The Silent Treatment

Photo By Alissa De Leva on Unsplash

The ultimate goal of a writer is to pen words which contain the magic to inspire, encourage, or awaken readers and to have those words ring in the hearts of humanity throughout eternity. To overcome the inherent limitations language constrains on human emotions and join them together in a simple yet poetic way that deserves the honor to be deemed immortal.

The ultimate goal for a counselor, therapist, or life coach is to speak words which help their clients overcome adversity and experience a transformation. Knowing full well that one misspoken or misunderstood word could tragically deny their clients the chance of reaching the inner peace or transformation they so dearly were hoping to find.

There are two elements, among others, which these distinguished goals have in common. The first is that they both involve words. Words are powerful. They inspire, encourage, transform, or enlighten. They also diminish, discourage, inhibit, or confuse. Whether words are spoken or written, there ought to be a conscientious effort to use them with a sense of responsibility and great accountability.

The second component is that both the writer and the counselor continue to develop their art or practice. Remaining stagnant in their craft is in truth, a digression and they will eventually disappoint those who entrusted them with their time and confidence.

In a miniscule way, I find myself balancing both of these worlds. Although my main objective with my articles is not to pen immortal words, I do hope they inspire and encourage others to take an honest and vulnerable approach to their own lives. And while I consider myself more of a guide than a coach, helping others on their journeys of emotional healing and greater personal development provides a sense of purpose no amount of money could ever replace. This past week, however, I experienced a moment of growth too powerful not to pass along.

Last Sunday’s article was the second in a series about emotional healing. I have written extensively on this subject and consider it extremely important. It can be a difficult subject to navigate but what our world has been experiencing lately calls for all of us to heal in our own unique ways. The question for many still remains how does their own healing occur?

While emotional healing happens in countless ways, I have never been hesitant about sharing my thoughts on how it might happen. However, there was a comment which seemed to dismiss some of what I was saying. The comment wasn’t mean or derogatory, it simply questioned whether the ideas were coming from a perspective of someone in dire need of healing. Intrigued and wanting to understand more, I responded to his comment in hopes of a further clarification

He explained that he had suffered extremely painful and traumatic events from his military service and that suffering continued for decades without any relief. Finally, he met a doctor who assured him she could help.

The part which caught me by surprise as well as impacted me the most was that his doctor did not have profound words for him, but rather she merely allowed him to talk. He shared his traumas, issues, and seemingly insurmountable difficulties and her biggest help to him was giving him a caring and empathetic ear.

After reading those words, I paused.

His response nearly took the wind out of my proverbial sails. His healing did not come from listening to novel advice, reading inspirational thoughts, or listening to soothing music. He did not require a dynamic speaker nor a Pulitzer Prize winning author. He needed to use his voice for no other purpose than to unleash the years of chaos and confusion that continued to build up after enduring the original trauma and pain.

The idea of someone needing to get things off their chest was not a novel idea. It is an important component when I work with my clients. I, on the other hand, had been focused on stating my thoughts clearly and eloquently while neglecting the idea that when someone feels free to talk about their deepest and perhaps darkest moments and convey them to someone who generally cares, this is typically the most effective method to initiate healing.

For some, this may seem like a rather insignificant moment. For me, it was a huge reminder that no matter how eloquent my words may be woven together, no matter how poetic they might ring on the ears of the listener, or no matter how articulately they may be spoken, the most important part is that someone receives healing.

For nearly six years, I’ve faithfully posted articles written specifically about personal development. I have received countless comments thanking me for my viewpoints or for helping them understand old subjects in a different light. But during that time, I do not remember any comment which affected me the way this one had.

I am truly thankful for those words which for me was definitely a moment of growth. These incidents are vital to me as well as my clients. If I cannot continue to grow, it would be hypocritical to expect it from those who have entrusted me to guide them on their journeys.

It also is a valuable reminder that it is alright if things don’t go as planned. That people, their healing and personal development, is far more important than what I may draft or utter. To remain humble, grateful, and thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given and never allow what I do to become more important than the people I am helping. That often, listening has more power than any words I could write or speak. And when someone finally discovers how to heal and truly experiences it, that is a job well done.

My thanks to Alissa De Leva on Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your comments.

A Healing Tale

Photo by S. Tsuchiya on Unsplash

Last week’s article discussed the difference between guilt and shame. It focused on how guilt is related to a bad choice or action where shame leads us to believe there is something wrong with us. Understanding that difference can be beneficial in healing the devastating effects shame leaves behind.

But simply realizing the difference between the two isn’t the antidote itself. While it creates a better environment for healing to occur and is a great first step for improving the process, it is not what creates the healing.

This does, however, raise additional questions. What exactly does it mean to heal emotionally? What steps do we take to heal, and how do we know it has occurred?

The Talk

For the last eighteen months, many people have experienced extreme events which have raised the need for a for people to heal. It is a topic being discussed on many levels among friends, talk shows and newscasts, as well as by community, religious, and political leaders. It is also one subject in which I am always ready to engage.

But each time the subject is examined, I listen intently to see if anyone provides new insights on what healing is or how it transpires. Sadly, I rarely hear any helpful advice. Even when mental health professionals are interviewed, the focus is strictly on how important it is that we heal. Stating the obvious is neither newsworthy nor enlightening.

Emotional healing – or for that matter, healing from past trauma – can be complicated. Healing implies there was an original injury, but the wound has occurred on an emotional or psychological level. This kind of damage is difficult to grasp because there is no physical evidence.

When our skin is cut or we break a bone, the injury is apparent. But damage on an emotional level is difficult to measure or describe. And worse, it’s frequently accompanied with feelings of shame, compounding and magnifying the issues. Thankfully, physical healing is a great analogy to help us understand what it means to heal.

When our skin bleeds, we know it’s healed when there is no evidence of the original injury. However, sometimes it leaves scars. The injuries will heal; the scars only remind us of the initial wound. Occasionally, an injury requires medical help while other, more severe ones cause permanent damage. That doesn’t mean healing cannot occur.

Likewise, emotional damage takes place on many levels. It would be great if our deepest wounds would be like skin abrasions and every indication of the original injury would disappear. That is rarely the case. Many of us have suffered deep, emotional wounds and some have yet to even form a scar.

When we suffer from a physical wound that causes profuse bleeding, it must be addressed or we will become gravely ill. Sadly, an emotional wound on as deep a level can continue for years. Finding a way to stop the figurative bleeding is not an easy task. Although our bodies will heal naturally, our mental capacities have not completely developed this trait. Typically, we can see or feel the progression of our physical healing. But the only one to measure the effectiveness of our emotional healing is us.

Most healing occurs when we change that mental picture of ourselves and not allow the emotional damage to constrain us. This is why shame, or having ill feelings towards ourselves, is the biggest roadblock to our own healing. When we tell ourselves we are unworthy, insignificant, or a myriad of other negative self-talk, it’s next to impossible to change the way we think about ourselves.

It would be wrong of me to say this is true in every instance or for that matter, categorize what healing is in general. Healing begins when we alter the way we perceive ourselves in those past traumas. Yes, this is easy for me to say when I haven’t walked in anyone else’s footsteps, but how else will the damage be repaired or undone?

A healing technique

One of the best techniques for healing is to stand in front of a mirror, look yourself directly in the eyes and say out loud, “I am proud of you,” “I admire you,” or “I love you.” This can be difficult and I have had clients who broke out in tears while attempting this. If it was not for added encouragement, they would not have been able to finish this task.

Utilizing this technique daily with a sincere commitment to gain confidence in yourself is sure to work. Remember, this is a practice similar to any other skill we try to enhance. If done with positive intentions, it will transform the way you think about yourself.

It’s the same reason why walks in nature, listening to music, or fun activities also have healing effects. Sometimes, these are temporary but during that time, you weren’t focused on the pain of your past traumas. The music transported your emotional state away from the stain of the injury and you sensed calm and tranquility. If you could permanently capture this feeling and never allow it to escape, it would heal you from those devastating times.

But remember, you had to allow your thoughts to change. The music was the vehicle. That’s why so many say music is healing but rather, it is the salve for the wound. It made the environment more conducive for healing. Without the music, nothing may have happened, but your mind, your thinking had to go there, with the help from the music.

Emotional healing is a diverse and complex subject. Ideas can be misheard or taken out of context. Perhaps this is why most people choose not to talk about how it’s done. But what this world has had to endure these last couple years, it’s time we all talk about what it means to heal, the steps we need to take, and how we know when it has occurred.

My thanks to S. Tsuchiya on Unsplash for the wonderful picture. I’m also thrilled to announce that the Second Edition of my first book, “Shame On Me – Healing a Life of Shame-Based Thinking” will be available soon as an e-book. It is in the final stages of formatting for various platforms. I’ll be announcing it shorty and would be honored if you were to read it. As always, if you have any questions about your healing journey, please feel free to contact me at: john@shamedoctor.com.

The Distinction

Photo by Amol Tyagi on Unsplash

When a jury has completed deliberation and returns to the courtroom, the judge will ask the foreperson to read the verdict. After a brief explanation of the crimes under which the accused was indicted, the response is generally guilty or not guilty. No explanation is required for this verdict; it is simply the conclusion reached.

On some occasions, the defendant may enter a plea of guilty and skip the possible humiliation and shame of a trial. Perhaps the crime was done in a fit of rage or as an act of revenge and committed it in front of many eyewitnesses. Realizing there was no escaping a terrible outcome, pleading guilty was the least disgraceful way to resolve their moment of indiscretion.

The one common denominator all the above scenarios have is that the defendant is never asked whether they were innocent or ashamed. Conceivably the accused may be ashamed for committing their acts, but that has nothing to do with innocence or guilt.

In the legal scenario, it’s simple to understand the difference between guilt and shame. However, outside of a courtroom, it is often widely misunderstood. Are there times when it’s OK to feel guilt or shame? What is the difference and how does one know which emotion they are experiencing?

Gut reaction

When I first began my journey of what I like to call “growth and transformation,” I realized that shame was the biggest roadblock I had ever faced. Until then, I never gave much thought to the difference between guilt and shame. I also discovered I was not the only one facing this quandary.

The reason many have trouble distinguishing between the two is that physically, we experience these emotions in similar ways. My symptoms include nervousness – mainly butterflies in the stomach – loss of appetite, and sleepiness. The latter, I believe, is my body’s way of ignoring the awful feeling.

However, understanding the difference between guilt and shame was a vital step to heal from my past traumas. It’s precisely why this is the first concept I work on with every one of my new clients, and is the first question of every session until they can explain it with no hesitations.

On a personal note

Shame and guilt are both emotions we can experience individually or as a group. We can feel shame for what we’ve done, or we can feel shame for being a part of a group, community, or nation that has committed horrible acts. We will be discussing shame on a personal level that begins emotional healing and enhance personal development.

If you haven’t already, take a few moments to define the difference between guilt and shame. Please don’t be hard on yourself if you didn’t know; some dictionaries do not fully explain the difference either.

Guilt is the feeling we have when we make a mistake, a bad choice, or misjudgment. It may have been on purpose or an honest mistake but regardless, we feel poorly when we experience guilt. However, it can be a reflection of our morality, a sense of right and wrong, or what one might call a conscience.

Shame is a feeling there is something innately wrong with us. We are the mistake. It’s not seen as poor judgement but rather we couldn’t help ourselves because of our shortcomings. Shame is the culmination of all the negative things we’ve come to accept about who we were and are.

In many ways, guilt can be seen as a moral compass. By remembering the hurt and pain we caused, it can change our future behaviors. Shame, on the other hand, is something we incorrectly see as unchangeable. I am not worthy, smart, or likeable and that cannot be changed. Shame takes control of our thoughts when we tell ourselves that’s how we are and nothing is going to change us.

Origins

When we accept those false notions others have told us who we are, they are perceived as factual and facts cannot be changed. This is the hidden power behind shame and why it is so difficult for many to overcome. The sun will always rise from the same direction; it will never change. The same is true when we believe that we are unworthy, incapable, or countless other viewpoints we’ve wrongly believed about ourselves.

The feelings of shame become so overwhelming that in some cases, we seek out reasons to prove our unworthiness. We search for thoughts or actions that will condemn us and reinforce all the untrue accusations we’ve been led to believe who we are.

When was the last time someone complimented you and you brushed it off? Or worse, you responded by contradicting their positive assessment and told them something you did to foil their kindness.

Negating positive compliments was a common technique I frequently employed. It was my way of believing I was showing humility but instead, I invalidated their opinions and reinforced my shame. If you find yourself having difficulty accepting compliments from others, it may be an indication it is time for you to evaluate how much shame influences your life.

The flip side

Any time the word shame is mentioned, it is usually accompanied with thoughts of unworthiness, embarrassment, or disgrace. The one attribute that is rarely associated with shame is arrogance. However, when one considers what is at the root of arrogance, it is someone claiming they are better than how they believe you perceive them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need to exaggerate themselves while hiding their true feelings of unworthiness or contempt of who they are.

It is my contention that shame is one of the most difficult emotions we will ever deal with yet for many, it will remain undetected for much of their lives. Next week, we will discuss ideas and techniques that will help uncover and heal from its damaging effects.

Also, there will be one other bit of exciting news that I can hardly wait to present.

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

If you or someone you know need personal guidance with overcoming shame, please feel free to reach out to me via email at, john@shamedoctor.com

Validation Required

Photo by Madhushree Narayan on Unsplash

There have been a lot of well-known quotes proclaiming how you should react to what other people say about you. Most of them state that you should pay little or no attention to their rants because their words speak more about them than they do you. I would add that if their remarks are derogatory or disparaging, they certainly do not deserve your consideration.

But what if those words are complimentary or constructive? Would it not be prudent to acknowledge and thank them for their comments? It would be counterproductive to dismiss them the same as we would if they were offensive. And what about those times when we do ask for someone’s opinion? Do we accept the positive and throw out the negative as chaff in the wind?

It is impossible to completely discard everything others say. Perhaps we are given strict guidelines by our boss or need to follow instructions from a doctor. There are some people we cannot ignore, and there are some words which are vital. How do we discern when and whose words we should regard the most?

Difficult words

Criticism wears many hats. It can be harsh or beneficial; it flows from the lips of friends or foes. The intent may be to harm or help. Although frequently difficult to hear, sometimes criticism offers a fair analysis of what we need to improve. There are also times, unfortunately, when its only purpose is to hurt or injure.

Biting sarcasm and stinging condemnation can be difficult to ignore, and the higher profile you are, the more likely you’ll have greater extremes of both. It is precisely during these times that encouraging words from a friend or confidant will help you navigate these troubling moments.

In the end, it is truly up to us to decide how criticism will impact us. But is there anything that we can use in our defense against the sharp arrows of condemnation when they are shot at us?

One of the best weapons we have against callous remarks is self-confidence. When cruel words are hurled at us, the only way they can cause damage is for us to consider their validity.

Imagine someone speaking in a language you do not understand, voraciously yelling highly critical insults at you. Not understanding anything that person is saying, you may be wondering what is wrong with that person. You may question yourself and ask if anything you did made them so angry, but you won’t have any clue what they are saying and their outburst will rarely affect how you feel about yourself.

Self-confidence is knowing both your strengths and your weaknesses. Your strengths feed your confidence and understanding the areas where improvement is needed in turn help your strengths become stronger.

Constructive words

“Good job” is something many of us yearn to hear on a regular basis, especially from our boss or manager. Feeling appreciated is something which has a lasting, reassuring effect. Think of the times when someone lifted your spirits by saying something inspiring. Also, remember the times when you sincerely wished someone would have said something supportive to you. Those were the times it was needed the most.

Perhaps one of the most beneficial habits we can create for ourselves is to be the person freely giving thoughtful compliments. Make it a routine to commend others for their efforts. Be that person who others recognize as uplifting or encouraging. That way, when they recall those expressions stating, “what others say about you says more about them,” they will only think positively about you. Being a kind, caring and compassionate person will also add to self-confidence and inspire you to continue lifting others.

Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is a safeguard against negative talk and is a biproduct of being an inspirational person. But what if you know your self-confidence needs a boost and you’re not quite sure how to do it, how do we go about raising it to a level where it makes a huge impact on our own lives?

Consider first what self-confidence is. The word itself clearly states it: confidence in yourself. But when you realize yours is lacking, is it a simple choice and we just start being more poised and assertive?

Some people had the great fortune of growing up with parents, caretakers, and teachers who instilled confidence in them. They were able to face challenges since they believed in themselves. But what made them become a confident person? Was it because they were told those things only?

There is no doubt that growing up in an environment of confidence and self-belief helped, but ultimately, they had to accept that those ideals were true about themselves. They could have been told 100 times a day that they were capable, talented, smart, or any number of other positive attributes. However, if they ultimately did not acknowledge it about themselves, they would not have greater levels of self-confidence.

The reason it’s important that we do hear positive words from others is for the validation it gives us. It can be incredibly difficult, especially if you have been a victim of low self-esteem, to just start feeling better about yourself. When someone we admire pays us a compliment, accepting it makes us feel better and more importantly, helps us feel better about ourselves.

Not everyone is the same when it comes to how and how much validation they need. But whether it’s a pat on the back or being congratulated in front of a group of peers, receiving validation from others has the power to ultimately transform the way we think about ourselves, and self-confidence is nothing less than changing and enhancing the way we perceive our worth and value.

Ignoring what others say about us is not always the solution. It is up to us how we hear those words, and sometimes, they can be the required amount of validation we really needed to hear.

My thanks to Madhushree Narayan on Unsplash for the wonderful pictures and I look forward to your comments. If you are needing some guidance on how to raise your self-confidence, feel free to email me at john@shamedoctor.com I’ll be glad to help.

The Art of Communication

Photo by Lamna The Shark on Unsplash

The ways in which we can communicate involve much more than simply the ability to speak clearly. In fact, distinctly enunciating every syllable as though your life depended on it, is bound to fall confusing on someone’s ear. Verbalizing your thoughts and intentions is only one of several ways to share thoughts, ideas, and values. Others include the written word, artistic expression, nonverbal communication, and body language.

The latter two have perhaps more subcategories than the others combined. Facial expressions, gestures, eye movements, and using hands all play an essential part when communicating visually. There are so many aspects to communication that it can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to make yourself completely understood. Yet, it also has the power to make or break relationships on a personal level as well as on a global scale.

Regardless of how cumbersome it may be, are there any other methods to get our point across? What other modes are there to share our thoughts and convey them to someone else?

The written word

Words have always fascinated me. I began writing poetry at an early age which initiated creative ways to express myself in rhyme and meter. Although writing articles on personal development requires a much different style, strictly stating facts in a dry, mundane way may bring clarity, but will bore much of the audience.

All writers are subject to grammatical rules established for their language. The challenge is how to take the 26 letters of the English alphabet and string them together in a way that is unique, inspiring, and enjoyable.

The other day, I had a discussion with Susan Rooks, the editor of my soon-to-be-published book. After explaining I wasn’t always sure about the rules for commas, she assured me most people don’t. “Not only do I know the rules,” she stated. “I know when it’s okay to break or disregard them.” But even following – or not following – all the rules, there are no guarantees that the written word will always be understood and interpreted the way the author intended.

The spoken word

We can all but throw out the rules when it comes to spoken communication. Although there are accepted ways of speaking – as in making sure the subject and verb must agree – there are no punctuation marks save for perhaps occasional “air quotes.” There was a famous entertainer named Victor Borge who created one of the most hilarious skits which he called “Phonetic punctuation.” He derived verbal sounds for various punctuation like commas, periods, question and exclamation marks. If you have never heard this bit, I implore you to find it online and listen. (There is a link in the last paragraph showing him reciting it on the Ed Sullivan show).

Rules can also be a hindrance at times. In the English language, double negatives are not to be used. Yet one of the most iconic rock songs ever written breaks it countless times. When Mick Jagger sings, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” there’s no doubting what he means. However, if it were to be taken literally, he is saying, “There’s no satisfaction I can’t get,” which is neither what he is saying nor very musical.

Complicating things is that in some languages, such as the Spanish language, their rules state the opposite, and the adverb (no) must complement the verb (can’t). “Can’t get no satisfaction” is precisely the correct way to say it. If you know of any Spanish speakers learning English, you’ll hear them use double negative since they are likely translating in their heads before speaking.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle the spoken word faces is being taken out of context. Without a permanent record of what is being said, words can be misheard or misconstrued to whatever the listener chooses. Once again, there is no guarantee every word you speak will be understood the way you’d like it to be.

The unspoken word

The most telling of all communications is body language and nonverbal cues. We can always connive or deceive someone, but body language occurs naturally. Those who study body language, known as “Chronemics,” say there are certain signs in eye and facial expressions that might contradict what the person is saying, and those gestures are what truly needs to gain our attention.

Although body language varies individually, there can be great disparities between cultures. Eye contact, in most Western Cultures, is a sign of confidence while it can be observed as a rude gesture in others. Facial expressions tend to be the most universal of all body language. The one extreme exception is that in Polynesian cultures, they stick out their tongues to greet one another.

Although our gestures and expressions have no influence on the written word, understanding them for face-to-face communication can be a valuable way to understand what the other person is telling you.

Clarity

Whichever method of communication you are implementing, the clearer we make ourselves the more effective our interactions will be. We cannot insist or force the other person to understand us. Doing the best job we can to convey our message is the only part of this process in our control.

Communication, in general, implies someone else is involved. If we become too wrapped up in our own interests, it hampers our ability to get our point across correctly. Treat them the way you would want to be treated. If your conversation shines a light on you and leaves them in the dark, they may purposely misunderstand or take your words out of context.

From every nation across the globe, communication is something which will always be necessary. The more effective one communicates, the more valuable that person becomes. It is both an art and a science; something which we can always improve upon.

Unfortunately, the one style of communication we have recently witnessed far too often, is negative talk. But the only success it has achieved is division, strife, and hate.

Isn’t it obvious this style of communication does not work?

It has been and continues to be brandished rather arrogantly and forcefully.

It hasn’t worked. Neither will it ever work.

It’s time to adopt new strategies. Discontinue the harsh rhetoric and unleash one of care, concern, and compassion. Most of us have had those moments where someone’s kindness saved us from the grip of defeat. It is lifechanging.

Now more than ever, it’s incumbent upon us to work to unite others in conversation, welcome the diversity, and embrace both the differences and commonalities. It is the best way to raise your art of conversation to another level.

My thanks to Lamna The Shark on Unsplash for the wonderful picture and I look forward to your comments. Here is the link for Victor Borge’s Phonetic Punctuation: (2) Victor Borge “Phonetic Punctuation” on The Ed Sullivan Show – YouTube

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.