Category Archives: Emotions

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

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.

Picture It 

by Mona Dunkin 

Picture taking and sharing has become a national pastime. Whether it is the exotic – Eiffel Tower – or the ordinary – PB&J sandwich – See it. Capture it. Share it. Develop it.

We have an internal camera that is handier than our cell phones, quicker than our fingers and never runs low on batteries or storage facilities.

It’s our brain attached to our six senses.

Our six senses are continually taking ‘sensual pictures’ – smells, tastes, sights, sounds, emotions – whether we are deliberately snapping them or not. The brain and senses are on call 24/7 from birth to death. And the brain sorts and stores all these pictures for later recall – or not – but they are still cellular stored.

Psychiatrists William Glasser says, “The power of the picture is total.”
What?  Basically that means that we cannot separate ourselves from ourselves and everything we do effects everything we do and involves every part of our being which is connected to all of our experiences.  The totality of our existence works in tandem and is inextricably tied together – thoughts, actions, feelings and physical.

The following example reflects the possibility of a child’s first-ever encounter with liver and ice cream.

Liver: ugh!

  • Thought – horrible, never again.
  • Action – spit out, gulp down
  • Feeling/Emoting – frustrated, deceived?
  • Physical/Bodily – iron, nutrition, strength

Ice cream: yum!

  • Thought – wonderful, delicious, more
  • Thought – wonderful, delicious, more
  • Feeling/Emoting – happy, joyous
  • Physical/Bodily – nutrition, fat, tooth-decay

When our reality seems to match these sensual pictures in our head, we have some degree of satisfaction. This degree of satisfaction – no matter how minute – was the pioneering pathfinder to the brain.  The degree of satisfaction leads to organizing our behavior to do it again or to refrain from the next time.

This simple example illustrates how an initial unpleasant encounter can be developed to be beneficial to keeping us mentally and physically healthy and happy. It also illustrates how a pleasant encounter can become detrimental in the long run to mental and physical health and happiness.

Letting go of Grief

Contributed by Denise Daub

Allow Yourself To Grieve Through Some Heavy Sh*t — Then Let It Go

by Natalie Rountree

“There are things we don’t want to happen, but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without, but have to let go.”

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Are all the quotes, videos and blog post on social media regarding “Just let it go!” and “Only think positive Thoughts!” pissing you off or making you feel like you are just not doing life right? This probably sounds ironic coming from me, because those are the messages I send out too – but it’s important to know the difference between what to let go and when to allow yourself to grieve. By not allowing yourself proper time to grieve, you might find yourself looking to fill that emotional pain in dangerous ways (drinking or doing drugs, self-harm, neglecting yourself or others), isolating yourself, going through fits of rages and burst of meltdowns or straight up just going bat-shit crazy and not even recognizing why. This can last for a day, months, or years if you don’t face the pain to heal it.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/natalie-rountree/allow-yourself-to-grieve-_b_10455620.html?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living

Meditation in Motion

by Veronica Daub

It was difficult to watch the smiling faces of my friends spinning in and out of view, their limbs contorting and stretching in ways that resembled circus ballerinas. A plastic circle—a hula hoop; well, I thought those died out with elementary recess. But between laughter and silent moments of concentration, it was clear to see their minds were snagged on something deeper. I could see the spark resulting from accepting a challenge flare across their face; a look of accomplishment upon the landing, or the seamless retrieval of their plastic dance partner as it tried to roll away. Their facial expressions danced with the rest of their bodies, and with all the focus in the limbs, naturally the control over the face slackened—their blatant joy was genuine and not forced. As they twirled within their circles, I could tell I was invisible to them, sitting on the lawn while mindlessly tearing grass from the ground. I looked on with fascination; I couldn’t stay on the sidelines for long. Finally: “Hey, teach me something.”

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Three years later, my hoop and I have been through much reflection. People have called me “high-strung,” and I’ll admit I’ve always grown annoyed when attempting meditation. Sitting still doesn’t work for me—perhaps I need practice, but the combination of stilling my mind while allowing my body to convey the thoughts that flutter through my head has proven to be much more than useful. The hoop offers something much similar to meditation while including the action of my entire body. Whether it’s a distraction from any hurt or hardship that falls into my lap and wraps itself round my brain, a vehicle to release tension or stress from work or relationships, or a tool that magnifies a celebration—my hoop aligns me.

My hoop has become an extension of my limbs, and of course, it did not begin that way. Just like picking up a guitar for the first time, your fingers don’t know what to do, they’re awkward on the strings and it feels as though they’ll never feel at home on the neck of the instrument. The same is with the simple circle—it’s a foreign object that, just like a new friend, you need to grow familiar and comfortable with. When I first began, I would play for ten minutes before growing frustrated and tossing it aside. However, I always tell newcomers (because I try to spread the love of the circle further and further) the more you learn, the longer you’ll practice, because the more fun it will be. And then fun gives way to tools that benefit your headspace; within the circle is a place of comfort, a way to blur away and ease the frustrations of day to day life.

Plus, just wow, is it a great workout.

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There are many different ways to experience your hoop. On the wings of my favorite playlist, I drive myself into a dizzy stupor as my body tries to keep up with the tricks my mind tries to convey to my limbs, and I stumble around while panting through a huge grin that’s typical of a fiery session. But other times, my features are like still water, and my movements are slow and calculated. It’s during these times that the music is off, along with most of my senses. From the hoop to my fingertips, up my arm and to my shoulder blade, there is a direct connection to the stresses of my head which melt away as I let myself play with a toy like a child again. It’s necessary to embrace the child within us all, and the hoop has taught me to let the qualms of my life roll by like the hoop over my chest—contemplation rather than dwelling, and letting go rather than clenching on for dear life.

 

Reflection: Take Step Three: Illuminate your Path

By Debbie Cringe

The ability to self-reflect involves strategies that allow you to ignore negative emotion, chaotic mind-stories, bodily pain and illness, or to avoid making harmful choices. There are many strategies that people recommend: walking away from an altercation, finding someone to talk to about the problem, trying to arbitrate a problem among people and yourself. Some of these may have already worked for you so continue them! However, another strategy involves allowing the quiet and healed mind to use its wisdom to guide. Dr. Glasser’s Behavior Car is an excellent way to break a problem into pieces and evaluate the problem area – isolate your Thinking, Doing, Body, or Feelings—as you work towards solutions. This has been discussed in past blogs.

Another strategy is called PACE IT! The intensity of the bright lights help you focus on the smaller parts of a whole problem. PACE IT! Does this in four steps. (1). identify your problem or the action that precipitated your unhappiness. (2). look at the cause-effect relationships that led to the problem or action. (3). Identify which cause-effect line you would choose to change an action that would have allowed a different ending to the incident. (4). Write the action you would change and rewrite the new ending.

Download a template that guides this type of reflection.

Reflection: Take the Second Step: Use Your Brighter Lights

By Debbie Crinzi         

For a driver, bright lights are helpful to illuminate the road so it stands out clearly on dark nights. Road debris can be avoided.  You can see details much better with your brights. Use these lights when you don’t have a clear map for where you are going and when you sense anxiety rising. You also need them when feelings plummet and your body is tired—when emotions cloud your mind.

In the last blog we talked about turning the bright lights on. This involved relaxing your body and calming your mind. The truth is that our mind becomes our worst enemy. When problems arise, the mind creates a lot of chaos trying to out-think the problem. In order to hear even ourselves, we have to quiet the mind all the stories we are creating that increase anxiety and despair. We turn our lights on by relaxing our facial muscles, neck, shoulders, arms and hands. We concentrate on our breath – breathing in and out — until only the breathing in and out occupies our brain. When sneaky thoughts filter back, set them aside and go back to focused breath. After you are able to concentrate on your breath despite stray thoughts distracting you, it is time for the next step. Now bring into your thoughts something beautiful and meaningful.

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Step Two involves switching lights into brighter lights by reminding yourself that you have much to appreciate and be thankful for. Your worries are just one piece of a whole life. Take your calmed mind and focus on something beautiful or peaceful. For some people it is the image of the object of religious worship; for others, it will be a close person or a pet who is special to them; for yet others, perhaps a place such as a personal garden, the ocean or the mountains – a place representing joy and beauty. For someone else it will be saying an inspirational chant, prayer, song, or poem.

Which is it for you? Take some time right now. Choose something that makes you happy. Relive the experience in your mind, dwelling upon the things that make you smile. Acknowledge these positive memories. Surround yourself with them. Again, you are in charge of your mind. If sneaky, anxious thoughts creep in, consciously set them aside and go back to these joyful memories.

Until you take charge of your thoughts, it is difficult to think rationally without strong emotion tearing you down. You need this time of calming, then of rejoicing, before you are ready to listen to yourself reflect and work out issues and concerns. So take the time. Remember, controlling your mind instead of allowing it to control you is a habit that only occurs through practice. You don’t need to wait for crises to rain down upon you to practice. Take a moment each day to relax yourself, focus your mind on breath, and then fill your mind with happy experiences.

Sex in heaven?

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted 4/29/14)

I suspect that question got your attention just as quickly as it got mine. In the last century I opened a book by Peter Kreeft entitled “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven… “ As I scanned the chapter headings I came to the chapter with the question, “Is there sex in heaven?”

As I read the chapter the author pointed out a couple of interesting insights. One was that “sex” doesn’t start with what we do, it starts with who we are. He goes on to point out that the ideal in sexual connection is a form of ecstasy, which, in this case, is losing oneself in caring for the other.

He encourages the giving rather than the getting in intimate union, pointing out that our greatest happiness lies in getting out of self to care for others.

Dr. Glasser told us that “addictions, violence and unloving sex” were activities of those that were not getting what they needed in relationships. The opposite is certainly true. As we care FOR another, we find an enhanced sense of self-worth which boosts our mental health. The happiness that comes from knowing we have given deeply and intimately to another just makes life better for all.

After reading Kreeft’s book I gave a presentation to a group of physicians on this subject. To my surprise I received a standing ovation, which said to me that we are all hungry to learn more about how we can more deeply care for one another.

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After the talk a young Jewish Doc came up to me. She told me about her experience in Israel. She said that on Friday afternoons, the florists were very busy as men came in to buy flowers to take home for the conjugal celebration that is part of the Jewish Sabbath. Once again the focus was on the man caring for and serving his lady. [She recommended a book that I enjoyed, “The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage” by Maurice Lamm]

Mike Rice recently reminded us that Einstein, when asked about our purpose in life, answered “to serve others.” I believe this can be true in our most casual relationships all the way into our most intimate encounters with one another.

In closing, let me quote from Kreeft’s book where he suggests that a connecting and caring FOR sex life Is a foretaste of heaven on earth!

“This spiritual intercourse with God is the ecstasy hinted at in all earthly intercourse, physical or spiritual. It is the ultimate reason why sexual passion is so strong, so different from other passions, so heavy with suggestions of profound meanings that just elude our grasp. No mere animal drive explains it. No animal falls in love, writes profound romantic poetry, or sees sex as a symbol of the ultimate meaning of life…”

[For a Judeo-Christian view on human sexuality and the intimate relationship between God and humanity, read the “Song of Solomon” sometimes titled “The Song of Songs” In the Bible. ]

A Crucial Relationship

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

When I was 26 years old, I began an intentional relationship which has been one of the most important I have ever had. It gets more significant every day. I was teaching a college class and the issue of death came up. I decided to create a short thoughtful experience for my students, so I asked them to write down the answer to the question, “How do you feel about death?” on an index card.  On the other side I asked them to answer the question: “How would you like to feel about death?”

My answer to the second question was  “I’d like to be as unafraid of where I am going after my death as I am of where I came from before my birth.” I was actually quite happy with my answer, but the more profound thing that happened at that moment was that I realized at a deeper level that I should start interacting with the thoughts and emotions and realities of death quite early in my life, for as the saying goes, “There are only two sure things in life, Death and Taxes.

Over the years I have gotten a wide variety of reactions to my desire to incorporate my relationship with death into my everyday life, but now that I am 70, I am so very grateful that I did. I am well ahead of so many people my age who have been pushing this relationship away for years.  I feel like my relationship with death has gone through the ups and downs of any long term relationship. I have been angry, sad, scared, denying, accepting and serene. My long-term relationship with death has given me the opportunity to work out many of my fears and questions, some which take years to resolve, and I am left at this time of my life with a sense of serenity and acceptance which I know could not have been created in a short-term last minute relationship.

I have envisioned my own death, I have written several obituaries as though I had died in that particular year, and I have  imagined my own memorial service (who will come? who will stay? who will I be glad is there? who will I wish had stayed home? What will be said? What would I like to be said?). I have talked with my children about my death until they are much more easy talking about it, and I have asked others what their thoughts are about probably the most important issue of our lives over 70, the process of aging and death.

 

Imagine the edge you would have if you took any of life’s issues and explored it thoughtfully and emotionally for 45 years. This is no different, it just involves a subject most people are unwilling to talk about: it America’s great taboo. The results of my relationship with death over the year are reaping great rewards in this time of my life, but it has also been a blessing all along the way.

 

 

Love

by Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted 7/2/14)

Love and belonging is at the top of the list of our basic needs named by Dr. Glasser.  What we do to fulfill those needs is the essence of mental health and happiness.   Love is a word with many meanings.  I’d like to examine some of those meanings.

Anyone who has been to summer Bible camp has probably been exposed to the Greek words we have for “love”.  They are:

  • “Philos”.   This is brotherly love. Think of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.
  • “Agape” is the selfless, unconditional love that is often used to describe God’s love for humanity.
  • “Eros” is the intimate affection between lovers.
  • “Storge” is a parent’s love for their children.

Each of these ways of expressing love are lifegiving and enriching of relationships.

We need an infusion of love to live and to enjoy life in health and happiness.

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Love is poured into us from the very beginnings of our existence.  A mother looks on her baby with love while caring for her baby’s needs.   We are learning that this life giving, life enhancing connection between a mother and her baby is much more than just a “nice to have” expression of affection.  It is actually essential for the healthy development of the baby, especially  for their social and emotional development.  This connection goes both ways.  Both mother and baby enjoy a release of neurochemicals that support their mental health and happiness.

Sadly, there are some children who are deprived of this early enriching experience of love and care.  Many of these kids grow up and experience difficulties connecting socially.  Often there is limited ability  to self regulate difficult emotions.  This often leads to the self medication that leads to addictions.  Violence and unloving sex are behaviors often associated with people that have not had the early experience of love that is needed for mental health and happiness in a stressful world.

I am convinced that it is better to reach out a helping hand before we read another tragic headline born of the not so quiet desperation suffered by some of our people.

How can each of us make a deposit of love into the accounts of those whose emotional checks are bouncing?  There is no quick and easy answer, at least none that I know of, but I do know that it is better to reach out than to reject and ignore.  There is that wonderful tagline that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

Elvis did a song entitled “Life” back in the 70s.  The closing line is “…for life is love and love is life.”

Here’s the song if you’re interested.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4cWkMXrGjo