When I learned we had to stay home and distance ourselves, the news wasn’t alarming. I’m an artist and writer, and I’m used to being alone.
That was then. I knew I could meet friends for lunch, go to the gym, go shopping, and anything else I wanted to do after working. Now, there’s nothing to do besides work, cleaning, cooking or finding something to entertain me after work.
That would have been fine for a little while, but hard when we don’t know how long this isolation will last. Nothing is certain now. There’s nothing to look forward to.
My two granddaughters were to graduate in May, one from high school, the other from college. I’d been flippant when I heard they wouldn’t get to celebrate with their friends. When I wrote that I’d watched them get their diplomas in my imagination and told them how proud I was, I thought it was a cute way to approach their loss.
Today, I read two articles about grief. The first was about all the students who won’t be able to have a graduation ceremony. It described how hard it was for these students to lose all they’ve been looking forward to these last four years.
These youngsters had been looking forward to all the festivities and honors for over four years. Now that was being taken away from them, my initial response to my grandchildren in my estimation turned out to have been disrespectful.
I’d become one of those women who has lost touch with compassion. I know women like that. Their entire world revolves around themselves.
That’s not who I want to be.
The second article about grief was about all of us. A group who met shared their feelings about living with the pandemic. One woman said she felt grief. They asked an expert, David Kessler, to find out how to manage their feelings.
Kessler is the world’s foremost expert on grief. He co-wrote with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. His new book adds another stage to the process, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.
Kessler says, “Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. Losing normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.”
What can individuals do to manage all this grief?
Kessler advises us to start with work on the different stages of grief. The stages aren’t going to be linear. He says, “There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.”
And he states “Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”
There’s anticipatory grief, which is really anxiety. Anxiety is fear and conjures up worst-case scenarios. That’s when you must make yourself think about the best-case scenarios.
“We all get a little sick and the world continues. Not everyone I love dies. Maybe no one does because we’re all taking the right steps. Neither scenario should be ignored, but neither should dominate either.”
- To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. You can name five things in the room. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay.
- You can also think about letting go of what you can’t control. What your neighbor is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands.
- It’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Be patient. If someone is usually adaptable but is now contrary, think about who they usually are and not who they seem to be in this moment.
- This is a temporary state. It helps to say it.
Finally, Kessler adds; “I’ve been honored that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s family has given me permission to add a sixth stage to grief: Meaning. I had talked to Elisabeth quite a bit about what came after acceptance. I did not want to stop at acceptance when I experienced some personal grief. I wanted meaning in those darkest hours. And I do believe we find light in those times. Even now people realize they can connect through technology. They are not as remote as they thought. They realize they can use their phones for long conversations. They’re appreciating walks. I believe we will continue to find meaning now and when this is over.”
It’s helped me to find meaning to this pandemic. One way I’ve found meaning is that when distancing myself from others, instead of being stoic in my aloneness, I am finding balance in my life between being sequestered and in touch with my humanness. I feel better about myself and find that I’m more accepting.
This pandemic might hold some significant meanings for you, too. Challenges are the beginnings of change and growth.
You can read the entire article, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief” at: https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief?
I wrote my memoir not sure why I needed to do this. I’m an artist. Having been painting and learning to paint better was my life. I knew little about writing.
But something deep inside was stirring. I had the urge to write about myself. Maybe I wanted to explore why I’d done what I had, but I was so intent on knowing truths that lay deep inside, the why’s seemed irrelevant. Something was there to explain why writing my story would make sense.
I couldn’t get what I was after by planning what to write. Thoughts kept me further from what I was after.
The truth comes from that place of feeling good; the place known to be in the flow. It’s where you embrace what is. We find truth living in the moment without a care in the world.
The truth never comes from our thoughts. Our thoughts are full of beliefs, judgments, and fears we formed through the years. Our thoughts are in the truth’s way. They’re the blocks to our happiness.
Arriving at the truth requires us to put aside our beliefs, judgements and fears. How do we do this? There are many teachers who can show you a way like Byron Katie, Joe Dispenza, and many other teachers on Mindvalley and other sites.
But I’ve found a simple way you can learn to do this for yourself. Writing your story will help you see where past experiences contributed to form those beliefs, judgments and fears. Let me give you an example from my life story.
When I was first married a long time ago, in the 60s, I believed I was beholden to my husband. He was the one earning the money I lived on while I was free to do what I wanted to do. In return for my freedom, I believed I had to comply to his wishes.
On Sunday nights, when our maid had the night off, I’d ask my husband if we and our four children could go out to dinner. He’d tell me it was okay. I bathed and dressed the children, and when I was ready to go my husband would decide he’d rather stay home. He’d go to the grocery store for TV dinners.
I’d feel harassed and beaten down. I’d cry.
Several years later my beliefs, thoughts and fears had gotten worse, and I became depressed, I went for therapy with a psychologist. When I told him what happened at our house on Sunday nights, he asked me why I didn’t take the children out without my husband.
It was as if a light bulb went on in my head, illuminating all the options I had that I hadn’t seen before. In that moment I realized no one was keeping me from going out to dinner but myself. The only reason I couldn’t see was that I believed it wasn’t possible.
Where did the belief that I couldn’t spend money without my husband’s approval come from? When writing about that time in my life, I saw how that belief came from all the times he admonished me for spending money. Each time I capitulated, and the more I didn’t question this belief, the harder it became to see any options for myself.
Writing my story helped me see how I’d believed I wasn’t good enough. Why else would I allow someone else to dictate what I can or can’t do?
The first step in changing and moving forward comes when we realize that questioning our thoughts leads to empowering ourselves. The opposite—when we blindly continue following our beliefs, judgments and fears—we disempower ourselves.
If you really want to change and move forward in your life, you need to begin to “clean house” of disempowering beliefs, judgments and fears. It gets easier with each success. In fact, after a while you will hear your thoughts and be able to turn them off.
One easy way to learn how to do the work of disempowering your thoughts is to go to Katie’s website https://thework.com/, where you’ll find a step-by-step description of how to do it.
I’ll be posting more about our thoughts in more posts, so stay tuned in. I welcome questions you might have for future posts.
We know thoughts crop up out of nowhere. Some are a nuisance, scaring us do something we planned or causing guilt over something we did long ago. We put up with them, but maybe they’re not just a nuisance. Maybe they are detrimental to our well-being.
When I was younger, I wasn’t able to visualize myself getting any older than 45 years of age. That was the age I had set a goal to have a one-woman show of my artwork in New York City.
The future was beyond my imagination.
My artwork was the only reason I had to feel worthy and enjoy living. I was unhappy in my marriage and struggling to find contentment. I cried every night to release pain and sorrow.
Finally, without a reason to go on living, I let go of holding on to my dilemma and sought help. My husband told me we couldn’t afford a psychologist, but I surprised myself by responding, “I can’t afford not to go.” It was the first time I had felt the confidence to stand up to his controlling tendency.
I was ready for a new beginning.
Thus began a journey into my mind. Volumes of hidden anger—somewhere I had learned it wasn’t proper for a woman to express her indignation—and an inability to perceive that I might have options, were among the many glaring traits I discovered.
The resentment raging from deep inside me at my first meeting with the psychologist surprised me, but the relief of finally being able to let go of the rage felt freeing. I went on for over an hour before I could stop ranting.
I didn’t realize I had set in motion a huge change in my life. I had instinctively taken the action I needed to discover why I had become so unhappy, and I opened possibilities that blew my mind.
I observed the thoughts in my mind. I realized the thoughts were creating the feelings I was experiencing. For instance, for whatever reason, I noticed that I was telling myself, “I feel sad,” right before a shower. But the moment I realized what I was thinking wasn’t true—wasn’t what I was feeling—I knew for sure my thoughts had created the feeling.
Why do negative thoughts pop up in our minds?
Barry Gordon, professor of neurology and cognitive science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, replies: We are aware of a tiny fraction of the thinking that goes on in our minds, and we can control only a tiny part of our conscious thoughts. The majority of our thinking goes on subconsciously. Only one or two of these thoughts are likely to breach into consciousness at a time. Slips of the tongue and accidental actions offer glimpses of our unfiltered subconscious mental life.
How do unconscious thoughts influence our behavior?
Researchers have long known negative emotions program your brain to do a specific action. It’s the fight-or-flight response to danger. It’s the ego’s way of helping you stay safe. But constant negativity can also impede happiness, add to our stress and worry level, and ultimately damage our health.
When you’re in the fight-or-flight response mode, your emotions program your brain to do a specific action. When you’re facing danger, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. Negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts. Your brain ignores any option that isn’t focused on the immediate action you must take to avoid a calamity.
This is useful when you’re trying to save yourself from getting hurt, but in most cases unnecessary. The problem is that your brain is programmed to respond to negative emotions in the same way—by shutting off the outside world and limiting the options you see around you.
This takes us back to my story of waking up to the fact that thoughts create feelings. One of the most striking traits in myself when I noticed my negative thoughts were my being unaware of my options.
My Aha! moment happened while sharing a story with my psychologist. Our maid was off every Sunday. I would ask my husband to take me and our four children to dinner on those nights. Getting four young children ready was almost as hard as preparing dinner and cleaning up afterward, but I liked being able to get out of the house one night a week.
Often, at the last-minute, all of us ready to go, my husband would decide that he’d rather eat at home. He’d go to the grocery store for TV dinners, and, frustrated, I’d cry. “Why didn’t you go out without him?”, my psychologist asked me.
It was as if a light bulb lit up inside my mind. I hadn’t fathomed I had options. I must have believed I had to do as told.
“If you realized just how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.” Anonymous
It takes time, but little by little, by questioning the unwanted thoughts flitting through my mind, I discovered that changing my thoughts to more positive ones—ones that weren’t out of the realm of believing—I noticed myself able to work at an ideal level. I was feeling more optimistic, feeling more freedom, and feeling happier.
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” Norman Vincent Peale
In my follow-up to this post, I will share with you how to stop negative thoughts. In the meantime, try the first step to stopping them. Don’t try to stop them by telling yourself you have to stop thinking about the obsessive thought. Worry and obsession get worse when you try to control your thoughts. Instead, notice you’re in a negative cycle and own it.
Question if the thought is true. If it isn’t true, try something that sparks feelings of joy, contentment, and love. It could be your favorite music, a walk in the park, or talking to a friend. We’ll begin work on ending the annoying thoughts in my next post.
If you have questions or want me to discuss any issue about your thoughts, please comment below.
“Let’s sweep it under the rug,” This is what my mother would say whenever I wanted to know a truth she didn’t want to deal with. I can’t recall the exact instances causing this response, but I do remember that whatever subject we were discussing always involved a complication or conflict she didn’t want to address.
My mother’s steely demeanor and hasty dismissal indicated the conversation was over. She wasn’t going to deal with the information, and so, I let it go. Sweeping seemed to work.
Another target she arranged to sweep away were negative feelings. Whenever I felt sorry for myself, angry with my brother, or humiliated by my friends, my mother would cart me off to one of the charitable agencies she volunteered to work at. Impressing me with how much better off I was than many other children did get me in touch with how giving to others seemed to ameliorate the pain, but I never learned how to deal with the pain in a healthy way.
For example, at the age of twelve, I was taken to New York City to have an operation to correct a birth defect. Two nerves on the lid of my left eye were crossed and caused my eyelid to go up and down every time I moved my jaw. The condition is called Marcus Gunn, and because it is such a rare disorder, and because this was a teaching hospital, several rounds of doctors, residents, and students would come to my bedside each day to gape and gawk at the eye.
I felt vulnerable and defenseless. All that mattered to those men was my eye. I was no different than the goldfish in the bowl I stared at on the counter of the nurses’ station. Like the goldfish, I was being exposed to whoever saw me without having anywhere to hide.
Feeling sorry for myself, my mother dealt with my remorse the same way she always had. She offered a man with both eyes bandaged to have me read to him. This time, though, her way of helping me feel better didn’t. It only caused me to want to avoid any circumstance that would expose me to the truth that I was vulnerable.
Unfortunately, an infection after the operation caused my left lid, the one that used to go up and down when I moved my jaw, to freeze in a stay-open position. I could close it with mental effort, but the eye now looked much larger than the other one.
I found a way to emotionally deal with a “bad eye”. I became the observer. I would watch other people’s reactions to my eye while feeling separate from the experience. That allowed me to not have to be the one being judged and to not have to feel vulnerable. I had found a way to feel a sense of power instead of being a victim.
However, as I grew older, complications from having swept away circumstances and feelings began to crop up. The more I tried to stay safe from feeling vulnerable, the more complex they became.
If you keep sweeping things under the rug, you’ll trip over it and fall flat on your face. Don’t ignore problems, fix them!
Not sharing my emotions kept me from ever being authentic. I lived in a constant state of acting, pretending, and doing anything that would obscure the fact that I was different. And when my actions failed to keep me safe, I suffered.
Because I had become motivated to be a person others wanted to be with—my way of coping with a defect—I began doing and being what I thought would impress others instead of feeling free to be me. This tactic kept me from ever being able to express my truths, further burying them from sight. Relationships failed due to my holding myself back. I became depressed, not knowing why.
If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorders, Addiction, Rage, Blame, Resentment, and Inexplicable Grief.
Then I became rebellious at the age of forty-three. Rather than feel guilty for not having the strength and courage to face the truth that I had a “bad eye”, I began blaming and judging those people I had previously tried to make like me. Separating myself from them, they had now become my reason for my unhappiness.
I moved away and began to see a Jungian psychotherapist who specialized in dream therapy. That was when I had a dream that changed everything.
In the dream, I am walking down a long hall towards a banquet room. Judging from the long wooden tables adorned with table settings of metal, and the dress of the other guests at the banquet, I guess the time we’re in to be the period of King Arthur’s court. A lot of noise and laughter is resounding in the huge room as I find a place at the table to sit. Not long after getting settled, I notice someone approaching the dining hall. It’s someone I don’t want to see me, so I duck down under the table to hide. Feeling bored, I fidget with a rug underneath the table. Rolling the rug from the end, my curiosity is leading me to examine what is underneath. Suddenly, all kinds of stuff begin spewing out from under the rug. All shapes and sizes of things, the mass and vast array of so many objects startles me.
How could so much stuff hide for so long in such a small space?
I had an Aha! moment. This was all my stuff! This was the stuff I’d swept under the carpet during my whole lifetime.
“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.”
C. JoyBell C.
I knew I had no recourse but to finally face whatever I was scared of seeing. This sign wasn’t some random event. It clearly was a warning to me.
Digging through a giant mound of unwanted, crammed, disposed-of stuff is a daunting task. It requires taking one step forward, only to find that you can’t move forward until the next step is taken. It necessitates that you discover the truth, what caused this part of the stuff to be swept away. It can’t be done in a day, so you distract yourself towards more fun, rewarding things to do. But the pull to grow becomes stronger.
There’s a saying, “Out of sight, out of mind”. That’s why bringing buried fears to the light is so hard. You have to trust and allow for life to bring you the circumstances or relationships to trigger each one. If you are dedicated to being a better you, and if you are persistant, that motivation will bring you the happiness you desire.
“Be your authentic self. Your authentic self is who you are when you have no fear of judgment, or before the world starts pushing you around and telling you who you’re supposed to be. Your fictional self is who you are when you have a social mask on to please everyone else. Give yourself permission to be your authentic self.” –
I wanted to finally feel the freedom I’d suppressed more than I feared what the truth was. It took me years to uncover most of the stuff I’d buried. Each time I succeeded, I did feel lighter and that inspired me to dig deeper. Now that I feel freer, I am having fun being me. I love who I am, and that love attracts more love to me.
Don’t be afraid of the truth. Remember, “The truth will set you free.”
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’
For a related article, go to: https://wordpress.com/post/dorettab.com/2077
Let’s suppose you want to change your life. You might want to change your job, your routine, or some bothersome habits, but you don’t know where to start. So you ask yourself, “Who am I?” “Who would I prefer to be?” “What do I really want to do?”
Change is frightening and the temptation to resist it is powerful. However, the rewards of change – the opportunity to learn new things, to rethink tired processes, and to improve the way we see ourselves – is worth the effort.
Change is a process. It takes effort on your part. And the fear of losing what you have depended on for your identity or the fear of failing can feel very intense.
Things do not change; we change.
Henry David Thoreau
We can only change our circumstances from the inside out. As Wayne Dyer says,
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
I was watching the movie, “Starry Night”, on Amazon recently. Although the movie is a fantasy of Vincent Van Gogh coming back to vindicate the wrongs done him in his life, toward the end of the movie, there are several true excerpts from letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo.
One of them shines a brilliant light on Van Gogh’s beliefs about himself and his art. He says,
“What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then—even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.”
When Van Gogh was alive, his work wasn’t appreciated. But that doesn’t mean his work didn’t have tremendous value.
To live mindfully, according to Thích Nhất Hạnh in his book, The Art of Power, ”the most important thing is to have confidence in your work, to make sure that your work embodies your best in terms of understanding and compassion.”
Van Gogh’s art contains insight, understanding, and compassion, all the attributes of a masterpiece. Van Gogh tells Theo in the letter he sent to him that he wants to make sure that his work embodies all the beauty that he is not personally thought to be.
So, what does this story have anything to do with why your sense of self is important?
Despite the suffering of his soul, unable to attain success through his work, Van Gogh was able to let go while painting to find a deep well of satisfaction and a sense of merit. He couldn’t have painted the beauty in his work without having let go of his sense of self. When he painted he was able to let go and “get in the flow” of painting.
Then why was only one of his paintings sold during his lifetime?
John Kehoe, pioneer in the field of Mind Power, says your subconscious mind is a second, hidden mind that exists within you. It’s a reflection of what you believe you deserve. The subconscious acts upon the predominating thoughts that reside within your conscious mind.
You know more about your conscious mind. It’s the mind that exists to take care of and protect us. It’s our thinking mind. But the thoughts flitting through our mind can be, and often are, full of fear.
Fear generates judgments, blame and, ultimately, beliefs based on fears we’ve harbored for many years. Experts say these fears are mostly generated from birth to age seven. Perhaps these beliefs served us well when we were younger, but they have now become the negativity that is preventing us from all we want in our lives.
The subconscious attracts circumstances and situations that match the images in your mind. When we pay attention to the concepts conjured by our past negative thoughts the way Van Gogh did with his evaluation of his worthiness, the subconscious delivers what it believes to be the truth, but not what we really want.
By believing himself to be the “lowest of the low”, Van Gogh was telling his subconscious that he wasn’t worthy. Since the subconscious delivers us a match to our predominating thoughts, attracting success would have been hard for him, if not impossible.
When we’re closing ourselves off from the Universe’s abundance and unlimitedness, we can only receive that which we believe we deserve.
Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.
This brings us back to the beginning of this blog. When we know that we’re the reason we’re not receiving what we want, that it isn’t fate or anything else outside of us, we can begin the process of discovering the thoughts, fears, and beliefs that prevent us from receiving what we want.
You may be able to do this for yourself. Many have. But if you’re like me, you’ll need motivation. Here are some inspirational quotes you might need to get over even your hardest obstacles.
- “Your desire to change must be greater than your desire to stay the same.” — Unknown
- “Don’t make a change too complicated, just begin.” — Unknown
- “Small changes eventually add up to huge results.” — Unknown
- “Action is the key to all success.” — Pablo Picasso
- “Don’t expect to see a change if you don’t make one.” — Unknown
- “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
I’m in the process of changing who I am for the umpteenth time. It doesn’t get easier-there seem to be new blocks every time I strive to have more for my life – but it does get more rewarding each time I change. That’s because I’ve found that digging deeper and admitting the truth goes a long way to manifest all that I want to be and have.
For more on “Who Am I?”, go to this link, https://dorettab.com/answering-big-questions-life/