Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for September, 2015

Practicing Forgiveness is Good for Your Heart!

In childhood it’s all about self but as we mature into adulthood we begin to understand the importance of being kinder, more forgiving and accepting of others. We start to see the world in shades of grey rather than simply black and white. This week the Pope’s message was to practice ‘peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.’ It seems that integral to doing this is to practice the art of forgiveness.

There is a reason that forgiveness is at the heart of healing. At a recent gathering in Manhattan 400 people were asked if they had difficulty and were not on speaking terms with members of their families. Over two-thirds of the participants raised their hands! Think about how many people are holding on to grudges and surrounding themselves with negative energy – it must be exhausting. Recognizing the importance of the topic, forgiveness is being further studied through the Stanford Forgiveness Project.

There are two common themes within all of this – forgiveness and its challenging cousin – judgment. When we think about an upset between family members or friends it seems to boil down to two things: assuming we hold the trump card on truth (believing that we know how others should feel or behave) and refusing to accept responsibility for any hurt we may have caused them through our practice of judging. Judgment can be felt without any words spoken.

When judgmental attitudes surface those half-hearted apologies of ‘I’m sorry that you’re upset,’ are not examples of respect or love. A true apology is recognizing what we have done that has hurt someone and then being courageous enough to verbalize it to them. In other words it’s about us – our actions – and not their reactions that are at play here.

The good news is that as we practice accepting responsibility for own own behavior we become stronger, more positive and happier people. We begin to realize that we don’t walk in another’s shoes and really have no idea about how difficult it is for them to learn their own life lessons. Maybe – just maybe – they are doing the best they know how at this moment.

Dr. Fritz Perls, the noted German psychoanalyst who emphasized Gestalt Therapy speaks to tolerance and acceptance of others in The Gestalt Prayer:

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful…

When I read this prayer I think of a world in which true acceptance of differences is foremost in our thinking and behavior. Peace, tolerance and respect for self and others flows from this mindset. We become more rather than less as human beings.

We are all in a fluid state between independence and interdependence in life. Doesn’t it just make sense to look for the strengths in family and friends rather than focusing on what we perceive as their weaknesses? When we acknowledge their effort we show them that we have faith in their ability to handle difficult situations. We allow them to grow. As we learn to judge less and forgive more the value and significance of touching base or celebrating holidays begins to take on a greater significance. We learn to bring our best selves to the table and treat our family and friends as we would like to be treated.

Over the next few days let’s try to see how we can practice greater forgiveness and allow the Pope’s message of peace, tolerance and respect to take seed in our lives.

Have a great few days!

Are You In a Dependent Relationship?

I have written about the four different types of love that were identified by the Greeks hundreds of years ago (see blog archive 8/16/15). Their point as reiterated by David Brooks in his book, The Social Animal,” was that for love to be everlasting all four types of love need to develop in relationships over time. That makes sense. Once the initial physical attraction is experienced, deep love like the flowering of a rose takes time to tend and nurture to full bloom as it celebrates the individual strengths of each other.

But what happens if the Philemon type of love – the platonic, friendship type of love you have with a best friend seems to be difficult to juggle as you spend more time with your new found love? Let’s first look at what causes two people to become best friends. Shared interests, respect, admiration and concern all rank high on the list of factors.

However, once in a while this type of love can devolve into a needy, unhealthy type of dependent relationship. When you share your excitement about this special person in your life with your best friend and you hear subtle demands that infiltrate into your relationship such as wanting to know when they will see you again it’s time to consider the possibility that this could be a type of co-dependency. Maybe – maybe not – but for sure sharing you is not something they want to do. The label itself is less important than the recognition of the signs involved.

Any dependency is usually rooted in childhood and these individuals often become ‘survivors’ that exhibit fear, anger, pain or shame which was ignored or denied early on in life. These feelings begin to color their world over time since dependency is a learned behavior. The more it is practiced the stronger it becomes. The friendships they develop are more need than mere want but they simply don’t see it since abandonment is a constant issue.

The good news is that by recognizing dependency and learning more about the signs and signals it can be overcome and replaced by confidence and trust in one’s own ability to thrive in future healthy, loving relationships regardless of what happened in childhood.

How do you know if a relationship of dependency exists? Let’s look at some other possible indicators. Is there a pressure to touch base frequently – fearing anger or hurt exhibited from the other person if you are not in constant contact? In reality, best friends can go days, weeks, or months without touching base but still know the other person cares for them and has their best interest at heart.

If you experience feelings of rejection when you spend time with someone other than the dependent friend and it results in pouting, temporary withdrawal or outright anger until they have your attention once again – you can be sure dependency exists.

Other indicators of co-dependent people are their difficulty talking with people in authority, making decisions, handling pressure regarding time frames for completion of tasks, difficulty or even rigidity in adjusting to change, feelings of inadequacy, and an inability to share their feelings – especially with family members. Basically, they have low self-esteem often due to their early upbringing.

If you are involved in this type of relationship at first you may feel a sense of importance by ‘being needed.’ Unfortunately, your attention and constant concern or attempt to do more than your share does not help since this behavior can become compulsive and self-defeating as the reliance increases. In essence, both parties start to develop a view of ‘us against the world’ and the dependency increases.

As stated, the good news is that when the dependency is recognized and steps are taken to readjust the invasive nature of this type of relationship personal growth is experienced by both parties and over time an even higher level of friendship develops. Sometimes it takes a best friend to get their attention and even professional to unearth the need for dependency.

When you really care about another you want the best for them. Moving from dependency to independence is the best gift you can gift yourself and the other person. The Philemon type of love is a critical element in best friends as well as deeper love relationships.

Have a great few days!

Let’s Make Some Noise!

Once in a while I feel like I need to do my part to get information out on an issue that affects us personally. Thus the blog today. Please forward to anyone who might read and help to pass it on.

Let me set up the scenario. Years ago I purchased a 1/4 of a beef from a local farmer in Michigan and was shocked by the difference in taste. I had heard the farmer raised it ‘the old fashion way’ but had to compare for myself what the difference meant. Not only was it delicious but pound for pound cost less than store bought beef. Years later I visited Australia and going to the grocery store was taken aback to see eggs in the aisles not even refrigerated. Yet when I tasted them…. Wow! In the far reaches of my mind I remembered the taste … a real egg! Back in Michigan this summer I was able to buy farm raised tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, peaches (the list goes on) you know what I’m talking about – the stuff that actually has a smell and taste that takes us back to a time when food may have not always looked perfect but tasted real.

During this trip to Michigan I biked through a lot of beautiful farm country yet soon began to feel an unease. I remember being raised in Michigan and the corn, for example, was rarely uniformly perfect. This time, the color, height and everything else about it – for mile after mile – was absolutely exact…. That’s when the feeling of unease began. Something was a bit off…what could it be? Then I started seeing the signs…. Not obvious by name but doing further research I discovered the meaning – GMO (genetically modified…) It seems to get crops to look so perfect (even though they don’t taste or smell like the real deal to those of us old enough to remember) …the real issue is the use of herbicides. The seeds are now modified to include the herbicides. OK, I thought, people must know about this and have a right to a choice until … wait for it…the New York Times ran a 2 page article about the GMO topic and what we don’t know by design by the major corporations involved. After all a wise consumer could mean less profit to the big conglomerates involved.

Companies have a right to grow crops, make profit and be successful. I also get that people are sometimes used to further the cause of the mass production food industry. They have a right to their own values. I even get the idea that we can feed more people with higher crop yield. But what I can’t accept is these paid lobbyists or scientists working to influence the FDA and others in Washington to “BAN states from adopting laws that REQUIRE the DISCLOSURE of food produced with genetically modified elements. You might want to read that last sentence again. It is happening and this blog is a call to arms. Let’s at least be heard!

In addition to our taste buds telling us what is better we also have the right to engage our brains and have truthful information on food labels so we can choose what to put into our bodies. Using politics to keep us in the dark is NOT the American way! One person can make a difference – please pass this on to others and let’s get fired up and demand full disclosure?

Havea great few days!

Become Extraordinary!

Judge not, fear not, resist not. These words are so powerful and applied to our lives can change us from ordinary to extraordinary. We can become happier, more excited and fulfilled as human beings when we choose to view life from this empowered perspective. So how do we do it? Here’s a few hints.

See the gift of today – for this day – this moment – will only happen once. Live it to the fullest!
In essence – bring your total self to today – no holding back! Don’t worry about being judged by others… they are on their own unique path.
Have a mind that is open to everything – say ‘Yes!’ to life!
Be the optimist – no one truly knows enough to be a pessimist!
See the positives – see the love – it’s always there – surrounding us – we just need to open our eyes, breath deeply and invite it in.
Dream as though you have nothing to lose – because you really don’t – and smile as those dreams become a reality!
Believe as though anything is possible – because it is …there are no limits to what we can be or experience.
Love as though your heart knows no bounds – and feel the love being generated back to you!
Remember that everyone is doing their best this day – this very moment – listen to them and celebrate their effort.
Radiate light into the world by what you think, feel and say. Light is the energy of the Universe!
Believe in miracles – they come in the form of people – who love us unconditionally.

Remember, “As a man thinketh, so is he.” When we choose to make our todays extraordinary – amazing things start to happen. Life becomes better than we had ever dreamed possible … and just think – it all started by choosing…. Now that is powerful!

Have a great few days!