Category Archives: Evolving Perspectives

Does Your Voice of Fear Camouflage Itself As Intuition?

“Trust your gut” they say.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes my gut seems to be shouting at me to avoid things at all costs, or to run like hell!

Or is that really my gut?

The voice of fear does an excellent job of impersonating the voice of intuition. So how to tell the difference?

Some threats are more real than others...
Some threats are more real than others…

To be clear, the voice of fear is not necessarily bad or to be ignored. The opportunity is in knowing who’s talking (or demanding) and to get specific on what’s being said.

I believe fear is a basic physical and emotional response to threats to either our survival or our identity.

So the first step of discernment is learning what YOUR body feels like when you’re feeling afraid. When that buzz is going on, be wary of the “advice” you’re getting.

Then ask yourself, “What part of me is being threatened?”. What is really at risk of being annihilated? Usually, that allows some perspective (assuming you answer yourself truthfully ;-), and permits a detachment and reduction of the cold buzz of the fear. It allows the “smarter” parts of your brain to start functioning again.

Then ask “What is threatening me?”. This further empowers you to stand into your “detached observer” role, letting your wisdom and reason come more fully online. Once you’ve gotten this birds-eye view (feeling, caution, what’s at risk, the actual threat), and have slowed down your reactions, you can query your wiser self about the next best step. That first step – close in…

Because now you’re waking up and not running on autopilot. Which is exactly what fear is so damn talented at doing. That’s not a bad thing. Just not needed in most situations for most of us…   ~Z

Some ideas about making the hard tasks easier…

Stuff’s gotta get done. Some stuff is less important and hopefully you’re constantly discerning what’s necessary and what you can let go of. But there are still crucial things you need to do in your life, and some of those things aren’t pleasant. Maybe it’s cooking. Or organizing. Or paying bills. Maybe it’s your rehab exercises or perhaps just bathing that you want to avoid because it hurts. Or maybe some essential tasks that you might otherwise enjoy or at least tolerate become seemingly intolerable on those days when you’re having a relapse or a flare-up. Yet not doing them is going to cost you.

Gotta be a better way, yes?
Gotta be a better way, yes?

Fill in the blank (as many times as you like): I really don’t like _________.

A question to ask yourself is; “How can I attenuate or lessen the unpleasantness of this essential activity?”.

I bet you already do this in some areas of your life unconsciously – maybe play music when you’re cleaning or listen to audio books on long trips. Pills in applesauce anyone?

I’m challenging you to consider attenuation for the most important activities that you resist the most. Maybe rock out to your favorite musical soundtrack when you’re exercising. Or cook when you’re not hungry (yes, I eat before I cook big batches of healthy food to freeze) – or have a stool to sit on in the kitchen. Maybe fold laundry when you’re talking to a friend or watching a comedy.

Taking lots of breaks or breaking tasks up into small chunks and quitting before you get exhausted works for me. Turn things into a game or take a playful approach, or keep score. Just having company during some things can be a big assist.

Oh, and asking for help and letting someone help you makes EVERYTHING EASIER!    ~Z



Being Entrenched – A Double-Edged Sword

Entrenched… This word was ringing in my head this morning. Not a word that I even knew was in my vocabulary. But there it was.

I was reflecting on lives of friends and clients and myself when it bubbled up. I was thinking about big life changes and how frustratingly difficult (or seemingly impossible) it can be to make big changes in our lives even when we can logically see the value of the change.

We have other words for it. Stuck. In a rut. Trapped. But there’s something about this idea of digging in and staying put (in say, a military sense) in order to defend and protect something precious that is sticking with me. It’s like some of us are willing to go to our graves stuck in habits not serving our higher or grander visions for ourselves and our world.

It’s like in our entrenchment, we have dug in and are defending something. Which is fine if you can articulate what it is you’re protecting or defending. But I think many of us have forgotten.

The flip side is this. Despite being rooted in old habits and ways of being, we can choose to become entrenched in new habits and new ways of being. I have, and I bet you have too.

So the question becomes one of asking yourself what trench you’d like to climb your way out of that is no longer serving what you know to be the highest priorities in your life. And what new trench would you like to start digging for yourself?

You might have to figure out what you’ve been protecting all these years. Or maybe just start digging?   ~Z

Did You Make Yourself Sick?

In this world of The Secret and the interconnectedness of all things… there are copious schools of thought around how our outer illness might be a manifestation of some unresolved inner trauma. Questions arise like: “Did I Make Myself Sick?”, or “Am I Keeping Myself From Getting Well?”.

Maybe not…

Here’s what I’ve learned: It probably doesn’t matter.

Building instead of digging... might have more long-lasting results?
Building instead of digging… might have more long-lasting results?

If you’ve got some inner work that needs doing to reduce your suffering and grow yourself into the person you really know you are – then do that work. Find the right therapist or coach or journaling routine and get crackin’. Getting straight and real with yourself – learning to ask yourself the hard questions and hear the truth – can’t help but support your efforts to take responsibility for your life going forward.

And in the meantime, start doing what it takes to re-claim your life so you’re reaping what you want to reap from your brief experience on this planet. There are a thousand things you can do that are probably more helpful than worrying about finding that Gordian knot in your psyche that, “If I only unraveled it all would be okay”.

I’m not saying that revealing some emotional block won’t miraculously cure you. But I wouldn’t wait to start taking good care of yourself – doing those things you know will be good for you independent of your health conditions. Eat well. Sleep well. Move well. Set some boundaries and ask for help. Frankly, if you’re blaming yourself for causing your own illness, seems to me these kinds of responsible actions would be an antidote to that lingering doubt (and shame?) as well.

My point? Even if you did get yourself into this, there’s still only you to get yourself out. What’s YOUR next step?     ~Z


A Fruitful Way to Enhance Accurate Communication and Support

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”    George Bernard Shaw

Most (but not all) of us have the ability to speak. But we all know that words don’t tell the whole story – that sometimes when we respond to content without taking into account the tone and body language and context etc. – we can miss what’s actually being communicated.

What if we learned from our miscues and from those who know us best?
What if we learned from our miscues and from those who know us best?

There is a beautiful way to make clear what we really mean by doing a bit of collaborative and proactive spelunking with those who know us well to discover what we’re really saying with our actions.

For example, it’s important for people in my life to know that at anytime when I am cranky, it might mean my blood sugar is low, and to ask me if I’ve eaten recently.

There are 4 components here, which are:

  1. Context – what is happening
  2. Actions/Behaviors – what the person does or does not do
  3. Possible meanings
  4. What a helpful response might be (as defined by the person)

Using your imagination, you can see that working up a chart with this information could be useful for most any relationship, but especially one where underlying physical/mental conditions have a bigger influence.

Fill in the blanks for yourself. Think about times when you’re being misunderstood and feeling poorly and just can’t seem to get the right reaction from others in your life. Like when you’ve just gotten back from work, or the store, and are complaining about what’s been happening – it might mean you just want to be heard, and the response you want is for someone to listen, not to probe or give advise.

Got it? My challenge is to ASK someone in your life about YOUR indirect communication, as THEY know better than you. Then, begin your chart – so you BOTH know what’s really being said.  ~Z


Why others may not get it that you’re sick – and a great way to explain it!

You've got a limited # of spoons to spend each day in spoon theory. You choose where to use them.
You’ve got a limited # of spoons to spend each day in spoon theory. You choose where to use them.

Because they want you to be well.

That’s the simple version. And let’s trust that some of their “want” is coming from a good caring place.

Some of it may also be coming from a place of discomfort. You know how uncomfortable you can feel when someone else is suffering and you feel like  there’s really nothing you can do about it? But you want to do something so you say some trite comment like “this too shall pass”, or “it’ll all be okay”, or “it is what it is”, or “it could be worse”… (okay, these are some of my pet peeves when I hear them – I’m sure you’ve got some of your own).

The point is that we say these things because we’re uncomfortable, and saying them reduces that distress – if only for a moment. Here’s the thing: you don’t have to respond, and you don’t have to let them in. Use your armor of reminding yourself their comment is about them, not you.

Another reason they don’t get it is that they just don’t get it! They can’t know what it’s like to be you, just like you can’t know what it’s like to be them.

In that vein, I ran into a brilliant metaphor to living with illness called The Spoon Theory. Maybe you already know about it, but if not, I highly recommend a read. And perhaps more importantly, this is a resource for folks in your life who aren’t getting it. It may explain your life in a way you’ve not been able to. This story/theory articulates the phenomenon of our limited resources and the hard choices you have to make day in and day out. And there are thousands of “spoonies” out there!    ~Z

You know how to feel sick. How do you feel alive?

Here’s what NOT to do… Don’t make a list of the things that make you “feel alive”. It’s too direct. Go at it from several angles.

Use the back door to sneak up on otherwise elusive truths...
Use the back door to sneak up on otherwise elusive truths…

To do that, search your memories and those of people who know you well. Have fun with this!

For you – let your self drift back in time to places and events when you;

  • Felt really creative
  • Really liked yourself completely – warts and all
  • Were proud of how you showed up in a challenging situation
  • Felt great about a service or help you provided
  • Believed in your sense of purpose
  • felt calm and connected and at peace with yourself and the world
  • had a blast!

Write those answers down. Keep the list alive for a few days so other things will surface.

For Interviews –  ask at least 2 people for their memories of their experiences of when you were:

  • having a ball
  • a lot of fun to be around
  • full of joy and hope
  • the most naturally “yourself”
  • living your dream and expressing your natural gifts

In search of the bigger picture, also ask of yourself and others for when you were;

  •  unhappy, depressed or miserable
  •  just NO fun to be around
  • NOT liking yourself
  • anxious or generally troubled
  • NOT managing all the parts of your life well
  • mean or disrespectful to the people you love

This is a project. Proceed with caution.

Your answers will reveal themes. To discover them, for each answer, ask “why” 3 to 5 times. Ask “Why did that make me feel happy?” and when you get an answer keep asking. Same thing for the “unpleasant” stuff.

If you narrow things down, you’ll have a template from which to consciously choose “ALIVE”. And maybe even a foundation for a new vision for your future?

If you want help, you know how to find me…       ~Z


Going through versus trying to go around the problem…

Honey, let it out. Be pissed if you’re pissed. Be scared if you are scared. Be Real. Pushing every negative emotion to the back burner means that those pots are still simmering

This is from Danea Horn’s book Chronic Resilience. I don’t know that I’ve seen this important self awareness/management concept communicated so succinctly.

What's cookin'?
What’s cookin’?

Allowing and honoring emotions is not the same as wallowing in them. Allowing emotions (which might look like naming them, acknowledging, and simply being with them) is frankly, being respectful to your inner self. And by doing this, we accept this part of ourselves, form a relationship with these emotions, and can go forward with the new information (and perspective) we otherwise would not have.

This is one skill helping you to go through versus going around (which is really another version of avoidance) whatever seems to be happening (or not happening) that seems to be thwarting your expectations and/or desires.

Simple but not easy. It will likely take practice to undo some habits of reacting.  And that’s the problem of not telling yourself the truth about what you’re feeling – that sets the stage for saying or doing something that only later we reflect as “I wasn’t myself”. Yes, you were yourself – you were your scared and angry (less mature?) self in denial about what you were really feeling. And frankly, when we’re in that state, we don’t even have access to the more reasonable parts of who we ALSO are…

The next time emotion rings your bell, your choices can be to;

  1. Accept
  2. Suppress
  3. Wallow

Only one of those choices will keep you moving forward AND moving in the direction you keep telling yourself you want to go – and keep your back burners from overflowing…  ~Z


What if you were your own best friend?

We know we can be our own worst enemy. We know intellectually that our reactions to our situation are what creates much of our suffering. I’ve written about practices to counteract our shame and self-defeating messages.

We all need a little more of this during the tough times...
We all need a little more of this during the tough times…

All of this self-help stuff is about learning to get through challenges, rather than making them vanish. And while everyone can count on more challenges of one sort or another, WE have the advantage of familiarity  with what are challenges are about and how they are going to look and feel. We can anticipate our responses that hinder rather than help.

So start preparing now for the next gauntlet the universe is going to throw down.

Question: Are you aware of the unkind things you say to yourself, or are they happening under your radar?

Practice listening. Ask yourself whether you’d say these things to a good friend? Would a good friend nag you about all the ways you’ve messed up or how lazy or stupid you are? What would you do for a friend in your situation? I hope he or she would point out the things you can do rather than everything you’ve already messed up.

Dealing with ongoing health issues is a marathon that keeps on going. We need all the support and kindness and friendship we can get.

Challenge: Become increasingly aware of the actual words your unfriendly voice says to you during difficult times. Get the words for the judgments and criticisms and blaming and nagging. Ask what a good friend might be saying or doing instead. Ask yourself daily what you’d like from a friend and if you can, give yourself that.

You’re in this for the long haul. They call it that for a reason…    ~Z


What would be different if you stopped resisting? Part II

“What you resist, persists”.
Carl Jung

No… it's dead!
No…that parrot is dead!

One way I think about this idea of resistance is that if I’m resisting (or denying) something that’s already occurred, I’m in essence pushing against a past I can’t change and thereby not facing forward to watch (and influence) where I’m going.

And yet, sometimes I’m outrageously persistent in my resistance of some realities. I have spent good chunks of my life reliving events, and reviewing how so-and-so shouldn’t have done whatever. If you’ve done this, you know that the more you mull it over or talk about it, the stronger the resistance gets.

I find it to be the same with illness and the various symptoms. The more I tell myself that “this isn’t fair and shouldn’t be happening to me”, or “I’ve been following all my care strategies and plans so I shouldn’t be having a relapse right now” etc., the less able I am to actually conjure up a mature response.

Because resistance is one way of getting lost in victimhood. And feeling like a victim is another way of saying we feel small. And when we feel small, we’re in essence saying that we’ve regressed to BEING small – i.e. being much younger. I don’t now about you, but my younger more immature self only rarely had any solid advice or wise counsel.

So as in Part I of this, throw your pity party if you must, and then try saying “yes” to what is already true and cannot be undone. Ask yourself once again, what’s the next first step. You know, not the second or the third step. The first step. Close in. The one you don’t want to take. ~Z