A Simple Perspective Change…
As this year comes to an end, most of us are realizing that we’ve fallen short of accomplishing all of the goals we had set for the year; therefore, the pressure of making changes for the New Year starts to build up, which often prompts us to make new resolution lists. This year, however, I've decided to try something different: Working on a change of perspective, rather than a long (and ominous) resolution list.
Have you ever watched the movie How Do You Know? This delightful rom-com features excellent actors, including Jack Nicholson; but the best thing about it is the fact that it has some really good quotes. Here’s one of my favorites:
“So I was just wondering if there was one general thing that you've found over the years to be generally true in a general way that would help anyone in any situation?” (Lisa, Reese Witherspoon’s character)
“That's a great question; yes, I would say figure out what you want and learn how to ask for it.” (Psychiatrist, Tony Shalhoub’s character)
From the same movie, here’s what George (Paul Rudd’s character) says to Lisa, after using the awesome story of how Play-Doh was created as an example:
“We’re all just one small adjustment away from making our lives work.”
For this New Year, I’ll be working on figuring out what I really want, learning to get better at how I ask for it, and being open to all those small adjustments that can make life work :)
Happy New Year!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 12/28/21
Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash
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…Without Getting Drawn Into It
Holidays have always been emotionally loaded times; but everything that’s been happening in the world seems to have escalated the overload level in the past couple of years… Many of us find ourselves caught between wanting to have a good time with family during the supposedly cheerful holiday season, and having a gloomy idea of what that’s really going to look like…
All of us have issues to work through and resolve; however, it’s also true that some family members and close friends seem to bring more than their share of drama to the table. If we’re able to avoid getting together with people who need their fix of DDD (Daily Dose of Drama) to survive, and who tend to suck the energy right out of the room and trigger us in the process, sometimes that can be the best option. But this might not be possible without avoiding the rest of the family, or creating more issues and drama ourselves. In that case, those necessary encounters can always be used as opportunities to continue healing issues and improving ourselves, as follows:
- We can learn how to process our own emotions. Everything that happens to us reflects or mirrors something that we’re either reflecting back, or that needs more understanding and deeper healing within ourselves. Observing our triggered emotions and learning to express them constructively in a safe space are the first steps in the process of re-framing, healing and releasing them. Sometimes, professional guidance may be necessary.
- We can watch and avoid repeating old patterns of behavior. When we are with family with whom we still have unresolved issues, we tend to fall back into the same old patterns we’ve been repeating with them for a long time. Rather than falling into that same trap for the umpteenth time, we can choose to observe and deconstruct those patterns. Before reacting to a family member who did something to trigger us, let’s stop and think: Have I acted out or reacted in a similar way to the same person or situation before? How did that work out for everyone involved? Was it really worth it? If not, why would I want to do the same thing again? What can I do differently this time? At any given moment, we all have the choice to react to an old issue in a completely renewed (and hopefully more effective and constructive) way. Sometimes the answer is simply to not engage. Believe me, that takes a whole lot more discernment, sensitivity, perception and courage than acting out, reacting or overreacting in the usual manner.
- We can draw strong boundaries. Even if we have to be in the same place with someone we have issues with, that doesn’t mean that we have to engage or allow ourselves to be energetically and emotionally engaged by that person; we can still exchange polite greetings and partake in casual conversation without being dragged into the drama vortex.
- We can find a quiet place and connect with our inner voice or guidance, giving ourselves a break to reset, recharge and refocus before dealing with the person(s) or situation again.
- We can approach people and situations with caution, rather than fear. After being burned by the same people and situations over and over, it’s a normal reaction to start fearing and expecting the worst of any form of engagement. However, the “fear” language comes from the ego and just brings more of the same, along with its siblings, anger, resentment, paranoia, etc. On the other hand, the language of love only begets more love. Love always wins. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to just go out there and expose ourselves to harmful and hurtful people and situations. But even choosing to be cautions from a place of love and compassion is more positive and constructive than anything that comes from a place of fear.
- We can choose to not intentionally harm or hurt. That can be tempting, if we’ve been repeatedly harmed or hurt ourselves. Ultimately, though, we carry the energetic load of what we’ve done to others much more heavily than that of what’s been done to us. And who needs that kind of karma?
- We can avoid gossip (and not worry about what they’re saying, either). He said, she said… People who live on drama tend to gossip, lie, take things out of context, embellish or distort facts. Although that can be hurtful, in the end it doesn’t really matter what people are saying about us. Those who truly know and love us won’t pay attention to or believe in untruths, and those who would believe whatever is said without checking the facts or bothering to ask for our version or point of view are not worth having around or be too close to, anyway.
What matters more is what we’re saying about others. Is it positive or negative? Will it add to the dialogue in a helpful and meaningful way or just foster more negativity, separation, discord? Is it coming from love or fear? Let’s keep in mind the energetic load we’re creating for ourselves and others, and choose wisely.
- We can let go of trying to fix or save someone else. We can’t help anyone who’s not ready or willing to help themselves, and we can’t shorten anyone’s path. That would actually rob them of important learning and growing experiences. Each of us needs to be responsible for our own actions and reactions, our own healing and growth.
- We can try your best to feel compassion for that person (or persons) by remembering that everyone of us is doing the best that we can at any given moment. Self-compassion is also a must; that includes giving ourselves a break if we slip and react to someone or to a situation, despite our best intentions. After all, the holidays are about forgiveness, as well…
With all that being said, wishing you a lovely (and loving) holiday season!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 11/30/21
Photo by Frank Busch on Unsplash
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When was the last time you really paid attention to the main motivation behind everything you do? The thoughts you have, the actions you take, the decisions you make?
Do you suspect that guilt might have something to do with it? Or perhaps that guilty feeling or sensation is so prevalent that it’s present all the time, just under the surface, and you don’t even notice or know it’s there anymore. You might be running on autopilot with guilt as a continuously renewable source of motivation, while glossing it over with positive feelings generated by higher inspiration.
If you resonate with this feeling of latent guilt, chances are you grew up in an environment where one or more authority figures instilled beliefs in you that made you feel bad about yourself, and consequently guilty about not doing enough, not being enough, not getting it right, not turning out the way you should have (according to their expectations), and so forth.
Now you’re caught between a rock and a hard place: On one hand, you may be highly self-critical and critical of others, having high expectations about life in general and people in particular. On the other hand, you feel that you have to do and be and give and achieve and help and fix and save to the point of exhaustion, as any less might cause you to feel guilty and ashamed. You have to do it all perfectly, too; after all, what will others think or say if you don’t get it right all the time?
Consequently, you also attract the kind of relationships that tend to fulfill your prophecy about yourself and life in general, to one degree or another. Catch 22.
Example: Really, Why Do I Rescue Cats?
Drawing from a personal example about being motivated by guilt: I unwittingly got involved with cat rescue when I decided to feed one hungry, skinny, stray black cat. After a few days my husband and I noticed he had a companion, a tuxedo cat that seemed to be hanging around with him. We thought they were both males. The tuxedo cat turned out to be a female who, one fine day, showed up with four kittens! We did our best to feed and care for them, but after she got pregnant again and had another litter in our backyard, which was followed by one of her older babies also having a litter, we realized we needed help to catch, spay/neuter and release them, and started working with local rescue organizations. After several adoptions and a few losses, we’re still taking care of 9 rescue cats, in addition to our three original animal companions.
Our colony of cats has become part of our lives and we have become part of theirs, for better or for worse. This has been an emotionally, physically and financially draining process for us, but it also gave us many rewards. There's no better feeling than finding good homes or caring for kitties that otherwise would have had a hard and possibly short life on the streets.
Although rescue work can be rewarding, I’ve also learned the hard way that it can become an all-consuming activity that tears down healthy boundaries and takes over our lives, especially if I allow my motivation to be taken over by guilt. Since I got involved in this work, I’ve realized that many of my decisions have been driven by guilt stemming from a time when I didn’t do as much as I could have for some of my former animal companions and other animals that crossed my path, due to ignorance or lack of awareness about their needs. Going deeper down the rabbit (or cat) hole, some of the guilt relates to the times in my life when I felt neglected or I didn’t see to my own needs.
What to Do If You’re Caught Inside The Guilt Spinning Wheel
Having had plenty of experience being caught in this loop myself, I’ve realized that sometimes it’s not about trying to fix or change it; it’s a matter of becoming more aware of the issue and simply asking yourself questions about your motivation, observing yourself and catching yourself in guilt-ridden action. Once you do, at that moment you can always make a different choice.
Even if the choice you make is still the same one, you can still choose to explore and focus on the more positive feelings behind why we’re making that choice, so that there’s less emphasis on the guilt. For instance, with the animal rescue example, I love animals and it makes me happy when I’m able to find good homes for stray cats, or care for them. The more emphasis you manage to give to positive feelings, the less emphasis is left over for the guilt. This process, along with the simple awareness that guilt is in the back burner, can give you a much better chance to make your choices and decisions for guilt-free reasons.
FINAL THOUGHT: Self-exploration about why we make certain choices and decisions is an opportunity to lessen the influence of guilt and discover what truly motivates us. Which aspects of your life are running on guilt?
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 10/26/21
Photo by Tolga Ulkan on Unsplash
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…But Being Defined by Labels Can Become a Deficiency
Never before have we had access to so much information about… well, pretty much everything. That can be helpful and useful in many ways, if we have the discernment to sift through the overload of available information and determined what’s accurate, what’s inaccurate, what’s distorted by the sponsors behind the information being disseminated, and so forth. If we do manage to come out on the other side of the maze, there’s plenty of reliable information we can access on our own or through reputable healthcare professionals to help answer our questions.
Due to the outspread availability of information, it has also become easier to label conditions, even when those labels mean that current knowledge doesn’t have all the answers and healthcare professionals don’t really have a clue about what’s going on or how to cure it. Still, there are plenty of labels that get thrown around in relation to diseases and illnesses with internal, external and unknown causes that doctors can’t quite define or understand, from autoimmune to brain-related/neurological conditions such as RA, Fibromyalgia, Autism and Alzheimer’s, to name just a few.
On one hand, it’s important to know as much as possible about health issues and conditions that may limit our lives in any way. Knowledge is power; it can enable us to manage such issues and maintain a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.
On the other hand, being defined by such labels can become a deficiency if that instills fear in us, preventing us from living life to the best of our abilities. It can become a deficiency if we accept these labels without question and feel limited to the point where they are used as excuses to stop growing, to justify the belief that we’re not capable of pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, trying to overcome our circumstances and doing better every day. Labeling can lead to resignation that makes us forget the power of the mind and spirit.
As someone who deals with frequent anxiety and even the occasional panic attack due to OCPD, and who has discovered as an adult that I might be on the lower end of the neurodivergent spectrum (in addition to having physical issues such as herniated disks and hip repair surgery), I understand how difficult it can be to deal with and manage a limiting condition. Because I don’t want to take medication, managing myself takes a combination of alternative therapies (hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, flower essences, essential oils, etc), along with regular meditation, breathing techniques, etc. Exercising and practicing yoga also help; so do writing and coloring book therapy. In other words, proper self care is vital; that includes establishing priorities and strong boundaries that involve plenty of quiet time, while not neglecting to stay connected with loved ones. I also developed the habit of deliberately shifting my thinking when I start obsessing and feeling anxious about something; I try to focus on the ultimate goal, set my intention and simply say to myself: "I give this to God (or my guides, Angels, Source, Universe, etc)." That opens the space to receive clear guidance and be able to follow it, even when it’s unsettling. Not beating myself up for not being perfect is also key!
Of course, each individual has different needs and needs to find their own ways to cope or recover; but here are some additional tools that have been effective for myself, my clients and others who have tried them:
- Rather than reminding myself of why I can't do something, I make sure to constantly re-frame that thought by teaching myself how I can do anything I set my intention to accomplish.
- Hypno-coaching can help jump-start healing on a subconscious level by using scripts such as Gateway to Healing by Linda Bennett and Self-Health by A. Chips.
- The Emotion Code is a simple technique to help release trapped negative emotions from the body: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g7pRNLJKh4
- Mel Robbins' 5 Second Rule and other similar techniques are effective shortcuts to trick the brain into doing what I want it to do: htthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI2VQ-ZsNr0
- The morning pages exercise (also known as brain drain or mind dump) is a powerful method of uncluttering the brain and opening the space for creative solutions to life’s puzzle:
Here's Everything I Learned From Doing Morning Pages Every Day
FINAL WORD: We are all works in progress, doing the best we know how at any given moment. Whatever challenges we deal with on the physical, mental emotional and spiritual levels, we are the only ones with the power to define ourselves; and that in itself is an organic, ever-changing process. Let’s not get stuck on a label!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 09/28/21
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
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