Friday, October 19, 2012

The good the bad and the ugly!

The good, the bad and the ugly!   
 Pain and Pleasure, The keys to transformation and long term change.

Realizing why we make the decisions we make and how our feelings affect us is a very tricky thing. We wonder why we grieve relationships that were toxic. We wonder why we carry emotional scars for years sometimes after an event. We wonder why even when we make a change that’s best in the long run we sometimes hurt and catch ourselves looking back. We question if change is really what we want, if leaving the old situation, person, job or (whatever) in search of happiness and fulfillment is really what is going to make us happy.

Ultimately our nervous system and subconscious naturally gravitate away from pain, we make nuero-associations about what causes us pain and naturally we move away from those causes and seek things that make us feel good. We naturally move towards things, events, circumstances that bring us pleasure and give us a sense of happiness, excitement and bliss.

That sounds like its simple doesn’t it? Its sounds like the issue is black and white. Why we would anybody ever stay in that abusive relationship or at a job that pays horribly and is unsatisfying. Why would we choose to keep anything in our lives that brings pain?

We all set goals, we say “I’ve had enough of living this way; I need to make some changes”. We diet, join gyms, get out of toxic relationships, decide try harder in marriages and all with good intentions for lasting long-term change. A lot of times our will power falters and we fail only to return to the safe house of familiarity, the rut of un-satisfaction and un-fulfilled hopes and dreams.  

Why do we fail when we know the changes and adjustments we need to make will bring us closer to our best and most happy life? Why do we lose our drive and will to succeed.

In the midst of those transitions we sometimes associate more pain with the change than we did with the original circumstance that we wanted to transform and make better. We get to a point during the transition that the discomfort and unfamiliarity cause us to waver, where we miss the old way, we fear the unknown and we long for the very thing that we are trying to change.

Think of a smoker, there are a hundred billion reasons to quit smoking. Why would anybody (and yes I’ve been there) want to keep a habit that is linked to so many health risks and is a serious waste of money. If pain isn’t associated with keeping the habit and pleasure isn’t associated with a healthy smoke free life then success for a permanent change will be extremely difficult.

Think of any drastic change you made in your life, what was the motivation? Chances are you knew you “had” to get out of that abusive relationship, you knew you “had” to quit drinking. You knew you “had” to return to school so you could gain better employment and take care of your family. You in essence associated more pain to not making this change than staying in the same place. You visualized and linked pleasure to what it would be like to succeed and move forward. You linked pleasure to the long-term consequences of this change.
The problem with the quick fix..

At times we will do anything to feel better “right now”. This is one of the reasons that addiction is such a tough problem to overcome. The person struggling with addiction has a hard time linking “pain” to the addiction when it brings “pleasure” even if it is short lived. This person may link more “pleasure” to continuing in the addiction than “pain” even if the consequences are brutal.

When we link both “pain” and pleasure to a situation it’s very hard to make a commitment to change and transformation. Most of us have had a relationship that when it was good it was the best thing ever and when it was bad it was the worst. When it was good it was a perfect 10 and when it was bad it was a horrible 1 or a 2. The rollercoaster drove us crazy and made us miserable but we stayed for far too long. The problem there is we linked both pain and pleasure to the situation. We thought if only we didn’t fight about ________, then things would always be perfect. Some of us waited and waited. Then when we finally had enough and got the courage to make a change for our own survival, we stayed the course for a time only to return the first chance we got or we found a similar person and continued down the same path. This is because we have linked pleasure to the situation as well. 

The good news is we can reprogram our nuero-associations. We can do this through reflection and visualization. When making a lasting change we need to associate massive pleasure to making that change and massive pain to not making the change. We can unravel the ropes of nuero-association by changing our belief systems, perspectives and idealogy.

In times of struggle we have to find the reasons to feel happy about the changes were making. There are exercises and skills that we all could use to achieve this. I’ll be writing more about how to get out of these ruts in days and weeks ahead. I’ve been there and I know there is a way out. For more info. I’m always an email or a phone call away…….

Be good to yourself

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dealing with "Change".

Change is a funny thing, its necessary, unavoidable, can’t be controlled and ironically its one “constant” we can rely on. Many of us avoid change in certain situations because we are reluctant to accept “the unknown”. Even in the crappiest of situations we sometimes refuse to leave the box of our limited beliefs because we find comfort in familiarity, even if its turmoil, we still make choices to stay in certain places because at least we know what to expect. Some of us stay in relationships, jobs and even moods that don’t suit us because of the fear of unfamiliarity. Some of us get stuck in circumstances because we are afraid to accept that we have hit a wall and need to adjust the route from point A to point B.

I am in no way saying that we should be creatures of un-commitment or that we should give up every time that something doesn’t work for us. What I am suggesting is “nothing changes if nothing changes”. We can’t expect different results without tweaking our plans if we are not progressing. Relationships end, jobs end, seasons end, lives end and though it seems like we should be able to count on something to anchor us; really one of the only things we can count on to stay constant is that fact that nothing in our lives can be controlled but ourselves and our decisions.

Sometimes change slaps us in the face unexpectedly and often we are sent into a tailspin desperately looking for something to hold onto to regain our sense of direction. Life undoubtedly deals us blows that come at inopportune times. Its never the challenge or the circumstances that define us, its simply our reaction to the adversity that these blows bring.
Here are some tips (in no particular order) for dealing with change.

Find the silver lining, there is a gift in everything. Yes even in loss. I once met a man that had lost his wife and daughter in a car accident. This man not long after was healthy, wise and had one of the most infectious personalities that I had ever seen. His take was that instead of dwelling on the time he was robbed of with his wife and daughter, he was thankful for the time he spent and the wonderful memories he had. That’s not to say he didn’t miss them intensely but instead of being overwhelmed in his grief he found a new perspective that helped him to endure his grief and keep moving forward. He found the outlook and perspective that suited him best.

Accept the circumstance. It’s healthy to mourn and grieve, we all must be allowed to feel what we feel but there will come a time when you’re ready to move forward or when you know you have to move forward. One of the most paralyzing and debilitating things we can do to ourselves is refuse to accept when change brings uncertainty or discomfort. It’s natural to be shocked, caught off guard and even grieve when change brings loss but in order to move forward we must accept. Acceptance brings freedom and is a huge step forward in conquering our fears of the unknown.

Decide. The most powerful thing we have going for us is decision. We can decide what is best for us, the steps to get there, what options we have, what actions suit us best and how fast we are going to get from point A to point B. When the gift or sliver lining has been found and acceptance has happened, the next step is to decide what your next move is. Decide what the perfect outcome would be. It might be a better relationship, a better friendship, a better job, a brand new journey like returning to school. During this transformation and new beginning why not shoot for the stars? Make good decisions that will produce the results that you are looking for. In order to do this we need to quiet our minds from all of the voice chatter. At this point the past is gone and nothing can be changed back there. We can set the stage for tomorrow and the days ahead but in reality all we have is the present. Find whatever it takes to quiet your mind. Meditation, exercise, whatever it is and protect your “presence” and your center. You need to be centered and fully present to make the best and most powerful decisions during this pivotal time. Think about it, when were preoccupied and overwhelmed we often overlook the obvious. 

Embrace change. Change is inevitable just like pain but suffering is optional. If you look back through your life and reflect on the changes that you have been through both positive and negative, I think you will see that you have always figured out a way to weave through and move on. Some changes and circumstances were dealt with quickly and less painful than others. This is a time for growth and a new journey. A new chance to experience new things, new people, new ideas and to learn more about ourselves. I think you will find the quicker you can embrace change the quicker change won’t seem as scary. It’s crucial that we find reasons to embrace change instead of reasons to dread and fear change.

Remember you are strong, creative and have something to give to this world. Regardless of the situation don’t be too hard on yourself, love yourself and give yourself a break. Surround yourself with positive people and find the answers you need to grow and move forward. The answers are out there and sometimes we already know what they are.

Be good to yourself!