Listening Or Talking?

Who talks to you the most? Who has the most influence over you? To whose words do you listen the most?

If you think about my questions, you might come up with answers such as your spouse (or domestic partner), best friend, sibling, parent or child. But I want to invite you to look into it a little deeper.

Think a little harder. Whose voice do you hear most often? If you are like most of us and think about it for a bit, you will realize quickly the voice you hear is none other than your own.

Our inner voices are our constant companions. We think with them. We use them as our inner creative muses. We consider decisions, process information, work through feelings, remind ourselves of things and think about what to say to others.

Our inner voices can be quite busy at times. In times of stress, our thought lives can run rampant with “could have, should have, would have” scenarios. When we are processing emotional events, good or bad, they are equally busy. And when it’s quiet, if we have a tendency toward it, our thoughts will get busy when we are not.

The most important thing to pay attention to about our thought lives is what our thoughts are saying to us. Are they contributing to situations in life, or detracting from them? Are they building others we are thinking about up, or tearing them down? Are they viewing the world through a positive lens or a negative one?

Once we understand what the tendency of our thoughts usually is, we can take steps toward controlling them. In other words, instead of just listening to ourselves, we can take positive and productive steps toward talking to ourselves!

What do I mean by talking to ourselves? The first step in talking to ourselves is one I’ve already outlined, being aware of what the general tendency of your thoughts. If your thoughts tend toward the negative, be aware of it. Understand that of yourself, and realize you will need to work toward a healthier thought life. Most of us need to do it to some extent or another, and some need it more than others.

The next step in talking to ourselves is called Pattern Interruption. When you notice your thoughts tending toward the negative even slightly, say “STOP!” to yourself. Throw up a mental stop sign, or a hazard warning or whatever works for you. Do it as quickly as you notice it.

The next step in talking to ourselves is called Re-framing. Take the situation or emotion that’s bothering you, and reword it into positive terms. See the good side of it, however small. If someone was cruel to you, realize your mission in life might not include that person, and know you are doing all you able to be polite and pleasant, despite their bad behavior. If it is raining, and you wanted to have a picnic, think about how good the rain will be for the plants, and how you can have your picnic indoors. You get the idea!

The final step in talking to ourselves is to do just that — Talk to Yourself! Look at what you can do, instead of what you can’t and change your focus to that. Tell yourself things only look impossible until someone does them. Instead of listening to your inner critic, tell your inner critic to be silent!

Most of us have an inner critic resulting from experiences from somewhere in childhood and as we grew up. Maybe a sibling or parent told you that you couldn’t do something. Maybe you failed at something you tried and the kids at school laughed at you. Maybe you weren’t attractive enough, or smart enough, good enough or something enough to get the attention of a special someone. The more negative experiences we had as children and young adults, the louder our outer critics, the louder our inner critic will likely be for us. 

Quite frankly, for many of us, if someone outside of us talked to us the way we allowed our inner critics talked to us, we’d sever all ties with them! Think of your relationship between yourself and your thought life the same way as you would between yourself and a friend. Would you allow your friend to talk to you that way? If not, then why are you allowing yourself to do it?

Using these techniques of being aware of our thoughts, Pattern Interruption, Re-framing and Talking to Ourselves are vital steps in silencing our inner critics. Once you start to master these steps, you will find you have a healthier thought life. And a healthier thought life leads to healthier relationships, and more happiness in your life overall.

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When Life Just Stinks

Have you ever had a time in your life when you look at what’s going on and think, “This stinks!”?? How do you handle times like that?

Sometimes, we’re drawn up short by the harsh reality stuff in our life stinks. It might be because of illness (either yours or someone close to you). It might be because of financial difficulties. It might be because you get an unexpected shock, like hearing of the death of someone you loved. Or it might be because of a combination of stuff. No matter the causes, the stinky realities in our lives exist. Sometimes, we can prevent these stinky realities. However, often we cannot. They just happen to us, with nothing we can do or say to prevent it. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus is quoted as saying,

He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Both unfair and fair, stinky and wonderful, things happen to all of us. Sometimes they are a result of our actions, because as I’ve said before, actions have consequences. But often it’s just sun and rain, as Jesus said. I thought at one point of calling this post, “Life Isn’t Fair,” until I remembered something I always told our kids. Life isn’t fair.

Gifts like intelligence, beauty, humor, birth place and wit are doled out completely unfairly. Curses like illness, sudden death, poverty, birth place and handicapping conditions are equally unfairly measured. (Yes, I just said “birth place” twice, for a reason. Think about it.) People who “deserve” good things to happen to them have bad things happen, instead of the good we believe they deserve.. And the opposite is just as true, too. Any way we look at it, life just isn’t fair.

It’s a common misconception in people going through painful circumstances that no one understands what they are going through. But as we’ve just learned, everyone goes through them. So, what do we do when our life seems to stink? How do we cope? Some people cope by escapism. They seek relief in mindless games or television, activities or other distractions. Speaking as someone who has tried escapism, I can tell you it doesn’t work. All it does is put off the issues until we come out of our escapism reveries. Then, we still have to face them.

Some people cope by medicating their emotions with alcohol, drugs or food. They drink, use drugs or eat to feed the inner hunger or numb the inner pain caused by the outer circumstances. Speaking as someone who has tried medicating my issues (my drug of choice being food), I can tell you it doesn’t work, either. Like escapism, all it does is put things off. Unfortunately, if we abuse these medicating tendencies too much, it also adds addictions, weight and/or long term problems we have to deal with for years after the original painful issues have disappeared.

Some people cope by withdrawing. They close in on themselves emotionally, and sometimes physically, and shut the world out. They may or may not do what is necessary to continue the mechanics of daily living, but when they do, it’s mechanical. There’s no joy in their journey. But when we withdraw, the challenges from which we are withdrawing don’t go away. Often, the very act of withdrawal can make them worse.

Sometimes, we cope by reaching out. We seek a listening ear to pour our troubles. In moderation, this is a healthy coping mechanism. Receiving the gift of compassionate listening from another person is a great way of realizing we’re not alone, that others have traveled similar roads, and we will survive this, too. The challenge we face is not to overwhelm our listeners and being viewed as being too needy. Compassion has its limits, too, and we have to remind ourselves of that sometimes.

Besides reaching out, my personal favorite method of coping with hard times is with prayer in my Christian faith. When I pray, I reach out to God, who, in the words of the Old Testament, is named

The name of God is Elohim – My Creator

The name of God is El Roi – God Who Sees

The name of God is Adonai – My Lord, My Master

The name of God is El Shaddai – God Almighty

The name of God is Jehovah Nissi -The LORD Our Banner

The name of God is Jehovah Mekeddeshem – LORD Who Sanctifies

The name of God is Jehovah Jireh – The LORD Will Provide

The name of God is Jehovah Ezer -The LORD our Helper

The name of God is Jehovah Roi – The Lord is My Shepherd

The name of God is Jehovah Rapha – LORD Who Heals

The name of God is Jehovah Sabaoth – LORD of hosts (of armies)

The name of God is Jehovah Shalom – The LORD our Peace

The name of God is Jehovah Mekeddeshem – LORD Who Sanctifies

The name of God is Jehovah Shammah – The LORD is There

In times of trouble, when life just stinks, I especially love the ones I made bold! Why?

  • God Sees me. I am not forgotten, lost in a sea of humanity. I am noticed.
  • God is my Helper. I am not without Someone to help me. I have a strong Defender.
  • God is my Banner. He goes before me to fight off what troubles me, and to carry the banner of His victory over sin, death and Satan with Him
  • God is my Healer. When it hurts, he heals my body, my heart, relationships, finances and everything that’s broken in my life.
  • God is my Peace. When all is craziness around me, He is my Sanctuary, my place of rest.
  • God is There. He is ever-present. I don’t have to worry about where my friends are. I am not alone.

My faith helps me to keep going, to hold on, even when times are hard and life just stinks. It helps me to fight off my tendencies to escape or medicate my pain with overeating (or eating stuff I know I shouldn’t). It helps me to more than cope, to more than survive. It helps me emerge stronger and better than ever. By now you might be saying, “Sure, she can talk that way. She doesn’t know what I am going through!” You’re right; I don’t. But at the same time, you don’t know where I am walking now, either. That’s neither here nor there, except to say I’m in a painful place as I write this, going through tough stuff. But as the Native American proverb said,

Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.

I’m not walking in your moccasins, as it were, and you’re not walking in mine. But I am still walking, and I do have a question for you: Are you still walking? Are you still moving on, or are you escaping, medicating or withdrawing?

Come, let’s walk together.

Why Me? Why Here? Why Now?

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but from time to time, I have asked myself those all-too-human questions in the title of this post. Usually, I’m sorry to admit, when I ask them, I’m asking them in a petulant, frustrated, even accusatory way. Something hasn’t happened the way I thought it should go, or didn’t happen at all, and I metaphorically stamp my feet like a thwarted spoiled toddler. And, if we’re really being honest with ourselves, we have to admit we all do it at times. Or at least, we think about it, or want to.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Instead, I want to bring in something almost never seen on this blog, simply because of the personal deficiencies of the blogger. I’m talking about numbers and statistics. I normally don’t use them because I’m mathematically dyslexic, but changes to how my computer’s screen presents itself makes it somewhat less difficult. So, here goes!

This information comes from a sermon we heard recently at church by a visitor, Reverend Rudolph, a retired pastor who now works with the para-church organization Food For The Poor. It was also printed on the Food For The Poor brochure handed out to everyone there.

English: The first image taken by humans of th...

There are 7,000,000,000 (that’s 7 billion, if you don’t care to count the zeros) people, about, now on our planet. Of them, 360,000,000 (360 million) live in North America. The chances of you reading this and not living in North America are so likely as to be astronomical. I don’t think I have any international followers . . . yet. (If I do, please prove me wrong in the comments section!) Of all the people who ever lived on this planet, as near as statisticians are able to agree, if you are living in North America now, in 2013, you had a 1/1599th chance of doing it! Meaning, of all the people who live now, and who ever lived, only 1 in 1600 

English: A composed satellite photograph of No...

live in North America now.

Can you get your mind around that last number? Does it blow you away like it did me? Hearing it, all of a sudden, the questions which are the title of this post take on a whole new meaning! It ultimately comes back to our purpose, the question of why we were each born. It is an essential question which many deny, or deflect in rounds of meaningless pursuits, until they reach their life’s end and realize all too well the consequences of their choices.

Actions, and thus in-actions, have consequences. To deny we have a purpose in life is to deny an essential part of ourselves. Deep down, if we are being at all honest with ourselves, we all know we want to know why we’re here. We all want to know our purpose, our calling, our reason for being here.

The good news is to find your purpose, and then to start to live it out, is one of the sources of great joy in life. I know this from experience. While taking the Mental Fitness Challenge from LIFE, one of the lessons revolved around our purpose in life. I puzzled over that for days, until it finally struck me in a, “DUH!” moment of complete clarity. All of the sudden, many of the things I liked to do, that I was good at and enjoyed getting better at, were what I realized was part of me expressing my unique purpose in life.

What is your purpose? Why are you here? Why now? These are questions everyone needs to face. But we don’t need to face them alone. The same God who loves us so much, the One I spoke of in Who Loves You, Baby? is waiting to help you. Because, you see, it’s not just your purpose. It’s the purpose He created you to have. It’s what He formed you, and only you, to do. That unique purpose, that special mission to a time, to a place, to a people is why you are here now, in this time, in this place and with these gifts. I welcome you to the journey of discovery in finding the joy of why you were born.

I wish you joy in your journey,

Cathy