I found this video that I had made this week about 4 years ago. I thought it’s time to share it with you.
When family members say or do things that is consistently hurtful, most people think you have two options… (1) Put up with it, or (2) Cut them off completely.
But there is a third option.
Option #3—Creating Distance For A Season
Instead of having to make a life-long decision on how to relate to your hurtful family, make a decision that lasts for only a short season—something like 6 months to a year.
It’s like taking a vacation from a stressful situation.
Take the time to differentiate—a fancy word that means “to know who you really are.” When you figure out what you REALLY like, what’s important to you, what your value system is, and how you’re willing to both treat yourself and treat others, you’ll be better equipped to reestablish a relationship with your family.
Now, that new relationship will have a season of adapting. They are still going to treat you like they use to. You’ll have to take some time to retrain them. And… the new relationship will need to have better boundaries and parameters that keep you safe. But you’ll be in a better place personally to enforce those boundaries because your emotional cup will have been filled by your relational sabbatical.
Gratitude has become an important concept in my life and my practice as of late. So, I decided to do some low tech research using The Google to see what other people are saying about gratitude. Here’s what I’ve found from some other, smarter people…
“Gratitude isn’t about how much or little you have, but the story you tell yourself about it. Gratitude expands our capacity to feel joy and infuses a deeper dimension into our living.” — Margie Warrell
“Gratitude is used as a moral barometer, in that it is used to emotionally feel the size and nature of a gift from another. The supporting studies cited showed that people are more likely to feel gratitude towards: acts done by strangers than family members, larger acts than smaller acts, more inconvenient acts, acts that confer benefits which themselves are not necessary because of a situation caused by the benefactor, people with higher status, and people who were generally nicer. People were also significantly more likely to feel gratitude when their declaration of gratitude would be public.” — Shula Sommers and Corinne Kosmitzki
“Three studies cited showed that those who felt gratitude were more likely to help others…it encourages pro-social behavior, and discourages societaly disruptive behavior.” — Shula Sommers and Corinne Kosmitzki
“Gratitude can be correlated with certain personality traits. This is proven only half true – only agreeableness is shown to be positively correlated with gratitude (and narcissism negatively correlated). Unexpectedly, extroversion, conscientiousness and neuroticism had nearly no correlation with gratitude.” — Shula Sommers and Corinne Kosmitzki
“With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals.” — Harvard Mental Health Letter
“It seems that the more grateful a person is, the less depressed they are. Philip Watkins, a clinical psychologist at Eastern Washington University, found that clinically depressed individuals showed significantly lower gratitude (nearly 50 percent less) than non-depressed controls.” — Ocean Robbins
“Gratitude helps us realize what we have. This can lessen our need for wanting more all the time.” — Dr. Robert Emmons
“When Mark Twain said, “I can live two months on a good compliment,” he only told half the story. While the person who receives the praise enjoys feeling noticed and valued (and is motivated to do more of the same), the giver can also bask in the connection. With every compliment given, a bond is strengthened, trust is built, and conversation encouraged.” — Unstuck
There’s much much more to find. I just ran out of time today. Feel free to use the comments below to add to the list.
Photo Credit: HowardLake via Compfight cc
I have allowed fear to rule my life for far too long.
Fear of failing… Fear of disappointing others… Fear of not having enough or not being able to provide for my family… Fear of not being responsible enough.
Fear is something that I’ve been sitting in recently and it’s been costing me dearly. It’s affected my relationship with my wife, with my children, with my friends, and with myself. It’s dampened the life that I should be living. It’s robbing me of the precious few days I’ve been granted on this earth.
I appreciate fear in that it has kept me safe. But the fear is trying to keep me safe from EVERY potential experience of pain. I’ve decided that I’d rather just go through whatever it is that may happen instead of worrying about what may be.
I’ve decided that I will have to deal with disappointment, frustration, criticism, critique, and even pain…. Maybe.
I might end up having a good day, and none of the bad things that I’ve been expecting to happen will ever happen. The chances of a positive outcome are just as likely as the catastrophes I’m trying to guard against.
When crap happens, I’ll deal with it THEN. Until then, I choose to have a good day.
Every time I watch Cesar Millan in any one of his multiple shows, I end up taking notes. Not because I have a dog to train (a few years back we lost our dog after 17 years) but because the principles of changing dogs and changing people are remarkably similar.
Here Are The 6 Things I Learned About Changing People From Cesar Millan
1. “We’re All A Work In Progress As Human Beings.”
This is something I have been telling my clients for the last 10 years. None of us ever “arrive” at being perfect. Life is about progress and growth and change. Sometimes we hit harder seasons, sometimes easier ones. It helps when we hold onto a mindset of learning and curiosity.
In one of his shows, Cesar says, “He (the dog) tells me his story, you (the owner) tell me your story. Then we put your stories together and we move on from there.” Your stories make up who you are. You continue to make new stories every day. When you’re intentional about catching your stories you can allow them to shape you. But then you move on. You are NOT who you were a year ago, or 5 years ago.
Cesar constantly says that dogs live in the moment. They don’t hold grudges or worry about what happened in the past. They are just here. Now. We as humans can do the exact same thing and truly enjoy who we are and where we’re at.
2. Rule, Boundaries, and Limitations
Dogs need rules, boundaries and limitations. Humans do too. Dogs have them imposed on them by attentive, competent owners. Humans learn to place them on themselves.
“When a dog has no limits, they don’t know how to relax.” Boundaries do the same things for humans. They allow you to let your guard down at the right time and in the right place. They help you become present and connected to your experiences around yourself in real time.
They did an interesting study with children on a play ground. They found that when there were no fences or lines, the kids were more anxious and less willing to simply play. But when they drew clear lines and told the kids that they could play anywhere in the designated area, the kids relaxed and enjoyed themselves. Knowing where your lines are means you don’t have to make things up as you go along. It means you know where you stand and what you believe, which makes you feel capable and strong and competent.
As children grow up, adults have to tell them ‘NO’ a lot. “No! You can’t stay up all night. No! You can’t have ice cream for breakfast. No! you can’t skip your homework.” But as kids grow up, instead of expecting parents to add discipline to their lives, they should become self-disciplined. Healthy adults learn how to say ‘NO’ for themselves. This makes it possible to achieve long term goals instead of settling for short term pleasure.
3. Dogs (and People) Aren’t A Mystery
Often I have new clients come into my office genuinely confused as to why-they-do-what-they-do or why-they-feel-what-they-feel. They believe that there is something strange or mysterious or “special” about their level of pain or woundedness. They feel alone and scared and isolated and overwhelmed.
I am given the opportunity to teach them that they are NOT alone and that the things they are thinking, feeling, and experiencing are actually pretty normal given their story and experiences. Your behavior makes senses, especially when you know what to look for.
In Cesar’s world, scared, anxious, and aggressive dogs make sense. He’s able to go back and clearly explain to the owners how their own behaviors, attitudes, and energy have created these feelings and behaviors in their beloved pets. He shows them a way out—a way of being different in order to help their dogs feels calm and submissive and happy.
The same thing can happen with you even if your’e feeling scared and overwhelmed. Your feelings are not a mystery and coming to understand why they are there will help you start to feel normal again. It is the beginning of real change that you’ll be able to see and measure as you move through the process of healing.
4. Body Posture Reinforces The Brain State
One of my favorite episodes was when Cesar was working with an especially timid and fearful dog along a busy city street. To help improve the mental state of the dog, Cesar tied one end of the leash to the dog’s tail in order to keep it in an upright position and to prevent it from moving between the dog’s rear legs into a posture of fear.
Your body and mind are also deeply connected. The position you sit in, the way you interact with others, the way you hold your head and your eyes and your hands and your mouth all reinforce your existing mental state. If you try to change your mind without addressing your body, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
It’s a balancing act between mind and body. Making small but essential changes to both your mental state as well as your physical state will allow you to grow and change and progress much more rapidly. You may not need to tie a leash to your tail, but you you can try other things, like this.
5. We’re All Energy & Body Language
It’s a common experience to walk into a room and to “feel” the tension in the room even though no one has outrightly said anything aggressive or confrontational. You may get a weird “vibe” or sense that that guy is creepy or skeezy in some way. Or you sit next to someone and you can feel their confidence and self assurance. You watch the singer or performer and just “know” that they are different or better than everyone else. They have that strange, undefinable “IT” factor that you just can’t put your finger on.
You pick up on signal through thousands of micro-expressions, body positions, and energy. Cesar spends most of his time on his shows explaining to people how their energy is affecting the attitude and energy in their dog. In fact, over and over, people say that Cesar is magic because he can just hold the leash of some out-of-control dog and they miraculously change into the most submissive, calm, wonderful animal. Cesar isn’t magic, he just has different energy.
In one episode, Cesar pointed out, “They removed him (the dog) [from the triggering event] but they didn’t help him recover all the way to the relaxed state.” Changing posture is helpful (#3 above), but it’s not enough. Being able to also change your energetic posture is also essential. Moving into a relaxed presence means that you’re going to heal and recover fully. It’s not enough to just look like you’re doing good on the outside. I want you to BE good on the inside as well.
Becoming aware of your energy will help you change. More importantly, learning when you’re reading or responding to other people’s energy will help you feel safer and more in control. Learning to TRUST yourself and your perceptions is also a critical step in feeling more confident and in control of your own life.
6. You Are Not Your Dysfunction
Cesar approaches dogs differently than their owners. The owner sees Fluffy as “a cute, rambunctious, snookums that just likes to playfully nip at people. She doesn’t really mean to hurt anyone and we don’t want to hurt poor little Fluffy’s feelings by scolding or discipling her. That might make her sad.”
Cesar sees the dog the exact opposite—Animal first, dog second, breed third, and then name or personality. Cesar understands that animals behave like animals. They don’t see the world like humans do and therefore shouldn’t be treated like humans. They should be treated respectfully and kindly like animals.
Some who come into my office have owned or allowed some diagnosis to become their identity. “I am a Bipolar” or “I am a Depressed person” or “I have an Anxiety Disorder or Eating Disorder or Abuse Victim or whatever.” Some person somewhere has given their collection of symptoms a label and they believe that this will define them for the rest of their lives.
Everyone who walks into my office has one thing in common—they are human beings first and foremost. They share the same planet as everyone else and therefore have to deal with the same struggles, difficulties, and joys that come along with being human. Their humanity is the first thing that needs to be dealt with. They need to be treated with respect and valued like every human deserves. They need to feel safe and accepted for who they are.
Eventually you’ll work your way down through the layers. You are more than your “issues” and they need to be considered in the context of your overall human experience. Not every case of sadness is depression. Not every person who experiences abuse has PTSD.
You are not your disorder. You are much more than that.
Cesar, as you can see, I’m a fan and of your approach and your influence on other living creatures. I’ve never met you, but given the chance, I’d enjoy sitting down and having lunch with you to learn more about you and your unique story and not just the persona I and millions of others see on TV. I understand that, like every one of us, you’re also in process, growing and changing, trying and failing, risking and succeeding in between your own fears and insecurities. I’d like you to know that your approaches are appreciated, not just for the canine world, but for your influence on some of us humans as well.