Stress Managment

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Love and Aloneness – Unravelling the ego and pride

Published March 7, 2012 by matchsoul

There is a most bizarre word the media and the psychologists have begun to use to describe loneliness in our societies: they say it has become an epidemic. An epidemic! A description normally reserved for extremely prevalent and widespread diseases – that is what this state of mind has become.

And the statistics back it up. A third of the citizens of many civilized countries admit to suffering from extreme loneliness. And the impact on our physical health – one study reported that isolated men were 25% more likely to die than those in a relationship, and the women 33% more likely.

Why is loneliness so painful? There are many reasons – but there is one in particular I’m starting to notice. Loneliness is a curse because we don’t know who we are – and that is our basic anxiety. When you are alone, all your self knowledge, your identity, your personality – your ego begins to unravel. The deeper into your aloneness you go, the more you see all your self-knowledge as they are – false.

And it is scary – what you have known your entire life – false! It is so scary that much of our culture is based around this fear. Social clubs, associations, political parties, and even cafés – they all exist for one thing: so one can avoid being alone. And what if we are by ourselves? Then we turn to music, alcohol, the television, the Internet – all to avoid being in our own company.

But the strange thing is – losing our false identity, it is a blessing. It can be scary, yes, but when we turn around and face it – when we turn our loneliness into aloneness –that is when we begin to experience what is real.

When you are alone, everything that you have disowned, everything that you refuse to accept or acknowledge – they begin to arise. We begin to truly know ourselves, to see the genuine. And that is not something that can be told – it has to be experienced.

Comparison – the unravelling of the self

The first thing we have to know is – when we are in a crowd, we think we know who we are. You are American, Vietnamese, Indian. Why? Because you look around and there are people who look different. Everyone calls you by your name, so that is who you are. Everyone acknowledges your title, your job description – they call you Mister, Missus, Madam, Doctor, Reverend, and that is what you think you are.

You are beautiful, because those around you are ugly. You are tall, because your neighbours are short. You are poor, because they live in mansions. You are rich, because some live in cardboard boxes.

But who you are, is not any of these. As Osho said – your heart is neither European nor African, tall nor short, poor nor rich. Who you are is beyond these little labels.

And when you are completely alone, there is no one to compare to. There is no false standard to measure yourself by – and that is when all these labels and false layers start to unravel. Your identity, your very personality, begins to disappear.

And all our lives, that is who we think we are. Our identity card, our driver’s license, and our passport. Our history, our descriptions, and our reputations. Our jobs and our accomplishments. And when that falls away…some people feel it a form of death. And in a way, it is.

What is left? The genuine. I can’t describe it – I haven’t gone there yet. But the deeper I have gone, the more I realise how beautiful it is. To go completely into aloneness, to find the real – I can’t think of anything I’d want more.

So, go and be alone. Not lonely, just alone. Accept and heal whatever bubbles to the front. Throw away all your masks and your false faces. Go away from society. Stop being afraid of loneliness, and just be alone. Let it become your mirror, the perfect mirror, to see who you really are.

And one day – when you feel ready, when you can say that you have known yourself, taken delight and found Love in yourself. That is when your butterfly comes out of the chrysalis. And this process is different for everyone. How long does it take? I’ve been alone for close to a year – and there is still so much to find!

The proud and the egotistical

And comparison leads us perfectly to a question that I have been pondering for a long time: What of those who are so proud and egotistical? What is the difference between being selfish, and of being self loving?

Love for oneself, for one’s totality – the heart, body, and soul – is perhaps the biggest accomplishment one can ever achieve. Someone who has such Love becomes joyful, peaceful, and content. It is impossible for one who knows Love to be hurtful. I know a few such people – they are the most humble women and men one can ever meet.

And just as someone who loves their garden will spend hours planting roses, picking out weeds, and smelling the fragrances – so, too will such people take pleasure in who they are.

And this is the source of much confusion. There are so many people who seem to be strong, confident, but there is something wrong. You must have met such people before – outwardly strong and powerful, but when they left, they left you feeling drained or weak. What is the difference between the two?

If you look carefully, and you know what to look for, the difference is there for you to see.

I once heard: There is no neutrality in life; there is either love or hate. There is no zero in which you are simply empty. What we think of as neutrality hides a quiet contempt, a let-them-burn attitude. If you don’t love, you hate. It might be a subtle hatred or a cool dislike, but it is hatred nonetheless.

Such people exude an indistinct anger and hatred. They make themselves feel better at the expense of those they come into contact with. They have boosted themselves by trampling on you. They spit on others – “I must be higher than they are if I can spit downwards” – that is their rationale. Everything they have – all their self worth and power – is based on judgement and comparison, based on having someone underneath them!

Vanity, egotism, and pride – they all hide a subtle unhappiness, a cleverly disguised animosity. All hatred is self-hatred – and this lies hidden underneath their actions. And that is why they belittle others. Some of the overt ones rage, or yell – and it is all just an externalisation of their internal self-violence. All their strength, their confidence – just a flimsy façade.

The vain and selfish

And the second thing: their worth is based on comparison. In fact, if taken to an extreme, pride becomes a form of personality disorder – narcissism. And this is the parable that Osho used to explain perfectly. All I can do is use the same story.

The story of Narcissus is a well known one – a young man who was so beautiful that he fell in love with his own reflection in the water. And there lies the difference. A humble man falls in love with himself; a vain man falls in love with his reflection.

And in that reflection – the comparison we’ve been discussing. The psychology manuals list the traits of the personality disorder concretely: A modern day Narcissus believes he is special, that he is more beautiful than others, that he deserves more. She is arrogant; she demands attention and constant admiration. She takes advantage of others, with total disregard for their feelings.

How egotistical! And that’s exactly what it is – pride stems from the ego. Comparison strengthens it. Take them away from the crowd, give them no one to compare to, and their pride and their façade falls apart. When they have no one to trample on and sneer at, the truth is revealed, the ugliness in them arises.

I remember a few beautiful women; they spent hours on their make-up and clothes, and they constantly belittled other women. They seemed to have unshakeable self confidence – but when I got to know them better, all their insecurities – often about their looks! – rose to the fore. And it didn’t make sense initially – many women would kill to look like them, most men couldn’t take their eyes off them. Such empty egoistic pride – it doesn’t stand up to the test of aloneness.

Love is totally different. I have heard: In Love, there is no split, there is no other. The lover and the loved all melt into one. Narcissus – he was split. His object of affection wasn’t himself, it was his reflection.

Fake love rejects – when there is perceived imperfection, fake love kicks away. Real Love knows no comparison. When there is perceived imperfection, real love deepens. It holds even tighter.

Know Love – ego and pride, are the opposites of Love. Cultivate Love, and watch as they dissolve.

A Guide to Handling Guilt and Self Punishment

Published March 7, 2012 by matchsoul

Guilt is the source of much sorrow; the driving force behind a constant mental whipping, a constant stinging. And from whom? Who holds the whip?

What is one to do? Is one helpless?

This series is not to say one should abandon all guidelines for behaviour, or that we should not follow our conscience. Reparations, the power to change and improve – these are all actions that are done best without the torment of self-imposed shame, and that is what the series aims to promote.

The First Step

The first step is to recognise our feelings of guilt. For many, this section might seem stupid, superfluous, but it isn’t. Guilt is insidious, stealthy and cunning. Guilt is a thief in the night, one that has taken up residence in your home, so skilfully that sometimes you can’t recognise it.

I remember the first time I encountered a racist; my age was barely in the double digits and my self esteem was fragile. I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when a man walked up to me and began spitting, swearing, wildly gesturing. I was too stunned to respond; I stood there in silence until he finished and walked off.

The event weighed heavily on my mind for many years. I didn’t know what I was feeling; it was just a constant replaying of the event in my head. I felt inferior; I felt angry; I felt scared. And one day, I suddenly realised that I was blaming myself for the attack. I hated myself for not being strong enough to stand up to him, and worst of all, I felt I was somehow at fault; somehow I had deserved what had happened to me.

How preposterous, one might think! But it is not uncommon; a friend who works as a psychologist has told me many survivors of childhood abuse blamed themselves. To a young child, their parents are almighty. How can a perfect being be wrong? If their parents were abusing them, they must have been at fault, not the abuser.

And that realisation dropped me into a more subtle trap – I began to feel guilty about feeling guilty.

Take a Moment

Close your eyes, become still, and welcome any thoughts and sensations into your awareness. Is there anything that you have not forgiven yourself for? Bring to mind a person or an event that still carries an emotional charge. Then follow it back to the root. You might be surprised at what you find, for you might be feeling guilty without even knowing what it is.

How does one change what they don’t even recognise, what they don’t even know exists?

We Were Helpless

The second step is to realise that we were helpless. There was nothing we could do; we were not in our own hands, merely dragged along by the force of our past.

This recognition could be enough to drop the self-flagellation. If it doesn’t, at the very least it gives us permission to heal, to take the next step and let go of the pain.

Welcome the pain, feel the sorrow completely without necessarily acting on it. Relax into your sorrow; find compassion for yourself; and let the shame go. Emotions are the wind; we are the flute. Unblock the passage; let the shame be there, and you’ll find that it will leave you soon enough. That is all it takes. And yet we fight it, deny it, pretend it doesn’t exist – and that keeps us blocked, weighs us down.

Penetrating the Memories

There is a quiet meditation I have developed on my own; I’ve found it tremendously helpful for four things.

The first is to find the root of the problem. The second is to see for yourself the strength of the forces that were pulling you at the time. The third is to dissolve the emotion of guilt. The last, and perhaps the most important, is to prepare for the future, to make it easier to catch your pattern the next time it threatens to overwhelm you.

We’ve discussed this meditation in the first part of this series – it is simply to relive and recreate the original situation in your mind.

Take a few minutes for this. Find somewhere quiet and penetrate your memories. Relive the event as vividly as you can. Visualise it – what was happening then? Recreate the external situation, down to the finest detail. What was happening? What triggered it, what led up to it, what did you do in response?

And this is perhaps the most important step: turn your attention to your inner space. What were you feeling, what were you thinking? What triggered your actions? What contributed to it? We’ve discussed this in the first part of the series: your beliefs, your knowledge, your mental-emotional state – even external conditions like the heat and humidity have their part to play in deciding what you did.

Watch, analyse, feel. Go deeply into your unconscious. A journal will also be helpful.

Finding the Root

Use your guilt as a tool to penetrate yourself, to find the origin of your behaviour.

You give your opinion on a minor topic, and someone disagrees politely and respectfully. And yet you fly into a rage. Why? Is your opinion that important? Or is it something else?

I used to know someone like that; she told me she was invisible as a child. No one cared about her opinion; in her own words, “no one gave a damn about what she wanted.” Her entire childhood was spent as a shadow, and the shame had taken over her adult life.

Follow your behaviour to the root, and heal that wound. It will mean the end of your unskilful behaviour.

The Strength of the Unconscious

The second benefit: During the contemplation, you’ve gone some way towards recapturing the force of your emotions, your patterns, and the circumstances that led up to it. Combine that with this truth: No mental image can come close to recreating the pull that you felt at that time.

The truth is reinforced in your mind, and there will be an even greater relief: given what you knew, you could have done no better.

Releasing the emotions

The third benefit: We’ve discussed how feeling the emotions completely are the key to letting them go. This meditation helps tremendously in releasing the emotions you were feeling then; not merely the guilt you felt about it afterwards. This weakens the very patterns themselves, which prepares us for the next step.

Intimacy with your conditioning

The most important benefit: Psychologists and spiritual teachers alike state the key to changing our conditioning is to become aware of it as it arises.

How do we stop something we don’t recognise? First become intimate with your patterns, know what triggers them, analyse how they feel, remember the thoughts and emotions that lead up to your actions.

Delve into it and watch it, feel it from every angle. The more you do this, the easier it is to catch your unconsciousness when it is next triggered.

Mindfulness: The Key to Transformation

Emotional Intelligence is defined as “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”

The Buddhist practice of mindfulness has been tremendously helpful in my life. Constantly check inside yourself – ask yourself this question: What is going inside me? What am I thinking, what am I feeling?

When you first begin this practice, you might be shocked. So much tension in your muscles, ragged breathing, an unruly and obsessive mind, a background feeling of sadness or anger…

As Daniel Goleman said in Emotional Intelligence: The ability to control impulse is the base of will and character.

Awareness is the key to transformation and control. For most people, this change might be slow. Old patterns might still arise, for emotional intelligence does not come overnight. But the moment you have become aware of it, the change has begun.

Overcoming your self-defeating behaviours

Someone makes a snide comment; immediately you feel your anger take over. You leap to your feet, you pound the table with all your might, and you begin to scream in rage. Awareness might only come afterwards, a dawning realisation – “Oh no, I’ve done it again.”

But as you practice, awareness begins to arise sooner, interrupting your patterns at earlier points. You might catch yourself with your fist in the air, and stop it before it hits the table. The next time it happens, you might catch yourself just as you jump to your feet, and stop before you go any further. Soon you might catch the anger as it begins, even before it has taken over your actions.

It is important to note that one shouldn’t fall back into self-blame. Buddhist teachers call your past actions and thoughts unskilful; as distinct from wrong. Skill comes with experience; unskilfulness is therefore a result of inexperience and a lack of proper learning. Wrongness is twisted; a lie that we are somehow fundamentally flawed, somehow evil.

When you catch the past, simply breathe. Pause, and breathe. It is also helpful to have prepared an alternative. A simple example would be someone who wants to give up smoking – every time she feels the urge to smoke; she pauses, calms her feelings with a few deep breaths, and reaches for a pack of gum instead.

Out of the hundreds of books on this topic, I would recommend two: Self-Defeating Behaviors, a purely psychological tome with information on the deepest and most common patterns. The second is Emotional Alchemy, a mixture of Buddhist and modern psychology, with a slightly different approach and categorisation.

Combine this with some emotional work, and burn up the pattern before it has the chance to arise.

Making Reparations

Being free of guilt does not mean that suffering and pain was not caused. Very often, some form of reparation is needed. You might have hurt someone; do your very best to fix things and make amends.

Byron Katie told a story once; I forget the exact details. A man had stolen from a retail shop in his past, but he was never caught. How was he to make amends? He tried going back and simply paying for the items he had stolen, but they said the accounting system would show an error for such a strange action. And so he came up with a brilliant solution – he returned to the store, and made several purchases. But after he made payment, he placed the items back on the shelves, walking out empty handed.

True courage is living your change completely.

Change your thoughts and change your life – The Art of Cognitive Reframing

Published February 16, 2012 by matchsoul

We never, ever, see the world as it is. Our awareness – our beliefs, past conditionings, upbringing, the list goes on – these distort everything we see. They creep into every interpretation and misinterpretation.

This is obvious; you must have seen it for yourself. The same person can elicit very different reactions, wildly varying feelings in a crowd of onlookers. One man looks at a beautiful woman; he feels a sense of yearning. Another sees a potential new friend, and yet another shies away – he will never be good enough for her.

One of the most painful misinterpretations lies in self-perception. How do you see yourself? Realistic self concepts are rare, but a negatively distorted perception ruins lives. Weaknesses are magnified, assets and strengths are ignored. We have a tendency to compare; this leads to low self-esteem; a strong feeling of inadequacy and constant unhappiness.

A low self-esteem is the proverbial ball and chain; it drags you down in almost every area of your life – from your romances and your relationships to your work, your ability to achieve your goals.

This is a mixture of techniques that has worked tremendously well – it is based on cognitive psychology, with a touch of Zen.

Self-Concept Inventory

Bring to mind an issue, something that is holding you back or causing you fear and sorrow. Perhaps it is your physical appearance; perhaps it is the way you relate to others. It could be something in the way other people see you, a part of your sexuality. It could even be your performance in your school or work.

Find a journal, and begin writing. Write down the positives and the negatives in as much detail as you can. Be honest, be deep, and don’t censor yourself. Let it all pour out unto the paper.

An example: you might be feeling insecure about your physical appearance. So write down everything about it – your style of dress, your facial features, specific body parts, skin, height and weight.

The next step is to begin to organise it. On a fresh sheet of paper, dig out each description and write them on a new line. Mark each description appropriately: a + sign for the positive, a – for the negative.

Some Examples

Here are a few random personal examples, taken from a wide area of possible topics:

[-] Physical: Too tall, potential dates feel intimidated.
[+] How I relate to others: Good listener.
[-] Work: Very bad with accounting and record-keeping.
[-] Personality Traits: Too sensitive, emotionally weak and easily hurt.
Examining our weaknesses

The first thing we have to realise is that there is no such thing as perfection. Everyone has flaws, imagined or real. The problem lies not in having flaws, but in using them to attack ourselves, in giving them more power and attention than they deserve.

Our self-inventory are unlikely to be accurate; examination is vital – seeing facts for what they are is refreshing, empowering. Find a fresh sheet of paper, and begin to revise your weaknesses with these rules, taken from Self-Esteem:

Remove all negative labelling. A friend was condemning himself, calling himself a loser because his business wasn’t making him much money. Such descriptions are painful; cut all such words from your description.
Replace negative labels with accurate language. What are the facts? They are all you need – not the labels, not the insults. For instance, his business made a thousand dollars profit the last year. That is all he needs.
Be as specific as you can. We often take one situation and generalise the effects across a wide spectrum. He had generalised a perceived failure in business, seeing as a reflection of his totality, his entire value. He had ignored everything else in condemning himself – his family, his friends, his personal growth – that makes up his life.
Find exceptions. Sometimes we generalise in a different direction – deeper instead of wider. A failure in one business might be taken to mean a guaranteed failure in all future ventures, causing him never to try again.
Find corresponding strengths. Very often, there is something positive to be found in an event or personality trait, one that we have ignored by focusing on the negative. What is it?
Reframing Sensitivity

It might be helpful to see an example; so let’s have a look at a personality trait: Too sensitive, emotionally weak and easily hurt.

The first step was to remove the negative label – emotionally weak. It was a label, a criticism, and not a statement of facts. It served no real purpose. The other two were closer to descriptions of reality, so they stayed.

Too sensitive, easily hurt.

Next, I rewrote it to be as accurate as possible. I investigated – why did I start calling myself easily hurt? I realised I was quite sensitive to criticism; one comment could stay in my head for days and weeks.

Too sensitive to criticism, easily hurt by it.

Next was specificity. Was I sensitive to every negative remark? No, I handle constructive criticism very well. In fact I welcome it. Abuse by someone who had done it in the heat of the moment doesn’t affect me very much either – I understand how wild emotions could lead to words one doesn’t mean. Calculated attacks cut me the most.

Sensitive and easily hurt by calculated attacks.

Last, and most important, was to find exceptions and strengths. I had taken many attacks to heart and brooded over them for days; but there were also times I didn’t.

I also found corresponding strengths. I had considered being sensitive a weakness, but it carried many benefits – in social situations, it put me at a distinct advantage. Some have said it helps me in my writing; others have said it is a blessing once I achieve my career goal of being a counsellor.

Sensitive and easily hurt by some calculated attacks. But it helps in social situations, writing, and my future career.

In addition to this, I wrote down the specific instances and memories of exceptions and blessings.

Additional Examples

A reader might struggle to see how this applies to some of the other traits; it might be helpful to examine briefly another trait.

Before: Too tall, ladies feel intimidated.

After: I am 6 foot 4. One or two women in a crowd have been intimidated. There will be a few more in the future. But most have no problem with it; in fact, many will like the sense of security a tall man gives. There are also other benefits – in certain social situations, in leadership, and in many sports.

What a difference it makes! The effects of an unexamined label can be drastic. In my teens, I was so insecure about my height that it crippled me socially. One or two girls had been intimidated by my height; I took it to heart, and without examination, let the memories grow into a crippling label.

Understanding

Sometimes, a reframing and examination is not enough. Understanding will be helpful for the more painful labels.

A close friend was upset because he wasn’t doing very well after a few years of business; he was barely paying the rent. When I talked to him, I reminded him of what he had gone through in the past few years. He had gone through a nasty divorce; it had triggered severe depression and several bouts of anxiety. He had spent most of his income, energy, and time on mental health professionals, and was only recently well enough to dedicate more time to his business.

I walked him through the various steps, asking him to see his situation objectively. His competitors had begun their ventures the same time he had, but they were driving fancy cars, and that upset him. But he was still making a small profit; he was still paying the bills. It was therefore inaccurate for him to call himself a “failure”.

In fact, how could he blame himself? He should have been proud of having the courage to go through what he had gone through. It had been a tough few years, and he did extremely well considering the circumstances. Understanding is vital for deep sorrows; I have described it in more detail here. You might also like to read the guilt series – The Importance of Overcoming Guilt, and A Guide to Handling Guilt and Self-Punishment.

I also asked him what benefits he got out of it. He paused for a few minutes, and began nodding. “I’m far stronger emotionally now. I can handle things I could not handle before. I’m more compassionate, I connect better with people.”

“Can you see how this would make a positive difference in your future life and business?” I asked. He nodded silently, a slight smile on his face.

The emotional charge

This next step is one that regular readers will be familiar with, for I sing its praises all the time. But don’t let that put you off – loving and neutralising the emotional charge that accompanies your weaknesses is one of the most powerful steps you can take.

Your emotions underlie your thoughts; they are intimately connected. We’ve worked on the level of thoughts up to this point, to boost the speed of your internal change, work on the emotions as well.

This has been covered in detail in the emotional mastery series, but here is a quick summary.

Welcome the emotion, feel it completely without necessarily acting on it. Emotions are there to be felt. If we don’t feel them, instead trying to avoid them, run away from them, they just go deeper in our systems, showing up in other ways – aches and pains, addictions, influencing our behaviour. Just relax into it – the body might tighten up, so just keep relaxing. Feel it through the body, without thinking about it. Explore how it feels. Ride it out, and it will release its hold on you.

The first option is to heal the negative label directly; think of the weakness and heal how it makes you feel. The second is to go back in time. Find the first date that stood you up, the first time someone laughed at you for being overweight, and heal that pain.

Your New Description

The next step is to simply write up your new description of the situation or yourself. Many flaws and setbacks might still be there, but this new description is rooted in reality and not clouded by judgement, emotions or time.

This description, then, is something to be obsessed over. Read it constantly; think about it every chance you get. You might even carry it around in your wallet or purse. You could also leave it in prominent areas of your bedroom, your office – anywhere you spend a lot of time. Let this practice remove the misinterpretations that has been hurting you all this time.

Any time you are feeling down, turn to this new description. Heal and release the emotions your old description brings up.

Remembering the Exceptions and Strengths

The final step is to analyse the exceptions and the strengths. You’ve remembered the exceptions to your perceived weakness, their corresponding strengths. More importantly, we should focus on specific situations.

Take your time here, and dig up compliments, awards, and everything else you can think of. Write them all down, big or small. The reason for this is simple: many brains are wired to remember the negative and forget the positive. Our self-image, our very happiness – they are then created around our negative distortions.

For instance, I have always thought of my teenage self as shy and awkward around the opposite sex. Certain painful memories reinforced that image – I had latched onto the negative and distorted them so that they seemed to represent my entire past. Upon investigation, I began to recall many positive experiences with the ladies – in fact, they numbered more than the negative.

There might be discomfort at this step; many of us will have been raised to be humble. People tend to respond negatively to those we see as boastful or proud. But it is perfectly fine to blow your own trumpet in private – it is healing to your self-esteem.

Contemplating the Exceptions and Strengths

Meditate on this – close your eyes and repeat the benefits and strengths; relive these instances. Feel them.

Write down these instances in the same way you’ve written down your realistic view of your weaknesses. Read them, obsess over them. There is no major difference in the way we’re handling these and the way we handle our weaknesses; we’re giving them extra attention.

These forms of affirmation and contemplation are different from wishful thinking, building castles in the air. We are not imagining a false reality – we are basing them on reality, specific memories and instances.

Try it for yourself, and see if it doesn’t make a change in your life.

Link Love

Isabella Mori runs a unique blog, Change Therapy, on issues like mental health, addictions, psychotherapy, social issues, and Buddhism. The blog itself is highly recommended, but she was also interested in social media and how other bloggers participated.

Isabella is asking for some of my thoughts on the social media site named Twitter. I have an account there; I signed up many months ago, used it for a few minutes, and never returned. Sadly, that’s all I can contribute. I’ve never been interested in social sites like MySpace, Facebook and the like. I have accounts but only because everyone was sending me emails to sign up.

As a nice coincidence, Wellsphere is a social site that recently contacted me. It seems to be worth a look. Like most others it is free, and while I haven’t explored it properly, it is focused on health (mostly physical), personal development, and also promises goal-tracking services, networking, and other such goodies.

Failure is an Integral Part of Success

Published February 16, 2012 by matchsoul

For many of us, success is something that we are constantly striving towards. Some of us are consumed by the idea of achieving success in whatever we put our minds to. It drives us forward onwards to bigger and better things. There are some people who take this too far and try to be successful at everything resulting in arrogance and a lack of respect for others. Unfortunately everyone seems to forget that failure is part of achieving success and that failure is integral to not only achieving success but also to appreciating it.

When you look at some of the successful people in the world, you will see that at times they have experienced failure and learnt from it, which has helped them become more successful.

Richard Branson, for example, failed exams at school, had business ventures fail, failed in attempts to go round the world in a hot air balloon, and got into debt. But all of these failures, whether large or small, have helped him to be more successful. Why? Because successful people learn from their mistakes and failures and use what they have learned to radically change the future for themselves. Without failure success is harder to achieve. By learning from your failures, from what has caused them, from what you contributed to the failure, and from what you can change, you can become more successful too.

Practical Ideas

Here are some practical ideas for dealing with failure:

Don’t see it as the end. This failure is just an obstacle to get round on the route to your ultimate goal. This might be the first stumble on your road to success, it might even be the hundredth but what is important to remember is that getting through it will only bring you closer to your goal. It is important that you view the failure as a problem to be solved rather than the end of the world.
Think things through. If you run head long into any problem you bound to either make the same mistake again or create new problems. You need to be able to think correctly under pressure (T.C.U.P) in order to solve this problem and get over this failure and that comes from not rushing in but instead thinking it through.
Try to work out what has caused the failure. Was it something you or someone else did? Was your attempt at success just at the wrong time in the wrong place? Were there circumstances out of your control?
What options do you now have? Can you try the same thing again or do you need to try to approach the problem from a different angle? Do you need extra help and resources?
Don’t be afraid. It is important that you don’t fear to try again, if you do you are likely to not put your full self into your effort, making it harder to get to your ultimate success.
Plan for failure. I’m a big believer in the Law of Attraction. The idea that thinking and doing positive things brings about positive things in your life, while negative thoughts and actions only bring about negativity in your life seems to really fit with me personally. I also think it is crucial, though, that you plan for failure and in a way expect it along your journey to success. Now I’m not saying that thoughts of failure should fill your mind rather that you should reflect positively upon it and see it as an inevitable learning experience. Having a backup plan for when things go wrong is not a bad thing, it is just sensible.
Finally, learn from it. Successful people are always learning and so should you. People tend to only learn for what goes well in their lives, dwelling only on the positive, but really you should try to learn something from every eventuality whether good or bad. If you do this you not only get closer to achieving your success but also expanding your comfort zones. You will also find it easier to handle future failures.
A Simple Illustration

A simple illustration of how failure is vital on any journey for success can be seen in the notion of finding a light switch in the dark given in Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. When you are in a dark room and you are searching for the light switch you start groping around to find it. To start with, maybe you are looking at the wrong part of the wall so you readjust because you have learnt the light switch isn’t where you thought it was. Next, you find that you are groping around too low, so again you readjust. You are now narrowing your focus (in the dark) to allow you to reach your goal.

So you start to use the sensory information you got and begin piecing it together to give you a better idea of where the light switch is. This time you find something that feels like a light switch, but doesn’t seem to switch the light on; maybe it’s the switch for the AC or a power point. You know you are close because the two switches are next to each other. You try again and this time you find the light switch and on comes the light!!!

In all your attempts to find the light switch, apart from the last one, you fail but instead of simply giving up and living in the dark you quickly learn from what happened and try again. So why – when trying to achieve something amazing in your life – do you give up so quickly? Are not all attempts at success no matter how big or how small the same?

The Sense of Achievement

Failure also heightens the sense of achievement when you experience success. If you have felt what it is like to fail, you will more grateful and respectful of the success you achieve because you will know what it took for you to succeed. Only by truly experiencing failure will you know what it means to truly succeed.

Too many people these days give up when they fail and turn away from what they want to succeed in, deciding maybe to try something else. If you choose to do the same when you fail then you never achieve the things you want in your life. And when you are sitting in your chair in the latter years of your life, you will regret the fact that you gave up too easily. Achieving success isn’t easy but everyone should strive for some kind of success whether large or small and not give up when the going gets tough.

Acceptance and Attention – The Basis of Unconditional Love and Nurturing

Published January 28, 2012 by matchsoul

The next time we are with our lover or our child, there is a question we can ask ourselves – how do we truly love them?

The next time we look at ourselves, our past, we can ask – how do I truly heal, how do I truly grow and move on?

What strange questions! The foundations of loving, healing and nurturing are simple: gentle attention and non-judgemental acceptance. Yet how many of us can give them; how many of us know how it feels to receive them? Without exaggeration – not many. It was only recently that I experienced it for the very first time.

What is Unconditional Acceptance?

Unconditional acceptance isn’t a technique but a mindful, giving, state of being. Our focus is gently and lovingly on the other, giving them the gift of simply letting them be who they are. And for the first time in perhaps their entire lives, they are finally in an environment free of all burdens and judgements. No more hiding. No more chopping and pruning their emotions, beliefs, and past. No more fear and shame.

The psychologist David Richo has stated that such attention is the main ingredient in a mature, loving, romance. Nathaniel Branden, the father of the self-esteem movement, believes it is vital in raising mature and emotionally healthy children. Please do not discount this – try it for yourself, and see how your most important relationships change. You might be just as surprised as I was.

Best of all – this is the first, and sometimes only, requirement in deep emotional healing. The psychotherapist William DeFoore gives a beautiful example. He describes a client who had suffered tremendously for years. Methods and techniques all failed, for she could not get in touch with her emotions – until one day she finally found stillness in the presence of unconditional love. For the first time she felt safe enough to simply be herself, and out poured the hurt and pain she had reined in and denied for years.

Recently, I’ve discovered the same thing – so many wounds had gone unhealed inside me, stuck beyond a certain point, simply because I could not find true unconditional acceptance anywhere. When I learnt to give it to myself, things shifted very quickly, in one of the most powerful forms of self-work I’ve found – sub-personalities, the shadow, and the inner child (yes, the inner child! ). This work will be detailed in an upcoming series, and this is to prepare for that.

How Do We Give It?

How exactly do we give unconditional acceptance? In my experience, it involves the following elements:

Really listening to what they have to say, even if it is uncomfortable.
Showing respect.
Total and unconditional acceptance for every single part of their person.
Not giving advice until the right time.
Not trying to change or manipulate them.
Not judging them.
Allowing them their experience.
Please don’t trivialise these points. They might seem common-sense, but except for some gifted therapists, I have not seen many who can actually do them all. Let’s analyse them in more detail.

Really Listening

Really listening to someone means giving them your full, gentle, focus. A father might say he cares for his children, but when his child is speaking to him, he might be watching the television out of the corner of his eye. He might tell his little girl to come back when he is done polishing his car.

And no matter how sweetly and gently he says to her afterwards – What is the matter, honey? – the real message is clear. She is invisible; she does not matter. This is one of the most painful emotional wounds one can sustain.

True listening is hardest when what they have to say is painful. Imagine if your close friend said you are always inconsiderate and selfish. How many of us can listen to this without getting defensive, firing back in anger, or immediately discounting it?

Naturally, if the person is being abusive, protect yourself. But in other cases, can we stay open and listen? A good thing to do is to see that they have a right to their opinion – and they might have a good reason for thinking of us this way. Those closest to us see our denied and disowned parts very clearly.

That is their gift to us, for they are helping us reclaim these denied parts, helping us become whole again. Could we look honestly at our actions and see how they could have formed this opinion? Remember that each criticism that hurts us reveals to us a wound that is calling out for our love and attention.

Respect

It is a strange fact of life that we often talk to strangers more politely than we do those we are close to. Nathaniel Branden gives a strikingly true example: if we had a guest in our house, and he spills a drink on the carpet, how would we react?

Even if we got upset, we would still hide it and do our best to be polite. Now, what if someone in the family did the same thing? Many of us won’t bother to hide our irritation. We might call them clumsy or stupid, or even punish them. Again, this need not be obvious. I often see parents talking about a young child as if he was not there. This can be very damaging to a fragile mind.

Could we see that those closest to us, that we claim to love, deserve the most respect – and that we don’t always give it to them?

Please be honest, for this is a painful thing to see in ourselves. We have all used ridicule, emotional or even physical violence to control and manipulate those we claim to love. Perhaps it is time to show respect for his or her dignity as a human being.

What’s Next

To stop this article from being too long, I’ll leave the rest of the points for the next article – they are all related.

How To Polarize With Love Instead Of Fear

Published January 28, 2012 by matchsoul

In cartoons, whenever a major character is facing a moral dilemma, two opposing figures sometimes pop up on their shoulders. There’s an angel, which represents the kind and loving thing to do, and there is the devil, which represents the greedy or selfish thing to do. Almost always, these two characters get into a fight with each other, but usually the character decides to “do the right thing,” and the devilish figure is defeated. In real life, we often find ourselves in a similar predicament: There is a “right” choice, and a “wrong” choice, and we must do what we feel is best. Even though we never have figures appear on our shoulders, we almost always have their corresponding voices in our minds.

That voice of the angel could be called your higher self, while the voice of the devil could be called your lower self. If you are serious about personal development and becoming the best person that you can be, you must learn to connect with your higher self. Only by consciously choosing to listen to your higher self (while simultaneously ignoring your lower self) can you become a better person. However, this isn’t always as easy as it seems. We get so caught up in living our lives that we rarely think about the moral implications of our choices. And even when we think about morals, we usually restrict our thoughts to “good” and “evil” But how many of our choices that we make really fit into those terms?

A Better Polarity

Instead of thinking about issues in terms of “good” and “evil”, or even “right” and “wrong”, I think it is much more useful to think in terms of “love” and “fear.” Even though most people tend to think that the opposite of love should be hate, this isn’t accurate. As Master Yoda taught us, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate…” If you sit down to think about that statement, you can test its validity for yourself. Of course, not all of anger comes from fear, but the overwhelming majority of it does. If you are honest with yourself, I think that you’ll find that most of the time, your anger has been a secondary emotion that came after your fear.

First, something scares you. You don’t like feeling afraid, and so you turn that fear into anger to protect yourself from feeling weak or cowardly. When we don’t express our anger, or when we allow it to fester inside our soul without releasing it, it becomes hatred. Therefore, the root of hatred is fear. In fact, I believe that fear is the root of all evil in the world. Most of our decisions (at least the truly important ones) can be summed up in the choice between love and fear.

A Personal Example

The hardest decision that I ever had to make in my life was a custody decision for my child. After my divorce was finalized, I had won custody of my daughter, and she was living with me full time. I had a hundred reasons for keeping my daughter with me. I could rehash them here, but I won’t. All you really need to know is that most of those reasons were based in fear. I was afraid that my ex couldn’t provide the right kind of life for my daughter, and so I kept my daughter for myself.

My daughter was miserable living with me.

She missed her mom, and she cried herself to sleep nearly every night. I couldn’t find a job, and so money was incredibly tight. And even though I had the full support of my family and friends, and even though everyone felt like I was doing the right thing, I felt awful about it. Even though I hadn’t consciously come up with the “love vs. fear” polarity yet, on a subconscious level, I knew that I wasn’t doing the right thing. As it is said, if you love someone, let them go. Sometimes, we even have to do that with our children. After about six months, I knew that I had to let my daughter go live with her mom. It was simply the right thing to do.

My family hated the idea. My friends hated the idea. Everyone told me how crazy I was, and how stupid I was being. Everyone thought I was making a huge mistake. “You’ll never see her again” and “She’ll turn against you” were common things I heard. All of my external influences were dead-set against this decision. They were even aligned with my own lower self, who was screaming at me to keep my daughter with me.

It was all fear-based thinking. And it was all wrong. The only opposing viewpoint was my own higher self, which kindly and gently, but firmly, told me to let her go. That voice told me that if I truly loved my daughter, I had to let her go. I had to give her a chance to be happy, even if that chance wasn’t with me. Even though it hurt me (and still hurts me to this day…over 6 years later, honestly) I know that I made the right choice. My daughter is growing into a healthy, well-adjusted teenager. She makes good grades, and has a lot of friends. I’m closer to her than I ever was, and I’m closer to my ex, too. Even though we will never be “one big happy family” together, at least my daughter knows that she has the love and support of both parents, and that she is well protected and provided for.

Knowing the Difference

It’s never easy to know what the right choice is when making important decisions. Our egos get in the way, and we can easily be overwhelmed by fear-based thinking. Many other people are controlled by fear, so they often give us advice that is rooted in fear, too. The only way to slice through all of that negativity is to focus on love, and to listen to your higher self. But how will you know which voice is truly coming from your higher self? Here are a few techniques that I use. Feel free to add more in the comments.

If you feel angry, there is a very good chance that fear lies beneath your anger. Try to get to the root of it. What are you afraid of? Now, what are you really afraid of? Why does this make you afraid? If you are making a decision because of fear, then it is probably a wrong one.
Think of someone that you know you love, without a doubt. Perhaps this is your spouse, or even your child. If they had to make this decision, what would you encourage them to do?
Think of your spiritual leader. What would they do in this situation (What would Jesus do)?
If you were on the receiving end of this decision…if this were somebody else’s choice to make, and you had to live with the consequences, what would you want them to do?
Selfish choices are almost always the wrong ones. It’s not that you shouldn’t take care of yourself, but if you’re only looking out for number one, then you’re probably on the wrong track. Can you turn the situation around so that it becomes a win-win for everyone involved?
Conclusion

As I continue to grow and evolve into a kinder, gentler, more loving person, I find that it becomes easier and easier to connect with my higher self, and give my lower self the boot it deserves. I can honestly say that I have never regretted any decision that I made out of love, but I have regretted nearly every single one that I have based out of fear. It isn’t always easy to love people to the point that it causes you pain (learning to let them go), but it’s always the right decision.

Your Mind Plays Tricks

Published January 25, 2012 by matchsoul

Have you ever listened to two politicians debating about the same issue and wondered how on earth they managed to arrive at such different opinions and conclusions from the same facts?

Have you ever been to a sporting event and raved over your favorite player only for an accompanying friend to look at you blankly and declare they were unimpressed?

Have you known anybody that has been through really tough times and never stopped smiling and looking on the bright side? Whereas somebody else you knew in the same situation was a prophet of doom and gloom?

What’s going on here, surely facts are facts? Isn’t it obvious when somebody has excelled? And why would anybody feel good when things are so bad, that’s just insane, right?

If you have a belief that the way you see things is the way they are, you are not only wrong, but will severely impede your chance of becoming the person you want to be. In actuality you see things the way you think they are according to your map of reality. And by the way, you are the only person holding that map.

You and in particular your unconscious mind do not like to be wrong. In fact your unconscious hates it with a passion. So much so in fact, that it will do almost anything to avoid those uncomfortable feelings, including fooling you. That’s right, your very own brain is constantly fooling you.

When you gather external data using your representational systems, and by that I mean things you see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Your unconscious mind goes to work deleting, distorting and generalizing the information to help it fit your map of reality and to stop it from becoming overwhelmed.

This is perfectly normal and indeed we all have to do this otherwise we would struggle to get through the day without having a nervous breakdown.

When you see a door handle you want to be able to generalize that it works the same way as all door handles. It would be a tad inconvenient if all door handles looked identical, but some had to be lifted up, some pushed, some slid to one side and some worked on voice recognition.

Similarly when you see a creature bound towards you it’s useful to know it’s a friendly cat because you have seen a cat before, and not have to pull out your ‘Morons Guide to Creatures That May Want To Eat Me’ to know if you need to head for the hills.

On the other hand, when we make generalizations like British people have bad teeth, there is nothing worth watching on TV these days, sports people make too much money, old people are always grumpy and women with PMS should always be avoided, we are in danger of taking it too far.

It only needs one exception for the above to be untrue and the generalization to be inaccurate. Although one of the above may indeed be true and I’ll leave you to decide which.

Whilst your unconscious is making all these useful and sometimes irrational generalizations, it is also deleting information. Your pre-frontal cortex isn’t very good at storing huge amounts of information at a time. It runs out of RAM fairly quickly so has to dump information that it does see as being crucial, and that starts to happen round about five pieces and max’s out at around eight or nine.

Think of all the things that are going on around you right now; All the information that is being thrown at your senses at this one point in time. It is amazing how much of it you’re missing.

The air on your skin, the touch of your clothing, background noises you have filtered out like the sound of your own breathing, maybe the noise of the A/C or a heater. Visually speaking, you are seeing very little of what is in your peripheral field, you are focused on reading this and blanking most other things out. It would be very hard to concentrate otherwise.

Your unconscious is not finished there either. Not content with deleting and generalizing, it is now distorting information for you, the little scamp.

Have you ever had a false memory? Of course you have, everybody has (and yes, that is a generalization! Well spotted.). In fact you will be holding lots of them as you read this and again it is not a problem and very normal. It’s because your mind constructs memories rather then reconstructs them as you would think. It has to, because otherwise every memory would take as long to recreate as the actual event it is recreating.

So the brain retains crucial bits of information and lets you fill in all the blanks. As such, you frequently make mistakes. We’ve all had moments of absolute certainty and clarity about an event only to come across incontrovertible proof that demonstrates we got it completely wrong. It can be a sobering experience, especially when it involves the mother-in-law, two bottles of wine and 3.00am phone call.

It can also distort in other ways too. You can and will see things that you want or expect to see rather than what is actually there.

One of my hero’s is a guy called Derren Brown. Derren is a brilliant illusionist, magician, hypnotherapist and NLP guy. He’s also highly amusing in my opinion and I recommend you checking out his DVD’s.

During one episode for TV he was on a high street holding a map looking like a lost tourist. He would stop somebody and ask for help in finding his way. As the two people studied the map, two guys carrying a large picture of Derren would barge between him and his Good Samaritan. As Derren and his ’mark’ momentarily lost sight of each other, Derren would walk with the removal people behind the picture and hand off the map to a person that was previously obscured.

When the helper was suddenly able to see ‘Derren’ again a second or two later it was a completely different person holding the map.

You wouldn’t expect anybody would fall for such an obvious trick and you would be completely wrong. Now to be fair, I feel sure few people did spot the switch and that was edited out for TV, but many people were conclusively fooled. In fact, the switch got more and more outrageous and the last couple will have you shaking your head in disbelief. (Youtube Video)

These people were not duped because they are any more stupid than you or I. In fact we may very well have reacted the same way. Their brain simply adapted what it saw to fit what it expected to see, because that is what it is does best.

There’s no way round any of this, it’s one of the things that makes life so intriguing. However, if you can stay aware that your opinions may well be wrong even when you just ‘know’ they are right, that what you are seeing may not necessarily what other people are seeing and that some British people have good teeth, you’ll make life a whole lot easier on yourself.

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