I'll never forget the day I befriended my inner critic. It was one of the breakthrough moments of my NLP training a few years ago.
She was a nasty piece of work. Brought me down constantly with her bitchy remarks and deeply gloomy attitude. Nothing was ever good enough for her. Especially me.
I'd been trying to shut her up for years, but she wasn't having it. I'd been doing it all wrong. I didn't realise she was just a misguided part of me who actually thought she was helping. So suppressing her just made her scream louder ...
And when I actually started listening to her, we worked it out in about 5 minutes! And when she came over to my side, I burst into racking sobs and tears of relief (hers I think) as she relaxed and kinda dissolved into me. No longer separate, frustrated and alone. She was home. And just glad to kick her shoes off, let go and rest.
Then an electric shock went through my entire body as I got back all the energy she'd been using to keep her tirade going. Feeling all this new power left me shaky and spacey for the rest of the day.
Seriously life-changing stuff!
That evening as I walked back along the seafront at Brighton, all the colours seemed brighter and the sounds around me happier. People smiled at me for no reason. I think all that positive energy was catching.
And as I climbed the stairs to the apartment where I was staying, I suddenly noticed I could see both of the walls. This was a shock. My vision was wider. Before I would not have noticed them. Now I did. My eyes had been truly opened.
Weird? Yes! But good weird.
We all have parts of us we try to suppress. But it never works. The trick is to reach out to them and make them feel safe enough to come back home. Some parts are adults. Some are children. Some come readily. Some will negotiate. Some will take a lot of time to come around.
But they all have the same thing in common. They need to feel accepted for the job they're trying to do. Because they are all trying their best for us. Just often it's not in helpful or healthy ways.
Since that day I have helped many parts to come home. To find peace. Parts of mine and parts of my clients. It's always a powerful experience. Although no one has ever reacted quite like I did that day. She was a strong one, that's for sure.
In part 2 of this post, I'll write about how I felt a part of me die inside when my Mum died 16 years ago. And how I finally recovered that part of me just this morning ...
And in the meantime, maybe you could consider what parts you might be rejecting or ignoring. Perhaps you could take a moment to chat with them. Invite them home for tea maybe. To take a load off and rest a while. Together once more.
Photo: John Hain, Pixabay
My mum used to collect four-leafed clovers. Whenever she found one, she'd press it in a book between sheets of tissue paper. She suffered with chronic illness and depression so, as a kid, I'd spend hours looking in the grass around our home, just so I could take one to her and bring a smile to her face for a moment. And I remember wondering why those leaves never seemed to work their lucky magic for her.
Some of my clients use the "luck" word. Whenever something "good" happens they say they were "lucky" and it can take some deep mindset change to realise they actually deserve the rewards for all the hard work they've put into their lives. But, of course, if something "bad" happens, then it's always their fault. Luck has done a great PR job on itself, taking all the glory and none of the blame!
I don't believe in luck. There! I said it again and nothing "bad" happened. Nor will it. Because I know I make my own luck.
Luck, like confidence, is not something I have, it's something I do.
The really meaningful stuff in my life only comes from putting in the effort and making things happen. If stuff comes too easily, it tends to leave easily too. If I get a windfall of unexpected money, then there's always an unforeseen bill to take that money away again soon after. I have to work for the stuff that stays around. The worthwhile things.
I do believe when I'm making an effort and I'm on the right road for me, then I become "lucky." Things just seem to go my way. Like all the traffic lights turning green as I approach. I'm in this amazing "flow" state where life is beside me, cheering me, helping me.
I use the feeling of everything going well as a compass ... a litmus test for whether I'm doing the "right" thing in my life.
Because whenever I stray from that road, making well-meaning effort in the wrong direction, I become "unlucky" and misfortune seems to follow me around. It's painful. And it lasts.
Of course, even when I'm on the right road, I'll go through hard times. But there's always something important I really needed to learn, when I look back. And those hard times are life's way of testing me - it's like I have to pass regular tests to stay on that road. To get what I want.
So when those testing times come, I trust they'll not last long. If they do, I listen to my intuitive inner self, because I've made a wrong turn somewhere. And I make a change to get back on track.
When I was sorting out mum's things after she died, I found that book stuffed full of beautifully preserved, four-leafed clovers. I didn't keep them - partly because I felt saddened by them and mainly because I didn't need them.
My compass is set and I'm taking a baby step forward each day ...
(Image by meineresterampe-26089, Pixabay)
"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself."
Sometimes I like to think that, one day, I'm going to change the world.
Make a great contribution somehow.
But stress loves ambition. So maybe the only thing I need to do is grow a little each day.
To become more of who I need to be, in order to serve who I need to serve.
To change the world of each client, one by one ..
And that will be enough ..
Here's a great TED talk by Ric Elias - it's really short and really impactful. He tells us what he learned in the few short moments when he thought he was going to die. And how he's changed his life as a result.
And the best quote for me? This one:
"I no longer try to be right. I choose to be happy."
A healthy, intimate relationship spells health for our mind and our body. Having someone to share those amazing moments with. To support us when life kicks us in the teeth, reduces our stress and makes us less likely to ever experience depression.
In the past few weeks, I've been lucky enough to attend the weddings of two couples who mean the world to me. Emotional stuff. To see them take those vows of lifelong love, in spite of all the things life may throw at them.
And reflecting on these happy memories reminded me of these quotes on finding "the one" which I thought I'd share:
"If we do not know how to take care of ourselves and to love ourselves, we cannot take care of the people we love. Loving oneself is the foundation for loving another person" Thich Nhat Hanh
And I love this stunning quote on the subject by Galway Kinnell which I found in a post by Dr Ben Kim:
“We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. And it isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems—the ones that make you truly who you are—that we’re ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person—someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.”
Only when we unconditionally accept ourselves and feel whole, even when alone, are we truly ready to love another. Because love means meeting their needs instead of looking for them to heal us instead.
Only then will we attract the right wrong person for us in that moment.
So although nobody's perfect, then a relationship can be ...
You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.
A story from my stressful years:
I started these two lists;
"Things I can control" and "Things I can't control"
And as I listed all the things I could control, such as; how I spend my time, how I spend my money, my behaviour, my physical actions, who I spend my time with, where I spend my time, the things I surround myself with, my words, my mind (sometimes), my diet and exercise, etc.,
I realised that these things are all just "WHAT I DO".
And the list of things I couldn't control like; the weather, what all other people and animals do, deterioration of possessions, disease, economicsm politics etc.
They all seem to boil down to: "EVERYTHING ELSE" that isn't "WHAT I DO".
And then I realised that I spent pretty much all of my time trying to make my life "now" and "in the future" as perfect as possible, but that meant trying to control EVERYTHING. And that's just stupid. Because I can't control EVERYTHING.
I can only hope to control "WHAT I DO"!
So it sounds simple and it's such a simple idea that I wonder why I'd never thought of it before. Maybe everyone else in the world knew this already. It only took me 40 odd years to get to the stage to ask the question and only a couple minutes of scribbling to come up with the answer.
But there you go.
So it was easy from then on. I only needed to focus on controlling "what I do" and let everything else do whatever it wanted. I couldn't do anything about those other things, so there was no point giving them any real concern. I maybe could try to influence things that I felt strongly about, but that's all I hoped to do.
It gave me loads more time to give that focus where it was going to be useful. And there was a new peace that's came with this new knowledge. A burden that lifted.
I felt like I'd been given a fresh start.
And so back to now, I'm hoping for some sunshine this week-end, but I'm not making my enjoyment of the days contingent on it........we'll go for a cycle anyway and if we get wet, we'll get wet.
And have fun anyway.
Here's another great post on Mark Sisson's blog where he lists the 7 characteristics we can cultivate which are associated most with living a long and contented, healthy life.
I don't necessarily agree all the time with his dietary advice, but he has some great insights on the human psyche and he seems to be one interesting and clued-up, wise person.
I especially liked the information on the sayings of Epictetus (another article here) and many of the ways to let go of controlling everything in our lives really rang true for me.
And it's helped me be more content with things as they are.
When I don't allow myself to get upset about things I can't control, there's much more sunshine about.
The trick for me was working out what those things I couldn't control were. And now I have, I'm much more at peace with the world.
Something else to add to my list entitled "things I wish I'd been taught at school instead of Latin and Shakespeare"......!
I mentioned before a friend who went on a Buddhist retreat and learned the best way to start the day was to simply smile upon waking.
She'd just lie there and grin to herself for a few moments before getting up. She said it was something she would continue doing forever - it really set her up for the day.
She even had a sign by her bed to remind her to smile every morning!
And now some researchers at the University of Kansas have shown why it works. They've found that even if we only pretend to smile, we de-stress and feel happier. Yep, they shoved chopsticks in the mouths of volunteers to mimic the smiling action of their facial muscles and even though they didn't know they were supposed to be smiling, it still worked!
Apparently, the act of our faces being in a smiling expression, tells our brain that we are not in any danger. So we relax and our blood-pressure lowers and our heart rate slows and we feel better........
You don't have to mean it. Try it. Just fake a smile and maybe you'll find, in a few seconds, that it works for you too. Or for a good laugh, try the chopsticks. Go on. Give it a go right now. Go on! Just for me....
You can see a summary of the research here
And next time you find yourself feeling stressed or upset, why not try smiling and see what happens?
It's been proven that optimists live longer and enjoy that longer life to its fullest. And the good news is that we all start out life as optimists.
So why do so many of us see that glass as half-empty or maybe focus on the bad in good things rather than seeing the good in bad things?
Psychologists have proven that we often learn pessimism from our primary caregiver, most usually our mother. And if kids lose their natural optimism, they will then be at a much higher risk of developing depression in the future because of it.
I've always thought of myself as a realist, but the truth is my parents were not great optimists and then a career in science and project management taught me to always look for problems and to plan for failure.
Before my NLP training, I always used to struggle being optimistic about "bad" things (and even many of the "good" things) life threw my way.
So how can we help ourselves (and our kids) hold onto the optimism we're born with?
The book "Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman tells us to always explain "bad" events with an upbeat, optimistic tone.
- As if the cause was temporary, one-off.
"Never mind, it was really hard to do and next time you'll do better."
- As if it's specific to just one small part of our world.
"I burned the toast, but there's enough bread to make some more."
- As if it's not someone's fault, but external factors caused it.
"I didn't get the promotion, because the boss was in a bad mood that day."
- And we don't use words like "Always" and "Never" or make it personal - we criticize the behaviour, not the person/ourself.
"It's so unlike me, I must've been really tired that day" rather than "I always screw up, I'm such a loser."
Or "It was just a simple mistake" rather than "You never get it right, do you?"
And then to give optimism a boost, we do the opposite to explain the reasons why "good" things happen. We say they are permanent, all encompassing and about the person/ourself.
"Of course you passed. you're were always so clever at biology" instead of, "You were lucky the questions were on the things you studied."
Or "The day was a great success. We organise these things so well, don't we?" rather than, "These things never usually go so well, we were so lucky with the weather."
I know it's not always a good thing to be blindly optimistic, like taking crazy risks with money or our health.
And some people seem to be just plain happy with being grumpy or harshly realistic about life.
But, if the world has bashed us around a bit and we wish we could be more optimistic, the good news is optimism can be re-learned.
I always use Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) for changing negative beliefs and thinking habits.
There's also Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - for a great self-help book on how to use it, I recommend this one by Stephen Briers.
For a lighter read, here's an article on being more optimistic.
And finally, for some great, powerful things to say to our kids, check out this wonderful post by Dr Kim.
Because If Eeyore can do it, anyone can!
“It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately.”
"... outstanding in the field of personal change ..."
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