Tell your inner critic to shut up!

“Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up!”

― Ann Bradford

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Do you ever feel like your inner voice is not your best friend? Do you find that voice telling you that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong? My inner chatter is often telling me that I’m not doing ‘it’ right. It doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is – doing a task, helping someone to do something, even just trying to meditate. I used to think that I was alone in this and that I was just flawed and hopeless. Then I started working with other women in workshops and discovered that almost all of us do this one way or another. It is painful to realize how many of us believe these negative voices in our heads. I wrote about this topic recently on Thrive Global.

Most of us received plenty of negative messages growing up, and usually those messages are blindly accepted and believed. These negative messages from our inner critic create new neural pathways which become embedded in our brains. This becomes negative inner chatter creating limiting beliefs which adversely impacts us in many ways.

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, and unfortunately, a lot of us have some very negative messages firmly rooted in our brains.

Once those neural pathways are deeply embedded, changing them is not an easy task.

Is there a way to overcome the negative stories that we once heard and now continue to tell ourselves? Is there a way to shift those pathways so that they are less destructive? Yes! There is a practice which you can start using right now, which will bring about changes in the neural pathways that keep you stuck. Using Creative Positive Reframing, you can take limiting beliefs and creatively transform them so they become supportive rather than destructive. You can reframe and create a new perspective on how you think by using these seven tools:

Pay attention — Pay attention to your thought process.

Action: A good way to pay attention to your thought process is to pay attention to how your body feels. You can tell if the thoughts are self-defeating and destructive if they negatively impact your body; for example, a knot in your stomach or a lump in your throat, clenched jaw or tight shoulders.

Practice: Scan your body to check in, notice any tight spots or knots. Observe/pay attention to the thoughts that you are focusing on when you feel tight; think about why you want to change those thoughts; what is the negative impact on your life?

Get the negative out — Write out the negative.

Action: Nature abhors a vacuum. When you cannot get out of a negative thought spiral — write it out. Get rid of the negative to make room for the positive.

Practice: Get negative thoughts out of your head by emptying it out on paper. Think of it as an emotional enema! Write about all the negativity spiralling in your head. Allow a stream of consciousness to flow and let it all come out. And then tear the paper up.

Replace the negative with positive — Use positive statements and questions to replace the negative

Action: Negative self-talk can be replaced by positivity with the help of a series of deliberate affirmations and questions. This creates new neural pathways and frees you from the negative spiral. However, sometimes when we use affirmations that do not feel real, our brain does not believe it, and this can embed the negative even more deeply. For example, if you are struggling to pay the rent and you say to yourself: ‘I am wealthy and have plenty of money for all of my needs’, perhaps your thoughts will rebel with: ‘Well, that’s not true’ — and then will go on to prove how wrong you are, throwing you further down the negative spiral.

Practice: Creative positive statements wherever possible; and try creating questions as well. Research shows that the use of questions instead of statements works effectively. Questions work with the brain’s natural inquisitive nature; pose a question and your brain will work to find an answer, creating more positive neural pathways automatically. So if when you say “I am wealthy” and your brain rebels; try asking for its help by saying something like “Money is coming to me easily and effortlessly. What do I need to do to increase my cash flow?”

Think about the ideal and be clear why you want it — Create an ideal scenario and know why it is important to you.

Action: In order to create new neural pathways and escape the negative spiral, it’s important to have a replacement to start thinking about. For example, if you are stuck in fear about money, and in a negative loop, start thinking about the flip side and create a picture of the ideal.

Practice: Describe your ideal financial situation, be as specific as possible. Have fun with this: let your imagination be your guide. You don’t need to write this out, just tell yourself the story. Picture yourself living with plenty of money. See yourself living the life of your dreams; actually feel how good it feels. And then focus on the why; why is it important? For example, allow yourself really examine why having more money would make a difference in your life. What is the deepest reason you want this to manifest? Keep going deeper and deeper into why you want to achieve this until you feel like you have hit the heart of it. You will know it when you have hit it, there will be an emotional charge linked to it. Allow yourself to feel the depth of that emotion.

Creative visualization — Picture the ideal and embed it in your brain

Action: Creative Visualization is a technique which uses your own power of ‘seeing’ or visualizing something to attain that which you most want, or want to change. It involves using the mind to see that which you want to achieve; or using the mind to change the negative into positive. You already use this technique every day. Unfortunately, we often use it in the negative. The key to visualization is to create a mindset that you already have that which you are trying to attain, and to believe that you deserve the positive result.

Practice: Relax and take time to do this. 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.

Stay positive in the process — Keep a positive attitude as you practice

Action: The field of Positive Psychology points out many benefits of staying positive and being happy. Happiness brings social rewards, helps people recover faster from illness, and have more resilience. Happy people feel like they are in control and are empowered and therefore usually feel more confidence, optimism, and a sense of well-being. These are all good reasons to try to remain in a positive mindset, but one of the main obstacles to positivity is that our brains are wired to look for and focus on threats. This mechanism was helpful back when we were hunters and gatherers, but now this mindset breeds pessimism and negativity because the mind tends to wander until it finds a threat. But there are many methods to overcome the brain’s negative bias.

Practice: The most straightforward method is to focus on love and compassion, forgiveness and gratitude. These positive mind-sets shift your focus from the negative to the positive. Even simply thinking about someone you love or something you are grateful for, can help you shift from a negative mindset to a positive one.

Be creative — Creativity helps us shift from the negative to the positive

Action: While you are focusing on shifting limiting beliefs into more positive and supportive beliefs, it is helpful to be creative in the process. An expression of creativity, in any form, can be helpful in shifting our mood and removing us from a negative spiral. Not only that, but repressed creativity can have the opposite effect, and can ultimately express itself in unhealthy ways, such as bad relationships, stress, neurotic or addictive behaviors. Perhaps the most common manifestation of repressed creativity in women is depression, which, of course, only increases the negative downward spiral.

Practice: There are so many ways we can get creative, and they all involve play: start journaling and play with words; get some oil pastels and play with color; go outside, garden, and play in the dirt; learn an instrument, dance, and play with music; cook and play with spices. There is no right or wrong way to be creative. The only important thing is to allow ourselves to connect with our own creativity.

The next time you find yourself falling into a negative spiral, use these seven tools to tackle those limiting beliefs, and transform them so that they are supportive rather than destructive.

I want to close with a wonderful video clip with Lisa Nichols and Marci Shimoff, appropriately entitled: ‘How to Stop Negative Self Talk.’

 

I’d love to hear about how you get your inner critic to shut up.  We all need as much help as possible with that negative committee! And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

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.
 

 

 

Saving Your Life

“Letting go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.”
― Melody Beattie

Melody Beattie has been such an important role model for me and countless others that deal with addiction and co-dependence.

She has a great page on Facebook with daily meditations. Today’s meditation struck me because I’m an avid journaller, I talk about that a lot here and in my book, This Way Up. In Beattie’s post, she talks about ‘Saving Your Life’ through journalling, such a great double entendre.  I know that journalling has saved my life, or at least my sanity, on more than one occasion.  Not to mention, I am saving my life, though words, a snapshop of my experience daily.

Beattie discusses why journalling is important to her:

Are you saving your life by writing about it in a journal?

Sometimes I use a file in my computer for my journal. If I’m rambling, ranting, or raving—writing something that could embarrass me if seen—I lock the file with a code. My words in my journal, whether it’s in a computer or a green Italian notebook, are meant only for me.

There are many ways to write in a journal. We can go on and on about whatever comes to us. That’s helpful, especially if we’re stuck. We can use our journal as a record, writing down what we did that day. It’s a good place to write our goals and to explore our fantasies and dreams.

We can write poems or short stories. We can write letters to God or our Guardian Angel, asking for advice. Or we can just say what happened each day, and then write how it feels.

People may think there’s a right and wrong way to write in a journal, but I don’t agree. There aren’t any rules about journals. It’s just a way to record and save our lives.

Do you think your life is worth saving? I do. If you’ve been neglecting to do that, ask yourself “why?”

God, help me be aware of and respect the details of my life.

Activity: Transfer your goal list to a journal, and begin writing your responses to the meditations and the activities as part of your journal entry for each day. Use your journal as a logbook, to record what you’re doing and whom you’re doing it with as you pursue your dreams. Or use it as a way of exploring how you feel, who you are, and what you want to do. Save your life in whatever way makes sense to you.

Such a great reminder to me, and I hope to you too, to journal today and everyday if possible.

I want to close with a video of Beattie discussing Addiction and Codependency.  I love her messages, they really hit home.  This vid is part 1 of 3; if you find it useful or interesting, I hope you take the time to watch all 3. Such valuable information on the subject.

 

 

I’d love to hear about why you journal and how it helps you; and would love your thoughts of the video. And as always thanks for stopping by, 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.

Neuroplasticity – Retraining our brain to get rid of bad habits

“What were once vices are now habits.”

It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins133182.html#cRzVZOHjpM8tGpjB.99

The Doobie Brothers


Habits are hard to break, but understanding how they are created in our brain is the first step in breaking them.

No one likes having bad habits – smoking, over-eating, drinking too much – they are often expensive and usually bad for our health.

*I know there is a lot more to smoking  than just the habitual behaviors. Cigarettes are filled with chemicals that serve no other purpose than to addict the smoker. And I’m well aware of the fact that alcoholism is not a habitual behavior. But I’m talking about habits here, not addiction.

In terms of habits, think of it like walking in a virgin rainforest. The first time something is done, it’s like cutting through the rainforest with a machete. The more you perform this act, the more you are clearing the path. And after awhile, the neural pathway you’ve forged becomes easier to navigate, more like an open road. The more often it is traveled, the better the pathway. And this is great news when you are learning a new language or a new skill, the more often it is practiced, the better it gets.

What’s not so great is when this big neural pathway is associated with a habit you want to break, and the repetition of this bad habit keeps making it more entrenched. If each time you turn the key to start the car, you also light up a cigarette, the brain associates these actions together, and they become part of the same neural pathway. The bad news is that the longer you have done this, the more entrenched is this habit.

But the good news is that our brains are not static. Research about neuroplasticity is showing us that our brains can definitely change. We can rewire our brains and get rid of bad habits forever. We can all learn new behaviors and attitudes and transform our lives.

I’m not saying it’s easy to get rid of bad habits. But I am saying that it is possible. There are powerful ways that we can retrain our brain, and with practice rid ourselves of entrenched habits that we want to change.

Marilyn Gordon wrote a good article about training your brain to get rid of bad habits.  Each of the 10 steps deserves to be explored on it’s own, so I plan to dwell on each point individually in my next few posts.

She outlines the 10 steps as:

1. Identify the habit you’d like to transform and set the intention.

2. Observe what the old habit or pathway is doing in your life.

3. Shift your focus.

4. Use your imagination.

5. Interrupt your thoughts and patterns when they arise.

6. Use aversion therapy.

7.  Create a specific plan and choose what to do instead.

8. Transform the obstacles.

9. Connect with your Higher Source for inspiration and support.

10. Transform and make the shift.

I’ll close with a great talk, held at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, by Rick Hanson about Neuroplasticity.

 

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.