Category Archives: Values

Feeling Out of Balance and Centered at the Same Time Part 2 – Imagination, Skills and Courage

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

Following the imagination process through means getting very specific about our thoughts and actions. In the case of our relative, let’s say we have decided to work toward being strong, compassionate and detached (obvious derivatives of powerful, loving and free). We now need to create the thoughts and actions that might accompany those feelings. The list that follows is one version of what our new blueprint might involve.

Thoughts for strong:

“Getting angry is not going to solve anything,” ” I need to put my energy into action rather than reaction,” “ Not confronting my sister about her beliefs does not mean I agree with them,” and “ Closedmindedness and anger are the very things I say I am intolerant of.. time to prove it.”

Thoughts for compassionate:

“My sister made choices on her best information.” “I am scared, Ill bet she has been too.” “We both want the best for our country.” “I can lead the way to common ground rather than perpetuating the conflict.” “Shes doing the best she can with the information she has at the time, as am I.”

Thoughts for detached:

“Everything doesnt have to be decided and resolved today,” “Her beliefs do not mean I cant express and act on my own,”  “I obviously need to take action to show myself that I am serious about what I say I believe,” and “Our relationship is more important than our politics… she is my sister.”

With these thoughts  in mind, we can now imagine actions that would accompany them. (again, these are not “right” answers, just one version)

Actions for strong:

Make a commitment to be more politically involved. Move conversations to topics which nourish our family not pull us apart. Actually listen to my sister for amounts of time I can handle and show my strength by actually listening. Accept that reality has changed and plot a course that I did not need to in earlier times. Have the strength to change rather than holding onto my old patterns.

Actions for compassionate:

Tell my sister I am happy she won and that I am sure we both want the best future we can have. Forgive myself for not always being the person I say I want to be. Keep a journal to stay focused and write down as a first entry, “I was born not to pass judgement on my family but to love them.”

Thoughts for detached:

Instigate other community building activities in the family rather than just political discussions. Don’t respond in kind to what I perceive as outrageous statements. Pray that both my sister and I find the peaccouplee and courage to heal the wounds that divide this country.

With this information in hand, I have now achieved some early success in the imagination stage.

The second step is Skills. Here is where we explore the reality that although we may know what we should think and do, we may not currently have the ability to do it. We have to self-evaluate to see if we actually know how to gracefully exit a conversation, or not bite at a stupid remark, or reframe the family’s activity, or pray, or even keep a journal. There may be skills we have to learn and practice to be able to bring our imagined blueprint into being.

And the final step is Courage. By now we know what we would be thinking and doing, and we have hopefully learned some new skills to do it, but change can be fearful and fear can only be faced with courage. We may have fears about taking the steps we need to take. Some in this case might be:

“If I back down from fights will others think I agree with them?” “What if I really can’t be more tolerant of others?” “What if I try and fail?” “What if I replace anger with compassion and I lose the fire in my belly to actually take action?”

There fears are legitimate, understandable and normal. We need to remember, however, that whatever emotions we act on become stronger. If we act on our fears by not taking necessary steps to change, the fear will get stronger not weaker. So now it comes to “the moment of truth.” Do I have the courage to face my fears and change myself rather than insisting the world change so I wont have to. I often ask clients, “Do you really not know what you need to do, or do you know what to do but you are afraid to do it?” One is lack of clarity; the second lack of courage.

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We have all put a great deal of energy into creating what we want and hoping that will continue. When it does not we can bemoan our fates and rage at the world, or we can go about the business of making the changes we need to make to be loving, powerful, playful and free in a world we may not like or want to accept. Our inability to accept reality does not mean that reality doesn’t exist. It simply means we are unwilling to go through the difficult process of imagining our new selves, learning the skills to put those selves into being, and having the courage  to face the fears that come with any major change in our lives.

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.

The Creative Mind (Part 2)

by Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

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Many people have learned to use their creative thoughts and behavior to resolve any frustration or unhappiness that comes their way.  They use their creativity to overcome their sadness and depression, anxiety, anger, and to deal with important people in their lives that matter to them.  There are also those who use their creativity to resolve conflict with others in ways that may only slightly ease their unhappiness and frustration but cause other problems in doing so.  We see these behaviors manifested in such ways that are being called, Obsessive Compulsive, relying and becoming addicted to drugs/alcohol, anxiety attacks, mood swings (Bipolar), and other behaviors that seem unusual or “crazy” to anyone who witnesses these behaviors.   Others don’t often see what another person is facing with their frustration and unhappiness.  Nor do they understand that the person’s odd or unusual behavior is serving the purpose of easing that frustration and unhappiness, even if it is only slightly, and created as a result of their “Creativity.”  You can hammer a nail with just about any other hard object if you don’t have a hammer.  Using something other than a hammer is a person’s creativity to get a desired result.  Unusual behaviors are creative behaviors utilized by those who haven’t created a more effective tool to ease their frustration.

Our creative abilities allow for our general happiness.  Some create effectively and others create maladaptive behaviors because it’s all they created at the time.  Our creativity can get us out of many unhappy situations without the need for counseling or therapy or prescription drugs.   Those who have created ineffective behaviors to resolve their unhappiness are diagnosed and judged as someone needing psychiatric help in the form of “brain meds.”  These types of medications inhibit a person’s natural ability to be creative and to be able to create ways to resolve their unhappiness.

When you have weird or strange dreams at night or even dreams that make sense . . . that is your brain being creative.  So if you have dreams that don’t make any sense, does that mean you’re mentally ill?  If your brain is capable of creating when you are asleep, it is also capable of creating when you are awake.

CREATIVITY . . . it’s behind most of our choices of behavior . . . logical and illogical.

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 only way to win is not to play!

Dr. Ken Larsen

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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?

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.”

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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 built the world you live in?

Dr. Ken Larsen

We live in a world of our perceptions.  Our encounter with the real world outside of ourselves is filtered through our total knowledge, our values, our experience and what we have learned.  All these things are held in memory and shape how we relate to the real world as we journey through life.  Our mental health and happiness are largely dependent on how effectively our perceptions enable us to meet our needs.

Our perceptions are formed by what we learn about life and our place in it.  I’m going to draw a quick comparison between two ways that we learn.

Indoctrination is one way we learn.  The definition I am using for “indoctrination” is “To teach someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions and beliefs.”  When we learn by indoctrination our world is interpreted for us by some external source.  We are enjoined to conform to this externally interpreted world and to avoid exploring alternative ways of thinking, often going so far as to threaten sanctions for “stepping out of line.” One such sanction was the practice in the middle ages to burn those whose beliefs and behaviors were inconsistent with the predominant “doctrine”.

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Another way we learn is by education.  I am going to define education as an “enlightening experience.”  The way I see it is that education enables us to interpret our world for ourselves; learning, evaluating and comparing what we experience in the real world with our own system of values and beliefs.  Education is a quest for truth and applying that truth to knowing ourselves and knowing others and to apply that knowledge to meeting our needs and living together in harmony with others.  My personal experience of “education” is that it is a process that works best when linked in some way to a respected someone older and wiser.  Someone whose values, beliefs and world view have demonstrated a nobility shaped by growing in truth, goodness and beauty.  For me, and for many of us, Dr. Glasser has been that older and wiser influence in our education.

It seems to me that we are in a struggle between indoctrination and education in the ways we think and live our lives in today’s world.   Can you identify places in your life where your experience of indoctrination (political, religious, philosophical) are in conflict with what you have learned through your “enlightening experience” of education?    Does this conflict affect your mental health and happiness?  How do you resolve this conflict?       

 

 

Getting to school on time

By Bruce R Allen, MSW, LCSW

How do we make things happen?

When I was about 10 years old I was sitting in church with my mother. For some reason I decided not to take my usual nap in her lap. I actually listened to the sermon.

The preacher caught my interest because he was telling a story about two young boys who were supposed to get themselves to school.  They had gotten distracted as young boys tend to do and suddenly realized they were going to be late for school! There was no way they could walk as they usually did.

One turned to the other and suggested,  “Hey, let’s pray that we will make it to school on time.”

The second boy got excited and said, “Yes, maybe God will help us get there on time.”

prayer_18975289One boy knelt down, put his hands together and began to pray.  The other boy ran on to school, arriving just as the bell rang.

The boy who had knelt down was late for school.  When he saw his friend he said, “Hey, I thought we were going to pray. Why did you just run on to school?”

The boy who ran to school and got there on time said,  “I did pray………. while I ran.”

This sermon was probably my introduction to the ideas I now strive to make a part of my personal life and my work helping others.  Our intentions, our faith, our values and our theories about life need to be accompanied by a vigorous amount of activity to put those ideas in place.

It is great to be idealistic, good and faithful, but we are endowed with the ability to translate our intention into action,  which usually makes all the difference.

Affinity or Aversion?

by Dr. Ken Larsen

What determines our reaction to the people we encounter through life’s journey?

We are drawn to some, feel a comfortable affinity and enjoy being with them.

We are put off by some, feel an often unpleasant aversion, and avoid them when possible.

Through the centuries this affinity or aversion has often been driven by traditions and values inherited from those who went before us.  This poignant song from South Pacific says it well:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

I believe we have come to the place in human history where we are challenged to step back and examine our traditions and values, especially when we discover them as a barrier to healthy connections with others who may be different.

Unwarranted hostility, fear, and suspicion are all barriers to happiness and mental health.  I believe we all, as individuals and as cultures, need to step back from what we have been taught about one another and examine those things that divide.  At one time, these aversions may have had some meaning or purpose.  We are at a place and time in our development as a species where we need to ask ourselves if these barriers still have meaning in today’s world.  More and more we are realizing our need for connections with one another, and to enjoy the satisfaction we gain from warm affinity with one another.  In order to achieve these connections I believe we need to be alert to examine, understand and discard the barriers that keep us at odds with one another.

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Our common bond as human beings is emerging as an overriding unifying reality that has the potential to make a difference from the hate and fear that we have been carefully taught.

One might challenge me with the question, “This all sounds good, but what are you doing about it?”

Happily I would smile and talk about the upcoming dialogue I’ve scheduled with a lovely Malaysian lady, Johana Johari.  Johana is a therapist in her country with a faith tradition different from mine.  I am looking forward to just exchanging ideas and experiences and learning how life is in the different cultures we inhabit.  I’ll publish the video if I feel it makes a contribution to our collective education.

I would leave you the reader with the challenge to look at those situations where you experience interpersonal aversions and then ask yourself if the basis of those aversions is something you want to hold on to, or discard.  Dialogue is helpful in this process because it gives us the opportunity to discover what the world is like for one another.  When you realize that maybe you have something in common, it becomes easier to set aside the aversions that set you apart.  In short, discover the meaning of someone who is not like you.  J