The Secret Indicator of How Your Really Feel

For reasons that I dont understand, therapists and teachers almost always miss the point of anger, treating it as a stand alone problem that needs to be addressed. What if it isn’t? What if it’s a symptom of something else? Treating the symptom rarely solves a problem.

On a recent morning, I got a kind of kicker to write this article. It’s one that’s been hanging around the back of my mind, waiting for the right time. Evidently, this is it.
As I say these things, you understand that I’m not a psychologist, or therapist. There was a time, though, when I was a very angry man.
Having passed through that time, I feel qualified to share my own observations. You may disagree with my thoughts, and that’s alright. Your experiences are undoubtedly different from mine.
What may not be different are the results that come from an angry lifestyle. It will tear your world apart, leaving you bare and alone, like the figure in that photo up there.

A few days ago, I took my visiting son to breakfast. We had a good time catching up and reminiscing. As I approached the register to pay our bill, two young women stood there talking.

One was sharing how angry she’d recently been about something. “I probably shouldn’t have been”, she was saying, “but I was.”

Smiling, I said, “I want to share something that I learned a long time ago.”
“What’s that?”, she asked.
Still smiling, I said, “We use anger to cover up something else. If you can identify what that is, the anger goes away.”

Her face changed as the idea set in. She commented about how profound this was. Whether it is or not is up to you. That realization, though, changed my life and the lives of everyone close to me.

I’ve experienced the failure, discouragement, fear and guilt that goes with anger. It pushes everyone away, including yourself. You cant be at peace as long a anger has a permanent place in your life.

ALERT: Anger is a secondary emotion. We use it to shield ourselves from other unpleasant feelings.

Think about times that you’ve been angry. What was going on in that moment? Were you embarrassed? Did some expectation fail to materialize? Did someone let you down?
You wake up in the dark and stub your toe on a table leg. Suddenly, you’re angry. What’s that about?

Next time you feel the anger rising within you, check it. What are you hiding?

When we realize that anger is a veil, we can pull it back and discover what’s really going on. Then we can deal with that thing.

How to Reprogram Your Brain for Happiness…Pt2

Above, you see a list of things that I have accepted about myself. These are the things that define me.

The way that I arrived at this particular list was by talking with a very supportive friend. I’d say something like “innovator”, and they’d say, “What else?” We talked about ways that I’ve helped people, and affected their lives.

Many people have trouble naming good things about themselves. They often tell themselves they’re just being humble, but sometimes they don’t feel worthy of recognition, even their own.

Previously, we talked about accepting the truth. This is part of that. To positively change your reality, you have to recognize that you really are worthy. You are Enough!

If you’re going to make lasting positive changes in your reality, you have to build a lasting positive image of yourself. Right now, I’m going to share some pragmatic exercises and a brief meditation to help you.

Before I do, let’s refresh what’s happening. The things you’re about to do are meant to change your Reticular Activating System. That’s the part of your brain that reinforces your beliefs. It does this by filtering out things that disagree with them.

To change it, you have to make it understand that you believe you are beautiful, powerful and intelligent. You have to tell it what’s true. If you don’t, it will continue to reinforce your old beliefs of unworthiness.

Making a List
Beginning the process requires that you have something to refer to. That’s what the list is about. Here are some questions to help you get started. When you can, have someone you trust, and who wants the best for you, talk with you about these questions.

  • How have you made a positive difference to someone?
  • As a child, what activities really made you joyful?
  • What are your strengths? Are you artistic? analytical? super organized? crafty? Do you like to cook? write? tell stories?
  • What things make you angry or sad? How does this reflect positive aspects of your personality? empathy? sensitivity? strength?
  • When you say, “I’m not good enough, because…”, are you lying to yourself?

When you’ve finished making this list, you should be feeling pretty good about yourself. Most people are surprised at how quickly the list grows, and how validating it is. Why is it so hard to realize such marvelous things about ourselves? .

This meditation is designed to help you do that.

Self-Image Meditation
To begin, take your list and find a place where you can have some uninterrupted time. It doesn’t have to be long. Even five minutes a day can make a tremendous difference.

Now, make yourself comfortable. There is no specific posture that you need to affect. The aim is to access the RAS, nothing more or less. You’re going to rejoice in your own greatness for a few minutes.

To focus your mind, take a moment to attend your breathing, or anything else that will hold your concentration. Do this for 30 seconds or so. (No need to be exact.) Some people count slowly. Others find a sound to grab onto.

When you feel it’s time, begin to read your list aloud. Before each attribute, say the words, “I am”. I am visionary. I am healthy. I am amazing! – because you are.

Next, look at the first thing there and close your eyes. Think about why that attribute is true of you. Dwell on it and emphasize it. Absorb the truth of it, like a sponge absorbs water. This thing is absolute and essential to who you are. It is one of your defining characteristics.

When you’ve examined the first thing, move on to the next. It doesn’t matter if you get through the whole list. You can pick up in that place next time. The main thing is to understand that you are greater than you ever realized, and that you are worthy of the good.

When you’ve gone as far as you can in this session, take one moment and think of something that you’re grateful for. It can be anything. Hold it up in your mind. Examine it and think of all the reasons you’re thankful for it. Then, say the words aloud, I’m grateful for__________ because ________.

To end your meditation, breathe in, slowly, to the count of three. Exhale to three. Then, repeat.

Positive Reinforcement
These meditations can be super effective. Naturally, the more frequently you can do them, the more effective they become.

At some point, though, you’ll face off against your own self-doubt. Those old beliefs will rise up and try to drag you back into your old mindset.

You have a powerful tool on your side, though – The List.

That list of positive attributes is key to killing self-doubt and negativity, because you know that everything on it is true. If you worked on it with a friend, you even have a witness who can back you up.

Whenever negative thoughts creep into your psyche, you can respond, “That isn’t me.” Remembering your list, you can truthfully say, “This is who I am!”

You may be surprised at how quickly the RAS opens up to let in all kinds of reinforcement to these new truths. You’ll hear people saying positive things about you. Supportive magazine and internet articles will appear.

Follow Your Intuition
As the RAS allows new things in, you’ll find yourself having new ideas. Follow them.

One woman I know is very creative. As her RAS brought her new information, she decided to take a class in glass making. This did a few things for her. The first was that it moved her into a new circle of friends, who are creative and supportive.

Another was to bolster her self-confidence. As she mastered each new technique and learned about different kinds of glass, etc., she gradually became someone that others came to with questions – and she was able to answer them!

Of course, all of this caused her RAS to allow even more new information into her consciousness. She is now on a rising trend of artistry, leading to a nice income opportunity, as well.

Connect With Supportive People
I’m not telling you to join a support group. My experience is that those are often a drag on your progress, rather than a help.

MeetUp is a great source for finding people who share similar interests to yours. You can surf the groups until you find one that you like.

If you enjoy learning new things, local supply stores are a good resource. For drawing classes, check with art supply stores. Fabric stores can lead you to a sewing class.

Remember, the more you focus on your happiest self, the more your RAS is going to give you.

As you move into areas that you can excel in, you’ll see a lot more success. You also become more knowledgeable about things that really interest you.

Getting involved in activities that you’re good at also brings you into contact with people who share your interests. You’re able to build new friendships.

Along that line, the people who used to bring negativity into your life will fall away. If they cant keep you on their level, they will lose interest and fade out of your life.

This, in turn, decreases your own self-criticism, because there are fewer outside influences pushing negativity into your mind.

Relax Into It

Every day, either in the morning as you wake up, or in the evening, while you’re drifting off, focus on your happiest self. This is the person you really are. Build a strong, accurate image, and your RAS will help you shed the garbage.

In the meanwhile, Enjoy the Life you’re living.

How to Reprogram Your Brain for Happiness…(Pt1)

As we talked about last time, your Reticular Activating System can be trained to open your awareness to new opportunities. It’s simple, but it takes time.

” From the day you were born, it’s been programmed with your basic beliefs about life, the world, and yourself. If you believe life is hard, it will filter out anything that says otherwise. If you believe the world is brutal, it does the same thing. So, if you believe your not good enough, too stupid, ugly, it will work to reinforce those beliefs.

“To train it, you have convince it that things are different. That means you have to change your beliefs.

“I am bold. I am brilliant. I am beautiful. I am worthy of all.
I love you.”

“If you’re telling yourself you’re dumb, if you’re telling yourself you’re ugly, if you’re telling yourself you’re not worthy enough to have anything that you want, then that’s going to be your future.”
~Ashley Graham

Recognize and Reboot

Most of us hold an ideal image of ourselves – ten, fifteen, thirty years down the road. It’s the person that we really want to be, but can never quite reach. I want you to understand that you’re already that person.

Yes, that’s what I said. The person that you really want to be already exists within you, you just dont act like it. You’ve picked up so much negative junk from people – parents, teachers, bosses, people who are supposed to know — that you’ve forgotten who you really are.

The key to changing your belief about yourself is to start dropping things that arent true. The very first thing is, I’m not good enough. Usually, the sentence goes something like this –”I’m not good enough because…”

When we boil things down, this is the basis for most of our dissatisfaction. Somehow, sometime, we began to believe it, and it’s wrong. What’s your because?

What about you? Has someone told you that you’re weak? stupid? fat? ugly? skinny? unfocused? unlovable? FORTGET THEM!

Everyone is good enough – We just need to change our expectations. Both my brother and I play the guitar, and he blows me away with his blues. I can carry my own, but he is just plain spectacular. He can do Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Winter, BB King and all those guys. On the other hand, when it comes to folk style fingerpicking, I have him beat. James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg and the rest, he just cant play. Of course, neither of us can do that high energy bluegrass flatpicking.

Here’s the thing – We could each learn any of it. We really are good enough, and we know it. We just choose to focus on what’s working.

Know who you are –  One of the most common things I hear is, “How do I even know who I am, anymore?” My best suggestion is to make a list. You have to be completely honest with yourself, though. Are you an idea person? A math whiz? A painter? Maybe you’re good with words, or you’re a great golfer. Write it all down.

Know who you arent – You also have to look at what’s making you unhappy. This one is a little trickier, because we want to label the symptoms. For example, you might say, “I’m unhappy because I’m out of shape.” The deeper question is, Why does that matter to you? What is missing in your life that you think getting fit is going to change?

Accept the Truth – For over forty years, I lived a false life, built on other people’s standards and beliefs, and it made me miserable. In 2013, it all came down and by 2015 I was praying to die. Unemployed for two years, let down by the people I trusted and loved the most, I felt abandoned and worthless. Every night, I went to bed saying, “God, please let this be the last time.”

In December of 2015, I was talking with someone that I’d recently met, and I told them I was 58 and waiting to die. They asked if I had cancer or some other terminal illness. When I explained, their response brought me up short. “That’s bullshit! You’re gonna spend the next thirty years waiting to die?”

In that moment, I was faced with the truth. I’d been playing the victim, wallowing in my pain, and it was ridiculous. That wasn’t me.

Determine Change — So, I began to work on my self-image, reminding myself of all the good that was in me.

When I did this, my RAS began to allow new information in. I was able to see different options, and this resonated with people around me. New, supportive people came into my life. Opportunities materialized.

Within two years, everything had turned around. I was happy to see the morning. Why? Because I no longer saw myself as a useless loser. I forgave people, became more grateful, and focused on my strengths instead of my failures. In those two years, I dropped the false expectations that I’d picked up from others and was beginning to reveal my authentic self.

Understand, this is not about simply repeating lines every day, although it may begin that way. It’s about truly believing in what a marvelous person you are. When you believe that you are worthy, and smart, and amazing; then amazing things begin to happen.

In my next post, we’ll talk about how to begin. Until then, Enjoy the Life you’re living.

How your brain might be holding you back…Pt2 (science)

In my previous post, I mentioned Napoleon Hill and Maxwell Maltz. These two, along with others, talk a lot about the Subconscious mind, and the power it holds.

In recent years, researchers have discovered where this amazing, yet elusive thing resides. It’s called the Reticular Activating System.

Reticular Activating System

Sounds important, yes? Well, in is. While the name simply means that it’s a web-like structure of neurons that activate something, what makes it important is what it does for you.

The RAS is a web-like structure of neuro-pathways located where your spinal cord meets your brain. It’s responsibilities are to control your level of awakeness, and to filter input from all of your senses, except smell. (Smell goes directly to the emotional center, which we wont talk about today.)

Imagine that you’re in a crowded waiting room. In a corner is a muted television. There is also an aquarium. It’s a warm spring day, so a window is open and a ceiling fan is turning slowly overhead. Behind the sign-in desk, someone is doing paperwork.

As you sit, scanning your phone or reading a magazine, you dont really notice what’s happening on the TV, or the sounds of bubble pumps in the aquarium. The outdoors sounds from the window dont bother you. Neither do the moving shadows from the fan. Shuffling of papers behind the desk are simply part of the background.

Then, in a whispered conversation around a corner, you hear something that sounds like your name. You hadnt noticed the people talking before, but now you’re listening. Are they talking about you, or was it some other word?

That’s your RAS at work. What if it hadnt filtered out all those irrelevant noises? How overwhelming would it be?

In a nutshell, the Reticular Activating System removes unimportant stuff, while notifying you when something important, like your name, comes up. The basic function of this bunch of neurons is to keep your reality as normal as possible, so you dont go crazy.

In the moment, it filters out things that might distract you from your immediate purpose, but in your life, it plays a much bigger role

From the day you were born, it’s been programmed with your deepest beliefs about life, the world, and yourself. If you believe life is hard, it will filter out things that say otherwise. If you believe the world is brutal, it does the same thing. So, if you believe your not good enough, too stupid, ugly, it will work to reinforce those beliefs.

Let me reemphasize that:
Your Reticular Activating System works to support your deepest beliefs about the world, life, and who you are.

That’s why some people seem “lucky”, while others cant seem to catch a break. If you believe that the world is full of opportunities, the RAS is going to open up and send you all kinds of information about opportunities that surround you.

Contrariwise, if you believe that life is a struggle, filled with almost insurmountable obstacles, those are precisely the messages that the RAS is going to reinforce.

See, the RAS just wants things to be normal. What ever that means to you is what it will support. Your core beliefs are what it will protect.

Now comes the interesting part: You can train it.
How does it know what to filter out?

To train it, you have convince it that things are different. That means you have to change your beliefs.

Next time, we’ll talk about what that means (and it has nothing to do with religion).

Thanks for tuning in.


How your brain might be holding you back…Pt 1

…and what you can do about it.

When I was a teen, a series of detrimental events left my father unemployed, unmarried, and broke. He’d been a successful manager in a large computer company and things had snowballed. You know the story.

One winter night, we quietly loaded up a trailer and moved out of our apartment in Denver, and drove to a mobile home park in Oklahoma. It was a stereotypical place, and our trailer was not in good condition, but it didnt leak and the heater worked.

Dad spent his days job searching, and we spent our evenings playing cards around a tiny table in the kitchen. Each of us kids had a bedroom, and Dad slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room.

At one point, I asked him, “Dad, what are we gonna do?”

He looked at me calmly and seriously and said, “I dont know, Son, but I do know that five years from now things will be completely different”, and I believed him.

I grew up in a home where anything was possible. Dad subscribed to the teachings of Napoleon Hill, Maxwell Maltz, and Jesus. If you can imagine a thing, and believe it, you can accomplish it. Selah!

Five years later, he had moved back to Denver and was living in his dream home. He had a new car. He’d also bought my sixteen year old sister a car. He was making more money than he’d ever made, in fact, more money than most people made. He was back in the computer services field as the Western Regional Manager. His territory was everything west of the Mississippi River. I honestly dont know how many people were under his authority.

You see, my father knew the secret of creating his own reality, and he taught it to me.

In the next few posts, I’m going to share that secret with you (and it really isnt a secret).