It Hurts When I Do This

injured-teddy-bearImagine that you know someone who has injured their arm. You ask them if it hurts, and they say, “Only when I do THIS…” and proceed to lift their arm as high as they can (wincing in pain as they do so).

What would you say to them? Most likely, “Well then DON’T DO THAT!”

It seems like an obvious solution to a rather silly scenario, but this actually happens fairly often. (In fact, I think I’ve even done it myself — stretching a hurt arm or leg to see how far I could push it until the pain returned.)

In a way, this makes sense: you might want to test an old injury to see if you can go beyond your previous limitations — to push past your old comfort zone. The part that doesn’t make sense, however, is repeating the action when you ALREADY KNOW that it makes you hurt — demonstrating it for others or just repeating it for yourself, reinforcing your knowledge…and your pain!

This doesn’t just hold true for physical injuries. How often do we keep doing the same things, thinking the same thoughts, and putting ourselves into the same situations that have repeatedly caused us pain (in any respect)?

Sometimes we might (nonsensically) expect or wish for different results, but more often than not — just like the person demonstrating their injury by lifting their arm — we know exactly what’s going to happen: it’s going to hurt!

When we catch ourselves in this type of situation, we have a few options:

  • We could complain about the pain — grumbling about it to ourselves or anyone who’ll listen.
  • We could make jokes about it (but still focus on it, talk about it, reinforce it, and re-experience it on a regular basis).
  • We could try to ignore it, tough it out, and stoically push through the pain.
  • Or we could take the same advice we might give to the person repeatedly lifting their injured arm: Don’t do that!

While every situation is different, I generally support this last option: Stop doing what hurts you — physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually!

  • Stop lifting your arm in a way that hurts!
  • Stop thinking that thought that depresses you!
  • Stop hanging out with those people who don’t respect you!
  • Stop telling that self-fulfilling story of why you’ll never succeed!
  • Stop thinking, saying, and doing the things that hold you back, keep you down, dampen your spirit, crush your soul, or hurt you in any other way!

While this might sound like a negative approach to healing, it’s actually based on the incredibly positive premise that, at our core, people are naturally healthy and joyful. It’s also based on the fundamental truth that the human body and spirit are incredibly resilient!

In many areas of life, the healing process is natural and spontaneous — and generally requires little or no effort on our part! This means that, more often than not, we can heal simply by NOT repeatedly thinking, saying, and doing the things that hurt us. When we stop picking a scab (literally or figuratively), it will heal on its own. When we stop focusing on the things that make us feel bad, we start to feel better!

No, the results aren’t generally instantaneous. A scab won’t disappear right before your eyes, in a matter of seconds. A broken arm won’t be as good as new after a few minutes of not lifting it. And a cloud of chronic depression, anger, or low self-esteem isn’t likely to lift all at once. But the healing process can begin right away — starting from the moment you stop demonstrating and reinforcing your pain.

And how do you know that the process is working? You start to feel better!

Have you ever kept thinking, saying, or doing things that consistently hurt you? Have you stopped? If so, have you started to feel better? Or, if you’re still doing something that hurts, would you be willing to stop? After all, you’ve got nothing to lose…except the pain!

Dream Small

Dream Big!

You’ve probably seen or heard this advice many times — from friends, colleagues, social-media posts, and personal-growth blogs: Dream big! Dream bigger!

And yes, oftentimes, this is great advice! After all, you want a dream that’s big enough to inspire you, to get your blood pumping, or at least to get you out of bed in the morning! And if you have a minuscule dream — for instance, to chew a piece of gum — that’s probably not exactly going to fill you with buoyant enthusiasm and zest for life. So, in this case, I would agree with the multitudes urging you […] Continue Reading…

Life Lesson from Steven Wright

There’s an old joke by Steven Wright: “Somebody stole everything in my apartment and replaced it with an exact replica.”

I always loved the surreal humor of this one-liner (and dozens of others from Wright’s seemingly endless supply, made all the better by his deadpan delivery). Recently, though, I got to thinking that this bizarre hypothetical scenario might contain an important life lesson.

As strange as it may seem, many things in our lives are repeatedly replaced with “replicas” — relationships, possessions, and situations in all areas of life:

You get out of one relationship only to have it replaced by another with the same dynamic.
You […] Continue Reading…

Seeing Yourself Through the Eyes of Love

The Lie of Self-Criticism…and the Truth of Self-Love
Have you ever seen the Dove Soap commercials where a police artist sketches women based on verbal descriptions?

The artist (who doesn’t see the women) makes two sets of drawings: the first set is based on each woman describing herself; the second set is based on other women’s descriptions of them. The differences are staggering: The drawings based on others’ descriptions show beautiful women, while the drawings based on self-descriptions are ugly—almost deformed—with every so-called flaw grotesquely magnified.

This experiment illustrates (quite literally!) the extent to which many people suffer from poor self-image—an issue […] Continue Reading…

Smoke ’em if ya got ’em!

When my dad was in basic training for the army, every time they’d take a break, someone would yell out: Smoke ’em if ya got ’em!

(This was in the early 1950s, when it was assumed that the only reason someone wouldn’t smoke during a short break was because they’d run out of cigarettes!)

At the end of the 15 minutes (or however long the break lasted), it was back to basic training. The window of opportunity for cigarettes was officially closed, whether or not you’d smoked.

Although I’ve never been a smoker and definitely don’t encourage the habit, this line does make a […] Continue Reading…

Your Biggest Addiction

Unless I know you fairly well, I don’t know what addictions you do or don’t have. I don’t know if you smoke, drink to excess, gamble compulsively, binge eat junk food, or bite your nails.

I also don’t know if you have any positive addictions (or, if that feels too much like an oxymoron, we can just call them good habits). You might meditate every day, exercise, drink green smoothies, or do anything else on a regular basis that helps you feel better — and that, if you were to stop suddenly, would make you go through withdrawal (or at least feel […] Continue Reading…

How Do You Solve the South Pole?

As ludicrous as it might sound, what if your friend told you that they wanted to “solve” the South Pole? (And no, they weren’t talking about global warming — and no, they’re not a penguin.) Imagine the ridiculous conversation you might have:

Friend: I’ve got a big problem: Every year I go to the South Pole, and I always get really cold — even if I bundle up in the warmest clothes I have.

You: Well, then just don’t go there!

Friend: But that doesn’t solve the problem! That’s just avoidance!

You: Exactly! I think that you should avoid going to the South Pole! Maybe instead, […] Continue Reading…

Getting out of the Mental Mud

The biggest change in my life over the past few months is that now, unlike before, when I realize I’ve made a wrong turn, I don’t keep driving down that road!

I’m not talking about literal wrong turns (although it’s true for those as well).
I’m not talking about figurative wrong turns — actions that lead you someplace where you didn’t want to go. (I’ve already written a post about that — and what to do when it happens.)
I’m talking about mental “wrong turns” — thought patterns that take you off your intended path…perhaps even into an inner “ditch.”

It’s not a big deal to have unintended thoughts. In […] Continue Reading…

What’s Your Word of the Year? (Here’s Mine)

For the past few years I’ve practiced my own personal New Year’s tradition:

On January 1, I pick a word for the year and write it on my bathroom mirror — where it stays for the next 365 days.

I write the word in bold, blue Sharpie and position it so that whenever I look in the mirror, I see it just above my head (or, if I’m standing with particularly good posture, as if it’s written directly on my forehead).

Each time I see the word, it reinforces its meaning, its power, and its role in my life — so I’m careful to choose a word that […] Continue Reading…

New Year’s Manifestations (NOT Resolutions!)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope that you had a wonderful end to 2014 and a happy New Year’s celebration — and that 2015 is already starting off great for you!
So, it’s that time of year again: time to turn over a new calendar page, turn over a new leaf, and make your New Year’s resolutions.
(Or not.)
When you think of New Year’s resolutions, do you think, “Yay!” — or do you think, “Ugh!”. Or do you start off thinking, “Yay!” (in January) and end up thinking “Ugh!” (by February, if not sooner).
If you’ve ever gotten excited about a New Year’s resolution — […] Continue Reading…