April 30, 2009

The Unfinished Line

(Note: at my workshops, I often use the metaphor of the loosening or loss of blinders as a result of inquiring into stressful beliefs.)

The Unfinished Line

by Carol L. Skolnick

At the starting gate, with blinders on,
My only direction is what I can see.

I ask, "Is it true?" and the blinders fly open.
And now, peripheral vision. Depth perception.

With each reversal, a wider horizon.
And something's behind me, above and below.
I can have this? And this? And this too?

The old path remains, if I still want to run there.
Everything is available...
Even not running at all.
Whose legs are these?

Funny thing...
This wider vista, dazzling, has no fuzzy edges.
Everything is so sharp and so clear;
So solid and so transparent.
It was always that way.

Why hadn't I noticed?

I close my eyes to the view.
The way home.
It doesn't go away.

The finish line.
The starting gate.


©2009 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

April 27, 2009

Deadly Shoulds: "If I do my best for them, they shouldn't criticize me."

"If I do my best for them, they shouldn't criticize me."

Is it true they shouldn't criticize me? Especially since I've done what they wanted, worked hard to live up to everyone's expectations? YES!

And what is the reality of it? They're critical.

How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought? Effin' A! I'm so p.o.'ed and resentful. How dare they be critical after all I've done, after I've been so agreeable, so accommodating, such a hard and dedicated worker?

When I believe this thought, I become a self-sacrificing doormat who is never appreciated for all I do. I don't want to hear their criticism; I block it, I deflect it, I put it back on them. I don't want to consider that anything they say might actually be true. I feel like an idiot for having done this "for them."

I keep score. I expect praise. I disappoint myself when praise is not forthcoming. I see them as nit-picky, impossible to please. I try to change their minds about me; I might be obsequious and over-accommodating so that they won't be critical. I step far out of my comfort zone, do too much, then hate myself for it. My happiness becomes contingent on their validating me. My love and approval for them relies on this also. I withhold love. I make them my judge and jury.

I expect them to overlook my flaws in favor of my efforts.

This one definitely has roots in my relationship to my mother, once again...as young as age eight, lots more when I was a teenager. She was honest with me; if I didn't do a good enough job picking up my toys or washing a dish, she let me know, and I hated her for it.

When I was ten and we moved, at my new school I tried hard to fit in and when I didn't receive party invitations or Valentine cards, I "knew" I was disliked and that this should not be. I treated other children as my judge and jury; I had to be careful around them, always say yes to their demands, never be myself (which would be just too weird for them, I surmised). I began to be very concerned with appearances, what I wore, how I talked, right down to how I sat in my chair at school (I'd imitate the way the most popular girl in class sat, even though my legs were half the length of hers and it was impossible.) I lived in fear of being picked on; I feared them and disliked myself.

As a direct response writer, I took criticism and correction of my work very hard if I had already revised the project one or more times to suit the clients...especially if they dared to change their minds about what they wanted!

What do I get for holding this belief? I get to be a righteous victim. How's that working for me? Not so well, as I still feel victimized. There is no satisfaction in being a righteous victim, ever.

Who would I be without this thought? Open to criticism; it could be very instructive. Not taking criticism personally; it's their opinion, as valid (or subjective) as kudos. I could ask for clarification without defense; if I truly want to do my best for them (and not to manipulate them into treating me a certain way), this will help me to do that. I would be in my integrity and in my own business mentally.

Turn the thought around:
If I do my best for them, they should criticize me.
1. It can bring about clarity about what is truly expected and whether or not I'm up to the task or even want to fulfill that expectation.
2. If they are critical, it is their job. If I am hurt or angered by their criticism, my job becomes clear: work on my stressful beliefs.
3. How else was I to get out of that dead-end job and have not one, but two terrific new careers?

If they do their best for me, I shouldn't criticize them. Oh. Oops.
1. My father did his level best for me, always, and I always let him know he failed me.
2. My direct reports when I was a manager: I could have helped them to do a better job rather than be critical (had I known how to do that. And that brings me to another insight about the first turnaround: maybe people simply don't know how to help me do better by them.)
3. A great mentor of mine, in retrospect, gave me everything she had in the first five minutes of our acquaintance, but for years, I always wanted more and more and more. Since more was not forthcoming, simply because there wasn't anything else she could possibly give me, I found fault with her over and again.

If I do my best for myself, I shouldn't criticize myself. Yes, it would be good to be gentler with myself, let myself off the hook for not being perfect.
1. Being critical of my best efforts has never made me do better and in fact has been de-motivating.
2. When I recognize my best efforts as my best, given my resources at the time, I can honestly assess whether there is any room or possibility for improvement, and improvement is more likely to happen.
3. In looking back at my life, I can see my "mistakes" in a kinder light and even determine that the choices I made were perfect...they brought me to this, now. Now, without a story, is a place of peace, where no criticism of myself or others can stick.
So how could it not have all been for the best?

©2009 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

April 26, 2009

Deadly Shoulds: "If I work hard to please them, they'll like me."

Are you a people-pleaser? What is your motive? Do you believe that people should like you if you work hard to please them? I found this core belief for myself: "If I work hard to please them, they will like me." Cause and effect, right? Isn't that how we're taught that it works? Work hard in school, you'll get accolades. Work hard at the job, you'll get raises, promotions, recognition. Work hard at your relationship and your partner will love you forever. Let's see how that's working...

"If I work hard to please them, they will like me."

Is it true?

How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought? I am out of my integrity. I say yes to things I don't want, and I forgo what I might want to have or do according to their wishes.

I don't give much thought to pleasing myself, other than believing that their love will be pleasing to me.

My work "for them" comes with conditions. It's not for them, it's for me. I don't realize this, so I blame them when I don't get the desired results. I see them as unkind, ungrateful, impossible to please, and as not loving me. Images: my mother, criticizing me for not being helpful after I've been on my hands and knees for hours cleaning cat hair and roach crap out of her apartment. Feeling devastated when my boyfriend left quickly after love-making in order to go be with his kids. Getting fired from the company where I'd worked for more than 10 years and after many raises, stellar reviews and several promotions. Hearing a speaker at an ashram program saying "There is nothing we can do to repay all that the guru has given us" and translating that as, "I need to work harder to be worthy of guru's grace."

I give away all my power and self-esteem to them. I need them to validate me, and I need this not just once, but continually.

What do I get for holding this belief? Another one of those insurance policies that don't pay out in the end due to some technicality.

Who would I be without that thought? Working hard for the joy of working, or not working so hard. Either way it would be with the recognition that I work to please myself. I would work honestly, doing my best because it feels right or to honor my commitmemts. I would not be manipulative, therefore I would be honest, saying, "No thank you, doing that won't work for me," or asking, "If I do this for you, will you love and appreciate me for it? I only want to do this as an exchange." (People don't talk this way. Why not?) I would not be afraid of losing validation; I would validate myself.

Turn the thought around:

If I work hard to please them, they won't like me. Just as true.
1. Mother: my efforts never moved her.
2. Others: they either like me or they don't, not based on what I do.
3. Job: even though I was a hard worker and bringing money into the company, when the new boss took over he preferred I not be there anymore.

If I work hard to please them, I won't like them. Oh, yeah. With every ounce of effort I put into pleasing people, there are two ounces of resentment.
1. My unappreciative mother; I couldn't stand her when I was working hardest for her.
2. Boyfriends. I didn't respect them when I was using my body as collateral.
3. My job. The harder I worked to keep that job by trying to make the new boss and his cronies happy, the more I hated my job, and resented them for not liking me.

If they work hard to please me, I won't like them.
Absolutely I can find that.
1. No man, for example, has ever made me love him by trying to make me love him; I love to receive flowers, compliments and favors as much as the next person; however no amount of flowers, compliments or favors has ever turned my head if the relationship isn't right.
2. I didn't appreciate many of my father's efforts to please me while I was growing up; in fact I found them annoying.
3. If I'm in a funk, efforts to please me are wasted. You think I'm wonderful, you want to buy me dinner? Thanks, I accept. Well, that didn't work. Now, go.

If I work hard to please myself, I will like myself. That seems like the truest turnaround. Ultimately I can only please myself, so I like myself when I do things to please myself.
1. I like myself when I no honestly and say yes only with integrity...and this is hard work for me.
2. I just love myself when I spend a lot of time to get my home, my desk, my computer files cleaned up and everything's just the way I like it.
3. If I throw a party and I'm very clear that I'm doing it out of joy, generosity, love and because I like parties, I just love myself for doing it. (If I expect people to help me, enjoy themselves, appreciate me and proffer reciprocal invitations, and they don't...I end up disliking all of us.)

©2009 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

April 25, 2009

Deadly Shoulds: "She should appreciate me for what I do for her."

(Note: This particular "she," while sparked by a recent incident, could fit any number of people in my life, past and present.)

"She should appreciate me for what I do for her."

Is it true?
No, she doesn't seem to.

How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought? I expect payback, or at least acknowledgment of how nice I've been. I want her to refuse my efforts if she's not going to appreciate me. I resent her, feel used, see her as taking advantage of my generosity. I see her as a taker, a sponge, even a psychopath, someone with no feelings. I am hurt and I make my hurt feelings abundantly clear by being passive-aggressive, nasty, whiny, needy.

Sometimes I do even more things for her to try to garner love and appreciation.

I treat people as if there's a contract: If I do something for you, you will fawn all over me and/or do something for me. You will always include me, think of me, be indebted to me.

I want to warn other people about her. I see her as unkind, unfit to be a friend, unfit to be with people and I want everyone to know.

I see myself as a martyr or a patsy, like someone who is not lovable unless they buy love. I beat myself up for being so naive. I stop trusting people. I consider revoking all friendships.

I don't give to her, or anyone, with an open heart and hand.

I discount everything she's ever done for me.

I regret ever having done anything for her.

The thought first occurred to me when, as a child, I excitedly bought gifts with my allowance for my parents on Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays...and if they didn't like the gifts I felt hurt, angry and regretting having sacrificed my time and money on them. I felt they were rejecting me personally.

I remember being kind and nice to other children at summer camp, and then they turned on me or left me out.

Underlying belief: People should be grateful. It's wrong to receive without giving. I need people to be loyal to me. I need to be included.

Why do I hold this belief? To protect myself, so that she and others won't ever walk on me, disappoint me or leave me out again (though it doesn't appear to be helping as I had two more incidences of such things within a week's time).

Who would I be without that thought? No regrets Remembering how great it felt to do things for her, to give her something, to include her, prior to the thought that I needed something back. I would be my generous and open-hearted self and we'd still be friends. I'd notice that whenever I have done anything for anyone, I have done it primarily for myself. I would therefore not hesitate to continue to be kind and generous to others without trying to secure my future with them.

Turn the thought around:

She shouldn't appreciate me for what I do for her.
1. Not if she doesn't. I can't micro-manage anyone else's behavior towards me.
2. Not if I did things for her with ulterior motives.
3. Her not appreciating me leaves me with myself to validate me.

I should appreciate myself for what I do for her.
1. Yes, truer; I should love myself for giving and doing when I know to do that, when I do it out of love.
2. I should appreciate myself for knowing that this person does not always reciprocate or even acknowledge what comes to her, and yet not going against my giving nature and continuing to be generous with her even when I felt hurt.
3. I should pat myself on the back for doing what I did for my mother for the rest of her life after my father died; it was the most difficult thing I ever did, "unappreciative" is an understatement for how she was, and I knew it was the right thing and rose to the occasion.

I should appreciate her for what she does for me.
1. I should appreciate her for not appreciating me. It really shows me where my Achilles' heel is and where I have work to do.
2. I should appreciate the many ways she has encouraged me and held my feet to the fire when I was too tired, sad or righteous to do my inner work
3. I should appreciate her for inviting me to and showing me around her hometown, introducing me to some of her friends, arranging meetings for us, teaching me some great exercises, sending me photographs, driving me places...the list goes on. I haven't always appreciated these things and in fact expected some of them as my due.

I should appreciate her for what she does for herself.
1. Not only do I appreciate it, I'm jealous of it. She is really independent and self-sufficient, needs no one.
2. Because she does things for herself, she is low-maintenance, a great house guest for example.
3. I should appreciate that after I did something for her, she was done with me and thought only of herself and her desires, because it was unmistakeably what I needed. It really turned out okay; I was shown a lot of love and affection and caring that week and also had some good alone-time to see things about myself and my assumptions that I really needed to see.

©2009 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

April 24, 2009

Question the "Seven Deadly Shoulds"

My friend Glenn alerted me to this wonderful list of beliefs from the book The Disease to Please by Dr. Harriet Braiker—a book about the addiction to approval.

"The Seven Deadly Shoulds"

1. Other people should appreciate and love me because of all of the things I do for them.
2. Other people should like and approve of me because of how hard I work to please them.
3. Other people should never reject or criticize me because I always try to live up to their desires and expectations.
4. Other people should be kind and caring to because of how well I treat them.
5. Other people should never hurt me or treat me unfairly because I am so nice to them.
6. Other people should never leave me or abandon me because of how I make them need me.
7. Other people should never be angry with me because I would go to any length to avoid conflict, anger, or confrontation with them.

After recently experiencing a week where I felt abandoned, unloved and unappreciated by some people who have been close to me for years, I saw myself so clearly in these thoughts. I invite readers of the Soul Surgery blog to do The Work on these issues along with me.

You can approach them either as universal beliefs—e.g. "People should love me," "I need appreciation for all that I do"—or specific to one person, for example, "My father should not have abandoned me."

Let me know what you discover. I will post some of my work here as well.

April 15, 2009

5 Ways to Misery

New Teleclass and Interview, April 30

Thursday, April 30, 5 pm pt/8 pm et

Loving What Is: Teleclass and interview with Carol L. Skolnick

"Change Your Chi™" Seminars with Stephanie McWilliams

10 Cutting-Edge Speakers for $1 Each

To register, visit

A note from Stephanie:
"This speaker's series is a very personal one for me, and I'm thrilled to include my gifted and beautiful friend Carol Skolnick into this dynamic line-up! I've hand-selected 9 insightful and gifted speakers, including myself, to present you with not only an incredibly well-rounded opportunity to learn and grow, but also one that is extremely affordable — just $1 for each call! My own healing path has included a huge variety of influential teachers, so I wanted to create the opportunity for everyone to have access to these cutting-edge philosophies, no matter where you live or what your income level.

"Along with this, I'm giving everyone who enrolls an added gift — a 2-month FREE membership into my new Change Your Chi™ Network. I'm created this community to help people get information, create community and begin taking action to heal their lives. This Change Your Chi™ Network is going to be an inspirational, life-changing space where you can:

• Hear great monthly speakers on a variety of incredible healing topics
• Get a monthly lecture and Q&A session with me (Stephanie)
• Chat with me live online each week
• Receive weekly homework and uplifting inspirations
• Meet new friends on our friendly Change Your Chi™ online community
• Enroll in our monthly Change Your Chi™ Challenge where you take action and get support in one area of your life
• Make lasting transformations in yourself, your family and your community
• And get the chance to win great prizes and have fun at the same time!"


April 7, 2009

Ask a Facilitator: The "Endless Three"

Q: I've been apprehensive to share this experience and ask this question as on the surface I interpret it as quite cold. I used to make myself available to facilitate my friends anytime, and it was almost always a deep and meaningful joy. I love the turnarounds, I love the Truth, Peace, and Love on the other side of our stories, but as I have lost more and more of my interest in my stories and the accompanying emotions, I'm having the same experience with my facilitation partners. I have little interest in their lengthy responses to "How do you react when you believe that thought?" I find myself wanting to move us more quickly through question three.

How do you handle "the endless three?"

A: After all these years, I continue to be very interested in question three. If you have no interest in those answers, perhaps what you're hearing (or saying) are not answers at all, but stories. I'm not interested in backstory, "yeahbuts," "becauses" either—mine or anyone else's. I am very interested in observing how I live life, how we all live life, out of beliefs rather than out of reality. The answers to question three are observation of my past behavior: how I treat people, how I treat myself, how it feels in my body and brain when I believe a thought that's not true for me. This is the setting that affords me a contrast for question four and for the turnarounds.

For me, without the education of the four questions, the turnarounds are empty; either unsubstantiated affirmations, or sticks with which to beat myself. I want more than that: I want solid realizations that will not leave me, so that the next time I think I see a snake, I can know without a doubt that it's a rope.

Combined with the observations of question three, question four and the turnarounds give me a personal prescription for how to live more happily, peacefully and authentically. Without question three, the turnarounds can leave me feeling disconnected when "real life" kicks in and I find myself in the same situation with the same feelings as before. I will stay stuck there if I haven't given myself all that's available to me through thorough, fearless, honest inquiry.

If question three veers off into a story that takes the client away from inquiry, I point it out: "Let's go back to the question [I ask it again], and see if you can give some specifics of ____ [for instance, how you treat other people] whe you believe this thought." Or, "Let's stop here for a moment. I notice that you stopped answering the question and moved into an explanation (story, defense, justification, made it about them and not about your reaction, etc.)" Or you can simply ask the next question.

Sometimes question three takes awhile because there really is a lot to say about it; what the client is saying may not be a story. After awhile, as a faciliator (as a client also), you learn to tell the difference.

I also err on the side of letting a client ramble on a bit sometimes, particularly if they are new to The Work and very confused about what's troubling them. Everyone wants and deserves to be heard. Also, if I am listening closely, I may identify some good core beliefs out of their stories to give to the client later for further investigation.

©2009 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.