Coping with Cancer Part II: Handling the Hard and Scary Stuff

It’s always exciting to be a guest writer on someone else’s blog. This month, I’m truly honored to be part of Shannon Miller’s Lifestyle online magazine. The article is the second in a series that I’ve written for the woman who is known as America’s Most Decorated Olympic Gymnast and the only woman to be inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame–twice. Shannon was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer in 2011 and has a strong interest in helping others who are facing a battle with cancer. Here is an excerpt from the blog. Click on the link below to access the full article on www.shannonmiller.com. In my first article[1], I shared some ideas about handling the first few days after receiving a cancer diagnosis. In this article, I am sharing some of the strategies that my clients and I have used when dealing with panic, terror, fear, and anxiety that often accompany that diagnosis. As you know, if you are living with cancer, crises bring many difficult, often terrifying moments into our lives. We are stretched beyond our comfort zones, time and again, by the news that we hear or the potential outcomes that we face. Decisions must be made where the choices can be ugly or daunting and no one is available to take the blame if the wrong option is chosen. So, how do you take back your power, when fear is threatening to run your life? Accepting that fear, terror, anxiety, panic WILL happen during this crisis is the first step in reclaiming your power.  Once you acknowledge this fact, you have lessened...

Surviving Your New Year’s Resolutions

Surviving Your New Year’s Resolutions Like many people, I enjoy setting resolutions for the coming year–even though I never achieve them perfectly. Earlier in life I judged myself harshly for any slip-ups in keeping those resolutions—believing that breaking one was a clear sign of my lack of will power (or character defect, depending on how badly I felt about the mess up). You see, I had bought into a perfectionist view of the world—the one where only the flawless are considered worthy of attention or love. Any mistake, I believed, took me off the “lovable” list immediately and made the possibility of being loved for who I really was (human and imperfect) a very chancy prospect. It’s not true about New Year’s resolutions and it’s not true about Life. We don’t have to perform this dance with life faultlessly to be worthy of love. We are likely going to screw up, even if we have the best strategies, painstakingly laid out, to achieve our goals. I’m not being pessimistic—actually, I’m an irrepressible optimist. After all these years of imperfection completion, I still set resolutions. During this last year, as I was following a very wobbly path to unconditional self-love, I discovered an important truth that changed how I see life, and even more, how I approach New Year’s Resolutions. Here it is: Self-love is not about learning to love yourself despite your imperfections. It’s about recognizing that you are  lovable–including your flaws. It’s a bit of a game changer if you sit with this idea for a few minutes. Those of us who have been using New Years resolutions...

3 ways to distinguish the inner critic from your authentic self

Most of us are well acquainted with our inner critic—that voice that constantly critiques and judges our actions. The root of the negative self talk comes typically from our early childhood years when we believed everything that authority figures—family, teachers, church elders, doctors, even “older and wiser” friends– told us. In childhood, we had too little knowledge of the world, and were too dependent on love or protection of those powerful figures to discern between what was true and what felt true to them. For example, a teacher who feared she would be judged for a student’s poor academic performance might tell a child that she is “stupid” rather than admit that she has neither the time nor skills to help the child learn more effectively. Or a parent who had experienced many disappointments in his life might teach his son that “you can’t trust anyone.” Neither of the pronouncements were accurate but both might have been adopted as true by the child who did not know better. Our authentic self however knows us better than the inner critic. That self is connected to our strength, our wisdom, our intuition as well as to our vulnerabilities and fears. Unfortunately, while the inner critic is an early riser, standing (figuratively) beside our bed waiting to get our attention the minute we wake, our authentic self waits for an invitation to speak to us and often requires quieting our mind to hear its voice. For many of my clients, it can take a lifetime of careful listening to begin to discern critical self-talk, created from early childhood experiences, from the voice...

Releasing the Cold Comfort of a Grudge

One of the traits I’ve worked hardest to release in my life is the tendency to harbor a grudge. Listening to my clients’ stories of wrongs done by childhood friends, mistreatment by bosses, and ancient family wounds that have never been healed, I learned that forgiveness doesn’t come easy to many people. Grudges, in fact, are often one of the first signals I receive from a client that there is psychological territory to be covered. Sticky and smelly, a grudge continues to mark the place of an earlier injury to ensure that it is not forgotten. The cost of resentment Lately, I’ve found myself looking at grudges in a different way for several reasons. Dr. Judith Orloff, author of “Positive Energy”, talks about all of the ways that we “pour out our stores of energy.” Her point is that our personal vitality has to be consciously managed or renewed and that anything that saps us of that is ultimately harmful. With less energy to squander now than I had earlier in my life, I find I am no longer willing take the time and energy a grudge seems to require for its maintenance. “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Malachy McCourt I was once privileged to work with a torture survivor who, at the age of 21 was imprisoned and tortured for the crime of marrying a man who was the political enemy of the government in charge. Repeatedly raped by some of the prison guards, she lost the baby she was carrying. The day before her slated execution, she escaped, aided...

Love yourself anyway

The Paradoxical Commandments Kent Keith wrote his paradoxical commandments in 1968 for a group of student leaders. It speaks to the decision that we can make every day to love people despite what they might or might not do. If you’ve never seen the original version, you can check it out here. Mother Theresa’s version of the Paradoxical Commandments, found posted on the wall of her room, is a powerful statement of the intentions that guided her life.   Yesterday, a friend and I were talking about the difference our spiritual and personal intentions and the actions we sometimes take. Gail shared the frustration she was feeling about a personal situation.   She had worked hard, really hard, to let a relationship go but still was not at peace with the outcome. Gail saw her struggle as lack of spiritual progress and–as I often do–was beating herself up it.   As I listened to her, I was struck with a thought. What if maybe, just maybe, our spiritual growth was less about the amount or speed of progress we made and more about our ability to love ourselves unconditionally—wherever we are on the path? What if the most important intention that we held on to was to love ourselves unconditionally? What if self love was the foundation of our personal and spiritual growth?   It seems to be a human paradox that we expect perfection of ourselves while lovingly accepting and forgiving others for mistakes that can far exceed our own. It was so easy to cherish Gail, even while she worked through her challenges. Why was it so hard to have compassion and love...
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