Sharing the lessons along the way…

Posts tagged ‘Compassion’

Open Hearts Open Doors

Open Hearts=Open Doors

Not everyone is going to agree with you, and that is perfect.  The only way to learn anything in this life is to hear someone’s point of view out, without reacting, without interruption, without judgment, and with an open heart.

The veterans my dog and I work with primarily live in a situation where getting along with roommates and housemates becomes a focal point.  Duke, Ruby, Koko and I spend a great deal of time and energy attempting to model and teach conflict resolution.  It certainly isn’t an issue isolated to group living because it happens in the workplace, in homes, on the highways, etc.

There is little conflict when roommates are in a state of gratitude, so I call this the honeymoon period.  The honeymoon period includes feeling grateful for housing and help toward helping themselves, and a level of humility in knowing they need to focus on their own problems rather than being sucked into the dramas unfolding with others.

Once the honeymoon period starts to wane, which is usually the time that they likely have started to really work on their issues and set goals with staff, conflicts start.  Old stuff is oozing out all over the place in lesser form, such as overreactions to a dish left in a sink by a housemate.  Shortly afterwards, they begin to blame staff, the boss, the spouse, and others in general for their unrest and upset.

Some may find their way back to feeling humble and grateful for a bit longer, some may not.  The ones that cannot at least find this intermittent gratitude and humility usually find their way back into their addiction or other unhealthy coping patterns.

What I see central to avoiding conflict is first seeking to understand the one with whom you are butting heads.  Instead, what I see most often is someone telling another what the “right” way is to do whatever, which is just about the opposite of seeking to understand where the other person is coming from.  Sometimes the other person doesn’t have the skills to tell you honestly where they are coming from, but often when asked, they can at least stop their negative reaction long enough to wonder.

Sometimes a person isn’t at all interested in sharing anything at all to help you gain a better understanding and that is ok.  Your part of it is over.  It is time to walk away.  Since almost all of us, as human beings, just want someone to understand where we are coming from, it is rare that I cannot get a positive response from the question to avoid conflict or drama.  The question has to come from an open heart and genuine desire to understand, however.

Here are some examples of what you might say:

  • That seemed to upset you. What did that mean to you?
  • That really seemed to get to you. How did you experience that?
  • I see you are upset. What just happened there?
  • That seemed to get to you quickly. What do you think is behind that?
  • I notice you do things this way. What is your process for doing it that way?


What I find is that I stand to learn a lot from validating what I see, then asking the question.  I learn that the way they saw it or the way they were doing it might actually make more sense than what I thought was the righteous and only way to do it.  I learn more about how the other person views the world and sometimes even what from their past baggage they might have reacted to with their behavior.

There are many versions of seeking to understand in the business management, psychology and self-help world, but they all boil down to the same basic idea.  If we put aside our own agenda just for a minute and seek to hear someone else first, there is far more to gain for everyone involved.



Dancing Brown Eyes

There once was a little girl whose thoughtful brown eyes sparkled at the idea of doing something that made someone else happy.  Her eyes danced at the smiling, laughing faces of others.  Tears fell at the sight of others’ tears falling.

As she grew from little to big, her eyes danced when she saw an opportunity to fill a need for someone else.  You could almost see the fire burning in those brown eyes at the mere hope for an opportunity to make a difference in the world.PhotoMail (3)

First, she sought journalism as her medium to affect change.  With sharp and focused eyes, she yearned for the real story.

Only to find that no one wanted to hear the real story, or that no one could really know the real story without having first been there.

She needed the whole story.  There is never just one “why” or “how” to anyone’s story, she would soon learn by listening fully to others.

Before she knew it, she found psychology as her medium to affect change.  One client at a time, one group session at a time, her eyes would shine when she saw a client better understanding themselves and their own power to change.

Then she found teaching, so she was making a difference one student, one class at a time.

Then refereeing, so she made a difference one player, two teams, coaches, and the stands at a time.

She was making a difference, but there was a fire inside to do even more.  She was preparing for whatever that could be.

Until her life took a major turn.  First illness, then loss of everything, including her ability to walk.

Tears fell from those big brown eyes at the thought of no longer being able to make a difference.  She begged for her chance to not be finished trying.  Surely she couldn’t be done, she was just getting started.

In even the worst of circumstances, those eyes connected to others, and her desire to lift others up seemed to be lifting her up as well.

Finally, she realized that she still could affect change, and those eyes danced once more.

As a little girl, she never imagined that the biggest difference she could make in this life was being that change.  All she really needed to do was imagine everything she wanted to see change in the world, and then make those changes in herself.

If she wanted peace, then she had to find it within and feel it.  Then be it out in the world.  If she wanted love, she had to give it as freely to herself as she would to others.  She had to be love in every part of her day.

If she imagined acceptance for everyone, she had to fully accept herself before she could share that with the world.  Then be acceptance.

The list goes on, but as she makes the changes within herself, she shares them.  She shares them with as much of the world as she has access to.  Her hope is that some part of what she shares might make some small difference, some small ripple of change, in someone, somewhere.


****Since January, 13, 2010, there have been over 14,000 opportunities to share some of these changes with you through this blog.  It is a modest number compared to other seasoned bloggers, but to think that someone does a search, comes upon my blog by “accident” and finds something they can apply to their own life, makes my eyes dance.  Thank you for sharing in the journey.

Are you a Drama Junkie?

I have paid really close attention for the lessons in my living situation.  For several months, I have struggled to find my peaceful center in a place that once was the easiest place to find it—my own home.

My neighbors are loud and spend whatever time they have home together fighting and screaming at each other.

Sunday, as I listened (or tried not to listen) to the yelling, I had a series of thoughts.  The first thought was, “Really?  Again?”  This was followed by, “Wait, haven’t they already had this argument?  Aren’t they tired of playing out this same drama yet?”

While little about living next door to them is predictable, the content of their shouting matches certainly is.  I doubt they realize it is the same basic drama over and over again, however.  Most of us are unable to see it as clearly as the objective, emotionally detached “observer” through the walls can.

What I started to wonder was what drama might the objective observer see playing out in my life?  What about your life?  We all have some drama that we play out somewhere in our lives (likely in more than one area of our lives).

We are the dramatic actors and our lives are the stage.

We are the dramatic actors and our lives are the stage.

Would it make a difference if you knew someone could hear every word of your drama?  Before living next to these folks, I would have believed it would.

In fact, before Sunday, I would have thought so until I started thinking about it a bit more.

It occurred to me that as drama is unfolding again and again, we are that much more caught up in it, that much more attached to the outcome we need from creating it, and everything/everyone else is secondary.

I have been there and while it has been a couple of decades, I remember feeling fully justified in disrupting any innocent bystanders’ peace.

Our dramas become the way we meet our needs.  It becomes all that we know and our only means of meeting that need while we are entrenched within it.

When we become aware that we all create drama in our lives, then we can recognize it.  We can use each time as an opportunity to grow through the drama to avoid creating it quite the same way again.

When we realize that we are empowered enough to meet our needs without creating the drama, then we can move beyond it.

It is my sincerest wish for my neighbors to find such awareness and growth in their own lives.

If you could be the “observer” in your own life, what drama would you see playing out over and over again?

Inciting Epiphany

I had an interesting revelation today and one that I am pretty sure isn’t going to excite you very much.  If anything, it is more likely to incite you.

When I wrote my “When I see you, I see me” post, I shared that it was through seeing others that I was able to see myself.  I saw the good, the bad, the ugly in both of us.  I saw the vulnerable, the needy, the strengths and the limitations for us both.

When I become angry about something someone else does, eventually, I come back around to seeing myself in something they have done.  At that point, and at that point only, I have compassion, love and understanding for them instead of anger.

At that point, I also feel compelled to look at that aspect of myself to see how I can be more aware of it to avoid behaving or thinking of behaving in similar ways as those that spurred my anger to begin with.

I have a dark or shadow side.  We all do.  We don’t always act on it.  We aren’t always even aware of it, nor do we always acknowledge that it exists.  I may write about my ability to shift my perspective, but I am shifting it from the shadows into the light of day.

I choose to do this because I prefer the light of day, quite frankly, over the darkness.  I share it with you because I believe you, too, prefer it and strive to stay in the light of day instead of in the shadows.

I think we can all agree on these points.  I share the rest, in hopes that it merely incites some reflection and pause.

Would you think I had gone mad if I said that I felt compassion, love and understanding for the shooter in the recent tragedy in Newtown?  If I said that I could see my own darkness in his darkness, would you tell me I had lost it?

When I see you, I see me” applies just as much to him in this situation—at least I think it does to the best of my understanding.  Doesn’t it?

My love and compassion for the shooter does not at all take away from the love and compassion I feel for the families and the community of Newtown.  In fact, it seems to expand it.

More of my energy is going in their direction because it isn’t competing as much with my outrage over the tragedy.  (Notice I said “as much” because I too still haven’t stopped feeling the outrage.)

It doesn’t change my feelings about the broken systems in our country, but it does allow me some clarity about what role I can play in helping to create change within those broken systems.

When I see you, I see me.  No matter what you’ve done.

Finding the Hope in Tragedy


(Photo credit: ĐāżŦ {mostly absent})

I do not often write about current events, but the school shooting in Connecticut has been on my mind a lot since Friday.  I am sure I am not alone.

As a psychology instructor and mental health professional, my mind initially formulated an argument that this is far from a gun control issue, but instead is a mental health parity issue.  After all, it is no secret that our nation is wholly underinsured, and that mental health education and treatment continues to take a backseat.

Fortunately, I didn’t have time yesterday to share my thoughts about it, and today, a surprising (to me) perspective evolved.

While we do need better access to quality mental health care, as well as different versions of gun control in our country, it occurred to me that what our nation needs more than any of that, is hope at an individual level.  With each of us truly feeling this hope, the need for the above would lessen.

If you were like me, you continued to watch the media coverage unfold.  You also likely saw that our President, the Governor of Connecticut and the community leaders of Newtown called out for hope, love and compassion.

Children, for us, represent the very hope I believe we need.  We are angered that these innocent little ones were taken away in such a way.

Yet, another community is banding together through a tragedy.  I see this as an illustration of what is good in our society.  Unfortunately, it took a tragedy for the media to show us this illustration, but what have we focused on instead from what we are being seen as a steady diet of news coverage?

Rightfully and appropriately, we all likely gave some considerably energy to thoughts such as, “What is this world coming to?” and “If an elementary school isn’t safe, where is?”  or “He got off easy by taking his own life.”  I certainly did.

But did we also notice that a Rabbi and a Catholic priest were working together to help the grief stricken?  Did we notice the residents (whether they knew one another or not) gathered together, hand in hand, arm in arm, embracing and wiping each other’s tears?  What about the acts of heroism by the teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary to protect the children at the cost of their own lives?

We each need hope that what is at the core of humanity is still out there, and it seems that even in the rawness of this tragedy, hope is abundant.  As we talk about the senselessness of the tragedy with others, I believe we are again faced with a choice in what we perpetuate.

Do we focus more on the love and the hope that is illustrated as a result of the tragedy?  Or do we perpetuate the anger and fear that the nature of this tragedy evokes in us more?  It is normal to see that both exist within this situation, but I believe the one we focus our energies on the most can make a difference in how all of us, as a nation, move forward from it.

Fear: Curtain Call

It is always my hope that you may take something from what I write to help you in your own journey.  I am certainly always reaping the benefits of what I write, and love having the opporunity to share it with you! 

As the curtain begins to close on Fear to end this series, I would like to recap what we have learned about Fear to pull it all together.

  1. Fear is present when we give someone or something our personal power.  You can begin to notice when this occurs by thoughts like, “I would never be happy without _____.”  Remember that you have the power to create what happens next in your life—that power is inside you, not outside of you.
  2. Fear is present when we develop unhealthy attachments to things, places or people.  You can hone your awareness of attachments by noticing thoughts like, “____ is my reason for getting up in the mornings.” Or “I feel whole because of _____.”  Change and impermanence are the “givens” in this life.  You are already whole and believe it or not, you are physiologically programmed to wake up each day without an external reason.
  3. Fear is not present when we are present.  If we are fully present in the moment, right now, there is no room (or purpose) for fear.  Try to remember a time when you were so engrossed in an activity that you lost track of time.  Create your life so that it revolves around more of these activities!
  4. Fear serves a purpose in our lives and can be our ally.  By paying attention to whatever fear is saying to you, you can better understand it, and therefore better understand yourself.  We cannot better understand anything without first taking the time to look at it and be with it.
  5. Fear loses its power over us when we can look at it through the eyes of love and compassion.  This is a process, so perhaps start with a smaller goal.  Try making it your goal for an hour or a day to send love to the things or people in your life that annoy you.  See how this can become automatic after some practice, and then work your way back to Fear from there.

I cannot tell you how thankful I am to have you to share in this process.  This series, as well as my Box series, has been quite the catalyst for me in my own life. 

The visualization exercise I shared is how I experienced it.  I decided to take time to write Fear a letter with my own list of questions after Act III tried to keep it simple, so that your mind could fill in the rest of the details.  The general scene and conversation that took place was how it unfolded for me.

When my first fearful memory came right to mind, and then when Fear shared with me that she had been there for me because I needed her, it truly was transforming for me.  My perception shifted more fully to having a collaborative relationship with Fear.  So much so, that I decided to do the same type of exercise with my pain–perhaps I will share that with you as well, although pain and fear seem to be kissing cousins and it might be a bit redundant.

If you couldn’t find 10 minutes or were too anxious to try the Intermission activity, not to worry, it will be in cyberspace for you when you feel you are ready.  It is my gift to you because the experience was indeed a gift I was ready to receive. 

As Fear takes a bow and exits stage left, please feel free to share your experiences, thoughts, questions or struggles about this Fear Series in the comments below. 


Kitt O'Malley

Bipolar Writer and Mental Health Advocate


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