I’m (Only) Human

There are 2 very different ways to use this phrase.

  1. As a way to excuse bad behavior
  2. As a way to offer yourself true grace when you fall short of perfection (which is all of us always)

This bit of genius came from a client today. We were talking about a situation and she was being hard on herself about how she handled something, saying she “should” have known better. I reiterated–as I do so often with my wonderful clients who are all too hard on themselves– that she is learning new skills, doing brave new things and in no way can she expect perfection from herself. She is a human.

She immediately noticed that awareness of being human was intended to offer her grace from needing to be perfect. She felt the release of guilt from “I should know better” and was able to lean into the steady calm of “I’m learning a whole new way of thinking.”

She then reflected that in the past she had used the phrase “I’m only human” to act as an excuse. SO PROFOUND.

I think the difference comes in the word “only”.

When we know we are doing our best AND that we are going to fall short because we are human and humans are imperfect, it gives us permission to go big, to try hard and expect some failure along the way. Of course we will fail. Trying again after that is the seed of true transformation.

Yet saying “I’m only human” somehow lets us off the hook from showing up fully and giving this life everything we have. It’s a defense against outside expectations or a dodge of responsibility.

As you consider how you want to live your life own your humanity. Know what you can control and what you cannot. Give this life everything you have knowing there will be failure along the way. Do not expect less from yourself because of your humanity. Lean into the fullness of it and give yourself all the grace along the way.

The Downside of Authenticity

Often when I’m coaching someone they begin to balk at the idea of practicing new thoughts that they have decided will better serve them. Even though they don’t have the results in their lives they would like to have, there is a sudden desire to hold onto their “authenticity”. Aren’t I just trying to get them to think more positive thoughts about their life that aren’t true?

I used to say all the time. “It’s so important for me to be genuine and authentic.” Now, from my current vantage point, I can see that, for me, that meant “I need to be able to not move forward in my life in ways that are hard because I have all the feelings that were caused by all the things.”

We are who we think we are. Our authentic self is all the thoughts we have about who we are. Most of these thoughts are unconscious and were programmed in without any input from our best selves. No one asked us if we actually liked or wanted any of those thoughts. Yet so often when we are given the opportunity to really look at those thoughts and change them, we begin to cling to the version of who we think we are that isn’t living the life we want.

We are who we think we are. And if we choose those thoughts on purpose rather than living out the program that was given to us, isn’t this possibly more authentic, because we CHOSE it? Until we truly decide, are we really our selves?

What I see happening in so many people is this sudden clinging to an authentic self or “reality” is really arguing for limiting beliefs.

This makes so much sense. Our primal brain is not interested in us changing or up leveling or deciding we can choose the kind of life we want because this takes work. Our primal brain is not interested in this kind of work. It wants to stay in the cave.

But the more evolved part of our brain knows there is more. And when I’m working with that part of the brain, a client is able to see what’s possible. They glimpse who they might authentically become.

Our authentic self is not found. It is created.

How We Hurt Our Own Feelings

We hurt our own feelings all of the time. We think someone else can hurt our feelings by what they say and do, but this isn’t true. Our feelings don’t get hurt until we have a thought about what was said or done.

I know it doesn’t feel this way. It feels automatic. A person says something, maybe in anger, and we suddenly feel hurt…by what they said! But that isn’t what happens. They say something, then we have a thought about it that hurts our feelings.

Here’s an example. I’ve coached many parents about something their child has said to them that “hurt their feelings”. A common one is when a kid says something like “I hate you” or “you’re a terrible mom” or “I wish I had a different mom or dad” or any version of that kind of comment.

It seems perfectly normal that would hurt our feelings. But it doesn’t. It’s our thought about their comment or behavior that does that.

If I said to you, “I really don’t like your blue hair” and you don’t have blue hair, you are not going to feel bad about that. You’ll think something like, “huh. She’s weird.” or “I don’t have blue hair.” Maybe you’ll think I need to have my eyes checked. Whatever the thought is, if no part of you believes or attaches to my comment, you won’t have hurt feelings.

We only have hurt feelings when part of us believes the comment or thinks the person should not have said/done what they said or did.

In our example above, when a child says something about us as a parent or how they think about us as a parent, if we believe or attach to that comment, we suddenly have hurt feelings. But what if we didn’t? Then our feelings wouldn’t be hurt.

When my kids get angry and say something about me or my parenting in anger, I think thoughts like “That’s totally normal. Very developmentally appropriate.” “People say things when they are angry that they don’t mean.” “She’s feeling hurt, so she’s trying to hurt me.” None of these thoughts hurt my feelings.

This is always applicable. Likely you are trying right now to find the examples where this doesn’t apply. I’d love to walk through those examples with you and show you how you are hurting your own feelings. When you know this, you can decide to stop doing it!

How to Get Out of Thought Loops

Thought loops. Rumination. Spinning thinking. Whatever you want to call it, sixes have plenty of it. For a long time this was why I hated waking in the middle of the night. Before I knew how to manage my mind, if I woke up, my mind would start spinning on future or past worst case scenarios. Usually using my past against me to spin up future worst case scenarios. Or it would be the middle of the day and I would be so consumed by the news, someone else’s life, spinning on my latest health symptom, etc. that I couldn’t function as I wanted to in the world. Hours would go by with me not being as productive as I had planned and not much to show for that time. Yet I was exhausted.

Emotional exhaustion is a common six experience. It comes from allllllll that unproductive thinking we do all day (and sometimes night!) long. We think and spin and loop and worry and then don’t have nearly as much energy available for the things we want to do in our lives.

Here is how to get out of a loop:

Recognize what is happening here.

We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. It is easy for us to spin up into stories because it’s familiar to us and we BELIEVE everything our brain is telling us when this is happening. Your brain is just doing what it does, taking in the world through thinking and then generating feelings in response to all those thoughts, so we get stuck in a think and feel loop. Your brain is NOT ACTUALLY PREDICTING THE FUTURE. Learn to recognize when you are in a loop.

Once you recognize the loop, STOP

S- Say stop out loud to yourself. Saying this out loud (or internally if you are in public and care about that. 🙂 ) immediately gets your lower brains attention and lets it know a new command is coming.

T- Tell yourself you know you are in a loop and that’s OK (this work MUST be done with self compassion. It’s OK that your brain is doing what it does!)

O- Opt out of the loop. Yes. You can just opt out. You can turn your attention to something else. (I can let this go. It’s OK. This loop is not necessary and I have things I want to do. It’s OK that I was stuck and I can let it go.)

P- Pivot to something you want to be spending your time doing. You will use the energy that is going into your loop to complete something you care about that you have control over!

**A note on opting out. I KNOW it doesn’t feel like that is possible, but we know it IS because if something more compelling and present came into your brain you would switch to that. If someone you love was actually hurt, whatever you were ruminating about would vanish and your focus would shift. This work is about you building that control consciously.

As I mentioned above, a critical part of this work is that it is happening within a context of self love. Often this is the hardest part for my clients and something I’m able to help them with. We do not make lasting positive change from negative emotion. It doesn’t happen. To speak kindly to yourself as you learn new things is crucial for change to last.

How to Allow Negative Emotion

A cornerstone of personal growth is learning to allow all emotions in our life. I’ve written about the balance of emotions here. We exist in a culture that is only interested in the top “happy” half of the emotional spectrum. Unfortunately, this makes us all act crazy (or think everyone else is acting crazy) because the reality is that being human means we experience the entire emotional spectrum.

What happens when we aren’t willing to allow our emotions in our lives? So. Many. Things. Let me count the ways:

  1. Overeating
  2. Overdrinking
  3. Overspending
  4. Too much Facebook
  5. Too much Netflix
  6. Over consumption of information
  7. Acting out against people
  8. Controlling other people
  9. Self judgment
  10. Judgment of others
  11. Spinning in worry and anxiety
  12. We don’t pursue our own dreams

This list is not exhaustive, but you get a good idea of the far reaching consequences of the inability to allow negative emotion to be part of our experience. These are all examples of resisting, avoiding or acting out of emotion.

How do we do it? I’m going to give you a couple different analogies.

Imagine you are in a pool and you have a beach ball. Resisting emotion is like taking the beach ball and trying to stuff it under the water. It takes all of your energy and focus to accomplish this and will inevitably happen? The beach ball will come out of the water with more force than it ever had before. Resistance to negative emotion makes it stronger. We eventually give into the emotion, meaning we lash out, eat the thing, let the ourselves spin up into a worry story, etc. Allowing the beach ball means it’s just there floating on the water. You can still do other things. You know it’s there, but it’s not taking too much of your energy and attention.

Here’s another analogy I’ve been working with that I find super helpful. Imagine you have an unwanted dinner guest that shows up at your door and demands to be let it. This is the negative emotion. This person comes in and you want them to leave, but they won’t, so you use all your energy and attention to try to push them out of the house. (Like the buffalo at the top) You can’t finish dinner, or converse with anyone or do anything else you want to do because you are busy wrestling. You can instead, imagine that you allow the person to come in, but you let them know that while they are welcome, they need to sit quietly in a chair. They are not allowed to cause a bunch of trouble. The guest is there and you are aware of them, but you can completely carry on with your life as you planned. You are not derailed by this interruption. That is allowing. Eventually, they get bored and leave.

ALL of your growth is in the work of learning how to allow negative emotion in your life. You are so worth the effort to learn how!

7 Steps to Build Self Trust

We sixes are in the dependent stance. This means we will look anywhere and everywhere for answers to all our questions–and we have a lot of them–rather than within. We need to make sure things check out with other people (where this is directly asking or reading a bajillion articles) before we feel that we can move forward. This can seem logical and reasonable and can actually be, BUT this behavior usually stems from a lack of self trust and an attempt to find security and safety. Not good motivators. Why? When we act from that motivation, the personality patterns that leave us feeling self doubting, fearful, and anxious are strengthened.

In order to begin to build self trust and find our inner authority, we have to do something different. Here is what the process looks like:

  1. Pick something you need to do that requires you to make a decision you would normally check out with others. Make this small to start. We have better success building new habits when we have successes at the beginning.
  2. Make the decision. Decide what to do. Again, we are starting small here.
  3. Notice the feeling that comes up right after you decide. STOP and just notice it. It will not be a positive feeling. Your brain will be giving you lots of thoughts about your decision and those thoughts are creating negative emotion in your body. Notice those without judgement.
  4. Stay with the emotion. Name it. Describe it. Breathe.
  5. Notice that this emotion is attempting to move you to take an action like get approval, change your mind or GOOGLE.
  6. Don’t take the action. Stay with your emotion. Breathe. The emotion may come in waves. Just let it be.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 until the emotion passes.

When you have done this, you have begun a process of not traveling down well-worn neuro-pathways and started building a new one, that YOU CHOSE! This is the path to building your self trust. You can absolutely do it.

If you have questions about this technique or anything you read on the blog, you can find me on FB here or you can email me at kristin@kristinmessegee.com.

5 Ways to Raise Your Emotional Temperature

Even though we humans have a vast array of emotions available to us at any given moment, we actually have a select few that govern the overall emotional tone of our lives. This is our emotional set point. While it can move up and down based on circumstantial changes, without any conscious effort, we always level set back. This is known as “hedonic adaptation”. It means we get used to things. We go back to feeling how we usually feel in pretty short order.

Think of a thermostat. You have a temperature that is your normal emotional temperature. We tend to attribute our temperature to our circumstances. This is because most of us don’t know our temperature comes from within us. It was set for us long ago by some combination of genetics and environment and we have just been living there ever since.

This emotional temperature is a filter with which we view the world. The is the Law of Attention. We will notice, pay attention to, and tell stories about things that allow us to continue to live at our set point. You can see this so clearly in other people, right? No matter what happens in their life (good or bad), they are generally the same level of happy, sad, mad, etc.

Interestingly, when we come across someone who seems to have an emotional set point higher than ours, we tend to attribute that to THEIR life circumstances. We think if we had their (insert thing we think will make us feel better), then we would feel better. Nope.

For enneagram sixes these are the top emotions I have seen show up over and over: shame, fear, overwhelm, confusion, irritation, and lack (scarcity). We think it is our circumstances causing these feelings, but it’s our thought and thought stories that cause our feelings. Remember, this is great news! It means we actually have all the power we think we don’t have.

Here are 3 steps for you to being to raise your emotional temperature:

1.Learn to IDENTIFY your dominant feelings: What are your top 3 emotions you experience on a regular basis.

2. Become aware of what you are thinking that is causing the feeling: This is easiest to do using a specific circumstance that you think is causing the feeling. When was the last time you felt confused or fearful. Go to that time and ask yourself what were the thoughts in your head. You will start to see the thought feeling connection.

3. Declare your desire to experience less of what is dominant for you and more of what you want. For me, my dominant emotion was a feeling of scarcity or lack. So now, I work on practicing thoughts that make me feel abundant. I look for evidence of abundance in the world.

4. Notice. Practice. Notice. Practice. Rewiring our brain takes time and practice. Be kind to yourself! Over time you will notice you are seeing things that support the emotions you desire rather than the one you have just been used to experiencing.

5. To get help identifying your top emotions that are keeping your thermostat lower than you’d like, book a free consult with me. I’ll show you your before (where you are now) and your after (where you want to go!) and how to overcome what’s in between.

Take Your Brain Out of the Box

Our brains are programmed from an early age without our permission. It’s as if our genetics and early environment took our brain, got it all set up and it back in the box. Most of us never go back and take a look at that programming to see if we would choose it. We just live it out.

And some of us get to a point we realize we don’t like how things are going, so we find someone or something to help us understand the programming better. We begin to uncover lots of stories and reasons for how we got programmed the way we are.

Our new awareness can be helpful. We feel the balm of understanding. We know why our life isn’t working out how we wanted. We often can attribute it to certain people or circumstances out of our control. This can be the next place we get stuck. We live our lives knowing why we aren’t able to live the lives we want.

But some of us can’t stop there. We know there is more. We know there is better and we suspect it’s up to us. No matter what has happened to us, or who we live with, or what job we have, we know we are still in charge of our lives.

We know. But how do we do it?

Take your brain out of the box! The fix for what ails us is an inside job. We get to take it out, give it a good look and do the work to rewrite that software.

Yes, you were programmed without your permission. Yes, things have happened to you that you wouldn’t have chosen. Yes, you live around humans who do all kinds of human things. And yet, you absolutely can reprogram your brain in a way that you choose.

You can live the life you want. And nothing around you has to change. The most powerful computer on the planet is in your head ready for you to tell it what to do.

What does giving up coffee have to do with building self trust

Coffee. Ahhhhh. I’m from the Pacific Northwest…they basically add it to baby food there. OK. Not quite, but I had my first coffee beverage at 15 and never really looked back, barring a couple first trimesters of pregnancy when it just wasn’t feasible.

But, fast forward to some medical issues and I realized it had to go for a while. So, I quit. Easy peasy. JUST KIDDING! Oh my gosh, that first week…

What was hard about it? Sure I missed my caffeine boost. Yes there were some headaches. But those parts were not what was hard. It was alllll my thinking around it that made it so hard. Remember, our thoughts create our feelings and desire is a feeling. And it can be a powerful one. I just wanted it and my thoughts were doing all kinds of work to reinforce the desire and get me to satisfy it. Insert your favorite indulgence, imagine giving it up and you know all the thoughts I’m talking about:

Just one cup. It’s fine. You can quit tomorrow, you have a lot to do today. Who even cares? It’s so not a big deal. You need to feel sharp. Everyone else gets to have it and they are fine.

I even had a cup made two separate times before I stopped myself. I had given into my lower brain yammering away, made the coffee and then I realized I was thinking, “no one even has to know”. The true kiss of death thought when we are working to give something up that isn’t good for us. No one has to know? I would know! And I dumped it out. TWICE this happened.

Here is why this matters: If I say I’m going to do something, and I don’t do it, I am breaking my trust with myself. It has nothing to do with the actual substance or act. We do this all the time.

I won’t eat that. I won’t drink that. I won’t say that. I’ll stay calm. I won’t do it again. And then we do the opposite of what we said.

In that moment we have a choice that is so much bigger than it seems. We can build trust with ourselves in that moment or break it down. We don’t realize that’s the choice we are making. Our brain is just trying to convince us that we should do what we always do–stay the same and don’t change because change requires effort. But, when that happens, when we repeatedly give in, we tell ourselves that decisions we make with our pre-frontal cortex (the productive thinking part) aren’t that important. We HAVE to quit telling ourselves this! The decisions we make with our pre-frontal cortex are the MOST important decisions we make because everything else is automatic. This is the part of the brain we use to build the life we want.

And here is the amazing part! My desire has gone down significantly. I actually don’t want the coffee anymore. This is possible with anything we are addicted to. We can retrain our brain.

So, even though no one but me knew that I made the coffee and then poured it down the drain (TWICE), I’m sharing it with you for a real example of what this looks like. What can you apply this to in your own life? It’s the small decisions we make each day that are the foundation to the elusive self trust so many of my clients want. Self trust is built or broken down in the small moments each day.

If you want help applying this in your own life to begin to build your trusting relationship with yourself, schedule a call with me and I’ll teach you how.

Manuals

We get manuals when we buy things. Appliances, cars. The manual tells us how things should run and work.

People don’t come with manuals, but we have them in our minds for them anyway. They have the following titles:

The Daugher/Son Manual (volumes for yourself and your children if you have them)

The spouse manual (this one is usually very thick)

The mom/dad manual (there are volumes for your parents and you as a parent)

The friend manual

The boss manual

Random person in line at the grocery store manual

As you can imagine…the list goes on and shelves are full.

These are all the rules you have for all the people you run into in life and all the roles you fill. When these rules get broken (including the ones you break), you feel upset. And you feel entitled to feeling upset because they broke a RULE. But these are all just your rules. That you made up. Or took from someone else who made them up. We think our way of doing things is just logical. We don’t realize we are imposing our manuals on other people.

Also, we don’t exactly meet someone and say, “Hi! So glad to meet you. Let’s be friends, but first I need to make sure you know the rules to your part. As long as you follow along here, that will be so great, and I won’t have to feel uncomfortable or upset. Good?” That would be absurd. But at least it would be honest. Instead we are so often disappointed in people and experiencing negative emotion because they didn’t follow our rules! That we made up and didn’t tell them.

Having manuals for people creates all sorts of pain for us. This pain is avoidable!

Of course it’s fine to clearly share your expectations with those in your lives, but just know that what they decide to do with that information is up to them. It’s actually true what you have heard, we can’t control other people. I know this is sad news, but there IS good news!

We CAN control ourselves and our reactions to how others behave. It’s true. It’s so freeing and calming to know that we can manage our own minds and let other people be who they are. We can actually let our manuals for other people go.

It’s an amazing mind shift to stop trying to control other people and truly focus on managing our own minds. And watch what happens when you don’t try to control the people around you and instead approach . It’s a little bit of magic.