Soft addictions: we’ve all got ’em

            As I sit in my favorite comfy chair in my living room this fine Sunday evening with freshly cut hair I began to think “I have a soft addiction.” I like to get my hair cut, get the response to getting my hair cut and it makes me happy to think about getting to make a small change to something, getting a fresh start. Plus I love the feeling of healthy cut hair and getting to style it differently, again! Now after hearing some of my rationalizations of why I like this soft addiction I will explain about soft addictions, to make sense out of why we do what we do, when we do it. First, the term soft addictions, as coined by Dr Judith Wright, author and cofounder of The Wright Institute, are explained as habits, compulsive behaviors, or reoccurring moods, ways of being or thought patterns. She continues to explain that soft addiction’s defining quality is that they satisfy a surface want but ignore or block the satisfaction of a deeper need and they numb us to our feelings and spiritual awareness by substituting a superficial high or sense of activity for a genuine feeling or accomplishment. Some of the most common soft addictions include:

  • watching television
  • going on the internet
  • sports
  • gossiping
  • nail biting
  • collecting items (coins, stamps, toys, bears, glasses, etc.)
  • shopping
  • work
  • talking on the phone
  • texting
  • being in a bad mood
  • being in a good mood
  • looking beautiful


            What we do not realize as we are engaging in these activities we call “harmless” is that they are taking up WAY TOO MUCH time, energy, intimacy and money! How much more time would we have if we didn’t talk on the phone and instead scheduled meetings and had meaningful interactions? How do we jeopardize our own safety by texting, let alone texting while driving? How many relationships do we miss out on engaging in by watching weekly television shows and veging out (aka “relaxing”)? Most, if not all, of us have numerous soft addictions and even more elaborate lists of why we have these habits. Not only do we have these addictions and the rationales to why we have them, we also have defensiveness to identifying that they take up too much time and that we are not satisfied in what we get from them. In addition, we also are often AWARE of our soft addictions and categorize them into “good vs bad” and “small vs big” addictions. The smaller they are, the less important they seem. I know I fall into this contingency. I often say “texting cannot be that dangerous” or “I don’t really want attention from cutting my hair,” which are both true and untrue, in moderation. The difference I am trying to discern and learn through is how much time and energy am I actually putting into my soft addictions and can I limit the behaviors and go for my deeper, more satisfying hungers. Some of our deeper, more satisfying hungers include:

  • wanting to be seen
  • wanting to be heard
  • wanting to be acknowledged
  • wanting attention
  • wanting to be part of a group/community


            Even through the awareness of our soft addictions we are not cured from them and the point is not to rid them from our lives. It is to become aware of WHAT we are actually looking for and HOW to go about getting it. If it is not connect with others and we find ourselves texting, why not pick up the phone or set up an appointment with the person instead. Rather than watch a weekly show and “relax,” go for a walk or read a good book, read a book with friends even. Rather than wanting to look beautiful and spending the time and money to do so, pay attention to the qualities that make you unique and develop those qualities fully. Rather than being addicted to “being a crabby person” or “being a happy person,” just be YOU, crabby, happy, sad, angry, lovely, annoying or pensive. Although these suggestions are easier said than done, I, too, need to listen to my deeper hungers and look for the connection I seek through my soft addictions.

            “So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”
Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook)

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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Personal Growth


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Pushing to the next limit

            As I excitedly got ready post co-leading a singles workshop with Andrew Mercer last Friday evening into my Saturday morning prep on my drive home from downtown, I thought “how can I utilize this amazing energy into the next accomplishment?” With this idea in mind, I went to bed,  woke up at 615a.m. Saturday morning, getting ready for our CLE running/walking club, still pondering how I make this day energizing, knowing that part of my energy was in the night before. Historically, I struggle to run faster, run harder and push my limits, as I run with other great runners, always feeling like I can do more and want to, yet feel scared to go for it. On my 7a.m. drive to my office I realized something. Why do I worry about how fast and how hard, rather than just going for it and doing my best, whatever that may look like. I’ll tell you why. I want what others have: determination, drive and endurance.  I want to be a great runner! In the first part of my morning drive I noticed I was feeling down on myself, thinking, “this is too hard” and “how do I get to the point of being a great runner?” Then a song came on the radio and broke up my pity party and stinking thinking –  thank goodness! I became aware of how messy I was thinking and started parenting myself.        

 Although my fears were valid, they do not have to hold me down and limit me. I noticed a familiar pattern: I am my own worst enemy. In that moment, I made a shift and the second half of my 45 minute drive I began to plan differently. First, I thought, maybe I will run with someone I have not run with before. Second, I will not worry about my time or pace. Third, I will run to have fun and push hard, regardless of the result. And that is exactly what I did. I got to the office, asked to run with someone new, without a clue of their pace, time or energy (actually thinking they ran slightly slower than my normal pace, so I would be able to keep up, have fun and push).

            So I am out there, on a beautiful cold Saturday morning at 8a.m., running a good speed, having a meaningful conversation, with runners ahead of me and runners and walkers behind me, feeling good. After a short time, I noticed that I was pushing myself and was being matched by my running buddy. As we were sharing I was also thinking about a few months ago when I ran with a group of women who were a step faster than my normal speed, wanting to again push harder than the previous month. So again I thought “I am happy I am not focusing on beating people, keeping up and worrying I cannot make it,” like I have in previous months. This run I felt matched and happy to go for it with someone who held the space for me, as I did for him.

Finally, 9a.m. quickly approached and we were meeting up with other runners and the lead of the running club, Nancy Rollins, to regroup and head back to the office. As we are all preparing to head back to our cars and meet at our offices for group time, something really cool happened! I decided to approach someone from the group of women I ran with a few months ago to see how her run went and she commented on watching me run. “How, pray tell, would that be possible” I thought? To my surprise, the running buddy I had picked ran a hair FASTER and I was slightly ahead of my last biggest challenge: the group of runners from a few months ago! I was shocked and so excited; still am actually! This affirms that when I go for myself, I have the capacity to GO FOR MORE, rather than allow myself to talk myself out of pushing. My NEW goal is: I am going to push for it, have fun and kick my own butt – again (which I will apply at the Lake Front 10 Miler in April). Wish me luck!!

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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in Personal Growth


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I have a broken wanter…

            I have a broken wanter. Yep, I sure do. Having a broken “wanter” means that I have numerous family rules, myths and beliefs that limit me from asking for what I want, my ability to want and therefore getting things (tangible and intangible) from others. I simply do not want enough, do not intend to get it or think that I probably will not get it and STAY COMFORTABLE rather than take the risks I need to take to get what I want, when I want it. My fears hold me back: fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of my feelings, fear of success and fear of change. When these ugly and useful fears come forth, I get shut down and get “a broken wanter,” which keeps me from going for what I want, asking for it and getting things from coworkers, friends, family and in relationships. WHAT A BUMMER I am to myself. Yes, I am my own worst enemy. I allow my defense mechanisms, rules, myths and beliefs to run my day and maintain my personal power.

            The Wright Institute explains power as the ability, skill, or capacity to do work and work as being effective or achieving a desired result; all of which get shut down and limited by our own fears and insecurities. It would make perfect sense than that the term “broken wanter” would occur, meaning I cannot ask for what I want because:

  • I am too much
  • I feel scared to be held accountable for what I ask for
  • I do not want to fail
  • I do not want to be rejected
  • I do not have intention on actually getting what I ask for
  • I am not strong enough to take a risk for what I want
  • It is rude to ask for things
  • I do not want to use people
  • I do not need support, I can do it alone
  • It is better to give than receive


            As a result, I am challenging myself and others do bypass family rules, myths and beliefs, to increase the infamous broken wanter and to go for it! I WANT TO ENGAGE! As I continue my personal growth work I am realizing that not only do I have a TON of work to do, that I can also help others do their work and push past their fears, defenses and mistaken beliefs. I, too, am afraid to make a mistake and fail yet I want to expand my personal power by asking directly for what I want and need in my life rather than take the easy road and comfortable way out, which I constantly am in battle with. I am learning, slowly, to be more intentional, direct and truthful in looking into what I want and need and am going to ask for. It is a scary journey but fruitful. I WANT TO BE SEEN, RECOGNIZED AND TO MATTER, that’s my want for this week…

            What are the things you want for yourself and are afraid to ask for? At The Center for Christian Life Enrichment, we encourage everyone, including me, to increase the capacity of our “wanters”; I want to go for more and I will hold myself accountable!

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Posted by on February 23, 2011 in Personal Growth


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Valentine’s day: superfluous or meaningful relationships?

            Every February 14th, in places all around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged, all in the name of St. Valentine. Hence, February 14th is the “eternal day of romance, love and happiness”! I want to challenge what we think of “romance, love and happiness.” As we appreciate patron saint Valentine year after year, we appreciate over priced chocolate, over priced roses and dozens of dozens of cards rather than connection, engagement, meaningful conversation. I propose that rather than 1 day of chocolate, roses and cards that say I love you, becoming a month long celebration of who we love, what we love and how we are able to appreciate each other, through celebrating others and ourselves.

            I want to be celebrated! I want meaningful conversations and relationships! I want to learn my love language and the love language of others! The problem I am having is disengaging from the superfluous items and re-engaging to the meaningful things in my life. I am not looking for a box of chocolates and a dozen roses to be given by a man who thinks he is expressing his love; I am looking for an engaging conversation where the man I love tells me he loves me and I can feel the love he is expressing through our relationship. I am looking for honesty, truth, vulnerability, a fair fight, a meaningful conversation, dinner at home made together, fun and playful dates and finding time to enjoy the things we like doing together. Why it is then that I still automatically gravitate towards the candy and card aisle at the grocery store near this holiday? Because I am wired to want the superfluous, rather than the meaningful; we all are. Through personal growth work and the work I do at my office, The Center for Christian Life Enrichment, I am becoming aware of my true hungers and yearnings, which include giving up chocolate, roses and cards for an expression of love and meaningful relationships. To mark the words of a very old saying “It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.” Goodbye superfluous, hello meaning!

            If you are interested in making your current relationship more meaningful please consider attending our CLE Couples Retreat, February 18-20th at The Dekoven Retreat Center. We will be looking at:

­       The Power of Attachment

       Building Intimacy in Relationships

­       Improving your ability to create safety in your relationship

­       Learning how to foster emotional closeness and intimacy

­       Identifying unhealthy patterns of relating to each other that are undermining your satisfaction

­       Generating positive patterns of connection with your partner—enjoy playing and having fun together

­       Finding support and encouragement with other couples who want to have authentic and dynamic relationships

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Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Personal Growth


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The power of truth and inclusion

                As I went to bed last night with numerous inches and inches of snow accumulating all around me, as I watched from the window, I realized a few things: MY FEELINGS!  1) I felt scared and excited to get snowed in, 2) I felt like a little girl being bad, wanting to escape my next day responsibilities, 3) I wanted to check out and isolate and 4) I shut down, which came to my attention 12 hours later. Why would in this “child’s dream come true snow day” would I shut down, one might ask? After having my first virtual staff meeting at CLE, processing our feelings around not actually being in the office, the ways some wanted to check out and others wanted to engage, I realized that through miscommunication the previous evening was where I began to shut down and wanted to isolate, shying away from the two things that could have helped: TRUTH and INCLUSION! Truth from telling my coworkers I was worried about communication and safety (my own and theirs), that I was scared to battle the snow-athon, that they mattered to me and I wanted to go to work, regardless of the 2 feet of snow. In withholding my truth I created exactly what I was afraid of: setting myself up to feel more alone through the resistance to inclusion. At CLE and the Wright Institute I am realizing that I often live through a self fulfilling prophecy, wanting to connect with others yet excluding myself, not reaching out for support and then getting angry that I do not get the support I am looking for. This is what I call A DIRTY DEAL, no one wins, especially not me. When I withhold my truth, I cannot be vulnerable and let other people join me in my journey, I hold people at arm’s length and cannot be my authentic self. As I continue on my personal growth journey I battle my own stinking thoughts and I can be my own worst enemy, allowing myself to shut down rather than engage fully. I regularly believe that others are not out to help me and join in my feelings, supporting me to become a more radiant, full of vigor and aliveness self, HOW AGGRAVATING! It is my job to remember that the power of truth and inclusion does not lie within others. I want to be pursued, invited and chased yet I am continuously learning that the power of truth and inclusion actually starts with me pursuing and including. If I am to truly want to be invested in, I must offer something people want to invest in: my authentic self, not my whiny, withholding, distant self. And to think, without our virtual staff meeting, processing through these realizations this would not be so clear. I know not many people get to take advantage of, as my boss Rich Blue and the staff at CLE, put it today, a learning environment.  I want to let people know, there are teams of people who want to support you, but you have to look for and want the opportunities to expose your truth and include others on your journey. This is what I am doing at CLE and in my life, although not always quite effective yet…

What are the ways you can support yourself better, be more truthful and authentic? If you relate to any of my experiences please look into our personal growth work, I am doing it, you should also: !!

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Posted by on February 2, 2011 in Personal Growth


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TRUTH: A slow developing muscle


        TRUTH: what does that five letter word REALLY mean in a society chock full of white lies, fibs, backstabs, jokes, aggression and withholding, one might ask. What is the goal of all the work put into these nuances: lies, fibs and passive-aggressive tendencies? Personally, I have used these ever-so-famous tools myself  for many reasons. The foremost reasons are my defense mechanisms, a way to protect myself from getting hurt, embarrassed and being vulnerable. Truth: being actually honest, genuine, intimate and accurately seen, scares the crap out of me, and has ever since I was little. Therefore, how I relate to and interact with others got established (my attachment needs): I gauge my behavior, always calculating my next move, looking to please others and stay on top of my game.

            Although the scenario I just explained may sound ideal to some, through my own personal growth work I am realizing why I still do not feel fully satisfied and nourished through this perceived strength and power: I AM NOT BEING TRULY INTIMATE AND HONEST, sheltering my feelings, protecting myself, always holding back. At CLE and The Wright Institute, I am learning that if I withhold my truth I am missing out on a significant portion of myself; my alive, spontaneous, in the moment, genuine, vulnerable, unedited, TRUTHFUL, loving, caring, intimate, most radiant self! I am learning that when I am not authentic, geniuine, sincere and real (yes, sometimes mean, judgmental and annoying), I am not fully conscious, aware and present. I cannot truly support myself, my clients, my friends and my family; I simply do not have the ability and capacity to connect and have meaningful conversations and am more closed off, selfish, egotistical and mean. Many people, for many reasons, do not fully like themselves and therefore are afraid to show their truth, thinking others will judge them, dislike them and not love them – that is my fear!

            Let’s look at our options here, I ponder with myself. Option 1) my less authentic, less genuine, less sincere, cocky, hard-ass, always put together self with few friends and support versus Option 2: my truthful, in the moment, genuine, sincere, fully present, fully alive, real self with more solid relationships, friends and family that trust me; hmm, although I am learning that Option 2 is my goal, it is still not as easy to get there as I thought. I am re-training my mind to uncover my vulnerability, listen to/speak my truth and trust that I will be comfortable being honest and putting myself out there (yes, much scarier!) yet thus far, much more rewarding! What a different journey than what I expected. As I am more truthful to others, I am more truthful with myself, putting down my learned defenses. Darn these defenses and conditioned limits I put on myself; forming my truth muscle is hard work! Although I notice that I feel scared about my goal to be brutally honest, I already feel more alive and real, starting to scrape the surface with working on this muscle!

            Who wants to be scared, excited and TRUTHFUL with me?

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Posted by on January 22, 2011 in Personal Growth


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Men: an insight into their minds…

            Last Tuesday I was challenged to think about my biases and stereotypes about men, of which I first stated that I do not have many (obviously not truthful on my part)! As I began to delve into what I think and feel about men I came up with a few conclusions:

  1. men are jerks
  2. men lie and cheat
  3. men are distant/withdrawn
  4. men expect women to stay home, take care of the children and their needs
  5. men do not feel
  6. all men want “is one thing” (ie sex/a physical relationship)

     So there you have it, I just proved my “I do not have many biases and stereotypes” hypothesis incorrect and my Tuesday night was looking more depressing than I had originally planned (mind you that this assignment was given to me Tuesday afternoon). I then began to wonder where these obviously negative thoughts and biases came from. As I sat down and pondered about where these beliefs came from I realized that it is VERY likely that they came from my first models: my dad and the male figures in my family, whom are more emotionally distant! It is no big surprise then that I formed these biases, starting as a little girl and into adulthood.  After reading my negative list, feeling angry at men, I read the second part of last week’s challenge: to formulate a questionnaire to be given to men to confirm or deny my biases! In reading this, I thought “I’m in, I want to know the truth!”

      After surveying numerous men, one’s I knew well, less well and not well, I was actually surprised at my results. Although I did ask confrontational questions, looking for specific answers which included, but were not limited to, 1) tell me about a time a woman was in control of a situation and you disempowered her, 2) how many times have you cheated and 3) how often do you lie to women, the results were I found were actually inquisitive and with meaning, mostly. Some of the most common answers were: I often lie to avoid arguing and hurting women, to get out of a fight, or getting hurt; I never have cheated; I have cheated because I got hurt and the girl told me she was no longer interested; it depends; I do not like to get yelled at so I withdrawal; I avoid situations of confrontation with women where the outcome doesn’t matter as much to me as it does to her, to keep her happier and temporarily get her off my back; and the list goes on and on, rationalizing through behaviors, a lot of which I noticed were more elaborate than my own rationalizations to similar behaviors!

     All in all, this vulnerable assignment taught me that MEN do have feelings, regardless of the defense mechanisms they use to cover them up or work through them, much like women. Yes, I feel we are still “the better half” yet men, the opposing half, is not so bad either! At the Center for Christian Life Enrichment we are taught to utilize our feelings, as a tool to personally grow, challenge our beliefs and look into how to confirm and deny our own theories and in doing so (which is often scary!), I am learning more about myself, my own defense mechanisms and the defenses of others around me. With these tools, I am able to better see my friends, family and loved ones (including all the men in my life)! 

 I would like to pose a question: how is it that we not only accept our biases, we live through them, in them and base our relationships on them…why do we not challenge ourselves? How about the next time you are thinking the same question, make a questionnaire, question yourself and question your friends, BEFORE judging, living and parading around in the magical thinking we call “this is how the opposite sex is,” — it’s a fun challenge, try it out!


Posted by on January 13, 2011 in Personal Growth


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