filled with lots of gratitude for her new found ability to allow for tough emotions like sadness,  loneliness,  and anxiety.  She had learned to break the minds' feedback loop and to recognized that she had the tools to make decisions on her own behalf and that if the decisions didn't work she could make new ones.  Sue learned to be gentle with herself and to stop beating up on herself.  Sue said, "Rosemary, it was in treating myself with kindness and gentleness that I was finally able to break the feedback loop".    

Its sad to say good-bye to clients who I have grown to like and respect.  I learn so much from their courage and ability to change things.  I will miss seeing Sue and am very glad she came into my life.  Next time I get caught up in a feedback loop I will remind myself of Sue's words - its about kindness and gentleness!!!!!!        




I find the more I avoid my problems and emotions that I end up struggling more and more with them to no resolve.  Following is a great article that addresses the problem of avoiding our emotions.  Thanks for letting me share this with you and happy reading.  


Article by Martha Beck 

Melanie’s life was shrinking like a cheap blouse in an overheated dryer. At 30 she’d developed a fear of flying that ended her dream of world travel. Within a year, her phobia had grown to include—or rather, exclude—driving. After the World Trade Center attacks, Melanie became terrified to enter the downtown area of any city. She quit her job as an office manager (the potential for mail-based terrorism was too big) and called me hoping I could help her devise a way of earning money from home. “Everybody tells me my fears aren’t realistic,” she said. “But I think I’m the most realistic person I know. It’s a dangerous world—I just want to be safe.”

There was only one thing for which Melanie would leave her apartment. Once a month, she walked to a rundown neighborhood to meet her drug dealer, who sold her Xanax and OxyContin of questionable purity. I insisted that Melanie see a psychiatrist before I’d work with her, and the worried shrink called me before the impression of Melanie’s posterior had faded from his visitor chair. “She’s taking enough medication to kill a moose,” he told me. “If she slipped in the shower and knocked herself out, withdrawal could kill her before she regained consciousness.”

Ironic, n’est-ce pas? Safety-obsessed Melanie was positively devil-may-care when it came to better living through chemistry. This made no sense to me—until I realized that Melanie’s objective wasn’t really to avoid danger but to prevent the feeling of fear. Melanie was using a strategy psychologist Steven Hayes, PhD, calls experiential avoidance, dodging external experiences in an effort to ward off distressing emotions. It wasn’t working. It never does. In fact, to keep her tactics from destroying her, she would have to learn the antidote for experiential avoidance—and so must the rest of us, if we want our lives to grow larger and more interesting, rather than smaller and more disappointing.

Why Experiential Avoidance Seems Like A Good Idea

Most of us do this kind of emotional side step, at least occasionally. Maybe, like Melanie, you feel skittish on airplanes, so you take the train instead. In the realm of physical objects, dodging situations associated with pain is a wonderfully effective strategy; it keeps us from pawing hot stovetops, swallowing tacks, and so on. Shouldn’t the same logic apply to psychological suffering? According to Hayes, it doesn’t. Experiential avoidance usually increases the hurt it is meant to eliminate.

Consider Melanie, who, quite understandably, wanted to steer clear of the awful sensation of being afraid. Every time she withdrew from a scary activity, she got a short-term hit of relief. But the calm didn’t last. Soon fear would invade the place to which Melanie had retreated—for example, she felt much better driving than flying for a little while, but it wasn’t long before she was as petrified in cars as airplanes. Drugs calmed her at first, but soon she became terrified of losing her supply. By the time we met, her determination to bypass anything scary had trapped her in a life completely shaped by fear.

The reason this happens, according to Hayes and other devotees of relational frame theory, is that Melanie’s brain works through forming connections and associations. So does yours. Your verbal mind is one big connection generator. Try this: Pick two unrelated objects that happen to be near you. Next answer this question: How are they alike? For instance, if the objects are a book and a shoe, you might say they’re alike because they both helped you get a job (by being educated and dressing well). Ta-da! Your book, your shoe, and your job are linked by a new neural connection in your brain. Now you’re more likely to think of all these things when you think of any given one.

This means that every time you avoid an event or activity because it’s painful, you automatically connect the discomfort with whatever you do instead. Suppose I’m having a terrible hair day, and to not feel that shame, I cancel a meeting with a client. Just thinking about that client brings on a pang of shame. If I watch a movie to distract myself, I may be hit with an unpleasant twinge just hearing the name of that movie. This happens with every form of psychological suffering we try to outrun. When we run from our feelings, they follow us. Everywhere. 

The Willingness Factor

In Hayes’s book Get Out of Your Mind & into Your Life, he suggests that we picture our minds as electronic gadgets with dials, like old-fashioned radios. One dial is labeled Emotional Suffering (Hayes actually calls it Discomfort). Naturally, we do everything we can to turn that dial to zero. Some people do this all their lives, without ever noticing that it never works. The hard truth is that we have no ultimate control over our own heartaches.

There’s another dial on the unit, but it doesn’t look very enticing. This one Hayes calls Willingness, though I think of it as Willingness to Suffer. It’s safe to assume that we start life with that dial set at zero, and we rarely see any reason to change it. Increasing our availability to pain, we think, is just a recipe for anguish soufflé.

Well, yes…except life, as Melanie so astutely commented, is dangerous. It’ll upset you every few minutes or so, sometimes mildly, sometimes apocalyptically. Since desperately twisting down the Emotional Suffering dial only makes things worse, Hayes suggests that we try something radical: Leave that dial alone—abandon all attempts to skirt unpleasant emotions—and focus completely on turning up our Willingness to Suffer.

What this means, in real-world terms, is that we stop avoiding experiences because we’re afraid of the unpleasant feelings that might come with them. We don’t seek suffering or take pride in it; we just stop letting it dictate any of our choices. People who’ve been through hell are often forced to learn this, which is why activist, cancer patient, and poet Audre Lorde wrote, “When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

Once we’re willing to confront our emotional suffering, we begin making choices based on attraction instead of aversion, love instead of fear. Where we used to think about what was “safe,” we now become interested in doing what seems right or fun or meaningful or ripe with possibilities. Ask yourself this: What would I do if I stopped trying to avoid emotional pain? Think of at least three answers (though 30 would be great and 300 even better).

Stick with this exercise until you get a glimmer of what life without avoidance would be like. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, Oh, the places you’d go! Oh, the people you’d meet, the food you’d eat, the jokes you’d tell, the clothes you’d wear, the changes you’d spark in the world!

The Consequences Of Willingness

What happens when we’re willing to feel bad is that, sure enough, we often feel bad—but without the stress of futile avoidance. Emotional discomfort, when accepted, rises, crests, and falls in a series of waves. Each wave washes parts of us away and deposits treasures we never imagined. No one would call it easy, but the rhythm of emotional pain that we learn to tolerate is natural, constructive, and expansive. It’s different from unwilling suffering the way the sting of disinfectant is different from the sting of decay; the pain leaves you healthier than it found you.

It took Melanie a huge leap of faith to accept this. She finally decided to turn up her Willingness to Suffer dial, simply because her Emotional Suffering levels were manifestly out of her control. She started by joining a yoga class, though the thought of it scared her witless. She found that her anxiety spiked, fluctuated, and gradually declined. Over the ensuing months, she entered therapy, traded her street-drug habit for prescribed medication, and found a new job. Melanie’s worry isn’t completely gone; it probably never will be. But that doesn’t matter much. She is willing to accept discomfort in the pursuit of happiness, and that means she’ll never be a slave to fear again.

To the extent that we reject anything we love solely because of what we fear, we’re all like Melanie. Find a place in your life where you’re practicing experiential avoidance, an absence where you wish there were something wonderful. Then commit to the process of getting it, including any inherent anxiety or sadness. Get on an airplane not because you’re convinced it won’t crash, but because meeting your baby niece is worth a few hours of terror. Sit on the beach with your mocha latte, humming the song you shared with your ex, and let grief wash through you until your memories are more sweet than bitter. Pursue your dreams not because you’re immune to heartbreak but because your real life, your whole life, is worth getting your heart broken a few thousand times.

When fear makes your choices for you, no security measures on earth will keep the things you dread from finding you. But if you can avoid avoidance—if you can choose to embrace experiences out of passion, enthusiasm, and a readiness to feel whatever arises—then nothing, nothing in all this dangerous world, can keep you from being safe. 



It Just Hurts

Recently I texted one of my brothers and invited him to a concert I thought he might enjoy.  He lives a distance from me and I don't see him very often.  I wanted a chance to connect over something fun and just hang out with him.  Its been 10 days and no reply.  

The first couple of days were easy cause I know he is a busy guy and George, my brain, kept saying "he will respond later".  By day 3, 4, 5 George was giving out messages that were not at all helpful and saying "how rude that he has not texted", "you don't need rude people in your life", "its his loss".  I noticed that George's messages were making me feel angry, frustrated and upset.  

With each passing day George's messages got louder and even entitled.  "Rosemary, you always remember your brother on his birthday and have made several attempts to reach out to him".   "You deserve better than this".  "People should be respectful and reply to invitations".  My mood grew heavier and nastier.  I noticed George's comment started to shift to attacking me, "told you nobody likes you", "your own family doesn't want to spend time with you, who were you kidding trying to make friends".  

I was sinking fast, and some old depressive feelings started setting in.  Being mindful of my feelings I knew it was time to thank George for his observations and take action.  I reached out to a few friends and acquaintances and started to book events and time with people. Scheduled a concert for December with some friends, scheduled dinner with some people I have not seen in a while, tried scheduling a game night with some other friends (that didn't work but they responded).  

In taking action I got out of my head and started gathering evidence that not everybody ignores me and that I can turn to people who do respond to invitations and who have time and energy in their life for me.  Having this information helps to reinforce the type of life I want ... a life filled with enjoyment, activity and people.  Action helped me turn from anger and just allow for the sadness of not having a relationship with my brother.       

Whatever my brother's reasons are for not responding are his own.  I suppose I could push back a bit - pick up the phone and ask him whats up.  But I know him well enough to know that he has felt pushed around a lot in his life.   I don't want to impose that on him and I'm noticing that my anger has just turned to a bit of pain.  It just hurts that my brother isn't too interested in hanging out.  It just hurts that he doesn't understand I need him in my life.  It just hurts.  

In the hurt space I'm more vulnerable more approachable.  Next time I see him at a family function I can honestly say "nice to see you bro" which is MUCH nicer than what I would say if I remained in the angry place and much truer to who I want to be in this thing called life.  

Famous Siblings 

Famous Siblings 


7 Stages of Gaslighting in a Relationship

   “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as the truth.” ―attributed to various sources

   “Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” —Paramahansa Yogananda

Gaslighting is a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt her or himself, and ultimately lose her or his own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth. The term is derived from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband tries to convince his wife that she’s insane by causing her to question herself and her reality.

In its milder forms, gaslighting creates a subtle, but inequitable, power dynamic in a relationship, with the gaslightee subjected to the gaslighter’s unreasonable, rather than fact-based, scrutiny, judgment, or micro-aggression. At its worst, pathological gaslighting constitutes a severe form of mind-control and psychological abuse. Gaslighting can occur in personal relationships, at the workplace, or over an entire society.

Multiple studies and writings have focused on the phenomenon of gaslighting and its destructive impact.   Here are seven stages through which a pathological gaslighter dominates a victim (excerpted from my book, How to Successfully Handle Gaslighters & Stop Psychological Bullying). Depending on the situation, there may be variations in the order and the number of gaslighting stages involved:

1.  Lie and Exaggerate. The gaslighter creates a negative narrative about the gaslightee (“There’s something wrong and inadequate about you”), thereby putting the gaslightee on the defensive.

   “My wife is a pathetic loser, and she needs to know the truth.” ―Anonymous husband

   “The work your department does is a waste of time and resources. How do you even justify your employment?” ―Anonymous manager

   “I hate it when you put groceries on the checkout counter that way. I told you before I HATE it!” ―Mother to daughter at supermarket

2. Repetition. Like psychological warfare, the falsehoods are repeated constantly in order to stay on the offensive, control the conversation, and dominate the relationship.

3. Escalate When Challenged. When called on their lies, the gaslighter escalates the dispute by doubling and tripling down on their attacks, refuting substantive evidence with denial, blame, and more false claims (misdirection), sowing doubt and confusion.

   “When I caught my boyfriend sexting with someone, he flatly said it didn’t happen — that I imagined the whole thing. He called me a crazy b----.” ―Anonymous

4. Wear Out the Victim. By staying on the offensive, the gaslighter eventually wears down their victim, who becomes discouraged, resigned, pessimistic, fearful, debilitated, and self-doubting. The victim begins to question her or his own perception, identity, and reality.

5. Form Codependent Relationships. The Oxford Dictionary defines codependency as "excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner.” In a gaslighting relationship, the gaslighter elicits constant insecurity and anxiety in the gaslightee, thereby pulling the gaslightee by the strings. The gaslighter has the power to grant acceptance, approval, respect, safety, and security. The gaslighter also has the power (and often threatens to) take them away. A codependent relationship is formed based on fear, vulnerability, and marginalization.              

6. Give False Hope. As a manipulative tactic, the gaslighter will occasionally treat the victim with mildness, moderation, and even superficial kindness or remorse, to give the gaslightee false hope. In these circumstances, the victim might think: “Maybe he’s really not THAT bad,” “Maybe things are going to get better,” or “Let’s give it a chance.”

But beware! The temporary mildness is often a calculated maneuver intended to instill complacency and have the victim’s guard down before the next act of gaslighting begins. With this tactic, the gaslighter also further reinforces a codependent relationship.

7. Dominate and Control. At its extreme, the ultimate objective of a pathological gaslighter is to control, dominate, and take advantage of another individual, or a group, or even an entire society. By maintaining and intensifying an incessant stream of lies and coercions, the gaslighter keeps the gaslightees in a constant state of insecurity, doubt, and fear. The gaslighter can then exploit their victims at will, for the augmentation of their power and personal gain.


Preston Ni is the author of (click on titles): How to Successfully Handle Gaslighters & Stop Psychological Bullying and How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People.

  • About the Author

Preston Ni is a professor, presenter, private coach, and the author of Communication Success with Four Personality Types and How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People.


Stress Reduction

Please Enjoy the Following from SHAPE:

20 Simple Stress Relief Techniques

You need relief! Stress relief, that is – and we 20 simple but highly effective stress reduction techniques that you can use, starting now.

1. Prep for tomorrow.

Nothing is more stressful than being unprepared. Get organized so you're ready for the next day, taking a few minutes to make a to-do list and clean up before you leave. Knowing you've got everything covered means you'll be less likely to fret about work in the evenings. When you come in the next morning, you'll have the sense that you're in control of the situation and can handle it. This sets a positive tone for the day, which can help you get more accomplished.

2. Arm yourself with healthy snacks.

According to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey, more women than men (one in three) turn to comfort food such as ice cream and cookies to ease stress. It's common for women to deny themselves favorite foods because they're trying to lose weight. But under stress, the urge for them becomes even stronger.
In fact, researchers at Montclair State University in New Jersey recently confirmed that dieters are more likely than non-dieters to overeat when under pressure, bingeing on the very same high-fat foods they normally try to avoid. The key is to not deprive yourself. Keep three or four healthy snacks on hand that you know you'll probably want--peanuts, if you like salty; string cheese, if you crave protein; a small piece of chocolate for something sweet--so you aren't tempted to binge.

3. Try a repeat performance.

Doing almost any routine, repetitive activity (like vacuuming, shredding paper or knitting), or reciting a word that represents how you wish you felt (such as calm) is a quick way to achieve a Zen-like state.
Studies show the effects lower blood pressure and slow heart rate and breathing. The crucial elements are to focus on a word, your breathing or a movement and to bring your attention back to your task if your mind wanders or negative thoughts intrude.
Or look to your faith for a mantra: A recent study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that repeating phrases with spiritual meanings helped participants cope with a range of problems, from anxiety to insomnia.

4. Use the proper hand washing technique.

When you're under pressure, you're more susceptible to cold viruses and other germs because your immune system is suppressed. Hand washing is your best defense. Lather up with soap and warm water for 10-20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday.

5. Turn on some tunes.

According to a recent study published in the British journal Heart, slow or meditative music is a proven stress buster, so set your dial to a soothing station during your commute.
And, if you're stuck in a traffic jam, sneak in this quick exercise: Grab your steering wheel and clench the muscles in your fingers, arms, shoulders and back. Do this until your muscles begin to tremble (about 45 seconds), then release. You'll produce a wave of relief in your upper neck and arms all the way down to your fingers. Just make sure your foot is on the brake when you let go of the wheel!

6. Use the ATM once.

Limiting your cash withdrawals to once a week is a quick, easy way to monitor your spending habits. Multiple trips to the ATM make it harder to track your money. If you put yourself on an allowance and pay cash for everything, you're more aware of what you're spending and more careful about what you buy.
And while thinking about your finances may be enough to send you over the edge, it turns out that getting them under control eases tension in the long run. (Money and work tied for first place as the leading sources of stress, according to an APA survey.)
When you have a weekend afternoon free, try this take-control move: Write everything down, so you can see exactly where you stand financially--what you owe, the amount of interest, your monthly income, your budget. Not facing what you're up against creates even more stress, because it's always in the back of your mind. But once you have the information down, you can begin setting concrete goals using real figures. And taking action will make you feel so much better.

7. Hit the pool!

A Swedish study published in the International Journal of Stress Management found that floating in water triggers the body's relaxation response, helping lower stress-hormone levels. Even better, nearly 80 percent of the subjects showed improvements such as feeling less tense and depressed.

8. Give your thumbs a rest.

Thanks to e-mail, cell phones, and BlackBerrys, it seems like your job never ends. The increasingly blurry boundaries between work and home life leave us with less downtime than ever before (and in some cases, no downtime!). Advances in technology are a leading source of chronic stress, putting many of us in a constant state of alert. Not to mention the effect it has on family ties.
A recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found a link between the use of cell phones and pagers at home and increased stress, which spills over into family life.
To make technology work for you, screen calls with caller ID or, better yet, limit your cell phone and e-mail use to working hours only. Can't kick the BlackBerry habit? Set a regular time you'll check it in the evening (say, after dinner), so you're not constantly disrupting home life to keep tabs on work.

9. Recall a past success.

Taking five minutes to reflect on how you pulled through other stressful situations like your last breakup or when you switched jobs can help you reconnect with your resilient side.
In the moment, it may feel as though you'll never get over your present problem, but when you look back, you realize that you felt similarly before and found a way to overcome it.
If you're going through a divorce or recently lost a loved one, you also may want to seek out a support group: Research on grieving presented by the Center for the Advancement of Health in Washington, D.C., suggests that talking with peers is even more beneficial than one-on-one counseling in the initial months after a loss.

10. Do yoga asanas in your pajamas.

A simple spinal twist can help you get a better night's sleep. It alleviates tension that's built up in your lower back throughout the day. Sitting on your bed with legs crossed, place your right hand down on the bed behind you and rest your left hand on your right knee. Sit up straight and inhale for four to eight counts, lengthening your spine as you breathe. On your exhale, begin to twist toward your right hand (don't strain your neck). Hold this position for four more full breaths, lengthening your spine on the inhales and deepening your twist on the exhales, if it feels comfortable. Repeat yoga asanas on opposite side.

11. Worry about one thing at a time.

Women worry more than men do. A study of 166 married couples who kept stress diaries for six weeks found that women feel stress more frequently than men because women tend to worry in a more global way.
Whereas a man might fret about something actual and specific—such as the fact that he's just been passed over for a promotion—a woman will tend to worry abstractly about her job, her weight, plus the well-being of every member of her extended family. Keep your anxiety focused on real, immediate issues, and tune out imagined ones or those over which you have zero control, and you'll automatically reduce stress overload.

12. Focus on your senses a few minutes a day.

For a few minutes a day, practice being mindful—focusing only on what's going on in the present —whether it's during your workout or taking a break from your work. Try taking a short walk and instead of thinking about what's worrying you, pay attention to your senses—what you see, feel, hear, smell. This can make a huge difference in your emotional and physical well-being when done daily.

13. Talk about—or write out—what's worrying you.

Writing or talking about the things that prey on you—in a diary, with friends, in a support group or even a home computer file—helps you feel less alone and helpless.
One study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at people who had either rheumatoid arthritis or asthma— conditions known to be stress-sensitive. One group chronicled in a perfunctory manner the things they did each day. The other group was asked to write daily about what it was like, including fears and pain, to have their disease. What researchers found: People who wrote at length about their feelings had far fewer episodes of their illness.

14. Be faithful to your workout routines, no matter how stressed or busy you are.

Working out is one of the most effective stress relievers. Researchers recently found that after spending 30 minutes on a treadmill, their subjects scored 25 percent lower on tests that measure anxiety and showed favorable changes in brain activity. If you only have time to do one thing for yourself, make it sticking to your workout routines. If you can't hit the gym or trails, even a brisk 30-minute walk at lunch or getting up several times a day to stretch and walk around will help relieve stress.

15. Take time to be touched.

Experts haven't figured out why having your body pressed and prodded works wonders, but they know that it does. Studies suggest massage can speed up weight gain in premature babies, improve lung function in asthmatics and boost immunity in men with HIV. If you can't indulge in regular full-body massages, treat yourself to the occasional pedicure, manicure or facial—all nurturing, hands-on treats that offer some of the benefits of massage.

16. Speak a stress-free language.

People who handle stress well tend to employ what stress experts call an "optimistic explanatory style." They don't beat themselves up when things don't work out in their favor.
So instead of using statements that catastrophize an incident, like "I'm a complete failure," they might say to themselves, "I need to work on my backhand." Or they'll transfer blame to an external source. Rather than saying, "I really blew that presentation," it's, "That was a tough group to engage."
Replace the word "expect" with "hope." Expectations can only be used for those things over which you have the greatest personal control. You can expect to quench your thirst with a drink of water. You cannot expect to get the job you just interviewed for. You can hope to get it.

17. Don't be so serious.

There's nothing like anxiety to annihilate your sense of humor. It would follow, then, that it's impossible to feel stressed when you're hunched over in a fit of giggles. Studies have shown, in fact, that laughter not only relieves tension, but actually improves immune function. Swap jokes with your friends. Rent a funny movie. Stop taking things so seriously!

18. Once a day, get away.

When you're having a hell of a day—good or bad—checking out for 10-15 minutes is revitalizing. Find a place where you can be alone (and definitely ditch the cell phone)—the attic, the bathroom, a quiet cafe, a big oak tree—and wipe the slate clean for a few minutes. Do whatever it is that relaxes you: Meditate, read a novel, sing or sip tea. It's crucial to take just a few minutes everyday to de-stress. It's not how much time you allot, but being consistent that's important.

19. Identify at least one good thing that happened today.

It's a scenario played out every evening all over the country: Come home from work and start venting to your spouse or roommate about your day. Instead of creating a negative atmosphere the minute you walk in the door, try starting off the evening with your family or friends by exchanging good news. Something good every day, you just need to recognize it.

20. Take the stress in and release it.

Literally embrace whatever it is you're going through and then let it go. Try doing a tai chi exercise known as "embracing the tiger," where you take your arms, spread them wide, put your hands together and then draw them—and everything around you—toward your navel, the center of your being. Doing this allows you to take the good with the bad. Then reverse your hands and push them out, releasing your tension. When you can control stress, it can no longer control you.

Copied from SHAPE Blog 


Can't be my head screams ... I'm looking at 60 in just a few years.  Wow, where does it all go ... so much done ... MORE left undone.  Regrets are hard.  Regrets turn into all those what ifs.  IF I had said yes to this opportunity or said no to that invitation what would life look like. 

In 1980 I was working in campaign politics and living in Washington DC.  My position entitled me to  a  presidential inaugural ball ticket.   I've been socially anxious all of my life and have never felt comfortable at parties with small talk and awkward silences.  My parents were very strict and so I never had many opportunities to learn the skills of socializing.  I've always seen myself as the fat, immigrant kid from the farm who is forever the outsider.  

So, I get this great opportunity to go to this ball and George, my brain, started buzzing hard and fast.  "Rosemary, you won't have the right clothes, you'll look out of place, nobody really wants you there,"  and on & on droned George.  Sadly, I turned down the ticket and made up some lame excuse.  

I've long since stepped away from the world of politics and seriously doubt I will ever be invited to another such event.  DO I REGRET NOT GOING?   YES, YES, YES.  Was it a life changing decision probably not but ... a regret that I carry with me.   Had I said yes, it would have added to life's rich memories, helped enhance my social skills and helped boost my confidence about saying yes to other things. 

Clearly, the point is if you are saying no because your brain is sending messages of fear and inadequacy - these are not good reasons to say no to things.  GO, DO, EXPERIENCE -- we seldom regret the things we tried - its the ones that got away that leave us wondering and regretting. 

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For those of us who grew up in homes filled with tension, stress and unresolved conflicts the idea of fun is a very foreign concept.  One of the characteristics of adult children of dysfunctional families is:  "An inability to relax and have fun.  We cannot have fun because it is stressful, especially when others are watching. The wounded inner child inside is frightened, and in an effort to appear perfect, exercises strict self-control".  (Copied from the Sea Ridge Foundation Site).  

Yet, fun and relaxation is so very important.  I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in Chicago with a friend.  We flew out to see the musical Hamilton and just tooled around the city.  We stumbled onto an exhibit of the Rolling Stones, took a guided tour of Chicago crime scenes, and just enjoyed strolling around a city filled with incredible architecture and a beautiful pier on Lake Michigan.  I came back feeling refreshed and feeling so blessed that I was able to take a break from my normal routine.

Its important to carve out time and resources for fun and relaxation.  Here are some benefits:

  • Reduces Stress
  • Increases Serotonin
  • Improves Ability to Cope
  • Boosts Energy
  • Improves Memory and Concentration
  • Improves Connection with Others
  • Sounder Sleep
  • Positive Patterns

So let go --  be silly, giggle, allow yourself to look foolish - its in the letting go that we find the space to be creative and grateful.  



I grew up on a dairy - animals were  there for production.  My parents were not big on pets and would actually criticize people who spent money on vet bills.  Its not that they were cruel people but felt very strongly that money should be used to help people in need.  My parents had very strong opinions about things and lots of messages of right and wrong.  Like so many people I grew up feeling that I would be rejected by my family if I had different opinions or beliefs.

It is amazing to me that at age 57 I still feel twinges of fear when I make a choice that is different than what my mother would do.

In the last 2 months both of our cats (who adopted us in Oct 2016)  needed to be seen by the vet.  Our girl, Comes and Goes, had been in a fight and poor Tabby developed an abscess in his mouth.  Thank goodness both things were easily treatable.  

Last week  my mom and asked how the cats were doing.  I took a deep breath knowing that I could just omit the part about the vet and avoid her judgement or that I could use the opportunity to push through the fear of her judgement and be true to my own story.  Before I could even finish my story my mom says,  "well I guess people are going to waste money on all kinds of things".  

I really do love my mother but its those types of statements and reactions that make it just so hard to have a warm relationship with her.  My mom is 96 years old, she is probably about 4' 8", walks with a cane and can't open a jar of pickles.  But man her words are powerful.  The crazy part is I spent the rest of the day wondering if Rod (my husband) and I were making a mistake.  My ole brain, George, took over and started the chatter ... "see Rosemary you are always making mistakes, your judgement isn't sound, people are going to laugh at you for how you spend your money, on and on it went for a few hours.  

   As I conveyed the conversation to my sweet husband he said, Rosemary, we made the right decision for our household - so simple, so straight forward and very reassuring.

The next time you find yourself feeling judged and wondering if you made the right decision ask yourself - is it right for me - because you are the only person who gets to decide what is right for you.   

Downward Dog - Yes the TV Show

"I'm sure self love is easy when your perfect.  But when your as flawed as me choosing to love yourself maybe the bravest thing ever attempted in the history of the world."

Hubby and I were watching an episode of the new TV show, Downward Dog, a really sweet show about life, love, friendship and all the challenges that those things bring.  There are so many choices to make at every turn of our lives.  Big choices like career and where to live and little choices like going for a morning walk or using the time to connect with loved ones.  

Every choice we make helps determine how we feel and in what direction are lives are moving.  The above quote about self love uttered by Martin, the canine star of the show, struck me as so very significant and important.  Its in  loving ourselves - utterly and completely - accepting all that is that gives us the room and permission to make choices that help us feel good, live compatibility with our values and give us a fuller richer life.   

What we do today impacts our tomorrows and so to make decisions that are motivated by love will invariable be helpful.  Its a loving act of self to eat healthy, to treat others with kindness, to set appropriate boundaries, to find time for laughter and joy and to create discipline so that we can accomplish life goals.

Life is already hard and challenging.  Life is filled with so many losses, hurts and disappointments that its easy to see how we learn to hate ourselves.  And, its easy to understand that when we hate ourselves we treat ourselves in hateful ways.  So for today lets challenge ourselves to be kind, gentle and forgiving of ourselves (truly loving)  - this like Martin said is,  "maybe the bravest thing ever attempted in the history of the world". 



Lately I have a hard time sticking to some of my personal goals - exercising and weekly blogging.  I'm noticing procrastination sneaking into my life and I want to stop this nasty habit before it robs me of too much of my life energy.  So after 3 days of putting the research off (LOL) I finally took a deep breath and  found the following article.  It reminded me of some simple tools to use in combating procrastination.  Hope you find this as helpful as I did.   

Whether you’re tempted to give in to that craving for a cupcake, or you’re about to give up on your goals, perseverance isn’t easy. But before you blame your lack of God-given willpower and before you make an excuse for your less than stellar performance, consider this; it only takes a few minutes a day to build the mental muscle you need to reach your greatest potential.

Building mental strength is similar to building physical strength. Doing 50 push ups a day would only take a few minutes of your time, but doing it consistently would help you build a tremendous amount of upper body strength.

The same can be said with your mental muscle. In just a few minutes each day, you can train your brain to think differently, manage your emotions, and behave productively. With consistent exercise, you’ll build mental strength.

While there are many exercises that can help you grow stronger, here are three exercises that will help you build mental muscle in five minutes or less:

1. Identify three things you’re grateful for.

Counting your blessings—as opposed to your burdens—has a big impact on your psychological healthStudies consistently show gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.

Make gratitude a daily habit by intentionally identifying three things you are grateful for in your life. It could be as simple as feeling thankful for the clean water that comes out of your faucet or appreciating the cool breeze on a warm day.

Studies show you can physically change your brain by making gratitude a habit. Write in a gratitude journal, list the things you feel grateful for over dinner, or make it a habit to identify what you're thankful for before you go to bed. Over time, being thankful becomes like second nature and you’ll experience benefits ranging from improved sleep to better immunity.

2. Practice mindfulness.

It’s impossible to stay strong when you’re rehashing something that happened last week or when you’re predicting horrible things are going to happen tomorrow. Mindfulness is about staying present in the moment. And since the only time you can change your behavior is right now, it’s important to be able to focus on the here-and-now.

Science shows mindfulness has a multitude of physical and psychological benefits. Among those benefits are reduced stress and a more compassionate inner dialogue.

So take a minute to just focus on what’s going on around you. Listen to see what sounds you can hear. Look around the room and see what you notice. Do a quick scan of your body and pay attention to how it feels.

With regular practice, you’ll increase your ability to focus—which is tough to do in today’s fast-paced world. And you’ll also be able to enjoy each moment because you’ll be less distracted by yesterday’s problems and tomorrow’s worries.

3. Act “as if.”

It can be tempting to wait until you feel different to make a change. But waiting until you feel good about yourself before applying for a promotion or waiting until you feel happy to invite your friends out for a night on the town could backfire.

Instead, studies show you should behave like the person you want to become. When you change your behavior, your thoughts and your emotions will follow.

When you’re sad you might hunch your shoulders and look at the floor. Doing so keeps you in a depressive state. Put your shoulders back and smile, however, and you’ll feel an instant boost in your mood.

And don’t expect feelings of confidence to come out of nowhere. Instead, ask yourself, how can I act confident? Acting like a confident person, even when you're filled with self-doubt, helps you feel surer of yourself. And research shows acting confident even increases other people’s confidence in you.

Try asking yourself what would a mentally strong person do? Then, act as if you feel strong already. And you’ll grow a little stronger.

Do Your Mental Push Ups

Every day is an opportunity to develop some mental muscle. Simple, short exercises performed consistently over time will help you build mental strength.

Additionally, pay attention to the bad habits that rob you of mental strength. Feeling sorry for yourself, giving up after your first failure, and giving away your power are just a few of the bad habits that could wreak havoc on your mental weight lifting routine. Giving up those unhealthy habits will help you work smarter, not harder.

Source: Amy Morin


Please Just Let Me Be Understood ...

A few days ago I went to see a movie with 4 friends.  The movie was THE LOVERS and was the story of some nice characters who were wrapped up in some pretty bad and hurtful behaviors.  I got caught up in the story and the characters and enjoyed the pace of the film.  

We get to the lobby and immediately my friends start talking about how weak the film was, how there wasn't enough information given to really understand the characters and pointed out some visual flaws in the film.  Its one of those moments where you think "did I just see the same film".

I instantly felt a bit of  sadness.  Sadness that they hadn't enjoyed the film, sadness that I was alone in my enjoyment,  and a profound sense of being mis-understood.  I felt alone in the experience and felt a bit of the outsider -  there was 4 of them after all.  "George" my brain started the chatter, "see they are smarter than you"  and "they understood things that you didn't get."  

I've noticed that when I'm feeling like the outsider that I start fighting hard for my opinion.  As if I have to justify what I believe - almost like I'm trying to convince them that I'm right.  I start working to get them to change their minds.   My friends are great and have never called me out on it but its has to be pretty annoying for them.  I'm working on this part of me and am gently trying to change the behavior.  

This comes from a very deep and old wound - growing up with 10 brothers and sisters I was frequently told I was wrong and my life choices were often criticized.  I often feel like the outsider and feel so misunderstood.  I yearn for understanding and recognition that my beliefs,  values and judgments are just as valid as other peoples.  And more importantly even when I see the world differently I can still be part of the group and belong to the clan.

I'm working on separating out that different beliefs, opinions, or tastes are just that - different beliefs, opinions, tastes.  Its not a matter of right and wrong its just a matter of different.  The truly sad part is that when I start fighting for what I believe then I'm at risk at alienating others and I'm more likely to loose friendships.  Its a difficult balance to speak up and share my thoughts and opinions without having to sound like I'm convincing others that they have to think just like me.  

I'm working on the old wound of being told so frequently that I was wrong about things.  More and more I'm trying to create space that allows for differences and the recognition that people can think differently about things and it doesn't  mean right wrong it truly just means different.  

Like Nina Simone said: 

Baby you understand me now
If sometimes you see that I'm mad
Doncha know that no one alive can always be an angel?
When everything goes wrong you see some bad

Well I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

Ya know sometimes baby I'm so carefree
With a joy that's hard to hide
Then sometimes again it seems that all I have is worry
And then you burn to see my other side

But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

If I seem edgy
I want you to know
I never meant to take it out on you
Life has it's problems
And I get more than my share
But that's one thing I never mean to do

'Cause I love you
Oh baby
I'm just human
Don't you know I have faults like anyone?

Sometimes I find myself alone regretting
Some little foolish thing
Some simple thing that I've done

Cause I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

Don't let me be misunderstood I try so hard
So please don't let me be misunderstood


Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.


Feelings Are Not Facts

Ten years ago a human being (or beings) had the brilliant idea of building a glass walk way out over the Grand Canyon.  Absolutely amazing!!!! You can stand on this thing and look 4,000 feet down.  For me it was a real challenge - like so many people I'm frightened by heights.   Right up until we were out there I wasn't sure I could do it.  

Standing on that thing feeling a bit like I was hovering reminded me of how important it is to let go and let things be.  Even though I knew I was on solid ground - it didn't feel solid - my insides were tightening up and I was a bit dizzy.  George, (my brain) kept saying get out of here, your going to fall, its not safe.  I kept thanking George for his feedback and then reminded myself that I really did want this experience.

 The view from there was beautiful and I don't have words to describe the intensity of  looking directly down into the Canyon.  But darn it George won out and convinced me to get out of there pretty quickly.  I didn't truly savor the moment.  My body was feeling unbalanced and because the feelings were uncomfortable George convinced me that I was going to plunge thousands of feet to my death.  Now keep in mind that this walkway has been in operation for 10 years -- NOBODY has fallen through it -- its completely solid.  So the fact was that I was safe but I did not feel safe. 

Sadly, I rushed through the walkway.  I clung to the side rail and could barely look down.  The feeling was too overwhelming.  The time out there reminded me of the so many times I've been up against emotional hurdles.  Feelings of guilt, shame, feeling unlikable - how often in my life have I acted on feelings rather than on facts.  

 Life can be richer and even larger when we act on fact rather than our feelings.  Just because I felt unsafe on the Grand Canyon sky walk doesn't mean I was unsafe.  I invite you to join me in practicing deep breathing and creating space to tolerate unpleasant feelings so that we can respond to facts not the feelings.   



A Really Big Hole

Just got back from a trip to the Grand Canyon.  A week without deadlines, demands or any musts.  Rod, my husband, and I planned the trip so that we didn't have to rush or be any where at any given time.  We packed our suit cases and jumped in the car.  It really was a perfect trip:  relaxing, the weather was mild and pleasant, and so MUCH beauty.  The spring flowers were still hanging on, the colors of the Canyon were amazing,  and the people we encountered were friendly.

The vastness of the Canyon reminded me of how small and insignificant I truly am in the scope of the world and the entire universe.  How small my problems are and how in the context of all of history how transient my worries are.  Its sort of crazy but there is peace in realizing I'm not that significant - it gives me permission to ask for what I need because I'm not so scared of being turned down or rejected.  

In Western culture we put a tremendous amount of significance on how important and special every human being is, and although I agree that we are important,  I'm noticing that this belief puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the ego.  The ego, the part that fights to be right, the part that won't risk being embarrassed, the part that puts self before common good.  The ego wants to believe its survival depends on the fight.  Amazingly all the fight does is create struggle and anxiety.  To notice the ego and accept what is allows people to relax and to be in the here and now.      

I'm thankful to be back home with our cats,  to return to the work that I enjoy and to the routine of our lives.  But I'm also very thankful for the reminder from the "big hole" - I'm just not that significant  which gives me room to relax and not be so controlling.  Ah that feels better - thanks "big hole".  



Sometimes Laughter is The Knowing

Its been a really tough week - extremely busy and and the death of a distant relative.  Sometimes turning to google for a laugh is what keeps me going -- and so for now I share Chuck Lorre's Vanity Card in the hope that it brings you a laugh and the wisdom of knowing that none of us know.  


I have somehow stumbled onto a magic spell. It consists of three words that have changed my life for the better. And here, faithful vanity card reader, are those words:

I don't know.

Now before you get upset by their unremarkable quality, their lack of faux Latin, Harry Potter mumbo jumbo-ness, I'd like you to try a little experiment. Say the following out loud:

"I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I don't know how long I will live. I don't know how my smart phone works. I don't know how my body works. I don't know how pretty much anything works. I don't know how we got here. I don't know where we're headed. I don't know what I don't know. I don't know why I'm doing this, considering how unlikely it is that Chuck Lorre knows anything of consequence."

Okay, well done! Now that we've established your lack of knowing, a vacuum of sorts has been created. And what do we all know about vacuums? Nature abhors them. So it stands to reason that something will rush in to fill that vacuum. And something does. I don't know what it is. I just know it's magic.

<< >>

1st Aired: 12 May 2016



3 Dead Birds

In Septmember of 2016 two sweet cats showed up on our door step.  Without invite just started hanging out on our front patio.  For a few weeks we just ignored them and still they hung out.

 I've never been a pet person and my husband (outside of the last 4 years) has always had animals.  I could tell he was getting really hooked and enjoying having the cats around.  So we did the responsible things:  had them checked out by a vet - tried to contact their previous owners - and finally officially adopted them.  

Our yellow guy is named Tabby and the calico is Comes & Goes (you got it she tends to wonder a lot).   We began looking forward to seeing them in the morning and are enjoying sitting with them on our front patio.  Both of the cats have a sweet demeanor and it has been fun having them around.  I've been pleasantly surprised by how much love and joy they add to our home.

In late March we decided to install a pet door and started making the transition from outdoor cats to indoor / outdoor.  Again, I've never been a pet person so trying to acclimate to cat hair,  monitoring their scratching habits,  making the time to vacuum more often was a bit of an adjustment but the joy, fun and love we were getting was well worth it.  

Then came Monday night, April 24, 2017 (a day that will live in infamy).  I came around the corner from our dining room into the hall way and saw - a dead little baby bird.  "Rod", I yelled at my husband,  "this can't be happening ... dead birds can NOT be allowed in the house".  I opened the door to the garage, "Rod, dead birds can NOT be in the garage".  I walked out to the patio, "Oh no, this can't be happening - there is a 3rd little dead bird".  "Rod this can NOT be!!!!!!!!"

Now keep in mind Tabby and Comes and Goes are sitting in the living room completely calm and enjoying their comfortable places on the couch.  My brain (whose name is George) went into over time.  "What if I had stepped on the dead bird, how do we prevent this from happening, good housekeepers don't have dead birds in their houses".  George kept yelling at me, "Told you animals in the house were a bad idea, see what you get for being so dumb and letting them in, you can't allow for this it's too horrific".  

Quietly and patiently my husband disposed of the birds and then gently reminded me that cats share of their "treasures" with their humans.  Rod reminded me that everything in life has a down side - can't have the cat love and joy without the cat hair and once in a while their kills.  He reminded me that of course we could keep the cats outside but that would limit our time with them.

Two weeks ago the thought of a dead bird in my house was absolutely unacceptable so today I'm working on accepting the unacceptable.  I'm noticing when George starts screaming his loud voices, I thank him for his feedback and then go about enjoying the cats in the house.  Of course I will have icky feelings if I find more dead animals in the house but I'm working on tolerating the icky feelings so that their is more space to experience the love and joy that the cats offer.  

George would say "THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE"  because my body would feel icky feelings and stories have been built up in my head that somehow I have failed or made a mistake because we have to clean up a dead bird.  George keeps trying to convince me that this event means something about me and that I lack the  ability to manage the world.  Somehow George is saying "you Rosemary are bad, dirty and not competent"  and I'm noticing this and over and over and over just reminding myself that a dead bird in the house is just a dead bird in the house.

 The more I open myself up to the unacceptable be it a dead bird,  fear of public speaking, fear of looking stupid, fear of failing, the more I can accept uncomfortable feelings the more I create space to make my own decisions in life and to enjoy life's simple pleasures like the purring of a cat.   



What Is The Purpose

So very often clients ask what is the meaning of life - why am I here - what is the purpose of it all.  Its such an important question and one that has been asked  a million times in a million different ways.  As soon as the human brain started evolving the question of meaning, purpose and the why questions started hounding humans.

I say hounding because its a question that can cause such pain, anguish and suffering.  I've seen people riddled with so much anxiety about the meaning of life that they stop participating in life.  So afraid that they are just wasting their time in school, work or socializing that they start to isolate and  become paralyzingly depressed.  

Sometimes when things are challenging or I've had some major set backs I notice that I start asking myself - whats the point - am I making any difference - why bother when life can seem so difficult and filled with loss.  

Recently I  had a client say "I'm not sure I deserve happiness" and it just really struck me that its such a human thing to ask or ponder.  We have 2 cats in our home.  They certainly don't ask if they deserve happiness or what their purpose is - they just are and do.  They  enjoy the sunshine, eat their food, wonder around the neighborhood exploring and sit around bringing us lots of joy and happiness (sometimes sitting in places they don't even belong in).  The beautiful tree in our front yard never asks any question it just reaches toward the sun, allows the rain to nurture its roots, and brings beauty and shade to our yard.  

Maybe this is too simplistic but to get caught up in the questions of why and meaning and purpose just complicates things.  Maybe its OK to stay on the side of knowing that life is really brief and precious and its not about doing things perfectly its just about doing them.  Try differnt things if you enjoy them keep doing them, if you don't enjoy them stop and move on to something else.  

Stay in tune with what feels right to you - focus on what brings you contentment - not just pleasure in the moment but full blown contentment.  I once read that eating chocolate cake is tasty but is a passing pleasure whereas staying focused on a major goal like running a marathon brings us a sense of accomplishment and lasting pleasure.  We can't think our way to the purpose or the meaning of life but we can find our purpose and meaning through our actions.

So I don't know if any of us deserve happiness and I certainly can't answer the purpose question.   - but I do know is that joy and happiness are there for the taking.  Life is short - to wait till we feel like we deserve happiness keeps us waiting a long time - go do something today that makes you happy.  Go for a walk along the river,  do some volunteer work, try something that your afraid to do - go challenge yourself and I'll go do the same!   





Its In The Doing

For years I've struggled with not feeling good about myself.  I'm too fat, too ugly, not smart enough ...  

I kept telling myself I'll work on my self-esteem and when I feel better I will do all the things I want to do.  When I've "calmed" my inner critic I will be more social and will join fun groups.  When I feel better about myself I will stand up for myself, I will start the exercise program, I will try new and scary things.  

So I kept going to therapy, attending support groups, reading self-help books ... I just knew if I could "believe" I was good enough then nothing could stop me.  But to quote Mark Manson, "It turns out that merely feeling good about yourself doesn't really mean anything unless you have a good reason to feel good about yourself.  It turns out that adversity and failure are actually useful and even necessary for developing strong minded and successful adults".  (THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A FUCK, p. 43-44)  

I'm reminded over and over again that its in the doing that we grow, change and learn to accept ourselves and learn who we really are and what brings us joy and life contentment.  

Are you waiting to feel better about your body in order to join the gym?  Are you waiting to like yourself before you join the social group, are you waiting to feel smarter before you take a class?  Don't make the mistake that I've made for years and wait to do things.  

Go and do ... you'll probably find that its in joining the gym that you will gain respect for your courage and feel good about taking care of yourself.  In joining a social group you will find that you have things to share and people who want to be with you.  And if you choose to take a class you'll learn to appreciate your ability to keep learning along with meeting new people.  

Fear and voices of not good enough say pull back and don't do ... be safe from rejection or feelings of embarrassment.  

I'm here to support you and me in that feelings are just feelings - as tough as some of them are they are not facts.  Yes, I have felt embarrassment along the way but the more I've put myself out in the world the better I have come to feel about myself.  

So for today, just take one tiny step toward something you want to do, notice the voices in your head that want to tell you to stop, notice them, thank your brain for them and take one tiny step toward something that you want to do.   There is much freedom in the doing!!!!!!




Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families


1) Guess at what normal is

2)  Have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end

3)  Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth

4) Judge yourself without mercy

5) Have difficulty having fun

6) Take yourself very seriously

7) Have difficulty with intimate relationships

8) Overreact to changes over which you have no control

9) Constantly seek approval and affirmation

10) Usually feel different than other people

11)  Act super-responsibly or super-irresponsibly

12)  Extremely loyal even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved 

13)  Act impulsively ?  

If you found yourself relating to the above list - welcome to being human - and know that these are characteristics of adult children of dysfunctional families.  It is said that 95% of all families are dysfunctional the other 5% are in denial.  Don't know where I got that statistic but it captures just how complicated it is to be human and to connect with the people in our lives. 

In a truly functional family all members are treated with understanding, accepted for who they are and everyone plays an appropriate role in decision making and truly feels like a valued member of the pack.  This is the ideal "Brady Bunch" family but for many of us  most of experiences are closer to "Arrested Development" or "Shameless".        

"A dysfunctional family  is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of individual parents occur continually and regularly.   Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is normal".  (Wikipedia)  Dysfunctional homes are riddled with tension, secrets, unclear rules leading to confusion, and fear.   

I grew up with 10 brothers and sisters, parents who loved us dearly but were so riddled with their own anxieties, fears and history of abuse that their parenting left many emotional scars.  Years of therapy and regular attendance in Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families Support Group has helped me to calm my emotional monsters and learn to be a bit more at peace in the world.  

“You don’t need strength to let go of something. What you really need is understanding.”– Guy Finley  The process of examining how family stories impact us can be very important in understanding our behavior today.  Children are great observers but horrible interpreters and when kids are exposed to abuse and neglect they internalize the conflict and believe that something is wrong with them.  

If you relate to the list of 13 above I invite you to join a support group for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families - start therapy - read a self-help book (I highly recommend the works of Claudia Black).