I bet you're thinking I've spelled NATS wrong. But I'm talking about NATS, not gnats (although they're actually quite similar). What are NATS? Negative Automatic Thoughts. How do you get rid of (or at least reframe) them? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall--practice!
NATS are nasty, self-directed habitual thoughts that burrow into our core beliefs and present themselves as truth over and over. They often begin in childhood, and like perennial weeds crop up every year. They choke our growth, and like strangled flowers, we can't turn our faces to the sun and thrive.
What are some examples of NATS? Here are a few:
No matter what I try, I fail
I'll never have enough money
It'll never be any different, so I might as well give up
Any of these sound familiar? If not, that's fantastic, but if so, these thoughts can feel like the deep truth of your being. I mean they have to be true because they've been there so long, and how could they have been there to begin with if they weren't true? And on and on and on. The brain loves an old thought. That deep, repetitive groove in your brain feels like an old friend who sees change as the enemy and will keep you walking down the same street even if you fall into an open manhole each time. No, it doesn't feel good when it happens, but it is predictable, and in a strange way, safe. After all, you can't change the truth. Except it isn't truth. It is a self-concept masquerading as truth. And it can be changed with practice.
There are a series of questions taken from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that allow you to deconstruct, question and reframe these thoughts. You might have seen them before, but they are worth repeating here:
So, what does this have to do with life coaching? On the home page of speakyourpeace.net I pose this thought:
Your were born to live your best life. One that embraces your talents, skills and vision. Still something is holding you back. You hear the insistent voice of change, but don't know what to do. The good news? You already have the answer. It is you.
You actually do have the answer, but you have to clear the weeds (NATS) and plant some different seeds (reframe your thoughts). A life coach will help you start and then continue this process until your garden looks a whole lot different. This takes both practice and accountability, but is so worth the effort. Now get your hoe and start digging!
I recognize that title may antagonize a few people. We all like to think we are indispensable--at our jobs, as parents, as friends, as partners. When we feel indispensable, it gives our world meaning. Because when we are indispensable, we are important and we are seen. People need us. Or so we think.
To me, being indispensable implies a false notion of both control and intimacy. Keeping it together, problem solving and being present for everyone else may provide a sense of purpose, but often masks enmeshment. Enmeshment can feel like deep intimacy, but it is actually the direct opposite. Because when you have become the superhero with no needs, the person everyone runs to with their problems, you are missing from the equation. In other words, there is no reciprocity. You have been a one person clean-up crew, but when you have a spill in aisle 5, no one else is coming with the mop. Yeah, you're expected to take care of it yourself because the lights are off and everyone else has gone home.
So how does this happen? And why do we feel more comfortable with that perceived locus of control when, in the end, it often leaves us depleted and lonely? Well, many of us come from families where healthy boundaries were just not a thing and parents leaned on us as confidantes and caretakers. When a child gets positive reinforcement for taking care of others, that role gets cemented pretty early in life. And because these children are often sensitive and empathic to begin with, they are naturally inclined to help their parents. This type of responsibility can feel like intimacy because "saving" parents can feel like a very deep bond--it's special. But where are these children in that equation? And how do they get their needs met?
Unfortunately, the parentified child is often the product of chaos in the family home. This chaos can be due to addiction, marital unhappiness, depression and/or mental illness. The child will do what they can to not only take care of things but to also stop the chaos, thinking that when they do, everyone will be safe. This outward focus may feel strangely powerful, but the child is only seen for what comfort they can give to the parent(s). They are indispensable for what they provide.
When parentified children grow up, they turn into givers--the person who works 60 hours a week, is on call 24/7 for the needy friend, the mom or dad who volunteers for every school function. They maintain that indispensability because the role is familiar and safe, but somewhere down the road, many wake up from the dream and wonder, "Where have I been?"
If this sounds familiar to you, take a breath and ask yourself these questions:
"What is intimacy to me?"
"If I were to let go of the wheel, would it all go to hell?"
Are my relationships transactional rather than intimate, and what is intimacy really?"
"Am I indispensable to others but actually feel abandoned by them?"
If any of these questions resonate with you, or if you have a history of being the "savior," please think about what it means for you and who you've actually been this whole time. You are not the quicker picker upper, and rather than cleaning up other people's messes, you deserve true intimacy, friendship, love and most of all, reciprocity. So where do you start? By entertaining the thought that you actually deserve it. And knowing that external validation is not the answer. Indispensability is an inside job. You've heard it all before, but yes, your worth is not dependent on saving others, but by acknowledging you are enough without spinning plates in the air. So why not let those plates crash to the floor and let someone else pick up the pieces? Because really, they weren't your pieces to begin with.
I am thrilled to announce the launch of my new ebook, Self-Care For Resisters and Procrastinators! If you keep promising yourself to take better care of yourself, but have had no idea where to start, this book allows you to first discover what's stopping you and then to create your own blueprint. It doesn't tell you what you "should" be doing for self-care, but prompts you to find what works for you. This has been a labor of love, and I hope that during these especially difficult times you will find it useful. You can download it on speakyourpeace.net today!
And don't forget to leave a comment after you read it. I'd love to know how it helped you.
There is no doubt these are challenging times, however we are frequently bombarded by quotes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter spreading the happiness message. Everyone seems to be pushing the happiness agenda. There is the “Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, which has spawned an entire happiness “movement.” Every day on Facebook I receive loads of affirmations from Hay House authors (and many others) encouraging me to turn my negatives into positives. There is even a quote by famous depressive Abraham Lincoln--”Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be”--that has been making the rounds on social media for years.
While I am all for living the best life possible, I often find these quotes to be both reductive and enervating. Somehow, being happy is now equated with being “spiritual” and “good”. Your shadow is something to be avoided at all costs. If you are not happy, you are obviously doing something wrong.
It’s a kind of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that may spur some to “positive” action, but can make others feel less than or incompetent. If someone is genuinely depressed, in the midst of a health crisis or going through his or her dark night of the soul, being “positive” is like putting white wash on a crumbling fence. It doesn’t work.
You have to take care of the structure before you pretty it up. That means examining and embracing in order for healing to begin.
Each one of us has our own unique psyche and history. We must embrace both the shadow and the light in order to find our place in the world. I believe true happiness comes from:
Feeling our feelings
Using those feelings as our guides
Reaching out for help and support when needed, including friends, family, coach or a therapist
Being part of a community
Following your own compass
Never making excuses for who you are
I have learned from many spiritual teachers, coaches and therapists. The people I have resonated with the most have all stressed authenticity.
An authentic life doesn’t begin or end with a pithy saying or a meme. It means being present with all that is. It means never feeling less than because you’re not “happy” every day. Remember, “happy” is only one feeling, not better or worse than any other. Being human means experiencing them all.
As Rumi says in the famous poem “The Guest House”:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I hope that wherever you are, your guest house is full. Treat each one with love and compassion. They are your friends and guides.
Welcome to the brand new Speak Your Peace website! Although SYP never left, the site has been offline for the good part of a year. This has allowed me to upgrade and make some changes. They do say change is good, and for me it was certainly necessary. I'm very excited about moving forward and am happy you found me. Although I'm not the most consistent blogger, I will blog when something strikes me as useful and interesting. In fact, I would like to share an old post that lays out my feelings about blogging and usefulness. Please let me know your thoughts--I'd really love to hear from you.
Service or Just Self Serving? The Life Coaching/Blogging Conundrum
I am truly resistant to blogging. The internet is already cluttered with wisdom from life coaches, and frankly, do you really need one more telling you the
(Fill in the blank)
Is that a resounding “no”? I thought so.
I am suspicious of self promotion masking itself as “help.” I want to extol the
great benefits of holistic life coaching, but sure don’t want to sell it. I understand I must get myself out there in order to seen and heard, but it seems antithetical to the work. Besides, isn’t that what a website is for?
Perhaps the answer lies in clarifying my intention.
To be of service.
To be fully present for my clients.
To heal and be healed.
I can wrap that up in a variety of shiny packages, reinvent a few wheels and it all seems false. Of course, if I create content that truly inspires someone or makes them feel better, I am on point. However, blogging for blogging’s sake and/or trying sell you the wonders of holistic life coaching is not honest or meaningful. It is also incredibly dull.
I am not naive. I have had a successful speech therapy and bodywork practice for over 13 years. I recognize that the only way people can discover my holistic life coaching practice is by being out there. I just want to do this honestly and with an open heart. Many of my fellow coaches are doing just this, and I have certainly benefited from their wisdom and caring. I want to remain on that team.
You can help. Tell me what, as a life coach, can I do for you?
In other words, keep me relevant! Don’t let me fill up your Facebook feed with useless and/or hackneyed material (and sorry if you consider this in
Feel free to send your thoughts and ideas via phone, email, facebook, Twitter or carrier pigeon. I invite all creative thinkers.
With love and thanks,