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Will Power and Will-fullness


We want our children to be strong and have the will power to get through things and move toward their goals.

But I’ve noticed that parents tend to try to break willful behavior; this seems to have a more pejorative connotation.  And it may be in response to an expectation from the social group around them.  Society has a preference for perfect mannered children that don’t go against the grain.

If your goal is to develop internal strength, positive self- esteem, and resilience, I suggest this is not a good idea.

Remember in the early years it’s a lot about power, and how to manage it.  If we diminish their connection to their own desires and sense of power too early it’s really difficult to get that sense back.

It’s a matter of moderation.  It’s a negotiation of internal and external needs and developing a way to mediate between these two arenas – over-control leads to submissiveness and timidity and a truncated view of himself while under-control leads to a lack of empathy and an inability to work with others and an inflated view of himself.

We have to develop internal strength and external flexibility and I submit that it’s actually willfulness that is behind the push through behavior you see in athletes, leaders, and entrepreneurs.  The goal is to guide the willfulness behavior so that it serves to offer tenacity rather than diva behavior.

My parents sent me and my brothers to these great private colleges.  They wanted to raise leaders.  They wanted us to get the opportunity to learn how to think through problems on our own and make connections in ways that were innovative and creative.

It worked we each developed strong thinking skills and developed great leadership qualities – and we made choices they didn’t always agree with since we made decisions based on our own criteria.  It also meant that we didn’t just do what they said.  We didn’t take their advice without considering other options and coming to our own conclusions.  We argued with them and went on our own courses – which they sometimes perceived as dangerous and downright wrong.  This was very frustrating for them.

They wanted us to be strong and stand up for ourselves but not necessarily to them.

I’m sure an experience of be careful what you wish for…  but the reality is we do tend to want our children to do exactly what we say while simultaneously we want them to be strong in other situations – standing up for themselves and what they believe in.

The modeling we do about how we can tolerate their working through their power issues as they develop a sense of themselves is paramount for their success at being independent and interdependent in the outside world.  We have to offer the container and guide their willfulness in positive directions.

For internal strength, a sense of self and empowerment, innovation, creativity, and leadership willfulness and will power are required.

The non-pejorative, healthy aspect of will – fullness is being full of will.  Having one’s own ideas, and a plan for completing them.  Feeling strong and not wanting to give in – fighting for what you believe in and believing in yourself even when others don’t.  Being able to push through and persevere even when people who matter to you don’t agree with or believe in your plan.

It’s a description of inner strength.  We want to have that.  We want our children to have that.  But we may not see that we are actually diminishing their chance for that by squashing that willful behavior.

Here’s what I suggest, try figuring out how to guide that willfulness.

You can use the stop, look, and listen techniques I’ve written about to evaluate what may be underlying the aspect of the willfulness that is not serving then.  Then guide them to redirect that while aligning with their strength.  Get connected to what is driving it and when it is coming out.  Is it related to a talent that needs to be developed?  Is it something that has to do with their emotions and sensitivity?  Are they being over challenged or under challenged?  When they feel discounted does it flare or when they’re really excited about something?

The answers to these questions will give you a few clues to what the willfulness behavior is communicating.

Then once you figure that out reinterpret or reframe the willfulness as strength and start to teach how to use that strength in a growth promoting way by connecting it to whatever you discovered about what it’s communicating.

And try to keep your own reactions and expectations out of it.  By that I mean try to respond to their power issues from the figure/ground perspective.  Remembering it’s a sense of will and how they’re working through their power issues to define themselves.

Of course you can use this as a way to understand a willfulness aspect of yourself that you find has an underlying negative component that doesn’t serve you too.  Unlink the strength part from the negative component.  Remember to apply compassion and understanding toward your child (or yourself) as you work through this.

See you tomorrow.



Happiness Heals


I was at a conference recently, for therapists and teachers, and the lecturer really wanted to make a point that aggression is good.

It’s part of nature and therefore we should not get involved in the aggression between children.  By avoiding getting involved in their little struggles we’re allowing them to deal with adversity.  And adversity makes you stronger or the old adage what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – or it builds character.

Okay, I guess I get his point.  But I think his points are accurate while his conclusion flawed.  Probably equally as flawed as the one he is reacting against – the overwhelming lack of allowing competition and going so far as to demonize children’s aggression.

My belief is happiness heals and it encourages growth.

We can’t control all aspects of the environment so that adversity doesn’t present itself in our child’s world.  But not acting so that we can make them stronger is a flawed approach.

To say that trees are able to grow through the adversity of fire or that animals don’t get their feelings hurt when other animals are mean to them misses the basic issue.  Human’s brains are different in some ways than these other living entities and the strengthening power of adversity seems to be more of a hardening and pulling in energy rather than a growth promoting response to life.  It’s more survivalistic less empowering

Yes trees grow through fire, but they don’t grow bigger as a result of the adversity – they just grow.  And there is evidence that other mammals that are separated, isolated from their group show signs of stress just as humans do.  In fact many do not survive without their group when in environments stressed by social aggression and negative environmental factors.

It is more accurate that trees grow bigger with the things that nurture their growth – good soil/nutrition, water, sunlight, a supportive environment/not too crowded/space – the roots grow deeper and the branches larger and more full of leaves and fruit, with these perfect conditions of positivity.

Some plants actually have a set structure that they require a fire to cause new seed growth.  Just as necessity is the mother of invention, having to resolve an adverse situation for humans may allow for creative resolutions and new growth.

However, for optimal growth, things that really encourage growth are better at creating inner strength in our children.

Being given the best of happiness, love, support, guidance, opportunity, and safety does actually increase internal strength, self-confidence, curiosity, perseverance, creativity, and self- esteem.

Interestingly, the myths and all the stories of heroes are filled with children who have grown up with adversity – loss of parents, abuse, abandonment, persecution, with occasional support from strangers, teachers or far away fairy godmothers.

This doesn’t mean that adversity makes you stronger. The stories are meant to give strength to those who must work through deficits and adversity, recognizing that it is an eventual experience in life.

The best growth promotion remains happiness and joy, support and nurturing.

That’s why the more you focus on strengths and limitations, paradigm shifting, choosing joy, and responding to your children in the present moment from a wholistic (figure/ground) perspective – the more they grow bigger, stronger, and fuller.

Just notice what you see with yourself – its right there.

See you tomorrow.



Choose to Learn through Joy


There is a belief that suffering is required for growth.

If what we believe is what we see, then this is an equation that requires suffering for growth.

If the concept of energy is that we create what we attend to then learning through joy allows for more joyous experiences and is a paradigm shift that may allow for a change in our experience of suffering.

Choosing to learn through joy may result in less suffering – not that less bad things will happen to us, but rather that our experience of those bad things might be less dualistic.

Ok that sounds way too easy.  All this time we’ve been suffering to learn or just suffering and it turns out all we had to do was change our attitude.  No way that’s true – right?

Turns out it may be.

Think about paradigm shifting and all that stuff about intention, attention, perspective, and perception.  How we see the world is what we attend to, what our foundational beliefs are, and how/what we perceive others are trying to communicate, and whether we feel safe enough to remain in the present to really interact with the other.

Think about the child dealing with her peer’s power issues; she could feel victimized or she could respond by increasing her understanding of that individual and the relationship.  Maybe she would choose to hang out with someone else until the first girl could be more inclusive in her playing-style – not demonizing the girl or victimizing herself in perception.  She’s learning to be a thriver rather than learning to be a victim.  Learning through joy rather than suffering – her interpretation is to focus on internal strength rather than power over.

If we believe that we have to suffer in order to learn, that things of importance need to be difficult, and that we have to really get knocked out before we really learn – well then it stands to reason that that will be the life we will lead

We partially create our experiences by our habit reaction patterns and fear paradigm perceptions.  It’s only through being neutral we can then interpret data without bias.

Mostly it’s pretty difficult to keep bias out of the equation so I like to put that joyous spin on the whole thing – rather than feeling suffering as the teacher I suggest we may want to go for joy.

Most of our religions actually have a bias toward suffering as being the best teacher.  So it makes it difficult to make this internal shift, because our cultures have this suffering=learning imprint.

Even so, I encourage you to try this yourself.  Make a statement to yourself that you’re going to learn through joy and focus on the positive of situations as much as you can.  Look for where you connect with someone so you can feel less defensive in your interaction with them – you can still disagree and hold to your principles but you don’t have to feel you are in a negative position when trying to achieve what you feel is best.

And as Steven Covey of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People would say go for win-win or no deal.  His book is for managers and business negotiation but I use it all the time in marriage counseling because he sets up a set of principles for negotiation that serve all parties involved – and it results in a reduction in resentment at the end of a negotiation and an increase in true connection between parties.

His perception is that compromise is always a function of one individual or group giving away something that matters to them.  That is not true negotiation.

Figure out what matters to you and don’t compromise that away – then you will always feel win-win or no deal.  Back to the example of the young girl – she chooses no deal – to play with someone else until the power relationship is not power over with the first girl.  This is neutral and doesn’t lead to victim scenarios.

See you tomorrow.


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Power II: Odd Girl Out


When I was in junior high school I had a positive experience of connection and community.  I was involved in the student council, music, and worked on the newspaper.  I had very positive relationships with several of my teachers and had a nice group of friends at school.  I participated in a competitive athletic focus outside of school which provided me with a sense of security not connected to the school environment.

This was a time that is one of those positive memories set into my harddrive to remind me about how to re-direct my life toward success when I am in a less hospitable environment.

High school for me was just that –  an inhospitable environment!

I had a number of painful experiences of bullying by a clique of popular girls who used their power to isolate and mislabel me  – strangely this was significantly nuanced so that I was also seen as a popular girl by those outside the clique, even while their misrepresentations of me were held as truth.  In addition to these relational bullying experiences I had several physically bullying and abusive experiences which I endured without assistance from family or friends.

Having been victimized I felt the only positive course of action was to be a survivor.  It seemed the most powerful response I could have developed in reaction to these experiences.

Overtime, I have discovered the effect of survivor scenarios not only in my patients and clients, but also within myself.  It is better than feeling victimized.  It allows for an increased sense of power but it remains related to the action of surviving so keeps a person stagnant.  It is less than feeling like a thriver.  Thriving is where true growth happens.

Surviving mentality keeps you treading water, which Is CLEARLY better than drowning, but after a while it seems you’re stuck in the same place.  Much like the action of treading water you stay afloat but in the same place.

This is where the issue of power over versus empowerment becomes more tangible.  The survivor is fighting the control of the power over.  The thriver feels empowered and therefore can focus his efforts on getting out of the scenario toward a better situation.  In the treading water metaphor, thrivers swim away to shore with spaces of treading water to catch their breath and regroup their energies.

So the need to survive is necessary but the focus is on thriving – moving away from the situation and transforming it toward growth.  A certain degree of internal strength and power is required for this action – what I call resilience.

There is a really great book called Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons that talks about the kind of relational bullying that goes on among girls beginning in preschool and intensified in high school.  It gives a lot of examples of different types of bullying and the effects.  And in subsequent writing she has discussed some of the ways to help de-emphasize this issue in various environments.

According to the theory of what helps people be thrivers instead of victims, I had a number of great things in my life to help me move through and away from the bullying experience.  I had a very close relationship with my brother that helped me to feel connected and supported even though I couldn’t talk to him about my experiences.  I enjoyed school and learning and felt successful intellectually.  I had a connection outside of school – athletic- which allowed me to feel successful and powerful.  I had a spiritual connection which drove my perception of other people’s actions.  And I had a previously successful school experience including positive relationships with teachers so that I could repeat that if I made efforts to do so.  And I had a generally optimistic personality style – just how I came into the world.

Even with these I felt traumatized by these experiences and had a number of things to work out around power issues in the years that followed high school.  But the important point is that I had resilience and was therefore able to work out these issues.

The important things to bring to your child’s life (or your school, or healing experience if you are an educator or counselor) are a sense of community.  Make sure that people stand with the individual who feels victimized to decrease that sense of isolation, intention. So pay attention to the social aspects of learning not just the academic.  And remember that bullying behavior in the beginning is a style of developing a personal relationship with power so help guide that development without demonizing the early bullying person, intention.

Normalize difference – yes you’re smaller, yes you’re younger – what’s cool about that (they can usually tell you what isn’t cool about it) – reframing the perspective (paradigm shifting) of these and creating internal strength – especially starting with preschool and grade school age kids but throughout their  learning years. Increase an internal understanding of her limitations and her strengths, seeing this as a whole experience.

Offering connections in several communities:  school, athletics, music, art, religious or spiritual communities, perception.  This allows for him to see that he can make good connections and allows for successes in various environments.

Point out and help them create positive memories of successful problem solving experiences, so they have an internal foundation of resilience – a history of having gotten through something difficult with success, perception.

And support the optimistic personality style.  This is something that seems to be hardwired into our personalities so if you have someone who tends to be pessimistic it will be harder to increase their resilience – however the above tools will help.

And be present and available to your child.  Try to keep your power issues OUT of the equation so they don’t develop problems through osmosis.

Ok, so that’s a lot of information.  See if you can incorporate some of these tools in your world.

See you tomorrow.





When thinking of power I distinguish between power over and empowerment.

I think empowerment is our only true power.  Sure power over seems strong, it even feels strong, but it is based in an interior weakness.  It’s  the kind of power that is only connected to the other; without the other to control there is nothing.

I think the only real power we have is the power over ourselves – empowerment.  It feels like stability and inner strength, resilience, something that you can depend on when there is no one else around.

I like to think about this from the perspectives of intention, attention, perspective (paradigm), and perception.

When I wrote about the issue of bullies to buddies and treating someone who is bullying you like a friend – I noticed the people who worked with humans in certain kinds of groups, like therapists, teachers, and leaders, found the concept accessible and useful to access.  But those who worked in competitive groups found my suggestions unacceptable.

My focus is on increasing personal power so that others cannot have control over you – in such circumstances for the most part that keeps you out of dangerous, life threatening situations.  And gives you the inner strength to think fast on your feet to get out of dangerous situations that come upon you.

Then there are the situations where the constant debilitating effect of bullying breaks down an otherwise strong person – like we might see in school, or groups or between domestic partners where there is an isolation of the victim from the group.  In this instance it is the isolation in conjunction with the constant bullying that breaks down the individual’s ability to see himself powerful or able to protect himself.

This bullying may or may not be physical but regardless it has a powerfully negative effect on the person’s self-esteem and therefore on his empowerment.  In this situation simply standing with the person being bullied will actually change the energy and the outcome effect of the bullying, both on the group and on the individual.

By shifting the isolation component you are shifting intention, attention, perspective, and perception for the aspects of the group witnessing the bullying, the bullied person, and those moving to stand with the bullied person.

Then there is the situation where bullying is a form of control but from the perspective of keeping the group in order or the order of the group sustained.  That’s what we see in corporate organizations and high school cliques and politics to some degree.  This also uses a type of isolation or labeling to control the group-mind to be against the identified outsider.  This is used to control the group power so that there isn’t room to question the behavior.

In this latter instance the whole group may need to break down in order for a real sustainable change to occur in the bullying style.  Here I find that an eye for an eye or reacting defensively because you’re being attacked really feels like the right thing to do but doesn’t usually result in the desired outcome.  I find that changing the game works better – not arguing the position of the bullying person but shifting the discussion.

It is here that the issue of hate is so strong.  Hate doesn’t actually overcome hate – education, understanding, acceptance and love – these things can transform hate over time.  Treating your enemy like your friend is a metaphor for understanding how you have to change the interaction and the response in order to get a changed response from the person who is bullying.

Again it is a function of intention, attention, perspective, and perception.  These are paradigm shifts and mindful action in the now so that action or inaction make statements about the problem of bullying as a form of power over another to increase your power over VS  empowerment as a sense of internal power- the ability to protect and support yourself under various conditions.

Changing our intention, attention, perspective, and perception of this problem includes understanding that it is a form of developing a personal relationship with power.  If we could attend to this early and help our children develop inner strength and resilience – we can also help them relate to the world and their feelings in a different manner.

So I suggest thinking about a situation where you feel powerless and use a paradigm shift to evaluate how you can shift your relationship to your power in that situation.  Or if it is another that you see being bullied just try standing next to them – see if a change in the environment changes the energy.

See you tomorrow.


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when you keep getting red lights


When you keep bumping into roadblocks you may be on the wrong course or you may be going in the wrong direction (or you may be trying to please the wrong people) – whatever it is stop, look, listen and re-direct yourself.

There seems to be a flow in the natural world around us.

Carl Jung talked about this as synchronicity in his book by the same name.  This concept of flow has been popularized by such books and authors as The Secret, Ask and it is Given, Joel Osteen, Esther Hicks, and Depak Chopra to name a few.

I think about it as something that is both perception and attention.

Ever notice how when you learn a new word, all of a sudden you see it everywhere in print?  You hear news anchors using it and you think wow, it’s everywhere all of a sudden.  In actuality it probably had always been around but then once you became aware of it – perception, you started to see it everywhere  – attention.

Many authors talk about a phenomenon where we create what we pay attention to – this follows a concept of energy that brings to you that which you focus on predominantly.

The information about creating positive memories to fill you rather than just the hardwired trauma memories is in this same vein of thought.  That what we attend to is what we see.  (This phenomenon of believing is seeing (faith) versus seeing is believing (proof) is a long-standing ideological argument which I am not addressing directly today.)

I think you can tap into the fabric of the natural world around us- the flow of energy, through many avenues.

The medicine that I use each day is about connecting to the flow of the individual and unblocking where the flow is stagnant – this is true from the paradigm of therapy as well as acupuncture.

The more one is paying attention and listening, and responding to the message from the natural world, the more  one is able to take action to remain in the flow of the natural world around us.

Anger can be used as a message that someone has crossed a boundary or that there is a habit reaction pattern that needs to be shifted.

Frustration can be a message that your actions are taking you away from the flow of energy.  Just as with anger there may be a perception that something is wrong and you have to change your direction.

When you are in the flow it seems that things are moving smoothly toward your goals.  When you get roadblocks things start to bump or not move smoothly, that’s what I’m calling frustration.  It tells you that something is not working.

You have to stop, look, and listen when you feel the bumps or roadblocks.

It may be that the equation that you have developed about what your goal is or how to reach your goal is in someway flawed.  Or it may be that you have to flow with the bumpiness to the end goal because you are on  a change course which is requiring a release or transformation of hidden agendas and/or habit reaction patterns.

When you are in the flow you will feel when you’re taken out of the flow.  That blocking or redirection is something to consider when deciding your course of action.

I have found that perception and attention to the flow around you, as well as what you are experiencing internally, informs you about your course in your own life.

Using the stop, look, listen technique to evaluate in the present moment the roadblock, the natural world around you, whether you are in a habit reaction pattern or whether others are caught in such  – gives you information of both figure and ground so that you can evaluate your course of action within a fuller context.

To determine which it is, a wrong direction that requires you redirect your direction OR a change course which feels bumpy but requires you stick to your vision and push through, evaluate feelings of fear, or defensiveness.  These feelings within yourself or from others typically indicate a habit reaction pattern that needs to be released or transformed.

See you tomorrow.



A mother by any other name still loves


I have an interesting phenomenon in my life.

Many of the people whom I work with (professional) and love (personal too) relate to me as if I were their mother.  Sounds odd I know especially because in almost all the cases I can think of there’s no way I could be their mother = but it still exists that in the relationship, mother issues prevail.

In some instances this is cool because I get to be the mother they wanted which is rewarding for both of us.  But in some cases I have to play out the mother they didn’t like or that in some way let them down – Not so much fun really – that job.  I can at times make a difference in how they actually relate to their real mother in their own psyche as a result.  It’s challenging to be in the role.

Some say that’s one of the roles of therapist –  re-parenting.  From my experience I think that’s true in the best of situations.  As a result of this I have had a lot of practice at mothering way before I actually was in the actual role of mother.

I can tell you that loving from the perspective of Eric Fromm and Thich Nhat Hanh is the most successful tool.  Understanding and accepting as a form of loving is the most useful tool for diminishing defensiveness and accessing a person’s own capacity to forgive.

To Forgive herself, forgive her parents, forgive others, and  forgive God for all the ways in which she, they, we, and God let her down.

It’s extraordinary to feel understood and accepted.  It’s more extraordinary to feel forgiveness.  Forgiveness sets you free to be present and acting in the now.  It allows you to create fully without limitations.

We hold onto things, images, emotions, memories to remind us of important lessons.  It’s a way we communicate with ourselves and I think its hardwired into our psyches.

Often these are negative.   Angry and fearful emotions seem to have a direct line to our memories so that things are embedded in our cores – it’s as if to say REMEMBER this so that it NEVER happens again.

Intelligent, really, from a genetic point of view.  But there are some flaws – our emotions aren’t always right – we don’t always accurately interpret cause and effect or intent – as a result we make connections that are miscommunications.  We actually set up patterns to continue making the same mistake rather than the other way around.  That’s why I write so much about mindfulness and living/relating in the now.

Through forgiveness you let go of the preconditions set up by the negative experience so that you can view yourself and the other in a more whole perspective.  Like the figure/ground illusions that I have discussed – sometimes the negative emotion gets us so focused on the figure that we forget the ground and so miss out on the big picture or bigger message of the event.

So I suggest this.  Whenever you are experiencing everything happening just right – like your life is working the way you want it to be – consciously set that into a memory.

Look at your life as if in slow motion drinking in the perfectness of it in that moment, the colors, the sounds, the words, the smells, the tastes, the deep and beautiful feelings – the positive feelings.  Set it into a memory that you can access in the future.  Imprint it with a date and time so that you can go back to it to remind you that life does work.

In this way you will consciously be setting up a pattern of success.

Doing this allows for you to have a tool to remind you of your true best self.  Having access to that helps you to allow yourself to understand, accept, and forgive yourself and others, to have faith in the rightness of something rather than avoid the wrongness of something.  It allows for the injuries of your childhood to remain there in your past, so that you may create joy in all its forms today.

It allows you to be your own best mother – reframing and refocusing on your strengths in a loving and accepting way.

See you tomorrow.