Monday, June 14, 2021

Learning to balance our inner compass with our outer compass


When people have lost sight of who they are, it’s a sign that they may have been too focused towards the “outer compass” i.e. excessive following the rules and feelings of others and people pleasing. This is normal of course, because we have been trained that way to some extent. It is how schools, many workplaces, and society operate. It helps with “collectiveness” and outer harmony. 

Like most things, if balanced, it’s good and workable. If imbalanced, it may lead to a lot of inner tension and unhappiness. 

So what is the solution?

We can help these folks to define and work on their “inner compass” to balance their “outer compass”. What’s their principles and values, and take committed actions towards that. Cultivate authenticity and living a life more true to who they are, in order to find that balance. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

What relationship do you have with your mind?


In counseling work, we often see a number of relationships that people can have with their minds. 

They can fight with their minds.
They can be a slave to their minds.
They can suffer in their minds.
They can try to escape from their minds.
They are at peace with their minds.
They have a “healthy distance” with their minds and can use it as an effective tool.

The last two are the least tiring.

Helping people to make peace or create a healthy distance with thoughts and feelings in their minds, is a significant part of counseling work.

The question is, what relationship do you have with your minds?

Saturday, June 5, 2021

How to reconcile the care for others versus the care for self


It’s common for me to see folks who are constantly in an internal struggle between the thoughts of “How can I help” versus “What about me”. 

It’s a real inner tug of war at times. The care for others versus the care for self. 

Some of you may be able to relate to this phenomenon perhaps.

How do we get out of this inner struggle? Understanding and awareness first may help.

Like a computer program, when one criteria is in conflict with another, we must instruct it to go somewhere, and not be stuck in limbo. Being in limbo is often worse than bad news.

When we are in this inner struggle, we might freeze, and just as problematic, we might flight or fight with those around us who we care deeply about.

When “looking after others” is in conflict with “looking after self”, look after self first so that we can then look after others more effectively. It’s not the same as being selfish. But caution regarding leaving it too late, as the fight or flight response will rear its head with negative consequences. 

So please consider “recoding your code” around selfcare perhaps.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Living life guide by values rather simply by strict or rigid rules


Are you living a life more guided by values, or rigid rules and goals?

And why is that question important?

Let’s use a particular common “value” that folks may have... Security and Stability.

If one has strong “values” around stability and security, one may have developed certain internal rigid rules, goals, and expectations around that “value” e.g. I must make $x every year. I must be my own boss. I must own my own house. I must settle down by the age 30 and have kids.

Rules and goals are much more detailed, “higher resolution”, and more rigid than values. The good thing about rules is that it gives more specificity and clarity. The trouble is, it’s also much easier to “miss the target”, and subsequently brings on much stress and unhappiness when our rules are not achieved. The benefit around “value focused” is that it is “bigger picture”, and that one can fail in a rule AND still be able to fulfill the value from which that rule originates.

If one’s internal framework is based on the set of rigid set of rules and goals, then it’s hard to fulfill those exactly. We may set ourselves up for failures and disappointments when those rules and goals are not achieved.

If one’s internal framework is more based on “values”, then it’s easier to fulfill those values even when the exact rules and goals are not fulfilled. As long as what we do are in line with our values, then we are still in inner harmony, and we are still calm.

The irony is, if we focus on value based actions, in this example around stability and security, we may get to our goals and fulfill our “rules” sooner with more joy, less fear and disappointments.

Of course, there are other values to live by too. Adventure, fun, growth and learning, beauty, honesty, authenticity, integrity, loyalty, duty, excellence, competency, family, connection, compassion to name a few.

In other words, life is value based processes and journey, rather than just simply rules, goals and destination.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

What will our world be like, if we all have better emotional literacy?


I often wonder what it will be like if we as a society, put the same amount of energy into teaching emotional literacy, as we do for numeracy, science, and literacy. 

I think it will happen, because we will simply have to. We all know about the rate of mental health issues in our communities.  So it will happen, but I just don’t know when. 

Having said that, I hope that it will be sooner rather than later. 

In the meantime, as a Health Professional, we will try and fill this gap the best that we can. Our schools may have a big role to play by introducing more emotional literacy related education to our schools. On an individual level, you can certainly learn more about emotionally literacy by staying curious, and seek relevant information in this area. 

It’s certainly not easy, but it is definitely a worthwhile pursuit. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Reframing our narratives can be a useful strategy when life does not go our way


Reframing can be a useful strategy in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) if we are ready to reframe our narrative. Our experiences will have to be validated first before a reframe is more well received by our minds.

The danger in “reframing” is when we are NOT ready, we may feel very invalidated through that process.

My family and I often talk about the Vietnam War. Many families like mine escaped the country in the 80s. But without the “bad”, many of the “good” wouldn’t have happened either.

We won’t be able to speak another language. We won’t have the appreciation that we have right now. We won’t have the life that we have right now.

So when something “bad” happens, acknowledge it. Then we can consider reminding ourselves, when one door closes, another one opens~A.Bell.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Why mindfulness of thoughts and feelings are like punctuations in our writings


Imagine trying to write a story without a comma, full stop, paragraphs, or chapters. 

It’s amazing how much a simple pause can make a difference to the meaning of a sentence and the outcome of a story.

Likewise, when one has thoughts or feelings showing up in our minds, and we don’t have the ability to apply mindfulness and defusion in the right places for the “pause, think, before we do”, we might not get the perspective and the outcome that we want. It can lead to impulsivity, obsessive compulsive tendencies, and unwanted behaviours and drama.

A comma or full stop can be insignificant by itself, but without it, our writing may turn out very differently.

Likewise, practicing mindfulness and defusion is pretty boring by itself, but without it, the narrative in our minds can get quite distorted.