Ash Beckham doesn’t need anything more than for us to watch her video. She reminds all of us that we all have those things we have a hard time opening up about, and talks about the humanity needed to say the things we need to say.
This was a discussion in my head at lunch yesterday.
Now brain: Look! Chocolate pudding!
Later Brain: Wait. You’ve been working so hard to lose weight and be healthy. You know that this won’t help. You have some pretty big goals.
Now Brain. You don’t understand. Chocolate Pudding!
Later Brain: You’re eating salad. Don’t ruin all the work you’ve done. No.
Now Brain: CHOCOLATE PUDDING!
Later Brain: This isn’t what you want. This isn’t what you want. This isn’t what you want.
Now Brain: CHOCOLATE PUDDING! Oh, and with Strawberries.
Take a wild guess which brain won?
The now brain and the later brain don’t always want the same things. The later brain often is focused on long term-goals; health, relationships, retirement, buying a house. The short term brain is often more focused on pleasure, or lack of pain. It is often focused on feeling good, or feeling better. These now goals won’t always work in favor of our later goals. The chocolate pudding didn’t work toward my later goals. Was it delicious? Absolutely. Was there guilt later? Yep!
More often than not my Later brain wins. I save the money, I eat the right foods, I don’t comment on Facebook posts and I do the workout. I don’t adopt all of the cats and dogs I see on the web begging for a home. If my Now brain won, I would need a couple of houses and acres of land just for the cats and the dogs that I want to love and save. This is because I have learned the lesson that my Now brain wants to be rewarded. So I have to find ways to reward myself when I do what my later brain wants.
Now brain and Later brain are all about rewards. The Now brain wants the reward now, and the Later brain is willing to delay the gratification until a later time, knowing that the reward will be worth it. In an effort to get my Now brain willing to participate in working toward the goals the Later brain wants, it needs rewards in the short term. It wants some kind of recognition that it did something worthy when it gave up what it wanted. There is often a level of distress when the now brain doesn’t get what it wants. Not getting the desires met can lead to minor frustration, or considerable pain. If you make the effort to deny Now brain for a long term goal, make sure to give it something, even if it is only a congrads for a job well done.
We sometimes wonder why we aren’t able to achieve the goals we want. We often have very specific goals such losing weight, not calling the ex, saving money, and then we act in opposition to those goals. The Now brain is not interested in tolerating the distress that is caused by ignoring the wants. We have to learn to deal with the distress, and to give ourselves rewards when we do. Often when we give our Later brain what it wants, we are more fulfilled in the long run. We just have to make the Now brain know it is worth it.
We need to have a discussion about guilt and shame. Often we don’t know the difference between the two. We hear or are told from a very young age “They should be ashamed” or “you should be ashamed”. From a very early age guilt and shame are treated the same, and often behaviors are shamed by our parents, our community and our religion.
The difference is that guilt is feeling bad about something you have done. You cut someone off in traffic, and you feel bad about that. You told your partner that you hate them, and you feel bad about that. Shame on the other hand, is believing as though you are bad, who you are, who you always will be is bad. When therapists work with people to find empathy, we work with them to find a concept of guilt. We want people to feel bad for things they have done that cause pain to other people or things. Without guilt we would have destroyed each other long ago as we wouldn’t have cared if we hurt someone or they died because of our actions. Guilt is what let us survive before we had all the technology to keep us alive and we were roughing it out on the planes, just us, our intellect, and our capability to care about each other against a very hostile world. Shame on the other hand does nothing but cause suffering.
When someone is ashamed or shamed, the belief is that they are all bad. Well, if someone is all bad, then they can never be good. There is no chance for change, for light, or beauty. There is only darkness and will only ever be darkness. Can you see why shame is a big problem when it comes to healing and recovery? If we feel guilt, guilt means that we did something bad but can do something better in the future. There is an inherent belief that we are overall good, and that even though we make mistakes we can do better in the future. It is a belief that we can learn from our mistakes.
Shame cripples. It is 1000 pound weight tied around your heart that keeps you from being able to recover and move through life. Shame not only keeps you from being able to see your own beauty, but it keeps you from being able to see the beauty of everything around you. It keeps you from feeling a sense of belonging. Brene Brown said “Our sense of belonging cannot be greater than our sense of self-acceptance”, and our sense of self-acceptance will be hindered by our sense of shame.
We all make mistakes. Every one of us is an imperfect being that does imperfect things. At times these imperfect things impact ourselves, and at times they impact others. They key isn’t calling ourselves and idiot, or calling ourselves stupid, as these imply that we are too stupid to ever do anything else. The key is in noticing what the mistake was and learning from it. When we see our mistakes for what they are and learn from them, we can let go of the guilt once the lesson is learned. We keep the concept that we are good people that have made mistakes clear, and with that we can let others see that we are good people. It is easier to let people see our imperfect selves because it is OK. It is easier to see other’s imperfect selves, because we know they can be imperfect and still be a good person.
We all want to feel as though we belong somewhere. Whether that’s a family, a community or a religion we not only want to fit in, but feel as though we are accepted. In truth though we can’t feel as though we are accepted by others without believing within ourselves that we are acceptable. That means we have to ditch shame and focus on guilt. When I let myself feel guilty I can know that I did something wrong while still being a good person. I give myself more room to find myself acceptable when I make mistakes. Truly, when you see yourself as acceptable even with your imperfections, you can finally let others see all of who you and finally feel as though you are accepted and as though you belong.
We think the first step of love is attraction. Tinder is a fine example of this, where you see a person and you have to decide if there is attraction to find out anything more about them; swipe left or right to decide a person’s worth and fate within your life. We do ourselves and each other a disservice when we take this approach. Of course there is a level of physical attraction that is important. What we find is more important is shared ideology, philosophy, principles, values and morals. Physical attributes will fade. Shared ideologies, principles, values and morals can shift together.
When is the right time to bring up that you want kids? That you have kids? That you don’t want kids? When is the right time to talk about your thoughts on retirement, saving vs spending, where to take vacations? The next question to ask is how long you want to spend on someone that doesn’t want children when you do, or who wants a beach vacation when you want to ski, or who wants to live life now instead of save for retirement? When you’ve been married for 10, 15, 20 years, when is the right time to talk about the fact that your beliefs have changed?
Beauty is only skin deep, and once you move forward in to a relationship a person’s attractiveness just isn’t going to cut it. Relationships are about fondness and admiration, and we can’t be fond of someone if we don’t know them. Many people’s ultimate fear is that their partner will see them. Truly see them, that they will be naked and their partner will know them. This is because letting someone in, letting someone see us requires vulnerability. When we let someone in, letting them see us, there is a chance they will take what they know, a chance they will get in to our heart and run around wreaking havoc. The truth is: when the right person comes along, they will be OK with all of you, even the not-so-awesome bits. And you will be OK with them, even their not-so-awesome bits.
While we are letting our partner to get to know us, we are also getting to know our partner. When we take the time to get to know them, we start seeing if they are worthy of being let in. We are all very well aware that this is part of the process of dating. We forget that our partners are changing and growing just like we are, and we forget that the “getting to know you” process needs to continue as the years progress. After 10 years we think we know our partners. We stop asking what their wants, wishes and would-likes are. When we get in arguments we think that we know why they believe what they believe, because we learned it 7 years ago in that argument way back when. But in 7 years there is a possibility that the why’s of desires have changed. If we don’t ask, if we are so lost in our own hurts, in the last 10 years of hurts and angers and frustrations and fears that we don’t ask, we don’t know our partner anymore.
In the beginning it is scary to talk about what we want and believe because of the fear that once our partner knows who we are they won’t like us anymore. When we’ve been in the relationship for years we have the same fear. We don’t want to tell our partner that we don’t like the beach anymore and we want to go to Germany instead, because we don’t want to upset them, or don’t want them to rethink their relationship with us. We don’t talk about how our sexual fantasies are different, how we don’t like Chinese food anymore, or we want a dog, when it was agreed years ago that you wouldn’t get one. But then we don’t let our partner know us. In hiding things we become resentful, fearful, frustrated and alone.
Then getting to know each other process doesn’t stop. It is the foundation of relationships, the place where everything else starts. Every building needs a strong, healthy, complete foundation to build from. Keep checking in, learning, and knowing your partner. You’d be surprised at what you learn. You’d also be surprised at the closeness it creates between you and your partner. You get to let go of loneliness and anxiety. You get intimacy, closeness and happiness.
There is a good deal of anger and hurt going around right now. Remember, forgiveness is about letting go of that which does not work for me, not about telling the other person what they did was OK.
Have you seen the motivational posters that instruct you to “Be True To Yourself”? And we think “Yeah, I need to be true to myself”. Have you ever pondered what that means? Does that mean that I need to take care of myself, or that I need to speak my mind, or that I need to take what I want to take or do what I want to do? What does “being true to myself” actually mean?
It means living within your values and morals. To be able to do that you have to identify what they are. In general we get out moral compass from our environment. Our family, our community and our culture tell us what good morals are, though it is very easy to see that all around us our families, religions and communities say one thing about values and morals, and often do something very different. This leads to confusion and difficulty defining our own values and moral compass, and “being me” becomes difficult when we don’t know if we are supposed to be the person we are told we are supposed to be, or be the person society acts like we are supposed to be. Through this what needs to happen is a little soul searching.
First we have to search the messages we got growing up. What did our community think of self-care, or taking care of others. How did your community and family view emotions and love? How did your community and family view vulnerability? Was helping others seen as kindness to fellow humans, or helping lesser beings? Did your family or community focus on having nice things, and see belongings as a right, not something to be earned? After looking at the answers to these questions we start to look at our own beliefs about self-care and helping others, emotions and love, vulnerability and kindness. We take a look at how we view people and objects.
Next we start to look at what is important to us. What do we value? Values include everything from ideas and concepts such as honesty, humor, kindness and love; to pets, objects and people. If objects and pets are listed higher than ideas or people then the concept of “being true to me” actually gets in to dangerous territory and often ends up hurting the people around us, often the people we care about. When ideas like honesty, humor, trust and love are at the top of the list and we aren’t living by our values then we are not being true to ourselves. If we value health and self care and we aren’t making sure to take care of ourselves, sacrificing this value for our job or even our kids, we will become resentful.
Being true to yourself does not mean stepping on others. The people around you are part of your values as well. It does mean working to make sure all the things that you value are sponsored in your life. When we put one set of values over another for extended periods of time it leads to resentment and anger. Working to find balance within meeting your needs and values will help you find a greater peace within yourself and your relationships.
I was speaking with my chiropractor (AKA my torture guy) and he was talking about how his wife talks in her sleep, and will answer the questions honestly through her subconscious that she will lie about while she is awake. Now, as far as I can tell he is playful with this and doesn’t use her sleep-talking for nefarious purposes, but he did share something that he thought was cute and funny but can create large difficulties in relationships. He asked her if she really wanted to go to Canada, and she admitted in her sleep that she doesn’t. When awake, because she knows he wants to go, she says yes. This folks, is a relationship killer.
It seems harmless, doesn’t it? Telling your partner what they want to hear helps us validate them and make them feel more connected to us. Right? But what happens when they go to Canada and do his chilly outdoor adventure, when she really wanted a tropical paradise. The first, second, even 4th time this happens it probably won’t be a big deal. But if she never says anything, never stands up for her own wants, wishes and would likes and instead always allows him to have his, she will eventually become resentful. The anger will build. I have watched this happen in couples, and then all of a sudden one partner is raging at the other. When asked why, the raging partner usually yells something the equivalent of “Because we always do what YOU want to do!”. Yes, well, did you ever say what you wanted to do? Did you ever stick up for your wants, wishes and would likes and he just ignored them, or did you just ignore them yourself until the frustration built to a boiling point?
I see this not only in relationships but in friendships as well. We have this belief that we need to validate each other. We have a belief that we need to have the same likes and dislikes or our partner or friend may decide we aren’t what they want and then we are left alone. We fake desire or interest in something to make ourselves move attractive and desirable.
A repeated topic in the therapy sessions this week has been the work “acceptable”. We will do a lot and contort ourselves in to strange emotional positions to be considered acceptable by others. We will lie about who we are, our likes and dislikes, even our hair color just to be “accepted”. The difficulty with hiding who we are to be accepted is the resentment that comes when you keep sacrificing yourself for others over, and over and over. It also creates problems when people that like you for the lie that you show them all of a sudden have to find a way to accept the new you. In all reality they probably would have liked you for the real you (and if they wouldn’t have, then you probably like them for the wrong reasons anyway) and will just be frustrated that you lied to them.
If you are attracted to someone and they won’t like you for who you are, it isn’t going to work. There is no way around that, no way to make it work. You aren’t able to lie forever, no way to sacrifice your identity forever. It will make you resentful and angry, and is a disservice both to yourself and to the person that you like.
We all want people to see the best in us. We want to be accepted and liked. For most of us, who we are as individuals is actually not that bad, and when you show your true self, people will like you. If there are parts of you that people really don’t like, instead of hiding them and lying about them, change them. Be honest with who you are, it will make you and your partners and friends happier in the long run.
In Austin we have been working through 100+ temps for the last 3 weeks, and it looks to continue for at least 3 or 4 more. When temps rise so does our stress level. A little meditation should help with that.
“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
I don’t know who I am. Have you ever found yourself saying those words? Generally when I hear those words it isn’t because of a lack of identity, it is because a lack of liking the identity they think they have. The definitions the person has set around himself or herself is that they are unlikeable and un-loveable to the extreme. It isn’t that sometimes they do things that aren’t that loveable, or that they make mistakes, but that they, as a whole, aren’t loveable.
How do you define who someone is? How do you create a definition about who you are yourself? The truth is we are never always a specific trait. I am at times kind and loving. I am at times strong and confident. At other times I am none of these things. My goal is to be a strong confident kind loving woman. I have clients and friends that at times are hurtful angry people. At times I am a hurtful, angry person. These things to not define any of us, or put us in a box that says “this is who we are”. At any time any of us can be anything we want to be.
When we put ourselves in a box with a label, that is generally who we will be. If we decide we are un-loveable, hurtful, angry, weak or any other number of painful descriptions, that is who we will be. If we put someone else in a box and label it as “that is who they are” then even when they aren’t we will see them as being that way.
When we put a person, a group of people, or ourselves in to a box with a label and a definition we do a disservice. No person or group of people is always one thing. That label and definition keeps us from seeing the rest of ourselves, the people around us, or even groups of people, and seeing whom else they can be. It keeps us from seeing all of who we can be. We don’t fit in boxes, so let go of the one you’ve placed yourself in, let go of the labels others have given you, and be the you that you want to be. Let go of the labels and definitions you’ve given others and see them for all of who they can be.
For those of you that are faithful readers, I apologize for the quick transition. If there is something you would like to find that you can’t, shoot me a quick email and I’ll make sure it is available. There will be a few hic-ups as I transition and learn the new system so I thank you for your patience!