Lean In

Excerpt from here

When you first begin to exercise, it’s somewhat painful. Not wildly painful, like touching a hot stove, but enough that if your only goal was to avoid pain, you certainly would stop doing it. But if you keep exercising… in the long run, the pain will make us stronger. Next time we’ll be able to run harder and lift more before the pain starts… that’s just a sign that you’re getting stronger.

Few people realize it, but psychological pain works the same way. Most people treat psychological pain like the hot stove — if starting to think about something scares them or stresses them out, they quickly stop thinking about it and change the subject.

The problem is that the topics that are most painful also tend to be the topics that are most important for us: they’re the projects we most want to do, the relationships we care most about, the decisions that have the biggest consequences for our future, the most dangerous risks that we run. We’re scared of them because we know the stakes are so high. But if we never think about them, then we can never do anything about them.

Ray Dalio writes:

It is a fundamental law of nature that to evolve one has to push one’s limits, which is painful, in order to gain strength—whether it’s in the form of lifting weights, facing problems head-on, or in any other way. Nature gave us pain as a messaging device to tell us that we are approaching, or that we have exceeded, our limits in some way. At the same time, nature made the process of getting stronger require us to push our limits. Gaining strength is the adaptation process of the body and the mind to encountering one’s limits, which is painful. In other words, both pain and strength typically result from encountering one’s barriers. When we encounter pain, we are at an important juncture in our decision-making process.1

What “You’re too sensitive” really means

What “You’re too sensitive” really means.

My mother used to tell me the version that goes, “You take everything too personally.”

What it really means is:

“You noticed something that I didn’t want you to notice.”

And, all too often for us, it means that what a narcissist is REALLY saying is: “I wanted to do (or say) something to make you feel bad, but I didn’t want you to notice what was really going on, because that makes it harder for me to innocently deny that I did what I did.”

My Allies

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, who is married to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is taking heat over an International Women’s Day post.

She asked people to “celebrate the boys and men in our lives who encourage us to be who we truly are, who treat girls & women with respect” on 8 March.

Ms Gregoire Trudeau urged followers to post images with their “male ally”.

I for one greatly appreciate the original post. I had an uninvolved / neglectful mother, a parentified older sister who hates the fact that I was born (more work for her?), and a MIL who resented me because HER SON and I (mutually) chose not to have children.

The older women in my life, the ones who should have been my guides and role models, have not often supported me.

The people who DID support me unconditionally were my equality-minded father and my wonderful progressive husband. They are the ones who have helped me the most to get to where I am today.
So here’s to you two.  <3

My Dad’s Hands

I just met with a contractor to get a bid on installation of the deck railing (our deck builder bailed on the railing part).  He also does interiors, so I also talked to him a little bit about the Big Remodel project:  mostly the internal stairway to the “golden” crawl space, and the new studio.

When exchanging contact info at the end of the meeting, I suddenly noticed that he is missing half of the index finger on his right hand.


I don’t believe in “signs” or anything supernatural, but it would be a nice touch if my new studio — the one I have been saying my dad would have built for me, if he could — the one that I am going to use my dad’s money to build — it would be nice if it were built by a guy whose hands were a little bit like my Dad’s.

Not That It Matters

But the Pope seems to think a lot like I do.  He doesn’t like hypocrisy, for one — and he doesn’t seem to think atheists are all that bad, either, at least as long as they try to do good.

“There are those who say ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this and that association’… [but] my life is not Christian…’

“There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal,” he said. “How many times have we all heard people say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”

“‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

Of course some excuse has already been concocted to ignore what he says (probably, in essence, taking the form of “because I don’t like it”).

Never mind that this absolutely, unequivocally, goes against Catholic doctrine.  I mean, he IS the Pope.

Of course, a lot of people have spilled a lot of virtual ink trying to find convoluted intellectual ways around that doctrine — especially with OMG THIS POPE.  Finally here’s a pope who sounds more like Jesus himself than any pope of my lifetime, and HOLY SHIT WE CAN’T HAVE THAT.

It would be funny if it weren’t sad.

Just google, “Catholics obey Pope” and you’ll find more against the idea than in favor of it on the first few pages of results.  Most of it is wordy, obfuscating, and difficult to read or decipher.  Sometimes you can’t even tell which side someone is on right away.

It’s always been my conviction that the more complicated your reasoning has to be to defend your position, the more likely it is that it’s faulty.  Going with the simple version usually gets you to a healthier, more honest position — even if it’s one you find unpalatable.

In this case, he’s the Pope, so that’s that.

Or it should be, if you’re honest.

And who is to say that god didn’t send this pope specifically at this time because he has a message that you need to hear?

“They complain,” Francis said, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” He explained that Jesus corrected them, “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.”

The disciples, Pope Francis explained, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.”

I know where my siblings learned that they can ignore the teachings of the Church when convenient.  That pesky detail never mattered to Mom, either.  Somehow she was able to square a solid belief in fortune tellers and astrology with her brand of Catholicism.

I didn’t think you were supposed to have other gods, according to that very first commandment.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2116

Mom also routinely claimed she had “had a feeling” about some occurrence or other, although this never quite extended to being able to figure things out ahead of time.

“God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2115

How many times did I hear the story about the fortune teller at the fair who told a teen-aged Mom that she would give up her supposed piano playing career, and when asked for more info the woman said, “Cross my palm with silver and I’ll tell you.”  But she and her sister didn’t have any more money that day, so the mysteries of the future remained unrevealed.

This poppycock stayed with my mother the rest of her life.  My guess is that it resonated with her feelings that somehow she had been cheated out of happiness or success — even if it was by her own life decisions.

She told this story to show how much she had given up, to induce guilt, to be a martyr, to get sympathy — as narcissists do.

What kind of a mom tells her kids a story like this, over and over?  Reminding them about how much she had given up and the implied regrets she had about it?  A selfish, unhappy mom.

Because it goes without saying that she didn’t wind it up with a big hug and something like, “But I have you instead and I love you, and that’s worth more than any stage career.”

Of course, her life decisions were mostly made with regard for Church doctrine:  keep having kids even if it (almost) kills you, don’t get divorced no matter how unhappy you are — because god will provide, he never sends you more than you can handle — well, that worked out great, didn’t it?

If “putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future” is so dependable, how come my mom had to have electroconvulsive therapy?  Because they don’t do that until things get really, REALLY BAD.

How come my sister became suicidal?

Where was god for them then?  How come he wasn’t helping, like all the promises said he would if you did what you were supposed to?

To which the answer given is usually some form of “it’s part of his mysterious plan.”  Completely contradicting all those previous promises is just part of the mysterious plan, I guess.  What a nasty trick to play.

I’ll raise a glass to Francis, but I’ll stick with atheism, because at least it’s never lied to me.

More from Dr. Cloud

The original article

When you need to execute an ending of some sort, there will be people in your circle who will try to fight it or slow it down… You have to be ready for that to occur, recognize it as inevitable and deal with it.

Self-Absorbed Resisters

People will put up a resistance because your decision is going to affect them in some way, and they do not want that to change… that person does not have the kind of character to put his self-interest aside and see what is good for [you]. Passively or actively, this person is on a sabotage mission and is not looking out for you.

This person can appear friendly, offering “advice” to “help” you… This situation I am referring to is one where this is not advice, but an attempt to keep you from going forward.

Threatened Resisters

Other times, resistance comes from someone who is threatened by you personally by what you are doing. Whether in business or personal life, when you do something difficult but worthy, it confronts people with their own lives. It activates all of their fears, and they quickly try to tell you the same things that they tell themselves. “It will never work. I know a lot of people who tried to do that, and they were sorry in the end.” The thing is that they are stuck, you are getting unstuck, and you cause them to look in the mirror and face themselves. Unconsciously, they realize if you can do it, they can do it. But to think about doing it scares them. They’ll talk you out of it so you both can be comfortable again.

The NoNos

NoNos are those who are highly skilled urgency killers. John Kotter says if they cannot undermine attempts at diminishing a contentment with the status quo, they create anxiety or anger and the flurry of useless activity associated with a fake sense of urgency. NoNos are motivated by many things, and as a psychologist, I can tell you that I’ve seen them in many instances. They can be pretty inflexible. They often are not open to what we call “assimilation and accommodation,” a process by which normal people take in new data, accommodate ourselves to it and change our minds.

Not so with NoNos. Instead of taking in new data, they have all sorts of reasons for rejecting it, devaluing it and undermining any accommodation that anyone would be close to making with it. The best way to handle NoNos is not to engage them. They’re trying to stall you, and they are not going to change, so to spend any time trying to convince them is to allow them to use their strategy of derailing. You talk to them, they win.

When you start to make your move down a new path, obstacles will come as a result. Getting things done is hard, or more people would be making changes. So accept the fact that endings are difficult and hard to implement. You will be going through new waters, and there will be waves. Big bumpy ones, and it takes courage and perseverance to keep going.

Honoring Sadness

One of several good articles from Dr. Cloud that I found today:

“Sadness… tells us about hurt and loss. We live in a world where we get hurt and lose things. We need it to help us grieve and let go. If we repress and deny sadness, there is inevitable depression. Unresolved sadness always leads to depression and often other symptoms.

“…sadness says that there is a hurt of some kind that needs to be processed, and usually it involves a loss.

“When people deny their sad feelings, they “harden” the heart, and that is to lose touch with tender grace-giving aspects of who they are. They become unable to love and be tender, and to feel grief over their wrongdoings. This state leads then to become insensitive persons. In addition, it leads to all sort of symptoms – depressions, physiological problems, substance abuse, eating disorders, and the inability to get close to others.

“Whenever trauma is not worked through, the development stage present at that age gets affected.

In particular, I think this speaks to the trauma of The Divorce — or in my case, the trauma of my parents’ adversarial relationship during my first few years.  For me, The Divorce was an end to THAT trauma, of living with a mother who didn’t give much of a shit about me, and of my parents fighting and yelling at each other all the time.

“When we lose our ability to feel sad, we lose our tenderness. It is a major aspect of ourselves that must be protected at all costs. If we can’t feel sad, we get coldhearted. Sadness does not equal weakness. Rather, processing sadness leads to strength.”

Yet Again, There’s A Name For It

Notes from here about “functional dependency” and “relational dependency”.

“Two kinds of dependency… Functional dependency relates to the child’s resistance to doing the tasks and jobs in life that are his responsibility. This means he wants others to take care of things he should… Don’t enable functional dependency.”

Relational dependency is our need for connectedness to others… when we are loved by others in this state of need, we are filled up inside. Because they need so much, children are especially relationally dependent. Over time, as they internalize important nurturing relationships, they need less; the love they have internalized from Mom and Dad and others sustains them. Yet, to our dying day we will always need regular and deep connection with emotionally healthy people who care about us.

“You need to promote and encourage relational dependency in your child to teach him that mature, healthy people need other people; they don’t isolate themselves… Help him see that needing love isn’t being immature. Rather, it gives us the energy we need to go out and slay our dragons.

Encourage him to express his wants, needs and opinions to those with whom he is close. This is true especially in his relationship with you. He didn’t choose to be in your family; that was your decision… don’t abandon him when he needs more intimacy…”

I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that my mother had functional dependency that was enabled by her use of her children, especially her oldest child, to take on her responsibilities.

“…resistance to doing the tasks and jobs in life that are his responsibility. This means he wants others to take care of things he should.”

I don’t know how her unhealthy functional dependency got started – maybe because she came from a large family of sisters and she didn’t have too much responsibility.  But that’s just a guess.

I certainly didn’t choose to be born — no one does.  My mom chose not to use birth control, instead putting faith in god and a lack of sex to prevent further children.  That failed, and she got saddled with yet another burden, a workload that she had no interest in.

As a child, I had normal relational dependency.  I didn’t get “filled up” by Mom.  I got some of this love from Dad, but it didn’t completely fill up the hole left by my mother’s neglect and rejection.

In fact, as children we generally learn… our first independent steps, and our first identity moves from none other than mom.

So I probably looked for it from the other adults in my life:  my older siblings.  One more of my mother’s jobs for them to assume, in fact.  No wonder my sister resents my very existence.  But that resentment is misdirected.

It’s normal for me to want or miss the connection with the people who once filled this need.  But they are no longer “emotionally healthy people who care about [me]”.