Think Healthy expresses some of the concepts I have found useful in living a healthier, more fulfilling life. I only touch upon a few concepts here. If you are interested in more of what you see here, please go to my blog. There you can not only receive my semi-regular entries, but can also comment on them with me and interested others. The BLOG is: Truth & Compassion Blog
Below I briefly describe some of the attitudes, concepts and values that I believe promote healthier, happier ways of viewing and living life. It is my hope that you will find some of these approaches useful.
Finally, I end with The Secret of Life. Why be limited?
Truth expressed without compassion can easily be hurtful. Compassion expressed without honesty becomes delusional. Ultimately to reduce suffering Truth needs to be joined with Compassion when relating with ourselves as well as with others.
You likely have heard others claiming to be just 'telling the truth,' when in reality they are using the truth as a weapon to hurt us or someone else. Truth is important, but we need to be conscious of why and how we express something that may be hurtful to another.
On the other hand there is the phrase, "But I just didn't want to hurt his (her) feelings," as an excuse/ reason for lying or omitting some relevant truth. We may not want to hurt their feelings, but too often this is more about avoiding our own discomfort. Worse still, it often confuses our abilities to communicate with one another.
Truth and Compassion are important values that at times pull in different directions. By paying attention, and being conscious of both, we can act in ways that properly balance them for each situation that we face.
If and how someone uses humor, reveals a lot about who and how they are in the world. Do we avoid humor and laughter as irrelevant or immature? Can we play with one another in ways that are not harmful? Or when we laugh, is it only at someone else's expense?
There are many serious things in life. But just because something is serious does not mean we always have to be somber in dealing with it. As others have stated, 'we can take the important work we do in life seriously without having to take ourselves so seriously.' Taking ourselves less seriously allows us to be more open to others perspectives.
As long as the humor does not harm others or oneself, it can be a wonderful way to both enjoy and share life with others. It reduces tensions. I find humor and playfulness enhance my sense of being alive. Sharing healthy laughter bonds me with others in a fun filled way
Many spiritual traditions emphasize being ‘selfless’ and condemn or warn against ‘selfishness.’ Yet in psychotherapy we often work toward developing a strong and healthy sense of self. So how do we explain this apparent contradiction? Aren’t they working toward different goals or directions?
The first answer someone shared with me many years ago went like this: 'Maybe we need to have a sense of self before we can let go of it.' Her answer shifted the question. We are each a work in progress and our sense of who we are is constantly changing. Selflessness in this sense means letting go of a fixed, rigid idea of who we are.
But selflessness is often posed as the opposite of 'being selfish,' and 'being selfish' is defined as bad. We are supposed to put others before ourselves. While at times putting others before us can be a very good practice, in my experience those who do it the most are often the people who least need this lesson.
The word 'selfish' has gotten a bad rap. The issue to me is not that people are selfish; this is a given. Consciously and unconsciously, we all act in our own self-interest. A problem arises only when in attending to our own needs and desires, we act in ways that are inconsiderate of others.
A truly spiritual person is ultimately selfish in that being considerate of others is part of his or her practice of right living. Another, more classic way to say this is that I feel better treating others as I would have others treat me.
The concept of affirmations comes from the so-called 'New Age' movement, which borrowed it from "New Thought" religious traditions. Basically it asserts that by positively affirming what we want firmly and consistently, we can bring it into our lives.
A common technique in affirmation is to post pictures and words of what you want all over your home. Say you want a new car. You might cut out photos of the car you want, imagine yourself driving it, talk with your friends about the car you will have. Unfortunately some people stop there hoping that simply by imagining it, it will come.
Affirmation becomes effective when in wanting something, we not only define and declare our intentions, but also work to make it come into our lives. This might include something practical such as saving for that car we wish or investigating leasing options
While imagination isn't enough by itself ("creativity is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration"), there can be something special about affirmation, something almost magical. It has been my experience that when I really want something and am able to work through any doubts I have about achieving it, the universe seems to cooperate with my efforts.
This is a Buddhist concept related to Affirmations as well as its less practiced counter-part called Denials. Part of "Right Thinking" is similar to Affirmations. It is nurturing compassionate, positive thoughts, feelings and attitudes toward Self, others and everything. But what about the so-called dark or negative thoughts and feelings such as anger, hate, greed and jealousy? What Buddhism suggests is not that such feelings and thoughts won't arise, but when they do we can choose not feed them, but allow them to dissipate. In some Christian traditions, this is called Denials. We don't deny that they arise; we acknowledge and let them go. Doing so not only strengthens our compassion and forgiveness of others, but releases us from the burdens and restrictions holding such thoughts create for us. Holding on to grievances with one person, makes us less open to relating with others who might come into our lives.
"But that's not fair!" How often have we thought, expressed or heard this from others when something goes wrong. While we can differ as to just what is or isn’t fair in various situations, people often use this lens in judging events, people or life in general.
Many people believe in a God who ultimately decides what is fair or not, and whom they believe is intrinsically fair. We may not know His (God is usually referred to in the masculine) reasoning, but we are to trust that it is always for the highest good.
It is my understanding that if we wish fairness in life, then we need to strive to act in ways that seem fair to us, to the best of our abilities. Whether or not you believe in a God who guides us, by choosing to act and treat others fairly (and with compassion), we add to the sense of fairness in life and balance some of what seems unfair.
There is a popular old saying, "Forgive and forget." While I believe that being able to forgive is an important skill, for the most part I see forgetting as problematic. By forgetting, we risk setting ourselves up to get hurt again in the same way. When we can remember and learn from past mistakes, we become more skillful in future endeavors.
Forgiving, on the other hand, is a way to keep us from closing our hearts and minds to other people and possibilities because of a hurt in the past. We often have to let go of old hurts and grievances if we are to get ahead in life. A person who remains bitter at the rejection of a former spouse, partner, or lover, becomes too toxic for others to healthily embrace. So ultimately, letting go of those hurts is more for you than the one you forgive.
So, what is the secret of life? Chocolate? Good sex? A warm puppy? Falling in love? Millions of dollars? Better drugs? A hot bath? Reciting a mantra or prayer perfectly, thousands of times? Being so good or suffering so much that you get to heaven after you die?
The best answer inevitably is the one you find for yourself—OK, what did you expect from a therapist!
However I offer an observation: The people who seem to get the most out of life are those who are best able to appreciate what they have now. We can still work toward things want. Yet the more we learn to appreciate and enjoy whom and what we have in our lives today, the better prepared we are to appreciate and enjoy what comes next into our lives, as well as what follows afterward.