Category Archives: The Latest Wow!

The Latest Wow: Where Life is

man sunset silhouette

 

Not long ago, Todd, a client, wowed me with this:

“I want to be the type of person who loves others above myself. I know that’s where life is.”

Todd lives in a self-contained sphere that doesn’t include other people. He’s not a hermit—living an isolated existence. Far from it. He’s a husband, father, and successful businessman. No, Todd’s out there mingling—being part of things. Or so it seems.

Deep down he lives alone in himself. Secluded and cut off.  In his words: “I don’t form attachments well.”

His family keeps him reminded of that fact because they tug on him to be more involved . . . more connected. Their pain is something I hear about from his 20-year-old daughter, Jodi. Not long ago, after one of our sessions, she went home and expressed her distress to him—tears and all. He listened. She listened.

Soon after, Todd contacted me to set up an appointment. In essence, he wanted to learn more about himself—why he keeps people at arm’s length, and how he can change that. His long talk with Jodi—her words along with her emotional truth—opened his mind and his heart. That raw conversation had a powerful, “possibly life-transforming impact,” he said.

In our session, I learned that Todd’s detachment is the byproduct of early childhood abandonment. He never met his father and there was virtually no attachment to his mother. He described her as “self-centered” as he recounted incidents of reaching out for her nurturing and understanding. Such attempts yielded empty results. So understandably at some point, he decided to stop needing people.

Isolation and indifference became his friends and his comfort zone. And his job became the arena for proving his worth to himself.

Some people consider him a workaholic. But such a label isn’t fair because it misses the driving need underneath. Todd yearns to feel valued and he obtains that by over-achieving.

If I don’t feel valued for being me, I’ll seek value by what I do—by what I accomplish. 

Self-contained people have trouble giving and receiving love, and that’s a very lonely place. So, despite the comfort-zone experience of being disconnected from the world of other people, the yearning and need for love and connection never really go away. They only get covered up.

For Todd to change, he has to dismantle his ancient programming and replace it with the truth about himself. He is love-worthy. And he’s capable of giving and receiving it. He’s already demonstrated that by hearing Jodi and allowing her to impact him.

I go back to his words: “I want to be the type of person who loves others above myself. I know that’s where life is.”

There’s a heart in there . . . and Todd’s going to be sharing it lots more.

 

Names have been changed to honor confidentiality

 

 

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The Latest Wow: Don’t Feed the Parasites!

mosquito

Not long ago, one of my clients, Rani, wowed me with this:

“Some people don’t really deserve the benefit of the doubt.”

Experience taught Rani that somber truth. For months, she overlooked and excused multiple incidents of being used, deceived and manipulated by her friend, Val. “It finally reached such ludicrous proportions, I just couldn’t ignore it anymore,” she said in our counseling session.

Rani loaned her money, let her move in, gave her rides to and from work. The list grinds on. As for the loan, Val promised to pay it back, but so far “I have yet to receive a single nickle of it,” Rani said, disgusted.

Let’s face it, there’s a population of nice people out there and there’s a population of . . . uh, let’s just say, not-so-nice. They take advantage of the nice ones and the nice ones let them. That merely perpetuates a maddening set of circumstances . . . for the nice tribe, that is.

These two types attract each other like magnets. Self-centered versus other-centered. One is self-denying and willing to give up what they want and even need so that the other can experience a “happy” life.

When I ask these big-hearted people why they sacrifice themselves, they tell me things like, “I’ll feel guilty and mean if I do otherwise.” Ironically, they’re afraid of being self-centered and . . . not nice.

Rani no longer thinks that way. Her experience with Val opened her eyes to a fundamental truth: When the events of our lives don’t bring us peace, it’s vital that we opt to make life changes.

 As for the “nice” word, she came to see that it isn’t nice to dishonor ourselves by tolerating being used and disrespected.

And it isn’t nice to keep feeding the parasites. How do they ever learn that parasiting isn’t nice? 🙂

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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Latest Wow: Ripe for Manipulation

puppet

“I don’t like to confront, so I’m easy to manipulate.”

That “WOW” came from a mid-fortyish male client. He didn’t realize it, but he nailed a common human problem. Many of us don’t like to confront.

Why are we so squeamish about confronting someone … even when it’s appropriate?

There’s a wide variety of reasons. A major one is the fear of setting off a fireworks display or, to put it bluntly, the fear of making someone mad.

And the problem with that is:

If we’re afraid of upsetting others, we give them power.

Not everyone will elect to use that power, but others won’t hesitate to take full advantage. They’ll use anger or the threat of anger to control you. They don’t want to hear what you have to say.

Angry responses stifle us, and that’s exactly what the manipulator counts on.

We see this form of manipulation among couples, among friends, at the workplace, and between parent and child. Sometimes we witness parents being manipulated by their angry child or the other way around. It happens.

I say our purpose in life doesn’t include sticking pacifiers in the mouths of those who might get upset.

The solution? Let them be upset. For example, if a child throws a fit because he doesn’t get his way, you let him throw the fit, right? Versus giving in. This advice applies to adults, too. Remain unaffected.

If we don’t care about someone’s angry reaction, manipulation isn’t possible. If a confrontation is done respectfully, it needs to be said. Pure and simple.

To avoid being manipulated by someone’s angry flare-ups, we have to be willing to brave the storm instead of trying to prevent it. Doing so is far less costly to our dignity than mindlessly appeasing. And besides, once we do it, we realize the storm was far less scary and draining than sacrificing the truth of our being.

It’s our fear that sets us up. Just like a dog cowering in the presence of a cat … guess what message he’s sending? Guess what position the cat is likely to take?

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Latest Wow: Face the Truth About Yourself

silhouette woman tree

“The bad thing about not liking myself is not being able to get away from myself. I can’t just go into the next room.”

Anna was being her usual witty self when she made that comment in my office but, sadly, she meant it. Also sad is the fact that a multitude of people feel the exact same way. How can that be? How does that happen?

It’s acquired. Self-loathing isn’t part of the package when we’re born. We don’t come out of the womb disliking ourselves.  We learn it—the result of how we were treated as children. I wrote about this in a column a few years back titled The Bent Twig. The column begins with a painful incident I witnessed between a mother and her little girl in a department store. It still haunts me. You can read it here.

As for Anna, her mother was a mother biologically, solely. Maternal she wasn’t. That is, she was minimally nurturing and minimally involved with her daughter. Understandably, Anna, saw herself as an inconvenience and therefore unworthy of being liked. To some extent, she carries that conclusion around yet today. She’s making progress, though, in turning it around completely.

This is what happens: we form an opinion about ourselves as a result of early life experiences—a self-image—that really isn’t accurate. So what we end up despising is who we think we are, not our innermost reality.  In short, our true self gets buried beneath layers of lies we have bought into about ourselves.

How to change this? A quote immediately comes to mind—a Wow!—by Brad, another client. Like Anna, he’s familiar with self-loathing—he’s been there. Here’s what he said:

“The brain is a fertile chunk of ground so anything we plant up there is going to grow.”

Brad’s statement suggests that we can take charge of our thoughts—the seeds that perpetuate a negative or positive self-image.

It’s good to know that the false notions we learned about ourselves can be unlearned. I say we start by disbelieving the debris of lies we’ve taken ownership of.

Names have been changed to honor client confidentiality

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The Latest Wow: Rebellion’s Treasure

treasure chest

Not long ago, a client—in her 40s—wowed me with this:

“Rebellion, at any age, is a means of repositioning ourselves with our parents.”

I can only agree. I’ve come to see that the good side of rebellion is that it allows us to break into new horizons of empowerment—to transcend existing limits. Another client, Sonya, further substantiated that point. She was telling me how much she appreciates the grief she once caused her parents especially now that she has teenagers of her own. Hair pulling time! So she did the only honorable thing and apologized to her mother :-).

I was both amazed and touched by what her mother had to say:  “Don’t give it a second thought. It just meant you were readying yourself for leaving the nest.”

Rebellion isn’t really a war waged against our parents. It’s a war waged against our childlike attachment to them—our littleness in their presence.

Acts of rebellion are important dramas, essential for clearing the way for a more mature you—little you giving way to bigger you.

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The Latest Wow: “Get over it!” Really?

chasm

According to the late theologian Paul Tillich, “The first duty of love is to listen.”

I rank listening right up there at the top of requirements for a well-running relationship. This includes love partnerships, parent-child relationships, friendships … you name it.

Listening is a lot bigger than the mere act of hearing with our ears. It entails reining in our straying thoughts, our knee jerk assumptions, judgments and impatience. It entails listening from a heart-space, not solely from an intellectual space.

It’s hard to master. I find that true both personally and professionally. One couple comes to mind—Ross and Sara. Ross expressed … no, he wowed me with a complaint common among many of my female clients:

“Just because someone says, ‘Get over it,’ doesn’t mean it stops hurting.”

He directed that comment to Sara after she discounted his feelings in our counseling session. He was sharing a painful incident, and instead of taking his pain seriously, she trivialized it.

Another client, Mindy, feels exactly like Ross. Her husband, Sam, not only discounts her feelings, he’s frequently sarcastic and has an explosive temper. In one of their marital sessions he said, “She cries over anything. I’m convinced she’s incapable of controlling her feelings.” I challenged him: “You accuse Mindy of being too emotional and incapable of controlling her feelings. Isn’t anger an emotion?”   Read their stories here.

Whether the one we love is our partner, our child, a friend, relative or acquaintance, statements like “Get over it,” “Why let that bother you?” and “You’re too sensitive” fail to relieve the hurting heart. Not only that, they can create a chasm between two people—a chasm that, if allowed to continue, may not be bridged.

I welcome your thoughts!

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The Latest Wow: More Beautiful Than Leaves

autumn2

A friend of mine, Patti, who helps me with my tech challenges, wowed me with something that caused me—without any reservation—to demand that she write it up for my blog. She did just that and here it is:

I was gazing out my kitchen window the other day, captivated by the beauty of the changing leaves in my backyard. For some reason, I was struck by this question: Why do we see the changes in these leaves as they near their demise, and say, “Beautiful! Gorgeous! Breathtaking!” yet when humans change as they age and approach their “end” on this earth, those changes are perceived as ‘ugly’? So ugly, in fact, that we go to extreme measures to erase them, bleach them, surgically remove them, inject poison in them, etc. Why can’t we see those changes as just as “beautiful” as those changes in the leaves? In fact, I propose that we see them as even more beautiful, because aren’t we more beautiful than leaves? Aren’t we more precious than leaves?

After mulling over Patti’s insight, I had a thought. One of the gifts of the aging process is a lesson about beauty. Our discernment of beauty changes over the years from what our eyes see to what our heart sees.  On second thought, I think babies have this mastered. They don’t even notice age. Maybe, as we grow older we go back to viewing people through the eyes of a baby—purely.

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