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From Fear to Freedom By Paula Joyce

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From Fear to Freedom By Paula Joyce

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Fear puts roadblocks in front of us that keep us from doing the very things that would bring us the most joy. To let go of fear, remind yourself:

  • Your fears rarely manifest.
  • Fear creates the same bodily sensations that excitement does.
  • Irrational fear dissipates when you take the first action step.

Our logical mind tells us why we are doing something or why we shouldn’t do it. Often, those reasons sound something like: I don’t have the time, I can’t afford it, I’m not capable of it… These are rarely the truth. They are, however, concepts that are society has come to believe and that throw a net of fear around our desires.

Sometimes the voice of fear is so loud that we can’t hear the “still small voice within.” What do you really want to do that you haven’t done? If you’ve lost touch with your desires, think back to your childhood dreams, joys and gifts. What do you want? Commit to doing it and you commit to yourself.

Here are some techniques to use when fear grabs hold of you.

  • Thank the voice of fear for sharing and ask it to take a seat on the couch. Often it just wants to be heard. It’s your choice whether you act upon the fear or the joy.
  • Hold hands with the fear and let it walk beside you as you move forward with your desires. Mark Twain said: “The only way around it, is through it.”
  • Listen to the words the voice is using. “I should” is a red flag warning you to avoid getting caught in fulfilling other people’s expectations that are not in your best interest. “I want” is a green light unless your actions will cause real harm, versus imagined harm, to yourself or others.
  • Perform a ritual to banish the fear. A common one is to write your fears down, tear them up and throw them away. An alternative is to burn them and spread the ashes in your garden to symbolically fertilize your dreams.
  • For those of you who have worked with me, you can discover and dissolve your hidden fears by doing the crayoning and writing exercise. When the voice of fear gets very loud, insistent and intimidating, you’re just a step fromfreedom. Take that step and feel the joy.

Creating Positive Change By Paula Joyce

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Remember Random Acts of Kindness? What happened to the craze that swept the world? It captured our hearts and minds and then vanished as quickly as it came. How do we create a society that supports and practices kindness? Currently our media seem to focus on the very opposite–murder and war. Even our politics is overrun with who said or did what terrible thing. A while ago I wrote a letter to our local newspaper’s editor asking why there wasn’t balanced reporting. The letter wasn’t printed and the reply said I was incorrect. My thought was, well maybe if you count the want ads. How can we create positive attitudes and thinking within ourselves and our children if we are bombarded by negativity? I don’t mean we should deny the injustices in the world. We need to know about the horror of a young girl being bullied to the point of suicide so it never happens again. And that’s the key. Let’s use tragedy to make the world a better place. Join us Thursday June 5th 8am Pacific Time for Paula’s new episode “Creating Positive Change” on the Voiceamerica 7th Wave Channel.

Learning to see life from a spiritual perspective can change the way we think, which changes everything. As we let go of fear, worry, regret, blame, anger, guilt, resentment, jealousy and shame, we can create the loving, joyful, prosperous, healthy life that we want and deserve.  The best or worst place to live is in our own mind. You will learn how to weed out the negativity and to be grateful and positive in word, thought and deed, resulting in your ever-increasing happiness. Uplift Your Life: Nourishment of the Spirit is broadcast live every Thursday at 8 AM Pacific Time on the VoiceAmerica 7th Wave Channel.

Emotional Abuse By Dr. Paula Joyce

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Emotional Abuse By Dr. Paula Joyce

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Most people, especially ones in abusive relationships, do not understand what emotional abuse is. If you feel so moved, I encourage you to send this article to friends, colleagues, relatives and, if appropriate, to post it at your workplace.

When I was a facilitator for The National Domestic Violence Hotline’s Decade for Change Summit, I became aware of the strong role that many businesses are assuming in educating employees and assisting victims in the workplace. The annual cost of lost productivity due to domestic violence is $727.8 million. This estimate includes work days missed as well as the employee’s inability to function properly while at work.

One aspect of domestic violence that is rarely discussed is emotional abuse. The following article helps people identify if they are in an emotionally abusive relationship. If you or someone you know is the target of emotional abuse, please seek help from someone highly qualified in this area. Initially, two books might be helpful: Emotional Abuse by Marti Tamm Loring and Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse by Gregory L. Jantz with Ann McMurray.

The following article is about a marital situation. The unfortunate truth is that emotional abuse occurs in the workplace as well. Abuse of any kind should never be tolerated and abusers should not be protected, no matter how important their title or, in the case of marriage, how much you love them. If you witness a pattern of ongoing abuse or are the target, report it to the proper person at work or take action to change your situation at home. Emotional abuse should not be taken lightly. It is a silent killer, destroying your spirit, your health and eventually your life. Be on the alert for it in your personal life as well as your work life.

Wishing you healthy relationships, Dr. Paula

The Life Doctor  

Are You Being Emotionally Abused?  

Emotional Abuse is difficult to identify. It is insidious, resembling brain washing. The abuser gets inside your mind, bit by bit altering your reality. It is not concrete like a bruise. When you’ve been hit, you know you’ve been hit. You may not know what to do about it, but at least you know what’s happened. With emotional abuse, the victim usually does not know what has happened. People who have been both physically and emotionally abused, say that the emotional abuse was worse. The physical bruises heal; the emotional scars were etched into their self-esteem, creating damage that was much harder to repair.

We have a lot of “nice” words to explain away abuse. We say things like: “Oh he’s just a control freak;” “She’s manipulative;” “He has a bad temper.” These are constructs that make abusive behavior socially acceptable and that protect abusers, letting them off the hook. It’s time to hold their feet to the fire and call their behavior by its real name, Emotional Abuse.

Many couples, as in my own case, spend years in therapy dealing with issues that are smoke screens. An abuser can go into marriage counseling and spend session after session taking the therapist and spouse off on tangents, deflecting attention from the real issue. Unless everyone knows what they are dealing with, no progress is possible. Even then, unless you are at the beginning of a relationship, abusive patterns are very resistant to change.

Emotional abuse usually occurs in the privacy of one’s home where there are no witnesses. The victim is so busy trying to maintain some semblance of self-esteem that she isn’t processing what is happening to her. What makes it more confusing is that the abuser is often a highly paid, well-respected, and/or likeable person outside of the home. Both partners participate in this public charade, pretending that everything is wonderful. I was such a good actor that I had myself convinced that I was happy. When I left him, many people even said, “But you were the perfect couple.”

Contrary to stereotypes, abuse happens to men as well as to women and is prevalent at all levels of education and financial status. Abused people, like myself, often have advanced degrees, are attractive, competent and successful in their careers. It is mind-bending to even entertain the possibility that someone with such a profile could be the victim or perpetrator of abuse. Consequently everyone gets thrown off-track. The victim, her close friends and, unfortunately, often the professional help she seeks all have difficulty believing that there could be abuse in that kind of marriage.

Through individual counseling, I finally got healthy enough to realize that my progress was so slow because I was constantly being beaten down, put down and verbally attacked in my marriage. Although the source of my difficulty had its roots in my past, it was clearly current, on-going and ruthless.

Now that I had the right diagnosis, I had to decide what to do. I had lived with the hope of a happy marriage for a lot of years and had worked hard to achieve that goal. As I wrestled with the concept of giving up hope, I confided in a Catholic friend who had spent her life trying to save marriages. I said, “How do I know he won’t change?” Her response was telling, “You have all the years of your marriage as evidence.”

I had been so busy trying to “save” him that I had lost sight of saving myself, which was really the only life I could save. I “Chose Life,” said “good-bye” to a lot of friendships, possessions and the life that I had known. As difficult as it was, nothing was as difficult as being in that marriage. The most incredible blessings have been the peace and freedom of my own space, my own life and the healthy new relationships that I have developed. I have never had a second of regret about my decision. The counseling and support that I received was essential to the successful ending of my old life as a victim and the creation of my new one with self-respect at the core.

Although the focus of this discussion is on the marital relationship, abuse can exist in any relationship. Abuse can come from parents, children, siblings, friends, bosses, co-workers, business cultures, apartment managers, clients, sales personnel, etc. In fact, if one of your relationships is abusive, there may well be others. Learning how to not be a victim is part of the healing journey. As we say “no” to what we don’t want, we get more of what we do want.

I am sharing this information in the hopes of helping others discover the reality of their own situation. My prayer is that, as individuals and as a civilization, we stop abuse now and prevent this from going into yet another generation. Below are some questions to help you identify whether you, a loved one, a co-worker or a friend is in an abusive relationship. If you suspect that you are in an abusive relationship with a male or female, please seek advice from trained professionals before you take any action. Even emotional abuse can become physically dangerous, especially when the victim is leaving. Thus, it is essential that you be fully informed about your situation and make appropriate preparations for your safety.

1.      Does he act like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

I believed that he was a nice guy with a good heart. I would explain away unpleasant behavior by making excuses for him, like “He means well.” “He had a difficult childhood.” “He had a hard day at work.” I always tried to be understanding and forgiving. I saw his negative behavior as temporary lapses. The intermittent good times were often fun and felt even more so because of the absence of abuse. He never apologized for any of his ugly behavior. According to him, he was a great guy and never did anything wrong over the decades of our marriage. Any problem we had was my fault. Some abusers beg for forgiveness, buy jewelry and flowers and swear never to do it again. They are very convincing, but they do not mean it and the pattern repeats itself over and over again. Eventually, I allowed myself to see that he was mean to me and that there was no good excuse for cruelty to anyone, let alone to someone who you claim to love.

2.      Does he isolate you socially? Are your couple friends all friends of his? Does he disapprove of your going out with your girlfriends?

He found something wrong with everyone I liked. If I did make a friend, he would undermine the relationship by “forgetting” to tell me that she called, interrupting my phone conversations, making me late to appointments. The techniques would continually change, but the effect was always the same.

3.      Are you often sick or tired (“sick and tired!”)?

I often felt hopeless, helpless and drained, while he was full of energy. He seemed like the energizer bunny, and I wondered what was wrong with me. I was so emotionally beaten down that I barely had the energy for the essentials of life. What energy I did have left, he would use up by sending me on errands to look for things and then reject whatever I found. My life juices were slowly being sucked away. By the time I left, I was sick half of every week and in danger of becoming what I refer to as “the walking dead.” Since I left him, my health and energy have been returning.

4.      Does he often make you feel badly?

He treated me with disrespect. He was the smart one, and I was the lowly one who was supposed to pay homage to his superior intelligence and knowledge. Every now and then, he would throw me a bone by saying “That’s a good idea.” His tone would be one of surprise that I actually said something that he deemed worthwhile. At different times he would be insulting, demeaning, chastening, berating, humiliating, devaluing, or threatening. At other times, he would ignore me or give me the “silent treatment.” I remember many car rides and meals that occurred in complete silence. Another tactic was to jump up and down during a meal to feed an animal, check the computer, answer the telephone—everything was more important than dedicated quality time with me.

5.      Do you feel like you’re always walking on egg shells, afraid you will say or do the wrong thing?

I would often be afraid to ask for help or bring up a topic that I knew he wouldn’t like. His response was never predictable, which always kept me on guard, never knowing when an explosion or a nasty tone or unkind remark would descend upon me. If I did ask for help, he might say “sure” in a friendly tone. Then he would talk so fast that I couldn’t follow him or else he would speak in a disdainful tone or say he was too tired to help. If I asked him to speak nicely, he would tell me that I was too sensitive or that I was just imagining that he was yelling or being rude.

6.      Is he controlling?

He always knew everything. My desires and opinions were not relevant or they were just wrong. We had money for what he wanted but not for what I wanted. He always knew what I should do, how and when. Everything seemed to revolve around his needs even when he made it seem like he was doing it for me. Sometimes he would appear to listen to me and then ignore my opinion and buy or do what he wanted. He always had convincing logical arguments as to why his decision was the right one. If I did buy or do something I liked, he would control how I felt about it by saying so many mean things that he sucked out all of the joy. He also controlled my emotional state by setting me up for disappointment time and again. He would establish an expectation, like watching a movie together every Sunday night. After one or two times, he would end the interaction without saying anything or with some “logical” or unkind excuse, leaving me feeling rejected and deserted.

7.       Is he manipulative?

He would use language in a distorted way to create some kind of illusion. He would often say “I don’t know how to get you to do …” I would say, “You don’t have to get me to do it, just tell me what you want.” That wasn’t part of his way of doing things, though. Open and honest communication was not an option. He wanted to trick me into doing what he wanted. He would withhold information, give me partial information or lie to get me to make the decision and take the action that he wanted.

8.      Does he tell you what to eat?

When we were out to dinner, he would pretend to be helpful by reading me select items from the menu. In effect, he was limiting my choices and sending me the message that I couldn’t even decide what to eat without him.

9.     If you talk about divorce, does he threaten to take the children and/or to leave you penniless?

These are two common manipulative techniques that my x-husband did not use. He did, however, use both the children and the finances to hurt me.

During the marriage, he created a situation in which the children were his allies. They followed his lead and usually treated me with the same disrespect that he did. More often than not, I was humiliated, isolated and scapegoated by all of them. Since I left him, my relationships with my children have constantly improved to the point where now I have good relationships with each of them.

During the divorce, he tried to make it look like he was giving me a generous financial deal. Behind the scenes he was actually trying to take money from me that was rightfully mine. Had I not discovered his ploy, he would have left me in a financially vulnerable position with fewer assets than the law required.

10.      Is everything an emergency?

When he wanted to do something or to discuss something, everything had to stop. It didn’t matter what I was doing or what my needs were. His emergency took precedence. The problem was that everything was an emergency, especially if I was tired, particularly rushed or doing something I enjoyed.

11.      Does he physically hurt you or the children?

He would “playfully” wrestle with me and then use his strength to hurt me. Sometimes he would bump into me or step on me and claim not to see me or tell me I got in his way and should be more careful. Knocking me in the head “by accident” was another common occurrence. Somehow it was always my fault. There were a few years when I wouldn’t leave him alone with the children because I wasn’t certain that they would be safe.

12.      Does he engage in win-lose thinking?

Abusers think win-lose while the victims think win-win. I was certain that we had the same world view and were both working for win-win. Since we weren’t, he always had the upper hand. I wanted peace, harmony and cooperation. He wanted to win and was not happy unless I was losing. I would compromise and accommodate in order to maintain peace.

13.      Is he respectful of your sexual sensibilities?

If I said I didn’t like something, he would “forget.” If he was impotent, it was my fault. If I initiated, he didn’t feel like it that night. There were always subtle ways to use sex as a weapon. Many men actually rape their wives, engage in “rough” demeaning sex or totally withhold sex.

If anything here raises a question in your mind about whether you might be in an abusive relationship, please call me. Allowing yourself to see that the person you love is abusing you, is very difficult. I can help you determine if you are dealing with emotional abuse and if so, support you as you heal.

For individual or group coaching, speaking or workshops, contact Dr. Paula: paula@paulajoyce.com

Best-Selling Author    Leading Expert    Radio Show Host

Yes, You Are Creative By Paula Joyce

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Yes, You Are Creative By Paula Joyce

creativeThere is a creative intelligence within you that has been imprisoned since childhood, sentenced to a maximum security prison for the crime of self-expression. It’s desperate to break out from behind the four electronic doors that keep it hidden from you and the world.

The lock down began in your family when you first heard messages like: color within the lines; grass isn’t orange; people don’t have blue faces. Then there was the hysteria that ensued when you thought the living room wall would make a great canvas. Or maybe your sibling or parent was the real artist. You were supposed to hide your talent so they could shine.

The second door was locked by your teachers. In the process of helping you become a real artist, they taught you that you were no good. There was a right way to do it, and if you couldn’t or wouldn’t do it that way, you were no good. The so-called “best” pictures were put on display and held up as examples for everyone to honor. The rest of the students were the “have not’s.” They were made to feel bad about their work through benign neglect or direct criticism.

Our society shut the third door. It tells us what good art, music, writing, acting, or dancing is. There’s legitimate theater, experimental dance, fine arts versus arts and crafts. Then we have the critics who make sure we don’t color out of the lines or dance in the aisles.

Finally, we locked the last door on ourselves. Creating became a high risk venture. Fear of criticism coupled with self-doubt separated us from our own creativity. It was much safer to be the audience than the creator. Now we love going to concerts, seeing plays, attending art openings. We try desperately to feed the artist within ourselves through viewing and critiquing someone else’s art, all the while knowing that we are hiding. Like Rip Van Winkle, everyone thinks your artist is dead. In fact, it’s pacing incessantly inside a tiny cell, waiting desperately for an opportunity to escape.

Today is that day. The guards are so sure you’ll never have the courage to escape that they’re all playing cards in the coffee break room. Their music and chatter are so loud that they’ll never hear the electronic doors or your footsteps. Your job is easy. You just have to push the button to open each door and walk out into the freedom of self-expression and artistic creativity.

What has this article motivated you do? I’d love to hear from you about the steps that you are taking or questions about how to take that first or next step.

When I Was An Egg By Paula Joyce

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When I Was An Egg By Paula Joyce

EggWhen I was an egg, I was totally protected. I was safe, joyful, hopeful—looking forward to the ride. Life was gonna be easy—a snap. Everything was provided for me. I just had to show up and sail along. Actually, life as an egg was quite wonderful. Of course . . . there was that sperm who just came out of nowhere and crashed through my thick protective covering. Just like the male species—barging in and taking the lead. I had my eye on the shy sweet one in the corner, but then this bully just knocked him out of the way and compromised my cell wall without so much as a “May I?” or “Excuse me!” I should have known it was shades of what was to come.

Once he was inside of me, my life as a separate, independent sort was totally destroyed. I can’t go anywhere without him; and what’s more, he decided whether I’d become a boy or a girl. That just isn’t fair. I want to make my own decisions—or at least discuss things. But no, he just assumes the decisions are his to make!

Suddenly I’m subdividing and changing into—into a girl?! Now I’ll spend the rest of my life in subjugation! I liked it better when I was an egg. In fact, stand back, I’m rewinding this tape to the beginning when my life was mine.

Afterword We’ve all had our lives determined for us in some way by people, circumstances or thoughts.  Each life, regardless of gender, has its blessings and its challenges. Although there are many things we cannot control, Stephen Covey advises that we can have an impact within our sphere of influence. That sphere is strongest within our own lives.

The Labyrinth of Life By Paula Joyce

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The Labyrinth of Life By Paula Joyce

LabyrinthWalking the Labyrinth has contributed greatly to my spiritual development. I feel deeply connected to the universality of the mystical process that I engage in every time I enter the Labyrinth. As with so many of my spiritual beliefs and practices, the more I study, observe and open my heart, the more similarities I see among all of our paths. When in the Labyrinth, I feel a releasing as I move into the center, a connection with God in the middle and a going deeper into my mission in life as I exit. I feel connected to myself, to all traditions and to the oneness of the universe when I use the Labyrinth whether outdoors, in a place of worship or with my finger Labyrinth at home. A few years ago, I had the privilege of walking the Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France. The experience was profound. It always is, regardless of whether I am conscious of how or why at the moment. On this particular walk, however, I was very much aware of many feelings and insights. It actually seemed as if my whole time in France was a Labyrinth experience. The first half of the trip, I kept going in circles, thinking I was lost, and then discovering that I was just where I needed to be, even if I hadn’t planned it. Eventually I arrived at all of the places that were in my conscious plan.

In addition, I had numerous wonderful and unexpected experiences that were usually more powerful and meaningful than the plans that I had made. It felt very much like a living out of the expression, “Man plans, and God laughs.” Eventually I just relaxed into what was happening and gave up trying to control it. Without intending to, I arrived at Chartres in the exact middle of my vacation. I was quite surprised to discover that not only was the Labyrinth open, but it was “The Summer of the Labyrinth” with many special exhibits. This was in contradiction to everything I had learned before I actually started wandering around the city of Chartres. It seemed to be just like the experience of the Labyrinth (and life).

I have to ask my own questions, seek my own answers, and have the courage to explore and persevere, even in the face of uncertainty or seeming impossibility. So here I was in the city of Chartres, feeling like I was in the center of the Labyrinth, listening to God and following guidance. The last half of the trip was like coming out of the Labyrinth. I was filled with a stream of ideas for ways to pursue my artistic endeavors. I saw ideas everywhere. They poured into me when appreciating architecture, Parisians’ clothing, gardens and fountains. I was especially aware of new ideas at the most exciting art exhibit that I saw in Paris–which appeared out of nowhere as I was on my way to something else. Everything seemed to be talking to me to such an extent that I had to write things down in order to keep from losing them. Walking the Labyrinth was, of course, the highlight of the trip. My attention was continually drawn to the brilliant light coming through the window with the Tree of Life.

I was so overcome by profound feelings of gratitude and connection with the divine that my hand automatically went to my throat or heart. In the middle of these deep feelings and only partway to the center, the guards started announcing the closing of the Cathedral and that everyone had to leave. I was determined, however, to finish my walk. I continued to the center, as did a few others. I wanted to leave in a respectful manner, and there was no time to spiral out. So I decided to do as my guide had suggested earlier in the day and walk out in a few short steps, on the Labyrinth crossbars, toward the Nave. Despite the fact that the guards were blocking the way, I began my planned exit from the Labyrinth. Later, the man, who had been directly behind me, told me that I had walked with such authority that the guards parted to make a path for me. I had not really been conscious of what was happening. I was too focused on my process. His words, however, touched me deeply because they told me how far I had come in my personal growth. I had wanted to journal as soon as I left the Cathedral, but as with so many of my intents and attempts this vacation (and in life), my plan was changed when this man stopped me with a request to talk.

Once again, I released my personal plan and allowed a better one to take its place. He wanted to thank me for helping him to create a sacred space in the midst of so many people who were laughing, talking, curious or uncertain. I, too, had been distracted by these same people and had wondered whether I should say something to them. I wondered if I chose not to speak because I put their rights over mine or because I respected their right to explore the Labyrinth experience their way. And then I heard a loud voice in my head that said, “the only person you can change is yourself,” and I knew I was right to be silent and focus my attention inwardly on my journey. Then to affirm my learning, the man said that he saw people’s attitudes change as they “caught” the devotional tone that many people were expressing. He appreciated being shown how to get out of his head and into his feelings. This man and I, total strangers, who never even exchanged first names, talked very deeply for two hours. We discovered that both of us had experienced many detours during our vacation.

He speculated that maybe that was life—you need to keep your eye on a goal in order for everything else you didn’t plan to happen. Our meeting during a mystical experience seemed to be far more than coincidence, having its own mystical qualities. Each of us had something wonderful to give to the other. And so it would seem that my connection to the Labyrinth is important. I trust that exactly how will emerge slowly, one step at a time–that is, if I focus on a goal and explore the unplanned detours along the way. I would love to hear from you. In what ways have the “detours” in your life led you to new joys and experiences that you treasure?

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