Tag Archives: Self-Acceptance

Bullied as a Child: How Can I Trust in Intimate Relationships?

Dear JoyDiva,

As a child, from ages 6-12, I was bullied first physically and then mentally.  My parents never openly advocated for me, and teachers turned a blind eye.  As a result, I advocated for myself, and have learned to be strong in that sense.

However, as I grow older, my childhood haunts me.  I feel like I will be left holding all the bags at any moment.  I have issues with trust and intimacy, and this wrecks havoc for relationships that I am in.  I question all the good things that come to me because I was told by everyone that I did not deserve it.  I feel hardwired to think this way, and it feels terrible.  I feel that it would be irresponsible to find someone who could handle all of this baggage, so I desperately try to solve my own problems.  However, this drives a wedge between my partners and myself as I will seem moody and distant simply because I cannot express my feelings in a constructive way.

What can I do to get rid of this ‘baggage’ that prevents me from becoming intimate with another person?

Thank you for your time.

The Bullied & The Beautiful

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Dear, “The Bullied & The Beautiful,”

Thank you for your heartfelt note. I’m going to do my best to give you something concrete to work with through what I offer here, and at the same time, it is clear to me that these thought patterns that feel “hardwired” to you at this point are going to take time and TLC to re-wire, and the most effective way to get clear on and release the blocks and blind-spots keeping you from deeper intimacy is for you to partner with a coach or therapist to help. I can absolutely help you unpack that emotional baggage and support you in taking the scary and ultimately, rewarding steps on the path to trust. I can help you gain the confidence to ask for what you want, believe you are worthy of having what you want, and to open up your emotional world to someone and allow yourself to be supported.

Some resources: I highly recommend the Work of Byron Katie as a simple set of tools to help you question the thoughts and stories that are creating your suffering and open you up to your life NOW, rather than being led by your past. Another experience that could be quite powerful for you might be to participate in the Landmark Forum—the experiential learning there would also support you in the breakthroughs your are wanting. Psychodrama group therapy could be a powerful experience to help you process, re-frame and let go. Brené Brown’s latest book, Daring Greatly would also be a helpful resource in helping you strengthen your shame resilience so that you can open yourself to being vulnerable in all of your relationships.

The work that I encourage you to start moving through is to start differentiating between what happened in your past and the stories that you created around those experiences that are now shaping your future. The past is truly in the past. As painful as it was, it is now over, gone, never to be as it was. Even the terrible, nasty things that people said to you are in the past, over and done with. What is living NOW is the story you created, the meaning  that you added to those experiences in your life. Stories like, “I don’t deserve to be loved.” “I can’t trust anyone but myself.” “Love isn’t safe.” “If I’m vulnerable you will hurt me.” “I’m a victim and you are the perpetrator,” “I will be left holding all of the bags at any moment.” As a small child, you couldn’t help but buy into these stories. You were doing the best that you could to protect yourself and survive. As scary as it is as an adult, you don’t ACTUALLY need these stories to protect you, anymore, and the most powerful place to be is in the heart of your vulnerability, rather than gripped by the fear that these thoughts of mistrust create for you.

And if you were to go back and get really clear on what actually happened in your past, (ie. My classmate called me fat, ugly and stupid) and then the story you may have created around what happened (ie. My classmate hates me, she said that because there’s something wrong with me, everyone hates me, I really AM fat, ugly and stupid, people think I’m undeserving of love, etc.)…the more you separate out the story from what happened, the more you will be able to take responsibility for the meaning you added to those experiences, and set yourself free. The wonderful thing about life is that all kinds of stuff happens, and WE get to be the ones who make meaning of it. At any time you can choose to shift your reality based on how you are choosing to perceive it. At anytime, you could choose to open up your heart and know that no matter what the other person does or does not do, you will never leave you, you will always be there to love and support you. (another one of my posts that has great wisdom in it for you: http://askthejoydiva.com/2012/01/18/why-is-it-so-hard-to-accept-that-my-boyfriend-loves-me/)

So, my love, like I said above, this kind of letting go and thought-shifting may not happen over night and will best be addressed via the support of a professional to hold up the mirror and help you with this process of differentiation. You most certainly do not have to do this growth work on your own, and truth-be-told, as someone who has also built quite a wall of self-reliance through the years due to former abuse and bullying—it doesn’t really work to do that kind of growth work on your own.

I’m always here if you should want to take your healing to the next level and you don’t want to go it alone.

Much love to you. dear heart.

:)Melissa A.K.A. The JoyDiva

©2013 Melissa Simonson

I’m Afraid to be Naked in Front of My Boyfriend…What Should I Do?

Hello Joy Diva. I am 23 years old and I am still insecure of many things I used to be insecure when I was a teen. I am short and fat and I have stretch marks all over my body. I used to have zits and now the marks are all over my face. But this young man, 19, who’s been my friend for over a year now confessed he had feelings for me. And now, we’ve been in love for a couple of months now, but we haven’t been so intimate yet. I know there will come a time when he’ll finally get to see the ugly skin I have I kept hidden underneath my clothes. I’m really afraid my insecurities would ruin up our intimacy and worse our relationship. What should I do?

Ugly Duckling

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Hi Beautiful,

I simply cannot call you the Ugly Duckling because the last thing that you need from me right now is to reinforce this painful image of yourself. You may think that calling you “Beautiful” is taking things too far in the other direction, and I know better. I am confident (and I imagine your boyfriend is, too) that there is exquisite beauty pouring from every aspect of who you are.

Dear, sweet girl—my heart broke a little when I read this post and it was filled with so much love and compassion for you that I can only hope that you feel me wrapping my arms around you with my words. I feel your fear—how real it seems to you that you could be rejected, that you could lose love, that you are not worthy to receive it in the first place because of the way that you look. You’ve gotten pretty good at rejecting yourself, withholding love from yourself, and deeming yourself unworthy through the years, haven’t you? Food itself has probably become both a tool of comfort and punishment as you try to fill those unloved spaces and simultaneously punish yourself for adding to this state of being somehow “unlovable.”

First things first: Fat or thin, tall or short, outgoing or shy, lighthearted or serious, brain surgeon or high school drop-out, etc., etc. you will ALWAYS be worthy of the same amount of love as everyone else—the same love that you feel and wish for your boyfriend, or anyone else who crosses your path. You were born inherently lovable and inherently worthy of being loved. Period. Nothing will ever, ever change that. Being inherently lovable is one of the gifts we get to have for being human.

So, I’m going to give you some tools to love yourself up right now:

1) I want you to honor your fears and insecurities by communicating them to your boyfriend. Right now, you are feeling ashamed about your body, ashamed that you feel insecure about your body, ashamed that you might “ruin” your relationship with this insecurity…and then you’re even feeling ashamed about feeling ashamed. The best way to rid yourself of this shame is to speak it out loud—shame evaporates when we speak it out loud. I know that you’re afraid to let him know that you are anything less than confident, and the truth is that you’re not feeling confident right now—far from it, and what you are feeling is 100% OK and needs your attention and acknowledgment. Let him know how nervous that you are, afraid of pushing him away, afraid that he might not like what he sees…lay it all out there. Honesty is sexy. That’s right…downright I-want-to-make-sweet-love-to-this-woman sexy. :) Chances are really good that he is just going to fall more in love with you through your vulnerability, and if he doesn’t, then he is not a right fit. Any guy who doesn’t embrace you in your vulnerable honesty is not a man worth your time.

2) I want you to start exploring your body as the extraordinary pleasure center that it is. You are a WOMAN! A curvy, soft, sensuous, nurturing, exquisite, radiant flower in your own right. Unlike a man, you have an organ on your body whose sole purpose is for pleasure! How awesome is that?! (Yes…I’m talking about your clitoris…if you haven’t visited it yet or often, I encourage you to get to know it and make it your best friend… :) ) Your body isn’t for your boyfriend! It’s for YOUR pleasure, your enjoyment, your love. Give yourself the gift of exploring all of the ways that you can give yourself pleasure. I want you to enjoy taking showers and feeling the water on your skin, enjoy making yourself smell good, wearing beautiful fabrics…giving yourself all of the time that you need to be fully present in nurturing your body. Dance to music around your house, feel your body flowing with the music. Enjoy the food that you eat—take time to savor it on your tongue. Your body is magnificent. It is the house for your beautiful soul and it is made for you to enjoy what it means to be alive. Women who love their bodies through self-care and pleasure…bodies of all shapes and sizes, are irresistibly sexy.

3) Beyond your body, I want you to explore your inherent fabulousness. Take 5 minutes and make a non-stop list of all of the reasons why any man would be blessed to call you his girlfriend. You were born as a unique expression of the divine, equipped with wonderful strengths. You were born to be a blessing by simply being who you are. So who are you, Gorgeous? Now is not the time to be humble. Go nuts, fill up the page and brag about yourself like there’s no tomorrow.

4) What do you LOVE to do? What do you love about being alive? Make a list and pick 3 things that you can bring into your life daily/weekly/monthly that fill you with joy…and then create time to do those things.

I get that some, if not all, of my assignments for you probably make you super uncomfortable…and that’s the point. You are safe. You are in your own loving hands with every one of these steps, and you deserve to allow yourself to get uncomfortable for the sake of your growth. You deserve to feel sexy and sassy and worthy of all of the love in the world…because you are. Consistently practicing these actions will increase your sense of confidence and love for yourself and begin the process of setting you free. AND you will start to discover that taking care of yourself in these ways just feels damn good…and you so deserve to feel damn good, my dear.

Picturing you happy, healthy, and free.

:) Melissa A.K.A. The JoyDiva

©2013 Melissa Simonson

 

How Can I Rediscover the Fun, Happy, Optimistic Me?

Dear JoyDiva,

I am a young woman of 20 and I want to find out why I can’t accept myself although i am average height and weight. I feel ashamed when I’m naked because I am not your typical playboy model. I have differences that even though my boyfriend tells me over and over again that I am normal or I have read that I am, I still don’t feel this way. It scares me into thinking I can’t explore outside of this little life. I can’t feel free. I have also hurt my boyfriend twice because I am so insecure. I want to be able to be free and be me without feeling I am obligated to stay with my boyfriend or that I have to take up anyone who gives me attention or anyone that is sweet to me. How can I rediscover the fun, happy, optimistic me? Before I would do nothing but draw in my spare time, and I even went to college but shortly gave it up because I felt as if my boyfriend couldn’t handle it and I was afraid he would leave me and even though I love him, I was afraid I’d end up alone. We fought all the time about the past things I did. Help.

Feeling Guilty

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

Dearest Feeling Guilty,

I’m sorry to hear how “little” that you are feeling in your life, right now, and I commend you for reaching out in honor of the freedom that you are longing for and deserve to feel.

What I love about this question is that you are already halfway to answering it for yourself. :) You know what’s going on here. You know that you are abandoning yourself by your current choices. You see the fear. You also see how your choices to follow the fear rather then taking the actions that make you feel free and expanded are dimming your light and clipping your wings.

You will feel fun, happy & optimistic when you start pursuing yourself again. Your choice to draw, go to college, or do anything you damn well please has nothing to do with your boyfriend, and if he’s being bothered by your pursuing that which brings you alive, then he’s the one responsible for the misery he creates for himself. A healthy relationship consists of two individuals pursuing themselves, and celebrating & supporting each other in their individual wholeness. You’re not responsible for his happiness, nor is he responsible for yours.

You will feel sexy when you start choosing & claiming your own life again & expressing your unique individuality. This isn’t about your body. This is about you cherishing yourself through your time and attention. This is about you speaking up for what you want and what you don’t want. This is about you owning that you CAN have freedom and joy when you choose it for yourself. All of your focus on trying to keep your relationship has had you in a constant state of self-abandonment. You will rediscover all that is magical within you when you start risking this current false illusion of comfort in your relationship for the sake of what you really want. If he can’t walk beside you as you transform, if the relationship ends because he can’t handle your pursuing your life, then THANK GOD! Anyone or anything that does not support you in coming alive is way, way, way too small for you. You weren’t born to be in relationship with this guy. You were born to gift the world with your aliveness. What a waste of a beautiful precious life if you squander it for fear of being alone! (When you choose to love yourself you will discover that you are never alone. You are always supported. You are always loved.)

Make a list of all of the activities/choices/ways of spending your time that make you feel free and by gosh, start doing those things! Imagine a time in your life when you were really happy. What were you doing & experiencing? What was it about that experience that contributed so much to your joy? How can you start bringing those qualities into your life TODAY?

It’s time to take action & choose yourself, Beautiful.

Here are some nurturing resources for you:

Visit my website & grab your FREE Self-Love SuperStar Kit—a WONDERFUL gift to yourself (It includes a free report of “85 Ways to Feel Happy, Confident & Free…No Matter What”, along with 3 other goodies for your expansion.)

Christine Arylo’s Books: Choosing Me Before We & Madly in Love with ME: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend

You are an extraordinary woman who was born to do extraordinary things…always know that.

Much Love,

:)Melissa A.K.A. The JoyDiva

©2013 Melissa Simonson

I’m Afraid to Show My Boyfriend I Love Him…Can You Help?

Hello JoyDiva,

Let me tell you how thankful I am for finding you, even though I don’t know you :’) My question is, well is more my issue, is that you see I do not know how to love my boyfriend, I feel like if I show him how much in love I am for him he’s gonna get tired of me :( Please help me!

StarstruckbyWatermelons

—————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Dear StarstruckbyWatermelons, (You could make a hit record with a name like that! ;))

Without knowing a lot of back story (i.e. how long you’ve been with your boyfriend, your relationship history, what it means for you to “show” your love, etc.), I’m not going to focus on any or those sorts of specifics here.

What I can say is this: There is nothing that you have to do or be other than exactly who you are to be worthy of a deeply nourishing and unconditionally loving relationship. Your fears of rejection are completely normal, and it’s 100% OK for you to take baby steps when it comes to revealing your vulnerability in your relationship—there is no need to put all of your emotions on the table at once if that is something you are not ready for. Building a foundation for a lasting relationship happens step by step—it takes time to build intimacy, to reveal piece by piece if your relationship has what it takes to flourish and endure, and taking things slowly is a most excellent way to ensure that you’ve got yourself a good one. If he’s the right guy for you, then he’s gonna relish in taking his sweet time and in building something true and lasting with you, too.

I hear that you really like this guy and are afraid to make a wrong move. As really, super-duper, incredibly scary and vulnerable that it may feel, the thing is that when you choose to express your truth—whether that means that you gush all over him with love or express your need to take your sweet time in sharing your love for him or simply just let him know that you’re kind of freaking out—you always win, he wins and the relationship wins, too. Here’s the deal: you actually don’t need your boyfriend’s love or approval—as scary as it seems in your mind to experience him disapproving of you and/or walking away, you have everything that you need within you to pick up your life and create insane amounts of joy. By choosing to express yourself honestly, you are not only loving him, you are creating the opportunity for you to be TRULY loved for completely who you are. If he isn’t ok with how you share your love, then let him go, darlin’; because that means that you aren’t a right fit for one another, and there is another man out there who is gonna be THRILLED to receive love just the way you know how to give it. Hiding yourself so that you can keep a relationship that may or may not be right? Well, that is selling you, your boyfriend and your relationship way, way short of all of the goodness that could exist in your lives. When you speak your truth, everyone wins—you and your boyfriend both get to see if your relationship has what it takes to serve you both to the fullest and then choose accordingly for your lives. It may sound cliche, but the truth really does set us free—free to be who we really are, have what we really want and deserve, and it opens us to all of the joy that can come with that freedom.

So, I want to ask you: What is it that you really want in a relationship? What does your dream partnership look like? What do you need in order to feel cherished in your relationships? Your homeplay: Go ahead and make a really long, juicy list in answering these questions—really go all out with this one. I have a strong feeling that a core piece of your dream relationship includes you getting to be COMPLETELY yourself and being loved for it. (At least I hope so!) Some other things that you might want to include are: “I can express myself fully and it only makes him love me more.” “I can take my precious time, and my partner will not only understand, but respect and cherish the choices that I need to make for myself.” Have fun with this—it’s so important that you get really clear on what you want to be experiencing so that you can build a relationship from that awareness. The world needs you to be fully YOU, and any relationship that doesn’t support you in your “you-ness” isn’t doing any of us justice.

So, make your list, and then I want you to explore some of the ways that you can ensure that you have all of those pieces that you want. One clear way right off the bat is in choosing to share all of yourself—your boyfriend may or may not choose you in the end, but by choosing to share your truth, you are being your best partner, you are choosing yourself. There is a deep and lasting joy that can be discovered when you realize that you will always have your own back.

I want to close with sharing a video of me performing my upcoming single, “I’m Free”–it’s all about the joy and freedom that we discover when we choose ourselves. May this song serve as a loving reminder of your inherent worth and power.

Much love to you and your boyfriend, Dear One.

:) Melissa, A.K.A. The JoyDiva

©2012 Melissa Simonson

What Can I Do About My Relationship with my Family?

Hello,
I found your site through Jenny Shih’s.  Although I don’t personally know either of you, I am a big fan of each of your gift’s.  I just got through reading your response to the woman with her daughter.  I listened to your song afterwards and it made me cry.
Here’s my situation: I had a 40th birthday mid July.  I have a younger sister (by 2 years) move back to live temporarily a block away with my parents a few months ago.  I live in my brother’s house. My sister & I weren’t close growing up, but in the last 11 years we’ve continued to get closer.  She’s on a spiritual path to become a shaman in South America and my brother is a regular construction guy that really doesn’t get me or my sister half the time. Bottom line, I’ve been having a hard time feeling connected to family and friends in my life lately. I’ve had a lot of change in this last year too. Relationship breakup, 15 yr bff “break up”, move my business to brother’s as well as myself. I feel connected to the universe, as I had an extreme experience with death that gave me a close relationship a few years ago. I try to be very mindful of how I speak to myself, others and how things feel in my body as I say things and what I eat in general.
So my sister texted me to ask what I had planned for my birthday a week before the date.  I thought about it and asked if she might be interested in planning something.  She was just getting back from a trip, so I said to think about it over the weekend and just let me know by Monday… I said I wanted her to do it ONLY if she felt inspired to.  This year, I didn’t feel great about planning anything big as I really wasn’t talking to many of my old friends.  I felt like I was still grieving 2 really important relationships. I did want to celebrate but didn’t want to plan something myself unless my sister didn’t want to.
So ultimately my sister said she wanted to do something for my birthday but then proceeded to tell me that she wondered if I would mind if it was celebrated on the day before or the morning of because she was feeling spiritually called to meet this woman for a vision board party.  I could tell she wanted me to be excited about it but I felt like I second best and not very special at all.  She berated me and said “see!! you do have preferences!” To me, it felt like she wanted to prove that I wouldn’t be able to let go of control and let someone plan something for me.(which I honestly would have been fine with anything but I just wanted it to be a surprise and planned for me) Anyway, she said that it’s obvious that she wasn’t the one to plan it and that was that. My birthday was good anyway, but obviously spending it with 2 girls I recently met was odd since my whole family lives one block away and up the stairs from me.
(Obviously there are issues of connection that go way back to childhood that I keep hoping will workout.)
So, I wasn’t expecting anything from my parents because I had asked if they might want to visit Colorado together for my birthday celebration.  The trip was scheduled for a few weeks after my birthday…
During those 2 weeks I went to a tarot card reader who told me some disturbing information.  She said that my sister and I would have a big fight and that there would be an emotional break. Something gut wrenching and emotionally tough.
I told her that we already had a big fight…she said that there will be another one but more so and that my brother and her will conspire together to work against me in some way. She also said during this time that I need to stay true to myself, hold strong, that I will find love within myself.
So I didn’t sleep that night much because it felt so true, but so surreal…but I calmed down eventually and took it with a grain of salt.  My brother did not go on the trip but my sister did.  We ended up having a good time and had a wonderful heart felt talk on the Colorado Trail.  We didn’t talk specifically about the bday fight but broad strokes about our career’s and our heart’s desire about them and how we wanted to be there for the other one.  I thought that the lady must have been wrong or that we had changed our destiny by talking things through.
Not so.  Tonight she came over and I helped her with getting some ideas on paper for her website.  She listened to me (which I’ve been desperately praying for someone to be a sounding board and a cheer leader to show up) talk about my fears surrounding my upcoming business changes and even shared some tears about my still tender heart surrounding my ex…
Then somehow we got on the subject of the fight around my bday. I told her that it hurt me deeply and that I felt second best, and that I wanted to know her thinking surrounding everything.
She said the she heard me but that she didn’t believe in saying sorry because it makes one person wrong and the other right.  She felt that I wanted her to heal something inside myself that she couldn’t.  I obviously wanted to understand and have a heart felt sorry.  Then she says that I am very ridged and it’s hard for people to be open with their hearts around me..and that I’ve always been controlling all of my life and that I should ask anyone and they would tell me.
Her eyes were piercing and so enraged. I said that I know I haven’t been a good sister growing up and I am sorry for anything that I’ve done to make her feel so angry.  She said that she is angry because she’s responding to the frustration I put on her regarding my brother. Ugh!–at that moment I remembered the tarot card reader say that lots of my cards were Higher Arcana and that means the circumstances are just fate.
How do I show up for myself, protect my heart, not over react and stay grounded?
Sorry this is so long and I would understand if you might not want to respond as this seems somewhat unusual.  (I want a good relationship with my family but my intuition says that my siblings can’t see me for who I really am right now)

Sisterly Love Gone Wrong

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

Dearest Sisterly Love Gone Wrong,

Thanks for taking the time to reach out—know that you are not alone in your struggles with your family relationships and your willingness to share will bring great insight to other readers. I’m going to do my best to keep my response as short and sweet as possible—you’ve given me a lot to chew on, but responding point-by-point is not what I feel is needed right now.

With that said, one specific that I must respond to up front has to do with your reading from the Tarot card reader. I’m going to preface what I’m about to say with the fact that I’ve had some great readings in my day and as an Astrologer, am fully aware that there are some amazing healers out there who use a wide array of modalities to connect people to their truth, Tarot being one of them. But here’s the deal: YOU are 100% in the driver’s seat with regard to your relationships with your family, not fate. How you choose to perceive their actions, what you project onto them, how you choose to react—you create the stories that shape how those relationships will unfold. Will they “conspire” against you? Perhaps. But that sounds like classic, manipulative hooey from a “psychic” who’s using her gifts in questionable ways.  Instead of focusing on some fatalistic advice from someone who just met you about a future that you have yet to create—information that is  already causing you to painfully project that reality onto your family relationships—why don’t we shift your focus back to you, the only person whose actions you can actually affect in this situation (or ever, for that matter)?

On one level, I hear you saying that you want to have good relationships with members of your family, and I believe that there is truth to that. On an another level, I also hear that you bring a lot of expectations, a lot of “should’s” to those relationships. If you really look at what you are saying, it looks more like, “I can only love you and be in relationship with you if you love me the way I want you to love me.” You’re bringing all kinds of thoughts that are gunking up these relationships that are clearly of great value to you—thoughts of, “It’s your job to be there for me. It’s your job to understand me and accept me. It’s your job to love me. Family is supposed to put family first. I’m second best and not very special to you at all. Given that my family lives so close, they should be the ones to plan and celebrate my birthday with me, etc. ” And thanks to the Tarot card reader, you can throw in the thought, “My brother and sister are conspiring against me.” So many thoughts that are creating your suffering as your mind argues with reality.  Who do you become/how do you react/how do you treat them and yourself when you believe these thoughts? You create a pain-inducing filter through which all of their words and actions flow. Your mind looks for ways to prove that these thoughts are true and you create pain and suffering as your thoughts argue with what is. Who would you be without these thoughts? How would you be in relationship with your family if you weren’t attaching to these limiting beliefs that are untrue? (My guess is free…and full of love and acceptance for not only yourself, but your bro and sis, too.)

Yes, family relationships can be challenging as hell because we have more years with those people than with anyone else to create false stories that make them hell—stories we created as children with under-developed brains to try and make meaning of our experience. If we don’t stop to question those stories we live in a continual horror story of our own making. We become wounded victims who can only be healed if our family becomes who WE want them to be rather than who they are because—somehow in our minds, they are “supposed” to love us and be there in all of the ways that we want and need. Dear one, you have been so focused on having your family love and accept you for who you are and be there for you in the ways that you want them to be—which can actually only be YOUR job—that you are not noticing all of the ways that you are not loving and accepting, being there for them OR yourself.

I’m glad to hear that the words of my song touched you because they are good medicine for you hear, right now. “The truth is, we’re all trying to be good, and all of us just want to be understood. And when we seek the truth through another’s eyes, we realize that we are all the same…when we forgive ourselves and love despite our frailties, we are divine.” What if you came from the thought, “My brother and sister’s actions toward me come from a place of good intentions?” From that place you might see that despite not being able to relate to your spiritual journey or growth path (it’s not actually his job to understand you, it’s yours), your brother loves you so much that he is sharing his home with you. You might see that your sister was trying her best to honor all of her priorities around the time of your birthday. She wanted you to feel loved and she was also trying to honor herself. When you surrender your personal agenda, you also would be able to see that those two new friends that you got to hang out with were the perfect right people for you to spend your birthday with, not your sister. You enjoyed yourself. Perfect. As it should be. What a gift that your sister offered you by choosing not to plan your birthday for you—you got to spend it with people who were able to be fully present and wanting to celebrate with you.

As painful as it is, I invite you to listen to your sister with an open mind and heart. As my favorite spiritual teacher, Byron Katie, says, “Our parents, our children, our spouses, and our friends will continue to press every button we have, until we realize what it is that we don’t want to know about ourselves, yet. They will point us to our freedom every time.” In what ways is your sister communicating truth to you in what she is saying? I’m sure that she can be just as rigid and controlling as she is accusing you of, but changing her behavior is not your job—changing YOUR behavior IS. It only takes one person in a relationship to step back, to seek to understand, to see loving intentions and to choose to act from a place of love. It only takes one person in a relationship to transform it. Why not have it be you?

Whether or not you choose to mend these relationships is up to you—there is no “right” or “wrong” choice here. I just want to challenge you to notice how freeing it can be when you let these wonderful relationships transform you by choosing to do the hard work of listening and questioning your own mind—who’s been making you second best, who hasn’t been accepting and loving, who has been generating mistrust, who’s been conspiring behind the scenes? Every relationship in your life is a mirror for you to see your relationship with yourself and who you are being in the world—where you’re not trusting yourself or others, not advocating for yourself, not speaking your truth, not being a good cheerleader, not fully listening. There is freedom in these relationships with your family members and deep love, if you choose to allow those relationships to breathe as they really are.

I highly recommend any of Byron Katie’s work for you–I think you will find great insight there.

Much love to you,

:) Melissa A.K.A. The JoyDiva

©2012 Melissa Simonson

How Can I Mend My Relationship With My Daughter?

Dear Melissa,

I was spending some time with my sister (from the land of oz) and she suggested I contact you. I need some help with my relationship with my daughter. I found out after 15 years of being together my husband was having an affair. We had an awesome relationship, never fought, enjoyed many of the same things, but our physical relationship had vanished. I was devastated at this discovery. I was willing to try and work out our issues, but he wanted no part of it. He moved to another city 250 mile away and he filed for divorce. I was in counseling for months. My spouse had a great relationship with my daughter, her husband and 9 year old grandson prior to these events. We used to go to all our grandsons sporting events, had frequent overnights at our house, and they were fishing buddies. My counselor said it was important for the relationship between my X husband and grandson should be allowed to continue. Over time, my daughter stopped giving her son the letters that my x sent. Although my x and I didn’t talk much in the beginning of our separation, we have reconnected in the last 8 months. Last October my x was in town for the weekend. My daughter had asked me to pick my grandson up after work and take him to soccer practice. As it turned out my grandson also spent the night. The 3 of us had an awesome time together, just like times spent together in the past. My daughter is furious that I allowed my grandson to see his papa without her knowledge. I told her I was sorry she was upset with my decision. She chooses not to forgive me because I am not sorry for what I did. My daughter is very controlling and is allowing her hurt and anger at my x husband to affect the relationship between my grandson and his papa. She wants to hash out what happened 4 1/2 months ago. My feeling is that there are times you have to agree to disagree. Regardless of what happens between me and my x, it is important that my grandson understand both of us continue to love him. My x and I may live in different cities, but we talk daily and are trying work out our differences. Since my daughter and I are now not speaking, she has asked that I stop going to my grandsons activities. I view this as her way of punishing me for my actions since we don’t agree on this issue.

I am interested in your thoughts.

Oz’s Sister

———————————————————————

Dear Oz’s Sister,

Thank you for sharing your story with me–I’m honored that your sister sent you here, and that you chose to reach out.

When I read through your email, it made me want to take a big, deep breath and just let it out. I’m going to invite you to do that with me right now. Just take a couple of deep breaths, and let them go.

There are all kinds of emotions flying high here, yours, your daughter’s and your ex-husband’s, and it’s really easy for each of you to get too much in each other’s business and try to control what is out of your control. One of my favorite spiritual teachers, Byron Katie, says in her book Loving What Is:

I can find only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours and God’s. Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our business. When I think, “You need to get a job, I want you to be happy, you should be on time, you need to take better care of yourself,” I am in your business. When I’m worried about earthquakes, floods, war, or when I will die, I am in God’s business. If I am mentally in your business or in God’s business, the effect is separation.

Telling your daughter what she should do, and judging her for her reactions is getting out of your business and into hers, and it is clearly creating hurt, frustration and separation. You say that she is controlling. I want you to turn that around, dear one, and say to yourself, “I am being controlling. In what ways is that true?” You went ahead and decided what is best for your daughter and her child without her consent. (I get that you felt justified in your actions, yet still, withholding information is controlling, no?) You’re creating all kinds of suffering for yourself by trying to convince her that you are right and she is wrong. You are trying to mend a relationship between father and daughter that is out of your control. I would be feeling pretty crappy in that space too!

Every judgement that we hash out and every bit of advice we give to others is always meant for ourselves–look at your judgements of her and your advice to her and than turn them around. What is it that you are needing to look at and not owning within yourself? You advise her to agree to disagree with the choices you made 4.5 months ago. Let’s turn your advice around: Can you agree to disagree with her choices in parenting your grandson? It sounds like agreeing to disagree…or even better, meeting each other with compassionate understanding, is good medicine for you both. Even your interpretation that she is “punishing” you is a reaction to her behavior based on your own feelings of guilt. I realize that it can be painful to turn the lens around and take responsibility for your part in this, but as soon as you can truly own how you are contributing to this situation and making it more painful for yourself than it has to be, you can free yourself and your relationship with her from this pain and suffering.

I’m seeing that there is a great need for you all to step back and give this situation, and the people involved (including yourself) the time and space to process and heal. I’m sorry to hear that your grandson has been pulled into this, and yet, chances are that it is the grown-ups and not your grandson who are suffering greatly in response to this time–most kids only suffer over grown-up problems when grown-ups convince them that they have a reason to be upset. If he doesn’t know that it’s a problem, then it isn’t a problem. There is no need to project your grown-up problems onto him–the truth is, he will be just fine when this all blows over as long as he’s allowed to think and feel on his own about it. I’m not saying that he is not missing you and his papa, but even the experience of missing someone only becomes truly painful when we are taught that our happiness is somehow dependent on those people. The truth is that your grandson does not NEED you in order to be happy. That hurts a little, I know. And yet, isn’t it so much better to realize that he can be ok, no matter what, with or without you in his life?! You all have done a good job of making this about your grandson, and yet, the chances of him being just fine are pretty good.

It’s the grown-ups who have gotten all up in each other’s business and are creating the suffering here. Everybody wants everyone else to listen and understand. Everybody wants everybody else’s love and forgiveness, and no one is willing to own his/her part. Your daughter’s estrangement is likely triggering feelings of guilt and remorse in your ex-husband, and so he’s looking to her (and it sounds like to you, as well) to solve that for him, and he is the only one who can actually heal that wound that he is carrying–whether or not he made the right choice to have the affair and leave is not the point, if some part of him feels ashamed about his choices (most people do harbor guilt when they have affairs), he needs to own that and give himself some love and understanding. The less he seeks it from her and lets her heal in her own time, the more likely she will re-engage with him in a way that works for both of them when she is good and ready. It’s not her job to forgive him. It’s his job. It’s also not her job to forgive you, sister. That’s your job.

You’ve been so focused on feeling responsible for mending this situation and being “right” that you are discounting your daughter’s feelings. Let your daughter have her hurt and anger. Even better, seek to understand it! She doesn’t need your judgement and advice. She wants your love and understanding. Listen to her. Ask her what SHE needs in order to heal, and really listen. Own your part in this situation. Surrender your need to be right–it only takes one person in a relationship to end this kind of power struggle. Why not have it be you? We all want to feel loved, understood and validated–give that to her, and you’ll get it back 10-fold.

I want to leave you with a song that I wrote after having a painful misunderstanding with someone important to me. May these words be healing for you as they were for me when I wrote them.

Much Love to you.

:)Melissa A.K.A. The JoyDiva

©2012 Melissa Simonson

What is the Best Way to Cope With My Anger When I Witness People Judging Others?

Dear Melissa,

I have been finding lately that I have become particularly sensitive to one of my pet-peeves–when others are judgmental or demeaning of others. For a while, I used to be able to turn the other cheek to it, and sort of coach myself into not letting it affect me (“Oh, you know that isn’t really true,” “What a person says about someone else really has more to do with how they feel about themselves than the other person,” etc.) While intellectually I know these are true (and are also applying to myself in this instance), I still have been finding myself fuming when I hear these harsh criticisms, and it is hard for me not to snap, and if I don’t snap I find myself taking it out passive-aggressively at that person.

I can see part of my sensitivities being that I can relate to the person they are criticizing and in turn feeling belittled myself. I also see that I, too, am being critical of these people in their judgmental moments.

Needless to say, while I can recognize these things intellectually, I still get so caught up in my anger that I really can’t experience things that way at the moment. Do you have any advice for moving through these feelings and cultivating more acceptance for those people and myself? Also, do you have any recommendations for ways to acknowledge my feelings in the moment, but not create a “scene” when I start to fume?

To be honest, as I am writing this I am starting to see that I am afraid of those people thinking that I am less than perfect by giving in to my anger…and also afraid that I might really let loose if I allow myself. But I would still really appreciate your thoughts.

Sincerely,
The Hulk

—————————————————————————————–

Dear Hulk (great name) :),

There are a couple of things here that I want to touch upon. First of all, you bring much wisdom with this inquiry: Your anger is most certainly exacerbated by your own self-judgments. Your mind is telling you in those moments that it is not ok to have a voice, that your thoughts and feelings are in the wrong, that you shouldn’t get angry, and well, that would make the best of us scream in frustration. Your anger comes in reaction to a thought that is untrue: “You shouldn’t judge people.” What is reality telling you? That this person is judging people. That you are judging this person. That you are judging yourself. The truth is, this is what we as people do. We judge. “The sky is blue.” “He’s really tall.” “She’s black.” “She’s white.” “I’m smart.” “I’m too emotional.” “My anger is wrong.” People judge–being “perfectly” human means being a judging being.

You are, of course, smart in seeing that you are merely exercising your own judgment when you tell others they shouldn’t judge. That is a great moment to come back to your own business and step away from what you can’t actually control (the other person’s business). Who would you be, how would you react if you didn’t believe the thought, “You shouldn’t judge people?” Experience that person saying something judgmental. Really go into that space and envision yourself without the thought, “You shouldn’t judge people.” Would you perhaps feel less responsible for correcting it, more understanding, more patient, etc.? You fill in the blanks. Now I want you to turn it around–in what ways are you judging both yourself and that other person? (You gave a great example of self-judgment by recognizing that you react to those judgments made by others in part because you believe that those are true judgments about yourself). Look at you and that person doing what humans do. The more that you question these thoughts, the more you will discover your inherent compassion for yourself and the other person.

Similarly, when you find yourself angry and believe the thought, “I shouldn’t get angry,” you are again, out of alignment with reality and intensifying the anger. We create suffering when we attach to thoughts that are untrue. Question your thoughts and you will discover your freedom every time. Here is a video from Byron Katie that will teach you how to fill out a “Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet”–I think you will find a lot of richness from going through this exercise.

Much love to you!

:)Melissa A.K.A The JoyDiva

©2012 Melissa Simonson