Archive for August, 2008

Is Anyone Listening?

Is Anyone Listening? – Lauren Kennedy –

We take communication for granted. We all know how to talk. It has become as automatic as breathing for many of us. So we seldom consider the possible impact of our words or how frequently they are misinterpreted.

And although talking comes easily for most, the second aspect of communication is conveniently overlooked. Very few people are effective listeners, and typically aren’t enthusiastic about learning this skill.

There are many forms of communication; the printed word, photographs, non verbal communication, all forms of art, and the various forms of audio and video media. Additionally, there are different types of communication. There’s the kind that tries to sell you something, the kind that tries to convince you or something, outright propaganda, communication for entertainment, communication to shock, and more rarely communication that objectively relays information.

Effective communication is the primary ingredient that determines the quality, duration, understanding and cooperation that we experience in our relationships.

Communication skills are most crucial when we are faced with some sort of conflict, misunderstanding, discomfort or frustration with another person or situation. Communication can mean the difference between ongoing conflict and satisfactory resolutions. Unfortunately, when communication skills are inferior, or when patience is in short supply, these situations erupt into violence, physical or emotional.

I have included an effective method for clearing the lines of communication in difficult situations. I have had excellence results when I apply all the steps. This method will identify and address misunderstandings, encourage others to take you seriously, affirm your right and responsibility to state your needs and feelings and result in a resolution to the situation. It is especially useful when: you have a problem with someone’s behavior, your boundaries have been violated or you want to make a request concerning your needs or feelings.

But remember, you must follow all the steps for this process to be effective.

What’s the Problem?
You must have a clear understanding of the problem before you can communicate effectively. So write the problem down as clearly and honestly as possible. No one else need see this statement, so you can express yourself freely.

Include the person involved (who), time and setting (when), what bothers you about the situation, your feelings about the situation, how you would normally tend to deal with it, what fears you have about the possible consequences if you were to be assertive, and finally, your behavioral goal.

For example:
When I ask my children (who) to do their chores (when) and they ignore my requests or do a sloppy job, and tell me they did their best and other kids don’t have chores.(what) I feel frustrated and confused(feelings).  I try to figure a way to get them to comply without yelling or disciplining them. (how) Normally, I would just explain, for the hundredth time why they need to comply with my wishes hoping, and that this time (insanity), they will say, “Gee Mom, no problem, I’d hadn’t thought of it that way before.” I’m afraid I may be expecting too much of them or that they will feel inadequate if I criticize their efforts. (fear) I would like to trust my decisions and be consistent with consequences in spite of my emotional reactions to their incredible skill at pushing my buttons. (goal)

Designate a time: Find a mutually convenient time to discuss the problem with the other person involved. Timing is extremely important. If someone is preoccupied, agitated, or in a hurry, your communication efforts can end in disaster. This step, of course, would be omitted in situations where immediate action is required.

Describe the Problem: Clearly state the reason, the situation or behavior that is a problem for you. Don’t make the mistake of expecting other people to be mind readers. Most people are wrapped up in their own thoughts and problems, and will have very little idea about what’s going on with you unless you state your case explicitly. Being a friend or a lover does not make one a mind reader. Clearly outline your point of view, even if what you’re describing seems obvious to you. This will allow the other person to get a better idea of your position. Describe the problem as objectively as you can without using language that blames or judges.

“I’m expecting an important phone call. It’s important that the caller can get through, but that may not be possible when the phone is constantly tied up.
You’ve been on the phone for hours, talking about frivolous things when I have important business to attend.

Express your feelings: By telling other people about your feelings, you let them know how and why their behavior affects you. Even if the person you’re addressing completely disagrees with your position, they can not dispute your feelings. And typically, most people are more responsive to your feelings than to your opinion.
Remember that your feelings and reactions are your responsibility. Do not imply that the other person is the cause. It is your perceptions, beliefs, assumption and experiences that contribute to your emotional state. You do want to identify the specific action that triggered your feelings, but be certain to take responsibility for them. The best way to ensure this is by always remembering to begin statements about your feelings with I rather that you. I-statements acknowledge your responsibility for your feelings, while you-statements generally accuse or judge others, putting them on the defensive and obstructing communication.

Say, “I feel angry when it seems like you are not listening to me.”
“You make me angry because you never listen to me.”

Make your request: This is the key step to assertive and honest communication. You simply ask for what you want (or don’t want) in a direct, straightforward manner.

  • keep your request simple
  • ask for one thing at a time
  • be specific
  • Use I-statements
  • Object to behaviors and not personalities: Let them know you’re having a problem with something they are doing (or not doing), not with who they are as a person. Do not make a judgment about their behavior. Simply state how that behavior affects you.

It’s preferable to say: “I fee frustrated when you don’t call to let me know you’re going to be late,” rather than “I think you’re an inconsiderate knuckle head for not calling me to let me know you’ll be late.”

  • Make request, not demands or commands

In some situations and with certain people, offering positive incentives for their compliance with your request can be effective and promote a positive attitude. But this must be a honest exchange, in the spirit of cooperation, rather than a form of manipulation.

“If you pay for the gas, you can use the car to take your friends to the movies.”
“If you stop seeing that girl we don’t like, we’ll buy you a car.”

In other cases you can state the natural consequences (usually negative) of a failure to cooperate. Consequences should be appropriate and relevant to the situation and not arbitrarily imposed. The latter will likely be perceived as a threat and may increase the other person’s resistance. It is vital that you be prepared to follow through with the consequences if the person ignores your request. If you can not do it, don’t say it.

“If we can’t leave on time, then I’ll have to leave without you.”
“If you keep talking to me like this, I’m going to leave. We’ll talk again tomorrow.”

Not this:
If we can’t leave on time, I’ll hide the keys to your car so you will be late for work.

To recap: Clarify the problem for yourself. Agree on a convenient time to have a talk. Then clearly state the problem, how it affects you, how you feel, what you would like to occur, and the action you will take if your request is ignored.

In case you have any doubt about the effectiveness of this process, let me share a personal example with you.

When I started dating my husband, he had a habit of being late. He had been single most of his adult life and felt he had the right to come and go as he pleased. One evening we had planned to go to a social gathering at 7PM. He got off work at 4:30PM. It was after seven and I hadn’t heard a thing. This was an emotional trigger for me since my ex-husband had a habit of not coming home at all, due to extra curricular activities.

About 7:30 he called and told me to meet him at his mother’s. I did not bring the situation up while we were there visiting. However, on our way home, while I was debating what I was going to say, he asked me what was wrong. What I was thinking was “That was an inconsiderate and self centered thing to do.” But what I said was, “It may be due to by emotional baggage with my ex-husband, but when you are late I feel very upset. I would appreciate a phone call if you are going to be later than 6PM. Otherwise, I may make other plans and not be at home when you do show up.” He grudgingly said he guessed he could do that.

A few months later, he confirmed that if I had said to him what I had been thinking, he would have had a very different response. In which case, we probably wouldn’t be married with children today.

Never underestimate the power and/or repercussion of your words.

What you say and how you say it can change lives, yours and others.


August 31, 2008 at 4:12 pm 2 comments

The Elusive Essential

The Elusive Essential – by Lauren Kennedy –

It’s a new morning.

The alarm goes off and we lurch into consciousness. Outside our window the birds are chirping, proudly announcing their presence to the world.

What do you do? Do you hit the snooze and pull the covers over your head secretly dreading the day stretching ahead, anxiously planning ways to avoid criticism, rejection, shame and emptiness? Or do you determinedly get to your feet, check your schedule for the day and focus your thoughts to insure that your actions will be efficient, effective, on task, on target, resulting in excellence and success?

The second person is searching for that essential sense of peace and fulfillment  that the first individual has given up on ever finding.

We all want to be happy, to feel confident and capable. We all need to feel important, secure and useful in our close relationships. Without these qualities pain becomes suffering and joy is shallow at best, non-existent at worst. Self esteem is the foundation on which a fulfilling life is built. Without it joy, security,  and freedom are fleeting, dependent on the next achievement, the next word of praise, the next demonstration of importance. And even then, there is a vague sense of unease, emptiness, a sense of “is that all there is”. But we shake it off, and look for the next thing that will temporarily mask the discomfort that we feel.

Some of us, in an effort to eliminate that sense of unease, strive for external signs of success, in the form of career, income and respect. Others choose to dedicate their lives to the compulsive service of others or to one  humanitarian cause after another. Still others resort to various addictions – food, substance abuse, perfectionism, workaholic, fixing others, people pleasing, thrill seeking or rebellion. The list is extensive.

Self esteem is without a doubt the quality that can mean the difference between a life of joy and fulfillment and a life of despair, resignation  and tragedy. This quality, more than any other, determines the level of satisfaction, personal growth and positive influence that an individual creates and experiences in their life. There are three main aspects to self esteem: self efficacy, self respect, and self worth. Most techniques for improving Self esteem focus on self confidence and self respect.

Self Confidence is the conviction that one is skilled or proficient in specific endeavors.  Whereas self efficacy has more to do with an overall sense of self reliance  in coping with one’s life and one’s affairs. In general self esteem techniques focus on improving your self confidence through education, skill building,  communication skills, and  goal achievement.

Self respect is not about status or appearance. The basic ingredients for self respect are : Establishing your personal values and principles,  making choices and behaving in ways that are congruent with those values and principles, and affording others respect and understanding. However,  we must remember that it’s isn’t  the appearance of living according to our values and principles that is of importance. We must also examine our motives and true intentions. Hidden agendas that violate our principles, however well disguised, will erode our self respect on some level.

Unfortunately, even a person who has self confidence  in their social skills and business prowess, can lack an over all sense of self efficacy. Similarly, a person who lives according to their values and principles can lack a sense of self respect. And the reason is that they still do not possess self worth.

Self worth is very elusive and cannot be gained by achievements, perfect behavior, self sacrifice, altruism or skill building. If a person has worked on confidence in manyareas of their life and is scrupulous in maintaining their values and principles, they may manage to achieve a level of social acceptance and business success, but the internal discomfort and sense of inadequacy persists to a greater or lesser extent.

Some of the symptoms are a person with low self worth may experience are:  a sense that there is something inherently wrong with them, criticism, constructive or other wise  produce  immense shame and guilt, putting others’ expectations above their own,  and a variety of boundary issues.

In extreme cases the person feels that they must earn the right to be alive.   They may try to be invisible, so as not to make waves or take up space on one hand, but long for recognition on the other.
They judge themselves harshly and make excuses for other’s inappropriate behavior toward them. Sometime they don’t even realize that the behavior was inappropriate. They feel guilty when good things come into their lives because they aren’t certain that they have done enough to deserve them. They feel compelled to be constantly productive so they aren’t a burden. They can’t experience the joy of living and have a sense that nothing they do is good enough. They are filled with self doubt. And the harder they try to achieve a sense of worth, the more it seems to elude them.

You can’t identify them by appearance. They make certain to put on a happy face. They don’t feel they have the right to bother anyone with their despair and they can’t see a solution in sight.

Does a solution exist? Yes, but it doesn’t involve education, skills, achievements, selflessness or improved behavior. It doesn’t really involve “doing” as much as it involves “being” a different way. It does require insight, change, motivation and  courage.

Although affirmations and positive self talk are helpful, they are not enough for most. I know that they weren’t enough for me. Even when I finally cultivated the belief that I was important, I didn’t feel that way. I felt responsible for everyone else’s feelings and happiness but neglected my own. I dared not refuse a request because I did not want to feel selfish. If I did something well, I was terrified that I couldn’t do it that well again. Even compliments were uncomfortable because I wasn’t certain that I could live up to them. I denied my anger,  because I didn’t have the right, my fear, because it was weak  and my pain because it would distress others.

So I worked out my own methods for healing the quaking insecurity I felt inside.

The first step is simply acting as if you are worthy, acting like you count. You do this by  establishing  personal boundaries and sticking to them.   It is often difficult to establish healthy boundaries when you lack a sense of self worth. You will invariably feel that you are being selfish or that you don’t have the right to refuse another person or ask for what you need or express how you feel. A technique that I found that works very well is to think of someone that you love. Then think of the boundaries that you would recommend to them. I would think of my daughter. When I considered what I would tell her to do if she was in my situation, the answer became very obvious. It was also very different from what I had previously thought I should do.  Now, adopt those boundaries for your own. This means you must not let your feelings of guilt determine your behavior. It will feel very uncomfortable at first. Even if others try to tell you that you are being selfish, do not give in.

For awhile, every time you must make a decision involving your interaction with others, imagine you are advising someone that you love that is in the same situation. Then do what you would have advised them to do. Don’t give in to the temptation to tell yourself things like, it really isn’t that important, as an excuse to give in. Or I can handle the disappointment, as an excuse to deny your feelings and desires in order to placate others. Don’t give in to self-doubt, other’s criticism or guilt. After some practice, you will start feeling more comfortable with your new boundaries. You will start to feel that you deserve respect.

I have also found that recounting the situation to someone else, helps to put it into focus. While it was in my head, I was certain that I was expecting too much from others or I wasn’t giving enough. Once I described  the situation out loud to an objective listener, I realized that I was allowing others to treat me like a doormat. The distinction between taking care of myself and being true to myself versus being self-centered became clearer.

The bottom line is this: As long as I keep acting like I don’t count, that is how I am going to feel.

The next step is to express your feelings. Not your opinion necessarily. Your feelings are uniquely yours. You must be willing to express who you are or in a very real sense, you do not exist. Sometimes our feelings may cause others some discomfort. That is not a reason to reframe from expressing yourself. If you do, you are once again saying, by your actions, that you do not count. Say how you feel, without blaming, justifying, or apologizing. Do not make another responsible for your feelings. For better or worse, our feelings are the result of our life experience, beliefs and perceptions. We cannot identify the parts of ourselves that need to grow without honoring our feelings and what they tell us. And we cannot have an emotionally intimate relationship with another without the freedom to express ourselves fully.

Next you must identify your dreams or goals. Initially, do not concern yourself with whether or not they are practical. Especially do not reject a goal based on disapproval of another. Later, you can start  to prune your list, but initially, put down all your dreams, goals and desires. Once you are feeling some benefits from the previous steps, you can begin to trim your list based on your situation, your values, and your needs. You can seek suggestions from others who may have experience in similar situations. But do not eliminate anything on the basis of another’s approval. Your personal values will be the guidelines for determining if a goal causes to much upheaval for you partner or children. It may take some time to narrow the list down.  Just make certain that you based your decisions on your values and needs.  Do not entertain the inner debate on whether or not you deserve it. And do not let the hypothesis about how it will affect others have a major influence. Remember also that even if something appears impractical at first, creative thinking can nearly always find a workable solution.

Practice being present and aware in the moment. This requires learning to experience ourselves and our environment rather than always thinking about our circumstances and our performance. To test your level of awareness, just chose a doorway in your home and remember to make a mental note each time you go through it. You will probably be amazed at the very few times you actually notice passing through the door at the time.
Most importantly, find a spiritual practice. In this context, spiritual practice simply means, anything that silences the mental noise and connects you to you inner innate essence. It may be  mediation, communing with nature, a creative endeavor that flows from your center or listening to music that stirs you inside. Learn to recognize and experience that sense of expansiveness, excitement, desire and support deep inside. That is your Essence. That is where your power, your wisdom, your sense of wonder and sense of greatness reside. The more you can connect to that part of you, and then live life from that place of being, the less you will even consider the question of worth. You will realize that your existence here is proof of your worth and the special part you have to play in creation.

You exist to experience life and to express who you are. As you evolve from those experiences, you continue to express the greater you that you are becoming. Practice maintaining your conscious connection to that source of comfort and support inside. Your Essence is the Authentic you behind the defensives, self defeating beliefs, expectations and masks. Let it guide and support you. No one else can give the world the unique qualities that you have to offer. Strip off the layers of false beliefs, self doubt, guilt, conformity and judgment. Let the light of your Essence shine and experience life with enthusiasm. Spontaneously express the true you behind the masks. Tell the critic in your head to take a vacation. Life and the Universe desires each of us to Yes! I am here and this is who I am. Live the dreams of your Soul.
One glorious morning, you will wake up just as the birds do, singing with enthusiasm and proudly announcing to the world,

“Here I am!” “I am magnificent.”

That is how you will enthusiastically greet each wondrous day.   And that is the sweetest gift of all.

Tip: If you do suffer from lack of self worth, this article is meant to give you hope. It is not the total Program.  If you would like more information, please contact me by email or phone.

August 22, 2008 at 12:14 am 5 comments

Are You Being Photographed?

Are You Being Photographed? – Lauren Kennedy –

The on going conflict between the photographers and the rich and famous seems to be heating up. Feelings on both sides have been boiling for quite some time.  However , the steam is blowing the top off more and more frequently.

There seems to be two perspectives on this issue.

  • Rich and famous: The photographers have no right to infringe on their daily lives and the lives of their children. Photographing or documenting their private lives is a violation of their privacy. They should also be afforded privacy in public places if they are not officially posing for the media.
  • Photographers: The rich and famous knew the score when they aspired to stardom. Publicity played a part in launching them on the road to fame and is instrumental in maintaining their status as Stars. Common people are photographed if they are unfortunate enough to be caught in embarrassing moments, so why should the rich and famous be afforded special rights.

It seems to me that both sides have some valid points.  Using telephoto lenses to spy in on someone’s private life does seem to be a violation of privacy. And photographers following children is in poor taste and possibly emotionally  detrimental.  However, the suggestion that the only publicity and photographs  that should be published are those that have been approved by the rich and famous or their staff is a concerning violation of freedom of speech not to mention self serving and grandiose.

As is usually the case, a bit of common sense on both sides could result in a tolerable balance.  Unfortunately, we humans often loose touch with our common sense when we become consumed by our personal agendas.

The disturbing reality is that none of us has any guarantee of privacy, even in our own homes.  Surveillance equipment is available to most anyone and can be easily installed. Government agencies have video cameras that can clearly see into our homes from a helicopter or parked car. Information about the books we read, the shows that we watch and the products that we buy are readily available to many sources.

Does this invasion of our private lives ensure our safety or make us more vulnerable and subject to being controlled?

I am curious to know if anyone has some additional ideas, opinions or suggestions about the conflict between the rich and famous and the photographers or about the increasing intrusion into our own private lives.

I would love to hear any observations, thoughts or suggestions that you may have.  So why not take a moment, post a comment and be heard?
To Your Authentic Life,

August 16, 2008 at 7:06 am Leave a comment

Ignorance Is No Excuse

Ignorance Is No Excuse – Lauren Kennedy –

The Law of Attraction is only one aspect that shapes our experience. The Universal Consciousness is vast, multi faceted and multi dimensional. One action on the opposite side of the world can create a momentum that may include and/or affect many. And there are other Universal Laws in addition to the Law of Attraction. The Law of Cause and Effect comes to mind.

As unique individuals, we each have our own purpose, challenges and qualities that are the result of our past choices on our personal journey. Every experience we have alters our perceptions. Every choice we make results in a new set of possibilities from which to choose at that particular point in time and space. Choosing a path leading to the ocean will present different choices and perceptions than one that leads to the jungle. (an analogy).

Our thoughts and actions influence our personal experience of the world. But our passion, intention and motivation are even more powerful in creating our experience. Performing a good deed will produce vastly different personal energy depending on my motivation. When I help and person, if my true motive is to gain admiration of others, or to impress the recipient of my good deed, or to make myself feel better by assuaging some guilt, the personal energy I send out, and the energy that must eventually return will be very different than if I help another because that is what needs to be done.

My personal energy affects my experience in many ways. Frequently, someone will take an action with the intent to upset me or at least with disregard for my feelings in the course of pursuing their own goals. But in the end, incredibly, the situation somehow unfolds to my best advantage when instead of blaming or judging, I try to make the best of wherever I have landed.. This is not to suggest that I may need to take appropriate measures, reevaluate my boundaries or make different choices in the future.

A case in point:: I allowed a friend to stay in our home until he got back on his feet. He trashed the house, robbed us and caused some misunderstandings. I gave him a week to find somewhere else to stay. But when I see him, I treat him I as always did. I no longer feel angry and I still see his positive qualities. However, he’s not welcome to stay at our home.

Using the Law of Attraction to create according to the desires and purpose of our Authentic Self results in manifestations that are for the highest good of all concerned. However if we use the Law of Attraction to create for ego, the results are less harmonious. The Law of Attraction makes no distinctions. It will work for a Hitler as well as for a Martin Luther King, Jr.

On our evolutionary journey, we have evolved a brain with a huge  capacity. The way we focus that capacity, the connections that we use and the one that we do not, affects our neural evolution. Our total human focus on technology and material success has certainly accelerated our abilities in those areas. Unfortunately, we have not exercised our neural connections for spiritual growth with the same enthusiasm.

We have developed brains that are more and more adept at understanding technology in order to control, improve and exploit our environment. It would benefit us to develop the area of our brain that provides insight, intuition, spiritual awareness, and other subtle perceptions.

Our perceptions shape our reality. And our reality influences our beliefs, emotions and choices. We cannot create a harmonious world by focusing on technology, material abundance and intellectual prowess, alone.  We must also develop our innate abilities to perceive the subtle energies, expanded awareness and interconnectedness of life. We must evolve the neural connections in our brain to enlarge our concept of reality and dispel our fears.

Then we will perceive that everything is energy, physical form is arbitrary and transitional. Every element has three different forms; gas, liquid and solid. You create and experience life through your physical form, but it is not your essence identity.  Unfortunately, we construct many reactive, rigid identities, for protection, manipulation, expectation or default. We forget that we created these identities or agreed to them and the resulting stories that support them. Sadly, some of us become so disconnected to our true essence that we feel empty and life becomes meaningless.

We must understand that just as the Universe has unlimited potential and resources,  we have limitless raw materials (thought, passion, action) with which to manifest our own potential and true desires. As our perceptions expand and evolve to reveal this new reality, we will respect and utilize the Universal Laws rather than deny, resist or misuse them. Only then will we be capable and free to create a world of abundance and harmony for all creatures sharing life on earth.

By choosing to maintain a conscious connection with our essence and the Universe, we can expand and evolve that part of our brain that we have neglected. When we are consciously connected to our inner essence, we respond to the moment, taking the best action, in the best way and that particular moment in time, without hesitation. When we are aligned with the Universe, life may still require effort, but struggle is eliminated. Our essence, or spirit, our true self is the Universe’s gift to us. Expressing and  Being our true self is the our gift  to the world.

Lauren Kennedy

August 12, 2008 at 6:15 am 3 comments

Manage Yourself, Manage Your Life

Manage Yourself, Manage Your Life – Lauren Kennedy

Not enough time, not enough energy, not enough space. Too much information, too many obligations, too many deadlines, too many obstacles. No communication, no cooperation, no consideration. Over committed, over budgeted, over the barrel. Anxiety, insecurity, confusion, despair.

Life is out of control!

Sound familiar? In our fast-paced world many people feel this way at one time or another. But if you feel this way most of the time, it can be a stressful way to live.

Many books offer tips and suggestions for efficient time management, which are helpful and necessary. But often it’s an underlying attitude that sets the cycle of chaos in motion. Unless we correct our attitude, we will just be running around frantically trying to plug up the leaks in the dam. If you want to better manage your life, you first have to learn how to manage yourself. We need a different attitude and a different approach.

There are two approaches that set the scene for turmoil.   We are trying to control other people, places and things or we are trying to control other people places and things. Yes, I wrote that twice. That’s because there are two methods we use to control. One is easily recognizable. It goes something like this. “If everyone would just do things my way, everything would be fine.”

We tell others what they should do and explain to them why they should be thrilled to do it the way we say. After all, it’s for their own good. We plan every activity out in detail so nothing will go wrong, and when something or someone doesn’t proceed according to our script, we become angry. We can’t understand why others can’t do what they are told or why they would just ignore us. We become self righteous. After all, we spent our time and effort going beyond the call of duty to prepare a failsafe plan of action that everyone can follow.

If everyone would have just adhered to our plan, things would have worked out. So of course this disaster couldn’t be our fault. It must be the government’s fault, or the unemployed folks’ fault, or the barking dog’s fault, or perhaps it’s your fault. We try to anticipate every possible obstacle, every possible betrayal, every possible nuance, and every possible situation in which someone or something may disrupt our strategy, whether it’s by being irresponsible, ignorant, or just difficult. And when one domino falls in a way we didn’t anticipate…. we’re completely undone because we have no plan for that. That wasn’t supposed to happen. And besides, the moron should have known better. We told them what to do, after all.

Now sometimes we justify our incessant need to control by identifying it as setting goals and being prepared. We may even construe it as visualizing the specifics toward our desired manifestation.

But in reality, we are reacting out of fear.

Fear that things won’t turn out the way we want. Fear that we won’t succeed. Fear that we won’t know how to respond in a new situation. Fear that others will sabotage us. Fear that others are incompetent. Fear that the Universe won’t get it right. And fear is the ultimate enemy of success, relationships, health, joy and the freedom to have a fulfilling life.

Now we move on to control under cover. It’s more difficult to recognize but it’s also more stressful. We try to be perfect. We try to be agreeable. We rationalize and justify when we fall short. We try to meet everyone’s expectations and fabricate excuses or apologize profusely when we find it impossible to do so. We avoid conflict and shrink from making requests. Instead we drop hints, withdraw or use some other form of manipulation in the hopes that others will give in, feel guilty, read our mind or come to our rescue.

We fool ourselves into believing we are being selfless by giving in to others. Or we tell ourselves that what we wanted wasn’t that important, or that we can handle the disappointment, the inconsiderate treatment, etc.  Often we believe that others don’t value us or our opinions and feelings. We think people are taking advantage of our good nature. We don’t risk doing anything unless we’re certain we will perform with excellence and beyond reproach.

We can’t say no because we don’t want others to think poorly of us. We don’t follow our dreams because we feel compelled to meet the expectations of others. We don’t pursue our passions because we might embarrass others or ourselves. We fear being ridiculed and believe we will crumble if we are criticized. The result is that we feel used and discounted.

We can’t stand the disappointment of losing but we also don’t want others to be angry with us or feel resentful if we win, so we avoid the situation altogether.

Why? We are afraid.

Afraid others will get angry and get back at us. Afraid we’re not good enough. Afraid we aren’t important. Afraid others will ridicule or discount what we have to say. Afraid we might fail if we tried. Afraid to live life and afraid to express who we are.

These may be the extremes. But most of us, if we are honest can see one or two tendencies that are familiar. Fear is the motivation for control, whether it is overt control or manipulative and avoidant.

To gain a sense of order in our lives, we first must admit that we are afraid, something that we would all prefer to deny. Then we must accept that we typically cannot eliminate the cause of our fear. Something we really don’t like. But fear won’t kill us and fear itself doesn’t have to affect our lives in a negative way. It is our reaction and our attempt to resist the sensation of fear that produces our spiritual and psychological suffering. There is no easy three step action plan to eliminate fear. Believe me I would have found it long ago.

However, there are ways to walk through the fear. And it’s usually less painful that we had imagined.

The first step is to admit and acknowledge that the fear is there. You don’t necessarily have to do this out loud and publicly. But surprisingly, I have often found that people are not at all judgmental when I do openly admit to feeling afraid.  They actually seemed relieved to know that others feel the same way they do. Plus it does away with the stress of pretending to be cool, calm and collected when my knees are shaking and perspiration is streaming down my brow.

Realize that no matter how detailed your plan may be, life is unpredictable, people are unpredictable and even the most rigidly organized among us is at times, unpredictable. We cannot control what people do, no matter how convincing we are, nor can we control how others will feel about us no matter how agreeable we are.

The energy I spent in the past, trying to control people, places and things so I wouldn’t feel vulnerable, I now redirect into responding creatively to the situations that do arise, not the ones that could. Often I find that by being flexible, I am able to see and act on an opportunity in an unexpected situation. Ironically, the result is more satisfying than anything I could have orchestrated in my most detailed and researched plan. And what a nice surprise that can be.

Being flexible and having the ability to be spontaneous does not negate the need for preparedness.  Not being sufficiently prepared is a sure fire way to put your anxiety level into orbit. Being prepared is not the same thing as control. Preparation means, being knowledgeable about the situation or topic, practiced in any necessary skills, and being up to date on any relevant information.

The most important step that we can take to let go of control and manage our life is to work on ourselves. Inner growth is the most important strategy we have to eliminating the feeling of being out of control. It is a strategy that we must continue for our lifetime, if we are to enjoy continued growth and success.

No matter what kind of external success we may accumulate, if our insides are a mess, the successes quickly lose their significance. You can fix up a lemon of a car on the outside. It may look good and you may get a lot of compliments, but the ride won’t be much fun and it won’t get you very far.

Get spiritually connected, whatever that means for you. Practice integrity and consistency. Integrity takes care of any fear of being found out for a secret transgression and helps increase self-worth. A healthy sense of self worth always tends to make fear less debilitating. And consistency eases communication and strengthens relationships because others know what to expect from you.

But the bottom line is that we cannot avoid coming face to face with fear occasionally. Instead of letting fear consume you, take a step back and observe the fear and observe yourself, too. That process of switching from a subjective to an objective perspective often eases the intensity of the emotional response and minimizes negative self judgments. Remember, you are not your feelings. Your feelings do not define who you are or your measure as an individual and they do not have to control your behavior.

It’s how you respond and interact with your feelings that helps shape your character.

Our feelings are simply vibrations that move through us and produce sensations. Our fears give us information about ourselves if we can just stop and observe them. Information that can, if we chose to use it, enable us to grow, expand and enjoy a more satisfying life. When we try to avoid fear, we spend time and energy trying to control external conditions, which is a war we cannot win.  We can put that energy to better use. It is not necessary to be fearless to take action. It just takes the willingness to walk through the fear.  If we want to improve how we manage our life, we must let go of the compulsion to control, whatever form it takes.

To manage our lives we must learn to manage ourselves.

We can recognize which of our behaviors are controlling by identifying the motivation behind our actions. Control is typically motivated by fear in some form. We are often unaware of this or chose to ignore it. But the result is the same. The harder we try to control circumstances on the outside, the more out of control we eventually feel on the inside. Fear may be an uncomfortable sensation. Just like a headache or a sore muscle can be an uncomfortable physical sensation. We may prefer not to feel the discomfort of a headache or sore muscle but we seldom deny or run from them. What would be the point?

You cannot escape your feeling and you cannot out run yourself.

Accept that you are experiencing fear, but keep moving toward your goals and in alignment with your values and priorities. Then pat yourself on the back.

The most courageous people were afraid. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is taking action in the face of fear. And that is the greater accomplishment.

August 7, 2008 at 8:08 am 3 comments

Our life is an evolving creation, shaped by our choices, colored by our desires, and lightened or darkened by our intentions.
August 2008
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