The Magic of a Child's View

Like some other posts here, I write this to remind myself as much as anything else. I fall into old habits very easily and then something happens that jolts me into a reminder that there is another way of seeing the world. Christmas this year has done just that.

Christmas

There are a few things that I like about Christmas. I don’t like the commercialized frenzy that Christmas seems to have become. That does not appeal to me at all. But I would say that there are four things that I do like about Christmas.

  1. What I see as the underlying message of Christmas, peace and goodwill to all.
  2. Singing Christmas carols. I have always enjoyed doing so, and don’t do it enough nowadays.
  3. The family coming together.
  4. Experiencing the magic of Christmas through a child’s eye.

It is the final one that this article is about.

Of what magic do I speak?

I do not have any children of my own, but my wife has two adult children. I am now a grandfather to two young boys - one 3 years old and the other 1½ months. This year the three year old is starting to understand what is going on at Christmas. Santa is real for him. The lights decorating houses are creating a wonderland that he gets to inhabit. Presents appearing under the tree are creating conversation and excitement. The promise of making Christmas cookies with grandma is waited for eagerly. The Sugar Cane Train to Santa Land - “look at the train, the lights, the snow.”

Around my grandson his sense of joy and belief in the world emerging around him becomes infectious. I experience a world of possibilities and fun. Not just something that he believes, but a real world that he takes us into along with him. For that magic is his imagination.

In the middle of this seasonal world of his is the Elf!

The Elf

The Elf is a Christmas decoration that ‘lives’ in his house. Every morning the Elf is somewhere else in the house, engaged in some different activity. The other morning my grandson came down almost out of breath, and in his emerging English of words, noises and nicknames, he explained what the Elf was doing when he woke up. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, though tried to acknowledge his excitement. The photograph below shows what he was trying to explain to me.

Elf on Dinosaur

Elf has also just sat on a shelf, slept on another shelf, played on a swing that he hung from a light, dangled from a thin web à la Spiderman, and hidden in a cup. All of these have been pointed out to me eagerly by my grandson as I walk into his house.

I suggested that maybe Elf would also come down to my house. My grandson was left pondering that, unsure.

Seeing with new eyes

My drive home here on Maui is in part along a road that is travelled by many visitors to the island. As I follow those whom I assume are here for the first time, I imagine that with every turn in the road they are seeing for the the very first time scenery that I see everyday. With fresh eyes, possibly seeing things that my tired seen it before eyes miss? Maybe seeing a depth to the beauty that we are driving through, a beauty that I saw once but now miss (take for granted - I hope not)?

Similarly what do I miss not only at Christmas, but year round?

Belief, joy, wonderment, possibilities. I see all of these in my grandson as I watch him live through the build up to Christmas. And his belief in that magic can take me there as well as I follow his awe and exclamations. I find it a powerful magic, something that we could all remind ourselves of, and that sadly slips away from us as the truth of Santa’s reality fades from our grasp.

Imagination

It is from my grandson’s imagination that will emerge his creativity, ideas, invention. To smother its development is to smother possibilities for him into the future. And Christmas can be a remembrance to us of our loss of imagination. Of falling into regimentation that daily life bring to us, and with it a loss of magic.

I invite you to surrender to the magic that children can bring to us at this time of year. Open yourself to possibilities. The possibility of love winning over hate, of us solving the problems of climate change, of fairy lights, of anything.

And if children are not in your life, take yourself back to those moments of magic in your own life. It does not just have to be Christmas. Magic is always there, somewhere, for us to tap into. We just have to keep are eyes and heart open.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.


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When you are the lone one amongst many

When you are the solitary introvert or HSP amongst many who are not. When you are the quiet one and your actions or needs are looked on as being off or odd. When you are looked on as not fitting in, and the sole justification is because of what everyone else is doing. When your different needs are seen as wrong because and simply because no one else present has them, and everyone else is doing something else. When societal expectations tell you that something is not quite right in how you show up, and you are judged accordingly.

Just remember, you have have the right to be who you are.

Two tools that I would like to offer here can help you build resilience against the messages that you are receiving and to trust in your own worthiness.

Tackling the beast

Feeling inadequate and alone is a debilitating experience that can take the wind out of the sails of even the most well intentioned endeavour. These beliefs can feed a lack of worthiness, and knock our self-esteem. At the same time we stand there knowing that how we feel and act is who we are. We are not trying to be awkward or act different, this is simply who we are.

If I build a belief and trust in who I am and my own sense of self-worth, it is harder for the outside world to sway me when I’m challenged. A sense of worthiness is always a work in progress. Just as you conquer one critique, another challenge that you hadn’t dealt with before will find its way in and you will feel knocked down again. But as long as the wish is to build your worthiness is there, it will only get stronger with time.

Fear

Fear is the beast that gets in the way of us believing in who we are. Fear of loosing connection with those around us. That in turn feeds into shame, the shame of being different, of standing out and being alone. Of being different and being criticized for it.

Those who have a strong sense of self-worth have the,

  • courage to be different and accept themselves for who they are.
  • compassion for themselves first, not despite others, but recognizing that for worthiness to be there, they have to have compassion for self. It has to start at home.
  • vulnerability, to fully embrace vulnerability with a recognition that without it, they cannot embrace their self-worth. One cannot exist without the other.

This path to self-worth is not necessarily comfortable, but it is necessary. Without one the other cannot exist.

Shame

The critique of others or even simply judging ourselves against others will see the rise of shame within us. The path to self-worth sees one having to face the beast of shame.

Shame corrodes the part of us that believes we can do and be better.
~Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

Shame quite often gets mixed up with its near relative, guilt. There is a difference between the two and it lies in the object of identification. Shame identifies with self, guilt identifies with action.

  • Shame - “I am bad, because of an action I did or did not do.”
  • Guilt - I did something bad, ie “I broke the vase.”

Guilt is an honest admission of an action that I did. Shame is identifying with the action to the degree that I believe that it speaks to the nature of my character.

Shame resilience

If we are to build our self-worth, we need to build a defense against shame, catching it when it arises and countering the story that it is telling us…and that we are believing. Essentially pulling the rug out from under its feet.

Shame resilience as developed by Brené Brown is made up of four stages,

  1. Recognizing shame and understanding the triggers - get to know how shame shows up for you. How do you feel in your body when shame is presence? What needs to be going on for shame to show up in your life?
  2. Practicing critical awareness - counter the stories in you that are feeding your shame. How realistic are the expectations that you are putting on yourself? Do I really want to be like that? Start pulling the rug out from under your shame by telling the true story.
  3. Reaching out - find an ally, someone who you can trust and who will listen. Someone who loves and respects you for who you are. Someone who will not try and solve the problem, who will not judge you but will listen and hear your story. Connection wounds shame.
  4. Speaking shame - naming shame’s presence. Shame does not like that. Speak to how you feel. Ask for what you need.

The bumpy path

This is not a comfortable path. Dealing with fear, shame and vulnerability will never take us into a comfortable place, but it will take us to a courageous place. It is from a courageous place that we can start to build connection with who we are and stand in our own power. Then despite the voices that come from outside we are no longer the lone one amongst many. We might be different in our needs and how we act, but at the same time we are at home with ourselves.

From that place I can say, "I am worthy."

What I am learning from Microblogvember

Microblogvember is a challenge that is taking place on the micro.blog platform through the month of November 2019. Each day Jean MacDonald, Community Manager at micro.blog, uses a random word generator to get the prompt for that day, which she then shares with the micro.blog community. Those taking part must then write a post containing the word.

I decided to take part. Why?

The short answer is because I wanted the challenge that would push me to post each day. As this is a micro.blog, I do not have to produce a post any longer than 280 characters. However, as someone who can very easily silence himself by wanting to “sound good”, or in other words post the perfect post, the character length does not necessarily make things any easier.

I can take a few days over a blog post. There can be nothing wrong with that. I write, edit, fine tune and finally post. However, more often than not I extend that process by too much, simply because I am not happy with how I am expressing myself. I edit and fine tune, edit and fine tune, edit and fine tune, etc, etc.

Perfectionism

Author and researcher Brené Brown says of perfectionism1,

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.

Perfectionism is a block to the world that I want to create or offer. As long as my words do not see the light of day, the thoughts and ideas that I want to share will also never see the light of day. As long as I do not allow myself to publish a post, I do not get the opportunity to improve my writing through practice. Words might come out messy, my expression could be fine tuned here or there, but unless I allow myself to be vulnerable and speak to where I am in that moment, I will not be able to move beyond that moment. I will be stuck.

Commitment - Stepping Beyond Perfectionism

A commitment to Microblogvember asks me to step out of my comfort zone and just post. I post using today’s word today, as tomorrow will be tomorrow’s word. I play with the word in my head to come up with a context that I might use it. Next I play with two or three sentences in Drafts, and then post it.

Today, November 15, the challenge has reached the halfway point and I am happy to say that I have posted everyday. My plan is to make it to the finishing line. My hope is to take my experience from this challenge into my longer blog posts, and see a quicker turn around with them, from idea to post.

You?

Where is perfectionism blocking you in your life? What small step can you take to step beyond perfectionism?

When Shame Hits

Shame corrodes the part of us that believes we can do and be better.
~ Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown

From my experience shame can come out of nowhere. It hit me hard yesterday, and it can be a real gut wrencher.

I met up for breakfast with some friends from my men’s group. I value having these men in my life and we were having a great conversation. Another man happened to walk into the store where we were eating and joined us. I hadn’t seen him in a long while. I appreciate these moments in my life.

Then one man said something to another. Innocently, nothing wrong with what he said, but it hit me in the gut. The pain from that blow slowly expanded over through the rest of the day, putting me in a space such that I found it hard to be productive for a few hours.

Shadow

Shadow - The part of ourselves that we don’t talk about. It is the part of our personality that we deny to the world, and often to ourselves. That which we repress, hide and deny.

That is what had been hit in me yesterday, shadow. I have a context for this now. My men’s work has shown me shadow and given me a safe place to bring shadow into light. Something that had innocently been said had touched a shadow within me. As the day went on, those very men who I had had breakfast with also became my support.

Shame Resilience

The work of author, speaker and researcher, Brené Brown, through her own research on shame has developed a four step process for dealing with shame. Brown calls this process Shame Resilience. Here are those four steps:

  1. Recognising shame and understanding our triggers - Shame is biology and biography. What are your physical responses. What does shame taste like, smell like, feel like?
  2. Practice Critical Awareness - Can you reality-check the messages and expectations that are driving your shame?  Are they realistic?  Attainable?  Are they what you want to be or what you think others need/want from you?
  3. Reaching Out - Are you owning and sharing your story?  We can’t experience empathy if we’re not connecting.
  4. Speaking Shame - Are you talking about how you feel and asking for what you need when you feel shame?

This was also a big help. When I bring light to that which I did not know was there, or had hidden due to shame or fear of being judged, it starts to loose its power. When I bring that shadow to light within the context of a person or community who does not judge me, who sees me beyond my struggles, the power of that seeing becomes all the more stronger.

Shadow and shame does not disappear over night, but a willingness to expose, challenge and look at them will wear down the foundations upon which they stand.

Boundaries

Yesterday dealt me a lesson in spades. I will keep the details confidential to respect the agreements of those who I was working with - what is said in that circle, stays there - but will share the more overarching experience.

No boundaries

Without boundaries in my life I ended up feeling frustrated, feel as though people are taking advantage of me, become overwhelmed with things that I have to do, and end up blaming others for how I feel. The reality comes in two parts, both of which are tightly entwined,

  1. I am not being clear about when and what I am saying “No” to in my life.
  2. My wish to please can be tightly entwined with me saying “Yes” to requests for help…but to the extent that I do not know when to say enough is enough.

In short - none, or weak boundaries.

Life without boundaries is a life half lived. You are not respecting yourself, and your emotions come filtered through that hole in your boundary wall. To quote Brené Brown,

“Empathy without Boundaries is not Empathy. Compassion without Boundaries is not genuine. Vulnerability without Boundaries is not Vulnerability.”

When helping is not enough

So what happens when you are involved in work where some of those participating are being made to do so against their will? For me I keep telling myself that I am there to help and must do that come what may. I tell myself that there is a key that I just need to find that will enable me to get through to those not interested. I tell myself that I am here to help and so must push through until the results come.

The result? Frustration and anger building up in me at the lack of cooperation - and those who don’t want to be there, still don’t want to be there.

Action

When our work was over yesterday, I told my co-facilitators that going forward I had no intention of working with participants who are not interested in being there. That I wish to ask those who we work for to not make participants be there against their wishes. That if I knew that I was being asked to go back into such a group again, that I would say “No.” I was clear about that. I can use my time better.

The result?

I felt clearer and stronger for having said that. If people do not want to be helped, I can’t help them whatever my skills might be. As Brown said in the quote above, “Compassion without Boundaries is not genuine.”

If I am clear about who and how I help, the help will be much more effective.

Along with the feeling of strength and clarity, I feel a shakiness and vulnerability about making such a statement, but again as Brown says,

Boundaries are not fake walls. Boundaries are not division. Boundaries are not separation. Boundaries are respect. Here is what is OK for me and here is what is not.

And you?

Where are your boundaries, and where are they not?

Social Media Vulnerability

I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure…Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.
~ Brené Brown.


The transition that I spoke about here feels complete. Over the Easter Weekend I deactivated my eleven year old Twitter account. I am now off of mainstream social media in totality. I feel comfortable with the decisions that led to this place, and I now feel vulnerable.

Social media is, I have been told, where I have to be to keep my coaching business afloat. But social media is not where my heart is. It feels to me like a noisy party that I can’t keep up with, despite the presence of friends and colleagues. The noise and activity that exist there drown out my ability to keep up with the conversations and hear the clarity of my thoughts. The sensitive side of my nature finds the volume deafening - loud for me does not always manifest as sound - and I have chosen to bow out. Some people have offered me strategies for staying involved, but those have not worked for me.

For me my preference is the quieter world, whether in the virtual or real world, though quieter does not mean unengaged. Places of longer reads, considered conversations, peppered with joy, laughter, friendship and building connections.

The last six months, from leaving social media to embracing a simpler website, has seen me cross a threshold to a place that feels as though it more closely honours who I am, and sits more comfortably with what I want to offer. At the same time it seemingly - as the story goes that I tell myself - leaves me feeling more alone in the opportunities that I now have for making connection, making myself visible…and so, more vulnerable.

But that is simply a story that I tell myself. A story fed by fear brought on by vulnerability. It also feels more like my truth, and now that I have entered that place, I will see where it will take me.

+++

Update: 4/29/19

I have been traveling and needed to contact the airline that my wife and I were using. I was looking for a quick response. I didn’t fancy waiting on the telephone for someone to answer, and the only other place I knew where I might get a quick answer was on Twitter. So, very aware of what I wrote here, I reactivated my Twitter account (it sits in a dormant state for thirty days when you deactivate it, before Twitter deletes it) and got the answers that I needed. I acknowledge that this is something that I have found useful about Twitter - quick access to companies for assistance. I have therefore decided for now to keep my Twitter account open, for such instances. I don’t plan on using the platform for anything else, time will tell.

And what might this turn of events say to vulnerability as I spoke about it above? My words still hold true, I believe. I am honest about my need and how Twitter can help me there. I still find social media loud, and will monitor its presence in my life, currently not planning to use it beyond the need that I spoke of.

When You Doubt Even Yourself

Old habits die hard…even, or maybe especially when they run counter to something that you truly believe in.

Visitors to this site will know that aside from working with introverts and highly sensitive people of both sexes, I have a particular interest in working with men as I believe that personality traits that such personalities engender in people can run counter to how society expects men to behave.

This can result in introverted and highly sensitive men feeling that there is something wrong with them, for them to deny and suppress how they are feeling and what their needs are, and to generally struggle to speak up for what they need for fear of being judged.

I recently started a monthly group here on Maui for men who identify as introverted and/or Highly Sensitive….but it did take a while for it to manifest. Why was that?

The reason was quite simple - my fear of being judged!

I set the group up under the auspices of the ManKind Project here on Maui, an organization which from my experience is accepting and embracing of men of all leanings. My gut was telling me that the community here on the island would benefit from such a group, but I was afraid of putting out an invitation for men to join me because I thought that other men might judge me as in some way being less than due to the simple act of admitting to be of those personality types (primarily due to their own misunderstandings of those personalities). Following on from that would be having to explain and convince the community that there is nothing wrong with such men, that they are fine, normal and have their own set of strengths that should be embraced by society at large.

All of that effort felt too much. Too large of a mountain to climb that might get me into more trouble before I reached the summit, and so much better just to bite my lip and stay quiet.

But hell no!

That is exactly what I want to change…mens’ and society’s in general understanding of introverted and highly sensitive men.

​My gut was telling me to do this, and I knew that that intuition would not leave me alone. Indeed that there would be regret if I did not start to the group. And so I lent into that discomfort, that fear to start the group and deal with problems if and when they arose. Hell, who knows….perhaps some good will come of it! Ha!

So I wrote the invitation, sat with it and then pressed send…

And now?

We have now held three meetings. The forth is scheduled for the beginning of March. There have been an average of six men at each meeting with fourteen on the mailing list. It is now a regular feature on MKP Maui’s weekly mail outs of what’s on, and a community meeting got rescheduled as it coincided with our third meeting.

I still don’t know where this group will go, we are allowing it to grow in its own way, but I know that the men who attend are benefitting from it and I am benefitting for taking that risk.

What fear in you are you not leaning into?