Years ago, as part of a healing exercise, I asked my Mom to share one word that best described me as a child.
She paused for a moment and I pondered what sweet, child-appropriate adjective she might have to share about little me: Funny? Precocious? Cute?
“Fearful” is what she said.
Frankly, I had always considered myself to be somewhat adventurous – I’d lived on my own since the age of 16; founded, built and eventually sold a successful business; traveled the world; bought and sold properties, got married (and divorced) and raised two step-children. I faced my share of challenges along the way and I had learned and grown from each one.
My ego bristled a bit at the idea of being labeled ‘fearful’ and so I thanked my Mom and promptly moved right along without giving it another thought. However, as we have learned many times from Jonah: “That which was, is, until understood and healed.” So more than a decade later, as I consider what my next adventures may be, I find myself once again exploring how fear can impact our choices and what we experience in life.
Fear can be simply and broadly defined as the recognition or perception of danger. But the impact it can have on us, emotionally, mentally, and physically, can manifest in a seemingly unlimited spectrum of beliefs, intensities, intentions, and outcomes. And they can run DEEP….so much so that we don’t even realize that they are holding us back.
Here is an admission to kick us off into our exploration: this article is late. VERY VERY late. I have been endlessly changing the subject, revising and editing, changing the subject again, tweaking and finessing; and apologizing again and again for missing the deadline (and changing the subject)- more than once! The fact is, I enjoy sharing my experiences and also the process of writing, so why would I allow such a wonderful opportunity to wreak such emotional havoc on myself (and have some of that havoc spill over onto Tami, who has been waiting so patiently for me to get my act together and write the damn thing)?
Jonah warns us that ‘the greatest threat to the future ye desire is procrastination.’ So, why do so many of us slip into this energy so easily?
I shared with a therapist friend that I was losing sleep and beating myself up over my inability to organize and complete my thoughts on ANY topic and she turned to me and said, “well, you certainly aren’t lazy, I think you’re just SCARED.”
Procrastination is rooted in fear. Fear of failure, fear of judgment, fear of being perceived as less than perfect. Sprinkle in a little shame and off we go.
As you can see, my strategies for addressing procrastination thus far have not been very successful – but we are all a work in progress.
Some food for thought – my teacher, Hossca Harrison, suggests that a question to ask oneself when they are procrastinating is “Why did I choose today to deny my ability?” How would you answer?
Control, Chaos, and Taking Chances
Another common fear that has reared its ugly head throughout my life, and impacted my choices, is the fear of losing control. Many of us, as children, created patterns around a false belief that maintaining control of our environment would keep us safe.
Safety, and fear of survival, feature front and center in many of our fears.
The problem with needing to control what happens in the future, is that you need to be able to predict the future, and that can create an inordinate amount of stress and anxiety.
By definition, taking a chance means not being in control of the outcome. The kicker though is that not taking chances doesn’t give you more control at all – it just holds you in place and keeps you from creating what you desire.
Risk Vs. Reckless
Our brains do not make things easy for us. Firstly, they are programmed to make us think that the level of risk must correlate to the level of fear that we have around it. This is not true and makes calculating and planning for risk especially difficult to do.
Here’s an example – riding in a car brings with it a certain level of risk to your physical body. Public speaking on the other hand, unless you are speaking in the middle of an earthquake, carries a significantly lower level of physical risk while doing it, but to most people, generates a way bigger fear response than getting into a car for a ride. The actual risk and the perception of risk do not match.
In addition, our brains experience cognitive impact-bias, which is when we over-estimate the length or intensity of the emotional impact of a future event.
Lastly, based on past events and experiences, our brains can kick us into survival mode and try to convince us to play it safe (which is a recipe for depression).
So if the ONLY way to build our risk-taking muscle is by taking on challenges, how can we set ourselves up to do this without feeling like we are going to crash and burn?
Prepare – the more prepared you are the greater your chances for success and the greater your ability to see value if things don’t work out the way you envisioned.
Evaluate the evidence – what truly IS the worst thing that could happen? Is it really that bad? What can you learn from the experience? Run through all the possibilities before taking the leap.
Reframe – instead of focusing on reasons why not to do something, focus on the value of doing it
Don’t strive for perfection - excellence comes with practice – be ok with being ok (or not good at all) at something – you will only improve by doing it
Move away from all or nothing thinking – be ready to pivot as situations evolve and you could end up creating something different (and maybe even better!) than you had ever anticipated
Be in the moment – we fear risk because our brain tries to predict the future – enjoy the journey and don’t focus solely on the end result
Remember that the more we fail, the more quickly we learn to do it right the next time
Treat yourself with grace and patience no matter the outcome
As you do this more and more you will begin to see in hindsight that previous challenges were really not as difficult as they seemed in the moment, and you’ll begin to look at every new challenge as exactly what it is: an opportunity to learn and grow.
What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? When we truly honor ourselves and our abilities, it leaves no room for fear.
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The Universal Education Foundation is and has been dedicated to serving youth and families in an inclusive atmosphere for over 33 years. As we move forward, we are expanding our programs and our outreach to families in need. One way is to offer support groups. We are currently offering single parents and parents of teens groups. Through awareness and research, we felt these groups can provide a service to the community.
As of 2016, 23% of the United States children live with only their mother while 4% live with only their father. This translates to many single parents who, often times, need a level of emotional and friendly support.
Before we began our single parent support group, I searched online for any local groups that might be available for them already. There were not any that I could see, aside from churches (potentially).
Many churches offer some support to their single parents, but outside of a religious community, one might find little resources for emotional support. Even for those who participate in church activities, they may not want to share with other members of their congregation (especially if their ex-partner is in the same church). That may lead them and others to our support group.
Our current parent support group is offered one-two times per month in the evening at a local coffee shop. It is a space where parents can share their frustrations, fears, anxieties and triumphs. We currently have 73 local parents in our group, though only a handful attend regular meetings thus far. Our desire is to continue offering support and encouragement to those who are seeking it.
In some families, the difficulty is not in being a single parent, but in raising a teenager. This led to the creation of a support group for parents of teens (Helping Our Teens Navigate Adolescence).
Many of us can look back at our own youth and remember the challenges of our teen years. We have grown up and, many of us, are raising or have raised our own teens.
In our current society and technological advances, raising teens has not become easier. In fact, in many regards, it’s more difficult. Not only do many parents need to question their kids’ friends, but they’re also often times trying to limit their kids’ use of technology and video games and exposure to drugs, gangs, bullying and cyberbullying. Add that to an environment (food, pollution, medications, etc.) that is more toxic than it has been in the past.
Also, many more children are diagnosed with a mental or emotional difficulty than in the past. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2016, 9.4% (6.1 million) of children ages 2-17 have been diagnosed as having ADHD. Of that 9.4%, 2 out of 3 were also diagnosed with a mental, emotional and/or behavioral difficulty. Many children are prescribed medications with unknown (to them) consequences. Our population is growing, while its wisdom is not.
According to “the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), 4,822 youths, ages 15-24, died of suicide in 2011 in the United States” (HealthPlace.com). According to CDC, teen suicide rates continue to be on the rise.
It's becoming more common to read in the news of a teenager or pre-teen dying by suicide after having been bullied.
In addition to the risk of suicide, many youths are exposed to drugs, alcohol and gangs. Then there are many youths who do not engage in those behaviors but do carry much anger and/or anxiety.
The purpose, for the parents of teens group, is to reach out to parents/grandparents/caregivers who are raising teenagers and who are seeking support. At our most recent meeting, one mother discussed how her daughter had been extremely suicidal after having witnessed friends die by suicide. The mother commented that while there are resources for the youth, there are not many for the parents who are also struggling with anxiety and confusion.
At our first meeting (so far), each parent brought their own story of frustration and fear. One of the participants was a grandmother and she shared her fears surrounding her three teenage grandchildren.
At the end of our discussion, I left them with this statement: “Adolescence is temporary, guaranteed. What is not guaranteed is our relationship with our kids after they grow into their adult years. Our relationship with them is never guaranteed and needs to be nurtured. Offer consequences, yes. Have boundaries/guidelines in place, yes. Be strong and know when to say no. But do so with love.”
We look forward to growing our groups.
We also are offering a workshop for young adults: Establishing a Positive Support System. This workshop will be offered at various locations.
We still offer our Bullying Recovery workshop as needed.
The UEF is excited to expand its services to support youth and families in gaining optimal mental and emotional health in a time when dis-ease and pain are seen as normal.
All support groups and workshops are offered free to the public and no facilitators receive monetary compensation.
We thank everyone for their continued support whether it is through words of encouragement, sharing/liking our social media posts and/or through tax-deductible donations.
Our next newsletter, in June, will contain an article by one of our board members. Each quarter, we will send out a newsletter with an article written by a different person. We also hope to have our YouTube channel more active with videos by June as well. At that time, we'll be sharing our channel.
Tami Urbanek-president-workshop developer
Getting Rid of Rotten Fruit
The Tao of Rotten Fruit
When you take a piece of rotten fruit and place it beside perfectly good fruit, what happens? The mold from the rotten fruit spreads over the good fruit and both end up in green, fuzzy, icky mold on them. So, what happens when you surround yourself with toxic individuals? You become just like them.
Do you have a person in your life, where every time you encounter or hang out with them, you feel exhausted, emotionally drained negative? How do you identify toxic people?
Toxic People and Toxic Relationships
What are some characteristics of toxic people? Psychology Today identifies toxic individuals as:
1. Manipulative. These individuals use manipulation to get others to do what they want to do.
2. Judgmental. Their love, their friendship, their relationship with you is conditional. They use criticism to break you down and doubt yourself. Nothing is ever good enough, nothing is ever right.
3. They do not take responsibility for their own feelings or actions. These individuals tend to blame others for their mistakes, misfortunes, or even opinions.
4. They don’t apologize. Everything bad in their lives is someone else’s fault, therefore they don’t feel the need to apologize or own their behaviors. Instead, they blame the world or those around them for any wrongdoing.
5. They are inconsistent. They may change their perspective, attitude, and behavior depending on what they want to accomplish.
6. They make you prove yourself to them. These individuals make you prove your love, friendship and/or commitment to them. Often, they will create a situation forcing you to chose them over someone or something else, even to the point of requiring you to cut off other meaningful relationships to satisfy them.
7. They are not caring, supportive, or interested in what’s important to you. They are not interested in the good things that happen to you or what you think is important. Instead they may be jealous and belittle your achievements or shift the focus on them and their issues and problems. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-flux/201608/8-things-the-most-toxic-people-in-your-life-have-in-common
How to Shift the Pattern of Attracting Toxic People
The first step to getting rid of toxic people is first identifying a person or relationship as toxic. The second step is identifying how or why these individuals are in your life. There are no victims. If you have toxic people in your life that is because you have put them there. On the flipside, if you put them there, you can take them out or at the very least you can control how they impact you and your life.
Why do you have toxic individuals in your life?
Could this be because you are toxic? Do you identify with any of the characteristics above? Do you manipulate? Judge? Blame? Try to prove? Like energy attracts like energy. Even if you don’t engage in
these behaviors with others, do you do engage in these behaviors with yourself? Are you toxic to yourself? How you treat yourself is also how you let others treat you.
Identifying Patterns and Countering Beliefs
You can make a choice to remove a toxic person from your life, but that might not be feasible depending on who the person is, for example a family member, boss, or even your own child. Also, unless you change the patterns that are attracting toxic individuals, you can remove one toxic relationship only for it to be replaced with another toxic relationship. Identify which behaviors and thoughts that you engage in that are attracting negative people and relationships into your life. Once you identify the core behaviors and thoughts, then create counters for each one.
What is countering and how to do it?
The definition of counter is to “speak or act in opposition to”. For example, if a toxic individual wants to blame you for their bad mood or a mistake they made and you recognized that in the past you accepted their blame, then make a different choice. Refuse to engage in the negativity. The same can be said if you are the toxic person being toxic to yourself. If you find that you are judging yourself, then counter that behavior! Make a different choice that does not involve engaging in the painful behaviors.
We can’t change other people. We can’t make someone who is toxic, not toxic. We have no control over others or their behaviors or even how they may choose to treat us, but we do have control over the choices we make and the people we chose to be with. We do have control over how we treat ourselves and how we chose to live our lives. We all have the power to live a life of joy!
Tina Herring, board member-secretary-workshop developer