Tag Archives: survival

The Judge

Yesterday, I came up with an exercise to assist people to get to the root of certain destructive behaviours or patterns. The behaviour I had in mind when I designed the exercise was that of judging or criticising.

Last night, I wondered if I could do the exercise. Who am I judging or criticising? I realised that the person I’m currently judging most is myself.

So I completed the three steps to this exercise. The first step is to ask yourself these questions:

1. When you’re judging, is there an underlying fear? If so, what is it?

My answer astounded me and brought me to tears. My fear is that I’m imperfect. I go deeper with this realisation. If I’m imperfect, I believe that I won’t be loved or accepted. I go deeper again. Then, I’ll be rejected. Cast out. Abandoned.

Suddenly my mind is flooded with snapshots of childhood, teen years and early adulthood, where I felt my imperfection brought about rejection, humiliation, anger, fear and withdrawal of love.

Messages I internalised from an early age convinced me that I had to try to be perfect in order to earn love or even just acceptance. I couldn’t be myself or feel the things I was really feeling. I had to try to be what others wanted me to be. Otherwise, I’d be left alone in this world. And to be all alone in this world means certain death.

This made perfect sense when I read Harville Hendrix’s brilliant book Getting The Love You Want. Hendrix describes the structure of the human brain.

The brain stem, which is the most primitive layer, oversees reproduction and vital functions such as breathing, blood circulation and sleep. Then there is the limbic system, which generates vivid emotions. The main concern of this portion of the brain is self-preservation. It is constantly on the alert, trying to ensure your safety. Hendrix refers to these two parts of the brain as the “old brain”.

The third part of the brain is the cerebral cortex, which is most highly developed in Homo Sapiens. This section of the brain deals with cognitive functions. It’s the part of you that makes decisions, thinks, observes, plans, organises information and creates ideas. Hendrix calls this the “new brain”.

The new brain is logical and tries to find a cause for every effect. This part of the brain can moderate some of the instinctual reactions of your old brain.

With regard to my self-judging, I believe that I need to be perfect. If I’m not perfect, I won’t be loved. I will be abandoned. This primeval fear comes from the old brain logic that tells me that the world is not safe. When love is withdrawn from me, I am filled with a fear of death.

So, in answer to the first question about the fear underneath my self-judgment, I am afraid of abandonment. I am afraid for my very survival.

This leads on to the second part of the exercise, which is to ask yourself the following:

2. When you judge, what are you hoping to achieve?

When I judge myself, I’m hoping to change aspects of myself. I’m longing to be perfect. Maybe if I criticise myself enough, I’ll change. Then I’ll be loveable. Both to others and to myself.

I am hit by another huge insight. When I see myself as imperfect, I question my right to be loved.

This makes me feel depressed. I close off a part of myself. My vital force shuts down. I no longer feel alive.

I am abandoning myself. I’m actually killing off a part of myself. Yet again, the old brain is pretty sure I’m going to die.

Having answered these questions and hopefully arrived at some interesting insights, you’re ready for the third part of the exercise, which is this:

3. For one whole day, every time you notice yourself judging, stop and ask yourself: “What would it be like to accept this?”

Yes, it’s good to be the best that you can be and to do things that make you feel good. But for so many years, the only way I could silence my inner critic was to do do do.

However, this was just a temporary fix that didn’t unearth the root cause of the problem. And so these deep-seated beliefs, fears and behaviours were repeatedly resurrected. When I got sick or tired, or when I just couldn’t do all the things that boosted my self-esteem, my superficial confidence crumbled.

Finally, I was no longer prepared to continue running on this ridiculous treadmill of turmoil. I kidded myself that it made me feel good to be doing something but it got me nowhere and, every so often, I’d slip off and smack myself in the face.

So, I’ve stepped off and decided to look deeper. And this exercise has facilitated the process.

Now that I have an understanding about why I’m so self-critical and why these judgements make me feel so bad, my behaviour ceases to be unconscious. I’m now conscious of my seemingly destructive patterns. I understand what’s happening and why it’s happening.

Therefore, I can consciously introduce a new way of thinking and behaving. A way that’s healthier and more beneficial than my previously misguided, outdated attempts at self-protection.

The next time I call myself fat or wince at my grey hairs, I’ll remember that what I’m really experiencing is fear. My critical voice is just trying to prevent me from dying. It wants me to be loved.

As an adult, am my primary care-giver. am responsible for caring for me. I have a choice to love and accept all of me as I am. I’m not going to abandon myself any more. I am safe.

This exercise can be applied to any thought process or pattern of behaviour that is causing you to suffer. Remember, the old brain got its name because it’s been here for a long, long time. So be patient with yourself as you recondition your thinking. And know that you are safe.

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Help Me!

I’m really enjoying a blog called Help Me! by Marianne Power. This brave, honest, insightful and laugh-out-loud-funny blog deals with Marianne’s gutsy challenge of reading (and really following) one self-help book per month for a year.

So far, I’ve read all of her posts on Get the Guy by Matthew HusseyFeel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, and Money, A Love Story by Kate Northrup.

I’ve lapped up Marianne’s hilarious and sometimes emotional tales of chatting up strangers, jumping out of a plane, doing stand-up comedy (that’s about the WORST thing I could think of having to do), posing naked, attending a naked yoga class, tackling her finances, walking on fire, and surrounding herself with plenty of positive post-it affirmations.

I can really relate to Marianne as she courageously reveals her secrets, fears and insecurities. And for each book Marianne has explored, I’ve learned something that I’m going to incorporate into my own life.

In Get the GuyMatthew Hussey recommends seeing yourself as a “High-Value Woman”. This means knowing that you deserve to be treated with respect and only accepting good behaviour from men.

The last guy I had a thing with was tall, attractive and young. He hated his job, drank a lot, and had very little interest in getting to know me. And still I continued to text him. Until I saw him with another woman.

I felt yucky for a few moments until I remembered that I too was open to meeting somebody else. I wasn’t kidding myself. This relationship was going nowhere fast.

Though this scene wasn’t what I would have wished for, I was grateful to have witnessed it because it gave me the kick up the arse that I needed. To move on. To really be open to something better. And to finally understand that I am a High-Value Woman. Another, more suitable man will be lucky to get to know me.

I used to worry that asking for what I wanted and believing that I deserved to be treated well would come across as needy, high-maintenance or even crazy. Now, I don’t care if that’s how some men might perceive me. The right ones will know different.

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In Feel the Fear And Do It AnywaySusan Jeffers insists that we do one thing each day that scares us because then we’ll know that we’re growing and moving forward in life. She explains that the more we feel the fear and do it anyway, the easier it becomes and the more empowered we feel. She suggests repeating the affirmation: “I can handle it.” 

Marianne found this month exhausting but also exhilarating. She reports feeling more alive. Although she felt terrified, she did it anyway, and her life became infinitely more interesting and exciting.

The next book Marianne took on was Money, A Love StoryI thought: “Boring!” However, after perusing her posts, I see how telling my initial response was. One of my beliefs around all things finance is that it’s boring and I’d rather put my attention on something, anything, else. That is why, according to Kate Northrup, my finances are not something I can boast about. Yet…

This book also makes a connection between how you value yourself and how much abundance you have in your life. Turns out valuing yourself is essential in this self-help business. It sounds obvious but it’s amazing how little we show ourselves this value.

One exercise Kate suggests is to list three things you value about yourself each day. Most days, I focus on what I’m grateful for, which really lifts my mood. From now on, I’m going to include self-value in my practise. Today, I value my talent for writing, my discipline in exercising, and my ability to make new friends.

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Last night, I read Marianne’s first post on Rejection TherapyThis isn’t a book but a self-help game devised by Jason Comely. There is one rule to this game and that is to get rejected once a day by another human being.

One of my biggest fears is of rejection. Because getting rejected confirms that I’m not good enough to be accepted, wanted or loved. As Marianne explains, we’re hardwired to fear rejection because, “historically, our chances of survival were dramatically increased if we stayed with the group, which is why being shunned in any way – even snubbed at a party – can feel fatal.”

At a concert a few weeks back, one of my good friends asked me if I still found it hard to chat up men. “Yes,” I gulped as I took a quick swig of cider.

“Well then,” she announced with a glint in her eye. “Your challenge is to chat up one guy before we leave.” 

In shocking news, I readily accepted my friend’s challenge. I wanted to get over this limiting fear. And I had just spent an evening seeing how effortless it was for my friend to strike up conversations with men.

So I marched over to stand beside a man who was watching the band alone. And so I stood. I too looked at the band. Every so often, I glanced sideways at him. I was thinking too much.

What will I say? I could ask him if he’s enjoying the music. But that’s a stupid question. Of course he’s enjoying the music! He’s here alone, enjoying the music. If I were my friend, I’d have chatted him up already. 

Then, a girl to his right started chatting to him. Look how easy it is! When they stopped speaking, I glanced sideways at him again. He was wearing a coat. At an indoor concert!

“Are you not roasting?” I blurted out.

“Not tonight,” he answered.

Em…

“Where’s your coat?” he wondered.

“In the cloakroom. It’s free and it’s just down the stairs.”

Yes, a fascinating conversation. And I decided I didn’t fancy him after all. But I did it. And I was proud of myself. I knew that it could only get easier.

Last night, after reading about Rejection Therapy, I decided to take on this horrifying challenge for the rest of the month. I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered my promise to myself. My heart thumped faster inside my chest. But I also felt excited.

Like Marianne Power, I’m really living. And in Susan Jeffers words, no matter what, “I’ll handle it.” 

I’ll let you know how I get on…

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Hip Hip Hooray

I recently ended a romantic relationship. Afterwards, I admired my ex for how fully and openly he had given his heart. He had really loved me.

Today, I realise that he had been able to love me because I had opened myself up to that possibility.

I told him things I usually didn’t speak about for fear of rejection. I cried in front of him. I shared my fears and passions, quirks and insecurities. I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks. I laid my face and body bare. I allowed myself be vulnerable. I opened myself up to love. I had to give myself credit for that.

Yesterday, as I drove across the country, I sang along to my iTunes library. My voice didn’t sound bad. I remembered that when I used to smoke, my voice had started to crack when I tried to sing. I give myself credit for giving up cigarettes. I haven’t had one in years. Yesterday, I sang for two and a half hours straight. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What can you give yourself credit for today? Of course, it’s easier to remember the obvious awards and qualifications and even easier to concentrate on the mistakes or so-called failures. But what about all the other stuff in between?

For me, it’s the fact that I’m now a proficient driver even though my terrified 19-year-old self never believed she’d be comfortable behind the wheel. Or how I started a blog when the guy I was seeing tried to kiss another girl. How, more than three years later, I’m totally over the guy (we’re actually friends now) and I still have the blog. How I set up Positive Living classes in my community. How my voice keeps going strong during a two and a half hour singathon. And how, after heartbreak and divorce, unrequited love and disappointment, I am even more open to giving and receiving love.

It’s so easy to berate ourselves. And so simple to congratulate and encourage others. But for some reason, we find it difficult to give ourselves credit for what we have achieved, for having tried and failed and tried again and learned from it, and tried yet again and succeeded.

We have survived decades here on this crazy planet. We have climbed, fallen, wounded ourselves, healed our hurts and gotten right back up again. And for that, we deserve to celebrate.

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The Way

The other day, someone generously sent me an audiobook of The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, which is an introduction to Taoism using the characters of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Tao literally means “way” and Taoism emphasises simplicity, compassion, moderation, humility and spontaneity. This book describes the virtues of Taoism with wit and ease.

Once I finished the book, I put my iTunes into shuffle mode. Curiously, one chapter of The Tao of Pooh came on a number of times. I listened with interest as the narrator spoke about “inner nature” and how we try to put square pegs into round holes by trying to be something we are not.

How often we try to fit in with what our society dictates to us, with what we are told is desirable and what we feel is expected of us by parents, teachers and politicians. How we do do do, rush, worry and stress instead of simply being. We are all different. We each have different interests and talents. We should not all attempt to fit into the same “perfect” mould of what we think is appropriate. We worry that others will not approve of us if we veer off the well-trodden path. But isn’t that boring? And unrealistic? We could always find our own way. A way of really living. A way of seeing the beauty of life instead of the monotony of what’s deemed to be “normal”. A way of not always trying so hard. Because if we honour our true inner nature, living becomes effortless.

I recall a college student telling me: “Growing up is horrible. I used to wish I was older. But there’s so much stress and responsibility. I hate college. Why does it have to be like this? I wish I could just run away.” Is this how our youth should feel about life and their future? This young adult was already deadening her spirit in order to “survive”. But as it says on this blog’s tagline, “life is about more than just surviving”.

In society today, during their most creative and energetic years, children are locked into schools where they are force-fed material in order to pass the exams that will enable them to spend most of the rest of their lives in jobs that they probably won’t enjoy. And the “underclass” of society on welfare have to wait in demeaning queues for handouts and are made to feel that they are a drain on the country’s wealth.

I’m currently reading Gerard Leahy’s Towards a Jobless Society. This book really peaked my interest as it got me thinking about society in a way that I never even dreamed possible. While it’s tempting to tell you every single thing Leahy suggests, I’ll try to summarise his views succinctly.

Leahy believes that the job-oriented society we are living in is depressing and unsustainable. With the advances in technology, a lot of jobs have become redundant. We have the means to produce goods extremely cost-effectively. However, governments are insistent on giving grants and subsidies to keep other companies in business to compete with the companies that are offering cheaper products. Despite these technological advancements, the economy is not any wealthier because consumers have to pay increased taxation to artificially sustain the levels of employment. Governments are also spending money on unnecessary administration and on “job creation”, forcing the unemployed into training for jobs that do not exist. Creating jobs is not the same as creating wealth, which is where the focus should really be.

We are human beings born onto this planet so we all deserve a place here and our basic needs should be met. Using an “island model” approach to get his point across, Leahy proposes that all people over 16 years of age receive a basic income. Nobody will “have” to work in order to survive. Without this pressure, people will be able to express their individuality and creative genius. Some will offer their services such as teaching, counselling, policing and healing on a voluntary basis or for a small fee. Others will write, sculpt, act and meditate. People will have time to spend with family and on personal development.

Leahy also suggests that all products and services be subject to a taxation of 50 per cent, which will be divided equally amongst the population. So those who wish to work will have incentive to do so. And those who don’t want to will not feel pressurised.

Imagine a world where the pressure is off, where we can be ourselves, where we have the opportunity to explore our creativity and talents, and time to work on our personal and spiritual development. Where it is okay to simply be. Where we have the license to share our unique selves with one another. This way of simplicity, spontaneity, compassion, moderation and humility is the way of this wonderful world. It certainly sounds good to me.

After writing this post, someone showed me the following video narrated by the great Alan Watts…

Falling into Winter

Right about now, people are starting to complain about the cold weather and shorter daylight hours. “Oo, it’s getting wintry,” they’ll say as they shiver and rub their hands together forcefully. Some of us have not so happy memories of low moods during the long, dark season. Spring and summer are like autumn and winter’s bubblier, more popular cousins; the ones we long to be around and can’t wait to see. However, autumn and winter do have their own unique, positive attributes. Here are some tips for surviving (and enjoying) this time of year:

  • Follow in nature’s fashion footsteps and treat yourself to some autumn-coloured accessories.
  • Wrap yourself in cute woolies and go outside. Who needs makeup when you’ve got fresh air to blush your cheeks and brighten your eyes?
  • Walk through a park or by the water and watch the leaves dance.
  • The most important thing is to continue getting exercise and daylight so, if it’s raining, pull on the waterproofs and connect with nature.
  • Take a good book to your favourite café and allow yourself to relax and enjoy just as much as if you were on holidays.
  • Put together an amazing costume and throw a Hallowe’en party for adults. Except do all the things you used to do as a child – play bob the apple, eat coconut and colcannon, watch movies and buy stuff in for the trick-or-treaters.
  • Make plans. If you’ve something to look forward to, it’s less easy to fall into an apathetic mood. Book a January sun or snow holiday or a city break. Or buy tickets for an upcoming show or gig.
  • Grab your best mates for a comedy night or get all dressed up and go for dinner followed by dancing.
  • Join a dating website and use the never-ending nights to chat up some potentials. Then, line up a few dates.
  • Enrol in a new class like pilates or flower arranging or take the time to learn a new language or instrument. Or be proactive and start your own book or film club.
  • Keep warm. Light a fire and snuggle up in a blanket with a mug of tea or hot chocolate.

If you’re worried that you have all the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), get support from loved ones and professionals. Then, to help yourself further, try out alternatives like homeopathy and acupuncture, take a vitamin D supplement, and do some research on purchasing a lamp. Also, make sure to get at least 30 minutes exercise in daylight each day.

And if it’s (dare I mention it) Christmas you’re (already) dreading, take the pressure off by buying the odd present here and there, starting from today. Or even better, suggest a Secret Santa arrangement so you only have to buy one or two presents each. Remind yourself that Christmas is a time to spend with loved ones, many of whom will travel home from abroad. So, you can look forward to being together, to fun nights out, good food, movies, hilarious board games, magical fairy lights and the inimitable scent of pine.

And just remember, if it weren’t for the cold, dark times, you wouldn’t appreciate the sunshine, would you?

From black and white to technicolour

Good fucken fuqballs, I’m writing at 5am again! I blame Jeannette Walls’ gripping account of her exciting, albeit difficult, childhood in The Glass Castle. Only moments earlier, I had to hold the book away for a good five minutes as I sobbed.

Walls’ honest depiction of life as the resilient daughter of an irresponsible but irresistible drunkard, and a refreshingly free-spirited but inexcusably selfish artist, is as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking.

This captivating memoir teaches us that we mustn’t view things, or people, in black and white. Jeannette paints her unique story, mixing muted shades of sepia and charcoal with delightful streaks of vibrant colour.

Everybody is doing the best they can with what they’ve got. We are all simply trying to survive. Even the most despicable of villains have another (better, softer, more vulnerable) side. Lord Voldemort lived a loveless childhood and suffered a pathological fear of death. The Joker was grieving the loss of his wife and unborn child. In 102 Dalmations, Cruella de Vil dedicates her life to saving animals. And Simon Cowell still goes to bed with his blankie. (Poetic license here, folks. Work with me.)

So, the next time you want to curse (or plot the untimely demise of) your unreasonable boss or critical co-worker, take a deep breath. Recognise that they wouldn’t be behaving this way if they were content with their lot.

On his days off, that bad-tempered librarian volunteers to help children with special needs. The self-centred ladies’ man cries himself to sleep each night. The rude motorist who cut in front of you this morning was preoccupied with meeting his new-born son for the first time. The irritable shop keeper doesn’t hate you. She hates her job. Or her husband. Or herself. The town drunk you cross the road to avoid tried to clean himself up several times before he lost his wife, his kids, and his battle with this unrelenting illness.

Insert gratuitous Leo pic here.

I’m not advocating that you accept bad behaviour. I just want to promote compassion and understanding. Everyone has their story, their baggage, their reasons. Everybody longs for happiness. For love. Everyone breathes the same breath of life and dreams of a better future.

Somewhere between the stormy blacks and calm whites of judgement and acceptance appears an uncontrollable rainbow of regret and determination, sorrow and hope, anger and forgiveness. Because that is what it is to be human.

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Hello random (but very welcome) internet surfer!

I am 30 years old and I am a survivor. You’re a survivor too, dear reader. And that’s why we’re going to get along.

But life is about more than just surviving. The world is an astonishingly magnificent place. Yes, it can be full of hardship, pain and suffering. But it’s also full of love, laughter, sharing and learning. In this blog, I’m going to give tips on how to survive the challenges we all come across. I’ll reveal some of the heart breaking and hilarious episodes from my life.

I don’t claim to be an expert, psychoanalyst, spiritual leader or even the new Oprah Winfrey. I’m just a survivor who loves to write and to share.

In reality, surviving these obstacles is a lot more challenging than simply following a list of tips but I hope that my stories and recommendations will help you on your journey, give you ideas, and make you realise that you are not alone. And I’m sure you’ll come up with a few useful tips of your own.

Please feel free to make comments, and to divulge some of your stories and advice. Let’s take this journey together. To survival and beyond.