How to find the love you deserve (part 3)

How to move on from dysfunctional relationships

This article is part three of a series of three. Here are PART 1 and PART 2 (please read/watch these first)

In order to create lasting change in your relationship patterns so you can find the love you crave and create the relationship you deserve, you must TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the way you act and feel. What does that mean? 

It is easy to blame others, society or even yourself for the way things are but what good does that do? Does that attitude help get you where you want to be? Chances are it doesn’t. 

You are fully responsible for the way you respond to situations. Responsibility means to have the ability to choose your response to what happens rather than behaving automatically without thinking things through based on the conditioning you have received throughout your life. When you focus on yourself and your behaviors with gentle compassion you give yourself a chance to choose your reaction to challenging feelings or situations. In this way, you can work on things you can control without beating yourself up for what you previously did with less awareness. This is how you can get back in the driving seat. 

QUESTION: In what ways are you not taking responsibility for your love life?

Even in the most difficult situation, you are half of the picture. What are you doing to allow things to go the way they have always gone ? What part are you playing in the game? If you want to change a situation you need to know what you can do differently rather than hoping others will magically change and make everything better without you doing anything at all.

Are you trying to change your partner? 

EXERCISE: Make a mental picture of the person you’re dating exactly as they function today — warts and all —  If they never changed, would you still want to be with them in five years?

Answer honestly. You need to stare reality in the face as uncomfortable as it may be.

If you have answered NO  you need to ask yourself another question: is what you want to change in your partner a personality trait or is it a behavior?

Character traits (such as shyness for example)  are almost impossible to change. If you cannot accept a particular trait in your partner you need to either leave them or accept that you are condemning yourself to a life of misery with them.

If on the other hand, it is a behavior that you want changing, there might be a chance your partner may change but that depends entirely on how much they want to change and how committed they are to making an effort in the right direction.

Basically, people cannot change their traits and can only change their behaviors if they really want to. And if you are spending your time trying to change someone who doesn’t want to because YOU cannot live with it, you are either falling into the category of “fixer” or you are ignoring the fact that you need to leave the relationship because it has become toxic.

How to break negative relationship habits 

Now, I normally don’t like maths but when it comes down to change here’s my winning formula :

(Insight + Behavior Change ) x Repetition = Identity Change = Different Outcome

Also: Intention (to change)  + Attention  (to old patterns of behavior) = a capacity to catch yourself when you are about to repeat old behaviors which leads to – Choice to do something different.

Here’s a breakdown:

  1. First you invest your time and energy in answering questions that increase your awareness around your patterns so you uncover your automatic ways of responding in relationships and become aware of the motivations behind them.
  2. Following that, you catch yourself when you’re triggered to fall back into old behaviors and you consciously decide to do something different instead.
  3. You shift your view of yourself as someone capable of a good, healthy, mutually beneficial relationship and decide you will not accept anything less than that.
  4. You keep building new positive patterns paying attention to strengthening your new identity so you can prevent and manage trigger situations that would have you go back to old ways.

Start the process of change now 

To start this process I would ask you to get a pen and paper and write or respond to these questions speaking out loud. It’s not enough to just think about them. Thoughts have a way to get lost and keep meandering in our minds unless we pin them down either in writing or through spoken word.

First of all, you need to target the behaviors that hold you back and learn to replace them with new ones:

  • What attempts have you already made to change your repeating behaviors?
  • Think about your last relationship and ask yourself, what were the earliest warning signs you saw that could have tipped you off to potential problems?
  • How did you respond to those warning signs? How would you have wanted to respond? How will you respond in future?

In order to change you need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone. You need to be willing to be uncomfortable for a while and ’embrace the suck’. Can you bring an attitude of curiosity to the investigation of what you are finding so challenging? You need to make a commitment to stop avoiding difficult stuff and just face it.

  • Are you really willing to change?
  • Which of the ‘types’ do you relate the most to?
  • What behaviors would be hardest for you to change when it comes to responding to the old type of man/woman you are attracted to?
  • What feelings will be the most difficult for you to sit with as you start to change your own behaviors?

Finally, you need to have a good idea of where you are going and why. If you just keep on thinking about what you don’t want that’s what you’ll keep on getting.

  • How would you describe the reward you’re going to get as a result of engaging in this process of change? In other words: why change ? what are you going to get out of it?
  • What’s standing in the way? What are you afraid of?
  • What new behavior do you need to implement to reap the reward of a great relationship?
  • What do you attitude/ belief/behavior do you need to leave behind?
  • From where you are right now what do you think your identity tells you to expect from your romantic relationships? What are your expectations now and how are they keeping you where you are?

Once you do the work you are on your way to better relationships. Remember that this is a process that requires constant practice and commitment. Like getting physically fit requires you to exercise every day at the gym you need to keep going to achieve and maintain your goals. There are no quick fixes in life but the reward is worth it! Focus on that and you will reap the fruits of your hard labor so you can find the love you deserve.

More about relationships:

How to find the love you deserve part 1

How to find the love you deserve part 2

Tips for a healthy relationship

How to find the love you deserve (part 2)

Reasons people end up in dysfunctional relationships

In the last article we looked at the main dysfunctional relationship patterns people get into:

  1. Idealizing the external
  2. Chasing the emotionally unavailable
  3. Rescuing and fixing
  4. Self sacrifice

Now let’s have a look at why do we repeat these patterns

REASON #1 FEAR

You are afraid of Having a Good Relationship

You may think why would I be afraid of having a good relationship? It makes sense that I would be avoiding a bad one but a good one? The answer is that openness and joy, actually make us feel more vulnerable than we may feel it is safe to be. Positive emotions potentially expose you to rejection and pain which can be a terrifying prospect especially if you’ve experienced heartbreak before. So in a good relationship, you may feel terrified and anxious and therefore avoid it at all costs.

You are scared of Intimacy

Intimacy can be defined as a desire to know and care for the another in a way that is mutual as well as the ability to be vulnerable and trust one another. If you are stuck in the same relationship patterns you may have learned to be pretty independent and self-sufficient as a result of the fact that you feel nobody else will care for you or meet your needs. Perhaps somebody badly betrayed you or something hurtful struck you down and now you cannot trust, as you are scared you may not survive another blow.

REASON #2 DENIAL

Denial is a defense mechanism that your mind has produced to defend you from the possible threat of facing something that could destroy you. If something is so upsetting that it threatens to overwhelm or destroy you then your mind will push it away and repress it. When you are in denial you are not in touch with your need for intimacy (to be close and to trust others). You may hardly ever have had your needs met so you don’t even remember you have them. If somebody asked you what you were looking for in a partner you may answer simplistically. You may be stuck in a fantasy. Or you may be focussed on a checklist of items that have nothing to do with your emotional needs. You cannot even imagine what it would be like to be treated well or to be happy in a relationship.

You are in denial of anger

When you are in denial of old feelings you may not be aware that you are in fact angry and your anger may have turned in on yourself.

You are in denial of sadness

You could be unaware of a deep old sadness. It could be that the original experience that caused you to be wounded has happened so long ago that you can’t even remember it. Or it could be that the experience is too painful to be recalled. The sadness you feel now is the old sadness revisited.

You are in denial of your own responsibility

This is when you don’t want to look at yourself and you avoid taking any responsibility for what went wrong in your past relationship/s and instead blame your partner or others. By refusing to ask what you could have done differently and not learning the lesson you are bound to repeat similar mistakes in the future.

REASON #3 IMPULSIVE COPING STYLE

You have a low tolerance for discomfort

If you are impulsive you will just jump into a relationship without thinking much of the consequences in advance. You may feel uncomfortable with feeling bored or lonely, sad or angry and you just want to jump into action. Alternatively, you may be afraid of thinking too much of the situation if you find something wrong and then you have to deal with the inevitable disappointment. This way you may end up with similar kind of partners because you have not taken the time to go slow and properly vet your potential partner.

You are drawn to drama

You tend to get into relationships marked by emotional highs and lows. You may come from a home where there was a high of emotion or conflict. You may be afraid that a good relationship equals too much stability and that means boredom and therefore emotional death. You may feel addictively drawn to relationships that you know are not good for you and that you know will not work. If you already use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate or you use other addictive behaviors to cope with life in general your dependency in relationships may be just another way that your impulsive coping style gets manifested.

Reason #4: DISTORTED BELIEFS

Sometimes it is our deeply held beliefs – which are the foundation for all behavior – that are holding you back.

You have unrealistic expectations

Do you believe that a relationship will permanently change the way you feel, so you’ll finally be happy? Do you believe that if only you had a relationship you would automatically :

  • feel fulfilled

  • have someone who will be there no matter what

  • you’ll finally have a gratifying sex life

  • you’ll be swept away from the mundane realities of everyday life

If so, you are in for a fall! Inevitably you will realize this relationship, like the one before, cannot meet these expectations. You are attempting to use the other rather than relating to them and you are trying to get something so unrealistic from a relationship that you end up disappointed .

You have Negative Core Beliefs

If you have deeply negative core beliefs about yourself you may be interfering with your ability to find and maintain a long-term, positive relationship.

  • Do you believe you are unlovable?

  • Do you believe you are helpless?

  • Do you believe a combination of the two?

You are rigid

You restrict yourself to a narrow selection of partners and fail to see the big picture. You may get caught up in non-important details, and not see how a partner may be good for you just because they don’t fit it with your rigid idea of the requirements they should meet.

You are trying to get over a previous trauma by putting yourself through a new one.

If you have previously experienced a trauma you may try to gain some mastery over the original traumatic event by putting yourself in similar traumatic situations now and hoping to react differently.

Trauma can be anything you perceive as traumatic, regardless of whether others would find it traumatic.

SELF-EVALUATION

  • So, what do you think are your triggers for repeating the same old patterns in your relationships ?
  • Which ones of these reasons struck a chord ? If you think none do, have another look at the denial section !
  • What in your past could have set the stage for this ?

And finally : Do you believe you can truly change the underlying causes of your behaviour? This is essential if you want to change . In the next article we will deal with how to practically change these patterns.

This article was inspired by the book : Dr Seth Love Prescription. Overcome Repeated Relationship Patterns by Seth Meyers.

MORE: 

How to find the love you deserve part 1

How to find the love you deserve part 3

How to find the love you deserve (part I)

Overcome negative relationship patterns

 

Do you keep going out with  the same kind of man / woman ? Do you feel stuck in a rut where you keep on repeating the same mistakes over and over again and end up broken-hearted ? Find out what type of “relationship repeater” you are.

THE IDEALISER:

  • You are drawn to partners with a particular physical type, appearance, professional status (whether it’s a great job or no job at all), level of ambition, or age.
  • You prioritize external characteristics above all else.
  • You place more importance on sexual attractiveness than emotional attractiveness.
  • You see your partner as a reflection of yourself.
  • You harbour the fantasy that someone with the appearance or professional status you are drawn to will be enough to make you happy.
  • You eventually end up feeling like you have little in common with your partner by the end of the relationship.
  • Your relationship consistently end because you don’t place a sufficient priority on the internal, emotional characteristics of your partners.

ASK YOURSELF: 

  1. How would someone describe your professional and physical type? Write down these external characteristics.
  2. Has anyone ever idealised any of your external characteristics? Did you feel truly appreciated when they did that?
  3. Why do you think it’s tempting to idealise external characteristics?
  4. Can you think of people you know who repeat this pattern?
  5. What are some emotional attributes that are worthy of more attention in the beginning of a relationship?
  6. Write them down and keep this list for later.

THE EMOTIONAL CHASER:

  • You tend to have partners who ultimately won’t commit and settle down, who cheat on you, or whom you put on a pedestal.
  • You are usually more emotionally committed to your relationship than your partner is.
  • You feel like your partner has all the control and power in the relationship.
  • You often feel less worthy than your partner, as if your partner were more interesting or desirable than you
  • You believe you have to work hard to keep them interested because you feel that they could very easily slide through your fingers and slip away.
  • You try to shape yourself into being what you think your partner wants.
  • You notice that your partners always seem to have excuses for why they can’t make more time for you or why they don’t want to take the relationship to the next level.
  • You feels like you’re waiting and hoping for your partner to realise that you are the one they really want.
  • You have a hard time imagining yourself settling for a love that is anything less than romantic and intense.
  • You see your partners as too good for you, better than you, or unattainable.
  • What motivates you is the prospect that if you can attain the love and affection of your lover you can finally experience the bliss of feeling good enough.
  • You are trying to prove to unavailable partners that you are good enough, that you are worth settling down for, you are on a mission to win the love of unavailable partners.

ASK YOURSELF

  1. Whose affection and love you have worked hard to get but have never fully received?
  2. How did the chase end? Did you get what you wanted?
  3. What was the most difficult part of the situation to accept?
  4. Looking back, was the chasing done in pursuit of a specific person, or did it become about something bigger?

THE RESCUER:

  • You regularly attach yourself to partners who are emotionally unstable in some way.
  • You focus on and worry about your partner more than they do about themselves.
  • You repeatedly finds yourself with partners who at first seem to be sweet and have great potential (while also being slightly helpless or misguided), but before long reveal themselves to be emotionally volatile or unstable, aggressive and controlling, unhappy, or unable to cope with some aspect of their lives.
  • You often believe that love trumps everything and that ending a relationship would mean giving up on or abandoning the person you love.
  • You desperately try to help your partner but, at root, you are trying to change them
  • You tend to have partners with histories of anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.
  • You come from a family in which you felt the need to take care of a parent or sibling, or in which there was a high level of turmoil and drama.
  • You have invested all of your energy in the fantasy of who your boyfriend / girlfriend could become in the future as opposed to banking on who they are in the here-and-now. You have a fantasy that your love could transform them.
  • You don’t realise you’re supposed to be a partner — not a therapist or a life coaches.
  • You eventually start to feel crazy or to doubt yourself thinking the problem might lie in you.
  • You tend to be very strong, resilient, highly intuitive, sensitive, and giving .
  • You seek partners that are emotionally broken and dysfunctional, helpless,  who can never ultimately rise to the occasion,  wounded souls that can also be controlling, erratic, and emotionally volatile.

ASK YOURSELF 

  1.  Have you ever tried to rescue a wounded soul? If so, which type? If not, why do you believe this is one pattern you wouldn’t fall into?
  2. Can you recall a time when you got to know someone and could see that he or she was emotionally broken? How did that affect your developing friendship or relationship? How should it affect your developing relationship?
  3. What might the appeal be of forging a relationship with a wounded soul? Why would a person fall for someone who is broken?
  4. What are the essential differences between a wounded soul and the average man with typical imperfections?
  5. Do You Have a Fix-It Mindset?

THE SACRIFICER:

  • You repeatedly have partners who verbally, emotionally, sexually, or physically abuse you.
  • You have noticed that your partner’s moods tend to leap, without warning, from one end of the spectrum to the other.
  • You often fear that one wrong move could trigger your partner to get angry and begin an abusive cycle.
  • You see yourself as trapped and betrayed in your relationships; you feel too guilty to leave and too afraid of what your partner might do if you tried to do so.
  • You try to excuse your partner’s abusive behaviour by saying things like, “It only happened once,” or “He/ she only does it when he gets mad.”
  • You eventually begin to wonder if you’re going insane, because your partner does such an able job of putting the blame on you
  • You lose your grasp on what normal behaviour in a relationship looks like and fear that the abuse has damaged you to the point that future healthy lovers wouldn’t want to be with you.
  • You believe your partner is treating you the way you deserve to be treated..
  • The constant abuse convinces you there is nothing you can do to avoid it.

ASK YOURSELF 

  1. Has anyone ever mistreated you verbally / physically / sexually ? If not, how have you avoided relationships with such partners?
  2. What would you do if someone new were to abuse you in some way ?
  3. What do you think is the hardest type of abuse to spot in other people’s relationships ?
  4. What would be the hardest type of abuse to spot in your own relationship ?

In the next article I shall look at what causes these relationship patterns to come about and what to do to move away from them and discover the love you deserve.

This article was inspired by the book : Dr Seth Love Prescription. Overcome Repeated Relationship Patterns by Seth Meyers.

How to manifest the life you want

The truth about manifesting

Imagine you are sitting in the middle of a dark theatre. Then suddenly a spot light appears.  The only thing you can see is whatever the spotlight shines its light upon. That is your reality. You may think that is all reality but the truth is it is only a fraction of it. You decide where to point the light and wherever you do that’s what you get ! The universe is a mirror of us. Our external reality is a reflection of our internal reality. The world reflects back to you whatever you believe about it and your place in it.

Are you getting the opposite of what you want ?

Imagine you are the captain of a ship sailing on the wide open ocean. The crew follows your orders to the letter. You just need to tell it where to go. But instead of telling it where you want to go you keep on telling it where you don’t. “I don’t want to go to Hell Island! it’s full of horrible people there and there is nothing to eat and the weather is terrible all year round! No, I don’t want to go to Hell Island! Please don’t take me there!”

Guess where you end up going ? The crew doesn’t know where else to take you, all they hear is “Hell Island! Hell Island”!

So stop asking for what you don’t want and focus on its opposite: What you do want. 

Asking for what you want…

Some people use this simple principle to try to attract to themselves what their ego wants in their life. More money, a better job, a mate, you name it. And although there is nothing wrong with wanting these things, if the request comes from your ego you may end up in trouble when you do get what you asked for. This is because the ego tries to get you ‘stuff’ based on a dream, a fantasy of what getting that stuff will be like. Often we have no idea what that really would entail and it might just be the opposite of what would make us happy !

What if I don’t know what I want ?

The other problem is that we often have no idea what we really want, and that’s because the ego has no idea what would satisfy our deeper needs. It hears ideas about money or fame or having children or achievement as the ultimate goals that will bring it happiness and believes the story. The problem is that’s just a story and what makes somebody else happy might not make you happy. The ego doesn’t know what would make you happy. Only your deeper self does. (More on this later, read on)

I don’t have enough money…

Many people think that if only they had more money then everything would be ok. There are many problems with this:

  1.  money is a means to an end and not an end in itself so you’d be better off asking for the end object or service than money itself. ie. “I want to go on holiday to the Bahamas”, not “I want money to buy a ticket to go to the Bahamas”.
  2. asking for money reflects the idea that we don’t have enough. If you believe that you don’t have enough then the universe will register that and will keep on giving you more of the same. Instead try to focus on being grateful for what the many blessings you already have and you’ll get more of those.
  3. too often underneath the idea that you don’t have enough lies the basic insecurity that you aren’t enough. And if you aren’t enough, anything you get is not going to be enough. So you are just stuck in a scarcity mentality.

Fear vs Freedom

What to do instead ? The solution to this conundrum is to surrender to the higher self, the inner teacher, the part of us that is much bigger and wiser than our ego. This inner voice, the inner counsel always knows what is best for us in a way that might even frighten the ego. This is because the ego wants safety at all costs, while our higher self wants our ultimate growth, happiness and freedom to expand out of our comfort zone. You will be most aware of the difference between the ego and the higher self when you have a decision to make.

Your ‘head’ will always counsel you towards safety. Your ‘heart’ will always counsel you towards expansion. Your head tries to keep you small. Your heart wants you to grow. But growing can be scary, because you are entering unknown territory, so if you feel a little scared of what one of the inner voices is telling you to do you might just have tapped into the wisdom your heart.

How to be happy

So listening to your ‘heart’ (or your inner teacher, wise counsel, higher self, sometimes also experienced as God) is the way forward.

But what if you cannot hear the voice of the inner self ?  It is hard to listen to the inner voice if you are surrounded by constant distraction and never spend a moment looking inside. Facebook, mobile phones, TVs are pulling our attention away from the inner voice on a regular basis.

A simple practice to connect to your Inner Guidance

  1. Switch everything off, sit down (or lie down) and be still
  2. Take a few deep breaths and relax for a few minutes.
  3. Go to a place of peace or stillness in your mind and allow yourself to feel your feelings. Do not try to feel differently from what you are feeling, just accept whatever it is you are feeling.
  4. If you notice the feeling is negative , while accepting what you are feeling, imagine what you’d like to feel instead, as if your life were already perfect.  Connect to this reality and let yourself experience it as if it were already real.
  5. Ask for your Inner Teacher to appear. Maybe it is just a presence, a feeling, or a knowing or maybe you can even see it.  When you are connected to the inner wiser self ask: What feels like the right thing to do for me to bring about this change ? What is going to get me closer to what I want ? What feels right ?
  6. Now listen and make space to receive. Open your heart to its wisdom.

If your analytical mind is interfering with the process by distracting you with judgements you need to relax more and pay no heed to its criticisms. It’s just the ego getting scared and trying to protect you from the unknown. You can reassure yourself you’ll listen to it later. But for now pay attention only to the exercise. Drop your judgements and connect to the deeper truth of the present moment.

Follow these steps and you’ll access the most valuable teacher and therapist you’ll ever have. The coach that knows you the best. Remember this is a PRACTICE. You don’t run a marathon by going to the gym once. You need to keep at it and commit until you get the results you want.

Remember, it is never the experiences we have that keep us stuck but the judgements about them. It is the resistance to feeling our feelings. Move into the feeling and trust it has something invaluable to teach you.

For more articles on related topics see

How to be Happy

You are what you believe 

Mindfulness practices help you stay balanced

Practical applications of mindfulness

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to benefit from mindfulness. One of my passions is to de-mistify and secularize concepts that would otherwise be out of reach for anyone who may not belong to or be interested in understanding a specific religious affiliation.

It is now well known that certain Buddhist concepts can be very helpful in aiding us to be more happy, balanced, and in control of our emotional responses. One of these concepts is that of ‘equanimity’.

Equanimity is the capacity to see our own suffering and that of others with compassion without becoming either overwhelmed by it or indifferent to it. It is the capacity to look at all that surrounds us with the eye of a curious and compassionate observer. It is watching what goes on within us and outside of us with an open heart and without judgement, remembering that all that exists rises and passes away, all is impermanent, including joy, sorrow, pleasant and painful events, people, buildings, animals and nations; It is being able to let yourself rest amid everything that is impermanent while remaining balanced and peaceful; It is the capacity to extend loving kindness to all living beings without becoming enmeshed in their own drama, accepting the things that cannot be changed, having the courage to change those we can and cultivating the wisdom to know the difference.

Imagine being a judge at a court case: you are not indifferent to what you witness but you are not personally invested in it either. You are even and balanced. You are not disturbed by either chasing after pleasure or avoiding pain. You are simply present to what is without having to change it adjust it or control it in any way. Another word for this is ‘detachment’.

When we practice this capacity to lift up and “abstract’ ourselves from ourselves, it is as if we could look in on ourselves from the outside; in this way we stop identifying with our own emotions thoughts and feelings and we can choose how to respond consciously, rather than ‘react’ automatically to what we experience. This is the basis of emotional intelligence.

Create the life you want

If we want to create change in our lives we must first accept where we are right now and take responsibility: we need to realize that we are creators. We can either be created by our unconscious thoughts words and behaviors or we can consciously choose to create what we want to experience more of. We are the inheritors of all the causes and conditions that have brought us here now. The thoughts and actions we have engaged in your life have created the outcomes we are now experiencing in our lives.

So what if we stopped wasting our energy blaming others or alternatively giving ourselves a hard time and putting yourself down ? What if instead we chose to be compassionate with ourselves , forgave ourselves and learned whatever we can from our experiences ?

Perhaps this way we could put our energy and focus to better use. We could be helping ourselves to become more aware of our automatic reactions,  thoughts and emotions; we could then be practicing to focus our intention and attention towards conscious choice so we create the life we want.

Find inner balance

As creators of our own ‘karma’, we need to learn how to care for others without becoming overwhelmed and developing empathy fatigue (and subsequently indifference). If we clearly look at the world, the struggles and suffering we see will make us sad. If instead of trying to avoid this we stay with the discomfort we will experience the wish to be of help to others.

If the need to be of benefit to others is rooted in love, we can learn to relax with the discomfort we experience and as a result we will be able to use the sadness to motivate us to help others whether through art, prayer, activism, charity or simply by being kind to those around us.

It is important to remember that no matter how much we may care we cannot live other people’s lives for them. So while taking the “three thousand year” view of things we must practice remaining with an open heart, practice loving kindness towards all living beings and remember that  our responsibility in making the world a better place ends there.

We can wish fellow humans to learn to see the arising and passing of all things with equanimity and balance, while being as much as possible an example to them of such an attitude and perspective.

One of the practical ways to cultivate this quality of being ‘a witness’ to life is  to practice being internally flexible, curious and learn how to focus and concentrate.

Four exercises that foster concentration and presence

  1. Mindfulness of breath, body, sounds thoughts and feelings meditation” to develop self awareness
  2. Sitting of strong determination meditation” to  develop concentration and focus
  3. Being a mountain visualization” to develop absorption , riveting attention  and to establish a sense of presence
  4.  “Investigating our experience reflection” to gain insight into what’s pulling us off balance, by examining our beliefs.
  5. “Calming the emotions self suggestions” to find a balanced mind and a peaceful heart to ourselves and others around us.

You can find some examples of these in the video on equanimity or you can get in touch to experience them first hand with me.

If you are interested in knowing more on the link between Mindfulness and psychotherapy you read this mindfulness buddhism and psychology article

Social Anxiety – what to do ?

February 12, 2015

social anxietyWhy am I socially anxious?

One of the things that I have been noticing in my practice is how often people come to see me for social anxiety problems. I also have been aware of how reports seem to indicate this malady to be on the rise in recent times in the western world. So what can we make of this? I have started to question how much of this excessive amount of anxiety is societal and how much is learned behavior coupled with a genetic predisposition.

Even without delving into how our societal values vastly influence the importance of social status and its representation through social and traditional media, and even putting aside personal history I am starting to think that a fundamental part of the problem comes from being stuck in the teenage developmental error of assuming and believing that while everyone else is worth knowing and/or has a wonderful life we are not. This makes us feel insecure (and deepens our preexisting insecurities) and puts us in a position of being at -1 in social situations.

Let me explain: if we all realized that we are in the same boat and that everyone is as ‘messed up’ and as fundamentally OK as everyone else the way we relate would change. We would stop trying to impress others or being impressed by their seeming social success and we would relate to them as equals; as a result, when talking/meeting a new person we would both start at level 0, not level +1 or -1 (better or worse than them).

The first step to beat social anxiety

Step number one then would be to question the fundamental assumption that others are better than us and decide to take a position of fundamental equality. Every time you realize you are putting yourself down when comparing yourself to someone else ask yourself the question: how do I know this is true? Can I prove it? What is the evidence against it? And actively look beyond the surface.

Question your own values. What makes you worth knowing is not how much money you have or how thin you are (among other common concerns) but the unique flavor of the way you experience the world. There is no right or wrong way to experience it. There is only genuine communication of your experience and genuine interest in other people’s experience. When we genuinely tell others how we feel about anything we connect as equals, it is easier for others to accept us and as a result, our anxiety assuages.

A practical exercise to overcome your fear

Finally: think about someone who seems at genuine ease with others. What are they doing? Model yourself after their positive qualities you wish to acquire. And when in a difficult situation ask yourself: what would this person do? Now take a leap of faith and do it. Notice what’s different. Persist. Change takes time and effort. You will get out of it as much as you put into it.

How your brain can turn anxiety into calmness

December 30, 2013

Physician, author, speaker, researcher, and consultant Martin L. Rossman, MD, discusses how to use the power of the healing mind to reduce stress and anxiety, relieve pain, change lifestyle habits, and live with more wellness. Series: UCSF Mini Medical School for the Public

Other Articles about anxiety :

anxiety and mindfulness

tips to help yourself overcome anxiety 

Social anxiety: what to do 

How to combat social anxiety and shyness

Hypnosis for anxiety

How to Change Limiting Beliefs

A Practical Cognitive Behavioral Approach

In a previous article, I have explored how our negative core beliefs keep us stuck. If you are not familiar with this I suggest you read “How to get Unstuck” first.

Now before going ahead make yourself comfortable. Take a pen and paper and get ready to do some very valuable work that will make a real difference in your life. Take your time with this. The more you put into it the more you will get out of it.

Ok, let’s get down to work: start by writing down the first restrictive negative belief you want to change. Then proceed with the following steps:

21 Steps to Positive Change

1) On a scale of 1-10, how true does this belief subjectively feel?

2) On a scale of 1-1- how true is this belief in reality? (be as neutral and objective as possible)

3) When does this belief the most emotionally convincing?

4) When does it feel the least emotionally convincing? Take your time answering this question as this will reveal to you what conditions exasperate the issue and what makes it better.

5) What actual evidence do you have for this belief? what supports it? Be realistic and as neutral as possible

6) What actual evidence contradicts and challenges this belief? What evidence is there to show you it might not be necessarily true?

7) What possible advantages are making you want to hold on to it? In what way could this belief be serving you beneficially in some perverse way?

8) What disadvantages are there in holding on to it?

9) Now remind yourself of a circumstance in the past when you had doubts about a belief. Go back to that time and recall what it felt like to experience doubt. How did you know you were doubting your previously firm beliefs? what were you experiencing? what made you change your mind?

10) Recalling and staying with this doubting state start doubting your current belief. Ask yourself those questions again: does this belief really fit with what is truly important to me? In the past, when did this belief interfere with what I wanted to do? What would it be like to be free of this old belief?

11) After rolling these questions in your mind for a while focus again.

Is this negative belief an over-generalization? Is it the result of catastrophizing? Is it just a personal attack against your person or others? Does it label you or others into something fixed? Is it the result of demanding of yourself something unreasonable, such as ‘you SHOULD be or do such and such”?

12) After careful consideration how true does your old belief feel now on a scale of 1-10? Now comes the fun part: relax, take a few deep breathes and close your eyes. Imagine that there’s a furnace somewhere deep inside yourself.

If you really want to permanently destroy that old belief imagine throwing it into that fire and watch it burn away into ashes. Take pleasure in doing this.

13) Now ask yourself: what would be a more helpful and realistic alternative belief to have? State it positively (say what you want not what you don’t want!).

Make sure you are happy with it. Word it in the present tense, as if it was happening now. (i.e. I believe I am good enough as I am, or, I believe I deserve love just as I am)

14) On a scale of 1-10, how true does it feel right now?

15) As you did before ask yourself, when does the new belief feel the least and the most emotionally convincing.

16) Examine the evidence against this new belief? Is there any problem with it? Then find evidence that proves its correctness and usefulness. Write it down

17) Write down any disadvantages there may be for holding this new positive belief. Be as objective as possible

18) Write down all the advantages of holding this new positive belief now.

19) Now go inside yourself again. Recall a time in the past when you felt receptive and willing to learn. Remember what it was like to be open to change and new beliefs.  How did it feel? Re-live that time in as much detail as possible. Where in your body did you feel those feelings? What were you telling yourself? Do all it is possible now to achieve that same state again now.

20) Staying with that memory of feeling receptive and open focus on your new belief. How would it feel to accept this new belief? How is it better than the previous one? How different would your life be if you held this new belief as your own? What would you be doing that you were doing before? What could you achieve and overcome that you weren’t able to before? Think about all this and engage with your new belief.

21) Now evaluate your new belief.  Do you need to make any changes? Can you improve on it in any way? How good do you feel holding it?  On a scale of 1-10, how true does it feel now?

Now Take Action!

Now decide to take some action. What can you do differently right now, today, as a result of having acquired this new belief? If you truly believed in it, what would you do differently?  Set yourself a task based on this belief being true and decide what action you would take.

Start doing things differently right now so that your new belief gets empirical support and you experience it in your life. This way it gets verified, enhanced and supported and therefore embedded in your new behavior patterns.

Have fun with it, experiment and watch your life change and feel great as a result!

How to Get Unstuck

unstuckFeeling Stuck in your Old Ways ?

When we are blocked in an area of our lives it often is due to the fact that we feel safer that way. We may feel unhappy but that is easier to deal with than our fear of the unknown. We begin to change when the pain we experience in staying stuck is bigger than the anticipated pain of change.

A lot of fear comes down to our negative core beliefs : deeply held beliefs acquired some time in the past due to painful experiences. Becoming conscious and challenging these beliefs is the first step in the process of change.

For a moment, think about something you would really like to do or be right now but don’t feel able to. When you’ve got that, write it down. Do that now. Maybe you have always wanted to be an artist so write down “I am a capable and talented artist”.

The Trouble with Positive Affirmations

Now, in all probability a voice in your head has just emerged to criticize this statement bringing up all sorts of reasons why this is either impossible or a bad idea. Positive affirmations can give us a sense of safety and hope if we let them but at first you will probably feel they sound fake, embarassing or not right. No surprise there.  If you have spent all your life bludgeoning yourself with negative beliefs such as “I am worthless” or “I am not good enough” or “I must be perfect to deserve success” anything else will sound unfamiliar and syrupy or cheesy . So saying to yourself ” I am lovable just as I am” or “I am capable and confident” will surely sound untrue at first.

The problem with not accepting a belief because it doesn’ t sound right though is that feelings are a result of thoughts and if you want to change a feeling you have got to change the thought first. It’s a bit like the idea of “fake it til you make it”. You can’t wait to feel it to believe it, you gotta believe it to feel it! Luckily there are some ways to get around this obstacle, but all of these do involve a certain willingness to suspend judgement and take a leap of faith, as well as engage our rational mind doubting limiting old beliefs.

Seek out the Monster in your Head

So what is that critical monster in your head saying when you tell it you already are what you want to be ?( After saying your affirmation: i.e. “I am ok just as I am” )

Listen to the objections that come your way. What s the cruel voice saying inside your head ? “so you’re ok as you are… ah ah sure you are!”, “who are you kidding?”, “You are ugly”, “You will never change”, “You can’t do anything right”, “No-one will ever love you unless you are perfect”, etc etc… You will be amazed at the rotten things you can come up with. Write them down.  These are your personal negative core beliefs.

Become a Mind Investigator

Once you have written them down you can start having a good look at where these beliefs come from: Mom and dad? Your school bully? The boy/girl you were in love with when you were ten? Teachers that pushed you too hard? Your little jealous sister ? Scan your blurts for possible sources. Time travel back into your life in five year increments and list by name who influenced you the most in each block of time.

Once you have identified these challenge their opinions. What self serving reason could they have had to have done or said what they did do or say? How did their own worldview influence them ? What did they believe about themselves ? What messages did they grow up with ? Remember this is not about blaming or condoning, just understanding and distinguishing their beliefs from what yours would be if you hadn’t accepted theirs as true. If there is still a lot of emotional energy involved in recalling these memories you might have to release it first so you can forgive them and yourself and move on.

Keep in mind that it is also possible your negative beliefs may come from subtle non direct messages received from your environment or from an experience of something that happened to you where others were not directly involved:

Maybe you felt different because of a situation you found yourself in; maybe you were abandoned by a significant other; maybe you fell ill and became isolated; maybe you were born with something that set you apart from others and you yourself came up with the negative conclusion that you were not Ok just as you were: the possibilities are endless and very personal.

Challenge the Critical Voice

Whatever your monster is, after it has been brought up to the light of day you can start working on challenging its critical voice and changing those negative beliefs that keep you stuck and unhappy. If you would like help with a practical cognitive behavioral approach to this, read this article about “how to get rid of negative core beliefs”.

Bring On the Crisis

bringitonWe all complain about having problems. But what would it be like to wake up in the morning and have absolutely no problems to solve, nothing to worry about, no vexations whatsoever? Having no problems can be a very serious problem and lead to the creation and yearning for any old dumb problem that will shake us from our slumber and generate some excitement.

It seems to me that creating problems in a real human need. It seems we define ourselves by the dilemmas we attract and struggle to solve. Usually it ‘s those who are most creative that ask the biggest and hardest questions and then put together resources to answer them.

It is often said that there is no gain without pain, and nothing of value is gained without effort. While this is mostly true and anxiety can be a valuable spur for getting things done it is also true that putting ourselves under a lot pressure to solve mediocre problems is not going to be useful or make us smarter. If we get too used to allow unimportant problems to fill us with nagging vexations we won t gain much except for a headache.

The other fact to consider is that when we are preoccupied with silly boring or demeaning annoyances we might miss out on asking the bigger questions and getting well into wilder, more interesting problems. These may be of the variety that pushes you out of your comfort zone in the direction of your personal frontier well before life forces you to do so when you are least willing to deal with it.

When we focus on the problems that matter we feel excited about our ability to deal with them because ultimately they will open the door to a better existence rather than dragging us down into the same meandering tunnels of meaninglessness.

So invite the real crisis in : it will be a time of destiny, a turning point, an opportunity to rethink what really matters to you so you take action to bring about the changes necessary to create a better present for yourself.

In other words: stop distracting yourself with minor irritations and ask yourself the question you have been avoiding.  Instead bring it on, delve in deep and get it over with : there is no time better than now !

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