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An Old Blog Has a New Beginning

It’s only the beginning now
…a pathway yet unknown
At times the sound of other steps
…sometimes we walk alone

The best beginnings of our lives
May sometimes end in sorrow
But even on our darkest days
The sun will shine tomorrow.

So we must do our very best
Whatever life may bring
And look beyond the winter chill
To smell the breath of spring.

Into each life will always come
A time to start anew
A new beginning for each heart
As fresh as morning dew.

Although the cares of life are great
And hands are bowed so low
The storms of life will leave behind
The wonder of a rainbow.

The years will never take away
Our chance to start anew
It’s only the beginning now
So dreams can still come true.

New Beginnings by Gertrude B. McClain

You can call it a hiatus if you want.

Blogging doesn’t come naturally to me. I love to write. I am overly analytical, and I love to get my creative juices flowing through the act of writing. Writing a consistent blog even enabled me to view the world from a different angle as I was constantly looking for inspiration. What lessons am I gaining from day to day life? Thoughts that ordinarily might spark a conversation suddenly had me taking notes for a future blog post.

I’m not going to list the dozens of reasons (excuses) that I quit writing. I will say it became difficult to write without a clear focus. I was also writing before as a way to cope with a life unemployed. And I was practicing developing a brand and an audience. Suddenly online marketing and search engine optimization became important to me. Content creation became the driving force, more so than creativity or writing from the heart.

It ceased being fun.

In the meantime, I got into another relationship, started working full time again, and ended up leaving the aforementioned relationship. Oh, and took some time to make a few mistakes, and lose a grandfather. Life hasn’t been easy. But when is it ever easy?

So why have I decided to resume blogging?

I guess simply as an outlet.

I could give several reasons. But basically my mind is so active I need to do something to occupy it. Writing is as positive an outlet as anything I’ve done in the past, so why NOT resurrect an old hobby that was both enjoyable and provided an opportunity for growth.

So I am resuming the blog to talk about whatever I want to talk about. I don’t care who reads it, or if anyone reads it. Knowing me, you can expect the following:

  • Baseball opinion essays
  • Bible discussion (theology, history, apologetics)
  • Book reviews (anything I read)
  • Psychology discussions (addiction, relationships, depression, etc.)

As always, I will include pieces of poetry, infographics, links, and plenty of photographs. Try to at least make it appealing to the eye. If I maintain writing consistently, the blog should take shape all on its own.

Time and inspiration will determine the quantity and quality of my writing. I’m putting that in God’s hands. I won’t be doing advertising on the blog, and will respond to any comments as I am able.

My priority as of today (April 13, 2014), is simply to reawaken a creative side of me that I’ve ignored for too long. Content, followers, likes and views are the ego’s poison to bloggers.

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What Makes a Dad?

God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle’s flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so,

He called it … Dad.

– Author Unknown

Today, for the first time since I was a boy, I can honestly say that I have a relationship with my father.

You see, something happens during those teenage years.  Couple that with 6 solid years of heavy drinking and partying…my father and I had basically become strangers, if not downright enemies.

As a boy, there wasn’t another man alive who was stronger or smarter than my dad! I think we can all relate to those feelings. As a teen, I was constantly embarrassed by his ‘childish’ humor, and tendency to shed tears when something got to him – I saw him as trying too hard to be cool, and overly sensitive. In my early 20’s, a resentment towards him grew, as I felt misunderstood and judged relentlessly.

This is the 3rd ‘Fathers Day’ I’ve been able to celebrate since becoming sober. The first year, I was in rehab at the time. My father and I spent some quality time together…but mostly I remember being bound, figuratively, to the “chains” of shame. It just made me sick to think of what all I had put my parents through.

Fast-forward to 2012…I still feel a touch of shame, for the years of life lessons I could have learned from him, and for the unkind words I’ve said towards him and about him. But if I’m overwhelmed by anything today, its a sense of gratitude.

For starters, in all my life, I have never heard a negative word said about him. I have found that some of the things I disliked most about my dad were some of the same qualities I have in myself – primarily being extremely sensitive and emotional.

Also turns out that my dad is one of my spiritual ‘anchors’ today. His life experiences, high and low, world travels, own spiritual struggle and awakening…these have all shaped him into the man he is today.

He has also served as a shining example on HOW to love a woman. He has stayed committed and affectionate in his marriage for my entire life. He works to relieve my mother in any way he can, especially now as her health has diminished.

Here is one final poem I’d like to dedicate to my father:

You’ve Been Everything to Me

You’ve been everything to me: a father,
Teacher, playmate, model, conscience, friend.
Sometimes I’m not certain why you bother,
If your feelings on my words depend.
I know I haven’t been the child I should:
Far from it, and I really can’t say why.
I know exactly what I’d label good,
But in the real world something goes awry.
Underneath my actions there is love,
Gratitude, respect, and admiration.
Sometimes I don’t know what I’m thinking of,
But I thank God you’re in for the duration.
I’m sorry, sorry for the things I do,
But please believe I cherish Mom and you.

– Author Unknown

I’m going to leave you with one more brief,  thought-provoking piece of writing. I’m including this to remind us all that parents are only capable of SO much. Enjoy!

..and Happy Fathers Day!

What a Parent Cannot Do

I can share your life … but cannot live it for you.
I can teach you things … but I cannot make you learn.
I can give you directions … but I cannot always be there to lead you.
I can allow you freedom … but I cannot account for it.
I can take you to church … but I cannot make you believe.
I can teach you right from wrong … but I cannot always decide for you.
I can make you beautiful clothes … but I cannot make you lovely inside.
I can offer you advice … but I cannot accept it for you.
I can give you love … but I cannot force it upon you.
I can teach you to be a friend … but I cannot make you one.
I can teach you to share … but I cannot make you unselfish.
I can teach you respect … but I cannot force you to show honor.
I can advise you about friends … but I cannot choose them for you.
I can teach you about sex … but I cannot keep you pure.
I can tell you about drinking and drugs … but I cannot say NO for you.
I can tell you about lofty goals … but I cannot achieve them for you.
I can let you work … but I cannot make you responsible.
I can teach you to obey … but I cannot answer for your actions.
I can teach you kindness … but I cannot force you to be gracious.
I can warn you about sin … but I cannot make your morals.
I can love you as a child … but I cannot place you into God’s family.
I can pray for you … but I cannot make you walk with God.
I can teach you about Jesus … but I cannot make Him your Saviour.
I can show you faith … but I cannot make you trust in Christ.
I can teach you about prayer … but I cannot make you pray.
I can tell you how to live … but I cannot give you eternal life.

– Author Unknown

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Recognizing, Identifying, and Defining the “Inner Critic”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

That millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.”

– Erich Fromm, The Sane Society

We are what we think about all day long.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do you have any idea of the state of mental health in the United States today? How often do you watch the evening news and hear stories of a “Murder-Suicide”, or some other form of violence that doesn’t stem from money or drugs? How many times in an hour do you see commercials advertising ALL SORTS of anti-depressant medications? What about the school shootings or other violence at academic institutions? This has almost become an annual occurrence!

After reading that question, you’re probably thinking…”Well, it must not be good. But no, I’m not really sure about exactly how bad it is…”. Well, according to the CDC, approximately 75 MILLION U.S. adults (32.4%) suffer from a mental disorder every year. Mental disorders range from Anxiety Disorders to Depression to Addiction to Schizophrenia – the whole gamut. Those are some eye-popping numbers, folks!

1 in 3 American adults suffer from a mental illness.

Why did I start this post off with such alarming numbers?

Because it relates directly with what I’m talking about in this series focused on the “Inner Critic” (False Self). Many mental or emotional disorders are caused by genetics or biochemical imbalances, but equally guilty are culprits that are sociological and spiritual in nature.

Let me start off by saying that I am NOT a mental health professional. I am just a 26 year old guy who has had a fair share of therapy and treatment as a result of my own issues…mainly that I’m unable to drink alcohol “appropriately”.

You can find dozens, if not HUNDREDS of articles online that discuss the Inner Critic. Quite a few are highly intellectual, some are humorous, some are way too “New Age-y” for me. With this post, I am going to try to clearly and concisely give you an accurate idea of the concept of an “Inner Critic. At that point you should understand why I claim that a big reason for the poor mental health in this country is actually this cruel ‘voice in the head’.

We all have an Inner Critic

Our self-esteem and self-identity are ultimately derived from the way we talk to ourselves. You know that thought process that appears out of nowhere to critique basically ANYTHING about you:

  • your body/physical appearance (“You’re already balding! No woman is going to think you’re attractive!”; “My breasts are only a ‘B’. I will never get noticed!”);
  • your intelligence (“What’s the point? I studied my butt off and only pulled off a C! I’m just stupid.”);
  • your clothes (“You look fat in that.”; “This _____ makes me look poor/rich/preppy/nerdy/etc.”);
  • EVEN your job/income/education (“People are going to think I’m lazy if I’m not working.”; “You’re just a loser, you only earn $_____.”; “All you have is a degree from a Community College, so what!”).

The concept of the Inner Critic is somewhat newer in the field of psychology, but this doesn’t make it any less pertinent. Even Wikipedia states that it “…is a concept used in pop psychology…”. So for a little better clarity, we need to go back to “Psych 101“, and I need to get a little “Freudian” for a moment…

No matter how you feel about the man, Freud was brilliant, and much of his work has laid the foundation for the science of psychology. One of these concepts was his structural model of the psyche. You remember learning about the Id, the Ego, and the Superego? Well let me refresh your memory for a moment:

  • Id – Part of our mind that contains the most basic drives – for sex, food, nurturing, etc. Think of a newborn baby…they don’t have much going on (in terms of thinking), but they are born with certain innate drives, and the ability to cry to get their needs met. Basically, think of it as our ‘passions’.
  • Ego – Very much talked about, with multiple ways to define it. Just know that it is much more than just our identity or sense of self. According to Freud, the ego is obviously the largest and most clearly identified part of our psyche – containing defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions. The ego is the part of our mind that perceives and makes sense of the world around us. Basically, think of it as containing our reasoning and common sense abilities and basic aspects of our personality/sense of self.
  • SUPEREGO** – I capitalized and highlighted this part of the psyche because IT IS SYNONYMOUS with the “Inner Critic. Freud presented it as our ‘conscience’…it’s purpose is to protect us and to maintain certain standards. We acquire it when we adequately identify with our parents or other authority figures in society (teachers, religious leaders, the voice of society in general).

So we see these newer terms like “Inner Critic“, or the “Internal Family Systems” actually have their basis in concepts from the “Masters” of psychology. They just happen to be a little easier to understand. As for the Superego/Inner Critic…what does it mean that we “…acquire it once we adequately identify with our parents…”?

Are our parents really to blame for this “Inner Critic“???

No….you can’t put blame on anyone or anything. Unfortunately, in the process of raising us, parents did play a contributing role. Through love, parents attempted to correct or “fix” problems they saw in us. This is natural, it is part of teaching a child how to take care of themselves – from how to dress, to how to fix one’s hair, the way we talk (and even when to talk), even to what is appropriate morally and culturally.

You see, we all have another side of us…what is called our “True Self“. This is who we are when we are being ‘real‘. It recognizes our “Oneness”, or how we are connected with the world around us – nature and other people. We feel safe enough to be vulnerable, to reveal our thoughts and feelings. Here are some descriptions of this “True Self“:

Spontaneous, loving, giving, accepting, communicating, expressive of feelings (without self-judgment), alive, energetic, fulfilled, creative, free

As I progress in this series, I am going to talk a lot more about our True Self. This is the ideal after all, isn’t it? Oh, and not to mention…this is the only version of ourselves that God knows.

Pretty important and powerful stuff! That was so freeing to me to learn that — that all these negative, critical, shameful thoughts I had about myself weren’t even recognized or acknowledged by God!

Looking Ahead…

I could go on for a few thousand words talking more about what the Inner Critic looks like and how it affects us, but I want to keep this easy to digest.

Part 3 of this series is going to be a crucial discussion to help you see the “How’s” and “Why’s” regarding the development of the inner critic:

  • HOW this voice – the Inner Critic/Superego – was developed.
  • HOW did we take lessons our parents taught us and turn it into this evil inner dialogue?
  • WHY are some of us more self-critical than others (especially if all of us actually have this Inner Critic)?
  • WHY do we even have this critic to begin with?? (What purpose does it serve?)

THANKS for reading!

If you have any other questions PLEASE voice them in the “comments” box below! Share any stories of how the Inner Critic has affected you or someone you know…or how you have learned to overcome this debilitating voice in the head!

Oh…and PLEASE click this Facebook button and “LIKE” us on Facebook!!

I include beautiful, inspiring, and informative content DAILY…in the form of quotes, images, videos, as well as highlighting other fantastic blogs throughout the ‘blogosphere’! If you’d like to be featured as a “Blog of the Week” just let me know, and have the opportunity to reach thousands of new readers!

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Dogs: One of Life’s Great Teachers

If A Dog Were Your Teacher

If a dog were your teacher
These are some of the lessons you might learn…

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face
to be pure ecstasy

When it’s in your best interest
practice obedience
Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory
Take naps and stretch before rising
Run romp and play daily

Thrive on attention and let people touch you
Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do
On warm days stop to lie on your back on the grass
On hot days drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree
When you’re happy dance around and wag your entire body

No matter how often you’re scolded
don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout
run right back and make friends

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm
Stop when you have had enough
Be loyal
Never pretend to be something you’re not

If what you want lies buried
dig until you find it
When someone is having a bad day
be silent …..
…sit close by.

…and nuzzle them gently.

– Author Unknown

I have always loved dogs! Growing up, my family always had a dog. I spent 15 years of my life with my Black Lab by my side…she was with me as I grew from being a boy of 10 years old, until I was a young man of 25 years, taking care of her during her final months.

The experiences I had with these animals helped shape me into the man I am today. As a boy, I was able to share some of my deepest secrets with a dog. Feelings of loneliness never lasted long, as there was always someone around who cherished my presence.

Today I have 2 smaller dogs, one of which I raised since he was a puppy. Their playfulness and loving nature is often all I need to lift my spirits.

It is easy to be envious of a dog’s life, but I have never thought about a dog as a teacher.  Observing this companion, “Man’s best friend”, offers perfect insights into the secrets of a happy life: choose contentment in all situations.

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When I Say I Am A Christian…

When I Say I Am A Christian

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting, “I’ve been saved!”
I’m whispering, “I get lost!
That’s why I chose this way”

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t speak with human pride
I’m confessing that I stumble –
needing God to be my guide

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong
I’m professing that I’m weak
and pray for strength to carry on

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success
I’m admitting that I’ve failed
and cannot ever pay the debt

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t think I know it all
I submit to my confusion
asking humbly to be taught

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible
but God believes I’m worth it

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartache
which is why I seek His name

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I do not wish to judge
I have no authority
I only know I’m loved

– Carol Wimmer, 1988

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Fighting the Inner Critic vs. Embracing the True Self – An Introduction

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.

– Benjamin Franklin

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

– Henry David Thoreau

I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.”

– Mark Twain

A couple nights ago, during a bout of insomnia, I noted that I had had one of those “Woe is me” days. Realizing how uncommon these days had become, I got on the blog just to attempt to straighten out my thoughts.

I realized that my old enemy, my “Inner Critic”, had established itself in my head once again. I have had epic battles of the mind with this cruel manifestation of my subconscious. Just when I had thought I had slayed the dragon of insecurity and self-doubt, he roars back.

Well fortunately, with the help of others, I have learned some techniques that have been very effective in silencing this “Inner Asshole with the Megaphone”. This voice that prevents us from ever revealing our True Self. The voice that doesn’t let us pursue our passions out of fear of failure or rejection. The voice that creates an image, an ideal that we never cease trying to portray.

Long story short…through my ramblings and disconnected thoughts of 2 nights ago, I have a 3 part series planned:

  1. Introduction (…& a poem)
  2. Defining the “Inner Critic” and “True self; how they function; how they developed; what they are?
  3. Dealing with the “Inner Critic” and accepting your “True Self” – effective strategies for silencing

After reading that little list, I feel like this could be FAR too much content for just 3 posts…so OF COURSE I reserve the right to extend this out a little further.

[***EDIT – 6/16/12 – Already expanded the series 5 posts***]

Now to Kick-Start this series, how about a poem?? (Bold words are mine) Also, I want to note that this is the second time I’ve used this poem on my site. The previous post can be found here.

Please Hear What I’m Not Saying

Don’t be fooled by me.

Don’t be fooled by the face I wear.

For I wear a mask, a thousand masks, masks that I’m afraid to take off,

and none of them is me.

Pretending is an art that’s second nature with me,

but don’t be fooled.

For God’s sake don’t be fooled.

I give you the impression that I’m secure,

that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without,

that confidence is my name and coolness my game,

that the water’s calm and I’m in command,

and that I need no one.

But don’t believe me.

My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask,

ever-varying and ever-concealing.

Beneath lies no complacence.

Beneath lies confusion and fear and aloneness.

But I hide this. I don’t want anybody to know it.

————————————————————————————————

I panic at the thought of my weakness and fear being exposed.

That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,

a nonchalant sophisticated facade,

to help me pretend,

to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation. My only hope and I know it.

That is, if it’s followed by acceptance,

if it’s followed by love.

It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself,

from my own self-built prison walls,

from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.

It’s the only thing that will assure me of what I can’t assure myself,

that I’m really worth something.

But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare. I’m afraid to.

I’m afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance,

will not be followed by love.

I’m afraid you’ll think less of me, that you’ll laugh,

and your laugh would kill me.

I’m afraid that deep-down I’m nothing, that I’m just no good,

and that you will see this and reject me.

————————————————————————————————

So I play my game, my desperate pretending game,

with a facade of assurance without

and a trembling child within.

So begins the glittering but empty parade of masks,

and my life becomes a front.

I idly chatter to you in the suave tones surface talk.

I tell you everything that’s really nothing,

and nothing of what’s everything,

of what’s crying within me.

So when I’m going through my routine,

do not be fooled by what I’m saying.

Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying,

what I’d like to be able to say,

what for survival I need to say,

but what I can’t say.

————————————————————————————————

I don’t like to hide.

I don’t like to play superficial phony games.

I want to stop playing them.

I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me,

but you’ve got to help me.

You’ve got to hold out your hand

even when that’s the last thing I seem to want.

Only you can wipe away from my eyes the blank stare of the breathing dead.

Only you can call me into aliveness.

Each time you’re kind and gentle and encouraging,

each time you try to understand because you really care,

my heart begins to grow wings,

very small wings,

very feeble wings,

but wings!

With your power to touch me into feeling

you can breathe life into me.

I want you to know that.

I want you to know how important you are to me,

how you can be a creator – a honest-to-God creator –

of the person that is me

if you choose to.

You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,

you alone can remove my mask,

you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic and uncertainty,

from my lonely prison,

if you choose to.

Please choose to. Do not pass me by.

It will not be easy for you.

————————————————————————————————

A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.

The nearer you approach to me

the blinder I may strike back.

It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about man,

often I am irrational.

I fight against the very thing that I cry out for.

But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls,

and in this lies my hope.

Please try to beat down those walls

with firm hands

but with gentle hands

for a child is very sensitive.

————————————————————————————————

Who am I, you may wonder?

I am someone you know very well.

For I am every man you meet

and I am every woman you meet.

– Charles C. Finn

I hope this poem resonated with you as much as it did in myself. As I continue the next several posts, the goal I encourage you to have in mind – the habit you should strive to change, the lines in the 3rd Stanza, “I tell you everything that’s really nothing, and nothing of what’s everything“.

This is all of us, and everyone we know. Historically it has served a purpose in survival, but at what cost?…

Moving forward in this series of posts, I leave you with a final quote to ponder…

Ego is simply an idea of who you are that you carry around with you.”

– Wayne Dyer

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Pondering Instead of Sleeping…

Robert Frost Quote

Life goes on.

I love it, and after today it seems to fit perfect.

Thankfully, I am not a depressed person. I know many who battle with depression on a daily basis. I have had the pleasure of becoming extremely intimate with my social anxiety, but depression is a different beast altogether.

Why am I starting this post writing about depression? Well, I had one of those days. This post is going to be slightly different from what I typically write, but its my blog, I can do what I want! 🙂

In the natural rhythms of life, we have high tides and low tides. For whatever reason, I dipped into one of those low spots today.

Perhaps it is the fact that my diet hasn’t been ideal recently, or my sleep schedule has been thrown of slightly (obviously, if I’m up writing at 2:00am). I hope one of these 2 reasons are the culprit, as it would make dealing with this a lot easier.

In the last few months I have been on somewhat of an emotional high. One can’t expect this to last forever. So maybe my emotional energies are just taking a temporary downturn. Nah…this doesn’t sound like me.

I tell you one thing…after being forced into rehab and therapy for the last two years, I have learned far more about myself than I ever realized existed. Now I know I said I was “forced”, and this is true (long story), but I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the insights I have received, and continue to be blessed with as a result.

One such insight is learning about the superego; AKA the “Inner Critic“; AKA “The Voice of Satan“; or as I personally refer to it, the “Inner Asshole“. We all have this voice inside of us. It serves a purpose – often it may protect our ego/identity by holding us back from making certain mistakes. For some of us, this voice is a little louder. Mine tends to tell me all sorts of ridiculousness – “You are a failure“, “Don’t speak up, nobody wants to hear what you have to say anyways“, “You are so fat, you should be ashamed of yourself“, “Look at you, you haven’t worked for 2 years – you’re a bum! You know you’re just fooling yourself by thinking all this ‘therapy’ crap has actually benefited you!”.

It was this last statement that really got to me today. The reality is yes, I have been unemployed since 2010. This is a source of major insecurity and sensitivity. I have picked up new hobbies, new knowledge, and most importantly – a relationship with a God that 2 years ago I had doubt of His existence. I have developed a relationship with myself, and have learned to love all my strengths and weaknesses and faults.

I share all of this so I can hold myself accountable through this post. Over the next several days, I am going to go into a discussion about this “Inner Critic”. It is one of these areas that I have done a tremendous amount of work upon. I also know I am not the only one who suffers from this “voice” inside.

I plan to write a clear definition of what this voice is; I also plan to write a follow-up piece discussing the process of identifying it, talking to it, coming to terms with it, and living a rewarding life despite of it.

I am going to go take a couple melatonin, curl up to a good book, and try to get some rest. I have to be up in about 6 hours! I need my beauty sleep…

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