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Stuck in a power struggle with yourself?

iStock_000005889385XSmallAs a coach and counsellor, I’m privileged to work with some wonderful high-powered businessmen (and -women). Yet the men, particularly, often resist their power so strongly that it can sometimes be hard to break through. They’re used to being in charge and to making things work. After all, for better or for worse, they’ve been running the world for millennia. But if things are not working in their business, they tend to attribute it to some external factor—the market, the economy, the poor work ethic, the wrong location, the workers, the competition, etc. They tell me: Olga, you don’t understand this business. I’ve been running this company for 30 years and I know how these things work.

And I say to them: Well, you’ve been running your body for 55 years and it’s not bringing you what you want; how well do you know how it works?

I’ve been around the block, Olga, and this is how it works in this industry. People just don’t

But it’s not about those people, out there. It’s about what’s going on inside; it’s about the power of you and your subconscious, and whether that power is switched on or off. It’s about whether that power is being channelled into external sinkholes or into the true inner drivers of your life.

But you don’t know how hard I’ve worked, how many times I’ve tried to fix this… you just don’t understand everything I’ve done.

True. I don’t. But I don’t need to, because I know the power of you—how it gets switched off, what it takes to switch it on, why we resist it so much, and how we can prove to ourselves that there’s an easier way to win. I don’t need to know the story of your life to know what’s going on; whatever’s happening in your life right now is story enough.

Yes, but…

I’ve been there, done that—argued with all the ‘evidence’ that life presents, and resisted the deeper truth, again and again and again. I’ve been masterful at resisting the power of me, and I know the symptoms of self-denial.

There’s a basic goodness and strength in men that pushes them to want to achieve things, to perform well and to make things work. (Of course, there’s sometimes a teeny weeny bit of ego, as well…) But while men can readily acknowledge the power of their business, as something they have created, they often discount the power of themselves, which is something that they are. And while it might sometimes seem as if I’m criticizing their approach by focusing on what’s going on inside them, I’m actually paying them the greatest compliment possible. I’m directing them to explore a power that will leave all their sophisticated business strategies in the shade.

We all have it, of course—not just men—and it’s a power that overrides market forces, the economy and whatever other factors may seem to be deciding our fate. Recognizing and understanding that power represents such a radical shift that it’s often too big a leap for some to make. Circumstances are so convincing, dramatic and distracting that we can’t see how some indefinable force inside us could possibly cancel out all the ‘evidence’ of our apparent inability to turn things around—to get the partner of our dreams, to save our business, to heal our relationships, or to break long-standing cycles of debt or defeat.

Yet if we resist an exploration of this power, we’re resisting ourselves. If we resist an expression of this power, we’re resisting success. If we insist on believing in the power of external forces, we’re resisting the easy route to getting what we want.

In all the strategizing, financial planning, market research and other due diligence that hard-working businessmen undergo, it can be hard to see an easy route. But if we switch our focus from external events to our internal dynamics, we discover a much greater force that can work in our favour.

I sometimes encourage men (especially those who work even harder when things stall) to take time out to just sit and meditate—to allow inspiration and answers to come to them, and to demonstrate the trust and confidence that they don’t always feel, deep down. But many of them are quick to set me straight: Olga, meditation doesn’t work for me. And I don’t have time for it; I’ve got to save my business, make money, protect my employees…

If we resist meditation, we’re resisting a connection with our self—the source of all our answers. And if meditation ‘doesn’t work’, it’s the connection with self that’s been scrambled.

We all have the power to be masterfully ‘manifestatious’. Our bodies and minds are the systems through which we live our lives—the medium through which we process who we think we are, how we think life works, and what we believe is possible. It’s not about finding a savvy business plan to outsmart the competition, or using clever marketing strategies to attract lots of paying clients. It’s about recognizing that you are the system, and then working to ensure that that system is operating powerfully—with solid self-worth, positive intent, healthy dynamics, clear boundaries, wholesome integrity, honest self-expression, sound values, and a loving validation of who you are, without manipulation, disrespect or contrivance, and without compromising or over-extending yourself in the hope of a payoff.

So, men, take a bow for all that you’ve achieved …and take a break to let in all that’s trying to reach you. You deserve it and it’s time to let things be easy. Any negative circumstances are simply pushing you to take charge in a new and masterful way, from the inside out.

Forget about tapping into the grid; get connected to the power in you and you’ll have no more power failures in your life. You’ll have power to pass on to others—and rocket fuel to spare.

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Maybe yes, maybe no, or maybe just maybe…?

21/08/2013 3 comments

questionWords are powerful, and none more so than YES and NO. Are you using them powerfully in your life? In your work, friendships and relationships, what are you saying YES and NO to?

Do you say YES to honest self-expression, healthy boundaries and authentic interaction? Or do you say YES to more work, more care-taking, more compromises and more stress?

Do you say NO to disrespect, manipulation and being taken for granted? Or do you say NO to opportunity, daring adventure, fulfillment and growth?

What we say YES and NO to determines how much support, guidance, love, money, ease and success we can have—from our partner, from others, from strangers and from the universe. It’s a direct reflection of what we think we deserve and what we allow ourselves to receive, as a result. If we’re saying YES to lots of unhealthy dynamics, the universe will respect our choice to not put ourselves first (in healthy ways). It will acknowledge our message of ‘non-deservability’ and it will hold off on all deliveries of good stuff until we make it clear, through our healthy choices and behaviour, that we’re open to receiving again.

But don’t just take my word for it. Try it for yourself and see what happens. Say YES to one new thing in your life today—something healthy, positive or wonderful that you’ve never said YES to before. And say NO to one new thing in your life today—something you’ve never dared say NO to before, even though it would be healthy, positive and powerful for you to do so.

And let me know what happens.

Yes? No? Maybe? Hey, you decide.

Time for a toxic-parenting purge? [Part 1]

25/04/2013 2 comments

30 Missing Pieces telling offParenting is a tough task. Perfect parenting is an impossible one. But most parents do a phenomenal job of caring for their children, while holding down a job (or two), remembering everyone’s birthday and making order out of chaos. There are some, though, whose unresolved issues and emotional pain from their own upbringing result in abuse and deep emotional scars for their offspring. The fallout is costly, with failed relationships, unexpressed anger, and years of therapy for many worthy souls. And even if they arrive at a place of compassion and understanding for their parents’ pain, it can be hard to completely let go of the feelings and memories that distorted their world.

In cases like this, it can be refreshing to give yourself permission to vent and to not feel obliged to love someone just because they gave birth to you. It can be healthy to reclaim yourself by rejecting all that ‘stuff’, through humour and spontaneous self-expression, in ways that got suppressed through abuse in your formative years. If you’ve done years of therapy and have diligently peeled away the layers of pain that got laid down, it might feel good to just ‘let it rip’.

Over the years, many women have came to see me about the pain of their past – and the damage done by their severely dysfunctional alcoholic parents. These parents had dumped all their toxic pain on their children (a projection of their own sense of worthlessness and despair, since their children are an extension of them) and some took a perverse pleasure in seeing them suffer. It’s hard to feel compassion for parents like that – and maybe we shouldn’t even try. If we find ourselves trying to make sense of such wanton cruelty, it’s often because we’re trying to figure out what it was about us that caused them to be that way. That, in itself, is a big part of the damage done to our sense of self and our innate self-worth.

So, for all those lovely women (and men) out there who have experienced the pain of a loveless and alcohol-driven existence, here’s a tongue-in-cheeky recipe for relief that will hopefully bring a smile to your lips and a lilt to your heart. (For other forms of toxic parenting, see Part 2 – coming shortly.)

Imagine a world without those parents; they have evaporated into the ethers in an alcoholic haze and are no longer using up valuable oxygen on planet Earth. You’ve decided to expunge all negative feelings and memories associated with them. What should you do?

Celebrate! Take a whole week off work and give thanks that you’re finally free. But don’t go drinking, now. You know what happened to them, and you don’t want to give them the afterlife satisfaction of turning into an alcoholic yourself.

Spend all of Monday walking on the beach, breathing in that delicious parent-free air. Savour the fact that you are a self-sufficient, autonomous, self-determined being, and give yourself total permission to be as outrageous and creative as you a-parently are.

On Tuesday, eat a whole bar of organic dark chocolate, just to re-affirm that you can actually enjoy yourself (maybe even experience ecstasy, if it’s really yummy chocolate) without getting drunk. Notice the uniqueness of your experience, which you can’t possibly describe to anyone else, even if they’re a connoisseur of chocolate, and remind yourself that all your experiences are your own, for you to accept or reject, as you see fit.

On Wednesday, go into a pub/wine bar and order a fresh orange juice, sipping it slowly as if it were heavenly nectar (which it is). Luxuriate in the fact that your taste buds are alive and well (rather than being numbed by alcohol) and that you can fully appreciate the delicious, sun-kissed perfection of nature’s simple goodness. 

On Thursday, go dirty dancing and take special delight in being able to pirouette 10 times without falling over legless. Even if you do fall over, you can laugh, knowing that it puts a healthy spin on life; and you can get up, knowing that you’re still in charge of you.

On Friday, write them a letter telling them what you think of them and send it off to the Guinness Book of Records, without a return address. Be creative, exaggerate, and inject as much humour as you can, knowing that laughter is a form of self-love – and an antidote to pain.

On Saturday, go sit on a mountaintop and give thanks for all that you are that they were not …and apologize to the universe for ever thinking that you were anything other than perfect – not to mention courageous, strong and forgiving, with an uncanny ability to see life’s many ironies.

By Sunday, you should be feeling fabulous. Parents? What parents…?

Please note: No parents were harmed in the making of this blog.

Righteously religious …or mightily misguided?

26/02/2012 1 comment

A young woman called Lola contacted me recently for help with a religious dilemma. She was a ‘non-practising Catholic’ and desperately wanted to marry her ex-boyfriend, who happened to be a Jew. They had broken up because of the religious mis-match and she wanted help in trying to win him back. Lola was willing to convert to Judaism and would do anything to prove that she could be a good Jew. How could she get him to believe her? What could she do to convince him that religion would not be an issue if she converted to his faith?

The problem with religion is that it’s divisive. It separates people into different categories, rather than bringing them all together as one and the same. It forces people to accept certain dogmas, rules and rituals …if they want to be part of the club. And it tells them what to believe rather than helping them to explore their own spiritual selves, forcing them to be judgemental of themselves and others. More importantly, it forces people to choose—resulting in the kind of lose-lose choice that Lola felt forced to make. If I choose this man, I must become a Jew. If I don’t convert to Judaism, I lose this man. Going deeper still, it means: if I choose this man, I lose a part of myself; if I become a Jew, I compromise my values, my independence and my personal freedom. There’s no room here for me to change my mind later; my kids will be brought up Jewish, even if I decide I can’t handle it.

So I asked her if she really wanted to marry a man who made these kinds of conditions and demands. Could she unconditionally love someone who did not unconditionally love and accept her? Was she willing to give up her personal autonomy—her right to choose whatever she might subsequently choose to do or be, in any area of her life, in the future? Was she willing to distort herself to fulfill what this man considered to be a necessary role?

A relationship founded on this kind of unhealthy compromise can never be truly loving, trusting or committed, since all such compromises ultimately require a distortion of the self, which creates resentment. It would be shaped and controlled by an outside force, in the form of religion, and Lola would be monitored for her adherence and commitment to the Jewish faith. She would need to constantly demonstrate her conformity and would likely find herself saying yes when she wanted to say no, going along with rituals and ceremonies that had no real meaning for her, and generally suppressing whatever feelings she might have along the way that might jeopardize her ‘right’ to stay married to her chosen partner.

If religion requires this kind of sacrifice and if it doesn’t bring us together in love and unity, surely there’s something wrong with it. And why should anyone be expected to take on another’s beliefs, when our connection to God (or whatever we might choose to believe in) is a purely personal, private matter? Why should we care what others believe in, provided we live by our own healthy values and respectfully allow others to do the same? How can any faith be threatened, if faith exists inside each individual and is the one thing that no one can take away from them? Does it matter to you that I eat brown bread instead of white, prefer yoga to tai chi, support a different football team, or believe in me more than in a priest/minister/rabbi…? How does it benefit you if I believe exactly what you believe, rather than being true to myself? Being true to me is precisely what makes me reliable and trustworthy, since I won’t be swayed by others telling me what to do. And personal autonomy is the key to empowerment and fulfillment (not to mention democracy), since anything else is control.

So if you’re ever faced with a situation like Lola’s, ask yourself this: Is it really about religion/your football team/politics/vegetarianism? What are you really afraid of, if your partner doesn’t share your beliefs? Is it him/her you’re afraid of losing control over or it is you? And if you’re not in charge of your own beliefs, who is?

US reality check: the president is NOT the problem

Why is President Obama being attacked from all sides, after such a positive start to his presidency? Why has he failed to make the difference that he initially seemed so capable of making?

His apparent failure is part of an ongoing cycle that is never going to change unless we realize what’s really driving the crises and dysfunction in our world. We are so busy trying to address the symptoms of dysfunction that we fail to ask the bigger questions: why is there such dysfunction and strife? Why are we locked in repeating cycles of debt, military defensiveness, economic boom-and-bust?

This is not about Obama’s shortcomings; it’s about what’s missing in us all. And the root of our dysfunction lies in our negative programming—the most powerful factor in determining the quality and success of our lives, yet the most overlooked. Through our upbringing, schooling and religions, we are programmed to feel inadequate, unworthy, insecure and powerless to orchestrate our lives. We are taught to live reactively, to devise strategies and manipulative mechanisms for getting what we want, and to cope with life as it appears to just randomly happen to us. Our deep-seated unworthiness and lack of healthy self-acceptance leave us disempowered and needy, unable to create/sustain healthy relationships. We’re driven to earn the acceptance, approval, recognition, validation or love that we need in order to feel good about ourselves. And if we cannot master our relationships at the individual level, we cannot hope to do so at the international level.

We expect one man to fix a nation, yet most people are not even taking responsibility for their own lives, let alone doing something to address the bigger problems. They enthusiastically elect him, then proceed to decimate him—from the Capitol to the voter—rather than championing and supporting him in working on their behalf. They cannot believe in him because they cannot believe in themselves. He’s a handy target for their anger and frustration at not being fulfilled or prosperous in their lives, yet their individual situations—as well as the collective problems relating to the economy, terrorism, poverty, etc—are the direct result of the negative programming that permeates society.

Obama cannot possibly heal a dysfunctional nation on his own. What Americans believe him to be capable of is a reflection of their own perceived abilities and self-worth. And attacking him/voting him out of office is simply going to confirm their subconscious beliefs about not being able to have what they want in life.

War, debt, crime, divorce, ill-health, addictions, poverty, economic crises and political gridlock are the symptoms of a race that has failed to understand or master itself. Until we start to examine the negative programming that runs (and often ruins) our lives, and to empower ourselves in practical ways, these dysfunctional cycles will keep repeating themselves.

From the interpersonal to the international, it’s the same dynamic. It’s just like in a relationship, once the honeymoon period is over. Our issues come up, the dysfunction kicks in and suddenly our loved one starts looking inadequate and flawed. But what’s really happening is that we start to blame the other person for not giving us the love, attention, affection or fulfillment we want—and have been missing all along. We are needy, incomplete and disempowered, and THAT is what’s wrong with America—and any other country with economic problems, civil strife, etc. It’s got nothing to do with the president or any other politician.

Have no illusions about the next president being any better …for as long as Americans remain so profoundly disempowered.

Getting to the core of love

We spend a lot of time and energy seeking love in our lives. We may be looking for acceptance from a partner or approval from a parent; we may be hoping to succeed at a job interview or to win the respect of our peers; or we may be looking for support from our friends or help with some heartache. But all of these things are a form of love, and the need for this love drives almost everything we do.

Yet in relating to our partner, parent, boss or friends, we often send them very self-defeating messages. In our need for love lies our subconscious belief that we don’t deserve it. And in our attempts to appear lovable or acceptable to others, we trip over ourselves telling them how inadequate we are. I know I look fat in this dress. I’m really stupid when it comes to maths. I’m never going to get this right. I don’t earn enough money. I’m a hopeless dancer. I hate my legs—they’re full of cellulite. My hair’s a mess. I’ve got SO many wrinkles. I look ancient… What man/woman is going to want this??

We invalidate ourselves daily and we’ve got an arsenal of disclaimers to pre-empt the possible—and anticipated—criticisms of others. We so desperately want others to like/love/accept us that we allow them to define us—and we help them along by listing all our flaws and shortcomings. We give them rights to us—the right to determine how lovable we are; the right to determine how we feel about ourselves; and the right to treat us the way they think we should be treated. Yet we’re entitled to love and we must take ownership of our rights.

When we subconsciously believe ourselves to be unlovable, we prevent others from loving us. If we want to truly allow others in and to be deeply, unconditionally loved, we must stop rejecting ourselves—before, during and after any kind of interaction. We must reclaim ownership of ourselves and allow ourselves to be loved. It’s a choice, not a judgement. We must realize that we determine just how lovable, acceptable and deserving we are.  We think it’s determined by others who appear to be judging us, but the deeper truth is that our perception of unlovability causes us to attract people who reflect that perception back to us.

Being overweight, financially challenged, clumsy, shy, insecure etc has nothing to do with our lovability. These are merely the outcomes of our belief that we’re unlovable and we use them as excuses to buffer ourselves from being ‘found out’. After all, if someone gets too close, they’re going to discover just how unlovable we really are, right? Or so we often believe.

Yet a lot of our insecurities can generate self-pity—even blame. I’m so upset that he didn’t like me. How could he SAY such a thing?? If only she hadn’t made that nasty comment about me I’d be okay. It’s her fault that I’ve got this whopping headache. Some people are so selfish; they just dump everything on me. Everyone expects me to do all the work around here. We even use others as an excuse for staying stuck. I’m not going out today; I’ve put on so much weight, I don’t want anyone to see me like this. I’m not going to his party; he’s only going to talk about his boring work…

We’re really quite creative in the strategies we devise to hold ourselves back. We hardly need others to help us. But we need to wise up if we truly want to be loved. We must take ourselves seriously if we want to be seen for who we really are. And we must take responsibility for all the people we reject in their bid to reach us. Attracting love is not just about loving yourself more; it’s about choice, ownership, responsibility and entitlement—keys to the core of you.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net