Relationship Insecurities

This is a healthier exercise for a couple than a lot of fearful thinking would be.
This is a healthier exercise for a couple than a lot of fearful thinking would be.

Couples routinely come to me because the trapped partner wants me to convince the insecure partner to honour their basic freedom as a human being. But I don’t fix jealous relationships by getting people to stop being jealous, I get them to stop being insecure.

At the end of the day the problem isn’t the attraction or fidelity of the spouse, the problem is that the insecure person does not feel they are good enough to hold their partner’s interest. That leads to control issues which then mean it’s even easier for someone else to treat the partner better.

I pick up extremely quickly on how a person’s communication patterns reveal their perspectives on life so it usually doesn’t take long for me to pick up on it when one of the partners defines the relationship in relatively static and rigid way. They’re looking for security in a world that has taught them that disaster is always lurking.

1046-relax-and-succeed-you-cant-fix-yourselfOf course disaster isn’t always lurking, but you can make it seem like it if you look for it hard enough. Jealous people are master narrative creators. They can take one tiny detail and fill up hours worth of self-talk stories in their imagination. Hours. Out of a tiny detail that other people would ignore as insignificant. But in the mind of the frightened person? It’s huge. They can think it until it is legitimately huge in their consciousness.

Psychology historically would invest many hours in how the person got that way but you don’t need more than broad strokes if you know what you’re doing. The details just muddle things, the point is to find something worthwhile in the experience and then move on. Healthy people stay for joy and they leave unpleasant situations asap, right after they have taken the lesson from the experience.

Insecurities are the self-talk conversations that make us feel small, which means we also feel weak, and then we feel we need other people’s extraordinary help just to make it. In fact we’d be fine on our own. We just have to tough it out long enough to see that we really can choose to sit and read or watch a movie just as easily as we can choose to sit and ruminate on what might be happening. But that latter will tend toward the painful and it’s almost always inaccurate as well because there’s billions of things that could be happening at any given time so I very much doubt anyone anywhere is even close to accurate most of the time.

1046-relax-and-succeed-if-you-truly-loved-yourselfTo end jealousy the jealous person must actually come to see themselves more through the eyes of their partner, rather than through the lenses of past experience. They must not see themselves as a lightning rod for danger but rather a pillar of strength. And that’s actually a natural feeling if only we don’t intercede with our insecure thinking.

If you’re going to think insecure thoughts then of course you’ll feel insecure. But even if they were rational thoughts–which they rarely are–so what? What good would it do to be insecure when you do anything, let alone the act of saving your relationship? No one benefits from insecurities. Find the lies that were told to you when you were young and meditate on the proof that those are wrong. Your clarity will show up in your refusal to fall into the traps of the illusion of security.

Insecurity destroys relationships. Confidence is a natural feeling for everyone. When you were five you thought you could be anything. But someone said things and you listened and now you repeat them in your head, and then you took your worst experiences and built fears around those and then you watch for that too. And it’s all a lot of worried, suspicious watching. How can that be good for a relationship? Stop the narrative. Flood yourself with peace and love and you will have no difficulty attracting and holding a partner that is suitable for you.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Releasing Motivation

1039-relax-and-succeed-you-have-been-criticisingThe reason artists are often called “crazy” is that the two states of creativity and insanity are really degrees of the same thing; few people talk to themselves more than artists need to, and more talking to yourself than that starts to get dangerously close to being lost in thought, otherwise known as “crazy.”

Most people have a boss with deadlines and job descriptions they have to fulfil so they can’t see how much that format is making them work, because even entrepreneurs know it’s much harder when there’s no external deadline imposed. But at least an entrepreneur has a client they’re servicing, but the reason they find marketing the hardest part is the same reason art’s difficult; there’s not only no boss, there’s no customer and the job is pure open space. As an artist you can’t even go to work until you decide how big your canvass should be.

Athletes might bemoan their hours spent training, but most artists would trade them that feeling for the agony of finding it difficult to create. I get a lot of mock hate-comments from artist friends who can’t figure out how I can do other writing and these pages every day by 7am. When your thoughts hold you back creating is very very hard indeed. I remember that sense well.

1039-relax-and-succeed-dont-think-about-making-artIt’s terrifying to start a piece of art because you have a lot of notable things to think about. You have big, public ways to fail. If you’re an author you’re probably comparing yourself to literally the very best people in the world. If you’re a painter you’re worried about $2,500 in paint and canvass you have to invest before you can even try to sell it. If you dance you’re worried about injuries and being a musician on the road has all sorts of potential pitfalls. It can easily make you crazy if you do too much thinking and too little creating.

We’re all such harsh critics. We could still have our opinions and yet talk to people with the approach we’d use with them a kid, where we’d have fewer expectations and where we’d want to be more encouraging. But as adults we make it painful to show personal things. We offer our negative opinion; our corrections. And even if they’ve paid us for that opinion, it still hurts them to hear voices of nonacceptance. And so creating art is hard. The climb is high and the fall feels long.

What’s important for the artist or any other person to remember is that these distances we’ve climbed and these heights we fall from all exist only within our imaginations. You’re not linear. You didn’t advance and then fall back; you expanded and then expanded again. The courage to create work is hard enough; the courage to show it publicly is even more precarious. These are victories not failures. These are what every great artist experiences. It is simply the act of moving past our fears and into an act of creation.

1039-relax-and-succeed-act-without-doingWe tend to think that when things are painful we must be doing something wrong but we only feel that way because there’s a cult of feeling good when in truth you wouldn’t even be able to sense feeling good without feeling bad to compare it to. So we must embrace feeling unsettled and wounded too, lest the art of our lives be shallow and hollow.

Artists spend very little time actually physically creating their art. What they do is spend time doing is observing life and then capturing poignant, worthwhile moments of it in art so that we too can benefit from their keen observations. Maybe they see something funny, maybe it’s what lead them to no longer be racist, it doesn’t matter; their only job is to place it in the world for us to find in the format we personally understand things in, whether that’s dance or painting or any other form.

Artists would benefit if they treated their art more like work, but before they can do that they must have enough respect for themselves that they actually feel genuinely motivated to live up to their own deadlines. If an artist is excited about what’s next then it makes sense that they’ll be excited to complete the project they’re working on, and that’s what gets the deadlines met; not a boss, not a date on a calendar–a genuine desire to finish so that more can be created. That’s a lesson the rest of the work-world can learn from successful artists.

Find what matters about your work even if that ends up being your co-workers having better days so they go home to their kids happier. As long as you feel genuinely motivated to create that positivity by doing what you’re doing, then the doing of it won’t feel much like work because it won’t be. It’ll be your life. It’s time you started actively living more of it. I’ll be better for everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Texting and Relationships

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #8

1036-relax-and-succeed-a-mom-text-messageI think texting was invented by marriage counsellors as a job-creation program. More and more struggling couples come to me because they’re looking at breaking up because of a bunch of text messages. Twenty year relationships being undone in 140 character bursts. It’s crazy.

As I’ve noted before, I often used to ask my college students if they knew what I meant when I said, last night I shot a robber in my pajamas? They would always say they did, but they can’t; because that sentence has four meanings. I never state who’s wearing the pajamas or if someone was murdered or photographed. And yet all the students are sure they understood. This is how weak and frail words are at capturing the fine details of the human condition. So hinging a relationship on some text messages is the flimsiest sort of reasoning there is.

Let’s begin with the fact that people will often take things out of context. If a woman gets a text at 7pm from her sister and all it says is, I got a run she might skip right past the idea that her sister might be playing a card game and she might immediately think that her sister is referring to her baseball league, when in fact she is trying to discreetly ask her sister to rush to her room to get her some new stockings for the date she’s on.

1036-relax-and-succeed-texting-is-a-brilliant-way-to-miscommunicateThere are examples of ambiguous meanings, assumptions about tone, context, meaning, there’s bad auto corrections, tech issues and then there’s stuff like this… why not just cave paint to each other? It’s probably got less room for misunderstandings, because whenever couples show me these texts I just cannot see all of the drama they do. They load the tiniest and most innocent of phrases up with massive amounts of meaning. It’s crazy.

Texts are for some basic data. Grocery lists, times, notifications that you’re waiting downstairs, etc. You should not be discussing your relationship on text. If you’re that anxious that you need answers immediately then you need to get more mature about your anxiousness before you’re ready to be in a healthy relationship. Seriously.

The fact that a couple can be in love in the morning when they go to work and ready to break up by the time they get home when they haven’t even spoken once should be a clear sign people have lost touch with what’s reasonable and healthy. Use texts for what they’re for and save your relationship issues for in-person discussions when you’re both in a positive frame of mind. Otherwise you’re just asking for trouble.

1036-relax-and-succeed-between-what-is-said-and-not-meantTruly, I don’t like seeing people for reasons this frivolous. If you’re actually making relationship decisions based on text exchanges then you’re not mature enough for a healthy relationship. Real couples that make it through real challenges do so by staying connected, and that means their communication lines are open.

Actually commit to no longer texting about emotional issues. Save them for times, dates, lists, and decisions about times and locations, but not about important issues. If it’s important enough then it’s important enough to hear your partner’s voice or to wait until you can. Anything else disrespectful to both of you. You simply cannot expect good results from trying to deal with the most important thing in your life in 140 character increments.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Universal Playground

1029-relax-and-succeed-life-isnt-as-seriousYou feel like you’re in some hostile place where you have to constantly prove yourself while simultaneously battling a never-ending series of problems but; what if you were looking at it from the wrong angle? A cube can look like a two-dimensional square from six different perspectives and yet that doesn’t make it a square to some perspectives but it will absolutely and honestly be a square to those six perspectives. Other views have other views.

What dimensionalises things is when you flip the universe from a place hostile, (where you’re not good enough to overcome all of your problems), to a generous place (where you start off belonging and the universe is keen to cooperate with your creativity). But if your perspective is that you can’t be happy until you’re in Los Angeles, or until you’re with that certain person, or until you own this or that; then the world will always feel wanting.

1029-relax-and-succeed-no-im-not-being-immatureThink of the angle of a pinball machine as your nature. Without anything in your way, you’ll just naturally head that direction until you die and you’ll be quite graceful about it. But life includes all of those things you can hit along the way. Bang, smack, poke, there’s bells, chimes and sirens and the sudden, unexpected direction changes has the whole mess going all over the place. It can feel like you just move from one impact to another. But…

…but I never said you were the ball. If you related to all of those problems and impacts to yourself then you thought you were the ball but the ball is only your ego. You are the player. And the player has a perspective the ball does not. By having a higher perspective your soul realises that all of those impacts aren’t bad things. Those are actually where you’re gaining all of your points; your experience points.

The other thing you’d notice as the player and not the ball would be that the impacts are all to the ball and not the player. You’d also notice that some of the hardest impacts your ego felt weren’t from bumps of beneficial experience, but rather from your soul actively redirecting you, thereby preventing you from going down the hole. So your ego feels like it’s being battered and yet the player is doing all he can to keep you alive, and it’s all just a great big bunch of bouncing and noise until then.

1029-relax-and-succeed-the-most-dangerous-thingWhen you die the player simply runs out of balls and leaves the machine, so the ball will never get to see its own score so that’s not a reason to play. The player can see the score, but the wisest, happiest players are those that know that to play to win is to live and die as the ball. To be truly alive is to enjoy the playing of the game itself, and so they’ve learned to ignore any scores. If you’re a player you just move to the next game.

Too many people stare endlessly at the machine, fearful to release even the first ball, always imagining failure. But there is no losing in the game of life. The playing itself is the victory. Life is crazy. And it’s good. It’s always been able to be both. So just accept today’s craziness and play your game and I’ll watch for you out on the playing field of life.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Compassionate Management

There’s been a lot of studies done on what makes businesses succeed and–what a surprise–it’s the same thing that allows any group of people to succeed. And note I said allows and not causes. People will naturally surprise us with their capability, the only question is; just how skilled is a leader at finding those opportunities?

1024-relax-and-succeed-a-bad-manager-can-take-a-good-staffEvidence of this can easily be seen when a new manager takes over an old group. The very same group of people that the previous manager felt were useless can suddenly become superstars–why? Very often it’s because they stopped being managed like they were in the military and they started being managed like they’re human beings rather than human doings.

Bad leaders think people do things for them, good leaders know that in a good team all of the people are working together toward a common, meaningful goal. In one scenario the staff work for the leader and in the other all of them work for each other. In one case their job title is ordered to perform a business function and in the other some human beings cooperate to get something done that’s of mutual benefit.

Many times management will be so off target that they won’t even have considered the texture and feel of their employee’s day. All the manager sees is their own to-do list and they imagine that all of these people have been gathered under them to help them get their manager’s list taken care of. Ordering something get done is not management, it’s just orders, and those you can get from a machine.

1024-relax-and-succeed-if-people-are-goodWeaker managers will often be baffled about what else they would even do other than get their own lists done. They just see work; you do this, he does that, she does the other thing. There is no philosophy driving the work or how it’s done, it’s just a daily list.

Meanwhile, a stronger manager realises that the work day is generally at least 1/3rd of their co-workers lives, which is close to the number of waking hours people will spend with a spouse. Ordering consistently unmotivated work to be done in an unmotivated fashion is the same thing as covering the windshield and then telling the staff where you want them to drive. They can understand the directions and maybe even find it on their GPS, but that doesn’t help them negotiate the daily traffic of their lives. The problem for the weaker manager is that they’re only managing their own life and not the lives of everyone that works for them.

As an example, let’s say a mom returning from maternity leave has returned to work. She’s capable, hard-working and liked by her co-workers, but she starts coming in late. A bad boss draws her attention to her lateness and then possibly sets some kind of penalty. She tries to explain the challenges created by where her daycare moved to, but the manager doesn’t really listen to how the woman’s windshield is covered. Maybe she’s a woman too and she raised kids and worked, so she doesn’t see the problem. So she tells the woman to get to work despite the covered windshield, as though there’s no limits to managing around a kid.

Around a kid. A manager should hear that come out of their mouth and know immediately that’s gotta be wrong. The manager is asking a parent to value their work more than their child. Now the bad manager would say that’s not what they’re doing, but that’ll just be their beliefs about themselves. There’ll be a but… in there for the manager. Yeah, I know she’s gotta a new kid and that’s challenging, but she still has to get her work done…. So the manager basically says; your problem, not work’s. And technically that’s true, especially in countries that don’t even have mandatory support for maternity leave.

A manager is best to try to help solve their employee’s challenge because something being technically correct isn’t actually very useful to a manager. Technical correctness is a term for things that look like they should work but they’re missing some humanity. A poor manager sees the staff like buckets of skills that you fill with work. The staff see work as a major part of their life and they absolutely will respond positively to any co-worker/manager who finds a way to make that daily experience more enriching.

If you’re on a staff somewhere, figure out if your manager is trying to build a team and if you’re cooperating with that effort or putting yourself first. Because you may very well end up further behind by putting yourself first. And if you’re a manager somewhere, make sure that you also are not putting yourself first. You will be rewarded well for any efforts you make toward ensuring that the people you work with have an environment that is generally understanding, constructive, pleasant, supportive, and rewarding. And fortunately, creating even one of those things often leads to the others developing quite naturally.

Now go get on a team. It feels good to surrender your wants for almost any goal achieved in cooperation with others. And a good manager knows that.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Decision Fatigue

You sense it’s happening to you more and more; a worn-out, bad-decision, I’m exhausted and don’t care attitude that increasingly invades your day and often leaves you collapsed and feeling unproductive at night. This in turn leaves you feeling guilty the next day that didn’t get enough done even though you got a lot done.

1021-relax-and-succeed-good-people-sometimes-make-bad-decisionsI remember experiencing decision-exhaustion from being both a writer and as a film and television executive. All day long you make decisions and they are fundamentally what you’re paid for, so to get too many of them wrong means to wrong yourself right out of your mortgage payment. That helped make each choice feel bigger and therefore more taxing, and because there were a lot of them all day, by the time I got home I was worn out in a way that left me more tired than any physical job I’d ever had.

If my wife or girlfriend wanted me to pick a restaurant for dinner on a decision-filled day we would argue because she really couldn’t relate to how intense my avoidance of another decision was. I told her I was burned out, which to say that deciding is an action and it takes energy and I had put too much energy through the decisions circuits already and they were now worn down to the point of no longer being precise channels but more like general directions.

A common example of this is that in many tests a poorer person will actually be better at financial decision-making than a wealthier person because their decisions are often around a budget with no room for error. That means you have to make real calculations and decisions even just to buy a quick lunch if you’re late, whereas a wealthier person is just hungry and they only make the decision of where to stop and what to have. By the end of an average day the poorer person has made so many more critical choices that they get worn out and they start giving big, broad answers that are more likely to be easy rather than helpful.

1021-relax-and-succeed-if-you-want-to-have-more-creative-flowYou likely know this feeling too: you’ve spent all day trying to stay on your diet and eat all the right foods, you got all of your work done and you figured out how to manage the kids, but by the time the day’s done you’re exhausted and end up blowing everything you saved all day by stopping on the way home at some fast food place, or by wasting money buying junk at the grocery store which ruins your diet and it’s all just so defeating. But take heart; it’s not just you being defeated, it’s all of us. (That entire link is definitely worth the read.)

What’s important to note is that the decisions that were wearing me out were primarily taken in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, prior to the smartphone. By then I had accepted that the brain was just like any part of your body and that it would become increasingly less efficient the more it was used. When smartphones came out I saw two unhealthy things: the diversion of my attention away from the present moment and the constant connectivity, which I did not feel would be healthy long term because it would also mean that there would soon be many more ways to reach me.

This is why I still just use a flip phone; I avoid thinking about all of the decisions that the phone has added to your day. Not just which platforms should you join, but all the notifications and privacy set-ups, the decision to answer a call or text or not, then the decision of what to answer, then a chime telling you to do this or a warning telling you not to do that. Calendars, emails, voicemails, instant messengers, check-ins and measurements of every kind. And that leaves out all of the stuff your computer at work has added.

1021-relax-and-succeed-respect-yourself-enough-to-walk-awayAll day long you’re bombarded with choice. Stores even sell it like it’ll make you feel good when science shows it’s the route to feeling bad. Decisions are taxes to your mind. It’s why tons of top-level business executives and entrepreneurs wish they could go be a barista in a coffee shop–what they’re pining for is fewer decisions. The customer just tells you what they want and you make it. No choices. Simple. Ahhh.

Many decisions in the modern world cannot be avoided but many can. Look at your life and ask which parts of your life require the most decision-making and then value your loss of mental peace almost like money. Do you really want to spend all of your energies where they’ve been going? For most people the answer is no, they just never take the time to reassess. Do that today.

Simplification is not you failing, nor are you becoming irrelevant or even less capable. In fact you’ll be increasing the strength of the quality of your choices if you make fewer every day. The science is very clear: busy-ness and choice are the enemies of peace. The only thing left for you to do is to become more conscious of all of your daily choices and then only make the ones that actually improve your life and stop making the ones that don’t.

Here’s a peaceful, stressless day for all of us.

peace. s

PS This piece is a companion to the post, Real Peace Is Not What You Think.

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Psychological Storms

If we want a healthier society each individual must develop an understanding that responsibility is empowerment. Rather than blaming other people or our parents or the past or one of life’s many supposed “disorders,” we must recognise that reality is an internal subjective experience not an external objective one. Things aren’t happening to you, you are happening to them.

This isn’t to say there isn’t real pain in the world; of course there is. But people would be fine with pain if they didn’t have all of the suffering. Accepting pain requires that we experience the relevant pain from a place of understanding of how the universe works. And by understanding how the universe works we thereby avoid unnecessary suffering as a choice.

Physical pain can be seen as “real” (although even that deserves its own discussion), and even some psychological pain is natural. That happens when we experience what ends up being known as post-traumatic stress; meaning you have brain wiring that isn’t helpful to a new situation you’re left in. This would include things like the death of a parent, the loss of a limb or key ability, or even a sudden or drastic shift in your living circumstances due to disaster, war or even divorce or immigration to a foreign culture. That’s a lot of brain parts now having to deal with a lot of new things all at the same time. That taxes our brain and that’s what gets called painful stress.

1014-relax-and-succeed-when-there-is-no-enemy-withinLater you can be in the new circumstances, but now that your brain has caught up you’re less stressed and less in pain–which is when the suffering can start. This is when you know how things work but you don’t like it. Meaning; you don’t approve of the universe. But the universe is the universe and you are you, so your approval is tiny against that force. You cannot direct it, you can only flow with it or push against it. Resistant thoughts generate suffering.

Your psychological resistance comes in various forms. You take some aspect of the universe and you create stress and pressure by leaning your psychology up against reality. These actions are known by names like: complaints; worry; anger; jealousy; envy; resentment; and yes, even disorders and depression. These are all forms of resistance and that is why they’re painful.

Sometimes we resist nature, like when we have complaints about the weather or time or other people’s behaviour. Just because there was a forecast or a plan or a definition of right and wrong doesn’t mean that’s how the world will go, it’s just a loose agreement on a theoretical future. Any resistance to it not happening the way we expected will generate suffering for the person doing the resisting.

1014-relax-and-succeed-if-you-imagine-a-worst-case-scenarioIn a jealous couple one party is resisting the freedom their partner invariably has, while the other is resisting their own freedom. One person thinks about their lack of control of the universe, leading the other to then think of their resulting lack of control of themselves. Someone who complains a lot will have a lot of expectations. They’ll have an invisible personal script for the world and they’ll be upset any time others–or even nature–won’t read or act off of that scripted idea. So then it doesn’t rain, it rains on your wedding.

People who envy use their thoughts to wish they had things they don’t, or to wish others who have them, didn’t. People trapped in grief refuse to accept their new circumstances and so they wander around endlessly within a world of suffering narratives built from their hopes or wishes. S.A.D. people want summer instead of winter so they convert that into thoughts about hating winter and then they blame the weather outside their head for the self-imposed weather inside their head.

People who want the world and themselves to be very different than they are will think so long and so hard about so many things they want to be different that the’ll end up in a horrible pit of depression. Meanwhile their capable self will still be there waiting to live rather than think.

1014-relax-and-succeed-do-not-use-your-imaginationWe all cling to our excuses to live small. The world can feel like a vast ocean we’re sure to drown in if we let go of whatever tiny ego-preserver we’re clinging to as we bob up and down. But we must remember, we’re not foreign to the universe. We are a part of it. So rather than being like a land-based human struggling on the surface of a deep dark sea, remember your origins; your home and your nature began in the water. Rather than resisting it and clinging to its egotistical surface, you can remember that your soul never loses the ability to swim gracefully in its depths.

From the air the water can look really scary and mysterious and foreboding. It can appear it’s too much to handle. There’s horizons when you’re on the surface and they can seem like they’re a long ways away. But if you stop all of the surface thoughts and instead just let the world go quiet as you dunk your head into reality, you’ll see the horizons disappear and they convert instead into a never-ending, always-changing ocean of three-dimensional opportunity that’s in front of you no matter which direction you go.

Rather than being trapped on one plane of reality (yours), swim in all of reality and you will suddenly be free. On the surface storms may still rage, but beneath all of that you will feel them more as gentle undulations, because from a deeper perspective all of that windy, rainy, and even thunderous thinking doesn’t really have all that much to do with you.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.