The genius of the “And”

The genius of the “And”

If you are sad, do you feel guilty about moments of happiness? Can you have had creature comforts as a child and experienced trauma? Can you be a high achiever and be miserable?

Jim Collins and Scott Porras, two well-known business authors. wrote a book called Built to Last. Part of their premise is that our decisions are often made from the perspective of only having two choices.  They called it the “tyranny of the Or”. Binary thinking is actually helpful in some situations. If we took in all the feedback we receive, we would never make decisions. Life requires some ways to make sense of our world.

The challenge often becomes when “good or bad, right or wrong” turns into I am right, and you are wrong. It doesn’t leave room for new information, for listening to others or, more importantly, listening to ourselves. If someone’s definition of good doesn’t fit you, then are you automatically bad? What if this duality if based on false beliefs of should and shouldn’t?  Yes, I am being simplistic, and we have certainly seen variations of this play out politically and societally. If emotions need to fit into this box or that one, what happens if they can fit into two different boxes? What if you love your parents, because they are not horrible people and hate some of the things they did that negatively impacted you? What if your job doesn’t align with your values and you like the prestige?

Multiple emotions and pieces of information can coexist and alter perspective over time. Priorities shift, insights highlight landscapes differently, life changes can place you in the triangle when you always thought of yourself as more of a circle. Confusion, hurt and anger cohabitate with freedom, relief and acceptance.

When you can embrace the fact that good enough at work can create space for family and friends without indicting you as a failure, there is freedom. When your open hands are held out to receive and to give, because you know there is enough, there is relief. When self-worth is not dependent on anything other than your inner knowing and connection to yourself, there is acceptance.

How might this show up for you? If you have been expected to take the next promotion as a sign of success, you don’t have the luxury of assessing if it is what you really want. You don’t have the opportunity to step off the treadmill and feel the full extent of your exhaustion. What if you no longer must suppress all your emotions because your ability to connect with them is actually a strength rather than a weakness?

It can be quite uncomfortable to move along the continuum of color where all can be perfect even if not familiar.  Letting go of the known and moving into the place of the unknown often requires times of uncertainty. If the world of uncertainty is an anathema to you, fear and anxiety will battle with hope and anticipation. That’s okay. All emotions are okay. It is the messages and stories we have around them that make them good or bad or right or wrong.

The invitation of discovery requires that we move closer rather than resist the emotions that have become part of our way to survive rather than thrive.

Who will join you at the table?

Who will join you at the table?

What happens in your body or in your thoughts when I mention anger? How about anxiety or avoidance? What about defensiveness or compliance? Depending on your life experiences, these terms may have positive or negative connotations. In some families, anger was the only acceptable emotion. In others it was an anathema. For some compliance was essential to manage the environment and others needed to fight.

What if emotions, feelings or behaviors show up because they serve a purpose? You developed them as survival parts because they were needed in the past but are they needed now?

 What if you spent some time getting to know how they have become part of your life? What if in getting to know them, you get to choose when they are useful and when they aren’t. I learned a practice called RAIN from Tara Brach. Many of my clients have found it very helpful in understanding the purpose for survival parts.

Recognize – the first step is awareness. Going from an automatic response to curiosity creates the space for examination and greater understanding

Allow – whatever is happening to simply be. You don’t need to push it away or hold on tight. In a world where we often feel more comfortable with doing and controlling, allowing can be uncomfortable at first.

Investigate – or be curious about your experience. This is where you “invite the emotions or feelings, to the table”. Invite them in for tea or your favorite beverage. Judgement, fear, stress, anxiety, defensiveness, anger can have a seat at the table. Create a comfortable environment. You might actually prefer couches over chairs. Whatever works for you.

When you invite them in, rather than pushing them away, you deepen your ability to feel compassion for yourself. If the thought of inviting sadness into the room creates a high level of anxiety, start with anxiety. You get to spend as much or as little time together as you wish. They are used to swooping in on your behalf. By creating the space for listening, there is the opportunity to create a relationship.

Nurture the burgeoning relationship. Embrace it with compassion and kindness.

We embrace what we think of as positive or useful and resist, or reject, what we label as negative and possibly weak. Whenever I think about this dynamic, I visualize the energy it takes to hold something at bay like pushing against a brick wall or trying to hold onto something that will invariably change, as we do with a deflating balloon. Either way, there is no room for anything else. It’s a great way to disconnect from yourself. This practice helps connect your thinking self to your feeling self. Both are needed to live from the place of enough. The place where you live from a place of caring for yourself and being able to care for others from a place of groundedness.

Fake it till you make it

Fake it till you make it

Or possibly “act as if…” There are times when putting a smile on your face will lift your spirits and an energetic commitment to happiness will have you moving through the day with more grace. But… what happens when no matter how many books you read, no matter how many podcasts you listen to or how many Tic Tok videos you watch …nothing feels different?

What happens when you get stuck at the corner of imposter and syndrome? There tends to be self judgement and criticism, anxiety, and stress in that neighborhood, or cubical or office.

You wait…

For the curtains to be thrown back so everyone can see what you have feared to be true… you are not worthy of happiness or contentment or peace by being just who you are. Without validation through external achievement or without being hypervigilant in your environment.

  • Do you stop breathing at the thought of making a mistake?
  • Do you feel the need to find some fault in others for you to feel more comfortable?
  • Do you need a lot of reassurance to feel okay about what you have done or want to do?
  • Do your moods change based on what is happening externally, so your life sometimes feels like a roller coaster?
  • Do you find it difficult to say no because you want to ensure the other person doesn’t feel hurt or might think badly of you?
  • Are you a chameleon based on who you are with and how you want them to perceive you?

Our survival parts begin early in life. We develop actual neural pathways that are deepened as we repeat and reinforce these beliefs. It’s like a deep snow. It starts out pristine and beautiful until we start to interact with it. Someone drives and creates the first path. Over time, we find the groove gets deeper as we find it easier to stay in the lane because creating a new path can be dangerous. Or maybe it is like the highway you travel on every day. It feels you could do it with your eyes closed. So familiar. So familiar that sometimes you don’t remember how you got to your destination.

Changing these grooves takes time. Sometimes it requires understanding how they were developed in the first place to understand what is no longer needed. This understanding creates the space to consider the possibility that what you’ve always believed isn’t necessarily true.

  • You don’t have to be perfect.
  • You are not responsible for the emotions of others.
  • Your voice is important.
  • You can trust your choices.
  • You don’t have to minimize yourself to make others comfortable.
  • It is okay to be known.
  • Not everything is personal.

So, it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to laugh loudly. It’s okay to feel joy. It’s okay to be….

It is not always easy to do this alone. There is no shame in asking for help. Find someone, with your best interests at heart, to help you uncover what you may not be able to on your own. Coaching and Therapy are two approaches you may wish to consider.


Life in 4D

Life in 4D

Have you had the experience of watching a movie in 4D? I didn’t even know what that meant when I walked into the theater. I said a small “huh” when I sat down and saw a button on the seat that said I could turn the water on or off.  

Turns out, in case I am not the only one who didn’t know, 4D means you get to experience more than just watching the film. The chair moves and undulates synchronized with the action on the screen. A slight breeze blows in your face when you are at “higher altitudes”, and during the fight scenes invisible fists pound your back. Oh, and the spray was a slight mist in your face when it rained. 

I couldn’t help but think how we sometimes live life in 4D; how we sit back and let life happen to us; how we let external experiences define what or how we feel; how we sometimes disconnect from life and watch what is happening as if it is on a movie screen with an automated seat. 

This is not to say that life doesn’t throw punches or knock the breath out of us. Sometimes the last thing we want to do is feel. What is your numbing tool of choice? Do you prefer alcohol, television, incessant activity, invulnerability, or…………? Whatever you choose, it also prevents you from experiencing joyous color and the chance to twirl and sing or quietly savor the words of Socrates or the best trash novel ever. 

In order to feel or do any of these things, we need to be willing to do all of it. We get to experience the velocity of the water that assaults us when we don’t have an on or off button on our own seat of life. In the other moments, we get to celebrate joy, happiness or occasionally just relief. We get to cry or shout in both times of pain and joy. 



Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror

We have become so familiar with various psychological terms and labels they have become ubiquitous. We casually call people borderline, narcissistic, psychotic, or just plain crazy. Sometimes researching articles or listening to podcasts helps us understand and validate our experiences with people in our lives who have these behaviors. We get to say, “I am not alone, it’s not just me, or ‘it’s called gaslighting.”

The reality is everything exists on a continuum. Most of us have exhibited some of these traits at some point. The truth of who we are is not generally captured in the snapshot of a time when we:
didn’t feel good about ourselves,
displayed an emotion that was not equal to the situation
did something impulsively
allowed loneliness to drive us into a relationship that was not healthy
had a moment when being hit by a bus didn’t sound like the worst thing that could happen
liked being the center of attention
acted selfishly
got upset when criticized
felt we deserved to have special treatment
acted in ways that didn’t make sense to others

Let’s explore someone who is further on the narcissist tendency scale.

Please remember that all these reflections are generalities. People are complex.

Someone with narcissistic tendencies (NT for ease) looks at the world through a mirror. They are always at the center of that mirror, but your life only exists on the edges of that same mirror. You don’t get to have your own life. The light only shines on you when NTs choose to invite you in. If you are no longer useful, the mirror moves away and the light dims. You feel the absence. You want the light back because it feels good when your insecurities and doubts fade under the warmth of that glow again. You both meet a need the other one has.

NT’s often have big personalities. When you are with them you feel either special or invisible. They tend to be high achievers, so they appear to offer security. They can also be quietly cruel. They may accuse you of the very things you fear might be true about yourself. When they criticize, you may feel it is because they simply want you to be better. Or have you believe they love you despite your flaws. Remember when this happens, they are not seeing you. You are a reflection that needs to be improved in their eyes or a way to keep you in your place.

As a child you learned quickly what your NT parent(s) needed. You modified who you were to try to gain their love. Maybe you needed to be their little star or trophy. Maybe you needed to be quiet and ensure you didn’t take any attention away from them. If you were unable to excel in anything they found of value, you learned to be invisible. If your fight response played a big role in being a Survival Part, (thank you Janina Fisher for the wonderful term) you may have been rebellious or felt that negative attention was better than no attention. All these beliefs led you to develop internal voices that have you questioning your worth.

It may sound dramatic, but the truth is, survival was at stake, so you did whatever you needed to do to get to where you are now. If you had a roof over your head, food on the table, clothes in the closet and heat in the house you may tend to dismiss the impact. There are no visible scars. It doesn’t mean the negative emotional impact wasn’t there, it merely means you didn’t have these other factors with which you needed to contend.

These beliefs can impact your adult life as you continue to defend against the fear that the false beliefs are true. Your Survival Parts will be fully present even when you no longer need them. They have probably served you well in many ways, the question is, are they serving you now? How might they be hindering you in life, in relationships, in work? Awareness is the first step toward possible change. If you are interested in taking next steps, please find someone who can walk alongside you as you move toward living more fully from your place of truth.




Four Letter Word for Discomfort

Four Letter Word for Discomfort

I was in bed thinking about how life gives us so many opportunities to grow. Also, how in the midst of it all we often have no idea what we are supposed to be learning.

Sometimes it feels like a crossword puzzle. Some answers are obvious. Others not so much. We read the clue and nothing seems to fit. We check our dictionary, call a friend, call another friend,  search the internet,  pray, and then possibly begin to think “they” must have made a mistake because there is no answer. We have finally caught the powers that be in a cosmic error.

Then I step back and acknowledge that it might be something I can’t see. Maybe I’m too close to it or trying too hard. Maybe it means I don’t know right now….I can’t see the light at the end of that proverbial tunnel….I must surrender to the moment….I must wait for the answer to be revealed…

Maybe it is – we live in a broken world and it is our response rather than the answer that determines how we move forward….because some things make no sense. Maybe it is wait instead of pain.

We have to sit with the pain to find our way forward. We may not sit peacefully. We may choose to box, pinch, kick, run away from, or deny the pain but it waits for us. It waits for our acknowledgment and for us to decide what relationship we choose to have with it.

In this place we can find faith and hope. If we choose to cling to nothing more than this, we choose to move toward healing. Maybe it’s not the pain that hurts, it’s the wait.

Tell me about the times you have had to wait and what it revealed. Maybe you are still waiting. I would love to hear how you are doing.