Tag Archive | holidays

This Ain’t Your Mama’s Idea of Forgiveness – Part 1: What Forgiveness Is NOT

Hi, Lynn Barrette here, licensed clinical therapist and spiritual counselor.

I want to talk with you today about forgiveness. Forgiveness can be a heavy topic sometimes, so this is going to be a several part series to help us break down this concept and make it palatable and accessible, because if we can’t forgive, we get stuck, and we don’t want to do that, right? So we’re going to take some time on this one.

Anytime I bring up forgiveness with clients or in workshops or classes, I always like to clarify what forgiveness means because there are so many ideas and misconceptions about what forgiveness is.

When I help someone define forgiveness, I start with what forgiveness is not. And that is what this video is about: What forgiveness is not.

First of all, forgiveness does not mean “forgive and forget”. Our brains aren’t made up to forget things unless we get a severe head injury or some other brain trauma, like a stroke. We are simply not biologically wired to forget things. We have beautiful memories, and whether you are more spiritually-minded or more scientific, we are created like this for a reason: those memories are there to ensure that we learn from our experiences and evolve as a species and in consciousness. So how can we be expected to forgive and forget when we’re not wired to do so?

Forgiveness does NOT mean “forgive and forget!” It means that we learn and grow.

Another misconception that comes up is that forgiveness means everyone gets a fresh start, even the person who did wrong, and we pretend like nothing happened. That’s not it either. If we are learning from our experiences, we take our new understanding with us every moment, and apply that new understanding moving forward. If someone hurts me, I have learned something: Sometimes this person is hurtful, and she certainly has been hurtful to me in this situation, so I need to adjust my mental, emotional, and sometimes physical behavior so that I can either deal with being around her, or make sure I am not around her anymore!

Forgiveness does not mean to pretend like nothing happened. It means adjust your internal and external behavior to support yourself, your safety.

A final myth I often hear about forgiveness is that if we forgive, we’ll be letting the other person get by with something. That’s not it either. Once we have taken care of our part of an interaction with someone—either by confronting them, adjusting ourselves internally and externally, or staying the heck away from them—our part is done.

There is a law that is scientific both in our physical and spiritual realm that states that whatever energy we put out comes back to us. And that is true at the physical, emotional, and mental levels of our existence. This doesn’t mean we turn that into some kind of superstitious curse on another person, as we often hear that “Karma will get them”! If we are saying that about someone, our forgiveness is not done! When we forgive, we are releasing ourselves from having to be a part of this person learning what they need to be learning. We don’t have to be responsible for seeing that “they get theirs”; we are only responsible for our own behavior, and what we are putting out at those physical, mental, and emotional levels. That’s a big job in itself, isn’t it?!

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that anyone gets by with anything; but it does mean we don’t have to worry about it.

So if all that is what forgiveness is NOT; what is forgiveness? That will be in my next video for you, so hold tight, it’s coming!

Thanks for watching!

Lynn Barrette, LCSW

http://www.dynamiccounseling.info

https://lynnbarrette.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/dynamiccounseling/

The Secret to Smooth Holidays

img_5340The holiday season is upon us, and for all the joy the holiday brings, for some of us it is the time when we gather with people we probably shouldn’t be around. Alas, blood is sometimes thicker than one’s mental health.

Most likely, you know your family members pretty well. You know who is going to get drunk and embarrassing, who will get nasty, who will be emotional and demanding, and who will be enjoyable to be around. Chances are, they haven’t changed all that much since last year!

So, why not proactively enter the holidays with an attitude of forgiveness and resiliency?  We are here to evolve into more conscious, responsible individuals. Often, mental health issues arise when we resist what is happening around us and our equilibrium gets out of whack. It is restored as we embrace and adjust to life situations, knowing when to be accepting of others’ less-evolved personalities, and when to get the heck out of their way. A difficult discipline, and a soul-strengthening one!

Having a new experience of the holiday season requires us to examine past decisions and expectations, learn from them, and move on. Uncle Delbert the Drunk will not likely have changed, unless he has successfully gone through treatment. Bringing our old ways of thinking into a situation where we want change can lead to depression: Not clearing the air of our own inefficient and undesirable beliefs and patterns, but expecting new results!

A powerful forgiveness and resilience tool is Jane Elizabeth Hart’s Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions. Jane Elizabeth created this method for releasing old patterns, beliefs and other life situations, based on her personal experiences of change, loss and spiritual growth. Each of the Seven Steps deals with an aspect of the situation at hand.  For holidays, she suggests working with the family system as a whole (rather than each person individually) through each step. Journaling is suggested, tissues should be on hand, and laughter at some point is a must. (http://www.cfenlightenment.org.)

Step one is ‘Gratitude and Acceptance’ and deals with all that we are grateful for in regards to our family gatherings and members thereof.  Write down all the aspects of these events that you are grateful for.  What joy have these situations brought to you?  Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything; simply return to it when you can.

Step two looks at the ‘Good Times.’  Think of specific situations in the past that have been enjoyable for you at these family gatherings.  There might be something that keeps bringing you back for more.  Again, skip it if you need to.

Step three allows us to look at our ‘Hopes and Dreams.’  What do you hope will happen?  What have you dreamt that these gatherings would be like?  Who do you hope you don’t have to see when you’re there?  Who do you hope will behave differently?  Who have you wanted to get to know, but never have approached?  Get those thoughts from swimming around in your head, creating unnecessary stress!   It doesn’t mean that these hopes and wishes will necessarily come true; this is to help you let them go.

Step four deals with those ‘Disappointments and Difficulties.’  Ah, yes, the confrontations, the embarrassments, the arguments, the losses—everything.  Can you see why you have dreaded these events?  Can you see any unresolved issues within yourself that are surfacing to be healed?

The most important step is the fifth step:  ‘Forgiveness.’  This is how we heal.  Who or what circumstance is the hardest to forgive?  Why?  What does it mean for you if you don’t forgive?  What does it mean for you if you do?  If we can find it in ourselves to forgive obnoxious behavior, we can handle it much better when it greets us with a wet kiss.  We are not condoning unacceptable behavior—dealing with that is a whole other article—I’m talking about the annoying and the petty.  Forgiveness requires a certain leap of faith—whatever ours may be—into a space of allowing another to be what they choose to be without it throwing us off-center.  Forgiveness pulls us out of the mindset that someone can ruin our day by not meeting our expectations, and puts us into a space of compassion and non-resistance toward less-conscious behavior in others (and ourselves!).  It’s tough, but if we are willing, it could just save our holiday.

Finally, we ‘Release’ all these in the sixth step, and affirm our ‘Completion’ with the process in step seven.  I like having a ritual for my completion process, sometimes burning my journaling notes, or using Hart’s Seven Step meditation.

The most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves; and when we are okay with ourselves, we can be open to better possibilities.  If you get stuck on a situation that has happened in your family, be sure to seek professional help.

No matter what has happened in the past, every new year—every day!—opens new doors for us. Our job is to prepare our minds and hearts for those opportunities to come forth, not so Delbert the Drunk will change, but so we can.

Happy holidays!

The Joy Is in the Giving

yellow-tulips

One of my favorite sayings of my spiritual mentor, Jane Elizabeth Hart, is “The joy is in the giving.”

It has taken me many years to appreciate this as more than just a pretty platitude–especially moving into the holidays!

Finding joy in giving means to understand that when we are acting only for ourselves, that energy has no where to go but back to ourselves. This is important, to replenish and refresh ourselves sometimes. But when we give freely with joy and loving kindness, that energy ripples out into the far stretches of the universe! For that moment, we have expanded ourselves far outside of where our energy normally resides. It is like an amazing, huge yoga stretch!

Plus, finding joy in giving makes us want to give more—to re-experience that joy, that refreshing stretch beyond ourselves. Once we get out of our box, we don’t want to go back inside that small space!

Recently, I helped some friends pack Christmas gifts for children in other countries. There were several boxes, and as we filled each one, we were silently blessing each toy and piece of candy. I could imagine the love and joy the child would experience as she or he opened the box—an explosion of love and light! I could feel my own energy expanding beyond myself, beyond this country, rippling throughout the planet.

The song I sung in childhood that reminds me of this concept is “Magic Penny”. Do you remember singing that song? Did you ever realize that the magic penny symbolized your own energy, multiplying and supporting you in infinitely greater ways? Here are a few of the lyrics:

Love is something if you give it away;
You’ll end up having more.
It’s just like a magic penny:
Hold it tight and you won’t have any.
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the floor.

As you give this coming holiday season, no matter how big or small a gift, put your energy of love and joy into it, and don’t let it stop flowing at your gift’s recipient—see that love and joy rippling out, sending a wave of blessing throughout the planet.

The joy is in the giving!

A Few SAD Ideas to Support Your Happiness

FOOD winterNortherners, it’s that time of year again. The beautiful colors of the leaves trigger the awareness of the impending cold, dreary days ahead, in spite of autumn awe.

My monthly client-load often increases about now, due to what has become known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder; also known as the “Winter Blues”.

And, yes, it’s a thing. Less sun, less vitamin D, increased isolation and home-bodiness, which may mean fewer interactions with friends and family. It’s an imposed hibernation-mode existence…Except, as humans, we don’t hibernate.

So, what can one do to help keep spirits up throughout the cold months?

If you are feeling depressed, can’t get out of bed (versus not wanting to), feel hopeless, isolate from others, or feel suicidal, please get help immediately! You are worth every effort you make to feel better!

Otherwise, I encourage my clients to tackle this season in mind and body:

For the body, there are several recommendations out there for the efficacy of ingesting extra vitamin D supplements. Check with your doctor for specific dosage and type that would be best for your body.

Another popular practice is using a sun lamp for the ultraviolet rays we miss out on when we are covered with layers of home and blankets. Twenty minutes a day, preferably in the morning (don’t use it before bedtime—it may interfere with your melatonin production, and therefore sleep cycle!).

Keep healthy food around. Since many food-focused holidays happen in winter, make sure your food choices are healthier ones. Keep bananas on the table, and apples close by. Snack on fulfilling nuts rather than chocolates (although a little dark chocolate here and there can go a long way!). Try new healthy recipes to occupy the part of your brain that focused on food. As you may have noticed, pumpkin spice goes a long way!

For the mind, exercise! Yes, this is great for your body, too, but exercise will help those good brain chemicals lift your mood throughout your day. Plus it will get you moving and distracted from the cold temperatures.

Every day, remember to acknowledge three things that you are grateful for in your life. Keep it simple, fun, and daily. You can keep a gratitude journal, or share your list of three with your partner or a friend. Studies have shown that three-a-day keeps the blues away, and trains your brain to look for the good in your life.

Go outside anyway! Yes, I said it. Get out in the cold! Bundle up and take a 20 minute walk in the cold. You’ll benefit from the movement, the bona fide sunlight (even through the grey skies!), and overcoming your mind-body resistance to the cold.

Be grateful! Just thinking about a few of your favorite things–anything you are grateful for–changes your brain chemistry for the better! If you don’t think so, try it once or twice when you’re feeling down–it will feel like magic! Your mind will calm, your body will relax.

Don’t let feeling SAD get you down this winter! Get up, get moving, and keep yourself looking for the good in every situation! Winter won’t last forever—even though it feels like it—and you’ll be glad you spent it supporting your happiness!