Monthly Archive: November 2017

Too fond of play, Fooled for clothing

fooled

 

I woke one morning having dreamt that title (might even be too fond of it).  It was after binge-watching Mad Men.  So appropriate, since I felt I was on a bender until it was done.

I’d resisted watching it for years – because I’d lived it – but eventually, curiosity won out.  What I felt was a gradual descent into an old hell, re-awakening the women’s libber in me, bringing back the pain of those times – and also for a brief while, my great dislike of men. I remember talking about the series to a friend, who agreed that it is an incredibly accurate portrayal of those times, and of corporate America.

After WWII, society had, en masse, chosen to give all jobs to the men returning from the war, and re-locate all women to the home and motherhood. Growing up as a female child, I saw so many women end up either drunk most of the time or in psych wards.  When I entered the corporate work force at the age of 17, I watched – spell-bound – as boys my age were speed-walked through the ranks in a few months, while women who had been there for years stayed put. I decided that I would be one of the women who would change that. And I did, only to discover the truth in that old cliché “Be careful what you wish for”.

But like everyone else reaching for that elusive prestigious position that would bestow on me respect and acceptance, I hid myself behind what I thought was acceptable. By whom? Why, by all those other people doing the same thing! And because I hid myself – even from myself  – I became a fool for clothing – for appearance over substance.

I don’t know how many of you reading this experienced something similar; even so many years after WWII, after women’s lib, and after the great leaps in civility we’ve accomplished, we live fearfully. There is so much worry and anxiety that it’s hard not to hide behind the mask of acceptability.

But there is a problem with hiding behind this mask. The problem is that it will never lead to being happy with life. I keep thinking of the 5 main regrets of the dying; one of these regrets was about not doing what they had always wanted to do. Not trying it at least. Not even tasting it.

If you feel you may be hiding, I’m not about to suggest you throw off your cloak and reveal all. If that act doesn’t give you a heart attack on the spot, it might at least put you in real peril.  After all, all your friends and associates are very used to the hidden version of you. Instead, I suggest you find some small thing that gives you a taste.  Then if that feels good to you, take another taste, then another.

Eventually, you might find yourself, one day, in a surprisingly different world; one where everything is color and sound, taste and smell; where you feel more alive than you ever remember feeling.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Busting the myth of scarcity

I’m close to finishing my training with Martha Beck to transition from therapist to Life Coach.  I’ve discovered that there is very little difference between what she teaches and how I do therapy: she combines body/mind techniques to help people get unstuck, and then clarify and accomplish their goals.

I love it! And during the course of this adventure, I found there are people who have no coaching or therapy experience and are really starting out from scratch, others who have a great deal of life experience but are new to coaching, and still others – like me – who have a lot of life and professional experience in related areas.

One issue or question that keeps coming up for all of us (me included), regardless of experience, is how we are going to be successful as a coach when there are so many of us.  It’s the idea that there are only so many people who want or need coaching and a lot of coaches providing this service; it’s the idea – the myth – of scarcity.

It comes up in comments – stated or implied – like this: “She’s so good and I’m just starting out! How am I ever going to compete against her? I don’t have a chance, and might as well quit!”; or “God! As soon as I open my mouth about Martha Beck, people simply want to read her books! I feel like a walking advertisement for her, instead of doing anything for myself!”; or “Dam! We’re in the same network group! How can we both talk about coaching without getting in each other’s way?”

These are a small sample of the fears that go through the mind and bodies of most of us, and they are all – every one of them – myths, based solely on our own limiting beliefs, and not on the reality of the situation at all.  In reality, we live in a world filled with people who are looking for the kind of help coaches offer, and especially in this world of online access, our customer base is world-wide. There is more than enough work for everyone, and that happy fact means we can relax and focus on finding people who we work well with.

I’ve focused on coaching because that’s what I’m focused on anyway just now.  But this attitude of scarcity is everywhere. It might be that you work in a small office where only one person ever gets promoted – forgetting that there’s a whole world of other similar opportunities out there; or that you want to make and sell fragrant soaps, but notice that every flea market has hoards of soap sellers.  It doesn’t matter what you fear, the myth of scarcity can be examined, dismissed, and replaced with a belief that truly helps.

If you’re feeling anxious in this way, I’d like to offer the following to help you determine how much of that fear is real and how much is really based on a limiting belief (based on Byron Katie’s The Work).

  • Write it out. Begin writing everything you can about your feelings, fears and beliefs.  Don’t hold anything back – no one but you will ever see it, so get as down and dirty as you can.
  • Find the belief, or set of beliefs that all of this fear is based on. For instance, let’s take the “As soon as I open my mouth” example above: I might begin with writing about how unfair it all is, how no one wants to pay anything for value, always looking for the least expensive way – writing about my pain and fears until they are all out in the open, on paper. Eventually, I’ll begin to calm down and notice a pattern through my words.  It might be “I don’t really have anything to offer!” or “Deep down, I’ll never be good enough!”. The belief that we hold, deep down, is often something we would never say out loud, even to ourselves.
  • Challenge this belief.  Katie has a system she uses and teaches to challenge our beliefs, beginning with challenging the truth of the belief, then looking for examples of when it isn’t true. Then dives deeper, examining how believing it makes us feel (generally awful in some major way), and who we would be without that belief (generally good and even great).  Then as a final nail in the belief coffin, examines variations of the reverse or opposite of the belief, often revealing something significant about why we have that belief. Continuing with the example, “I don’t really have anything to offer”: it isn’t always true – there are many ways I have something of real value to offer – all of us have this. But when I let myself believe this, I feel small, defeated, worthless.  Without believing that I don’t have anything to offer, I’d feel fine – relaxed, engaged. Reversing the belief – I do have something to offer; My self-doubting mind doesn’t have anything to offer – shows me what really has to go (my self-doubt).
  • Replace the belief with C. We all have something valuable to offer, and that value comes from who we truly are, authentically. The more we question any belief that stops us, the more we can relax into the truly powerful self we are, in whatever space we’re in.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

 

Quote of the Week
If you think happiness is a rare bird you won’t see much of it. ― Marty Rubin

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Mindfulness and Mindlessness

I meditate every morning – for at least half an hour. Sometimes, I end up gaining energy and a kind of delightful groundedness from it that can carry me through the rest of the day. Sometimes, I feel it’s little more than sleeping sitting up, where the entire time can go by in a blink.

Ellen Langer would call the first instance one of mindfulness, and the second one of mindlessness.  Ms. Langer is a social psychologist at Harvard University, who has studied Mindfulness and what she calls Mindlessness since at least the 1970’s.  In a recent podcast, she spoke about what mindfulness really means for her.

She defines Mindfulness as the simple act of actively noticing things. For her, being mindful doesn’t necessarily involve meditating or yoga, or any particular recommended way of being. All of these things can be mindful, and they can also be unmindful, depending on how we are while we do them.

From her studies, experiments and research, she concludes that most of us are mindless most of the time, and that this mindlessness is at least a major contributor to illness and unhappiness in our lives.

In one study, for instance, which she terms Counter-Clockwise, she has a group of men in their 80’s live in a retreat for a week that has been retrofitted to around 20 years earlier. These men were to act as if this retrofit were in the present (i.e., as if they were 20 years younger).  What she discovered, by measuring their physical and emotional well-being after that week, was that they not only felt 20 years younger, but that their hearing, vision, memory and strength had all significantly improved.

Her work addresses the mind/body question in an intriguing way: most of us still separate the mind from the body – looking at how the mind influences the body and vice versa.  She doesn’t make this distinction. Instead, she sees mind and body as inseparable.

With this perspective, the Placebo can be seen as a powerful and valid drug instead of a mistake; one that unlocks our brain’s inner pharmacy, and gives us mastery over our own health. How empowering that is!

I could talk endlessly about the implications and applications stated and implied by Ms. Langer that come from her approach and perspective, but will offer up one that we can all use right away: re-invigorating our personal relationships.

Most, if not all, of us can find ourselves getting too used to our life partners.  The prevailing wisdom when that happens is to change things up; to freshen that relationship by making it new again.  And some people manage to do that with success.  Or, you can try this:

Every day for a week, make a point of actively noticing 5 things about your partner. For instance, you might notice today that he or she carefully folded their pajamas before leaving for work. What you notice doesn’t have to be profound; it simply needs to be something you actively engage in in the moment.

What happens?  A revitalized connection to your partner.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

 

Our Inner compass – our guiding light through the unknown

I used to tell people that I had no problem stepping into the unknown – I do it all the time. My problem was remaining relatively intact when I did it. Have you got that problem?

What I’ve discovered since saying that is my real problem:  jumping in without a compass.  I was reminded of this in Seth Godin’s blog about maps.. He noted that without a map when we’re lost, we remain lost.  But there is no map in the unknown, and that’s when we need a compass.

The only compass we have is the one inside us. Chris Hatfield speaks of it in the Ted Talk below: his inner compass was so fine-tuned and practiced that he had no moments of panic when he went blind in space. He was prepared, and even if what happened never happened during simulation practices, he and his teammates knew they had covered more than enough, and had developed a felt sense inside them that would carry them through almost any situation they encountered.  He was also prepared to die – which is another story.

Here is something you can learn and practice for yourself, so that you have a honed inner compass whenever you need one (Courtesy of Martha Beck – Finding Your Way in a Wild New World – I think):

  • Calibrate your compass: Get comfortable and relaxed – take 3 or 4 deep, slow breaths.
    • The minus side: Then imagine some recent event you didn’t like.  Once you have it in mind, bring it into the present by remembering how you felt at that moment.  Then scan your body – from toes to the top of your head, and notice any strong visceral feelings you encounter – it may be a tightening in your chest, a gripping in your stomach, etc.. Give the sensation you discovered a negative number between -1 and -10.
    • The plus side: Then shake that off, and imagine a recent pleasant event. Again, scan your body, noticing any strong visceral sensations – like an expansiveness in your chest, a warmth in your belly. Give it a positive measure, between 1 and 10.
  • Using your compass: You now have a scale of negative and positive sensations that express, in physical terms, your response to negative and positive events. With practice, you’ll eventually be able to tell in an instant if you’re steering yourself off course in the fog of the unknown, and will be able to alter direction on a dime.
  • Practice: It’s the only way to know your own compass. And this doesn’t come easy to many of us. You might mistake an emotion for a feeling – like feeling scared but having tingling butterflies in your stomach, with feeling scared and having the hair at the back of your neck standing up.  The first is probably positive; the second isn’t.

With a well-calibrated inner compass, you have the only thing you need to survive, and thrive, in the vast unknown.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

What I learned from going blind in space

inner compass

Quote of the Week

I don’t need to see the trail to know you’re at the end of it. My grandfather’s compass may not work, but mine is still true.
― Diana Peterfreund, For Darkness Shows the Stars

Announcements

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Who do you feed?

If you haven’t heard the story about the 2 wolves, here it is: It’s an ancient Cherokee legend.

A boy comes to his grandfather for advice because he’s raging inside over a fight he had with his friend.  His grandfather tells him there are two wolves inside him. One is good and is joy, peace, love, hope, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion – all the things that give our lives joy; the other is evil and is anger, envy, regret, greed, guilt, resentment, doubt, false pride – all the things that make us miserable.

The boy thought for a minute, and then asks his grandfather which wolf would win.

Grandfather replies: The one you feed.

Which is good and which is evil isn’t always so easy to figure out. Here’s another, more modern, story (you may be familiar with some version of it):

A woman – Jane, let’s say – is faced with a choice, and can’t decide which is the better one. She’s just been offered the promotion she’s coveted for over a year, but it would mean relocating.  That’s OK for her, but not so OK for her son and husband, who like where they are and friends, colleagues and great prospects that they’d lose if they moved.  She would feel great. They would feel terrible. What should she do?

She might talk herself into one choice or the other, without ever really being clear about what motivated her. After all, if I were to be offered the job of my dreams, I’d be pretty hard-pressed to turn it down, and might rationalize my way into going, only to discover my mistake when it was too late. Or, she might avoid that mistake by imagining that it had already happened – both alternatives.

Alternative 1 – moving with her husband and son.  Imagine a typical day living in her new place – being honest with herself, how she’d feel getting up, how it would be between herself and her family walking through the whole day like that.

Alternative 2 – turning the job down and staying put. Imagine this typical day in the same way as she’s imagined the first alternative.

Which feels good? Which doesn’t feel good?  Which choice gives her peace and joy, and which doesn’t? Martha Beck refers to something like this in her book Steering by Starlight. She calls it “Find the Feeling”.

Sometimes knowing which wolf we’re feeding takes some effort, but the pay-off is worth it.

Peace of mind.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

What could you do if you weren’t afraid?

If you weren’t afraid of facing a possible hostile audience, of missing out, of falling on your face … if you weren’t afraid of failing at something big for you, what would that change for you – or even open up for you? Marie Forleo brought this up on her weekly blog, challenging her audience to look at what they are specifically afraid of and what they could do if that fear didn’t exist.

Fear can be our greatest ally. Fear is painful – I mean actually painful.  Not like touching a hot stove, but almost like that! It can paralyze us.  And the more afraid we are, the worse it is.  Pain tells us that we need to change something we’re doing. Without feeling pain, we’d simply keep doing what we were doing.  Diabetics know this – after a time they lose the ability to feel pain in their extremities, and can get a serious infection, oblivious to it until it’s too late to save that toe or other body part.

Fear is like pain that way – it alerts us to something we’re doing that’s not good for us, and that we need to do something about.  It might be something we need to fear, but most often it’s something we’re afraid of for emotional reasons – like being afraid to fail.  This kind of fear tells us something like: I might fail at this and all will be lost!
If this happens to you, try this next time:

  • Imagine that your worst fear comes true, and you really do fail.  Then ask yourself if it really is the end of everything, or if it’s simply a setback.  Notice how you feel when you imagine this.  For me, I have this weight falling from my heart into my stomach; I can’t talk; I feel small and hopeless.
  • Now, imagine that you do it anyway, knowing that you have a lot of people rooting for you, knowing that you have what you need to do well.  Really imagine that, and feel it fully.  For me, I feel expansive, warm, excited and interested, wanting to get going – enjoying the moment and the connection.
  • In reality, what will happen will happen! But it’s more likely to be a positive experience – even if you fail – gong into it feeling expansive and excited than small and hopeless.

The truth is that nothing worth achieving is easy, and that it will always include failing a lot first. The best thing we can do when we fail (and we will fail) is being open enough to see what might have gone wrong, make adjustments, and try again. Every time we fail in this way, we are that much closer to succeeding.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

If you weren’t afraid …

Quote of the Week
There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.
― John Lennon

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Anger: how it helps and how it hurts us

Let me tell you a story that you may know yourself. You’re in the office and hear your manager tearing a strip off a co-worker. The manager is angermeterangry bordering on rage. She seems to have a point, but her attitude toward the co-worker is, in itself, anger-making.

How does this impact you as an unwilling observer? What would you find yourself doing about it?

Some of us would get angry and react by either saying something in anger or avoiding the situation altogether, likely feeling badly about it later. A few of us may get angry and then take it in, responding once we were ready, feeling OK later, if we thought about it at all.

The former reaction hurts us and the second helps us. As Ambrose Bierce said, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

Anger is a natural and necessary emotion. It’s how we deal with our own anger that determines whether it hurts or helps us. In the words of the Mayo Clinic, anger is a natural response to perceived threats. It causes our body to release adrenaline, our muscles to tighten, and our heart rate and blood pressure to increase. Our senses might feel more acute and our face and hands flushed. Anger becomes a problem only when we don’t manage it in a healthy way.

Anger helps us in at least three ways:

  1. Anger protects us when we are in physical danger by kicking in our “fight or flight” response, allowing us to act quickly.
  2. Anger can let us know when something isn’t right and we need to take action. For instance, if a person isn’t listening to us when an important situation arises.
  3. Anger teaches us about what is important to us and about our own bottom lines. For instance, back to the story, is mutual respect in the workplace a bottom line for you?

Next time you get angry, notice how you respond. Begin to appreciate how getting angry, if felt mindfully, can be a powerful teacher in our lives.

 Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit http://www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.