“Life is just hard.”
“This is all so unjust, so, so, so unfair!”
“I can’t see any way forward. It feels like the entrance to a dead-end street!”
“The only hope I have left is that this hopelessness will stop pursuing me!”
“I’m weary. I’m done. My body is screaming ‘I can’t do this anymore’!”
All direct quotes from real sessions that I had this week.
You might think and say…
“I guess you just work with people
at the end of their rope.
Who know nothing about joy.
Or abundant life.
Or the Champion within.
Or the road less traveled.
Or great brain health.”
To be honest, I do love working with people at the end of their ropes, who know nothing about resurrecting the Champion within. Who know nothing about the road less traveled. Who’ve never even thought it possible to have an abundant life.
However, these quotes all came from real Champions, on the road less traveled … living the abundant life. They are not exempt from setbacks, challenges, and distressing life events. It happens to all of us.
Although their situations were totally different, they all added a “part B” to the comments above that were very similar. And asked basically the same question.
“Part B” for all of them was a stated knowledge and understanding that ‘this too would pass’. And the mutual Champion question was…
“How do I move through this as quickly as possible in a healthy way?”
No matter our levels of personal growth, our financial condition, or the road we travel … we all have setbacks. The difference is that Champions who are living for the abundant life on the road less traveled, have “Part B” attached to their distress. They share an almost ‘brother/sisterhood of understanding’ that every season of challenge will pass. And they ask the right questions that’ll help them move forward. In a positive way.
(Note…I understand when you/me/we pursue our dreams … how being around others heading towards similar goals, or those who’ve reached the success we long for, can be intimidating and cause us to want to just stay away. It’s scary. But you/me/we are in this to think like a Champion. And the Champions among us know the invaluable-value of fellowshipping with like dreamers and achievers. They’ve discovered that’s the only place where the steel bond of courage can be felt, shared, known, and born. Where the fires of ‘nothing is impossible’ are rekindled and set aflame. As the ancient Proverbs declares, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Champions never isolate…they show up!)
Regardless of the road you’re on, I want to answer the question for anyone facing life challenges, “What can we do to move forward in the quickest and most healthy way possible?”
I was halfway through my blog” for the week when I realized there was a theme before me. A burning question I heard repeated over and over again.
I have a real belief in “divine direction.” So, when this theme continued to reoccur, I felt strongly about pressing pause on my brain health series to share the message with you that I’ve been sharing all week long with my clients.
“HOW TO GET THROUGH LIFE’S CHALLENGES LIKE A CHAMPION!”
Interesting how it ties into the series that I’m writing about brain health. (To be continued next week).
Here are the 3 things that we can do to move us through difficult moments as quickly as possible.
1. Taking every thought captive…makes a better “you”… makes a better “us”!
Studies vary on how many thoughts we have daily. Some say as little as 4,000. Others say we have over 70,000. But regardless of how many, the studies agree on one thing; 70 to 80% of those are negative. Negative. A non-life-giving nest of words.
UNLESS…we’ve trained or train our minds differently.
The challenge? These are me/you/we stats on a normal day. But add stress and dilemma, and the percentages increase dramatically.
I’ve known many years about this truth in ancient wisdom declaring one of the great indicators that you/me/we are living or pursuing the abundant life: “Take every thought captive.”
(Note…pause a second. Don’t let my data/doctor info overwhelm you. Yes, desire to change is a ‘feel-good’ and it is right. But implementing those feel-good desires, will launch a civil war between your heart and your subconsciously entrenched defeating habits, operating on automatic mode. Dislodging one draining defeating habit a time, is the only battle plan guaranteed to work. And it’s the battle plan of every Champion. Champions know that taking just one thought captive at a time, will win the battle … and winning the battles brings certain peace and victory for the heart!)
I truly understood and took this wisdom to heart as a regular practice. It’s fascinating that thousands of years ago, under God’s inspiration a ‘core truth’ of 21st century neural psychology was written in these ancient manuscripts … wow! Just WOW!
Because our brains were and are programmed for survival, our instincts are automatically wired to search the horizon for a worst-case scenario.
Or the most awful potential outcome.
And when we set our RAS (reticular activating system) in our brains for that search, it obliges us by setting loose (in our head on steroids) the digital survivor version of us. The version of you/me/we that sees, hears, invents every possible ‘bad’ outcome, which is everyone’s born-with-bent.
It’s like I’ve heard many of my recovery clients say, “When this kind of thinking happens you just KNOW, ‘The litty bitty sh*tty committee in your head’…is NOW in session!”
However, if we will focus ourselves long enough to pay attention to those thoughts racing through our minds, we can take them captive. You/me/we can stop them from hijacking our peace, our joy, our creativity, our fulfillment compass. And remember the battles are normal for all of us.
I know it sounds almost ‘stupidly silly’ but our thoughts become ‘captive’ when we simply decide to press our inner pause button, and make those thoughts our target, before they hijack our state.
One of my wonderful clients who made ‘one’ of the distressing comments above, stated she knew that this too would pass. I knew she was living in a moment of excruciating pain, but with a Champion’s spirit on the road less traveled (her awesome question was: “How can I move this moment forward as quickly as is possible?”) while she was AWOL from the abundant life for brief a moment.
She gave me permission to share her story, hoping it would be helpful to others.
Her husband, who’d been sober for almost a year relapsed. Not only had he relapsed, but he’d been blatantly lying about his drinking. Not only had he lied about the drinking but blamed it on her when she found out. He’d spent months making her look and feel crazy about her suspicions and evidence of his drinking.
Now she was sitting in front of me, confessing she’d not handled it well (and was willing to take responsibility for that). But she could not seem to see her way out of the spiral downward.
I did an exercise with her that I would encourage you to do for yourself when you find yourself in a moment of distress. I had her close your eyes and take a deep breath. I had her start with sensing her feet on the floor, her hips on the chair, her elbows on the armrest.
Then I had her listen carefully.
I asked her to hear the wind blowing from the vents.
To listen carefully for the dog barking in the distance.
Then notice the temperature in the room.
What parts of her body were comfortable.
What parts were cool.
What parts were warm.
Then I asked her to imagine
she could look into her brain,
into her mind, her soul,
and see what was in there
and describe it to me.
She described dark swirls of confusion. Little pin lights of thought spinning around in circles.
I asked her if she could press pause on her brain just long enough to choose one of those swirling thoughts. After a moment she said, “Your mentoring days are over.”
I asked her to hold that thought in the palm of her hand for a moment.
I invited her to let them swirl again. Then press pause again. Just long enough to take another of those swirling thoughts captive.
After a moment, she said, “I knew this would happen.”
We did that until we had several thoughts held captive in the palm of her hand.
The list went on.
“I will never trust him again.”
“I guess I’m on my own financially because he drinks everything away.”
“Why is he invested in making me look and feel crazy?”
With these 5 thoughts held captive I asked, “Which of the thoughts brings you peace?
“Which of those thoughts in the palm of your hands are helpful to you?”
“Which of those give you hope?”
“Which of these create the desire to bring healing to (your relationship)?”
“And which of them lead you to creative plans and strategies for going forward?”
I continued, “We’ve taken these 5 thoughts captive, and it appears that none of them are serving you or anyone else in your community of life. Is it OK with you if we discard them?”
Without hesitation she chimed, “Absolutely!”
I gave her a sheet of sketch paper and had her write one word in each of the thoughts down, followed by ripping the sketch sheet up into as many tiny pieces as possible.
Then we went on to the next 5.
Then the next 5.
We now had 15 thoughts that we had taken into captivity. We removed them from her head and transferred them onto a piece of sketch paper and tore it up into as many tiny pieces as possible.
I told her we needed to replace them with thoughts that would encourage her, inspire her, strengthen her, give her peace.
Make note…if you don’t replace them these negative thoughts will come back with equally dark friends in tow!
We replaced the 1st one with,
“People who make the best mentors
are those who’ve been through
tough things and have risen again!”
We replaced the 2nd one with,
“I will not live in fear,
as fear acts like a magnet.
I will live in confidence.”
The 3rd with,
“People who break trust,
but commit to rebuilding the trust,
create trust bonds that are stronger
than trust bonds never broken”.
The 4th with,
“We are generous givers,
so finances will be restored.”
The 5th with,
“I am powerful,
I have a sound mind
because I practice brain health!”
Not only did she now have thoughts that were serving her and moving her forward in a positive way…(that did not depend on his choices or decisions)…but she’d stopped the spiraling that was hurling her into emotional hell.
You know exactly what I mean by feeling hurled into a spiral on your free fall to emotional hell.
You know how one thought can hurl you into outer space.
When she thought about “mentoring days being over” that could’ve spiraled into:
- We weren’t good mentors anyway.
- Obviously, we were ineffective because it didn’t work for us.
- That’s what I get for not divorcing him in the first place.
- Clearly, we’ve been imposters.
- I’m too ashamed to even show up anymore.
- This is hopeless.
- I don’t want to be alive…
Write your own downward spiral. Because none of these thoughts that are allowed to roam free in your mind, out of your conscious captivity, will take you down the tubes.
“I really don’t feel like doing this, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” my client said, as we began this exercise.
Of course, we don’t want to do it. We are in a downward spiral. And letting it spiral us downward is easier (in the moment) than putting the brakes on it and doing something different.
But the outcome between the two is as far as the east is from the west.
When you’re in distress, take your thoughts captive. Otherwise, they will take you captive. It’s the perfect time when they’re magnified and in our face to clearly see how they affect you/me/we and why, to lock them down before they lock us down.
When you foster or allow those kinds of thoughts to take you captive, you are well on your way off the road less traveled, burying your champion, waving goodbye to abundant life.
Aren’t you worth something different?
I believe you are!
Take those thoughts captive. If they’re not serving you, discard them. And replace them with thoughts that move you forward. To abundant life for you, for others. A better you, makes a better us.
2. Right questions…create right answers!
There is great power in our questions. I learned the power of questions many years ago, sitting in a cabana with a group of amazing people in Fiji. I learned that we all have a primary question, that was planted in us as kids, that we ask ourselves over and over. It’s a question that elicits negative responses, and so we ask it our entire lives, especially when we’re stressed or distressed.
My primary question had been, “What’s wrong with me?”
Just like my iCloud account’s storage capacity, my brain obliged me my whole life with reoccurring answers to my primary question, that kept me weighed down. They almost extinguished my life spark and became an identifying factor in my life.
Until I changed it.
Until I learned to ask better questions.
I believe it’s one of the greatest contributors
to my effectiveness in my practice.
We’re all prone to asking questions that elicit negative responses…on a daily basis.
For example, when my client was owning how she had not handled her husband’s relapse well, we began working on her accountability and how to make amends for that.
I asked her to describe the interaction. She explained that she’d gone into what I call ‘rapid-fire’ questions. Questions we ask, but never give the person an opportunity to respond, and when we finish our rapid firing, it’s ludicrous to expect a positive response.
She confessed that she had been in a rapid fire mode. “I fired off horrible questions like:
- Aren’t you just the greatest example to our adult children?
- Are you proud of yourself now?
- What are people going to think about us?
- How on earth do you think I could ever trust you again?
- So which of us should call the lawyer?”
Nodding with understanding, I said, “I know you feel badly about that now. But just to learn from it, how did he respond?”
“Well, at first with anger telling me that this is exactly why he drinks. But then finally, he looked down with shame and said, ‘Maybe I am just a worthless drunk’.”
Horrible questions, horrible response. He went from anger to victim. But she invited horrible responses.
She totally understood as I explained. I told her that her questions were valid, but inquired, “What better questions could you have asked?”
Although none of us want to go there and recognize how we could have done better, she was willing because of her dedication to getting back on the road less traveled. With great thought and care, she reconstructed each question.
- How can we handle this and be a great example to our adult children for their marriages?
- How can we pull you from the pit of shame?
- No matter what people think, how can we show them we are stronger than ever? Together?
- Can we read a book together or watch the Gottman presentation on rebuilding trust?
- How can we encourage each other to not give up?
When your questions change, your healing begins.
What healthy questions do you need to be asking right now?
You can do this. Healthy questions bring healthy answers.
Healthy answers begin great healing!
3. Speak what you want and need into existence.
We know from extensive research on the brain, that we speak our lives, our outcomes, our destinies into existence.
Our words matter. They matter because they affect the brains of others. But they matter for us, because they set our brains into motion, our RAS (reticular activating systems) into E-motion, to bring to pass what we speak.
She almost gasped, “Oh my God, I have spoken shame into him, divorce over our marriage, and destruction to our family with what I’ve said over the past few days.”
As she had the realization, bitter tears began to pour out.
I gently responded, “We all get off track at moments. We forget who we are, and what we stand for. But it’s not too late. You can make what you said null and void and speak something different into existence.”
“Can I really…I mean, is that the truth…Is it just your hope…Or is there evidence from research,” She asked desperately?
I affirmed her for asking better questions, and then assured her, “Research shows that when our brains hear our voice, they react and grasp what is being said more strongly than to anybody else’s voice.”
This is where the power of proclamation comes in.
I shared with her, “At moments such as these, when we feel powerless and out of control … these are not the moments when we are completely motivated from our toes to write a life altering power proclamation.”
She nodded in agreement, but I could see by the curious expression on her face that she was ready to tackle it.
I began, “What is it that you really want? And need? For just a moment, lay aside your hurt, your disappointment, your anger, and reach beyond that. Even if it requires a miracle, it’s OK to reach there. Even if you feel like you cannot possibly make the miracle happen.”
I paused and then said, “And remember that miracles aren’t up to you anyway!”
I could see her calm right before my eyes.
Ask yourself the same question, “What do I really want?” Often, it’s very helpful and productive to have someone you trust help you with this.
Many of you have heard me tell the story about my dear friend, Vikki Burke, teaching this concept to me.
It was such a powerful experience that I remember not only where we were (the Cracker Barrel in Grand Prairie, Texas), I also remember the pair of jeans and the blue shirt I had on. But far more importantly, I remember what it felt like when gently, but firmly, she asked the question again and again, “What do you really want? What do you really need?”
I needed help even knowing the answer to that, but she walked with me patiently, as if there were nothing more important than helping me write my proclamation. (I know now that she was facing tight book deadlines and had speaking engagements to prepare for)!
After several rounds of questioning about what my client really wanted, she left with this short, but powerful proclamation.
I welcome my husband to return to the wonderful man he is when he is sober. I pray for him to be passionately determined. I declare our marriage will be better than we ever dreamed possible. We will heal and use this horrible moment in our marriage to mentor other couples through their unfortunate moments. I believe that God can pick us up, brush us off, and turn us both into the amazing version of ourselves he created us to be.
Write your proclamation. Speak it out. Multiple times daily.
Reading it is good, but reading silently does not create what you are wanting.
Write yours. Get help if you need it. But be determined that you will speak something powerful into existence.
Then speak it!
Speak it loudly!
Speak it boldly!
Speak it powerfully!
Speak it with faith!
My belief is that when we learn these 3 things and make them a strong habit and practice in our lives, positive wonderful things happen to reinforce our efforts.
Just this week, I was able to see my good friend, Vikki Burke.
I had written in a recent blog about my dream to move into a house on the beach.
After many years of ministry, which continues, she has taken up a new creative outlet. Painting. She’s created amazing pieces of work.
At the end of our visit, she handed me a beautiful sparkly bag, and I pulled out a stunning painting of a boy in the waves on a beach.
Little did she know, because I had not shared it, that I have had a couple of difficult weeks. Long, but rewarding work hours. Challenges that seemed to be pushing my dream of living on the beach even further away. Moments of tremendous sadness and grief.
Not only was I touched by the beautiful, captivating scene that had flowed from her heart, through her hands and on to the canvas, but I turned the painting over to read the words: “To Neecie. To keep the vision of your beach house alive! 2022!”
Coincidence? Not in my mind.
I had taken my thoughts captive, I had asked good questions, and I had written a new little proclamation. And then, this moment of assurance and reward from a dear friend.
For me, it was a moment of hope, a moment of being seen, and heard, a moment from God.
(Note…Our brains are charged with electricity! And when we come from a past that’s traumatized our basic rightful need for love, these electrical pulses coursing our brains, are turned into a jumbled maze of misdirected/misfiring neural circuits distorting our ability to think and choose wisely/abundantly. But that exact ‘DNA structured energy source’ is now coursing our brains. Waiting for you/me/we to unravel these trauma-based signals from the past and rewire them into the thoughts that you/me/we were meant to know and have…and create our abundant life!)
Practice these things in your distressing moments and in them…
You will find love …
You will find hope …
You will find God there.
“I’ve come that you might have life and life more abundant.”