Jack Kornfield once said: “There is a place in everyone that yearns to love, that longs to be safe, that wants to treat others and ourselves with respect. Sometimes that place is buried underneath layers of fear, old wounds, and pain that we have used to protect ourselves from injury.”
The path to health and inner peace is often not a path of adding to something. It is the path of letting go. This is a main principle of healing – rather than chasing happiness we simply choose to let go of that which makes us unhappy.
Let Go – it means just as it says. It is a conscious decision to release with full acceptance an idea, a thing, an event or a particular time – it’s an invitation to make room for our future by letting go our past, at least a part of our past. We all have made mistakes and bad decisions. We all have ‘baggage’ from our pasts – painful relationships and old beliefs.
How do we let go of such things? Letting go does not mean ‘getting rid of’ or ‘throwing away’ or annihilating them. It is more like setting down and letting them be. A close friend to letting go is acceptance. Accepting people and situations for what they are. This means we lay them aside – put them down gently without any kind of aversion.
Letting Go Of Past Relationships
A breakup of a relationship can crush our joyful disposition and replace it with tearful despair. According to brain scientists, nearly 20 percent of us suffer from ‘complicated grief’; a biological occurrence that is actually rooted in our brain chemistry. It is a persistent sense of longing for someone we lost with romanticized memories.
When we break up with someone, words like ‘time heals all wounds’ might ring very hollow.
Losing a relationship can feel like a mini-death. We may find ourselves going through the process of grief:
Denial (‘It can’t be over’) – You are shocked and in denial. You don’t believe it is over and you hold out hope.
Anger (‘How could he/she do this to me?’) – Allowing ourselves to grieve – there is nothing wrong with having a good cry. We are free to express our feelings, but not drown in them.
Depression (‘No one will ever love me.’) – It may be wise to try to replace those thoughts with: ‘All pain passes eventually’. Yes, time will do its part. A cut on your skin will heal in time, but it hurts now. The same is true with an emotional wound. In the beginning, it hurts, but over time the pain passes. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it. There are steps we can take to lessen the pain. At first, we need to stop the bleeding and soothe the pain. Finally, we need to keep our wound from becoming infected with bitterness.
Acceptance (‘I’m going to be all right’) – When this process is over, try to remember: Letting go opens you up to new possibilities. Everything about holding on is torturous and an exercise in suffering. When we let go, we give ourselves peace.
Letting Go Of Past Resentments And Hurts
Sometimes our lives are like driving. Driving down the road of life, we all look through our windshields; we focus on where we are and where we want to go. But we also look at the rearview mirror to see where we’ve been and what has happened behind us. But, imagine driving our car looking only into that rearview mirror. What do we think would happen? We can’t see the good things or the bad things that are in front of us. We can’t see where we are going, and finally, it’s not a safe way to drive, and even, seems ridiculous.
It’s the same way in life. Often, we drive down the road of life focusing only on the rearview mirror. We can get so focused on our past that we are barely able to move forward or see what is in front of us. In our mind’s rearview mirror is where we can feel resentments, mistakes, bad decisions, and hurts. But they are behind us. We need to be aware of our past mistakes, but dwelling on them doesn’t do us any good.
When someone wrongs us, it is only normal to feel a degree of anger. When we have, or feel that we have, been wronged, we could become bitter. That’s okay in the moment, it’s natural. But constantly thinking about the episode could result in our having negative feelings about others. We might close up, isolating ourselves and showing little interest in others.
Our heart is like an heirloom bowl or a vase. What would we do if it became soiled or stained? Would our immediate response be to throw it away? Not likely. We would probably put forth the effort to clean it carefully. In like fashion, we can work hard to get rid of feelings of annoyance toward those who offended us.
Positive Impact of Forgiveness and Letting Go
Scientists have launched research that has begun to demonstrate that forgiveness and letting go can positively enhance emotional and even physical health. Forgiveness is not just a good social lubricant but also good medicine!
“In a study of more than 4,600,” says a report in The Gazette, researchers “found [that] the more hostile, frustrated and mean-spirited the personality” was, the more unhealthy the person’s lungs were. In fact, some of the harmful effects were even greater than those of a current smoker!
Dr. David R. Williams, said regarding his research: “We found a particularly strong relationship between forgiveness of others and mental health among middle-aged and older Americans.”
Negative Impact of Resentment
Resentment is a heavy burden to carry. When we harbour it, it consumes our thoughts, robs us of peace, and stifles our joy. The offender, at the same time, may go his way oblivious to our turmoil! Dr. Hans Selye pointed out: “It is not the hated person or the frustrating boss who will get ulcers, hypertension, and heart disease. It is the one who hates or the one who permits himself to be frustrated.”
Caustic emotions like bitterness and resentment are like rust that slowly corrodes the body of a car. The car’s outside may appear beautiful but under the paint a destructive process is taking place. When a person is unforgiving, the resulting conflict creates stress. Stress can lead to serious illnesses. Statistics indicated that two-thirds of the patients who went to a physician had symptoms caused by mental stress.
Dr. William S. Sadler wrote: “No one can appreciate so fully as a doctor the amazingly large percentage of human disease and suffering which is directly traceable to worry, fear, conflict.”
Forgiveness, on the contrary, brings psychological benefits including less stress, anxiety, and depression.
Forgiving others is not always easy. The pain can be immense, especially when a person has been grievously wronged. ‘How can I forgive someone who viciously betrayed and hurt me?’ some may even wonder.
Professor Carl Thoresen of Stanford University says that there are “very few people who understand what forgiveness is and how it works.”
What Forgiveness Really Is
The Toronto Star report defines forgiveness as in three steps:
a) Recognizing we have been wronged – Forgiving others does not mean that we condone, minimize, or deny the offence that others have done to us. It does not mean that we have to approve of their wrong behaviour or minimize the damage it does. Nor does it mean putting ourselves back into an abusive situation.
b) Giving up the resulting resentment – At times it may simply involve letting go of the situation and realizing that harboring resentment will only add to our burden. Forgiving, though, does mean letting go of any resentment for such wrongs and maintaining our own peace. By dwelling on negative thoughts and mulling over how badly they have been treated, some people let the behavior of others rob them of happiness. Do we harbour feelings of resentment and bitterness when some injustice causes us pain? Do not let such thoughts control us! Refuse to become trapped in a web of bitterness and resentment. This can easily happen. If we allow our emotions to dominate us, the result may prove more damaging to us than the injustice itself. Ask ourselves: Must we remain in severe emotional turmoil, feeling intensely hurt and angry, until the matter is fully resolved?
c) And eventually responding to the offending person with compassion – Waiting for an apology that never comes, we may only get more frustrated. In effect, we allow the offending person to control our emotions. So, letting go is not only for their benefit but also for our own, so that we may get on with our life. Forgiveness brings peace – not just peace with fellow humans but inner peace as well.
We may never completely put out of mind what was done, but we can forget in the sense that we do not hold it against the offender or bring the matter up again at some future time.
If someone else made mistakes, we might learn to forgive them or at least let go of the anger. But, when it comes to forgiving ourselves, we often struggle. That is because it is easier to forgive others. We all make mistakes, but sometimes it’s hard to remember that when we’re in the midst of them.
Perhaps we are overwhelmed by thoughts of past sins or mistakes that we have made. Some individuals continue to harbor guilt over sins for which they have actually been forgiven. We may feel guilty without really being guilty.
But, guilt is not a ‘useless’ emotion. Psychoanalyst Gaylin says: “Guilt is the emotion that shapes much of our goodness and generosity. It signals us when we have transgressed codes of behaviour that we personally want to sustain. Feeling guilty informs us that we have failed our own ideals.”
Regret is a powerful emotion and our mind has a hard time distinguishing between true mistakes that we can learn from, and little blunders that are really just a part of everyday life. Beside this, forgiveness is often today confused with condoning or lack of accountability.
In order to let the past mistakes go, we must forgive ourselves officially.
Choose to see life as a classroom, not a testing center. We are all humans on intertwining roads to self-discovery, searching for a greater purpose. On our roads, we will inevitably make mistakes – every one of us.
Dr. Claire Weekes commented: “To let past guilt paralyze present action is destructive living.” Most of us hold on to past mistakes and let them affect our self-esteem for way too long. This is not healthy and does not serve anyone. Healthy psychology is to acknowledge a mistake and cope with it. There is value in being aware of our past mistakes, but we cannot focus on them.
We can try to do our best, but we will never be perfect – We live in a world with high-performance standards. People think they need to be perfect. To err is human. We’re always going to make mistakes. Accept that we may have made a wrong choice and then forgive ourselves.
Joretta L. Marshall, PhD points out that people often try to forgive themselves for the wrong things. According to Marshall, “people don’t have to forgive themselves for being who they are – for being human and making human mistakes. Forgiveness means being specific about what we did that needs forgiving.”
Letting go our mistakes is like a technique we use to correct a problem with our computer. It is as close as we come to a system-reset button – we lost the mistake, but not the data in the memory.
Many people have little sense of what it means to have love and acceptance for one’s self. This is not the self-centered love of the mythological Narcissus. It’s not being selfish – it’s being selfish not to love yourself. It is necessary to love yourself before you can love others.
Loving yourself is all about accepting your strengths and weaknesses and even going a step further by loving yourself the way you are. Modern psychology knows this. The great psychoanalytic theorist Donald Winnicot said, “Only the true self can be creative and only the true self can feel real.”
Can we look in a mirror and love ourselves unconditionally? People often learn to love themselves based on the feedback they receive from others. But this is conditional, not unconditional, self-love; self -acceptance based upon external achievements.
But unconditional self-love is learning to accept and love the unlovable in you. Learn to be kind to yourself in situations where you usually have been harsh. When you are down, talk to yourself as if you were your own best friend and move from criticism to self-compassion.
Yes, we can find inner peace. Rather than turning our attention to the past, we must keep our eyes focused on what is yet ahead. Life is a choice – the bad experiences in our rearview mirror are meant to be valuable lessons. Although it is not wrong to meditate on the lessons we have learned from past experiences, we need to maintain a balanced, realistic view of the past.
Letting go is never complete unless people and relationships are transformed in the process. At some point, we reach a turning point. Something shifts – we feel less burdened, we have more energy. We live longer and have better health.
We live in exciting times. Wonderful events are happening now and more lie just ahead.
Shyness is the feeling of awkwardness or apprehension when approaching or being approached by unfamiliar people. Shyness is not the same as introversion. Introverts feel energized by time alone. Differently, shy people often want to sincerely connect with others, but don’t know how to approach. Also, they can be fearful of the reaction or results that will come by making the first step or initiating contact. In other words, they want to get in social situations, but often don’t know how to overcome shyness.
The experience of shyness can occur at any or all of the following levels:
- Cognitive (e.g., excessive negative self-evaluation)
- Affective (e.g., heightened negative emotion)
- Physiological (e.g., racing heart, blushing)
- Behavioural (e.g., failure to respond appropriately, avoiding certain situations).
Most shyness tends to occur around interactions with authorities and strangers, or, one-on-one opposite-sex interactions. In addition, unstructured social settings can also precipitate shyness.
Here are 6 Tips on How to Overcome Shyness and Embrace Your Socialness:
- Visualize a Positive Outcome
- Turn Self-Talk to Positive
- Do something uncomfortable and get out of your comfort zone. Just Do It!
- Ask Questions
- Remind Yourself Of Your Strengths
- Worry Less About What Others Think
Go ahead, you got this!
Have you grown up with certain beliefs about the world? You know how life works, what is possible and what’s not, what you can expect and what you can only dream about. Hence, you think you have a clear picture of the reality, right? Well, think again. Maybe the world is not exactly how you look at it right now; maybe if you change your perspective, you’ll find out that what you believed as a definite truth is actually a lie. We lived our whole life with a certain set of rules and a certain set of beliefs. However, some of these beliefs are not helping us grow. Additionally, they are simply wrong. These are called Negative Beliefs, and they can stand in your way to be happy.
Psychology Tomorrow Magazine posted a great blog about Negative Beliefs. Read it here.
Snigdha Gharami gives some good examples of negative beliefs and how they are wrong. For instance, the idea of “never changing” in life is a false belief- some people have a habit of not accepting changes, but changes are actually good for us. Or, here is another example – some people believe admiring something (even something good) will create a lack of self-control. However, it is also false, because you cannot lose your value by admiring something good. There are other good examples in the article, so take a look; maybe you find yourself in it, and challenge some of your beliefs.
In the end, she wraps it all up well: “It is you who makes and breaks these patterns. Take a chance, live life your way because you only have one- this opportunity and this day will never come back.”
Embrace change, take a chance and live big!
Have you ever thought about the impact that media has on the images of the world we have? More importantly, have you ever thought about how powerful media can be in shaping the images we have of ourselves? Ads are selling more than products; they are selling concepts, feelings, and images of success, love, sexuality. The media are setting certain norms in society. But how does it all affect women? How are women in media portrayed? And, above all, what message does the media send this way?
Jean Kilbourne in her famous talk says that today’s media has an extremely negative impact on women’s self-esteem. Women in media are ideal; they have perfect figures, flawless faces, beautiful hair and everything else that falls into the category of ideal beauty. However, in reality, these beauty standards are impossible to reach. Moreover, girls from a very young age learn that they have to invest large amounts of time, money and effort to fit into that category of ideal beauty. Otherwise, they lose their value and they will fail in life. But those standards are absurdly high, and almost inevitably set all women to failure.
Here is the video where Jean Kilbourne talks about this issue. What do you think?
The holiday season…
Cold weather ✔
2013 coming to an end ✔
Deadlines approaching ✔
More family time ✔
More commitments ✔
Season of giving ✔
…as you know, the list keeps running. Most of our lives encompass some of these things right now. In my practice, I’m finding that there’s an increased level of stress and anxiety in people’s lives. Why does holiday stress happen?
Holiday Season and Stress
Research from the American Heart Association (2004) contends that this time of year there’s an increase in emotional stress about the holidays. Having to interact with family we may, or may not want to associate with, feeling the pressure of having to absorb financial pressures such as purchasing gifts, travelling, and/or entertaining. Having planned your holiday in advance is a good way to de-stress yourself. For example, you could visit friends, play a role-playing game with the family, renovate the house, etc. Also around this time of year, people are more likely to indulge in foods and beverages they may not usually consume. Consequently, if it interrupts normal healthy patterns, feelings of guilt or regret creep in.
5 tips for avoiding holiday stress:
- Pick and choose your holiday activities
- Ask for help
- Say no when necessary
- Everything in moderation
- Set realistic expectations for the season
Try to relax and lower your expectations from yourself and from your family. You may find yourself enjoying holidays more than you expected.
Kloner, R. (2004). The “Merry Christmas Coronary” and “Happy New Year Heart Attack” Phenomenon. American Heart Association. Retrieved from: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/110/25/3744.short
Making headlines today was the release that Jennifer Lawrence, from X-Men and more recently, the Hunger Games, suffered from Social Anxiety. Although our society is becoming more understanding of mental health issues, stigma still exists. When it comes to discussing mental health issues and getting treatment, there is still not enough openness regarding this topic. For a celebrity like Jennifer Lawrence, to publicly share her challenges is inspiring for us all. It helps to reduce stigma and increases awareness about mental well-being.
Social Anxiety and Its Prevalence
According to Statistics Canada, social anxiety is one of the most common anxiety disorders. Social anxiety is
“a disorder characterized by a fear of situations in which there is potential for embarrassment or humiliation in front of others.”
There are generally two subtypes of social phobia: one involves a fear of speaking in front of people, whether it be public speaking or simply talking with a person of authority; the other subtype involves more generalized anxiety and complex fears, such as eating in public or using public washrooms, and in these cases, individuals may experience anxiety around anyone other than family.
In Canada, anywhere between 8-13% of Canadians will be influenced by social anxiety. The disorder is more common in women than men. Also, there appears to be an environmental and familial link to the disorder.
Jennifer Lawrence’s story of facing her fear of social scrutiny head-on teaches us all one important thing. Facing the things that cause us anxiety is the best form of treatment. Hence, the best example is exposure therapy combined with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
If you’d like to inquire about social anxiety treatment in Mississauga or Bradford Ontario at Real Life Counselling, don’t hesitate to contact us.
The year was 2005.
I was in my last year of my Bachelor’s program, meticulously spending hours checking my research data and putting the final touches on my thesis defense. Night after night, I found myself ruminating over having to present in front of my professors, not to mention mine in front of my peers. Ever since I could remember, public presentations, regardless of size or length, caused me grief. I mean, not your typical 11th hour jitters, but…blushing, shaking, nauseous stomach, cold sweats – you name it, I had it.
So, the day had come. I was to defend my thesis. Although most of the day felt like a blur, a few moments still stick with me. The first was feedback from one of my peers as we were standing in the halls practicing our scripts. I shared with my friends how nervous I was, feeling unable to control the physical and emotional reactions happening in my body. My friend, Susan*, turned to me and said, “…instead of telling yourself you’re nervous and scared, why don’t you say you’re excited!”. I listening, and thought to myself – “heck, I have nothing to lose!” So, minutes before my hour of fame, I said, “I’m excited”, “I’M excited”, “I’M EXCITED!”. I think after the 3rd excited, I was starting to feel it. The reaction kicked in! Then, before I knew it, I was done.
I think that’s the second part of my memories of my thesis. My accomplishment. I “felt the fear but did it anyway”. There’s no better feeling then working through a tough obstacle. Or, overcoming a fear.
I encourage you to feel inspired, to reach out for help if you need it, and to “feel the fear and do it anyway” (as Susan Jeffers would say).
Ashley J. Kreze
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm. Have you ever practiced Mindfulness? Do you remember to remind yourself daily of the present moment? If your answer is no, or rarely, well, you should; it’s good for you. Mindfulness helps in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It helps you connect with yourself and be in the present moment, which makes you more relaxed and less worried. Additionally, research shows that mindfulness improves self-esteem and builds confidence.
How Mindfulness Improves Self-Esteem
The Institute of Coaching shared a great article about the impact of mindfulness on our confidence and self-esteem. Here is an interesting part of it:
“Mindfulness practice improves self-esteem.
Why would sitting and sensing the present moment improve our self-respect and self-value?
Here’s one way to think about it. Recall that a mindful brain state is one that doesn’t judge. It is simply open and accepting of the present moment. On the other hand, self-esteem is the conclusion one makes in the role of a judge of one’s status and role: “Am I enough? Have I accomplished enough?” It evolved as an essential biological force, ensuring our survival by keeping us ever-vigilant about whether we are meeting the standard set by our tribes, avoiding rejection and being an outcast.
Non-judgmental moments allow us to step off of the self-judging roller coaster, and experience, even for a few breaths, the natural brain-state of what I call “it’s all ok-ness”.
What a lovely place to sit and rest. You may want to become a regular visitor.”
Will you set the time to practice mindfulness today?
Pepping, C.A, Donovan, A, and Davis, P.J. (2013) The positive effects of mindfulness on self-esteem. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(5), 376-386.
If you’d like to inquire about mindfulness or self-esteem enhancement in Mississauga at Real Life Counselling, don’t hesitate to call us at 289-231-8479 or contact us online.
If you find yourself tired after being in social situations for extended periods of time, you might be an introvert. It is the type of personality that gets drained by social encounters. Rather, they find energy in solitude, opposed to extroverts, who feel energized by getting into social situations and avoid being alone.
Many misconstrue shyness with introversion, which can go together but don’t have to. Yes, introverts can be shy people who find it hard to socialize, but many introverts are getting into social situations easily; they just prefer not to.
Unfortunately, today’s society is designed for extroverts, which we can see in almost every system throughout our lives, from schools to workplaces. Almost the whole system discourages introverts to behave in their natural way. Further, society is demanding socialness and talkativeness all the time. It became a norm if you want to succeed in modern days. However, it’s not all that pessimistic as it can sound at first.
Being an Introvert Is Your Power
According to author Susan Cain, introverts are deep thinkers who contributed most of the great ideas to this world. Thus, encouraging introverts by accepting them as they are is crucial if we want to continue having revolutionary ideas and great decisions in our society.
Can you relate to this video?
There’s something special about finding quiet, alone time. Letting go of all the demands, noise, and expectations we place on ourselves, and society expects, is something totally OK to do. Finally, it’s something necessary from time to time.
Take the next 10 minutes and enjoy the solitude.
Most of us want to live as long as possible, right? But what are the keys to a long life? Is it not to stress so much? Is it to be positive? Or, is it to stop working too hard and focus on other aspects of your life? All these sound intuitive and reasonable, but the reality might not be what we expect it to be. As it turns out, the keys to a long life might be just the opposite of all mentioned. What?!
Well, a 20-year long Riverside study on the University of California had a mission to discover what is that that predicts someone will live a happy, long life, and came with some surprising results. For instance, people who were most devoted to their jobs lived the longest. Another example – people who were more cheerful and laid-back actually, on average, had shorter lives compared to people less cheerful and humorous. One possible explanation is that people who are laid-back and not continually productive in their job are also laid-back when it comes to their health; maybe too much. They are maybe more careless about their health and have more risky behaviors than responsible, “serious” individuals.
But what does affect the longevity of life then? Dr. Friedman, one of the authors of the study, says:
“Probably our most amazing finding was that personality characteristics and social relations from childhood can predict one’s risk of dying decades later”
The study came to many more interesting findings of keys to a long life, and you can read it all here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110311153541.htm
Being positive and cheerful is a great thing, as long as you stay responsible to your health. So eat that apple and smile!