Category Archives: IDENTITY

Life After Sports: How To Successfully Make The Transition

The life of an elite athlete almost always requires of them to make extreme personal sacrifices in order to attain the fame, money, status, and glory that comes with reaching the pinnacle of their chosen sport.  When they arrive, though, athletes often feel as though the sacrifices were well worth it.  They’ve climbed the summit of Mt. Everest, and the view from up top is awe-inspiring.  In addition, they’ve had friends, family, and strangers alike cheering them along the way, giving them endless praise and adulation that makes them feel beloved, extraordinary, and special.  For these athletes, it’s impossible for them to imagine that their professional careers will come to a grinding halt one day, whether it is through age, injury or exhaustion.  Father time will make his presence known to all of them eventually.

Along the way, these athletes have trained extensively and rigorously for years, and their pursuit of greatness consumes the majority of their young lives.  For most of them, they’ve chosen to make financial sacrifices, moved away from their family and friends, cut romantic ties with people they’ve loved, given up on college and academic studies, etc.  They’ve come to believe that the ends will justify the means.  While this may be true for a very small group of elite athletes, the majority of athletes are simply ill-prepared for life after sports.  They simply never anticipated that the day when the buzz and adrenaline rush of competing would come to an end; they didn’t foresee that the limelight would grow dim and then dark and they would soon feel forgotten, empty, lost, and ill-equipped to thrive in a world that demands more than brawn, size, and amazing hand-eye coordination from its citizens.  They simply never imagined how the end of a sport’s career would induce dramatic changes in their personal, social, and occupational lives.  Like soldiers coming back from war, they too must transition back into society and reconstruct new lives and adjust themselves to a new life style.

Athletes that fail to prepare for life after their professional careers are over are often vulnerable to  feelings of anxiety, depression, and a despair that runs so deep that they even commit suicide.  They feel lost and rudderless, and they are also vulnerable to suffering from an identity crisis.  Take former tennis child prodigy and 3 time Grand Slam Champion Jennifer Capriati, for example.  When her career ended as a result of multiple injuries, she said, “When I stopped playing, that’s when all this came crumbling down.”  “If I don’t have tennis, who am I? What am I?  I was just alive because of this.  I’ve had to ask, well, who is Jennifer?  What if this is gone now?  I can’t live off of this the rest of my life.  I struggle with trying to like and love myself on a daily basis.”

image taken from tmottgogo.com

image taken from tmottgogo.com

Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard famously said, “Nothing could satisfy me outside the ring…There is nothing in life that can compare to becoming a world champion, having your hand raised in the moment of glory, with thousands, millions of people cheering you on.”  Not surprisingly, Leonard struggled in retirement, suffering from extreme bouts of depression and eventually making repeated comebacks that never amounted to much.

For some professional athletes, the pressure becomes all too encompassing, and over the years there have been a number of cases of athletes committing suicide following retirement from professional sport.  This includes the tragic story of Russian Judoka Elena Ivashchenko, who committed suicide following depression brought on by her failure to win gold at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Many people wonder out loud, “What leads retired professional athletes to spiral into depression after the rigorous training, pressure, competition, and glory days are behind them?”  Three answers come to mind.  First, professional athletes become overly identified with their role as elite athletes.  In turn, they become addicted to other’s recognition that they are physical specimens capable of achieving amazing feats in their chosen sport.  While they are in their athletic prime, they remain blissfully unaware that they have many other dimensions to their personality, much like a diamond has many facets to it.  As they become singularly focused on perfecting their role as an elite athlete, they’ve unwittingly allowed the other dimensions of their personality to atrophy.  When their playing days are done, they often feel emotionally or intellectually arrested; they don’t feel whole, well-rounded, and complete as human beings.  In turn, they often suffer from an identity issues or an identity crisis of some kind.

In addition to an athlete’s loss of identity, they often experience anxiety and depression after their professional career is over because they suffered from “Tunnel Vision Syndrome.”  They spent far too much time thinking only of training, competition, and results.  As they were competing, they were likely coddled and enabled to some degree by their handlers, so they didn’t have to acquire many of the basic life skills that their non-athlete counterparts did.  Without these skills, they aren’t prepared for the “real world” and they therefore miss out on countless career opportunities.  They’re no longer sure where to apply their focus, and they can no longer fill the void with the comfort that a rigorous training routine once gave them.

The third variable that may contribute to the anxiety and depression that professional athletes feel when their career is over may be due to biological factors.  It’s well known that exercise boosts serotonin in our brains, and serotonin is a chemical in the brain that is responsible for regulating our moods.  I imagine that when an athlete stops exercising, there may be a dramatic decrease in the serotonin levels in their brains, and they may consequently fall into a depression.  In addition to a decrease in serotonin, athletes may also experience a decrease in the amount of adrenaline and endorphins that pump through their brains after they stop exercising as often as they did before.

Fortunately, there are ways for elite athletes to reduce the chances of suffering anxiety or depression after they’ve retired from sports. Emma Vickers, who is currently taking an MSC in psychological well-being and mental health, noted that first and foremost, elite athletes must reduce their exclusive identification with their sports role and expand their self-identity to other parts of their personality as well as other pursuits.  I echo her sentiments.  Like her, I believe that elite athletes must   remember, for example that they are Mothers, Fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends as well.  In addition, they must be open to acquiring new skills and reinvent themselves as doctors, lawyers, businessmen, life coaches, etc.  When they pursue other careers with the same heart, soul, and dedication that they pursued their professional sports career, the chances are high that they will be very successful at whatever they choose to do.

As they discover interests and competencies for other activities that go beyond sports, they will realize that they are truly multifaceted and multidimensional beings.  I remember watching the famous snowboarder, Shawn White, give an interview after he failed to metal at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.  When he was asked what he planned on doing next with his life, he said that he was going to tour with his band and give a go at being a professional musician!!  Shawn White recalled how depressed and aimless he felt after he won the Gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Games, so he decided soon afterwards to become proficient at playing the guitar.  Apparently he’s a talented guitarist now, and he’s taking his band on the road to start an exciting new chapter in his life.

Photo taken from Rolling Stone Magazine

Photo taken from Rolling Stone Magazine

In addition to reducing their exclusive identification with their sports role and discovering new interests and competencies for awareness that extends beyond sports, I think it’s very important for former professional athletes to acquire stress management and time management skills.  Taking yoga classes, learning the art of mindfulness, practicing meditation, or hiring a life coach or Marriage and Family therapist are all great ways to achieve these skills.

Furthermore, I encourage professional athletes to maintain and/or cultivate strong relationships with their coaches, family members, friends, and managers who are sincerely interested in helping them to make their own personal growth a priority in their lives.  Even though elite athletes can be strong-willed and pride themselves on self-reliance, I strongly encourage them to allow others that they trust to support them in taking other avenues in life, keeping an open mind, and diversifying their sense of identity and expanding their sense of who they are and what they have to offer the world.

Finally, I would strongly encourage professional athletes to seek out the support and guidance of a Sports Psychologist to explore a wide range of adaptation techniques.  A Sports Psychologist can help an athlete to let go of their need to maintain the public’s perception of what they were when they were performing in their athletic prime.  A sports Psychologist can help them accept that they no longer have to be fitter, stronger, faster, and happier than everyone else; life doesn’t need to feel like a never-ending series of competitions.  They can cast aside their warrior mask and let go of any shame or embarrassment they feel around feeling vulnerable, and they can instead learn to embrace their own humanity.  They must come to realize that they are only human after all.

 

 

What Is Codependency?

photo by Christiemanning.com

photo by Christiemanning.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve been keenly aware of the fact that the term codependency has been around for almost four decades. Although it originally applied to spouses of alcoholics, first called co-alcoholics, it then became abundantly clear that family and friends also constituted a network of codependents whose lives centered around the alcoholic, or addict.  Researchers have since revealed that the characteristics of codependents were much more prevalent in the general population than had been imagined. In fact, they found that if you were raised in a dysfunctional family or had an ill parent, you’re likely codependent.

Dysfunctional families often include family members that are narcissistic, borderline, emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive,  passive, helpless, dependent, manipulative, enmeshed, dramatic,  and prone to martyrdom.  In this unsafe and chaotic environment, children never have the opportunity to develop a solid sense of themselves. Instead, they develop a list of characteristics or symptoms that include many common traits.  Before I present this list of symptoms to you, though, I want to credit Darlene Lancer, MFT, for putting together the bulk of what’s in the list below.  In doing my research on codependency, I found her list to be so clear and comprehensive that it seemed foolish for me to try and reinvent the wheel.  Never the less, throughout the list, I’ve added additional insights on the traits that characterize codependents to make your understanding of this phenomenon even clearer.

Incidentally, before reading through the list below, please bear in mind that most American families are dysfunctional, and therefore most people have some codependency traits!!  As a matter of fact, I would offer that most people have unwittingly entered into a codependent relationship at some point in their lives.  Therefore, if you recognize aspects of yourself in the list below, you can rest assured that you’re in the majority!!  In addition, if you worry that believe that you’re a codependent person or that you’re in a codependent relationship, there are ways to get treatment and reverse this trend.  I will happily list treatment options for you at the end of this blog.

Alas, the following is a list of symptoms of codependents.  You needn’t have all of them to qualify as codependent.

  • Low self-esteem.  Feeling that you’re not good enough or comparing yourself to others are signs of low self-esteem. The tricky thing about self-esteem is that some people think highly of themselves, but it’s only a disguise — they actually feel unlovable, fraudulent,  or inadequate. Underneath, usually hidden from consciousness, are feelings of shame.  Guilt and perfectionism often go along with low self-esteem. If everything is perfect, you don’t feel bad about yourself.
  • People-pleasing. It’s fine to want to please someone you care about, but codependents usually don’t think they have a choice. Saying “No” causes them anxiety. Some codependents have a hard time saying “No” to anyone. They go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people.  They usually engage in people-pleasing to seek acceptance and approval and to preserve their attachment to someone else; Their people-pleasing stems from their wish to keep their fears of imminent rejection and abandonment at bay.  Codependents who engage in people-pleasing often gravitate towards narcissists because they are all too willing to set aside his or her own needs to feed and fuel the narcissists ego. This gives the codependent a sense of purpose and a sense that they are needed, and codependents can’t stand the thought of being alone with no one needing them.
  • Poor boundaries.  Boundaries are sort of an imaginary line between you and others. It divides up what’s yours and somebody else’s, and that applies not only to your body, money, and belongings, but also to your feelings, thoughts and needs. That’s especially where codependents get into trouble. They have blurry or weak boundaries. Their poor boundaries often stem from their underdeveloped sense of self and their lack of individuation and differentiation from their family of origin. In turn, codependents often responsible for other people’s feelings and problems or blame their own on someone else. Some codependents have rigid boundaries. They are closed off and withdrawn, making it hard for other people to get close to them. Sometimes, people flip back and forth between having weak boundaries and having rigid ones.  When their boundaries are weak, codependents are willing to be victimized, abused, coerced, manipulated, etc.  When their boundaries are rigid, they may be too afraid of being victimized, enmeshed, or lost in yet another codependent relationship, and so they choose to withdraw become isolated from others.
  • Reactivity. A consequence of poor boundaries is that you react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. If someone says something you disagree with, you either believe it or become defensive. You absorb their words, because there’s no boundary. With a boundary, you’d realize it was just their opinion and not a reflection of you and not feel threatened by disagreements.
  • Care-taking. Another effect of poor boundaries is that if someone else has a problem, you want to help them to the point that you give up yourself. It’s natural to feel empathy and sympathy for someone, but codependents start putting other people ahead of themselves. In fact, they need to help and might feel rejected if another person doesn’t want help. Moreover, they keep trying to help and fix the other person, even when that person clearly isn’t taking their advice.
  • Control. Control helps codependents feel safe and secure. Everyone needs some control over events in their life. You wouldn’t want to live in constant uncertainty and chaos, but for codependents, control limits their ability to take risks and share their feelings. Sometimes they have an addiction that either helps them loosen up, like alcoholism, or helps them hold their feelings down, like workaholism, so that they don’t feel out of control. Codependents also need to control those close to them, because they need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. In fact, people-pleasing and care-taking can be used to control and manipulate people. Alternatively, codependents are bossy and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. This is a violation of someone else’s boundary.
  • Dysfunctional communication. Codependents have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs. Of course, if you don’t know what you think, feel or need, this becomes a problem. Other times, you know, but you won’t own up to your truth. You’re afraid to be truthful, because you don’t want to upset someone else. Instead of saying, “I don’t like that,” you might pretend that it’s okay or tell someone what to do. Communication becomes dishonest and confusing when you try to manipulate the other person out of fear of rejection or abandonment.
  • Obsessions. Codependents have a tendency to spend their time thinking about other people or relationships. This is caused by their dependency and anxieties and fears. They can also become obsessed when they think they’ve made or might make a “mistake.”  The assume that if they make a mistake, they will be cut-off, abandoned, or rejected.  Codependents often engage in mind reading, and presume to know that others are thinking poorly of them.  They are prone to projecting their own sense of worthlessness and fear of rejection onto others, and this in turn often becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy where the other person eventually does leave them!!  Sometimes codependents lapse into fantasy about how they’d like things to be or about someone they love as a way to avoid the pain of the present. This is one way to stay in denial, discussed below, but it keeps them from living their lives.
  • Dependency. Codependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves. As I’ve already mentioned before, they’re afraid of being rejected or abandoned, even if they can function on their own. Others need always to be in a relationship, because they feel depressed or lonely when they’re by themselves for too long. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even when the relationship is painful or abusive. They end up feeling trapped.
  • Denial. One of the problems people face in getting help for codependency is that they’re in denial about it, meaning that they don’t face their problem. Usually they think the problem is someone else or the situation. They either keep complaining or trying to fix the other person, or go from one relationship or job to another and never own up the fact that they have a problem. Codependents also deny their feelings and needs. Often, they don’t know what they’re feeling and are instead focused on what others are feeling. The same thing goes for their needs. They pay attention to other people’s needs and not their own. They might be in denial of their need for space and autonomy, for example. Although some codependents seem needy, others act like they’re self-sufficient when it comes to needing help. They won’t reach out and have trouble receiving. They are in denial of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy.
  • Problems with intimacy. By this I’m not referring to sex, although sexual dysfunction often is a reflection of an intimacy problem. I’m talking about being open and close with someone in an intimate relationship. Because of the shame and weak boundaries, you might fear that you’ll be judged, rejected, or left. On the other hand, you may fear being smothered in a relationship and losing your autonomy. You might deny your need for closeness and feel that your partner wants too much of your time; your partner complains that you’re unavailable, but he or she is denying his or her need for separateness.
  • Painful emotions. Codependency creates stress and leads to painful emotions. Shame and low self-esteem create anxiety and fear about being judged, rejected or abandoned; making mistakes; being a failure; feeling trapped by being close or being alone. The other symptoms lead to feelings of anger and resentment, depression, hopelessness, and despair. When the feelings are too much, you can feel numb.

In my experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve learned that when two people enter into a codependent relationship, they often enter into what is known as the Drama Triangle.  Imagine, if you will, the triangle below, and notice how at each of the three end points of the triangle are three separate roles that each codependent person in the relationship potentially plays at one time or another.  When each person in the relationship plays at least two out of these three roles often enough throughout the course of their relationship, it’s a tell tale sign that they’re in a codependent dynamic. These three habitual psychological roles include the following:  The Rescuer, the Victim, and the Persecutor.

photo by traumahealed.com

photo by traumahealed.com

The Rescuer, for example, plays the role of the care-taker, and he sees his partner as a victim in need of help.  He sets aside his own needs and becomes singularly focused on caring for his partner, who he believes is weak, helpless, wounded, and fragile.  The rescuer is not consciously aware, though, that by playing this part, he may be avoiding looking at his own anxiety, underlying feelings, absence of meaning in his life, hunger for a sense of identity and purpose, etc. In addition, he may be denying the sense of self-esteem and status he feels as he plays the role of rescuer nor the joy that comes with having someone depend on them. As he is rescuing his partner, his partner in turn is being treated as though she is a victim, incapable of caring for herself.  She is his damsel in distress, dependent on his heroic love, nurturing, and resources.  At first, his partner may welcome his wish to rescue her.  However, in time, she may come to feel smothered, and she may resent the tacit message that she is a victim who is unable to care for herself and therefore is in need of rescuing.  In turn, she may grow weary of his overbearing interventions and attempts to rescue her.  Soon she may grow more and more resentful of him, and she may finally lash out at him and reject his help all together.  In this moment, she has switched from playing the role of victim to playing the role of persecutor.  She feels angry, and she rejects his care-taking overtures and verbally accosts him instead.

In the aftermath of this confrontation, her caretaker may feel that his efforts to rescue her have gone unappreciated, and he may in turn feel very hurt.  Suddenly he finds himself playing the role of victim.  With his head bowed down and bent, he appears visibly wounded.  When the dust settles after this contentious fight, his persecuting lover may feel compelled to assume the role of rescuer again and make efforts to care for his hurt feelings.  If she doesn’t make this nurturing effort, he may take on the role of persecutor, and he will vent his anger and disgust at her for taking his rescuing overtures for granted.  In turn, she may feel victimized and wounded.  Seeing her in emotional distress, he may move away from playing the role of persecutor  and assume the role of her rescuer again.

Incidentally, Co-dependent relationships, of course, take on more patterns than just those presented above  in the Drama Triangle.  However, this dynamic is one that is very common among codependent couples and/or families.

Unfortunately, in my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve seen first hand how unresolved patters of codependency can lead to more serious problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, and other self-destructive and self-defeating behaviors.  People in codependent relationships are often more likely to attract further abuse from aggressive individuals, more likely to stay in stressful jobs or relationships, less likely to seek medical attention when needed, and are less likely to get promotions and tend to earl less money than those without codependency patterns.  In addition, for the codependent person who lacks a solid sense of self and feels like victim at times in his relationships coupled with feelings of  intense anxiety and a profound fear of rejection and/or abandonment, his or controlling ways can eventually turn violent.

The great news is that there are treatments and recovery paths for individuals, couples, and families that struggle with codependency.  Psychotherapy, Family Therapy, Group Therapy, Bibliotherapy,  Psycho-Education, Psychodrama,  Gestalt work, Hypnosis, EMDR, Assertiveness training, and support groups like Co-Dependents Anonymous ( CoDA) and AL-Anon are all powerful ways and places to go to overcome your codependency and feel happy, healthy, and whole again.

If you feel as though you’re a codependent person, stuck in a codependent relationship, or enmeshed and/or triangulated  in a codependent family system, please e-mail me or call me if you’d like help breaking free from this old pattern. As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I know of tools and techniques that can help you to feel more independent as well as learn how to participate in interdependent, reciprocal, and happy relationships instead.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.  I hope that you found it educational and informative.

Warmly,

John Boesky, LMFT

 

BEWARE THE EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS

Imgae taken from timesofmaldta.com

Image taken from timesofmaldta.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve learned from life experiences as well as from working with my clients that  life is inherently impermanent; nothing lasts forever.  Seasons come and go, youth gives way to old age, beauty gives way to wrinkles,  life gives way to death, and because everything eventually dies, all relationships come to an end.  A lot of us, however, turn a blind eye to how fleeting our lives are, and how ephemeral our good fortune is. We blissfully assume that the strong winds that we have at our backs will carry us forward for the rest of our lives. In addition, we become too attached or overly identified with these winds, and we believe that they represent the sum total of who we are. Gil Gronsdal, in a talk that he gave on Equanimity in 2004, referred to these winds as the “EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS.”  These winds include praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, and fame and disrepute.

As for the first of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, I believe that becoming overly invested in Praise can tend toward conceit, and it can also compel us to seek out external validation from others rather than look inward for internal validation.  This habit can feel very dis-empowering over the long haul, as our sense of self becomes more and more dependent on what other people say about us.

As for the second worldly wind, I believe that shouldering too much Blame can lead us to develop a shame-based sense of self. We are not the sum total of our mistakes.  I believe that we would make far better use of our time, energy, and resources if we tabled the blame and instead, with self-compassion and self-forgiveness, thought of ways to learn from our mistakes so that we can do things more effectively the next time around.

As for Success, the third of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  When I see my clients and people in general become too attached to their own successes, I notice that they become prone to becoming  arrogant, entitled, grandiose, and narcissistic.  Often times, what lurks beneath this inflated facade lies is a profound fear of failure or being exposed as frauds. They’ve become so attached to their success and defined by the trappings of it that they’re fear of falling off the mountain top paralyzes them with self-doubt, and soon enough their performances go down the tubes.

As for Failure, the fourth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  I believe that the  more we identify with failure, the more we feel intrinsically incompetent and inadequate.  Soon Failure becomes an integral part of our life story.  We see ourselves as the sum total of our life experiences  through this dark prism, and therefore we conclude that the winds of life have always gone against us.  This belief system often creates a victim mentality in us, and we walk around with a chip on our shoulders and/or have a contempt for other people  and/or have a deep-seeded contempt for ourselves.  For those who have become overly identified with failure, they’ve been unable to step back and recognize that although they’ve experienced failure, they never had to allow these experiences to define them as people. We are not, after all, our behaviors or our life experiences.  The essence of who we are transcends these fleeting moments.

As for Pleasure, the fifth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  I believe that the experience of pleasure is wonderful!!  However, when a person seeks personal pleasure only at the exclusion of everything else, his or life often lacks depth, connection, meaning, and purpose.

Reacting to Pain, the sixth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  When we experience pain, it’s our natural tendency to contract, resist the pain, and focus on it.  Unfortunately, when we resist our pain, the pain is likely to get worse.  In addition, when we focus on our pain, it tends to expand.  Although it seems incredibly counter-intuitive, the key to managing pain is to acknowledge its presence, welcome it, and be present with it.  In addition, practice the art of equanimity, equanimity arises from the power of observation, to see your pain with patience, understanding, and compassion.  Finally, remind yourself that you are not your pain; There is a soul or light inside of you that is separate from your pain and watch it from a distance, and when you learn how to do this, you pain will subside considerably for you.

As for Fame, the seventh of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve had the privilege of working with famous businessmen, businesswomen, actors, actresses, and professional athletes.  As a lay person, I’ve also watched the rise and fall of businessmen, politicians, actors, actresses, and professional athletes on television and read about it in the newspapers.  I imagine that you, like me, have all watched these famous people navigate their ways through the fame machine and come out the other side with a distorted sense of themselves and a warped world view.  In addition, many of them appear to me to be emaciated, ghostly, and like they’ve unnecessarily subjected themselves to multiple plastic surgeries while in their 20’s no less.  To me, these are clear signs that these “stars’ got lost somewhere in the darkness, and they lost their center of gravity.  In other words, they become imbalanced and, like a leaf carried away in no particular direction in one of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, they got caught up and then lost in the gravitational vortex of fame.

Finally, there is the eighth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, and that wind is the wind of  Disrepute.  When I’ve seen people fall into disrepute, they often feel deep shame and  feelings of personal despair and disgrace.  They’ve become so attached to standing atop a pedestal and being seen as larger than life that their fall from grace crushes their ego.  They’ve spend so much time cultivating a make believe image of perfection that being seen warts and all makes them want to crawl into a hole and hide forever.  Now they feel like leapers, exiled,  shunned, and  rejected from family, friends, and foes alike.  Often times the people who have fallen into disrepute are the very same people who once enjoyed the spoils of fame.  Just as their egos and identities became too attached to their fame, now their sense of selves have become too entangled with their broken reputation.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve found that there are many ways to avoid getting caught up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS.  The first antidote that comes to mind is having the wisdom to know that our sense of inner well-being is independent of the eight winds.  When we know this, we are more likely to remain on an even keel in their midst.  In addition, another piece of wisdom that can protect us from getting caught up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS is the awareness of the nature of impermanence.  The reality of life is that things change so quickly that we can’t hold onto anything.  Therefore, we must become masters at the art of letting go.  Letting go brings us peace of mind and equanimity.  As an old Buddhist saying goes, “let go, or be dragged.”

Another antidote to getting caught up in the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS is to develop the equanimity that arises from the power of observation; the ability to see without being caught by what we see.  Also, it’s incredibly important to learn how to see with patience and understanding. When well-developed, such power of observation gives rise to peace of mind, body, and spirit.  When we can observe the highs and lows of our lives from a grounded space, we feel rooted in the essence of who we  truly are.  In these moments, we remain centered in the middle of whatever is happening.  As the “Watcher” inside of us observes all that is going on around us, we remain palpably in touch with the strong presence of  inner calm, well being, balance, integrity, and confidence that  keeps us upright, like a ballast that keeps a ship upright in strong winds.

Other ways to remain balanced, grounded, unattached, and able to observe life’s EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS without being tossed about by them is to practice meditation, yoga, and to engage in any spiritual practice that is grounded in faith and wisdom.  Also, practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, seeing a capable Marriage and Family Therapist, Sports Psychology Consultant, life coach, NLP ( Tony Robbins Stuff) Practitioner, EMDR Practitioner, or turning to any resource that resonates with you and encourages you to cultivate calm and concentration as well as strengthens your sense of self will help to keep you grounded as the Eight Worldly Winds continue to draw people in and spit them out, just as they have for generations and generations.

In addition to practices and resources that I’ve already referenced, I’d also like to strongly encourage you to strive towards being impeccable with your word and having integrity with others so that you can walk into any room in any crowd of people and feel blameless, free from from the ghosts of blame, shame, guilt, and disrepute. When you don’t engage in gossip, it’s amazing how the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS look for new targets to descend down on.  Finally, I’d like to encourage you to focus on doing the very best that you can in your life; focus on your “Performance Scorecard,” not on your “Outcome Scorecard.”  If you’re identity is riding on your results, then you’re you’re more or less gambling day to day with your sense of well being, because your results are then dependent on variables that are often out of your hands. However, if you’re sense of well being and sense of self comes from achieving your performance goals, then you’re far more likely to feel confident and successful, regardless of the outcome of your efforts.  This is because you’ve taken care of matters that are within your control.

If you’re finding yourself swept up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, I want you to rest assured that you’re hardly alone. If you’ve grown weary, however, of twisting like a leaf out in the unpredictable winds and would like to learn how to return to your center and rediscover the essence of who you truly are again, then I want to invite you to e-mail me or give me call so that we can set up a time to visit in person.  I would enjoy that very much 🙂

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/Sports Psychology Consultant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BECOME THE WATCHER AND REALIZE YOUR FULL POTENTIAL

human soul

image taken from squidoo.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I used to hear spiritually inclined people say that we are “spiritual beings having human experiences” with skepticism and a touch of cynicism too.  I was more secular then, and I was convinced that I was defined by my mind, my body, and my emotions.  Heck, it was the world renown philosopher, Descartes, who once said, ” I think, therefore I am.”

Time and exposure to new thoughts about who we are as people have changed my perspective quite a lot over the last few years, though.  After reading  Tolle’s  The Power of Now, and after chatting with several mentors of mine, it’s dawned on me that we are not our minds, bodies, or emotions after all.  Our Egoic minds, for example,  are actually quite primitive,  and they’re prone to cognitive distortions, storytelling, generalizing, black and white thinking, and propagating lies.  This is how come Zen masters call our minds “Monkey Minds”, because they’re prone to making messes and creating chaos.  Our Monkey Minds are trouble makers, and they often spew out lies about ourselves and others that damage our self-esteem and create disconnection with others.

If we were really our minds, then how come we’re able to step back from our thoughts and examine them, challenge them, explore them, etc.  In addition, how come we can go about changing our minds and still remain who we are.  No, we are not our minds nor are we our thoughts.  Our minds ( when they’re functioning optimally) are merely powerful tools that we can use to problem solve,  make good decisions, etc.

In addition to not being our minds, we are also not our bodies.  If you take our legs away, for example, we still exist, don’t we?  There have even been people who have literally flat lined and died on hospital gurneys who have come back to life hours later able to recall everything that took place in the operating room during and after they were declared dead.  These people generally say that while they were dead they took on spiritual forms and were able to watch their lifeless bodies and hear what the doctors and nurses were saying to each as they were being pronounced dead. In light of these happenings, it’s become clear to me that we are not our bodies either.  Like our minds, our bodies are tools as well.  They help us to move, play, etc.

Finally, we are not our emotions and their accompanying sensations.  This is because our emotions always have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  We don’t vanish or perish when one of our emotions dissipates and goes away.  In addition, how can we be our emotions if we’re able to step back from them  and watch our emotions with curiosity, awe, and wonder.  This is precisely what people do when they practice mindfulness and meditation.  They notice their emotions and observe them.  Sometimes the feelings intensify, and sometimes they soften and fade away. Emotions, like our minds and bodies, can serve as useful tools as well.

Instead, we are the Watcher that peacefully resides in each and every one of us.  The Watcher has many names. It has been called our Soul, our Essence, our CEO, our King or Queen, our Highest Self, our Light, etc.  The Watcher has also been described as being timeless, perfect, whole, and complete.

When the Watcher in us is in a resourceful state, brimming over with compassion, unconditional love, and unconditional acceptance  for ourselves and others, it is able to access the deepest truths that we hold about ourselves.  Some say that the Watcher is receiving our deepest truths from a Higher Power, the Universe, the Super Conscious, the Source from which all life comes, or from God himself.

Others who are less spiritually inclined might say that the Watcher represents the Essence of who we truly are deep inside:  Inherently good, wise, forgiving, non-judgmental, unconditionally loving and  accepting, intuitive, and discerning.  For them, the Watcher is able to see things as they truly are.  If their more primitive Egoic minds trick them into believing, for example, that they’re unlovable or inadequate, the Watcher in them knows better and can remind them of their deeper truths:  They’re deeply lovable and very worthwhile.

If you tend to get swept away by your thoughts and get overwhelmed by the lies that your Monkey Mind is relaying to you,  it’s high time that you learn how to access the Watcher inside of you and get in touch with the deepest truths about you really are.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have a specific experiential exercise that I teach my clients that helps them to effortlessly tune out the lies that are being propagated by their minds.  In addition, my clients are able to worry less and less about their body image and their bodily aches and pains.  Finally, my clients rarely feel  paralyzed by their emotions, and they no longer feel as though they are drowning inside of them.

My Deepest Truth Exercise is very powerful and life-changing.  Last night, for example, in my Men’s group, a man originally heard his Egoic mind tell him that he’s unlovable, and by the time the group exercise was over, tears welled up in his eyes as he  shared with the rest of us that his deepest truth is that he’s lovable, a great father, and a great friend.  A week ago, a woman in my co-ed group originally received the false message from her Egoic mind that she is invisible, and that no one cares to know who she truly is.  After accessing the Watcher and listening for her deepest truth, she shared with the men and women in our group that her deepest truth is that many people do see her and appreciate her.  In particular, she told us that people often share with her that they see how much she cares about others, and they really appreciate how big a heart she’s got.

If you want to learn how to access the Watcher, become acquainted with the deepest truths of who you really are, and realize your full potential, please call me or email me to arrange a time to meet with me in person.  In the meantime,  kindly remember:  You are not your mind, body, or emotions.  Instead, you are the Watcher, the Soul, the CEO, the King or Queen, and/or the Light that resides within you.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post.  I hope that you found it thought-provoking and helpful!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT

 

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ARE YOU TED OR JOHN?

Identical Twins

Image from codyfs07.blogspotcom

When I was boy, I was enmeshed with my identical twin brother, Ted.  Our identities were intertwined, wrapped among and around each other’s, like formless vines interlaced around the trunk of a tree.  My Mother encouraged us to dress alike, and my father encouraged us to have the same friends.  And our friends didn’t really think that we needed their friendship anyways because after all, we were each other’s best friends.  They would often wonder out loud how cool it must be to be born with a best friend, a partner in crime, etc.  Very few people could tell us apart.  And it often seemed to me that people didn’t really care who was who.  In fact, not knowing which one was which was part of the fun!  The bottom line, it seemed, was that Ted and I were both pretty good guys.  We were both nice enough, smart enough, athletic enough, and social enough.  We were so similar and harmless, it seemed, that people viewed us as interchangeable parts.  If Ted couldn’t come over for the weekend, they’d invite me instead.  And If I wasn’t around, they’d give a shout out to Ted.

The problem with being interchangeable with Ted was that no one really took the time to cultivate within me my own identity.  I didn’t occupy my own space in the world.  I didn’t know where I ended and he began.  Truth be told, I didn’t have a clue who I was.  Without anyone validating me or mirroring back to me my strengths, my gifts, my personality, and my character,  I was a stranger to myself.  So when I was around 12 years old or so, I started to model myself after my big twin brother, Ted.  He was, after all, 11 minutes older than me!!

Beginning in my mid-20’s, though,  I began to differentiate myself from Ted.  I set out on a quest to discover myself.  Today, as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I want to encourage everyone to take the time to discover yourself.  Discover who you are, what you believe, what you value, what you’re passionate about, and what makes you special and unique.  I believe that you have gifts that are uniquely yours, and it’s your inherent right to claim them.

Socrates once said, “The un-examined life is not worth living.”   He also said, “Know thyself.”  I couldn’t agree with him more.

John Boesky, LMFT