Gaslit? Grab Your Fire Extinguisher!

We all make mistakes and say or do things that are thoughtless or careless sometimes. No one shows up as the best version of themselves in every situation on every single day. Hopefully, if you are a grown-up, you know how to give a grown-up apology. A grown-up apology is when you say you’re sorry without any other bells or whistles. It isn’t “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I see what you’re saying, but you did X, Y or Z.” It’s a simple, “I hear you. I understand why you feel the way you do and I am so sorry I blew it. I will think about what happened and why I did what I did or said what I said so I make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future.” Something along those lines qualifies as a grown-up apology and it’s really good to know how to give one of those because we’re all human. Whether you’re forgiven or not is not up to you, you can only do your end of the equation. People who aren’t willing or able to accept a grownup apology may realize that’s a bad policy when they’re the ones looking for forgiveness, so do your best to give people time.

There are some people who will never apologize, though, and maybe you know people like that. Gaslighting is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days, and it comes from a George Cukor film, “Gaslight” with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer – it’s a story about a husband who methodically causes his wife to question her own sanity by telling her the gaslight in their home isn’t dimming when clearly it is. Small things that add up over time and make her wonder if she can trust herself. This is what it feels like when you’re being gaslit. A person behaves in a way that is widely accepted as hurtful or thoughtless, and when you express that you feel hurt or disregarded, they treat you as though you are the crazy one.

If you’ve been in this situation, then you know that it is, indeed, crazy-making. I once expressed my anger and sadness to a friend who’d been very careless and thoughtless, and her response was that she no longer felt safe with me because I’d been so critical of her. What kind of friendship is possible if you express your legitimate and understandable disappointment and are told the other person now feels unsafe? That’s classic manipulation and gaslighting, and it shuts down any possibility for understanding, forgiveness, healing, trust or intimacy.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, the number one thing you can trust is what you have seen with your own eyes and heard with your own ears. If a person is regularly thoughtless, self-absorbed, careless with you, and unable to apologize, you can trust this isn’t a person who is capable of being in a healthy relationship. That hurts and it’s sad, but it’s true and it’s also okay. There are a lot of people like this in the world. It’s very easy to say I’m wonderful. I’m amazing, I’m the best person you’ll ever meet. But if I behave in ways that call that into question, if I’m cruel or rude or a giant blowhard, it’s easy to see that my words and my actions don’t gel, and you can trust that and decide I’m not someone you want in your life. Try not to get twisted. Sometimes we really want to make excuses for people because we love them or are attached to a particular outcome, but it never works when you pretend things are not as they are.

One of the tenets of the yoga practice is vidya, clear-seeing. We’re trying to remove the gunk that prevents us from seeing clearly. That “gunk” might be caused by years of build-up. Maybe we’re used to being treated with little regard, or we’ve come to believe that we’re broken in some deep and essential way. We may have decided that “everyone leaves” or “everyone cheats” or “you can’t trust anyone” because one person left or cheated or wasn’t trustworthy. That would be gunk that’s blocking our ability to see clearly. Maybe we’re coming out of a family where everyone is pretending things are perfect when really, there’s big trouble brewing. Sometimes people you love demand that you love them on their terms, and their terms might be that you accept they are never wrong. There are a lot of different ways we can grow to not trust in our ability to see clearly, to trust our gut, our own eyes and ears. If it looks like a snake and acts like a snake, it’s a snake. Trust that. As the incredible Maya Angelou always said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

If the posts are helpful, you can find my books here and my yoga classes and courses here.

Make Your Art

Dont-think-about-makingThis is pretty much how I feel about life. Every day we are granted is a chance to make art. The art of living life with your heart open. The art of moving from, and with love. The art of healing yourself, of listening deeply, of giving whatever you’ve got to spread some light, some joy, some laughter. The art of a great hug. The art of creating a space where healing is likely to occur, for yourself, and for as many other people as you can. Some of the most beautiful art I know, is the art of being present. Of giving someone your time, your attention, access to your soul. Everyone deserves that. To be truly seen, heard, experienced.

You won’t always succeed, but treating your life and the way you’re living it as your canvas, and painting it with every gorgeous color in your soul is the only way I know to make the art you’re here to share. Worrying about how you’ll be received or perceived is all too human, but it’s also a complete waste of your resources. Trying to please everyone is exhausting and impossible, and it’s also a surefire way to cut yourself off from your inspiration, your yes, your divine spark. If you make your art from a place of love, you really can’t go wrong. You may not please everyone, but as long as you aren’t intentionally hurting anyone (I’m not talking about those times when we will all inevitably hurt people because we’ve grown in a different direction. I’m talking about indifference to someone else’s well-being, feelings, situation, heart), you have to shine your light. You have to dip your brush in the well of what is true for you, and splash the stuff that lights you up from within, all over your canvas. It is not your job to convince anyone that your art is worthwhile or important or good. It’s not your job to wipe someone else’s lenses and sell them on how awesome you are. You are supposed to be awesome. You’re no different than the sun, or the ocean, or the bella luna. You’re part of all of that, with some stardust splashed in, too. There is nothing to prove. There are just many incredible and obvious things to be: Curious, loving, open, attentive, laughing, grateful, awake, amazed.

That’s your light, and you’re meant to shine it. You’re meant to uncover it and share it and spread it everywhere you go. We need to feel that connection to what is true for us, and the joy in life comes from the sharing of it. Of course it is extra special to be received with love. But you are love, so you can do that for yourself, too. Some people will come and share some of their art on your canvas in this life if you let them. And you will sometimes paint on someone else’s also. If you have children one day, you will want them to finger paint all over your stuff until they find their own canvas. Sometimes in life someone’s art complements our own so well, we decide to share a space to shine, and sometimes the art moves in two different directions. If at all possible, celebrate the process of making it, and try not to worry too much about whether it’s turning out the way you envisioned. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself. Maybe some color will come out of you that you never knew existed. Be bold. Be willing to get messy. Try not to be disturbed when every color coming out of you is dark. If you looked back on the canvases of the most happy people you know, I guarantee you somewhere you’d find the midnight blue of despair. The dark grey of loneliness. The muddy brown of confusion. The blackness of fear. And splashes of those shadow colors throughout the entire piece. How else would you see the extraordinary light if not for the darker hues? Because this work of being human is messy and complicated. Sometimes it will break your heart, and sometimes your broken heart will open in ways that create the most piercingly beautiful colors. It is all gorgeous and necessary and worthwhile. It is all your art. And it is stunning, just like you.

And just so you know, you can come paint on my canvas anytime. Sending you so much love, and flicking a little paint at you, too, Ally Hamilton

Don’t Miss the View!

I-want-to-stand-as-closeThere are two ways to do life. One way seems like the easy way. You follow the status quo and decide it’s all about what you have and how you look and who you’re with, and you devote all your time and energy to these things and find ways to numb yourself out from the absurdity of it all. You do this with food or drugs or sex or stuff, but most of the time you feel miserable and tired. You think things like, “What’s the point of it all?”

The other way seems like the hard way. You face your fears. You listen to that small but truthful voice inside you that says, “There is NO WAY this life is about how big your butt is, or your bank account, can we please get real? There’s a life to live here that is beautiful and amazing, there’s a song you need to be singing, what, exactly, are you doing???” And you get busy. You get busy paying attention, listening deeply, acknowledging your pain, doing the work. You stop chasing happiness in the form of “stuff”, and you start chasing the truth (I mean what is true for you). You probably feel sick to your stomach and lonely and scared and like you must be crazy for walking away from your comfort zone and all the people waving you back like the Wild Things. But comfort zones are located in the middle. You cannot see the incredible view from there.

That may seem like the hard way, and it is brutal for awhile, there’s no doubt. Getting real is a painful process of shedding anything you’ve taken on that isn’t authentic to you, including ways of thinking and being. It hurts. But it is so much better to move through your pain for awhile, realize what you know, remember who you are, discover why you’re here, and take your gorgeous self right out to the edge of life, where the sun is stunningly bright and yellow and orange and pink and you can be your true self. You can stand with your feet on the ground and your heart wide open, and just be awed by all the beauty and suffering, all the love and confusion, all the light and darkness. And you can sing the song of compassion and add your colors to this incredible life, this chaotic, mysterious, mind-bending experience. When it breaks your heart wide open, you can cry a real, true cry, right from your gut. And when it amazes you, you can receive the gifts with gratitude and love and delight. We have this thing backwards. The easy way is the hard way. The hard way is only hard for awhile. Then it’s awesome. Pick awesome. Start walking. Awesome won’t wait, and you do not want to miss it. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton