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What’s really bothering you?

The photos below show Griffin with his BFF – yesterday and 5 years ago.

Griffin and BFF

They became fast friends in first grade when Will’s family moved to Asheville, but then they moved away two years later. (Long-time readers may remember that we visited them on their yacht in Greece two years ago!)

Even though the family now lives in England, we’ve managed to get Griffin and Will together to celebrate Will’s birthday (on July 17th) ever since they became friends over 5 years ago. This week we met at the beautiful Bear Lake Reserve.

If you’ve been reading my blog for the last few months, you know that I’ve been supporting many friends and family as they go through one life-exploding crisis after another.

Life would be so much easier and SO much better if everyone would simply conform to our own perfect way of doing things, wouldn’t it?

Fortunately, I’ve learned to care more about my happiness than being right, and that’s where Byron Katie’s The Work has been SO helpful.

By doing The Work, I stopped being frustrated with my husband and son and their inability or unwillingness to do things exactly the way I like them to be done.

But you know what? A really big light bulb went off when I realized that they were not creating disorder in order to show a lack of respect or love for me, which is how I often received it.

Yes, of course, it’s frustrating to discover that your husband forgot to pay an important bill again (insert any other frustrating behavior here) but when you think about it, is that what’s really bothering you?

I can almost guarantee you that it’s not.

But, again, I can almost guarantee that the bad feelings about any undesirable circumstance mean something else to you. So consider what that is. I’ve written an article about this before, but it bears repeating:

Your current reality is not really what’s upsetting you. In fact, the state of your emotions isn’t caused by the present situation, though the reverse is often true.

In Eckhart Tolle’s (for me life-changing) book, A New Earth, he writes, “External reality always reflects back to you your inner state.”

In the words of A Course in Miracles, “An idea doesn’t leave its source.”

I take that to mean that everything occurring in our lives is a result or reflection of our thoughts and feelings.

Every time I see anyone, depending on how I choose to think about them, I am deciding how I will see myself.

In the previous article I gave one suggestion for seeing “the gift” in the undesirable, but in this article I’ll give you another:

The questions that follow are from Byron Katie’s “Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet” (which you can download using this link.)
frustration

  1. Who angers, confuses, saddens, or disappoints you, and why? What is it about them that you don’t like? 
  1. How do you want them to change? What do you want them to do? 
  1. What is it that they should or shouldn’t do, be, think, or feel? What advice could you offer? 
  1. What do they need to do in order for you to be happy? 
  1. What do you think of them? Make a list. 
  1. What is it that you don’t want to experience with that person again?

So in the example of the unpaid bill (and this did just happen with my husband, too) The Work would look like this:

I am annoyed at Doug because he forgot to pay the bill and I wasted a lot of time and energy resolving the issue. I want Doug to remember to pay a bill in a timely manner. I want him to apologize for inconveniencing me. Doug should follow my system for paying bills immediately upon receiving them. I need Doug to pay a bill on time. Doug is absent-minded, careless, unappreciative and disorganized. I don’t ever want to feel annoyed by his behavior again.

I’ve written before about Byron Katie’s “Four Questions” (here’s one) — and it’s important to note here that you should plan to do that exercise immediately after you do the Judge Your Neighbor exercise.

Katie’s four questions really help me delve into the stress I’m creating for myself by believing the thoughts that the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet has helped me make explicit.

At the same time, though, drawing on Katie’s work, I have also become adept at doing what I call the “quick turnaround.”

For example, when I have a negative judgment (that, again, is causing me stress), I have learned to easily come up with at least three genuine and specific examples of how I have also transgressed – how I have been absent-minded, careless, unappreciative and disorganized – maybe not with the bills, but in other ways, like the maintenance of my car or, here’s the kicker – in my relationships with others.

Once I admit that, it’s much easier to have compassion or patience with my husband. But more importantly, it’s easier to see that my bad feelings are not about my husband, or the bill, at all.

They’re about me. Usually the real cause of the bad feelings is that I’m not feeling valued or appreciated – or, even more to the point, I’m not valuing or appreciating myself enough.

And when I can do that, I don’t mind so much about the bill, or that I haven’t been appointed Queen of the Universe (yet).

What’s Your Love Language?

Stacey and RandyThat’s a pic of me enjoying some quality time with my brother a few days ago.

I went up to Cincinnati last week to help take care of him after his heart surgery.

(In my ezine last week, I talked about how Randy, my older brother – who is a 48 year-old super fit, vegan Buddhist physician – who never smoked a cigarette in his whole life! – went to the hospital with severe shortness of breath on Monday and ended up having triple bypass surgery on Tuesday!)

My mom worried that the 6+ hour drive there and back, taking time off from work, being away from my family and taking care of him would be too hard, but I told her it would be harder not to.

You see, I’m an “Acts of Service” girl, and when it comes to expressing love and caring, I feel compelled to take action.

Surely one of the reasons we’re on this planet is to feel loved and give love that others can receive in return – and I’ve found that The Five Love Languages is an awesome tool for doing just that.

I’ll never forget hearing about Love Languages for the first time. My best friend Anna told me about them, saying that knowing her daughter’s Love Language was a revelation.

You see, my friend’s Love Language is Acts of Service (just like mine!), but her daughter’s is Words of Affirmation. So basically, my friend was speaking French to her daughter, but her daughter was speaking German, and they were wondering why each was struggling to feel heard and understood (or rather, loved and valued).

Okay, let me back up: The Five Languages is a concept developed by couples’ therapist Gary Chapman. He’s written a book by the same name, but I think you can get what you need to know simply by taking a simple online quiz – and asking that everyone you care about to take it too. You can find the quiz here: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

Here’s a brief description of each of the 5 languages:

  • Words of Affirmation: Expressing affection through affectionate language, or by offering praise or appreciation.
  • Acts of Service: Actions, rather than words, are used to show and receive love.
  • Receiving Gifts: Giving and receiving objects as tokens of love and affection.
  • Quality Time: Expressing affection with undivided, undistracted attention.
  • Physical Touch: With this love language, the speaker feels affection through physical contact.

When you know the Love Language of the people you care about, it’s a real game changer. For example, my husband’s Love Language is Physical Touch, but mine is Acts of Service.

It’s a pretty classic pairing – and before we knew our languages, it led to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. I felt most interested in being intimate after Doug did something thoughtful for me. Of course, he was more interested in doing things for me after we had been intimate.

Love LanguageWhen I realized that “Acts of Service” wasn’t his Love Language, I suddenly understood why I sometimes didn’t feel loved and appreciated. I also realized that I could learn to receive his physical touch overtures as his way of expressing love for me.

Knowing that he would feel more loved and appreciated, I focused more on giving him physical affection than acts of service. And, of course, Doug has done the same with me and upped his game when it comes to acts of service.

The thing to remember is that it’s the little things that count. When I say I want Doug to perform “acts of service,” I don’t mean that I only feel loved if he brings me breakfast in bed. I mean that I feel loved and appreciated if he’ll do small, even routine things, like fold the laundry, or bring me tea when I’m on the phone with a client, or pick up the dry cleaning.

By the same token, it’s not like Doug needs for us to hop into bed on a moment’s notice. Hugs make him feel loved. A quick kiss as he or I are leaving the house will also work. As with all communication within a relationship, it’s better not to save everything up for one intense confession. Rather, it’s something to work on in small ways on a daily basis.

My son’s Love Language is Quality Time, and he’s learned to ask for it to good effect. Recently I was working at my computer and Griffin asked me to do something with him. I rather distractedly said, “Just a minute…” to which he replied, “Mommy, you know Quality Time is one of my top Love Languages and it would really help me feel loved if you would spend time with me now.” I don’t think I’ve ever closed my computer as quickly as I did in that moment! And there’s no need to guess what your child’s love language is – there’s a special online quiz just for kids too (just follow the same link above).

There a bonus here, too: as good as it is for you as a parent to know how your kids are best able to receive your love for them, it’s good for the kids to know that they have a preference. Even if that preference changes, the knowledge will stand them in good stead throughout their lives.

So learn your Love Language and the Love Languages of the people you care about and use them as a tool for creating more understanding and appreciation and love in your lives.

How Stress Signals That Your Life Is at Risk

July 5, 2016

I consider my body my most-trusted advisor. I think it assimilates information from the Universe that I can’t understand fully at first. You see, I know the Universe wants me to live my best life, but sometimes I don’t heed its advice – I’m convinced that sometimes I don’t even hear it. It’s like Oprah

Read the full article →

How to trust yourself to make the right decisions

June 28, 2016

The photo to the right shows me and Griffin eating some campfire guacamole and generally having a blast during our annual “off the grid” camping adventure. We were at the gorgeous Lake Santeelah. The spring-fed lake features the most beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, and the pristine water made for VERY refreshing dips, given

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It’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility

June 21, 2016

The photo to the right shows Griffin working through a difficult mountain bike course in preparation for some serious mountain biking and camping over the weekend. One of the things I often tell Griffin is “We can do hard things.” And I’m so glad he’s embraced it as his own personal motto as well. What

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How to Release Negative Emotions Quickly and Easily

June 14, 2016

The photo to the right is Griffin with one of his best friends at their school’s graduation ceremony. It’s a ceremony that includes all grades – from Kindergarten through 8th grade – and allows for each child to share a reflection from their year. Griffin’s class spent a good part of the year studying literature

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How to Succeed by Failing

June 7, 2016

I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend! The photo to the right was taken at Griffin’s year-end student-led conference (that’s his awesome teacher, Jenny, at the end of the table). Griffin’s school truly embraces self-directed learning, which I believe is the key to growth and happiness at any age! So often people won’t try

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Are you acting in alignment?

May 31, 2016

The photo to the right is of Griffin at his spring piano recital. You’ve heard me wax enthusiastic about Griffin’s passions for many things, but I think I’m most thrilled about his love of piano. I bought a piano keyboard when I was pregnant with Griffin and I practiced every day and took weekly lessons

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Why You Need Good Boundaries

May 24, 2016

That’s a photo of Griffin with his good friend at the “Marathon Games” – a 6-hour celebration and the culmination of his year-long soccer season. It also marked the achievement of another one of the goals he had for himself – to score more goals in the spring than he did last fall. It’s so

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How to wake up from a nightmare

May 17, 2016

The photo to the right was taken at Griffin’s birthday slumber party for his BFF’s. You may remember that we had a big birthday party for all of his classmates a couple of weeks ago, but this was an opportunity to celebrate Griffin and his friends and the great friendships these special boys share. I’m

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