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What to do when you get sh*tty news

Mary Cade and StaceyThat’s a photo of my dear friend Mary Cade and me (and her adorable daughter) that was taken last fall.

We got together on a beautiful spring day last week (but were so wrapped up in catching up I forgot to snap a pic).

If you’ve been a long-time ezine reader, you may remember that last fall, she and her husband, Gawain, were embarking on journey of extraordinary healing after Gawain received news that he had a recurrence of cancer.

Many of you, in fact, were part of a crowdsourcing campaign that raised over $50,000 to help support his alternative and complementary treatments!

Last week Gawain shared that he is feeling the best – the most healthy and vital – he’s felt in 5 years!

And yet he is still not seeing test results that would reflect the complete cure we are all envisioning for him.

So how do we keep the vision of him enjoying MANY more years of health and vitality in the face of some unwanted (and pretty sh*tty!) news??

Have you ever felt totally at a loss when faced with some pretty sh*tty news? What about when a family member or a friend gets some?

I still remember the surgeon coming out after operating on my mom and telling her family she had found cancerous lymph nodes. We all knew what that meant: her breast cancer had spread, and she was facing a much bigger fight for her health than we had hoped. At that moment I felt the worst I had ever felt in my whole life.

It took a lot of mental discipline to focus on what I did want (for my mom to be healthy and happy) and not on what I didn’t want (which seemed to be staring me in the face), but I discovered that it IS possible to make that shift. And I discovered that it makes ALL the difference.

I really believe you can sit with some pretty sh*tty circumstances – and still focus on what’s going well in your life and on what you really want.

I remember taking care of terminally ill kids when I was a nursing student.

On the second day of my 2-week rotation, I burst into tears and cried to my nursing instructor, “How do you do this work?? It’s just so horrible to face these tragedies every day!!”

And she said, “You just do it. Because you can help. Because that is enough.”

It soon struck me that if I could be fully present and focus on what would bring some lightness to the room (a simple Cat’s Cradle from string was always a big hit), I could say that I helped.

When I could get a sick child to smile and laugh, I helped.

More than anything else, though, I remember how a parent’s face would light up when I asked for stories of the child when she was well – and then projected a time in the future when she would be doing all the things she loved again.

There was tremendous grace, and yes, healing, in those moments, and they confirmed something that I have always believed: we can’t help anyone by focusing solely on their sorrows and limitations.

Of course, I have great compassion for anyone who is suffering, and I’ll always try to soothe such people first by letting them know I understand their pain.

But then, as soon as I can, I let them know I also see their best and shining selves coming out of this experience.

As it turns out, research supports this approach.

A research study at Case Western Reserve University has documented reactions in the human brain that show positive visioning is much more likely to have a positive effect than an interaction in which a “helper” focuses on a problem the subject is having.

That makes sense, doesn’t it? We intuitively know we feel better when we interact with people who show compassion for us AND who inspire us to overcome our challenges.

The bottom line? Focusing on a person’s desired personal vision, even if the person is in crisis, will turn on the parts of the brain that are associated with openness – to solutions, to help – and better functioning.

On the other hand, when people choose to focus on what isn’t going well, it actually closes down future, sustainable change, and stirs the sort of emotions that lead a person to turn away from help. Consider that the next time you focus on the crisis rather than the solution!

So, yes, when you are struggling with some sh*tty circumstances, it can feel like one more bit of unwanted news could tip you into overwhelm and despair, but as long as you’ve got enough presence of mind to recognize where you are are on the Emotional Guidance Scale (see inset photo) – and to point yourself toward better emotional states – you can focus your thoughts forward.

By stringing together better-feeling thoughts you’ll return to a powerful place and find a solution that works for you. And THEN you can enjoy all the joy and vitality that is available to you at all times.

Of course, what’s essential in this process is that you keep a steady reading of your emotional state.

Download a copy of the Emotional Guidance Scale and then set a timer (like an alarm on your phone) for every waking hour so that you can be aware of your “vibrational meter” and if you are at a “low frequency” you can choose thoughts that create a better feeling.

Don’t forget how important body language is in all of this, too. I wrote about this topic a couple of weeks ago.

In case you missed it, here’s the most salient part: Acting the way you want to feel is a science-based shortcut to feeling happy and more powerful.

No, really. Wherever you are right now, stand up. Put your hands on your hips and your feet hips-width apart and tilt your chin slightly upward. (For an added effect, hold a pen between your teeth – but not with your lips, because that does the opposite of what you’re after.) See how you feel.

Strike this pose whenever you get some unwanted new or before any potentially challenging interaction, and see how it changes things for you.

Keep doing this pose, and soon you’ll see for yourself: If you change how you direct your thoughts and how you use your body, you will change your mindset and how you feel about your life. And you WILL become happier and more powerful as a result.

Even if the best you can do with your emotions is render them “vibrationally neutral” (that is, somewhere between “contentment” and “boredom” – “acceptance,” maybe) – so that even if you can’t lean emotionally toward the things you want, you can stop yourself from reacting negatively to the things you don’t want, you will still make it easier for you to find positive solutions that will work for you.

In other words, it’s not your job to figure out the “how, where, when, who” – it’s your job to know what you want and to know how you want to feel. And once you know that, you can trust that the Universe knows in detail everything that will please you and is yielding it to you.

Trust that it is coming…it is ABSOLUTELY is coming.

You cannot be clear in your desire and not have the Universe line up circumstances and events to achieve it. You just have to relax and let it come and trust that you’ll know it when you see it.

THAT is the vision I’m holding for YOU!!

 

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Stacey and Griffin at Santiago Atitlan Guatemala

That’s a photo of Griffin and me at Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala a little over 7 years ago. He was 4 months shy of his 3rd birthday then, and now he’s just one month shy of his 10th!

I dug up the photo because I am getting seriously excited about our return! Just last week I started to put plans in motion for us to go back this summer with the literacy group, Child Aid (starting the first week in June!).

Last week I shared an excerpt from my book, No More Crying and Complaining: How to Transform Your Negative Thoughts, Improve All Your Relationships and Enjoy More Happiness. This week I take it even further – and even ask you, dear reader, for help!

I believe your Shadow Self can call you to your best life.

And how is that?

First we need to understand the concept of the Shadow Self and how it calls you on your secrets. It expresses your underlying – and unmet – needs and desires.

Make no mistake, all of its behavior is geared towards meeting your needs – the needs you have given up on meeting in an open, honest and vulnerable way because it felt too hard or risky to do so.

And the needs you’re trying to meet can be discerned with just a little inquiry. Human Needs Psychology makes it easy, because it has narrowed down all human needs to six fundamental needs.

They are the needs that everyone on this planet, regardless of gender, race or culture, has in common. And all behavior is simply an attempt to meet those six needs.

Here are the Six Human Needs:

  1. Certainty: We all need assurance that we can avoid pain and experience comfort.
  2. Uncertainty/Variety: Even though it may seem contradictory, given the need for certainty, we are also wired to crave novelty and challenge.
  3. Significance: We all need to feel unique, important, special or needed.
  4. Connection/Love: We all need a strong feeling of closeness with someone or something.
  5. Growth: We need to be learning all the time and experience an expansion of our capability and understanding.
  6. Contribution: We need to be of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others.

The first four needs are considered the needs of the “personality.” The last two are considered the needs of the “spirit.”

All of the Shadow Self’s behaviors arise when an individual hasn’t been able to use more positive or proactive methods to get these basic human needs met.

Understanding the 6 human needs concept is important because it will help you understand why your Shadow Self has taken over, and more importantly, create new patterns that lead to lasting happiness and fulfillment.

And the first step is making your Shadow Self your own.

Here’s the thing. What you resist persists. Despite all of its unpleasant and undesirable behavior, you can’t just bury the Shadow Self. Remember – it is trying to meet your needs – and your needs aren’t ever going away.

So in order to play with this concept more and make it your own, name your Shadow Self.

I mentioned earlier that my friend calls hers “Marge” because she’s “large and in charge.”

The name I’ve given my Shadow Self is Terrie, because she’s like a little terrier that’s always yapping and nipping at your heels.

My husband’s Shadow Self is named Pat because PAT serves as an acronym for Passive-Aggressive Tool.

My nine year-old son Griffin calls his Shadow Self Bill, because, as he says, “He makes me feel ill.”

One of the most important things you can know about the Shadow Self is that awareness of it can have an almost immediate ameliorative effect.

Just last week Griffin woke up in a terrible mood. He didn’t want to get out of bed. He didn’t want to go to school. He said he hated school because he had no friends.

After listening to a litany of complaints, I said, “That doesn’t sound like you talking. That sounds like Bill talking.”

Just that statement was enough to make Griffin smile and break out of “Shadow Mode.” He said, “You’re right! I like school and I have great friends. Bill always says the craziest things! Why does he do that?!”

I pointed out that he probably hadn’t gotten enough sleep that night and fatigue very often triggers Bill.

Griffin has also helped me recognize when my Shadow Self shows up. The other night I was tired and irritable and Griffin made a request for something.

I responded with an irritable, “I don’t know. Let’s talk about this later.” and Griffin replied, “Oh, that’s okay. I see you’re in the Shadow Mode right now.” I said, “I am not!” and he said, “Oh, really? Why don’t you ask Terrie about that?”

I had to laugh, and that broke Terrie’s spell once again.

Again, if you can train yourself and others to notice your Shadow Self ‘s presence, you will not be as likely to suffer from its influence.

Staying conscious of the Shadow Self – and not letting it move you into an unconscious state where your thoughts, words and actions are ruled by it – is, of course, easier said than done, and that’s the purpose of my book. But the first step is easy. By naming your Shadow Self, you’ll find yourself better able to stand apart from it.

The second step to making your Shadow Self your own is to figure out what he or she has done for you, how she has served you.

Make no mistake: your Shadow Self exists for a reason, and, despite appearances, it’s not to make you and everyone around you miserable. Your Shadow Self is expressing some unmet need or desire.

writing a love letter to your shadow selfMy guess is that your Shadow Self has been pretty successful in the past in getting your needs met. It may not feel good when the Shadow Self uses its methods to meet your needs, but because it’s been effective, you’ve more than likely grown to rely on it.

Quite simply, you haven’t learned more positive and proactive ways of getting your needs met.

I know this may sound crazy but I want you to journal about how much you appreciate your Shadow Self.

This is what I wrote:

Thank you, Terrie. You have always stood by me. You always make sure everyone knows what my needs are and you always try your best to get them met.

When I was lost and alone, you powered through and got us out. I’m so grateful to you for getting me through some of the hardest times in my life. Nobody could have done that like you did.

All those times you took over, I know you always had my best interest at heart, and I am so, so thankful.

The key to this exercise is to really FEEL immense gratitude for your Shadow Self.

And then you want to let it know that its role is going to change.

Listen, Terrie, you’ve done a great job so far. You did it. You are a success. But your constant vigilance must be exhausting. What got us where we are now is not going to get us where we want to go from this point on.

Thank you so much for your service, but now it’s time to do something else. I can get my needs met by asking in an open, loving, and yes, even vulnerable way. I got this.

So I’m going to give you a new job, so you can take it easy. I’m still going to need you, but in a different capacity – think of it as moving from my Chief Operating Officer to my Board of Directors.

Of course, I reserve the right to call on you if I ever get into real trouble. You’re the first person I’m going to call if I feel truly threatened and I need to protect myself.

Thank you again, Terrie. I love you.

Since the story Terrie tells is that if I don’t snipe, cry and complain, I’ll never get my needs met, my new job for her is to be the Record Keeper when it comes to getting my needs met.

I gave her a beautiful journal, just for her, and every night she transcribes five different ways my needs were met that day. She gets to record those successes.

And then if there is a time one of my needs isn’t met, she reminds me to look at her journal. She reminds me that this one time my needs weren’t met is not going to wipe out the 50 times they were met in the last 10 days. She reminds me that in the balance, we’re good.

Now it’s time for me to ask you for a favor:

One of the things my agent and (potential) publisher said I need to do is incorporate more stories of my clients or friends using the Shadow Self concept and how it helped them.

If you could, I would be forever grateful (and mention you in the Acknowledgments Section of my book!!) if you could:

  1. Name your Shadow Self.
  2. Write your own Love Letter to her. (Like I did for Terrie.)
  3. Start collecting stories of when your Shadow Self showed up and what happened next.
  4. Share #2 and #3 with me.

Of course, there’s absolutely no rush – it will probably take a few more months before my agent and I plan to “shop” the manuscript again. And, of course, you (and your Shadow Self) would remain completely anonymous. But I’d love to hear your stories. The more we learn about our Shadow Selves, the better off we all are.

If you liked this post, I think you’ll enjoy the free weekly Special Delivery eZine. Just sign up here and it will be delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!

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