Tag Archives: empowerment

Freedom is Creating a Fabulous Elephant!

elephant 1

“It takes one a long time to become young.”  

–Pablo Picasso

I remember hearing about an 8-year-old girl who painted a picture of a fabulous elephant. What made her elephant earn the distinction of being fabulous? She used a wide array of colors.

Unfortunately, her teacher was stricken with an adult brain and was therefore incapable of seeing the fabulousness of that elephant. So instead of enjoying the unique creation, she felt it her duty to inform the little girl that elephants are not multi-colored.

The little girl had an immediate comeback:

“You don’t know elephants very well.”

No, we adults don’t know elephants very well—we don’t know a lot of things very well because our perceptual filter is so narrow. Children, on the other hand, are not confined to a rigid idea about reality. They don’t deliberately think outside the box . . . they just don’t see the box. The box doesn’t exist.

And for that reason, one could say they’re intimate with the realm of freedom. Writer and educator Ashley Montagu wrote about this rare freedom children so readily possess. In an article for Psychology Today titled, “Don’t be Adultish,” he suggested that we “preserve the spirit of a child, of youthfulness, inquisitiveness—the curiosity that is so evident in children. An open-mindedness that is free to consider everything, a sense of humor, playfulness—all these qualities we are designed to develop rather than outgrow.”

I like that. How unfortunate that so many of us mistakenly carry around the notion that we’re supposed to outgrow such traits. Doing so is something I call self-abandonment and a recipe for either a boring existence or depression.

No wonder we grownups are inclined to turn to the bottle, the pill, wild parties and so forth to remedy this sorry condition. But, as we all know, those things are merely band-aids. They’re no substitute for reclaiming our lost self.

Think about it, do children seek out the substitutes? No. They don’t have to. They’re neither enslaved by convention or weighed down by adultishness.

The child within each of us contains the seeds for authentic happiness.

The path to reclaiming that inner child looks different for each of us. I had conversations with Drake, Bud, Jane, and Garth about walking that path.

There can be no change, no opening to a new way of seeing and being as long as we continue to tightly grip that which is no longer working. We have to be willing and ready to let go.

And we attain the know-how for doing that by becoming young again—young enough to be able to paint a fabulous, multi-colored elephant!

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) Salee Reese 2015

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Two to Tango

tango

Passivity invites the other person to take a power position.

Maya and Jarel have been dancing the same dance step—or style of relating—for years. He dominates and she obediently yields. She’s tired of it.

Not long ago, she was ready to walk out the door, but right at that point he made a dramatic change . . . for the better. Now she’s not so sure about leaving. But she’s not sure about staying, either.

“I’m skeptical,” she said. “If I change my mind and decide to stay, I’m afraid Jarel will go back to his same old ways.”

“Sounds to me like you don’t trust the new you,” I said

Lately, Maya has made some impressive changes—giant strides—in terms of standing up for herself.  She doesn’t mouse-down anymore. Gone are the days of being dictated to and controlled. Gone are the days being passive and silent. She’s come to value herself way too much for that.

Yes, Jarel could slip back to his “same old ways,” but it’s more crucial that she doesn’t.

Here’s the naked truth:

If she doesn’t go back to her old ways, he can’t go back to his. It’s impossible to dance the tango when the other person is busy doing the rumba. As the saying goes: It takes two to tango.

Darcie, another client, was also rising to the challenge of changing the dance in her relationship with her husband.  You can read about that by clicking here.

Maya, Darcie and all dance-changers should not underestimate their power to change a relationship dynamic . . . or dance. They can. It happens, but only if they remain changed themselves.

For Maya, this means she’ll continue to stand up for herself—instead of being passive—if Jarel reverts back to his habit of dominating. Not occasionally or a week later, but ideally every time it happens!

Both will slip up occasionally, but weakening back to their former daily pattern spells destruction for their relationship. Maya’s challenge is to remain just as self-honoring as the day she was poised to walk out.  Not to forget that being uncompromisingly true to herself was the game changer for Jarel.

By the end of our session, Maya was leaning in the direction of staying. She’ll be practicing her new dance step which, inevitably, invites Jarel to follow suit. Who knows, he may even decide he likes the new dance!

 

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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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Our Favorite Illusion

apple tree

Some dreamy-eyed part of us clings to the illusion that through a sheer act of will we can change another human being. Such misguided thinking is as unrealistic as believing we can get a walnut tree to start producing apples.

For six years Sonya has asked her husband—who works in the remodeling industry—to fix the gaping hole in their kitchen ceiling. If it weren’t for a sheet held in place by thumbtacks, the studs and insulation would show.

The ceiling is just one of her many frustrations. My jaw dropped at some of the things she has put up with over the years. That’s the key point—she puts up with it. So how can she expect change? Sonya came to me wanting to know how she could change her husband. She’s at the end of her rope—change must happen or she’ll either leave the guy or die from frayed nerves.

She’s tried talking to him but that leads nowhere. “Instead of trying to understand what I think, he turns it into a conflict,” she said. Fodder for warfare.

Her husband makes approaching him with a problem an impossibility. The result: stifled grievances. Such things build to a point of creating a gap in the relationship equivalent to the hole in their ceiling.

Because he’s unapproachable, I told Sonya she must be the change she wants to see in her relationship. “You can’t make him change but you can.” Sonya must start by valuing herself more. This means acknowledging the things that rob her of happiness and negatively impact her well-being. She wants her husband to hear her distress and honor her needs. She has to start with herself instead of passively enduring.

Second, Sonya must empower herself to seek solutions—relief—from tormenting circumstances. Putting up with something that undermines her peace for six years is SELF-torture.

She followed my advice. His family was planning to visit in a few weeks so she told him: “Either take care of this before your family shows up or I’ll hire it done.” She was prepared to do just that.

He chose to fix the hole. The victory here isn’t that he finally stepped up to the plate, but that Sonya finally took charge of her own happiness.

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality

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She Swallowed A Lie

Bonsai

Depression and dissatisfaction with your life may be direct feedback from your inner guidance system telling you that you’re not fulfilling your true nature.

Branches on a young bonsai tree are wired down and shaped to conform to a fixed design. In time, the wires are no longer necessary. The bonsai will hold its forged shape. Like the bonsai, we were shaped at a young age. But unlike the bonsai, when the wires are removed—that is, when we grow up—we have the option to remain fixed, shaped permanently, or return to our original and natural form. We have choice.

Click here to read about Donna, a client who swallowed a lie about herself.

We are only truly free when we take the initiative to direct our own fate and move beyond an existence anchored to old patterns. 

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Anchored By Fear

Chronic boredom is the sting of non-being,
The pain of the unlived life,
The roads not explored,
The risks not taken,
The persons not loved,
The thoughts not thought,
The feelings not savored.

                                                        —Sam Keen

canoe cropped 2

Picture yourself canoeing down a stream. All’s running smoothly until you see something that warns you of possible trouble out ahead—tree limbs are sticking out of water.

Anchored to fear, you stop dead in the water. In this state of motionlessness your life stands still. You try to reassure yourself by saying,  “At least I’m safe.” But are you? I’m reminded of this quote by Henry David Thoreau: “The tragedy of a man’s life is what dies inside of him while he lives.”

Ned, a client of mine, is safe but miserable. He has dreams—marvelous and reachable dreams—but he’s constantly paralyzed by a brain full of what-ifs, like “What if I don’t succeed?”

He wanted to know how to overcome that barrier. I started by giving him a personal example:

Several years ago, I took scuba diving classes before taking a trip to the Caribbean. Scuba diving was on the itinerary and I wanted to be prepared. But when the time came to perform, I froze. There I was in all my diving gear, poised to jump off the boat, but nothing happened. I couldn’t jump! This wasn’t me. I love the water and I’m a good swimmer! I think I stood there for ten solid minutes while everyone was forced to wait on me. Not a comfortable moment.

What was wrong? My brain was full of the what-ifs. Was a hungry shark awaiting his lunch? Would the equipment work? Did I really learn what I was supposed to learn?

Finally, I made the decision to take the plunge (literally). I did not have the luxury of waiting for my fears to subside. I decided to jump—despite my fears.

That event and others like it taught me that we have to act—seize the moment—if we want life to be real for us. We can’t wait for our fears to go away because they won’t. We’ll be waiting forever.

My son, Tav, once said this:

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, “Am I in control of the outcome, or is my most feared outcome controlling me?”

That is where I took Ned next. I wanted him to feel capable of managing obstacles instead of being a helpless victim at their mercy. And in fact, according to Orison Swett Marden,

“Most obstacles melt away when we make up our minds to walk boldly through them.”

My earlier blog post titled “Close Your Eyes and Jump!” also addresses this topic.

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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