Take Charge of Your Own Journey

How would your life and relationships be different if your primary goals in life were self- knowledge and personal growth?  What if, in your relationships with others,  you recognized that they, too, were on a journey of self-knowledge?  How would your relationships be different if you respected the journey of others?  What if,  without pushing or forcing them,  you gave them the space to experiences and discover for themselves?  What if,  by your behavior and knowledge,  you could be a shining  example for others,  so they might find a better way to live their lives and be happy?

Ideally,  isn’t this how a parent raises a child?   And isn’t this, then,  the purest form of love?

In this way,  we can recognize the humanity in everyone,  even our enemies.   We can feel compassion – not hatred – for those who do not take self-growth and self-knowledge as a personal goal.   They are the people who will muddle around through life, unable to find true happiness;  unable to form emotionally  mature relationships.  These are the people who cut themselves off or numb themselves from their own feelings.  They live in denial.

If you could maintain this recognition of the journey of others,  how different would it be dealing with difficult people?  How much more compassionate could you be?   How might your thinking and actions be different if you saw others in this way?

“A very nice philosophy in the abstract sense,” I hear you thinking,  “but how does this help me practically with [pick one:  my tyrannical boss;  my difficult relative;  my immature spouse, etc.]?”

Glad you asked…because once you understand the mechanics of this, it all becomes much clearer.  An example:

Jerri and Tom had been in a live-in relationship for a couple of years.  Tom was very jealous of Jerri’s friends and outside interests.  Initially, Jerri was flattered by Tom’s devotion and attention,  but eventually it became claustrophobic.  They would fight about it constantly.  Jerri loved Tom,  but she couldn’t stand his suspicion and his sulking and the inevitable arguments.  When, on the rare occasion she went out with her friends and left Tom home alone,  she would feel guilty that she was hurting him.  It was an untenable dynamic.

Once Jerri started to see her life in terms of a journey,  in which every experience, encounter and relationship is a lesson in self-knowledge, everything changed.   She began to question why she’d been attracted to Tom.  She started to examine the glue that held them together.

Initially,  she misinterpreted Tom’s clinginess as  “deep and abiding love.”   His possessiveness and jealousy “proved” to her that he would never leave her.  This placated her own insecurity and abandonment issues, which she had never confronted before.

She eventually came to understand that Tom’s jealousy was not a representation of his love for her, but rather a lack of love for himself – the flip side of her own coin.   Now that she was confronting and taking responsibilities for her own issues,  she understood that Tom needed to confront and take responsibility for his.   She no longer felt guilty when she didn’t give in to his unreasonable demands.  More importantly, she didn’t need his jealousy and possessiveness to assuage her own fears.

Now, when Tom got sulky,  instead of apologizing and feeling guilty,  she would remind him,  in the kindest way,  that he needed to deal with his own insecurity and fear of abandonment.  She simply shifted the responsibility back to Tom,  gently and lovingly.   Once she changed her behavior,  his only choices were to either embrace the change or end the relationship (to find someone else who would play his game, and allow him to continue with his limiting beliefs.)

To Tom’s credit, he was able to self-examine and grow, and their relationship is better for it.  Their problems haven’t vanished completely,  but the dynamic has certainly changed for the better.  Finally,  they are both taking responsibility for their own feelings and their own paths in life. They rarely push each others buttons anymore.  They have found a deeper love for each other because there is a growing respect for each other’s personal journey.

If you would like to know how you can take your journey to the next level,  please contact me via my website,  www.artofepiphany.com for one-on-one counseling or group lectures.

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Get Off That Mental Hamster Wheel!

I have a dear friend who continually beats himself up psychologically and obsesses negatively, to the point of crippling himself into inaction.  (Or  perhaps it’s the fact that he’s crippled into inaction by fear that causes him to beat himself up and obsess negatively.)

A couple of years ago,  I designed a series of challenges for him,  to help shift his thinking,  some of which I thought readers of this blog might find useful.

Here is one of them:

Next time you get stuck on your mental hamster wheel and can’t find a way off, try this. It’s a method which I have used, myself, with great success.

When you start to have negative thoughts, especially obsessive ones, STOP for a moment and say to yourself (aloud whenever possible) “I CHOOSE not to think about this” or “I CHOOSE not to think in this way.” Immediately replace those negative thoughts with something positive. Repeat as often as necessary.

It is important that you use the word CHOOSE, so you eventually understand on the deepest possible level that how you think is a CHOICE; that you DO have control over your thoughts and actions.

It’s not magic. Initially, you will quickly drift back to the negative thinking. (Hey, I never said it was going to be fast or easy!) At first, maybe you will only be able to stay away from the negative for a few seconds at a time — but if you keep repeating the mantra and replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones, slowly you will find you have more and more control over these kinds of thoughts (instead of letting your negative thoughts control you.)

There are two main kinds of negative thoughts: 1) thinking about bad things that have already happened (i.e. “regret”) or the possibility of bad things that may happen in the future (i.e. “worrying”) and 2) thinking badly of yourself and/or having limiting thoughts. (i.e. “I am worthless, incapable, hopeless, etc.”)

I find it helpful to have a happy, positive fantasy ready to think about when I start to think negative, especially in the first case. When you worry, it’s easy to create elaborate scenarios that start to feel real and/or inevitable. That’s why it is important to have something equally strong and elaborate but POSITIVE and HAPPY to replace it. The point is, you cannot replace a big worry which completely occupies your head with just a single, simple thought. You need a positive fantasy which you to imagine in a lot of detail, so you can really get involved in it and “experience” it mentally and emotionally. (Make it sexual, if you like! As long as it works!) Again, this may take time to develop. In the beginning, you may find yourself using the same fantasy again and again. This can be useful because you will have it “ready to go” whenever you need it. Sooner or later, you may develop/use different ones. Whatever works for you is fine.

In the second case, when you are having limiting thoughts (“I can’t…” “I’m hopeless…” “I’m not worthy…” etc). focus on your good qualities or things you have done that you are proud of .  Or,  simply congratulate yourself on the progress you have already made. Keep a mental list of these things, and make a point of adding to the list all the time. The goal is to have such a long, positive list that by the time you are finished reciting it in your head, the bad stuff looks miniscule in comparison.

This is a technique which takes time and constant practice to learn. Do not become discouraged if it is difficult in the beginning. Certainly, do not beat yourself up over lack of progress, and thus feel even MORE negative thoughts!!!! Just re-dedicate yourself to doing the technique. I can tell you from my own experience, that slowly but surely, you will find you have more positive thoughts than negative ones. You will begin to have confidence that you CAN control how you think. Eventually you won’t need the mantra; the process will be completely internalized.

You can do this!