Saturday, March 21, 2009

Calculating your worth

In this world of crumbling financial markets, rising unemployment and uncertainty how does one calculate their worth? Well, the "calculations" start pretty young in our lives. Conditions of worth are placed upon us by family, friends, school, church, etc.
What are conditions of worth? They are pretty much like what they sound like--conditions that must be met in order for us to be loved or accepted ("worthy") by a certain person or group of people.
What about expectations? Don't we all need to be able to live up to certain basic standards in this world? Yes. That is something very different.
Expectations of being are not the same as conditions of worth. An expectation of being could be a dress code, honoring traffic laws, fulfilling job requirements, etc. Expectations of being are more about behavior and things we all need to do in order to be good citizens, good students (Setting expectations for a student to do their personal best is much different than being disappointed in your student if they do not maintain "straight 'A's'."), good family members, good employees.
Conditions of worth go deeper than that and take things to an unrealistic level. What do conditions of worth look like? I imagine that anyone out there reading this could offer a list of some conditions of worth that were placed on them growing up, as a teen, even continuing on into adult life. How about only being loved or accepted if you maintain a certain weight, hair length, wear certain type clothes or shoes, make a certain amount of money, drive a certain type of car, maintain a certain standing in the company? Does any of that sound familiar in your life? If it does then you have been experiencing being accepted or loved or judged by conditions of worth. These are damaging to our sense of self-worth and identity... often leaving individuals feeling "less than."
How do you calculate your worth? Or the worth of those in your life? Here are some thoughts
on a deeper source of worth... the experience of being loved unconditionally either by another person or by your Higher Power really is like no other in this life!

This song below touches quite effectively on this theme of conditions of worth:

"Is it any wonder
That she would feel less than real
When she reveals what is clearer
In her mirror

Take a look around her
Magazines, glamor queens
Waist-line dreams in her diary
So inspiring

Nobody told her that little girls
Don't have to have the softest curls for love

So whatever's left inside her
Is gonna smile wider, shine brighter
Until she gets pulled under
Is it any wonder?

Is it any wonder
That he's obsessed with what is best
And nothing less... he's a hero
With six zeros

Take a look around him
His wallet size and what he drives
Will symbolize how he's made it
How they'll grade it

Nobody told him that little boys
Don't have to have the fastest toys to win

So whatever's left inside him
Is gonna keep on tryin' to keep on buyin'
Until he gets pulled under
Is it any wonder?

Will somebody tell her there's a
love that can't be glamorized
Tell him there's a hope that won't be downsized
Someone tell them that the billboards lie
All the time

'Cause whatever's left inside her
Is gonna smile wider
And whatever's left inside him
Is gonna keep on tryin'
Until they get pulled under
Is it any wonder?"

Nichole Nordeman - Is It Any Wonder

Friday, March 20, 2009

Must... Resist... CONTROL...

I heard a quote once that really resonated with me. I heard it in the context of material I was teaching in a B.I.P. I regularly facilitate. The quote was:
"Any attempt to impose your will on another is an act of violence..." (Ghandi)

Think about that one for a minute. What do you think of that?

One of the main premises we come from when attempting to instruct men how to change their mind about their abusive behaviors and become men of integrity is that at the root of their abusive behaviors is power and control. Trying to obtain power, and maintain control. Control is really an illusory thing anyway, but that may be another topic for another day. The only thing that anyone has any measure of control over is their OWN thoughts, feelings, behaviors, actions and inactions. PERIOD.

Here is a good article on this topic.

Resisting Control
Imposing Your Will On Others

The right to make your own choices is a precious one. We grow when we have the freedom to decide our own paths and determine what makes us happy. Yet there are those who are inclined to try and control others. They may be driven by insecurity, envy, fear, or the need for power. These people are deeply critical of themselves in their own minds, and underlying that critical nature is unhappiness. Their need to feel sure-footed and secure is quenched by controlling those around them, whether they are friends, colleagues, or even pets. However, nearly everyone has found themselves imposing their will upon others at one time or another.

Trying to impose your will on others can be tempting for many reasons. You may feel that your way is the best way or that you have a keener insight into the direction their life should be taking. But, in imposing your will, you are indirectly saying, "I want to control you." Even when you have the best of intentions, others may end up resenting you for your actions. It is always helpful to remember that it is possible to influence people and change their behavior through education or example without imposing your will on them.

If you've caught yourself being a bit bossy on a regular basis, make a note of it. Write down what the situation was and why you acted the way you did. You may have pushed a friend to try something new, because deep inside you wanted to try it yourself but were feeling hesitant. Or you may be unjustly interfering with work teammates, because you aren't sure of their abilities. Next, make an effort to understand and accept their preferences and ways of doing things. It can feel natural to impose your will when you feel that you "know best." But there is a freedom to trusting others to find their own methods and joys, even when they might differ from yours. Sometimes the best course of action is to step back and relinquish control. You may, in doing so, see everything from a different point of view.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Breathing and Noticing

Breathing and Noticing... this is something I heard an instructor recommend at a training I attended once. It was actually a mindfulness technique that I believed I could utilize in my own life.
Below I am posting a very useful article from PsychCentral with some further calming techniques for a distressed mind. And who couldn't use a little more calming in this crazy world?

Calming Your Distressed Mind

by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Sometimes in life it’s helpful to have signposts that we can see to help bring us back to the present moment and reinforce a certain way of being that we aspire to. Just like signs on the road may help remind us to slow down or children crossing, we can use short verses in our day to day to remind us to be how we want to be.

Check for auto-pilot reaction before moving on: Take a moment to check in with any judgments that might be arising right now. For example, “short verses? Is he nuts? How could that ever help me?” or “What is this, an affirmation, those never work.” Or “why am I even continuing to read this?” If anything like this arises, this is normal, just take a moment to notice the automatic judgment, let it be, take a breath to help ground to the here and now and then gently continue on with the next paragraph.

Acclaimed author, teacher, and Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh uses short phrases all the time to support himself in being more present, grounded, and aware in daily life. He has taught this practice to medical professionals, Psychologists, and students for many years now. He teaches the practices of walking and/or breathing and using these phrases to support us in calming our distressed minds and being more present to every day life.

For example,

  • You may take three steps while breathing in and say “Breathing in, I calm my body” and then with the following three steps “Breathing out, I relax.” You can then shorten this to saying “calm” as you breathe in, and “relax” as you breathe out.
  • “Breathing in, I notice the colors all around me, breathing out, I smile.” Then shorten to “Breathing in, colors, breathing out, smile.” Even if we don’t feel like smiling, the simple act of doing a half-smile sometimes can change the tension in our faces, which in turn affects our mood.
  • “Breathing in, I have arrived, breathing out, I am home.” Then shorten too “Breathing in, arrived, breathing out, home.” Have you ever had the experience where you were rushing home to relax. It doesn’t make sense and isn’t effective is calming the nervous system. Sometimes reminding ourselves that we have arrived to the present moment already and that we are home can help calm an anxious mind. We can then slow down and get home a few minutes later in a more collected and relaxed state.
  • “Breathing in, I wash my hands, breathing out, may I use them wisely throughout the day.” Shorten to, “Breathing in, washing, breathing out, wise hands.” This practice can not only bring appreciation to one of the unsung heroes of our bodies, our hands, but also reinforce the idea of being aware of all they do during the day and being more mindful with them. This cultivation of appreciation can support us in feeling well.

These are just some examples; you can make up your own that fit for you. You can do this while walking or just sitting and breathing. And of course, most important of all, don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself. If it’s not for you, cast it aside, but give it a shot. Pay attention to how you are feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally before doing it and then again after you do it for a few breaths.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

broken AND used!

I was reading a friend's blog today, and her post reminded me of my thoughts on the subject of being a cracked pot.

I used to believe that I had to be perfect. I somehow internalized the idea that it was my responsibility to keep myself polished and pristine--free of flaws. I don't know if I was taught this at home or at church or if it was the "first born" in me. However, much to my dismay that goal was just not possible to achieve--let alone maintain!

Once reality had hit me square between the eyes, I found myself cracked and scratched up with the paint chipped. I had believed that if I was no longer "perfect" (what a myth that anyone could even be perfect) I was relegated to the shelf in the back room... basically discarded. And there I stayed--for a while. Have you ever been there?
But thankfully, after a time of healing (the healing is ever an ongoing journey not a destination)--including gracious and wise interventions, I discovered that I could still be valuable in spite of the fact I am broken and cracked. And in fact, it seems as if it is because I am cracked that The Light shines out from inside of me to those around me all the more effectively.
Broken AND used... imagine that!

Plus, it is my brokenness that has given me wheelbarrow loads full of compassion and empathy for individuals from all walks of life as well as from many and varied backgrounds.
I'll end this post with a thought provoking quote (which could very well spark another post topic at some point).

"If we're all cracked pots,
then why are most of us walking around
instead of glue?"

Friday, March 6, 2009

Coming Clean...

We have all been in situations when we have done something we know we shouldn't have been doing. What is generally our natural reaction?
Cover, deflect, blame, minimize, justify.
I regularly facilitate a group. During group one night this week, while the participants were having their check-in time, one individual gave a report that "all was well and things were going better." Sounded encouraging. However, as facilitator of this group I was privy to information about this person's week that he was not coming clean with. So I probed and prompted, and still he stuck to his story.
The rest of the participants took their turn, and now it was time for break. Right before everyone left the room, this above man said "before we go I have to come clean with everyone..." and he did!
What happened next? Did we call him down? Did the group ridicule him? Did we make a mark on his record? Did we shame him? No! To the contrary, many people--myself included--cheered for him and gave him "high 5's, patted him on the back, etc.
Is that how it works in your world? In your family of origin? In your church?
Why is it that in many churches during the "invitation" a dozen verses of "Just as I am" are sung while everyone's heads are bowed. The pastor almost begs repeatedly for the parishioners to come forward and come clean. Why the hesitation? Why the delay? Could it be because churches, families, communities are sending the
wrong message about "coming clean"?
"Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot ...
Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come."

It occurs to me that coming clean ought to look and feel a little more like it did in that group that night. Where a person can't hold inside what they need to be rid of any longer, and before another minute passes they blurt out what it is that they need to confess. And when they do... what is the response? Shame, alienation, recrimination? How about encouragement, rejoicing, welcoming... invitation to restoration!
Which experience leaves you wanting to stand tall, go forth and come clean and stay clean?