Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: self help

Making Space for Ourselves to Better Control Our Emotions

Identifying what we’re feeling is the first step to taking better control of our emotions. If we know what we’re dealing with, it’s easier to find a solution. But what do we do when there are loved ones around us that want to help?

Book quote on desert rocks background.

“There is no worse experience than to have someone shout at you to look out for something you don’t see.”

The Admiral on the Wheel by James Thurber

I’m standing on the stage, coiling cable, minding my own business, when I hear a shout from behind me. “Look out!” I jump up and look around to find what it is I’m supposed to look out for.

I’m walking a hiking trail in the mountains, watching birds, thinking the deeper thoughts that the quiet walk allows to the surface when I hear from behind me, “Look out!” For what? I turn to look and am confronted with a mountain biker.

It happens everywhere, every day. You’re warned by another human to “look out” for something you don’t see. It’s not helpful. All it does is startle you into a “fight or flight” mode, at which point you must quickly look around you to assess the threat, and then decide an action. It takes too long. By the time you’ve turned around to see, the threat is on you and you have no time to react well.

What’s a better thing to shout in an emergency when you need someone to quickly act? A precise direction. “Duck!” “I’m on your left!” Or “Don’t move!” That requires the person giving the warning to be aware of the need and communicative enough to express it quickly and well.

The same principle works well when you are trying to better control your emotions.

When you are angry, jealous, or tired, it is better a better thing for the humans around you to hear what you need them to do, instead of “Look out!”

And that requires that you know what you want or need and be willing to speak it and the work through it. That’s rarely the case for me when I’m having those feelings. It’s something I’m working on, something I get frustrated about too. I’m 48 years old and only just starting to get a handle on dealing with my feelings in a more positive way. Why is that? Why am I so slow? Everyone moves at their own pace, I suppose.

But I have discovered a new trick lately, a way to let those in my inner circle know that I’m dealing with something I’m not sure how to explain and that I don’t yet know what I need them to do to help. I say, “I’m trying to remember that there is no spoon.”

Remember “The Matrix”? There’s a scene with the little boy bending spoons. He says the trick is to remember there is no spoon and then you can do whatever you want with it. In the movie, the reality they are experiencing is only in their heads. They are all in a simulation and the physical world isn’t what they are experiencing in their minds. What they see is just computer code fed to their minds. Once you can understand that you can change the code as you wish. It’s not easy, and few can do it well.

I’m not certain our physical reality is a simulation. I know there is talk of that on the interwebs, but that’s not what I came here to sing about. I’m here to talk about the draft.

No, sorry, an Arlo Guthrie song got into my head there.

I’m a firm believer in the human ability to use their minds in amazing ways. Like being in the matrix and manipulating the code, it isn’t easy. Emotional states are reactions to the code your mind has built through experience, culture, and the world around us.

They are real, yes. I am disappointed that I didn’t get to do the thing. I’m jealous of the attention you are giving someone else. I’m worried that this might happen. But because we created them, we can change them. We can think, “There is no spoon.” And reimagine.

When I tell people, “I’m trying to remember there is no spoon,” I’m saying that I’m feeling something I’m not sure is healthy or useful and I’m attempting to reassess. I’m in need of patience while I try to make adjustments to my thinking. Is this feeling useful to me? Does it get me where I want to go? Can I change how I look at things and adjust? How can those that love me help me get where I want to go, emotionally?

They give me a little extra love, a pet (because my most prominent love-language is touch) and let me figure it out. Then we go for a walk and talk it out. It’s working so far. Mostly. It is still a new skill and I know it will take time to master. I’ve made little reminders to help me not yell, “Look out!”

There will be many days in the future when I will think to myself, “But I like the spoon. It’s so much easier just to accept what I see and not attempt to change the code underneath.” But then I remember those emotions don’t get me where I want to be, and I put my shoulder to the harder work again. This time though, I have the support of those that love me because I’m able to warn them in useful ways that I’m doing the work.

This book was filled was some wonderful short stories and memoir pieces that sparked my creativity and inspired my thinking. Want to read more? Go back to my first post about it, “The Thurber Carnival” by James Thurber.

If you want to read more about him and his work, check out his website James Thurber.org.

Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone

learning to concentrate quote from book on a desert background

“The most important step in learning to concentrate is to learn to be alone with oneself without reading, listening to the radio, smoking or drinking.
Besides such exercises (meditation), one must learn to be concentrated in everything one does, in listening to music, in reading a book, in talking to a person, in seeing a view.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

In writing a blog post.

Learning to concentrate and focus.

That’s my trouble right now as I write this. I have too much to do today and the thought of that list of things to do is keeping me from getting anything done. I’m unfocused, so everything I do is taking longer to get done AND not getting done well.

I’m certainly not very good at being alone with myself. It’s something I have been actively attempting to cultivate. Living in a small house, married with children, and sharing space with my mother-in-law, hasn’t led to much time to practice in the past, that’s for sure. These days, things are different. Life is getting quieter, which has led to some fairly serious panic attacks.

In my search for peace and focus, I’ve learned to meditate and make space for these feelings.

It’s strange, really. All these years of having so much to do with the family, just wanting a few hours of quiet to myself, and here I am panicking the moment I start to gain that time. What happened?

If I could start my life over, I’d learn to be alone with myself, and be happy about it, before I moved in with a partner or got married and had kids. I don’t think that was ever presented as an option when I was growing up. Every fairy tale, book, movie, and song was about finding your person, your people, being part of a whole group. I think it would have been easier if I had built up a better sense of who I was as an individual before I voluntarily became part of a community of any kind.

I think, I hope, I gave that to my children. In choosing to home educate and keep our children outside of any school system as small children, it was my intention to allow them to develop themselves as individuals. The point wasn’t to create self-centered monsters, as many assumed would be the outcome, but to give them the space to know themselves before they voluntarily chose a community. And it seems to be working so far.

For myself, I believe doing that for them also did the same for me. I learned a lot raising them with my husband, and I’m learning even more as I watch them go off into the world to continue to follow their own path.

It’s my turn to focus on myself more, to pursue my passions and interests.

It started with mediation and continues with yoga, walking, reading, and writing here. It grows every day in ways I never expected, in ways that delight and inspire me to do more. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and worried about where the path will lead to. It feels futile and excruciatingly slow paced. “What is the point of any of this?!” I frequently scream to myself and scribble in my notebook.

There is no point. It just is. I refocus on the task at hand, do what I can, and see what happens. I’m learning to enjoy the process itself, not reach for an outcome.

My next project? Learn to listen better and react less. There’s room for everyone.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
Where Did Our Words For Love Go?
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual
Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Why Do I Get Up In The Morning? – Episode Eight

There are days when I wish I had more friends to invite to a party. Wouldn’t it be nice, I think to myself as I sip a glass of whiskey, if this porch and house were filled with people? Maybe.

Then I look around me. There aren’t many of us here every week, but the feelings fill the room. A couple of us are here every weekend, some come occasionally, some stay for an hour, and some stay well into the night.

We are fortunate to live in a place where an “outdoor livingroom” can be a thing, and we’ve used it to our advantage. Just about every week we cook, we drink, laugh, and talk out there. We share stories, listen to music, shoot pool and keep a tally of winners and losers. “You marked that one down, right?!” is often heard yelled across the patio as the winner goes to pull another home brew from the keg and the loser reaches for the rack to set up the next game.

There is only one rule on Friday nights, “No bullshit.” This is the place we leave the outside world’s shit behind. We may talk politics, but we do not fight about it. You may bring your kids, but we don’t share opinions about parenting choices…unless we are asked for them. Fighting with your spouse or girlfriend? Leave it outside. There have been a few flare-ups. Even good friends disagree, but it passes quickly because we are all the type that forgive and forget offenses.

This is the time and place to celebrate simply being alive. Come if you want, or don’t. Bring a friend, or not. Bring food, or not. We’re all here to relax and enjoy each other’s company for a few hours.

The night starts with food, proceeds through games and beer, and then people start trickling out the door. It usually ends with the last of us laying on the couch snoring. It’s a wild bunch.

Would it be more fun to have a larger group of people? Possibly, for a time. But this small group of neighbors is irreplaceable. I can’t imagine the week without them.

Quotes from The Mastery of Love – One

“…the instinct to love is so strong that you pay a high price to have a relationship with others.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

That it is. No matter how many times we’ve been hurt, how many times we’ve lost, the primal urge to connect with others pushes us forward.

We create new and inventive ways to protect ourselves, ways that sometimes don’t seem to make sense or get us anywhere near where we want to be, but we’ll do anything to love and be loved.

Ruiz makes a beautiful analogy about the human condition. He says we all act as though everyone’s skin is covered in painful sores. The longer we live, the more we have. It hurts to touch and be touched, yet we crave it. The worst part is that most of us aren’t even aware the sores are there or that others have them too. We react badly when people touch us, thinking they are deliberately hurting us, and hurt them back.

The solution? Awareness of the pain we carry from our injuries and allowing others to touch us anyway. Awareness that everyone else has that pain and may not yet be aware of it themselves. Touch gently. Love and be loved. Pay the price and you begin to heal and grow strong until loving and reacting in love becomes the new habit.

“We domesticate humans the same way we domesticate a dog or any other animal: with punishment and reward.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

Another quote from the same book that touched me. It reminded me of the way we raised our kids. We tried our best not to use punishments and rewards to control behavior. Instead, we tried not to control behavior at all but learn to communicate and get along with each other, make space and time in the hopes of filling everyone’s needs as much as possible.

When it wasn’t, we attempted to negotiate and make sure everyone had as much input as possible. It didn’t always work. There were times when rewards were handed out and punishment meted, but it was usually when we (the adults) were not at our best.

This is the way that humans are in this world. Your behavior or activity is disrupting. Your needs are too much for those around you to accommodate. You are rewarded for not bothering people and punished when your behavior steps out of the bounds the authority as made for themselves. It sounds so medieval, but it’s not that crazy.

You are hurting me with your behavior, so I hurt you until you stop or go away. You’re not hurting me so  I reward you with my love and attention. Easy, right?

But when I think what one’s behavior means, it starts to sound ugly. Say you’re very tired and you don’t have the communication skills to convey that information, so you decide to pull your parent away from the people they are visiting with. The parent refuses. You are hurting her, so she hurts you to tell you your behavior is unacceptable. She knows no better way.

Is there a better way? I believe so. She could listen to you and attempt to figure out what you are trying to communicate with your behavior and see if you can come up with a solution. But in the world we live in, most people don’t see that as a way at all.

The same goes with all kinds of relationships. Your new boyfriend teases. Why? What is he trying to communicate? I doubt he’s trying to hurt you deliberately. There’s no need to retaliate. Your friend doesn’t answer your texts right away. Your mother insists on telling you how to run your household. All these relationships have been built on punishment and reward.

What if we assumed positive intent, validated everyone’s needs, and attempted to communicate directly instead? We only train animals that way because we can’t communicate with them directly. They don’t speak our language or have the ability to learn it.

Social Media Animals

Let’s face it, I don’t get out much. I’m sure you can relate. Social media is the majority of my total social interaction these days, so I do spend an equivalent amount of time trying to figure out how to make it work. BC (before covid) you could have told me to get a life, but now I’m not allowed, right? So here I am stuck between my books, my immediate family, and my smartphone.

“Man And His Symbols” edited by Carl G. Jung was recommended to me by another book…lost that thread of the tapestry but that’s what’s nice about them, when you step back you can still see the big picture even if a few threads are missing. This morning, in a chapter about “The Process of Individuation” by M.-L. von Franz, I found this…

“We know from studying the social behavior of the higher animals that small groups (from approximately 10 to 50 individuals) create the best possible living conditions for the single animal as well as for the group, and man seems to be no exception in this respect. His physical well-being, his spiritual psychic health, and, beyond the animal realm, his cultural efficiency seem to flourish best in such a social formation. As far as we at present understand the process of individuation, the Self apparently tends to produce such small groups by creating at the same time sharply defined ties of feelings of relatedness to all people. Only if these connections are created by the Self can one feel any assurance that envy, jealousy, fighting, and all manner of negative projections will not break up the group. Thus an unconditional devotion to one’s own process of individuation also brings about the best possible social adaptation.”

I read this and took a deep breath. This is it. This is the piece of the puzzle I was missing when trying to understand why I get so frustrated with people on the internet, supposedly “connected” by social media. We think we are so “evolved” that we don’t need to understand our instincts, follow our intuition, or listen to our unconscious souls to move well in this world, but I’m really starting to think that it’s just not true. Technology does make many things easier, but I feel like we are losing ourselves in the learning curve of the new.

These social media connections aren’t created by the Self (that unconscious “real you”), they’re connected by the Ego (our drive to be noticed and accepted by the group). They are draining our social energy, like being at a party non-stop for years. We jump online every chance we get to interact, defend, and accuse until we flop on our couches exhausted, only to pick up the remote and watch the “news” or the latest sitcom’s for hours. At the end of the day, we check one more time to see if anyone in the world needs our attention before we collapse into bed, only to start the whole process over again the next day.

Social media is short-circuiting our drive to set ourselves apart and develop ourselves into individuals. This process is complicated, takes time and energy. It takes quiet reflection. But when we do it, we turn a light on that only others that have done the work, or are in the process of doing, can see. That’s when we create our small group of real connection, the one that builds a community and makes us bigger than our own individual whole.

When we lead with our Ego, we have tons of superficial connections with people that don’t share our light. That’s when the battle for control begins, jealousy and envy creep in and take over our life’s work. That’s when we decline into chaos, ripe for a bigger Ego to come in and claim they can clean things up for us, dispel the bad guys and make everyone fall into line and do what’s right. Politicians and super stars are great at this.

I struggle with my use of social media, you know that. There days recently that I think, “Well, Mother Nature has sent us to our rooms to think about what we’ve done, but I sure wish she would have taken away our smartphones.” I know forced learning doesn’t help in the long run, but these days…I just don’t know. You wouldn’t be reading this if we didn’t have the internet. I wouldn’t have found the book recommendations that have made my life better. I would have been able to post quotes that have encouraged friends over the years without social media. I don’t really want it to go away.

Then I think, maybe soul searching just isn’t for everyone. If you’re interested in taking the journey, this book is a great start to creating your own road map. Which leads me to the quote I shared on Instagram this morning.

Find your own path by the light of others ahead of you, as well as your own.

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