Tag Archives: growth

Fears and Courage

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Dance like nobody’s watching
Love like you’ve never been hurt
Sing like nobody’s listening
Live like it’s Heaven on earth

Chances are good that there is something in your life that you would love to do but you’re just too afraid. Perhaps you really want to go to the beach but are afraid to be seen in your swimsuit. Or maybe you want to finally pursue running for a political office but talk yourself out of this action, claiming your’e just being arrogant. Or maybe it’s something more modest, like asking the person you’d like to get to know better to join you for coffee, but you fear rejection.

One of the reasons the above is such a popular poster is because it speaks to the fear we all feel. There are very few among us who do not feel held back in one area or another in life because of fears.

Our fear is actually biologically based. The amygdala in an old part of our brain deve- loped to scare us into staying safe, avoiding risks, dangers or potential adventures. Why? The basic need for survival means we stay safe, secure and alive, at least long enough to procreate so the species will survive. (Remember we’re talking biology here.)

However, the need for freedom and fun/learning comes from the newer part of our brain. These drives contribute to learning, adventuring, and expanding beyond what is known and safe with amazing outcomes for the species and for each person individually. Leaving the comfort of your home enabled you to meet more and different people. You may have discovered how to fly without an airplane by risking down-hill skiing or sailing. And all of our technological advances resulted from brave and courageous people going beyond the boundary of what is safe, secure and known. (Remember the stories you learned about scientist whose ideas were/are criticized for pushing beyond what was/is known?)

Do you consider yourself a courageous person? Being courageous does not mean being fearless. Courage means taking action, stepping forward and speaking up in spite of feeling afraid!


Whether you consider yourself courageous or not, the fact is that you are courageos!
How do I know? Because you could not be living as long as you are, changing, growing and developing to where you are now, without taking risks, accepting adventures and going beyond your previous boundaries. Yes, you may have been frightened. But despite the fear you did it anyway. Remember this the next time you feel too frightened to do something new. You are a successful, courageous adventurer already!

Start improving your Mental Health & Happiness today by taking a risk, accepting the next challenge, stepping into the unknown even though you feel afraid. Change the story in your head convincing you that:

you can’t do it, he/she/they won’t like you
you’re not good enough you might fail.

Start telling your self new stories like:


At first, you may need to counter balance your fearful thoughts with the new, bold thoughts. When you practice enough, you will start replacing the fearful with the courageous more automatically.

Improving your Mental Health & Happiness means you will be:

Dancing whether anyone is watching or not
Loving ferociously and fearlessly
Singing while you listen to your beauty
Living in Heaven here on Earth

Pain is a powerful teacher

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

After falling to make a challenging tennis shot I was left bruised and shaken. My partner and I won the game but at what cost? I hoped that rest accompanied by alternating sessions of applying ice then heat on my injured arm would help me feel better. After a painful evening followed by a sleepless and painful night I knew I needed a different solution. I went to the doctor to discover I had broken my elbow and wrist in two places. Pain was a powerful teacher I could not ignore. 


During my life not only have I experienced physical pain, I’ve also had my fair share of emotional, mental and spiritual pain. Just recently I had to put my 17-year old cat down. She was really my mother’s cat, but before my mother died she asked me to take care of Molly. The death of Molly was sad and hard. Not only was I losing my companion cat, I was also reminded of the sorrow and loss of my mother.

It has taken me a long time to understand that pain is not just part of my experience, but pain is a teacher. 

Prior to this realization, there were too many painful moments in my life that I treated as something to avoid, to relieve, to cover up or to cast off onto another so as not to feel the pain. After all, considering that pain is a teacher means that pain is my teacher offering me the opportunity to self-evaluate, learn, grow and change.

Wouldn’t life be easier if I could just cover up the pain by ingesting some legal or illegal pain reliever? The hope is that smoking enough cigarettes or dope, drinking enough alcohol or taking enough pills will diminish or temporarily mask  the pain. Sometimes this works but too often it doesn’t work well enough.  The pain still gets through. And, as too many people have discovered, there is the secondary pain that comes from using any one of these pain relievers too frequently. Now you’re stuck with two different kinds of pain: the pain from the original problem; and the cycle of pain that comes from using, abusing or being addicted to the pain reliever.

Perhaps the strategy of avoiding the source of the pain all together would work. This is often done in combination with deflecting the source of pain by blaming another person. How many times have your heard the story about a cheating partner? In an attempt to avoid the pain and avoid discussing his unhappiness, Jack decides to cheat. Of course now he feels even more pain compounded by guilt and shame of cheating on Jill even though  he experiences some temporary relief of enjoying the pleasure of a budding romance. If and when Jack gets caught, often he will blame his cheating choice on Jill’s indifference and distance from him. These attempts to avoid pain ultimately end with more and a different pain that needs to be addressed. Eventually this pain can also become a powerful teacher for those who are willing to learn from it.

Even though pain is a powerful teacher, not all of us are ready and willing to learn the lesson. For some of us the pain needs to get bigger and bigger, greater and greater, louder and louder before we consider change. And sadly, for some, their best solution to end their pain is to commit suicide.

However, a better solution when experiencing pain is to self-evaluate. Pain is a loud signal letting us know that we are out of balance. We need to take some positive action in order to get back into balance. Sometimes getting help is necessary, like when I went to the doctor for x-rays and he applied a cast to mend my broken arm. Sometimes it is necessary to spend some quiet time alone and listen to your own inner knower that directs you to apologize and work out your differences with a loved one..

Remember pain can be a powerful teacher not just an experience. When you open yourself to learning the lesson that pain can teach, you will improve your Mental Health & Happiness.

Well Done! Good Job! ‘Ata girl!

by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

My very first job evaluation occurred six months after starting my very first job as a professional nurse in a private psychiatric hospital. My boss and evaluator was the psychiatrist of the Day Hospital in the second oldest private psychiatric hospital in the country. He told me that I was performing up to expectation and had made no errors. He had no complaints.

I was confused and unhappy with this evaluation. What had I done well? Where were areas for growth and improvement? Did I add any value to the team? Were there particular skills I could improve? Did I bring any gifts and where were my challenges? None of these questions were answered or even addressed. I didn’t realize these were questions I had and feedback I craved until after the evaluation was complete. Nothing more could be done at this point because Dr. M had checked me off his “to do”list.

Six months later I was sitting with Dr. M again, this time for my first yearly review. He gave me the same kinds of answers and feedback that he had at our first meeting. This time I was prepared though. This time I asked for feedback on what I was doing well, what contribution he felt I was making, and where did he recommend I could improve the quality of my work.

His answer left me confused and unhappy yet again. He said he could not provide me with these answers. The fact that I needed and wanted this kind of feedback indicated that I was young and inexperienced. He then showed me to the door, and checked this task off his “to do”list yet again.

Based on his feedback I gave this a great deal of thought and self-reflection. It was true that I was young and inexperienced. It was also true that my parents provided me with their feedback which included my strengths and areas to focus for growth and learning. So had all of my teachers.

By the time my second yearly evaluation was pending I still was interested in feedback I could use as information to self-evaluate. Maybe I was young and inexperienced, and I still wanted information to help me do my job well. I went into this evaluation prepared to get what I wanted.

Dr. M started the review as he had previously. Once he completed sharing with me all his “satisfactory”checks on the list for employee job performance review he looked at me. I was ready.

Dr. M, can you provide me with any additional feedback regarding the quality of my work

He shook his head no, bent elbows resting on his chair, and folded hands blocking his mouth. My advanced skills at reading non verbal communication led me to believe he planned on saying nothing further.

I would still like this kind of feedback. Perhaps it is because I’m young and inexperienced, but I would find it helpful. Here is my plan that I want to share with you before I implement it. I’m going to ask my work colleagues to please provide me with immediate feedback when and if they see me doing a particularly good job. I would like the same kind of immediate feedback if anyone notices when I do something that could be improved upon. I ask that people share the improvement bit in private.

Do you have any objection to my plan, Dr. M? 

He did not.

What happened next was amazing and very satisfying. At our next team meeting (we had these meeting twice a day) I shared with my colleagues what I wanted and asked if they felt they could offer me this feedback.

Yes! was the unanimous reply. And EVERYONE else on the team stated they would like the same feedback given to them.

WOW! The age range of our team was great, some young, some middle and some older. The experience range was equally diverse. Perhaps my desire for feedback was not related to my age or lack of experience.

I learned a lot of things from that life lesson. I learned that what I want does not matter less because of my boss’s opinion. It does not matter more than what other people want including my boss. But it does matter.  And it is my job to figure out how to get what I want.

The biggest lesson I learned was this. Asking for what I want takes courage. And asking for what I want increases the chances that I will get what I want.

The Universe is Generous

By Dr. Barnes Boffey

Good mental health means always growing and changing to meet the reality of the world in front of us. To do that, we have to bolster those qualities of character which comprise who we are. If, for example, we hope to be strong, patient, courageous and honest, we must tend to these qualities as one would a garden. They must be weeded and fed and watered. One way to do that is to ask the spirit in the universe for help in being more of each of these things.

The dilemma comes in the fact that when we pray or wish for more courage, for example, we are coincidentally asking to be put in a situation where we will experience fear so that the courage can grow. When we ask for patience, we are unwittingly asking to be put in a situation where we feel stressed and impatient – in that stress and impatience is the opportunity for our patience to grow in strength and quality.

The universe tends to give ushandsholdingworld what we ask for, and if we are unaware of what comes next when asking for positive characteristics, we may become discouraged and think we have been abandoned. Many people feel financially insecure, and it is not unusual for people to ask to feel more financially secure. In the paradoxical universe as it exists, that request may lead to a time of even more financial worry; in that state of worry, we are offered the opportunity to face it head on and become more hopeful and at peace about our financial worries.

The universe is a generous in so many ways, even with unseen opportunities. And, what I ask for is so much less than the universe is willing to give me.