Category Archives: General

What My Dog Taught Me

 
How my pit bull helped me re-frame, increase my self-awareness and identify fear that was holding me back.

About two years ago I adopted a dog from a local rescue organization.  I wound up with a 45 pound “mini” pit bull-type dog named Puma.  All rescue dogs have a story and Puma’s story included being attacked by several dogs while in a foster home prior to being surrendered to the organization from which I got her.  She still had the marks on her body from recently removed stiches the day I brought her home.  According to the rescue organization, her original owner kept Puma isolated in his house and yard, and while she loved her people, she didn’t have very much experience with other animals nor was she socialized to other dogs.  I was apprehensive about these facts and I was concerned about my ability to properly handle a powerful dog.  All my worries of course melted away upon meeting Puma.  She was sweet, very affectionate and conveyed that longing plaintive expression unique to homeless animals. She licked my face.  I was hooked.

Aware of the stigma pit bulls carried, I quickly envisioned myself on a mission to make my pit bull a model for her breed.  I was going to train her in obedience, she would earn the Good Canine Citizen certification, maybe even become a therapy dog so we could go about visiting senior centers and hospitals.  I had it all figured out; within a few months I would heal the world with my amazing pit bull.

Right.

My little plan quickly dissipated once the reality set in that this strong little dog had never been trained to walk properly on a leash without pulling me behind her. Forty five pounds of pure muscle, a low center of gravity and over-the-top excitement at being outdoors, made Puma more bull-dozer than pit-bull.  Did I mention that she is very strong?

In addition to the pulling, she would also lunge toward other dogs.  Under any threat, a dog instantly assesses whether fight or flight is the best action.  When a dog is on a leash, there is no option to fly and that’s why a lot of dogs have what’s known as leash aggression.  This was understandable in Puma given her lack of doggie social skills and her experience of being attacked, but nerve wracking for me nonetheless.  Additionally, the terrier in her wants to chase critters, a scampering squirrel could mean a sprained shoulder for me – did I mention how strong she is?

My anxiety was exasperated by the fact some people are afraid of Puma simply because she is a pit bull and I had to acknowledge what I now refer to as the liability of perception.  No matter what behavior Puma exhibits, she’s already perceived as dangerous; she steps up to the plate with two strikes before the first pitch is thrown. I began to perceive my responsibility differently, I appreciated in a new way my notion of holding her to a higher standard. I had to make her into the perfect dog for her own safety.

I hired and excellent dog behaviorist and trainer named Dan Perata. www.danperatatraining.com. Among the many things I learned working with Dan, his recommendation to use a special collar that fits on a dog’s head represented the biggest improvement.  The head collar (brand names are Walk-N-Train or Gentle Leader) functions a lot like a horse’s bridle.  The idea is if a human can control a 2000 pound horse by controlling its head, I can do the same thing with my 45 pound dog.

The head collar worked great and with expert Dan’s help, and a number of consultations, I started to truly enjoy our daily walks.  The head collar enabled me to control where Puma looked with a flick of my wrist.  It was super easy to control her gaze and keep her from staring down other dogs, or prevent her from hunting squirrels and taking me down in a futile attempt to chase it up a tree.  With the head collar, Puma trotted right by my side, looking straight ahead with a loose leash and pulling was virtually eliminated.  The physical part of this was great but the best part was how much more relaxed and at ease I felt while out and about.  My energy shifted from a state of intense vigilance to a more casual and care-free state, I was less tense.

The downside to the head collar was that Puma hated it.  She tolerated it while we were in motion but the second we paused our walking, at a stop light or when I was scooping her poop, she would paw at her face, rub her nose and muzzle on the ground, or against the legs of anyone we would stop to talk with.  Sometimes, if we were walking past a particularly fluffy patch of lawn, she would take a semi-sideways dive and make an embarrassing display of attempting to wriggle out of her head collar at the most inopportune moments.  It got pretty annoying.  On top of that, most people assumed that the head collar was a muzzle, further perpetuating the negative pit bull stereo type, about which I was already a bit defensive.

About a year passed using the head collar and Puma made deliberate progress with her leash walking skills.  She pretty much stopped the lunging at other dogs unless they were behaving aggressively toward her and she completely ignored little dogs even if they were yapping and going nuts.  Despite the progress, I found myself growing weary of the head collar, mostly because I knew Puma hated it and I hated her persistent protests whenever we weren’t in motion even more.  I was also tired of judgmental looks from people who assumed my pit bull was vicious and therefore had to be muzzled.

How could I solve this problem? Did I really care that much what other people thought of me? On the other hand, I almost felt it was irresponsible of me to give up the control I had with the head collar and risk her getting into trouble; her proverbial strike three.  Puma needed the head collar to behave properly and keep her out of trouble.  She wasn’t ready to take the training wheels off.  I told myself that even though Puma hated wearing it, she needed it.

She needed it.

The truth was that I needed it.  The truth is that the head collar was a tool for me to feel more confident and secure.  My ego was attached to all the stories I had created about my dog and how my dog would behave.  I had all sorts of judgements around what it said about me (and others) to have a pit bull who wasn’t under my complete control and a model of obedience.  Once I began to perceive the head collar as a tool for me and my piece of mind and my comfort and security rather than something Puma needed independent of me, things really shifted.  It only took a few weeks to fully transition to a regular collar.  Simply having the self-awareness that I was the one using training wheels, it naturally followed that I took the training wheels off for good.

One of the profound things I learned from Dan is how sensitive our dogs are to our energy and how they instinctively respond to our actual energetic state.  We are often too much “in our head” to sense what going on with us energetically. As a coach, I’m trained to identify energetic states, so it was surprising that it took time to fully integrate that belief into my way of being with my dog.  Puma was ready to take the training wheels off and transition to a regular collar long before I was.  She was waiting for my confidence to catch up to hers before we could move forward together. Our animal companions give us so much more than we usually perceive. Puma gave me a beautiful insight to my own self-awareness.

Energy Blocks – Interpretations

The other day I was asked to participate in a conference call with a business cohort. Previously, I had brought up a concern about a particular business model being used and was asked by our group leader if I would be willing to process my concern with him while others from the group listened in. The idea was that my processing and learning would help the rest of the group who may be experiencing similar concerns. Great, I thought, what a wonderful idea!
While I have met many members of this group in-person, there are also quite a few I have never met either in person or telephonically. On the day of the call, I was the only woman on the phone with five or six male members of the group. This was not an issue for me—after all this call was meant to be a learning experience for me as well as everyone else and the call was recorded, allowing access for all members to listen at their convenience. However, once the call got underway I began to sense that the men on the call were not processing their own learning, rather they were attempting to fix my problem. Their tone was supportive and kind yet in my gut I felt they were also being paternalistic and that, at times, their attitude was bordering on condescension. In the moment, I noticed I was making this interpretation and put it aside; since I wanted the learning opportunity, I had to avoid becoming defensive and remain open.
The following day, I talked with one of the female cohort members after she had listened to the recorded call. She interpreted the tone of the male callers far more critically than I did and in talking it over with her, I too was beginning to absorb her point of view. We talked for a long time about our interpretation of the men and how they talked to me as well as the problem that originated the purpose of the call. Both subjects took up a good bit of our energetic attention.
I share this recent experience to talk about how interpretations can show up in our lives. An interpretation is an opinion we create about an event, situation, or experience. In essence, we make up stories based on our past experiences and then we unconsciously look for evidence to support these stories. Interpretations are created from the past, so all the assumptions*, limiting beliefs*, and information supplied by our inner critic* create our interpretations. In my case, the interpretation formula went something like this: Over the years I have observed that men, sometimes either knowingly or unknowingly, treat their female business colleagues as less than their equals. I believe that this treatment is simply an occasional condition of being a female in the workplace. On the cohort call, when the male participants focused their energy around trying to fix and alleviate my concern rather than discuss, process, and share their own experiences from a position of equals, I interpreted their behavior as being condescending and patriarchal toward me. This interpretation was intensified and validated when I spoke with the other female member of the cohort after she listened to the call.
The subject matter of this particular call is irrelevant for the purpose of exploring how interpretations can show up and block our energy. Awareness is the key to successfully avoiding all the energy blocks, (this post is part of a series on the various types of energy blocks); being aware of how we are interpreting is the first step to our avoiding becoming enmeshed in our interpretation. Now that I am aware of my interpretation, the helpful question to ask is: How does the interpretation of our male colleagues affect our openness and trust with them, not to mention our ability to work through future challenges? Without the awareness that an interpretation is in play, my female colleague and I could spin out, ending up caught in a whirlwind of righteous indignation. We could unconsciously conflate our feelings of indignation with anything the men suggest and needlessly cloud an opportunity to solve problems. I am not suggesting that we ignore our feelings; I am simply saying that being aware of where and how these feelings came into our consciousness allows us to address both problems appropriately. By separating the feelings that arise out of the interpretation, without becoming reactive or defensive, we greatly improve the likelihood that the men will be able to see how their actions unknowingly inhibit communication with their female colleagues, and vice versa. Which, by the way, is a win for both sexes and problem solving in general.

Assumptions

As a certified coach, I feel pretty confident in my training and believe that I am able to step outside my box and see another’s point of view. I’ve trained and practiced suspending my judgment at will for the purposes of not only my coaching work, but for my own learning and enrichment. I was confident in my awareness about assumptions and how they shape our perceptions until I encountered Caroline’s neighbors.

Caroline, one of my oldest friends and whom I have known since we were teenagers, lives in a neighborhood built in the 1920s. All the houses are right next to each other so that each house abuts closely to the house next door. Caroline lives in the middle of her block, so she has a neighbor on each side. One house is neatly kept with a green lawn and manicured landscaping in the front and back and a perfect paint job. On weekends, Caroline’s neighbors can be found weeding their yard and usually give me a warm hello as I walk up Caroline’s steps. Renters likely occupy the other neighbor’s house; the yard is full of weeds and multiple cars are parked on the sidewalk. A couple of times I have seen a man out front, lying under his car to change the oil in his driveway. Due to the close proximity of the houses, Caroline can frequently hear what is going on inside her neighbors’ house. It is not uncommon for Caroline to hear her neighbors’ late night trips to the bathroom, the telephone ringing, answering machine recordings, etc.

This is not an article about domestic violence.

Many people live in close quarters in urban areas and learn to adapt their level of privacy accordingly, so it did not surprise me to learn that Caroline and her downstairs tenant were discussing the fact that their next door neighbors were engaged in a loud argument the night before. I did not think much of it as this sort of thing happens all the time—people find themselves in a disagreement and the yelling starts. Over time, it became an ever-increasing topic of conversation between Caroline and her tenant, both of whom were beginning to feel very uncomfortable with the escalating arguments. It was becoming fairly obvious that the verbal arguments had devolved into verbal abuse and were sadly becoming violent. There was a lot of hand wringing. Should they have called the police last night? What if someone were to be injured or worse? Domestic violence is a complex issue and most people are loath to get involved; Caroline was understandably conflicted.

This went on for months. Every few weeks or so I would hear about another sleepless night due to the arguing and fighting going on next door. One evening I went over to Caroline’s house for a visit only to see a police cruiser, lights on and flashing, parked in front of the house with the neat yard and perfect landscaping. I went inside and asked Caroline what all the drama was about. She replied, “I guess someone finally called the cops.” I said, “Finally called the cops? What do you mean?” I was stunned. Of all the conversations we had about Caroline’s neighbors, over all the many months this was going on, it never occurred to me that the neighbor she was referring to the whole time was her neighbor with the perfect house. I had assumed, without even thinking to clarify which neighbor we were discussing—there was a next-door neighbor on either side, after all—that the domestic violence was occurring at the house with the shabby appearance. How could I be so prejudiced? I pride myself on being an open-minded person who errs on the side of compassion and giving the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. I was horrified when I realized that I made the assumption about the character of Caroline’s neighbors, apparently, based on how their houses looked. Worse, I had not even given it any thought at all. It simply never occurred to me to think past my assumption.

I believe that we are each the product of our own belief system. Indeed Jung said that, “man is so imprisoned in his type of thinking that he is simply incapable of fully understanding another standpoint.” Seeing the police cruiser on Caroline’s block that night was a wake-up call. What other unconscious assumptions do I hold? How do I identify them if I am not even aware of them? And most important, how do these assumptions shape who I am, how I show up in world, and what I believe is possible? Now these are not new questions to be asking myself, I have asked these questions many times before. I have meditated, engaged in a regular yoga practice, and spent hundreds of hours in coaching training and coaching sessions with clients. Asking myself these questions with the new knowledge of how unaware I can still be was both frightening and liberating. Frightening because for most of us, plumbing the depths of our judgments and their associated assumptions often reveals a not-so-pretty picture. Liberating because once we are free from those old assumptions, that awareness opens doors. In my coaching practice we say with awareness comes choice. The deeper our awareness is the more choices we have in how we wish to be in any given moment. And that is a beautiful thing.

Energy Blocks – Limiting Beliefs

Limiting Beliefs

We all hold beliefs that shape how we perceive the world around us. If we are not careful or if we fail to examine our belief system from time to time we may be susceptible to “limiting beliefs.” Limiting beliefs hold us back from success. If you do not believe something is possible, you are unlikely to attempt it or you will not put that much energy into achieving it. The classic example of a limiting belief is the story of Roger Bannister and his four-minute mile breakthrough. Before 1954, it was commonly believed that running a mile in under four minutes was humanly impossible. Shortly after Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes, his astounding feat was not only repeated, but others were able to better Bannister’s record within months of his achievement. How many runners in 1954 simply internalized this belief about the four-minute mile and never attempted to run faster? Until Bannister broke the record, everyone just believed “this is the way it is.”

If you find yourself stuck or are having a difficult time making small or large changes in your life, check to see if you have any limiting beliefs that are inhibiting your progress.

What we believe about our rights, duties, abilities, permissions, the way the world works, or about other people, can contain beliefs that limit our potential. They can be things we internalize from the outside (such as “girls are bad at math” or “people”). As a girl, you may have observed your father playing sports with your brothers but he never invited you to play too. As a result, maybe you developed the limiting belief that girls should not play sports with boys or that girls are unworthy of playing sports at all. If you incorporated either one of those limiting beliefs into your worldview, how likely is it that you would choose to join an after-work soccer league? How might your beliefs about what females can or should do relative to physical activity affect your choices around healthy living?

The antidote to limiting beliefs is self-awareness.

Having limiting beliefs is not really the problem, having limiting beliefs with no awareness of how they affect your choices is the real problem. Every time you find yourself saying “I do/do not,” “I cannot,” “I must/must not,” or “I am/am not,” check to see if there is a limiting belief driving what you believe to be possible or true.

Thinking to yourself “I am an accountant; therefore, I do not do marketing and should not even think about that because it is a waste of my time” limits your ability to sell your services well.

Thinking, “I cannot sing” can limit my choices and any opportunity I might have at singing. I may not even bother to consider that I might enjoy singing lessons.

Values, norms, laws, and other rules that constrain what we must and must not do bind us. However, not all of these are mandatory and some are distinctly limiting. If I think “I must clean the house every day” then this robs me of time that may be spent on something more productive.

Now imagine in every example above, we are aware of the limiting belief. All of a sudden we have a choice. Here are some ways to break free from limiting beliefs:

  • Challenge the belief and provide evidence to the contrary. If you believe that women are not able to compete with men in sports, check out Billie Jean King’s story and watch her beat Bobby Riggs in 1973.
  • Explore what effect the belief has had on your life. If you have a belief that men do not show emotion and that doing so is a sign of weakness, you can take a look at how this has helped or hurt your relationships.

Usually, when we can take a closer look at the beliefs that limit us, they tend to lose their power over us. Just ask Roger Bannister!

 

 

Energy Blocks

Introduction to Energy Blocks

Imagine that you are asked to participate in a meeting or networking event. Perhaps the event is organized around a particular business purpose, or maybe it is the first time you are attending your child’s school PTA meeting. It could be a meeting with fellow church or community members after moving to a new place. Perhaps you are attending a social gathering with individuals you hope will invest in your business idea or technology product. Maybe you have been asked to make a presentation on some topic to a room full of strangers.

Now imagine that you are about to walk into the meeting or event. It is the moment right before you walk into the room and step onto the stage or to the podium. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What beliefs do you hold about the people with whom you are about to engage? How do you perceive your energetic status at that moment?

Ah, yes. Energy—a word that is tossed around quite a bit, but how is “energy” defined as it relates to human consciousness? Why does that word seem squishy and vague? What exactly is energy? The answer is simple and complex at the same time: simple because energy is everything and complex because energy is, well, everything. Everything you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and even think is made up of vibrating, living energy. In the context of coaching, energy is about the way you “show up” in the world; it is about your level of conscious awareness.

The more awareness you have about how your particular energetic pattern shows up in the world, the greater your capacity to manifest what fulfills you and makes your life rich with joy, passion, and contentment. When your energy is flowing from a place of consciousness, it is a lot like a garden hose. When the hose is unfurled and kink-free, water effortlessly flows out and nourishes the garden; in this state, there are no blocks slowing the flow of water and the hose functions at peak efficiency.

For us non-garden hose beings, there are four types of energy blocks that inhibit our flow. In this five-part series, I will explain the overall concept of energy blocks. The next four posts will go into more detail about each one of the four internal energy blocks, how to identify them, and how to release them.

The four blocks are (1) limiting beliefs, (2) interpretations, (3) assumptions, and (4) the inner critic. I can almost guarantee you that virtually every difficulty, challenge, fear, or negative thought, feeling or emotion is rooted in one of the above energy blocks. The trick is learning how to identify them in the moment and then choosing a different level of awareness. I will explain these blocks in reverse order of potency:

  1. Limiting beliefs. These are the beliefs we hold about the world, about people, about situations, and about life in general that hold us back. These beliefs may not necessarily be about you, but can be ideas such as (a) crying is a sign of weakness, (b) venture capitalists do not invest in women entrepreneurs, or (c) personal sacrifice is necessary to achieve anything of high significance. Most of the time, a limiting belief is an idea that we have simply absorbed without much consideration of that belief’s veracity. Think back to the thought experiment at the beginning and imagine that you are a woman about to pitch your idea to a group of investors. If you hold the limiting belief that venture capitalists do not invest in women entrepreneurs, how would that belief affect your energy in that moment?
  2. Interpretations. The opinions we create about an event, situation, or experience are interpretations. We tend to interpret a thing, person, situation, or experience through the lens of our experiences and (limiting) beliefs, and unconsciously look for evidence to support our particular interpretation to validate the truth of the story we tell ourselves. Actually, our interpretations often represent only one among many possible viewpoints. When we continue to consciously or unconsciously accrue evidence to support our interpretation, we can wind up creating an energy block that keeps us from being all that we can be. As an example, imagine you are at that venture capital pitching event and you notice that one of the potential investors is an old acquaintance. From across the room you wave hello and that person ignores you. Perhaps that person was not wearing their glasses and did not notice you waving, yet you interpret their behavior as deliberately ignoring you. How would that influence your energy when it comes time to present your idea to the group? What might you think about your chances of being successful with the person who is ignoring you?
  3. Assumptions. Beliefs, mostly unconscious, that we hold about the past and that we apply in the present fall in this category. We convince ourselves that because something happened in the past, it will automatically happen again. Assumptions are more potent than limiting beliefs because they involve us personally and have to do with our personal experiences. Assumptions are one of the most insidious energy blocks and they show up everywhere. An assumption can go like this: the last time I presented my ideas to a group, I was not understood; I am not a good communicator. Because I am not a good communicator, I assume this presentation is going to be really hard for me. If you assume you are a bad communicator and presentations are difficult, how well will you be able to inspire others with your idea? How might that affect how you “show up” for the presentation?
  4. Inner Critic. Sometimes called the Gremlin, the inner critic lies within everyone. It is that little voice—sometimes loud and sometimes soft—but always there to tell us that we are not good enough. It tells us not to try, not to take risks, to take the safe road, and to play small so that we avoid failure. The most potent and powerful of all the energy blocks, the inner critic is more emotionally charged, and when it speaks it is hard not to listen. And when you do listen, you will not even attempt some things because the critic has already convinced you that you will fail or suffer humiliation. This inner critic or gremlin is uniquely yours; your own special sauce of toxicity, and it knows precisely how to make you shrink from your highest potential. Typically, the inner critic tells you, “Do not even try to get this idea funded; you will be exposed for the fraud you really are. Do you want to be exposed? Do you want everyone to know how inexperienced you are? You will never succeed as an entrepreneur; better to go back and get a real job.”

I will go into more detail about each one of these blocks in the next four parts of this series. If you are feeling like any of these blocks might be showing up in your life, give me a call and I will help you create a customized approach to banish these blocks from your consciousness and get your energy flowing freely.

Peace,

~Dyana