Maintaining the focus

Photo by Tīna Sāra on Unsplash

“When it hurts – observe. Life is trying to teach you something.” – Anita Krizzam

Life is continually riddled with uncertainties and during this current COVID-19 situation, it has never been more evident. What frequently accompanies traumatic times is a yearning for stability as well as certainty. In the last few days, I’ve encountered several people who’ve indicated they needed or wanted healing. Typically, I would be inclined to be more specific about the type of healing by preceding it with the word “emotional”; however, in these vexing times, there is no need to make this distinction.

Virtually every person has been impacted by this menacing virus. But the effects each of us undergo vary widely in their scope, magnitude, and levels of harm. While it may not be much more than an inconvenience to some, others are suffering inexplicable anxiety and trauma without being remotely near the front lines of defense.

Only a few months ago, some people would have considered themselves to have easily endured troubling times by reacting in a caring, considerate, and compassionate manner. They were pillars others would look to for emanating kind and generous behaviors. Nevertheless, some of them are now experiencing thoughts and actions they never would have imagined they were able to muster and wonder how they will be able to make it through this unparalleled crisis.

What remedy is there against such an indefensible circumstance? And why are completely alien suggestions and ideas even making their slightest appearances our thoughts?

What is the answer

The solutions may not be the kind which many of us would have hoped for. Our fast-paced society has led us to believe results are readily available and within easy reach. All it takes is a quick internet search for step-by-step instructions or a video on how anything can be fixed. But this unprecedented circumstance was never addressed properly, and the solutions are evading those we would like to deem the experts.

As much as we may despise feeling anxious, worried, or fearful, it is completely understandable that whatever uncharacteristic or abnormal feelings being experienced, it’s entirely normal and being commonly experienced by millions. While this is not meant to lessen the severity of your predicament nor downplay any emotionally difficult struggle, it’s to help you become aware, in this present moment, that it’s normal to be having these kinds of previously unimagined thoughts, feelings, or actions and that you are not dealing with them as effectively as you believe you should be.

Many damaging emotions we suffer not only propagate themselves but thrive on their own existence. When anxiety ensues, it becomes stronger. Subsequently, this instigates other harmful thoughts, causing concern and forces us to question ourselves more. Shame and other tumultuous emotions rear their ugly heads adding to the confusion and continuing this vicious cycle to a nearly inescapable quagmire.

Breaking the cycle

The one common denominator these conditions have is the way in which we observe and perceive ourselves. It begins with acknowledging those previously unimagined thoughts and emotions then surmising or assuming they are an indication something went wrong. As those feelings progress, so do the destructive – and very false – perceptions of who we are.

Our focus has gone from “what can I do” to “what went wrong.”

As the Shame Doctor, I encourage you to shift your focus by becoming aware these reactions are by no means wrong or bad. They simply “are.” Next, tell yourself it’s okay to feel this way. Although it’s something you want to go away, saying to yourself “it’s okay to have these feelings” will actually help suppress and alleviate them – supporting and facilitating a more positive self-perception.

When working with my clients, this is a vital first step in the healing process. Otherwise, subsequent healing will have difficulty fully manifesting itself. A major part of emotional healing has to do with how we recognize, perceive and value ourselves.

In the previous article, emotional healing was compared to physical healing. When our skin suffers a cut, it still needs to heal regardless of what or who made the initial wound. The skin must grow back to heal. With an emotional wound, our mental capacity heals itself by renewing the positive outlook of who we are.

Imagine for one moment making great strides in emotional healing and NOT having more self-esteem and a better mindset and attitude about ourselves. It cannot happen.

Please keep in mind there is also a possibility of a scar or other indications of the initial injury, but emotional healing allows us to work through the trauma and create a possibility of becoming stronger for it.

Set your sights

The opening quote suggests we “observe” (meaning your current situation) when things hurt. This is another remarkable way of creating self-awareness. It’s similar to a problem-solving exercise. For instance, if you are experiencing negative thoughts about yourself, stop and ask why this is happening. What triggered these thoughts and made you feel poorly about yourself. Next, counteract those feelings by reminding yourself: A) it’s okay to have them and B) list the positive behaviors you showed prior to this dubious moment.

Another way to practice observance is to imagine you are interviewing someone else with the ability of reading that person’s mind. Take time to encourage “that person” and point out the misunderstandings brought on by self-doubt, fear, and shame. It does take practice, but will be an extremely rewarding and powerful emotional healing technique.

Destructive thoughts and emotions shift our focus away from our mental wellness onto topics which instead deteriorate and worsen it. Learning to refocus our minds on constructive and positive issues puts us back on track. These are undoubtedly some of the most difficult times any of us will face and maintaining our focus on constructive aspects will help us become victorious over this very difficult struggle.

My thanks to by Tīna Sāra on Unsplash for the beautiful and fitting picture and I look forward to your comments.

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.

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.

The love dilemma

Photo by Nicole Garcia

“What can be more futile than wanting to change someone else”?

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.

Something to learn

“If only there were one answer, one solution, and all could benefit from its wisdom.”

My previous article evaluated the advantages of always remaining vigilant about life’s lessons. It’s a personal goal of mine to experience at least one on a daily basis. While I never pressure or force myself to make them happen, I do remain observant and watchful. Most days they are subtle, but the momentous ones are memorable and life changing.

Ultimately, it has developed into a habit. There is no written record of sorts; however, undoubtedly I’ve written about many in the past. There’s no reward, nor a reprimand if it doesn’t happen. It’s woven into the fabric of my daily life. Since my purpose in life is to help others on their journeys of emotional healing, I equate these life-lessons to exercises which are necessary to keep me in tiptop shape.

It has been said that for many life coaches and mental health counselors, they’ve had their own transformative experiences which compelled them to follow this path. That is definitely true in my case. I recall three days after one of my biggest life lessons – the one which I refer to as “My Independence Day” – I recall thinking, “I wish everyone could have this exact same experience.” Little did I realize at the time it would become my direction, objective, and profession.

Fortunately, writing has been a joy and a passion for most of my life. During the first 2-1/2 years of therapy journaling was nearly a daily mission. 6 months after my Independence Day, I began to blog; and a year later, the ideas for my first book were outlined. Constantly being encouraged and inspired by my therapist, the outline migrated from my head to a Word document. On January 1st, 2015, one of my first-ever New Year’s resolutions was to complete the book by year’s end. The following Christmas Day, that goal was completed, and in August of 2016, the first printed copies arrived.

The book was certainly a labor of love because most days began around 3 or 4 am. My day job kept me busy and during the week, it was the best time to sort out my thoughts. Fortunately, I enjoyed writing at that time. There is something compelling about that hour. The darkness and calmness offered a tranquility which only enhanced the experience.

One of the ways which helped me succeed was my therapist allowing me to email him daily what I had written. Truly, I do not know if he read all of them but I didn’t want to let him down. Somedays were spent rewriting what was written the previous day and others were fruitful, only stopping when it was time to get ready for work.

This past week, my second book was published. Thankfully, the man who encouraged me to write the first one is now a coauthor on this one. He graciously writes in the Foreword about it being a “privilege” but I can assure you my gratitude exceeded description the moment he first agreed.

When I decided to shift my life’s purpose in this direction, my excitement was only outweighed by my zeal. Even now, looking back at that exhilaration, the words to describe it continue to elude me. I would talk to anyone about my story and there were several occasions I met someone during my day job and ended up speaking to them about my transformation.

But the lesson I was going to learn amongst all this passion and enthusiasm would soon come to fruition.

My own awakening came when I understood how shame influenced and controlled my life in many devastating and unseen ways. Consequently, this is my primary focus when helping others. Because it was incredibly apparent in my own life, I presumed it was the same for everyone else. Even meeting new connections online, there was no hesitation to talk about shame and how it may have impacted their lives.

Needless to say, some did not appreciate my blanket speculations and were happy to disconnect from me entirely. At first, I felt bad for them but soon realized it was both audacious and rude on my part.

As someone who’s dedicated to helping others, this was disappointing. However, it did teach me a very important lesson. No matter how passionate I am, no matter how many I may captivate with written or spoken words, no matter how many I may help, I cannot help everyone.

No doubt countless others have had transformative experiences and like me, wished the same for others. Mine does not take precedence over theirs. It will always remain unforgettable, but in order for it to be beneficial, it must be applied wisely.

This lesson will never slow my passion and intentions. I will always be ready to speak with anyone on the subjects of shame and emotional healing. What it has done is given me discretion; and oddly, a different kind of compassion that in my zeal, I was not able to offer.

What’s important is that people wanting help are given the needed assistance. What’s important is that others achieve the emotional stability and mindset to live a fulfilled life. As much as I’d love to be the one to provide it, it’s not imperative that I be the only one to whom they turn.

As I’ve stated in dozens of my articles, everyone’s journey is unique. My experiences may not relate to the kind of support and comfort they require. And besides, I’ve had the privilege of meeting dozens of other coaches and therapists, and being open to their ideas and methods have offered insights on how I can become more effective.

In the past, I’ve wondered why there wasn’t one direction, one resolution to find life’s hidden answers to living a happier and more effective life. Now I understand why there is not. Otherwise, I will not have had opportunities for even more growth than I believed was ever possible.

My thanks to Cassie Matias on Unsplash for the beautiful photo and I look forward to your comments.