Nuggets of Wisdom – Insights from Others

I’m changing things up a bit for this Nuggets of Wisdom post. This time, I am sharing insights from some of my favorite inspirational resources along with my reflections on how their wisdom can show up in our daily lives. Let’s jump in:

You know that old adage that “time heals everything“…..well, it simply is not true. As yung pueblo so wisely shares in the above quote, it is not time that heals — it is the courage we muster to stop ignoring and hiding from the obvious. When we know we are not showing up as our best selves, when we keep having the same argument or miscommunication, when we lose our cool or opt to shut down — those are the little warning lights telling us that we need to pay attention to the root cause. From my experience, the pain that yung pueblo refers to has two sides — the unprocessed pain that we bottled up because of a past bad experience AND the pain of showing up now in an inauthentic way. Often we regret how we are showing up in the present moment, because we are “acting out” rather that “working through”. Stuffed emotions, ongoing resentments, and bottled up pain never go away with time alone. Heed the warning lights and lean into your courage. It’s the faster path to self awareness and supporting the better version of who you really want to be.

This quote from Fred Rogers echos the same sentiment that yung pueblo expressed, so I thought it a fitting P.S. to his nugget of wisdom.

Boundaries sometimes conjure up an image of limitations or walls, but they are actually the gateways to treating someone with respect and integrity – in a way that feels very tangible and supportive to them.

Nedra Tawwab is my go-to resource for deeper understanding of the importance of boundaries in healthy relationships of all types. In this post, Nedra provides clear cut examples of what it looks like to respect and accept another’s boundaries.

I’m working on helping my grandchildren learn the benefits of boundaries by using the word “respect” when I respond to their request for privacy, specific help, or even not helping. If my granddaughter tells me that she does not want help with something that I believe may be frustrating her, I respond by telling her that I respect her wish to do it all by herself. This may seem like a small matter yet it is planting the seed of what it feels like to be respected. Here’s an interesting twist that she’s teaching me — She prefers to work through things on her own even if they are a little daunting; then she feels good to have successfully accomplished it independently. This invaluable lesson of resourcefulness, tenacity and personal agency that comes from respecting her boundaries is not lost on me.

At the onset of 2022, I shifted the focus of my blog to helping others discover tools that would best benefit their own self-discovery and personal development journey. The concept of a toolbox really resonates with me and I like the idea each of us customizing our individual toolbox. Just like the toolbox you have for home repairs, you might have some you use often and others that are for speciality jobs. The same is true for the tools we rely on to help us build resilience and emotional agility, cultivate greater self awareness and inner peace, and those that heal and bridge us through times of great adversity.

Yet there is an important caveat that must be mentioned here. We are all better skilled at using these tools and achieving meaningful results if we take the time to understand neuroscience and how our brains operate. It is the very reason I was drawn to Dr. Hanson’s work at the onset of my own personal growth journey. Fortunately there are understandable and relatable resources to help us better understand and utilize the potential of our brains. Check out Peak Mind by Dr. Amishi Jha, Flourish by Dr. Martin Seligman, You, Happier by Dr. Daniel Amen, Hardwiring Happiness by Dr. Rick Hanson and of course, the Being Well Podcast. My recent post entitled Mindfulness: A Brain Game Changer might be a good primer if you want to dip your toes into learning more about neuroscience.

One of the phrases that Dr. Rick Hanson often uses that I find so encouraging is “how are you resourcing yourself?” This question encompasses what we do on a daily basis to support our overall mental well being and what tools we turn to when we hit a rough patch, are overwhelmed or in deep struggle. Our customized toolbox can be chock full of diverse tools to resource ourselves throughout life.

I’m wrapping this post up with yet another nugget of wisdom from yung pueblo because of an uplifting, inspirational conversation I had with my friend, Judy Chesters. It’s no secret that we have supported in each other in many ways over these past 5 years of personal growth work. Mindfulness has been a cornerstone of our inner work and that’s where we both became much more self-aware of armor and baggage that was getting in our way of living in alignment with who we really are. In our recent chat, we were both sharing how much lighter and more expansive we feel now, how we have more clarity, more resilience and inner calm. We have more energy, more fun, more creativity and deeper relationships. Because we know each other so well, it becomes very evident as we swap stories that we are most definitely showing up in much healthier ways these days — and yes we even chuckle at how the former versions of ourselves would have responded.

What got my attention in this quote of yung pueblo’s is how he emphasizes that when we “find ourselves” (and are operating with more mindfulness), we connect with people that add to our radiance (love that word), and move with bold and genuine energy. That is exactly how Judy and I are feeling these days.

In her book, Peak Mind, Dr. Amishi Jha highlights that when we are living mindfully and are more skilled at focusing our attention in the present moment, our experiences are amplified (another awesome word). Things feel brighter, louder and crisper. Judy and I have discovered that memories of our experiences have been enriched with smells, sensations, the feel of a tiny warm hand in ours, colors and textures, the twinkle in someone’s eye. You cannot capture these sensory details in a photo….but they are strongly imprinted with our experience when we have been fully present in the moment.

All these nuggets of wisdom may seem to be unrelated, but they are actually stepping stones on the personal development journey. Time doesn’t heal, doing the work is what heals. Boundaries help us show each other how we want to be treated, and serve as a reminder to ourselves of our value and what we need to flourish. We benefit from having a toolbox to resource ourselves with daily self-care and to support us through challenging times. And the light at the end of the tunnel — well that is where you find yourself living more mindfully, more present and engaged, in alignment with who you truly are. You will find friends and like-minded souls on your self discovery journey. They will scaffold you, hold space for you and celebrate your progress.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

Understanding Stress: Causes, Biology, & How to Become Resilient

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsPtfBYkgeA

Dr. Daniel Amen – TEDxOrangeCoast: Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLKj1puoWCg

Nuggets of Wisdom — Unlearning & Relearning

When I began my self-discovery and personal growth journey six years ago, I had no idea where it would be leading me — and I am extremely grateful for the path it has become. What excites and inspires me is the ground-breaking research that is shedding light on old myths that have contributed to unhealthy multi-generational family dynamics and stunted our own personal growth efforts. In this post, I will highlight some of the key shifts that are having transformational impacts in self-development, mental health and personal growth.

Many of us grew up with the belief that vulnerability was weakness. So naturally we tried our best to hide and mask our own vulnerabilities in an effort to protect ourselves. Our blind spot around vulnerability was most likely in the way we responded to others who showed us theirs — we’d recoil, dismiss or diminish what they shared with us. Weakness was to be avoided at all costs.

Brene Brown’s extensive research on vulnerability spans over two decades and volumes of data. What she reveals is that across cultures, most of us grew up with this false belief that vulnerability was weakness — and at the same time, we were told to be brave. This created a tension that made so sense. Being brave requires courage — and we can’t get to courage without leaning in, and exposing, our vulnerabilty. Hard stop.

Brene has long professed that vulnerability is the key to deep, meaningful connections with others. Author and activist, Dr. Shawn Ginwright drives this point home with a powerful image:

“Vulnerability is the portal for deep connection with another.”

I believe that vulnerability and trust go hand in hand. This heartbreaking misconception about vulnerability being weakness may be a huge contributing factor to the breakdown of trust in family dynamics. Children who do not feel safe will carry mistrust with them into adulthood along with the armor they use to hide their vulnerabilities. Brene cautions us that we often don’t believe the stories others tells us about their experiences, which leads to more disconnection, withdrawal and an innate lack of trust.

Vulnerability is not weakness – it is in fact the greatest measure of courage. On both sides of this coin, we can become more aware of this truth and drop the old, harmful belief. We can learn to respond to vulnerability — our own and others – with respect, empathy, non-judgment and a desire to learn more. We will cultivate more heroes than victims of our own stories with this one transformational shift.

Here is a thread that runs from what we are re-learning about vulnerabilty to what we also can re-learn about regret. When author Dan Pink was working on his latest book, The Power of Regret, he was rather astonished to discover that when he openly shared his heartfelt stories of his own regrets, his friends did not recoil — they actually leaned in. There was an exchange of similar stories and shared humanity. Those conversations led him to do several years of research about how we got regret all wrong. Living a life with no regrets means living a life without any reflection, without extracting the invaluable life lessons meant to help us along our path.

Dan Pink discovered that when others opened up and risked being vulnerable about their regrets, their insights revealed what they valued most in their lives. Not surprisingly, as we age, what we value most becomes crystallized. In this case, hindsight was truly 20/20 and most regrets were about thing people DIDN’T do rather than things they did — the missed opportunities and risks they didn’t take because of fear, insecurities or perceived judgments.

Vulnerability and regret are like two missing pieces of a bigger puzzle. Dr. Shawn Ginwright explains that we can’t move from transactional relationships to transformational relationships without vulnerability because there is no emotional risk, nothing is at stake. Transformational relationships help us evolve into our better selves; these are the people willing to hold up a mirror for us and encourage us to grow — especially from our life experiences.

Let me share my favorite example of a transformational relationship — being a parent. Reflect for a moment on how your role as a parent evolves as your infant moves from toddler to teen. There is no greater example of how deeply our shared vulnerabilty with our child forges a bond that cannot easily be diminished or disconnected. When our kids are teenagers, we often use regrettable moments as a tool for helping them gain some agency around their choices and a foothold on creating their personal values.

I love Angela Duckworth’s body of work around resiliency and grit — and guess what, it dovetails right into vulnerability and regret. Angela says we don’t learn well when there’s no feedback.

Feedback from others is something that often feels like a hit to our ego, so naturally we prefer to avoid or ignore it.

Yet if the feedback is coming from someone we respect and is offered as a “mirror” for personal growth, then we should be grateful — and lean in. Feedback, like regret, is another tool for learning. Those people who offer us insightful feedback may be the ones we can develop a transformational relationship with — those who will help us do our most meaningful “mirror” work.

One way to get more comfortable with feedback is to ask for it. There’s no doubt this will foster your willingness to choose courage over comfort. And, you will be setting a good example for others:

“Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better, and the world a little braver.” –Brene Brown

One of the most revelational breakthroughs has been around emotions. We are emotional beings and yet we rarely tap into the wisdom that our wide range of emotions offers to us. We may have been taught as children not to express our emotions; we may have learned to stuff them and power through hard times; we may be triggered by them and then act on them, often with poor outcomes.

While we often talked about emotional regulation, the focus was more on trying to navigate around our emotions than accepting them, feeling and honoring them, and gaining the knowledge they offered. As more research rolls out from behavioral scientists, neuroscientists, psychologists and social work experts, we are recognizing that emotions are not the problem — it is unprocessed emotions that cause lingering and long-term issues.

In Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown integrates so much research of her own and others, to open us up to a brand new way of thinking about — and learning from — our EMOTIONS.

Emotions are neither right nor wrong, good or bad. Each and every one has some intrinsic value that is a part of our full life experience.

In Atlas of the Heart, Brene gives us a resource guide for 87 emotions and experiences that are common to most of us. She shows us “where we go” emotionally with so many relatable events that happen in our lives. Best yet, she gives us an expanded emotional vocabulary to help us name them, process them and learn the lessons from them. Her research revealed that we often just dumped our emotions into one of 3 buckets — happy, sad or angry. There is no way that we were ever going to be able to untangle ourselves from the complexity of our many emotions without a bigger vocabulary and greater discernment.

Imagine the transformation that can occur in just one generation when we embrace these breakthroughs — recognizing vulnerabilty as a measure of strength and courage; gaining invaluable life lessons from regret and reflection; and accepting and honoring all our emotions, processing them in real time (rather than ignoring or stuffing). Imagine how freeing it will be for younger generations to move through life without heavy armor and emotional baggage. What if we came to see ourselves as heroes of our own stories rather than victims of an old narrative? All of these breakthroughs in how we relate to vulnerabilty, to regret and feedback, and to our vast emotional landscape are the maps we can use to grow forward.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

My recent blog post — What We Got Wrong About Vulnerability

https://inspirednewhorizons.com/2022/02/26/what-we-got-wrong-about-vulnerability/

Another recent blog post – Regret and Reflection

https://inspirednewhorizons.com/2022/02/17/regret-and-reflection/

This very recent episode touches on so much that I have shared in this post — especially about processing emotions in healthy ways and learning from failure — such relatable sound advice https://www.rickhanson.net/being-well-podcast-learning-to-cope-with-failure/

The Transformational Power of an Apology

Some of the greatest gifts that come from a sincere apology are the release of pain, the freeing of false or limiting beliefs, and true clarity about the events and behaviors that were often made very murky by big emotions. An apology offers these healing gifts to both the Giver and the Receiver.

A recent conversation with my book club about an emotional episode of This is Us revealed just how many of us have been impacted by apologies that were never offered.

I’m talking about the kinds of apologies that could shift an entire family dynamic in a dramatic and positive way.

The recent This is Us episode entitled “Don’t Let Me Keep You“, is a case study for dysfunctional family dynamics — and how it sets into motion adaptive behavioral patterns to navigate volatile home environments. As I watched Jack’s dad causing so much pain for his wife and his two sons his children due to alcohol addiction and unchecked anger, I could literally feel my own emotions rising up to match those of his wife and children. The empathy and sadness I felt for them came from my own lived experiences — for I have been both the child and later a spouse in emotionally volatile family dynamics. Many of my friends had similar lived experiences. This episode of This is Us brought many memories to the surface where we shared our emotional stories with each other. We also explored how the trajectory of our lives might have changed had we received a transformational apology.

There was a poignant moment in that TV show when Jack is giving his eulogy at his mother’s funeral and he stated the raw truth that resonated so deeply with me and my friends — “no matter how far away you move, no matter how old you get and how much you rebuild a new life for yourself, a piece of that childhood story stays with you forever.”

I thought about the power that Jack’s dad had to release that whole family from so much fear, pain and trauma. If he’d owned his bad behavior and addressed his demons, he would have helped himself, his wife and children — and freed them from dragging around so much baggage that hung like a dark cloud over their lives for decades. He could have saved his marriage. He could never have lost the lifetime of chances to be a loving, supportive father to his sons. He could have known his three grandchildren.

“Apologize to your children. Children have a strong sense of justice and suffer when a parent’s defensiveness invalidates what the child knows to be true.” — Harriett Lerner

Jack’s dad stayed mired in his addiction and old story for his entire life — estranged for all those decades from his family.

Jack’s mom spent most of her life living in fear, always looking over her shoulder wary that she was not safe. She sacrificed being the kind of mom she really wanted to be for her young children, trying her best to protect them from harm while she herself was constantly in harms way, both emotionally and physically. Later in life, when Jack was a young adult, he rescued his mom. He moved her out of the house and her abusive marriage. I imagine she felt ashamed for needing her son in this way. She probably did not want to be a burden and we see their mother-son relationship devolve to once a week, brief and awkward phone calls. (Hence the title of this episode — “Don’t Let Me Keep You“) Even when she visits Jack and Rebecca and their three babies years later, she is uneasy. She fears that Jack’s dad will know she is there and show up and she is scared. The chasm in her relationship with her son, Jack, creates so much unspoken tension. All the things that they have swept under the carpet for decades makes for a very lumpy, bumpy mother-son dynamic. Both of them needing each other and neither knowing how to express it. They never really find their way back to each other.

Another poignant moment in Jack’s eulogy was when he shared in a very vulnerable way the hard life they had with his dad — and that “they were just doing the best they could.” This was the moment that broke me, warm tears streaming down my face. One man’s hurtful actions put into motion a chain reaction of heartaches and emotional roadblocks for his family. They were “doing the best they could” in an unhealthy environment. How would their lives have been different had Jack’s dad held himself accountable for his toxic behaviors?

Imagine the unhealthy behavioral patterns and protective armor that Jack and his mom adopted out of necessity. As Jack so openly acknowledged, even when they changed their environments, the scars from their lived experiences stayed with them always.

If you are a fan of This is Us, then you know that Jack later struggled with alcohol. He was in constant conflict of trying to numb his pain (both past and present) and not wanting to become his dad. Jack’s younger brother, Nicky, also struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, with big insecurities and low self-esteem. He led a very troubled life for years. Addictions are often passed from one generation to another. So are the unhealthy behavioral patterns we develop to keep us safe. Children are like sponges, soaking up what they watch their parents do. How parents “show up” for each other and their children forges their own patterns.

What causes people to hurt others in such obvious ways and never offer an apology?

Surely they must know in their hearts that their actions caused a lot of suffering (including their own, no doubt). Jack’s dad had to know this. He had to have some awareness of all the collateral damage to his family.

Apologies matter. Accountability matters. Both can change the course of our lives.

I have lived and witnessed this same unfortunate scenario in my own family — and I see the lingering emotional baggage as well as limiting, false beliefs instilled in innocent people. Another’s hurtful behaviors deeply impacted lives, disrupted parental and sibling relationships, and strained family dynamics.

It made my parenting job harder. I was left to mend a heart I didn’t break, rebuild self-esteem I didn’t shatter, and the most challenging of all — instill and maintain TRUST. Trust is the strongest glue of relationships and when it has been broken repeatedly, it takes a Herculean effort to re-establish and repair the damage. In my child’s case, the lingering lifetime impact will always be repeatedly testing relationships for trust.

I sometimes imagine what a genuine apology would have meant to members of my family decades ago. I imagine the healing that could have come from such a gift. What memories we would have made together without so much baggage and conflict. How we could have supported each other through adversities in meaningful ways.

It is human nature to feel very vulnerable when we know we’ve hurt someone. We want to avoid those feelings of remorse, guilt, shame. But hiding from them, or sweeping them under the carpet, will not make them fade away, or even loosen their grip.

This may be hard to believe, but it is true: The fastest route to releasing those painful emotions deep within us is a heartfelt, meaningful apology. And a timely apology will also save a lot of heartache and pain.

When we have been hurt, we usually create a false narrative to help us make sense of what happened to us. Those false narratives have deep roots in our personal history. We may inadvertently double down on our feelings of unworthiness, or of being unloved or not valued. We may become unnecessarily freaked out or distrusting. Someone else’s hurtful actions can trigger our insecurities and old stories. It’s so hard not to get entangled in all of that emotional baggage. This is one of the most prevalent reasons it is invaluable for apologies to be timely. A swift, meaningful apology can stop that emotional snowball from rolling down a very slippery slope.

Apologies that are never forthcoming can deepen the scars of our lived experiences.

It’s no wonder that we can get snagged on the broken parts of our life stories. Many times what we believe to be true gets reinforced through similar situations that often play out the same. Many unhealthy behavioral patterns we developed in childhood could have been avoided with a meaningful apology and honest accountability by the adults in our lives.

The lessons we can learn from this insightful episode of This is Us — and from our own lived experiences — is that awareness, accountability and apologies can make an empowering transformational difference in family dynamics.

Cultivating self-awareness helps us recognize when we are defaulting to old behavioral patterns that no longer serve us well and are not needed for the life we are now living. We can free ourselves from being entangled in our old stories and have agency over how we respond to others and to circumstances. We can step out of old patterns and into alignment with our own core values.

As we become more self-aware, we more naturally cultivate more empathy and “other” awareness too. This helps us show up for others in more mature, calm and relatable ways. It becomes easier to “treat others as you would like to be treated.” There will always be conflicts and disagreements, and they can be discussed and resolved with dignity and respect.

Accountability is such a huge part of healthy relationships. BrenĂ© Brown has brought to our attention that we often don’t hold others accountable because of our own discomfort. To get over that hurdle, begin implementing boundaries as a powerful tool for making clear what matters most to you — and what you need in order for a relationship to work.

Too often, we fear speaking up and asking for our needs to be met, so we just accept other’s behavior — until we reach the breaking point. By that time, the relationship can rarely be salvaged. Nedra Tawwab teaches us if someone expresses a boundary to us, it is a clear sign that the relationship matters to them and they have a strong desire to repair it. Think about that the next time someone expresses their boundary to you. It’s a great gauge of how committed you are to someone.

We can’t let our fear or discomfort keep us from holding others accountable for how they are impacting our quality of life. There are consequences for bad behavior and hurtful actions. Who is paying the price of those consequences?

A sincere apology has the power to heal and strengthen a relationship. Dr. Dan Siegel calls this “rupture and repair”. We are bound to make mistakes, for we are human. When we know we messed up, hurt someone or could have handled a situation better, it is time to apologize. An earnest apology shows that you care about the other person and about the relationship. An apology that is backed up with changed behavior becomes solid foundational webbing that builds trust.

Rupture without repair leads to a deepening sense of disconnection. As Dr. Seigel explains, if ruptures continue and they are not dealt with, it will affect a person’s sense of self. This is precisely why those apologies that are never offered create so much collateral damage. That lingering collateral damage can follow us far into adulthood.

Even if two people agree that they are no longer compatible and that their friendship, marriage, parental or sibling relationship should end — apologies are in order and can go a long way for both parties to heal.

Personal accountability for actions and behaviors reveals our character and core values. When we own our mistakes, it’s a sign of maturity and awareness. If we choose to work on change, it is a sign of a commitment to learning from our experiences.

There is incredible transformational power in a genuine, heartfelt apology. Imagine a brighter future for our young children if we can launch them into adulthood without unnecessary, undeserved emotional baggage.

“The best apologies are short and don’t go on to include explanations that run the risk of undoing them. An apology isn’t the only chance you ever get to address the underlying issue. The apology is the chance. you get to establish the ground for future communication. This is an important, and often overlooked, distinction.” — Harriett Lerner

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

This “grab bag” episode of questions from Being Well listeners touches on so many of the questions most of us have about family dynamics, making big financial decisions, and healing from painful childhood experiences https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xAd4-KXrUQ&t=2279s

Check out this episode of The Happiness Lab to learn about “guilt” and how it can very insightful in understanding how our actions and even emotions — can impact others:

https://www.happinesslab.fm/2022-new-year-mini-season/when-guilt-is-good-and-when-its-not

Greater Good Science Center, Berkley, CA:

Article and Video on Making An Effective Apology https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/making_an_effective_apology