Archive for July, 2008

I Am a Commitment

Sunday I graduated from Newfield Network’s program entitled, The Art and Practice of Ontological Coaching

When asked to make a declaration of commitment, beginning with, “I am a commitment to…” I declared:

I am a commitment to…





                                               and fully human


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Yes, I am a procrastinator. While I’m embarrassed to admit it, I must confess I don’t plan to reform anytime soon. It’s in my blood, the marrow of my bones, and the pores of my skin.

I procrastinate. I do that better than anything.

I have a list of to-do’s right on the side of my calendar, tasks I could do any time I want. Some things I need to do right away. They have little boxes next to them so I can check them off. Even though I’ve actually completed a couple of these, I put off checking them off.

Some people really love checking off the boxes. Me? Not so much.

I rebel against lists. Even grocery lists. I’m famous for making a grocery list and then leaving it at home. Or making a list, putting it in my purse, and then not looking at it. Or making a list, getting it out, and not making sure I get everything.

And accountability? Don’t even mention the word. As soon as I make myself accountable, I must rebel. So if it’s something really important, I usually keep it a secret from myself, just to make sure I don’t rebel against it.

Scary, I know.

But this morning I am greatly encouraged by this essay entitled, Structured Procrastination. Go on over and read it. I love this man. He gets it. And he just might be able to help me.

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Over It

Maybe I’m suffering from a little menopausal insomnia. Perhaps I’m a little crabby tonight.  But maybe I’m just over the girl thing.

Can we go back to being women?

I remember an evening in the late 80’s when my husband and I spent an entire evening with a young and clueless male friend, convincing him that adult females should be called women and not girls, gals, or ladies. I worked hard after that, making sure I spoke respectfully of my own gender.

A few short years ago, my first foray into the blogosphere involved gleefully jumping into a flame war after a male blogger referred to a group of Chinese adolescents as girls – “I will not call them women,” he said. Turns out they were actually girls, pioneering illegal, but free, churches in the mainland with conviction and courage. But his use of the world girl was incendiary, and a bunch of us let him know it.

Now everyone is a girl, myself included, and I’m done. I’m a grownup now, and a woman.

And don’t you be callin’ me lady, neither. Nor bitch.

I am woman. Hear me yawn.

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thanks justin! my videos work.

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The problem with being an overthinker is it’s a lot like being an overeater. You can only fast for so long. Thinking is necessary, overthinking is a disease. This gets tricky.

With two weeks sobriety under my belt, today I’m thinking a little, just to see what happens.

I’m wondering about knowing, and all the ways we know things, and how we value – or don’t value – the things we know. Thinking about what the body knows, what the heart knows, what the spirit knows, apart from what the left-brained overthinker thinks she knows.

I think as a culture we’re pretty mixed up about this. I know I am.

How do I know? Because I have a friend who remembers what I know, better than I do. She constantly reminds me of things she’s learned from me. Things I told her when I knew them, which was in the moment somehow, in response to a question or a topic that interested me. Just the other day she gently rebuked me for not remembering that I know things.

Come to think of it, I have 2 friends who remember what I know. The second one recently set me up with a colleague so I could tell the colleague what I knew. Of course I didn’t know that I knew what this colleague needed to know, but my friend did. She just brought me in, wound me up, and then waited for stuff to flow. Which it did, I guess. But who knew?

I’m feeling a little woozy from all this thinking. I think I need to lie down.

How do you know things? Let us count the ways…

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A consequence of our thinkaholic world is that we don’t pay attention to our bodies.

OK, let me restate that. Some of us overthink our bodies to the nth degree – how they look, how they should be different, and the 1001 ways we could diet, exercise, breathe, cleanse, fortify, train, and otherwise obsess about them. Endlessly. For decades. Trust me, this is pathological.

Meanwhile, the input the body is actually giving goes unnoticed.

The body is a whole field of information, sensation, knowing, and wisdom, and if you’re looking to be cured of overthinking, you must begin to listen to the body’s messages. It takes time.

Begin to observe – without judging – your body for 2 minutes. Scan your body from head to toe. Notice what you feel and hear. Listen to your breathing, notice your muscles tensing and relaxing, notice where you’re making contact with the chair, or the floor, or the bed. Notice how it feels. Look for pain, discomfort, or pleasure. Breathe. Let your breath fill up all your space.

Then, pick up your rockin’ tunes and move it.

Experiment with me. 5 minutes of dancing a day for a week. Notice what happens.

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With two free tickets in our hot little hands my husband and I took a no-risk chance at enjoying this movie. I wanted to like it. I knew it might be a challenge, snob that I am, but I was willing to put my prejudices aside and enjoy this film.

I expected the shallow focus on couture and glitz. Not my thing, admittedly, but I hoped to enjoy the artful display of fashion, much like I enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada. Nope. I kept asking myself, how do nearly middle-aged women manage to wear dresses and stiletto heels every single day? Every. Single. Day. Is that necessary? And designers to boot, right down to the $50000 accesssories. The visual assault of the tide of fashion felt tedious to me, not artful.

I expected relational drama – that’s what the show has always been about. What I was overwhelmed by, however, was the sick feeling that came over me observing the immature, frightened, control-freak caricature of femininity illustrated by these powerful women. I wanted to like them. I wanted to admire them. I wanted to learn something by observing their lives.


Instead I was forced to endure a glitzy, at times pornographic, painful and lengthy emo-drama about 4 immature women living fantasy lives in a fantasy city with their fantasy men, from inside their neurotic and grossly self-centered minds.

I wanted to take a shower when I got home.

I respect the strength and absolute necessity of girlfriends portrayed in the story. I respect the complexity of love relationships they were trying to convey. But I resented the cheesy, preachy, smarmy way they did it.

And the lessons?

The lessons learned by our 4 gal pals were truths the rest of us learned long ago – that real love trumps romance every time, and that family and friends are riches far greater than glitzy lifestyles can offer.

The movie left me wishing these gals had actually learned their lessons in kindergarten when they had the chance.

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They don’t need to be the coolest, hippest, most Indie, or even from this decade. Pick what you like and rock on. Here’s the list that’s turning my crank these days:

I’m Beautiful – Bette Midler

Gonna Make You Sweat (everybody dance now) – C+C Music Factory

Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gee’s

Freeway of Love – Aretha

Dancin’ in the Streets – Mick Jagger

Smooth – Santana

Chain of Fools – Aretha

Thriller – Michael Jackson (don’t forget, I missed the 80’s – they were against my religion)

All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow (this ain’t no disco)

Long Train Runnin’ – Doobie Brothers

Respect – Aretha (are you seeing a theme here?)

Tangled and Dark – Bonnie Raitt

Good Man, Good Woman – Bonnie Raitt

Slow Ride – ??? – you should see me do this on Guitar Hero – woo hoo!

Come on, you know  you want to.

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Overthinkers have a tough time with play. This is a symptom we have in common with overachievers. In fact, it’s possible to be an overthinker and an overachiever at the same time. If so, you’re doubly miserable.

Overthinkers might be persuaded to play, but overachievers can turn even play into something that feeds the addiction. I know. I live in Colorado, home of 10,000 cyclists. If God had wanted our butts to be that hard, he wouldn’t have invented cellulite. I’m just sayin’…

Play is difficult, I’ll admit. It’s easier to think about play than to actually do it. As a therapist I not only get to think about play, I get to push the benefits of play onto others, and get a certain smug satisfaction from doing it…while never actually playing myself.

You see the challenge?

As adults we struggle with play because of its childlike, unguarded nature. We don’t want to be thought silly, or vulnerable. Wouldn’t want to lose ourselves in something delightful and simple, lest we be found to be less than completely composed at all times.

Overthinking makes us appear cool.

So antidote #2 is play. Go out and play.

But be advised, there are many counterfeits, activities that feign play, but actually feed what ails you. As an overthinker, you must be constantly vigilant, on guard against the sinister seduction of your disease. Watch for these subtle traps:

– going for coffee with a friend, overthinking your life under the guise of social contact

– reading Anna Karenina (or similarly meaningful literature) for fun

– Majong on the computer. ditto facebook, free cell, etc. etc. It might be escape, but it ain’t play

– Over-consumption of food and alcohol

– watching sports on TV

– watching TV

Play must be simple and spontaneous, physical and sensory. LIke…

Like…um…let’s see…

I’ll get back to you with this. I need to think about it some more.

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Welcome to the first meeting of Overthinkers Anonymous. My name is Phyllis and I am an overthinker.

It’s great to see so many of you here. I hope our time together will be fruitful. Remember, just being here is your first step toward freedom.

The modern age has had its way with us. Science, psychology, culture, and capitalism have wound their way into our psyche. They’ve wired our brains, shaped our existence, and left their mark on civilization. We’ve shaped our lives around the wonders of the experts, the thinkers, the runners of numbers, the beautiful, the successful, the teachers of you can too. Heady stuff, chock full of promise.

It was a great party. We drank a lot, and danced, oh yes we danced – but morning has dawned and we’re hungover.

At least I am.

And what do I have to show for it? An advanced degree, a profession dedicated to healing – while simultaneously feeding – the addiction to overthinking. Not to mention a room full of books, a history of seminars, various therapists and teachers left by the side of the road, and an empty bank account. As a bonus, I have a psyche full of angst – the sour aftertaste of an adulthood spent overthinking.

But I’ve hit bottom. Admitted my powerlessness. Turned my brain over to a higher power, and I’m on the mend. My goal is to offer a few timely antidotes along the way, so stay tuned.

Antidote Number 1: Get Grounded

If you’re going to go cold turkey, really break the power of this monkey on your back, the first thing you must do is look down. That’s right. Down to the ground.

Groundedness is job 1. And what better way to get grounded than to focus on the ground. The earth, the road, the trail: the dirt, sidewalk, avenue where you live.

Take a walk.

Notice the ground. Listen to it, smell it, feel it under your feet, revel in the sheer unthinking solidness of it. Soak in everything about it for the entire length of the time you’re out. Notice how it rises and falls, supports or tricks you, how content it is to convey you to your goal. Describe, but do not judge, the ground. Notice its being. Yes, the ground.

Resist the temptation to judge the ground, analyze the ground, fantasize about grounds past and future, or worry that the ground is in danger. This is the slippery slope to overthinking. Instead employ your senses and declare your observations:

Here’s the crunchy sound of pebbles under my feet.

I see the dust kicking up in tiny clouds before my toes.

Little bunnies share the road with me.

Green comes in many shades. The road is decorated with many a weed.

I know. You’re shocked. I can hear you: Must we fall so far from the heady heights? Must we confine our attention to the ground. Is it that bad, doctor?

Indeed it is. You’ll thank me for this – trust me.

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