Saturday, June 4, 2011

An Exercise in Free Association

An exercise in Free Association.
Hope, Love, Forgiveness, Action, Laughter, Peace, Enthusiasm, Energy, Attitude, Direction, Power, Spirit, Earth, Other, Connection, Time, Health, Relationship, Friend, Community, Quality etc.

Reflections of the past few months helped me create this feature article. I found myself sitting here looking at my to do list and wondering where in the world will I get the time to get all of this done. Then I looked at my list and realized there was not much on the list that I wanted to do and that is why I was just staring at it. I cajoled myself by reminding myself how much better I would feel if I just knocked out one or two things from the list. I dutifully did that, came back to the list, and saw all of the things that I had yet to do. I realized I had spun myself up in a knot by looking at my limitations and not at my accomplishments. Geez my critical voice became even louder, chastising me for being so negative and critical. I allowed that voice to ramble on and on in its self-defeating, provocative discourse of what a negative slug I had become. Finally, as in any abused situation I know I had a choice. I could roll over and agree with the voice, I could fight back, or I could get up and leave. I don’t know about you but I have never….never ever won an argument with a critic whether that be my internal critic or the multiple external critics in my environment. I also knew I did not want to roll over and agree with the critic because after ten minutes of the critic’s diatribe, I did know beyond any doubt that my critic was a liar. Those cursive words of always, never, should, could, failures were clearly lies. However, by that time I was just tired. Therefore, out of the three options that I could identify, I got up and left. Yep. I left my critic, my to do list, shook my head, shook my body as to shake free of its shackles and got in my car and went to Starbucks. I ordered my ice coffee and sat. I had no journal to force myself to be productive. I left my I-Phone at the office. I sat. I sipped. I breathed. I noticed. I practiced smiling. I thought about laughing. I took in the colors, smells, and noise all around me. I continued to breathe. I watched people talk and observed their level of happiness or non-happiness. I looked with envy as the medical students pounded away in their books. I remembered what it was like to be in school, to be free, to be excited about the next topic. I noticed myself relaxing. I felt my chest lighten. I found myself saying inside, “Life is Good.” A natural smile gently spread across my face. I felt different. I felt like I was doing something meaningful rather than calling the cable person or following up on a lost package. Life is Good. I was alive. At that moment of being, I was alive, conscious, and present. I finished my coffee. I got up and walked around the parking lot a bit, just noticing. I got in my car and drove back to my office. I looked the list and felt good. I can do these things. I can get them done. I just need awhile to be with myself and away from my internal taskmaster. I accomplished so much more than I ever thought possible. Yes, Life is Good. Take a break from the mundane. Shut down your multi-media, social networking, and go be with yourself doing nothing. You don’t have to meditate, do yoga, exercise, lift weights, or catch up with an old friend. Just be with yourself until you re-enter your body, the present, and realize Life is Good.

I was at a Continuing Education Seminar this morning listening to Dr. Loes speaking about pain, pain management and healing. One of the most important things that he shared was about how he saw the difference between pain and misery. He said,

“People with chronic pain may always have chronic pain, but that they do not have to be miserable about it.” He went on to delineate the difference between pain and emotional misery. Emotional misery is about what we choose to focus on and how we choose to continue to focus on that negative, woe is me feelings. Less, face it. Life is hard. It is hard for everyone at times. However, life is not hard all of the time in every category of our life. Emotional misery is where I was headed before I took my Starbucks Break. My list was still here when I returned but I was no longer miserable about it. Pain may not be able to be fully alleviated and may leave the person with some real disabilities in their body because of it; however, the misery does not have to go along with it all day every day. His topic returned me to the literature on positive psychology and I leave you with this thought. “It is not what happens to us that makes us who we are, it is what we do with what happens to us.” If you don’t like it, (whatever it is), stop complaining about it and take one-step toward positive change.

Free Association is the art of relaxing enough to let ideas freely float to your consciousness. I have provided you with a list of twenty-one words. Choose several from the list and write them on a piece of paper. Then after each word, write three words that first come to your mind when you think about your written word. For instance, if you chose the word HOPE: Strength, Encouragement, YES I Can are the first three words that come to my mind. Spend about 10 minutes doing this list. Notice if the list is more positive or negative. The direction of the list will give you some idea of whether you have worked your way into a rut. If you feel better when you are finished with this short exercise, then you are headed in the right direction. You brain cells are firing in such away to help you redirect your emotions into a positive direction. The goal is become a more positive person.

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