Mum’s the word

Photo by Jelmer Borst on Unsplash

Our world is filled with so much beauty it can, at times, appear to stifle the imagination. The picture above is Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. It has been 41 years since I visited there and is still at the top of my list of most beautiful places I’ve witnessed – breathtaking and nearly impossible to describe.

There are countless places that leave us speechless, and no matter how much ugliness we may face, nature’s beauty has a way of calming us and reassuring us there is splendor and magnificence when we truly seek it.

If we’re fortunate, our lives have been also touched by other people who radiate a beauty that comprises much more than outward appearance. In fact, it’s often their thoughtful, kind, and caring nature that actually transforms the way we perceive their looks. In the same way we can be inspired by nature’s beauty, their support and compassion can lift our spirits and completely change our mood.

The Norm

It is easy to be envious of people who live in spectacular places filled with wonderous grandeur. They are continually barraged with majestic views which vacationers spend lots of time planning and pay hefty amounts of money to have the opportunity to briefly glimpse at their perennially stunning views.

But sometimes, the things that surround us become commonplace and can be quickly deemed as normal, everyday, and lose their luster. It’s hard to imagine someone living in such a place could take such a spectacle for granted, but it is human nature to do so. It’s why a toy that a child has begged us to get for them loses its magic, or a brand-new car we’ve been wanting for years eventually becoming just another means of transportation.

Not only is it human nature for things to become mundane, but our senses can also become numb to sensations as well. I remember someone talking about repairing a damaged sewage line. Shortly after he began digging, the stench was horrific, but the pipe had to be fixed. Eventually, he recalled, the awful smell had dissipated and no longer bothered him. In truth, the stench didn’t decrease, his system gradually became used to it and it no longer bothered him.

The tendency for humans is to take for granted those things we encounter every day. No matter how beautiful – or perhaps disgusting – things are, their significances will likely diminish.

The Practice

I do hope you noticed the words “tendency” and “likely”, in the previous paragraph, are italicized. That’s because it’s not a forgone conclusion nor an inevitable or predictable fact. We can teach ourselves to appreciate the beauty around us whether it is one of nature’s spectacular sights or a compassionate, loving person.

However, because it is an inclination of human nature, it takes a determined effort to change this perspective. If by design we are in essence preprogramed to follow certain patterns, it will take practice and resolve not to succumb to what very well may be a normal behavior. It is up to each one of us to find the method that best suits us.

The first step is taken by resolving to accept this challenge. Acknowledging and being aware that action is required will compel us to make corrective steps. After that, develop a plan on the actions you wish to take. These plans don’t need to be complicated; but without some semblance of a system in place, it will be difficult to remember because for so many years, it was not your default reaction.

To make it a habit, we need frequent “reminders” to help us remember our commitment. For instance, if you wear a wristwatch, try putting it on the other hand. If not a watch, slip a ring on a different finger. Each time you look at either of these pieces of jewelry, it will be a reminder to appreciate something of beauty.

If you happen to be meeting someone who has been an inspiration to you, make certain to express it to them while together. Plan a certain time to call someone and let them know how much their friendship means to you. Whatever way you choose to prompt yourself, the quirkier your system is, the easier it will be to remember.

The End

How many times has your attitude completely reversed for the better after being inspired by nature or a thoughtful person? Admittedly, I am currently thinking really hard to recall times it happened to me. There were moments when I was devastated and a simple pat on the shoulder from someone I admired, swiftly erased the gloom. It’s awesome; it’s difficult to put in words how much it influenced me.

But there’s still one more part to this practice. It’s a final step that is most often overlooked, yet it has no less value than the other practice.

How many times were YOU that inspiration to someone else? Recall the situations when you gave someone a hug, said something inspiring, or were the catalyst that created a transformation for that person. Acknowledge those times when you were key to changing that person’s life.

This is not an arrogant gesture nor a sanctimonious tally, but a silent observance that you are worthy of acknowledgement when you perform a good deed. If we are so eager to thank the one who did it for us, there’s no reason why it can’t be nearly as simple to recognize ourselves.

All personal development requires self-confidence. Otherwise, we may be at risk of losing everything we’ve gained. Confidence is a quiet assurance that no one can take away from us. There is no reason to remain mum about ourselves when we have been an inspiration for others.

My thanks to Jelmer Borst on Unsplash for the beautiful picture of my favorite spot. If you would like some help with your plan for how to enhance your challenge, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments or email me at, john@shamedoctor.com Thank you and I look forward to your comments.

Sounding Sensational

Photo by

Photo by eroen van Dijk on Unsplash

Is it just me, or does it seem like 2021 is whizzing by at an uncanny pace? Did last year go this quickly as well? I wonder if the focus on the pandemic and social unrest made the year move at half-speed. It is easy to get caught up in the pessimism surrounding us, and it’s even easier to get carried away and become a part of those negative voices complaining at all the cynicism everywhere we turn.

Negative thoughts have a magnetic force to them. They seem to entice other callous attitudes and create a loud, divisive environment that gladly spreads its venom. It seems to rally followers much more quickly and eagerly than those looking to spread positivity and hope.

If it were only as simple as changing our current negative thoughts into more uplifting ones, then we could snap ourselves out of that gloomy, discouraging place. But sometimes, and especially during the last year, the despair has felt like nothing we’ve previously experienced and navigating these unchartered territories can be confounding and disheartening even more.

Is there more than just changing our current attitude? Can we simply exchange our pessimism for optimism and change into a magnet of positivity? Is it true that we are ultimately responsible to make this change by ourselves?

Concerto at a concert

This week offered plenty of opportunities for negative thoughts for me. My first step in trying to defeat them is to allow myself to be okay that I am having these unwanted feelings. This helps me become aware that ups and downs are a part of life, and the acceptance eventually silences the negativity. But it wasn’t working. It was time for another solution.

As if Monday wasn’t difficult enough, Tuesday kept the pace going. That night, I was supposed to attend a rehearsal for the Henderson Symphony. For the past 2 decades, I have been performing with this orchestra and during the past year, like every other music group, performances were canceled. But as fate would have it, a tooth which had been troubling me for a few weeks, finally needed attention. The doctor told me it needed to be removed immediately so the rehearsal and upcoming concert were definitely out of the question.

The pain from the tooth wasn’t exactly adding to the positivity, but I knew I had to do something about my less-than-stellar attitude. Thankfully, I decided to go to the concert. During the prior two rehearsals I attended, all the signs were there that it was going to be a great performance.

The concert featured Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto. For those of you not familiar with it, it is arguably one of the most well-known and difficult pieces for the violin. I arrived a few minutes early and our esteemed Conductor, Alexandra Arrieche, came over to greet me. She is dynamic, young, and a talented conductor who begins every concert by talking about the pieces to be performed. The theme for the concert was “Dreams,” and as she talked about why the composer wrote it, she mentioned hope.

Her words struck a chord within me, and as the music began, my mood completely changed. By the time the concert was over, the entire audience was thrilled with the performance and I was proud of the group to which I belonged. I was no longer in a negative place.

Up to You

 The bottom line is that it is ultimately up to each one of us individually to figuratively dig ourselves out from the negativity and change our mindsets. And the deeper we find ourselves in the negativity the more crucial it is to get ourselves out. But that advice is much easier said than done.

When we find ourselves in a negative state it can feel like we are trapped in a downward spiral and cannot find a way out. The best remedy is to set a plan before you’re there and it can help push you back to an optimistic state.

Make a list of some of your favorite musical pieces that will lift your spirits. Frequently, meditation or prayer are extremely beneficial and soul-soothing. There are plenty other ways including having a friend who will listen, provide an empathetic ear, and respond with encouraging words to get you back to the positive mindset that paves the way for a positive day.

Once you have come up with several ideas, be quick to implement them at the slightest sign of your own negativity. By creating this habitual behavior, you’ll become more likely to get yourself out from under the rock of despair.

Negative thoughts are weights on our bodies and roadblocks in our minds. They also attract other damaging outlooks, and often generate more enthusiasm than the alternative. It is easy to get caught up in the rush of negativity yet it takes immense strength to fight it with optimism. Never allow yourself to succumb to its false narratives. Negative thoughts will never be attracted to positive ones, nor will they have any interest or concern for values other than their own destructive ones.

It can be difficult at times not to have some negative thoughts, but we will always remember to do our best to quickly get out of that situation when we realize it is up to us to make the change. And it begins with a determined decision to enhance our abilities to accomplish this task. I know one concerto that reminded me of this.

My thanks to Jeroen van Dijk on Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your comments.

Lead By

Photo by joel protasio on Unsplash

There is one topic receiving a lot of debate and discussion yet rarely seems to settle upon one clear definition. It is certainly a vital subject. Many of us interact with one daily, and some may consider themselves a primary candidate for this title. However, it is much easier to criticize someone in this position rather than be one. It is often a thankless and tireless job, which is none other than being a leader.

What it means to be a leader can be as diverse as being a human. There are countless levels of leadership, each with their own level of difficulty and responsibility. No doubt it is important to have leaders but how much do our lives depend on them? Are we not able to function without one? Is it impossible to reach success unless we are being led by an effective leader?

The basics

The need for leadership is likely engrained in human thinking. Our early ancestors required it for survival, and in the present day, it shows its importance in many aspects of our lives. What differentiates leaders is the level of responsibilities each one has. One person may oversee a few people with low risk, while another may manage a squad of hotshot firefighters who voluntarily risk their lives in the most perilous predicaments.

When it comes to our personal situations, sometimes we have a choice whether we must heed their advice or carry on as usual. In certain conditions, as in the case of our employment, the option not to choose may be completely off the table.

How leadership is defined under each of these circumstances varies significantly. But it would stand to reason there are a few common characteristics that would outline some of the basic qualities of leadership.

The problem with most of our criticism towards leaders is that we have established our own ideals and guidelines of what comprises a leader. Any time someone – and especially those charged to lead us – steps out of those boundaries, they become easy targets of our condemnation and disapproval. And just as I have asked myself this same question before writing this article, what makes your idea of leadership the Gold Standard for us all?

SMH

A few weeks ago, I heard an interview which ignited many thoughts about this subject. A retired leader (who will remain nameless) had written a book and while discussing it with the interviewer, the concept of leadership came up. As best as I can recall, the author’s comment was this: “If you’re a leader and you’re not leading anyone, then you’re not a leader.”

I was so appalled with that portrayal I verbalized my disapproval out loud. After a few minutes of trying to quell my irritation, I revisited that quote hoping to understand it from their point of view. This person held a very high-ranking leadership position, and his experience ought to lead to valuable insights. Taking what was said at face value could make sense. If you are an army commander ready to engage the enemy and there are no troops behind you, there is no leadership. But if that were the case, that commander would have had to have been a horrible leader long before that battle.

After diligently trying, I could find no valid reason to accept that definition. If I were to consider myself a leader and had to get in front of a group because they’re not behind me, then I am just the “lead follower.” That is not a leader.

Two points

Leadership has so many different qualities and circumstances it is impossible to state them in any concise way. Recently though, I read two incredibly poignant descriptions which summarize it very well.

The first is a quote by the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams. It reads, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”

I found this inspiring simply because it allows an opportunity for everyone to be a leader. It doesn’t demand charisma, strength, or a certain skillset. More importantly, it’s an excellent way to live life every day. When our normal routine becomes a bit overwhelming, what can help us through the tough times is inspiring others. Seeing their smile from our words of encouragement lightens our load and brightens our day.

The next thought I read certainly wasn’t the first time this was ever stated, but it was a timely reminder of leadership. Devaki Sokaris is known for her amazing insights and recently, she replied to one of my posts saying, “Perhaps people should focus on leading by example rather than focusing on being leaders.”

This is another perfect example of how we can lead in our daily life. With extremely rare exceptions, we are not born into leadership roles, and simply being born in that position does not bestow leadership skills upon you. If you are questioning what the proper “example” is, think how you would prefer to be led.

Leadership is not a ticket granting you instant notoriety or power. If these are a part of any of your intentions then your purpose was never to be a leader but rather an authoritarian or a tyrant.

Our responsibility

Most leaders rise to this position because of their concern and eagerness to do something about an unfair or troubled situation. They understand change needs to occur and it’s not important who is spearheading those changes, only that they must take place.

We must be careful whom we choose to follow. If their choices don’t reflect our ideals but you decide to follow them anyway, that does not relieve or exonerate us of any guilt from the mistakes you made following their directions. We must hold ourselves to the high standards we have set for anyone else in the lead.

My thanks to by joel protasio on Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your comments.

The Inside Scoop

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

As human beings, there are 2 main ways we can develop and those are physical and emotional. When it comes to physical aspects of development, it is done mainly through diet and exercise. When we lose weight, gain muscle, have more energy – or a combination of all three – it shows us our progress is real and we are successful.

Emotional development is less obvious because the proof is harder to measure; it happens in our minds and in our spiritual selves. While some physical changes may occur during our progress, it is not nearly as recognizable as its physical counterpart. Sometimes, we can even make the mistake of doubting and negating any progress we have made.

The biggest deterrent to our emotional or personal development is that sometimes, it brings up hurtful or painful memories. These can be uncomfortable and often excruciating to endure and rather than work through or heal them, many prefer to forget them or sweep them under the rug so to speak. However, if these issues are not dealt with properly, they can fester and instigate more issues than the original injury.

But how do we deal with past wounds? Can they ever be healed or are some meant to plague us for the rest of our lives?

A closer look

Although there is no failsafe method that works one hundred percent of the time, I’d like to do my best to guide you through an approach which may be beneficial in your attempts to overcome emotional obstacles. It is a similar method I use when dealing with my clients. It may take a little imagination as you follow along, but I do hope it is beneficial.

To begin, let’s select an issue many of us may have experienced. More than likely there have been moments when we’ve been extremely critical of our actions. Frequently, we are our own harshest critics, but how do we know if we have been overly harsh? Is it necessarily a bad thing? How else will we improve if we neglect to see our shortcomings?

The answer is in the approach we use for self-reflection and introspection. Self-criticism is not meant to foster self-doubt. It is a tool for progress. There is a difference between evaluating ourselves and condemning our actions. If our criticism is to the point where it creates feelings of shame, the next step is to take a closer look into why we felt this way.

Shame will only make us feel bad about who we are. It leads us to believe there is something innately wrong with us that can never be changed or fixed. When using self-criticism as a tool to help us become better, we must look at our action as a mistake or a bad choice. Understanding it this way assures us we always have the ability to make a different choice when a similar situation arises.

But there are other hidden and deeper thoughts that accompany shame and it’s important during self-reflection that we examine ourselves as thoroughly as possible. Are some of these self-doubts really excuses or fears so rather than looking for reasons to do better, we hide behind excuses why we fail? Do we believe someone else can always do it better and that alleviates us from even trying?

Introspection can be brutal at times. I have asked myself similar questions and it’s nothing I look forward to. There were times when it uncovered patterns of damaging thinking that went back decades. But this kind of brutal honesty can create positive changes.

What other justifications can you think of that are giving yourself permission to fail? Think of as many excuses as you can. Even if they are not valid, you’ll have had a chance to examine and exclude them. Be thorough in your search for buried beliefs that may have told you for most of your life you were continually a disappointment or a failure. It is these false beliefs which are often embedded in our notions of who we are that initiate deep-seeded shame.

An objective view

When we use self-criticism as a tool for personal development, its focus is on how to improve. By looking at our actions as mistakes, we can become determined not to repeat them in the future. We accept the responsibility for our incorrect choices and don’t bury them in excuses of shame. The goal is to look for ways to improve and not create justifications by blaming or judging others for their part.

But personal growth is more than simply not making the same mistake again; it’s growing in confidence and self-assurance which in turn, positively affects many other characteristics like empathy, compassion, and kindness. We grow in gaining a better understanding of who we are which creates a huge impact on many areas of our life.

We become aware of our strengths and learn to strengthen our weaknesses. Honest self-reflection never overestimates its capabilities nor inflates its importance. It instills a conviction of pride that distinguishes itself from arrogance. It doesn’t require a podium nor a bullhorn because it craves the quiet respite self-assurance has created.

Introspection is a practice; one which improves over time. At first, it can be difficult but the more we use it, the more we see its benefits and successes. There are several other ways of practicing introspection and self-reflection; this was one method I have found to be extremely helpful.

Whether we like it or not, we are constantly changing. Let’s do our best to make those changes be constructive and add towards our personal development.

If you have been looking for ways to develop during your personal journey in these ways, it is my passion to help guide you on that journey. Please feel free to contact me by email, john@shamedoctor.com and let’s start the process.

My thanks to Simon Berger on Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your comments.

My Word

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

One of my biggest fascinations has always been with words. The influence they yield; the power we give them. Words can inspire, seduce, build, or destroy. They document history, record the present, and predict the future.

From an early age, I enjoyed writing poetry and stories. In seventh grade, diagraming sentences seemed more like fun than homework. In high school, Latin was one of my stronger subjects, and one of my fondest memories with my father was looking up random words in a dictionary and discovering their origins.

But when you look at words by themselves, are they more than just a group of sounds strung together that people have all agreed upon what those organized noises mean?

The history of when language began is a bit controversial. Researchers have debated its origin anywhere from between 50,000 and 2 million years ago. The popular assumption for why it began was to teach others how to make tools which was both critical for survival and the advancement of the present-day human species.

Modern language has evolved into a complex means of communication, and technology will eventually enable us to understand and communicate in the world’s nearly 6,500 different versions of them. But whatever your native language is, how much importance do you put on the words you say? Are they an indication of who you are? Do they measure your integrity or worth?

Our words

One of the ways we measure a person’s character is by observing how well they keep their word. When someone makes a lot of promises yet rarely follows through, we tend not to rely on what they say. Those who generally keep their commitments, we gladly give them our trust.

But for one moment, let’s stop and ask the person staring at us in the mirror how well they keep their word. Have we given any reason for someone to lose trust in us because we have not kept our word? As important as it is for us to trust others, we should hold ourselves to the same, if not to a higher measure. It takes little effort to criticize someone else when they neglect their word, but how swiftly can we justify our own shortcomings or failures?

Keeping our word one hundred percent of the time can be an impossible task. There are legitimate and uncontrollable reasons why this occurs and when it does, hopefully its impact is minimal. If we were to afford other people the same justifications we use for ourselves, it just may steer us in a kinder, more compassionate direction when we interact with others.

Other’s words

Our words often reflect our beliefs and viewpoints. However, those ideas and philosophies stemmed from someone else. We were not born into this world with an established set of principles and convictions. They were influenced by our parents, culture, and education. The more we love and trust someone, the more apt we are to absorb and adopt the ideals they teach and reflect.

As we grow older, we may discover other’s words suggesting a completely contrary outlook to the one we believed infallible. This causes us to reexamine our original beliefs and establish new ones because we recognized a flaw in our mentality. Had we not encountered someone else’s words, we may have kept the same inappropriate perspective.

This change doesn’t mean we’ve gone back on our word but rather it indicates we have grown in our understanding. These are moments to be celebrated and not ones to regret. We’ve realized our previous viewpoint was defective or inconsistent. The ability to admit to our error is a positive change that benefits us – all from hearing other’s words.

Your word

The freedom to say whatever you choose has been a topic of global conversation. Over 230 years ago, the Founding Fathers of the U.S. believed in this individual liberty so much that it became the first of the original Ten Amendments to the Constitution. The one thing, however, most people fail to realize is that freedom of speech has limitations. You will be arrested for yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre. Spreading lies about someone is libelous and both a civil and criminal offense. Not only are there limitations, but more importantly, the words we speak come with responsibilities.

Unfortunately, there is no swift and just punishment when someone abuses their freedom of speech, making it easier to exploit. It also shows us the importance of being careful and prudent in whom we choose to place our trust.

There is so much information that no one has the time to investigate everything and form their own beliefs. We must trust someone’s word to shape an opinion on that subject. We depend on their thoroughness and accuracy. But if we find out their work was based on fabrications or untruths, we can immediately change our opinions on the subject. It is not mandatory to keep your word based on receiving incorrect information.

Those who find themselves in a higher position of authority need to be even more mindful and attentive of their words. When you are chosen to lead yet continue to willingly push lies that mislead, damage, and divide those you were entrusted to lead, it is undoubtedly one of the worst ways to use your words. But believing someone’s lies does not alleviate anyone from the responsibility that damage initiated by supporting or defending their words.

Words are powerful. If keeping our word is the main concern, our focus will be on how we say our words, understanding their limitations, and accepting the responsibility for the results they produce. It is when there is no accountability for the damage our words produce that we use them recklessly and irresponsibly.

My thanks to by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your comments.

I reason, therefore I am

Photo by Daniel Robert on Unsplash

Occasionally, I enjoy listening to a debate about a philosophical subject when both sides are represented by rational and articulate opponents. I can almost feel the logical and nearly infallible arguments from one side winning me into full agreement. Then when the opposing side has had a chance to refute their position, it opens pathways in my thinking that enable me to see both sides more clearly. It’s like watching a movie where one minute, the hero confronts the villain and by the end of the scene, the villain is now the hero.

What I have no interest in is seeing the debate degrade into exaggeration, name calling, or someone claiming their opinion is fact. Anyone who resorts to these tactics is likely admitting their views are not based in truth nor are they interested in accuracy being part of the discussion. They are simply depending on optics to convey their point.

We want our opinions to be correct. It is embarrassing when we realize we’ve based our judgement on erroneous information. Whether it’s our politics, religion, philosophy, or just about any other opinionated subject, the last thing we want to admit is that we were wrong, especially if we have given our word. It can feel humiliating to admit to our mistake.

I’m not sure why it’s difficult to admit mistakes. They happen all the time. Perhaps it depends on the gravity of the error or the subject matter. But keeping our minds open allows us the opportunity to seek the truth and that we are aware the need to be correct outweighs the need to be right.

Eureka

As many of you know, the topic of shame is one that always piques my interest. Whenever I hear or see the word, my attention is immediately drawn there. Many of my friends send links to articles about shame because they know I’m fascinated in what is going to be said. But there was a time when my fascination with shame became a stumbling block during my progress.

February 22, 2013 is the day I fondly refer to as my “Independence Day.” It was on that day during my therapy session when I finally realized how much shame had controlled and also devastated my life. After walking out of that session, I felt liberated and began measuring everything I did on whether my actions were shame-based or not. The change was incredible. I didn’t hesitate to talk about it even if I had met someone for the first time. It was a freedom I wanted everyone to experience.

Soon after, I talked to my friends about it and some of them admitted they could see similar behaviors in themselves. The problem arose when my attitude towards how I faced shame became something I believed everyone else struggled with to the same degree. Without hesitation, I would point out where their shame was and talk about how they could overcome it.

It doesn’t take long for an outside observer to see how this behavior is rude and can come across as arrogant. Ironically, I wonder if there was ever a time when I did try to use shame on someone to “help” them see their shame.

Although uncovering how shame was a major roadblock to my growth and potential, believing it was the same for everyone else became an obstacle in my communication. It did not matter if shame really was a hurdle for them. It did not matter that I only had the best of intentions and wanted them to experience a personal liberation. Any constructive objectives were overshadowed by my zealous belief that I was right and they ought to see it my way.

All attempts at forcing others to hold your beliefs or arrive at your same conclusions will never work. The only fruits this kind of action bring are division and strife.

For one moment, think of a principle which you would never waiver or compromise on. Now, look at the alternative view, then imagine someone holding a gun to your head and demanding you accept that point of view. You may admit to it to save your life but ultimately, you will never acknowledge nor accept it.

Digging our heals in can easily lead to shortsighted behavior and incorrect conclusions. It may cause us to become guilty of twisting our reasoning and believing mistruths that blindly skew our perception and objectivity. It has the propensity to feed our ego with arrogance and the need to be right, condemning others with the slightest difference in outlook.

There are some universally accepted principles that we should all hold as true. Not taking anything that doesn’t belong to you, harming or murdering someone are examples of concepts that would get little or no pushback. But these are rarely points of contention driving wedges in families, organizations, communities, and beyond.

No point in contesting

There may be some standards or values which some people may fervently believe will never change within them. That is fine and I am not asking you to amend those. But believing that others must share that exact same view is a hypocritical position. It may very well be your belief, but that does not require its unanimous acceptance.

The kinds of things we take our stance on should be ideals that promote personal development. The ones which center around integrity, honor, and decency; principles we choose to become a more effective person.

The other area I zealously believe where our uncompromising behaviors need to shine is when we look out for the needs and rights of others, especially those who are vulnerable or easily taken advantage of. When we stand for them and risk our own welfare for their protection, it is always stellar character that ought to be lauded.

Showing kindness, compassion, and empathy towards others are zealous acts with benefits and ones that also will keep us from ever believing, “I reason, therefore I am…right.”

My thanks to Daniel Robert on Unsplash for the fitting picture and I look forward to your comments.

Global Healing

Photo from Apollo Mission, July 16, 1969

This week witnessed the passing of another stellar astronaut who was part of the Apollo 11 Mission to put the first human on the moon. Michael Collins never got to walk on the earth’s nearest neighbor, but his role in piloting Columbia was crucial to their successful mission. In a 1988 interview, he was asked about his thoughts on how he felt when he looked back at our planet. To him, it looked fragile, and he realized it was something that needed great care and concern.

Today’s world is much different from the one pictured above. While technology has presented new advancements and enriched our lives, we have also neglected to care for and have taken for granted the natural resources it has abundantly supplied. Since then, the population has doubled, and every passing day ought to be a reminder that if we wish to leave a sustainable planet for our descendants, the time for healing is now.

Since my previous three articles focused on emotional healing, it seemed appropriate to examine how healing occurs on a macro level, or more than simply on an individual basis. How do we heal when there are 2 or more people involved? When relationships or families experience trauma, what steps need to be taken? Is it possible for a nation or the world to undergo an emotional healing of sorts?

Steps toward healing

Emotional healing is an important step for anyone who has suffered injury or abuse. It is my contention there is no damage so great it can never be remedied. Granted, some damage can leave deep and permanent scars, but to live a life perpetually under a cloud of hurt and pain is something I believe no one has been predestined to bear. It may require an inordinate amount of determination and resolve, but no one should ever be robbed of the opportunity to heal.

That same belief is held with regards to healing relationships, families, communities, and beyond. When the group heals, everyone will experience some of that individual relief. The challenge comes as the group increases in numbers.

When a relationship is on the mend, what generally occurs between the two individuals is the understanding of each other increases. The original issue is resolved or comes to a mutual conclusion. This may include forgiveness, reparations, or simply the genuine willingness to continue the connection. In short, there is a change in outlook of one another. Ill feelings or resentment cannot be held on to by either person or there will be an opportunity for reinjury.

The same basic principles apply to families only with the addition of more people complicating the process. There are families with such strong ties that their determination will overcome any damage they’ve sustained. Likewise, there are families in which one person may have deceived the rest and the guilty party may be permanently excluded from the healing process or the family altogether. Certain situations can be complex and may require a professional to intervene.

But for any group healing to occur, there needs to be a consensus from everyone involved. This is why adding more people into the mix makes the progression more difficult. When the group is an organization or community, it can exponentially add to the complexity. Fortunately, the larger numbers also dilute the influence one person has over the rest.

October 1, 2017

My current city suffered one of the worst mass-shooting tragedies the U.S. has seen. On the final evening of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, a lone gunman took advantage of the packed crowd and brutally shot over 500 hundred innocent people and cut short the lives of 58 souls. It’s little wonder this incident immediately sparked cries for healing from every corner of the town.

Healing a city from such a tragic event occurs in many ways and on different levels. For those who were in need of medical care, their emotional damage undoubtedly was far greater than that of a local citizen. But what needs to transpire to ensure healing can or will occur?

This town quickly pulled together. The term “Vegas Strong” became ubiquitous; a reminder that this appalling incident will not keep us down. The city’s professional hockey team the “Vegas Golden Knights” was about to begin its inaugural season and most of the players had no prior ties to their new home. Yet they took the lead in doing their part by visiting those recuperating from their injuries and participating in many other community events. While hundreds needed to heal on an individual level, the metropolitan area included over 2.4 million.

While healing as a town, individual healing also encourages it at a greater level. Personal healing may include acceptance, forgiveness, and/or awareness. But all of these feelings contribute to a change in the way we perceive ourselves. It instills a gratitude toward life and a greater empathy for those and their families who were not as fortunate. It means to continually strive for a better, more thriving community and be a willing part of its success.

The community will begin to identify themselves in a more compassionate light and give that same regard to other citizens because they empathize with each other’s pain. Gradually the empathy spreads throughout the city, causing it – and each person – to perceive it in an entirely different way.

When we heal emotionally, we change the way we think about ourselves by recognizing ourselves in a different light. The same is true at a city level. The citizens have a greater understanding towards each other and become more compassionate to all, especially those in dire need.

In this same way, when the world heals, it will change the way it observes itself. It will strive for compassion and empathy, not turning its head when a fellow human needs help, and take more serious the condition and health of this planet. Global healing is a concerted effort that ultimately breaks through race, cultures, and religions, ultimately changing the way it thinks about itself.

My thanks to NASA for the picture and I look forward to your comments. If you would like to read any of the three previous articles on individual emotional healing, click here to return to the blog home page and scroll down. If you would like to reach me personally about a question on how you can overcome past traumas, email me at john@shamedoctor.com

The Transformation

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Author’s Note: this is the third in a series of four articles on emotional healing. It is a delicate and easily misunderstood subject frequently involving individual assistance with a trained counsellor.

The word “healing” poses interesting and diverse interpretations which may be the reason why many in the mental health profession are vague or silent when it comes to providing advice on how this is done. Nonetheless, with the conditions brought on by the ongoing pandemic and polarizing political climate, there is no more urgent time than the present to make healing a significant priority.

For anything to heal there had to have been an original injury. This is true whether it occurs to the planet, an animal, or to our mental wellbeing. When most physical injuries happen, the damage is apparent and there is tangible evidence a restoration is taking place. With emotional damage, the injury can go unseen and at times, be hidden under a jovial façade.

There is no one solution for every situation. A minor injury may heal itself, but a major trauma could involve expert counseling and years of work. What you have suffered may require a different approach from what will be discussed. That said, I do not wish to minimize anyone’s past abuses and urge these ideas not be taken out of context.

Steps to Healing

When damage is done to natural landscapes, nature will overtime regrow the plants and smooth out the land to where there will be little or no sign of the initial destruction. There have also been times when meteors have permanently changed earth’s crust yet despite that damage, nature continues to grow and flourish.

Some animals can regrow limbs or other parts of their bodies after encountering trauma and a few have evolved to replace internal organs. Thankfully, the human epidermis is capable of mending itself and with the assistance of medical expertise, our internal bodies can repair bones and some organs.

If there is no restoration, regeneration, or renewal, healing has not occurred.

It is no different when it comes to our own emotional recovery. The evidence is when the sign of the initial injury starts to diminish, and we can function in a way that it no longer significantly influences us and we have the ability to thrive.

We cannot simply ignore our injuries nor expect that in time, they will “heal.” Just as there are steps we can take to promote or accelerate physical healing, the same is true with its emotional counterpart.

Little or no sign of injury

When I work with clients, it is vital I keep in mind that I have not walked in their steps and don’t always fathom the extent of the damage they encountered. However, that will never deter me from guiding them through this process. The key is helping them understand how to put themselves in that state where they can eventually blossom.

Frequently, our past traumas create a variety of ill feelings from depression to being stuck and not knowing how to move forward. The memories can haunt us by constantly being replayed in our minds, and sometimes people resort to destructive means hoping to control or suppress these painful thoughts. It is the destructive power in those thoughts where our efforts must be focused. We must change the way we perceive them so they will lose their dominance and control over us.

This is much easier said than done. It’s not always a matter of simply telling yourself, “I no longer need to feel bad about myself and those abusive incidents,” but it will require a change in mindset, how you perceive yourself, and a determination not to allow those past events to entrap you and continue to damage you. Ultimately, you will change the way you think about you. This is a major step in absolving or mitigating your original injury.

Healing actions

There are many people who experience a walk in nature as healing, but what exactly does that walk do? It puts your mind at ease. It helps you forget about your troubles. It changes your mood. The walk makes you feel better by changing your outlook and perceptions. You may temporarily ignore all the difficulties you encountered simply from enjoying nature’s beauty and its wonderment.

Imagine for a moment, being able to hold onto that very same emotional state you enjoyed on your walk and carry it with you after returning to everyday life. The anguish from your original injuries would relinquish most if not all its control over you. If that terrible memory threatens to replay itself and you could return mentally to that place in nature, it would once again alleviate all the pain associated with those horrific thoughts. This is what it means to heal emotionally.

It is the same with every and any action we take to alleviate our emotional pains. For some, it may be listening to music while for others it may entail drawing, painting, or writing. Expressing our emotional pain is another effective way of alleviating their adverse effects. Unfortunately, the embarrassment or shame from those abuses may keep us from this valuable therapeutic step. Whatever approach we take, it should never complicate our lives or make matters worse by creating additional addictive or dependent conditions.

There are circumstances which require fierce determination and grit. Perhaps you were horribly abused as a child and it has caused irreparable damage. These are wounds which impose a permanent impact similar to what an amputation or paralysis will cause. But just as many have overcome these physical impediments, the same can be true for our emotional ones. It will demand great effort and resolve but it is possible to overcome these adversities and be in a state where you will thrive.

Emotional healing is rarely an easy task, but it is extremely rewarding and offers us an opportunity to live a fulfilling life. If you or someone you know is ready to begin this journey but may not know where to begin, please email me at johh@shamedoctor.com and let me know you’re ready to get started on your journey towards empowerment.

My thanks to Henry Ng on Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your comments. If you would like to read the first 2 articles about emotional healing, click here to return to the blog home page.

Individual Healing

Photo by Ian Parker on Unsplash

This is the second in a series of four articles on what may well be one of the most important topics we will ever encounter and that is the subject of Emotional Healing. It is possible all of us have suffered from some trauma which left us feeling wounded or perhaps worse, traumatized in a way which haunted, handcuffed, or impeded us for most of our lives.

There is no amount of money, social status, or elixir which will wipe the damage away and eliminate them from our memory. At the time these injuries occurred, they had the capacity to cause paralyzing fear or the impetus to permanently alter us in ways we never would have imagined. While everyone’s afflictions happen in varying degrees, the best way to live an emotionally healthy life is to heal from those injuries.

The difficulty arises in knowing how and when emotional healing occurs. What is the process which allows us to heal from these tragic events and how can we measure its success?

The beginning

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary provides excellent definitions for the word heal. They are as follows:

A. To make free from injury or disease – to make sound or whole.

B. To make well again – to restore to health.

C. To cause an undesirable condition to be overcome.

D. To patch up or correct.

E. To restore to original purity or integrity.

Although these meanings were not focused specifically on the emotional aspect, when examining each of the above definitions they all are excellent outcomes we would want to happen to liberate us from those past burdens. Embracing these thoughts will help you acknowledge your healing is taking place.

Also, we need to decide which memories we would like to be healed. While many of us may have suffered multiple experiences, it is best to focus on one and work through it rather than trying to combat several at the same time. After we have learned to deal with a single episode, the process will be less encumbered when we move to the next one.

It may also be prudent to begin with one which is not the most traumatic. Starting with less excruciating wounds will be easier and a small success is helpful in moving forward. This journey can be much simpler under the care of a trained mental health professional or counselor who understands how to guide others along this path. But don’t lose heart, we all have the capacity to heal.

Site specific

Once we have an awareness of what emotional healing means, we must now understand where it occurs and what is being healed. When we become free of injury, what is being set free? What is being patched up or corrected, and what is being made whole again?

When we get a cut on our skin, there’s no question where the specific healing happens. When a bone breaks or we require major surgery, the doctor’s skill is not the healing. Although it contributes greatly to the healing process, the skin must grow back, the bone must become whole, and the blood vessels need to regenerate and repair before it is considered healing.

Emotional wounds occur in our minds, our psyche, and in our perceptions. In order for there to be emotional healing, these areas must be the beneficiaries of the mending or repairing. Experiencing healing in our minds will instill within us a healthier outlook about ourselves and minimizes the strongholds our past abuses held over us.

Taking a walk in nature is healing in the same way a bandage or stitches help our skin. Neither the walk nor the stitches are what is being healed. They merely provide a better, more enhanced environment for healing to take place. Listening to music or artistic expression is not what is being restored or repaired. All these actions provide a more favorable atmosphere for our minds to heal and although for some may be instrumental for our progression, the healing occurs when those memories no longer haunt us or act as an anchor in our daily lives.

The Mark

It is always obvious when a cut on our skin is healed because the original sign of the injury is gone. The problem with our emotional wounds is that there is nothing visual to measure our success. It is only experienced mentally. We are the ones who decide if any healing or progress is made. If we have already been plagued with lifelong notions of self-doubt and unworthiness, it won’t take much to doubt our progress or feel we never deserved any healing in the first place.

All too often, we are guilty of inhibiting our own progress because we never learned to trust, believe, and love ourselves.

Thankfully, by overcoming our own insecurities through more self-assuredness, this very same belief helps us change the perspectives of our past cruel and painful events. Ultimately, we learn to accept what happened to us and no longer allow it to enslave our lives.

By no means do I wish to minimalize anyone’s past pains or sufferings nor am I mandating your personal journey. Those figurative scabs have been ripped off far too many times. There are injuries which can permanently alter us as severely as a damaged or severed limb does to our physical bodies. But many people have managed to overcome and thrive despite such horrific losses.

We must be determined to do what it takes to change the perceptions of who we are. We must realize the power to change is within us and no abuser is strong enough to take that from us. Next week’s article will focus on ideas and techniques which will help emotional healing transpire. My thanks to Ian Parker on Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your comments.

If you or anyone you know is having difficulty healing from past traumas, it is my passion to guide people on their journeys of emotional healing and greater self-development. Please feel free to reach out to me at john@shamedoctor.com

If you would like to read the first article in this series, go (or return) to the blog home page and select the article before this one. Thank you very much.

Healing Effects

Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

The current pandemic triggered a wave of psychological havoc and the subject of emotional healing has become a major concern for many. Although it should not have taken a global crisis to make it a priority, it is a great time to delve into this vital topic. Producers of news programs and podcasts have enlisted the aid of mental health professionals highlighting the importance of why we need to heal individually as well as families, communities, and nations.

What I have found perplexing in most broadcasts I’ve heard is that in regard to individual healing, there is a lack of defining what it is and how it occurs. I am grateful it has finally garnered tremendous attention but once this pandemic is over, it should not lose any of its current significance. However, simply talking about it is not the cure and realizing its magnitude won’t provide any relief. Nonetheless, what is emotional healing and how does it occur?

The first step

Perhaps the reason it’s hard to define is because it’d difficult to put a finger on precisely what in our lives needs to be healed. Long before COVID 19, many of us have experienced traumas or circumstances which seriously impacted our mental wellness. Some people may have had to deal with an inordinate number of horrific experiences, and it may be problematic to know where to begin.

I often compare emotional healing with its physical counterpart. Throughout your lifetime, can you recall how many times your body has suffered injuries? From small cuts to major surgeries, most of us couldn’t name more than 10% yet we have continued to survive despite the difficulties they produced at that time.

We may have trouble recalling all our emotional wounds but a good place to start is with the ones which continue having the greatest negative affect on our emotional wellbeing. When working with my clients, their first task is to define for themselves what they believe emotional healing is. What they would like to see happen and what progress would indicate healing is transpiring. Then they write down those thoughts to keep as goals toward their progress.

This initial step is frequently a stumbling block as well because they cannot imagine themselves being in a healing or healed state. I will ask them to look at its physical counterpart. How do we know when a cut on our finger is healed or a broken leg is healthy? When there is little or no sign of the original wound or these appendages are able to function as best as possible.

Just as there are different magnitudes with physical injuries, the same is true with the degrees of emotional wounds. Traumatic injuries can leave emotional scars or perhaps even a kind of emotional amputation. But as in the case of our physical bodies, with therapy and special training, we learn to adjust and thrive in these situations.

A healing indication

When physical wounds heal, we can see their progress. But emotional wounds are difficult to discern because their results are intangible and unseen. They occur in our minds, our psyches, and most importantly in the way we perceive ourselves. Emotional healing is up to you to decide if there is either no mark left from the original wound or you have been able to thrive despite those injuries.

Since there is no visible way of proving the healing process is happening, it is completely left up to us to embrace our progress and validate its occurrence. If the original wound was traumatic and affected our confidence and self-esteem, the shame which frequently accompanies these injuries, may persuade us to disbelieve or disavow any or all our progress.

Don’t let the occasional doubt discourage you. Questioning or having uncertainty about emotional healing is a reoccurring event for most everyone in this process. If one has experienced decades of self-doubt and despair, reversing these doubts rarely occurs instantaneously. Think of these moments as if part of the scab were torn away and will now require a bit more care and time to heal.

Transforming these former thoughts of despondency into ones of healthy self-esteem is the foundation of emotional healing. Sometimes, a portion of the original wound was due in part to our own shameful thoughts we felt about ourselves. Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this or am I being punished? These false notions all contributed to the size of the original wound and healing takes a complete reversal of these inappropriate and incorrect beliefs you once believed about yourself.

Healing help

Undoing your mindset after years of living with a damaged one is an extremely difficult task. I always recommend using a therapist or counselor who understands the healing process. If one is not available, there are other helpful and accessible suggestions. Most of these recommendations are based on the ability to put our minds at ease and to relieve stress or anxiety.

Walks in nature are therapeutic because they do lead us to a temporary reality of awe and wonder. Likewise listening to a soothing or favorite piece of music can evoke similar feelings to nature. Many have picked up a paint brush and expressed their feelings on canvas. And one of the most recent discoveries to enhance emotional healing is therapeutic writing.

While these actions are not the actual healing itself, they are similar to dressing or a bandage on a wound. They establish a more suitable and beneficial environment for our healing to occur. When the emotional distress has diminished, it better enables us to free us of our negative self-perceptions and change the way we think about ourselves.

Validation is another phenomenal approach to enhance our healing. One of the biggest influences a therapist or counselor can have is to validate the client’s progress. A close friend or partner can also give positive validation to your efforts. Again, these influence our environment to be more conducive in enhancing our confidence and self-esteem which is how emotional healing is accomplished.

Emotional healing is the most vital part of living a mentally fit life. It creates a more caring, kind, and empathetic person which in turn, will make this world a better place. If you or someone you know would like personal attention with the emotional healing process, please feel free to email me at, john@shamedoctor.com.

My thanks to Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your thoughts.