Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘compassion’

Why Don’t They Stop?

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” This quote from Sigmund Freud says it all when we see people who seem to say or do things that are counter productive to their own growth and happiness. We may wonder why they can’t see that what they are doing is harmful and just stop doing it. We may even judge them to be ungrateful, selfish or weak. The operative word here is ‘judge.’
When we fall into the trap of judging others everyone looses. But when we really try to learn more to understand what is truly happening to someone we know and love an entirely different world opens up to us. Hopefully, it causes us to feel more deeply as our empathy begins to kick in. With knowledge we become more proactive rather than reactive.
Compassion causes us to ‘see the me in you.’ We may at first feel sympathy for someone when we see their suffering but we can only feel empathy when we try to understand and relate by putting ourselves in their shoes. You may be wondering how it’s possible to do this – good question!
By taking the time to observe, listen, read and involve ourselves – even from afar- to really understand what another person is going through it causes us to become more thoughtful, wise and caring human beings. Rather than dismiss a particular behavior as bad or unproductive we push ourselves to try to figure out the ‘why’ behind it.
Maia Szalavitz, author of the recently published book “Unbroken Brain” takes us on a journey that helps us understand the why in addiction and explains the brain changes that take place. We learn that primarily psychological needs rather than just physical desire truly drive addiction but can be changed with learning. She explains why the majority of rehab programs simply don’t work yet gently guides us with first hand knowledge to find those approaches that do work to heal and move forward. 
The topic of addiction is actually more common then we might first believe. Whether we are talking about drinking, using drugs (both legal and illegal) gambling, eating, shopping even cleaning the evidence of addiction is all around us. Some folks with addictions are able to harness their overactive brains and manage their lives. But for many others who have as Freud points out deep seated unexpressed emotions of early trauma they need more time, help and understanding. Approaches that help them see their value rather than their deficits are crucial to overcoming their need for an emotionally escape. It’s obvious from reading her book that Szalavitz has experienced the world of addiction and has devoted her life to helping us understand more deeply and therefore put our tendency of discounting or judging to rest.
When we run across someone who can explain, inspire an educate us so that we become more caring, thoughtful human beings it’s important to pass it on – pay it forward. One thing’s for sure, if you take the time to read this book you will never be the same again. You will never again think to yourself ‘why don’t they just…’ because you’ll be better than that.
Please pass this blog on to anyone you know that might benefit from it. Let’s commit to helping each other on our life journey as we remember ‘A friend walks in when everyone else walks out.’
Have a great few days!

Adversity can be a Double Edge Sword!

We all know someone who just seems to experience so much more adversity in life than others. We may think to ourselves if they didn’t have bad luck they wouldn’t have any luck at all. How do they cope with it? How do they continue to put one foot in front of the other and face another day? These individuals can teach us a great deal about compassion and resiliency.

Two studies soon to be published by Dr. David DeSteno and graduate student, Daniel Lim of Northeastern University help us understand the real effects of adversity in a person’s life. We may think that living through adversity would naturally cause a person to be more compassionate but there’s more to it than that. DeSteno says, “Living through hardship doesn’t either warm hearts or harden them; it does both. Having known suffering in life usually heightens the compassion we feel for others, except when the suffering involves specific painful events that we know all too well.”

In the later case it seems our minds can quickly move into a judgment mode. The studies indicate that when we see someone living through an event similar to one we have lived through the natural human response is to downplay the difficulty we had in dealing with our life challenge and think to ourselves, ‘Well, I made it through and they just need to buck up and move on.’ Oh, if it were only that easy.

Each of us has chosen specific life challenges for the lessons involved. We cannot equate or compare one individual’s ability to cope to our own even in similar circumstances. Another way to think about it is that no two dramas are the same because of the human factor. We may have overcome a hardship or life altering event but it doesn’t mean that someone else can heal at the same pace. That’s what the stages of grief teaches us. Everyone has a right to heal and overcome at their own rate and time. Recognizing the needs of the individual and giving them the gift of time and understanding is where compassion comes in.

When we live through the loss of a loved one or experience,moor example, emotional or physical abuse the loss, fear and anger affects each of us in our own way. Some scars are deeper than others and take longer to heal. There is no blueprint to follow for the complex task of healing. Each of us struggles to understand and accept life according to our own strength, tenacity and reserve.

The next time we hear of someone who is experiencing a difficult time coping with an event in their life maybe we could put aside our own life experience, especially our words of advice, and just be there to listen and show we care. The greatest healing energy comes from the power and honor in the human connection.

The pay off to accepting where someone is at and offering an empathetic ear and caring heart is double fold. The person has a shoulder to lean on as they attempt to right themselves after the onslaught of their latest challenge and by bonding with them during a critical time in their life we fuel greater compassion and resiliency in ourselves. Something to think about.

Have a great few days!

You’re Doing Your Best!

What if we could live by three tenants: Judge Not, Fear Not, Resist Not. Maybe – just maybe – we could get to the point where any limiting ideas or distorted perspectives of ourselves would simply fade away and allow our minds to refocus on the journey. We would see the joy and blessings of today, this very moment, where anything and everything is possible. By choosing this more positive mindset do you think we might become more tolerant with ourselves and a bit more compassionate with others?

For example, how many times have you played over and over in your head something that you wish you would have said or done differently? Can’t let it go right? That’s because you are playing the blame game and are probably becoming quite good at it! Unfortunately this game has no winners. The sad thing is that it accomplishes nothing and simply causes you to feel even more badly. I’m all for learning from experience but blaming or perseverating on what was – is not learning – it’s more like self flagellation. Color me gone!

Resisting, fearing and judging are all of the same negative ilk. These behaviors keep us locked into our microscopic world where we are judge and jury – but without legal standing. We have no remedy because we have no cause. Time to drop this case and move on!

Having more tolerance and acceptance for yourself begins when you realize that you brought everything you had to the past circumstance and did the very best you could at the moment – because you really did. Self reflection can be a positive thing when you cut yourself a little slack and admit you are human. I’ll bet if you think about a past situation when you feel that you didn’t bring your ‘A’ game to the table, if you really ponder it, you know you didn’t purposely choose to fall short of what you wanted to achieve. You just did. Things happen. Move on. Eliminate the blame and simply change it to a lesson learned by telling yourself, ‘The next time I face this type of situation I intend to …’ and do it. The operative words, of course, are DO IT.

Likewise, when we observe others and think to ourselves ‘why don’t they do this or that’ or ‘they should do it this way.’ Really? Since we can’t walk a mile in their shoes it’s probably better to stop judging and simply remember that they are also doing the very best they can at the moment. They are giving life their best shot – regardless of whether it hits the mark or not – time to give them a break as well.

We are all perfectly imperfect human beings who are trying to navigate life with the knowledge we have at the moment. When we have greater knowledge and experience we may choose to respond differently. But until then … there is no place for judgment, fear or resistance. We are better than that because we know that we are all on the journey of our chosen lifetime and learning day by day along the way.

So today, look in the mirror and smile, pat yourself on the back, and know that you are doing your best – with today’s knowledge – and that’s good enough!

Have a great few days!

Be Part of the Change!

Every once in a while we experience a serendipitous event – being in the right place at the right time – which causes a renewed sense of belief in tomorrow. We take a deep breath and think to ourselves ‘Yes, there is much right with the world.’ This is how I felt when reading a newspaper article about money, happiness and a CEO’s determined action to change his company for the better. Some of you may remember one of my April blogs about Dan Price the CEO Of Gravity Payments. (You can retrieve the original blog by going to the archive section of my website.)

Mr. Price, the remarkable human being mentioned in the New York Times article, has chosen to make a BIG difference in the lives of his employees. After reading articles about income and happiness (those of you who follow this website realize that the two are absolutely NOT correlated) this incredible individual decided to do something about it. Rather than following the typical pattern of other CEO’s and amassing millions upon millions of personal wealth this modern day hero has chosen to change the frame – the mindset – and the lives of all of his employees. He will reduce his annual salary to $70,000 and redirect both his salary difference and 80% of Gravity’s annual profit to his employees. Over the next three years even the lowest paid employee will begin earning $70,000 per year.

If you are like me you may have had to read the punch line more than once to believe it. Yet it’s true. Incredible don’t you think? Something tells me that his personal happiness factor will be off the charts! He has internalized and acted upon the true meaning of love, gratitude and compassion. The Dalai Lama would be proud.

What if … just what if … his actions begin to influence others. Can you imagine if other CEO’s decide to do something – anything – to distribute more money back to the rank and file of their companies? Before Dan Price we would have responded, ‘right …when pigs fly!’ But our disbelief must now be put aside because we have one living, breathing example before us. He is one of the 1% that gets it!

Like everything in life change starts with one individual who sees a better way and acts on it. It doesn’t always make one popular with their peers – at least initially – but it does make the world a better place. Their actions stand out like the tallest billboard along the highway flashing with neon lights and says, “Together we can make a difference!”

Let’s add our two cents into this scenario. I understand that the company would like to facilitate discussion on this through their social media avenues. Remember one voice added to another can make the changes we want to see in our world. Please take the time to comment on their Facebook and Twitter accounts at Facebook.com/Gravitypayments or DanPriceSeattle or Gravitypymts. From the comfort of our own home we could be instrumental in propelling this change forward!

Have a great few days!

Dan Price – CEO of Gravity Payments – is AMAZING!

I had the opportunity recently to attend a social gathering in which it was apparent that the guests were financially well off. Yet, something was lacking. Genuine laughter was rare – the atmosphere was left wanting. One only had to observe and listen to most of their stories to understand that generally these folks had not found the magic elixir of happiness. They seemed rather guarded, aloof – not particularly comfortable in their own skin. Why – we might wonder would these folks not be outgoing, radiating happiness given their financial comforts. They seemed to want for nothing except authentic happiness … and money could not buy it for them. Here they were – well healed financially – but their faces and body language told another story.

Often we think, ‘If I only had …. I would be happy,’ or ‘If I could just get ahead of the constant barrage of bills I would be more secure.’ The real question is – would we?
Granted when we are struggling to make ends meet we can get overwhelmed and dream of a life where money is no object. We may even become resentful when we see that others appear to have it a bit easier. Yet the reality of it all is that happiness is NOT correlated with wealth!

The Dalai Lama has said the real purpose of life is to be happy and we achieve that by developing love, compassion and gratitude for self and others. It is not attained by getting more stuff. Think of a young child who continually says, ‘I want …I want …I want…’ We want to make them happy but sooner or later realize that their list of wants is never satisfied and as their demands increase their happiness actually decreases! Not only does this happen in children it happens in adults as well. The lesson for us is that we can’t buy happiness for ourself or others because it is a much bigger issue than simply what money can buy.

Determining what causes happiness has become a major topic of research. Many researchers such as neuroscientist, Keely Muscatell, at UCLA has found that wealth ‘quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy and triggers a chemical reaction that causes individuals to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the sentiments needed to be a decent citizen … or even a happy one.’

Considering this research and what the Dalai Lama teaches it seems that money, in and of itself, can be a stumbling block to achieving greater happiness. That is unless you are Dan Price, founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, a Seattle- based credit card payment processing firm. Now here is a success story!

Patricia Cohen in the New York Times wrote about this amazing person. Mr. Price was inspired by an article on the psychology of income and happiness and decided to do something about it. Rather than continuing in the ranks of most CEO’s and amassing millions of dollars in personal income he has chosen to reduce his annual salary to $70,000 and redirect both the salary difference and 80% of Gravity’s annual profits to his employees. Over the next three years ‘even the lowest -paid employee will begin earning $70,000 per year. This is going to make a difference to everyone around me’ said one of the employees.

Love, compassion, gratitude …The Dalai Lama would be proud of you Mr. Price and so are so many, many others. You give us hope. Thank you for being such a remarkable human being!

Have a great few days!

Determining Your Authentic Self

Have you ever felt that you are not being appreciated or that you are doing all the giving or supporting in a work or personal relationship? If you answered yes to this question let’s look a bit deeper into it. Could it be that you are so interested in getting others to accept or appreciate you that you have not allowed your authentic self to show? Is the fear of people really knowing you blocking you from showing the world what you truly stand for? If so, let me assure you that being authentic draws people to you – not ever away. People can feel truth.

Being authentic starts by first determining what is most important to you in life. As unique individuals we each have specific values that we hold most dear – those things that are truly nonnegotiable to us. Think about them as your personal mission statement. Values such as love, accomplishment, fairness, compassion, confidence, courage, health, freedom, family, harmony, integrity, kindness, optimism, patience, service, trust, orderliness, peace, spirituality, and gratitude are just a few from a long list of values to consider. Each one speaks volumes. Once you determine your own priority of values navigating through life becomes so much easier. In essence, you become more confident and decision making becomes easier because you are more at peace in your own skin.

A helpful way to determine your authentic self is to choose five values that you find most important. You know, the ones that seem to radiate energy back to you as you consider them. The list of words above can be a starting point to consider. The list is long for a purpose. The process is important. Evaluating each word forces you to take the time to consider what it truly means to you. Determining your top five forces you to prioritize as you remind yourself of who you are in your heart. Once you have taken the time to determine your own nonnegotiable values life becomes easier. When you encounter decisions, challenges or obstacles (the should I or shouldn’t I) in life you have a measuring stick to help steer you on a course of action reflects the real you.

Growing more confident as an individual means that you allow your unique identity to be known by others. But…’what if they won’t like me or accept me for who I am’ you may wonder. It’s true not everyone may like you. Just as you do not necessarily like everyone you encounter. It’s simply a cold, hard immutable fact of life. There are bits and pieces in everyone’s personality that leaves something to be desired. It’s called being human. These little quirks in others can be overlook but the values behind them cannot. A person’s values determine not only who they are but what they will do in a pinch. That’s important to know. Likewise, if we try to morph ourselves into something we do not truly value in order to fit in or be accepted it just doesn’t work. We project insincerity or insecurity that is easily felt by others.

Determining the values you hold dear helps you project with confidence who you really are at your core. Just as truth has no versions – your authentic self has no versions either. Any future role in life will never define you because deep down you know what you stand for – no pretenses necessary. Taking the time to determine your authentic self is critical to self esteem. The process alone will help you begin to truly love yourself for all the strengths you possess and there are many! Give it a try and take the time to decide on your top five values … you’ll be glad you did!

Have a great few days!

Balance – the Key to Life

In this classroom called life we are each working on learning our individual lessons. What seems difficult for one may appear easier for another. Not to worry, it’s all fair ultimately. Each of us has signed up to learn certain life lessons – no one gets a free pass on planet earth. When we think about what is THE most difficult thing to accept and learn to handle with grace we are uncovering one of our own lessons.

Learning unconditional love, letting go of the fear of living life fully, compassion for others, and truth are major themes that seem to be repeated in the lives of many. We know that whatever the lesson, the Universe will continue to present the challenges we need until we master it. Remember the saying, ‘First God whispers, then talks and may ultimately have to shout to get our attention.’ Whatever name you give the power greater than yourself, the process seems to be the same.

What if overriding all the individual lessons that we are working on is the granddaddy of them all…BALANCE. It seems the more I observe the challenges we have in life the more it all boils down to achieving a sense of balance by enjoying the journey, bringing our entire self to the game, as we work on our lessons.

Do we work too hard and resent the feeling of exhaustion at the end of the week? Are we eagerly waiting for the time to come when we can be done with our hectic work schedule? Is that when we plan on enjoying life more fully?

Do we demand that things be ‘just so’ in our lives and come unglued when people or things do not meet our expectations? Good luck with that – sounds like a never-ending story of disappointments as we face the twists and turns of life on a daily basis.

Are we constantly on the hunt for ‘things’ that we want rather than being satisfied with things that we truly need. Funny thing about consumption – the more we have the more we want. It becomes a cycle of temporary gratification until the next ‘want’ pops into our minds.

Maybe life is a bit simpler than we imagine. Maybe it really is about learning to balance our needs, wants, lessons, achievements and ‘things’ with living in the now – being present in our thoughts, feelings and behavior. It may be near impossible to do so if we allow ourselves to be on a fast-paced course to get to tomorrow, next week or next month.

Simply put, we only have today. The future may be a fleeting thought that will never be realized. Something to think about when we are hurrying to get to the next meeting, rushing to catch the green light or half listening to another who is in need of our time and attention. The only sure thing we have is this moment.

The next time we are feeling rushed, overwhelmed or frustrated maybe we could take a deep breath and realize that if we continue living at warp speed we may ultimately regret the journey.

Have a great few days!