Lately, I feel like a flea. No, I don’t mean Red Hot Chili Pepper’s lead singer, Flea. I mean fleas in a jar who have been trained to only jump as high as the lid will allow. Even their offspring will learn this trained behavior. Last night, I was at my Landmark seminar in Charlotte called, “Breakthroughs: Living Outside the Box,” and I shared from the front of the room that lately I’ve been dealing with how to keep expanding myself and leading those around me when everything is successful, but you feel like shrinking because it’s just ‘too successful.’ You know the feeling. You’re on the roller coaster of life and think, wow, this is great. How much better can it get? Then you start to put the lid on to keep it a certain level of comfortable. Just like trained fleas in a jar.

The seminar leader encouraged me to practice my homework. I remember my homework well, because I shared it at my Native American circle Thursday evening October 1st as a way I’ve learned to get unstuck in life. The moderator had asked us all to share, “How do you get unstuck in life.” I said, “Personal growth and development seminars.”

Quick side-note on why I practice Native American spirituality. Some people are curious so, let me address that quickly. My great grandmother was Cherokee and since I live in the Smoky mountains, I’ve been studying my Cherokee heritage, even though I was raised Catholic by a Bavarian mother and an American protestant father. You all know our history. “Savage” ways weren’t discussed in family settings and every time I asked about my heritage, no one would speak about my great grandmother’s spirituality. I have always felt her presence in my life. So, it was nice to share my interests in personal development seminars with my spiritual community in such a positive way.

My friends from my Cherokee circle were so impressed with my homework, they asked for me to write it down, share about the seminar in a more formal way and I promised to blog about it instead so I could share it with a wider audience. Viola, this blog, and you! So, let me recreate the homework I’m currently doing from the seminar for you, my dear reader. The point of the homework from this seminar is to create possibility when a breakdown occurs by using these steps. I am using my own language to communicate best how I understand it:

1) notice the breakdown you’re experiencing,
2) identify a similar breakdown from your past,
3) write down conditioned-behavior you chose to do (and possibly keep doing) from that past breakdown,
4) then after seeing how that past experience influences the present breakdown, create a NEW possibility, in other words, a solution to deal powerfully with the breakdown.

Here’s an example from my own life and how I applied my seminar homework most recently:
My mother-in-law. I know… everyone has a reaction to the words “in-law,” but believe me, before this summer, my entire experience with the word in-laws was very positive. So, let me tell you what happened. In August 2015, after 14 years of having a solid relationship with my mother-in-law, she told me what she really thought of me. It wasn’t the loving, caring daughter-in-law I had envisioned I was creating in her family. Oh, no, it was very much the typical banter one would expect between a mother and daughter-in-law. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.

So, here’s how I took the lid off my breakdown:

  1. Breakdown: mother-in-law tells you really what she’s been thinking about you for 14 years.
  2. I had a similar breakdown from my past with my ex-boyfriend, Matt.
    [His stepmom didn’t like me because I couldn’t read her mind (kidding) and accused me of things I didn’t do (not kidding).]
  3. My conditioned behavior from this similar experience was to distance myself completely from my significant other’s side of the family giving me trouble. I just didn’t go over to their house and spend time with them.
  4. I could see that my choices to distance myself from anyone who dislikes me as a valid choice and I can still find lots of people agreeing that it would be fine to not interact with in-laws or family members who dislike me. However, I could also see that I really and truly love my husband’s family and while his mother may feel the way she does when she was hanging up the phone on me, what I really wanted was to rekindle the loving and caring relationship I had thought I had for 14 years. So, I created the possibility of love and harmony, starting with loving conversations with my mother-in-law that included 1) letting her communicate whatever she needed to say, 2) hang up the phone whenever she needed to hang up and 3) listen to her point of view distinct from my own. First, I fully let in all that she needed to say (discerning it wasn’t really about me, but rather some past memory or breakdown from her life). Then, I created the possibility of affinity and communicated to her my love & commitment to her and the family we share. It worked.

The homework from my class (I like to call it my breakthroughs-from-breakdowns seminar) has also worked in my professional life and even at the gym. (Don’t we all have breakdowns at the gym? I do.) Once you identify your behavior as something you chose from a past experience, rather than right now, it’s easier to then choose something new. Take the lid off. The lid trained you in the past, but today, when we take the lid off, we can fly around. Free flea, I like to think of it.

Let’s see who’s flying “free flea” or not today in the news:

Will you fly free today? Or, will you be the flea trained in the jar? Think about it. Notice your behavior. Choose what you’ve always been trained to do or, surprise yourself and choose something new.