Saturday, November 24, 2018

It Was The Water, Not The Soil: The Benevolence of Receptivity

Thinking on my last blog, and how it touched on the topic of loving people the way they need it in order to build connection, understanding, and intimacy... in this blog I want to touch on the opposite side of the issue: receiving. And this is for you and all people in your life who are struggling to have their needs for love, care, and connection met at this point in time even when it seems we are all trying our hardest.

Even when people give us love in forms we are not most apt to receive them, there is a love inherent in knowing that they are trying to love us the way they best know how. Knowing that they are doing their best in this way leads to instant reception of love in the form of forgiveness, appreciation, and humble acceptance. 

This doesn't dismiss your deeper needs in how you best receive love, and this isn't a critical voice saying, "You're just not receptive enough to other's love, so be grateful." It's simply acknowledging the benevolence and understanding that others mean well, even if they cannot deliver perfectly. It is forgiveness in the form of understanding that they are doing their best to accommodate you when you have walked into the "store of their heart" for something they either don't carry yet, or are still waiting to stock. Perhaps the manager is just tending to other things momentarily.

When expect people to be anywhere other than where they are, and other people expect you to be somewhere you're not, each of us walks away from the "stores" of each others hearts disappointed. But, if we can build the understanding that the attempt to supply and help with what is available in that "store" is in fact an effort of love, we can accept their generosity even if it is not what we technically need.

So many people end up disappointed that others cannot provide what they need either because of where they are in their life, or who they inherently are as a person. They walk away from the store disappointed that it does not carry what they want, when they either need to make do with what that person's heart store supplies, learn how to order something for their own supply, or visit another's "heart store". (I know it's a little strange to refer to hearts as stores since it involves "money" and "transaction"... but instead, think of it as a kind of store where love is the currency, and needs are the items, and everything is given and accepted freely.)

There is a patient acceptance, and reception of the love that is available to you, when you accept people for where they are and what their "heart store" carries. It's ok to feel upset or angry that they don't carry that thing, or don't carry it yet... especially if these are people you are close to, love, and care about! It's natural, especially if you feel that you carry that item in your own "heart store". Don't suppress your emotions, and instead seek to understand them as signals to understand yourself more deeply. But if you can embrace emotional patience through the recognition of love, care, and support in the ways their heart store can provide it, you will sense the emotion behind the action. And that alone leads to a deep receptivity and appreciation of their love and care in ways that were previously inaccessible to you. There is also always the patience that they may grow to carry that item within their "heart store" as well.

This reception becomes like the moistness of the soil that allows nutrients to come up through our roots. It is not the nutrition itself, but awakens the ability for absorption. And so, it was the water, not the soil.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Understanding: Love As A Felt Answer

I once got into an argument with a family member about the topic of understanding. This family member had a sister who was gay. Their mother had a very hard time accepting this as a reality of the sister. She couldn't accept it, because she couldn't understand it. One day, the mother decided to come into the sister's space, and take down her posters that were homosexually oriented, throw away her things, etc. Having had enough of the torment, the sister finally stood up to the mother. She stood up for herself. And, the mother, still not understanding, but wanting to maintain connection with her daughter, finally let well enough alone.

As we discussed the idea of understanding, my family member came to the conclusion that you don't need to understand someone to connect with them. This may be true on a more physical and intellectual level... we can talk to people we don't understand and therefore maintain what we think of as "connection", or we can live in the same space as someone and on a physical level maintain what we think of as "connection"... but in a way, I posed the idea to this family member that this was not true connection. To some degree, sure... we are sharing space, perhaps intellectually, mentally, physically... but, sometimes we forget that the heart of connection is emotional. Connection that is not based in understanding is transactional.

When we cannot understand something, we are not emotionally connected with that thing. We cannot perceive it as part of ourselves, or how we're the same as that thing. That thing which we do not understand we cannot take into us as a part of ourselves. In order to truly love someone or something, we must acknowledge that person or thing as something within us. What does this mean? If we take something as a part of ourselves, we must first be connected to do that. That connection is understanding. Connection, and therefore love, is to take it within us to caretake, nurture, hold space for, and understand.

We have sometimes a vast misunderstanding of the nature of love in our world. People are raised with different familial, social, and cultural beliefs that give rise to our "concept" of love. Often times, these concepts of love are abstract in nature and we forget the feeling love. We hear all the time that love is an answer, but we often forget it is a felt answer.

Emotions and healing are like water, and the nature of love should flow similarly as a felt experience. The resolution to all our difficulties in life occurs on a feeling level. When we heal, so does the world around us. Our connections, relationships, finances, sex, everything. And when others around us heal, it brings us both into a state of understanding and love that is a felt answer.

In this way, our individual experiences in our early lives also inform the ways in which we can feel and receive love from others, as well as our own abilities to give love. But because we have this idea of what love is, and "love" is such a general word meaning different things to different people, we have the potential to project our ideas of love onto others. What does this mean?

We have forgotten the meaning of true love. True love as a felt answer and experience.

We need to learn that connection is the condition of love. And that a huge part of that connection is understanding. It is the kind of understanding that fosters compassion.

If we love a fish, we may try to love that fish by hugging them. But what happens? The fish dies without water! We felt love for the fish, but we could not perceive that the reality of the fish is that hugging it can kill it. We would need to understand that fish and it's individual needs to make it feel loved the way it needs to feel loved.

Parents at times can traumatize children, unintentionally, this way. Children are unique, individual beings with their own goals, desires, needs, wants, etc. But when parents project their ideas of love onto them, they know their parents love them, but they become really confused why they can't actually feel that love. Or why they grow up with a feeling of emotional starvation. We can know people love us, but the deep knowledge that people love us comes from our ability to feel and perceive that love. Whether this disconnection was on a minor level (such as a simple misperception by the parent of a child's needs) or major level (deliberate abuse or neglect of a child's needs), so many of us grow up with the shame that we cannot receive love in the ways it mattered for us. We perhaps even adopted the idea that because we could not receive it, we were not worthy of it.

We cannot perceive that love, attachment, care, and connection from others in our lives because we have not felt worthy enough within ourselves to be loved in such a way to actually see that others are attached to and care about us. If we believe we aren't worthy of love, happiness, belonging, care, and connection... we won't be able to receive it even when it's present because we cannot see it as true. Because of this, we also cannot caretake our connections with others. Our inherent disconnect with ourselves mirrors onto our disconnect with other people and our struggle to understand their own emotion spaces give to them the ways they need it.

To receive love, ask others to help you on your journey as perceiving yourself as valuable and worthy of happiness, care, and connection. Know your needs, and allow yourself and others to caretake and love them as such.

To love someone, become an expert on their needs, their personal individual experiences and being as a whole. Come to understand them, deeply, to connect with them. Connection is not only an aspect of true love, it is the condition of it. We love that which we are connected to, and that connection is a great warmth.

Ask yourself today: What are ways that I can actually feel myself feeling loved by myself or other people, and how do I go about creating this in my life?

And ask yourself today: What are ways that I can actually feel myself feeling love by giving to other people, and how do I go about sharing this in my life?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Sky High: The Air of Independence, It’s Benefits, and It’s Detriments

The empowering philosophy that you can create your own reality, and that you can live happily regardless of your surroundings... are both ideas that can be immensely beneficial. I would say that to an extent, we all need this self-empowered momentum to feel an understanding of the positive states we want in life. When we feel empowered in ourselves, we feel ready to take on the world, able to deal with the stresses in life, more objective, and confident in the steps we take. We begin to understand, "Wow, I really do have the power to influence how I feel and interact in the world because I can be a strong, independent individual." We do not feel powerless to our emotions, and life feels lighter and easier.

It feels amazing to people who've felt helpless, powerless, or anxious to perceive oneself grounded enough to be an individual and positively focusing in an independent atmosphere. You feel the ability to care about yourself more than anyone, and even the ability to stop caring what people think. It is a positive momentum... an extent.

Why do I say this? I can attest to both the benefits and detriments of the positive focused, independent, "everything you need is inside you" philosophy. This is because I can see the very reason anyone is drawn to this philosophy. Anyone who's turned to these empowering philosophies did not have anyone else there to offer them the love, connection, security, and care they so badly needed in their life.... that they decided to become everything for themselves. We felt so helpless and powerless to trusting others, cultivating connection, and finding understanding that we decided the only way we could obtain those things was by becoming empowered enough in ourselves.

This is where positive focus and empowered independence can become a true issue. It feels so good to be empowered, that why would anyone ever look back? Why deal with negative emotion when you can create something better, or just focus better in the situation you're in?

Focused Quotes. QuotesGram

We are human and naturally want to feel good. When a philosophy provides that for us, we can resort to it as a way of being.

Because it feels good, positive focus can convince us that it is the way we should live our life, in every second, every interaction...

It is dangerous in this way, because at some point, positive focus can be used to ignore real issues in your life, real traumas, and go into denial. Taken too far, it can blind us from the traumas we have and truly addressing them. It can blind us from changes we need to make. It can blind us from feelings we need to accept and understand. We mistake positive focus for loving ourselves, when a huge part of loving ourselves is acknowledging the totality of who we are and what we feel.

Because we cannot acknowledge the realities within ourselves, we also don't fully recognize or validate them in others. We become insensitive, because we had to do so with ourselves since no one else was willing to be sensitive or empathetic with us. We lose the ability to see, feel into, and understand other people... desperately wanting it for ourselves on some level, too. Or, we try to obtain connection by becoming people-pleasers, trying to be good so people like us, doing what we've learned was acceptable or right to guarantee connection in any way we can. We abandoned ourselves at some point. Deep down, the person trapped in the "positive focus loop" is really afraid. Afraid of their own emotions, and fear of other people's emotions because we experienced boundary violations whether it was through neglect, enmeshment, withdrawal, or invalidation. We don't trust others with ourselves, and we don't trust ourselves with others because we never could. This causes a huge rift between us and other people. We feel worlds apart from them. It is an epidemic.

What happens? At some point you can focus as positively all you want, but it does not take away from the other realities of who you are. Many people experience a reality crash because of this. Being that so many of us were driven to these philosophies from lack, we still experience the helplessness, powerlessness.... and it is the helplessness and powerlessness of feeling completely alone in our realities. Isolated.

What's more? Since who we are is reflected in our life, we will continue to create these isolating experiences and lack of connection through the people we interact with, the places we live, where we work, etc. It looks like everyone around you having a connection that you don't, even though they may not be deeply connected either. We see the lack of understanding and connection mirrored by people in our reality who are not ready for the depth of it.

The loneliness epidemic: We're more connected than ever ...

You can use positive focus as a means of loving yourself in a way that you can become more embracing to your total self, but some of us continue down the positive focus train without turning back our hand to our wounds. This manifested in my own life by learning how to do everything for myself. Traumas and a lack of secure connection or attachment led to an "air of independence" where I came to rely on myself in many ways that I could not on others. You learn to do almost everything yourself, and because of that... in a very beautiful way, you can change your life. But, at some point you learn that independent self-sufficiency is not the end-goal. You learn that it's important to address your deeper emotions of fear, anger, helplessness, powerlessness, loss, grief... And, as a result, you learn the innate connection between you and other people. You learn that all humans struggle with the same things, and there is a profound compassion for humanity, which includes you.

To give good news, if you are feeling and understanding this rift between you and others, it means you are on the horizon of deeper self-understanding, awakening, and connection with yourself that will soon be mirrored back to you. Right now, you may be looking at the evidence, manifestation, or reflection of your previous self that had not developed this awareness in the people, places, or things which which you interact. The gates of awakening are often suffering. It may be a rocky road as it requires confronting what prevents you from being present with, holding space for, and accepting emotions within yourself and others. And the opposite... trusting others with yourself. But one thing is certain:

Finding your way back to the security and trust of connection will lead to warm acceptance, understanding, fluidity, freedom, inspiration, and many other things.

The time has come for some of us in the self-help movement to stop relying solely on ourselves, positive focus, and self-sufficiency. Although beneficial to an extent, in excess we block ourselves from our deeper feelings, truths, and realities. And it is by allowing these aspects of ourselves to exist, be heard, and understood, that we foster true connection with ourselves and others. When we unite the truths of who we are, we know the answers right for us. We know the changes we need to make. We feel ourselves within others, and others within ourselves. We ultimately do not connect with people over similar interests, styles, or appearances... but because we are able to take them as a part of ourselves and love them as ourselves. Love is beyond reason. Connection is felt, and felt connection involves emotional acceptance and understanding. The time has come not for dependence or independence... but interdependence.

Healing for a Broken Heart: Connection not Perfection

We feel like water when the love has thawed the frozen ice of fear. This is heartfelt connection. This is compassion.

I sense much more on this topic to come.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

You Are More Than You Do (The Metaphor of the Seed)

Yesterday, I woke up with a pit in my stomach. As so happens when the demands of daily life are in contradiction to our needs for self-care and reflection during times of transformation. The shame arises, the shame of... I'm a bad worker or student, I'm not doing enough/being enough/working enough. These thoughts can cause us to really feel like we're losing control, and cause great anxiety... even when we're doing just fine. And even if we know everything will turn out ok. But when did this judgement and pressure on ourselves begin?

When we were children, babies, we were entirely helpless to the world and our parents. We are born dependent on our parents for the earliest years of our lives, and would die without them. During this time, we cannot do much of anything. The love we needed was not displaced onto any external things, and nothing was expected of us in order to deserve love. We were just… loved. But, soon enough, the world required us to grow.

I want you to feel with me for a second. Imagine yourself now, all the things you feel in your current life. Then, remember how you felt and perceived the world as a child. Do you remember the softness of it? How malleable, and at times, vulnerable, it was? Think about how many hours there are in a day to experience emotions, how many experiences occur that teach us certain meanings and understandings of the world. Not always good. The emotional distance, although you are living in the same body as that child did, is immense. 

Adults, and parents, often treat children from a place where they cannot truly feel and understand them because of this emotional distance. They cannot vividly recall how the things they say or do feel to children, even when they think they’re doing the right thing. They cannot truly understand, because at some point, they went through the same thing that we do… we are distanced from ourselves by people and external environments telling us what makes us lovable or not lovable, good or bad, right or wrong. We were all babies at one point in our lives. But we become a collection of experiences that inform how we act, and because it is in our nature to want happiness, love, and belonging… the actions we take, and things we try to do are always us trying to obtain happiness, love, belonging, connection, etc. And because the actions we take to try and obtain these feel-good states are informed by our childhood, we learn that there are certain ways to be or act which will get us love.

But true love, of self, of other people transcends this. It is the full acceptance of self, presence with it, and loving care for every aspect, every experience, and every emotion it experiences. It is a great softening to ourselves and others when we experience this type of love. It is a coming back to the state when we were loved because we simply “were", and not because we “did".

Although there are many important branches to explore in this very simple dynamic I have outlined, I want to talk about one specifically.

It is the displacement of our worth onto productivity. 

How to Write a Cause and Effect Essay That Gets You an A+

Being productive takes the places of where our self-worth should be. While actions can indeed build self-worth when they are taken from an authentic feel-good state, since we have learned that only certain things earn us love, our worth becomes displaced by our ability to meet these expectations and thus feel loved. But true self-worth is more like the process of growing a flower. I'm going to quote (or possibly re-quote here) a very important perspective by W. Timothy Gallwey:

"When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as "rootless and stemless." We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, ,we don't condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is." 

At all times, we are perfect exactly as we are, as we continue to bloom. And blooming at times is a painful process, blooming always causes us to become aware of new parts of ourselves to understand, transform, and love... often through times of intense transformation. We must recognize ourselves beautiful in the process of blooming itself, allowing it to occur naturally and reach higher levels of love for ourselves and all people. We must love the parts of us that are so afraid, ashamed, hurt, etc. when and how they appear in order to truly allow transformation.

In using the metaphor of the rose, I would ask you to think about nature for a moment. Is a plant judged as right or wrong because of how it grows? Are any things in the natural world bad or wrong because of the way they innately are? Nature just flows, it lives, it moves, it goes after needs, it dies. Animals do not worry about there being water when there isn't, try to make water appear, try to become water themselves... they simply go find it it. Nature doesn't worry about fulfilling needs or taking care of itself in opposition to an outside world, the way we often do with productivity.

1. Listen to yourself truthfully and deeply. Prove yourself that you're there for yourself.

This does not just go for your productivity, but for every aspect of your life. Once you start to prove to yourself that you are willing to listen to your emotions, and what you really need, you prove to yourself that you're there for yourself. Make a commitment to listen to and love yourself no matter what comes up. This can cause anxiety in the beginning, because we often lead busy lives. We are used to abandoning ourselves individually to acquire outside validation and gain other's positive perception of ourselves. And we think, but if I don't then.... Or, but I still have to...

But you must listen to yourself first, and choose to listen to yourself first. You will carry out the energy of the particular activities that "must" be done once you're in a better state anyway, and if they are authentic to what you want to create, do, or make, then they will flow naturally as they feel good to do. Committing to self-love and caring for yourself is not easy. And at times, once people have committed to loving themselves in a true way, and started to feel a true sense of worth, it has required them to make drastic changes in their lives as they start to uncover their own inner light and authenticity. But if you plan to lead a fulfilling life one day, why not begin today? The future is made in the moment.

2. Nourish the seed at every stage of development.

When you begin to listen to yourself, start to give yourself the love you need, and ask others to meet the needs for you that you cannot meet yourself. Many people don't realize that others are as much a part of this process as we are, and relying on other people is something we need to relearn as ok. People rely on and help each other, and being interdependent and accepting of one another is a basic human need. We must not only nourish ourselves, but feel nourished in our connected bonds with others through good and bad times.

What does the part of you calling your attention away from what you've associated with "productivity" really want or need right now? What does this aspect of yourself need to feel loved as it is. Be honest with yourself.

3. Offer true presence with yourself.

If you approach the aspect of yourself that feels it must be or do certain things to feel productive and therefore loved with the attitude "Ok, I'll be present with you until you feel better." you are not truly being present with it. Anytime the phrase "I will be present with you so that....", no matter the end to that sentence, it is not true presence. True presence is developed both out of the willingness to feel your emotions, and the willingness to love them unconditionally, no matter how often or how long they stay.

If your emotion, or part of yourself really needs true presence, but you are only offering it so that you can feel better, you keep yourself stuck. That part can't feel you really being there for it, and thus does not shift, because it knows that it is only doing so with the intention or idea of doing so to "move on and get over with it". We do this to ourselves as well as other people.

It's the same with productivity. You can't truly take a vacation and be stressed the whole time, because some part of you never went on it! In a way, be willing to let yourself relax and need what you need completely. Only then, will you find actual recuperation and make space toward inspired action, and therefore, authentic productivity.

4. Face your shame.

Face the shame of what you believe will be a consequence as a result of doing or not doing a certain thing. Question that shame or guilt, and when the question of "should" comes up, ask yourself "Why should I?"

Be honest with yourself about where this shame comes from, and what exactly you are trying to fill in the void where a sense of innate worth is supposed to be.

5. Practice inspired action.

Practice feeling an inspired energy, which is truly productive, and notice when it differs from the worth you gain by "completing" or "doing" things. I have often said: Authenticity is the reward of loving action. Inauthenticity is action then the award of love. When we do the things we love as a career then it does not feel like "work". It does not require effort and struggle because we innately want to and are inspired to do them.

I hope this blog has lightened life for any of you struggling with these ideas (which so many of us are). Remember, you are love, loved, and loving.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Why

It's happening again.... The same as my many previous schools, places I've gone, people I've lived with... And I'm stuck again in the why. I find it incredible that many times that I'm inspired to write that it's from a place of struggle. But this time it's a small-big feeling, a little child swaying on a swing so large. It shouldn't be this hard... that much I know. But for me at least, it is, and so it is.

It's the same feeling... different, left out, set apart. Sometimes I feel like I've lived a good part of my life in my own bubble. I didn't grow up around many kids, and so I never understood how people my age thought or interacted. I still don't really. It's not social anxiety... Many times I'm fine with people, it's more that the waterfall of weirdness I bring forth is probably awkward. I think some people are more absorbed into the bubble we call society. The with people... the cued in.

A part of me thinks, "Be wierd, freak people out, because you're only truly living when you're living honestly." There's nothing more painful than feeling like you have to hide or change who you are. But there's nothing more terrifying that feeling isolated and alone. I almost feel set up that these two needs would be forever at war.

The cycle that has begun to repeat again is different this time... Because this is the time that I realize it's happening again. And because it's happening again... this time, I have the opportunity to truthfully ask myself why.

Is because the food I eat is different?
Why does my voice drown out in a conversation?
Is my attempt at kindness a hindrance?
Am I annoying?
Is it because I look calm when I'm anxious?
Because I'm too chill to be upset or hurt?
Because trying to understand the strange functioning of weird people's lives is too inconvenient?

I know others have talked about me, I know they probably will in the future. A part of me thinks, "Let them talk. You can't control it anyway." Surfaces and skins and tinted shades of reality is all it is. Just perspectives, even if they're not true. People aren't bad, or mean, or ill-willed... they are misinformed. On some level, I desperately wish I knew why it was so hard to connect. I honestly try, I do.

If we don't connect, I could leave it at that...
But I want to be someone who can connect with anyone. Is the why the why am I not?

Is it even because I think like this? Deeply?
Because I feel like this? Deeply?

I'm too deep. Too serious... too thinking. But I know that. And I don't care because I like that... and I don't want to change. I love living my life on the edge of the deep end. But why is it so lonely here?

Is the why the why?

Today I'm only asking myself questions. I feel a dawn of transformation. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm beginning to trust the feet that pull me one step in front of the other.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Tree That Grows Alone (Hyper-Responsibility and It's Relationship with Isolation)

The nature of our suffering is often relational. That is, the majority of the painful things we experience would not exist without having had an interaction with another person or being. With some traumas, it's easy to see the exact cause. For example, the cause of a person's trigger may be apparent when someone has had an incoming boundary violation, like sexual or physical abuse. But other times, trauma is more about things that did not happen, that we actually needed to happen. The things that were not done or said.

Isolation and early attachment trauma are examples of the latter. And, I honestly feel like it's with these traumas that it becomes difficult to pinpoint what exactly hurt so bad, because... well... while we can find some singular events that involve neglect, a lot of isolation trauma is purely emotional in nature. Because of this, it involves abstract things and is more of a "developed experience" than a single event.

I want to talk about a very covert and specific coping mechanism in relation to isolation and attachment trauma that was both enlightening and disheartening to recently learn about.

Responsibility, most would agree, is generally a good thing. It can be empowering to learn that through responsibility, we have control over our own thoughts and emotions. Taking responsibility indicates self-awareness, respect and compassion for others, and a willingness to own the creation of your experiences. But how can this be a problem?

Sometimes this "taking responsibility" is in fact a hyper-responsibility complex because we feel that we cannot rely on other people emotionally. We had a lack of emotional mirroring in our childhood, or were even blamed for presenting or talking about our emotions. This probably made us angry because we felt abandoned emotionally due to the underlying hurt of being invalidated. We felt like this person didn't even care about our own experiences or feelings, but when we expressed that anger, that too was invalidated.

As a result, we began to feel ashamed and retreat into ourselves. We direct what happened inward, and began to feel only as good as others reacted to us. We determined that it's our fault or that we were wrong to feel the way we did, and regardless if the other person did or said something hurtful. And the reasons we come to this conclusion can be various (which may differ person to person):
  • The reality of what we experienced or went through was so painful or scary that we couldn't integrate it into our current reality.
  • On a biological level, when we are young, we haven't fully developed a sense of self separate from our parents. 
  • It is less painful to blame ourselves than to believe someone in our lives lacked in loving action or perception. 
  • It may literally have been unsafe (emotionally or physically) to place responsibility where it was due and so we blame ourselves instead. 
  • The only way to secure connection with this person or these people was to become hyper-responsible.

In this dynamic you develop the world view that not only are your feelings unimportant, but that they actually hurt others. Your authentic expression is instead explained as your own lack of compassion or consideration from others, because telling someone how you felt or how something affected you is called judgmental or rude. As a result, you learned that it was important to be compassionate and present to others, but that you don't deserve compassion or presence from them. You stopped talking about how you felt and developed the idea that not only are your emotions to be dealt with on your own, but that even if someone had done something hurtful, you had to deal with it and take responsibility alone. We learned that we had to "move on and deal with it." Giving up on yourself was the only means by which you could still feel connection, or feel valued. Congratulations! You have successfully become a self-sacrificer! (Jk... well, not really.)

Emotional hyper-responsibility is a coping mechanism developed in childhood, and even nurtured or approved of in our current society. We are considered commendable for being such a responsible person, or such a good person for being open-hearted, when it is in fact passive and codependent behavior. It keeps us in the light of being "good," but it's not always because you are maliciously trying to manipulate others into thinking you're good (although it certainly can happen). A lot of the time, you are simply afraid of being punished because of how you were originally treated when you shared your authentic experiences.

It can be empowering to learn that we have control over our own thoughts and emotions, our reality. It can be empowering to take responsibility. But emotional hyper-responsibility is in fact our way of trying to be brave, strong, or independent when deep down we really feel horribly lonely and desperate for connection and understanding. At some point, the energy of being a hyper-responsible perfectionist wears out because of the despair and need for connection that is at your core. It is inevitable that you will experience a kind of crash and burn when it is exposed within you that your motivations are from a deep lack. The drawbacks to the coping mechanism will become evident and you may feel triggered back into a combination of shame and anger because you simply cannot do it anymore. You've been driven to the point that change is no longer a choice. Transformation is necessary to continue living a good life. You will have to face that shame and anger, and learn to place responsibility where it's due. Emotional hyper-responsibility also robs other people of the opportunity to develop and learn, and you will need to develop healthier relationships. Without being open and real with other people, you aren't giving them the opportunity to fully embrace, understand, and love you for who you are.

Ironically, while I know that this post has been written in part to help others and share something that's been illuminated within me, a part of me has also written it as a part of my own hyper-responsibility complex. I'm a naturally curious and serious person and I get frustrated when I can't understand something be it in a situation, within myself, or another person. Since I struggle with the exact circumstances described above (my own life experiences are an inspiration for my writing and art), the part of me that is still obsessed with hyper-responsibility is constantly evaluating myself, my life, and my psyche to make sure that I'm "doing it right." Thus, this blog. While I felt so much of the damage I've felt because of this kick up when writing, I also laugh a little at it all.

So, what do you do? How can we change hyper-responsible tendencies so that you take responsibility for what is only your part, and develop true connection with people who are accountable and empathetic? The questions and ideas below are food for thought, but remember to always answer questions internally. Only you will ultimately know the answer, and just because I mention one reason or another for a coping mechanism, it doesn't mean they are your reasons.

1. What am I trying to avoid by using hyper-responsibility? What would be so bad if the other person was responsible?

This may have to do with the core trauma surrounding your emotions and responsibility, or an entirely new idea you've developed over time about being hyper-responsible. Are you afraid you will suffer condemnation rejection if you tell someone how you feel? Are you afraid of telling the truth about something they did because you will be punished? Are you so afraid of loosing connection that you don't feel you have a choice (which, on the contrary, actually makes you feel alone in your reality)? Am I using hyper-responsibility to punish myself because deep down I feel guilty? Do I get to avoid feeling ashamed of myself if I just "buck up" and take responsibility?

I know... it's not easy. But a lot of the time we use hyper-responsibility to avoid the guilt and shame surrounding expressing what we feel to others. By becoming aware of what we are trying to avoid by being hyper-responsible, we can address that trauma directly by comforting and then re-evaluating these fears. We can find proof that helps to ease our fears about connecting with others in an honest way, and that taking responsibility for only our part will actually improve our relationships.

2. What do I get out of hyper-responsibility?

We don't engage in a coping mechanism unless we get something out of it. Is it the feeling that you are being brave, good, or strong, by dealing with things alone? Are you addicted to the idea of being the sensible hero that takes things upon themselves? Is it because it gives you a sense of control over your reality because it's better to blame yourself than feel powerless? Do I feel like I get to make up for something by taking hyper-responsibility?

Naturally, when we are able to let go of what we think we are getting out of being hyper-responsible, we free ourselves to see a larger picture and establish better relationships.

3. Set boundaries.

Now... this won't be easy. I was recently listening to a podcast by the psychologist Ross Rosenburg about taking steps out of codependency. He talks about how psychologists should give clients a Surgeon General's Warning for the first steps out of codependency because it is just that tough. He notes that when you first begin to set boundaries, it is NOT easy. Even the idea of setting a boundary may send you into extreme fear, anxiety, or depression. People (both those who really love you, and those who don't) will get very angry. You will feel resentful after you realize just how badly you've been affected by codependency, and it may be difficult to manage the onslaught.

Long story short, it is not an easy stage of transformation. But setting boundaries will be one of the first steps in setting yourself free to live a better life.

4. Find people in your life, or develop new relationships with which you can authentically share your experiences without fear of being put down. True connection and healthy relationships are symbiotic. That is, you meet each other's needs in a way that neither person has to give something up. Being heard and understood, as well as hearing and understanding the other is absolutely crucial to true intimacy.

5. As hard as it sounds, see if there is the opportunity for repair in the relationships you are in currently by allowing others the opportunity to become aware of how you feel, and own up to their actions. You may be surprised when you hear their point of view on the relationship, too. It's crazy how lot of intense conflict can result out of pure misunderstanding, at which point difficulties can be dissipated and cleared.

6. Become aware of what narcissistic-codependent relationships look like, and avoid interacting with people who trigger your tendency to take hyper-responsibility.

6. Practice developing trust within yourself and with other people.

One reason a person may take hyper-responsibility is because they need to feel a sense of control. It is a safety issue. They have been betrayed time and time again. They don't trust the people around them, the world, or the universal flow. A friend and I recently were talking about this inability to trust others and why, even when we are being open and are comfortable with people we identify as close friends, there is still a lack of deep trust. It's important to understand that trust and connection are mentalities. No physical action can actually "make you trust," it is a practice that we must continually exercise within ourselves so that we are open and receptive to others, and they to us. Practice trust within yourself and with other people by using meditations, visualizations, or any other practice that brings your closer together in love.

I find that closing my eyes makes me anxious at times of meditation. If this is the case for you, don't do it! There isn't a right or wrong way to meditate. Your mind is a creative tool. Use it in ways that are meditative to you. It could be the simple power of focus, such as writing down what trust feels like to you. Even cleaning could be meditative. Or when you are in a room with a friend, imagining your hearts connecting with a beautiful green fabric between them. Imagine you both being open to each other and the energy flowing seamlessly. Focus on the ways you already trust someone or people, and if it feels safe, hugging them. Imagine them holding your hand. Or better, be brave enough to ask them to meet that need for trust and connection in real life. There are many ways to do this.

7. Remember the serenity prayer.

This is a great little piece of wisdom for anyone who's seeking help with letting go of the impulse to control, and easing self-blame. It has stuck with me since I first learned about it as a child:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Practice this by really being honest with yourself about what you can and can't change in your life, using the wisdom within you to know the difference. When you let go of a need to control what you can't change (accept the things you cannot change), you also let go of responsibility for things that are not yours and thereby allow yourself to create a better life by developing new and healthy relationships or relationship dynamics (changing the things you can).

8. Let yourself grieve, then let yourself love. Remember that you are not alone.

It is heartbreaking to realize that you have felt alone for so long due to this relationship dynamic. Especially as a young child, we just couldn't understand why people would be so hurtful. It is natural to feel sad that you couldn't get the validation, sensitivity, or understanding that you needed... the connection that you needed. When you feel grief, embrace it and acknowledge that it's normal to feel that way because you are grieving the initial lack or loss of connection.

Simultaneously, (and when it feels right) allow yourself to focus on the idea that you don't have to hold everything in, and you're not alone. Everyone has feelings, and healing together with others can be a great blessing. Allow the Universe (or whatever you believe in) to comfort and hold you. After we have given ourselves compassion, and connected with others in an empathic and compassionate way, it's easier to then step into the awareness that it is hurt people who hurt people. People treat others the way they have been treated... and the way they treat themselves. Knowing this makes it easier to forgive. 

I'm searching for these opportunities myself, and I hope this could relate to some of you. I hope it will help you in your own lives to develop true connection with others. Peace.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Rainfall's Misty Ponds (Suffering, Acceptance, and The Role Compassion)

For a long time, self-love and positive focus have been the hallmarks of a spiritual, awakened, and happy life. And for good reason. There are amazing stories of people getting back on their feet after periods of depression and bouts of anxiety. It is influential, powerful, and transforming to realize that Love is the Truth of the universe.

Ironically, it is in the wake of these realizations, we understand the role that suffering plays. When we can see clearly enough through the eyes of love, suffering is a beautiful gift. It is suffering that gives such deep understanding of love. It might be confusing, and ironic, to look at suffering as beautiful... After all, when we are in our suffering, the last thing we want to hear is it's benefits. In the same way, when we have experienced devastation or loss, we do not want to hear of it's potential benefits. This feels like abuse, and unloving. We look at the universe as if it's punishing us out of "goodness" which makes us feel like we can't trust it and it's not on our side. It's similar to when someone does something that hurts us only to say, "It's for your own good." This kind of abuse from others or self-abuse can be confusing especially when we start to confuse love with things that punish and hurt us.

Simultaneously, we do not want to hear from other's to "pull ourselves together" or that we "just need to love ourselves" or that we "just need to empower ourselves". In our lowest of low, these just deepen the chasm within us. If we hate ourselves, we hate ourselves more for feeling powerless and incapable to complete these tasks. Our self-hate makes us see ourselves as less because we're not feeling that self-love.

It's time for us to understand that universal understanding and Truth can be used in different ways. When we are in our pain, we are stunted. It makes us emotionally, and often mentally, blind to the highest and loving perspectives. So maybe, the question is not about how we can get ourselves to the highest of perspectives. It's not a "race" or "more spiritual" to be or feel a certain way. Maybe the question is, what is loving from where I am right now? What is the next loving step? Or, if pertaining to a fellow human being, what is most loving to this person's current reality?

An answer to these grueling times might be... Love is gentle. Love is soft, and love really cares for you, always and forever. Love doesn't want you to suffer.

Love can think that suffering is beautiful, and love can also not want you to suffer! This is love because love... takes many forms. We might call the first acceptance love, and the second compassion love.

If you continue to develop oneness you experience only light and love, this much is true. That is the whole of all things. Darkness is only the lack of light, not a real and separate thing. It is a perspective, and just as valid, just not the ultimate truth of our being. I've been recently reading A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson, and there's a part of it I love:

"'The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.' When we think with love, we are literally co-creating with God. And when we're not thinking with love, since only love is real, then we're actually not thinking at all. We're hallucinating. And that's what this world is: a mass hallucination, where fear seems more real that love. Fear is an illusion. Our craziness, paranoia, anxiety and trauma are literally all imagined. That is not to say they don't exist for us as human beings. They do. But our fear is not our ultimate reality and it does not replace the truth of who we really are. Our love, which is our real self, doesn't die, but simply goes underground."

However, while in the 3rd dimension often we have little or no access to that which is beyond the veil. When we integrate into Source perspective, we integrate our 3rd dimensional perspective with other universal truths that we cannot see from that level of reality. And thus, we realize and feel deep unconditional love, which relieves our human perspectives of pain and suffering. Accepting this higher reality helps us accept our suffering--acceptance love.

Simultaneously, when we come into Source perspective, we become inclusive to the whole through love as well... which is exhibited by our capacity for deep compassion for the suffering of others. Compassion is a form of love, and perhaps the one most needed in our or other's darkest times. Compassion love, like acceptance love, still sees beyond the painful 3D realities. But compassion love recognizes the need to comfort the disturbed from the wildest and most heartbreaking illusions developed in this world. Compassion love knows the steps to take, if you let it. In this form, it is known what is needed by Source (be it within you, the person next to you, or non-tangible energy) because the love of the universe within them speaks out for their own understanding and desires. This form of love, compassion, is not a teacher telling you to be grateful for your suffering. It understands that they are in no position for this truth, but not because they feel the person's suffering. Love cannot suffer, because it's love! We feel compassion because we know how real our or their pain must feel, even if it is not. Compassion is to understand the heaviness of our or another's experience, and a desire to relieve it. But this is not through the eyes of suffering. This is not through the eyes of sadness, or fear, or an anxiety to change it. Thus, it is often that compassion precedes acceptance love.

All love is beyond positive and negative realities. Suffering and pain, and feeling suffering and pain is not love. Nor is resistance to feeling pain or suffering, because love does not run. It is everywhere in every moment.

As self-love deepens, you cannot love yourself deeply without also deeply loving the world around you. People who are self-loving who appear to isolate any form of negativity in their reality aren't loving either. It's not that we have to suffer with people. Instead, true and profound love is exhibited through compassion. Compassion is a hand to hold, a loving touch or embrace. Compassion also shows us the better paths, and paths to change.

Some nights, I feel grateful. Because I know that no matter what befalls me, the world, or others, everything will always be ok. Or even if I don't, I have my own words to help me remember. Because through the eyes of love, suffering is no longer suffering. Because just as the sun evaporates the rainfall's misty ponds, love evaporates suffering as it transforms into love. It transforms it into its highest form--the teacher.