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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Hiding in the Past

I grew up in a family of nine kids.With so many of us around it was easy to get lost in the shuffle. It was also easy to play it safe, taking on a less visible role and contracting more than I was expanding on what I was creating in my life. Knowing what I know now, looking back I see times when I was hungry for more: more attention, support, love, recognition, etc. As an unaware child I can see how this all makes sense, both the wanting more and getting what I got. I may have wanted more but did not have the wherewithal to create more.

For several years after high school I lived in this similar mindset. I did set goals and go for more in my life but still played it safe, hid out in the shadow of others so as not to take up too much space or appear overzealous or needy. Taking this approach I did move ahead toward my goals but I did it while starving for attention, love, recognition and so on. I was moving my life ahead in the direction I wanted to go and hurting inside as I did so.

Over time I came to see that life does not require us to live in the shadows, starving for more. No, that way of life is optional and whether we are conscious of it or not, it is a choice. I came to see that I could expand my life creating more of what I wanted, more love, support, recognition and attention for myself. As a kid I might have been under the misconception that there is a limited amount of those things available to me or that it was bad to want them. Now I see that life can expand to allow everyone to experience more and it is I that chooses to see them as good/bad or a natural and healthy part of life.

As kids we may not have been aware of what was possible. As adults we can choose our awareness of what is possible. Books, videos, individuals, professionals and websites abound which provide all the opportunity we need to expand our consciousness of what is possible. As adults, we can choose to continue living how we lived as kids or we can change both the way we experience life and the course of our lives as well.

Happy or Frustrated

I should have had it done already. What a jerk, he drove up ahead and cut in front of everyone. They should get more involved and do their part. I should have a better job. I am so tired of it raining so much. They should stop talking so much. She's always working

There is a pattern in these thoughts, a theme. The theme is that I am wanting it to be different than how it is now, different than reality.

Early on in my career I came across this idea of loving how things are in the moment. I remember thinking how impossible that sounded. I was living in Chicago, Lincoln Park and making just a little more than minimum wage. I moved from East Lansing, Michigan where I could get a hair cut for less than $10 to Chicago and paying $26. I had goals for my life but it seemed my progress toward them was slow or non-existent. I was definitely wishing things were different for me, especially in the income department.

And then I started applying the idea of loving what is to my life. What I noticed, as I kept at it, choosing to appreciate how things are in the moment, I had more energy. I found myself smiling more and generally much happier. When I found one of those thoughts pop into my head, wishing some situation was different or being frustrated with some aspect of my life, I redirected my thinking.

Interesting enough, I started being more productive and taking on more responsibility with enthusiasm at work. As my attitude improved my relationship with those around me improved. As my relationships improved and I was able to create more of the results I wanted I was noticed more by those that could give me opportunities to take on even higher levels of responsibility. In the fours years following my realization that I could choose my view of life I attracted exciting new career opportunities, I more than tripled my income and I met my wife.

I have come back to this realization, that I can choose how I experience my life, over and over again. Inevitably, each time I made the decision and commitment to redirect my thinking, I experienced big shifts toward creating what I wanted in my life.

"Everything can be taken from a man but …the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Victor Frankl

Expressing Anger Assertively

Anger does not need to be aggressive or hostile. In fact, aggressive anger is more likely to create separation, division and pain. The assertive expression of anger on the other hand, holds the prospect of bringing people together, creating positive change and drawing healthy boundaries.

Not everyone will respond positively to either hostile or assertive anger. And we should not try to control others reactions. In fact, in expressing anger in any form we cannot hold onto a given outcome. When we need someone to respond in a specific way we are trying to manipulate or control them.

When we let others react without expectation we are more likely to stay clear as to what we want or don’t want. Staying clear allows us to dynamically work through the situation or make decisions that change the situation to create what we want or don’t want.

One approach to expressing assertive anger can look like this:

1. When this happened (action/inaction/behavior/)

2. I felt ….. (mad, sad, angry, excited, happy, tender)

3. Because… (the impact or effect of the action/inaction/behavior)

4. My judgment (or story) about the situation is…

5. What I want (or don’t want) is….

Notice in this approach the focus of attention is placed on behavior, impact and me (using I statements). People are more likely to get defensive when we make the situation about them personally.

As you take this type of approach to expressing anger you increase the odds you will create a healthy outcome for you and those involved.

I am designing a online 12 week training program that will support individuals in expressing and responding to anger in a constructive way. If you interested contact me at ted (at) pivotalgrowth.com.

Anger as a Cover for Fear

Understanding and recognizing the signs of anger has been a focus of mine for a long time. Early on some of the causes of anger were elusive, at times unexpected and it seemed to show up for no good reason. Over time I came to see many of the patterns that can trigger anger in us.

One of the triggers of anger that I have come to recognize is fear. Not everyone responds to fear this way and even for those that do, they may not respond with anger to every situation where they feel fear.

For some, expressing fear can feel risky or vulnerable. If we speak our fear the other individual may have a reaction we do not want to experience. They may feel anger, fear, sadness, etc. and then respond to us in a way that we do not want. Instead of expressing the real feeling of fear we express anger, which might not feel as vulnerable.

For example, you and I disagree on a particular topic or issue. I feel strongly about my point of view and I want you to hear my perspective. While I want you to hear my point of view I also feel fear of telling you what I think. Now, to avoid feeling my fear of your reaction I get angry. In this situation my anger becomes a cover for my fear of your reaction. For me, my anger may feel safer than expressing my fear.

So what is the impact of using anger to cover for our fear? When this interaction is not resolved it can create a level of separation between the two individuals. On the other end of the spectrum, expressing our opinion, our fear or by working through the angry response down into the fear can create the opposite effect. By expressing what is true for us we create an opportunity to deepen the relationship. In our intimate relationships it can deepen and renew our intimacy and our level of attraction to each other.

Logs in the Stream of Intimacy

Picture a stream flowing freely, unhindered by obstacles. Now picture a stream with a couple of logs in it, which still flows but slowed to some degree. Now picture a stream full of logs, to the point that the stream is nearly stopped up. Unspoken truth is like those logs in the stream – they build up and block the flow.

During the early period of an intimate relationship it can feel really good, exciting and full of the unknown. But as time passes, many individuals feel the relationship loses it luster. It is not as enjoyable or maybe even unbearable.

In my experience, a stale relationship can originate from what we are not saying, from withholding what is true for us. The effect of not speaking what is true for us is much like stopping up logs in a stream. The flow begins to slow with every log that is not allowed to flow down the stream. On the other side of the stopped up logs is a stream bed that begins to dry and crack.

Do you want to experience a new, richer and more satisfying relationship? Take a look at what is not being said between the two of you. Begin to work those logs down the stream in your relationships and watch how much richer, satisfying and intimate they become.

We can experience vast amounts of intimacy, excitement and unknown in our relationship as we share at deeper and deeper levels of ourselves.

The Art of Connection

Over the past weekend I staffed a men's weekend, a retreat of sorts, attended by a total of 70 men. As a staff member there is a lot of ongoing preparation and work to keep everything running smoothly.

With that many men and so much to do things can get intense, egos can come into play, wanting to take center stage. Surprising as this may sound, egos were kept in check and the weekend ran smoothly. It was a great weekend with these men developing connection and relationship while working together.

So what do I credit for these men being able to create a relatively ego free weekend?

Speaking up to tell what is going on for them, as it relates to themselves and others. What causes a lot of unnecessary tension and strife in any relationship is the tendency to make assumptions and to create stories about what the other person might be thinking. What I saw and experienced on this weekend were men speaking up about their reactions to others. It was about saying what was true for them, having integrity and being authentic, not in a hostile ego way but in a "this is what is going on for me" way.

Is it always easy to say what is true in a relationship? No, it is not. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage. And sometimes it is going to be messy and not end the way we would like it. So why would you want to take the risk of a messy and confrontational situation?

Because real connection and rich relationships come from speaking up rather than avoiding or withholding. Do you want to really enjoy a connection with another individual – take the risk of speaking up. I find that 90% of the time my relationships become richer, deeper and more satisfying.

Learning how or getting better at saying what is true for us is an art. It takes practice and like creating art – each attempt is likely to be unique and to turn out as we would like through our repeated practice.