Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Three Modalities of Awakened Doing: Acceptance, Enjoyment, and Enthusiasm

I am (FINALLY) nearing the end of Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth."  One of the book's final chapters talks about The Three Modalities of Conscious (or "Awakened") Doing.  Tolle describes these as the "three ways in which consciousness can flow into what you do...[ways]...in which you can align your life with the creative power of the universe."  The three modalities are acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm.  Whenever you do something, according to Tolle, if you do not bring to the task one of these three things you are creating suffering for yourself and/or for other people.

Reading this reminded me of an example from my own experiences, a time when accepting a situation brought about enjoyment.  I was at an all-day festival with my friend.  We'd been there for about eight hours and I was exhausted.  I really wanted to go home.  Unfortunately, I'd ridden to the festival with my friend and he wanted to stay.  Initially I was irriatated.  I was cold and tired and my feet hurt.  I pulled one of our lawn chairs to the back of the crowd and sulked.  "I hope he's ready to go soon," I thought to myself. 

At some point it occurred to me that I would be better off if I simply accepted the fact that I was going to be at the festival until it ended instead of sitting there sulking and wishing I could leave.  Once I made the decision to accept the situation as it was (staying at the festival even though I was tired and cold and my feet hurt) my entire attitude changed.  I folded up the lawn chair and went back into the crowd where I found my friend and his brother dancing and having a good time.  My friend pulled me over and started dancing with me.  I swayed to the music and watched the performers on stage.  I ended up enjoying myself immensely. 

If I hadn't made the decision to accept that I was going to have to stay at the festival one of two things would have probably happened: either I would have spent the rest of my time there sitting and sulking or I would have eventually found my friend and insisted that we leave, causing suffering for him by bringing his good time to a premature end.  Instead, I was able to forget about my sore feet and join in on the fun.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Five A's - Affection

I've talked a lot in previous posts about the "5 A's," the needs all of us have and that most of us try to get met in the context of our interpersonal relationships (particularly intimate relationships).  The 5 A's are attention, affection, appreciation, acceptance, and allowing (being allowed to pursue your innermost wants and desires).  The 5 A's are a concept introduced by David Richo, author of "How to be an Adult in Relationships."  Richo asserts that other people can  fulfill our needs only 25% of the time (in other words, we can only expect other people to give us 25% of the attention, affection, appreciation, acceptance, and allowing we need) -- ideally, each person is responsible for fulfilling his or her own needs the remaining 75% of the time.  If we are unable to do this we find ourselves placing unrealistic demands on others to meet our needs and becoming angry, upset, or disappointed when they are unable to do so. 

In a recent discussion with two close friends one friend asked me how a person would go about giving him or herself affection.  I was stumped.  How DO you give yourself affection?  In seeking to answer this question I first consulted a dictionary to obtain an adequate definition for the term.  I wasn't satisfied with the dictionary's definition and so went to the thesaurus.  I was able to generate a list of synonyms for affection.  This, in turn, enabled me to identify different ways that affection can be expressed.  What follows is a list of synonyms for affection, each of which is accompanied by a suggestion for giving it to oneself.

How to Give Yourself Affection:

1. Fondness: To give yourself affection, make a list of things you like about yourself.

2. Passion: Do an activity you're passionate about.

3. Enjoy, savor: Get a massage, a manicure, or a pedicure and enjoy and savor how good it feels.

4. Savor: Minfdully eat your favorite food.  Notice the texture, the taste, the color, etc.  Chew slowly and savor the experience.

5. Pleasure: Do one thing that gives you pleasure.

6. Rejoice: Plan a celebration in honor of something you've done successfully.  The celebration can be big (a party) or small (a private ritual).  It can be in honor of a major achievement or of something as small as successfully getting through the work week.

7. Triumph: Make a list of your accomplishments.

Feel free to add your own suggestions!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Consciousness

I am not conscious -- I am consciousness itself.  What an interesting concept!  It takes some getting used to. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

A great practice

I just read something great on this website -- http://jeremytaylor.com/ -- and thought I would share it.  One of Dr. Taylor's articles talks about projection.  In summary, he states that whenever you encounter a situation in the world that touches or moves you in any way (positively or negatively) it is a projection -- if you didn't have the emotional structure in your own psyche that corresponds to the situation in the world then you wouldn't even notice it.  It is because you already have it within you that it catches your attention.

He suggests a way to re-own one's projections.  Whenever you encounter something that touches or moves you in any way you should stop and say to yourself, "I am that too." 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brief thoughts

Just a couple of thoughts today -- When I say that something makes me happy does that mean that I need that thing in order to be happy?  Is it more appropriate to say that something "brings me happiness?"  Is the difference between the two just a matter of semantics?  And if something makes me happy then wouldn't my automatic response be to want to keep that thing and to be afraid to lose it?  I know when you are afraid to lose something it means that you are attached to it.  So when something makes me happy do I automatically become attached to it?  If so, then that leads me to wonder -- is it wrong for something to make me happy?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Being present

I'm feeling pretty anxious today -- I've got a lot of stuff going on in my life.  I'm trying not to get caught up in my thoughts about all these stressors (I am not my thoughts -- I am the one who is aware of my thoughts) but I'm having a hard time.  It's ok -- I'm not judging myself for it.  It simply is. 

I have a patient coming in for an appointment in about 30 minutes.  My challenge for today is to set aside my problems (and my thoughts about my problems) so that I can be fully present for my patients.  This is one of the most difficult things for me (and probably for many helping professionals). 

In this moment, I am aware of my anxiety.  I am aware of my thoughts about what is going on in my life.  In this moment, I am fully present with my thoughts and my emotions.  I only hope that in the next moment -- the moments I share with my patient -- I can be as present as I am right now.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Awareness of the ego at work - Defensiveness as an ego mindset

The other day my special someone and I were talking about our past relationships.  He said that one relationship in particular was the best he'd ever had and that he probably will never have a relationship like that again.  I immediately became defensive and started trying to find something wrong with this girl he once loved so much.  I felt inferior and tried to make myself feel better by pointing out her flaws.  That was my ego at work. 

Whenever a person feels inferior (or superior) to another person he or she can be sure that his or her ego is at work.  The ego strengthens itself by distinguishing itself from the "other."  The ego has a need to be right and for the "other" to be wrong.  That's where defensiveness comes in.  When I tried to find something wrong with my special someone's ex my ego was trying to make itself right and his ex wrong. 

To overcome identification with the ego all we have to do is be aware of when it is at work.  The moment we do this we become more than our automatic thoughts and reactions; we become the one who is aware of these thoughts and reactions.  We cannot stop the ego from engaging in its mindsets; we can only be aware when it happens.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Remembering what I already know

It seems that the more I learn about mindfulness, acceptance, the ego, etc. the harder it is for me to remember what I already know.  Today I found myself experiencing a lot of anxiety about several things that have happened in my life seemingly all at the same time (when it rains it pours).  I was only briefly immersed in my thoughts and worries before remembering that I am not my thoughts -- I am the one who observes my thoughts.  So I stepped back and observed all of my worries nonjudgmentally.  "See," I thought to myself.  "There's no reason to be anxious.  You can get rid of your anxiety."  THEN I remembered that the whole purpose of mindfulness is to experience your feelings, not to push them away.  (Oops).  So I allowed myself to feel anxious.  I guess I almost got ahead of myself -- I was so focused on moving beyond my ego that I forgot to simply be in the present moment. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My thoughts on Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth"

I 've been reading "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle and taking notes as I read -- I do this a lot with books I think have important messages that I want to remember.  I usually put my notes in a journal and refer back to them when I find myself asking, "What did that book say about [whatever topic]?" 

Anyway, so far I've found a lot of useful information.  The one thing that has stood out the most for me is this: Not only must I be aware of when the ego is at work in me I must also be aware of when the ego is at work in others and not react with resentment, by taking it personally, or by becoming defensive.  These reactions are also from the ego -- it does no good to respond to ego with ego. 

This is something I need to work on.  I don't often take things personally but I'll admit that from time to time I catch myself thinking, "I can't believe she would say such a thing about me!" or "How could he do such a thing to me?"  The "to me" in each of these are evidence of the ego at work.  They are evidence that I am responding to the other person's ego with my own ego.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mindfulness Is...

Mindfulness Is:

Mirror thought: It reflects only what is presently happening exactly the way it is happening without biases (shambhala.com)

Nonjudgmental observation: The ability of the mind to observe without criticism (shambhala.com)

Intentional focused awareness: (dr.orlipeter.com)

The practice of being fully present and alive, body and mind united: (shambhalasun.com)

Awareness of perception: a nonjudgmental quality of mind that does not anticipate the future or reflect on the past; not thinking, not interpreting, not evaluating (contemplativemind.org)

Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally (Jon Kabat-Zinn)

Awareness of the present moment with acceptance: (iahb.org)

Moment by moment awareness: Keeping one's consciousness alive to the present reality; keeping one's complete attention to the experience on a moment-to-moment basis; the nonjudgmental observation of the ongoing stream of internal and external stimul as they arise (Christopher Germer, Ph.D.)

The mind watching the mind: (mcmanweb.com)

Awareness of change: Observing the passing flow of experience; watching things as they are changing (shambhala.com)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Random pastel drawing


"Sunset"

The Ego

So I've just started reading "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle.  I have to admit that I was a bit wary at first (and maybe I still am).  I tend to steer clear of things that have been brought to the forefront of popular culture by a daytime television talk show (no offense whatsoever to Oprah -- she's great).  Still, a friend loaned me the book and I thought I'd give it a fair shot.  I'm only on page 8, reading the section entitled, "The purpose of this book."  I have to admit that I'm a little excited.  It says that if I continue reading I will learn about the main aspects of the ego and about how the ego operates.  By identifying how the ego works I will learn to recognize it instead of identifying with it.  This sounds very similar to  the concept of "ego mindset" introduced by David Richo.  For me, knowing how the ego operates has helped me to recognize when it's at work.  For example, when I'm afraid of losing something I know automatically that it's because I (my ego) am clinging to the thing I'm afraid of losing.  In other words, I know the ego is engaging in one of its mindsets and that I don't have to go along with it.  I can simply recognize that my ego is at work, observe it nonjudgmentally, and stay with whatever feelings I'm having at the moment.  If this book will help me learn more about how to do this then I'm truly looking forward to reading it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

True love versus attachment

It's extraordinarily difficult to give affection, attention, acceptance, appreciation, and allowing to another person without wanting or expecting anything in return.  The difference in giving these things without expecting to get them in return and giving these things with the expectation that the person will also give them to you is the difference between true love and artificial love.  True love requires you to love without expecting anything in return because you love the other person for who he or she is, not for how he or she can meet your needs. 

This is something I'm really struggling with.  It's easy for me to give affection, attention, acceptance, appreciation, and allowing to another person -- for me it comes quite naturally.  I tend to get angry, however, when the other person does not do the same for me.  The fact that I become upset about this suggests attachment -- If I didn't expect to get these things in return I wouldn't be disappointed when it doesn't happen. 

One thing that helps me is to view both myself and the other person with compassion.  First myself -- I give myself permission to be human.  Humans become attached.  Humans seek to get their needs fulfilled by other people.  It's ok for me to be human.  Second, the other person -- I realize that he is not intentionally withholding acceptance, attention, affection, appreciation, and allowing.  He is giving what he is capable of giving at this time in his life.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Present moment versus planning for the future

So I'm torn between leaving things as they are, which at this point in my life includes a great amount of uncertainty, and attempting to create some security for my future.  It's hard to know when to accept things the way they are (that's what I've been working on -- accepting things as they are, even when I don't  like them) and when to do something to change the way things are. 

I suppose the first step is always to accept things as they are -- how do you know what to change if you don't know what you're dealing with?   Maybe where I'm stuck is deciding if I'm ok with the way things are in my life right now.  I know the future is always uncertain but isn't there something to be said for planning ahead?  Living in the present moment doesn't mean never thinking about the future.  In fact, can't I do both at the same time -- can't I be fully present as I sit and make plans for my future? 

I think I've made such an effort to accept things as they are that I've forgotten something very important -- there are many things in life that I have to power to change...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Attachment

So I was just talking with the special person in my life and he mentioned that he will probably be moving out of the area.  I've known this since I met him but I've tried not to think about it and to enjoy the time we have together.  Still, when he mentioned it it made me feel immensely sad.  I'm afraid of losing him.  Fear of losing someone or something is a sure sign of attachment to that person or thing. So I'm just allowing myself to feel sad and scared for now -- giving myself attention and permission to feel my feelings.   

Attachment and Acceptance -- Saying I Love You

So I'm debating whether or not I should utter those three words that change everything to my special someone.  In considering this I've thought a lot about why I want to tell him I love him.  My initial thought was that I want to tell him because I want him to know.  So I asked myself why I want him to know.  I didn't immediately have an answer to this question so I looked at what's stopping me from telling him.  That's easy -- I'm afraid of saying "I love you" and being met with absolute silence in response.  It would go something like this:

Me: "I love you."
Him: Awkward silence.
Me: Awkward silence.

I realized that if he doesn't feel the same way about me I would feel completely rejected.  Which made me realize that I want to say "I love you" because I want his acceptance.  In other words, my fear of rejection stems from my desire for acceptance.  This leads me to conclude that I want to say "I love you" for selfish reasons -- because I want him to love me too.  Which suggests that my feelings are more about attachment -- that is to say, the focus is on him meeting my needs, not on me loving him for who he is. 

To me, this means that I'm not ready to tell him I love him.  I think I should wait  until I can say with certainty that I love him for him, not for the needs I want him to meet for me.  How will I know when this moment has arrived?  I suppose I will know when I am no longer afraid that he will not feel the same way -- when it no longer matters how he feels about me at all.  I wonder if this moment will ever come.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Recommended book by Cheri Huber

http://www.livingcompassion.org/keepitsimple/howyoudo.html

This is one of the best self-help/self-exploration books I've ever come across.  I'm working my way through it now.  The exercises really make you think about yourself, the things you do, and why you do them.

Mindful breathing

So today I heard my mindfulness bell go off right before I got in the shower.  The mindfulness bell is a great tool I downloaded from this website: www.minfulness.dc.org/mindfulclock.html  You can set it to chime randomly or at certain times.  I leave my computer on most of the time and have it set to chime randomly every  hour.  The bell serves as a reminder to take a moment to simply be in the present moment.  I usually do this by taking 30 seconds or so to focus on my breathing.  Now I have a pretty active mind -- I'm constantly thinking about something.  The idea of trying to focus your mind on whatever is happening in the present moment is very difficult for most people because the mind instinctively wanders; this is definitely the case for me.  It helps for me to have words I can repeat in my mind while I'm breathing; this gives my mind something active to do and helps to prevent it from wandering.  When I practice mindful breathing I close my eyes.  While I inhale I say in my mind, "Breathing in, I breathe in."  As I exhale I say to myself, "Breathing out, I breathe out."  This helps me to fully focus on my breath, which grounds me in the present moment.  What a refreshing way to start the day!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mindfulness Handout -- Surfing the Waves

Mindfulness Handout -- Why Mindfulness?

Mindfulness Handout -- What is Mindfulness


I created a bunch of mindfulness handouts to use with my patients.  If anyone would like a copy let me know and I'll email this or any of the others I post in the original Microsoft Publisher format.

Remembering to be mindful of positive feelings too

I'm finding that I often forget to practice mindfulness when I'm experiencing positive feelings -- I tend to use it as a coping mechanism to help me deal with negative emotions.  It's possible that I might not be the only one who does this so I thought I'd remind everyone to take a moment to be mindfully present when you're feeling good too!

Here are a few quotes:

"People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong.  Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?"
-Thich Nhat Hanh
This is what I was just talking about in my post!!!  I think it should be my mantra for the day:-)
"You only lose what you cling to."
-Buddha

"Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional."
-The Dalai Lama

"The chief cause of suffering for human beings is an inability to have things be the way they are."
-Unknown

"If you desire to know where your spiritual work lies look to your emotional pain."
-Alan Cohen

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mindfulness of feelings

I woke up feeling sad this morning and wasn't immediately sure why.  As I stood in the shower I decided to observe the physical sensation of that sadness in my body -- where in my body I felt it, the quality and intensity of the sensation (a little pressure on my chest and shoulders, not extremely heavy or intense, slightly unpleasant), etc.  I spent about a minute paying attention to these sensations.  I allowed myself to experience the sensations without trying to change them or push them away. 

After acknowledging and attending to the physical sensations associated with my emotional state I attempted to name what I was feeling.  "I'm feeling sad," I thought to myself.  "Disappointed," I thought again.  "Disappointed?" I thought.  "What has happened recently or is happening now that would cause me to feel disappointed?" I asked.  I'm a little embarassed by the answer -- I was feeling disappointed because the special someone in my life was supposed to call last night but never did.  I was a bit frustrated with myself for being upset over something so silly.  I knew he was helping his sister move last night and probably didn't call because he was out later than expected.  There was no reason to be upset.  I didn't beat myself up though.  Instead, I was compassionate towards myself.  "It's normal to feel disappointed," I told myself.  "It's okay to feel that way."

I think that when most people experience an unpleasant emotion their automatic response is to try to get rid of it by, for example, pushing it away or doing something to make themselves feel better.  If I'd done that this morning I might have ended up being in a bad mood all day.  I might have snapped at my special someone or been angry with him the next time we talked.  Instead, I allowed myself to experience my emotions; in doing so, I better understood what I was feeling and why I felt that way.  Once I acknowledged and accepted my disappointment it became less intense.  I immediately felt a little better.  In turn, I was able to remain calm when my car overheated on the way to work and I had pull over and get out in the torrential rain to put antifreeze in it.  I was still calm when I missed my exit and had to go several miles out of my way.  Although it had been "one of those mornings" I was able to handle it because I wasn't carrying around unresolved emotional baggage. 

Monday, September 7, 2009

My drawing of the Tree of Life

I'm no artist and it seems that I've been particularly uninspired of late.  Still, I thought I'd share some of my at best mediocre art work.

Attachment

I'm still working on non-attachment.  Today I found myself wondering how my special someone feels about me, hoping that he cares for me the way I care for him.  While it's normal to feel that way it's also a sure sign that I'm attached to a specific outcome (i.e., I want him to feel the same way about me that I feel about him).  Attachment to a specific outcome inevitably leads to disappointment if the desired outcome does not come to fruition.  I must remind myself again that true love means loving someone for who they are, not for how they make me feel.  True love does not mean giving someone affection, attention, acceptance, appreciation, and/or allowing (the five A's) because I want that person to give me love in return.  That's selfish love -- it revolves around me and is contingent on how the other person can meet my needs.  True love means loving someone no matter how that person feels about me.  True love means focusing on the other person's needs, not on my own.  The focus is not on oneself and one's own needs because true love transcends the self and is bigger and purer than any one individual person.  I'm learning, but I still have a long way to go.

Abstract

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Why People Cheat

So this post doesn't apply to me directly.  I was thinking, however, about why people cheat and it occurred to me that the answer is completely relevant to many of the things I've talked about in my posts.  Typically, people cheat because their need for one or more of the five A's (attention, affection, acceptance, appreciation, allowing) is not being fulfilled.  They blame their partner for leaving their need or needs unfulfilled and turn to someone else to meet them.  If you've read any of my previous posts you might recall that on average, we can reasonably expect other people to meet our needs (i.e., give us the five A's) only about 25% of the time.  We are responsible for meeting these needs for ourselves the other 75% of the time. 

So ok, where is this going?  Well, when a person has the urge to cheat in essence he or she becomes aware of his or her desire for attention, affection, appreciation, acceptance, and/or allowing.  If he or she could learn to simply sit with this urge/desire (this is a mindfulness technique called "urge surfing" that was introduced by Jon Kabat-Zinn in one of his books on mindfulness) and observe it with unattached curiosity and without judgment he/she would being to learn to meet his/her needs him/herself and would not have to seek out someone else to meet them. 

Elisha Goldstein briefly describes the technique of urge surfing on his blog (found at http://www.aliveworld.com/members/elishagoldstein/blog): This is the idea of bringing attention to the breath as the urge is rising and using it a surfboard to ride the waves of sensations associated with the urge as they come and go. Strong urges usually last about 20-30 minutes and sometimes less.

While the technique is typically used to "ride out" urges or cravings associated with addiction it is effective in helping to ride out any urge, including the urge to seek out another person to meet one's needs or to satisfy one's desire for attention, affection, appreciation, acceptance, and/or allowing.  

That is not to say that there may not be real problems in a given relationship.  Still, I think most of us would agree that cheating is not the way to solve relationship problems.  Ride out the urge to cheat and learn to meet your own needs 75% of the time - this will better enable you to deal with any problems that exist in the relationship.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A drawing of my feelings

How do you know if you believe you need a partner in order to be happy

Most  people aren't aware of their core beliefs and how they affect their thoughts, feelings, perceptions, etc. on a daily basis.  I'm going to borrow a definition of core beliefs from someone else because a full exploration of the concept is beyond the scope of this post.  According to Lynne Forrest (found at http://lynneforrest.com/html/core_beliefs.html), core beliefs are "deeply rooted convictions...[that]...originate in childhood and become the lens through which we view ourselves and the world around us. These basic, but often erroneous notions rule and limit us until we bring them into consciousness and begin to challenge them."


So the first step is being aware of your beliefs.  Here are some indicators that you ascribe to the belief that you need a partner in order to be happy:

1. When you're not seeing anyone you feel compelled to "get out there" and date and/or you're constantly on the lookout for a potential partner.


2. When you are seeing someone you become very anxious, especially if he/she doesn't call or contact you regularly.  You worry that he/she will lose interest in you.  You worry about "losing" him/her -- this is a sure sign that implicitly you believe you need him/her (or some other partner) in order to be happy.

3. You don't feel content unless you are dating someone.  (You feel discontent or unhappy when you're not seeing anyone).


4. You stay in an unhappy relationship because you're afraid to be alone.

5. You're a serial monogamist -- as soon as one long-term relationship ends you move immediately into another one with little time in between.  Or you don't end one relationship until you have a prospect for another relationship lined up.


6. When you feel sad or lonely you think to yourself, "I wouldn't be feeling this way if I had a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/partner."

7. You feel bad when someone asks you if you're seeing anyone and you have to say no.


8. When you're not seeing anyone you feel like "something's missing."  When you are seeing someone you feel fulfilled or complete.


9. You worry that something is wrong with you because you haven't found the person you're supposed to spend your life with.


This list certainly isn't exhaustive and I will try to add to it as ideas come to me.  Also, feel free to give me suggestions by leaving a comment.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ego Mindsets: Fear and Desire

Right now I am aware of my desire for attention, affection, and acceptance.  More simply put -- I want to be wanted.  Isn't it silly that I feel so unwanted because the special person in my life didn't call me back last night after we talked earlier in the evening?  I am aware of the desire to be important to him, the deisre to be loved by him...which shows me that I still have a lot of work to do.

One thing I can be proud of is that I didn't get angry at him for not calling.  I think this is an indication that I'm learning to care about him for who he is and not for how he makes me feel or for what he can do for me.

I didn't always used to get angry when I felt hurt (which is what feeling unwanted amounts to -- feeling hurt) but over time I learned to use anger to defend myself.  (This is the ego mindset of fear -- "I perceive a threat in you so I am on the defensive").  It seems strange that I am now asking myself to break down that defense and to feel the hurt -- to sit with that hurt, understand where it comes from, comfort myself, and give myself compassion and attention.  I think when I started using anger to protect myself from emotional pain I probably wasn't capable of doing this.  I needed ego strength before I could fully experience my negative emotions.  That's what Buddhist philosophers mean when they say you must first have an ego before you can transcend the ego. 

I think I am ready to stop using anger to defend myself from my feelings.  I don't need it anymore...

Self-Defeating Beliefs

How the way I seek out security makes me feel more insecure:

1. Belief: "I cannot be happy without a partner."

Makes me feel compelled to

2. Date frequently/seek out a partner

Triggers

3. Insecurities about my relationships with men ("Why won't anyone commit to me?" "Is there something wrong with me?")

Generates

4. Self doubt; discontent; unhappiness

Reinforces

1. Belief: "I cannot be happy without a partner."



It's a self-perpetuating cycle. I've only recently become aware that I engage in this self-defeating cycle of behavior.  This discovery has reinforced my committment to be mindful when I find myself wanting one of the Five A's (as opposed to trying to get someone else to meet my need for attention, affection, etc.). In order to extinguish my faulty belief that "I need a partner to be happy" I have to learn to meet my own emotional needs at least 75% of the time. I know I'm not the only person (and definitely not the only woman) who feels like she is complete only when she has a significant other in her life. I'll talk more about this in future posts.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Disappointment/Attachment

I wonder if it's possible to be truly free from attachment.  Being free from attachment means being unattached to any one particular outcome in a given situation.  Being disappointed is evidence that a person was attached to a particular outcome that did not come to fruition.


Yesterday I wanted to spend time with the special person in my life.  He told me he already had several obligations that afternoon.  I immediately felt disappointed.  I also felt a bit hurt, at least initially -- that was me wanting him to meet my need for attention.  The wonderful thing is that I IMMEDIATELY recognized what my ego was doing.  I still felt disappointed but I understood what was going on and allowed myself to simply feel what I was feeling.  The disappointment quickly dissipated.  Nevertheless, I was happy when he went out of his way to make some time to spend with me in between doing what he needed to do.  Is that attachment too?  Or is that enjoying the present moment?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Projection

Projection is a manifestation of the ego mindset of illusion. Projection occurs when a person takes the imago of her (I'm using her generically here) ideal partner -- the partner who can help her resolve psychological conflicts from childhood and/or meet the needs that were not met during her childhood -- and attributes these qualities to another person (her partner or romantic interest). This prevents her from seeing her romantic interest as he is -- all she sees is the projection, which is actually part of her (a part with which she is not in touch). True love occurs when a person can take back her projection (own it as hers) and see and accept the other person for who he really is.

The first step in cultivating the ability to truly love someone is to move beyond your own needs and to consider/think about what the other person needs and wants. We try to empathize with the other person's thoughts and feelings.

Also, in order to love others we must first learn to love ourselves. If we do not receive the 5 A's (acceptance, affection, allowing, attention, and appreciation)we need when we are children then in order to love ourselves we will have to learn to meet these needs for ourselves as adults. This involves being mindful when we notice ourselves wanting one of the five A's. We must remain with that desire, observe it nonjudgmentally, and allow ourselves to experience it fully. This is how we learn to give ourselves attention and acceptance -- by attending to our desires and our emotions and accepting them without trying to push them away or act on them. When we do this, we own the part of ourselves that meets our need for the 5 A's; we can then stop projecting that part onto another person (because doing so leads us to believe that this person is the one who can meet our needs).

We must own our projections. The key to doing this is mindful self-awareness. We must become aware of and acknowledge those parts of ourselves we currently deny. We must begin to give ourselves the 5 A's even when we feel like going to other people to get them. By staying with ourselves during these times we being to know the part of ourselves that is capable of meeting our own needs; we also strengthen this part of ourselves. Once we recognize this part in ourselves we no longer need to project it onto someone else. In other words, once we discover that we have the ability to meet our own needs we no longer have to project that ability onto someone else.

Affirmation of the day:
I must own the qualities of my imago. These are qualities I myself have (both good and bad) and must own so that I will stop projecting them onto others.

Mindful Loving

So in one of my posts I talk about the "5 A's." I thought I'd elaborate on this a bit. The concept of the Five A's comes from author David Richo.

The 5 A's are the needs that every child needs in order to develop a healthy sense of self (i.e., for healthy psychological development). These are the same needs that we look to meet (or to have met) in our romantic relationships as adults. The 5A's are:
1. Attention
2. Acceptance
3. Appreciation
4. Affection
5. Allowing (being allowed to pursue one's own interests and dreams)

I think this will probably make intuitive sense to most people -- who among us does not desire attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and/or allowing?

David Richo also points out that, "Behind every complaint is a wish for one of the five A's." In other words, when you find yourself complaining stop for a moment and ask yourself which of the 5 A's you want fulfilled at this particular moment. This is a way of being mindful. It enables you first and foremost to really understand what you want. Then it enables you (ideally) to meet this need for yourself.

Why don't I recommend asking your significant other to meet this need for you? Well, that's always a possibility but often the issue isn't that a significant other is not giving you enough of one of the 5 A's. Often, the issue is that we are trying to get another person to meet too many of our needs. This is an unfair burden to put on another person. In essence we are saying, "I depend on you to meet most of my needs. My happiness and emotional well-being depend on your ability to do this." Wow -- what a responsibility! According to Richo, we should only expect other people to meet 25% of our needs (i.e., we should be meeting our own need for the 5 A's about 75% of the time).

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