The Path to Improve Motivation Requires Being Authentic

Motivation seems illusive for so many people. Motivation isn’t simply being positive. Don’t falsely perky waitresses drive you crazy because it’s really all about being trained to sell an upgrade; there is nothing real about it. I contend that motivation has to be real in some way.

Passion can be difficult for people to locate within themselves. Those who have passion use it to leapfrog over their anxiety & fear. Within passion lurks one key to motivation; something needs to matter.

I think a lot of people cop-out of caring about something because they want to play it safe. So another part of motivation is being able to have enough courage take a risk. It also means accepting failure is a part of growing & learning, instead of trying to avoid it.

I’m using the you-tube jelly bean video above because it’s clear there is less time than you imagine. I think that’s pretty motivating all by itself. You don’t have to wait until you are in your 60’s or a good friend dies of cancer to recognize what you do with your time matters.

How do we motivate ourselves to do things we don’t want to do? You have to decide you want to be independent, responsible & a grown up. Growing up is honestly facing painful situations. One example: it’s important to figure out how to live within our means whether we want to or not.

Emotions can manipulate you into “precious” belief systems that interfere with being a grown up. Feelings are not the true north of an internal compass; it’s what you do with your feelings that matters. Feeling entitled to spend money however you want is not ok.

People-pleasers are not motivated to tell the truth in relationships. Their motivation is to be liked by others & hide anything dark or disagreeable. How to wrestle with this emotional motivation that ultimately destroys intimacy in relationships? You have to decide you can face being a disappointment to someone else because that is a part of all honest relationships.

Let’s take another example of a troublesome emotion that can interfere with motivation: Anger. The motivation of anger in general is self-protection because of hurt. So ask yourself what is the opposite of anger? Acceptance.

Accept that hurt is usually a part of the equation in relationships. Hanging on too long to anger can lead to bitterness, a dangerous path. I would be very motivated not to end up bitter.

It is up to you to decide what is worth it? I would find purpose in wanting to manage my $ better or to give up people-pleasing to be more authentic. I would want to end my days with being able to manage my emotions to be the best person I am capable of being.

I was inspired to write this article by a NY Times article titled “The Problem with Positive Thinking” The author explains how to set a goal & improve motivation by balancing your picture of success with an honest assessment of obstacles.


Feel Overwhelmed by Emotions? You are Not Alone!

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Feeling overwhelmed by feelings with no clue how to manage them is at the core of addiction problems. A central problem of anxiety is being to easily swamped by fears. In depression it is feeling devastated by despair & hopelessness.

Many people are overpowered by their anger as evidenced by the news reports of Alec Baldwin. The intrusiveness of obsessiveness can wreck many people’s lives as evidenced by women who compare themselves unfavorably to everyone else. Perfectionists suffer from a persistent feeling that they are never enough and torture themselves needlessly.

There are soooo many ways to be confused & overwhelmed by feelings, how do you cope or control them?

*The first step is to accept it is totally possible to think & feel at the same time. This would mean deciding not to let feelings take up all the space.
*The second step is to become suspicious of feelings; they are not an inner compass but often, exaggerated & very manipulative.
*The third step is to make a choice to think through your feelings. This means taking time out of your jam-packed life to develop a new habit.

An example: You feel like you are not good enough for your partner. You’ve been dating for 3 years & you want commitment, they seem happy the way it is. This feeling leads you to despair because your Mom left the family home & you behind when you were 12. So when you are with your partner, you start putting up walls & seem easily irritated because they are not choosing you. When you are alone you feel hopeless & in despair.

So thinking all this through it seems clear you need to take some action & not do a big emotional dump that only leads to a dead-end. “OK 1. I’m feeling sensitive due to my past & it’s not their job to make that up to me. 2. 3 years is a good amount of time. Do I want to ask them to decide or free me up to find someone else, not as a threat but as a reasonable conclusion to spending all this time together. 3. Is commitment really important to me, after all?”

THINK THROUGH YOUR FEELINGS is how you control your emotions instead of letting them run rough shod all over you.

Learn about feelings and think of them as tools available to you in the emotional tool box. Even anger when you are in control can be constructive. Consider the opposite of each feeling as a way to get a grip. The opposite of anger is being vulnerable. Anger is self protective which is the opposite of vulnerability.

Another example: the opposite of FEAR is ????? Fear & excitement always travel together. So push & shove your mind to potential excitement in whatever you are afraid of because they are both present, whether or not it feels that way.

Guilt is one emotion that, similar to fear, people allow to run amuck. I am amazed at how people can feel guilty about trying to set reasonable boundaries with an intrusive parent or saying no instead of their usual knee-jerk yes. Here is one way to think more clearly about guilt: When guilt is reasonable it is accurate about an obligation. When someone wants too much from you then it is really unreasonable and the truth is you feel resentful but being nice is too important so you swallow your guilt and then it eats at you from within.

There is a lot of information about emotions on the emotion page of my website.

Gratitude & the novel Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Gratitude, Thankful, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Acceptance

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s about gathering and gratitude. I’m in the business of self-reflection and taking time to think about what’s enough seems really important. We are too often frantic; grasping for more stuff to reassure ourselves that we are successful & secure.

Everyone gets some of the pieces of the pie; no one gets them all.

I read an interview with Matt Damon who said Brad Pitt envied his not being in the public eye which Matt attributed to the fact he married a civilian instead of a celebrity.

Everyone struggles in some decade of their life. Some of us get the happy childhood, some of us get to have kids, some of us marry well…………… some of us go decades without finding the right person, some of us miss out on grandchildren, some of us have jobs that are not satisfying and only offer a paycheck, some of us work two jobs and don’t make ends meet, some of us die of cancer at 32.

The best way to appreciate what we do have is to read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. She won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award for nonfiction. It’s about a neighborhood that lives on a trash heap near luxury hotels in Mumbai,India. This book is an extraordinary work of art because she helps you see differently.

The last sentence of her book is about a ledge that is dangerous to climb to: “But for now, eleven cans,seven empty water bottles and a wad of aluminum foil rested on a long spit of concrete, awaiting the first child with the courage to claim them.” You close the book understanding how lucky that child will feel with their find.

Accepting the pieces of the pie you don’t get is one of life’s greatest struggles.

Martin Seligman does a lot of research on happiness and he says people who are lucky enough to have gratitude as one of their top character strengths lead happier lives. It’s also one of the basic guiding principles of recovery for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Gratitude is something that should spring into your head at a moments notice. If you were to die next week what would you be grateful for? When we hold hands and go around the table saying what we are thankful for, too often the smell of the food entices us to hurry through our words. So try taking a few minutes when you are overloaded on turkey to answer that for yourself.

Control Your Anger (how you can do it in 3 steps)

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Controlling anger can be very difficult because of passion, frustration or impatience. Your anger means that you demand being important. Controlling your anger makes relationships work better.

Your anger can too easily smash others to bits because you are asking for too much. So learning to control your anger means deciding others matter to you more than your own self. You have to decide to learn self-control of anger because you want to treat others better.

Love is really about learning to be a better person.

How can you control your anger??? The first step is outlined above; deciding others are more important than your selfish needs. The second step is finding a technique to use to interrupt the path that your anger takes. Try wearing a rubber band & snap it to stop your anger from growing like a snowball rolling down a hill.

The third step to control your anger is after you’ve stopped yourself; begin to think instead of  feel.  There are two parts to this because you are learning to access your vulnerability;

A.  Ask yourself what do you want underneath your anger? If you can figure out what you want then you have ask for it instead of being in a power-driven demand.

B.  Ask yourself if there is hurt under your anger. If there is try to share it directly with the one who hurt you.

Learning to come from a more vulnerable place instead of a power-hungry place is the key to learning to control your anger. I asked someone if I could share something she wrote to her boyfriend asking him about controlling his anger:

“Lastly, I have something important to tell you:  Please learn some self-control when we argue. When we fight, you often lose control of what you say. I used to be that way, too.

I’ve said disgusting, horrible things in my past and had to learn that some shit is never forgotten and leaves an indelible blotch on a relationship. Over time, these corrosive things said during heated moments wear down the bonds.

It’s irreparable b/c all I hear is your voice saying hateful shit to me. I want to retaliate b/c I can, and b/c it would make me feel good in the moment, but I withhold b/c I have learned control: I have learned that as I open my mouth to say something in self-protection that I actually value our relationship over being right.

I value you over my need to hurt. I value us over my need to isolate myself. Please stop doing shit when we fight that plants doubt in my mind. You will never, ever be able to un-say what you’ve said, so be wiser and learn control for the sake of our relationship.

If you need time, tell me “I’m getting angry. This is me telling you that I need to cool off. We will revisit this. I promise. But I’m heated right now and won’t say anything kind or productive.”

I loved how she doesn’t finger point but owns what she’s learned about controlling her own anger and then she asks him to learn this because of the relationship being a priority. This is how a grown up talks with respect for herself and for her partner.

Exaggerating Our Feelings Stops Us from Being Our Best Self

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There are so many ways that feelings wreck havoc on our lives. We feel we are entitled. We feel we are right.
We love to blame others instead of look at ourselves. We feel defensive. We feel sensitive. We feel self righteously
angry. The list of trouble making perspectives is really endless because it is wired into being human.

A kooky adherence to feelings is embedded in the infrastructure of manipulation & being manipulated. My favorite
theory of manipulation is The Karpman Drama Triangle which is composed of the three roles; victim, persecutor & rescuer.
All three of these roles are problematic because people get stuck in them.

If we perceive ourselves to be the victim then everything can end up being filtered through a all too constant sense of
helplessness & feeling overwhelmed.

If we are certain we are RIGHT. We can end up in the persecutor role determined to not listen to any other point of view.

If we try to be oh, so good & understanding then we often enable others to continue their problems by rescuing.

Psychotherapy is often about making distinctions. One of the main distinctions I use is reasonable & unreasonable. One
of my favorite quotes by Iris Murdock in The Good Apprentice talks about being “reasonably good & reasonably happy”.

People often tell me they want to be happy & that vague generalization does not sit well with me. How about reasonably
happy? I counter offer. I want to change our constitution to read “the pursuit of reasonable happiness.”

So if you are in a tricky situation ask yourself what’s reasonable & unreasonable about what you want? Then consider
what’s reasonable & unreasonable about the other person’s point of view? Doing this can help you build a bridge over
to someone else and create an opportunity for honest dialogue.

Our world is filled with self righteous parallel monologues that only lead to dead ends in relationships.

All partners can ask for something in either a supportive way or a nag/crappy way. This is another distinction that can
make a real difference. You can be more elegant and begin by acknowledging the other person’s point of view. ” I
know that you really hate Mexican food as much as I hate Diner food so can we make a deal where we do both so
it’s fair to both of us?

Another distinction that I favor is ordinary vs. extraordinary. Many mistakes are ordinary and don’t deserve a court
martial. Something may be icky or annoying but not tragic. Try to maintain perspective & notch back your feelings
to fit the situation.

So a victim recognizes that if they’ve been sexually abused in the past and don’t take ownership of their own sexuality
in the present then they allow the abuser to take too much from them.

I think our deadlocked Congress is the best example of people stuck in a persecutor role only against things with no
ability to compromise so growth can begin for our country.

So many parents rescue their addicted children & don’t learn the concept of enabling has to be tempered with distance
& detachment until their is a path of recovery established.

Feelings need to be tempered and reined in, not treated as though they are the 10 Commandments.

When Control is Ugly & Evolves into Abuse Part 2

Emotionally abusive relationships, abusive relationships, abuse, leaving an abusive relationship, abuse relationship

Working at Pittsburgh Action Against Rape to develop the Incest Program in the early 80’s I learned a lot about ugly levels of power & control in a relationship. Abuse is a word I am careful with. There is physical, emotional & verbal abuse and also neglect.

There is a lot of certainty in the abuser and a lot of doubt & uncertainty within the victim. They question their own perceptions even while terrible things are going on. In the previous post it was clearly described that people with control issues have buckets of certainty.

Buckets of certainty insures the controller against his/her own insecurity. Sandusky is still claiming his innocence from prison. The power & certainty of feeling right, about something that is wrong is what got him in prison in the first place. Ultimately the certainty of certainty is hollow comfort & it’s entirely enough for an abuser.

Embracing uncertainty is part of being authentic. Becoming more secure within yourself is finding the courage to face painful truths within yourself instead of dumping ugliness on other people. Abuse is a detour to avoid the ugliness within.

Those who are abused are often so busy questioning their own judgement that they too, are drowning in insecurities. So seeking validation about your experience is a good way to begin the process of defining whether or not your reality is as awful as you suspect it is.

One thing that can be helpful is taking an online test as a way to both explore & confirm your  own experiences. There are 25 questions on this website: There is also a place where people write their own stories which might be helpful in not feeling so alone. Another test on emotional abuse that is composed of 13 questions can be found here: Beverly Engel has also written the book that is pictured with this post; The Emotionally Abusive Relationship.

The abused victim also has a part in what they are going through if they are too afraid to set boundaries. Boundaries require a sense of self & less insecurities. When you can say “I am mistreated (or abused )” to yourself then you are on the brink of beginning to change. It’s a boundary within yourself that begins by recognizing that the relationship is unhealthy because you are not respected.

You can see how powerful insecurities play a role in both the abusers rigid, “I know I’m right!” abuse & the victims codependent, masochistic, putting up with too much ugliness part of the equation. Insecurities can lead to desperateness which leads to a lot of horror.

The self righteous anger of the abuser is like the hurricane pelting the Northeast as I type…..there is no empathy or compassion for anything that stands in the way of what it demands.

Shame, Self-Hatred & Self Destructiveness; Obstacles to Change

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Shame, self-hatred & self destruction are often all intertwined. These three make the road to change an obstacle course. This is a triangle of defeat & can stop growth in its tracks. It’s a trap that absorbs all of someones energy and it’s hard to crawl out of…..

The real danger is that all three can lead to a Niagara Falls of bad choices that simply confirm that these terrible feelings are accurate. This is the triangle of Hell: the three spin round & round & round & round with no hope in sight.

Unfortunately over the years, this constantly disappointing dark horrible place becomes the most comforting solid reality that can be grasped. It becomes a truth whether or not there is any evidence.

Shame is a spiral of quicksand that can be suffocating. You have to find the courage to swallow the shame & to be determined to persevere because we all have things to be ashamed of…’s part of being human. The point of shame is to pinch you to not REPEAT your bad choices.

Self-hatred is the fuel for addictions & eating disorders. The key is to accept that both the good & the bad reside within. Self hatred means you believe that the bad erases the good. Ultimately this is a dead-end, because we all have dark sides that we must learn to embrace. All we can do is work at making our bad part smaller every decade.

Self destruction is a pattern of wanting to erase yourself….a belief that you don’t deserve to take up space on the planet. Self destruction can be found in those who tell obvious lies or in the profound satisfaction of having power by doing crazy things. Self destruction is the piling on of bad choices that are scary to those that care about you far more than you care about yourself.

What are the opposites of these three??? It’s the opposites that provide the clues for healing…

The opposite of shame is acceptance (which is one of the reasons AA is so successful). No one who is honest dies without regrets. Allow shame to pinch you enough to not repeat your mistakes; that’s really all you can do. Accept the mistakes of the past & get determined to get on track.

The opposite of self-hatred is understanding that we are all good & bad. Own your dark side as a part of you. Learn to let the bad sit quietly next to the good instead of the more typical bad erasing the good.

The opposite of self destructiveness is making life enhancing choices instead of choices that are a pattern of little deaths. So instead of hiding in your room depressed try the small step of taking a walk every day.

All 3 of these are difficult demons to battle because they are deeply held core beliefs. They can only be changed in small steps…….and there is no doubt that small steps layer over time to create success, if you want to fight for real change.

Self confidence can only come from accomplishments. Accomplishments can only come from taking risks & making mistakes.