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Afraid to get excited?

3 Aug

“Everything has been going so well, I’m afraid to get excited,” my client stated emphatically. “What if it doesn’t last?”

“Guess what…” I said, “It won’t!”

I know what you’re thinking. Dang, Kori; way to burst her bubble! You always talk about how powerful our thoughts are and how important being positive is!

Well, yes, as a matter of fact I do. And I’m also a realist! Positive thinking is beneficial, if we’re still operating in reality– objective reality.

“It won’t last,” I confirmed. “And that’s the entire reason I need you to relish in the excitement you’re feeling right now. I hear it in your voice, I see it in your face. Your entire body relaxed when you were describing for me what you’ve noticed lately, how well you’ve been eating, the different ways in which you’re taking care of yourself, and how motivated you’ve been during your training sessions!”

Life- ScrabbleLife.

I can go from feeling blissfully grateful to depressingly disappointed in the span of 60 seconds!

Emotion.

Memories are created by emotion. Events that  stand out for us have feelings, driven by hormones, attached to them. You could be sitting in the middle of a movie theater and recall something you were involved in years ago because of a similarly felt emotion evoked from the movie you’re watching currently.

My client has disappointment, discouragement, frustration, hurt, and anger entangled around her previous weight loss attempts. Happiness– if that’s felt for her, it’s like traveling to a foreign land where she stands among throngs of people unable to speak the language. What? Huh? Where am I? What is this? Yet she knows what it feels like because she has experienced it in other areas of her life.

Unable to make sense of it in this context, however, with it being such a rare occurrence, not only was she uncomfortable about acknowledging it but she began attributing it to some magical phenomenon.

She said, “Everything that’s happening has to be pure coincidence….or magic…or luck.”

Self-determinationTo which I replied, “You’re right. It couldn’t be that you’re taking proactive steps toward planning ahead, thinking through your actions, defining for yourself how you’d like to feel at the end of the day, playing your behaviors forward, and moving away from the belief that you need to be perfect in order to be successful…..no. It can’t be that stuff.” I winked. “You’re developing a sense of competence through engaging in meaningful behaviors,” I said. “Roll around in that!”

When was the shoe going to drop? Who knew. But what I did know was that eventually it would, whether big or small, but it was the sense of mastery and competence she was developing that I needed her to feel and take advantage of while it was there, that she could draw on when the shoe did drop. She needed to sink into the gratefulness for her successes and the excitement she was feeling. With that would come more happiness and optimism and importantly, a new narrative that she could write to explain where she was headed.

The self-handicapping, a term coined by Knee and Zuckerman (1998) needed to erode away into an objective level of responsibility-taking when the negative would pop up and setbacks would occur. In other words, I wanted her to understand that she didn’t need to defensively prepare herself for possible failure by not attributing her success to personal efforts.  If we could acknowledge that there would be failures along the way, and expect them, she wouldn’t need to make excuses “just in case.”I write...

Her new narrative, her story, that she would write about herself, or explain to others, when they would eventually ask, “How’d you do it? You lost so much weight!” would be an amalgamation of the events in her life that she would craft and connect in ways that would define her identity as a persistent, determined, competent woman who set her sights on health, and put one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again; rather than a victim of circumstance, untoward events, and the cosmos colluding in creating a fate that has her resigned to believing “I guess I was just meant to be fat.”

Dan Abrams, a Northwestern University psychologist, explains how stories give our lives coherence and meaning. Simply, they put the events we’ve experienced into perspective and help us create patterns. I wanted my client to begin rewriting the story she had been living for so long– that she was broken, unsuccessful, and a failure– and put herself in the role of a self-determined, cunning, clever, intelligent protagonist that could navigate even the toughest stuff and come out the other side. I wanted her to write a new story that had her as the hero!

Often the stories we’ve written are unconscious– think of all the times you’ve wondered why you act a certain way and have such trouble doing something different. We begin writing our stories at a very young age, and oftentimes we’re the main character in a story that is no longer true or valid for our present selves. Even if an event happened when we were a child, the meaning we spun around it then is often irrelevant for us as adults and keeps us stuck and frustrated. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, we keep reliving the same events again and again and again.

Great stories happen to those who can tell them...So think positive. But think realistically positive.

Proofread your stories and proofread them well.

Demand excellence from yourself, but not perfection.

Don’t wait for the shoe to drop– expect that it will. Then go put it on and tie the laces tightly.

And finally, get excited. Go experience and take risks so you can write new stories in which you’re thrilled to be the main character!

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The colors are there– you just aren’t seeing them…

29 Jun

Living in Full ColorI’ve heard a lot over the last week, “I’ll try, Kori.”

On the other end of the continuum I’ve heard, “I won’t _____________ (fill in the blank)” or “Every day I will _________________.”

On one extreme are half-hearted attempts at changing a behavior (perhaps unconscious), and on the other are absolutes that just might fall through the cracks and result in feelings of failure and discouragement (also often unconscious).

The middle ground? The space between the event and the response.

The space where breathing takes place, slowing down, critical assessment of what needs attention in the present moment, and an honest noticing of what is right here, right now.

It’s a space where we recognize what holes we’re dragging ourselves into through our distorted and unrealistic, completely off-base thoughts and perceptions.

A space that welcomes creativity and a turning over of our well-worn beliefs and stories that so often were not written by us but that we’re living out.

A space that reveals the fresh earth beneath the hardened and biased outer shell that we barely take notice of.

It’s a space of vulnerability that often unveils the shame driving our behaviors. It’s a gap filled with ‘aha’ moments we’ll never have unless we give ourselves permission to step into it.

It’s a time where we realize we’ve adopted someone else’s goal.

A moment when the fog lifts and even if painful we decide to let someone or something go that we’ve been clinging to.

A glimpse of our power and our courage.

A reach toward compassion for what we’ve left behind and forgotten, or actively thwarted and stuffed away because we erroneously believed it needed to be hidden from others.

This middle ground– the space– is always there. We rarely, however, give ourselves permission to experience it. It’s inside of us. Ever taken the time to finally clean off your computer monitor and you’re struck by the clarity of the screen? The vibrant colors that pop out at you? The colors have always been there- you just weren’t seeing them.

Behavior change is hard. Just thinking about being different or doing something different is exciting. Totally different ballgame when you’re in the throes of the intentionality and practice that comes along with it.

If you’re not used to looking for the colors, you have to start looking for them. And you have to look for them constantly. You have to stop running from yourself and what you give to yourself, be it a thought, a feeling, or a behavior. Each of these may be inappropriate, ugly, or incongruent from what or how you believe you should be thinking, feeling, or behaving, but none of that matters.

They are colors. And when you see them, you can paint with them. You as the artist. Your life as the canvas.

The middle ground is a place of opportunity. A place where we can ask “What if?” and see what comes up rather than an obstacle in our path. It may be fear. It may be doubt. It may be excitement. Or it may be anticipation. But with each of these also comes a choice. Will you give yourself permission to see the full spectrum of the fear? Can you walk from the deep, pulsating reds that screaming “Stop! Don’t take another step!” to the calming “Come this way, it will be okay” life-giving greens?

I think you can.

Don’t Kill the Messenger!

31 May

At the conclusion of my workshop earlier this week one of the participants expressed concern about the utility of a particular tool I’d recommended. I gave everyone 10 different tools to begin putting into practice that would set them on a course toward navigating the barriers we so often trip over and give permission (not often consciously) to minimize our goal persistence.

The tip, BOYCOTT THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, suggests that we would do well to become more open to experiencing what life hands us, to pay attention, to slow down, and to savor.

Open to ExperienceBoycotting the zombie apocalypse means we aren’t operating in the misconstrued land of “ignorance is bliss.” No. In fact, deciding to disengage from the automatic pilot mode that so many of us move through our days with, gives us hope for a new level of authenticity and importantly, choosing goals that actually resonate with who we are.

So my workshop attendee’s concern went something like this: “Kori, I’m getting stuck in the part where you talk about letting yourself experience emotion. Like pain. I’m worried that if I let myself feel it, I’ll just wallow in it.”

She related her perceived tendency to stay steeped in emotion, as so many of us do. But not because we’re consciously making a decision to invite it in and acknowledge it… when we get overwhelmed by pain, it is more a function of believing the thoughts that we’ve constructed about the meaning of our pain. And often the thoughts are distorted and untrue.

It is our nature to feel coherent and integrated. You know when you feel uncomfortable– like something is awry. Our bodies signal us through symptoms like an increased heart rate, lack of concentration or focus, or fidgeting. Our thoughts can clue us in to how we might be experiencing a situation as well, for example, “you’ll never finish this project”, or “he’s very angry with you right now.” These thoughts give rise to feelings that manifest in our physical bodies and can cause a host of behaviors. When we’re in zombie land, we move impulsively. We react. If we can slow down when we recognize these cues, we can respond in a more coherent, integrated manner.

It’s not our nature to tend toward wallowing and staying in the center of discomfort- we want to feel like we’re well oiled and calibrated. The body strives toward equilibrium as well. However, if, for instance, my workshop participant grew up in an environment where by staying emotionally engaged and emotionally intense she received attention and nurturing, perhaps her concern is valid. There were positive consequences for her to remain in the emotionally volatile place, despite its being uncomfortable and disintegrating.  Now, in her adult life, such behavior is likely not so effective. She gets to learn a new way of being with her emotion, and still “using it”, but in a different manner.

The pain is the messenger. When we try to push it away versus inviting it in and acknowledging it, we in essence, tell ourselves that we’re unimportant and that our bodies are misguided and we can’t trust them. I read this equation that is helpful to remember: Pain x Resistance = Suffering

Listen and LearnIf we resist the pain, we kill the messenger…and the message. And the messenger can be delivering some astoundingly revelatory and insightful information to us….if we’re willing to listen.

We don’t have to wish for pain or not-so-comfortable experiences. What I am implying is that through the adoption of a more open nature and a boycotting of the zombie apocalypse, you will experience a wealth of benefits including: greater emotional regulation and resilience in the face of difficult circumstances; higher thresholds for experiencing threats or stress; viewing all experiences as opportunities for growth and learning; fewer inclinations toward awareness distracting activities like television, video games, or compulsive behaviors such as binge eating; and the adoption of goals that are not only personally meaningful and relevant, but the ability to pursue them with persistence.

So don’t kill the messenger. The messenger is your friend. And as Carl Rogers once said, “All the facts are friendly” (1961).

Tell Me If I’m Wrong…Because I Want to Be Right!!- Part 3

15 May

Optimal ExperienceThe concept of “flow” is a useful tool to describe how moving toward opportunities of dissonance (discomfort) as well as being among others whom we can trust to hold our tensions as we practice holding them ourselves, is necessary for developing a more complex self. The “absent” friend solidly reminded me of our necessary journey toward differentiation and self-understanding and sufficiency– complexity. Examining the flow experience, it is not surprising why we crave it. Described as optimal experience, it’s a suspension of space and time and captures the most cohesive of moments when our “I”s disappear, self-consciousness and critique vanishes, and the activity is purely engaged in for the experience itself. Yet, in order to achieve it, we have to move out of the hiding, numbing, oblivious, undifferentiated cocoons that we live in.

This weekend as I sat in the movie theater preparing for the cinematic adventure of Iron Man 3, my 3D glasses perched on the bridge of my nose, I leaned over to the friend on my left to say, “I feel like I need to put on my seat belt.” The objects in the trailers were sneaking up on me, flying past me, exploding before me, and I felt like I needed to prepare myself in some way…buckle in and put on my armor?  Achieving flow demands a removal of our armor, a movement away from the belief that we have to protect ourselves or prepare for battle, or approach life like a mine field.  (If you haven’t seen the movie yet, and you want to, don’t read this next sentence…) At the end of the movie, Robert Downey Jr. chose to remove the shrapnel from his chest, blow up every armored suit he had created, and live a more vulnerable, less fearful, more heart-centered life with his partner, and he stated, “We create our own demons.”

Epictetus agrees with him, “Men are not afraid of things, but of how they view them.”

And Marcus Aurelius, the great emperor, similarly wrote: “If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”

I believe in all of these statements.

Creative and UnlimitingAristotle stated long ago that more than anything else, we move toward what will make us happy. Perhaps we perceive that as comfort, as rightness, as the hope of something great in the future. Any way  you look at it, however, the impetus toward the pursuit of happiness is not firmly seated in the present moment. Protection and numbing of vulnerability is for fear of what might happen. Further, avoidance of conflict and striving only for who and what agrees with us or meets our expectations is created by way of what we have experienced in the past and distorting how others might perceive us in the future.  Flow, however, depends on this moment, right now. Flow is conditionally attached to a non-worrying, unselfconscious, effortless energy when information filtering into our awareness is congruent with our goals. If we do pause to assess our performance, the internal feedback is positive, and our sense of self is strengthened. Through these experiences our grit, our determination, our resilience, our behavioral persistence, and the balance between differentiation and integration are fortified.

On the other hand, without awareness, if we live on automatic pilot, should we decide that it’s just too hard to go through whatever effort is required to meet the demands of our goals or learn the skills necessary to become more proficient, or if we base our behavior on what everyone else thinks we should be or believe, we miss the possibilities of flow. Like the question I posed at the beginning, “how does this relate to what I already know?”, Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow– The Psychology of Optimal Experience, explains how the information we encounter is filtered according to its importance to the self. We can perceive it as threatening, supportive, or neutral to our goals, and with this assessment our behavior follows suit.

Do you know individuals who persist in the face of adversity? Just this morning I saw another woman on the news being put through her paces in the physical therapy department of her local hospital after losing her leg during the Boston bombings. “This is the hand I’ve  been dealt,” she said with a smile. Comfortable? Not even close. Painful, arduous, and demanding. And yet she uses that energy to move closer to what is meaningful to her. Is it “right” that she lost a limb in the attack? Is that question even worth asking? It makes sense that we would. Our bent toward rightness and avoidance of conflict started almost immediately. We were rewarded at home for following rules. We were punished for doing something “wrong.” In school we receive grades for completing assignments the “right” way or giving the “right” answers. Surprisingly enough, my dissertation work is even graded. How can you grade a student on the level of understanding and synthesis regarding theory and conceptualization of a study? It’s not black and white, and yet because we need certainty, grades persist. Even in our places of work we are rewarded for following protocol, for staying true to procedure. Of course, value exists in many regards when it concerns safety, however, when it is expected that individuals not think for themselves or develop a sense of autonomy and competence in regards to their unique skills and assets, creativity and innovation is thwarted.

Keith Sawyer, Washington University creativity researcher, has shown that individuals who work alone are more efficient at creating innovative ideas versus those who work in groups. Understanding our desire for acceptance and relatedness, this makes sense. However, in a group environment, where individuals are actively encouraged to throw out any idea, no matter how ignorant, mundane, corny, irrelevant, or insane, and when quantity is the goal, creativity spikes! If every individual has had a different experience in life, and they have interpreted it in a different way, and they are asking themselves, “how does this bite of information relate to what I already know?”, can you see how the possibilities expound? This wouldn’t happen if we were focused on avoiding vulnerability, worried about making mistakes, or taking risks!

Tell Me if I’m Wrong…Because I Want to be Right– Part 2

13 May

Listen and LookIn my previous post I posed this question:

In science, researchers seek out data than can disprove their hypotheses. Contradictory evidence shows them where their biases lie and signals how a new direction might need to be explored. They search for plausible rival explanations. Do you? Do you challenge your first thought and work at discovering alternatives that might prove you wrong?

Brene Brown, a social scientist, psychologist, and researcher at the University of Houston, calls this ‘showing up’ behavior, an act of vulnerability. In essence, it’s inviting in the discomfort that could ultimately prove to bolster your creativity, connection, and sense of belonging. Because to err is human, without the courage to experience failure, and to trust others to be with and hear our shame when we fail or make mistakes, we actively build a wall around the most basic psychological needs that determine our desire to be bold, to be resilient, to step into the arena, to show up even when we’re scared, and to keep trying despite numerous falls.

These needs include autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Take a few seconds to let these three words sink in, and recall the moments when in an effort to “fit in”, to feel accepted, to feel a part of the group, you’ve let go of your uniqueness. In essence, to enhance one need you’ve actively disengaged from another. I know that you feel the inner twinge that goes along with relinquishing what’s true to your core self though. Moving closer to one need does not demand that you leave the others behind. In fact, what we call those individuals who can intentionally create experiences in which they are both proactively indulging their desires to achieve uniqueness and authenticity, and demonstrate their core talents, virtues, and values outside of whether they are congruent with those of others and simultaneously dive into activities that connect, require empathy, and relate on a deeper level to others even if their views are discrepant, is differentiation. In other words, a person who is differentiated has the ability to  maintain a solid sense of self (i.e. non-negotiable values) within situations of stress and among relationships. Someone who lacks differentiation falls apart or becomes fractured when there is disagreement or when others feel or think in contradicting ways. But you can be so tied into who you are right now, feeling compelled to protect your self as a consequence of perceiving that a difference of opinion means you are “wrong”, that the ability to remain objective and unemotional disappears. Increasing differentiation requires a We do not see things as they are...defining of your principles and values– what makes you, you. Don’t mistake this, however, for “finding” a way and then rigidly clinging to it “because it’s who you are.” A rigidly differentiated person is inflexible, unyielding, and unwilling to explore how or why others believe differently. You might actually, through discovery, realize that what you’ve believed no longer resonates with you anymore, and through a process of filtering, you may redefine your principles or beliefs or “refine” them. Can you imagine how your life would change if you didn’t actively avoid others who might disagree with you?

In my final year of graduate school I wrote my thesis on differentiation and the first year of marriage. Care to guess why I was compelled to research this topic? I had never experience more internal and external conflict than during those 12 months after being married, and I needed to understand what was happening for me. What was this incoherent, chaotic, messy, craziness that had infiltrated what felt like every fiber of…me? I challenged myself during the next year to engage and disengage in new and often uncomfortable ways. I walked into the swamp land of mucky emotion, of tumultuous disagreements, and of quicksand-like consumption, and the whole time I actively pursued to discern what was mine and what was his and how I was well-practiced in entangling the two to the point that my heart-felt ripped to shreds. (Keep in mind that this feeling can be quite normal in relationships– you’re so close to a person that of course you’re going to feel a tremendous amount of emotion. But there is a very salient difference between a fractured, splintered, torn to pieces, completely disintegrated heart and one that has broken but is still open).

In my first year of marriage I was far, far from understanding myself or from understanding the foundation of who I was and how to weave my intricacies into the fabric of another life that I was to share. I had entered into the relationship initially because I was scared and uncertain and, just like I At any given moment...described at the beginning, desiring security and certainly. Well, I found it. This man not only had his life, but mine also, planned out for the next 50 years. As I embarked on the process of dissecting the words of my story– the one I had been telling, the one that had been told to me, the one I was currently writing, and the one I wanted to write–the lens I was looking through became clearer, the fog seemed to dissipate, and I experienced a sense of clarity. Comfortable? Not even close. But something in my spirit was recaptured despite it.

Brene Brown is the first to admit, and in doing so, reveals tremendous vulnerability, that she “doesn’t do vulnerability.” She has spent decades researching it, and still finds herself activity avoiding it. In her TED talk, she explains how it is not in her nature, but how the data she has collected on human connection, vulnerability, and shame has changed the way she “lives, loves, works, and parents.” I would argue that it’s not that she doesn’t do vulnerability– she recognizes and has shown through her research that we can’t avoid it  because it’s there, inherently, and we know when it’s there because we feel it–it’s that she doesn’t do it as well as she’d like to. Vulnerability is that “deer in the headlights”, “oh shit”, “what do I say?”, “how do I respond?”, “I can’t believe that just happened…I just want to hide” feeling.   You know it. We have all experienced it. So as Brene explains, it’s part of humanity. But many of us are great at– or think we’re helping ourselves by– numbing it. In my first year of marriage and in the years that preceded it, I numbed vulnerability, and in turn, anesthetized my heart.

In his inspiring book entitled Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker Palmer describes his experience of feeling “like a displaced person in my own land.” I recall vividly describing to a friend post-divorce how I had lost my self in the marriage and the immense and liberating grief and freedom I experienced when I listened to my heart and made the decision to move out of the land I had built with this person and set off on a  new, growth-oriented journey that would undoubtedly present more obstacles and scary detours, but opportunities that I would gladly unveil. I grieved for what I had lost and the time I had spent closing doors on my heart for four years, and I grieved out of gratitude for finally seeing my power to be courageous enough to open every door from that point forward. I don’t believe now that I had “lost” my self.  I believe that I’d not done the work to ever “find” my self in the first place.

Courage is what is takes...Palmer reminds his readers in the prelude of his book, after unabashedly yet carefully and humbly explaining his tendency toward depression and using his experience to create a meaningful foundation for describing how to nurture the essence of life, that the word heart stems from the Latin root cor, where the word courage comes from. When I read this the first time I had to pause. The familiar heavy, pressing intensity of emotion I feel in my chest when tears are planning their escape cued me to pay attention. “Listen,” my body reminded. Cor— when spoken, is the sound of me– the name my mom has called me since I was a little girl. Cor, as Palmer defines it, is where our emotions, intellect, intuition, intelligence, and the physical, relational, experiential, and imaginative aspects and centers of our lives converge to create the cores of who we are.  I had realized that my core was expanding. And retraction no longer seemed like a viable option if I was to engage in the “finding” of me. Even after the friend I had confided in said she no longer wanted to associate with me, the doors didn’t close. Comfortable? Not even close. And I still find myself wounded from what at the time I perceived as a rejection. But I was not fractured.

Tell me if I’m wrong…because I want to be right!!

12 May

“Kori, help!”Barriers to Change

“I don’t know what to do!”

“I’m having a tantrum…”

“I’m undecided and I don’t like it.”

“What is wrong with me that I feel this way?!”

Words I hear daily because we are neurobiologically wired to gravitate toward familiarity….certainty. Sameness is attractive, even desirable. Match.com profits on its system of matching like-minded individuals with one another. This works because the brain likes to take short-cuts toward what is comfortable.  Our minds take information from the universe and match it to a frame of reference– “what does this relate to that I already know?” it asks. In this manner, conflict is bypassed, incoherence is avoided, and discomfort and disintegration is circumvented. Phew! Thank goodness our brains know how to take the easy road! And thank goodness we can find people to befriend and hang out with that think just like we do.

Or…maybe not.

If we never challenge ourselves to expand the lenses we look through, and if we are surrounded only by those who agree with us, how do we learn? Our confirmation biasconfirmation bias may give us a feeling of sureness or help us to be confident we made the “right” decision, but it certainly isn’t synonymous with embodying a contemplative, creative, critical thinking, or authentic approach.

We may dislike conflict, after all, it creates entropy and requires a tremendous amount of energy and mental resources, however, without it we are far from complex individuals. We stagnate, we lack openness, and we become not only disheartened and disinterested, but we are dis-interesting! In a word, we’re “duds”! We’re the people standing on the outside of the arena, often unwilling to step inside and see what might happen.

if you are your authentic self, you have no competitionThink of the times you’ve avoided speaking up, taking a risk, admitting defeat, owning a mistake, or just being honest. Every instance in which we thwart our vulnerability we miss an opportunity to become courageous and complex. We lose the ability to become more whole and smother the light that wants to shine on our patterns of thought and behavior so we can learn about who we are and help others do the same.  We create obstacles that require short-cuts to be taken that can result in a fast decision, but they can also result in an unenlightened one.  At best, through avoidance we might avoid failure, but at worst we live an unengaged, uninspired, lack luster life without the possibility of experiencing the greatest triumphs.

In science, researchers seek out data than can disprove their hypotheses. Contradictory evidence shows them where their biases lie and signals how a new direction might need to be explored. They search for plausible rival explanations. Do you? Do you challenge your first thought and work at discovering alternatives that might prove you wrong?

be you, bravely

Tomorrow is a new day. How about you try on a new behavior– being real instead of being “right”.  See what happens.

(More to come on this topic, but please send me your thoughts and descriptions about the experiences in which you’ve challenged yourselves to do something out of your comfort zones).

If you’re a hot mess, mind your hot thoughts!

30 Apr

hot mess party of oneWhen I first heard the phrase “hot mess” I didn’t  know what to think. I experienced the same feeling I got when I sat in the theater watching the screen just prior to the  trailers running, when the voice said, “Do us all a solid…” and proceeded to ask the audience to silence their cell phones.

What the heck does that mean?

Okay, maybe I don’t get out enough. Or maybe my nose is buried in research so much these days that I am not accustomed to any terms used outside of academia.  Regardless, upon finding out the meaning of these two words, ( truthfully, these words conjured images of a Sunday night dinner I may have been presented with when I was in high school during what my mom would call “Experiment Night” when all the leftovers were thrown into a baking dish and we dug into a steamy surprise) it took me straight to two words that I use to describe the antecedents to some pretty messy, impulsive, reactive, and oftentimes ugly behavior:

HOT THOUGHTS

No, these aren’t sexy fantasies of Fabio (really, ladies?!) or pornographic images of a decadent bananas foster (for those of you who are dieting and like to use the term ‘food porn’ to describe your imagery escapades)– they are the reinforcers of our often misguided perceptions that lead us into hotmessdom.

I’ll dish out the down low. (See, I can’t even sound cool when I try).

We are conditioned to respond in ways in which we are often unconscious. Without a level of attentional awareness, we move through our lives; our relationships; our responsibilities; and our roles at home, work, and school in a largely automatic fashion. We look down and our dinner is gone. We get to work and don’t remember driving down the road.  We are confronted by a spouse 15 years into marriage with the words, “you never paid attention to me.”  We react rather than respond.  We want, so we get. We avoid instead of approach. We speak before we think. We cross the road before looking both ways.

You get my point.

We’re impulsive. And without being mindful and aware, we end up in the middle of Hotmessdom, wondering how the heck we got there. Once there is when you typically wake up, open your eyes, listen to the sounds around you and recognize that something just doesn’t feel right. You’ve made a mistake. You took the wrong turn. You didn’t follow the right directions. And now you’re in a really uncomfortable and scary place. An anxious, anxiety-ridden, “get me out of here” place. You want to run but you don’t know where to go. You want to hide, but you don’t know who you’re hiding from. Yourself, maybe? You’re scattered and fearful and you just want to be feeling something else. A hot mess with some hot thoughts that now, as you’re reading this and you’re in a rational state of  mind, standing on the outside looking in, you may take some time to zero in on.

What are those hot thoughts that keep you in that emotionally messy, stuck place?

I’ll share mine. It yells at me, and when I hear it screaming I have to turn around and say, “Look, I know you think you’re helping me, but you seriously have no right barging in here to tell me who I should be, how I should act, what I should look like,  how I’m not good enough, or how I won’t measure up. ”

ListenIt’s this: You need to do more. You’re not working hard enough. Who do you really think you are writing this blog hoping that you can reach someone and help them understand they’re  not alone in Hotmessdom? Only, none of these thoughts are blanket, 100% accurate. Can I improve? Yup. And I strive for this daily. Do I need to work hard? Yup. And I do. But if those hot thoughts are grounded in fear or unworthiness, they need to be reassessed.

You don’t have to live in Hotmessdom. The better you get to know yourself and are able to access your wise and rational minds– the minds that can assess your hot thoughts in a more objective, open, non-judgmental, and approachable manner– Hotmessdom becomes a smaller and smaller land, way off in the distance.

Most of the time.

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