How to navigate your emotional storms (from Cygnus Review)

lighthouseblogYou know those intense emotional moments – like when you are feeling anxious or afraid about something, or pessimistic about the news, or dealing with a relationship issue – where so many approaches just don’t help you? Well that’s why I wrote my new book Lighthouse: Navigate the emotional storms of life and discover the power within you.

Three easy steps to a better life?

Be happy. Visualise what you want (not what you don’t want). Love yourself. Forgive everyone. “Just let go”. It all sounds good in theory – but these one-liners don’t help when you are in the middle of dealing with emotional storms. Trying to follow those “three steps” to create your life is challenging at the best of times but when swept up in a storm of difficult emotions and overthinking – it’s near impossible. On top of this, when you find yourself unable to follow those ideas you’ve read about, you pile on the self-hatred because “you can’t even do what the books say”.

In my own life, self development had become just another battering ram to use on myself as a way to say that “I’m just not good enough”. I felt bad… and then these books made me feel bad about feeling bad, warning me that if I didn’t feel good quickly then I’d manifest more unpleasantness.

The evolution of Life

This questionable teachings that say that you “shouldn’t be negative” only make people more negative, because what you resist, persists. Just like resistance training at the gym – the negative tension of thought has in fact has many benefits. In the theory of evolution, a species evolves through challenges. If you get rid of the challenge, you get rid of the potential for improvement. It’s the same with life. And so it’s less about trying to avoid the negative thinking or feeling states – which doesn’t work anyway –  and more about working with them. It’s more about gaining the benefits they are bringing to you.

You’re not the only one who has been struggling with applying the self-help theory you’ve read about. After facilitating well over 600 groups and workshops at venues as diverse as Mind Body Spirit Festival, HMP Brixton and The Healing Trust –  and meeting thousands of people from all walks of life there, I can tell you that the same struggles go on with person after person – and many of those steps don’t even work for the authors of those books. So you can be easier on yourself. Relax. And read on.

Relaxing out of mind chatter – and into your ideal life

You can’t think your way to what you want, despite how many times certain books say that you can. All the good in life comes when you sweep your mind clear of thoughts. That’s when the miracles of life start to happen. That’s when you can begin to discover the power within you.

My approach in this book is how to not think; how to relax- because thinking, I’ve found, is not the route to solutions – but the problem itself. Thoughts evolve us, yes – but then we want to find a way to step aside from thoughts, which become the biggest adversary we face. It’s about what to do when you’re in a storm of mind chatter… and then how to step aside from this.

What to do depends on your current mood

What mood you are in, right now, depends on what to do. For example trying to visualise a dream life doesn’t make you feel good and doesn’t have power, when you are mired in unhappiness. Trying to feel confident when you are in a strong current of self-criticism is useless too, and often makes people feel worse. In my book, there are 3 sections: Feeling Low, Feeling Uninspired and Feeling Good. It’s an open-at-random practical section specifically designed to soothe you no matter where you are, what’s going on or how you are feeling – and it works.

People who have attended my events (a weekly group in London’s Covent Garden that has been going for eight years, and numerous workshops around the country) have found a way to improve the quality of their lives using the easy-to-use techniques you will read about here. And perhaps best of all, people have found a way to more often let loose of that “inner critic” mind chatter and discover that sense of inner peace within, fully enjoying life at a whole new level.

LIGHTHOUSE IN A STORM: Call back your power in challenging times

lighthouse3“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ― Viktor.E. Frankl

Sometimes the news media can be overwhelming. And when we hear about certain events, it seems there is little we can do, which can make us feel powerless. But these situations bring blessings in disguise – because they force us to instead go within and discover the source of our real power to make changes – the power within.

We are always guided from within. Behind the static-in-the-radio of thoughts, is accurate guidance. This is our intuitive sense; our gut feeling that knows just what to do at all times: where to go, what to do, what not to do. And it’s 100% reliable.  Just as the sun always shines behind the clouds, guidance always guides us behind the clouds of overthinking. All the time it communicates, through the language of instinct and intuition, this “birds eye view” which knows how to get us where we need to be, in the perfect time.

So many people have made the mind-chatter of thoughts their guide – and the mind-chatter is useless as a guide. So the important question is – how do I sync up with the guidance within?

Search without: Information overload

In this era of information overload, which information do we trust? Reading and re-reading the news, or social media, or comment pieces, or any one of the other billion or so articles of opinion rarely leads us to clarity – but instead deeper into fear and the complex maze of overthinking that goes along with it, where our sense of empowerment is clouded and we are cut off from hearing our inner knowing; the most important source of information we have.

Listen within: Meditation

You sync up with your inner knowing by focusing in a way that clears your mind. When the clouds of mind-chatter are cleared, guidance is revealed.

Meditation is a proven way to clear our mind of mind-chatter – and gets us in touch with the wisdom of our Real Self. When we listen within, we connect with our guidance which knows what to do. I recommend spending time each day in meditation – whatever your method is – giving you space to be attuned to this source of accurate information.

Meditation is simply finding a point of focus that doesn’t get you to go into thinking. It could be using a mantra over and over again (and preferably one in a another language, as words you don’t understand won’t activate thoughts). It could be focusing on your breath, in and out. Or a consistent sound. It doesn’t really matter what it is – just something that works for you by holding your attention and stopping you from going into the clouds of overthinking.

What to do to align with the times: Time for action

Many people on the spiritual path have heard all about spiritual theory in countless books or YouTube videos, trying to make meaning of it all; trying to work out about all the different laws of the Universe, and the dimensions, and how it all works. They’ve thought about spiritual concepts a lot. But this is about as useful as watching fitness DVDs and doing nothing else in an attempt to change your body. It may be the first step and it may be entertaining – but it’s not enough. Action is required. You want to find your “gym programme” and then do it – not just think about it; you want to find the practices that get you connected with the power within – and then do them. 

Focus on what makes you feel good

And if the news is scaring you and affecting your view of life – turn it off. Don’t use the excuse so many use, “I need to know what’s going on”. I used to work in a newsroom and trust me – it isn’t what’s going on, but a perception of what’s going on. Watch or read if you want to, or if you feel guided – but ask yourself “How is it making me feel?”. If engaging with it is not making you feel good and not getting you to love this amazing life – you may want to find a different activity to take part in – one which makes you feel better. And you feeling better is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, others and Life in general.

My essential guidebook LIGHTHOUSE: Navigate the emotional storms of life and discover the power within you is available through my website www.michaeljames.be/books

Standing tall in storms of emotion

colossusWhen you are in your self-confidence, if you don’t get the job it’s their loss. You accept the adventure and you feel all the more powerful because of it.

When you are disconnected from your self-confidence, it’s a different story. You feel like a loser. You feel not good enough. You feel pessimistic. They become the “bad guys”.

But the prospective employers have done nothing different – their behaviour was the same in both examples. It’s all you. It’s all about whether you are standing tall or collapsing. It’s all about what channel you are tuned to. And that’s all that’s ever going on. 

It’s like there’s two mirror images happening: one in which you are lost at sea, clinging to a mast, bedraggled and feeling finished – and the other you are standing tall and proud, like the Colossus, like God’s gift, a light unto the world, on top of a podium.

Very different perspectives – but both of these images are opposite sides of the same coin.

A champion in training

If you were to see a champion athlete moments after training you may see a wreck, rather than a hero. This is him working out. This is the making of the man. This is the creation of mastery. After he’d shifted his focus and taken time to relax, you’d see championship form again. Not in spite of but because of this training.

If you’ve had one of these dramatic collapses of your self-worth, it’s actually a good thing. You’ve been shown where you’ve got a weak muscle which needs attention, or it will only come up again. And so now it’s time to train, to prevent it being triggered again.

Ships in the harbour are safe, yes, but…

You are living life. And yes, there will be waves (storms of overthinking) and you may go under once in a while and that’s not a bad thing and there’s nothing wrong with clinging to the mast once in a while. In fact if you aren’t clinging to the mast sometimes, perhaps you’re not playing big enough; perhaps you’re still in your comfort zone? Perhaps you’re not pushing up the weights at the gym?

I remember doing a workshop and I asked the crowd “Who in the room is incredibly confident?” Just four people put their hands up and it was clear they were telling the truth; they seemed to have solid confidence. Then I asked those same few people “Who of you gets really, really insecure sometimes?” And all four hands stayed up – and each person seemed surprised that the others had their hand up.

This is what I know: I have met many powerhouses in terms of how they are living life. And I’ve never met a single person ever who doesn’t fit into this category of having both aspects within them – both the confident hero and the frightened child. It’s like trying to find a successful body builder who has never felt serious tension in his muscles. You won’t find one, ever. The opposite “shadow” feeling is what makes the other. The mast in stormy seas is the making of the Colossus.

The thought ambush

We all know that moment when the waves of fear or doubt threaten to take us under. Something triggers us and then the waves of thoughts seem to pounce on us and our immediate knee-jerk response is to go to war with them or run away. This approach rarely works, instead we get deeper into the storm of mind chatter.

In army manoeuvres, it’s interesting how you are taught to face and advance the ambush rather than run. Not fight it, but continue forward as if it’s not even there.

Advancing doesn’t mean fighting or resisting. It is more like ignoring, fully focused on the power that walks with you; the power of Reality; of your Real Self. It’s ignoring, but walking forward.

Walking forward with steadfastness

When you find yourself being taken over by these irritating (to say the least) thought forms, you want to firstly welcome them and secondly keep on going forward.

They are clouds. You are the Sun. They are nothing. You are solid. You have the power of Life walking through you and as you.

Running away gives fear thoughts power. Many people do this, they try to ignore something meaning “running away from it” meaning pushing against. This kind of “trying to ignore” is the opposite of ignoring – it’s denial – and brings on obsessing about the subject.

Walking forward anyway is authentic ignoring. Advancing means you don’t believe in the power of the thoughts. Retreating means you do. As we retreat, the fear gets more, not less. Retreating is resistance, in this context.

Stumbling… and then getting up again

However, we all need practice to master anything. That’s why the army have training sessions rather than going straight off to the front line. Life provides the training. And every time you fall, you become more focused, more resolute for the next time.

Stand tall and endure

This takes effort. Of course it does. Just like in a real-life ambush scenario, it would be “easier’ just to collapse and be taken by the enemy. But the price you’d pay would be massive; this tiny bit of effort is incredibly worthwhile and will save you the time having to get back on track again.

Standing tall initially takes more effort. But do it. Stand in your power. Hold on tight to the mast as the ship cuts through the waves of overthinking. Meditate. Stand tall like the Colossus, at first you may be standing tall and not feeling it – but soon enough the thrust of your Real Self will join you and you will be back on track, the wind will get behind your sales, the waves will leave you alone and you will be smiling again, left even better than before thanks to this “workout”.

Dealing with worry and fearful overthinking (from Watkins Magazine)

IMG_7883When you go into worrisome or fearful thinking, things can get very bleak and the world seems to change: visuals may come into you mind of all the bad things that might happen. Your breath might become shallower and your body feel tense. Your mind races and the storm of thoughts begins.

This is simply what the mind (and then body-mind) does when you’re overthinking – everyone’s mind, not just yours. Before you know it, you are absolutely convincing yourself of nightmare scenarios. It can be shocking how detailed and negatively creative the mind’s projections can be. It’s all fiction, of course, but it seems so real.  And like being trapped in a spider’s web, the more you try to fight it, the more trapped in overthinking and fear you seem to become.

Dispelling fears

The feeling of worry or fear is a sure sign that you are not tuned in to You. You don’t feel like yourself during these times – and that’s because, in many ways, you’re not. You have temporarily disconnected from your clarity and are connecting with the static in the radio – not the radio broadcast itself. And that static plays all kinds of miserable, untruthful drama and judgement and projected worries. It really is like you are under a spell. And this article is all about how to break the spell; break the circuit in your overthinking.

Tuning into you

When you are fully “tuned in” – meaning when you are relaxed and centred –  you cannot worry. You haven’t got access to those relentlessly negative thoughts when you are tuned in. In an ideal world when the thoughts do start coming you want to ignore the content; that stream of worry thoughts that chatters on forever and will move from subject to subject.

But let’s get real: It’s not always that easy

All the above sounds good in theory. But theory and real life are very different. People read self help books and feel great but when a problem comes up it’s as if they hadn’t read them. That’s because theory on it’s own is useless – you need the muscles honed from practice to work with these ideas. When you are in the middle of an intense situation, all the best advice in the world can go out the window. It doesn’t matter how many positive thinking books you have read or how much you have worked on yourself or how many times you decide to “be mindful and observe your thoughts”, sometimes, despite all the “9 steps to stop worrying” books on your shelf –  you might get taken over by worry or fear. And that’s ok. 

I’ve worked with a lot of people who have the tendency to worry or go into fear and overthinking. This is partly what my book Lighthouse is all about. My effective solutions came from my years of research working with hundreds if not thousands of people – and from a very personal problem: because in my own life, I found it a challenge to deal with worry or fear and nothing had helped me. No books, teachers or therapists could reach me. I frequently went into panic or fear and couldn’t work my way out of these ferocious moods, which were totally ruining my life.

A personal experience 

I remember one of many fearful situations: I went into worry about a close friend of mine, in a situation I couldn’t do anything about. I was waiting for news. I hadn’t heard from him for days. Rather than going into a excitement of how he must be having a great time and be too busy to call me, you guessed it, I did the opposite.

I used to think there was something terribly wrong with my mind – but then I realised it’s the same for pretty much everyone: for some reason the overthinking mind tends to go into the negative and race with thoughts when we “disconnect” from our empowerment.

My stomach went tight and my mind raced with worst case scenarios. I convinced myself that all kinds of terrible things were going on and desperately tried to think my way out of this and try to find solutions. I felt so physically and mentally exhausted with it all I had to leave my place of work and go home and sit down, which hardly improved things, as I continued overthinking.

Worrying about worrying

I’d read a lot of “positive thinking” books which had got me scared about how I shouldn’t be worrying as it would block solutions or even negatively affect the situation, which frightened me and made me worry even more. But trying not to worry was useless – in fact it made it worse. Then I was worried about the negative affects of my worry, so I tried hard not to worry and to think of positive outcomes  – in order to positively influence the situation. Things just got worse, the negative voices and images in my mind got more ferocious. The pain that comes from worrying means you have stepped aside from truth and clarity – but knowing this doesn’t always make the experience any easier. Worry clouds your vision; it’s like being in “static in the radio” where you can’t see sense or hear your intuition. And it’s like being swept up in a cyclone of confusion and high emotion.

So you’re worrying. And it might not be your chosen state of being, but that’s where you are right now. You are where you are.

Fighting against thoughts doesn’t work

You want to look for something to appreciate but let’s be honest, if you are swept up in a drama (like I was) that can feel almost impossible. Trying to focus on other things just gets you to “try not to think of” what you’re currently obsessing about. And it will, more times than not, keep you stuck in your worry. Of course you would love to feel great right now- but that’s not an option. Trying to feel good, trying to change your mood, trying to do anything is resistance. And what you resist, persists.

Make peace with where you are

And so in a situation like this, the first thing to do is face where you are. And that means looking for the good in where you are; looking for the good in worrying.

You may be arguing with this point. But, I ask you, what is your suggestion? When you are caught up in a storm of overthinking like worry, you have two options. And one of them is not to stop worrying or to ‘be positive’. Your two options are: to worry and to fight against the worrying. Or, to worry and make peace with the worry.

“I should be worrying because I am. It’s normal to worry in this situation. It shows I care. Maybe my worry is necessary right now, in a way I can’t see right now…”

When you embrace worry, and see it as a normal feeling, it begins to leave you and you become clearminded. Things then start to happen.

This isn’t about “not doing anything”, but when you are caught up in worry you can’t think clearly and decide the right things to do, if anything does need to be done. This is about centring yourself so that solutions, both within and without, reveal themselves to you. And this is easier said than done and required practice.

Once you’ve made peace, now Life can help you

Once you’ve made peace, ideas for distractions and solutions will naturally appear.  Life will begin to help you out and find other things to get your attention. The path to where you want to be will open seemingly from out of nowhere. When you try to do it “your way” by continuing overthinking there are no gaps between thoughts; It’s like there’s a hardened shield of thoughts around you and Life cannot get in.

A relaxing outcome

I accepted that there was nothing I could do, which initially added to the worry, but then helped me make me peace with my situation. Experience had shown that when I find away to be ok, even just for a minute. Even if I’m in a really dramatic moment. If I can just slightly make friends with where I am, a space is formed where answers can come in.

I did the practice I shared earlier, “good things about where I am”. And then life began to help me out. A phone call came in from a friend, I saw an interesting  article on the internet, which was enough to fully get my attention (and take it from the fearful subject). I began to relax, and feel a little more naturally optimistic. (I hadn’t tried to be optimistic –  I just, as best as I could, settled into where I was.) From this state of peace, more optimistic ideas came in. Sometimes I went back into the fear again, but then I quickly came out of it. And I was certainly feeling a bit better; and a lot more relaxed. I felt like “me” again.

Within about 30 minutes, an email came in, and I got news of the friend I was worried about – the first time in five days. And all was well.

When the storm is over

Practicing meditation and other techniques day to day, when you are not in the grip of worry or fear, will recondition your mind to go there less – and stop these habits of worry before they get started. However, if you do go there again (and if you have been going there you probably will again), you now know what to do.

For further practical, effective solutions for dealing with low feelings – and moving into feeling good again – see the book Lighthouse – Navigate the emotional storms of life and discover the power within you. Out now in paperback.

On the Edge of Adventure: A new way of looking at challenging times

Fascinating-lighthouseA good adventure story has it all – twists, turns, drama, excitement and triumph. One thing’s for sure – it’s not dull. And neither are these times we are living in.

Climbing Everest is an adventure – but if you are unprepared, I’m guessing it would be a nightmare. Same with these times. It’s the Everest of times – meaning these are great times to be living in if you “get it” and it can seem pretty unpleasant if you don’t.

Throughout history, there have been many times like this; and within each one, amidst the darkness, there have been great lights and great movements and moments – almost like parallel worlds going on.

So when the world seems a little temperamental to say the least – there are simultaneously great times to be had – blessings in disguise – when you know how to tune in.

Manifesting the best of times

Manifest means “reveal” – it doesn’t mean “create”. So many people use the word “manifest” as a way to try to fix things – but “trying to fix” just keeps things the same. Like a radio playing all kinds of stations, manifesting your ideal world is about tuning in rather than changing or fixing. And there’s a big difference. One way works – and the other doesn’t.

The world you want is here now. Not “when we sort this situation out” or “when everyone is peaceful” – it’s right now, awaiting you to tune in to it. 

Meditation is one of the best ways to tune into the channel that you want to experience – and thus experience the world you want. And there are many ways to meditate. I’m not talking about denial: It’s perfectly possible to watch one channel without denying another; it’s a matter of choice.

Accepting what’s happening

If your mind is spinning with fearful thoughts, from what you’ve just read in the newspaper or whatever, it can be very hard to “let go” into meditation. And that is why there’s a step to do first of all: Turning to face the situation, exactly as it is.

So let’s face what has happened in the world that you don’t feel good about – whatever it is that comes to mind. What has happened, has happened.

I’m not trying to hide from what’s going on – nor am I trying to trivialise disasters. But worrying about the state of the world doesn’t help the world. Never has and never will. When something is happening that you clearly have no control over – you have to turn within to control the only thing you really can control – which is your focus. And your focus determines your world.

The message in these times is about realising we cannot control everything. Or anything, in fact. That sounds scary to the “thinking” mind – and it is. But feel for the truth behind it, and it becomes a sanctuary; a blissful relief.

Things are getting big now, the stakes are getting higher – encouraging us to say “ok, I get it” and surrender. Surrendering doesn’t mean we “give in” – it means we realise our thinking mind is not capable of anything much – except ruining our experience of the game of life – and surrender that approach to living.

When we drop below the cloud cover of thinking, we reveal our Real Self mind; the source of right ideas, insights, a mind that communicates not in mind chatter but in instinct, intuition and knowing. We get clarity and see things clearly. This is the meaning of the times – to encourage us to become our Real Selves.

So. Firstly you want to face how you feel right now:

Good things about… feeling fear

I should be feeling fear because I am

I’m sure I’m not the only one – it’s a normal human reaction

This fear is evolving me to more fearlessness like a workout

This mood is sure to pass like all storms…

And you will find many more of your own.

Good things about… the world situation

People are coming together. Never before have people from so many different backgrounds come together. There is a golden age of peace hidden behind this facade of drama.

It’s forcing me to stay present and in this Now moment It’s waking me up to live my life fully. I feel more alive

It’s waking me up from pettiness and what just doesn’t matter…

You will find many more of your own. As you find ways to see the good in a situation, the situation loosens it’s grip on you and your perception shifts to a brighter and more accurate one.

Tune to your guidance

The most powerful thing we have is our inner guidance. In this era of information overload, which information do we trust? When we go within, we connect with our guidance which knows what to do. When we are tuned to it, we are in the right place at the right time and we know what to do.

Meditation gets us in touch with our guidance. I recommend spending time each day in meditation- whatever your method is – giving you space to be attuned to this source of accurate information.

What to do to align with the times

  • Turn off the news when you feel overwhelmed. The news is an opinion, and if you are not feeling good when watching it, it’s an “off” opinion.
  • Rather than “trying not to think about things” – which doesn’t work, because “what you resist, persists” – face whatever situation is on your mind (including your current mood) and try to look for something good in it. This will allow you to let go authentically, experience a shift in your perception – and you will be open to solutions and new insights.
  • Find a new positive interest or hobby – and choose one that is more dynamic than the pull of the current drama your mind is focused on.
  • Make meditation a daily habit
  • Physical exercise, too, is a great way to get out of thinking and into your natural instincts and intuition; your supreme inner guidance.

Going beyond patterns to find peace and empowerment within challenging relationships

10446193185_8519af2f43_b-1024x765The “anxious attachment” (known as partner A in this article) type of person I spoke about in my last article, are often leaders, natural counsellors and professional advisors to others. Understandably so, as they have a warm and caring, trustworthy nature and deep wisdom that belies their years.

In a relationship, partner B can sometimes feel like they are being fixed all the time, when all partner A is trying to do is heal their partner, well meaningly.

Partner A is sometimes paid for their advice in a professional capacity – so they feel rejected and shocked when their partner gets irritated with them. They see it as a personal rejection, in fact; another sign that “they’re not good enough”.

Although it’s totally understandable why this “bright light” partner would want to fix their loved one – after all it may be their day job, and they are probably accurate about what their partner needs – this approach doesn’t work. The problem is only the individual themselves can make their changes. This attempt to fix doesn’t work – the partner must make the effort to do their own inner work. Partner A’s carry their partners and it doesn’t work for anyone! It is well intentioned, but it doesn’t work.

Loving not analysing

As much as Partner A-types make great psychoanalysts – this isn’t actually their main purpose. Although they are often great with words and thoughts – their real gift and purpose is beyond words and beyond the intellect; it’s to shine the light; it’s to love, which is beyond vocabulary. This is unconditional love, “loving outwards” no matter what. It is simplicity, almost zen like. It is the opposite of what educational institutions classify as “intelligence”, in fact.

Overthinking is actually what gets the partner A into the most trouble. Their solution and key to their connection is to relax into that loving space, which is beyond thoughts, where the power centre is. You can’t think and love at the same time – as I  said, partner A is more naturally a lover than they are a thinker.

Love is empowerment

Partner A is a lover and a light. That is what we all are in our aligned state. Don’t be tricked by the call of your own mind that the other person, like your partner, “doesn’t deserve it”. You’d be right – they probably don’t – but you do. Being Partner A is who you are, like a lighthouse, and being a lighthouse is therefore your key to happiness and all your dreams coming true. Anything less that that will feel off to you because it is off.

Take the focus off them

Yes, the other person can’t handle emotion and is not doing the work. That’s for them to work out. Stay in your own lane and focus on being you – not trying to manage them. Think of an actual lighthouse: It isn’t so much focused on the individual ships, it just tends to its flame and radiates. This, too, is your focus.

More shining; less talking

Softness is strength. Hardness is weak. Hear that. Feel that. Silence is power, sometimes, too, as lighthouses are known for their eloquent conversation- but can also not know when to stop! They feel bad… And then keep talking. The more their partner withdraws, in fact, the more they want to talk. They go on and on. It’s shining not talking that you want to focus on; more loving, less thinking.

Run your own race

Why would a champion athlete go on a run with an amateur fun runner? The amateur fun runner is not “wrong” – they’ve just got a different intention, a different training schedule. They don’t need to be hated. You don’t need to write angry songs about them… Just run with a champion. Hang out with champions. Stick to your own.

Anyone can be a champion. It’s not like you’re discriminating here.  It’s simple really. Let the slow swimmers swim in the slow lane. Don’t make them wrong for it- just leave them be and swim with the champions.

Your dream life is to be found at an Olympic pace – and nowhere else. Don’t slow – keep on running.

I remember getting a vision where I felt so dragged down by a relationship – that I was underwater fighting to get to the surface and my partner, tied to me, was doing nothing – in fact, I was being pulled down deeper. I got the image of cutting the rope that bound us together – realising the choice was at this point we both sink or I save myself.  The thing is, when we free the other, we are both free. We both have the choice to kick into swimming. And by being bound together, the other has no reason to use their muscles. So whereas for years I found this image bleak, stuck between a rock and a hard place, now I know me focusing on my race is win-win for all. Shining brighter is the only choice.

There is a fear that if partner A states their needs, partner B will reject them. What I would say is, if they are going to reject you, they will anyway. In these new energy relationship dynamics, nothing beats straight communication. Stating clearly who you are is your best option, as is shining brighter no matter what; running your best race.

Relationship dynamics: How to shine brighter in an “abusive” relationship

pexels-photo-139408I have met a lot of successful, beautiful, kind, loving, honest, highly eligible people who were being treated badly in a relationship – often by a partner who isn’t living up to any of these qualities. It made no sense to me- why would the seemingly “less eligible” partner do this, when you’d think they’d be counting their lucky stars to have landed such a perfect partner. And why doesn’t the partner who “has it all” just up and leave?

“What’s going on here?”, I thought, as I started meeting more and more people in this situation, “There is clearly an attraction holding these two together.”

What do I mean by being treated badly?

He doesn’t compliment, but constantly criticises. Threatens to leave the relationship/marriage, going into addictive behaviours rather than sharing intimacy. He gives the silent treatment even when he knows his partner is suffering due to no communication. It’s a familiar pattern that often confuses people. And nearly every time, rather than absolutely not putting up with it, the “abused” partner starts believing she’s not good enough; not attractive enough, that it’s all her fault (which is exactly what he usually tells her).

Understandably, the “abused” partner (who we will call Partner A)  then starts to feel terrible. And then he (who we will call partner B) brings on the attack at her for feeling bad. “See,” he says. “You’re messed up. You’re needy. There’s something wrong with you. You’re lucky to have me”. This is where the power trip really starts, in fact. This weakness is an “in” for the partner to really go for it with his attack.

Why on Earth would someone do this?

Labels

Some people like to label this type of person – partner A would be described as “anxiously attached” and partner B as “avoidant” – but I’m not going to get into these descriptions. There is a lot written about this, but in my experience, labels can be counterproductive. Labels separate people and make the problem worse: After all, say you label your partner – then what? You’ve still got the problem, but now you have a label for it. In fact the label just gives you an excuse to justify your pain and to be the “good guy” – it doesn’t change anything. At the end of the day we are dealing with people here, not labels.

In a different league?

So putting labels aside, I have my own understandings:

The thing is the “abusive” partner (partner B) has often been talked about (or in some cases, told directly) that they are lucky to have their partner and that their partner is in a different league from them. Often friends have joked about this – in any case it’s understood and often self-evident at the difference in lifestyles of the two. This must be hard to take, especially if partner B has deep insecurities. And deep down, they feel a deep feeling of unworthiness.

What’s going on is that the more connected “bright light” partner A illuminates her partner’s terribly low self-worth and rather than being proud and appreciative – he wants to extinguish the light in her in the hope of extinguishing his own pain.

It makes no sense logically – and this is where the confusion comes in. It makes no sense, just as it makes no sense for someone to run a key down the side of a top of the range sportscar. In both cases, it’s a self-hating declaration of “if I can’t be this, no one will”.

This is how bullies operate. They want to destroy the person who reminds them of what they believe they could never be. It’s envy, plain and simple.  

On a power-trip

The more the partner B sees their partner in pain, the more they ramp up their power-trip behaviour – retreating into silence, subconsciously knowing this withdrawal will get the partner “even more into them”. They also constantly remind their partner what is wrong with her, to keep her in victim mode. Partner B’s greatest fear is that his partner becomes empowered, as he believes if this happens then he will be abandoned. Because he feels he has little to offer, this kind of manipulation is what he sadly feels is his only way to keep hold of the relationship.

The shock of being with a partner who seems to want to destroy you seems frightening. It also seems unbelievable – but it’s not. This is how the bully gains a false sense of power – it’s like when you cry your partner is strangely satisfied; you “need” them and that gives them a temporary sense of power.

Confusion

The confusing things about partner B, due to their less expressive nature, is that they give the impression of being “together” and even having fairly good self worth. But inside they are full of insecurity and self-hatred. Partner B’s way of dealing with problems is to withdraw behind a facade of “looking good” perfection.

When your partner is envious of you, it’s confusing and we often don’t see it, instead thinking we are not good enough. Some men get threatened by beauty and power – when they feel they cannot live up to it.  It’s the classic self-sabotage – the dream relationship arrives, and his fear wants to destroy it.

The problem comes in when the “abused” partner takes it personally- and becomes a victim. So instead: Stay in your Power

What I would say to the partner A, is to stay in your power: Keep on shining. You probably have many knee-jerk ways to give up your power – such as get into trying to fix your partner or change yourself to “be better”. This is all a trick – and it’s a waste of time. The solution is to realise your greatness, now.

Your shining isn’t just for you. Think of how a lighthouse supports all those around it.

Don’t drop your standards and go running for “breadcrumbs”

I remember when a polite text message would be enough to have a friend running back to an abusive relationship. Then another friend told her to not be tempted by “breadcrumbs”. In other words, if someone wanted her back, they could make more of an effort rather than to have her dimming her light and accepting mediocrity.

And so you may want to reconsider immediately replying to a single “nice” text message after a barrage of abuse, or other such knee jerk, desperate reactions. Pause. Count to ten. Wait for guidance.

You don’t have to go cold turkey – in the meantime I would suggest you start writing lists of appreciation on men who have attractive, self-loving qualities. This isn’t about choosing unappealing “boring but nice guys” – but empowered, real men – who would be naturally generous with their love; a fellow bright light.

Withdraw from situations where you are banging on the door and getting no response. By stepping out of this power play, the whole thing collapses.

Reclaiming our power

As we condemn, we are condemned – feeling superior to another doesn’t help: So it’s not about judgement but rather understanding. From this understanding we can realise what it is we need to do: Step into our self-confidence.

The way to get through this situation for both is that partner B learns to love himself – and shine brighter – and so does partner A: she needs to keep on shining no matter what, not going into that default of dimming her light.

The answer is to keep on shining – in practical terms keep on appreciating, meditating, centring into your power.

We don’t have to decide if they are a match or they are not – Life will sort that out

Like a professional runner running with an amateur – partner B will step up their game and catch up – or not. When partner A “gets it” – they’ll either “get it” too and catch up – or partner A will outrun them and another, better matched partner will appear. The key is to keep our focus on our race.

A final and important note to the partner A’s who are feeling abused in all this: Don’t take it personally. This is not about you but about his inability to make the relationship work; he simply doesn’t know what to do; he’s out of his depth and like someone who can’t swim panicking in deep waters, thrashes out all over the place creating chaos. No matter how calm he looks – that’s what’s going on under the surface. All you can do is sustain yourself and then he may or may not catch up.

What I would say to both partners: Both require self-love and self-approval

Of course, in truth, this relationship is not a mismatch at all – but the perfect match which has come about not as punishment, but as a gift of potential awakening for both partners. No one partner is better than the other, both are in pain and both are actually more similar than it initially appears and the perfect mirror for one another: Even though the behaviours are vastly different – both require the same healing: self-love and self-approval. But only they individually can give it to themselves. No one can be forced to do this; Both have to decide to do this by themselves and then put in the work to achieve it.

And then, both partners will come into their full power. Both will wake up in their own way – perhaps the “abused” partner A will realise her self worth and gravitate to more nurturing relationships and the “abuser” (partner B), now loving himself, will become more nurturing and feel worthy of a loving relationship. Both will feel good, be more loving – and able to sustain loving, trusting, intimate relationships. Perhaps with one another, in time.

Meeting your twin flame

When one relationship chapter is over and you dwell on them you’ll find you feel drained – which will make you think you miss them as they are. But that’s the trick: It’s like kryptonite in the film Superman. The thought may be compelling, but it feels depleting. You will discover that the impulse to miss them only happens at times when you are feeling off-centre; it’s like a drug craving rather than a genuine excitement or love of something.

Get a hobby you can get passionate about; shine brighter. Realise how many amazing men their are out there, waiting for you to align and be brought together. Use this episode as an excuse to step up and be the light you were born to be and then, before you know it, and often when you’re least looking for it, you’ll turn round and there will be, quite literally, your “twin flame”; another bright light and the perfect match. It may be your current partner made anew, or it may not. But either way, you will have exactly the relationship you want.

Feeling low? It’s not for the reason you think

feeling lowYou may think the reason you feel bad is that you don’t like your body. Or it could be a bad relationship or grief from a relationship breakup. Or that you don’t like your job and don’t know what your life purpose is.

But it’s none of these reasons.

You may have tried everything to fix your problem… And nothing’s working.

It’s because your problem isn’t what you think is.

When I asked someone who was sad about losing a deal if he was always happy before this event- he paused to get his mind of this latest drama and then remembered- of course he wasn’t. The mind moves from one arrangement of drama to another. Different people different places; different situations and scripts. Same feeling. The problem isn’t the details of what’s going on- you have to look beyond that. It’s that you’ve fallen asleep to right thinking; you’re temporarily out of your right mind. 

There’s a real trick of the mind that says if the problem would sort itself out; if he would come back or she would change or a job would be better; if the furniture would rearrange– I’d be happy. But without being in a happy mindset- which means a mind free of unpleasant thoughts-  all the money, love and ‘stuff’ in the world will do nothing to make us happy.

So it’s not about fixing a faulty situation; it’s about shifting to a mindset the works.

If you stay in the lower-level mindset looking for answers, it can get ever more complex. It can be a seemingly endless nightmare. You can move from one book to another; one course to another. Turning over the problem again and again in your mind looking for the solution. But the solution is not here to be found- you’re looking in (or thinking from) the wrong place.

Getting back into connection

When you’re in a low mood the mind goes on at you telling you you have to do something- and fast. Go somewhere else, do somewhere else- the message is always about moving your body somewhere else. But this achieves nothing. You just go somewhere else and end up feeling just as bad, if not worse, because “yet another thing” didn’t work. This is like watching the horror movie channel and then being confused when horrific content comes onto the TV screen.

Or it’s the difference between rummaging through junk in a bargain basement versus getting in the life and going to a floor with things you do like. You can spend years searching the bargain basement and not find what you want. What you want is not there.

Finding the place where the solution is

Meditation, physical exercise and taking a nap are all ways which can help you be retuned back to feeling like you again; the place where all solutions reside, awaiting your return.

In the Greek tale of the Minotaur, the hero Theseus was given a golden thread so he could feel his way out of darkened maze; a maze that symbolises the nightmare the “lower self” mind can be.

Meditation or other techniques which allow you to step back from your mind is the ‘golden thread’ to find your way home; to find your way back to your path; back into connection again.

So in truth there’s only one problem – we’re disconnected. And what’s the only one solution to this only one problem – to connect again. Simple.

But it takes focus to drop into that place, ignoring the chatter, temptations and criticism of the lower-level mind, whose suggestions never lead to happiness- and that’s where the practices I teach come in.

Being sensitive is not a bad thing

Pain means we’re out of our right mind – it’s an indicator that lets us know that we’re out of sync with ourselves; and we can feel this.

One great thing about intense pain is it can force you to give up your way of trying to rearrange the furniture and surrender the faulty mind altogether. That is why we hear often that those really low moments that some people call “rock bottom” were the best things that ever happened to them.

We can often go on for a long time suffering slightly – but it is in these rock bottom moments that we are forced to breakthrough into right-mindedness; where a new beginning awaits.

Feeling Good about your physical body (Soul & Spirit magazine)

soul&spiritJan2012You may already love and appreciate your physical body – and that’s wonderful. But there may be areas you feel “less-than” about or, worse, your body image might be a constant source of misery. Life coach Michael James shares what he has learnt, successfully working with many people on the subject.

Feeling good about your physical body

It is often said that the body is a temple – and there is nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel at your best. In fact, taking care of your body in all ways is nothing less than a spiritual act of self-love.

Being comfortable in our physical body is important for living a good-feeling life. In this image-conscious world, it is perhaps more important than ever before. Not because physical appearance is the be-all-and-end-all, but because a low opinion of our physicality can get in the way of us living our best life and take up a lot of our time – time which could be spent fulfilling our life’s purpose.

We are our worst critics and are often the last to recognise our beautiful qualities. Sometimes we tend to bat compliments away and listen to the criticisms, which are usually our own, turning them over and over in our minds. Some of us may have been teased at school or we ourselves compared our physical bodies unfavourably to other classmates- either way becoming self-conscious and self-negative. And many of us have felt the gradual erosion of our self-esteem from an onslaught of airbrushed images in the media.  Whatever started our habitual criticism is irrelevant. What is important is that we make an effort to change it. However overwhelming this can seem, change is possible.

Change the thoughts; Change your inner talk to one of self-appreciation – and the feeling will change, which means your body will follow suit and change also. This can sound a little out there or too-good-to-be true. However, through the many people I have worked with, I have witnessed this happen again and again with people as their self-image improves followed by a change in the body itself.

Your work

Looking in the mirror in the “chance” of catching an image of yourself you will like is not the way to a healthy body image. Neither is waiting for someone to speak a compliment about your physical appearance so that you can then feel good about yourself. As clichéd as this is going to sound: beauty is within. And only you can do the work to feel this inner beauty; only you can begin to make changes.

Empowerment about your physical body is deciding that you’re beautiful regardless of what the mirror or other people suggest. It is then that, as a by-product, the mirror (and the “mirror” of other people) will begin to reflect back your feeling of beauty.

Many of us try to fix our bodies in order to get the appreciation or encouragement but this is back-to-front thinking. Haven’t you noticed those moments of feeling so good that you just look absolutely great and don’t even see those things you once obsessively thought needed to change? It’s all about perception. And when you are perceiving beauty, beauty will expand in your experience.

And so the question is not “How do I fix this or make that better to be more beautiful in the future” but rather “How do I feel more beautiful, now”. Because when you consistently feel beautiful, you are beautiful.

A change in perception: Beauty from the inside out

All of us have seen ourselves looking vastly different in the mirror or in photographs – almost like different people – and this shows it is our perception not any kind of fixed reality that we are seeing. You hear of people who go to the gym every day and are incredibly muscular – yet see themselves as skinny. Plus there are many examples of people moving from cosmetic surgery to cosmetic surgery- always dissatisfied – because they are taking their critical perception with them.

People considered attractive are physically different with all shapes and sizes of physical features; what they all have in common is the feeling of confidence and attractiveness they exude. They feel attractive – and so they are.

Taking a step back

A tip that I share with people who are insecure about their looks is to “zoom out”. When looking in the mirror, particularly if you are feeling unattractive, step back with your vision and see yourself in outline – rather than focusing-in and analysing. If you were to zoom in on the individual features of a supermodel or sex-symbol actor, you’d see a whole host of seeming flaws.

So take a step back and choose to feel attractive regardless of what you observe. People often get obsessed over “if I could change that particular feature I’d feel more attractive” but it isn’t true. It’s a general feeling of attractiveness you are after. It is the same with thoughts; Rather than trying to change your thoughts around specific physical features, be more general: I feel beautiful and attractive is a good start- and you will find your own better-feeling thoughts.

The irony of life is that when we most need a compliment or a good image in the mirror – or anything to uplift us – it is not there. It is up to us to bring ourselves into the feeling that we would get if we already had the compliment. Once we love and appreciate ourselves in this moment, so the world will reflect this straight back to us.

First step: Accepting yourself, now

You may be reading this and preparing to speak endless affirmations of “I am beautiful” or immediately visualising yourself looking ideal. And this is your aim. But if you have been feeling the opposite way for many years, this can be too big a leap and leave you exhausted as you ‘ping-pong’ back and forth from a moment of liking yourself to feeling awful.

The first step is to accept where you are right now.

Self-acceptance means that you stop resisting or fighting against what is not wanted. It doesn’t mean you resign yourself to staying this way forever. Some people think that, for example, if you are overweight and accept it – you will be a happy, overweight person. But this is not the way it works. “What you resist, persists” said Carl Jung – and he was absolutely right. Trying to aggressively “sort the issue out” can sometimes keep you stuck where you are, obsessed with the very issue you are trying to leave behind.  That is why there are so many people who have struggled for twenty years or more to lose weight and are still the same size or bigger, yet even more disappointed and frustrated: their battle against excess weight isn’t working.

You have two choices right now whatever the situation is: to accept where you are or not. As you try to relax into where you are, realising that nothing has gone wrong, you open yourself up to solutions – and you are free to move on to begin feeling attractive without struggle.

Enjoying your life

Remember that the process of thinking good-feeling thoughts or dwelling in good-feeling images is firstly for the enjoyment of it. Getting the beautiful body is the inevitable side-effect of these good-feeling exercises.  If you are working hard on yourself, trying to be positive and not feeling good – you are missing the point. The secret is to go with the flow and have more fun with the process.  Make your inner work be to feel good so completely that you don’t even care whether anything changes or not. And then, in that detachment, change will happen.

SIX TIPS TO A BETTER BODY IMAGE

  • Confidence, which is a word which embodies self-love and self-appreciation, is the key to beauty. The way others see you will completely change as you learn to feel confident about yourself. When you are feeling more confident, you may be inspired to treat yourself to go shopping for new clothes etc. This will in-turn influence your inner confidence, which is the true advantage of an outer makeover.
  • Ignore the mirror when you don’t feel attractive. When you don’t feel attractive, you won’t see ‘attractive’ images. The mirror is more about a reflection of what you think of your body than anything else. Mirror checking will just lead you into a negative spiral. In these moments, distract yourself with meditation or anything that gets you off the subject. And then try to feel good and attractive regardless of how you judge yourself to look.
  • Make a list of all the times you felt attractive. Often, we all-too-easily remember the times we felt unattractive, we remember the criticism. Take your time and write at least ten times you can remember feeling good about yourself.
  • When you are feeling good, spend several minutes imagining yourself looking and feeling beautiful. Close your eyes and let the image find you- imagine yourself looking in a mirror and seeing your reflection. This may be difficult at first- but make time for this practice every day. Once this becomes habitual, the reality will match your predominant vision and, when you feel not-so-good you will have a good-feeling, practiced image to quickly switch to.
  • Remind yourself that many people who are now considered (and therefore feel) attractive have felt unhappy about their body image and have come through it – and so can you.
  • Have patience with yourself and the process – don’t be disheartened if you don’t see instant results.