manage stress during corona virus

Nine strategies to manage stress during the corona virus

These times are unprecedented. As the novel corona virus is spreading, so are fear and anxiety. While technology is connecting us to the larger world, physical distancing is keeping us away from our neighbors. We have reason to be concerned for both our health and our economic wellbeing. If the corona virus lockdown is getting to you, you are not alone. This is a time to ramp up our self-care and boost our resilience. These strategies can help you manage stress during the corona virus lockdown:

Limit your intake of media.

We all want and need to be informed, but spending too much time watching the news or reading your Twitter feed can make even the most resilient of us feel anxious. Choose a time boundary for your media intake, and stick with it.

Stay connected.

Physical distancing does not mean social isolation. Virtual happy hours, sing-alongs, and dance parties are fun ways to connect to your people. Now is a great time to phone a friend: AT&T reported a doubling of phone calls over the last few weeks.

Laugh.

One of the easiest ways to "break the state" of anxiety is to laugh. Thanks to Spotify and YouTube, there are loads of comedians to listen to or watch. I love Demetri Martin, and my sons recently introduced me to Nate Bargatze. I laughed till it hurt.

Listen to uplifting music.

Music is another great way to "break the state". It's hard to stay anxious or sad when we are listening to fun, upbeat music. There are many interesting collaborations on YouTube, like Berklee College of music students, Nashville backup singers, and these teens.

Spend time in nature.

Stay away from others and obey park closures, but go outside when you can. There's nothing like the natural world to soothe our soul and lift our spirits.

Move your body.

Dance, practice yoga, learn T'ai Chi. Dust off your treadmill, pull out your dumbbells. Try pushups and sit-ups. Make it a pro-social behavior by joining your favorite fitness or yoga studio's online classes.

Remember to be mindful.

When we are in the present moment, we are better able to stay peaceful. Most of our upsets come from thoughts about the future or the past. To counter that, keep coming back to right here, right now. After becoming "awake," the Buddha shared the secret with the children in his community: "When you are eating the tangerine," he said, "eat the tangerine." One helpful way to come back is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique: Find 5 things you can see, four you can feel, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste. Maybe a tangerine.

Meditate.

There are gobs of guided meditations on the web, including some of mine. Find some you like, and listen to them regularly. If you are more inclined to a silent, solo practice, now is a great time to get to it. Find a style that works for you: focus on your breath, or bodily sensations; witness your thoughts; repeat a mantram; or concentrate on a high-level concept. You can meditate sitting, standing, walking, or lying down. Take some time to explore, and find out what works best for you.

Find a way to be helpful.

Alfred Adler, one of the founders of psychology, advised his patients who were suffering with depression to think about how they could help someone. "How can I possibly help anyone, I am so miserable," they would often reply. "I'm not saying you have to actually do it; just think about it," he would reply. He was on to something. However, for the corona virus problem, let's not just think about helping! There are many ways to be of service, including sharing facts when there's so much misinformation; making masks; supporting local businesses; and talking friends off the ledge, are all ways to be of service. And they offer a win-win-win: When we help others, we also are helping ourselves, and helping our communities.

These strategies can help you manage stress during the corona virus lockdown. How are they working? I'd love to hear from you!


How do I say no

How to say no

Getting to "no"

I was talking with a friend of mine this morning. She has invited me to collaborate with her on a project. As we talked, she said, "I'm afraid I'm asking too much." I told her that if it were too much for me, I would say no. “Asking is not the same as telling a person to do something," I sagely added. We both cracked up. And realized how seldom people remember this. Learning how to say no is a lesson that often comes up in client sessions, and in life.

Ask, and it is (sometimes) given. And sometimes not.

Over on the other side of this equation, I have almost lost friendships over this issue. Once, a friend asked me to do her a favor. I could not, so I told her that I could not. She was clearly annoyed with me, and I did not hear from her again for months.

This theme runs through my practice. Often clients are afraid to ask for things. They are afraid of how their request will land with the person they are asking.

I always advise clients to remember that "no" is always a valid answer. When people ask something of you, you can say no. When you ask someone to do something for you, remember that they have the right to say no. It seems so simple, but like so many things, can be difficult to execute.

Learn to say no, and you practice setting boundaries

I think that it is helpful to think of this as a boundary issue. We all do better when we know what our limits are, what is healthy for us, where our "no" is. We are ultimately responsible for ourselves, and for taking care of ourselves. That includes setting limits, and saying no.

We can also think of this as a healthy use of our throat chakra. When we are clear that "no" is an acceptable answer, we are able to speak our truth, kindly and clearly. How the listener receives our words is not really our responsibility. We are, however, completely responsible for how we communicate.

The path of non-resentment begins with "no"

Very often, people who have said "yes" when they wanted to say "no" carry resentment. This begins to erode the trust in the relationship. Sadly, the person to whom they have said their inauthentic "yes" has no idea that there is any resentment. Moreover, the resentment often erupts like Mt. Vesuvius, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. This further erodes the trust in a relationship.

It is a far better practice to work at speaking the truth, holding our boundaries, and getting comfortable with "no." Learning how to say no is liberating, and creates more harmony within ourselves and in our relationships. In fact, it is a practice that just might save your relationships.


Feet on scale

Want to lose weight? Try EFT. The research is in.

Want to lose weight? Try EFT.

People who are overweight generally know what to do. Eat less, eat better, exercise more. Pretty simple, right? So why does it so often feel simply impossible? As with so many human problems, we know better, but we don't seem to be able to do better. Fortunately, there are solutions. One comes from energy psychology: EFT helps with weight loss.

There are many factors that have very little to do with knowledge that lead us to the sleeve of Girl Scout cookies. Or the bag of chips. The pint of Americone Dream. The drive-through window.

I've often observed that if we all could get our feelings to line up with what we know, hardly anyone would have a problem. It seems to me that we usually are pretty smart about things. Our problems, therefore, are not usually problems of information. They are problems of emotion, of energy, of habit.

They are problems for which the world of energy psychology offers solutions.

An overweight world

If you are dealing with weight issues, you are not alone. The rates of overweight and obesity around the world continue to climb. A New England Journal of Medicine report shows that the rate of obesity worldwide has doubled since 1980, affecting 5% of children and 12% of adults. In the US, researchers project that half of adults will have obesity by 2030.

We at ACEP are body-positive. As mental health and health practitioners, we want our clients to feel good in whatever body they have. However, we must also acknowledge the health effects of obesity and overweight: increased risk of type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, cardiovascular risk, certain cancers, other chronic conditions, as well as more depression and anxiety. Worldwide, overweight and obesity contributed to 4 million deaths in 2015.

By profession, by vocation, by calling, we are helpers. And so, we have been watching with great interest the work of Peta Stapleton and her colleagues, who have been using EFT to treat weight problems. We’re proud that she’s an ACEP member.

EFT can help you lose weight – the research

Stapleton is a world-renowned researcher who focuses on clinical applications of EFT "tapping" therapy. (You can read more about EFT here.) Stapleton has authored several books on ways to use EFT. She has conducted groundbreaking research on EFT for health, wellbeing, depression and anxiety, trauma, and weight issues, including food cravings. Stapleton's latest work focused on internet delivery of an eight-week program of EFT for weight loss.

The internet, despite its flaws and limitations, is becoming a valuable tool for delivering health and mental health services. This study examined whether on-line delivery of EFT for psychological symptoms, food cravings and consumption of craved foods, and weight management, would work.

It does.

Nearly 1,000 people from around the world signed up to participate in the eight-week study. After the usual attrition, more than 500 people ― mostly women, by a 9:1 ratio― joined the study. They were randomly placed into an EFT treatment group (314) and a no-treatment control group (228).

Participants in the study reported their height and weight, so researchers could calculate their BMI. They also reported their food cravings; power of food (how hard it was to resist when, say, they walked across a crowded pizza shop); restraint (a kind of "chronic dieting", which is an indication of disordered eating); and their levels of depression, anxiety, and physiological symptoms (like headaches).

People who got eight weeks of EFT delivered to their laptops and smart-phones lost weight. Their food cravings went down remarkably, they felt less controlled by food, and they exhibited less dietary restraint. They also had fewer aches and pains, as well as less depression and anxiety. Perhaps best of all, though only 20% of the participants kept tapping after the eight weeks, they all maintained their weight losses a year after the study concluded.

Making it real

EFT and other forms of energy psychology have gained popularity over the past couple of decades. More people in the West are open to an Eastern paradigm, which is one of the theoretical underpinnings of energy psychology.

Many of us remain skeptical but open to evidence. The research is clear in study after study: EFT works. In this case, it can help people lose weight and maintain their weight loss. It helps reduce food cravings and helps people feel less overpowered by food. It eases up on restricted eating and the boomerang that often accompanies it. It does all this while addressing depression, anxiety, and physiological symptoms.

If you, a client, or a loved one is interested in getting more information about using EFT for weight loss, consider on-line EFT delivered by naturallythinyou.com, or look up ACEP to find a list of qualified practitioners.

 

You can learn more about Peta Stapleton’s decade of research on EFT and weight loss at ACEP’s 22nd International Energy Psychology Conference, where she is an invited presenter. Energypsychologyconference.org


Why do couples argue?

Why do couples argue?

Couples often think their partner's behavior makes them upset. They believe they argue because their partner won't just do the right thing. In reality, it's not that our partner's behavior is the problem. It is the meaning we make of it, and the way we communicate about it, that causes arguments. This means that it is always a good idea to step back and ask ourselves, "What is this really about? What is my vulnerability here? Why am I arguing with my partner?"

Why do couples argue? It is all about the meaning we make.

It's not really the behavior that is upsetting; it's the meaning we attribute to it. And when we can get clear about this, and reflect on why we are upset and what meaning we are making of it, we are on our way to taking responsibility for our own feelings, and reactions.

Take for example the kitchen.

A young couple I've worked with recently has had an ongoing conflict about their division of labor. Their dynamic perfectly illustrates the conflict cycle that so many couples deal with.

Every evening, the wife (I'll call her Sally) bathes baby while the husband (let's call him Bobby) cleans up the kitchen. Routinely, Bobby forgets to wipe down the counter. Routinely, Sally enters the kitchen to find the job not done. It makes her crazy.

"Why do you always do this?," she demands. "Why can't you finish the job? Do you expect me to do everything? I can't count on you."

Unsurprisingly, Bobby takes offense. He feels defeated, like he can never do anything right -- at least in Sally's eyes. He decides her standards are too high.

"Why can't we just leave the counter alone? Why are you so picky? Your standards are unreasonable," he complains.

Unfortunately, the couple then begin to debate who has the "right" standards, who is "right" and "wrong" about wiping down the counters. She feels like she's living with another child. He feels like he's married to his boss, or his mother.

There's no romance. They are driving a wedge in their relationship and further tearing at the bond of trust that once bound them. Neither feels safe.

They are having the wrong conversation.

Instead of the chores, they need to shift to the meaning of the chores. What does the conflict about the chores represent? When they've identified the meaning behind the conflict, they can partner together to solve their problem and restore their trust and connection.

I turn to Sally. "What is the significance of the chores?," I ask. She explains that she's a feminist. Her parents had a very inegalitarian marriage and she is afraid that she'll end up like her mom. She does not want her son to grow up in such a household. Moreover, since she's explained herself to Bobby, she thinks that his carelessness is a symptom of his disregard for her and her feelings.

I turn to Bobby. "How does it feel for you to talk about this issue," I ask him. He feels shamed, helpless, hopeless. He forgot to wipe down the table, and he just knew she was going to get into an argument about it. And here they were, talking about chores for the umpteenth time.

I gently remind Sally to just listen, and not defend herself. Sally hears that Bobby feels defeated about this. Bobby hears that for Sally, chores represent something personal to her, about her.

I remind them that when they are arguing about the facts of the case, they are having the wrong conversation. This type of (typical) couples' argument pus them in a zero-sum game. They are pitting themselves against each other.

Your partner can be the person who makes you feel safe in the world, but they can't do that if you are enemies.

The conversation goes the way it starts

Sally softens, and feels some connection with Bobby after hearing about how defeated he feels about the whole situation. She turns her complaint into a request.

"Bobby," she says, "When you leave the counters dirty, I feel like you don't care about how important an equal partnership is to me. I am not saying that you actually think this, but I wonder if you care. I am grateful for all the work you do. And it would mean a lot to me if you'd wipe down the counters when you clean up the kitchen. Would you do that?"

Bobby feels relieved. It's nice to know that she doesn't think he's a total slacker. He feels respected. He says he'll wipe down the counters, and asks her to kindly remind him, and let him take care of it, if he should ever get distracted and forget.

We talk about the importance of a gentle start-up when we have an issue to raise with our partner; research shows that conversations tend to go in the same way they start. We talk about the value of making a simple request when we have a complaint; it leads to less defensiveness, and we put ourselves in problem-solver mode. We talk about the benefits that come from discussing issues like this in a neutral time, rather than in the heat of the moment.

Realizing why couples argue lets us turn it around.

If you are experiencing conflict in your relationship, try taking time for self-reflection before you talk. Ask yourself “Why exactly am I upset? What does this mean to me? What do I want to ask my partner?”


Then choose a neutral time to bring the topic up. When we ask ourselves why do couples argue, or why am I arguing with my partner, it is always a good idea to look at the meaning we make of it. You can read more about this approach to conflict here.

With practice, you can learn to make your relationship the safe harbor it can be. And both of you will be better for it!


a sense of belonging

A Sense of Belonging at the Super Bowl

This Sunday, almost 100 million people will tune in to watch the Super Bowl. Many will have too much to drink. Almost all will have too much to eat. Presumably, about half will be disappointed in the result. All will have the chance to feel a sense of belonging.

Most of the time, we watch with others who support the same team. This brings us a sense of connection and camaraderie. And woe to those who are watching with people who support the rival team. They become strangers in a strange land.

Military by proxy

The military overtones of football have always intrigued me. As spectators, we feel a kind of kinship with our would-be brothers-in-arms by proxy. I always imagine football coaches as reincarnated military generals, plotting offense and defense, anticipating the enemy's move.

In football, of course, nobody dies. We have come a long way since the ancient days of arena sports. We don't watch gladiators fight to the death. Lacrosse teams do not actually get slaughtered (only sometimes metaphorically). Yet the stakes feel incredibly high.

The thrill of the game

For those of us who tune in for the sport (not the commercials, or the halftime show), spectatorship can bring a kind of thrill. When we care about the game, our adrenaline spikes. Our team gets ahead, we have a little flow of endorphins. Our team falls behind, and cortisol surges. It's a kind of torture, willingly undertaken.

I remember shouting from the sidelines when my kids played football. Never before would I have imagined I would yell, "Get him!" about another 9-year-old. And yet, that's what I yelled. And wondered who I had become, and what had become of me?

A sense of belonging

This weekend as I settle in to watch the Super Bowl, I will relax knowing that this time, I really don't care about the result. I don't have any skin in the game. And so I will also be watching the people watching. I can feel their thrill and their pain. I know what it is like to care.

And to shout "Get him!" about another human being.

And wonder at the sense of belonging we feel when we are banded against an Other.

On Sunday, I will be glad that it is really only about football, after all.


Setting intention for the year ahead: 1/6/2020

 

The new year is often a time of reflection and intention setting. I am always inspired by the universality of the new year. Across the globe, every human is experiencing the same event. Regardless of religion, language, country, or culture, we all transition to a new year on January 1.

In this meditation, we center ourselves, and set an intention for good things to come in the year ahead. Then we move from the personal to the collective, setting an intention for a more peaceful world.

We close by returning to our own intention and sending all the good thoughts out into the world.

Meditation increases our sense of wellbeing. It has physical as well as emotional and mental benefits.

I'm offering this for free. If you like it, check out others, and share with others! If you want to join the weekly call on Mondays at 12:15, dial 515-604-9056 and enter access code 785791#.  :-)


Healing from a breakup

Healing from a breakup

Are you going through a breakup? You are not alone. The highest rate of breakups occurs during the two weeks before Christmas, and January is known as "divorce month." Of course, the holidays are hard on people who are heartbroken, even if their breakups happened months ago. No matter when you are reading this, there is no better time than right now to begin the journey to healing from a breakup.

Growing through a breakup.

As you move through the coming days, weeks, and months, it is important to heal the wounds from this relationship so you can create a life you can be excited about. Healing is possible. The saying goes, "time heals all wounds," but we know that it really takes more than time. It takes attention, intention, and courage to move through the pain and come out stronger, wiser, and more loving than before.

That means that this is a great time to consider therapy, or consider taking my course on healing from a breakup.

What about breaking up and getting back together?

It seems romantic, and it may seem tempting. However, research shows that reuniting with your ex is probably not a good idea. We once believed it may lead to more commitment and dedication over the long run. Turns out, we were wrong.

That does not mean that breaking up and getting back together, or cycling, is not unusual, however. In fact, half of couples who break up end up getting back together. Cycling is common in couples who live together: 37% of unmarried cohabitating couples and 23% of married couples have cycled, and 40% of college-age young adults are in cyclical relationships.

Over the long run, cycling relationships do not tend to be healthy. One study showed that cyclical couples have poorer relationship quality, lower commitment and satisfaction, more uncertainty in the relationship, poorer communication, more conflict than stable couples have. Moreover, the damage increases with each successive cycle.

Being in unhappy relationships is not good for us.

Practice thinking of this as a net positive. If it was a happy relationship, it would likely not have ended. This is important to consider because poor relationships are stressful. Moreover, they take more than just an emotional toll. They leave us in an almost chronic state of fight-flight-freeze. The impact on our physical health of chronic stress is clear, and poor relationships in particular lead to higher rates of metabolic syndrome (this), heart disease, and diabetes.

If you break up and get back together, it is likely you will not be in a happy relationship. And being in an unhappy relationship is not just hard on us emotionally, it takes a toll on our health. So if you are broken up, it is probably best to focus on healing and moving on, rather than trying to get your ex back.

Healing from a breakup: Learn the lesson, heal the pain.

As you do your healing work, it is important to keep things in perspective. Maybe you were insecure or afraid of being alone, so you attached yourself to an unhealthy partner.

Perhaps you became blameful, contemptuous, or resentful of your partner; maybe they did these things to you.

Did you expect your partner to understand your wants and needs without having to actually express them (this is always a mistake)? Did they do this to you?

Is it possible that one of you withdrew or "stonewalled" during conflict?

Perhaps you two just had incompatible conflict styles; this is a known predictor of divorce and breakups.

In the quiet of your own mind, reflect on what happened in your relationship. As you do your post-mortem, you will find there are important lessons for you to take away. Learning these lessons will help you to create a healthier relationship in the future.

Moving ahead.

As hard as it is to go through a breakup, it is important to remember that breakups happen for reasons, and it is really helpful for you to remember  those reasons. Additionally, remember that you will not be in pain forever; you will get over it; you will love again.

If you proceed with care, your next relationship will be healthier than the one you just lost. Part of that "care" in healing from a breakup is in doing your own personal work to make sure you learn the important lesson and heal the underlying wounds so that you don't create the same patterns again. This course can help. :)

Here's to making 2020 the best year ever!


Why do we suffer? It's universal

Why do we suffer?

Every single one of us will experience some kind of challenge during our lifetime. These challenges are inevitable. Navigating those challenges, and learning what we need to learn from them, are some of the most productive experiences we will have. When we recognize the universality of adversity in the human experience, we are able to ease up on ourselves as we struggle our way forward through these challenges. Instead of asking "why do we suffer?", we learn to ask, "what can I learn from this?"

I have been working as a therapist for over a decade, and I have seen clients struggle with the three big stressors: health crises, relationship crises, and financial crises. In every case, it is as though the Universe is bringing up issues, sometimes repeatedly, to show us where we are vulnerable. Being courageous in the face of this vulnerability is the first step to healing.

Being Courageous

This means that we take the position that our struggles are not some "unfair thing" that is happening to us; instead, we choose to believe that in overcoming our struggle, there is a tremendous opportunity for personal growth. Surely, there are unfair things that are way outside of our control that do happen to us. But placing our attention there saps our energy and removes us from our personal empowerment. By focusing instead on how we can grow from these hard experiences, we put ourselves in the driver's seat of our lives.

Fostering a sense of authorship

I have noticed a pattern so often that I am now deeply convicted of its truth: When we focus on the things that we can do something about, we feel a sense of efficacy, of authorship, over our lives. Most of life is out of our domain, but it as though we are an artist; we have been provided the canvas and the paints, but we are the ones holding the brush. It is up to us to create the best we can with what we have.

Sometimes, friends and family, books and workshops, places of worship or spiritual practices help us through our struggles. Sometimes counseling can help. If you are struggling and would like some perspective, give me a call.


The words we speak

The words we speak

Our words affect our feelings, and create our lives....

Words have power

The words we speak create the context and template for our lives. Our words have a lot of power, so it is important to use them with care. When we are precise with our words and avoid dramatic emotional language, our emotions calm down and life becomes smoother.

I am a therapist, so I have plenty of opportunities to hear how people talk to themselves, and talk about themselves. I also am a human being, and therefore I have plenty of opportunities to talk to myself, about myself! And I know, from both perspectives, that words matter.

Words matter.

The words we speak matter. They create the context and template for our lives. They drive our emotions, for better and for worse.

As you read these phrases, try to feel into them:

  • This is awful.
  • I can't handle it.
  • You make me furious.
  • This is unbearable.
  • I will never get over this.
  • I'm sick of it.
  • I'm tired of it.
  • I can't take it anymore.
  • There's something wrong with you.
  • There's something wrong with me.

All of these common phrases carry a lot of emotional weight. So much weight that they can trap us. Using words and phrases like these can pin us under our emotions.

We all experience all of the emotions, the comfortable ones and the uncomfortable ones. They are part of being human. We all experience challenging situations, heartache, and loss. These are part of the human condition.

Acceptance and grace come when we are able to strip away the emotional language. When we do this, we are left with a situation ― whatever the situation is ― that we are better able to handle.

Words work magic

The magic comes when we can identify that we are experiencing a certain uncomfortable feeling, and that the feeling is ours. This allows us to move toward a state of grace with what is.

Using simple, clear, precise language to describe our situation helps us to get into a state of acceptance, a state of grace, with what is. It is more common to resist uncomfortable situations. Our cultural myth holds that when we suffer there is something wrong. We rail against the injustices we experience and the unfairness of it all; we want things to be the way we want them to be. And that leads to emotional discomfort.

We feel better when we recognize that all this suffering is normal, and everything is changing all the time. We learn to accept that things don't go our way. People die. Couples divorce. Children leave. Lovers break up. Companies fail. Everything is temporary. We all experience loss.

Words in action

I recently talked with a client about her breakup. She said,
"I was such a mess, I drove away the one person I loved most; now he is
repulsed by me."

Ouch.

I had heard about the breakup. I had heard that theirs was his first real relationship. I also had heard that he wanted things to be "as they had been before." They were still talking on the phone twice a day. It was a complicated situation.

I had never heard that he was "repulsed" by her.

"Let's try some different language," I suggested.

I much prefer the narrative that the pressures of a long-distance relationship took their toll on this couple. They had loved; she had grown anxious about his love (an anxious attachment style is pretty common). He had grown more detached (a avoidant attachment style is also pretty common). He valued her very much and did not want her to hurt. He was new at the whole romantic relationship thing, and maybe didn't realize that feelings wax and wane, problems arise and resolve, and people are perfectly imperfect. They both learned and grew together. They parted with kindness and compassion, and on friendly terms.

And it hurts. Of course it hurts. How could it not hurt? And it passes. Everything is temporary.

Words in practice

She tried my suggestion. She re-stated the case. She did not say "he is repulsed by me." She said, "he broke up with me." She didn't say "I was such a mess." She said, "the pressure of the distant relationship took a toll on me, and on him." She felt a little better. She even smiled.

When we use big emotional language to describe our situation, we can't find our way out from under it. Yet when we use precise language to describe our situation, we get some of our power back. It does not change the situation, but it helps us feel better about the situation. And that is usually the only thing we can do anything about, anyway.


Blame vs Responsibility

The line between blame and responsibility

Blame vs. responsibility

There is a huge difference between "whose fault is it?" and "whose responsibility is it?" Learning to distinguish between the two (and learning which question to ask) is powerful and empowering.

In a therapy office, blame is often present but rarely
useful. Clients come in to deal with problems, and those problems have origins ―
and they have solutions. Many of my clients torment themselves with self-blame,
or they are caught in a loop of blaming others for the pain they are
experiencing. These ways of thinking keep us stuck. Understanding the genesis
of a problem is helpful; taking responsibility for solving it is ― well, it is everything.

Self-blame

Self-blame is like a poison, keeping us stuck in the past
and nurturing feelings of not being enough, not being worthy. It is the
antithesis to self-compassion or self-acceptance. Self-blame dims our light.
When we are stuck in a pattern of blaming ourselves, we necessarily will be blameful
of and hard on others. When we can't love and accept ourselves, we will have a
hell of a time trying to love and accept anyone else.

Blaming others

Blaming others is like fly tape. When we keep blaming those
who have wronged us, we stay stuck in the problem. The more we rail against the
unfairness of it all, the more we lash out with blame in thought or word or
deed, the more stuck in the problem we become. 

That does not mean that important childhood events don't
leave their mark on us. The trick is to tell the story in a way that sets us
free, rather than that keeps us stuck. And then, we need to move from the
problem to the solution.

For example, it is one thing to say, "I have low
self-esteem because my mother criticized me constantly; it is her fault! She
did this to me."

It is quite another to say, "I have been living with low
self-esteem for a long time, and it probably stems from the way my mother criticized
me when I was a child. She was not very skillful and was probably pretty
wounded herself."

Whose problem is it now? And who has the power to solve it?

In order to live happy, peaceful, empowered lives, we need to take the reins. Ultimately, our healing lies in our own hands. It is not possible for our critical mothers, or abusive relatives, or inept teachers, or anyone else from our past, to solve the problems they set up for us. Only we can do that.

The first step to solving the problem is to step outside of blame and into responsibility. Yes, this problem has an origin. Yes, someone did something. And yes, now we have a problem to solve.

Blame vs. responsibility: We have a problem to solve.

When we make this shift, the problem and its solution have become our responsibility, and our healing has begun.