Putting Everything in Perspective

I saw a video over the weekend and it really got me thinking about the meaning of my life and the importance I give to events I experience. It made me wonder if I give thing way too much meaning and allow events to affect me entirely too much. Take a look.

http://digg.com/newsbar/science/i_stepped_out_of_a_supernova_and_so_did_you

From the perspective of time, we are alive for a blink of an eye. Even the most important things most of us experience will be known by a relatively few or affect even fewer. One of the guiding posts for how important something has been to me and how much emotional energy it deserves has been: Will anyone care in 100 years?  I understand even more the importance of events, or the lack thereof, when seen from the perspective of the universe and infinity. Even more reason to limit the impact even the most life changing events have on me. My life has value to me. I want to get the most of every day that I live. The quicker I can shed the setback, disappointments, losses, and other things that can negatively impact my emotions the quicker I can get back to a rewarding life.  In reality, considering the big picture, what happens in my life has no real meaning and are actually a series of events.  Seeing it this way changes everything.

I think it is a good idea to go through the process of dealing with, learning from, and moving forward as quickly as we can. Life is too short to allow events to limit our experiences or allow emotional pain or fears to inhibit our ability to enjoy life.

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Let’s Talk About Sex

I think it is time to change directions and begin discussing sex and sexuality. I try to write about the things I am dealing with in my life and in my practice. It seems that some weeks have themes and the same issues come up throughout the week.
This week the issue came up in sessions with couples. Sex, or the lack of it, is an issue I see repeatedly over the years. Currently the issue that seems to be presenting itself has to do with how women are socialized with regard to sex and their sexuality. There is a double standard between boys and girls. Boys are expected and in some ways encouraged to experiment with sex. There is a boys will be boys attitude. The general advice boys get is to be careful and avoid STDs and getting her pregnant.
Girls are told not to have sex (remain pure, save yourself for marriage, don’t be a slut) and sex and sexuality come with a great deal of shame. This belief system goes back to a time when women were looked at as having less worth than men and were practically the property of the men they married. In many ways, attitudes toward women have changed but the double standard remains. This causes many women to have great difficulty having pleasurable and healthy sexual relationships. The internal conflict can be debilitating, destroy self-esteem, and contribute to the destruction of marriages.
Once belief systems are in place they are very difficult to change. It requires a great deal of work to overcome. I will be writing more about sexual issues.

Dealing With Disappointment

I have what I believe to be a very realistic view of life. I have had my share or even more than my share of disappointments, failures, and losses. I had to learn how to handle the issues that have faced me, overcome them, and move on. I have seen people hold on to these things and continue allowing them to negatively impact their lives. This leads to long term depression, anxiety, and the inability to feel good about them and enjoy life. Sometimes these events have destroyed all or part of people’s lives. Many people think there is no other way to handle it. Many never learned the skills to overcome and put the past where it belongs…………in the past.
Here a news flash: The past does not exist. It already happened. All that is left is the memory of what happened, the meaning we gave it, the feelings we have associated with it, and how we have allowed it to affect our lives. By accepting the things that we have experienced, our inability to do anything about them, and allowing ourselves to leave them in the past, we can begin the process of healing and getting on with life. As I say to clients, “you can be your story or you can have a story.” You don’t need to be a victim of the past.
We cannot change the past and need to stop focusing on the things we have no power over. The power we give these events has the ability to inhibit us from having a full and rewarding life. The power we have is to change what we think and do and how much we allow disappointment and grief to affect our lives. It has been my experience that life tends to unfold as it should. I have seen how a door opens when one has been closed and we have to be willing to identify the door. Take what lessons you can from a disappointing experience in life and move forward.

What issues would you like me to discuss in future posts?  I want this Blog to benefit you in some way.  I want to provide information on and help with the issues that are important to you.

Having Problems Falling Asleep?

Many of us have encountered difficulty falling asleep at times. For some people this is a chronic problem. Many of us have a problem shutting off our thoughts when our head hits the pillow. The harder we try to just fall asleep, the more difficult is seems to get. We lay there and lay there and lay there. Our minds may begin to race. Here is something that might help (I learned this little trick many years ago):

Close your eyes and think of a large white wall. Focus on the wall. Things will appear on the wall (your thoughts). When things appear on the wall, white wash the wall and make it clean again. Your task is to keep the wall clean. If you are keeping your focus on keeping the wall white, other thoughts will have difficulty entering your mind. This approach will slow down your mind and allow you to fall asleep.

Don’t give up if it doesn’t work right away. New skills take practice in order to master them.

One other suggestion: If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Do a little reading or write in your journal if you have one. Then try again.

What issues would you like me to discuss in future posts?  I want this Blog to benefit you in some way.  I want to provide information on and help with the issues that are important to you.

How Comformity Can Harm Self-esteem

We call it conforming to community standards, having an understanding of society norms, keeping up with the Jones’, or peer pressure. We can agree that most of us want to be accepted and liked. Starting at an early age we are taught what society expects (or in many cases what our parents believe) of our thinking, feeling, and behavior. When our natural inclinations come into question or we are scolded, corrected, or criticized. The intent is for us to conform to what is expected of us.  An example of this would be if a child was experiencing a feeling about something and a parent tells them he/she shouldn’t be having that feeling.  Another example would be to tell a child not to cry (big boys don’t cry).  We learn to question or become critical of ourselves and eventually start judging or ignoring what comes naturally to us.  This eventually evolves to shame about the person they are.

As we grow and interact with society, children encounter peer pressure to conform or blend in.  This further damages self- worth and self-esteem.  This can also result in isolation and alienation.  Many adults carry scars from the experiences they had as teens.  The identity they acquired in adolescence continues to intrude on their ability to fully function as adults.  They experience anxiety and depression and are unable to develop adequate coping skills.  Until  people learn to embrace who they are, fear and feeling inadequate holds them back from a fulfilling life.

Be who you are.  Be the best you can be at who you are.  As hard as you try, you can never be what others are or what you think others want you to be.

What issues would you like me to discuss in future posts?  This Blog is for your benefit.  I want to provide information on and help with the issues that are important to you.

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO BE NORMAL?

Have you ever wondered if you are normal? Do you spend time comparing yourself to others? It is not uncommon to have these thoughts because we tend to judge many things as being normal or not normal. If people don’t perceive themselves as having “acceptable” thoughts, feelings, beliefs, or behaviors, they think there is something wrong with them and believe they are not normal.

What is normal? One of the definitions of normal is that of being sane. I doubt most people reading this article think that they are not sane. Normal is also defined as regular, standard, ordinary, common, usual, or natural. I assume that what most people think of as normal is being ordinary, common, or usual. In other words, people want to think that they are just like everyone else. Many people want to believe that their thoughts, feelings, and actions would be like everyone else’s. Our own beliefs determine our own perception of normal. We only experience ourselves and most people don’t talk about their internal experience. If we have thoughts or feelings that we think are different from others, we could question if they are normal.

My next question is: what are normal thoughts, feelings, and actions? I believe that there isn’t one thought that is right or “normal.” I do not believe that any one feeling is right or “normal”. Is there one action that would be considered to be the only right or “normal” action in most circumstance? I think that we can be in agreement here. It is possible that different things would be considered to be normal as opposed to one. I think there are thoughts, feelings, and actions that would be considered socially acceptable in a given culture that would vary by culture.

We talk about the normal development of children. They roll over or sit up, stand, and walk by a certain age. If they do it a little early or a little later than what would be considered normal, they aren’t considered to be abnormal. We talk about a normal weight for a certain height. But there is a range that is considered normal. These are just examples of what we refer to as being normal.

If you consider the definition of normal as being ordinary, common, or usual, would most of us really want that? Who would want to be average or ordinary? Many seek to be extraordinary in one way or another. We admire those who are exceptional. Many of us aspire to be the best rather than average. If someone has an exceptional talent, intellect, or appearance, they are not ordinary, common, or usual. Those people are not “normal.” Maybe we should all avoid trying to be normal and just be who we are. It is something for all of us to consider.

Goals vs Expectations

One important part of having a healthy and positive attitude about life is having goals. It is important to have goals that are realistic and attainable. Short term goals are valuable and help to keep you on track and motivated to reach your medium and long term goals. It is also important to stay focused on the present rather than concerning yourself about the “what ifs.” The only thing that is real is the here and now. The future hasn’t come yet and the past is gone. The only thing you have any influence over is what you are doing now. Focus on what is in front of you. Complete that task and then move on to the next. You have a greater chance of reaching your goals this way. Reward yourself when you have met a goal or completed a task.

Fears may inhibit you from moving forward and completing the tasks you set out to do. Fears are about the future and only increase if that is what you focus on. To decrease your fear (of failure, success, how others will judge you, etc.) it is important to focus on what is right in front of you.

Expectations are a good way to set yourself up for disappointment. We have hopes and dreams and goals for our lives. But, the outcome (where we eventually end up) is not totally in your hands. Your life is affected by many variables that are totally out of your control. These variables directly influence whether we attain our goals or not.

To review: Set realistic and attainable goals for yourself. Have short, medium, and long term goals. Focus on the task at hand and the things you can actually control. Avoid having expectations of the eventually outcome.