You never have to forgive.


Because you can’t be forced to.  Let’s go over that again.  You, the person who got hurt, cannot be forced to let go of your pain.  You can hold onto the memory and the jagged edge of every bad thing that happened to you, and I mean it sincerely that you have a right to do that.

When other people get their sappy smiles and tell you to forgive whatever monster lived in your closet with a chain around your neck, tell ’em a story.  Whatever the worst thing you can say in a flat voice with no tears, that will send most do-gooders running with their tail between their legs.  Try not to cry. Some people who will tell you what you should do with pain are just waiting for tears before they swoop in and try to save you.  Most of the time, you won’t actually feel saved so much as used.

You got hurt.  You might be holding onto that pain as a way to remember and not make the same mistake.  The pain can also be used like an electric fence to keep people away and never face the same fears again.

But at some point, you look around and realize you are standing all alone holding a knife against your own throat and calling that safety.  Nobody can reach you.  You don’t ever let yourself forget the pain.  So there is no repeat of the old pain, except how you’re hurting yourself with it everyday.

People were not meant to be alone and constantly hurting themselves.  If this is you, there is a better way.  Here’s the kicker, you will have to forgive if you want that better way.  You cannot be forced into a decision that is so internal.  You must chose, of your own free will, to let go of your knife and your fence.

Don’t forgive to make someone else happy, it’s not real and you’ll resent so deeply it will be a festering wound.

Don’t forgive to tell an abuser that their actions were OK and you never really got hurt.  Forgiveness is an acknowledgement of how deep the pain really is and how badly the other person behaved.  Never deny your pain or pardon a person who has done nothing to earn that status.

Don’t forgive to look better at church or to feel accepted by a religious group.  Don’t poison your relationship with God to get closer to the other sinners.  This holds true whatever your higher power is and however good you feel about the other members of the group.

Don’t say the words when you’re just hoping that you’ll feel better immediately.  True forgiveness feels like crap at first.  It’s a painful process.  The only thing that makes it all worthwhile is how good you feel afterwards.  But do not lie to yourself.  This will hurt and you deserve the truth.

You also deserve a life that is bigger and better than whatever you are owed.  The person who hurt you owes you a debt.  To get something better, you will have to forgive that debt.  There is no room for the good things you deserve until you let go of what you are owed.  This is not just.  Forgiveness is showing mercy to yourself instead of asking for justice on those who have hurt you.  In the end, it is also a potential act of mercy on the hurtful.  That is where most people give up.  They would rather live in pain than be merciful to those who hurt them.

You can hold on to your pain and wait for the day that it can be used like a sword of justice.  But the chances of that day coming are slim.  Or, you can let go of the pain and get something better than justice.  Let mercy roll down and wash away your pain.

Forgiveness is NOT a free pass.


No one can force you to forgive.  You also can’t be forced into taking vitamins, staying away from abusers, and following your dreams.  Let’s get this straight right now.  Forgiveness is NOT for the other person.  It’s for YOU.

When you forgive, you no longer put the energy into the other person, into hoping for their pain, or wishing they would finally make yours right.  You put yourself in charge of the future and allow the past to stay where it will do you the least amount of harm.

Not everyone wants to be in charge of themselves.  It’s a harsh truth that being victimized  can leave some people in a bitter place of waiting for someone else to make it right.  That feeling can be somewhat addictive.  If you’re the victim, you’re always right, you’re always sure the other person is wrong, you never have to give up on what you’re owed.

It’s not actually a good life.  But it has a dark addictive pull.  Some people would rather be right than happy.  And if you only hurt yourself, that’s horrible.  But permanent victimization allows you to hurt everyone around you.  The most horrible behavior I’ve seen as a therapist has been justified by victim status.  Guys who wind up in an anger management group for knocking their wive across a room, all say the same thing. “She came after me!  I wouldn’t have had to do anything if she would have just shut up.”  Women who’ve abused their children or allowed one boyfriend after another to do it for them, same thing.  “He called me a b****, you would have hit him too.”  “I didn’t hurt my child, my boyfriend did and I’m being blamed!”  The worst behavior is always justified by how badly the abuser has been victimized.  And it’s crap.

No one ever had the right to abuse you no matter what happened to them.  You do not have the right to abuse anyone else no matter how crappy your day, your week, or your whole life has been.  Forgiveness is the verb that allows us to let go of how badly we were treated so we don’t recreate the cycle for someone else.  We make the effort to let go of what we’re owed, so that we can get what we truly want.  You need more than what you’re owed by the people who have hurt you.  You definitely ought to want more than that.

When you hang on to what you’re owed, you are more likely to take the payment from someone who wasn’t even there.  Let yourself become the victim and you will have a black hole sucking all the light out of your relationships with no end in sight.

Do you truly want what you think you’re owed so damn much that you will sacrifice everyone around you to that goal?  Will you sacrifice your own happiness because your need for vindication is so extreme?

Forgiveness hurts and it’s hard, and you will wish you didn’t have to do it.  And it’s the best hard thing you will ever do for yourself.  Imagine you had spend 5 years eating snickers and watching vapid TV with all your free time.  Now you really want to fit into a decent outfit and be attractive to the opposite sex.  You have 5 years of damage to undo and you will be sweating, screaming, throwing out foods that don’t help you, watching TV from an elliptical, and discussing how you let yourself go with friends and professional helpers.  In about a year or less, you will walk into a room and show off every painful moment it took to get you into fighting shape.  You will love every moment you hurt because it led you to feel this good right now.  It will be better because it took the pain to achieve.

When you forgive, you take on the pain of your life without any hope of someone else rescuing you from it.  You take on the pain that the other person will never accept and you feel pain that was never a fair or just payment for your actions.  You agree that you will take on all the pain for both of you and bear the entire load.  Because that is the ONLY way you’re ever going to be in a position to dump the whole thing overboard.  You can sit on that couch and feel the pain of rejection but not take on the extra possibility of failure, or you can lever yourself up and make painful changes that lead to that moment of freedom you’ve dreamed of.

We’re going to spend the next 4 days on the specifics of how to forgive.  I hope you’ve been convinced to at least think about this, for your sake and the sake of the people you actually like.


Picture from AlicePopcorn from flickr creative commons

The benefits of making that goal.

I had a goal this week to write one blog a day, even if it was a sentence and a picture. Here’s the last blog and my goal is complete, for now.  Remember that goals should be a constant part of your life.  If you have a direction you’re going towards, you are less emotionally reactive, have greater emotional stability, and a better sense of your own power to change the world around you.  When you react to whatever the day throws you, you will be on the defensive constantly.  When you have a clear idea of what you want, you’re already thinking through the obstacle in front of you and moving on to the next checkpoint.

Making goals and reaching them is like exercise.  It needs to be a regular part of your life.  It works as an anti-depressant. It helps your brain stay younger.  You look better, feel better, and react to changes in your situation with greater flexibility.

Happy goal setting, I’ll be back in a week with another series of blogs on a new topic.  My goal for the intervening week will be work on my fiction novel for bored middle aged women.  I figure I’m part of the demographic, so I’ll be able to write what I’d like.

Have a great Thanksgiving,


Don’t be so responsible, at least not for everyone else!

Who are you responsible for?  Most adult women don’t know the answer to this question.  They think they do, but they are taking care of everyone else around them, not taking care of themselves, and then resenting someone else for the state of their lives.  Plenty of men are doing the same things and talking about how they can’t ever get out of a job they hate.

If you’re going to have a goal, you are the only one who can truly make that happen for yourself.  You are even responsible for who and how you ask for help.  But that’s help, not take over and make my dreams happen for me.

Prince or Princess Charming is not coming to make your better life appear.  You will have to take the responsibility for yourself and start letting a few other people’s needs slide.  That’s right, you need to get a lot less responsible.  Go nuts, let the dishes sit, mow the lawn after you’ve written your bucket list, let the other people in your life have the control.

Yes, control.  You need to control you, and let other people get into their own trouble or success as the captains of their own ships.  I’m not saying let your 3yr old make major life decisions.  But you’re teens could definitely do their own laundry.  And if they mess that up, let it be a learning experience.

Never be so dependable that you never get a chance at your own dreams.

Be less responsible, go play, go dream, let everyone else pick up the slack for once while you make something happen for yourself.

Goal setting never works for me!


Every now and then some helpful soul will give me a new set of how-to-plan forms.  In the past I’ve even tried to use them. Then always felt like I was this failure, because they never worked for me. Well, I’m not a line.

I don’t think in a linear fashion, which is often true for people who have any kind of ADD, ADHD, or other differences in how they process information. If you’ve tried and failed at planning software, paper forms that are supposed to help you get organized, or felt frustrated with the well-meaning but ultimately ineffective methods you’ve seen, the real problem may be the method.

Most planning forms have you start with one large goal and then break that down into steps that you are going to use to achieve it. This makes lots of sense, only it doesn’t work. Your brain is far more likely to be thinking in leaps and jumps, interconnections, and what would look more like a series of bubbles with lines in between them.

Toss your old forms. Bring out a blank sheet of paper, and draw a large circle in the middle of it, about 2 inches in diameter.  Write a word or sentence that describes what you want in that circle. Draw a line away from the circle an inch or less. At the end of this line put another bubble. Whatever comes to your mind first, put in that second circle. Go around your larger circle putting new lines, and new bubbles with anything and everything you can think about in connection to that topic.

Repeat step one for all of your smaller bubbles. Some bubbles are going to just a singular thought.  Some you will have a lot more to say about and they may even surprise you.

But you’re probably wondering, okay great now that my brain is on paper, how does actually help me achieve a goal? The goal setting comes when you put the bubble up at the top of the page, and start drawing out what you’re thinking, followed by ways to achieve it, followed by steps you can take today.

This technique is especially effective for goals that you have run into a dead end on. If you’ve always wanted to lose weight, but find yourself never being able to actually achieve this. Do a bubble map.  Draw your circle in the center of the page, and then put what you want in the middle of it. If your first impulse is put the problem in the center of the page, we may have found your problem. Bubble mapping allows you to see what your actual focus is, and all of the associated thinking processes that go along with it.

Put the positive outcome you want in the center. And then go to town on what your associations with it are. If you had a difficult time achieving your center bubble, there will be a lot of sub bubbles with negative thoughts. Don’t be scared of these. You need to know what’s been stopping you from getting to your goal. If you don’t know the obstacles that are in your way, you will not be able to plan for them.

When you’re ready to put the information into an achievable form, start with a new page and a new circle at the top of the page.  Put your goal in the circle and draw lines radiating  downwards with new circles on the end of each, write out your thoughts in each of these circles both good and bad. Radiate more lines and circles down from the second level, and fill these in with achievable goals related to each of the thoughts above. Your third radiation of lines and new bubbles is for results you can achieve today.

Remember, the goals that are small, that you can work on today, and that will help you build for success later, are the most effective.

  1. Grab a sheet of paper and draw a circle.
  2. Write your goal in the circle.
  3. Radiate out lines that have bubbles on the end of them.
  4. Write whatever comes to mind in each of these bubbles.
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 for each of the new bubbles you create.
  6. Repeat on each new bubble ’till you run out of space.
  7. Does your original goal still hold true?  Sometimes you discover it doesn’t.
  8. Take a new sheet and put a circle at the top with your goal statement.
  9. Put bubbles beneath it with at least 5 related thoughts both good and bad.
  10. The next level down is bubbles that are goals associated with your thoughts.
  11. Last level of bubbles will be results that are small enough to achieve today.
  12. Repeat weekly.

When multi-tasking isn’t getting that task done!


There’s all these studies I won’t bore you with, that state that multitasking  does not work.  The same studies go on to say that no one really multitasks. All of us toggle back and forth between different tasks wasting energy and being less efficient. The people who did the studies ought to have a few kids. Because let me tell you, if you’ve got kids you multitask.

You are doing the dishes, and making sure nobody dies in the next room. You are on the phone, and making evil faces to at least one child to get some quiet.  This works well for keeping the species alive, but not so much for you reaching your goals.

For goal reaching you really do need a toggle switch. Because if you had unlimited time and resources, you wouldn’t need advice like this on how to make limited time and very limited resources work for you. Actually, if you had that first set of things you’d be on a beach and you wouldn’t care about goals.

A toggle switch allows you to go from one task to another with equal focus. It’s the process by which I get done with a client, and then use the 5 min. in between clients to write part of this blog.  I’m not doing two things at once, I’m switching focus so I can use very limited amounts of time.

This won’t work if you have multiple goals. Toggle switches move between two points and that’s it. So if I have one goal, to get my blog done for the day, and one basic job, see clients, the toggle switch works great. Even if I have several jobs, but only one goal, I’ll still be able to toggle.

Find your most important goal and only work on that. Once you get it done, you may be able to move to something else. Or you could take a break and get one of those little fruity drinks with an umbrella and imagine you are already at the beach.

  1. Pick one goal to work on.
  2. Set up your computer, equipment, shoes, whatever you need to accomplish that goal is ready to go.
  3. Switch your focus to the goal whenever you have 5min or more.
  4. When you’ve accomplished your daily goal, reward yourself.  I’ll be having the fruity drink.

You need your Yoda.

There’s plenty of people who will get in your way, tell you it can’t be done, yada, yada, yada, when you really need Yoda.  You need that person who will respectfully tell you you’re full of it or genuinely help you celebrate success.  You pick them, you let them guide you, and they get the joy of mentoring your success.  Now where can you find them?

The internet has blogs and info pages about everything these days.  You can find a pod-cast or a you-tube channel custom made for your goals.  Your Yoda doesn’t have to be in person.  Listening to people who are respectful and helpful will also fine tune your antenna.  You could use more of these people, but if you’ve picked bad romances and lousy friends, start on the internet and develop a sense of what the good ones actually sound like.

Take a class.  Whether you find one that you have to pay for, or a one time freebie at your local library, you will get in touch with other people who share your enthusiasm.  You’ll also find a teacher that you can ask questions and get ideas about other places to research.

Hire a coach.  This could be a personal trainer, an adult baby sitter, or a life coach who’ll ask about your goals and how you’re doing.  If you’re goals are physical, I would especially recommend hiring someone to take over the planning if you’re just getting started.  You can concentrate on effort and not puking, while they figure out which muscles need to hurt tomorrow.

Use the mentors you already have access to.  If you belong to a religious group, a social circle, or a family with a few healthy members, you may already have met your guide and just not know it.  Ask some questions of the people around you.  At my church, there are Nurse Practitioners, Doctors, Carpenters, and the guy who survived a Japanese prisoner of war camp.  There are marriages that have held together for 60+ years, and a few people that have survived brutal divorces.  Somewhere in that group, I could find people to read manuscripts, research history, or give me parenting tips.  And that’s just one group.  Think of the groups you belong to and find out what resources they have.

  1. Use the internet.
  2. Take a class.
  3. Hire a coach.
  4. Leverage your network.

Make it easy to keep your goals!


I have two times in any given day that actually belong to me. 1. Before everyone else wakes up. 2. After everyone else has gone to bed.  Otherwise I’m between a rock and hard place on finding time for myself and the goals I want for just me.  So I wake up at 4:45 and go work out.  When you’re talking about making yourself a priority in the midst of a busy life with other people depending on you, get ready to do one of three thing; get up early, stay up late, pretend you’re at work.

Most of the same people that won’t respect your personal time will act like your job is sacrosanct.  Use that.  Find a way to put breaks in your work day that you don’t tell anyone about, and use them to write your novel, walk around the block, plan your escape, etc.  Remember that we’ve already talked about making your daily steps to that goal so small, they can thrive in the 5min space that your coworkers are using to slowly walk back and forth from the water cooler.  Write one sentence.  Find the staircase and run up a flight or two.  You really can take your life back one tiny step at a time.

Start with the time solution that you’ll actually use.  The best plan is the one you’ll use.  Getting up early might be great, but if you’ll just slap your alarm around and go back to sleep, it’s a lousy plan.  The mediocre plan you keep to, will get you further than a great plan you can’t stand and won’t use.

Put the time on your schedule and then you’re more likely to keep the appointment with yourself.  If your day is like mine, you’ll miss a number of appointments with you.  You are important enough to reschedule and be persistent.  You’ll win if you keep making the appointment and show up for yourself.

  1. Assess your day for time you can use
  2. Get up early, stay up late, and/or use the 5-15min spaces in your work day
  3. Keep it small so you’ll motivate yourself with success
  4. Schedule the time if you can, and then expect that you’ll have to reschedule
  5. Persist.

How to set a goal you’ll actually keep.

Think small.  Now go smaller.  Go so miniscule that you cannot help but succeed and then you have success to build on.  It’s a simple idea that I’m going to show you works, or prove that it can’t.

I’m going to write a short blog each day for the next week.  It might be a picture and a sentence, but it will be up and it will be on facebook.

I’ve realized that what I’m capable of is not a good measure of what I should be doing.  What I’ll actually finish is what I should be doing.  I’m not only a blog writer who hasn’t put up a blog in a very long time.  I’m a homeschooling mom with a full time job as a therapist dealing with cases other therapists cringe at.  I’m married to a general contractor who doesn’t want to finish our remodel and I have a new side hobby waiting for the police to show up at my house so I can report the latest petty theft from the store of construction items in the backyard.

Obviously my life is not conducive to long afternoons spent at my keyboard with a nice cup of coffee and a cookie.  For success to happen, it needs to get squeezed into small spaces and flourish like it was a weed.

  1. Make success almost impossible NOT to achieve
  2. Start so small you can’t help but win
  3. Be realistic about your time; if you don’t have it now, it’s not magically appearing cause you want it to.
  4. Small successes can be the foundation for larger success.


How to save your child!

Last post was on how to ruin your child, but some people do most of those and still have decent children.  How the heck is that happening?

Resiliency.  The ability to come through tough times with your better self intact and growing.  Some children seem to have a natural store of this, while others can get to this state with help and training.  So here are 10 ways to help any child withstand and thrive in their circumstances.

  1. Compliment specifically and describe actions not attributes.  Children think that pretty and smart are states of being that can’t be affected by their own actions.  Complimenting them on these doesn’t leave the child feeling empowered.  Make positive comments about actions children take.  This will point out to them how they change their own circumstances for the better.  When people feel powerless they get depressed, lazy, unmotivated, selfish, and scared.  Compliments about actions can be a protective layer against all the bad that feeling powerless can bring.  You can give a child that protective layer!  Make sure your compliments are about verbs not nouns or adjectives.  “I loved that you tried so hard!”  “Wow, you kicked that ball at the goal!”  Stay away from compliments that start with “You are…”  Those are attributes that children will usually see as unchangeable.
  2. Ask questions and listen to the answers. This works with any age child.  In my practice as a play therapist I shock parents all the time.  I tell them simple things their children have said and people sit back in stunned silence before saying, “She’s never said that before!”  No, she hasn’t, but she never felt that anyone had the time to listen.  Some children will not tell you the important things until you have spent several hours listening to their stories about the latest transformer cartoon they saw.  When children communicate with you they are looking for how you listen.  If you are waiting for the “important stuff” to actually start hearing the words, you will never hear anything important until it is too late.  Try this in small increments.  Spend at least 10 minutes listening to your child and commenting on what they’re saying without any statements of judgement or morals of the story.  Do that several times a week.  That child will tell you something surprising by the 3rd week, maybe sooner.  I have yet to meet the teen who really won’t talk.  They just need to talk about things you don’t find important, so they’ll know if you find them important.  Once they’ve figured that out, they spill their guts.
  3. Spend time.  Kids of all ages are used to being shuttled and cared for but the ones I’m meeting still crave time.  I see adults who don’t know how to let the kid pick the agenda and still remain in control of the situation.   When you know that you are the one in charge of safety and discipline, you can let go of the agenda control for a few hours and everyone will still be OK.  Occasionally let a child set the pace and pick the activity.  Go to the park.  Walk slower.  Look at the bug on the flower.  Watch really stupid Disney TV with your tween and listen to how cool it is.  Look for the perfect shoes for the all important first day of school (without sighing and looking like you desperately wish to be elsewhere).  Do this in lengths of time that you can manage and you’ll discover that it’s actually fun.  Children have a different time frame than we do and the world is still fresh to them.  Enjoy it, you’re relationship will improve and the child’s sense of well being will blossom.
  4. Praise hard work and make positive comments about perseverance.  Luck tends to happen more to the people who give it more chances to happen.  That comes about by hard work, multiple tries, perseverance.  If you want a child to succeed against the odds, praise every time he goes against the odds.  Being smart will not guarantee success.  But put the brains together with a good work ethic, and that kid is going to go places.  Know the value of your own hard work, say positive things about people that work hard, let your child know that work is good by your own attitude towards it.
  5. Give children jobs and insist they finish them.  It’s nice to talk about hard work, but if you’re actually going to compliment their actions, the kids have to have a chance to do the job.  They will not see this as a good thing.  You will hear whining, complaining, mouthing off, “You only had me for the free labor!”  Smile serenely and insist the job gets done.  Withhold the resources the child wants until the job gets done.  You don’t get paid for laying there, why should you teach your child that rewards come without effort?  You are NOT doing them a favor if you give money and rewards unconnected to hard work.  This is basically the same principal of empowerment.  What the child can change and feel control over, will be a protection against depression and negativity.  If a child realizes, “I can make good things happen for myself by my own effort.”, that child will be less likely to feel powerless and depressed.  Put children in a situation where they must work to get what they want.  This teaches them the power of their own actions and immunizes them against depression.
  6. Show gratitude in your own life and point out good things that come from bad breaks.  When you notice the good in your own life, your brain goes looking for more.  You prime yourself to find opportunities out of stresses, and you give yourself a cushion emotionally during bad times.  Do that when the little people are watching and they’ll be able to do the same things.  When kids around you say the negatives constantly, they are crying out for some guidance.  Ask them to stop, take a breath, and notice something good around them.  Don’t give them the moral of the story, don’t stop the rest of the whine down, just keep interjecting the new skill and showing your own command of it.
  7. Teach the difference between responsibility and guilt.  You are 100% responsible for your own life.  You’ve been that way since other people stopped paying for you and making all your problems go away.  Children will someday be 100% responsible, unless they’re constantly fighting the universe on this one yelling, “It’s not my fault!”  No, the guy who ran the red light and crashed your car is not your fault.  But he’s also not around to rehab your injuries, pay your bills, and make the situation better for you.  Guilt is irrelevant to your future.  Guilt is all about the past.  Teach kids to look towards the future and solve the problem for themselves.  Who created it is only important when you’re picking friends and figuring out who to stay away from.
  8. Encourage failure.  I am appalled at the number of bright, talented kids that show up in therapy due to their overwhelming anxiety and fear.  They are terrified of failure, won’t try anything new, won’t plan for the future, and often look for escapes in drugs, alcohol, and stupid behavior.  Failure is a fact of life that children will see as a hiccup or a complete breakdown, depending on your reaction to it.  How do you handle failure in your own life?  Your kids are watching.  Let children fail and encourage them to go for it!  When you help them avoid failure at all costs, you are teaching them that failure will kill them.  They’ll stay safely cocooned in the basement smoking pot to kill any motivation with that belief.  Teach them that trying and failing are GOOD.  Failure is how we learn.  Failure is where we consider and grow.  Failure is how we get better.
  9. Point out upcoming consequences and then get out of the way!  You know your child is heading towards an all-nighter and a bad grade in science.  Do you, A) Step in and make an award winning science project for them, or B) Tell you child that there isn’t a lot of time left and it will probably mean a bad grade if they don’t get started.  If you said A, you are enabling bad behavior that will haunt that kid for the rest of her life.  Point out the consequence in a calm tone of voice with no judgement attached.  Walk away.  Keep doing this until the child hits the wall they’ve been running for.  Ask them what they intend to do differently next time.  Repeat.
  10. Use consequences not anger.  Sometimes your child won’t have a natural consequence for his bad behavior.  You then have to decide what a logical consequence is and apply it.  Screaming, yelling, throwing things, withholding acceptance, silent treatment, and sulking are NOT logical consequences to a child’s behavior.  They ARE a child’s behavior.  If you use your emotions instead of consequences, your child won’t learn to make the connection between actions and consequences.  They may also be left more susceptible to emotional blackmail in later relationships.  Let children feel consequences, not your emotional need to avoid those.


There are plenty more ways to encourage resiliency in children.  These are just some of the easiest.  It’s a great topic to do some research on and then incorporate into your interaction with children.  It’s also, never to late to start these interventions.  It can be harder if you start later, but it’s still worthwhile. Good luck and go get started!


Picture by jaci XIII from flickr, some rights reserved.