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Showing posts from June, 2017

How to (Really) Listen

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How to (Really) ListenThe first duty of love is to listen.
– Paul TillichFailures to listen are endemic to our species.The most common complaint from parents who bring their children to me for counseling is that “they don’t listen,” by which the parent usually means that the child does not obey. When I talk with children, they likewise complain that their parents don’t listen, but they mean it literally. Failure to listen to children has subtle but enduring consequences. Kids who grow up unheard can pass on what they experienced to their own children.I discovered the value of listening carefully to children, in their words and their behaviors, many years ago. One evening, while visiting one of my brothers, I joined the family for a dinner of fried chicken. My niece, then three years old, repeatedly asked for “an angel.” My brother and his wife told her to stop complaining and eat her dinner. As her requests for “an angel” became more strident, so did her parents’ reprimands. I found my…

Handling Change, Part I: Radical Acceptance and Self-Compassion

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Handling Change, Part I:Radical Acceptance and Self-CompassionEmotional adaptability is the ability to respond to changing circumstances and events without being unduly shaken by these changes. It’s a Balancer characteristic and a key component of resilience. Those of us who are emotionally adaptable can bend with the wind, like saplings. Those of us who are less adaptable are likely to strain and crack as we struggle to maintain equilibrium.Emotional adaptability varies from person to person and can also be impacted by life events. Most of us are less emotionally adaptable when we are under constant or unusual stress. Those of us raised in a rigid environment, with fixed ideas of how we or the world works, may also be less adaptable. Being attached to expectations of ourselves, others, or how things ought to be also limits emotional adaptability.The good news is that there are many ways to become more adept at responding to change.Some of the best strategies for enhancing emotional a…

Handling Change, Part II: Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness

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Handling Change, Part II:Forgiveness and Self-ForgivenessForgiveness and Self-ForgivenessLike acceptance and compassion, the ability to forgive ourselves and others can free us from what Romantic poet William Blake called “mind-forged manacles” – in this case, feelings such as anger, hatred, resentment, guilt, shame, and victimization. Liberation from these feelings through forgiveness can help us be more available in the present moment and more adaptable to its ever-changing conditions.Forgiveness, however is sometimes difficult to achieve.Some obstacles to forgiving are easy to understand. Forgiveness is hardest when there is ongoing harm. Before we can offer forgiveness, we must be safe; before we can ask to be forgiven, we must stop doing harm. Forgiveness is also challenging when injuries haven’t healed. Unhealed wounds can lock us into a pattern of attracting others who hurt us again, or they can imprison us in a self-protective shell that keeps out not only potential harm, but …

Handling Change, Part III: Creative Approach and Experimental Attitude

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Handling Change, Part III:Creative Approach and Experimental AttitudeCreative ApproachCreative activities – and the creative approach to life that often accompanies them – can also help us become more emotionally adaptable.Creative activities are rewarding as outlets for self-expression. They feel good, they are centering, and they give us a sense of accomplishment. And they’re often fun! But besides these more obvious benefits, creative activities can also change the way we approach our lives.When we work creatively, we dive deep. We pause, look at what we are making, check inside and ask “Is this working?” and then bring up something of value that we might otherwise never have discovered. As we pause/look/check/incorporate, we create something new and authentic.Because our brains get better at doing whatever they do, the more we practice diving deep, the better we get at it. Regularly doing creative activities often leads to a more general diving deep, allowing us to become more pro…

15 Self-Help Books that Really Helped

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15 Self-Help Books that Really HelpedIf you type “self-help books” into Amazon’s “Books” category, you’ll get more than 675,000 hits, and their “Kindle” category lists nearly 300,000. That’s a lot of self-help!But how many of these books have actually helped? And how many books outside the “self-help” category have been even more helpful?Just for kicks, I drew up a list of the 15 books that, over the course of my lifetime, I’ve found most helpful, either personally or professionally. Here they are in the order in which I read them.What books have been helpful to you, “self-help” or otherwise?The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, by William BlakeI first encountered this part visionary / part comic / part poetry / part etching long poem in 1969, in an English class, while an Engineering student at Cornell University. I had grown up a kid scientist, and my hope was that I’d become a NASA engineer. I was also very much in my head and not so much in my body, in the world of logic and not so muc…

Keep Your Sanity with the Personal Craziness Index

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Keep Your Sanity with the Personal Craziness IndexTo stay sane in an insane world, we need more than new tools and techniques. To maintain sanity, we also have to keep doing the things that got us there.The final piece of the resilience puzzle is to build Balancer-enhancing attitudes and practices into our daily lives, so they are as much a part of our routines as breathing. Then we keep watch to make sure we’re staying on track.When Balancer incorporates the new tools ReBalancer uses, it gets stronger. Mini self-care then becomes something we do every day, not just when stress is high. The Experiment becomes an experimental attitude we carry with us 24/7. Meditation becomes a daily activity. Self-compassion and acceptance become the new norm. And so on.But changing habits takes time. If we don’t stay on top of our game, we run the risk of drifting back to our old, less resilient ways. UnBalancer loves when that happens! So we need a method for regularly checking in with ourselves to …