Not Everything Happens For A Reason.

cheryl strayed quotes | Acceptance is a small, quiet room" -Cheryl Strayed:

-Cheryl Strayed

I harbor a great deal of resentment towards the positivity movement. When I am sharing a struggle, I do not need to hear “think positive” or “everything happens for a reason.” Even if you believe that everything happens for a reason, there are some things that happen and they are just so incredibly painful that I can’t accept that response. In fact, it feels like you are minimizing my experience. Am I just supposed to feel better because there is a reason out in the ether for all of this? What I hear when you say phrases like that is”your pain is too uncomfortable for me and I need to make this conversation stop.”

For some people, life offers up some seriously messed up situations and there is no positive way to spin it, make it good, or make it make sense. By all means, please use whatever faith system you have to make sense of suffering but please do not expect me to accept your coping mechanisms as my own.

There are some things that happen and they are so traumatic and so awful that there is nothing else to be said about them. There is no going back and reflecting on the situation in the hopes that it will somehow or someday make sense. This is about acceptance. We must accept that this thing(s) happened. We must stare at it and absorb the truth of it and understand that it will always be part of us. There are no pretty bows or lines of poetry to soften the impact.

If you happen to be present when someone is sharing one of these life moments with you, please, please do not tell them that “everything happens for a reason” or “think positive” or “it’s all in God’s plan.” Those phrases do not make anyone feel better. They make people feel worse. Because, why would God plan for me to suffer so much? I bet you can’t answer that question because you’re not God. So, it’s best to leave it alone. It’s fine to think everything happens for a reason and believe it to be true, it’s just not okay to say it. 

What can you say? 

“I am so sorry and sad this happened to you/or is happening to you.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“I love you and I’m here for you”

If you are the person suffering? You can say to yourself:

“I am so sad and sorry this happened to me, I am just so sad this happened”

“This is really hard for me right now”

“It’s okay to not be okay”

“I will probably never get over this”

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Love.

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Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!

“I realize that I cannot stand by silently as my government executes its citizens. If I do not speak out and resist, I am an accomplice.”
Helen Prejean, Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty That Sparked a National Debate

“Moreover, killing Roof does absolutely nothing to ameliorate the conditions that brought him into being in the first place. The hammer of criminal justice is the preferred tool of a society that has run out of ideas. In this sense, Roof is little more than a human sacrifice to The Gods of Doing Nothing.” – TA-NEHISI COATES, Killing Dylann Roof

It was announced yesterday that the State Department will seek the death penalty in the case of Dylann Roof. Roof walked into a predominantly African American church in South Carolina and murdered nine people after they invited him to study the Bible with them. His actions were heinous and deplorable. Some may argue that what he did was unforgivable. Personally, I feel immense sadness and anger about what this young man did to these people and their families. Even so, I do not agree with the death penalty in this case or any other case.

As Gandhi so simply stated “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” The death penalty, is state sanctioned murder. There is sickening desire to watch or inflict suffering on someone who has caused suffering. This only perpetuates the cycle of suffering and violence. Dylann Roof is a human, a human filled with hate, but still a human. That is a hard truth to sit with.

We set up false rules around what is murder and what is not. For example, we say it’s acceptable to kill in wartime but not in our homes. To do this, we must remove some of our conscience and label some people as sub-human. This is a dangerous thing for humans to do because the line keeps getting pushed and more sub-human categories are created.

We are currently treating Syrian refugees as sub-human as we allow them to suffer and die with out our support or assistance. Some say, “we need to take care of people at home first” But, this is quickly followed by “Cut their food stamps” and “I work for my money and I don’t owe you a dime.” What we really mean is “the money and resources are mine all mine and no one deserves money and power more than me”

This lack of compassion or lack of humanity is pervasive and extends beyond the death penalty. There is a hierarchy that’s been created where some lives matter more than others, and some lives don’t matter at all. This is why “All lives matter” doesn’t make sense. Of course all lives matter, but the current cultural set up is designed to prioritize some lives more than others and people don’t want to face the reality of the design.

If we justify killing one human, even one that does unspeakable acts of violence, we set into motion a system that says some lives matter and some don’t. It takes much more courage to say that Roof’s life matters even though he did this horrendous and potentially unforgivable act. This is not to say he should not pay a consequence, he most certainly should pay for what he has done. But, killing him is not justice.

One of my heroines, Judy Clarke, is a well-known anti-death penalty attorney. She represented Susan Smith, Theodore Kacynski, Jared Loughner, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (to name a few). She rarely speaks publicly but in a commencement speech she said, in regards to her clients, that she is grateful for  “the lessons they’ve taught me—about human behavior and human frailty—and the constant reminder that there but for the grace of God go I.”

Humans are violent animals. But, we should not trick ourselves into believing that some acts of violence are not actually violence. War is violence, poverty is violence, the death penalty is violence, racism is violence, and there is blood on all our hands. And, the fact that we can’t own this is why it won’t stop.

Doctor:
What is it she does now? Look how she rubs her hands.

Gentlewoman:
It is an accustom’d action with her, to seem thus
washing her hands. I have known her continue in this a quarter of
an hour.

Lady Macbeth:
Yet here’s a spot.

Doctor:
Hark, she speaks. I will set down what comes from her, to
satisfy my remembrance the more strongly.

Lady Macbeth:
Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then
’tis time to do’t.—Hell is murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, and
afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our
pow’r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man to
have had so much blood in him?

Macbeth Act 5, scene 1, 26–40

F*ck Your Black Box

“Sometimes we have thoughts that even we don’t understand. Thoughts that aren’t even true—that aren’t really how we feel—but they’re running through our heads anyway because they’re interesting to think about.

If you could hear other people’s thoughts, you’d overhear things that are true as well as things that are completely random. And you wouldn’t know one from the other. It’d drive you insane. What’s true? What’s not? A million ideas, but what do they mean?”
Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

I recently consulted with another therapist that labeled themselves an expert in treating post-traumatic stress. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m focusing on learning more about updated and valid interventions related to different types of PTSD. The field of psychology is ever changing and it is important that clinicians stay up-to-date on empirically validated treatments.

I’m not about bashing other professionals, so I will not call this person out by name but I will say I was greatly displeased with the suggestions they gave me in terms of the interventions they use.

1. They shared their own trauma history, in detail, with their clients. No. absolutely not acceptable. We talked about this in the post The Wounding Healer. There is an appropriate level of self-disclosure between a therapist and a client; however, sharing detailed accounts of a therapist’s history is not indicated and is detrimental to the client.

2. They strongly encouraged clients to pay for expensive medical procedures (e.g., brain scans, DNA tests, and chiropractic care, and supplements). I don’t necessarily have a problem with these suggestions or interventions; however, a lot of clients cannot afford daily life, let alone expensive interventions that may or may not benefit the client. I appreciate that these interventions may be helpful to some people and I think that is appropriate but we should not try to “up sell” our clients on services unless it’s a necessary and beneficial part of the treatment plan. And, a lot of clinicians are not naturopaths and should not be suggesting supplements without consideration for how they may interact with other medications or the clients physiology.

3. They told their clients that they were not allowed to think of the trauma. THIS HAD ME ENRAGED. There is stop thought concept in cognitive behavior therapy that sometimes involves a black box (an intervention I seldom use as I primarily use acceptance and commitment therapy,  compassion focused therapy, radical acceptance, Brene Brown’s work, and other valid ecelctic models).

They said they tell their client that they are only allowed to think of the trauma at certain times and to shove the thoughts in a black box. Well, it would be nice if I could schedule my thoughts but I can’t. And, I refuse to feel badly if a thought comes up at an inconvient time. I also don’t think it’s healthy to compartmentalize our thoughts and feelings that way. I wish I could shove all my negative thoughts into a box and bury it in the back yard but it doesn’t work that way. It’s all about how I respond to my thoughts. We have an estimated 40,000-70,000 thoughts a day and I can’t even begin to think about parsing them out and shoving some in a black box. This also implies that some thoughts are bad and others are good. Again, it’s all about how we respond to our thoughts. If a sad, scary, upsetting thought comes up, I need to treat myself with compassion and understanding. I don’t need to shove it down or put it in a box. I don’t have control of what thought comes up and when it comes up and I surely don’t want to play tug of war with my thoughts. This intervention suggests that if sad, scary, upsetting thoughts come up at inconvenient times and I am unable to shove them down, I am somehow failing or doing something wrong. This is problematic because, when a traumatic thing happens to us it is stored in an emotionally charged part of the brain that is different from the way other memories are stored. This means when I remember (have a thought or flashback) the event, my body literally feels like it is happening again. I need to take special care of myself in the event that that happens. And, trying to shove it down or push it aside will likely cause it to physically and emotionally feel worse and last longer.

Needless to say, I was not impressed and frankly a little concerned about their style. I did not find anything eggregious or reportable in their interventions, I just strongly disagree with what the person does in their practice.

So much of therapy is about fit and style, I imagine that this person does well with some people. They must given the size of their practice. However, I think that if you muster up the courage to go to therapy and you find that the intervention or person is not a good fit for you, please, please try again. The right intervention for the right person can be unbelievably life changing. Unfortunately, the wrong intervention with the wrong person can make things worse.

“Some stressful experiences – such as chronic childhood abuse – are so overwhelming and traumatic, the memories hide like a shadow in the brain. At first, hidden memories that can’t be consciously accessed may protect the individual from the emotional pain of recalling the event. But eventually those suppressed memories can cause debilitating psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or dissociative disorders.”

– See more at: http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2015/08/traumatic-memories-hide-retrieve-them.html#sthash.QC6lzb9t.dpuf

 

Words.

I’m taking a breath in, meaning I am going through a season where I do more reading than writing and I want to share with you some of the words I’m reading today. I also applied, with a colleague, to present on Buddhism for the organization where I work. So, I’m filing through different spiritual wisdom and gathering them for this endeavor.

“Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
Rainer Maria Rilke

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Right there in the middle of a very habitual state of mind. I saw what I was doing. I not only saw what I was doing, I also stopped. I stopped following through with my habitual plan to save the day. I decided not to rush around trying to avert disaster. I let the thoughts “only I could rescue us” come and I let them go. I decided to see what would happen without my input – even if it meant everything would fall apart. Sometimes you just have to let everything fall apart. – Pema Chodron

The more inadequate we feel, the more uncomfortable it is to admit our faults. Blaming others temporarily relieves us from the weight of failure. – Tara Brach

As author Storm Jameson puts it:   There is only one world, the world pressing against you at this minute. There is only one minute in which you are alive, this minute here and now. The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle. – Tara Brach

Often the moment when we most need to pause is exactly when it feels most intolerable to do so. Pausing in a fit of anger, or when overwhelmed by sorrow or filled with desire, may be the last thing we want to do. – Tara Brach

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”
― C.G. Jung

We never know

When we think that something is going to bring us pleasure, we don’t know what’s really going to happen. When we think something is going to give us misery, we don’t know. Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. We try to do what we think is going to help.

But we don’t know. We never know if we’re going to fall flat or sit up tall. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may be just the beginning of a great adventure.I read somewhere about a family who had only one son. They were very poor. This son was extremely precious to them, and the only thing that mattered to his family was that he bring them some financial support and prestige. Then he was thrown from a horse and crippled.

It seemed like the end of their lives. Two weeks after that, the army came into the village and took away all the healthy, strong men to fight in the war, and this young man was allowed to stay behind and take care of his family. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know. – Pema Chodron

Love.

This Goes Out To My Enemies.

In trying to please all, he had pleased none.”
Aesop, Aesop’s Fables

You can travel the world
But you can’t run away
From the person you are in your heart
You can be who you want to be
Make us believe in you
Keep all your light in the dark
If you’re searching for truth
You must look in the mirror
And make sense of what you can see
Just be
Just be – DJ Tiesto

I believe if you are living your life honestly, you will inevitably piss a few folks off in the process. It’s just the way it works. We are all built differently. However, I’ve always thought the idea of enemies was a bit narcissistic. I can’t believe that anyone would think of me enough to consider me an enemy. If they do, I suppose I’m better off not knowing.

I know that I have thoughts, opinions, and values that some people don’t agree with or even feeling strongly the other way. If I went out of my way to hide or pretend I didn’t feel the way I do, parts of me would shrivel and fester I would end up not liking certain parts of me because other people didn’t. I would feel bad about myself all in service of getting another person to like me. I would do this without considering the real question: Do I like them? 

I believe denying your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs is an act of self harm. 

For much of my twenties. I ran around trying to make everyone else “happy” without consideration for how I felt. And, it was a miserable mess. It’s confusing because you end up sharing time with people you’re supposed to like or you want approval from and you end up feeling bad about yourself (of course I did!). This should have been a clue to consider what I want and need.

Like I’ve said a million times before, humans are wired for social connection. It’s normal to feel bad if someone doesn’t like me. But, just because I feel bad (or guilty) does not mean I need to change who I am to get their approval. I can take a deep breath and remind myself that life is long (hopefully) and liking myself is much more important than another person liking me.

Some people argue that this is a selfish way to live. I strongly disagree. When we are happy and whole we are much healthier, kinder, compassionate, giving, patient, and loving. If we are not living our lives honestly, we are resentful, cruel, jealous, hateful, and angry. Living life honestly makes you happier and this has a ripple effect on the world around you.

Happy people make other people happy. And people that are hurting, hurt other people. 

The magical thing that happens when you recognize this, is that you start to surround yourself with people who like you for you. And, you are able to establish healthier boundaries with people that don’t like/approve/agree with the way you live your life. This does not give you permission to be cruel to people that live their lives differently. In fact, denying love, care, affection, compassion, and connection in an effort to get people to agree with you never works. We covered this in post Conditional Love.

Each  of us are constructed beautifully and uniquely and some of us fit together nicely and some of us do not. It’s like when you’re putting together a puzzle and you try to shove two pieces together that don’t fit: it doesn’t work, it looks awful, and it messes up the rest of the picture. So, live honestly, find your tribe, trust yourself, and know that sometimes you’ll try to shove the wrong pieces of the puzzle together.

“She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by-
And never knew.”

Shel Silverstein, Every Thing on It

Validation: You Matter.

“What is an example of an invalidating experience? Let’s say a child is hungry and says, “Mommy, I want to eat.” The normal response is that the mother feeds the child. However, if a mother repeatedly denies the validity of the child’s experience by saying, “No, you are not hungry,” that child learns to distrust her own inner voice, her own physiology, and her own emotions.” -Sheela Raja

Today’s post is simple in text but complicated in feeling.

When we are children (birth to at least age 25) we are developing our sense of self. And, we develop our sense of self by interacting with the people around us. This is primarily done with parents but also with other family members, teachers, clergy, and anyone that a child interacts with.

The act of validation is one of the single most important things an adult can give a child and it looks like this:

Validation

Child: “I’m sad about Charlie not wanting to play with me”

Adult: “I understand that you’re sad, you care a lot about Charlie”

Child: “Mom, put your phone down and look at me”

Mom: (puts phone down) “You have my attention”

Child cries

Dad hugs child and comforts child

Invalidation

Child: “I’m sad about Charlie not wanting to play with me”

Adult: “It’s not that big of a deal”

Child: “Mom, put your phone down and look at me”

Mom: “Hold on, let me finish this email”

Child cries

Dad: “Stop crying! It’s not that big of a deal”

If you are validated quite a bit as a child you learn to trust yourself and your feelings. More importantly, you learn that your feelings are valid and they matter. If you are invalidated as a child you may seek a lot of external validation from others (from the wrong and unhealthy others that may not be able to validate due to their own challenges), you may often feel “crazy”, you may feel like hysterical, and you may feel misunderstood.

Invalidation as a child, may also lead to an inability to validate another person. This is when someone is always contrary or looking for an argument. This is when someone takes an opposing view all the time. They were never taught that it’s safe to agree or validate.

You can learn to validate yourself and heal this part of you. First, you have to notice how you are thinking and feeling and practice saying to yourself “It’s okay to feel this way, I’m human and I have a lot of feelings and emotions. I don’t need anyone else to tell me how I feel is right or wrong. I am allowed to feel how I feel.” It’s hard work but it is some of the most important work you can do to live a happy healthy life.

We talked about validation in adult relationships in a past post: Validation! The Ninja Skill.

“Just like children, emotions heal when they are heard and validated.”
Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey

“The one person you’ll be spending the rest of your life with is you. Treat yourself with love and respect.”
Elle Sommer

The Wounding Healer.

I’ve spent the last few months exploring and studying Complex PTSD and Polyvictimization. This came about for a few reasons, namely, I knew little about the diagnosis and I was seeing a significant increase in clients presenting with these issues.

Complex PTSD and Polyvictimization are when a person has experienced multiple traumas over a period of time. This can be related to combat situations, law enforcement, child abuse, domestic violence, living with crime, bullying in schools, and the list goes on. Some researchers describe it as a feeling of being trapped in a traumatic situation with no hope of it ever ending (because it doesn’t end). These people may have a more challenging time recovering given the impact trauma has on our physiological and emotional health. It is hard to heal when you are exposed to trauma again and again.

What I found most interesting in my reading so far, is the idea of the Wounding Healer. A number of years ago, I expressed some concern over comments made by a coworker in a meeting. The comments were graphic and detailed her own history of trauma. When I shared my feelings with a close friend he said, “She did not ask permission to share that” I loved that. We need to be more cognizant about how sharing our experiences influence those around us.

The wounding healer doesn’t know that they are wounding the people around them. Often, we share stories about our lives with little knowledge about what another person may have experienced. I think we must always be mindful in our interactions as not to cause distress to those around us. A lot of people have experienced trauma and are extremely sensitive to the experiences of others. Or, for the people that have not experienced trauma, hearing about a traumatic event can be extremely distressing.

I know we can’t “trigger warning” all of our conversations but we should try to consider the content of our conversations. For many of my clients, they are often exposed to conversations that trigger them or cause them further distress. When this happens they again feel trapped because they don’t want to shame the person for sharing vulnerable parts of themselves. This is particularly damaging if the wounding healer is a healthcare provider. As mental health professionals, we must be very careful about using our own stories of healing to heal others. Each story of recovery is unique.

If you feel the need to share about your history, maybe ask permission first. Or, it might be time to see a professional that is prepared and equipped to handle what you need to work out. After all, sharing trauma is something that needs to be handled delicately and with compassion.

“Unfortunately, not all wounded healers are aware of their own issues, and certainly not all healers are healed. Some become wounding healers, who are not fully aware of their own injuries or haven’t worked on them sufficiently and therefore too easily project their issues and unconscious needs onto others. These people can be quite dangerous to someone as vulnerable as a trauma victim, whose trust in others may have been betrayed in all sorts of ways. What makes matters worse is that wounding healers generally don’t recognize their weaknesses. They believe that they have healed and don’t realize when they are using their clients to continue their own work by proxy.” -Jasmin Lee Cori

 

My Sister: The One With The Sweet Voice

“You can kid the world, but not your sister.”
Charlotte Gray

My sweet sister, I am so happy you were born.

I don’t think I’ve ever told you that I love your voice. Even when you’re mad, you still have the sweetest mouse voice. I mean, you’re literally a boss lady but you have the most soothing and calming voice I’ve ever heard. Maybe that’s part of why you’re such an exceptional momma.

And, you’ve been comforting me my whole life. There was the one time we watched that horrifying Freddy Kreuger movie and I made you hold my hand all night and woke you up every five minutes asking if Freddy was here. You calmly said “No, he’s not here” again, and again and again. Then, there was the big health scare I had in college and I told you I didn’t know what to do and you picked me up and took me to your doctor and we figured it out.

Even when I was being a selfish shithead in my twenties (and I probably still can be selfish sometimes), you had an open door policy. If I needed my laundry done, I needed to use your address for something, I needed food, or I needed to call you in the middle of the night, you were there.

In addition to your unconditional support, I admire your resilience and courage. You don’t quit, it’s not in your DNA. You get up and dust yourself off better than anyone I know (Andrew is pretty good at this too). You just keep going no matter how hard the situation. I’ve watched as the world tossed you hardball after hardball and you batted those buggers away time and time again. People should not assume that your sweet voice is associated with weakness because you are one of the strongest people I know.

I want to tell you that one of my biggest life regrets is that I was not able to step out of my shithead pity party to come to your wedding. The way your husband looks at you is heart melting. I am so happy you have so much love in your life.

I can’t wait to celebrate your day of birth with Salt-N-Pepa in a few weeks.

“She had a little rebel in her. A little chaos and a little gentleness. She didn’t say much and sometimes she would doze off. She would drift away, dream with the stars and that was ok. She had a little fight in her and every time she built enough courage her voice would echo through the sky…There was a science to her genius, her madness, her beauty and there was nothing she couldn’t accomplish. She was unstoppable and everything she ever wanted she took, with nothing on but a smile.”

~ R. M. Drake

Men, You’re Worth More Than A Paycheck

“I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.”
Jonathan Swift

“… for men, the overarching message is that any weakness is shameful. And since vulnerability is often perceived as weakness, it is especially risky for men to practice vulnerability.”- Brene Brown

Dear Men,

I once had a man tell me he was worth more dead than alive. He stated that his life insurance was a hefty sum of money and that if he died his family would be “all set.” This literally brought me to tears. What’s worse, is I was unable to help this man understand that he was worth so much more than money. He could not hear me say that his kids needed his hugs and kisses more than they needed a tablet. He would not listen when I said that his wife needed his reassurance and love more than a new car. In fact, the only thing stopping him from suicide was that the clause in his life-insurance that stated it would not pay out in the event of suicide.

Men, you are worth so much more than your career and your money. I know so many of you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders at three in the morning. I know you hide your tears behind rage and anger. I know you aren’t allowed to be afraid because being fearful makes you look weak. I’m so sorry that we’ve taught you that you’re only allowed to express your feelings through rage. I’m so sorry that we’ve taught you that you must be strong all the time. We set impossible expectations and then shame you when you don’t meet them.

Men, I know that you’ve experienced shame for expressing needs and emotions. I know you were told to toughen up when you cried as a child. I am so sorry we did this to you. It takes a tough man to cry and we lied to you when we told you it was weak. I am so sorry you were taught that your only value was in the form of zeros on your paycheck. Men, please believe me when I say, you are worth so much more than your title at work.

Men, I am sorry that we never told you that a deep and meaningful partnership is built on vulnerability and openness. I am sorry that you were taught that it was all on you to make it work. I am sorry that we never taught you how to be soft and kind with the people you love. I wish you knew it would be okay if you stayed home with the kids and your wife worked. I wish you knew that you could be a starving artist and still be worthy of love. I wish you knew that the image of masculinity does not capture what it means to be human. I wish you knew that you are lovable even without any money.

Men, you do not have to be rich to be loved. You don’t have to be aggressive (in fact, this will make you lonely and scary and confused). There are so many messages that tell you that the weight of the world is on your shoulders. I know this causes immense shame and feelings of inadequacy. I know you hide your sadness and fear under a coat of rage or distance. I know that leaves you feeling lonely and unloved.

Men, please believe me when I say, you are worth so much more than your paycheck. You don’t have to toughen up or stop crying. And, please try to take better care of yourself. It’s tough out there.

“Men walk this tightrope where any sign of weakness illicits shame, and so they’re afraid to make themselves vulnerable for fear of looking weak”. ~ Brené Brown

Love.

Trump, Clinton, Sanders! Oh my!

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
Ralph G. Nichols

Trump just secured the Republican nomination. Bernie folks accuse Hillary folks of not being liberal enough. Hillary folks accuse Bernie folks of being too idealistic. This is a mess.

This is all I hear anymore: “I’m right, you’re wrong! Actually you’re more than wrong, you’re an idiot for believing what you believe. I refuse to listen to anything you have to say

Meanwhile nothing gets done to actually improve the quality of life for most of us.  

You see, my job, in large part, is to teach people the skills they need to live a happier healthier life. I am not asking you to change your values and join me on the liberal team. This isn’t about Republican versus Democrat. I recently got into a “who is a better liberal” debate with someone that believed they were better at being liberal because they believed something different than me. Believe me, there are bullies on both ends of the spectrum. I’m fully aware of how I can be a liberal bully sometimes and that being a bully doesn’t help things. I’m working on it.

This is yet another call to kindness and common humanity.

In all the years I’ve studied psychology, relationships, health and happiness, one thing remains true: being a kind and compassionate person will improve every aspect of your life. That’s thirteen years of college and graduate school distilled down to one sentence. Basically, I paid tens of thousands of dollars to learn that being grateful, kind, and compassionate are the keys to success in every aspect of life. 

Building a wall, judging people, obsessing over bathrooms, obsessing over genitals, comparing yourself to others, criticizing people, mocking others, and bullying others will only make you miserable (and those around you). What’s worse is that people hide behind their God when they judge or criticize thinking that makes it okay. It doesn’t and I see what you’re doing. I’ve also noticed that most people don’t realize they’re miserable, they think life is just supposed to suck.

You can be happy too! But, you have to be nice first. There is no other way. 

There is a reason people like Jesus, Gandhi, and Buddha are remembered and revered thousands of years after their deaths. They all said the same thing: Love. They never said love except when this happens, love with conditions, love when it serves you, love money and things over people, or love but do so with righteous indignation.

I don’t remember the last time a happy person with a happy life shot up a school, mall, or church? Do you? 

I still believe that love always wins in the end. I have to believe this to go about my days. But, the rise in violence, bullying, sexism, racism, anger, and hate is terrifying. Love might win in the end but it looks like the path is winding through some tough towns before we get there.

“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”
1 Peter 3:8