Once Upon A Mommy

The Ups, Downs and All Arounds of Raising a Family

Month: October 2016

Focused Thinking – Choosing the Positive

In my journey through my various seasons of depression, I have extensively focused on the negative thoughts, feelings and sensations in efforts to reduce their intensity. I have spent so much time and effort working incredibly and ridiculously hard to not feel the sadness, anger, anxiety, dread, despair, discontentment, unhappiness…. But of course, what I focus on expands.

focused thinking

However, in the last month, I have realized that it isn’t enough to just minimize the undesirable. Reducing the negative does not default to automatically experiencing the positive. My AHA moment was discovering that the positive behaviors I desire are habits that I need to cultivate and practice. Wow, that means I really have my work cut out for me! Not only do I need to use skills to reduce the unfavorable, I need to use more skills to practice that which I want. Using skills is a lot of work.

As I continue to catch the moments of happiness, joy and contentment, and as I notice the smile on my face or sparkle in my eye, I continue to expand and create more of it. Although it would be easy to wish away all the negative and hope to never have to experience it, I have accepted the truth that I can only begin to feel the highs when I embrace the lows. I can’t know joy without knowing sadness. I can’t feel peace without first feeling the war within me. We can’t have one emotion at the exclusion of the others – trying to pick and choose the ones we like best. Brené Brown, one of my favorite authors, says, “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

Although I will continue to feel painful emotions, as we all do, I do have the power of focus. While I can acknowledge the feeling and be curious about its presence, I can shift gears and choose to concentrate on that which brings more life, radiance and abundance.

 

Not So Perfect Parenting – Making Repairs

perfect parenting

Perfect parenting doesn’t exist so I’m learning.

I had a not so glamorous moment at gymnastics yesterday. In hindsight, I realized that I had been brewing with impatience and frustration the hour before. I was annoyed trying to get Ella to gymnastics on time. I was inconvenienced by her resistance to go to class. And, if I’m really honest, I was afraid of wasting money on a class that she didn’t want to attend.

I started to get into logic mode by reminding her that this is what she wanted to do. I spent money so she could do it. She doesn’t have to participate but she needs to sit with her class…blah blah blah. It wasn’t what she need in that moment but I clearly didn’t have the emotional capacity to do otherwise.

I managed to get her to gymnastics with some struggle and opposition. Nevertheless, I got her there and figured I was home free. Up until that point I thought I had a relatively good attitude about the whole thing and didn’t think I was bothered by the prior circumstances. However, by the time we arrived at class and she started to cling to me, my anger started to rise to the surface.

A whole slew of emotions arose within me and the least of them was compassion. I was embarrassed in front of the people watching. I was inconvenienced because I wanted my break. I was concerned because I had left Jack on the sidelines. I was annoyed about wasting money. I was also fearful, frustrated, angry, impatient, and probably a list of other emotions I wasn’t even aware of at the time.

Once again, I was in logic mode trying to stop her from feeling what she was feeling. I didn’t want to bother with all my skills. I just wanted her to go back to her class and participate. I was disappointed with how I reacted to her. If I was in an emotional state like she was, I wouldn’t have wanted to be treated the way I treated her. I would have wanted compassion, empathy, validation, patience and gentleness.

Fortunately, there is redemption. There is a way to take a bad situation and turn it into good. It’s through repair. I believe that repairing is a powerful life skill to teach our children. Making amends for our mistakes gives us the opportunity to role model and demonstrate problem solving and conflict resolution skills. We’re never going to parent perfectly. In fact, trying to be perfect before our children is a disservice that creates a false illusion. As a result, they are not equipped when the less than pretty side of emotions show up…which they will. Consequently, they never learn how to deal with mistakes, accept forgiveness and offer apologies.

I was grateful to have a chance to make up for my wrong. After class, I apologized and took responsibility for my unkindness towards her. Although I can’t be perfect with my emotions or parenting, I can teach her valuable lessons through the messiness of it all. I can give my daughter a gift by showing her that my imperfections are a reality of the human condition. I can break the cycle of perfectionism from being inherent in her life by demonstrating the gentleness and compassion I offer myself. It excites me to think that perfectionism can stop with me and I have the privilege of training a new generation to have a kinder and loving relationship with themselves

PS. A lot of the skills and awareness I used came from the book, “The Surprising Purpose of Anger.” I was able to recognize that Ella clinging to me at gymnastics was just the trigger of my anger, not the cause. What caused me to be angry was the inner dialogue I was having with myself during the previous frustrating moments. The anger was a warning sign that there were other needs not being met. Once I identified the underlying emotions, I was able to offer compassion towards myself in order to curb my judgmental thoughts (although I did feel like the worst parent in the world in the beginning).

Check out more in my blog post here.

Power of Perception – Shifting Your Focus

Perception: “Reality doesn’t bite, rather our perception of reality bites.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

In my personal life, I encountered a huge shift in my perception. For the longest time, I struggled with accepting the fact that life is going to happen to me whether I like it or not. As I kicked, screamed and dug my heels in, I ended up creating more suffering for myself. I kept falling victim to life and often felt I was kicked when already down. I fell prey to a “Why me?” mindset and felt tossed around by circumstances thrown my way. My thoughts were rampant and spiraled into negative dark alley ways. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a work in progress. I’m not out of the woods yet.

But breakthrough has started to occur! In Tony Robbins’s powerful documentary on Netflix, “I Am Not Your Guru,” he states, “Life is not happening TO you, it is happening FOR you.” This phrase rang true for me and switched on the light bulb. As a result, I am able to move away from a victim mindset into an empowered mentality. It has taken me a long time to come to acceptance that life will always do its thing and it’s up to me to change my attitude about it. The world is not going to change, people are not going to change, BUT I can change!

Focus

When I find myself stuck with my thoughts and wrestling to break free, I often come back to this quote: “What we think, say and do, is based on what we know. And what we know could be wrong.” This quote reminds me that I’m just one thought away from getting unstuck. All it takes is a slight shift in thinking to radically change the course of life. Tony calls this the 2 mm shift. It’s a fascinating concept that demonstrates how a small 2 mm shift can extrapolate over time into a completely different outcome.

As soon as I find myself getting upset or complaining, I have the opportunity to change my focus. In these moments, I’m learning to move away from complaining and to start reciting what I’m grateful for. Instead of asking “Why me?” questions, I’m learning to change my questions to “What is great about this problem?” Although these decisions are slight, they drastically change the directional trajectory my mind and focus was heading in.

Here’s the trailer for Tony’s documentary, “I Am Not Your Guru”:

Power of Focus – What You Focus On Expands

FocusFocus – Do you notice the thoughts you have each day? Do you pay attention to what you are paying attention to? This practice is called mindfulness: when you think about your thinking.

I’ve been discovering the power of focus and mindfulness in my everyday life with my moods, parenting, goals, problems and so forth. When I find myself upset or fixating on the negative, I notice that I need to take a step back and look at what I’m choosing to focus on. I often realize my perception is off kilter and needs adjusting.

T Harv Eker, author and motivational speaker, says, “What you focus on expands.” When we zero in on a certain thought, memory, idea, problem or feeling, it continues to grow and manifest – often down a different path than where we want to go. This is the nature of thoughts. They start off in one direction and then as we follow it, we find ourselves in a completely different place than where we started.

With me, this is usually an unhealthy place of worry, chaos or anxiety. Fortunately, I’m starting to notice more frequently how I work myself into a tizzy with just my thoughts. I could avoid building a mountain out of a molehill by checking the accuracy of my thinking and focusing my thoughts on what is true. As Joyce Meyer says, “You can’t get confused if you stop analyzing.”

Consider a dime: it’s only 1.8 cm in diameter. However, if we hold it a short distance away from our eye, it looks enormous. Conversely, if we are mindful enough to catch ourselves in the moment, we can pull away the dime and look at it from a distance. We soon discover that I really isn’t that big after all. The same is true with our problems: we see that they really aren’t that big if we can step back long enough to gain a different perspective.

One of my favorite speakers, Tony Robbins, says, “Your life is controlled by what you focus on.” He talks extensively on how to change your emotional state by changing your focus. Our feelings tend to quickly follow suite to whatever we are thinking about. Notice the language you use or the things you meditate on. Saying, “Always” or “Everybody” will produce a more elevated reaction compared to saying more factual statements like “A few times” or “1 or 2 people.” By shifting your focus you can change the emotions that follow.

I challenge you to start noticing your thoughts. What are you focusing on? If you are feeling upset or stressed, notice what is ruminating around and around in your mind. As you continue to focus on these thoughts, you will generate more thoughts similar in nature. Remember: what you focus on expands. Dwelling on negativity will breed more negativity. However, filling your mind with life, truth and positivity will radiate through you and overflow into the lives of others.

“What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.” – Oprah Winfrey
Focus

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