Posts Tagged ‘ptsd’

h1

Do it scared, do it hurt, do it depressed…

December 27, 2010

I am revisiting the notion of not letting fear, pain, depression, anxiety, or any other invisible inward feeling stop us from doing what we feel is the next right or wise thing to do.

For most of my life, I let unpredictable, unreliable inner feelings act as a traffic light telling me what I should or shouldn’t do next.  I was naive enough to believe those feelings and would often shy from important things in my life that needed to be done.  Important things like filing my taxes on time, opening mail, completing a home project, working out, or fulfilling a promise made to friends or family.

Instead, I often felt paralyzed by fear, depression, or anxiety.  Feeling so overwhelmed that the easiest thing to do was to procrastinate the task and escape into sleep, tv, or in the old days of active addiction and alcoholism, I would drink or drug.  None of these escapes were of any value.  I was seldom rejuvenated and the task avoided was still there.

Then one day, years ago, I was listening to some teaching on pressing through fear or other overwhelming feelings.  A simple suggestion was posed, “Why don’t you just do it scared”? 

‘It’ being the task that you would otherwise avoid or procrastinate on.  So I began to think back and ask myself, how many exams did I write in school while scared?  Pretty much every one.  Or when I was starting out my career and doing interviews, how many interviews did I do scared?  Pretty much every one.  And how many sporting events did I play scared?  Again, pretty much all of them.  So I realized I could, and often have, done many things while scared.  So why not continue in this?

How was it the first time any of us walked into a room of AA, NA, Al-Anon, OA, or any 12-step program, scared?  I would bet all of us.  Yet what did we find on the other side of that fear?  Sobriety?  Help? Hope? A new beginning after repeated failures and painful losses?  Yes, absolutely!

I believe  that  fear and other negative emotions are tactics often used by the sick/addicted part of our thinking to self-preserve the sickness or addiction.  Somehow, it is like our unrecovered self has a mind and agenda of its own, and it wants to continue to live and grow.  So it suggests to us that we should remain immobile and avoid certain tasks.  Often, the very tasks that will give us the most growth, recovery, and victory in the shortest period of time.

I post this because I find myself in a bit of a post-Christmas funk.  My mood has been heavy for a few days since Christmas and some things are bothering me.  I am home early from work and I have some financial matters that really need attending to.  And at this moment, my mind is doing everything to avoid these matters.

So my determination was to acknowledge and expose these feelings for what they are by sharing them on my blog, then press past the anxious feelings and just do them.  Which is the next and only thing on my list of things to do tonight. 

If re-living feelings of fear and anxiousness similar to those I felt at many important moments in my life is the worst it can be, then I know I can handle it.  I just need to keep it simple, shut the brain off, turn the body on, and do it.  Scared, anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, or whatever.  It is do-able, even if I am not comfortable.

Ciao.

Chaz

Advertisements
h1

‘I’ve tried everything’

December 9, 2010

How many times in life do we feel or say, “I’ve tried everything”? 

Have we though?  Or is this the voice of our internal dialogue once again telling us things that are not true?  The following is a story from a fitness program I work with, but has great application in any area of life including recovery, business, marriage, relationships, schooling…

Motivational speaker and author Anthony Robbins once told the story of a man at a seminar who was extremely frustrated with his lack of results in marketing his company. The befuddled businessman said that he had tried everything but nothing worked. Here is the exchange that went on between the two of them:

Robbins: “You’ve tried EVERYTHING???”
Attendee: “Yes, I’ve tried absolutely everything!”

Robbins: “Tell me the last HUNDRED things you tried,”
Attendee: ” I haven’t tried a hundred things.”

Robbins: “OK, then just tell me the last FIFTY things you tried.”
Attendee: “I haven’t tried fifty things.”

Robbins: “Alright then tell me the last DOZEN things you tried.”
Attendee: (getting somewhat embarrassed) “Well, I haven’t tried a dozen things.”

Robbins: “I thought you said you tried EVERYTHING! So tell me then, how many things have you tried?”
Attendee: (Shrinking back into his seat), “Two or three.”

Obviously the man got the message loud and clear (Hopefully you did too).

Why do we fall for this?  Is our subconscious panicking?  Are we unknowingly looking for an excuse to quit or rationalize failure?  Are we lazy?  Are we simply lost in self-deception?

I have fallen into this trap.  For this very reason, I seek out outside voices, both written and spoken, to challenge my inaccurate internal dialogue.

Ciao.

Chaz

h1

Fortressing a limp

November 6, 2010

Why is change so rare and difficult? I heard a fascinating interview with a doctor this week. He gave an analogy about people who would come to him with back pain who he helped by treating their feet.

Why? Because in these cases, he discovered that the back pain originated in a foot problem, which was compensated for by the ankle, which then was compensated for by the knee, then hip, and by the time they did anything about it, their back had joined the chain of compensating adjustments and now was hurting.

The patients had re-arranged most of their body to keep the untreated foot problem alive. They altered the way they stood, walked, sat, and slept to facilitate the foot problem. They unknowingly built a fortress around the original hurt and protected it with everything they did.

Treating the back did not have longterm benefit. The problem kept reoccurring because the cause was the untreated foot. He analogized this to problems in our lives where we experience a hurt or problem such as a childhood trauma or dysfunctional conditioning by our family, then slowly and silently begin re-arranging our life to suit the hurt; often for decades or a lifetime.

Over years, we have actually created a network of supports to enable the hurt to continue and affect us. We unknowingly choose and get into habits of thought and behaviour that help keep this damage alive. We choose people, build relational dynamics, occupations, living environments, and daily routines that also nurture and protect the hurt. We fortress it. Or we let the untreated hurt destroy our relationships and hurt others. Why?

Perhaps simply because it’s familiar and in a paradoxical way, comfortable? And why can’t we detect it to any degree that we can bring about change on our own? Perhaps because it is so woven into our psyche, it has become effectively permanent (so far).

Then, when one part of the compensating behaviour is challenged (the knee-limp), it upsets the whole dynamic (foot, ankle, knee, hip, back) so we resist it. We may be fearful or confused by the new awareness so we retreat to the comfort of the familiar, even if it is only kind-of working.

After years or decades of this protective behaviour, we have a well-rehearsed limp; physically, emotionally, relationally etc.
It is no wonder that we recovering alcoholics, ACOAs, codependents, ragers, etc. cannot affect change on our own and that the journey of change requires time, effort, and lots of support. Equally sick people in our lives often resist change as much as we do because it takes them into the less familiar as well, so they may not want us to change. And they too have fortressed in their limps with compensating behaviours.

I am grateful today for the numerous voices that I can listen to that help me see more of the root causes of my problems, rather than just the symptoms. I am grateful today for the company and influence of healthy people who are also on journeys of recovery, who don’t need me to continue limping in order for them to remain comfortable. I am grateful today to God for bringing these people and circumstances into my life to help break the fortresses around my pains and dysfunctions. I know a freedom and contentment like I have never known. I feel like a freed captive.

Ciao.

Chaz

h1

Powered by Gratitude

September 17, 2010

In the past 2 years, I have been discovering the amazing depth and power of gratitude. 

I’ve discovered gratitude at levels far deeper than can be expressed by words alone.  I am talking about the gratitude that we live, rather than say.  We express it in our actions by doing and the choices we make on a day to day, moment to moment basis.  We begin to see so vividly that the blessing we have received and recovery we have experienced are truly rare and amazing, that gratitude permeates our subconscious and becomes one of the foundational influences of our entire outlook on life.  We don’t just think about it in our conscious mind, we move to feeling it in our emotions continuously.

The power is that we are far less fearful, far more hopeful, and we discover new energy and motivation in life because we feel grateful for everything, and anxious for little.  We can do and achieve things that we used to fall short of.  Why?  Because the negative thoughts that always stopped us in our tracks are now nudged out by gratitude for each moment, each person, each event, and each physical item in our lives.

On a practical level, I have found gratitude helps me maintain a happy marriage, a fun and functioning relationship with my kids, physical fitness, success in my career, and better relationships with everyone in my life.

Again, why?  Because I have let go of so much self-pity that kept me only seeing the negative in each circumstance.  Filtered through fear and self-pity, I would virtually always see the half-empty glass.  My mind would automatically nit-pick the imperfections in my job, my home, my wife, my family, and my health.  Even if I didn’t say it, I would allow the thoughts in my mind that would then translate into behaviours that limited me.  Or worse, led me to give up.

Gratitude on the other hand, especially when we live it rather than say it, keeps us focused on the half-full portion of the glass.  Gratitude leads us to become excited and energized because of what we do have.  So we make use of the blessing of the half-full part of the glass and build a better life for ourselves with what we do have, rather than remain immobilized looking at what we don’t.

An example on a practical level would be times when I decide to act in gratitude for my wife by doing something as an expression of this gratitude.  This may be rubbing her neck while she works at her desk, or telling her I love her at a time when I don’t normally, or doing some of her share of the household responsibilities, or taking the kids out so she can have some peace for a while.  When I determine to act in gratitude, I am careful not to speak it as well.  I feel I don’t want to taint the purity of the expression.  And by doing, it has such an impact on me and her, that the most amazing feelings in both of us begin to emerge.  And our marriage functions better and better.

Another example is my fitness routine which includes cycling for about 10 kms a few times a week.  Self-pity would have me complain in my head about the cold, the rain, dogs, traffic, sweating, and how hard it was.  Gratitude on the other hand focuses on the opportunity to be in shape, the beauty of the area I cycle in, the fresh morning air, the compliments from others, and the feeling of accomplishment that only comes from knowing I completed a task fully.

When I let gratitude guide my thoughts and express itself in my actions like riding longer or pushing harder, I have better workouts and cycling than ever and get better results, which then fuels more gratitude and more action.

Gratitude expressed only verbally will do some good.  But gratitude internalized so deeply we constantly feel it to the point that it becomes one of our defaults of perspective, then expressed in actions, can take us to new heights in every part of our lives.  It has freed me from so many of the shackles of negativity that limited me.

I encourage everyone to seek gratitude beyond words then act on it.

Ciao

Chaz

h1

We become what we practice

August 25, 2010

One of the strengths of AA and 12-step recovery is the opportunity to practice over and over the principles of this approach to recovery.  Abundant meetings in most areas make is possible to receive a continual steam of support and input for prolonged periods.

Was this not how we became sick and alcoholic in the first place?  We learned something by observation or experience, we did it once, then repeated over and over for a prolonged period?  Until our patterns of thought and behaviour became so entrenched, they were our defaults?  They were part of who we were.

So why would it not take the same to change?  We practiced thoughts and behaviours of self-pity, escapism, resentment, anger, envy, and potentially a hundred other dysfunctions until they wove together to make up the fabric of who we had become.

I did 90 meetings in 90 days at the same daily meeting.  A lot of people have asked, “Didn’t it get boring and repetitious”?  It would have if I let my old thinking tell me it was.  But gladly, I had some support from those who had travelled the path before me who compelled me to try to learn something new each day.  Even if the same people spoke again and again.

To my utter amazement, they were right.  New gems of truth and enlightenment began to emerge out of the same people at the same meeting day after day.  Why?  Perhaps it was because I was changing.  The repetition I heard was slowly breaking down the walls of my old thinking.  And my follow-through on a daily basis began to establish new patterns that further opened my mind.

Learning through practice and repetition is one thing that has kept me in the rooms of AA for a number of years, even though I can’t get any more sober than I was the day I first sobered up.  It took a long time to weave the old fabric, it is taking a long time to weave the new one.  Practice, practice, practice leads to progress, progress, progress.

h1

Life lessons from my coffee pot

August 18, 2010

I never know where the next lesson in life will come from. 

Today’s was from my coffee maker that occasionally malfunctions by letting grounds clog up the drip passage then overflow onto the counter.  Sometimes, like this morning, I switch the coffee maker on and go attend to other tasks in a different room.  Unknowingly leaving the pot to overflow onto the counter, into the drawers and cupboards below, and all over the floor.

"It just happens"

When I discover the mess, which of course then alters my morning routine considerably, I find the first place my mind goes is blame.  “If Procter-Silex could only build a reliable coffee maker!  Inept bastards”! 

Or get agitated at my family for having chosen the drawer beneath the coffee maker as the stationary drawer for the household, which of course now is all stained by spilled coffee.  Then come the mental images of hurling the coffee pot at the wall to show how unjustly I have just been treated by Procter-Silex, my family, Maxwell House, and of course the coffee pot itself.

Then, thankfully, only seconds later, I catch myself.  How is it anyone’s fault?  Does this sort of thing not just happen from time to time in any of our lives?  And how long really will it take to clean it up?  5 minutes at best?  Can I not do that?  Am I prepared to surrender my serenity over spilled coffee?  Will I even remember this mishap in a month, a year, 10 years from now?

I then proceeded to ask myself, “Instead of feeding my anger, what small thing can I do right now to improve this situation”?  To which I answer, “Unplug the coffee maker and put it in the sink for cleaning”.  So I do, and what happens?  Life is immediately much better.  In fact, gratitude begins to well up that I do have a coffee pot and sink, and this mishap isn’t sending me into a rage or out drinking.  Gratitude begins to displace anger and I begin to laugh.

It wasn’t 5 minutes before the entire mess is cleaned and a fresh pot of coffee is now brewing.  And best of all, I have this clear image of how blessed I am to have recovered to the point where these little incidents don’t send me around the bend anymore.  And that lights come on quickly that expose the unrecovered parts of my thinking, the ones that tried to immediately blame and self-pity over the malfunctioned coffee pot.

And let me tell you, the first cup from the next pot of fresh brew was amazing!

Simple, unexpected signposts in life that tell me I am on a better path than I was before.  And deep feelings of gratitude that show themselves in new behaviours and thinking patterns.  And the icing on the cake, joy and serenity return within moments.

Life is way better on the path of recovery.

Ciao.

Chaz

h1

We don’t need to understand pain

July 31, 2010

I used to make painful moments and circumstances in life far more painful by expecting to understand the pain.  I rarely do that anymore.  Pain is inevitable in life.  It just happens.  Nobody is exempt.  We choose whether or not we want to turn it into suffering by complicating it.

I used to complicate pain all the time by reading deep meaning into it while it was happening.  Even though this never helped.  I would want to know all the reasons why.  I would want instant clarity.  I felt an injustice was done on me if God or someone didn’t deliver clarity of reason to me right away.

Today, “it just happens” and eventually passes.  It goes away in time, every time.  So I am more prone to just grit my teeth, focus on something else positive, and let it pass.  The amazing thing is that some clarity or lesson usually follows at some point shortly thereafter.  I “let” more be revealed rather than “expect” it.

And if pain is getting me down, I have the secret weapon of surrender.  I turn it over.  Let go, let God.

Life is way better.

Ciao.

Chaz