Monday, November 30, 2009

Disappointment as a process

I've been working through the exercises in a workbook by Cheri Huber called, "How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything."  (This is, by the way, an absolutely wonderful workbook that really stimulates self-reflection in a way that is quite different from anything else I've ever seen).  One of the exercises asks, "How do you get disappointed?"  It goes on to ask you to try to identify the process of disappointment.  Here's what I wrote:

The Process of Disappointment:

1. Pre-Existing Mental States:
Desire (ego mindset): Desire for a certain thing to happen

Attachment: Attachment to a specific outcome

Expectation: Expect a certain thing to happen/expect people to behave a certain way
(Assumption = people should always behave in a kind and respectful manner)

2. Event Occurs:
Outcome is not what is desired or expected

3. Ego Injury:

Thoughts contributing to disappointment/ego injury:
*He should...[do a certain thing or know better than to do something, etc.]
*She shouldn't...[act that way, treat me that way, etc.]
*He/she did this to me on purpose.
*Why me?  [In life, everyone experiences pain and bad things happen to everyone.  Why would one person be exempt from this?  The real question is "Why not me?"]
*I should've known better.  It's my fault.
*This isn't fair.
*This shouldn't be happening to me.
*I won't let this happent to me again.  [This triggers defensiveness].

Here's the thing.  People don't always behave how we think they should.  Despite our best efforts things don't always turn out as planned.  Bad things happen to everyone -- no one is exempt from this.  It is natural to feel disappointment (or any other emotion).  We do not, however, have to get stuck there.  The thoughts listed above are unhelpful and inaccurate perceptions of reality.  We can begin to recognize the thoughts, assumptions, and/or beliefs we have about ourselves, about other people, and about the world that contribute to our suffering.  Then we can ask ourselves what it takes for us to let these go.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Creative block

I haven't posted a new blog entry in over a week.  It seems like it's been forever.  I feel guilty about this, which makes me think that perhaps I'm putting too much pressure on myself.  After all, isn't blogging supposed to be a hobby -- something you do for fun?  Why, then, would I feel guilty about not doing it for a week?

The truth is I've been going through a sort of "creative block."  (Writers call this "writer's block" but I don't really consider myself to be a "writer" so I'm calling it creative block).  I was a bit curious about why this happens so I decided to spend a few minutes seeing what the internet has to say on the subject.  One website,, describes creative block as "running low on the fuel that fires us to art."  That led me to wonder what exactly IS the fuel that fires us to art.  I personally believe that for many people this fuel is EMOTION.

Another website,, also talks about creativity needing fuel.  It suggests that a good mood is great fuel for creativity.  This seems to be consistent with my theory that emotion is the fuel that drives creativity.

Wikipedia, the expert on all things great and small, states that depression can cause creative block.  I found this interesting because it suggests that not only does emotion FUEL creativity it can also STAND IN THE WAY of creativity. 

Personally, I think depression is the most likely culprit for my recent lack of creativity.  There have been several times in the past week where I've thought about sitting down and composing something for my blog but then decided I just didn't feel like it.  Fortunately, my mood seems to be improving enough to get my creative juices flowing again.

There are a couple of lessons I've taken away from this experience.  1. Take a few days off if necessary and 2. Don't beat yourself up about it.  Everyone needs a break sometimes.  3. Don't be afraid to push yourself to do things you "don't feel like" doing.  If you wait until you feel like doing something you might never get it done.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Sometimes I feel and connect deeply with the belief that I can be happy no matter what is going on in my life externally.  During these times I am at peace.  I find joy in little things.  I am hopeful about the future.  I do not get upset when something stressful or unexpected takes place.  I accept reality as it is and I am confident in my ability to handle what happens.  These are good times, especially because I have suffered from periods of depression since adolescence and for years I longed to feel at peace with myself and the world.

Unfortunately, mood disorders appear on every branch of my family tree.  Even for those who were never formally diagnosed with a mood disorder there are antecdotal stories about each person's life that suggest some sort of disturbance of mood.  I have come to accept that I inherited a genetic predisposition to depression.  I have also accepted that there will most likely be times throughout my life when depression threatens to rear its ugly head.

So sometimes I feel and connect deeply with the belief that I can be happy no matter what happens in my life.  These are good times.  There are also times when I neither feel nor connect with this belief.  These times are difficult.  Sometimes I feel distressed.  Sometimes I feel empty.  Often I don't feel like doing anything at all.  These are times when faith becomes important.

Faith means believing in something when you have no proof of its existence.  For me, it means believing that I can be happy no matter what even when I don't feel that way.  It means knowing that my life has a purpose even when I can't remember what it is.  It means trusting that bad feelings pass and that things always get better. 

Faith is how I deal with sadness.  It's how I get through bad days.  I shared this because I think sometimes we all need a reminder that hard times, like everything else in life, don't last forever.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


As a helping professional I talk a lot about compassion and I place a lot of value on it.  I decided to explore what exactly is meant by compassion. 

Compassion is first (but not only) a feeling.  It is an emotional experience.  When you feel compassion for someone you feel pain, sorrow, and sadness because that person is suffering.  You imagine how that person feels and you try to put yourself in that person's shoes.  You empathize with that person.

Compassion also requires action.  To be compassionate one must not only feel compassion but must also EXPRESS sorrow and sympathy to the person who is suffering.

Finally, compassion involves a desire to alleviate the other person's suffering.  Along with that desire comes a willingness to take some action to help alleviate the person's suffering if it is possible to do so.  If there is nothing that can be done to help the person change his or her situation then the compassionate thing to do is to simply be with the person and to let the person know you care.

Compassion is not a passive state and it goes beyond just a feeling.  Compassion is something you practice by taking action to alleviate the suffering of others.  When we say we are compassionate we must ask ourselves -- are we doing that?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Being absent

There's a lot to be said for being in and attending to the present moment.  It enables you to experience life and to live fully.  NOT being present often causes us to miss out on experiences or to not completely enjoy them because our minds are somewhere else instead of taking in all that is happening in the moment.

I wonder, though, if there's a place for NOT being present.  Sometimes I enjoy fantasizing about things that will probably never take place outside of the confines of my mind.  I often relish remembering the details of a particularly wonderful experience.  (Although I would have had to be fully present during the experience to notice the details I later wish to recall).

Sometimes I don't feel like being present.  Sometimes it's nice to just let my mind wander where it will.  I wonder if there's anything wrong with that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Look for similarities

I found something I wrote in my journal a couple of weeks ago and I wasn't sure if I'd posted it on my blog or not.  I went back to look through my posts and didn't see it but I could've missed it.  I'm going to post it now -- I apologize if it's something I posted before.

One of the ways the ego defines itself is by differentiating "self" from "other."  Probably many of us tend to notice the ways other people are NOT like us.  A good strategy to start letting go of the ego is to start noticing the ways that we are SIMILAR to others.  Noticing the similarities between yourself and other people promotes compassion - if that person is like me then he or she must experience the same feelings that I experience.  When you see someone get upset stop for a moment and remember a time when you felt that way.  If you encounter someone who is going through a difficult time try to imagine what you might feel if you were in a similar situation.  Putting yourself in another person's shoes -- understanding how that person feels -- is called empathy.  Empathy is one of the core components of compassion.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Still confused...

If things could be the way I wanted them in a relationship I'd want to be with someone I could talk to.  I'd want to be with someone who cares how I feel and what I think and who asks me to share my thoughts and feelings with him.  I'd want to be with someone who wants to spend time with me, someone who  makes me a priority in his life.

I struggle with whether I'm selling myself short because I'm not getting these things or if I'm being patient with my current relationship and letting things unfold.  Am I learning to be satisifed with the way things are or am I depriving myself of opportunities to have what I want?  How long do I let things unfold?  How long do I stick around to see if the relationship will develop into something more serious?  Maybe I'm fooling myself -- but how do I know?

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Tonight I invited my little sister to go out for a couple of drinks with me.  (Of course I say "little" even though she's 23 years old).  She asked her boyfriend if she could go and he got angry.  She told me it was better for her to stay home and keep the peace between them.

I almost got annoyed.  First, she had to ask her boyfriend for permission to go somewhere.  Second, he got mad because she wanted to go have a drink with her sister.  Why would he get mad about that?  Why is she letting another person control her?  She's better than that!!!

I ALMOST got annoyed but I stopped myself.  The control thing is MY issue.  If there's any one reason I'm 27 years old and have never been married or even engaged it's because I'm afraid of committing myself to a relationship only to have that person control my life.  When I was 19 I was in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship for three years.  Towards the end of the relationship there were a few incidents where he became physically abusive.  Over the course of that relationship I gradually cut off friendships because my boyfriend at the time always got mad if I wanted to do anything with my friends.  He constantly accused me of cheating so I did everything I could to avoid interacting with guys so as not to make him suspicious.  The relationship was so toxic and yet I was completely caught up in it.  After three years I finally ended the relationship.  I vowed to NEVER let anyone control me like that again.

I realized that the appropriate response to the situation with my sister was not to get annoyed but to be compassionate.  If anything, I can understand the feeling of wanting to keep the peace in a relationship at all costs.  It's not what I wish for my sister but she's also old enough to make her own decisions.

I asked my sister if she wanted to make plans to go out next weekend.  That way she could give her boyfriend a week to get used to the idea.  She said ok.  I guess we'll see what happens.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Love means being happy for him

The special man in my life has an interview with the company of his dreams next week.  He was so excited when he told me and I was genuinely excited for him.  I offered to help him prepare for the interview and have been scouring the internet to find questions this particular company typically asks its interviewees.  I hope the interview goes well and I hope he gets the job.  I really do.  But it's hard for me.

The company has offices in twenty cities in the United States and in other locations across the world.  It does not, however, have a single office in Virgina where we both currently reside.  The closest office is a three and a half hour drive from here (and that's on a good day with no traffic).  The next closest location is a six hour drive and the closest after that is an eight hour drive.  The rest aren't within driving distance.

The point I'm trying to make is that if he gets this job he'll be moving away.  I don't know what that would mean for us -- we haven't talked about it.  Just thinking about it makes me very anxious. 

But loving him means loving him for who he is, not for how he makes me feel or for whatever needs he fulfills for me.  Loving him means not clinging to him at all costs.  Loving him means allowing him to pursue his dreams and desires.

Maybe we'll decide that I should go with him if he has to move.  Or maybe he won't want to make that commitment. 

Loving him means being willing to let him go if I have to.  It's just hard.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Most of us spend a lot of time seeking security in life.  We strive for financial security, physical security, and emotional security.  When we are secure we feel comfortable.  We want to be secure because we believe it will make us happy.  But will it really?  Personally, I don't think so.  I think our search for security actually causes suffering and makes us unhappy.

What are we really seeking in our quest for security?  Well, I checked out the dictionary and found some interesting definitions for the words "secure" and "security."  Here are a few, accompanied by my analysis:

*A guarantee
There are no guarantees in life.  Life comes with a lot of uncertainty.  Thus, when we strive for security we are trying to obtain something that doesn't exist. 

*To guard from risk of loss
It is impossible to guard against all loss.  Loss is a part of life.  At some point in our lives we will all experience loss.  Yet we try to avoid it by seeking security.

*Stability, continuance without change; permanence
Real "stability" does not exist.  Things in life are constantly changing.  Nothing is permanent.  When we try to keep things as they are or to make them permanent by clinging to them we create a lot of anxiety and suffering for ourselves.

Most of us look for things in life to make us feel secure.  Security, however, is just an illusion.  That is why the "feeling" of security is transient.  Someone or something may give us a temporary feeling of security but when the illusion fades the reality will still be there: nothing is ever certain and nothing lasts forever. 

Perhaps we would be better served by learning to acknowledge and accept the uncertainty that is present in life and learning to tolerate the discomfort and anxiety that this causes.

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