Archive for ‘Healing’

February 12, 2019

Preparation for Healing: Manage Your Expectations

Once you’ve set clear intentions, it becomes easier to manage your expectations. You know what you aspire to accomplish. You know how you want to behave during the process of reaching that aspiration. You know how long you’ve committed to the intentions. You know how you’ll measure success. With the process in place, all you need to do is follow your intentions. You can let go of anything you expect to happen along the way or when you reach your aspiration.

It is not necessary to have expectations in order to accomplish what you hope to accomplish. I mention expectations because they can be a real stumbling block. It bears repeating that it is not necessary to have expectations, even high ones, in order to improve your life.

What is an expectation?

An expectation is something you believe is likely to happen or you anticipate will happen. An expectation can also be something you believe should happen because of your efforts, position, relationships, or view of the world.

Why do expectations matter?

If you are going to begin healing, it is important to know the process may take an extended period of time. That doesn’t mean you won’t see incremental improvement quickly, it just means that once you reach the length of time to which you’ve committed, you may find that you need to commit more time in order to make lasting change.

If you were raised in dysfunction, your expectations of normal and acceptable may not be aligned with healthy or productive.

If you have an internal expectation of failure, your behavior and effort will reflect that. If you have an awareness of this possibility, you can counteract your tendency to invite failure.

If you expect things to be one certain way and they are not, you may tend to focus on what’s wrong (wrong as in it doesn’t look like what you expected) and miss out on any abundance and joy that are present.

If you expect negative feedback, the manner in which you solicit input will reflect that and can mean you get exactly what you expect.

If you have lived a privileged life, you may expect other people to adapt to you. This can prevent you from seeing the effect you have on others.

If you have lived with neglect, you may expect and allow mistreatment that keeps you from being kind to yourself.

If you expect others to harm you, you will not be able to receive help, encouragement, or have a sense of support from the community.

If you expect to be treated as less than, your behavior will reflect that and it will be difficult to treat you as an equal.

If you feel inadequate to a task, you may perceive unspoken expectations as pressure or stress.
graph
None of those apply to me, so why would I need to manage expectations?

We live in a culture in which we’re bombarded by messages that promise an absolute and specific outcome if we will buy into a certain product or approach. We believe if we participate, we should get the promised result. Advertisers sweeten the pot by telling us it will happen FAST! We come to expect not just the promised outcome, but the promised outcome right now! Who doesn’t want the desired result immediately?!

Weight loss and fitness programs are famous for making such promises. Pharmaceutical ads promise quick relief from depression through medication. Some psychiatrists prescribe medication for PTSD in lieu of yoga, somatic experiencing, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, consecutive counting and talk therapy. Some physicians prescribe meds in place of attempting dietary changes to treat diabetes, reflux, or IBS. Physicians are now having to rethink the tendency to overprescribe opioid pain medication without trying other options first.

It’s seductive to believe that anything we want to achieve can be had immediately, without effort. In rare cases that may happen. It is not common. On some level, we know this whether or not our behavior reflects this knowledge.

Unfortunately, when we believe hype, try a quick fix and then fail to sustain any lasting resulting change, we may create an internal expectation that our efforts are futile, nothing will work, and change is not possible. This limiting expectation can prevent us from trying again.

And it’s not uncommon to stop trying. You probably know someone who has prevented herself from doing something because of an expectation that she won’t be successful or trying is futile – asking for a raise, asking for a date, getting a higher degree, applying for a dream job, doing yoga, starting a band, starting a business, cooking, setting boundaries for family visits, auditioning for a lead role, painting, skiing, or learning to fly? Limiting expectations come in many forms and are a powerful impediment to healing and improving your life.

If you’re a planner like me, you’d probably like a guarantee that things will turn out a certain way. After all, you put in a lot of effort to explore options and create the best plan. The reality is that life brings no guarantees. You can minimize risk, but you can never anticipate every possibility that will come along to change the end result. If you become too attached to your expectation of that end result, it can create tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision takes you out of the present and blinds you to the opportunities that are happening around you at any given moment. These opportunities are often where growth occurs. The present gives us moments where we can build resilience, self-trust, and fearlessness. If we miss those, we make the overall journey take longer.

The other problem with being too attached to a specific outcome is that as you grow what was once acceptable to you may become unacceptable. That means your desired outcome may not reflect your growth and may inadvertently hold you back.

I know it’s hard to let go of the idea that specific outcomes are not all that important. It’s often hammered into us by our parents, teachers, bosses, and pastors that meeting a certain list of expectations is critical. Sometimes that many people can be misinformed. Sometimes using fear to manage diverse groups is ingrained in cultural institutions.

Unfortunately, many cultural forces converge to make it more comfortable, and in many ways easier, to exist in an unhealthy state so long as we meet superficial expectations than it is to heal and thrive. It’s counterintuitive to our rhetoric. It’s counterproductive to our desire to live healthy, rewarding lives. And yet, it’s a reality for many of us.

Again, I’ve thrown a lot at you. Hopefully, you read something here that prompts a helpful insight. Increased awareness is a beginning point for improvement. And you can just ditch the expectations. They’re not necessary for you to heal!

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/201011/parenting-expectations-success-benefit-or-burden

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cui-bono/201802/the-psychology-expectations

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201408/new-treatments-may-deliver-immediate-relief-depression

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/let-surprised/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/made-love-served-kindness/

February 5, 2019

Preparation for Healing: Managing Expectations Begins With Setting Clear Intentions

It’s important to manage expectations in preparation for healing and that begins with setting clear intentions. Aaaaand, we’re back. I promised you a post about preparation as we begin to draw a map of the healing process. The Super Bowl is over. Most of us have either given up on our resolutions for the year or are quickly forming new habits. It’s a great time to settle down and set some intentions for healing.
quick guide
Some of us are healing from physical injury. Some of us are healing from an acute episode of a chronic disease. Some of us are healing from loss. Some of us are healing from social injustice. Some of us are healing from acute or prolonged trauma.

Others are stuck but want to heal. We can be stuck waiting for someone to rescue us. We can be stuck frozen in fear, fighting the world, running from reality, or brown-nosing for approval. We can be stuck believing we cannot move forward. Many of us believe this because we have tried to move forward before only to end up in the same spot over and over again.

I’m familiar with ending up in the same spot. I am good at setting and achieving goals. In spite of this, I spent many years choosing partners who were different on the surface, but the same underneath. I could see, evaluate, and change visible parameters, but my subconscious kept me stuck choosing the same sort of man.

The first time I managed to get it together enough to choose differently, I got dumped after two years. That was 10 years ago. It took years after that for me to hear the inner voice that had been telling me all along I didn’t deserve this kind, dependable man. That deep-seated subconscious belief crept into my behavior.

That rejection, painful as it was, happened to be the impetus for real change – the kind of change that comes from healing very old, very deep wounds. Healing I had searched for through church, therapy, and marriage without making any real progress.

Like many people, I could successfully meet the benchmarks required by those institutions while feeling defective, unloved, terrified, and depressed. I started and managed a successful business, created lasting friendships, raised two boys, traveled the world, and became a pilot while I was still part of the walking wounded. If you’re struggling, you are not alone. You are surrounded by other people who are struggling whether you can see it or not.

I am also proof positive that healing can happen and change can be lasting. I suppose it begins with awareness. I can’t tell you that in the beginning I was aware of much that I now know, but I knew I needed to sit still. I began with that intention.

Managing expectations for healing begins by setting clear intentions. If you intend to heal the symptoms of diabetes with the least medical intervention possible, you will walk one path. If you choose to follow whatever regimen is recommended by your doctor, you may follow another. Improving your life by getting a more meaningful job will lead you one direction while healing the effects of childhood abuse and neglect may lead you another.
intentions
In order to set clear intentions, I ask myself:

What do I hope to accomplish?
I try to find a goal that’s doable and specific. When I stated my intention to sit still in a room with no stimuli for 30 minutes per day, it seemed to fit the criteria. Then I found out I was wrong. For me at that time, it wasn’t immediately doable.

As it turned out, I had to break that intention into hundreds of smaller pieces over a significant period of time in order to be successful. I was willing to do that, and now I have the ability to comfortably sit still.

That experience taught me that no intention is too small. Sometimes my only intent for a conversation is to stay present, feel my feelings, and end the conversation when I reach the point I feel too much discomfort.

How do I want to treat other people?
You don’t have to ask yourself this, but one of the reasons I choose a healing path is to become my best self. I can’t be that if I am not treating people well.

I’m a pretty nice person generally, but if a conversation triggers an emotional flashback, I can find myself feeling terror or rage so quickly it’s hard to get ahead of the situation. What I need in that moment is to process through the flashback. I do not have the emotional strength to do that while having a civil conversation. I do everyone a favor by ending the conversation at that point and coming back to it later.

How long am I willing to commit to these intentions?
When I decided to go gluten-free, I committed for a year. My agreement with myself was that if I did not see improvement in a year, I’d go back to a regular diet. I saw improvement within weeks and major improvement in months. Long before the year was over, I amended this intention to remain gluten-free forever.

How will I measure success?
When I was preparing to start my first business, my attorney told me most businesses fail because those in charge don’t know where they are. For example, they may know they have money in the bank today, but they may not be aware that they have not sold enough to have money in the bank for the rent next month if they pay their other invoices on time. This piece of common sense for business translates to life in general.

In order for you to remain on course, it is important to have a general, realistic idea of where you are. It’s also important not to become attached to a specific result as a measure of success. If you plan to improve your life by buying a larger house but use the money you saved for a downpayment to pay unexpected medical bills, it isn’t helpful to view yourself as unsuccessful because you’re still in a small house. You adapted to changing life circumstances and made a responsible choice. I view that as a disappointment and a change in timeline, but also a successful adaptation.

If I had been married to the goal of sitting still on the couch without distraction for 30 minutes per day, I would have ruled myself an unmitigated failure at the end of a month. I didn’t even manage to sit down and stay there more than once in that month and not more than three times in the first year!

Instead, I recognized that I was gaining insight each and every time I failed. To me, that meant I was on the right path. I was failing, but I was failing up. That didn’t feel like failure. It felt like success even though I was not close to the particular goal I set. I let that goal morph into an intention to feel whatever feelings bubbled up when I sat still that I believed I needed to do something, anything, to avoid.

For me, there is a natural flow to assessing and reassessing. It’s something I do without much effort like an app constantly running in the background. That’s not true for everyone. If you need scheduled reviews, timing will be a consideration. Setting a scheduled meeting with yourself or with someone else you trust can help you feel accountable to review your progress.

Do I need feedback? If so, how much?
Feedback can be useless, helpful, or detrimental. Choosing the right type from the right sources is important. Sometimes we gravitate toward feedback that reinforces what we already believe. If we are hoping to change, that’s probably not helpful.

Some people will feel like giving feedback that’s not positive is a form of confrontation. Many people avoid confrontation like the plague. These people are not a good source for feedback because they will withhold the information you most need. As you grow, this will create an atmosphere of distrust.

Feedback can be used by others as a tool to retain or regain the status quo. When you change, everyone around you will be forced to adjust to the differences. This can feel threatening and produce resistance. Such resistance can take the form of feedback that is intended to make you stop changing.

The healing process often involves letting some relationships go in favor of others that are more in line with the direction you’re going. It may be that you opt for no feedback for the first few months while you get your sea legs.

Any feedback that causes you to doubt yourself is not productive. It’s okay to question whether your approach is the most efficient, maximizes health, or is consistent with the results you’re hoping for, but anyone whose input undermines your sense of self or trust in your body will be detrimental to the process.

If that is a therapist, feel free to change. If that is a family member, feel free to set different boundaries. If that is a colleague, limit conversations to work topics. If that is your minister, find someone else to confide in. If that is your physician, get a second opinion and/or find one who will work with you instead of against you. This is your process and it is always okay to make choices that best support you whether anyone else agrees with those choices or not. You, whether you like it or not, can be your own best advocate!

How will I celebrate success?
We expect physical healing to tax our bodies. We don’t often anticipate that emotional and spiritual healing will also tax our bodies. I prefer to celebrate success with activities that energize or inspire me, but sometimes I celebrate by taking a nap or mindlessly binge watching.

Am I willing to improve my boundaries?
Most of us will answer yes without a second thought, but the first time we are faced with telling our mother we’ll be missing an implied mandatory family gathering, we may reexamine that answer. Thinking this through in advance while setting intentions will help solidify your determination to improve boundaries that support your intentions.

Will I practice gratitude even when the process is painful?
This could be considered a separate intention, but I incorporate it as part of the primary thought process because committing to a gratitude practice enhances my chances of feeling positive during difficult times. From experience, I know practicing gratitude will automatically shift my focus in a positive direction.

Can I be kind to myself and still make progress?
Healing requires a delicate balance of self-kindness, accountability, patience, gumption, truth-telling, and bravery. Without kindness, you’ll wear yourself out and give up. You can’t white-knuckle yourself through anything forever. None of us are that strong. Factoring in kindness from the beginning will leave you less tempted to chuck accountability in favor of relief.

I am highly motivated and rarely have to push myself even during difficult, painful times. The Universe brought the lesson of self-kindness to me by bombarding me with so much over such an extended period of time that I got worn out from the sheer relentlessness of every day. I literally hit the wall and had to go to bed for a few days.

This kind of exhaustion was new to me. If I meditated, I had to lie down and let the floor hold me. Sitting up was not an option. I could not muster the energy to plan a getaway. I slept 10 – 12 hours per night. I completed every task as it came to me because I knew if I didn’t it would never get done. I was in no position to be strategic. Now I pay attention to a feeling of tiredness long before I reach the point of exhaustion.

If you think of healing as a marathon rather than a sprint, it will be easier to be kind to yourself along the way. Self-kindness includes eating well, sleeping enough, and making time for vigorous activity on a regular basis. It also includes speaking to yourself in a kind manner, pausing to receive and absorb compliments, leaning into hugs, adding beauty to your environment, allowing your feelings to flow, and making time for moments of simple pleasure.

I realize I may have just made setting intentions sound like an arduous task. Once you’ve done it a time or two, you’ll realize it’s not that hard and I believe taking the time to be clear on where you’re going and how you want to get there will give you the best chance of arriving. It certainly works for me!

https://fearlessliving.org/are-you-setting-the-wrong-goal/

https://www.made-magazine.com/made-exclusive-w-iyanla-vanzant-setting-clear-intentions-in-2019/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/3351-2/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/many-paths-healing/

January 21, 2019

Finally, Sunshine! Let’s Enjoy It!

Finally, Sunshine! Last year was the 4th rainiest year on record where I live and the cloudy, drizzly days have continued into this year. Finally, this morning there’s sun. It’s amazing how waking to a bright sky can lift your mood and boost your energy! This is a great time to prepare for healing by creating a cache of pleasure and joy.
sun
If you’re ill, in pain, exhausted, busy caring for someone else, in danger of losing your job, grieving, or reeling from emotional flashbacks, it can sometimes be difficult to imagine anything that makes you feel good. It’s like there’s just no room in your entire being for a visualization of pleasure. When I am in this spot and a tiny bit of warmth, thoughtfulness, or kindness manages to register, it triggers a feeling of sadness and loss.

While I consciously know this is counterproductive, I also know there’s no point in fighting the process. I have learned that the best way to limit the duration of such sadness is to allow it to flow. It’s hard to measure whether the well in my solar plexus from which it pours gets shallower over time. I hope so, but I just don’t have enough perspective to judge.

Embracing this reality means I recognize I must actively engage in noticing the small gifts life brings each day. Having a system for recording positive feelings is a tool I can use to stockpile feelings of calm, peace, silliness, delight, gratitude, glee, lightness, and mirth. It also gives me a pathway to access positive feelings quickly. But before I create a system, I must open myself to positive experience even if it brings a moment of sadness too.

I was immediately aware of the brightness this morning as I sat in my recliner coffee in hand. I stopped reading and took a moment to breathe while looking at the sky. There are 9 windows in my small sunroom. It gets both morning light and beautiful sunsets.

sunroomA couple of years ago when I removed the cafe curtains from these windows to wash and iron them (I learned my lesson on sending them out to be laundered the year it took $350 to retrieve them from the laundry service. It would have been much cheaper to buy new curtains.), I decided not to rehang the top tier. Not only did that mean less ironing then, it means more light all of the time.

This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. I debated about it, took photos with and without, texted them to a designer friend, and ultimately chose the light. I don’t know that I improved the design of the room, but I improved the quality of my life.

Today, it’s sunny but it’s cold and the ground is frozen. It’s not a good day to dig up those bulbs in the yard or to sit on the porch and write. It’s a great day to do something not on my to-do list: go to brunch, run to the grocery store and get the ingredients for a new salad I want to try, take a drive with my grandson, walk through an open house or two, take a brisk walk, or book a trip somewhere sunny. The key is to enjoy the sun, to bank the positive feelings it brings, and to make a deliberate plan to enjoy the sun in the future.

And so, I’ll leave you here. I’m going to bundle up and get out of the house into the sun.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=coffee

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/my-five-feel-good-things-for-the-week/

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January 15, 2019

You Can Never be Too Prepared…Can You?

planYou can never be too prepared…can you?

As small children we learn to stop, drop, and roll. As teens we’re encouraged to be prepared to practice safe sex. As adults, we are oft admonished to prepare for the future by contributing to a retirement account. That’s three examples of ways we’re encouraged to prepare, but there are hundreds: take AP courses to prepare for college, get your flu shot, have a safe place to go in a tornado, wear your seat belt, have enough savings available to cover 3-6 months of bills, buy life insurance, know the best glide speed of your airplane, rehearse your dance moves before a performance, practice shooting free throws, learn CPR, take an umbrella, put your gloves in your pocket, etc. Much of our time and energy is spent preparing for something.

When I was learning to fly, most of the training time was focussed on preventing or preparing for a malfunction or emergency. Once I had mastered the procedures, my instructor deemed me ready to fly solo. Could I have flown the plane before that? Yes. And I could have done it safely as long as everything went as planned. But I would not have been ready to make a lifesaving split-second decision in the event of a catastrophic event.

Preparation is a good thing. It allows us to excel in sports and academics. It makes for productive meetings. It gives us food that is elevated from its original state. It calms our minds. It sometimes saves our lives. I am all for being prepared. In fact, I believe it’s sometimes critical.

But is it possible to over-prepare?
prepare
Preparedness or Fear?

I have a friend who describes traveling with his former girlfriend as a regimented execution of her meticulous planning. Each attraction, restaurant, and hotel was identified in advance and mandatory in inclusion. His hankering for BBQ rather than Tex-Mex simply could not be accommodated.

This begs the question of whether the girlfriend was over or under prepared. Obviously, she was logistically prepared, but it seems she was not confident and relaxed enough to vary from her plan even if it would have enhanced the overall experience.

This is an example of how fear can cloak itself in preparedness. When this happens, preparedness takes on a life of its own and begins to hold us back rather than providing a foundation for us to move forward.

My sister prepared for over a year to become gluten-free. She researched taco seasoning mixes, doughnuts, restaurant menus, one-to-one flour mixes – everything that she needed to know to feel prepared. Then she did a pantry challenge to make sure no food went to waste. The preparation period went on so long that she started to believe going gluten-free would be really hard.

Luckily, she didn’t talk herself out of the original goal. After a year with less pain, more energy, and fewer sinus problems, she admitted that she had made things much harder than they needed to be. She had prepared past the point of readiness.

While my sister still managed to move forward, my 98-year-old cousin stopped herself from the trip to Alaska she wishes she’d taken. She was so focused on saving for the future that she stayed home while her friends had the time of their lives. If she had been struggling financially, that could have made sense. She wasn’t. She had more than enough. Again, fear masqueraded as preparedness.

You’ve probably known someone who buys way more food than they need because they fear they’ll run out, or keeps going back to school but never pursues the new job for which they’re more than qualified. You may know an amazing artist whose work sits in the back room while their spreadsheet of galleries to contact grows. They are all adequately prepared to move forward, but may tell you they’ll make the move as soon as they prepare in x, y, or z way.

Preparedness vs Being Present

When you spend your time preparing for the future, you cannot fully experience the present. The truth is, we can never prepare for every possible circumstance that will affect us. This is an area in which it is wise to choose our battles.

Choose to Prepare…or Not

What are some things to look for when making preparedness choices? Here are five questions to ask yourself:

1)Does it require buying something, using a specific service, or taking a medication that is being advertised to me? If so, it is good to think twice. Some marketers and advertisers prey upon fear to drive sales. This is sometimes disguised in rhetoric of prevention or preparedness.

2)How much time, money, or effort will the preparation take in relation to the likelihood of the threat? If you live in Missouri, there’s no real need to prepare for a hurricane. On the other hand, it is a good idea to know the safest place in your house in the event of a tornado.

3)Am I laying the groundwork for moving forward, or am I avoiding something? Preparing yourself for the worst possible response from your spouse may keep you from broaching a topic that needs to be resolved. You can also avoid cleaning out the closet by continually exploring containers, racks, bins, and other organizational tools before you get started.

4)Have I reached the point of over-attachment to one specific approach or idea? Over-preparing for a meeting may keep you from really hearing a potential client’s objections because you have become so focused on the script you’ve rehearsed in your head. Over-preparing for parenting can mean you fail to notice the most effective way to motivate a specific child.

5)Am I truly preparing, or just shielding myself from making a decision? As long as I’m still in training or strategically planning, I don’t have to make an active decision to do anything. It’s great having one foot in and one foot out. I can hold onto the dream that makes me sound good in conversation and still stay stuck in the muck.

I say all of this to prepare you for the posts that will come next. Many of us must heal our bodies, minds, and spirits in order to thrive. The path to healing has common elements for all of us. Mapping the process can help you know what to expect along the way.

It’s easy for “experts” to tell us we will see a difference in days or weeks or quickly when we begin healing process. That can be true, but it’s not the whole story. If it were, no one would give up on a health plan after 6 months, relapse, or go back to an abusive relationship. Having a map to guide you can help you persevere in the moments when backward feels better than forward.

Don’t worry, amidst all this mapping there will be cooking too. The food and the process offer many tools for healing.

Next up, we’ll prepare…you had to know that was coming.

Until then, I wish you warm hugs and kind words.

https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2017/09/22/personal-preparedness-why-prepare-2/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/think-going-gluten-free-is-hard-visualization-can-help/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/time-is-on-your-side/