Category Archives: Stepping Stones

Looking at Codependency from a Different Perspective

stepping stones

Looking at Codependency from
a Different Perspective

For years I have been trying to rid myself of codependency.  I am sure some of you can relate to this.  After all, we have been told that being codependent is something we need to “recover” from since it’s an addiction.  With this perspective comes a great deal of shame for being flawed in this way and blame for allowing this to happen.  However, this view actually dishonors the brilliance of the sensitive child who learned to be codependent in order to survive.

Codependency, which is an unhealthy attachment to and focus on others, is essentially a loss of self.  When someone is codependent, they want to please others.  On the surface this appears to be a good thing.  We all want to be more loving and giving.  However, when we are codependent, we bypass the crucial step of tuning in to see how we feel, what we want, and how doing something for someone would affect us.   We don’t consider ourselves.  It’s like we don’t exist.  This need to please is actually an attempt to get something from others.  When we don’t love ourselves and see our own value, we look for approval and love from others.  When we get it, we feel good about ourselves.  When we don’t, we feel unworthy and unlovable.  So our very existence depends on how others see us and feel about us.  This makes us extremely vulnerable to any real or perceived rejection.

Codependency is actually a survival skill that we learned in childhood.  In order to be accepted and loved by the adults who raised us, we had to “fit in”.  We learned what behaviors enabled us to be loved and which ones caused us to be rejected or punished.  If being true to ourselves was met with some form of criticism, we discovered that it wasn’t safe to be ourselves, so we started hiding who we are.  The false or codependent self is the part we created in order to protect the vulnerable, authentic child from being hurt.  But after years of living this way, we are so disconnected that we have forgotten who we really are.  The loss of self that comes when we reject ourselves is greater than any other loss we will experience in our lifetime.

Children cannot survive on their own, so conforming seems like the best choice at the time.   While suppressing our authentic self in order to receive love and acceptance in childhood may have saved our lives, it actually hurts us in adulthood if we continue to engage in the behaviors that prevent us from being fully alive.   Most of us live as our false self until we do the healing work that frees our authentic inner child, the part of us that is always there striving to make its presence known and has a destiny to fulfill.

Here is an exercise that can help you begin the process of connecting to yourself.  If it’s safe to do so, you can close your eyes.  However, you can also do this with your eyes open.

Take a deep breath and bring your attention to yourself and notice what you are aware of.  At first you may notice things that are outside of your physical body, since this is where most of us are used to placing our attention.  See if you can focus on what is happening inside of you.  When you look inside, what are you aware of?  What are you thinking?  What are you feeling?  Do you notice any sensations in your body?  Practice checking in with yourself several times a day.  Set a reminder on your phone if necessary.  Please don’t get discouraged if this is difficult at first.  If you’ve been taught to focus on others, you now need to learn how to focus on yourself.  There is no right or wrong answers here.  It’s just an exercise in awareness in the moment.

Our true self resides in our core, our center.  Just as there are core strength exercises we do for our physical body, we also need to strengthen our emotional body.  The farther away we get from our center, the weaker we become emotionally.  In this weakened state, we are more reactive and susceptible to negativity outside of us.

When we are connected to our true self, magic happens.  We need to accept the parts of us that make us unique and valuable.  We all have something to contribute, gifts that the world needs us to express.  Hiding who we are doesn’t serve anyone, especially ourselves.  After all, our highest calling is to serve!

Perhaps the answer is to become more authentic without losing the positive aspects of codependency, such as being a caring, loving, giving person.  That’s the part of us that has a desire to serve others and make the world a better place.   Ultimately it’s about connecting to ourselves AND connecting to others.  We can choose BOTH rather one or the other as we did in childhood.  BOTH isn’t codependent, it’s LOVE.  This state of having no separation between you and another is only possible, however, when you are connected to your true self.

The deepest part of us wants to be seen and heard, and also connected to others.  The way to change our codependent patterns is to love, nurture and appreciate our precious inner child.  This is the work that I am privileged to do.  I am grateful to be able to help these inner children heal and become authentically visible so they can shine their light into a world that desperately needs their bright light to shine.

The Only Constant In Life Is Change

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The Only Constant In Life Is Change

Fall is coming.  We can feel it in the air as the nights become cooler and the days grow shorter.  The change of seasons reminds us that change is part of life… and inevitable.  This is a natural, wonderful process.  Change means we are alive and growing.  Yet many of us fear and resist change.  The very thought of it can make us cringe, withdraw and isolate ourselves, or have a panic attack.  We go through life as if it’s a white knuckle flight, holding on for dear life!  We are creatures of habit and prefer what is comfortable and familiar, even if we’re not happy where we are.  While we wouldn’t choose to be stuck, that’s exactly what we’re doing when we try to stop the natural flow of change.  Life actually begins at the edge of our comfort zone.  Challenges and changes push us to grow into who we are meant to be.

One of my clients recently reflected on the changes she has made in the past year.  She recalled how angry she was when I encouraged her to work on changing her negative thoughts.  She was miserable, but also invested in continuing to have a pity party.  Even if we are unhappy where we are, we do what is comfortable and familiar because it is easier.  It takes no effort to remain where we are.  Change takes hard work and commitment.  Unless we take action and do something differently, we remain stuck.  Although this client had great resistance, she started saying and writing positive affirmations.  She was often angry saying the words through gritted teeth, not really believing what she was saying.  But she stuck with it.  Eventually she started to believe what she was telling herself… the truth about who she is.  She started to feel better.  This was the beginning of taking charge of her life and changing the things that weren’t working for her.

As Michael Jackson once sang, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”  This is a great message!  However, many people prefer to be victims, blaming people, places and things around them for their misery.  This is exactly what keeps us stuck.  We have the ability to change ourselves and create the life we desire.  But it will not happen if we put our energy into trying to change someone or something else in order to be happy.  You cannot change someone else, especially if they are not interested in changing.  Use that energy to change yourself and you’ll be amazed at the results.

So what can you do when the thought of change creates anxiety that immobilizes you? Perhaps these suggestions will help.

  1. Assess your comfort level.  Think of something in your life that involves change that seems frightening.  It might be something simple, like changing your routine, or something more difficult, like a move or career change.  Pay attention to how you feel when you think of this.  Notice what your body is telling you.  You may experience anything from mild anxiety to terror.  What thoughts do you have?  What are you telling yourself about this change?  Exactly what is so scary?  What do you imagine would happen if you make this change?  Sometimes it’s the thought that is frightening, and then our feelings respond to the thought.  That’s actually something we have control over.  We can change our thoughts and our perspective.  Once you identify the fearful thought, create a positive affirmation.  This is something you’d like to be true, even if it’s not true at this moment.  For example:  “If I change my job, it may not work out.  What if I make a mistake?”  A positive thought could be, “I am willing to take a chance.  I learn from all my experiences, even if they don’t turn out the way I think they will.”  As you work with your fearful thoughts, you may find they fall under the category of “fear of the unknown.”  The truth is anything beyond this moment is unknown.  As we become more comfortable with this concept, life gets easier.  We are more resilient than we may realize!
  1. Take action. Choose something small that seems scary and actually make the change.   You want to be successful, so don’t pick something that might be too overwhelming.  Here are some examples.  Take a different route to work.  If you eat the same thing for breakfast every day, change it up.  Then assess how you feel when you change your routine. Usually what we imagine will happen is much worse than how we actually feel after making a change.  We can get very creative with our imagination!  Most often reality isn’t even close to the drama we create in our mind.
  1. Fake it ’til you make it. Fear and excitement feel the same physically.    We can experience tightness in our stomach, a racing heart or shortness of breath when we are afraid and also when we are excited.  How we react and respond depends on the label we use.  Start saying, “I’m excited” instead of “I’m afraid.”  You can train yourself to see the positive potential in any change, even if it doesn’t feel true yet.

You can learn to welcome and embrace change.  See it as a necessary — and exciting — part of life.  Change is inevitable.   If you resist it, you may find yourself sitting on the sidelines watching life pass you by.  Change your perspective, and you just might notice that a whole new world opens up for you.

 

Learning To Love Yourself

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Learning To Love Yourself

As the song says… Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.  Without self-love, we are limited in all areas of our life.  Sadly, many people don’t know how to love themselves and actually loathe themselves.  Self-love is the foundation for successful lives and healthy relationships.   This is the only way you actually have love to give to others.

When we don’t love and accept ourselves, we form relationships in which we are trying to get our needs met from others.  We do this by trying to change the other person into what we need.  We create power struggles and drama as we look for someone to give us the love we are not giving to ourselves.

Before you can genuinely love anyone else, you must love yourself.  Before you can love yourself, you have to find yourself.  By this I mean your authentic self, not the false self you think is you.  I recently had a client tell me how much she hates herself.  She tearfully expressed how she is fake and not a real person.  She explained how she created a persona and now doesn’t know who she is.  While this is an overwhelming realization, it is also a blessing.   She feels as though she is shattering into a million pieces and fears there will be nothing left of her.  What she doesn’t yet realize is she is letting go of the imposter she presents to the world and is ready to get to know her authentic self.  This is the part of us that went into hiding when we had to adapt to the environment we were raised in.   The false or codependent self is formed as a way to protect the true self and keep us safe.  But as we become adults, repeating the old codependent patterns prevents us from being genuine and connecting with others in a healthy way.  If you have unfinished business from your childhood, then inner child work is necessary in order to work through those issues in order to live an authentic life…. fully alive, passionate and free.

One of the worst things you can do is to reject and abandon yourself.  Judging yourself harshly and feeling shame is likely something you learned in childhood. We learn how to love ourselves — or not love ourselves – based on what we saw and how we were treating growing up.   Even if you’ve chosen to numb yourself to the pain of the past, the self criticism is there in the background until you confront it and heal that wounded inner child.  As you learn to connect with yourself in a healthy way, you will become more aware of your feelings, what you need and what loving action you can take to nurture yourself.

These are a few things you can do right now to break the cycle of unkindness you have toward yourself.

1. Self talk. If your head is filled with negative, critical and condemning thoughts, this exercise may help you identify where the thoughts originated.  It may feel like you’re hearing your own voice, but you’re not.  You are hearing what others have told you about who you are.  You were not born hating yourself.  Babies actually love themselves completely!

Think of a negative thought you have about yourself.  Whose voice do you hear?  Whose words are you repeating?  Write down the negative thought and then correct it with a positive affirmation.  For example: “I don’t deserve love” becomes “I am lovable exactly as I am”.  “I am so stupid” becomes “I am intelligent and capable”.

Criticism keeps you down and stuck.  We grow with love, encouragement and acceptance of ourselves as we are right now.  This helps us blossom into who we are meant to be.  Learn to say positive, nurturing, loving things to yourself and about yourself.  Think of something you like about yourself.  Make this something you repeat to yourself often.

2. Forgiveness.  Forgive rather than attack yourself when you do something you wish you hadn’t done.  None of us is perfect.  The energy you use to turn against yourself will prevent you from feeling good about yourself.  Make a point of saying, “I forgive myself”, even if you don’t specifically know what you are forgiving yourself for.  The words are freeing and healing.

3.  Inner Child Work.   This can be powerful and transformational.  For now, just start with getting to know your inner child.  Find a picture of yourself at age 5 or younger.  Look into your eyes.  See the innocence.  When you are angry at yourself, this is the part of you that you are scolding and criticizing.  Actually connecting to your inner child will help you be mindful of who you are hurting with your harsh, internal dialogue.

4.  Self care.  Taking care of yourself is not being selfish.  We can’t expect others to do something for us that we are not willing to do ourselves. And that includes loving ourselves.  Are you waiting for someone to go on a date with you?  Take yourself on a date!  You must be able to be with yourself, by yourself and enjoy your own company.   Think of the people in your life that you love.  How do you treat them?  Probably better than you treat yourself!  You have to be your own best friend.  Since others treat you the way you treat yourself, make a conscious effort to be kind to yourself.

Make a list of at least 5 things that you can do to nurture yourself – acts of loving kindness – that are not dependent on anyone else.  Some examples are:  take a walk or hike in nature, get a massage, exercise, eat healthy, cook your favorite meal.  Make it something that feeds your soul and brings you joy.

What’s preventing you from loving yourself right now?  If it’s because of anything that has happened in your past, this is great news!  Past events are just memories that you are replaying over and over in your mind.  Because the mind doesn’t know time, it’s always now.  Your mind thinks that whatever you are thinking is happening right now, so it feels real to you.  This is why guided imagery and affirmations are so effective.  You imagine what you want to create as if it’s already happening, and you say affirmations in the present tense.

These suggestions will help you get started.  Discovering and learning to love your authentic self is the key to transforming your life.

Free To Be

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Free To Be
Our natural state is to be clear, calm and free. This is when we are at our best, living life authentically. We don’t have to think about how to be. We know who we are, and we act from a centered place, able to go with the flow of life. We’ve all had moments like this, where life seems effortless and we are filled with an abundance of energy and happiness. This blissful state of existence is often achieved when we are on vacation from everyday life. The feeling for me is one of complete freedom to just be myself, without thoughts directing every step I take.

 

Conversely, many of us are living as our false self, the part of us that has conformed to what we learned in childhood about who we are. We were taught that we need to be a certain way in order to be accepted and loved. After years of conditioning, we believe this is who we really are and have lost touch with our true self. The mind is filled with everything it has ever learned and is constantly monitoring what we think, feel, say and do. No wonder it’s so difficult to just go with the flow! Even though we know there is freedom when we flow, letting go is easier said than done.

Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy, said we need to lose our mind and come to our senses. Just talking about what we think doesn’t get us very far. Gestalt is a body-centered, experiential type of psychotherapy that focuses on awareness in the here and now. There is wisdom in our body that we need to access in order to be free. For example, something as simple as focusing on our breath can bring us into deeper contact with ourselves. We need to quiet the chatter in our mind in order to hear our truth.

Here are some suggestions that will help you do this.

1. Meditation

This is a powerful tool for centering and connecting to your authentic self. One of the easiest ways to meditate is to sit quietly and focus on your breath. It’s not about getting rid of thoughts. It’s about paying attention to your breathing and noticing when your mind wanders. When you realize you are thinking, you gently bring your awareness back to your breath. Thoughts will always be there. However, we don’t need to pay attention to every thought that enters our mind. Just observing thoughts for a few minutes shows us how random and scattered they can be. Mediation trains us to put our attention somewhere other than our thoughts. With practice we can create a sense of peace, where we can distinguish the difference between thoughts and an inner, deeper knowing.

2. Awareness in the Moment 

This is a Gestalt exercise that helps to heighten body awareness. Keep repeating the following statement and fill in the blank with whatever you notice about yourself in the moment. “Right now I am aware of……”

These are some examples:

Right now I am aware that I am holding my breath.
Right now I am aware of my growling stomach.
Right now I am aware of tightness in my chest.

Notice that the focus is on the sensation in the body (growling stomach) rather than the label (hunger) our mind wants to give the sensation.  Life happens in the moment. This is where we have the power to change patterns that may be holding us back and keeping us stuck. As long as we are looking back at things we cannot change or worrying about what has yet to happen, we are not free. Awareness of where we are in the moment is the first step to change.

3. Affirmations

Listen to your inner dialogue. The way you talk to yourself now reflects what you heard about yourself when you were a child. You were programmed to be the way others wanted you to be. Now you need to reprogram your internal voice to reflect who you really are. Affirmations are a great place to begin. Start with statements made in the present tense that express what you want to be true, such as:

“I love and accept myself unconditionally.”
“I have the courage to be my true self.”

“I know that past mistakes are opportunities for growth.”

At first you may not believe the positive thoughts. With patience and practice, you have the ability to turn things around. What we focus on creates our reality. That’s why it’s so important to fill our mind with positive affirmations rather than the negative statements we are unconsciously repeating.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. We have become disconnected from ourselves and now need a little help reconnecting. Thinking isn’t knowing. Our mind thinks, but our body knows. Our journey is to discover our inner truth and to be free of the limitations and restrictions we put on ourselves when we need approval and acceptance from others.

Living life as our authentic self is the key to a life of inner peace, joy and freedom.

You Are A Work in Progress

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You Are A Work In Progress

Do you see yourself as a work in progress or a finished product? As long as you are alive, you are working toward becoming your true self and reaching your full potential. Even if you feel stuck and don’t see much movement at the present time, don’t be discouraged! Sometimes we need to be still and quiet while something is unfolding and blossoming inside of us.

Our life’s journey is to find our purpose and accomplish the assignment we’ve been given. As early as childhood, we’ve had desires and dreams. Although we may not be aware of it, we all have gifts and talents. As life happens, we can lose touch with our true essence and what we were born to do. Challenges along the way are not meant to stop us. They are there to help us grow into our authentic self. As uncomfortable as it may be, we grow the most during the difficult times.

Change is inevitable. I have a sign in my office that says, “The only consistency in life is change.” When we resist change rather than embrace it and see it as part of life, we can get stuck repeating the same lesson over and over again. When water doesn’t flow, it becomes stagnant and a breeding ground for disease. That’s what happens in our bodies when we resist the flow of change. The expression “go with the flow” is very meaningful when we look at it in this context. For some people the thought of change is terrifying, so they try to control their environment to create safety. However, this is a false sense of security.

Unless we realize we don’t have the power to change anyone else, we spend our lives wasting our time and energy. Every person and situation is just a mirror showing us something about ourselves. The world around us provides the lessons of life that we need to learn in order to grow and reach our potential. We only react to things because a button is being pushed in us. Our reactions show us where we have work to do. If we don’t get the message and transform that part of ourselves, we keep attracting the same lesson.

It’s really very simple, but not always easy to do. Be present, express yourself truthfully and let go of the outcome. Life is so much more rewarding when we stop trying to control other people and make things happen our way. It’s not our business to interfere in someone else’s process or journey. We are each here for a reason and a purpose. Our life’s work is to discover what that is…. and then do it!

Even though you may not be where you want to be, you must love and accept yourself exactly where you are. We grow with love, not criticism. Being hard on yourself just keeps you where you don’t want to be. This is not to say you shouldn’t look at yourself and change what isn’t working. But love and encouragement make the process much easier.

Don’t sit back waiting passively for changes to occur. You must be an active participant in your life. These suggestions may help.

1. Focus on positive, uplifting thoughts. What you think will determine how you feel and also the direction of your life. See yourself having the life you desire.
2. Take some risks and move out of your comfort zone. Your goals and dreams are outside of what’s comfortable and familiar.
3. Be grateful for all you are and all you have. This is necessary in order to move fully into the life you were born to live.
4. Make loving and accepting yourself a priority. That’s the only way you will be able to give love to others and to find true happiness.

The joy is in the journey, not reaching the destination. You must be able to be in the moment, to accept what is, and to be happy right where you are. This might seem like a tall order, but it’s worth the challenge. No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to find your authentic self. You are always a work in progress and not yet at the finish line.

To be continued… Look for more on how to love yourself in the next Stepping Stones.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

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Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Negative thinking is a hard habit to break.  But that’s all it is… a bad habit.  If you want to live a life of prosperity, success and happiness, you must conquer the demons that plague your thoughts.  First you have a thought, then the feeling follows.  So in order to feel better, you need to think better!

The most damaging negative thoughts are the ones you use against yourself.  When you criticize, condemn and devalue yourself, you are setting yourself up for a life of misery.  The sad part is that we tend to believe every negative thought that pops into our head.  We believe what others have told us about who we are.  After years of conditioning, we forget the truth — that we are lovable, talented and worthy of a great life!

When it comes to changing the negative thought patterns which you have been conditioned to believe, you must replace a negative thought with a positive one.  Even if you don’t quite believe the new thought, you must keep saying it until it becomes true.   In other words, fake it ’til you make it!  Act as if it’s true until you believe it’s true, and eventually it will become true.   You’ll see it when you believe it.  You are already acting as if all your negative thoughts are true.  You can see how repetition works in a negative way.  It also works in a positive way.

One of my clients recently reflected on the changes she has made in the past year.  She recalled how angry she was when I encouraged her to work on changing her negative thoughts.  She was miserable, but also invested in continuing to have a pity party.  Even if we are unhappy where we are, we do what is comfortable and familiar because it is easier.  It takes no effort to remain where we are.  Change takes hard work and commitment.  Unless we take action and do something differently, we remain stuck.  Although she had great resistance, this client started saying and writing positive affirmations.  She was often angry saying the words through gritted teeth, not really believing what she was saying.  But she stuck with it.  Eventually she started to believe what she was telling herself… the truth about who she is.  She started to feel better.  This was the beginning of taking charge of her life and changing the things that weren’t working for her.

Needing approval from others and trying to change their opinion of you is a sign of codependency.  If your self-worth is determined by what others think of you, you will live your life on a roller coaster.  You are up when others think highly of you and down when they don’t.  You will never get everyone to approve of you, and trying to do so is a waste of time and energy.  Rather than trying to get love from others, use your energy to create a loving relationship with yourself.  The truth is God loves and approves of you exactly as you are.  You need to start seeing yourself through His eyes.

If we internalized negative messages while growing up, we now need to internalize positive ones.  We need to surround ourselves with people who lift us up, not put us down.  Sadly, it is often our family members who are the hardest on us.  It is sometimes necessary to temporarily distance yourself from family and friends who say hurtful things, at least until you are strong enough to let their harsh remarks roll off your back.  You need to change the pattern of turning against yourself to join those who want to keep you down.

You can’t wait until something is said that upsets you to start working on this.  Once you take in the negative comment and start reacting, it is much harder to ward off the effects of the harsh words.  Just like you exercise to work on building muscles, you have to work on building emotional muscles, such as self love and acceptance.  Once you have the inner strength to love and accept yourself, you will not be as triggered by old messages.  Even if you initially have a reaction, you will quickly recognize it for what it is and have the tools to replace the negative thought with a positive one.

Start with affirmations about what you want to be true.  It really does help to act as if it’s true before you fully believe it.  Just like you learned the negative things by repetition, you will learn to see yourself in a positive light through repetition.  I have heard that it takes twenty one days to create a new habit.  So if you do something every day for at least three weeks, you will be on your way to breaking the old habit of criticizing yourself and creating the new habit of loving and approving of yourself.  Of course you must keep this up beyond three weeks!  You have been in the negative habit for many years.  Without daily practice, it’s easy to slip back into the familiar pattern.

This exercise will get you started.  Take a sheet of paper and make two columns.  Start with one affirmation that reflects something positive about yourself.  For example, “I am worthy of being loved.”  Write this affirmation in the left column.  Now listen for the negative thought that comes up.  It might be something like, “No, you’re not!”  Write this in the right column next to the positive affirmation.  Now go back and write the same positive affirmation in the left column.  Next to it write whatever negative thought comes up this time.  Keep going back and forth, writing the same affirmation and the thought that follows, until you clear out the negative thoughts.  Even if you are not completely ready to accept this new affirmation as true, you should be able to get to the point where you are “willing” to accept it as true.

Real love is kind and generous.  When you are in a state of loving yourself, you are filled with love and you naturally want to give it to others.  When you are trying to get love, you are empty and looking to be filled up.  This is a sign of codependency.  In this state you don’t have anything to give.  We all want to be loved, but you will never find it by searching for it.  Love comes to us when we are giving love.   As you work on self love, you will be less needy and less likely to look for love from others.   Eventually you will be able to be loving, even when others aren’t acting in a loving way.  You won’t need to change anyone into who you want them to be, and you will no longer need to change yourself into who others want you to be.  You will be free to be your authentic self and ready to receive love.  Then and only then, will be you be able to attract someone who truly sees you and loves you for who you are.

Who Do You Think You Are?

stepping stonesWho Do You Think You Are?

Do you know who you really are?  There is a good chance you don’t!  Who you think you are may not be who you really are.

When I was a child, if I misbehaved and seemed too full of myself, my mother would say, “Who do you think you are?”  This was meant to get me back in line and put me in my place.  She was trying to teach me to act the way she thought I should.  Most of the time it worked, but at what cost?

Young children ARE full of themselves, as they should be!  We are born knowing who we are.  We are each unique — one of a kind, unlike anyone else.  Loving parents who mean well often unknowingly teach their children to be less than who they are.  Yes, children need discipline and structure, but they also need to be told how wonderful and special they are.  They need the freedom to develop into who they were born to be.  If we are raised on a steady diet of criticism and comparison rather than praise, we forget who we are.  We then become who others think we should be rather than our authentic self.  This is how the false or codependent self is born.

In trying to stay safe, our true self goes into hiding.  Over time, we lose touch with the authentic part of us and believe the false self is who we really are.  Through repetition we develop patterns that become so automatic that we don’t question them.  Even when others stop telling us who we are, the words take root and grow as we talk to ourselves in the same way we were spoken to.  This is confirmed in a scripture from the Bible.  Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

We continue to repeat these childhood patterns until we become aware of them and change them, which for some can be a long, arduous process.  This can influence us well beyond childhood.  Not being authentic also affects our adult relationships.  We end up trying to please our partner just as we tried to please our parents.  Dave and Diane are a couple struggling with this very issue.

Dave is having a difficult time forgiving himself for past mistakes.  Although we all have done things that we regret, we must understand this is how we learn and grow.  In order to live a happy, successful life, we need to forgive ourselves for past mistakes, let them go and move forward.  Dave, however, rejects himself and is afraid of feeling pain from the past.  His greatest fear is that Diane will reject him, so he focuses on giving her what he thinks she wants even if it’s not good for him.  This is a sign of codependency.  Dave is so much in his head trying to figure things out, that he is not present in their relationship.  What Diane actually wants is for Dave to use his heart to feel what she needs rather that use his head to think about what she needs.  She want to see and feel Dave’s authentic self.  Unfortunately, Diane is having a relationship with Dave’s false self, and she’s losing interest.

If we start out being our false self in a relationship, it’s much harder to then be authentic as the relationship progresses.  What if Diane doesn’t like Dave’s authentic self?  This fear drives Dave deeper into his false self, and so the vicious cycle continues!

The greatest gift we can give our partner is our true self.  Unless we are open, present and connected to ourselves, we cannot connect to others in a healthy way.  Although Dave puts great effort into trying to make Diane happy, because he is stuck in the past repeating old patterns, he cannot be truly present and give Diane what she wants most.  She sees glimpses of Dave’s authentic self and loves that part of him.  However, his false self is not very attractive to her.  In trying to be someone other than who he really is, Dave is pushing Diane away.  If only he could love and accept his authentic self and see what others see, he would be able to have the relationship he desires.

Being known and loved for who you really are is what matters.  If you didn’t receive love and acceptance in the way  you needed it as a child, you don’t know how to love yourself.  You search for it in a relationship, but it’s not possible to get love in this way.  You can certainly have a codependent relationship that is based on need rather than love.  However, it won’t be the enduring love that most people seek.  When you reject yourself because you don’t feel good enough, you also reject the love others try to give you.  It’s ironic that the part you cannot accept about yourself is really your false self and not who you really are.  So letting go of the unhealthy false self that you are rejecting is actually a good thing!

The truth is we are all special, talented, beautiful and amazing!  Just as watering a flower helps it to grow, our true self needs to be nurtured until it flourishes.  Otherwise our greatness will lie dormant.  Sadly many people live lives that are unfulfilled by not realizing their true potential.

Listen to your inner dialogue.  The way you talk to yourself now reflects what you heard about yourself when you were a child.  You were programmed to be the way others needed you to be.  Now you need to reprogram your internal voice to reflect who you really are.  Affirmations are a great place to begin.  Start with statements that express what you want to be true, such as:

“I love and accept myself unconditionally.”

“I have the courage to be my true self.”

“I am learning to nurture myself.”

“I know that past mistakes are opportunities for growth.”

At first you may not believe the positive thoughts.  After all these years of telling yourself you’re not good enough, why would your inner child suddenly trust you?  But with patience and practice, you have the power to turn things around.

You become who you think you are.  That’s how powerful your thoughts are.  The good news is that your positive thoughts are even more powerful than your negative thoughts!  It’s up to you to tap into that strong, resilient part of you that has always been there, even when it didn’t feel safe to come out.

Thinking isn’t knowing.  Your mind thinks, but your heart knows.  Your journey is to discover your inner truth and free the part of you that has been playing it safe.  In order to change and grow you must take risks.  The more you open up to your authentic self, the more rewarding your life will be.  Don’t be afraid of what you’ll find!  You are so much more than you can imagine.  If you stay on the path, you will eventually live your life not as who you think you are, but as the person you know you are.

With love and continued support,                                                                                               Jackie

 

The Secret to Lasting Love

stepping stones

The Secret to Lasting Love

As seen in the February/March 2015 issue of Creations Magazine

Cindy and Tom are stuck in a power struggle, each convinced the other is the problem.  According to Cindy, Tom never gives her what she wants — more attention and time to have fun together.  As the youngest of six children, Cindy is accustomed to getting a lot of attention and having things go her way, so now she expects this from her husband.  Tom says Cindy wants too much and that her demands push him away.  He learned from his strict, critical father to be logical and hard working, and to suppress his spontaneous, fun-loving side.  Tom thinks he gives a lot by working to support his family, but it never seems to be enough for his wife.  Cindy is left wanting and waiting, while Tom is withholding.

Like most couples, Tom and Cindy’s relationship began with passion, excitement, openness and love.  Their strong attraction for each other and desire to be together led to marriage.  But all too soon, wedded bliss turned to friction and frustration.  Although they say they still love each other, they are unable to navigate the road blocks that keep them in a perpetual state of distress, each trying to get something from the other that seems illusive.

Cindy and Tom are not alone in their confusion about what went wrong in their relationship to bring them so far from where they began.  This, in a nutshell, is the dilemma of many couples who are stuck, lost and unable to find their way back to the love they once shared.   They are left wondering if true, lasting love is really possible.  The answer is a resounding, YES!  Most people, however, are doing the exact opposite of what it takes to make love last.

The beginning stage of a relationships shows us the key to lasting love.  When we first fall in love, we have a strong  desire to give to and please our partner.   All we want to do is make him or her happy.  We are not concerned about our own needs, yet we are content and seem to have everything our heart desires.   Life is wonderful when we are in love.  No wonder we try so hard to stay in that blissful state!   Once the initial falling in love stage passes and we settle in to normalcy, something changes…  and not in a good way!   Suddenly we are aware of all the things our partner is doing wrong instead of right.  We no longer know how to please each other.  Or is something else going on that we’re not aware of?  While it appeared as though we didn’t have needs of our own, we suddenly are only focused on what our partner is or isn’t giving to us.  Once we try to get our own needs met through our partner, everything seems to fall apartIt could be that we have forgotten this truth:  It is by giving that we actually receive more than we could ever want or need!

Power struggles are the result of fighting for control and trying to get your partner to meet your needs.  Once you are looking for something from your partner that you are not giving to yourself, you make him or her responsible for your happiness.  Trying to control someone else’s behavior in order to get your needs met is a form of codependency.  While a codependent relationship feels loving at the beginning, it is actually based on need.  Healthy intimacy, on the other hand, is based on love.  You must having a loving relationship with yourself before you can truly give love to another.

The key is to do what will make your partner happy.  If you are each meeting each other’s needs, then you both get what you want.  While the goal is to be healthy, independent and able to take care of yourself, in a relationship you need to be able to be vulnerable and allow your partner to take care of you as well.  There must be a balance of giving and receiving.  Otherwise the relationship is polarized with one person doing all the giving, and the other person doing all the taking.

If you find yourself thinking what I am suggesting seems impossible, then you have some work to do.  The first step is developing a healthy relationship with yourself so you will have love to give to your partner.

Tips To Make Love Last

1.   Put each other first.

2.  Give more than you’re asking for.

3.  Be grateful for what you have and are given.

4.  Shower each other with love, attention and appreciation.

5.  Trust your heart.  It never lies!

Just following these simple tips can move your relationships from the battleground to the playground, where your life is easier and much more fun!

Are You On The Top Of Your Priority List?

stepping stonesAre You on the Top of Your         Priority List?

It’s human nature to put effort into things that are important to us.  Whatever you value will have a high priority in your life.  For some, it’s work.  For others, it’s family.  Some people are health conscious and make diet and exercise a priority in their lives.  Many people put God or a higher power first.   Where are you on your priority list?  Do you even consider yourself when thinking about the important people and things in your life?   If you are not at the top of your priority list, you should be!

Many of us were raised to believe we are being selfish if we put ourselves first.  It can feel uncomfortable and wrong to think of our needs and what’s best for us.  While it’s true that we are supposed to give to others, giving can either be healthy or codependent.  Do you know the difference?

When you value yourself, you are giving from an inner fullness and happiness.  From this place, you have something to give to others, and it is unconditional.  You are not looking for something in return.  If you get something back, that’s great.  However, you are okay regardless of whether you get something or not.  The satisfaction of knowing you helped someone is enough of a reward.

When you are codependent, you are empty and need to be filled.  Your giving to others is based on needing something in return.  It could be love, appreciation, validation, acceptance or anything that helps you to feel good about yourself.  Rather than knowing your worth on the inside, you need to receive it from the outside…  constantly!    Doing for others can be a way of filling this endless need.  Codependents are great helpers!  They are the first ones to jump in and help, even if it’s not good for them.  They have a very hard time saying no.  The old tape telling them they are being selfish keeps playing over and over again.  Because they don’t know the first thing about taking care of themselves, they put everyone and everything ahead of them.  So while it appears that they are all about you, it’s really about what they need from you in order to be okay.

This is a great example of codependency.  When we are on a plane and the flight attendants gives their safety speech before takeoff, they instruct us to put our own oxygen mask on first before we put the mask on any children we are traveling with.  Why?  Because if you pass out, how can you help your child?  You need to breathe and be okay, or you have nothing to give to anyone else!  It’s not only healthy, it is also necessary to put our needs first.  I once had a very funny flight attendant who said to put the mask on a child or anyone acting like a child!  While this is a joke, it’s a little too close to the truth.  Codependent relationships are often childish, since children are dependent on others to take care of them.  When we grow into healthy adults, we know how to take care of ourselves.

One way to test whether you are giving from a healthy or codependent place is to ask yourself how you feel.  Are you saying yes to a request from someone because you genuinely have a desire to give, or are you saying yes because it’s too hard to say no?  Notice if you feel joyful or guilty and stressed.  Sometimes we think it’s okay to do something for someone, but later we realize we weren’t taking care of ourselves.  So notice this also — without judgment — and let it be a lesson for next time.  Before you automatically say yes to a request, be sure to check in with yourself to see how you really feel.

As you can see, codependency puts a lot of stress on  relationships, especially with an intimate partner.  It’s up to you to heal your wounds, change your old programming and become a healthy person who knows your worth.  Otherwise, you will have unhealthy relationships.  Before you can have true intimacy, you must have a loving relationship with yourself.   Being overly focused on doing for others often interferes with what they need to do for themselves.  So focus on your own journey toward wholeness, which I am happy to be here to help you with.

Do You Need An Attitude Adjustment?

stepping stones
Do You Need An
Attitude Adjustment?

Are you feeling stuck in your life?  Do you focus on your problems instead of the solutions?  Do you feel powerless to change your circumstances?  Have you stopped believing that you will ever be happy?  These are signs that you may need an attitude adjustment.

Negativity weighs us down.  Sometimes we surround ourselves with negative people who drain our energy.  Very often it’s our own negative thoughts that are the problem.  We can get stuck in the habit of seeing life as empty instead of full.   Even if you feel empty, accepting this allows it to take root in your psyche, and it becomes a deeper truth or reality.  You might have heard the Proverb … “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”  This is actually scientifically true, and if we come into agreement with feeling negative and empty, it becomes us.

We are all here to fulfill our purpose.  We need to be in the right state mentally, physically and emotionally in order to accomplish what we were born to do.  Where you are in your life at this particular time is exactly where you are supposed to be.  Every obstacle and challenge that you face is placed before you to help you grow.

So rather than blaming yourself, someone else, or the situation for your misery, make a choice to adjust your attitude.  Here are some suggestions on how to do this.  Some of them will take a little time and practice.  Others will only take a moment.

Ways to Adjust Your Attitude

1.  Focus on what you already have that you are grateful for.  It’s hard to be unhappy when you are thinking about what is good in your life and you have an attitude of gratitude!

2.  Focus on short term and long term goals, and start taking steps to accomplish them.  Don’t just talk about what you want.  You must take action.  Even if you are only able to take a small step, it’s still a step in the right direction.  You need to keep moving forward!

3.  Choose carefully who you surround yourself with and spend time with.  It’s easy to absorb things from our environment.  While you may not be able to eliminate everyone who is negative in your life, you can choose to spend a limited amount of time with them.  We need to have supportive people in our lives who lift us up rather than put us down.   Many times we justify this to ourselves in hopes that WE will be the positive influence in their lives.  However, too often we end up absorbing their negative energy in the process and losing our positive direction in our life.

4.  If it’s your own negative thinking that is bringing you down, then work with positive affirmations.   Affirmations are stated in the present tense as if they are already true.  For example:  “I have a peaceful, focused mind.”  “I am open to receiving abundance.” “I love myself as I grow into my full potential.”  Even if you don’t quite believe it, start telling yourself that you are successful, happy, and at peace.  Over time you will believe the positive truth rather than the negative, false truth.   Many uninformed parents have sadly done this and  branded a child’s mind with this negative energy.  So it takes a lot of positive affirmations to reprogram our mind in the right direction.  Just as you exercise to strengthen your body, make saying affirmations part of your daily routine.

5.  Hardships are a necessary part of life.  Look for the lesson and the gift hidden in the problem.  If it isn’t something you need to experience, it wouldn’t be happening.  The bigger the obstacle, the greater the gift!  C.S. Lewis said, ” Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

6.  Focus on solutions rather than problems.  Don’t look at what has gone wrong in your life.  Problems are negative.  Solutions are positive!  You can’t create the future by clinging to the past.  Learn from the past, and then let it go.  Move forward with a purpose and a plan to create the life you want.

7.  Make a decision to be positive.  It may seem like your mind is as out of control as a runaway train!  But you have the power to choose your thoughts.  Having a positive mental attitude is necessary in order to be successful.  It means you have to be aware of where you are putting your attention.  When you realize you’re having negative thoughts, choose to take control over your mental state.  With practice it becomes easy to change the channel.  You need to be tuned in to a positive frequency in order to attract what you want.

8.  Stop fighting with yourself!  If you look carefully, you’ll see that whatever the circumstance, it’s your reaction to it that is causing you distress.  We can be our own worst enemy.  Let go of the struggle.  Even if you are in the habit of reacting with fear and negativity, you can change this pattern.  You can start by treating yourself with kindness, patience and love as you learn and grow into your best self.  Many of us have heard the phrase “Let go and let God.”  There is actually a lot of truth in this saying because as long as we GRIP the problem, we can’t allow ourselves to release it.

You are not destined to be miserable!  You have the power and the ability to change what isn’t working for you.  The life you want is within your reach.   You just need to shift your perception.  It really is much easier to change something within you than to change the people, places and things that are problems for you.  Take a step right now to show that you are ready, willing and able to have the attitude necessary to live the wonderful life you were born to live.   Over the years I have found that many people need help developing  more specific ways to  reprogram their negative thoughts.   As always, it is an honor for me to help you with this process.