Life can be hard – but shift happens

Some people think that it’s holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it’s letting go.

―Hermann Hesse

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We are experiencing a lot of pain out there at the moment.  A lot of women that I hear from in workshops and via email are going through hard times right now.  Children leaving home, friends and children suffering from addiction, dealing with divorce and all sorts of physical and emotional pain.

An article I wrote, Bouncing Back after Divorce was just published in Thrive Global, Arianna Huffington’s wonderful online resources.  Although the topic is bouncing back after divorce, the content, I believe, can be useful in coping with a lot of life’s painful events.

The messages are about taking care of YOU, loving yourself through the pain.  It’s not always easy to do, especially as women, we seem to have a hard time doing this.  But we can move through the pain, shift does happen!

The coping strategies I talk about in the article are ones that I talk about a lot on this blog:

  1. Get Creative
  2. Re-wiring your brain and paying attention to what you think
  3. Happiness and well-being
  4. Love yourself first
  5. Gratitude
  6. Paying attention to Distractions
  7. Paying attention to Inspiration

These coping strategies really do help, read about what you can do, starting right now.

We don’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how to act and learn from these events. Shift really does happen.

I’d like to close with a TED talk about surviving divorce.  But like everything else, the coping mechanisms described by Dr. David Sbarra, are applicable to most ‘What Now’ moments. One of his biggest suggestions is getting enough sleep – always really great suggestion!

 

I’d love to hear how shift is happening for you.  I love learning from all of you.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.
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Start now, start where you are . . . and don’t stop.

“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are and with what you have. Just…start.”

― Ljeoma Umebinyuo

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I’ve had several emails from people who are just starting to write their book and asking advice, any advice, on how to go about getting their book written and out there.  And to me, there is no better advice than that of Umebinyuo:

“Start where you are and don’t stop. Just start”

I love that quote: Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start.

And it doesn’t just apply to creativity either, although it is certainly apt.  I am thinking about this quote in terms of recovery. That quote fits so well for so many of us who made the decision to stop an addictive practice – whatever that practice is. Start stopping! Stop drinking or using or gambling or shopping or whatever that practice is . . . Start stopping now!

“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are and with what you have. Just…start.”

Just Start Stopping . . .  and Don’t Stop Stopping!   When I started writing my book, my main audience was not necessarily women in recovery, but it certainly fits! I was honored this week when Sally M., an addictions counselor who read my book recently and wrote this review:

“This Way Up is the perfect accompaniment for any recovery work being done.  It will add depth and enrich your recovery.”
(Psst – by the way, This Way Up  e-book is on sale this week for only .99 cents!)
And a woman I know who has been sober for over 20 years, said something similar.
 She told me that she has found my course on Daily Om, 8 Weeks to Your Best Self, to be helpful in her recovery, and she has been recommending it for women that she sponsors. She said it’s perfect because a lot of women she sponsors don’t have a lot of money, and with this course, you choose what you pay.

 

So although I never started either of these projects with that outcome in mind, it is a gift beyond measure – to be of service in someone’s recovery!

This quote also fits well with the following wonderful TED Talk. In this talk, Julie Burstein describes 4 Lessons in Creativity.  She talks about 4 aspects to embrace  in order for our own creativity to flourish.

The First Aspect:  Embrace Experience!  Pay Attention to the world around us. Be open to that thing that might change you.

The Second Aspect:  Embrace the Challenges!  Our most powerful work comes out of life that is most difficult.

The Third Aspect:  Embrace the Limitations!

And finally: Embrace Loss!  Burstein describes this as the oldest and most constant of human experiences.  “In order to create, we have to stand in that space between what we see in the world and what we hope for. Looking squarely at rejections and heartbreak, at war, at death.”

She closes with this important statement:
“We all wrestle with experience and challenge, limits and loss. Creativity is essential to all of us, whether we’re scientists or teachers, parents or entrepreneurs.”
And I would add that once you’ve made the decision to embrace these aspects, then just start! Start right now. Start right where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling, but start. Just Start and don’t stop!

I’d love to hear about your experience just starting . . .  whether it’s with creativity or recovery. How you start and how you don’t stop. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.
 

 

 

Resilience!

The goal of resilience is to thrive.”

– Jamais Cascio

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The goal of resilience is to thrive, and we all want to thrive, right?  Resilience has been defined as that quality that allows some people face adversity and come back even stronger than before. Unfortunately though, as writer Maria Konnikova points out, the word ‘resilience’ is often overused. It is too often used in ways that drain it of meaning. But resilience doesn’t have to be an empty or vague concept. In fact, decades of research have revealed a lot about how it works. This research shows that resilience is, ultimately, a set of skills that can be taught.

Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient: a positive attitude and optimism certainly help. Resilience is considered such an important trait that in February this year, The New Yorker Magazine did a piece about the secret formula for resilience – ‘How People Learn to Become Resilient.’

The good news is that resilience can be taught. In research at Columbia, the neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner has shown that teaching people to think of stimuli in different ways—to reframe them in positive terms when the initial response is negative, or in a less emotional way when the initial response is emotionally “hot”—changes how they experience and react to the stimulus.

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. Resilience is an important character strength in Positive Psychology. A resilient person works through challenges by using personal resources, strengths and other positive capacities of psychological capital such as hope, optimism and self-efficacy. Being resilient is absolutely linked with personal happiness.

But it’s easy to lose touch with that sense of resilience after facing a difficult time, and instead we can struggle with feeling purposeless and directionless. It is very easy to fall into a sense of listlessness and ‘stuck-ness.’ This belief that nothing will change can become embedded in your brain, creating a negative neural pathway. A neural pathway is the way that information travels through the neurons, or nerve cells of the brain. We create new neural pathways every time we hear or experience something new. The more we experience something, the more embedded this pathway becomes.

Once those neural pathways are deeply embedded, changing them is not an easy task. I’ve talked a lot about the process, Creative Positive Reframing (CPR) on this blog.  But as we enter the holiday season, I thought it would be a good time to look at the 3 key actions involved in this process:  Identify, Reframe, Embed:

    1. Identify Negative Messages

    Action: We all have them – limiting beliefs that have become embedded in our head. Negative thoughts such as, “I can’t do it!” Or “It’s too hard!” are self-sabotaging.

    Practice: Interrupt it! Once you’ve identified those negative messages, shift your focus. Take a deep breath and interrupt your own train of thought . . . and get rid of it!

    1. Reframe the negative with positive statements

    Action: Negative self-talk can be replaced by positivity with the help of a series of deliberate affirmations or questions. This creates new neural pathways and frees you from the negative spiral.

    Practice: Affirm it! Create positive statements and questions. Affirmations often work, but sometimes questions work better. If your affirmation is, “I can do it. This is easy!” and your brain argues back “No you can’t It’s too hard!” then use a question instead. Something like: “What can I do today to move forward?” Or mix the two in this way: “I am moving forward easily and effortlessly. What can I do today to move forward?”

    1. Embed it! Use Creative Visualization to picture the ideal and embed it in your brain

    Action: This next step takes the previous step and solidifies it; it is a powerful process. Creative Visualization is a technique which uses your own power of ‘seeing’ to attain that which you most want or want to change. You already use this technique every day. Unfortunately, we often use it in the negative by imaging all the things we DON’T want.

     Practice: Visualize it!  The key to visualization is to first see what you want, and then create a mindset that you already have it and you believe you deserve it. Relax and be sure you won’t be interrupted. Close your eyes and let the movie of you having your heart’s desire run in your mind. Enjoy the process. The more you do this, the more deeply embedded this vision becomes.

    I’ll close by linking in the visualization from my book in which you can create your own sacred space to work from.

 

 

I hope you’ll take some time today to do this visualization. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this visualization, and how you manage to stay resilient.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

It’s here at last – Publication Day!

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
– Anne Lamott

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope …

My book is published today, April 26th 2016!  My book, This Way Up: Seven Tools for Unleashing Your Creative Self and Transforming Your Life, my very own book!  This Way Up took ten years to write, 10 years.  There were plenty of times when I was in the dark and all I had left of this dream of publication was stubborn hope.  It was not an easy journey.  I began the book because my son Lukas, at age 12 challenged me to.  I felt backed into a corner, I knew I had to put my money where my mouth was or I would feel like everything I had been saying to my sons for years was a lie.  So I started writing.

I started writing and deleting; and feeling not good enough to write a book and feeling like a fraud.  When I finally finished my first draft about 5 years later, I started looking for an agent.  Oh my God – talk about sitting in the dark with nothing but hope! I had months and months of rejection letters, too many to count, the darkness got darker, the hope fainter.

Then finally I found an agent in London, I signed a contract and I was over the moon!  Now, I thought, now the hard work is over, I have someone else to do my work and get my book out there. It took over a year, lots of frustration and more darkness, but finally my agent was able to land a publication deal with a small publisher in London.  I was thrilled. I celebrated and believed the time had come.

About a year later, after jumping through hoops, working with an editor and inching closer, my agent decided he didn’t want to be an agent anymore, that the publishing landscape had changed too much and was not working for him anymore, so I lost my agent and lost the deal with the publishing company that he had handled.  I was back to square one, and decided I couldn’t do it anymore.

Then about two weeks later I heard a small, still voice in my head while I was meditating; the voice instructed me to ask an old college friend who lived in LA for help.  I wasn’t that close to her, and had not been in close contact with her for years.  But we were friends on Facebook, and I have learned to trust that small voice, it rarely leads me astray.  So I messaged her and she messaged back the next day.  She recommended She Writes Press.  I had never heard of them, but when I read about them, my pulse quickened.  They sounded perfect –  the website describes SWP as: A publisher of books – for, by and about women!  I contacted Brooke Warner, one of the founders of SWP, and we scheduled a Skype.  She said my book sounded like a good fit for SWP.  I signed a contract and I started working with the amazing women at She Writes.

I still had a steep climb though, luckily the climb was accompanied by some truly magnificent women:  Brooke Warner, a power house and visionary; Annie Tucker, editor extraordinaire; and a host of truly talented authors.  The fellowship of authors at SWP is fantastic, they are generous of spirit, freely give advice and tips and we cheer each other on every step of the way.  I am grateful beyond measure that I ended up with such a wonderful publishing house.

And now, today April 26, 2016, my book is here.  It is truly a labor of love; and an extreme act of faith that kept me going.  I believed that if I just kept showing up and kept moving in the direction of my dream that the dawn would come. And it did. So I am here to tell all of you – Don’t give up!  Keep moving in the direction of your dreams, whatever they are.

I’d like to close with a video that is very close to my heart. My very first video that I’ve ever uploaded on to You Tube.  It continues to be a steep learning curve!

 

I’d love to hear about your dreams and what helps you to keep moving forward.  And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

This Way Up!

“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh


This Way Up! Here I go!

In my last post Smile,  I let you all know that I was asked to change the title of my book. As I said in that post, I felt frustrated and kinda old. However, what I learned was as Thich Nhat Hanh explains:

For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.

What a wonderful week of uncovering and abandoning old views.  I asked for help (ah there’s a novel concept!) First, I called my friend Tam in Seattle and we brainstormed together, from the red chair. Then I asked for ideas from my son Lukas. And then my incredible editor Annie and I brainstormed some ideas.  And finally, I sent off our top 5 ideas to Brooke at She Writes Press. Eventually it was a bit of an amalgamation of everyone’s ideas.

So the new title of my book, as reflected by the new look and title of this blog page is:

This Way Up: One Woman’s Path to Fullness and Joy

I’m so glad I asked for help, and that ultimately I was willing to let go of feeling old and stuck and embrace the new.

To honor the concept of asking for help, I’d like to close with a wonderful video, Bill Withers singing Lean On Me.

Please let me know what you think of my new title. I’d really like to hear your opinions.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Heroes and Role Models

“Now you get to tell it, because then it will become medicine – that we evolve; that life is stunning, wild, gorgeous, weird, brutal, hilarious and full of grace.
– Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is my favorite author.  There I’ve said it.  I struggle to say that because there are so many amazingly wonderful writers out there. But really, it’s true. Lamott never fails to bring me to tears and to laughter, usually within the same paragraph.

The first book I read of hers was Operating Instructions, A Journal of My Son’s First Year. I laughed til I cried, and I hadn’t even had my own kids yet.  And then after I gave birth to my son, I read it again, and I cried even harder.

I follow her on FB, and she doesn’t disappoint, even though she just sort of writes stream of consciousness there. A couple of days ago she wrote this post.  I loved it so much I sent it to a couple of friends, and they both loved it too. But I want to share it with you too.

I have recently been going through my own bouts of what she terms  psycho doing-ness and achieving-ness. And it’s always nice to read about someone else going through that stuff:

Nearly twenty years ago, I arrived at a fancy writer’s conference, in what were some of America’s most majestic mountains, where I was looking forward to meeting a great (and sexy) American director, who’d given a lecture the day before. But he had already left.

There was, however, a letter from him, to me: to not-all-that-well-known me. It began well enough, with praise for Bird by Bird, and gratitude for how many times it had inspired him when he got stuck while writing screenplays. He singled out my insistence on trying to seek and tell the truth, whether in memoir or fiction, and my belief that experiencing grief and fear were the way home. The way to an awakening. That God is the Really Real, as the ancient Greeks believed. And God is Love. That tears were not to be suppressed, but would, if expressed, heal us, cleanse up, baptize us, help us water the seeds of new life that were in the ground at our feet.

Coming from a world famous director, it felt like the New York Glitterati was stamping it’s FDA seal of approval on me, and my work.

Unfortunately, the letter continued.

He wrote that while he had looked forward to meeting me, he’d gathered from reading my work that many of my closest friends and family members seemed to have met with traumatic life situations, and sometimes early deaths. So basically, he was getting out of Dodge before I got my tragedy juju all over him, too.

I felt mortified, exposed. He made it seem like I was a sorrow-mongerer, that instead of being present for family and friends who had cancer or sick kids or great losses, I was chasing them down.

And I flushed in that full body Niacin-flush way of toxic shame, at being put down by a man of power, that had been both the earliest, and now most recent, experiences of soul-death throughout my life.

My clingy child was drawing beside me, What did I do? You can’t use your child as a fix, like a junkie. That’s abuse; plus it won’t work.

Well, duh–I fell apart, on the inside, like a two dollar watch.

I had stopped drinking nearly 15 years before, stopped the bulimia 14 years earlier, and so did not have many reliable ways to stuff feelings back down. Also, horribly, my young child, two thousand miles from home, upon noticing my pain, clung even more tightly. I wanted to shout at him, “Don’t you have any other friends?”

What I did was the only thing that has ever worked. After finding a safe and stable person to draw with my son, I called someone and told her all my terrible fears and feelings and projections and secrets.

It was my mentor, Horrible Bonnie.

She listens.

She believes that we are here to become profoundly real, and therefore, free. But horribly–hence her name–she insists that if we want to be free, we have to let every body be free. I hate and resent this so much. It means we have to let the people in our families and galaxies be free to be asshats, if that is how they choose to live.

This however, does not mean we have to have lunch with them. Or go on vacation with them again. But we do have to let them be free.

She also knows, and said that day, that Real can be a nightmare in this world that is so false. The pain and exhaustion of becoming real can land you in the an abyss. And abysses are definitely abysmal; dark nights of the soul; the bottom an addict hits.

And this, she said, was just a new bottom, around people-pleasing, and the craving for powerful fancy people to approve of me. It was a bottom around my psycho doing-ness, my achieving-ness.

She said that because I felt traumatized, and that there had been so much trauma in my childhood, and so many losses in the ensuing years, that the future looked like trauma to me.

But it wasn’t the truth!

There was a long silence. (Again: she listens.)

Finally, I said in this tiny child’s voice, “It isn’t?”

Oh, no, she said. The future, as with every bottom I have landed at, and been walked through, would bring great spiritual increase.

She said I had as much joy and laughter and presence as anyone she knew and some of this had to do with the bottoms I’d experienced, the dark nights of the soul that god and my pit crew had accompanied me through. The alcoholism, scary men, etc.

She said that what I thought the director had revealed was that I am kind of pathetic, but actually what I was getting to see, with her, and later, when I picked up my luscious clingy child, in the most gorgeous mountains on earth, was that I was a ral person of huge heart, laughter, feelings and truth. And his was the greatest gift of all.

The blessing was that again and again, over the years, we got to completely change the script. Thank God. We got to re-invent ourselves, again.

But where do we even start with such terrible days and revelations? She said I’d started when I picked up the 300-pound phone, told someone the truth, felt my terrible feelings. Now, time for radical self care. A shower, some food, the blouse I felt prettiest in. Then I could go get my boy and we could explore the mountain streams.

Wow. We think when we finally get our ducks in a row, we’ve arrived. Now we’ll be happy! That’s what they taught us, and what we’ve sought. But the ducks are bad ducks, and do not agree to stay in a row, and they waddle off quacking, and one keels over, two males get in a fight, and babies are born. Where does that leave your nice row?

I got about five books out of the insights I gleaned from our talk. I still have a sort-of heart shaped rock my son fished out of a stream later. Sadly, this director’s movies have not done well in the last twenty years. Not a one. And all of his hair has since fallen out. Now, as a Christian, my first response to this is, “Hah hah hah.”

But Horrible Bonnie would say, Now you get to tell it, because then it will become medicine. Tell it, girl– that we evolve; that life is stunning, wild, gorgeous, weird, brutal, hilarious and full of grace. That our parents were a bit insane, and that healing from this is taking a little bit longer than we had hoped. Tell it. Well…okay. Yes.

I want to close with a great video clip:

Hanging Out with Anne Lamott – Point Loma Writer’s Symposium By the Sea 2014.

 

I’d love to hear about your favorite authors and your role models.

And as always thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Identify it and set the Intention

“You can use your mind  – To change your brain  – To change your mind for the better!”

– Rick Hanson

Last week I wrote a post about Neuroplasticity and getting rid of bad habits.

The first step is to identify the habit you want to change and set the intention to break it.  That sounds so simple.  But the reality is that bad habits are hard to break, that’s why we call them habits!

Dr. Rick Hanson talks about self-directed neuroplasticity to break habits, or indeed just to change your mind for the better! Dr. Hanson explains that neuroplasticity is ongoing. Our brains are changing all the time. He says that

Neurons that fire together, wire together

So we can create good habits of the mind or bad habits.  The secret lies in focus – do things with clarity, skillfulness and intention.

If we rest our attention routinely on what we resent and what we are dissatisfied with, or our bad habits – that is where we build our neural pathways.
When we change attention – to positive things, blessings, what we are grateful for – we build up a different neural pathway.

Have an intention – to redirect your attention! Attention is like a vacuum cleaner – it sucks whatever it rests up into the brain. New neural pathways are turbo charged when done with attention. So by mindfully internalizing positive experiences, you are consciously creating neural pathways. This is Self-Directed Neuroplasticity.

So by first identifying what the habit is that you want to break, setting the intention to break that habit, and then redirecting your attention from that negative habit to a something else, something positive, you begin to create a new neural pathway. New synaptic pathways can form in as little as 5 – 10 minutes!
It’s only the first step, but it’s an incredibly powerful one.
I want to close with another clip by Dr. Hanson, also on Neuroplasticity.  This one called Take in the Good. Enjoy!
I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

Why are happy people happy?

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values,
your values become your destiny”

– Mahatma Gandhi


I’m a happy person.  In my deepest core of being, I believe people are good, that things will work out and that essentially life is good!  I’m an optimist, what can I say?  I often have people say to me, “How come you are so happy? Why are you such an optimist?” And to be honest, I don’t have a pat answer for that.  So this weekend, when I got asked that, I decided to do some research, and I found some pretty interesting stuff.

One article I particularly liked was on a very cool blog called Successify! The creator of Successify, Dr. Kris Heap, credits Chiara Fucarino for the article. So I say thank you to both of these women for an amazing list.  The list boils down to the fact that happy people have positive habits.  They claim that there  are 22 things that Happy People do that create positive habits.

1. Don’t hold grudges.

2. Treat everyone with kindness.

3. See problems as challenges.

4. Express gratitude for what they already have.

5. Dream big.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

7. Speak well of others.

8. Never make excuses.

9. Get absorbed into the present.

10. Wake up at the same time every morning.

11. Avoid social comparison.

12. Choose friends wisely.

13. Never seek approval from others.

14. Take the time to listen.

15. Nurture social relationships.

16. Meditate.

17. Eat well.

18. Exercise.

19. Live minimally.

20. Tell the truth.

21. Establish personal control.

22. Accept what cannot be changed.

For the full post and explainations of the 22 habits, do go visit Successify! It’s a great site.

But according to Gandhi, (and honestly, who’s gonna argue with him?) – Habits themselves come way down the list, following actions, words, thoughts and beliefs. So I decided to explore each of these in turn.  On my next blog post, I’ll explore beliefs, both positive and negative, and how they impact us.

But in the meantime, I’d like to leave you with a song. When I was thinking of a happy song, I was brought back to 1968, I was 10 years old, at Lincoln School, in the 5th grade. Our teacher, Miss Brown, let us listen to 45s in the class sometimes.  And I loved this song.  It made me happy – it’s just a happy song!

 

 

I’d love to hear about your habits – are they positive or negative?  Do they make you happier or bring you down?  And as always, thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

Right or Happy . . . or Facing Conflict . . . isn’t that a Contradiction?

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions . . .”

– Joni Mitchell


As I said in my last post, being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is a difficult thing to do for most of us.  But as Maddie pointed out in a comment from my last post:  You have blogged in the past – “Would you rather be right or happy?” This post seems to contradict that. Does it?

I don’t see the two as being contradictory or exclusive.  I have learned to stand up for myself, learned to be willing to disagree, to not just “paper-over the conflicts as I used to in my old ‘peace-maker’ days” as Rosalie so aptly put it. But I have also learned that it is sometimes ok to let things go and not push doggedly to be RIGHT above all else, at the expense of harmony in a relationship. I think of that kind of right as the “Ego Right.”

The idea of being right or happy comes from A Course in Miracles.

The main benefit I see in correctly interpreting “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” is that it allows the line to be a challenge to our egoic insistence on being right at the expense of real rightness and of our happiness. Stubbornly clinging to a wrong position no matter how much pain it causes us is a virtually universal human phenomenon. This line is both a challenge to us to seriously question our way of seeing things and an invitation to accept a new way of seeing things that is both right and happy.

This also reminds me a bit of The Serenity Prayer –

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;  courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t see that as a Christian prayer so much as asking that part of me that is beyond my Ego, to have courage to face conflict, be willing to disagree, but to also accept some things and some people and not try to change them so I can be right.  It is subtle sometimes, but not a contradiction in my opinion,  just perhaps seeing things from Both Sides Now!

 

 

Thank you Maddie and Rosalie for taking the time to comment on my last post, it prompted me to think through this and clarify it for myself. Please tell me about how you have learned to balance this subtle difference.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Willing to Disagree and Facing Conflict

“The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.”

– Napoleon Bonaparte


Being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is difficult to do for most of us. I can say for myself, it used to terrify me.  I was the peace-maker in my family, the one who tried to make everything OK when anyone in my family was arguing (and trust me, there was a lot of arguing in my family!)  And when my husband, Jeff and I used to argue, it terrified me.  My fear of abandonment surfaced and I shrank.  The fact that Jeff is about 6′ 2″ and I’m just over 5′ added to the whole paradigm of shrinking back.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t give into every whim, but I didn’t like to face the conflict and sort through the disagreement.  My usual MO was to punish with silence, to walk away and not talk and make him suffer (yes I know, not the most mature approach!)  But as I said, conflict terrified me and I did not like being around people who disagreed with me.

It was only after years of therapy and reading lots of books that I came to value myself enough to not fear standing my ground.  And by realizing that I would survive fine without Jeff,  my fear of abandonment started to dissapate, and I became stronger in my willingness to face conflict head on, and as a result, our relationship grew stronger.

I’m not that afraid of conflict anymore, and this brings a delicious freedom.  I don’t necessarily go looking for an argument, but as a 50+ year old woman, I am pretty good at standing my own ground now!

So it was with great interest that I listened to Margaret Heffernan in this fascinating TED Talk, Dare to Disagree.  She describes constructive conflict as a fantastic model of collaboration: thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers.

“So what does that kind of constructive conflict require? Well, first of all . . . it means we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves, and it means we have to  find ways to engage with them. That requires a lot of patience and a lot of energy. And the more I’ve thought about this, the more I think, really, that that’s a kind of love. Because you simply won’t commit that kind of energy and time if you don’t really care.”

I love that statement that we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves.  It’s true, we usually surround ourselves with people who agree with us and show disdain for those who do not.  But in reality, as Heffernan points out, conflict often leads to creativity:

“Yes, there was a lot of conflict and debate and argument, but that allowed everyone around the table to be creative, to solve the problem.”

I agree with Heffernan, we must be willing to disagree with each other, to face conflict and work through it.  In this TED talk she explains the importance of disagreement in organizations and globally. But for me, I can only confirm how liberating it is personally.  As Napoleon points out – the people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know. Daring to disagree takes courage, but in my opinion, it is essential.

 

 

Please tell me about the times you have dared to disagree.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.