Our life’s journeys on this planet are often compared to a road. There are ups and downs, winding and straight portions, some are paved smooth while others left riddled with potholes and hazards; all providing poetic fodder for an ambitious author.
The profoundest discrepancy between these two metaphors is that physical roads were built to be heavily traveled upon, while our personal journeys are never traveled twice. Whether you are 16 and just beginning to think about yours, or you are 61 and wishing several routes could be retraced with your current wisdom and experience, there will always remain a road ahead – waiting to be navigated.
Paving our way from the beginning
Roads can be built with different materials, equipment, and plans. The same is true of our personal journeys. Some were fortunate to have been provided with optimal opportunities while others were furnished with continually degrading supplies. But no matter what lot we were dealt, each of us must forge ahead.
The direction of our journey is often plotted in the past. Our habits, likes, dislikes, and biases we acquired – and sometimes devoured – shaped our future direction. Certain environments created a smoother route while others constantly maneuvered through roadblocks, perils, or possible dead ends. But there is no denying every experience has made us the person we are today.
The irony is that whether your road was covered with gold or paved with gravel, neither one will ultimately guarantee success or failure. Is there a common theme which eventually propels our journey toward a more productive and successful outcome? What encourages and empowers us to navigate our journey on a course of which we can be fully proud?
Overcoming the seemingly impossible roadblocks
What may shed some insight on navigating these troubling paths is to see what those who overcame such insurmountable difficulties, did to conquer them. How were they able to beat the odds which overwhelmingly became barriers for many? There are countless examples of people who suffered unspeakable acts yet have not only survived but thrived, often dedicating their lives so others don’t suffer from a similar treatment and exploitation.
These efforts undoubtedly are to be applauded. However, they also would not be the person they are today had they not experienced those horrible atrocities either. And herein lies the conundrum. While I do not believe nor would ever suggest one must suffer great adversity to be effective, it is a frequent attribute for those who have.
My challenge, likewise, is similar. I do not wish anyone to experience the depth of shame I endured, yet without having gone through it, I would not be aware of its magnitude and damaging effects, and would not be able to help empower others to heal from it.
If there is a common theme by which most learn to overcome adversity, it would be how they were able to move forward from all their hardships and transform those roadblocks into an inspiration to succeed.
(Note: before I continue, please know in some circumstances, horrific and terribly psychologically damaging actions may have occurred and in no way do I wish to nullify or minimize the depth of anyone’s misfortune. These cases require professional care.)
If we have experienced appalling situations as children, the trauma was difficult enough then. Those who were able to thrive quite often do not allow past traumas to remain as obstructions and hazards in their journeys ahead.
Too often, there is a fear the abuses we encountered are permanent and unchangeable. We hear sayings confirming these notions like, “These scars will last forever.” Again, while I do not wish to devalue anyone’s past suffering, a positive step toward clearing that path is to begin healing from them. The scars will remind us of the atrocities, but they also can be a sign of strength.
Shame was my gauntlet, and the negative beliefs I held about myself were the obstruction which created my poorly paved road. The healing began when I realized what others told me, only became true the moment I accepted those lies as reality. It was how I perceived myself and not what they expressed to me.
The moment of freedom came when I was able to forgive myself, that young boy, who felt he had no other choice but to believe those lies. I no longer needed to hang my failures on them, even though they greatly impacted me. Moving forward was possible because I was able to see I was not that person people told me I was.
Please understand, this awareness didn’t magically create instant success. There remained a lot of work, plenty of introspection, and awareness which developed because of those efforts. But how I viewed myself and the shaming incidents all changed. This discovery also compelled me to dedicate my life to helping others understand healing is possible for everyone and every situation.
The key is not to allow your past to trap you or become an excuse for failures. Living those abuses was difficult enough. Declare and affirm you’ll do everything not to allow them to continue to be the barricade which steers you off the path of happiness and a purposeful life.
The greatest blessing I could ever encounter is having the opportunity to help someone heal, and navigate their road away from a dismal and tragic end toward one of kindness, good intention, and love.
How we perceive ourselves and our predicaments has a huge influence on where our journeys are headed. Although there may be some mental anguish sprinkled in among the healing moments, it will be nothing compared to the freedom we receive by overcoming these adversities.
While forging a better path, there will always be external factors impacting our journey. One factor which will always help bulldoze that path is by accepting, embracing, and valuing ourselves. Focus on making this a part of your daily ritual and it can only create a brighter future.
If you are having trouble with how you view your past difficulties, it is my passion to help guide and empower you. Please contact me through email: email@example.com or find other means on this website.
My thanks to Christopher Ott on Unsplash for the beautiful picture and I look forward to your comments, and please like and share this article if it was helpful to you or anyone you think may be helped by it.
With an abundance of emotions and infinite connotations, love perpetually streams through the minds of artists, philosophers, the religious, the secular, and anyone who has ever allowed this unpredictable sentiment to infiltrate their hearts, has had to struggle with its promises and disappointments. Despite the prodigious amount of examination and scrutiny it has undergone, the most arduous component for many is learning to love oneself.
Last week’s article touched on being able to discern your own personal meanings of love from the ideas and expectations of others’. However, when it comes to loving yourself, this notion can be a stumbling block for many. It may initiate conflicting feelings or worse, a disdain for simply considering self-love requires or deserves any attention at all. It was certainly a belief which crossed my mind countless times.
I don’t believe anyone – no matter how knowledgeable, wise, or devout – could quantify love or put boundaries around it. This one reason alone would suffice to erase any shame one may feel from considering self-love. “When life fails, love prevails” is another appropriate saying encouraging and imploring us to never believe loving ourselves is gratuitous, wrong, or immoral.
The paths leading us to the false beliefs that self-love is bad, typically begin at an early age. Although children don’t appear to be burdened with this thought, they can detect confusing signals confounding them as they grow older. Unfortunately, these warning signs emerge unintentionally and rather frequently in situations where they are supposed to feel safe.
Families and cultural settings, unbeknownst to many, are where children readily develop incorrect perceptions of the value of self-love. Kids, being more perceptive and observant than what most parents realize, can sense arrogant behaviors and resolve not to display those kinds of actions. However, without a healthy example of how self-love should be practiced, they may be in jeopardy of developing a pragmatic road to achieving it.
Ironically, powerful family ties can cloud the concept of self-love by demanding the connection to “family honor” supersede any consideration of loving oneself. Although many families have incredibly strong bonds, it also is capable of becoming fertile soil for cultivating shame and proliferating low self-esteem, damaging some of the members who were sacrificed to maintain that “family honor.”
Another source frequently muddling of self-love is religion. While many religions focus on the righteous cause of serving others, if self-love is never addressed, that may signal a strong implication, through omission, that loving oneself is corrupt and evil.
A healthy dose
Learning to navigate the unfamiliar waters of self-love is a unique journey for everyone. Those who are new to the idea of self-love may have questions regarding how much, how little, how often, or where to start.
These are fair questions, and may have a surprisingly straightforward answer. When you experience love do you ask those same questions? Loving something or someone else simply transpires. It’s not something we always anticipate but we feel it when it is there. In that same manner, we begin with ourselves. However, if shame has afflicted us with worthless or unlovable feelings, we may need to begin first with healing those feelings.
Self-love is not a destination, nor is it a prescription. While it involves practice at first, the goal is for it to become a natural part of everyday existence. Similar in the way we are unaware of how often we breathe, the same is true of self-love. Those times when heavy breathing is necessary – as in exercising or playing a wind instrument – there will likewise be situations when we are aware of self-love to help us through challenging moments.
It should not be a choice between loving someone or ourselves; it is complementary and not a replacement. It expands our capability to love others. If we are deceived by someone taking advantage of our kindness, that does not signify a lack of self-love. We overcome this predicament because of our self-love.
How much time we spend loving ourselves should never be an overwhelming consideration. Although keeping that thought in the back of our minds can be a safeguard, arrogance is never a result of too much self-love. When it reaches the point of self-importance, it is no longer love. Where that line is drawn may be different for each person, but be assured when that line is crossed, it is easily recognized.
I prefer to draw my line closer to erroring on the side of kindness. While this does make me susceptible to be taken advantage of, it’s a risk I’ve chosen to take. This does not condemn you nor deem you as wrong for choosing differently, it is where I have set my bar. I also believe the closer I move that line to kindness, the more self-love I have fostered.
Explaining how to love yourself is something we discover ourselves. Just as no one has all the answers defining how to love someone else, the same is true with loving yourself. While there are common denominators such as compassion, patience, and generosity, it is up to you to determine your own ideals and values of what it precisely means.
Talking with a counselor is beneficial and will support defining and expanding your definition. Also, communicating with an intimate partner has similar effects and will strengthen your relationship. Self-love exists to enhance our lives, and making it your life’s practice will undeniably improve your ability to love and be loved by others.
If you would like to discuss how to develop your own self-love practice, I have set aside 15-minute time slots for the first 5 people who contact me. Send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll coordinate an audio or video session to assist in your journey.
An expression frequently uttered by many in today’s society, is: “Life is about balance.” While I couldn’t agree more, this statement leaves much open for interpretation. Life, as we all can attest to, can be chaotic, complex, and confusing; consequently, where does the idea of balance fit in to our daily lives? Is “living a balanced life” a matter of practicality, spirituality, or is it merely a clever-sounding catchphrase quickly digested like so many other sayings pontificated in the world of self-help?
When I was a child, I was fascinated by tightrope walkers. High up and accompanied solely by their balancing pole, they cautiously began their terrifying trek along that thin wire. In the beginning, they may have faltered or stumbled, intensifying the crowds’ suspense and nearly audibilizing pounding hearts of the onlookers. However, what began as a mortifying journey soon transformed into a thrilling spectacle of leaps and other acts of seemingly death-defying prowess, proving their ability to balance physically was one of epic proportion.
Perhaps what made it more enthralling was as a child, the many attempts to mimic them – although at a much safer level and using a two by four instead of a rope – I rarely made it past 4 or 5 steps. It wasn’t until much later when I discovered the balancing pole was an important part in keeping their balance.
Understandably, balance is key to a tightrope walker’s survival. Likewise, there are other professions which demand an acute ability to maintain balance, but the physical aspect of balance is not the only area in our lives where it is needed.
The balancing act begins
Living balanced is something typically not planned or woven into our daily lives. It is often low on our priority list because there is no urgency forcing us to make it more of a habit. Our schedules are dictated by hectic realities and responsibilities which often take precedence over tasks we deem inconsequential at that moment.
It would be frivolous and arrogant of me to assume I have the formula for anyone wanting to live a life fully in balance. But rather than reflecting on how this works individually, let’s focus on how living a balanced life with those around us is just as important as living it on an individual basis.
When we consider this kind of balance on a truly profound level, it forces us to think about why our interactions and dealings with society are vital to us all.
The world was not created strictly for our own benefit and a balanced life never consists of merely considering what works best for us. There is no job description where the single person with whom you interact or transact is yourself. We all are dependent in one way or another on human interaction and connection.
Becoming aware of how integral this kind of balance is to our daily life is essentially the beginning of our “balancing act.” Furthermore, when we earnestly endeavor to better communicate and cooperate with others, this effort functions as our “balancing pole” living a better “balancing act.”
Unfortunately, navigating our daily responsibilities is not always conducive to constructive interactions and communications with others. It often requires a definitive choice to accept and stay committed to living in a fair and equitable way towards our fellow human beings. Fortunately, when we struggle through these efforts, it progresses into a natural and habitual part of daily life. It inspires and fosters within us a need for equality and fairness. We cannot live in a self-centered world while exercising to live a balanced life.
The rewards of balanced living
When we strive toward balanced living, life is experienced on a much greater level than what money offers. We positively impact the world around us by instinctively promoting kindness and caring. We become more thoughtful and less self-consumed. We stay true to our word and personal integrity is a far greater prize than any paycheck could ever represent.
Living balanced with others also supports living balanced on a personal level. It helps us distinguish what is truly important and takes our focus away from the frivolous and mundane things for which we previously had given too much prominence.
Living in balance with one another never allows the scales to tip unfairly. It doesn’t blind us nor make us naïve when injustice occurs. Although it is not a remedy for perfect decision making and does not crown us with flawless judgment, it will compel us to act when we do perceive inequality and discrimination.
In today’s climate of protestation against injustice and racial inequality, what we very well may be experiencing are the consequences of societies efforts to sustain an out-of-balance scale toward those who have been habitually oppressed and scorned for their lifestyle choices. It is the aftermath of purposeful manipulation by those in power to advance their arrogant causes knowing full well their efforts will produce extreme pain and sorrow on many while having no effect on their cold hearts. What they fail to realize is the harder they push to instill their selfish views, the more they expose their despicably self-serving ideologies.
Living a life of balance is first a choice. It is accepting that you as an individual are part of and connected to something greater than yourself. While you can still strive to become the best version of you, there is now a realization of a cause far outweighing any personal ambitions and leaving this world a better place for your existence is the true legacy of a balanced life.
We may not believe our actions can change the world but when we live in balance with one another, we influence it on a much greater scale than we could have ever imagined.
My thanks to Vicky Sim on Unsplash for the fitting picture and I look forward to your comments. If you have any more questions about how emotional healing will help you thrive, please feel free to contact me at: email@example.com
“When it hurts – observe. Life is trying to teach you something.” – Anita Krizzam
Life is continually riddled with uncertainties and during this current COVID-19 situation, it has never been more evident. What frequently accompanies traumatic times is a yearning for stability as well as certainty. In the last few days, I’ve encountered several people who’ve indicated they needed or wanted healing. Typically, I would be inclined to be more specific about the type of healing by preceding it with the word “emotional”; however, in these vexing times, there is no need to make this distinction.
Virtually every person has been impacted by this menacing virus. But the effects each of us undergo vary widely in their scope, magnitude, and levels of harm. While it may not be much more than an inconvenience to some, others are suffering inexplicable anxiety and trauma without being remotely near the front lines of defense.
Only a few months ago, some people would have considered themselves to have easily endured troubling times by reacting in a caring, considerate, and compassionate manner. They were pillars others would look to for emanating kind and generous behaviors. Nevertheless, some of them are now experiencing thoughts and actions they never would have imagined they were able to muster and wonder how they will be able to make it through this unparalleled crisis.
What remedy is there against such an indefensible circumstance? And why are completely alien suggestions and ideas even making their slightest appearances our thoughts?
What is the answer
The solutions may not be the kind which many of us would have hoped for. Our fast-paced society has led us to believe results are readily available and within easy reach. All it takes is a quick internet search for step-by-step instructions or a video on how anything can be fixed. But this unprecedented circumstance was never addressed properly, and the solutions are evading those we would like to deem the experts.
As much as we may despise feeling anxious, worried, or fearful, it is completely understandable that whatever uncharacteristic or abnormal feelings being experienced, it’s entirely normal and being commonly experienced by millions. While this is not meant to lessen the severity of your predicament nor downplay any emotionally difficult struggle, it’s to help you become aware, in this present moment, that it’s normal to be having these kinds of previously unimagined thoughts, feelings, or actions and that you are not dealing with them as effectively as you believe you should be.
Many damaging emotions we suffer not only propagate themselves but thrive on their own existence. When anxiety ensues, it becomes stronger. Subsequently, this instigates other harmful thoughts, causing concern and forces us to question ourselves more. Shame and other tumultuous emotions rear their ugly heads adding to the confusion and continuing this vicious cycle to a nearly inescapable quagmire.
Breaking the cycle
The one common denominator these conditions have is the way in which we observe and perceive ourselves. It begins with acknowledging those previously unimagined thoughts and emotions then surmising or assuming they are an indication something went wrong. As those feelings progress, so do the destructive – and very false – perceptions of who we are.
Our focus has gone from “what can I do” to “what went wrong.”
As the Shame Doctor, I encourage you to shift your focus by becoming aware these reactions are by no means wrong or bad. They simply “are.” Next, tell yourself it’s okay to feel this way. Although it’s something you want to go away, saying to yourself “it’s okay to have these feelings” will actually help suppress and alleviate them – supporting and facilitating a more positive self-perception.
When working with my clients, this is a vital first step in the healing process. Otherwise, subsequent healing will have difficulty fully manifesting itself. A major part of emotional healing has to do with how we recognize, perceive and value ourselves.
In the previous article, emotional healing was compared to physical healing. When our skin suffers a cut, it still needs to heal regardless of what or who made the initial wound. The skin must grow back to heal. With an emotional wound, our mental capacity heals itself by renewing the positive outlook of who we are.
Imagine for one moment making great strides in emotional healing and NOT having more self-esteem and a better mindset and attitude about ourselves. It cannot happen.
Please keep in mind there is also a possibility of a scar or other indications of the initial injury, but emotional healing allows us to work through the trauma and create a possibility of becoming stronger for it.
Set your sights
The opening quote suggests we “observe” (meaning your current situation) when things hurt. This is another remarkable way of creating self-awareness. It’s similar to a problem-solving exercise. For instance, if you are experiencing negative thoughts about yourself, stop and ask why this is happening. What triggered these thoughts and made you feel poorly about yourself. Next, counteract those feelings by reminding yourself: A) it’s okay to have them and B) list the positive behaviors you showed prior to this dubious moment.
Another way to practice observance is to imagine you are interviewing someone else with the ability of reading that person’s mind. Take time to encourage “that person” and point out the misunderstandings brought on by self-doubt, fear, and shame. It does take practice, but will be an extremely rewarding and powerful emotional healing technique.
Destructive thoughts and emotions shift our focus away from our mental wellness onto topics which instead deteriorate and worsen it. Learning to refocus our minds on constructive and positive issues puts us back on track. These are undoubtedly some of the most difficult times any of us will face and maintaining our focus on constructive aspects will help us become victorious over this very difficult struggle.
“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.
“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.
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.
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
“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.
One of the most difficult issues I’ve faced while working with clients is failing relationships. It’s common knowledge that 40 to 50% off all marriages in the US end in divorce, and subsequent ones terminate at an even higher rate. Another and far more alarming statistic reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) is that 30% of all women have suffered some form of domestic violence in their lifetime.
What is it that makes maintaining healthy relationships one of the most arduous tasks for most humans? The challenge mainly comes because there is another individual involved. Working through our own struggles is demanding enough; but when two people need to make changes for one purpose, it complicates the efforts on many and various levels.
As I’ve stated on several occasions, we truly only have the power to change ourselves, and relationships, by definition, always include other people. The bottom line is that a good way to reach success is for each person individually to reflect on the changes and transformations they can make and only hope the other is as willing to do the same.
One of the worst relationship traps frequently happens to those who are the most caring, kind, and genuinely compassionate people. They constantly show consideration for others and have no hesitation with volunteering in other community-building activities. Their nature compels them to help people and it’s nearly unfathomable for them to consider taking advantage of other people. They look for the best in others and want to nurture that from anyone they meet.
It would stand to reason that this kind of person would be the perfect partner in any relationship. And for the most part, they are. I do, however, want to add a word of caution for these wonderful human beings. Because they are so giving they can also become prey to manipulative people.
Those who look for other’s potential are also ready to help, and when they see something that’s not right in others’ characters, their sincerity wants those individuals to see the error in their thinking. If they happened to be in an intimate relationship with someone like this, they’ll go to great lengths to facilitate and expedite that change; often trying to love that person into amending their ways.
Sometimes these loving people fall victim to devious, calculating, and narcissistic people. It happens because their love is so genuine and it’s nearly impossible trying to imagine anyone not feeling the same. Manipulation is a word which has no place in love’s vocabulary for them and they want badly to believe their partners deem exactly the same.
Unfortunately, the egomaniacal have learned how to play the game all too well. The caring person will default to kind actions. The self-aggrandizer puts on whatever façade is required to provide a glimmer of hope. It’s sad that in a moment of perceived kindness it’s nothing more than a wretched attempt of control. Relationships exist solely for the purpose and promotion of their egos.
There are countless variations to this story. Sometimes they come on quickly and others may take years to come to light. It’s always heartbreaking to see kind and good people become stuck in these situations. What makes it more despondent is their own natural inclination to be kind further entraps them in these swamps of misguided love.
The manipulator has instincts which hone and refine their soul-destructing schemes. They innately know the optimal way to keep that person around is to confuse them and crush their self-esteem. Situations, which to any other onlooker would squarely place the blame on the controller, are contrived and machinated to deceive the caring one into believing they are at fault. The only time any wrongdoing is admitted is to bait the other person into thinking they want to or will change. Any belief in hope – no matter how small – will keep that tiny fire of hope alive.
My heart goes out to these amazing people. It is a terrible thing to be manipulated because of your own love, kindness, and good intentions. Fortunately, there is hope. This kind of relationship is not impossible to escape. But it’s one whose grasp is not easily broken.
The first step is to remember, “the only person we can truly change is ourselves.” This, again, is difficult for the person in this situation because the positive aspects of their own personality don’t need to change. They love unconditionally. Well, except for themselves.
People who exude this type of love for others may feel it’s not important or essential to show it to themselves. As long as they can help and love others, this will suffice for any love they may feel they require. Their selfish partners periodically “throw them a bone” to keep them harnessed on their false leash of love.
When I work with my clients, one of the techniques I use is to tell them a story about someone in similar circumstances which plays on their empathy toward that person. Hopefully, they’ll realize the person they are hearing about is the victim they’ll see in the mirror. Next, I’ll engage in a series of questions intended to help them make the logical conclusion that it’s time to show themselves and express self-love.
When you see a friend in a similar situation and want to voice your objections about their relationship, it never helps to be angry or argue with them. What you can do is show them love and plead with them to get help. Believe it or not, this kind of help is rarely possible from a friend and should be dealt with professionally. Perhaps, you can pass this article along to them. Real change will happen when they can change the way they think about themselves.
My thanks to my friend Nicole Garcia for the beautiful picture. It’s Red Rock Canyon; just a short drive outside of Las Vegas. I look forward to your comments.