Category Archives: Humanity

Love, Happiness, Safety

Have you ever thought about why we do what we do? Have you ever looked at someone and wondered “Why on earth would you do that”? This includes the people walking through hip deep water from the storm Katrina with a 54” TV, the person that split their tongue in two and has implanted horns, and the person tailgating you going 80 on the highway. Why are they doing what they are doing? Well, the answer is they are trying to find love, safety, or happiness.

“But that doesn’t make sense!” I hear you exclaim. How does a person taking a TV with them while evacuating from the flooding from a storm help them find any of those three? I didn’t say it made sense. In that moment, their brain is telling them that they need that TV to live and to find safety. Sometimes the panic brain doesn’t make sense. And yet they are still trying to find safety. And the person tailgating believes that if they get where they are going they will be happy. And the person that uses body modification to express themselves is working to find love in a way that works for them.

Our base motivations are usually pretty simple. Why do people lie, cheat and steal? They believe that they can find happiness or safety in money or things. I worked with someone that was horrible to all of the employees. The ideas he came up with were ridiculous, and he always had a frantic energy about him. We all disliked him greatly. We found out that he had a brain tumor and he was desperate to keep the job so that he could earn as much money as he could for his wife and children after he died. The ridiculous ideas were his attempt to keep from being fired like the last three people that had had the job before him. He was trying to find safety.

When we start to see people through the lense of attempts to find love, safety, and happiness then we can start to find understanding and even some empathy in their craziness. The behaviors may not be conducive to getting what they want, and in fact they may in all actuality be accomplishing the opposite. And yet, even in our worst moments and cruelest behaviors we are working to accomplish love, safety, or happiness.

Often the things that drive us the most insane are when someone we care for goes about trying to find love in a way that drives us further away. In that case, it can often be helpful to let them know what they can do to get your affection. Letting them know (kindly!) how they can change their behavior to get your love, kindness or affection gives helpful and constructive feedback. It actually helps both people feel less powerless, and often more connected.

As a professional I have done things for money that I probably shouldn’t have, taken client’s that could have been served better by others with more training, or taken too many clients in a day just because I wanted to maintain my feelings of safety. I have driven faster than I should have to get home and be happy. I have made choices that have hurt people to make myself happy. I think we all have. Then there are the times that people’s attempts to find happiness or safety actually compromise your safety. People that are happy to lie, cheat, and steal in an effort to provide safety for themselves or their family. I can understand their motivations. If I lived in Russia and the safest way to keep my family fed was to hack people’s accounts and steal from them, if I were desperate enough I would probably do it. I don’t have to understand, like, or agree with their behaviors. I may need to keep myself safe from them though. I need to set boundaries, I need to maintain my own safety. I need to watch to whom I give my money, time, and love. Unhealthy people are looking for the same things, and will find unhealthy ways to get love, safety, and happiness. I can have compassion without making myself a victim.

I had a conversation with a client today about their path. They are in a place on Maslow’s hierarchy where they are able to start thinking about the more esoteric path they want to be on instead of just working to make sure they don’t lose the basic needs for safety of food and shelter. The path that looks at how he wants to feel about himself at the end of the day, about how he wants to go about getting love and happiness. Like me, he wants to know that he is healthy in finding love and happiness, and he doesn’t do at the expense of others. We all want the same things. The difference is how we go about getting those wants met. I also want to be able to find compassion for those that meet their needs and wants for love, safety, and happiness differently than I do, even if I need to protect myself from them. Underneath we aren’t that different.

Finding gratitude for wasted time

Ten thousand years ago our time was pretty much filled with working to live. Time not spent hunting, gathering, and farming was used to make the things they needed for daily life such as housing clothes, food, and other necessities. It took a lot of work to make sure there was enough food stored properly to make it through winters and clothing to wear for protection.

But what did they do when the house was built, clothing was made, and the food stored? They created art. Making a bead was intensive labor. The shell or the stone had to be ground down, and a hole drilled through it. Making enough to decorate clothing and make jewelry took thousands of hours.

Through the ages your ability to have decorations in your home and on your clothes was a sign of wealth. The reason for this is wasted time. The more resources you had the more time you had to waste. Ten thousand years ago you only really had time to make unnecessary things if you had all the necessary things made. You wouldn’t use grapes, apples, or grain to make alcohol if you didn’t have enough to make sure your family was fed. You didn’t have the time to hand-make beads to decorate your clothing if you didn’t already have clothing. Time wasting activities meant you had everything you needed and were good to go.

Another word for wasting time is hobbies. I have a multitude of hobbies that serve no purpose other than making me feel good. The fish tank I keep in my living room serves no purpose other than to give me something pretty too look at. It takes my time and resources (money and water) to keep it going. Hobbies keep us sane. The only time they become a problem is when they interfere in maintaining the rest of our lives. When they take food from your mouth, shelter from over your head, and time from maintaining relationships then they are problematic. Otherwise, the time and resources to have hobbies is something to be thankful for.

I am thankful that I have the time every week to write this blog. I am grateful that I have the time to travel, to take pictures, and to play around on Facebook. All of my hobbies are things that keep me grounded and sane, and in many ways connected to friends and family, and the world around me. None of them are necessary, and thus are “wasted time”. Hopefully you find a way to be thankful that you have extra time as well. Don’t begrudge yourself your hobbies. If you have the time and the resources, wasting time is a time honored tradition that we’ve had for thousands of years.

There is no normal


Have you ever wished you were normal? I know personally I have had that wish. I have wanted to fit into the boxes that it seems everyone else fits in to. I have felt odd, different, and lonely. I tried for so many years to fit in to some semblance of normal. Then as I worked in the field of emotional and mental health I started to understand. There is no normal. Those that look normal from the outside have just as much oddness, as many differences, and feel just as lonely as I do. Because there is no normal.

When you allow yourself to embrace that concept life starts to change for you. When you let yourself let go of the belief that who you are is wrong in some way, because it doesn’t fit in with the norm, then you stop hating the things that make you “different”. The truth is, we are none of us snowflakes. I follow Mayim Bialik on Facebook. If you don’t know who she is, she was Blossom in the 90’s, and today she is Dr Amy Farah Fowler on the Big Bang Theory. She also has a PhD in Neuroscience. She talks about her frustrations and difficulties being a nerd growing up. She talks about feeling alone and different, especially being a female that loves science and Star Wars. And she is followed by almost 900,000 people on Facebook alone. I haven’t checked her twitter account. That means that she isn’t weird, or different. She has a group and a tribe that she fits in to, and one that thinks she is amazing just the way she is.  
When we realize that none of us fit in to every group out there, we feel better about who we are. Fitting in is kind of like hair. We all wish we had different, better hair. We look at someone else and think how nice it would be if we had their hair instead of our own. We think how nice it would be if we fit in to that group, or liked this thing instead of what we do like. We all do that. I have yet to meet someone that is perfectly fine with who they are, what they like, and the groups they fit in to. We are all abnormal. And that’s OK.
Normal is a fantasy. You aren’t normal. Neither am I, and neither is the next guy down the line. There is no such thing as normal. So embrace your quirkiness. To thine own self be true. And give a big fat raspberry to the fantasy of normal you keep trying to reach.


Of course you’re special!

Yes. You are special.  Just like everybody else.  Just like a snowflake.  Or fingerprints.  But then we have found duplicates in snowflakes, and in fingerprints.  The question you need to ask yourself:  Is it more important to stand out or to fit in?  Either way, you will find a group.

There is a group that does what is called extreme body modification.  Full body tattoo, splitting the tongue, stretching the ears, having horn implants, corset lacings implanted on the back.  If all of that sounds interesting, you will find your group.  There are groups that do extreme hobbies such as rock climbing without ropes, skiing in avalanche zones, biking down mountains.  People who play D&D, people that are into different kinks, people into racing wiener-dogs.  These are all small groups comparatively (compared to people that like cat videos online).  And yet they all have groups.

We aren’t snowflakes, and we aren’t alone.  For most people that helps them feel better.  You are not alone.  This means you don’t have to walk through your pain alone either.

You aren’t alone in this world.  There are always people to reach out to.  You don’t have to walk your path or your pain alone.

The school of life

Tips for a better life # 15: Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class, but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

We are all life-long scholars in the Hard-Knox School of Life.  Though a great deal of what we need to learn is actually taught in kindergarten , sometimes we take all our lives to remember these lessons and to find out what they really mean.  Ironically life is actually very similar to the game Chutes and Ladders. We all start at birth, and ultimately we all end at death.  Between the game board sometimes catapults us forward, and drops us back down.  Sometimes because of our own actions, and sometimes because life just happens that way, both good and bad.  No matter what though, we all end at the same place.  The lessons we learn, and how we handle both successes and failures, is entirely up to us.

All lessons, like all stories, have a beginning middle and end.  When we are in the middle of the “lesson” it sometimes seems that it will always be there, we will always feel the way we feel.  In the middle of the problem we forget the knowledge of that ending part.   There are many cliche’s  for endings: “Nothing stays the same”, “This too shall pass”, “The only constant is change”, etc.   Remember, cliche’s are generally true, for example; “a journey of 1000 miles starts with one step” annoying as they can be sometimes.  In the middle of a problem remembering that it will pass can sometimes be the only comfort we find.  If we allow it, problems will pass us by.  At times we for some reason we work to cling to our pain and keep the problem around, but that is always our choice.

In the classroom of life  we all walk away with a different lesson.  Because we as humans are not snowflakes we are not the only ones that have our particular life experiences, though not everyone walks away with the same perception of the experience. There is a level of control regarding the lessons we walk away with.

An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life…

He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

One wolf is evil –he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity,guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition,superiority, and ego.

The other is good—he is joy, peace, love,hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship,empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather,”Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one you feed”.

We all move through experiences.  The lessons we learn are our choice.  We can learn the lessons that bring bitterness, hurt, anger and pain.  Or we can learn the lessons in a way that help us find kindness, peace, and understanding.   Life is pain.  Anyone that tells you differently is selling you something.  Life is also joy and kindness.  It is how we handle the pain that defines us, and decides if we can experience the rest as well.  Just remember rule number rules number 18 and 19.   Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good, and Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

Being a Misfit

We all have Misfit Moments.  Some more than others.  Sometimes we feel alone in in our lack of ability to fit in.  Please experience this video about a misfit on  Let yourself feel the moments that you think “OH my god!  I’ve done that!”  “I’ve felt that way!”.  Notice that you aren’t alone in struggling, misfiring, keeping yourself stuck in shame, and not believing you are deserving.  You aren’t alone, and you can overcome!


Even at the moment of your failure, you’re beautiful.  You don’t know it yet, but you have the ability to re-invent yourself endlessly.  That’s your beauty.  No matter you’re failure your story deserves to be heard.  You can be standing dead center in the middle of your failure.  Because you are the only one in the room that can tell the story the way you would.  And I’d be listening.

Lydia Yuknavitch

There’s No Crying in Baseball!

For those of you that don’t watch a lot of movies, that is a line from A League of Their Own that Tom Hank’s character yells as on of his female ball-players starts to cry.  It is the common sign of a man that doesn’t know how to handle the very outward display of emotion in that moment.

Why do men have such a hard time with women crying?  There’s actually a pretty good reason for that.  Think of what men are taught about crying from the time they are very young.  They are taught that crying is weak.  They are told very often to “be a man” when they are hurting, which implies they need to take all of their emotions and push them down deep.  They aren’t allowed to move through, to hold space for themselves when they are hurting.  Instead of feeling the pain, learning that it is OK to hurt, be sad, or feel guilty they are required to withhold and ignore the feelings.  Push them down, push them away, and most of all don’t cry.

So when a woman, who hasn’t been told to shove them down and has been allowed to cry is present with her feelings it makes them uncomfortable.  They don’t know how to hold space for their own discomfort, let alone for the person next to them that is struggling.  They have also been told their entire lives, by family and culture, that a blatant display of emotion is a sign of weakness.

We as women also struggle to hold space for men when they are experiencing strong emotion (other than anger), and showing it.  We also have received the message from society that a man showing emotion is a sign of weakness.  It makes us almost as uncomfortable as men are when we cry.

Holding space for an emotion means experiencing the emotion.  It means feeling it in the moment, without shoving it away. It means acknowledging that whatever is happening is unpleasant and it is OK for it to be unpleasant.  Women are allowed some grace in this as we are allowed to cry and give outward demonstrations of our feelings. Men are taught to shut that down, and then that is reinforced on a daily basis through family, media, and partners. It isn’t surprising that when women cry they struggle with the display.

It is difficult for both men and women to allow someone else that they are close to be present with painful emotions. In general women say they want a man that is more in touch with his emotions, and yet there is discomfort when he does so. If we want men to be comfortable with women crying, we have to encourage everyone to be OK being present with their emotions. It is OK to let someone cry and not need to fix it. Crying releases endorphins that are often needed in tense and difficult moments. It is part of why women are so prone to tears during angry and tense moments, as well as sad difficult moments. It gives a release and helps move through the difficult time. As a society, we all need to become better at not only holding space for someone that is struggling, but tolerating our own discomfort when someone cries.

Crying is natural and healthy. Tears mean that a person cares about what is going on in that moment. We all need to work on holding space for difficult experiences, and being OK when the water-works are turned on.  Maybe there should be crying in baseball.


Compassion, Forgiveness, and Gratitude

Last week I wrote about being able to understand the difference about what we can and can’t change in the world around is.  What we really can change is how we think, act, and react to the world around us.  The best way to do this is through compassion, forgiveness and gratitude. These are not to be confused with complacency.  Complacency is ignoring the fact that there are things that we can and should change, including ourselves.

Compassion is being able to see that everyone has their own story that they are trying to work through.  We all just want to live and be happy.  We all just want to find peace and happiness.  No matter what people, what religion, or what country, we all just want to find a life with love and happiness.  The way some of us go about this isn’t healthy or done in a way to accomplish our goals, and yet we still all have the same goals.  When people struggle they are moving through their own demons, hurts, and lessons.  When we find compassion for them we are often softer toward them, less harsh.  Greeting hurt and anger with harshness just breeds harshness and more anger.  Greeting hurt and anger with compassion can soften the harsh edges, soften the hurt and the anger.  This can change the way people act toward us, lessening out own frustrations and resentments.

Forgiveness is being able to let go of the hurt and anger in our own heart.  It is not about condoning or accepting the behavior that is happening around you.  It is saying that you won’t hold anger in your own heart to poison you.  Anger and resentment toward others do nothing to the other person.  We often keep them as protections against getting hurt in the future, but then harden us from finding the things we truly want; love and happiness.  We cannot hold both peace and anger at the same time.  When we find compassion for someone, work to understand life from their perspective even when we don’t condone their actions, it is easier to forgive them and keep from poisoning ourselves with hate.

Gratitude is being thankful for the good things in life that we do have.  We spend a lot of time thinking about the things that we want without remembering that we do have things out there that do bring us happiness.  These can be the little things like a sunset or a child’s laughter, or the big things like a stable place to live and a safe family, or even the fact that you were able to buy that new car.  Each day, start to find a ritual of gratitude.  At the end of every day, find one thing you have to be grateful for.  To help your family you can work to make it a part of a family practice (like praying at dinner or bedtime).  Gratitude helps us recognize that our life isn’t all bad.  It helps with finding compassion and forgiveness.

Compassion and forgiveness must always start with ourselves.  While we don’t want to always condone our own actions, as we all make mistakes and can do better, we do need to have compassion for ourselves instead of condemnation.  We do need to forgive our own trespasses, while working to learn from them.  Holding anger in your heart toward yourself does not help you be a better person.  It helps resentment and anger build up toward others, in a metaphorical downward spiral that only leads to more hurt, anger and resentment.  We cannot find peace or happiness along this path.  We are fertile ground in which we can grow compassion, kindness and gratitude leading to peace, or we can grow anger, resentment and hurt, which leads to more of the same.

We all want to find comfort and happiness.  We all want to find a living that brings us comfort and peace.  I have yet to find anyone, of any religion that wants something different.  Many of this try to find these things by trying to change things we can’t change, or trying to change people, whom we definitely can’t change.  Finding a practice of compassion, forgiveness and gratitude takes time.  In general humanity has turned toward blame, defensiveness and anger and it is visible in not only our daily interactions but in our national politics, and in international incidents.  We as individuals don’t have power over these things.  We do have power over how we see the world, how we see ourselves, and how we react to the world.  This is more power than you think.

The path to destruction

We all have beliefs, values, ethics, and morals. Because we are all individuals with out own unique perspectives and experiences these beliefs, values, ethics and morals are going to vary significantly from person to person. We think we know and accept this fact. We know we live in a country with people from all walks of life and the people from different walks than ours will have different beliefs and opinions. We seem to forget this in 2 places. 1: Relationships, and 2: Politics.

It is perfectly acceptable to have a belief that is different from another person’s. What is not acceptable is to use aggression, either verbal, emotional or physical to force that opinion upon someone else. This is where fights come in. In a relationship, when one partner has a different belief, want, wish, or would like from the other partner we move in to an attack and defend state of being. I’m going to take your stance as an attack upon mine, and I’m going to staunchly defend my opinion while attacking yours, and possibly even attacking you. In politics we see the same thing. I didn’t watch the Republican debate last night, but up until now no matter your politics, we can mostly pretty much agree that the debates have in general been a sh*t show of insults and contempt with little substance. They have been dominance fights of attack and defend, trying to see who can get in the best attack. We have all seen the exact same thing in our own living rooms as well.

This is a sure path to destruction. In a relationship, if we can’t have civil discussions when we disagree or are frustrated it will increase resentment and start destrying the relationship from the inside. Each partner will feel unsupported, not listened to, not validated, not understood, and unloved. If there are children involved the children will do two things: first they will feel unsafe, feel the need to pick sides, and start acting out emotionally, and second they will start to see the weak spots to manipulate the parents to get what they want. Within our country we start to appear weak and divided. We start to appear easy pickings for groups that are already seeking to undermine us as a nation.

There are entire seminars on how to have an argument without killing each other. Here I’m going to give the beginning on how to start. First: Recognize that as your own person, your beliefs, values, ethics and morals are yours and yours alone. Your partner or other members of your community and even Country may share many of them, but because of your unique experiences no one will share all of them all the time. You are allowed to have them The other people are allowed to have theirs as well. The minute we recognize that other people are allowed their opinion; no matter how much it differs from ours, no matter how repugnant or offensive it may seem to us, they are allowed to have it.   The key is, no matter how offensive, repugnant, or different the other person’s beliefs, values, ethics and morals are, you aren’t allowed to use violence to force them to change. Neither are they!

The next step, and this is the difficult one: work to avoid Criticism, Contempt and Defensiveness when debating wants, wishes and would likes. We have become a country of criticism. I have found myself that I want to march over to my neighbor, that blatantly has different values that I do about recycling, and tell them what assholes they are for never recycling, when we have a large trash can that is meant specifically for recycling and is, in my opinion, so amazingly easy to recycle. I want to remind them that this world will be theirs long after I am gone from this planet (they are college students) and beat them over the head with the stuff I see sticking out of their trash can on trash day that could to in the recycle bin. And at the same time, I’m pretty sure that would at the very least get me the middle finger in my face, or maybe a punch in the nose. I need to find a place where I am calm enough to have a conversation about my beliefs, and ask politely for them to change their behavior. And then when they don’t, I get to self soothe my frustrations, and continue to do my best to save the plane one can at a time by recycling myself.

We have become a country (maybe even a world) where telling people how wrong and stupid they are is meant to change something, when all it does is polarize people. Criticizing people for what they believe and do tends to make people defensive, not want to change. Showing contempt for their beliefs and actions leads to the same reaction. When all we are doing is attacking and defending without hearing the other person’s point of view and recognizing that they may have some valid points in there, just as we do, we create anger and frustration, not resolution.

For this week I want you to do your best to find a place in every argument where the other person has a good point. Even if you don’t like that point, or want to like that point, find that place where the other person isn’t as stupid as you feel they are. For a moment play devils advocate for your own perspective to see where they are coming from. Imagine if each side of a disagreement did this, what would happen. Then work to make sure if you are hitting a point of frustration where you want to show criticism or contempt, you take a break. Work to keep things civil. Take small steps to keep from eating your relationship, or even our country as a whole away from the inside with anger, hate, and polarization. It will also do the same for you, and keep you from being eaten alive from the inside by the above. Anger is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other person. We are on a path to destruction, and as individuals we are the key to stopping it.