Resolutions…resolve (Part 2)

(Yeah, I flipped the title)

So, here they are.  Let me know what you think! 🙂

D’s List of the Turn-around Ten

1. Address the health issue.  What does that mean?  As much as I hate to admit it, it means losing the weight that I have managed to regain.  It’s not much, but I dislike talking about and thinking about weight-related issues, especially given my area of specialization in therapy.  On the other hand, I am human and would love to be able share this aspect of my human experience without judging myself.   It’s not just the issue of weight, but there are a host of other things I need to get under control, such as actually finding myself a doctor here in Rome.  I suppose I have been in a bit of denial that my life is actually rooted here now.  Getting my own medical team together to help me with fibromyalgia is really about the last step before I finally see myself as officially living here. Completed.

2. Abstain from datingThat’s right, I am still single…and still loving it.  😉  Every now and again, however, I have managed to allow myself to date someone briefly.  As nice as dating and all of those emotional things are, for me, they get in the way of my accomplishing some personal goals (like making time to write) and also interfere with resolution number one (like eating better and treating my body well).  So, no-no to that.  😉 Partially Completed

3. Maintain my GPA.  This might read a bit strange, but it’s very important to me.  Currently, I have a 4.0 and two scholarships at my university.  Um… Given issues surrounding my health, stress from emotional drama, and other issues, I have not been able to function as I would like in school.  That is, I have been too ill be to attend more often than not.  It is beginning to remind me of my most dark period when I was working and found myself too ill to work.  Thus, no matter what, the goal is to ensure that I get out of this semester 4.0 intact. Yes, I’ll be holed up in my room or at the uni library…such is life. 🙂 Partially Completed.

4. Make space for friends. Yeah, I suck.  Yes, you read it here first, and can feel free to repeat it, because I am about to do so–I suck.  I know I have acquaintances and friends.  I see that I have a list of some hundreds of people on my Facebook account, a bunch of contacts on my LinkedIn, and some folks even here.  I look at my phone and I recognize that I have an actual contact list with people’s names on it…not just the auto-dial numbers for my cellphone service.   So, why don’t I spend time with them?  Well, the reason is twofold:  one, I hate feeling as though I am imposing on other people’s time (childhood issue), and two, I am often sick (see task number 1 of this list), involved in emotional drama (whether my own or someone else’s), and am busy with studying. Ongoing.

5. Work and save.  I have to write this.  I really miss having a steady income.  I miss knowing exactly how much money I would have coming to me at the end of the month–it’s not a small thing.  As an adult, and I suppose I can consider myself one now at 34, it’s not easy matter to try live on limited resources.  Furthermore, taking the step that I did (which I do not regret for an instance) to come to Italy meant relying upon savings.  Thus, of course, it would make sense that my savings is quite depleted.  But as they say, once you are at the bottom, you can always climb to the top.  So, with what I make before paying anyone else, I shall have to pay myself first (my mother taught me that). 😉 Ongoing.

  Hahaha!  Right! 😀

 6. Work and pay.Yup, isn’t it lovely?  Like many others, I have bills, bills, and more bills.  Try moving your life to another country…you will find that it will mean bills, bills, and more bills–at least, until you’ve got yourself settled into a job, which I do not.  For all intents and purposes, I am a student, and work as a student when I can.  The plan, however, is to pay off at least one of my major bill by the end of the year, and to make the others more manageable.  Enough said on that. Completed.

7. Write.  It’s a bit scary to write, but I’ve got a story that I believe in, and for which I have been unable to make time due to the issues involved in the first six resolutions.  So…if one my main points in life is that I want to be a writer–no, not want to be, I am a writer–then I need to write…not just that story, but also this blog and all the other places to which I put my thoughts. So, the goal?  To write at least two-three solid chapters.  I am not pushing my luck to think in terms of numbers of pages.  I’ve already stated that I will be updating this blog at least weekly to update about my progress. Completed.

8. Paint and other creative stuff. I sometimes forget that I have a degree in painting.  I forget that I love to draw people’s faces and to express in this creative manner.   I forget, too, that knitting and crocheting soothe me.  I forget that I have a classical guitar that’s been leaning against my desk for over a year.  I forget that I like to sing and write songs… I am not even sure of my voice anymore.  I forget that I have a violin and a “How to Play Violin” book…and that I love teaching myself how to play instruments.  Man, I am wicked forgetful about things that keep me and have kept me sane in this life.  So, back to what brings comfort. Ongoing.

9. Remember.  I tend to forget (see number 8).  There are certain things that I have learned over the course of the last few years that I want to focus my mind on for the remainder of the year…and beyond that.  First, is to remind myself to practice achieving bodhicitta (I want to reread Pema Chodron‘s The Places that Scare You and to find my copy of her book When Things Fall Apart).  Second, is to practice the law of attraction.   Whether it is the idea of “show me yourself, and I will tell you who you are,” or “like attracts like,” I have come to understand that I what I put out there in the world is what I get back.  Thus, I will work hard to keep my mind and heart in the place that is best for me. Ongoing.

 10. Gratitude.  I would like to say that I express gratitude always and in a way that those who know me can understand, but that, I think, would be unreasonable.  Instead, I will state that my focus is on learning how to express my gratitude to everyone who has shared with me a part of their lives no matter how small. Ongoing.

So, that’s it!  Again, let me know your thoughts!  And cheer for me, will you?

Until Next Time!

Best,

D.

P.S. Christian Gen Monsen is simply awesome, and starting around minute 5 of this video, he makes a very inspiring statement…but watch the whole thing, because Japan and Japanese culture are wonderful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M1UDAJxrL0&feature=share&list=UL4M1UDAJxrL0

Una bella dama…even when feeling anything but…

"Seeking Solace" digital photography by Diedré M. Blake (Rome, Italy) 2011.

In general, I am a quiet person… seemingly almost bordering on withdrawn, especially when difficulties in my arise.  The last two months have been somewhat of  a testimony to this aspect of my personality.   For the most part, being quiet helps me to be more observant of the world around me.  On the other hand, it is not always easy for me to express myself when I am experiencing difficulties.  At this point, the question “What’s the point, D?” might be on the tips of many tongues.  The point is that during this period of solitude, someone made me aware of a simple observation.  The observation was about me.

 

Una bella dama

I am a fairly routinized person, and being in Rome does not change this fact.  Each day, I get up and go out for a walk.  Usually, I end up in the historic centre.  On Easter Sunday, I found myself in Campo de’ Fiori, sitting alone at a familiar café (you know the one…the one where I was gratefully accused of being a feminist).  I was engrossed in writing while simultaneously eating (because I, too, can multitask… mindfully).  I was not aware that a man was observing me at the table across from my own. 

Concluding his meal, this man came over to my table and said to me, “I wish you a happy Easter.  You seem so sad, but know that you are elegant and una bella dama.  I hope you know what that means.”  And with that he was gone.

And I, who felt anything but beautiful (bella) or even much of a lady (dama) in that moment, smiled. 

Sometimes the universe provides us with unexpected but necessary solace in moments of sorrow.  For that I am grateful.

In the pagan cemetery, photography by Heather Webster (Rome, 2011).

 

Even when feeling anything but…

The poem below is one of my favourites to share and to explore in group therapy work with female adolescents and young adults.  I find that Maya Angelou strikes an important chord within the self as she speaks about her ability to embrace all aspects of who she is that, in totality, make her a “phenomenal woman.” 

Some people have expressed their awe to me, especially lately, because of their perception of my fearlessness, courage, and spontaneity.  It is true that I have courage (I believe most people do) and that I can be spontaneous (I believe most people can).  It is, however, not true that I am without fear (and if you have read this blog, then you already know how much I write about my fears).

"Dance...Trastevere" digital photography by Diedré M. Blake (Rome, Italy) 2011.

The presence of fear gives me courage… Without fear, why would I have need for courage?  I am sometimes spontaneous, but perhaps more accurate is that I believe in achieving my dreams, and I make necessary decisions to fulfill them…  I suppose these decisions and my actions can seem spontaneous, because I am not always forthcoming with my thought processes.  Then again, who is? 😉

I believe in the principles of Maya Angelou’s poem whole-heartedly.    Regardless of emotional ups or downs, by practicing self-acceptance and pursuing self-actualization, I am continually embracing myself as a phenomenal woman (even when feeling anything but).  This, I believe is an important aspect of self-growth, i.e. to be able to appreciate, accept, make space for and use of the multiple dualities of the self.  We are all shades of black and white, and gradients of grey… Let’s not even get into colour schemes!

These past weeks reminded me that each person is unique and thus a phenomenon in his/her own right.  It’s a matter of whether or not one is willing to embrace it… After all, no one is better at being who you are.  So, what’s preventing you from embracing your inner and outer phenomena?

 

"Hold" digital photography by Diedré M. Blake (Rome, Italy) 2011.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
-M. Angelou

What if I told you… a Secret?

What if I told you that on Thursday, October 14, 2010 as I sat on an airplane travelling back to the U.S. from my very first trip to Rome, I wrote the following words,

“I want to return to Rome and stay for 6 months 1month very soon.”

At the time I had no idea as to how I would do this.  I had no money, no time, and no seeming way that I could make this manifest.  I just knew that I wanted to do it.  I knew I had to do it.  I believed that I could and I would do it, even if I didn’t know how.  From the moment of writing those words, a series of many things happened, both experienced as good and bad.  All moved me towards achieving the above goal. 

What if I told you that by October 27, 2010 I had bought my ticket to return to Rome for less than $500?  What if I told you that along with the above words, I had also written,

“I want to live alone while I am there.”

and that by November 11, 2010 I had met the man, from whom I would eventually rent my studio at an affordable price.

 

The Power of Belief and Self-efficacy

The self-fulfilling prophecy is a fairly popular concept in today’s society, but it can be traced back throughout the ages. 

The idea is a simple one: what we truly believe, we will manifest into reality.  Typically, the self-fulfilling prophecy has a somewhat negative connotation as it may be used in association with “bad” events.  For example, if a man continuously worries that his wife will leave him, and then eventually  she will.  The self-fulfilling prophecy, however, is a simply strategy of thought manifested into reality.  The manifestation, however, can occur in three ways: positive, neutral, or negative. 

A positive manifestation is simple enough.  It is when we desire something positive to occur in our lives and we truly believe that it will, and thus it does.  The negative manifestation is, of course, the opposite of the positive.  A neutral manifestation (and this is my own term) is when we want something to occur in our lives, typically positive, but we do not fully believe that it will – We end up with perhaps a type of “mixed” result, a neutralized experience. 

For example, you may have just been interviewed for a new job and believe you will be hired because you see yourself as the best candidate.  At some point, however, perhaps due to delay in response from the company, you begin to doubt yourself as being the best candidate… you still believe that you are a very good candidate and that there is no reason why the company shouldn’t hire you, but now you are not sure.  So, you get the call.  You are hired!  Yes!  There is a problem, however.   You are offered a lowered salary or a different position altogether, because the company believes you are not as qualified for the position as they would like for you to be.  Do you see?  The situation has been neutralized.  You are happy for the job offer, but unhappy because the result is not exactly the way you had hoped for it to be… It is exactly what you believed it to be – That is, perhaps you were not the best candidate, merely a good one – Why would a company pay top dollar to good candidate or give that person the position when they can hire the best?   

In psychology, we have been quite happy to latch on to the self-fulfilling prophecy to help people to change their thoughts and their behaviours, and thus ultimately their lives.  Regardless of the branch of psychology, in my opinion, the ultimate goal is to have people have better opinions about themselves and a more positive outlook on their lives, in order to live their lives more effectively and successfully.  As a practitioner of DBT, I am constantly asking clients (and myself) to keep themselves open to new ways of interpreting the experiences they have in the world.  Why?  Well, like I said in my post on Saturday (2.12.11), it is our thoughts that dictate our emotions, and our emotions that dictate our actions, and our actions result in direct and indirect consequences (some of which we may not like).  Thus, it is in controlling our thoughts that we have the power to control ourselves, and the impact of the world around us on ourselves, holistically.

What we think, i.e. our thoughts, is one aspect of the self-fulfilling prophecy.  It is, however, not enough.  Thinking something once does not make or break you (and thank goodness for that!  Or else, I would be in serious trouble!) – It is the pervasiveness of our thoughts, i.e. how much we believe in our thoughts.  How often are we thinking these thoughts?  Are they there in the back of our minds as we go throughout the day?  Are they the first of our day, or last thoughts before we go to bed?  Are they the instant thoughts we have in reaction to anything “bad” or “good” happening to us?  This is what I mean by pervasiveness… by belief.  How much do you believe in your thoughts?

There are many of us who would like to say, “Oh, I might think some negative things about myself, but I don’t believe them.”  Really?  Then, why do you say them to yourself?  Ask yourself. 

The truth is that we can see ourselves as quite capable individuals in many areas of our lives, and are able to say to ourselves, “Bravo, you rock!  You’re awesome!” (These are some of my cheering statements – Feel free to borrow.)  There are, however, other areas, where we may not believe ourselves to be as capable and may say things like this ourselves, “I can’t believe I am so dumb!  Why do always crazy crap like that?  Nobody else would have been so stupid!  I’ll never get things right!  I am such a mess up!” (These aren’t my self-doubting statements, but you get the point – Remember, D says, “Don’t use these! Bad for you!”)

I intentionally listed more self-demeaning/self-doubting statements.  Why?  Because, we tend to verbally beat ourselves up more!  That’s why!  Come on, think about it!  For how long do you keep yourself in a state of misery after something not so great happens?  For example, let’s say your boss, or teacher, or parent told you that you did something wrong, and they were angry with you…  I know this must have happened to you at some point in your life (and if it hasn’t happened, then bully for you, and just try to imagine it).  For how much longer after that conversation, were you upset with yourself, with them, with the situation?  Think about it.  No, really, try.  Perhaps, if you are trying really hard right now and remembering a very specific situation, you might even be experiencing the very emotions associated with the situation.  You might even feel a pang of anger, of embarrassment, and/or of fear.  And as I told you before… our feelings are a manifestation of our thoughts.  So, what are/were you thinking?

We are who/what/how we believe ourselves to be – Remember that I did not say “imagine ourselves to be.”  If you believe yourself to be “an incompetent fool” underneath your projected image of competence, then what you are is an incompetent fool.  Moreover, what people see is that you are an incompetent fool pretending to be competent.  (And if you don’t believe me, see the history of, thankfully, former American President George W. Bush.)  Think about that.

Self-efficacy

I decided to give self-efficacy its own subheading, in order to give this rather lengthy post a bit more structure.  

 I am truly a fan of the concept of self-efficacy.  It incorporates so many of the principles that I consider truly important in creating a meaningful and rewarding life.   To develop a sense of one’s self-efficacy is to begin understanding and, yes, believing in one’s capacity to create and accomplish one’s goals and other tasks in life.  These goals are not merely intrapersonal (relating solely to the self), but also interpersonal (relating to others).  It is sort of that idea that no matter what challenges life presents, you have the ability to tackle it! 

To go into the complete ideology of self-efficacy would be time-consuming and perhaps (somewhat) boring.  Thus, I will not.  I will encourage you, however, to look into it.  Also, think about how self-efficacious you are in this moment.  How do you see your ability to take on whatever life throws at you?  Remember, self-efficacy is not about “going it alone.”  It is about understanding your strengths, understanding where you may need help in order to achieve your goals.  It’s about using your smarts/intelligence/wits (however you want to put it) to get you where you want to go, but knowing/believing that your smarts/intelligence/wits will get you there no matter what!  You dig? 😉

A secret… The Secret

I suggested that I would tell you a secret…  And I shall. 

There are very few pop psychology book/self-help books that I really recommend that people read, or that I even read myself.  After all, most of my time is spent reading… well, psychology articles or books that are more strictly pertaining to my professional interests and background, which takes up a lot of time (as you can see… people in psychology like to write and talk… a lot ;)) – Thus, it’s nothing personal, and definitely not an issue of snobbery on my part.

As such… here is my secret:  I have been reading The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne from page to page.  Now…  I will tell you that when my mother bought this book for me back two Christmas’ ago, I was a bit nonplussed.  After all, I am a capable and competent (read “self-efficacious” here) therapist, what do I need with this pop psychology book?…Okay, maybe there was a bit of snobbery. 

I will tell you three things about The Secret: 

1. It is about self-fulfilling prophecy aka the power of belief  with an emphasis on the power of positive thinking (See, Positive Psychology). 

2. It is about believing in/developing a sense of your own self-efficacy (see discussion above). 

3. It is small enough to put in a small bag.

Mind you, I am not endorsing The Secret or any particular thing on my blog.  If, however, you decide to run to your local library, get a copy, read it and like it, then… the only other pop psychology book I have ever bought (besides ones about eating disorders, which is my specialization… so I ought to know what’s out there) is Bryn Collins’ Emotional Unavailability : Recognizing It, Understanding It, and Avoiding Its Trap.  

Let’s just say, if you have ever been in a bad relationship, or if you are in one right now… or perhaps you are always in bad relationships… and you can never understand why… Well, Emotional Unavailability might help give you some perspective.  It’s a slight introduction to some basic DBT concepts on interpersonal effectiveness). 

 

Some thoughts on being a secret-keeper/privacy-holder:

As a therapist, it is my job to be a secret-keeper/privacy-holder for secrets/private thoughts that are non self-harming to my clients.  It is an important role and one that ought never to be violated.  I feel very honoured to be and to have been entrusted with the thoughts of so many who have come to me for help throughout the years.  There are truly not enough words to express my gratitude and humility.  

The title of this post, “What if I told you… a Secret?” though meant with some humour is actually a commentary on the fact that we may not often share with others what knowledge it is that we may have amassed over the years that has been truly beneficial to us in living our lives.  My secret is that I live my therapeutic practices every day of my life – I practice what I preach.  And it is truly my hope that in sharing these thoughts with you that you will benefit in some small way in your own life.

Best regards,

D.   

For the purpose of full disclosure: I am a registered Independent.