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.

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

What does it mean to heal?

Photo by Tim Charleston

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

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

A Difficult Matter

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

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

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

Signs of Healing

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

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

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

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

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

Emotional Healing Explored

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Truth Be Told

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

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

Pablo Picasso

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

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

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

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

A lie pointing towards truth

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

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

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

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

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

The multiple ways of responding to shame

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

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

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

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

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

Realizing the Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Happy 200th

The tree that changed everything. Taken January 2, 2013

Change happens when we change the way we think about ourselves.

It’s hard to believe this is my 200th article posted on LinkedIn. Shortly after beginning nearly 4 years ago, Sunday at 8 am Pacific Standard Time became the chosen time to post. Sunday mornings are always filled with anticipation and some anxiety wondering how my thoughts will be received. Yes, even after all the encouragement and positive comments, the nerves still make their appearance prior to hitting that “publish” button.

Although the purpose of these articles has been to help guide others along their journeys of emotional healing and personal development, I’ve been blessed by meeting dozens if not hundreds of fantastic people across the globe. I’ve interacted with mental health experts, professional writers and editors, entrepreneurs, and simply kind, good people.

2 months ago, when I began considering this article’s content, I would have never dreamed the world would be in the condition it is today. However, these trying times ought to be a reminder that it’s more important than ever to be more dedicated at showing our best self – holding on to our integrity, conveying kindness, and doing what we can to help others. I’ve been inspired by many of the coaches and therapists I’ve met here and it’s now time I stand with them to empower others to be their best versions of themselves.

Today, I’m proud to introduce my website: www.shamedoctor.com. (Please excuse some of the glitches still remaining) My aim is to help people heal from the devastating effects of shame, as well as other emotional abuses, and focus on personal development skills.

There are two subjects which continually weave throughout my writings and those are: (A) Personal Development and (B) Emotional Healing. Personal development can be summarized as getting a better understanding of who we are, our purpose in life, and what makes us feel magical. However, it’s difficult to begin this journey without first dealing with our emotional wounds and initiating the healing process.

The one emotional construct which fosters and magnifies our psychological trauma to extreme levels is shame. It is also one of the greatest misunderstood and under emphasized issues; and for or many, one of the most troubling and evasive hurdles they will ever face.

Shame, which I briefly define as the self-destructive beliefs and opinions we’ve falsely come to believe about who we were and are, is notorious for disguising itself and causing us to believe that somehow, we are not enough. It begins at an early age and for many, continues through much of their lives; constantly conditioning them with feelings of hopelessness and despair.

On the other end of the spectrum, shame also has the capacity to generate exaggerated beliefs of self-importance. Feelings of superiority are a pretense meant to mask the underlying true feelings of shame and hoping others won’t perceive it in us. Shame is the one emotion which causes an array of feelings from total unworthiness to complete arrogance.

My first book is centered around shame and how it frequently clenches us so tightly we don’t realize the damage we bring upon ourselves. It creates an environment where horrific things happening to us start to seem “normal” and if anything good happens to us, we probably didn’t deserve it.

When feelings of being hurt or damaged become our “normal” existence, then being hurt or damaged is no longer perceived as a problem and we wrongly believe nothing needs to be fixed or changed. This is precisely why it is the most difficult issue many people will face throughout their lives.

Although shame is the root cause for many of our emotional stains and abuses, simply pointing that out does not initiate emotional healing. Shamedoctor.com is there to help you begin that journey and start healing from the emotional anguish shame has caused. Unlike our physical bodies which can heal from minor cuts and bruises, the process of emotional healing is not necessarily innate and having a knowledgeable guide is extremely beneficial.

My journey began with the help of an amazing therapist and thankfully, my efforts included learning how best to help others discover these answers within themselves. Now it’s time for me to reach out worldwide and let others know there is hope. We don’t need to remain a prisoner of our past abuses. Even for those who believe there is no hope and the only remedy is doom, my purpose is to help them “change the way they think about themselves.”

There are many ways you or someone you know can benefit from my website and begin the healing journey. Soon, my books will also be available in virtual formats and I’ll have private and discreet group sessions which have distinct benefits as well.

We are living in trying times. All of us have recently experienced more anxiety or unease than we might recall. However, most of us are certain it will get better, only we’re not quite sure when that will be. To help overcome these concerns, I’ll be scheduling group meetings at no charge to help us get through these unprecedented times.

The above picture is one I took over 7 years ago. This tree was an important catalyst in my transformation. While spending the day in the mountains outside of Las Vegas, I was diligently searching deep within my soul for my answers. Why did shame have such a tight grip around me? What was it that wasn’t allowing me to move forward?

When I saw this tree, it made me pause. It was not beautiful. It truly looked withered, frail, and sad while the others around it were tall and green. Yet it continued to grow proudly. It knew no shame even in the midst of the others. That tree inspired a poem which was written 3 weeks prior to “My Independence Day” session. I’ve never finished a poem as quickly and it continues to move me every time I read it (posted at the end of this article).

I’ll be promoting others who are dedicating their lives to helping others heal, become unstuck, and to be the best version of themselves. I also want to thank you, all my readers, for your comments. In many ways, you’ve helped the Shame Doctor hone his skills and become more effective with emotional healing and personal development.

If there is one thing the world needs now more than ever, it’s emotional healing and to continually get a greater understanding of who we are. I am blessed and honored to be a part of that team – guiding others on their journeys. I look forward to the years to come.

The Tree

I took a long glance at this lonely tree 

And when I looked closer, what did I see? 

Its bark had withered, its branches the same 

Yet still it grew tall because it knew no shame 

What did it do to be shameful about? 

It caused no harm nor created any doubt 

Its purpose in life was clearly to be 

Simply one thing; a beautiful tree 

It stood there proudly on the cold mountain top 

Without ever wondering if it was going to stop 

For how long it was there I had no way to know 

Nor how many more years it would continue to grow 

As long as it had purpose in its solitary life to be 

And I felt at that moment, the same as the tree 

There’s no reason at all to continue with shame 

I wasn’t born in this world with doubt or blame 

Somewhere in my journey, I learned how to add 

Shame, unworthiness, and all that I was bad 

After these long years of blame and self-doubt 

Now is the time to realize I can truly live without 

All of these notions that I’m not worthy enough 

They hinder my journey and make my road tough 

So the time is now to look at myself plainly 

And realize I’m worthy to live life more sanely 

Get out from the past, move forward right now 

And put away all blame with this sacred vow 

I choose from this day, when I do have a choice 

To take a firm step and speak with stern voice 

And not let others or circumstanced provide 

The answers to life which for me I now decide 

When shame or self-doubt rears its ugly head 

I will dismiss it quite firmly as though it were dead 

For now, I feel worthy of great things to come 

I will gladly accept wherever they are from 

What life has to give me and what’s still in store 

I value myself fully and am open for much more 

And for the last time I fondly look upon that tree 

Having great anticipation of what life has for me 

With a tear in my eye and a big smile on my face 

I will live my life fully, touched by the tree’s grace 

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.