Archive for the ‘gratitude’ Category

All of us struggle with our sense of reality. Sometimes we cannot quite “see” what’s really happening. Other times we don’t question what we see so much as our ability to respond well to it.

In any case, a little thought clearly leads to the fact that our sense of our reality – encompassing both ourselves and what is around us – is something distinct from the reality itself. Unfortunately, it’s just not always easy to get a good sense of what’s really happening.

Consider for a moment, if this line of thought is a little murky for you, that all of science is simply an effort to address this problem – to get a better sense in our minds of what’s really happening “out there”. Science is hard work, which leads me to conclude that the problem it addresses is often not easily resolved.

I find that my own personal sense of reality and myself is subject to many distortions. Rarely do these mental errors help me live better, feel better, or like myself more, in the long run. In fact, such mental errors can often lead to short-term disaster!

In a recent email to a client, I addressed this issue, asking what they needed to remember about themselves and their situation in order to limit such mental distortions as much as possible.  I then offered the following ideas which I personally have found it very useful to remember.

  • I care about the people in my life, and this is good for me and them.
  • I can interact with them in ways that add value to their lives and mine.
  • Direct control of my feelings is not possible (because feelings are an automatic brain response), but indirect control, through attending my physical health, my thoughts, and where I choose to direct my attention, is actually easy, and usually has a powerful effect.
  • There are many aspects of my present situation which are evidence of great good fortune in my life. I am foolish to allow my attention to dwell too long on misfortunes which come my way, unless it is to learn something useful to carry forward in my life.
  • Investing a small amount of time in experiencing and expressing gratitude for what I have can lead to immediate substantial gains in the quality of my state of mind.
  • Progress in any area of my life is almost always possible, if I’m willing to accept the fact of my having limited power and knowledge. It can be difficult to be a mere human being, with all the limitations inherent in this status, but acceptance of my limitations can free me to work at reducing them, through patient, focused effort.
  • Good mental health is strikingly like good physical health: it usually doesn’t just happen, but rather results from intelligent, directed, repeated efforts. Children usually see and react; adults see, then plan, then act. They get better results. It’s better to be an adult.

To get these statements, I just asked myself what is true about my situation in life, and what I need to remember, given these descriptive truths, in order to function well. The set of “reminders” above are the result. They are not a final set, to be sure, but I note that just reading them improves my state of mind.

So…the question NOW is simply…what do YOU need to remember, about yourself and your life, to function well? I’ll predict that time spent with this question will be rewarding for you. I’d be interested to know what you discover…

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Here we go again. “The holidays…” We’ve been down this road before, haven’t we?

Maybe, just maybe, this time. we could dance rather than run. How about it? Interested?

OK, then let’s consider what a dancer must do:

  • They must know the steps of the dance, in advance, at least to some degree. Pure improvisation is only for the very skilled!
  • They must not lose their balance. This requires that they have a decent sense of where they are, at all times. Self-awareness will keep them on their feet.
  • They need to be able to feel the natural rhythm of the music to which they are dancing.
  • They need to be able to navigate on the dance floor, in the midst of other dancers, possibly some musicians, and the architecture and furniture of the room in which they are dancing.

So, translating that, I come up with this:

  • A little planning for the days ahead seems wise. We should sketch out the steps. We would do well to do only a little that is unfamiliar, else we’ll probably not have much fun, and won’t do all that well. This isn’t a rehearsal, but rather a performance.
  • In the midst of all the rush, we need not to lose ourselves. So, do a little “check-in”: Are we feeling sufficiently in-balance? Reasonably optimistic? Reasonably rested? (They’re often related.)
  • We need to stay in touch with the larger things around us – the people we live with, the people we care about, priorities we have which are larger than the concerns of the season. It’s about awareness and balance and grace.
  • Life is often about adequate management of details, as a team. Consider making a few lists, and checking in frequently with people you’re “traveling” with. See any obstacles coming at you? Are you making best use of your potential for adaptive response to challenge, and of the people who can help you with this adaptive response?

All in all, it should be fun – and hopefully also entertaining, thought provoking, nourishing, and gratifying. But start with the fun. Lots of people don’t even get that far.

Plan with humility. Talk with others. Sleep. Eat sustaining food. Exercise. Relax with awareness. Avoid over-reaching. Be grateful for what you already have.

Enjoy the dance.

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Every year it creeps up on me: the busy season of winter and early spring. This is the time most therapists are most occupied with trying to address and meet the needs of their clients. Winter is hard on people. It’s a long haul to get to the gentle warmth of spring. When things get tough for our clients, we get busy, and so has it been for me.

Many things less important get put on the back burner, and then simply forgotten, until Spring. And now we seem slowly to getting there – the seasons have certainly been shifting, but the Spring I refer to is a condition of my schedule and mind. I can see it slowly happening. I’m beginning to breath a little more calmly, and the windows of my office are thrown open. Ah…

I love winter, deeply, without reservation, and for reasons I’ll never completely understand. I miss it when it’s gone, And I’m very glad this year to have arrived at Spring. As many Springs as I’ve seen, each new one always seems the best ever, and so it is this year.

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