When I was fourteen years old, my family spent a week of vacation in the northwoods of Minnesota. We rode horses, sailed on the lake, sang songs around a campfire, and all the other things most teenagers tell their parents is lame. Even if they are having fun.
After this week of boring, according to me, my family loaded up into our van and began what should have been a five-hour drive home.
Except it wasn’t five hours.
Thirty minutes into the drive we were in a head-on car collision. Triaged and transported to different hospitals around the area, it …
“You don’t need strength to let go of something. What you really need is understanding.” ~Guy Finley
I used to be married to a very kind man with similar values and goals in life. So why did we end up divorced?
In one word? Communication.
Like so many other highly sensitive people (HSPs) I thrived on meaningful, deep communication. I lived for it. I sought it out. And, when at ease, I was good at it.
Unless he wasn’t. Which was often. When he was shut down, couldn’t articulate what was going on for him, or had nothing to say …
“There is some kind of a sweet innocence in being human—in not having to be just happy or just sad—in the nature of being able to be both broken and whole, at the same time.” ~C. JoyBell C.
“I just feel like it’s never ending… like I should be more over it by now,” my friend says, her eyes looking down at her mug of tea. She lost a loved one three years ago in tragic circumstances.
Her words make me sad, and there are layers to my sadness: I’m sad for her loss, her grief, for the difficulty she …
“For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
I was eight years old when my father and I somehow ended up in a heated, verbal struggle. I don’t remember what we were fighting about, but I remember that he was yelling at me.
I already knew by then that my father didn’t deal well with anger. It wasn’t uncommon for him to explode into fits of rage. I don’t …
“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.” ~Walt Whitman
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another’s experience and understand with depth the gravity of their situation. In general, I believe the world needs more empathy.
But I’ve learned over the course of my twenty-nine years that sometimes being a highly empathetic person is incredibly painful. And sometimes too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
Hearing stories of the pain that people experience can be extra painful when your mind tries to carry their pain around …
“It feels good to be accepted, loved, and approved of by others, but often the membership fee to belong to that club is far too high of a price to pay.” ~Dennis Merritt Jones
Like a lot of people, I grew up putting others’ needs and wants first. I learned early that doing things for other people and accommodating their wishes gained me attention and approval. It was only in those moments that I felt good enough and deserving of love.
As a child, I liked nothing more than feeling indispensable and being told I was a good and …
“Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand you can’t love.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
I recently attended a weekend workshop, and there was a man in the group who always had a strange look on his face whenever we had to look for a partner to work with. I noticed that some people avoided him, like they didn’t want to work with him. Perhaps it was the vibe he gave off because of the way he looked at people.
At some point later in the weekend I sat with him. It was hard to put my finger on it, …
“It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now…with its aches and its pleasures…is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” ~Pema Chodron
Many people like to think of grief as an emotional experience. It’s something that dominates your internal, emotional space, and that’s it.
But it doesn’t take long when you’re in the thick of grief to experience grief that isn’t emotional at all.
You feel heavy. Like there’s a giant weight on your shoulders.
You feel like your legs are weak and shaking from …
“Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern, and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours.” ~Epictetus
Are you addicted to drama? I was, but I didn’t know it. I thought I was just responding to life, to what was happening. I really didn’t think I had a choice! The drama triangle is so pervasive, and can be so subtle, that it just seems normal. But it’s not, and there’s a much saner way to live, I found.
Dr. Stephen Karpman first described the drama triangle in the …
“You only see in others what you have in yourself.” ~Annette Noontil
I now recognize, after observing painful patterns repeat many times, how things that trigger me are just lessons I need to learn that are often delivered through other people. The more painful the experience, the more I can see (in retrospect) I learned from it.
Every now and then, when I find myself getting sucked into thoughts about the rightness or wrongness of a situation and how much pain it’s causing me, I take a step backward. I can see that people are just the mechanism to my …
“The sage perspective accepts every outcome and circumstance as an opportunity.” ~Shirzad Chamine
No doubt you’re familiar with paranoia. In the modern world, it’s hard not to be. And as Joseph Heller wrote, just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not after you. But there is another way to look at the world. What if you could see every situation in your life as a positive conspiracy, aimed at aligning you with your highest good?
This might seem outlandish, but it’s not as crazy as it seems. If you imagined that the person annoying or challenging you was …
“Pain makes you stronger. Fear makes you braver. Heartbreak makes you wiser.” ~Unknown
You wake up and check your phone expecting a “good morning” text, but there’s nothing there. Going through your day, everything feels quieter and there’s a gaping hole inside of you that nothing seems to fill. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to shake that relentless ache for the one person who consumes your mind.
It’s an emptiness that makes you feel lost and scared.
There’s nothing quite like a breakup to spark fears of being alone. It’s like a wave of dread that hits …
“Be the person who breaks the cycle. If you were judged, choose understanding. If you were rejected, choose acceptance. If you were shamed, choose compassion. Be the person you needed when you were hurting, not the person who hurt you. Vow to be better than what broke you—to heal instead of becoming bitter so you can act from your heart, not your pain.” ~Lori Deschene
Take a moment to look around where you are right now. Look at the people surrounding you, whether you’re in your office, a waiting room, or the line at the post office.
Statistically, one out …
“A friend is someone with whom you dare to be yourself.” ~Frank Crane
Studies show that feeling connected to other people is a core human need. A sense of connection impacts not only on our mental health but also our physical well-being. It reduces our risk of disease and increases longevity.
While the research is clear, statistics also suggest that our level of social connectedness is declining. Social media might help us be more widely connected, but it doesn’t usually replace the connection we experience in offline friendships.
It seems that as adults we aren’t that good at friendships. People …
“Forgive yourself for not knowing better at the time. Forgive yourself for giving away your power. Forgive yourself for past behaviors. Forgive yourself for the survival patterns and traits you picked up while enduring trauma. Forgive yourself for being who you needed to be.” ~Audrey Kitching
“I can’t do this.”
“Why do I look so fat? I’m disgusting!”
“I haven’t done enough today. I am so useless.”
“I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Oh my god, why did this happen to me? What am I going to do …
“Sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the problem.” ~ Jonathan Mead
I don’t think I’m alone in having someone in my life whom I wish I could change. Someone I see struggling, who ignores or resents any lifesavers I send their way. I can clearly see how this person contributes to their own struggles, but they remain totally unaware of it. Sometimes, I want to shake some sense into this person; I think, “If only they would get their life together…”
For many of us, this person is a relative: a sister, …
“The most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves is to remain ignorant by not having the courage to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” ~Pema Chödrön
All my life I’ve chased after success, as I was encouraged to do from a very young age.
When I was six, my father got me my first proper study desk as a gift for getting into a ‘good’ school. The type of desk that towered over a little six-year-old—complete with bookshelves and an in-built fluorescent light. In the middle of the shelf frame stuck a white sticky label inscribed with my …
“Before you assume, learn. Before you judge, understand. Before you hurt, feel. Before you say, think.” ~Unknown
There we were on a Saturday afternoon doing such benign things as running errands at Costco, Trader Joes, and the post office. Excitement galore.
Yet, it would be a day I came to a major realization, understanding something I already knew in theory but wasn’t putting into practice.
Here’s the realization: Mind reading in relationships leads to confusion, resentment, frustration, and name-calling.
I’m not talking about psychic mind reading either! I’m referring to the kind of mind reading that you likely do every …
Have you ever felt like someone was listening to you but not really hearing you—or worse, not even fully listening?
Maybe they were more looking through you than at you, just kind of zoning out, all the while nodding, as if taking in what you were saying, but not. Or even worse still, maybe they weren’t giving you any signs of engagement, but rather alternating between glances up at you and glimpses down at their phone.
It’s rare these days to get someone’s full attention, and even more difficult to end a conversation feeling truly heard and understood—as if the …