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Toxic-parenting purge [Part 2]

30/04/2013 1 comment

51 Move your bodyToxic-parenting purge [Part 2]

Resolving emotional pain can be serious stuff. If you have personal issues from your early years, you may find it exhausting – not to mention expensive – to address them effectively. And if you’ve suffered abuse in your upbringing, it may be depressingly difficult to break free from the frustration, anger and shame of the past.

To continue in the vein of emotional spring-cleaning of my previous blog (Part 1), here’s another spin on taking charge of your own healing, while giving yourself permission to have fun with it and thereby reduce its grip on your life. If you have suffered emotional, physical or psychological abuse in your life, the suggestion of using humour is not meant to trivialize your experience; it is, however, intended to lighten your load, while encouraging your subconscious to take a less serious view of what happened, thereby transmitting more positive messages to your body-mind as well as to the outside world. Since our self-worth is determined by our perception of who and what we are (which has been largely shaped by others), we can reduce any negative perceptions by focusing on light-hearted self-acceptance. When we laugh, we lift our spirit – and we also reduce the weighty ‘charge’ around the emotional pain in our hearts, which can cause us to attract more of the same.

Choosing to have fun with some former painful, damaging experience is a powerful statement of self-determination. It’s an active refusal to allow that pain to further dictate the quality of your existence. And if you’ve already done a lot of personal growth work, having outrageous fun may be the only thing you haven’t tried.

So let’s take that abuse to pieces. Let’s break it down so that it no longer runs your life or makes you reactive. Let’s see what it really stands for, and how you can read something better into this highly-charged word, transmuting it into a higher expression of who you really are, with humour, creativity and self-acceptance:

A is for ab-use – the creative and energetic use of your abs to exorcize your inner demons and free yourself from emotional angst, while making a nice tidy little six-pack of your tummy. Work those abs and pump that solar plexus, where most of your heavy-duty negative programming is lodged, but from where it can be ousted, with a little huff-n-puff and dogged determination. (You can double the benefit by doing this while watching a really funny movie, although you may end up doubled over.)

B is for brave-blogging – a brazen blog on something totally tedious that happened to you, written with all the weighty seriousness associated with a major world crisis. Like when you lost your earring down the plug hole and had to resort to all kinds of contortions and pointy contraptions to fish it out; or when you stepped on a massive mushy slug – in your bare feet! – and the luscious sound and texture of it, as it slithered silkily along the skin of your sole, where all 72,000 nerve endings instantly related the gristly nature of this encounter to every squeamish cell in your bod… or that time you had a really bad hairday and ended up looking (and feeling) like an angry buffalo in need of a parting just a little more to the left or maybe the right, if only your hair were not in a state of electrified anarchy… Be brave. Write unflinchingly. And send your message out to the universe. Speaking of which…

U is for universe – your very own private playground, with endless resources to nourish you and your dreams. Know that the entire universe is there to serve you – to enable you to discover, heal and empower yourself, not to mention having a laugh at all its cosmic ironies. Everything around you exists to somehow make your life better, richer and more meaningful – and it’s meant to make you laugh. The universe is working entirely on your behalf (even if it doesn’t always seem to), and it’s dedicated to bringing a smile to your face, every single day (which can be really hard work when we take ourselves seriously). Look for the humour, especially in the pain, for every single molecule thrives on the vibrations of your laughter. Own it; make the universe yours; and see what wonderful mischievous magic you can co-create together when you see the universe as the cosmic comedian that it is.

S is for scrumptious, sinful, soulful sustenance – the kind your body needs to support you in living your best-ever life. Focus on eating power-packed foods for one whole week and see what happens when you nourish yourself fully, without resorting to the comfort foods that the battered body so often yearns for. Think: brain food, superfood smoothies, maca-flavoured munchies, sprouted nutty nuggets, raw-cacao brownies, veg-n-fruit bars, raw chocolate – all the yummy, nourishing, potent stuff that you can find or fabricate yourself. By eating delicious foods that boost your brain power and your mood, you’ll gain a new understanding of the feel-good factor – and you’ll want to chuck the dreaded comfort foods that only mask your pain and stress your already-addled adrenals. Feed your body lovingly, and you’ll attract more of that loving quality into your life.

E is for everything – what you are made of, what you were created to do, and what you stand to gain by liberating yourself from the pain of your past. You have it all – the resources and the recipes; the faculties and the funnies; the smarts and the sexiness; the ideas and the insights; the wealth and the worthiness; and the power and the purpose, not to mention a host of heavenly hormones and huge hugability.

So put your own fresh, sassy spin on that tired old record that keeps replaying itself inside you. Hopefully, the abuse you suffered is a thing of the past; when you find creative ways to let it go, you give us all the gift of your presence by sharing the real, unabridged, uninhibited you.

I look forward to reading your brazen brave-blog.

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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.

It’s for the birds…

We could learn a thing or two from birds—the feathered variety. They’re up at the crack of dawn every day, singing their little hearts out, and never worrying about where the next worm is coming from. They’re not moody and they don’t get depressed when it’s raining. (I’ve never seen a bird sulk—have you?) They add value to any natural environment, with zero negative impact. They stick together and they trust in nature’s rhythms. They’re true to themselves and they fly where their inner guidance takes them.

Humans, on the other hand, tend to be filled with self-doubt and insecurity—despite all our resources, skills and creativity. We have difficulty trusting ourselves or the natural order of things. We mask our fears, put on a brave front, and do whatever we can to impress others, in the hope that they’ll find us acceptable.

In life as in business, this insecurity cramps our style. It hinders our authenticity and the power that comes from being naturally, quirkily ourselves. In striving to make ourselves acceptable, we actually diminish our value. If we lack strong, healthy self-acceptance—as so many of us do, due to early negative programming or insensitive upbringing—we don’t believe we’re worthy of love, success or approval. As a result, we make compromises in the hope that others will like or accept us. We say yes when we really want to say no; we over-extend ourselves in our work because we want to prove our value; and we go along with what others want, to avoid conflict, disharmony or rejection.

Yet to be powerful in business and relationships, we need a strong sense of identity, healthy self-worth and the ability to embody our personal values in everyday life. Now, more than ever before, we’re being called upon to say what we mean, mean what we say, and practise social, moral and emotional integrity. When we do, we make a powerful impact. In the midst of all the hype and hard sell, authenticity is as refreshing as a cool shower on a blisteringly hot summer’s day.

The only thing that stops us from being more powerfully authentic is the fear of rejection. We’ll do almost anything to avoid that. But catering to this insecurity often brings us the very rejection we fear, whereas being brazenly authentic makes us attractively compelling. When we dare to be ourselves, to speak our minds and to express how we truly feel, we become magnets for good stuff.

Being authentic not only breaks long-standing cycles of conformity; it also gets people’s attention, as well as their respect and admiration. I’ve experienced this in my own work and life. When I say what I think/feel (despite anticipated negative reactions), I feel good about me—and that, in turn, generates some other positive outcome that matches the healthy self-worth I’ve demonstrated by being true to myself.

Finding true success and fulfillment is all about practising the very qualities that are so often missing in our early conditioning—respect, honesty and the ability to communicate with presence and transparency. These qualities are often missing in our business dealings too, as we’ve all been programmed to cater to the needs and expectations of others, rather than trusting in the value of our unique insights and contribution.

If you want to thrive in business or in love, dare to express what you really think; be proactive, rather than catering to existing circumstances or market forces; follow your instincts and find your voice, even if it means disagreeing with the boss; let go of the need to be accepted by others and focus instead on being true to you—the person you’ve got to live with for the rest of your life. Only when you give yourself the approval, acceptance and respect you’ve been seeking from others, can you really take off and fly.