WHAT’S YOUR SECURITY BLANKET?

The other day, like many in the past, I was trying to watch TV when my mini schnauzer mix pooch named Roxy began shoving her beat up, broken in half, orange, silly toy into my side. This can go on for hours, even if I ignore her, she’ll just keep shoving that thing into my side, my leg, my arm, whatever body part is within reach. Mind you, she has many newer, bigger, and better toys, toys that squeak louder and are more colorful, but this beat up old toy is clearly special to her. It is one of the first toys that we got when we first obtained her from someone in the midst of a divorce last November. This toy often gets hidden into one of her special stash spots, especially under the bed. So I watched her with a smile as she sat peering up at me with expectation, that dirty old toy hanging crookedly from her mouth.

This is much more than a toy, I mused. Why, I believe it’s her security blanket, I thought to myself!

This got me thinking about the whole idea of security blankets, and does the baby ever graduate into not having one?

No, I speculated, we probably all have some sort of “blankie” we gravitate to when we feel needy, lonely, insecure. I began to consider what I might be using myself without even being aware of it. Then, of course, I began to consider what others might use for a security blanket as an adult? I was just wondering…….

Not coming up with a quick clear answer for myself, I began exploring with others, explaining my curiosity about security blankets and wondering what they turn to, other than another person, during times of stress or insecurity. My yoga instructor said her garage was always her escape haven. A strange place, I thought silently, but then, just like the dog toy, it’s not about the thing or the location, but really more about the symbolism, what that place or thing represents, the feeling of security that emanates from being there or with the item. In some ways, it is like a drug, a natural drug, which offers a quick jolt of relief and peace.

Of course, for some, an actual drug may be the answer. Some individuals have actually graduated from the baby “blankie” to marijuana, cocaine, or even worse, heroin or crack. Others rely on prescription medications to soothe them when they feel ruffled. Some still rely on cigarettes, despite the health risks. Then of course there is always alcohol. Many can relate to the comfortable feeling of sitting with a nice glass of wine. Nor can we leave out food addiction, eating for comfort.

As I continued to explore I found varied and fascinating answers. One friend said she liked driving in the dark and especially also looking at the moon. Let’s hope she doesn’t moon gaze while driving! She described her contemplation of the moon as her spiritual connection to all that is and all that has been, noting that everyone who has ever lived has at one time peered at the moon. What a lovely thought! Another mentioned a nice soak with candles in a warm tub.

This reminded me of how I love to sit in the dark with candlelight and do nothing. There is a serenity to this environment when the power goes out, and sadly, it’s the only time I stop what I’m doing to sit in the dark and relax. I know two people who literally hop into bed, get under the covers for a brief stint, and then get up and feel renewed. One friend declares that clean sheets must be part of this process. This same friend insists that a car wash cleanses not only her car but also washes away her insecurities while re-establishing her sense of mastery over her world! Go figure!

Others find that peace in exercise, especially runners. I used to drown all my problems when I swam my laps almost daily for years, and lost myself in my rhythmic breathing. More recently I rely more on my bicycle where I get a feeling of total peace and freedom as the breeze ruffles through my hair and I soak in the beauty of my surroundings. My son and his wife like to walk in the woods with their dogs.

My mind began to flood with images now, as I realized all the wonderful and beautiful substitutes I have developed for the baby “blankie.” My newly acquired love of painting engages me only in the creation that is taking form before me. My yoga class reminds me that the baby blanket is within, always there to comfort me as needed, when I remove the concerns of the world around me. There is something wonderfully fulfilling about a nice hot cup of tea, sitting in a beam of sunlight like a contented cat, listening to exquisite chamber music or a haunting flute melody on a rainy day, and yes, watching my happy dog with her silly beat up orange toy in her mouth, a sight that never fails to bring a smile to my face and make me feel that all is well with the world.

So, I have found my answers and have become aware of my “blankie” substitutes. I’m sure there are more I have overlooked. The question that remains, though, is what have you learned about your own “blankie” substitutes? As you become more aware, you can make better choices. Are they good crutches or are they harmful to you? Are they so beat up and full of holes so that it is time to throw them out and find better ones? Are you satisfied with your choices and can you remember to use them as needed?

I was just wondering……..

CONVICTION OR COMPROMISE

I have always been resolute, at least in my belief system, that my personal integrity is something that I hold dear, something that cannot be touched or compromised. I feel so strongly about it that, in fact, it was the subject of my dissertation study, “An Heuristic Exploration of the Effects of Compromise on One’s Integrity.” I can sometimes be dismissive of others who appear to compromise their personal integrity so easily, but if you’re with me, just back up a minute, because it is something we all do, probably every day, without giving it too much a thought. The issue is though, when it REALLY matters, for you or for another human being, do you have the courage to really be true by maintaining your personal integrity? I was just wondering……

I thought a lot about this issue again recently after reading “LITTLE BEE” by Chris Cleave, a powerful story about the struggle of an innocent Nigerian teenager to find physical safety while interfacing with a young professional English wife’s effort to honor herself while she struggles painfully to find herself. Both women, in their own way are struggling with very different issues of personal integrity and they each make some very difficult choices in order to honor their convictions, choices many of us may not have the courage to make.

I am reminded of the Milgram electric shock experiments where volunteers participated in a study in which the true purpose of the experiment was hidden from the participants. While being coached by the experimenter, the research volunteers were urged to deliver over and over increasingly large electric shocks to the subjects in the next room. Despite the subjects’ cries of agony, pleas to stop the experiment, and even screams of fear of death from the electric shocks, the research volunteers almost unanimously continued to deliver the shocks as instructed by the experimenter. Almost none of the volunteers delivering the shocks refused to continue. Among other things, this experiment demonstrated the powerful influence of a fellow observer who spurred them on. This, I believe is when the subject becomes really sticky.

I am reminded of another time when I felt personally betrayed that none of my co-workers stood up for me. I had been out sick for two weeks as my physician had ordered me to rest in order to avoid another hospitalization for a serious chronic disease (one, by the way, which I no longer have, but that’s another whole story). I was working in child abuse at the time and when I returned to work there had been a huge increase in the referral numbers, so a meeting was called to discuss and assign new cases. Now mind you, I was already behind due to my illness, but nevertheless it was determined that I should take two new cases that were not even in my assigned territory. One of my co-workers noted that I had been seen in the grocery store, so my illness was being questioned. At the time I was a struggling single parent with a 7 year old child, and the nearest relative was 600 miles away, so of course, I had to take care of necessities, sick or not. The incident was devastating to me, especially as I considered all my co-workers to be my friends, but not one of them would take a stand to support me at this difficult time for me. I was reminded by a very wise therapist friend that it is a rare individual who will take a stand in the presence of a group.

And that reminds me of a recent film, “Twelve Years a Slave,” when the protagonist, saved from a hanging, but not released from the rope or tree, continues to dangle precariously, balancing delicately on tiptoe from one foot to the next, as the other slaves watched in horror and despair, yet did nothing to release him.

So you see from these examples that maintaining one’s personal integrity can be a very slippery slope. It is often compromised in the presence of a group but even the presence or influence of just one individual can alter the choice we make. It can easily be compromised by fear, fear of physical harm or death, fear of judgment, fear of ostracization, fear of humiliation, and so on.

But even more critical, what happens to your psyche when you do compromise your integrity? Do these instances adhere to us like inner scars? Does it change us in the long run so that we give up, stop worrying about our integrity? Does it make us less true to ourselves? No one can be true to themselves 100%. But when you do have the courage to honor your convictions you will feel better for it. You will like yourself better. It will enhance your self-esteem. I challenge you today to become more aware of your personal integrity, what’s really important to you, and what issues cause you to compromise it. You can begin by just being honest about how you feel. Monitor yourself. Try it. How does it feel? I was just wondering……..

Who Is Your Best Teacher?

customer-experience-theme (1)When you ask yourself the question, who is your best teacher, most of you will most likely recall someone from your school days, someone you liked who imparted knowledge to you in the form of facts or information. For me it brings to mind an English teacher I had in my senior year in high school who was very stern and strict but sure knew her stuff. Then there may be the teacher who you just liked so much because of their pleasing personality and helpful attitude. As you get older you may begin to think of a parent or role model or mentor who has influenced you and is your best teacher in life. These are the people who show you about life, who teach you how to basically deal with life, how to succeed, how to cope, etc. Perhaps religion is your guiding force or just simply your value system or philosophy. Maybe you learn best from reading books or attending classes. So think about it. Who is your best teacher? I was just wondering…..

More recently I have become aware of an incredibly powerful source of learning, one sometimes difficult to use, but one that will speed your growth dramatically if you are brave enough to learn from it. I call it bad behavior. How can you learn from bad behavior, you may be asking. Well, by not engaging in it yourself. The first time I became aware of this lesson was from a behavior of my mother’s. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my mother and I have learned lots and lots of good stuff from her, but her gift receiving behavior left a lot to be desired. As a child I would get very excited about getting her Christmas, birthday, or Mother’s Day present, but she, invariably would open it, look at it strangely, and then make some kind of comment about how it wouldn’t fit, or she didn’t use those, or she didn’t wear that color, or some such thing. Year after year we had to return those gifts and it soon became a family joke. We just accepted that she wouldn’t be satisfied with the gift. Eventually we got wise enough so that we all started to take her shopping before these celebrations so that she could pick out her own gifts, try them on, and then on the holiday she would exclaim with great pleasure and feigned surprise how pleased she was with her gift while the rest of us would roll our eyes and chuckle inwardly. It worked!

A few years ago I unwrapped a gift from my son and daughter-in-law, looked at it with puzzlement and asked, “Why did you get me this?” I immediately felt my mother’s words being channeled through my voice and I was horrified, stricken with feelings of shame and embarrassment. I quickly apologized, noted my bad behavior, and believe me I have NEVER done THAT again. I have also learned from a friend who beats a dead horse not to beat my dead horse so much, from students who talk too much in class not to raise my hand so often, and from chronic complainers to try to keep my woes to myself (still working on this!). I am also learning to become less reactive as I have had many teachers who have made me crazy while demonstrating their reactiveness to me. I have learned to be less judgmental from those who annoy me pouring out judgments of others. So for me at this stage of my life, my best teacher is my unpleasant response to someone’s bad behavior followed by an internal check for signs of it in myself. If I’m honest and I can find it within myself, then it goes on my to-do list for self-improvement.

So, who do you think is your best teacher? Is it someone who teaches you what to do or do you learn more or equally well from someone’s bad behavior, someone who teaches you what NOT to do? We are used to learning from those who teach us good things, but it takes a courageous person to learn from someone’s bad behavior. Maybe you don’t have to keep avoiding those people who make your skin crawl. Perhaps the next time you cringe because you can’t stand someone’s behavior it’s time to take a quick inventory to see if it echoes internally. Do you ever do this? Perhaps that is the real reason for the skin crawling cringe. Is personal growth important to you? Do you have the metal to face yourself? I was just wondering…….