Author: Julie Hawkins

5 Signs You are Being Manipulated

Clarity and insights come from many different situations.

I recently ran into a problem with my tenant’s washing machine. This unit is just about 2 ½ years new and shouldn’t really have problems. Sigh…Alas this is not the case. Being the great landlord I am, I called Frigidaire to come and check it out.

I realized after talking with Frigidaire that my warranty was NOT through them but a third party service so I contacted the warranty company and scheduled an appointment to come out.

The repairman came. After pushing buttons for 3 minutes he concluded my cold water hose was clogged, even though he NEVER looked at the hoses. (Was he trying to manipulate me?) When I asked how much it would cost to remedy he told me $240 and was NOT covered by the warranty. I declined his offer of service (although I didn’t quite say it that way).

manipulationI talked to my neighbor the plumber who told me it was probably the water intake valve. I contacted Frigidaire again and during our conversation she told me it was probably the water intake valve. I knew of another very reputable repair service I’d used about 7 years before but I couldn’t remember their name to contact them.

I belong to a couple of online networking groups so I knew if I put out the request for the name and number of the appliance repair service I’d used, someone would have it. In my request I asked NOT to be cc’d to anyone as this wasn’t really a referral. There are some networking groups that thrive on (and would just about “kill” to get credit for) giving a referral to someone else in their group. I know this because several years ago I was in the specific group that does this. I got a couple of wonderful responses with the info I needed and one very interesting reply. Here it is:

“Did you know that it is normal referral/business practice to cc the other party when referring someone so they too are not blindsided by an email or call”.

What? When was last time you heard anyone say they were blindsided by a referral? Pleasantly surprised maybe but I doubt blindsided would fall into the category of referral.

As an NLP trainer and someone whose business is all about language, I noticed immediately what her reply was: a response to an objection. She used her response to try and reframe me. In therapeutic circumstances a reframe can help to provide a different context so as to diffuse the emotional charge or trigger that may already exist with relation to the issue. In specific instances a reframe can be empowering.

tasThis woman’s response was for her benefit, not mine. She was likely taught this phrase in the networking group as a way to overcome the objection someone might have to their contact info being given out to the referral.

Her response was manipulative. What she wanted to do was to narrow my choices to only her referral. If she had cc’d the company I’d then have to deal with them and it would make it harder for me to say NO without feeling guilty or bad. I wasn’t having any part of it!

Because manipulation can be sneaky or framed to look like something else, here is my short list of some of the signs.

The situation likely involves manipulation if…

  1. You notice feeling any sense of fear or intimidation or other negative emotions such as guilt, shame, embarrassment, anger or resentment.
  2. You “give in” in order to avoid conflict.
  3. Although it may sound like “it” benefits you, it really seeks to fulfill someone else’s agenda first,
  4. What is happening causes you to feel like you have NO choice.
  5. You feel confused, like the Tasmanian Devil whirled in, spun you around and left you thinking “what just happened here”?

Generally speaking, manipulation is learned behavior. We don’t instinctively seek to overpower or control someone unless we feel threatened or out of control in some way, then it can drive our behavior. It can be complex.

So the next time someone seeks to “help” you, notice how you feel about it? Do you feel good? Supported? Empowered? Or do you feel resentment or like you have no say or choice and you were just paid a visit the Tas?

Here’s the rub, when you are manipulated, you seek to regain your control and center and may find yourself inadvertently doing the same thing to someone else. It’s OK. The next best action is to just notice that’s it’s happening so you can make a different choice the next time.

 

Taming Overwhelm & Fear: Build a bridge so you can get on the right track

Last time I talked about how feeling bad can keep you from feeling good. Obvious right? But it’s also a really complex cycle. It takes some thought and action to interrupt these old patterns. A great way to start is with the acronym I’ve used below.

R.O.W.S.

  • Recognize your triggers so you can begin to create and plan a different response that feels better.
  • Observe your own thoughts and behaviors. Remember, the feelings are yours, which means so are the triggers to these emotions.
  • Ask yourself: What do I want? What’s another way to get there?
  • Small, doable actions so you gain confidence.

For many people negative emotions like frustration, depression, anxiety, judgment, pride, stubbornness, self-righteousness, resentment, etc. can fill your conscious and unconscious thoughts, and these drive how you act. These negative emotions are symptoms and coping mechanisms. If what you’ve been doing isn’t getting you the results you want, it’s time to do something different. This is where so many people freeze up. Have faith and read on.

Start with a bridge.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4E_QthErw2A/TsEq7uRcWqI/AAAAAAAAIqY/I_m_zVgJXII/s1600/plank%2Bbridge.jpgI like the metaphor of getting from one side of the Grand Canyon to the other by jumping across it. This is a great big DUH, of course you can’t do this but people try jumping huge personal chasms all the time like this. I like the metaphor of building a bridge across the Grand Canyon, because sometimes the challenges in life can feel that BIG! this is much scarier than the bridge you likely need to build! When I talk about building bridges and developing skills, it’s one step (plank) at time, starting with the above steps.

Your bridge is a new starting point. Once you start with small, doable and repeatable steps, you become familiar with the feeling of confidence, safety, achievement and awareness; all really good feelings. This is where the next step is so VERY critical.

Getting on a NEW train – a radical action.

Imagine this. You get up and get ready for work or appointments or whatever project is happening that day. You have the same morning routine; then you take the same route to your destination. For the sake of this metaphor let’s imagine you take a train to your destination. You go to the same train station, same platform and the same route every day to get to your destination. It’s predictable, you need predictability so you get where you need to go. This is great when the destination (the results) is what you want.

One day, you decide this destination isn’t quite what you want anymore. So you go to the train station and look for another train. Aha! There is one. It’s a different model and color, has a different name and it stops at different places along the way. It’s near the same place you were going before, but it’s still different. You get on it and ride it. You do this every day and it even feels different because you arrive one track over from the previous train you were riding. Eventually though you realize that even though it’s one track over, you are really still in the same place. Then you say, “I don’t get it, I know it was a different train.”

After my partner Chris died, my adult daughter and I became estranged at a time when I wanted so much for us to be close. I would periodically reach out to my daughter, but to no avail. I would feel triggered and my deep open wound would hurt all the more. I would retreat and continue my grieving and healing process. It wasn’t until I neared the third year anniversary of Chris’s death that I got an epiphany. After reaching out so many times and feeling rejected so many times, I decided I needed to radically change my approach.

trainI got on a completely different train. I decided to withdraw complete contact with my daughter until I could figure out how I could change things. I stopped reaching out sometime in the latter part of the year and well before the holidays. I finally surrendered and fully accepted that I might never again reunite with my only child. This total withdrawal was truly radical for me. My own sister, who is a mother and trained therapist did not understand my behavior. All I knew was that I needed to make a radical change in my course.

After several months I received divine guidance that I could approach my daughter differently. I reached out and texted her almost every day for a couple of weeks and just said things like “Hope you have a good day, love Mom” or “It’s almost Friday, enjoy the weekend.”

I kept texting my one-liners and in between we had an spirited text conversation about what the next steps would be. Still we did not find agreement. Then one morning I got a text from her saying she was in town and could we meet. I was shocked, excited, anxious, and feeling trepidation all at the same time. We finally found a mutually workable place and time and met.

While not perfect (and nothing is) it was a blessed opening. I feared this would never have taken place had I not receded inward to do my own work of processing feelings and thus taking my radical action.

What is a radical action?

Radical actions can mean many things and although I don’t recommend ceasing all contact, in my case this was what needed to happen first. It can mean imagining the most painful thing you can think of, which in my case was totally releasing my daughter. The pain was excruciating and still is at times. Radical change is drastic and major and often profound. To reach profound you have to walk into, face and walk through the pain.

I emphasize radical change because you can be tricked into thinking and even believing you are acting differently. And…maybe you are. Remember the train? There is one sure way to know. Ask yourself: Am I getting the outcome I want? Be honest with yourself. If you are not getting the outcome you want, find a new train, build a new bridge, go to that painful place and face it. You will survive it, It will pass and you will see clearer, behave differently and most of all, the outcome will be different.

When you think of wanting a loving, compassionate relationship (no matter who it is with), what is the pain you’ve been avoiding? This is the painful place you need to visit.

Love IS the Answer – Part 2

Here are the facts:

kneejerkWhen you relapse into your negative feelings without seeking self-awareness and resolution, whether by choice or denial, the trigger and response, namely your pain, anger, resentment, the blame, etc. is ALWAYS, ALWAYS still there! Just because you sweep dirt under the rug doesn’t mean the dirt is gone. It’s just hidden from view. And so are your feelings. I call this reverting to your “knee-jerk” response. It’s your brain on by-pass.

As humans we are brilliant at being in denial and invoking our knee-jerk responses. They are survival skills, but not thriving skills. It likely feels  overwhelming and scary to think about changing this. So how do you start?

Easy peasy first step.

Pay attention. Feelings and emotions are there for a reason. They are full of information. The information in and of itself is neither good nor bad unless you place a value on it (e.g., right or wrong, good or bad), otherwise it’s simply information. When you choose to remove the value and see your feelings as information, you gain some perspective that you don’t have when you are sucked in by the knee-jerk response. When you pay attention to the feelings and take custody of them you take the first step toward identifying what triggers your response. It’s important to find the trigger, so you can develop a new response to it instead of your debilitating knee-jerk response.

Paying attention is my mantra. You do this by starting to notice your feelings and acknowledging them as yours. Acknowledgment sounds something like this: “Ok, I’m really pissed off.” You are not judging it, only observing it. Once you feel comfortable acknowledging your feelings, ask yourself the following questions:

What’s underneath the _________________?

How do I feel when I’m  ______________ or how do I act?

Here’s an example:

Acknowledging feeling angry.

Q.  What’s underneath the anger?

A.  frustration.

Q. What’s underneath the frustration?

A.  Anger?

Q.   What will you have if you have anger?

A. Frustration.

Q.  What will you have if you have frustration?

A. Lack of control.

Q. How will you feel if you have lack of control?

A.  Scared.

Q.  What’s underneath the fear?

A.  I don’t know.

Think about it and keep asking. You can ask it a slightly different way, such as:

Q.  How will you feel if you are fearful?

A.  scared.

Q. What are you scared of?

A.  Being hurt, rejected, feeling wrong, uncomfortable, in pain

Ok, you named it and acknowledged it.

Q.  What baby step can you take to feel the pain, etc. and not freak out?

A. I can do my breathing exercises, I can journal, I can discuss it in therapy, I can reflect on it. I can exhibit compassion for myself.

AHA! Keep asking yourself until your cry, shift, break down or get an epiphany. Be patient and stick with it. This is likely an  uncomfortable place. Stay there. You can do it. I know you can. The first time is the hardest. It get’s easier and the more you do it, the more you’ll want to do it because you’ll notice how light you feel.

What’s the benefit of taking custody of your triggered feelings when you can blame someone else for them? When you place the blame on someone else or emphatically state you have no choice, you eliminate all your possibilities for empowerment, movement, or healing. There is little room for love.

If you are like most humans you want to have choices. Isn’t this the very foundation of who we are and what we stand for? Blame, pride, resentment, anger and judgment are all stuck, stagnant, immovable feelings. When you take custody of your triggers and feelings you can then begin to change the way you look at something. Seeing things differently and choosing a new way to behave and respond means fewer and fewer knee-jerk responses. Better choices, fewer negative responses, more love and compassion.

Be patient with yourself and persevere. You can do it!

 

WIIFM? Could it save your life?

I actually love the acronym WIIFM, which stands for “what’s in it for me”? Almost everyone needs to understand specifically why investing their money, time or energy is important, before they will invest it, regardless of what the situation is. We are programmed (whether by DNA or societal conditioning – or both) to ponder and find an answer to why, what or how (although the question why is a completely different ballgame and I’ll talk about that in my next blog). People also like to know when something will happen but often do not get an answer to that question that they like. Still we are conditioned to ask and often seek the answers externally.

Sometimes it is the questions we don’t ask that have the most importance in our lives.

Take Coco for instance.

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Prove it to me!

picIf you told someone you were a singer or a veterinarian or plumber, would they ask you to prove it?

I run into people from time to time who are skeptical that I’m the “real thing.” They expect me to read their mind. I’m psychic – not a mind reader. They are two different things, although I’ve been known to say things that sound a lot like mind-reading. I understand their skepticism; I’ve been there. I’ve had many readings in the past and some were more accurate than others. Now that I’m on the other side of the table, so to speak, I find myself curious about the question of proof.

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How the space shuttle Endeavor is an example of serendipity

For those of you who don’t know, my life partner Chris who was also my business partner, mentor and best friend, passed away suddenly on December 21, 2010. For the first year I was in shock (I guess I still am) and the second year brought home the realities of reinventing everything (and I mean everything) in my life. I’ll spare you all the details because it will take a book, which is in the works.

After the first year, things got very bad for me and I knew I needed additional specialized help. I became part of a trauma and PTSD study and was assigned two amazing women as my therapists who are doing their practicum for their Ph.Ds.

Today was my therapy appointment. It had been a rough week as I cycled back into a wave of grief accompanied by depression so I was glad to be seeing my therapists. What I hadn’t planned on was that today was also the day the space shuttle Endeavor was taking her retirement flight via the Bay area down to L.A. to her new home. When I headed out this morning armed with this new knowledge, I knew I would need to allow extra time to get to my appointment because I had to take the freeway that was in the direct path that the space shuttle would fly over on her last ever journey.

I’d never planned on seeing the space shuttle; I was just headed to my appointment. The freeway was at a crawl. There were hundreds of people lining the streets, buildings and overpasses. I’m sure they had been there for a couple of hours. They wanted to see and be a part of history in the making. The closer I got to my exit the slower the traffic went until it literally stood still. At that precise moment in time I thought to myself, could it really be possible that at this miraculous moment in time I could be in the right place to see Endeavor as she flew overhead? It was a random moment. As I sat there thinking this thought I looked up and there just a few hundred feet away was Endeavor hugging her 747 mother. I cried out loud, grabbed my cell phone and began to shoot a terrible impromptu video. As bad as this video is I now have this forever memory in my mind’s eye. At that moment I was stunned and all the emotion of wanting Chris to be there to witness it with me flooded into me as well as the wondrous site of Endeavor. What are the chances I would be at the exact place at the exact time she passed by? As a side note I was actually closer to Endeavor than even this photo looks.

I believe this is serendipity. There are no coincidences in our Universe. Endeavor flying over me so low and close it was astonishing. My depression co-mingled with the joy into a crescendo of tears. It made me realize I was on a new Endeavor. While one was retiring another new one was beginning, my new Endeavor whether Chris was with me or not. The Universe and Chris and my higher self conspired for me to see and be part of this event knowing how much it could change my life. I will ponder this for some time to come and take in and absorb the serendipity and profundity of this moment.

Do you have an example of serendipity you can share?

Action or Stillness: Which cycle should you be in right now?

Sometimes as I go through the days, I’ll notice a particular pattern making itself known. As I pay attention to this I allow it to guide my direction for the day or week ahead. I like doing this because it gives me time to pause and be introspective; which is really what the next few weeks are for cyclically.

On July 14th planet Mercury went “retrograde” which happens 3 times per year and last about 17 days. Not that I’m terribly knowledgeable about astrology, but I do know when Mercury goes retrograde; I calendar it so I’ll be prepared. There are times I’m particularly sensitive to it and you may be too only you didn’t know why.

Mercury most notably influences our communication. If you’ve noticed your computer or printer doing odd things or your phone not working properly or vice verse, it is likely influenced by Mercury’s retrograde appearance. In simple terms retrograde means reverse or backward. So when Mercury goes retrograde it appears to be moving backward (it’s not really) but this is why communication can go wonky – feel backward. Additionally, we just had one of the biggest solar flare disruptions to our planet in many years. So, there is lots of cosmic activity.

It’s important to realize and remember that we humans transition through many different seasons or cycles just like Mother Nature. We are clear what to do during each of Earth’s quarterly seasons and yet I think we are sometimes stumped when we have to “deal” or “handle” our own cycles or are even surprised to realize we have them. Mercury retrograde is one of the cosmic reminders for us to pay attention to this quietly internal cycle.

Generally this means it is a good time to go within oneself and be introspective. Sit quietly with yourself and notice the things you’ve been avoiding and begin to work through them. I know this is easier said than done, but when I receive this message repeatedly I heed it. This is a time to work on those internal issues that you’ve been pushing to the back in favor of more prosperous pursuits.

Spend a little less time on sales, systems and logistics and a little more on relaxing and relating to nature, your animals and Mother Earth. Have more patience remembering that communication with others can feel more difficult. Our bodies play a tune we are sometimes unfamiliar with which is why learning to listen to your body’s needs is so important. We are not machines, at least not in the traditional sense. Give yourself time to be human before you rev up your engine again. It will happen all too soon. Taking charge of your life is quite often about listening to and respecting your inner cycles and wisdom.

Blessings n-joy,
Julie