Take a Walk Through a Castle To Learn More About Yourself

Have you ever wondered…

How easily do you take risks?
What do you think will happen in the future?
What images do you believe others have of you?

Use your imagination to take an imaginary walk in a castle to discover more about your character.

As you go through the exercise, the symbols provide perceptions of your overall view of life, your attitude toward new experiences, the image you have of your life, and how you imagine your future. Take into account that culture influences and signifies your personal context on how certain metaphors, images, and symbols suggest various uses and understanding of your life.

It is up to you to decide for your self how the symbols function in your life. This exercise is offered as an aid to enrich the activity and perspectives of your life.

You will need a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil to note your responses.

Begin by taking a few long deep breaths to relax your mind and to settle into your seat. Now imagine you are in front of a castle. Continue to read and answer the following questions to unfold your personal storyline.

  1. You are in front of the door of the castle. How exactly do you imagine it?
a. It is a simple door
b. It is covered by plants and is somewhat hard to find
c. It is a huge wooden door with metal details and it looks a little frightening

2. You pass the door of the castle and realize that there is no soul. It is desert. What is the first thing you see?

a. A huge library, wall to wall full of books
b. A huge fireplace and a hot fire burning
c. A large banquet hall with huge chandeliers and red carpets
d. A long corridor with many closed doors
  1. You look around and find a staircase. You decide to climb the stairs. What does the staircase look like?
a. It looks sharp and massive, leading nowhere
b. It is an impressive spiral, grand staircase
  1. After you climb the stairs, you reach a small room in which there is only one window. How big is the window?
a. It appears normal
b. It’s small, like a porthole
c. It’s massive and take up most of the surface of the wall
  1. You look out the window. What do you see?
a. Large waves crashing furiously on rock
b. A snowy forest
c. A green valley
d. A small, vibrant city
  1. You go down the stairs and you’re back in the area where you were when you first entered the castle. You go ahead and find a door at the rear of the building. You open it and go out in a yard. What exactly does it look like?
a. It is full of hypertrophic plants, grasses, broken wood and fallen barbed wire
b. It is impeccably maintained with countless colorful flowers
c. It’s a jungle, but you can imagine how beautiful it would be if someone cleaned and put it in order

RESULTS

QUESTION 1 – The Door

Your Attitude to New Experiences

The door represents your attitude to new experiences.

a. The Simple Door

If you imagined a simple, everyday door, you probably are not afraid of any new challenge and will test your luck in new things and situations without a second thought.

b. The Hidden Door

If you have chosen the hidden door, you probably do not know what you need to do in the future and your life in it, and it looks blurry and undefined.

c. Big, Scary Door

Of course, if you have chosen a big, scary door, then you probably are afraid of the unknown and find it difficult to get out of your comfort zone and try new experiences.

QUESTION 2– Inside the Castle

Idea You Believe Others Have of You

The space inside the castle is what you believe others perceive of you. For example, if you saw a library, you probably think that you are the person who supports others and helps them find answers to their problems.

a. Large Fireplace

The large fireplace gives a feeling of warmth and passion that you think you cause in people.

b. Fancy Ballroom

A fancy ballroom suggests that you feel that you can dazzle people around you and that you have a lot to give.

c. Long Corridor

If you ended up in a long corridor with closed doors, you feel that you are difficult to understand and others will have to try much to ‘penetrate’ more within you.

QUESTION 3– The Staircase

The stairway shows the image that you have of life.

a. Sharp and Massive Staircase

The sharp and massive staircase shows a person who sees life as suffering, with many difficulties.

b. Beautiful Spiral Staircase

The beautiful spiral staircase shows that you are a romantic person.

QUESTION 4– The Window

The window is the way you feel right now. The size of a window is relative to your culture, where you grew-up, and your environment. Thus what one person may call “small” may be “large” to another person. What matters most is your interpretation.

a. Small Window

A small window means that you feel depressed and trapped in your life. It may feel like there’s no way out of what you are experiencing in this period.

b. Normal Window

A normal-sized window shows a person with realistic demands and expectations of life at this stage. You realize that there are limitations, but the future is here and it looks clear for you.

c. Gigantic Window

If you chose, the gigantic window, you probably feel invincible, free and able to achieve what you want.

QUESTION 5 – The View From The Window

The view from the window is the overview of your whole life.

a. Stormy Sea

A stormy sea shows a hectic and erratic life.

b. Snowy Forest

A snowy forest is associated with a person who lives isolated and detached from the crowds.

c. Green Valley

The green valley shows that your life is calm and steady, without much stress and anxiety.

d. Vibrant City

People relate the vibrant city to someone who generally lives life with lots of socializing and is generally surrounded by lots of people.

QUESTION 6 – The Courtyard Of The Castle

The image of the courtyard is the image that you have in mind of your future.

a. Neat and Shiny Garden

If you chose a neat and shiny garden, then you feel that your future will be heavenly.

b. Picture of a Neglected Garden

Picture of a promising but neglected garden shows an optimistic person, who is worried if he can find the energy to take control of his life and make his future more beautiful.

c. Grassy Damaged Garden

Those who chose the grassy, damaged garden are pessimistic that do not have a nice picture of the future.

The symbols represent aspects of your life but are not like most typical symbols where there is a code or rule to obey.  An example of common, modern symbols include traffic lights, where red means stop and green means go.

The images here are part  of a complex language in which green can mean jealousy or fertility or even both, depending on your personal background. It is up to you to explore the script you chose in the walk through the castle and work through it sensitively.

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Use the Wisdom of Your Future Self to Make Your Dreams Come True

“It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.”   Donald Winnicott, Playing and Reality

We all have dreams and hopes for the future but so many of us have lost of self in the daily grind.

Your future plans have gone astray and your dreams feel like a distant memory.

Your life feels blurred and undefined.

You want to connect with your dreams and are ready to commit to a path to make your dreams a reality. Many lingering questions arise.

Where do you begin?

How do I get there?

Will I ever achieve my dreams?

How can I gain some clarity in my life?

Visualization

Visualization is a profound technique that offers an opportunity to tap into and draw upon the wisdom from our deepest consciousness. By using our imagination and the joy of play, we create scenes, patterns, and dramatic processes.

  • Transpire new beginnings
  • Resolve trauma
  • Comfort a younger you
  • Provide resolution
  • Grieve endings and losses.

Many of our emotional reactivity, fears, and worries stem from unresolved issues from our history. We have the skills, strengths, and knowledge within us that can help to better navigate current challenges or obstacles.

Here is a guided visualization to Meet Your Future Self and Gain Wisdom and Clarity for Now

Settle into Relaxation

Find a comfortable place to sit.

Sit upfront, putting your feet flat on the floor and gently resting your hands on your thighs.

Relax and center yourself.

Sitting comfortably.

Closing your eyes.

Take a few long deep breaths.

Start with the in breath.

And then with the out breathe.

Let the breath release and just let go.

Again.

And again.

Welcome a Loving Light

 Letting the breath settle into its natural rhythm, imagine a bright, loving light surrounding you and protecting you.

With each new breath accepting the loving light more

And more with love and relaxation.

Begin to Transport in Time

Now allow the glowing light to fill your body and lift you up out of your seat and exit the room.

Imagine yourself slowly drifting upward, high above your building, looking down all around you.

Now imagine this glowing protective white light carrying you forward in time.

Choose Your Timeframe

You may go three years into the future or…

Five years,

Ten years…

Depending on how old you are and where you are in your journey.

Meet Your Future Self

Now I invite you to encounter your future self.

Let yourself see what they look like.

And what the feeling of their presence is like.

What’s the quality of that presence?

What’s the feeling of how they look at you?

Communicate Your Struggle

Let your future self know of something in your life that is difficult. Maybe to do with work, your health, relationships, how you relate with your self.

Ask for guidance.

Allow your self to be available and to listen with an open heart.

Gain Wisdom From Your Future Self

Before leaving, find out if there is anything else you need to know.

Is there a message your future self wants you to know, to leave you with, that will serve you well right here.

Today.

Tonight.

Right here, over the next few days, in the moments of your current life.

Use Your Senses to Embrace Your Newfound Wisdom

Take a moment to imagine the feeling,

The vision,

And the wisdom of your future self filling you.

Filling your cells.

The spaces between your cells.

The spaces in your heart and mind.

Connect with and Embrace the Shared Wisdom

Sensing the expanded light and the warmth of your future self within you. And the possibility of remembering and connecting with this awakened heart during daily life. Sense the calming; the knowing, and the wisdom of your future evolved self.

Come Back to the Present Moment

Now take the words of wisdom and courageously bring it back to your self here and now. Allow yourself to journey back to the present, to this room, where you are right now.

And when you’re ready open your eyes.

Let yourself engage with that, going forward in time.

Journal

Write down what your future self looked like.

What messages did your future self want you to know?

What will serve you now?

What will serve you tomorrow, in a month, six months, a year?

What feelings about your self arose?

What was the essence of your future self?

What is the feeling of how your future self looks at you?

What was the main lesson or wisdom learned?

After writing about your experience with your future self, solidify the experience by gathering old magazines, watercolor or acrylic paints, oil pastels, markers, or pens to create a vision board.  Piece together images of your dreams and the wisdom shared on how to make your dreams a reality. The vision board is a powerful tool to remind yourself daily of what you need to know now. Your dreams are possible. Begin today with your vision and the daily steps will follow.

Discover the Art of Detachment

Your heart must become a sea of Love

Detachment. Synonyms include aloofness, indifference, and disconnection. These words sound harsh when linked with relationships. However, detaching with love can be the greatest gift we can give ourselves. Learning to detach with love sets us free.

Detachment is not detaching from those we care about. It is detaching from the agony of over-involvement. We liberate ourselves from excessive worry, preoccupation with others, and a false sense of control.

Detachment is freeing us from the responsibilities of others. It enables us to stay true to our individual life and responsibilities. Unconditional love for ourselves sets others free from our tight reign of control.

The opposite of detachment is attachment. When we are enmeshed with codependent behaviors, we are overly involved. Codependency stems from childhood trauma, abuse, and emotionally unavailable parents or caretakers. Codependency is an unhealthy form of attachment to others. We need to feel needed. It is placing outward focus to gain love or affirmation. We adopted this behavior in childhood when our parents or caregivers discarded our thoughts and feelings. Abandonment presented itself through emotional unavailability, neglect, divorce, or preoccupation with work, shopping, drugs/ alcohol, sex/ relationships, or gambling just to name a few.

We learned to be reactors rather than actors. Neglect and criticism drove us to react in defense as the mascot, hero, caretaker, people pleaser, and scapegoat. The roles we took on maintained the homeostasis yet denied our true self. We believed we are not good enough and lost our sense of self to gain attention. Love became associated with abuse.

Our unquenchable thirst for love and safety caused us to tolerate cruelty and abandoned our personal values, friends, or career. Our childhood experiences gave us the message we have to do something to gain love, attention, and safety. This self-destructive behavior hinders our adult relationships.

6 QUESTIONS TO ASSESS IF YOU ARE CODEPENDENT.

  1. Do you have excessive worry and preoccupation with others?
  2. Do you have obsessive attempts to control?
  3. Do you react with intense negative outbursts and emotion?
  4. Do you depend on others to determine your feelings?
  5. Are you always taking care of others, rescuing, or enabling irresponsible behavior?
  6. Do you obsess and can’t get your mind off the person or problem?

We can learn new ways to cope. Detaching with love has many rewards. We can learn to love and care about others without hurting ourselves. We can understand how to live without guilt or resentment. We can discover that detachment may motivate and free people around us to begin to solve their problems. If not, we can still live without the entanglement of obsessions and worry.

The Solution

  • Twelve-step groups
  • Individual or Group Therapy
  • Social Learning

There is hope for recovery. It is possible to have healthy relationships. It starts with support from other recovering codependents. Twelve-step groups such as Codependents Anonymous or Adult Children of Alcoholics or Alnon are very helpful. Regular attendance at meetings provides a safe place to meet and interact with other members who exhibit similar characteristics and work together to support, encourage, and contribute healing experiences.

Individual or group therapy provides more in-depth healing than twelve-step programs. A therapist who specializes in addiction, attachment issues and familiar with the twelve-step principles and solutions solidifies the skills learned in twelve-step programs.

A good therapist utilizes a combination of various treatment modalities. She investigates with open, nonjudgmental curiosity, accountability and provides psycho-education, empathy, and compassion. Eventually meaningful connection and healthy boundaries are maintained in all relationships. A better life begins.

The skills and therapeutic healing created through twelve-step groups and personal therapy provides social learning. Social learning gives us maturity to improve our relationship with our self. We can interact with others while maintaining self-love, respect, and self-protection. We have a robust sense of personal identity and values. We treat ourselves with care, kindness, compassion, and are able to acknowledge and validate our thoughts and feelings and tame the inner critic.

Conclusion

Being codependent is a learned behavior due to unhealthy attachment to our parents or caretakers. They adapted their style of relating to others from their parents. It’s a generational disease passed on. Our parents’ lack of trust to make decisions, blame, make excuses, and irresponsibility projected onto us. It was just too scary for them to take ownership when they lacked any sense of self. There is no wonder we came out as adults the way we did. We learned as children how to attach as adults.

Understanding our present is passed on generational abuse can help us find compassion for our parents, ourselves, and open the doorway to healing and recovery. We can learn to love honestly, protect, care, and take responsibility for ourselves. We can formulate healthy relationships. Regular reflective inner work at a Twelve Step program, therapy, and allowing ourselves to take risks and make mistakes, we can choose to open our hearts, be vulnerable, and let our real self explore the beautiful gifts of the world. We can confidently care and protect our self-love.

6 Tips to Improve Communication With Difficult People

Dialog between man and woman

Image source: (Fotolia)

Some people are just downright difficult. No matter what you say or do, it feels like there is no way out. Emotions overrun rational thoughts. Conversations turn into heated arguments, and nothing solves. It’s times like these that old patterns of communication need a make-over.

We learn our communication style by our environment and upbringing. If we come from households where our thoughts were not valued, listened, or supported; we learned not to talk. If we were dismissed, ignored, or criticized by cultural gender norms, we learned to remain silent. We adapted to suppress our thoughts and feelings to survive. As adults, we are now confronted with shame, anger, and denial of our thoughts and feelings.

When we retreat from communicating directly due to cultural norms, gender norms, or social norms we deny ourselves. We disallow access to our authentic self and to deeply connected relationships. Our fear of not being liked, avoidance of conflict or perfectionism keeps us isolated. We don’t give our relationships a chance. We hide from who we are, what we think, and what we feel. In turn, we treat ourselves with the same criticism and suppression as our childhood environment.
There is another way. We don’t have to run and hide. We can speak openly, honestly, and directly. It is not difficult. With practice communicating our needs and wants becomes second nature.

Learning skills to be assertive opens up courageous possibilities to be vulnerable. Exposing our real selves involves taking risks. The benefits outweigh discomforts. A richness of meaningful experiences of love, a sense of belonging, trust, joy, and creativity evolve naturally.

With assertiveness, we learn to stand-up for ourselves and not violate the rights of another person. It is a direct and honest expression of our feelings and opinions. We act, think and feel supporting our rights and the rights of others as equally valued, expressed, and respected.

Test Your Assertiveness

1. Do you find yourself saying “yes” to requests when you really want to say “no?”
Yes      No
2. Is it hard for you to make a decision?
Yes      No
3. Are you unable to express your discontent with a friend or partner, even if you think it is justified?
Yes      No
4. Is it difficult for you to ask for help or assistance?
Yes      No
5. Is it hard for you to express an opinion that is different from other people’s opinions?
Yes      No
6. Is it hard for you to share something positive about yourself?
Yes      No
7. Do you not speak up at work, a class, or meeting, even when you know the answer to a question or have a solution?
Yes      No
8. Do you find it difficult to accept a compliment?
Yes      No

If you answered “Yes” to one or more of the questions, you might have difficulty using assertive communication.

6 Tips to Communicate Assertively Using the Acronym, P A S A R R

1. Pause.

Quiet the mind for a moment to check in and listen internally. Noticing our thoughts gives us the opportunity to assess what we desire. Paying attention to our first intentions positions us to listen to our intuitive voice and bash any defeating self-talk. Being aware of how we feel and what we want to say enables us to stay true to ourselves. With consistent practice, reflection and self-validation the process will take less time.

2. Acknowledge the Truth.

Mirroring body language and giving credit where deserved credit helps deflate a heated moment. Agreeing with a kernel of truth in the complaint also provides time for internal reflection. For example, your boss says, “Your work is always screwed-up.” Ask, “In what way did I screw up?” If she says, “You just are a screw-up,” agree with one discreet example (if it is accurate), but correct her overgeneralization.

3. Stay True to Self.

Using clear and definite “I statements” validating our thoughts and feelings keep the conversation focused on the behavior not the person. While beginning a sentence with “I think” or “I feel” then go on to briefly describe the other person’s behavior.

4. Ask for a Request. Following what we noticed in the other’s person behavior with how their actions affected us kept the focus on cause and effect of behavior, not the person. Then make a request. For example, “When you are late and do not call, I feel afraid that something happened to you. I feel angry that I am waiting. I feel irritated that you don’t value my time. I would prefer it if you call to let me know if you are going to be more than 10 minutes late. Can you do that for me?”

5. Repeat.

Encouraging others reflection ensures mutual understanding. We are practicing self-validation and asking for what we want.

6. Repair.

If the steps above have not helped, continue to ask questions. Inquiring about others thoughts and feelings shows curiosity and their thoughts and feelings matter equally to yours, and a mutual solution is desired. During this phase paying attention to our non-verbal cues such as tone and volume of voice, eye-contact, and body position enables us to be in control of our self. It is also important to ensure we stay true to ourselves, saying “No” when needed to provide healthy boundaries, and validating our thoughts and feelings.

Using assertive techniques is a skill. It improves with practice. With time communicating our desires becomes easy. Following these steps as a guideline to stop before a heated argument, reflecting and staying honest to ourselves and others, and maintaining healthy boundaries allocates opportunity for a joint resolution, self-value, and increased confidence. Knowing that we took a risk to stand-up for ourselves demonstrates that we matter, that our thoughts and feelings are valuable, and we are worth defending.

In love and dignity, speak the truth – as we think, feel, and know it – and it shall set us free.
~ Melody Beattie

10 Ways to Get Things Done

“An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

“If you think you can, you can.  If you think you think you can’t, you’re right.”  – George Bernard Shaw

“The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination.” – Baba Amte

“Practice is the best of all instructions.”  – Publilius Syrus

achievementIt’s another year gone by.  Bloggers, editors, and writers are scripting about resolutions, goals, and fresh starts.  Each New Year seems to bring a surge of renewed energy to make this year the best year yet.  Yet come February/ March that enthusiasm fades.  Why?  What is it about the New Year that brings a desire for change but then it quickly dwindles?

Change is hard.  Breaking old habits takes a consistent effort.  Casting your magic wand doesn’t just make it so.  It takes action, accountability, dedication, repeat and do it again.  Research supports it takes at least 21 days, some say 8 weeks to replace a bad habit.  It really depends.  It depends on the new habit, how long you have been doing it, the benefits of continuing, the immediacy of the payoff, and how often and automatically you perform the behavior.

To break the cycle, it is imperative to be conscientious of your thoughts and behaviors around the routine you desire to alter.   It takes consistent modifications every minute, hour and day.  For how long, well depends. Just repeat the desired change.

Wow! That seems overwhelming, huh.  It doesn’t have to be. Write.  Put your desired behavior modification on paper.  Post your desires on a visible spot that you see daily like your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or front door.

Take some time (as much as you need) and reflect on the past year.  Look at what you achieved, what you learned, gained, and liked.  Review what you didn’t accomplish.  What were the blocks that prevented you from achieving those marks?  What do you need to make them happen in 2014?   Now write this down and keep it in a safe place to review often.

The answers to the questions above help you analyze past behavior, learn from successes and failures, and make fresh intentions.  The best way to accomplish this thorough investigation of your life is to break it down into professional, relational, body, and spiritual goals.  Again, write your thoughts down!

Next set small goals with specific due dates.  Break down those big ideas, dreams, and aspirations into tiny, manageable, and achievable goals.  Ensure they are realistic.  You don’t want to set yourself up for failure before you even start.

Find support.  Join a team or involve friends and family.  Tell them your aspirations, the due date, and ask them to follow-up and inquire upon your progress.  Involving others ensures accountability, support, and friendly reminders.

Here is a list of 10 Ways to Make Ideas Happen:

1. Remove the words “I can’t” from your vocabulary.

2. Focus on the possibilities instead of the limitations.

3. Remember that there is a solution for every problem (some are just harder to find than others).

4. Write it down and set a deadline.

5. Allow yourself to receive help (there is no reward for doing it all yourself).

6. Be open to feedback and suggestions.

7. Learn how to enjoy the process (it may take you a while to get there, so you might as well enjoy it)!

8. Reward yourself often.  Be proud of even the tiniest steps of progress.

9. Hang around with people who make their ideas happens.

10. Start even if you don’t know how you are going to finish.

11. REPEAT.