Painful Subjects

1158 Relax and Succeed - If there is no struggleShe tried to act like there was nothing wrong, but her mother could tell she had been crying. She found her in her room, sitting on her bed. She sat next to her and put her arm around her shoulder. They were quiet for a while.

“Why are they so mean to me?”

Her mother kissed her head. She took a while to speak, composing herself first. “Some people just like teasing. But most people just want to feel secure. They want to feel like they belong. It’s human nature. But if there’s an inside, then there has to be an outside.”

“And I’m on the outside.”

Her mom smiles at her misunderstanding and pulls her closer. “Oh no, dear. There is no actual inside or outside, it’s all in people’s heads. They just think they belong or don’t belong or others do or don’t. They want to be in so they needed an out and people pick on difference. But everyone’s lines in everyone’s heads–they’re all different and they change everyday anyway.”

“They hate me because I’m fat.”

Her mother furrows her brow. What’s going on? She moves to face her daughter. They look at each other a long moment. “How did you make the leap that they hate you? Dani, them creating an inside and outside–that’s not emotional. It has nothing to do with how they feel about you. They’re trying to fix an alone feeling they have. When they tease you, that’s about them, not you.”

“But they called me fat and they were all pointing at me and laughing.”

“It just felt to them like they were succeeding in being more in the in group because if you’re crying then you looked ever further out. You looked ‘more different.'”

Her daughter looks at her mother witheringly. “Mother. ‘More different?’ What are you a Valley Girl or something?”

“Ha!”

“Ha what?”

“See? You just did it. You created an outside.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“A) You made fun of my mistake, which could be viewed as mean. And B) You attributed it to a definable group: Valley Girls. See? You do it too. And you don’t hate anyone. Outsides and insides. I was outsides the rules of grammar and so now you felt you had permission to tease me.”

“Mother. I really don’t think there’s an organisation out there protecting Valley Girls.”

Her mother smiles. The energy in her daugher is changing. “Fair enough, but you still made my point. Did you mean anything against Valley Girls; or where you truly against me when you corrected me?”

Her eyes roll. “Of course not.”

“But you still did it. And if I was feeling insecure it might have hurt me. Maybe I’d talk less because I’d be worrieder–“

“YOU DID THAT ON PURPOSE!”

“Okay. I did. Maybe I’d talk less because I would worry more about being judged.”

“And what’s the advantage to doing it your way? Why shouldn’t I care?”

Her mother laughs. “Uhh…. you’re not in pain? You accept that what’s going on in someone else’s consciousness doesn’t impact yours? That you just go enjoy your life anyway, just like you hope the Valley Girls do? If you responded super positively, maybe you’d start teaching English, or start an organisation to protect Valley Girls.”

“I bet the little camouflage bikini uniform would look great on me.”

“I think they give you a sexy little hat too.” Her mother laughs and hugs her. “Honey, I want you to remember one thing: you left school and kept thinking about this. Painful subjects are called ‘painful subjects’ because they hurt. So you have to watch, because when we’re sad or depressed our brain will sometimes tilt toward them. So you have to be really conscious about being happy sweetheart. There’s a lot of great things about this world. You’ll experience plenty. But you have to watch for them. So don’t let what’s happening in someone else’s brain distract you from that. Fair?”

She’s obviously right, but what kid wants to take advice? “I’ll think about it.”

“Okay fine. You meditate then. I’m sure you’ll see the wisdom in it too, just like the Buddha. I love you. I’ll leave you to your meditation oh Great One. OOOHHHHHMMM” Her mother bows.

Her daughter waves her off like Cleopatra. “Be off with you then.”

Her mother closes her daughter’s door. Her daughter’s stronger thanks to an unpleasant experience. That’s as good as it goes. Mission accomplished. Her mother smiles and heads back to her day.

peace. s

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

The Bully at School

Rebecca had always been a fairly confident, happy girl. She had a good relationship with her parents. They were involved but not pushy. She always tried to learn from her mistakes so they trusted and respected her. They were open to whatever she wanted to do with her life as long as she gave something to the world, just as they both tried to do with their own lives.

Life had been really good but Junior High had changed that. Harmless Elementary School teasing had become cruel attacks in her new school. Grade was 7 okay, but Grade 8 was awful–or rather one girl in it was: Tina. Tina called Rebecca some awful version of fat every single time she saw her. And because Tina’s parents had money and bought her the most expensive clothes, she always had a gaggle of jealous girls with her to cackle at her insults.

Becca’s friends would always offer counter-compliments designed to disarm Tina’s attacks, which they often had levelled at themselves too, so they knew how it felt. And it wasn’t like they were saying things she couldn’t believe, but humans are built with a longing to belong, so consciously focusing on the insults and the laughter was a painful experience.

Becca hated herself even more when she would catch herself trying to hide her weight with loose clothes. It was like Tina was inside her house too. And of course social media was a total hell, with her body photoshopped onto everything from walrus’s to gigantic people eating ice cream. In her nightmares Becca would look down at her clothes in school only to see the body of an elephant. She hated Tina and her perfect, skinny beauty.

Tina was cruel. She had a lot of cruel poured into her. Whereas Becca had supportive caring parents that had held Becca responsible, where they’d never called her names or undermined her confidence; Tina had a beauty queen Mom who was at the stage where some wrinkles were showing up just as her I – married – a – beauty – queen father’s eyes started wandering to wrinkleless young ladies.

Tina’s mother felt belittled by her husband’s actions and that lead to more drinking, which often lead to flurries of insults or even blows. If Tina was even nearby when they were fighting her pure wrinkleless youth would infuriate her jealous mother. She would insult Tina viciously in a way that Becca would find very familiar, almost as though she’d heard a recording of them; which in a way she did.

Tina’s sister had thoroughly aligned herself with her mother in the parental war. And why not? Her mother was the one who dealt with guilt via her credit cards. By agreeing with her mother Tina’s sister had become the favoured child, and she lorded her status over her younger sister like an ogre. She too constantly insulted Tina, talking about her skinny boyish frame and her total lack of a chest. Tina took that insult to heart. She had no idea that her sister picked that quality only because it was the biggest difference between them.

Many years later, when she ran into the only junior high friend she’d ever run into, she was reminded of how she used to tease Becca. The woman thought Tina actually didn’t like Rebecca even after all these years. In hindsight, Tina recalled Becca as a nice, smart girl. She had teased her terribly during that time, that was true. That was the most painful period of her life; when her parents were in the process of breaking up. But she hoped the girl hadn’t let that bother her too much. It literally had nothing to do with her.

Tina made the mistake of thinking that her thoughts about things were the actual things, so for a while she felt she really was fat and she worked hard on trying to change that, but the fact was she had a bigger, softer, more bosomy figure than that. It was like trying to change the basis of her being. It never worked. So it would have been good to know that she was just confusing her thoughts about herself as being facts that were first presented by Tina.

The fact was Tina didn’t think Rebecca was fat. But she did know she was one of the first girls in class to get breasts, and that reminded Tina of her sister. So Tina didn’t hate Becca. She didn’t even hate Becca’s chest, or her own sister. Becca was only called fat because Tina was jealous because she had no defense against her mother’s cruel attacks.

Now that she was older and she’d been through a divorce herself, Tina felt more on her feet than she ever had. Now that she had some self-confidence of her own, Tina certainly didn’t try to elevate herself by putting others down. She knew that was the sure mark of an unhealthy personality.

For her part Becca did think for too many years about Tina’s insults, but in the end the beliefs her parents instilled in her won out and she regained her natural confidence. It was a far less painful and growth-laden experience for her than it was for Tina, but it left both women ended up in a place where they basically liked themselves.

Whatever routes they took, both of their older selves knew that junior high was a tiny blip in their life, and that any differences anyone had there were the sort of immature differences that would not survive the struggles of adulthood. In the end, as with all challenges in life, neither one of them would trade them away. Because in their maturity they both knew, those experiences are the essences of our people’s growth and maturity. The route there just happens to be called Junior High.

peace. s

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

Sticks and Stones

1047-relax-and-succeed-stabbed-in-the-backIs it a parent? Another kid at school? And if it’s one at school it’s usually at least three. A young boy will punch you straight in the face and it hurts, but the girls will sneak around behind you and try and turn everyone against you, and that totally undermines your place in the world in this horrible way that you can’t do anything about.

A boy can get stronger, study a martial art, but there’s no way for a girl to improve herself out of being called names that have little to nothing to actually do with her. Opinions live inside other people’s minds and we hear them through their voices. Neither of these things are in our control so there is only one other answer.

If you surrender the idea of fighting against it that doesn’t mean that you’re accepting it. It means the exact opposite. Because you don’t stop fighting it because it’s beating you, because if it was beating you and it didn’t stop eventually you’d die, and no one’s ever died from people having an opinion about them.

1047-relax-and-succeed-do-not-make-your-enemys-thoughtsIf they lynch them that’s one thing and we all have to take action quickly, but if all they do is use their voices; trust me, those can’t hurt you at all unless you choose to believe them and think them too. Besides, there’s very few people who will be around your life permanently and they certainly won’t be that type. What they say will matter for a tiny period of your existence. Tiny.

How’s a voice hurt you? How’s someone telling a joke hurt you? How’s someone using a slur on you do damage to you? Even if fifty people listened and did nothing, that won’t mean they agree with what was shouted, that will only mean they’re too cowardly to do anything about it. The more you ignore it and the more dignified and unperturbed you behave, the less interesting it is to try to knock you off balance when you’re so obviously well-balanced, and the more impressive you look to all of the cowardly people. But you don’t do that by performing like it doesn’t matter; you do it by understanding that you literally cannot be hurt by words.

1047-relax-and-succeed-famous-failuresWe’re starting to live in a world where people cannot accept differing opinions. The truth is, everyone has there areas in life where they shine, and other areas where they are less capable. That is entirely normal, and just like you will have times where you have to move around the inabilities of others, they will have to do that with you sometimes too. But everyone has those so you get yours too. People can go ahead and not like it, but as they mature they’ll realise that people like you will still be a large percentage of the population so they will also realise their opinions are only in their head and no matter how loud they are they do not make things true.

People can say whatever they want, until you repeat it to yourself and actually ask yourself if it might be true, it is not true for you. Truth exists in people singularly. It isn’t a group concept. The closest thing we have to that is science and science has no opinion about your personality.

If you start thinking other’s thoughts then that’s the beginning of your thinking starting to make that idea true, because whether it’s true or not won’t impact whether or not you can believe it. There’s no difference between your beliefs and what you think is true. So do not make your enemy’s thoughts about you your thoughts about you.

1047-relax-and-succeed-find-a-group-of-peopleSomeone can turn the entire school against you and you can still have a fantastic life. The kid who thinks that controlling anything in childhood would ever actually matter is just lost in their own false belief of importance. They go to the bathroom too. Their relationships will end too. Life ebbs and flows throughout it’s length, so every human being spends times up and times down. Who goes first doesn’t mean a thing.

Believe in your strengths, spend time with those who see and appreciate them. The others have opinions about you just as you have yours about them. Since those never last, they just don’t matter anyway. Develop your strengths. Start now. Because while other kids are bullying you and making their future more difficult by quietly turning others against them, you can take that time to ensure that you’re becoming more capable, thereby setting up a confident, successful future for yourself.

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 Bully-Proof Child

925 Relax and Succeed - Don't feel stupidI really enjoy working with tweens and teens who have to endure verbal bullying at school. It’s always a nice quick process getting them back to school and enjoying it, but that’s not the most important part for me. Getting beat up is scary and painful but when it’s over it’s over. Psychological abuse is that stuff that can linger in your mind for the rest of a person’s life. I know a lot of adults whose lives are still dictated by their need to prove that they aren’t the people their school yard taunts suggested they were and I love the idea of nipping that problem in the bud.

Of course most taunts are merely camouflaged demands to get in line, conform and surrender your individuality in order to be a part of the group. In general the groups making those taunts are just the people who’ve conformed the most. And since the taunts are just verbal activities in their brain, their thought-based nature means they are also ephemeral and temporary or, in other words, meaningless. Once a child is made to fully understand this they’re pretty much free.

The best part about this for me isn’t the relieving of the teasing. While I’m happy for these inevitably awesome kids I’m meeting, they’re amazing enough that they would have been okay in another way anyway. Hardships only build strength and resiliency so enduring those things would just create opportunities later. But this way they get to skip the suffering and then build the resiliency and enact their greatest self much sooner.

925 Relax and Succeed - What makes you differentThese are the kids that get to function with true humility. Rather than fear their weaknesses and waste their strengths they effectively manage what they can’t do and they boldly do what they can do. There’s no more being shy about mistakes or about skills. Pride and shame get replaced by focus and involvement. Rather than thinking about how others might be judging them, these kids are very healthy about not focusing on opinions. They focus on what they’re doing so what they’re doing is done better.

Of course almost universally I’m seeing kids because they are in some way special. And of course, being special is really at the heart of why humans have been so successful for a million years. That diversity is what’s allowed us to do some really amazing things. I mean, Mars was super close the other night and I was looking at it thinking–we’ve been there! And now we’re talking about staying there. We’re amazing. And the people that get us there are these impervious kids who don’t care about things that don’t matter and so they grow up to be adults who do fantastic things like go to Mars.

No one should be stopped from the joys and rewards of a school and its community by simple ideas. We as people are much bigger than that and our ability to impact our own lives is greater than that. I don’t so much teach people what to do as I remind them of how strong they truly are. From there they are wise and clever and content on their own.

925 Relax and Succeed - Star Trek was an attemptWe’ve built a world that is short on displaying empathy and long on displaying selfishness. Virtually every reality show hinges on selfishness over cooperation. Same with game shows, and most dramas are also dominance games. Winning is looking like an advertisement or in having what others can’t afford. And yet despite how hard these ideas are sold to us, we all prefer authenticity and humility and in the face of each other the real qualities always win.

It may seem strange to teach the bullied empathy for the bullying, but that’s what works because it really is the bully who has the problem in their life. Once a kid sees this in this particularly profound way, it’s not so much that they feel stronger–although they are–they just no longer understand why the other kid ever bothered them in the first place. And in leading them to learn how to manage their consciousness properly, the bully literally handed their victim a lifelong superpower.

Mental suffering is the easiest suffering to manage. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Once a kid understands how their psychology really works and how they can affect it they don’t need much more. With the windshield uncovered they just drive around any challenges. And that’s important. Because they’ve got important places to go and important things to do. I wonder where your kid might take us?

peace. s

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

Other Perspectives #75

731 OP75 Relax and Succeed - Don't you hate it when

Hide the pain inside? In what organ? Via which… fluid? Everyone knows it hurts terribly to be ostracized. But you cannot be profoundly happy if your happiness depends on others. So let people have their opinions. Besides, when our guard’s down you and I are equally bad for accidentally hurting others. The reason we can’t stop it from happening is because it happens inside the brain of the person who’s hurt and we don’t know what might offend them. Nor do we control their thoughts—they do. They think the judgments or memories that release the chemicals that lead to the sensation of pain, just like we’re doing the thinking when it’s us being hurt. So you can enjoy hanging around with different people other than those who attack you, but don’t try to lead a life where no one attacks you. That’s impossible and a waste of energy because rather than ruminating on their opinions, you could just be focused on something else. Everyone you meet will have an opinion about you. I want you to think about all of the people that you have had opinions about. Some of them you’ll never see again. But none of them would really care what your opinions had been. There’s just too many of them. So they live instead. You should do the same. Stop trying to figure life out. Live instead.

peace. s

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