Saturday, September 18, 2010

Let Go of Pushing Yourself So Much

One of the things that I've noticed about our culture (here in the U.S.) is that we push ourselves (and others) to accomplish things. We build buildings, hike up mountains, tear down forests, lay down roads, make money, go to games, have children, buy and sell homes, upgrade the car, go on the vacation, party, and generally pack our schedules so full with activities that we do not have time to rest, etc. To compensate we eat food that makes us feel happy for the moment (but bloated later on). We drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes (or pot, etc). We watch TV to distract us from feeling generally unhappy and unfulfilled in life. And, then when we go get an EKG and are surprised to find that our hearts are not functioning correctly and our bodies are filled with fatty substances that make us look unappealing, which in turn makes us feel worse about ourselves. So, in our depressed state we stuff a doughnut in our mouths and plop in front of the TV to keep the cycle going over and over again. It's no wonder we feel like we're losing our minds!

We look to romance or moving to a new location/job to make us feel better. Maybe complaining to everyone that will listen will help. Or, blowing up at the neighbor for parking too close to your driveway and blocking you in. Yelling at the computer when it doesn't do what you need it to do.

All of these are distractions from what really needs to occur... change needs to come from within our selves.

So, how do we make the change to being more happy, more content with life?

Start with slowing down. I'm serious. Slowing down is not a bad thing. It can allow you to relax. To have fun. To do something you enjoy without pushing yourself to get something done or accomplish something important.

How about that walk you wanted to go on? Have you taken it yet?

Or, that trip to Colorado you were longing for? Has it happened?

What about snuggling with your husband, wife, daughter, nephew? Have you taken the time to play with them? Throwing the frisby? Playing Yahtzee? Telling them you love them?

How about taking a nap? When was the last time you took a nap? Not a long one (that would mess up your sleep for the night), but what about one where you dream of your next vacation. Where would you go? What would you do? How would you feel? Allowing your self to relax in to what can be good about life.

Stop thinking about what isn't getting done. Let it go.

Relaxation is one of the things that rejuvenates the body and recharges the brain so that you can better tackle that busy life you have when you get back to it. An article recently quoted on NPR indicated that research shows people who get 10 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period do better and are more productive than those who do not. Can you believe that!? I'd say it's time to take advantage and work on increasing our sleep time each day.

Either way you go, you will always benefit from letting go of pushing your self. Stop trying to make someone else happy, or keep them from getting angry with you. Let go of frustrations because you can't get something done when you want. It will happen in time. They say that 90% of our problems resolve themselves. That's pretty impressive! Maybe it's time to let a few things go and start to do things that make you feel happy with you...right now.

Homework: Let go of pushing your self so much, and start to do things that make you feel happy with your self and the world. Relaxation is key to good health.

Crying Is Good For The Soul - Letting Go of What We Do Not Want

Angel loves to try to make me laugh. She is slender, in her mid-thirties and angry much of the time. Until she begins to cry. Then, suddenly, she becomes humorous. "Oooh! I hate it when this happens! Makes me feel like a fish out of water, gasping for breath, only to realize I have two hungry fishermen looking at me, ready to skin me alive and eat me for dinner. I hope they choke on my bones!" She laughs, and looks at me expecting me to laugh too.

She knows it is a distraction, and is using it to the best of her ability to keep her self from feeling foolish. The ache in her eyes is obvious, however, and when I do not respond to her self-depricating, dismissive humor she slowly stops. This is when she allows her self to cry with out stopping it. Then, another defense comes out. Instead, of humor, she begins to get angry, lashing out. When I don't respond to it either, she finally begins to calm down and says to me, "You're not playing fair."

This is when I smile. "I know. But, you need this." And, she does. Angel has grown up not allowing her self to show pain, because showing pain was showing vulnerability. And, those that loved her (her father and grandmother) would attack her for it. Who wouldn't learn to dismiss their feelings and express their pain in angry ways? I know I would. And, I have.

But, I also know that it didn't work. I still felt miserable. I still felt unhappy. And, I knew that I wanted it to change. So, I cried, allowing the hot tears to fall down my stinging cheeks. They were my outlet for release.

Release is a good thing. It is not always important to cry, though the body needs it from time to time as there is a toxin that can only be released through our tear ducks. We can also release through exercise, being creative, sleeping, writing, talking to someone we trust, laughing, etc. They are all healthy releases for pain.

But, sometimes, the best thing to do is cry. Let it out. Let it be ok that you are crying. Choose a safe place to do it at first. It helps us realize that we do not have to feel shame for expressing our pain, that maybe showing our pain is a strength, instead of a weekness. It frees us up even more and we no longer feel constrained to express how we are feeling. That release. Letting go of what we do not want: pain, sadness, fear, grief, loss, etc. Letting them go is one of the healthiest things we can do. And, crying is one of the healthiest ways to do it.

Homework: Find time to cry. Let it out. Choose a safe place that you feel comfortable in. Dont' force it though. Allow it to come when it is ready. Trust the process. Trust your self.

Knowing the Precious Difference Betweeen What We Can and Cannot Control

This concept is the next step in realizing how to use healthy boundaries. It comes up time and time again, "So, how am I supposed to deal with some one when they get upset with me because I said 'no'? How am I supposed to deal with that anger and guilt?"

What people say, how they respond to us can bring about hurt. We were raised to be considerate and sensative to others feelings, after all. However, it can be taken to an extreme, where guilt and anger are used as tools to manipulate and even coerce. This type of control is what we want to avoid.

Unfortunately, instead of avoiding the anger and the guilt by simply walking away, we do everything within our power to make that person stop being angry or stop our own sense of guilt from hurting us. This allows them to get what they want from us. In this type of dynamic, what they say and how they say it has more control over us than what we think and what we do to take care of ourselves.

We give away this power to control ourselves for many different reasons. We do not want to lose their love, companionship, friendship, or caring. We may not want to feel the all-consuming guilt that resides within us after years of conditioning that tells us we are some how responsible for another person's happiness. We believe this is true! After all, we have no choice. Right? We grew up having no choices, so what is there to believe that is anything other than what we were told or what we were forced to endure???

This is where you have a choice. When someone tries to use guilt to get you to do what they want you to do, then it is important to walk away. Get space. Calm down. When you are calm you can think more clearly and then choose what you want to do, separate from the guilt or anger or hurt feelings. Ask your self, "How can I take care of myself here? What do I need to do to take care of myself given what is going on? I know I can't change him. So, given that is the case, what do I need to do to take care of me?" Waiting until the answer comes to you and then acting on it will set you free. You are your own best-friend! You are your own safe-place! Trust in this.

Once you practice this a few times, you begin to feel it. You feel free. You feel at peace. You feel happy again. All the things that are great about being human. They are at your finger tips.

Some people may feel that this is being "selfish". This is a distinction that I work with many people on. There is such thing as being a "healthy selfish". There is such a thing as being an "unhealthy selfish". As always, there is a balance between putting ourselves first, and considering the feelings of others. Although we want to see others happy, it is not our responsiblity to sacrifice ourselves in the process. In day-to-day interactions, we must take care of our needs first so that we can have more energy to assist others in meeting their needs. Finding this balance can be tricky. But, it is important.

It is also important to note that once you allow this for your self, you must stop using your anger and guilt to try to control or manipulate others. Watch out. We have been conditioned to use these tools and we have gotten to the point where we don't even realize we are doing it. When you are angry, walk away. You have a right to your anger, but you do not have a right to take it out on others. We cannot change others. They are going to do and say what we may not want them to do and say. You can make requests, but using anger or guilt to control them will only get this vicious cycle back in place, and it will also make you feel miserable about your self.

You know you care about others. Now, what is it going to take for you to begin to care about your self? What are your needs? What are your wants? Do you allow your self to express them? Or do you push them down in order to please others or avoid someone's anger? You have to decide if you are going to live miserable any more, or if you are going to choose a happy life. It IS your choice. No one elses. And, even though someone may be angry initially whe you set a healthy limit, they most of the time will adjust and come around.

Homework: Find that balance between self-care and tending to the needs of others. Work towards taking care of your self first, and then think of what you can do to assist someone else. Children can also learn this valuable lesson, on how to take care of themselves instead of giving too much of themselves away.

Creativity Heals

One of the things that I've noticed more than anything about being an art therapist is how creativity, allowing one's self to be creative, can open a person up to heal more than just about anything else I've ever seen.

Creativity is the essence of what is alive and exciting and flowing and rejuvenating about life. It allows us to tap in to possibilities, as apposed to shutting ourselves off from the world. It opens us up to what we may want or what needs to be expressed so we can let go of the negative and painful emotions/feelings we’ve held on to for so long. Those same negative feelings can burden us, making us feel guilt and anger, sadness and regret. All of these emotions cause a cascade of unhealthy chemicals that are released from our bodies that eat away at our mental and physical health, until we are literally dying.

Whether creativity helps us to get the negative emotions out, or whether it allows us to open up to more positive possibilities, it is healing. Allowing creativity to flow is key to recovering from life’s pumps and bruises, its traumas and disappointments.

Creativity can come in many different forms. You can, of course, use art to be creative. Art can be just about any form of expression using just about any medium, from painting, to sculpture, to ceramics, to interior design, to hair design, to designing clothes, etc. These possibilities are endless and can be a great deal of fun (another positive and important aspect of healing, allowing your self to have FUN!). Other aspects of creativity are in every day life. They can be in your cooking, raising children, smiling at people, balancing the requirements of life such as shopping and work. Creativity comes when we are looking at the possibilities rather than the impossibilities.

So, try it! Open up to being creative. Look for your options. What would you like to do that would be fun? What would make the situation fun? Or, at the very least, more relaxing? You are the one in control. We may not be able to control those around us or the world’s response to us, but we most certainly have control over our response to the world! Choose to be creative NOW, and then see what happens…

Point to this lesson: Work with the individual to get beyond the blocks that would keep her from being creative (i.e. open to solutions, rather than closed off). Work in small ways. Start with something simple. Then, use the analogies that arise (through symbology and metaphor) to open up the possibilities in her life.