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.

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.

An Empathetic Cure

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

How power affects the brain

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

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

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

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

An empathetic cure

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

It takes two strategies to overcome this challenge:

· Having the proper tools and techniques to fight these compulsions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constant connection

Before the entire world shifted its attention on the COVID – 19 outbreak, toxic relationships, and how to overcome their grip, were the themes being discussed. With many of us now being confined with spouses, significant others, or other family members, it may be timely to revisit this subject. And for those of you who presently may not be in serious relationships, there’s pertinent information for you as well.

Only a miniscule percentage of the global population can say they haven’t been affected by the current crisis. Strangely, most fit in to one of two scenarios: either you’re experiencing inordinate amount of time at home, or you’ve been working extremely harder than you’d ever believed you could. Both can take a toll on any relationship.

My heart certainly goes out to everyone working on the front lines who’ve been giving both literally and figuratively “their all” to defeat this menace. Their dedication and devotion to this cause is perhaps far nobler than some of the legendary ancient Roman and Greek heroes. It is nearly impossible to imagine from where they find the strength to continue to function on such little sleep and proper nutrition. The last thing they should have to worry about is how it’s also going to affect their personal relationships.

If you are currently the other half in a relationship like this, it’s also time for you to shine brighter than ever. As your partner risks and puts their life on the line daily, consider your efforts to be on a larger, more macro scale. Any sacrifice you make will initiate a ripple effect with everyone your significant other is impacting – including their families.

Remind yourself to be patient. Even when your partner is uncharacteristically short with you, they may simply be venting, and being their momentary “therapist” – showing them patience and love – is what they need to know and feel from you in return.

These are trying times and it will take tremendous effort on everyone’s part. There are uncertainties which many have never considered. Consequently, we are facing many emotions we’ve previously not experienced. All this adds to anxiety and makes us more prone to saying things and acting in ways we would have never dreamed.

Always remember, even though you may not be pleased with your actions, do not compound your difficulties by getting down on yourself. There’s no reason to augment this unfamiliar behavior with additional shame. I cannot stress this concept enough. The downward spiral of self-condemnation will cause more damage than the inexplicable behaviors could ever manifest.

For those of you who have been spending much more time with your partner or spouse than you have since… well since you first started dating… your struggle can seem just as ominous. Although you may not be dealing with the stress of work, there may be an overwhelming urge to take a break from everyone or even seek a little privacy. Add to that the addition of children or other family members and it’s a recipe for an emotional explosion.

Just like those on the frontlines, your situation also is manifesting unusual feelings and causing you to question yourself. This as well can increase doubt and fear which is never a catalyst for building strong relationships. By being aware of this one concept, it will allow you the presence of mind to be more acceptable and tolerant to those close to you.

Use this current situation to get a better understanding of your partner and even your family. Spend time asking questions and perhaps reacquainting yourselves. Make this an occasion for greater intimacy, and not in the physical sense. Intimacy, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “something of a personal or private nature.” It’s about getting a greater understanding of others and that comes most easily by conversation. Ask questions from simple to complex. You may have forgotten what their favorite color or food was. Venture into philosophical discussions and approach it with an open mind. Done in the right way, it can positively change your relationships in ways you could’ve never imagined.

This situation is unparalleled. It stands to reason moods, thoughts, and actions, which we’ve never undergone, would raise huge red flags during these exceptional times. There was no warning; no emphasis on signing up for courses teaching us how to deal with these unpredictable circumstances. All of us are trying to cope with not only the current situation but what will be our everyday lives once it has calmed down.

We all are facing this challenge both individually and collectively. The best way to progress is to ask yourself what you personally can do to manage and help. What in your own life can be improved and how can you be an example for others. This kind of thinking is not typical for human behavior. It takes awareness, vigilance, and persistence. It requires a determination which you may have never previously considered. But why shouldn’t unprecedented times also demand and create unprecedented courage, fortitude and integrity?

It is quite normal for some to be overwhelmed, especially for those who were struggling prior to the whole pandemic. If you or someone you know are facing this kind of challenge, please muster up the courage to ask for help. There are plenty of online groups set up to provide emotional and physical support. Seek out help in the community. Please don’t allow the feelings of shame to overwhelm and stop you from requesting it. As we all move forward with a common purpose to overcome this pandemic, there will be plenty of chances to pay it forward once it has passed.

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

Going the distance

Photo by Quinn Nietfeld on Unsplash

“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.” 

Don Miguel Ruiz

Calling these last few weeks unprecedented is nearly an understatement. Even as this insidious virus began to multiply with voracious speed, not many could have imagined the devastating impact it would have on the global economy, as well as the drastic influences imposed upon social norms and standards. Inexplicably, it too shows no favoritism nor prejudice on whom it bestows its occasionally dreadful fate.

Perhaps the most confounding aspect of this Coronavirus is how it has impacted our sense of stability. While many of us have lived through difficult or unpredictable situations, we’ve typically experienced something this mystifying in history books or on the big screen. There are numerous uncertainties which only heighten fears, intensify anxieties, and leave us all hoping and praying for a positive outcome. As much as we can hardly wait for it to end, there’s a good chance life will be different from the way we formally knew it.

The advice for best defeating this menace is social isolation. The World Health Organization, is recommending a one-meter distance while many countries are advising twice that amount. For those who may start to display the slightest symptoms, staying at home and self-isolation are more urgently stressed. Municipalities across the globe are fiercely advocating and even demanding people remain in their residences. For the indefinite future, these are social practices most people have never considered and as a result, are playing havoc on their emotional wellbeing.

Undoubtedly, social distancing is the best way to avoid catching or spreading the virus. Since it was previously not something which we considered as part of typical interaction, we must now remain vigilant and be cognizant of doing our part. This shift in behavior, however, can have a negative emotional impact, especially for those not able to hug a loved one and not knowing when they will ever have another opportunity.

Those who’ve tested positive or are merely showing symptoms are self-isolating providing they do not require medical attention. This type of separation has an even stronger proclivity for creating bleaker anxiety and mental uncertainty. Nearly everyone will experience some angst or mental distress during this period; however, when daily activity begins to take on some resemblance of its former self, we don’t want the effects from these emotional struggles to suffer lasting consequences.

These are difficult times. It would be extremely callous of me to suggest that whatever you do is of your own making and that you should have the mental fortitude to forge through these arduous times. The challenges we face today only months ago were nearly unfathomable. Many are undergoing feelings at far greater levels, and which also are tremendously foreign to what they believed they could ever have felt.

What can help you maintain your emotional health is to be aware of a few points. To begin, know that everyone is facing similar uncertainties. When you feel anxious or even fearful, it’s not uncommon and you aren’t experiencing something that you shouldn’t be feeling in times like these. As much as you don’t want to be having them, they are very normal to be undergoing currently. You are not doing anything wrong nor displaying some particular weakness.

Take a deep breath and remind yourself that it’s okay to be feeling this way. Additionally, take the time to forgive yourself if you said or acted in ways which demonstrated abnormal behaviors. All too often, we believe that having these kinds of emotions is wrong and then become ashamed of ourselves for not being stronger. Rationalizing this way only compounds the humiliation and embarrassment, often spiraling us further downward emotionally.

Social distancing can generate a similar psychological struggle. Again, this was not of your doing, and in those moments when you feel discouraged or helpless, remind yourself that it’s okay if you feel confused, irritable, or other distressing moods. These reactions are part of being human and it only makes it worse if we punish ourselves for experiencing them.

What you’ll want to avoid is having those feelings prod you to act out and cause actions which will affect you or others in detrimental ways. Being aware of your feelings and forgiving yourself for having them is a great way to lower your anxiety and propensity to act in ways that you never believed you could. I highly recommend making a habit of frequently forgiving yourself during these difficult times. When you learn to forgive yourself it engenders a spirit of greater patience and acceptance. It sets an examples for others to replicate and inspires family and friends to work through this monumental struggle.

We are now beginning to realize our connection to each other. Even during times of social distancing and isolation, having more patience and understanding for others will restore our hope and faith in the world to come. We may not be certain how it will end or what changes will occur, but we can all do our best to help one another strive to keep our emotional health, and appreciate life in different, more tolerant, and loving ways.

It is true that our circumstances are a product of what we make it. Sometimes, however, we need encouragement or advice to help steer us in a positive and constructive direction. And there is nothing wrong with reaching out for a little help.

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

A note of hope

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

“These are the times that try men’s [sic] souls.”

-Thomas Paine

Since we visited last, the world has gone through some dramatic changes. Perhaps you may have foreseen the tempest coming or maybe hoped it was being blown out of proportion by a few looking to make some easy money. Whatever your views are, it’s impossible to say that covid-19 hasn’t made an impact on your life, for which only time will tell the full scope and measure.

In times such as these, many of us are incredibly vulnerable to getting caught up in the gloomy conversations all around. Our frustrations heighten when the truth leads only to more alarming or ambiguous answers. How can something completely unseen by the naked eye have the ability to hold the entire world hostage?

In the case of a viral outbreak, that’s a question best posed to the scientists who’ve dedicated their lives researching the issues. However, what most of us want is to simply stop feeling confused, and return to the calm assuredness we used to feel about our future.

During such times of complete upheaval, the way we overcome anxiety of any kind is by truly understanding our own value and sense of self-worth. Stability and security come from a deep sense of knowing ourselves and our purpose. Knowing who we are and where we stand, at any given moment is what ultimately lends us this sense of comfort, and provides the self-empowerment needed for a brighter outlook even during the most tumultuous times.

In the next few months we will all be most susceptible to feelings of emotional distress. But that’s even more reason to recapture those feelings of stability and security, and regain a deeper sense of our purpose in life.

Taking strength in your personal integrity is how best to weather this storm and come out a stronger individual.

Sometimes we all require help, but unfortunately, some of us will sit mute; thinking no one wants to hear our problems. We wrongly feel a deep sense of shame when telling others about our troubles or deficiencies. But if there is one thing I want you to take from this article is that what is currently happening should NEVER bring shame upon anyone!

Instead, I want you to know that when we share our deepest, even most disparaging thoughts, the opposite tends to happen. Talking to someone produces positive emotions and they have great therapeutic value for humans. Why else would we want to talk with therapists, counselors, and life coaches? So, it’s important to remember there is help and you are not alone.

Additionally, at times of great despair, don’t discount your positive impact. You can help yourself by recalling and writing down a recent event which made a valuable impression. Think about people at work or in your community with whom you enjoy spending time. If financial woes have you concerned, don’t hesitate to reach out to local organizations or food banks whose primary function is to help. You did not create this situation and there is no shame by needing or asking for help. Their sole purpose is to assist others in need.

All of us can do our part by practicing proper hygiene and using practical steps to avoid catching or spreading this insidious virus. Keep updated on what is going on in your local communities and continue to be proactive to help minimize the impact this virus will make.

One of the most important aspects of building a sense of self-worth is to maintain personal integrity. Remembering who you are will help you to remain calm and not act rashly against someone or become opportunistic in the face of others’ demise. We must work together and not deepen the divide which is spawned by the presence of fear and unrealistic demands.

This current predicament is unprecedented and one we hope will never occur again. It demonstrates how even in a modern society, the world will always be a delicate and fragile place. No amount of money or power can shield anyone from something so undetectably small as this tiny spore. But it can become a valuable reminder to us all that life is a cherished gift and we should always reach for our opportunities to thrive.

I’m going to offer personalized sessions for those who need support during the coronavirus outbreak. If you would like help or to become part of a group session, please contact me for more details.

My thanks to Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments.

The impasse

Photo by Nicole Garcia

“Healing is an ongoing process. Some days are more difficult than others but understanding that self-love is a crucial component will keep you on your healing path.” – Nicole Garcia

In last week’s article we explored reasons why some well-intended people find themselves trapped in difficult, one-sided relationships. To think that many enter into relationships only to have their sincerity and love twisted, belittled, and used against them for completely selfish means is appalling. These stories are heartbreaking. But hearing the brave accounts of those who were able to overcome them are exceedingly heartwarming.

Love is complex and multifaceted; and since self-love is part of the healing process, it’s an issue I deal with in a slightly different manner for every single client. What has been helpful in my own practice is to discover the various ways in which people become entrapped by a sincere and visceral need to show and express love.

Having experienced my own version of love’s impasse allows me to be empathetic and understanding with my clients. It’s often a relief to them when they’ve heard I’ve undergone a similar experience. Thankfully, I was not a victim of an overbearing or completely selfish partner; mine centered more on never seeing the importance of self-love and how that truly strengthens relationships rather than damages them. My thinking was only to please; and often found myself second guessing what the “right” thing to do was in order to seemingly express my love.

The remedy is never as straightforward as “just start loving yourself.” If it were that easy, this column wouldn’t exist. The intricacies and peculiarities of each situation are continually shifting, making it more difficult to understand how and why they become ensnared and almost hypnotized into what they believe is true love’s expression.

What frequently occurs in these kinds of love-twisted relationships is the compassionate person, imprisoned by a narcissistic partner, cannot even begin to reason how any person would use someone’s own love against them. The slightest thought that anyone could remotely consider doing that is nauseating and repulsive. Conversely, those with inflated egos can’t imagine how any person would consider sacrificing so much for another person.

Herein lies the problem. Transformation occurs when a person understands something needs to be changed.

The caring ones, rightfully so, don’t want to change their already kind and loving spirit. And the self-consumed don’t want anything to strip them of their power and control. Ironically, the caring person does see the need for the other person to change and wants it to happen so desperately they’ll hang on to the slightest thread of hope, which their self-centered partner has learned to strategically and periodically tease them with throughout the relationship.

The first step is to help them realize what changes need to occur. They don’t need to be less loving and caring while at the same time becoming more self-centered. They don’t need to score more points in the relationship to prove their worth. Those traits should be lauded. The realization is that they deserve to be reciprocated with the same kind of love which they give.

The most difficult personalities, who always require the biggest changes, also have the least ability to recognize what changes need to occur because their primary focus is on themselves. They’ve developed a need and in a sense, have become addicted to continually being right. And when you are always right, how will you ever consider the notion that you may be wrong?

The “giver” frequently identifies what changes need to be made. Their struggle happens with learning to love themselves. The self-righteous, on the other hand, rarely see any need to change and when they do, it typically occurs after their world falls apart and they are left with nothing but desolation and destruction. Even then some still have difficulty understanding everything around them wasn’t provided for their comfort, pleasure, and luxury.

Each person in this relationship needs a healing journey to begin. The dilemma on this road is understanding this is typically a long process. Many desire these changes to manifest quickly. Why can’t we simply decide, “I’m going to love myself beginning this moment” and our lives pivot forever on that moment? Again, if there were a predictable answer, there would be no purpose in writing these articles.

For many, the way we learn to perceive and practice love has taken years to develop. Our actions become more of a ritual or a “default reaction.” Several decades of erroneous behavior isn’t undone by one confident decree. It takes work and determination to undo this kind of flawed thinking. While some might be fortunate to make such a miraculous turnaround, most face a challenging and exasperating journey. Please know that the rewards for this effort far outweigh the difficulties experienced during the process.

Another obstacle is when one questions the progress made because of some mistake or backsliding. Depending on the gravity of the emotional wounds, it can be extremely difficult to see any progress whatsoever. Discouragement is often the biggest denier; especially for those at the beginning of their journeys.

The best medicine for this situation is to remind them of the positive changes they’ve already made. Point out those successes and always leave with encouraging words. There were several times early in my journey when I questioned or even downplayed my transformations. What helped me most was realizing these negative thoughts were precisely how my own shame (and what I refer to in my book as the shame filter) wanted me to reason. If I continued in that vein, I would once again succumb to what I believe is the biggest yet least discussed issue that most will face throughout their lifetimes.

If you or someone you know is stuck in a similar difficulty, let them know there’s hope. Share this article or reach out to me directly. No one should ever have to be at an impasse with their own love.

My thanks to Nicole Garcia for both the beautiful picture and enlightening quote. She is a rising star and one who is an incredible example. I look forward to your comments.

Bad for Business

“The bottom line for business is that integrity is not always good for the bottom line.”

When writing about the virtues of integrity, a huge dilemma is that its definition, quite often, is distinctly unique to each individual. Two different and principled people can possess completely contradictory opinions on a subject yet both provide compelling arguments for each ones’ point of view. However, what has been very disturbing is seeing the lack of integrity which so-called “smart” businesspeople are demonstrating. It’s as though they realize owning integrity has damaging effects to their profit margins.

I have nothing against ingenuity, inventiveness, or entrepreneurship; nor is there is anything wrong in wanting to earn lots of money. Where the problem lies is when a business venture leads one to overlook the value of integrity for the sake of earning an extra buck. Most often, that kind of opportunism leads to unwarranted damage and harm to many unsuspecting and undeserving people.

It seems to be a growing trend in business to give customers less while charging them more. This isn’t simply a result of inflation but rather an intrinsic part of the corporate mindset to appease the shareholders in the name of profit and not for the purpose of good business practices and principles.

Affordable housing isn’t just an issue in the larger metropolitan cities on this planet; it has reached the level of a global crisis in the developed world. Likewise, healthcare for many, at least in the US, consumes a greater percentage of the family’s income than actual food does.

Why is this happening at this point in time? Is it some unforeseen phenomenon or unexplainable event?

I believe the reason for this is precisely because providing goods or services at a fair and decent price is no longer the business plan. Instead, the trend in commerce is now turning every possible occasion into outlandish opportunities for profit while deeming integrity more of a liability than an asset.

Why can’t commerce be more centered around integrity? Why can’t products be produced and sold at a fair but profitable margin? There have been a barrage of posts alluding to increasing customer service, creating a more productive work environment, and treating employees with courtesy and higher regard. But the corporate mentality seems to be leaning toward the welfare of the shareholders rather than those actually producing what the company sells. Business models are more focused on destroying competition through nefarious means – stifling competition, immorally fixing prices, and having absolutely no concern for the destruction left in their wake.

It’s time we value business leaders for their integrity and not for their ruthless potential for opportunism. Leaders in all sectors of business need to stand out with sincerity, honesty, and integrity; outstanding behavior is what ought to be commended and extolled. Conduct which ascribes values of trustworthiness and fairness should be the ones which get the acclaim and actions clearly displaying that revenue generation is the end which justifies the means, ought to be shunned and discredited.

It’s also no less important for those among the ranks to pursue these same ideals. It will take a concerted effort and although mistakes will happen, we learn from those opportunities and inspire others to do the same.

It’s nearly impossible to live in a world without business and it’s also vital to make a profit. But it’s not impossible to intertwine integrity in a company’s business plan. If not being an opportunist and not taking advantage of others for the purpose of generating maximum profits makes one a bad businessperson, then by all means, I want to be known as “Bad for Business”.

My thanks to Chris Charles of Unsplash for the beautiful picture. I look forward to your comments.

Thoughts of value

Photo by SK Yeong on Unsplash

“Integrity can involve choices which alter our entire lives.”

A discussion about integrity frequently includes a few words regarding being right or wrong. Last week’s article triggered comments from some who lost lifelong friendships over having their personal integrity questioned. When these situations occur, it can be a difficult time for either person, wondering if someone whom you’ve cherished for years may now only exist in your memories.

Rarely is it something we plan for or even expect. Nonetheless, maintaining one’s integrity may compel us to make these kinds of difficult choices.

There are countless reasons why friendships end in this way but the question we should ask ourselves is: “What were my intentions”? Was I flaunting my moral proclivity while criticizing my friend’s (or the other way around)? Did I ridicule the other person and listen only to find the absurdity in his or her argument? Often one or both sides feel their opinion only is right and any consideration of opposing ideas is a complete waste of time. This is a recipe for disaster and nothing can be done to remedy the situation or the relationship.

It’s ironic that the consideration of right versus wrong is the divisive factor in terminating any friendship. But determining what is right and what is wrong is not as black and white as we think it ought to be. The world would definitely be a much less complicated place if there were a list we could refer to when confronted with difficult choices. Yes, it would be less complicated but also a lot more restrictive as well.

Our diversity and differences enhance the unexpected episodes in life and while some are frustrating, many can be seen as opportunities for growth and development. Growth is constantly happening around us and we can do our best to influence that growth to our advancement or let life happen and thus dictate it for us.

Continually scrutinizing our own integrity is the best way to preserve and magnify it. Pointing out where it lacks in others may indicate a weakness or be a sign of doubt about our own. While it may compel us to do what we believe is right, it does not demand that we compel everyone else to do the same.

Integrity is not an easy subject to corral since so many of us have different values. While there are some basic principles upon which we can all agree, certain topics, and especially those of a political or religious nature, have totally opposite opinions; even though both sides use the exact same texts to rationalize and state arguments with entirely contrary outcomes.

But one thing which is hard to argue, is how much does our integrity negatively impact the lives of others. It is never an excuse to dupe someone for your benefit nor to usurp control over them. More importantly, it’s something that needs more proof than someone simply declaring you possess it.

Integrity complements other principles like honesty, sincerity, and compassion. I believe that these values all help raise a person’s awareness which ultimately motivates one to become mindful of the world around us. It compels us to encourage these traits in others and inspire them to do the same. For this reason alone, it behooves us all to continually examine our own ideals and principles to make the world a better place now and for the future.

My thanks to S.K Yeong for the beautiful photograph and I look forward to your comments.

Grammatically Thinking

Photo by Rahul Gupta on Unsplash

“Helping others should never center around how they perceive you.”

There are many factors which can shape, broaden, or significantly influence
our own personal development. Looking at a few of my past articles, however,
may give the distinct impression that individual growth is often predicated on
uncovering errors, mistakes, or other issues which may appear to impair our own self-confidence. That is never my intention. Perhaps I’ve been focusing on these kinds of events because they have provided the greatest impact in my own life.

Self-confidence is an important factor for increasing personal growth. However,
understanding the difference between self-assuredness and arrogance sometimes
lies in a murky place. The inclination to be correct and factual is important
and not exclusively in the area of self-growth. But is it possible to be both
right and wrong in the very same moment?

I’ve had a longstanding fascination with words and their usage. It began with writing simple poems in elementary school. While in junior high, diagraming sentences was a favorite class exercise. In high school, I took 3 years of Latin – simply because I enjoyed the challenge. One of my fondest memories with my father was when we spent an hour looking up words in the dictionary and discovering their origins. Although I never grew to the level of a copyeditor, I periodically would refer to myself as a “grammar snob”.

There was an important lesson which someone very dear to me pointed out. At times I would also deem myself the “grammar police” and actually corrected people who used improper grammar. It was not a constant activity and I truthfully can’t tell you what prompted that reaction; however, when it was suggested to me this was an arrogant response, I had no choice but to sincerely deliberate her words.

My first reaction was to justify why it was correct. “Don’t people want to know when they are speaking incorrectly?” I reasoned poorly. It did not take long to realize that the underlying reason for this action was more accurately needing to be seen as intelligent. Being “right” was not for their benefit and how would something so smug be perceived as smart? Perhaps were I able to read their minds, I would have seen the word smart being replaced with the word “smarmy.”

I could argue ad nauseum that a double negative is incorrect. When a person says, “I don’t know nothing” what the are really saying is “There’s nothing I don’t know.” However, being right in this instance doesn’t – and didn’t – matter. The intention was not centered around helping others and there was no doubt in my mind that I knew precisely what they meant.

Communication is important. Understanding what others are conveying is the key. There are times when proper grammar and usage are vital but those are mainly in legal and technical realms. Everyday conversations don’t require such scrutiny. This one weakness, which was a once-perceived strength, has made a huge difference in my communication with others. It transformed the listening experience and genuinely provided a more engaging as well as caring exchange. After all, it’s next to impossible to help others when the concern is centered on yourself.

My thanks to Rahul Gupta on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments. I’d also like to again thank Anuj Agarwal and Feedspot for listing me on his top 50 inspirational posts https://blog.feedspo .com/inspirational_blogs/. I’m listed there under my WordPress site:: https://globalcreativeempowermentgroup.wordpress.com/