“I Never Get What I Want”

 – “You are always late !”

– “I am always the last to know!”

– “You never listen to me!”

Do you recognize this way of communicating? You probably know a few “Always and Never” people. You might even occasionally use this kind of black and white language yourself. We all feel the need for strong and powerful statements at times. And this is certainly high octane language.  However, it is often an exaggeration not based in reality. It hurts our credibility if used often. In addition, when we use this kind of communicating in relationships it quickly turns confrontational.

It feels definitive, doesn’t it? Like the conversation is closed. When we encounter these types of statements we sometimes take the bait and get sucked right in. It can turn to quite a mudslinging fest before we know it.

– “You never pay attention to me”

– “Yes I do – I always pay you compliments and say I love you”

– “But you never mean it – you are insincere when you say it, I can just tell.”

– “How can you know what I mean – I always say what I mean, you know that”

– “Not that time you told your mother she looked great with the new haircut – that was as phoney as it gets – that is just how you are.”

And so it continues. This type of conversation is typically not going anywhere but directly into an emotional screaming match, into cold indifference and hurt feelings.

Always and never statements are rarely factual. They are however often an expression about how somebody feels.

In other words when somebody makes and “Always or Never” statement it is often an expression of an intense feeling of powerlessness, fear or shame on some level. Or it can simply be an expression of a limiting belief that is holding someone back from seeing clearly.

Often it is also an attempt to hook the other person in the relationship into a state of either Fear, Obligation or Guilt (FOG).This can be how intimacy is interpreted by some: “I am afraid, confused and hurt, so if you love me you will need to be afraid, confused and hurt too.”

And yes, when you are on the receiving end, it is rather hard to see clearly – you are quite literally in the fog!

  • 1. Fear: There is a level of intimidation involved: “Never do this again or else….”
  • 2. Obligation: There is an attempt to hook the other person into feeling that they really should be doing, feeling, thinking without communicating it directly….. “I have done the dishes three days in a row now – I always end up having to do everything…”
  • 3. Guilt: Ah, the big G-word: There is a direct implied accusation involved intimating that the other person is at fault.  “You always make me feel sad when you go away”.

Step one to not get hooked onto this type of manipulative communication is simply to recognize it is present. Some of my clients have developed an “Always and Never Alarm”. Whenever they hear these types of statements delivered – the alarm goes off in their heads; Awareness is step one!

Then it is helpful to listen beyond the message. Might there be a sense of powerlessness that is being communicated? What might the person be feeling? Discern what is an attempt to “hook” you into the FOG.  Ask questions before you respond. This can be a powerful way of gaining insights in what is really happening on an emotional level. This can open up the dialogue.

And sometimes, the person making the always and never statements is not interested in divulging the underlying emotional baggage. Or they are not able to. Depending on the severity of FOG that this kind of behavior adds to your life, it is draining to be in the FOG. It weighs you down.

I often refer to my mentor coach, Keith Miller, in situations where I encounter all or nothing, always and never statements:

“What others say and do define them 100% What you say and do define you 100%.”

Here is to keeping your own credibility, integrity and dignity no matter where you go, and who you go there with.

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Do You Do This?

I almost fell down and busted my rear as I was reaching over the fence into the neighbor’s yard.

My son heard me yell and came and took this snap shot of me… By then I had composed myself!

I was balancing on my step stool while attempting to cut the grape vines that grow like crazy. I was reaching (well it turns out over-reaching) to get to the vines growing on the other side of the fence. It was my intention that this cutting action would enable the vines on MY side of the fence to yield more – and also to reduce the growth of “my vine” into my neighbor’s much neater yard.

And as I was stretching and reaching wearing my slippers (I know… not smart) on the top step of the stool…. well…  let’s just say it was close to disaster.

And it dawned on me that this is what we do so often. We “reach” to control our kids, who are seemingly growing out of control in areas we are uncomfortable with, we “reach” to control our spouse, who is not acting appropriately (for our taste anyway), or we “reach” to control our co-workers or employees so they can stay within the perimeter of what we find is the “best” way.

And this is all fine and good. A certain amount of trimming is needed for the vines to yield. Focus is needed for us to be able to carry out the things we want to do. Helping others to achieve their goals is a fine intention.

Yet at a certain point, we have to let go. When we over-reach and try to control that which really is out of our control – that which is beyond our reach – we run the risk of figuratively speaking falling down and busting our buns!

The Serenity Prayer comes to mind:

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

As I write this – I send a thankful thought to the Universe for the lesson.

Do seek the Questions!

Quote

“Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

I love this quote! To live the questions! To enjoy the process. To allow the journey.

So many times we are hell bent on getting to the end-destination. “Are we there yet?” we ask impatiently. And often when we do get there – we ask ourselves “Now what?”

To live the questions is a place of curious and detached involvement. A place of non-judgmental awareness. A place for you to celebrate all that is perfect right now, at this very moment in time.

Here’s to an alive and aware weekend!

Boredom – Blessing or Curse?

Sometimes boredom sets in. We go through day after day seemingly with the same beginning, middle part and end. So very BOOOORING! We eat the same breakfast, have the same conversations, do the same tedious tasks over and over.

So when your “boredom alarm” goes off what can you do?

One way to look at it might be to appreciate that boredom sometimes is a signal that something is out of balance.

  • We might be at the effect of life – feeling victimized by our “have to’s” and our “shoulds”.
  • Many times we do what we do because we believe that others expect it. They may not!
  • Sometimes we do what we do because we think that we are the only ones that can do it – when in reality others might really want to do it in a different way. They might just be letting us “run with it” because they believe we won’t share the task.
  • At times we forget the blessing in our routine, because we focus on the parts of it that we don’t like! Here a simple re-focus on all we enjoy about it, is what we need to remind us of how lucky we really are.
  • Often doing what we do every day ultimately serves a greater purpose than our immediate gratification. Our work can be seen as an expression of love towards those who benefit from it. And remembering this can change the way it feels.

I also believe we all wish to not just be the ones who are going through our lives in endless cycles of mindless spin on each our own personal virtual “hamster wheels”.

Maybe this is the search and a quest for many of us? From the preacher searching for a way to make his sermon relevant for his congregants to the business owner who is surveying the market for a new and yet untapped niche! We are all in each our own way searching for ways to be of relevance! Our goals and our method vary immensely, yet it is the same inner urge: To matter, to make a difference, to be powerful enough to attract and create momentum!

Maybe on a cosmic scale this motive is wired into creation: To not just be scattered dust floating aimlessly around in the Universe, but to create solidity, eventually forming a gravitational pull that shapes, self-generates and becomes an organizational manifestation! Maybe this urge to manifest our life purpose is hard-wired into our very DNA?

Speculation aside, it is clear that on some level we all want to live knowing that our time here on earth means something!

       And many times what we interpret as being boring and repetitive serves a purpose that greatly assists others, and benefits us too. And maybe it doesn’t. Working with a coach can help shed clarity, create plans and find out if the boring and repetitive tasks in your life ultimately help you to live your life purpose – or if they simply are getting in the way of connecting to it!

A Love-Affair With Gossip

 “Gosh, I wonder what Emilia was thinking the other day when she wore that red polka dot top with the pink striped pants… It must be that boyfriend she has started hanging out with – and did you see that her eyes matched her pants too? Ha-ha…. I think that she must have been up all night… – that new boyfriend and her might be doing a bit too much partying – No wonder she lost her job…”

You find yourself in a small group and one person starts by talking about somebody who is not present. Soon the next person chips in and then you find yourself adding your comments. Then conclusions are being drawn about what this person does, why he/she looks the way they do, and act different, etc.

Be honest here… It feels good, right?

You and the group gossiping are in effect engaging in a ritual that serves to confirm each other. You add a layer of confidentiality and trust to your little group. By doing it you signal that your values are shared and therefore they are valid and good. You belong to the group. You feel accepted and safe right then and there.

This is an ancient pattern we humans historically have used to survive. Edward O. Wilson, a pre-eminent biologist and professor at Harvard, finds in his recent book, The Social Conquest of Earth, that the human drive for belonging to a group is fundamental to the success of the human race. Wilson finds that we humans naturally seek out the pleasant consequences of what he calls eusociality. Through our evolution we have learned that we thrive when we belong to a definable tribe that defends itself against outsiders.

Wilson’s theories add to and complement Darwin’s theories of individual selection – and define the human race as intensely social as well as driven to succeed personally.

Gossip serves a purpose to confirm each other in our sense of belonging to a group – and the ones who are outside of our group as foreign and odd – not safe for us to engage with.

Ultimately this is the same drive that allows us to go to war for a cause and sacrifice our life for the perceived common good. It helps explain why soldiers wear a uniform and march in step; the identical appearance helps support the notion that they are part of a shared and greater cause than their own.

So no wonder that the urge to gossip feels so compelling! We feel a sense of reward when we confirm each other in how we “get it” – and others just don’t!

Still many of us feel guilty after we have engaged in gossip. The quick thrill of it wears off after we get back to our desk or get back home. We feel like we betrayed our Inner Wisdom by doing it. We beat ourselves up about it – and promise ourselves we won’t do it next time. And many of us still find the urge irresistible and do it again and again!

I do believe it is important to understand what we are up against when we combat the urge to tittle-tattle at the water cooler! It is an urge wired deep into our brains for the survival of our kind!

Here is a strategy that I use and recommend to my clients when they find themselves in a tempting opportunity to gossip:

  1. First simply acknowledge that now you are partaking in an ancient ritual that is hard-wired into your brain. It is designed to give you a feeling of safety of sense of belonging. (This understanding often by itself leads to an internal chuckle and a fondness of our need, as a species, for each other.)
  2. Decide whether your engaging in gossip will ultimately benefit you and the group. If not:
  3. Find a way to feel you belong to the group by not excluding or back-stabbing others (you can lead the conversation to a place of shared experience that doesn’t involve putting anyone down.)

By making the choice that is really going to give you most long-term satisfaction you avoid the mental “hangover” later! And you start establishing a new aware pattern of behavior. You help others find more meaningful ways of enjoying togetherness.

Ultimately, our survival as a species might depend more on our ability to find common ground with each other than by engaging in tribal warfare on any level!

How A Bad Pentecost Experience Lit Up My Memorial Day

I was (late) on my way to church yesterday and found myself annoyed at the dust in my car. IT was FUNKY! Then some dude cut in front of me and “made me” miss an opportunity to blast through the intersection, just as the slowest light in town was turning red.

Finally once ensconced in my pew I had an old and VERY LOUD man, whose “amazing” vibrato over-powered and totally blocked my ability to hear anything else. He was RIGHT behind me. My entire church experience now awash in the powerful, all-encompassing pompous oscillation from his enthusiastic vocal cords!

It was NOT my day!

It was Pentecost Sunday – and Memorial Day right around the corner. My kids were wearing pants that were too short and had holes in them – my teenage son, I just realized, was wearing a t-shirt with ANIMAL from the Muppets on it. I hadn’t caught it before we headed out.

Oh, boy!

So here I was, still sneezing from my dusty car with my kids proudly proclaiming my lousy mothering skills. I was late due to the dude who cut me off! And now at church all I could hear was the 80-year old wanna-be Pavarotti with his swinging power-tenor booming in my left ear. RIGHT behind me!

Some days just suck!

At least Pavarotti was quiet during the sermon. Well no, actually he was not quiet; he did some sort of heavy, snorting type of breathing, but I could tune it out long enough to actually catch what our minister was saying:

Pentecost! The 50th day after Easter, and a day that the disciples, who felt depressed at being left behind, suddenly found that they could speak to anybody – and make themselves understood in any language! They gained this magnificent ability to communicate the message of love across any language or cultural barrier. Wherever and to whoever they spoke, people understood them no matter the nationality!

This year Pentecost and Memorial Day coincide.

And it reminded me of the simple message that IF all human beings were able to communicate a message of love across cultural and language barriers to each other – there might be no need for a Memorial Day – because nobody would need to travel the world killing people who are different from them, who have different political systems or who just makes them feel afraid.

We might instead realize that we are all people who love, eat, snort, sing, have dusty dashboards and shabby looking kids…. The human condition is a common attribute we share! We are more alike than we are different – no matter where or who we are.

Except, of course, many moms have much bigger problems than dusty dashboards….

And then I realized that if I was going to wish for peace – it would have to start with me! How can I ever make my deep wish for peace understood by others if I am mired in my own crap? How can I ever do conscious acts of love and compassion, if I am so busy worrying about dust on the dashboard? Or too over-involved in concerns about how I or my kids seem to others?

I think the blinders came off a bit in that moment.

I saw myself hurrying angrily to get to church embodying the strangest of paradoxes: A stressed out person on the way to meditate on peace!

I realized in a flash that my kids had picked their clothes with care and actually found the only pieces of red clothing – the liturgical color of Pentecost – holes, Animal and all! They had actually put thought into this fashion display!

I found a place of loving appreciation for the dear octogenarian singer behind me. It dawned on me that he was thrilled to be alive and to go to church and let his voice celebrate every breath in his body! Maybe he had recently had a brush with his own mortality? And here he was, celebrating his heart out – happy to be alive!

And I found I could celebrate every breath with him – and if his voice was all I could hear – then it was the most beautiful, life-affirming sound in the Universe!

It was a reminder of how we so many times get in our own way! We carry on with our internal “rag-drag” dialogue and miss the beauty all around us!

So maybe peace on Earth starts with each of us? If we are to experience peace – could it be that we have to embody it first? And whether there is dust on the dashboard, holes in our kids’ pants or other nuisances around us – it ultimately only is what we take it to mean.

Maybe the best memorial we can give to those who died in war is to help the ones that come after us to live in a more peaceful and loving world. And maybe it begins with me. And you!  With each of us individually first!

Happy Memorial Day!

My Many Experiences Of Foot-From-Mouth Removal

Foot Removal - the Good, the Bad, the Funny, and the Ugly

“Excuse me while I remove my foot from my mouth”…  This sentence has come to mind many times in my life. I am a veritable master at saying the right thing at the wrong time. Or to stumble into a situation where I say something that makes people look at me like I might as well have been wearing a polka dot purple pony suit!  And the feeling in my stomach – well it is like a butter churn takes up residence in there and started churning! I am also the very fortunate owner of skin that gets flushed bright red on such occasions. So not only do I now stand out by my actions or my words – I am now also beaming in glowing red from my crown to my neck. Real inconspicuous, right?

Well, it is my lot in life. Being a blasting six feet tall I am not a discreet and non-descript woman. My hair is usually catching the rays of the sun and when all purple/red/gold colors are activated – well, you get the point. Add to it what my High School year book described as my “arm, boob, and booty” movements – I am not someone that is easily overlooked.

A typical experience from my childhood exemplifies this feature of mine to stick out like a sore thumb: I was with my parents at a classical concert in a big hall. I was wearing my favorite PINK pants, and a pink and white striped shirt (yes those tasty early 70’s). I had decided that the sound was not good where we sat – or I wanted to see better – so much to my mother’s horror – I decided to find a vantage point along the side of the hall. I leaned my left shoulder up against the wall, sticking my 11 year old belly and hips out to the side. It was a comfortable pose – and I could see and hear fine. Standing there, I noticed my mother trying to get my attention. She was being discreet about it – and I figured that she just wanted me to come back and sit down. So I ignored her. The poor woman! Having me as a daughter must have been a challenge on so many fronts! And then I noticed that people were starting to look at me, snicker, and whisper, tap their neighbor, whisper, laugh with a hand over their mouth, etc. I was starting to feel the familiar burning in my cheeks. I wonder what they were laughing at. I stood there with my cheeks on fire, my pink outfit glowing in the semi-lit hall. A sudden impulse made me look down – and there it was: My zipper was wide open and one could see the white underwear underneath! The horror show churning in my stomach reached unbearable heights; I had embarrassed my mother, had made a fool out of myself, and had shown the whole wide world what an idiot I was! Those were my thoughts as I ran to the restroom to fix myself up. Slinking back into my seat later, I felt a whole chorus of self-blame pulsate through my being.

And this kind of thing happens regularly in my life. Always has, always will.

As I have gotten older, it has become clear to me that it is not what happens to me – or even what perceived mistakes I make – it is totally and completely about what I take them to mean. If I look at the incident with the pink pants – well – I gave people a good laugh in an otherwise mediocre concert. It was my perception that made the moment embarrassing. My purple/pink/gold complexions were only embarrassing, because I did not see the humor in the situation myself.

I have an internal checklist I use now, whenever I get ready to remove foot from mouth – or start beating myself up about something I did that I thought made me look or sound foolish. I will share it with you here:

  1. Did I intend to hurt someone with my actions/words? (If answer is “no” I move on)
  2. What were my intentions?
  3. How can I better my chances of expressing those intentions in the future?

This removes the guilt and the feeling of “being stupid” pretty much every time. Of course if the answer is “yes” to the first question, it is a completely different kind of inner assessment I conduct! I will share that one with you another day….

It is amazing how much relief there can be in forgiving ourselves for our own imperfections. To move even further than just forgiving; to actually find joy in learning from everything that happens to us: The good, the bad and the ugly all have components that are our teachers. I think looking at ourselves as (at times funny) works in progress – and not as completed and static expressions of perfection is very liberating. Thomas Watson said: “To succeed double your error rate!” Hey – with that definition I am edging closer to success every day!

I would love to hear what you think – and if you have a funny story – that was embarrassing at the time, I’d love for you to share it. Or share anything else that comes to mind in the comments…