Transforming Rage into Right Action

Apr 12

I have always had to go deeply into my own rage in order to bring it into the light to heal. If I don’t allow myself to feel the rage, I cannot heal either myself or others. Not allowing myself to feel it is like clamping a lid on a boiling pot of water. Eventually, it boils over in uncontrolled ways.

Feeling the rage does not mean acting it out against others. But what then do we do with this powerful emotion?

When my husband refused to leave his mistress for the sake of our marriage and family, at first I felt shock, disbelief, and deep numbing pain. I sobbed at night for hours.

Then suddenly the pain transformed into rage. I felt disrespected and betrayed, not only by the man I had married and trusted, but also by the woman I had once believed was my best friend. I deserved so much better, as did our children. Together, my husband and his mistress had relegated me to nothing more than a convenient maid, cook and babysitter. I felt used without my consent so that they could go off and play.

I felt like buying a gun and killing them both, but didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in jail; nor did I want to leave my children orphans. What was I to do with this boiling rage which had suddenly appeared in my life? I was between a rock and a hard place. I had tough moral decisions to make.

Rage serves valuable spiritual purposes.

One, for me, was the release of self-righteousness. I knew from personal experience how it felt to want to murder. If I were capable of murder, how could I ever judge another person who was going through a similar traumatic inner struggle?

A second was the realization that rage was a messenger. It was telling me I needed to grow and change. But how?

Change does not mean getting rid of rage. Change means transforming rage into constructive, nonviolent action that supports values of fairness, safety, justice, mutual respect, and courage.

The children and I had needed my husband’s financial and emotional support and protection while the children were growing up. He had abandoned us all mentally and emotionally. I had no choice but to learn how to protect both myself and our children as well as I could.

I divorced my husband, dropped his surname, went back into the job market, fought for half of our assets in court, took care of our children as well as I could, applied to law school, graduated cum laude, and was offered a position as an associate attorney with a large Atlantic City law firm. Later, I opened my own law practice.

Ultimately, my rage transformed into a deeper understanding of what the Buddhist Eightfold Path calls “right action.” There is conduct that supports human cooperation, respect, love, justice, harmony, abundance, and peace, as well as conduct that disrupts them. “Right action” supports the values we all cherish where everybody wins. It is the arena of morals, ethics, and the Ten Commandments. Committing adultery destroys marriages and families.

This is not a path I desired. Rather, it seems to have chosen me, and yes, it has been challenging and a constant overcoming.

I have had to learn to stop enabling injustice without myself being unjust, stop enabling disrespect without being disrespectful, stop enabling abuse, control, and manipulation without myself becoming abusive, controlling, and manipulative. I have had to learn to be very transparent in expressing my needs and offering support to others.

I have also had to learn to be just, respectful, loving, forgiving, and grateful toward myself so that I know how to be just, respectful, loving, forgiving, and grateful toward others. I have had to walk out of many unjust, disrespectful, and abusive relationships to protect my own soul and sanity. Only then have I been able to re-engage these same people from a more expanded, deeper, and transformed awareness.

Under no circumstances do I believe others are evil. Their intentions, in ignorance and lack of awareness, are simply directed toward goals that serve only themselves at the expense of others. They have their own spiritual lessons to learn and their own karma to live.

Has my path been the path of the spiritual warrior? Are we all spiritual warriors grappling with the rage within so that we can transform it into passionate purpose?

Benevolence and Leadership. Valuable? Possible?

Jul 31

A recent post on the Business Spirituality LinkedIn site asked: “What difference can a benevolent leader bring to people and organizations? Is it possible to be benevolent without being naive?”

I’m not sure benevolence is the right word here. Benevolence, to me, implies giving to others, sometimes without including myself in the benevolence. I find myself preferring the word compassion. The word compassion, to me, has more of a sense of having walked in the shoes of the other, having experienced their suffering, and supporting all of us in moving toward a more joyful, purposeful life. Compassion is essential to good leadership.

One of my life long lessons has been learning how to expand into my own spiritual understanding and power and then use that spiritual understanding and power to support others as they expand into the fully developed, unique individuals they are intended to be. Supporting them does not mean giving them whatever they want. Often, it means challenging their current thought processes or flat out saying ‘no.’ This is the role of the spiritual warrior.

I was very fortunate to have had two wonderful parents. Both were teachers. Both were fair and compassionate. Both valued order and structure, and yet, there was always space for play and creativity in our home. My parents truly led by example. Because I was happy, I never questioned their leadership. I knew I was loved, respected, and valued. I did what they told me to do simply because I trusted them.

Then I moved out into the rest of the world and discovered, over and over, through painful experience after painful experience, that not everyone was as kind, benevolent, compassionate and fair as my parents. Other people said negative things about me, verbally abused me, bullied me, and betrayed my trust. I had to learn how to protect myself from all this negative energy. I had to learn how to detach mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically. I had to learn how to release my fear. I had to learn how to refocus my outrage from judging and blaming the bullies and abusers to shifting the energy of that outrage into being just, fair, and accountable. As painful and sometimes terrifying as it often was, I had to learn how to say ‘no’, I will not enable and support that conduct. I will not stay in a relationship where I am not respected. I will move out of relationships where I am verbally abused. I simply deserve better.

For me, finding the balance between benevolence and naivete requires a constantly shifting awareness of the energy dynamics of any situation. I can then change those dynamics by changing myself. It always requires staying in integrity with my own values of compassion, non-violence, mutual respect, and accountability.

I’ve walked in the shoes of the other. I’ve experienced their suffering. How can I be anything but compassionate toward us all?

The Perennial Philosophy—A Golden Thread of Awakening

May 25

By Guest Bloggers, Lee and Steven Hager

In our world, nothing stays the same for very long. We’re taught to rely on the advice of experts, but their opinions seem to change with the breeze. If you knew that something had remained unchanged for over two thousand years and had continued to help people find the peace and joy they were seeking for that entire time, would you be curious?

The perennial philosophy is a golden thread of spiritual thought that can be found in virtually all cultures and time periods. It’s a group of harmonious spiritual concepts that are free of dogma and ritual. It’s been a part of so-called “primitive” and pagan belief systems as well as the mystical branches of nearly every organized religion.

The concept of an “eternal philosophy” that incorporates universal spiritual truths and exists free of human influence has intrigued philosophers for hundreds of years.  In the West, it’s been thought of as a “philosophy of harmony” or a “universal religion” that remains untainted by sectarian views. In the East, it’s been thought of as Sanatana Dharma (eternal law) or Manava Dharma (religion of man). In 1945 Aldous Huxley wrote the aptly titled Perennial Philosophy, which outlines the universal truths that have continued to crop up in spiritual thought worldwide.

The perennial philosophy is not a formula for enlightenment, but its simple concepts have encouraged countless seekers to reach spiritual mastery. Although the perennial philosophy has far more to offer, here are four of its most basic and helpful concepts:

  • There is a Divine Ground that permeates the universe. The world we think we see is a temporary projection that originates from that Divine Ground
  • A change in consciousness is required to become aware of, and experience, the Divine Ground.
  • Everyone has the ability to experience the Divine.
  • Experiencing the Divine is life’s highest purpose.

Simply put: Life-giving intelligence permeates everything in existence. This intelligence wants to be known and can be known.

Most of us have been taught that spiritual mastery is a nearly impossible goal, but the perennial philosophy does not agree. No secrets, methods, formulas or spiritual practices are involved, and none are necessary to experience the Divine.  Knowing the Divine does require a shift in our awareness, but everyone is capable of making that shift. How do we shift our awareness? Huxley pointed out that successful spiritual seekers have all shared a mindset that includes these features:

  • “Pure in heart.”  This does not mean we need to “clean up our act.” It refers to our motives. A pure heart is looking for a connection with the Divine for the sheer joy of that connection.  A pure heart isn’t asking for material blessings.
  • “Poor in spirit.” This has nothing to do with poverty. It means that we understand that the world can make us rich, but it can never enrich us. We’re poor in spirit when we understand that our life will be empty until we have a direct connection with the Divine.
  • “Empty hands.” Seekers with empty hands are willing to let go of all mental conditioning, preconceived notions and the desire for a particular outcome. They are willing to be instructed by the Divine instead of trying to fit the Divine into their own belief system.

These qualities are free and available to everyone, no matter what our circumstances might be. Most of us have been taught that we can learn about God by taking in information, but there is no need for us to be satisfied with that.

Spiritual masters have never been interested in learning “about” the Divine; instead, they expect to “know” the Divine through personal experience. You don’t have to become a spiritual master before you can experience the Divine, in fact, it works the opposite way. As you open yourself to the experience, you grow spiritually. The perennial philosophy tells us this is not only possible, it’s our highest purpose.  Best of all, experiencing the Divine is the beginning of a life of fearlessness that you can enjoy.

Know by your own direct experience that the Divine within you is the Divine in all—Shankara ______________________________________________________________________________

Lee and Steven Hager are the authors of The Beginning of Fearlessness: Quantum Prodigal Son, a spiritual quest and scientific adventure based on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, quantum physics and the gnostic gospels. Their blog features articles on oneness, spiritual awakening, quantum physics, the gnostic gospels and the direct, personal experience of the Divine.


Why Forgive?

Apr 20

David Beale, a long time spiritual friend from Perth, Australia, has a brilliant and penetrating mind. Years ago, he offered a wonderful analogy for understanding forgiveness:

The yin-yang, though symbolic, does sum up the harmony that averages to nothing when taken over a wide enough viewpoint. …. A hurricane that goes in both directions may in sequential time do lots of damage yet the net average is No Wind ….

David went on to note that to forgive, we must have a sense of both:

  1. It does not matter because it can and does add up to nothing; and
  2. In this physical life, we have an obligation to change both ourselves and the elements of disorder so that they balance and no longer bother us, “allowing us to enjoy our temporal existence with minimal disruption and maximum joy …. we are individuals growing in a limited environment so as to better enjoy a less limited environment. Forgiveness is part of the less-limited environment. (Emphasis supplied.)

In short, there is no need for forgiveness and yet every need for forgiveness. What in the world do I mean by that paradoxical statement?

In what sense is there no need for forgiveness?

Each of us physical human beings births onto this planet with limited perspectives, limited bodies, physical needs for food, water, and shelter, and emotional needs for love and belonging. Baby Mary cries because she is hungry or cold or has a bubble of air in her belly. Her perspective is limited to her own immediate needs. She doesn’t understand that Mommy may be exhausted from cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, and caring for her brothers and sisters. She knows nothing about the sixteen hours per day that Daddy spends in a coal mine to provide a few dollars to buy rice and beans. Maybe she doesn’t even know she is hungry or cold or needs to burp. She just knows she hurts. She cries because that is all she knows how to do. She has done the best she knows how with the limited resources she has. Mommy is doing the best she knows how. So is Daddy. There is no need to forgive any of them, even though they live in desperate poverty and pain. They are all doing the best they can with the resources they have.

In what sense is there every need for forgiveness?

As Mary matures through youth and adulthood, the pain continues to gnaw at her gut. Now she notices that not everyone is hungry or cold or without shelter. As she becomes aware of her external world, her pain turns to anger. She may resent those who have more food and better shelter. She may blame her parents for their lack of education or the fact that they haven’t always been able to respond to her needs. She may come to hate other children whose parents can afford to buy them nice clothes. Her boyfriend may leave her for another woman, betraying her trust. Her internal pain and external anger may generalize to labeling all men liars and cheats, even though she has had personal experiences with only one or a few. Worst of all, she may hate herself because she feels powerless.

Pain and anger are simply different forms of the same energy. Pain is negative energy directed inward. Anger is negative energy directed outward. It doesn’t really matter where the negative energy is directed. The challenge for each and every one of us is how to release the negative energy and transform it into positive energy, or at least into neutral, detached awareness.

Mary’s adult condition is the human condition that Buddhists call “suffering.” Suffering is not necessary and can be released. At this point in Mary’s life, there is every need to release suffering. There is every need for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of many spiritual tools we’ve been given to transform our pain and anger into deep, personal, inner peace.

Why forgive? Certainly not because the other person deserves it. In their own misery, desperation, and low self-esteem, they may have done horrible, ugly things that felt like knives through our hearts. Perhaps they lied because they were ashamed to tell the truth. Perhaps they murdered. Perhaps they committed adultery or stole our physical possessions. Perhaps they were simply not present in their relationships with us.

Their actions were certainly not functional. We do need to pay attention to how others treat us and conduct themselves in their relationships with us. If we don’t notice what others do and how it makes us feel, we haven’t learned the relationship lessons we were intended to learn.

However, we never change the relationship by changing the other person. We change the relationship by changing ourselves.

Why then forgive? We forgive for ourselves. We forgive because forgiveness releases our own pain and anger, changes our relationship dynamics, and allows us to move forward in freedom and joy.

Holding onto pain, anger, and blame destroys each and every one of us. It makes us sick. It keeps us stuck. Anyone stuck in this negative energy and unable to let it go will eventually kill themselves as well as all the loving relationships that surround them and could support them. Being stuck in negative energy condemns you to a life lived in hell (using Christian words) or a life of suffering (using Buddhist words).

So why do we forgive? We forgive to shift our own energy from hell to heaven (Christian terminology). We forgive to release our own suffering (Buddhist terminology).

First, we forgive ourselves, knowing that we did the best we could with the resources we had. Then, we forgive others, knowing they did the same. Forgiveness does not mean staying in abusive, dysfunctional relationships. If we learn the lessons our pain and anger have taught us, we move out of abusive, dysfunctional relationships and seek out relationships that support us. When the abuser no longer has a victim, the abuse stops.

Word Energy

Feb 07

About three weeks ago, I received an email, through pure synchronicity, from published poet, Luisa Castagnaro. She sent me a link to a series of SoundsTrue audios about Sanskrit mantras,

Knowing that I was working on another book about word energy, my foreign rights agent had previously mentioned Sanskrit as a language I should explore. Western language uses symbolism and meaning. Sanskrit uses the pure vibration of the sound.

I ordered the audios and began listening. There was a mantra for bringing abundance into your life. Phonetically, it sounds like “Om schreem kleem Lakshmi ay Namaha.” Most of it is toned on a single note, with the “ay” one note higher and the “ma” in Namaha one note lower.

This longer mantra is composed of seed mantras. “Schreem” is the principle of abundance. “Kleem” is the principle of attraction. “Lakshmi” (pronounced “lockschmee”) is the Goddess of abundance, a beautiful woman with money flowing from her hands. “Namaha” means to salute.

According to Sanskrit philosophy, you can attract abundance into your life simply by saying, over and over, the simple seed mantra “schreem.” The longer mantra is supposed to be more powerful. I decided to play with the longer mantra and see what happened.

Two weeks ago, as I was driving to the Tampa airport, I repeated the mantra over and over. Then I forgot about it.

When I arrived in Panama, there was a penny lying on the ground beneath my feet. Mmmmmmmm. I picked it up. Three days later, in Boquete, my travel agent, out of the blue, gave me a free $3 phone card. Mmmmmmmmm. Then, my agent at the bank gave me two free 2011 calendars. Mmmmmmmmm. As so often happens in Panama, I fully expected the taxi driver who took me back to Boquete to notice I was an American and triple his fee. He didn’t. Mmmmmmmmmmm. That happened a second time. Mmmmmmmmmm.

Greetings, meetings, lunches, and dinners kept flowing in. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

I’ve been wanting to facilitate healing workshops and have always wanted to go on a cruise. Suddenly, over the past two weeks, I’ve been offered opportunities by PacificOrient Caribbean Cruises out of Australia and WhaleWatchingPanama around Coiba and Contadora Islands off the southern coast of Panama. Mmmmmmmm.

The kicker happened shortly before I arrived home. I’d been getting about ten hits a day on my website. Suddenly, the hits jumped to over 100. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Is there something going on here that I don’t understand but that somehow seems to work? Or is it just that as I focus on abundance, I become more aware of the abundance all around me flowing into my life? I don’t know the answer, but I think I’ll continue chanting the mantra.

Warm regards,


Thought Energy, Intentions, and Synchronicities

Dec 10

“Drive safely,” my son Bill said as I was getting ready to leave our family get-together in Saint Marys, Georgia. He was the third family member who had said that to me.

I replied with a bit of irritation, “I am a safe driver.” Then, noticing my own abruptness and recognizing that Bill’s intentions were good, I added, “But I appreciate your thought. There are an awful lot of people on the road who don’t pay attention to their driving. Please hold the thought that the people who aren’t careful drivers stay out of my path.”

About 20 minutes out of Saint Marys, an unexpected question suddenly popped into my mind. Had I remembered to pack the power cord for my computer or had I left it plugged in at the motel? At first, I wasn’t going to stop, but then I figured it was better to check than to arrive home after a five-hour drive, only to discover I didn’t have it.

I pulled over to the side of the road, popped the trunk, got out and unzipped my suitcase and computer case. Sure enough, the cord was right where it should have been. Two minutes later, I was back on the road.

The drive was uneventful until I got to I-75 just below Ocala. Suddenly, all traffic in all three lanes came to a dead halt. Nothing moved for almost two hours.

I couldn’t see a thing. One motorist who had gotten out of his car reported that helicopters were dropping down to the roadway ahead of us. Another said that there had been a three-vehicle crash, and lifelines were pulling people from demolished vehicles.

When traffic finally began moving again, about two miles down the road I passed what was left of the wreck: one totally trashed vehicle, a pickup truck, a camper, and belongings strewn all over the side of the road. At the next rest stop, a woman said that according to OnStar, someone had been killed.

Two minutes. Two miles. Except for my stop to check for my computer cord, I could well have been in that accident with one of those less than careful drivers.

Did this chain of events have anything to do with my parting conversation with Bill?  Where did the thought about my computer cord come from and why did I unexpectedly stop for two minutes along the way?  Are our thoughts and intentions simply instantaneous energy exchanges that manifest desired results in unexpected ways?

I don’t ever expect to know the answer to those questions, but this strange series of apparently unrelated thoughts and events surely produced a strange synchronicity that may have saved my life.

Notice Your Thoughts. Notice Your Feelings. Follow Your Heart.

Jul 06


Recently, a friend of mine said she was feeling unfairly treated.  It wasn’t just a passing feeling. She was feeling it deep in her gut.

She was also feeling conflicted because everything she read told her that she ought to forgive, she ought to turn the other cheek, she ought to be mindful. She was trying to do all the oughts, but somehow she just couldn’t seem to pull them off without feeling resentment.

My friend is certainly worthy of being treated well. She is a beautiful, charming, intelligent, gracious woman. Yet she felt treated unfairly Why?

Perhaps she is too kind, too intelligent, too gracious, too forgiving, too mindful – of everyone but herself.

Years ago, I was struggling with the same issue. I worked it through by writing a poem.


I noticed
my anger and pain
directed outward
I’d laid myself down
like a doormat
walked on
I didn’t deserve that treatment.

But who put me there?

Being treated fairly begins with self. If my friend feels she is not being treated fairly, she does not have to stay in the relationship.

It doesn’t mean she has to storm out in rage and blame. All she has to do is turn around and leave. As soon as she leaves, the unfair treatment will stop because she is no longer there to receive it.

The sense of unfairness my friend is experiencing has nothing to do with the other person. It has everything to do with her. I hope she is listening to the message. “Notice yourself. Take care of yourself. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.” When my friend understands how to care for herself, she will also understand how to care for others.

Caring for oneself always requires noticing or mindfulness. It certainly requires self-forgiveness for not being perfect. It may or may not require turning the other cheek.

If my friend decides to turn the other cheek, I do hope she understands why she is doing it and makes sure it is because she wants to, not because somebody else told her she should.

Can You Choose What You Want to See?

May 14

Old Hag or Young Woman?

A friend recently commented, “I wanted to believe I could choose what I wanted to see, what thoughts would be in my head, what emotions would be in my heart, and bring them into my life. It didn’t work. The people starved, were trafficked, raped, and plundered.”

Sometimes choosing what you want to see works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

You can never will yourself to see something that isn’t there. “Choosing what you want to see” does not mean hiding your head in the sand, nor does it mean ignoring your thoughts and emotions. Far better to be honest, see what you see, think what you think, feel what you feel, and stay open to receiving more information and clarity. Prayer and meditation help you stay open.

“Choosing what you want to see” does work when you’re looking at a half full or half empty glass or at an optical illusion such as the young woman or old hag. What’s out there doesn’t change. What changes is the way your mind structures what is out there. Hindus call it “maya” and strive to “pierce the veil of illusion”. This means you either experience awareness and oneness with no mental structuring or learn to mentally structure in many different creative ways. Sometimes you do one; sometimes the other. It all depends on your needs of the moment and the needs of those around you.

My friend made an observation based on his personal perceptions – an observation he couldn’t, wouldn’t, perhaps even shouldn’t release. But wouldn’t it have been more useful to ask an action question?

  • If you experience something you don’t like, what are you going to do to change it?
  • What realistically do you have the power to do?
  • If you are feeling mentally and emotionally drained by what you see, can you do anything other than let the tears flow and be kind to yourself?
  • If you are so full of rage that you are about to become violent, can you save your own sanity and move out of the relationship?
  • If all your human support systems have deserted you, do you have the courage and perseverance to move forward alone?
  • Can you choose to believe there is an energy out there much bigger than all of us that will support you in mysterious and unexpected ways when you ask for help?

When I lived in a country other than my native land, I told my landlord that I needed to stay in his rental home until my own home was built. He agreed. We signed a lease giving him no rights of termination as long as I paid the rent and took care of the property. Under the law of my native land, I could have stayed forever.

After two years, my landlord sent me an email saying he had found another tenant who would pay more money and give him a three-year lease. Could I meet those terms?

The short answer was “No.”

While I might have paid more money, I couldn’t in good faith enter into a three-year lease. I expected to move into my own home within six months.

My landlord then gave me notice, commenting he was sure I would understand. Business was business.

Was I angry? I was livid. Did I pursue my legal rights in that adopted country in every way possible? You bet.

I talked with local friends. I talked with the local District Attorney. I talked with my own lawyer. They all said the same thing. Under the law of my adopted country, I had to move.

What if I didn’t move and forced the landlord to evict me?

I would just get a judgment against me. That’s not a good thing for someone living in another country by sufferance of their laws.

I had explored every possible avenue for asserting my moral and ethical rights. I had no legal rights or societal support. I moved out as quickly as I could so I didn’t have to pay the landlord any more money. I also let everyone in the neighborhood know exactly what he’d done.

There was nothing beyond what I’d already done that I could do. I shifted my focus, released everything, and let the Universe take over.

My landlord had breached his contract with me. Suddenly and without warning, his new tenants breached their contract with him. That house sat empty for eighteen months with not a penny going into my landlord’s pocket.

You can call this co-creation. Together, my landlord, his new tenant, the Universe and I created the end result.

You can call it the Law of Attraction. My landlord became the recipient of exactly the same treatment he had given me.

You can call it Karma. My landlord’s action in breaching our agreement and evicting me shaped his future experience of having his own new lease broken and not having any tenant at all.

Always give yourself permission to dance your own dance of consciousness. You’ll be amazed at the dynamics that evolve with those around you and the opening perspectives and enlightenment you’ll co-create and receive.

Jealousy and Self-Esteem

Apr 22

Recently, a visitor to my informational website,, commented on her struggles with low self-esteem and jealousy.

I’m 51 and I want to change my mindset. I want to have better self-esteem and bring positive changes into my life.

One thing I really struggle with is jealousy. I hate how it overwhelms me when I feel like I’m losing someone.  It’s ruined many a relationship.  What can I do? 

Jealousy and low self-esteem are such miserable feelings. As my friend implies, they are also intimately connected. We only feel jealousy where our self-esteem is low. Where our self-esteem is high, we simply don’t care what others are doing. We may even join them for the sheer joy of play.

When we feel stupid, we may feel jealous if someone we care about is enthusiastically engaged in conversation with another person. If we believe we’re a poor dancer, we won’t like watching our partner waltz around the floor with someone else.

Once we understand where low self-esteem and jealousy come from, we can change our conditioned thinking and focus on nurturing our self-esteem.

Low self-esteem begins for many of us as children when someone on whom we are dependent (parent, teacher or priest) becomes angry, calls us stupid or hits us for not doing what they want.  Because we are small and powerless, we believe they are right and we are wrong. We don’t understand that they are simply treating us the way they have been treated and struggling with their own self-esteem issues. That does not excuse their conduct. It just explains it so that perhaps we can feel a wee bit of compassion toward them, despite the suffering we have experienced. After all, we know from personal experience how miserable low self-esteem feels.

Early childhood dynamics create other relationship issues that carry over into adult lives. We come to believe that our wellbeing depends on doing what our abuser and controller wants – what any abuser and controller wants.  We come to believe that we will not survive and cannot be happy without him. Then, when the relationship ends, through death, infidelity, or some other reason, our expectations shatter and we have to rebuild our lives – alone, angry, and confused. However, it is out of the dysfunctional ashes of a failed, abusive relationship that self-esteem arises.

Chaos and overwhelm are part of being human. They are friends bringing us messages that there’s something in our lives we need to change. When we listen and figure out the message, we can give ourselves permission to move on to something more pleasant.

Happiness and self-esteem do not come from someone else. They come from within. Nobody can give us happiness and nobody can stop us from having it except ourselves. Just think of the power and control that puts in the hands of each of us separately and all of us together.

I can tell from the way my friend writes that she is well on her way to better self-esteem and a satisfying, dynamic life. She knows what she wants. She’s already half way there. Until we figure out what we want, there is no way we can bring it into our lives. 

What steps can each of us take to improve our own self-esteem? Here are some ideas:

  1. Consciously bring your mind back to the present moment. The present moment is the only moment in which you can choose and act.
  2. Ask yourself what you want to do now. This does not include changing or hurting anyone else, although you may feel like it. It may include confronting them or setting boundaries. Do you want to go for a walk, beat up a pillow, get your thoughts and feelings out on paper, cry your eyes out? Go do what you want to do and watch your energy shift.
  3. Write yourself some affirmations and put them where you can see them every day. Affirmations remind you that you already have many skills, talents, and values on which you can build. Do you have beautiful eyes? An excellent mind? Can you draw or paint? Sing well? Are you good with figures? Do you love gardening? Do you take good care of your home? Your family? Are you accountable? Honest? Loyal? If any of these qualities apply to you, write them down in this form: I am loyal. I am trustworthy. You can probably think of many more.
  4. Set aside a couple of hours to create a vision board. Vision boards keep you focused on your values and what you want to bring into your life. Get yourself a piece of poster board large enough for a collage. Sit down with some old magazines you don’t mind cutting up and cut out anything you like: beautiful homes, seascapes, gardens, exotic places, words that inspire you. When you have a nice pile of cutouts, arrange them into a collage on the poster board, then paste them down. If you want, you can have the vision board laminated for durability. Put it where you can see it every day.
  5. Notice the people with whom you spend time. Are they accountable, trustworthy and supportive or do they shout at you, call you names, and hit you? Do you feel energized in their presence or drained? Move out of relationships that drain you and seek out those that support you and help you move along your path in life.
  6. Trust yourself and love yourself. You are a unique human being who has much to offer this planet – things that no one else can. If you don’t do them, no one else will. Think big – bigger than you ever believed you could – and then move toward your vision and purpose, one little present moment step at a time.

Abuser and Victim

Apr 12

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Matt. 7:16.

A friend recently asked a fascinating question: “How do I respond to people whose actions are cruel and hurtful but who say that what they are doing is part of their greater purpose?”

This question has so many aspects. Like so many other things in life, the answers become clearer when we ask clearer questions. Let’s explore a few.

Are the people who say they are living their greater purpose being cruel and hurtful to you or to others?

If to you, by all means find a way of protecting yourself. You serve neither yourself nor others by staying in the relationship and allowing yourself to be abused.

There is always a cooperative dynamic going on between an abuser and a victim. The abuser needs to hurt others to temporarily increase his feelings of power and importance. (Abusers are people with low self-esteem.) The victim indirectly supports the abuse by maintaining the relationship and making herself available to be abused.

If you choose to remain in an abusive relationship for whatever reason, get clear on why you are staying. Are you financially dependent on the abuser? Do you have children together? Is your own self-esteem so low that you think you can’t survive without this relationship? Do you love and trust too much? Do you believe in commitment at all costs?

Once you get clear on why you are staying, you will also be clear on what really matters to you. Maybe it’s financial self-sufficiency. Maybe it’s your children. Then you can find other ways to manifest what matters without having to subject yourself to abuse. While you may choose to stay temporarily, you can begin to plan your escape.

If you do stay, you will have to make moment-to-moment choices about how to respond to the abuse. What kind of abuse is it? Verbal put-downs? Screaming? Throwing objects? Hitting? Rape? All are potentially damaging, but you’re not going to change the abuser directly. Your power and effectiveness lie in changing yourself.

By changing yourself, the dynamics of your relationship with the abuser change. As a result, you may change him indirectly. Changing the abuser cannot, however, be your motivation. Aim instead to improve your own life and to focus on the things that matter to you personally.

Whatever you do, keep a calm head, make your own choices, and don’t allow the abuser to suck you into his game. You will only escalate the ugliness.

Can you say, “Please stop that. I don’t like it when you act that way?” Can you say, “You seem very angry. What is it you need? I’d be happy to help if I can.” Can you simply walk away? There are shelters for abused women. (Are there also shelters for abused men?) Or do you want to learn krav maga, karate, or other self-defense techniques?

If you are perceiving others as victims, you are in much trickier and more difficult dynamics. Instead of one relationship, there are now three: Abuser to victim, you to abuser, and you to victim.

Again you simply have to make moment-by-moment choices as to how you are going to respond depending on the resources you have available (time, money, energy) and the context of the situation. Do you confront the abuser? Do you encourage the victim to stop enabling a dysfunctional relationship? Do you detach and allow the abuser and victim to work through their relationship and personal growth issues on their own?

There is something else going on here. Sometimes pain is necessary for growth.

When I think of my own life, it was only when I felt driven to divorce that I developed the courage to became a lawyer. It was only when I was filled with terror that I was willing to humble myself and ask for help from a Power I couldn’t see or understand. It was only when I was horribly abused that I learned to take care of myself first and others second. It was only when I lived in a no-recourse culture (the police and legal systems were totally ineffective) that I learned self-preservation, fortitude, creativity and patience. It was only when I became so angry that I could have murdered that I learned how to shift my focus away from things that anger me to people and environments that bring me peace.

As far as people saying they are living their greater purpose, how do they know? Why should you believe them? What do you believe? About them? About yourself?