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Growth is Optional (Unless You’re Like Me)

“Change is inevitable, growth is optional.” ~John C. Maxwell

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~Helen Keller

 

I love these quotes, because not only am I a fan of change, but I’m also deeply committed to personal growth. I see people all the time who are terrified or resistant to change, and I used to wonder why they spent so much energy resisting something that is inevitable. Now I understand how powerful the force of inertia is, so I get why people don’t embrace change more often.

But I agree with Helen Keller; security is mostly a superstition. We fool ourselves all the time into believing that if we don’t willingly choose change, we will default to the status quo. This might work for a while, but eventually we’ll be forced to face a different choice. I wrote about this phenomenon here; it’s called the “two choice dilemma.” It occurs when we’re forced to face the fact that the default choice is not the status quo. This commonly occurs when relationships are beginning to falter. We think, “If I just ignore it, the problem will go away.” Usually that kind of thinking just makes a problem worse.

What really interests me is why we’re so afraid of change. Ultimately it boils down to a fear of the unknown. This is great news, because with a little bit of introspection and reflective questioning, you can uncover what the unknown fear is and then decide to act from a place of empowerment.

I’d like to share a process I use to help me understand what I’m up against when I am facing a change. I call it “What Happens Next.”(C) I encourage you to use it, and even share it as long as you give me credit as the source.

What Happens Next

  1. Identify the change you’re facing.
  2. Ask yourself, “What am I afraid will happen if I embrace this change?”
  3. Listen for the answer. It will come into your awareness, even if you aren’t conscious of the answer when you first ask the question. Trust that the answer is right, even if it doesn’t make sense at first.
  4. Ask yourself, “If (whatever your answer is in #3) happens, then what would happen next?”
  5. Listen for that answer. Continue with steps 3 and 4 until you get an answer that has a strong emotion attached to it. Pay attention to what’s happening in your body; it will help you identify the answer with the emotion that is most afraid of being expressed.
  6. Ask yourself, “What would need to happen in order for me to feel safe?” You can also ask a version of the opposite of your last answer. For example, if your strong emotion is fear of being alone for the rest of your life, you could ask, “What would need to happen in order for me to feel supported or in order for me to feel like I’m not alone?”
  7. Listen for the response. When the “right” answer comes to you, you can expect to feel a sense of relief and a lessening of tension in your body. You can then do something to get what you need to feel supported.

If you’d like some help with this process, email me for a free 30 minute strategy session.

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Lessons In Shame

I’ve been sitting with shame for the past several days. Not in a blaming, judgmental way, but sitting with curiosity. What might I learn from shame? If I were willing to really look at it, what would it tell me? This was, I think, the last step in this recent cycle I’ve been in, rooting out an old core wound that I’ve been working with on and off for the past several years.
I found out a few things about shame that I’d like to share with you.
Shame keeps us in the core wound. Whatever flavor your core wound is– whether it’s that you feel unworthy, unlovable, or invisible/you don’t matter, shame and fear are the chains that bind you to your wound. Every time you try to heal the core wound, your Inner Critic throws shame daggers at you. It tells you stories about how nobody will love you if they new what you are really like; better to protect yourself by not letting anyone get too close. It’s not true, but we’re too cowed by shame to look around an notice the lies.
Perfectionism is the biggest lie shame uses to keep you from even trying to break free of your core wound. If you can’t be perfect, don’t even bother trying. You’ll never be any good, shame tells you. Don’t believe it. Instead, try this mantra, “Done is better than perfect.” I’ve been using it myself all year, and my business is having its best year on record. Yes, I cringe sometimes at putting out an imperfect product or blog, but then I say, “Done is better than perfect.” In fact, if you haven’t seen the video on my new home page, go take a look at what I mean.
Forgiveness is the key to releasing the shame. Forgiveness frees you. Sitting in the pool of shame, witnessing it without judgment, allows forgiveness to wash through. It’s not an easy process, but it is incredibly powerful. I had to keep putting aside judgmental thoughts by saying, “Thanks for your opinion, but I’m not on trial right now. I’m just trying to understand this pattern.” I know that everything we do makes sense from the perspective of the part of our subconscious mind that wants us to do the thing. For example, an Inner Child who’s afraid of getting hurt again (like in 2nd grade when her best friend turned on her) is not likely to let anyone get close to her. The root of pushing people away is shame that she’s not worthy of true friendship. Poor thing, she just wants to be accepted for who she is. Of course you can forgive the pattern when you see the underlying cause. And in forgiving the pattern, you forgive yourself and free yourself from shame.
Changing a long standing pattern requires a commitment to creating a new pattern. You have to consciously choose to change, and willing to allow yourself to be truly seen by those close to you. It will make you feel incredibly vulnerable. And there is a tremendous power in vulnerability. In fact, I’m outing myself now so more people can really see me instead of my projection of myself. My old pattern was that I would only let myself be seen as an expert or really wise woman. Because I have a great skill for seeing into a pattern and finding the lesson, that’s where I go. But in doing so, it looked like I was skipping over the painful part (see my blog about the importance of being with the pain). I wasn’t skipping it, I just didn’t want anyone to see me in it. Is it scary to be this vulnerable? You betcha. But it’s authentic, and I choose authentic and scary over shame and “safety.”
If you want some help navigating this process, email me at johanna@romancerecovery.com for a free 30 minute strategy session.

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Sitting With the Shadow

Monday morning ushered in a new moon in Libra. According to my astrology friends, this is good news for your relationships. I’ll add a caveat: as long as you’re willing to do the work. But that’s always the case, isn’t it?
I think the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Coming on the heels of these past few weeks of intensely diving into the shadow, I could use a breath of fresh air. And I actually felt some relief these past few days, so I’m thinking the worst is behind me. YAY!!
New moons are a time for new habits and new ways of being. I’ve developed a new relationship with my shadow that is full of compassion and deep respect. I can hardly believe how brilliantly it has tried to keep me safe for all these years. But really, it’s time for me to shine…no more hiding for me. So as much as I am loving and respecting my shadow, I’m no longer willing to let it run my life.
And that’s really the key to the shadow: when you fully own and embrace it, it loses all of its power.
What would you like to do new or differently in your romantic relationship? What would you like to do new or differently with your relationship with yourself? Can you even imagine being grateful for a part of your shadow?
In my experience, the key to finding gratitude for your shadow is this: you have to find the reason behind the shadow’s actions. When you find the reason, you gain insight. You can make the connection between the destructive aspect of the shadow and its attempt to keep you safe. When you can connect to how your shadow has being trying to keep you safe, you can express gratitude for the effort, even when the method is flawed.
An example from my life might make this clear. My biggest fear and greatest desire is to be seen and appreciated for who I really am. I know, me and the rest of the world want that, right? Over the past few weeks, I’ve unraveled all sorts of beliefs and behaviors that have really irritated me as I’ve unwound this aspect of my shadow. I’ve been sitting in judgment for those beliefs and behaviors for years because I didn’t see the point of them. My conscious mind disagreed with them, but they kept showing up.
And finally, they unwound to the point where I could see behind the curtain. And behind the curtain was this scared little girl, afraid of being seen. Sitting next to her was a tall, beautiful, powerful woman whose natural place is in the spotlight. My shadow had been protecting both of them. When I made that connection and saw how the shadow had been trying to keep them safe, I was able to own it. Within a matter of hours, all of the energy I’d been using to keep that shadow strong just dissipated.
One of my Tribal Truth sisters said it perfectly, “I can’t believe that I had so much energy around that (her own shadow). Now that I can see it, it just isn’t a big deal anymore.” That’s the power of owning your shadow.
I invite you to sit with your shadow. You might use a journal to write what comes up, or you can email me (johanna@romancerecovery.com) for a complimentary 30 minute session to shine the light on your shadow.

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Lean Into It

Have you noticed how intense the energy feels lately? It’s been a wild couple of weeks in the cosmos, with the most recent event being Saturday’s full moon.

Full moons always bring intense energy, and this one was a doozy. They offer us a chance to let go of old patterns that no longer serve us. This sounds great, doesn’t it? Let’s let go of what doesn’t serve us. Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s Your Commitment?

The word commitment has been coming up for me lately. I’ve noticed that the level of your commitment is directly proportionate to the level of success in whatever endeavor it is you’re committed to, whether it’s showing up to appointments on time, creating a six figure business or a truly satisfying relationship.
I’ve also noticed that people often say they’re absolutely committed to something, when their actions clearly show they are committed to something else. For example, people sometimes say they’re committed to losing weight, but they don’t eat well or exercise consistently.
If you think you’re committed to something, but you keep making excuses about why you’re not doing things that align with your commitment, you either have a deeper, hidden commitment or you have limiting beliefs that keep you from truly aligning with your commitment.
For example: someone might say she’s committed to finding a partner, but have a hidden commitment to freedom, or a limiting belief that being with a partner will infringe too much on her personal freedom. If this isn’t resolved inside herself, she’ll either resist meeting men or find ways to sabotage any new relationships.
Unfortunately, because these deeper commitments and beliefs are hidden, you might not realize what’s really going on. You’ll see that you have resistance, or that you’re not being in alignment, but you honestly won’t know why. Here are some tips to help figure out your core commitments.
Decide what you say you are committed to. I recommend making a short list: no more than five things. If you’re committed to more than five things, you’re over-committed. You’ll spread yourself too thin and not give any of your commitments your full attention.
Make a list of how you are in full alignment with each commitment. Consider your consistent actions, things you repeatedly say, and emotions related to each commitment.
Identify any ways you are not fully in alignment with a commitment. These may include procrastinating, lying (to yourself or others), inaction, or doing the opposite of what you say you’re committed to. Try not to judge yourself at this point, you’re only looking for clarity.
Ask yourself these questions:
What would someone who acts like (pick something from #3) be committed to?
Why am I afraid to act on this commitment?
How do I make myself bad or wrong for not following through with this commitment?
What would I have to let go of to truly be in alignment with this commitment?

When you commit to something that is aligned with your soul’s purpose, you can expect to feel some fear and resistance. It’s just your ego trying to keep you safe by keeping you small. But you don’t have to buy into it. You can change the game. You can feel the fear and move forward anyways.
If you’d like some help getting clear about your commitments or figuring out how to live in alignment with your commitments, email me for a free 30 minute strategy session. johanna@romancerecovery.com

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When the Planets Align…

There’s a lot going on in the galaxy these days. I’m no astrologer, but I read a great blog about it. In a nutshell, anything old that’s not serving you any longer is coming up to be healed and released. Change is the order of the day, whether you like it or not. Actually, it seems like whatever is coming up to be purged is likely to be the beginning of a cycle that could last until 2015.

I’m one of those people who really loves change. I wouldn’t say that I thrive on chaos, but I definitely am not a fan of routines. I like change because change means growth. One of my life’s mottos is “grow or die” because the truth is that we’re never static.

Change comes whether you like it or not. In the case of whatever change is coming up for you with the celestial shenanigans of Pluto and Uranus, how you choose to respond will determine whether you flow effortlessly with the changes or whether you feel like you’re being tossed around like you’re in a washing machine.

If you’re going to let go of old stuff and head into a cycle that could last three years, I think you’d want to be pretty intentional about it. So in the spirit of managing change with grace and ease, here are some tips:

  1. Identify what you want to let go of. Spend some time contemplating each of the major life categories: love/relationship, professional, financial, spiritual, health, leisure, and social/giving back. Does something jump out at you? Prioritize the most important thing to change and focus only on that one thing.
  2. Decide what you want to replace it with. Often we can’t say exactly what we want, but we’re really clear about what we don’t want. Make a list down the left side of a sheet of paper of what you don’t want. Opposite each point, write down an opposite. This will be your starting point to decide what you do want.
  3. Take action. This is the single most powerful thing you can do to change your life. In my own life, the commitment to taking daily action toward my goals has changed my life. For a long time, I underestimated the importance of taking consistent daily action. Now that I’m a believer, I’ll stay up as late as I have to in order to complete my short, focused list of “committed daily actions.” (Case in point this evening…)
  4. Course correct as needed. For a really long time, longer than I care to admit, I didn’t actually start anything because I was afraid it wasn’t exactly the right thing to do. Thankfully, I’ve finally learned that success and perfection aren’t friends. And since I’d rather be successful than perfect, I’ve been learning to let go of my desire for perfection. (Case in point: take a look at my awful video here. It’s not pretty, but it’s done. The message is great, but I don’t feel particularly photogenic)
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Wanting What You Don’t Want

I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon among women who’ve recently left a relationship. Full disclosure: I did this myself once when I was in college. This strange thing happens where all of a sudden this guy, whom you’ve decided is not “the One,” becomes desirable again. Not in an “OMG how did I not notice how hot you are” kind of way, but in an “I don’t want you but I don’t want someone else to have you just yet” kind of way.
I recently had a conversation with a client who left her husband. He is clearly not the right guy for her right now, and she understands the truth of that. But it didn’t stop her from wanting him back, even when I gently reminded her of her truth.
David Deida calls it a “him shaped void.” It’s a space in your heart that is held for a man of depth and presence, a man who can take you open to God. The man you left didn’t fill the void, so he was evicted from the space. Yet your heart yearns for the void to be filled. And because the ego doesn’t like experiencing the pain of the void, it just wants to put a warm body– any body– into it.
But just any body will not do. In fact, a man who’s a bad fit for your personal “him shaped void” is worse than having the void empty. Let me be clear: you aren’t looking for a man, you’re looking for the experience of remembering your connection to Source. As Deida explains, “Eventually as your devotional capacity to offer yourself grows, you will attract a man who opens you to God’s shape through his loving.  Then, your heart will retain a God-shaped void in moments when you have separated yourself from divine love.  Your yearning will be to feel infinity’s claim of your heart, opening you without bounds, filling you with an abundance of presence and pleasure beyond your capacity to bear, forcing you open as full as all.”
Now doesn’t that sound better than pining for the jerk you just left? Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe this sounds terrifying to you. It’s ok if that’s true for you; we’re all in different places on this incredible journey. My personal opinion is that we are being invited to use romantic relationships as a portal of spiritual awakening. In the process of awakening, some jump up at the first alarm sound, while others need to be prodded more. Just like awakening from sleep, there are early risers and those who get a slower start. No matter what, we’ll all get there in the end.
That’s all well and good, you’re thinking, but what am I supposed to do about this “him shaped void?” I have some suggestions:
1. Understand that the void is about being loved, and nobody can love you better than you yourself. You hold the keys to the locked doors of your heart. You know where you need tenderness and compassion, and when a little tough love is appropriate. Send some self love into the void.
2. Make a list of the reasons you ended your relationship. In fact, make a list of the reasons you’ve ended all of your significant relationships. Then change the pronoun. He didn’t respect you? Offer yourself more respect. He cheated on you? Stop cheating on yourself and be true to your own beliefs and feelings.
3. Get some help. It’s incredibly difficult to see your own relationship dynamics clearly. We all have blind spots in our own mirrors. Isn’t it easier to see and solve your friends’ problems than it is to see and solve your own? Hire a certified coach or trained Imago therapist. You can email me at johanna@romancerecovery.com for a free 30 minute strategy session.

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Radio Interview With Dr. Jane Greer

I just got off the phone from doing a super fun radio interview with Dr. Jane Greer. You can listen to it HERE.

During the interview, I offered Dr. Greer’s listeners a special gift: a 30 minute Relationship Strategy Session live with me! It’s a $97 value, yours free. Just email me at johanna@romancerecovery.com with “Radio Show Offer” in the subject line to claim your gift.

Please include your full name, time zone, and your biggest relationship challenge or obstacle in the email. I will respond to your email within 24 hours (if I don’t respond, your email probably got stuck in my spam filter, so please re-send it!) to schedule your session.

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Authentic Vulnerability

Vulnerability is a theme that’s been coming up for me a lot in the past few weeks. Over the years, I’ve learned that when something is really present for me like this, I’d better share it because it’s also “up” for lots of other people.
First, let me define what I mean by vulnerability. There are two faces of vulnerability, and they stem from either fear or love. We’re most familiar with fear-based vulnerability, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who likes to experience that particular flavor. Fear based vulnerability can be described as being in a state where you are open to attack or susceptible to being wounded, either physically or emotionally. It makes you want to close down your heart and keep your secrets to yourself. When you feel vulnerable in a fear based way, you shut yourself down from having a deep connection with another person because you don’t trust that they will or can keep you safe.
Love based vulnerability is the same as fear based vulnerability, but with one very important distinction. I also think of love based vulnerability as “authentic vulnerability.” The distinction with this type of vulnerability is that you trust yourself enough to open your heart and share your secrets, even when you don’t know whether or not the person you’re opening to has the capacity to keep you safe. Your sense of who you are is not dependent on how others perceive you, so you’re not afraid to share who you really are.
With authentic vulnerability, because your self esteem is not dependent on others, you have the freedom to approach any situation with an open heart. You have the ability to stay centered in grounded in self love, even when you put your authentic self in front of strangers. You can speak your truth and make requests that will help you get your needs met. That doesn’t mean that you experience no fear; instead, it means that you’re able to manage the fear and move through it to put your true self out there for others to receive, appreciate, admire, or ignore.
Here’s what I’ve noticed in my recent adventures into authentic vulnerability: it is utterly liberating! Of course, to get to that place of liberation, I was sobbing my heart out in the shower an hour before my first adventure (my first networking meeting in San Jose). The frightened child in me didn’t want to do it, but the wiser part of me quietly assured her that everything would be fine. Once I got the crying fit out of the way, I felt more centered and poised than I’d felt in a long time. I felt ready to express the vulnerability I felt as a result of being in a new city with no friends. And guess what? I made some new friends. 🙂
When you’re willing and able to express yourself in an authentically vulnerable way, your heart opens wider and people are naturally drawn to you. Now imagine what that would be like in your relationship if you don’t normally let yourself be vulnerable with your partner.
This is a big imagining, because the closer you are with someone, the more difficult it is to begin being authentically vulnerable if you’ve been protecting yourself from him or her in the relationship (even if it’s been an unconscious protection). It also happens to be a great way to quickly deepen and strengthen your relationship quickly. When one partner leads the way to authentic vulnerability, the other will follow. We all crave this level of connection, but we’re afraid to be the first one to bare our hearts. I invite you to be brave!
Ask yourself these three questions:
On a scale of 1-10 (10=most) how authentically vulnerable do I allow myself to be with my partner?
On a scale of 1-10, how important is it for me to create more authentic vulnerability between us?
What is the biggest obstacle for me when it comes to being authentically vulnerable with my partner?
If you’d like help with becoming more authentically vulnerable, email me at johanna@romancerecovery.com for a free “Authentic Vulnerability” session. Just be sure to put “Authentic Vulnerability” as the subject, include your full name, and the answer to these three questions.

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Putting Things In Perspective

I had some shocking news land in my lap Sunday. Last week my friend Julie was on my mind really strongly. We trained together as coaches several years ago, and have kept in good touch since then. Normally, when someone pops into my mind like that, it’s a sign to call them and catch up. I had a busy week though, between work and the usually settling into a new place stuff. I put it off, thinking I’d connect with her this week.

Yesterday I learned that she’d been rushed to the hospital on Tuesday, and by the end of the week was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. My healthy, happy, funny, 48 year old friend, who had no symptoms as recently as May, is now measuring the rest of her life in weeks instead of years. She’s on a ventilator, so she can’t even talk. (we’re hoping that will change in the next few days)

Talk about putting things in perspective. What would you do if you only had weeks to live, and weren’t going to be well enough to travel the world or play for your favorite sports team? Here’s my short list:

  1. Forgive anyone I might be holding even the smallest bit of resentment towards. (forgiving the dangling participle in honor of my literary friend)
  2. Write at least a paragraph to all of my family and friends, individually, telling them what I love and appreciate about them.
  3. Have more sex with my husband (life saving machinery permitting). I would at least make love to him with my eyes, drinking in his presence and sharing my profound, if limited, love for him.
  4. Talk to (or write if I couldn’t speak) my daughter about the importance of things like independence, boundaries, vulnerability, authenticity, and great sex. I would tell her to hold fast to her dreams, even the one about being an Olympic equestrian. I would teach her to harness her magic and use it every day.
  5. I would plan for my next go ‘round on the planet. I would set intentions to spread joy and love far and wide, to leave no person in the darkness of their perceived limitations and faults. I would inhale peace and exhale love with the last of my breaths, and I would want to have no regrets.

 

What would you do? I’d love to hear from you.

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