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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Want Different Results? Try Doing Something Different

In the fall of 2007, I set about cleaning up my life and participating in it again. I didn't just settle for taking responsibility for my own actions and cleaning it up, I made a commitment to personal excellence. To becoming a loving and forgiving person.

But true love and forgiveness come from examining yourself. There is no substitute and as I grew over that two year period, I almost forgot one vital thing.


I did the deal. I hurt, I accepted who I was, and most importantly- I vowed never to hurt or diminish anyone again. I committed to the idea of becoming the best person I had ever been.

Yet the people around me did not. They continued to behave in their same old fear driven and unconscious ways. They simply refuse to take their game to the next level. It's not that they won't or that they can't, they are simply unaware, unconscious. They have acquired beliefs, their own brand of truth- which has no universal nor infallible application. And as I left the old me behind, I am forced to leave those people I knew back then behind. Not because I don't love them, but because I have to accept that they are entitled to live in whatever state of consciousness they choose.

Such are the men that crucified Jesus. Ask any one of those "conscious souls" and I'll bet they thought that carrying out that sentence was right at that moment in time. They had a belief. They feared what would happen to them if they did not carry out that sentence-perhaps they would find themselves hanging from a cross. Fast forward a couple thousand years and find 1942 Americans putting Japanese Americans- citizens- in camps. In fact, to this day, many of those folks living in the 40's adamantly defend those actions. Yet, in our latest war on terror...we didn't go harvest every Islamic Fundamentalist, Muslim, or Middle Eastern son and daughter and imprison them, did we?

So are we always right? Were we right in 1942 or were we right in 2001? Ponder the implications. Flawed and fear driven human belief systems, a collective ego, making decisions.

The people in my life- I owe them everything. Without them, I am nothing. I need only look at them to remind myself of what it used to be like. And I am humbled that I was given this gift. I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I just stumbled into a new realm.

If you want different results, you must do something drastically different. And in the fall of 2007, I wanted drastic change. I was willing to do whatever it takes. Eliminating people from your life that are diminishing or hurtful. Because loving them should not be painful. Loving yourself requires the ability to leave people behind that don't really love you. Generally through their own incapacity to see beyond their fears and wants.

You see, love is an abstract concept. It is easiest to describe what it isn't-rather than what it is. Love is not self seeking. Love is not about material possessions or wanting. It is not about pointing out flaws or belittling people. It is not about sitting with your girlfriends and throwing a pity party and behaving like victims. Talking about and hurting others. It is not about being critical, judgmental, or isolating people we think we don't like. Love is none of those things. In fact love is the opposite of all those things.

Love takes all comers. It is inclusionary rather than exclusionary. It is about patience, tolerance, and understanding. It is about ridding the chains of that subconscious ego of yours and loving anyone. Absolutely anyone and wanting the very best for them. You can't receive love until you become willing to give love. It is never about what you get- it is always about what you give and give first.

There was a time when I did not understand that. I thought it was about getting something for me. Really.

And if you find yourself at the end of a string of failed relationships, or surrounded by a bunch of people who don't really care too much for you, then it's time to examine yourself. What do you bring to the party? And if that answer is "not much" it might be time to try something different and work toward a different result.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Do You Have Relationships or Take Hostages?

Having been single, more or less, for the last couple of years I began to ponder an interesting question. Do I engage in relationships or do I take emotional hostages?

You can only ask this question of yourself after you have applied rigorous and unmerciful honesty to your life and actions. If you are unable to examine your actions, then you cannot possibly know the answer. It's a garbage in, garbage out, data retrieval system.

So what is the difference between having a relationship and taking a hostage?

I had to define that answer for myself. Since all relationships tend to have sex, power, and control as key elements it would make sense that a 50-50 balance of those three items would be evident in a healthy, committed, relationship. As I mulled over my relationships, they failed that test. I was unable in most cases to truthfully say that I had even defined those items let alone made a conscious effort to blend them fairly.

Another test I gave myself when evaluating relationships was to ask myself, "Was I fear driven, egoically challenged, and simply unconscious?" Clearly, the more fear driven an individual is, the more this will manifest itself in control. Controlling people tend to make emotional withdrawals from their partners. Deposits are slim. I faired a lot better when I asked myself this question, but I still couldn't give myself a passing grade.

The last question I asked was whether or not I had been fair. Whether I had been judgmental, indifferent, insensitive, to my partner's feelings. I still couldn't give myself a passing grade. As I mulled over my relationship history it was clear to me. In some instances, my partners were even more effective hostage takers than I was. In fact within my immediate family I could apply many of these principles.

Ugh. In the end, I had to admit that I have been a hostage taker.

There are two things you can do when examining yourself. You can ignore the results of this very personal test and continue to behave selfishly. Or you can say, "Ya know what, I have been a miserable partner. I am going to make a commitment to balance this, to communicate effectively, and find someone wiling to do the same thing." Agreeing to do this, communicating your expectations in some verbal contract, seems very rational. Yet, how many people do this?

Finding someone willing to do this has been a very difficult task. In fact, most potential partners can't even get to the first step. They are still mired in that victim philosophy that all of their failed relationships are their partner's fault. Applying rigorous honesty and self examination is just not something they do. Their fear driven egos simply won't allow it. They are just unconscious and can't hold them accountable for something they simply don't know or understand.

Healthy relationships or hostage taking incidents come in various shapes and sizes with an unlimited number of variables and manipulations. Hostage takers are completely self absorbed, selfish, and they simply don't understand why their hostages can't accede to their demands. Apply the rigorous honesty test to yourself and your relationships and I think you will find the results somewhat surprising.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Happiness is not having what you want, it's wanting what you already have"

I snitched this quote. I liked it.

So often, the incessant wanting that is ingrained in us-is clearly the result of our culture. Advertising and marketing techniques are designed to create a need in us. It bombards us from every angle. We begin to covet what others have. A bigger house, another car or truck, maybe a boat or a camp trailer. Maybe it's braces for the kids or cosmetic surgery. A trip to France.

In fact some people are so obsessed with wanting that they are willing to run over and hurt those people they see as obstacles or threats; people standing between them and what it is they covet.

So within that quote is the idea of gratitude. Instead of creating all that emotional wanting and frustration for the things that we don't have- we become grateful for the things we do have. We learn to appreciate them and not take them for granted. And because we are grateful, we do not feel jealous or frustrated. Gratitude is serene...wanting... ah not so much.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Imprinting Fear and Imposing Punishment

I cannot overstate what I am about to write here. Aside from your all encompassing ego, fear and punishment are the greatest barriers to achieving any kind of useful communication or healthy relationships. In fact, your fears will work hard to destroy the process. It will happen if you don't recognize it. And baby, it happens all the time.

Think of it like this. We have all seen animals, dogs and horses come to mind, that behave in odd ways. The great D. Wayne Lucas (thoroughbred horse racing trainer) says that as juveniles-some horses act out or were improperly "imprinted." They rear at the starting gate, get into race trouble, or some times they find a way to lose. Very often that behavior never changes. So what does he mean by "imprinting?"

Imprinting is a reference to the psychological memory of the horse. And don't think for a second that only applies to horses.

As children, we are taught very much like animals by our parents. When we are good, we are showered with love and kindness. If we do not meet our parents' expectations we are disciplined or punished. Punishment does not feel good and it comes at varying levels. At the low range, it might be as simple as asking us to do something over or behave differently in some firm sort of way. At the other extreme, we may be subjected to actual physical abuse and unfortunately that sometimes can lead to serious injury or death.

It is the seriousness of our punishment that we receive as children that is imprinted on us.

Some 97% of all prison inmates report being abused as children. Serious and damaging abuse. And yet, we all accept that abuse is not an excuse for a life of crime, don't we?

Let's examine some common punishments. There are the soft non threatening methods, such as asking a child to do something over. There are the more serious forms of punishment. Scolding, belittling, calling children names, lazy and worthless. Comparing their behavior to the good siblings, the "successful" ones. Public shame and embarrassment in front of others. Abandonment and rejection. Isolation. Grounding. Perhaps it manifests itself in anger, and angry scoldings are coupled with physical pain. Spankings, using belts, cords, or coat hangers are meted out. Sometimes we are slapped. Sometimes we are burned or locked into closets. Sometimes this abuse is so severe that it is carried out in a regular or ritualized fashion. Some children are subjected to sexual abuse with no escape.

Punishment then becomes key to our imprinting. We are imprinted with psychological and emotional pain when we "act" badly. And we learn quickly to avoid pain and punishment. In fact we will go to tremendous lengths to avoid feeling that pain. We have been imprinted that punishment is bad. We never forget. And just like that young horse, those fears that led to our punishment get pushed into the subconscious for the rest of our lives. We are afraid that all of those nasty things that our parents or teachers taught us were true. We don't want others to see them. So we hide them. From everybody and ourselves. Yet we still act out.

So we march our imprinted selves out into the world with all of those hidden fears. We try to have relationships with others but they fail. We go to great lengths to avoid punishment. We lie, we cheat, we refuse to communicate, and we treat ourselves and others badly. We are as critical of others as our teachers were to us. We rationalize, justify, and reject responsibility. We judge and we laugh at people making them feel bad so that we can feel better. We are doing precisely what was taught to us. We fear punishment or criticism. And admitting, that we are all fear driven creatures, is fearful in itself. We don't want to expose ourselves and be condemned for that. Or be called whiners or babies.

But most often, what we never do-is get honest with ourselves. We fail to understand that all of those deep seated fears are causing us to not communicate, to withdraw. We refuse to self examine. We don't tell anyone about that stuff. But you know what? That never works, and ultimately, all that fear and frustration spill over. We get angry, hostile, and we think everyone else is behaving badly. We blame the ones we love. Very often, if not always- because of the imprinting we received. Our experience.

That is our baggage. And suppressing it or denying it's existence damages our relationships. We are doomed to keep repeating the same behavior over and over again until one day when we get conscious. We get the courage to accept that it is time to start examining ourselves instead of everyone else. If that day comes for you, it is a day of beauty and discovery.

We can begin to see how ritualized hatred and abuse can spawn somebody that commits rape or murder. We can begin to see why a child of incest or abuse does not trust men and has a series of failed relationships and divorce. We can see why a child that could never do anything right, someone that was labeled and scolded harshly, became angry and hostile. These things are not mysteries. They do not require your condemnation or hate. We don't have to hate these things together to understand them. Instead we work on repairing them.

Imprinting fear and avoiding punishment are real. They have great cause and effect in all of us- every day in our lives. Refusing to acknowledge fear will not make it better or cause it to go away. Or make your relationships better. It simply doesn't work that way.

There is only one solution. You must recognize how fear is manifesting itself in your relationships, behavior, and actions. Do you take it personally when someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you get angry when a mother refuses to take her screaming child out of an event where people are trying to listen? On an airplane? Do you get upset because your girlfriend refuses to discipline her children? Ultimately, it is your fear and thus your perceptions of those events that cause your emotional disturbance. It has nothing to do with anyone else. It never does.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Your Subconcious Mind Runs the Show

What I am about to write here is completely factual, guaranteed. Only the unconscious will think that what I write here is an opinion. They will think that what I am writing is insane. And that's ok. I am not writing this for those people.

I am writing this for those that are beginning to understand that their unconscious or subconscious minds really dictate ALL of their behavior, the behavior which is not subject to control by the exterior world. This manifests itself in the now and is transmitted by your conscious self.


Think of it this way. Your subconscious mind is the President and your mouth and actions are your Press Secretary- your conscious, visible self. The one that utters whatever responses and decisions that you are able to muster up in your daily life-that press conference that goes on all day with your wife, kids, boss, friends.

Make no mistake about it. The President is in charge of you and he has always been- ever since you began acquiring belief systems and learned what fear was. But all those fears the President has are invisible. They represent weakness and so they are not disclosed to the exterior world.

The President is at the very core of all of your conscious decision making. It tells the Press Secretary what to say. The President is driven by fear and ego. And as long as the exterior world treats the Press Secretary nicely and doesn't threaten the President's fears and ego, everyone gets along nicely.

It all goes to hell in a hand basket when people begin questioning the Press Secretary. It gets really bad for the President when the Press Secretary gets caught behaving badly or lying. At that point, the President's fear and ego are in jeopardy. The President steps in for damage control. The President steps in and rationalizes, justifies, claims it is a victim, counterattacks, or does any number of insane things to avoid taking responsibility.

Why does it do that? Why do we behave that way? We are trying to escape the pain and consequences of punishment. (unconscious folks will deny all of this)

Very simply, as children we learned that punishment meant abandonment, embarrassment, exclusion, belittlement, hostility, and even beatings. How about kids subjected to ritualized abuse, incest, or rape? There is no escape in some instances. Without a spiritual cure, or a rescuing adult, why is it so hard to fathom why addicts become addicts and alcoholics become alcoholics? Isn't that the quickest means of escaping emotional fear and pain, of escaping punishment? For many, it is.

Your subconscious self says, "Whoa-we don't like this pain stuff. Make note to self, avoid punishment at all costs." And we march that belief system into the world, sometimes carrying it to the grave. And we also make another mental note. That note goes like this. "If I suffer all this emotional and physical pain at the hands of those who purportedly love me, what am I going to get from those who don't?"

The harsher the punishment, the more we avoid it. Stands to reason, doesn't it? Increasing the severity of punishment on us and placing loftier expectations-the bigger this barrier becomes.

That is why virtually all behavior is fear driven. That is why alcoholics become alcoholics and drug addicts become drug addicts. They are escaping emotional pain with the quickest and easiest solution they can find.

When you accept the existence of your fear driven subconscious mind, you begin to realize just how silly and insane a lot of our behavior is. You can take steps to remedy it. You will begin to notice just how insane the exterior world is. People trying to impose their subconscious fears on their children, their spouses, their loved ones. Conversations at work. A lot of folks like to think that they alone have decided how the world should operate and the only fears that matter are the ones- that they alone possess.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Gratitude and the Power of Now, Emotional Penicillin

Gratitude is a fascinating and rare emotion. It's cousin, humility, is found in even shorter supply. When you blend gratitude with humility, whatever your scale in life might be, you will find yourself with a powerful emotional anecdote.

I once heard a speaker say that his short term depression was brought about by an over active mind that required one precursor-which was boredom. The other three ingredients for his short term depression were not having someone to love, having nothing useful to do, and having nothing to look forward to.

What he said stopped me dead in my tracks. I did not hear another word he said for 15 minutes. Why? Because what he said was absolutely true for me. And as I recalled every recent fit of depression, I found the boredom precursor and at least two of those three ingredients absent in my life as I fought through those fits of depression.

Over the next six months, until it became easily recognizable, the same pattern repeated itself. There were additional stressers at times, a death here and there, problems with money and my exterior world, deadlines and other events that I cannot control.

What I was able to do in those 6 months became my remedy for overcoming depression. I can truthfully admit that I very rarely feel the long episodes of depression that I use to endure. They are fleeting now, unmasked quickly by a conscious mind.

Now there are dietary cures, key nutritional deficiencies for sure. Alcohol is clearly a major obstacle that brings about depression. Having taken care of those items, I focused on and found a solution.

It was gratitude and the power of now, courtesy of Eckhart Tolle. It doesn't matter what order you apply those two things. I have used gratitude for small fits of depression. For depression accompanied by extreme stressful events, I add the POWER of now. This is how I do it.

Whenever I find myself feeling fearful, or self pitying, when I am bored and missing those key ingredients that are causing my depression, I focus on gratitude. Grateful for the things that are going well in my life. Things such as a little money, shelter, clothing, food, and transportation. I am grateful for my health and my friends. I am grateful for the simplest pleasures. A television, the neighbors cat purring along side me, and I am grateful for a loving God. I also know that my PERCEPTION and WILL create my reality- which then becomes my truth. Gratitude then becomes the basis for the ultimate power of positive thinking. Things start to turn around immediately.

If I have events in my life that are causing me a great deal of fear and anxiety, I go one step further. In addition to gratitude, I focus on right NOW.

Simply stated, my mind can only conjure up fear from two sources. One is the past-whether it was mistakes I've made or just circumstances that baffled me. The other source is the future. Fear of the future, disease, death of loved ones, or perhaps my own death. Perhaps it is a job interview or something as simple as a speaking engagement or a party that I don't want to attend but must.

If I know remorse comes from my past thoughts, and anxiety comes from my thoughts of the future- I simply eliminate those two sources. I narrow my focus to the present moment. Right now, I am writing, typing, and trying to convey how this thought process works. And because that is all that I am focused on NOW...I am not thinking about something in my past that I screwed up, nor am I worrying about some future event going awry.

This works.

Gratitude and a little humility. If the depression is significant enough, I call on the Power of Now. And sooner, rather than later, I am centered and focused on the good things in my life. My anxiety and depression are lifted. Emotional penicillin for the mind.