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Emotions: Blessing or Curse?

“Just as man learns to be a human being, so he learns to feel as a human being, to love as a human being.”

—Leo Buscaglia, Love

What would life be like if we couldn’t experience the love and joy of holding our newborn baby, or that deep satisfaction when we achieved something we worked hard for?

Emotions: Blessing or Curse? | FocusWithMarlene.com

And who can forget that exhilarating feeling of cheering for our favorite sports team or the pride you feel when your kids work hard at doing something well?

Life would be dull, boring and depressing if we couldn’t experience the wonderful panorama of emotions available to us. Even when we are sad and disappointed, we know that it is temporary, and we will return to those good moments.

But life can be dark and threatening – bleak and depressing if we remain in the constellation of thoughts that hold us hostage to fear, discouragement, anxiety or anger. After awhile we lose sight of the good feelings and good times.

Emotions give us information.

Emotions help us know how to respond to what is happening.

Am I in danger? If so, what do I need to do to protect myself?

Is someone taking advantage of me? How do I determine if I am assessing the situation correctly?

There is a large body of research, such as RET (Rational Emotive Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) that help explain how and why we react to life’s situations the way we do. What this and other research reveals is that what we experience emotionally is not the result of events themselves, but rather how we interpret those events. We can alter or choose our responses.

Are you a hostage to your emotions?

As we grow up, we ascribe meanings to life that over time become our primary beliefs about who we are.

  • Who can I trust?
  • Am I capable?
  • How can I achieve my goals?
  • How do I establish a happy and secure future and home?

These become our deep-seated truths used to make rules and expectations about life. Because they are formed so early, however, they are often biased or distorted and need to be updated. When these beliefs become rigid and uncompromising, they can have a negative influence on how we live day to day.

Continuing to react to things based on early childhood interpretations, we become reactionary instead of using thoughtful consideration of the here and now. Unless we confront, evaluate and make corrections, we will continue to see life, ourselves and other people through the prism of old, outdated beliefs.

“What alone remains is ‘the last of human freedoms’ – the ability to ‘choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”

—Victor E. Frankl

But my life is falling apart, and I don’t feel good about it.

Emotions are preceded by automatic thoughts that occur so quickly we are often unaware of them. Understanding how thoughts and beliefs influence our emotional reaction to events is critical in meeting the challenges we face.

We may not be able to change situations, but we can alter how we respond to them. And if our reactions are based on faulty beliefs and perceptions, the outcomes, while predictable, will not always serve us.

For example: If you experienced a lot of bullying as you were growing up, your first reaction to anyone who seems adversarial is that they must be a bully and against you.

Before we can alter persistent emotional responses that cause us so much distress, such as ongoing doubt, fear or anxiety, it is important to know that we have the ability to choose a different response.

Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist and Jew who survived Auschwitz during WWII. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he writes how he and a fellow prisoner purposefully found something of humor each day to share with each other in order to survive.

Your first automatic response to difficult situations may be that there is nothing you can do to either change the outcome or change how you feel. Yet we know that with a more proactive assessment of potential options, we can make a difference. We can take problems and setbacks and find new ways to deal with them.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

If you believe you are at the mercy of whatever is happening, you will continue to feel depressed and helpless. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ascribing a different meaning or personal interpretation to whatever we face while understanding that life will have its ups and downs, will empower you to find new ways to work with it and through it.

In the blog posts for this month, we will be exploring some of the intense emotions that can make life difficult:

What continues to drive those thoughts of hopelessness and their accompanying feelings of despair and depression?

Why am I always angry, fearful or anxious?

How we choose to look at life’s events can make a huge difference in our ability to deal with even the worst of times.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.


References:

Frankl, Victor E., Man’s Search for Meaning, Washington Square Press of Pocket Books, N.Y., 1984

Beck, Judith S, Cognitive Therapy, Basics and Beyond, forward by Aaron T. Beck, The Guilford Press, New York, 1995

Ellis, Albert, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Overcoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings and Behaviors, Penguin Random House Publisher, 2010

Buscaglia, Leo, Love, Ballantine Books< 1972

How to Replace Habits That Aren’t Working for You

How to Replace Habits That Aren’t Working for You | FocusWithMarlene.comLast week you recorded what you did throughout the day. Taking charge of your time and your life requires not only being aware of your current habits, but knowing how to replace habits that aren’t working.

Taking charge means putting in place a new time management schedule that meets your purposes and goals.

It will require self-regulation and self-discipline. The word “discipline” often triggers a negative response based on our childhood interpretation of discipline. But now it is a positive tool allowing you to do the things you want to do.

Self-Regulation

Self-regulation doesn’t mean every moment is regulated in some way or that we lead a regimented life with no pleasure or down times. In fact, when you put a time management plan in place, you will find you have more time than you did before. You are able to schedule in fun and pleasant times as well as the accomplishment of tasks and chores.

Giving into that momentary pleasure can quickly put in place an addictive habit you may not want. If you respond to the whims of the moment, you will eventually feel less and less in control of your life that can create a downward spiral of dissatisfaction, discontent, and eventually, depression.

Self-regulation includes how you spend your money as well as how you use your time.

Marketing ads are designed to convince us we need to purchase their product in order to be happy. That is their job.

Our job is to ask ourselves whether we really need that product. Will it really make you happy? Managing our finances requires setting up and monitoring a budget. It isn’t just about saving but prudent shopping.

There is a difference between needs and wants. Happiness doesn’t come from having lots of money or having lots of toys.

Taking Charge

To replace a habit, you must first be aware of what you are currently doing, why you are doing it, and why you want to change it.

  • What are the costs and benefits?
  • How do we move from good intention to actual accomplishment?
  • How do we change the behavior associated with the habits we want to replace?

First you need to know why this habit was put in place and what are the short-term and long-term costs and benefits.

To Replace a Habit

First – Why do I have this habit?

Second – What is the short-term benefit?

Third – What is the long-term cost?

Research on how our brain works has given us new insights into why we do the things we do and continue to do them even when they are not beneficial.

To change a downward spiral of impairing habits and routines requires first recognition and then making a conscious decision along with action.

When you do both, recognize and make a conscious decision and then add a step in that new direction, you are changing the dynamics of the neurons and neurotransmitters in your brain.

According to Dr. Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral: Using neuroscience to reverse the course of depression, one small change at a time, it takes both decision and action to change a downward spiral to an upward one. That tiny step in a new direction is enough to begin the upward process versus downward.

So, pick a behavior or habit you want to replace, and start the process.

  • Specifically, what do you want to accomplish?
  • How will you implement your plan of action and how will you maintain motivation?

Be prepared to evaluate as you go along.

Behaviors made through careful thought allows you to be in the driver’s seat. With thoughtful predetermined goals and plans, you benefit through achievement. You stay on track by reminding yourself of how good you will feel when you have put this new habit in place.

Marlene Anderson


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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Love

               Love

People sing songs about it, create movies with love as its theme, and try to find words to express it in books. But can we ever define love?

“For God so loved the world….”        John 3:16

What greater love can anyone have than sacrifice something of great importance for another who really isn’t worthy of it.

Can there be a greater expression of love?

Love. It is a gift – we can’t earn it, we don’t deserve it and yet we find it so hard to receive.

Last Easter I published a blog post featuring a poem written by my friend, Darlene Dubay. I am republishing it again because of its great insight and depth. Thank you, Darlene, for your gift.

Tree of Hope

I remember being a seed, full of hope, dreaming.

 I would be the tallest tree, and proud.

Then, thrust into the ground, I shuddered.

Darkness overcame me and I broke.

No longer latent, I began to search for light.

Yet wanting to be anchored, I thrust my fingers deeper into ground.

They laughed at me as I broke free.

“A twig,” they said: Insignificant nothing.

Yet I dreamed of becoming—magnificent I’d stand, towering above—mighty.

When finally ready I would be mercifully cut to become

A pillar, strong and straight to hold the weight of majesty aloft.

Or maybe I would be fashioned as a cradle,

Holding precious life, or toy or tureen—useful—

bringing pleasure by being used.

I did not fear the saw; it was a long way off.

But when it finally came. I cried,

“No, let me grow a little more. I want to be the biggest and the best.

I want my glorious form to be admired.”

I lay there on the ground, helpless—

My fate in the hands of those who ripped me from my roots.

It did no good to protest. My voice could not be heard.

Lying prostrate, I imagined what I would become.

It was not good. Their evil tones were hinting shame and disgrace.

“No!” I cried. “I did not grow for this.”

My limbs were ripped and nailed into a form

So horrible—degrading—a mockery of what was meant to be.

Bitter nails drove into my flesh,

But worse was yet to come.

Dragged and carried in my ugly form, I tried my best to help the struggling one,

But felt my weight grow heavier with each step.

Then on the top of that ignominious hill,

They laid me prostrate to accept my fate.

I felt his flesh caress the roughness of my bark.

I groaned in shame that I would be the one

To lift His whipped and trampled body far aloft for all to see.

I felt the spikes drive precious flesh and blood into my wood.

Helpless, there I stood, as I was lifted with my treasure.

Oh, the shame! The agony! The jeering crowds saying,

“It’s the end. His suffering has no meaning. ”

All is lost. What victory lies in death?

What justice shines through bitter clouds of hate?

I felt his spirit leave and fear of being discarded racked my being.

The coldness of his absence permeated me

And I wished for burning fires of purification.

Better to be cleansed than to lie rotting in the dirt.

The emptiness of my ugly form was wretched. I watched them haul him off—just another lifeless piece of flesh.

And me? I only hoped that I could fade to nothing.

On the third day, though, he returned.

He held me close and promised—what?

I could not comprehend.

“I live,” he said. “I am alive forever.”

“How can it be?” I cried. “I felt your soul’s anguish

And despair. I know the emptiness of your departing.

I never want to be the one who displays

Your trampled, lifeless body up for all to see.”

He held me closer then and I knew it had to be this way.

My gift of self will be forever a symbol of great love.

My collaboration in his plan will always be

The means to life eternal.

I’m honored. I am cherished.

And every day and moment

Someone remembers by my sign—

True life awaits those who hold me closest to their heart.

Darlene
4-5-2010

I wish each of you a blessed Easter, knowing that it was the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, his death, and resurrection, that brings us this blessed holiday as well as the love, hope and grace we all desire.

Marlene Anderson

To read more about Darlene’s writing talent, visit her website at https://dmdubay.com/


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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

How to Evaluate Which Habits Impact Your Behavior Negatively and Positively

How to Evaluate Which Habits Impact Your Behavior Negatively and Positively | FocusWithMarlene.comAs I mentioned in my previous post, habits affect everything we do. They are behaviors we keep in place because we get a benefit in some way.

But habits and behaviors have consequences. They might make us feel good in the moment but have a negative long-term cost.

To make habits work for you, it is important to know which ones keep you from maximizing your time and efforts.

For example, you may decide that this is a good time for you to go back to school and get an advanced degree or training. Before you do, it is helpful to know how you currently use your time and what you do on a regular basis.

  • What wasted time can be redirected?
  • What current habits would interfere with completing your course work?

Become Informed

Do a quick test. For one day, record what you do, starting with the time you get up to when you go to bed.

Take a piece of lined paper and put on each line a time of day starting from when you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night. During the day, record what you do in each time period.

  • What is your morning routine?
  • How long did it take to get ready for work and head out the door?
  • If you work at home, when did you start, take breaks and finish for the day? If you are retired but want to accomplish more, keep a record of everything you do in a day.
  • What time did you return home after work? Did you make any stops along the way?
  • What were your dinnertime routines?
  • How did you spend your evening? Record time spent on the phone, relaxing in front of the TV or on social media, etc. Here is where we often lose track of time.
  • Do you have a regular bed time, and do you follow it?

While recording the specifics of how we spend our time, we are looking for patterns of behavior and habits that are governing our life. It is helpful to extend this recording exercise for a week to get a more complete picture of how you use your time.

Here are some ways habits may be affecting your life:

Negative habits:

  • Always thinking of reasons why you can’t do something
  • Relaxation is conditioned by how I am feeling in the moment
  • Time with family is hit-and-miss whenever everyone is around – there are no schedules
  • Chores are done only when I can’t stand the mess any longer
  • I would rather do something fun than what needs to be done
  • I’ll do it tomorrow – today I want to play
  • I continue to spend time with others who don’t self-regulate or self-discipline
  • I operate on a “feel good in the moment” rather than a scheduled time frame

Positive habits:

  • I have a time set to complete daily chores
  • I know what needs to be done within a week, such as laundry, shopping, preparing for work, etc.
  • I have a schedule for daily chores which I follow fairly consistently
  • I am aware of long-term chores, such as spring yard clean up, getting the car serviced, etc. and have a monthly calendar to remind me
  • I have set aside specific down times to relax, enjoy doing things that are fun, be with my family or doing something creative
  • My time allows me to be spontaneous when I want to be and I can adjust my schedules to meet unexpected interruptions
  • Being in charge of my time is freeing and allows many options

This exercise is for the sole purpose of helping you make some lifestyle decisions that can impact future goals important to you. It is not designed to put in place a rigid form of time management, but simply to expand the possibilities of choices you want to make.

Next week we will go through establishing habits and routines that are right for your goals.

Marlene Anderson


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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Habits: Are They Working For or Against You?

Habits: Are They Working For or Against You?

We are creatures of habit. Habits are great because we don’t have to think about every move we make. It’s like being on auto pilot. But they can also keep us from achieving what we want in life.

We need to be aware of the habits that can help or hinder us. The next three posts will focus on understanding our habits and learning how we can replace them.

How did we choose the habits we have and what keeps them in place?

Connected to habits are behaviors of some kind. Behaviors continue because we get a payoff or reward that motivates us to keep doing what we are doing.

As behaviors are reinforced, they are repeated and soon become habitual. That reward comes either in the form of receiving something positive or removal of something we don’t want. We call one a “positive reinforcement” and the other a “negative reinforcement.”

Here are some examples of how that works:

A mother gives a child who is making a big fuss in the store some candy so he will be quiet. The child has just been “rewarded positively” for his yelling and screaming.

But the mother has also been rewarded. Hers was a “negative reward” because something she didn’t want was removed: the yelling and screaming stopped.

For habits to form, the behavior needs to be reinforced (positively or negatively) repeatedly and consistently. After they are in place, they only need to be reinforced intermittently. We call that “intermittent reinforcement.”

Example: Your child cleans his room and each time he does you reward him with a hug, positive comments and extra computer time which he highly prizes. Gradually, as cleaning his room becomes fairly consistent, only occasional rewards are needed such as “good job” comments or extra playtime. The behavior has become a habit.

When we evaluate our habits, it is important to examine the rewards we receive, both on a short term and long-term basis.

For example: it soon becomes a habit to come home from work and spend hours on social media sites. While it may be fun and relaxing after a long day, it can become addictive and other things do not get done—dinners become quick fixes, dishes don’t get washed, and children are sent out to play so we don’t have to be bothered. While there is nothing wrong with relaxing after a hard day at work, without limitations and time restraints that we set, those habits can soon take over our life.

Which habits do you have that are helping you over time?

We are the ones who establish the habits that soon become a lifestyle. And we are the only ones who can evaluate them and determine what changes we want to make.

All behaviors have a consequence of some kind. When evaluating our habits, it is important to consider how they affect us over time. If you want your life and goals to work for you, it’s important to know how you use your time.

Behavior Modification Summary

Here is a quick recap of how behaviors are reinforced and become habits. All behaviors have consequences – positive or negative, short-term and long-term.  And remember, habits and behaviors are kept in place because we are rewarded in some way.

1. Positive Reinforcement

Behavior = Consequence (something received) >> Behavior increases.

Example: Child cleans room, gets hug and extra TV time – behavior is reinforced and will continue or increase.

2. Negative Reinforcement

Behavior = consequence (something is removed) >> Behavior increases.

Example: Child whines at store for candy. Mom gives in, child is positively reinforced (gets candy); Mom is negatively rewarded because child stops whining. Child learns that whining eventually pays off if Mom at some point gives in. Mom chooses a quick solution to get peace, but with long term negative consequences.

3. Intermittent Reinforcement

Reinforcement is done once in a while rather than consistent and immediate.

Changing or Replacing Habits

To change habits, we change the behavior that is involved. Understanding our behaviors and the rewards we get is the first step in keeping those that are beneficial and replacing those that are not.

Next week’s post will discuss how to remove habits we don’t want.

Marlene Anderson


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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Making that Transition

Making that Transition | FocusWithMarlene.com

At the end of January, I started a series of blog posts based on a new program that will be coming out soon entitled, “Yes I Can, Step out in Confidence.”

The program focuses on how to pick up the pieces from a major setback and create a winning new focus for your life. These posts and the ones coming up are a preview of what my program offers.

Setbacks as opportunities

While it might be difficult to grasp the concept that setbacks can be one of our greatest life opportunities, it is when we are forced by circumstances to stop and evaluate that we can reflect, examine, and discover what works and get rid of what hinders our progress.

When we know what isn’t working, we can replace it with a new program that gives us the tools to succeed.

How do we start over when we feel there are no solutions to our problems?

When we get knocked down, we not only get discouraged, but waste our creative energy striking out or blaming others for our difficulties or distress. Remaining in that mindset takes away our personal power, and as we learned in the post on forgiveness, we can remain in a never-ending toxic cycle of bitterness and anger. Our focus remains on what we can’t do and not on what we can do.

Using setbacks to our advantage

Over the past two months, we’ve focused on starting the process of taking back our life by reviewing what we bring with us from our past that continues to undermine our confidence.

Completing the stories from our past gave us the opportunity to take a more measured look at what happened in our growing-up years and how it can have a negative influence today.

We were able to redefine and write a new narrative moving forward.

We are not our past. Our past does not define who we are unless we allow it to.

In last week’s post, we talked about building a positive bridge from the past to the present.

During this next series, our focus will be on our habits, and how they either help or hinder us.

  • How do your habits help you maximize your time?
  • What can you do differently that will help you accomplish your goals?

Our habits can influence everything in life, including stress levels, relationships, rest and relaxation and family time.

I would love to hear from you about the struggles you may be experiencing. What did you learn from the previous posts that has changed your perspective of who you are and who you can become?

  • What things are working for you and what isn’t?
  • Which habits would you like to change to maximize your time?

Your input is valuable to me and I will address your questions in upcoming posts.

Marlene Anderson


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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

12 Positive Affirmations to Help Bridge Your Past with Your Future

12 Positive Affirmations to Help Bridge Your Past with Your Future | focuswithmarlene.com

Bridges are incredible feats of engineering and ingenuity, rising high above deep gorges, over rivers and large bodies of water. I am fascinated by the ingenuity required to design such lofty and expansive works that are both practical and majestic; a combination of beauty and strength.

I like to use the analogy of bridges because we are constructing them every day. They make connections between couples and families. They bridge the gap between our past and future and expand our possibilities as we move from one venture to another.

Over the last couple of months here on my blog, we’ve been thinking about the stories we create to define what we are going through. We learned that we can change the narrative to work for us instead of against us. Setbacks do happen. But we can turn them into opportunities.

We have the opportunity to learn many things when going through tough times. They teach us about ourselves, what worked for good in the past and what kept us stuck going nowhere.

Our past reveals many things, some of which we want to leave behind, such as old resentments and old beliefs that say we can’t succeed. We want to take with us the knowledge that we have the strength, resilience and determination to succeed.

As we build that positive bridge from our past to our future, we want to take with us the valuable lessons learned that hold a promising new beginning.

Here are 12 positive affirmations to take with you as you build new bridges

  1. Re-working the stories of my past can heal old wounds, release emotional conflict and reframe my future going forward. Thinking constantly about times I failed eliminates the positive and magnifies the negative.
  2. Reflecting on my past heals old wounds, enables us to let go of resentments and build better bridges in the future.
  3. I can believe in myself – my ability to survive and build something positive.
  4. I believe I can if I put my mind to it. I can change my thinking.
  5. There is an inner strength in all of us that is waiting to be tapped into. I am capable of much more than I think. I just have to allow myself to believe it.
  6. I am not a victim of my past. Bad things happened, but it doesn’t define who I am unless I allow it.
  7. I am capable of meeting whatever challenges the future has for me. I have overcome many obstacles in the past and can do it in the future. Overcoming obstacles requires resiliency and determination. I have survived and thrived in spite of setbacks. I have more grit than I give myself credit for.
  8. I can let go of resentments because by hanging onto them I am hurting myself. Forgiveness does not mean I minimize the hurt I feel. It is making peace with a bitter part of my past. I can move on without its heavy load.
  9. Forgiveness doesn’t mean automatic reconciliation. Reconciliation means I re-establish a relationship with the person who hurt me. Forgiveness means I make peace with a bitter part of my past and no longer blame my experiences on the offender. It is a personal decision to refuse to reply the hurt over and over again.
  10. I have triumphed over hurtful things. Understanding that I don’t have to continue to carry that heavy load of resentments with me wherever I go is the greatest gift I can give myself.
  11. In extending grace and understanding, I can build better bridges in the future within my relationships, where I can articulate my concerns but also listen and respect that of others. Developing our communication skills is a great bridge builder.
  12. Acceptance of who I am develops self-confidence. With acceptance I can set appropriate boundaries for myself and respect the boundaries of others. I choose to accept both the strengths and weaknesses I have and feel okay. I can love myself unconditionally.

Expand the list above and make it your own. You are the designer and builder of the bridges in your life.

Marlene Anderson


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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Letters of Goodbye – Completing an Ending

Letters of Goodbye – Completing an Ending | focuswithmarlene.comTraumatic events, whether they happened today or in the past, represent an ending of some kind. Something you valued was taken away.

Grieving is coming to terms with those losses. It is finding a way to reconcile unfortunate or tragic events. If we hurry from that ending before putting to rest emotional turmoil and unanswered questions, it can make it difficult to create a new beginning.

When I began this series on “Picking up the Pieces,” I asked you to consider the stories you tell and become aware of the narrative you use. The way we describe our circumstances can make a difference in completing an ending and beginning a new chapter in our lives.

Like you and many others, I have had significant losses over the years. I lost both my husband and son to cancer, faced the sale of my home, loss of financial security and starting over again.

In presenting workshops and classes and facilitating support groups, I have come to appreciate the depth and scope of people’s losses and their grief.  And it seems at times that losses come in bunches, with barely enough time to recover from one before we are hit again.

7 things to consider completing an ending

  1. We need the support and understanding of others while working through grief. That may be in a support group, individual counseling or a friend who will listen as we share.

 

  1. Grieving is going through the pain. It takes time to work through the knots and tangles of our losses. There is a tendency to run away or bottle up painful emotions hoping they will go away.

 

  1. Ungrieved losses from childhood can be triggered and need to be recognized and processed. Grieving early childhood losses means working through issues of lack of nurturing and lack of encouragement. It involves releasing old bottled up hurts. Grieving involves recognizing whatever we have lost and finding ways to replace it.

 

  1. Losses produce a multitude of emotions — some more common than others, such as anger, guilt, or shame. Recognizing and working through these is important to keep from getting stuck. There won’t always be reasonable solutions to our questions. You may feel that you did not receive justice where there was an injustice.

 

  1. There are many layers to our losses. The death of a spouse includes the loss of your social circles, loss of what had been predictable and sometimes major financial concerns. The loss of an unborn child means a loss of sharing with other parents raising children. The loss of a marriage has many layers that are ongoing reminders of what used to be.

 

  1. Grieving takes time, involves acceptance so we can let go, reconciling things that can’t be changed and working towards a new reality. Losses require a new way to look at ourselves. In a sense, we are creating a new identity – I knew who I was, but who am I now? Losses aren’t processed in just a few months or even a year. That transition from what was to what is now takes time.

 

  1. Write a letter of goodbye. First, if you lost a loved one, write a letter to him or her and tell them how much they meant to you, what you wished you had said or hadn’t said, what you miss most about them and what is the hardest for you moving forward. Include in this letter how you are keeping your memories alive.

Do the same thing when you address other things you lost such as a dream for the future, loss of the ability to be a parent,  your health or physical abilities. While it might seem weird, writing a letter can help you put down all the positive things associated with your loss and how holding on to dreams have made you a wiser and better person. .

It is important to know that while we feel vulnerable and emotional; our tears are not a sign of weakness but of courage and strength. Acceptance of what has happened allows us to take the next step of transitioning to a new reality.

Marlene Anderson


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Forgiveness: A Gift We Give Ourselves

Forgiveness: A Gift We Give Ourselves | focuswithmarlene.com

“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king.

The chief drawback is what you are wolfing down is yourself.

The skeleton at the feast is you.”

 Frederick Buechner,
Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC
(New York: Harper & Row, 1973)

Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). We take it as a moral imperative.

But it isn’t just Jesus that tells us how important forgiveness is; science confirms it as well. In fact, to not forgive is putting a slow death sentence on ourselves, as the theologian Frederick Buechner so aptly describes.

Most of us deal with the sins and transgressions of others in the moment. We get mad, pull away, and then make up and go on.

When we are the transgressors, we do the same. With minor goofs and slip ups, we feel bad in the moment, apologize and then move on.

When we personalize indiscretions or offenses of others, we are setting ourselves up for the creation of a “grievance story,” as detailed by Dr. Fred Luskin, in his book, Forgive for Good.

When we hang on to resentment, it becomes more toxic over time. The suggestions offered by Dr. Luskin can help us better understand how and why we are so quickly offended and what we can do to change such a trajectory.

7 ways we can make forgiveness a gift rather than an obligation

Forgiveness: A Gift We Give Ourselves | focuswithmarlene.com

1. Don’t make “unenforceable” rules.

Unenforceable rules are expectations and assumptions that everyone must follow or we will be personally insulted and offended.

Associated with such rules are the words “should, must, have to and ought.”

When you hear yourself saying these words, ask what you are demanding from either yourself or another. How are you eliminating personal choice?

2. Own your feelings.

We blame others for how we feel. People can’t make us feel a certain way unless we allow it. We can choose other ways to respond that doesn’t involve escalating anger, ill will or hatred.

3. An injury does not create a “grievance story” – we do.

We can reframe our situations, become less critical and balance troubled times with humor.

4. Forgiveness and reconciliation is not the same thing.

Forgiving prepares the way for reconciliation – it doesn’t automatically say it will happen.

Forgiveness is letting go of trying to get retribution.

Forgiveness of self says I can admit when I am wrong, apologize and ask for forgiveness and stop beating myself up.

5. Forgiveness does not mean condoning unkindness, inconsiderate or selfish behavior, or excusing bad behavior.

It does not deny or minimize the hurt, pain or injury done to us. It just refuses to make it into an ongoing resentment story that becomes toxic over time. We are the ones hurt by not forgiving.

6. Coming to terms with unpleasantness in life helps us understand we are not perfect or flawless.

We will make mistakes and need grace and forgiveness. Although people will hurt us, they are often unaware that they have offended us.

7. Forgiveness is a choice.

We make the conscious decision to let go of the hurts and wrongs.

Forgiveness requires we first define our grievance. When we can articulate the details of the hurtful event, we will know exactly what we are forgiving.

Acknowledge, accept your feelings and then make that conscious choice to forgive. Forgiving helps us from getting hurt in the future.

Forgiveness allows me to let go of the pain and experience peace. I choose to forgive. How about you?

Marlene Anderson

To receive a handout on Forgiveness, send me an e-mail. I would appreciate your comments and a discussion on this topic.

  • What unforgiveable sin is hard to let go of?
  • What is the cost of hanging on and what would be the long term benefit for you?

If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Coming to Terms With Loss, Tragedy, and Injustice

Coming to Terms With Loss, Tragedy, and Injustice | FocusWithMarlene.com

Writing about our stories helps us see what happened, and our role in the outcome, from a new perspective. It also gives us the opportunity to take away nuggets of learning and wisdom.

Yet, there might be things that happened that make it difficult to let go and that continue to spark your anger. You still feel betrayed and taken advantage of. Forgiveness is out of the question as far as you are concerned and you are not ready to acknowledge any participation on your part to what happened.

Resentments continue to burn deep within your soul and spirit and an internal dialogue repeats:

“I have a right to feel angry and bitter. I was taken advantage of and made to feel stupid. If I simply accept and let it go, won’t I be admitting that I really am a fool?  How can I come to terms with that?”

Life experiences will be both good and bad.

We will experience events in life that take advantage of our good will, our desire to get along and be a good neighbor.

There will be tragedies associated with someone else’s hate or lack of responsibility or careless actions that leave us crippled or disabled in some way.

There will be achievements thwarted; losses too deep to speak about.

There will be many things that cannot be changed: the death of a spouse, the loss of your marriage, addiction, loss of health or finances; and the loss of support and care in your declining year.

Discover a new way to move forward.

Coming to terms with injustice, tragedies and losses of any kind, whether in our past or present, first requires acceptance.

Hanging on to our losses and injustices is like carrying around a huge suitcase full of rocks and stones. It keeps getting heavier and heavier and robs you of your ability to move forward.

Coming to terms requires acceptance.

Acceptance doesn’t mean everything will suddenly be back to normal or okay. It simply means you stop fighting and arguing about how cruel the world is or how badly you have been treated. Life is not fair. We can grumble and moan and rant and rave, but we can’t change history; we can’t change what others have done or what we have done.

By making a conscious and deliberate choice to let go of anger, hate, resentment and lingering frustration, you can have a different outcome.

Coming to terms is for you.

Coming to terms means that after we stop denying, fighting or struggling, we make a decision to leave what can’t be changed behind and decide to bring forward what is good. There is some good that can come out of the worst atrocity.

  • We can reach out our hand to someone who is hurting.
  • We can develop a compassion for others who are struggling.
  • We can see the pain of a neighbor and offer a word of understanding and comfort.

In any moment in time, we choose how we will respond to life.

Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist, Jew and survivor of the concentration camps of WWII wrote: “To live is to suffer; to survive is to find meaning in the suffering.”

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he shares that even in the horrendous conditions of Auschwitz, “What alone is the last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”

We will be challenged to live our values in the face of discarded principles and standards. We will be challenged to choose how we want to respond to life – both in our past and in the future. We will be challenged to make decisions that go counter to our desire to get payback or get even or follow the crowd.

But it is in those challenges that we grow and become more of who we are – a child of God and someone who endeavors to make a difference.

No matter the struggle, we can hang on to faith and hope and love and work through the knots and tangles of life.

Marlene Anderson


If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself, fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.

I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.