What do you truly want to do with your life? Have you ever really ï¬? g-ured it out? Im not just asking what you want to be when you grow up. This has more to do with your overall life design and covers more territory than just your career. This includes everythingyour family,
education, diet, health, free time, hobbies, friends, home, travel, even your mission statement. I mean, in theory we all know what we want in our lives, and most people are deeply rooted in the lifestyle theyre already livingwhether or not theyre happy about that! But have you ever truly thought this through and conceived in detail your ideal life, without thinking about the obstacles to or consequences of actually pulling it off? Doing this could become the most important exercise youve ever undertaken.
If you really could design your ideal life, how close would it be to the life youre living right now? When asked this question, most peo-ple propose a life with more than they now have, which usually means a bigger and better house, a more successful and rewarding career, more time to spend with family, more money, owning a business, be-ing famousthe list is endless. We naturally want more, but we rarely factor in the consequences of having more. There are responsibilities that automatically come with having more in your life, and even though we dont always consciously think about it, we are aware of it subconsciously. Deep down we know that these responsibilities chal-lenge what weve already set up in our cozy little comfort zones.
The risk of losing some of our comfort in life plays a prominent role in our efforts to attain our goals. We know that changing our lives for the better may come with a price tag, and that price is more responsi-bility, leading to more stress, and therefore less comfort. Its difï¬? cult to create the life you want until you identify, control, or at least under-stand your own comfort zones. You also need to be aware of your life goals, so you can recognize which comfort zones youre protecting and which responsibilities or burdens you may be avoiding.
My Comfort Zone
Everyone has his or her own unique comfort zones that come in all shapes and sizes. I have some that are signiï¬?cant and others that are trivial. My silliest comfort zone is the way I like to sleep. For years people have teased me about my sleeping requirementsa room so dark you never know what time it is. (Elvis would have been proud!) In fact, I have blackout shades requested written into every location contract I sign, but not because Im a diva. I need to sleep in a dark room because I love to be awake! Any hint of light represents action, and I automatically want to be part of that action. If theres so much as a ï¬? reï¬?y out there, Im ready to party!
No matter how crazy my sleeping comfort zone seems to others, its certainly better than my eating comfort zone was years ago, before I got healthy and lost ï¬? fty-ï¬? ve pounds. Back then I lived under the tyr-anny of stupid diets, thinking that alternating deprivation with glut-tony was the way to go. The discomfort of being heavy and bloated all the time was even part of this comfort zone. It was only after I ac-quired the necessary knowledge and retrained my palate that my eat-ing comfort zone changed.
In ï¬?guring out how to use what you have to get what you want, its necessary to take an honest look at your whole life and see where youre at, right here, right now.
What are your comfort zones? What have you set up in your life to support the good and bad behaviors that make you you? How do you relate to everyone and everything around you, from your eating patterns to your sleeping rituals, your exercise routines to your cloth-ing choices, your relationship strategies to the way you think and feel about yourself? What are your habits that may even feel comfortably uncomfortable? What made you set up certain conditions so that you can continue to succeed . . . or fail? And where did you learn how to set up these conditions? Are you mimicking your parents? Rebelling against your family? Or have you just learned the best way to survive?
Looking at other peoples lives, you may often think, I could never live like that. Their schedule is too crazy. Their house is too chaotic. Their re-lationship is too dramatic. Yet, when you look closely, you see that it works for them! We all have those quirky things we think we need in our lives in order to survive. If someone took away your comfort zone, what would be your backup? Would you need one? Or would it be better if you were forced to give it up with nothing to replace it?
You get interesting answers when you ask people, What does the phrase comfort zone mean to you? The responses will vary, but what is most telling is that each person mentions ï¬? rst the area of his or her life that needs the most help. Many people talk about their re-lationships, and yet pick the same unhappy situation over and over again. It proves that we all know what were trying to get away with, and that were not fooling anyoneleast of all ourselves!
The point is to challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zones if staying in one doesnt move your life forward. Staying in your com-fort zone seems to be one of the main barriers to achieving your goals, because it keeps you rigid and less adaptable to diversity and change. When youre in a comfort zone, youll tend to do the same things over and over because its easy. You know what to expect and how to re-spond without thinking.
But what if you really like everything just the way it is? Is there anything wrong with staying in your comfort zone to keep it that way? Well, possibly not. But does anyone really want to keep every-thing in his or her world exactly the way it is? Do you really want the same old boring path of least resis tance? That can become dull awfully fast, and eventually you lose sight of all the possibilities youre missing out on because youre no longer exposed to better alternatives, includ-ing healthier, more varied, sometimes simpler, and sometimes more innovative choices. Protecting your comfort zone also tends to sup-port bad habits rather than helping you ï¬?nd new ways to navigate your life by allowing healthier habits to become a part of it.
I think many people are afraid to challenge their comfort zones because they know, consciously or subconsciously, that change caused them a certain amount of stress in the past. Even though we usually gain something from taking these risks, we are reluctant to test those boundaries again because of the uncertainty and stress we associate with the unknown. The sad part is that this becomes more of a problem as we get older. Kids dont have nearly as much stress over leaving their comfort zones as adults do. They are much more adventurous because they havent quite settled into their comfort zones yet. People over sixty have an especially difï¬?cult time leaving their CZs. (Try talking your grandmother into changing the meat-based diet shes been eating all her life!)
So, heres what I suggest. Dont think of challenging your comfort zones as something that you have to force yourself to do. With that attitude, youll end up avoiding change altogether. Instead, think of each new challenge or change as an exciting new adventure. Try to recapture the innocent, non-jaded enthusiasm you had as a child. Dont overanalyze and worry about failing or having a bad experi-ence. Whatever your new endeavor is, take it all in as part of the experience. Think of every comfort zone detour as a mini-vacation from yourself, and dont get upset if the hypothetical hotel room outside your comfort zone is noisy or doesnt face the pool!
Testing these boundaries can actually be a lot of fun! And re-member, there are many subcategories to your comfort zoneyour health, love life, family, ï¬?nances, career, and so on.
Each has its own deï¬?ned comfort zone. Here are just a few suggestions to help get you started:
â?¢ In the food category, try a vegetable youve never tried before. If youre always making the same old side dish, like steamed broccoli, try preparing something totally new, such as daikon or jicama. Ask for advice from your produce manager, or do a little research on the Internet about choosing and preparing a new, exotic vegetable. We often avoid trying a new vegetable because we dont know how to wash, cut, or prepare it. Thats out of our comfort zone. Dont just limit this change to a new vegetable. Try new kinds of fruit, grains, beans, and pasta. And dont just ï¬?x the same old pasta sauce; ask your friends to share some of their favorites. Prepare a new recipe every week. We stay with our old standbys because its easier; we know exactly what to buy and how to prepare it. To spice things up a bit, try a recipe from another country or culture. Your family might just love the surprise. Dont be afraid to botch it up. That might even add to the fun.
â?¢ In the discipline department, try having a sugar-free, dairy- free, meat- free, or fast foodfree day (or entire week or month if youre more advanced). This is a great way to explore how much better you would feel if you ate a cleaner diet.
â?¢ In the lifestyle category, consider reading a book in a subject you know nothing about. We tend to explore areas were already familiar with because its easier; its in our comfort zone. Try a weekend getaway thats very di_erent, too. Surprise your spousedont give him or her a chance to nix the new choice; everyone needs their comfort zones pushed! And make sure you keep an open mind throughout the experience.
â?¢ When it comes to exercise, Im a ï¬?rm believer in lots of variety. Fitness gains are much greater when your body is challenged with variation in resistance and movement. Physical improvements come from changeups in your routine. So explore new sports, dance classes, and exercises youve never done before. Do remember, however, to be cautious if youre doing anything a bit risky, unless you want to end up in traction, which, by the way, is the ultimate comfort zone!
Being part of Celebrity Apprenticewas a lesson in observing others and their comfort zones. Celebrities are known for negotiating into their contracts the little, and not so little, requests that make it easier to do their jobs. Often these requests are so over-the-top they are leg-endary. (Remember Michael Jacksons alleged oxygen chamber re-quired for his dressing room, or Marilyn Mansons kitty litter box in lieu of the . . . well . . . loo?) Before we even started ï¬? lming, a celeb-rity liaison called and asked our requirements in terms of food, drink, other amenities, and so on. Im always very careful about my food, so I, of course, requested that we would be able to get healthy meals while on the go. I knew that wed be working long and strenuous hours, and I wanted to make sure that I could eat the healthy food that I know is easily available in New York.
On the very ï¬?rst day, we were asked to submit a list of the foods we wanted in our War Rooms, the rooms where each team would be spending most of its time brainstorming. The list was as diverse as the people. One part of the group asked for every sweet, cheesy, meaty, unhealthy food and snack they could get their hands onthe junkier the better. And two of us on the team could not have been more op-posite in our requests, including asking for fresh organic vegetables and a juicer!
I was amazed that some people could wolf down cheeseburgers, french fries, candy, cheese things, and banana splitsin the ten min-utes they gave us to eatand still try to think clearly. Temperature was another biggie. The War Rooms were on the same ï¬? oor, and although we couldnt hear each other, we were connected by a heat-ing and air-conditioning system. Our team was always freezing and wanted to blast the heat, so of course, wed constantly get a knock on the door from Vinnie Pastore or one of the producers saying, Its too hot in the guys room! Whats with all the heat in there, girls? The guys with all their muscle and mass were always hot, and the women with their smaller frames and lighter clothing were always cold.
The battles between the sexes were not just about managing, marketing, and selling; it came down to a basic difference in day-to-day survival. We would occasionally share each others rooms for group or board meetings, and the contrast between the two rooms was obvi-ous. The womens room was always immaculate and orga nized, and the guys room was disheveled and ï¬?lthy. Whenever I was in their War Room, I was too creeped out to even use their restroom. There was always a little bit of pee on the toilet seat and on the ï¬? oor surrounding the toilet. Tissues piled up without being thrown out, and none of the guys seemed to mind . . . or even notice! The guys CZ was so differ-ent from the girls. You can be sure that Mars is a lot dirtier than Ve-nus. It turns out that the sulfuric fumes we have detected from Mars are not from volcanoes! We also could not have been more diverse in terms of the way we approached being project manager and getting the best or worst out of our teammates. Some people were able to adjust to what ever the conditions were, while others had to have a certain state of chaos in order to succeed. This is not unusual. Ive worked with actors in the past who were notorious for creating an on-set atmosphere that was tumultuous for everyone, but because of the turmoil and tension, they were able to shine at everyone elses ex-pense.
The TV show Project Runway is also a lesson in observing other peoples comfort zones. Other reality shows use a similar strategy, but on Project Runway, its not only a question of outwitting, outlasting, and outplaying; you also have to create something that is special and beautiful and wears wellevery week! Imagine what it would be like to be uprooted from your home, live with strangers, compete with your roommates for lots of money and a big opportunity, and still have to marshal your creative energies to design something special and beautiful that wears welllike your health!
As you read this book, keep in mind that your goal should be not only to push the envelope of your usual routine but also to learn to protect what you need to succeed.
Embracing Your Fears
What scares you? What are you afraid of? What wakes you up in the middle of the night, grabs your imagination, and keeps you from fall-ing back to sleep as you play out various scenarios to their illogical conclusions? When Im afraid of something, the writer in me loves to imagine every twist and turn my fear can drive me through; the ac-tress in me puts myself in every role my fear will allow me to play.
Sometimes we fear what we feel we arent good at, cant commit to, or are reluctant to learn. Were afraid to look awkward, silly, or uncoordinated, so we play it safe and do nothing. There are always going to be fears; youll always be afraid of something. Its just a mat-ter of what kind of emotional muscle youre willing to develop in or-der to be able to handle those fears and then move on with your life. If you can turn your fear around and learn to use what youre afraid of, then your fear can often propel you to make a huge difference in your life. Youll then be able to change your perception enough to open up and present yourself in a way that may not necessarily make you comfortable but at least wont let you hide forever.
Lets say, for example, that youre reluctant to go to the gym be-cause youre afraid everyone is looking at you. Suppose you mentally prepared yourself for that fear by imagining yourself in that situation and then decided how you were going to handle it? What if you went to the gym and pretended that no one else mattered? You could say to yourself, I know there are going to be people looking at me, but Im going to look my fellow gym members in the eye and smile. Im go-ing to work out even harder than usual and enjoy the fact that Im on display. Im going to be excited to be what everyone else is thinking about today!
Its unlikely that youll ever see half the people in the gym again, so even if people are looking (and dont think for a second they arent, because youre doing it, too), whats the big deal? We all look, com-pare, judge, and then think, Oh, Im not as bad as he or she is. After that, most people go home and eat ice cream to celebrate their superi-ority. The next time youre self-conscious at the gym, think of all the people going home to eat ice cream after seeing you and how, in a month, youre going to be the ï¬?t one! Look at it this way: Fear on your face isnt going to make you look any more attractive, but conï¬? -dence and gusto will! A great attitude is contagious, but if theres no one at the gym who wants to jump on the Gusto bandwagon, then let them be reminded of their own self-consciousness when they see a conï¬?dent you! Peoples ï¬?rst reaction to seeing someone who is self-assured is usually, Wow! That persons got something!
Have you ever looked at an old class photo from grade school, and when youve shown people your classmates, they pick out someone and say, This is a pretty girl, or That boy was cute? And you tell them, What? That kid? No way! She was kind of picked on, or She was mean, or He was a nerd. Then you realize that your im-age of them has to do not with how they looked, but with how they behaved. This scenario is just as true for adults. We think the way we look matters more than our attitude, but its the exact opposite. Now, thats not to say that we shouldnt be our best, or try to look good and be healthy. This isnt a license to be a nice bad eater. But while youre learning the tools that will make you more balanced, healthier, more ï¬?t, and better looking, it doesnt mean you cant improve your attitude to help speed up the pro cess.
I used to be afraid that if I werent hard on myself, I would quickly fall apart. As a result, I fell in love with being hard on myself. Being your own worst critic doesnt have to be a bad thing, because you then only have to worry about judging yourself. Why be concerned about anyone elses harsh opinion if youre the tough one? If done properly, being your own worst (best!) critic can bring about great success. Youll be setting your own bar high enough to consistently improve your personal best. But dont be afraid to be good to yourself, either. It isnt the same as giving up, unless being good means al-lowing indulgent behaviors that are actually self-destructive.
Its best to have a glass-half-full attitude about everything you do. Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself. Its amazing how many of your fears go away when you have a sense of humor about them. Ive learned as an actress that there are two things you lose when youre scaredyour humor and your sexuality. They go right out the win-dow! Fear really starts in your head, and if you really want to overcome your fears, you ï¬?rst have to turn them around in that powerful brain of yours ï¬? rst.
As you read this book, youll be confronted with the same types of questions Ive asked myself over the years in order to dig deep enough to change my life. Self-examination is never easy, but when you read or hear something that reroutes your thinking and inspires you to move in a more positive direction, then every step of the journey be-comes more gratifying than the next.
Face Your Fears Questionnaire: What Are You Afraid Of?
1. Are you afraid to look in the mirror?
2. Are you afraid your fat clothes are becoming your wardrobe?
3. Are you afraid that youre getting too comfortable in your rut?
4. Are you afraid of making your friends jealous?
5. Are you afraid to stand up to your mother- in- law (or someone else) with your new healthy habits?
6. Are you afraid of your own anger?
7. Are you afraid of spending time on yourself?
8. Are you afraid of never being the person you know you can be?
9. Are you afraid to be your bestor that your best wont be good enough?
10. Are you afraid of getting caught faking it?
11. Are you afraid of your own limitations?
12. Are you afraid of facing your mistakes without eating your feelings?
13. Are you afraid to say No! to your inner brat?
14. Are you afraid of admitting its time to change?
15. Are you afraid to see a doctor about something you know is wrong?
16. Are you afraid of having too much information?
17. Are you afraid good health will never be yours?
18. Are you afraid of knowing too much about yourself?
19. Are you afraid that the best thing in your life is food?
20. Are you afraid if you give up dieting, youll have to devote time to your other talents?
21. Are you afraid of what success would mean to your life?
22. Are you afraid that getting healthy wont work for you?
Taking a deep breath and admitting to a list of things that scared me in that ï¬?rst Face Your Fears class is one of the most truly brave things Ive ever done, and it was so freeing. Making major changes in your health and your life can bring up all kinds of fearsdeprivation, rejection, not belongingand owning those fears is the ï¬?rst step toward conquering them.
TONIA KULBERDA, New Jersey, Marilu.com member
The Face Your Fears classes made me see the things I never really took
the time to confront or even notice.
FAITH WAIT, Pennsylvania, Marilu.com member
Fear of Losing Weight
People often tell me that one of their biggest fears has to do with los-ing weight. Aside from the physical change, they fear their entire lives would change, and perhaps not in a positive way. People might be jealous, spouses might feel threatened, and their own personality might become arrogant and insensitive. Theres also the fear that the pressure would be too much and they couldnt keep up their new rou-tine. Its too much to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Been there. Done that.
I used to think these very thoughts before ï¬?guring out the Total Health Makeover (THM) program. I struggled when I needed to lose weight for a particu lar purpose, such as a job or an event, and then Id blow it all out after the period of deprivation was over. Id appease myself by thinking, Im just big! which was easier than actually changing my eating habits for good. I used every excuse in the book until I realized I was spending year after year stuck in the same spot. When I ran out of excuses, I started doing the work. Most of all, I recognized that my life wasnt some movie with the credits about to roll. Nothing was static. I was an ever-evolving creature, and I could change and grow and inspire jealousy, and be arrogant one minute and empathetic the next. I was alive! And my weight problem was re-ally mine and in my head and on my body, and no one was paying as much attention to it as I was.
Let me ask you this: If you ï¬?nally got down to the weight youve
always wanted to be, whats the ï¬?rst thing you would do? Would you get a different job? Tell someone off? Look up an old ï¬?ame? Finally take that class youve always wanted to take? Seriously, what would you do differently than you are doing now? What does being the best you look like? (And I dont mean just physically.)
Fear of Success
When trying to analyze ones fears, I think the question really is: How authentic do you want to be? How connected do you want to be to the person you really are deep down? Or is that deep down person just an imaginary friend rather than a living, breathing human being?
Which brings us to the fear of success.
Lets say you get into the best shape of your life, and you feel like you can do anything, and your life is ï¬?nally coming together the way youve always imagined it would.
Then what? What happens next? What does that success look like? And if you fear it, why does it scare you?
Or do you say, Bring it on!?
I used to deal with my fears by pretending they didnt exist. That took
me a long way in doing brave things, but inside I felt like an imposter.
LYRICAL, Marilu.com member
Fear of Change
Lets pretend for a moment that from this day forward, the weight you are right now is the weight you will be for the rest of your life.
Think about it.
You would be in the same physical state you are today, no matter
how well you ate or how much you worked out. This would be it.
You would get older, but you wouldnt get smaller or bigger.
Would you be depressed because you couldnt do anything about it? Or would you be relieved because you couldnt do anything about it? After all, there would be no more struggling, no more pressure to change. You would just be the physical you that you are today . . . forever.
Would you live the rest of your life hiding behind the clothes youve recently been wearing? Or would you feel inspired to force yourself into a new style? Would you get that new haircut youve been promising yourself as soon as you lost weight? Would you learn to rock this look? Would you accept yourself as you are today and make the best of it?
What would you do if the ability to change were taken away from
you? Or is change still something you fear?
Fear of Not Being Perfect
This fear is a biggie! Its a theme that shows up in various forms dur-ing our classes at Marilu.com, and its one that sneaks insidiously into our psyches and wont let go.
See if you can relate to any of the following statements:
â?¢ I already blew my diet, so I might as well pig out the rest of the day.
â?¢ No matter how much I exercise, Ill never look like _____.
â?¢ My body (house, wardrobe, job) will never be that great, so why try to improve it?
â?¢ Why bother learning an instrument (or how to cook, or how to paint)? Ill never be that good.
â?¢ Ill never be happy with my life, so why not be depressed?
Thats right. Im talking about perfection! (Or, rather, the fear of not being perfect!) Oh, that word! It can paralyze, suffocate, or destroy you. It can keep you from taking the ï¬?rst step, or trying your best, or even doing anything at all. Its such an issue with people that I made it part of the Total Health Makeover sloganProgress, not perfec-tion! I know how much it can devastate people when they think theyre not being perfect. Perfectionism runs rampant in my family, to the point where an uncle stopped doing anything if it couldnt be perfect. His siblings used to say, Your Uncle Dan is a perfectionist. In other words, he does nothin! Im here to tell you, there is no such thing as perfect. And, as Im always saying, the only time youre per-fect is when youre perfectly dead!
Fear of Death/Illness/Information
Every year during April, my birthday month, I have a routine physical that involves all of the major tests. I love doing this because it tells me exactly whats going on with my body and what I need to adjust from the last year. Ive always been the kind of person who loves to know everything. Friends tease me about this, because they know I like all kinds of feedback, good and bad.
But not everyone wants to hear everything.
Ive seen people so afraid of giving up a vicewhether its smok-ing, alcohol, bad food, or an affairthat they refuse to acknowledge commonsense information. Ive seen people so afraid of knowing their state of health that they wouldnt see a doctor until it was too late. And Ive seen people so afraid of dying that they have kept them-selves from living.
How much do you like to know? Is there some vice you know you should give up, but you close your ears to hearing the truth? Are you afraid to see your doctor because he may tell you something you cant handle? And last but not least, does a fear of dying keep you from do-ing something you would love to do?
Fear of Failure
When I think about the fear of failure, the ï¬?rst thing that comes to mind is something I heard when I was sixteen and I was choreograph-ing a show for a local community theatre. The directors wife was the very talented star of our show, and she had been responsible for my getting the job after seeing me play a small part in one of their earlier productions.
We were backstage one day, and she told me that I reminded her of herself when she was younger (she was probably all of twenty-six at the time). She asked if I was serious about being in show business, go-ing to New York or Hollywood, and I said, Yes, of course. I see myself in show business, working on Broadway, the whole bit. And I remember that she said to me, Really? Not me. I dont think I could take it. What if I didnt make it? What if I didnt like it? What if its not what it should be? Nope. Im the type wholl be happier thinking how great I could have been.
Ill never forget her statement. It seemed so strange to me at the time. I couldnt imagine choosing imagining you were great over at least trying for greatness.
What about you?
Is it better to at least try, even if you fall short of your mark? Or do you prefer to think how great you could have been . . . or looked . . . or felt . . . or succeeded . . . or created something?
A few years ago I had the good fortune of meeting Kitty Carlisle, the famous actress, opera singer, author, performer, and entrepreneur, who not long ago passed away at the ripe old age of ninety-six. When I met her, she was still performing her club act in New York to sellout crowds. I read an article in which she was asked the secret to her long, successful life. She said that every morning she looks in the mirror, takes a long and hard look at herself, and says, I forgive you.
When I read that, I stopped dead in my tracks. Those three words can make such a difference in how you spend your day. Do you carry the burden of yesterdays sins? Do you constantly beat yourself up for whatever you did or were the day, week, month, year, de cade, be-fore? Or do you look yourself in the eye, say I forgive you, and move on?
Sometimes, most of the time really, you just cant do the major fear-facing alone. I went to therapy for many years starting when I was twenty-three. I ï¬?gured, Why wait to be old to be wise? I was living alone in New York at the time, and I was behaving out of touch and disconnected from my feelings, and I knew I needed some help.
The wrong therapist is worse than no therapist, so its important to make sure you have a good therapist. A general rule of thumb is to ï¬? nd a therapist who respects the contract that you have. For example, if the session is ï¬?fty minutes, it shouldnt go over the ï¬?fty minutes. A
good therapist honors the contract and can help cure you by main-taining the rules and boundaries set forth within the contract.
In other words, you dont want to be buddy-buddy with your thera-pist. I had a friend whose sessions with her therapist were often spent doing each others nails! She called her therapist by her ï¬?rst name, and no session ever took the same amount of time. In fact, most of their ï¬? fty-minute sessions ran two hours! The therapist was also casual about collecting the fees, and eventually my friends therapy bill ex-ceeded $6,000, the bulk of which she is still paying. My friend knew she was racking up the charges but ï¬?gured, What the heck. Ill pay it off someday. Its not surprising that she still struggles with money and time issues. A therapist can really make a difference in the patients progress with major life issues by the way he or she respects the contract.
A good therapist is challenging, especially in the beginning, and doesnt give you all the answers. A good therapist encourages you to look deep within yourself to ï¬?nd the answers and helps you put things into proper perspective. In therapy youre there to talk, vent, and dis-cuss. You talk about anything and everything, and, by doing so, you begin to recognize that your feelings are powerful, and by putting your feelings into words you are less likely to put them into action. For example, you can say, I hate my husband, and I want to kill him! but by expressing those feelings in therapy, you (hopefully!) dont go out and actually do it. The more you express your feelings, the less likely you are to act on them. A therapist isnt there to judge you, but rather to help you ï¬?gure it all out. The idea is to be able to express your negative feelingseven about therapyand still stay in treatment.
I always thought of therapy as being able to go to the greatest com-puter program in the world. You ask it a question, and, in turn, it asks you one, which then requires you to ask yourself more questions, un-til you ï¬?nally get the answers. The more questions you ask, the more you learn about whats really going on.
Sometimes when you cry, its really tears of rage. Youre upset because youre frustrated at not being able to articulate what youre feeling. I used to get into a session and just cry because I couldnt ex-press myself the way I wanted to. I remember coming out of one of my early sessions, and I was in such a daze from having expressed my-self in a way I hadnt before that I walked right into a tree. Therapy deï¬?nitely stirs things up!
I spent a lot of time working on myself because I knew that I had all this potential living inside me. Once I really got in touch with who I was, and who I wanted to beand the outside connected with the insidethere was no stopping me! It doesnt happen overnight, though. People think that things are ï¬?xed in some way, and that once you achieve a goal, it stops there. Getting healthy is an ongoing process. It requires a lot of patience and understanding. Its especially difï¬?cult in the beginning when its hard to see the future healthy you. Later on, when you get to a place where youre starting to feel the results of your labors, you want more of the same, so you keep getting healthier.
Im writing this not only because I think therapy is worth talking about but also to explain how language can be a very powerful tool against ones fears. You can resolve so much with language. I learned from Dr. Ruth Velikovsky Sharon, coauthor with me of I Refuse to Raise a Brat, that your feelings are just your feelings. Your feelings wont kill you. The important thing is to feel all your feelings and then decide which ones to put into action, after youve thought them out well enough to know exactly what you want to do with them. The trick is to resolve your feelings rather than just trying to overcome them, because otherwise something worse may pop up. For example, someone who is trying to overcome a weight problem may begin to substitute something elsedrugs, alcohol, or sexinstead of under-standing the underlying causes of the original problem. Years ago, a very overweight friend of mine went on a crazy strict diet that made no sense whatsoever. A few weeks into the diet, when he wasnt happy at all, he developed Bells palsy and felt he had to get back to his food. It was as if his body rebelled because he hadnt thought through his food obsession and reasons for wanting to overeat in the ï¬? rst place. Eventually he sought counseling, and I was able to help him gradually change some of his eating habits so that he didnt feel overwhelmed. The Bells palsy never returned, and his health and weight improved.
Ultimately, the goal is to talk about and understand your feelings enough so that they dont affect you in a destructive way. You can actually choose to carry around the negative baggage, or to work through it using progress, not perfection as your mantra, so that it doesnt weigh you down the rest of your life.
Time is a great healer and a great factor in healing.
As you become an adult, you realize that your parents were probably doing the best they could, given where they came from and what they experienced as children. They may also have lived in a time when peo-ple didnt have self- help tools available the way we do now. They had fewer privileges than we had, and certainly a lot fewer than our chil-dren have. Often, people who have the more difï¬?cult upbringings are the most successful, because they know they have to ï¬?nd their own way. As you get older, you realize that you can have the whole roulette wheel of feelings about your parents. Its almost like a wheel of for-tune that could stop on any characteristic or feeling, and you could think about your parents, or anything for that matter, that way. Its im-portant to know that if you want to be a fully realized human being, you should have, can have, and do have all of your feelings.
I think its important to try to work out your primary relationships with your family because they are your original group, and theres so much we take into the rest of the world based on how we related to our family members.
I believe that when certain fears come up, you can talk yourself through them in some wayuntil you get good at recognizing that the fear is unfounded, irrational, or something that needs to be ex-plored because its really based on something else. Even though a par-ticu lar state of beingloneliness, depression, and so onexists in the foreground, all the other feelings on your wheel of fortune are also there and available.
Imagine that youre hanging on a trapeze between two platforms, and you start swinging a little and gaining momentum. Pretty soon, youre swinging more and more between the two extremes. Lets call them, for this example, staying in the marriage and getting a di-vorce. Those are the names of the platforms, and youre swinging back and forth between the two. In order to ï¬?nally jump onto one of the platforms, you need to get enough momentum from swinging from the opposite platform. Just when it looks like youll land on one, you swing all the way over to the other side. You cant land unless youve swung that far in the opposite direction. Sometimes feeling the worst you can about something is the very thing that gives you the momentum to feel the best you can about the same situation. But you have to allow yourself the pain of exploration.
If you are only interested in feeling better, then thats what makes you numb to life.
Wrapping It Up!
People are interested in feeling better because theyre so afraid of their negative feelingsabout themselves, their spouses, jobs, kids that all they want is to feel better with something like food. When they are miserable the day after a major pig-out, its more about the food and the heaviness they suffer than what made them overeat in the ï¬? rst place. Some peoples rock bottom can go on forever because they never allow themselves to feel rock bottom. Rock bottom doesnt mean having to be a blacked-out alcoholic or dirt poor and living on the streets. Rock bottom could be a person choosing to live in front of their
television set, never exercising, learning, or growing. A person can hit rock bottom because of their fears.
Have you caught yourself fearing something, and then realized it wasnt so scary after all?
I think we all have this image of the person we could be, and when we feel were not up to the task of being that person, we let our fears hold us back from even trying. When you can work on yourself enough to trust that what you do can and will make a difference in the world, and you begin to understand that, no matter how down, de-pressed, lonely, or fat you may feel at any one time, deep in your heart you really know who you areand it doesnt scare you.
Wrapping It Up!
â?¢ Its important to examine what you truly want in your life.
â?¢ The risk of losing some of our comfort in life plays a prominent role in our e_orts to attain our goals.
â?¢ What does the phrase comfort zone mean to you?
â?¢ What have you set up in your life to support the good and bad behaviors that make you you?
â?¢ Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zones if staying in one doesnt move your life forward.
â?¢ Analyze and make a list of your fears.
â?¢ Learn to lighten up and laugh at yourself.
â?¢ How authentic do you want to be?
â?¢ How would your life change if you reached your goals?
â?¢ Dont avoid living because you fear failure.
â?¢ Think progress, not perfection.
â?¢ Forgive yourself every day!
â?¢ Getting healthy is an ongoing pro cess. It requires a lot of patience and understanding.
â?¢ Talk about and understand your feelings enough so that they dont a_ect you in a destructive way.