Friday, March 25, 2016

The Complaining, Negativity Dragon

Some people seem to have a constant stream of negativity coming out of their mouths. Whether they are posting on social media, or you’re trying to have a conversation with them, it’s all complaints!

The people around them feel the emotional pull of wanting to help them, but for most of us, it is extremely uncomfortable….you know that awkward feeling of being pulled into that feeling of responsibility for someone else’s emotions? Many of us have a hard enough time managing our own emotions! In the name of preserving our own sense of emotional calm, we duck out of that uncomfortable situation at our earliest convenience!

This is how it goes with chronic complainers.

Author and therapist, Margaret Paul, Ph.D., says that “people who complain are generally people who have not done the emotional and spiritual work of developing a loving, compassionate inner adult self.”  She also says, “Energetically, complainers are pulling on others for caring and understanding because they have emotionally abandoned themselves.”

Complaining is one of those internal dragons people carry around that all started because of feelings of lack.  The act of complaining is a habit which makes people feel more in control in a world where everything is perceivably happening to them.

But what if that chronic complainer is you?  What are you supposed to do with this dragon you’ve lived with for so long?

On the topic of bad events: it’s absurd to think that anyone can control things that are beyond the scope of their own actions…so trying to have control in those situations is pointless.  Complaining isn’t an action that results in any real change either, so again, a complete waste of effort.

Things just happen….but if we choose to focus on the negative aspects, and comment about them, we feed and grow that dragon and the habit of complaining gets out of control.  Soon, you may not even realize that you’re constantly complaining, and driving people away from you. You may begin to complain that nobody is ever around to help you, and it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Your current reality may make you feel like you are condemned to your own internal prison -- but this vicious cycle of negativity is a mere mental habit, and like any habit, it can be changed!

Mental habits form much like tires create ruts in a dirt road: the more you drive the car along the same route, the more difficult it is to drive the car out of the ruts.  The only way out of a habit is to do the mental work to change the context of your actions, actively change your perceptions, and to consistently replace the old habit with a new behavior.

The willpower you’ll use to create this new behavior is a mental muscle.  You’ll need to train it like you would train your biceps at the gym.

Just like training to be an athlete, it’s going to take time and patience. Nobody starts training by just walking into a gym and starting off with bench pressing 500 pounds, and similarly, you should not expect to be able to change your habits overnight!

In order to change, you’ve got to create space for new habits by taming that negative, shaming, judgmental voice in your head.  Forgive yourself for being so negative and hostile in there for so long. It’s time to replace all of that prickly scaliness with compassion. Be actively gentle with yourself. 

Let go of that inner battle and redirect your mental focus to what you do want. When your brain stops wasting its energy by being caught up in the guilt and shame, you will be able to divert your energy to change, and your dragon will be able to shrink so much faster!

Consider replacing the constant judgment with feelings of acceptance, and feelings of gratitude for all the stuff that is actually good no matter how seemingly small and simple that thing might be. 

Yes, bad things do happen, but as a large-brained human, you have the capacity to rise above it all.  Shrug off the old attitude of being a victim, because that doesn’t serve you.  What does serve you is compassion for yourself, and deliberate actions which move you gradually towards the emotional place you really want to be. <3


Paul, M. (n.d.) Addiction to Complaining. Retrieved from:

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Friday, March 18, 2016

How to be in a relationship (without getting crushed under other people’s emotional baggage)

Courage to love the self - painting in progress - by HD AndersonSometimes we become so attached to the idea of being in a relationship, that we begin to lose ourselves.  This is dangerous territory.

It’s so human to want to cling to passion: the idyllic memory of that fiery first spark at the beginning of the relationship.  In this state of mind, you may start to put up with all kinds of poor treatment because the idea of ever being apart from that person is so far away from that beautiful idyllic bliss. Personal boundaries of acceptable treatment and typical actions of respect (or a lack thereof) become blurred.  One day you may suddenly realize that you are constantly torn between that which provides an illusion of safety within the relationship and that which drains your energy and your soul. 

One of my favorite authors on the topic of the human spirit, Osho, says that this is not love. Clinginess is not love. (One of my favorite videos of Osho can be viewed here.)

To truly love a person, you must be willing to put aside your ego and your desire to receive from them.  Instead, you simply offer your love and support and let them live within their own dreams and visions.  Just love, without expectations.

When I first learned of this concept, I came from a mindset of always feeling like I was not good enough to be loved fully.  And so, I held on tight whenever I felt the security of a relationship that felt real.  It hit me like a ton of bricks that all this time, my expectations of other people (to fill the void within me) was completely unreasonable and actually, impossible!

It wasn’t until I let go and decided to just be a loving person, without any expectations of getting anything in return that I began to feel free.  In this state of mind, my boundaries are clear.  Since I no longer feel the need to cling, I know that I would be absolutely fine whether I am in or out of a romantic relationship.

I now choose all of my human relationships because they serve me and bring positive experiences to my life.  I get a lot of enjoyment out of being a loving person and seeing the effects of my love for the people who receive it. I no longer stay in bad situations out of fear. It’s not worth it…because I am worth it.

The key to detachment is to fall in love with yourself.  You can begin to replace any feelings of lack with mantras such as: “I am worthy of respect and real love,” or “I am so loveable and delicious,” or whatever personally activates that self-worthy, self-loving, core of awesomeness within your being.

Even if you feel like a liar the first time you say it, and tears gush out of your eyes (aka, your heart reacting to the truth of those words!) know that if you keep at it, over time, your mind will allow that belief to sink in and become real!

Being able to be detached in a relationship because you love yourself so much that nothing – NOTHING! – will stop you from taking your time and attention away from hurtful people. THAT is freedom.

When you stop expecting certain behaviors from others, and instead become a solid pillar of love and kindness which inspires everyone around you, you no longer fear being alone.

You can’t control the actions of others, but you can control how you feel about yourself, and how you relate to the world.

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Friday, March 11, 2016

When to leave a relationship

Sometimes things get bad.  Really bad.

Sometimes it’s a tough call between “this is just another human mistake, I should just forgive and carry on” and “I really think I’ve had enough of this.”

The many factors and facets of human relationships are so complicated that it goes way beyond the scope of this particular webpage, but what I will do is narrow it down and speak to those who struggle with having clear boundaries in relationships.  If you have had a chronically stressful or hurtful childhood, knowing when enough is enough is not a clear and easy thing.

In this situation, your mind is useless. Having endured what it did in childhood, it is now hardwired to overlook the assaults. Your mind has a tendency to reassure you that everything is okay…when it’s really not.

If this is your experience, you’ll need to consult with another source of wisdom within you: your body.

Your body knows when you have been violated or hurt.  It gets expressed as aches or pains (headaches, back tension, digestive tract upset), tightness (I feel as though my throat closes up), or in the case of the heart, hollowness and a sensation of collapse or sinking. (To illustrate the opposite experience: in most people, the way the heart says YES is a sensation of expansion, and/or beating faster and stronger.)

That heart “brain” is only capable of communicating the truth of the matter, and will never lie to you about how being in the relationship is actually affecting you.

Now, if you feel you are in immediate physical danger from your partner, (i.e. force is required to be safe in that moment) it goes without saying that you should get help from the police immediately!  (For most domestically dangerous situations, your local women's services organization/shelter may be better option because they can offer both safety and confidentiality! Also, they typically have the resources to help and support you from many different angles.)

If you’re being violated in non-life threatening ways ways which confuse you and make you hesitate (psychologically, socially or emotionally) you’ll need to pay attention to what your body is telling you.

Each time you feel a sensation, notice it. Close your eyes and just feel it. What were the circumstances that brought it on? What were you thinking about just then? These are the clues on what circumstances your body deems are unacceptable.  If you continue to experience these circumstances, the effects they have on your body will begin to take their toll. Sometimes these body symptoms turn chronic, so something has to change!

Let’s say that you’ve discovered that when your partner uses you as a verbal punching bag, you feel it in your heart (collapsed) and your throat (tight: because you don’t feel like you can speak without being verbally punched even more!) You try to communicate to your partner -- that their way of venting their life’s frustrations directly at you -- is hurtful.  Instead of being receptive, they get defensive, and nothing changes.

Let’s say that you’ve tried to crack through that thick skull of theirs many times and it’s not working.  You demand couple’s therapy. He/she goes reluctantly, insisting that you’re actually the one with the problem.  Therapy happens and things get better for a while, but before long, things go right back to where they were. 

The thing about humans is that we bring all of our past baggage into our relationships, and unless we do the personal work to unpack it all, it’s always going to be haunting our lives.  It’s like the saying goes: “wherever you go, there you are.”

It’s important to remember that it’s nobody else’s responsibility to unpack their baggage but their own.  And please remember that if somebody else’s baggage is hurting or violating you through their behavior, it’s not your fault. 

Having constant uncomfortable body sensations is an indication that perhaps it’s time to move on in the name of self-preservation.  Those aches and pains you feel in your body could manifest into chronic conditions, and no relationship is worth that!

Being constantly hurt by someone else’s baggage is not love.  It’s certainly not self-love.  (Tweet:) Great acts of self-love sometimes involve getting away from other people’s baggage. Your heart knows this truth.

Have you ever left a bad situation and felt light in your body and full of energy?  Your heart expands and beats strong and rhythmically? Your heart knows the truth.

Let your body be your barometer and your compass, work on your own unpacking, and live your life well.

Friday, March 4, 2016

You are not your dragon

No matter what you call your dragon, be it “Depression,” “Diabetes,” “Binge-eating,” “Cancer,” “Alcoholism,” or “Drug-addiction,” it is important to remember that the dragon is only your human experience. It doesn’t define your true self.

The danger of identifying yourself too closely to your dragon is that you will take on that dragon’s apparent limitations as your own, and it shrinks what you believe is possible for you. This is not the truth of your being, even if it might appear to be so.

The real you is that consciousness behind the thoughts and judgements who is observing a human experience in a human body. It is connected closely to your heart, and only knows what simply feels good deep down in the core of your body and what doesn’t.  It is very separate from the chatter and judgements of the mind.

Take a moment and be still with yourself.  Remember that you are that observer behind your thoughts.  That consciousness within you that simply exists (without the mind’s chatter or thoughts of judgement). It is the part of you that is connected to your heart and just knows what feels good and what doesn’t (and it’s very separate from the mind!)

When you remember who you are, it gives you the freedom to choose what you will do with your thoughts. You can shrink that dragon’s bloated existence simply by redirecting the attention you give to it. You can make a brave, bold, and conscious choice to focus your attention away from that dragon, and thereby put it on a very deliberate diet!

Think of it this way: every thought you have in support of the dragon’s existence is like dragon kibble. The more you think: “this diabetes will always be in my life,” or “I am my depression,” or “this disease is ruining my life” it’s like a piece of dragon kibble that makes your dragon a bit bigger and more difficult to manage. When the dragon gets big enough, it begins to block out all of the joy and clarity in your life. Soon all can seem hopelessly dark with no hope of being able to be out of the dragon’s shadow ever again. Well, that’s what the dragon would like you to think, anyway!

In truth, as long as you can form thoughts, all is not lost! Opposing thoughts like: “I am getting a little better at ____ every day,” or “I am getting a little healthier every day,” or “I am actually free,” or “I am not my dragon,” …..will starve that dragon!

If you practice redirecting your thoughts each time a “dragon kibble” thought comes up, and replace it with the opposite thought, eventually you and your dragon will reach an equilibrium. If you keep at it, then over time, the practice becomes easier. Eventually, you will harness more and more control, and make those dragon-opposing thoughts a habit. Soon your efforts will be juiced by the knowledge that you have taken action in your mind and created a small but profound shift within yourself!

To redirect your thoughts, first just take notice when you are having a “dragon kibble” thought. Gently bring your attention to that thought, and then imagine putting a bubble around it, and then imagine that you let it drift away. Release it!

Replace it with the opposite thought by making an opposing statement in your mind. So, instead of “I am going to be depressed forever,” you might state, “I am not this depression. The real me is free, joyful and expansive.”

Also, please don’t beat yourself up for having those dragon kibble moments! Those thoughts became a habit at some point, and like any habit, it takes deliberate, persistent, repetitive practice to change it. For a time you might even feel like the cliché cartoon character with the (constantly bickering) devil on one shoulder and angel on the other! You may carry on for a while in this state, but if you just keep at it, without beating yourself up, while being gentle with yourself, and maybe having a giggle about it, it will pass as the new habit is formed.

Remember that even the most enlightened folks among us have dragon kibble moments now and then.  It’s human after all, and it’s really all a matter of remembering that you really do have the ability to redirect your thought patterns!

As a disclaimer, I’m not saying that everyone will always be able to starve a dragon until it completely disappears, (although sometimes it happens) but you can certainly put that dragon on a diet until it stops being so huge that it blocks out all the sunshine in your life. Even if you have been told that you have terminal cancer, a shift in attitude (whatever thoughts shrink that dragon for you) will substantially change your perception of those blessed final days.

Let me put it this way:  if you can get your dragon to get down to a size where you get little glimmers of happiness now and then, it’s certainly better than existing completely in a huge dragon’s shadow.
When you combine this change of thought patterns with deliberate positive actions in your life (such as eating better, or exercise) you can create real and powerful change for yourself.

Even if it feels like you are moving at a snail’s pace and every step is a feat of strength and endurance, simply having awareness that your efforts are gradually shrinking your dragon will aid you in stepping further into your true unlimited, creative, powerful self. This process is all about causing a shift in attitude that generates new energetic patterns in your brain, heart, and whole body. 

The journey to health starts in the mind.