Category Archives: Emotional Health
When You Lack Focus and Direction: Stop Looking for Your “Thing”
“More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity.” ~Francois Gautier
Isn’t it funny—and annoying, and brilliant—how often things turn out to be nothing like we thought they would?
Six years ago I was recovering from a breakdown and reacquainting myself with my long dormant artistic side, and I remember spending a lot of time wondering what my “thing” was.
You know, that one specific thing in this life that I was destined to do to be fulfilled, and ideally from which I would earn a comfortable living.
I had always loved creativity, and particularly art, and had always wanted that to be my thing; I would be an artist, sell my work, and live comfortably on the proceeds.
There were a couple of problems with my plan, however. One was my upbringing, which told me that art was unrealistic as a way to make a living. As a result, I had done all sorts of things that were nothing to do with my original dream, many of which I hated (hence that final breakdown).
That mindset is not at all unusual in Western culture and is something many of us have to move beyond, but there was something else too.
I could not seem to pin down my love of art and creativity to one single focus. I experimented endlessly, on my own and in classes, with everything from acrylics to oils, from printing to sculpture.
And still I kept thinking, how will I ever know which is my thing? What’s the one thing I’ll be really good at and so endlessly enthused by that I won’t continue this constant dabbling?
How will I ever be a credible artist if I paint in a different style every time I put brush to canvas? How will I ever fulfill my dream of making a living doing what I love when I seem so scattered and unfocused?
Since no clear answer was forthcoming at that point, I just kept going.
Sometimes I envied those who seemed to be born already knowing what their thing was, like my friend who always knew she’d be a vet. I thought they must have or know something I didn’t. That perhaps there was something wrong with me for being so fickle and apparently unable to settle on just one thing.
But as it turns out, that seemingly flighty, unfocused, shallow dabbling was an essential part of the story, and not at all the waste of time I feared.
I learned two key things about what I’ve come to see as the “myth of the thing.”
- There is what you are passionate and curious about and would do for free (and often do), and
- There are all the ways in which that comes through you.
You are like a prism, full of your own unique mix of colors that join together to radiate a single beam—you.
In my experience, it’s unhelpful and limiting to assume that you’ll whittle it down to a single thing or work it out with your mind. After all, your mind has no real knowledge of your heart.
Your “thing that is not a thing” is already there inside you, but without taking action over and over from a place of curiosity and passion, you won’t give your personal and utterly unique filter a chance to make itself known.
I’ll always be insatiably curious and I think that’s a fantastic trait to have, not a handicap. Today, I love to paint, draw, write, bake, tend my plants, make things, research, gather and share information, read books and blogs, spend time at the beach, explore spirituality, travel, and learn whatever I can about whatever catches my magpie eye.
You might think I’m still dabbling. But all those things feed and become my thing that is not a thing.
So what is my “thing”? It’s being what I can’t help being. It’s being curious and creative; it’s exploring, playing, demonstrating and sharing what I learn through the filter of art and creativity; it’s helping, supporting, and encouraging people to find their own unique ways to express themselves creatively.
It’s doing what I’d do anyway and letting it evolve into something that feeds both me and others, and yes, it’s even starting to bring in an income. I am an artist, only in many more ways than the single one I envisaged.
My magpie eye isn’t hindering me from finding my thing; it’s part of how my thing manifests. That realization has changed everything, and my life is infinitely richer for it.
Without it, I would not have tried or learned so many things. I would not now have both a wealth of techniques and experiences and ideas to share, nor the understanding and empathy that comes with having trodden the messy meandering path myself. Both of those important factors unexpectedly became part of my work now.
While there are many things we all know to do to help us find out who we really are and what we’re here to do, like journaling or meditation, I have found the following also helpful in my quest.
It takes time, so give it time.
I know that’s hard, especially if you feel stuck in an unfulfilling job or other restricting life situation. Patience and perseverance will stand you in good stead, so do what it takes to cultivate them. (I suggest a spiritual or energy practice.)
Widen your view.
Your “thing” won’t only show up in the obvious places. My creativity doesn’t just appear in the studio; it’s in how I put a meal together, how I arrange my desk, how I use my day, right down to the tiny moments.
Listen to intuitive nudges.
Have you developed an unexpected interest in historical fiction? Head to the library. Do you have a sudden urge to grow something? Visit the garden center.
Not only might you find what you think you’re looking for, you also increase the chances of discovering something new that contributes to your clarity or brings a new opportunity.
Think of a task you do regularly that you find mundane.
Ask yourself, what could I change about how I approach this to make it fun or interesting? How can I apply my unique way of seeing the world here? It could be a mindset change, an intention or affirmation, or it could be the actual physical way you perform the task.
I have a system for folding my laundry that allows my mind to roam freely for a few minutes; that inner roaming brings in new ideas and insights. Thus laundry becomes not something that wastes my precious time but something that enhances it and brings me more into who I am.
Stop looking for that elusive “thing.” Start living your life in all the ways that are exciting and interesting to you, right down to the tiny daily details. Explore, create, discover, absorb.
With some thought and imagination you can do this within your current job, with your children, when you’re doing daily tasks. It doesn’t have to be grand and time-consuming.
And then you will find that your thing is simply who you can’t help being. The more of your unique inner rainbow you reveal, the more it will become clear who you are and what you are here to do. Just be prepared for it to look a little different—and a lot more beautiful—than you thought.
Lost traveler image via Shutterstock
I once head that if the Dali Lama doesn’t meditate he becomes an angry bear. He is quoted as saying that he meditated an hour everyday, unless he is busy, then he meditates for two hours. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’m sure with his busy scheduled he has to find ways to stay grounded…
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Did you toss and turn in bed last night, robbed of a rejuvenating deep sleep? Counting sheep didn’t help? Here are some natural home remedies for insomnia that will hopefully help you enjoy a more restful sleep.
Controlling the sleep environment
Maintaining a strict sleep schedule
Natural herbal supplements
Winding down at night and meditation
Although suspenseful cable-TV shows about serial killers can be entertaining, especially after a long, monotonous day at work, watching TV right before bed can release adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) into your bloodstream.
For those who work graveyard shifts, it might be impossible to live the motto: “Early to bed, early to rise,” but even those who have to work in the middle of the night can benefit from maintaining a strict sleep schedule, going to sleep at the same time every day. For those who work normal hours, try to be in bed by 10 p.m. with the lights out.
Tryptophan is the amino acid found in turkey and is possibly the reason that millions of Americans get a restful catnap after a Thanksgiving holiday meal. Tryptophan is broken down into 5-HTP, which is then converted by the body into serotonin, which in turn is converted into melatonin, commonly known as the sleep hormone.
According to the National Institutes of Health, a type of counseling called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help relieve the anxiety linked to chronic insomnia.
One of the most important gifts you can give yourself is the gift of forgiveness. Choosing to forgive releases you from the burden of anger and pain allowing you to live in the present and look forward to the future. By no means does it mean to forget, only to release and go on. Forgiveness does not happen on it’s own. You must choose to forgive.
Nor does forgiving mean resuming or continuing a person or people that have harmed you. As in the words of Frederic Luskin, Ph.D., author of Forgive For Good – ” If a person won’t meet you halfway or has been abusive, it may be better to forgive simple to make your own life less stressful, but continue to keep your distance.”
Dr. Luskin’s suggestions –
1. Get the frustration – tell your story to a few close friends. This will help you explore your feelings about the rift and obtain a clear sense of perspective.
2. Focus on what’s in it for you – it’s not always about who was right. Remind yourself that forgiving can free you to move on with your life. Tell yourself that the point is to reduce angst. After all, living well is the best revenge.
3. Breathe in calm – instead of tensing up or starting in on your inner rant, inhale and exhale deeply or relax in whatever way appeals to you.
4. Turn the details of your story around – victims don’t have control of their lives; heroes do. So make yourself the hero of your own saga. Think of it this way; Although someone else may have precipitated your misery, whether you stay miserable is entirely up to you.
You may have been hurt by something that your partner did to you. You may have been hurt because your expectations weren’t met. You may have been hurt and you don’t even remember why. You may have done something to someone else that you are sorry for. And you remember the pain and carry it with you like a grudge everywhere you go. When your burden becomes too great, it becomes the relationship, it consumes your life and it changes who you are and what your relationships can be. It is a wall between you and the intimacy that you seek.
Forgive is defined as – giving up resentment against or the desire to punish; stop being angry ith.
- When you forgive you relieve yourself of the burden of the past. Letting go of the hurt, pain, anger and loneliness allowing yourself to begin to heal.
- You give both yourself and the person or people you forgive the chance to live in peace allowing the the chance to change for the better
- Forgiveness is not forgetting
- The pain may take a while to be completely gone. You can forgive and still grieve a loss or feel pain from a wound.
- Damage and wounds can take time to repair.
- Forgiveness does not deny responsibility for behavior it is simply being committed to NOT hold the other person in debt.
Suggestions of Ways to forgive
An exercise in forgiveness for yourself:
- By hand… Yes, it is important that it is handwritten! Write down with pen and paper all the things you feel you have done wrong.
- Read the list
- Say, ” I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time. I now forgive myself and go free.”
- Burn, shred or tear-up the list.
- Repeat the exercise for every other person who have hurt you.
- Now begin to live your life without the burden of the unforgiving pain causing yourself unnecessary suffering.
Individual forgiveness – forgive yourself for judging yourself for not being worthy of love, happiness and joy. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of happiness. You are worthy of joy. Stop judging yourself. Have the strength and courage to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Be kind and loving to yourself. Practice holding a positive vision for yourself. Make choices that support you in moving forward in your life. It is all about choices. Choose to forgive yourself and then move forward and let go of your past. Live for today and enjoy the journey of life itself.
An exercise in forgiveness for couples.
It is suggested that this exercise is done using positive, loving communication. If this is an issue reading books on the topic or taking communication training may help. Once you becoming comfortable discussing difficult subjects, try these exercises.
Work on one issue at a time. Be sure that you both agree you are ready to discuss the issue.
Using active listening techniques such as The Couple’s Fair Exchange Process or Speaker Listener and ground rules that you have agreed to, discuss the pain and concerns that you have about the issue. The objective is to understand how you each feel about the issue. Do not point the finger, do not place blame, but try to understand the consequences of each other’s actions. You must show respect and care for each other.
The offender asks for forgiveness. Apologies are extremely powerful. Understand the pain and feelings of the offended person.
The offended person agrees to forgive. Commit the issue to the past without getting even or holding the offender in debt. The issue will not be used as a weapon in future conflicts.
The offender agrees to change their behavior as appropriate.
You both move forward with a commitment to create a better future.
One of the first questions we face when we meet new acquaintances is “What do you do?” And according to how we answer, they will either be delighted to see us or look with embarrassment at their watches and shuffle away. The fact is, we live in a world where we are defined almost entirely by our work.
This can be hugely liberating for people who are happily employed. But the problem for many of us is that we don’t know what job we’re supposed to do and, as a result, are still waiting to learn who we should be. The idea that we have missed out on our true calling—that somehow we ought to have intuited what we should be doing with our lives long before we finished our degrees, started families, and advanced through the ranks—torments us. This notion, however, can be an illusion. The term calling came into circulation in a Christian context during the medieval period to describe the abrupt imperative people might encounter to devote themselves to Jesus’ teachings. Now a secularized version has survived, which is prone to give us an expectation that the meaning of our lives might at some point be revealed in a ready-made and decisive form, rendering us permanently immune to confusion, envy, and regret.
I prefer to borrow from psychologist Abraham Maslow, who said: It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.
To begin to find a more fulfilling vocation, it is not enough to simply ask yourself what you might like to do. Concerns about money and status long ago extinguished most people’s ability to think authentically about their options. Instead, I would suggest free-associating around clusters of concerns that delight and excite you, without attempting to settle upon anything as rigid as the frame of a career.
In searching for their aptitudes, people should act like treasure hunters passing over the ground with metal detectors, listening out for beeps of joy. A woman might get her first intimation that her real interest lies in poetry not by hearing a holy voice as she pages through a book of verse but from the thrill she feels as she stands in a parking lot on the edge of town overlooking a misty valley. Or a politician, long before she belongs to any party or has any profound understanding of statecraft, might register a telling signal when successfully healing a rift between two members of her family.
We should also remember that the first ingredient usually missing when people can’t choose a life direction is confidence. Whatever cerebral understanding we apply to our lives, we retain a few humblingly simple needs, among them a steady hunger for support and love. It’s therefore helpful to identify—and engage with—the internal voices that emphasize our chances of failure. Many such voices can be traced back to a critical instructor or unhelpful parent: a math teacher who berated us for poor algebra skills or a father who insisted that our sister was good at art and we should stick to the schoolbooks. The forming of an individual in the early years is as sensitive and important a task as the correct casting of a skyscraper’s foundation, and the slightest abuse introduced at this primary stage can unbalance us until our dying days.
A useful thought to bear in mind for anyone still struggling with a less than meaningful job: Work may not be where your calling resides. Indeed, for thousands of years, work was viewed as an unavoidable drudge; anything more aspiring had to happen in one’s spare time, once the money had been hauled in. Aristotle was only the first of many philosophers to state that no one could both be obliged to earn a living and remain free. The idea that a job could be pleasurable had to wait until the 18th century, the age of the great bourgeois philosophers, men like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin, who for the first time argued that one’scould be at the center of happiness. Curiously, at the same time, similar ideas about romance took shape. In the pre-modern age, it had widely been assumed that marriage was something one did for purely commercial reasons, to hand down the family farm and raise children; love was what you did with your mistress, on the side. The new philosophers now argued that one might actually aim to marry the person one was in love with.
We are the heirs of these two very ambitious beliefs: that you can be in love and married—and in a job and having a good time. As a result, we harbor high expectations for two areas of life that may provide support but not the deep purpose we ultimately long for. To remember such history while contemplating “Who am I?” can be enormously freeing.
And although that question is one of life’s toughest, we should allow ourselves to relish it as we think about our aptitudes, and to open ourselves to all the many sources we can derive meaning and mission from—whether it’s writing poetry, leading a neighborhood cleanup, raising children, or daring gravity while flying down an icy slope on a pair of skis. We should also consider that, in the end, the answer to “Who are you meant to be?” is perhaps this: the person who keeps.
Some days our minds are cluttered with unwanted thoughts. Endless, negative preoccuptaions and worries steal away our precious energy and leave us drained at the end of the day. Take this moment to reflect on your anxiety-provoking thoughts.
Now imagine that you are writing them down on little pieces of paper. Once you have a sufficient stack, in your mind take a walk to the nearest river. At the river’s edge, toss out your harassing thoughts, one by one, saying good-bye to each one. Watch the current carry your worries, like delicate leaves, down the river.
Notice each nagging thought drift away and out of sight. use this river to dump our any unwanted anxiety. Return to it whenever you need to empty your mind.
This is a excerpt from ‘five good minutes’,by Jeffery Brantley, MD and Wendy Millstine. I had never heard of this book until I was the lucky receipent of it as a present from a very good friend. The thought provoking insights have often changed my mindset and I thought I could share this one today.
And once again, Thanks K.O.!
Here’s how to forgive someone the right way.
What happens when you’ve been wronged by another and you want to move on? How do you let it go – get on with your life – and make sure it doesn’t happen again?
The short answer is that you forgive yourself for even having them in your life in the first place – so you don’t have to continue to carry the burden around and so that you *don’t repeat the same experience* – either with this person or another one.
You forgive yourself for ALLOWING it to happen – not for CAUSING it to happen.
Right now you may be in some sort of a mental prison. There may be a lot of resentment and other similar feelings. And what you’re feeling now – the bitterness, the resentment, the anger, the hurt; WILL influence your future relationships.
Bitterness only leads to more bitterness. Hurt leads to more hurt.
Forgiveness is a way to clear out those old feelings from the past so you will be better able to believe in yourself and trust yourself. Not to mention you will be wiser and more perceptive!
But are you responsible for what they did? No, absolutely not. You don’t forgive yourself to make them ‘not guilty’.
You created your reality and they created theirs. And the realities overlapped.
A cheater is basically that way before you meet them. A betrayer is a betrayer before they come into your life. And a punisher would just be punishing someone else if you weren’t around.
The question is – why did I attract someone like this into my life? Of course you didn’t KNOW they would cheat or betray or punish you when you first met them. But then, maybe there were little hints and clues you ignored. I don’t know.
The point is, you allowed it to happen, at least on some level. That ‘allowing’ is your responsibility; something you CAN forgive yourself for.
The value of forgiving yourself is – first of all, it’s empowering to accept responsibility for YOUR contribution. Yes, I understand you were wronged. They engaged in hurtful behavior that was unjustified.
By forgiving yourself, you don’t say their behavior was acceptable. On some level, they must still ‘pay’ for what they did. But that’s not your business. (I understand many try to make it their business!)
But you would be much more productive by dealing with YOUR contribution to these events. And not worrying about their contribution.
“They’ll get theirs.”
But look at the damage it does to YOU by not forgiving yourself. Maybe you don’t believe in yourself anymore. Maybe you don’t trust yourself to make good decisions. Maybe your self-confidence is lacking. Maybe you’re carrying around a ton of pain.
And I would guess many other problems as well have come up because you’ve been wronged. Forgiving yourself can heal the damage they caused. Also, you don’t let someone ‘off the hook’ by forgiving yourself for what they did.
YOU LET *YOU* OFF THE HOOK BY FORGIVING YOURSELF.
Sorry to shout, but I want to make that point clear. By forgiving yourself, you empower yourself. You free yourself from your own private prison of pain.
Here’s the bottom line: You can never truly and completely forgive another until you have first forgiven yourself. That’s why so many people stay stuck in a lack of forgiveness.
Of course you need to forgive the other person to truly be free yourself.
“If I stayed angry at other people, I would miss finding friends among those I was angry with.”
–Rosa Parks, from an interview in “Positive Energy“
As a psychiatrist, I feel strongly that letting go of resentments, a point I emphasize in my recent book “Emotional Freedom,” is essential to free yourself from negativity. The main person the resentment hurts is you.
A resentment is a grudge that you harbor after you’ve felt mistreated. It’s easy to hold on to all the incidents that angered you, from a gossiping hairdresser to a two-timing ex-husband. And, if you took a poll, you’d probably get a lot of people on your side about your right to stay resentful. According to such logic, as time passes, you have “the right” to get angrier, becoming a broken record of complaints. But is that the sour person you want to be? Instead, for emotional freedom, try to release resentments and let compassion purify them. One friend, in the midst of that process, likened uncovering resentments to “dragging dead bodies out of a well.” You don’t want moldering negativity rotting your psyche.
Forgiveness is a state of grace, nothing you can force or pretend. I guide patients toward the large-heartedness to forgive both injuries others have caused and those they’ve self-inflicted. Forgiveness penetrates the impenetrable — the obstinacy that stifles love, the tenacious pain that dams our energy reserves. A Stanford research study showed that forgiveness significantly decreases stress, rage and psychosomatic symptoms. I’m not saying that betrayal is ever justified, that you aren’t entitled to be upset if someone wrongs you, or that you shouldn’t try to improve or else leave a destructive situation. Forgiveness, though, ensures that resentments don’t feed on your energy. Finally, remember forgiveness refers to the actor, not the act — not the offense but the woundedness of the offender.
Strategies to Let Resentments Go
- Set Your Intention to Release the Resentment
- Cultivate Forgiveness
- Take a Reality Check
The purpose of releasing resentments is to increase your energy and to feel better. Select a target: a critical mother, a controlling boyfriend, a cutthroat colleague. Perhaps you’ve tried to discuss the grievance with no results. (Always attempt to work things out if the person is the slightest bit receptive.) Or your target may truly be unapproachable. In either case, away from the person, air your resentments without sugarcoating them. Do this in a journal, or with a therapist or friend. For example, say, “I despise the double-crossing conniver because…” Frankly, expressing your feelings is necessary to forgive.
In a quiet moment, really reach to find compassion for the person’s shortcomings, not the deed itself. This may be very hard work. What insecurities or fears motivated him or her? Why is the person’s heart so closed? What caused his or her moral blindness? Try to discern the context of the person’s actions. At this point, you may be inwardly able to ask yourself to start to forgive. Perhaps you’re not there yet — that’s okay. The request itself sets off a stream of compassion, a cleansing of your system. Repeat the exercise once a day for at least a week. See if your energy improves. I’ll bet you’ll feel a burden lift.
As part of forgiveness, take this reality check: People bring a lifetime of wounds to your relationship, which may make their behavior more about them than you. You might justifiably say, as one of my patients did, “I’m hurt and furious my spouse left me and refused to even talk about it. Isn’t it reasonable to want that?” Naturally it is. But your need doesn’t take into consideration your spouse’s terror of intimacy, or that he or she would do anything to escape it in your relationship or any other. Unfortunately, your spouse’s fears and inadequacies won out over your needs. To find forgiveness while endeavoring to heal anger, you must evaluate whom you’re dealing with, the good and the bad. Often, people are just doing the best they can, which may not amount to a hill of beans where you’re concerned, but it does represent the sad truth of the situation. Accepting that truth of someone’s limitations will help you to forgive.
Compassion opens a hidden door to a secret world that exists beyond anger. Notwithstanding, the feelings of anger or forgiveness aren’t mutually exclusive. You can simultaneously experience varying degrees of both. Perhaps, at first, you’re a little forgiving and very angry. But when you progress, the scales increasingly tip toward forgiveness as your attachment to anger recedes.