Tag Archives: enjoying your life

Blog 28: Love & Anxiety, New Associations. Part 1

This past week I got to experience a unique event, a “paddle out” for wonderful Lorton Mitchell. A man in his prime, taken from his family by cancer while he was still so young. For those trapped in the ocean-less midwest, a paddle out is a surfing tradition from Hawaii. When a surfer dies, the community gathers together, jumps on surfboards and paddles out to beyond the breaking waves. There a ceremony is held, one of remembrance and celebration. It’s a solemn ritual and yet some joy leaks in the cracks. Perhaps it’s the magic of ocean water, or the laughter of children, or the safety of being surrounded by loved ones and 100’s of members of the community.

The last blog was about the need to make new associations with old sensations. But making new associations can also occur in conjunction with old belief systems or world views. We can make a new association with the way that we live our lives. Lorton was larger-than-life figure, and the way he lived his life, full of vigor and joy provides an excellent example to emulate as the subject of today’s blog. I want to suggest that those of us who are stuck in busyness, or achievement pandering, or over-scheduled living, need to make a change. We who are stuck in a life dedicated to duty, can make a new choice, a new association. We can to deliberately shift our primary driving force in life from one of Duty to that of JOY.

Imagine with me two large doors in front of you. One is labeled Duty and one is labeled Joy. If I was to offer you a choice of which door’s attitude will most characterize daily life, most of you will pick the Joy door! But if we are really honest about how we live our lives, most of us are unconsciously choosing duty over joy most of the time. One reason why our culture is so full of heart disease, a flood of medications, addictions, obesity and the many other curses of our over-stressed, way too busy modern life.

Ask yourself this question, how much joy to do you experience on a daily basis? Would your family, children, lover, etc., list joyful as one of your predominate traits? Or, are you more focused on what must get done, on checking off lists, keeping ducks in a row, (why ducks, why not cats, they are even harder to control?)

As children, most of us did not struggle through the misery of puberty in order to grow up and turn into a distracted, busy adult who has little or no time for fun. We hoped to grow up and do whatever pleased us, to have fun and to enjoy life. But life’s responsibilities, pressure and stress conspire to turn us into the duty bound creatures that many of us have become. I am not suggesting that life is not challenging, nor that we should throw up our hands and toss responsibility to the wind. There are things that must get done, it is good to be a “high functioning, well-behaved member of society” sometimes, I think? But if our primary focus is on our duty and getting things done, we miss most of the joy that this busy, complicated life has to offer.

Joy is an all body sensation, a vitality affect, and one of the best antidotes to stress and trauma that can be found. If you recall a previous blog where I talked about the two sides of the coin in our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), this blog might make more sense. Joy is the other side of the coin! It is the opposite of stressed and busy, and anxious and traumatized. If you doubt the power and intensity of joy, watch some Youtube videos of babies laughing, or children and puppies (any baby animal really). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L49VXZwfup8 try this one for even just one minute and notice the shift your body experiences inside.Healthy pleasure is a great way to begin to experience more joy in your life. If you have not engaged in self-care or healthy pleasure on a regular basis, it will be hard to live in joy regularly.

While joy and laughter are not the same physiological event, they are related and very connected. The research demonstrates repeatedly that people who laugh often, are happier, and physically healthier and have a more positive outlook on life. Well-parented children laugh much more often than children with lower functioning parents.

This week try to notice your primary outlook on life in terms of duty vs. joy. Which attitude prevails most often in your life? If it is duty, try your best to begin to include choices and situations that bring joy to you. When you feel joy, really notice how it lightens and brightens and enervates your entire body. Let me know how it goes.

Joy, Uganda style.
Joy, Uganda style.

Going deeper:

1;) What is your association with joy? Is it a common experience for you or something you rarely encounter? Who do you know that is often really joyful? If possible, spend more time with them and see how it impacts you. We become most like those with whom we spend the most time.

2.) What is your attitude to duty? If you are one who feels stuck in this place, ask yourself where you learned this? What were your parents’ primary attitudes toward joy and healthy pleasure, another close relative of joy? Are your attitudes similar to your parents or different? Most importantly, are they what you would like them to be?

I invite you to join a 3 week Anxiety Reduction workshop. I provide them in my office as well as at your organization, school, or place of worship. Mention this blog for a 10% discount. Call 619-437-1465 for more information.

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Love & Anxiety # 12: Participation vs. Perfection

So many of my clients struggle with the dark misery of perfectionism. Studies show that Perfectionists are less happy and less healthy than non-perfectionists. Today I want to share a simple shift in focus that can help with this bi_ _ _ of a habit. The shift from trying to be perfect in your life to full participation in your life! This is an important shift for your body, Perfectionists struggle with anxiety which is a health squelcher!

Whether your quest for perfection is due to a type A personality, early childhood messages, or just a desire for excellence that got twisted and turbo charged, you set yourself up to fail when you decide perfection is your only option. The more we fail, the higher our anxiety levels climb and the more miserable we feel about ourselves. The more we set ourselves up to be perfect and then miss that mark, the more we fear loss; the loss of respect, loss of other’s love, loss of a job, etc. Fear of loss, activates our amygdala and our body responds with a flood of stress chemicals.

The shift I am suggesting is to move from a drive for perfection, to a striving for full participation in your life, relationships, job, hobbies, friendships, etc., unencumbered by the fear of not doing these perfectly. This shift can be eased along if you think about offering the best you have each day, not needing to be at your best each day. 

On my best day, after a good night sleep, my energy is high. I am pumped full of seretonin, and all is going right in my life. On that day I may perform better than on my worst day, where nothing goes right and my energy is low. But even on my worst day, if I strive to offer my best, some kind of multiplication magic seems to occur. Somehow, my best seems to be enough for each situation. My intention of fully participating and giving my all, somehow is perceived by the recipient and people feel my care, interest, and love, even on my worst day! Try it for yourself! See what happens.

If you shift your focus from being perfect to full participation in your life, you  and those you love will enjoy your life so much more. News flash, if you are a driven perfectionist, you are often a challenge to be around. Others are picking up on your misery at not meeting your own impossible expectations, which sort of defeats the purpose of trying to be perfect! Don’t take my word for it, ask your loved ones if they think you might be a perfectionist. My clients report very positive feedback from their families when they make the shift from perfection to participation. 

So I invite you, this next week practice being proud of yourself for giving your all! Shut down the negative voice, the non-paying tenant in your mind’s prime real estate, that demands the impossible. It needs a break as much as you do. Your body, and your family and friends will thank you! Let today be the day you shift from perfection into participation.

ImageShelley & I, far from perfect, but having fun!

 Going Deeper:

1) Ask yourself why is being perfect is of utmost importance for you? What do you gain from trying to be perfect? Whatever you come up with, ask yourself if this gain is more important than good health and really enjoying your life. This may take a while to wrestle with but I encourage you to try.

2) Think about the last situation you struggled to be perfect. Try replaying it in your head, but this time imagine you are fully participating in the situation, giving it your best effort. Notice the difference you feel in your body with the 2 scenarios.

 To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-week anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.