5 “NEEDS” That Stifle Our Personal & Professional Growth…John Page Burton

We all have needs. We need air, water and food to survive. Most of us have a need to feel safe, secure, loved and cared for.  I believe we can all agree that these are healthy needs. Unfortunately, not all of our needs are healthy. Many are destructive and can significantly stifle our personal and professional growth? Let’s take a closer look at 5 unhealthy needs and what we can do to create a shift.

1. The Need To Be Right. This need causes people to become argumentative, confrontational, condescending and vindictive. This need is Ego driven. The need to be right can be very polarizing in our personal and professional relationships. A person needing to be right struggles to consider any point of view that differs from than their own. Growth occurs when we become open and accepting of NEW and DIFFERENT beliefs, opinions and perspectives. It’s not as important to be right as it is to be respectful in our communication with others.

2. The Need For Constant Approval. This person expects to be acknowledged for everything they do. This juvenile, insecurity driven need is emotionally draining to spouses, friends, family members and co-workers. If you don’t acknowledge and shower them with praise they often become angry and resentful. Growth occurs when we learn to be humble. Our ACTIONS will always speak much louder than our words. We must learn to accept unsolicited praise, say thank you and move on. Nobody likes being around a person who “gloats” or demands acknowledgement.

3. The Need To Be Noticed. A person driven by this need is heavily influenced by appearances and is always in search of a new audience. They tend to base their self worth on material possessions and will go to great lengths to “flaunt their stuff”.  Characteristically, they are loud, boisterous communicators. They will do anything to grab the spotlight and they love to be seen as the “star of the show”. When they feel ignored, many will throw “adult temper tantrums” in a last ditch effort to satisfy their craving for attention. Growth occurs when we realize that substance is much sexier than stuff. People who crave notoriety tend to be seen as “show offs and braggarts”. People who exhibit humility and gratitude are generally seen as intelligent, trustworthy, responsible people.

4. The Need For Control. This need is fueled by insecurity and fear. Control is an avoidance strategy. At a subconscious level, the controller is simply avoiding their own self doubt and fear by focusing their energy on “fixing” and “manipulating” the people around them. Controllers are disappointed, frustrated and angry most of the time because rarely if ever do the people around them live up to their rigid expectations. “Control freaks” have a deep seated fear of being out of control and will do everything they can to control their environment. Growth occurs when we release our death grip on control, face our fears, embrace and accept failure, learn to delegate, appreciate that most people don’t desire to be “fixed” and commence on a dedicated journey toward self acceptance.

5. The Need To Be Needed. In my book Wisdom Through Failure, I refer to this need as “Helpful Harry Syndrome”. Helpful Harry routinely prioritizes the needs of others before his own. At first glance this seems to be a noble trait but in reality it is an avoidance strategy. Eventually, Helpful Harry becomes an angry giver as he comes to realize that many of his needs are not being met. The need to be needed does not encourage self sufficiency. In other words, “Helpful Harry’s” are teaching their children, spouses and employees to rely on others first. Growth occurs when we establish the habit of meeting our own needs before we focus on meeting the needs of others. With that being said, it is important to prioritize the needs of small children, those with disabilities and of course the elderly. We must encourage our adult children, spouses and employees to become problem solvers and doers. Admittedly, many may consider this a “self centered” approach, however, in the long term it will pay big dividends.

The beauty of personal growth is that ALL of us are a work in progress. It is VERY safe to say that none of us will ever achieve total mastery. We are human! Our goal is to recognize a familiar program when it begins to run and make an immediate shift toward our truth. With each shift we lay the foundation for our NEW REALITY.  As a wise man once said…SHIFT HAPPENS!

As Always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

God Is Empathy, Empathy Is the Language Of God…John Page Burton

Recently, my friend Judy suggested that I write an article on empathy. She shared her belief that “empathy is the natural step forward as the Ego gives way to a much more deserving higher power”. I agree with Judy and believe that the Ego is very threatened by our natural inclination to be empathetic. Let’s take a closer look at the word empathy and what I believe it means to be empathetic.

Many of us tend to confuse the word empathy with the word sympathy. They are similar sounding words with very different meanings. Empathy means that we understand what another is feeling because we have experienced it firsthand and can readily place ourselves in their shoes. Empathy is a very personal one on one experience. On the other hand, sympathy is comfort and assurance that is usually offered by someone who does not have an experiential understanding of what the other person is going through. Sympathy is often rendered via a 3rd party experience. “I can only imagine what you must be feeling because my dad went through the same type of experience 10 years ago” is an example of a very common expression of sympathy. Although the sympathizer is trying to be of comfort, it is not relational and therefore not empathetic. Our personal relationship with God is a one on one experience which explains why so many of us can find a profound sense of peace during times of adversity. To know God is to experience empathy in it’s purest form.

The Ego keeps us separate from God, empathy brings us closer.

Equality. Because I have walked in your shoes, I am familiar with what you are experiencing. Our communication will be deeper and I may find myself absorbing your pain as if it were my own. We share an emotional bond.

Morals. True empathy demands that our standards, beliefs and behaviors serve the greater good. We are counted on to stand up for those who crave our understanding, love and support. We speak our truth and take compassionate action.

Patience. Empathy requires patience and understanding. We don’t have a timetable.

Awareness.  God has given each of us the power to heal. This awareness helps us find the right words, take the right actions and summon the strength to serve as a true intercessor.

Trials. Through our own life experiences we learn to relate to others on a more intimate level. Our trials and our breakthroughs often provide inspiration during someones darkest hour. In the realm of pain, our greatest comfort often derives from the guidance of those who have gone before us.

Humility. I am not able to practice empathy until I have mastered humility. Humility spells death to the Ego. It is no longer about me, it is about comforting you.

Yielding. When we are yielding we are not rigid or set in our expectations. We are able to go with the natural flow of life which is the energy of God. We are able to encourage others to embrace this God energy as they travel down their path to healing. Through our own trials we have learned that “what we resist will persist” and therefore it is imperative to let go, let God.

God is empathy, empathy is the language of God.

I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.

Making Peace With Our Departed Parents…John Page Burton

I clearly remember chasing her down the street, the snow stinging my eyes, tears freezing my cheeks, my heart pounding out of my chest all while listening to her desperate screams.  For many years I was haunted by the image of my mother, scantly clad in her nightgown, running from her demons though a snowstorm at 2am. I wanted nothing more than to stop her, bring her in out of the cold and somehow make her terrible nightmare end. It wasn’t a dream, I was ten years old and this was reality. I vividly remember watching a neighbor peek out her bedroom window, a blank look on her face, she was clearly disturbed by what she was seeing but was unwilling to help me. The next day when I saw this neighbor, we exchanged pleasantries but not a word about that event (or others like it) was ever spoken. Two years later my mother was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and I was admitted to a private school in the mid west. At age 12 my childhood as I knew it, had come to an abrupt end.

My parents divorced my freshman year of college. Throughout my college years and well into my thirties, I routinely attempted to re-connect with my mother but our visits were always dominated by her “hate speak” directed toward my father. I patiently listened for hours knowing full well that if I defended him or attempted to change the subject I would be asked to leave. Over time, my cravings for her companionship diminished due in large part to the profound realization that she had no real interest in my life. Eventually, she made a decision to remove me from her life entirely and we officially disconnected. Over the years, I would call her on her birthday or on Mothers Day only to hear her say, “you must have the wrong number, I don’t have a son”. I learned of her death two years after her passing, I was 49 years old. Her obituary (written by a “caretaker”) didn’t mention that she ever had a son but ironically a sentence was dedicated to the time she spent with my deceased father. “The wheels on the bus go round and round”…

For many years, I blamed my father for the disintegration of our little threesome. (I was an only child) Years later, by way of many heartfelt conversations I came to better understand my father and why he had chosen to remain in bed that snowy night and why he felt that sending me away was in the best interests of everyone involved. We were finally able to understand each other and offer forgiveness. During the final years of my fathers life, we became very good friends and I was by his side when he passed away in my home. During one of our final conversations he stated that “he wished we could have become much closer.” I smiled and thought, me to.

Today, I can appreciate my mothers journey as well as the dynamics of her mental health. I have a much greater understanding of what my mother brought from childhood into adulthood and just how confusing and painful it must have been to live inside her head. I understand the exhaustion and frustration my father felt as he watched his wife and my mother spiral into her own “hell on earth” experience. I have forgiven myself for the anger I carried with me for many years because of what I felt was my failure to protect my mom from her demons and keep her safe. As an adult it is easier for me to recognize that being only a few years removed from believing in Santa Clause, there was no way I could make sense of her illness let alone “fix” my “broken” mother. Today, I am at peace with both of my departed parents.

Many of us are still carrying around the same feelings of guilt, shame and failure that I felt. Some of us are still being controlled from the “grave” by parents we have not made our peace with. For many of us “the departed” still wield considerable power over us in the form of guilt. We lament the way things “should have been” and how we “let them down” etc. If this sounds familiar to you, it is time to make peace with the departed and move on. Here are 3 considerations that may be helpful in the peace making process.

*WE did the best we could under the circumstances. Most of us would do many things differently if given a second chance. Life is not a dress rehearsal, this is it. We don’t get a “do over” and therefore it is in our best interest to learn from our experiences and move forward. I work with a client who experienced a horrific childhood. Both of his parents betrayed him in a very cruel and unjust manner. He has carried around an anger that in the past has turned into an often destructive rage. My approach in working with him has centered around the fact that it was NOT his fault, he simply found himself in the cross hairs of extreme dysfunction. He can’t change what happened to him but he can change his relationship to it. In our work together, we focus on how he can take everything that has happened to him and make sure that it never happens to his children. He has powerful references on how NOT to treat children which will help to ensure that his children will receive everything emotionally (and more) that he failed to receive as a child. He is now beginning to turn his anger into love and in the process he is healing many of his childhood wounds. Children are dependent on adults to blaze a stable trail and sadly parental dysfunction can cause a tremendous amount of collateral damage.

*THEY did the best they could under the circumstances. Our parents did the best they could with what insight they had at the time. I am not making excuses for bad, abusive or violent behavior but the reality remains that this is how our parents functioned. If we have not made peace with our parents, chances are we are still carrying around a great deal of psychological baggage. Once we have forgiven ourselves it is time to free our parents. It was our parents job to help us not to harm us. We relied on them to “get their shit together” and they failed. When they pointed the finger at us and told us that it “was our fault” they were acting the way they were it was a lie they told us out of FEAR. Our parents often FEARED facing their own demons and so they took it out on those of us who were in the closest proximity. Abuse and dysfunction are learned behaviors that are often passed down from one generation to the next. WE can END this cycle of dysfunction by not repeating our parents behavior.. Through forgiveness we can begin making peace with our departed parents.

*Grace. Most of us are very good at beating ourselves up. We are our own biggest critics when we should be our own biggest fans! God has given each of us a plethora of life circumstances to learn and grow from. I will not pretend to understand why some people are presented with horrific life circumstances while others seemingly “skate through”. God has a plan. I will never know what my mom’s final thoughts were as her life came to an end. Like my father, did she also wish that we had been closer? Did she finally make peace with her demons and seek forgiveness? Grace allows us to experience peace in spite of not knowing or understanding the answers to these types of questions. Our parents played a very important role in shaping who we are today. The majority of our beliefs and perspectives are a direct result of their influence. Grace allows us to re-frame our beliefs and perspectives in a manner that doesn’t make our parents right or wrong. We understand that they did the best they could with what insight they had at the time and we are finally willing to let go of the anger and resentment that has kept us in emotional chains.

If you are still being controlled from “the grave” my hope is that you will find these insights helpful so that both you and the departed can truly R.I.P.

As always I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.