Viewing entries tagged
emotional baggage

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Feelings. Better Out Than In.

Far too often, most of us choke on our feelings. We feel tears welling up with that awful, aching lump in the throat, and we take several deep breaths, forcing the emotions back down where they can do all kinds of damage. They make us sick or depressed, give us physical pain and discomfort, sometimes with the weirdest symptoms that doctors simply cannot explain.

We fear being seen as weak. For some reason, our culture thinks a display of emotion means we're out of control. But there are only two occasions on which emotions can hurt us.

One is when we stuff them and do not acknowledge them. The other is when we make hasty decisions purely because of our feelings, without thinking them through, and end up hurting ourselves - or others - as the result of our poor choices.

But there is nothing wrong with having painful or difficult feelings, and there is nothing wrong with expressing them (appropriately). Having them makes us human. Expressing them helps to get rid of them and it connects us with others, many of whom will offer support and comfort, thereby strengthening our bonds with one another.

The best way to get rid of unwanted feelings is to immerse yourself in them. Take a little time and allow yourself to really feel every bit of whatever it is that hurts. If you want to cry, cry. Lots. Until you can't cry any more. You'll feel a whole lot better for it. If you're frightened, feel the fear. Ask for some hand-holding. And remind yourself that you are strong enough to get through anything.

Do whatever you need to do when bothersome feelings are standing in the way of you and your happiness, and let them out. Get it over and done - once and for all.

Think of it as housecleaning. Gathering all the rubbish and putting it out on the drive to be collected on trash day. If you keep digging, eventually you'll find less and less “stuff” that needs removing and turfing.

This doesn't mean it's a good thing to sit around and feel miserable every waking minute either. You must strike a balance. But certainly, choking back unhappy feelings is not any better for you than spending 24/7 whining about your miseries for days, weeks and months on end. Once the crying jag is behind you, take some time to look at the positives in your life. Set some goals and take a step or two (even if they're teeny) toward achieving them.

Just don't be afraid of your feelings. Allow them to be heard. You can't fix what you don't acknowledge, as the good Dr Phil says. Give your feelings a chance to speak up so you know just what's on your plate. Chances are, the more you do this, the quicker the issue will dissolve or will find a resolution in your heart.

You wouldn't let an infection fester below the surface or in your blood. You'd be off to the doc, figuring out how to fix it because you know that infections left untended can kill you. Well, negative emotions can do it, too. Quietly and insidiously by giving you cancer, heart disease or a million other ailments, or a little more overtly by making you say and do some very hurtful things to yourself and/or to others.

Expressing your emotions is the great equaliser. It makes you the same as everyone else. It levels the playing field. It shows your strength. It shows your vulnerability, your softness.

It helps people get to know you because they see just what affects you on a deep level, which then connects you with everyone else on the planet because really, we are all pretty much the same in many ways. We are unique in our personalities and in our perceptions of our life experiences, of course, but everyone hurts, everyone needs, everyone feels some version of the same emotions. How we do all of this and how we express these aspects of ourselves is what separates us from one another.

But we're really not so different in terms of our emotions. So go on. Stop hiding behind a wall that you think keeps you separate and sets you apart from everyone else. Because I can assure you, you're not fooling anyone. We know you hurt, too.

And we'll be here for you when you're brave enough to tell us about it.

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Sometimes All You Can Do Is Nothing

Doesn't it just drive you mental when you're watching people make choices that you just know are going to have disastrous results? They might have asked your opinion and if you respect them, you'll have been honest with them (as tactfully as possible).

You might have offered your opinion without being asked (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your relationship) - and there's never a guarantee that it will have been heard, but that's not up to you. At least you tried.

Despite obvious negative consequences, some or all of which may even be acknowledged by these people, they continue on their destructive path, rushing headlong into some nightmare or other, ignoring the wisdom of anyone who might have had anything to say on the subject.

And there you are, standing on the sidelines, bound and gagged watching someone you love or care about, careening down a steep hill on a bicycle at an insane rate of speed, and you're just waiting for the splat!! when they hit the brick wall that's waiting at the bottom.

It's natural for us to want to fix things for the people who are important to us, to prevent them from being hurt or making mistakes and winding up in some kind of trouble.

But the truth is, experience is the best teacher. If people don't 'get it' from thinking about the consequences of their actions, the only way they'll figure it out is to go through it.

They'll have learned something about themselves (or will repeat the lesson at a later time...a bigger ouch each time, until they learn it), and they'll have learned something about you, too, that you do have a clue, that your judgement is sound - at least sometimes.

They'll have learned that perhaps it's wise to at least consider the opinions of others who have an interest in their wellbeing.

It's especially awful when it's your children who are making these frightening (for parents) choices and ending up suffering the consequences of their foolhardy actions.

But no matter who it is, we can only do our best to guide, suggest and direct. After that, all of us have the right to choose our own paths, no matter how difficult they might ultimately be.

It could be said that there are no mistakes in life, only opportunities to learn. And it's true that experience is the best teacher. I know it doesn't feel like that when we're helplessly watching loved ones heading for a crisis but sometimes, all we can do is be there to support and encourage while they pick up the pieces of their lives.

And thank heaven, we're there to do it.

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"I'll Stop Procrastinating Tomorrow!"

Some of us hit the ground running in the morning and dive headfirst into a busy day, accomplishing, overachieving, burning through tasks like there's no tomorrow (and if there wasn't going to be a tomorrow, frankly I'd just as soon not work my backside off today).

Others of us drag ourselves out of bed and stumble through life, doing what we want, doing some of what we must - leaving all kinds of things for another day.

And then there are others who are in between somewhere, which is probably best anyway, as extremes are never good and balance in all things is a really good plan.

If you're at all familiar with my books or my blog, you'll have heard me go on about taking breaks, about leaving some things for another day, another time. You'll have heard me say, in essence, "Don't do today what you can put off till tomorrow."

And here I am today, saying the opposite. Today, I want to talk about procrastination. So how can I keep telling you to slack off and have some down time, and then I turn around and say, hang on a minute, quit goofing off and get back to work?!

Well, it's not too complicated really.

Let's start with the basics of procrastination. There are loads of reasons why people keep putting off things that need to be done, whether it's household tasks, mundane errands, tedious stuff at work, difficult conversations with people or anything else they'd rather not do. And just as burning the candle at both ends and in the middle isn't good for anyone, neither is being at the other end of the spectrum and just leaving things undone as a regular occurrence.

The reasons for both behaviours will be emotional issues that could stand healing because whether you're a workaholic or a procrastinator, both are destructive and will keep you from being all you're meant to be - which keeps you from happiness and fulfillment.

Why do people procrastinate? For some it is an issue of control. If people feel like they have little or no control in their lives, they will sometimes delay doing things that are expected of them. It's a form of passive aggression, a way to say "I'll do it when I'm good and ready, and not when you tell me, or not when you want it."

People who are notoriously late for everything often fall into this category, as well.

Sometimes people procrastinate because of self-sabotage. This can have all kinds of roots but they run deep and can manifest in numerous ways over the course of a lifetime. Shooting oneself in the foot is usually the result of low self-esteem, feeling undeserving of good things, or believing that you're not meant to be happy. So you set yourself up to fail in order to validate what you believe about yourself.

For people who don't feel worthy of having a wonderful life, they will often do things that will make certain things go wrong as often as possible. They might "lose" a document or "forget" to meet a deadline that could give them a better job or some opportunity that could benefit them.

Procrastination can sometimes be the result of fear. It allows people to avoid facing their fears of failure, success, confrontation, the dentist, bad news from the doctor, telling a partner "It's over" and a million other things.

But not facing those situations doesn't make them go away. Avoidance only allows the fear to grow stronger as it takes on a life of its own, and often ends up blown way out of proportion - and then procrastination seems an even better idea. The chicken-and-egg cycle continues, sucking the energy out of anyone who is caught in it.

The more they put off, the heavier the burden, as 'thing' upon 'thing' piles up, one on top of another, on top of another, leaving them feeling completely overwhelmed with 'stuff to do' but not having any idea where to start. And for those people who live in a constant state of procrastination, that's an awful lot of negative energy to willingly add to their lives because they don't want to face their fears.

If we're going to have productive and happy lives, it is essential that we see to the boring bits of life - and sometimes it means facing the scary parts, too. Often, the thing we fear never happens anyway and meanwhile, we've been holding ourselves back from the possibility of success and happiness. When we don't 'take care of business' in our lives and just let things pile up, we're deliberately adding more stress, more worry and more negative energy to the mix. Nothing good can ever come of that.

Being a workaholic is not good. Neither is procrastinating. It's never good to live in an extreme situation of any kind; it is unnatural and unhealthy. The key to finding balance is to understand when something is causing you harm.

Whether you're doing too much or too little, if it's to your detriment and is causing problems in other areas of your life, then something needs to change. It's hard enough to find happiness in this life with all the obstacles that are thrown at us. But we don't have to make it harder on ourselves by being out of balance because of the choices we make.

If we ever hope to find happiness, it has to begin with a point of balance between work and play, between responsibility and 'goofing off'. If procrastination is a problem in your life, perhaps start with the simplest things. Make a list of everything you know you need to do, and find the ones that you think you can tackle without too much trouble. Keep working away at that list and as you see things getting done, you'll feel the load lighten and your energy increasing.

As you move through the process, examine the feelings that come up and if necessary, find a good counsellor or even a self-help book to assist you.

And one last thing: Don't be thinking, "This is a great idea! I'll do the list later!" If it's a great idea and you want to get moving in your life, feel better and be happier, do the list now.

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The Most Difficult Journey is Inward

I find it interesting that many people are afraid of any meaningful self-analysis. They don't want to become any more self-aware than they already are, which is often on a fairly superficial level. They don't really know what makes them tick, nor do they care. They're content to just carry on doing whatever it is they do, whether or not they're happy, whether or not their thoughts and behaviour get them into trouble. They live on "leave well enough alone."

I reckon that's okay if it really is "well enough" but quite often, it is not. Quite often, they're wandering through life, dragging their emotional wounds with them, like steamer trunks full of pain, insecurity, fear and feelings of inadequacy.

On the surface, they think they're happy. Or at least they don't notice if they're not.

They don't notice how that steamer trunk is planted right smack in the middle of the road ahead of them, affecting various aspects of their lives. And it's also planted right smack in the middle of the road inward, the one that leads to self-awareness and understanding. The one that leads to healing.

They stare at that steamer trunk with trepidation, fearful of what's inside, as though they'll lift the lid and some horrible, creepy monsters will leap out at them and tear off their heads. "Better left locked up," they decide. They'll just park there, at the side of the road, and be content not to go any further. "Self-awareness? No, thanks. Too scary."

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

Beyond the steamer trunk is a big, dark closet. They peer past the trunk but can't see anything and that's okay because they don't really want to know what's hidden in that closet. They're sure it can't be anything good.

And in part, they're right. In part, there will be some bits that aren't nice. All of us have them. But there's also a whole lot of great stuff. There's wisdom in there, there are insights you didn't know you had.

So you bite the bullet; decide to risk it. At least a little. You're not ready to turn on the big, bright bulb that's hanging in that closet. Maybe just shine a flashlight in there as you journey inward. The further you go, the more you discover about who you really are, how you feel about things, honestly and bravely facing the truths about your Self.

Yes, it can be a bit unpleasant in there and you won't always find things you like. But being aware of them can make a monumental difference to how you live your life, how you treat others, how you treat yourself, and whether or not you move forward and progress to places of happiness and fulfillment.

And you can be sure you'll also find lots of wonderful goodies in there, too, places of beauty and strength, wisdom and insight and you will be amazed by how much you didn't know you knew. You'll discover just how far you've really come, just how radiant your spirit really is and you will be more willing and able to let the rest of us see it, too.

The journey inward is one of the most frightening journeys we can ever take, but it is also one of the most rewarding. Personally, I don't fear it. I embrace it. I love it. Muddy bits and all, I'm happy to keep discovering more and more about myself so that I can fix the parts I don't like (or stop letting them interfere with my life, at least), and I can make good use of the best bits.

I don't really understand why we should ever be so afraid of ourselves as to not want to know ourselves intimately. What makes even less sense to me is that in that state, so many people complain that their partners don't understand them.

Well, how could anyone else understand you when you don't understand yourself?

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

(Photo courtesy freerangestock)

Most of us wish we had partners who will love and accept us unconditionally, flaws and all. But how can we expect anyone else to accept our imperfections if even we don't want to see them?

To me, that's about as hypocritical as one can get. "I don't love myself, I don't fully accept myself because there's no way I wanna dig around in the murky depths of my psyche, it's scary in there, but my goodness, I'm gonna find Mr/Ms Right to love me perfectly and no matter what, and he/she will always be there for me and will think I'm wonderful and will accept all my quirks and flaws, even if I'm too scared to find out what they are. I don't wanna know but he/she has to love all the miserable stuff that I don't dare look at."

Ummm...really?

Taking that journey isn't all that bad, when you balance the good with the not-so-good. It's just you in there, so how can it be that bad? Believe me, it's gonna be a lot of the same kind of stuff that everyone else has. We're not that different from one another. Sure, we share a lot of fears and flaws, but we can also be really wonderful.

Come on, be brave. Be willing to shove aside that steamer trunk and turn on that big, bright light in the closet. You're the only one who has to know what you find, unless you choose to share it. So what's to be afraid of?

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