Adapting to Change

2013-08-23 19.05.24

 

I have always had dogs and cats living with me. A short while before going on holiday our elderly and last remaining cat passed peacefully away. We were all heartbroken as he had been such a little character, always chatting to us, sitting on our shoulders as we worked at a desk or the computer and lying next to the dogs in the family room or standing waiting on them or us to dry him off when he came in from the rain. As he had such a strong presence our home seemed very quiet without him and the thought of bringing in another little cat did not seem very fair or right at that time.

By a strange coincidence the house we had rented for our holiday had living right next door to it a caretaker and he had four quite young cats. Initially the cats were shy and quite aloof and we were not really aware of their presence but as curiosity soon got the better of them they quickly began coming round to visit us and sit beside us as we sat and read or swam. By the time we came home we all had decided to get another cat. I had anticipated no problems with the dogs as they were so used to cats and had such sweet natures that they would accept anything. So, shortly after we came home we got a little black kitten and almost the day after I received a surprise with the gift of another little kitten, this one grey and white. The kittens were both fortunately males and luckily almost exactly the same age. It was no surprise that they got on really well and almost immediately began to play and sleep wrapped around each other. Our surprise came when some of the dogs who had always had a cat living with them in the house, actually found it really hard to adapt and cope with the new arrivals. Strangely it was my three biggest dogs that seemed to be the most affected, the others being neither up nor down. They were not aggressive, simply afraid and their fear manifested itself in different ways. One seemed to decide that if he looked up all the time and never down at the floor then they didn’t exist and he walked around staring at me or the ceiling with the kittens chasing around his feet. The second appeared to think that if he stuck his head under a cushion he would instantly become invisible so spent his time doing just that every time the kittens came near to him.The third and youngest  of my Golden Retrievers elected to mimic a parrot, when either of the kittens made any move towards him, he simply would get off the floor and quickly climb on to my shoulder as I sat on the couch. Of course the kittens absolutely loved this game, it was amazing ,they knew they had power and were loving being able to use it. They would try and scramble under the cushion to see Alfie, run around Teddy’s feet and trip him up and try to use my legs as a climbing post to get to Bruce. We were all amazed, after all our dogs loved cats what on earth were we going to do? Well, fortunately we did not need to do anything as all it took was a little time, time for the dogs to get used to the size of the kittens and time for them to realise that the kittens were just trying to play and have some fun. As soon as they recognised and accepted that, it took about a week, they became happy to lie on the floor and allow themselves to be used as climbing posts and now they are simply delighted when one of the kittens decides to lie cuddled next to them and purr happily away until asleep. The kittens have learned too. They know that the dogs will walk away if they try to chew their feet or run up their backs so they have stopped even trying. They want the dogs to be there and to play with them but have learned boundaries. The dogs have taught them those simply by withdrawing from play and moving to another room, anytime they felt the kittens were playing too roughly for them and the kittens have been astute enough to pick up on those signals and adapted their play.

In hindsight it was a bit unfair of me to think that the dogs would have no concerns about me introducing something new in to their environment, their home. Milo, our old cat had been their friend for many years. He was a certain size and behaved a certain way. The kittens are much smaller, faster and something quite new .But, by giving them all time and space, letting them each adjust to the new arrivals in a safe setting they have quickly recognised that there is nothing to fear and have been flexible and willing to adapt to the change. Now, looking at them all as they play and sleep together, it seems as if there has never been anything other than complete harmony.

Watching them learn and adapt and become good friends has strangely made me rethink what I expect from myself and others. We all take time to adapt to new circumstances and events, even if we have had similar experiences in the past we may need to allow ourselves a little more time to accept and become comfortable with any changes, even positive ones.

We need to take personal responsibility to set our own boundaries, ones which make us feel comfortable and make them clear to others. We should not just expect them to know what we want or need from them as that is simply unfair. If others make clear to us what their boundaries are we must respect them and not try to foist our own beliefs or strategies on to them, even if we feel they might be of help. We can explain how we feel and why we think it may help but still back off and let them come to terms with any issues or circumstances in their own time and at their own pace.

We are all different and as unique individuals and when faced with something new we each will have our own way of handling things. Some people find it very easy to adapt to change and others much more difficult. Knowing what makes us “tick” as an individual lets us develop a strategy for coping with change and helps us to manage it and make life easier.

For certain people fear is sometimes a normal response to being asked to face something new and different, before they have had time to adjust to a situation. If this is how you feel ,know that you  do not need to respond angrily or aggressively to new things, as that sort of strategy will never improve a situation or clear any issues, in fact almost always all that will do is make everything worse. Instead acknowledge that you have a need to get used to new circumstances, whatever they are, good or bad  and then take time to gather more information to enable you to adapt more quickly, make better decisions and be flexible enough to cope with and accept change.

Generally, when we show people close to us and even those a little more distant, respect and give each other personal space, we find that we can usually resolve any problems or issues and create an outcome that we are all happy with.

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To friends New and Old

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It is not too late to develop new friendships or reconnect with people.

Morrie Schwartz.

As we go through life we attach and sometimes detach from people who were once important to us. This can happen for a variety of reasons, some because of differences perceived or real and sometimes it is that we simply just drift apart. Occasionally you can let others influence how you think and react and instead of taking action, do nothing to preserve or maintain something that once was very important to you because of their influence over you.

I have learned a lot of valuable lessons over the years but none more so than this. I have found that I have to base my feeling towards people on how I personally find them to be and not on how others tell me they are. Sounds simple enough but actually it is quite difficult as people who are close to you can for one reason or another try to guide you in a direction which they believe is best for you. They truly believe that it is for the best but in actual fact it is really what is best for them and meets their needs and not necessarily your own. This is never beneficial because it fails for two reasons. If they are right and you are better away from the person or people you need to learn this for yourself in order to feel satisfied that you have made the right decision to move on. If they are wrong you have sacrificed a friendship for no reason other than to meet someone else’s needs.

Whatever decisions you make in life make sure that you base them on how it affects you. It is never too late to admit if you were wrong in your judgment of someone and try to make amends. It is possible with new learning to reconnect and in fact have a stronger relationship than before with a clearer understanding of each other’s needs. Equally it is important to recognize when new bonds and new friendships need to be created and to let go of ones you have grown apart from. The choice should always be your own and you should never allow others to box in your choices or options. So if there has been someone you have been thinking about and have been meaning to call, call them. Do not think that you have left it too long. Go learn for yourself whether you have or find perhaps that they in fact they have been thinking about you too. It is far better to know one way or the other than to forever live feeling uncertain. Alternatively, if you have moved to a new area or perhaps friends have moved make a concerted effort to get out, join clubs or classes that will help you to meet and connect to others and find new friends. Always take positive action that increases your happiness rather than decreases  it and you can’t go far wrong.

Learning to communicate. Part One.

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To effectively communicate, we must realise that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

Tony Robbins.

Some people like to paint a big picture when they talk about their plans and dreams. They know where it is that they want to go and see everything on a big screen or canvas in their mind. They don’t seem to bother about how they are going to get there, to them that just gets filled in along the way somehow. They are full of enthusiasm, drive and energy but can get bored with  the small details in how to get  there and can fail to realise their dream because that is all they do, dream.

Others like to know all the details of how to get there. They cannot see the bigger picture without knowing how it can actually be achieved. What supports and services are going to be required? How is it all going to be possible? They work hard but can often lose sight of what it is that they are working for because they do not hold on to a clear vision of the end result.

Some lucky ones have a balance between the two.

This is just a small example of how we each take in information, understand and communicate it and you can see just by looking at this how two people with such different views of obtaining goals might clash and fail to understand each other.

I have three daughters all born and raised the same way. They share mainly the same values and hold much the same beliefs yet from when they were a very young age I recognized that I had to explain things very differently to each in order for them to fully understand and feel comfortable with any plans that we as a family were making.

My eldest girl is one of the few I have met that automatically balances everything out. When she was starting school I explained to her why children, including her, had to go to school. I told her about all the fun she would have the people she would meet and explained that she would have to go daily, work hard and then when old enough leave and either go get a job or go study more to get a better job. She was quite happy to accept it all as I had given her a complete picture. I had described what the end result of attending school would be and filled in all the little bits in between. My middle girl had exactly the same picture painted for her but she really didn’t want to hear the bits in between. All she was interested in hearing was that she would have fun leave and get a good job. If I tried to explain that it wasn’t simply a case of going and then leaving to automatically get a good job she was bored and not interested. All she needed to hear was what she would get at the end of it all. How that was going to happen really didn’t matter to her. My youngest child was different again .All she focused on were the small details. How was she going to get to school, how long would she be there, why had she to go, how she would learn, how would she be able to pass exams and what happened if she was off? Once she had all that information she was happy but it took me significantly longer to make her feel comfortable with the idea of school because of all the information her mind required to make her feel at ease.

Throughout their childhood and adolescence the pattern was the same whether it was a holiday being discussed or even a simple weekend change of arrangement I had to go through the same procedure with each of them in order to make it harmonious and acceptable to all. Despite their different ways of taking in information they themselves have never clashed. They instead work together to help each other fulfil their goals. Each has learned what information the other needs to achieve their aim and helps them to fill in the “how” or instead shows them the “what” they would get if they went for it.My middle girl is brilliant at pulling the youngest forward towards what she wants as she can see the bigger picture and the youngest is great at filling in all the steps necessary for the middle to reach her goals. Whilst the eldest balances each of her younger siblings’ excesses out and helps keep them both calm and happy. This they have learned through living together and caring enough about each other to communicate well. I have had to learn to do the same as being a “big picture” person. I find filling in all the small details very frustrating yet I have learned to do this to satisfy my youngest daughters need for such information. In turn I have really appreciated her help in teaching me how to fill in all the blanks in my projects, helping me find a way to get there.

Learning how to fully communicate with the important people in your life is not about changing your beliefs, values or ideas but more about changing how you present them to others and making them easier for that person to understand. Sometimes we come across apparent blocks and can get in to unnecessary arguments when trying to explain what it is that we want just because of our communication styles are clashing and the other person simply does not see the picture we are painting or doesn’t see how we can achieve it. By recognizing what it is that they need in order to process information we help not only them but ourselves and that is surely worth learning?

Anger and simple steps to get rid of it.

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Anger is a killing thing: It kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before-it takes something from him.

Louis L’Amour

I remember listening to a punk rock song years ago and the singer screamed out that anger is energy and I thought I understood and related to it. It is only now, years later, that I actually realise what a destructive energy it actually is and work hard not to succumb to its subtle temptation.

I find that people use anger to motivate themselves when they feel that someone has sapped their strength right out of them. When they have been so hurt or felt so betrayed by someone’s actions that the only way that they feel able to motivate themselves, or to take any sort of action, is to get mad. So they get mad, real mad and stay consumed by it, burning not just their desired target but everyone around them including those that they love and wish to protect as well as themselves. Or, their anger is directed inwards at themselves for being so stupid or hurtful and they set about to self-destruct in order to punish themselves for imagined or even real wrongs that they believe that they have done to others. Instead of learning from the experience and changing to be better or better able to cope they actually start behaving in a way that doesn’t just cause them pain but everyone one around them also. It is far, far better to seek help and direct your anger and frustration to make positive changes in your life.

The trouble is that anger gives an initial burst of energy, which acts as a sort of stimulant and like any stimulant it can be addictive in nature. It distorts reality and kids us on in to believing that we need it to keep going, that it is giving us a purpose to keep going but at what cost? It is possible to use anger constructively? Yes, I actually believe so especially if you use it to learn and motivate you to change for the positive and then once you have got the learnings, made the changes, let the anger go, then it can be very useful. The problems arise when we hold on to anger and can’t seem to let it go.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured”

Mark Twain

So how do we prevent this from happening? How do we let it go before it damages us? Well to me the answer to that depends upon recognizing the root cause of the anger and then taking action to deal with it. Who are you getting angry at or why?

What is it that you need to do or learn that will prevent you from feeling this way? Here are some simple methods that you can try to help you control anger.

Simple steps such as remembering to breathe! If I get angry I tend to forget about breathing steadily, so consciously thinking about deep calm breaths whilst combining this with visualizing somewhere nice in my head helps to calm me down and enables my brain to not just instantly react, but to think before I respond.

The next thing I do is to use my peripheral vision. Instead of focusing on the person or issue I look up slightly and practice noticing what is all around me. You can also do this when looking at a person. So, if you are arguing with your friend or boss, anyone, look at a spot just in the middle between their eyebrows. Notice without moving your eyes what is above you, to the side of you and below you. This is using your peripheral vision and instead of focusing on the problem allows you to calm down. Practice this and it will become second nature to you. It always helps calm me down when I feel anxious or stressed and you can practice it anytime to get maximum benefit.Just substitute the person for the top of a picture frame or mirror and follow the same process, without changing eye position notice what is above, below and at either side of you and relax.

Change your thought pattern simply by saying “not that” “this” and direct it to think of something more positive. I always think of something which makes me smile. Once you have regained control look at what triggered your anger. What can you learn positively to prevent it happening again? Take positive action and let the anger go.

It might be something that you can’t at present change, such as you may be going through a nasty break up and your ex is being unfair or manipulative. Becoming angry might seem best but it will only give away your control and make you look and feel bad. Keeping calm and not reacting is much better for you and much more frustrating for the person trying to get a reaction. Examine ways that will prevent you from being put in the same position. Learn positively and make any changes that you need to make to better protect yourself from this occurring again and move on.

Always remember the use of humor. “It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either. “Wayne Dyer

Whatever it is you choose to do always remember that it is your choice. You are in charge of your reactions and the choices you make so always choose positively and wisely. If someone has really hurt you the old saying is “don’t get mad, get even “.The best way to get even but at the same time not carry on the anger is to cut them out and move on successfully with your life. Do this by taking back personal control and by not allowing others to take control of you. Fill your heart up with love for the people around you that love and support you. Concentrate on them instead of negative forces and in doing so dilute its power and energy. Learn from life events and use the learning to build you and those around you up, never pull yourself down with anger and you will find your life to be an easier and happier one.

Who is to Blame ?

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Isn’t it strange how many times when things go wrong we look to another person to take the blame, to shift the responsibility ?It is a way of protecting oneself from the possible repercussions of whatever went wrong but it is definitely not the way to gain personal power and take control of your life. Yet many people who wish to take charge of their lives and work hard at changing the way they think still fall at this hurdle and I have done it myself. “Oh, for goodness sake it’s not my fault that I broke from my healthy eating plan, it was a birthday party, what could I do? I will hear myself say to myself when I am fed up at breaking my plan or I will say it to my family as an excuse but the excuse is really for me to hear as they do not judge my eating habits. I alone do that. This was just a way of abdicating my responsibility and giving away my personal power and actually achieved nothing but a feeling of resignation and frustration. I have changed how I talk to myself now because that way was not working. If I chose to eat something unhealthy now that is what it is, my choice, no one to accept responsibility for it but me. No event to blame, just me .My choice and the strange thing is when it is my choice, my responsibility I actually seldom choose to do it.

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
Eleanor Roosevelt.

What if though we are continuing to blame our inability to change the big stuff in our life on others? If you are fighting with those you love and blame them for holding you back. If you blame your background, or education or the things other people have done to you? Whether you are right or wrong in these accusations does not matter at all. It achieves absolutely nothing by apportioning the blame at someone else’s door. The only effect it has is not a positive one. It does not make you happier or more satisfied that the right person was held accountable for your lack of progression in whatever way you desired; all it achieves is to hold you prisoner in your own self-appointed safe cell. I am absolutely certain that was not the unconscious minds initial intention when it set out to lay blame elsewhere but inevitably it is often the end result.

So how do we change it and gain back control of our lives? As you have probably guessed already it is simply to start taking personal responsibility for our own actions and our own choices. If we let ourselves be influenced by others, get led astray and find that the consequences are not to our liking, then do not blame them, even although they played a part. Recognise that it was your choice to go along with their decision and learn from it. What happened that you didn’t like? How did it go wrong? What have you learned from it that will better protect you from it happening again? All the answers you get to these questions will help you be stronger and grow in to the person you want to be and have the life you want to have.

There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or to accept the responsibility for changing them.
Dennis Waitley

Once you start to accept that it is your choice how you act and your choice to make decisions affecting your life, then you gain personal power and with that a contentment and self-acceptance that comes with choosing to live your own life. Even taking in to account the influence that others will have over you because you love them, live with them, or work with them, you can still be true to yourself whilst considering their needs. Do not resent other people for encouraging you to make decisions you later regret. Always remember  that it was your choice to make the decision and learn from it, then move on. Do not hold on to a negative past by holding on to resentment.

I have had it said to me in the past by a client that they feel as if they have no control over their life or choices because of their job or the needs of their partner or even because of an ex-partner and the need to still see them because children are involved. This power that they believe the other person has over them and their decisions, greatly negatively impacts their lives. But the late Martin Luther King Jr who was fighting a great injustice summed it up beautifully in this quote:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

He had a choice and to him the choice was very clear. To do nothing and live a life made by other peoples choices. Be carried along by the negativity and hatred and so be consumed by it or to choose to be totally different from it. To be a guiding light, a beacon for all that is right. To make a personal choice to love and not hate and by doing so he changed not just himself and his circumstances but he changed the world.

So if you have to deal with a difficult partner, horrible boss or nasty ex-partner remember that it is your choice. Do you choose to be as nasty back, do you choose to let them impact you negatively when they are not around? Do you choose to allow them to steal all your positive energy and lay the blame firmly at their door for making you feel as bad as you do and in making this choice you are choosing to keep a perpetual negative circle of self-destruction? Or can you now decide to let them stay in the compartment of their own making but choose to love yourself enough to take personal responsibility, to make the necessary choices that will take you in a different and happier direction than the one you have been travelling with them?

When I look back on decisions I made and regretted, on the people I allowed to influence me when really I knew I shouldn’t and the choices that I made that were really not well thought out, I find that I can accept what they taught me and move on feeling no regret but strength in fact from the new knowledge gained, as long as I accept full responsibility for making them I can live with the consequences. My life and my responsibility.

If you are finding yourself stuck, still falling in to the trap of laying the blame for it at others doors. Decide today to let it go. Accept your past mistakes and decisions and choose today to learn from them and start to move on. It is almost certainly that by doing so you will find that you feel instantly stronger and happier. Don’t take my word for it start right now and see.