Healing Arts Report

Practices for an Evolving Life

They Don't Tell You How

“You need to love yourself more.” “You shouldn’t feel that way.” “Always put other people first. Don’t be selfish.” The one thing that is missing from all this good advice is telling you HOW to do it. We introduce you to practical tools using your own character traits to support you in creating practical answers to those questions. Read more here.

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Two memoirs tell about times of extreme personal growth in the author’s life. Sunny Side Up is a window into the early 70s when certain young adults were searching for a way to head off society’s path bent on materialism. The Transparent Feather tells of a dying author passing the torch of writing to her new friend cum student.

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You can love yourself and other people as well. At Healing Arts Report we explore fulfilling personal development that at the same time serves to create the shift to a peaceful new world paradigm.

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ―C.G. Jung

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Ten More Possibilities

Soul colleague, Beth Raps, of RAISING CLARITY, asked me to write a blog post for her site. I include her comments because they provide history and enthusiasm.

BJ Appelgren (also known as Barbara June) offered help in an online forum that was so HELPFUL I asked her permission to offer it on my website:

The Challenge  Here’s a game I often play with clients when they have a difficult decision to make about how to handle a situation. What makes the decision difficult is that they believe that they have only two solutions: one that they would like to do that is guaranteed to have horrible repercussions and one that they are sure is the only good thing to do but they don’t want to do it.

I “goad” them into making a list of ten solutions, even if the solutions don’t make sense or they think are impossible to do. Inevitably they come up with a solution that is do-able and, more important, that they feel they can do with integrity. Just give the mind another chance. Let it roam with the intent of continuing to explore.

I honestly found this miraculous. So simple! So powerful! I wanted to hear stories about times BJ had used it:

The more I’ve done something, the harder it is to write about because I don’t have the details of a wonderful turning point in my mind. Mostly it happens when clients are really angry with someone and they just want to walk out on the person–usually a family member.

His Frustration  John says, “Dad always changes his mind about getting together with us at the last minute and it reminds me of how he used to do that to me all the time when I was a little kid. Now I have to watch my kids get disappointed. You’d think he’d care about upsetting them. I just want to tell him what a selfish pig he is and never see him again.”

Instead, what John usually does is try to forgive him and give him another chance. And true to his typical behavior, his father disappoints him again. John is possibly more upset than his kids are because it reminds him of his childhood, feeling that his dad didn’t like him, didn’t think he was worth his dad’s time to “waste” on him.

I had John try to think of what else he could do besides being angry and giving up on his dad or giving his dad yet another opportunity to disappoint him. I ask John what it is that is upsetting besides the obvious disappointment. What happens when his dad doesn’t show up?

“We made plans. I might have arranged to get off work. We make promises to the kids. We put aside other things we could do. The kids cry about not seeing their Pappy. We don’t know what to do with ourselves. We call him to find out if he’s just late or if he’s not intending to come. It just ruins the whole day as we try to sort it out.”

“Okay,” I say, “taking those points into consideration, what else could you do?”

Some Answers  John makes a couple of wisecracks about kidnapping his father or their showing up at his place uninvited and at their own convenience–but he might not be there. Then he says, “I need a plan B. If only we already knew what we would do if he weren’t going to come.”

“You could do that–especially since you can be pretty sure this is going to happen again. He’s done this to you time after time,” I remind him.

From that moment, John is flying. “One thing we could do is carry out the plan without dad. Tell Dad if he isn’t here by a certain time we’re going without him. We can also choose a different activity in advance so if he doesn’t show, our day isn’t ruined and we have a place to go that is just as pleasing to the kids but isn’t a reminder of their grandfather backing out on them.” 

No Power  We don’t need to make a list of ten items because the idea of a plan B got John thinking of other possibilities. The interesting thing about this situation is that John always felt like he had no power. That was the main complaint. It was true he had no power over his dad’s undependable behavior. But he discovered that if he acted like The Dad, that is, making his own decisions, choosing what they were going to do with or without his father and then carried it out, he felt the day was still in his control.

Another Situation  I used the same technique with a woman who’s live-in boyfriend always promised to do certain tasks around the house and then never did them. She thought her two choices were to leave him which she couldn’t bear to do or to badger him into doing what she wanted, which sometimes worked but was always an unpleasant experience for her. 

The solutions she thought of all had to do with her having to hire someone, which she couldn’t afford or carrying out the household tasks by herself. She was quite adept at doing fix-it jobs and actually enjoyed the work. In addition, her father often came over and they worked together. She just had wanted to have a dependable companion.

As time went on and she carried out tasks and activities without him, she realized how little she actually needed him. Other circumstances supported that situation. Their house went into foreclosure. She took care of all the arrangements while he had tried to sell some of her belongings behind her back and sell the appliances that belonged to the house. He suggested they both move to another town and live with his father. The changes in her behavior and seeing his choices proved just how badly he handled problem solving and made it clear that she needed to leave him. 

How did you come up with the idea? Is there an “origin story” for the game as you’ve come to use it?

I’ve been asking people to invent more solutions for so long, i can’t remember the origins. I suspect that some aspect of it came from studying Gestalt therapy that has an almost shamanic quality to it in that you don’t have to be logical or realistic. You can have conversations with a younger version of yourself, an imaginary friend, a totem animal, a dead relative, sources of information seemingly outside of yourself. Maybe they are just unconscious parts of ourselves and maybe they truly are entities or messengers from a higher place. The explanations don’t matter to me as much as the fact that it works.

I still find this miraculous. Yet I recognize that it is a very ordinary, do-able, everyday kind of miracle. The kind where you were living a nightmare but you didn’t realize it because it felt so everyday until SOMEBODY (another person or a part of yourself or both) woke you UP. And then you began living in a much nicer world you would have thought was a dreamworld except you are living in it.

I also find it empowering. I love how BJ gives power to the client. She doesn’t keep it for herself, she helps them see that they have it, where they are holding it, and how to get at it.

PRACTICE. It seems to be a common occurrence that we think there are only two answers to a problem–the one we’d get arrested for doing and the one we’d have to have achieved sainthood to accomplish. That’s why it’s so useful to make a list of what seems to promise impossible solutions. You will surprise yourself when you try this.

CONTACT. Sometimes, we need the equivalent of a cheerleader to encourage us through use of a new method. Contact me for a free 20-minute phone call or a one week email consultation to see how this exercise can work for you.