About GCEGroup

I have recently written a book that has changed my life and the course of my life's work. It is about a growth and transformation period from my life. Change occurs when we change the way we think about ourselves.

The measure of kindness

Photo by Sebastian Latorre on Unsplash

The current pandemic has awakened many people to topics on which previously they paid little or no attention. Rethinking priorities and contemplating our own purpose has been a positive side effect from these difficult times. Since many of us are living in closed quarters with a select group of people, the ability to be kind has been thrusted to the top of that list.

We all have some rudimentary sense of what kindness is when seeing or experiencing it. However, some people have a broader scope for the minimum requirements of what is labeled an act of kindness. It is my wish for all to continually expand our own definition and make it our life’s goal to perpetually enlarge it until our last breath.

Imagine a world where this was the primary objective; everyone’s intention would be to treat others with more consideration and generosity. In the blink of an eye, this world would be compelled to be a much better place.

When to be kind

Someone very dear to me once said, “When in doubt, error on the side of kindness.” This really struck a chord deep in my soul. Until then, I had considered myself thoughtful and caring of others. But the idea of kindness as a default action had never been my personal modus operandi. Admittedly, I’ve not had a perfect record, but there were many times it altered my behavior, even when the final outcome would not be in my favor.

It is understandable if one finds fault with this seemingly self-damaging proclamation. No one deliberately wants to cause themselves harm or maltreatment, and this is typically why several people hold to a system where conditions need to lean in their favor or at the minimum, what they perceive as equitable. Now, imagine a world where this rationale is the norm; one in which people negotiate with individuals knowing full well their intentions are to tip the scales in their favor. This can only be the foundation for mistrust, leading to an environment of suspicion, skepticism, and uncertainty.

Perhaps the biggest fear many need to overcome is the idea that kindness is a sign of weakness. There is no statement further from the truth! On the contrary, it takes more strength and self-discipline to show restraint and be kind than it does to rant and display rude and boorish behaviors.

Some people proudly claim they respect others for saying what’s on their minds with no reservations. But those who feel free to express themselves without hesitation often expose their own selfish and arrogant attitudes, revealing their lack of any consideration or concern for anyone else.

I’ll go one step further and say that the lack of one’s own ability to be kind toward others is more a measurement of a selfish heart and in direct proportion to living a conceited and self-centered existence.

In no way am I suggesting you let the decision to be kind make you a human punching bag, nor continually should you allow others to take advantage of your generosity. What I am suggesting is we all reflect on our ability to be thoughtful, empathetic, and understanding toward people in general. Does the idea of being kind to others make you feel squirmish or distressed? If it is difficult for you to grasp this concept, you may want to look deep within yourself and ask why.

The effects of kindness

I would be remiss to say being kind always ends in accolades. Truthfully and on most occasions, you may find yourself on the proverbial short end of the stick. But true acts of kindness impact the heart in ways most individuals who’ve given it may never realize the powerful impression it made.

Sometimes those who receive it may not immediately show signs of gratitude because they were caught off guard or too ashamed to say anything. Nonetheless, the kindness you bestowed very well may inspire them to pay it forward exponentially.

The reason I’ve chosen to error on the side of kindness is not for any gain or good karma. It is simply because I believe it is the right thing to do. If our benevolent actions were done to get something in return, how is that an act of kindness? There is no notable philosopher who taught otherwise. The “Golden Rule” demonstrably implies it and every prominent religious figure both preached and lived it.

At times, it’s prudent we use caution with our kind deeds. There are those who will unfortunately take advantage of anyone’s thoughtfulness and compassion. These people, however, quickly expose their selfish motives and pitiful lack of concern for anything or anyone else. Their idea of “kindness” is explicitly based on a quid pro quo basis and getting something in return is the only reason they would conceive of attempting it.

This kind of reasoning is not kindness but an effort to cover up their own feelings of inadequacy and failures. It is also veiled with a delusional fear believing others are out to get what they have; duping themselves into deeming these actions are preventative and not acts of greed or gain as others so clearly identify them.

Creating a habit of kindness

Kindness can be considered a type of mental muscle. The more it is used, the stronger it becomes and is more prudently applied. As with any positive trait we endeavor to make part of our character, it’s a choice combined with focused attention to achieve it. For some, it may happen more naturally, while others, who were perhaps brought up in an environment where kindness was shunned, will demand more effort from themselves.

There is not one right answer for using kindness in every circumstance. You may even find yourself being upset for missing an opportunity to be kind. These are all learning conditions. Do not allow the lack of kindness in one situation to make you feel ashamed. Kindness is something on which we all can improve.  The key is having it become part of your being and philosophy of living.

There are many qualities which positively impact those around you and kindness is just one of them. Molding it into a part of your character enhances you and the way others perceive you. It will also create a legacy far beyond your sphere of influence and has the power to impact the world for future generations.

My thanks to Sebastian Latorre  for the wonderful photo and I look forward to your comments.

The Art of Caring

Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Caring is a word described on many levels and with varying intensities. At a personal level, we can care for a loved one; on a universal level, we can care for humankind. While there are numerous degrees for caring to be demonstrated, it is unquestionably a trait we long to see in each and every one we know. Is it possible one can exude too much of this highly prized attribute and jeopardize the good of its original intention?

A continual inspiration throughout these treacherous times has been hearing stories of people displaying compassion and concern for those in need. Whether it has been a tragic end to a coronavirus victim or unwarranted destruction under the guise of a protest, many thoughtful individuals have exceeded the limits of kindheartedness and elevated its definition to new heights.

Currently, if there is one quality from which this world would greatly benefit, caring would most definitely be at the top of that list.

It does not, nor should not, require an international emergency for anyone to convey such an encouraging characteristic. There are no restrictions relegated to its impact and no special circumstances limiting its engagement. Nothing can stop a heart from caring save the person in whom that heart resides.

When someone shows us unexpected kindness, it brightens our day and increases our trust in the bestower of it and possibly, a little more in overall humanity. If there were a contest to come up with a word which might contradict “too much of a good thing,” caring would be a great candidate to win the trophy.

When is caring too much?

Let me reiterate, I would never mandate any limitation to acts of caring. It is quite underutilized in today’s society. However, as with other qualities, in some circumstances, an overabundance of it may prove to be detrimental.

As humans, we want what’s best for those we love. Especially as parents, we strive to give our children the best – or at least what we believe to be the best for them. Although our goal is to raise them to be responsible, productive, and caring people, we aren’t always aware of the optimal paths to reach these results. Complicating matters, our own children can react differently to the ways we show our thoughtfulness, requiring different approaches to achieve the same outcome.

Sometimes our busy schedules dictate to us the “most effective course of action,” and we yield to whatever our fast-paced lives decree; while all along, hoping some magic spell summoned by our love will turn things out “the way they’re supposed to be.”

Another common justification for “over caring” is not wanting your child to fail. Disappointment on a child’s face often hurts more than seeing our own failures. Consequently, we pave their perceived unachievable road for them hoping it will give them a sense of accomplishment.

This kind of unintentional yet highly detrimental endeavor occurs outside of parent/child (or mentor/protégé) relationships as well. It happens among couples, friends, coworkers, or between any two people who truly care about each other. The measure of what increases the chances of over caring, ironically, are the more we care about a person, the likelier we are to ignore the tendency to flood them with unhelpful or destructive actions. Perhaps there is no greater paradox than our own ability to love inducing and motivating us to provide toxic levels of caring.

A remedy

When caring reaches harmful levels, it no longer is about benefiting others but has altered into something different; something perhaps more closely aligned with avoidance or incredulity. It doesn’t want to face the possibility of discomfort, embarrassment, or a letdown. The concern once felt for the other person, now seeks to avoid the oncoming catastrophe destined to occur if the same path is being traveled.

No matter what the nature of any relationship is, caring cannot be used to eliminate disaster. We must rely on the trust and character building the relationship developed to help that person overcome any obstacles – all while remembering the possibility of failure remains inevitable. While it’s not a requisite, we can never assume more “caring” will fix the problem and may eventually initiate the opposite effect.

There is an antidote for relationships devolving to this low point. It requires close scrutiny from each person involved. Both the receiver and the giver are guilty of conduct contributing to its demise and changes are needed from both if there is any hope to reestablish a caring relationship.

Unfortunately, the person who made the mistake is often seen as the only one at fault and all blame should fall squarely on their shoulders. Why should the person whose only aim was to stop that person from making a mistake, be responsible for any culpability?

This one-sided belief is one of the most difficult situations to remedy. The “over giver” will refuse to look at or acknowledge any wrongdoing, nearly ruining any chance of healing the relationship. But as with all attempts at self-growth and personal development, we must look at ourselves and become mindful of the changes we must make to overcome our own faults and weaknesses.

There will never be too much caring in the world, and nothing will cause it to go out of style. The key to maintaining the full effect of its positive actions is to remain aware of the original objectives and realize the boundaries exist only to support those virtuous intentions.

My thanks to Maria Teneva on Unsplash for the fitting picture. If you or someone you know is undergoing a similar difficulty, please feel free to reach out to me on this website or email me: john@shamedoctor.com. My goal is to guide you on a journey to renew your relationship no matter what condition it currently resides.

A Balancing Act

An expression frequently uttered by many in today’s society, is: “Life is about balance.” While I couldn’t agree more, this statement leaves much open for interpretation. Life, as we all can attest to, can be chaotic, complex, and confusing; consequently, where does the idea of balance fit in to our daily lives? Is “living a balanced life” a matter of practicality, spirituality, or is it merely a clever-sounding catchphrase quickly digested like so many other sayings pontificated in the world of self-help?

When I was a child, I was fascinated by tightrope walkers. High up and accompanied solely by their balancing pole, they cautiously began their terrifying trek along that thin wire. In the beginning, they may have faltered or stumbled, intensifying the crowds’ suspense and nearly audibilizing pounding hearts of the onlookers. However, what began as a mortifying journey soon transformed into a thrilling spectacle of leaps and other acts of seemingly death-defying prowess, proving their ability to balance physically was one of epic proportion.

Perhaps what made it more enthralling was as a child, the many attempts to mimic them – although at a much safer level and using a two by four instead of a rope – I rarely made it past 4 or 5 steps. It wasn’t until much later when I discovered the balancing pole was an important part in keeping their balance.

Understandably, balance is key to a tightrope walker’s survival. Likewise, there are other professions which demand an acute ability to maintain balance, but the physical aspect of balance is not the only area in our lives where it is needed.

The balancing act begins

Living balanced is something typically not planned or woven into our daily lives. It is often low on our priority list because there is no urgency forcing us to make it more of a habit. Our schedules are dictated by hectic realities and responsibilities which often take precedence over tasks we deem inconsequential at that moment.

It would be frivolous and arrogant of me to assume I have the formula for anyone wanting to live a life fully in balance. But rather than reflecting on how this works individually, let’s focus on how living a balanced life with those around us is just as important as living it on an individual basis.

When we consider this kind of balance on a truly profound level, it forces us to think about why our interactions and dealings with society are vital to us all.

The world was not created strictly for our own benefit and a balanced life never consists of merely considering what works best for us. There is no job description where the single person with whom you interact or transact is yourself. We all are dependent in one way or another on human interaction and connection.

Becoming aware of how integral this kind of balance is to our daily life is essentially the beginning of our “balancing act.” Furthermore, when we earnestly endeavor to better communicate and cooperate with others, this effort functions as our “balancing pole” living a better “balancing act.”

Unfortunately, navigating our daily responsibilities is not always conducive to constructive interactions and communications with others. It often requires a definitive choice to accept and stay committed to living in a fair and equitable way towards our fellow human beings. Fortunately, when we struggle through these efforts, it progresses into a natural and habitual part of daily life. It inspires and fosters within us a need for equality and fairness. We cannot live in a self-centered world while exercising to live a balanced life.

The rewards of balanced living

When we strive toward balanced living, life is experienced on a much greater level than what money offers. We positively impact the world around us by instinctively promoting kindness and caring. We become more thoughtful and less self-consumed. We stay true to our word and personal integrity is a far greater prize than any paycheck could ever represent.

Living balanced with others also supports living balanced on a personal level. It helps us distinguish what is truly important and takes our focus away from the frivolous and mundane things for which we previously had given too much prominence.

Living in balance with one another never allows the scales to tip unfairly. It doesn’t blind us nor make us naïve when injustice occurs. Although it is not a remedy for perfect decision making and does not crown us with flawless judgment, it will compel us to act when we do perceive inequality and discrimination.

In today’s climate of protestation against injustice and racial inequality, what we very well may be experiencing are the consequences of societies efforts to sustain an out-of-balance scale toward those who have been habitually oppressed and scorned for their lifestyle choices. It is the aftermath of purposeful manipulation by those in power to advance their arrogant causes knowing full well their efforts will produce extreme pain and sorrow on many while having no effect on their cold hearts. What they fail to realize is the harder they push to instill their selfish views, the more they expose their despicably self-serving ideologies.

Living a life of balance is first a choice. It is accepting that you as an individual are part of and connected to something greater than yourself. While you can still strive to become the best version of you, there is now a realization of a cause far outweighing any personal ambitions and leaving this world a better place for your existence is the true legacy of a balanced life.

We may not believe our actions can change the world but when we live in balance with one another, we influence it on a much greater scale than we could have ever imagined.

My thanks to Vicky Sim on Unsplash for the fitting picture and I look forward to your comments. If you have any more questions about how emotional healing will help you thrive, please feel free to contact me at: jdunia@gcegroup.net

Everything changes

Photo by Ana Martinuzzi on Unsplash

As the midpoint of the year 2020 fast approaches, it has unquestionably provided us with more twists and turns than even the best psychic could have predicted. During this time, most people were forced to make adjustments and for some, those changes were drastic indeed. The old adage, “the only constant in life is change,” has presented itself in an extremely uncanny manner.

What may be one of the most unnerving aspects is anxiously anticipating how life will emerge once some semblance of normalcy returns. The thought of not knowing how or when this will transpire magnifies the unease in society and hopefully will not spark other tumultuous or unforeseen events.

If there is one thought on which we can all agree, it would be that there is an inevitable change coming to all our lives.

Realizing, “the only constant is change” doesn’t require a scientific mind nor does it take years of wisdom to formulate. Undoubtedly, our earliest ancestors, and every generation since, believed a similar philosophical thought.

The first person attributed to making this claim was the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Nearly 2500 years ago, he was born into a wealthy family but forsook his fortune and went to live in the mountains where he observed nature and spent much of his time reflecting on those observations. He noticed how objects in nature and that, “Cold things grow hot, the hot cools, the wet dries, the parched moistens,” determining everything in nature is in a perpetual state of flux. He eventually concluded Nature itself, is change.

Time for a change

As we currently observe things changing around us, it’s up to each one of us to adapt to those changes to our best ability. However, what is more important than adapting to these external events is remembering the changes we as humans constantly undergo. Do they help us to become more thoughtful, kinder, and compassionate? Or are these turbulent times excuse not to put in the effort for self-improvement?

The global situations for the most part, are out of your control. Being vigilant is certainly wise, but the final outcome will not be determined solely on what is best for your growth. Consequently, it’s vital to keep in mind positive, individual progress will help you get through this pandemic in the best possible way.

Whether or not we want it, change on a personal level is inevitable. Let’s take a cue from Heraclitus and look at nature. A pool of stagnant water will eventually decay and become useless to anything but decay and deterioration. Is it an unfair comparison to make a similar assessment about an individual who claims change is not a vital part of life?

Change can be hard

Change for some, is a difficult task. Not only does it require an honest self-assessment, it also demands we recognize there is something mistaken in our thinking or judgement. No one wants to readily admit they were wrong. People don’t plan celebrations honoring your errors or misjudgments. It’s a natural inclination to hold fast to our philosophical viewpoints and defend our intelligence. It’s also a natural inclination to defend ourselves when others seemingly attack us for how we think.

We’ve all felt that little rush of adrenaline in this situation. It’s a biological trigger based on our “fight or flight” response. But this kind of reaction doesn’t mean our original assertions were correct. The key is to observe our defensive reply while it’s happening and not allow it to provoke emotions which cloud our judgment or blind us from our own flaws.

Although there are countless ways our faults can be pointed out to us, frequently the main culprit for a harsh retaliation and swift denial, is our own fragile ego. When someone points out a deficiency in our reasoning, we believe it may negatively impact the way we wish others to perceive us. Or it may also skew the image in which we would like to perceive – or perhaps more correctly deceive – ourselves.

I am not suggesting we start volunteering for others to come forward and castigate us with their judgments on how wrong we are. Nor am I suggesting every time we are criticized the other person is right. It is about not fearing the perception we were or are wrong. If we are truly a person who continually strives to be the best version of ourselves, we are not incumbered by the possibility of having faults or being incorrect.

A key ingredient for change

Positive change first occurs because we need it. However, there is usually something which triggers the necessity for change. This happens naturally when we choose to be vulnerable. Vulnerability allows us to become aware of our weaknesses and flaws as well as encouraging us to transform them. Being vulnerable also initiates more self-awareness which is the catalyst for improving other admirable attributes. It is the foundation for integrity and empathy. As we strive to increase these positive traits, it also helps influence others to work toward those very same goals.

Society needs to change the way it perceives vulnerability. Thankfully, more people are realizing being vulnerable exhibits a true inner strength rather than the perpetuated lie which traditionally taught it was only seen among the weak, submissive, and miserable.

Final changes

Predicting how the world around us will change is nearly impossible. Too many scenarios are possible even for how life will exist in our own communities. Instead of putting ourselves through this mentally treacherous maze of circumstances, let’s focus on how to make the changes well within our own grasp.

Our own ability to change will always be a work in progress. However, unlike nature, sometimes we need to fight against natural inclinations and do what may not feel normal. Thankfully, the more open we are to positive change and work toward that end, the easier it becomes to transform ourselves and become an example for others to follow.

My thanks to Ana Martinuzzi on Unsplash for the beautiful photograph and I look forward to your thoughts.

If you would like individual help in your own journey for positive change, click here to contact me directly or for more information, email me at john@shamedoctor.com.

Levels of Healing

Photo by Claire Nolan onUnsplash

Few bright spots have emerged since our world became overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and now, this latest outcry against social injustice follows in its wake. If there is one upside to the current global chaos, it is the magnified discussion on the subject of healing. In the past, I’ve focused mainly on individual emotional healing and how it empowers us to make a difference in ourselves and in the community around us.

However, at this time, both physical and emotional healing are not only vital but need to be intertwined because working in conjunction with one another is what is necessary to launch global healing on a scale never before seen in the history of this planet.

Intertwining two kinds of healing

Many survivors of the novel coronavirus have healed physically but may still hold residual psychological trauma to deal with as well. Others, whose loved ones could not escape its merciless grip, are now left with what can feel like an impossibly overwhelming struggle to heal from the emotional damage sustained by their losses. While many have suffered devastatingly, COVID-19 has cost everyone something and will require some amount of healing.

No matter the type of injury, no matter how it was inflicted, no matter if it was undeserved, unjust, or unfair; every wound ultimately needs to be healed!

The first of many levels

Injuries occurring to people, animals, or property, are visible and an understanding of what needs to be remedied is generally evident. Overcoming the emotional damage is more elusive however, and not as easy to recognize. (I’ve written several articles on individual emotional healing and rather than recapping those ideas here, I’ve listed a few links at the end of the article for those wishing to read more on this subject.)

These tense times have taken a toll on many kinds of relationships. Whether it is an intimate or business partner, family or friend, neighbor or colleague; the unprecedented emotional strain brought on by stressful conditions has unquestionably weakened important connections. These will require healing.

Let’s begin

In order for relationships to begin the healing process, the first step is that both parties must want to continue and be willing to resolve the issues which originally damaged it. No relationship can remain whole if only one person works for it to succeed.

Next, it will require each person to look deep within themselves and ask how their actions may have contributed to the relationship’s strain, and what changes must be made to restore and help it prosper. For many, this step is the most difficult part.

It may sound a bit presumptive and some who have crossed this bridge before may object and declare they were not the ones whose actions betrayed or destroyed the relationship. So why should the onus be on them?

While this is a typical response, that question would be better understood with the guidance of a capable therapist or counselor. Nevertheless, for any relationship to rekindle its spark, it requires personal introspection and a strong mindset from both parties, along with a commitment to work it out. There needs to be forgiveness – of your partner and for yourself – for healing to occur.

Otherwise, it is impossible for any partnership to heal. If the perception from one person in the relationship is that the other one needs to make all the changes, then they have clearly chosen not to continue in this relationship.

More complications

When relationships start to include more people, it also makes for additional complications while trying to resolve issues. Families are the perfect example of that platform because when an argument ensues, there are multiple viewpoints and opinions which all need to be taken into consideration. Normally, parents do their utmost to quell the situation in restoring peace. However, if they do not take the time to listen to the grievances of their children, reconciling –  as well as healing from these disputes –  may never occur in a healthy and appropriate manner.

If a parent or a partner takes the approach of, “I am the authority and it has to be my way,” it’s a perspective that does nothing for resolving the crisis. It may subdue the rebellion, but it also can put fear and misunderstanding into the child’s mind. This lack of comprehension doesn’t promote healing and may eventually backfire, inciting a drastically different outcome because imparting cooperation and instilling love is what ultimately creates a well-rounded individual who can handle conflict.

One trap most parents have difficulty overcoming is dealing with their older children as adults. Complications magnify as children grow up, but they just want to live in a place where their voice is heard. And this can be a major reason why many families do not heal and are torn apart rather than grow in their love for each other.

Branching out

But when relationships extend beyond our own families such as in our neighborhoods, businesses, churches (and other religious affiliations), it requires a more tolerant approach. While some of the opportunities for healing in these groups are similar to the family structure, conflict will mandate listening to opposing viewpoints with an open mind, because these opinions should not be dismissed as trivial or unimportant.

Perhaps the biggest difference from personal and family relationships as compared to those at the community level, is that there is no option of discontinuing or walking away. Sure, we can always choose not to speak to a family member or end a marriage in divorce, but these choices are not available to people charged with the responsibility of public welfare.

Community leaders must diligently be on the lookout for inequities and injustices. Any favors or advantages doled out become a doorway to dishonesty and corruption. There is no quicker way to metaphorically peel a scab from an unhealed wound than by blatant favoritism, promoting discrimination, or authoritarianism.

Healing a nation

As it pertains to healing, a country is remarkably similar to a city only with an exponentially larger population. And perhaps what may be a fundamental quality required of a leader, is the ability to listen.

Many esteemed leaders who’ve held positions in various fields such as the military, industry, government, or religion, are touting the importance that listening holds in effective leadership. Some advocate it is perhaps the most important quality for one to possess.

Listening is also completely aligned with the concept of a nation healing. A leader cannot simply demand that healing occur. Emancipation should not transpire by a heavy-handed sword. Any leader who only rewards those yielding to his every whim will undoubtedly lead his people deeper into strife and further away from any prospect of healing.

Leadership is a difficult task and the answers are not spelled out in any book, but true leadership rises out of strife. It holds the hands of the oppressed and soothes the sores of the weary. The more compassion a leader exudes, the more healed the nation becomes. The more a leader strives to listen to its afflicted, the faster the wounds will fade from its dark memory.

We need healing and we need it on many levels. Although healing may have never been something which was high on your priority list, it must now become your focus.

My thanks to Photo by Claire Nolan on Unsplash for the wonderful photo and I look forward to your comments.

For those wishing to read more about individual emotional healing, here are links to some of my previous articles:

What does it mean to heal?

Healing on a greater scale

Continued healing

It must be nice

It must be nice to walk into a grocery store with a mask and not worry about the personnel keeping an eye on you. It must be nice walking into an establishment and having keys to the restroom handed to you even though there is no intention of patronizing the store. It must be nice having most people you meet have no hesitations about approaching you simply by the way you look. It must be nice when everywhere you go, most people look like you.

It is Very Nice

The other day I made a quick stop at the grocery store. While checking out the produce, there was a tall, African American man doing the same. He was minding his own business, and other than the fact that he towered over me, there was nothing conspicuous about him. I don’t even know if he saw me but for a brief moment, his presence startled me for no good reason.

Not long after, the situation with Christian Cooper came to light at Central Park and next, the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. While my hesitation at the grocery store had no impact on any acts of inequity, it definitely alerted me it was time to seriously examine myself for any hidden prejudiced reactions against those whose complexion is different from mine.

If you are familiar with my writing, you’ll know kindness, good intentions, and integrity are all fundamental themes throughout my work. I constantly emphasize self-change rather than expecting it from others. Individual strength is shown by our vulnerability and not measured by how much weight we can bench press. Promoting or condoning violence is something I will always continue to discourage and oppose.

It must be nice to have this as my personal conviction. However, I’ve never been handcuffed with an officer’s knee on my neck cutting off my air passage. I’ve never had anyone threaten to call the police on me for simply asking them to obey the law.

Certainly, these are not reasons to incite violence, but let’s examine a moment in US history when a call to arms became the only perceived choice.

Paying taxes is always a point of contention colonists in pre-colonial America. It quickly came to a head when the British Parliament passed The Stamp Act in 1765. Despite this and several other acts, along with enhanced British soldier presence, it failed to quash the acts of these seditious rebels.

Eventually, the Crown had enough and in 1775, King George III gathered both houses of Parliament and read his “Proclamation of Rebellion” ultimately giving consent to dispatch troops against his own subjects, which many colonists considered impossible.

The King asserted, “many of these unhappy people may still retain their loyalty and wish to resist it,” which quickly prompted action to stop the “torrent of violence,” insisting “that to be a subject of Great Britain, with all its consequences, is to be the freest member of any civil society in the known world.

There were loyalists who fervently believed the rebellion was treasonous, unethical, and “against the will of God.” Despite all this, ultimately, the American Revolution ensued and today, most Americans revere these brave patriots as Forefathers who birthed one of the most powerful nations this planet has ever witnessed. Their actions, along with thousands who gave their lives, finally established the US constitution, allowing me to state my opinions under the rights and privileges it grants – for which I too am eternally grateful.

This is not an indictment against those who so boldly, gave their lives. Undeniably, their abhorrence for how they were being treated was the catalyst for the forthcoming conflict. Their anger and subsequent rebellion was caused by what they believed was unfair treatment. It didn’t entail overt and state-sanctioned discrimination. It wasn’t about their brothers and sisters being wrongfully and knowingly arrested, injured or unspeakably abused. Was there any way possible they could have resolved those pre-colonial issues with more reasonable and less tragic outcomes?

The American Revolution founded freedom for many, yet nearly half of the framers of Constitution owned slaves. It took a Civil War and later, the 14th Amendment to begin to detail what those freedoms were. Nevertheless, discrimination persisted and is notably evident to this day.

As much as I am assured there is a better way than riots and destruction to resolve an injustice, the actions by these Patriots have been justified despite being vehemently abhorred by many of their contemporaries.

I am not passing judgement. I am simply asking a question.

It is Very Nice

It must be nice to have the choice of purchasing a home anywhere one wishes. I have no clue what it feels like not to be able to purchase a home because of the color of my skin.

After World War1, buying a home was a prudent way to invest and accrue wealth. However, owners of these construction companies in the early part of the twentieth century made it part of their charter to declare homes could not be sold to anyone other than whites. It was a business decision plain and simple.

The sentiment of the day was if a minority were to purchase a home in the community, it would discourage other whites from buying. This discriminatory policy was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court and was eventually upheld! I don’t know what it feels like to have the “rule of law” tell me I cannot buy a home because my parents weren’t both white.

All of us are aware discrimination of this type is strictly forbidden by current law. But have those current laws stripped this behavior and completely erased it from occurring in contemporary real estate transactions?

It’s easy for me to condemn the violence. It’s simple for me to tell people to work hard and not expect handouts. But I’ve never been turned down for a job because of the way I look. Nothing has held me from accomplishing what I want other than my own desire or lack thereof. I’ve not been pigeonholed into an occupation because of other’s expectations or have it deemed it was the only work available for “people like them.”

I wish I could blame the current anxiety on the novel coronavirus, but the increase began a few years prior this outbreak. Racial injustice occurred long before this nation even fought to become united. However, it has been escalating quite rapidly over the past few years.

It can no longer be simply “nice” for me. I cannot remain static; hoping my life continues as “normal” while millions of people face daily threats purely based on their race, ethnicity, or the color of their skin.

What actions can I take?

When someone tells a racial or off-color joke, I shouldn’t simply wince and turn my back or worse, fold under peer pressure and laugh along with the “boys.” I must rail against it with the very same ease with which they used to spew their racial garbage.

I can confess not knowing or being able to imagine the struggles others are facing and show true empathy and compassion to their situations.

I don’t have to assume the reason someone struggles is they don’t work hard enough. I don’t have to argue that a helping hand only helps them remain unemployed.

I won’t vote for legislatures or judges whose aim is to perpetuate this appalling and divisive behavior.

I don’t need to immediately condemn the actions of those whose differ from mine. Even though these are acts to which I would never subscribe, it would be nice if I could indeed empathize and actually try to come to an understanding and resolution.

Equal opportunity is a right I take for granted, yet for many is another area of discrimination they can add to their list of inequalities. I must help defend that right for those who’ve been denied it far too long.

For much of this nation’s history, most minorities have striven to be orderly and well-behaved. Unfortunately, looters have crept in among them, selfishly taking advantage of these troubling times and severely damaging the efforts of peaceful protesters. Their careless actions are no less deplorable than the violence which the true demonstrators are fighting against.

Some altruistic activists near the point of becoming angry may begin to exhibit signs of inciting violence. Wouldn’t curbing or halting such behavior help their cause? It would be easy for me to sit back and expect them to tone it down, but I’ve never been unjustly pepper sprayed in the face. Nor has my heart shattered while watching years of my hard work and investment burn by a vindictive looter’s revenge.

I’m only asking questions

I am not claiming to be a spokesperson for those who’ve never or rarely faced discrimination of any sort. I am merely asking what I can do as an individual. However, why is it okay for me to ask the daughters of agricultural workers, the sons of menial immigrant laborers, or the descendants of slaves of all races, to change their behavior without any consideration of altering mine? What divine being gave so-called “real Americans” the staff of justice, a measuring stick of fairness, or the sword of discernment to utilize it at our whim and discretion? If such a being exists, it is one deity I will fight against for the sake of and in the name of justice.

The best hope for peace is a meeting of mutual respect with the willingness of all involved to come to an understanding of everyone’s plight. All must be willing to adapt, empathize, understand, and become aware of everyone’s needs equally and without bias. It takes courage. And most of all, the courage to admit personal mistakes and being open to change them.

There’s a bit of irony here. While we are being told there will be a new normal once a vaccine or other measures are discovered to control COVID-19, at the same time, there must be a new normal to address the racial and ethnic inequalities which the entire globe has refused to admit. It is not a problem for the US alone, but like in many other things, we happen to be the world leader at the moment.

 It would be nice to return to the 2019 normal, at least for me. However, my wish for everyone is to be able to live in a world where many of the niceties which I have taken for granted, would be a common experience shared by all.

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.