Posts Tagged ‘challenges’

A personal story: what I did when it felt like the deck of life was stacked against me

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

In this post, instead of writing about how to give yourself compassion and other things you can do to heal emotional pain and live well when you have a chronic illness, I’m going to write about a personal experience in which I experienced a lot of healing of my own emotional pain.

Earlier this month, my computer overheated, and without warming, shut itself off. I lost four or five sentences that I had written in a couple of files and hadn’t saved.

As computer mishaps go, it was a very minor one. But like most of us, I have experienced some major losses and upsets in my life, and the emotional pain from them must have gotten triggered, because I got very upset and angry. In fact, I got furious. I felt like God, for some reason, had it in for me and deliberately caused my computer to shutdown.

Now I know that isn’t true. Many years ago, He (note: I’m using He not because God is a he, but because the English language doesn’t have an appropriate pronoun), let me know, in a very profound and life-changing way, that He loves me and you and everyone unconditionally. But the knowledge from that wonderful communication wasn’t enough for me to stay calm during that unexpected experience.

When I get really upset from minor mishaps, I do two things. The first is to try to understand why I got so upset, and the second is to do my best to heal the emotional wound that got triggered so that it doesn’t get triggered the next time.

In this case, I was not able to clearly identify the cause of the trigger. But I was able to heal the wound. The healing that happened is hard to describe, but I will do my best. It occurred at a men’s group I attend. During the processing and healing part of the meeting, I chose one of the other men to play the role of God. While the two of us stood in the middle of the room, he acted like he really did have it in for me.

As I write this, I’m thinking it must sound kind of strange to a reader who wasn’t there. But the role playing made me feel like God really did have it in for me. It was a very painful experience. But then, and I can’t explain how it happened, I realized I was still standing and was really okay. Somehow I realized in that moment that God has given me the strength to get through the challenges life presents. And not only did He give me the strength to get through them, but He also gave me the desire to discover and do the things that bring me joy after I do get through them.

I hope this description, strange as it may sound, helps you get an idea of the healing I experienced.

And more than that, I hope that after reading it, you see how you have the strength to get through your challenges, and that no matter what your chronic illness and other challenges have been, you discover and do things that bring you joy.

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Tom Robinson is a life coach for people with chronic illnesses. You can sign up for his free 7 day e-course, Learn How to Raise Your Spirit – and Say Goodbye to Feeling Hopeless and Depressed.

How “watching” a movie can help you live a better life

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

I’m sure you’ve noticed that as you watch a movie, you find yourself caring about the protagonist because of the hardships she (or he) goes through. And you identify with her struggles, disappointments, and pain, and silently root for her to overcome her challenges, fulfill her mission, and realize her (or his) dreams.

The challenge of living with a serious chronic illness is at least as hard as the difficulties and obstacles the main characters in most movies have to overcome. If you were to watch a movie where the protagonist had to deal with symptoms like yours and do all the things you do to take care of yourself and the others in your life, I’m sure you would have a lot of empathy and want the best outcome possible for him or her – just as you would for the main character of a good movie.

In a very real sense, you are the leading character in a movie: your life. You do face major challenges because of your illness and symptoms. So I encourage you to care about and have at least as much empathy for yourself as you would for the actor or actress who portrayed a character like you in a movie. Not only do you deserve it, but when you do that, you will start to feel a lot better.

But there is something else besides learning to care more about and have more empathy for yourself that you can learn by imagining watching a movie about your life.

Here it is: When we watch a movie, we usually know more about what is going on than the main character does.

Because of that, there have been many times when I have known that the things he (or she) is saying and the actions he is taking will get him into trouble. I have wanted to tell him to stop and say or do something else. But of course, there has never been a time when the protagonist in a movie has been able to hear me.

But imagining watching a movie of our life is different. Doing that gives us a different perspective of our life, and often more wisdom, than our normal perspective and the wisdom we have as we live it. And we can use that perspective and wisdom to tell the main character what the best thing he or she can do to manage illness symptoms and live a much better life.

To summarize, what I am suggesting is that you imagine you are watching a movie of your life. You can imagine watching yourself as the main character, or you can imagine another actor playing that role. The movie has just gotten to today, and as a viewer of the movie, you have a sense of the best thing the actor can do next. And knowing that, you follow your own wisdom.

This technique works well because when we are able to detach ourselves from our situation, we can see options and ways to take care of ourselves and deal with our challenges that we can’t see otherwise.

Best wishes as you watch your own “movie” and have a much better life.

How to Make Good Decisions When You Have a Chronic Illness

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Every day, all of us have lots of decisions to make. When you have a chronic illness, many of those decisions involve which providers to see, which treatments to try, and things like that. So they can affect whether you get better or worse and many other aspects of your quality of life. So you definitely want to make those decisions good ones.

But it is often hard to make good decisions, especially when you’re struggling with a chronic illness. However, no matter what you’re struggling with or what is going on in your life, it is still possible to make them. In this post, I’m going to share with you a way to do that which works well for me.

I have found, both in my own life and from coaching hundreds of people during the past 10 years, that one of the main things that makes it hard for us to make good decisions is our feelings, especially the unpleasant ones, such as sadness, rejection, fear, etc. We don’t like having those feelings, so without even thinking about it, we automatically make decisions that allows us to avoid them. But those automatic decisions can often have a negative effect on our health and our quality of life.

Knowing that, one of the ways I make better decisions is to think of my mind as a room with windows at both ends and think of my feelings as scents in the air that blows through it. Looking at feelings that way, I’ve found that if I just notice and observe them coming into my mind—the way I would notice and observe scents–without getting caught up in them, the window at the back of the room stays open, and they pass through. But when I get caught up in and dwell on those feelings, the window at the back of the room closes. And I end up making more and more bad decisions in an attempt to either avoid them or pretend they’re not there.

So as I’ve said, I make much better decisions when I just notice and observe my feelings. I know you will too. But there is another benefit—a very big one–that comes from allowing the unpleasant feelings to pass right through the room rather than reacting to them. The more we practice allowing those unpleasant feeling to pass right through, the more our ability to do so increases. I have found and seen that as it does, the more confident we become that we can handle the many challenges that we all experience in our lives. And with that confidence comes a deeper and deeper sense of peace.

How You Are Isn’t As Important As How You Feel

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

If you are reading my blog, chances are you have a chronic illness. And if I asked you how you are, you would likely tell me that you’re sick, that you’re having a flare, that you’re in pain, or something like that. Because I’m a life coach for people with chronic illnesses, I have asked many people that question and have gotten many answers similar to the ones I just mentioned.

But when I ask people with chronic illnesses how they feel, I get answers that aren’t at all the same or similar. Some people say they feel bad, depressed, upset, or sad, while others say that they feel good, positive, grateful, optimistic, and things like that. I find myself wondering why some people with chronic illnesses feel good while others don’t, and wondering even more about what those who feel those negative emotions can do to feel more of the positive ones.

Before I continue, I want to say that I don’t consider it to be a sign of weakness for a person to feel bad or sad when he or she has a chronic illness. Since having a chronic illness very often means 1) living with pain and fatigue, 2) not being able to things that we enjoy and used to be able to do, and 3) not being able to explain to others what living with our illness is like so they understand it, it’s completely understandable that a person with a chronic illness would feel depressed, upset, etc.

But even though feeling negative emotions is understandable, I have no doubt that most of us who live with a chronic illness would choose to FEEL better if we could. And the truth is that we can. There are many things we can do – so many that I could write a book. Actually, I am writing a book, and I’ll let you know when it’s available so you can get it if you want to.

In the meantime, here are a couple of ways you can FEEL better even though you have a chronic illness and aren’t well:

The first is to recognize that feelings, including negative ones, are transitory. They come and they can go, but only if we let them. One thing you can do is to imagine that you’re a house, and that feelings come in with the wind through an open window. If the window on the other side of the house is closed, the feelings will stay, but if you visualize yourself opening that other window, the feelings will pass through and leave.

The second way is not for everyone, but many of you will find it very helpful. That is to schedule a time each day for negative feelings – for example, from 2:00 until 2:15 every afternoon. If you notice yourself having negative feelings before that time, just set them aside until then. And any negative feelings after 2:15 are to be set aside until the following afternoon.

While these ideas won’t directly improve your health, they can be a great help in lifting your feelings. I will share more ideas in a later post. If you would like some suggestions for your own challenges, you can sign up for one of the limited number of no cost introductory “How to Have a Better Life” coaching sessions I offer.

I’ll close by saying Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Holidays everyone!