Say “No” To Take Your Power Back and Find True Belonging

waterfall in the mountains

How do you find true belonging? According to Brene Brown, true belonging is the flip side of saying “No.”

What happens when we say NO?

We draw a line in the sand.

We are no longer playing “nice.”

We are no longer trying to fit in so people will accept us.

And we risk being rejected.

It’s scary.

In the age of increased polarization, a desire to belong is almost irresistible.

We all want to find true belonging.

But, according to BreneBrown, true belonging,

starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect.

So, we have drawn the line. We have chosen to belong to no one.

No one except me.

We said “NO” loud and clear.

And now we are alone.

Alone in the wilderness.

Can we brave it?

Is it worth it?

Do I have what it takes to stand alone?

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Reverse Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by Increasing “Happy” Hormones

Can you reverse post-traumatic stress disorder?

My grandfather fought in World War II. As a child, I would often ask him: “What is war like?” He never answered.

The memories were too painful. He never talked about them. He just drank.

Every memory or thought about the war brought the same emotions in him AS IF HE HAD BEEN IN THE MIDDLE OF IT.

He wasn’t. There was no war around. But he still felt it as if it was his PRESENT reality.

One consequence of PTSD is that once your brain has been hardwired to expect danger, it cannot distinguish between thoughts and reality.

A thought of war feels like an actual war.

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) has been known for a long time – during World War I, it was called “shell shock.” But it wasn’t until the 1980s that a corresponding diagnosis was proposed.

What is the mechanism of PTSD?

John Bradshaw, the author of the bestseller Healing the Shame That Binds You, says that when a person goes through a traumatic experience, it gets imprinted in their brain within the next 72 hours unless they are able to talk it through with someone they trust.

Why?

Because trauma does not get registered in the brain when met with relentless empathy.

Trauma gets recorded in the brain and causes PTSD symptoms under one condition – the person has FELT an overwhelming emotion but never got any empathy.

In other words, when a person talks through their experience with someone they trust within the first 3 days, the brain does not create neuron pathways (electrical connections) that produce PTSD-related symptoms. 

If, however, they suppress or deny their feelings, the traumatic event eventually gets hardwired in the brain.

When trauma gets hardwired in the brain, the brain gets chemically conditioned to expect the same traumatic experience again and again (and releases the same chemicals before the event happens).

What does that mean?

Every time you experience trauma – say, verbal or physical abuse, – you feel certain emotions.

Usually fear or anger or both.

Every emotion produces chemicals in the body.

Fear and anger pump adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream – the hormones of fight-or-flight.

Love and acceptance trigger the release of oxytocin (“love hormone”), dopamine (hormone of happiness), and serotonin (hormone of satisfaction).

If your body produces stress chemicals again and again, your brain gets used to them. The stronger the emotion the more it gets hardwired in the brain.

Through repetition, these emotional states (and corresponding chemicals) cause the brain to form dense neuron connections around them (electrical networks).

In other words, the brain becomes hardwired to expect the same experience again and again.

In the case of my grandfather, any reminder of the war would bring about unbearable feelings of pain (and chemicals of stress), and he needed a drink to calm down.

How do I reverse PTSD?

Tony Robbins said:

Whatever you keep in your mind on a continual basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.

Whatever we continually focus on will sooner or later manifest in our external experience.

If I keep focusing on something negative, the content of my mind will manifest in a negative outward experience.

If I keep focusing on the positive, the content of my mind will transform my outer reality into a positive experience (and heal PTSD as a side effect).

According to Brene Brown, no negative emotion can survive three things:

  1. Naming what you feel.
  2. Sharing it with a SAFE person.
  3. Getting relentless empathy from them.

So, how do you reverse post-traumatic stress disorder?

PTSD is created in the brain through some overwhelming emotion that triggered the release of stress chemicals.

PTSD is effectively reversed when we intentionally and continually refocus our mind on positive thoughts and interactions – and keep getting those hormones of love (oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin)!  

How can I generate positive emotions that will make me fly?

waterfall rapids

Is it possible to generate positive emotions or do we have no control over how we feel?

Have you ever noticed what your mind is doing when you are not watching?

When I suddenly become aware of my thoughts, I am always surprised to find out that they are happening without my involvement. They are automatic. I am on autopilot.

Thoughts just pop out of the blue, and my mind catches on to them and keeps chewing on them.

One automatic thought leads to another, then another, then another until I am drawn into an incessant inner narrative that usually comes with bright pictures and images.

Before I know it, those “voices” from the past get mixed with something I heard on the news recently or some of my old fears and resentments.

This deadly mixture circles in my mind, eventually creating a dark cloud of negativity that grows ever bigger until I become aware of myself and say: “Why am I thinking all this!”

It’s so hard to stop. If you are like me, you know that negativity can be delectable. There’s a certain pleasure in savoring how you’ve been mistreated in the past or how things can go sour in the future.

But such thoughts and emotions are poisonous and will very soon generate fear, anger, resentment, and selfishness.

How do you get rid of “stinking thinking” and generate positive emotions?

“Stinking thinking” is a negative train of thought that generates selfishness, fear, resentment, and dishonesty, and eventually leads to compulsive behaviors.

So, how do you get rid of it?

The paradox is this – the more you try to stop negative thinking the more you focus on that which you want to eliminate. And what you focus on grows bigger.

Resisting certain thoughts brings on more thoughts of a similar nature. This process repeats itself indefinitely until we… switch our focus to something else.

And this first step is usually the hardest one. By the time I realize I need to switch my focus, the momentum of the negative thoughts and images in my mind is so strong that it’s almost impossible to stop.

King Solomon once said,

For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7

We are what we think. Or rather, we are what we focus on. Our focus determines our life. To generate positive emotions we need to shift our focus.

However, we can’t stop negative thinking by thinking. Because the more we think about how to stop thinking the more we energize it through focus.

There’s a simple technique that allows you to switch your focus without thinking. The key is to find things, activities, or images that are EASY to focus on in the moment.

In other words, we can’t reverse the negative stream of thinking all at once, but as soon as we put our focus on just one “better-feeling” thing, activity, or image, it becomes easier.

As soon as we do this first step, the magic of Solomon’s wisdom unfolds – just like one negative thought attracts more negative thoughts so also one positive thought attracts more positive thoughts.

The first positive thought is usually the hardest one. The next one is easier, the third one is much easier, and so on.

What are some things that are EASY to focus on?

The list will be different for different people because what’s easy for me to focus on may not be easy for someone else.

Here are some things I find relatively easy to focus on:

  1. Laughing – watch a comedy.
  2. Writing – creativity pulls me out of negativity.
  3. Connecting with people – talking to friends.
  4. Walking in nature and naming things I am grateful for.
  5. Cooking.
  6. Playing with my kids.

With each laughter, each smile, each sunset, and each creative idea, the positive momentum grows stronger until cheerful thoughts start coming in easily.

Ordinary things stop being ordinary. As you walk in the park, you find yourself saying the words of Elizabeth Browning’s poem:

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God.

Embrace All Your Feelings To Be Transformed – A Lesson From The Gospel of Thomas

Two girls hugging

Since ancient times, people intuitively knew that if you reject your feelings, you will be consumed by them, and if you embrace all your feelings, you will be transformed.

Blessed is the lion which becomes a man when consumed by man; and cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, for the lion becomes a man.

The Gospel of Thomas

One thing my alcoholic father passed on to me is a feeling of emptiness and a desire to fill myself from outside in.

He chose to medicate the feeling with alcohol. I have tried to do the same with food, people, and workaholism.

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. Richard Rohr

The more I numb out my feelings on food, people, or work, the emptier I feel. The feeling is strong, and often comes without warning – regardless of what I do on the outside to alleviate it.

In fact, using external means to get rid of it doesn’t work.

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A Simple 10-minute Practice That Undercuts the Root of Anxiety

Green forest and a trail

About two years ago I learned a simple 10-minute practice that undercuts the root of anxiety.

Brene Brown, the world-famous shame and vulnerability guru, described it so well in Oprah Winfrey’s show when speaking of the inner workings of shame:

“To grow exponentially, shame absolutely needs three things: secrecy, silence, and judgment. Shame cannot survive two things: being spoken and being met with empathy.”

All destructive emotions feed on secrecy, silence, and judgment. Reversing this pattern involves:

  1. Breaking the secrecy.
  2. Speaking up.
  3. Getting empathy from someone who will not judge you.

A simple 10-minute practice that undercuts the root of anxiety is surprisingly counterintuitive

After struggling with anxiety for about 30 years, I finally found something that works. As of today, I have not been anxious for over two years, which is surprising, given the circumstances I have been through.

My first anxiety attack came at 21 when I was a senior in college. It came totally out of the blue — it must have been triggered by a train of thought that I totally didn’t notice. And it felt so bad, I had to excuse myself and go out to breathe it away.

Since then I would get it every once in a while — always hitting out of the blue. Trying to “figure it out” never helped. In fact, it made it worse. I couldn’t trace it down to any external cause.

Of course, I did a bunch of things to get rid of it — talked to therapists, worked out, memorized Bible verses, and read tons of books on self-help, philosophy, and religion. It helped… sort of…until the next time.

Little did I know that the solution was totally non-rational.

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