This was first published on KSL.COM
Uncertainty is the fear of the unknown, and we are all experiencing that these days.
Fear is triggered when we feel out of control or when someone or something doesn't meet our expectations. We all live with various amounts of fear every day. But when a massive problem like a pandemic happens, it throws our entire society into fear and we can quickly become overwhelmed.
Last week, I interviewed James Purpura, founder of Powerful U and the author of the book "Perception: Seeing is Not Believing," to get his thoughts about dealing with the uncertainty and fear we are all feeling.
Understanding where fear comes from
Purpura said that in order to get a fundamental understanding of fear, we must first understand the core principle that dictates all of our experiences: Humans can only act in accordance with their beliefs based on their current physiological state.
The "belief" part is where many experts contend that we don’t actually have free will, Purpura said, because we can only act in accordance with our beliefs. This is true because our beliefs create our perception of everything, he said.
Why are so many people acting irrationally when the vast majority of them know logically that they are not at risk of dying from the COVID-19 virus? The answer might shock you. Purpura said it’s because they don’t have a choice to act differently.
This is where your physiological state (your body’s ability to function) comes into play, because it dictates which parts of the brain you are able to access, he said. When you’re in a fear state — fight or flight — you only have access to the part of your brain that deals with survival. When you are in survival mode, you are in a reactionary state and you don’t have access to the area of the brain that dictates logic or reason.
Purpura explained that when you are in the physiology of fear, your mind views everything as a matter of life and death, which means it weighs every decision against your need to survive. This is why you feel so much resistance when you are in a fear state, and why you sometimes act irrationally and do things you don’t really want to do, he said. Everyone knows that there is no logical need to have hundreds of rolls of toilet paper stockpiled in a garage, yet some otherwise reasonable people still buy more than necessary.
Breaking free of fear
How do we break out of the physiology of fear and regain access to the rational parts of our brain? Purpura said we do it the same way our species has for hundreds of thousands of years.
But first, he said, it’s important to understand that we can’t rationalize our way out of fear. This is because our minds are no longer in control; our bodies are.
Your body has to send a signal to your brain that the danger has passed and it is time to move out of fear into a higher state of awareness, Purpura said. You may need some deep diaphragmatic breathing to calm yourself down and change your state back to logic.
Back in the days when our ancestors really were fighting for survival, when they finished running to escape or were done fighting, Purpura explained, the first thing they did was catch their breath. This would be impossible to do until they were safe. That is why deep breathing is the signal to your brain that you can relax. That is also why meditation can be effective.
Deep breathing in meditation lets you take control of your physiology, Purpura explained. Most people don’t meditate because they find it hard to clear their minds, he said, but most of the benefits of meditation come from the breathing.
What to do when you're overwhelmed by fear
First, recognize the shift in physiology due to the fear.Fear usually shows up in your body in the chest, midsection or stomach, Purpura said, but it can show up anywhere. If you catch it early enough, you can just breathe until the anxiety associated with the fear dissipates. Then you can process the fear rationally.
If you don’t catch it right away, you can try the process below, but there are a few things you need to know first, Purpura said. This will take practice, and you will likely fail a few times before you get it right. Your mind may resist this process until it realizes that there is less pain associated with doing the process than defaulting to a fear pattern you instinctively run to.
When you experience fear that overwhelms your system, you will default to actions or behaviors to escape the pain, Purpura said. These behaviors become patterns that now run automatically whenever your fear is triggered. These patterns can be almost anything, including: addiction, expressing anger, beating yourself up, or even buying more toilet paper than you need. Awareness is the key to changing your automatic response to fear, Purpura said.
As feelings of fear, pain and discomfort intensify, you will start moving toward the behavior pattern you think will keep you from pain. But just before you engage in that unhealthy behavior, there will always be a pause. This pause, Purpura said, is your opportunity to shift out of the fear state before you engage your old pattern. Once that pattern is activated, it is very difficult to interrupt because you are then on autopilot.
Here are some steps Purpura recommends for taking advantage of the pause:
You can do this.
Coach Kim Giles is a master life coach and James Purpura is the author of the new book and Sundance Award Movie‘Perception: Seeing is not believing’. Powerful-U offers tools and assistance to all those who are seeking growth.
First published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — Amid the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and recent Utah earthquake, it is important to understand that fear about our own safety can create selfish behavior.
Humans who are afraid often succumb to a self-preservation mindset, which can make them behave badly. They might even do things like buying up all the available toilet paper and leave none for anyone else, and we are seeing examples of this fear-driven behavior all around us.
Fear makes other people feel like a threat to your safety and well-being (on the subconscious level). This can cause us to see others as the enemy, and we might be quick to judge or criticize them too. Watching this behavior play out all around us helps us to better understand this interesting human tendency and how this behavior might show up in our daily lives, even when there is no emergency.
Every day, we get triggered by fear in all kinds of situations, and this can create selfishness too. As a human behavior expert, I think it might be helpful to understand how and why this happens.
2 core fears
I believe there are two core fears that are responsible for almost all of our bad behavior:
Whenever you are having a loss experience like this, your ego will step up to protect you and other people’s needs will become much less important. Whenever you are afraid of being mistreated or stressed that things might go wrong, you experience fear of loss. This fear can also make you distrustful of other people, and you might become controlling as a way to feel safer.
Fear of failure is easier to understand. It is the fear of looking bad, being judged, being criticized or feeling not good enough. Any time you feel insecure, unattractive or stupid, you are having a fear of failure experience.
Which is your biggest core fear?
Both of the two core fears affect you (and every human on the planet) to some degree, every day. We all experience both of them but are each dominant in one. Take a minute and decide which is a bigger issue for you.
Are you more insecure and worried about judgment or criticism from others? A people pleaser? If so, you’re probably fear-of-failure dominant.
Are you more controlling, pushy and critical if things aren’t right around you? If so, you’re probably fear-of-loss dominant.
It is helpful to know which is your core fear because this is the trigger that drives your bad behavior and selfishness.
How fear of failure drives selfishness in relationships
When you are afraid you aren’t good enough, you can become overly needy for validation and reassurance to quiet your insecurity. You may get easily offended by anything that looks or feels like criticism or attack. In this state, your focus won’t be on giving love and validation, it will be on getting the reassurance you need to quiet your fear.
People who suffer greatly from low self-esteem often can’t see the selfishness in their needy behavior. They can’t see that worrying about being accepted is still focused on themselves. They might also make their loved ones feel responsible for their self-esteem and sense of safety in the world, which is unfair and won’t work.
It is impossible to give an insecure person enough validation to make up for their own belief that they aren’t good enough. If your spouse or partner expects you to validate them enough to cure their fear of failure, they are setting you up to fail. If you are in a relationship with someone who is overly insecure, this might also start to feel like a great burden to carry; you may even start to resent them for being so needy.
If this kind of selfishness shows up in your relationship, work on changing your belief that a human can be "not good enough." You would benefit most from some coaching on changing your beliefs on how human value is determined and on seeing all humans as having unchangeable value all the time. This is the only way to quiet the fear.
You must trust that you have the same value as everyone else on the planet, no matter what you do. When a person gets committed to this new belief, they should be less needy and have more love to give.
How fear of loss drives selfishness in relationships
When you are afraid you aren’t safe in the world, every situation and every person can feel like a threat to your safety. You may become overly controlling, opinionated and/or dominating as a way to make the world feel safer. If you can make or force everything to be right, and you are always right about everything, you would feel safer.
This behavior can look like you always need things done your way, that you’re constantly on the lookout for mistreatment, and you’re struggling to put up with behavior that bothers you.
If you are in a relationship with a person whose fear creates this kind of behavior, you might feel like you’re walking on eggshells trying not to offend them. Everything in the relationship is centered on keeping them happy. This also wears on relationships and can push people away from you.
If this kind of selfishness shows up in your relationship, what is really needed is to work on changing your belief that your journey can be ruined or diminished by other people. Play with the idea that God and/or the universe are working with the choices we all make to create the perfect classroom journey for each of us, every day. See how it feels if you believe that everything you experience is here to bless you, serve you and help you grow.
If everything is a blessing, then there is no loss. It is a radical idea, but just as likely true as believing in chaos. When you see the world as on your side and safe, you will have more love for others and bandwidth for making them happy too.
Grow and serve
During this season of pandemics and earthquakes, we can all benefit from trusting that our value can’t change, failure isn’t on the table, and that the universe is sending this experience to grow us and serve us. When we trust we are safe — that there is order, meaning and purpose in these unusual experiences — we will be more capable of thinking about others, and our selfishness should decrease.
Even though hoarding toilet paper made you (your ego) feel safer, reaching out to your neighbors to see if they need any toilet paper would make you feel even better. Love is more rewarding than safety.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — This week I have been thinking a lot about perception and the way you see every situation in your life.
Perception is defined as the act of being aware, recognizing, discerning or understanding things. But the problem with human perception, according to human behavior expert Beau Lotto, in his book "Deviate," is that our brains were not wired to perceive accurately. They were wired to process the world efficiently, and this means you use the past to make assumptions about the present, so it’s easier and faster to understand things.
Everything you have experienced in your past becomes a filter or lens through which you see everything that happens now. You don’t see the world as it is; you see the world as you are. You are constantly projecting what you think you know from your past experiences onto the present, even though many of those assumptions or beliefs aren’t true.
A common assumption learned in childhood is "It’s safer to stay quiet and not talk about things." This may seem true to you if your trying to communicate in the past led to conflict and made you feel unsafe, but there is a cost when you don’t talk about what bothers you.
If you accept that your perceptions might not be accurate, then you have the power to question them. If you are open to other meanings and beliefs and questioning the way you see each situation, you will have the power to choose meanings or beliefs that serve you better and process your life in a more mature way.
Here are a few of the most common projections that cause misperception and problems in your life:
1. Perception of others comes from projections of yourself
Your perception of other people and who they are comes from you projecting the way you feel about yourself (and your own value) onto them. If you have accepted a belief (created from past experiences) that you might not be good enough, you can’t help but project that belief onto other people and see them as not good enough, too.
The more fears of inadequacy you have, the more you will be prone to judge, condemn, criticize and even reject other people. If you are prone to gossip or fault finding, you might be projecting your own insecurity or self-hate onto another person, causing you to see them as flawed too. Whatever level of flaws and faults you think you possess, you will see others as equally flawed.
2. Perception of yourself comes from projections you see in others
Your perception of yourself and your value comes from projecting how you view other people back onto the way you feel about you.
The previous point was the exact opposite, so you might be thinking: How can these both be true? Well, they are inexplicably tied together because it goes both ways. If you grew up in a family that was often critical of other people and you learned to be judgmental, you will project this judgmental attitude back onto yourself, too. You will be more self-critical and blame yourself when things go wrong. The bottom line is, it is impossible to have good self-esteem if you judge other people as not good enough.
To fix these first two projections: You should choose a new belief (assumption) that all human beings are created equal. The belief that all human beings are created by a divine or higher power — and therefore perfect and guiltless students in the classroom of life with infinite, absolute, unchangeable value — allows you to see everyone as "good enough" all the time. This means it is impossible to be "not good enough," and both you and others have nothing to fear. This will require practice, though, to consistently choose this new belief. But the more you do it, the easier it will get.
3. Perception of what others think comes from projections of yourself
Your perception of what other people think about you comes from you projecting the way you feel about yourself (and your own value) onto them. If you have accepted a belief that you might not be good enough, you will assume other people think you aren’t good enough, too. You might add this meaning to whatever they do or say and always think they are criticizing or judging you.
To fix this: Practice choosing to believe that what other people think of you is none of your business and completely irrelevant. Also, remember that what you think they think of you is usually wrong. They are actually so busy worrying about themselves, they don’t think about you very much at all. Finally, they don’t know you and what’s in your heart. If they judge or criticize you, remember they are only projecting how they feel about themselves onto you, and that isn’t about you at all.
4. Perception of God can come from how you see your parents
Your perception of God might come from the way you saw and experienced your actual parents. If you felt safe and unconditionally loved by your mom and dad, you are more likely to see God as having a similar love for you. But if you felt unsafe or struggled to earn your parent’s approval, or were often punished or even abused, you might see God as scary and very hard to please.
Take a minute and reflect on how you felt about your actual parents. Is there any chance you could have projected those feelings onto God and might be seeing him the same way? Because we cannot actually meet God and have firsthand knowledge of who he is, everything we believe about him will always be just belief (not fact). If your actual parents were selfish, emotional or out of balance, you might have a really skewed perception of God, and this can create a lot of fear of loss in your life.
To fix this: Choose a belief about God and that helps you more than it hurts you. You might choose to believe he is more loving and forgiving than angry and vengeful. Choose to see him as the essence of perfect love and trust that you are safe in his hands all the time. If you don’t consciously choose a belief and perception about God, you will subconsciously choose one based in fear. Choose a belief that serves you and makes you feel more loved.
5. Perception of safety can come from your childhood experiences
Your perception of life and your safety is a projection from whatever you saw, experienced or heard as a small child. Inevitably you saw or experienced some bad things that probably created the assumption that you are not safe in this world. You probably perceive the world to be a scary, unsafe place where you have to be vigilant about protecting yourself from other people who could take from you. This might make you quick to be offended or to feel taken from, and this could create a lot of conflict in your relationships.
To fix this: You have to choose a belief that life is safe all the time. Choose to trust God (or a higher power) that there is order in the universe and every experience is here for your good and is the perfect classroom for you at this time. Choose to believe that nothing exists God did not create, therefore there is nothing that isn’t perfect and here to serve you. Choosing these beliefs makes life look safer, and you will get offended and bothered less often.
Understand that everything you see and feel comes from your projecting your past onto it. This can help you to question your beliefs and give you the power to reframe the present in a more helpful way.
If you find yourself often unbalanced, upset or stressed out by life, this may be something you want to hire a coach or counselor to help you with. Coaching to change your subconscious beliefs is the fastest way to change your behavior and the way you feel about your life.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — Watching the news as the coronavirus spreads across Asia, Europe, and now the United States, along with the growing fear about a worldwide pandemic it brings, an interesting truth came to light: We are all connected, more than we realize.
This realization could help us repair one of the most damaging subconscious tendencies in our human nature: The belief in separation and changeable value.
We all have a subconscious belief that we are separate from other people, which makes us feel different from, better or worse than, others. We all also suffer from a subconscious fear that we might not be good enough and a belief that human value can be earned, which makes us compare ourselves with other people and stress about our appearance, property and performance.
'Us' versus 'them'
This fear also makes us divide ourselves into groups where an us-versus-them mentality can make us feel more secure, especially if we can see “us” as better than “them” on some level.
This also requires you to see the world in a very binary way, where there are only two options — us and them, black and white, good and bad, righteous and evil, taller and shorter or thinner and fatter. This binary, black-and-white thinking happens so you can find security around you being in "the good group," but it still makes you feel even more separated from other people.
One interesting lesson we can draw from watching the spread of the coronavirus is that we are all very closely connected. Despite all efforts to strengthen the barriers and keep “us” away from “them,” contact and influence still happen. It makes me wonder if “them” actually is “us.”
One interesting lesson we can draw from watching the spread of the coronavirus is that we are all very closely connected. Despite all efforts to strengthen the barriers and keep 'us' away from 'them,' contact and influence still happen.
I think this outbreak gives us an incredible opportunity to change the belief that there are better and worse humans with different values from us. We could create amazing, positive change in the world if we used this opportunity to break down the ego’s fear-based barriers and start seeing unity and connection to all our fellow humans. We may differ in belief systems, color, religion, race and a hundred other things, yet all of that is outnumbered by the things we have in common.
The virus attacks all humans, regardless of any group they belong to. They have the same physiology, psychology and biology you have. In an energetic and spiritual sense “us” is “them,” and we are connected as one. We are a human family, and every single human soul is connected. We have the same infinite and absolute, intrinsic value that cannot change no matter what.
We also subconsciously believe human value can change based on what you do, which means you also have to believe some humans have more value than other humans. This belief is the root cause of almost every problem on the planet. It makes us see certain groups of people as having more value than other groups of people, making the us-versus-them problem even worse.
However, I believe you cannot reject, judge or hate another human without it also bringing your own condemnation of yourself. If you see them as not good enough, you will never feel good enough either. It is actually your self-hate that you are projecting onto others when you judge or find fault in them.
"For the mind that judges perceives itself as separate from the mind being judged, believing that by punishing another, it will escape punishment, " the spiritual self-study program "A Course in Miracles” says. The truth is, all attack is self-attack because we are spiritually one. We cannot diminish another person without it casting ourselves as less.
I believe none of us is less because that isn't even possible. We were all created by the same God or higher power, and we are made of the same material. I believe it’s our job to see God, divinity or value in every person we see. I believe as we honor that divine part of them, it helps us to see the divine part in ourselves.
It could create a profound change in the world if we all would use this opportunity to practice love and compassion for those that are different from us.
Practice letting go of any groups that you might see as better or worse than you. Look at the humans in your life whom you tend to judge and be more mindful that the way you feel about them might be subconsciously the way you feel about yourself. You won't be able to fully love yourself if you can't love the brothers around you.
Any change in the world starts with you and me working on the one person we have control over: ourselves. If enough of us would commit to end the dividing and see all humans as having the same unchanging value, I think we really could change the world.
We can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Something happened at a family party recently, and I have been so upset I can’t seem to get past it. One of my siblings said something that really offended and hurt me. I was humiliated and embarrassed. It has thrown me for such a loop I can’t find my peace again. When people say or do things that upset us, how do we manage that and process it in a healthy way? Why can’t I let it go?
This is going to be an answer that you may need to re-read and sit with it a bit. If you feel yourself resisting the ideas, consider that it might be your ego that doesn’t like what I am recommending. Ego feels more powerful if you choose to be defensive, attack back or stay angry, but your ego is not the real you. You will feel better faster if you choose a love and trust-based approach.
When someone hurts you, it is your ego (the self-image you created) that steps up to protect you by getting angry. It thinks staying upset is the only way to protect you from further mistreatment. Ego also believes you can be diminished or hurt by other people and that their words have power, but all of this is just belief, perception or story; it isn’t fact.
Consider the idea that you're scared, vulnerable, ego can be hurt, but the real you — the amazing, divine, perfect soul you really are — cannot be diminished. Consider the possibility that you are invulnerable and that nothing another person says, thinks, or does has any power to hurt you. Notice that these ideas are just belief, perception and story, too. I cannot prove these ideas are truth, but you cannot prove they aren’t.
Truth in perception
The truth in everything is perception, and your perception (the beliefs you see your life through) determine how you feel about every experience you have. So, if you are upset by something, it is only because of the way you are looking at it. There is always another way to look at it that would make you feel completely different about it.
Sit with this idea: Nothing can make you upset but yourself. It is not what happens that upsets you; it’s the thoughts you are choosing to have about what happened that make you upset. You could always choose some different beliefs that would change the story and make you feel much better.
Another idea to sit with is: You are never upset for the reason you think. You are not upset because this person said what they said. You are upset because of the meaning you are applying to their actions or words. Because they insulted you, does that mean you aren’t good enough? If others don’t think you’re not good enough, does that mean it’s true?
The only reason these ideas or meanings hurt you is because there is a part of you that already believed them before this person even came along. These ideas caused you pain because they triggered a pain you already had. Their words hurt your already “self-inflicted sore spot.” If you didn’t already believe you might not be good enough, it wouldn’t hurt you when people implied it.
Questions to ask
When you get offended, stop and ask yourself these questions, which might change the lens you are viewing the situation through:
If these questions bother you, your ego may want to keep casting the other person as the bad guy and making itself the victim. But I’m hoping you would like to feel better. The path to feeling better is through love, forgiveness, accuracy, and respect for yourself and other people.
If you choose to believe you are bulletproof because nothing can diminish your value and you're always safe, because every experience is here to serve you, teach you and bless you, you may find that there is never any reason to be upset. When people say or do hurtful things, see it as a chance to practice standing in your truth and focusing more on learning than protecting yourself.
Again, I know this one might take a little time to sit with, but keep thinking about it. With practice, you can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
A woman recently asked me how she would know if she was out of balance and too critical of other people, or just a very observant and helpful person? I think you just have to ask the people around you and they would be happy to oblige on this one, but here are some signs that you might be overly critical and need to work on that.
Are you overly critical?
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do people sometimes lie to you or avoid answering your questions?
If you are someone who is overly critical, the people in your life may not feel safe enough to tell you the truth. They might avoid talking to you at times, or lie to protect themselves from your judgment about what they are doing.
Do people get their feelings hurt when you are just trying to help them?
Overly critical people have a tendency to give unsolicited advice, which can feel more insulting than helpful. You might mean well when you point out what they did wrong or how they could improve, but to a person who battles with the fear of failure, it hurts. If your comments often make people angry or hurt their feelings, you may be overly critical.
Are you extremely opinionated and have a hard time not sharing your ideas?
People who are overly critical are often overly opinionated too. Can you let someone be wrong and not correct them? If not, this is a problem. Practice just listening and asking questions, without sharing your opinion at all. Bite your tongue and allow the conversation to go on without your ideas or input. This can be hard, but it shows maturity and wisdom.
Are you extremely observant?
Do you notice details that others miss? Many overly critical people are also told they are too observant. You might just naturally see what’s wrong before you see what’s right. This is a great skill in certain jobs or fields, but it can be rough in relationships.
Are you picky with high standards?
If you reload the dishwasher because it wasn’t done right, or remake beds because they still have wrinkles, or fix pillows every time you walk past the couch, you might be too particular and your standards might damage connection with others. Again, there are certain careers where being this picky would be a plus, but it can make people feel attacked.
Do you get really bent out of shape when things don’t go your way?
This might happen because you create a lot of expectations and then get attached to them. The truth is, life will rarely meet your expectations. Events rarely go off as planned, and people usually disappoint you. If you are fear-of-loss dominant — meaning you get triggered whenever life isn’t what you wanted it to be — you might be bothered and frustrated a lot, which can lead to criticism.
Do you find other people are quiet and have less to say around you?
People might have learned that communication with you isn’t safe. They may avoid your calls or have fewer comments in conversations. If you want people to speak their truth and be open with you, you have to create a safe place for them to do that.
How to make a change
If you answered yes to many of these questions, your subconscious tendency toward criticism might be a problem. Here are some tips for changing this behavior.
1. Allow people to disagree with you without threat of judgment or argument.
Let others know it’s OK if they don’t agree or don’t want to do it your way. Give them a safe space to tell you their truth without risk of conflict or correction.
2. Ask permission before giving advice.
Ask others, “Would you be open to a suggestion or some advice on how to do that, or would you rather I let you do it on your own?” Give them a safe place to say they aren’t open to advice on this. Whenever you share suggestions without asking permission to do so, it can come off as insulting to other people.
3. Practice not sharing your ideas.
Challenge yourself to sit through a whole conversation and only ask questions and listen with the intent to understand, without saying anything or sharing your ideas at all. Do this on a regular basis with the people you care about most. Even when you need to speak your mind, make sure you have thoroughly listened to their ideas first, and then ask permission before you speak.
4. Be observant without the need to speak about what you see.
Bite your tongue until it bleeds if need be, but let some people or things be wrong. Remember, they are on their own perfect journey, and God and the universe will help them learn what they need to know. You don’t have to do that job yourself.
5. Be less picky and more flexible.
Let the dishwasher be loaded wrong once in a while so you aren’t always making people feel inferior. Your high standards are fine for the work you do but shouldn’t be projected onto others. Having good relationships with people who feel safe with you is much more important.
6. Don’t get bent out of shape when things don’t go your way.
Trust the universe that it knows what it’s doing and however this event or situation goes, it is how it was supposed to go. There are reasons in play you don’t and won’t know anything about. Trust life to deliver what we all need, not what we want, so we can grow.
7. Become a better listener.
Notice how people light up when you are more interested in listening to them than you are in talking. They feel valued, cared about and important. The gift of validation and understanding can be the most loving gift you give to people in your life.
Personal growth happens when we start to consciously see our subconscious tendencies and make powerful choices to override our programming. The first step is awareness, then using choice to force ourselves towards better behavior. If we practice this new behavior enough, it starts to establish new subconscious pathways and our new behavior sticks. Be patient with yourself though, because this process takes time — and progress is more important than perfection.
You can do this.
This article was first published on KSL.COM
After reading all the comments from the previous articles in this stepfamily series, I think I need to give you the one biggest secrets to making a stepfamily — or any family — happier and more successful. More than any other quality, you need to be MATURE, and I will explain what I mean.
Mature people are able to recognize when they might be wrong, unbalanced, fear-triggered, or selfish, and they can actually own that, apologize and admit when they need help. Mature people are also more emotionally intelligent grown-ups who are aware of their triggers, faults and weaknesses and don’t get offended over small things.
I realize this is a tall order, though, and we are all (including me) still working on being truly mature. I realize it’s a hard-fought battle against our egos, fears, insecurities and scarcity. I know it’s going to be a lifelong project to grow ourselves up and become mature. But if we can at least see the goal and understand what mature looks like, then we are on the right track and that will make all the difference.
It’s not so much about being perfectly mature (because we know that won’t happen) as much as striving in that direction and working on it.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you fight the battle to be more mature:
Choose your battles (and don’t wage war over small things)
Every time something bugs you, ask yourself: Will I think this was a big deal and worthy of causing contention five years from now? If the answer is no, tell yourself this is not a hill worth dying on and go do something to take care of yourself instead. When we act maturely, we are flexible, easy-going and demonstrate we have thick skin. Many family conflicts start over small issues and continue showing up because members of the family are processing hurt, stress and fear. This means most of the time it’s not about you, and it will pass if you let it go.
Work to understand other people’s fear states
Functioning in a fear-of-loss state, which stepfamilies usually are, means everyone will be offended more easily. In a stepfamily, fear of loss is prevalent and everyone subconsciously thinks they have to protect themselves from every other member of the family. Their defensiveness is not about you, though. If they get upset at you, remember they are afraid of more loss and it isn’t personal. Reassure them that you care about them and don’t want to take from them or hurt them. Stay in a calm, balanced place knowing these bumps are part of the process to re-establish trust, and this process takes time and patience.
Understand everyone is needy for validation and reassurance in a blended family
Kids often act out as a result of the fear and pain they are processing. When this happens, instead of being angry at them, validate the good kid you know they are inside. Show compassion for the complex emotions they are probably feeling and the way pain makes everyone behave worse. When you show understanding, they will lean in instead of away from you, which will give you more influence.
Plan on taking the punishment from people who were hurt before you were even involved
This happens with anyone who has had any past life. They usually have trust issues and fears that you will inadvertently trigger, even though they aren’t about you. Did I mention mature people have to have thick skin? They do, and this will be critical when blending. I am not saying you should allow others to mistreat you though. Just handle the conversation about the mistreatment with understanding and patience. Show your love is bigger than your fear of being mistreated.
Never make children feel responsible for making sure you are OK
Children are especially fragile every time they have to move from one house to the other. Each time they come and go, they experience the pain of the divorce all over again. They feel guilty for leaving whoever they are leaving, and you must make sure they know you are fine.
Never make them feel guilty for wanting to spend time with their other parent. That is one of the most damaging things you can do to them. Don’t look forlorn and sad when they leave, because that makes this even harder on them. Be the grown-up who is responsible for his or her own happiness and show kids his or her strength and resilience. This will build relationships of respect and trust with them.
Get professional help if you are struggling
Getting professional help as an adult teaches children that it’s OK to ask for help and OK to not be perfect. It is a sign of strength (not weakness) to acknowledge you need outside help. Strong, mature people know that a little help can make everything easier.
Your No. 1 job is managing your emotions, issues and fears. If you can tell you don’t know how to manage those and you are letting ego, pride, fear or anger show up in your relationships, own that. Get help immediately.
Always be improving your emotional intelligence
Emotionally intelligent people know they can always do better. Read books, go to seminars, get therapy or coaching, listen to podcasts or Audible. There are so many ways to access great personal development help these days. Be someone who is always improving yourself, and your relationships will be rich and stable.
Be the first one to admit your mistakes and apologize
The more you do this, the healthier your family dynamic will be. Things unravel when your ego tries to act perfect and cast others as the bad ones. The truth is, we all have the same value and our mistakes don’t change that. We are all struggling students in the classroom of life, doing the best we can with what we know, but we need to learn more. Owning the fact that you are still learning, but want to do better, and actually getting help to change yourself, shows your family you really love them.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I had the honor of being the emcee for the Smart Stepfamily Conference two weeks ago in Lehi. Throughout the conference I kept thinking: There are some things that every single parent who is even thinking of dating and getting married again should know — things they could learn now that would save them pain, stress and turmoil later.
This article is for you dating, single parents.
Having said that, I highly recommend that this article not be the only resource you go to when thinking about a second marriage. The family dynamics in a blended family are very complex with land mines popping up daily, and knowing how to handle these up front can help you have a successful second marriage.
Here are my "must-know tips" for single parents in a relationship:
1. A stepfamily does not work like a biological family
Just because you were successful in your biological family does not mean you have the skills to blend two households. The dynamics in a stepfamily are much more complex, with a lot of fear and emotion involved. If you go into it unprepared, the challenges might be too much for you. You will absolutely need to get help, counseling or coaching, seminars, and books on blending families if you want to be successful. Getting help decreases the likelihood of divorce more than anything else you could do.
2. You must work on you first
It is going to take a lot of maturity, emotional intelligence and patience to build a relationship with each member of the new family. So, if you have wounds from previous relationships, childhood issues, or fear triggers, you need to work on them before you bring kids into the mix. The kids will inevitably push your buttons. If you behave immaturely when this happens, they will lose respect for you and the whole thing will get much harder. Making sure you are in control of your reactions is your No. 1 job in this new relationship.
3. Parenting problems come after marriage
Even if your partner’s kids like you right now while you are dating, they will have issues with you and/or not like you (at times) once you are married. I promise this will happen. If you are prepared for it, you won’t overreact or get offended and can just ride it out. Caring relationships will develop, but much slower than you think they should. So, it is going to take patience.
4. Fear often breeds bad behavior
Everyone behaves badly in fear of the unknown, and there is no bigger unknown for a child than changing up a person’s home and family. Their very foundation is shaken when the family changes. You must go into this situation carefully, always honoring how distressing the changes may be in the child’s life.
5. Ask your child how or she feels
Talk to children constantly and ask how they feel about each step of the relationship as it develops. They can’t control whether you move forward, marry someone or not, but they should be heard, validated and honored for their feelings about it. They need to know they are important too.
6. Be OK with being left out
Children need activities and time alone with their biological parent — without you. You will need to be OK with being left out on occasion because honoring the child’s needs is the most important thing when first blending. They are scared to death of losing their other parent (they already lost one in the divorce, who no longer lives with them). Make sure they are getting lots of attention from their parent to quiet this fear of loss, and they will be more open and accepting of you.
7. Children won’t always appreciate your efforts
Your role as a stepparent will sometimes feel like that of a babysitter or a substitute teacher (and you know how well they are treated). You will sacrifice and do things for your partner’s children, and sometimes they won’t be grateful. As a matter of fact, they might resent you for it because you are doing what their natural parent is supposed to be doing, and that hurts. If you can stay peaceful, flexible and trusting through the bad days when they push you away, you will get closer and closer over time. Just don’t rush blending; it takes a long time to build these step relationships.
8. Stepfamilies are built on loss and pain
A stepfamily is built on the loss and pain each person has experienced before now. The loss and pain can keep family members in a fear of loss or failure state — where their worst behavior will show up. They need you to understand that any bad behavior is an expression of that pain. They need your compassion while you also enforce rules. If compassion isn’t a precursor to discipline, damage will be done that is hard to repair.
9. Never speak negatively about your ex
You must never speak a negative word about your ex or your partner's ex. You must understand that children are made of half you and half your ex. When you badmouth your ex, you are insulting that part of your child too. You must allow them the space to love their other parent or you will do irreparable damage to your kids and their self-esteem. Work on seeing everyone as having the same value and avoid gossip and negativity.
Ron Deal, a leading expert on stepfamilies, shares the following African proverb: “When two elephants fight, the grass pays for it.” The children are the grass. Great care must be taken to make the children feel safe and unconditionally loved by both parents.
10. Blending forces change in family roles
When two families blend, all the traditional family roles are thrown out of whack. There is a new birth order as new children are added and others displaced. There is a new adult taking the place of the parent (or the oldest child, who might have filled that space since the divorce). Pay attention to how the family dynamic is changing and where reassurance and patience might be needed as everyone adjusts.
11. The 'You’re not my parent' card will be played
When things get stressful and feelings of loss and fear are triggered, your stepchildren will pull the "You’re not my parent" card. Don’t even attempt to replace their parent. Take the role of a caring family friend. Let the child determine the pace of the relationship and follow their lead. If you refrain from pushing and let them come to you, bonding will happen.
I hope this article doesn’t discourage you because you can build a successful, happy stepfamily that works, if you understand the factors in play and are prepared for them. Here are some great books to consider if you are preparing for a blended family:
This was first published on KSL.COM
I am a stepfather and I can relate with a lot of things in your article for stepmothers, but I wish you had addressed the challenges for both partners. I am finding being a stepfather very complicated. What advice do you have for stepfathers?
You are correct. The role of stepfather is just as complex that of stepmother. Jeannette Lofas, a stepparenting expert and author, says stepfathers face the following challenges:
These are just a few of the common complaints and challenges. But with some education, time and patience, you can create healthy relationships with everyone in your blended family.
Here are some tips and ideas to make your role as stepfather easier:
You will have to be a patient, understanding, mature adult who understands the complex feelings a child of divorce has to process. If you have trouble with being triggered and angry, frustrated, or passive-aggressive, it is your responsibility to get some professional help and work on these triggers. Do this at the first sign of trouble or frustration.
Many stepfathers let the resentment build for years before seeking help or advice, and often the damage is too deep by then. Remember, it's a sign of strength to admit you need help, not a sign of weakness. Strong men can admit they need some outside help and some new skills and tools.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
The most complex role in every blended family is the role of stepmother. The very word "stepmother" is preloaded with negative connotations. I’d like to have a talk with the person at Disney, who has cast all stepmothers as evil, cruel and unloving. I believe they have made it hard for even the best-intentioned person to rise above that stereotype.
This role is not an easy one either; Jeannette Lofas, a stepparenting expert and author of the book “Step Parenting” explains why it is more complex than being a biological mother. Stepmothers have to battle many of the following challenges:
These are just a few of the common complaints and challenges, but there are many more. Feelings of failure, rejection and never being good enough, feeling mistreated, taken for granted, walked on or resented are common. But with some education, time and patience, you can create beautiful relationships with everyone in your family.
Here are some tips and ideas to make your role as step-mother easier:
Be a strong, resilient, mature adult who understands the complex feelings a child will have toward a stepparent. Rise above it all and trust in your value and this journey. It takes years for a stepfamily to fully jell, but the less reactive you can be the better.
If you have trouble with being triggered and creating drama when you feel rejected, insecure, or mistreated, it is your responsibility to get some professional help and work on your triggers. Do this at the first sign of trouble, and you can do this.
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.