Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Danger of the Single Story

There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.”  Thich Nhat Hanh
What’s your story? When I ask clients, I get an answer that breaks down into three categories:  The Victim (the tragic story), The Blank Slate (no memory of a story), or The Pretty Picture (everything in my life was wonderful story).
We all have a story. We must honor our story in order to move forward in our lives. Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegard's words, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards” are a testament to the power of honoring our story. To live our lives forwardly, we must connect the dots from the past to have a clear view of our purpose in life. 
How do we look at our history without feeling trapped by it? Honoring our story and being trapped by our story are two distinctly different things. Understanding the lessons of our past and using those lessons to grow is honoring our whole being. Feeling trapped by our story is giving our story too much power, which keeps us feeling stuck. I grew up in a family where domestic abuse was present. I developed an eating disorder in my teens. These are the facts of my life. I am not defined by these facts because of the lessons I learned from those events. I learned that domestic abusers can only abuse when they are given permission, which helped me to take personal responsibility. My eating disorder taught me to find within myself a space to honor and love my body instead of seeking outside approval, which can never be a substitute for self-acceptance.
How do we live forwardly? Nigerian Novelist Chimamanda Adichie warms of how impressionable we can be in the face of a story in her popular TED Talk.  She tells of how she was perceived as a woman worthy of pity and representational of the whole of the continent of Africa by some of her American college professors. She speaks of her own way of defining her Nigerian “house boy” who, unlike her family, was from an underprivileged home. She only saw him as being poor. My freshman English students view this TED Talk. I not only ask them how they are singularly viewed as community college students, I ask them how they view each other and themselves. Being aware of how we form our identities is the first step. Once we are aware, we can choose to reject or incorporate outside perceptions.
To Thine Own Self Be True - Finding the Lotus  Most of us knew who we were as dreaming children. We knew we were talented, capable, kind, whole, powerful, and were ready to make our unique contribution to the world. Finding our true self by getting back to our dreaming child comes with awareness, courage, and a realization that our stories are simply the fertile mud to help us to grow into the divine beings we were meant to be.     

Sunday, January 12, 2014

4 Powerful Ways to Break Out of Victim Mentality

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” ―Thích Nhất Hạnh

When we feel victimized by crime, a lover, our family,race or gender it is an opportunity to evolve. After we get through the initial shock, sadness, anger, blame, and other emotions and accept where we are, the potential for something magical can occur. If we have the courage to look inward and to move beyond the pain and immobility being a victim can cause, we can access our personal power.

 1.  Knowing Your Power
Writer, Alice Walker said, "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." When we sink into victim mentality, we detach from our own power, rely on others to make us feel worthy, safe and able, and empower the person or circumstances that caused us pain by keeping our focus on the source of pain and not ourselves. The ability to move from a victim mentality to self-empowerment is simply a state of mind. Changing our state of mind can be accomplished by reminding ourselves where we are whole and wonderful, and by putting our attention on the value and joy of our dreams. Once we believe we are no longer in danger, we are not. Once we believe we are capable of supporting ourselves, we do. Once we believe we are loveable and able to attract a loving, caring partner, one arrives.   

2.  Taking Responsibility
While devastating acts can understandably cause us to have fear, acknowledging that we have the power to move beyond our fear can feel daunting. First, we must acknowledge how being in a state of victimhood serves us. Perhaps it feels good to have others take care of us. Perhaps we feel safer not to make our own decisions or take any risks. Perhaps we don't believe we can make it on our own. When we look inward and discover how our victim mentality satisfies a need, we can then satisfy that need in a healthier way.

3.  Gratitude
Being grateful for what we have has become cliché in the world of "how to," "self-help," and "spiritual awakening." However, it remains a powerful tool in healing and moving forward. The simple practice of a gratitude journal, noting every day three or four things that we are grateful for, can shift us from a feeling of being a victim to feeling self-empowered.  Dr. Robert A. Emmons, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis studied the effects of gratitude and found that those who kept a gratitude journal experienced significant improvements in several areas of life including relationships, academics, energy level and even dealing with tragedy and crisis.While he says cultivating an attitude of gratitude may be difficult, it is a "chosen attitude” that is well worth the benefits.

4.  Forgiveness
Forgiving can be the most magical and powerful step in the process of moving from victim to self-empowerment. Forgiving both ourselves, circumstances, and anyone who has harmed us releases the bond of a victim mentality. We do not have to condone behaviors that are harmful, but we can certainly set ourselves free by accepting what happened to us, learning from it, and releasing it. Thích Nhất Hạnh writes in The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Love and Liberation: “Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, or possessions - we cannot be free.”  Releasing our victim mentality is the path toward liberation, love, peace, happiness and a true sense of self-empowerment.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

12 Archetypes, Which One Are You?

 "There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self."―Benjamin Franklin

 Let's have a little fun in the exploration of self. How well do you know yourself? Carl Gustav Jung adapted emotional archetypes such as the shadow, the mother, the wise old man, the anima (the feminine image in the male psyche) and the animus (the male image in the female psyche) among others. Dr. Carol Pearson builds on Jung's theory to devise her 12 mythic universal characteristics. See if you identify within yourself any of the traits below, and use the information to make clear and informed decisions in 2014.

 1.   The Innocent
Core Desire: Independence and fulfillment - Free to be you and me
Goal: To be happy

2.  The Explorer
Core Desire: To define one's self by exploring the world with freedom
Goal: To experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life

3.   The Sage
Core Desire: To discover the truth
Goal: To use intelligence and analysis to understand the world.

4.   The Hero
Core Desire: To prove one’s worth through courageous and difficult action
Goal: To exert mastery in a way that improves the world

5.   The Outlaw
Core Desire: To seek revenge or start a revolution
Goal: To destroy what is not working (for the Outlaw or the society)

6.   The Magician
Core Desire: To have knowledge of the fundamental laws of how the world or universe works
Goal: To make dreams come true

7.   The Regular Guy/Girl
Core Desire: To form a connection with others
Goal: To belong, fit in

8.   The Lover
Core Desire: To attain intimacy and experience sensual pleasure
Goal: To be in a relationship with the people, work, experiences and surroundings that one loves

9.   The Jester
Core Desire: To live in the moment with full enjoyment
Goal: To have a great time and lighten up the world

10. The Caregiver
Core Desire: To protect people from harm
Goal: To help others

11.  The Creator
Core Desire: To create something of enduring value
Goal: To give form to a vision

12. The Ruler
Core Desire: To control
Goal: To create a prosperous and successful family, company or community