Emotional Baggage and The Habit Of Self Compassion

Emotional Baggage and The Habit Of Self Compassion

Off come the shoes. And then the belt. Wallet, keys, phone, coins placed in a little tray on the conveyor belt and through the machine they go. I get to walk, shoeless, through my own machine, being scanned just like my personal belongings are. Just to make sure I’m not bringing anything dangerous with me on my journey.

Welcome to the airport.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such a machine at home? A machine that would scan you as you left the house to start the new day. Scanning you to see if you’re carrying anything dangerous with you into the new day.

Not like a knife, or a gun, or a concealed explosive.

I’m talking about thoughts and emotions.

Which, at times, can also be rather dangerous.

Emotional baggage. The unfortunate carry-on. Often we don’t even know we’re carrying it. Probably because we’ve been carrying it for so long it just feels natural. The anger, the frustration, the narrative. Usually we just mindlessly take it with us as we start the journey of each new day.

For many years I was too angry and too frustrated to notice how angry and frustrated I was. A combination of anger, frustration, fear, doubt, and worry were readily present to some degree. The “feedback” of others was never welcomed, it was simply dismissed because I was the only one who understood my journey which somehow validated the baggage I was carrying.

Until I got past that “logic”, the baggage was never going to be put down. Until I was able to see and understand what was going on inside of me I was never going to own it. Until you own it, you’re never going to try and fix it. Because you don’t think it’s you who is broken.

One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever given myself has been the gift of compassionate self-awareness. The ability to compassionately look into myself and actually notice what I’m carrying with me. Good or bad. And not judging myself for carrying it. Self-awareness is in many ways just like the security screening at the airport. It’s allows me to see the concealed stuff I’m carrying with me, the stuff that could be emotionally dangerous.

Self-awareness isn’t always easy. It’s a process. An intentional process. Often, though, our self discovery is met with a non-compassionate response. How often do we habitually get mad at ourselves for feeling the way that we do? How often does our inner voice simply beat us down for somehow not being better, for us not being able to deal with what we are dealing with?

A more compassionate response? That took me some time to learn, and I’m still learning. It doesn’t change what is, but it changed how I dealt with what is. I now attempt to respond to myself in the same manor I would respond to a good friend. It sounds simple, yet we are often much harder on ourselves than we ever are on our friends.

I can assure you I still at times get caught up in the moments of anger, frustration, fear, doubt, and worry. I’m just now better being able to respond to them when they do arise.

How do you respond to you when life is getting the better of you? Have you ever simply stepped back and noticed how you respond? Is the anger met with more anger? Does the frustration make you more frustrated? Once we know how we respond we can decide how we can choose to respond going forward.

It’s not always easy, this compassionate self-awareness. Changing habits is never easy.

But creating new habits, habits of compassion which serve us instead of hurt us, is something worth working towards.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

There Is No Need To Struggle Alone

There Is No Need To Struggle Alone

“Just suck it up.”

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. I had no idea until just recently. One of the goals of NMHA Month is to hopefully provide a safe space for uncomfortable conversations around mental and emotional health. The unfortunate stigmas surrounding mental health often prevent any conversations from even getting started. That silence keeps us suffering…alone. Alone with the pain and the hurt and the anxiety and isolation we may be experiencing.

That silence, at times, can even even end lives.

As a man, I was taught to keep my emotions to myself. I think most men have been told or shown the same. Expressing emotions is a sign of weakness, they’d say. “Real” men simply “suck it up” or “deal with it” or are told to “man up”. Manhood and emotions don’t mix, I was told. That generational stigma often keeps us from even admitting that we are struggling, let alone actually seek some help and guidance. That stigma is not gender specific.

That stigma needs to end.

I have a rather small number of people I consider friends. The benefit of that is I actually know them some quite well. I’ve gotten to know their stories. And not just the happy stuff. I’ve gotten to know many of their pains, their struggles, and their challenges.

There are friends currently dealing with the heaviness life sometimes forces us to carry…the anxiety, the uncertainty, the unhealed traumas, the emotional scars, the pressure, the unmet expectations, the feelings of doubt and unworthiness, of being in accepted as they are. Often hidden behind the facades of some beautiful smiles or jovial laughter.

Life teaches us many things, but learning to deal with the weight of life is something we’re forced to figure out on our own.

Often we will try and minimize the pain we feel. Others, we tell ourselves, have it much worse than we do. But our pains and hurts and traumas need never be justified. They exist. If we feel them then they are real, regardless of what else is going on in the world. If we minimize them, all we are doing is suppressing them, and the suppressed pains always find a way back to the surface eventually. They seldom simply go away by themselves.

I see Mental Health Awareness Month as a great opportunity for me to proactively begin a dialog with those closest to me. It’s an opportunity to remind me to simply check in and touch base, to simply call or text and let them know I’m thinking about them. To remind them I’m here for them, to support them. Because you just don’t know what others are going through. You just don’t know what may be weighing them down.

Maybe checking in is something we can all do for each other?

Check in with the “strong” ones. Often the “strong” ones are strong because they feel they have to be, sort of their way of attempting to rise above the weight of their pain. Check in with the “quiet” ones, the ones who’ve been less available and less accessible than usual. And those who tell you they’re “fine” are usually anything but. “I’m fine” is a way to answer the “How are you doing?” question without having to actually answer it.

And don’t forget to check in on the most important person in your life. You. How are you doing? How does your life feel? Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, or simply not feeling like your usual self. Is there someone you could reach out to, a friend or colleague, and let them know how you’ve been feeling?

Struggle, at times, feels inevitable.

But there is no need to struggle alone.

Let’s take care of each other, shall we?

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

It’s Emotional Amnesty Day

It’s Emotional Amnesty Day

Imaging what life could be like if we could simply stop carrying around our own backpack full of what we think is wrong with us. How much lighter would life feel?

What if they established one day per year where we could take all the things we consistently trash ourselves for and we could simply let them go? Put them down and walk away. To forgive ourselves for what we’ve done or not done, for who we are or who we think we are supposed to be, for what we haven’t yet done with our lives?

You know. Those gnawing feelings we get about ourselves. Those little voices reminding us of who we think we really are. Our short-comings, our failures, our doubts and fears, our thoughts about not being good enough. What if we allowed ourselves the opportunity to simply forgive ourselves and start new?

Amnesty.

Emotional amnesty.

The good news is today is Emotional Amnesty Day. Today can be the day to gather up all the limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging habits you don’t want to carry around with you any longer. The stuff that keeps you feeling stuck physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The guilt. The shame. The unworthiness. Continue reading “It’s Emotional Amnesty Day”

Could It Really Be This Simple?

Could It Really Be This Simple?

What if John and Paul were right?

What if all we need is love?

I’ve often dismissed the premise as being overly simplistic. Life can be extremely challenging sometimes. But I’m starting to think they were on to something.

When I look at the world, where wouldn’t love make a difference? Imagine any crisis or strife anywhere in the world. Wouldn’t love make so many of these situations dramatically better, perhaps even eliminate them completely? Isn’t the absence of love the root cause of most of these situations to begin with?

Look at the relationships in your life. Wouldn’t unconditional love make them better and stronger? Wouldn’t unconditional love allow us to accept others as they are and others to accept us as we are? Wouldn’t others also feel a greater sense of peace from feeling a greater sense of love?

Look at your relationship with yourself. What would your life look and feel like if you lovingly allowed yourself the space to be you, without judgement or condition? Isn’t it the absence of love which prevents us from being patient, forgiving, and supportive of ourselves?

Where wouldn’t more love make a difference?

Often our well-intentioned search to find answers to life’s deepest questions can take us down a long and winding road. Our problems are big and therefore demand big solutions.

Or do they?

Maybe it’s not as complicated as we can sometimes make it out to be.

Maybe all we really need is love?

It’s a great day to be you!

What Impact Will You Have In Your Radius Of Love?

What Impact Will You Have In Your Radius Of Love?

The local shops were packed. An important holiday shopping day, the Saturday after Thanksgiving was rebranded as Small Business Saturday a few years back. The goal was to encourage people to do some of their holiday shopping at the small, family-owned businesses in their communities. And on this day, business was quite good.

Supporting locally-owned businesses has a huge impact on the local economy. It provides jobs and incomes for many families, and much of that income stays within the local community, which perpetuates even more economic activity.

Shopping local makes a big impact in a community.

It works the same way with love.

Draw a one mile radius around where you are. How much love can you give locally this holiday season? How much impact can you make on the lives of others right around you?

There are opportunities everywhere.

Maybe it’s checking in on someone who is alone this season…just to remind them that they aren’t really alone. Maybe it’s cooking a meal for a family going through a rough stretch right now. Maybe it’s volunteering at a local soup kitchen or shelter. Or donating a toy to a child who may go without one unless you do. Maybe it’s just being kind and patient during what can be a very stressful time of year for some. Maybe it’s holding a door for someone. Or maybe it’s just offering a smile.

We can give away a smile, can’t we?

Love is the one gift which is always needed, always the right size, and the giver is always happy when it gets returned. There is no greater gift than love, and there is no limit on how much love we can share with the world.

Or in our neighborhood.

Make your impact felt this holiday season.

It’s a great day to be you!

This One Assumption Can Save A Life

This One Assumption Can Save A Life

Thursday was a big day for Danielle.

11 months sober.

I didn’t even know sobriety was an issue for her.

You could feel both her pride and apprehension in her Facebook post informing her friends of her milestone. Apparently she’s been down this path before, she knows it’s something she is taking one step at a time.

It was great to see the love, support, and encouragement her friends posted in reply. Her replies to their posted comments indicated she, too, was quite happy for the love being sent her way.

Danielle bravely decided to publicly share her struggles with those in her social media world. Bravely, because our world tends to look down on struggle, leaving many of those who do struggle to struggle in silence, battling their own demons alone. Struggle often Continue reading “This One Assumption Can Save A Life”

Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole

Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole

There’s a reason you’ve never seen a sunflower plant in any image depicting the North Pole.

Sunflowers don’t grow there.

Plants are at the mercy of their environment. The proper soil, the mix of nutrients, the amount of water, temperature, and sunshine can mean life or death to a plant. So many external variables impact their viability and growth.

And there’s not a single thing a plant can do about it.

As humans, we, too, are greatly impacted by the environments we find ourselves in. Some environments are conducive to growth and thriving, while others will never let us Continue reading “Picking Sunflowers in the North Pole”

The Greatest Gift You’ll Ever Give

The Greatest Gift You’ll Ever Give

To talk with him, you’d have no idea of all he has been going through. The smile and the usual jovial confidence in his voice did a wonderful job of covering the pain and emptiness.

But the pain was quite real, always simmering just below the surface, out of sight but never out of his mind.

Sometimes life just isn’t easy. It’s a feeling we’ve all known at some point, perhaps even right now. Sometimes life is confusing, overwhelming, uncertain, empty. What compounds the hurt is the human tendency to keep our emotional pain a secret. We’ve been societally conditioned to believe an admission of emotional difficulty is a sign of weakness. So we keep it all inside, festering, doing all we can to manage the pain, constructing facades of happiness and stability for all to see, afraid of the shameful truth we feel we need to hide from the world.

At times, the opposite is true. Some have courageously opened their deepest self and Continue reading “The Greatest Gift You’ll Ever Give”

The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion

The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion

What is the one gift we are so willing to give to others yet seldom give to ourselves?

Love.

Most of us would think nothing of offering a kind heart to others in need, especially to those closest to us. We’d readily be available to a distressed friend, offering our unconditional love, support, and encouragement, even if all we could provide was a shoulder to cry on. We’d do whatever we could to help them up.

Would you be willing to treat yourself the same way?

When it comes to ourselves we often create a cruel double standard. Somehow we believe others are more worthy of our love and compassion than we are. We support our friends during their times of emotional need yet when we could really use a friend of our own we are nowhere to be found. Instead of picking ourselves up, how often do we beat ourselves down, reminding ourselves of our own perceived shortcomings and all Continue reading “The Duplicitous Nature of Compassion”

Are You Willing To Share The Healing Power of You?

Are You Willing To Share The Healing Power of You?

Walking into the auditorium I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The event was billed as an evening with a musician who had been physically healed, in part, by music and has since helped others to heal through the sharing of his gift of music.

I didn’t know Andrew, but I soon became intrigued by his story. A tumor, initially thought to be cancerous was actually benign. However, the celebration quickly subsided as Andrew’s body began to shut down from an allergic anaphylactic shock while recovering from his surgery. For several days he vacillated between life and death, comatose in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at New York’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center. Sensing Andrew had perhaps lost his desire to live, out of fear and desperation his wife Continue reading “Are You Willing To Share The Healing Power of You?”