How to live in the “Peaks & Valleys” of life

A review (and application) of Spencer Johnsons Book “Peaks and Valleys”:

Have you ever felt like life is a rollercoaster of highs and lows? If so, you’re not alone. Life is full of peaks and valleys, and navigating the ups and downs can be challenging. But fear not because Spencer Johnson’s book, “Peaks and Valleys,” provides a simple but powerful framework for managing the highs and lows of life.

Johnson tells the story of a young man who meets an older, wiser man in the mountains, who teaches him how to overcome obstacles and achieve success. The older man teaches the young man that life is a series of peaks and valleys and that it is during the valleys that one can learn valuable lessons and gain perspective.

So, how can we learn valuable lessons and gain perspectives in the valleys of life? Johnson suggests several ways:

First, he encourages us to embrace the valley. Rather than avoiding or denying life’s difficulties, Johnson suggests embracing them and seeking opportunities to learn and grow.

Embracing the valleys of life can be challenging, but there are practical ways that someone can implement this idea from “Peaks and Valleys” by Spencer Johnson. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and emotions and help them approach difficult situations with a more open and accepting attitude. Mindfulness practices such as meditation or journaling can help individuals embrace the valleys of life by encouraging them to sit with and observe their experiences without judgment.
  2. Seek support: Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist can provide individuals with a safe space to process difficult emotions and experiences. Seeking support can also help individuals feel less alone and give them insights and advice on navigating the valley.
  3. Reframe negative thoughts: Falling into negative thought patterns or beliefs can be easy when faced with a difficult situation. Reframing negative thoughts into more positive or neutral ones can help individuals approach the valley with a more open and accepting attitude. For example, rather than thinking, “this situation is terrible,” try reframing it to “this situation is challenging, but I have the strength to overcome it.”
  4. Look for growth opportunities: As Johnson suggests, the valleys of life can provide opportunities for learning and growth. When facing a difficult situation, identify what lessons can be learned or how they can contribute to personal growth. This shift in perspective can help individuals approach the valley with a more positive and proactive attitude.

Second, he suggests reflecting on past successes and failures. Reflecting on past successes and failures can help us gain perspective and learn from our mistakes.

Reflecting on past successes and failures can be valuable for personal growth and development. Here are some practical ways to implement this idea from “Peaks and Valleys” by Spencer Johnson:

  1. Keep a journal: Writing down past successes and failures can provide a record of personal growth and development over time. Additionally, reflecting on past experiences in writing can help individuals gain perspective and identify patterns or themes in their successes and failures.
  2. Seek feedback: Talking to trusted friends, family members, or mentors can provide valuable insights into past successes and failures. Others may be able to offer an outside perspective and identify strengths and weaknesses that the individual may not have noticed themselves.
  3. Identify patterns: Reflecting on past successes and failures can help individuals identify patterns or themes in their behavior or decision-making. By recognizing these patterns, individuals can make more informed decisions and avoid repeating past mistakes.
  4. Celebrate successes: Celebrating past successes, no matter how small, can provide motivation and confidence for future endeavors. Acknowledging personal achievements can help individuals feel more resilient in future challenges.
  5. Learn from failures: Johnson suggests that failures can provide valuable lessons for personal growth. Rather than dwelling on past mistakes, individuals can reflect on what they learned from the experience and how they can use that knowledge to make better decisions in the future.

Third, he recommends asking for feedback. Asking for feedback from others can provide valuable insights and help us identify areas for improvement.

Asking for feedback can be a powerful tool for personal growth and development. Here are some practical ways to implement this idea from “Peaks and Valleys” by Spencer Johnson:

  1. Ask specific questions: When seeking feedback from others, asking specific questions about a particular area of interest can be helpful. For example, individuals can ask for general feedback on a specific project, presentation, or behavior rather than asking for general feedback.
  2. Choose trusted sources: It’s important to choose trusted sources when seeking feedback. Individuals can ask for feedback from friends, family members, colleagues, mentors, or others they respect and trust.
  3. Be open to criticism: Receiving feedback can be difficult, especially if it’s critical. However, being open to criticism and approaching feedback with a growth mindset can provide valuable insights and help individuals identify areas for improvement.
  4. Follow up: After receiving feedback, following up with the individual to clarify any points or ask for additional advice can be helpful. Additionally, individuals can share how they plan to implement the feedback and ask for support or accountability.
  5. Practice active listening: When receiving feedback, it’s important to practice active listening. This means paying attention to what the individual is saying, asking clarifying questions, and expressing gratitude for the feedback.

Fourth, he advises practicing gratitude. Even amid difficulty, focusing on the positive aspects of our lives can help us maintain a positive attitude and gain perspective.

Practicing gratitude can be a powerful tool for cultivating a positive mindset and gaining perspective, even during difficult times. Here are some practical ways, with empathy in mind, to implement this idea from “Peaks and Valleys” by Spencer Johnson:

  1. Start a gratitude journal: Writing down three things you’re grateful for each day can help you focus on the positive aspects of your life. This could be as simple as a warm cup of coffee in the morning, a supportive friend or family member, or the beauty of nature.
  2. Say thank you: Expressing gratitude to others can help strengthen relationships and improve your own well-being. Whether it’s a heartfelt thank-you note, a verbal expression of thanks, or a small act of kindness, saying thank you can help you feel more connected and appreciative.
  3. Notice the good: During difficult times, it can be easy to focus on the negative aspects of a situation. However, intentionally noticing the good, no matter how small, can help shift your perspective and boost your mood. For example, noticing a beautiful sunset, a kind gesture from a stranger, or a moment of laughter with a loved one can help you feel more positive.
  4. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing, can help you stay present and cultivate a sense of gratitude. Focusing on your breath or a specific sensation in your body can quiet your mind and help you appreciate the present moment.
  5. Give back: Giving back to others can be a powerful way to cultivate gratitude and meaning in your life. Volunteering, donating to a charity, or simply offering a kind word or gesture to someone in need can help you feel more connected to others and appreciate your blessings.

Fifth, he suggests taking action. Rather than becoming paralyzed by fear or uncertainty, Johnson suggests taking action toward our goals, even if it is a small step.

Here are the practical action steps for taking action towards your goals as suggested by Spencer Johnson in his book “Peaks and Valleys”:

  1. Identify your goals: First, identify what you want to achieve or accomplish. Be specific about your goals and write them down.
  2. Break down your goals: Break your goals down into smaller, manageable steps. This will make them less overwhelming and easier to accomplish.
  3. Take small actions: Take action towards your goals, even if it’s just a small step. It could be as simple as making a phone call or email.
  4. Focus on progress, not perfection: Don’t worry about being perfect. Instead, focus on making progress toward your goals. Celebrate small wins along the way.
  5. Stay motivated: Keep yourself motivated by focusing on the positive outcomes of achieving your goals. Remind yourself why you started and how good it will feel when you succeed.
  6. Adjust your actions: If your actions aren’t getting you closer to your goals, adjust your approach. Be open to trying new things and making changes as needed.
  7. Stay consistent: Consistency is key to achieving your goals. Keep taking action towards your goals, even when it gets tough.

Lastly, he advises us to learn from others. Studying the lives of successful people and learning from their experiences can help us gain perspective and insights into navigating the valleys of life.

Here are the practical implementation steps for learning from others, as suggested by Spencer Johnson in his book “Peaks and Valleys”:

  1. Identify successful people: In your field or area of interest, identify successful people. You can look for them in books, articles, online resources, or your personal network.
  2. Study their experiences: Read about their experiences, challenges, and successes. Look for common themes and patterns that contributed to their success.
  3. Learn from their mistakes: Identify the mistakes they made and learn from them. This can help you avoid making the same mistakes and save you time and effort in the long run.
  4. Adapt their strategies: Identify their strategies and approaches to overcome challenges and achieve success. Adapt these strategies to fit your own situation and circumstances.
  5. Apply their lessons: Apply the lessons you learn from successful people to your own life. Implement their strategies and approaches in your own work and personal life.
  6. Share with others: Share what you learn with others. Discuss your findings with colleagues, friends, or family members. This can help you gain new perspectives and insights and inspire others to learn from successful people.

Remember, learning from successful people is not about copying them. It’s about gaining insights and perspectives to help you navigate life’s valleys more effectively and achieve your own goals.

“The best way to get out of a valley is to climb toward a peak.”

Spencer Johnson

Overall, “Peaks and Valleys” provides a simple but powerful framework for managing the highs and lows of life and encourages readers to use the lessons learned during difficult times to achieve greater success and happiness. Rather than getting stuck in the depths of a valley, we can focus on climbing towards a peak and use the lessons learned during the valley to propel us forward. By embracing the valleys of life, reflecting on past experiences, seeking feedback, practicing gratitude, taking action, and learning from others, we can navigate life’s peaks and valleys with grace and resilience.

I hope you found this summary helpful and that it encourages you to read “Peaks and Valleys” for yourself. Remember, life is a journey, and every valley has a peak waiting on the other side.

Finding comfort and joy, moment by moment.

During this season we hear a lot about comfort and joy but many people feel only pain and loss. Comfort and joy are the perfect antidotes to this suffering. It is what a broken world needs most. It may be that we can’t find comfort and joy because we believe that when we do we will stop feeling hurt. This is not always true. Our heart is to create more space not to eliminate hurt. That would be a nice result but isn’t reality. We strive to allow comfort and joy to coexist with our pain and loss. This inner act expands our heart of compassion. We now have a greater capacity for feeling both comfort and pain, joy and loss. It is a spiritual paradox but it is a direction for our own healing. 

Science confirms this idea. Our hearts literally do expand when we entertain compassion and allow more space for comfort and joy. Choosing compassion releases neurotransmitters in the brain and hormones in the body and calm down the hyperaroused nervous system, reducing fear, anger, anxiety, and depression. 

Studies on the practice of compassion reveal improved autoimmune functioning, decreased inflammation, improved digestion, increase mental focus, motivation, and even sleep. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a noted cognitive neuroscientist, and researcher on the mind-body connection report that compassion increases the grey matter in the brain, allowing improved thinking and sensory processing. 

So how does compassion start? How do we allow comfort and joy into our lives when we feel stuck emotionally? The answer is where we put our focus. 

Right now, at this moment, you have a choice. Whoops, there it went but don’t worry, here comes another. Missed that one. Just wait…

We have thousands of opportunities to choose comfort and joy. Every moment is a chance to change the directions of our lives. It will not remove pain and suffering but it will allow us to build a mindset that allows comfort and joy too. Take a deep breath and make one statement of comfort and joy. Maybe it is gratitude for that cup of coffee or tea in front of you. Is it warm and comforting however brief? Maybe you heard someone laugh and it made you smile? Perhaps, someone opened the door for you when your hands were full? Life is constantly presenting micro-moments of comfort and joy. You just have to notice them. 

The problem is that we allow suffering to be our filter for living. We get angry expecting things to be different than they are. We resent people for not treating us the way we deserve. Just allow those challenges to exist alongside the next moment of gratitude and pleasure. Build those moments up, one after the other, and live a day full of tiny, joyful experiences. Tip the emotional scale in your direction. 

The brain likes to automate our life. It will take any repeated experience, good or bad, and make it a habit. This is how we can do so many tasks and face so many diverse problems. It makes us efficient and skilled. It can also make us miserable if we stop being aware of what is going on around us. A lack of moment to moment awareness makes us a machine, driven to self-protect and insulate from anything that smells dangerous or out of the norm. We don’t want the norm. The norm is hurt. We want the new which is comfort and joy. This will cost you some mental energy until the new norm becomes a happy habit. 

Test these ideas out today. Stop three times today to recognize a moment of comfort or joy. Write them down on a post-it note. Remember, in as much detail as you can muster, throughout the day, what it felt like. Do this for a week and see if your pain, your suffering, starts to lessen and a life of greater compassion takes over. 

Let Ron Huxley, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, assist you in finding more comfort and joy. Schedule a session today – Click here!

Begin 2020 with Forgiveness…

When you spend your days encountering pain and suffering, you look for ways to find comfort. It isn’t easy to find if you are looking in the wrong places. True comfort that is…Addictive activities bring some relief from the overwhelming feelings of pain but then you have to engage in the addiction again, to find that comfort once more. It’s an endless, downward spiral.

As a therapist who works with traumatized children and adults, I have found that the most lasting comfort comes from within, not without. It isn’t in things or activities, although they can provide some distraction. It comes from our hearts and minds as we battle the negative interpretations of our lives and relationships in the aftermath of trauma.

True comfort begins by clearing out our own judgements. Hurts result in resentments which turns into isolation and insulation from others. We want to protect ourselves. They is a normal, innate response to pain particularly when it comes from those closest to us. The pain programs behaviors that protect but this also cuts us off from sources of healing. How do you find real comfort in this season of “joy and hope?” Let’s start with forgiveness.

Most people are fearful of forgiveness. Is it because there are common myths about what forgiveness is and why we should do it.

Forgiveness is not staying a victim or allowing further pain to come into our lives from toxic people. Forgiveness is not forgetting what has been done. We need to remember so we have the wisdom to make healthier choices and set boundaries.

Forgiveness releases the angry toxins from our thoughts and emotions. It doesn’t have to benefit others, although it may. It won’t always result in a reconciliation with others but it could. It doesn’t happen in an instant and might even take a lifetime to completely forgive. That’s ok!

Forgiveness sets us on a course of self-directed healing of the hurt. It must become a lifestyle and not a one time answer to all our pain.

Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, in her book Bearing the Unbearable: Trauma, Gospel, and Pastoral Care states: “The God who alone sees the human heart is the God who alone who may judge.”

Let us let God be God to judge others. That is too big a burden for us to drag around. Let us be free of the weight of past pain and hurt. Let’s allow more love and comfort to enter into our lives. Let us us find comfort this Christmas by giving ourselves an lasting gift.

You can learn more ways to walk in healing with the courses at familyhealer.TV

Start the New Year 2020 with Forgiveness!

Trauma + Faith = Resilience

According to the National Opinion Research Center’s General, Social Survey over 90% of Americans believes in God or a higher power. Sixty percent belong to a local religious group. Another 60% think that religious matter is important or very important in how they conduct their lives, and 80% are interested in “growing spiritually”.

Even when people do not belong to a specific religious group or identity with a particular spiritual orientation, 30% of adults state they pray daily and 80% pray when faced with a serious problem or crisis.

Trauma is defined as any event, small or large, that overwhelms the mind and bodies ability to cope. Some people appear more resilient or able to “bounce back” in the face of trauma. Studies proof that faith is one-way children and adults can cope with traumatic events and suffering.

The question remains “how does faith make us more resilient?” It may be that faith reduces the negative, victimized thinking that results from trauma. For example, victimized people understandable “feel” as if they are damaged, dirty, worthless, stupid, vulnerable, ashamed, or unlovable. The type of trauma might be small or large but this is a common emotional reaction to the hurt someone suffers.

This reaction results in a lower ability to mentally plan and adaptively cope with situations create more possibility that fear, hurt, and worthlessness will result. You can see the vicious cycle that trauma can create…

Our minds are meaning-seeking devices. We like to find things to validate our thoughts and experiences so we can better navigate future circumstances. The upside of this is that we can be more efficient problem-solvers and survive. The downside is we can unrealistic or simply untrue beliefs.

Faith counters this downward cycle of believing, acting, and reacting by shifting the story from the negative plot lines to the bigger themes that “I am loved, valued, and cared for…even when things are bad!” Faith can override negative views of oneself with the belief that you are loved just as you are, normalize the internal spiritual struggles, encourage opening up and being vulnerable again, renewing a sense of control or mastery in life, and fostering social connections.

Being part of a larger group of people contributes to our collective connectedness that detours isolation and loneliness and encourages greater personal healing. Research demonstrates that socially connected people are more likely to meet the demands of everyday loss and stress.

Spirituality and religious affiliation can also benefit traumatized people from the toxic memories of the trauma event. This occurs with the individual feels they can share their grief with a greater community. Traumatic memories cannot be forgotten but they can be contained and/or unburdened when shared with fellow sufferers and with God or your higher power. This is a move toward memory instead of moving beyond memory. As one author described it: “One must have the courage of memory, because through it, one can seek God.”

Finally, religious groups have the best inspirational self-help scripts available in the form of the Bible, Torah, Koran, other holy scriptures, liturgy, and worship. They offers a framework for dealing with trauma and copes with stress.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his popular book on “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” writes:

“In the final analysis, the question of why bad things happen to good people translates itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened.” (p. 147) .

Faith provides us with the HOW of living resiliently!

REFERENCES:

Meichenbaum, D. (2016) TRAUMA, SPIRITUALITY AND RECOVERY: TOWARD A SPIRITUALLY-INTEGRATED PSYCHOTHERAPY :

Click to access SPIRITUALITY_PSYCHOTHERAPY.pdf

SAMHA Website on Faith-based Communities : http://www.samhsa.gov/fbci/fbci_pubs.aspx

Pargament, K. I., Kennell, J. et al. (1988). Religion and the problem-solving process: Three styles of coping. Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, 29, 90-104.

Microsoft Word – MeichSPIRITUALITY INTEGRATED PSYCHOTHERAPY1 final edits.doc

Jay, J. (1994). Walls of wailing. Common Boundary, May/June, 30-35.

Harold S. Kushner’s “When Bad Things Happen To Good People” New York: Schocken Books, 1981.

Just Like Me…

In a recent training on Trauma-Informed Care, I led the group through a mindfulness exercise that explored the nature of suffering. The goal was to bring a higher level of compassion for others in emotional pain.

Suffering refers to the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship. We know, in our heads, that everyone goes through difficult times but in our hearts, we neglect to connect with others, in their pain. This is because we are in pain too!

Professionals, who work with hurt people, are double-agents. They provide trauma-informed care and services to others AND they have experienced trauma too. We can be triggered by others pain and this will result in a distancing of emotions in order to keep ourselves safe. We sometimes call this a “professional distance” or “objectivity.” It might help us feel safer but it will also disconnect us from the heart of what we are trying to do in serving others. How to maintain this balance is the subject for another discussion. In the meantime, try this mindfulness exercise called “Just Like Me…” Examine how you feel before and after reading through it. Use it weekly or as often as you need to reconnect you with others who have experienced trauma and loss.

“Think of someone you like or dislike that you want to expect positive feelings and forgive. It help to think of that person who is similar to you. Take deep breaths and repeat after me…

This person has a body and a mind, just like me.
This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts, just like me.
This person has in his or her life, experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me.
This person has at some point been sad, disappointed, angry, or hurt, just like me. This person has felt unworthy or inadequate, just like me.
This person worries and is frightened sometimes, just like me.
This person has longed for friendship, just like me.
This person is learning about life, just like me.
This person wants to be caring and kind to others, just like me.
This person wants to be content with what life has given, just like me.
This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be safe and healthy, just like me.
This person wishes to be happy, just like me.
This person wishes to be loved, just like me.
Now, allow some wishes for well-being to arise:
I wish that this person have the strength, resources, and social support to navigate the difficulties in life with ease.
I wish that this person be free from pain and suffering.
I wish that this person be peaceful and happy.
I wish that this person be loved.
Because this person is a fellow human being, just like me.”

Need a therapist or trainer on healing from the hurt of trauma? Contact Ron Huxley today at rehuxley@gmail.com.

Take an online course on Trauma-Informed Care dealing with Trauma, Anxiety, Parenting, and more at http://FamilyHealerSchool.com

 

H.U.R.T. = Healing “Un’s” and Releasing Trauma

A key element of the healing strategies for individuals who have experienced trauma is to “ReWriting Our Narratives.”  These are the stories that we believe about ourselves as a result of the negative, hurt-full things in our life. But these stories are not all true even if they feel so, so, true. They are also not the end of the story. We can be the authors of our own lives and choose the plot lines of your future story. 

Children and Trauma

Children are “ego-centric”. These means that they believe the world revolves around them. Therefore, when bad things happen, they believe it is their fault. This is due to an immature nervous system and executive functioning skills that are supposed to help them see things rationally. They are not rational creatures. Consequently, if something bad happens traumatized children believe that they are bad! This is a false narrative based on painful/shameful memories.

This is a hallmark of trauma-informed care that is revolutionizing the programs and services across the nation. We are learning to shift our paradigms from asking “what is wrong with a person?” to “what happened to a person?” This allows us to concentrate on the story. But this must go deeper. We have to ask the healing questions: “where does it hurt?”

We can use the acronym for HURT to help us explore our stories:

H.U.R.T. = Healing Un’s and Releasing Trauma

HURT children carry around a lot of Un’s (a prefix meaning “not”): Unworthy, unwanted, unloved, unsafe, unstable, unkind, untrustworthy, etc”.

What UN’s do you or your child believe?

1.

2.

We could also ask ourselves this question. What UN’s do I believe about myself. Everyone goes through some level of trauma. The challenges and hassles of everyday life can be quite severe. Many caregivers suffer compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma as a result of working/living with a traumatized child.

Fortunately, healing is possible for children and adults. We can look at where the HURT is and find strategies that change our life stories with positive, resilient endings!

Get more help from Ron Huxley by scheduling a session today or taking one of an online Trauma-Informed training at http://FamilyHealerSchool.com