How to Step Out of the Drama Triangle and Find Real Peace

“Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern, and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours.” ~Epictetus

 Are you addicted to drama? I was, but I didn’t know it. I thought I was just responding to life, to what was happening. I really didn’t think I had a choice! The drama triangle is so pervasive, and can be so subtle, that it just seems normal. But it’s not, and there’s a much saner way to live, I found.

Dr. Stephen Karpman first described the drama triangle in the 1960’s.

All three of the roles—Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor—are very fluid and can morph easily into one another. We all have a favorite (usually the role we assumed most often in childhood), but most of us are pretty good at all three of them, depending on the situation.

My personal favorite was Rescuer, although I also did a very credible Victim from time to time. I was a Rescuer in my family of origin (middle children often are). I felt virtuous, strong, and necessary when other people turned to me for help or depended on me to take care of things.

But there’s always a downside. Being a perpetual Rescuer led to chronic stress, as I constantly monitored how everyone else was doing and was never available to take care of my own needs.

That’s when I’d slip into the Victim role: I’d feel sorry for myself, since no one seemed to appreciate how hard I was working to take care of them. Which made me feel angry and resentful, and before I knew it I’d find myself picking a fight with my husband or fuming at some unwitting clerk. (Yep, there’s the Persecutor.)

See how the drama cycles from role to role? They all have their payoffs too. It feels good to be a Victim, at least for a while. We get a lot of attention. We don’t need to take responsibility for our actions and their consequences, because we can always find someone else to blame for them. Often people will help us (those nice Rescuers).

And being the Persecutor can feel powerful, especially for someone who has never learned the skill of asking directly for their needs to be met. We get to “blow off steam.” We might even get to have our way for a while—but at what cost?

It’s an exhausting way to live. All of the roles are driven by anxiety and the ways we have learned to “control” it in our lives. The drama keeps us absorbed, and it keeps us enmeshed (unhealthily) with others, but it leaves very little room for real peace and joy. And no room at all for a truly healthy relationship to form.

But how do we step away from the drama triangle, when almost everyone we know is still playing the game?

The first step is simply to be aware of the game, how it works, and what roles you play most frequently. What role did you play as a child? Can you identify the roles that others in your family played? Are they still playing them?

The role of Rescuer may be the easiest to admit to, since it actually sounds praiseworthy or noble on the surface. This is not genuine philanthropy, however—it’s really about control and being in someone else’s business, thus neglecting your own.

If you’re accustomed to being a Victim, on the other hand, you’ll find yourself often looking for someone or something outside of yourself to blame. (In fact, the hallmark of all the roles is that your attention is usually directed outward.)

Finally, although no one likes to admit to being a Persecutor, if anger is your go-to emotion when things go wrong, you’re probably operating in that role. In reality, the anger is just a mask for underlying fear, shame, and powerlessness. Sadly, adult Persecutors were often Victims as children. In the drama triangle there are no good guys and bad guys—everyone loses.

Once you’ve become aware of your patterns, it becomes much easier to recognize the game and, eventually, step out of it. Since the drama triangle is all about being in other people’s business, stepping out of it requires you to remain firmly in your own!

What helped me with this was a concept I call the “zone of integrity.” Imagine a circle around yourself; this represents your business (your true responsibility). In the zone of integrity, you are responsible for being 100 percent honest, both with yourself and with others. This means acknowledging and honoring your own feelings and needs, and allowing others to be responsible for theirs.

It also means taking responsibility for your own actions and their consequences, and letting others do the same. This might require some “tough love,” both toward yourself and others. You might not be the most popular person at the dance for a while. Codependence (which is essentially what the drama triangle describes) is a system. It requires multiple players to function, so people will probably be upset when you opt out. In fact, you can count on it.

During my own withdrawal phase, I would regularly find myself getting sucked into the old dynamics, but it’s become easier and easier to spot when that happens and to use the “zone of integrity” concept to pull myself back into my own business.

Recently my mother asked me to help smooth over a squabble between some of my siblings—exactly the sort of thing I have done all my life. Even in the act of saying yes I suddenly stopped and thought, “Is this really my business? Do I really have to take this on?” And then politely declined.

It’s not always easy in the beginning to recognize whose business you’re in, especially when it involves your family of origin. These are the people who taught you most of what you know about the drama triangle, after all!

For me, I feel a very familiar sense of obligation and guilt when those Rescuer urges start kicking in, which prompts me to pull back and look more closely at the situation. It took practice for me to hear and trust those feelings, but now they’re easy to spot.

The zone of integrity, when I manage to stay there, feels so good. I still care about people, and help when it feels right, but I no longer feel obligated to rescue. That means that I don’t end up feeling victimized, or resentfully persecuting someone else in return. In the long run it’s much better for everyone involved.

My life now has a lot less drama, it’s true. You might miss that sometimes, when people are trading war stories at Friday night happy hour. What you will have instead is true peace of mind, much healthier relationships and a passionate addiction to staying in your zone of integrity. It’s worth the trade-off.

About Amaya Pryce

Amaya Pryce is a spiritual coach and writer living in the Pacific Northwest. Her newest book, How to Grow Your Soulis available on Amazon. For coaching or to follow her blog, please visit www.amayapryce.com.

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5 Things Productive People Do Every Night

You’re reading 5 Things Productive People Do Every Night, originally posted on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. If you’re enjoying this, please visit our site for more inspirational articles.

Though we often assume that a good night’s sleep starts when we turn off the lights, setting yourself up for a restful seven to eight hours goes far beyond closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. The routine we follow before we turn down the covers can have a greater impact on our hours of rest than anything that happens overnight, equipping us for a more restful, productive night’s sleep. Start with these five steps to capitalize on that crucial time and improve your odds of waking up feeling truly rested each morning.

Get organized.

You know you have a full schedule tomorrow, and you’re already thinking about it. Rather than letting the next day’s obligations hang over your head as you binge-watch one of your go-to shows, Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist and specialist in sleep medicine, says to set aside a few minutes between dinner and bedtime to get organized ahead of your busy day. If bringing running clothes to work with you cuts down on your morning stress and rush, make time to do so. If having a pre-packed lunch keeps you eating healthy, nutritious food (rather than making a regretful stop at the office cafeteria), then pack a bag the night before. Instead of tossing and turning while imagining the amount of tasks awaiting you when the alarm goes off, you’ll be able to fall asleep knowing you’re organized and ready for the day to come.

Unplug.

With the amount of devices at our disposal, it’s not surprising that this is such a difficult task for most of us. However, we now know for a fact that harsh blue light emitted from phone, television, and tablet screens has been proven to alter the body’s natural production of melatonin before bed, confusing our internal clock and making winding down more difficult. The National Sleep Foundation recommends removing electronic devices, especially smartphones, from your bedroom or nightstand to eliminate their impact on your sleep. If you must use a device before bed, switch it to a dimmer, night-specific screen setting, or make it something that you can set up further away from your eyes, like a television instead of a smartphone. If you really want to see a difference, follow the National Sleep Foundation’s suggestion to turn devices off 30 minutes before bedtime to let your mind wind down at its own pace.

Take care of your body.

Though we’d all love to get a massage each evening before bed, for most of us, that’s just not a reality. Instead, one of the easiest ways to take care of your body without adding an extra obligation to your schedule is to invest in a quality mattress. Doing your homework and picking out the right mattress once will ensure that poor support doesn’t impact your quality of rest and your physical well-being over time, making you less productive. Not sure where to start or wondering why your current mattress has never felt right? The average person will spend about 23,000 hours on their mattress over the course of its eight-year lifespan, so do your research to ensure you make a smart, informed investment in a mattress and your overall health.

Read.

For most of us, reading an actual book has sharply fallen to the wayside in favor of quick articles, social media scrolling, and television. However, researchers have repeatedly championed the cognitive benefits that reading can lead to, including improving our empathy and making kids smarter later in life. Better yet, unlike your phone or tablet, a paperback book doesn’t emit a single nanometer of blue light. Try incorporating a few pages of a book into your evening routine, perhaps alongside a steaming mug of (decaf) tea, and relish the chance to engage your imagination and engross yourself in the world between the pages. In time, reading can become a key part of your wind-down routine, signaling to your body that sleep, and relaxation, is near.

Meditate.

This revered wellness practice touts dozens of physical and mental benefits, but trying to empty your mind for twenty minutes right off the bat is enough to make most novice meditators give up. Easing into the practice, either with a few minutes of mindfulness meditation or the structure of a guided practice from an app or video, will help you slowly integrate it into your nightly routine in an accessible way. As an added plus, meditation also acts as a powerful complement to existing physical activities or fitness routines. According to Parinaz Samimi, a health and wellness consultant at MattressFirm.com, "[Meditation] helped me find myself . . . It reminds me not to be so quick to judge new experiences, new people, or even myself."
Now that you’re armed with these tips, be diligent in keeping your pre-bedtime ritual a part of your everyday thinking. Continue to stay informed, and you’ll soon develop a wind-down routine that’s both practical and productive for your everyday life, and sets you up for the best night’s sleep possible.

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Survive your Childhood “ Survival Skills” by Learning Emotional Intelligence Skills to Help you Thrive!

When you hear the words “survival skills,” what picture do you see in your mind? Being lost at sea? Being trapped in a burning building? Being stranded in a forest? Being left alone in a strange place?

In these scenarios, survival skills are essential to save your life. However, I am referring to a different set of “survival skills.” I am talking about the (subconscious) survival skills you learned (or taught yourself) as a child to comfort yourself. The skills that you used when mom and dad were yelling at each other. The skills that you used when you were being ignored. The skills that you used when you didn’t feel “good enough.” The skills that you used when you felt like you had to be perfect.

Look at the underlined words above: lost, trapped, stranded, left alone… all words that describe surviving, in terms of saving our physical lives; not words we would want to use when describing our emotional lives. The very words that could save your physical life in one scenario could harm your mental life in another.

Doesn’t everyone “think” this way? I get this question in my “butterfly room” all the time (my butterfly room is my coaching room where transformation takes place), and it always amazes me that people truly can’t believe that others “think” differently. “It seems so normal,” I hear. “Yes, it’s normal for you,” I say. “Normal” is a funny word because it has so many different meanings, depending on who is using it. When we hear the word “car,” or “tree,” we can all see a very similar image in our mind… but say the word “normal” and everybody has a completely different visual.

Survival skills are a huge part of our “normal.” They guide us, complete us, calm us, protect us, etc., and that feels comfortable. However, they can get in our way as adults. The survival skills that comforted us in our childhood no longer serve as adults. If we do not grow emotionally, we stay stuck in a 5 year old emotional survival mode. Which doesn’t work when we are 30, 40, or 60.

For example, if I am 60 and I have never learned to read, you could put me in a kindergarten classroom and on a literacy level, I am equal to a five year old. I have not learned the skills to read, just like the kindergartner is learning the skills for the first time too. This situation makes perfect sense to most people. However, when you talk about emotional skills, most people assume they have them – or worse – they don’t even consider them at all.

Schools don’t teach us how to transition those “survival” skills into skills that will serve us later in life. Sadly, many times school is the very place we have to use our survival skills. And in many cases, our parents haven’t worked on their own pain, so they have no idea either. They’re just living in their “normal” too, and now we (the next generation) get to deal with OUR pain and THEIRS… and the cycle continues.

You might be wondering, if you don’t learn these skills at school or home, how can a human being transition those old childhood survival skills into skills that will serve them? BY LEARNING NEW SKILLS THAT REPLACE THE OUTDATED ONES! This is called Emotional Intelligence!

Facing the truth is painful, but if you want to be an emotionally intelligent person, you must do just that. Depending on your age, this process will feel different. If you are 20 and you want to “develop” yourself for a specific career or position within a company, it may be quicker and easier to learn those necessary

skills than if you are 50 and you are trying to make sense of a lifetime of pain. The pain you feel from these survival skills compound with every passing year. No different than learning to read, you are not going to gain these skills just because you had another birthday. Years may pass, but you are still at the same level emotionally.

The only way to TRULY comfort yourself is to face the pain head on and create your own “normal.” By doing this, no one else will have to deal with the pain that you never dealt with. Once you decide to walk this “emotional intelligence” path, your relationships will improve, your health will get better, your happiness will increase, your confidence will rise, your strength to “deal” and “cope” will become easier because you have learned the emotional intelligence skills to thrive!

It’s never too late to become emotionally intelligent. Don’t let your pain become someone else’s pain. Be a thought leader. Be a learner. Take responsibility and develop into the person you are meant to be.

Aren’t you exhausted from the weight of your pain? Don’t let another day pass you by. Learn a new skill (or 2 or 3) and leave a legacy of empowerment. You owe it to yourself to at least try.

Be the kind of person who leaves the future with more than the pain you never dealt with.

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Column: First Pagan Music Awards Recognizes Pagan Artists

The first annual Pagan Music Awards were held this month on June 8, just outside of West Plains, Missouri about two miles off of the Arkansas border. This first-of-its-kind event in recent memory was held at the White Raven Retreat Center.

“The International Pagan Music Association grew out of that station and Sacred Grove radio, International Pagan radio, which are all newer stations that are playing 24/7 this kind of music. We just wanted to help those kind of musicians get recognized so that we could give them some satisfaction and something to hang their hats on that says they are doing a good job,” said Alfred Willowhawk, who sits on the board for White Raven and also serves as the vice president of the International Pagan Music Association (IPMA), which was organized as a nonprofit to put on the Pagan Music Awards.

Willowhawk, himself a DJ on the Cauldron, noted that many of the current IPMA board members are radio personalities on various Pagan streaming radio networks, and with the aid of IPMA president Melissa Anderson, they brought the event to life.

Mama Gina [International Pagan Music Association].

Taking inspiration from other music awards, Willowhawk said they “thought about how to recognize esoteric and Pagan musicians in an environment that is very similar to the American Music Awards, for the purpose of enhancing their reach within the mainstream and Pagan community.”

The association and the awards were created after Anderson got a flash of inspiration from a dream. She says she quickly reached out to several people and within six hours, they had a website.

Part of her love of Pagan music is that it is often better than what you get from mainstream musicians, “they sound better than the ones I hear on TV, and not only that, they sing about things that matter to me,” she said.

Ginger Ackley [International Pagan Music Association].

Couple that passion with how hard she sees Pagan musicians — many of whom are her friends— working, she felt that as a community, more needs to be done more for them.

“These artists book themselves, they are their own roadies, they look for their own places to stay, they do it all. And then they have to show up and smile after driving all day. Some will throw up a tent and sleep on whatever mat they can get and I think that’s just ridiculous that the community can come out and listen to them and that’s it. They download their music from YouTube, we have to get people to understand that they need to get a loaf of bread on their table as well. That’s what IPMA will hopefully do,” she said.

The organization is member-sponsored, granting all members one vote for each of the respective categories. Artists who join are likewise eligible to vote and automatically entered into the competition. Non-artists who pay the yearly fee of $29 can vote and are given complimentary entrance to that year’s Pagan Music Awards. For those who don’t want to join the IPMA but are still interested in casting a vote, they can do so for a $5 fee.

This year there were three professional categories— best male artist, best female artist and best group— as well as a category honoring the hard work of a community member to aid musicians.

Left to right: Mama Gina, best male artist David Wood, best female artist Rowena Whaling, Ginger Ackley [International Pagan Music Association].

Best female artist was won by Rowena Whaling of Rowena of the Glen, best male artist was taken by David Wood, and best group was won by U.K. artists Serpentyne, a symphonic/folk/metal act who were unable to attend.

The “Nine Toes the Bard Community Service Award” is selected by Mama Gina Lamonte (aka Nine Toes the Bard) who recognized Amanda Bell of St. Louis, Missouri.

Lamonte said that Bell “had been wrangling Pagan musicians/bands for the St. Louis Pagan Picnic when I met her, and I have witnessed firsthand her opening her home, her heart, and quite often her pocketbook, to help musicians as they travel through her area.” She further said that Bell has been a tireless promoter of Pagan music at local venues, and in her own back yard.

“My hope as the Pagan Music Awards grow each year is to raise up someone who is not necessarily one of our big name Pagans, though they are certainly deserving. Rather, I hope to recognize those who serve our community who aren’t always seen regionally, nationally or internationally. Next year’s award will likely go to someone who serves community in a very different way,” Lamonte said.

“I didn’t expect to win, it was a great honor to be nominated by the committee and as much of a surprise as winning,” Whaling said. She added that it’s important to see an awards ceremony for the Pagan community come together because it helps lend a sense of legitimacy and can aid musicians in bringing more Pagan music into the mainstream.

Wood agreed, saying, “it is important to honor the hard work of Pagan musicians and their dedication to the community.” While people rarely think twice about paying for books, he said he feels that people “rarely spend a dollar for their favorite Pagan music download that comes from the heart and soul just as well. There are plenty of our communities’ artists on many Pagan radio stations worthy of recognition. The IPMAs really are about bringing Pagan music to a level of equality in the community.”

Wood went on to say that he was humbled to be among such artists as Bran Cerddorion and Jack Montgomery. “I didn’t expect to win, but love that my fans voted for me. I want to thank them, especially,” he added.

Left to right: Sue Balaschak, David Wood, Gina Lamonte [International Pagan Music Association].

There were some impromptu pre-show performances that Whaling said turned out to be a wonderful addition to the show. Ember from Rowena of the Glen performed with Sue Balaschak of Burning Sage, and there were also performances by Wood, Whaling and Ginger Ackley.

As to the future, Anderson says that it’s going to be a yearly thing. They are committed to moving the awards ceremony around to a new location each year so that it’s more accessible to different people. There was some talk about combining it with existing festivals, but the logistics of doing so are complicated and ultimately they decided against it because “it just puts a lot more on the (existing) festival.”

While they’re kicking around ideas for where it will be held in 2018, Willowhawk said the final decision wouldn’t be made until their November board meeting.

Both Willowhawk and Anderson expressed their satisfaction with the awards. “For the first year, I feel like it did better than I would have imagined,” Anderson said.

* * *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

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How to Handle the Clash Between Love and Politics

I regularly see posts on social media from people saying, “If you voted for_________ (fill in the blank), you can unfriend me,” or “never speak to me again,” or a variation on a division between people who once were friends or who loved each other. Our current political era has created a greater divide, or at least a louder one, than most of us have ever seen before.

This is not just happening in America. A couple from England explained to me how Brexit has not only created a division in Europe, but also in households and families. Those for or against can simply not understand the others, nor change their minds. I have heard similar sentiments from those in Canada, and now, France.

So what do we do when our political stand and our friendships clash?

This is a particularly challenging question because on each side of the table people are feeling like deep-set values are being threatened. When our core safety or that of those we love is threatened our protective natures emerge.

It is important to take a step back and employ what I call “Six Essential Life Skills” so we can access solutions. At first, it seems cumbersome to remember steps. However, once learned and practiced, they all happen in one breath and can guide your behavior toward healthier solutions than merely turning your back on people that you love.

The first essential skill is to remember who you really are (and if you don’t know, figure it out.) When we remember that at our core we are spiritual beings having a human experience, rather than a ego vying to be right, we tend to behave differently. While politics and policy are critically important on our rights, freedoms and our environment’s well-being, what may even be more important is how we behave, how we treat others, how we speak and what we choose to think.

When we take the time to identify who we really are at the soul level, we may list “activist” but even more core than that, we may identify “loving, integrity, compassionate, forgiving” as our higher self-description.

While we journey down the path of remembering who we really are, it is helpful to remember who everyone really is, too. We are all divine beings, trying to figure out how to do this human thing, how to be safe, how to keep our families fed and find our way to enlightenment. Some just may be way further along the path than others, but like it or not, we are all on the path.

The second of essential life skills is to identify your target and remember what you are truly aiming for. Again, a certain political outcome or consciousness may be your target, but upon deeper introspection, you may discover that “healthy relationships with family/friends, integrity, respect, and understanding” are closer to your bull’s eye. We have to be careful not to side step our spiritual goals for less important human aspirations.

The third essential life skill is to become self-observant. Self-observation causes us to be mindful. Mindfulness allows us to see the big picture and realize that our choices either lead toward our “target” or away from it.

The fourth essential life skill is to evaluate our options and choose which target we want. Do we want to be right, or do we want to be loving? Do we want to honor fear or faith? Do we want to honor our politics over our relationships? Take a step back and ask yourself, if I put this person down, call them names, stop speaking to them or accuse them of being bad and wrong, will that lead toward my goal? In essence, we begin to see that our ego’s reactionary behaviors don’t actually accomplish our goals. Being defensive, indignant, and insulting does not actually change the other person’s mind, nor does it lead to a better planet, or policies, nor does it lead to healthy relationships and greater integrity. When we really take the time to evaluate, we see the insanity of doing and saying things that don’t actually lead where we want to go.

The fifth essential skill requires that we recalibrate with who we really are and access the creativity of our spirits. This process is a one-breath meditation where we take the “down elevator” from our ego mind to our spirits, and realign with the self-identified qualities that we aspire to embody: loving, integrity, compassionate, forgiving, humble, creative, accepting, imaginative, trusting, wise, intuitive, to name a few. Once we have accessed these innate spiritual qualities, we move to the sixth essential life skill: Choosing our words, thoughts and actions in alignment with who we really are and what we are trying to create.

Once we have recalibrated, we step into the creativity of other options:

  • I can love you without agreeing with you.
  • I can be friends with you without talking politics with you.
  • I can keep my distance from you, while still honoring your core goodness.
  • I can forgive you.
  • I can admit that I was wrong.

In whatever form “judgment day” may be on our souls, I seriously doubt the question at the pearly gates will be “Who did you vote for?” but rather more akin to “How did you treat those who voted differently than you?”

Simply put, when love and political views clash, choose love.

This post courtesy of Spirituality & Health.

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Can I Be Vulnerable with Him?

As a therapist, I often see a self-defeating pattern in clients: they hold back from expressing their authentic selves — their true feelings, wants, and needs to a relationship partner.  

What’s wrong with that?

What’s wrong is that by failing to communicate in ways that respect who we really are, we miss out on getting the kind of relationship we long for. We feel frustrated when we don’t feel understood, don’t get our needs met, and don’t know what’s on the other person’s mind. Communicating openly usually fosters a more emotionally and spiritually fulfilling relationship.

The story below shows how holding back, because we fear being hurt, can harm a relationship and how speaking from the heart, kindly and respectfully, can help you connect with your partner and also with others in a more meaningful, satisfying way.

Elizabeth’s Story

Elizabeth came to see me because she wanted to get married. A high-powered, successful entrepreneur who’d built her own software company, she found dating confusing. “I meet men and a lot of them seem interested. But sometimes I’m attracted to a man and spend time with him and it turns out he just likes me as a friend.” After she’d seen Bill a few times, Elizabeth told me, “He said to me, ‘I like you,’ but how am I supposed to know what that means?”

“Why not ask him? I suggested.

Elizabeth looked shocked. “I couldn’t do that,” she said. “I wouldn’t know what to say.”

She could say to Bill, smiling, “Thank you. I like hearing you say that. I also wonder, do you mean platonically or …?” In whatever words she might chose, by asking Bill politely what he means, she would be being vulnerable because his response might disappoint her. She wants a romantic relationship that leads to marriage. By asking Bill what he means, she’d is likely to gain clarity about whether to spend more time with him. She’s also letting him know that she is open to hearing him talk about his true self, and to revealing her own authentic self to him.   

But Elizabeth hadn’t learned that it was okay to be so direct. She didn’t want to put him on the spot like that, she said. But perhaps she didn’t want to risk that he would break her romantic fantasy bubble. As long as his intention remained vague to her, she would be able to think that Bill could be “the one.”

Is Vulnerability Worth the Risk?

Being vulnerable means communicating our true feelings, thoughts, wants, and needs. Yes, it can be risky to do so. If Bill had told Elizabeth that he viewed her as a friend, business associate, or client, and she had hoped for something different, she would have felt disappointed, rejected, or hurt feelings none of want to bear.   

But being vulnerable with Bill would pay off for Elizabeth, however he responded. If he said he wanted to date her, and she learned that he was marriage minded, she would continue to get to know him and see where things led. If he’d said that he liked her only as a friend, she would move on to finding someone with more potential for marriage.   

Another way Elizabeth avoids being vulnerable is by insisting on paying for herself on dates. Most men prefer to pay, at least for the first date, according to my research conducted with men of all ages. “Let him treat you, at least the first time,” I suggested, “if he offers.”  

Being Vulnerable Means Letting Go of Trying to Control

For Elizabeth, allowing a man to treat, and thanking him would convey her own vulnerability. She thinks she is protecting herself. She believes that many men think that paying for her dinner entitles him to make a romantic or sexual overture and to expect her to accept it.  Paying for herself is her way of trying to control the relationship, to make sure whatever happens is on her terms, not his.

Controlling behavior is the opposite of being vulnerable. Elizabeth would be true to herself by recognizing that most men don’t expect the payoff she imagines they do; that it’s fine for a man to treat and that her “thank you” is all he expects. If he does expect romance or sex to result, to that she can say, “No, thank you!”

Benefits of Vulnerability

Being vulnerable means being in control of yourself, not being in control of the relationship. Yes, it can feel safer to be with a man (or woman) you think you can control. You can avoid having to experience awkward situations, disagreements, and hurt feelings. But think about what you might be losing — the chance to connect meaningfully with a potential or actual spouse. By being vulnerable, you’re more likely to gain a relationship that’s emotionally and spiritually fulfilling, and lasts a lifetime.

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What Does Depression Feel Like?

I’ve lived with depression my entire life. As far back as I can remember, I thought about suicide every day. On good days, I decided that I wouldn’t commit suicide and on bad days, I would think about how I would do it.

When I was younger, I didn’t realize this was abnormal. I assumed everyone thought about suicide daily. I just thought it was part of the human experience to weigh the pros and cons of living on an ongoing basis. I did recognize that I was sad — mostly because I recognized that others were happy.

I didn’t know I was depressed, however. I just thought I was bad at life. I believed that I just hadn’t found what I needed to be happy. I spent the first 25 years of my life feeling as if I was always one step away from happiness.

All of the accomplishments that I thought would make me happy didn’t. They would provide temporary happiness, of course, but a couple weeks of feeling like I was on top of the world would quickly decline into depression. When that would happen, I’d just choose a new something I needed in order to be happy.

Depression Is Like You’re Running on a Treadmill  

In many ways, depression is like running on a treadmill. It takes a great deal of effort — along with a physical and mental toll — but you don’t get anywhere. But, unlike when on a treadmill, you don’t have any positive outcomes. No calories burned or smaller waistline. Just frustration.

It’s difficult to explain depression to someone because it feels like emptiness. Depression is best described as feeling completely numb, rather than feeling badly. And for people with chronic depression, it feels normal, because chronic depression has a way of wrapping itself around a person and taking control of all emotions.

It feels like swimming with someone who is trying to pull you under and not being sure you care whether they are successful. At first, you try to swim away, but after a while, you become comforted by the fact they are there.

You start to relate to the person trying to drown you and wonder if they are right to pull you under. Subconsciously, you start swimming in areas where it’s easier for them to grab your ankle. The fact that they are trying to harm you becomes irrelevant, because you’re so used to that feeling that you can’t function without it.

I don’t know that depression can every truly be understood by someone who hasn’t experienced it first-hand. When I’m depressed, I see no way forward. It’s an all-encompassing killer of emotions.

Depression is not darkness without hope for light. Depression is being pulled into darkness and forgetting that light ever existed.

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How Meditation Influences Your DNA (and Can Slow Down Aging!)

“Meditation influences DNA and slows down aging.” This is the assertion of biologist Elisabeth Blackburn, Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2009.

Our thoughts and meditation can affect the DNA’s state of health and the speed with which we age. Over the years and the succession of cellular multiplication, in fact, DNA is experiencing progressive deterioration and this is one of the causes of the general aging of the body.

Elisabeth Blackburn, clinical psychologist Elissa Epel, and other researchers, have studied what happens to the body during meditation.

Blackburn won the Nobel for the discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that protects DNA from aging through telomeres, which are sorts of “protective caps” located at the extremities of the chromosomes.

It is precisely the telomeres that prevent the loss of information during duplication of chromosomes. Over time, however, they also deteriorate and so some errors in duplication of DNA escalate to control.

The interesting discovery of Blackburn and Epel indicates that telomerase activity is significantly higher in in people who regularly meditate. This leads many to believe (although researchers are still rightly cautious) that for people accustomed to meditation, the processes of protection from aging are much more active.

There are now many scientific studies that show how meditation has a number of positive effects on our body and our life in general: from lowering high blood pressure, improving depression, increasing vision, or even gray matter in the brain.

These benefits are not out of our reach. Often, it’s believed that meditation is possible only under certain favorable conditions, as peaceful places immersed in greenery, or only if you are free from work commitments, if you are not tired, etc.

What Zen and Mindfulzen, the zen practice of awareness, propose is a new vision of meditation, a new way of meditating, based on cognitive psychology and the latest scientific research. What is suggested is that every moment of our day can be transformed into meditation with all its benefits, because meditating on our brains and our body does not necessarily have to be silent in space – although this is the stereotyped image that we all have of meditation.

The fulcrum of meditation is the awareness that brings us to the “Here and Now”, eliminating the stress and conflict between what we are and what we would like to be and putting our body and mind in an attitude of peaceful mental presence.

“Walking Meditation” For a Longer and More Conscious Life

The need to walk is continually revealed in our lives, nothing in the universe is stationary, and nothing in our lives remains unchanged. Just as you can, ride a bike or even better walk, do not think about shortening the way you usually go, but otherwise as much as possible, stretch it, change it often, for example, to go home from the office. Changing the path will force you to more attention, observation, will develop a greater awareness of the time and the new people you will encounter. Stretching the road does not waste time, but on the contrary, it is gaining new possibilities and knowledge of life.

As you walk, breathe slowly and keep your attention focused on your breath, watchigxng the people around you breathing, a breathing showcase, the breathing road. Always keep your attention on your breath and look at everything you meet, you do not have to be absent or absorbed in your thoughts, but “present in here and now.” After a few minutes, you will feel your entire body breathing and you will feel it walking, while we are usually not aware of the body moving, because moving is an automatic process.

With this conscious meditation our receptors, the centers of the nervous system responsible for the awareness of the movement, will be activated and we “will feel we walk” as we never have. We will become aware of our moving feet, of our legs that carry us from side to side of life, of our head that is driving in the street, will be like discovering our body for the first time in life, we will even hear our Thoughts that arise from our body.

We will feel the body feeling that relaxes and moves in harmony with all that surrounds it, tensions will loosen up and it will seem to walk on clouds but perfectly present, without risking to end up under a car. We are experiencing “walking meditation”, one of the oldest meditations: the result is that we will feel immersed in life and no longer spectators. Anxiety will calm down and our DNA will smile … Walk … walk … as much as possible consciously.

The post How Meditation Influences Your DNA (and Can Slow Down Aging!) appeared first on FinerMinds.

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When Saying ‘Yes’ Causes Resentment in Your Relationship

This needs to stop — for both of your sakes.

How many of you have ended up in a relationship where you find yourself furious at your partner, after which resentment keeps bubbling up and boiling over for a good stretch of time? You can go ahead and raise your hand if that’s happened to you. I’m going to raise my hand, too.

How to Restore Intimacy & Connection in a Struggling Relationship

What I’ve found in my work with couples is that this problem most often arises when we answer “Yes” to something we really want to say “No” to. An inauthentic “yes” for the sake of short term peace almost always ends up breeding resentment in the long run.

We’ve all been there, right? We’ve all gotten to that space where we feel like our partner overstepped our boundaries in some way or our partner is somehow not fulfilling their end of an agreement we made based on our expectation that they would also follow-through.

When Your “Yes” Becomes a Silent “No”

In other words, there was a boundary you didn’t set up front, and not you are feeling the results of that invisible boundary’s violation over and over and over again.

So for instance, let’s say my partner comes to me and says, “Hey, I’m really busy at work this week. Can you make sure that you cook dinner for both of us all week?”

If I’m under the impression that this arrangement will last for the one week that they’re going to be really busy and that afterward we’re going back to our more equitable division of labor, then I might say, “Yeah, sure. I can do that for one week,” even if it feels a little bit off-putting or like a bit of a sacrifice.

I might say yes because I’m going under the assumption that I’m saying yes to a short term thing.

But what happens when the following week is super busy too? And the week after that? And the week after that?

I’ve kind of set up this situation where I agreed to cook when they’re busy. Now I feel really shitty because I don’t feel like I can tell them that I want out of it, but I also don’t feel happy about continuing to do it.

How many of you have been in a situation like that?

Negotiation Begins with Honesty

When you’re agreeing to things in relationships, meaning, when you’re negotiating out how things are going to look, make sure that you’re being super honest with yourself and with your partner about what the parameters are for your answer.

Here are some things to be sure you consider together:

  • If you’re saying yes to something, are you saying yes to it forever and always?
  • Are you saying yes to it only under very specific circumstances?
  • What are those circumstances?

Make sure you negotiate this all in advance. If you notice yourself starting to feel resentment, that resentment is your cue that it’s time to talk about something.

5 Ways to Keep Trust Issues from Destroying Your Relationship

The thing about feelings is people often work under this misconception that there are good feelings and bad feelings. I don’t believe that there are any inherently bad feelings necessarily.

There are feelings that make us uncomfortable. There are feelings that don’t feel good. But all of our feelings give us really useful information.

Resentment tells us that we have moved into a space that crosses past our boundaries, and that we need to figure out what it is that’s happening that’s not working for us and renegotiate.

Look for that resentment and renegotiate.

The best relationship advice I can give you in these situations if to figure out what that cue is for you to renegotiate and make sure that you get back on even terms.

It doesn’t do either of you any good if one of your partners is holding on to resentment. While you may think that talking about it is going to be really hard and make your partner upset, trust me, they’re upset already. Everyone can tell when you’re holding resentment, no matter how well you try to hide it. So make sure that when you feel it, you’re open and you talk about it.

This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: Why Saying ‘Yes’ Might Actually Be KILLING Your Relationships.

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Column: the Troth Meets for Moot in Missouri

The Troth held its 30th annual Trothmoot at Crowder State Park in Missouri from Thursday, June 1 through Sunday, June 4. To provide members in different regions equal opportunity to attend, the international Ásatrú and Heathen organization rotates the location of the gathering between western, midwestern, and eastern regions. This year, attendees arrived from 13 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, with Illinois and Washington making the strongest showings.

On Thursday afternoon, attendees performed a blót to the god Tyr. The central ritual of Heathenry, blót is focused on the making of offerings to gods, goddesses, land spirits, and other figures. To open Trothmoot, participants honored the god described as presiding over community gatherings in the organization’s monumental text Our Troth, Volume One: History and Lore:

Tyr simply established a framework for managing the struggles and conflicts inherent in any community such that the community, rather than being torn apart, emerged stronger. To call Tyr, therefore, a god of right, after the German Recht, would come nearer to the truth, although perhaps the most accurate term would be Þing-god, after the institution with which Tyr was most closely identified in later Heathen times.

The Troth flag flies over Trothmoot [Lisa Cowley Morgenstern].

Robert L. Schreiwer, beginning his second year as Troth steer (roughly equivalent to chairperson of board of directors), led both the blót and a ceremonial “land-taking.” He explains the significance of the rituals:

We followed the Troth’s traditions of honoring Tyr in blót and asking for his aid in maintaining the fellowship and frith [“peace”] of our community. Traditionally, we use a spear and a glove both as his hallowing tools and to represent the establishment of the frithstead and of a vé [“shrine”] to Tyr. We located the shrine by a flagpole and raised the Troth banner as an announcement of the taking of the land by the Troth.

We then walk the entire premises that we will utilize for our business meetings, rituals, workshops, and fellowship and honor the land wights in each of the cardinal directions, moving in a clockwise circle. This year we also stopped and hailed other deities along the route, particularly when we came across plants that bear an association with one in particular. For example, we hailed Thor at an oak tree and Holle at an elderberry bush.

On Sunday, we walked the same route counterclockwise, honored Tyr and other deities in a closing rite, disassembled the shrine, and took down the banner.

In one of the buildings of the campsite, members also set up individual shrines to Odin, Frigg, Holle, the Matronae, and several others.

Thursday night featured a presentation on “Speakers to the Dead” by Allvildr in fägra, author of Sheathenry, Volume I: Ritual Practices of Modern Heathen Women. When I asked her to explain her work, she said,

Whether they study their genealogy, construct ancestor shrines where they give offerings, follow a predecessor’s career path, or visit the graves of their forebears to commune with the dead, Heathen women endeavor to create or continue relationships with their relatives who have gone to the afterlife.

This presentation utilized the voice recordings of many of the women I interviewed for my book in order for the audience to hear how various Heathen women honor their ancestors in their own voices.

Ben Waggoner, the organization’s shope (publications director), discussed the “Germanic Night Sky” late Thursday night. He explained names of specific stars and constellations in various Northern European societies and stated that “the shope will someday publish [his research] as a book, once he gets everything else out of the way, which is not likely to happen soon, so don’t hold your breath.” A lot of people — Heathen and not — are interested in learning more about Germanic star lore, so hopefully he will be able to publish some form of his work sooner rather than later.

Waggoner also presented an introduction to Old Norse language on Friday morning, preceded by Schreiwer’s introduction to Urglaawe, which the Troth steer defines — in his Dictionary of Urglaawe Terminology, written with Ammerili Eckhart — as “a Heathen path that is derived from the living, pre-Christian traditions of the Deitsch [Pennsylvania German] nation.”

During the rede (board) meeting on Thursday night and during the general business meeting on Saturday morning, several officers swore new or renewed oaths regarding their official roles. Last fall, the Troth amended the oath taken by all titled representatives so that it would to be more closely “aligned with the Troth’s mission and stated positions.” Reaffirming the organization’s commitment to inclusive Heathenry, the new passage in the relatively length oath reads:

With the Troth I stand against any use of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, ableism, or any other form of prejudice.

Rede members renew oaths: Amanda T. Leigh-Hawkins, Lagaria Farmer, John T. Mainer, Robert L. Schreiwer [Lisa Cowley Morgenstern].

Lonnie Scott — the Troth’s Illinois steward, a member of Thor’s Oak Kindred in Chicago, and now a member of the Rede — was one of those who publicly made the oath. He explains the personal significance of the act:

I didn’t know if I won a seat on the High Rede until the first evening of Trothmoot. I felt the weight of history associated with those who’ve held this office and the organization itself. It was a welcome feeling. I knew I would take my oath of office, and since I had only made a written oath as Steward, I knew I would speak my oath for that as well.

I stood in the Hall surrounded by members of the Troth as I grabbed the Troth oath ring. The High Steward and the Steer held the Ring as well. Each took a turn repeating the Troth’s officer oath that I spoke in return. That moment is one of the proudest achievements of my life that I shall never forget.

On Friday night, Winifred Hodge-Rose led a walk through a large maze that was constructed to represent the journey to Mimir’s Well of Wisdom at its center. Jamie Juliansdatter describes the experience of walking the maze:

Intentionally moving into the maze was an unexpected gift. It was both a shared experience in community and an individual journey that was perfectly orchestrated by Winfred Hodge-Rose and kindred members.

Participating in the maze (and Trothmoot) gave me permission I rarely give myself in the midst of so many mundane commitments – the permission to slow way down, enter into sacred space according to my own rhythm, and listen deeply for much needed wisdom.

The maze was an opportunity to connect and reflect, as well as a reminder that I need these experiences much more often than I get.

Late the same night, Diana L. Paxson led a ritual of “Spae (Oracular Seiðr),” which she calls “Germanic oracular practice” on her website, Seeing for the People: High Seat Seið and the Core Oracular Method. Trothmoot programmer Lorrie Wood describes Friday’s rite:

Every year on Friday night of Trothmoot, Diana reaches out to the local and regional Heathen community, and asks them to help her put on her oracular ritual. Here, attendees of the moot are encouraged to bring their most important questions, and the seers answer them.

Without tools, but as the result of talent, skill, and training, answers are direct and immediate, although there’s often Heathen imagery involved in an answer. Sometimes a question is asked directly of an ancestor or a god, and the seer will get their point of view of the answer, if possible.

Throughout the day on Saturday, Rosten (Dean Michael Rose) led a forge demonstration and helped interested people make Thor’s hammers and other objects of pewter. He reflects on his work:

So far as I can remember, I have nearly always showed up to Trothmoot with a forge. It is an activity that many find interesting, and some are even eager to give it a try! Usually there are a few that leave the gathering with a new skill.

In this line of work, one learns quite a bit as creations “whoosh up” in a communal setting. I brought a variety of tools and a few ideas but left it to the folk to actualize their ideas. I had not done much with the white metal before, but we all had fun, and a number of interesting works resulted. I left with more ideas than I came with.

This moot was different in that I did very little forging. However, a couple of members were busy at the fire, so the opportunity was theirs for the taking! It was a friendly crowd, so I was able to be a bit more relaxed leaving tools lying around.

Paxson led a blót to the goddess Idunn on Saturday afternoon. Attendees had been asked to bring water from their home regions to add to a bowl of “the waters of the world.” When each person or group’s turn came, they walked forward, explained where they had collected the water – stream, lake, well – and added it to the bowl. Schreiwer added water preserved from the Idunna blót of last year’s Trothmoot, and Paxson poured the water on the roots of the oak tree that stood over the main meeting area.

Diana L. Paxson prepares to pour the waters of the world on the roots of the oak tree [Karl E. H. Seigfried].

When the blót had been completed, Rede member and Communications Officer John T. Mainer officiated at the wedding of Kentucky steward Amy Kincheloe and Ethan Dunbar in a beautiful ceremony surrounded by trees in the campground’s amphitheater. The married couple has decided to combine their last names into a new family surname of Dunloe.

After the final feast prepared by Tanya Peterson and her staff of volunteers, the entire group met for the grand sumbel. In A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru, former Troth steer Patricia M. Lafayllve defines sumbel as “a ritualized drinking ceremony which is meant to strengthen bonds within a community.” Two large drinking horns — providing a choice of mead or apple juice — were passed around the assembled participants. In the first round, each member hailed a god or goddess by giving a short or long speech and drinking from the horn. In the second round, ancestors or other departed individuals were hailed. The third round was open to whatever the participants chose to address.

Robert L. Schreiwer (center) opens the grand sumbel, with Lisa Cowley Morgenstern (left) and Lagaria Farmer (right) [Karl E. H. Seigfried].

Trothmoots have notoriously had defining conflicts. This year was no exception. During the sumbel, one longtime member gave a passionate and heartfelt speech in strong opposition to current organization rules on oaths made during the rite, insisting that oaths should be allowed in front of the assembly without being first discussed with the Rede. He was opposed by the fiercely determined guest of another Troth member, who asserted that witnessing oaths made by those outside of one’s own worship group would necessarily have a negative effect on the individual, and who insisted on walking out of the building to avoid hearing any oaths made. Schreiwer, possessed of an impressive ability to lower tempers while hearing all sides, was roundly applauded for his quick-witted resolution of the conflict. In relation to past blowups at Trothmoot, this was relatively painless.

Several attendees told me that attendance was noticeably down from previous years. In 2016, there were nearly two dozen more participants, and some earlier Trothmoots have had nearly three times as many attendees. Given that there has been a steady increase of new memberships in the organization, Wood suggests that the lower numbers this year may be due to a lack of current members in the midwestern region. She says that this year’s location was deliberately chosen to build a stronger presence in the area: “Trothmoot hasn’t been held in the Midwest since 2010, but as a committee we felt it imperative to hold the moot there to help grow our membership in that part of the country.”

Members of the Trothmoot planning committee are already looking at locations near Baltimore, Nashville, and Philadelphia as possible sites for next year’s event. There was a feeling among some members that, after many years of Trothmoots held at campgrounds, it might be nice to finally meet somewhere with a swimming pool and air conditioning.

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

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