Integrity is All About Self-Confrontation

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Integrity is the difference between being nice and being good. We live in a world that too easily values nice because nice is easy to do. Good is a whole lot more hard work. The Big Bad Wolf was really nice to Little Red Riding Hood before he ate her grandmother.

Someone facing hard truths about their own dark side is the infrastructure of integrity.

We humans are more like reptiles in our brain functions than mammals. We all have selfish, greedy & entitled feelings. Feelings are completely unreliable. It’s what you do with your feelings that matters.

When I have a client who paints a picture of themselves that leaves me confused as to what their dark side might be, I ask them to ask someone they trust to provide more honest feedback. Good therapy will collide with the comforting picture of yourself that you have in your head.

You can’t grow without being uncomfortable.

We so easily imagine ourselves to be better than we are. This is creating a false reality, like Disneyland for the soul. We all create defensive energy so rapidly in order to keep the falseness operating. Most problems in relationships are avoided & deflected by almost everybody because it is easier short-term (like the monkeys pictured above).

Instead we have to be willing to wrestle withe worst parts of ourselves. Only then can the best of who we are truly stand up to build into real character. You have to find the courage to collide with the comfortable way you see yourself.

Think of all the marriages you think you know, including your own. When someone blows up the other person usually gives up. This maintains the status quo & nothing changes or is solved which is so much easier than dealing with the struggle of hard truths. Most people avoid the real issues.

I send spouses home to ask “Why have we stopped being sexual?” “Is it ok if we have a celibate partnership?” These are questions that need to be faced. Low desire partners usually do not perceive themselves as part of a problem because they don’t miss sex.

Years of layered silences or loud yelling & screaming stops communication.

Think of your family of origin, how many times did you witness a problem being dealt with successfully?

Therapy is far more successful when you are willing to do the work on something you don’t want to deal with.

Marriage/Partnership means doing things you don’t want to do.

Improving yourself, your relationships or your job means being honest about the problems. If you, your partner/friends or your supervisor avoid honest feedback then you are setting yourself up for mediocrity. It takes courage & honest disagreement to grow, change & improve character.


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.


October is Breast Cancer Awareness month & I am reblogging most of the post I found fromBreast Cancer,Breast Cancer Month,October Breast Cancer Month,October Breast Cancer Awareness Month,When Breast Cancer Month,Pink Ribbon Lara K. Huffman’s blog Get Up Swinging: The Boobs are Fake, The Snark is Real:

Well, I wanted to ask other folks with cancer, any cancer, the question: “What does Breast Cancer Awareness Month mean to you?” The responses mostly came from other women who have had breast cancer since that’s the disease I have, but there responses from others who have undergone treatment for cancers other than breast.

Here are responses from those who have metastatic breast cancer:

“Even before I was diagnosed with breast cancer I loathed October. No matter where you go there is a sea of pink, ribbons, t-shirts, key chains, etc. What started out as something good had morphed into a retail/marketing machine that line the pockets of those ‘bringing awareness.’ Now after living with Stage 4 breast cancer for the past year, I understand how serious this is.  Every person diagnosed with breast cancer COULD develop metastatic disease. Early detection does not guarantee safety. What will save more of the 40,000 people that will die from breast cancer each year is research. And that means money for research – not awareness. What Komen and the others give to research is sickening.”

“Nothing,” and then: “I have metastatic breast cancer. When I die, I will not have lost at all. Another reason October grosses me out: battle metaphors.”

Here are the responses from those who had breast cancer, aka the people who we’re supposed to celebrate during this month:


“Enough awareness already. Time to focus on research for those with mets. I used to like pink. Sometimes now I struggle with wearing it. Oh, and it makes me want to throat punch people.”

“I cringe every October now. SGK has created an atmosphere wherein people actually resent breast cancer charities – even the good ones. It makes me very sad. I used to like pink, too. Now it just makes my butt pucker.”

“Absolutely nothing. It’s a disgusting marketing ploy.”

“It means companies profit off of a disease (mostly).”

“That I’m going to flip out the next time someone posts something about not wearing underwear or using their boobs to get out of a speeding ticket because they are playing a ‘fun’ breast cancer awareness game. And October, the month that used to be my favorite, is now the month that I won’t be able to, even for a minute, forget I had breast cancer.”

“Well, it means breast cancer awareness for everyone else, but for me, that’s every month every day.”

“Breast cancer is sadly something we’ve all heard of. We’re all aware of it each October because it’s shoved down our throats. I’m all for education of things like triple negative or IBC or mets, etc., but buying a pink frying pan isn’t going to do that either. By the way, I don’t think that pink is a vile color; I do love it, but I hate all the negative bullshit that it stands for now. Hopping off my soapbox now….”

“I guess the month is more personal to me. I got THAT phone call from the breast surgeon on October 1, 2012 telling me my biopsy was malignant. ‘Sorry for the phone call, but we need to act on this PDQ.’ So, two weeks later, I’m in surgery for seven hours, having a double mastectomy and tram flap. I’m sick of pink. I’m sick of Tamoxifen. I hate cancer.”

“Most people are unaware or ignorant to anything until it happens to them or someone they love. I feel like I’ve been under the breast cancer cloud since I was about 13 and my aunt, who was like my second mother, was diagnosed and had her mastectomy. I don’t know if her struggle was a warning to me, so I’d catch mine earlier because she ignored hers for a while before she got checked. . . . If the month gets more women to do self-exams, check up on something suspicious, get a physical, or donate time or money who would’ve never thought to do before, I pray that is the good that comes out of it. It’s kind of a hard month, but so is every day once your life changes that little bomb of a seed has been planted in your mind and body.”

“I definitely feel the attention has to shift from awareness to cure.”

“I don’t have a lot of attachment to it. I went to a nice breast cancer fundraiser last night with all the pink bells and whistles for the cancer center that saved my life and had a good time and made some donations. But, there was a lot of ‘stuff’ there, that had I been in the throes of treatment or diagnosis, would have absolutely pushed me over the edge.”

If those with breast cancer are expressing disgust and resentment at the very month that is supposed to celebrate them, then changes need to be made. We need to stop trivializing a deadly disease by wrapping it up in a pretty pink bow. Men also get breast cancer, and I couldn’t even fathom how horrifying Pinktober would be to a man with breast cancer.

I asked Lori Marx-Rubiner, the president of Metavivor, how can anyone help a loved one going through breast cancer treatment, and here is her response to What can people do?:

Give of themselves – run errands: dry cleaner, market, carpool

Make a meal – check first abt dietary restrictions

Keep patient company during treatment

Come by with a good movie

Check in 6-7 days after treatment, when the attention has died down

If you don’t have a specific person in mind-

Volunteer at a treatment or support center

Organize a local fundraiser & Donate to Research

Sign up for Army of Women

No time?

Send a gift card – Jamba Juice, bookstore, Netflix subscription, local restaurant that delivers

Feeling Lost ? How to Carve a Niche for yourself in the World

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Many people arrive in my office and describe themselves as lost. Women whose kids have grown, men who decide to leave a criminal lifestyle behind, partners who allowed someone else to define the primary relationship, those who have always taken the easy way out or those with huge college debt who are stuck living at home with their dream jobs on hold. Lost is about the emptiness inside.

I would begin personal growth by by reading biographies. Any great biography is three-dimensional and will capture the dark side of any hero. Begin with understanding that we all are a mixture of good & bad. Personal development is not for the faint of heart.

Be honest with yourself about your own dark side & examine how you lost track of yourself:

If you were afraid of disagreement, experiment with being more authentic.
If you hibernate in your room, find the courage to leave.
If you were too selfless, do something to take care of yourself.
If you were lazy, start the hard work of exercise.
If you were boring, make yourself more interesting by reading the New York Times.
Think about how you got stuck & consider what the opposite energy would be that you must experiment with.

Defining yourself and finding purpose is through actions. It’s easy to use words but it’s evidence of being different that your soul requires. Abstract ideas are not enough.

Ask yourself if you were going to be dead in 5 years, what would you want to do with that scrap of time?

Many of my clients want to be more connected to others when asked this question. So plan one on one time with friends. Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has influenced you to be a better person. Reach out to people you haven’t seen in years. Go on & join some groups and see how they evolve over time into connections.

Many people want a greater sense of purpose in their lives. Volunteer & keep trying out volunteering until you find the right place for you. Do something that means something to you, even if it’s something small, like taking walks & picking up litter in your neighborhood.

One of my clients wrote me “I don’t want to just be a waiter in a small city just getting by.” I was a waitress for a year & a half with my brand new B.A. and I was proud of doing that hard work well. I would return to it because I miss the tangibility of what I did back then. What I do now, can be so ephemeral.

The point is that its honest work & worth doing; that’s what matters. Being a waiter may be the start & simply how you get a paycheck. You are the sum total of all of your parts.

Finding your way means experimenting with new behaviors & new possibilities. Most importantly it means being uncomfortable & awkward which is the only way anyone can grow & change. Begin with small steps and try things out. I am proud that I have a very long list of things that are not me: sailing, horseback riding, making pottery on the wheel etc, etc. Take risks to find out what is not you.

Over time new behaviors, new risks and new experiments begin to layer & build into what you care about, character, values & identity.

How to Live Better?

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How to live better is a question we all should continue to ask ourselves. Aging well depends on updating your answers every year instead of maintaining the status quo.

Sometimes its fear of a threat that gets us moving; “You are on the verge of being diabetic” my doctor said 2 years ago. I now exercise seriously 6 or 7 days a week.

Keeping your body moving is important. Movement is the secret to aging well. I love work because it keeps my brain going. Keep your life moving because this is how to live better & how to achieve personal growth.

Routine can be deadening. Except for flossing & garbage day try to mix things up a bit. How to live better? Get out of your comfort zone; do something that takes courage every year.

How to live better? BE UNCOMFORTABLE

Sign up for a class or a teacher that scares you. Volunteer & deal with your awkwardness, instead of letting it stop you. Try a different church or a different religion. Walk in a different neighborhood. Try a new skill like kayaking. Go somewhere where everyone is a stranger.

It’s so easy to stay in our comfort zone of blood connections or on the couch in front of the t.v. It’s easy to make excuses & avoid the discomfort of new beginnings. Your world soooo easily becomes too small because of fear & deflection. This is giving up on personal growth.

Movement of all kinds is the answer of how to live better & how to be a better person.

Curiosity & excitement lead to movement in new directions. The brain loves novelty! Sniff out some new possibilities. If you don’t understand contemporary art try a docent tour. Don’t allow fear of your own awkwardness or stupidity squelch ideas.

Dread & exaggerated fears of uncertainty prevent movement & personal growth. It is impossible to grow without being uncomfortable. You were uncomfortable the first time you played Red Rover, rode a bike, tried to speak another language, produced the noise of music or do anything brand new.

Moving towards a larger world requires openness & a willingness to experiment. I went to a 3 day workshop in DC with David Schnarch of The Marriage & Family Health Center. It was the best workshop I’ve attended since 1980. It was scary good because I was challenged to be uncomfortable. At my age it would be easy to rest on my laurels & I won’t.

In conclusion I want to quote from Gail Godwin’s novel The Finishing School:
There are two kinds of people…One kind, you can tell just by looking at them at what point they congealed into themselves. It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it. Whereas, the other kind keeps moving, changing. With these people you can never say, “X stops here,” or “Now I know all there is to know about Y.” That doesn’t mean that they are unstable. Ah, far from it. They are fluid. They keep moving forward and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young. In my opinion they are the only people still alive.”

“The most visible creators I know of are those artists whose medium is life itself”, my dear friend Patrick (pictured above) said, before he died at 40 more than 20 years ago.

Self-Esteem & the movie The Way, Way Back

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Self esteem starts to “bake” in adolescence. It’s part of why adolescence can feel so tragic because there is such a slim grip on feeling ok. I was moved by the raw truth of this movie, a week after watching an adolescent struggle with his self-esteem.

The opening of the movie is powerful as his mother’s boyfriend grills him on rating himself between 1 & 10. It’s painful to watch and you wonder is there a joke in here somewhere that I don’t understand because it is Steve Carell playing the boyfriend. The 14 yr. old Duncan finally answers reluctantly with a 6 and gets bashed for the number being too high.

The core of self-esteem is built on small, medium & large accomplishments layered over time. You see this in Duncan’s exploring during his summer vacation. He finds a bike & a water park that set him free so he can evolve instead of being oppressed by the adults around him.

The relationships he develops at the water park are purely from his own efforts as he adventures into uncertainty and finds himself. It is touching as we watch him grow & succeed beyond his awkwardness into a confident young man. He withstands an awful secret about his father hurled at him by the self-absorbed boyfriend.

We watch the grown ups get lost in drunkenness and crossed boundaries as they act adolescent in contrast to Duncan who finds responsibility to be healing which help him find confidence. The friendship offered by Sam Rockwell is delightful….and how many parents today would really allow that to happen? Stumbling into people who believe in you is part of the wonder of life.

Duncan sits way back in the farthest seat in the station wagon which is accurate for how he feels in his life; disconnected from his Mom who is absorbed with her one year old boyfriend. Lots of kids feel shunted aside by their divorced parents’ new love interests. All of the sudden there is no one on one time with your parent…..their partner is always annoyingly part of the equation.

Parents need to recognize that one on one time really matters even with silent or sullen or angry teens. They all need to eat; so take them out for a meal, just the two of you. As my mentor Sonia Nevis says: Restaurants were made so people have to talk while waiting for the food to come.

Authenticity Requires Work

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At Chautauqua we hear lectures on vacation; David Brooks spoke about the lack of depth & inner dialogue that he finds is part of today’s youth culture because there is so much focus on their “outsides”. Many times in this blog I have ranted about the amount of avoiding and deflecting that occurs in important relationships. David Brooks is right, we avoid self-awareness and the work of an inner dialogue between our bad & our good selves which is all about the insides.

Human beings tend to feel either on top of the world or drowning in the certainty they are despicable. It requires a lot of depth to hang on to both knowing your gifts and your dark side instead of being either one or the other. Authenticity requires that we struggle to be aware of both sides to who we are.

Authenticity seems to be dismissed as narcissistic or self-serving. Making amends to someone and asking them what their worst part of the hurt was…..there is nothing easy or selfish about that.

Telling a partner that you really are unhappy about a way that they parent, or that they aren’t careful enough when they deal with your parents or…..or…..or. There’s nothing easy about that. Then instead of collapsing into defensiveness & fighting try to dialogue and respect the differences. That’s being authentic!

Knowing yourself to be who holds grudges and working at changing that. Admitting to someone you love that there are resentments that have silently piled up. Listening to your kid tell you that you were preoccupied as a mother when he was a teen and accepting that hard truth…..none of these are easy to do.

Authentic means owning up to your part in things. It’s the wince of self recognition that makes you want to be a better person or to have remorse. We are surrounded by people who are way to comfortable finding someone to blame then we can avoid looking at ourselves.

Authentic means being uncomfortable in the personal inventory of self, in relationships and in understanding more about the way the world works..

Facing the cultural facts of economic inequality is very uncomfortable. Recognizing the sad truth as reported by Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute that the 6 Walmart Heirs have more money than the bottom 42% of Americans is very discomforting. Knowing that 600 people gave 99% of the money for political campaigns through super pacs and 163 people gave 50% of that 99% (from a lecture by Trevor Potter). CEO’s in the late 1970’s made 40 times what their workers made, now CEO’s make 800 times what their workers make (from a lecture by George Packer).

There is nothing about being authentic on any level that is about comfort & ease. It requires character to do the work of authenticity.