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Adjust Your Focus: Reframe Your Circumstances

Life is full of challenges. Some challenges will be fairly straightforward while others will require major adjustment and reframing to meet the demands within them.

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Years ago, when I was helping design and write a class on Chronic Illness, we reviewed a book by Arnold Beisser titled, Flying without Wings: Personal Reflections on Loss, Disability and Healing. Arnold was a young man ready to conquer the world. He was an athlete and tennis champion and had just completed medical school when polio struck. He found himself in an iron lung instead of in an office taking on new clients.

As he lay there unable to move, paralyzed from head to foot, he asked himself, Now what? His life seemed over. But he decided to take it back and gradually began to reframe his situation.

What can I engage in while I lay here?

He wanted to be more than just a helpless victim – he wanted to take charge of his life and have a part in determining what happened moving forward.

He began to use his imagination to creatively look at things in a new way. He writes in his book, that he began to experience “moments of great pleasure and satisfaction” when he became “absorbed” in whatever was going on around him. He became an “active observer, rather than a passive one.” He noticed small details of whatever he could see and how they would change.

Over time, with the help of physical therapy, he was able to get out of the iron lung and into a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. He did not allow his tragedy to disable him. He went on to become a psychiatrist, an administrator, an author and fell in love and married a woman he met while still in the hospital.

Arnold reframed his circumstances – he took what was given to him and began to look at it differently.

He expanded his interpretation and vision and then began taking those tiny steps to reclaim his life.

Reclaiming Life

Whether you are going through a marriage that is crumbling, knowing your job is being outsourced, coming to grips with health problems or ending up missing some limbs, reframing is seeing alternatives when you didn’t think there were any – options that were hidden in the background beyond your field of vision.

If our frames of reference are small, our lives will be restrictive, limiting, negative and inflexible.

If we enlarge our frames of reference, we see a bigger picture, learn to roll with the punches and develop an inner strength and resiliency.

How Reframing Begins

Adjust Your Focus: Reframe Your Circumstances | FocusWithMarlene.com

Reframing is a skill we can apply every day to every situation. It begins with changing our attitude and mindset. It is stepping back from the problem and gathering more information. When our nose is pressed against the trunk of a tree, we only see tree bark. But when we step away from it, we are able to see the rest of the forest around it.

Reframing allows us to step back from the impossibility of the situation and look for possibilities. It not only allows us to transcend difficult or traumatic life situations, but we can discover humor and gratitude in the process.

Advantages of Reframing

When faced with difficult or traumatic events, our perceptions of what we believe the world should or ought to be are challenged. Reframing allows us to review and evaluate our expectations and assumptions and accommodate for change.

If you have been out of work for a while and can’t find a job within your field, reframing allows you to look at alternatives; temporary jobs or ways to survive within this time period. When my husband and I were first married, major transitions and loss of income resulted in the need to live with parents until we could get back on our feet.

Reframing challenges a rigid and inflexible mindset that wants to see things only one way and gives us the opportunity to actively look for creative ways to resolve problems. It expands our perception of life to see how any downturn or setback can be an opportunity to grow and become so much more. We can create new meaning and purpose for life. There are blessings and things to be grateful for. And life can be meaningful and rewarding if we are willing to change our focus from what we can’t do to what we can.

Marlene Anderson


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Take Advantage of Life’s Opportunities

We collect a lot of unnecessary and unhelpful “stuff” over time – old habits, old lifestyles and ways of doing things that are counterproductive.

To explore new options and look for new opportunities, you need to let go of what isn’t working and open yourself up to new ideas and discoveries.

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Listen to my podcast episode #2, Life’s Opportunities, to hear how my husband and I took advantage of opportunities when they occurred.

For us, it involved ways to travel and meet new people and make new friendships within our time frame and financial budget. It meant being willing to sacrifice when necessary to capture some of those moments.

Within all our travels and opportunities, we met new people, made new friends and experienced the history and cultures of the world. We entertained people from other countries in our home. And we didn’t sacrifice our jobs, families or a lot of finances to do it. But we gained a wealth of experiences that enriched our lives in so many ways.

You can be prepared to look for and take advantage of opportunities, as well. It doesn’t always mean you have a lot of money waiting to be spent, but you do know how to budget and set funds aside for opportune moments.

When you know what you like and what you would enjoy doing more of, you can prepare in many different ways – taking online courses, developing special skills if needed, and just being open to possibilities.

Life never needs to be static or boring.


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A New Focus

“God does not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.”

– 2 Timothy 1:7

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Before I returned to school to get my master’s degree in psychology and counseling, I had the privilege to work for a company that provided two-week training workshops to injured workers in chronic pain. The participants were mandated to attend before their workman’s compensation expired.

When they arrived, they were angry and combative. Yet over the two weeks, we saw a profound change in individuals – they had hope again. They began to focus on what they could possibly do rather than what they no longer were able to do. It was an amazing transformation I witnessed many times.

However, some participants refused to consider such an option, and remained locked in bitterness over their injuries. When we believe we are limited or have no choices, we experience hopelessness, helplessness, resentment, anxiety and fear.

A New Focus | FocusWithMarlene.com

But when we shift our focus to possibilities and options, our energy can be directed toward finding solutions and setting new meaningful goals. That requires a new faith – a new belief – a new dialogue or self-talk.

A New Beginning – A new dialogue

The greatest obstacle we may ever have to face is ourselves. It’s what we say to ourselves when faced with losses, conflicts or unexpected tragedies. The first thing that pops into our head is “Oh no. Not again. How will I ever survive?”

Life is not fair. It is unpredictable. And life might take everything away from us that we thought we could never live without. But we can. We can not only survive, but rebuild, creating a new promising tomorrow.

When we struggle and struggle and it seems we aren’t going anywhere, it is easy to get discouraged and give up. Yet it is within the struggles that we get stronger mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Just as physical exercise is needed to keep our bodies fit and functioning, wrestling with life’s challenges using effective logical and reasoned approaches will develop a more proactive and productive life. We begin to realize that setbacks are opportunities to grow, develop, and find new ways to think and frame our circumstances and future.

Determining how you will respond to life may be the biggest and most important lifestyle challenge you ever have. Do a quick inventory of how you handled difficulties in the past. Check on whether that internal critic has slipped in again. Using your new understanding about affirmations, what statements of faith and belief in yourself and God can you put into the driver’s seat? Start repeating, “Yes, I can,” along with its twin, “I refuse to let this get me down.”

A New Focus

When I stopped teaching professionally, I decided to share my training and life experiences with others outside the college classroom. I chose the name FOCUS for my company’s name because it personified what I believed and what is needed to survive and thrive – a focus that establishes reasonable and attainable goals and helps us navigate through the battles of life.

Whatever you focus on you will become.

Focus:

  • On what you can do – not what you can’t
  • On God – let Him lead
  • On becoming genuine
  • On choices and possibilities
  • On solutions, not problems

Our focus in life defines who we are and what we believe in. It helps to establish our boundaries, set goals and define priorities.

We cannot choose what life is going to throw at us, but we can choose how we will respond to it. It is in our choices where we grow. We choose what we want to focus on.

Marlene Anderson


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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.

We Need to Accept in Order to See Alternatives

We Need to Accept in Order to See Alternatives | FocusWithMarlene.comWhat are you being asked to accept today?

What major change are you facing?

What situation do you find intolerable or unbearable – job, marriage, family concerns, health, etc.?

Perhaps you are trying to become more flexible as you age, adjusting to life as it is today instead of what used to be.

I listen to the poignant stories of people who are struggling to make ends meet, or overcome the loss of a loved one, or are re-fitting life to meet new health concerns. I include myself in many of these stories. And I tell myself as I tell others:

Nothing will change or get better until we first accept.

People’s first response when I say let go and accept is, “You must be kidding. Accept that my life is falling apart – accept that I have run into another setback?”

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying.

When we read the memoirs or life stories of people who have gone through horrific times, they tell us they not only survived, but were enriched by their experiences. How can that be?

We think of acceptance as an ending. That’s it. There is nothing I can do. But, in reality, it is a new beginning. Let me explain.

What acceptance is not

Before we can understand what acceptance is, we need to understand what it is not.

Acceptance is not giving up.

It is not resignation.

It isn’t saying, “I am powerless,” even though I may feel that way in the moment.

It doesn’t mean that if I accept I will remain a victim, ready to be stepped on, abused, or used against my will.

Acceptance means we stop resisting and struggling.

We don’t accept because we don’t want to feel the pain, loneliness, uncertainty and fear of not knowing where to go from here.  Working through the uncertainty of adversity is never easy. We want to withdraw, lick our wounds and isolate ourselves and the vulnerability we feel. We put on a brave face when out in public but then retreat behind the protective walls we build around our hearts and spirits.

Yet it is precisely in those difficult times where we grow spiritual and psychological muscles and come to terms with our inabilities. It is the opportunity to begin a trusting relationship with God and have a conversation with ourselves. We are not alone unless we choose to stay in that aloneness.

Acceptance does not mean:

  • I am powerless – instead, it helps me find and use my power constructively
  • I stay in this position forever – instead, it allows me to look for better options
  • I have no rights – instead, it helps me protect and use my rights more effectively
  • I am a victim to whatever happens – instead, it frees me to take charge of my life

Acceptance is not giving up. It is not resignation. It is opening your hand and allowing new information to meld with the old in order to see and take advantage of new prospects. Acceptance allows me to work with my situation. I don’t have to blame anybody or anything. I don’t have to blame myself. I don’t have to find the perfect answer or try to be perfect in resolution.

Acceptance

Acceptance means a new beginning – I start right here – right now.

As we struggle with this concept, there will be moments of questioning, confusion and misunderstanding. Give yourself time, patience and grace to work through the tangles of doubts, uncertainty, skepticism and misgivings. We may not receive the answers to all our questions, but we will receive a peace as we accept life as it is and work with it. We may have lost things we treasured. But as we roll with the punches, we gain flexibility and compassion.

When we are ready to accept, we are ready to take charge of our life – not control it.

When we try to control life, we are closed to new information and new ways. When we take charge of our life, we are able to gather and evaluate options. We look at possibilities and expand our frame of reference. Old rigid rules we put in place are examined.  Acceptance means I no longer run from my fears, anxieties and concerns. I face them squarely and honestly.

Here are some ways to further understand the concept of acceptance.

  • Acceptance means I do not have to stay in this uncomfortable spot – I can learn, grow and move forward
  • Acceptance says life isn’t fair – I didn’t ask for this, but I can work with it – I can work with my disability, my failing health, and my family issues.
  • Acceptance means a new beginning, starting right here, right now
  • Acceptance tells me I don’t have all the answers and don’t need to pretend that I do
  • Acceptance means I can ask for help when I need it
  • Acceptance tells me I am okay no matter what has happened – I am a child of God
  • Acceptance means I don’t have to blame someone or something for what has happened; remaining a victim is self-defeating and a dead end
  • Acceptance acknowledges my need for forgiveness, grace, humility and honesty. I allow God and others into my life and walk with their support
  • Acceptance allows me to discover myself with dignity and honesty. I am free to be me, with all my shortcomings as well as all my unique qualities, special gifts and talents

Marlene Anderson


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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.

That Unexpected Visitor – Your Internal Critic

Love is a gift – a gift God gives to us – a gift we give to ourselves –

a gift we give to others. If we have no love for ourselves,

we will find it very difficult to love another.

We will go through the motion of duty-bound traditions,

but duty is not love.

Life is going great when bam! The earth quakes and a landslide comes tumbling down, burying everything you had worked so hard on.

And without warning, as if on some internal cue, you are assaulted with doubts and misgivings. Buried under an avalanche, hidden from view, out of sight are all the things you have accomplished. You no longer consider and appreciate all the things you have done and are capable of doing. The rubble is not just life happening, it is a reminder of the bad choices you made and how inadequate you are.

In the blink of an eye, an old and unwanted visitor has just returned.

The voice is loud and clear. “You just won’t learn – you will never amount to anything, no matter how hard you try.”

On and on it goes, regurgitating messages from your past. You’ve heard it all before. Your unwanted internal critic has just showed up at your doorstep once again.

Each time you listen, however, this internal critic’s voice gets louder and more persistent. Over the years your critic has collected all the dismissive and disparaging messages and strung them together into an internal audio tape. When things start going wrong, the play button is automatically pushed.

But, if difficulties can push the play button, we can push the stop button.

Who is this internal critic and where did it come from?

We liken this internal demeaning dialogue to that of an internal critic because the messages are always negative. They are pessimistic, belittling and discouraging.

This internal critic has been around a long time and it has nothing of value to tell you. Unless challenged, it will be relentless. Here are some things you might hear your critic say:

  • Why do you always do such stupid things?
  • Won’t you ever learn?
  • What’s wrong with you?
  • If others knew how incompetent you are, they would have nothing to do with you
  • Why can’t you be like your sister or brother?
  • You’ll never amount to anything.

The job of our critic is to remind us of all the reasons why we fail or can’t succeed so don’t even bother trying. It has recorded all the times you failed in the past or were told by someone in authority that you were a failure.

It combines labels and judgmental words spoken over the years, playing them repeatedly in your head until it becomes a self-proclaimed truth. If I am continually reminded, then it must be true – right? Wrong!

If you are being bombarded with useless diatribe, it might be time to do something about it. We know it is important to pay attention to our emotional responses. But stop and listen to what you are hearing.

How does what your critic keeps repeating over and over help you rise above or solve your problems?

Do you want to keep listening to this soliloquy or are you ready to put a new recording on?

Stop – Consider – Start a New Soundtrack

That Unexpected Visitor – Your Internal Critic | FocusWithMarlene.com

If you have had enough, then let’s push the STOP button and start a new recording of affirmations. Affirmations are encouraging and motivating statements that direct us toward a positive outcome. They can be as simple as, “Yes I can, I have confidence in myself, I refuse to get discouraged, or “I will consider what isn’t working and replace it or I will get better information to help me find answers.”

Repeating them throughout the day can reverse the seeds of doubts, misgivings and fears. They rely on the possible instead of the impossible. They balance our need to critically think with words that help us do that.

We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. But that does not mean we can’t learn valuable lessons from them. Life can be a great and important teacher.

Doubts and fears are normal and natural. Like all emotions, they tell us something – they have a purpose. We need to pay attention. They warn us to stop and investigate before moving forward. They keep us from making knee-jerk reactions. But when doubts and fears continue to overshadow our attempts to find appropriate solutions, it is time to identify and challenge their origins and authenticity.

Because this internal critic has been around for such a long time, it will take some forceful measures to silence it.

Here are five steps to make that happen.

Step 1:  Give your critic a name. Call it whatever you want. It is much easier to communicate or speak with an entity than something subjective.

Step 2:  Address your critic by name. Tell it in no uncertain terms that you are tired of all the negative and destructive messages. They are not helping you solve your problems or life challenges. You will no longer listen to toxic and harmful messages.

Step 3:  When you become aware of your critic sabotaging your efforts by using criticism of any kind, tell it to STOP and BE QUIET in a firm and forceful voice. You are through listening to unhealthy, degrading and demeaning comments.

Step 4:  The messages from your past are a memory tape – the critic is the voice. Visualize yourself holding a remote control with a huge STOP and PLAY button on it. Whenever the PLAY button has been activated, visually see yourself pushing the STOP button.

Step 5:  The taped messages along with your internal critic have been around a long time. You will have to be very compelling and insistent. If you are alone, say out loud, “STOP! I do not intend to listen to this negative stuff.” Or say “STOP” forcefully in your mind.

It’s not enough to simply stop a reaction that has become habitual. We need to replace it with something else. Replace the critical words you hear with words of affirmation.

Here are some important ones to repeat throughout the day as often as possible:

  • I am capable, competent and discerning
  • I accept myself unconditionally – both my strengths and weaknesses
  • I am not my past
  • I am able to think, evaluate and find appropriate solutions to all my problems

These are just a sample of positive affirmations. Affirmations affirm your worth, abilities, beliefs and values. They draw you towards a self-fulfilling prophecy of possibility and choice. Repeat them every day to establish a new dialogue and confidence.

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.

What Do the Words You Use Say About You?

 

“Love is like a mirror. When you love another,

You become his mirror and he becomes yours.”

– Leo Buscaglia, Love

What words do you use every day that tell another who you are, what you believe and what is dear to you?

What Do the Words You Use Say About You? | FocusWithMarlene.com

What words do you use that lift another up or tear them down?

Words! They become the paint and paintbrushes to open the windows of our soul. They are the toolboxes of our brain used to convey our thoughts and innermost feelings.

We construct and sculpt conversations with creativity and imagination in order to share with another how we feel – to tell our stories. We want others to understand the difficulties we are going through and emphasize with our losses. We want them to be happy for us and rejoice with us our successes.

Words become the connecting tissue, linking old experiences with the new, melding together the past with what we are experiencing today. Words enable us to “see” what we don’t see, “feel” what we don’t feel, and truly share in the common human experience.

As a writer I am both intrigued and challenged with the selection, juggling and putting together of words that form the creation of my stories.

An author uses words to paint scenarios that you can easily “step” into. A novelist’s descriptive expressions of action can have you literally ducking from flying rocks or an assailant’s punches; while yet another writer writes with such heartbreaking intensity that we cry as though we ourselves had been emotionally wounded.

As a writer, the words and phrases I use can turn on “ah-ha” moments for a reader or highlight our shared commonality. They allow us to search our memory banks to more accurately reconstruct the past. Every day, I become more aware of the creative use of words people use to bring to life otherwise mundane events.

What words do you use?

As a counselor, I see the darker side of words – words that become weapons in the mouths of everyday people who have no clue that what they are saying are ripping apart another’s worth and esteem. We are witnesses to such brutal attacks in our malls and on our streets when we hear children verbally attacked in the guise of parenting or when we hear spiteful, degrading and subtle demeaning exchanges between couples.

We tear our neighbor’s reputation apart by our gossip, tarnishing their image to others. It isn’t behaviors we talk about, but how bad a person they are. We do not see the shattered remains of a self-worth in tatters when we talk behind their backs, or whisper how they do not fit in. How do I know? Because the bruised, scarred and sometimes still internally hemorrhaging victims darken the doorways of most therapists’ offices.

But perhaps even more tragic are the words we use on ourselves. Growing up we often heard how bad “we” were when it was our actions and thoughtless behaviors that were in question. We were no good. Would we never learn?

When things go wrong as adults, those words come back to remind us of just how incompetent we are. Sometimes, it is just an ongoing dialogue in the background of our mind as we go about our lives. As adults, they too come to therapists wondering what’s wrong with them.

As authors, we are commissioned to write about what we see and witness. How do we report on what we observe without doing more harm? How do we choose words that will encourage in the face of overwhelming challenges while looking truthfully at what we are facing?

Whether fiction or non-fiction, the words we use will strip away facades, challenge our vulnerabilities and insecurities. But they can also inspire hope and courage and faith.

Author, speaker, Christian, plumber, president, engineer, teacher – the words we use can become weapons of destruction or a vehicle of rescue, motivation and hope in whatever role we have in life.

They can attack or bind up wounds.

They can support another as he gets back on his feet or they can take away his dignity and integrity.

The words we use have incredible power. It’s up to each of us how we use them – in articles, in our books and our daily conversations.

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.

Become Proactive Instead of Reactive

Become Proactive Instead of Reactive | FocusWithMarlene.comThe key to making good choices is the ability to accurately assess what is happening in the moment.

If our responses to people and events are based on old, outdated and inappropriate past reactions, it will be more difficult to become proactive.

Identify, Challenge and Replace

My last three posts have dealt with emotions and how patterns of thinking and feeling are established. Understanding how and why we feel the way we do can help us take advantage of opportunities. When anxiety, fear, or anger constantly overwhelm us, we will have difficulty finding the solutions we need.

How do we know if our emotional responses are based on the here and now instead of past experiences? We do that by becoming aware of our patterns of behavior and challenging the logic and reliability of the automatic thoughts and beliefs associated with them.

Recognizing Automatic Thoughts

To challenge automatic thoughts, we need to first recognize them. If our first response to events is usually fear, anxiety, anger, helplessness and hopelessness, we will want to know what triggers these. We are seldom aware of the underlying thoughts and beliefs.

Take a piece of paper and make 3 columns with headings entitled Situation, Emotions and Automatic Thoughts. Here is an example of what that might look like.

Situation                                   Emotions                       Automatic Thoughts

Who, what, when, where?     What did you feel?    Thoughts going through your mind?

For a week, keep a record of situations that trigger intense and repetitive emotional responses. What thoughts were going through your head at the time? What mental images did you have that amplified those thoughts?

Then, take each situation and evaluate the thinking associated with your emotional response. How accurate or rational is it in relation to what is actually happening? Are messages from the past intensifying these thoughts or beliefs?

Here is an example of what the process might look like:

Situation: The firm is downsizing

Emotions: Fearful, anxious, and worried about my future

Automatic Thoughts: I will be the next one fired. I can’t survive without this job. I won’t be considered good enough to be kept.

Challenging Automatic Thoughts

Challenging our thoughts and beliefs is making a scientific premise and testing its validity through objective analysis.

  • How accurate is my thinking?
  • How can I prove or disprove it?
  • Can my thoughts be modified or expanded?
  • What are the underlying beliefs?

Using the example I have given, here is how I might challenge and expand my thinking.

I know I have excellent skills and am a good and valued employee. If I am laid off, I will be able to find another job or use my skills in other ways.

It might be rough, but I know I can make it. I will continue to do my job well and do some preparation in case I do get laid off, such as reducing the debt on my credit cards, putting money into a savings account, and sticking to a budget.

Businesses do downsize – it is a reality of today.

Unchallenged, our first automatic thoughts about a potential catastrophe can keep us in a fear, anxiety or panic mode.

Challenging those thoughts takes us out of the fear cycle and affirms our ability to be flexible, roll with the punches and believe in ourselves. It doesn’t say crises or disasters won’t happen; instead, it allows us to prepare through proactive measures.

Here are some ways to challenge your thinking:

  • Were these rational thoughts appropriate and applicable to what is happening?
  • Were the thoughts negative and limiting only?
  • How could I reframe the situation to allow a more measured response?
  • What beliefs do I have about myself that influence my thinking?
  • Do these beliefs serve me or hurt me? Do they help me improve or remain in fear?
  • What is the evidence in favor of my interpretation? Contrary to my interpretation?

Old messages from the past can dominate our thinking and reduce our ability to feel competent to make choices that are right for us in the here and now.

It is important to stop and evaluate what your emotions are telling you. Before reacting, ask yourself, is this something I legitimately should be concerned about? If so, what proactive steps can I take to resolve any problems associated with it?

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.


References:

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

Creating and Taming Fear Dragons

“God does not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.”

—2 Timothy 1:7

What scares you the most on a day-to-day basis? Are you concerned about your job, or your kids or testing positive for cancer?

Fears are normal and natural. They help us plan and think and prepare. But they can also become deep-seated anxieties that monopolize our thinking to the exclusion of problem solving.

Fears, like anger, can become excessive.Creating and Taming Fear Dragons | FocusWithMarlene.com

They can appear like huge dragons or monsters threatening everything we do to the point where we no longer see options or opportunities.

The excessive fears we create in our mind seem just as real as any physical danger we might encounter. In fact, they are probably more resistant and difficult to deal with because once created, we go to great lengths to prove to ourselves and others that they are real. When we do, we set ourselves up for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There are valid reasons for paying attention to fear.

It is a survival mechanism that tells us to stop, be careful and proceed with caution. However, if our focus remains on the feelings only without searching for solutions to problems they may be pointing to, it creates a sense of helplessness and we stop looking for answers.

What triggers your fears?

Often, fears begin with what ifs:

  • What if I lost my job
  • What if my husband leaves me
  • What if I get really sick and can’t take care of my child
  • What if I don’t get this job
  • What if they don’t like me
  • What if I’m not good enough
  • What if I can’t pay off my college debt, mortgage, etc.
  • What if. . . .

Our lists of what ifs can go on forever. The problem isn’t that we shouldn’t pay attention to doubts and uncertainties, or that any one of them might happen. It’s when the what ifs activate beliefs that say we won’t be able to make it; we don’t have what it takes to meet the challenge.

We can become so consumed by the terror of what might happen, that it is what we hang onto and if anyone suggests an opposing view, we go to great lengths to prove why they are wrong, and we are right. In that moment, we have created a “fear dragon” that needs to be continually fed.

The problem with fear dragons is that they are created; they are not real. There might have been legitimate underlying concerns which have spun out of control.

But, if we can create fear dragons, we can tame them and make them work for us. We can look at our fears and ask, what are you telling me? Is there a problem in the real world that I need to deal with? Or are you telling me I’m the problem? You are not.

Here are ten things to consider when your fear and anxiety buttons are pushed:

  1. Is the fear I am experiencing based on identifiable facts and circumstances in the here and now? Or is it coming from old intense feelings of insecurity? If the fear comes from feelings of insecurity, challenge and replace the thinking associated with it. We can change our responses.

 

  1. Have past experiences intensified the feelings of fear today? For example, as you were growing up, you may have been constantly yelled at or punished leaving you hyper-sensitive to anything that might be threatening. Take the necessary time to work through past issues. Expectations become a by-product of how we think. Expect good things to come from any situation – even the most difficult ones.

 

  1. Fear tells us to stop and pay attention. Are you in potential physical danger? If your gut is telling you that you may be in a dangerous situation, stop, look, and listen. Don’t just automatically dismiss it. People have been assaulted in public places because they were too dismissive of that gut feeling.

 

  1. Fear is protective. It can protect us from doing foolish or careless things. Pay attention to warning signs. Are you minimizing risks when you should be paying more careful attention, such as hiking alone on trails because you want to do it and it looks like fun?

 

  1. Fear of failure reveals our insecurities. Face them and grow from them. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. Don’t allow this fear to take over your life. Use it instead to find authentic ways to grow in confidence and become genuine.

 

  1. Fear can drive us to God. It is where I draw my strength and hope for the future every day. Understanding that we have a loving Almighty God who cares about us, guides and strengthens us is both humbling and empowering. Don’t leave home without Him.

 

  1. Fear can isolate us. We need the support of others. If we constantly fear rejection or humiliation, we will miss out on the wonderful relationships we can have.

 

  1. Fear challenges us to get out of our comfort zone. For example, public speaking is a challenge for most of us and is often avoided. While being pleased at being asked to speak, fear of failure can take over. We can overcome much of our apprehension by looking for opportunities to speak in small comfortable gatherings of friends you trust and share common interests. The more you do, the more confident you will become.

 

  1. Fear begs the question, “What am I really afraid of?” Listen to those inner thoughts. What they are saying to you? Healthy fear tells you to pay attention to what is happening. Excessive and unhealthy fear tells you nothing will ever be okay.

 

  1. Face your fear. Sit down and have a conversation with it. Everybody has fears – some rational, and some irrational. Just as fears protect us, they can also help us grow.

Speak to yourself from a position of strength. You have a multitude of talents and abilities.  Accept your weaknesses along with your strengths. Take that risk and step out of your comfort zone.

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.

Emotions That Get You Into Trouble

“Don’t be quick to fly off the handle. Anger boomerangs. You can spot a fool by the lumps on his head.”

—Ecclesiastes 7:9 – The Message

Does anger, hate and discontent define your life?

Some emotions are more troubling than others, such as anger and hate. If you find yourself constantly feeling angry and resentful you need to explore their origins.Emotions That Get You Into Trouble | FocusWithMarlene.com

Such strong emotions over time erode your ability to think productively, make good decisions and accomplish your goals. And even more troubling, there are serious consequences to your overall physical and mental health.

How negative emotions start

But where do these underlying and constant feelings of irritation, anger and hatred come from? Why have they become my typical response to life?

To clarify patterns of thinking and behaviors requires looking at how they got started. We all will feel angry and irritated and even hateful from time to time. It is when it becomes a typical response pattern that we need to ask ourselves why and do I really want to keep seeing the world in this way?

Keep a record for one week.

Jot down the times when these emotions occurred and what triggered them.

  • What were you saying to yourself?
  • Was it reasonable or justified in terms of what was happening?
  • How did this response hurt or help you?
  • How might you have responded differently and how would that have produced a better outcome for everyone?

If you are constantly irritated to the point where you feel dislike towards everyone, it will soon become your typical response to any irritation you might feel. It doesn’t take long for dislike to turn into disgust and scorn or even hatred. And it is important to realize that hate is destructive to everyone.

While every emotion is necessary, important and valuable, it is the excessiveness that becomes damaging. We need to be able to feel anger, guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, and discouragement as well as love, hope, joy, excitement, contentment, and tolerance etc. Each has something of value to teach us. It is the typical and consistent response of anger that becomes excessive and damaging over time. It’s when it is directed to any minor infringement that we find ourselves in trouble.

Continual anger is like a fire out of control.

“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way. . .”

—James 4:1-2

It is like an untamed beast, devouring everything in its path. It no longer activates a desire to make appropriate changes or to correct wrongs. We no longer can make legitimate distinctions between right and wrong and work to correct these wrongs. Instead it makes “force” and “have to” the designated way to deal with everything.

Anger out of control turns into rage.

We yell at the kids, we hold grudges against our peers, or we only see the bad in others. We find friends and people in general avoiding us. It is difficult to have intelligent conversations where we can argue our point of view without ignoring or trashing an opposing one.

“Rage is poison,” writes Bill De Foore, Ph.D., in his book, “Anger: Deal with it, Heal with it, Stop it from Killing you.” We can find this rage in both men and women. When anger is not channeled appropriately, it can simmer until with the slightest nudge, it turns into uncontrollable rage.

Where did this out-of-control fire or beast come from?

It typically has its roots in our childhood. While some of us may have a greater sensitivity of being more easily offended than others, we usually can recognize and change hurtful responses. Without understanding anger’s nature and roots, we can become its slave and continue to hurt ourselves and others.

It’s not enough just to recognize you have an anger problem.

It is also unhealthy to ignore it or try to stuff it. In the words of Bill DeFoore, “Buried feelings, like buried vegetables, don’t just lie there. They get hot and generate energy, which has to come out one way or another.”

How do I know if I have an anger problem?

The suggestions below are adaptations from the work of Bill Defoore, Thomas Harbin, and others.

  • When you get angry, you don’t get over it
  • You don’t recognize your anger – it is as though it isn’t in your range of emotions
  • You are constantly feeling “frustrated, disappointed or irritable”
  • Everything in life is awful or terrible
  • You have become “sarcastic or cynical” about everything
  • You are easily offended
  • You grew up in a home full of angry people
  • Anger has become your typical way of communicating your thoughts and feelings
  • You believe being angry is the only way to solve problems and conflicts
  • Anger makes you feel less powerless
  • Anger is your way to problem solve so resolutions are never found
  • We overgeneralize, catastrophize and personalize everything that happens

Three things to remember about anger

Simply venting or acting out might release some of your anger in the moment, but it will not take away the source of your anger. Remember:

  1. It is okay to be angry
  2. It is not okay to hurt yourself, someone else, or anyone’s property
  3. You are responsible for what you do with your anger

If you find you are always feeling angry, have a history of anger and it is your typical and first response to whatever is happening, I encourage you to read some of the self-help books I have listed on the subject that I have used in my teaching and counseling career. Or work with a trained therapist.

Life can be so much more than what your anger is offering you. While it is a survival mechanism, it can also work against your best interests.

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.


References:

When Anger Hurts – Quieting the Storm Within, by Matthew McKay, Ph.D, Peter D. Rogers, Ph.D., Judith McKay, R.N. New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1989

Anger: How to Live with and without it, by Albert Ellis, Ph.D., A citadel Press Book, Carol Publishing Group, 1990

Anger: Deal with it, Heal with it, Stop it from Killing you, Health Communications, Inc., 1991

Beyond Anger: A guide for men, by Thomas J. Harbin, Ph.D., Marlowe & Co., N.Y., 2000

The Dance of Anger – A Woman’s guide to changing the patterns of intimate relationships, by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D., Harper & Row Pub, NY, 1985

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.

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.


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