Be Careful What You Wish For…Your Wish Just Might Come True

Wishing for something is another way of saying “focusing mental and emotional energy on” it.   If you’ve never seen the movie, Bedazzled,  (either the Peter Cook-Dudley Moore 1967 version,  or the Brendan Fraser- Elizabeth Hurley 2000 version) I recommend them both highly…not just because they are both equally brilliant and hilarious,  but because the premise is a wonderful metaphor for how we desire.

Essentially,  Stanley sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for seven wishes.  All his wishes center around trying to get a certain woman to fall in love with him so they can live happily ever after.   The Devil,  however,  (being a devil) takes him at his word and each time,  gives him exactly what he asks for, which of course,  never turns out to be what he wants.  There is always some element which frustrates him and/or makes him miserable.

One of  Stanley’s big mistakes, is that he focuses too much on either superficial things or on the structure of the relationship,  leaving the Devil ample latitude to mess with feelings.  For example, in one scenario,  he is wealthy and powerful and married to the love of his life — just what he asked for — except she is in love with someone else.

Are you focusing too much on attaining goals which are only superficial to your ultimate happiness?   If you got EXACTLY what you wanted,  would that satisfy you? Make you happy?  Are you certain?  What about that situation or achievement would make you happy?  Is  there perhaps a surer path to that goal; one that may be more in your control?   More within your ability to attain?

These are questions a good life coach can help you define and answer.

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Before You Can Trust Others, You Need to Trust Yourself

“I don’t trust him,” she said.

“Why?”  I asked.

“I’m afraid he’s going to hurt me.”

And that about sums things up in a nutshell, doesn’t it?  Mistrust of others is a way to protect ourselves.  We doubt their sincerity . we keep up our guard. We proceed under the assumption that others want to cause us harm,  in order that we may avoid the harm.

But what if, hypothetically,  we were invulnerable to harm?  What if we could know another’s true intentions? What if we were so emotionally strong or flexible or Teflon,  no pain could stick to us?  What if we could avoid or roll with any punch?  What if we were emotional Supermen in the face of some two-bit bully?   Would we still have to be so careful about keeping defending ourselves?

Obviously not.   The less fragile you are,  the less careful you need to be.

When you mistrust,  you are essentially saying is,  “I don’t have the ability, experience or knowledge to ascertain real danger,  nor to withstand psychic punches. Thus, I must avoid them at all costs.  And if I err on the side of caution, so be it.”

What if you could hone your instincts about others so you always had a good sense of their intentions? What if you could develop your emotional muscle so you were better equipped to handle life’s slings and arrows?  What if you had utter confidence in your ability to get up, dust yourself off and press on,  unscathed,  like the Emotional Terminator — no matter how many times you got knocked down?  What if you knew how to handle any issue in a productive, satisfactory way?  What if you knew the secret to using pain and disappointment to your advantage?

In fact,  all these are learnable skills, which come with practice (and the right philosophy.)  The better you get at them,  the more you can relax  your guard; the fewer reasons you have to mistrust others.  And the less you mistrust others, the more you can open yourself to love.

There can be no complete love without complete trust,  so before embarking on your quest for True Love,  first, you must learn to trust yourself.

(c) 2012  Adrienne E. Gusoff   All Rights Reserved

Are You A Prisoner of Your Own Façade?

Each of us presents a façade to the outside world.  We put on a face to others to make ourselves appear stronger, happier, braver, more secure, more successful and/or more “together” than we feel inside.

We are sometimes required to be amenable to people we don’t like,  but we  put on the “friendly face” because we have to work with them or because they are members of our family or in our extended circle of friends.

This is normal and correct social behavior – in moderation.  We certainly don’t want to parade our insecurities and weaknesses for others to see and perhaps exploit. We don’t want to express every thought or feeling that passes through us.   We need to protect ourselves and sometimes the feelings of others.  Also, simply presenting a brave or happy front often makes us feel better,  as we see that “better” image of ourselves reflected back in the eyes of  others.

We must be careful, however, not to become prisoners of our façades.

Debbie played the “good wife” in an unhappy marriage for so many years,  by the time she was in her mid 50’s,  she didn’t even know who she was any more.  It took a lot of therapy,  many tears and finally a divorce to help her get back in touch with who she really was as a person.

To the world,  Alex is a real ladies’ man.  His credo is “wine, women and song.”   He’s never stayed in a relationship more than a few years, and none of them were exclusive.  Now in his early 40’s,  he feels alienated and lonely.  He has no close friends.  If he were to be totally honest with himself,  he might admit that he would like to be in love; to have a special person in his life; to have an intimate relationship.  His reputation,  unfortunately  precedes him…even with himself.  The façade has become is identity.  He always finds himself attracted to the same kind of women  —  beautiful but mostly shallow;  none of them worthy of commitment – and this frees him from actually having to MAKE a commitment.  To the outside, he’s happy- go-lucky;  inside,  his emotional life is an empty wasteland.

Dan has low self-esteem and inside, feels completely unworthy of the love and respect of others.  He is charming and amicable,  although he keeps people at arm’s length.  When he is finally alone,  he feels put-upon, over-extended and obligated to people he doesn’t even like.  Often,  he wishes he could say  “NO!  I don’t want to do that!” or “Just leave me alone!” but he has an almost pathological need to please;  to hide his “dark soul”  from others.   The effort of holding up this façade is psychically exhausting.  He often expresses the feeling of being “trapped in cage” that he is afraid to break out of.  (the fear is, if others saw his ‘real self” they would know how “unworthy” he really was, and then no one would like him.)

He is smart enough to see all this, and yet, remains incapable of freeing himself, which in turn makes him feel powerless, pathetic and even more unworthy of love and respect. The walls of his “prison” are the façade of his own making.

Façades are a necessary component of our social lives, but we must always take care to not to lose sight of our real selves and our own needs —  even if the ONLY one we are truthful to is our self.

(c) 2011  Adrienne E. Gusoff

Thought for the Day

If you can’t be vulnerable, you can’t fully communicate.

If you can’t fully communicate you can’t be “known.”

If you can’t be known, you can’t be loved for who you really are.

If you can’t be loved for who you really are,

You can never experience real intimacy.

The Crux of the Problem

Often when clients and friends tell me their problems and issues,  the stories get very complex.  Who did what to whom and when;  how that made them feel. …but then he/she did this and it made them feel another way.  I hear all the “ameliorating” circumstances; the justifications;  all the actions and reactions of and to the various players; the interpretations and extrapolations of behaviors and emotions.   In short,  the whole soap opera.

It can be very cathartic to confide your feelings to an understanding listener,  and I’m always happy to be that person…BUT…in my experience,  most folks make things much more complicated than they really are.  This, in turn, makes problems much harder to solve.

The fact is, every problematic situation,  at its core,  has just one or two  basic, important components.   When you take away all the unimportant, extraneous stuff,  you’re left with the crux of the issue.   Hey, you can orchestrate Frere Jacques with a New Orleans jazz band, a batteria of Brazillian drummers and the Vienna Boys Choir but it’s STILL Frere Jacques.  Personal issues are much the same:  you can jazz them up with all kinds of “drama,”  but usually they boil down to something very basic and simple.  Once you have that kernel,  your choices become clear.

Often it’s helpful to have an experienced, objective and insightful professional help you distill the issue to its essence,   Just a reminder…if you need me,  I’m here!  🙂

Change What Defines You

We each have a narrative we tell about ourselves;  a character we’ve created.  We act in accordance with the qualities we’ve attributed to this character,  good and bad,  usually running on autopilot, seldom stopping to consider if our story continues to serve us in the best way.

Jim prided himself on being a dedicated and hard worker – an admirable quality to be sure – but he worked so much and took on so much responsibility,  it was wreaking havoc on his personal life and his health.

Greta thought of herself as a pillar of her community.  She was always the first to volunteer or join a committee; helping people in need, etc.  Ultimately, it took its toll on her family,  in part because it was a way of avoiding some serious issues in her marriage.

There are the self-definitions that serve as pre-made excuses and self-fulfilling prophesies:   Fran told me,   “I’ve always been unathletic;  that’s why I don’t exercise.”    She was always the last one picked when the kids were choosing teams and this led to a lifetime sense of humiliation and shame when it came to any kind of physical endeavor. (I can relate!)  I certainly would not have encouraged her to take up a high-risk sport that required a great deal of coordination,  but she was eventually able to enjoy the type of athletics in which she competed against herself (swimming, tai chi, yoga, bike riding.) She was able to let go of that stressful competitive feeling whenever she thought about any kind of physical activity and enjoy the healthful benefits.

Rachel complained, “I always have the worst relationships.  I don’t even want to bother dating anymore, because I know I’m just going to be disappointed and have my heart broken.”   It had been many years since she had any kind of romantic relationship with a man.  Eventually, she came to understand that when she expected the worst,  that’s exactly what she got.  Once she adjusted her expectations and just started meeting men without having any agenda,  she found she enjoyed the companionship.  And because she’d let go of all those heavy expectations,  she became more relaxed, and thus much more interesting and attractive to men.

Too often,  we define ourselves by our failures or flaws,  blinding ourselves  to our finer qualities.  Dana thought of herself as unattractive and was convinced this was the reason nobody would ever love her.   Paul saw himself as not very smart,  and thus,  “knew” he would never be successful.

While there may be some validity in such self-assessments, they are hardly the sum and total of who we are.  Everybody has faults, weaknesses, flaws and things they’d like to change about themselves, but to define yourself by your negative qualities is self-defeating and sure way to keep you from accomplishing your higher goals.

True,  Paul may not be the smartest guy among his peers, but by defining himself as “stupid” he blinded himself to his other fine qualities.   He is a generous, sweet man,  a loyal friend with many friends and co-workers who like and respect him.  He’s a hard worker and a loving husband and father.    Eventually, he came to understand that his finer qualities are so much more valuable to his happiness and overall well-being.

Similarly, Dana finally embraced the notion that beauty comes from within.  When she exuded happiness and confidence,  men were attracted to her.

Jack was terrified of making a mistake.  The fear was crippling to the point where he could barely make a decision. Change was impossible because he could not move from his spot.  He thought of himself as a coward, and this virtually guaranteed that he would never even attempt to change; his “destiny was already written.”   Slowly,  he came to regard “mistakes” as merely lessons, to be embraced.  This freed him immensely.

Of course, it is important to differentiate between things that can be changed and things that cannot be.  Sometimes,  what we think is immutable, is changeable with the right effort and mind-set.  And sometimes,  we waste years (even a lifetime) trying to become what we are not.

Usually, things are changeable to a certain degree.  For instance,   Dave was  not an aggressive-go-getter type, so becoming wildly successful in a highly competitive field was not in his future.  Nevertheless,  he learned to be more assertive when necessary and this helped him tremendously in business.

Larry was pathologically adverse to risk, which made life changes difficult if not impossible.  He started his metamorphosis by taking easy, low-risk challenges to build up his “muscle.”  Once he had a string of successes under his belt,  he started to feel more confident in his own judgment.  And a few failures that didn’t destroy him helped him understand that he could survive if things didn’t work out as he’d planned.

Ask yourself if your own self-definition isn’t limiting you; getting in the way of you achieving your goals.  Try thinking of yourself in a different way… you don’t have to act on it just yet.  Just try on this new persona and see how it feels.  You may be surprised at how easy it is to change from the inside out!

© 2011 Adrienne E. Gusoff    http://www.artofepiphany.com   all rights reserved

Be Careful What You Wish For…

One of my clients been reading a lot lately about manifesting one’s desires with positive thinking.  In other words, “Ask, and the Universe shall give it to you.”

I do believe one can have a lot of success with this approach,  but I don’t think it’s the “Universe” per se,  giving you what you want.  There’s nothing magical or mystical about it.

When you have a clear goal in mind for yourself,  you are not distracted by the things that pull you away from that goal.   If your laser focus is on making lots of money,  you are probably going to be working longer hours;  enjoying  less recreational time;   perhaps not “wasting” money on “frivolous” things but rather pumping it all back into your endeavor.

Likewise, if all you want is to get married,  it is unlikely that you will “waste your time” on “unsuitable” dates who don’t meet your “criteria.”

You will notice I have used a lot of quotes in the above paragraphs on what I would consider subjective terms.  Let me explain further…

Too often,  we think we want one thing, but in reality, that object of desire merely represents what we actually want.    For example, when I work with singles, one of the most common goals I hear from women is “I want to get married.”

As a specific objective,  this can lead to big mistakes that may negatively impact the rest of their lives.  Before taking laser aim at this target,  I ask them to question their actual motivations.  What does marriage represent to them?  For a lot of women,  it’s all about the big, fairy tale wedding with them as Queen for the Day.  Their goal is the party where they are the center of attention, NOT the marriage itself.

For some women,  marriage represents a public acknowledgement that they are worthwhile; that someone values them enough to marry them.  For others, it’s about security and being taken care of.   For some, it’s about having a father for the child(ren) they want.

I don’t believe any of these are reason alone for getting married.  For any relationship to be happy and healthy, it is imperative that we enter it knowing first how to take care and value ourselves.  Marriage should be about mutual support and friendship; with a deep respect of each others’ goals.  To enter marriage with a need for validation is a sure recipe for failure.   Want to be the center of attention at a party? Well, then throw yourself a huge bash,  but never mistake a wedding for a marriage.  A wedding is over in a few hours;  a marriage, if you’re lucky,  lasts the rest of your life.

Likewise,  people often chase money, fame and/or success because they need outside validation.  Validation for one’s worth only has meaning when it comes from within.  I so often meet outwardly successful people who are terribly insecure within; what drives their success is their deeply rooted need for the validation of others.

Let’s go back to that earlier paragraph, with all the quotation marks.  Generally speaking,  if you ask people why they want to achieve a certain goal or possess a specific thing,  at the root of the answer is, “I believe this will make me happy.”    Often people will pursue these goals with amazing single-mindedness. Worse, they beat themselves up if they cannot  achieve them.   People rarely give much consideration to what will truly make them happy.  In fact, few people spend any time at all even thinking about what happiness really is.

For many people,  “happiness” is some imagined state in the future that will occur when certain conditions have been met. (i.e. marriage, the great job,  success in their field,  fame,  certain goals achieved or bad things eliminated, etc.)

Studies after study has shown that achieving goals does not bring happiness, because there is always another goal, and another, and another.  Happiness is rather a state of mind.  Happy people have a certain skill set that allows them to be happy under almost any circumstance.

Happiness is the equilibrium that allows you to process your life in a positive, healthy way.   It is knowing how to ride the wave of emotion instead of drowning in it.  It is the confidence of knowing you can roll without breaking.  It is the appreciation of the lessons in the journey.  It is the ability to find joy in small, seemingly insignificant things.

Happiness is not the absence of sadness but rather the understanding that life is full of sadness which will not kill you. In fact, it will bring you deeper understanding, which in turn, will make you more content.

As the Buddhists say, “Life is pain; suffering is optional.”   In other words,  pain is what life gives you; suffering is what you do to yourself.

 

© 2011 Adrienne E. Gusoff    http://www.artofepiphany.com   all rights reserved

Change Your View, Change Your Life

I’ve always been interested in the deep, inner, complex  emotional lives of my fellow  human beings.   I love to understand what makes people tick — their motivations, fears, insecurities,  dreams, goals — and I think I’m pretty good at it.   Friends have always come to me for advice.  Even people who I’ve only just met tend to pour out their hearts to me.

 I take  genuine joy in helping others find more resourceful ways to solve their problems and resolve their issues.  I hope you will be inspired to positive change through my blog and website.

A little about me:   I am a life coach based in NYC.  I have both a private practice and am a motivational speaker to both large and small groups.   I am also a  freelance writer,  lecturer, humorist,  certified NLP and EFT practitioner, and  licensed hypnotist.   I have  written advice columns for international magazines and various websites, and have been the relationship expert for  Klugertown, a talk radio show based in Phoenix, AZ.

I welcome you to visit my website,  www.artofepiphany.com and invite you to submit questions for my Advice section or offer suggestions for topics.  Personal consultations are,  of course,  also available.

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