Monthly Archives: February 2017

How We Deny What We Really Want

Author: Dani Shapiro @

1. We give what we most want for ourselves to someone else.

I’ve been teaching my whole adult life. Graduate students, college students, high school students, people on retreats, inmates in prison. I love to teach—it is my second favorite thing to do, after writing. I do everything within my power to understand the inner lives of my students and to figure out how to help them learn more effectively. The patient focus I offer my students is something I sometimes long for in my own life, but find it enormously difficult to ask for. When I do, I become embarrassed and confused.”Who, me?” says that voice inside. “Me? I’m fine. I’ll get by.”

2. We tell ourselves that this one thing is going to hurt our marriage.

Ah, the convenient excuse of the husband! By which I do not mean that it’s fine to go do something that you know is going to wreak havoc on your partner’s well-being (say, have an affair with a cute divorced dad at your child’s school). I’m talking about using your marriage as an out. A few years ago, I was feeling depleted in every way. The stresses of parenting, working, keeping it all together had left me with an empty gas tank, and I desperately wanted to get away for a few days to fill up again. A few days. Solo. No husband. No kid. No dogs. No chores. I booked myself into a three-day silent-meditation retreat but nearly canceled as my departure date approached.

How would my husband manage? What would he eat? Would he remember our son’s dentist appointment? Would the dogs pee on the rug? Would he hate me for having abandoned him? But then, as my trip loomed, I realized that the anxious, nattering voice in my head was all about me. I was nervous. I was stepping outside my comfort zone. I hadn’t been away alone, except for work, since starting a family. I was terrified of the silence, and of what I might discover within it. I had nearly denied myself something I was craving, without being honest about the reasons why. And I was using my poor husband as my way out. Imagine the misplaced resentment I’d have felt had I not pushed myself into doing what I needed most.

3. We claim we can’t afford it.

And, to be fair, sometimes this is true. We want the vintage convertible, the suede, knee-high Manolo Blahnik boots, the kitchen renovation complete with a pizza oven. (Okay, to be clear, this is my wish list.) And it’s the sensible, adult thing to do to eschew these shiny pleasures in favor of the deeper, infinitely more important contentment that comes from being able to sleep through the night unplagued by credit-card debt. But what about those times when “can’t afford it” is just another way of saying “you don’t deserve this thing you want so badly.” I am not, nor have I ever been, good with money. But I do have friends who are, and I see that they have no problem feeling as if they’re worth the things they long for. A special vacation? They save up for it. A new winter coat? They pin images to their Pinterest boards and work it into their budgets. It seems that affording what we want has at least something to do with believing we have a right to name our desire.

4. We plan to do it—as soon as it’s a less stressful time.

Once our kids are in high school. Or college. Perhaps when we retire. When circumstances are just right. And, so, we defer our dreams, or stockpile them, counting them like sheep as we fall asleep each night. When my mother was terminally ill—at 80, with lung cancer—she turned to me one day. But I was just getting my life together, she said, her voice quavering with regret. After her death, I cleaned out the small office in her apartment and discovered an entire closet piled with empty notebooks, unopened packages of file folders and boxes of pens. She had wanted to be a writer. She had big ideas for projects, stories she always intended to set down on paper. But there was always something she needed to do first. Did she avoid what she wanted out of fear or insecurity? Maybe she was afraid that if she tried, she’d find out that she didn’t have what it took. Paralysis set in. It was safer, it seemed, to dream it than to do it. There was always more time.

5. We tamp ourselves down.

Oh, the list of ways in which we can make ourselves smaller, and in so doing, ensure that we will not get what we most desire! Maybe we overeat. Or starve ourselves. We succumb to shyness or insecurity. We self-medicate with sugar. Or booze. Or sleeping pills. We choose the wrong romantic partner, one who will clip our wings. We all have ways of sabotaging ourselves. As a young woman, I specialized in entanglements with men who had flashing neon warning signs all around them. One was a narcissist, another was tremendously competitive with me. If I had stayed with any of them—instead of choosing my husband—I would not have become who I am today. I had been so afraid of a dream so deeply held, I couldn’t even have voiced it, the dream of growing into myself.

6. We forget what we want most.

Of all the ways in which we deny what we want most, this one is the most insidious, because losing sight of our dreams means—in some important sense—that we have lost sight of ourselves. Stop reading this very moment. That’s right—close your eyes. Silently ask yourself: What is the heart of the matter? Repeat this question like the medicine it is. What is the heart of the matter? Because the heart of the matter is beating inside you. It hasn’t vanished. But first, you have to become aware that it’s gone. Now, go find it once again.




Thriver Therapy


Christina Rasmussen | February 7, 2017 | Inspiring, Living

You don’t know it at first, not until it stings you for a long time.

The loudness of laughter. The proximity of people.

The constant talking. The ear piercing noise.

Everything closing in.

You start thinking about ways to exit.

To find the perfect moment when you can leave the room, end the conversation.

Prevent closeness with people you don’t know.

You crave going somewhere else. Not anywhere better.

But somewhere without proximity.

Where your boundaries stay intact.

You don’t know what’s happening to you.

You can’t explain it to yourself.

It’s too simple for it to be a problem.

It’s just a room of people for goodness sakes.

What is wrong with you.

You can’t even do that?

You come back to the room.

You try to make it through the rest of the evening.

You let the invasion of your personal space continue.

Because nobody told you that after loss your personal space requirements are completely altered.

Your breathing accelerates when in a space that is not your home.

Your body stiffens.

Your nervous system works overtime.

You see, your whole system never made it back after the loss.

There is an interference.

The station you used to broadcast your life from is no longer available.

This interference is not really understood until much later when the pain of loss lessens and life is starting to come back.

Your body, your breathing, your personal space, your tolerance levels are not the way you left them.

You realize that some things, simple things like picking up the phone, hanging out with friends, running into your neighbors at the grocery store are not so simple anymore.

This is when you start to seek the Waiting Room, when the most human interactions cannot be tolerated by your nervous system.

You are then left with very few choices.

The very basic routine of life.

How do I know all of this?

I could tell you that I know it from all the people I have helped so far.

But the honest truth is I learned all of this first from my own life.

I am the woman who finds it hard to be in a room full of strangers.

My personal space is larger than you can imagine and when it’s invaded all I want to do is run home. I still don’t like picking up the phone.

And my nervous system has so much interference. Still.

I was the complete opposite before he died.

But here is the part of the letter that is even more important than all the words I wrote so far.

I refuse to live like this. I refuse.

So here is what I do.

It’s kind of like physical therapy but instead, I call it Thriver Therapy.

Every day I practice all the senses that were lost and try to bring some of them back.

I make myself pick up the phone.

I make myself hang with friends.

I make myself thrive.

I force life into my life.

One thing you will never hear from me is that I am now healed and happy.

What I am after loss is complex.

Loss is not solved mathematically.

It is not defined by words, described by colors or resolved with time.

It is a systemic interference.

One nobody prepares you for.

This week I am going to ask you to be aware of your personal space and respect it.

Allow who you now are to be without judgment.

Once you do that give yourself some Thriver Therapy.

Go do something that you used to find easy but not anymore.

Practice doing it a couple of times.

Then go back home. Rest. Breathe. Be in the Waiting Room. Try again tomorrow.

Remember the easy things are going to feel hard after loss.

Now you know. And you can do something about it.

And I am just like you. Learning to do life still, years later.

It’s OK.

With thriver therapy,


How To Stay Calm In the Midst of Challenging Changes

Karen Salmansohn – Author


If you’re human, you’ve had phases in your life when things are in flux. Maybe you’re even in one of the following flux states right now:

Career flux: Feeling that the career ladder you’re on is very wobbly beneath your feet.

Love flux: Believing Cupid rhymes with stupid for good reason.

Money flux: Sensing you should rename your Amex Green Card your Red Card.

Maternity flux: Taking baby steps into a whole new life by creating a whole new life.

Home flux: Questioning where you’re gonna be resting your weary head in the future

Education flux: Going through first-degree or second-degree college degree brain burn.

Technology flux: Enduring an upgrade you hope won’t lead to a breakdown.

Yes, there are many varieties of flux. Yet it only takes two words to describe all of ’em: Flux sucks!

Thankfully, it also only takes two lenses to see your way clearly through flux—a long-term lens and a short-term lens. Basically, if you’re enduring an anxious trip into the Land of Change and Uncertainty, a bifocal lens will ensure you better enjoy your travels. How?

A long-term lens will help you keep your eye on the prize of your ultimate goals of happiness and fulfillment, while a short-term lens will help you keep your eyes on your feet so you don’t get tripped up by fear.

By seeing both points of focus, you will navigate at your least clumsiest and most wisest—making decisions from your most confident self.

Unfortunately, people sometimes can get stuck viewing flux with only one lens, which creates problems. For example, if you only view flux with short-term vision, you’ll be focusing too much on present fears, obstacles, failure and disappointment. As a result, you’ll choose habits and thoughts from a low-level place of negativity. Likewise, if you only view flux with your long-term vision, you risk becoming overwhelmed by the gaping distance between what you have now and what you desire in the future. As a result, you can get confused by which steps to take because there appear to be far too many.

However, when you choose to view flux with a bifocal lens, you will reap the benefits of seeing both the first few steps in front of you and the top of your goal illuminated in the distance.

This bifocal view will allow you to better aim your daily steps in the right direction. Plus, when you’re bifocally blessed, you will have the happy choice to swap to a different lens when one is needed more than the other.


For example, let’s say you’re in career flux and feeling anxious and fearful about what you see with your short-term lens (aka an unstable career). You can instantly calm yourself by switching to your long-term lens and refocusing on a happy future visualization in which you imagine the happy career you desire and deserve.

I’m a big believer in the power of visualizations. And so are neuroscientists. Numerous studies have proven how merely imagining positive circumstances sends blood flowing from negative brain regions to positive ones.

In fact, when you visualize doing an action, you stimulate the same brain regions as you do when performing that action. For example, if you visualize lifting your left leg right now, you will stimulate the brain region that gets activated when you truly lift your left leg. Because visualization is so powerful, many professional athletes have trained for events by visualizing successful results, thereby increasing their likelihood of attaining them.

If you’re in the midst of flux, and feeling stressed because you’re hyper-focused on short-term problems, you can benefit from this proven science of happy future visualizations. Simply take five to 15 minutes to refocus your attentions on attaining your long-term goal.

I believe a lot of what contributes to the sadness and downward-spiraling in our lives is a sense of hopelessness. We become resentful when circumstances aren’t unfolding as we want, leading us to doubt whether we will ever get what we want. Unfortunately, if you spend too much time thinking negative thoughts, you simply refuel your hopelessness by sending a surge of blood flowing into brain regions associated with depression and anger. However, if you want to feel happier immediately, you can create a brain environment that supports clarity and solutions by spending time doing happy future visualizations, which sends blood flow to the positivity regions of your brain.

A favorite book of mine, A Course in Miracles, says: “Patience is easy for those who trust.” The more you do happy future visualizations, the stronger your patience muscles will become. Basically, fear and emotional pain have a harder time existing when your long-term lens is focused on a confident belief in happiness and success.

Likewise, if you feel overwhelmed by the long road you know you must take to get to your long-term goal, it’s time to tap into your bifocal lens and refocus on your short-term vision. Ask yourself: “What I can do right here, right now to feel better right here, right now?” “What are some tiny steps I can do today that will get me closer to my goal?” As the Buddhists say, “The 1,000-mile journey begins with one step.”

Keeping with this theme, the Japanese have a wonderful word, kaizen, which means “small habits over time which add up to large results over time.” A good example: If you were training for a marathon, you might wake each day and run for small bits of increasing time (10 minutes, then 12, then 15, etc). Eventually, you’ll find you can run for marathon levels of time. Ditto for all those different flavors of flux.

Each day you can awake and focus on small, easy goals you can accomplish in the short term—goals that, over time, will lead you to your long-term goal. For example, if you’re in career flux, you can write three emails to past business colleagues and take one hour to scan job websites. At the end of the day, you should write down your daily progress in an appreciation journal. Whenever you feel weary, repeat the following mantra, “I have it within me right now to get me to where I want to be later.”

If forward progress feels slower than you want, remind yourself that you can’t rush the time and process of a flux. Everything has its needed time and process. For example, pregnancy takes nine months. Wanting to give birth faster will not necessarily yield better, happier results. Ditto for love flux or education flux or home flux. Those also have their specific times and processes.

In summary: If you’re feeling as though flux sucks, first take a deep breath. Next, ask yourself, “Is my negative short-term lens or negative long-term lens giving me this stress?” Then, refocus on the lens that will empower you to feel at your happiest. Your bifocal lens goal is to enjoy your journey in the present while feeling confident that your journey’s taking you to exactly where you want to go!