How to Handle Difficult, Miserable, Painful Situations

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No matter where on the planet we live or how we live, we will all come upon situations that will challenge us with every fiber of our being.  These situations will appear in any facet of life, personally, professionally or emotionally, and will stretch us into contortions that bear pain.  While digging deeply into my own psyche and meaning for life I found a way to handle all difficult situations with great success.  Being faced with the serious, life-threatening illness of my child, addictions in people I loved, relationship challenges of every sort, and debilitating physical illness myself, these drove me to finding another way to cope with all of these and more.  The result has been to reduce the pain associated with the situation and to decrease the amount of ego-investment I have in life itself.  As a result, life is lived more fully and suffering is often kept at bay.

I literally read hundreds of books on how to cope with difficult life challenges.  I searched in every church, temple and holy place I could find around the world for solutions.  I turned over every stone I could in hopes for a way to cope with those things that hurt so much.  I suspected that a solution could be found since humans have been suffering for so long; surely someone knew how to do this better than me.  I’m not sure how the solution came to me but I suspect after the considerable information gathering I did the knowledge meshed together and provided a simple answer that I could use.  I now do this in every situation where I feel a negative emotional reaction arising and I stop it in its tracks as best I can.

First, when I feel any negative emotion such as fear, anxiety, or angst of any kind, I immediately stop what I’m doing and look at the situation that is eliciting the reaction.  When I know what this is, I then decide that the situation is neutral.  It’s not good or bad, it’s simply neutral and I do this in several ways.  One way is to engage in an intellectual response until the emotion is gone.  For example, if my child is ill I decide that I cannot know why he is facing this challenge.  It may be part of his own life path or it will take him on a journey that I have no knowledge about.  Case in point, my son who had a life-threating illness came to discover he wanted a career in neuroscience through his own health challenges.  I could not possibly have known he would find his calling through his illness at the time.  Another situation occurred during his illness when a member of the medical staff made a medication error and he became critically ill.  Through this, I learned the lesson of forgiveness in a way that I have never known.  I learned forgiveness with every cell of my being.

Another way to neutralize emotions and a situation associated with them is to simply decide it’s so, with no further thought.  I make the decision to make it neutral; I attach no meaning at all and accept it as such and I hold this firmly in my mind until all emotions subside.  I remind myself over and over again that this situation is neutral until all emotions have cleared. I remain steadfast in this process.

Once a neutral stand has been taken and I am clear of any emotional reaction at all, I begin to assign meaning to the event.  It is here that all the power lies.  The command of life situations are made manageable by assigning meaning to events rather than reacting to them.  In truth, we are all assigning meaning to everything in life and often doing so in a reactionary manner.  We have the same thoughts over and over with the same results over and over.  Our parents told us what was good and what was bad and we often adopted this.  The media tells us what the world is about, skewing our minds with their impressions and interpretations.  It’s when we begin to think for ourselves that life changes dramatically because we assign the meaning that is right for us.

A job is lost. This is neither good nor bad.  It’s an opportunity to define ourselves in the world in a new way. We are either a victim or a warrior.  A friend or family member passes on from this life to the next.  We cannot know the big picture for that person and therefore we cannot decide what is best.  We can grieve our loss and then simply choose to make life better for ourselves in each and every situation.  The loss becomes a force to love in a greater capacity and propels us to experience the world with new eyes.

We create our reality with the thoughts we choose to have and the world is exactly as we choose to see it.  Many great writers, prophets and teachers have imparted this lesson but one day when we have had enough suffering and enough of a world that creates pain we will choose to see a world that creates new opportunities.  In this new reality, all situations present themselves for growth, love, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness when we choose to see them that way. Life is lived less from the ego and more from the true essence of who we are.  This is the essence which is trying to expand and become more of itself here in the physical world with each and every challenge that surfaces.

With love and humility,

Teresa

Teresa L. DeCicco, PhD is the author of “Living Beyond the Five Senses” available at the “BUY NOW” button at the top of the page and in bookstores everywhere

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What I Know For Sure About Addiction

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Addiction is a pervasive, deeply ingrained ailment that has no respect for age, gender, culture or socio-economic status. While some people are plagued with addiction or multiple addictions, others are victim to its effects by being in relationship with addicts; spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends.  Having been embedded into a family where addiction played a major role in the story of my life, there are a few things I have learned about this phenomenon.  What I’ve learned comes from my professional training entwined with personal experience where the two became a great force unto themselves.  The truth is, it was this combination of education and experience that allowed me to heal the effects of addiction because it plagued people I loved so dearly.  I needed to find out what this was, how it came to be, how it could be healed, and this is what I found.

Firstly, it seems that the substance or behaviour associated with addiction can be just about anything. It can be alcohol, drugs, food, video gaming, exercise, pornography, cigarettes, social media, sugar, or anything else that gets a hold of one’s will.  The pull and draw is so great that it literally overtakes resolve and determination.  The allurement is a force so strong it eventually changes a person into some unrecognizable, distorted version of themselves.  The substance or behaviour however, does not seem to hold all the power, for it does not matter what the object of desire may be.  In fact, when the object is removed or avoided, it’s often replaced with yet another point of attraction.  Alcohol is replaced with sex addiction.  Cigarettes are replaced with food.  Food is replaced with video gaming and drugs; the cycle can be endless.  So the source of addiction seems to be a deep and pervasive issue lying within the addict. It’s something that calls forth with a desire to be fed substances or behaviours, at all cost.  It’s as though there is an invisible intruder hiding within.

This secret intruder inside the addict will demand what it wants no matter who it harms or what the cost.  Though at first there’s great gain from numbing this mysterious prowler, eventually, it will rob its host blind.  Entire families will be destroyed, finances will be in ruin, teeth are lost, illness is ignored until everything and everyone is fed to this need.  Herein rests the truth about addiction.  It’s a complex neurological, psychological and emotional wound within an individual that wants to be soothed and numbed with something outside the self.

While the addict is fighting the inner battle or feeding the invisible wound, everyone exposed to this are then inflicted with a similar wound.  Children who try to love an addicted parent are left unloved with their own inner pain.  Spouses and partners who are feeding their addiction inflict a wound onto anyone who attempts to pair up with them in any way.  Parents are inflicted with a wound when a child is unable to reciprocate love because they are controlled by an inner tormentor.  The wounds from addiction are passed on to anyone involved with an active addict, so much so, that pain and suffering become contagious.

So how can the pain be stopped and the inner wounds healed in addicts and non-addicts alike?  There is in fact a healing force in opposite but equal power to the pain and suffering that can do this healing.  This invisible force of life is that which heals bones when they are broken and flesh when it is cut.  It can heal all things if it’s allowed in to do its magic and can heal wounds deeply embedded in the psyche. For addicts, this force of healing can be found in treatment centers, 12 step programs, in churches, and spiritual groups, to name a few.  It can be given many names, higher power, life force, essence, God, whatever name resonates, but the force is one and the same.  Though the road to recovery can be slow and arduous, it can also occur instantaneously for some.  Whatever the path of recovery for any addict, once it has been initiated and effort is put forth, the results are magnanimous.  Lives are healed. Families are mended.  Success is to be had in every single facet of life.  This is where everyday miracles lie.

So what I know for sure is that addiction and all those inflicted by the wounds of addiction by loved ones, can truly be healed.  There is a way and I have seen it heal many people over and over again both professionally and personally.  It has healed family members, friends, co-workers and it continues to heal those who are ready for a new life.  What I know for sure is that when one person heals the effects of addiction through the force of life itself, the whole world gets a little better.

With love and gratitude to those who are recovering or yet to recover,

Teresa

Author of “Living Beyond the Five Senses”.  Available at the BUY NOW button at the top of the page and in bookstores everywhere.

The Girl Next Door

sad young womanWhen in despair, the antidote is hope.

When in darkness, the cure is light.

For sadness, the remedy is joy.

It is exactly as taught in Sunday school prayers.

Since embarking on a spiritual path I adopted the practice of non-judgment many years ago.  Though I fall off the path more often than I would like, I try over and over again to bring myself to not judging others.  Interestingly, I find myself very non-judgmental when in the company of people that mirror my own behavior, attitudes, and interests.  When they are like me, I do not judge them.  It’s so funny how that works.

It gets harder with people who are not like me to then stay in my practice but it they who are the ones that in fact help me to continue moving time and time again to non-judgment.  Over and over, I fall into the old habit and find myself thinking that someone should change their behaviour because I don’t like it.  I may also find myself mentally chastising someone for not having more strength in the face of a difficult life challenge.  “Where is their character?” I ask myself, and catch myself, having a decree about that person.  Luckily, over the past five months I have witnessed a situation that has turned my practice on its head.

A young woman, barely out of childhood, moved into an apartment close to a colleague’s office.  My colleague began voicing observations about her.  “She seems to never go to work”, he would say.  I did not answer him but simply listened and observed.  “She has a dog and doesn’t seem to walk it enough”, was another comment.  As weeks went by the comments came more often and became more caustic.  “She’s so unproductive. Why doesn’t she get a job?”  “She’s lazy and messy.” “She can’t get out of her apartment before noon.”  “She can’t even put her recycle garbage out properly.” The comments continued and I simply listened but they dug painfully into the core of my being.  I observed what it looked like to hammer down a ruling about someone, let alone someone my colleague didn’t even know, and I felt the sting of that ruling, time and time again.

As weeks went by the comments continued nearly every time I saw my colleague, who declared he now avoided the girl completely.  He decided it was best to not speak to her or notice her at all because she wasn’t worth acknowledging.  She became invisible to him.  My heart began to sink with every negative comment and every reported event of shunning.  My heart bled for this young woman and how she must have felt.  I felt a slash in my stomach with each cutting blow.  Eventually, I had to choke back the tears when a comment was voiced but I continued to remain silent.

As life events would have it, I knew the girl and I knew she suffered from depression.  This however, was not my story to tell so I kept it to myself.  The girl suffered judgment by my colleague and I suffered from watching how someone with depression is treated by those who judge.  More importantly, I saw what judgment looks like and how it feels to be a witness to it.  From this, the truth became clear to me; when I judge I am simply projecting areas of myself that need to be healed onto someone else.  When I judge someone for not being emotionally strong enough, it’s likely there is some area of my life where I feel weak.  If I judge someone for being dishonest then this calls me to look at my own integrity.  When I judge anyone for anything at all, this is the very thing I need to see in myself.  Judging is the perfect trainer for those things that need to be exercised.  When I see despair in others, I need hope; when I see darkness in others, I need light, and where I see sadness, I need to find my own joy.  It is exactly as I was taught in catechism class as a child.

So the young woman unknowingly played a vital role in the practice of non-judgment.  It was the perfect play where the characters affected me profoundly and changed how I looked at life.  They made me see judgment from an entirely new vantage point;  one where I just don’t want to be.  My practice is getting a little easier every day.

With love and acceptance,

Teresa

Author of “Living Beyond the Five Senses” available at www.amazon.com     www.amazon.ca  and in bookstores everywhere.

What Blossoms Within?

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What is it that we wear on our faces? What exactly puts life lines or a glow to make us tremendously radiant or  incredibly dull?

On a beautiful, sunny morning I ventured out into the countryside for a morning bike ride.  I cycle for my health but also to experience the surroundings I inevitably find myself in.  On this particular morning the wild lilac bushes are in bloom and line much of the street I’m on.  I take in the beautiful sunshine, the expanse of purple flowers, and the cornfields behind the lilacs peaking up green sprouts as I cycle by.

The fragrance of the purple lilacs is intoxicating.  I’m feeling tremendous gratitude for being in this very place at this moment as the birds are singing loudly all around me, orchestrating a concert of their own.  Suddenly, the sound of a car rushing up the road breaks my concentration, I instinctively look into my mirror and move safely out of the way.  So often it gets dangerous on clear country roads where vehicles drive much too fast with drivers thinking they are completely alone.  The driver speeds by, not noticing me at all.   After driving ahead quite some distance, I see him pull over and exit his vehicle.  He then disappears into a mass of lilac bushes.

As I tentatively approach, I see him come out of the mass of flowers carrying a huge bouquet of wild lilacs.  Still unaware that I am there he leans forward and picks a few more branches of the succulent blossoms and adds them to his overflowing bouquet.  In an instant, I begin to imagine the recipient of this gift and it makes me smile. I imagine a partner, a friend, an ill family member.  I imagine him placing them in a vase on the kitchen table for everyone to enjoy.  I imagine them in a bucket of water placed at the front door to greet guests because this is what I do with wild lilacs every year.

Seeing him pick the beautiful bouquet brought a rush of heartwarming emotion which then carried to mind waves of abundance.  I know that by picking lilacs the tree will bloom better and more vigorously the following year.  The tree will give more fragrance, more flowers, more beauty, and more joy for having been shared.  The thought strikes me profoundly and I realize that the lilac blossoms are the tree’s expression of life, love, and beauty.  This is the part of the tree that blossoms and grows and expands; and more so for having been given away.  We, just like the lilac tree, become adorned with that which we give away.

After my ride I came home and placed a beautiful bouquet of lilacs at my door to welcome guests into our home.  I also placed it there as a reminder to myself that whatever I give away to others is the very thing that will flourish and grow within me.

With Love and Joy,

Teresa

“Living Beyond the Five Senses” is available at www.amazon.com     www.amazon.ca  and in bookstores everywhere.