What’s the Opposite of Being the “Victim”?

The “victim” and the “perpetrator” are often the same role. Jump off the coin completely and experience the practice of healing.

 We have all had experiences in our lives of being a victim. If you have had a moment in your life (early on in childhood or more recently) where your body went into Fight/Flight/Freeze survival mode, then your body knows what it feels like to be faced with being on the victim end of a situation. You don’t have to have had any serious trauma happen to you for your body to know what this feels like. Even if you have never been in a car accident, or been the victim of a violent crime, your body still knows because you have probably, if you’ve been alive for any amount of time, been scared to “death” at least once in your life. That feeling is something the human animal can feel because it’s a useful feeling when faced with a real danger.

The process our body goes through of fight, flight, or freeze saves our lives. It jumps us into adrenaline responses that help us swerve the car out of the way or whatever needs to be done to end the emergency. The problem comes when our ego high-jacks this useful tool and starts to kick this process into gear every time IT is threatened. Let’s face it, our pride and vanity (ego) are threatened all the time. When they’re running the show, we start to walk around as if we are having some degree of an emergency 24/7. We walk around as if we are in a war-zone, our egos keeping a vigilant eye out for where the next attack may come from. What did she mean by that? They think they’re better than me. What is he implying? This kind of internal dialog WILL create battles to be fought and won, enemies to be destroyed. There will be martyrs and victims to be or to save and life will feel like an epic energetic battle between “us” and “them”.

Life, contrary to some popular ways of being in our culture, is actually NOT an emergency. It is not a battle to be “won” or “lost”. This article is not about actually being a victim of a crime. It’s about “playing the victim” in our own personal narrative about who we are and what life is to us.

The question is “What is the opposite of being the victim?”. Is sticking up for yourself the opposite? If you’re not going to be the victim, does that mean you have to be the perpetrator? Is this really an “eat or be eaten” kind of world? How do you stay centered and strong without victimizing/belittling someone else?

The first thing that might be helpful is to define what feeling like a victim feels like. I would describe it as being the pinball, getting knocked around and spun around by forces completely outside of yourself. It’s an un-empowered feeling. You are flying around and falling through your life, legs and arms flailing, at the mercy of the objects you encounter. How does it feel to be the bumpers and paddles in this game of pinball? Well, if you ask the paddles, they may be feeling victimized themselves. What, with that ball coming around needing to be moved along by powers outside of itself all the time? “That ball bumps into me all the time. If I didn’t push, what would happen to me?” They might ask.

Think about your interactions with the people in your life. Think about every form of relationship you have: coworker, friend, family, romantic. If you are participating in a power play, then there is a victim/perpetrator scene playing out. This can also play out as a “Winner/Loser” kind of energy. Probably you switch roles back and forth, and probably both roles feel equally bad to be in. They feel this way because both roles are un-empowering. The opposite of those roles is to be empowered. Lording power over others is not the same as being empowered. It is actually the opposite. Being in the right and requiring that someone else is in the wrong is part of this game. In fact, this “being in the right” is probably the number one cause of un-empowering behavior. Any time I believe that the actions or words of someone else are my only key to peace and resolution of my hard feelings, I am playing the victim game.

ANY TIME I require something from someone else, a certain way of behaving or an apology for example, to have peace with a situation, I am giving up my own personal power. That mindset alone is disempowering me (and possibly the other person). The fact is that I am TOTALLY responsible for how I feel.

Saying “I feel angry and it’s your fault. What are you going to do about my anger?” is like saying “I have a leg and it’s your fault. Now what are you going to do about this leg I have?”

What can the person possibly do? If a wrong was truly done, and the person is moved to apologize, your anger is still yours to take care of in a good way. More likely than not, unresolved anger even after an apology leads to cutting and belittling remarks, holier-than-thou remarks from you to the person who has already apologized.  Those remarks and attitudes can be a bullying kind of behavior. So the equation goes: Victim/Perpetrator = same/same.

“But Lisa”, you might say, “I’ve had people apologize and immediately I felt better! My anger was gone.” Yes, that happens. It happens when the words spoken, and the ears that they land on, come from a softening and forgiving heart. If you are committed to your anger, this softening cannot happen. If you are committed to being in the right, this softening cannot happen. Being committed to being somehow better than another person is also a barrier to softening your heart. Therein lies the answer to the question of this article: “What is the opposite of playing/being the victim?” Well, finding the place in your heart where you will truly be able to feel, in the moment, that the other person is as innocent as you are will help you dissolve the hard feelings and jump off that coin. Remember, feeling it and thinking about the feeling are two totally different things.

One step towards finding your way of doing this is, in the heat of the moment, to ask yourself, “am I willing to take a deep breath at this moment? Am I willing to soften my gaze, and relax my jaw at this moment? Am I willing to relax my shoulders and take another deep breath? Am I willing to soften my heart?”

With this willingness comes the possibility of a new dialog both internally and externally. Try it in any situation! If you are watching TV and getting angry at the news, try it! If you are driving and someone cuts you off, try it! When your mom says that incredibly annoying thing you’ve heard 100 times that always sets you off, try it!

“Am I willing to take a deep breath and soften my heart at this moment…”

“Am I willing” is an incredibly powerful tool. Willingness is like faith, even a small drop can move mountains.*

I’ve been using pretty surface-y situations as examples, but this works with the big moments in life too. Hard things happen. Things we never wanted to happen, things beyond our control. It’s easy to feel like the victim in our life. Life is big and real things happen that create incredibly strong feelings that can rock us to the core. People close to us die young, of cancer or in an accident. Our friends get laid off and have families to support and all of these events have very real consequences. Our brains like to explain why and what could have been done to avoid this horrible thing. It’s hard to escape blaming ourselves or others at this stage, not to mention the trap of logic waiting at the other end of the word “deserve”. All of these thoughts are a recipe for disaster. Victim-hood central!

I recently had an opportunity to use this practice of willingness in my life with profound results. I discovered in early April of this year that I was, shock of all shocks, pregnant. In my 39 years of life this had NEVER happened to me. I’d had all kinds of physical issues in the reproductive area that seemed to point to pregnancy as an impossibility for me. It wasn’t really on the radar because my partner and I assumed we’d need to get medical help to start a family. Then we were pregnant. We were SO happy! We got some books on pregnancy, and started to prepare for this huge change in our lives. For weeks we adjusted to and enjoyed talking about this new being coming to be a family with us and names and how our extended families were going to be so excited and wow! what our very new life was starting to look like for us. The whole universe shifted and we were fully dedicated and excited for this new life for all of us. I ate all the right foods and took my vitamins and rested when I was supposed to and everything. I did everything good and nothing “bad”.

Then I had a miscarriage. And all of the futures we’d felt right on the brink of disappeared just like that. “POOF”.

My brain, in an attempt to help me deal with the intense feelings I was having about all of this, started to make up stories and find the “why” in all of it. If everything happens for a reason, then what was the reason? “I should have done this”…  “I could have done that”… “was it that run I took before I knew I was pregnant?”… And the list of blaming thoughts continued until I arrived at the “Maybe this needed to happen in order to bring you and Tony closer” … and “look for the good that will come of it…” but every silver lining story felt like bullshit. The stories seemed irrelevant and unhelpful and frankly, disrespectful. Belittling.

What I needed to do was feel what I was feeling. Every explanation was an attempt to avoid feeling the truth of the pain of what was going on. I had to ask myself, “am I willing to soften my heart and feel the pain of this, without creating a story of right or wrong? Without creating a story about what I deserve, or what I merit? Certainly without asking “why me?”. Am I willing to feel these feelings all the way through without putting them on someone or something else? Without trying to fix them? Am I willing to feel these feelings without a story of suffering? Without a story of victimhood or martyrdom? Am I willing to soften my heart and feel my feelings?!!

I asked myself this every moment a wave of feeling came over me, which was every minute of every day for a while. At every moment I had the opportunity to create a story of suffering for myself to add to the tome of “Lisa’s Life” and at every moment the freedom lay in my willingness to feel without creating a narrative for myself. “Everything happens for a reason” turned into “everything happens”, turned into no thought at all.

When I did attach to a story or an explanation, the pressure immediately started to build and the situation felt IMPOSSIBLE. Every story was like a dam on the powerful river of my heart regardless of how well-meaning. The only way to move through with any kind of grace was to allow the flow of feelings un-storied. Only on the other side of this could my heart feel any amount of lightness.

The truth is that we can make up a reason that either makes us feel better or makes us feel worse about ANYTHING that happens to us, but by doing so we stop our process of feeling the feelings we are having and truly being alive to our life in real time. Are you willing to soften to your life? We are all victims if we build walls of explanation around our hearts in order to stop feeling our lives.

*Thank you George Bertelstein for introducing me to the power of this question!

The Anatomy of Feeling Unempowered

What Sparks Those Moments of Feeling Unempowered in Your Life?

If you feel unempowered in a part of your life, you are probably trying to be responsible for stuff that is not in your power. Or, you are trying to hand your responsibility over to someone else. A clear sign that this is going on is anywhere in your life where you are holding a grudge, feeling resentful, regretful, shameful, righteous, judgmental, or guilty. This can be either in your present, in your recent past, or in your distant past. These are all feelings of stuck-ness and are therefore places where you are not in your power.

Holding people responsible for things that are not their responsibility is what causes suffering. Trying to take responsibility for something that isn’t your responsibility has the same effect. These two actions cause A LOT of suffering.

Suffering is what it feels like when we are unempowered. Please don’t get confused. The opposite of “unempowered” is NOT “happy”. It is “empowered”. You can be empowered in your life and still feel angry, sad, happy or scared as the moment finds you, and I can pretty much guarantee that as a human being, you will feel those four feelings on a rotating basis quite independently of your surroundings or situation. What you won’t feel is suffering. There is a big difference.

But how on earth can we suss out what we are responsible for, and what we are not responsible for? To start with, we need a really clear understanding of what we mean by “responsible for”.

“Responsible for” does not mean “I am to blame for”. (Nor does it mean “you are to blame for”)

“Responsible for” means…
_______________________“it is mine to take care of”
_______________________“under my management”
_______________________“in my realm of power”

This is the meaning when we are talking about human responsibilities.

The thing about those realms for which we are responsible is that no one else can take care of these things but us, no matter how we try to get someone else to do it, or no matter how much they insist on taking responsibility for it. So what is it that every human being is responsible for? The good news is it’s a short list.

Repeat after me (I promise it won’t hurt…much ☺):

1. I am responsible for my “yes” and my “no”.
(Life requires these two answers all the time. If you can’t do these clearly, you are confusing people and letting them and yourself down. Holding a grudge for something you said yes to? Blaming others for your feelings about something you agreed to? Feeling manipulated into doing something? Read on…)

2. I am responsible for ALL of my feelings
(Someone may have taken an action that triggered your feelings, but that does NOT mean they are responsible for them. YOU are the only one with the power to feel your feelings in a healthy way, and to choose to keep feeling them. Usually #3 below is what fans the flames of a feeling…)

3. I am responsible for ALL of my thoughts
(Even the thoughts you have about what you THINK someone else is thinking. Guess who is really thinking that… if you are one of those “I know what they’re thinking about me” people, STOP thinking those things about yourself! Seriously. It’s you being really mean to yourself. What you “read” in other people’s minds are not their thoughts, but your own!)

4. I am responsible for the feelings I feel in response to the thoughts I think
(This is to reiterate #2)

5. I am responsible for how I feel about YOU
(“you” is anybody that is not “me”, just in case it was unclear… ☺ yet another version of #2)

6. I am responsible for what I think about YOU
(or “them”, or “people like that” or “women” or “men” etc… in other words, see #3)

7. I am responsible for how I feel about ME
(just in case that wasn’t clear in #2)

8. I am responsible for what I THINK about ME
(if the voice in your head putting you down or otherwise sounds like someone from your past, well, it isn’t. Someone in your past may have spoken to you like that, but now it’s YOU speaking to yourself like that. The good news is, with practice and compassion, those harmful habits of thought can be turned around, but only BY YOU)

9. I am responsible for all of my actions ALL of the time
(Regardless of how the people around you are behaving, you are UNCONDITIONALLY responsible for your own actions at ALL times).

That’s it. That is the whole list of your responsibilities (your powers) as a human being. These are the things you have sole proprietorship over every where you go, and with everything you do.

Whew!

Notice how, even though there are 9 on the list, there are actually only 3 things you are responsible for: your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions. How you take care of these powers, or responsibilities, determines every other part of your life. It determines how much peace and joy you are able to experience, how clean your house is, who your friends are, how you are and feel with your family, how you are and feel in public, and how you are and feel at work. Power over these parts of our humanity is actually a superpower that could could rule the universe in peace and harmony forever. Well, at least YOUR personal universe, which makes ALL the difference in the world. Practicing these powers will bring you RELIEF just where you need it most.

Figuring out HOW to empower yourself through these cardinal responsibilities is a whole different thing. Thinking and knowing things does not mean we are doing them. Agreeing with concepts and theories about how to be peaceful and harmonious is a lot different from embodying the habits of mind and action that are required for these things to manifest in your world. That is where good instruction and lots of practice come in (and a LOAD of compassion). Being responsible must become a way of life for you if you want to be empowered. Any other way is living life like a pinball (ouch!).

Think of a part of your life that feels like suffering to you. Do you have hard, blaming, shaming, difficult thoughts about the situation, yourself, or a person involved in the situation? Are you holding a grudge? Is your mind running on a hamster wheel about it, fanning the flames of anger, guilt, shame etc? Read the above list and try to find what is in your power to make peace with, so you can liberate yourself from the shackles of suffering. Making peace with is a heart activity, not an intellectual or logical endeavor.

The one key I can leave you with today is that, as you go about taking inventory of what you could take better responsibility for, it’s important to hold yourself and feel about yourself the way you would a newborn baby. There’s a sense of unconditional love for yourself that is imperative so that you don’t become your own worst bully. (Bullying is a brain activity, not a heart activity. Stay in your heart!).

If any of this is at all intriguing to you as a path you might be willing to consider walking in your life (and I promise it makes previously impossible situations with yourself, your family, your spouse, and your co-workers suddenly relieving and dare I say, perhaps JOYFUL and FUN?!!) then hire me as your life coach. It’s about relieving yourself of stress and pinched and closed-feeling spaces in your life and in your relationships.  It’s about rekindling your hope for leading a joyful life. And it’s a lot of fun, too!

Finding Closure

Hi everyone and thank you for your support and your readership. I’ve been sharing with you some of what my life has taught me, and what my journey continues to refine and help me do better and better every day. My life is not a book. It does not tend to sum up nicely, and every time there is a hero’s crescendo, or a spectacular fool’s crash, well, the next day comes in bright and early and I get out of bed and do what’s next to do. The past changes with the new information of the present, and I am once again humbled by the limits of my own perspective. I’m finding that time is an incredible gift. I’d like to take this moment to share with you a personal part of my life.

Last week was my birthday. I turned 39. A few days before that happened, I got the news that my ex-husband had been found dead in his apartment. This was a man I spent almost 10 years of my life with. This was a man who, among other things, was a violent and raging alcoholic. I got out of that relationship alive despite his very real attempt to kill me. I recovered from the physical wounds after a short time, did all that I could to put him in prison so that other women could be safe from him, and then began the longer journey of healing myself mentally and spiritually. I sought therapy for the Post Traumatic Stress that 10 years in abuse created, and learned to function in an environment of peacetime. (I’ve been told by a Vietnam War vet that what I was doing was similar to learning how to live in a war-free zone after having been a soldier in a war-zone for a long time. Reintegration takes time, but is not impossible). Once you remove yourself from the violence, all the feelings of fear and shame and sadness come out, if not during the day, then in your nightmares, but usually both. There wasn’t a part of my life I didn’t need to heal. I was traumatized with a capital “T”.

Getting yourself out of abuse and the mentality of the victim is an incredible and humbling journey. A friend of mine after hearing that my ex-husband had died said, “Good riddance. That man stole 10 years of your life!”. I don’t actually feel that way at all. My life is mine, every minute of it past present and future. Those 10 years aren’t missing. I was there. I lived them. I did every single day of those 10 years as I have done every day of my life since I was born. I say that with no judgment, no regret, no shame, and no pride either. I say that with total compassion. I say it because it is the truth. It’s ALL my life, every minute of it. Part of letting go of the victim is letting go of that idea that anything was taken from me. No matter what he did to me, or said I was or wasn’t, I am always completely intact. His words and his actions were his truth, not mine.

And so now he’s dead. He died exactly how he had threatened to, and how he was totally afraid that it would be. Alone, no one that really trusted him, all his close friends and family had been driven away by his behavior, and he was still battling with his addictions. He had proven to himself that he had been right all along, that he was indeed unlovable and unworthy of love. He was broken. He was just another worthless drunk. This was of course not true. His inability to believe that he was lovable inspired heroic acts of love in every person who became his friend. People stayed in his life and loved him through his horrible behavior until they just couldn’t do it any longer. Every bottom that he hit, he immediately searched out an even lower low to aim for. I learned from him that bottom is where you decide it is. There is always lower to go if low is what you explore.

From that I learned that the opposite is also true. The top is where you say it is, there is always a deeper and more fulfilling love you can feel for yourself, for your spouse, for your parents, family, and for your friends. Even for the strangers you pass by on the streets. There is always a way to feel more alive and connected to your heart and to your life in every moment of your life. At this moment in time I find the key element for me is to explore the depths of COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS. Compassion and forgiveness for myself for every experience I have ever had, every time I failed at being a good friend, or failed to see the kindness around me. Compassion for my very real humanity. As I have more compassion for me, I can see me in every one of you, and I LOVE me (you) deeply and truly.

For my ex-husband, he loved me as well as he loved himself. He showed me the same love that he showed himself. It was the best he was able to do. It was hell. He lived in that hell all his life. I’m so grateful that he died. I’m so grateful that he is free from what plagued him, and I am so grateful that his story is over. There will be no new input from him to me. With compassion in my heart for his humanity and for mine, I must say that I am truly relieved. I feel a whole new license in my life, a total freedom from that very painful part of my past. I feel liberated, and free.

Mastery… what is it and who does it?

What are you mastering?

Mastery comes from doing the same thing over and over again, and finding better and better ways of doing that thing. We are all mastering something, because we are all alive.

Given that we all spend a huge amount of time alive (right? ☺), the question becomes what exactly is it you are in the process of mastering? What do you spend most of your time doing? What do you spend your mind thinking?

These questions and the ones to follow will help a person get in touch with what they may unconsciously be mastering, and when you get in touch with what’s going on unintentionally, you can become more intentional.

What kind of speech are you mastering? What kind of human interactions do you have every day? Do you experience your emotions in a healthy way, or are you mastering the stuffing of your feelings?

EVERYONE is a master in the process of mastering something.

Are you intentional with your mastery? Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and actions this week. Are you mastering being annoyed at your children? Feeling out of control of your life? Putting yourself down for not doing something right? Blaming the outside world for your lack of inner peace?

Or are you mastering taking a good deep breath, grounding yourself, and making decisions based in the moment as it presents itself? Are you mastering finding everybody’s faults, or delighting in their strength and beauty?

Part of mastery is studying under a master. Who are your heroes? Who do you admire? Who’s actions do you pay close attention to? Are you studying the depravity of the world, or the compassion and cooperation that abound? Are you filling your mind with gossip and discord on TV or in Movies? Where do you pay your attention?

Watching what you think and what you expose your mind to is as important as watching what you eat. What you study is what you become. Choose where you pay your attention wisely and consciously. This can be a very useful tool to bring about peace in your life.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that’s not actually true. What is true is that an old dog is a lot more skilled at doing the old tricks, that’s all. Learning the new ones takes a little time, just like learning the old ones did. :)

Being right makes me ANGRY

… a practical set of tools for resolving hard feelings

We all have our moments when we feel on top of the world and ready to do all the things our lives require of us, and, unfortunately, we all experience those other times too. I’d like to take a few moments to talk about “those other times” and how to navigate them in a good way. Specifically, let’s talk about “those other times” that are brought on by a situation between you and someone else that leaves you with really difficult and distracting FEELINGS.

ANGER
Fear
sadness

In order to focus, I’m just going to talk about the first one, anger.

So someone in my life does or says something and I’m ANGRY about it. What can I do with that anger that isn’t going to result in me:
a. behaving like a teenager
b. storing that anger in my body and giving me a kinked neck for weeks and an ulcer in a few years
c. hurting someone else emotionally or otherwise
d. severing relationships
e. feeling worse every time I remember the situation for years to come

The first step is of course to BREATHE. While doing that, it’s a good idea to blink and soften your eyes. Then it’s a good idea to keep breathing slowly and calmly, while looking around your immediate surroundings and getting grounded in the moment immediately in front of you. This may require that you remove yourself so that you aren’t standing in front of the person you are arguing with.

A very wise friend (thank you Georgia!) shared with me that the best thing to do when you find yourself in an argument is to CALM yourself down and absolutely SHUT UP.

Stop talking immediately. Do this as soon as you can tear yourself away from running at the mouth. Don’t be mean to yourself for not doing it sooner, just stop talking as soon as you can. Calming down and shutting up are in fact how most of these things peter out anyway, so why not save a few of your bridges and do it at the beginning? There will be less mess later.

Angry words breed more angry words. Peace only comes after the guns are silent. Breathe, and PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPON. Stop talking!

I read a study once that said the feeling of anger from its point of origin only hangs around for a few minutes. Staying angry then takes fanning the flames. Our thoughts, ideas, judgments and opinions are what fan our flames. Only YOU are responsible for staying angry.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to stop, it just means the power is only and all yours.

Therein lies your liberation. The good news is, the power is yours. That means, however, that no one else can do anything to resolve your anger for you. Only you can do it. So how is that possible? I mean, what if I really need someone else to say they were sorry for me to stop being angry? Well, my friend, I hate to say it, but that is actually your problem, not theirs.

Your peace is your responsibility.

Handing that responsibility over to someone or something else is to live in an unreal place. It’s to live in that victim/perpetrator, or Martyr/villain landscape. It will create a lot of suffering in your life. That’s not to say there is no place for apology. Of course there is. It just isn’t the thing that will actually free you from your anger.

Every moment is a different moment. Staying angry is a way of being stuck and therefore not in the present moment. For me, the humbling truth is I stay angry the longer I convince myself that I am RIGHT about something. Or, the longer I try to convince someone else that I wasn’t wrong about something. Being right is what keeps me angry. Usually when I’m convinced I’m right, I have to make somebody else wrong.

Most people in their heart of hearts don’t believe they are wrong, yet life is full of “us and them” opinion choices. The “us” being those that are right, and the “them”, well, you know.

Suddenly, letting go of being right starts to feel like having to say I’m wrong (I’m one of them!), which sounds like total DEFEAT. It feels like I’m handing ammunition over to the enemy and standing in front of the firing squad. It sounds like I’m the villain, about to be the victim. I know, it’s a bit dramatic but that’s how it feels: DRAMATIC and life threatening. The thought of it makes my heart beat faster and my palms sweat.

And being right doesn’t feel any better than being wrong, actually. It feels really dirty and self-congratulatory. If feels like standing on top of somebody in the ditch in order to lift myself up out of the muck. It makes the world feel like an unsafe battleground. What it doesn’t feel like is compassion or forgiveness.

Being right is the opposite of being compassionate and forgiving.

Don’t start talking until you are speaking from compassion and forgiveness. Half the time, the talking isn’t even about the silly thing in the first place. When we can stand before one another compassionately, forgivingly, and with a light heart, we can truly relate and do the moment that is in front of us to do. “Processing” with someone is usually a tedious exercise of proving why you were right and they were wrong…

…Painful!

The matter is only truly let go of when there are no more hard feelings going on between you. Compassion and forgiveness are not hard feelings. Being right or wrong however, will put the “hard” into any feeling. Take it out, and things become compassionate, forgiving, vital, and heartfelt!

I haven’t mastered not getting angry. I haven’t mastered handling my anger in a good way for every second I feel it. I haven’t mastered being 100% kind to those who seem to inspire my anger. What I have done is a lot of practice. I’ve practiced calming myself down, shutting up, and letting go, REALLY letting go of being right or wrong.

Shutting up is a very hard thing to do. Not responding, not justifying yourself, not arguing further, is incredibly hard, especially when the other person is under no such orders. The letting go can only come after you have shut yourself up. Finding the places to let go of can only happen when you can no longer engage in trying to make the other person responsible.

Through this practice, I spend less and less and less time, until it’s almost no time at all, being angry and holding grudges. My life and my relationships are much more peaceful. My life has significantly less stress. People trust me more and feel a lot safer emotionally around me. Practicing in this way is actually a win-win, and an opportunity to permanently rid your part of the world of victims and perpetrators, martyrs and villains.

Receiving

The Love That’s Offered You…

There are a lot of very wise people out there that are trusted by society and that have been looked to throughout history that talk about generosity, sharing the love you have, and being of service to others. They say these things are the most important things, and that they are the key to a peaceful heart and a fulfilled life. They say generosity and service are the key to a peaceful world. This is most certainly true.

There’s another part to this equation though that is often overlooked: the generosity of receiving. It’s become clear to me that it is as important as the giving. When someone offers you food or drink it’s very easy to say “thank you”. But what do you find yourself saying when someone offers you a loving or kind word? More importantly, what do you find yourself thinking? Are you taking in the love they are offering you, or are you finding a way to justify why they are mistaken? Are you busy deciding exactly how they are mistaken because they don’t know this thing about you or that other thing? Or are you wondering what it is they are trying to get from you? All of these thoughts leave your heart completely blocked. You have not received the love that was offered to you.

Let’s turn it around. Think of a friend who you absolutely adore and who you are certain really doesn’t get just how amazing he/she is. When you tell your friend something you love about them, one of the many things that makes them incredible, what do you notice about their response? Do you feel that moment when it enters into their heart from yours? Or do you receive a barrage of words about how great you are or how what you’re saying isn’t true? Perhaps they shrug it off and change the subject. These are all ways of deflecting love from hitting the mark. Without a true clear practice of receiving, what we offer becomes stale and quite frankly very weird. It starts to have strings attached. It starts to feel needy and complicated. It starts to feel like something other than love and kindness.

A key to good relationship is that both parties are generous with their love for each other, but it only works if there is a generous and clear practice of receiving, too.

What can you do today to become a better receptor of the love that is all around you in your life?

1. Find a kind thought about yourself and then find a way to make it even kinder. Take off the next layer of judgment or comparison you can possibly identify, and see if it doesn’t become more loving and more compassionate. Offer that kindness to yourself and see if you can take it in.
2. For any compliment, words of love or recognition that you receive, respond only in this way for the next week (try it for a week): take a deep breath, soften your eyes, smile, and say “Thank you.” Don’t say anything else about it! Pause in an awkward silence if need be, but do not comment on what was offered to you. There are no excuses or explanations. Do not belittle the love and kindness offered you, please!

Let me know how this works or if it doesn’t work for you. Write to me at lisa@firewithinlifecoaching.com

Self-Motivation, or Self-Flagellation?

Are you the biggest bully in your life?

What I have to say about self-motivation is how important it is to take stock of the words you use to motivate yourself. If you bully yourself in any way, it may be trapping you in a pattern of procrastination that actually stops you from doing the things you are attempting to bully yourself into. I don’t know about you, but I get pretty stubborn pretty fast when orders are barked at me, especially if they are coupled with insults, overt or otherwise. Snide comments and cynical or sarcastic remarks put me in the same corner. “You catch more flies with honey” as the saying goes. Take stock of the words you use to try and get yourself to do something. Do they imply in any way that you are small or less than, or somehow a failure for not having already done the thing you want to do? How can you be kinder, more compassionate, more loving with yourself at this moment?

Take a vacation from your self-flagellation. Just try it for a week. For one week, make the commitment to talk to yourself as if you were madly in love with yourself, as if you were that rock-star idol and you worshipped the ground you walked on. How would you ask yourself to do something then? If you adored yourself the way a mother adores her child, what words would you use to talk to yourself?

Try it out and write a comment on this blog with your results. I’d love to hear from you about your experience!