• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • RSS

Posts Tagged “mental-health”

Do you ever get upset?

Upset smiley face“I never see you upset. Do you ever get upset?” At least once or twice a week, someone asks me that question, as if they are expecting that someone who truly understood how the mind works must never be anything but calm and happy.

So sorry, that’s not how it works. There is no way to anticipate what might come into our minds, and sometimes, the thoughts we bring to our minds carry with them upset, angry, frustrated, negative feelings. Of course, I get upset, just like every other human being on the planet.

The difference between me getting upset before I learned how thinking works, and me getting upset now is that now I don’t care if I’m upset. It doesn’t feel important to me. It feels like a passing experience, sort of like a thundershower. And I know not to take it seriously because I know what it is — just a torrent of negative thoughts passing through.

The reason people don’t see me upset now is that I keep it to myself and don’t pay much attention to it, whereas in the past, feeling upset used to be my go-go-go!-signal to take action and, by golly, track down that person and give them a piece of my mind, or write that nasty letter and let someone know they couldn’t take advantage of me, or speak harshly to people I perceived as letting me down, or call a friend to seek commiseration.

Understanding how our minds work, and the nature of thought and experience, does not make us immune to upset. It just makes us disinclined to pay much attention to it. So what? It’s just my own thoughts creating the temporary experience of being upset. Let those thoughts go and different thoughts will come to mind. Then I’ll feel different. I know better, now, than to take seriously or act on upsetting thinking because doing anything in a low state of mind does not work out well at all. (Have you ever actually solved a problem by yelling at someone, or sending a nasty letter?) And I don’t need to burden my friends with my negative thoughts because it’s up to me to see them for what they are and let them pass. Talking about them just holds them in place. And among my friends, there’s no one who would actually discuss them anyway. I know the look — the look that says, “You must be kidding me? That makes sense to you?” In the world I live in, we’d both be laughing in a matter of seconds because it’s absolutely silly to get all worked up about the smoke and mirrors of up-and-down thinking.

So, sure, I have the feeling of upset, sometimes several times a day. But I see it as a signal to slow down, quiet my mind, and wait for a minute. When I get that tight, tense feeling that signals a droopy mood, I don’t try to figure out what’s up. I know what’s up. I am thinking myself into a lower mood. No need to feed that cycle. I turn away from it, rather than indulging it. And then, at the speed of thought, it goes away as other things come to mind, and I start feeling more like myself again.

Often, I ask my clients, “How cheaply are you willing to sell your peace of mind?” Usually, it has never occurred to them that they have to sell it or give it away to lose it, even for a second. Peace of mind is the natural default setting we fall back to as soon as we let go of what pulls us away from it. The only thing that can pull us away from it is our very own negative thinking that we’re making up, all by ourselves, seeing as real, and taking seriously.

The gift of understanding the Three Principles that explain how we create our own experience is that we’re always in the driver’s seat. We get to decide whether to stay upset, or leave it alone. We get to decide whether to take the risk the quick relief of yelling or hurting ourselves or someone else, or get the reward of the quick relief of quietly seeing our thoughts/moods for what they are: Nothing. Images on the screen of our minds. If they’re worthwhile, helpful and uplifting, we can hold onto them and build on them, enjoy working with them. If they’re petty and discouraging and gloom-inducing, we can turn our backs on them.

Of all the gifts I have received in life, the most precious to me is the deep realization is that I am in charge of me. Life is not in charge of me. Nothing can bring me down but me. If I don’t think my way into stress and sadness, I can handle anything life brings me with wisdom, insight and good will. I can get upset and get over it, and do no harm.

What could be better than that?

Leave a Comment

Cure Seriousness! Lighten Up!

Avoid being afflicted with Seriousness. It’s debilitating. It brings people down. It hurts. It takes all the fun out of life as long as you have it. It can linger a long time. It can lead to health complications. It’s much worse than the flu.

I talked to a client recently who clearly manifested that he had suffered from Seriousness for more than 40 years. He had the medical and life history to prove it. He cried a lot in the beginning of our session. His story included abusive parents, painful childhood, two abusive marriages; abusive girlfriends; abusive children; violence; deceitful friends — nothing and nobody good. He had just had another in a long history of surgeries and was finding recovery slow and painful. He couldn’t remember ever being happy or carefree. He had been in therapy for 30 of the last 40 years with all kinds of practitioners. But he had never talked to anyone who was a Mental Health mentor before. And he could offer no definition at all of mental health. Asked about it, he gave a definition that involved being marginally functional and able to survive despite mental illnesses. An example of mental health he came up with was being able to get to a doctor’s appointment while having a panic attack, even though the person who had promised to drive him let him down and he had to drive himself.

He didn’t know why he even asked to talk to me because, honestly, no one has ever been able to help. He had also done all sorts of New Age searching and tried all kinds of non-traditional activities. None of that had helped. He was sure he was born to be miserable. So he didn’t want me to feel bad if I couldn’t help him either.  Several counselors in his past had refused to see him for follow-up after a couple of sessions; he figured I would do that, too, and he was already mentally prepared to be rejected again. He had no hope and no expectations that anything could or would change.

“Given all that, why haven’t you just killed yourself?” I asked. “What’s the point of going on?”

That slowed his whiny train of thought. “What kind of damn question is that?” he demanded. “Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just haven’t heard you mention any reason to go on living yet, so I thought I’d ask.”

“Of course I have reasons to go on living!” he snorted.

And here’s how it went from there:

Me: “Great! Glad to hear it! What are they?”

Client: What are what?

Me: What are your reasons to go on living?”

Client: Well, you must know some. I can’t think of them right now.”

Me: Do you have any idea why you can’t think of them?

Client: They’re just not coming to mind.

Me: Why not?

Client: I don’t know.

Me: Do you want to know?

Client: Why? Do you know? How would you know that?

Let me stop here. The reason I’m telling this story is to illustrate that people can’t hear anything new when their minds are racing around the same old track. There’s no point talking to a suffering person about feeling better until they have at least a tiny inclination that they might want to hear you. It took me a long time to learn that. I used to think that just being in a good feeling and talking spiritual truth would lead our clients to change. But after a while, it dawned on me that the most unhappy clients who were mired in misery weren’t even remotely aware of how I was or what I was saying.  I might as well have been a lamp in the room. They were just thinking, thinking, thinking of all their problems without a moment’s interruption. So what I’ve learned is, even if it takes most of a session, there’s no use trying to explain to people that you can help them until they get curious enough to pay attention to something other than their insecure thoughts.

This is the crucial thing people who work from the Three Principles  know: People can’t be thinking a hundred miles an hour about the negative stuff they’ve always thought about and listen at the same time. But the secret to lightening up is that they are only one thought away — a millisecond away — from thinking differently. We can’t launch right into sharing new ideas until someone becomes curious enough to slow down and wonder. As soon as they do, things can change really quickly because the steady voice of their own wisdom breaks right through the din.

There’s no technique to that. I’m a former newspaper reporter, so I tend naturally to ask questions to get to the deeper point. Other people have other ways of going about it. The way is not the issue. No matter the intervention, it comes to us from wisdom in the moment, with the client, while we are neutrally listening to them. We need to keep listening until we get an insight about where to go with them. This is not burdensome because we don’t take their sad stories seriously and we know that the person is perfectly mentally healthy and has just lost sight of it. They can’t turn in a new direction until they notice that fork in the road. So until they stop high-speed thinking the way they’ve always thought in the direction they’ve always gone, our purpose is to care about them, “see” the health in them, listen to them, and know that the right intervention will come to mind.

The humbling part is that we are all very different and if you put the same client in the room with 50 different 3 Principles practitioners, the conversation would go 50 different ways. The common thread would be that the practitioner listened and had the faith to keep listening  until his/her own wisdom revealed a direction.  Anything we do and say from wisdom will work out. And once clients are turning towards their own health, instead of reviewing the history of their distress and their problems, they will start to change, and all we have to do is foster, nurture, and encourage that change.

The most fascinating part, to me, is that almost always, I am inspired to do something that causes the client to lighten up, that breaks the chain of Seriousness.  Wisdom takes us towards lightheartedness. Thinking back over years and years of working with people, I realize that the best moments came when the client could laugh at something they had cried over only moments ago.

In the case of the client story I mentioned here, by the end of that first session, the client was laughing at the fact that he was supposed to keep his feet propped up when he sat down and had totally forgotten, and he could still stand up.

“Look at that!” he said, when he stood up at the end of our meeting.  “I just stood up without my cane, and I hadn’t even propped my feet up while we were meeting. I must be getting better. Or something.” Then he laughed, “I suppose you would tell me it’s because I’m not thinking about how sick I am right now.”

Yup. That would  be a great reason to go on living. Imagine all the things you can think about that you’ve never thought about before!

Leave a Comment

Is It Easy to Be Happy?

Recently I saw a new client who sobbed at the outset, “I don’t see how I will ever be happy again!” An hour later, as she left, she was laughing. “I’ve sure been a big drama queen with all that serious thinking, haven’t I?” she said.

How does a shift like that happen? In the simplest terms, it is the natural outcome of what Principles practitioners do that is new to treatment. We don’t take unhappiness seriously. We point people to the true, constant, unfailing, spiritual source of human happiness that nothing can touch. We teach people what mental well-being is, and where it comes from, and how we lose and regain our faith in it. They see the universal logic of it and realize what they’ve been doing to themselves with the innocent misuse of their own power. They “wake up” to the truth that, no matter what, deep down we are born to be at peace.

I write about these cases a lot, but it seems like we can’t tell this story enough. The way traditional therapy addresses psychological distress is not working effectively enough to stem the increase in stress, anxiety, and depression, the afflictions of the so-called “functional mentally ill,” because almost all approaches are attempting to give people tools to solve their problems or drugs to dull them. But the “problems” are slippery. They are the variable artifacts of the way people are thinking about them. And the more people and their therapists talk about them and dwell on them and take them seriously, the worse they appear. Principles practitioners realize we should not be treating people’s problems as though they have a reality of their own. We should be addressing people’s understanding of their states of mind, of the nature of thought, of the spiritual power we all have to create thought and take it more or less seriously. We should be helping them to understand when to take their own thinking to heart and when to let it pass and allow their minds to quiet.

We all take for granted without question the way our minds work on ordinary things. I go into a store and see an item I just love, but I don’t think I should spend the money. So I walk away. A few days later, I go back and think, “OK, if I love it that much, I should really buy it.” But when I look at it again, I don’t love it that much. Did the item change? No. My thinking about the item changed. I read recipes right before I go to the grocery store and I start thinking I really should try some of those exotic vegetables. I buy them. Two days later, I get ready to make dinner and I look at them and think, “Too much trouble. I’ll just make a salad.” Are the vegetables any less nutritious? Any less appealing? No. But my thinking about how much effort I’m willing to make to cook them has changed. No one would argue with examples like this.

But what about “serious problems?” That’s when we lose our perspective on the fact that things look different in different states of mind.  In the depth of seriousness, it really does look like there is no other way to see the problem. We forget that life is filled with ups and downs for all people, all the time. There are a lot of serious downs for everyone: we lose dear friends and loved ones; relationships fall apart; arguments escalate; bad things happen in the world; we lose homes and businesses to weather events; things break down just when we need them to work, investments fail; we fall victim to crime or violence. Everyone’s life can change in any moment. And in the midst of the worst things, we feel deeply painful emotions.

But here’s the thing about problems. You can’t change them.  You can only change how you approach them, how you think about them, how much of your peace of mind you are willing to give to them. The “drama” we suffer around problems is not a present moment, creative response.  The only way we experience drama is through dwelling on memories and regrets about what has happened, or dwelling on fear of what might happen next. In the present moment, with a clear head and a quiet mind, we just see how to move forward, one step at a time.

Here’s an example. I once worked with a client who, after years of what can only be called torture, finally escaped an abusive relationship and got far away from her abuser, to a place he would never find her or think to look for her. In a moment of clarity, she had an insight about how to do this and acted on it. For a few weeks, she was exhilarated in her new, free state. She found a job, found a place to live, started a new life. But then she started believing that her abuser would find her because she had let an old friend know that she was OK. What if the friend told him? What if the friend told someone else who told him? She couldn’t sleep nights. She was afraid every time she heard a footstep. She became, as she described, “a bunch of jangling nerves that never shut up.” She was just as terrified as she had been when she was living under the abuser’s roof. She started our conversation trembling, in tears, saying she would never, ever be free of him, no matter where she went. She insisted on closing the blinds to the room where we were meeting so no one could look in and see her. She had made her appointment under a false name and she arrived at the appointment wearing huge sunglasses with her long hair stuffed up under a wide-brimmed hat.

She wanted to talk to me about strategy. Should she move again? Should she chop off and dye her hair and have surgery to change her appearance? Should she change her name? Should she go to another country? She had thousands of thoughts about what she should or could do racing through her mind.

I wanted to talk to her about the beautiful feeling she had when she got the powerful insight about how to escape. She only needed to reconnect to that feeling, to that sense of peace and freedom and certainty, because in that feeling state, she would know what to do now.

I had no idea if any of her fears were justified, or if any of her ideas would work for her. It’s not my place to give advice to people because, in a calm state of mind, they are the experts on their own life choices. My job was to bring her back to the present moment and help her to quiet her frantic thinking and get calm. From that state, she would recognize the idea that would work out for her because her next insight would also come with an uplifting feeling in a moment of calm.

After a few sessions, she called me. She had read The Missing Link that I had shared with her, focusing on the passages about wisdom. She had done her best to quiet down and look in the direction I was pointing in our sessions. The morning she called me, it had dawned on her that she was working for a national corporation, a large big box store with thousands of locations all over the county, and she could ask her human resources department if there were any similar opportunities in different locations. She went right in to talk with them, and found out she could transfer to another state within a couple of weeks, if she was willing to move herself. She was making her plans to move. She had confided in her human resources advisor what her situation was, and the woman had a lot of compassion for her and was very helpful.

“This was such an obvious answer,” she said. “It was right in front of me the whole time. I just didn’t see it. Isn’t that weird? All of a sudden, it just popped into my head.”

Not weird at all, I assured her. It’s the guarantee of the human operating system. If we don’t over-ride the thinking that is natural to us, the easy flow of thought in the present moment, we keep getting the answers that make sense for us.

Did she really need to move? Was this the very best possible solution? It doesn’t matter. She found an answer she felt good about that made sense to her, and she found the understanding of where the answers come from that will continue to keep her safe. She found her happiness, and she knew where to look if she lost it again.

Was it easy?

To me, it’s the simple path to take. Trust that you have innate wisdom. See disquiet and insecurity as a sign you need to let your mind settle. Follow quiet and good feelings. They lead directly to happiness. When we are happy, “problems” fit into the tapestry of our lives and fade from the moment as understanding and solutions come to mind.

__________________________________

Join me and my colleagues Dr. Bill Pettit and Christine Heath in June for a wonderful retreat, Awaken Joy!        We will share the incredible power of happiness and peace of mind to change our lives, and the world around us.

Leave a Comment

PayPal Acceptance Mark