THE TRUE ALTERNATIVE TO FEAR

I am getting to that age when one is tempted to look back more than to look forward, to get lost in our memories more than to endeavor to create new memories. In short, it is easier to just float downstream carried along by the current of habits and predispositions rather than forge ahead and find undiscovered lands and challenge sedentary tendencies. I feel like Ulysses hearing the siren calls to cease the quest and find comfort and rest. But like Ulysses, I know that there is a greater mission within me and my journey is not yet accomplished.

But as I reflect back upon my life I now realize I have always had a tendency to “shelter in place” from the threat of change making it difficult to move forward. My impediment to growth has not been any external obstacle or internal deficiency but simply I have allowed fear to limit my progress. The product of fear is stagnation leading to death and it has usually taken experiencing a trauma or disaster in my life to give me the impetus to move forward.

I don’t believe I am alone in this predisposition. There is an axiom in the counseling world that goes like this: “We don’t change unless the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change.” I see it all the time in my practice.

  • A man has lost the job that he hated and is now forced to consider another profession more suitable to his abilities

  • A couple’s relationship is falling apart and now must seek counseling to find new, healthier ways of relating to each other

  • A woman has lived with debilitating depression and only when her world is falling apart is now willing to look at her beliefs about herself to escape the pain

This is fear-based motivation and it is grounded in escaping or avoiding pain and we use it all the time.

  • I go on a diet because I don’t want to be fat

  • I exercise because I am humiliated by the way I look in a bathing suit

  • I work hard at my job because I’m afraid of being fired

  • I go back to school because I’m afraid of not finding a good job and ending up homeless

Does fear-based motivation work? Yes, of course, it works but the problem with fear-based motivation is that it is not sustainable and it doesn’t go away. When we reach a place of stasis in our life and we no longer have a reason to fear we also don’t have a reason to grow. If fear is our primary motivation then we will need to make up a reason to fear (irrational fear) or we will lose motivation for growth and enter into stagnation. What is even more important, fear is toxic to the body and spirit. Living in a continual state of fear will produce stress and stress is one of the leading causes of physical and psychological ailments.

I want to propose another, healthier and more positive motivation for change. This motivation can be summed up in one word.

Love

  • Love Heals

  • Love connects

  • Love inspires

  • Love’s motivation is applicable in all situations

  • Love is unending, unceasing and unconquerable

We live in a world where there is so much spoken about love but very little on its practical application. What we need is to somehow learn to apply love to the nitty-gritty of life. In many of us, fear is our default and even the thought of making love our primary motivation in our life is inconceivable. So here are some practical ways to transform fear-motivation to love-motivation.

Focus on those you love

When faced with a task or a job that is something that you would rather not do think past it to something that is an object of your love. A perfect example of this might be of times when we experience a difficult work environment. We all encounter times when we’re slogging through an arduous schedule or are involved in tasks that we have no desire to do. At times like these stop and ask this question, “can I dedicate this job to someone or something I love?” If you are working to provide for your family then think of them and consider your work as a way of providing them with food, shelter, and a future. Many a man and woman leave their home early in the morning and return late at night for the love of their family. I believe there is no more noble motivation than sacrificing for those we love.

Find something you love within the difficult work

Every job, no matter how it perfectly fits our personality, has elements that we find tedious. If we focus on these negative elements, we diminish our passion for the work and reduce our overall career enjoyment. So take a few moments and fill your heart with what you are passionate about and stop obsessing on those few things that you don’t enjoy. When you do you will find that the difficult parts of your job will cease to be so discouraging.

Focus on being grateful

Gratitude is a close relative of love and when it is regularity expressed it increases our capacity to experience joy and reduce anxiety.

What are you afraid of? What gnaws at your heart and keeps you up at night? Instead of allowing those fearsome future scenarios to dominate your thinking try to finding something

When faced with fear, chose the loving alternative.

When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.
— Winston Churchill

Here are some loving alternatives to fear:

  • Choose to believe in your resilience and ingenuity

  • Choose to trust in an all-powerful and loving God

  • Choose to develop and execute a strategy

  • Choose to not catastrophize – reflect on times when you persevered through similar or even worse situations

  • Choose to reach out to loving family and friends for help

  • Choose to get up and do something creative, productive, kind and compassionate for someone who needs to be loved. Because love flourishes in us when we choose to give it to others.

What do you love? Make that the cornerstone of all you do, say and think. Tie this passion to your work and you will find extraordinary energy in your career. Tie it to your relationships and they will grow deeper and more satisfying. Refuse to do anything that is not somehow intrinsically tied to love and you will never run out of motivation for living.

If this seems impossible then challenge your internal programming, because someone, somewhere fed you a lie that life was not meant to be lived in love. It can be done, I know because I get up every morning with the desperate need to renew my commitment to love and every morning love is renewed.

If you want to discuss this or have any questions or concerns where we can help you don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Because our love-inspired motivation is to see true transformation happen in your life.

Why Good Relationships Are Good for You

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Somehow we have been sold a “bill of goods” that relationships should be natural, always fun and make our life easier. We have been conditioned by watching artificial relationships on TV and Movies that depict intense love and an idealistic romantic experiences that set unrealistic expectations we can never meet. Please don’t get me wrong – I believe that relationships are the most rewarding and deeply satisfying experience a human is capable of having. But a rich and rewarding relationship is NEVER easy. That is because it requires each party to be willing to set aside their own preoccupation with comfort and convenience and think what is best for the other person. Good relationships do not thrive in an atmosphere of personal self-interest and individualism.

There was a time in my life when I was single for seven years. Was I lonely? Occasionally. But mostly I was content because I could eat what I wanted, go where I wanted and pretty much lived my life without having to think of anyone else’s feelings, desires, wants or needs. It was not that I was isolated, I still had friends, but I always knew that when I was done visiting my friends I could go home and live exactly the way I wanted to. I owed no one an explanation for my tastes or preferences.

What I didn’t realize is that I also was stunting my growth as a person. “Why?” you ask, “it sounds pretty much like you had an ideal life”

Yes, it was ideal if I wanted to become an emotional and relational pygmy but if I wanted to expand beyond my own boundaries and effect change in my life then I was greatly limited. Let me explain by identifying the fundamental character qualities that make for truly great individuals.

Love

Love: How do you grow in love? I don’t mean the romantic, touchy-feely kind of love that is depicted in our media. (Though there is definitely a place for that) I mean the kind of love that seeks the best for another no matter what the cost is to us personally. This kind of love does not grow in the soft, fertile soil of the lazy valleys but in the lofty mountain peaks that take exertion to reach. Love grows where it is hard to love and sacrifice is needed. True love blossoms in the light of self-sacrifice and a willingness to take the higher, steeper road of self-denial. Love means that I place you before me and seek your best even if at a high cost. This character quality cannot be found in isolation but requires intimate relationships. In my seven years of being alone, my heart was growing cold because I was not challenged to love like this and I knew it.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness: Now we have all experienced times when we have been hurt, lied to, and treated unjustly. But nowhere is this experienced more than in intimate relationships. I often say that relationships are the place where we are most wounded and relationships are the place where we are most healed. Becoming a person who can forgive means that we must go where we can be hurt. The deeper and more intimate the relationship the more vulnerable we are to being wounded. I found that I was becoming a person who was neither hurting others nor was I being hurt and therefore my growth in this area was being restricted. No one needed to forgive me and I was not required to forgive anyone else.

Kindness

Kindness: Where do we most grow in kindness? Well, ask yourself where is it hardest to be kind? That’s easy, when we are faced with someone who is repulsive. I don’t mean that we should go out and find the most abhorrent person available and marry them. What I am saying is that in every intimate relationship there will come a time when something is said or done that is deeply offensive and intensely painful. How are we to respond? If we want to grow in this beautiful character quality then we will choose kindness. Kindness flourishes in the presence of transgressions just as light is more brilliant in the presence of darkness. Want to learn to be kind? Find yourself another human to love and kindness in you will be refined as through fire.

Peace

Peace: Here again someone might say, “James, when you lived alone you had ultimate peace, right?” To this, I say it depends on what kind of peace you are asking about. If you are speaking of peace as an absence of conflict then you would be right. Isolation offers a certain kind of peace that is beautiful but unsustainable unless we choose to live a hermit existence. If you are speaking of the kind of peace that is present in conflict then you would be greatly mistaken. The kind of peace that really matters is the internal peace that can bring calm to your soul even in the most stressful situations. This is the peace that Jesus spoke of:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
— John 14:27 NIV

This kind of peace is more powerful than hate and overcomes conflict. In order to have this kind of peace, you must be exposed to places where personalities clash and dreams are in conflict. This means being in relationships. It was too easy for me to just walk away from people who bugged me or those with whom I disagreed. But when you are in a committed relationship that is not possible so this deeper type of peace is essential.

Patience

Patience: We develop patience in places where we are tempted to be impatient? A muscle will never grow strong unless it is tested and patience will never grow unless we have opportunities where our expectations are not met and our plans are thwarted. Do I really need to explain how being in a relationship leads to times of growth in this area? Relationship thy name is patience!

This is the bottom line. If I wanted to be a better man I must commit to being in a relationship that demanded I be a better man. I know, it is possible to be in a relationship and still not develop these qualities. I witness it all the time in my profession as a Marriage Counselor. But that attitude can’t continue if they want to find a more satisfying marriage. At some point, they need to realize that the person they are married to is not there to thwart their dreams and make their life miserable but rather they are an instrument of personal transformation so that they can become a better version of themselves.

I love the movie “As Good as it Gets” Starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. Jack plays the part of a neurotic, OCD, paranoid, anxiety-filled man (yes, this is therapist candy) who falls in love with a beautiful, kind and normal woman. In this scene, he has just said something hurtful to her (again!) and she has made a demand, “compliment me or I am leaving”. So this is what he said.

And so it is with me and one of the main reasons I reached out and opened my heart to marriage. I knew that I needed Cheri to become a man who truly loved, who was learning to be kind, who could find peace in the presence of conflict and learn what it meant to forgive and let go. I’ve got to say that she needs to do a better job at making me do all these things because it’s way too easy to be with her. But even so, I’m sure God knew that I needed someone as truly good and kind as she because I’m a pretty slow learner.

How about you? Do you see your relationships as opportunities for personal growth? Or are you longing for times when you can go into isolation? Nothing good grows in the darkness (unless you are fond of bacteria) so get out into the light and realize that relationships are the school where your character is developed.

As always, if we can be of service to you or you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Who You "Thnk" You Are Matters

In Fact, It Matters A Lot

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“What were you thinking!” shouts the angry parent as their child stands before them crestfallen. They had just discovered their child doing something foolish and now comes the third-degree interrogation.

“You weren’t thinking, right? Because if you were you wouldn’t have done something so stupid”

And so punishment is handed out and the child is sent to their room to “think” about what they did. And so there they sit trying to figure out what they were “thinking” but drawing a blank because they’re a kid and by definition, they often don’t think before they act.

Which begs the question; does thought proceed action? Are there some actions where thinking is not a prerequisite? It sure feels that way when we make a mistake or succumb to a “knee-jerk” reaction.

But it is a proven medical fact that thought proceeds all actions, even if these thoughts are unconscious.

For example, a solder on leave from the battlefield is walking down the street, he hears a car backfire and dives to the ground. Is he conscious of his thought at the time? No, he is reacting and his reactions are a logical consequence of the unconscious belief that he is in danger. Even though he is not aware of the thought it is still there. If you asked him he would say he did not choose to fall on his face in the middle of the sidewalk, still the thought of danger proceeded the action. Over time as he is exposed to the sounds of the city he will become more aware that no real danger exists and have a greater ability to choose so when he hears a similar sound he can ignore it.

Therefore our thoughts control our actions. Some thoughts promote health and cause us to act in a way that produces such emotions love, joy, and peace, and some thoughts produce anxiety, fear, and anger. Some thoughts propel us toward success and some are toxic and lead us toward failure and frustration. The challenge is these toxic thoughts often feel like they are a part of us – they become our dysfunctional normal. We are blind to them as they become the “operating system” that controls our everyday lives. Therefore it is critical that we make them visible so we can replace them with what will ultimately produce a more productive and happy life.

How do we know if our unconscious thoughts about ourselves are toxic? There are two ways:

  1. We experience toxic emotions – anxiety, phobia, depression, unreasonable fear and uncontrolled anger are examples of toxic emotions that are the result of toxic thoughts

  2. We experience repeated unwanted experiences – you have heard the old saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. When we continually experience failure in certain areas of our life it is a good indication that we have a toxic belief that is sabotaging our success.

A client once described to me a long series of failed relationships that she had experienced. At the end of her story of heartache and brokenness, I asked her this questions: “What do all those men in your life have in common?” She thought for a while and named a few of their worse attributes but then stopped and grew quiet. Finally, she said, “me”.

“Yes, that’s right” I responded, “so if you ever want to make a difference in your relationships you will need to make a difference in how you see yourself and how you understand healthy relationships”

Our actions and our emotions will lead us to our core beliefs as surely as a drug-sniffing dog leads its handler to a stash of illegal drugs. Follow the trail of toxic emotions and shattered dreams and they will lead to the doorstep of a toxic belief about ourselves and the world. The more you understand your core beliefs about yourself the more control you will have in the way you act. Your actions follow our thinking just as day follows night. And this is how we acquire our identity.

Our Identity is the sum total of our beliefs about ourselves that are confirmed and reinforced by our experience.

When believe something is true about ourselves, we act on that belief and that action then confirms and reinforces that belief. This becomes a powerful “feedback loop” that us gives us our identity.

Identity Feedback Loop

Identity Feedback Loop

So the question is what do you believe about yourself? Because that belief will ultimately determine your destiny.

Recently I met with a client who was struggling with what he called an addictive personality. He said he was susceptible to being addicted to pretty much everything, alcohol, drugs, extreme sports, gambling, he even said that he could be addicted to jeeps. So I went to the whiteboard and drew this illustration.

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I pointed to the middle circle and asked, who are you? He couldn’t answer that. So I explained that nature (and our psyche) abhors a vacuum. If we are unsure about our identity then we will fill it with whatever distracts us from the pain of living with that vacuum. The outer circles represent all the areas of our life and these too will be defined by the inner circle. So if we have labeled our self an addict then these other areas will be contorted to reflect that definition. The inner circle thinking will be expressed through the outer circles.

If you want to change your experience of life you must change the way you think about yourself.

So what beliefs should fill that inner circle? What is ultimately true of me? This depends on where you find your authority. If what you believe about yourself is solely a product of your own invention then you can pretty much make up any “truth” and put it in that inner circle. The problem with this method is we have no real assurance that what we are saying about ourselves is true and functional. In essence, we are making it up as we go along with no confidence that it will ultimately lead to a meaningful life. Another challenge is that many of us have been “programmed” with beliefs about ourselves that are decidedly dysfunctional and cause us a lot of pain. Separating ourselves from these toxic beliefs is very hard and made even more difficult if we don’t have an objective reference point to work from.

It is like the man said at the end of his life; “I have spent my whole life climbing the ladder of success only to find out it was leaning on the wrong building”.

An authoritative reference point is essential for developing an identity that will produce the best possible life. But what reference point should we choose? There are many religions and philosophies vying to become the prophet of truth to our generation but I propose that there is really only two at the present time that has risen to the top and is presently locked in mortal combat. This is the Judaeo Christian World View and the Humanistic/Autonomous World View. The latter worldview is grounded in Darwin’s theory and taught in our public schools and universities while the former worldview is the foundation for our nation and western culture. Let me briefly compare and contrast the two.

The Humanistic model is derived from Darwin’s theory and assigns value to an individual in proportion to their ability to adapt to their environment and successfully propagate. (Survival of the fittest) Success is measured by the ability to pass our DNA to another generation and therefore overcome rivals. If we lose this ability to adapt or help others adapt we decrease in value. There is no higher purpose or authority to which we can appeal and find our worth beyond the “law of the jungle”. Therefore, compassion, kindness, and empathy are not preferred traits unless they in some way serve to further the species and can be argued (and often is) a weakness that must be eliminated. (see Nietzsche) We ultimately are left to scratch and claw to the top of the value heap and hope we can remain there. But this is a tenuous philosophy because inevitably, someone stronger (and therefore with greater utilitarian value) comes up the other side to knock us off.

In contrast, the Judaeo Christian view is that worth is intrinsic to man because we were made in “God’s image” and therefore our value is independent of our utilitarian purpose. The smallest and weakest of us has as much value as the greatest and strongest. Our performance does not define our value, rather our performance is an expression of our value. If our performance ceases due to injury, mental incapacity, or any other circumstance it does not diminish our value one iota. Our country was founded on this premise – “All men are created equal”. It is the foundation of our jurist prudence and the cornerstone of our culture. Is it perfectly enforced? No. But it is the ideal with which we built a great and beautiful society. I believe it works because it is true, not it is true because it works. For there are times and places where the powerful seem to have greater value and societies have relegated groups of people to inferior status simply because they don’t conform to group norms or have the necessary qualifications for being a benefit to the community.

With what do I fill the inner circle?

If you accept the Judaeo Christian view of a human’s worth then that circle must be filled with truths that are derived from the revelation given to us by our Creator – the Bible. This is the only reliable and authoritative source for creating a true identity and it must supersede all other opinions, beliefs, feelings, thoughts or ideas. There are many “Christians” and “Jews” who give lip service to the Scriptures and choose to base their identities on other things such as money, power, public opinion, attractiveness, and a myriad of other qualities but all of these fail the most critical test. Do you still have value when they are gone? If you lose value when you grow old or become incapacitated then that is not a true foundation to derive your worth. If you cease to appreciate yourself if you become bankrupt then you have placed your worth in the wrong thing. Why is this important? Because of the first principle I referenced which is your actions will reflect your beliefs. If you think you think these external things are the basis for your worth then you will live in constant fear of losing them and desperately seek happiness in the pursuit of them. We were made for so much more! We were made to find our hope in the eternal unconditional love of God and experience ultimate security in the joy of being in a relationship with him. Every other pleasure pales in comparison with this great purpose.

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator made known through Jesus Christ.
— Blaise Pascal


So who do you think you are … really?

It is a hard battle to secure your identity in absolute truth. Our present culture has sold out to relative truth evidenced by emotions carrying more weight than facts and opinions based simply on feelings. We have all been infected by these lies that want to mold us into thinking we are lesser than we were meant to be. Our culture tells us if we don’t have this, possess that or are following the latest popular craze then something is wrong with us. Many of us grew up in homes where appreciation was only given to us when certain performance standards were met – or in some cases never at all. Maybe you were in a relationship where you were loved only when you met the other person’s needs. All of these examples are insidious lies undermining the absolute truth that you are worthy of being loved for who you are, regardless of performance or conformity to a set of standards. When this truth is absorbed into the fabric of our soul it changes us from the inside out and endues us with a power that not only transforms our thinking but also our actions.

I have created some affirmations that you can use to begin bringing about change in the way you think about yourself. All these affirmations are biblically based with Scriptural references that you can look up. If they don’t “feel” right that’s okay. Often the last bastion of the lies in our life is our emotions. Don’t make truth conform to your feelings. Rather, make your feelings conform to the truth.


Click here to download a 30 day affirmation calendar

If there is anything we at Total Wellness Resource Center can do for you don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Making Sense Out of Your Partners Nonsense

Learn to Decode Your Partner's "Reality"
 

Ever had this happen – Your partner gets upset about something that seems to you like a trifle. So you downplay it or ignore it and then all hell breaks loose. When you pick yourself up off the floor you are left scratching your head wondering, “What just happened here? All I did was …” Your partner wasn’t logical, reasonable or even slightly made a bit of sense so how do you respond? If you’re like most of us you do one of the following.

  • Close your eyes to the illogic and move on
  • Try to engage in a rational, reasonable manner
  • Put your foot down and assert your right to common sense

But none of these options really work, do they? Because –

  • If you close your eyes to it you end up bumping into it over and over again
  • If you try to engage, you end up going down the black hole and lose your way
  • When you put your foot down it just makes the gap between you larger by filling it with resentment.

So what are you to do when there seems like there are no viable options?

When you encounter the irrational remember this – It’s rational in that person’s world, you just need to better understand their world.

Yes, you heard me right. You are dealing with someone who has a different reality than yours so there will be times when their rationale will also be different. If you ever want to communicate – much less have an intimate relationship, you will need to be able to understand their reality.

But you say, “I didn’t sign up to be a part of someone else’s reality!” You did when you entered into the relationship, for every time we enter into a relationship we are choosing to interact with another person’s reality. Think of it like traveling abroad. When you step off the plane you are now entering into a country with a different set of laws and customs. Yes, there will be a lot of similarities to home but there will be a lot of things you don’t understand and may seem illogical.

Okay, now I’m going to throw you a curveball – sometimes your partner won’t even understand their own reality! Yes, that’s right, we all do things, feel things and say things and we are clueless why. That’s because we humans are great at ignoring our emotions and not tending to our hearts. We think we can just push through childhood trauma or ignore our emotional wounds. But they end up coming back to bite us through our feelings and thoughts that often sabotage our lives. We experience “irrational” fears when we attempt to move forward in our career or feelings of shame when we try to engage in close relationships.

“Okay, now I’m really confused. You’re telling me to try to understand the reality behind my partner’s irrational actions and now you’re telling me they may not even know why they are feeling the way they’re feeling? I give up!”

Real relationships are not for wimps! We all need to roll up our sleeves and try to understand our partner’s world as well as help them try to understand their own world. Believe me, there is logic in there somewhere. Here are a couple of examples of illogical logic.

  • A person who continually blows up every relationship that gets too deep even those they desperately desire to intimacy? Irrational right? Wrong! In their world, if you get too close you will find out who they truly are and reject them. They are protecting themselves from that pain.
  • A person who never accepts the promotion at work even though it would mean more money, more opportunity, and much more satisfying work. Irrational right? Wrong! In their world, they are certain that they are incompetent and the promotion would only reveal that fact.

How do you live with illogical logic?

You say to yourself, “This makes sense in their universe, I just need to understand it and maybe help them understand it”

You slow down the conversation and begin to ask clarification questions. For example:

  • “So what is your greatest fear about this?”
  • “Have you felt this way before about other situations?”
  • “What was it like in your family when this happened?”
  • “Help me understand what you need?”

Believe me, I am not saying this is easy. But if you are willing to choose to discover rather than judge there are great rewards for those who want to enter into this level of real relationships.

  

As always, if you are needing any help or I can be of any service just reach out via email at connect@totalwellnesscenter.net.

12 Declarations for Becoming More Assertive

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Many of our clients struggle with low self-esteem which leads to troubled relationships, career problems, depression and high levels of stress. They usually come to us complaining of one or more of these symptoms but it is soon discovered that at the root of their problem is an unhealthy belief about their value, significance, and worth. The usual cause is that they have based their value, significance, and worth on someone else's standards. These standards are external to them and are contingent on the approval of others, their looks, performance and/or social status. In short, they have been working so hard to meet these standards they have lost their own true identity.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is healthy to set high standards for oneself. This is a necessary component of a successful and productive life. The problem occurs when these standards become the basis for  our worth. When this happens our worth rises and falls with the tide of our performance. So let me give you three foundational principles that lead to a healthy self-image and helps us achieve our highest performance and satisfaction.


The first and most important principle is that we ground our identity on a foundation of intrinsic worth. Our value cannot be contingent upon anything external to ourselves. This is fundamental to a good self-image because it gives us a platform for taking risks and overcoming life’s obstacles. It also makes us resilient when we do fail - because everyone fails!

So how do we hold on to this belief when seemingly everything and everyone places human value on something external to ourselves? The only logical way is to appeal to an authority that transcends our own limited judgments. We need to appeal to our Creator. The framers of our government knew this and that is why they made the fact that we were created by God a basis for all our human rights.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
— Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776

 

If we lose this understanding of the absolute worth of man then we are susceptible to choosing one standard over another and creating a hierarchy of value based upon; race, economic condition, attractiveness, intelligence, religion or a myriad of other factors. That doesn’t work for nations (consider Nazi Germany) and it doesn’t work for individuals.


Secondly, we need to accept the fact that we are not perfect. You may say, “I certainly know I’m not perfect”, but how do you deal with your imperfections? If you recoil from them and put up defenses everytime they are exposed then that is evidence that you are still basing your value, worth and significance on your ability to keep an external set of standards.

Please hear me on this, I am not saying you should somehow feel good about your failures. What I am saying is if your value, worth, and significance is given to you by your Creator then your identity is not diminished by your failures and you are free to make adjustments, grow and learn from them.


Lastly, you now have the ability to revel in your strengths and accomplish great things with your abilities without comparisons, pride or judgments. You can do this because you know that they don’t make you better or worse than anyone else it is just a part of who you are.

Those that struggle with low self-esteem usually also struggle with feeling they can be free to be who they truly are. This self-imposed limitation is often learned at a very early age and reinforced by countless interaction over the years. For many, just to speak up for themselves is a traumatic experience.

That is why I have written the Assertive Persons Declaration of Rights. The best way to use this is to review these rights every day (especially the ones that are most difficult to declare) Gradually your brain will adjust to this new way of thinking about yourself through a process called cognitive dissonance. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Remember you have probably held these false beliefs about yourself for decades so give yourself time to rewire your brain.

12 Declaration of Rights For the Assertive Person

  1. I have the right to be wrong without experiencing shame, criticism or rejection.
  2. I have the right to my ideas, values, and dreams without criticism or judgment.
  3. I have the right to ask questions without being shamed.
  4. I have a right to say no without giving a reason that makes sense to other people.
  5. I have a right to my own feelings and not explain them to someone else’s satisfaction.
  6. I have a right to make decisions on my own time schedule.
  7. I have a right to feel good about my accomplishments.
  8. I have a right to make mistakes and not have these mistakes devalue me.
  9. I have a right not to be in a relationship if I believe it is wrong for me.
  10. I have a right to always be treated with respect.
  11. I have a right to respectfully disagree.
  12. I have a right to like what I like and not give a reason for it.  

If there is anything we can do for you please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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A Meditation On the Lord's Prayer

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray he gave them a short, concise prayer that really went to the heart of an authentic conversation with their Heavenly Father. For no reason I can explain, I woke up the other day with a desire to meditate on this prayer and now I would like to share it with you. Be blessed, not because of my thoughts but because God has given us such a beautiful pattern to follow!

Your brother in Christ;

James

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“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:9-13 NIV

 

“Our Father”

Is there anything that can be more beautiful than to be able to claim the Creator of the Universe as our Father? What a privilege! It is beyond our limited capacity to comprehend. Meditate on this relationship you have with the perfect, loving, all-powerful God. You are not just his creation but you are born into his family and given the right to call him your Father. Is there any good thing your perfect Heavenly Father would withhold from you?

He is also “our Father” meaning you have a family. You are not alone but have brothers and sisters who join you in this beautiful family of God. Jesus the Son of God – the God-man who existed for all eternity with the Father is now inviting you into His family to join him as a child of his Father. This is a great mystery and we cannot come close to fully understanding it but what a wonderful contemplation. You will forever have a family that is perfect love, perfect harmony, and perfect truth. This is your identity – receive it.

“In heaven”

Heaven is a real place – even more real than the place you are at this moment. All that you see about you will someday be destroyed but heaven will remain. This is because heaven is the dwelling place of God and He is eternal. Places are important to God. Jesus has made it clear that he is preparing a place for us to be with him. So let your heart long for that place. Set your imagination free to explore its beauty. There is no way we can fully comprehend it but when we stop and contemplate our true home it causes our spirits to be lifted up and hope to rise in our souls. So give yourself over to meditating on that beautiful place that God has prepared for you. He knows you perfectly and has created it with you in mind. It will be perfect.

“Hollowed be your name”

Holy is a concept that we don’t use very often. It means “set apart”, “not common or ordinary” This is a great mystery, that we can at once be so intimate with the Creator of all things and yet he is infinitely unlike us. Steach your soul on this thought; the one who holds a billion, billion stars in place, and holds together every atom of your body, is the one to whom you are addressing. You are speaking to him and he is listening. This thought is humbling - it is good to be humbled when we come into the presence of the God of glory. Let yourself feel the power of Almighty God – give yourself over to the awe of this encounter.

Even the name of God, the word we use to represent Him is holy. It should be set apart for worship and adoration. It should never come flippantly from our mouths or carelessly tossed about in meaningless phrases or derogatory associations. Yes, Jesus taught us that the name, the words we use to describe Almighty God, are to be kept sacred. We live in a culture where nothing, absolutely nothing is sacred, so this concept is very difficult to articulate. But it is a necessary component of a right relationship with God. When faced with the majesty of our God our proper reaction is like Isaiah.

’Woe to me!’” I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’
— Isaiah 6:5 NIV

O Merciful Father, forgive me for making your name commonplace. Forgive me for associating your name with anything that depreciates your great worth. I truly am a person of unclean lips. Touch my lips with the holy fire from the altar and may I honor your holy name always.

“Your kingdom come”

The closer you are to God the more disconnected you become to the world and all its priorities and desires. This is because we are truly citizens of another kingdom and our purpose on earth changes from one set of purposes to a completely different set. As Jesus said …

My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place. 
— John 18:36 NIV

When we pray we are implicitly acknowledging and submitting to another King and the priorities of another kingdom. So why are we so often praying for the priorities of this earthly kingdom? Why are we praying for health, wealth and prosperity when the heavenly kingdom priorities are often exactly the opposite? If we are unsure of the purposes of our true heavenly kingdom we need to look no further than to the example of our King – Jesus.

… have the same mindset as Christ Jesus

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
— Philippians 2:5-8 NIV

We have entered into this kingdom through the new birth and are set to the task of representing our King to a world refuses to acknowledge him and openly rebels from his authority. We must realign our prayer life after the desires of our King. “How do you do that?” you may ask. There is only one way – to deepen your knowledge and love for your King. This is done by a transformation of our hearts through the Spirit of Christ. This is the only way, for apart from this transformation we will never know our true purpose and calling much less be able to pray for kingdom priorities.

O Heavenly Father I confess that I am so often seeking the priorities of this earthly kingdom rather than your priorities. I confess I often pray for comfort rather than endurance, wealth rather than wisdom, happiness rather than humility, popularity rather than bearing the shame of rejection that you bore for me. I often want to be first in this world and am ashamed to admit that it has made me last in your kingdom. I beg you to transform my heart and increase my love and devotion to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and let me love what you love, seek what you seek, crave righteousness, seek your justice and walk humbly in the way of my Master, my Lord, and my King.

“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”

Be assured that the rebellion will not be tolerated forever. Man’s shaking his fist at God’s authority will cease – the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords will be revealed and peace will be restored to the universe. This is a reality beyond realities! When we acknowledge this fact we are putting ourselves on the winning side. It’s like when Théoden the king of Rohan acknowledged Aragorn the true king of Gondor. There was still a desperate battle to be fought and evil to be conquered but the true king would come into his own and claim his rightful place on his throne. Tolkien knew that all great literature was based on the reality that good would eventually win out and evil would be ultimately defeated. So it is with us, we live in the middle of the greatest story where evil seems unassailable and the truth is twisted. Still, there is hope, for God has risen up those who will not bow the knee to the golden statue of King Nebuchadnezzar or shirk their calling to the true King even if it means death. Our confidence does not lie in our own abilities, or strengths. We are supremely confident because God has already written the last chapter of man’s sojourn on earth. The King is coming and this time it will not be as a helpless baby in a manger. He is coming in glory and power to judge the living and the dead. So when we declare our submission to his will to we are simply stating a historical fact.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of lords.
— Revelation 19:11-16 NIV

Lord help me to live in this reality. I confess that the pressures of life and the intoxicating lies of this present world too often lead me from the truth. You are my King, my Lord, and my Life. I desire everything I do, say, think and feel to be in total alignment with your will. All will someday kneel before you and proclaim you as King but I desire to do that here and now, laying all that I am before your feet in praise and worship. You are not only King of Kings and Lord of Lords but I proclaim here and now that you are my King of Kings and my Lord of Lords.

Give us today our daily bread

So much of our lives seem to be spent just trying to live. We spend so much time trying to accumulate stuff and then the rest of the time trying to preserve what we have accumulated.

O Lord I confess I am often anxious and fearful about the future as I become preoccupied with the “necessities” of this life. This is how faithless I am. But you are faithful and true. You are gracious and never withhold a single thing that is good and profitable – because you are good all the time.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 
— Romans 8:31,32 NIV

Father, all I am is yours and all I need comes from your gracious hand. Nothing that I will ever need is neglected and in fact those things that I don’t even know I need you give out of your abundance. I am above all blessed. So I acknowledge you as the giver of all good gifts. You are the sustainer of my life. The air that I breathe and the bread that I eat are all provided by you. My heart is at peace because you are my source for life and I will rest in your loving sufficiency. 

And forgive us our debts

Is it possible for us to completely comprehend the enormous distance between us and a holy and righteous God? No. Any comparison would be wholly inadequate. For example, could we say the distance is similar to an ant and a human? Most would say that’s quite a gap. But understand this, both you and the ant are infinitely more alike than you and God. Both of you are creatures made up of matter and bound by time and space. Both have bodies limited by natural forces and both will die. It is a matter of degree that we are different not a matter of essence. For both are made up of atoms and chemicals. But any comparison with God is completely absurd. He is beyond our knowledge and beyond our comparisons. He has no beginning and no end, no limitations, no needs, no requirements for existence. There is nothing he cannot do nor is there anything he does not know – intimately. So when we depart from his will we are not merely choosing another path we are rebelling against the super-reality of the universe – that being God. This puts us at odds with God and creates a list of offenses that put us in a deeper deficit than can ever be repaid. In short, he can never allow this active state of rebellion to exist in his universe because it is at odds with the essence of who he is. There is only one solution – forgiveness. God must forgive us and make us capable of living in his presence. The miracle of miracles is he grants us the freedom to accept or reject this forgiveness. When we accept his forgiveness, he gives us a new spirit, one that is eternal and alive to God. This is what happens when we call out to God in repentance. He doesn’t just wipe away our sin but he makes us new creatures that are now capable of living in harmony with him.

O Father, thank you for your forgiveness of all my debts. I receive your forgiveness and I accept your Spirit to wash and regenerate me so I can be alive to your will and ways. I could never repay the debt I amassed. But through your Son’s atoning death and resurrection, I now have a new life that makes me dead to the rebellion of this world and alive to eternal life in you.

… as we also have forgiven our debtors.

God calls us to live out in our horizontal relationships what we experience in our vertical one. We are not only to receive his love, forgiveness, mercy, kindness, and goodness but to be a conduit of those same graces to others. In fact, it is evidence of an authentic relationship with God that we treat others as God has treated us.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
— 1 John 4:7

The fruit of an authentic relationship with God is to be like God in all that we do.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
— Acts 4:13 NIV

Peter and John were ordinary men with no special abilities or intellect. However, when filled with the Spirit they took on the characteristics of Jesus which was unnerving to the powerful people in Jerusalem. Clearly, they had been with Jesus and now in this moment when we are with Jesus, we can fully expect that there will be a change in us. Those that are with Jesus will always be different.

O Lord I come into your presence no only to seek your comfort and encouragement but also to be transformed into your image. I want all my interactions in this world to be empowered and motivated by your purpose and priorities. Give me your heart for all I encounter, grant me your wisdom to speak eternal truth, fill me with hope that is anchored in the certainty of your promises. May others see me and be drawn to you. And yes, I am also willing to bear the rejection that comes with my identification with you for if they hated you then they will also hate those who are like you. O Lord make me more like you.

And lead us not into temptation

It is good to be humble, but it’s not easy. To admit to our weakness’ and how easily we fall into temptation is the first step toward maturity. We need to recognize how weak we are in order for us to receive God’s strength, for God’s strength in us is perfected in our weakness.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’
— 2 Corinthians 12:9

God’s grace flows into a life that looks to him for strength rather than relying on our own abilities, talents, intellect or skills. Why is this? Because when we rely on our own strength we cause two things to happen.

  1. We fail to utilize the incredible power of God which is far beyond our own meager abilities. This is like having a billion dollars in the bank and choosing to live homeless on the streets. It makes no sense!
  2. We fail to experience our true purpose which is to bring glory to God. Who gets the glory when we perform in our own strength? We do! But when we are tapping into the infinite power of God and all our activities are infused with his strength then we give him the praise. And he deserves it!

My Lord, I confess that I too often live life in my own strength, relying on my limited understanding, my limited capacity for doing good and my minuscule ability to love. Because of this, I have sought glory for myself and failed miserably to bring you the glory that you deserve. I am weak and I admit it. O Lord be my strength. Fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I can resist the temptation of relying on myself. May your power rest upon me so that you receive all the praise and glory.

but deliver us from the evil one.

We have an adversary. He goes by many names.

  • Father of lies
  • The Devil
  • Murderer
  • Lucifer
  • Deceiver

Jesus called him “the evil one” for truly he is. He is more powerful than you or I can imagine and capable of performing wonders that impersonate God. He is not a trifle and ignoring him will not make him go away. In fact, one of his greatest strategies is to hide his works so that none see “behind the curtain” and instead are distracted by the façade.

Jesus ends his prayer with a warning that we need deliverance from the evil one. He should know for he had a face to face encounter with him and would deal with him many times before he finished his work on earth.

The Apostle Paul also recognized that his true enemies were not the those who were threatening his life and standing in opposition to his ministry. Those were only the puppets of the true adversary.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
— Ephesians 6:12 NIV

If we fail to recognize where our true battle lies we do so at great risk. We need to be delivered from the evil one – and our deliverance is awesome!

… because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
— 1 John 4:4 NIV

We have the very power of God living in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our ability to overcome the evil one is solely in the utilization of this power. Our foe is a defeated adversary, but his power is in deception and lies. As we proclaim the truth that is revealed through the Holy Spirit, (“… he will guide you into all truth” John 16:23) we will be able to not only stand against the devil but thwart his purposes and bring freedom to those who are held captive by his lies. God has defeated our adversary in the empty tomb. In this confidence, and through this power we shall stand.

O Lord I confess that I have often been deceived by the evil one, believing that the enemy was a person, circumstance or even something internal in me. I have tried to fix myself and those around me with no success. So now I come before you and recognize that my true enemy is, “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Help me to recognize his strategies and to be aware of his deceptive schemes. O Lord I now go forth boldly with the confidence that your Holy Spirit abides in me and your power rests upon me to accomplish whatever you call me to do. 

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Expectatitus: The Disease that Stole Christmas!

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Are you without someone you love this Christmas season? Are you longing for a tradition that will not be happening this year? Do all the decorations and happy wishes make you wish that it were January? If so, you’re not a Grinch you probably have a bad case of Expectatitus.

Other names for this disease are the holiday blues or a bad case of nostalgia. It comes on when things are not the way they are supposed to be and our dream for that “perfect Christmas” doesn't come true. When this happens we are in danger of catching the disease Expectatitus.

Expectatitus: A disease of the spirit that is often caught around major holidays and special events when expectations are not met. Symptoms include a general malaise brought on by an unsuccessful attempt to recreate a past experience or tradition. Below is a symptom checklist

Diminished Vision:  Those afflicted become blind to the true joys of the moment and the beauty all about them.

Difficulty Hearing: New ideas and creative solutions are not heard

Negative Speech Patterns:  These and other phrases are common to those afflicted with Expectatitus “I wish it was like it was”, or “If only __________ were here”. Or “we’ve always done it that way” 

Perception Problems: Dilutions regarding a perfect past and flawless expectations are experienced by those afflicted with Expectatitus.   

Warning: Expectatitus is a progressive disease that ultimately affects the heart.

The Heart becomes rigid and obsessed with the past and unable to find contentment, peace, and joy in the present experiences.

If you or someone you know is showing any of these symptoms then it is critical that you take immediate action because this disease is both highly communicable and often genetic. Those with the disease spread it to others causing them to exhibit the same symptoms. It is also passed down from generation to generation through creating unalterable and pointless traditions.

Is there a cure?

Yes! It requires one to put aside their own preconceptions and unbending expectations to focus on the true nature of the event. In the case of Christmas, the afflicted person must stop making Christmas about what and more about who. The ability to be flexible, and focus on the true meaning of Christmas is essential to full recovery.

Mary: a case study of one who did not contract Expectatitus

The circumstances of Jesus’ birth was not at all what Mary had in mind for her first child. Nine months pregnant she was forced to travel hundreds of miles to a town where she knew no one. When she arrived she began to have contractions but discovered there wasn’t even a corner of a room for her to have her baby. An animal stall became her delivery room, her attendees were the displaced animals and the welcoming party consisted of a band of shepherds; societies outcasts. This wasn't even close to what she would have dreamt of much less hoped for. So how did she deal with this situation? The record shows that Mary took it all in and this was her attitude.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
— Luke 2:19

Mary put aside her expectations and experienced the wonder of the moment. Even if she didn’t quite understand the significance of what was happening. She kept herself open to these experiences and in the coming years gained greater awareness of the miracle of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.

So that is the cure to Expectatitus? It is not in the forsaking of our dreams and traditions but rather in being open to all that is new around us. It is the ability to focus on what is truly important. So during this Christmas season let’s do what Mary did and treasure the unimaginable gift of God in the birth of Jesus and make our goal to share our love and joy to all around us. No matter what our circumstances.

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Does “Turning the Other Cheek” Really Work?

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I was sitting with a client yesterday who was alone even though they had originally come with their spouse for marriage counseling. She told me things were going better in her marriage and she wasn’t quite sure why. Our recent sessions had been focused on how she responded to unfair, unkind and hurtful situations in her marriage. She had been focusing on not escalating the battle of words and when she was ill-treated to respond with kindness.  My thoughts immediately went to the words of Jesus.   

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
— Matthew 5:38-41 NIV

When Jesus said these words the prevailing wisdom was that when someone hit you, you needed to hit them back harder. (that philosophy is still very common) Jesus was expressing a radical ethic that has its roots in trusting in an all-powerful and just God who will ultimately bring down judgment on the wicked and reward the innocent.

But there is another very practical reason to employ this new ethic. It works.  It works because it is based on the way humans relate to each other. This should not be surprising. I have found that EVERYTHING God has said we should do is both empirically true and relationally effective.

That is why my client is experiencing greater success in her relationship.

The predictable pattern is to respond in kind to others. When someone is nasty to us we respond by being nasty to them. If they are kind to us we respond by returning the kindness. In other words, the old “eye for an eye” ethic. And as someone once said if we live by the “eye for an eye” ethic everybody will be blind. But if we are maligned we respond in kindness and when treated harshly we are gentle the whole dynamic of the relationship is turned on its head. The downward cycle of aggression and retaliation is broken. How do you stay angry with someone who simply refuses to return the anger? How do you continually criticize and malign someone who refuses to return the insults? You simply can’t. Either the dynamic in the relationship changes or the oppressor gives up and finds another victim to justify their behavior.

Please hear me on this, I am not talking about physical or emotional abuse. It is not right to allow unchecked aggression to be directed toward you or anybody else. If this is the case then you need to seek help to correct the situation and/or get separation from the abuser.

I am referring to those arguments and personality conflicts that are common in most marriages and dissolve into long-standing resentments and perpetual arguments.

This new way of being in a relationship is not easy – in fact, it is practically impossible apart from a powerful spiritual transformation of the heart. It is also not a quick fix cure. The aggressor is not likely to suddenly “see the light” and change their pattern of behavior overnight. But for those who decide to walk as Jesus walked there are awesome rewards waiting for them. Here are a few.

  • The soul-destroying cancer called resentment is reduced or eliminated
  • The potential for developing reconciliation is vastly increased
  • Harmful conflict is greatly shortened and vastly reduced
  • Intimacy with God is deepened. (whenever we choose to obey the words of our Lord we deepen our love for him) John 14:15
  • We become more open to examining our own hearts and correcting our own faults
  • We set an example to other family members of how to deal with difficult people and situations

Again, this is not easy to do – especially if there is a long-standing pattern of tit for tat conflict. But it is so worth the effort to escape the hopeless maze of unending struggles.

As always if there is anything we can do for you or if you have any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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Don't Step On My Dream!

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Ever wonder why we argue? Or as Rodney King said, “Why can't we all just all get along?” John Gottman, the world-renown relationship research psychologist, has given us significant insight into human conflict. He believes that most of our conflict comes from our vision for the life we desire to live. In other words, it is about the dreams we have for the future. We all have the way we think our lives should be and when that “reality” is challenged it creates turmoil in our lives. Here’s an example:

Kathy and Pete argue about money all the time. (does this sound familiar?) Every time Kathy goes to buy something she knows that she’s going to get the third degree from Pete.

“What do you need that for?”

“Can’t you find it on sale?”

“Do we really need more stuff around the house?”

And on and on and on …

So Kathy goes shopping with a chip on her shoulder (or rather Pete on her shoulder) and Pete anxiously scans the online bank account looking for the next “frivolous” purchase. When the inevitable happens and Kathy buys something a fight breaks out all over again. They think they are stuck in the same argument about money but they would be wrong. They are not arguing about money – in fact, money has very little to do with their argument. It is actually about their vision for their lives.

They are arguing about conflicting dreams!

Pete came from a family where there was little security. They were always on the verge of collapse. To him, money means security, safety, and stability. Something he desperately needed as a child.

Kathy came from a family where money was of little consequence since it was in abundance. To her, money is a source of fun, happiness and a means of making wonderful memories.

So when Kathy spends money Pete’s stomach gets tight and he feels his dream of security is being threatened. When Kathy hears Pete complain about her spending all she sees is the crushing of her dream for a beautiful life. No wonder they fight, their dreams are attacking each other!

Here are three things we need to know about our dreams. 

  1. We always fight to preserve our dreams and when we do we often fall into one of these three traps.
  2. Like Pete and Kathy, we often don’t realize this is what we are doing so we have no chance of resolving the conflict.
  3. When we fight for our dreams we are often not in a good position to deal with reality. Our dreams may be fantasies and actually hurt us if we pursue them.

When we fight to preserve our dreams we are in no place to understand and honor the dreams of others and therefore we lose out on true intimacy; not to mention we end up sustaining a perpetual argument.

Dreams are real, they are the golden door to discovering the real you, so let’s take a deep breath and find a better way forward. The reason why you are the way you are and love the things you love is due to the dreams you hold in your heart. Knowing them will give you exquisite insight into where conflict arises in your world. And knowing your loved one's dreams will help you create intimate connections with them.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and others. Call them dream catchers …

  1. What do I expect from life?
  2. What would an ideal day look like?
  3.  When I die what would I like my legacy to be?
  4. Who am I most afraid of disappointing? Why?
  5. When are the times I am most frustrated?
  6. Who are my heroes? What do I most admire most about them?
  7. When I think about my childhood, what were those things that were most magical for me?
  8. When I think about my childhood, what were the things that hurt me most?

Our dreams can be elusive but they are well worth capturing for they hold the key to nurturing beautiful relationships with ourselves and others. Take some alone time this week and answer these questions. Plus, if you want to really make some progress in your relationships take some time to sit down with those you love and see if you can catch their dreams too.

As always, if we can be of any help to you please don’t hesitate to reach out. Please join our mailing list to make sure you get all of our posts and blogs. 

Happiness Truly is a Matter of the Heart

What do you really desire in life? What keeps you up at night and gets you up early in the morning? What do you clutch onto so hard that you will protect it with your last ounce of strength?

That is your treasure and that is also where your heart is.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
— Matthew 6:21 NIV

In my work, I see a lot of people who are desperately trying to hold on to something that is not giving them the life they desire. It could be money, relationships, a career or score of other things that seem to melt away the tighter they clutch on to them. The problem is those “things” never satisfy the deepest longings of our heart. I am not advocating quitting your job or leaving your relationships, what I believe we need to do is to no longer see those things as the fulfillment of our desires. In fact, the more we try to make them do that the more miserable we make ourselves.

An example of this is money.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs
— 1 Timothy 6:10 NIV

The point Paul is making in this verse is that when we pursue (love) that which cannot satisfy our souls we end up doing ourselves harm – akin to stabbing ourselves.

God knows we need money, and careers and homes – but we were made for something much more satisfying than this stuff. We were made for God himself.

When we “wonder” it often starts innocently. We become delighted by some new toy or someone strokes our ego. Pretty soon we’re saying this feels good … I want more. So we start chasing this new shiny object and then it happens. That object becomes our treasure rather than the one who ultimately gives all good gifts.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
— Matthew 7:11 NIV

Is there anything that we need that he is not willing to give us?

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
— Romans 8:32 NIV

This is a call for deep reflection. I confess I am guilty of seeking the gift rather than the giver – of longing for the resource rather than making the source of all blessings my heart’s desire.

Could this be why there is so much depression, anxiety and relational brokenness in our lives? Could we be deceived into believing the lie that something other than our Creator can satisfy our deepest longing?

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Blaise Pascal

"There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator made known through Jesus Christ.” 

So are you saying, James, that we’re not supposed to desire anything but God? No, I am saying that we are not to desire anything MORE THAN God. And when we receive what we desire we are to immediately thank him for what we have received.

God has no problems with us asking him for … whatever. But like the excellent father he is, he withholds the right to give us only what is best for us. If we become enamored with the shiny things of this world and he knows that they will cause us to wander off into places that will cause us harm, then like any good father he will withhold these things. Wouldn’t you?

Ask for whatever you wish and if your dearest desire is to honor the Lord and bless him with your life, it will be irrelevant whether you receive it or not because he will give you the ultimate desire of your heart. Your soul will be abundantly satisfied. And isn’t that what we truly crave?

Prayer of reflection

O Lord, I come to you seeking to open my heart to your gaze. Look deeply into my longings Lord and see if there is anything that I desire more than you. Search my heart Lord and reveal any attachments to whatever is not you. You are my source for all that I need. You have promised to graciously give me whatever is necessary. Help me to take my eyes off of all the “shiny things” in this world and fix them upon you. I confess I am so easily distracted. You know all things and you also know that my deepest, passionate desire it to bring you honor and glory in my life. Create in me a steadfast spirit that will live this desire in every area of my life.

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"Talking To The Hand" Doesn't Work - And Here's Why

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Ever get hurt by what someone said or did so badly that you close down and stop communicating? It’s a bit like touching a hot stove and then quickly withdrawing your hand because, as we all know, only crazy people would leave their hand on a hot stove, right?

That’s exactly what I’m going to propose you do.

Of course, I’m not talking about a hot stove – I am talking about the courage to find insight when you’re emotionally triggered.  For many of us, our “knee-jerk” reaction to being hurt is to pull away and become silent. This causes the other person to either press for a response or withdraw wondering, “what just happened here?”.

The bottom line is that nothing gets better when we choose the tactic of; "talk to the hand 'cause the face ain't listening". The argument may blow over and the status quo return but the next time you touch the “hot stove” the pain returns and this time it brings with it the accumulated unresolved hurt from past injuries.

 John Gottman, the founder of the renown Gottman Marriage Therapy, calls this stonewalling and lists this approach to conflict as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and a major factor in failing relationships.

But like most relational patterns it is difficult to break because it feels like we’re preserving our life but in actuality we are draining the life out of our relationships. Getting hurt is inevitable. Relationships always trigger emotional wounds and the closer the relationship the deeper the hurt.  But relationships also provide us the greatest opportunity for finding  healing for these wounds, if we don't run away from the conflict.

You want me to do what? Can’t you see that everything inside of me says to run?

It is exactly for that reason we must stay in the relationship and find healing. That pain you are feeling is a giant neon sign pointing to the place of your brokenness. Relationships have a way of pointing us to these places – what we do with this pain will determine whether we find wholeness or remain broken.

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Stonewalling keeps us stuck in our unresolved, and unhealed wounds

Next time you experience a painful encounter in your relationship, instead of pulling away try creating a new healing pattern. Here are some steps that may help.

  1. Don’t engage when you’re emotionally distraught. This condition is called being “flooded” and it is impossible for you to have a rational conversation because your brain is “flooded” with chemicals from your sympathetic nervous system. Check your heartbeat, if it is racing over 100 beats per minute (80 if you are athletic) then take 20 minutes and breathe until you can return to a calm emotional state.
  2. When you do speak about your hurt, start gently and use only I statements. Talk about how you feel not about how they “made you feel”.
  3. Avoid criticism at all costs. When we criticize we are giving up responsibility for your own feelings and blame the other person for our reaction. This will only create defensiveness in the other person and dis-empower you.
  4. Look for deeper causes for your pain. Ask yourself some probing questions:
  • Why am I so disturbed by this?
  • Does this feel similar to something from my past?
  • How does it affect the way I see myself?

If the knot is too tight for you to untie consider getting professional help - don't stay stuck in your unresolved pain. Life is too short for that!

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Is Gratitude the Cure for Anxiety?

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It is a fact that gratitude is a powerful way of reprograming our brains to enhance our emotions and improve our overall physical health. It is one of the keys to longevity and is creates powerful, life affirming relationships. When we are in a state of active gratitude we are less likely to be anxious, fearful, depressed or hopeless. We are also open to new perspectives and possibilities that are otherwise closed doors to us.

All this is a fact – proven over and over again through empirical studies. But still many of us find that gratitude eludes us. We struggle to remain positive in the face of so much that is negative in our world.

That is why I am here to say if you are waiting to be grateful until you “see” things to be grateful for then you will never experience the life altering effects of gratitude.

Gratitude is a discipline we must learn – it does not happen naturally. If you want the positive properties of gratitude you are going to need to work at it. And make no mistake, it is work because your brain is trained to focus upon whatever it perceives as danger – even when the danger is not even a remote possibility. That riot in the south, that shooting in New York, that famine in North Africa are all terrible events but they pose no danger to you – but a part of your brain doesn’t know that. So it directs you to those news stories because it is trying to protect you, and in the process, you are being filled with worry, fear, and anxiety.  In fact, anxiety becomes our cultural norm. And we wonder why our lives are so unsettled and we carry this a vague sense of apprehension wherever we go.

The first step to developing a life of gratitude is to turn off the flood of negativity that you expose yourself to everyday. This does not mean that you become uninformed or ignorant of the world around you, but that you recognize the effect this information is having on you. Put the news in perspective and don’t let it become your reality. Did you know that according to all governmental measurements incidences of violence is down over the past years? In fact, there has been less killing and mayhem in the world than in previous generations. But you would never know that  by watching the news. That is because mayhem sells advertising. Media producers know your brain is constantly scanning for anything that could be remotely dangerous and given the choice of watching a video of riots in the streets or puppies playing in the water, guess what the vast majority of viewers will watch?

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Be careful what you focus on for it is what you will become.

So limit your exposure to horrid, evil, vile and cruel information. You cannot change the situation but exposure to it will change you. If you must watch it then be aware of how it will affect you and determine to do something to engage in the situation in a positive way. In that way, you become active in bringing hope and healing to a situation rather than it bringing anxiety and fear into your life.   

Second Step: Learn to focus on what is good in your life and express thankfulness for it. This may be in the form of a gratitude list or just deciding periodically to find 10 things to be thankful for. Remember it is a discipline – it may be hard to turn your brain from the negative but you can do it if you want to. The benefits are amazing!

For the past couple of years, I have made it a habit of keeping a positive life-affirming journal. It has transformed my life and been part of the healing process from a lifelong tendency toward depression. I encourage you to try it. But even if journaling is not your thing find a way to make gratitude a daily discipline.

As always if there is anything we can do for you please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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What I Learned About Relationships From Walter - My Rescue Dog.

LOVE DOESN'T HAVE TO STINK ......

Wonderful Walter 2017

Wonderful Walter 2017

This is Walter – he is a 105 pound Rotty/Shepherd that we adopted from a local rescue, Whiskers and Tails in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.  We quickly learned he loves to chase squirrels and eat all insects that fly -  including wasps. In fact,  he has a little Ninja that makes up his unique quirky personality.  When it gets dark he loves to patrol the back yard protecting us from … well only he knows and he’s sworn to the Ninja code of silence.

The other night he was patrolling the perimeter and we heard an unusual commotion so I ran out to see what was happening. It didn't take long to figure out what was going on because within less than a second I smelled it …... A SKUNK.   Yes, an unsuspecting Walter had come face to face....well, not exactly face to face but you get the picture, of the smelly works delivered by Mr. Skunk.

Quickly into the bathtub (ever bathed a stinky 100-pound dog 10:30 at night?).  We quickly surfed the internet for the "magic" formula to remove skunk odor and found a website that "guaranteed" the homemade solution would work.  My wife started mixing the potion and I got to work on Walter.  One hour later we had a 100 pound dog that reeked of wet fur and skunk wildly running through the house.   It has now been over a week and guess what – Walter still stinks. And not only Walter but whatever Walter touched smells too!

So now I can hear you thinking … “so sorry for Walter but what the heck does that have to do with relationships?”

Thank you for asking. 

Sometimes the stink from a fight, a careless word, or thoughtless action can stink up a relationship for days, weeks or even years. It often only takes a small thing for that odor to arise and stink up our relationship all over again. I admit it’s hard to remove the odor of a hurt. The pain lingers long like Walter’s smell. But unlike poor Walter, we actually have a choice how long we will allow our relationships to be polluted by these things.

After all who wants to smell bad to their partner?

Here are four steps you can take.

  1. Admit that you were hurt: Sometimes our pride gets in the way of our healing. We think we shouldn’t feel what we’re feeling so we go into denial mode but in reality, we’re just allowing the wound to infect other areas of our lives.
  2.  Forgive: Forgiveness is a unilateral is a gift we give to ourselves so that we don’t carry the heavy burden of resentment and anger throughout our life. Forgiveness does not mean that you minimize the wound – only that you choose to heal.
  3. Reconcile: If possible share with your partner how you were hurt and attempt to find a new way of relating to each other. Keep in mind that this requires that you both be willing to see each other’s perspective to get beneath the surface. In every harmful human interaction, there is always something deeper that is causing it. When this is understood it will change the whole dynamic of the relationship and create an opportunity for healing and avoiding entering back into the conflict.
  4. Let it go: Yes, we can also choose to let go of whatever it was that is stinking up our relationships. This means refusing to bring it up … ever!

Walter is smelling much better now, okay, he still smells like a dog but not like a skunk. The real question is what do you and I smell like? 

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Harmed by Your Past? Five Steps to Start Healing.

WHEN OUR PAST GETS IN THE WAY OF OUR FUTURE.....IT IS TIME TO ADDRESS IT HEAD ON..

As a therapist, my job is to help people get unstuck from their problems and overcome the obstacles in their lives, and contrary to the prevailing belief, I do not enjoy talking about my client’s mothers. But I do have a passion for people experiencing freedom and joy in their lives so this is what I tell my clients:

When our past gets into our future we need to deal with it.

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Is your past in the way of  your future? 

The truth is, our past always gets into our future. Some of us were blessed with parents, teachers, and mentors that spoke into us beautiful life affirming truths that empower us to live full and prosperous lives. This is a positive example of having our past affect our future.

However, some of us did not get that kind of input when we were young. We were fed on a diet of lies and treated in a way that hindered our development. This is when we need to talk about mothers, as well as other influential people and experiences from our past.

But how do we know if our past is hanging us up? It’s not as if our parents are going to come to us and say; “you know that thing I said about you when you were five, I was wrong!” No, they are probably just as unconscious about how they injured you as you are about how you were injured. These kinds of wounds rarely reveal themselves plainly so they can be understood and dealt with. Rather, they stealthily sabotage our relationships, careers and emotional well-being. Sometimes we need to look backward to go forward.

So how do you know when you need to look backward to go forward? Here are some clues.

  • You have a recurring argument with your spouse that never resolves
  • You have an over reaction to something someone said or did.
  • You are anxious, depressed or fearful for no good reason
  • You can’t find the motivation to do the things you want to do

These are some symptoms of having a harmful past.  If so, here are five things you can do about it.

  1. Become aware: Don’t dismiss unexplained emotions or irrational feelings just because they are uncomfortable.
  2. Challenge the status quo: Our childhood experiences and programming often becomes our “dysfunctional normal”.  Challenge what is not working in your life.
  3. Ask yourself this question: What belief is at the core of this feeling or circumstance?
  4. Seek help: We often can’t see what we can’t see, a third party perspective can break us out this.
  5. Don’t give up: Replacing past harmful programming is often a long, slow process. Most of us have been living with these lies for years – they aren’t going to give up their stranglehold on us easily. Be persistent. What your mind learned it can also unlearn.

There is freedom if you choose to be courageous in seeking it. You’ve only got one life. Don’t let someone or something from your past keep you from living it to the fullest

 

With Love, 

James

If you are looking for a way to jump start feeling better about yourself. Check out

10 Days Toward Learning to Love Yourself. 

One Thing Which Can Make Your Life Successful

I know that my title seems a bit over the top, but I am tired of talking about creating successful strategies to people who have absolutely no capacity to put them to action. So, I’m going to get really basic and real simple.

What you believe about yourself and the universe are the most crucial pieces of knowledge you will ever possess. They are the common denominators in all events, relationships, and goals in your life.

  • Overcoming failures is completely dependent on your view of yourself
  • Pushing through trials and enduring through prolonged times of frustration is a factor of how you see yourself.
  • Your level of satisfaction with living is dependant upon understanding yourself in context to the universe

Yet, I find so few of us really comprehend this fact. Instead, we are continually looking to other people or circumstances as the arbitrator for our lives.

When something bad happens. (and it happens to everyone)

  • Some resign themselves to their fate and give up
  • Some see it as an insurmountable obstacle and choose a lesser path
  • Some see it as a temporary setback and press on

The only difference in these responses in how one sees themselves and what they believe about the universe.

Your view of yourself is a consequence of how you view the universe.

I have had the privilege of traveling the world and in some places, I have seen unimaginable suffering. When asked why this is so the answer I receive is something like this, “it is their fate”.

  • Karma
  • God
  • The random nature of the universe

It all comes down to whether the universe is cooperating with or in opposition to our success. This will determine whether we have the internal resources to achieve the life we desire to live. If that answer is our lives are under the control of some external force then the next logical step is to forfeit our dreams and abandon our hopes because we are powerless to achieve them.

Some would challenge me on this and say, “You’re a Christian – aren’t you a fatalist?

I say no. In fact, it is entirely the contrary. Since I believe in a supreme being who has demonstrated his great love and compassion through the life of Jesus Christ I am convinced that the universe is not an obstacle to my happiness - that I have the ultimate victory no matter what circumstance or peril I may find myself in. In fact the present obstacles serve a tutors to mold my character and deepen my faith. Therefore no person, no event and nothing else in this world can thwart my inevitable triumph as promised by God.

So you see – my self-confidence is derived from my view of a good and loving God and anything and everything must yield to this truth. Therefore ...

  • When I become discouraged I return to the belief that God is my helper and he has and will provide all that I need.
  • When I am doubting my own wisdom he has said that I can come to him with any question and he will give me understanding.
  • When I am feeling alone and rejected he has said that I am unconditionally loved
  • When I am disbelieving my own value he reminds me that he died for me and I have infinite worth.

What other religion, philosophy, or world view can offer this confidence?

So the bottom line is this.

As goes your view of the universe so goes your view of yourself.

As goes your view of yourself so goes your life.

Next time you feel stymied by a situation in your life or paralyzed by debilitating emotions look to where your confidence lies. Look at your view of God and integrate that view into your identity. 

If I can be of any help you to you don't hesitate to reach out

James

Is Your "Hair" Hindering Your Happiness

Letting Go of Your Obsession

I am a cleaner … I like things clean. But compared to my wife I am a rank amateur! She cleans things like the top of door frames. (Who does that?) And when she’s done the house smells of bleach (Her cleaning weapon of choice) When house cleaning time comes my assignment is the bathrooms. Don’t know why this is but I seem to have a gravitational pull toward the toilet. In fact, in a former life, I received a mug award from Starbucks for my toilet cleaning prowess. And that would be fine with me but there is one thing, the bane of my cleaning existence, which I can’t seem to defeat. That one thing is hair!

My wife has an abundance of hair and we have a dog that never stops shedding. So I get the white porcelain spotless, I have floors gleaming and I step back to survey my handiwork. Bam! I spot it, strands of hair casually draping themselves on the toilet seat giving me that “you can’t get me” look! So I take out my rag prepare to do battle when I notice that my rag has hair clinging to the fibers. So I go to wash the rag in the “clean” sink and bam! The hair attaches its self to the sink. At this point, I choose the surgical approach and pluck one by one the individual strands and when I do they seem to magnetically attach themselves to my fingers. So I shake my fingers violently over the trash can only to have them fly off and land again on the toilet seat. It’s discouraging and demotivating, after all, if I can’t get it really clean what’s the use?

Have I told you how much I hate hair? I am seriously considering a Shandade O’Connor/ Yule Brenner look in our home! 

Why do a few strands of hair bother me so much? The bathroom is 99.99% clean – so what’s up with this obsession with 100%?

Then, I think about the “few strands of hair” in other areas of my life that I may obsess about.  The areas that aren’t perfect and will likely never be perfect. Some of these strands  are the people around me. These “strands of hair” mostly consist of my desire for others to be, think or act a certain way. 

But most of these “strands” consist of my internal focus on the way I think I “should” be. You know what I’m talking about. I should be more disciplined, focused, social, productive and on and on and on. I am constantly finding strands of hair on the white porcelain of my soul and I can’t seem to pluck them off. That’s because they are always going to be there. For just as I have hair messes in the bathroom because I am a living breathing imperfect being who lives with other living breathing imperfect beings who produce hair!  We are always going to have areas in our lives that are messy.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to work on cleaning up the messes but when we fixate on the “strands of hair” in our lives we end up losing perspective and sacrificing our happiness because - perfection is impossible.

So I’m going to make a new resolution. I am going to celebrate the beautiful parts of my life and not fixate on the messy parts.  I am going to pluck the hairs when I see them but not obsess when they are not entirely eliminated. I am going to give myself grace and mercy and the confidence that life is a journey, not a destination.

Somehow, when I do this it gives me greater strength to deal with the messy parts and lifts the heavy load of expectations off my shoulders so I can truly enjoy the awesome beauty of this precious moment.

What “strands of hair” are you living with in your life? What things are you fixating on and making a condition for happiness? 

We would love to be a part of your journey toward Total Wellness. Let us know if we can help.

 

Untying The "Nots"

Having Trouble Moving Forward, Or

  • Overcoming persistent procrastination?
  • Getting  out of the daily funk of feeling like a failure?
  • Breaking out of unfulfilling relationships?

Maybe you have tied yourself up with too many "Nots"

Well, let me ask you a question - Have you ever found yourself talking to yourself using self-limiting words like …

  • I’m not smart
  • I’m not attractive
  • I’m not one of the lucky ones

That’s what I call tying ourselves up in “nots”. These nots are incredibly strong. They keep us bound to a small unfulfilling life that leaves us feeling frustrated, unsuccessful and often hopelessly depressed.

These nots may have been originally tied by someone early in our lives like a parent, teacher or another powerful figure but each time we tell ourselves another “not” we cinch it tighter and tighter until we can’t move.

The most important thing we need to know is that we can also untie the nots in our life. Yes, you and I have the ability to replace the nots with a “what if” or a “why not”. Nots are not unraveled overnight or through reciting some positive affirmation. They must be pulled apart strand by strand until the not becomes a can and the limitless possibilities of your life open up to you like a beautiful story.

I know … it sounds like a fantasy but fairy tales do come true and people are finding freedom from their nots every day, and so can you!

You can start this journey by beginning to hack away at those nots in your life when you catch yourself pulling the rope tighter. Try this:

Stop – Yeah that’s right just stop telling yourself the same crap you’ve told yourself all your life.

Think – What do you want to be true of your life? What do you want to be your new reality?

Replace – Make that the content of the new things you say to yourself.

Okay, I know it’s not that easy but this is a start and everyone has to start somewhere. My life is dedicated to helping you (and me) untie the nots in our lives and to live the life we were meant to live. So If I can help let me know.

Meanwhile, hang out on our new Facebook Page “Get Real - Relationships” for more stuff about living without nots.

Love you!

Stop the Name Calling - It's Killing Your Marriage

One common characteristic of marriages that are floundering is the seemingly unavoidable obsession to classify, characterize and otherwise categorize your spouse. This can come in the form of assigning a character trait or giving your spouse a mental health diagnosis. Does this sound familiar?

  • I think they have ADD they can’t get anything done!
  • My spouse definitely has OCD – they are obsessed with doing certain things only one way
  • They are a narcissist – they always want it their own way!

Or sometimes we put on them a label because they did something once.

  • You didn’t tell me the whole truth so you’re a liar
  • You’re late … you’re always late
  • You forgot … you never remember anything

It is easy for us to fall into this trap. One human characteristic that has proven to be extraordinarily successful is our ability to look at something and to analyze it – this ability helps us to understand the world around us and make sense of how to relate to it. But when it comes to relationships it doesn’t work very well.

The simple reason for this is when we put a label on our spouse we cease to see them as a person and start relating to them by that label. We begin to look at everything they do as a confirmation of our label and create a filter through which we only see our spouse by that particular character flaw.

Nobody likes labels! When we put them on people (especially our spouse) it keeps us from asking sincere questions and connecting on deeper levels. It also triggers a defense mechanism in our partner that causes them to withdraw, attack or even worse put a label on you. They start thinking like this …

  • You’re always critical
  • You never listen
  • You’re putting me in a box
  • You never forgive

So what can be done? Here are four suggestions:

  1.  Resist the labeling: Step back and ask the question; “what is causing this behavior – what do they want or need that they are trying to get through acting like this?”
  2. Look at yourself: Am I doing anything that is creating this behavior? What part am I responsible for?
  3. Consider your standards: Have I set the bar of performance too high? We are all flawed human beings. Relationships need grace, mercy and a heavy dose of forgiveness to grow. If your standards are too high then you will become the relationship police in your home and that relationship is never satisfying.
  4. Talk openly and honestly with your spouse about what is bothering you. Ask them to help you understand why they are the way they are and really listen with your heart to their response. It could be that they are wounded in this area and really need your love and understanding to help them heal. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing if we became part of the healing process rather than deepening the wound?

If your relationship is suffering please reach out to us. We offer a free initial consultation. Just fill out this form and we will contact you to schedule your free consultation.

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Alone – In a Relationship

The Principle of New Beginnings

The first step toward breaking free from the habits and patterns of the past is to believe you can. I know this statement may seem blatantly obvious and it would be easy to gloss over it looking for some deeper wisdom but I strongly encourage you to pause and reflect on this principle. Or as Henry Ford said:

Have you ever been thwarted in a goal that you firmly believed you could accomplish? When I say believe I don’t mean that you mouthed some words or half-heartedly put yourself to it. What I mean by belief is that deep in your soul you knew that you could do it. It was never a matter of if but only when. Those of us that bring this kind of belief to a challenge will overcome any obstacle to realize our vision. That belief is the fertile soil from which dreams germinate, sprout, and produce lasting fruit.

So the first attitude on our way to a richer, fuller and more satisfying relationship is the ability to believe you can obtain that relationship. But that’s not so easy – right? You may have had years of discouragement and you see before you a mountain of obstacles. The inertia of the past may be holding you down to the point that you feel powerless to believe your circumstances can change. I know what you are feeling – I have been there myself. This is how we get stuck. When we feel helpless and hopeless we perpetuate our circumstances and remain in our misery.

What I am asking you to do is put aside all the reasons you can’t have the relationship you desire and create a space for the possibility that your life can be different. At this point you don’t need to ask how change will happen, only that the potential for change is possible. Robert F. Kennedy quoted George Bernard Shaw in his 1968 speech and expresses this exact principle.

Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?
— Robert F. Kennedy

Can you say why not? Can you suspend your disbelief and become open to the prospect of change. History is filled with examples of those who were able to apply their creative energies to something that had yet to be experienced; only dreamed.  In fact I dare say that no great work or accomplishment has ever come about without someone daring to dream it first.

But with that dream comes what can best be described as the death of that dream. These are all the reasons why your dream cannot come true. Here are a few …

  • I have tried and nothing works
  • My spouse is never going to change
  • I’m tired and don’t have the strength to make things change
  • I don’t know what to do
  • I can’t see how things could be different

If these (and I’m sure there are others) become our focus they will be the death of any new possibility and strangle the initial stages of change before there is a chance to grow. So I ask you to change those negative affirmations and replace them with new inspiring ones.   

  • Today is a new day with new possibilities
  • My spouse in no impediment to my happiness
  • I have unlimited energy to do whatever I need to do
  • Wisdom will come to me when I need it
  • I am not a prisoner to my present limited understanding

Some of you may be saying; “What will that do for me … none of those things are true” In reality they can be truer than the limited, narrow and restricted thinking that comes through negative thinking. In the end we will achieve what we conceive.  What you focus on will ultimately determine your destiny.

I am not saying that positive affirmations are all you need to achieve your dreams. But until you put aside your self-limiting beliefs you will not be able to learn the skills and strategies that will move you forward. It’s just that simple. Nothing escapes the black hole of self-limiting beliefs.

I have more to say on this very important principle so I am collecting all seven principles into an exciting new format which will be available around March 1st. So keep in touch and get ready for the exhilarating news!  

Alone – In a Relationship

How Did I Get Here?

When we find ourselves in a difficult relationship one of the questions we tend to ask is; “how did I get here?”

Nobody starts a relationship with the expectation that, somewhere down the road, we’re going to end up feeling isolated, unloved and alone. So if that was not our intention how did it happen? Let me give you a few of the detours we take that lead down the road to an unfulfilling relationship.

It all centers around the fact we are reproducing the only kind of relationship we know.

I tell my clients that we will only deal with the past when the past gets in the way of our future. Unfortunately this is almost always the case. We learn our relationship skills from those who modeled relationships to us. How our parents resolved conflict, created a safe and secure environment and met our emotional, physical and spiritual needs will become the model we think of as “normal”.

I can hear some of you saying; “Wait a minute! I hated the way I grew up and I am doing everything I can to do it differently”. I acknowledge your efforts and support your intentions but changing the dysfunctional relational patterns of the past requires more than just recognizing what did not work; it requires the ability to put new healthy patterns in place. In order for true change to happen we must implement lifestyle changes that will feel awkward, totally unnatural and difficult to consistently apply. Here are some of the areas that we often struggle in:

How was conflict managed in your home?

Were criticism, contempt, defensiveness or stonewalling used when disagreements arose? Was there a “win at all cost” mentality? Or were you like many of us never privy to the arguments that happened behind closed doors. Few of us learned how to express anger or our complaints in a healthy way so naturally we find it difficult to do it in our relationships.

How was love and comfort expressed?

Did you feel loved and cherished in your home or did you feel like you were on the outside looking in? Conversely, were you smothered and used as an emotional support system for one or both of your parents. Not experiencing healthy love and comfort in our home leaves us with a deficit that is extremely hard to fill, especially by an unaware spouse.

How was communication handled?

Was information communicated directly or did it come through channels. If someone was angry or upset did you hear it from them or did it come at you via third parties. If we or our partner is unused to direct communication then we may feel threatened or frightened by their frankness and it may be difficult for us feel connected.  

What were the expectations for each family member?

What was expected of each member in your home? These expectation are often transferred to your new relationships without even a conscious thought that your spouse may have a different set of expectations. 

If you and your spouse are not in agreement in these areas then you are bound to feel misunderstood and alone. We create such strong and deeply held beliefs that when our partner shares a contrary view we can’t accept it, much less understand it. If we are ever going to have healthy, satisfying relationships we need to understand what those relationships look like.

After all, a sure way to become utterly lost is to redouble your effort after you have lost sight of your goal.  And that is what a lot of us do when we’re in unhappy relationships. We try desperately to make changes in ways that are just as dysfunctional as what we are trying to change. The real change needs to happen in us before we can hope to see a significant change in our relationship.

I have often had clients recount to me a litany of failed and dysfunctional relationships as if there was some grand conspiracy to make sure that they would never find happiness. I always listen patiently. (Okay, sometimes I get a wee bit impatient) But I do understand that there is deep pain and sadness when we feel disconnected, alone and hopeless. Eventually we get around to the inevitable question. What do all these relationships have in common? At this point my client has a very hard time answering that question but eventually (with some prodding) the light comes on and they say – it’s me. Yes, I say in my wisest and most compassionate tone, it is you. So what do you want to do about that?

We are at the center of our lives for good or for bad so if we’re ever going to experience something different we’re going to need to see what we are doing in order to create something new. And that my friends is why we look at the past and ask the above questions.

If you are having difficulty with knowing what healthy relationships look like I have a suggestion. Read the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-10 and 1 Corinthians 13) and especially study the life of Jesus Christ. For in his example we find the highest, truest, and most worthy example of how we are to interact with one another. Or as the Apostle Paul said so well:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:5-11 NIV

As always if ever we can help you on your journey to find joy we're here to help.