Roses may smell sweet. But survival behavior, by any other name, still reeks of the tendency to blame, accuse, oppress or cast people and circumstances in the distrusted role of “other” or enemy and harshly judge or fear them.
The next time you point the finger, judge or need to control people and outcomes, stop. The subtle scent you smell is survival, disguised as unconscious, seemingly harmless whiffs of fresh air. Don’t be lulled. Ask yourself: What am I trying to hold on to? What am I afraid will happen?
Our ancestors ran from tigers. The tendency to run for survival has become so hardwired that today’s caveman is ready to take flight or fight for a thousand reasons – hurtful experiences and fear topping the list.
Seeing and acknowledging your twenty-first century survival tendencies gives you the ability to choose more calmly how you’ll respond. The more choice you exercise in this moment, the more inner fitness you will develop, and the more certain you are to create a life where you can thrive, not just survive.
Decades ago, I had a smart, well-read friend who judged me a lot.
In all fairness, he judged almost everyone and everything a lot.
I often reinterpreted his behavior: He just “acts” like that. He doesn’t mean it. His verbal roughness is protection for his really sensitive heart.
To this day I believe these statements to be true about him. But we are no longer friends. I no longer reinterpret people’s behavior. I respond to how their behavior feels to me in real time.
I trust myself – my openness and willingness to understand, and my ability to change, or to talk honestly about everything. And I am too precious to subject myself to the bad, unkind or thoughtless behavior of anyone.
That’s how I came to know that I had a well-read smart friend whose way of being didn’t match mine.
Some people collect stamps. My mother collects people. They don’t have to be rare or unique. She finds beauty in the seemingly mangled as much as the pristine.
As a kid, going to the store with my mother was the last thing I wanted to do. While strangers were putting groceries in their carts, mommy was listening to their stories, viewing their wallet size photos – smiling and laughing a lot. In fact, it irritated me that mommy was always smiling.
Dottie Lifford, my mother, had lost both parents to tuberculosis by time she was seven. Then she was passed around between relatives, attending a new school with each new address. She lost her firstborn to a teenage driver who turned a corner while my 6-year-old sister Karen was still in the crosswalk. Life had not been easy for Dottie, but you couldn’t tell that from her smile.
As it turns out, neuroscience explains, smiles are more than just a pleasantry, or a ploy to hide a darker truth. Real smiles create calm, communicate safety to strangers, boost the immune system, and create a lighter, better mood. I think they must also affect one’s perspective.
My mother was ahead of the positive psychology curve, proving what I’ve always believed: My mom knows everything!
When hurtful experiences occur, of course they can – and maybe even should – make you angry...for a short period of time. But beware: fiercely held anger tends to become a grudge, hatred or even a desire for revenge.
These feelings are NOT evidence that you have been wronged or hurt, so much as they are evidence that you are hurting yourself with your BELIEF that things in your life should have occurred differently. But life did occur the way that it has for you. That cannot change.
In the face of that, your work is to THRIVE no matter the circumstances, or how they’re presented to you. The world is full of people holding on to hurt as proof that they have been violated or dealt an unfair hand. Unfortunately, the only things that remain for these people are a clenched fist and a difficult time truly knowing joy.
You don’t have to forget (though life would feel better if you did). You don’t have to forgive others (though life would be better if you did). But, you do have to forgive YOURSELF for thinking of yourself as breakable, and for giving people and circumstances the power to derail your life and turn you into an angry, suspicious, hard and unloving person. That is the real shame.
Don’t go there. Begin to interrupt your deep-seated anger by saying out loud, I am ready to move on and thrive!
It’s time to be bold, even brazen, when it comes to how you deal with your mind. Instead of feeling like you are your mind’s puppet, take the lead. Dare to experiment with letting your mind know that you are in charge, and not the other way around. When habitual negative thoughts or old painful memories try to dominate your thinking, call them what they are: overly indulged unproductive ways of thinking! This description accurately sums it up. They are thoughts or feelings from a past difficult experience that insist on getting endless amounts of attention from you. Interrupt your habit of indulging these thoughts. Don’t let them bully you. Don’t run. Stand up to them. Look them in the eye. Say I see you! I see the way you want me to think and believe, but you are not the boss of me. So, BYE FELICIA!
(Note: In the beginning you’ll have to interrupt your thoughts over and over again. Do it until interrupting old thoughts becomes habit.)
Have you ever tried to overcome something, but failed so many times that you began to doubt whether change was possible?
It is common to come to expect discomfort -- or even failure -- when it comes to a chronic challenge. It is easy to begin to believe that your greatest challenge will be with you forever.
Losing the weight, finally getting rid of acne, recognizing when you’re feeling unfulfilled, and overcoming a fear, guilt or trauma are all good examples of forever-thinking. However, the idea that you have to suffer forever is a lie. Don’t believe this lie. Science now knows that the brain is always changing and is always capable of change. Your current experience doesn’t have to be your only experience.
Make room for a new possibility in your life. Confront your forever issue with these words: Up until now, my (issue.) had me believing it would be a burden FOREVER. But from this point forward, this doesn’t have to be the case.
The glimmer of hope at the back of that statement is the key to changing your life.
Begin to practice seeing your challenges through the “up until now, and from this point forward lens.” It will help you leave forever-thinking behind you, where it belongs.
I love the term “breakdown.” It ignites in me images of freedom—doors bursting open, walls coming down, old structures being dismantled and cleared. Yes, there is rubble in this process. But with the rubble comes space for something new. In an emotional breakdown, the rubble is composed of failed expectations, faulty assumptions and false conclusions. When falsehoods are indulged and left to grow in strength they begin to block our inner light. If we don’t see this process happening and make a course correction darkness rolls in. We are left disconnected from ourselves. This is the loneliest, darkest place to be. But like in a super hero movie, the life inside of us that is born to thrive gathers the strength to save us. The battle cry is “by any means necessary.” This may look like a breakdown. But what if a breakdown is really positioning us for a breakthrough? What if underneath the breakdown is the breakthrough – the course correction - our life needs?
Next time you’re in an emotional crisis, don’t focus on the pain. Get curious about the breakthrough behind it. Ask yourself what you need to see or do that you have been avoiding? Then take a deep breath and do it. Because, you are born to THRIVE!
Read The Little Book of BIG LIES for more tips on how to successfully deal with breakdown.
This Week’s Quote: Knowing freedom is possible encourages the next step, and the one after that.
Experience tells me that when it comes to your "stuff" – issues, unhappy childhood, painful insecurities, feeling less than good enough, et cetera, et cetera – some part of you actually doesn’t believe that you can change these things in your life.
You say you want to change. But, if you check inside yourself, do you honestly believe that your issue can, and will, change?
In my pre-inner fitness past, I often complained that my life was not as I desired it to be. Yet, when I honestly checked inside myself, to my surprise I discovered I had actually given up believing that change was possible! Instead, I had begun to believe that I would have to accommodate my issue(s) forever.
Everything changed for me when I read a study that helped me understand two things:
1) The brain is like plastic. It can always be rewired. Every issue you have or will ever have can be CHANGED for the better!
2) “Our issues” are not the cause of our pain. How we see and feel about ourselves – because of the issue – is what truly causes pain.
Say out loud to yourself, “No matter how long I’ve had this issue, it can change. This issue is connected to the inappropriate way my brain learned to see me and protect me. How my brain sees can change.”
Say this often, particularly when you find yourself feeling lost or upset because of your old issue. This is a great starting point for change.
Read The Little Book of BIG LIES for more tips on how to transform any issue.
At times, I close my eyes in meditation and — without trying — I see what looks and feels like a galaxy of stars. Literally!
I feel as though I am connected to the universe — seeing it and, at the same time, a part of it.
I’ve never ventured to ask others if this is their experience. I actually don’t care. This sight teaches me. Its message is this:
We are so much more than we know. There is so much more going on in this experience called life than we have yet to see, know and understand.
You are so much more than any negative thought, statement or experience that can cross your path. Unless you allow them to, the hurts, drama, trauma, upsets and disappointments that make you feel small — or not good enough — or broken — do not define you.
Begin to refer to these experiences more accurately: Fleeting moments that are merely trying to live longer through your hurt-filled reaction to them. Seeing these moments for what they are makes them less persistent or real. Compared to the unseen universe and power that is your true nature, no hurt has the power to topple you WHEN YOU KNOW THIS!
As a practical FREEDOM strategy, YEARN FOR FREEDOM. Make sure you desire freedom from whatever LIE has a hold of you.
Though the interactive nature of the universe has yet to be fully understood, it seems to respond to our thoughts and feelings. Your heartfelt desire to move beyond hurt, limiting thoughts and associated behavior will — mystically — lead you to people, places and experiences that will teach you and help you remember that you are MORE THAN ANY HURT OR CHALLENGE YOU HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED AND WILL EVER EXPERIENCE.
Trust this. Be patient. Yearn!
Learn more about how to take on challenges for a best version of you in my book The Little Book of BIG LIES.
Do you remember the moment when you fell away from your whole and confident Self and doubt moved in? We all have a memory that clearly marks the birth of the part of self that is harassed by doubt.
It is the nature of doubt to undermine our connection to our innate value/worth. Doubt’s shadowy character aims to snuff out our dreams and dim the bright light that the universe placed inside each of us at birth. Doubt has grown strong in you (in certain areas of your life) because, up until now, you have forgotten two important things:
From this point forward, remember this: In reality DOUBT is afraid of you. Our basic human nature is to THRIVE. Doubt knows that when you wake up and realize this its tactics will be powerless over you. Like a jealous, manipulative scared lover - doubt attempts to keep itself strong in you by making you feel small.
Your journey back to yourself is your doubt’s greatest fear. Take the journey.
Learn more about taking your power back from doubt in my book The Little Book of BIG LIES.