A Tale of Two COVID-19s

Photo by Lucas Sandor on Unsplash

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done”

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of artificial intelligence, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of opportunism, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Might, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of confusion, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, it all changed in the blink of an eye,  in short, the period was one previously unfathomed and many perilous warnings fell mostly on deaf ears.

Although I have taken great liberties with a highly acclaimed Dickens masterpiece, it was the inspiration for a glimmer of hope to those who’ve found themselves trapped in a tale of fear and confusion during these troubling times.

Every person on the planet has been impacted by the pandemic, and while each of us has our own unique account, this is a tale of two opposing outlooks and how one might contemplate this challenging predicament.

Part 1

It would be inflammatory for anyone to infer or demand you ought to be living and reacting in certain ways. No one should be measuring success on whether they’ve been able to keep working versus those who have not. There were inequities long before COVID-19, and has been frequently confirmed by many officials, this pandemic has only exacerbated those injustices.

The ability to work is only one small factor in how people are managing this traumatic event. Suffering the loss of a friend or loved one has been an outcome for countless unsuspecting victims and survivors, which is often more traumatic than losing employment.

Many countries are enforcing stay-at-home type orders, causing people to feel confined and acting out against family members, friends, and partners in behaviors they’d never dreamed could be possible. The psychological dilemmas endured by both children and adults are puzzling and overwhelming mental health professionals.

What appears to be weighing the most on the minds of many people are: when will this be over, and what will be the new normal – intensifying the emotional drain and toll with which this virus has vexed us all.

Part 2

If there were one piece of advice I would implore, it would be this:

Do whatever you can not to fall into a state of despair.

Everyone is currently confronting difficulties and while their degrees vary extensively, fight against becoming trapped by this terminally disheartening emotional state.

At times it appears the obstacles and hurdles are endless, and prevailing over one only seems to plant several more in your path. Despair takes the proverbial wind out of your sails and leads to despondency and hopelessness. If you find yourself falling into its trap, please seek help. Call a friend or family member. Seek out help in your community or even your local government. There are many organizations who’ve stepped up their efforts working with local and private companies to help those in need.

Some people are struggling with shameful feelings about filing for unemployment benefits for the first time ever. This is not a failure. There is no shame to be shouldered. These are unparalleled times and nothing which your actions alone created. If it helps, think about all the times your kindness encouraged others and consider this a payback for you.

Part 3

Our attitudes dictate and often control our intentions. In the darkest corners of our dejected mindset, search first for the figurative light switch. Someone else may need to flip it for you, but a negative outlook compels us more into darkness, further convincing us of no possible escape.

 There was an inspiring story this week which was another motivation for this article. A few years ago, the Afghan Dreamers, an all-girls robotics team, competed globally and, at Robotex International, stunned the world. Recently, due to shortages in their country, they were asked to develop ventilators. Utilizing an M.I.T. design, their first task was to figure out how to construct them from locally sourced components. Electronic stores are unheard of so most of their parts came from Toyota Corollas which is a popular car in their country. Although their quest is ongoing, their outlook is positive and they are determined to be victorious.

No doubt there are thousands of similar stories inspired by COVID-19. Although many of us are focused on keeping food on the table and the lights on, this story is meant to exhibit the human spirit and ingenuity. It’s meant to keep hope alive, especially for those who are extremely overwhelmed and contemplating giving up.

Part 4

We must not let despair defeat our spirit nor hopelessness overcome our soul. The one thing we all can change is our outlook. It can seem impossible for some who remain isolated, but it may be one of the only respites available.

Everyone is essential and we should begin by building a mutual respect for that understanding. Although some were prohibited from working, when things begin to open up, let us realize their work IS essential to them and to the common good of all.

It is going to be a challenging and demanding road to recovery. Extraordinary effort is necessary and huge sacrifices will be required. A true spirit of cooperation should be the primary objective, beginning first in your community and reaching out from there.

A new kind of collaboration will inspire innovative and imaginative programs getting everyone working and feeling productive. Cooperation – not fierce competition – is the formula for reigniting a solid foundation of continuity and whatever the new normal will bring.

If there is one universal ideal COVID-19 has shown us, it’s to have a better understanding of the sanctity of life, a greater appreciation for nature, and the little things often taken for granted or dismissed. If globally, we can all learn this one important lesson, then it will be a far, far better thing we do than we have ever done; it will be a far, far better world than we have ever known.

Response Ability

“Learning to self-evaluate takes responsibility for one’s growth.” Devaki Sokaris

It would be virtually impossible to keep track of how many times we are forced to respond in one day. Although most responses would be categorized as reactionary, our ability to respond – and respond well – is shaped by our life’s’ experiences and the desire to make sound and responsible choices.

Another way of putting it is, “Our response ability is our responsibility.” As simple as that sounds, it may be difficult for some to admit. I say this from personal experiences. There were numerous occasions as a teenager and young adult when I looked and depended on others for guidance. Although I genuinely wanted help with my decision, part of me did not want to accept full accountability for my own actions.

As a child, being obedient was a no-brainer for me. The thought of defying my Mother’s orders was frightening. While there were some occasions of disobedience, I would try to avoid her or hide what I did.

It was the same during school. While in no way do I want to imply my record was flawless, I did my best to follow the rules and willingly comply.

Pros and cons

On the positive side, my friends and teachers generally trusted me. Being involved with team sports from a young age, my coaches counted on me to be an example to the other kids and I was very happy to do them proud. Following the rules carefully was also beneficial in furthering my early education.

There was, however, a trap which took years for me to realize how my eagerness to obey, created other harmful traits. I do need to preface prior to the explanation, this “trap” is not a given for every person striving to be obedient.

My enthusiasm towards obedience also stopped me from questioning most instructions or directives. I assumed when told something by an adult it was meant for my benefit. The regularity and eagerness to comply with what I was told numbed the ability to reason for myself; well-meaning, experienced, and wise adults were there to do it for me. There was no need to question what I was told nor find a different solution. It was enough simply to listen and obey.

When the situation forced me to make a choice, my mind quickly examined the options and then I would do my best to think what decision the adults around me would make. It didn’t matter what I thought was correct. If I could deduce the same conclusion they would have reached, I was learning real “wisdom.”

When it came to choices directly impacting my future, I willingly conceded to others. In high school there were plenty of teachers, coaches, and adults who were dedicated to guiding me towards a positive future. Seeking others’ advice was an obvious choice and I couldn’t understand why my friends had difficulty reaching the same conclusion. Whether it was a career path to pursue or matters of a religious nature, I wasn’t confident in my own ability to make a responsible choice.

There is nothing wrong with good counsel but in my case, it became a crutch. Having someone else make those significant choices alleviated much of the pressure accompanying such decisions. Additionally, the way I learned to process shame robbed me of the self-confidence needed to make crucial life choices, adding to the necessity and making it seemingly mandatory to seek counsel from a trusted adult. If it didn’t work out, there was no onus on my part; I was simply being obedient.

Responsibility

This kind of thinking haunted me into adulthood. When I finally accepted this was a part of my thinking process, steps could then be made to correct it. The most difficult part of this realization is acknowledging the irresponsibility and the disappointment in my own behavior. However, that is also what responsibility is: taking full accountability for your actions and not looking to blame anyone else.

Just as there were pros and cons of obedience, the same is true for responsibility. Of course it hurts seeing all the mistakes, but it is also incredibly freeing knowing you can take control and formulate your future decisions. It doesn’t make the decision process any easier, but acknowledging it is yours compels you to work at it harder.

Becoming aware of personal responsibility engages you to demand more from yourself and not seek to accuse others diminishing personal culpability. Being responsible necessitates action and constant self-assessment, while at the same time, inspiring ingenuity and a willingness to work with others. Reliable people aren’t so worried about recognition as much as they’re concerned with building a dependable reputation.

Becoming responsible resists selfish and greedy actions while inviting honorable behaviors like integrity and honesty, inspiring kindness, and good intentions towards others. At times, others may disagree with what we know are responsible choices, but they are never made to purposely damage others.

Responsibility leads to building good character in those willing to be accountable for their own choices and actions. They are not afraid to seek wise counsel and will take full liability for their decisions. If they do make a wrong choice, the mistake is admitted and becomes a lesson learned. They don’t create smoke screens to hide or shift blame and are open to criticism because of a deep desire to learn to be more effective and valuable – inspiring others to increase their own sense of responsibility.

The best way to elevate your ability to respond comes with practicing self-awareness. Once it becomes a part of your character, it’s a process you’ll want to continue for the rest of your life.

My thanks to Devaki Sokaris for the opening quote. She has spent much of her life as a soul mentor; creating awareness for people to source their own inner wisdom and understand the importance the soul plays in discovering their true selves. Find out more at her website: www.soul-mentoring.com. I look forward to your comments.

Maintaining the focus

Photo by Tīna Sāra on Unsplash

“When it hurts – observe. Life is trying to teach you something.” – Anita Krizzam

Life is continually riddled with uncertainties and during this current COVID-19 situation, it has never been more evident. What frequently accompanies traumatic times is a yearning for stability as well as certainty. In the last few days, I’ve encountered several people who’ve indicated they needed or wanted healing. Typically, I would be inclined to be more specific about the type of healing by preceding it with the word “emotional”; however, in these vexing times, there is no need to make this distinction.

Virtually every person has been impacted by this menacing virus. But the effects each of us undergo vary widely in their scope, magnitude, and levels of harm. While it may not be much more than an inconvenience to some, others are suffering inexplicable anxiety and trauma without being remotely near the front lines of defense.

Only a few months ago, some people would have considered themselves to have easily endured troubling times by reacting in a caring, considerate, and compassionate manner. They were pillars others would look to for emanating kind and generous behaviors. Nevertheless, some of them are now experiencing thoughts and actions they never would have imagined they were able to muster and wonder how they will be able to make it through this unparalleled crisis.

What remedy is there against such an indefensible circumstance? And why are completely alien suggestions and ideas even making their slightest appearances our thoughts?

What is the answer

The solutions may not be the kind which many of us would have hoped for. Our fast-paced society has led us to believe results are readily available and within easy reach. All it takes is a quick internet search for step-by-step instructions or a video on how anything can be fixed. But this unprecedented circumstance was never addressed properly, and the solutions are evading those we would like to deem the experts.

As much as we may despise feeling anxious, worried, or fearful, it is completely understandable that whatever uncharacteristic or abnormal feelings being experienced, it’s entirely normal and being commonly experienced by millions. While this is not meant to lessen the severity of your predicament nor downplay any emotionally difficult struggle, it’s to help you become aware, in this present moment, that it’s normal to be having these kinds of previously unimagined thoughts, feelings, or actions and that you are not dealing with them as effectively as you believe you should be.

Many damaging emotions we suffer not only propagate themselves but thrive on their own existence. When anxiety ensues, it becomes stronger. Subsequently, this instigates other harmful thoughts, causing concern and forces us to question ourselves more. Shame and other tumultuous emotions rear their ugly heads adding to the confusion and continuing this vicious cycle to a nearly inescapable quagmire.

Breaking the cycle

The one common denominator these conditions have is the way in which we observe and perceive ourselves. It begins with acknowledging those previously unimagined thoughts and emotions then surmising or assuming they are an indication something went wrong. As those feelings progress, so do the destructive – and very false – perceptions of who we are.

Our focus has gone from “what can I do” to “what went wrong.”

As the Shame Doctor, I encourage you to shift your focus by becoming aware these reactions are by no means wrong or bad. They simply “are.” Next, tell yourself it’s okay to feel this way. Although it’s something you want to go away, saying to yourself “it’s okay to have these feelings” will actually help suppress and alleviate them – supporting and facilitating a more positive self-perception.

When working with my clients, this is a vital first step in the healing process. Otherwise, subsequent healing will have difficulty fully manifesting itself. A major part of emotional healing has to do with how we recognize, perceive and value ourselves.

In the previous article, emotional healing was compared to physical healing. When our skin suffers a cut, it still needs to heal regardless of what or who made the initial wound. The skin must grow back to heal. With an emotional wound, our mental capacity heals itself by renewing the positive outlook of who we are.

Imagine for one moment making great strides in emotional healing and NOT having more self-esteem and a better mindset and attitude about ourselves. It cannot happen.

Please keep in mind there is also a possibility of a scar or other indications of the initial injury, but emotional healing allows us to work through the trauma and create a possibility of becoming stronger for it.

Set your sights

The opening quote suggests we “observe” (meaning your current situation) when things hurt. This is another remarkable way of creating self-awareness. It’s similar to a problem-solving exercise. For instance, if you are experiencing negative thoughts about yourself, stop and ask why this is happening. What triggered these thoughts and made you feel poorly about yourself. Next, counteract those feelings by reminding yourself: A) it’s okay to have them and B) list the positive behaviors you showed prior to this dubious moment.

Another way to practice observance is to imagine you are interviewing someone else with the ability of reading that person’s mind. Take time to encourage “that person” and point out the misunderstandings brought on by self-doubt, fear, and shame. It does take practice, but will be an extremely rewarding and powerful emotional healing technique.

Destructive thoughts and emotions shift our focus away from our mental wellness onto topics which instead deteriorate and worsen it. Learning to refocus our minds on constructive and positive issues puts us back on track. These are undoubtedly some of the most difficult times any of us will face and maintaining our focus on constructive aspects will help us become victorious over this very difficult struggle.

My thanks to by Tīna Sāra on Unsplash for the beautiful and fitting picture and I look forward to your comments.

What does it mean to heal?

Photo by Tim Charleston

Is there a more important, more urgent topic than emotional healing? Even before COVID-19 blindsided us and left us with peculiar feelings we’d previously never imagined, emotional healing was in desperate need for many. But how often was this vital topic ever the center of attention? Even when it was given proper consideration, how effectively was it covered? Think about the last time you came across an article, program, or exposé discussing emotional healing. Were any practical suggestions or helpful advice offered to support those in dire need?

If there is one thing nearly every one of us has in common, it is some past event which caused emotional damage and needs healing.

A Difficult Matter

Perhaps why this topic is rarely considered is because it is an extraordinarily complex issue and many who ought to know how to provide useful information are not fully aware of the complexities and procedures.

One method I have found to be extremely beneficial in understanding how it works is to compare it to its physical counterpart, the healing of our bodies. Our bodies can experience various types of injuries. There are scrapes, cuts, gashes, as well as burns, bruises, breaks, and much more. Some injuries can heal the next day while others may take years or even decades. Sometimes we are left with scars, limps, or other physical characteristics which remain as a constant reminder of the original injury.

Additionally, certain wounds require stiches, surgery, or other kinds of medical expertise simply to get us to the place where our bodies can heal. Ultimately however, it’s up to our bodies to mend themselves. The best surgeon in the world will not be successful if your body does refuses to join in the healing process.

Signs of Healing

No matter how grave the injury is, there are signs indicating when healing has begun. Minor scrapes will scab over allowing the skin to grow back together. Discoloration from bruises fade as blood vessels heal and the body reabsorbs the blood. The pain from broken bones subsides as their strength gradually returns.

Often, it is easy to spot physical signs of recovery and being aware of them makes us feel better about our progress.

If only emotional healing were as easily identifiable as physical healing, it would occur more frequently and to many more needy souls.

The problem is how do we know emotional healing is occurring. There are no definite signs identifying or signaling progress. No mental bruise, as it were, slowly fading which provides assurance healing is taking place. But this is not always absolutely true.

There are signs of emotional healing. However, they can be subtle and much harder to detect because they are experienced rather than readily seen. Emotional healing changes our mentality and how we perceive the impact from that injury.

Emotional Healing Explored

There are countless ways emotional damage can be healed but since it’s impossible to cover them all, I’ll discuss one which is crucial for many.

Shame is one of the biggest contributors to emotional damage. As defined in last week’s article, shame is the culmination of all the negative things we’ve come to believe about who we were and are.

While it’s rarely the original culprit, it magnifies the force and intensity of the injury. People who’ve experienced abuse tend to question why it happened, and more specifically, why it happened to them. Was it some punishment for other acts they did? Did they somehow deserve the abuse? At some point, they begin to judge and deem themselves responsible for deserving most of the abuse and subsequent damage!

I have never had a client where this was not the case. It was even true for me.

The first step is realizing there was nothing you did to deserve it. Most abusers want you to believe that lie and will tell you all kinds of fabrications to coerce or intimidate you to believe it. This is definitely not true. Their actions were the result of their own selfish, repulsive, or disgusting desires. You were the unfortunate receiver of them.

This awareness, however, is not always an easy step. Depending upon the length of the abuse, it can be extremely difficult to accept this premise. For some, it may be next to impossible, even with the best professional help. For those who do and can accept it, the next step is where the real healing begins.

Forgive yourself for ever believing you did something to deserve the abuse.

It may seem like a simple and needless step, but it is truly vital. Forgiving yourself is a mental ointment which figuratively helps your emotional skin to grow back together. It doesn’t change or negate what happened to you and may even leave a scar. However, it will help you transform the way you think about you!

At this stage, it is not about forgiving the abuser. That is a separate issue and one which frankly needs an article unto itself. The worst thing anyone can say to an abused person is he or she must first forgive the abuser. It is cold, heartless, and ignorant of everything that person has ever suffered.

Self-forgiveness sets in motion a new approach to observing ourselves, raises our self-esteem and encourages awareness of more shame and negative self-talk. It shows us other hurtful incidents from our past initiating more healing and positive self-perception.

It also builds hope, confidence, and changes our spirits and attitudes. These are indeed the healing signs signifying the emotional healing process. Hold on to them. Cherish them. It is easy to doubt or question them, but remember this. Doubting is akin to reinjuring a flesh wound when it is almost healed. Achieving emotional healing is believing and trusting in our progress and validating the changes to our psychological perspectives.

This is not an easy process. But the rewards are enormous and specifically why I do this kind of work: guiding others on their journeys of emotional healing. The path is not always clear-cut and may involve a caring person to encourage and authenticate your progress. For many, it will be the most difficult struggle yet greatest reward of their lives.

Emotional healing is a unique process and because it’s not always apparent, it’s vital we remember our victories and progress. Changing the way we think about ourselves is precisely what it means to heal.

My thanks to Tim Charleston for the beautiful photo of my good friend Savannah Armijo. I look forward to your comments.

If you or someone you know want to find out more about how to progress on your healing journey, please do not hesitate to contact me at jdunia@gcegroup.net Thank you.

The Truth Be Told

Pablo Picasso’s Mandolin and Guitar – Courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum

“Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.”

Pablo Picasso

I heard the above quote during a news broadcast about the models being used in tracking the COVID-19 virus. The scientist being interviewed was asked why many of the models often differed and frequently changed over a brief period. His explanation was intriguing.

“Models aren’t meant to reflect what’s happening in the moment,” he remarked. “They try to predict what will occur based on the data input.”

In other words, what are the different possibilities this virus would generate when certain social distancing and other precautionary measures are or are not used. They analyze multiple scenarios utilizing predetermined factors to forecast what may occur. The models are designed to help us realize what could be factual. Then he used Picasso’s quote to help clarify his point.

Frankly, the quote was what drew my attention. Its paradoxical nature piqued my curiosity and spawned a moment of introspection. Was there something in my life which was plainly a lie yet was trying to show me the truth? This felt vaguely familiar, and then it suddenly dawned on me what that feeling was.

A lie pointing towards truth

One of the most common themes throughout my articles is the subject of shame. It’s been 7 years since I came to the realization how my own shame gripped me so tightly I couldn’t see its impact on my daily actions. I had no clue of the depth, influence, and control it caused in nearly every aspect of my life. Prior to that awakening, shame was that lie in my life which was not allowing me to see the truth…about who I was.

Unquestionably, shame has more than one meaning, but when it pertains to us on a personal level, I use this definition:

“Shame is the culmination of all the negative things we’ve come to believe about who we were and are.”

Shame is not the emotion we feel when we make a mistake or a bad choice. Typically, that is guilt. Shame leads us to believe the reason for those terrible actions is because there is something innately wrong with us. We can’t help but make blunders because it is who we are and it won’t change.

We all have different experiences with shame and the example above is a bit extreme, simply to illustrate how it can entrap us without realizing we are even caught in its web.

The multiple ways of responding to shame

Shame is the one construct which creates an entire range of emotions. The first reaction most people associate with shame is one of insignificance or unworthiness. Somehow, we are not enough. But that’s only one end of the spectrum.

It is also the major factor behind arrogance, self-importance and conceit. When people display these kinds of behaviors, it’s to counteract their true feelings of inferiority. However, if they can convey a façade of superiority, their hope is others will interpret those actions as confidence. Isn’t it ironic how easily these kinds of behaviors are blatantly superficial to everyone except the person exuding them?

Shame also can affect us in physical ways. For years, I walked with my head bowed, looking at my feet with rounded shoulders. I can’t tell you how many times my mother snapped at me with “straighten your shoulders”! I wasn’t purposely trying to have poor posture and it puzzled me for years why I did. The answer resounded like a fanfare soon after I realized it was the lies I believed about who I was. Being taller than my peers, hunching down was my reaction to lack of self-confidence and trying not to stand out.

One of the difficulties in explaining the various ways shame plays a role in our actions is because each person responds to it differently. Our life’s experiences influence, manipulate, and ultimately determine how we learn to manage and deal with it. Some are fortunate not to have had those moments in their younger years when parents or others negatively impacted their self-esteem. There are also those who have a natural disposition or temperament which successfully helped them overcome destructive situations which for many were extremely detrimental.

Truthfully, if someone had asked me 8 years ago how much shame had impacted my life, I would have probably shrugged my shoulders and replied, “not very much.” One of its “geniuses” is the ability to remain hidden, undetected, and out of sight. It is also a self-fulling prophecy. The more shame we pile on ourselves the more it thrives and continues its stronghold over us.

Realizing the Truth

Hearing the Picasso quote reminded me how at one point in my life, shame was a lie. It lied to me about what a terrible and unworthy person I was. It deceived me in ways I had never imagined. I also believe it had no intention of exposing the truth because the truth is what set me free. It broke those figurative chains which bound my confidence and compelled me to live far below my potential.

Thankfully and with the guidance of my incredible therapist Dr. Shannon Smith, I was able to become aware of this insidious emotion and begin to heal from decades of its damaging effects.

It may sound as though at times I refer to shame as if it were a separate entity – detached from ourselves. I believe this is exactly how it wants us to feel. Deeming it to be something other than ourselves allows us to blame external factors and relieving us of the responsibility for many of our actions.

My realization came when I understood it was precisely the lies I was believing about who I was. Although what others said may have had a great influence on my shame, it only became shame once I believed their terrible and hurtful words. Fortunately, after my realization, shame transformed into the lie that made me realize the truth.

Next week’s article will delve into some of the ways to heal from these devastating effects. My thanks to the Guggenheim Museum for the world-renowned photo and I look forward to your comments.

A Vulnerable Situation

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

“To share you weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” ~ Criss Jami

Last week’s article examined why so many people, who begin to perceive themselves in positions of power, often go through a harrowing transition and become almost tyrannical in their behaviors. Their attitudes changed so dramatically it’s almost difficult to believe you knew who they were in the first place.

Those who’ve fallen victim to their own false sense of authority often made this change without even realizing it. Their once-close friends could have even tried pointing out how shocked they were by their thoughtless actions and still that wasn’t enough to awaken them from their self-inflicted nightmare. Thankfully, anyone who may have fallen into this trap is not destined to continue down its hostile path.

One of the remedies for this situation is a willingness to become vulnerable. Vulnerability has become a huge topic of late, but what precisely does that mean? More importantly, what does vulnerability mean to you?

The State of Vulnerability

Typically, a reliable place to find a description is the dictionary. The online Cambridge Dictionary gave this definition: “able to be easily physically, emotionally, or mentally hurt, influenced, or attacked,” which was nearly word for word with Google’s and Bing’s description, as well as other online sources. However, I believe this characterization neglects important distinctions; revealing a positive, constructive, and reflective aspect to the important attributes of Vulnerability.

The origin of this word was derived from the Latin Vulnerare meaning “to wound.” Granted, that explanation would complement the dictionary’s version; however, it’s time to amend its definition to encompass a broader and more significant meaning.

Emotionally speaking, becoming vulnerable is a cognitive act; one which we choose rather than passively allow to happen to us. It is a surrender of the ego or at least getting out of the way of our own stubbornness, obstinance, or selfishness. It’s a willful act mainly intended for our personal growth and development. Rather than putting ourselves in a position of attack, being vulnerable is proclaiming there are flaws or perhaps something we don’t see, understand, or comprehend about ourselves. It’s an invitation and deliberate action – not a mistake or oversight.

Choosing to become vulnerable is an act of kindness to ourselves, as well as an invitation to be more mindful and considerate toward others. There is no award for this decision; the reward is felt in your soul. It doesn’t require tears, but it doesn’t hide them either. Despite what we may think, others will respect or admire us when we are open to admitting to mistakes or other faults.

For countless generations, many of the social “norms” passed along were contrary to being vulnerable. Men were taught that showing feelings was a sign of weakness. Tears were for the feeble, “sissies,” or the pathetic. Hugging your children was giving them the wrong sign and most definitely, crying was reserved for women and children. When these kinds of teachings are closely scrutinized, their fallacies are easily exposed. How many times have we heard stories of adults who tearfully wished their parents had shown them even the littlest bit of affection?

Show Your Strength

The second half of the opening quote states: “to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” For those who ask how being vulnerable shows strength, anyone willing to admit to a mistake or some type of fault shows great courage and strength.

Those who continually must pat themselves on the back for doing a good job are essentially demonstrating and exposing a true weakness. A person of character seeks to improve and become a better leader. Having a yearning to always be validated is not assuredness but rather reveals a lack of self-confidence. This mindset rarely involves self-examination, and is more concerned with finding fault or blame in others.

Author and psychotherapist Harper West coined the term “Other-blamer.” This caption nearly requires no additional explanation and is generally tied to narcissistic personalities because it’s nearly impossible for them to believe they’ve made a mistake. The other-blamer would be the first one to tell you vulnerability is ridiculous, futile, or a huge waste of time. Their idea of strength is to hide mistakes, shift blame, and take credit even when they weren’t the ones to deserve it.

Embracing Vulnerability

Once a decision to be vulnerable is made, it helps to embrace it. Be proud it has become part of who you are. If someone ridicules you, it’s because they can’t grasp the idea of your growth and you can answer them by accepting it as a badge of honor. It may be difficult at first but any change in behavior takes effort. Find an ally who welcomes your decision and possibly is willing to embrace it along with you.

Becoming vulnerable never entitles us to expect sympathy or help from others. It does, though, generate a whole new level of gratitude, appreciation, and awareness. Recently, I met someone on the other side of the globe who specifically began engaging with me after reading my articles. He happened also to review my newly-published website and out of the kindness of his heart, willingly offered professional advice, spending several hours helping me. Never would I ever have expected this, but it is also something for which I will always be grateful and thankful.

The Fruits of Vulnerability

One of the positive results of choosing to be vulnerable is the impact it has on others. People will notice the change in your attitude sometimes even complimenting you on your new outlook and attitude. Think of others in whom you’ve seen these types of traits and you’ll no doubt feel blessed to know them.

Vulnerability also promotes unity and cooperation. It has no capacity to create division nor drag others down. Interestingly, vulnerability yields the same beneficial qualities one would expect from a great leader. There are so many positive attributes to vulnerability it’s nearly impossible to understand why anyone would not choose to be in A Vulnerable Situation.

My thanks to Greg Rakozy on Unsplash for the beautifully fitting photo and I look forward to your comments.

If you’d like to read last week’s article, you can find it here. Anyone wishing personal coaching on vulnerability, please email me for additional information at jdunia@gcegroup.net. Thank you.

An Empathetic Cure

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

It’s a story which takes place far too often. An altruistic individual sets out with the best of intentions to fight for fairness in the community or perhaps in the world at large. In some cases, these individuals overcome poverty or other adversities, and with great courage, determination, and effort prevail when the odds were greatly stacked against them. Becoming a hero of sorts to multitudes, but eventually falling victim to the corruption, dishonesty, or immorality they fought so valiantly to protect.

This circumstance has no bias on whom it bestows its curse. No gender, nationality, race nor religion is exempt from its horrific spell, and it’s been chronicled on all rungs of society. It has also perpetually been repeated throughout the history of humankind – or rather humans being unkind, which is a more accurate way of portraying it.

The headlines frequently depict scenarios of politicians, celebrities, and business leaders who’ve succumbed to the lure of their own importance or ego. Their position, status, or wealth becomes a figurative key to open any door which they deem accessible. These stories rarely end well for those once-highly-respected individuals. It would stand to reason with the frequency of these stories, this ought to be an easily avoidable pitfall. Apparently, that is not the case.

Why do so many become the prey to these same inequities they originally strove to eradicate? How does someone who maintained such high integrity and justice, become ensnared by the enemy they previously and courageously had slain?

It is not a prerequisite nor a requirement for people to betray their once-loved ambitions. Certainly, the lure of money or power can influence even those with the highest of intentions. However, is there something even more compelling than worldly temptation?

How power affects the brain

Dascher Keltner, an author and social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted studies which demonstrated how people with perceived power can lack the ability to feel empathy, read emotions in others, and have trouble adapting to others’ behaviors. His research also showed how the notion of power can actually change the way our brains function.

Perhaps a familiar story for many is when someone at work gets promoted to a managerial position and suddenly starts acting as though he or she has reached dictator status. The once thoughtful and kind person you believed you knew has now been usurped by this tyrannical and authoritarian bully.

Historically, supervisory and executive positions were taught to lead with an iron fist. It’s as though it’s part of their job description as managers to “lead” their teams by yelling, demeaning, and cursing at their employees, fully believing it’s the most effective way to get their “army” to produce. However, this line of reason is fraught with misconceptions, fallacies, and essentially feeds and expedites the demise of the individual deploying these boorish managerial strategies.

It’s not inevitable for everyone who is suddenly endowed with power to make this drastic transformation. Many prominent individuals have averted this tragic path which regularly engulfs others, indicating there must be an effective strategy against this terrible affliction.

An empathetic cure

The key is to examine the actions of those who never surrendered to this line of thinking as well as others who were victorious in their struggle against their former insidious rational, and once again are using better human-interaction skills.

It takes two strategies to overcome this challenge:

· Having the proper tools and techniques to fight these compulsions

· Understanding it takes determination and lots of effort to be victorious

Many people are willing to work hard at anything beneficial to their lives. But all the hard work in the world won’t do any good if it’s not being deployed effectively.

As simple as it may sound, the key to regaining empathy for others is to start having empathy for others.

Begin by eagerly communicating and truly listening to what people are saying. Do your best to imagine and experience the emotions they are facing as they talk about their concerns and difficulties. Realize the best way to understand their issues is to be willing to become vulnerable yourself.

The sense of feeling power instigates feelings of superiority and incorrectly infers vulnerability is akin to weakness. Believing we are endowed with power is arrogant, and the ego has no choice but to create a mindset of control and self-importance. The best way to defeat this line of thinking is to become aware that you must change this line of thinking.

Involve others, especially if your power is work related. Willingly receive input from those who do the work. Your trust in them will in turn generate great respect for you. If your perceived power is more in the social world, recognize you must intentionally strive to change your behavior. Pay much more attention, put yourself in their shoes, and try to feel how they are feeling. Always remember, vulnerability is a huge key to having empathy. By no means is being vulnerable a sign of your weakness.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall prey to the selfish, unempathetic, and arrogant thinking when we perceive ourselves in positions of power. Studies have shown this is a natural tendency. To evade or overcome this kind of thinking will require diligence and strength. As with anything for which we strive to be successful, it calls for effort. Be aware it’s an incredibly challenging struggle battling against what could be our natural inclinations.

Fortunately, if we happen to fall in its trap, we are not doomed. We can overcome it by changing the way we think about ourselves. And the best way to start that change is by forgiving ourselves for ever acting in such dreadful ways. If there is one message I’ve learned during this current situation, it’s we all are truly connected. Living a full and happy life demands we include an empathetic attitude toward others as we make this world a better place for our existence.

My thanks to Laura Chouette on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments.