Category Archives: Advice

Keeping The Addictive Cycle Active

What’s wrong with me?  My boyfriend who I had been in a close relationship with for six months decided to end it recently without warning, and without any real explanation.  It’s been more than a month now, but I’m still holding onto the hope that he will change his mind, or that there was some sort of misunderstanding that caused him to make this rash decision.  I’m becoming obsessed with what I must have done wrong, and thinking of ways that I can make it up to him, but he won’t even give me a chance. Whenever I contact him to see how he is feeling, or to tell him how sorry I am he doesn’t answer.  I just wish I knew what I did or didn’t do to make him stop wanting me.  The same thing has happened to me in other relationships that I’ve been in.  No matter how hard I try to please a man, I never seem to get it right, and I lose him.

I’m finding it so hard to adjust back to my old life without him.  There seems to be nothing left to live for. Every day that I don’t hear from him makes me lonelier, sadder and more depressed.  I really feel like I can’t live without him.

I want you to observe the uncomfortable emptiness you are feeling now, and notice how you reject it. Watch yourself grasp onto the memories you have of him; replaying scenes in your mind, imagining scenarios, scheming for ways to make him change his mind, holding onto any dwindling shadow of hope that the whole thing has been a mistake, a misunderstanding, something that you can fix… Notice how much energy you are spending on deluding yourself.  Do you truly believe that focusing on him or anything that reminds you of him or your time spent together will recreate him somehow, or bring him back to you?  Is this obsessing bringing you any kind of relief, or is it just making the adjustment to shifting your attention and energy onto other things more difficult and painful?  Why are you so reluctant to let him go? Do you feel that if you stop clinging to him and let yourself fall, that there will be nothing left to sustain you?  Why don’t you trust in your ability to sustain yourself, and walk confidently supported by the belief that you already have everything you need to be a whole person?

Who are you without somebody to love and to dedicate yourself to? Is there more to you than the attentive, committed, caring, supporting girlfriend or the lonely, heart-broken victim that you have taken on as your identity? Can you possibly exist without either of these two roles to play?  You don’t need to get him back or to replace him with another one. What you need to get back is a life!  Your life!

Please take a moment to think about where you left your talents, confidence, and motivation for your own goals and achievements.  Until you can respect and value yourself enough to give yourself the commitment and attention you deserve, you will continue to find yourself in this trap of needing to be needed, and of seeking acknowledgement through other people, or as it appears to be in your case, by a particular man who you have chosen as your target.

As painful and compulsory as it may seem to continue to ride this cycle, you need to see it for what it really is and accept that you do have the choice to get off.  You have become addicted to the emotional responses triggered by seeking and gaining approval through relationships with men. Human brains have the ability to form strong neural connections which, without conscious intervention, will trap clusters of thoughts, feeling and behaviours together in a kind of loop. Every repetition of a familiar behaviour with a particular external stimuli (in your case men), will trigger these neurons to spark together as a cluster. The electric current produced releases “feel-good” chemicals into your brain and reinforces the bind that connects the neurons.  It’s a bit like doing a “save as” action into a temporary drive, which with frequent use becomes “re-saved” again and again into a kind of physically sculpted hard-drive of neurons.  This is how addictions are formed.

The more you repeat the behavior (attaching yourself to men) the stronger the connections become and the more effort it takes to change your behavior. Put simply, you have become addicted to the chemical responses you receive from thinking and feeling and behaving in certain ways, and breaking this cycle is extremely difficult and unpleasant.  It is a similar process to the withdrawal experienced by substance addicts, only that the chemicals are created from within your body, rather than being externally administered.

So my advice to you is to accept that you are an addict, and begin the process of un-wiring your addictive responses to men. As you do this you will need to create many new and diverse neural connections that will help you to flourish as a whole, healthy, unique individual.  You will find that there are many others like you who are in a similar process, and I recommend that you seek support and guidance through people who are on the same path. This will take time, effort and dedication, but probably no more than you are currently investing in keeping your addictive cycle active.

The Spark.

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What You Believe In, You Will Create

I get so frustrated by how blind and stupid most people are!  When I walk around a shopping centre or overhear bits and pieces of conversations in the street, all that people seem to talk about is what they have bought, what they want to buy or what they are planning to buy.  Mostly it’s just gadgets, furnishings or clothes – non-essential things that don’t last or give much lasting satisfaction.  I know I should probably pity these poor fools for not knowing any better, but it affects me because their insecurity and addiction to crap, (most of it is just disposable rubbish that will be thrown out when the novelty wears off), is driving the cycle of consumerism that is chewing up our planet and spitting out waste.

I feel as though my frustration is bad for my health, but I can’t ignore it.  Worse still is that I find myself buying useless disposable things too!  Often I don’t have a choice, or when I do, the alternative is made so difficult or expensive for me, that I’m made to feel like a neurotic hippy and let myself be  intimidated into doing what everyone else does, just because that’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to do.

Well dammit! I don’t agree with what  the advertisements and politicians want me to believe, and I hate feeling defeated and tricked into doing things that I KNOW are wrong.  But I don’t want to isolate myself from friends and family who don’t seem to mind enjoying themselves by spending money on frivolous things.  In fact they seem to be happy, while I seem to be the miserable, grumpy one who never wants to have any fun.  Maybe I should forget about all the unseen side effects of consumerism and accept it.  Maybe I should just stop being a party-pooper.

Now you know how I feel most of the time as I witness human’s self-destruction in slow motion on planet Earth.  If it weren’t for all the other innocent life forms, who just happened to ‘get in the way’ of the consumerist monster, I might even find it entertaining to sit back and watch… But I am a compassionate spark (not all of us are), and I feel I have a duty to at least try to connect with those other conscious beings who can see it too.

I understand how impossible and hopeless it must feel as an isolated individual out there, but the thing I urge you to remember and trust with all your heart is that you are NOT alone.  You would be surprised at how many other frustrated people you pass each day who are also sickened and appalled by what they see. Many of them, like you, are intimidated into submission through fear of ridicule and alienation by their peers. Others may have an inkling that things are not right, but have never really crystalized the uneasiness they feel into a certain recognition of anything other than mild consumer indigestion. There are also an increasing number of people with their eyes wide open who are not afraid to point out, in a somewhat tactless fashion, that the emperor has no clothes!  These people are easy to dismiss and label as insane, because paying them any serious attention would mean taking off the blinkers.  And I think most humans are far too frightened to risk seeing what they really don’t want to see.

Acceptance can be a wise tool for coping with an uncontrollable world, but there is nothing to be gained by accepting the things you CAN change.  This is where wisdom becomes cowardice.  Things you can’t change by force are other people’s thoughts, feelings and actions.  You can, however, change your perception of their behavior.  You don’t have to allow it to intimidate you, or force you into silence or compliance.  Don’t sacrifice your own integrity and values for the sake of keeping the ignorant ones happy.  Let them be happy if they truly want to be, but make no secret of the fact that you are not happy with this consumption orgy, and that you choose not to participate. Do what you can as an individual to minimize your participation, and when people question your non-conformist behaviour, tell them as honestly and non-judgmentally as you can how you feel.

You can’t eliminate greed and consumption on your own, even by leading the perfect example of non-participation, but you can seek out others like yourself who see what you see, and who also want to do something about it.  The more you can connect with others who see it for themselves and the more you openly talk about what you are witnessing, the more other people will also begin to open their eyes and see it too.  Letting people discover it for themselves is a far more powerful tool than forcing the truth onto unwilling ears.

Focus on the improvements that can be made, don’t dwell on the mistakes.  Do what you can, and connect with your neighbours and friends and even strangers as a human being with honest, genuine concerns, compassion and hope for a better future.  What you believe in, you will create.  Good luck to you.

The Spark.

Your Loss Of Pride is a Small Price to Pay

My life over the last 6 weeks has become a torturous nightmare that I can’t see any safe or realistic way out of.  As far as I know, only three other people (who I don’t trust), know how desperate my situation is, and even though I’m going mad carrying this awful secret around with me, I can’t bear the thought of anyone else finding out about it.  I’m praying to a God I don’t believe in to keep this nightmare from reaching my wife and kids, and that I still have a chance of smoothing it all over without people ever finding out about it, or at least without making it any worse.

I’ve been an unforgiveable fool.  I ignored my brother in law’s advice and made some bad business decisions.  As a result I have lost nearly all my family’s savings and put my business at risk of bankruptcy.  If that wasn’t enough, I then panicked and decided to ask for help from an ex business partner who is involved in some criminal activity.  I have been let in on a scheme he and a few others are planning and have been offered a cut in the profits.  I have agreed to help them out in a desperate attempt to recuperate my losses before anyone else finds out about it.  I feel now like I have no other alternative but to see it through and honour my word to my new associates.  Abandoning them now would put my reputation and my family’s safety at risk.

I know what I’m doing is wrong, and the guilt of it is making me sick and scared at a time when I need to keep my wits about me and stay brave.  Help me, please.

I strongly advise that you don’t attempt to get out of this one on your own, for several reasons.

Firstly, even if you were to succeed in recuperating your financial loss, would you ever repay the emotional debt to yourself caused by the loss of your integrity and honor.  You strike me as the sort of man who values these qualities.  What price do you put on these assets? Would you be prepared to sell them at all? Money is not who you are.  Without money you are still a whole person. Without your core-values, you are a shell.

Secondly, seductive as it may appear to be in times of desperation, dishonesty is not a remedy for foolishness.  Foolishness on its own can be forgiven, but dishonesty leaves scars and it eats away at the precious links of trust between you and your loved-ones.  I cannot see a positive outcome as a result of foolishness + dishonesty.  Can you?  So why add the extra negative weight of deceit to this sum as well? These harmful behaviors will rob you of your serenity, insight and courage.  You need more of these empowering tools now, and less of the debilitating/desperation responses, like deceit, dishonesty and flight-or-fight to get you through this challenge.

Thirdly, you want to protect your family?  So look after yourself! Not just physically, but just as important, you need to care for your mental health. Don’t let such an innocent mistake drive you to insanity.  Your wife and kids will cope with a financial loss and will still love you if you remain the same person.  They don’t deserve to lose you as well.

And finally, don’t forget your responsibility to warn any other person who may be affected by this situation.  Your wife, and any other family member or business partner who may also suffer some sort of loss has a right to know.  The most honorable thing for you would be to tell them yourself, rather than have them find out some other way, which would almost inevitably happen.

Stay calm.  There is no need for heroics or impulsive action.  Tell your wife and brother-in-law. Let them help you through this, and trust that they love and care enough to forgive you your foolishness.  I also recommend you consult with a third party who can offer you an objective perspective.  You and your wife and relatives will be too affected with shock to see all the possible solutions.  There may well be much more tactful alternatives available to you that you haven’t considered yet.

Your loss of pride is a small price to pay to maintain your honour, integrity and self respect.

The Spark.

Give Yourself A Chance, You’re Worth It

My boss called me into his office a couple of days ago and gave me a serious talking to about my behavior.  At the time I felt it was unfair of him to make such a big deal out of me turning up to work a few minutes late, but then he had to bring up the time that I was nearly two hours late and un-contactable because my alarm clock broke and I slept- in with my phone switched off.  It only happened once, and it wasn’t my fault, but he can’t get over it, even though I said I was sorry and bought a new alarm clock so it wouldn’t happen again.  Now he’s also saying that my work is not up to scratch and that he has had to deal with complaints from customers because I’m taking too long finishing off jobs that they are urgently waiting on.  I feel like he’s picking on me and pushing me to do more than I can.  He should know that when you put your workers under pressure and set them unrealistic tasks and deadlines things go wrong.  Like the stuff-up we had last month when we lost an important customer and it ended up costing the company thousands of dollars. 

I nearly told him where to go and was going to quit on the spot, but then he started to look all sad and told me I was a good bloke and he didn’t want to have to let me go.  He said I wasn’t giving him much choice, and unless I can get my act together and get serious about my job I was going to lose it.  The truth is, I don’t want to lose my job. I’ve worked with this company since I was in school and my boss has supported me heaps over the years to get me into the position I hold today.  I love the people I work with and I love what I do.  I’d feel completely lost without my job.    

When I was leaving his office he stopped me and handed me some pamphlets about Alcoholics Anonymous.  I nearly threw them in his face, but something stopped me.  I took them home with me and threw them in the bin. It was bugging me for days, so I fished them out this morning and had a read. I’m wondering now if maybe my boss is right and it scares the shit out of me.  I don’t feel on top of things anymore and most days all that keeps me going is the thought of knock-off time and getting down to the pub for a coldie.  I don’t know if I could live without booze, but I don’t know what I’d do if I lost my job.  I’m 36 and I know I’m too young to give up on life, but I just don’t know what I have left anymore. 

Well, the good news for you is that you still have everything you ever had that was worth having, only now you have the benefit of self reflection to go with it. Nothing has been taken away from you, instead you have been given a gift. Now is an important time for you to be honest with yourself and see this opportunity for what it is. Are you truly happy with yourself the way you are now? Is this the way you want your life to be? Are you giving yourself a fair chance to be the person you have always wanted to be? Have you given up on yourself? Don’t you believe you are worth it?

You have been given an opportunity to get back everything of value that you feel you have lost or are losing.  Now it’s up to you. You can choose to accept it with courage, or push it away in fear.  If you are scared now it is because you need to be, but you don’t need to be scared off.  You can embrace this fear and use it to your advantage.  Your boss is a wise, compassionate man who cares about you, and there are many more people like that who know exactly what you are going through and can help you through it.  If you are scared, seek help.  If you ignore it, it won’t go away.  Give yourself a chance.  You’re worth it.

The Spark.

Needing Someone For Emotional Reassurance Can Be Dangerous

I’m going mad!  I need some advice, quick!

I have just started going out with a guy who I’m really into.  I thought he was really into me too, but now he’s stopped sending me messages and I haven’t heard from him in 4 days!!  Our last communication was him asking if I wanted to hang out with him on the weekend.  But because I had already made plans, I replied to him that I couldn’t, but that I would love to see him as soon as I could because I was really missing him.  He never replied, and I haven’t heard from him since.  He hasn’t even been on Facebook much this week.  Usually he updates his status every day.

I can’t shake this feeling that something is wrong.  I’m convinced that he is angry or upset or bored with me, or that he never really cared much for me in the first place, and he has met someone else that he likes better.  I feel like I’ve stuffed it up somehow by turning him down, or that he thinks I’m desperate because I told him I wanted to see him “as soon as I could”.

What can I do?  I desperately need to know what he’s thinking.  I have this uncontrollable urge to call him and explain, but I don’t want to look needy and make it even worse if he is already angry with me. Please help me!

What’s the urgency? Why are you so desperate? What is it that you think you need to do?  Even if you had upset him in some way, how do you expect to fix it? Do you think that by calling him and re-telling him what you have already said, or by gushing at him with an apology, it is going to make it any better? If something so small can cause him to feel any differently about you, then obviously he didn’t really fully appreciate you in the first place.  If this is the case, take it as a blessing in disguise to find this out now, and accept it before you get any more involved with him. No matter what you do, you can’t really make someone like you any more or any less.

It seems more likely to me that he is busy, and waiting for a suitable opportunity to ask you out again.  Very few men like to check-in with females they don’t know very well unless there is some real reason to.  He won’t want to look unsure of himself if he is trying to impress you. It makes more sense for him to be sure of his plan before he presents it to you.

Of course, all men are different when it comes to how frequently they like to keep in touch.  You may be comparing this one to another one who would call you every day just to see how you’re going.  This may be what you need for your own reassurance that he still cares or hasn’t forgotten you.  But just because one man has done this in the past, doesn’t mean that all men will, or that if he doesn’t it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care.   It hasn’t even been a week.  I think that is far too soon for you to be jumping to the sorts of conclusions that you are tormenting yourself with.

Rather than obsessing over his possible reasons for not contacting you, maybe you need to examine your own motives for needing  so desperately to hear from him.  There are no rules about how long to wait.  Everyone and every situation is different, but I strongly recommend that you refrain from contacting him until you are calmer.  It would be foolish to risk creating a tense situation unnecessarily. You could be creating this whole drama out of nothing and your desperation might scare or confuse him.  Remind yourself that there is nothing you can do, and nothing to fix.  Leave it alone and trust in the outcome, whatever that may be.

Better not to contact him until your only reason to contact him is because you enjoy his company.  Needing someone for emotional reassurance can be dangerous.

The Spark.


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Lost In The Zone Of Creative Bliss

My daughter’s piano teacher recently told me that my daughter has talent but won’t reach her potential unless she practices more. When I talked to my daughter about this she said that when she plays well it isn’t really her. She thinks she is visited by some sort of spirit and because she thinks it isn’t really her playing the piano she doesn’t see how practicing will make her any better. What can I do to make her practice?

It sounds very much to me like your daughter has a spark.  By this, I mean that your daughter is not imagining these visits or making up silly stories to get out of practicing the piano, but that she probably really is a spark-receptive human being, and receives visits from one or more sparks who love to play music through her.  No need for alarm.  Musical sparks are usually quite harmless and nice to have around.  The only real danger is when the human ego attempts to own the inspirational energy that the spark transmits.  All sorts of problems arise when the human is seduced by the illusion that they are in fact a genius, when all they are is a receptor of spark energy who through their physical form, allows the spark to manifest a whim.

Your daughter appears to be aware of the true nature of these visits, which is often the case with children who are generally more perceptive of present-moment realities than adults are.

Addressing your question, you and your daughter’s music teacher are probably well aware that practice is an essential part of developing musical technique, as it is with almost any other creative, inventive, analytical or athletic activity. But technique is not everything.  Music, like most creative outlets, requires the performer to have technique, feeling/passion, and inspiration to have much of an impact on the audience.  All 3 elements are necessary and should complement each other.  Too much or too little of any of them is the difference between mere technical capability, mad ravings, a good idea, or creative brilliance which occurs when the balance is right and the elements are working in harmony.

Technique, as you know, is the repetitive, disciplined element which the artist must develop for themselves through practice and finely tuned perception to detail.  This discipline when directed into a creative channel is what gives the artist a perfectionistic edge.  However when this discipline is not employed in a worthwhile passion, it can so easily become wasted on mundane obsessions. Then it becomes a nuisance and is often recognized as a social disorder such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Technique is the language used by artists to communicate with the audience.  The more fluent the artist is technically, the clearer the voice, the better the communication, and the more likely the message is to be understood or to have an impact on more people.

Feeling or Passion is the intensity with which the artist feels what it is they are trying to express.  The ability to feel and to let oneself be affected by pain, joy, fear, excitement etc, is mostly a genetic trait that a human may be born with, and is often considered, in general day to day life, to be a vulnerability which is best kept hidden.  With creative outlets, however, passion communicates on a deeper level where it can reach people’s hidden vulnerabilities, and move an audience by stirring up their emotional (endorphin induced) responses.  Passion, however, without technique, will come across as messy and confusing. Passionate, hypersensitive people are the most receptive to sparks.

Inspiration is the spark.  It is the message, the idea, the concept or the experience planted by the spark into the fertile tissue of the imagination, which the artist then needs to capture.  It is the moment of impact when things ‘click’ and make sense, or it may be a moment that hits deeply and needs to be expressed.  Or it may be more mysterious than that.  Like a vision, melody or poem that materializes out of nowhere.  It could simply be an exclamation of joy at the discovery of something immensely beautiful, fascinating or captivating. It is the message that the artist receives or experiences and the inexplicable energy and momentum that takes over as the artist captures whatever it is that needs to be created.

Oh dear, I’m getting carried away.  Examining the miracle of inspiration is the closest a spark can feel to emotion.  If I had eyes, they would be weeping with joy.

Getting back to your daughter…  I think it would be wise to explain to her the workings of the spark.  Have a read first of Who Is The Spark on this blog’s homepage so you are better able to answer the questions that your daughter is sure to ask.  It’s important that you warn her to keep her discovery quiet, since she can’t expect non spark-receptive humans to understand or believe that she has a spark.  Telling people may cause her to be ridiculed and marginalized, and there is no need for anyone else to know.

Hopefully she has the discipline required to develop her musical voice technically, and you may need to remind her how crucial technique is to effectively communicate music, even if it may seem unimportant and boring when she is lost in the zone of creative bliss.

The Spark.


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Only you can relieve your own distress

I am worried about my brother.  He is married to a successful business women who has a very demanding career, and who I suspect is an alcoholic.  They have two primary school-aged daughters, that I am also very concerned about.  It has become obvious to me and to others that their relationship has deteriorated significantly over the last year or two, and I would say that my sister-in-law’s drinking plays a major role in their marital problems.

My brother is a very stoic, introverted man who tends not to be very forthright with his feelings or problems, so you can imagine how difficult it would be for him to discuss problems with his marriage or to seek help or support.  I have tried to bring it up with him a few times, indirectly, by asking how everything is going for him now that his wife’s company is expanding and she is under more pressure with work.  Although he always reassures me that everything is fine, I know my brother well enough to see how unhappy he is, and it hurts me to have to watch him suffering with the burden of trying to maintain appearances and hold it all together.  

Every time I see my brother lately he looks more and more withdrawn and tense.  My sister-in-law’s behavior at family get-togethers is becoming appalling.  She is often drunk or has been drinking when she arrives and almost always causes some sort of scene which I’m sure is very distressing and embarrassing to my brother and his daughters.  I feel out of place to intervene and rescue them, but I feel more and more distressed by what I see that I’m finding it impossible to ignore it or to allow it to continue. As a sister and aunt to my nieces, I feel I have a responsibility to care for their well-being.  What would be the most reasonable thing I can do to improve this situation?

Your concern appears to be reasonable, and your intentions are well-meaning.  Your distress is real to you, and you can’t ignore it.  You also have a right to express it.  The important detail here is the “how” you go about dealing with your own distress, because as painful as it is for you to have to witness, you can do nothing to relieve your brother or niece’s distress or unhappiness.  Only they can do that for themselves.  This may seem heartless and cruel, but anything else is delusional.  You cannot save them if they are not willing to be helped, and you cannot convince anybody that they need your help until they acknowledge and accept that they have a problem.

Having said that, I don’t suggest that you turn your back on your brother and let him sort it out for himself.  You have a right to let your brother know how you feel as a sister and an aunt, and to offer your brother a non-judgmental ear that will be them for him whenever he should need it, and leave it at that.  It is important that this offering be laid, humbly at his feet and not forced aggressively into his hands.  Do not give him an extra weight to carry, or attack him with the blame of your own distress.  You are offering him as safe place to seek refuge and support.  You are not offering him solutions, lectures, or favors. Whatever he chooses to do with this offering is not your responsibility, and if he chooses to leave it there for the time being, then respect that.  He will know that it is there and will seek it when he feels able to.

Be as honest and sincere as possible.  Show him your genuine love and concern, don’t tip-toe around sensitive facts, be direct, and most importantly be patient.  Only you can relieve you own distress.

The Spark


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You Can Only Be The Best Person You Are

I’m not sure it’s advice that I’m after, because I’m not even sure if I have a problem.  Well, at least I don’t think I have a problem.  It’s that some other people seem to have a problem with me.  These other people are family and friends of family who have known me ever since I was a kid.  It does matter to me what they think because they are people who care about me, and I don’t like to let them down.   Their problem is that they think I’m a “loser”.   By their definition this means that I have nothing of “substance” to show for myself because I don’t have a well paid job, I don’t own a house or car or have any financial security.  They think I’m a failure because I dropped out of Uni without finishing my law degree, and have never really made any decent money out of my music and song writing which is my only real passion.  They don’t seem to realize or understand that I chose to do these things, and I’m so glad I did.  They can’t accept that I could possibly be happy without all the things they have worked so hard to gain, and secure and value so highly.  Maybe they feel that without those things that they could never be happy.

I really don’t need any of those things to live a happy, fulfilled, exciting life (even though there are times when not having them is inconvenient).  I honestly feel very happy with what I have and don’t feel unfortunate in any way.  I’m so grateful to be young and healthy and to be able to play and write music and travel and meet lots of amazing people and have so many wonderful friends who appreciate my talents.  This is what is truly important to me.

What upsets me is the thought of being disregarded and misunderstood by my family. It hurts to think that I am an embarrassment to them.  They are good people who I respect and making them proud means a lot to me.  My dad’s health has deteriorated over the last two years, and being his only son, I really don’t want him to thinking that I was a failure.  I love him a lot and can’t bare the thought of never earning his respect.  Please help me to come to terms with this.

If your family are the good people you believe them to be, then surely they are intelligent and sensitive enough to appreciate how important your lifestyle choices and passion for music is to you.  What makes you so sure they think you are a loser or an embarrassment?  How do you know what they are thinking? These are very harsh and unfair judgments to make of someone who has the commitment and courage to follow their heart and respect their talents.  These are admirable qualities.

How do you know that your family doesn’t appreciate you for these things?  Have you ever shared your passion for music with your father?  Do you tell your mother about your travels and the places you’ve been and the people you’ve met?  There could be a part of them that yearns for the adventure and freedom that you have.  I believe that there is a good chance that they do respect you for the choices you make because they know you well enough to see how important they are to you.  Even if they don’t fully understand your choices now, it could be because you have never felt confident enough to share your values with them and show them how much it means to you.

If they are good people, and your passion is genuine, they will understand and love you for it.  If you have tried to do this and they have rejected you for it, then all you can do is forgive them for their ignorance and move on.  As you say, it is their problem, not yours.  You can only be the best person you are, and you need to be the judge or what that is.

Give your family a chance to understand you.  Don’t feel judged or unappreciated.  These states of mind project defensiveness and will block the channels of love, compassion and understanding.  Assume that they respect you and feel proud of your achievements.  Spend some quality time alone with your father.  Get to know and appreciate his passions and let him in on yours. Find a place that you can share with him, where you feel able to be yourself and he is able to empathize, and let him know how you feel.

The Spark


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Use Your Enthusiasm Wisely

I was going to ask you how to lose 10 kilos and keep it off. I would also like to ask you how I could manage to have long term relationships (platonic and business not just romantic). I would also like to know how I could sustain interest in hobbies or work. But I realise that I have one basic problem and that’s what I’d like you to help me fix. I don’t know how to have a balanced life. It is all or nothing. I go through periods of eating what I like and being a slob and then I become obsessed with diets and calories and run marathons to lose the weight, but I am never able to just maintain the weight loss. I love my friends, colleagues and partners so much at first and then suddenly I’m “over” them. I become obsessed with new jobs or other activities for a while (doing nothing else) and then stop doing them completely. I wish I could manage to enjoy people, interests, food and exercise without going overboard. Please help me.

You have a lot of enthusiasm for “new” things, which is great.  There is nothing wrong with enthusiasm.  It is a wonderful stimulant, motivator and activator.  The secret with enthusiasm is how to make it last, or how not to use it all up at once, and then lose interest completely in the trigger that caused the enthusiasm in the first place.  It’s important for you to understand that none of these new interests, goals, people or pleasures are the cause of your “going overboard”.  They are only ever just the current focus, or the outlet for your enthusiastic bursts. The only way to regain any kind of control over the pressure of your tap is first by being aware, and then by choosing to moderate your responses.

You need to watch your reactions.  Be aware of the feelings these external stimulants arouse in you and watch how you react to those feelings. As you notice the first little bursts of energy, feel yourself getting carried away and visualize your internal enthusiasm-o-meter rising fast.  Feel yourself getting caught up in the momentum as your enthusiasm and need for immediate action takes hold. At the same time as your enthusiasm-o-meter races towards the “red zone”, visualize your energy levels dropping fast, (like the mercury in a thermometer), as you head towards the “burn-out zone”.

This process may accumulate over several days or weeks and may not be obvious at first.  The increases in enthusiasm may be slow or fluctuating, but just notice the changes you are feeling in mood and any changes in your behavior.   At first just watch it. Don’t try to change it, just let it run its course and be the witness to your own crash and burn.

Next time, watch it again as it begins, takes hold and heads towards the “crash zone”.  Notice the point at which you feel you are no longer in control and that you are running on impulsive, automatic need, as opposed to steady, calm, clear-headed decision making. Do regular spot-checks. Ask yourself “Am I getting carried away?” “Are my expectations of this solution/person/my own ability  unrealistic?” “Will I be able to sustain this momentum?” If you notice you are no longer asking yourself this regularly, there is a good chance you have stopped being aware and are no longer in control.  Notice this too. Identify the point where you stop making rational decisions and begin to act on impulse.

Watch very closely how your behavior changes past this point. What are the common sign posts? Is this a familiar path? Where does it lead?  Over time you will see the pattern repeating as it begins and you will get to know “the warning signs”.

Remember to monitor your enthusiasm-o-meter and energy thermometer when you notice these first warning signs and then try to moderate your enthusiasm output and energy consumption to maintain yourself within the “safe zone” or at a speed you can maintain and feel comfortable in.  The ideal efficient zone for optimum performance is a smooth cruising speed.  Decide where that is for you, and make this your goal. You may not be able to control the conditions of the road or the impact of the obstacles, but you can control your speed and your corrective responses.

Don’t be too hard on yourself whenever you notice that you are “doing it again”. So many people do it.  Humans are real suckers for novelty, and not so good at long-term commitment.  It’s normal, in varying degrees, but in your case it may be a bit more extreme.

Use your enthusiasm wisely.  It is a useful tool, but save it for when you really need it.

The Spark

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You Are Your Best Quality

I find it very difficult to relax and enjoy myself in social situations.  My friends are always inviting me to parties, although I suspect this is only because they feel sorry for me,  and every Friday afternoon I dread the inevitable invitation to “drinks” after work.  I don’t even like drinking alcohol!

Every time I make an excuse for not attending a party or get-together I go home feeling ashamed and left-out.  If I feel I can’t get out of an invitation and I do end up attending a party, I almost always spend the whole night having painfully put-on conversations with people who try to get away from me as soon as it is polite to do so, or I stand in the wrong place, getting in people’s way, feeling awkward.  I can’t even pluck up the courage to thank the host and say my goodbyes when I’ve had enough, so I either sneak off when no one’s looking, or have to stick it out until lots of other people start leaving, so that I don’t draw attention to myself. 

At work, or with one or two close friends I feel very comfortable and confident being organised and busy.  I enjoy interacting in these situations and believe that I am a good worker and a helpful friend. But in social situations, I feel like I have nothing to offer.  I watch other confident girls who can dance and make people laugh, and always seem to know how to say the right things. Compared to them I feel old, and frumpy and useless.

I’m 28 and don’t have a boyfriend, or even anyone who seems to be interested in me.  I fear becoming an old maid who stays at home and never has any fun.  I truly do want to find a sould mate and fall in love, but how will I ever meet anybody who will love me like this? 

Do you really believe that anybody else in these social situations is scrutinizing or criticizing you as harshly as you are judging yourself?  I would say that they are probably far too busy trying to impress each other with their stories and jokes, and trying to keep up appearances to notice anybody else’s discomfort or awkwardness. Don’t be fooled by confidence.  Most of it is just well-rehearsed bravado that people use to cover up their own insecurities.  Have a look at all the people who need to drink or consume drugs in order to enjoy themselves in social situations. Or all the comfortable couples you see at parties.  Or the ones who play music or dance or eat…  These are all coping mechanisms that people use to avoid feeling left out, inadequate or exposed when they are in a situation without any obvious task to perform except to enjoy one another’s company.  This in itself, for a lot of people, can be extremely difficult, tiresome or frightening.  They way you feel is perfectly normal.  Most people would feel exactly the same way if it weren’t for these ‘props’.

The fact that you have the courage to attend a party at all without drinking, without putting on an act or without a partner to hang off, is a very admirable thing in itself.  Your honesty is much more than a lot of people can offer to these situations. Why do you need to offer anything more than your honest presence anyway?  Imagine how much you would appreciate meeting and talking to someone just like you at one of these intimidating parties.  How refreshing it would be to find someone who is real and sincere and not pretending to be anything more than that!  The person who will love you will recognise this and will notice you because of it.

I don’t suggest that you make yourself attend all of the painful parties or get-togethers that you are invited to.  Only go to the ones you genuinely do think you would enjoy, and leave whenever you want to. You are not under any obligation to stay if you are not enjoying yourself.  You don’t need an excuse to leave.  Be gracious and say goodbye confidently.  Be aware of what you are projecting.  People who shrink or apologise are often seen as victims or get-in-the-ways.  You have no need to behave in this way, and if you do, it’s only because you automatically choose to do so.

Remember that when you go to a party or “drinks” with colleagues, you are doing so because it’s an opportunity to relax, enjoy yourself, and enjoy other people’s company. You don’t need to provide anything more than your presence and you don’t need to achieve anything at all.  Even if you don’t enjoy yourself, just observe it and accept it.  Move on.  Treat every occasion as an entertaining experiment that you participate in, rather than a test that you will either pass or fail.  You don’t need to hide or be ashamed of yourself.  You are your best quality!

The Spark

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