Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.


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Judgments, criticism, and blame are tragic expressions of unmet needs

Unfortunately, we usually hear them as a message of wrongness of us, of who we are in our core being. We take the message personally and defend or doubt ourselves, or we withdraw within.

It is often easier to hear criticism, blame, and judgment from a stranger, from someone who is not that close to us. As soon as the message comes from someone who matters to us and the issue is tied to our sense of self-worth, we struggle.

How’s that?

Empathy with a partner, dear friend, or sibling when they express blame, judgment, or criticism is harder, because they are more important than a stranger. Their opinion of us matters more than the opinion of someone we don’t care about. We spend so much time with them, that they become our main strategy to meet our needs for love, acceptance, belonging: essential needs for our human existence.

David Schnarch talks about differentiation as “your ability to maintain your sense of self when you are emotionally and/or physically close to others-especially as they become increasingly important to you.” Differentiation would be very helpful to hear hard-to-hear messages more easily. Unfortunately, differentiation is not something that’s being taught at school.

Image courtesy flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/8043877054Now what?

I offer two tips that can help you reach enough differentiation to hear hard-to-hear messages without too much upset.

Localize the criticism

Translate the negative message about you as a person into an event that is localized in time and place. Transform an evaluation of you as a person, into feedback about something you did. It is about, for example, the fact that you left without saying goodbye yesterday afternoon, instead of being judged as a cold and uncaring person. When you help your loved one distinguish between you and your behavior, it is easier to empathize with what they are trying to say.

Guess feelings and needs

We experience our shared humanity at the level of feelings and needs. We all know what it is like to feel sad, lonely, angry, disappointed, scared, ashamed, embarrassed. We all have needs for acceptance, love, support, understanding, safety, reassurance, connection, belonging, play, autonomy. When we move beyond the details of the story into the depth of feelings and needs, we develop a sense of understanding. We might even ask questions to better understand the other one: “Tell me what saying goodbye means to you?” “What rituals did your family have around saying goodbye?” “In an ideal situation, what would saying goodbye look like?”

Go practice!

I am pretty sure that these two tips help you to hear your spouse, child, co-worker share their hard-to-hear-message with more acceptance, compassion, and understanding.


You want help to listen with empathy to hard-to-hear messages? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free, discovery session to see how I can help.


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How does your future self inspire you?

My future self is calm, wise, compassionate, open, exuberant, welcoming, peaceful, radiant with love. Yep, fun to be around with. I would love to have her as my friend. She is grounded in the truth that she matters and is valued and respected, even if no one else conveys that message. She knows she doesn’t have to do anything or be anyone to earn love, acceptance, and belonging. She knows she is good enough just by being who she is right now, no amendments needed.

Gosh, I would love to be her!

As I realize that I can be her, something changes in me. After all, I am talking about my future self. Not some heroine or movie star. This is not Julia Roberts or Mother Theresa. This is Elly van Laar, six months from now.

Wow. That means that it is in my power to manifest her in this world. Then the question is not “Is this possible, do I have this in me?”. The question is “What do I have to do right now, to get me one step closer to her?”

It might be that I catch myself, and stop myself from yelling. It might be that I try to see the world through the eyes of my friend, getting his perspective. It might be that I trust and relax in my husband’s love. Or that I sit and enjoy the sun and the Bougainvillea, or play at Barton Springs, or knit a Christmas bauble, or read a book.

Any of those would bring me one step closer.

When I connect to my future self, I am inspired by who she is, and all I want to do is emulate her example.

It is that simple.

I sit down. I follow my in-breath and out-breath, and notice whether it is shallow or deep, slow or fast.  I appreciate how it supports me. I notice my physical sensations, and accept them for what they are. I put my hand on my heart, and breathe in love and compassion. I imagine that my future self sits next to me. I look her in the eyes. I step into her world, and absorb her life. The friends she has, the activities she does, the house she’s in. I take a bird view and look at the six months between my current self and my future self. I see all the courage, commitment, and creativity it took to walk toward her. She looks me in the eyes and offers me a present. A precious gift to help me take the first step toward her.

I accept it and take the first step.


You want help to connect to your future self? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see if and how I can help you.


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Something is wrong with mindfulness

I am absolutely sure. It is idiotic to sit on a meditation cushion, bring my awareness to my breath, while I should do something to stop IS from abducting Yezidi women and selling them as sex slaves or using them as cannon flesh. Or at least spend my meditation time to increase my income. Or if not that, to clean the house.

Sitting on a cushion doesn’t help anyway. I still have moments of overwhelming doubt, fear, loneliness, jealousy, anger, even rage. I yell and lose my temper maybe even more than before.

How mindful is that?

I pause.

I breathe in. All the self-doubt and self-criticism. I breathe out. Love, light, and relief. “May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.”

I think of all the other men and women who doubt whether their path makes sense. If they’re making a difference. I breathe in all their self-doubt and self-criticism. I breathe out to them love, light, and relief.

I feel calmer now.

Mindfulness is not about achieving a goal. Mindfulness is not about changing what you feel, what you think. Mindfulness is about being present with all that arises within you. Mindfulness is strengthening the compassion muscle, and accepting your experience with a little bit more acceptance each time you breathe in. Mindfulness is the willingness to engage all aspects of yourself, even those you don’t like. Mindfulness is the practice to open up to yourself more fully, and by doing so to embrace life more fully.

And as any practice, there are setbacks, plateaus, disillusions, frustrations. That’s fine. Because, as with any practice, the practice itself is the goal and the goal is to practice. No achieving, no changing. Just practicing. And no one can fail at that.

Maybe mindfulness isn’t such a bad idea after all.


Do you want help to practice mindfulness? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see if and how I can help you.