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Showing Up

Update since last podcast: We last talked about how to let a loved one do the work to address their own problems, when you are a helper type. Easier said than done, when you both are addressing the respective trauma in your lives. It is easy to be attracted to someone who hurts as much as you do because of life's traumas--especially if you are both "sensitive cupcakes" (his term)--because you think you can help. But then, you end up ignoring or diminishing your own needs, and your own mental health.

In the September podcast on "Valuing Your Time," my host Linda McShan of Los Angeles and I honed in on how valuing your time is really valuing YOU. And how you can look at yourself more closely when in a relationship, if you can resist the urge to keep looking at (and being absorbed and distracted by) the other hurting person!

It is crucial to keep focused on your own growth and healing.

When you hurt or have experienced trauma, you know you can seek to expand your own selfcare. I've written and talked in the past about the importance of investing in your own wellbeing and a healthy mental journaling, hiking, Artists Dates, talking with friends, socializing, working with a therapist, all forms of physical exercise, meditation, prayer, gardening, fishing, bicycling, and so on. These are important actions and "coping mechanisms," for sure.

Beyond these ideas, how do you continue to SHOW UP FOR YOURSELF? Here are the items we discussed in the October podcast, using my own experiences as context for the changes and growth I am undertaking (Podcast link here):

1. Get clear with your priorities. Um, yeah; YOU are your priority. In the end, there's only you. You are really all you have. Shedding co-dependence means you are not only more independent, you learn to depend on yourself and trust your own ability to get what you need. Celebrate your YOU-ness, share your gifts but don't deplete them or you, keep yourself in reserve but open to life's joys and discoveries in the context of your unique journey.

2. Commit to your passions. I have many! But one of them is travel and exploring new places, vistas, hikes, cultures, food, people. This fall, I returned to Mena, Arkansas, which I had first visited in April 2021. At that time, I went to the place and experienced it as somewhat progressive for such a small and isolated town in the western hills of Arkansas' Ouachita Mountains. Mena, what appears to be a geographically isolated enclave, has accepted an influx of Texans and their money, the Amish, builders and entrepreneurs, artists and even gay people these days. The town actually invites more than 1.5 million tourists each year as a gateway between Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas that is situated on a well-promoted scenic highway with overlooks along the ridge of the state's second tallest mountain. On this visit, while enjoying Mena's emerging eclecticism, I also pondered Mena's history as a "sunset town," where black folk were asked to leave by sunset for many decades (because it was physically dangerous for them to be there should they stay). I thought about the upcoming contentious run for Governor of Arkansas, where black nuclear physicist and Democrat Chris Jones has run his hyper-local campaign against the nationally-backed campaign of Republican candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders. All the pundits and polls see Huckabee-Sanders as a shoe-in, given the force of the money and right-wing conservatism behind her. However, Chris Jones has walked a mile in many small towns while on his campaign trail throughout Arkansas, inviting supporters and citizens to join him and carrying his message of putting love and unity at the heart of our dealings as human beings, while we work to better our state and the conditions of our neighbors. His mile walk through Mena served as a sober reminder of history's attempted lessons of non-violence, and of the changes that like-minded people continue to press for. In truth, racism and segregationist views and policies have not left the South, they've simply gone underground, thinly veiled by "coded" language and sophisticated political shenanigans and media manipulation.

I, for one, admire the courage and passion Chris Jones has displayed by calling for changing the divisive course of politics and public discourse that plague our nation. By focusing his campaign on the people and the issues, Chris Jones' campaign harkens back to the days when running for a higher political office meant you were seeking to make change, and not just headlines (or Tweets, or Shares, or Likes. Or cash endorsements.) Maybe I'm being hoodwinked--who can tell in this day and age, really--but I have found myself inspired by his campaign, and it's been a long, long time since I could say that. His forthrightness has also prompted me to reflect: What do I need to do next? How can I help? It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in.

When you commit to your passions, things change.

3. Acknowledge and honor your feelings. No change really happens without some pain or discomfort. When you are experiencing growth, you may consider leaning your pain and discomfort...even more. In the last podcast, we talked about how emotional pain is like a jab from a spear that pierces you skin and requires you to clean up the wound...feelings are unavoidable, so feel them. Get help and emotional support if they are too overwhelming. When we have a physical wound or malady, we go to the doctor or other medical experts for help; why would you ignore or downplay when you have a mental or emotional wound that you need help healing? There is a video by circulating on social media right now that depicts a teenage girl riffing in a soliloquy about this very topic: she play acts for the camera a conversation with an imaginary friend that the "bone sticking out of her leg" (a physical analogy to the mental / emotional stress she is experiencing) does not need help! "I'm fine," she says. (Here's the Facebook video link.) Isn't it ironic (and wrong) that we continue to think we can handle these pains and wounds on our own?

4. Take action. Follow through on your commitments to yourself. Showing up in your own life means that you keep taking steps. Keep focused on your needs. Get them met. Resist the urge to subordinate your needs again. However this looks like for you..

5. Keep negative thoughts in check. When you ruminate or go over and over something negative or hurtful in your head, reprogram those thoughts first by STOPPING them. Tell yourself that's "Stinking Thinking," and stop thinking those thoughts. (Alcoholics Anonymous uses the "Stinking Thinking" stop.) My professor colleague back in Southern California often said she found it helpful to visualize a red STOP sign in her mind. Whatever tricks you can use to stop yourself, do that. Eventually you can reprogram your mind, or replace that "bad programming" with something more helpful. It isn't a coincidence that America's most public therapist and TV personality, Dr. Phil, has as his signature challenge to people in pain: "How's THAT WORKING FOR YOU?" Shedding unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, and behavior is the hallmark of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT, that is one of the most practiced and perhaps most useful of the tools in modern psychology today for helping fellow human beings get out of a rut and learn to practice better selfcare.

6. Appreciate your "mirrors." My friend and podcast host, Linda McShan calls this "each one, teach one." This process of revolutionizing the mind, she posits, is about walking alongside your fellow human, and allowing them to mirror you back to you, while you may mirror them back to you mutually agree to grow and share, in an unthreatening manner, and with the love and generosity you may experience in friendship as a "witness" to one another's lives. This cannot be toxic, or it won't work. What WILL WORK are: respectful exchanges, a willingness to look at your own faults, and an appreciation for having someone you trust "speak into your life" as a necessary ingredient for your growth. As you serve as a witness for their life, and as you allow them to serve as a witness for your life, it is important to not just agree or unconditionally support another; you also can successfully tackle your independent and shared issues, if you commit to this change and the rules for engagement, together.

7. Let others learn to speak for themselves. Let's say you are the verbal one; if you are a helper type, you probably are! But, you will need to learn to step back, so others can step up. It is a fine line between fighting for someone to get better, and taking away (or enabling) their ability or drive to do it for themselves. Sure, you can model "speaking up for yourself." You can even offer words that may help. But, ultimately, you will need to be a bystander. It can be more rewarding to witness change, understand how and why someone is changing, and even celebrate and encourage their successes and wins, no matter how small. This can be the most important work you do, if you are learning not to care about someone else's change more than they do!

8. Learn during the changes. "We are steady learning. We are steady going. We are steady changing, " Ms. Linda says. We are getting those "aha" moments. For ourselves. We are understanding what is happening to us and for us, while we are going through it. We are conscious and reflective. We are going deeper, and we are more in tune with our spiritual and emotional selves. What a glorious thing. What a gift, to be able to watch and understand YOUR OWN METAMORPHOSIS.

9. Practice the self care. It goes without saying, of course, that setting aside the time to nurture yourself, physically, spiritually, emotionally, never ends. Have a conversation with yourself. It's our minds that block us; transform your thinking. Ms. Linda pointed out in this section of the podcast that regardless of whether it's a SUNSET TOWN, or not, you know what TIME it is...and when it's TIME TO GO HOME. Metaphorically, she was underscoring the idea that you can turn off or turn down the hurtful information that is coming your way; you can choose to reject the ideas and people that are harmful to you; you can avoid danger when you sense it coming your way. And, we talked about the importance of mentoring and how telling your own story can help inspire and change the paths of others. "If you can see it, you can be it" is a powerful notion. We can serve as mentors to our youth who are suffering. With deceptiveness and despair being dished out and promoted on a minute-by-minute basis in our and their lives, we can add a reality check. What you see and hear may NOT be the truth; in order to know and speak your own truth, you can start SHOWING UP in your own life.

All in all, the podcast meandered, but I think we covered some important points. I hope these may prove useful to you on your journey.


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