TSOTLS Ch6 – Feelings follow behaviour

Emotions are neither right, nor wrong. They just are. The one truth is that we cannot deny their existence. They is what they is and that’s that.

So why is it that we so frequently look for ways to numb, discount, deny or deprive our emotions? Can we trust our feelings? Continue reading

TSOTLS Ch5 – Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least.

While it takes two people to create a relationship, it takes only one to end it.

Livingston explores and examines the power struggles that arise in marriages in this thought-provoking chapter.

Instead of focussing on the presenting issues like money, children or sex, he digs deeper to highlight that “the underlying causes are usually diminished self-respect and unmet expectations” summarising that “one party typically feels and expresses less affection and respect than the other”.

 

“It is discouraging to see a couple about to join their lives acting like purchasers of used cars. We require contracts from people we do not trust; they protect us against those we fear will take advantage of us.”

Livingston concludes with these words: “The ground for disappointment and betrayal is prepared. An act of supreme optimism, courage, or foolishness, depending on your point of view, is encouraged to pursue its hopeful course, and the Ghost of Christmas Future is silent.”

Stephen Covey emphasised that one of the keys to success is to begin with the end in mind. I’m preparing an u/18 basketball team for a Grand Final this coming weekend. As their coach my emphasis has been on strengths, success and self-determination with my mantra – “Play with Freedom, not with fear.” My son laughed and called me the Dalai Lama as I sat on a basketball with the team huddled around me at the end of training – “yet another life lesson from dad”.

It would be foolish as a coach to condition the team for losing, for failure, for mistakes. Whilst the outcome is largely out of my control, as I stand on the sidelines I remain influential by staying engaged and involved.

There is no doubt that Livingston can attest to the emerging and repeating patterns of marital breakdown.  And certainly the statistics in the Aussie context back this up.

Is Livingston merely hard-hearted? Cynical? Critical? Or honest and real? In my experience he’s spot on! The person who cares least is the one in control.

So where does that leave us, you and me, the ones who care? Do we remain guarded, self-protective, and always withholding a part of ourselves for fear of being on the receiving end?  True, that is an option. We could choose to become the ones who care-less, but what if that means we become inauthentic to our very self?

Multiple voices express the notion in various forms that it is better to have loved and lost, that life itself is found most fulfilling when we experience the ideal “to love and be loved”.  Is this mere romantic rainbow-clad sentimentality?

Anyone who has had their heart broken, (and lets face it, who hasn’t!) knows the pain, anguish and self-questioning that results.  Am I not loveable? Is there something wrong with me? Did I give too much? Did I make a poor choice of partner in the first place?

There is no doubt I’m a hope-full romantic at heart, but I confess that I struggle to see hope in someone being there for me long-term and I ask myself – have our Western consumerist appetites eaten away our own hearts for successfully enjoying long-term loving relationships?

At times like this finding solace in friendships, family, healthy routines and things we are good at and find enjoyment in become important stabilisers when life beings to spin as our hearts weep.  Ultimately though, we must come to a place of being able to look ourselves in the mirror and whilst grieving, accept the loss of love, and take hold of the hope that love will come around again.

Love is not about control. It is not about who’s deserving. It’s not about being worthy.  We so often mistake love for what we receive, how we feel, what we get…yet love is about giving, sacrifice, being other-centred. Only we have charge over those choices. Love with freedom, not with fear. 🙂

 

What’s next? TSOTLS Ch 4: The statute of limitations has expired on most of our childhood traumas.

“The slender threads of causality are rewoven and reinterpreted as we attempt to explain to ourselves and others how we became the people we are.”

There is no doubting that our past influences our present state. Counsellors and psychologists worldwide are familiar with the impact, influence and often ongoing unexamined integration ones family of origin (FOO) has on why we as individuals act the way we do. We long for meaning. We long for connection. We long for authenticity, to be.

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Illogical Logic…TSOTLS Ch3 – “It is difficult to remove by logic an idea not placed there by logic in the first place”

So here’s my take on this chapter on illogical logic: Paradigms prohibit personal growth; possibilities prioritise personal growth.

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TSOTLS -Ch2: We are what we do.

Welcome to week 2 of this blog series.  For those who missed week 1 you can check out If the map is wrong and if you’d like to know the context that led to doing this series you can read Mid-Career Confidence Crash.

“We are not what we think, or what we say, or how we feel. We are what we do.” Livingston states this simple profound and pertinent truth.

He does so after drawing out the reality of his psychiatric experience where people would come to him seeking medication as a quick fix for their mood, mental health or mere boredom with life. They primarily wanted to minimise the pain, downplay the depression and despair, or desperation for the capacity to better manage their own emotions & thoughts as they battle unsatisfying daily routines.

His message: “The good news is that we have effective treatments for the symptoms of depression; the bad news is that medication will not make you happy. Happiness is not simply the absence of despair. It is an affirmative state in which our lives have both meaning and pleasure.”

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TSOTLS – Ch 1: “If the map doesn’t agree with the ground, the map is wrong.”

Livingston opens with an account of his days serving as a lieutenant in the army. Whilst studying a map he’s asked by his platoon sergeant if he’d located where they were yet. “Well, the map says there should be a hill over there but I don’t see it.” His response caused Livingston to recognise he’d heard a profound truth: “If the map don’t agree with the ground, then the map is wrong.”

He goes on to highlight that “over the many years I have spent listening to people’s stories, especially all the ways in which things can go awry, I have learned that our passage through life consists of an effort to get the maps in our heads to conform to the ground on which we walk.”  Continue reading

Mid-career confidence crash

CHANGE – here we go again!! Cash, calling, crisis, confidence, compassion and crap….oh crap!

In years gone by I worked as an employment consultant, with a focus on long-term unemployed and those at high risk of long term unemployment due to poor education, mental health or employment history issues.

I recall in particular chatting with older people, mostly men in mid-to-late-life, those who had experienced a redundancy, downsizing, restructuring and the occasional one who had made a risk-taking decision for a complete career change. For many their sense of value and worth was intrinsically linked to their status, income, and title and so their struggle with despair, despondency and even depression was very real.

Then there were those who came out of various corporate high-paying high-stress jobs who wanted to ‘give-back’, make a difference or simply got bored and wanted a new challenge.

Working in non-profits for over 15 years I’ve seen my fair share of people who come in to stamp their mark, leave a legacy, or be a positive influence for something that stands for more than just money. Whatever spin you put on it, people seeking to somehow, in someway, connect their personal values with their professional expertise, experience and skills.

The truth is that for most employed people we don’t love what we do, we don’t wake up breathing in fresh air and feeling intoxicated with joy for the day ahead. Or am I the only one? 

How then do we, how do I, navigate the tension between holding down a ‘normal’ job (whatever that is???); paying a mortgage, going through the motions of maintaining vigour and vitality in life and finding at least a sense of fulfilment and dare I say, even purpose?  Is that even possible?

Is it realistic to find this through a form of work/employment/job that pays sufficiently to alleviate financial stress and ideally even generate enough surplus income to pursue some simple pleasures and enjoyable activities – both for myself and for those I love and care about?

I’ve recently re-picked up a book called “Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart” by psychiatrist Gordon Livingston.  It first gained my attention with its subtitle “Thirty True things You Need to Know Now” and I am again intrigued by this collection of values and views.

The reason I’ve picked it up is that I guess I’m going through a minor (perhaps not so minor) identity crisis. Life for me has changed considerably over recent months and I find myself asking lots of questions, and alas, finding few answers.

Whilst I know there are no silver bullets for defining and redefining identity and fixing instability, I also know that it is self-destructive to hide away from ones circumstances and say that we cannot change. It takes courage to delve into the depths of one’s own soul, and it can be scary to explore the unknown. Staying stuck in the status quo has never been my style and I know ultimately limits or restricts growth, especially from our own fears.

So my plan is to read and reflect on each of these 30 minuets, one per week. Perhaps you’d like to follow along and interact with the conversation over coming weeks?

For now, be gentle with yourself, patient with those you love and care about, but most importantly, be true to who you are…no matter what may be going on in this thing we call life.