Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Animal Communication and the Language of Love

Energy Medicine, Flower Essences, Mental Health, Spirituality | Posted by Kim
Apr 07 2016

©Gregg Frederickson

I had a chance to speak with professional animal communicator and certified classical homeopath Donna Lozito. She is also the author of Sweet Dreams: The Talking Horse from Brooklyn, a book that explores animal communication and friendship.

As the first in her field to introduce this topic to children, her book explains to children the importance of understanding how animals think and feel, cultivating a sense of respect for all beings and all of nature.

Here Donna talks about how we can deepen our relationship with our pets, and the animal kingdom as well, by learning how to listen in to what they have say, and the ways they say it.

Donna says one of her life goals is “to help people reconnect with their innate ability to communicate without language, an ability that everyone possesses but has simply forgotten how to use. Our present day culture has inhibited our ability to listen to what other species might be trying to convey.”

HH: Define animal communication

DL: Animal Communication is sending and receiving messages and images via telepathy.  This is the first language of the animals.  It is how they communicate with each other.  It is a heart to heart or spirit to spirit communication.  All of life has the ability to communicate like this including the human animal.

HH: We all, at times, project ourselves onto others. How do you know the difference between when you are hearing wishful messages from your animal and when he is truly communicating with you?   

DL: If we can learn to quiet the mental chatter with the breath or through meditation, it becomes easier to make a distinction between a message from the heart or a projection of the mind.  In our culture self doubt has taken the place of inner knowing.  The self doubt is sourced in the ego and the inner knowing comes from our intuition or our spirit.  In this instance we use the mind to interpret the message from the heart not to bypass it.  It requires that we become aware of our thoughts and actions.

HH: You say animals don’t comprehend negative statements. Talk more about that.

DL: Animals are in the present and send and receive energy as a means of communication. Animals will better understand what we do want then what we don’t want as this negative will confuse them because there is really not visual of “don’t,” etc.   You may think that when we say “no” the animals understand but what they really understand is our tone and emotion that is expressed.  If we observe how the animals correct each other you will see they show with their energy what they want and do not reprimand.  I think reprimand and punishment is a human condition.  If you think about it the reprimand is really about the person giving it rather than the person receiving the reprimand.  Our reprimands create fear-based behavior rather than constructive behavior.

HH: How do animals tell time? Give me some examples of how to let your pet know how long you plan to be away, for example. 

DL: The animals perceive the amount of light and dark. They are naturally programmed for this as this is how they navigate life in the wild. They do not perceive time as we human animals do but they do understand the passing of time.  If you are trying to convey time to your animal friend then you would give a visual of how much dark and how much light they could expect in a given time. I believe that if you speak the amount of time, the energy in your words will indicate if it will be a long time or a short time.   Again they are perceiving at a very different level and this is the level we humans want tune into more frequently to communicate with these beings.

HH: How can we reconcile our love for animals with our dependency on them for food, clothing, labor and other social needs like animal research?  

DL: Each being that inhabits the earth comes in with a purpose.  Some come to serve as food for sustenance of other beings.  If a being is offering his life to sustain mankind then we should be honoring them instead of torturing them until they die.

HH: What is an oversoul?   

DL: Some species function as a group and there is one soul or being (over-soul) that is the voice of the group.  Schools of fish, ant colonies are examples.

HH: I’ve heard it said that animals, cats in particular, don’t identify with the names we give them, that they have their own names. 

DL: In many cases they do come in with names.  Often we name our animals based on our perception of them and this is not always accurate.

HH: Each of us carries an astral subtle body with us in our physical existence. Although usually clairvoyants or highly sensitive people can sense this subtle energy, is it true that all animals can sense this type of energy?    

DL: Yes for the most part this is true.  They are much closer to nature therefore sense and feel in ways that we cannot imagine.

HH: What do animals think about vaccinations and neutering?  

DL: Both of these topics are not part of a natural existence so they do not understand this but go along with it for our sake

HH: Tell me about the keeping pets indoors versus the dangers of the outdoors argument. 

DL: Of course each situation is different and each animal is different just as each human is different.   There is not one rule across the board as most humans seek to find.  Some humans like the outdoors and some animals like the outdoors.  They are not that different in their needs than we.

HH: What projects are you working on now? 

DL: I work in the areas of Animal Communication, Homeopathic Medicine and Equine Therapy.  I work with both people and animals in order that they may realize their highest potential.

HH: Tell me about your homeopathic toolkit for animal rescue.

DL: There are specific kits made for emergency use for people and animals.  It is a good idea to have one on hand because in emergencies it is impossible to run out and buy a remedy for the situation.  For example, Arnica Montana is very useful in the case of shock and trauma or any type of injury. There are many remedies that can be used in acute care.  Having a kit also helps you get familiar with the remedies and how to use them.

HH: What special needs exist for animals who’ve been through a natural disaster?

DL: Well of course these experiences are shocking for the entire being.   Reducing the shock level will help greatly to handle animals who have been shocked in this way. Homeopathy is wonderful for these instances.

HH: Please illustrate how to successfully give a behavioral request to a problem pet.

DL: Again this is not an across the board answer.   As a rule it is always best to keep your emotional level in check because your animal companion will never get your message if you are emotional.  They only get the emotion.  It is important to be clear and neutral about what you do want rather than what you don’t want.   The animals want to please us and if we consider them as beings with wants, needs and desires then our relationships with them will flourish.

Donna lives in Arizona and teaches and works with clients around the world, as well as with domestic and wild animals. Learn more about animal communication and homeopathy, or to order the book at her website Whispers of the Spirit, LLCMaple-Seed-knocked out


Picture Yourself in the Ancestral Portrait with Flower Essences

Energy Medicine, Herbal Remedies, Mental Health, Spirituality | Posted by Kim
Jan 11 2014

Interview of Ziporah Hildebrandt by Kim Steffgen, December 2013. Answers Copyright 2013 Ziporah Hildebrandt, used with permission.

Your ancestors’ photos may have been in black and white but their lives have colored your world. When ancestral lines are blurry flower essences can sharpen the lines in your family portrait.

I spoke with flower essences practitioner and ancestral energy worker Ziporah Hildebrandt about using flower essences to facilitate the ancestral lineage clearing process.

Keewaydinoquay Peschel, Ethnobotanist and Herbalist.  1919 - 1999

Keewaydinoquay Peschel, Ethnobotanist and Herbalist.
1919 – 1999

HH: Tell me about your experience with family patterns and ancestral pattern clearing.

Ziporah: The way I work is usually directly in connection with, and in dialog with, the ancestors. I also prescribe flower essences to clients. The essences  create more ease with the process of accessing the ancestors, connecting and communicating with them, and transforming a stuck situation into flow and new possibilities. Quite marvelous things will come up in a session working with ancestors. Clients generally report a feeling of lightness and relief of a burden afterward. During a session, specific personal histories often come to light, that can at first shock or dismay a client, and quickly shift the energy to healing, forgiveness, even joy. I enjoy this work—working with someone’s ancestors is just as satisfying as working with a living person: their energy is vivid, their stories poignant, their gratitude palpable. When someone comes to me with a knotty personal situation I can usually tell quickly if there is an ancestral influence. Not everyone is open to these ideas, and there are other ways to work than with an ancestor session. The Healing Roots flower essence combination I created is very helpful for any issues involving ancestral healing.

HH: How do you define Ancestral Pattern Healing?

Ziporah: I like to keep things out of the box, as I find that definitions can limit what shows up in a session, and for a client after a session or while they’re taking the essences. Even calling this an ancestral pattern locks energy—a pattern is something that repeats. My experience is that energies with an ancestral source do run through generations, and they can repeat, and when they do they often resemble the original source in some way. So to this extent there is a pattern, and it usually isn’t an exact replication. If someone was, in a former incarnation, their own ancestor, or involved in the original situation in a former life, there can be eerie synchronicities between the situations in the time periods, even to dates or numbers, names and place similarities. This can be a pattern for that soul, rather than an inherited pattern.

Another type of energy are things like diseases, fires, floods, wars and other situations that are impersonal in their occurrence, that had very personal impacts on ancestors. This type of energy tends to show up differently in each successive generation. For instance,  someone whose great ­grandparent’s mother died of a particular disease while the great­ grandparent was a small child may have grief and loss showing up along with body conditions, and it may not be anything like the same disease physically. I see healing around these energies as a process of thawing a frozen energy that has blocked the flow of life force, of love, of prosperity, of confidence, of receiving the blessings of life and connection with others and the universe.

HH: How can flower essences help?

Ziporah: Flower essences begin to thaw the frozen areas in the ancestral tree. They can clear energetic structures that have kept the frozen area in place. Some flower essences, such as Forget­Me­Not, help us connect directly with ancestors, which allows us to have a transformative dialog with them. Flower essences like Primulas and Crested Iris reorganize and restructure the ancestral energies so that healing is retroactive to the ancestors as well as to other descendents of them. All flower essences will bring in divine light and love to the whole family tree, including opening the living person to forgiveness, to letting go, and receiving change. There is an expansion of the heart and awareness, allowing new possibilities that were never imagined before.

HH: In your experience, what are the essences most specific to ancestral patterns?

Ziporah: There are many flower essences that can heal inherited energy resonances. Any essences that work with the DNA, such as White Primula and Rose Geranium, or with clearing in general, such as Tomato essences, or healing in general, such as Self Heal and Comfrey, will assist with ancestral healing. More specifically, Parsnip, Hemlock, Crested Iris and Boab work very directly with ancestral energies. I’ve described in more detail the flower essences I use in my Healing Roots combination on my web site,­roots/

Any essences that work specifically with family members or the mother and father archetypes, such as Baby Blue Eyes and Sunflower for father, or Lady’s Mantle and Mariposa Lily for mother, can also be applicable to working with ancestors, depending on the situation and issues. Crested Iris works with both mother and father archetypes and is a powerful deep healing essence. If there is an overall pattern of problem with the mother, then using mother­ archetype essences will be helpful, including Madonna Lily, Milk Thistle, Mariposa Lily. You can add an ancestor ­specific essence such as Parsnip or Hemlock or Crested Iris to the combination to “direct” the devas to the family tree.

Not all flower essences will have a strong connection to the devas, it depends on how they are made. Many essence makers do consciously connect with the flower’s deva, and then the essence will carry the intelligence of the deva, which is beyond space and time.

You can do the same thing when working with past lives: formulate for the issue, then add Giant Burmese Honeysuckle to the combination to direct the healing to the past lives. There are also essences that facilitate communication and receiving awareness of ancestors, notably Forget­Me­Not. Any essences that boost intuition and spirit journeys can assist with this.

HH: Do you have your own ‘plant ally?’

Ziporah: I have been guided at different times by particular plant devas. One of them was quite entertaining to work with, taking the form of any flower I was inquiring about and acting out in some way what the flower essence would do. I thought at first that I was suddenly communicating directly with every plant more quickly and easily than ever had before. I laughed out loud when I realized what was going on.

Actually, every flower I make an essence from becomes my ally. While talking with someone, or doing energy healing in a session, a flower may pop into my awareness, and I know something about that plant is a contribution to what is going on. When this happens, I invite the deva of that plant into the session or the conversation, or send it remotely to the person.

HH: Tell me about your flower essence process. How do you determine what’s best for the individual?

Ziporah: This has changed over time, and still changes. I often use a client’s horoscope or Human Design chart to attune to the energy map of their current incarnation. I use kinesiology, or muscle testing as a quick, easy and accurate (for me) method of choosing essences from the thousand or so I work with. With a complex case involving multiple combinations for one person, I may select a number of essences, and then group them as I perceive their resonance. Then I look at the essences in the groups and notice a theme, which further clarifies my knowing about what is going on.

Essences that would like to be included may pop into my awareness when I’m not thinking about the formula, along with the knowing that they would like to contribute their energies to that person. Every practitioner will find their own ways of doing this that work for them.

HH: How does one know the difference between ancestral pattern issues and past life issues?

Ziporah: Sometimes, as I described already, they are the same, where a person was their own ancestor in a former life. More commonly, there is resonance between past lives and the family history. We each choose the body and family we are born into, and we are making that choice from the energetic resonance of a place, a family, a time, as well as connections we may have to people.

As to how to know the difference, each person must learn to perceive their own knowing. Describing my own awareness of the difference would be like trying to put words to the difference between vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Energy is our first language, the language of nature and spirit. How we interface with that language is unique to each person, just as no two people will experience a symphony the same way, or even the same way at different times. As infinite beings, we have access to infinite knowing. If we ask, we’ll receive information.

HH: When selecting a mode for healing painful spiritual or emotional issues, how does one determine the best course? Intuition or something more?

Ziporah: This is part of the learning process of being a healer. We all have amazing healing capacities in our bodies and beings. When we don’t try to determine results we open ourselves to possibilities we may not have thought of. It’s key to learn to trust our knowing, trust our awareness, and trust that whatever happens is a contribution to ourselves as well as the client. Whenever we have an outcome in mind we limit and very often interfere with where the energy is moving.

If we have a pre­determined idea of what healing would look like, what the “best course” would produce, we may be preventing the healing and transformation required. Even defining a client’s situation as “painful” is
assuming a stance that suffering is wrong, should be fixed, and that the healer should be the one to figure out how to fix it. Every time we say “Such and such happened to me,” we erase ourselves as a participant in creating our reality.

There are many wonderful and effective techniques and methods available to healing practitioners today. If one simply follows the energy, you’ll be led to what will be effective. And if there is no apparent effect, one might ask if the client was truly choosing change?

Clients come to us for many reasons and not all of them involve being healed!

HH: Can one be addressed without the other? And how can flower essences help in both the discovery process and the clearing process?

Ziporah: Unlike people, flower essences have no propensity for analyzing or separating various types of healing or healing processes. All flower essences can heal on multiple levels and in myriad ways.

We are constantly addressing what we are aware of and can see, and ignoring everything else. Happily, flower essences have no such shortcomings; they will address whatever is there that a person is willing to allow.

HH: Another flower essence practitioner friend of mine remarked that, often, accessing the ancestor is difficult and the most readily available person is oneself, who carries the pattern anyway.  What do  you think
about that?
Ziporah: How difficult something is varies from person to person and time to time. I have found it both quick and easy to access my own and others’ ancestors, and less so at other times. It has always been possible and never what I’d call “difficult.”

Each person carries all of their ancestors within them. There is a chamber in the heart where they are all held, though some can be hidden at first. I’ll be creating an audio guided imagery journey based on what my angel guide showed me about accessing our ancestors. Like many things, accessing this area of our awareness is like a muscle that we can exercise and develop with practice and use.

There are many ways to access one’s ancestors. Gaze with open mind at old photos,hold items that once belonged to someone, go to places where they lived or worked. Ask for a dream. You can fill a glass of water before bed, adding a dreaming flower essence in it, such as Mugwort, or my Dream Healer combination. Just before you turn out the light, drink half of the water and ask for a dream about your ancestors, or whatever else you’d like to receive information about. Ask to remember the dream when you awaken.

When you awaken, drink the other half of the water, asking to remember. Some people remember a dream the first night, others it may take a few nights. Write the dream in your dream journal. The process of creating a dream journal and writing in it whenever you recall a dream tells your subconscious that you are open, willing to receive communication in this way, and honoring of that. When we ask to receive, we will receive.

How difficult it is and in what form it shows up depends mostly on ourselves. How do we expect it to appear? What communications are coming to us daily that we don’t recognize? Our cognitive minds are so busy, so full of conclusions, assumptions and points of view about how things are, how they will be, how they’re supposed to be, that it is difficult for anything to get through that doesn’t look just like we expect it to.

Using flower essences—any flower essences!—gently and gradually changes this. We can let go of things having to be a certain way, of insisting on being right, or wrong, or however we think we are and the universe is. Flower essences soften our finite boundaries so we can receive more of our true nature, which is infinite, light, joyous and free.

Ziporah Hildebrandt is the author of How to Make Your Own Flower Essences. She has extensive training in humanistic psychology, flower essence therapy and ancestral lineage clearing. Learn more at  Maple Seed_Yellow

Sagebrush Flower Essence a Great Help for Coping With Stress

Energy Medicine, Herbal Remedies, Mental Health, Radical Raves | Posted by Kim
Nov 14 2012

Integrating Loss and Devastation With Sagebrush Flower Essence

Sagebrush’s Plant Essence Can be A Helper for Coping with Stress When Your Soul Is Laid Bare.

Hurricane Sandy’s rude arrival and destructive forces were a reminder that sometimes loss and devastation are going to be part of our lives. Like a manic maid with an evil broom, Sandy brought sweeping changes to many people’s lives, stripping them of all they cherished. In our culture, we often talk about change and loss being opportunities for renewal and transformation–a chance for our souls to cleanse old attachments and negative habits. But it is necessary first to have time for recovery from the initial shock. The problem with natural disasters and sudden loss is, they don’t care what stage of preparedness you are in when it happens. Coping with stress when external forces challenge your inner resources can be overwhelming.

Sandy and other natural disasters are a perfect metaphor for Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). Sagebrush’s signature, its ‘personality,’ is one of rising anew after devastating or sweeping losses. According to flower essence philosophy Sagebrush is useful to people who have been stripped of their most dearly held possessions and relationships.

Sagebrush is a bittersweet plant used to growing in areas of extreme or harsh conditions like the Russian Steppes or the southwest desert. One of its most common uses is as a smudge stick to remove or neutralize negative energies from a person or room.

A flower essence tincture is the best way to benefit from Sagebrush. It is an excellent complement to somatic therapies that work to help release trauma from the body such as the fiber arts, and other types of mind-body therapies for processing, integrating and transcending the effects of loss and grief.

All loss, no matter how present, stirs up old hurts and pushes us to see our negative patterns. Sagebrush gives us the fortitude to confront them and put our focus on changing things to serve the present, not the past. Sagebrush can help a person overcome repetitive, intrusive, or painful memories and negative patterns, even those stemming from childhood.

Sagebrush’s Secret Lore

Artemisia tridentata belongs to the Sunflower family and shares some of their sun loving family traits and characteristics of strong, sturdy stems and branches. Members of this family know how to deal with themes of spiritual reintegration, soul purpose, and spiritual self development. Sagebrush knows how to thrive through and win over deep loss, cut through vicious cycles and unwinnable situations. If you are stuck in an unhappy relationship, suffering unrelenting grief or obsessing about past events, for example, Sagebrush’s resilient and persevering energies can give you a great boost over that wall of seemingly impossible-to-heal or recover from emotions. Sagebrush will literally help you ‘get over it.’ Because one of Sagebrush’s properties is to act as a decongestant, its personality is noted for removing blocks. It is a favorite plant for those needing a catalyst to move through especially stubborn problems.

Sagebrush lends the strength and courage to hang out in that empty space–between old life and new–that disasters create, and to await patiently for something new to appear.


Energy Psychology and Hypnotherapy

Mental Health, Spirituality | Posted by Kim
Nov 13 2011

Flipping the Lightswitch on the Mind’s Darkness

An Exploration of Energy Psychology and Hypnotherapy

Q. How many neurons does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A. 100 billion and one. 100 billion microscopic cells to create a  thought and one to say, “That’s an idea!”

Anyone who has ever reached for a lightswitch that is no longer there on the wall after a room remodel, or pushed the button on a coffee maker during a power outage knows the power of neuro-electrical programming, how it can take days to re-wire their perception, or beliefs, to align with a new reality. Hard wiring is a good thing. It tells us how to navigate our environment, stay alive and motivates us to pay our electric bills.

But what of the destructive programming, or limiting beliefs, we are completely unaware of; the darker messages buried deep in the shadows of our subconscious that informs our decison making, judgement and actions; our shadow selves?

Argue for your limitations and they are yours.~Richard Bach

The above quote is an apt spiritual injunction. Yet, if we don’t know what our limitations are, how to recognize them as negative beliefs driving our behaviors, rather than the gospel truth of our reality, it is nearly impossible to argue against them.

No one wants to be held hostage to destructive behaviors or repel people with persistent negative attitudes. But all behavior is driven by what we believe will keep us alive and safe in the world. It is a cruel irony that those self-regulating behaviors we act out in order to regain balance —physically, psychologically and socially— and to move away from threat all too often backfires. What one does in response to a negative belief to feel safe, included and purposeful causes another to retreat, reject or judge.

This is the pioneering work of energy medicine (also known as energy psychology) which includes methods such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing); EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques); PSYCH-K (psychology + kinesiology) and hypnotherapy. The common denominator is neuroscience and how it addresses the brain’s electrical impulses and currents to reprogram the negative beliefs and perceptions learned and stored in our subconscious during childhood. But if beliefs are more powerful than reality, can we change? Energy medicine says yes!

A relatively new field, energy medicine marries neuroscience and psychology, shining the spotlight on the real reasons we get stuck in destructive patterns and the negative thinking that keeps us missing our goals of true success, happiness and love. Research consistently finds that we make decisions or set goals with only a tiny fraction of our conscious mind while the vastly larger subconscious is really running the show.

We’ve heard it for years now in movies and books like The Secret, and support groups, personal development seminars, eastern mysticism and cognitive psychology: YOU create your own reality.

But there is an element of blame and judgement in that suggestion. Anyone who has lost her husband in a car accident or has a terrible birth defect will tell you, they most assuredly did not create the painful situations they are in. There is some truth in both arguments though. Individually, we do not have the sum power and responsibility for creating all of reality. We do however have the ability to reveal a broader reality beyond our narrow negative perceptions and better align our lives to reflect more of the positive fragments of reality that are out there.

Our negative programming teaches us to select certain fragments of reality while being blind to others. What hypnotherapist Debbie Taylor-Lilly of Intuitive Hypnosis in Portland, Ore. says is our perception of life events; the personal meaning we assign to our life events. “Your perceptions tell you that what you are looking at, listening to, thinking about, experiencing, etc., is either good, bad, or neutral.” And our negative programs, just as a parasite seeks a host to survive, needs proof of itself to sustain its life. The talented adult artist who bases his livelihood on his artwork but never sells a painting was told as a child that no one will like him if he is a better artist than his peers. A brilliant ad executive who keeps losing her management positions because she is terrified of sticking up for herself is the daughter of a powerfully destructive narcissist. Self-fulfilling prophecy gets its fuel from belief. The reward is survival but the punishment is social isolation.

Energy medicine to the rescue! Methods such as PSYCH-K, EMDR and hypnosis helps us knock down the negative beliefs blocking the neural pathways that obscure the sunnier view. The more an individual can step out of his own shadow the more light he can accept and, in turn, reflect on his environment with positive actions. Collectively, consciously “creating” a new reality.

If the mind is like a box and our neurons are the pinholes through which we perceive only tiny fragments of “what’s out there” —selective reality— PSYCH-K helps slide the lid open to reveal a much broader landscape, and overwrites the negative or limiting belief with a new program of infinite possibility.

Can the mighty iceberg, the submerged part that is our subconscious, be that easily influenced by mere suggestion? Yes, says Taylor-Lilly. “Hypnosis, which is a state of deep relaxation, puts your mind in a state of receptivity that allows new programming to download. Hypnosis provides access to positive beliefs about yourself and the present that negative programming has kept locked out from your awareness.” Reprogramming does not consist of completely erasing our lives and memories. Instead it is a matter of laying down new positive tracks over the negative, limiting beliefs that make our reality a prison of impossibility. Repetition is the key, Taylor-Lilly explains. Just as physical therapy rebuilds and realigns our musculature, positive belief messages, consistently applied, overwrites our sub-conscious mind’s recorded messages about our beliefs and what is possible, or not possible for us.

But how does laying down a new track, so to speak, on the individual’s tape player sync with the reality of the world at large? How to reconcile, for example, a job seeker’s belief he can have any job he puts his mind to with a tough economy and poor job market? Because. The conscious mind will not seek anything that the sub-conscious mind does not believe exists in reality. Once one changes his perceptions of reality, he opens himself, literally, to a world of possibilities where the creative problem solving can begin.

Learn more…

The Ten Worst (Plus the Five Most Helpful) Things to Say to the Unemployed

Mental Health, Radical Rants | Posted by Kim
Sep 05 2011

So, you’re out of work. And you’re looking. Maybe methodically, maybe frantically. Maybe your efforts have yielded solid leads, new ideas and rock hard interviewing and prospecting muscles. Or, maybe you’ve been casting your net so wide you’re worn thin by the zero return. In either case, anyone who has been in the trenches for the long run knows that the most taxing part of the job hunt is having to give the report from the front to inquiring friends and family.  You close your laptop, which is running hot from all the hours on Craigslist and downloading and attaching resumes.  Or, you’ve given your last forced smile and handshake of the day after that interview for the minimum wage ‘associate’ job. You head to the kitchen to make dinner, just like every other working stiff. Then the phone rings. On the other end is the hand-wringing mother, or a close friend whose nervous interrogation burns more of your synaptic calories than any panel interview.

Understand that they mean well. Being out of work is on the Top Ten list of life’s stressors.  Often it’s a package deal that combines financial difficulties, changes in relationships including divorce or separation, loss of the family home, low self-esteem, and loss of community support–those friends who scatter when they learn the news.

Those who care about you often fall back on outdated information or hackneyed advice. Things they say in an attempt to help or fix your situation often end up adding to your distress, depleting your already low reserves as you find yourself tending to their anxiety or justifying yourself in the face of their judgement.

For anyone who has had to navigate the gauntlet of the advice-giving non-unemployed, here is a handy-dandy list of the ten most commonly given, yet mostly unhelpful, advice to the unemployed and their talking points. Followed by five very helpful things to say to the unemployed. Tack it on your well-wisher’s refrigerators.

The Ten Worst Things to Say to The Unemployed

“Just take anything.”

First of all, it’s not as though the job hunter steps outside his door to be greeted by a revolving merry-go-round from which employers are giving out jobs like a candy-throwing clown at a birthday party. In order to take something it must be offered. Secondly, rarely is anybody suited to every job listed on the job boards or newspaper classifieds. Chances of being screened out or denied a job increase exponentially the lower qualified –less experienced in the field or specific task– the applicant is. Employers can see and read desperation when a mid-manager or owner or PhD applies for entry level positions. And no employer wants to risk the time and money involved with recruiting, training and paying an employee who is only there because he’s willing to “take anything.” Sorry. It doesn’t work like that.

“The mall is hiring.”

The Mall? You mean retailers? Just because J.C. Penney is hiring for sales associates at minimum wage doesn’t mean your personality or aptitude changes.  The very traits that made a person successful in their former line of work quite often will be their downfall in a different position. Retail, food service, customer service jobs all require an ability to interact with and be “on” for the public in a way that is not always possible for techies, introverts or poets. Engineers, IT techs, administrators, research scientists, and many other mostly left- or right-brained individuals are used to and require large blocks of time for introspective thinking and creative problem solving. Most cannot meet the demands of a public interface job. They could try. It won’t end well.

“It’s easier to get a job when you have a job.”


“Are you looking eight hours a day?”

The average reading level of the New York Times is at the Eighth Grade level. It takes, for even the fastest keyboarder and Internet savvy job hunter, about ten minutes per job posting to read it, discern whether or not one meets even the minimum qualifications, ferret out the application instructions, write the cover letter, attach an appropriate resume, fill out the application, think up a new password if it’s an online application and either hit send or pencil in the date and time when the on-site application acceptance event is happening.  Multiply that by every possible match with the postings of the day, add in phone calls to contacts, temp agencies, printing out more resumes, writing lists of positive affirmations, attending job seeker support groups, commuting to the cattle calls and interviews (when you get them) and, lest we forget, fielding phone calls from inquiring friends and family. It amounts to approximately 4-5 hours a day. That’s just about what an employee  hired into a full-time position spends doing tangible, measurable work each day. The rest is spent on commuting, meetings, lunch hours and looking on Craigslist for another job. Are you looking eight hours a day? The answer is yes.

“Have you considered that maybe it’s something you’re doing or saying wrong? (Maybe it’s your attitude.)”

Atta, Tude. Good boy! No one surly has ever darkened your break room doorway, right? There is a popular maxim circulating out there that says job hunting is like dating. It’s absolutely true! As important as skills and experience are to a hiring manager, personality always wins out. Just because you have been displaced, fired, laid off, or have even outgrown your last position doesn’t mean your personality changes. You are who you are when you find yourself looking for another job. Just like speed dating, on interviews it’s a matter of chemistry. How you come across to one interviewer that starts him clearing his throat and ushering you to the door is often what causes another interviewer to gush with a job offer. Go figure.

“Have you called the temp agencies?

Yes, but they won’t answer the phone. Once upon a time a person could put on his tie or her pantyhose and heels and walk into the temp agency to fill out an application, take a typing or math and spelling test and wait to be called to work the very next day. Wang and Wordstar were the hot word processing programs at the time.

Today temp agencies are recruiters working for the employer. And in this economy their bread and butter comes from garnering the larger corporate accounts. Presently the majority of work orders are for industrial positions, says the president of  Staff Force, LLC a Portland based temporary and direct hire recruiting firm. Clerical is rare. So, even if you are willing to be a file clerk, word processor or data entry ‘specialist’, the agency’s interest is in filling their client’s needs, not yours.

“I see jobs in the paper all the time.” ~Grandpa  “There are hundreds of jobs on Craigslist.” ~Your sister

There are millions of eligible singles in the world too. Doesn’t mean they’re going to be a love match for you. Many, many job ads are actually placed by recruiters (see above) in an attempt to get their placement fees or build their candidate pool. It’s a common barricade for the average job seeker to get past. Then there are the blind ads, where you have no idea to what company you are applying; quite possibly the one you just left. And token ads; the type where the job has already been filled but because of Equal Opportunity laws the employer is obligated to advertise it. Just like personal ads, not all is as it appears to be.

“You may have to take something you don’t like.”

Now, who doesn’t love this dire warning and its ability to make one feel like an eight-year old?  Your focus is on finding work that will meet all or at least some of your financial needs, doing a task, service or skill that you possess the ability to do or learn. When the opportunity is presented, of course you will take it.

“My Cousin/Son-in-law/Grandson Got a Job…”

Bully for him! And Kate married a prince.


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The Five Most Helpful Things to Say to the Unemployed

“Don’t get defeated.The competition is intense.”

Lynn S. of the Oregon Employment Department states that, on average, there are approximately 200 applicants lined up with you for any given job opening. Even unemployment insurance guidelines require a person to look for work within his skill set and don’t expect clients to “take just anything.”

“I know looking for work is just about one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever do.”

The job hunting life is so demoralizing and exhausting; requires such sustained effort that once you are hired into a position it will feel like a vacation. Sooner or later you will resolve the question of your livelihood.

“Someone out there needs someone exactly like you. You just haven’t found each other yet.”

Remember the dating analogy? It’s exactly like that. Just keep working on knowing who you are and becoming exactly the employee you’d want to hire if you were an employer. Every day tell yourself, “Today could be the day I meet Mr. Employer Right.” Are you ready?

“Everything you’re doing now counts as work too.”

Researching, resume building, networking, interviewing, self-study, retraining are all activities that require skill and resourcefulness. Don’t listen to people who tell you you’re doomed because no one will accept gaps on a resume. Volunteer and other unpaid work counts as employment. And not only is volunteering a wonderful way to fill the gap, it also keeps the job seeker connected to the community and boosts self-esteem.

“Are you giving yourself time to rest and restore?”

People who are looking for work have the same needs and rights to sleep, meals, socializing and relaxation as the employed. Job hunters are on the defensive so much of the time, your job-seeking friend or family member will be pleasantly surprised to hear you ask this question.








From Clutter to Clarity- An Organizing Expert Talks About Ordering a More Joyful Life

Broom Closet, Mental Health | Posted by Kim
Mar 22 2011

Spring has sprung! Time to clear out the cobwebs and other accumulations, real and metaphorical, of our winter hibernation.

To kickstart Herbal Heresy’s Spring Issue, I spoke with organizing expert and author Donna Smallin who shines some light into those cluttered corners of our lives and talks about the benefits of an organized lifestyle.               

HH: What inspired you to become an organizer?

Donna: I’ve always been pretty organized and I live an uncluttered life. I’ve also always been a writer and, one day, decided to write a book about uncluttering your home that was published in 1999. Believe me when I tell you, I had no idea that it would lead to seven more books about uncluttering, organizing, simplifying and cleaning up your life. Or, that we would sell a million copies worldwide in 15 languages. Or, that I would become one of the leading organizing authorities in the world! Obviously, there’s a need for this kind of information. So if you want to get organized, I hope it helps you to know that you’re not alone.

HH: If one is a slob, or a pack rat, so what? Why is organization important?

Donna: Disorganization is only a problem if it’s creating problems in your life and/or relationships. If you’re okay with a disorganized environment, that’s fine. But chances are, if you live with someone else, they are not okay with it. That’s a problem. I do believe that clutter is representative of obstacles we put in the path of our success.  Whether or not it be personal or professional success. There’s also a cost for disorganization. Think about it. If you spend 15 minutes a day searching for things, that’s seven hours a month, or 84 hours a year. What do you make per hour in your job? Multiply that by 84. That’s your annual cost of disorganization. And it’s not just time that’s an issue. I generally equate “mess” with “stress.” Organized people are generally less stressed and less overwhelmed by their daily lives. In addition, getting organized can create more time and space to do what you love, and less time looking for lost keys and bills to pay.

HH: In your experience, what tips or methods do you find are the easiest for people to adopt or are the most sustainable for them?

Donna: The hardest part of getting organized is getting started. You’re never going to find time to get organized. You have to make time. And the best way to do that is to schedule organizing appointments with yourself – and then honor those appointments just as you would any other. I suggest 15-30 minutes of organizing activity every day, focused on one small area. Let’s take your clothes closet, for example. It could take 2-8 hours to organize your clothes closet, and trying to carve out that much time is difficult, especially if you have more fun things to do! But, if each day you focus on uncluttering and organizing one small area of your clothes closet, it seems much more doable because it IS more doable. For example: On Day 1, you can just go through your shoe collection. On Day 2, go through purses and jewelry. Then focus on one foot of clothes rod at a time, trying on everything and keeping only what makes you feel fabulous (why would you want to wear anything less?).

HH: In what areas do you find the most resistance?

Donna: Letting go. To truly unclutter your home, you need to let go of the bits and pieces that no longer serve you, which I define as things you no longer (or never did) love or need. The biggest worry is that we might need it someday. So I ask you to ask yourself: If you’re going to  need it again someday (and that’s a big “if”), could you get it again pretty easily and inexpensively? The answer is usually yes.

HH: You’ve heard the term ‘herding cats.’ Are some people simply unorganizable?

Donna: Anyone can learn to be organized – if you WANT to get organized. It’s just like anything else. You don’t have to have natural talent to learn to play the piano. All you need is the desire. If you have the desire, you have the potential within you to acquire that skill. Otherwise you wouldn’t have the desire. People learn in all different ways and no one way is better than any other. The key is to be an active participant in the process. You can’t just ask someone to organize stuff for you. You need to be part of the solution or it won’t be a lasting solution.

HH: Can you tame even the wildest of the chronically disorganized?

Donna: Chronic disorganization is a term that encompasses challenging situations such as compulsive hoarding. It typically requires the help of a professional organizer who is trained in this area. I’m not one of them. Hoarders, in particular, also need the help of a psychiatrist. There’s a group called the Institute for Challenging Disorganization that specializes in educating professional organizers, and the public, about these issues. Public fact sheets can be found here:

HH: Much of your speaking engagements and videos talk about the theme of paring down or giving away, which is another term for “letting go!” Easy for others to say.  What insight have you gained from teaching others to let go of their beloved yet cumbersome objects?

Donna: There’s a lot of fear out there! As I mentioned earlier, there is often the fear that you may throw away or give away something you will need again someday. You have to weigh the pain of letting go against the pain of keeping it. Huh? What I mean is that most people have too much stuff and as a result have to deal with not having enough space, or wasting valuable time every day looking for things, or taxing an already taxed relationship. These are painful issues. To get yourself moving in a more organized direction, I’ve found it helps to reward yourself every step of the way. Allow yourself to flop down in front of the TV only AFTER you’ve spent 15 minutes engaging in un-cluttering or organizing activities. Take the money you make at your garage sale and treat yourself to a massage. Just, don’t buy more stuff!

HH: What goes around comes around. But, what goes out leaves room for more! Yes?  : )

Donna: Now you’re talking about maintenance! Uncluttering and organizing is not a one-time project. It’s something that you need to work at continuously. A few things I often suggest: 1) Purge paper files annually. There’s a lot of outdated information such as insurance policies that you can shred at the end of the year. 2) Don’t buy anything without knowing exactly where it will go in your home (décor) or when you will use it (clothing, appliances, etc.). 3) Keep a donations box in your closet to collect items you no longer love or use. When it gets full, take it to the nearest donation station on your way to or from work.

HH: Plain and simple is another theme that’s often echoed in your work and in modern society. How do you think this reconciles with our “more, more, more” culture?

Donna: I’m not so sure we have a “more, more, more” culture anymore given the state of our economy these last few years. I think we’re in one of those phases where we are realizing that less is more.  i.e., the most important things in life are not things. I know that I personally prefer to spend my money more often on experiences: fun times with family and friends, learning experiences, travel. I love the Oprah Winfrey quote, “If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough.”

HH: Isn’t organization just for the uptight, or for people who need to be regimented?

Donna: Um. Who are you calling uptight and regimented? 🙂 Most definitely not. There are varying degrees of organization and it’s up to you to decide how “organized” looks to you. In other words, how organized do you want or need to be? I’ve been asked if I alphabetize my spices. The answer is no. Is my home always perfectly organized? No. But can I comfortably invite in unexpected guests? Yes. And can I find important documents including bills to pay when I need them? Yes. I personally find it difficult, even debilitating, to have to deal with a messy desk or closet. I can get dressed a lot quicker if I can see what’s hanging in my closet (because all the hangers are not jammed together) and pull together an outfit, knowing that it fits (otherwise, why would it be in there?) and is ready to wear (vs. being all crumpled up on the floor or missing a button that I’ve meant to sew back on).

HH: Won’t I lose my identity or my originality if I move my life into little compartments and boxes? What’s wrong with a little chaos or wabi-sabi?

Donna: Nothing wrong with a little anything! You actually sound like a very visual person (most creative people are) so I would recommend that you look for organizing solutions that are very visual and appeal to your creative side such as colorful file folders. I do think you discover more about yourself versus losing yourself in the process of getting organized. Uncluttering helps you figure out what’s really important to you as you make decisions about what to keep and what to toss. Most people who go through the process of uncluttering describe their experience as “freeing.”

HH: Talk about how the benefits of an organized lifestyle extend toward, not only personal well-being, but even overall community health.

Donna: Because I keep an organized pantry and plan my meals each week, we eat good, healthy food and spend way less on eating out than most other couples we know.  Not to mention less on groceries because I always shop with a list.  A side benefit of keeping an organized pantry is that my husband and I, both in our early 50s, are in excellent health. Generally, being organized allows me to live a wonderfully full life that includes, in addition to being an author and speaker, being a CEO of my own home-based business, weekly piano lessons and daily practice, volunteering three hours a week for the Leader Dog School for the Blind, 6-8 weeks of business and personal travel each year, training for a half-marathon this year, daily workouts, cooking classes, book clubs, and regular get-togethers with friends. I seriously doubt that I would be able achieve as much as I have and do without being organized.

HH: Tell me about the joys of de-cluttering and organizing. Do you have a favorite success story?

Donna: This is my favorite success story – told to me recently in an e-mail dated 2/23/11:

My name is Melanie D. I live in Christchurch, New Zealand. You may have heard about the devastating earthquake our city suffered on Tuesday this week. Our central city has been completely devastated, many lives have been lost and hundreds are missing. I just wanted to say thank you for helping me to get my home de-cluttered and organized to the point that we were able to cope very quickly and efficiently in this terrible disaster this week.

Prior to this earthquake, we suffered a 7.1 magnitude in September 2010. My house was completely disorganized and cluttered, and we sat through a long and scary night with just a candle. Our kids were traumatized. We have always been terrible hoarders and refused to throw anything out. I kept buying “stuff” just because I liked it. We were honestly in a very bad way. I could relate very easily to a lot of what you say in your books.

We then suffered a large aftershock on Boxing Day 2010, and at that point I decided I had to change our home and our lives. I turned to your books and have followed your ideas and instructions quite meticulously. Needless to say, things have been far easier for us this time round. Thank God our family is all safe and well.

As is the case during times like this, we all open our homes to each other. People visiting here have been stunned at how well-managed our home is at a time like now. Clean-up was minimal and we were able to open our home quickly to neighbours. This has helped my own state of mind immensely.

Thank you for making a difference to our lives at such a terrible time for our city.

Donna Smallin is the author of The One-Minute Organizer and 7 other books about de-cluttering, organizing and creating a more free and simple life.           


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Is That My Reflection or Your Projection?

Mental Health | Posted by Kim
Jan 29 2011
A Closer Look at Narcissism: Why the mirror is really the self obsessive’s worst fear.

Feeling a little crazed by the narcissist in your life? You are not alone. You may feel invisible but you are not alone.

The New York Times recently ran an article about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) being dropped from the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.-5). The DSM committee’s decision has made some old school psychiatrists unhappy. But the manual’s definition of the disorder is woefully shallow. The common definition of a narcissist is that of one who, in love with his own reflection, demands constant praise and adoration from others to reinforce his self-image. But that’s only partly accurate. What the true narcissist really seeks by looking into the mirror is not his own reflection, but a reflection of another whose identity he can consume in order to disguise his deeply felt shame.

What level of crazy can dealing with someone with a narcissistic personality disorder make you feel? A true narcissist will have you arguing that Occam’s razor is a shaving utensil. A really good one will have you making a trip to the store to buy a pack of them, then arranging them neatly in his bathroom vanity (pun intended).

We all possess a degree of narcissism. Positive self-regard is a natural, necessary component of a healthy ego. But given a severe enough injury to our self-image, narcissistic tendencies can blow up so far beyond balanced proportions—leaving no room for other people’s needs or feedback—that it becomes pathological; a true personality disorder.

Causes of Narcissism

Distilling it down to its simplest explanation, narcissists use their behavior to hide, or avoid feeling, deep shame. In her book “Disarming the Narcissist,” Wendy Behary explains that the brain connects us with memory-driven mind states—positive or negativein a matter of seconds. It is what our brains do to tell us how to respond to a person or situation; tells us whether or not someone or a situation is safe.

In narcissism the presupposition is always attack. No one stands a chance in the face of the narcissist’s insecurity and insatiable need for approval. Behary ascribes such reactions to schemas, or personal life themes, that the narcissist may be reacting to outside of his awareness.

Behary lists several types of schemas. Some are, fear and inadequacy; entitlement or grandiosity; insufficient self-control and approval seeking. “When a schema is triggered, it can produce extremely powerful negative emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, and self-defeating reactions…Those coping skills often involve donning three protective masks: The perfectionist: the hallmark of his unrelenting standards schema. The avenging bully: the hallmark of his entitlement schema. The competitive braggart: the hallmark of his approval seeking schema.” (Disarming the Narcissist, p. 46.)

Love Him or Leave Him?

We meet one another at points all along the spectrum of self-awareness and human development. In the case of a parent, sibling or child, it’s not possible to completely eliminate a narcissist from our lives. Nor is it necessarily optimal. The better approach is to learn how to navigate our own healthy egos through the raging fires of their self-doubt.

For compassionate caretaker types, it can be hard to recognize a narcissist because her voracious needs and insecurities are often disguised as superiority or persistent indignation. Telling them how their behavior affects you is always, always your problem. Your needs are always, always about their needs. Draining, isn’t it? That’s because narcissists are emotional vampires. They aren’t in love with their own reflections. Vampires don’t have reflections! Because narcissism effectively damages self-image, narcissists lurk in front of the proverbial mirror, seeking another’s image. When a close, core or essential relationship appears, the narcissist pounces! Projecting herself onto you and taking over your identity. From that point on, everything you do and say she will hear and experience as you telling her who she is.

Intuitively it would seem that the narcissist’s theme would be me, me, me. But the hallmark statement of his disintegrated and disassociated ego identity is to constantly say, you, you, you. “I didn’t get to work on time because you didn’t set the alarm.” “I’m bending over backwards for you and you don’t appreciate it.” They master the art of deflection lest self accountability, or even interrelation, destroy their fragile sense of self. Instead of self-regard they are always in a state of self-guard.

Productive dialogue with a profound narcissistic is often impossible. What is being said cannot penetrate the steely armor of the ego wounded. Conversation bounces off  the mirror the narcissist has turned into a bullet-proof window.

Someone in a profound narcissistic state perceives even benign statements as attack. A simple “How was your day?” is a question the narcissistic mind hears as an accusation; a demand for accountability. For the person whose ego is playing out an inferiority or inadequacy schema, every plea for talk is felt as an indictment. To those unaware, it can feel like he is playing mind games, being intentionally mean or even sadistic.

The narcissist needs to feel special. Yet, when they perceive rejection, criticism or blame (which is almost always any time you tell a narcissist how you feel or what you need) they react in ways that make it hard to love or care about them, nevermind see them as special.

Triggers (Don’t Pull Them!)

Triggers make us aware of bodily, emotional and cognitive changes without clear understanding that it is memories, not a present threat, that are responsible for the changes. (That’s why you can’t get to the end of a sentence with your triggered narcissist.) In triggered states, sensory re-enactments of an early experience eclipse the present moment. In other words, “Honey, where did you put my pruning shears?” translates to your spouse’s mind, the enraged mother accusing him, when he was eight years old, of touching things he shouldn’t touch and now he’s going to get in trouble. His heart rate spikes, he starts to sweat and he goes into fight or flight mode. Telling your narcissist (including yourself) to stop living in the past is futile and actually hurtful. Not knowing the source of the uncomfortable physical and psychological states we are experiencing causes us to feel childlike and powerless over the mechanics of moving from threat to safety. Not surprisingly, the bodily symptoms and emotional distress of a narcissist’s triggered schema often mimic post traumatic stress disorder.

Behary uses the example of a supervisor walking by the desk of an employee with a defectiveness schema. The supervisor has what the employee perceives as a ‘funny look’ on her face. The employee immediately thinks he is going to be fired. “Our brains are primed to launch protective missiles when an enemy is present, and in this case the schema is the enemy.” (Disarming the Narcissist, p.47.) Depending on your particular schema, Behary continues, you may flee to safety, avoid tasks, become distracted, make mistakes.

Or, in the case of an abandonment schema, you may make unreasonable or relentless demands for reassurance. Either way, ultimately you end up fired, or dumped from a relationship.

So, how can you avoid triggering a narcissist? Practice active listening. Practice compassionate and reflective dialogue. Remember always the weight of the shame your narcissist is struggling under, and resist the urge (often the very strong urge) to counter-attack, argue your side or seek revenge. It can feel like an unfair burden but the rewards are worth it. Meet another person’s need for being heard and the obnoxious behavior goes away. For the moment anyway. You may have to ‘lather, rinse and repeat’ many times. But soon a level of trust builds to quiet the schema’s voices.

Are you a narcissist?

Do you recognize yourself in reading this? Don’t worry. A chronic narcissist is unlikely to take interest in this article’s title, never mind read down this far. Try this social experiment: print out this article and leave it in a conspicuous place. See who reads it and who ignores it. Narcissists tend to resist that scariest of all objects of self-awareness: the mirror!

Learn more about  Narcissistic Personality Disorder at

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