Shifting the power dynamic in your brain

I noticed a troll hanging out in my head this week, who was rolling her eyes, saying OH GOD GROSS every time I shared something and telling me everyone thinks I’m weird. Do you have a troll like this? I had a cold so I was extra vulnerable and it took me a while to notice.

Yesterday I pulled out ALL my tools: I drew a picture of the troll, I wrote down what she was saying, I asked questions and tried out opposite statements.

It sounds so silly — I drew a picture of the thoughts in my head and talked to the picture as if she were real. It is silly! I mean look at her:

I like mucking around in the weird mud of the inner world. This is messy, awkward, fumbling, vital work and I love it. It’s ok if it feels gross! EVERYONE thinks they are weird. We can be weird together.

It only took a few minutes of this and I was laughing out loud and feeling grounded and sure of myself again. I worked with the troll instead of trying to push her away, and arrived at something that feels true for me: I like being weird.

(I made a Facebook live video of some of this troll work if you want to see it on its feet)

Who are the trolls in your head who stop you in your tracks?

What do they say?

It’s too late, you missed your chance

You are being ridiculous

What a crybaby

Everyone else knows what they’re doing

Oh no, nothing is going right!

You’re going to lose everything!

What happens when you draw them and ask them questions and try on some different truths?

Your eyes are open to second chances

You are taking things much too seriously

What a loving emotionally healthy adult

Everyone doubts what they are doing

Oh no, everything is going right!

You’ve got nothing to lose!

I’m not saying this solves everything. It shifts the power dynamic inside your brain.

It’s one tiny step up a big ladder.

It doesn’t make the ladder disappear — but it does make climbing the ladder feel possible.

Try some troll work and let me know what you find out!

If you live in Portland and want to do troll work with a team: you can still sign up for Fruition.

Saying what you want out loud is a magic spell

I wrote a post two years ago about accidental spellcasting, about how we are casting accidental spells all the time — we  use our imaginations to predict, reflect, reframe, process and distract from reality. We speak predictions of the future as if they were certain, we worry ourselves into a repeating loop, we tell stories to make sense of trauma and thus, shake off it’s hold on us. We cast spells without realizing it — plant the seeds deep in our unconscious mind for the kind of world we want to live in. 

I think of magic as PHYSICALIZING YOUR UNCONSCIOUS. It’s a process for taking your inner world — the symbols, images and associations that make you do what you do — and expressing it on the outside. It’s about changing the inner tangle of associations so your perception of the outer world can radically change.

One of the simplest, most powerful magic spells you can cast is saying what you want out loud.

I’m not talking about manifesting or positive thinking. This is not about crossing your fingers and wishing hard. This is not about expecting everything to work out exactly the way you want it to.

No – this is a different beast. This is following the thread of what you want where it leads. This is paying attention to the images and shadows and surges and obstacles that arise when you say out loud what you want. This magic is a sideways, circular, cyclical, practical process. When you say your unconscious desires out loud — when you embrace them, play with them, pretend with them — they take on a life outside of you. You don’t control them — you dance with them, ride with them where they lead. It’s about co-creating with your unconscious mind.

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If this sounds whimsical or daydreamy, think of a baby. Babies cry for what they want. They voice their desire. They WANT with all their being, without question, without hesitation. They want milk, they cry out for milk. And you know what? IT WORKS. They don’t manifest the milk, they cry until they get it (or mine did. Babies vary, obviously). 

This is basic human survival. And yet what we learn as we grow is to hide our wants. Especially if you were socialized as a white American woman like me, you learn to wait and see what everyone else wants before you say anything. You mold your wants to fit the group. You try not to want too much, so you’re not a burden, a diva, an annoyance.

Overcoming that programming is not easy. It feels scary and weird and uncomfortable — impossible even.

But it’s like any hard thing: you practice, and you get better.

You can practice saying what you want out loud. You can practice being honest about your YES and NO. You can revel in the tension, the thrills, the fears of wanting. You can WANT with all your night, even if it’s just for two minutes.

I have an example from my life. Seven years ago I was channeling my creative energy into theater — creating charged multimedia performances about big unanswerable questions, leading warm ups and trainings, co-leading with a group of strong artists who had been working together for years. Then I gave birth to my son Waylon, and everything turned upside down. What arose (slowly) from the ashes was a new idea — or more accurately, the old idea, with new wings. A new frame for what I had been doing all those years. What if another word for these skills is active listening, facilitating and … coaching? Could I be a coach?

Something about becoming a mother compelled me to physicalize this question, so I made a show to practice embodying a coach. That show was I Hate Positive Thinking, and over the course of a year, I went from calling myself a “coach” in air quotes to doing it for real, working with clients and leading workshops and classes. For over a year, I got up in front of people and practiced being this new thing I wanted to be. I tried it on. I performed my WANT with hundreds of people as witnesses and I felt the spell working it’s magic, night after night.

I am still practicing that want. I am still casting that spell. And guess what,  it’s still hard! It’s vulnerable and scary and feels weird to say what I want out loud. 

I will model it here, and say:

I want ten people with big, beautiful, ridiculous, audacious, scandalous, silly, ugly, ambitious WANTS to sign up for Fruition, so we can grow and hide and seek and surf the wave of change together. I want Fruition to be three months of life changing, world changing energy that I never could have predicted.

There, I said it out loud. That’s what I want.

You can say yours out loud too! Right now, try saying out loud what you want and seeing what happens as a result. Maybe nothing! That’s possible. But since change is the only constant in our universe, isn’t it more likely that SOMETHING will happen?

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p.s. If you want to sign up for Fruition, you can do that here: FRUITION

Make Up Your Brags

Last time I wrote, I had you imagine yourself as Queen of your Domain.

Since then, I’ve been dreaming up more exercises for stepping into your power, and it brought to mind another topic that comes up with almost every woman I work with: how hard it is to talk about our accomplishments. To crow, to claim, to boast, to brag.

Everyone likes the idea of OTHER women bragging. But when it comes to doing it yourself, there is an instinctive deflection – a resistance – a horror.

Here is how the horror plays out for me.

There are things I know I can do well. And I can own that, in a comical half joking way, like…

I’M A REALLY GOOD SINGER. HA HA I’M THE BEST SINGER THAT EVER LIVED. JUST KIDDING!! I AM PRETTY GOOD THOUGH

Even if it’s something I know I can do well, there is this fear of saying it out loud, like I might jinx it or draw negative attention to myself. Or that I might not be as good as I think I am, I might be blind to the reality that actually I suck. Someone else out there is better so who am I to claim originality or excellence or anything special?

Like, oh my god, what if I am bragging about something that I am not in fact excellent at, but only REGULAR at? How embarrassing would that be? Who am I to say this spaghetti I made is delicious, what if it’s just regular old spaghetti that ANYONE could make?

THE HORROR. THE HORROR. That I might say out loud, this is really good spaghetti, and everyone eating it would be thinking, ehhhh, it’s ok.

That I might claim excellence when in fact IT’S NOT EXCELLENT.

I have known many men who do not have this problem. Who are not haunted with fears that they might secretly be subpar. Who are quite willing to take credit and claim excellence for regular or even mediocre work.

What many of us who identify as women do – and I’m not the first person to say this so OH MY GOD DO NOT THINK FOR A SECOND I AM TAKING CREDIT FOR INVENTING THIS IDEA – is deflect and diffuse. We deny the credit. We share the credit. We do anything but TAKE THE GODDAMN CREDIT.

Taking the credit is SCARY. It’s taking ownership, it’s taking up space, it’s vulnerable, it’s exposed.

I led a beta test workshop over the summer on becoming Queen and bragging about your accomplishments and here is a hilarious thing that went on inside my head while I was leading it.

I had a group of women write a list of things they had done that they were proud of – things that were hard, things that seemed impossible, things that changed and stretched them – and then read them out loud.

There were some incredible things on those lists!

Here is what was going through my mind: oh wow. These women REALLY have things to brag about. They have been living life to the fullest. My list is not that impressive. I haven’t swum with sharks or traveled solo or raised my kids in an intentional community. Here I am leading an exercise on bragging and what do I have to brag about?

And yet, I was also aware that each woman didn’t think the things on her list were impressive until she read them out loud.

Afterwards, I had an idea for a new exercise, and I’m going to share it with you because it kind of blew my mind.

I made a list of things I wished I could brag about. A list of made up accomplishments.

If you want to do it, try it now: write down the things you wish you could say you have done.

There are lots of impressive things I have not done, that I would not put on my list. I do not wish I could say I’ve swum with sharks. I mean it would be impressive to say, but I don’t feel a pain in my heart when I hear someone say they’ve done that.

The ones that make you inhale sharply and say, oh wow I wish I could say I had done that – those are the ones that go on the list.

MY MADE UP ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • I wrote a rock opera
  • I traveled through rural China for six months and learned rudimentary Mandarin
  • I planted a night blooming garden
  • I gave talks on energy conservation, climate change and wild clowny art at some big think tank conference
  • I took my kids backpacking in Montana
  • I toured as a backup singer with Tom Petty
  • I bought a house in my 20s

Now here is the amazing thing that I only realized after I’d written my list and was looking at it.

The very first thing on the list IS SOMETHING I HAVE IN FACT DONE.

I did write a rock opera! In my mind I was like, oh it wasn’t really a rock opera, it was more of a song cycle, but then I remembered that some critic had called it something and I looked it up and it was “a one woman no orchestra polyphonic opera” which is actually WAY COOLER than a rock opera.

Everything else on the list – and I mean every single thing – is something I have not done TO THAT EXTENT, but have done on a smaller scale.

I was SHOCKED to realize this. There is a grain of truth in every one of these fantastical, out there, made up accomplishments. I’m not as far away from that list as I thought.

LIST OF REAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • I traveled across the US for 3 months with my best friend when we were 22.
  • I planted a tiny fairy garden with my five year old last year.
  • I gave a talk on “creative living in an alternate world” at SXSW in 2016.
  • I’ve taken my kids car camping in Oregon, Washington, Michigan and Texas since they were each 10 months old.
  • I opened once for Justin Bond.
  • My partner and I bought a house in our 30s.

When I look at THAT list, I think: hell, that is nothing to sneeze at! Why am I not bragging about THOSE things?

It tells me something about where I am, and where I want to be.

And it tells me, I’m not starting from scratch! The seeds are there. I can brag about what I’ve done, right here, right now.

You can too! Whatever it is you wish for, you can find the seeds in your life right now. Look at your list of made up accomplishments, and ask yourself: have I done something like this, on a smaller / different / more modest scale?

Or ask yourself: have I actually done that? Is there something I’m minimizing or not seeing that is in fact AN AMAZING THING I DID?!

So to recap, here’s how to brag in make believe and then in real life:

  1. Write a list of made up things you wish you could say you have done
  2. Look at the list and ask: is there a grain of truth in here? Have I done anything like these things?
  3. Write the list of things you have actually done
  4. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask: can I take credit for these things?
  5. And if the answer is YES: say them out loud.

(If the answer is NO, schedule a free session with me and by the end of the hour, I’ll have you bragging like a pirate.)