3 Days Begins a New Relationship

Personal behaviors and habits rarely, if at all, change overnight. I still struggle with getting up right at 6 amto do my morning exercises.
So, changing how I engage in relationships definitely won’t change overnight. Those habits were bred from fears that continue to fuel the motivations in my decisions.
When my wife and I decided on reconciling our marriage, we agreed that we needed professional help. We had some unhealthy patterns in our marriage for many years.  We brought some patterns to the marriage and developed special ones just for us.
We wanted to change our negative patterns and to develop healthier ones, so we went away on a three day therapeutic journey.
We had tried Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) a few years ago.  I found it helpful but we weren’t ready for it then.  I knew there was something to it that would be hugely beneficial, because in one brief session I learned that my reaction to things happening to me was “normal” given my experiences as a child. “Of course that was your response. What else were you going to do?”
Those words from the therapist reached that hurt child within me. It open the door for me to believe that nothing was really wrong with me. Of course these are my responses to life. What else could I do? This is how I learned to be.
Of course, this wasn’t a Hollywood movie and one revelation didn’t change the course of my behavior.  Though, it did make me believe there was a therapeutic process out there that could help me reach down to my core emotions.
You would think getting to core emotions is what most therapy is about. There is that element to therapy as long as you can get your client to go there.
Emotions are scary. Most adults are afraid of them and they are the ones who are supposed to teach you about them.  I was taught how to deal with emotions by both being told not to express them and observing how not to share them.
Those were good skills growing up in family where there was constant turmoil and change. We moved around a lot.  No relationship seemed safe, so I had to protect my emotional safety and learned to depend on my own self-soothing.
However, those skills do not translate well when developing and maintaining healthy relationships.
I’ve always known I wasn’t good at dealing with and sharing the wide gambit of feelings I experienced. So, when my wife and I agreed to reconcile with the proper professional help, we looked, again, for an EFT specialist.
The three days of intensive EFT therapy was a great stepping stone that helped both my wife and I see our patterns. Most of those patterns were great survival techniques in the households we grew up in; though, they were unhealthy in the household we were sharing.
We were given the task to read Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight.  It gave us the language to use in our therapy sessions. I highly recommend the book for anybody in a relationship. It is specific to couples but it can help people see the dynamics in the relationships they have with anybody in their lives.
In sessions, my wife and I expressed our fears to each other. Our therapist had us slow down, listen, and interpret our partner’s behaviors. We learned the different types of dialogues we had with each other.
Our dialogues stemmed from unhealthy, scary places within us because we were protecting ourselves from the unhealthy, scary things we were showing each other.
Knowing our fears and where they come from is so helpful. Speaking our fears out loud allowed our therapist to interpret for us the meaning of those fears. And allowed us to enlighten each other and ourselves.
Our primary dialogue pattern with each other, according to the book, is the Protest Polka.  This dance is based on my wife asking for closeness and connection. Though, it was being asked in such a way that I misinterpreted as anger or sadness at me. Someone’s anger and sadness towards me causes me to withdraw or try to “fix” it. My wife interpreted that as me pulling away from her or dismissing what she was experiencing.  That triggered in her the fear of abandonment. Her reaction was to intensify the anger. I interpreted that as me not being able to do anything right, which triggered my fear of rejection.
I understand now that her anger was fear that I was distancing myself from her when she needed me for closeness and comfort.  She understands now that my distancing was my fear that I could not be enough of what she needed.
This simple discovery to our unhealthy patterns is not so simple to change. Though, we want to change it. So many hidden fears, big and small, direct our decision making.
I’ve written about fear based decisions on my blog, but I didn’t truly fathom the depths of the emotional ties to those fears.
I like to take a more cognitive behavioral approach to things.  Unfortunately, that leaves out truly knowing my emotional motivation to do or not do something.
I know I cannot think myself out of making fear based decisions because they are tied to my emotions like the blood supply to a tumor. The body feeds the tumor and the tumor becomes entwined in the tissue of the body.
My emotions feed the fears, which have become entwined in why I make decisions.
In our sessions, my wife and I did learn a healthier pattern of communicating our thoughts and feelings to each other. It feels foreign and I am still uncertain how to initiate that healthier pattern.
It has only been three days since we ended the three day therapy session, so I have to give myself time.
We want connection with each other. We want closeness.  The first step is asking for those things we want.  Even when we are most afraid to.
Nate

An Option for Exploration

For the past month my wife and I have been exploring the likelihood of reconciling our marriage. This was not a process I was willing to consider not too long ago, but a few things happened.
While listening to a few podcasts, I heard a few things that stuck out to me. A number of guests on various episodes talked about their spouses with praise, love and respect. I recalled there was a time that my wife and I could express such words about each other earlier on in our marriage. Praise, love and respect.
I imagined to myself on those car rides to and from work about what it would be like to be in a relationship where those three ingredients existed. Where I was mindful of my part in maintaining a positive relationship.
Was I capable? Did I want to be capable?
One guest on a podcast (I believe it was on the Jordan Harbinger show) said that “the marriage has to work because divorce isn’t an option”.
If you don’t make something an option, you can’t consider it in your plan.
Of course, I’m speaking in general terms. Sometimes, getting out of a bad relationship has to be an option to gain safety.
I had to leave and separate from my wife to gain safety. Distance was needed for both of us because we were being crushed under the weight of our destroyed relationship that was falling down.
Leaving had to be an option in order to save us as individuals.  And to salvage any hope that we could remain civil towards each other.
Divorce was an option, too. But it wasn’t at the top of the list. It was close but not at the top.
Over two years later, and continuing to maintain a civil, caring relationship for each other my wife and I are still in each other’s lives.
And I hear it mentioned on a podcast that divorce doesn’t have to be an option.
I didn’t have a plan to ask for reconciliation, but I figured that I would be more honest in our future conversations that I have considered it. And share what got me thinking about it.
Praise, love and respect. I know we still have these in our relationship. They got lost. They were not talked about. We were in pain and when you are suffering, you don’t pay attention to the other’s suffering.
We got selfish, and it destroyed the marriage.
We are reading books, listening to podcasts, and talking more deeply about our hurt. This has opened us to explore a new opportunity for a different marriage because we see there is hope. We have heard the stories of others who have been through horrific relationship tragedies and have come out the other side. They love stronger now more than before.
They put forth effort to reconnect in ways they didn’t think possible.
Tools. They were given tools.
We have begun a process and have been given a few tools. We continue to explore options to gain more tools.
This is a fearful, yet exciting time.
We continue to explore. Exploration into newness is the option we choose.
Nate

Self-Forgiveness is Hard

Self-forgiveness is hard.  I think it has to do with how aware we are of ourselves.  Every thought, every deed.  We know about them.  The imperfection of being human is continuous in everything we do, think, say or feel.
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“I hate her.”
“Those people are stupid.”
“What if I smacked him?”
“What if I tripped her down the stairs?”
“What would happen to me if I did X,Y or Z?”
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Where the hell do those thoughts come from?
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“I didn’t do A, B, or C and that makes me a bad person.”
“I helped him and he didn’t say thank you. So ungrateful. That’s the last time I do that.”
“I yelled at her. I’m so horrible.”
“I ignored them.”
“I didn’t say hello.”
“That makes me a bad, self-centered person.  I don’t deserve anything positive to happen to me in my life, because I said, did or thought X, Y and Z.”
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It seems like a mathematical, logic problem.   If A equals B and B equals C, then A equals C.
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If I don’t say Hello that makes me a bad person and bad people are unworthy of love.  Then I am unworthy of love.
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Often times, when we judge ourselves unworthy or negative in some way, it is not we who are really doing the judging.  If we stop, close our eyes and look within us, we’ll find that the judge is a parent, teacher, friend or family member from our past.  It is with their voice we judge ourselves.  Not our own.
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When we first learned to feel shame and guilt, it was by the judgment of others.  A caregiver, most of the time.  Someone we trusted with our love.  Who we trusted loved us.  Then they go and make us feel badly about something we did.  But they love us.  They usually make us feel pretty good.  Now, we’re not feeling so good around them.  They made us feel pretty damn shitty.
Of course, we have to feel some kind of shame or guilt with things we do.  Especially, if those things will harm others or is not for the greater good of our tribe.  We can’t just do whatever we want to do.  There are consequences that must be suffered to keep the tribe members in their place.  Otherwise, it’s mass hysteria.
How that loved one introduces us to shame will determine how we deal with shame in the future.  Will we lie to avoid that pain?  Will we turn the shame into anger and rage against others to protect our fragile ego?  Will we avoid social contact and all conflict at every expense just so we don’t feel the pain of shame?
How we deal with the pain of shame shows up in our daily lives.  The decisions that we make are based on our thoughts and how we want to control what we say and do.  Avoidance of things is one way to deal.
“I can’t say that.”
“I won’t say that.”
“What I say won’t matter, anyway.”
“What I say won’t make a difference.”
“What I want doesn’t matter to others.”
All that equals C, “I am unworthy.”
If the person we trusted with our love and who we felt love for took a little bit of that love away from us because of something we did then love is neither constant nor continuous.  It is dependent on the other person. They have the control.  They can take and give.  And that love is based on my behavior meeting their expectations.   To avoid pain I must meet their demands.
The logic problem: If I do what he wants, he will be happy with me.  If he is happy with me, I will be loved.  So, If I do what he wants then I will be loved.
And the negative of that is true, too.  If I don’t do what he wants, he will be unhappy with me.  If he is unhappy with me, I will not be loved.  So, if I don’t do what he wants, then I will not be loved.
This logic runs deep in our brains and so we apply it to all of our relationships.  Even the relationship we have with ourselves.
That is what makes self-forgiveness so difficult.  We see all this negative about ourselves and find it difficult, if not impossible, to allow forgiveness of our negative thoughts, deeds or feelings.  We believe we shouldn’t forgiven. We continuously punish ourselves.  A punishment that if dealt by another person we would eventually tell them to screw off.  If we had a strong enough ego to do so.  A punishment that if we saw it being dealt out to a loved one, we would tell our loved one to get out of that relationship.  Run as far away from that other person as they could get.
We can’t run away from ourselves.  People try.  Maybe you have tried.  I have.  Alcohol.  Drugs. Gambling. Work.  Anything to escape the punishing negative thoughts.  Any way to get out of our heads.  Running doesn’t work. It never does.  The pain catches up.  The damage from running starts to show; mentally and physically.
The great thing is we can learn to stop running and to stand our ground.  There are hundreds of ways to learn.  And we can learn them all. We can learn what works best for us.  This isn’t a post on how or what to learn.  It is just me saying, I understand.  Our lives can feel like a mess.  It took time for life to end up this way. Due to our upbringing, we made decisions based on our experiences and used whatever means necessary to avoid pain.
It took us awhile to get here and it’s okay that we are here.  We can start by forgiving ourselves and saying one thing: “It’s okay that I am here.”  Then we can encourage ourselves to do one thing: “I can start to make a change.”
That’s it.  Don’t even start trying, yet.  It took you years to get here.  It will take years to be fully recovered.  But just like not smoking or drinking for that first day of sobriety, you are one day healthier.  Tell yourself each day, “It’s okay that I’m here.  I can start to make a change.”
Remember, this is only the start.  If you are looking for a tool, you can go back to my post on Don Miguel’s The Four Agreements.
In that post I wrote, “Miguel points out in his book that we can expect to slip up and not follow those new agreements at times, maybe a lot of times, but to not get discouraged because we can always start again. I don’t have to be perfect.  I don’t have to get it right every time.”
You don’t have to get it right every time or be perfect. It is okay that you are here. I welcome you.
Nate

Are You Willing to Fail

Are you? Are you willing to fail?
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You have to make the agreement with yourself to do things that are uncomfortable but have been proven to work.
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You have to make an agreement to take the time to do these things and withstand the time it takes before the change will happen.
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If the most successful people are doing these things and swear by them, but you disregard the techniques and then complain that you haven’t reached success or your life hasn’t changed for the better, then you don’t have a leg to stand on. Your claims are  null and void.
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I still complain, but the length of time I spend complaining is shorter. I don’t waste as much breath or mental power on the complaint. I know that unless I choose to do something to make a change then complaining is useless. Venting and letting it out feels good in the moment because it is like pulling out a splinter. But if I don’t do anything to keep the splinters from happening then I’ll have to keep pulling out splinters.
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Some of my recent fails:
  • Cold shower in the morning. Did it then stopped.
  • Got up to write in the morning. Did it for a month straight, then stopped.
  • Exercise in the morning. Did it then stopped.
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I was not being true to my word.  This is the first Agreement in Don Miguel’s Four Agreements.
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I lean toward doing what is comfortable in the moment but then pay the price later. That is a fail. It is a common thing we all do. It is a common fail.
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I failed before I even attempted a lot of things. I either didn’t make the attempt or I told myself going in I would only give so much effort because I could not count on myself to continue to follow through.
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I spoke to myself in failure speech. I accepted that I would fail.  I let that be the dialogue in my head.
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Now, I fight against that dialogue.  That fight has helped me get back up. I’m back to exercising in the morning and cold showers for the last 20-30 seconds. I’m not writing every morning, but I’m 2/3rds the way there.
I am still unsure about trying something knowing there is a high probability of failure. Though, failure is only 100% guaranteed if I don’t try. I’m still fighting the failure dialogue and it has me hesitant about setting goals and changing lifestyle habits. But, I’m willing to keep trying, because I also have positive dialogue in my head.
I get to choose which dialogue to listen to. That knowledge is pretty powerful.
Nate

The Four Agreements

I seem to be drawn to reading things on how I can change my perspective about my life in order to improve myself. I want to think myself healthier, think myself happier, and, in some cases, to stop thinking so much and just start doing.

In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements he presents a simple formula to follow that seems to offer a way for me to combine thinking and doing.

Perhaps, using the term formula is not correct. But I don’t know what else to call it. Maybe a process. A reprogramming. He does use computer terminology, such as, our old agreements being a virus in our programming as humans.

Miguel states that we have agreements within our minds that allow us to accept the ways things are, the negative things we believe, and the way people treat us. And no matter how detrimental those beliefs may be to or for us, we will continue to agree with them.

Miguel says there are four agreements that we can use to combat the negative agreements within ourselves. The Four Agreements are:

Be impeccable to your word

Don’t take things personally

Don’t make assumptions

Always do your best

They seem pretty straight forward and can leave you saying to yourself, “Well, of course that’s all you gotta do. Easy, so easy.”

But you have to explore them deeper, which Miguel does in his book. He explores the depths of what those agreements mean and what you must do in order to adopt them into your programming.

I am aware much more now than I ever was in my past about the negative agreements I hold onto about myself and other people. I know I am folly when it comes to talking to and about myself. My thoughts are not nice.

Over the past few months I have been able to recognize my negative self-talk about me. The power of my rationalization to not do things out of fear. I know better how to recognize my fear. How the fear plays its hand in my decision making.

Fear has played a part in most of the decisions I have made in my life. Fear has powered my rationalization to not speak, not change, and not do.

And I know so much better now that even though I know this, I am not free from the power of fear. I still watch it and let it control me.

I let fear use rationalization most recently to not play my guitar with my friend in his band. He had offered and I had gladly accepted. I’ve played with him several times live in the past. But for some reason I let fear tell me “no” this time. It told me that I wasn’t good enough. That I should go to support him and his band, but I was not good enough to play.

I ended up spending much of that day with my kids at my ex’s house, knowing that I was supposed to play that evening with my friend, but fear told me to stay longer and longer because “I’m not going to play. I’m tired. I can’t solo as well as my friend. My guitar never sounds good. My guitar is a bit dusty from sitting out and my friend my see it and make fun. The other band members will wonder why I’m there and why would my friend invite me to sit in. Just stay here with my kids for as long as I can. I’m not going to play. I just tell my friend I didn’t have time to stop off at home to get my guitar. I’ll sit on my ass and watch him play because I know I am not good enough.”

And that’s what I did.

I let the fear rationalize and put me down and talk me out of playing. And lie to my friend.

The lying makes me feel badly about me. It also makes me upset with myself for letting my fear make me miss out on another experience.

I may not be the best guitar player but I cannot let that be fuel for my fear to stop me from doing something that I really do enjoy doing.

I was not impeccable to my word. I made an assumption about what others would think of me and I didn’t do my best.

Miguel points out in his book is that we can expect to slip up and not follow those new agreements at times, maybe a lot of times, but to not get discouraged because we can always start again. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to get it right every time.

Miguel also let’s me know to be aware of the Judge, Victim and belief system within me. It is like a Bizarro World Holy Trinity. Not that Miguel describes it that way.

The Judge bestows guilt and shame. The Victim agrees to the verdict of guilty and accepts the shame. The belief system is the agreements that are in place that allows the Judge and the Victim to play their roles.

In the coming weeks and months I will continue to explore and write about how my Fear and the Bizarro World Holy Trinity (BWHT) attempt to keep me from Action.

Some of my thoughts on the Four Agreements.

Be impeccable to your word – I am doing that each morning. I write my three morning pages. I treat my inner artist to creative dates.

Don’t take things personally – This is difficult. As much as I may say to myself, “this isn’t about me” I still think things that happen to me are about me.

Don’t make assumptions – This is part of what I do as a therapist. I make assumptions based on people’s behaviors and what they tell me. If we know what motivates us, or other people, we can make an assumption as to how we will react or respond to situations and people in our lives. This can be very helpful. But it does not mean our assumptions will be true.

Always do your best – I like this one just as much as the first agreement. Miguel says that our best will be different for every situation due to many factors about ourselves including emotions and health at the time we are to deliver our best. Some days our best is not going to be good enough to achieve something that we want.

If we can agree that we did the best we were capable of doing at that time, then we should be satisfied. There should be no looking back. No placing blame or guilt on ourselves because we gave all we had at that time. It is okay that our best isn’t going to be good enough every time. We don’t always have to succeed, get “it” right or be perfect.

We should accept ourselves warts and all.

Nate

 

 

Shear Panic

Recently, I woke up in the morning with almost paralyzing anxiety. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to call out sick. I wanted to just stay in bed.

I was sick. I was in a grip of hopelessness.

There have been some changes happening at my place of employment and I am overwhelmed.

I’m a manager and whenever there is change, I am one of a few who have to coordinate the change among our limited staff and resources.

And I am worn out.

One of the other managers is moving on and out of the company. She is number four of those who have moved on within the past two years. Every time one of them has moved on, more change has occurred.

And I’m worn out.

In the mornings, I wake up to NPR playing on my clock radio. It’s news I can listen to. Normally. But that particular morning it was one bad headline after another. Budgets that support big business. Political support of child and women molesters. Repeal of protected lands so oil and gas companies can drill.

I had watched a Netflix documentary that past evening, “Saving Capitalism.” If you want to know what it’s about, just see my description of NPR’s news cast in the last paragraph.

A raping of society in several ways that keeps getting worse. Nothing was right or fair in the world.

And I am worn out.

I eventually got up and out of bed. I’m not truly sure how I did it but I did. I showered and even managed to get food in me. My anxiety usually suppresses my appetite, but I made myself eat.

I took many deep breaths along the way. I used all my coping techniques that I could think of to get me through.

Then while getting my shoes on, my wall broke down. My skills were of no use to me anymore at that moment.

The tears came. Real crying came. Not just watery eyes and feeling overtaxed. But real crying. Sound and all.

I hated being brought to that point. Why had I been brought to that point?

The crying felt good. I obviously needed to cry. I was hurting inside. For many reasons. I had been strong for so long. I had to stop being strong. It was hurting me.

I’m still hurting. I’m still getting up each day. I am still worn out, but I’m looking forward.

It is time. Time that I was looking and attempting to move on from my pain.

Nate

 

Contagious

In Damon Davis’s TED Talk, Courage is Contagious, he names fear and courage as having a contagious effect on people in groups. I think not only are those things contagious, they also cause movement in people to act. Act is part of action. Action is what people do, even if you think they are not doing anything. Action is walking towards something or walking away. Even inaction is an action. The stillness we exhibit to think or the standing by as something happens and we do nothing. Desicion to do or not do is an action.

Sometimes inaction causes us to jugde and place shame. Shame on the person who didn’t act how we thought they should act. Shame on them. Because if we were there we would have done something.

But what if doing nothing, inaction, is contagious? Then doing nothing can infected those around it. If fear is contagious and we believe that it is, should we shame others for catching it? Was it their fault?

Maybe they were never inoculated from it. Maybe it has already effected them so much their bodies are riddled with inaction.

We don’t shame others when they get cancer. Why shame someone when they are infected by fear? Perhaps, we can help them get treated. We can help inoculate them with courage. That would mean giving of ourselves to infecting another.

Can we do that?

Shame is thrown too quickly onto others who fail to act within at particular time frame; a matter of seconds. Or onto those who don’t act at all. Assumption and shame are precursors to the spread of fear.

Fear has three symptoms: fight, flight and freeze. You don’t know which fear you or someone else will get or how the body will react. All infections are like that. Unpredictable.

If we can see these contagious behaviors as changeable with support, care and love, then the infection won’t spend so much or so quickly.

We can help each other. I believe we all want to help each other. What infection inside of us keeps us from doing that?

My take away from these thoughts and Damon Davis’s talk is that we have the inoculation already inside of us. Courage. Two easy things we can do to get at it: search within ourselves or search for others who have it.