Avoiding Burnout

14 12 2010

I’m stressed, my internal two-year old is throwing a fit.  Not only can I not seem to find the energy or motivation to get done what I need to get done, I just plain don’t want to.  Being grown up, responsible, and ready to take on the world is the farthest thing from my mind.

I am in the midst of a mental hijack and am feeling the effects of burnout- apathy, listlessness, and fatigue have all set in.  And now that I’m in this place, I’m stressing about being unproductive.  This stress I’m adding to the mix is really only keeping me stuck- I’m making my own problem worse.  I can feel the toxic slide beginning and I know that I can’t afford to indulge this mood.

I pull away from my desk, close my eyes, and take a deep breath.  For an instant I regain normal adult brain functioning.  My years of counseling training have paid off- I can think again! As this brief moment of clarity sets in I’m off to the races.  I know enough about myself to know that this mood won’t subside on its own, and as I sit at my office in Northbrook and look out on the parking lot, I know I need to act and act quickly before the next tantrum begins.

I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths, and a little boy of about 3 years old floated into my consciousness.  This may sound weird, but we had a conversation.  I imagined what he needed.  He looked really sad and really scared, and I knew that as a responsible parent and adult, it was my duty to comfort this boy.  He was the one throwing the tantrum and refusing to get any work done, and he was the part of me in need of attention the most.

Though I was reassuring this young part of myself, adult Andrew was getting some care and comfort as well.  My self-soothing words seemed like cold water on a hot day and I felt the rest of my body relax.  The knots in my back loosened ever so slightly and the tension in my head eased.  I breathed a deep breath and sigh of relief.

I was once again in touch with myself, my inner child and with my power and purpose in life.  I felt more ready and able to go about my day and get done the work I needed to do.  I was in the same moment, my internal parent and internal child giving counsel and compassion as well as a firm call to action.

Once I opened my eyes and regained my focus, the feeling of dread, fear, deadness, and anxiety had all but subsided.  I was back, my brain and body nourished and no longer hijacked were ready to once again be the productive and responsive tools that I needed them to be.





Holiday Hangover

7 12 2010

The first time I ever went out drinking was a day of exploration, fun, and carefree unconscious exuberance.  At the time there didn’t seem to be any consequences, but little did I know what was going to happen the next morning.  Though I wore the headache, irritability, lethargy, and pain as a badge of honor, I told myself I wasn’t going to drink like that again.  Oddly enough, once the hangover subsided and I returned to normal, I forgot my vow and was out at it the next weekend seeking a way to be connected with others yet unconscious and unaware.

Now just as I have been physically hungover and sick from drinking too much, I have also felt an emotional hangover when I spend too much time drinking in painful emotions without taking the time to express them responsibly.  This happens often with my family where I feel a lot, take on a lot, have racing thoughts and feel internally out of control yet appear dead to the world.  The exhaustion this struggle c

reates is breeding grounds for an emotional hangover.  The effects of which sometimes take days to recover from.

When I leave and retreat back to the safety of my apartment in Chicago, I slowly and painfully regain the consciousness I worked so hard to suppress.  I come away feeling so thirsty for aliveness and connection that it hurts.  I literally go through the physical sensations of being hungover even though I haven’t had a drop of alcohol!

The jolt that gets me out of my funk, the water that cures my emotional dehydration, is safety in community.  I had the experience of being jolted into aliveness through the tough support of community encouraging me to leave the mess I wallow in and join society as an alive, functioning, and supportive member.  While I am getting better at recognizing my foul moods, I depend on the support of other people to help me out of them.  When people hold for me the higher vision of being the strong, confident, capable man that I am I can more readily step out of my deadness and awaken to the aliveness of life that is happening all around me.  I choose to participate in the abundance around me instead of walking around in a slump only aware of a very narrow spectrum.

Where disconnection is my alcohol, community is the best cure I know for an emotional hangover.  The desire and drive to connect keep me in check, and where I once struggled with drinking too much my current area of growth is disconnecting too much.  Thankfully through the support of the community at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment, as well as my friends and growth work partners, I am creating the community and the opportunities for the type of authentic connection that are unavailable to me in the grips of an emotional hangover.

I hope you will join me in my efforts to connectand connect authentically by adding to the conversation either online or in person-  Here’s to an emotional hangover-free Holiday season!





Surprised by Success

23 11 2010
Surprised

Me in the face of success!

In my last entry I was surprised by the amount of sadness I carry around and have access to on a daily basis.  I am learning to better feel the weight of that sadness and to be more willing to work through the un

easiness of crying and feeling sad in order to experience a lightness and resulting joy.  This past week however, it was not sadness that caught me off guard, rather it was my own success.

I am a good public speaker, in fact my colleague Amy and I recently hosted a singles workshop, and yet what I am learning through this is that I don’t like to brag.  I have a very narrow definition of positive attention, and have been taught to think that any type of self-promotion is bragging.  I learned pretty early on that bragging was bad, it was arrogant, and did not lead to the type of humility that God expected of me; it was selfish.  In expanding my definition of positive attention, I am testing out exactly what the boundary is between bragging and positive affirmation, and looking to my support team to give me the feedback of when I have gone too far.  So far that has yet to happen!  Meaning there is a ton of positive attention available to me, I only need to be willing to ask for it and be willing to receive it once it is given.

I have some old messages or tapes that play in my head as it relates to receiving praise- “They don’t mean it, they only want something from me in return;” “If they really knew me they wouldn’t be praising me for this;” “They are only flattering me, it is not genuine.”  I have historically had a d

ifficult time accepting praise, and yet that is one of my deepest hungers to know that I exist, that I am good, and that I am worthy of love and attention.  At my core I both yearn to have those beliefs affirmed, and believe deep down that I am not worthy enough to have those needs met.  I am caught in a bind.  I want what I don’t believe that I deserve (positive attention), and so the type of attention I believe I deserve (negative attention) is stuff that I don’t really want.

Winner

What I am beginning to believe about myself

I am shifting my view of the world, whereas I once saw a scarcity of positive attention, I am seeing that it is abundant to those who seek it.  I have my sights set on that, on creating situations for myself in which I will receive affirmation and to also be engaged in activity worthy of praise.  I am learning to trust, to trust myself and the world that there is abundance out there and that I already have the tools to access and benefit from that abundance!





The Power of Our Personal Myths

28 04 2010

Myths are stories that help us make meaning in the world. They give us a framework by which we can organize information into systems. Myths can be captivatingly sad, or powerfully funny, and yet the way the story weaves into our personal lives has great meaning.  Serious study has been given to learning and discovering the power of myths from many cultures and generations.  Universal truths about the nature of the human condition have been derived from these stories.  Would it surprise you that we all have our own internal myths learned in our family? These myths hold just as much power, if not more, than those ancient stories passed down through the ages.

Both positively and negatively, family myths shape and influence the way we are in the world today.  They encourage us to set up rules to follow and beliefs to adopt that shape our view of the world and ourselves.  These myths are experienced, shared, and internalized on a daily basis. Like a fish to water, the resulting rules and beliefs are difficult to distinguish without deeper exploration.  For example, one of my family myths is the time when I was 10 years old and I cut my foot on sharp barnacles while jumping into a creek behind our beach house rental in South Carolina. Spending the first few hours of vacation in the emergency room getting stitches significantly changed the tone of the trip for me.  Below are a few of the rules and beliefs I was able to identify:

 

Rule 1: Don’t take chances. Look before you leap, gather as much information as possible before acting.  I believed by following this rule I would reduce the chance of getting hurt in the future.

Rule 2: Don’t be impulsive- doing so is inconvenient and only makes messes that mom and dad will have to clean up.  I came to believe that people resent me and find me to be an inconvenience.

Rule 3: Play small and be nice.  No one wants to be around impulsive and inconvenient kids. I came to believe that if I was too much then I would get rejected and abandoned.

 

The power of a myth lies in its telling and re-telling. The above rules and beliefs had been verbally and non-verbally communicated in my family, in school, and throughout my life. Sure, there are valuable lessons we need to learn as children, such as, “Look twice before crossing the road.” However, we must be mindful of the fact that those lessons can become generalized and direct our entire life. What is the difference between being careful and living your life refusing to take risks because you are afraid to make a mistake or get hurt?

 

I am discovering that my family myths have had a silent but deadly influence on my life. I play it safe and do not take risks in order to insure I don’t inconvenience others or risk getting hurt myself.  I am examining and evaluating which rules are working for me and which ones are not.  By paying attention to and cataloguing my library of family myths, I am better able to see where my mistaken rules and beliefs are operating.  With the feedback and support of trusted friends I can more readily live in hope, compassion, a sense of abundance, community and grace rather than seeing the world as dangerous, judgmental, unforgiving and intolerant.

 

What are some of the myths which have shaped your view of yourself, others and the God? What are the rules which reflect the values communicated by your family myths? Let’s get free from the chains which bind us and keep us from becoming our most Christ-like selves!





Hooking Up with Lyndi and Andrew

13 01 2010

My friend Lyndi and I wrote this and wanted to pass it along to everyone!  Please enjoy:

I remember watching MTV’s “Real World” in 2003, and realizing that the meaning of the phrase “hooking up” had changed.  One of the RW participants, Trishelle, used the phrase regularly to describe her nights out.  At first, I would naively think, oh, she means kissed or lots of kissing.  I was shocked by episode 4 when I realized she meant having sex with people that she just met!  At the time, I used this phrase regularly to mean that I was going to meet up or talk later with one of my friends.

There has been a shift among young people where getting to know a person physically is thought to help determine emotional compatibility.  The more traditional way of connecting emotionally prior to physical intimacy is out of favor.  “Hooking up” is an entertaining, but costly attempt to address our ravenous hunger for closeness, to matter, and to be important to someone.  Women are especially prone to using hooking up to avoid the hunger pangs for belonging, touch, and feeling attractive.  Random acts of physical intimacy with limited emotional connection can generate instant gratification not lasting satisfaction.

Additionally there is a commonly held misconception that men are capable of having these types of relationships without any negative effect.  Men do tend to be more visual and hard wired to seek physical gratification. . They are also more aware of their feelings throughout their bodies. Hooking up to get sex is usually done in reaction to feeling uncomfortable amounts of sadness, loneliness, and anger.  For men, sex becomes the antidote for the pain of emptiness or powerlessness.

To a person who is starving for affection, warmth and care, the seemingly harmless hook up is like a junk food binge. It  feels good in the moment but leaves you feeling empty.  As the sense of fullness from the encounter wears off, we metabolize the empty calories without the benefit of nutrients to grow and thrive. We end up adding dead weight and baggage instead of energy and vitality.  Binges on junk food and sex momentarily satisfy our cravings for fullness and connection, yet tend to intensify the desire for more.  That desire for more is then mistakenly fed through additional binging and hooking up, creating an unsatisfying addictive cycle.

Sex can be an outpouring of tenderness and love, a physical expression of what is already present in the relationship.  However, sex in the form of hooking up is not likely to produce those feelings in a lasting way.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through responsible eating and appropriate emotional intimacy requires hard work and dedication.  It is that hard work and dedication that make healthy relationships so satisfying and why junk food, or hook ups like Trishelle leave us feeling empty.  By filling ourselves with things that are valuable and substantial we will feel like we matter to the world, trusting in the abundance of love, acceptance, and grace.  I often wish there was a pill for that!  If there is… hook me up!

In the meantime, if you are ready to discuss how to satisfy your hungers for connection and intimacy, I would love to meet with you. In an environment of safety and grace, we will discover healthy ways to feed your hungers.  CLE is a great place to learn and grow and our staff would love to support you in your journey.