Category Archives: Acceptance

Neutral

By Gloria Smith Cisse, LPC, LMSW, CTRTC

Happiness is not simply the absence of sadness.   Happiness is much more.  It is a place of peace, comfort, quiet, beauty, and contentment.  It seems the thing we are always chasing is a kind of excitement that comes from getting something that we felt we have always wanted or needed.  This can be synonymous with drug addiction or thrill seeking.  I have never really enjoyed roller coasters and I don’t believe emotional roller coasters are any different.

A few days ago while I was in my car driving from one work site to the next, I thought about happiness.  Questions like: What is happiness for me?,  Am I happy right now?, and How would people know I am happy? danced around in my mind.  It occurred to me that I had not been “happy” in some time.  It also occurred to me that I was also not sad.  About a week before Thanksgiving 2015, I lost my mother.  I should be sad, right?

Some of my sisters and I communicate with each other on an almost daily basis. It feels like they are having a much harder time adjusting to life after our mother’s death than I am.  I was thinking that maybe there was something wrong with me because I was not as sad as they appeared to be.  I had made a choice to not depress.  I had not told them that, I don’t know if they would have understood.  I made the choice years ago because I had already spent too many years of my life being “clinically depressed.”

I have made a choice to get off the happiness – sadness roller coaster.  I can enjoy the happiness more because I experienced, understand, and appreciate the sadness.  I have learned to respect and give sadness its time because I know that it does not last forever.   As a matter of fact, I choose to not depress.

veronica-balanceSince that night alone in my car, I have decided that neutral, a place of balance, peace, contentment, and weightlessness, is a great place to be. It takes effort to remain balanced.  Anyone who has ever tried yoga will tell you, it’s hard!   I am not chasing happiness.  The mental picture I have is one coasting at my own pace and being surrounded by the things and people I enjoy.  This does not mean that I will avoid happiness.  It means that for now I will do my life and enjoy the peace that comes from simply doing my life.   I will choose the amount of time I spend sad.  I will not live on an emotional roller coaster.

I prefer to think of it as living like a “weeble wobble.”  Some of you may remember, “weebles; wobble but the don’t fall down.”  I can wobble from side to side but I will not remain in any one place too long,  except neutral…smile!

 

When being right may be wrong

by Dr. Ken Larsen

It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.”   — Pete Seege

acceptance-belief-change

We were living in Salinas.  Not far from where Bobby McGee slipped away.  I was in 5th grade and struggling with a major metamorphosis in my thinking and beliefs.  I was beginning to realize that playing cowboys with toy guns was something that kids did.  I was beginning to believe that I was no longer a kid and needed to put aside childish games like cowboys.  I was also beginning to notice that girls were more interesting than I had thought not too long before.  In hindsight, this awareness of a new way of thinking and behaving was an essential step in my development as a person.  What was most interesting was the slow and gradual dawning of a new self-concept pointing to a need to change.  It was not sudden or abrupt, but sort of crept up on me.  I also came to see that I had to make a choice to achieve that change.

I believe many of us in our culture and in our world are facing a similar growing awareness of our need to put aside some of our childish beliefs and behaviors and move on and into a new awareness of who we are as adults in our humanity.

What I’m getting at is the truth in the phrase “the world is divided by those who think they are right.”

I have lost friends in discussions where both of us were convinced we were right.  This “being right” seemed so important that it came out as a criticism and condemnation of the other person’s point of view.

When both parties are enmeshed in the trap of “I’m right and you’re wrong” what kind of an outcome can be expected?

Far too often there is a cascade of anger, hurt feelings and ultimately alienation from one another.

Dr. Glasser helped us see the universal need in all of us for love and belonging.  The need to be connected to one another is built into our genetic makeup.  Dr. Glasser also challenged us to evaluate what we were doing and saying in our relationships by asking the question “is what I’m doing (or going to do) bringing us closer together or driving us further apart.”

I’ve seen that insistence on my point of view as being the right point of view is a flawed approach to connecting with others.  If I really want to draw closer to another, I’m working on creatively growing into learning new and more life giving ways to have a conversation.  If I believe that “live and let live” is a valid way to be with others who see things differently, then I believe I’m making progress.

I find it more interesting to get to know a person as a unique member of our human family before I get too busy trying to convince anyone of how my opinion is superior to theirs.

And my mental health and happiness are enhanced when I’m working to understand rather than insisting I be understood.

Turn Your Complaints Inside Out

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Complaining is one of the deadly habits that can help destroy relationships, according to William Glasser. Most of us can quickly name the expert complainer in our own lives. Sadly, this is the person we try to avoid. And sometimes the complaining person is yourself whom it is impossible to avoid.

Quite simply stated, complaining is unattractive and detrimental to our mental health and happiness.

However, complaining is part of human nature. Why? Because our brain is set up that way. Here’s the bad news: our brain is hardwired to notice what is not right, or off, or a mismatch between what we want and what we perceive we’re getting in our world. This brain attribute is necessary for our survival. But this also means our brain notices almost everything that is wrong in the world, according to us. When we notice out loud it sounds like complaining.

Most of us occasionally comment about these mismatches, or differences. Some people comment and point this out a lot—ugh! (If you want to read a plethora of celebrations of complaints about these mismatches spend time reading Facebook posts.This is our present public forum where we complain and like the world as it should or should not be according to us — just as our brain is designed to do.)

If you spend any time on social media you may have noticed advice from some recent blogs regarding happiness. We are encouraged to stop complaining for twenty-four hours. Great idea! Great advice! However this is easier said than done. Our brain keeps getting in the way, noticing and pointing out all that’s wrong: the weather, the traffic, the temperature of our morning brew, our co-workers, our relatives, our neighbors, our politicians, and on and on and on it goes. And when we comment on all of these things, it comes out as complaining.

If today is the day you want to give up complaining for twenty-four hours to improve your Mental Health & Happiness, here are some tips to honor your brain and still succeed. When you notice what is wrong start asking yourself what you want instead of complaining about what is wrong.

It will sound like this “There are no more seats in this waiting room. I would like to sit down. I’ll sit on the floor.” or “There are no more seats in this waiting room. I would like to sit down but I’ll take this opportunity to stretch.”

Today, every time you notice something worth complaining about, start declaring what you want instead. Are you able to get what you want? Good for you. Are you able to change what you want instead? Does that help? Are you able to see the advantage or alternate payoff for getting something different from what you want? Does that help?

An additional strategy is giving thanks and being grateful for what you’ve noticed in the world, yourself and other people, even if your first impression is a complaint: (aim for a neutral tone and avoid a sarcasm)

I’m grateful for the traffic that will make me late for work.

I’m grateful for the package that has still not arrived in the mail.

I’m grateful that my co-worker is refusing to help me complete this project.

I’m grateful that my brother is not answering my calls, texts or messages. 

canstockphoto15119958Once you’ve declared your gratitude, let it go and move on. You may discover the gift, lesson or opportunity that was wrapped into the complaint as you perceived it. Or not. However declaring gratitude is much more attractive than complaining; attractive to other people as well as yourself.

When you start making these kinds of changes you may begin to get more of what you want instead of simply complaining. Amazingly, when you start interacting differently with your world of complaints you may actually begin to better understand and appreciate what you really want. Now that you have greater clarity you can act more effectively to get what you want. The result? Greater Mental Health & Happiness.

Here’s a word of caution. If you spend time complaining about other people, you still need to keep your focus on what you want, not simply focusing on how you want the other person to change. Instead of complaining, “I wish my child would stop whining. I want a child who doesn’t whine,” may sound like you’re following the advice offered here. See if you can go deeper though. If your child stopped whining and you got what you want, what would that be? Would you be engaged in a more pleasant interaction with your child? Do you want a happier atmosphere when completing a chore? Once you know what you want you can act accordingly. Start singing, smiling, offering compliments about the world, your child, yourself. Your child may still be whining. And still you can create a more pleasant atmosphere while you interact with your child lovingly, no matter how he or she is acting.

People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining — Stephan Hawking

The only way to win is not to play!

Dr. Ken Larsen

tictactoe

I remember the film “War Games” where a rogue computer was waging a simulated Thermonuclear war between the US and the USSR.  The outcome was a doomsday scenario where everyone was destroyed.  The only way they were able to get the computer to stop was to entice it to play Tic Tac Toe.  The computer soon recognized the futility of the game, where every move resulted in a counter move with no possibility of a clear victory.  The computer extrapolated this insight into the Thermonuclear simulation and quickly recognized that there was no possibility for either side to win.  The computer concluded wisely, “the only way to win is not to play!”

I believe we need that insight in today’s world, especially in our nation with its upcoming very critical elections.

We’ve looked at the truth of “the world is divided by those who think they are right.”

Yet many of us continue the rancorous battle between opposing points of view without realizing the utter futility of the ongoing argument, pitting opinion against opinion, generating far more heat than light.

What would happen if all of us would pause and reflect on what is good and true and beautiful for each of us?  What do we value, where do we find love and light and life?  What if we were to stop attacking those with a different point of view, accepting that there are differences and that our differences can make up the diversity that makes life interesting?

Maybe we could even talk about what we cherish and value, owning what we say as ours, not trying to be right and make others wrong, but just interested in sharing what is good in life with one anotherOnce we have some clarity within ourselves, we can vote with those values in mind.

I suspect that the impact on our personal and on our collective mental health and happiness would be profoundly positive.

To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, peaceful acceptance of one another has not been tried and found wanting.  It has been found difficult and not tried.

I’m willing to try this.  How about you?

“Tomorrow is another day,” Scarlett O’Hara

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

I recently went through the grueling process of purchasing a home. This is actually the fourth time in my life I’ve been lucky enough to be able to purchase a home. But this time was very different from the last.

I don’t know if the challenges this time were due to the size of the loan, the new parameters since the mortgage housing scandals that led to tighter and more rigorous standards, or the fact that there were multiple people applying for the loan. But I think Rumpelstiltskin had it easier when he changed straw into gold.

At two different times during this process the deal was declared officially dead.  The first time we were told we needed to bring more money to the table. Amazingly each of us who were involved in the deal were able to “find” more money. The deal was revived!

Miraculous! Phew, we were alive again.

Weeks later when we were just yards from the finish line the whole thing fell apart again!

Devastation.

canstockphoto13026221Dreams were dashed again only this time it felt worse. We had come so far, had overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, pushed, persevered, and worked really hard. And in one moment it all vanished!

But this second time I waited before I fell into the depths of despair.

This roller coaster ride had taught me some new lessons.  I was determined to put these new strategies into practice.

I had already used my time-tested and well used strategy of crossing and uncrossing my fingers. In fact I had used this so often I was beginning to develop callouses on my fingers.

This time I tried something I had only used a very few times in my life.

I gathered facts. I left out all emotional information surrounding the facts. I simply wanted the facts.

What I learned was that there was a chance that the deal could be completed. In six days we would have a definitive answer. In six days we would know if the deal was alive or dead.

This was the information I held onto. I did not wish or hope, worry, barter or demand. I simply repeated the factual information. Holding onto and repeatedly reviewing the facts kept me from soaring into wild hopes or falling into depths of despair. We would know the outcome, the results and the answers to what was presently unanswerable in six days or less.

Every time I found myself wondering, worrying, hoping or wishing, I went back and simply repeated the facts.

I also made a conscious choice to think about the whole deal less. I repeated the facts, and knew there were five more days, four more days, and so forth until I would have the final answer. And any time I found my mind wondering, worrying, or hoping I reminded myself to change my thinking to some other subject, topic or question.

I made a conscious decision to postpone my celebratory dance of joy, or my upset, anger and disappointment until I had facts to verify either reaction.

In the end we were able to celebrate, sing and dance with joy and offer prayers of thanks.

In addition, I learned a very important lesson for my Mental Health & Happiness. Gathering factual information rather than relying on my emotionally tainted information was a new, very helpful strategy. Using facts and data rather than impression, instincts and intuition alone keeps my well being intact as I experience my life’s speed bumps that upset my balance.

With this new strategy added to my other coping skills I believe I will handle the next of my life’s challenges with greater personal strength, wisdom and grace.

Be Kind to Yourself

Contributed by Denise Daub

When You Treat Yourself With a Little More Kindness, These 6 Things Will Happen by 

Do you ever call yourself names? Do you replay your mistakes in your head over and over again? If so, you’re not alone. Harsh self-criticism is pretty common.

But beating yourself up for your mistakes and punishing yourself for your failures could backfire. Being too tough on yourself may actually hinder your performance. Multiple studies show that treating yourself with more kindness could be the best way to gain better results.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-morin/kindness_b_8244822.html?ir=Healthy%20Living?ncid=newsltushpmg00000003

Going Beyond Our Beliefs

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.;  Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

My whole life I have been limited by my own imagination. I mistakenly believed that what I could imagine was as good as it could get. I was convinced that my mind was showing me a future which was reality, not aware at all that it was my personal fantasy often based years of limited thinking and fear-based projection.

Not really understanding that has hindered me continually. When I think about a change in my life or aspiring to be more honest or thoughtful or loving, I need to realize that what I envision may have very little to do with the actual possibility of who I might become. If I let go of my own expectations and both trust the process and seek the advice of people who have what I want, I am much more likely to go beyond my expectations than if I assume they are real and finite.

This has played itself out in what I consider to be my personal mantra:  “ Show Up, Pay Attention, Tell the Truth and Release the Outcome.” Releasing the outcome is crucial in the process of personal change or we get to a place where we don’t see what is “there,” we only see what we expect to be “there.”

barnesboffey

A friend of mine has been in AA for years, and as we talked about this idea, he related the story of a member he respected who always said, “If you keep coming to AA, your life will be more beautiful than you can imagine. And if you don’t believe that, please believe that I believe that.” He told me that speaker gave him something to think about, and allowed him to piggy-back on that member’s faith in ways he was not yet able to do himself. He went on to say that he had listened to speakers who talked about their connection with a higher power in ways he never could have imagined. They helped him break out of his rigid “religion-based” view of a higher power and break open a new “spiritual” view that he was able to work with and today is the foundation of his life.

I continue to look for people who can help me dream beyond my own dreams.  At some level, I need to remember that “If you want to be a man you need to see a man,” or “If I want to be loving, I need to see loving.” There are so many people who don’t realize that their greatest gift to the world is just showing up and being themselves; just showing up and being willing to live life in their own unique way. By seeing lives that surpass our own in areas in which we want to excel emotionally , we are all able to forge new awarenesses of the people we might become.

Thanks you to those of you who showed me the kind of courage I never thought existed; to those of you who showed me the faith I never believed attainable; and to those of you who showed me the kind of honesty I didn’t think was possible in the real world. When I see these things, I can no longer pretend they are simply ideals with no foundation. I see they are real and I am challenged and drawn toward those aspirations myself.

My AA friend said it his own way: “I have become someone I never thought I could because I saw people in real life who were sober the way I want to be sober. “It’s simple, he said. “If you want to be sober, you have to see sober.”

 

 

Who can you control?

By Dr. Nancy Buck

So much of our lives are not under our own control. We can’t control the weather; we can’t control our politicians and international relationships. We can’t control other people. We can’t control the waiting time on hold when making a phone call to a large organization or government agency. These are just a few examples. Without much difficulty you can name many more things and people out of your control that you encounter throughout the course of your day.

But if you let each of these examples lead you to feel annoyed, irritated, helpless or hopeless STOP! There is one important thing that you can control. You can control yourself, how you view each of these circumstances and handle each these situations.

(And for a choice theory psychology language correction in the above quote please read it as:  You gotta look for the good in the bad, the happy in your sad, the gain in your pain, and what  you’re grateful for, not what you’re hateful for.)

choosehappyStop and change your glasses. Put on the spectacles that help you find the gratitude when your car battery goes dead demanding a change in your morning plans. How lucky this happened before you ever left home. You are stuck in a warm, familiar place where you can attend to other things than what you had planned.

When a family relative loses her temper can you find the good in this seemingly bad situation? Perhaps the fact that this person is finally speaking up and back, letting the family know what she wants and how she feels is an uncomfortable change, but one long overdue.

Can you find the gift of gain that comes from being ill with the flu stopping, you in your social tracks? Perhaps being forced to spend more time at home means you can focus on improving your daily surroundings for greater comfort and home satisfaction.

Do you get the idea? Are you willing to change your point of view by putting on a pair of glasses to help you change? Are you willing to discover both the positive and negative sides contained in all aspect of life? With some effort you can find the bad and the good, the sad and happy in all that is going wrong and right in your life.

Since so much of our lives are not under our control, why not try and change what is?

I do not agree with what you have to say, but..

by Dr. Ken Larsen

The inner turmoil that comes from conflict can rob us of our mental health and happiness.

Much of that inner turmoil, I believe, comes from the compulsion to “be right.”

I recently heard Tara Brach make the claim that the world is divided by those who think they are right.

bullhornI cringe at the lack of civility in so many clashes of opinion. I have to wonder what makes people think that denigrating another will convince them of much of anything.

There seems to be a trend to belittle and call names to those who may have a differing point of view.

Can we simply state our position, and then listen carefully to the other, trying to understand?

A quote from Wayne Dyer recently floated through Facebook.  It got a lot of “likes”.  Here’s the quote:

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.”

Most of us strongly oppose bullying.  I believe we need to stop and recognize that the disrespectful attacks on another because their beliefs don’t coincide with yours is a form of bullying.  A bully seeks to overpower another.  This can be done on the playground, or it can happen in the political arena, or any place where opinions clash.  How about the old proverb, “live and let live.”?

The common bond of our humanity takes precedence over our differing opinions.  Aren’t we tired of history repeating itself time and time again with the clashes that lead to violence?  These clashes have an understandable beginning.  One person is convinced he is right and is equally convinced that the other person is wrong.  Can we step back a bit and look at ourselves, listening to what we are thinking and saying about others?  Then ask if what we are doing is getting us what we want.  If we step away from the sort of hostility I am describing, I believe we have a better chance to maintain our mental health and happiness.

 

What does Fido do?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

A recent New Yorker Magazine cartoon I read showed a psychiatrist asking his patient if he had tried taking long walks. Upon more careful inspection it is revealed that the psychiatristis a dog.

Perfect!

mansbestfriend0373668Although not an original thought, lets consider the lessons a dog can teach us about improved Mental Health & Happiness.

  1. Take long walks dailyAlthough daily exercise does not need to be only long walks, getting up, out and moving not only helps our physical health, it also lifts our spirits, shifts our focus and does wonders for improved Mental Health & Happiness
  2. When reunited with a loved one, always greet them Are you lucky enough to be living with a dog right now? If you are then you know the glory of coming home after an absence of short or long duration. The dog greets you with unbridled joy and delight. Now imagine regularly giving and receiving this same level of enthusiasm, love and affection when greeting and reuniting with all those you love. Just imagining this scene improves my level of Mental Health & Happiness. How about you?
  3. Get lots of rest Even if youre living with a puppy you know you dont have to ask your dog to nap, rest or sleep. It is true that some dogs need some help and encouragement to lay down and calm down when they are overly enthusiastic. But every dog will nap, sleep, and sometimes dream on the hardest floors, in the coldest drafts or most ragged make-shift dog beds. Dogs are champion sleepers, resters, and nappers. Following this lead can help our physical and mental health and happiness.
  4. Show compassion If you have ever lived with a dog you know their remarkable instinct to come near you when you are upset, distraught and sad. They seem to know that their very presence, that might also include a full body leaning into you or putting their head on your knee or in your lap, will help to offer you some comfort and compassion that you sorely need. I want to be able to do the same with the people in my life who are experiencing unhappiness and sadness. Just as a dog knows the best therapy at this time is being close and silent, I want to be the same.
  5. Listen more than speak Even if the dog you hang around a lot is a yippy dog, I bet she listens more than she barks. This is a lesson Im concentrating on learning and incorporating into my life. I am a talker. But just as a yippy dog can become tedious, I know my talking can rub people this same, wrong way. My Mental Health & Happiness will improve when I can listen more than I talk.
  6. Love unconditionally Has your dog every told you that she loves you but just wishes you would stop clapping your hands when you call her or start feeding her the better, more expensive dog food? Have you ever told your dog that you would love him more if only he were a little softer or more obedient? My experience is that the closest most human beings will ever get to unconditional love is in their relationship with a dog. Dogs dont ask us why we didnt call when we promised we would. Dogs dont accuse us of loving the cat more than them. Dogs dont hold a grudge against us for skipping todays long walk because of rain. Dogs simply love and adore us, are happy when we play catch with them, and will happily sleep at our feet or on the couch if we will let them. I want to learn to give and receive love as unconditionally as a dog. I know this would be great for my Mental Health & Happiness and my relationships.

What Mental Health & Happiness lessons are you learning from your dog or cat? Please share. . .