Creating Harmony: When Not To Try And Make It Work

I like harmony.

I suspect that many HSPs do.

Harmony to me is important because at its best it tells us that we are making effective choices.

At its worst, we are keeping a destructive peace.

Which is operating in your life?

Why Is Harmony So Elusive?

I have often wondered why harmony is so elusive.

As a young girl, there was so much acrimony around me that I would scratch my head until it bled. I found it so upsetting.

All the conflict and misery also seemed very unnecessary.

I did not get it.

My parents grew up during the depression and World War II, so perhaps that explains some of it. If you grow up during a war, war can become your reality and it certainly seemed that war was their reality.

But I ended up thinking that their childhood spent in war was not the total answer.

Sensitivity And Conflict

I pick up on conflict easily.

I also find it uncomfortable since often what causes conflict are unresolved past issues, denial, expectations – in other words, the issues and problems people do not want to see or engage about.

Like many HSPs, I can absorb the unhappiness around me, and it brings me down.

I often do not know what to do with my awareness but know I do not want to cause harm. That is important to me.

However, if I encounter a conflict or unresolved problem and say nothing then I have a problem with myself. At the end of the day I have to be able to feel that I have made good choices to be square with myself.

Being sensitive sometimes means that I feel caught between a rock and a hard place. I live in the spaces between thoughts and actions, intentions and results, wishes and realizations, ideas and reality. It’s a place where non HSPs do not see. It creates our disconnect, our disharmony. I would love for it to be different so we could share a similar space to work from.

Sensitivity And The Big Picture

Sensitives notice the disconnects the places where something does not work. It is also part of our natures to be conscientious so we can be very uncomfortable with all of the loose ends, that are left to be taken are of. Guess who usually does that.

In our zeal to promote well-being and good will we can be the ones who do the little things that get overlooked, fix the places were denial left a gap, and extend ourselves beyond our breaking point to keep things working when those around us don’t care about it so much.

But we do.

Sometimes we are the ones who care too much.

It can not only exhaust us but also break us.

It can cause us to feel lonely, neglected and cheated.

We need a better way.

How Capitalistic Thinking Hurts HSPs

Capitalism is essentially an acquisitive, exploitive system.

Its drive for profit means that people may skim for the good and leave whatever is “unprofitable” to them. Taking care of loose ends is often considered unprofitable activity even if having things run smoothly makes life better and more enjoyable.

The demand for profit skews the way people invest their time. It forces people to be opportunistic. It also means that people may want benefits without incurring the costs – something for nothing.

The point is that our system is not communitarian, but HSPs often are and therefore may spend time serving that which is overlooked in the service of profit causing us to feel taken advantage of.

Service and exploitation are not the same thing.

HSPs Need For Self Protection

We HSPs need to consider how we are using our time.

Are we doing other people’s work?

Are we fixing things for others but not ourselves?

Are people taking our time with problems that are not our own?

Are we being “delegated to” and taken for granted?

Are we expected to clean up after others?

How To Own Your Time

The easiest way to limit being taken advantage of is to get a handle on certain realities:

  • you only have so much time as does everyone else and you need to respect your limits
  • you are not responsible for the excesses of other people
  • you have a right to set your priorities and a responsibility to make sure you are taken care of.
  • it is good to let others solve their own problem
  • people become more responsible when they clean up after themselves.

Taking back your time is a great way to rebalance your life and make sure that you are taking care of yourself, and not just keeping the peace at your expense.

We HSPs are precious and need to treat our time and energy as important.

When we do, interpersonal conflicts can diminish and we can let go of taking care of everyone else at our expense.

Then we can flourish and thrive.

Sounds good to me.

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The Value Of Mistakes

Mistakes are a no-no, even a taboo.

That is unfortunate because they are very important and necessary.

Without mistakes you cannot be in touch with and claim your own power.

Embracing mistakes is a important if you want to come into your own as an HSP.

The Hidden Benefit Of Mistakes

According to Robert Fritz, author of the Path of Least Resistance and Creating, the creative process can be divided into three large phases:

  1. the idea or germination
  2. the development of the idea from concept to completion
  3. releasing the result

Although we can make mistakes at any time and step of the process, mistakes are most valuable when we are in the development phase.

Mistakes are an important part of the trial and error process that lets us engage with an idea and reality.

They tell us when something is not working so that we can consider what to change.

It is through mistakes not only that we learn, but also that we develop mastery over a subject.

Mistakes are our path to our power and effectiveness in the world.

How Mistakes Can Seem Like A Bad Idea

Mistakes can seem like a bad idea, particularly to highly sensitive people.

We do not like the negative feedback and we feel terrible when we have done harm to others.

Our natural gifts can make it difficult for us to want to take any chances. Since we are often misperceived and misunderstood and our insights dismissed, it can seem as if we are taking big risks whenever we move forward.

The Baggage Of Mistakes

There are many misconceptions about mistakes that can create problems for us:

  • mistakes are a matter of life and death. For early humans, mistakes may indeed have been a matter of life and death. However, those days are long gone and we can lighten up about mistakes. Most mistakes may create some inconvenience and even some loss but are rarely life threatening.
  • mistakes are a sign of stupidity. Mistakes have been equated with lower intelligence as far back as I can remember. However, mistakes are inevitable when we are venturing to create something new, or learn a new skill.
  • mistakes are a sign of weakness. Making mistakes can actually be a sign of strength since it takes courage to be willing to learn something new.
  • mistakes are a sign of bad character. What an old saw this is! Character assassination is a favorite method of attacking people who take risks. Mistakes are not a sign of bad character. They are a sign of a learning process under way.
  • mistakes are a sign we do not care. Making mistakes, if we are trying to learn can be a sign of great caring. Sticking your neck out to learn takes courage which is usually a sign of caring.

Embracing Intelligent Risk Taking

The easiest way to move forward in life, embrace your personal growth and learn is to embrace intelligent risk taking.

Not all risk taking is equal. You can make unnecessary mistakes by taking on to much at once, always flying by the seat of your pants,  flying blind without conducting any research and generally making a mess.

Or you can take a wiser approach.

A Process For Intelligent Risk Taking

In order to take intelligent risks, you have to have in your mind a process that can make risk taking an important and valuable part of what you are doing. You need to create a process that you have confidence in.

Here is one that is a start:

  1. identify what you want to do.
  2. break it down into steps. This prevents you from getting in over your head and makes it easier to identify where you want to make corrections and why.
  3. research what is needed to do what you want to do. Understanding the skills, tools and other requirements will make it easier for you to take an intelligent risk.
  4. obtain whatever resources you need. D not skimp on time, materials, education or any other resource you need.
  5. pause to evaluate your progress frequently. It will help you avoid the most egregious and costly errors.
  6. once you are comfortable with your preparation, engage wholeheartedly in accomplishing what you want.

Often the difference between effective and ineffective risk taking is a matter of preparation.

Benefiting From Taking Risks

Highly sensitive people are extremely conscientious and caring people. Often the result, however, is that HSPs back away from taking risks when they d not have to.

Taking intelligent risks and using their conscientiousness and caring to embrace intelligent risk taking can make a big difference not only in being successful but also enjoying growing a learning.

HSPs have much to offer, so when we take risks, everyone often benefits.

It is worth sticking our toes in the water. We may find that it is warm and inviting.

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Rocking The Boat: An Important Life Skill

Do you want to rock the boat?

Make abstract art!

Abstract art does many things but it is best at rocking the boat and causing us to see things in a new way.

Rocking the boat is an important life skill, and one that highly sensitive people should embrace.

Mindless Activity

Currently we are besieged by change.

Given the endless activity of novelty and new “trends” you would think that we allow and accept rocking the boat.

In reality, we are probably not that open and accepting.

Mindless activity is not change.

Mindless activity can stop change because it invites shallow activity. Mindless activity is activity for activities sake; it is not purposeful and well thought out.

Another way to limit change is by creating chaos. Evolutionary psychology points out that the easiest way to stop growth and development is to have a war – which is a form of aggressive chaos.  Chaos is limiting because each moment is divorced from the next so that sustained activity becomes impossible. Under chaos, time and continuity are under siege; in war people are, too.

The Serious Business Of Rocking The Boat

When you are serious about anything, you have to invest time and energy. Serious intention requires a lot of thinking, experimentation, testing of the waters, mistakes and creativity.

Serious intention means you have to slow down enough to make the necessary investment in what you are trying to accomplish.

Working fast reduces investments of time and energy which creates shallow results. One way to keep people from rocking the boat is to have them fixate on a lot of ever changing novelty. It keeps people busy and creates illusions of change. The phrase, “The more things change, the more they say the same,” applies to this scenario.

To make serious lasting change, then, requires a considerable amount of sustained effort. It has to be well thought out because that is the requirement of serious commitment.

Rocking the boat is not the same thing as being challenging or provocative. It is relatively easy to be provocative but not easy to take an idea from conception to reality. That is hard work!

When we rockthe boat we are changing ourselves and developing strength. In doing so we are changing relationships and power structures.

Not everyone welcomes this.

Rocking The Boat May Mean A Fight

HSPs are natural albeit often inadvertent boat rockers.

Being compassionate and empathetic are two reasons. Being creative and energy aware are others. Our very natures, being different from non-HSPs, cause us to create conflict just by being ourselves.

But it takes more than creating conflict to rock the boat or tip it over.

Seriously rocking the boat takes sustained work and focus, something that HSPs may not be good at because of our strained nervous systems.

Serious boat rocking also may mean a fight although I mean fight in the sense of constructive engagement.

To create any lasting change the old and new engage in a struggle over the merits of their positions and the necessity for change, the comfort of the old and the dangers of complacency, the skills that we know and the ones we have yet to learn.

It is only in the struggle that the merits can be known, and strengths and weaknesses assessed.

HSPs are good at grappling with the merits but not with the fight. We may be good grapplers but we often do it in private because our grappling may not be welcome.

We may also avoid fights because they often seem like a smoke screen used to obscure the necessity of change. Fights often seem to be more like resistance to change so we may resist the fight.

HSPs Can Become Great Advocates For Change

Rocking the boat should not be thought of as a reckless activity. You could make the case that the best people to rock the boat and create change are empathetic HSPs.

However, we also have to be willing to fight. Fighting does not have to be fighting against, which is often how we think of it. Fighting can be the activity of bringing our hearts to a conflict.

Bringing our hearts, sensitivity, creativity and seriousness to change gives HSPs the potential to be great agents of change.

We need change and we need HSPs to embrace it and become part of leading it.

 

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Why HSPs Have Trouble With Controlling People

If you are alive, you have met controlling people.

Controlling people can drive anyone crazy, but If you are a highly sensitive person, you may find the effect of controlling very difficult to live with.

Controlling people can certainly have that effect on me.

Controlling people will probably not understand why their behavior is problematic for you, the HSP.

Each HSP, however, needs to understand that controlling people can be very bad for their health.

Why Do People Control?

Most people only want to be happy. Many believe that controlling themselves and others is a method to achieve the desired result of happiness.

Some of the reasons people try to control others include:

  • they have low amounts of trust possible because of negative experiences
  • they think they are more competent
  • they have deep seated prejudices about right and wrong
  • they have been taught fear
  • they perceive themselves as better and/or more “normal” than others 

Controlling people sometimes assume that others want and need what they want and need. Although we all have needs and desires in common, over generalizing about other people is a mistake that controlling people often make.

Controlling people often treat others as an extension of their needs and desires. In extreme cases, the person is narcissistic in demanding that they be catered to.

So one reason that controlling people control is to get their needs met.

The Hidden Agenda Of Controlling People

It is fairly easy to recognize that controlling people are trying to get their needs met as we have discussed.

Controlling behavior also has a social function: to maintain their comfort level which they do by enforcing social norms and conforming behavior.

One thing I have noticed about controlling people is that they often have a wall around them. You can detect it in interacting with them. They are often guarded and measured.because deep down they are afraid. Protecting themselves from that fear can be their hidden agenda.

So if there is a conflict between a controlling person’s comfort zone and another person, the comfort zone will likely win out.

The Comfort Zone Dilemna

The controlling comfort zones of other people can be hard for the highly sensitive person to handle for several reasons:

  • we are naturally loathe to hurt others. We can feel bad when we upset someone’s comfort zone, when we had no intention of doing harm. Such negative reactions over time can cause us to pull back, and doubt ourselves. We can see ourselves in an unnecessarily negative light.
  • we are sensitive to nuances which means that what we perceive to be a constructive course of action may interfere with someone else’s comfort zone. We can take on and internalize the conflict blaming ourselves and as a result cause ourselves a lot of emotional pain.
  • we are naturally creative which means our strategies may be way out of the box for our colleagues and friends. We can have a lot of difficulty navigating our creative differences with others.
  • we can be very farsighted in a shortsighted world. Our long sightedness may step on the comfort zone of people who seek short term rewards.

All of the wonderful qualities of highly sensitive people can make their relationships difficult because an HSPs talents can often lead to unwelcome change.

So what to do about this?

Letting Possibilities Guide Us

Handling fear – our fear or the fear of others  - is an important skill to master.

When we are dealing with controlling people, we can use our natural empathy to help others reduce their fear:

  • we can demonstrate the benefits of an action
  • we can offer proof
  • we can demonstrate that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain if that is the case
  • e can take the risks out of the closet, put them on the table and create a positive perception about how they can be handled.

Sometimes we can make the case for  moving out of our comfort zones. When the possibilities are attractive enough and the risks well handled, successful forward movement is possible.

What about those situations when you are not able to create enthusiasm for new possibilities?

Let Compassion Be Your Guide

There are many situations where an individual or an group is not interested in change and you have to honor their decision. Sometimes when an individual is controlling in favor of their comfort zone, they are respecting their own limits, and that is a healthy decision to make.

I think it is dangerous to assume what someone else needs or should do. Many of us require healing. The demands of healing may preclude creative activities. Or perhaps an individual simply has too much on their plate. That happens frequently as well.

It is important to honor where someone is and treat it with respect even if you do not agree and think they are wrong. You cannot force change and you might be doing harm in pushing too much. Very controlling people may have made a decision in favor of a less creative lifestyle in order to respect their personal needs.

Whenever we encourage a controlling person to let go of fear and try something new, we need to be promoting joy and wellness. We need to be supporting the agenda of our higher selves and the higher self of the other person. That may mean that we need to back off.

Highly sensitive people are lucky that their natural empathy can help them find compassionate relationship choices that can help a controlling person feel heard and loved. That is a great way to reduce fear, and helps others engage more with life.

What is a great gift to offer others!

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5 Ways Avoidance can Sabotage You

5 Ways Avoidance Can Sabotage You - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

The subject of avoidance has come up more than once this week so here are some insights I’ve had.

Avoidance as a coping strategy is often formed in childhood in an effort to deal with overwhelming or painful experiences. And in this context it can be a highly effective painkiller. But this “positive feedback” is a double edged sword. Just like pharmaceutical painkillers it can easily with constant use, become addictive. Pretty soon it becomes your default program for dealing with the tough stuff of life—without you being aware of it.

Initially our avoidance techniques kicked in when we realized there was a problem, but felt we couldn’t deal with it.

In childhood this is understandable, and can give us temporary relief.

The Danger Of Avoidance

However, when avoidance becomes a default program, we no longer use it. It uses us. It kicks in automatically whenever we even imagine we are out of our depth or faced with a situation we perceive as threatening. It becomes an unconscious game of hide-and-seek with ourselves—if I can’t see you, you can’t see me! 

Avoidance, as you may have found is a highly unsatisfactory problem solving strategy. Our logic tells us this. But we’re no longer using logic—just instinctively avoiding pain. .

Habitually avoiding issues that need to be addressed leads to 5 problems.

  1. The original problem keeps compounding, until it grows to overwhelming proportions and becomes a weapon of self destruction.
  2. Our inaction and therefore lack of boundaries, sends mixed messages to whoever is the source of the threat, leading to an escalation of the threatening behavior.
  3. We are unable to see where the threat is coming from, because we can’t run away and look over our shoulders at the same time.
  4. The side effects of constant avoidance bleed into and contaminate other areas of our lives.
  5. Long term avoidance strategies often result in a sense of failure and hopelessness.

Let’s look at how these 5 complications of avoidance can show up in our lives.

  1. If you go away for long periods and leave your car standing out in the open, what may initially have started with a flat battery, will rapidly deteriorate into peeling paintwork, flat tires and perished cables and hoses. If you repeatedly avoid problem areas in business, you won’t be in business long. If you ignore relationship issues that need to be faced, the relationship will eventually fall apart. If you take no notice of health issues, they will escalate until you are seriously ill.
  2. If you don’t value yourself enough to take a stand and set behavior boundaries, it indicates a green light—go ahead and do more of what you are doing. It’s fine by me. I agree. So a person who was an intermittent irritation can ultimately become a delusional stalker or bully. If you don’t draw the line at work, eventually you will become another burn-out statistic. And if you decide to put in boundaries at a later date, it’s easy to be discredited. No one will believe you. If you weren’t happy with the dynamics, why did you go along with the game for so long? Why didn’t you set boundaries sooner? Why did you send mixed messages?
  3. Unhealthy situations can escalate to a dangerous level quite quickly if you are not paying attention and don’t heed the warnings. If you don’t take note of the cardiac symptoms until you have a heart attack. If you don’t acknowledge that your business is hemorrhaging money, until you face bankruptcy. If you don’t secure your possessions, until they are stolen. If you don’t pay attention to what your partner is saying, until he or she runs out of patience and is no longer there.
  4. If you’re avoiding the warning signs from your body that it’s taking strain—if you’re stressed for instance, that’s going to have a knock on effect on your business, and relationships. If you’re ignoring warning signs in your relationship, it may well have a negative impact on your business and health. And if you’re avoiding the warning signs that all is not well with your business, it can easily lead to problems with your partner and family and ultimately manifest as stress related health issues.
  5.  If thTese automatic avoidance strategies keep resulting in business or relationship failures or ill health, pretty soon you will start believing that no matter what you try, you will fail. It doesn’t occur to you that it is something you are doing or not doing that yields these results. All you know is no matter how hard you consciously bust your butt things never seem to work out. This results in feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless – not exactly confidence building. And the longer you do it, the more confidence eroding it is.

It’s easy to tell which areas our avoidance saboteur is operating in because what’s showing up in our lives repeatedly tells us! If your finances or business ventures or relationships or health keep lurching from crisis to crisis no matter how hard you try, it’s obvious in which area the avoidance saboteur is at work.

And what if you know where the problem lies, but you just can’t get motivated enough to deal with it? Why would that be?

The Role Of Your Unconscious In Avoidance

The primary responsibility of our unconscious minds is to keep us safe.

It’s a psychological security guard. It is therefore pre-programmed to lead us towards pleasure and away from pain. It’s just a matter of what our unconscious perceives as pain and what it perceives as pleasure. In other words how we market the desired outcome to ourselves.

So when we decide consciously that we want to achieve a goal that will make us really happy—a well padded bank account, a luxurious lifestyle, a happy, committed relationship or a fit, healthy body, the first question the security guard is going to ask is how much hardship and pain is involved and will it be worth it?

If we are not successful in selling the idea to our subconscious he will fight the conscious mind’s desires, preventing the project from getting off the ground. If the subconscious is persuaded he will sign up for the adventure.

Then everything starts off really well.

We throw ourselves into the project with huge enthusiasm, energy and commitment. Until…..reality bites! I think I underestimated how difficult this was going to be mutters the subconscious, starting to feel uneasy as the discomfort levels rise.

Our subconscious mind is not at fault. He’s just doing his job. And if we have a sound understanding of how our conscious and subconscious minds work; what their responsibilities are and how to broker an agreement between them, so that they both feel reassured, and remain on the same team, it all works well

But what if there is a consistent overemphasis on discipline, work and goals?

What if delayed gratification becomes a way of life; if a Spartan existence becomes the norm; if you don’t keep your promise to reward yourself; if life becomes a survival course; a tedious route march of all work and no play; in other words if your conscious mind tries to gain the upper hand by force? Your subconscious mind (who has your welfare and happiness at heart) just goes on strike. And all that enthusiasm, energy and commitment dies an instant death.

It’s like promising a 4 year old an ice cream when you’ve walked to the beach. But if the beach turns out to be 10 miles away, his enthusiasm for the ice cream is likely to die long before you get there. If every time he asks how much further and where is that ice cream you promised me you say just shut up and keep walking, we’re nearly there, he’s going to have a tantrum!

Worse still, if you have made your 4 year old the same proposition many times before; if he’s a jaded veteran he knows just how far 10 miles is, and there’s no way he’s going to go along with a plan he knows from experience will in his estimation entail far more pain than gain.

So the unconscious mind (that metaphorical 4 year old) takes matters into its own hands.

He distracts you; convinces you to avoid what has become painful; he tricks you into playing instead. And you end up frittering hours on frivolous diversions that don’t require any effort—chatting on the phone or Facebook for instance, rather than deal with problems that are crying out for solutions.

Getting The Cooperation Of Your Unconscious

How then do you sell a goal that requires sustained effort to a 4 year old? You make it FUN! You pump up the joy factor. You make it something he wants to do – not something he has to do. You provide positive feedback at the end of each mile. If you keep your word and consistently inject joy along the way he’ll learn to trust you and you’ll cover those 10 miles with no resistance or distractions.

And so it is with our subconscious minds.

We humans need balance in our lives; equal quantities of challenge and joy. Without joy there is nothing to build momentum for the challenges; no reason to keep on keeping on; no answer to the question why am I doing this?

Revel in your relationship. Reward yourself for your work. Enjoy being fit and health. Make time to celebrate your milestones. Take the trouble to congratulate yourself on each step in the right direction. Enjoy the fruits of your labors as you go along. Make each step of the journey memorable for all the right reasons. Squeeze as much FUN as you can out of life!

Next time you are tempted to be a slave driver or avoid an issue that you know needs addressing ask yourself this:

If I place a high value on myself and believe I deserve the best, what would I do? And here’s the clue….BALANCE.

Why Is Generosity So Difficult?

Why Is Generoslty So Difficult? - HSP Health Blog
Source: Morguefile

Generosity is something we all want and often struggle with.

Why is that?

Ambivalence About Generosity

We tend to respond to generosity with warmth, happiness and joy. We also naturally respond to stinginess with repulsion, hurt and fear. Of course negative experiences around generosity can cause us to have more complicated feelings.

However we need to function in the world and with each other so we develop coping strategies. One such strategy that is culturally supported is the positivity movement which encourages positive thinking as a way to be in the world. Unfortunately positivity has come to be perceived as a way of not being real. Perhaps it is our own need for supportive connection that causes us to demand positivity and reject negativity. We can lose a lot in the process.

Generosity is loaded with ideas about power, what it means to be a good person, our survival needs, or needs to be respected and valued. It is an important factor in issues of discrimination and injustice.

It is also something that feels good. We all know the feeling of pleasure we get from being generous. It is the best part of the holiday season that we celebrate each year. Yet if one person gives more than another or has more than another, that largesses may feel uncomfortable.

Generosity And Vulnerability

Everything we do can remind us of our vulnerability. We are especially affected by our relationships. Our yearning for connection can be thwarted in many ways:

  • rejection can cause us to pull back from others
  • our competitive society which thrives on comparisons may be a factor in our feelings of being vulnerable with others
  • we may react to macho values of stoicism and be embarrassed by our vulnerability
  • we may see vulnerability as a weakness and be treated that way by others.

If we have experienced any shaming in our early years we are unlikely to be comfortable with generosity.

Generosity And Nature

One of the wonderful things about nature is that its existence is an act of generosity towards us that rewards us over and over just by being in it. One of the best parts of life for many people is being in nature or with animals in nature or as pets. It is one place where our generosity can express itself with little interference from intrusive thoughts about power, injustice and exploitation.

With animals in particular we are able to feel our kindred relationship with another species and have it be a warm and nurturing experience. Our generosity often comes naturally. With humans not so much.

Why Generosity Is So Important

Without the ability to be generous we are not truly free. We are shut down, and our energy is turned into ourselves in a way that is painful. It is really important that we find a way to enter our generosity in a constructive way so that we can experience the connection and joy that we yearn for.

I personally think that to increase the generosity and joy in our lives we need to go slowly and look for ways to safely increase our positive experiences of generosity and positive social connection. It helps to take baby steps and even write in a journal about our experiences. It is important in creating connection to be mindful of the vulnerability of others and seek ways to help others have less fear around connection.

Generosity is the expression of our own natural goodness and gratitude for what we have. The more we express it the better our lives can become.

 

The Secret Gift Of Being Present

The Secret Gift Of Being Present - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefile

Being present offers a secret gift.

Being present is something we are increasingly exhorted to be – something that identifies us as a good person.

It’s a shame because being present has the capacity to offer us so much more.

What Does It Mean To Be Present?

Being present is the source of all potential goodness in our lives:

  • being present means that we are not living in our heads. Our heads have a way of taking over and running our lives with ideas about life rather than life itself.
  • being present means that this moment is enough.
  • being present means that we are fully awake to everything in our lives.
  • being present means accepting our humanity with all of its faults and imperfections and also the same in others.
  • being present means also accepting our limitations.

Another way to say it is that when we are present we are grounded.

Why Bother?

So why bother? it is a mentally organized world with lots of different ideas about life that seem to have the upper hand making decisions about our lives for us, isn’t it?

Being present can means seeing, hearing and feeling the judgments and negativity of the world and that can be painful especially for highly sensitive people.

Who wants to drown in all of the injustice and meanness? I know I don’t. There is a part of us that wants to remove ourselves out of self preservation to a place with less conflict, meanness and pain. I expect that we all have that desire.

Being Present Isn’t A Time

Being present is often treated as a form of time but it is really more a type of space. The past and future really do not exist. They are fictions of our minds. They occupy mental space but they do not occupy real space. They can sideline us from the needs and demands of the present.

All of life is energy and space. What the past and future do is lay claim to our energy and divert it from the present. Usually this occurs because our memories become attached to the pain of negative judgments and we want to heal them. We are seeking away out of our pain. We are also losing the opportunity to live our lives when we allow the past and future to take over our attention.

What Being Present Offers Us

The past and the future are containers for fear and pain. They could even be considered distractions.

The present on the other hand is more of a door. It opens us to space and possibility.

The present is where all creativity lies. It is also the home of all generosity which it is one of the reasons it is so valuable:

  • in the present we can decide to give ourselves a break
  • in the present we can take better care of ourselves
  • in the present we can be kind
  • in the present we can create something
  • in the present we can let go of the part
  • in the present we can be mindful about our words and develop of skill at speaking and writing
  • in the present we can chose a new direction
  • in the present we can love
  • in the present we can offer a helping hand.

The present is where all positive actions take place. It is where we start over each moment in the creation of our lives. Each moment has to be met with our best intention which is how we extend to ourselves the same generosity that we extend toward others.

That is what makes the present the best place on earth.

The Mistake Of Identity

 

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Identity is an anchor in most of our lives.

It is usually derived from a combination of our own experiences, our family and school feedback and our culture.

Identity can feel wonderful if we have positive feedback or it can feel like a ball and chain if we do not.

The more important question is, “Is it real?”

What Is Identity Anyway?

I have always thought that identity was a little bit strange. OK, a lot strange.

Why do I even need one?

Here are some ways that Merriam-Webster defines identity as

: who someone is : the name of a person

: the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others

:  sameness of essential or generic character in different instances

:  sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing :  oneness

:  the distinguishing character or personality of an individual :individuality

:  the relation established by psychological identification

Of course, identity – and we mean social identity – is largely based on what we can see. If someone spends time by themselves we call them antisocial. If someone is lively, we often call them fun. This means that we define the identity of others in terms of what we experience, want and need.  So we often define others in relation to ourselves which invalidates them as someone unique and on their own journey. Therefore, identity can be an exploitive construct. Ask any disenfranchised person and group!

How Identity Gets Us In Trouble

Identity gets us in trouble with others in a number of ways:

  • it causes us to think we know something when we do not. Being able to identity a koala in a picture does not mean that I know anything about koalas.
  • it causes us to think that we have the lay of the land, the map of reality. When we define others and groups even nations as “good “and “bad” we may think we are dealing with reality but actually we are not. We are working from an interpretation.
  • when we put someone into a box of identity and they object we may feel justified in our negative reaction but we are not. Everyone has a right to be who they are and everyone is more than their social identity.
  • when we treat someone as if they are there to serve our agenda and they object, who has the problem?
  • when we ascribe negative attributes to those who disagree are we right? Sometimes, but sometimes we are also missing something and need to be open to that possibility.

Identity also gets us in trouble with ourselves:

  • we may believe that our social identity, whether it is family, peer based or national is really us.
  • we may compare our inner nature to our social feedback and think that there is something wrong with us.
  • we may start to believe that we have an obligation to be what others want us to be.
  • we may start to shrink ourselves so that others will be comfortable with us and then stop liking ourselves.
  • we may stop believing in ourselves.
  • we may receive feedback as a report card on ourselves that has nothing to do really with who we are.
  • we may stop listening to our intuitive, whole self and deny it the voice it needs.

Taking Back Your Identity

Our real identity is nothing more than the inner part of us that does not change throughout our lives. It is the part of us that is universal and yet also seems particular and specific to us at the same time. It is the part of us that people often love even though we are usually taught to keep it hidden.

Although we have to live in the human world we nonetheless need to be true to ourselves. Taking the messages we have received and examining them, discarding the one’s that are wrong or do not fit us is the first step to reclaiming our best selves. It is a step worth taking.

The Secret Of Life

What is the secret of life?

Is there a secret to life?

Why Do So Many Things Go Wrong?

I wondered when I was a child why so many things seemed to go wrong and why so many people were unhappy. It did not make sense to me. I assumed that most people want to be happy so why weren’t they?

One of the things that has always struck me is how many times people turn something into a problem. Whether it is someone else’s behavior, clothes, interests etc. Although it can be justified, not everything deserves to be turned into a problem.

People who turn most things into a problem often find them where they do not exist – they create them. Their perceptual lens is a problem lens.

Having a problem focus changes how we operate as individuals and as groups. It causes us to hold back, hide and fear. In a problem oriented culture, we may do the same in our interactions with different individuals and social groups.

When we see “problems”, we are not seeing reality. We are not open to the larger context of all of life around us. In essence we are getting only a small part of the picture.

The Danger Of Problem Focused Thinking

Problem focused thinking can be dangerous.

The problem oriented mind identifies problems according to its own likes and dislikes and biases of various sorts. So if I have a problem oriented mind and I liked snakes, I might not identify the snake slithering toward me as a threat. Or if I met someone who looked a lot like a dear friend, I might not notice the coldness in their eyes and wonder about them. Or if I like a particular ice cream I might not notice that the product now includes a lot of additives that can promote ill health.

Our likes and dislikes often become filters that we use to make decisions in life that can actually do us harm.

Another way that problem focused thinking trips us up is that it causes us to notice events as potential problems which means that we are often noticing what I call “symptoms.” If you sneeze you hav a symptom of something not quite right with your nose. It could be allergies, a virus which is becoming a cold or flu, or something more serious. When we are problem oriented we try to get rid of the symptom usually before we know what the problem is. When we do that, we may create temporary relief while letting the real problem fester and become worse.

Problem focused thinking can cause us to make relationship mistakes also. It can cause us to make choices based on the feelings of others rather than our real needs. We can then sacrifice our time and energy to please others and neglect our own important needs.

The Secret Of Life: It’s Not Problems

When we are problem oriented most of us create problems for ourselves because we are trying to escape our problems which we have created!

When we are trying to escape we are disengaging from the present so we are actually disempowering ourselves from finding a positive path forward. Problem identification and escape can become a dynamic that governs our daily lives and our relationships.

One of the reasons that wise people encourage meditation and the practice of detachment is to keep us engaged in the present but to let go of the problem/escape dynamic that makes it hard for us to live in an enthusiastic and unconflicted way.

The minute we turn something into a problem we create aversion. I am not trying to be naive and suggest that we do not have any problems. If a tiger is running toward you and your mind starts thinking about a problem and how to escape it, you are not using all of your energy to actually deal with the situation; you mind is actually diverting your attention so that you have less of your attention to bring to bear. It is interesting that in our mind focused world, we have not really noticed how much our mind may be causing our problems.

The Secret Of Life

The secret of life is to embrace it in each moment without reservation. The reason that it is important is that then you bring your whole self to each moment. You are fully engaged and not holding back. When you do that you gain more from the experience of each moment. You lose that distraction that compromises your efforts.

When you embrace each moment, you are loving each moment of your life. You may not necessarily love everything going on, but you are loving each moment of your life and so make the most of each moment whatever is in it. Over time you will focus more and more on those things that bring more to your life and where you bring more to life, which makes each moment a gift for everyone.

So the secret of life is to love each moment of it and when you do you will find that life loves you back.

Workplace Bullying: A Survival Guide

shutterstock_124001317Unfortunately, difficult economic conditions can increase the negative behaviors that people will tolerate in order to keep their jobs. If you ever find yourself the target of workplace bullying, it is important to have strategies to safeguard your emotional and physical well-being.

If You Experience Bullying At Work

If you are being bullied at work:

  • Don’t deny the problem. It is important to recognize when you are being bullied and to take steps to protect yourself.
  • Don’t blame yourself. Workplace bullying is usually about control and rarely has anything to do with you personally.
  • Get help.
    • Check your company’s policy. Are there any guidelines or protocols that address workplace bullying? Is there a resource person that you can talk to about the situation?
    • Contact your employee assistance group, if one is available. These groups are confidential and may be able to advise you. As an added bonus, your request for assistance can help document your experience of being bullied.
    • Reach out to family, friends, and/or a professional counselor.
  • Create a paper trail of the bully’s “bad behavior” and your “good behavior”. For example, if you receive a threatening phone call from the bully. Don’t call the bully back and subject yourself to further abuse. Instead, respond to the call via email, reiterating the bully’s threats and formulating your own professional response. If the bully ignores your work-related requests, send an email indicating that you haven’t received a response and copy others.
  • If you choose to confront the bully’s bad behavior, always do it in writing. State your concerns in an email, and keep it professional. Indicate that you are raising your concerns in an effort to work better together.
  • Exercise caution when confiding in your co-workers. Be careful about saying things to others that you don’t want to get back to the bully. The last thing you want to do is provide evidence against yourself. Also, some co-workers won’t want to be put in the middle, in which case you should respect their wishes and seek support elsewhere.
  • Be impeccable. Keep your performance level high, and play strictly by the rules. This is often the best defense against someone who is trying to sabotage your success.
  • Maintain a cheerful and positive attitude, even if you have to fake it. While this will be very difficult to do, it will show the bully that his or her campaign is not having the desired effect, which is sometimes the best revenge. (One caution though, some bullies may respond by escalating their campaigns.)
  • Do not lose your temper. Always behave in a professional manner, regardless of how the bully is behaving. Not only will feel better about yourself, but it will also prevent the bully from gathering ammunition against you.
  • Be proactive. Bullying behaviors are repetitive and often predictable. Do your best to anticipate the bully’s behavior, and have an action plan ready. Try to stay one step ahead of the bully.
  • Take care of yourself. Relish your downtime. Relax, and do things you enjoy. Consult your healthcare provider if you are experiencing signs of stress or other medical issues.
  • Update your resume, and keep your eye out for other jobs. It is empowering to know that you have other choices and that you don’t need to tolerate a hostile work environment. You should also realize that many workplace bullying situations can never be satisfactorily resolved. It’s best to be prepared for all possible outcomes.

How To Report Bullying

If you decide to report the bullying:

  • Keep a written diary that details the nature of the bullying (e.g. dates, times, places, what was said or done, and who was present).
  • Maintain copies of harassing/bullying paper trails, such as emails, and save threatening voice messages. You should also hold on to copies of documents that contradict the bully’s accusations against you (e.g. time sheets, audit reports, etc.)
  • Keep a list of people you think may have observed the bullying. Find out if any of those people would be willing to speak on your behalf.
  • Make a list of all the efforts you made to work the situation out (e.g. emails, phone calls, requests for help from HR or Employee Assistance)
  • If you are experiencing serious health problems as a result of the bullying, get a documentation from your doctor.
  • Report the behavior to an appropriate person or department, such as Human Resources or your Union Representative. Be prepared to present your case and back it up with plenty of documentation and evidence.

Don’t be a victim. Take a proactive stance to protect yourself. Use this situation to motivate yourself to find a better situation and environment.

Note: This article was first published in Cliff Harwin’s newsletter.