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Taking Responsibility – You can change your circumstances!

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One of the most important principles of personal development is that you take 100% responsibility for your life.

 
It’s important to understand what responsibility is, especially in relation to blame.
 
What does it mean to take responsibility for your life?
 
Responsibility
noun:  re·spon·si·bil·i·ty \ri-ˌspän(t)-sə-ˈbi-lə-tē\
the state of being the person who caused something to happen
 
It’s essential to understand that you are the common denominator in your life. You are present at EVERY interaction, activity, decision, event, and experience that happens to you! You are the one, and the only one, that determines how you are going to respond or react to everything in your life.
 
With this knowledge, YOU must realize you are completely responsible for all of your successes and failures and of your happiness or unhappiness.
 
This is different from being at fault or to blame for something. Some events are things you may not want at all, yet they still happen. Car accidents, assaults, and burglaries are not things we want; yet they happen. Casting blame or fault comes as a form of chastisement, whether belittling oneself or belittling another. Ultimately, it’s how you respond to the situation, undesirable or not, that determines the final outcome.

For example, if one finds themselves mugged and beaten-up one night, they have choices which may be:

  • Be fearful for the rest of ones life and not go out at night anymore,
  • Take responsibility and enroll in self-defense courses, empower themselves and rebuild their self-esteem,
  • Or do nothing and blame others, the police, themselves for not preventing it. 

 
Blame and responsibility are on opposite sides of the spectrum. One brings on depression, and the other raises self-esteem and facilitates healing.
 
Blame is a negative, depressive state, which halts growth.

Responsibility is a proactive, positive state and allows active change.
 
If you don’t understand the concept and practice of responsibility, you will feel stuck in your life and you will fall into a victim mentality.
 
The negativity of excuse making will prevent you from succeeding. If you find yourself in your current position, personal or professional, claiming your problems are someone or something else’s fault, then you really need to take a hard look your life. No matter the situation, there is always a solution you can apply.
 
How to take responsibility of your life:

  1. Be willing to see your situation differently
  2. Make no more excuses and no more blame
  3. Listen to your thoughts – thoughts turn into actions
  4. Look for solutions and be proactive about them

 


 
What do you do when you’ve done something wrong or said something hurtful?
 
When you take responsibility and acknowledge that you’ve done something wrong you move into a positive proactive state. It can feel uncomfortable, but this discomfort is temporary because you are taking measures to correct what you’ve done. You are in a state of humility and openness.
 
How to take responsibility when you’ve done something wrong:

  1. Take ownership of your behavior and admit your misconduct.
  2. Apologize for it, and be sincere!
  3. Correct what you’ve done. Do your best to fix it and make amends.
  4. Don’t do it again.

 
Being honest and showing humility when you’ve been hurtful will improve your relationships dramatically; but you must be sincere and committed to improving yourself so you do not repeat the hurtful behavior again.
 
Taking responsibility for your actions is the key to being a genuine person.

 

Dealing with an Envious Friend

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Have you ever gotten that long awaited promotion or new job, shared it with a friend whose response was: “Oh, that’s nice.” Or worse yet says, ”What was wrong with you that you couldn’t get it sooner?”

Or maybe you’ve returned fresh, filled with tranquility and joy from a spiritual retreat, excited to tell a good friend all about your personal discoveries, and they immediately dismiss it or generalize your experience.

And then it seems we all have that one friend that always seems to be competing with you to be bigger or better.

 

This is Envy.

 

It’s normal to feel a little envious of others every now and then, but it’s different when it’s consuming, and deliberately hurtful.

 

Morrissey even wrote a song about it
which sums things up pretty well:

morrissey_single
We hate it when our friends become successful

And if they’re northern, that makes it even worse
And if we can destroy them

You bet your life we will destroy them
If we can hurt them
Well, we may as well, it’s really laughable
Ha, ha, ha
You see, it should’ve been me
© Morrissey – We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful

 

I’d like to quickly point out that Envy and jealousy are often confused.

Envy is when you want what someone else has, but jealousy is when you’re worried someone’s trying to take what you have. Jealousy is most often seen in insecure relationships.

 

The root of envy is a mentality of poverty or lack.

This mentality is driven by comparison and the belief that they will never achieve a desired status, income or aren’t any good at something or at least not as good as the one being compared to. This stirs up powerful feelings of desire or covetousness for the lifestyle, possessions or what-have-you of another.

The emotion of envy can be triggered in circumstances that
involve a social comparison where someone perceives that you have possessions, attributes, or attainments that diminish their own status (Silver & Sabina, 1978; Smith & Kim, 2007).

Envious people will never say it directly, but the distain they have towards you will come out verbally and sometimes subtly as criticism or disrespect for you.

 

Envy is a sign of weakness.

The greater the envy experienced, the more weak and inadequate the envious one believes they are compared to the other person. This insecurity causes a higher tendency to be defensive or verbally lash out.

A powerful emotion like envy can even influence ethical decision-making, promoting the justification of deceptive behavior.

___________

Recognizing envy in others:

 

  1. Withdraw: They aren’t available and don’t behave like the person they were before learning of your achievements.
    This person may not answer your phone calls, emails, or texts. You find they give you the silent treatment and just be overly unavailable. Truly, they wish good things were not happening to you and can’t bear to hear about your happiness.

 

  1. Invalidate you: This includes subtle and not so subtle belittling, generalizing and/or devaluing your achievements and experiences. This often includes comparison to others.

 

  1. Rudeness toward you for no reason when things are just starting to go well for you. This can display as dismissiveness, a lack of responsiveness, to outright belittling on hearing of your good news.

 

  1. They are never happy for you.

 


___________

How to handle an envious friend

There are several methods to deal with these situations and personalities, but firstly, I recommending taking a step back and evaluating the overall relationship and determining if this ill behavior is a long-term pattern, or a one time issue.

 

  1. ) Do NOT take things personally! Usually when someone is negative, it has to do with them and their issues and nothing to do with you.
  2. ) Be proud of yourself and your achievements. You worked hard to get where you are – own it! Do not downplay your own success and hard work because of another’s feelings of inadequacy.

  3. ) Try talking to your friend about it. If their behavior doesn’t improve, or if you believe it to be a pattern, bring it up gently and try to work it out. But remember, it is they, not you who must do the work.

  4. ) Give it space or if needed, let them go. Usually, time and space apart is enough to minimize another’s ill feelings toward you. If they continue to react to you in hurtful and negative ways despite efforts to remedy the situation, it’s in your best interest to let them go.

  5. ) You cannot and never will please everyone. Just do your best to be a loving, honest and compassionate person.

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.”
John Lydgate

 

We all might feel envious at times, but those who really understand that the source of their suffering is actually within themselves, will try to fix their problems, because truly, the feeling of envy is painful.

 

You are not competing against anyone in this life but you. You only ever need to focus on your own path and goals, continually improving yourself and well-being.

 

 

 

 

Alone but not lonely

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It was a chilly day, the wind whipping across the water as we stood out on the deck of a ferry crossing Milford Sound in the south island of New Zealand. She, a stranger, held out her camera to me and asked that I take her photo. I was careful to capture the crisp mountains and rainbow waterfalls framing her perfectly. She, then asked,” You traveling alone?” “Yes.” I replied. “Me too!” She laughed, “Guaranteed good company! When you’re by yourself, you’re guaranteed good company!”

Guaranteed good company…

 
I hadn’t thought of it that way, but she was right.
One thing I always liked about traveling and venturing out on my own was all the impromptu adventures and friends I made along the way.
 
But, there are a great number of people who fear being alone. Many of us find it frightening to travel alone, to take a class alone or find there’s no one to ask for help.
 
To avoid this fear of being alone, we will socialize endlessly, from jumping from one relationship to another, emailing constantly, or becoming absorbed in social media. Often times, to avoid being alone, we’ll end up in a relationship with someone who isn’t really good for us.
 
There’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely.
 
Alone means there aren’t people with you.
 
Lonely is a feeling of disconnect, or longing despite having a great deal of social contact with others, or being in a relationship.
 
As mentioned in an earlier post Understanding Loneliness, people who struggle with feelings of loneliness of find their struggles have deeper roots.
 
Being alone is what you make of it.
 
To truly understand what makes being alone so painful, you must recognize that it probably comes from a deeper situation that may be uncomfortable to address.

  • Sometimes can be traced back to an unpleasant experience or past memory.
  • Some simply are bored when they are alone.
  • When in solitude, unpleasant thoughts and feelings can arise that you must then reflect on and process.
  • Sometimes, as an adult you keep trying to bring people into your world to soothe the lack of nurturing from childhood.
  • Social anxiety and fear of the thoughts of others.

 
So how can we learn to enjoy being by ourselves if it seems intimidating?
 
The secret to being alone you’ll find, is that it’s empowering. You make all the decisions and can be completely focused on and present in every experience.
 
You will be learning self-sufficiency and emotional independence, which is an act of strength. Time alone is an opportunity for growth and to get to known yourself.
 
Becoming acquainted with time alone may start small and simple.
 
Try spending small amounts of time alone, without your phone, laptop, TV, or radio. This quiet will allow you to become aware of yourself and surroundings. Ask yourself things like: What is my body telling me today? How do I feel today?
 
Eventually if you keep at this, you’ll grow used to setting time aside for yourself to be by yourself. You may spend your time going on hikes, reading books, creating artwork, or even writing that novel you’ve been thinking about.
 
I encourage you to go off on an adventure of your own, my friends, and know you’re guaranteed good company!
 
If you feel I may be of help, please call me at 206-428-1975
or email me: joanna@ascension-healing.com

with love,
Joanna 

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Cultivating Self-Love

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“In order to be able to truly love another person, a person needs first to love oneself, in the way of respecting oneself, and knowing oneself (e.g. being realistic and honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses).” – Eric Fromm

Hi Friends,
 
For anyone who’s ever been on a commercial flight, I’m sure you recall listening to the airplane safety presentation before take off. It includes elements such as these:
 
Exits are in the front of the plane, back, and over the wings; be aware the nearest exit may be behind you – look around.
 
Flotation devices are under the seats in the event of a water landing
 
If air pressure drops in the cabin, oxygen masks drop down from the overhead. Be sure to put your oxygen mask on before children or helping others.
 
Be sure to put your oxygen mask on before children or helping others.
 
It may seem selfish to take care of yourself first in a dangerous or potentially dire situation, but it really is an astute safety measure. The point is to make sure you can breath and are stable before assisting others; otherwise you will become a liability causing resources and time to be used to help you whereas otherwise it would have been unnecessary.
 
When you take care of yourself first, you can be more productive and then help others. And just like taking care of yourself first on an airplane, if you practice self- love and take care of yourself, you too will be more helpful, productive and overall happier in life.
 
It’s important to point out that loving oneself is different from being conceited, or egocentric. It means you care about yourself and take responsibility for yourself.
 
“Regaining of a quiet sense of pleasure in being one’s own self.” – Carl Rogers
 
Being aware of yourself, your needs and recognizing your worth are the keystone of cultivating self-love.
 
This starts by gradually learning to accept your weaknesses along with your strengths. It builds out of the thoughts and actions that you choose.
 
A few tips to help cultivate self love:
 
Mindfulness:
Start by checking in with yourself – begin to recognize what you feel, think, and want. Your thoughts dictate your emotions and actions. Slow down and listen what you’re saying to yourself and the thoughts that you’re having. Ask yourself how these are impacting your mood and behavior.
 
Self-Care
It’s important to enroll in healthy physical activities and exercise, and make sure you’re getting adequate sleep and nutrition. Set time aside for play, social interaction or quiet contemplation. Loving yourself through an established practice to meet your basic needs sets a foundation for further personal growth and wellness.
 
Boundaries
Consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. This is a good way to set limits and recognize activities or interactions that aren’t good for you. Tune into your feelings to recognize what feels good and helpful or what stresses you and feels wrong. Be direct and clear with your wants and needs.
 
Loving ourselves isn’t a one-time thing.
It’s an ongoing process.

 

 

Understanding Loneliness

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understandingLoneliness
We’re going to talk about Loneliness.

I’m not going to give you a top 10 list of ways to meet people. You can find that all over the Internet and frankly, it won’t really help and will probably just piss you off because, I know that’s how I’d feel.
 
We’re going to go a little deeper.
 
This is especially poignant because I’m writing this while living in the Pacific Northwest, specifically Seattle, Washington, which is nationally known for the “Seattle Freeze”.  A good way to describe this “freeze” is that most folks that move here find it immensely difficult to make meaningful friendships or truly experience anything beyond surface pleasantries. People here are nice enough, but emotionally and socially distant. Another way to phrase it is: “You’re welcome onto the porch, but never in the house.” Thus “lonely” is a word often heard and an experience often felt.
 
When I initially moved out here to the Pacific Northwest, I was a resident in a local Buddhist Monastery. While living there, I had a close confident in an 86-year-old nun whom also was originally from the East Coast. She told me the reason people move out here to Seattle is to heal. There’s something about all the water and remoteness that draws those who are suffering.
 
Her point of suffering is where we’re going to start addressing loneliness.
 
Being lonely can mean not feeling part of the world despite having a great deal of social contact with others, or being in a relationship.

This is Internal Loneliness, which is different than the sort of environmental loneliness brought on by something like a relationship suddenly ending or a recent move to a new location. It’s important to understand the difference because it goes so much deeper.
 
Internal loneliness is a deeper more prolonged sense of loneliness. The causes usually come from within ourselves.

This deep sense of loneliness can happen for a number of reasons:
Low self-confidence
Seeing yourself as less or unimportant
But most importantly, a deep sense of loneliness may stem from childhood, and could be linked with feeling unloved or cared for as a child.
 
That’s a lot to take in, as this requires you to look back over your life and the length and breath of this loneliness and feelings of exclusion. This requires courage, so take a deep breath and give yourself a lot of patience.
 
If you’re looking back and seeing a long pattern of loneliness, it very well may be the result of childhood abandonment, and thus you abandoning yourself. (Remember to breathe)
 
Childhood abandonment results from:
• The loss of one or both parents to death or divorce
• Physical/sexual abuse
• Neglect
• Withheld nurturing, affecting or stimulation
• Or even a parent whom had an alcohol or drug addiction or mental health condition.
 
Children are totally dependent on caretakers to provide safety and basic needs. When this isn’t provided, the grow up believing the world is not a safe place, that people cannot be trusted, and that they do not deserve positive attention and proper care.
 
When we are children, we have no other experience of the world and this being the first experience, it becomes the baseline or standard for everything else.
 
As an adult this can manifest as:
• Feelings of insecurity & mistrust

• Depression
• Anxiety & Isolation
• Inability to commit or follow through
 
A common adult symptom of abandonment issues, is finding yourself in unhealthy relationships that reinforce negative beliefs, even though you’re looking for love & acceptance.
 
Does this sound familiar?
 
What does one do?
 
First it’s important to understand that this isn’t your fault! It is by no way an indictment of your innate goodness or value.
But it does take time, hard work, and patience to separate fears from the past from the reality of the present.
 
These feelings of loneliness and abandonment can seem overwhelming, but they can be managed and overcome.
• Explore ways to care for yourself
• Develop a way to ground and center yourself when feeling fears arise
• Communicate needs
• Have appropriate boundaries
• Build a sense of trust
 
My friends, you all deserve love and happiness.

 

Differentiation: Finding your own voice

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Our parents are our first and greatest teachers. They are our first introduction to the world and all of our experiences. As children, we are blank slates and have no experiences with which to compare and evaluate anything. It is natural to model ourselves after our first teachers.

Sometimes-I-Open-My-Mouth-funny-mothers-day-card-for-mothersday-800x800
 
But what if your beliefs as an adult differ from that of your family? This can generate turmoil both within the self and in the family dynamic.
 
Differentiation

Differentiation relates to ones susceptibility to group pressure and influence. The less susceptible to the pressure of others, the higher an individual’s differentiation level.
 
As adults, we grow, explore and develop our own beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Sometimes this journey of self-discovery can be difficult, thinking or being different than that which we grew up with, or even believed most of our lives.
And this doesn’t just relate to the family dynamic, but our immediate culture and environment. It could be political, cultural expectations, or religious communities with which you realize just don’t fit any longer.
 
How does one differentiate, essentially discovering and holding onto your own core beliefs and values?
 
Here are a few tips:
 
Explore and question the actions of others and the world around you. Develop an inner dialogue: Does this serve me? Does this make me happy or stress me out? Is this appropriate? Reflect on your feelings and initial responses.
 
Encourage yourself, developing self-esteem for holding your own. Center and ground yourself whenever you make a choice contrary and possibly disappointing to someone in your life.
 
Find others to support you. This could be friends, family members, a coach, teammate or a therapist.
 
Develop and articulate your values and boundaries. If you’re clear about what is important to you, you’ll be able to call upon and reinforce it when pressured.
 
Notice when you feel uncomfortable or resentful. Discomfort or resentment can be a sign that trying to fit in with someone’s agenda, neglecting your own values.
 
Remember, everyone is on a path of development and growth until our very last day on earth. We are all doing the best that we can at this time, even you.
 
Especially because Mother’s Day is nearly here, lets take time to reflect on and appreciate all that our mothers have done for us; and also appreciate our family, how they influenced and helped us grow into becoming ourselves, differentiated in our own individual potential.

Mindfulness, Empathy, and Emotional Intelligence

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Mindfulness.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Mindfulness. But, what is it? There are many things one can ascertain from the word itself, but what it’s really described as is: Focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. Mindfulness recently is being employed as a therapeutic technique.

It is simply stopping, taking stock of your feelings and physical sensations in relation to the situation you’re currently facing.

Seems logical to be aware of your feelings, but actually, it isn’t always that easy; especially when your feelings are confusing or painful.

What can one do to better be aware of themselves and emotions? Your thoughts, actions and emotions are tied closely together. Thoughts create emotions, which create actions. Having this awareness will dramatically affect your life in very positive ways.

Empathy.
Empathy is built through an understanding of oneself and processes. This necessitates deliberate self-reflection and self-work. The more you understand your own thoughts, feelings and emotions the more you can understand the perspective, thoughts and emotions of others.
I’m referring a bit more towards cognitive empathy in this regard, yet emotional empathy definitely plays a role. Emotional empathy makes someone well attuned to another person’s inner emotional world, to the point that they themselves are also experiencing another’s emotions as thought it were their own. Self-work is also essential so that one can differentiate ones emotional state from another.

The awareness of one’s emotions, and the understanding of them culminate into something known as Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence an individual’s abilities to recognize and manage their emotions, and the emotions of other people, both individually and in groups.

This also includes: being conscientious and controlling your actions (not acting rashly); taking personal responsibility for your own behavior. Also, being adaptable to different situations, good communication skills and empathy- to understand yourself and another person’s emotional reaction.

Mindfulness: Being aware of one’s emotions in the present moment

Empathy: The ability to understand one’s emotions

Emotional Intelligence: Ability to recognize and manage ones emotions

Ultimately, we’re striving for a high level of emotional maturity through these practices, to be able to peaceably and appropriately manage situations and feelings as they arise and live happier, more productive lives.

 

Accepting Love

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Lent is known as time of spiritual purification and solemnity.

Typically, it’s marked by giving something up, to discipline and provide control over oneself to purify the heart and renew ones life. In recent years, I’ve forgone giving up simple physical pleasures such as chocolate or liquor, and chosen to give up deliberately intense things such as: Fear. Deliberately seeking the things that frighten me (within reason) and doing them. The result: Fear, anxiety, rejection no longer control me. I am free.

This year, I have chosen to actively accept Love in all forms. It is surprising and sometimes disconcerting facing my inner dialogue regarding Love. But, as I found when I faced Fear, I became more Fearless; when accepting Love, I’ve become more Loving. There is absolutely something to the law of attraction when it is truly taken to heart, as opposed to merely employed as a mental construct. Allowing love, and receiving love, I was surprised by these lovely roses delivered to my door.

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So, my Friends, I urge all of you to look deeply into your hearts at the things you may be resisting, and go there. Maybe a little discipline and a inner reflection is all that is needed for profound and uplifting change in your life.

Understanding Forgiveness

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What is forgiveness? Sometime I think it’s easier to understand what it is to not forgive than to forgive. It’s easy to point your finger and feed the resentment towards someone who has wronged you. But, what is it to forgive?

To forgive is a shift in thinking toward someone who has wronged you. Forgiveness is a decision to let go of the desire for revenge and anger toward the person and sometimes even shift to feelings of goodwill.

Forgive is based on the latin root “perdonare” which means to give completely without reservation.

With that in mind, when you forgive you give a gift of freedom to yourself. When you play scenarios of revenge over and over, it’s easy to become consumed by it. These thoughts are very painful. Also, berating yourself for what happened for whatever reason: naivety, ill-timing, gullibility, what-have-you, just brings more pain.

Forgive yourself.
Forgive the other person.

The first step is to just be willing – be willing to forgive.

Forgiveness is not condoning or excusing. Forgiveness does not minimize, justify, or excuse the wrong that was done. You don’t have to keep that person in your life, or trust them again. But, if you do choose to keep them in your life, they will have to build trust again over time.

Forgiveness is also a natural resolution of grieving, which is the necessary acknowledgment of pain and loss. This process takes time. It takes time to reflect on what happened, to decide how you want to think about it, and how you wish to proceed with the relationship or situation. Often, time reveals more information about the situation and this can dramatically change your outlook.

Forgiveness is a powerful choice you can make which can lead to healthier relationships now and in the future.

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