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So thankful for YOU

By this time, you have enjoyed your Thanksgiving Dinner and may even be Black Friday shopping. I’d like to send a short THANK YOU for our relationship over the years. You’ve been a Relationship Savvy friend for a long time, and I appreciate you.

“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1:16

I appreciate that you care about personal growth and personal responsibility, that you take loving others seriously, and that you prioritize taking care of yourself. Thank you for letting me be a part of that process.

gratitude-1

Honestly, I’m not even being corny, or at least no cornier than usual. Anyway, you are special to me, and I thank you for YOU! Ok, now on to something really funny. Enjoy this funny little Gobble Gobble, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Dizzy Turkey

 

Necessary Endings and Grateful Goodbyes

We recently had to say goodbye to our beloved beast , Frisco. Our rescue lab was 105 pounds of muscle and teeth, slobber and fur, and suffering with mouth cancer. He was ferocious about squirrels, treats, and digging holes- man could he dig a hole. Really it was a thing of dirt-flying, slobber flinging, rock rolling beauty.  

Naughty doesn’t even begin to describe him and his antics. Once he ate an entire frozen chicken thawing on the counter, careful to leave the plastic wrap. You should have seen him waddle uncomfortably all the way to the vet. Another time, he ate a double fudge chocolate cake without so much as a burp. He ate Cheap, the baby chick we were raising to satisfy our dream of being urban chicken farmers. He sneakily picked off my daughter’s birthday cupcakes one by one, until finally I noticed they were missing. He peed on my neighbor’s leg while he and I were chatting at the corner. He pushed toddlers down in the snow and made them cry. If there was trouble, he found it. Some days I would shake my head, and wonder, “What am I going to do with you, dog?”

But then there were other days that I felt grateful that when nobody wanted to go on a walk with me, he did. And if everybody in the house was mad at each other behind closed doors, he wasn’t. And when the family complained about the dinner, he wanted seconds. And that he taught me about God- like that no matter what, I loved him because after all he was just doing what dogs do, and I knew that’s how God loved me but even better, even when I’d get myself into heaps of trouble. 

So yeah, it was hard to say goodbye.

Whether you have to say goodbye to a pet or a person, a job or a parent, saying goodbye is never easy. Of course there are some griefs that are bigger than others, but grieving principles are the same. There are some things that make grieving better- healthier- and yes, even sweeter. Here are some things to consider the next time you’re faced with a goodbye.

1.      Say/write what you need to say: Every relationship has unfinished business. Whether that be secret hurts, resentment or regrets, relationships are never perfect. Consider saying what you  need to say in person, offering the opportunity for healing moments before there are no more moments to share. If dealing with the unfinished business in person is impossible, then consider writing it down and keeping the letter for yourself. Expressing your thoughts and feelings is often times more for you, than it is for them. 

2.      Forgive them for their failures: No matter what, even the most loving people can let us down. Before you have to say goodbye, do some due diligence forgiveness work. Look inside and identify things that you still hold them accountable for. See if there are things that you haven’t let go of. Determine to be free of those things once and for all, and to activate the power of forgiveness. Bitterness eats us from the inside out, but forgiveness sets us free. Don’t let the gift of forgiveness be left ungiven.

3.      Forgive yourself for your own failures: you may feel like you have let them down, or that there were things you wish you did differently. Acknowledge your short comings and ask for forgiveness if necessary. Give yourself the compassion you try to extend to others. Accept yourself with both strengths and weaknesses.

4.      Accept reality and make the best of it: The reality is that goodbyes and loss are always with us, and are apart of life until all is made right in heaven. Accepting the reality of what is, instead of wishing for what is not releases us and gives us peace for the challenge. There are many things we can’t control, but we can always control our response to them. There is untapped grace and power in this truth, if you’ll embrace them.

5.      Be grateful for what you can be grateful for: in every struggle, sickness or loss, the task to find the good is a challenge. It may even seem impossible, but it is absolutely necessary in order to grieve well. There may be nothing good about the situation, the illness, or the circumstance, but there is always something valuable happening in your heart if you let God in. Find God’s hand working with you and for you, and you will be able to find gratitude, even in loss.

Saying goodbye to Frisco was hard and tearful and painful- and necessary. At the end, we told him “Thank you for being in our family, and thank you for being you. Because we are better for it..” His life was a gift to ours.

In the midst of your goodbyes, maybe you will find the power to love, the strength to heal, permission to start over, or the courage to dream again. Maybe you will find your kinder nature in the place that was most broken. Maybe you will find strength and courage in the place you thought was weakest. Maybe you’ll find yourself in the other person, and you’ll feel love.

God desires to do a loving work in you that sometimes requires hard goodbyes. Surrendering to the process will produce healing in you and the people you love. The goodbyes are often just as important as the hellos.

THe Bachelorette: How to Spot a Psychological Manipulator

I’m hooked on this season’s Bachelorette. Don’t judge.

Honestly, I’m a sap for the kind of television that bores most people, like documentaries and CSpan. My television selections are G rated to the point of tears. But the Bachelorette got my attention this season- and not only for the reasons you might imagine!

This season is a great opportunity to explore how you can spot an abuser. How does an average Jo (or JoJo in this case) conduct due diligence research in her husband hunting expedition? She’s got 25 guys to meet, interview, and yes- kiss (oh my gosh, there’s so much kissing. Seriously, aren’t her lips tired?) in hopes of finding her one true love. 

There are Psychological Manipulators all over the world- in office buildings, luxury car sales lots, church pulpits, public office, construction sites, in families- and on this seasons’ Bachelorette. You’ve probably met several in your lifetime. It’s rare that we get to see both sides of the same coin, at the same time, the way the Bachelorette let’s us see. And if you run into an abusive ego-maniac, how can you know it before he gets abusive and maniacal- with you?

Listen to Your Gut.

If you pay attention to what your gut is telling you, you will see the truth he so desperately is trying to hide. To help you in this process, this is what it feels like to be around a narcissistic psychological manipulator:

1.      Confusing- you want to believe and trust him but something doesn’t quite add up.

2.      Undeniable Chemistry– your body can’t deny the animal attraction you have for him.

3.      Compulsion to Make Excuses: You want to believe the best about him, to the point you may even make excuses for his bad behavior.

4.      Swept Along– You feel persuaded by his directness and his convincing charm, even against your intuition.

5.      Inner Conflict– you can’t put your finger on it, but you don’t have peace about this guy.

 

Tactics that Psychological Manipulators Use to Get What They Want:

1.      Mysteriousness– there is a shroud of mystery that surrounds them because they feel more powerful when no one knows the real them.

2.      Specialness– they want you to think they are special, superior and that regular rules don’t apply to them. You may hear them say things like, “You’ve never met anyone like me before…” 

3.      Sob Story– Every Psychological Manipulator has a sob story. They use this so you’ll feel sorry for them and excuse their bad behavior.

4.      Truth Filters– Like the best camera apps, Psychological Manipulators have a selection of filters to distort the truth in any way that benefits them most.

5.      Blame Shifting– they shift responsibility for their bad behavior onto others.

6.      Victim Swapping– Painting others in a bad light so that they look like the victims who are being bullied.

7.      Put Downs and Threats of Retaliation– If you’ve watched the Bachelorette (if you haven’t and you need an excuse to watch it, just say you are doing psychological research like me) you know that Put Downs and Threats of Violence leave toxic waste in their wake.

How it feels to be with A Psychological Manipulator after a while (God forbid JoJo ever finds out!)

1.      The strength that impressed you in the beginning, is now used against you.

2.      The violence that was used against doors, walls and other people is now implied or directed toward you.

3.      The put downs that were reserved for others in order for him to look good in your eyes are now used against you.

4.      You wonder if he’s over you, and on to his next prospects.

5.      You feel controlled on everything from your time and money to your friends and family.

Yes, I’m watching the Bachelorette with my teenage daughters. We have this cool opportunity to see some psychological manipulation behind the scenes. Alerting my girls to how they work is the first step in helping them steer clear. Plus, they don’t mind the eye candy.

There are Users and Abusers in the world, and the people they prey on are often the last to see the truth. My prayer is that if you have an emotional, psychological or physical abuser in your life, that you will see the truth of your own value- that you will reach out for help- and that you will start the process of getting free.

When you feel the time is right, you can call 1.800.33.HAVEN (1.800.334.2836)  or go to www.thehotline.org for support and information.

 

How to Move Past the Pain of Your Past

Have you ever had the same old problem circle back in your life? Maybe it is the feeling of insecurity, or anxiety, or rejection, or shame- and no matter how many times you think you deal with it, it keeps on coming back?

Hello to the Summer Sun Soakers and the Vacationing Vagabonds, the Weekend Warriors, as the Barbeque Cuties! Thanks for spending some time with me today to consider your heart.

We all have our struggles, weaknesses and habits.

Take for example the tendency for people pleasing. You know you should say “no” to that lady who is asking you to volunteer but you don’t want her to think you are a loaf, so you head up that committee. Then, you get hammered for not running the committee how they wanted you too.

Or maybe you’re a fixer and you love to jump right in, even when you’re not invited, to “help” other people fix their problems. If God didn’t want you to do this, you say to yourself, he wouldn’t have made you so smart, well-adjusted and self-actualized. Until the friend your trying to “fix” ditches you for another friend and throws you under the bus while she’s at it. Ugh, I guess fixing her problems didn’t work after all. Sad face emoji.

Or what about business pickles? Maybe you pick the wrong people to be in business with. You give them the benefit of the doubt before you vetted them, or you go the way of least resistance by not confronting wrong doing, or you overlook a character flaw that gets you into trouble in the long run.

These things happen to all of us. If you have felt the same old dilemma circling back to you, consider maybe you are circling back to it.

I think of our soul as a boat, and our brokenness as its anchor. If our brokenness is unhealed, avoided, or denied, then the boat keeps drifting back to the same old place it’s always been. No matter how hard you row, that anchor won’t let you get anywhere you need to go.

Different seasons bring different weather, opportunities and necessities. But one thing you just can’ do, is expect to go anywhere on the high seas if you’re anchored in.

How can you tell when your unhealed brokenness is stopping your life from going forward? Here are some common things people experience when they’re stuck.

1.     Projection: You may find yourself heaping anxiety or anger onto someone else, often someone you love because of your own past painful experiences. You are probably not aware you are even doing it. I see this happen every day at soccer, baseball fields and basketball courts. Parents are shouting instructions from the sidelines, criticisms at the umps, and sideways chatter about the coaches. Some parents will get so vocal, their own kid will look into the stands and say, “Shhh! Be quiet!” The parents’ anxiety has ten times more to do with their own shame feelings than their child’s performance, but the child ends up carrying the burden.

2.     Judgment: When we are focused on the wrongdoing of someone else, we lose sight of our own selves. Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3-4 (NIV) Just like projection, we often don’t know we are even doing it. If you find yourself feeling judgmental against someone else, chances are, you’re being triggered by some kind of shame inside of you. It’s ok. Circle back to that initial wound and give yourself some compassion. If judgment is the sickness, then compassion is the cure.

3.     Inappropriate Anxiety or Anger: Sometimes a person will over-react in response to something that seems small because they have unfinished business with their past. Maybe you find yourself getting really worked up about something when no one else around you seems to mind. Or maybe you know that your anxiety about an issue is more than it should be but you can’t seem to settle yourself. I recently called a long time friend when I found this happening to me, and she pointed out to me some brokenness that still was weighing me down. It became an opportunity to hoist up that anchor once and for all. It was time for me to experience freedom from that weight.

4.     Indecision: Some people will be overwhelmed with the burden of responsibility to the point they can’t make a decision for fear of making the wrong one. Though at many times in their life, they had the confidence to take risks and move forward, now they experience self-doubt, second guessing, and over-analyzing-things-to-death syndrome. They normally would be able to decisively get things done, but something about their current circumstances takes them back to their childhood dynamics when they felt powerless, small and scared.

WHAT TO DO:

Take some time for yourself and examine the weight that keeps you anchored in the place you don’t want to be. Draw parallels about your current situation and feelings to similar situations and feelings in the past. The circumstances do not have to be entirely the same, the dynamic of powerlessness, shame, trauma and fear will be exactly the same, however.

Remember, the feelings that you are feeling are not a PROBLEM. They are an OPPORTUNITY to finally heal that achy memory or wound from the past.

When you start making connections from the current situation to your past, you’ll want to do a few things to heal:

1. Determine what you needed back then and didn’t get. Was it comfort, safety, empathy, encouragement, shelter? 

2. Write a letter to your younger self sympathizing with how she/he felt during that time. 

3. Spend some time creating ways that you can offer yourself today, what you didn’t receive back then.

4. Plan your strategy for moving forward using a mantra reminding yourself that the past no longer has a hold on you.

When doing this kind of healing work, I find it helpful to invite God into the process. I believe that God keeps bringing our boat back around to the place it’s anchored until we finally receive the healing we need. Once the brokenness is healed, the anchor is lifted and we can get on with the glorious adventure of life.

Cheers to you, and all your relationships!

Pushing Past What you Know Until You Get What You Want

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. William Shakespeare

My husband and I just returned from an island hopping trip to the Mediterranean in celebration of our 20th anniversary. On our trip, we stopped in Dubrovnik, Croatia and toured their ancient walled city. Busy with merchants, musicians, and tourists, the air was saturated with lavender, olive oil and rose water, and fish. We were transported to medieval times. Oh! What a place!

One of the most interesting things I learned about their earlier culture, was how they identified women’s’ status. Years ago, a woman’s only hope of happiness was in marriage and bearing children. She couldn’t own property, manage her own money, or walk by herself through the city without an escort. With these restrictive rules in place, it was very important to be able to identify a woman’s status quickly. So, they developed outward identifiers- labels- to aid in the process.

These dolls represent traditional dress of women in the 16,17, and 18th centuries. A woman seen wearing a white hat was married and off the market. A woman wearing a black hat with a cross was a widow and available given the condition of timing. The woman who wore a blue ringed hat was young and available. A woman wearing a red ringed hat was older and still waiting.

 Honestly, can you imagine the process of identifying yourself, your relationship status, your lot in life every day by the hat you wore? I guess we still do this in minimal ways by wearing a ring on our finger or selecting “In a Relationship” on Facebook. But I wonder if women of the past ever wanted to scream out, “I’m more than the Hat on my Head!”

 We humans love a good label. We use identifiers all the time- foody, computer geek, hippy, cougar, blue collar, millennial, rich kid, athlete, band geek, old maid, evangelical, Lutheran, republican, democrat, conservative, thug, liberal, stay-at-home-mom, tiger mom, dance mom,  etc etc etc.

Finding labels for ourselves and others is actually a very natural thing for humans to do. It’s a cognitive process that helps the brain quickly categorize new information and file it away.

            Assimilation and Accommodation

            The well-known child psychologist, Jean Piaget coined the word assimilation to mean the modification of new information to make it fit into an existing schema. This is a first step in cognitive development. A 2 year old child may have a kiwi for the first time and can easily assimilate this kiwi-eating experience with the knowledge he already possesses that fruit is sweet. We make sense of other people compared to what we already know. We assimilate the information about other people into our existing schemas and we categorize them like so.

            But there is a further step of cognitive development Piaget noticed while studying children, and it is called accommodation. Accommodation is more of a mind bending process. It requires the modification of the schema to fit new evidences and experiences. In essence, the child’s internal world must accommodate itself to new, and possibly contradictory information that the outside world presents. If the child is presented with a lemon that looks like a fruit and is called a fruit, he must make room for the fact that it is sour, not sweet. This new information makes him think differently about fruit in general. What he thought he had all figured out, was not completely true. There was more to it.

Accommodation is a step of maturity.

 Labeling people and ourselves is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a natural thing. The early Croations did what was expedient for their time, values and culture. The brain, in its earliest stages of development assimilated new information into labeled categories to help with understanding. This comes naturally. But to stay at this primitive level of understanding keeps us childish.

Expanding our understanding by the process of accommodation, requires us to make room for people who don’t fit the mold, or stereotypes that don’t hold true, or things like forgiveness and second chances and complicated processes like grace.

 

Maturity requires us to make accommodations for the lemon in our life. True, it’s not sweet and I can’t eat it like I eat other fruit, but here it is. What am I going to do with it?

If you’re single and you don’t want to be, you may naturally label this as a bad thing. Instead, use your higher cognitive processes and make that lemon take on a new meaning. Explore all the possibilities that the lemon gives you.

If you compare yourself to other people, falling somewhere above them or below them, choose the process of accommodation to give yourself a higher meaning than mere labels and identifiers could supply. Refuse the comparison trap, and replace it with self-acceptance.

Are you tired of the way you see yourself, or how other people see you? Then maybe it’s time to re-invent, re-prioritize, re-discover the real you.

 

 

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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