Get closer or move away?

by Adrian W. Hall, MFT, ATR

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Sometimes it is hard to tell whether we should honor and stay with our difficult feelings or to distract ourselves and not focus so much on them.  Generally speaking, as a therapist, I am in support of honoring and staying with feelings, especially since most us of naturally employ avoidance tactics.  But what about when that is causing more suffering than necessary?

In the next section of the book, David Richo talks about affirmations.  Earlier in my life, my association to affirmations was that they were a way to bypass reality and ignore/avoid.  It is my understanding that David Richo suggests using affirmations in a meaningful way that supports creating a reality and state of being that is your choice, drawing from the best parts of you that already exist.  But before we get into that, I want to talk a little bit more about the question about staying with or moving away from feelings because this comes up a lot for clients and friends.

Feelings are agents of our emotional system that deliver messages to us.  They are meant to make a delivery and move on. Just like the FedEx guy comes and drops off your package (signature required, this is fancy mail!) and leaves.  He doesn’t stay and chat for the rest of the afternoon or move into your place, right?  Ok, same deal.  As soon as you sign for the package, that feeling is on its way out because it did its job.   If you don’t sign and acknowledge the feeling, the guy is going to have to come back.  The messages help us know what to do or not do, say or not say, get closer or move away.  Get good at opening the door and being there to sign when those packages come in.  It is important to honor real feelings.

Now, there are time when your tricky brain is not telling you the truth.  Your brain is actually doing something that it thinks is more important, which is protect you.  Sometimes your brain will send up the alert system, fear, in order to help you avoid experiencing pain that you have experienced before.  If there is something that has hurt you before, and it has, since we are humans living in a human world, your brain will do you the favor of trying to make sure that never happens again, without you even knowing.  Usually, the fear being activated is illogical and, what David Richo calls, “neurotic fear”.  How do you know if it is neurotic fear?  You can do a little test.  Ask yourself 1.  Is this true? (meaning: is the thought causing the fear true?)  2.  Is it helpful?  If you get “no” on either one, that is illogical fear that you don’t need to get into.  It needs to be acknowledged, but you don’t need to spend a whole lot of time on it.  Here’s an example:  Is it true that there could be a big earthquake?  Yes.  Is it helpful to walk around every day thinking about the fact that it could happen any second?  No.  You can prepare reasonably.  But obsessing about it is not going to help you.

So, what do you need to do?  You can reframe it.  For example: “I know that an earthquake is not happening right now and it is not probable” or “I know this fear is not real.  I am completely safe right now”.  And/or, you need to start thinking about or doing something else.  Literally, get into something else.  Call someone and ask about their day, listen closely and get absorbed in what they are saying.  Play a videogame.  I really don’t care what you do as long as you are super into it and it is safe.

Another situation when it is better to move away from your feelings (after acknowledging them, you can tell the FedEx guy he has the wrong address) is when you have a false belief going on that is giving you some really unpleasant feelings like fear, hopelessness, anxiety, shame.  Here’s how you know this is going on:  you have had this thought or some version of it going on for a long time.  It causes regular suffering.   You can ask your friends if your worry is a familiar theme.  They likely know.  There probably is some pain in there that comes from your past that you need to pay attention to and work out at a certain point.  However, if you have already worked on it, this thought/feeling cycle might just be a habit.  You need to stop poisoning yourself and get off that racetrack.  There’s a good chance that the thoughts and feelings around that false belief are not only unpleasant, but also reinforcing more of that theme to show up in your life.  Why do you want to reinforce negative things that are not even true?  You don’t.  So, that is another time when you need to acknowledge that thought/feeling pattern and back away, get into something else.  Catch yourself in the act and move away from it.

If you want to read more about neurotic fear and identifying it, check out Distinguishing Types of Fear.  To know more about the system for healthfully processing your feelings (i.e. opening the door, signing for and unpacking your delivery), readBuild Your Bridge.

*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".  

Every Way is Our Way

by Adrian W. Hall, MFT, ATR

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“Enlightenment is not a prize at the end of the race or search but finally being present in the world as it is.  As long as we are looking for something from the world, we never really see it as it is, as the pick pocket never sees the wizard, but only his pockets!  We reclaim the world and the moment as ours whenever we drop the desire to make things come out our way and simply let things happen, trusting that every way is our way.  We remind ourselves of what Govinda said, ‘The certainty that nothing can happen to us that does not in our innermost being belong to us is the foundation of fearlessness’” (p. 203).

This week, all I am going to write about is this small excerpt.  It says so much. 

First of all, it is important to realize that our work toward higher consciousness and higher level functioning is never done.  We are human!  There is no end of the road or “there” to get to.  We are in constant evolution. It would help us all to get super cozy with the concept of being in process.  I fully know and accept this and was kindly reminded of it today.  Yes, that’s also part of the human deal:  you get it, then you lose it, you get it, then you lose it.  The game is: how fast can you get your awareness back on track?  One merciful part of the process is that usually the more times you “get” something, the deeper you integrate it.

The issue of trying to get our way by controlling outcomes is what I want to talk about.  Let’s just put it out there right away:  when we are strategizing mentally, coercing, convincing, pressuring, nagging or getting angry to make things come out the way we want, that is called controlling.    Don’t worry, we need to be in action and control things to some extent.  Where we want to look is where we are over doing it.  When we are over doing it, it is likely that we are not accepting some part of reality and wasting our energy fighting against the flow or we are getting in our own way.  Most of the time, over controlling comes from fear.

Here are a couple of ways to address this:

  1. Realize the importance of equanimity.  My general understanding is “I do my work and allow others to do theirs”.   We need to let things around us do their work.  Cooking a steak in pan?  Leave it alone and let it char for a while.  Baking cookies?  You don’t want to keep opening the oven every two minutes.  You let the oven do the work.  Realize what is beyond your control or not yours to do.  It is that way for a reason!

  2.  You can ask yourself:  is there anything I am not willing to see and accept right now?  Usually what you are not seeing is quite simple, it fits into a 10 second truth.  It’s important to look for this because trying to over control comes from not wanting something to be true that actually is true.  There is a lot of pain and wasted energy in not being able to be with the world as it is and our circumstances as they are.  There is actually beauty and perfection, right now, all around you.  It’s a question of whether we are present to it or not. 
  3. Consider the possibility that everything is EXACTLY as it should be in this very moment.  Even if it is difficult or painful.  Human beings have an intrinsic drive toward growth (growth doesn’t always happen when things are easy) and we are imperfect, so pain is inevitable.  When we are trying to control, we are often trying to avoid pain.  Resetting back to the consideration that everything is exactly as it is means you don’t have to control any outcomes.
  4. Allow yourself to be vulnerable to whatever the feeling is in response to the reality that is in front of you that you are not liking.  Yes, it is OK to be sad or worried about your child being held back a grade in school.  And, it might be the very best thing for them.  Yes, it is OK to not want to have surgery AND it might be what your body needs to get better.  Just because it is for the best in the long run, doesn’t mean your feelings about it shouldn’t get their day in the sun. 
  5. Being connected to yourself and present to the world is really the safest way to operate.  Why?  Because all the resources and wisdom you need are inside you and everything in the world around you is exactly as it needs to be for your life’s mission.  We get ourselves into trouble when we are disconnected and avoidant of the truth around us, when we try to control the truth of what is around us.  If you can be connected, the feelings you have about a situation will do their job of giving you the message of what needs to come next.  The idea is to learn how to let those feelings be and learn what they mean.  How can you be connected?  Start tuning in to your interior world.  Write, talk, notice the sensations occurring in your body in response to what is happening.  How do you be present to the world?  Slow down, be mindful, meditate, try to see things with new eyes.

*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".  

Trusting Audacious Intuition

by Adrian W. Hall, MFT, ATR

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Letting go of control and creating space for things beyond what we currently imagine possible is a hard thing to do.  Why?  Because it means leaving behind what we know and what is safe, even if it makes us miserable.  And it means leaving behind what is familiar for something you can’t even clearly see yet.  It comes up over and over again for my clients:  Do I choose to go on as I am now, for logical reasons like money or time? Or take a risk by leaving my job, my relationship, living with my family or [fill in the blank]?  Let me just include that I also see this when people are confronted with having to give up a way of being.  It is not just about giving up concrete things like a relationship or job, it can be about giving up the way you act in a relationship or the way you handle anger.  When people are asking this kind of question, to do what is logical/familiar/safe or to take a risk, it is usually because there is a level of discontent (at best), but underneath that, I suspect there is a deeper part of them that knows they need to take a leap.  **I should put it out there that someone who is often avoidant and has a pattern of running away might an exception to this. 

I also hear about and witness people having powerful experiences as a result of taking the leap.  I know of many stories where people have left a job without any prospects because they were so unhappy.  They chose their happiness over security and, just in time, when they were going to run out of money, another, better opportunity was presented.  It is not just their happiness that they chose, it was the inner wisdom that was coming through being miserable that they chose to honor.  That internal feedback is so important.  Sometimes that feedback comes in the form of unpleasant emotion because pain or discomfort is a powerful motivator.  This week, I want to share a section of David Richo’s book where he illustrates this very concept:

“A dramatic example of this occurs in the Odyssey when Ulysses, after leaving the island of Calypso, is shipwrecked.  He has lost his crew and his fleet and is alone in the sea holding onto a single plank.  Hope seems lost when suddenly Leucothea, a sea goddess, appears and tells him that the only way to survive is to let go.  His logical mind tells him that the tried-and-true method of maintaining flotation is holding onto the plank.  Yet his intuition, represented by the goddess, tells him to let go and thus invent a new and bold response to a here and now crisis.  He chooses (as he does throughout the Odyssey) to listen to the female part of himself and to trust audacious intuition.  He lets go of the plank and more: his garments.  He treads water without physical supports.  Then the goddess gives him a magical push that propels him effortlessly to his next destination.  Notice two features of the story are significant: Ulysses had just left the arms of Calypso, rejecting her offer of divinity and preferring to return to his wife, Penelope.  He chose not to be allured by the temptation of a quick and easy advance in consciousness but rather to continue his journey home gradually.  This was the first choice he made that prepared him for the miraculous rescue to follow.  His second preparation for empowerment was his hopelessness.  No intuitions came to him while he was safe at sea.  Marvels occur when there is room for them” (p. 200).

I especially love the last part: ‘no intuitions came to him while he was safe at sea’.  In the moment where we are uncomfortable because we are dissatisfied with what is happening, we forget that the pain (feeling hopeless, unsatisfied, miserable) is simply information.  We don’t need to take it super personal.  Feel it, it is real.  But no need to make it dramatic.  Sometimes I see my clients in the midst of this kind of process where their hopelessness is building and I want to ease their discomfort, but, in fact, the discomfort is an important part of the process and if I took it away, it wouldn’t be able to do the work it is there to do.  My hope is that in sharing this story, that it might catch you at that very moment where you are getting information about needing to take a leap or needing to let go so there is room for the miraculous so that this can be a gentle reminder to let the process unfold.  Let go, it is OK.  The new way, the next steps will appear.  And, they will probably be even more awesome than what you were designing in your mind or what you were living before.

*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".  


Gateway To Grace

by Adrian W. Hall, MFT, ATR

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“We ask less. ‘What is my goal?’ and more, ‘What is my destiny?’ (p. 194).

For the last several weeks, I have been posting about what David Richo says about our power and being assertive.  I love how he designs the flow of When Love Meets Fear because topics build so beautifully.  This week, I want to talk about what he is saying about the other side of being assertive, which is allowing.

There are a lot of beliefs and dialogue in our society about having goals and making things happen, which is a real and true power of our humanity.  There is a lot of reinforcement and reward for people who “get things done” and work really hard to achieve their goals.  This is fantastic.  However, focus on just achieving goals and asserting our human power of thoughts and will is only half of the game.  There are forces at play that are a lot larger than we are. 

David Richo begins talking about allowing as “spiritual receptiveness” and describes it as the place “where happening completes doing.  It is the other side of the assertive style that uses new awarenesses as the means for reaching goals” (p. 193).  In my estimation, the idea is that our lives are a co-creation.  It is important to have a direction and motivation for what we want to do and where we want to go in our lives.  It is important for us to get the ball rolling.  AND, we need to cultivate our receptivity and awareness of the forces around us that are guides.  This is where we create space for synchronicity to occur, for our heart's desire to present itself and for things to align around us to support our life’s path in ways that are more elaborate and perfect than we could ever consciously conceive.

David Richo talks about one of the ways of cultivating our receptivity is to allow ourselves to “be present to whatever may surprise [us] next” (p. 193).  It means that we open up our vision, senses and awareness to receive information that will guide us toward what there is for us to do or be in this life.  It means not becoming blindly focused on forcing something to happen just because you may have decided at some point in time that you wanted that (maybe even arbitrarily, in response to fear or in response to what seem like dictating, outside forces).  It means tuning in to all the information and power available to you, some that is beyond your control and, most likely, wiser than just your human or ego consciousness.  The information can come through dreams, sensations in your body, through repeating images or waves of feeling in response to the outside world or synchronistic events.  Our job is start by having intentions and interests, to be receptive to guiding information, then to act on that guidance.  That is the co-creation that utilizes the power available to us in this life time in order to live in alignment, be at ease, appreciate the beauty of this existence and grow as much as we can. 

*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".