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Archive for Power

Please Don’t Be That Person

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fat-friend

photo credit – “Fat & Alone at Dolores Park,” Danyaal Rangwala.

You might have thought I meant don’t be that person in the photo.
You would be wrong.

I hope you won’t be like some of the people described in this beautifully written piece on the bullying of “fat” people. The author identified only as Your Fat Friend speaks to many universal parallels of bias.  People find all manner of justifications to bully when they need a scapegoat. Being fat is just one example, but it is sadly the one still too often overlooked as wrong.

The common theme in all bullying is contempt, seeing the person not as a person but as a threatening “object” and the contempt feels justified because the system- in this case American culture – tells you so.

The story referred to about a person being kicked off an airplane for being too large is as horrible as it gets and just like every instance of bullying, the most painful part (in my experience and reported by every single person who comes to my office) is the silence of the witness. The bystander who does nothing.

Please don’t be that person.

Here are some things you can do:

– Stand up – literally – even if you say nothing it breaks the spell
– If it is safe to do so, put your body in front of the target

Say

– “This feels wrong”
– “That is wrong”
– “You are being cruel”
– “That is bullying”
– “That is racist”

If you can speak to the person targeted say;

– “I’m so sorry this is happening it is wrong”
– “You don’t deserve this”

Many times we stop ourselves by what I call the “mental gymnastics” of attempting to figure out what the right thing is. Often bystanders are in shock themselves – it can take a few moments to gather yourself and your thoughts – to even realize what just happened.

The key is to be prepared. To realize that in American culture bullying will happen. Acts of emotional violence will occur right in front of you. Sometimes they are subtle and sometimes they are loud.

But the irony is there is no ONE right thing – there are infinite right things. A million ways you can do or say something that conveys what you know: This is wrong.

You don’t have to be a bully to stop a bully. You just have to speak the truth of what you experience when you can. The more you do, the better at it you will be and the next time you will be ready to act. The next time you will show others how to do it. Then they will be prepared and ready for their next time.

Please DO be that person.

Cultivating Healthy Relationships

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Here are some great habits to cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself which will naturally extend into the rest of your relationships.

DAILY

  • Tell the truth
  • Take 2 deep breaths before you answer yes or no questions
  • Make your daily maintenance a first priority
  • Start walking (or exercise of choice) 30 minutes a day
  • Express something you appreciate about yourself to yourself each morning
  • Express something you appreciate about another person to him/her/them directly each time you connect
  • Stay curious about your feelings: (Are you angry? Sad?  Try to identify what need is not being met)

AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE

  • Schedule an evening alone to do anything you want
  • Meditate on your own or in a group
  • Start a gratitude journal
  • List 10 things you like and appreciate about yourself
  • Repeat for all the important relationships in your life
  • Listen to Dr. Dan Siegel’s Wheel of Awareness guided mediation
  • Take up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try
  • Take a day off from social media
  • Have a party celebrating a milestone—not your birthday or anniversary
  • Regularly audit your relationships using the Relationship Boundary Model

One of the most important things to do first – when you realize that there is something you want to change – is to start with yourself.

How Do I Create a Healthy Relationship?

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When we are growing up we learn how to be in relationship from the family and community we are raised in.

As an adult we repeat these relationship patterns in the community and family we cultivate.

How do we know if we are creating healthy relationships? If we know we are not, how can we change it?

The experience of connection with another human being is the most primary of motivations. We are hard wired for this connection and it is how we experience our sense of self in the world.

What are my relationships reflecting back to me?

Ask yourself these Questions:

1) Do I feel able to express myself fully?

2) Is there space for my feelings and experience?

3) Are my choices supported?

4) Do I trust and feel trusted?

5) Can I say no without argument?

6) Am I keeping secrets ?

7) Am I safe to be vulnerable?

8) Am I safe to express anger?

9) Can we disagree?

10)  Do I feel respected?

Communication is the most important skill in relationship. How you are able to express yourself and how others communicate with you can tell you a great deal about the health of your relationships.

In the list above, if you answered yes to most of them you are doing well. There is always more room to grow but you are on the right track. If you answered no, then there are things you can start doing now to cultivate health in your existing relationships and attract new ones.

First and most important step: Start with yourself—Take time for yourself and make knowing yourself a priority. When your emotional tank is empty you are unable to be fully available and present because you are not in touch with what YOU need, feel and want. Knowing yourself is the most important and healthiest way you can express authentically in relationship.

Audit your boundaries: Are you safe? Are the places where you need more space and control of your life clear and intact? If not look at how to change the amount of time, space or investment you have in areas of your life where you feel insecure or off balance.

Express early and often: Often we hold back on telling our friends and family when we are unhappy or don’t like something. We may second guess ourselves or minimize the issue as way to avoid conflict. This actually creates more conflict.

One great skill to develop is to pay attention to your body and when you feel that twinge that you are not sure you want to go along say “I’m not sure” or “I need to think about it” This is not a NO but it sends the signal that you need more time to decide. Then you are more able to give an authentic YES or communicate clearly what needs to be adjusted for you to be OK.

Forgive your mistakes: You will always have room to grow, make mistakes and get it wrong. This is part of life. The key to health and happiness is to remember that it is a journey and an ongoing process, there is no final destination but the goal is to have as safe and enjoyable a journey as possible.

How Facebook helped me find my voice

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Like many people who were well into middle age when social media exploded onto the scene, I joined Facebook kicking and screaming in 2010. I resisted for a long time, joining the complainers that opined about how much time it took away from other things and kept them up late at night.

Truthfully, that is exactly what happened to me but you’ll never hear me complain. The reason is that Facebook helped me find my voice.

  • Before Facebook I didn’t know I needed a soapbox.
  • Before Facebook I didn’t know I cared about politics.
  • Before Facebook I didn’t know many of my friend’s birthday or that I would care that people acknowledge mine.
  • Before Facebook I had never heard of a flash-mob or why it is important to see cute animals at least once daily
  • Before Facebook I thought I only had a handful of friends, now I have many many more and I am glad to know them.
  • Before Facebook I had never experienced bullying online or felt the satisfaction of seeing someone’s mind change and soften after a heartfelt exchange.
  • Before Facebook I had never shown my sadness to anyone that wasn’t my closest confident and then had my feelings confirmed and supported in a few words by a group of people who really want me to know they care.
  • Before Facebook I didn’t really understand the huge racial divide that is breaking my heart and that I am now dedicating my life to heal.

I learn new things every day from blogs, pages and people whose thoughts and concerns I admire. Some of whom are people who I have never met who know me through a friend of a friend connected to an organization I care about. Oh yeah and and some really old friends who I haven’t clapped eyes on in 30 + years.

Before Facebook I would never have imagined that I could comment on something wonderful and enlightening posted by a total stranger from across the world. But now I can and I do. I feel connected to the world in a way I could never have been before and I love more, I feel more open-hearted, more curious and I care about what happens to people I have never met because I see a little more into their lives.

I feel more empowered to act on things because my friends care too.  When I see something wrong and it changes how I see the world, I can do something.  It is not nothing to have changed the conversation, to have planted seeds, to have opened up and let people know what I think and why they should consider thinking about it that way too.

Facebook helped me find my voice. I would not call myself an armchair activist because I am also involved in real organizations that exist outside of social media.   But even if I only spent time on Facebook, who says I don’t really have skin in the game?

Slacktivist is another term that gets tossed around. But I challenge that label and here’s why: Facebook gives me access I would never have on my own. I am more informed about what’s happening around the world and I can speak, write, email and share what I hear with my expanding group of friends.

So thank you Facebook and all the people world-wide who are shaping me and influencing me and who I hope are benefiting from my own unique lens, experiences, challenges, reactivity, appreciation and loves because you heard and felt my voice.

Strengthening Your Sense of Self & Identity

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Our sense of self is molded by the things we see, hear and feel throughout our lives. In early life our identity and sense of self comes primarily from the relationship or attachment we form to those closest to us. Our parents, family and community created a “climate” for our inner development to adapt to and take shape.

Later in life, as our experiences extend beyond the confines of our immediate relationships, we start to add and subtract beliefs and habits to form our own identity. These may be healthy or unhealthy choices depending on our ability to understand and express the feelings and emotions we experience. Where there is no language or space to be you and express your wants and needs, and most importantly, have them be validated, we rebel. If you won’t accept me I will find acceptance somewhere else.

Trauma, at any age, distorts our experience of ourselves and the world and in order to make sense of these distortions we create meaning that explains why they occurred. The younger we are the more likely that story places us at the center and we fully accept the shame that comes with it. I’m bad, I’m wrong, it was my fault, I asked for it, if I were different, if I had known and on and on – we accept the labels, blame and shame as our own. From there we perpetuate those beliefs through unconscious choice making and relational patterns that reinforces that story over and over.

The process of reclaiming and rebuilding a strong, healthy sense of self requires first and foremost looking critically at your life. What is your life reflecting back to you and where are you focusing your attention?

What is the common story you tell yourself when things go right?
When things go wrong?

Your life is like a mirror reflecting back to you the life you either created or agreed to. It is mostly unconscious. The way to understand and change it is to stop, look and listen.

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Reclaiming your power.
“…no one gives you power, you just take it” Rosanne Barr

If we grew up in an environment where power was abused through force we learned that power is something some people have and others don’t. We learn that power is what you need to win and someone always loses. But power is much more complicated than that. Personal power is everything and nothing. It is not authority, which is power entrusted. It is not force, which is power stolen. Power is equally strength and restraint. True authentic power is knowledge, wisdom and understanding about ourselves and the conviction that we know who we are.

Unveiling and Rewriting Your Story: What are your core beliefs?

Core Beliefs – “Unconditional beliefs that serve as a basis for screening, categorizing, and interpreting experiences. For example, “I’m no good.” “Others can’t be trusted.” “Effort does not pay off.” These often operate outside of the individual’s awareness and often are not clearly verbalized.”  Source

cbt4

  • What do I believe to be true about myself?  Where did it come from?
  • What messages have I claimed for myself
  • What messages have I accepted to belong or survive
  • What assumptions am I operating from as a result of these beliefs?
  • How do these beliefs effect my thoughts feelings and behaviors?

How do I know what is really me? And what is not me?

As you move through each day, stop, look at what is happening in this moment, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I like it?
  • Do I want it?
  • Why is it good for me?
  • What do I need right now?
  • How do I feel?

As you take the time and allow yourself to REFLECT, ASK and ANSWER these questions you strengthen self knowledge.  You won’t get it right every time especially at first. That’s okay – keep going.  As you learn to trust yourself it will become more automatic and you will gravitate toward the answers you know you like. It is not selfish to take the time and space to discover what you need and feel- that is part of your responsibility as an adult.

It is our responsibility to create the environment
in which we can thrive

My world is a reflection of the choices made by me or for me. Do you feel empowered? Are you thriving? To reclaim your power and control in your own life you have to know how to make choices that you can not only live with, but be happy with.  Choices that lead you to effortless happiness. That is thriving. Start simply and pay attention to each choice.

Every day try to reflect on these three questions:
What choices did I make today that feel good?
What choices did I make today that are leading me where I want to go?
What am I most grateful for today?

As you strengthen your knowledge about who you are and what you want you will drop the need to justify and explain or apologize when your needs and wants do not appease others.  All healthy relationships allow space for negotiating wants and needs and when that isn’t allowed, your new empowered self will make the best choice for you.

As you turn your attention to what is working you will find it easier and easier to make that choice.

That is where you find happiness and where you will THRIVE!

 

Trauma is stored in the whole body – so start there!

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There are many things in addition to therapy that you can start doing to rewire your brain on your own – with intention.

We know that recovery and emotional healing is a whole body experience. Therapy is a critical element and provides an “anchor” point and lens to interpret and make sense of your journey – past and present. But the rest of the change happens through experiences in your body and by you intentionally taking small emotional risks to express yourself in a safe and contained way.  Recovery can also be fun.**

Self Defense Class
For men and women who feel very dis-empowered, disconnected from their strength, have difficulty saying NO – a self defense class is a wonderful way to safely move toward connection with your power.

Martial Arts Class
This is an excellent way to get into your body and start to connect with your power center in a safe way. There are less combative versions, like Tai Chi, which is more meditative and a great place to start. Other forms, like Aikido, teach you forms of combat and if  you have not found a healthy channel for your unexpressed anger, this might be for you.

Volunteerism
If you have been unemployed for any length of time,  you can feel very disconnected from your sense of professional identity. For professionals, this can be even more debilitating and confusing.  Find a local non-profit organization near you and start volunteering. This is a great way to build confidence and reconnect with your professional identity. You may also make new friends and have additional references that can help when you start interviewing again.

Join a Cause
The world is not fair, justice is not guaranteed and it’s important to have allies.  If you are struggling with the anxiety and anger from a personal injustice that you can’t resolve therapy is a must. But there is also something you can do to channel that anger in a constructive and healing way: volunteer with an organization whose mission is  justice. It doesn’t matter which one (social, criminal, economic – there are many) the point is to get involved and find people, like you, who care and want to do something about it.

Take an Acting Class
Improvisation and acting classes can give us an opportunity to step outside our comfort zone to express in ways we would not have opportunity to “in real life.”  It allows us to try on other characters and forms of expression and most importantly, it can provide an excellent way to grow our tolerance for attention and being seen in a positive way.

Some recommendations: Playback theater, Theater of the Oppressed, Improvisation Classes, Acting Classes

Take a Yoga Class
Recognizing we have a body and what it might be telling us is a critical part of any recovery process. Yoga provides a gentle and powerful way to connect with your body. If you are a trauma survivor you may want a trauma sensitive yoga class – look for that in the information when you are choosing the class that’s right for you.

**Before you start, talk about options with your therapist to determine your readiness for some of the things listed  above.

I’m Fine, Thanks. . . coming soon!

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Something came across my desk that I just have to tell you about:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cranktank/im-fine-thanks

This is a trailer (and a request for funding) for a documentary about complacency. I watched the trailer and I just fell in love with it. Of course I will pledge and I hope you will too. But even if you don’t please get the message and pass it on.

In my work with people suffering from the effects of bullying, I see all too often how we stay in jobs, relationships, family systems where we are miserable, abused and lost because we think we have to follow the rules. We believe in one right way to be in the world: one way to be accepted by those around you, and if you’re not, then there is something wrong with YOU.

Well, I’m here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with you. Gay, straight, black, white, thin, fat, left, right…you are just fine the way you are. If you are not accepted, appreciated and cherished by those around you then there is something wrong with them. Not you. If you are unhappy in your job, your relationship, your life, then risk the change. Find people who get you. Follow that still voice, that tickle of curiosity, go where your heart is calling you. There are more routes and possibilities for happiness than you can imagine.

Reach out, step back, look up…set your course…If you are not fine, you will be.

The Myth of Victim Mentality

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Why do people who are in abusive relationships stay in them?

Why don’t battered women leave?

Why doesn’t a kid who is bullied just hit back?

The common answer is that some people identify with victim-hood as a way of avoiding responsibility for their own lives. Some people just like to be abused and get some kind of pleasure from it. For kids, it’s part of their social development to learn how to live in a tough world.

These are all outdated and easy catchall explanations that blame the target and allow bullies and tyrants to continue to abuse with impunity. We know that abuse is wrong and thankfully we are slowly gaining legal ground that offers protection and accountability. But we still want to blame the target. Why?

The biggest reason, in my opinion, is that this is the easiest answer available that absolves us of the conflict we want to avoid. If we admit that the bullies and tyrants are the problem, then we have to do the hard work of confronting the reality, or worse, the bullies themselves. We have to file the police report, talk to the principle, and provide a safe haven for someone knowing that we now have our skin in the game. It is easier to be a bystander and attribute the control to the person we could never be – a victim.

People avoid conflict as much as they can because we haven’t been taught how to fight fair. We don’t know how to take on the bad guy. And worse, sometimes the bad guy is someone we know or even love. It’s just so much easier to think that this person who is nice to me would only treat you that way because you deserve it, asked for it, wanted it.

So what do we do?

First – let me repeat the premise that victim mentality is a myth. People do not choose to be abused. They adapt to it and learn to exist in and around it in order to survive. Depending on their age and level of brain development they initially go into shock and then their brains adapt. This adaptation is now being studied as part of a new field of brain research called Interpersonal Neurobiology.

What this new field of brain research is showing us is that the brains of people who experience trauma adapt in a way that makes them further vulnerable to abuse. It is not a conscious choice to stay in an abusive situation. The part of the brain that enables us to use reasoning and the capacity to problem solve is literally taken offline during times of high stress and trauma. And when this is repeated over weeks or years, especially in childhood, parts of the brain can literally be damaged.

Why do people who are in abusive relationships stay in them?

Why don’t battered women leave?

Why doesn’t a kid who is bullied just hit back?

It is because they have not yet developed or have lost the capacity to solve the problem themselves. They are locked in a room with a terrorist and they can’t even see the door.

They need our help. Most importantly, they need our compassion and understanding. Someone who is battered, abused, bullied is not enjoying the experience. They don’t deserve it. They want things to change.

Now that you know that, what will you do next time?

If you are interested in learning more about Interpersonal Neurobiology:

http://drdansiegel.com/
Interpersonal Neurobiology PDF
Being a Brain-Wise Therapist: A Practical Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology

Visual representation of my practice using Wordle

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word-cloud

Just for fun I tried this website http://www.wordle.net/ and created this word cloud. I took all the text from my website www.helpwithinreach.org to see what words would be emphasized and sure enough the areas I work with most are showing up as the biggest in my cloud. This is good because it is congruent with how I thought it would look. If it had not, it would have been a great way to see just where I need to adjust. I personally think it is a great tool for identifying the themes you are operating from.

Try this: Write a letter to yourself describing your life right now and paste it into wordle and see what is reflected back. You may be surprised.

The Other Way Power is Abused

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When you think of power and people who abuse it, what often comes to mind is the forceful, aggressive kind of person who pushes their agenda at all costs and disregards the opinions of anyone in their way. Bullies are characterized this way.

Another way that people abuse power that is less recognized is neglect. Another word that I think fits is “abdication.” When we accept the mantle of responsibility, we are making an agreement that we will act responsibly and be accountable for everything that is associated with the role we have accepted. AND it is our responsibility to know what that means and where the boundaries of that power lie.

I see many examples of people and institutions who have abdicated the power they have willingly assumed. Some examples of what I mean include:

  • Parents who ignore the bad behavior of their children even when it is clearly distressing to them and others present
  • Leaders who fail to ask for or ignore the truth when it is given
  • New managers who think that their skills as individual contributors are good enough to make them competent
  • Politicians who ignore the pleas and concerns of their constituents in favor of their own interests

The recent scandal at Penn State is a clear example of what I mean. People who had enormous power to stop criminal behavior, chose to turn their heads and look the other way instead of acting. It was easier, it was safer (for them) and it preserved their own interest: to maintain the status quo.

And now we are seeing the cost of this failure in human terms: Lives and trust destroyed.

There is a saying in business that “it is better to act and ask for forgiveness than ask for permission and be told no….”

But the trouble is, not everything can be forgiven. Not all can be healed. Abuse of power scars our psyche. It tilts the balance ever toward destruction and cynicism. The future decisions and choices we make are informed by this betrayal of trust.

We lose good people and good people become lost.

Power is not something that only some people have, it is something that we ALL have and we use and mis-use it every day. In the jobs we hold, as parents, as care-takers of the environment, as stewards to our pets, as citizens and in all the other ways we live in relation to the world around us, we have power. If we don’t take it seriously, if we ignore it, if we neglect it, it becomes destructive and whether we admit it or not, our impact on the world – our immediate world and the larger global community – is profound.

You have power – whether you know it or not, whether you admit it or not. You have power. Here’s how you can tell if you have power: you are breathing.

Own your breath and please breathe responsibly: Show up. Don’t assume. When you know you need help, ask for it. Take the feedback of people you trust. Look honestly at yourself and get therapy if you need it. Use kindness and allow vulnerability in others. Don’t look away. Speak what you see. Tell the truth. Listen. Cry. Be humble. Take every choice seriously and think about who will be impacted by that choice.

Own your power and use it responsibly…now breathe.