Posted by: Barbara Hunt | June 14, 2015

Irrational, Painful Thinking

The way we think about ourselves, others, life, and events determines how we feel both emotionally and physically – and how we feel often determines how we act, meaning what we say or do or what we don’t say or don’t do.

All of us grow up making assumptions about ourselves that are not based in fact. No matter how healthy or dysfunctional your family is, all children come out of childhood with a certain set of irrational thoughts. These irrational thoughts cause many painful feelings such as worthlessness, inadequacy, shame, hurt, anger, depression, despair, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, confusion to name a few. These thoughts and accompanying feelings of worthlessness are the beginnings of our low self esteem.

The main irrational thoughts that children think are:
1. There must be something wrong with me.
2. I’m not smart or I’m stupid.
3. I’m not loveable.
4. No matter what I do, it’s never good enough.
5. I’m bad.

I call this “the tragedy of the childhood brain” because children have no other way to interpret many of their experiences. Children think in black and white: If I’m not perfect, then I’m bad. If Mom or Dad are mad at me, then I’ve done something wrong and if I’ve done something wrong, there’s something wrong with me: I’m bad, or unloveable, stupid, can’t do anything right, etc. Children also are self absorbed quite naturally. So if Mom is mad at me or neglecting me, then that must be ABOUT me and, again the assumption is, something is wrong with me. Children have no way of knowing the facts, such as Mom isn’t feeling well or Dad is an alcoholic or Mom or Dad are emotionally immature, and THAT’S the reason they are acting toward me the way they are.

Over and over as we grow up, we have experiences with parents, other children, and other adults, that we interpret as meaning there is something wrong with us. These thoughts become deeply ingrained beliefs. These beliefs, when triggered, lead to the negative, painful feelings. Our responses to those feelings are varied: withdrawing, acting out, being aggressive with others, not speaking at all, avoiding other people, trying to control others to name a few. We may try to numb this pain through dissociation – numbing out, overeating, substance and alcohol abuse, zoning out in front of the TV or the computer, overwork, staying busy, making sure we are never alone – all these will either deaden our pain or distract our minds from thinking those painful thoughts.

Our entire lives are colored by those conditioned, subconscious, untrue beliefs. If I believe that I’m not smart, I may not try things because I’m already convinced that I’ll fail. So, to avoid feelings of worthlessness and failure, I won’t try. Or I may move in the opposite direction, being a black and white thinker, and try to be good at everything and PROVE that I AM smart. This won’t save us from those feelings of worthlessness, however. Because none of us can succeed at everything. So when we DO fail, we feel bad. The same goes for believing I’m not loveable. I may avoid people and relationships because I have it set up in my mind that no one will love me and so to avoid the pain of rejection, I won’t try to get close to anyone. Or, I may go in the other direction, again black and white thinking, and try to please everyone and make everyone like me to PROVE that I AM loveable. But we can’t please everyone. Not everyone will love us. So we are back to the feelings of worthlessness and shame.

How do we get out of this painful mess?

Next time, I’ll write about how to change those beliefs and think with compassion and love about who we are.

Posted by: Barbara Hunt | June 10, 2015

Extending Compassion

Extending compassion to ourselves and to others can be a difficult endeavor.  At times, we may fail at giving it to ourselves and we may be betrayed by some of those to whom we have given it.  Nevertheless, it remains a worthwhile, immune system supporting, life giving, heart opening gift.  Extending compassion is extending love.  We all need love to survive and thrive just as a plant needs water and sunshine to do the same.

Posted by: Barbara Hunt | June 1, 2015

Caring for Your Mind, Body and Spirit

The mind, the body, and the spirit interact with each other, helping each other to stay healthy, helping us to heal from some type of disease or damage, or, if untended, contributing to illness in one of the other areas. What do you do for each? What would you like to do to nurture one or more of these parts of you that you may have been neglecting? Take baby steps in one area at a time. Is there something you can do a little less of so that you can add a baby step? Twenty minutes less of TV watching to do 20 minutes of meditating or relaxation and deep breathing or yoga? Twenty minutes less of internet time in the evening to set out healthy foods for you to take to work the next day, including healthy mid morning and mid afternoon snacks? Thirty minutes less of ? so that you can walk for 30 minutes every other day? Getting on the floor while you are watching TV to do a workout routine? Notice what your voice of resistance says. What do you want to say to your voice of resistance to gain his/her cooperation? What baby step do you want to take today to take care of your mind, body and/or spirit?