Spring Cleaning

Spring is here and for many of us that means it’s time for Spring Cleaning.  We go through our closets and toss what’s out of date or what no longer fits us;  we wash the winter grime from our windows;  we move the furniture to get to those dust bunnies,  and often find something we’d long been searching for.

But when was the last time you did some spring cleaning in your psyche?  The last time you took stock of your habits and relationships,  eliminating the ones that no longer served you well?  Can you remember when you last cleaned off the lenses through which you see the world,  thus enabling you to see things more clearly?   When was the last time you pushed aside the attitudes you take for granted (i.e. the heavy furniture of your life) and looked behind, to discover feelings you thought you’d lost?

We all need to take stock of our lives now and then.   Maybe it’s time to cut loose that relationship that sucks your productive and emotional energy.  Maybe it’s time to look at a situation from a new perspective, even for a little while,  if only to notice how things feel different.   Maybe by breaking routine and forcing you to approach daily situations from a new direction, you will discover emotions and strengths you haven’t felt in a long time.

Change doesn’t magically descend upon us.  We have to be willing to work at personal growth and change.    You can start today,  by doing a little personal spring cleaning.

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Lucky in Love

Lucky in Love:
Secrets to Being Irresistible

Lucky in Love

Change your life! Order your copy now! Click here.

Wisdom distilled from many years of loving, dating, failing, picking myself up again, dusting myself off, and getting back into the fray. If you follow even 10% of the advice in this book, your love life will improve 1000%. I promise.

“I think Lucky in Love is one of the best books on the subject of love and relationships I’ve ever read. I run the matchmaking program at a large singles organization and immediately ordered copies for every member of my program.”

Lisa M, W. Orange, NJ

“Lucky in Love is insightful, funny and full of great advice. I’ve reread it dozens of times already, and every time I do, I understand Adrienne’s philosophy a little more. It’s especially helpful when I’m in the midst of relationship problems. This really helps me put things in perspective.”

–Diane G., Stamford, CT

“From the first page, Lucky in Love had my attention. It explores all those things you already know, intellectually, about love and explains them in a way your emotions can understand.”

–Brian B., New York, NY

“I’ve been carrying around Lucky in Love in my handbag since I got it three weeks ago. I reread it every day, and every time I do, I absorb a little more of Adrienne’s very wise philosophy.”

Sandra L, Brooklyn, NY

“This book makes so much sense. It should be required reading! ”

Kelly J, Astoria, NY

“Adrienne’s lectures are so inspiring, and this book is a continuation of her positive and amazingly useful philosophy. Often her suggestions require a serious change of attitude on my part, but every time I follow her advice and make that effort, I see the benefit in all my relationships.”

Rachel S, Great Neck, NY

Sehnsucht, The Addiction to Longing

I recently read an article in the New York Times, which introduced me to the German word, Sehnsucht.  The author, Carina Chocano described it as  “the feeling of being addicted to longing for something; specifically being addicted to the feeling that something is missing or incomplete.”   The object of the longing is beside the point.  It is the feeling of yearning, itself,  which has the value.

If we should attain our hypothetical goal,  we will no longer have the longing for it.  Since the longing is the true goal, the hypothetical goal must always remain just out of reach.  Obviously, there are deeply ambivalent feelings about this “object of longing” because we must deny it to ourselves as much as we want it, striking a delicate balance. In most cases,  we mistake our hypothetical longing for true longing, and thus are not even aware we’re chasing the wrong thing.

I find this concept fascinating because it is the hallmark of much of our frustration, procrastination and/or unhappiness.

We all have fantasies about various futures for ourselves – romantic,  personal, professional.  Fantasies,  are by their very nature,  more satisfying than the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of reality.

For example,  most of us have imagined at some point in our lives how wonderful it will be to fall in love (for the first time, or again.)  In our fantasy, everything is perfect.   In reality, however, human beings are imperfect; they come with emotional baggage.  They fart and snore and argue about whose turn it is to take out the garbage.  Even in the most loving, supportive relationships,  that oogly-googly feeling of hormonal limerance doesn’t last more than a couple of years. Before we know it,  we’re longing for it again.

Sehnsucht explains why people often become involved in relationships which cannot be fulfilled (i.e. adultery or a cyber affair): they want that bittersweet desire for what they cannot have.  It also explains why people do not actively pursue their most desired personal goals:  why they don’t write that novel or quit their job and travel the world or lose a lot of weight and become a fashionista.   Imagining these things is very emotionally satisfying and totally safe.  There are no dangerous emotional risks; no possibility of failure and/or rejection;  no chance that unpleasant reality will ruin the dream.

There is nothing wrong with desire and longing, per se.  It is the essence of hope and motivation.  But we must be careful to distinguish between our true goals,  which we can pursue without any ambivalence;  and Sehnsucht, which is generally self-deceiving and ultimately can lead to hurt, disappointment and frustration for ourselves and others.

Understanding the difference is a huge gain in self-knowledge.  It’s the kind of epiphany which can change your life overnight.  An insightful life coach can help you get to the crux of these issues and separate them, so you can see them clearly.

Please visit my website:  www.artofepiphany.com

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.

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!

Perpective Changes Perception

Today, I stumbled upon this incredible work of art by Belgian artist, Fred Eerdekens.

I love this piece for so many reasons.  It’s brilliantly creative,  drolly clever and  technically amazing.  Much more than that, however, is that it really illustrates,  in a visceral way, how perspective can totally change one’s perception.

Look at this artwork from one angle, and it seems to be nothing more than a random, tangled mess of twisted metal.  But step back,  look at it another way, in the right light and from a different perspective, and its deeper meaning suddenly snaps into our brain.  We can never regard the twisted metal as  insignificant again.  Our perceptions have been permanently changed.  We cannot “unsee” what we’ve have seen; “unlearn” what we have learned.

Understanding the significance of our own experiences is often just a matter of perspective. Change where you stand,  and the experience is perceived differently. That’s how epiphanies happen.

How can you change your view,  so you see things differently?

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.

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!  🙂

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