Archive for June, 2013

06/29/2013

True Perserverance…

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” –  Walter Elliot MC 1888-1958

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06/27/2013

Working Today to Improve Tomorrow

“What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.”Ralph Marston 1955-

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06/25/2013

Reasons of The Heart

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.” – Blaise Pascal 1623-62

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06/23/2013

Belief & The Future

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” –  Eleanor Roosevelt 1884-1962

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06/22/2013

Self Improvement & the Empty Chair

A few years ago when I studied chemical dependency, one of the techniques I came across that really resonated with me is the empty chair technique within Gestalt therapy.

Now, I like Gestalt stuff because that perspective focuses on what is happening in the here and now. The Gestalt school of thought aims to increase someone’s awareness of how they relate to their environment and how to make changes happen while simultaneously learning to accept and value themselves throughout the process. The empty chair technique is where the therapist has an extra chair in the session and directs the client to put the person who the client may be having a conflict within that seat. The client is then allowed to have a have a discussion with that person, focusing on expressing thoughts or feelings that they’ve wanted to stay but have not been able to do so. To take it one step further, the therapist will ask the client to shift between seats, asking them to respond in a manner to the feelings shared as how that person would. At the end of the exercise, the therapist helps the client process the key points raised in the dialog.

It is a very difficult technique to use as a therapist, and a very powerful exercise to experience as a client. Our teacher at the time, an active licensed therapist, allowed a few of us to come up and try it out in a role play. Most people were initially thrilled at being the client, but when they got in that chair, it was tough sledding. We had boundaries in place on what people felt comfortable sharing, but I remember working with a classmate and she started pouring out a few heavy details. My teacher was aware of my 9-5 and gave me a little more rope than some of my other classmates in trying to contain my coworker’s feelings. I wasn’t comfortable doing it, but I can still remember her giving me that “You gotta handle this” glare when I glanced at her with the “jump in at any time” look. Thankfully, she jumped in once the content got to be heavyweight and was able to close my classmate up successfully.

Having had that sort of experience, along with the ones on the 9-5, gives me a glint of insight into what therapists are asking of clients when they welcome them into their office. Those professional experiences have also given me insight of what we are often asking of ourselves whenever we are trying to make a significant change. It is hard for us to put ourselves in that empty chair, because it just may work too well and kick up things in us that we may need to address but have been putting off or running from doing so.

It may mean cleaning up those finances that we have mismanaged for years, and the initial cramp of doing so is p-a-i-n-f-u-l in more ways than one. It may mean realizing that the best friend you’ve always had that understands you is more interested in pulling you down than building you up. It may mean that the job you’re at while the pay and benefits are great, the emotional cost you pay with the abuse from management or coworkers is too hard to mask with the next fancy material thing the salary can allow you to purchase. It may mean ending that on-again-off-again relationship because as great as the sex may be, that’s the only good thing about it because neither person is willing to make changes to move things forward.

When making any meaningful and sustained changes, it may be important to get ourselves on-board with what we want to change fully. To that end, two old proverbs always come to mind:

“Each journey begins with the first step.” (making the first move)

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results.” (decide that we really need to make a change)

Sometimes life puts us in a spot where real change is necessary. Sometimes we think things will be solved by merely addressing the points in the proverbs above, but that is often just the beginning. Any elder or guru will tell you that the journey is never-ending. It makes going from an empty chair to open communication with that person in a healthy way rewarding, along with achieving all our goals that much sweeter.

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06/21/2013

Mark of A True Friend

“A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.”Elbert Hubbard 1856-1915

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06/20/2013

Giving Out Hands Ups, Not Handouts

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach that man to fish and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.”

This has always been one of my favorite parables/stories…and for a man who likes parables, that is saying a lot. We live in a contemporary society that allows improved access to many things, as long as you have the means to get it. The trouble is, when one no longer has the means, things seem less glamorous and easily accessible in this contemporary utopia.

The thing that grinds my ears about our current societal structure is this underlying sense of entitlement that exists. Some people are always looking more for handouts or quick fixes to problems than hand-ups as a way to move forward and no longer face those stressful situations in the first place.

Here’s one of my favorite stories to this end:

A man sits on a deserted island and notices that the tide is rising and threatens to sink the island and drown him. He prays to God for deliverance. A few minutes later, a raft stops by the island. The people on the raft ask him to climb on board. He questions the seaworthiness of the raft and declines, saying “God will save me”. He climbs to higher ground as the waters continue to rise. He spots a boat offshore. They people on the boat call out to him, encouraging him to swim out to the boat. The man declines, pointing at the sharks in the water as his reason to stay put. “God will save me,” he says. The waters continue to rise and he is forced to climb into the highest tree around. Suddenly, a helicopter appears. They lower a rope but cannot get close enough. “Jump on and we will catch you” the pilot says. “If I miss I will drown!” the man replies. He declines their help.  “God will save me!” he shouts as the helicopter flies away.

The sea water rises, covering the island and drowning the man. When he gets to Heaven’s gates, he sees God standing in the entrance.

“My God!” he screams, “why did you forsake your servant who cried out for help in a time of need?”

“I sent you a raft, boat and a helicopter,” God replies, “yet you choose not to accept deliverance when it was offered to you.”

Now many Church folks will take it to a different place, but I always liked that story because it showed what the difference between hand ups and handouts. There are never any easy way outs in life. Many of us have to work for what we have, sometimes too hard. Many of the celebs or other sustained rich folks put in serious work behind the scenes to achieve their status. Still, what is often sold to us in the media is that easy money, easy access, super flashy, fast-paced type life style.

On the flip side, there is the debate about too many “hand outs” when it comes especially to government-funded endeavors. Some people in the US often talk about welfare as if it is a crutch that is almost always abused by those who have access to it. Truth be told, some of the folks on welfare were hard-working folks who through illness or some other significant displacement are not able to contribute and take care of themselves as they used to. I guess I am biased to think that it is important to have a safety net in place – not everyone has family or adequate additional support who can step in and help them out in difficult times like that. There have been many folks who have used “welfare” to get them through tough times and are back on their feet, handling their business.

At the end of the day, most people value knowing where to turn to get true help. No question, we all will need a hand up from time to time. Still, it is that true spirit of community in both helping someone up and teaching them to stay on their feet is what makes humans, at their best, the most transformative creatures on the planet.

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06/19/2013

Breaking New Ground

“A person who never a mistake never tried anything new.”Albert Einstein 1879-1955

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