Kicking Into Gear

Hi friends,

After a long hiatus, I am excited to be writing again.  It’s surprising that it’s been two years since my last post – time really does fly!

I bring this post to you in light of one of the ebbs of the flow of life – one in which I have been feeling stuck, stagnant, and as if forward moving progress has been limited.  While reflecting on some of the sources of impact (both within and without) I came up with the following daily reminders to begin moving forward:

  1. Don’t compare.  What we see, or what most people show us, is just the tip of the iceberg of their lives.
  2. Be present.  Listen to listen, not to respond.  Try to take each moment the way it is; don’t let your thoughts, beliefs, impressions, or expectations get in the way of the experience.  Be aware when those distractors occur and wish them off promptly!
  3. Be positive.  Be mindful of the negative thoughts and words that you may say about yourself to yourself, to others, or about the circumstances of your life.  It is okay to experience the aforementioned, it is not okay to perseverate.  Engage in positive, fulfilling, self-caring and self-loving activities.

How do you get your mind back in gear after getting stuck?  What are some ways you practice non-comparison, being present, and being positive?

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25itude

Two days ago, I turned 25.  About two weeks ago, I resolved that with the new year I would practice gratitude.  One week later, I happened to attend a seminar at work where the speaker discussed optimism and how it fosters vitality and hope.  She suggested the use of a “gratitude journal” where everyday, you are to write a couple of current happenings for which you are grateful for.  Evidently, habitually identifying gratitude worthy incidences eventually rewires the brain to automatically do it itself!  So, every night, I began jotting down 2-3 bullet points of moments for which I was grateful for that day.  So far, I was writing down moments that made me happy.  While I understood how I could train my brain to practice gratitude, the concept of gratitude itself still escaped me until this evening while watching a movie:

“…I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me.  But it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world.  Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once and its too much.  My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it.  And then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude. “

-Kevin Spacey, American Beauty

So, gratitude is a choice.  Gratitude is a lens that enables us to find joy in anything and everything.  Gratitude is knowing that all that we live and feel is fleeting.  Gratitude is finding the joy, accepting that it is transient, allowing ourselves to live and love it, and being thankful that we were able to experience it once it is has passed.

What does gratitude mean to you?

Self-Love, the Silver Lining

Sadness.  Frustration.  Grief.  Anger.

When we are feeling these types of negative feelings, are they ever as bad as we think?  I don’t think so.  Humans survive – and sometimes even thrive – after experiences with harrowing events.   Part of human nature, and what makes us so special, is our ability to adapt.  So we do.  As much as we can.

Misunderstood.  Outcast.  Lonely.  Forlorn.

What happens when we feel no one understands our negative feelings or our experiences that induce these feelings?  Have you ever found yourself feeling unaffected after reaching out to others, or even feeling worse?  As a psychologist, I’ve been trained and discouraged to use terms like, “I know how you feel.”   Because no one ever really knows how anyone else feels.  Everyone’s feelings, perceptions and experiences are unique to them, to their history, to their environment.  Because of this, it is important to remember that others may not receive what we share the way we want them to (because they have their own feelings and experiences!), and it becomes equally important to choose carefully who we share what with.  For example – we may not want to share that we got fired with our gossipy friend, or share a night of drunken escapades with a judgmental friend.  Ultimately, we want to maximize our chances of feeling better, and minimize our chances of feelings worse.  This is not to say that our gossipy or judgmental friend is not trying his or her best – but only that they may not be the appropriate person for the circumstance.

Empathy.  Compassion.  Kindness.  Patience.

When we are engulfed by the negativity, and are unable to be pacified by our friends, family, peers, loved ones, etc.  I suggest that we expect the same compassion, empathy, kindness and patience that we desire from others, and give it to ourselves!   We deserve the same love from ourselves as much as we deserve it from anyone else (if not more!).

So, I leave you with this:

“As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART.”  – Charlie Chaplin

Inherently Acquired

Attachment theory.  The deep relationships and connections between humans that supposedly originate from our childhood bonds with our parents.  Everyone in the psychological world has heard of it, and many many people outside of that world are familiar with it – or have at least heard of it as well.  Here is a chart to summarize attachment styles, parenting styles, and the resulting characteristics of the now adult’s attachment style:

attachment

In general, I have always considered myself securely attached; however, I have recently been wondering how much of our adult attachments affect and influence our current attachment styles.  Without delving into my personal history too much, I will tell you that my first long-term relationship gashed my heartsoul, and that my second and third relationships only aggravated this wound.  My most recent relationship was marked by fear, silence, insecurity, and longing.   ” Secure in general” was history, and I found myself falling into the categories of avoidant and ambivalent.  However, I reflect on these experiences in retrospect.  The older we get, the more aware we become – of ourselves and of our surrounding world.  So I wonder:  Was I actually secure, and later molded by the bonds of my adulthood?  Or, was I unconsciously always avoidant and ambivalent?  How much do our childhood attachments reflect the relationship choices we make as adults?  How much do our relationships as young adults and adults further shape our attachment style?

I would like to end this post on a positive note and say no matter our attachment style, I believe it is in each individuals power to work towards the attachment we desire.  As the social creatures that humans are, we have an innate need for warmth, love, and belonging (check out this study here if you want some proof!) and I am on a self-proclaimed journey to fulfull this need!   I know this journey will be arduous, and it will require mindfulness, courage, and compassion but damnit, I am committed to it!  Join me.

The Honesty Continuum

Recently, I had a discussion with a friend about the politics of honesty.  As a young Turkish-North Americaner, I have concluded that the honesty scale is one that can be easily tipped.  Throughout my life, I have felt that Turks are often too blunt.  What do I mean?  I mean that when I had hit puberty, all of my relatives and close family-friends boldly pointed out my developing young lady parts.  Or when I have a pimple, how everyone lets me know that they can see it too, and why do I still have acne?  Or maybe that, wow!  I’ve lost/gained a couple pounds since they last saw me.  Meanwhile, I feel that Americans are often not blunt enough.  Even when we ask, the people in our circles are reluctant to admit to any changes in our weight (unless it is in the form of a compliment).  How about when we have something stuck in our teeth and don’t realize until we check in the mirror ourselves!  Or the classic question we ask (or are asked), “does this make me look fat?” Forget about it!  Perhaps my sensitivity to the frankness of the Turkish people is because I have grown accustomed to the quiet candor of American culture.  I believe that it is quite possible that the straight-forwardness (or lack there-of) of each culture is designed to protect the individual.  While these confrontations where we decide how honest to be are likely dictated by our comfort level and closeness with the person we are interacting with, I ask you:  Is there such thing as too honest?  Is there such thing as not honest enough?  When does our honesty benefit a person, and when does it hurt them?  When does our lack of honesty do the same things?  In what ways are the boundaries of honesty governed by culture?

What do you think?

The Deadliest Sin

Many of us are familiar with the cardinal seven sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.  But The Daily Prompt asks, what’s sin #8 for you?,  and I say, selfishness, the deadliest sin of them all!  I think the best way to illustrate the adverse effects of selfishness, is to contrast it with the benefits of selflessness.   To do this, let us examine the lifestyle of some amazing and selfless creatures that we can find right under our feet: ants.  Ants are a prime example of “strength in numbers.”  While one ant may be deemed inconsequential, together, hundreds of these insects are able to accomplish tremendous feats, such as frightening away bears whom are thousands of times their own size!  These insects live in complex societies, in which they work together to gather food, defend and protect their territory, and build elaborate colonies, all in the name of survival.  In the case of these ants, their strength in numbers comes from working together for a common welfare, instead of for individual gain.  Now consider our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers (because we are social creatures, too!), if they had been selfish.  If the hunter, who provides meat for his kinfolk, does not share his game, it would be at the expense of others in his group who will now lack this rich source of nutrition, and vice verse for the gatherers.  Selfishness is defined as, “a person, action, or motive lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure” (dictionary.com).  So what makes selfishness the deadliest sin?  Because it always comes at a cost.  When we describe deadly, we do not identify a specific target group, but speak in general of fatality.  Selfishness comes with a price, whether it is harm to others (think top 1%), or whether it is harmful to the self due to unforeseeable consequences. Additionally, is selfishness not a sin that would encompass almost all of the other sins?  At the core of many of these immoral acts lies the concern for ones own pleasure (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth), profit (wrath, greed) or a lack of consideration for others (pride, greed).  Finally, when we ask for forgiveness, whether it is from an acquaintance, friend, family, lover or divinity, do we not ask them to be selfless in considering our need for absolution?