Thursday, July 09, 2015

Busting The Independence Myth

I was thinking about independence this morning, and reflecting on how hard it is for some of us to ask for, let alone accept it. I know I’m guilty of that myself, and while on one hand, I thoroughly enjoy the activity of figuring things out on my own, I sometimes let myself struggle too long and end up giving up, instead of asking for or accepting the specific help I need. I like the feeling of being independent, of doing it on my own, and as I was thinking about this with my morning coffee, I remembered the fallacy of that feeling.

The idea of independence is somewhat of a myth. NOTHING happens without the contribution of someone or something, other than, and outside from ourselves. We are rarely as self-sufficient as we think we are.

Let’s use the everyday bodily function of going to the washroom as an example. One of the first things we are proud of accomplishing all on our own as infants, we don’t actually do on our own. For starters, think of the number of people and systems that contributed to the manufacturing of the toilet and toilet paper you are using every time you go. And the reason you need to go in the first place, is due to the food and beverages you've consumed which also involved the efforts of various people and systems to make available. Even if you just drank tap water, there are a number of systems that have been put in place that make that possible. And don't forget all that was involved in building the room or structure that is providing you with the privacy to even attempt such monumental feat. An accomplishment – yes, all on your own… not by a long shot! I realize this is a pretty simple example, and I challenge you to review anything you think you’ve done on your own today or anytime in your life, and see if it’s absolutely true. Even breathing outdoors is possible only due to nature’s system of photosynthesis.

Why am I busting your bubble by writing this and sharing it with you?  (BTW – I’m busting my own bubble at the same time… see you’re not alone J ) When we get attached to the idea that we need to do it all on our own, we risk losing sight of all that supports our ability to do anything at all. And in loosing sight of that, we may forget to be grateful for and express appreciation to, all that does contribute to any of our successes – from the minutest of tying our shoes and learning how to ride a bike, to the bigger accomplishment of earning a degree, having a baby or building a business. We truly do not, nor can we, accomplish anything on our own. It saddens me to witness someone struggling to ask for help (frustrating when it’s me) because they think they need to do it on their own. It infuriates me when a loved one won’t reach out because they think they are the only one who can do it (embarrassing when that’s me), and it breaks my heart when someone can’t see that they're not all alone in this world. I've been of these, and will like be again; this is a reminder for me that I’m sharing in case it can be one for you too.  

Along with acknowledging all that contributes to anything we do, is the reality that we too, contribute to the success and empowerment of others. Most of the time, we are not even aware that we are doing so.

Independence is a myth – interdependent is what we naturally are. 

Next time you’re resistant to ask for help, digging in your heels and feeling like you need to do it all on your own, remember the fallacy in that idea… you can’t, it’s not possible, so let go of trying! Paying it forward is a natural part of our system - as humans and as a part of nature. And if it is a matter of wanting to control… great, then be IN control, by asking for the help you want, as you need it, allow it to come and be over the top grateful, that you got to choose, witness, acknowledge and give appreciation to, the source of at least ‘some’, of ALL (much of which you many never know) that contributed to your success… or failure. Did I just pop another myth bubble? Yes, we naturally contribute to each other’s failures too; we are not solely responsible for those either J.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How Does One Grow Thicker Skin?

How do you grow thicker skin? As an emotionally sensitive person, I’m often told to grow thicker skin. Which confuses me because my doctor has never once suggested my skin is too thin. Yet non medical people keep judging my skin as too thin… is there a supplement I can take for that? An herbal remedy perhaps?  How does one go about growing thicker skin? And what makes people think I need to in the first place?

It’s because I’m highly empathic and emotionally sensitive. To the people who think I need ‘thicker skin’, it means I tend to over react to things that bother me. It means I cry too easily and take things too personally.

For the highly empathic person (aka empath), it means that we regularly experience emotional shifts as a result of external influences, at an amplified level. Contrary to popular belief, these emotional reactions have little to do with how we are ‘thinking’ in the moment, and everything to do with how we experience whatever has just shifted outside of us. That external influence might be someone or something that has just entered our immediate environment, it might be the weather or something someone has said to us. When people speak to us, it isn't just the words we hear; we also feel their tone and the emotion of the person speaking,  as well as the emotion of anything they are not saying.
When someone speaks to me as they are feeling joy, peace, calmness or excitement, that can be as contagious as a yawn for me. I’ll immediately feel that energy inside me so intensely that if I’m not already in a similar state myself, I immediately experience a shift in my mood that matches their energy, which I usually welcome and allow.

When someone speaks to me as they are feeling angry, frustrated, enraged or disappointed, while I hear their words, inside I experience the energy force of the emotion that person is exuding as they speak. As I experience this sensation inside me, it can feel intense or overwhelming. Since the feeling is usually uncomfortable, it isn’t welcomed and my response to it may be resistance, to move away, or to react verbally depending on the situation. It has an automatic effect on my own inner state, and requires a very conscious effort to combat.  

I often hear other coaches and self help experts argue that; “it’s not what they say that you are reacting to, but what you are ‘thinking’ about what they say”. 

While I fully agree that our thoughts effect our emotions, in respect to the experience I am describing, that is not what is going on. I’ve been self reflecting on how I experience my emotional nature for over 40 years, and I can say with certainty, that in many cases, my reaction is not connected to anything I am thinking at the time. It is linked to how I experience the impact of the outside energy, as it connects to, and enters me. I feel it internally, and once inside, the sensation is usually so strong that it causes an in-kind reaction - often tears. 

Here are a few personal examples that have helped me to better understand my own emotional nature, that really nailed it for me:  

A few years ago there was a fellow who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, Paul Potts. A video of him singing a song in another language, that I do not understand (may have been Italian), was circulating the web. Curious, I clicked on the link to watch and listened to it.  About half way through I feel this energy stir inside me and I start crying. I felt so moved, literally inside, that the tears just flowed. I couldn’t have been affected by the words, because I had no idea what was being said. I was affected by the emotion coming through his voice, as I saw many people in the audience were. The only thought I had before the tears was “wow”, which as I write, is not evoking any tears. Then I was pretty much thoughtless until the end when again all I could think was, “wow, that was beautiful!”

Second example is when my Honey and I visited the Grand Canyon for the first time. As we approached the lookout, I was glancing around. As we arrived at the point, I looked out and suddenly felt this wave of emotion inside me, and I started to weep. In that moment I was thoughtless and speechless; I was in awe. I can’t even say what I was in awe of, I mean the Grand Canyon is  beautiful and phenomenal but I can’t in all honesty say for sure what hit me. However, something did, and if I can’t identify what it is, then I really couldn’t have been thinking much to be causing such tears.

My next example is similar to the Grand Canyon. This time we are approaching Stonehenge in England. It’s raining and I'm wearing a hooded rain coat. I’m walking toward the magnificent stones and it starts… this wave like sensation inside, that seems to get ignited in my upper solar plexus, moves up through my heart area and that is when the tears start streaming. Again… no words, no thoughts, just awe.
A more general example is the numerous times with clients, and it can happen whether we are in person or while coaching over the phone,  I will suddenly experience a wave like sensation inside and tears swell up in my eyes. This usually happens in response to an emotion that has been building up, but not yet released, in them.

These are some of the more welcoming experiences that come with being empathically sensitive; however there are lots of not so welcomed ones too. When someone is angry with me, the same thing will happen; I get hit with the energy of the anger coming through them, not so much the words, and all thinking stops. Growing up, all my dad ever needed to do was say my name in that certain ‘tone’ and the tears would start. As it hits me, I experience an intense sensation inside of me. It’s not so easy to ‘not take other people personally’, when you feel their offending emotion inside your own physical body as if they were your own. If someone is frustrated with me, I feel it deep. Or if someone is just plain frustrated while speaking to me about their day… the only way I can explain it is like this; the energy of their frustration pierces through me and I experience it in a more intense way than other people listening to the same person would. So when I say to them “I get your frustration”, I really do ‘get’ their frustration.

So I do understand the tendency is to suggest I grow thicker skin; somehow the energy is getting through my skin and into by body, in a way that the people suggesting this aren’t experiencing themselves. And while it isn't  my 'thinking' that is causing my emotions in such situations, I need to use my ability to steer my thoughts to manage my reaction to how I experience emotions, my own and especially those of others. The first step was to realize that I wasn't wrong, weak or somehow broken because I cry so easily. It is such a relief to 'get' that, and it took a lot of years for that idea to  really sink in. When you really get that it is just how you personally experience your emotional nature, then you can also know there is something you can do WITH it, so that the effects are... more of what you want and less of what you don't.    

Friday, May 29, 2015

Letting Go

Boobs are sagging
Hair’s turning grey
Getting a new wrinkle every day… and Letting Go

Letting go of being in control, or trying to controlling what everyone thinks of me. In letting go I allow the mystery of the universe back into my life.

Knowing how the laws of the universe work, intellectually and experientially, empowered me to control (or think I was controlling) how others see me, who effects me and how, and better manage what I get in life. It also made me very aware that any stress and all effects of stress are of my own doing… and that I needed to be controlling that too. With knowledge comes power, for better or worse – it really is both a gift and curse.  

However in the years the lead up to this ingrained intellectual awareness, I followed the flow and mystery of life, as it brought me synchronistic opportunities, one after the other. Coincidences that made me pay attention and act. Signs and messages. While in the flow of life, uncertain of exactly how it operates, life graced me with what I desired. Always listening, it inspired my direction and told me what to work for, all the while leaving hints and signs along the way that would enable me to connect the dots and realize how it all worked. Once I figured it out on an intellectual level, then validated by so many other peoples insights and books, I became more acutely aware of my responsibility – of everything! My value for control took over to consciously use what I ‘knew’ to steer my life. That intellectual knowledge brought with it the ability to control my universe… albeit at a price. I somehow lost some of the magic that had come with not fully knowing, while still figuring it out.

Now, I want that magic back – all of it! I RELEASE CONTROL and fully surrender to flow. Listening for signals, feeling the signs and hearing the pull… I let go and flow.

Letting go,
My boobs are sagging
My hair’s turning grey
I see a new wrinkle every other day.
And I smile… fascinated by the change I see along the way.