If I need you to agree with me, it is because I believe that my safety is contingent on your approval. It’s a hangover from childhood, and maturity requires that we let this view go. Depending on any external thing for a sense of security is futile, because there is no real peace that can be found external to ourselves. We are the source of peace, irrespective of our inability to create peace with others on the physical plane.

It is just as futile to expect people, ourselves included, to always behave in a way that we consider most convenient to our own passing whimsies.

We may resent others for not cooperating with our imagined needs. For all this resentment, mostly our beliefs about what we need are in fact the opposite of what is actually needed. Nothing is in fact needed other that what is. Things are fine as they are.

Every peculiar and particular need is in fact a matter of passing taste. Much of what we demand from the world is a mere prop for a fragile ego that would do better for shattering anyway. Deny us our needs, and you liberate us from them. We could be a little more grateful.

If I need you to agree with me, I am depending on you in a way that is of no help to either of us. I cannot find bliss inside, so I seek for it where it cannot be found. The idea that you can harm me is untrue. We cannot be harmed. When life does not cooperate, we are receiving a lesson in how things are, and that things don’t actually need to be any particular way for us to feel bliss in each moment. We learn that we can choose bliss irrespective of external circumstances.

If we cry at the world for not cooperating with our every whim we go through lives like spoiled children, believing that every discomfort is a possible threat to our very existence. It’s quite mean and childish to withdraw love from others because they do not give us exactly what we think we need from them. Somehow we expect others to give us unconditional love and cooperation, and yet we are entirely unprepared to offer it to anyone else.

Whether things go our way or they don’t, we are fine. Whether a person treats us the way we want them to or not, they are still the same person. If we cannot love a person regardless of their behaviour, then we cannot really love at all. I’m not sure if that’s quite what we want.

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Perhaps we need to make a choice. The “right” choice. How to proceed?

Perhaps start with an oft-overlooked question:

Is it kind?

“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.” – George Saunders. 

Even kind people can forget to make kindness a priority. It can become the afterthought rather than the guiding principle it deserves to be. We might preference kindness to others over kindness to ourselves. Or vice versa.

A balance can be struck if it become important enough to us.

We can forget that kindness is possibly the most important thing of all. Unkind choices make our lives hell. Having to live with your own unkindness – whether to yourself or others – causes ongoing agony.

But what is kind?

True kindness is never easy or shallow.

“Responsibility to yourself means that you don’t fall for shallow and easy solutions.” – Adrienne Rich

A kind choice honours your needs and the needs of others. It respects our needs and feelings and the right to be as we are, and it attempts to extend that privilege to others. Kindness is reverent. It sees the goodness in all things, and seeks to honour that goodness with more goodness.

Is it kind to ourselves to put ourselves in a certain circumstance? Is it kind to deny ourselves or indulge ourselves? How might we approach a situation in a kinder way? How could we bring kindness to the unkind? Can we transform a difficult circumstance with our kindness?

If we need a job, what sort of job would be a kind choice for us? How can we approach our life and work with the most kindness to everyone?

Is it kind to lie to someone? Is it kind to mislead?

Is it kind to a person to allow them to be angry or critical or controlling?

Is it kind to give in to unreasonable, unloving, fearful expectations and requests?

Saying no is often more kind than saying yes. But a kind no does require some grace.

When making choices, it pays to spend even just five minutes investigating the kindness of the potential options. Consider who is likely to be affected. How they are likely to feel. That includes you. Consider whether there is some way to be kind to everyone in the situation.

We will make mistakes and be horrifically unkind but if we don’t learn to nurture ourselves and others then I lives with remain barren.

Being kind is perhaps the only way to be right. Being right is never possible if kindness is the price paid.

courage dear heart c.s. lewis

How to be kind

Here are some suggested places to start.

1. A person is being unkind. It is kind to kindly explain why you find their behaviour unkind. Do not become unkind as you do this, or you might as well not bother. Judgment and controlling dialogues are unkind. “I feel that you’re being unkind to me,” is a simple start. If someone is unkind to us, it is always an opportunity to learn the value of kindness. We can miss the opportunity or make the most of it.

2. A person persists in being unkind. Be kind to yourself and make it clear to yourself and this person that their unkindness is incompatible to your kindness to yourself. “I feel sad that our relationship is so unkind, and I am not prepared to keep it up in this unkind way.” If expectations differ dramatically, it’s unkind for two people to continually disappoint one another.

3. You are criticised for your choice. Kindly acknowledge your mutual right to coexist with different tastes and opinions, and that it is okay for two people to see the world differently, and separately, and live with different expectations. Saying no might feel unkind, and be perceived as unkind, but it may well still be the kindest choice. “I know you feel I should give you what you want, that it would be the right thing for me to do, but I cannot do so in a kind way.”

4. Honestly inquire about what ways your every behaviour is kind and unkind. Balance your choices in favour of kindness, while being mindful of how kindness might have been compromised.

5. Say no to situations that make you unkind, so as to be kind to yourself and to the people you are likely to lash out at.

6. We can’t always know in advance whether our choices will prove kind or unkind. But we can still make it a priority and become better and knowing the difference in most circumstances.

7. Remember that kindness is the highest good. The more kindness you can cultivate in yourself, the more fruitful your life will become. We all thrive under kindness.

In heaven, everything is kind. Everything thrives. That’s the kind of world we can attempt to create down here.

“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.” – Jack Kerouac

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When we think about improving our life, we tend to think more about what we can get, do and achieve, rather than cutting straight to the chase.

We don’t need to waste so much energy. If we became more loving, we would connect straight to what it is we really want: love. Focusing on love makes our life indisputably better.

The great news is that no one can stop us from being more loving. And when we learn to become more loving, we find that our life becomes filled with the love we have created.

A heart centred life might seem foreign to many of us, but when genuine love becomes a priority, life takes on a whole new level of richness.

Almost every spiritual teaching returns us to the same message – that we are here to learn how to love and be loved. And yet love is not our conscious daily priority. In fact our approach to love is largely haphazard. Love itself is so often an afterthought, something we hope will come to us if we do all the right things and are sufficiently romantic and impressive.

We know so little about real love.

Sometimes we doubt the value of love, particularly in times when we have been burned. Being burned is, however, actually a lesson in what love is not.

Until we understand what love is not, we will remain at a great disadvantage. We will waste time on the things that don’t matter. We will look for love in controlling, achieving and getting, without a clue that love is not something that can be controlled, achieved or gotten.

These misconceptions about love get in our way.

Love seems elusive, because we don’t realise that we have the potential to double, triple or quadruple our capacity for love but deliberately coming to understand what it really is, and cultivating those qualities for ourselves.

The good news is that our ability to experience love has nothing to do with getting love from someone else. We don’t need to be good enough or gorgeous enough in order to make love a dominant part of our daily experience. We are the only person who is responsible for how much love we experience in our lives.

So, how can we choose love for ourselves?

1. Love is self-love, not finding someone to give us permission to love ourselves

Self-love cures almost all the problems of love.When we really love ourselves, we making loving choices. We choose that which aligns with our love, and let go of what doesn’t. If something isn’t loving to us we will let it go, because it goes against our core beliefs. If something is loving to us, we will hold on to it joyfully, because it reinforces our core idea of what we deserve.

Love is not clinging to someone for self-esteem, though we often believe it is. Through another person, we may seek to prove that we are worth loving.

If we confuse love for external-validation, our focus will be on making someone else responsible for our own inability to love ourselves, rather than taking responsibility for feeling good about our own life.

Self-love is something most of us lack, because we have been taught that our loveability is contingent on our winning external approval.

If the people around us are not loving to us, then we need to seriously question how we are failing to love ourselves. If the people around us don’t respect and admire us, then we need to assume their are serious problems with our own ability to respect and admire ourselves in a healthy way.

2. Love is discerning, not tolerating behaviour because we believe that’s what we deserve

When we love ourselves, we are much better at selecting things in our life that are loving to us. Love doesn’t require that we accept poor treatment from others because we don’t love ourselves enough to expect better. It is not overlooking or tolerating or shutting down. It isn’t about forbearance.

A lack of self-love will leave us reluctant to ask to be treated better. Dismissive, ambivalent and abusive behaviour will be overlooked by someone who doesn’t love themselves, because suggesting that these things aren’t acceptable might seem too needy, demanding or judgmental. 

Love is prepared to say no, because if we cannot say no, our ability to say yes has no real meaning.

3. Love is honesty, not compromising our truth to get what we think we need

To love, you need to be able to be honest about your real feelings. This comes from loving our own truth. It can take quite some practice for a person to start listening to their real feelings rather than replacing them in their head with how it is they believe they should be feeling.

You can honour your truth by saying no to the things that feel like they dishonour you in some way, and say yes to the things that you love, not because of how they will make you appear to others, but only for the sake that you love them. You don’t need any other reason to honour something you love than the fact that it is important to you. Because, after all, you are important.

Taking the time to listen to someone and ask about their real feelings – with no agenda other than because the person is valuable to us – is the first mark of respect. If we really value someone for who they are, we will really value their honesty.

This is exactly how we must behave towards ourselves. If we feel something or need something, it is important, even if the feeling or thought is in some way flawed. Only by valuing and listening to our honest feelings can be actually explore them and discover the truth about them.

4. Love is deep, not attached to the superficial fluff of life

It’s actually possible to feel wonderful about yourself, irrespective of any and all things you have and haven’t done. You don’t need any superficial successes or advantages to be worthy of love. Love is based in feeling wonderful about who you are, because you are important and valuable in your essence, irrespective of anyone else’s opinion. 

Similarly, if we are too superficial with others, then we will find ourselves blocking love for absolutely no reason. Looking for love on the surface of things comes from looking for loveability on the surface of ourselves, and is routed in not really valuing the truth that is deeper within us. If we value our own deeper truth, then we will value the deeper truth in others.

 5. Love is divine, not tainted by judgment and fear

We all need a higher power, and that higher power should not be a person.

Making someone else your higher power is not loving. It is not respectful. Another person is not a God who can make everything better again if you try and pray and cry hard enough.

Trying to make another person your reason for living – the equivalent of an end of day bottle of chardonnay that makes everything better again – is very tempting, but this is the equivalent of “using”. Using people to feel good turns them into objects, and no one likes being used. People know when they are being used, and they get sick of it quickly, unless they have poor self-esteem.

Some of us might believe that the only way we could be loved is to be someone else’s saviour or goddess or mother, helping endlessly, but if we think we need to be as perfect as God to be loved, this false belief will make love all the more impossible.

Love needs an element of the divine, because of the compassion, understanding and perspective that comes from seeing the intentions that are behind people’s actions. Divine love does not fixate on the superficial or the surface of things, but can see that when other people offend or neglect us, it is because of their own journey. Our only question is: are we going to make their inability to love our life path? We absolutely do not have to.

We can practice our ability to love people for their truth and essence, but we cannot make someone do this for themselves. An inability to love ourselves makes is selfish, because we are always unconsciously focused on making up for the love we lack. Spending time with selfish people isn’t terribly loving, because it means our own needs will rarely be honoured.

6. Love is a sharing of what is already inside of us, not a mission to get what is missing

Love is not about a conquest: a getting of a person, so that we can then act with indifference towards their deepest needs. Love is not the getting of something to validate us in some way.

Love is a sharing of what we already have inside of us, as supported by our connection to the divine and our connection to ourselves. Only when we are able to honour our own humanity with respect, support and compassion will be have the ability to do the same for others. We need to have love within us for us to be able to share it.

7. Love is a spiritual path, not a distraction

In days of yore relationships were considered a distraction from a spiritual path. This attitude has greatly shifted. Relationships are now a vital frontier in our spiritual transformation, because love is such a powerful spiritual practice.

Relationships have a rather unique knack for bringing out both our very best and very worst, often in the space of mere minutes.  Instead of shunning love or isolating ourselves to protect ourselves from the pain of love “gone wrong”, our struggles in loving others can be seen from a higher perspective: as our most profound spiritual teacher.

How to be more loving from today

Take some time out today and get to know yourself a little better. You might think you know everything about yourself, but chances are there are a lot of things about yourself that you have ignored or overlooked because they weren’t “important”. Listen, and ask yourself how you are really feeling. Get out some nice paper and a nice pen and share these real feelings, as if you were writing to a best friend. Take this time to listen to yourself, and get used to the feeling.

As yourself another question: what things are important to you that you are neglecting right now? Take action to show love to yourself by honouring something that is important to you, even if someone else might not approve or think you deserve what it is that’s important to you.

As you go through the day, stop to remind yourself that you deserve respect and admiration, just for no other reason than that you deserve love. Let your heart open, and enjoy the feeling. This feeling can become a constant companion, and it becomes something we can share with the world around us.

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Have you ever loved something or someone obsessively?

Yes, I mean you.

Even the coolest of characters can find themselves becoming suddenly and irretrievably obsessed. All it takes is the right object, one that gives us a sense that perfection and happiness have incarnated into a single person, place, vision, vocation or thing.

Obsession doesn’t just apply to our romantic partners, though often they bear the brunt of our insecurities and neediness. It can discolour and taint a whole array of ways in which we interact with the world. We can just as easily direct our obsession towards our friends, children, parents, pets, our work, our appearance, our home or our bank account.

Obsession is simply a need to feel securely connected, and that need can be directed towards anything. Rather than being a sign of love, it flows from our insecurities about being able to get what we need from life in a secure, healthy way.

I used to think my talent for obsession was a gift. Being a monomaniac has allowed me to work with unrivalled fervour and passion. It has created an experience of life that has often been incredibly rich, profound and intense.

This optimism of mine about the up-side of obsession is out of touch with the reality: obsession creates a source of constant disappointment and anxiety. When our obsession does not “cooperate” with us, we are left feeling miserable.

Obsession pushes away our ability to authentically connect to ourselves and others, because our experience of our obsession becomes more important to us than the thing itself. It distorts our perceptions and leaves us indifferent to peaceful, secure, supportive attachments which seem relatively boring by comparison.

The truth about obsession is that it is highly addictive. Intense feelings release large amounts of opiates in our brains, and in such a way we can actually become addicted to our obsession.

Once addicted, we will constantly seek out things that will get us high on our excitement. In time we will start to believe that if something doesn’t obsess us, making us feel giddy on the required quantity of opiates, then it isn’t really worth doing.

Obsession blocks our true intuition, as we will start to believe that the only things that are right for us are the things that make us feel high on “life”. We mistake the opiate high of our obsessed love with genuine feelings of love. Eventually we will have no idea what we really do love, because we are forever looking around at the world in search of out our next hit of obsession. We will become completely out of touch with the things that create genuine connection and authentic love.

This is the big problem with obsession: it almost always backfires. We think we are connected to the most powerful force in the universe, and we have no idea of the downside that is quickly coming to put things back into balance. Push something too hard, and it can quickly break under the pressure. Press harder still, and we’ll find we’ve pushed away the very thing we love the most.

Ultimately, obsession flows from not feeling like we are securely attached to the things we love, because we are not securely attached enough to ourselves. We fear that the things we love could be taken from us at any moment, and so we obsess, clinging tightly to protect ourselves so that this doesn’t happen.

Obsession is not actually passionate love, but is instead love that has been made frantic by our anxiety and neediness. Our obsessions are a symptom that we are reliant on the world around us in order to feel good, and that we have no authentic connection to ourselves and our own inner goodness, peace and power.

Obsession leaves us vulnerable to disappointment, because it creates expectations which are absurdly high. Obsession idealises things as a source of pure unadulterated goodness, and leaves no room for the reality of the situation to be in any way valuable.

Some people are more prone to obsession than others. Problems with “secure attachment” are typically routed in our childhood experiences of attachment. Our ability to attach securely determines our ability to love something or someone fully. If we didn’t have a secure attachment to our loved ones as children – perhaps they were busy, ambivalent, dismissive or even abusive – then we will lack confidence in our ability to hold on to the things we love later in life.

We will believe that love is always elusive, and we will fear being separated from what we love. We will mirror this elusiveness in our relationship with ourselves, choosing to love ourselves erratically rather than securely. The obsessed person doesn’t trust that life will bring them more opportunities for joy, but will erratically respond with a limited number of opportunities. The obsessed person is desperate to be able to love themselves, and so they cling to whatever allows them this joy.

The obsessed person most likely has problems trusting in themselves, their own value, and their own ability to make secure attachments with the things they love. Not knowing how to securely attach, they over-compensate with passion, intensity or over-nurturing. These are not natural reactions, but are routed in fear of loss and disconnection.

Even the most cool, dispassionate person can find themselves becoming suddenly obsessed when they find something that they think resembles a true experience of love. We fall in love with the things that help us to love ourselves. We when love something outside of ourselves, we connect to the ability to love the part of that thing that is within us which we can only love in someone else rather than without ourselves.

We each go through life carrying with us an ideal of what love is, based on the pattern of love we experienced as children. If we meet someone that reminds us of our earlier experience of love – the kind from a father that was sometimes full of praise but other days full of scorn, or from a mother that was smothering and insatiable to the point of her being constantly disappointed – we can find ourselves obsessing over winning the love of these people who model our ideals of perfect love, because that’s what love needs to be for us in order to feel real.

Obsession with our work follows a similar pattern. When we depend on our work to feel good about ourselves, we will cling to our work as a reliable source of joy. Through our work we might have discovered a semi-reliable way to feel really great about ourselves and connected to ourselves – expressing our talents and authentic gifts – at least until things start going badly, or our project ends, or the stock market crashes and we are out of work.

Our work may allow us to feel in control and powerful in a way that no other part of our life can offer us. It might allow us to become an ideal person, and our obsession in life may take the form of living up to our own ideals.

I generally direct my obsession into “projects”. This obsession is intoxicating. It is almost as if my whole sense of peace, purpose and passion in the world emanates from my connection to each passing goal, quite unconsciously.  Without the security that my obsession brings, I feel quite lost in the world.

Depending on an external goal for a connection to oneself is fraught with peril, not least because of how little control we have over the external world. Goals work best for us when we are detached from them, not attached to them for our safety and sense of meaning.

To avoid obsession, our task is to develop a sense of internal peace and value in who we are, without the reliance on our work or our accomplishments or another person. Yes, it is crucial for our sense of balance in the world that we have meaningful work and meaningful relationships, but obsession robs us of this genuine meaning.

Obsession makes us selfish, because our focus is always first on the good feelings we can get, rather than the good feelings we can create. The obsessed person fears that they cannot create goodness from within themselves, and so therefore they need to attach to some external ideal of goodness, getting it from someone or something else.

Obsession is not an effective way to secure love. It actually pushes love away because it pushes away the truth. It is a supplement for genuine peace and self-love through intense feelings of a different kind.

In truth, we don’t need to force anything, because the things that are forced will always end up proving themselves wrong for us. Whatever we force will be a reaction to our fears rather than a way of truly connecting to what we need most. Whatever we obsess over is an indirect means of finding a reason to love ourselves, and in reality we don’t ever need to justify or earn this love.

If we trust life, we will know that the things that are real and good for us will always be there, and that love is something we can feel for ourselves without having to do a single thing.

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My sister swears by a new app on her iPhone called Commit. It allows you to make a commitment to a particular goal, and then sends you a daily reminder to help you keep that commitment.

What goal did she choose for herself? To disappoint someone, every single day.

Women tend to be chronic pleasers. It’s part of our gender package: feminine worth is equated to the ability to meet the needs of others. The pain of self-effacement is not insubstantial, and yet we feel like we have no choice: give in, harmonise, placate, or become “difficult” and lose the relationships we value the most.

Men please in different ways. They take on roles that allow them to appear more manly and in control: more successful, popular and independent. This sort of pleasing makes it easier to say no to people on a day to day basis, but it is just as potent a source of disconnection, shame and dissatisfaction.

When our top priority is being liked – when we need others to like us to feel like worthy human beings – we will be prepared to give up the most important parts of ourselves. We will slot in and let others set the agenda in exchange for a nod of validating approval. Connecting our worth to our ability to please is a form of self-effacement, and yet we will wonder at why all our efforts in pleasing others have resulted in so little satisfaction for anyone.

People pleasing has undoubtedly led me to make all my worst life choices. Not setting a firm boundary around who I am, what I want and what doesn’t feel good for me has led me to repeatedly compromising myself to the point of substantial self-disrespect.

I thought I was being a nice person, a good girl, an easy person to be around, but I was actually just being a complete fool. I lived in a deranged parallel universe where I genuinely believed people would be happier if you let them have their way. Not surprisingly, the more of a pleaser you are, the more demanding people you seem to attract into your life. The pleaser often needs someone who is a challenge to please in order to get true satisfaction out of their efforts.

If any of this resonates with you, I urge you to read Barry Davenport’s latest post: How to release the need to please. We can all do more to consciously disconnect from the pursuit of worth through the approval of others, and to refocus our attention on ourselves and our own truth, pursing what it is that would give us the greatest pleasure from our lives.

Click here to read Barry’s full article now on Live Bold and Bloom.

This morning I was watching this clip from Oprah.com. An hour later I was at the bookstore buying the book. Six hours and 230 pages later, I knew this was probably going to be one of the best books I’d read all year.

I don’t know where you fall on the Dr Phil fan spectrum. I find him compelling, although his show isn’t really my cup of tea. I do know to pay special attention however any time he says something that really annoys me: it know it means he’s said something that’s right on but in conflict with my solid preference for the 5,000 shades of grey. “They’re just as much a victim as I am. In fact more,” I’m likely to conclude of the person who publicly insults me and lies to me for years. While this might be true, they are a victim of themselves. What’s more, it doesn’t reverse the fact that we very often need to step up to the task of defending ourselves and our lives in the face of a world wants to take any power from us that we don’t have a firm handle on.

Life is about owning your power and directing it to its highest use. Life does work to grab power away from us when we haven’t owned it, to teach us how to become masters of owning our power and fully valuing what we are, what we have and what we create. Life sends people to trample through our lives and test how firmly we have a grip on what we are and what we want. It sends people to exploit our ignorance so that we learn. It sends people to flatter us and exploit our vanity and show us the holes in our self-esteem. It sends people to teach us the value of goodness and honesty, and to teach us the toxicity of lies and delusion.

Life doesn’t do this because it hates us. Life loves us and wants us to learn. Without pain, there is no learning. Pain is our guide. It guides us to consciousness and to the tools we need to learn to come most fully into the light.

I totally see that and I am deeply grateful to Dr Phil for his writing a book that nails it so fully on the head, albeit less from such a cosmic perspective. He’s about the nuts and bolts, which is lucky because someone really does need to be keeping their feet on the ground.

The first half of Life Code focuses on the characteristics of people who we might let come into our lives only to destroy things for us. He calls these the BAITERS: the Backstabbers, Abusers, Imposters, Takers, Exploiters and the Reckless. We let them in because we aren’t looking for the signs, and might enjoy the attention they give us while they are setting us up to be exploited. Getting to know the characteristics of the users and abusers among us – and they are often all to well hidden behind charm, flattery and grooming rituals – is the primary means of not being taken by surprise.

I’d previously been more inclined to see these people as narcissists, but as Dr Phil points out they don’t fit neat psychiatric labels. This is an expose of pathological selfishness, and as a Pollyanna type I’m such an expert in denial that I deeply value some truth being shoved down my throat. The idea that people could be so self-serving is only beyond my comprehension because it is so far removed from how I approach life. The very fact that I’m so empathic and derive comfort from creating harmony with others is the very thing that can make a person ripe for exploitation by someone who is an empathy void: I’m inclined to be trying to create harmony with the very people I should be asking to get off my property.

What unifies the BAITERS is that their focus is always solely on what they can get, and that anyone who stands in the way of this getting is less a person than they are an obstacle to be dealt with. Obstacles can be disposed of. Some people really are that limited in their emotional range. It’s empowering to know were you stand. Am I a person, or am I just an obstacle? It’s better to work this out sooner rather than later.

The second half of the book turns us inwards, asking us to become strong in our truth – accepting our strengths and weaknesses and knowing where we are vulnerable to being manipulated. Exercises include making a very candid list of ten things about yourself that you’re hiding from the world. Add to that another list of ten things you don’t like about yourself, and you’re making real headway into what makes you vulnerable to seduction and giving away your power.

Honesty is everything. “Winners are amazingly honest with themselves about self, others and situations. If things are in the ditch, they admit it and admit it immediately, even if they wish it weren’t true.”

In owning our power, Dr Phil pushes us towards creating a primary goal: that we let ourselves get notices and acknowledged for who we are and what we do. We need to let ourselves be valued. This is how we become a player, and less someone who is easily played

“You’re in charge of your life,” he reminds us. “You can’t fire yourself, but you can go a better job.” Your soul doesn’t want your power to be stolen from you, Life Code is about stepping up and mastering the simple, perhaps confronting, but altogether inescapable rules of the game.

Venus is retrograde in Capricorn. It will be retrograde in Capricorn until February, so buckle up. January is a romantic-time warp, and denial is futile.

Retrograde means that from the perspective of planet earth Venus appears to be moving backwards. Difference orbits, etc. When Venus moves backwards, we are transported into the past and somehow, unexpectedly, our romantic and relationship past becomes our present experience. How we value ourselves and how we value others becomes the question mark of the month.

Old feelings are dredged up. Outdated dynamics are revealed as dysfunctional. You embark on a revaluation of all values. You feel your way through old hurts. You’re facing forwards and walking backwards at the same time. Falling backwards, maybe.

Ex-lovers telephone. They’re thinking about you, hopefully not suffering too much. They don’t necessarily want to be thinking about you, but they can’t help it. They’re processing their Venus energy, and so are you. You want to call people when you know you really shouldn’t. Don’t worry. Let them dial the phone if they must.

You go over all your old emotional terrain, and it can hurt. The permanency of all things is questionable. And then they start to show up. People from your past. They email. They call. They knock at your door. They can’t help themselves, not unless they have an iron will. Let them. Just their showing up will help you process. Dysfunctional relationships? Suddenly they fall apart. Graceful exits become ridiculously easy.

Venus energy is about value: the value of beauty and the value of money. It’s about what you value in others, how you express yourself in love and what you look for in a loved one. Venus wants us to know that beauty is a solution to more problems than we realise. If there’s no beauty, what’s the point?

This is the time to be embracing consciousness and awareness around what you value in life – what is beautiful to you, and what makes you feel beautiful. What kind of relationships do you really want? What is valuable, and what isn’t? Only you can decide for yourself.

Being retrograde in Capricorn exacerbates the emphasis on authority. Capricorn, ruled by saturn, is all about authority: becoming an authority, taking authority, hopefully not ruthlessly. Right now we have the opportunity to claim authority over what you value. You get to decide what works and what doesn’t. There is a pragmatic air to it all. Thank Capricorn. Aim less for ruthless and more for being the benevolent Queen or King of your world.

The key is to be a conscious partner in the process of your growth. Integrate. Rise above. Raise your standards.

This is a time to consider how you have devalued yourself, and how others might have devalued you. Where have you wasted yourself? Where have you given your value away? The honesty required can be overwhelming, but hard work done now is a very sound, Capricorn-fangled investment.

Don’t resist. Give yourself over to the process – let yourself go backwards and integrate what you’ve learned so that it becomes a source of power.

Image: Helmut Newton.

There are some people in life who only need you for your ability to validate them. All they need from you is permission to control your feelings, specifically your feelings about them. This control is how they feel safe and okay, and they will go to all sorts of lengths to control how others see them: impressive behaviour, favours, grandiose displays. Or they might be experts in doing as little as possible, milking your desire to please for their maximum benefit. Ultimately all they  need is for you to listen, nod, smile, look transfixed, give them your undivided attention, and show an unwavering interest in all their passing idiosyncrasies.

And then there is another kind of person.  This other person believes that their only role in life is to make others feel good about themselves. Their role is to listen, mirror, validate, agree. Their role is to slot in. When they mirror they find they are always welcome. It’s the only value they feel they can bring to a relationship. The more they please, the more attention they get. Should they feel any urge to be honest, authentic, to share their truth, they find that their transgression is met with disbelief. Rejection comes quickly. The arguments start. The people who they’ve been adoring become angry, withdrawn, critical. When the mirroring starts to end, so too does the relationship.

This dynamic might seem inconceivable to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but what we are talking about here is narcissism. The first type of person is the narcissist. The second type is the narcissistic extension. This extension is not a real person to the narcissist. They exist only as an object – a source of admiration. As soon as they stop admiring and start enquiring, their value plummets. The narcissist is devastated. What happened to my captive audience? What happened to the person I could make do anything I wanted?

If you’ve ever wondered what narcissism really is, and how it really plays out between two people (because the narcissist cannot exist without an enabler), then this article might reveal something about your own relationships you might not have been willing to see before. Hopefully none of this applies to your life.

It’s important to point out from the beginning that narcissists aren’t inherently bad people. You can tell that in their heart they’re really sweet and more than a bit vulnerable. At least that’s my experience. They may treat others badly – sometimes very badly, and without apparent or actual remorse – but that’s because they don’t even realise what they’ve done. They believe themselves to be very loving, caring people. They even care enough to tell you exactly what to do in most circumstances and to save you the trouble of deciding for yourself how to spend your time. They make it easy. All they want is for you to give them all your attention and approval. In exchange they will entertain and impress you and make it relatively easy for you to approve. They might put on some daring and impressive displays of love to get what they want. Sometimes they will master the art of giving just enough love to string you along. It’s a very delicate art, and entirely unconscious.

Narcissists were usually hurt or bullied as a child. This hurt creates a deep wound that makes them desperate for validation. They want the control and attention they didn’t get. They want control over how others see them. They will use highly covert bullying tactics to control other people into giving them what they need to feel secure. The result is that the people around them are less like people to them than they are object: objects that are either useful or not useful.

Research suggests that narcissists rarely recover or become aware of their narcissism. The levels of denial are too densely woven. They aren’t the problem: the people who disappoint them and refuse to cooperate are the problem. They look for validation that their way is the way of the world, and they find it. Others simply disappoint them, again and again, and they conclude that they are besieged by ungrateful, selfish, manipulative, evil types who love them and leave them as the wind changes. They tend to be highly paranoid. They don’t realise that their bottomless pit of neediness is not something any object or person can fix. People eventually burn out. They grow tired, resentful, desperate to escape their thrall.

The narcissist moves on. They will keep trying, chewing the world up and spitting it out, taking solace in accomplishments that they feel grow their status. The narcissist is a zombie, feeding off the insecurities of those deluded enough to admire them; and vulnerable enough to feel that the only love worth winning is the love of someone who cannot really love. But they are somehow supremely loveable. Narcissists usually deserve admiration. They are often gorgeous in their own way. Their inferiority complex is often bound up with a drive to cultivate themselves, that they tend to create a personality that goes beyond beguiling.

Some narcissists are more aware of what they are doing. They know they’ve behaved badly, but when they begin exploring their intentions and actions it feels so terrible that they go quickly into denial. They can’t bare to imagine how treating others as objects might be so deeply damaging to themselves and others. Much easier to call the other person selfish or problematic than to look inside and own it. They might realise that perhaps. sometimes, they do view others almost purely in terms of what they can get from them, but they can’t seem to untangle their authentic, loving self from their insatiable need to get and compensate for their neediness. It’s too messy. The work is too hard and terrifying. The process of admitting fault seems worse than death.

But there are two people to blame. The extension is just as much at fault. Both are unconscious victims of themselves and each other. There’s no point blaming just the narcissistic. Enabling them hurts them as much as it hurts the “victim”. No one comes away unhurt. Both of them are in a fantasy, one that can never end in anything more than the deepest dissatisfaction.

The love of the narcissistic extension has a naturally chameleonic quality. They will bend to all the requests of the narcissist, conscious and unconscious. The extension continually finds themselves doing things to please the narcissist that they would never have formerly even considered doing. It becomes impossible to say no. Love knows no limits, right?  Like attracts like, and the narcissistic extension is equally needy, equally disconnected from their truth and their value as an individual, equally disempowered and seeking power in how they relate to another person.

Holding up a big mirror for hours on end does wonders for the biceps. When the mirror finally drops, you can use that strength to crawl your way back to dignity. At last it’s all about you, now longer all about them. What do you do with all that energy and attention? It’s a daunting prospect. Terrifying, even. If you can put all that energy into pleasing someone else, one can only imagine what that energy can be used for if directed inwards.

If you think someone in your life is a narcissist, WikiHow have this shockingly spot-on guide to the ins and outs. I’m impressed.

Here are ten key quotes:

– Narcissism is a character disorder which causes the narcissist to “look outward” for a view that will reflect him/her as wonderful.

– Rather than having good self-esteem, the narcissist lacks it, and feels empty, and therefore must gain his pseudo-“self-esteem” from external sources: family, friends, lovers, workmates and children.

–  For the narcissist everything and everyone is, in essence, reduced to an object, and some work together quite usefully: i.e. a wealthy partner; a good physique in yourself or in another (partner).

– These objects are known as “supplies” which the narcissist feeds off and ultimately drains of their own self-worth.

–  Often the person who extends the narcissist does not recognise what is happening as the narcissist (unconsciously or consciously) uses strategies that trick the narcissistic extension into believing they have certain invaluable traits.

– Narcissists can be excessively loving, due to their need for a supply of love, but their needs outweigh any real love, and the extension is simply that, a part of the narcissist, not a full human being.

– Narcissists are essentially emotional vampires, who will always tantalize you with the possibility of becoming closer to them; they will act distant with you, but when you seem to be moving on, will feign affection (or in the case of those with the covert sub-type, will believe that they suddenly like you more) to anchor you to them once more. 

– Always keep in mind that narcissism is a disorder that is caused by poor parenting and/or bullying during the sufferers childhood. 

– They may superficially feel good about themselves, but they feel they lack any intrinsic goodness, and that the only way others can value them is through superficial notoriety or accomplishments.

– The poignant and problematical issue is that the narcissistic extension is grieving for what never was, and this means that it takes longer to get over the relationship.

Read the whole article here.

Of course the great tragedy of the narcissist is that they deserve so much better, but their neediness, lies and controlling coldness is the very thing that stops them from having the real love they so deeply crave.

Share: have you experienced narcissism in your own life?

“The desire to be important is the deepest urge in human nature,” wrote John Dewey.

“The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated,” noted Abraham Lincoln.

“I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common — they all wanted validation. … They want to know, do you hear me? Do you see me? Does what I say mean anything to you?” Oprah Winfrey make this parting observation on her final show.

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[Woman Having An Actual Lightbulb Moment, circa 1930. From New York Times, via Retronaut]

Relationship psychologist Harville Hendrix takes it further. “It’s not enough just to be heard,” he says. “It’s ‘Do you see that I’m not crazy?'”

If validation, appreciation, and not being thought of as crazy is so important to us, then why isn’t it our top priority. Actually it is: at least indirectly. We seek it from our friends, relationships, work and home life. We seek it all day long, mostly without realising what it is we’re really trying to get.

It’s this inability to validate each other in relationships that makes them so potentially frustrating: it’s not just women who want validation.

Once we realise that our need for approval from others and from ourselves definitely cuts to the core of almost all our human problems, we can address this need directly and stop distracting ourselves with those things that promise validation but don’t always deliver.

How we try to get validation

We’re always on the look out for friends and admirers. When we’re not in a relationship, we’re thinking about how we can get into one again soon, and how nice it would be to have someone supporting us, listening to us, making us feel important. When we are in a relationship, we’re wondering how we can get more support, more attention and more nurturing. We might find ourselves pulling on the other person for approval, and our neediness unconsciously pushes them away. Our we might find ourselves despondent, checking out and becoming unavailable so that we can’t be hurt. None of these tactics are very helpful.

Some people pick their careers and roles for themselves based on what they feel will guarantee them validation. They make prestigious choices in order to get more respect. It doesn’t matter that these things don’t really suit them: being admirable is always more important, right? When we go shopping or plan holidays or buy our homes, we aren’t always just thinking about how much pure joy they will bring us. It can be fun to fantasise about winning respect, at least until the bills arrive and we realise we’ve tricked ourselves.

We buy a suit we think we should wear, when one half the price might suit us much better. It’s fun to experiment, and sometimes we discover who we really are in the process. Eventually we learn the truth: we don’t really like this other person we thought we should be, and no one else who matters really seems to care either. Impressing people becomes boring without genuine connection.

The shortcut to validation: creating it

Human beings crave connection with one another, even if only from one other person. Our dependency lessons greatly, however, when we make a point of satisfying almost all of our needs for validation by creating it for ourselves. We can deliberately treat ourselves with the love and respect we want to much from the people around us, creating appreciation and acceptance and directing them inwards.

We are free, then to approach relationships less in terms of what we need to get from others, and more in terms of what we can share: we don’t need validation, and we even have a surplus to give away.

We can actually refocus our priorities to make a point of appreciating ourselves, validating ourselves, and treating ourselves as if we are important. We can listen to ourselves. We can take ourselves seriously. Instead of criticising ourselves and wondering whether we’re crazy, we can extend ourselves the courtesy of listening to our feelings seriously and doing the best to take action that supports those feelings. A good friend treats us as if our feelings are important, and we can learn from this. In this way we can cut straight to the heart of our greatest human yearning, bypassing its pale imitations: consumerism, ambition and neediness.

How can you validate yourself?

– Respect your own time and energy. Your time is as valuable as any one else’s, and you can decide to make yourself more of a priority rather than automatically giving in to other peoples’ needs.

– Respect your preferences. If you don’t like something or someone, let go and move on.

– Talk kindly to yourself. Smile at your accomplishments and take pleasure in your work. Do work that brings you pleasure, and this is much easier. Say “good work” and “well done” to yourself each time you complete a task. This makes it easier to say the same thing to other people, because you’ll be in the habit.

– If you feel sad, anxious, stressed, angry, stop to listen. Take your feelings seriously. Think carefully about what you can do to remove these fears and drains on your energy, and take action to support yourself. “This isn’t good enough,” you can tell yourself. “I am going to take this seriously, and find a way to feel better.”

– Do work that empowers you. Do the things you really enjoy.  Take your talents seriously. If you feel called, take yourself from beginner level to expert as quickly as you can.

– Give others validation. Practice on others to learn how to validation yourself, and vice versa. Listen to the people around you who are important, ask them questions, show an interest, and offer to help. The more satisfied you are in your life, the easier it will be to do this, because you’ll feel like you have more to give away. Teach others how to validate you by being a role model yourself.

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 3.23.17 PMThe answer is … probably yes. Human beings can’t get enough of control. You might not think of yourself as controlling, but we all have an Ego that rears its head and looks around for what it can grab from life. We are human, and we all have Egos that want nothing more than to get something from others, however benign this might seem: love, approval, time, attention included.

It’s wonderful to share these things freely, but when we can’t generate them ourselves we become dependent on others. And when they don’t want to play ball, we’ll use whatever tactic feels most comfortable.

Some people feel really comfortable being angry, for instance. Other people feel more comfortable being so generous that no one ever dare say no to them. Being perfect is a way many people try to control how others see them. Other people become “aloof”. None of these things feel good for anyone. The illusion of control is just that: an illusion.

The next time you aren’t getting what you want: approval, respect, love, ask yourself two questions.

– How am I responding and trying to control this person or situation?

– How are they reacting to this method of control?

– Is there are way I could connect to what I want directly instead: could I approve of myself, respect myself, give myself what I need without relying on anyone else?

– What would I have to do, and what part of myself would I need to develop to feel more joy and satisfaction naturally? What interests could I pursue instead? What talents could I cultivate?

Think about these ways that you might try to control others.

– Being a “nice guy/gal”

– Throwing turns

– Giving gifts, with strings secretly attached

– Making yourself emotionally or financially indispensable

– Judging

– Teaching, explaining or pointing things out, without having been asked for input

– Explaining yourself

– Needing to talk everything through

– Needing anyone to agree with you

– Criticising

– Flattering or offering false compliments

– Shaming

– Needing situations to go exactly to plan

– Giving in, giving yourself up, going along to keep the peace

– Care taking

– Giving so as to get

– Talking non-stop

– Expecting others to seek your approval

– Fantasising to feel good

– Tuning out, shutting down

– Shopping, eating, indulging to control how you feel

– Showing off to impress people

– Thinking everything through

Maybe you can add some of your own? How do you like to control?

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According to Dr Margaret Paul, we probably are. Surely not!

“If you are a caretaker, addicted to fixing others while ignoring yourself, it is likely that you find yourself attracted to takers – self-centered people who want others to take care of them. If you are an angry, controlling person, it is likely that you are attracted to people who easily give themselves up, or to people who are very resistant. If you are an empty person, it is likely that you are attracted to a vibrant caretaking person.”

How does this happen?

“It’s generally very challenging to see your end of a dysfunctional relationship system,” writes Dr Paul. “However, your end of the system is equal to your partner’s end, as we attract people at our common level of woundedness or our common level of health.”

Is it really possible that we could be doing this, however subconsciously? “We’re very clever,” Dr Paul assures her readers. “We can pick up on dynamics within seconds.”  Attraction, as we know, can really be that quick.

To Dr Paul, attraction is always a drawing together of two equals: perhaps not obvious equals, but equals in terms of the dynamic they can contribute. Because most of us are bad at loving ourselves, we go on to attract the same thing from others. And we return the favour.

How, then, can we attract healthier relationships? Step one: develop a healthier relationship with yourself. “The degree to which you emotionally abandon yourself – by judging yourself, ignoring your feelings, turning to addictions, and/or making others responsible for your feelings – is the same degree to which your partner is emotionally abandoning himself or herself.” Attracting better people, then, means abandonning yourself less and loving yourself more: Dr Paul’s mission in a nutshell, and the basis of her Inner Bonding process. When we learn to love ourselves and stop abandoning ourselves, it turns out, we can only attract people who love themselves the exact same amount. It’s only then that we connect to happier, healthier, more loving people.

Image by NYCDOT.


Those who’ve seen The Sixth Sense know to be afraid when you start seeing dead people. Stop a minute. Take your pulse. You’re alive? Great! But how alive? And how much “dead wood” can we carry around before we too start to decay in our own skins?

“It takes so much work trying to make the dead look alive,” says Dr Robin Smith, author of  “Hungry: The Truth About Being Full“. In the chapter  “I See Dead People”, Dr Robin tells how she spent much of her life playing the “skilled mortician”, making a never-ending serious of dead relationships, dead places and dead people look alive and satisfying. Her work was so convincing, she says, that she fooled everyone, herself included. The cause? A fatal case of wishful thinking. “They were merely  embalmed in a mixture of make believe, pretend and  false hope. Fear of reality was my partner in this booming business.” (See the Oprah interview).

How can we continue to exist in jobs, homes, relationships that are dead? “The only way we can do that, particularly with comfort, is if we ourselves are checked out. If we’re not awake.”

Why do we “check out”?

Are you holding on way after the corpse is cold? Consider, is it …

– fear of being disrespectful, bad or of “doing the wrong thing”

– fear of loneliness and the unknown

– feeling unworthy of something else, even unconsciously

– feeling like we deserve what we have: that we’ve “made our bed”

– feeling like our desires are unimportant, even unconsciously

– feeling we need the approval of the person we are going to disappoint

– feeling we have no choice

– fear of the shame at having “failed”

– fear that we haven’t tried hard enough: that we could have done more.

Is there a common theme? Yes. These are all in some ways simply fears of being wrong, undeserving, and inadequate: shame feelings.

Call a doctor!

Do you suspect you’re carrying a corpse through life? Consider, your feelings:

– drained by the effort of having to perform constant CPR on some aspect of your life?

– exasperated by why something is just not responding to you (hint: maybe it’s dead!)

– trying to keep up appearances, but dreading contact?

– you feel “cold” and enthusiastic?

– you feel like you aren’t yourself?

– you feel blamed, shamed and “bad” on a regular basis?

– you feel ashamed of wanting to let go?

Look for clues. If receiving an email fills you with inexplicable (or perhaps explicable) dread, if going to work makes you feel like you’ve got one foot in a grave, consider immediately how you can do yourself the justice of ending that relationship, and quickly.

If your feelings aren’t conclusive, perhaps consider these tell-tale signs?

– it doesn’t match with your values, and that makes you feel uncomfortable

– it never really came alive, it just looked alive

– it forces you to be someone you really aren’t, even though you might wish otherwise

– it doesn’t respect or acknowledge who you are, letting you show up, be seen, and be real

– it’s painfully hard work

– there is a big gap between what you really want to be doing, and what the relationship offers you

Maybe it’s just sleeping?

Some relationships come out of their coma. There can be good reasons for short term iciness. Consider: did you ever have a really functional relationship? Do you have some fearful reasons for wanting to trick yourself?


“If we want our life to change, then we have to report for active duty now, show up like a grown-up and do the necessary work.”

This means honesty, which in turn requires confidence and character. More importantly, it’s not possible to tell the truth unless we feel safe doing so. Making it safe for yourself to tell your truth is therefore essential.

Making it “okay” to walk away

Feeling okay about being honest makes it much easier. Consider the following ways that you can make it okay to tell your truth.

– It’s okay to want more from a relationship and to believe you deserve what makes you feel alive and good.

“Should we settle for the crumbs instead of insisting on being invited to the feast?”  For Dr Robin: “The biggest lie is pretending to be full when we’re starving.” Dr Robin encourages us to give ourselves permission to let go and to want more from life: to give up the “good” to go for the “better”.  “Women are socialised to please – yes, even in these modern times. What that means is we are raised to be separated from our true needs and to mask our authentic hunger. We go along to get along.” Allowing yourself to feel hungry for real, alive, nourish relationships involves giving yourself permission to have an appetite, to have preferences.

– It’s okay to disappoint people.

And entirely unavoidable. Embrace it.

– It’s okay not to blame yourself.

Did we kill the relationship? Are we to blame? “Our lives fall into shambles when we’re pretending to be full. If you don’t nourish yourself, you can’t escape starvation. Eventually it will catch up. It will kill your relationships. It will kill your parenting ability. Eventually it will kill you.” What does kill the relationship is pretending that you are satisfied when you are not. Filling your life with dead relationships is a way of dooming yourself to failure, where the goal is doomed from the outset. And all too often it feels easier to blame and shame ourselves. It’s a convenient way to feel in control of a situation that is most likely beyond our control, and exasperatingly so. As Dr Margaret Paul tells us on InnerBonding.com: “Blame is always a form of control that originates in the wounded part of oneself that hates to feel helpless. Rather than accept your powerlessness over others’ choices, you convince yourself that if you blame …  you can get the other to behave the way you want.”

– It’s okay to have feelings, and essential to honour them.

Dr Robin laments: “I got so good at shutting down and cutting off from my feelings that I actually believed I was okay even when I was miserable.” Shutting off from your feelings is an easy way to get tricked into believing something is living and breathing when instead it’s long dead and decaying. How can we know something isn’t working when we are too afraid to see the truth?

– It’s okay to cause havoc in the short term in order to keep yourself alive.

Often we don’t want to accept the truth about whether something is dead or not, simply because it is inconvenient. It’s more convenient to continue a friendship that gives us something we think we need, or a job which is “necessary” for career or financial reasons. Holding on to a gangrenous limb might cause less fuss in the short term, but long-term? Disaster.

– It’s okay to be afraid of loneliness and the unknown: feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

Holding on can be fear of the void. What happens next? Will something else come along? Surprisingly, the act of letting go brings with it a surge of new energy, momentum and confidence. It can be hard to imagine before hand, but letting go rarely feels like a bad idea after the fact. The result of cutting lose can be terrifying: can I find a new job? Who will I turn to on Saturday nights to go line dancing? Consider: are your options really as limited as you think? Few of us are 100% bound to a situation we can’t find a create way to get out of, finding a better choice for ourselves within months, if not weeks. Being prepared to give up the “okay” or “dead” to make room for the “wonderful” is an ongoing priority in living a full and alive life. But it does require being there for yourself, as a friend, for support.

– It’s okay to realise you were deluded and not doubt your choices once the truth becomes clear.

It’s easy to be sentimental months down the track. We can romance the past and doubt our choices, perhaps running back into the arms of the zombie we’ve worked so hard to extricate from our lives. There may be a few vividly alive moments to recall about the relationship. But this doesn’t mean it won’t need life support once we return to its clutches. It can be very sad to realise the blindness that we wilfully embraced: wishful thinking is very convenient and alluring. Realise that those people who are more vulnerable to wishful thinking are those who aren’t present in their truth.

– It’s okay to look to yourself to provide your sense of aliveness, rather than thinking you should get it from external relationships.

“Immaturity leads you to embrace the fantasy of being rescued by the “right” man or the “right” woman. There is one exception that makes finding the “right” person not a fantasy, but a reality. That is when you begin to look at yourself with all your heart and energy. When you become the treasure that you are seeking, instead of making someone else the answer or solution to your problems, the quality of your life will improve.” We have control over how alive we are and our relationship with ourselves is, and in ways we can’t control in our other life relationships.

– It’s okay to let go of old hopes and dreams.

Do you have dead end dreams where you continue to be frustrated in yourself and disappointed? Are they goals, friendships, purchases? It’s okay that your dreams never came true. Perhaps they weren’t meant to.

– It’s okay to want to escape for good, rather than trying to “manage” the situation”?

Whether you should stay or “manage the situation” depends on how much is at stake. Dr Robin points out that often “managing” a situation is like trying to “adjust the temperature in hell”. She writes: “In our home, we were taught that it’s more important to look good than to feel good. This means we were indirectly taught to cover up the truth, which in turn taught us that the truth was too big and too painful to face. We were taught to have compassion for others even at our own expense – that that meant we could be easily harmed and end up feeling bad for those who hurt us. This made relationships risky, because if something went wrong, we were conditioned to try to fix it. We didn’t learn to extricate ourselves from bad situations, but only how to manage them; how to adjust the temperature in hell. But we were not taught how to get the hell out!” Family relationships might deserve the effort keeping the relationship open, but strictly on your most life-affirming terms. Limiting contact to particular events, in the presence of people which keep the relationship alive as possible, are to be considered. But even family relationships at a certain point can pass the threshold of what is tolerable.

– Finally, it’s okay to want joy instead of pain.

According to Dr Robin, “pain as a teacher” is often an excuse used for staying connected to the dead. While pain is the best teacher and motivator, it exists only to teach us how to reconnect with our joy. Hanging on deliberately without learning the lesson defeats the purpose. Robin asks us to consider “what is it I need to be doing to gently invite fullness and aliveness into my life?” … “How do we revamp and create a new neural pathway so that joy becomes what you expect and prepare for?”

Now comes the fun part: celebrating being alive! In tribute, why don’t you listen to this playlist? Dance around. Feel your blood flowing.


Images by Leo Reynolds and Katmary.