Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Word Power

There is a phenomenon known as the Michelangelo Effect, named for the renaissance artist who was reported to have described his work saying, "In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action.  I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it."
I hold the same opinion about relationships.  There is a generally accepted notion in psychotherapy that you can't change others, you can only change yourself.  While this is generally true, I think that it ignores the power of relationship.  What I mean is that when we are in a significant relationship with another human, it is possible that our mutual influence on each other will have a transformative effect.  It is, of course, possible that despite the significant relationship we share, our influence may prove ineffectual in motivating another to change.  How do we maximize our influence?
I believe part of the answer lies in how we perceive others.  Research indicates that we begin to form our self-image, how we think about and consider ourselves, by the way that others treat us in our very young years.  Ideally, loving parents and adults would help shape a baby... a toddler, a child's view of him or herself as worthy, capable, valued and unique.  However, I've facilitated enough therapy sessions to know that all too often, we pick up other messages from our tender years.
Let me offer this word for your consideration today:


You have probably heard it's antonym, 'incorrigible', used to describe someone who is a miscreant, unredeemable and not worth your time.  Or possibly, you've heard someone tease another by saying, "Oh, you bad boy... you are incorrigible!"  Outside of obscure texts, I don't think I've seen or heard 'corrigible' used in everyday conversation.  This is a shame, in my opinion, because it should be the foundation of healthy relationships.  Corrigible means: capable of being corrected, set right, or reformed.  When we are able to view others as corrigible, it transforms our relationships from inflexible, unyielding prisons of habit and patterns of behavior and attitude and turns them into a place where when you mess up, you can own up to the mistake and work on improvement.  When we do the opposite, when we view others as incorrigible, we relegate relationships to brokenness, disappointment and, eventually, disposal.  And then we jump from relationship to relationship seeking something outside ourselves that is whole and healthy and not broken, when the truth is that what needs to be fixed most is how we see others.
May you learn to shake off the lie that your past defines you and may you begin to see yourself as someone who is open to correction and able to improve... and in doing so, learn to value yourself and others in a whole new way.  May you be corrigible.

note: crossposted from

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Decide, don't slide

The first time I heard this phrase, I thought it sounded silly.  A simple rhyme devised on the fly to help someone remember a concept, but maybe a little too silly and not clever enough.  Over the years though, I haven’t come up with a better way to help explain and remember such an empowering idea.   There is something mighty about the conviction that I am able to make a decision and feel assured that I can manage the consequences.  That silly phrase, “Decide, don’t slide” helps me realize the power of that conviction.
We make decisions daily, but not all are equal.  Some have more weight than others.  What to eat for breakfast vs. where to go to college are very different decisions.  The amount of energy and focus put into the heavy decisions will be important whereas some decisions don’t merit much thought.  However, one long term effect of having a good decision making process is that we build confidence in our ability to not only decide but also to handle the consequences of our decisions.  That is where this phrase “Decide, don’t slide” is helpful.
Many decisions are unconscious decisions that get made by default.  By not consciously acting on information (making a decision), we are in effect, deciding not to decide about something.  For instance, many decisions are ‘made for us’ when we don’t pay attention to deadlines.  A habitual procrastinator, I have frequently fretted about a looming deadline, telling myself all of the lies   
procrastinators espouse: I work better under pressure; I’m better at impromptu; I’ll have time later… As the deadlines approach and then zoom by, we might experience some relief that we are no longer pressured mixed with some regret for not having stepped up.This is a scary precedent that we set.  This is what is meant by “sliding”.  Many of us slide through life without realizing that we are missing out on an important part of developing our own character and self-image.  When we slide, we may have the advantage of complaining that we are victims of our circumstances.  While this may be accurate because there are many situations that affect us which are beyond our control or influence, it is not very helpful.   Victimhood is an assumption of powerlessness.  On the other hand, we may possibly end up where we want to be by sheer luck.  In the long run, I believe that many people who get stuck in ‘sliding’ through life at some point look up and look around them and finally ask themselves, “How the hell did I end up here?” 
In contrast, people who are able to decide are at least able to look around and know with assurance that they are where they are because they chose to be there.  Depending on where that is, it may not be pleasant.  It may be divorced, or incarcerated, or it could be educated and empowered and self-sufficient.  But along the way, I’d be willing to bet that the person who is able to “decide” at least has a powerful character trait: self-determination.  I repeat, there is something mighty about the conviction that I am able to make a decision and feel assured that I can manage the consequences.  If I have this ability, even if the consequences are a hard lesson, I can always make another decision to course-correct if I need to.   For a ‘decider’, there are no good or bad decisions, just decisions that help or decisions that hinder.  Setting and working toward goals are part of the process, but decisions are the action steps that get us to where we want to be rather than ending up someplace and wondering how we got there.
This little, silly phrase has helped me understand my poor habit, but also empowered me to take control of my outcomes, responsibility for my decisions and ultimately, feel good about myself because I am learning to trust the decision making process as I make continual course corrections.   

And now, may you decide today that you want to have some say over where you end up.  This decision will not only affect where you end up, but how you get there.  Decide today to enjoy the journey.