Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Validation. Do You Allow Other Opinions To Determine How You Feel?

Validation--that sense of self as unique, worthy, and valued, with a connection with others and the universe. Validation, with no judgment, is vital for inner peace and happiness, and without it you may feel you don't matter. You may even feel invisible. In other words, validation requires unconditional recognition, acceptance, and appreciation for the whole person you are.

You may remember when someone lifted your spirits, and you felt good about yourself. And you may remember when some put you down, and you felt like a nothing inside. So others have the power to validate positive and negative, and you go through the ups and downs of how others make you feel.

Most of us get some positive validation from others, but there are those who live their whole life with a self-image of nothingness. When I worked in the jail, I counseled the homeless mentally ill. Sometimes I told them I saw their bright mind and good heart, and they could do something with their life. Their reaction was always the same. They'd pause, overwhelmed with tears, and say, "Nobody ever said that to me...nobody." Then they'd wipe their tears on their shirt sleeve and smile. Validation gave them some meaning in their empty life.

We need to let each other know we're important and appreciated, but in order to gain dominion over our own feelings we need to learn self-validation from within. What would it be like if you validated yourself, and didn't need it from anyone else? You would have dominion over your feelings, and it would prevent opinions by others from invalidating you. And you'd be free.

The only permission, the only validation, and the only opinion that matters in our quest for greatness is our own.  Steve Marboli

            Darn right I'm important. And nobody's gonna convince me I'm not. So there.

Self-validation is a life-long process, and our experiences teach us what we need to know about ourself. We become less critical; we gain more understanding and tolerance of our total self; and we free ourself to be who we truly are. We don't create a new person. We simply allow our true Self to emerge.

So how do you learn self-validation with strength to maintain it?
1.  Assume the role of observer, and think about how you really feel about you. Sad, wounded, pretty good, could be better, disappointed, etc. No judgment. Just observe and let it be.
2.  You don't have to like every feeling you have, but you do need to own all of your feelings. They're yours. They belong to you. And you can do whatever you want with them. Throw them in the trash, hang them on the wall, get a refund. Notice when you're feeling judgmental, and decide you're done with that feeling. Take judgment and criticism out of your life forever.
3.  Identify and list what you consider positive and negative about you. Decide what you want to keep and what you want to release.
     Example:  I interrupt people when they're talking. I can release that one.
                      I let dishes pile up in the sink. It's okay to do that. (Smile) etc.
4.  Start being kind to you, and know you deserve it. Give yourself what you missed as a child; begin giving yourself what you seek from others; when you feel unhappy or stressed, ask what you need, and when possible provide it for yourself; watch for success and praise yourself.
5.  Accept mistakes and shortcomings as part of your learning process, and everyday look in the mirror and say, "This is me, warts and all. And I'm absolutely amazing."

As you move along, practice relating less to your human self and more to your higher Self, that part that transcends human pain and knows the truth of who you are. Take back your dominion over how you feel, and let that higher Self shine with love and peace in your heart. You are beautiful.

May you always be true to your special Self.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Forgive Yourself And Claim Your Freedom

You look back at your life, and you wonder where the time went. And you wonder if you could have done a better job on your journey through all those years. Once in a while we all take a look back, and we may ask: Could I have avoided the mistakes? Should I have made better choices? Did I waste my talents? How could I have hurt someone? How did I get where I am? And why?

You open up the book, and a part of you says, "Look at me, and be honest about what you see. Do you see self-blame, sorrow, guilt?" Maybe not that severe, but enough to bring you to a place where you're tired of living with regret. You're a good and kind person, and you never meant to hurt anyone or yourself. But you did at times in the past. Well, you're not alone. We've all done that. But there comes a time when you can't allow your past to contaminate your future.

Someone once told me that whatever we do, it's always according to our growing ability at the time. And 'growing' is key. Hopefully we grow and learn as we go along. Of course we make mistakes, but maybe we have to climb those mountains in order to learn what we need to know to move forward. Maybe we need those experiences to teach us who we really are. And we could have come no other way to grow in a positive direction. But getting stuck in regret, self-criticism or blame can sabotage where we want to go now.

A few years ago I was stuck in regret, and the following poem helped me to forgive myself for my mistakes, my poor choices, and for unintentionally hurting someone. And this poem helped me understand the journey we all travel and the experiences we need to push us forward.

NO OTHER WAY by Martha Smock

Could we but see the pattern of our days,
We should discern how devious were the ways
By which we came to this, the present time,
This place in life; and we should see the climb
Our soul has made up through the years.
We should forget the hurts, the wanderings, the fears,
The wastelands of our life, and know
That we could come no other way or grow
Into our good without these steps our feet
Found hard to take, our faith found hard to meet.
The road of life winds on, and we like travelers go
From turn to turn until we come to know
The truth that life is endless and that we
Forever are inhabitants of all eternity.

We really are on a grand journey, no two of us alike, each unique with our own mistakes in need of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a great healer, and the place to start is with yourself. It cleanses your soul and allows you to release what causes you pain. It gives you freedom to express more of your true Self. And when you free yourself from blame and regret, then it's easier to forgive someone else.

If you have any regrets, know that every decision you made was based upon your knowledge at the time, and hopefully every turn in the road made you wiser. Forgive yourself, claim your freedom, and live each day as it comes. Whether you know it or not, you're quite different today than you were yesterday, and you'll not be the same tomorrow. So love each new day and the continued newness in you.

Keep your eyes and heart on the road ahead.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Is There Meaning In Your Suffering?

Your pain hurts. It may be physical, mental, emotional or all three. It's so bad, you feel you can't endure another day. You pray, "Please let it stop." But it doesn't stop. Medication helps, but it goes on. And you feel nothing but pain. How can there be any value in such suffering? How can there be any meaning in such suffering?

According to Viktor Frankl in his book, Man's Search For Meaning, striving to find a meaning in one's life is the primary motivational force in man, and there can be meaning in suffering. Meaning is not abstract in general terms, but a specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment. Each person is unique with a unique perception of self and for being here with unique talents, missions, etc. And each one has individual responsibility for fulfillment.

According to Frankl we find meaning in 3 ways: 1) by doing a deed, achievement, or accomplishment; 2) by experiencing a value such as work, or expressing love; and 3) by suffering.

In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning. Viktor Frankl

As impossible as it may seem, suffering can lead to positive self change if one is willing to look past the pain. I remember one of my patients who lived with chronic pain. His life was falling apart, and he saw no meaning in anything. Then he discovered, through therapy, that while he couldn't stoop or bend, he could lay on the ground, dig with one hand, and grow a flower garden. I saw joy in his face when he brought me a beautiful lily plant he had gown. He still lived with pain, but he realized his pain had shown him hidden talents and abilities. And his suffering became meaningful.

You must let suffering speak if you want to hear the truth. Cornel West

Recently I was in the hospital and came home on 24/7 oxygen for the next 6 weeks, then reassess to see if I'll continue needing it. At first the thingy in my nose and dragging a long line around the house behind me was frustrating when the line caught on furniture and stopped me cold. Well, as it forced me to slow down, I discovered negative thoughts, feelings, and actions I hadn't been aware of in the past. Wow. No wonder I suffer from chronic stress. I didn't know. But now I do. And I'm changing the direction of my life. Now, moving slowly, I can alter my values. I can catch the negativity and release it while embracing more joy and peace. I still experience illness, but it has become my healer. And that gives it meaning.

Those who have a "why" to live, can bear with almost any "how." Friedrich Nietsche

Survival in the face of suffering is strengthened by unfinished business in one's life. Without tasks to be done, goals to meet, another chapter to write, life may have little meaning. But with a sense of meaning in your life, courage you didn't know you had will surface and see you through some very painful circumstances. Do you remember a time you didn't think you could go on, but a project, an important intention, or someone needing you drove you forward? And did you find courage in spite of your suffering?

When you go through a painful time, release the creative force within you and find something meaningful in your life to change your perception of your suffering and your Self. Everyday acknowledge your Self as the beautiful creation you are. You are not your pain. You're here to express the essence of your Self. Your light can redue any darkness you face. And you can find peace.

I wish you a life of meaning.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Creature Features, The Ark Of Writing

Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened. Anatole France

This week I received my second edition of Creature Features, The Ark Of Writing, in which several of my stories have been published. This absolutely breathtaking collection of writings from authors all over the world is published on Cyprus by Rubini Publication, and is dedicated to promoting understanding and compassion for all life throughout the world. I feel extremely fortunate to have some of my stories included in this beautiful presentation.

As stated by Creature Features, "it is a unique, quarterly, illustrated magazine of short stories, articles and poems relating to the creatures of the world, referring to their nature, their character and their relation with man, exhibiting different countries' feral life, mythology, legend and folklore". Writings are informative with magnificent illustrations. Some are humorous and heartwarming, and portray the blessing they are in our world. I hope you enjoy my shortened version of Sunny's story written in his own words.

My name is Sunny, and I'm ten years old. I was adopted when I was a baby. People say I'm a dog, but I don't buy that. I'm really smart, and they can't put anything over on me. When I join my parents, Lee and Ginny, at the dinner table, they say, "You're a dog, and you have a nice bowl there on the floor where I put food and water for you every day." That's supposed to convince me? I rest my chin on the table and look at them with my sad brown eyes. Then they feel sorry for me and give me some meat and a peanut butter cookie for dessert. I love peanut butter, and I refuse my medicine unless it's wrapped in bread and peanut butter. I don't think dogs are smart enough to pull that one off.

I have long blond hair, and they call me a Golden Retriever. I slobber a lot, but I can't help it. It's just my nature. Sometimes they get annoyed when I demand attention, but it gets lonely being an only child. When company comes, I give them one of my bones, and they pet me. But Lee makes me go lie down. You'd think they'd be glad to have me as an interesting topic of conversation.

Lee and Ginny have strict house rules. I'm confined to the fenced-in back yard, and I'm not allowed upstairs, especially at bedtime. But when Lee's sister, Nonnie, dog-sits, she lets me sleep by her bed. Then I don't have to be downstairs alone in the dark. What if a burglar broke in? I like to see Nonnie, but it's fun when she leaves and they let me out front while they say goodbye. Sometimes they wake me up to water the bushes outside. But I know when I have to go, and I know which bushes need watering. I'm not dumb.

I shouldn't complain about my family. I know they love me. Ginny brushes me and puts medicine on my skin bumps. Doc says they're from old age, but I resent that. I'm not old. I even run and chase squirrels and lizards outside. It's okay though. They know I'm kind and wouldn't hurt 'em. And I like to drink water from the faucet at the kitchen sink, but I don't like it when they wipe my mouth with paper towels so I don't drip on the floor. And I like taking my bone into the den where we watch TV together. The never ask me what I want to see, but they watch the animal channel. And Ginny always hangs her arm over the edge of the sofa and rubs my back. Yep...I got 'em wrapped around my tail.

Yeah, I got it pretty good, and some of the stories I hear down the street make me happy I'm blessed with the family I have. They're really good people, and they love me. And they can't help it if they don't know I'm one of 'em.

Sunny sends you a happy tail wag.