Right or Happy . . . or Facing Conflict . . . isn’t that a Contradiction?

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions . . .”

– Joni Mitchell


As I said in my last post, being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is a difficult thing to do for most of us.  But as Maddie pointed out in a comment from my last post:  You have blogged in the past – “Would you rather be right or happy?” This post seems to contradict that. Does it?

I don’t see the two as being contradictory or exclusive.  I have learned to stand up for myself, learned to be willing to disagree, to not just “paper-over the conflicts as I used to in my old ‘peace-maker’ days” as Rosalie so aptly put it. But I have also learned that it is sometimes ok to let things go and not push doggedly to be RIGHT above all else, at the expense of harmony in a relationship. I think of that kind of right as the “Ego Right.”

The idea of being right or happy comes from A Course in Miracles.

The main benefit I see in correctly interpreting “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” is that it allows the line to be a challenge to our egoic insistence on being right at the expense of real rightness and of our happiness. Stubbornly clinging to a wrong position no matter how much pain it causes us is a virtually universal human phenomenon. This line is both a challenge to us to seriously question our way of seeing things and an invitation to accept a new way of seeing things that is both right and happy.

This also reminds me a bit of The Serenity Prayer –

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;  courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t see that as a Christian prayer so much as asking that part of me that is beyond my Ego, to have courage to face conflict, be willing to disagree, but to also accept some things and some people and not try to change them so I can be right.  It is subtle sometimes, but not a contradiction in my opinion,  just perhaps seeing things from Both Sides Now!

 

 

Thank you Maddie and Rosalie for taking the time to comment on my last post, it prompted me to think through this and clarify it for myself. Please tell me about how you have learned to balance this subtle difference.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Willing to Disagree and Facing Conflict

“The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.”

– Napoleon Bonaparte


Being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is difficult to do for most of us. I can say for myself, it used to terrify me.  I was the peace-maker in my family, the one who tried to make everything OK when anyone in my family was arguing (and trust me, there was a lot of arguing in my family!)  And when my husband, Jeff and I used to argue, it terrified me.  My fear of abandonment surfaced and I shrank.  The fact that Jeff is about 6′ 2″ and I’m just over 5′ added to the whole paradigm of shrinking back.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t give into every whim, but I didn’t like to face the conflict and sort through the disagreement.  My usual MO was to punish with silence, to walk away and not talk and make him suffer (yes I know, not the most mature approach!)  But as I said, conflict terrified me and I did not like being around people who disagreed with me.

It was only after years of therapy and reading lots of books that I came to value myself enough to not fear standing my ground.  And by realizing that I would survive fine without Jeff,  my fear of abandonment started to dissapate, and I became stronger in my willingness to face conflict head on, and as a result, our relationship grew stronger.

I’m not that afraid of conflict anymore, and this brings a delicious freedom.  I don’t necessarily go looking for an argument, but as a 50+ year old woman, I am pretty good at standing my own ground now!

So it was with great interest that I listened to Margaret Heffernan in this fascinating TED Talk, Dare to Disagree.  She describes constructive conflict as a fantastic model of collaboration: thinking partners who aren’t echo chambers.

“So what does that kind of constructive conflict require? Well, first of all . . . it means we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves, and it means we have to  find ways to engage with them. That requires a lot of patience and a lot of energy. And the more I’ve thought about this, the more I think, really, that that’s a kind of love. Because you simply won’t commit that kind of energy and time if you don’t really care.”

I love that statement that we have to resist the neurobiological drive, which means that we really prefer people mostly like ourselves.  It’s true, we usually surround ourselves with people who agree with us and show disdain for those who do not.  But in reality, as Heffernan points out, conflict often leads to creativity:

“Yes, there was a lot of conflict and debate and argument, but that allowed everyone around the table to be creative, to solve the problem.”

I agree with Heffernan, we must be willing to disagree with each other, to face conflict and work through it.  In this TED talk she explains the importance of disagreement in organizations and globally. But for me, I can only confirm how liberating it is personally.  As Napoleon points out – the people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know. Daring to disagree takes courage, but in my opinion, it is essential.

 

 

Please tell me about the times you have dared to disagree.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Staying Present . . . even on an emotional roller coaster

“If you hold back on emotions—if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them—you can never get beyond them, you’re too busy being afraid.”

– Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie)


The past couple of weeks have been incredibly emotional. My husband, Jeff left for a year to work with The British Council doing teacher training in Borneo!  Working with developing countries in the field of education has been a goal of Jeff’s for many years, a goal he put off to be present with his family, be a good partner, be a good dad, be responsible.  So for the most part, I’m thrilled for Jeff!  It’s going to be a fantastic year for him, amazing experiences, a great job, etc. AND, I’m bereft and in pain.  In the weeks leading up to Jeff  leaving, I was blown away at the emotions flowing through me.  And I’m so grateful that I’ve done the work I’ve done regarding my own personal growth, so I could be present with the intense emotional roller coaster.  Often, I would be doing something quite mundane, and suddenly I was overwhelmed with sadness and I would sob and feel intense grief just flood me.  But the interesting thing is when I was present to it, allowed the sadness and tears to overtake me, the emotions would rush through me, in waves, then dissipate and be gone.  Whereas when I tried to push them away, and stay “in control” and try to cover them up and stay busy, I would get a knot in my stomach, feel sick and feel overwhelmed and completely drained.  It was only by letting the emotions come, when they came and flow through me that I was able to keep going.

Emotions are fascinating to me.  To think that they are just part of our brain chemistry is a weird thing to get my head around. Neuroscientist and inventor Christopher deCharms does an interesting short TED talk where he demonstrates a new way to use fMRI to show brain activity — thoughts, emotions, pain — while it is happening. In other words, you can actually see how you feel!  Kind of an interesting way to look at it.  I’m not sure what would happen to those brain waves and chemicals that become our emotions if we try to push them away and pretend they are not there.  But from my experience, I know in my body, it is not good to struggle against my emotions.  When I allow them, they move through me fluidly and I can stay somewhat sane!  When I deny them, I get sick and feel crazy.  And that is a good enough reason to stay emotional for me.

 

 

Please let me know what how you deal with emotional roller coasters.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

How to Resist Hate

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”

– Maya Angelou


Listening to the news, reading the papers, I am often overcome with grief, and wonder how the human race has sunk so low?  How can we possibly begin to repair the damage we have created. How do we deal with a bully without becoming a thug? How do we resist hatred? One thing is for sure, as Maya Angelou proclaims hate has not solved one problem yet!

Scilla Elworthy is the founder and director of Peace Direct.  She discusses this idea eloquently in her talk Fighting with Non-Violence.  She believes that there are a few methods that do work to resist hate:

  1. The change that has to take place, must take place inside me first.  My own response is the only thing I can do anything about. And I must develop self-knowledge to do that. Elworthy believes that meditation is one of the best ways to develop that self-knowledge.
  2. Mastery of Fear – her mantra: “My Fear grows fat on the energy I feed it.”
  3. Using Anger as an effective fuel – If we can use our anger to fuel us, to empower us instead of control us, we can make real change. It is ok to be angry with the thing that is happening, but hopeless to be angry at the people.
  4. Change now happens bottom up, or “grassroots” – Working together and cooperating with others
  5. Using violence to change things is not only less humane, but less effective.  Methods that connect people work.  We need connection and unity.
  6. Courage and Committment

I think Elworthy’s Ted talk is hopeful and inspirational.  I encourage you to take time to watch it.

 

I hope you enjoy listening to Scilla Elworthy.  And I’d love to hear about how you resist hate.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

More on being right or being happy . . .

“Do you prefer that you be right or happy?”

– A Course in Miracles


It’s been very interesting – I have received so many emails, Facebook comments, Twitters and personal conversations about my last post – Right or Happy?  Not always an easy decision.  It seems to have touched a chord in many people.  As a matter of fact, one article claims that this is the most quoted line from A Course in Miracles.

Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” This is surely one of the most frequently quoted lines in the Course, especially when Course students are engaged in a debate of some sort. When someone expresses a strong conviction—a belief that he or she is right about something—this line is often used to suggest that being right and being happy are mutually exclusive. You can either stand up for what you believe is right or you can be happy. There is no way you can be bothright and happy; this line from the Course says that you must give up any and all desire to be right in order to be happy. It has become a part of Course lore that we can be right or we can be happy, and never the twain shall meet.”

I don’t know if that’s true, that never the twain shall meet.  But I’ve talked to so many people in the last week who claim that this was the main cause of their divorce or separation from a loved one.  I know that when Jeff and I get in arguments, we usually back ourselves into our separate corners and argue our point, trying in vain to prove we are right.  Just as an aside, I’m about 5 foot tall and Jeff is over 6 foot tall.  We had a counselor once who suggested I stand on a chair when we argue to even us up so I don’t have to look up to him when trying to prove my point.  That one act, standing on a chair, usually helps to end the argument, not necessarily so I can argue my point better, but because it makes us laugh! And this eases the way for us to come out of the respective corners that we’ve been backed ourselves into and start to communicate differently. A sense of humor makes all the difference in the world.

There is an inspiring article about being right or happy on one of my favorite blogs, Positively Positive. Well worth a read.

This little video about being right or happy is kind of fun.  (The video ended up being an advertisement for starting your own business, which I’m not advocating, but the beginning of the vid is fun anyway.)

 

 

I’d love to hear about your experiences being Right or Happy.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

Thoughts on Forgiveness

“Having looked the beast in the eye, having asked and received forgiveness … let us shut the door on the past, not to forget it, but to allow it not to imprison us.”

– Desmond Tutu


I recently watched a good film called Red Dust.  It wasn’t a great film in terms of award winning cinematography etc.  But it was very good because of it’s thought provoking ideas.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0388364/

It told the story of one man’s involvement in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In 1995, one year after the end of the era of apartheid in South Africa, the Government of National Unity under president Nelson Mandela set up the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Former government security forces wanted assurance that they would never be prosecuted for human rights abuses and violations they committed under the white rule during apartheid.

For seven years the commission travelled through South Africa to help people dealing with violence and human rights abuses that happened in the past. People committing such crimes – including torture and murder – could file an amnesty application to the TRC. In hearings the Amnesty Committee offered amnesty only to those who publicly confessed all their crimes.

http://www.filmrezension.de/dossier/dossier_south%20africa/Red_Dust_Neumann.pdf

I am well aware that it is infinitely healthier to forgive than to hold onto resentment.   I have read about forgiveness time and time again, and know that forgiveness helps build healthier relationships, leads to less stress, can help lower blood pressure, leads to relief from depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and can even lower the risk of alcohol and substance abuse. And in theory, I am totally supportive of forgiveness.  But watching the movie Red Dust, I had to wonder if I could be as forgiving in practice as I would like to think of myself in theory.  When I watched the parents whose son was brutally beaten and killed by a policeman during Apartheid react to the news that that policeman was asking for amnesty for his crime, I wondered could I really forgive such brutality if it were done to my own son?  I pray I never have to find out.

This inspiring video is about a woman, Wilma Derksen, a mother who speaks on forgiveness, who embodies forgiveness.

Please let me know your thoughts on this TED Talk video, and any thoughts you have on Forgiveness.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Moving past Woundology toward Authentic Self

“Your biography becomes your biology.”

– Caroline Myss


Caroline Myss is a tour de force!  She is indeed a force to be reckoned with.  I credit her with a big portion of my healing.  She became the teacher that helped me to move through  Woundology – and move toward Authentic Self.

I didn’t plan for these last few posts to be a series, but they seem to have become that – a series exploring my teachers.

Shakti Gawain opened my eyes – helped wake me up and got me started on my path.
John Bradshaw helped me dig through the depths in the middle of my work
And Caroline Myss helped launch me out of the depths of my woundology and onto my path toward Authentic Self.
Caroline Myss coined the term “woundology” to describe how some people define themselves by their physical, emotional, or social wounds.  In Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can, Myss writes that many people hoping to heal “are striving to confront their wounds, valiantly working to bring meaning to terrible past experiences and traumas, and exercising compassionate understanding of others who share their wounds. But they are not healing. They have redefined their lives around their wounds and the process of accepting them. They are not working to get beyond their wounds. In fact, they are stuck in their wounds.” ( http://bolstablog.wordpress.com/2008/12/28/woundology/ )
I never planned to stay stuck in my woundolgy, I don’t think anyone does this consciously. I had to really pay attention to my inner dialogue, my conversations and my day to day focus to realize I was stuck.  I had to focus on changing my inner loop of thoughts.  As Mike Dooley points out daily in Notes From the Universe ( http://www.tut.com/ )
“Thoughts Are Things.  Choose Good Ones!”
So I invite all of you, pay attention to where your focus lies.  Is it on your wounds or the life in front of you?
I’ll close this post with one of my favorite videos of Caroline Myss.  It is a longer video, in 8 parts, but if you can make the time, it is well worth watching.

Please let me know your thoughts on the Caroline Myss video.  And I’d love to hear about your own journey toward Authentic Self.

As always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Moving toward Authentic Self

“Our sadness is an energy we discharge in order to heal . . . Sadness is painful. We try to avoid it. Actually discharging sadness releases the energy involved in our emotional pain.  To hold it in is to freeze the pain within us.”

– John Bradshaw


I’m incredibly fortunate in that I get to work with my best friend.  We run workshops together through a charitable trust called Figjam Workshops.  I love my work!

http://www.figjamworkshops.co.nz/home

Part of what I really enjoy, aside from the facilitation which is wonderful, are the long drives to and from the workshops, where Deb and I drink coffee and have long, deep conversations.  On Friday, on the way home from a workshop, Deb and I were talking about Authentic Self; about healing old wounds, about dealing with old, deep trauma and abuse – about doing the deep work – the work to move from being stuck to finding one’s Authentic Self.  We both agree that doing one’s personal growth work is essential to one’s well-being.

And because Deb is a good friend and we trust each other, she felt safe enough to challenge me a bit, and I felt safe enough to listen.  She asked me about some of my posts on this blog.  She said that I make it sound like “being happy” is the answer, that all one has to do is decide to be happy and everything will be better.   She said in her opinion it sounded like I was saying just act happy, maybe journal a bit and everything will be OK.  And after looking over some of my past posts, I see she is right and I don’t feel like I am honoring Authentic Self.  I want to state here and now that I believe that any of us with past emotional scaring, trauma, or abuse need to acknowledge it and do the work.  Staying stuck, staying in denial and pretending that everything is just wonderful is not helpful.   Pasting on a smile and saying I will just be positive when the pain inside is unbearable does not work.

In my previous post,   Who Was Your Teacher:

https://patticlark.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/who-was-your-teacher/

I talked about finally getting to the point where partying and alcohol were no longer enough to numb the pain.  I was lucky enough to have a sister who cared enough to talk to me about her path and pass on a transformational book called Creative Visualization.  Yes I did read that book, and yes it did help me begin my journey.  But it is important to say that then I spent many years doing my own work.  I went to one on one counselling, I did psychodrama groups, I did group counselling and I went to more personal growth workshops than I can count.  I did deep, deep work. Most of it was not fun and a lot of the work was very painful, but all of it helped move me forward on my path.  I was and still am committed to growing and not staying stuck.

In order to make changes in the present and not stay stuck, we have to look at the past and understand what led us to our current situation. We need to work through and move through our feelings of pain and loss in order to move on. Please understand I am absolutely and positively a believer in Positive Psychology and finding happiness.  But it must be Authentic Happiness.  And in my opinion Authentic Happiness can only be obtained when we have done our work and touched our Authentic Self.

A great teacher and author who helped me move through a lot of my own past feelings of pain and loss is John Bradshaw.  I have included a video here of John Bradshaw on the Oprah Show.

 

 

Please let me know what you thought of John Bradshaw on Oprah.  And I’d love to hear about how you move toward Authentic Self.

As always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.