Are You Really Welcome Here?

armsfoldedREALLY wanting someone to understand something, especially when you think it’s for their own benefit, has nothing to do with them getting it. In the end, how much you want them to get it is what may impact them the most and usually puts our (work, family, friend, romantic) partners in defense, reaction and protection.

The willingness of your conversation partner is the most valuable currency there is in relating to each other. Cultivate it wisely and know when it hasn’t been offered to you.

Sometimes there is no in door. Knowing how to love and take care of ourselves when the door we want to be open is closed can be the most valuable currency for our own well-being and finally takes the pressure off the other person to take care of you by letting you in.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

Talk about putting things in perspective, this article demonstrates some predictable patterns and outcomes for those who experienced childhood traumas. The higher propensity for depression, addiction and victimization later in life, for example.

http://acestoohigh/got-your-ace-score/

Imagine if we were more supportive, more understanding and less blameful about the impact of what people have been through and what their struggle might be.

It also pinpoints the responsibility – to ourselves, those we will be in relationships with, our coworkers and bosses and society – that we have to take care of ourselves given any history of childhood trauma. We’re not talking about excuses here, we’re talking about understanding and getting the help we need, the empathy we can have for ourselves and others and the information we need to be better parents.

Thanks to one of my favorite, most kind, gentle and powerful therapists I know, Kathy Metcalf, for sharing this piece and for always being so compassionate. She is an amazing resource for working productively on the effects of trauma in your life. I’m eternally grateful to her for the work we’ve done around the loss of my father, among other challenges. Also, thank you to Paul Cooper and T J Samadi Demme, two powerfully compassionate coaches, for the work we’ve done as well.

My 5 Year Old Has it Right

After my son Marcus told me I hated him when I told him he needed to stop playing video games this morning, I asked him if I loved him, what would I be doing differently.

He said I would be racing him and playing soccer and games with him.

I get it.

Love lives in a world of full agreement, or a lack of dwelling on the disconnect of disagreement.

When we’re young, before the disappointment of human beings disagreeing with our idea of Eden, our hearts don’t even fathom the possibility of disagreement with our own consciousness. It comes as a shock and HURTS. It feels like love is gone when we encounter disagreement. I still remember feeling like that when I was his age.

The thing is that this is a grave and understandable error and the correction of this error, that disagreement threatens love, is our life’s opportunity. Not just to get it intellectually, but to transcend through it. To really get it. This is our cross to bear, to do the work to return to love, as Marianne Williamson puts it.

Marcus is at the beginning. The unfortunate period where the disagreement rocks us, where it informs our personalities and unconscious beliefs about life. I empathize with him deeply.

And he’s getting the return, too. When he asked me to pick him up in my arms at drop off and gave me 17 kisses and told me he knows I love him, he took courageous action. He inspired me.

The idea that disagreement threatens love (threatens us, really, as we are made of love) – from loved ones dying too soon to not getting the job to not feeling heard to being rejected romantically or even abused – is false, but it hurts.

Love is always here, waiting for you. Getting back to it is the work of our lives. Be courageous.

Obedience Can Be Dangerous

reprimand

I was at a potluck dinner for the parents of kids in Marcus’ class this Friday night. I met the father of this very intelligent girl who is a bit of a chatterbox and doesn’t sit still well, but who is so lovely, so curious, so wonderful, so clearly well-equipped to succeed as well. Her father mainly wanted to talk about how disobedient she was, how her teachers in language school kept telling him how disobedient she was. He seemed shameful and wasn’t too interested in how great I thought she was. I was sure to give her a big smile Monday morning, happy to see her and now seeing the growing impact on her of being told she was wrong more clearly, the confusion building in her. She’s in kindergarten.

When the desire for obedience crosses with another person’e true expression of themselves, you’ve got trouble. This is where darkness occurs.

A facebook friend of mine and fellow coach, Mike Hrostoski recently shared a letter he wrote when he was a teenager that was truly saddening. A young man writing about suicide. The conflict between who he was and who his community wanted him to be was so clear. He then detailed his drug use, his confusion and his pain that lasted for years. He posted it here – http://hrostoski.com/2014/11/everybody-hates-you-and-you-want-to-die/ (his site is currently down, maybe find it on his FB page)

No one could want Mike to go through this, to even have a memory of this and what’s even more gut wrenching is how many people we know are right where he was when he wrote that letter, who have gone through that, who are still wrestling with it and unfortunately, who may never truly try to free themselves, who get eaten alive by the ways they try to cope – power games, passive aggressiveness, controlling behavior, numbing out, withdrawal, acting like everything is ok.

Living in a society, a family, a culture is hard. These entities condition you. They ultimately mean well, but that doesn’t mean they are well-suited for the human condition. We need to teach each other how to cross the street without getting hit by cars. We don’t need to teach each other how to forsake our own self-expression, our lives. The results are heartbreaking and they lead us to transformation or unfortunate ends or both. As a father, this really hits home for me.

Mike is transforming his life with a fervor. Sometimes I can resonate with where he’s at, what he’s wrestling with today, sometimes not, but what I can always relate to is how vital his freedom is to him, how painful it is to be at the moments where it feels like life is in total disagreement with you. How desperate we are to get out.

Go on, Mike. Get OUT.

Me, too. You, too. We all have some of this in us.

Love,
Gregg

Robin Williams and Depression’s Beacon For Us

Robin

I’ve been vacillating between crying and on the verge of tears since I heard Robin Williams died.  Things happen in life and you run these things through your own particular filters. They take on a life intertwined with yours, because once they happen, the rest of their existence is completely subjective, completely in how they occur to you.

How his death has occurred to me is as such a sad reminder of how hard we are all trying. Trying to be loved, trying to surround ourselves with happiness so we don’t face our own demons all of the time, trying so hard not to get hurt.

We’re never more safe to be with than when we are laughing, but it’s as if laughter has died for a few days, as if I’m learning that laughter will never be enough, no matter how wonderful it is, no matter how much I admire and love people who make me laugh and think and feel. My uncle Joel comes to mind, my very own Judd Hirsch character from Ordinary People or Sean Maguire from Good Will Hunting complete with sweater, beard, pipe and tweed jacket, great wisdom and a fantastic sense of humor. He has no idea how much I love and admire him, how him just being alive comforts me!

We’re really all trying. We seem so dangerous to each other and so vulnerable, that our facades, our acts seem so necessary, but we’re all so much the same beneath them, all trying. When someone yells at me, argues with me or looks at me funny, they’re really not trying to hurt me, that’s not their primary goal. They are trying to stave off their own pain and anticipation of pain.  I see it in my sons’ anger so clearly (their tool of choice for staving off pain). They’re beautiful little souls trying to protect themselves and I’m so sorry that they know from pain, that their life of trying has begun.

Accomplishment, laughter, success are sometimes just what they are, but so often they are what we are using to stave off the pain and the fear of the next hurt that’s coming, which is why their effect never lasts. We are still fooled by each others facades, because we are primarily operating as evaluators, on guard, protecting our vulnerable hearts.

I can get very frustrated with the impact of depression on relationships, but when more clear-headed, it occurs like a beacon. We are missing the point. It is truly the blind leading the blind, as we lead each other into these lives of trying, when all we really need to do, all we are and we are in denial of, is love. I think everyone I’ve ever known with depression or biploar disorder has known this so much better than I have, buried in the necessity of my own protection. All it takes is for us to see that it is here, everywhere and stop putting so much stock in each others facades. Imagine living in a world where the illusion that we are not surrounded by love went away.

Easy to say, challenging to do when the tide of this is in the early days of turning and there is so much in the world telling us that fear and hate and danger are everywhere, but if we choose it, it is ours.

Happy Anniversary

rings

I have been in awe of my 13th anniversary with my wife Rosanna all day. Blown away by what it takes for two people to create a marriage that I am so proud of. Not because it looks perfect, because it doesn’t, but because it’s been such a challenge despite both of us loving each other so much.

(My) Marriage has not been easy. We throw ourselves into it knowing so little about what it’s going to be like and what it will take to incorporate all of the changes in life. Kids, mortgage, finances, being close or near to your family, the growing stakes in your careers, simply just trying not to be an a#@h&%* all of the time because this life isn’t easy. It is such a daunting endeavor.

But all of these things fashioned me into a new person, a version of myself that I needed to become, that I am proud to be. If it wasn’t for the challenges and for being with Rosanna, someone I respect, love and admire as much as I do, someone who has always made me want to learn how to be a better man, whose heart has always been so perfect to me, if it wasn’t for our vows and our commitment to not just stay together, but to figure out how to keep our hearts open to each other despite life happening, despite being changing people, despite it being hard sometimes even in the midst of so many blessings and sometimes despite ourselves, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today. I credit my marriage, above all else, as being the structure for me to really grow up (and I’m still doing it).

When my wife tells the world that she loves me more than ever, after 13 years – and for those of you who saw us at the beginning, you know that first act was tough to follow because we were so in love – you could never know just how much that means to me, how grateful I am for what it takes and what we’ve been willing to do to make that so. I’m proud of us.

I love you Rosie, more than ever. Happy Anniversary.

The Outrage Cycle

outrageOutrage is a byproduct of being diseased with fear, anger and pain. It permeates our minds and bodies and looks to infect others, exacting the same cost to them that we are suffering with. This disease creates delusions, judgments, gross generalizations and a rabid hunt for evidence that proves the outrage right. No matter what, whether we are offending others or recruiting others with our outrage, we are serving the disease more than the cause we are championing. We are spreading outrage. We are infecting with fear. Sadly, we are creating more sadness, pain and violence. It is a terrible cycle. Look and you will see this. It is likely how we became outraged in the first place, being infected by the outrage of others.

I hope I’ve been through enough outrages in my life and paid enough of a price to not be fooled by them any longer. All of my outrage did little but put me in the middle of more outrage, often much more than I could handle.

To all those outraged, I send love and understanding for the pain you are going through. It’s terrible to be as upset as you are. I trust you that your outrage is for a good reason and I understand that sometimes it seems like there is no other way.

I promise, outrage is optional and it’s just not very effective for anything other than creating more outrage. It couldn’t be more effective at doing that.

The only thing we can do with outrage that is in line with our hearts and intentions for a world of peace and understanding is to feel it. To feel the pain of tragedy, of injustice, of unfair dealing. You are exquisitely human. Love, however difficult it seems, that you are sensitive to the pain of knowing something that you see happening is not in line with our better selves, that we function in this miraculous way. Then, if you are still called to a cause, go do something, take committed action for your cause and leave the against and the outrage behind.

Think, for a second, what if those we were “against” could do this too?

Be the first one. Spread that.