When bad things have happened

If you have had a traumatic experience, or have avoided dealing with an upsetting topic or situation that has plagued or worried you for years, there is an effective fix that can get you on the road to recovery. It is called expressive writing and works like this:

  1. Commit 20 minutes a day – for 4 consecutive days
  2. Then in a quiet, private place, and write for 20 minutes a day for 4 consecutive days
    • Make it personal and private
    • Ignore grammar and misspellings
    • Be honest – are you happy ,sad, glad, mad or all of the above?
    • Be reflective not corrective (Don’t try to fix what is bothering you but rather write about what is bothering you.)
    • Only write about what you can handle thinking about – sometimes dealing with a fresh hurt or pain is too intense.
  3. Optional step: Write about same topic from the perspective of others involved . . . tricky but helpful, if you choose to do so.

notebook-731212__180Expressive writing is a concrete action, which is a much better way to deal with problems and challenges than ignoring them and ruminating about the dark situations and sides of our lives. For a video about emotional writing, and additional instructions and insights on how to do it, click here.

Research shows that emotional writing may leave you feeling sad immediately after you write (This is similar to how a sad movie might make you feel.), or you may cry while writing; both are normal and okay.  But, if writing  causes you major distress, simply stop and try again at another time when you feel more ready to explore your feelings.

Expressive writing will leave you feeling happier and healthier. Studies show the positive effects can impact immune functions and last for months and maybe even a lifetime, if you continue the writing as needed.

Pick up a pen and paper, find a cozy spot and write to change your life. It’s free, takes very little time, and may reward you with peace of mind and a much more positive perspective on life.

James W Pennebaker, Ph.D., and Professor at University of Texas at Austin is a leader in the research on this topic. Click here to visit his web page and learn more on the topic.

1 spot open in the Autumn Joy Club

41VXCK7WTGL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

No commissions – I just really love the book!

Wishful Thinking Works came about in part because of a book I would like to share with you this fall – Martha Beck’s “The Joy Diet”.

Martha is a well-known author and life coach, who has been featured on Oprah’s shows and in Oprah magazine for more than a decade. She has a simple, no nonsense approach to change, which she outlines in “The Joy Diet”.  I first opened her book in 2003, and have read it many times since then. It truly helped me create the life I really wanted. I believe it can do the same for you.

I have put together “The Autumn Joy Club” to work with 10 folks who truly want to bring more joy into their lives.

We will be meeting via free telephone conference Thursday nights at 7 p.m. for 1 hour and fifteen minutes each week beginning September 15 and ending October 13.

• This free, action-oriented club is limited to a total of 10 members, so only sign-up, if you truly want change in your life and you are ready for action!  (There is only 1 space reserved for Wishful Thinking Works blog readers  – so sign-up today!) 

 The club requires commitment and dedication – you will not only be reading the first five chapters of “The Joy Diet”, you will be integrating the steps into your life.  It’s hard work, but the kind that when you are done you feel proud of yourself and better for it.

• The key is working the steps, without action change won’t take place.

Are you game? Would you like to bring more joy into your life? Does change scare you? Good then you are the perfect candidate for our Wishful Thinking Works Autumn Joy Club!

Beck’s approach is fun and simple. The hardest step for me was #1, but that is also the step that had the biggest impact on my life, and led me on a journey inside myself and around the world.

There will be times that you will feel like you are on a roller coaster and want to get off, but the joy, courage and confidence you’ll get from sticking with it are well worth the ride! I know, because I have ridden the very same coaster, and it changed my life!

Martha shares her clear-cut steps and tells you how to combine them for the biggest impact, and then she kicks you out of the nest, trusting you will figure it all out – and you will as a member of the Wishful Thinking Works Autumn Joy Club. I will be there to offer tips, insights, and encouragement and you will learn from each other as you go.

So if you are serious about creating more joy in your life and ready to make the commitment that takes – join away. 

  • To join, please send me an email at wishfulthinkingworks@gmail.com with a few sentences about yourself and why you would like to be part of our group. I will notify you via email to confirm you are in.
  • We will be using freeconferencecall.com – there may be a charge for international callers, please review their web site if you will be calling from outside the United States.
  • Please do not sign-up, if your are not committed to reading a chapter a week and integrating change into your life. I takes time, and you need to be ready to change.

Once you receive confirmation that you are in, please purchase the book in the format you prefer, you can get it online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.  Read the preface and Chapter 1 before we get started on September 15! (Told you the group is action oriented!) Before we begin, you will receive an outline explaining what we will be covering each week and details on how to connect to our free conference call.

The rest is up to you, go for the joy!

Warm regards,

Patrice

PS I am so excited that I will be attending a Martha Beck workshop in September – can’t wait! I will have lots of new info to share.

Are you ready? Life could be better  . . . Wishful Thinking Works Life Coaching

Visit Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook for posts and updates.

 “Like” Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook.

An even fuller, full circle

About 15 years ago, I began gently and patiently exploring how to create the life I really wanted. I slowed down, stepped back a bit from the life I was leading, began asking myself lots of questions and then, really listened to my answers. The process helped me decide how I wanted my life to look and feel, and I’ve been living my life that way ever since.

bitola-hills-looking-toward-pelister-1-1-079a.jpgMy journey has taken me many places. First stop was an honest look inside myself – the toughest journey of all. I hired a life coach to help me with that. I then used the support and insights I gained to help me create the life I really wanted, which led me to three exciting years as a volunteer with the United States Peace Corps in Macedonia.

It was there that my journey came full circle, when I realized that when we change ourselves, we change the world. And, not necessarily by making major life changes, but by believing change is possible. When you accept that change is possible, others will too, and then all sorts of doors will open – for everyone. That’s how Wishful Thinking Works.

This blog, Wishful Thinking Works: Create the life you really want, is part of my journey. I share what I’ve learned, what I enjoy, what I’m discovering and what lies ahead. I’m glad you have joined me. I also share great photos and information about my time in Macedonia (Search Macedonia for more.), the Republic of Georgia (Search Georgia for more.) and other volunteers’ experiences in the Peace Corps (Search Peace Corps for more.).

Since my first Peace Corps experience, I became a certified life coach, served two additional assignments as a United States Peace Corps Response Volunteer, spent a month volunteering at a Benedictine monastery, was the Director of Corporate Training and Continuing Education at a state college in Florida and married the man of my dreams in 2015 after enjoying the single life for 18 years! We now split our time living on two islands that vary greatly in size – Fort Myers Beach, Florida and Long Island.

And, today are I am thrilled to be back in Bitola, Macedonia as part of our month long honeymoon! Dan has enlarged the circle, making it even fuller – how fun to share the country I love with him. We will spend time in Macedonia visiting wonderful friends and enjoying its laid back and ancient beauty, then we are off to explore Venice, Italy, relax on a beach in Albania and go sightseeing in Greece, but we will return to Macedonia and dear friends after each side trip!

I hope to post lots of new photos, along the way!

среќен пат,

Happy journey!

Patrice Robson (Koerper)

WTW Dandelion

 “Like” Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook.

For free resources to help you create the life you really want, click here.

Wishful Thinking Works Life Coaching . . . Are you ready? Life could be even better.

 

How to Love More by Caring Less by Martha Beck

201107-omag-dont-care-1-600x411

Yesterday, while waiting to meet a friend for dinner I found myself at loose ends. I was hungry because I had skipped lunch, tired from a busy, but not very productive day, and I had been feeling generally out-of-sorts for a day or two. I’d stopped at the American Corner in Bitola, Macedonia, where I am currently stationed as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, to visit two of my friends working there, when I blurted out, “I’m bored!”

My exclamation surprised me. I’m seldom bored, and if I am, I’m even less likely to blurt it out  the way I just had and I was in the middle of my third and a pretty amazing Peace Corps assignment, what did I have to be bored about? After I laughed at myself for being so blunt, I walked over to the magazine shelf and grabbed three copies of “O” magazine. (American Corner’s are American information centers throughout the world; they’re mini-libraries, so they are well-stocked with English-language magazines, books and resource materials.) I opened the “O” with the cover that most appealed to me, and soon found myself absorbed in the open paragraphs of a Martha Beck article from a July 2011 issue.

My hunger and boredom faded as my interest grew, and I was soon laughing out loud as I read how Martha solved a coaching dilemma by blurting something out loud to a client.

As I read on, I realized there was a reason that I was where I was, reading Beck’s article. I’ve copied her article in it’s entirety, something I don’t often do, because it gave me a new perspective on a situation I’d been thinking a lot about lately and was likely the source of my ennui. Beck’s words helped me get over myself and realize there was a better way to handle the situation that was on my mind, and I thought her article was a great companion piece for the “Forgive” post I wrote a few days ago. I hope you enjoy it, too. (PS Beck’s article also let me find a way to work the word “ennui” into a post, which for me is a great boredom buster in and of itself! Oh, yes, and the one you may have to love unconditionally could be you!)

“How to Love More by Caring Less

How do you get your nearest and dearest to change their behavior? Simple: Stop giving a damn what they do, says Martha Beck.”

“Now my whole family is abusing me!” said Loretta, a client at a women’s resource center where I volunteered back in the ’90s. “If I leave my husband, it’ll just be out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

“Are you—” I cut myself off before finishing my thought, which was, “Are you crazy?” Just the week before, I’d participated in an intervention where Loretta’s family had urged her to leave her battering husband, Rex. Each person had expressed enormous love for and protectiveness toward Loretta. Now she thought they were all abusers? Huh?

“They’re just like Rex,” she said. “You saw it. They judge me. They criticize me. Nothing I do is enough for them.”

I opened my mouth, then closed it. Opened then closed it again. I kept that up for about a minute, like a perplexed goldfish, as I groped for the right thing to say. It killed me that Loretta was interpreting her family’s desire to rescue her as criticism and judgment. But even as I tried to come up with the kindest possible phrasing for “What the hell is wrong with you?” I knew my question would come across like a slap.

That’s when it dawned on me that Loretta had a point. No, her family wasn’t abusing her the way Rex did—and yet in its own way, their treatment of her must have felt like an attack. They weren’t accepting her as she was. They needed her to change. They raised their voices, made demands, pushed hard. And their intense negative emotions were triggering her fear and defensiveness.

It was in the midst of processing all this that I suddenly heard myself say, “Well, Loretta, I just love you. I don’t care what happens to you.”

The statement shocked me as it left my lips. But even as I mentally smacked myself upside the head, a funny thing happened: Loretta visibly relaxed. I could feel my own anxiety vanishing, too, leaving a quiet space in which I could treat Loretta kindly. It was true—I really didn’t care what happened to her. No matter what she did, I wouldn’t love her one bit less.

Since then I’ve found that loving without caring is a useful approach—I’d venture to say the best approach—in most relationships, especially families. If you think that’s coldhearted, think again. It may be time you let yourself love more by caring less.

Next: How does it work?
Detached Attachment

To care for someone can mean to adore them, feed them, tend their wounds. But care can also signify sorrow, as in “bowed down by cares.” Or anxiety, as in “Careful!” Or investment in an outcome, as in “Who cares?” The word love has no such range of meaning: It’s pure acceptance. Watching families like Loretta’s taught me that caring—with its shades of sadness, fear, and insistence on specific outcomes—is not love. In fact, when care appears, unconditional love often vanishes.

When my son was first diagnosed with Down syndrome, I cared so much that my fear for his future overshadowed my joy at his existence. Now that I couldn’t care less how many chromosomes the kid has, I can love him boundlessly. For you, loving without caring might mean staying calm when your sister gets divorced, or your dad starts smoking again, or your husband is laid off. You may think that in such situations not getting upset would be unloving. But consider: If you were physically injured, bleeding out, would you rather be with someone who screamed and swooned, or someone who stayed calm enough to improvise a tourniquet? Real healing, real love comes from people who are both totally committed to helping—and able to emotionally detach.

This is because, on an emotional level, our brains are designed to mirror one another. As a result, when we’re anxious and controlling, other people don’t respond with compliance; they reflect us by becoming—press the button when you get the right answer—anxious and controlling. Anger elicits anger, fear elicits fear, no matter how well meaning we may be. When Loretta’s family insisted she leave Rex, she insisted on staying. When I told her I loved her without caring what happened, she mirrored my relaxation. That’s when she began to request and absorb the advice I was now welcome to give.

Free to Be…Carefree

If you want to try loving without caring—and by now I hope you do—here’s how to get there. Just be sure to buckle up. This may be a bumpy ride.

1. Choose a Subject
Think of a person you love, but about whom you feel some level of anxiety, anger, or sadness.

2. Identify What This Person Must Change to Make You Happy
Think about how your loved one must alter herself or her behavior before you can be content. Complete the sentence below by filling in the name of your loved one, the thing(s) you want this person to change, and the way you’d feel if the change occurred:

If _______ would only _______, then I could feel _______.

3. Accept a Radical Reality
Now scratch out the first clause of the sentence you just wrote, so all that remains is:

I could feel _______.

That last sentence, oh best beloved, is the truth. It is the whole truth. Yes, your loved one’s cooperation would be lovely, but you don’t absolutely need it to experience any given emotional state. This is incredibly hard to accept—it would be so easy to feel good if others would just do what we want, right? Nevertheless, you can feel sane even if your crazy-making brother stays crazy. You can feel peaceful even if your daughter robs a bank. If Helen Keller could write, after growing up deaf and blind, “I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad,” then you can find a way to be happy even if your mother never does stop correcting your grammar.

Accepting that this is possible—that you can achieve a given emotional state even if a loved one doesn’t conform to your wishes—is the key step to loving without caring. I’m not saying that such acceptance will make you instantly content. Creating ways to be happy is your life’s work, a challenge that won’t end until you die. We’ll come back to that in a minute. For now, the goal is just to try believing, or merely hoping, that even if all your loved ones remain toxically insane forever, it’s still possible you’ll find opportunities to thrive and joys to embrace.

4. Shift Your Focus from Controlling Your Loved One’s Behavior to Creating Your Own Happiness
When I make this suggestion to my clients, they tend to take umbrage. “I always focus on creating my own happiness!” they insist. “That’s precisely why I’m trying to get my grandchildren to visit, and my cat to stop biting, and Justin Bieber to engage with me in a mutually rewarding exchange of personal e-mails!”

Best of luck with that. Because as AA or any other 12-step group will tell you, sanity begins the moment you admit you’re powerless over other people. This is the moment you become mentally free to start trying new ideas, building new relationships, experimenting to see what situations feel better than the hopeless deadlock of depending on change from someone you can’t control.

Again, this is a lifelong project, a game of “You’re getting warmer; you’re getting colder” that stops only when you do. But the focus shift that helps you stop caring is like a little dance (drop hope of changing significant other, embrace determination to find alternative sources of peace and joy, step-ball-change) that immediately, reliably diverts your energy toward happiness and unconditional love.

Next: What’s the payoff?
The Payoff

Once we’d established that I didn’t care what happened to Loretta, our work together finally became productive. In a follow-up family session, I had each relative tell all the others, “I love you unconditionally—I don’t care what happens to you.” We discussed ways in which each of them might begin creating personal happiness, regardless of Loretta’s actions. And as the focus shifted off her, Loretta felt less pressured, less harried, more respected. Smiles and hugs appeared in place of tension and tears.

Supported by her loving, uncaring family, Loretta eventually triumphed: She left Rex, got a job, and found a healthier mate. As you support your significant others, they may realize this same spectacular success. Or not. You can be happy either way, so what do you care? You have the freedom to live and let live, to love and let love. Granting yourself that freedom is one of the healthiest, most constructive things you can do for yourself and the people who matter to you. And if you disagree, I truly, respectfully, lovingly do not care.

Martha Beck is the author of six books, including Steering by Starlight (Rodale).

%d bloggers like this: