Feeling Lost

It seems like everything is crumbling around me. I feel fear. Got a client suing me and it’s been a bad year financially. I’m feeling quite lost, and don’t have anyone wise to talk to about it. This is the other side of the beautiful freedom of being self employed, the consequences of risk taking gone wrong. It’s all up to me, and yet my confidence is low, after seeing how I’ve messed a few things up this year. Several projects made a loss. My optimism and hope have taken a knock. I’ve been scared to take steps forward as I’ve made several mistakes this year. Barely holding it all together. I need to rally myself. I’m going away for the weekend to a country cottage on the coast with a real fire. I know I can run away, but think a change of scenery might be refreshing.

Seeing the self sabotage in action this year has led to a considerable amount of self doubt. In this very hour I am preparing a costing for a client and I am scared. Scared I am doing it again. My confidence has been daunted as I have witnessed how powerful the attraction to difficulty and stress and unhappiness is. How I have wrecked the financial success I was experiencing. Im working hard on all of this stuff, examining every nook of my being and my belief system.



Questions for Gratitude Cultivation

I found these on TinyBuddha by the site’s founder Lori Deschene

1. What’s one kind or thoughtful thing someone did for you recently?

2. Who is always there for you, and how do you feel about them?

3. Who has helped you become the person you are today, and what’s the top thing you’d thank them for?

4. Who’s someone who always really listens when you talk, and how does that affect you?

5. How have your spiritual beliefs or practices fulfilled you recently?

6. What’s the best thing that happened today so far?

7. What’s something that inspired or touched you recently?

8. Has anyone done anything recently that made your job easier?

9. What’s one thing you enjoyed about doing your job recently?

10. Can you think of any non-physical gifts you’ve received recently—someone’s time, attention, understanding, or support?

11. What about today has been better than yesterday?

12. Who have you enjoyed being around recently, and why?

13. How have you used your talents and abilities recently, and what have you enjoyed about doing that?

14. What have you learned recently that will help you in the future?

15. What made you laugh or smile today?

16. What’s the last song you heard that you enjoyed? How did it make you feel, and why?

17. Have you experienced any blessings in disguise lately—things that didn’t turn out as you’d hoped and yet turned out for the best?

18. What’s the weather like today, and what’s one good thing about that?

19. How has technology enhanced your life and your connections recently?

20. Have you had an opportunity to help someone recently, and how did you feel about that?

21. What’s one thing you experienced recently that made you feel a sense of wonder or awe?

22. What’s the best thing about your home, and have you taken time to enjoy it recently?

23. If you didn’t get what you wanted today, can you identify something in what you got that’s worth having?

24. What’s improved about your life from this time last year?

25. What choices have you made in the last five years that you’d thank yourself for making?

26. What’s something you did well recently, and what qualities or skills enabled you to do this?

27. Who made a positive difference in your life recently?

28. What’s something you’re looking forward to in the future?

29. What did you learn from the most difficult part of your day yesterday, and how will this lesson benefit you going forward?

30. What’s something you witnessed recently that reminded you that life is good?

31. What’s something you witnessed recently that reminded you that people are good?

32. How many of your basic needs do you not need to worry about meeting today?

33. What event or interaction made you feel good about yourself recently?

34. How have you made personal or professional progress lately?

35. What simple pleasures did you enjoy—or can you enjoy—today?

36. What modern conveniences (i.e.: electronics and appliances) do you enjoy that make your life easier?

37. What’s the most beautiful thing you saw today?

38. What’s something enjoyable you get to experience every day that you’ve come to take for granted?

39. What are three things your arms or legs allow you to do that you enjoy?

40. What’s the kindest thing someone has done for you lately?

41. How do your friends and/or family members show they care about you?

42. What’s the last thing you enjoyed with your senses—a good meal, a song you love, or aromatherapy—and how amazing is it that you were able to experience that?

43. What movie, book, blog, or article affected your life for the better recently?

44. What have you seen in nature recently that made you feel happy, peaceful, or free?

45. How has modern medicine improved your life, recently or overall?

46. How does electricity simplify and improve your life—and can you imagine what life would like be like without it?

47. What’s your favorite thing about your bed, and how often does it enable you to get restful sleep?

48. What’s something you have easy access to that always improves your mood, and how has it improved your life?

49. Who in your life has survived something difficult, and how do you feel when you think about the fact that they’re still here?

50. Have you recently imagined a worst-case scenario that didn’t actually happen?

An Admission to Myself

After all my work on consciously being aware of self sabotage, I had to admit that all this year I have been self sabotaging in business. After the most successful year ever in business, I am having a much much worse year. I see that I have created this by taking on risky and unprofitable projects.

It seems that every time a big leap and improvement in life conditions happens then I have some sort of backlash, a downturn. This seems to happen with happiness levels and with finances. If I get too content, I find myself starting to entertain worry thoughts. Too successful and decisions are made to limit this to bring things back into the realm of what I am used to, back to struggle and stress.

So after reading Gay Hendrick’s marvellous Upper Limit book, I understand that early on in life a thermostat setting was fixed for us by our caretakers and parents. This thermostat setting determines how much love, happiness, health, wealth we allow into our lives. If we are brought up by parents with a happy marriage or one full of conflict that is what we are likely to have ourselves. If we are brought up with wealth or poverty, we are likely to expect that in life for ourselves later on as this is what is normal to us.

Whenever we step beyond this thermostat setting and raise it then a part of us feels that  something is ‘wrong’. It is not what we are used to, not what we feel (on a subconscious level) what we deserve. So we find ourselves acting to limit our success.

“I have a limited tolerance for feeling good. I have a limited tolerance for my life going well”. Gay Hendricks

Yes, I can see this. However these last couple of years I have been gradually inching my upper thermostat up by extending periods of contentment in my life and removing obvious sources of stress. First I have made the decision and commitment to allow more happiness in (even though on some level it terrifies me). I spend time in nature every day, practise mindfulness, go to the gym and look after my health, and reduce money stress by saving. This is the main practice for raising the inner thermostat. Nothing too wild or risky here! Just gradual little steps in a consistent direction of feeling happier.

Even these small steps have led to a degree of discomfort though. It takes some getting used to after a lifetime of complaining and being a victim of some outside circumstance. I take responsibility that these outer circumstances originated with me. I see now that all of the struggles with money and struggles in unhappy relationships were of my own making through the choices I made. I found the damaged guys more attractive than the ones who could offer love and stability.  I found struggle more attractive because that was normal in our family household. These early experiences can be so very ‘sticky’ and hard to shift. This is why I am taking small steps.

Taking the initial steps into new happier more successful territory isn’t the difficult part though. We can make a decision to dump the bad habits, the toxic relationships, and join the health club. It is the consolidation and integration after the step has been taken that is where the permanent gain is made. It is easy to slip back into old habits. It is like any addiction really. So we need to be very gently and kind with ourselves.

I am coaxing a scared child out into a bigger life, that’s how it feels to me. The child needs to know it is secure. So the first thing I have been doing is just to linger longer in the good feelings. Stretch them out a little, revel in the good feeling, witness that it is safe to do so, that nothing bad is happening as a result. Observe the feelings that arise as a result. I noticed fear and also some guilt are common responses that I have.

I am persevering. Its a slow process, and patience is necessary. Softness too, self compassion in abundance. I see that I allow periods of well being to stay for longer, and how self sabotage comes almost like clockwork as a result. I am continually watching this cycle and being as gentle as I can when I see the sabotage at work. It is a natural part of the process.





Going easy on Expectations

Some of the least happy periods I’ve had in my life have been when I’ve expected too much of myself. Trying to be perfect and ending up feeling more inadequate than ever. Now that I’m older, I have learned to be a bit more gentle. Perhaps more realistic too. I see that it’s tiny little steps in a consistent direction that work best for me. And which invite less of a backlash of self sabotage.

There were damaging events in childhood that can’t be denied, and that effected my confidence, and caused me to adapt to have to survive such anxiety. These adaptations, some of them not healthy, became part of my character and my life script. It has taken many years to understand the cause and effect of it, and I have made peace with this history largely now.

However recently I found myself tearful remembering the terror of being a vulnerable child around and angry aggressive mother. I saw that I carry these experiences around to this day. A slap across the face was never far away, and often for no reason I could see. The consistent message to me was “your feelings don’t matter”. My mum had a lot of emotional pain going on, and I feel compassion for her. But I was her emotional and physical punchbag. So I grew up not feeling very safe or valued. My lovely grandma did balance that out a lot though, she gave me the opposite message.

I was telling a friend about it because I’d recently become very afraid in the face of an angry client. I wanted her to be happy not angry. Taken right back there to being a scared child. I went straight into appeasement mode, and offered her money to please her. Unnecessarily. It was money that was due to me. It was a hard lesson. I didn’t stand my ground. I felt demolished, hopeless that I would ever recover from these conditioned responses. Humbling experience.

But I know what to do with this now. Feel compassion for myself, just as I would feel compassion if it was a friend telling me this story.

So much suffering in the world. I ask impossible to answer questions about this like why why why are some adults so horrible to children. It’s ignorance, they don’t know what they are doing will effect the kids whole life, their choices of partner of job of personal wellbeing. If you abuse a kid the message is that they don’t matter. That has massive consequences on a persons life. It becomes hard for them to feel they deserve a good life, a happy relationship and financial security.

I’ve been working through this bit by bit. The conclusion I have come to is that progress is best in small steps.

I’m at such an unmotivated impasse just now in my life. I have taken myself, my wellbeing and health level, my money situation and my business way beyond my old upper limit level and while it feels great and I celebrate this, I’m in unknown territory. I feel anxious at times. Is this too good for me and it’s bound to come crashing down?! Self doubt thoughts like that swirl around. There are doubts that I deserve all this. Even though on a conscious level I know how much I’ve worked and struggled to get here to this place of relative freedom.

So when in the grip of anxiety of self doubt, and feeling paralysed I can still find the smallest of actions to take that demonstrate kindness. So I light a scented candle, I take some vitamins, put some soothing music on and plan on a walk in nature, even in the rain this is always therapeutic.

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility”.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What brings me most Happiness?

Thought I’d make a list, as I lose sight at times. It’s also what I’m thankful for too, so a gratitude list also. Life has been feeling a bit humdrum recently and I want to check in that I’m doing enough of what I love. J

  • Walking slowly through nature, lingering and exploring and just being outdoors in the woods, by a river, in a meadow
  • Birdsong
  • Hearing Tobie’s interesting thoughtful views
  • Seeing Tobie is successfully making his own way in life
  • Being around any kind of animal
  • Pollok park
  • Taking beautiful photos
  • Being around old beautiful architecture
  • Exploratory conversations
  • Hugs
  • Being in the countryside
  • Being in Fife
  • Designing a garden
  • Happy clients
  • Increasing my Understanding of myself and others
  • Feeling compassion
  • Feeding the birds and watching them
  • Playing with a dog
  • Being useful to others
  • Silence
  • Loud energising rock music
  • Going to see live music
  • Travelling to new places and experiencing other cultures
  • Toasted seaweed
  • Milky tea and honey
  • Old photos from earlier periods
  • Exercising and keeping healthy
  • Daily Swimming and the jacuzzi
  • seeing the men every day and having a chat
  • learning to listen better
  • The smells of autumn

Photo taken last night in Pollok Park where I go daily


The Attraction of not doing TOO well.

‘TOO well’ What does that mean? It means going near or beyond the inner limit of ‘doing well’ that we have fixed for ourselves or more usually, was set for us. Going beyond what we were brought up to feel we deserve by our parents, social environment, class, neighbourhood. This can be in the areas of happiness level, material wealth, health or relationship harmony.

So this morning I was reflecting on the very poor quarterly results my business has had. This follows a successful year, the best results the business has ever had and the most money I have ever earned.

I wondered what about me is the cause of this result. In business its always your fault and your responsibility and so one doesn’t need to look far to find the cause of any problems. It’s always with me.

There is something glorious about being in control to that extent, knowing that I can change the course I take. It can also be daunting at times to take full responsibility and know that the buck stops here, every time. No recourse to the childlike state of wanting to be saved by a shining knight or to blame someone else.

So I glimpsed the attraction to not doing well, the pull towards failure. Here are a few I found this morning, some of which were more relevant in the past for me…but may still be activated at times and cause a conflict of goals. In fact if my main conscious goal is to be successful in every way this whole list demonstrates sub goals that can interfere with the main goal if not made fully conscious. After each I have put the kinds of affirmations I use to answer each fear or mistaken belief. I have done this really quickly this morning to its not complete, I may add to it later on.

  • It can come from adhering or being subject to unrealistic levels of perfectionism. If you are not doing it perfectly or hugely massively well you might as well fail – being perfect is a hard benchmark to chase, far too hard. It can suck your motivation – so why bother even trying – I am enough, I work hard enough, I love myself whether I fail or succeed


  • It can come from being over criticised as a child. You get the message you can’t do anything right, so you conclude like I did, that I may as well not even bother trying too hard. The parents won’t be pleased by your efforts and the desired praise won’t be forthcoming anyway. In fact I may as well do everything wrong, since you are being constantly chastised anyway. So rebel against this and that and everything including doing well in life – I no longer have to rebel against what others consider normal, I observe what works and use it, I can encourage and praise myself, I am very pleased with myself 


  • Hang about in struggle and you don’t need to take a fall from success or a high position. So if you don’t  allow too much success in, there is no chance of tumbling from the position, nowhere to fall if you are already scrambling about on the ground. So saving face? Pride is that – there is no need to worry about failing and losing face, life has its ups and downs, many times I have recovered from failure successfully and will again if necessary


  • Hang about in struggle and theres no danger of pride developing or getting carried away with feeling superior –I trust that I will maintain healthy levels of humility and I am conscious when my ego tries to step in and take over,


  • If I am successful people will probably not like me. I have had some of this already, friends who have called me right wing or attacked my lack of ‘social benefit’. People seem to associate doing well with right wing and selfishness. ‘The rich are to blame for societies ills’ is the dominant social paradigm. To be popular in the UK you have to fail, to be hated, just succeed – I am less and less concerned about being accepted and liked the more I accept and like myself, I accept that we can’t be liked by everyone and that to be yourself sometimes requires others disapproval 


  • You may lose some friends, and your social circle may change, you could feel abandoned – I feel compassion for myself and allow change to take place


  • Fear of causing others envy and jealousy. Your success may make others feel inadequate and they may consciously or unconsciously compare themselves to you- I feel compassion for any suffering I see in others and I feel compassion for myself


  • To ease up on the succeeding a bit…get back to old comfy familiar territory of struggle and strife and worry and uncertainty and living on the edge- Even though it can feel scary at first its actually quite exciting to explore new territory, I trust myself to thrive in the new circumstances and to cope adequately with new situations


  • My own unworthiness kicking in perhaps as doors of a better life open up to me and invite me in – I work daily on allowing myself to experience happiness and success, and I am mindful of my positive qualities and worthiness and I feel gratitude for all that I have in my life 


  • Fear of increasing guilt. The guilt says why would I want to have so much when most have so little? I trust that the more I have, happiness, wealth etc, the more I am able to share, and the more good I can do in the world, there is no need for guilt




Allowing more Happiness in

I have a sense that it's our choice how much happiness we allow in. I have had a love/hate relationship with happiness all my life. It has felt more comfortable to be mired in interpersonal drama, in relationships with dysfunctional or just incompatible people, to be struggling financially, to be focused on what is not right most of the time. That's what is familiar. A sense of feeling safe with lack of safety.

To happiness I respond as if it is a threat, so with anxiety, unless it is experienced within the familiar confines of what I have deemed to be 'safe'. The safe forms for me are walks in the woods, taking photos of flowers, staring blissfully at a sunset, enjoying the music I so love. Levels of almost uncontainable bliss are experienced quite often. It also makes me happy to share these things with a close friend. These simple and nearly always available pleasures mean that no matter how my moods may temporarily swing to and fro, I can find joy easily again and elevate out of self preoccupation into nature. So that is all great, and I am thankful for this permanent salve. I am aware however that I observe levels of happiness in others that I don't know about. The harmonious loving relationship, the stable finances and lovely permanent home….

I have gone back to basics in an attempt to understand the self deprivation. Then I saw the self contempt in the mix. The 'not good enough' belief. So gradually I have been allowing a simple happiness of acceptance of being me. There are even times now when I really feel a sense of celebration of myself. It's similar to what I feel when I take the space and time to really see and celebrate the uniqueness of another, and so in a way it's not actually even personal, not in a narcissistic sense.

It's great being me I sometimes realise! And that includes every character defect too. The realisation is what utterly uniquely fabulous being we all are. "If we really saw people, every person we meet would be the love of our lives" Byron Katie said, and I really get that. I can be in love with everyone I meet, the postman, the taxi driver, my mum, my sister…my neighbour….I marvel at them and myself and feel a thrill of awe and wonder at times. My biological evolutionary programming does not allow me to live in such an undefended state normally though, and appraising how much threat another poses is part of looking after myself in a healthy way….but there is a hint that perhaps we can go beyond feeling threatened by others. I am not there.

Coming from parents in an unhappy marriage I don't know how to do those loving close reliable intimate kinds of romantic relationships. It's so alien to me. I am not even sexually attracted to healthy functional successful men. But present an attractive slightly broken and lost man and I am instantly interested. Combine that with a strong 'helper' personality trait and idealism you can imagine….One of the downsides to being an idealist personality type is that you see the potential in others, even if it's a mile from actuated and will require years of therapy for that person. Realists don't have this issue, they see things as they are clearly, end of.

There are levels of happiness and joy in relationships I won't allow in because they are unfamiliar to me and so feel dangerous. It's the same for levels of personal happiness levels. I seem more comfortable focusing on problems. That is partly our negativity bias we hear so much about from the evolutionary psychologists. But it's also partly growing up in a dangerous household with an unpredictably emotionally and physically violent mother. I learned to be on alert all the time, certainly not to relax back in a sense of safety. There was much love from her too, but it could quickly change and so wasn't trustworthy. Relaxing back into love and wellbeing and feeling safe was not taught to me, and that is where joy arises, when we feel safe. In a stable environment. We can create those conditions for ourselves though even if we weren't taught it.

So what can I do to coax myself out of these now self imposed limitations? It has been my life's work. Here are a couple of the actions I took that I have done that have let more happiness in.

– dare to imagine more, and different from expectations given to us by others. I used to write lists and descriptions of my ideal life. What kind of partner, exactly my ideal house, car and job if I gave myself full permission to 'have it all' . I examined the washes of feelings that came up and embraced them, feeling arose of unworthiness, of self judgement and criticism, and that was valuable and they are all allowed. The effect of this was a gradual expansion of my parameters.

– as my life becomes more stable, successful and calmer and I start to feel safer, I watch out for unconscious tendencies to sabotage harmony, the pull back to familiar dangerous waters, the excitement of living on the edge, the gambling risk taker.

– self compassion has been the single most life changing addition to my life. It is a tool that I now use when I remember to, whenever I experience suffering. I use self compassion to soothe myself, and thereby experience greater emotional regulation. It has given me more courage to be honest with myself as the pain of doing this isn't so scary, self compassion is available to tend to the wounds and the pains. So if I'm going to meet a client and performance anxiety arises I can give myself a literal or metaphorical comforting hug, and say 'it will be alright, and even if it doesn't go well, that is also alright'.

– appreciation and gratitude when I remember to activate them, are immediate comforters. Things aren't so bad when I write a list of all that is going well. Counting ones blessings is a great way to feel more balanced, and it nudges out that tendency to complain.

– learning mindfulness has taught me to slow right down, to remember my breathing, to see my passing thoughts and witness that feelings come and go. There is no need to panic. So every day I work at this, a joyful work it is as I am helping myself and making life better. Many little exercises throughout the day, short moments of being present to what I am experiencing. So I set up a chair in the pool in the morning and I say over and over as I swim towards it, 'rest with everything'. Rest with this feeling of anxiety, rest with that worrisome thought, rest with that anger, with this joy, with this appreciation, rest with it all….and it moves on.

– for nurturing a sense of self knowledge and developing a well rounded self acceptance, writing a list of personal defects and positive qualities is a great exercise. In that order. Quite important to end with the positive qualities rather than defects so that we don't come away with a sense of even greater inadequacy! As my self compassion has grown I am no longer quite as daunted by the facing of my faults, and can unflinchingly face them without my self esteem being bruised. The self esteem is more robust now and in facing my faults I'm more understanding towards others, more compassionate and able to see how such qualities arose, often no fault of our own. There are mostly simple adaptations that took place in response to circumstances in life outwith their control.

– tempering generosity. I used to love giving to and helping everyone I met. I have noticed that unexamined giving to others does not work, for them mostly, and can be a waste of resources for me. If I give to others beyond their capacity to receive, they may reject the gift and me. We cannot receive more than we feel we deserve at any time. So now when I consider giving, I feel into how appropriate it is. Not do I feel they deserve it, but do they. Am I trying to buy the affection or loyalty of another with being over generous? Why do I feel obliged to pour out resources like this? Am I doing compulsive giving to buy love/approval/acceptance? Good questions I've had to answer.

– spending time around those who allow happiness in areas I have not allowed in for myself. This has been very valuable, to observe how others are with it. It can reassure the scared part of myself, when I see others safe and doing well in these areas. So spending time with friends with happy functional marriages, or confident people who can make public speeches, or being around and getting to know my wealthy clients and watching how they are with it. Learning by observation and maybe a little imitation….

Will continue this…