I recently received some great advice to stop sugarcoating what's happening in my life. I was up against how I'd been pretending things were better than they were and sort of floating along thinking things would magically change. This is a big trick of the Shadow. To stay unseen, the Shadow (the part of any situation we'd rather not acknowledge) seduces us not to look at things for what they are or pretend we don't see something and gloss over it.
We females have a particular tendency to do this when we don't really listen to what our man is saying or assume he is going to change. Do any of these sound familiar? "He doesn't want to have children now, but I'm sure he will in the future." "He says he doesn't want to settle down, but he just hasn't been in the 'right' relationship." "He may not be financially responsible now, but that's because he just hasn't 'found himself' yet." Stop the sugarcoating and look the tiger in the eye. Face truth.
My therapist held my feet to the fire and had me face the music. Not in a harsh way... think of it more as tough love. Keeping it real. Seeing things as they really are, instead of pretending not to see the truth of the matter.
One of my mentors, the sage psychotherapist Dr. Ron Alexander, suggests to always ask clients what they are NOT saying. What do they consistently choose not to talk about or bring up in a session? In relationships, this is the white elephant in the room. What are you and your partner not talking about? What is the nagging feeling that keeps gnawing at you, but you don't know how to approach or you simply don't want to bring it up for fear of what's on the other side.
Many of us (especially women) suffer from the disease to please. We tend to sugarcoat challenges in our lives, particularly in our relationships or work, and pretend like things aren't really bothering us ("It's not that big of a deal...") or are better than they really are. We tend to ignore our true feelings and pretend we're not really hurt, afraid, confused or we push away our authentic needs. This creates a layer of insulation and fluff around what's really going on and it holds us back from true happiness and what we really want.
In yoga, the aim of our practice is clear perception -- to see things exactly the way they are. Not better or worse. No need to embellish or shirk away. We perceive events, relationships, people, even our own thoughts with clarity. We develop discernment, known as viveka. Viveka is the key to unlocking the third eye center, which is our command center of intuition, clarity and empowerment. It slices through illusion, delusion and confusion. We get clear on who we are and what we want and in so doing, we develop the courage to take the next right step -- clearly stating our needs, asking for what we want and tackling difficult conversations head on.
Here are a few steps to help you break the habit of sugarcoating and get to the heart of the matter:
1. Tune into your body.
The body never lies. When pondering your real desires or sitting in a conundrum, take a moment to feel into your body. Are you getting a green light, yellow light or red light? Do you feel comfortable or uncomfortable? Anxious? Agitated, irritable or unsettled? These are indications that something is not being addressed and is making you feel "off." Take note. Listen to the signals you are getting and notice exactly when you and around whom you are feeling discomfort.
2. Tap the Unconscious Mind: Before Bed + Upon Waking
We have the most access to our unconscious mind right before we get out of bed in the morning and as we're drifting into sleep at night. When we straddle the space between sleep and wakefulness, the no man's land in the groggy early morning, our mind's still have access to the deeper realms of truth. Let yourself hover in the hazy fog while you slip out of sleep and pause there, noticing what comes up. This is one of your most direct through lines to intuition and offers real insight to what's brewing underneath the surface.
3. Take a quick personal inventory.
Take three minutes to answer these two questions -- stream of consciousness writing, pen to paper, no thinking or editing, just let it flow:
What I really need is...
What I really want is...
Writing taps the right brain (artistic, creative, intuitive, non-linear). Adding a physical action (pen to paper) helps trigger the underlying, intuitive, non-linear thoughts to flow out. Giving them a space to live outside of your brain helps to unravel protective measures and let the unconscious know that it has a rightful home and is respected and cared for.
4. Have faith. Speak the truth you are feeling.
Like anything, the "disease to please" and the resulting sugarcoated life is a habit. Break this habit by simply telling the truth. First to yourself, then to others. Take the clues you received in steps 1-3 and state them out loud. Do you have a nagging feeling that it's time to end a relationship? Move to another city? Take space from a sibling, parent or friend?
Have faith that when you speak the truth, however big or small, you are moving toward authentic, real happiness. You are building the muscle of discernment (viveka) -- seeing things as they really are and acting accordingly. More importantly, you are sending a message to your core self and your unconscious mind, that what lives there in the still, small place within is valid, important, relevant and deserves to be heard. As the muscle builds, you will hear, see and act from this truth more quickly.
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