I do a short radio show with Spencer each week where we choose a topic and chat about it on the path of personal growth. For an upcoming week, she selected the topic of numbing. As often happens, after we select our topic, it comes more into my awareness and it often leads to some valuable insight about myself.
Then I came across a new blog post from Brene’ Brown on the topic of midlife. Amazing, perfectly timed and very, very validating and affirming to say the least. The culmination of these two things got me asking myself a question… how am I numbing myself? I mean, there are the obvious ones that many of us use: food, social media, spending, being overly busy, work, alcohol, drugs. There are also ways we numb that aren’t so obvious like: gossip, perfectionism, being judgmental, blaming, being angry. Because numbing is about avoiding our own evolution that comes from feeling the hard feelings that come with what Dr. Brown calls “unraveling”, I can tell you I have used almost all of these routes at some point in time. Here's why...
I am a woman who has spent most of her life on the run. Running from feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, not being enough in some way, or just wondering “what the hell is ‘wrong’ with me?”. When I’m not running FROM the feelings themselves, I am running TOWARD what I think will ease the pain of these feelings I am trying to dodge.
What arrived for my examination today is some clarity: I use my intimate relationships as a way to numb myself from the feelings of inadequacy I carry around. I focus on care-giving, solving, supporting, to the extreme because if I can just help them be happy – then, I can relax because that mean I am okay, valuable and finally enough.
There are a ton of issues with this approach, here are just what I would say are the top three:
I am a firm believer in something I have heard Oprah verbalize. The Universe is speaking to us. First it whispers and if we don’t pay attention, it gets louder and louder. First you get a pebble upside the head, then a brick, then a brick wall. I additionally know that our bodies follow this approach as well. Our body is always sending us a message of what needs our attention. Right now, my body is getting a little louder with its message. Nothing life-threatening, just trying to get my attention. I think it’s saying “Sandy, you need to take care of you. It’s time to finally learn to love and accept yourself. I’m trying to protect you, but you have to remember who you are and stop running.” As long as I am uber focused on the well-being of someone else or my relationship with them at the expense of myself, I am on the run from my fear of my lack of worthiness with no good finish line in the outcome.
Our self-esteem is within us, it's in there, but sometimes it gets propped up on a faulty foundation of making other people happy. When that foundation is torn away, you get the opportunity to rebuild it, with new updated tools and in the way you really want it to be.
Construction always comes with delays and the trick is to not start thinking that the delays are a refusal for the project to be built. It’s easy to have a day (or ten!) where the idea of loving & accepting ourselves seems like a pipe dream and maybe we think we should just resign ourselves to getting by with the old crappy foundation. But then, the clouds will part a bit and we’ll see that the delay is behind us and we go forward a little bit more.
I know I won’t ever get a certificate of completion on learning to be okay with myself, it’s a process and I’ll continue to unravel my old system of over-giving and discounting myself – but I’m a pretty determined chick & my aim is to shine my light. When we numb our hard feelings, we dim our light. When your numbing method of choice fails to work – you can feel as though your light has faded to black. But that’s simply not possible.
I am super blessed to have a tribe of people in my life who are amazingly supportive, never seem to judge me and just hold space for me while I find my way through my stuff. THESE are people you can lean on without fear of becoming dependent on their approval for your own self-acceptance. That’s been a big lesson for me. Among those in my life who have shown me this grace is Don. He has shown me a lot about how to give someone the space to regain their own footing, yet still be there, cheering them on behind the scenes. It gives the person the opportunity to learn to give themselves the thing only they can give to themselves and have it really stick.
Yes, I see clearly that over care-giving can become a form of numbing, a way to feel like we are enough, a way to “save” others who don’t actually require (or even want) our saving. I see that now. When we over-give to those who are capable of doing it for themselves, we set both them and ourselves up for a lot of pain.
Brene’ Brown says everyone numbs sometimes. Addiction is when we numb chronically & compulsively. So, it only stands to reason then, to stop an addiction to numbing requires a recovery process. If you know anything at all about recovery, you know it is a moment by moment choice to show up for yourself. Becoming the observer of your behavior without judgement and choosing the most loving action you can take in that moment for yourself and for the greater good of all.
I appreciate that my body is trying to get my attention with some uncomfortableness. It is demanding that I do some self-care rather than being consumed with “other-care” for those who will also benefit by caring for themselves. I don’t want to numb my way out of the chance to learn to appreciate myself for who I am and what I came to offer the world. The best way to give to others and be compassionate is not to lose myself, but to 1. Get better at caring for and accepting myself AND 2. Caring for and accepting others. I have some catching up to do on the first part.
Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way up front: I am not a licensed psychologist, scientist or psychiatrist. These are indeed, just words from a chick who’s on her path and has had a lot of life experience in relationship studies – some of it, pretty rough study. When I come up against something challenging or painful, I try to learn from it, learn about it, and grow.
Now that we have that out of the way, I have a theory that I find to be pretty solid in my own experience that I am hopeful you will find helpful. Change is inevitable. Everything changes – it’s gonna happen and its level of difficulty is on a spectrum from easier to somewhat hard. Most often, change does not stick. Its sustainability is rocky because often we try to change others or ourselves out of fear. More on this in a bit.
Transformation on the other hand, is NOT inevitable. It’s a choice and it’s much more permanent. Think cocoon to butterfly. There anin’t no goin’ back into the cocoon once you transform into the mariposa. Transformation is way, way harder than change – actually it totally sucks for the most part on the way there. It requires you to unravel things that you have all cross wired in your thinking, beliefs, emotions, & your body. It’s facing down the demons you have created for yourself and exorcising them. You look right into the valley of your own shadow side. Things we all have and acquire on our journey, but often there comes a point when these cross wired systems and avoiding our shadow no longer serves us. It’s super painful, and for this reason most will choose the easier route, of either staying the same or making a less painful change versus a transformation.
Here is my theory; change doesn’t usually stick because it comes from fear or from those emotional states on the right hand side of the above diagram. In order to truly transform, the emotional driver must be from the higher feeling states on the left – like love. Only love is powerful enough to cause transformation. Let’s see if I can give you an example or two…
When you nag, shame, blame, critisize someone into changing their behavior, does it seem to work? I mean does the other person say “Gee, I feel so motivated by your badgering me into submission – I will gladly do what you ask.” Nagging, complaining, blaming - these feelings have their roots in fear. Fear that our hopes won’t be fulfilled. Fear that the other person’s behavior reflects on us in some way that we are not enough. Fear that we are vulnerable and we want to avoid the hard feelings that are coming up in us. Blaming and demanding change from other people is just us trying to avoid our own difficult feelings.
Conversely, what if we approached this same situation from love, hopefulness, and empowerment? We would open up a discussion and talk about what we feel and experience when the other person is behaving in a way that brings up hurt in us. We’d approach it not from blame and trying to shame the other person into being what we need, but from an empowered, responsible adult angle instead of our powerless, wounded child. So many times it's not the conversation in the moment that is causing our pain but a lifetime of a similar conversations that gets triggered and we aim our pain at the person in front of us.
Now, let’s take this one step further and apply it to our own inner mean girl. Nagging, shaming or any of the emotions on right hand side of the chart above in our self-talk don’t work any better on ourselves than they do on other people! You cannot shame yourself into transformation. Only love is powerful enough to handle that kind of gigantic shift. Telling ourselves how fat or unattractive or stupid or whatever crap judgement you lay on yourself – MIGHT get us to change for a little bit, but it won’t be sustainable. Shame is not a transformation facilitator. Weighing ourselves daily to see if we have earned the right to feel good about ourselves… that’s shaming yourself into staying in line. It’s relying on externals to know we are worthy and those externals are flaky! They are unstable and have no loyalty to you!
I recently heard relationship expert Ellyn Bader say in an interview with Jayson Gaddis that we should never say what we NEED from our partner. NEED repels. It can be shaming and it indicates that you have an expectation that the other person is responsible for your happiness. Think about it for a second… if your partner says “I need you to talk to me respectfully” they just told you that you evidently aren’t doing so currently, and this is going to likely bring up shame or guilt in you. It makes it almost impossible for the other person to give this to you generously. (I encourage you to listen to the link above after you read this Sandy Chat for some insightful relationship stuff on this topic!)
What if instead your partner said something like “When you talk to me in an angry tone, my experience of that is that I feel disrespected. I hope that you care about my feelings.” No need, no blame, simply what you are feeling and experiencing and what you are hoping for. Notice that hopefulness is on the LEFT hand side of our chart above. It has the power to lead to transformation instead of just change. It’s about staying vulnerable enough to state what feelings YOU are experiencing - without blame or judgement of the other person because YOUR feelings are YOUR responsibility. This will require you to get clear with your OWN feelings and be willing to be vulnerable rather than blame and shame the other person. Our feelings aren't "wrong", so discounting them in yourself or others is not helpful and only adds more shame to the equation. How we feel and experience people and conditions IS our responsibility, and making those feelings bad or wrong can cause them to stick around for a very long time.
You won’t be clear headed enough in the heat of the moment to think this clearly! You have to practice when you’re not in the middle of an argument or difficult situation. This is big: stating what we want, rather than a focus on what we DON’T want will go a really long way to helping you not only in your communication with people you are in relationship with, but also with your self-talk.
When we talk to ourselves from a needy, demanding sort of place, change may be possible for a short time, but we don’t transform out of that kind of fear based place. “If only” is a needy, victim mentality place that gives our power away. When we focus on what we don’t want, we get more of that very thing. We end up creating the very conditions we are opposed to.
“No matter where you go there you are.” This was a favorite line of an old friend of mine and it’s really all about this same idea of change and transformation. You can change your address, change your job, change who you sleep next to – but unless you TRANSFORM you will simply be taking your same junk to the new location or the new relationship. Until you transform your relationship with YOURSELF, you will repeat your same reality over and over again, even if you change the players or the places.
I get it why most people will choose to change without transforming their relationship with themselves –it’s ridiculously hard!!! You have to stand in the face of the storms that come at you over and over again, wave after wave. Your own shame shit storm will try to beat you down and there may even be those that you love who will toss some serious shame at you for not meeting their expectations or needs. This is probably why most people will take the easier route and just lose their freakin’ minds or give up and settle in to a life being less than they had hoped for. Believe me, losing my mind along with other options based in fear, have certainly sounded easier at times for me than to keep aiming at transformation of how I feel about myself. Running away and joining the circus was an option I seriously considered!
What I’ve realized is that everything that has happened FOR me is a perfect opportunity for me to learn to give myself what will fill the empty parts of me. To not need externals, other people to fill me up and to know that I am okay, enough, worthy - just as I am. Then! when I come together with someone, they are the cherry on top rather than my needing them to fill up my self-created inner emptiness.
What if the super hard stuff that is happening is exactly what has to happen for my transformation to fill up my own empty spaces, so I have that in my backpack for the rest of my journey? What if my transformation into shining my light fully is what helps someone else to find the courage to find their light and shine it? What if it has all been about helping me have a better, more loving relationship with myself? That makes taking myself through hell and back seem worth it!
Shaming others or ourselves into being different in some way doesn’t work. Have you noticed??? Forgiveness, Love, acceptance, freedom – these are the only forces powerful enough to facilitate transformation. Tell your inner mean girl “Thanks for your input, I got this, you can do sit down now sweetie.” It will take telling her this many times, again and again till she gets the message. Actually all she wants is love, so fight the temptation to talk smack to her in retaliation and she will relax much sooner.
A biggie is coming clear for me recently and I can’t say that this realization has happened very often in my life. That clarity that the thing I have been complaining about in someone else is the very same thing I am doing to them. I suppose most of the time my righteous anger wins out and I just stay focused on the “wrong-doings” of the other person. I mean, can't they SEE how "wrong" they are and how "right" I am??
The above quote kind of makes me say "Ugh." If I sit with it though... I can see for sure that the way I feel I am treated in relationship is also how I treat myself on many levels. As I mentioned to someone recently who said they felt they were in an abusive relationship, "How is your own relationship with yourself?" They admitted to being pretty abusive in their own self-talk.
Now, intellectually, I totally get the concept that other people are our mirrors, that they are often reflecting something about ourselves back to us or that they are offering us information about ourselves in some way. In fact I have written a Sandy Chat on that very topic and how others can also reflect to us that we need to treat ourselves with more love and care. Very recently I have come to the eye-opening awareness that I have been trying to change another person – by complaining to, and about them, Now get this…I've been railing about how they are trying to change ME! I have this mantra that other people’s feelings about me and my choices are not my responsibility – that they choose those. YET! I have been upset at how their behavior causes me to feel. Hello double standard. Hello mirror. Ironic, ain't it.
So I am asking myself this question… do I really want to be responsible for how I feel? Or is my real desire for the other person to change? Dang. Truth – I want them to change then life would be awesome. Breaking news… this just in… you can’t change other people.
I read a great blog post on this idea by Dr. Margaret Paul and this was pretty eye opening. If I need someone, anyone else, to change in order for me to be okay, I am not taking responsibility for myself. What if that other person never changes? I must either accept them as they are, or leave the situation – but blaming, complaining, judging, or my favorite: being a victim of that other person and the conditions – none of these things are being a loving adult to myself or to the other party.
But this is what we do isn’t it. We focus on the things the other person needs to change in order for us to feel okay. If they would just change, be different, if only they did or said X. I have not always been super great about owning that I do this and it has caused me plenty of pain and suffering due to my own thoughts – not due to the choices of others. It's not what is happening that is the cause of our pain, our guilt, our anger. It is the MEANING we put on things that causes it all.
Giving Away Our Power
“It’s about standing in your own light.” This phrase has been passed on to me something like a zillion times by my coach Joy. I’ll be super honest… I really had no idea what she meant by it at first. I looked through my notes from our sessions I’m sure it’s in there damn near every other time. More truth… I’ve even Googled it to try and really understand the importance and meaning of this sentence.
What I am coming to understand is that our “light” is that Divine spark within each of us. It’s what we came into this world to give. We all have it and free will dictates that it is our choice how much to fan it. We can let it remain a spark or we can create a flame, a beam of light, our power.
I recently heard Deepak Chopra make some statements about how we give our power away and how to reclaim it. “We give up our power when we shrink to other people and circumstances.” So this speaks to wanting other people to change so we can feel okay. If you think about it, complaining, blaming and judging feels more powerful than being depressed or a victim for sure – yet it is not nearly as powerful as love, hopefulness, empowerment, freedom. So, we can do better if we wake up to how we are dimming ourselves when we make others responsible for our happiness.
He also talked about two of the biggest ways we give away our power and dim our light… putting ourselves and others in a box – a.k.a. labeling. Secondly by having dualistic thinking. As in, it’s this or it’s that. It’s black or it’s white. I’m “right” and you’re “wrong”. These two mindsets: putting ourselves and others in a box and believing it’s this or it’s that – cause us to feel TRAPPED. When we feel trapped we will either step into our light, or we will dim ourselves.
Our internal power comes from standing in the center of our own lives, taking responsibility for OUR side of the street. We must stay conscious and awake, speak our truth in a loving way and know our worth – simply because we were born.
When we blame, accuse, label, and go to sleep in our lives… we give away our power. We step right into victim mentality where we are TRAPPED and at the will of others and circumstances. Here’s the thing… we are NEVER at any other person or circumstances will, but when we focus on how other people or the circumstances must change in order for us to be okay, we are not taking care of ourselves. It’s simply an attempt to not feel the difficult feelings we have about OURSELVES. If I’m busy blaming you or complaining about you, I get to avoid becoming self-actualized and feeling vulnerable.
If we are really ready to be responsible for ourselves and our feelings, we’ll have to let go of focusing on the stuff other people are doing that we view as “wrong” and supposedly making it impossible for us to be okay. This is far from an easy thing to do. When our set-point becomes fear, anger, feeling like a victim, etc. - it takes some real conscious effort to break that addiction and you can only do this for yourself, no one can do it for you - although having a supportive tribe is amazingly helpful.
Yeah, all the things I complain about someone else doing that caused me pain and suffering… I’ve done those same things either to myself or to them. I’m trying to just observe this without judgement so that I can learn from it and not go into kicking my own backside – which is how the cycle typically goes.
It’s a hard habit to break. I have a big intention to drop blame from my relationships and still, I find myself going right there and before I know it I’m on a rant of how the other party is so “wrong”. If I can grab the wheel and get myself back on the road when I’m veering off into the blame ditch, I very often can find a glimpse of information about myself being shown through the behavior of the other person. Either something I too am doing, or that I need to take better care of myself in some way. As long as I need anyone else to change in order to feel okay or have a better experience, I am a victim and I don’t think that’s what I came to this world to be. I am Sandy Edie after all. ;-)
I’ll admit it, I have played the role of a “fixer”. If you ever watched the t.v. show The Blacklist, this role was known as “the cleaner”. Red would make a big mess, then this small unassuming looking woman (pictured above) would come in and clean up the whole bloody murder scene. She is small, but mighty!
For me, the fixing or cleaning kicks in when someone is unhappy, angry, disillusioned, feeling lower energy states either towards me or in general. I not only believe that I CAN fix it, it’s also my responsibility… because somehow, it’s my fault that they feel this way. This belief is limiting. Now! Let me be clear, it’s not limiting to have the belief and confidence that you CAN fix something for someone or to want to for that matter. The limiting part is in that last segment – that it’s my responsibility to fix it for them and that it is somehow my fault, even when it’s their stuff.
I read this AA quote that is so true – “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” It’s a recipe for a resentment to develop in us when we expect that we are responsible for how someone else feels, that we expect them to respond to our efforts. When we inevitably aren’t able to fix things for those we want so desperately to make happy, it sets us up to resent them. Fixing, repairing, negotiating and even fighting and defending in order for others to be happy, robs them of the experience they need to find their own power and how to access it. Our fixing intentions come from a wish to be loving, but the result is not what we intended. Not even close. Yes, we can indeed contribute to someone's happiness. We cannot be responsible for it. Our happiness is fully the responsibility of each of us. A choice we get to make.
Let’s say there is a beautiful vase that was given to you as a gift. You love it, you love the way you feel when you look at it, it actually causes you to want to up-level the rest of your environment because it is so amazingly beautiful to you. You have had it for maybe half your lifetime.
Then, some things happen that distract your gaze and you forget to appreciate the beauty of your gift and it accidentally falls from the shelf. There is some damage to it. The “fixer” will do whatever it takes to make it all better! It may have a slight chip in it, but you return it to the shelf and to appreciating it, enjoying it, loving it. All is well, you can relax when the vase is okay, safe from harm and repaired.
But these falls start to happen more frequently to the beautiful vase. They seem to be happening regularly. The Fixer will even abandon themselves and other things that matter to them and invest nearly all their attention into preserving the beautiful gift and trying to prevent the falls from happening. The vase is starting to look a little rough at this point! But it’s still so important to you, it’s made an amazing difference in your life and damaged or not – you still love it. You’ll “make it work.”
Then the big challenge comes. When the vase seems to have been almost intentionally broken. Someone was careless and while it seems as though it was salvageable up to this point, it now lays on the floor in a zillion broken shards. You can’t believe this has happened. It may even seem to you that someone picked up the damn thing and threw it against the wall on purpose. And it may seem that their view is that you left the vase in a vulnerable position ...and so you made them do it. Who broke the vase doesn’t really even matter to you at this point, although… you take on the responsibility for it, because you see its protection as your role.
Enter… what I’m calling “the fixers dilemma": you can’t fix this. You are powerless to make it all okay. Yet your identity, what you DO, is wrapped up in you fixing things! When you can’t – it challenges you deeply to find another part of yourself. Accepting that you can’t fix it, that you are powerless to fix it because you really don’t have power over other people and their choices – this is a ginormous challenge internally. (I speak from experience on this one.) It's super tempting to just ignore this invitation to dig deep and grow your self-acceptance muscle. This is the route many will choose. And that's okay. It's just not my path.
Being unable to make things okay puts the fixer smack in the face of the very thing she does all her fixing in an attempt to avoid – she is hoping to avoid feeling unloved, not accepted. Believing that if she can just make it okay for others, they will understand her, love her.
Now her fixing must be aimed inward, at herself, as she must learn to live with knowing that she has let some people down in life and that there are those who will even wish her ill will as a result. These may even be the very people that she loves with all her heart and soul. Yet here's the thing… this will happen even if she DOES fix the vase! No matter what we do, there will be those who judge us, blame us due to their own stuff and abandoning ourselves to try and avoid this leads to a shit-ton of suffering for everyone involved. We abandon ourselves when we let their low opinions of us – become our own opinions of us.
The beautiful vase is broken. She cannot fix it. No matter how much she has invested in it. No matter how hard she tries. Accepting these facts, is the work now. Finding her own inner “vase”, by holding space for herself is a key I think. Be with the feelings that you work so hard to avoid, Love them - yes, love those feelings that's why the have arrived. So you can make peace with them and let them pass through. While your inner “vase” may look a little dinged up, it has a light that cannot be extinguished. Look past the chips and dings and focus on the beauty that remains. It's in there among the shards.
When we take our strengths too far, they can become a weakness. Empathy, compassion, a desire to help. These are all extremely beautiful gifts that many of us love to share with the world. It seems to me, especially women, seem to sometimes take this beautiful gift of empathy and turn up the volume on it so loud that it actually distorts it, and it can become self-sabotage. Especially if we have even a little dose of low self-esteem on board.
I was recently listening to a interview between Matt Kahn and Christiane Northrup on the subject of emotional energy vampires. Matt said something that I had to rewind and replay several times. It was basically; People with high degrees of empathy, can sometimes have a co-dependency on the low energy of other people. They place their own value on the ability to make things A-Okay for those who aren’t doing it for themselves. Often we can perceive other people’s lower emotions as their opinions of us. We believe that when THEY feel better, then WE can feel better, accepted, okay. We can relax.
Ya know, I think I’ve spent a lifetime believing that when someone is unhappy, grumpy, blaming me, you name it – it was MY responsibility to “FIX” it for them. That if only I can get THEM to feel better, then I’LL feel better. This endless effort to cheer people up, help them with their pain, and all very often to the point of abandoning myself and what I wanted or what was best for me. I no longer believe that this is the path to love.
Even those who don’t seem to want the best for us – when they don’t understand us we can take on this responsibility to “FIX” that view they have of us. Explaining, justifying, defending, rationalizing - these are all attempts to FIX. We all just want to feel validated I suppose. But the most empowered woman is the one who no longer needs validation.
Now, I could decide to try and make some adjustments to my behavior, and just stop taking this undo responsibility upon myself, but this is like repairing a leaking roof with a bucket. The drive to take responsibility for the feelings of others is a result – not a cause. We have to go deeper. We have to repair the roof – not just let it keep leaking and cleaning up the mess. At the core of over-doing our level of responsibility is a lack of feeling accepted and loved and until we give this to ourselves, no amount of making things okay for others will ever fill that bottomless hole. Loving ourselves and having boundaries is how we ultimately repair the leaking roof once and for all.
I must warn you: you may have accumulated some people in your life are just fine and dandy with you taking responsibility for their happiness. When you disrupt this system that gives these other people the ability to draw off your energy – they are NOT going to be on board!!! This will be challenging if you are used to depending on their happiness to provide YOUR happiness. Expect push-back. Plan for it. And their push-back may cause you to fall back into your old pattern. Giving yourself grace in these times can be really challenging. Just do your best to be kind to yourself and remember it's a new practice and that takes time. They don't call it "practice" for nothin'!
Matt Kahn also offered something on this shifting of the responsibilities that you may find helpful like I did… Courage is where we reclaim our power. When we know on some level that there are things we need to stop doing: like enabling others or over-giving to the wrong people, taking care of people who are actually emotionally unsafe for us - but you aren’t ending these things due to trying and please others…. You dim your light. This is robs the world of something only YOU can give – YOUR happiness, YOUR joy, YOUR light. To be the force of love you were meant to be, you can’t leave yourself out of the love equation! You must care for you as well as you care for others.
To bring yourself to the point of being able to release your need to FIX and take responsibility that doesn’t belong to you for things that are not yours, takes some heavy emotional lifting. You can’t rush it – even though you reeeeeeally want to hurry up and get past the pain of the push-back and the feelings of others being angry or unhappy with your choice to make your own spiritual evolution a priority. You'll have to make friends with those uncomfortable feelings and that seems so counter-intuitive! Those feelings are just information and once you let them come through, you can move forward again.
Dr. Christian Northrup says “If someone is mean to you, it’s not your job to just take it. It’s also not your job to change anyone. Just clean up what is yours.” In this case of taking responsibility for other people’s happiness (who often take zero responsibility for it themselves) your side of the street is to stand in your own light and love yourself and others, and allow them the GIFT of learning to find their happiness themselves. It’s actually the only way they can ever really sustain it – if they themselves learn how to develop it. When we take on the job of doing it for them, we actually slow their growth and we FOR SURE stunt our own. The reason we are responsible only for ourselves is because it is the only thing we can actually control. There is a difference in being responsible FOR and responsible TO others.
Along with those who will give you loads of push-back on changing the game, there is this other amazing thing that happens. There are also people in your life who support you making the decision to stand in your own light. Your tribe, those people who bring out your best, cause you to expand, who add to your life. Until you make the shift to power up your own light, you will often be hard-pressed to find these folks in your life. They are there… just waiting for you to choose you.
Learn more about a one day retreat for women on their path!
My friend and guide Joy Miley is hosting a retreat on Saturday April 21st. For more details, click here to go to her website. It is a collaborative experience of learning how to not only have your own back, but also find your tribe. Tribe = people who are FOR you and just waiting for you to choose you. I'll be there!
P.J., she was named to honor her predecessor – Pebbles, who was perhaps my original soul mate. So Pebbles Junior was shortened to P.J. – we knew it was perfect when we stumbled upon it in searching for a name for the third Sheltie I have been fortunate enough to have been part of my life.
We went to her birth home, which was slightly scary! A house crawling with two litters of puppies in the kitchen. I got down on the floor and waited to see who would engage of this pack of so many. Only one came over and hung out to say “Hey! It’s me!” and she came home with us.
Her string of physical challenges started on the ride home! Car sickness. Dang. Didn’t prepare for that. Oh well. Do what you can to comfort her, puke on me is just one of those things. Over her 13 years as a member of the “Hansen Herd”, P.J. developed a long list of physical challenges. Seemingly with more lives than a cat – she would rise up time after time of visiting deaths door.
The list kept by our vets is lengthy of all the things she has recovered from and baffled us with. We would find a remedy, a work around and she’d move forward again and again. Till this past month. Till today.
It’s interesting, when the end appears to be approaching, you might ask yourself “Did I do enough? Did I give her a good life? Did I give more than I took?” But those thoughts are making it about me. So I shifted my focus to “Is she in pain?” “What is best for her?” “How can I help her?” "How can we make her most comfortable?"
Some probably don’t understand a life as a woman who didn’t give birth. And I probably don’t fully comprehend what it is like to have children – I’ll give you that. It’s hard to imagine though, that I could love more unconditionally than I do with my kids who happen to have fur and paws. They all teach me a lot about how to love unconditionally. How to “Be the dog”. From P.J. I learned a lot about how to keep rising, not matter what.
P.J… a highly anxious, super smart, loyal, obedient, resilient as f#$k girl was also incredibly shy. This last characteristic made her the most unlikely of leaders. Yet, she was the alpha of the pack of the four that have been together for over six years now.
She was loving, wanted to please, so beautiful and so skidish. Friends would come to the house and be so proud if by chance they convinced her to allow them to pet her. She overcame a lot of really hard stuff in her life. Some say that dogs are like their owners – I can only hope like hell that is the case even to some small fraction.
The idea that energy never dies, it just changes form - that the being who was with you for part of your journeys is still there, with you even when they have left their physical form, it's comforting to think today. She was as ready as she could be to go, she was tired and worn out and she slipped away peacefully and quickly with some beautiful assistance.
Thank you Peej, for being in all our lives. The honor was all ours. I’m glad you found us and came to be the unlikely leader of the pack. Helping you go was ridiculously hard, but we certainly owed you that dignity. You made a big difference in my life and I learned so much from you.
All this week on The Double X Factor program I do on KMA, we are discussing the topic of Forgiveness. This is certainly my intention as I write this Sandy Chat today. To my way of thinking, when we make another person responsible for our happiness, we have lost our way. This is because when we blame, we have lost our true loving hearts to fear.
I have felt on the receiving end of painful blame to be sure. It felt as if there was a score card being kept of all my transgressions and the evidence of my making “wrong” choices. BUT! Here is the thing!!! The very fact that I noticed that there was score keeping taking place, means I AM DOING THAT SAME DAMN THING IN RETURN! I am keeping score of how someone else is score keeping on me... and back and forth it goes. Ei-yi-yi.
I recently heard Abraham-Hicks tell someone who claimed that they believed a relationship was about two whole people coming together and this person was noticing that the other person was not showing up whole. The response was “If you think it takes two whole people to create a good relationship – you gotta be one of them. If you are noticing the flaw in the other person, that means you have that same flaw.” Wowzer. Projection, described quite beautifully in this article by Martha Beck, is real. What I've discovered is that while I was feeling unjustly blamed by another, I was indeed blaming them for being unjust towards me. You spot it, you got it.
Score keeping is easy. You just keep a tally of all the times you felt the other person was out of line or wronged you and then you puke it back out to them every time a new infraction comes along. So you can say “SEE! You are wrong and I am a victim of your choices. I am a victim and you are my persecutor.” The thing is, finding the flaw or lack in others is NOT the path to liking what you see in yourself and the reason is, focusing on the flaw or lack in others is really about how you see yourself.
Forgiveness takes tremendous strength. I heard Anne Lamott once say that forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. It doesn’t necessarily mean you want to have lunch with that person, but if you keep hitting back you stay trapped in the nightmare. For my money, the reason forgiveness takes so much strength is because until you give it to YOURSELF, no matter how crappy the thing is that the other person did, you won’t be free enough to forgive. You are imprisoned by your blame. If you can forgive yourself for being imperfect, "failing", stumbling - also all known as being human, THEN you can do it for just about anyone else. It starts with you forgiving you.
Someone else may have done or said something super nasty that was or seems it was aimed right at you, but the starting point there is in forgiving yourself for tolerating the poor treatment. Knowing you were doing the best you could at the time. Forgiving yourself for YOUR part in what took place because that is the only part you have the opportunity to do something about going forward. This shifts the story from “somebody did something to me” to “This was my part in it and I’m learning from it”. You just went from being a victim, to a creator with that shift.
Forgiveness puts you back in charge of your life because instead of waiting for what has happened to somehow change, you make a conscious choice to go first. In the lyrics of a song by Johnny Lange, “You could waste your whole life waiting for that mountain to move…But its waiting on you…You got to make it move.” For me, that mountain is things like blame, regret, anger, fear, shame, guilt – any lower energy frequency or lower state of consciousness. Those lower energies become mountains in our path if we choose to stay in those states of mind. When we set an intention to forgive, we stop waiting for the feeling to go away due to the other person or condition changing and decide instead that peace is more important than the score card we are keeping.
Love and appreciation are said to be the two most powerful feeling states we can aim for. So what if instead of blaming or keeping score we just chose to love and appreciate the tough conditions and people that are bound to come into our experience? What if you made this your forgiveness mantra:
I love you with all that I am, for the opportunity you give me and have given me to discover who I am.
Thank you for the fun.
Thank you for the growth.
Thank you for the love.
Thank you for the challenges.
You might have to say this many times each day if this is someone you want to keep in your life or a condition you can't eliminate immediately! Remind yourself - The other person or condition isn’t “wrong” and neither am I. There is a saying that goes “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy?” I choose happy. My happiness is my responsibility and when I get clear on that, I can bring it and myself into my relationships already whole. What I'm learning is that forgiveness is part of the road to happiness for me. Give it a try and see if you find it is true for you too.
Women's Retreat Update!
"Who's Got Your Back Part 1" is the working title of the one day women's retreat we are currently planning. It will be held in Omaha (location to be announced soon) on March 24th.
The spirituality of living in your light and trusting in your tribe will be the focus of the talks, activities - even dancing! More details in the next Sandy Chat.
Ahhhh yes, Valentine’s day! It can have a meaning of happiness and love for some, and for others, it may seem like a dark day of loneliness. These meanings are often based on things outside ourselves… if there is a special someone in our lives or not, it that person is behaving in a way we approve of, etc.
How do you want to feel? This is a crucial question we all must ask ourselves. All too often, we seem to put the responsibility for our desired feeling on something or someone outside of ourselves. This is a trap! For as long as we see the only way for us to feel what we hope to feel tied to a condition or a person, we are a victim. In the words of Robert Holden… “you cannot be a victim and be happy”.
This is not to say that our thoughts, behaviors, choices don’t impact other people. We are responsible for our own stuff. But the moment I make another person responsible for my happiness or how I want to feel – I have now put BOTH of us in bondage. It will leave you feeling vulnerable (not in a good way) because you need the other person to behave in a certain way, and have you noticed… you can’t control other people. The other person is also tied up because they feel responsible for your feelings, which is another impossibility.
This is the primary reason relationships don’t work out: Trying to GET instead of GIVE. Trying to get a behavior or control, rather than giving love, understanding, support, freedom.
The crucial relationship question we must ask ourselves is AM I A MATCH to what I want? If we say we want to feel accepted and free to be ourselves in our relationship, are YOU accepting? Not only of your partner – but of YOURSELF? We must be a match to what we want in a relationship and then GIVE it away to our partner.
My doctor recently told me that soon I’d be feeling full of energy, “They’ll be calling you the roadrunner!” from my dad’s favorite cartoon of the ‘60’s. Remember how the coyote would chase after that high energy bird? He wanted to catch it and would try all kinds of crazy schemes to attempt to get the roadrunner. He never did make it happen, here might be why: the only way you can catch up and be with a roadrunner… is to BE a roadrunner.
Give yourself your own Valentine’s Day gift this year and make it a year-long, life-long tradition. Give YOURSELF the love you would like to receive. Give YOURSELF the gift you wish someone would shower you with and let the other person off the hook. BE what it is you seek in a relationship. If it’s love and understanding, then give it to yourself and then! give it away to others. I’m here to tell ya, I’ve tried this experiment and it works every single time. The only thing lacking in any situation is what YOU are not giving.
Set yourself free and release your need for anyone else to be different than they are. Put yourself back in the drivers seat of your life. When we drop our blame of another – that’s when life gets exciting! But you have to CHOOSE to feel the way you want to feel, no matter what and let go of our blame or thinking others need to be different in order for us to be happy.
NOTE! This doesn’t mean you will tolerate poor treatment. When you decide to BE what it is you want – to be a match to that frequency, most often those who are making a choice to treat you poorly will naturally fall away from your life. It all boils down to you, loving yourself enough to feel the way you wish to feel. Give yourself that gift my love.
Coming in MARCH!!!
I am teaming up with my favorite coach - Joy Miley to create a one day retreat for women! Space will be limited to 15 participants, so make sure you are on the mailing list below to be the first to know the details. It's going to be an empowering day!!! WOO HOO!!!
Did you know that the roadrunners girlfriend had a name???? MILEy - get it?!?!?!?
Another title for this chat could be "This explains so many things!" Attachment theory. I had heard the term before, but never really looked any further until I saw the book “Attached” recommended in an Instagram post by Danielle LaPorte. What happened after reading it was nothing short of feeling like a 20 ton weight was lifted off my back.
Though much of my life, I have been able to operate as a strong woman. I would say I’m resilient, driven, high energy, some would say “sassy” and I love to learn. Then, there is this weird thing that happens when I am in a relationship that is like I am totally derailed from my usual self. I feel unsure, always worried that my partner is going to walk out at any moment, that I’m either not enough or too much in some way and basically unwanted. I emotionally clutch and grab at the relationship… “Are you upset with me?” “Are we okay?” My insecurity goes off the chart and I kind of lose myself in an attempt to be what I THINK my partner wants – even though they didn’t say it that way.
For the most part, I just kind of figured I was sort of “crazy”. Like this was some fatal flaw in me that I just couldn’t for the life of me seem to get past. I’d be this strong, empowered woman at work or out in the world, yet in my relationships – I’d be scared to death, stay in bad situations, morph myself into what I thought would make things okay for my partner and in turn, for me.
THEN, I read about how attachment styles that are formed when we are infants can have a huge impact on our adult relationships. The very first story given in the introduction of the book, about a woman who’s “vitality gave way to anxiousness and insecurity in her new relationship”, I started thinking maybe, just maybe I’m at least not the ONLY crazy chick after all.
Over the years I have stayed in some pretty horrible relationships waaaaaay past their expiration dates and I always thought I was simply weak or too scared. What I’m learning is that this can actually come from a very basic instinct to connect – at all costs, amplified by an anxious attachment style. Shifting our thinking from “Does he like me?” to “Is this someone who is capable of giving me what I need in a relationship” is like turning on the lights after groping around in the dark for decades!
To someone with a more anxious attachment style, a partner who is unavailable in any way (emotionally or physically, etc…) feels like a threat to the relationship. Early reassurance will cure the anxiety, but ignore it and it will get bigger and louder and it will take much bigger reassurances to tame that activated attachment style. Then the self-judgement (and sometimes other judgement) will go into high gear. We will label ourselves as “needy”, “wrong”, “too emotional”. But research findings support the exact opposite. Getting attached in relationships for humans means that our brain becomes wired to seek the support of our partner. If our partner fails to reassure us, we are programmed to continue our attempts to achieve closeness until our partner does. THIS. EXPLAINS. EVERYTHING, all the way back to my 8th grade romance!!!
The positive aspect of the anxious style is that you actually DO have a unique ability to sense when your relationship is threatened, and even a slight hint that something is off-kilter will activate your attachment style. Those with the anxious style are VERY vigilant to changes in other people’s emotional expressions and have a higher degree of accuracy and sensitivity to other people’s cues than is typical.
HOWEVER, because of this sensitivity, they may tend to jump to conclusions very quickly and this can lead to misinterpretations. If we can just sloooooooow down a little bit we will have an uncanny ability to decipher the world around us. So all those times that I sensed that the relationship was in jeopardy in some way, I wasn’t necessarily “wrong” or “nuts”, but when I was told that I was – I started to distrust my feelings in bigger and bigger ways. AH-HA!
So, how can you use this knowledge to coach yourself if you feel some resonance with anything I’ve said here or have a partner who does…
Here are the basics of effective communication:
So I had just completed reading the book and was feeling more clarity than in a very long time. I was sort of thinking about my upbringing and why I might have developed an anxious attachment style. My parents had given up the idea of having a third child long ago and my mom was approaching age 40, my dad age 50 when WHA-LA! They got the news that I was coming into the world.
When I think about what might have gone through my own mind if I were at age 40, with my youngest child about to graduate from high school and my life would be pretty easy-peasy soon – but wait! You’re pregnant! I am betting that even though I felt very loved once I arrived, there were likely some high emotions streaming through my mom and into me prior to my birth.
Out of the blue, an intuitive healer I know, Amy, messaged me and asked if I would be willing to test out something she is finding in her work. I hadn’t communicated with her in a long while and she wanted to see if she could reveal my core wound and help me in some way as a result. Of course I signed up instantly for that!
Her first question was to ask me if I was the oldest child. I told her actually I was the youngest – by a really big age gap (18 years after my sister was born). She was getting a reading that perhaps the pregnancy was a bit unwanted. Hmmmm! Then she said – “That’s it, that’s what it’s all tied back to for you… feeling like you were unwanted.” She went on to say that I may have many times found myself in self-fulfilling situations, where I sought out relationships where I wouldn’t feel 100% wanted as a result of this original belief. Seeking proof. Oh boy. That has a familiar ring to it.
BOOM! Amy nailed it. That is the exact situation that sends me into orbit in a relationship. If I feel unwanted it’s like “Danger! Danger! Will Robinson! Must connect! Must fix!” Now, as my coach Joy reminds me, it wasn’t me specifically my mom was not wanting, but the IDEA of a baby at that time. It’s not me personally – the world and I wanted me to be born. Amy certainly confirmed in a very timely manner exactly what I was starting to come to see. Confirmation! Eureka!
Can your attachment style be changed? The answer is certainly yes, AND it requires making the choices to move to a more secure attachment style. I know first hand that our styles are malleable, because I have witnessed a huge change in Don from the time we started our relationship to now. I would have a strong guess that he was avoidant style back in the '90's when we met and got married and now he has made choices in how he wants to feel that have caused his style to be much more secure. I am coming to believe that the key to everything, is making a choice about how you want to feel and then continuing to make it a priority. Don is a great first hand example of this.
So here are just a few things all this has opened up for me:
Just like learning anything that sheds new light on something that seems out of place in our lives, it carries a huge sense of freedom and peace to understand why it’s been happening. It then empowers you to create as you go forward. Beautiful.
Here is a FREE on-line test you can take to see what your attachment style is and also your partners: http://www.attachedthebook.com/compatibility-quiz/
P.S... My coach Joy Miley and I are working on developing a retreat workshop for women on the path! More details in the next few weeks. Our ETA is late March. Stay tuned for updates!
So the Instagram post above from Danielle LePorte saying halt all relationships until you read this book got me curious. I can say I certainly agree with the recommendation above, “Attached” by Amir Levine M.D. should be required reading if you have any relationships in your life – EVER!
It’s a book about feelings, backed up with scientific data about attachment theory and how it impacts us as adults. As I read about how it’s actually okay to need reassurance from your partner, how it’s not “needy” to have needs and that our ability to step into the world on our own most often stems from the knowledge that there is someone we can count on in our corner (it’s called the dependency paradox), I stood up and said “AH-HA! This completely explains my whole relationship life since birth!!!!”
The book describes the three attachment styles: anxious, avoidant and secure. Notice the use of the word STYLES. This is because none of the systems we use are “wrong”, right, good, bad. They are simply coping systems. Strategies we learn from a wide variety of factors. It’s just how we learn to respond and what sets off our system. Which means we can totally learn other ways of coping if we choose to.
This information, written by the way, as if the author had possibly been monitoring my relationships as a science experiment since at least the eighth grade, was presented in a way that never caused me to feel like I am high maintenance, or as I often feel… crazy for my anxious attachment style. In fact, just understanding how & why I go on what I call “RED ALERT!” in relationships actually makes total sense due to some meanings I have put on things since early in life.
Reading this info got me to thinking about my coach - Joy. She has never ever made me think I was “wrong” for how I feel. It’s quite a gift. That feeling that someone will hear you, reassure you, help you re-frame and encourage you to feel what you feel… amazing and transformative. It’s like behind the scene’s support that has given me the ability to tap back into my courage and step back out into the world & show up more fully in my light.
So often we are quick to tell others and ourselves “Oh, you shouldn’t feel that way" or "Stop feeling that way!" which is NOT encouraging! Instead if we just open a window and offer a possible light that might not have been in view to the person – so they can feel their own power and supported enough to take their own initiatives, rather than trying to fix it for them - it can have a huge impact. As I recently heard Martha Beck say…”There is a big difference between saying ‘here is the way and I’m going to show it to you’ (while that can be powerful…)’I’m going to help you know that you can find a way’ is a very different feeling.” It helps us feel more SANE as well as safe when we have a secure base of support and reassurance that isn’t telling us we need to be other than exactly how we are.
Finding your tribe, those who can be available, not interfere-but provide support and encourage you is what helps us to be more empowered. By relying on someone, we become more independent… there’s that paradox! Learning that it's okay to rely on others can be quite a challenge if you have a limiting belief that it is "weak" or "needy" or you oughtta be stronger than that. All untrue.
My anxious attachment style has been highly activated the past three years or so. My long-time steady support/reassurance system went through a huge change which sort of forced me to rely more or differently on some of the members of my tribe, & even find new members like Joy - since a big piece of my support system felt very unavailable. This unavailability caused me to operate pretty much on “RED ALERT!” 24/7 for about 34 months. It also had me thinking I needed to try to NOT rely on others and only myself more. No wonder I have felt cra-cra and like I was derailed from my usual self. I’m telling you – this book has given me amazing awareness into my systems in relationships. Go. Get. It.
So once we are aware, Joy tells me we have to accept. I’ve heard this from mentors and other life coaches as well. Rather than trying to tell ourselves we “shouldn’t” feel what we feel – accept that we feel that way. It’s the only chance we have to make a different choice in our behavior. Our way of being is just our M.O., a learned style. With awareness and acceptance – looking for the benefits in our style, we can then practice other styles as well by choosing to, rather than being on auto-pilot.
When my relationships feel threatened or uncertain – my anxious attachment style kicks in and it’s nearly impossible to calm it down till things feel safe. One thing that can help us feel safe is to know who has our back and also having someone else’s back is a very empowering feeling. Give it a try. Who can you show up for in your life and let them know you believe in them? Who can you give a boost to by simply loving and accepting them?
I have mentioned my coach Joy in my Sandy Chat’s numerous times in the past two years. She is launching a new website today that is super cool! Check it out here!
Next time - more on attachment theory and what it means for those with an anxious style as well as ways we can upgrade our systems to more "secure". I have a living example in my life that it is possible to radically change your attachment style! More next time.
What’s in my ear right now… Hey Ahab
Great gospel-ish/blusey song with an awesome message. Plus, c’mon… it’s Elton and Leon Russel.
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!