Dear Future

Photo by Santiago Lacarta on Unsplash

Author’s note: The next several articles are letters addressed to intangible ideas, people, and concepts. Today’s article is addressed to the Future.

Dear Future:

I have thought a lot about You over the last 60 years and often wondered what secrets were awaiting me. At times I pleaded with You for a small glimpse of what it was You had in store for me, but it always fell on deaf ears. Many nights were spent tossing and turning in anticipation of what You would soon unfold shortly after the morning sun peeked over the horizon.

Honestly Future, for as much time as I spent fussing over You, I never really thought about what I would say to You were I given the chance. I am thankful and grateful You have granted me this opportunity and I promise to pour my heart out with its most intimate thoughts.

It’s difficult to know who or what I am addressing, for You are not a specific person nor are You a country. You are even more than our planet. Even to attempt at defining You is futile. I only know one thing for sure, Future, and that is You will always be there.

Whatever or whoever will accompany or complement You is irrelevant. There is no negotiating involved. You, Future, are the one certainty on which we can all depend to be welcoming what may come.

If there is one idea I could implore to permanently alter how You unfold, it would be that You were constantly vigilant about showing kindness.

It’s difficult to conceive how humanity has wandered so for away from this basic principle and has adopted opposing and defiant ideals which only multiply the misery and despondency of many souls.

If anyone has been a witness to the atrocities, it is Your distant cousin, History. It has seen countless tragedies, hardships, and pestilence, and while never having had complete control over its own treatment, many of those catastrophes were caused by a complete lack of and disdain for kindness.

Without concern for their fellow brothers and sisters, humans only aim was to accumulate what they believed would find them happiness. But instead, it brought them frustration, emptiness, and pain. Yet these results never urged them to search for an ideal solution and ironically, they believed the only remedy for their continuing anguish was to employ the same behavior which delivered their misery in the first place.

Even as Your cousin History designated certain people to document these events and record these horrible atrocities to warn the coming generations, humans turned a blind eye and purposely failed to learn from their past mistakes.

I am beckoning You, Future, not to allow this to happen to You. No matter how difficult it gets, I beseech You to fight against the temptation to use strongarm tactics and let kindness direct Your actions, motives, and path moving forward. If anyone or anything can learn from the mistakes we humans refuse to see, it is definitely You. Make kindness Your calling card; even in those times when it is undeserved.

You see Future, when You practice kindness, You will also be kind to Yourself. That will be much needed because many humans have disregarded You. They have ravaged Nature’s resources, and instead of being grateful for what was given, they pillaged, violated, and destroyed what Nature had so generously provided; all for the sake of worldly and temporary gain. In their haste, they always neglect to be kind to You.

The attraction of earthly gain has blinded them to the collective and collateral damage they’ve been levying on You, silencing Your cries and covering their ears to Your warnings. Kindness never enters their thoughts, and regarding You, Future, their conceit is so thick they cannot allow themselves to have any concern or respect You.

If there were some way Future, You could warn those who come before you, to embrace kindness and be compassionate to everyone and especially those who are less fortunate. If this were possible, Your chance of being brighter will significantly increase.

Kindness bears many side effects as well. It helps in being grateful and thankful. It reminds us we do not need compensation or recognition for it. Kindness is also quite contagious. If it persists in large enough numbers, it shines a condemning light on those who refuse it and uncovers their selfish and greedy schemes.

For some reason Future, humans continue to turn their heads and refuse to see the signs Nature continually unveils. It’s as though they believe somehow their ingenuity will outsmart nature; however, this has never been disproven more than in 2020.

Future, we are not in control of You. You have many more powerful allies and no matter how hard we try, we will never be Your master.

I am incredibly grateful to have this opportunity to speak with You Future. And when You greet our descendants – whether they are traveling in flying vehicles or on bruised and battered feet – I beg You always to be kind. You have no need for fame, yet You are the envy of billions. You have no need for fortune, yet You are richer than anyone could possibly imagine.

If You, Future, were bestowed with the power of foresight, I implore You to review with Your distant cousin History and discover the ways kindness could have dramatically changed who You presently are. Gaze into Yourself and imagine how much less suffering would be occurring and how humans would be embracing You by honoring Nature and coexisting with it to make this a better world for everything on and in it.

Thanks again for this wonderful opportunity to leave my mark and just maybe, inspire You to always be something everyone treasures and never stops looking forward to Your arrival. I bid You a wonderful and kind future.

My thanks Santiago Lacarta on Unsplash to for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your thoughts.

Before the fall

Photo by Sergey Pesterev on Unsplash

Technology has made the world look as if it could fit in the palm of our hands. In a couple of minutes, one can converse with three people on three different continents, or video conference with them all at the same time. It continues to amaze me how simple – and incredibly inexpensive – it is to communicate with others around the globe!

Coincidentally, there also seems to be an underlying sentiment spreading nearly as quickly as the current pandemic. The more access we have to information and interaction with other cultures and nations, the more divisive and insensitive many are becoming towards those who appear different from them. As nations become increasingly dependent on a global economy, the care and concern for basic human dignities and rights for those providing a majority of the labor to drive that engine, is continually decreasing with little recourse or protection for them.

Is it too late to change the downward spiral of animosity? Has that point of no return already been breached and there is little hope for recovery? I would like to believe this is not the case for humanity, but what is the remedy? How do we begin to steer the ship away from the ever-looming point of no return?

The problem

One common misconception for fixing some of these concerns is pointing the finger at someone or something else. But blame never solves or resolves anything. While finding the cause of the problem can inspire a solution, attributing fault to someone is not the mark of quality leadership. Shifting blame or avoiding responsibility is a tactic of those who only want to appear to show strength. But they are actually concealing is there unwillingness to look into the mirror and ask that person what changes or corrections need to be made.

Are there any great leaders throughout human history who were lauded for the ability to find fault in others? What religious, political, or even business leaders garnered a stellar reputation by blaming others?

Those who changed the world thirsted for knowledge, sought the truth, and did not hesitate to adjust their own thinking when they realized it was incorrect. Currently, some people in authority must believe only they are right or it will show a weakness or flaw in their leadership. Ironically, this kind of thinking will never drive them the correct answer nor be an effective leader.

There is a difference in wanting to be right and always being right. In wanting to be right, the goal is to search until solutions are found. With always being right, there is no room for discussion. The only choice is to accept what they believe or face dire consequences. When someone is locked in this arrogant way of thinking, it is next to impossible to get them to understand how destructive it can be.

Arrogance is a false pride begging to be overinflated. At its core, arrogance does not have true confidence and needs to be loud to cover up its underlying insecurities and shortcomings. True pride doesn’t need a podium to proclaim itself while arrogance insists on it.

What may seem contradictory yet is the biggest influence on arrogance is shame.

When most people define shame, they think of words like unworthy, pitiful, or undeserving. Arrogance, superiority, and conceit are seemingly contradictory and entirely different emotional responses. It would appear to be farfetched to believe self-importance would be caused by shame. However, it has to do with the way we initially learned to process our shameful feelings.

Most of us grow up associating shame with feelings of self-doubt. However, some learn to react to their shame by overcompensating and trying harder, thinking their determination may win them validation from those who shamed them. If their efforts don’t work and those feelings of self-doubt continue, they may try to silence that hurt with an unhealthy and inflated sense of self.

Blossoming success

If their exaggerated sense of self focuses too much on suppressing shame, arrogance takes root and buries their unresolved issues. The hard work never heals those past difficulties and the validation they get from others can feed self-entitlement and privilege. Their accomplishments whitewash the shame and the more success they achieve, the more it entombs them in a deep sense of always being right. And, when you always believe you’re right, how do you know when you are ever wrong?

To discover their own arrogance, they must first overcome their own way of thinking. A system which they themselves created to mask their true feelings, has now transformed into a method which corrupts them. It is next to impossible. Arrogance, by design, cannot admit being wrong. So how does one overcome this two-fisted predicament?

Short of a magical awakening, the main approach for someone to finally concede to this issue is when they lose everything. Whatever they held dear must all tragically slip through their fingers and out of their grasp. Once an awareness of being wrong becomes overwhelmingly evident, then they have a chance at changing their thinking.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but the longer arrogance remains an integral part of their reasoning, the more difficult it will be to recognize.

A new freedom

We don’t need to wait for world leaders to admit their arrogance; some will never become aware and  realize a change is needed. However, we each have our own part to contribute to making this world a better place by examining ourselves and seeing if arrogance plays a part in our own judgements. Do we dismiss those who views differ from ours or are from other cultures, religions, or races?

This is simply a choice. We can choose to always be right and contribute to the continuing global chaos, or we can choose to seek the truth and be open to others who disagree with and differ from us.

My thanks to Sergey Pesterev on Unsplash for the great picture and I look forward to your comments. If you or someone you know want to find out more about shame, please go to the contact portion on this website or you can email me at: john@shamedoctor.com

Encouraging words

Photo by Amanda Swanepoel on Unsplash

There are a few scenarios from my past when I wish I would have had the courage to speak up and say my piece rather than have kept silent, choosing to avoid potential conflict. However, instead of quarreling with another individual, I argued with myself, trying to understand why I didn’t have the nerve to speak up in that moment.

It’s disheartening. You conjure up many justifications why you should have said something, and even more excuses why you were too cowardly not to. This one-person conversation never goes well and typically ends in lots of self-shaming.

When we recognize this aggressive and brazen behavior in someone else, we tend to be a bit envious of their tell-it-like-it-is style and no-nonsense attitude. They have no hesitations about telling anyone precisely what’s on their minds regardless of the consequences or perils their statements may instigate.

I have fallen prey to lauding this behavior on more than one occasion. Mainly when I’ve been despondent about looking back at some of those situations and still feel some frustration and pain, even though some occurred over 30 years ago. But shouldn’t someone whose purpose is helping others heal from these kinds of predicaments, also be able to do the same for himself?

An encouraging turn

If there is one subject of which I’m constantly guilty, it would be alleging we can heal from any circumstance from our past. I decided it was time to put this to the test in one of my memories where I’d wished I had spoken up.

Nearly 30 years ago, I wasn’t doing well financially and dining at a fine restaurant was a rare treat. Unfortunately, the waiter was more preoccupied with being insulting and patronizing through the entire meal. When the meal was finished, I was extremely upset with myself for not saying something loud enough for the entire restaurant to hear and give him a taste of what he was dishing out.

This horribly embarrassing memory raised my ire dozens of times over the years often ending in frustration and anger. Then about six months ago, I challenged myself to heal from the residual anguish. If I can’t do this for myself, how can I claim to help others through it?

The hurt was caused by the embarrassment I felt from the waiter’s constant putdowns. Furthermore, recalling my inaction added to the irritation. Thankfully, I came to the realization blaming his actions were only stifling my own happiness and by forgiving myself for not taking the action I deemed appropriate, allowed me to release the resentment which accompanied that memory. I do not condone his conduct but allowing his brash manner to negatively impact my actions only damages me.

Speak up

The number of people “unabashedly speaking their minds” is on the rise and social media is undoubtedly one of the explanations for this climb. It is safe sitting behind a screen and typing any provocative or incendiary sentence with slim chances of taking responsibility or facing dire repercussions for the inflammatory rhetoric. Such shocking comments are coming from people in every demographic, cultural, and educational background as though being harsh, deliberate, and unfiltered entitles them to some authority to which others must pay homage.

I am not suggesting speaking one’s mind is always a treacherous move. There are times when we need to be more assertive and not allow others to unduly persuade or bully us into something. Standing up for what we know is fair or for the rights of others takes courage and also raises our self-esteem.

But speaking up simply for the purpose of rabble-rousing or being argumentative is neither an act of bravery nor a show of strength. It usually is a sign of a deeper, more guarded issue which this boorish behavior is meant to deflect or disguise.

It’s important to understand the reasons behind our actions and what outcome our outbursts will bring. When someone shows no hesitation in loudly proclaiming what they deem as “the way it is,” often and more accurately, it shines a light on their own narrow perspective or their need to hide some fault or past hurt.

While some personalities are more prone to be the type of person who interrupts and interjects, this behavior is encouraged by getting rewarded. We’ve all seen someone rudely disrupt or ridicule someone while onlookers agree or laugh. These reactions reward their conduct and embolden them to continue. It doesn’t take long for them to alter their combative responses into a permanent, default behavior.

We are born into this world with a need and trust for others; it is our own natural inclination. An aggressive or confrontational attitude is not the norm and somewhere during the journey, their experiences duped them into becoming argumentative, aggressive, and antagonistic toward others.

Something also adversely rewarded them for exhibiting garish actions, making them feel proud for how they learned to treat others. When this trait is picked up at an early age, the person simultaneously develops a verbal dexterity making their tirades sound more believable.

The issue is not necessarily what is being said nor in the way it is spoken, it is the intent of the person who claims they are only “telling it like it is.” Rarely are their remarks intended to encourage, uplift, or at least help others. They merely want to get in a verbal dispute with someone to embarrass or worse, divert themselves from facing their own issues.

The irony is that the more self-centered and egocentric a person becomes, the harder it is for them to camouflage their vile scheme or purpose. Their narcissism won’t allow them to say anything except good about themselves no matter how ridiculous or foolish they sound to others. Their minds will always convince them they are right.

Encouragement

I encourage everyone to speak up for themselves, and even more loudly when their intentions are true. But I would also urge you to be mindful of what you say. Sometimes the actions of others need to be dealt with harshly, but the outcome should be for the betterment and benefit of all. However, when you are gentle and compassionate, thoughtful and kind, understanding and caring; you will inspire others and reward them for contributing to this world and making it a better place.

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

Ahead of the Game

Photo by Drew Beamer of Unsplash

There have been several instances in my past where I truly wish a time machine were available to take me back and rectify the mess I made, especially the people I hurt. Until such time – which I don’t foresee occurring during my lifetime – the best way for me to atone for those offenses is to do my best not to make similar blunders again. At times, I do look back at those moments with some discomfort, but now I channel that pain into a reminder to change future behaviors.

In some of those former scenarios I have run through my mind’s eye and seen myself acting in a different way. Although this exercise won’t erase the past, it will help me anticipate what my actions will be when the surroundings bear a similar feel.

Looking back

Curiously, there are hundreds of sayings with the unequivocal purpose of being inspirational and providing good advice warning people against looking back. Some even go as far as demanding you to never look back. I understand the message they are attempting to convey; however, they may also be inadvertently denying some of greater opportunities for self-awareness, understanding, and emotional healing.

The past can be a useful learning tool. Becoming aware of our mistakes and why we made them will steer us toward better choices and more effective actions. Evaluating the missteps and owning up to our faults is a positive step towards growth. And most importantly, when we can look back at the difficult moments where we suffered immense pain or abuse, they can begin the process of healing those wounds, learning to overcome them, and transforming them into life’s milestones.

Those quotes warning us not to look back, are essentially cautioning us not to become stuck in the past. Dwelling on difficult or painful times may cause us to feel helpless or hopeless. Focusing strictly on negative aspects can paint a dark picture and construct limiting borders in our thinking – ultimately making excuses for potentially worse actions and harmful decisions.

Learn to look back as a tool for healing, overcoming, and personal development. This kind of reflection is beneficial for the road ahead.

Forward Thinking

If we could but predict the future and what lies ahead, this would perhaps be far better than going back and fixing the past. Nevertheless, since both these options are off the table, what can be done is to create a successful and flourishing path ahead to the best of our abilities. Forward thinking encompasses many challenges but when the outcome goes as predicted, it is a wonderful feeling.

It is never as simple as writing down what you wish to happen. There are many facets which commonly include other individuals as well. Although the more people involved creates a more perplexing road ahead, it also adds another productive and innovative source for finding solutions.

Forward thinking is about anticipating issues and solving problems, and is never only about predicting a crisis and foretelling doom. Negativity alone does nothing except ignite suspicion and inflame division. It is typically a very frustrated person who can only see pessimism and destruction, and those eager to “enlighten” you to your failings often have more underhanded motives to hurt or damage you.

Leaders normally are forward thinking, and while they may be praised for this proficiency, they are admired and honored for their fair and equitable ability to help and uplift those whom they are leading.

Forward thinking regularly includes helping others. If it is used solely for personal gain, it hints at neglecting others or purposely putting them in harm’s way. Ultimately, it is an ego-centric approach to position yourself for power at the expense of innocent or unsuspecting people.

Raising the Level

As with most other personal development skills, forward thinking can be increased by practicing it and making it a regular part of your life. The past reflection, which builds positive awareness, has already been covered above. Gaining a future ability for forward thinking is, as well, a cognitive process, involving a problem-solving mindset and envisioning where the obstacles may lie.

If there is one attribute from which the entire world would greatly benefit, it would be that of forward thinking. Countries across the globe are being stricken with leaders and factions claiming love of country while demonizing fellow citizens whose ideology does not align completely with theirs. Their aim is to divide, separate, and punish anyone whose thinking goes against what they deem is absolute.

In the U.S., the upcoming election is one of the most divisive in recent history. But no matter the outcome, there will need to be a lot of forward thinking to heal this country’s wounds. No matter who is victorious, there will need to be a common goal and a mutual resolution to work together.

There is currently a growing underground coordinated effort trying to sow strife and discord in many democratic countries. Unfortunately, their success has been fruitful yet unheralded. It remains in the shadows as it severs lifelong friendships, even the relationships which have survived those same political disagreements for decades.

We all can do our part by individually increasing our ability to be forward thinking and expect the same from our leaders. We must demand they work through those differences which ought to unite rather than divide the people they serve. Let us all be cognizant and do our part to build our communities and insist on integrity from our leaders as well as ourselves. It is not an easy task, but we all can work to make it a part of our everyday lives.

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

Helpful Matters

Photo by Kirill Petropavlov on Unsplash


The one positive trait these challenging times have highlighted is so many people are coming forward to help others who find themselves in dismal circumstances. Families from all walks of life, who only seven months ago, would have never dreamed they would be facing such difficult hurdles and challenges, find themselves in desperate conditions. This pandemic has caused millions to reevaluate priorities, and what really matters in this life.

A “wakeup call” of sorts is nothing new. Most of us endure these kinds of difficulties several times throughout our lives. What’s different in this moment is the magnitude of scale it has inflicted itself on so many in such a short amount of time. The call for help at a worldwide scale is unprecedented perhaps in the history of mankind.

Help, like love, is comprehended and appreciated in various ways and differs widely in cultural and generational understandings. It can be given, taken, refused, or abused. Examining how you view this universal expression may shed light into the depths of your awareness and meaning.

Receiving

Accepting help for some is often associated with a negative connotation. It’s as though a grave, social stigma was attached to it thousands of years ago and is only now beginning to abandon that difficult reputation. Much of that can be attributed (at least in Western Culture) to the idea of being a self-made individual as a signature of success. Requiring someone’s aid translates falsely into not having the “smarts” to figure it out or worse yet, the moral compunction to conquer the dilemma on your own.

Embarrassment has also prevented many from asking or receiving needed help which put them and their loved ones in a grimmer spot. Even when others insist on helping them, a fear they will be perceived as a letdown or failure overpowers any urge persuading them to accept a helping hand.

The feelings of shame play a major role in not accepting assistance. Adding to the confusion is the idea one is too proud to beg for any help. While it’s important to bear in mind your current situation, declining help under the guise of pride can be disingenuous and hurt many unsuspecting people. When someone kindly makes this generous gesture and it’s refused, it can negatively impact the one offering it as well.

Healing benefits

How can the simple act of helping also be a restorative gesture? As someone whose mission is to guide others on their journeys of emotional healing, I applaud that it’s become a frequent focus for many. However, what is neglected is the explanation of how it is healing. Understanding why it is so will also encourage more of this much needed behavior.

Healing, from a physical standpoint, is reducing or minimizing all signs of the original injury. Needing help from someone can feel as though it is a wound which we no longer want to suffer. By accepting help, it can alleviate any worry or anxiety of the condition becoming worse, allowing person(s) to feel better and lift their confidence and self-esteem. This positive attitude is the healing – lessoning or removing signs of the previous stressful situation.

It can also be healing for the person giving the assistance, sparking a change in the way they view themselves. These moments don’t need to be momentous. There are many times we have insignificant abrasions on our skin which heal without our recollection. However, if some of the smallest of cuts never do heal, it could eventually result in an untimely disaster.

Giving

For many, it is easier to give help than to accept it. I wish this were a universal truth. Imagine what a different world we would be experiencing if it were overloaded with heartfelt help.
We know how great if feels to be given unanticipated support. Suppose that were occurring on a daily basis or even several times a day. It would promote kindness and spread goodwill faster than the present-day Coronavirus.

Help does require discretion in certain cases. We may have a tendency to give help to our own detriment. There are numerous reasons why this occurs, even if the person only has the best of intentions for doing it.

A frequent example of this is when a parent is willing to help their child to the point where it becomes enabling and not forcing them to face their own challenges. The last thing in the world any caring parent wants is to hurt their child, but we’ve all heard stories where this has happened. It is not an easy position for any parent, and sometimes requires intervention from outside sources.

Help in one situation may be the right move however, in similar circumstance, yield opposite results. What’s important is to remember our objective was to enhance the situation and not allow anyone to struggle or become a victim of the adversity they were currently experiencing.

Happening

When it comes to giving help, the one thing we have little or no control over is what the person does after receiving it. If they choose to neglect or abuse it, that was not our original purpose and reminding ourselves of that intention will enable us not feel shame or other negative perceptions for doing a good deed. Demeaning ourselves for a kindness will likely stifle us from future opportunities of positive behaviors.

What we can control are the intentions and objectives behind the act of providing help. This is easier to maintain when we do not expect a certain outcome or something in return for our actions.

For those who genuinely feel poorly or “wrong” for accepting aid, a good way to overcome this attitude is to pay it back or better yet, pay it forward. Repaying it by offering others help perpetuates the cycle of healing and encourages others to follow suit.
Help is both an act and an action. If there is ever any uncertainty about whether it should be provided, I will do my best to error on the side of offering it. This is what I choose to do for my part in creating a better world which will continue to exist long after memories of me have faded.

My thanks to Kirill Petropavlov on Unsplash for the wonderful picture. If this article was helpful to you, please like it. If there is someone you know who may benefit from it, please feel free to share it with them. These weekly articles are my help to you, and I would be honored if you were to share in it with me.

Navigating your Future

Our life’s journeys on this planet are often compared to a road. There are ups and downs, winding and straight portions, some are paved smooth while others left riddled with potholes and hazards; all providing poetic fodder for an ambitious author.

The profoundest discrepancy between these two metaphors is that physical roads were built to be heavily traveled upon, while our personal journeys are never traveled twice. Whether you are 16 and just beginning to think about yours, or you are 61 and wishing several routes could be retraced with your current wisdom and experience, there will always remain a road ahead – waiting to be navigated.

Paving our way from the beginning

Roads can be built with different materials, equipment, and plans. The same is true of our personal journeys. Some were fortunate to have been provided with optimal opportunities while others were furnished with continually degrading supplies. But no matter what lot we were dealt, each of us must forge ahead.

The direction of our journey is often plotted in the past. Our habits, likes, dislikes, and biases we acquired – and sometimes devoured – shaped our future direction. Certain environments created a smoother route while others constantly maneuvered through roadblocks, perils, or possible dead ends. But there is no denying every experience has made us the person we are today.

The irony is that whether your road was covered with gold or paved with gravel, neither one will ultimately guarantee success or failure. Is there a common theme which eventually propels our journey toward a more productive and successful outcome? What encourages and empowers us to navigate our journey on a course of which we can be fully proud?

Overcoming the seemingly impossible roadblocks

What may shed some insight on navigating these troubling paths is to see what those who overcame such insurmountable difficulties, did to conquer them. How were they able to beat the odds which overwhelmingly became barriers for many? There are countless examples of people who suffered unspeakable acts yet have not only survived but thrived, often dedicating their lives so others don’t suffer from a similar treatment and exploitation.

These efforts undoubtedly are to be applauded. However, they also would not be the person they are today had they not experienced those horrible atrocities either. And herein lies the conundrum. While I do not believe nor would ever suggest one must suffer great adversity to be effective, it is a frequent attribute for those who have.

My challenge, likewise, is similar. I do not wish anyone to experience the depth of shame I endured, yet without having gone through it, I would not be aware of its magnitude and damaging effects, and would not be able to help empower others to heal from it.

If there is a common theme by which most learn to overcome adversity, it would be how they were able to move forward from all their hardships and transform those roadblocks into an inspiration to succeed.

(Note: before I continue, please know in some circumstances, horrific and terribly psychologically damaging actions may have occurred and in no way do I wish to nullify or minimize the depth of anyone’s misfortune. These cases require professional care.)

If we have experienced appalling situations as children, the trauma was difficult enough then. Those who were able to thrive quite often do not allow past traumas to remain as obstructions and hazards in their journeys ahead.

Too often, there is a fear the abuses we encountered are permanent and unchangeable. We hear sayings confirming these notions like, “These scars will last forever.” Again, while I do not wish to devalue anyone’s past suffering, a positive step toward clearing that path is to begin healing from them. The scars will remind us of the atrocities, but they also can be a sign of strength.

Shame was my gauntlet, and the negative beliefs I held about myself were the obstruction which created my poorly paved road. The healing began when I realized what others told me, only became true the moment I accepted those lies as reality. It was how I perceived myself and not what they expressed to me.

The moment of freedom came when I was able to forgive myself, that young boy, who felt he had no other choice but to believe those lies. I no longer needed to hang my failures on them, even though they greatly impacted me. Moving forward was possible because I was able to see I was not that person people told me I was.

Please understand, this awareness didn’t magically create instant success. There remained a lot of work, plenty of introspection, and awareness which developed because of those efforts. But how I viewed myself and the shaming incidents all changed. This discovery also compelled me to dedicate my life to helping others understand healing is possible for everyone and every situation.

The key is not to allow your past to trap you or become an excuse for failures. Living those abuses was difficult enough. Declare and affirm you’ll do everything not to allow them to continue to be the barricade which steers you off the path of happiness and a purposeful life.

The greatest blessing I could ever encounter is having the opportunity to help someone heal, and navigate their road away from a dismal and tragic end toward one of kindness, good intention, and love.

Forging ahead

How we perceive ourselves and our predicaments has a huge influence on where our journeys are headed. Although there may be some mental anguish sprinkled in among the healing moments, it will be nothing compared to the freedom we receive by overcoming these adversities.

While forging a better path, there will always be external factors impacting our journey. One factor which will always help bulldoze that path is by accepting, embracing, and valuing ourselves. Focus on making this a part of your daily ritual and it can only create a brighter future.

If you are having trouble with how you view your past difficulties, it is my passion to help guide and empower you. Please contact me through email: john@shamedoctor.com or find other means on this website.

My thanks to Christopher Ott on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments, and please like and share this article if it was helpful to you or anyone you think may be helped by it.

Love’s Legacy

Photo by Marco Mons on Unsplash

No matter how many years we spend on this planet, they ultimately become a fleeting shadow fading into human history. We may marvel at the centenarian without fully grasping their influence and impact. Leaving a legacy is a consideration often running through our minds while the fear of being forgotten is troubling and distressing.

There is no minimum age requirement for when this notion begins to percolate in your thoughts. However, it does appear to happen more frequently the older one gets. It may be inherent in our DNA, or may reflect a slight selfish desire to leave part of ourselves behind – which in this instance, is not necessarily a terrible premise.

Regardless of what the aspiration for leaving your legacy is, the actions and motives affecting your day-to-day lives are what ultimately determines what your legacy is.

There is a distinct difference between being remembered and being well known. Fame or celebrity is not what leaves a lasting impression on the future of the human race. It is often the insights of a grandparent or a “seasoned” citizen imparting wisdom and altering the course of impressionable lives. These conversations are rarely planned. It’s as though the circumstances beckoned the elder’s experience and intuition to enlighten the younger, yet never fully comprehending the tremendous influence those words would permanently render.

In most cases the motivation which sparked those transforming words was none other than love itself.

Love, and nothing less, should be the determining influence in every aspect of our legacy. As discussed in my previous two articles, its definition is wide-ranging and covers a multitude of positive emotions. The simplest and most convincing way to become immersed in it is to begin practicing it at the earliest age possible.

No one, short of an inherently corrupt individual, would disagree with the premise that love is the most important goal we can have and share. It has been the subject of countless essays from philosophers, sermons, songs, poems, paintings, and more. It has always been heralded as not only vital but imperative. The most famous passage about love from the Bible states that even if one had the power to move mountains, predict the future, give away a fortune; without love it would all be entirely futile.

When love becomes the foundation of your life, it will automatically be the embodiment of your legacy. Embrace it and it won’t let you down. Expand its meaning and it will increase how others perceive you. Use it both as a weapon and a shield; it will never leave you defenseless.

With so many benefits love eagerly awaits to bestow upon us, it only makes sense for it to constantly be the preferred choice. But choosing love is not easy. Upholding its virtues is far too demanding and requires enormous discipline. Unfortunately, it is too often readily cast aside – especially by those who ought to be brandishing it the most.

Love is not a sign of weakness, although many employ this interpretation strictly as an excuse not to wield it.  However, not choosing love forces one to utilize methods which directly contradict it – dividing, demeaning, and utterly destroying any hope of reconciliation and understanding.

Love can only beget positive outcomes. Kindness, generosity, compassion, and an entire barrage of constructive and encouraging outcomes are love’s legacy. Deciding against employing these actions as a strategy is typically indicative of extremely selfish desires and a lack of self-confidence. Utilizing animosity is but a tool to cover up greed and self-seeking desires. It indicates a complete disregard for anyone who does not pander to you and the horrific lack of concern for anyone outside your petty circle.

Resorting to bashing and name calling is a whitewash for a multitude of egocentric, venal, and narcissistic demands. Love heals. Employing its antithesis is akin to picking at a scab or worse, purposely stripping away any chance for healing to occur.

We must remedy the current glut of defaulting to love by committing to the hard work and always choosing it for ourselves. We must not wait for its popularity to rise but rather be the ones who raise it up. We can applaud those who choose its power and speak out against individuals who refuse to see its worth.

None of this is easy but we all have a part to play. I have stopped myself on many occasions from railing against people with radically different political views from mine. As tempting as it is to fire back with more blistering and clever barbs than they shot, fanning the flames does nothing to unite and will ultimately create more damage and discord.

Whether the views you protect are political, religious, cultural, or education-related; if in your opinion, there is no room for listening to an alternative voice, you very well may be part of the problem. We don’t win an argument by telling someone how ignorant they are. We can’t convince someone their views are wrong because of clever quips or name calling. We will never be able to unite while at the same time engaging in repulsive behaviors.

It may be tempting to resort to the tactics others have used on you but if you can refrain and choose love, you’ll be enriching you and those who will always appreciate and treasure the person you are.

The world is experiencing many challenges, difficulties, and struggles. While it may be impossible to reach across the globe, you can always choose love and be the change this world needs.

A true legacy is not how many people remember you, but how your memory is cherished. How your loved changed the lives of those who were blessed to know you.

My thanks to Marco Mons on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments. If you enjoyed this article, I hope you will take the time to sign in and like it. I would really appreciate it.

Loving Yourself

Photo by Todd Cravens on Unsplash

With an abundance of emotions and infinite connotations, love perpetually streams through the minds of artists, philosophers, the religious, the secular, and anyone who has ever allowed this unpredictable sentiment to infiltrate their hearts, has had to struggle with its promises and disappointments. Despite the prodigious amount of examination and scrutiny it has undergone, the most arduous component for many is learning to love oneself.

Last week’s article touched on being able to discern your own personal meanings of love from the ideas and expectations of others’. However, when it comes to loving yourself, this notion can be a stumbling block for many. It may initiate conflicting feelings or worse, a disdain for simply considering self-love requires or deserves any attention at all. It was certainly a belief which crossed my mind countless times.

I don’t believe anyone – no matter how knowledgeable, wise, or devout – could quantify love or put boundaries around it. This one reason alone would suffice to erase any shame one may feel from considering self-love. “When life fails, love prevails” is another appropriate saying encouraging and imploring us to never believe loving ourselves is gratuitous, wrong, or immoral.

Roadblock ahead

The paths leading us to the false beliefs that self-love is bad, typically begin at an early age. Although children don’t appear to be burdened with this thought, they can detect confusing signals confounding them as they grow older. Unfortunately, these warning signs emerge unintentionally and rather frequently in situations where they are supposed to feel safe.

Families and cultural settings, unbeknownst to many, are where children readily develop incorrect perceptions of the value of self-love. Kids, being more perceptive and observant than what most parents realize, can sense arrogant behaviors and resolve not to display those kinds of actions. However, without a healthy example of how self-love should be practiced, they may be in jeopardy of developing a pragmatic road to achieving it.

Ironically, powerful family ties can cloud the concept of self-love by demanding the connection to “family honor” supersede any consideration of loving oneself. Although many families have incredibly strong bonds, it also is capable of becoming fertile soil for cultivating shame and proliferating low self-esteem, damaging some of the members who were sacrificed to maintain that “family honor.”

Another source frequently muddling of self-love is religion. While many religions focus on the righteous cause of serving others, if self-love is never addressed, that may signal a strong implication, through omission, that loving oneself is corrupt and evil.

A healthy dose

Learning to navigate the unfamiliar waters of self-love is a unique journey for everyone. Those who are new to the idea of self-love may have questions regarding how much, how little, how often, or where to start.

These are fair questions, and may have a surprisingly straightforward answer. When you experience love do you ask those same questions? Loving something or someone else simply transpires. It’s not something we always anticipate but we feel it when it is there. In that same manner, we begin with ourselves. However, if shame has afflicted us with worthless or unlovable feelings, we may need to begin first with healing those feelings.

Self-love is not a destination, nor is it a prescription. While it involves practice at first, the goal is for it to become a natural part of everyday existence. Similar in the way we are unaware of how often we breathe, the same is true of self-love. Those times when heavy breathing is necessary – as in exercising or playing a wind instrument – there will likewise be situations when we are aware of self-love to help us through challenging moments.

It should not be a choice between loving someone or ourselves; it is complementary and not a replacement. It expands our capability to love others. If we are deceived by someone taking advantage of our kindness, that does not signify a lack of self-love. We overcome this predicament because of our self-love.

How much time we spend loving ourselves should never be an overwhelming consideration. Although keeping that thought in the back of our minds can be a safeguard, arrogance is never a result of too much self-love. When it reaches the point of self-importance, it is no longer love. Where that line is drawn may be different for each person, but be assured when that line is crossed, it is easily recognized.

I prefer to draw my line closer to erroring on the side of kindness. While this does make me susceptible to be taken advantage of, it’s a risk I’ve chosen to take. This does not condemn you nor deem you as wrong for choosing differently, it is where I have set my bar. I also believe the closer I move that line to kindness, the more self-love I have fostered.

In practice

Explaining how to love yourself is something we discover ourselves. Just as no one has all the answers defining how to love someone else, the same is true with loving yourself. While there are common denominators such as compassion, patience, and generosity, it is up to you to determine your own ideals and values of what it precisely means.

Talking with a counselor is beneficial and will support defining and expanding your definition. Also, communicating with an intimate partner has similar effects and will strengthen your relationship. Self-love exists to enhance our lives, and making it your life’s practice will undeniably improve your ability to love and be loved by others.

If you would like to discuss how to develop your own self-love practice, I have set aside 15-minute time slots for the first 5 people who contact me. Send an email to: john@shamedoctor.com and we’ll coordinate an audio or video session to assist in your journey.

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

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

If there is one topic which connects us all, it would be that of love. It is an ocean of emotions experienced in limitless degrees and levels. We can give it, receive it, lose it, and find it; all within what can seem like a blink of any eye. Yet how can something so universal and instrumental to human existence leave many perplexed in its wake? And why are some so jaded by its effects they choose to nearly obliterate it from their vocabulary?

It’s simple to understand why there are so many struggles, as well as rewards when it comes to love. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has over 13 different entries for its meanings. However, since each person has a slightly different notion of what it means, it is far more likely to produce many more nuances and intensities, adding to the complexities and distinctions of its endless connotations.

Levels of Love

In modern usage, the word “love” is being used more frequently. This is neither a good nor a bad thing. It only means we need to be more aware of those different levels and inferences. When I was a child, I could love a pet, nature, or even sports. The only time I would use the word love toward a human was when it was directed to my immediate family. I was uncomfortable saying it to another human mainly because I maintained a very narrow view of its meaning. It was years later when my stepsons began saying it to me that I began to feel comfortable enough using it with others.

In many ways, love has evolved to take on a broader range of feelings. It can be as subtle as liking something or as intense as intimate passion. Loving some “thing” versus some “one” certainly implies differences in the way we comprehend it. Who doesn’t love a breathtaking view of a beautiful mountain scene or a peaceful lake? Yet the emotional feeling we get from those views is nothing compared to loving our children or even our pets.

There are numerous ways to express these feelings, and “love” happens to be a popular choice for many. Even social media has made it convenient to use this word with contriving different colored hearts, heart-eyes, and kissing-gesture emojis.

Although one could believe this dilutes love’s definition, the argument can also be made it broadens its meaning. Whatever your outlook, it is important to understand the context in which it’s being used.

Most people inherently understand how the word love is being applied in casual conversation. The trouble begins when it is ambiguous or confusing ways. And because of love’s volatility, we often are afraid to ask for clarification.

Love’s Context

Misinterpretation happens when we insert our own definition of love into the context in which we are hearing it. When others use it with a slightly different inference, we can easily make an incorrect assumption and misconstrue what is being said.

Ironically, this causes more confusion in the most intimate of our relationships. However, one characteristic of strong relationships is the ability to get a better understanding and clarity during your conversations.

Since the word “love” is becoming more prevalent in every form of communication, it’s vital we can discern those distinctions both when it’s directed at us or when using it toward others.

The Undertow

Unfortunately, many have had experiences with love which have polluted and all but ruined their desire to love anymore. Perhaps everyone has suffered an experience where love let them down or worse, nearly drowned them. While some were able to rebound from their misfortune, others were hurt so badly they questioned whether they would ever want to attempt it again.

It is horrible how some have used love as a tool to batter and abuse others. This was never its intended purpose, and I can certainly sympathize with those who feel they were defeated by it.

If you have come close to giving up on love or are about to abandon it, my plea is you’ll listen carefully to what I’m about to say.

One of the basic principles of love is trust. Every relationship, no matter how brief or long, survives and thrives because of mutual trust. Conversely, most broken hearts are caused because that trust was broken.

In order to love again, there are 2 concepts you must be willing to accept. The first is you must be willing to trust again, and the second is the consenting to the possibility that trust may once more be damaged. These are extremely tough decisions. No one savors the excruciating pain from broken trust but it’s the peril associated any time we agree to trust.

Relationships, no matter how long or strong, consent to that risk every day. There always exists the possibility of one person no longer being in that relationship. Although it may not be a trust issue, it could be a tragic event or heartbreaking diagnosis which results in this unpredictable change. Regardless, that does not prohibit the relationship from happening, and if you’ve had trust issues, it will be something you’ll need to overcome.

Having trust in someone requires a certain amount of vulnerability. Your heart will be susceptible to being hurt. It’s the inescapable gamble paired with trust. It is not a given your trust will be damaged and the longer your trust builds the less likely it will occur, but the probability of it ending still exists and there is no eluding it.

Fortunately, there is an antidote when love’s trust is broken. It’s not a complete cure, but it will help you heal from the hurt and provide the courage needed to trust and love again.

Surprisingly, it’s the one aspect of love we have not covered and that is loving yourself. Loving yourself develops a sense of self-compassion and dignity. Although a broken heart will always be painful, nonetheless, self-love elevates your confidence and can help restore the wound left in your heart.

Next week, we’ll delve more into self-love and other aspects of love which will help navigate this perplexing and most vital emotion.

My thanks to by Quino Al on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments.

The road ahead

The photo above reminds me of the highway between Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. During the past 30 years I’ve traveled that road over 100 times. On many occasions, there was a fleeting impulse to veer off one of those solitary exits and follow that road to its end, perhaps being even more defiant and swerving off road for a more exciting adventure. But I haven’t, and chances are I never will. There is little doubt, however, the next time I make that trip, a similar urge will occur.

I don’t begrudge the fact I’ve never attempted it. It’s a silly fantasy which only happens while on that drive. There’s no undying need to venture out and more importantly, I’m not well-equipped nor trained to grapple with disaster in the middle of nowhere.

Sometimes though, life’s journey steers us in unknown directions and we are confronted with a possibility of facing this metaphorical offramp leading to what appears to be in the middle of nowhere. How do we approach these difficult and puzzling paths? Furthermore, why does such a predicament happen when we’ve worked so hard to plan each step of our journey to avoid it?

Step one

According to estimates from the Population Reference Bureau, approximately 107 billion people have lived on the earth throughout its history. This means there have been 107 billion different life’s journeys. But out of all these journeys, the most important is the one on which you travel.

The expression, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step” has been cited for over 6 centuries. However, this term never examines what happens after that first step and for the next 2 million steps needed before reaching that one thousandth mile.

There is no road map designed exclusively for you. While there are sources available written specifically to help guide you, the best cartographer to map out your own journey is you.

There are many elements influencing our journey’s course and direction. From birth, our environment and circumstances play a huge role on how it begins. Individual personalities likewise help forge that trail. Where many stagger and misstep is in the ability to maneuver the frequent barriers and obstacles impeding their progress.

Often, we look for inspiration from others by reading or listening to their accounts on how they overcame and conquered their hurdles. While they can be truly inspiring, the difficulty arises when we wholeheartedly believe our journey should mirror theirs. We are not that person, and using this reasoning will likely result in self-imposed barricades which are the most difficult to defeat.

Some personalities thrive when being pushed to their limits. Alternatively, others use a more calm, contemplative approach. The emotional “firing up” creates the opposite effect and they deliberately stop in their paths.

An exit strategy

Some exit signs along highways prove to be quite helpful. When our vehicle is running low on fuel, offramps with fueling stations provide the necessary energy to keep us going.

During life’s journey, periodically a symbolic refueling encourages and motivates us to keep on an optimistic trajectory. Sometimes this is done with aid of coaches, trainers, therapists, clergy, or consultants in every imaginable field. They are trained to help you figure out what deficiencies need work and which strengths can become stronger.

When searching for a coach, especially in the area of personal development, look for someone whose goal is to guide you rather than dictate what your issues are. They often have set strategies and are rigid in their approach. This puts the emphasis on their plan instead of focusing on you.

While working with clients, my goal is to empower them to find their own answers and not prescribe or impose what I have deemed is best. Even if I were to believe I’ve fully uncovered all of their issues, it has no impact or meaning unless they can discover it for themselves.

Obstacles

In many cases, the biggest obstacle we have to overcome is ourselves. More specifically, the negative and limiting beliefs we have come to believe are the truths about who we are.  Again, use discretion when being inspired by others. Perhaps their story felt incredibly similar but yours had a different and much less successful outcome. Comparing yourself initiates doubt, disappointment, and shame. These are all hazardous roadblocks which we ourselves have placed in our own way. It’s important to glean inspiration and some of their valuable techniques to propel you to success while not allowing your insecurities or self-criticism impede your progress.

One of the most valuable lessons along this journey is gaining better self-understanding. Developing a greater awareness of who we are allows us to forge a better and clearer path moving forward. Truthfully, greater self-awareness may be our journey’s ultimate goal.

The one common element in all our journeys is they cross paths and are integrated with those around us. While we strive to fashion our own distinctive journey, it is vital we support, care, and have concern for the success of others. Anyone believing their path rides independent and high above everyone else, supports their thoroughfare with pillars of arrogance and deceit. Those whose goal is to make it to the top with blatant disregard for how they treated others, are blinded by their own conceit. Eventually their bridge, which was built on false beliefs of superiority and entitlement, will come crashing down under the weight of their own delusions and selfish ambitions.

Some journeys will inevitably rise above others. But when they are grateful and passionate about helping others succeed, they will be appreciated for their successes and honored for their dedication to making this world a better place.

Every journey is unique. No matter who has helped guide us along the way, our choices are what ultimately lead us to the final destination.

My thanks to Jakub Gorajek for the amazing photograph and I look forward to your comments.