The Art of Letting Go: Painful Past

Fairy taleFrom the moment we are born, time is a great challenge for us. We learn to read the clock around the age of 6 or 7 and we build our life around the time, but we never have a good understanding of time. Although we all have the same amount of time, we treat it differently.

The movie In Time is a wonderful masterpiece about our relationship with time. The movie Tuck Everlasting is another wonderful attempt, examining life without the limitation of time. The concept of time is so interesting for me that I have dedicated a whole book to our existence in this puzzle of past, present and future. In this book, I do not claim to understand time, just to explore it. I think that time can be a servant or a master and that we can be trapped in time or freed by it.

One of the biggest miseries of life is to be trapped in a time we no longer have control over – the past. Many of my clients come to coaching to understand this and to free themselves from the pain of the past. If you have had a chance to read the previous chapter about blame and justification, you probably understand the limitations of living in the past and allowing the past to limit. Whenever we have a bad experience and we use the past to justify it, we keep ourselves stuck.

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The Art of Letting Go: Trapped by Labels

Human stereotype wordsCreating labels is another function we use in order to help us survive this world. Humans use labeling to manage the complexity of our environment.

Think about schooling. We send all the kids within a date range to 1st Grade when the difference in age between them is much higher than that between the youngest child in 2nd Grade and the oldest child in 1st Grade (could be just one or two days). We have built a whole education system on that huge range of 365 days, in which kids were born at different times of the day, have different family structures, live with a different number of other people in the same house, come from different socio-economic backgrounds and have different interests. Still, we categorize them all as 1st Graders.

Labeling is part of our day-to-day life. We do it for our own sake and not necessarily for the sake of those we label.

If you take 1,000 random people and put them next to each other, you will not find two that have the exact same skin color or the exact same hobbies. Yet, we often label people by skin color or say they all love drawing, although their skin is different in shade and texture and some love drawing animals, some prefer to draw plants and each person uses a different technique.

In 1930, Linguist Benjamin Whorf came up with the “linguistic relativity hypothesis”. According to him, the words we use not only describe what we see, but actually determine what we see.

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Make a List: Inspiring People

The Dalai LamaInspiration is contagious. It is the act of giving without the intention of giving that touches people at their core and helps them move forward towards being better, stronger people.

When I take stock of my life, my behavior, my attitude, beliefs and feelings, I often discover that other people have contributed greatly to who I am. When people have contributed in a bad way, I say that because of them or something that happened with them, I got stuck in a bad place in my life. In a sense, I am blaming them for being part of my life. When they have contributed in a good way, I say they have inspired me or encouraged me to reach where I am now. I am grateful and happy that they have been part of my journey.

My mom and dad influenced me in different ways, because they were totally different people. As a kid, I had lots of criticism towards them. When I started my personal growth experience at the age of 16 (lucky me, I was young), I changed the question from “How did they screw up my life?” to “How did each of them inspire me?” It is amazing how many great answers I have received.

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Accepting vs. Expecting Bad Luck

clip_image004_thumb[3]It has been a little while since I last wrote a post (OK, a long while). Sorry for the extended hiatus. I was recently accepted into an honors degree in Psychology and in order to graduate before I am old and grey, I took on some extra subjects. A lot of study and not a lot of sleep going on, but in any case, I have been bursting with ideas for posts. I thought I would put in a quick one for your reading pleasure. The topic: accepting vs. expecting bad luck.

A friend of mine, Ashleigh, has been having a bit of a hard time. Things have been going a little pear shaped and getting a bit too much for her. Unfortunately for my friend, this is somewhat of a recurring theme in her life. In any case, we chatted one night about life, love and the universe, and Ashleigh decided to justify her predicament by saying that bad periods in life should be expected. Things HAVE to go wrong at some point and we should not be surprised when they do.

Well, I do not know about that. I would be the first person to concede that life is a rollercoaster (especially my life!). It has its ups and downs, and you cannot truly appreciate the good things if nothing bad ever happens. But there is a huge difference between accepting bad things and expecting them.

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Complaint-free Life: How to Stop Complaining

The success ladderThere are simple rules to know if you complain and could benefit from doing something about it:

  1. If you behave aggressively, rudely, sarcastically or critically towards yourself or others, these are forms of complaint
  2. If you want someone else to change something and you tell them so, that is a form of complaint
  3. If your feedback is focused on what does not work, that is a form of complaint
  4. If you stress about things not happening the way you want them to and you say it, that is a form of complaint
  5. If you tell others that they need to appreciate you for not complaining about something, that is … a form of complaint

Before and After

The first thing you need to do is measure your starting point. Rate your level of complaining from 1 to 100. If you complain a lot or are frustrated a lot, give yourself a higher number. If you do not complain much, give yourself a lower number.

Often, we cannot see our own problems and we think we complain 25%, while others think we complain 50%. This is why it is a good idea to do this experiment with the help of family members and ask them to rate your complaints too. Keep a record of what they think of you. It will be good to compare with their opinion after you have made some changes.

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Smoking Parents – Smoking Kids

Man and the benefits of stopping to smokeMy dad was a smoker. He was a heavy smoker, consuming 1-2 packs of cigarettes a day. I remember my older sister having many fights with him over this. She complained, he tried to quit for couple of days and then went back to smoking. I did not have an opinion about it. All the men I knew smoked. It seemed natural to me. My mom was a very silent complainer. She never smoked but could not change his mind. In some cultures, smoking is much more acceptable and is a status symbol. It was a manly thing to do.

One day, my dad discovered that my brother, who was 14 years old then, stole his cigarettes and smoked with his friends. My dad was furious and started screaming at him. I was about 11 and I remember us standing there and accepting that my brother did the wrong thing. But then, while he was screaming his head off, my older sister, who was 15 years old at the time, said to my dad, “How can you tell him he can’t smoke and it’s not good for him if you smoke so much yourself?!” (I always admired her guts). The amazing thing was that he stopped screaming and walked furiously out of the house. It was the last day he ever smoked. Unfortunately, my brother still smokes today, even after he had a heart attack at the age of 45.

Parents who smoke hurt their kids, not only by making them passive smokers, but also by setting an example that they can never take back. Do you know how many times since then I have heard my dad asking my brother to stop smoking? Thousands. Unfortunately, he was too late.

In some cultures, smoking is very acceptable and is even a status symbol, “the manly/cool thing to do”. A few years ago, we went to visit my family and my uncles were there, all of them smokers. One of my uncles asked Gal, “Would you like a cigarette?” Gal said, “No, thank you. I don’t smoke”. Then, he asked, “Would you like a beer?” and Gal said “No, thank you. I don’t drink beer”. My uncle looked down at him and said, “You don’t smoke and don’t drink. What kind of a man are you?”

Read more about how to stop your kids from smoking

Complaint-free Life: What are you complaining for?

Complaining for sympathy

Visual joke about complainingComplainers find at a very early stage of their childhood that crying, originally a form of communication, is in fact a wonderful way to get attention. Crying was OK and normal when they were young, but in a way, complainers that use their complaints to get sympathy and attention are like children who have not evolved. They are a lot like 3-year-olds throwing a tantrum because things are not happening the way they wanted them to. Complainers often complain about themselves and draw attention to their bad heath, lack of skills, abilities and looks and include self-pity.

To overcome this tendency, think of good ways to get attention, use Pride Therapy and draw attention to your successes. You will get much more attention that way.

The usual fortune of complaint is to excite contempt more than pity
– Samuel Johnson

Complaints as justification

Many complainers use this strategy to avoid changing. When they are in conflict, they complain about others to force them to change and direct the responsibility away from themselves.

Another reason is to justify being rude or aggressive. If they complain, it means the other person must have done something that deserved their rudeness and aggressiveness. This is a very dangerous belief to have and the associated behavior is a form of abuse.

The third reason is to complain to justify avoidance. If I complain, it means I can postpone making decisions or doing something that I am afraid of doing.

Read more about how to rid the world of complaints

Complaint-free Life: Complaints and Complainers

Complaining hurtsSome people think that life is hard and that the harder it is, the more people complain about it. I tend to think it works the other way around – the more we complain about life, the harder it becomes.

When my youngest sister traveled to the Far East at the age of 20, I made her a journal with many quotes and wishes to accompany her on her journey, which was supposed to take between 6 months and a year. I clearly remember writing “May you stay away from whining, complaining people, for they suck the energy from you”. That happened about 20 years ago, but I still think that complainers make life harder for those around them.

I was a complainer myself until the age of 16. My life has had very distinct turning points and 16 was a big one when I switched from being a complainer to being “action girl” and that was empowering and gave me a lot of control over my life.

We all have things we are not happy about. We just have to be careful not to allow them to take over our entire life. If you are a complainer, there is probably one big reason happiness does not knock on your door – complaints repel happiness. While one occupies your mind, the other one runs away.

The dictionary defines a complaint as a statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable. A complaint is a statement that “something is wrong”, but when you see too much “wrong” around you, you start to believe it to be reality. The problem is that some people consider complaining to be a useful form or expression and even part of their identity. Constant complaining starts from insecurity and is very unhealthy for your mind, body and soul.

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Emotional Summer

Sunflower girlI love summer. I could bathe in the sun the whole day. When it is very hot and people wish for a breeze or seek the comfort of the air conditioner, I still prefer the heat. It makes me happy.

When Gal and I lived in Thailand and the humidity was extremely high, I never complained. I take a shower with such hot water that it is too hot for Gal. I have lived in Texas and loved it. I have lived in California (that was OK), Thailand and Singapore (loved it), and now I live in Brisbane, Australia, doing my best to forget the 3 miserable years in Melbourne, Australia, because I was so cold there.

There is a joke that says Melbourne has 4 seasons in one day, because the temperature changes dramatically every couple of hours. I found that to be true, but the only 4 temperatures I recognized were “cold”, “very cold”, “extremely cold” and “freezing cold”. Maybe I have different temperature receptors. I just love the warmth and the heat, and it boosts my health and wellbeing.

Our emotional state is very much like the weather. Everyone has different receptors and a different optimal temperature. It is important to understand that we have different ways of reaching our optimal temperature.

In the same way we adjust our water temperature and volume in the shower, Gal and I use different ways of coping with situations in our lives. Gal prefers to talk about the situation and analyzing reasons and options, while I prefer doing things that will make me happy and distract me, at least for a while, until I calm down and consider the situation from a distance and come up with solutions. It is very important to note that both of us, although we use different methods, are trying to reach happiness within.

Read more about how to be happy in life

Be Friendly, Be Happy

Happy girls sitting on grassPeople are social creatures. They live in groups, they need the groups and they rely on the groups to survive. This creates some dependency that no one likes. Yes, some people need friends more than others do, but living on our own, not seeing or being in contact with the outside world, would bring an end to human kind.

Friends and friendships are very important to all people, even to those who find it hard to admit, and what social skills we do not have naturally, we can develop.

In the past year, I have had many opportunities to talk and write about my successes. When I examined each of them, I realized that being a very social creature, loving people, understanding the way they function and using my good social skills were real assets to me.

Social skills – Nature or Nurture?

I have not always been a very friendly person. Not that I did not like company, but until the age of 16, I did not really understand the social rules I needed to live by. I had no friends, I got into frequent conflicts with the ones I did hang around with and I was lonely and miserable. My parents had no friends either, so I could not learn from them the right things to say and do around other people.

Then, I stopped reacting without thinking about the impact it has on my relationships and I learned that friendly people are happy people and that social skills can be learned.

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