hair growth treatment for men

education

Self-compassion gets tested daily

Testing one, two, testing….did you take the test, the self-compassion test yet?  There is a link to it in the last blog.  It’s true there is an actual test, 26 questions to determine if you are low, moderate or high in compassion for yourself.  The reason to know is that there are health implications.  Folks that score high are more optimistic and happier with less anxiety and depression.  And they make healthier lifestyle choices about food consumption and issues of weight loss.

This makes perfect sense to me although it may be contrary to popular pundit opinion.  Why? Self acceptance is the beginning of change.  Accepting the actual reality of our common humanity means letting go of perfectionism to appreciate the wonder of our common beauty as we are.  Sure, maybe you do need to lose some weight.  But you don’t have to beat yourself up about it to lose it.  In fact, beating yourself up may have just the opposite effect.  The belittling self talk only makes you feel bad about yourself and more likely to then use food as a medicative behavior for those bad feelings.

Dr. Kristin Neff, who came up with the test, makes the point clearly.  She said that the reason many folks aren’t scoring higher is cultural.  ”Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”

I had a patient who was overweight who came in to see me and I noted that she looked great.  It was clear she had lost weight.  I asked her how and she said something that fits in this discussion.  She told me about standing naked in front of a mirror and looking for long periods at her image.  Her goal was to love and accept the person looking back at her in the mirror.  The better she got at doing that, the more she made healthier choices and the more weight she lost.

Here’s Dr. Neff, “if you care about yourself, you do what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.”

The NY Times article, 3/1/11, says a much shorter test can get at some of what we are talking about here relative to self-compassion.  It’s just one question.  Do you treat yourself as well as you treat folks you care about, your friends and family?  If you do, great.  If not, start.  You’re worth it.  And you’ll lead a healthier life while infecting friends and family by example.

The Secret of Juggling

OUR BEST KEPT SECRET

Part Nine

I mentioned last time that while I am still in development, I did finish a book entitled, “Why Normal Isn’t Healthy.”  Part of normal not being healthy is that we all share a secret that we don’t discuss.  That secret being that we all have feelings of inadequacy and insecurity we don’t want others to know about.  The part of us that carries those feelings I have named the “scared one.”

Last time, I discussed a personal example of the “scared one’s” effect on the book project.  I’d like to continue to explore how our secret affects our development.  Or, another way to say it, how our “scared one” hinders our growth toward emotional maturity, health and wholeness.

First, a question: how many of you have tried to juggle?  I’m not talking schedules or “the books” but objects.  How many of you have tried, at some point in your life, to juggle 3 balls or other like objects in the air?  When I ask this question to groups of people, about 80% to 90% of folks acknowledge such attempts.  But when I ask, “How many of you have learned how to juggle?” Only a small per cent mastered the skill. 

 

            When I ask why, respondents tell me things like:

            “Poor hand-eye coordination…”

            “I don’t know.  I tried it and I just can’t do it…”

            “I’ve never been good at sports…”

            “It wasn’t that important…”

            “No one taught me…”

            “It’s a kid thing…and I’m an adult…”

Let me tell you what I think.  The people that try to juggle and don’t learn the skill, approach the learning from a normal, but not healthy perspective.  They attempt the new behavior because something about it interests them.  They think, “Gee, I wonder if I can do that?  It looks like fun.”

They try for a brief time to see if they can do it.  And they fail.  How does it feel trying and failing at any task?  It doesn’t feel very good.  Why?  To begin with, we learned, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.”  And we're obviously not doing it right!

It doesn’t feel good for two related reasons.  First, we are not doing it right and second, the “scared one” risks being seen as inadequate when we fail.  So when we try something new and we’re not a “natural,” we don’t “get it” right away, it reinforces our feelings of inadequacy.

We try, fail, and feel bad failing.  So, how can we stop feeling bad?  Easy.  Stop trying the thing that causes the bad feelings.  We don’t persist because there is no pay-off in dropping the balls over and over and over.  We tried and learned, “I can’t juggle.”  Why continue when we already know, “I just can’t do it?”

It’s interesting how we use the word can’t.  The contraction of ‘can not’ almost implies no fault, no accountability, no responsibility.  I wonder if we often use that word in the place of “won’t.”  This contraction carries a different quality of energy, a quality of ownership, of responsibility.

To me, it says I’m not willing to (will not) suffer through the learning that is required to have the skill.  It isn’t that I “can’t” (can not), it’s actually that I “won’t” (will not) pay the price to earn the learning.

This brings me to juggling.  Juggling is a wonderful metaphor for learning and for a life of learning. 

What is the secret of juggling?  You don’t earn the right to have the skill unless you sustain your effort and fail enough to “get it!”

How long do you have to drop the balls before you learn to keep them in the air?  Just long enough.  When you’ve dropped them enough you don’t drop them any more!  You “get it.” 

Our problem is that we compare ourselves with others, and see how quickly they “get it.”  And in comparison to them, we feel uncoordinated and inadequate.  That feels bad.  The “scared one” risks exposure as an inadequate person, simply because it takes some people longer to “get it.”

Well, what if we change the game?  What if we decide that it isn’t important how fast we learn something?  What if we slow down?  What if we quit comparing and competing with others?  What would change? 

There would be a conservation of our energy making more energy available for learning.  Why?  Energy follows attention.  If you are attending to the other jugglers, and wanna-be jugglers, while you are attempting to learn, your energy is invested unwisely.  STOP for a moment.  Put down the balls.  Multitasking drains energy and slows down learning. 

Shine the flashlight of your attention on someone who has learned.  Watch to see what they are doing.  Then pick up the balls anew and try what you saw them do.  You get a much better return on your energy investment.  Energy expended on what they are doing while you are trying, splits your attention and your energy. So less is available for you to use to learn the new skill. 

Having less energy to utilize, you quickly get tired and frustrated.  Saying, “I quit!  I just can’t do it!” 

Whoa, slow down.  We’ve all been there.  It’s OK.  And, don’t quit.  Just take a break.  Change your mindset by adding “yet” at the end of the sentence.    I just can’t do it yet!

The best way to conserve energy is to focus on your own process.  Make the competition ‘you with you.’  Eliminate the external reference by attending to the task at hand.  And when the “scared one” starts to say self defeating phrases, stop the chatter.

Because we have feelings of inadequacy, doesn’t mean we’re inadequate.

By attending to my own negative internal dialogue, I have the energy to stop the noise that creates interference in the learning process.  Then I can change the conversation.  For example:

“I know you.  You’re scared because that’s your nature.  You bought the standard line.  ‘If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.’  It’s normal, but not healthy to feel that way.  It’s not healthy because you’ll never try anything new if you have to do it right the first time.

“Let me assure you that failing doesn’t mean you are a failure.  I know you have trouble with this concept.  That’s your nature.  Although I honor your need to see the world as you do, I cannot, and I will not let it hinder my learning.”

By dealing directly with the “scared one,” we keep him/her in check so that we can drop the balls as much as we need to learn to juggle.   Remember it isn’t so important how quickly we learn.  What is important is what we do with what we learn and to know that we can learn anything.

I learned to juggle in medical school.  It was one of the things I did to de-stress, to relax.  As you might guess, medical school puts a huge emphasis on ‘doing it right.’  The pressure is continuous.  Competition fierce.  There are multiple opportunities daily to have your feelings of inadequacy reinforced.  It’s not exactly a healthy environment for learning.

I learned to juggle three balls.  Then I learned to pass.  That’s what it’s called when jugglers play catch or juggle back and forth to each other.  Anyway, I had a lot of fun alone as well as juggling with others.

Then my wife got me juggling clubs.  Imagine the scene.  It’s Christmas.  All four daughters watch as I open the special present.

“Oh, boy.  New toy!”  And I immediately begin to throw the juggling clubs.  Guess what?  I couldn’t juggle them.  It’s always fun failing in front of the little ones, isn’t it?   Guess how I felt?  Could it be . . . inadequate?  Yep, I was pretty embarrassed and went off to practice. 

Was I going to practice in public or private?  Right, in private.  Why in private?  Because no one would see me failing over and over.

So, I went limping off to practice in private when I had an ‘ah ha’ experience.   I remembered my own BLEF system.  BLEF (I never was much of a speller.)

[B]  I believe that anything I do, I can do Better.  Myself, all of us are underachievers relative to what we are capable of doing.

[L]  If I am willing to Learn, there isn’t anything I can’t do better.  And there isn’t anything I can’t learn.

[E]  But I Earn my learning the old fashioned way by . . .

[FFailing enough to “get it.”  The final common pathway of learning is mistake making.  We earn our learning one mistake at a time.

No, I didn’t want to practice in private.  I wanted to practice in public.  I wanted my kids to see me fail over and over and not quit.  I wanted them to see me get frustrated, but persist until I finally learned how to juggle the clubs.  And that’s what I did.

Remember my line, “I’m slow, but trainable.” Others may be quicker on the uptake.  But, there’s nothing I can’t learn if I’m willing to fail enough to eventually “get it.”

How about you?  What is it you’ve decided you can’t do?  What is it you tried and failed at, that caused you to lose belief in yourself?  Perhaps you might revisit that experience and see if it looks different from a juggler’s perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

1370 words

 

 

Our True Tiger Nature

“Tiger, Tiger burning bright

In the forests of the night.

What immortal hand or eye

            Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”           

    William Blake

There is a familiar ring to this poem.  Most of us probably had to read it in English Literature.  I remember doing so as a kid.  I read it and moved on, probably not thinking much more about it.

Reading it now, however, has a much larger charge for me.  Because, now, I think about tigers differently than I used to.  And wanting to continue to explore the dual nature of the human psyche with you, a tiger story comes to mind.  Remember my bias that we all have both a ‘scared one’ and a ‘sacred one’ inside us.

The ‘scared one’ is ashamed of him/herself.  The ‘scared one’ is programmed by family, school, church, peers, etc. to carry culture. The local cultural conditioning process happens unawares.  Much of the interaction with the child occurs without awareness on the part of the grown-ups.  People do with their offspring something similar to what was done with them or they overcompen-sate in rebellion to the parenting they received.

So we have explored how the ‘scared one’ feels inadequate and insecure as a result of our long period of dependency upon parents or parental figures. 

Not being adequate to care for ourselves in the jungle that is the world, every child will have feelings of inadequacy.

“Dad, can I go down to the store and get some candy?”

“No, you can’t.  You’re only six years old.  You haven’t learned to be paranoid yet.  Get back in here.  Maybe I’ll take you later.  And it’s not can I, but may I.”

“Dad, what’s paranoid?”

“What? Oh, you wouldn’t understand.  Now go bother your mother.”

While we all have this secret that we share yet don’t discuss, there is another secret that likewise, we share and do not discuss.  While there is much agreement about the presence of the 'scared one’ there is more controversy about the existence of the ‘sacred one.’

This is the luminous aspect of our humanness.  This sacred component is not a product of conditioning.  It is not burdened with egocentric vision.  It is, however, often covered by psychological brushwood.  The ‘scared one’ is in hiding, the ‘sacred one’ is hidden, so deeply hidden one may think it nonexistent.

But, let’s come back to the poem and a Tiger story that will help clear away some of the brushwood.  This is an ancient story, one I heard a wonderful storyteller, Joseph Campbell, tell years ago.  I wouldn’t presume his skill as a raconteur, but this story is one I’ll always remember.

 

            A pregnant tigress is on the prowl hungry for goat.  She comes to a clearing and spots a herd of goats grazing at a distance.  She stealthily slips up on the herd and picks out her prey.  Slowly she moves in for the kill, and leaps upon her victim.  But while she was in midair, the goat changed position.  So when she landed upon her meal, two sharp goat horns pierced her heart.  In the moment of contact, she sustained a mortal wound and lay dying in the grass.

           The traumatized goat is dazed, yet very aware of the closeness of the call.  He just saw his little goat life flash before his eyes.  He can hardly believe he’s not badly injured when he notices the spectacle.

            In her dying moments, the pregnant tiger’s uterus begins to contact and she delivers a beautiful little tiger cub.

            The goat is amazed at the miracle.  Out of this death comes new life.  “Wow!  What a beautiful little tiger cu….b… Wait a minute!  That’s a tiger.  I’m a goat. Tigers eat  goats.  This is a problem.”

           So the young goat goes to get the goat elders.  They come over to investigate the situation“Let’s see now.  That’s a tiger.  We’re goats.  Tigers eat goats.  Yep, it’s a problem.  But, hey, wait a minute.  She doesn’t know she’s a tiger.  We won’t tell her. 

            We’ll just just raise her like a goat.  She’ll eat goat food instead of goat.  Yeah, that’s the   ticket. 

            She’ll live her little goat life with the herd.  She’ll live like us and be like us.  Sure, it’ll work.”

            Time passes and it’s as the elder said.  The little tigress lives a goat life eating goat food instead of goat and moves as one with the herd.  Things go along smoothly. The tigress isn’t growing into her full, mature tiger self because she’s eating grass instead of goat.  And her secret identity is hidden from the tigress.

            Then one day, a large female tiger comes along hungry for goat.  She catchers the scent of the herd and tracks them down.  She begins to select her prey when …WHAT?…she notices a tiger grazing with the herd.

            Astonished at these events, the tigress forgets about her hunger and runs out from cover to satisfy her curiosity.  The herd dashes away, but the large mature tigress is much faster than the goat-tiger and catches her easily.

            “What the heck are you doing out here with these goats.  Don’t you know you’re a tiger and tigers eat goats?”

            The young one looks up at the mature one and says, “Baaaah, Baaaah”

            The big tiger cannot believe her ears.  “What!!  That’s not what tigers say.  Tigers say,  GRRRRR!   GRRRRRR!

            And her booming roar blasts the little one’s ears back.  But all she can muster is another, “Baaaaah,  Baaaaah.”

            No matter what the mature tigress does, she cannot convince the young one of her true tiger nature.  Until finally, she spots a quiet pool of water nearby.  She moves over to drink and sees her image reflecting up to her.  She calls the young one over and says,  “Here, put your head here next to mine above the pond.  Now, you see those eyes, you see those whiskers, you see those stripes??”

            “Stripes!  What??!  Can it be??!” thought the little goat-tiger.  In an instant the truth was revealed. “See, you are a tiger like me.  You are meant to live a different life than the one you have known.  Come with me.”

 And off she went to live her true tiger life.

You see the problem?  We are all born tigers and taught to be goats.  We live our goat lives, eating goat food and moving with the herd.  We feel inadequate and easily let others ‘get our goat.’  Or, to compensate for our feelings of inadequacy, we become a bully and ‘Billy’ other goats.

The story then reveals the dynamics we have been discussing.  The ‘scared one’ bleating out anxious tones from a fearful hiding spot.  Or the ‘Big One’ picking on other smaller goats to establish dominance.  Reinforcing the feelings of inadequacy in others, the bully reveals his secret.  He is unaware of his modus operandi until a still larger one appears and his tail drops between his legs in submission to the new alpha figure.

The ‘scared one/Big One’ and the goat are synonymous.  And we all have a ‘scared one’ inside.  But that is not an accurate picture of our entire nature.  That is programming absorbed by osmosis from our local environs.  We are imprinted early to think goat thoughts and move with the herd.  We replicate ourselves and teach our children to do the same.

But then, there is this Other One, this tiger self, this essential self that waits to be discovered. 

“Tiger, Tiger burning bright.”

This luminous ‘sacred one’ who is hidden behind the conditioning of a lifetime. 

“What immortal hand or eye did frame thy fearful symmetry?” 

And when this one remembers, re-members, reconnects to the “immortal hand” that birthed a universe, look out!!

Because we have feelings of inadequacy doesn’t mean we’re inadequate.  Because we have fears, doesn’t mean we can’t face them to see what they have to teach us.  For it may be only in facing what we fear the most that we discover our true stripes. GRRRRRRRR!

We experience our core “burning bright” and this light illuminates a new way.  The familiar is seen with a sense of possibility.  Our confusion gives way to a brief moment of clarity.  We see through the illusion of who we thought we were to live for an instant what we actually are.

And that moment, that one instant of direct knowing also reveals to us who is hidden within everyone else.  And though we cannot hold that moment, its memory holds us, enfolds us.  It informs all we do thereafter, the moment we remember, because our energy follows our attention.

Hey you!  Yeah You!  To what are you paying attention??  Are you busting your butt trying to keep up with the herd?  Exhausting, isn’t it!  Your energy follows your attention.  What you pay attention to, you have energy for.

Pay attention to your true tiger nature and you have the energy for living out your true tiger life.  In those moments you become a metaphorical pond for others to see their true reflection in the deep pools of your tiger eyes.