Did you know that every single quality you see in another is what you already hold in your own consciousness? In other words what you experience with them are simply parts of yourself reflected back to you. The qualities that you most admire in people are ones that you already possess. Isn’t that beautiful?
Though you may not like it (or want to believe it) the same goes for those qualities that you dislike. If you can see this clearly then your relationships become an opportunity to see yourself honestly and to grow. As we learn to see everyone as a mirror we can gain a fundamental and life changing truth: if you want to improve your relationships you need to be the change you want to see.
My clients experience
As a therapist I frequently have clients come to me and talk about their partners. They may say something like, “He or she is just not listening to me. I don’t feel heard or respected. It’s like they don’t understand me and have no time to hear what I have to say”.
In response I would ask them, “What specifically do you see in their behaviour?”. And they might say, “Well they shout at me a lot, and they keep saying the same things over and over again”.
I can see clearly what they can not: that the other person also feels unheard, otherwise why would they be shouting and repeating themselves? The two are mirroring each others experience and they are seeing themselves (and their own actions and qualities) in each other.
So, how do we wake up to what we are seeing? How do we take responsibility for our own actions and qualities and realise that the other is simply showing us what we need to know about ourselves?
To help my clients do this I ask a series of powerful questions. First, “What would you like them to do to help you feel seen and heard?” Or, “What can they do to solve this situation?” They will usually tell me something like, “I would like them to stop what they are doing when I come home and listen to me. I would like them to just hear me without talking or fixing anything”.
People are almost always very clear about what they want the other to do. They are usually very clear about what the other persons faulty actions and qualities are. However, as you likely know, it is next to impossible and completely exhausting to devote yourself to changing another. Blame, frustration, nagging and disappointment are the usual ways we experience this external criticism. Yet when we can turn toward ourselves and see that what we are experiencing in the other is our own experience we have so much power to change.
With this is mind I ask the next powerful question, “How can YOU do that very thing in your relationship to break the cycle?”. In other words, using our example, I am asking them how they can stop what they are doing and just listen to their partner, without fixing anything. I am asking them how they can be the change they wish to see.
My personal experience
I see the mirroring experience most when I am relating to my children. I sometimes get frustrated and wonder why they aren’t they doing what I want them to do. Why aren’t they listening to what I say, why are they ignoring me and playing around? And then I realise, I am not doing what they want me to do. They want me to play with them and listen to what they have to say about their day.
I need to be the change I want to see. So I stop. I listen to them, give them a little of my time. I might say to them, “So you want to tell me about what you’ve done today and play some lego?”. Everything seems to stop there as they relax and feel loved. I am now free to express some of my needs too and they have become willing to listen and meet them. I ask, “Ok, how about once I have done that we’ll clean up the room and then go to dinner, ok?”. We’ve met each others needs and as such the world settles around us perfectly.
We are often so stuck in our own experience (they’re not listening to me) that we forget that this is their experience too (we’re not listening to them). We forget that they are just a mirror to us, and us to them.
Looking into the mirror
If you want to be the best you that you can be, start looking deeply into the mirror. Really look at what you see in others and know that it is YOU that you see. It is important to be crystal clear that the only reason someones qualities are annoying you is because they are also yours. As long as you do not acknowledge them as your own they will continue to frustrate you, while owning up to them provides you with the chance to grow.
If you find yourself being treated with disrespect, look within yourself and see who you treat with disrespect, whether it be a friend or yourself. If your partner criticises you, you will find that you are critical of yourself and most probably of others. If you never seem to fall in love, perhaps you don’t believe in love? If no one believes in your dreams perhaps you’re the one who doesn’t think you’ll ever amount to anything. It is only you who holds you down. It is only you who can lift you up.
And remember that this is true of others, that they are seeing themselves in you too. So it is likely that when you are head to head in battle with a lover, a child or a friend that they are having a mirrored experience. It is likely that you both feel distant, or unheard or unloved. Trying to get them to change the experience is fruitless. Instead look clearly into the mirror and ask, how can I be the change I wish to see?* It works, I promise.
*The caveat to this is abuse behaviour and relationship. The mirror in this instance is in relation to trust and self worth, and if you are in an abusive relationship please seek help from a licensed professional.
There are so many things in this world that we don’t know. As humans, instead of leaving the unknown as a blank page we tend to make things up. In other words, we are constantly making assumptions.
For example you are in a bar and a man looks over. You make eye contact and he smiles at you. You don’t know anything about this man or what his interest about you could be. You only know a couple of facts: two people looked eye to eye and the corners of his mouth turned up.
The rest, the parts you don’t know you fill in based on your perception of the world. You might assume, “that man is creepy”, or “ooh this one really likes me”, neither of which are founded in any kind of reality.
We walk around all day long filling in the parts of the world we don’t know with our projections. But what is a projection, and how does this process work?
As we talked about in our blog on Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP, there are two billion bits of info coming at us per moment in chunks of data. Yet we only process seven (plus or minus two) at a time. This means that in order to take in our experience we are constantly in a process of deleting, distorting and generalising the real experience. (If you’d like to know more about this you can read our NLP Blog or even better: join us for our 4 day INLPTA training this July 26-29)
We usually take in the data that already fits in with our current beliefs about the world, and we are always filtering data dependant on our current state (ie if you are sad, you look for depressing data. If you are angry you look for infuriating data etc).
After we have filtered out everything that doesn’t fit we are left with our projection. This is how two different women may sit in the same bar while the same facts happen and have two different experiences. One sees the man smile and feels, “oh, creepy” while the other feels “ooh he likes me”.
Also, our projections are constantly creating our experiences and another word for this is manifestation. What we think about the world is then how we take action and create the next steps of our existence. We are always manifesting whether we are conscious of it or not. We can manifest great things in our lives by focusing consciously on what we want and by being grateful and positive, or we can manifest more pain and suffering by staying in our limited and negative perceptions and assumptions of the world.
The problem with assumption
It is normal to try to fill in the gaps. Making assumptions is a survival trait: just as we discussed in our article about negative emotions, these parts of ourselves exist because they got us right here where are through a long line of ancestors.
Throughout time, we used assumptions because we needed to know about the world and people so we could understand what is safe and what is not. The problem is not that we fill in the gaps with guesswork, the problem is in assuming that it is the truth.
Your assumptions about the world and about people are not real. While at times they could be accurate they are far more often inaccurate. Then we begin to base our words and actions on conclusions that are not real and often harmful. This is most prevalent within relationships where both parties are living separate realities but assuming they know and understand the other.
It is important to understand that the only way to find out the truth of something is to ask: everything else you believe is simply a projection. And when I say ask: I mean ask and then really listen. Clarify what you have heard. Be like a great investigator that will not stop until they have arrived at the truth. There are many tools you can learn to do this; modalities that teach communication or getting yourself in front of a therapist who will guide you to talk with your loved ones.
Asking for clarification may look something like this:
Person 1: “Two, it looks like you are angry at me but I am not sure, can you tell me what you are felling right now?”
Person 2: “Yes I am angry, but not at you. I had a challenging day at work and I have a huge headache and I was hoping for an hour to myself tonight”.
Without gaining clarification Person 2 may have spent hours in ruminating thoughts about how awful Person 1 was being to them and creating all kinds of stories in their head that aren’t actually true. Much damage can be done to relationships in this way.
It can be very scary to ask for clarification as most of us are terrified of conflict or of being hurt or rejected by the truth. This fear often keeps us tied to our assumptions. We therefore live in a world full of projection: seeing the world only from our own perspective.
A fun (but challenging) exercise
An exercise that I love to give my clients is to take a whole week and try not to make any meaning. Look only at the facts. As much as you can see a smile for simply what it is, a smile. See anger for what it is, simply anger. Look around you and take out all the stories, assumptions and projections. Just be with what is. If you get caught anywhere and if you’re feeling brave, ask for clarification. Try to remember that just because you think it, it doesn’t mean its true.
Good luck, I’d love to hear how it goes.
Humans are social animals. Because we live together in complex social structures and cultures there will always be conflict. While this is an unavoidable part of life, how we manage conflict differs greatly.
When we are unconsciously in conflict we tend to be fear based and take on one of three unhelpful main roles: that of victim, rescuer or persecutor. When we can bring consciousness or awareness to conflict we transform these roles into something greater.
Stephen Karpman created the drama triangle in 1968 as a way to understand how conflict arises between people. It shows us what roles we take in unconscious conflict, and how we can use presence to rise above the triangle to take more effective roles.
Before we go into what the roles of unconscious conflict are, it is important to understand that at any time we are in movement between the three roles.
The fear-based unconscious roles of the triangle
Being the victim means you feel helpless, like the event is happening to you and there isn’t much you can do about it. As the victim we might say things like “this always happens to me” or “why am I in this situation again?” or “nothing ever works out for me”. There is a feeling of having little control over ones experience. We may ask for help but we don’t really want to be helped. The emotions characterised here is sadness.
In the rescuer role we take responsibility for other peoples problems and make them our own. We’re nice and we think we can help but usually we are doing so in a way that makes the other helpless. As a rescuer it is easy to neglect our own lives and the problems inherent in them, looking out to others instead. We may see people going through a difficult time and think or say things like, “Oh look at that person, I will help them”. We run to the rescue and solve problems for others instead of empowering them to take care of themselves. The emotion that drives the rescuer is fear.
The persecutor is frustrated, self righteous a bit of a bully. In this role we may think or say things like “they are wrong and I am right”, or “they need to do what I say” or “that person will get what is coming to them”. We are dominant, overbearing and characterised by anger. The persecutor is also sometimes called the villian.
The starting concept
Although we are in constant movement between the roles there may be one that we enter with the greatest ease. This is called the starting concept. What this mean is that one of the three roles may come more naturally to you and is the one you are likely to enter into first.
The starting concept is often how we define our identity or how we see ourselves. Inevitably, no matter which one you identify with the most, we will all end up as victims in a fear based unconscious conflict. Without presence, we all arrive at a place of powerlessness and hopelessness.
How do we get out of the drama triangle?
When we shine the light on consciousness we are able to move out of these roles into a higher state of being. The victim become what is called the survivor or creator. The rescuer becomes the teacher or coach. And the persecutor becomes the challenger.
Let’s see how this works.
Victim to survivor (or creator)
With awareness we can identify that we are in the victim role. Instead of remaining helpless we can instead think like a problem solver. We ask ourselves some key questions that will result in action and solution solving.
-What do I want?
-What steps can I take to get what I want?
We can also take active steps to look into what is going right over what is going wrong: for example making a list of all the things in your life that are currently working, writing down five things you are grateful for, or asking yourself what did I achieve this week?
Rescuer to coach
Awareness placed on our rescuer tendencies can help us to have less fear. We can allow others to be responsible for themselves. Once we can see clearly into the rescuing behaviour we can take ourselves out by remembering the fable of teaching a man to fish. This usually requires letting go of the dependency you have created for others.
We do this by listening and supporting others to find solutions for themselves. We must resist the urge to tell them what to do or give the answers to them. Instead, we teach them how to catch fish for themselves. This requires the belief that each person is just as capable of figuring out life as you are, that you are no better or worse than them.
You might ask, “what would you like to see happen?” or “what do you think you can do to change things?” It is also important to set healthy boundaries with the other regarding how much time you are willing to spend with them on an issue so each party knows where the coaching begins and ends.
Persecutor to challenger
To take yourself out of the persecutor role you have to bring presence to your anger. What is it that you want to be done? You must be firm but fair in your approach, addressing consequences of actions and setting firm boundaries.
You might say “if you keep your side of the agreement I will keep mine”. You must be able to recognise that it is not your problem to solve, but rather you have the opportunity to hold someone accountable.
The coke machine
When you are ready to step out of the drama triangle just remember that others aren’t always coming with you. This can create some disruption as you are no longer predictable to the people around you.
Imagine a coke machine. We all know that when you place your money in and make your selection the drink comes out. This is predictable and how it is. If the coke does not come out what do you do? Usually we start the shake the machine, tap the button, or rock it side to side. We’ll do many things to try to get the machine to do the predictable thing.
At first, as your behaviour is no longer familiar, others may try to push your buttons and give you a shake too. It is important to be ready to respond with presence and love, no matter what. Eventually, as you let others be, resisting the urge to rescue them, get angry at them or feel victimised by their behaviour, they may just rise out of the triangle with you too.
Recently we’ve been talking about NLP and how we can control our emotions so they don’t control us, and how we can find peak states from which to perform in our lives. Yet I also want you to know that you can consciously choose to turn toward a negative emotion for the purpose of learning from it.
First let’s explore why all emotions are necessary, then look at some examples of how to do this, then we’ll end with how to know the right time to do so.
The long line of survivors
We come from a long line of survivors. Since before humans were even human, the genetic code you currently carry was in existence, being passed from one generation to the next.
Through each line of evolution, the beings before you managed to survive past puberty against all the odds stacked against them. They used their instincts, intuition and thinking minds to make it through war, famine, illness and natural dangers. Once they had made it, they were able to reproduce and pass on what they used to survive.
They passed on their DNA to create you and me. In that DNA is everything they relied on to survive. There is the instinct, the intuition and a whole rage of emotions that guided them on their journey. There was fear anger, rage and cunning to protect from danger and learn to fight or flee. There was lust and love to reproduce and create the clans that would keep themselves and the young safe. There was loneliness so they would know to stick together. Energy, creativity, enthusiasm and joy so that they would have a strong will to live to the fullest.
All emotions are necessary
All of these emotions are necessary to us now, even the ones we tend to call bad. If they weren’t, they would not have been passed on. However uncomfortable they are, we need fear and anger and shame. We need disappointment and frustration. We even need denial. We need them because they teach us the way through life.
Usually we turn away from the so-called negative emotions because they aren’t enjoyable to feel. We may also have ideas about how we are supposed to act and be: like strong, courageous or kind, so we hide whatever isn’t that because we want to feel accepted.
There is another way to look at our negative emotions that can be truly powerful and transformative. This new way is to understand that negative emotions are a path to learning.
Negative emotions are a path to learning
What this means is that when we feel so-called negative emotions arise, we can turn toward the feeling and ask, what is this feeling trying to tell me? What is the lesson in this experience?
A good example of this is if you are feeling lonely. We often try to squish feelings of loneliness because they aren’t sexy by current societal standards. This has led to our current epidemic of isolation, anxiety and depression. If we were to sit back and acknowledge: is this simply a survival lesson that as humans we are happier together, what would we find?
There could be multiple lessons to learn from this, such as how can I increase my connections with other humans? How can I listen better, interact more freely? Perhaps the lesson is how to feel more comfortable in your own skin so you are not worried about rejection. Or perhaps you could learn better boundaries so that you can be in relationship without exhaustion. The lesson could even be about how to be more comfortable alone. The point is, you will never have access to that lesson if you don’t accept and turn toward the emotion.
There are other lessons you could learn from negative emotions, such as
Can I do this alone?
If this sounds difficult, you’re right. It is. I recommend that if the emotion is pervasive or overwhelming (such as depression) we do this process with the support with a therapist and the loved one’s around us.
Let’s take depression (which is a more concrete expression of sadness) as an example of how and when we might seek help. I often equate depression to an injury, like a broken leg. Looked at it this way we can see what we need to heal
If we’ve broken a leg we need to
With the right structure for healing around us we will be able to look toward the lesson in even the most uncomfortable emotions. If we can’t, then we won’t reap the benefit of learning, growing and enriching our lives.
When is the right time?
I believe in a balanced approach to life. There is a metronome between performing and rest. As much as we need to get out there and go for it, we also need reflection, grief, and quiet. Turning toward the negative emotion (with or without therapy) is for those times in your life when you wish to learn lessons, be introspective, or understand yourself and humanity. It is in introspection where we look into the nature of our life and the world.
As we have talked about over the last two weeks controlling emotions and finding peak states are for those time when we are feeling resilient, energetic and desiring performance. Whether we do this alone or with a coach, it is for those time when we want to improve our life and feel equipped to do so. NLP skills are all about getting results, bouncing back from difficulty, and controlling emotions so you can perform in peak state.
Using coaching and NLP methods you can actually perform at 100%, but in my opinion this is not sustainable: at some point you will crash. This is part of the metronome, or balance, of life. We need to know when is the right time to perform and when to sit back and rest.
I like to explain it this way: Coaching and NLP are for when we feel resilient, even if life is difficult or needs improvement. Therapy is also for those times when we are lacking resiliency, having breakdowns or feeling overwhelmed. In these times we can really have the support to embrace what we are feeling, allow it to be as it is, and learn from the lesson.
NLP began in California in the 1970’s, founded by John Grinder and Richard Bandler, and has developed ever since. These two researches wanted to explore how we could model excellence, so they learned how some the best communicators in the world got their results. They then packaged what they learned as ‘NLP’ or neurolinguistic programming.
NLP is most often called the study of subjective experience or the owners manual for the brain. I have found myself particularly stumped at how to properly explain what NLP is to those who haven’t yet studied it. This is likely because NLP is a practical experience and not so much a theory. Even so, I have been asked so many times about what it is and why I offer it as a training, so I am now attempting to put it into words.
Let’s start with a brief rundown of its many benefits and then we will go into some more specific areas of why and how this works. NLP will help you to
The greatest takeaway I have seen from NLP is how it improves your communication with others. This has brilliant effects on your personal life as you learn to express your needs effectively and speak your truth.
Yet in order to do this we have to address and enhance your communication with self. This requires us to understand how we already communicate with ourselves, and to increase our awareness of this process. When we are able to communicate with ourselves fully, we can actually choose our own programming to gain the most functionality and benefit.
Here’s what I mean:
Your internal programming
Each of us has an existing programming and a preferred internal language. This is due to many factors of our genetics and upbringing that we won’t go into here. You can think about it as an operating system like your phone or laptop. There are Apples and Samsungs and although they are quite different each works well in its own right. Some people prefer one over the other. Your operating system is the same.
In the 4 day NLP training that I offer I will teach you to recognise your internal programming and language: whether you are auditory, visual or kinaesthetic; whether you are general vs specific or logic vs abstract. We will break down your internal system so you can understand how you really work.
Once we know this about you, you’ll be able to have a clear understanding of what your programming is and therefore how we can get the maximum results you want to have for your life. This may be as simple as understanding how you can be happier, feel more alive, or communicate your needs more effectively to your spouse. It can also relate to work, daily routines or any other aspect of your day to day existence. Really, the possibilities are endless.
Your internal programming determines how you personally experience an event, which is what we call subjective experience. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Each experience we have is data rich. But as we take in an event in time, we run it through our own filters to understand what we are seeing. George Miller explained that there are approximately two billion bits of info coming at us per moment in chunks of data, yet we only process seven, plus or minus two at a time. This means that in order to take in our experience we are constantly in a process of deleting, distorting and generalising the real experience.
In order to share this experience with others we have to again delete, distort and generalise because of the limitations of language. Therefore we experience and share a watered down version of life.
Here’s the important part: HOW we delete, distort and generalise our experience depends upon our current state. I like to explain this ideas of state using the metaphor of coloured glasses. You still with me?
Let’s say you are in a sad state because you recently experienced loss of a loved on. Then it’s like you are wearing sad coloured glasses. This means you look around the world and everything looks depressing. Why? Because the sad glasses are deleting everything that doesn’t fit into the sad-lens. All those 2 billion bits of data are getting deleted, distorted and generalised down to fit the picture you have going on.
Your best friend may be sitting next to you taking in the same sunset on the beach, but she is wearing lust glasses. She is deleting anything out that’s not gooey and delicious because her experience right now is of new love. Same scene, different internal experience. You could then both go home and describe alternate watered down experiences coloured but your glasses. Hers would be one of love, yours of sadness, even though you shared the exact same sunset.
If we are wearing anger glasses, then everything looks infuriating, like a pair of shoes that lie out of place by the front door. The shoes are simply shoes. But if we look at them with angry glasses, then they become the F-ing shoes that the kids always leave out for you to trip over. The kids come home and see the shoes, but now they’re just shoes.
In this way, the event itself is not what we responding to: ie the sunset or the shoes. We are responding to the state we are in at the time.
In the 4 day NLP training we teach you how to identify different states. We then learn about “resource states” which are the states that are the most effective for what you want to do; ie what state do you need to exercise in? To parent, work or study?
We teach you to identify, access and lock in these resource states. We teach you to put on the right glasses. In this way you learn how to control your emotions or states, in such a way that they no longer control you.
NLP is a beautiful way to understand yourself, to learn the way your brain functions and to get yourself back in control of life. I hope this article has given you a richer understanding of what this training can do for you. Contact me if you would like to learn more book in to our next 4 day INLPTA training.
Over the last month or more we have been talking about self care and how to implement it, and how you can’t fill from an empty cup.
My clients have been asking how do I actually do this? How do I make the changes I need to make around the house to take care of myself? How do I care for myself with love and compassion and still care for my loved ones too?
The answer really is boundaries. Not narcissistic boundaries that don’t account for the needs of other too, but boundaries that are steeped in compassion for both self and others. In this way, boundaries and compassion coexist and work together. Let’s take a look at what this means.
What is a boundary?
When I ask my client what a boundary is they usually say something like “it’s a line,” or “it’s something you shouldn’t cross”. While this is true I like to remind them of one very important truth:
A boundary is made up.
This is significant for one very big reason: if you’re the only one who made it up, and no one else knows about it or believes in it, then you’ll find that boundary being crossed over and over and over again. Clients say to me all the time that they try to set boundaries but that no one listens to them. They set some rules and get walked over by the kids, the spouse, the friends.
Does this sound familiar? If so, then the answer is probably that you must not be believing in the boundary very much. I tell my clients that the key to success is that you have to believe in that boundary more than they don’t.
Think of a line between states or borders between countries. In reality, they are just imaginary lines we drew on the earth and then agreed upon their validity. Everyone agrees that the line is there and sooner or later, they all behave as if the line is real.
Sometimes, if there’s resistance, we might war over those borders, lines and boundaries until everyone settles down to it and a truce is met. We might use fences or guards to reinforce them, in case those who don’t quite agree try to sneak across. However it is done, if we truly believe in the line between two countries and everyone else does too, then we’ll do whatever it takes to keep that line real.
While this can have unreasonable implications in a world sense (that we won’t go into here: no politics please) this is a great analogy for understanding how we can implement boundaries in our own lives. Here are some clear steps you can follow the next time you want to create a boundary.
+ Step one: set the boundary in the place that you want it
+ Step two: let everyone know where the line in the sand has been drawn
+ Step three: be absolutely clear about the consequences of crossing said boundary
+ Step four: patiently engage in any negotiation, arguments, or war that arises: and reach a truce
Some examples of boundaries
What kind of boundaries might need to be set? Here are some ideas:
+ how you expect to be treated or spoken to
+ behaviours you do or don’t expect from others
While not knowing how to set boundaries takes away our own freedom and joy, the boundaries we create should never take away from another’s freedom or joy either. The key component that guides us here is compassion.
Compassionate boundaries account for everyone involved. Keep in mind when considering all of this that narcissists generally have great boundaries. This isn’t an exercise in narcissism, rather when drawing lines you are taking into account the needs and desires of others: you are always offering the same thing you seek: kindness and respect.
A few questions to ask:
+ Am I honouring and respecting myself with this boundary?
+ Am I honouring and respecting others with this boundary?
+ Am I making this boundary free of resentment, anger or vengeance?
If you can answer yes to these three questions then you’re probably on the right track. A narcissist will always be able to answer yes to the first but not the second. A martyr will usually be able the answer yes to the second but not the first. The third question is there to help you avoid setting a knee jerk boundary out of spite or revenge. This may mean waiting until your anger has subsided so you can set a more reasonable line.
Understanding your audience
Once the boundaries are set we need to bring compassion to how we enforce them. This means understanding our audience. For example, the way I reinforce the rules with a young child will be completely different to my grown husband. The child will require much more firmness and discipline, which would be condescending and hurtful to an adult, who needs gentle and clear communication only.
The exception here is if you are in a violent, abusive or otherwise unsafe relationship with an adult. In this case the boundary will most likely be to walk away: as any other boundary you try to set is likely to end in violence and abuse.
For a work colleague or employee there is extra tact required: you may remind them of the goals of the team and positively encourage them to meet the expectation of the boundary in a way that they failed to do so. Or you may gently remind them of the area of their job description that is not being met.
When it comes to boundaries the two most important things to remember are this:
+ If you can’t create boundaries for yourself you will always be running from an empty cup, and
+ The boundaries you set should still allow for the other’s personal growth.
As a Psychotherapist and Coach, I see many of my clients trying to give out caring and love when they don’t have enough of it to give. They are depleted, resentful, frustrated and tired. And they are mad at themselves for not having more to offer their loved ones. “Am I a bad mother?”, they ask, whispering. “Am I a terrible wife?”
If this sounds familiar (at least sometimes) then this article is for you. It is about a very simple truth that often goes unacknowledged.
“You have to have it to give it”.
In this post we’re going to explore what this means and how we can get “it” back with healthy self care habits. If you don’t have a solid concept of what self care is, or you’ve never been able to implement it for yourself, then stop reading here and scroll down to last weeks post on self care.
Ok, you’re back? Great… let’s move on.
However we perceive the mystery of life, what we know for sure is that we are in this human body, and that this body has needs. If we don’t meet these needs we become depleted. It really is this simple, we cannot give out what we don’t have to give. And the experts agree: as best selling author and psychiatrist Dan Siegel says, “If we don’t care for ourselves we become limited in our capacity to care for others”.
I think about this mostly in the sense of being a Mum. If I haven’t recharged myself I tend to drag myself toward my children in a way that includes my exhaustion, irritability, short-temperedness and reactivity.
When I’m refreshed, clean, well fed and nourished I can show up as my best self: patient, kind, open, responsive.
Yet, none of us live in a vacuum. The reality is that we have people to care for and sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. On one hand, we are wired to be in relationship and community, and we thrive on the company of others: Family is what brings many of us our greatest joy.
Yet, if we’re not careful we can be left feeling drained by what our loved ones need, and by what other people crave.
As a mother of four children I know too well that if we are feeling depleted then filling someone else’s cup is short lived. Once we run out of everything we’ve got (which I have done repeatedly) we have nothing left to give. At that point, taking care of others becomes an exercise in martyrdom and comes with very little joy.
While this joyless sacrifice may be necessary at times, we want to keep it to a minimum. Mostly, we want to be a carer, mother, friend, employee, or partner out of a balanced and healthy place that feels energising, not draining.
There is really only one way to do this, and that is to keep your cup full.
First, let’s look at some signs that let you know you’re running on empty:
+ feeling irritable, impatient, anxious or depressed
+ being forgetful and scattered
+ finding yourself nit-picking your loved ones
+ complaining more than usual
So, what can we do about this? How can we fill our cup when we feel like we have so much to do? Many of us have the mistaken belief that it is selfish to put yourself before your loved ones. This is often heightened if you are a parent and don’t want to put yourself before the kids.
Yet this isn’t a me vs you situation. We all know the rules of an airplane crash right? You put your own oxygen mask on before the children. Why? Because if you’re not getting the oxygen you need to breathe, you’re not going to be able to help them either. In this light we can see easily that this was never me vs you. Instead it’s always me, then you. It’s me, for you.
These days I keep my cup full. I do this because I’ve changed my thinking to believe that taking care of myself must be done. If I don’t put on my oxygen mask then how can I hope to get the right kind of air to my loved ones?
Likewise, filling your cup must become a priority. There are many ways to do this and it doesn’t have to be fancy. Some nights it may just mean choosing the movie YOU want to watch. Or when you’ve really had enough you can tell everyone you have a headache and spend the day in bed.
There are plenty more ideas in last weeks post on self care, so if you haven’t already done so, give it a read.
The real question at hand is, what kind of parent, wife, husband, or friend do you want to be for your loved ones? Cranky? Resentful? Grumpy?
Or open, loving patient and kind?
The decision is yours. Choose wisely.