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Wish Upon a Star, You Can go Far. Sit on Your Butt, You’ll Stay in a Rut

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Everyone at some point in their lives dreams about what could have been or should have been. They look back upon their life and say things like, how in the hell did I get here and with these people?  

 The answer is simple to say, but hard to accept. For the most part, they chose the elements of their life that brought them to where they are currently. (This is not to state catastrophes and events thrust onto someone are chosen by the victim! No, no, no, but everyone has choices concerning the aftermath of such events.  That’s a different topic.)

 Why do we make the choices we do? We think it’s in our best interest at the time, that’s why. The problem arises when we make choices without examining what truly is in our best interest. Many of us wander through life, dreaming, but never taking ourselves seriously enough to invest time into evaluating our choices with the life we really want. Then one day, we turn around and wonder how we got where we are and why do we feel so miserable.

 As we grow, we develop a picture of what our perfect world would look like. Then, hopefully, we spend our lives making choices to get us as close to that perfect world as possible. We do this because when our real world closely aligns with our internal, ideal world, (quality world) we feel good.

 So, okay, here you are in a relationship that does not match your ideal world. You work in a job that is so far off base from your interests, talents and desires that you hate getting up in the morning.  You look at yourself in the mirror and say, who is that person looking back at me? Now what?

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   Step one: Do you know what your ideal life is? If not, start figuring it out. Play with the idea of having a magic wand and there are no limitations. Forget the idea of, why do this, I can’t accomplish this anyway. Just do it.

 Step two: What does this ideal world say about you? Do you see patterns? Do your dreams show you feeling powerful, more accepted, more creative? This is important because while you may not be able to get your exact ideal life, you can find good substitutions to get those same needs and wants met.  Let’s say, you want to be a surgeon, but you don’t have the education or time for medical school. You realize you want to be a surgeon so you can help others in the field of medicine. Become a phlebotomist, a Red Cross volunteer or first aid officer at your company.

 Step three: Look at the choices you are making in your life. Do they line up with getting closer to your ideal world? Why or why not? Identify the areas in your life or choices you are making that push you further from your ideal life.

 Step four: Get more information about other choices you could be making. Talk to people who appear to have similar ideal lives. Read books and cruise the internet for more information. The more information you have about what you want, the easier it is take steps to make it happen.

 Step five: Set goals for yourself. Remember not all goals are external. For example, today, instead of dreaming I was married to Johnny Depp and being pissed at my spouse, I’ m going to find out what qualities in Johnny Depp I admire and see how my spouse lines up. Or, deciding – my spouse has great qualities and my ideas about Johnny Depp are based on fantasy and not reality. I really wasn’t that crazy when I married my spouse. He’s pretty special. These are internal choice changes.

 An external choice change might be, my spouse ridicules me, threatens me and I don’t want or need to live like this. I’m going to investigate what it takes to get a divorce or what is in my community to help people like me.

 Think of goals as the set points. They are your rudders helping you steer through life.  

 Step six: Evaluate! Evaluate!

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 What is it you really want?

What are you doing to get it?

 Is it working? Why or why not?

What can I do different?

Set goals and do it!

 No one has to spend their lives sitting in a rut. We create the ruts and put ourselves there. Choose to get up and wish upon a star. You have what it takes. Just do it.  

The Healthy Relationship Part 5: Alternate Realities

ImageA sign in an amusement park says; look in peep hole to see a man eating chicken. Now, if you saw that sign what image do you think you’d see through the hole? Is it a man munching out on a piece of chicken? Or is it a large chicken eating a man?

What about these sentences? The man saw the boy with the binoculars.  Did the man have the binoculars or the boy? Or, how about, hole found in changing room wall; police are looking into it. Are they investigating the incident or looking in the hole?  

These are called syntactic ambiguities. Why am I telling you all this? Because it is a good demonstration of how our brains perceive the world around us. For every person who sees a man eating a piece of chicken there are probably equal number who see a large chicken eating a man.

If we want to understand and navigate our behaviors we have to grasp the way our brains see our world.

ImageAll around us is the Real World. This is everything that exists; no matter if we realize it or not. The real world contains trillions of pieces of information bombarding us constantly. Our brains are not equipped to handle all this so it selects what is most important and screens out the rest. 

It is generally accepted that there are three filters used to screen select Real World information for our use.  They are called: Knowledge, Values, and Perceptions.

Whatever information remaining after screening is now evaluated and a decision is made. Either, this information is in-line with our wants and needs and we feel good. This information is neutral and does not matter to us. Or this information is not in-line and may threaten our wants and needs and we feel bad.

If we decide that the information is in-line and we feel good, we keep our filters screening the same way, and continue to behave based on this information. The system is working well.  However, if the opposite is true, we feel out of balance and our system goes into red-alert. Depending on how far off balance we feel determines how much drastic action we take.  

For example, let’s say you are watching your child on the swing-set at a local playground.  The weather is good, the park is not crowded, and your child is having fun. You feel good.  All of the sudden, the swing chain brakes and endangers your child. Chances are at this point in time, your brain could care less what the weather is like or how crowded the park is. Instead information such as speed and what angle to leap in order to catch the falling child would be more practical.

Problems pop-up when we feel bad or out-of-balance and the adjustments we make are not the best.  Our actions could make things worse. They could fix things in the short-run but not long term. Or the adjustments solve what we think is the real issue making us feel out-of -balance when it is another issue deeper down we have not addressed.

When we feel out-of –balance, we think, feel or do something different to feel better. The next step is, did it work? If not or it did not work the way we hoped, then a change in the information screened through the filters or an adjustment to the filters might be in order.

The filtering system is one of the easiest ways to get from out-of- balance to in-balance.

Knowledge Filter: This is a filter that contains pieces of information we already learned. I don’t think all information learned is actually in this filter. I think we have the ability to alter this. For example, I learned my ABCs in pre-school. This is always in my filter because I read and write daily.  I learned to fish when I was four-years-old but never fish. I really don’t think this is in my knowledge filter. But if I pushed myself, I could remember some memory of fishing and probably some terms from hearing others talk of fishing.   

If the information we are using to filter Real World information prevents us from acting in a way to feel good, get our needs met and be in-balance, we need to search for new knowledge. We can also reassess knowledge we already have and decide what needs to be added or subtracted. 

This is as easy as someone saying, “Hey, remember back when and you had this happen. You did such-and-such and it worked out. Maybe you should try that now.”

Your reply, “Oh, I’d forgotten that. I’ll have to re-pull that knowledge and see how it changes my options.” Now you have added old information to your active knowledge filter.

Values Filter:  This is the, how important is this information to me, filter.  When information enters this filter a value is placed on it. Is it positive information? Information that helps us become balanced, meets our needs? Or is it negative, something that has the potential to prevent or hinder getting our needs met? Some information is neither and we don’t give it a value.  

Perception Filter: This filter is the very selective, how we see the world based on everything that is us. This includes our gender, culture, experience, sexual orientation, parents, age, race, etc. The amount of inclusions in here can be astronomical.  Because no one is the same as anyone else, each person’s Perception is different. Like the other filters, it can change.  Perspective might be another good word for this area. To change our perspective is to change our perception filter.

All of the above is then evaluated against what Dr. William Glassier called the Quality World. The QW is sort of like the answer to the magic wand question many therapists ask. If you had a magic wand, what would life be like? In the Quality World we have pictures of how we think we can get our needs met in the most satisfying way. All our filters are balanced to provide the Real World information the system needs to best get to our Quality World picture.

For example: If I have a high need for love and a low need for power (see prior posting for more details), my Quality World might have a picture of me being adored by family and friends. There is never conflict. I do volunteer work and always put others ahead of my needs. 

It is probably more specific than this. Maybe, I’m a stay-at-home mother with three adorable, cherub-like kids and a dog named Elmo. My husband, who looks like George Clooney, works as a Podiatrist and I go to the Sisters of Perpetual Mercy Church three times a week.  I make an amazing meat-loaf. It’s to die for.

That picture is what my brain will use to set my filters and gather information from the Real World. It is through that information, evaluated against my Quality World picture that I will use to behave. I will use it to think, feel and act a certain way. My way, may not be your way.

ImageThat is why some of us see a man eating a chicken while others see a chicken eating a man!

The Healthy Relationship Part 4: What do I Really Want and How do I Get it?

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I’ve been breaking down basic rules for healthy relationships. In Part 3 we looked at identifying our NEEDS. Now we need to explore our WANTS.

 Ask someone what they want and often they can give you a very quick definitive answer.  But is that answer REALLY what they want?

I can say, “I want chocolate chip cookies.”  This sounds simple enough; however, it really isn’t. In this particular case, I’m watching television and I’m anxious about a meeting I’m having in the morning. I’m not hungry or deprived of sweets but chocolate chip cookies are what hits me that I want.

Knowing what I know about myself and human behavior, I know chocolate chip cookies are not really what I want. I don’t want the calories or the mess of making them. I’m not hungry. So, I start to dissect this WANT. Broken down, it looked like this:

  • I want chocolate chip cookies, more specifically
  • I want chocolate, more specifically
  • I want to stop feeling anxious, more specifically
  • I want to not go to this meeting tomorrow, more specifically
  • I want to feel I have more control over the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting, more specifically
  • I want to feel more confident in my ability to handle the unknown of tomorrow’s meeting

 Why is this important to me? Because I see myself as self-reliant, intelligent and due to my past, I have a strong need to feel in control.  When I get into situations where I can’t be or do these, I get anxious and feel out of balance. I need to do something to feel back into balance.

As I’m watching TV, my brain jumps to the old stand-by, carbohydrates! They are the building blocks of changing the body chemistry for a short period of time. Will chocolate chip cookies help me feel self-reliant, intelligent and in control? NO! They will only make me feel fatter and give me more dishes to clean.  Making and eating chocolate chip cookies is a horrible plan to get my needs and wants met. It’s time to plan another strategy. Instead of cooking and eating chocolate chip cookies, I can take that energy and plan a healthier way to prepare for this meeting.

 When you know your real wants, you can better evaluate what behaviors you are choosing to accomplish your want.  So, step one is to EXPLORE what your REAL WANT is. Step two is to EVALUATE if the behaviors you are choosing will get you closer to that goal. Step three, if the answer to step two is no, INVESTIGATE other options. Get more information. Think about in the past, what you might have done that did work in a similar situation. Step four, make a PLAN and follow through.

In my case, I had to address the demons in my thinking. I had to explore the negative images and thoughts I was allowing to run amok in my brain. My poor body was only reacting to my thoughts. The result was anxiety and the desire to feel better through food.  I also had to relax, journal and start saying a positive mantra.

Patterns of behavior do not change overnight, but you have to start somewhere. I was still anxious, but much more in control of me, feeling more self-reliant because I took the steps and therefore feeling more intelligent and back in balance.

If your behavior (thinking, feeling or acting) does not get a need met or a want achieved, a re-evaluation is in order. More than likely, what you think you want is only the surface-want or you are using the wrong behaviors to get you there.  Dig a little deeper and do the steps.