Friendships That Help You Grow

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Friendships are one of the priceless gifts that life grants us. For those of you who are fortunate enough to have a handful of good friends, you are truly blessed. A good friend is meant to bolster you; to encourage you to be your best self. A true friend is not intimated by your grand nature. I true friend only wishes for and strives for your best. A genuine friend sees your short comings and encourages you through them instead of just being critical. That friend knows your good intentions and lovingly helps you to grow. Your life is better for having this person in it.

With a good friend you work through difficult times together; not abandoning the other because times are tough. A true friend is one of the anchors in life that helps you to claim yourself in this universe. If you have several friends like this thank them today. If your friendships don’t give you this then maybe you need to consider that person as more of an acquaintance rather than someone to really bear your soul to. Being the active director of your life requires that you be able to judge which friendships encourage you and which are more of a burden. I encourage you to be picky about the ones in your life you call “friend.” I have always said that your friendships ‘mirror’ you! What do your friendships say about you?

Moreover, what kind of friend are you? Do you display these qualities to the ones you call “friend?” Receiving this support merits giving this support. Be this gift to another. There are plenty of people and places that one can find judgment. Your close friends need your acceptance and encouragement more than anything. Practice being a positive influence in your close friend’s lives. Be the friend you want them to be. Practice patience, warmth and encouragement. In the end you will not only be a blessing to that friend but will find that you are receiving as much from being this friends as you do from having this kind of friend.

To Forgive or Not Forgive?

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The topic of forgiveness is one that stirs up a lot of energy within me. This is true because I have witnessed so many people who have been injured by the projections put on them by others about how they are supposed to forgive. I understand that many of you may have been raised in various faith systems that may teach some stringent beliefs about forgiveness. While it certainly is your right to adhere to any of those views, nonetheless, I strongly encourage you not to push them on others.

I view forgiveness as a “process”; a grief process. The meaning of forgiveness is a debatable one. I by no means believe forgiveness means to forgive and forget, as if the injury never occurred. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that you agree that a certain behavior was acceptable and therefore you are forgiving the person.

When I work with clients and we talk about forgiveness we work on the area of forgiveness in a manner that will help the person feel less oppressed by the feelings he or she is experiencing due to the hurt the person has experienced. Sometimes that person does choose to forgive. (Whatever the word forgives may mean to them.) For some they forgive, however, it does not mean that they have a continued relationship with the person who offended them. Nor, in many cases would it be appropriate to have a relationship with the person that hurt them.

There are some that choose not to forgive; and who am I to judge. This person is able to choose not to forgive without letting it control their lives. This person does not feel full of range all the time. They have done their grief work so the lack of forgiveness is not oppressive to them. The negative claim on their spirit has been released.

Forgiveness can be a very sensitive subject and a topic that deserves respect from all. If you are struggling with forgiving someone, I encourage you to be patient with yourself. Rushing to forgiveness as a way of avoiding the grief work that is necessary to arrive at forgiveness often lacks longevity. I implore you to learn and understand that forgiveness has its own unique grief process. I hope your will be more gentle with yourself while you work through the process of considering forgiveness.

The Toxic Emotion of Shame!

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The last topic in this four part series is about Shame. Shame serves no good purpose. Shame is very different than guilt. No longer is one focusing on a behavior, shame is when you tell yourself that you are bad, defective and simply no good. Shame is turned inward as a negative emotional self- berating. Shame makes guilt and regret very complicated and difficult to overcome. When you are enmeshed in your shame you are no longer able to focus on a behavior or loss you are experiencing. Instead you are turning that shame unto yourself and focusing on the fact that you feel defective at the core of your being. Someone who feels shame knows how hurtful and debilitating it is.

It is my understanding that shame usually originates from earlier life experiences. Often this occurs in the younger stages of development, hence why it seems so true to your core beliefs. Shame is a learned response one formed in their impressionable years. So shame tends to have such negative impact on you because it is not about the here and now, but was formed in the then and there.

If shame is something you feel often, I strongly encourage you to address the issues on a conscious level. When you bring this toxic feeling to your awareness, then you have the opportunity to begin to heal it. If you keep this at the subconscious level then you can’t change. Often you will need to work with a professional to change this level of injury.

If you are able to identify shame and bring it to your awareness then you are beginning to take responsibility of healing and correcting these incorrect messages you have learned. My encouragement is as you begin to identify the shame then you start initiating some cognitive corrections. Even though at a deep level you may still believe the shame message, start creating corrections; corrections are what you would prefer to tell yourself. In the beginning you don’t have to believe them, you just need to practice saying them anyway.

Some examples of corrections are “I am not perfect and that is ok;” “I know my intentions are good;” “I am a person of value.” These are just some examples. Just taking the time to think of some corrections is a huge start in the battle of minimizing that shame voice within. You didn’t come out of the womb with these shameful feelings, so in a way you took them on via important people in your life. Even though you took these believes on at a subconscious level you did have a part in it. To me that suggests you can have a conscious part in correcting them and learning different core beliefs about yourself!

Do You Have Any Regrets?

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This week I will be shifting from writing about guilt to addressing the topic of regrets. Regrets are very similar to guilt however I see regret as more of a type of loss. I regret something I didn’t do or that I wish I would have done. For example, I might regret not going to my cousin’s wedding. I regret that I never visited my Aunt before she died or I regret that I didn’t provide my kids with more of a religious upbringing. So it doesn’t have the same flair as guilt. I think regret is more of a feeling of loss; a type of reflection.

I understand now how being aware of regrets is a natural process in the later stages of development as one is looking back over their life and evaluating. And so it is useful to be proactive in your choices on a daily basis so that you have less feelings of regret as you approach the later years in life.

And as with any type of loss, regret being one form, it is important to address the feelings the loss brings to you. My encouragement with any sense of regret you may have is to examine the regret in a very honest, productive fashion. If one of your regrets is something that you feel strongly about I find the best way to heal is to have compassion with yourself. A way of having compassion with yourself is to have an understanding of what was going on in your life at that time so that you better understand the choices you did make. Instead of lingering in the feeling of regret have some compassion as to your circumstances at the time and wrap the feeling of regret up in that understanding.

Also, begin to shift your focus onto the now. The positive things in the now that you are doing. The productive actions and choices you are making today. Live more in the moment. Choose to be more of the person you want to me today. Stay mindful of your purpose and your values and let them direct your life. No need to create any new regrets!

The Power of Guilt in Your Life!

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And as promised, today I will be focusing on the concept of guilt. Guilt in its simplest form is when we feel bad about something you did or did not do. It is usually about a behavior; an action you did or did not do. Healthy guilt is very appropriate. It is appropriate to feel bad about certain behaviors, such as lying to a friend about why you can’t go out with them when you are really going out on a date. Or, spending family savings on buying clothes etc. and lying to your partner. A few more examples are feeling guilty that you forgot your parent’s birthday or feeling bad you didn’t go visit someone when they were in the hospital, to cheating on your partner. Healthy guilt can be a moral compass. Healthy guilt can guide you in living in a way that honors who you want to be. It can keep you on the path of respectful living.

So when you have guilt about a behavior or lack of a behavior that is clearly appropriate to feel (such as the above examples); behaviors that merit the feeling of guilt then I call that healthy guilt. When you have healthy guilty you have several options. You need to make amends with yourself and sometimes with another person. In my opinion, the way you make amends with yourself is you take ownership and in taking ownership that means you are truthful to yourself about what went on; acknowledge to yourself the choice you made, and even better is that you learn to have compassion and understanding on why you made that choice. So with healthy guilt you feel appropriately bad about the behavior and you have some compassion and understanding on how you made a certain choice and hence, then can forgive yourself.

And often when you have behaviors you feel guilty about and have then made amends with yourself sometimes you need to make amends with the other person. This just depends on the relationship you have with the other party involved. If this person is someone you are close to such as a close friend, family member, partner, child usually amends is advised. So if something has occurred with my significant other, that relationship merits an amends. If I have examined my behavior and know it was a poor choice to lie about spending money from our joint account without telling him/her then it is appropriate to share and apologize to that person.

If the behavior I feel guilt about occurred with someone I don’t know or have very little relationship with then a direct amends may not be necessary or feasible. For example, maybe one morning I was rushing and cut in line ahead of someone so that I could catch the next bus and I feel bad about this immature behavior. I can make amends with myself. I don’t have to track this person down and apologize.

Guilt is dangerous when it becomes unhealthy. Such as when you ruminate over and over again about something you feel bad about. Like when you feel guilty for speaking up or not speaking up for yourself. Feeling guilty that you declined going out with a friends because you are tired and really want to relax is an example of unhealthy guilt. It is perfectly within your rights to decline an invitation because you’re tired or don’t feel up to going. Sadly, there are many who would decline but then berate themselves with guilt.

The only solution I know to unhealthy guilt is to learn to be more self-nurturing. When you are unable to associate guilt with a behavior you are unhappy about and therefore you do not take responsibility for this behavior or lack of; then the guilt is unhealthy. Berating yourself is not a healthy way to cope. knowing that you have a right to forgive yourself and let go of any guilt you have over a behavior you did or wish you would have done is essential. Don’t let guilt pull you down and control you in a negative way. The only healthy way to deal with guilt is taking ownership, having self-compassion, making amends with yourself, and when appropriate making amends with another.