Category Archives: Connection

Feeling Out of Balance and Centered at the Same Time Part 1 – Going Back to Basic Principles

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


For many people, the recent election has provided a test of their capacity to stay centered and happy, especially given what they may see is a dire future ahead. There are, conversely, many who are ecstatically happy as they bathe in the belief that our next president will help them get what they want. In either case, this election has created more stress and contentiousness than any I can remember in my 49 years of voting.

It also means that many people who have been used to feeling powerful and in the “right,” may be feeling disconnected with their communities, their work colleagues and their fellow citizens. Many are feeling like “strangers in a strange land,” unable to connect with those around them and experiencing a true sense of being aliens in their communities. Primary responses to this have been angering, depressing, pessimism, and projecting deep emotions on events that have not happened yet. That coupled with the thought, “How could these idiots be thinking what they did?” leads to feeling very out of balance and in many cases, severely lonely.

The challenge seems obvious, “How can I maintain my center and a positive sense of being when I feel severely out of balance in the world around me?” Not surprisingly, this means we have to be ever more intentional about our actions in maintaining our mental health and happiness. It also gives us a chance to understand how Internal Control Psychology can be the foundation of this process. In the beginning, taking control of our emotional well-being means we have to remember a few foundational principles, as well as asking some very important questions of ourselves and others.

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The primary foundational principle we might be well to remember is that overall our metal health is determined by our ability to be loving, powerful, playful and free in whatever situation we find ourselves. If we cannot do that, we will be out of balance and likely blame the external situation for our unhappiness. It is easy to be loving in a situation where we feel supported and valued; it is much harder in a situation where we feel judged, alone and out of step with those around us. The same is true about being powerful, playful and free. If the world presents conditions in which we can easily be these things, it is easier to choose to create these emotions from the inside out. If we perceive our world as full of stupid people, or as a place where we can’t laugh because of how bad things are, or a place where we feel trapped as we see options shrinking in the future, we have to work much harder at following these psycho/spiritual instructions.

To be loving, powerful, playful and free regardless of the world around us, we have to bring to bear imagination, skills and courage.  In order to live in any environment, disparate or not, we must have accurate blueprints (pictures) of what it would look like if we were being loving, powerful, playful and free. We must move from the principle/values level to a more specific description of the actions, thoughts and emotions that we would be using if we were effectively following our instructions in that specific situation. Generalities are not helpful.

For example, if we have a relative whose political beliefs differ dramatically from our own, our initial choice of behavior may be anger, incredulity, judgment and disgust. We may feel these are totally appropriate given the situation, but if our goal is mental health and happiness, being “right” or focusing only on getting that relative to change their mind will be ineffective. Our first step in gaining balance must be creating a new blueprint which illustrates and defines for us what we would be doing, thinking, and feeling if we were being loving, powerful, playful and free at the same time that our relative continues to be who they are, not who we want them to be. This is the imagination piece.


How do we imagine a new vision of ourselves being in balance when we believe the world outside us is “wrong,” or crazy or unacceptable? This is very hard because we often don’t want to let go of our current way of processing things, and we probably won’t until the pain and ineffectiveness become bad enough to consider letting go, or until we realize that in maintaining our anger, judgment, and rigid behavior, we are becoming the very kind of person we have railed against.

The first step, imagination, means developing a vision of a balanced and happy self. We need a blueprint before we can create a behavior.  Being happy does not occur in difficult situations without a new level of intentionality in creating these blueprints. It means asking the question, “If I were balanced and happy, how would I be feeling in this situation?” The answer to that question will determine where we head next.

Let’s say for example, that our answer is “I’d be feeling strong, compassionate and detached (rather than infuriated, manipulated, out of control and judgmental). From there we have to create the thinking and actions that would accompany those feelings, and then act on those thoughts and actions whether we feel like it or not. One of the hardest parts in this stage is that we may be very attached to our ineffective behaviors; it feels unfair to us that we have to change when others are wrong. We may want to hold onto our “rightness,” and see how long we can get away with ignoring our basic instructions.

One thought that makes happiness almost unattainable goes something like this: “I need others to act in the ways I want them to act in order for me to feel the way I want to feel.” This way lies unhappiness. The road to true inner balance can only be attained in thinking, “I have the ability to create the emotions I desire in my life in spite of the actions of others. I don’t need to have others change for me to be happy.”

Next time: Part Two: Imagination, Skills and Courage

Wilson

By Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

So much of the world appears to be caught up in the belief that any behavior that is not considered usual or normal is the result of a mental illness . . . that there is some sort of chemical imbalance in some people’s brains.  I am often challenged in my group sessions about the behavior of those who have been labeled schizophrenics, when I state that most of what we are calling mental illness is no more than the behavior of unhappy people. Even those who have received this diagnosis have challenged me on this statement.  They seem to want to wear their badge of mental illness to let others know they are helpless and that there is nothing they can do to improve their happiness. I often hear, “Normal people don’t talk to themselves; see things that aren’t there.  So there HAS to be something wrong with their brain.”

Those who have received mental illness diagnoses have been told that they have some abnormality within their brain and that there is nothing they can do about it . . . that they will have to learn to live with it for the rest of their lives while taking medications that drug their brains to cause them to not hear voices and stop seeing invisible people.  These drugs also stop the person from functioning normally by shutting down all of their emotions; having a flat affect; losing interest in the things that they used to enjoy, and losing their ability to be creative.  Ironically, many of these medications prevent the person from overcoming their unhappiness or to discover other creative ways to deal with their unhappiness.

It is one’s creative ability that leads them to choose the behaviors they discovered to deal with their unhappiness and frustration in the first place.

castawayI saw the movie, “Cast Away,” starring Tom Hanks, when it first came out in 2000.  Since then, I recently saw it again on my local cable network and was able to make the connection of how some behaviors would be considered mental illness by some in certain circumstances but not mental illness in other circumstances.  Allow me to explain:

In the movie, after being marooned on a small island in the South Pacific, Chuck (Tom Hanks) found himself without his basic genetic needs.  He had to be creative to survive and began to improvise ways to provide shelter, food, and to hydrate.  He soon found himself without the power to do much about his situation but maintained enough power from within to continue to survive.  Even when he considered suicide, his tested method failed and renewed his internal power for survival.

Chuck’s freedom was now very limited.  He had only a small portion of the island in which he could navigate as most of it was mountainous and surrounded by pounding waves.  He was held in solitary confinement.  He certainly was not having any fun.  All of his basic needs for happiness were not being met to the degree that he wanted.

The first thing he did when he reached the island after his plane crash was to yell out to connect to someone . . . anyone.  Even the sound of dropping coconuts led him to think that someone might be near and he would yell out towards the area where he heard the sounds.  He was missing the genetic need for connecting with others and belonging to the social world he had recently lost.  He still had the image of Love in his Quality World from his deeply satisfying relationship with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), back in Memphis.

From what I have described so far, and for you who have seen the movie, you would not think any of Chuck’s behaviors were the result of a mental illness.  In fact, you would probably think that it was his creativity and improvisation that was able to allow him the ability to meet his needs of survival: shelter, food, and drink.

But it wasn’t long after his initial awareness that he was, indeed, stranded in the middle of nowhere and the odds of being rescued were minimal.  He still had the strong genetic need for love and belonging and after injuring his hand while attempting to make fire, his frustration led to him choosing to throw objects that had washed up from the plane crash, kick the sand, swear, and destroy whatever was near him.  His bloody hand from the injury he incurred left a palm print on a volley ball that had been part of the cargo in the plane.

He eventually created fire and was so elated that he proclaimed to the sky and the sea of his accomplishment in boisterous pronouncements.  “Look what I have created!  I have made fire!”  His power needs were beginning to be met giving him a better sense of worth and success.

After he had calmed down and successfully created the fire, he began staring at the volley ball and saw the potential for something in the bloody hand print . . . a human face.  Since no one was around to offer a need satisfying relationship in the form of connecting with others, he would create his own person to meet this need.

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He made the air hole the nose and erased some of the blood to make the eyes and mouth. The company who made the volley ball was Wilson and their name was boldly printed on the ball. This became Chuck’s compensation for connecting with someone whom he named, “Wilson.”  So far, you may be saying to yourself,  “So . . .  ?  What’s your point?”

Chuck then began talking to Wilson and even answering on Wilson’s behalf to satisfy his need for love and belonging and connecting.  And I would be willing to wager that you would still be thinking, “Well, sure.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  He did it to keep his sanity . . . to keep him from going crazy on a deserted island. . . . to connect with something or someone when no one else was there to connect with”

AHA!

If Chuck behaved like that back in Memphis where he lived, would you still say his behavior was an acceptable way to behave?  One might be inclined to get as far away from him as possible because, “who knows what a crazy person who talks to himself or to inanimate objects might do?” One might also believe he is seriously mentally ill and should be placed on brain meds and in dire need of a psychiatrist.

In an isolating experience, you are more likely to accept Chuck’s unusual or unnatural behavior as typical, rational, and understandable.  But if not deserted on a lonely island, the same behaviors are seen as symptoms of mental illness and chemical imbalances.  The unusual behavior one may create and perform serves the purpose of easing their unhappiness and frustration, at the time . . . just like Chuck on the island.  If he didn’t have Wilson to talk to, and imagine that Wilson was talking to him, he would have felt much more unhappy and frustrated than if he hadn’t created Wilson.

The person who sees things, hears things, and talks to people who are not present, or to inanimate objects, is no different than Chuck.  While they are not physically on a deserted island, they are in a deserted world based upon their choice to isolate or detach from others because of unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life.  They have detached from others and can be alone while around others.  Their creativity to deal with their frustration and unhappiness is no different than Chuck’s creativity in producing and talking to Wilson, a volley ball.

Often, their frustration is the result of wanting to do one thing with their life while others who are important to them want them to do something else.  They may attempt to take both routes and find it impossible to do.  Consequently, they may become so frustrated that they then choose to take neither route and isolate even more, which further destroys their need for love and belonging.  And since love and belonging are basic genetic needs, they create their own people in their mind and imagination like Chuck did.

The only difference is the circumstances.  You could see Chuck’s dilemma and rationalize Chuck’s behavior because you could relate to being in his situation.  Since you could relate, you deem it normal, acceptable, and not a mental illness at all.  You were living in his world on the screen and silently thinking, “I’d probably do the same thing.”

If Chuck behaved in this manner back in Memphis, you would not see the situation he would be experiencing in his world.  His unsatisfying situation and internal frustration would be very real to him but invisible to you.  Since you have most of your needs met, on a somewhat regular basis, in a world where they are more easily attainable than a desert island, you might be inclined to think and believe Chuck’s behavior is a mental illness.

When Chuck was rescued and came back home, he didn’t talk to things or people who weren’t there anymore.  First of all, Wilson was lost at sea before he was rescued.  When Chuck got home, he was back in a world with people with whom he could connect . . . and it didn’t take brain meds to get him to stop talking to imaginary things or hearing imaginary voices.  He only had to connect with others and those who are important to him.  After five years of living in isolation, his rescue not only saved his life, it restored most of his basic genetic needs for happiness:  Survival, Love and Belonging, Freedom, Power, and Fun.  The love of his life had given up hope for his return and had married someone else.  There would obviously be some emotional pain from that loss because he had maintained the picture of her in his Quality World all those years.  But even losing Kelly didn’t cause Chuck to return to his island surviving behaviors.

Would you say a child who has an imaginary playmate is mentally ill?  Or would you say they are being really creative?  When you dream at night . . . are some of your dreams really “out there?”  Does that mean that you are crazy when you are dreaming or is your mind simply being creative?  If your brain can do that when you are asleep, it is also capable of doing it when you are awake.

In our world, it appears it is much easier to convince others that a person is mentally ill than to convince them that they are sane and only frustrated and unhappy due to unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life.

 

The Important Things In Life

By Michael Rice LISAC, CTRTC

In marriage, what tends to bring people together are their similar values.  What tends to keep people together in marriage are their similar interests.  In non-romantic relationships, it seems that similar interests bring people together and similar values maintain the relationship.  Our values are those things that we find that give meaning to us as a person and in society.  They define us as to the type of person we are, or rather, how we want ourselves and others to see us.  We all know that there are many people who say one thing and yet behave in another.  This might be the result of their value not being fully internalized and one that they profess because others have told them they should possess them.

What makes any of our values valid?

I believe that first of all, it must be a value that we have chosen ourselves and not because someone else said we had to have it. Parents often instill many of our values.   Some parents may possess some values that are not acceptable or even effective for the parent.  Many of the values  parents give are indeed valid and helpful.  Therefore, the first rule of a valid value would be:  Something that you have chosen freely and not because someone else said you should possess.


values-memeNext, a valid value is one that you have tested among other values and have found it to be right for you.  If you don’t feel that it is 100% right for you, then don’t profess it to others as your true value just to “fit in.”  How well does the value work for your parent’s life as you perceive it?  Just because Mom or Dad possess a specific value does not mean it is necessarily correct for you.  What is right for one person is not necessarily right for another.

I recall the story told by Mark Twain who said that when he was 18 years of age, he found his father to be so ignorant that he could hardly stand to be around the old man.  When he had turned 21, he said he  was amazed at how much his father had learned in 3 years.

Another criterion for a valid value would be that you have considered the consequences of possessing and acting on a chosen value.  Will this value possibly bring wide spread rejection from others?  Will it cause you to be in conflict with the important people in your life?  Could it possibly result in any hardship for you or even incarceration?  Are you willing and prepared to take criticism for your value?  Are you willing to lose acquaintances because they don’t agree with your value?

Lastly, to be a valid value, it should be one that you profess openly and regularly.  In other words, you walk your talk.

What is important to you?  Have any of your values caused you to lose those who may be important to you?  Many of us have lost friends and acquaintances at one time or another due to our beliefs and this would be due to the conflict of one or more of our values.  However, if it seems to cause conflict with many of those who are important to you, you may want to take another look and scrutinize the validity of your values or find those who have similar values as your own.

Support Yourself

By Dr. Nancy Buck (originally posted December 4, 2014)

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Good relationships are built on many things, including accepting, encouraging, supporting and trusting one another. But a good relationship with others alone is not enough. Strong mental health that leads to happiness must include a good relationship with YOU. That means we each must consistently accept, encourage, support and trust ourselves most of all. For many  this practice feels like a stretch.

Research suggests that most people have an easier time giving and supporting others with compassion than we do turning that inward. And studies link self-compassion to lower anxiety and depression. Another benefit is increased optimism, better relationships and greater overall satisfaction in life. This practice will improve your physical as well as mental health.

Here’s how to get started:

• Notice when you give or receive acceptance, encouragement, support or trust to or from another.

• Notice when you start discounting, discrediting, blaming or beating yourself up.

• As soon as you notice any of the above moments that lack self-compassion, immediately change to a kinder or gentler thought or statement.

• Continue to practice noticing how you give and receive these kindnesses to your family, friends and loved ones

• Continue to practice noticing and changing all moments of disrespect and lack of self-compassion

Emotional Realities

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted November 14, 2013)

One of the characteristics of mental health and happiness is getting our needs met in and through our relationships with caring other people.

Dr. Glasser describes these needs in a couple of ways.  One, from his first best selling book “Reality Therapy” he points out that we need to “Love and be loved, and to feel worthwhile to ourselves and to others.”

Later, when he wrote “Choice Theory” he listed our basic needs as “Survival, Love and belonging, Freedom, Power and Fun.”

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One way I meet my fun needs is by learning.  Recently I was reading a book entitled “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, MD.  One paragraph jumped out at me because it spoke to ways to grow closer to the ones we love.  Having a wife, three daughters, and five granddaughters, the more I can understand the female experience of life, the closer I can be in these very special relationships.

This is a quote from the book: “If she’s married or partnered with a male brain, each will inhabit two different emotional realities.  The more both know about the differences in the emotional realities of the male and female brain, the more hope we have of turning those partnerships into satisfying and supportive relationships and families.”

I highly recommend this book.

What do you see?

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally published November 23, 2013)

The ancient story of the blind men and the elephant is full of wisdom. Let’s apply this wisdom to the ways that we connect with the world around us and the people that share that world with us. We’re realizing that our mental health and happiness depend on loving and being loved in our relationships with others. This fable can give us insights into what can help us connect. It also shows us dramatically one major obstacle to connecting, and that is the assumption that the way I experience the world around me is the same way you experience our world.

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Each blind man had to interpret the information of his senses and construct an image of the elephant from images formed from prior experience. This is understandable. The problem came when each of them assumed that their perception was the only accurate image of the real elephant. What would have happened had they shared their experience, each reporting on the part of the elephant that he could sense, realizing that the others were experiencing something that he could not. By sharing their individual perceptions, they could form a collective composite image of the elephant. This composite image could then be shared and they would all know more about the elephant.

How many conflicts could be prevented if each of us would make the effort to listen to one another to discover how the other “sees” the world that we share. Once we have an understanding of the perceived world of the other, we can make a choice on how to respond.

This seems preferable to reacting to what is assumed to be the point of view of the other.

Fake It

by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN (originally published November 18, 2014)

I’ve never met a person who didn’t have their days feeling low or down. Sometimes it’s for a very good reason, like a rainy week spoiling your vacation at the beach. Sometimes it’s for no obvious or evident reason at all. And sometimes your down day provides a temporary pause or time-out that you’re sorely needing.

If your blues are getting you down enough so that you’ve decided you want to take action, here are a couple of ideas that might help.

You could do a needs inventory. On a scale of 1 – 10, where 1 is the low level and 10 complete satisfaction, how are you doing meeting your needs today?

safety:     1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
love:        1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
power:     1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
fun:          1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
freedom:  1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10

laughingdogWith this information can you plan to do something now, or at the latest tomorrow, to increase your satisfaction for the need with the lowest number?

Or you could just start laughing! Go ahead, try it. Did you know that if you fake laugh long enough, you’ll actually start to authentically laugh really hard?

That’s right, you can fake it until you make it just by laughing, laughing, laughing! If you’re skeptical, try it out now. Or if you just want to give a boost to your present Mental Health & Happiness start laughing now!

And if you discover you enjoy this, not only can you start laughing at any time for no good reason, you could sign up for a Laughing Yoga class in your neighborhood. No kidding, there is an official yoga class and laughter clubs developed by physician Madan Kateria from Mumbai, India. You can start laughing now with a room full of strangers. Together you all start with fake laughter until you are all laughing really hard and joyfully together. At the same time you will be  improving your Mental Health &  Happiness for sure.

Daydreaming

By Dr. Nancy Buck (originally posted on December 24, 2013)

  • Are you happy in your life right now?
  • Are all of your important relationships on solid footing?
  • Are you engaged in work that is meaningful and satisfying to you while benefitting others?
  • Are you physically healthy?
  • Are you as spiritually connected as you want to be?
  • Do you frequently think in challenging and creative ways?

daydream2Despite what you were told by your teachers and your parents, daydreaming is essential for a healthy body, mind and spirit. When you spend time imagining your life and the world as it could be you are gaining emotional strength.

When you spend time simply dreaming of what could be, you are opening to the possibilities of even more miracles and happiness in your life.

And this dreaming might just contribute to you taking the necessary action to make some of these dreams and imaginings come true!

DREAM – BELIEVE – RECEIVE – GIVE THANKS

Seeing connections between having, doing and being

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

The thirst inside each us for happiness and peace of mind is not a thirst for things, no matter how spectacular they are, and the benefit of the action we take is not so much in what we do as it is the people we are when we are doing it. One person could give $100 to a charity and it might be an act of amazing generosity; a very well-to-do person might give the same $100 and it would be an act of penny-pinching.

“We can never tell what someone is doing by watching what they are doing,” said Bill Powers, and what he meant is that the being dimension of our actions describes us much more accurately than the doing dimension;  they are inextricably linked.

Once we understand that the ultimate goal of a human being is being human, we can connect the “having” and ‘doing” dimensions of our QW pictures to the “being” dimension and discover how all things and actions are reflections of our being human. The significance and the slaking of our psycho/spiritual thirst is in the “being.” As human beings we are given very general instructions: be loving, powerful, playful and free.  The hard part of being human is figuring out how to “be” those things in a world which most generally offers us choices about what we want to do and have.

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It takes work to keep our eye on the prize, the “being” component, but understanding how it connects with our “having” and “doing” choices is a big step. Some people make the connection by asking, “If I “do this” or “have this,” what does that say about me?” Who am I when I have these possessions and take these actions? We know the answer will be different for each person; Internal Control Theory teaches us that “nothing has meaning until we give it meaning.” Nothing makes us feel that we are a specific kind of person; we are the ones who ultimately make that decision for ourselves. Others can impose their values on our choices, but our mental health and happiness will be the result of the meaning and values we ascribe to our actions and possessions. If we search honestly and openly for the “being dimension” in our possessing and acting, we will ultimately be the creator of our own happiness and the arbiter of whether we are being loving, powerful, playful, and free.

“Would the loving person I say I want to be be doing what I am doing right now?”

“I say I want to be worthy; would a worthy person take the action I am about to take?

“Is buying this hat an act of playfulness or an act of fearing peer pressure?”

“The person I want to be knows that I need to spend more time on my paperwork.

If I don’t make that time, knowing what I know, what kind of person will I be?

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience,
we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

The Many Dimensions of Quality World Pictures

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

We generally experience our Quality World pictures in only one dimension.  Those dimensions include “things we want to have,”“ things we want to do,” and “things we want to be.” We tend to see these dimensions as separate, but in fact they are all simply partial reflections of multi-dimensional QW pictures whose dimensions exist concurrently all the time.  At all times, our QW pictures have all three of these dimensions — there is a “having” dimension, a “doing” dimension, and a “being” dimension.

Let me explain further. If we perceive one of our Quality World pictures as something we want to “have,” (for example, a new car), we should be aware that in general we want to “have things” because they allow us to do things. Having a car is a possession, but its significance may lie  in the fact  that it allows us to spend less on repairs (doing) or take trips more easily (doing) or be proud of the car we drive (being) or be thrifty by spending less money (being).

Everything we want “to have” gains its important because it allows us to do something; everything we want “to do” gains its importance because it allows us to be something; and everything we want “to be” gains its importance because it allows us to follow our instructions to be loving, powerful, playful and free.  Every Quality World picture exists in these three dimensions at the same time.

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Let’s try another example. Suppose someone tells us they want to “spend more time with their family.” This want presents itself in the “doing” dimension, but also exists as “something we want to have” and “something we want to be.” If we were to ask that person what is important about spending time with their family, they might say, “because it allows me to be a better brother,” or “to be more connected with people I love.” If we want to discover the “having dimension,” we would ask the question, “If you want to spend more time with your family, what would you need to have to do that? They might say, “a better work schedule, (have) and more commitment (have).

If someone says I want to “be more spiritual,” we can explore the “doing dimension” of that QW picture by asking, “If you were being more spiritual, what would you also be doing?”  “Well,” they might say, “I’d be meditating more (doing) and reading the two books I have by my bed” (doing).  To explore the “having dimension” we would then ask, “If you want to do that, what do you need to have to be able to do that?” “More time,” (having), more self-discipline” (having) and “a conversation with my wife.” (the conversation is actually a “have,” going ahead with the conversation is a “do.”)

The significant take away from this piece is that all QW pictures exist concurrently in many dimensions. Why that is important needs to be the next topic we face.