Your Own Personal Treasure Map

Much of our society’s focus and energy seems to be centered on attaining the status quo.  From a very young age, we are taught that attaining the status quo will make us happy and fulfilled.  However, many times when people finally reach that impossible place if they even can, they find that they are still just as unhappy and unfulfilled or worse.  The outer attainment of status and success, while promoted by our culture as the way to happiness and joy, often feels empty and meaningless.

Many of my clients come in overwhelmed and burned out from pushing and driving themselves towards this false destination at the cost of their health and well-being.  They have symptoms of anxiety and depression because their bodies are trying to get them to listen and pay attention.  Many are forcing themselves on this climb up “fake mountain” in direct opposition to what their bodies are trying to communicate to them.  They have no idea what their authentic values, desires and talents are – and even if they do, they have pushed these gifts aside for a path that they feel will lead to certain financial security and that perceived American Dream.

What exactly is this status quo we are all mesmerized with?  The media constantly floods us with images of beautiful houses, perfect bodies and perfect lives if only we can reach the top of that mountain.  Yet at what cost?  Most people will never attain the status quo – and really, if you think about it – it is a rather boring journey anyways.  What excitement is there in following the same path as everyone else?   We seem to want our paths to be straight lines full of guaranteed steps  – making life safe and predictable.  Yet our true paths are full of twists and turns that create interest.  Perfection is boring – it is our failures and the obstacles that we overcome that endear us to others.  Who would want to be around a perfect person – never having failed – always having the right answer?  It is our quirks and our struggles that make us lovable – not our drive for perfection.

Each person has an individual and unique path.  The adventure is in uncovering that path step by step – much like a treasure map.  There is no manual for life or one path that fits everyone.   We each have our own distinct treasure map inside of us.  The excitement is in accessing that map, which is informed by our own inner guidance system.   Learning to access that map and its messages through your guidance system sets you on an exciting quest towards discovering your own authentic gifts and talents  – your inner gold.

Bypassing your own uniqueness is a surefire path to mental health issues.  We cannot ignore our own individual path, for if we do, our bodies will rebel against us – and for good reason.  They are trying to get us to listen.  We are here to express our own authentic version of being human.  Not to follow along like robots.    

Think of an orchestra.  If there were only violins playing the same part over and over in unison, it would be rather uninteresting.  However, multiple instruments with multiple harmonies all playing at the same time create beautiful music and perfection.  It is the same with being human -we each have a harmonious part to play.  It is our duty to find our own individual contribution.  In doing so, we create a more beautiful, diverse and perfect world.

I recently read this quote and loved its message – “when you don’t follow your own individual nature, there is a hole in the universe where you were supposed to be”.


Boundaries and Personal Value

Boundaries are such an important piece of healing. Setting up and enforcing good boundaries will allow you the space to sit with your own emotions and feelings in a protective bubble.  This is what is needed for healing to occur.  In setting boundaries, you get to determine what you want to let in and what you don’t – what feels right to you and what doesn’t. It is a way of valuing yourself.  When you feel valuable, you rise to a level of wholeness and expectation that demands respectful and kind behavior from others.  When that behavior is not what you encounter, you can firmly set a boundary and walk away.  That is your right as a human being.

Many times anxiety and depression can be traced back to a violation of boundaries – often trauma related.  Most people do not understand that they have a right to exert boundaries, even with their family members.  In fact, family members can be the biggest offenders when it comes to boundaries – feeling an entitlement or special privilege and right to do whatever they want.  Yet family members should be our greatest allies – protecting and standing up for us.  Unfortunately, that is not usually the case.  Dysfunction is passed down from generation to generation – patterns are deeply engrained.  It takes a very strong and aware individual to break those patterns.  It is no wonder that the people I see in therapy have no idea what a boundary is and/or how to firmly enforce it.

Anyone that does not respect a boundary you have clearly placed, does not respect you as an individual.  If someone becomes angry with you for placing a boundary, they are not someone you want to be around.  The people you want to be around are those that would never think of violating a boundary in the first place.  They are genuinely respectful – innately possessing things like integrity, ethics, honesty, loyalty – virtues that show a person’s character and come from within.   They lift you up – not tear you down.

We can be born into a family where these virtues do not exist, yet it is our responsibility to do better.  It is never an excuse – we always have choice.  That is our gift – we can always choose differently.  We do not have to be what we came from – we can change the patterns.  However, it takes great awareness and courage and the inner drive to be different – to do the right thing.

It can be a challenge to enact boundaries – especially when you are sensitive and empathic.  In fact, the therapy clients I work with are most often predisposed to sensitivity.  It is the way they are wired.  My job is to help them manage that sensitivity and protect themselves from others that want to use them and manipulate them.  The manipulators of the world are looking for those with a sensitive nature because they want to feed off of their kindness.  They can suck you in and drag you all over the place with their drama.  It is imperative to become aware – learning to identify when your boundaries have been violated.

When our boundaries have been walked all over, we can feel like we have been bull-dozed – our sense of self obliterated.  The work is to develop a strong inner core that cannot be rattled.  To believe so strongly in your own personal value that you will not tolerate disrespectful, dishonoring and rude behavior.  To know deep within you that you have a right to demand appropriate behavior from others and if you do not receive it, you can remove yourself from the situation.  You are not responsible for fixing another person’s drama or for making them feel better about themselves – that is their own responsibility.

When we have boundaries, we are affirming our value. And when we do that – other things start falling into place – the right people show up – the right opportunities come together because we are in alignment.  We are congruent.  That is the goal of therapy – to lead us towards alignment so we can successfully navigate the challenges life presents.  Challenges will aways be there -that is the journey; however, we can learn to have tools in our toolbox that help us move through the challenges and keep us safe at the same time.

Petty Tyrants

We all have encountered people that try their best to get under our skin. The ones that attack us for the pettiest things – things that do not matter or that seem irrelevant. The verbal attacks they level are unexpected and can be quite blind siding and unsettling. These people are called “petty tyrants” because they lord over us with petty attacks as a way of chipping at our self-esteem and maintaining control. The whole point of their attacks is to throw us off balance. Focusing on their critical comments can leave us feeling disempowered and confused – our forward momentum disrupted.

Many of the clients I see for therapy come in confused and beaten down by the petty tyrants in their lives. I find that much of the anxiety and depression my clients experience can often be the direct result of interactions with petty tyrants. The work I do is to first educate my clients by debunking the confusing, antagonistic attacks and then work to build up their core confidence level so they can start taking their power back. We also focus on safety – maintaining safety in all interactions is important.

Petty tyrants are everywhere – bosses, partners, co-workers, relatives, etc. Their comments are never constructive, but rather critical and demeaning with a hint of shame attached to them. For example, you could be all dressed up looking fabulous and rather than compliment you, they will make a snide comment about how the perfume you are wearing annoys them. You could be giving the best customer service and yet they will tell you that you are not enthusiastic enough with customers. Or their tactics can be more insidious – for example, giving you a look that clearly implies they disapprove of you. They will take things that you say and do out of context, turn them around and reframe them against you – thus depleting your energy and giving you a feeling of being on edge.

The intent is to leave you doubting yourself and can put you in a state of mental paralysis – your energy scattered. The goal is to get you to focus so much on yourself and your perceived imperfections that you lose sight of the bad behavior of the petty tyrant who is attacking you. If you are so focused on yourself, you will not have the time or energy to see what “they” are doing – belittling you and disempowering you. It is undermining and debilitating. Again, that is the goal.

Everyone has access to their own inner power reserves – the petty tyrant looks to steal that power from others rather than developing their own inner power. The more power they take from you, the more they want – much like an addiction. Their actions are based on jealousy, envy and a deeply rooted insecurity. Consequently, if they are able to knock you down and bring you to their level – it makes them feel better about themselves.

One very important thing to remember is that you did not attract this person – do not blame yourself for being involved. Petty tyrants are magnetized to kind-hearted, caring people – people that are following the beat of their own drum. The tyrant lashes out because these kind souls threaten the tyrant’s toxic, status quo way of life. Tyrants are very skilled at manipulating using small-minded, petty behavior – thus the name “petty tyrant”.

The best way to deal with a petty tyrant is to turn and walk the other way if you are able. Do not waste time and energy trying to defend yourself or convincing them – that will only suck you further into their clever trap. The key is to rise above their comments – pause and reflect rather than react – work to come from a place of neutrality – do not engage.

Another one of their tactics can be to escalate things by creating a lot of unnecessary drama. Again, don’t engage – work to pull your energy back by remaining calm and centered. If you have to engage – state only the facts and remain as neutral as possible. Their goal is to get you riled up and to react – this gives them something to use against you. The more you remain calm and centered, the more it will frustrate and disempower them. They want your power – don’t give it to them.



I am a big believer in synchronicities.  I have experienced many in my life – I think we all have.  It is just that we are not always paying attention.  I want to share an interesting and profound one that came my way this past Christmas.  One that has informed and supported the work I do with my therapy patients.

I joined an on-line group a few months back – it was made up of people from all over the world coming together to share their different spiritual beliefs and practices.  This resonated with me because of my existential roots and because I love meeting people with different backgrounds and customs.  I like to learn about new things –  and to take the things I learn that resonate with me and incorporate them into my life.  It keeps life fresh and interesting.

Anyways, many of us decided that we would like to do a Christmas gift exchange with each other.  The premise of the exchange was that we would each be paired randomly with another member of the group.  Once paired, we were given our gift exchange partner’s email and home address to correspond with them and send a Christmas gift of our choice.  I love these kinds of random selections as it allows synchronicity to take place. I am always excited to see what shows up for me and the messages it brings.

To start – my exchange partner and I emailed back and forth a couple of times.  I found out she lives in the states on the west coast and has a master’s degree in social work – right there was an interesting connection as I have my master’s degree in counseling psychology.  Also, she had a similar name to a dear woman I used to know years ago that worked as a hospice Chaplain.  I had fond memories of this old acquaintance and our many interesting discussions.

Christmas Day rolled around and I had not yet received my gift.  With the holiday postal rush, I thought it may have been delayed or she had become busy and wasn’t able to get the gift in the mail before Christmas.  No big deal.   That morning, I went out for a run and when I came back to the house, I noticed a package on the front step.  I picked it up and saw it was from my gift exchange partner.  It must have arrived by mail the day before, but I had not seen it.

I brought it into the house and immediately opened it.  It was a book – “Ikigai – The Japanese Secret for a Long and Happy Life”.  I was taken aback.  I thought – what?  You have got to be kidding me.  I have had so many Japanese influences in my life.  I was speechless.  I felt a recognition and a confirmation of some very profound things I had been going through.  There is no way she could have known.  This book was not one that she purchased for me, rather it was one that she was passing on to me.  I was being given a very special message – one that only I could understand and appreciate.

The premise of “Ikigai” is to find that place where passion, mission, vocation and profession all come together.  It is about finding your authentic path.  There is no Japanese word for “retire” because many do not believe in retiring – they remain active throughout their lives doing the work that they enjoy.  It is one of reasons many Japanese in the Blue Zone stay happy and feeling young.  How they eat, move, work, foster collaboration and community are also important aspects to their life of purpose.

Because this book had such profound meaning for me, I decided I should include it in my bio and let it inform the work that I do.  It is a way of living that resonates with me at my deepest level.  Here it was – synchronicity in it’s purest form – summing up the way I approach life.  I felt honored and humbled to have received such a meaningful gift inspired from something greater than we are maybe capable of understanding.


Wherever You Are – You are Supposed to Be

Wherever you are – you are supposed to be. When you find yourself wanting to be in the future rather than where you are presently, realize you are getting ahead of yourself.  Unfortunately, you cannot move forward from some future place that does not exist. You can only move forward from where you are now.  Back up energetically to the present moment.  The steps forward can only be found from this place right here in front of you.

Sometimes the steps are to sit, listen and contemplate.  There may be things you need to learn and understand in this present moment – things you are being directed to discover that will actually heal you and assist you in getting to your future goals and dreams. Take time to sit and listen – what are you being guided to see? to understand? to learn? to heal? What is the gold in this experience?

Also, the things that you want to happen may not be ready to come together yet – situations may be percolating and arranging themselves behind the scenes.  The people you are meant to meet are moving through their life as well getting ready to cross your path – it is an intricate dance. If you think about all the things that need to come together at just the right moment – it is mind boggling and amazing.  And – there may be an even better outcome than you could imagine if you let things take shape and stay out of the way.  That is the magic possible!  Synchronicity at work.  

I am not suggesting that this is easy by any means -mastery is not the easy path.  It absolutely can be difficult to wait, especially when the present moment is filled with difficulties that seem to drain you and sap your spirit – and the way out seems blocked and/or filled with obstacles.  That is the challenge.  Will you let these things take you down or will you stand strong and have faith that the things and people that are meant to find you will eventually show up? It takes steadiness, patience and determination.  Remembering to rise above the challenges rather than let them defeat you.  You are building strength, character and mastery.  

Pain and heartache in the present can find us wishing for more pleasant experiences -yes.  We are human. However, while the no man’s land of the future can be enticing, it will keep you stuck in a never ending, unproductive spin.  Sure, it is good to plan ahead and have dreams; however, living ahead of ourselves is self-sabotaging.  Come back to where you are now -it may be difficult and unpleasant, but the steps to move through it are here in front of you – not in some future destination.   Trust and have faith that you are being guided in the right direction – the path is there – you will be shown the next steps.

There is gold to find where you are right now.  The gold of wholeness.  Once you have found that gold and have embraced its lesson – you will see an open door.


Finding Wholeness After Betrayal

How do we find wholeness after betrayal? By realizing that we are the same person that existed before the betrayal – with the same values, talents and gifts. We have not changed in that regard – we are the same core person inside.
However, our hearts were broken – our view of a world that made sense shattered. We cannot escape those truths and the intense pain that resulted. We are forever opened up to realizations we would have rather stayed blind to. Ignorance is bliss. Yet in the space of the betrayal is an invitation for us to grow beyond the pain and the agony.
Wholeness is found through choices. We can go into a state of victimhood – or we can choose to not let what happened take us down. We can choose to rise above the pettiness and look at things from a higher perspective and then act from that higher place. We do not have to lower ourselves into the muck of someone else’s choices. We can hold our space and not be thrown off balance. That is the challenge.
We need to feel the feelings – yes. That is so important for healing. Let them move through us. Write about them – cry with them – learn from them – honor them. Our feelings will inform us of the places that need healing. It is important to take as much time as needed to work through them.
Our view of the world has changed – yes – and maybe that is a good thing. Maybe we are more aware now – maybe we are wiser. Maybe we have learned to give trust only when trust is earned. We will continue to love and show kindness – yes, but from a place of discernment. We will know that our needs are just as important as another’s needs -and we will look to never abandon ourselves again. That is our healing journey.
And maybe we will have more compassion for those that suffer betrayal or any other of life’s challenges. We can reach out to them and let them know we are fellow travelers on the journey – not to share victim stories, but to encourage them and empower them to embrace these challenges as a way to grow into a more whole human being.