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Tag Archives: psychology
Stop running away from your destiny.
It is going to catch up with you sooner or later.
And like a snowball,
rolling down a hill,
The longer it rolls,
the bigger it gets.
And the bigger it gets,
the heavier it gets.
And the heavier it gets,
The more it hurts when it hits you.
The hurt may be mental, it may be emotional, and it may even be physical.
Most people wait for a crisis to make a change in their life, a change that they have known for years (sometimes even many years) needed to happen.
It’s painful to confront unlived dreams, ignored needs.
You may try to escape it.
When problems hit in your life, you think you can solve them with information. Oh, I just need to manage my stress better. Oh, I could get a job if only I had a better resume, better interview skills, or networked with the right people.
There is nothing wrong with managing stress or learning some job search skills.
These things are beneficial, at the right time, and in the right situation.
Your soul doesn’t work that way.
Your soul also doesn’t give a hoot about “we all have to make these compromises, gotta pay the mortgage”.
Yes, we must be practical as well as fanciful.
But if you are unhappy,
and you rationalize it: “well everybody else has to do it, the economy sucks, I am lucky to have a job at all”
…think of that snowball, growing while you sleep.
You may ignore it, but you know what it is.
Will you be able to handle it when it hits?
It may sound hard to believe, but circumstance, even crisis, will stop at nothing until you are on the right path.
If you are not using your gifts, the message starts as a whisper, then a murmur, then a mumble, then a statement, then a raised voice, then shouting, then screeching, then breakdown.
Whatever will get you to listen.
You might be reading this saying, “What ‘gifts’? I am just an average person.”
Exactly. That’s how tricky the obstacles are. You will tell yourself anything to avoid the conflict between where you are now and those unrealized dreams, even to believe that you do not possess these gifts.
But there’s good news.
Self-awareness will give you greater “job security” in the long run. Not only that, when the inevitable challenging times arise, it will allow you to handle them better.
And this isn’t just about your career.
It’s about your life.
And you can start now.
You start by telling the truth.
Elaine Aron (in “The Undervalued Self”) writes about linking and ranking. Linking is making a connection with someone, includes empathy and care, and is and based on
equality. Ranking is about status, competitive, and not based on equality. You can see both of these dynamics happening in interactions between people. Her theory is that we are born prepared for a certain amount of ranking, but her definition of trauma (paraphrased) is when we expect linking from a person or a group, and instead experience ranking (social defeat), in a manner that is shocking to us.
Why is this important to career choice? Even the most “independent” people will do in life and career what gets them love, what allows them to feel connected to others. If a given life path risked social isolation by your family and friends, would you take that path?
So when you know you need a change, but feel that you risk isolation by making the change, you have a couple of choices. You can go the self-improvement route, try to make yourself strong enough to stand completely on your own. I allow for the theoretical possibility that it works for some people. However, there are many it doesn’t work for, and some even go deeper into multi-thousand-dollar personal growth courses only to realize (if they can even acknowledge this to themselves) they have little to show for it. The best I can say about self-improvement is that it can have some effect, but it’s maybe not worth the struggle, time, effort and money.
Alternately, while you are on your career change journey, you can find a supportive community who will value you for who you really are at all times (not just when you speak the leader’s lingo, or have a “positive attitude”.)
How about you? I would be interested to hear from people who feel they really did “improve themselves” via self-improvement.
I was just at a Meetup event where I received some unsolicited advice on my business. This wasn’t even a workshop, not someplace where it is assumed that things are open for review and you are open to feedback. It wasn’t even billed as a networking event. It was a social event.
Now, I know I don’t know everything, and I try to see other people’s points of view even if only theoretically. Listening to diverse points of view can be a learning experience. But what I found particularly inappropriate was that this was someone who had just met me. Not only that, they were not offering a suggestion, but rather trying to put me into a position where I had no choice but to agree with them.
It’s possible that as a <Highly Sensitive Person, I am more aware of these things (whether I want to be or not), experience them as someone trying to throw their energy at me, etc.
It’s hard to know friends well enough to “tell them what they should do”, let alone someone you just met. When you just met someone or they are an acquaintance, you simply don’t know the specifics of their situation well enough, and maybe more importantly you don’t know the specifics of them as a person.
Because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end, I have nearly eliminated the word “should” from my vocabulary, and I do not start sentences with the words “You should….” or “You need to….” It is simply not my place to say this to another person, and I believe that to do so is to impose one’s own truth on another person.
Some classes of people seem to be magnets for unsolicited advice. I know as soon as I told people I was starting my own business, that seemed to be a license for them to give me advice. I imagine new parents are in the same boat.
How about you? Have you ever received unsolicited advice in such a way that you were amazed at the person’s lack of tact, or you just felt limited or “boxed in” by what they said?
What kind of advice or support would have been more helpful for you?
People who read this blog regularly know that I am not a preacher of “your thoughts create reality”. That prescription creates more burdens than it alleviates. I had an interesting thought recently, though, about the metaphors we use to describe our lives. Metaphors are a great way to vividly express complex thoughts and feelings in one simple picture. No wonder people like to use them. However, I thought about times those words might be limiting.
Think about what words you use to describe success. Is it “clawing your way up”? Why do we represent success as “climbing a ladder”….or directionally “up” at all? The top of a hierarchy, that’s why. (Of course I could speculate as to why the status pyramid is represented as top-down, since it makes just as much sense to put the leader at the bottom, supporting the whole structure. Sky-based religions in which heaven is up? Leaders standing on platforms, or hills? Anyways.)
In any case, nowadays more people are, or considering, working for themselves. Is the “up” metaphor relevant anymore? At “the bottom of the heap”, you may feel squished, or sat on – but the supportive earth is also there. So what about sinking into success, or mellowing down into it? If you are currently experiencing difficulty, have you described yourself as “stuck”? Now imagine you are literally, physically stuck in something. Not a pleasant sensation, is it? Now look back at your life: are you really stuck, or did someone just tell you you were, and you started using that word? Whose metaphors are you using?
What words do you use to describe your current situation, and what you want to do next from there, and your goal?
Do the words you use imply struggle, or relaxation? Condensing and tensing, or expanding? Letting go, or holding on? Effort, or ease?
Jump-start your career change with the Transition & Transformation Program, an 8 week course combining weekly lessons delivered by email and weekly 30-minute one-on-one consultations.
The Transition & Transformation Program is based on some of the most comprehensive theories about how people can effectively change their careers and lives. The program is built to give you the key success factors of Self-Awareness and Community Support, and will ensure that you finish the program with all the tools you need, customized to you and your unique personality and situation, so that your changes “stick”.
Maybe you feel stuck in a job or career path that doesn’t suit you. You want to make a change, and you know life could be more fulfilling, but dreaming doesn’t seem to turn into doing.
Or, you have an idea for a new direction or project, and you want to refine it, commit to it and have access to support, ideas and resources while making it happen.
One of the big reasons why people are afraid to change careers is the loss of a steady paycheque. Nobody is asking you to quit your job tomorrow – unless you really want to!
If you are reading this, you probably know something in your life needs to change, but you may not know what. This program will help you figure that out. After the self-awareness exercises, you may even find that it’s not your job that’s the issue! But at least now you know that for sure, instead of being stuck spinning around in “maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that, I don’t know.”
Then, whatever your goal turns out to be, we will develop a plan to get you there, on a timeline that’s right for you.
Imagine if you could start your mornings looking forward to going to work, and you could enjoy the sense of meaning from and contribution to the projects you work on, and enjoy interactions with your coworkers. How would it feel to finish your workdays and weeks with enough energy left for family, exercise and hobbies?
When something goes off track in your life, there is another option instead of falling into a slump (for much longer than a day or two). You can quickly get a better idea of what needs to change, and have an easier time doing it without struggle or guilt.
- Stop improving and start being
- Experience space and calm around your goals
- Use your newly found self-awareness to clarify, make decisions and take action without excessive striving or struggle
What is the Transition & Transformation Program?
Each week, you will receive a new lesson in your email inbox. At your convenience, you’ll complete that week’s assignments (which will take about 30-60 minutes per week).
You will then have an individual 30-minute consultation with me on the 5th or 6th day of each week, to address any questions, concerns, do some brainstorming, whatever you want to use your time for. Meeting in person is better, but if your schedule or distance make this impractical, the consultation can happen by telephone or Skype. You can email me with brief questions anytime.
The Introduction and Lesson #1 will explain why you may have had some roadblocks in making changes up until now, and tell you what you can do about it. There will be some introductory self-awareness exercises.
Lessons #2-4 consist of progressively deepening self-awareness exercises. You will also name, gather and refine your values, desires, strengths, needs, and essential elements, turning any confusion into clarity.
In Lesson #5, you will use this newfound clarity to set a career goal for the next 3-6 months that feels right to you.
In Lesson #6, you will develop a personalized roadmap to reach your goal, anticipating any pitfalls and making sure you are ready for them.
Lesson #7 will be devoted to ensuring that the other facets of your life (emotional, physical, interpersonal, organizational) support the changes you plan to make.
Lesson #8 will be a summary and reflection, giving you an opportunity to celebrate progress, prepare for and creatively solve any challenges you have faced or may face, and further clarify what you need to keep your momentum going.
How it works:
- When you register for the program by making your payment via PayPal below, you will receive a Pre-Program Snapshot to be completed and emailed back to me, and an Introduction document to read prior to the start of the course. (If you cannot use PayPal, please contact me to make alternate payment arrangements.)
- A few days later, you will receive the first of 8 lessons, which will be delivered weekly to your inbox
This is for you if:
- You are ready to make changes in your life, with the right support.
- You are willing to provide detailed constructive feedback on the program.
- If you benefit from the program, you will tell your friends and personal network that you completed this program, how it helped you, and refer them to my website: Facebook friends, Twitter, professional contacts
Are you ready?
- Please read the Client Agreement first. By purchasing the program using the “Add to Cart” link below, you indicate that you have read, understand and agree to the Client Agreement.
- If you have any questions about the program please email me. If you prefer to discuss it by telephone, provide your number in the email and I will get back to you within 1 business day.
I have noticed that, especially on Internet discussion boards and comments, people feel the freedom to perform what I refer to as “psychic back-alley surgery” on each other – tell others what they should do, what they need to change, or criticize their behaviours, thoughts and/or character. I can’t say whether this is any more or less than it was in the past, I will just talk about what I observe now.
Some people would say it is the “anonymity” of the Internet that makes people feel free to say things to people that they never would to their face, but I believe it is due to two other trends.
1) A trend in psychology, at least in pop psychology, towards reductionism, i.e. breaking a mysterious whole (how to be happy? How to attract women/men?) down into its parts so that, theoretically, anyone can follow the same procedure and get the same results. Examples: neurolinguistic programming (NLP), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and the “pick-up artist” manuals. It becomes more socially acceptable to treat ourselves and others as a bag of parts, as though it’s possible to separate and “surgically remove” an offending behaviour, thought, or way of being. As though it weren’t connected to everything else.
2) Psychological analysis and self-improvement has gone pop culture mainstream, through the New Age movement, Oprah, Dr. Phil etc.
When you take yourself apart and put yourself back together, without some inherent organizing principle, do you get a Frankenstein’s monster?
Some people believe in “faking it till you make it” and that may work for some people and for some issues. However, I believe that a “change” (in behaviour or thinking) needs to be rooted from something inside you in order to really take hold. And perhaps both people who want to change, and “experts” telling them how to do it, focus too much on altering the results (external observable behaviour or differences in it) and not on the causes (the inner self, desire, fundamental psychological needs, soul) when we try to make “changes”.
As I see it, the inherent organizing principle that allows change to happen is to view the person, whether yourself or someone else, as whole, complete, and un-disassemblable. Furthermore, undesirable behaviours or thoughts or symptoms come from imbalances or disconnections within the whole, not from a “bad part” or parts that need to be removed.
Of course this raises the question “If I am whole and complete within myself, and OK the way I am, what do I need to ‘change’ for?” It is for this exact reason that I see the process of personal growth as expansion or inclusion rather than change (i.e. “I used to be like this and now I am like that”) No, all of it is part of you.
Knowledge of yourself as a complete and indivisible whole has benefits. You are far less likely to succumb to the weariness of the “self” that needs to constantly be “improved”. Self-knowledge also provides a useful anchor as you sort through the mountains of information available out there in the self-help and how-to genre. You can tell what will be harmonious with you, and what will not.
Let’s say you are dissatisfied with your life in some way. Is the cause personal or societal? Notice what emotions arise in you just from hearing that question.
Micki McGee in Self-Help, Inc.:
“I have yet to find a best-selling self-improvement book that prompts one to consider, for example, the following: “If you could live in a world where profit were not the motivating force of production, what would your life look like?” or “How would your life be different if the nutritional, medical and educational needs of children were the top priority of every individual, every group, and every institution?” or “How would your life be different if racism/sexism/anti-Semitism or other religious intolerance were no longer a structuring principle of social relations?” Were such questions part of the discourse of self-improvement culture, the writing exercises found in self-help books might be a remarkable tool for social transformation. One’s realization of one’s self might genuinely lead to societal change (though the steps between imagining the idealized future and realizing it would likely involve a good bit more than imagination.) However, in its current insularity, the literature of self-improvement directs the reader to familiar frameworks, namely, what should one seek for one’s self narrowly conceived as a private individual rather than as a citizen or stakeholder in larger and more public arenas.”
“Self-improvement culture, as it actually exists, derails the opportunities for indivdiuals to understanding injuries or grievances as part of systematic social problems. [….] The literatures and practices of self-improvement culture do this in two ways: first, in self-improvement literature, victims are anathema, and second, when victimization occurs, it is almost exclusively located in the past, in the lost world of childhood, where the family, imagined as isolated from society as a whole, is named as the cause of the violence or injustice. [….] Thus the usual political strategy of organizing individuals around their grievances is short-circuited, and culpability is turned back on the self. Problems and grievances are cast as personal “challenges” that the individual must strive to overcome. [….] What the literatures of self-improvement do offer is the promise of power, however limited in scope and mistakenly located it may be in isolated individual action. Traditional political organizing, for example, the recruitment strategies of labor organizers, builds on a sense of aggrievement and then moves the aggrieved individual to locate his or her power in the group, forging a sense of collective identity that is not wholly a function of victimization but takes victimization as its starting point.”
In this way, self-help can be said to reinforce the social status quo, or at least not to challenge it. Whether this is intentional or unintentional (I’m steering clear of conspiracy theories for the moment), in my opinion it would be at minimum convenient, to a relatively small group of people who wanted to gain disproportionate economic and social power over a relatively large group of others, if those others believe their problems are all “personal challenges” rather than symptoms of unhealthy, unjust or exploitative social systems.
Furthermore, notice recent propagation of catchy pop-psych memes, specifically the freedom people now seem to feel to tell strangers on Internet discussion boards, for example to “stop complaining and look at your own self and your own role in it” or similar. Now, nobody has to regulate the populace against rebellion or broader scale social change. They regulate themselves.
“From a psychological point of view the Twentieth Century has been a colossal diversion (certainly in the West) from an examination of the way individuals are created and maintained by their environment. The quality of thought Plato gave in his Republic to the kind of cultural diet most suitable for its future leaders is barely conceivable now, where about the most we get is cursory studies or literature reviews to show, for example, that television has no influence on violence. Our emphasis, as I have already indicated, is very heavily on the inside, on mental factors such as choice and will, and moral factors mostly seen as personal, such as ‘responsibility’. Because of this, our gaze is diverted from the social world around us and our preoccupations are with self-transformation of the personality rather than political transformation of the society beyond the boundaries of our skin.
We have become absolutely to depend on the notion that it is possible to change aspects of ourselves we find inconvenient, to erase the inscription upon us of the environmental influences which surround us. Rather than accepting that experience marks us for good and all, we wish to insist – indeed have come to expect and demand – that its effects can be counselled away.
But would it really be so terrible if psychotherapy didn’t work in the way we seem to expect it to? Perhaps if we were shaken out of our bewitched fascination with imagination and ‘virtuality’, the wishful invention of interior worlds which have no embodied substance, we might come to see that paying sober attention to the realities of social structure and of our relations with each other as public, not simply private, beings is an option. A difficult one certainly – not so easy as dreaming and wishing – but at least a real one. What this would entail is a recognition that maybe prevention is more possible than cure; a down-grading of psychology in favour of an up-grading of politics.
Where, though, would this leave individuals? Would we not, for example, be in danger of depersonalizing ourselves and risking becoming part of a grey, undifferentiated mass, prey to totalitarian solutions of the kind too often experienced already in this now dying century? I really don’t see why this should be. Politics doesn’t have to be dishonourable. There is no reason in principle why we shouldn’t be able to resurrect a politics whose central concerns are with such things as liberty, justice and equality. Very difficult, certainly; naïve, Utopian, idealistic, I can’t deny. But at least not, like the psychology of self-creation and self-transformation, impossible.”
As Smail suggests, somebody has to start dreaming. But so often stating these dreams out loud in public is immediately met with a response of judgment or evaluation: “there’s no way that could happen for everybody worldwide, economic/political/whatever systems don’t work like that” or “what are you personally doing to make this happen?”
Personal integrity is certainly an admirable goal. Note the popularity of the Gandhi quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” – quoted so often I don’t know if that is even the original wording. It is difficult to be a leader and get others to follow you if you don’t practice what you preach. But does “being the change” refer to changing personally, or changing in groups?
Especially if you are a very conscientious idealist, it is easy to focus so much on integrity that you think you can’t accomplish anything until you’ve worked out all your own problems. Oh, and especially if you’ve been reading about the Law of Attraction, you interpret the failure of your change initiatives (or of people to respond favourably to them) as being caused by your own “negative thoughts”!
Note that the authors I quoted above do not discount individual actions. Instead they are saying that societal factors (e.g. government, economics) have significant (if not determinative) influence on the individual, but are largely ignored as a cause of individual distress by both the self-help industry and psychotherapy. Collective action is needed to alleviate individual distress.
So, the next time you hear someone mention a possibility for social change, instead of jumping right to evaluating it….consider responding with a moment of stillness for contemplation of the new thing that has emerged. Maybe even an attitude of “what if?”
Here’s mine for today.
Imagine a society where everyone who wants meaningful work has it, and anybody who finds their job unrewarding has options, isn’t stuck in it for practical reasons (for most people it’s financial, “I hate my job but I have to pay the bills”)….they can find something that pays the bills but is also personally fulfilling.
This might even involve a duty on the part of employers to provide people with meaningful work (or ways to make even the “…well, somebody has to do it” work meaningful). Imagine that!
Yes, there are real obstacles. Just….sit with me in the “what if” for a while.
It is a cherished and unquestioned belief in self-help that people have choice in their lives. The theory goes something like this: the state of your life is a result of every decision, little and big, that you have made up until now, so those who want to improve their lives should improve the quality of their decisions.
A necessary precondition for choice is that it is possible for a person to control or at least influence the situation they are in.
In some circles it is taboo to question whether one really has choice over one’s situation because lack of choice is associated with….victimhood! Helplessness! Nooo!
I find myself asking, however, whether control is really as helpful or empowering an alternative to helplessness (feeling screwed by fate, etc.) as it is said to be.
There is always the flip side: if things go wrong and it’s true that you do have control….guilt and racking your brains about how it would have been better if only you had done things better, which might ironically (and in my view, predictably) make you feel worse than when you started.
Here are three articles that explain the flip side of choice and control better than I could.
http://tomstine.com/no-control-no-control-no-control/ (Particularly notice in the comments how people are not comfortable with the notion of “no control” and try to negotiate it or make exceptions.)
When evaluating a thought or philosophy as to whether I will adopt it or not, I think about not only whether it makes me feel happier (personal benefit), but is it also flexible enough to get me through a wide variety of situations, and is it consonant with how I want to be in the world, not only with myself but with other people (ethics).
And for me, thinking about how little control I actually have….is liberating! It doesn’t make me feel disempowered or helpless, or make me want to blame people or circumstances.
I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to keep up a positive attitude, keep taking action, “release the limiting beliefs that are holding you back”, discover how happy and resilient people think and change your thoughts to be like theirs, etc. etc. And that’s worth a third “etc.”, because there is an abundance, no, a glut, of such advice out there. It seems to be the latest thing in psychology.
I won’t lie that small actions (e.g. “I’ll just go for a walk for 10 minutes”) can get you through those feeling-like-concrete phases. And seeing a new perspective on something (change in thought or belief) can free things up a little, at least temporarily.
But what about when it feels like you are repeatedly dragging, or slowing down, or the risks you are taking are not getting any easier (unlike the typical situation where practice makes you more comfortable with it?)
Or you are noticing a tendency to find something wrong with and reject all the advice that people give you on what to do?
Maybe it’s time for a constructive tantrum.
Ask yourself, what are you sick and tired of doing, trying to do, or feeling like you have to do?
No rationalizing out of it by saying “that’s just the way it is, and I have to accept it”. We are talking about telling the unvarnished truth about your feelings, here.
It sounds a little backwards, but I’ve done it to positive effect. It seems to release energy and allow for new perspectives, or creative synthesis (resolving two things that you previously thought were contradictory, opposite, either/or).
Here’s an excerpt from Barbara Sher’s book Wishcraft, in the chapter entitled “Hard Times”:
“Now, little by little, if you can – and you almost always can – start having fun with your negative feelings. Exaggeration, self-parody, melodrama, defiance, and obscenity are all useful weapons, and anything is a fair target: yourself, me, your goal, mother, flag and country. ‘The truth is, I hate studying. It bores me and I can’t concentrate and I hate you for suggesting it. I like things fine just the way they are. I’m too lazy to bother with all of this. I think I’ll eat a lot of chocolate and get fat.’ Say anything, as long as it’s a mean, miserable complaint with some punch to it.
Did you notice that your energy level went up? Does your goal suddenly look a little less impossible? You haven’t solved anything yet. The strategic problem is still there. Your doubts are still there. So why are you laughing?
Because you’ve dug down through all those heavy layers of ‘I can’t’, and struck a defiant gusher of ‘I don’t want to and I won’t.’ Depression is an energy crisis, and negativity is energy – pure, ornery, high-octane energy. It’s just been so repressed and tabooed that we’ve forgotten something every 2-year-old knows: how good it is for us to throw a tantrum. We’re all such good little girls, such brave, stalwart little boys, such polite little children – and inside everyone of us is an obnoxious, exuberant little brat, just squirming to be let out. I’ve got one. So do you. That brat is your baby, and you’d better love her, because you ignore her at your peril.”
Did you identify what you are sick and tired of, or refuse to do?
Now, acknowledge it to yourself, or to someone else.
If you say it to someone else it is very important, obviously, not to surprise them with it, rather to explain to them exactly what you are doing. Tell them you don’t want advice or for them to feel they have to help you fix it. This is not about solving the problem. It is about listening to you rant until you are finished, and maybe even cheering you on. Barbara Sher’s suggestion on what to say: “This is Hard Times. I’m mad, nervous, fed up, and for the next five minutes I’m going to go totally bananas. Don’t pay any attention to anything I say. You can stick your fingers in your ears if you like. It will all be over in five minutes.”
Try it and let me know how it goes.