Friday, June 24, 2011

Is Trying to Be Positive Making You Negative?

Do you ever feel trying to be positive is more like one step forward and two or more steps back? There is a good reason you feel this way.

You may believe you’re obligated to be positive 24/7; and that if you were, everything about your life you don’t like would shift to what you want. And, you’ve likely discovered that “Fake it till you make it” doesn’t work. It may even make you feel worse.

TRYING to be positive causes you to dwell on this as something you SHOULD be when you aren’t. Underneath your efforts is hidden the fact that trying causes you to practice the opposite—without realizing it.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at this. Let’s parallel the energy expression we call reality to water. And, let’s parallel our emotionally-charged thoughts to objects of various sizes and weights. Negative is heavy, positive is light. Drop something heavy enough into a certain amount of water and it sinks. Lighter objects always rise to the surface.

When you focus on the negative, you add more weight to what has your attention and you go down, down, down—near or to the bottom of your ability to express energy, creativity, and vitality on your behalf. This includes judging What Is as negative rather than looking at What Is and asking questions like, What opportunities exist here? There are always numerous inner and outer opportunities waiting for you to find them and make use of them. When you do, your energy gets lighter and you rise to the surface—you rise to the occasion.

The reason we follow the path of negative thought when something happens (or just “because”) is because of a habit we subconsciously believe is effective. It runs something like this: Something happens (or doesn’t). You feel upset, and your level of upset matches the level of severity YOU assign to what’s happened or is going on. By habit, you slip into judgment rather than assessment.

You start first by subconsciously looking for filed programs that match the current one as closely as possible. Like a high-speed recording—moving so fast you don’t even realize it’s running—you replay past voices and memories, starting earlier than you consciously recall and moving forward, until the moment you’re in. Certain statements or memories stand out, and they do so because one of your habits is to look for the right judgment that fits. When you find statements that match how harshly you believe you have to judge yourself, in relation to what’s happening, you’ll pluck them from the rushing stream of thoughts and repeat them to yourself. If you admonish and punish yourself, you’ll do and be better. How’s this worked so far?

What happens is you don’t use your own “eyes,” heart, mind, spirit, experience, or wisdom to look at What Is. You allow in the thoughts, perceptions, and judgments of others—it’s a habit, a bad one; and you aren’t alone in falling back on it. How many of your habitual mental behavior patterns are really yours, or belong to others?

Once you’ve selected the “appropriate” judgments from others regarding how you “should” feel and respond, you add your own to these. As someone who travels the personal development path, you compound this by judging yourself based on where you think you “should” be, instead of allowing yourself to go there. You add weight to the situation by imposing some or a great deal of negativity to it. From the Talmud: “When you add to the truth, you subtract from it.”

How often do we experience something and NOT add our weighted perceptions to it? This is a habit shared by many. When we add negativity, we subtract from the Truth of who we really are, what we’re capable of, and the fact there is a “bigger picture” than the one we see (and judge). This includes judging ourselves if we aren’t positive 24/7, or if we try to convince ourselves we’re positive when we aren’t.

You can’t convince your conscious self to be positive when opposite judgments are running in your subconscious. Neither does it work to add more negativity into the mix. What works is simple—not necessarily easy, but simple: Use the power you have and are to connect with a feeling from a memory that moves you to feel genuine appreciation about something, until you ARE in a state of appreciation.

If you’ve practiced negative thinking long-term, you may have to start with releasing judgment about this before you move into deliberately choosing positive thoughts. When you feel negative, ask yourself if it’s understandable that you do. It is, isn’t it? If it’s understandable, you don’t need to judge it, do you? But neither do you need to stew in it.

You can’t get into a positive state by judging your negative feelings. It won’t work to say, “I HAVE to get or be positive!” Instead, ask, “How can I raise my energy, even a bit, right now? If I can raise it, will I?” Small shifts have positive effects.

Practice makes progress.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Is Self Esteem an Issue for You?

Are you a member of the Low Self-Esteem and Self-Worth Club? What you’re about to read may inspire you to cancel your membership.

One of the times you feel low self-esteem and self-worth is when you’re around someone you believe, according to your perception, has more going for them than you have, whatever that is… money, success, a relationship, more stuff, etc. I say “perception” because no one has a perfect life or does everything perfectly all the time. But, people with self-esteem and self-worth issues may imagine this to be a fact about others, when it isn’t. Another time is when you’re around authority figures, which also gets addressed.

What happens when you’re with those people? Are you your authentic shining self, or do you sit quietly and try not to take up too much space? What’s this about, anyway?

When you doubt your self-worth, you’re afraid to be yourself, especially around people in authority or are successful, real or perceived.

Maybe you’ve noticed that when you’re with friends who know the real you—and still love you (grin)—that you can be who you are and do so with ease. Put you in the same room with a person you feel intimidated by, for whatever reason—a professional or personal acquaintance, or family member—and, what happens to you? The real YOU, likely, goes into hiding.

I think it was Ram Dass who said, “If you want to know how enlightened you are, spend a week with your parents.” If someone as highly regarded as Ram Dass can recognize this truth (or whichever wise person said it), then we can ease up on ourselves, don’t you think?

Tony Robbins had Beverly Kingsley join him on stage to talk about her weight issue. Progress was being made when Tony asked her why she now knew she had true value and worth. Beverly’s answer: “Because God doesn’t make junk.”

That’s about the most straight-forward response any of us could ever hear. We can cause human creations to perceive themselves as junk goods, but no creation starts out feeling that way—including, or especially, you… no matter what anyone told you or tried to convince you about YOU that is different from this truth.

It is unfortunate that people who were caused to feel low self-esteem and self-worth passed it on or inflicted it on you and others. But, even if they admit they did what they did, it won’t change the internal programs you’re running about this. You have to do that.

The next time you feel unworthy or intimidated when around one or more people, consider using these tips:
• Remind yourself that Source doesn’t make junk.
• Take a deep breath, or a few, and straighten your posture, whether you’re sitting or standing. It’s pretty difficult to feel like you’re less when you deliberately take up a bit more space (meaning, avoid folding your body inward, as though you need to protect it or close up like a telescope). Let your arms rest naturally on armrests of a chair, or find whatever posture feels natural but uses more of the air space around you (and repeat the first tip to yourself).
• Remind yourself that anything other than the truth of your uniqueness and unique contribution to life (whether you know what this is or not) is a lie. And, the most important person who needs to know this is you. This includes honoring your efforts about any aspect of your life you’re currently in the act of improving now.
• If you feel anxious in the presence of people who stir up such feelings, focus on being interested rather than interesting. 1) You’ll learn things; 2) it takes the pressure off of you to do anything other than ask good questions; and 3) it’ll make others happy to talk about themselves. If you really don’t like the person and it’s your choice to be around them, give thought to why you choose to be in their company. Vote with your feet, whenever you can or need to.
• If someone is a genuine problem to be with—abusive in any way, including verbally, please know that you don’t have to be around such people. Never endanger yourself, but do keep in mind that some people are actually bullies without bite. You may find that if you stand up to them, they back down. If they don’t, you want to give thought to continuing the relationship or not.

These are quick-fixes, though they can have lasting, positive effects on you, if you put them into practice. A more lasting “fix” requires you to reach the point where your opinion about you is the one that matters most. And, this is the most important point to keep in mind: If you chose to NOT think thoughts that “nurture” low self-esteem and self-worth, who and how would you BE? Someone may have planted the seed, but we are the ones who decide to feed it or weed it.

Practice makes progress.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Are You Stuck in Survival Mode?

Another word for survival mode is stress. When stressed, we tend to become something we don’t really want to be: self-absorbed. There is a way out.

An associate brought me up to date on her project. I offered a particular level of assistance. Here’s what she wrote back: “You’re so sweet to even care. In these times it almost feels like no one cares; everyone is so self-absorbed.” She did add that she might have been feeling sorry for herself at the moment. But, her comments reflect what goes on for all of us at one time or another—both on the giving and receiving ends, and especially during this time when so much is changing and fairly often.

Here’s some of what Adam King, creator of The Tessera Method, explained about survival mode.

When you feel threatened, your survival mode kicks into gear. Survival mode focuses most of your attention on helping yourself out of the threatening or potentially threatening situation. In survival mode your ability to show altruism or even love is diminished, and you push people away—literally and energetically. The thing about feeling threatened is that it can either be a real threat or it can be something you fear might happen.

If you’ve had a lot of stress in your life, for an extended interval of time or long-term, you may have an over-active stress response. You always feel anxious. Perhaps your stomach stays upset, or you gain weight, or you have frequent headaches. Maybe you don’t go out of your home, except to work. An over-active stress response causes you to bypass creative thought and reflection, and go right to response mode, which leads you to jump to a conclusion and believe your conclusion is true, when it may not be.

I spoke with someone who’d had cross words with an associate. For days, she’d been replaying what each of them had said, each time stressing herself more and more. She’s mentally engaging a problem she desires a solution to, which is why she keeps replaying it. Solutions would be to end the relationship (not desired) or to mend it (desired). Since two people with hurt feelings are involved, both have to want to mend it and in a way that satisfies both. But trying to solve this in her mind by replaying the problem on a non-stop loop will not create a desired result, only an ever-expanding perceived threat. Only right action will resolve this, one way or another.

Many of us today do not take time to reflect on what we see or hear. We pass information through our own (often) distorted filters—meaning we pull up past memories of experiences and convince ourselves what happened then must be happening again. We literally experience all sorts of trials and battles in our minds, when we aren’t actually engaged in them, whether that’s at all or just in the moment we’re in.

This leads to what King calls Automatic Negative Processing, where we try to find an answer for a problem or question that doesn’t exist—or a real problem that does exist, but we filter suggested changes through our survival mode and ignore them, because processing is a more comfortable place than changing is. When we are in an immediate situation, we take some kind of action. But think about how often it’s really happening mostly in our minds. When we do that, we have two problems: the one that needs a solution and the one we’ve created by feeding the stress we feel about an actual or possible situation or outcome.

If you’ve ever wondered why you replay and replay the same junk thoughts over and over in your mind (stressing yourself even more), it’s because your brain is designed to tell you when a problem is solved. You can solve a real problem, but you cannot solve an imaginary one. So your brain reminds you repeatedly that an imaginary problem—which has no solution—is still unsolved. You stay in survival mode. Your stress increases. You enter into suffering, and you expand your self-absorption. You go into what King calls “lock-down,” where you are stuck in place. Your physical, mental, and emotional expressions become all about you. You do have to look out for your best interests, but there’s a big difference between appropriate self-interest and being self-absorbed.

Any time you feel uncertain—about an outcome, a solution, how you’ll perform, etc., this causes you to put yourself first in your mind and energy expression; although, you might pop out of this in an emergency or if your help is really needed. This causes you to not allow anyone else to come first (before your feelings) and it puts pressure on you to attempt to perform in a situation you don’t have a solution for. If you feel pushed or pressured in any way at such times, your level of stress can go “through the roof.”

Feeling this way can cause you to say and do things that won’t create outcomes you truly desire. Or, it may cause you to be stuck in inaction. What helps? Do something positive or beneficial for someone else. Being able to see beyond ourselves and our self-interests will cause us to feel better, but it also allows us to act the way we prefer to act. When you focus on being of benefit to others, you exit survival mode; the two cannot fill the same space. This doesn’t mean you become a servant or start doing a lot of things for others that aren’t appropriate for you (or them). You want to feel good, not like a martyr. It means that you look for ways to create win-win scenarios and environments.

When you’re in survival mode—and you probably can nod your head about this—clarity, focus, and purpose go out the window. It’s a simple but not necessarily easy fact that our Good flows to us when we are relaxed, when we are enjoying life and what we do and who we do it with, and when we do what results in our feeling fulfilled—that we made a valuable contribution or made a real difference for one or more others.

With all the changes that have gone on and needed restructuring still being figured out, many people have slipped into survival mode. It’s understandable. The fact is that we all slip into this mode at times; it’s getting stuck there that we’re talking about now. The way out of this mode and how it affects us and others is to focus on win-win solutions for issues that need attention. It can also be as simple as making a friendly connection to someone providing a service to you, holding the door open for someone, letting someone with fewer items go before you at the checkout register. It doesn’t always require a grand gesture.

Here’s a small step in the right direction: Instead of thinking about what you HAVE to do, maybe think about what you GET to do, while you’re still here.

Practice makes progress.

Friday, June 3, 2011

5 Questions to Help You Become Your Authentic Self

It’s a complaint you and many others may share: I don’t feel authentic! These 5 questions can help you change this.

If you feel inauthentic, you already know how painful that can be. If you’re a people-pleaser, you know how painful that can be, too. If you feel the real you lives behind a fa├žade, or worse, you aren’t even sure who the real you is any more, use these five questions to shake your authentic self loose from the ties that bind it. I got the five questions from Jairek Robbins, who got them from someone else… and they are powerful!

1. When you were a child, who did you most want love from—not who you got the most love from—but who you wanted love from most?

You probably know exactly who this is. It’s the person whose approval you felt you didn’t have, and you really wanted to win it, whether you “danced to their tune” or you didn’t.

2. What did you have to be (in your mind’s perception) for the person to give you the love you wanted?

Did you have to be smart, pretty, thin, athletic, an achiever, domestic, hard worker, tough, disciplined, frugal, always working, always in control of your emotions, nice, perfect manners, quiet, clever… Were you expected to be the opposite of any of these or others you list? Jairek didn’t cover this, but were there any contrasting expectations from both parents or caregivers, if you grew up with two? It can be exhausting to try to please two or more people who have different expectations of you. Author Barbara Sher has had workshop attendees make a collage to show an image representation of everyone’s expectations of them. One woman completed hers and said, “There! Now everyone is happy but me.”

3. Who could you NEVER be, because you knew (in your mind’s perception, or in reality) the person would immediately take their love away from you?

Were you a tomboy whose mother expected you to dress in frilly clothes and bake cakes instead of climb trees and catch frogs? Were you expected to always be in control of your emotions, and now you can’t feel your life the way you know you’d like to? Were you a boy expected to be athletic but you were really a creative at heart? Expected to be tough, but you’re really tenderhearted? Jairek didn’t cover this either, but what about mixed messages from that person like be nun-like and highly popular at school, or be successful but don’t take any risks? Were there contrasting requirements you tried to meet for two parents or caregivers? Perhaps, “Be successful, but never do better than we have.” Can you see how this one can cause you to hit a wall any time you try to succeed?

4. Who are you today?

Is it still who you thought you had to be for them, or who you really are? Are you still trying to fit the person’s mold for you, whether they’re alive or not?

5. Who do you have to be from this day forward to align with what you desire and deserve in your own life?

What would you have to adjust? Do you need more structure, less structure? Do you need to work harder, work less? Do you need to laugh more, to allow yourself to feel more, to have more joy, to have playtimes; to aim at fulfillment instead of just achievement?

These five questions are worth planning private time so you can give them—give YOU—the attention needed. Will answering the questions and seeing what’s what immediately shift you into feeling and living as your authentic self? I can’t answer that. But, it’s possible you’ll have to do like many of us and take it one day at a time.

Also, remember not to play the blame game. Whoever did whatever to you more than likely had a problem with their authenticity. Compassion has its place here. Knowing who did what may help you process, but hitching your life onto blame will never help you progress. However, you may need to write a letter to the person and burn it so you get some of your anger out. If you try to let them off the hook too soon, you may take on the blame. Understand, as Barbara Sher stated, “We all try to prove our parents right.” This means if you thought you could make an unhappy parent or caregiver happy by being other than you were born as, you’ve had a frustrating time. Anger about this is understandable. Anger held too long hides a deep hurt. Express it to yourself in the letter (even if they admit fault, that won’t change your programming) then use these questions to discover who you really are so you figure out how to move forward.

Make lists for questions 1 through 4. Make another list to the side and rate each listed item as “Is me,” “Isn’t me,” “Sometimes me.” The second list isn’t to be rated according to how you behave now to fit the first list, but what you know is true about your true self, the self you keep hidden. It could be quite an adventure… to discover, explore, and allow your authentic self to take flight, and maybe even soar. At the very least, you can expand your self-esteem and joy.

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer
State of Appreciation (Issue 131) is now live at