About uncertainty and striving for perfection.

How wonderful it is when we can finally find ourselves in a calm place! How often do this happen? Not as often as we wish. We are usually at war with ourselves, drowning our calm with meaningless comparisons, drowning our own feelings, and striving to keep reality as a (false) positive one by force.

Today I wanted to share some wise and true are words coming from my dear teacher and friend, Melinda Jacobs (see video). She talks about the ‘striving for perfection paradox’. It’s so important to know that things, just as they are in our lives (and the way we are right now too) are perfect. Calm can be found in uncertainty.

 

You can find Melinda at quantum-therapeutics.com

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Image by Richard Larssen

The Perks of being a middle-aged woman.

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“To live is to die to how we wanted it to be…” (Jack Kornfield)

Amongst the hormonal havoc and the avalanche of inevitable changes and life readjustments surrounding me these last couple of years, a kind of transfiguration has taken place, leading me towards embracing a whole new way of living. These are now the perks of my middle-age life and I love the idea of sharing them with you:

  • A deep understanding of my true nature.
  • Knowledge of who my true friends are.
  • No more worry about belonging and fitting in.
  • The ability to find joy through pain and allowing myself to feel both at the same time.
  • The choice to thoroughly live each moment.
  • The know-how of my feelings and emotions.
  • The love and true acceptance of myself.
  • True vulnerability.
  • A real sense of who I am. Not who I should be or who people expect me to be.
  • Knowledge in loss and the creation of many opportunities for growth through it.
  • Less urgency and more surrender.
  • A total disregard for anniversaries of any kind because every day is special.
  • True connection to a Higher Source (for me, God) not out of duty or need, but out of unconditional love.
  • Experience: accomplishment does not guarantee success, being busy is not the same as feeling alive, control is an illusion, and happiness is a choice.
  • The wisdom of knowing and accepting that the only thing certain is uncertainty.
  • The freedom to now get anything I missed in life while I was busy pushing, working and achieving.
  • A new deep sense of joy and a strong passion in my professional work.
  • A sense of reprioritizing so reading and nature doesn’t stay last in the list ever again.
  • A deep feeling of freedom from perfection.
  • Being able to accept each and everyone as they are without judgments.
  • Discovering that cats are better than dogs, especially Bengals!

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the internet

My body during times of emotional distress.

I find myself currently reading two books. I’m very happy to be able to do this since it’s been a while since I had much time to sit, relax, and read. I also wish I had better memory to remember what I read afterwards. It is a fact I tend to forget a lot but there are always a few sentences which will stick and stay, and I’m grateful for it.

The first book is Walking to Listen by Andrew Forsthoefel. Reading this book has been a delight. I have not read a book that made me feel this way since I read All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot a decade ago. Both books are completely different but give me the same (not easy to describe) pleasing, homely, human feeling. This one is simply about walking (through the US) meeting people and being human (it contains so much depth!). It is such a treat and very light to read.

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The second book I‘m reading is The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D. A book packed with science and powerful human stories, it’s been amazingly interesting to say the least.

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As of late, while reading both books, I have been going through some very stressful situations, so I decided to share how my body usually reacts during hard times. Believe me when I tell you that both books are related to my train of thought in curious ways.

I am imperfectly human and unashamed to describe how sometimes I go through rough patches. Some expect psychologists to be perfect, have perfect families and perfect knowledge or control over our emotions.  Such ideas are nonsense. The more experienced (in life) and humble about it the psychologist is, the more he/she is able to help people. Perfection helps no one.

The way my body reacts during times of stress is that every single time I experience overwhelming stress or a strong negative experience there is a direct effect on my weight. Yes, weight gain (even if I don’t eat) and stressful times seem to be inevitably linked for me. My digestive system is also invariably affected, migraines and muscular pain are the next step, lack of good sleep, and finally exhaustion are my most common symptoms during hard times (not that all of these happen all the time or in the order in which are mentioned). Always varying in intensity depending on the event, these symptoms are the very reason I got passionate about self-care and eating psychology in the first place. This is the way my body process emotional distress. Through time, I have learn to work on these reactions (and ask for help when necessary), to take care of myself better during difficult times in order to minimize the blow and the recovery time. There is always room for improvement and since life goes on, we never stop learning (or healing).

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I am a strong believer in sharing our experiences in order to help one another. I am also a strong believer in empathy. I believe that there are no bad events or experiences that last forever (unless we keep feeding them). Self-care is a priority, healing is always possible and that’s why I am really enjoying both books so much right now.

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the web

 

Grateful by Practice.

We all go through times when we are living in darkness and feeling the brutality of intense pain either physical or emotional. We usually receive sympathy (not good), if we are lucky we get empathy (so much better), sometimes we receive nothing. It is indeed during these dark times when we may hate zen advise the most. We may get to hear things like: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”; “What doesn´t kill you makes you stronger”; “Someone else is happy with less than you have”, etc. Yes, we know these phrases to be true but we are not up for it when in the middle of a storm.

Nevertheless, there are phrases that do help, because they are practical. I particularly like: “I will practice gratitude to access joy” (Brené Brown).

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It is my opinion that being optimistic about the benefits of a new habit while also being realistic about how difficult building the habit may be, is the key to success. Being able to recognize the obstacles (mainly the pain and darkness felt at the moment, amongst others) that may get in the way is absolutely necessary.

In this case, we must accept there is no other way to get to be grateful (even if we definitely don’t feel like it) than to practice. People who are grateful even in the most difficult situations, weren’t born that way, they worked hard to be so and even they failed many times.

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Always reach out for help and support during times of hardship, darkness and pain.

It’s easier to be grateful during good times. I am still practicing being grateful during the hard ones. Would you?

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

(Images from the internet)

 

 

 

 

Challenge accepted!

As I’m writing this, my oldest daughter is saying goodbyes to her high school friends in our backyard. She is leaving for college next week.

Joy, grief, change, and time have all conspired to dramatically alter the inner landscape of my being.  What once was familiar and solid seemed foreign and out of balance for a while. It’s been quite a journey.

I dare describe change (for me) as something inevitable, desired and feared, refreshing, and uncomfortable at the same time: A challenge. In this case, there was only one thing left for me to say: “Challenge accepted!”

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When we spend our years taking care of everyone else, suddenly stopping and being there for ourselves may get really uncomfortable. You see, when we are busy enough and distracted enough, covering up emotions and feelings turns out to be a much easier task.

After being forced to deal with health issues, I have aimed for a slower/quieter life these past couple of years. Consequently, I have made time to mourn myself as I was and as I am no longer. Also, I have made time to mourn for what will never be again: My family’s dynamics have changed dramatically for good. In solitude, I chose to feel and confront, to desire and fear. Mourning is complicated and cannot be rushed, but it’s the only way forward.

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What threatened to be diminishment has, in the end, turned out to be growth: evolution. I chose this and worked hard on it (I’m still working hard on it). I’m grateful for the chance to live through this whole process, I had a chance to stop, look within and relearn that it is ok. In a way, it’s been a relief to let everything fall away; to let go of my usual beliefs, opinions and expectations in order to let the new, refreshing surprises unfold.

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It’s only the beginning and it’s been amazing, profound and (even though painful) it’s been thoroughly enjoyable. After all, it’s a fact that every life event prepares you for the next one, so I am now ready. Bring it on!

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the web

 

About evolving and facing lack of support or sabotage along the way.

Change is not easy. Whether it comes as something we want or it is thrown at us by life, it is not easy. Of course, change (any change) is easier when there is widespread agreement (in the family or group of friends) about the need to change. Sadly, more often than not, we are faced with the fact that people would rather see you shrinking than growing (it may be unconscious sometimes). Sabotage will be in order so they won’t have to feel insecure around you, or they won’t have to face the fact that they are in need of change too.

There is always one or several who can create the most resistance, first because their own actions and beliefs are challenged, and then because they realize that by you changing things, they will be in need of evolution themselves.

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I cannot emphasize enough the need for support in your planning for new goals. Nevertheless, it is possible to evolve without support if that happens to be the case. There is a strong possibility that some people in your life will no longer be able remain in it, at least not as much, if they devalue you. Therefore, the need to create new social bonding with people who support you and have more in common with you will eventually arise.

One potential challenge when people stop liking the way things are in their lives and start thinking in rebuilding a new one is to kindly educate family and friends about your choices, and at the same time try to grow and develop your new interests. Asking for help from others who have traveled the same path or from a professional will always be of tremendous help.

 

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Make a note: Listening to advice from loved ones is a blessing. In my personal experience I’m often humbled by it and always very grateful for receiving it (even if I didn’t like it at first). However, do not mistake loving advice with allowing people (even loved ones) to sabotage your efforts because they don’t want you to succeed (even if it’s subconsciously done).

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Consider joining a support group or therapy, if needed, to heal and motivate yourself during the process. Also, consider working in ways to protect yourself and to create healthy limits towards those around you. Sometimes this may be extremely hard in some families and social circles.

We may also be self-sabotaging out of fear or negative self-talk. In this case, remember that avoiding people or situations that trigger old behaviors is only a temporary solution. You may need to work hard on facing such negative feelings and beliefs, or the perceived lack of safety so familiar to those who are experiencing life changes.

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It is possible to heal, change, recover, evolve, live, and feel better. With courage, patience, the help of experienced professionals, and caring family or friends, you can rediscover the strength needed to take the first steps towards evolving and living a satisfying and meaningful life, the life you dream of.

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the internet

 

 

 

 

The time to change is now.

That thing you would like to experience someday, why not do it now?

The person you want to be someday, why not start working on being that person now?

The way of life you are putting on hold for when you are older, richer, healthier, less busy, prettier, thinner, why not start living it now?

It is a mistake of gigantic proportions when we think that putting life on hold, shielding ourselves from evolving via fear and excuses, is in any way justified. It is a terrible waste of life and life’s opportunities to grow.

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Sometimes we need to acknowledge our circumstances. Life is complicated, and therefore caring for a child, an elderly person, or a sick one may prevent us from doing or being where we would like. Nevertheless, these circumstances have the amazing potential to become selfless acts of love which, even if we resist, may bring evolution, change and growth if we let them. No, these circumstances are not the same as shielding or staying within a fence unable to explore beyond.

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It is an interesting process to self-discover and analyze the way we may cast ourselves down, the effects of toxic self-talk and negative thinking. I particularly worry about the number of women (for example), that would not wear a swimsuit, that think they cannot be in a relationship or deserved to be loved because they don’t look as they “should” or are somehow overweight. So many persons think themselves too old to start anew or to study new things, to learn a new sport, profession, or skill. Others will think that they need only have a certain job or status in order to thrive and live a happy life.

Maybe some will read what I’m writing now and will be glad not to be in such a situation as described here, but experience tells me they are a minority. In the end, we only have one life, so the time to start healing and living is today. The time to change is now.

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Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the web

The rebel inside me; the one that never settles.

Some things will never settle easily inside my soul, my mind, my heart or my body. Once received, some ideas will never be allowed to settle peacefully inside me. The rebel within me will not be silenced, at least not easily. That’s why I had learned that it is better to listen rather than try to control such a rebel, mainly because the cause of the uproar will in fact, almost every time, be right and in more than one way justified.

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I have learned to love my rebel, the one that lives within me, the one who shows up to stir everything up when something is not right, the one that signals that change is imminent and utterly necessary, the one that never takes no for an answer.

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The rebel inside me: The rebel that fights to let go of anger, the one that fights to be free from fears, to move forward, to take responsibility, to fully commit, the rebel that challenges perspective and attitude, and wisely fights to let go of useless expectations while choosing love and health instead. The rebel who fiercely defends and shows that God loves me and is ever present.

Choose to be kind and grateful.

Images from the internet

 

Defense mechanisms: Destroyers or growth opportunities?

Life is challenging. Everybody, yes everybody, uses defense mechanisms to survive. This is not a conscious choice but by becoming aware of the defense mechanism(s) we tend to use the most, we might handle life in a more positive way.
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As we discover those places in our life where we feel no control, let’s focus on progress, not perfection. So let’s review the mechanisms in order to identify them and work on being more conscious of our reactions, and instead of labeling our experiences and reactions as negative, be able to generate a personal transformation. Instead of using them as destroyers, turn them into growth opportunities.
Displacement: This one is used by everybody when we are tired, low on energy, or not nourished enough. We transfer our feelings to someone else. This is usually the case after having a hard day at work and then we snap at our children or partner. It’s important to know that treating ourselves poorly by negative self-talk or by using (any) toxic substances (even food) is displacement in its most damaging form, a true destroyer.
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Rationalization: It’s hard to accept that sometimes even good people do something bad. Rationalization is making an excuse for a behavior by blaming circumstances where we believe ourselves to be innocent bystanders. This prevents us from being able to handle the truth. It’s ok to fail, be embarrassed, and feel scared sometimes.
Repression: Events we think we forget but create negative automatic thoughts at a subconscious level which in turn make us feel bad. This is the case with all irrational beliefs.
Projection: When we attribute to others what we think are unacceptable impulses or behaviors. What we don’t like in others usually we don’t like in ourselves. This is the case when we are always in the right and that person is always in the wrong; or when we hate something in ourselves, therefore we hate it in others.
Denial: Simply put, denial means not accepting reality. Denying helps with negative impulses that otherwise might fill us with anxiety. The problem is that by being in denial, we are not able to learn from an experience, accept advice and grow. It’s understandable, some truths are too painful to be accepted in full but are better digested in small doses.
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Regression: We use this defense mechanism when stressed and go back to an earlier stage where we felt more happy and safe. This is the case of childish behaviors or the abuse of comfort food.
Reaction Formation: This one turns an unacceptable impulse into the enemy, demonizing something we are attracted to, or trying to feel repulsed by our deep down desires. As a result, instead of defending ourselves we destroy using feelings of failure and guilt. It’s a polarization. This is the case with certain foods (like sugar is the enemy) or sexual impulses.
Intellectualization: This one serves better instead of rationalization. It’s coming up with a reason to explain an event without using a story around it.
Sublimation: Love this one! We take our troubles and turn them into something good. We take unacceptable behavior and let it out in a positive way by using healthy outlets. This is the case in painting, playing a musical instrument, a sport or any hobby that makes us feel better after a stressful day or experience. So we might lose interest in such activity that unconsciously served to let out frustration once we don’t need the outlet anymore.
Defense mechanisms are neither bad nor good, they just are, but we need to discard the ones that may be preventing us from evolving, living a full life and achieving good health. Therefore, if we practice taking responsibility and developing positive interpretations of our experiences then we will not needlessly punish ourselves for imagined failures or losses using self-criticism or negative self-talk, victimizing ourselves or looking to others to save us from ourselves or even make us happy. We will also be more conscious of why others behave the way they do and be more understanding.
Choose to be kind and grateful.
Images from the web