Get that Paper Bag Off Your Head!

Howard just lay there in bed. He knew he had to go to work. But he felt so anxious and depressed, he didn't want to move. It felt like he had a paper bag over his head, and he didn't know why.

STUCK OR UNSTUCK?  Have you ever awakened feeling out of sorts, not knowing why? When this happened, weren't you tempted to focus on how bad you felt? The danger is, of course, getting stuck inside that brown bag on a mental merry-go-round.

YOU CAN GET UNSTUCK   Yet, there is a way to get unstuck right away. Start with these two simple questions: What am I feeling? and What do I want? can make a difference.

LABEL THAT FEELING!   Yes, you already know you feel lousy. But when you ask the first question and deliberately label what you are feeling, you can locate that feeling in time and space. You make the emotion concrete–something you can manipulate instead of giving it power to run you... you stop doing the same old thing and do something different.

YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR BRAIN Recent brain research by Matthew Lieberman of the University of California, Los Angeles suggests that simply labeling your feelings—angry, anxious, overwhelmed, sad—changes your brain.

A little almond shaped bundle of nerves, called the amygdala, sits in your emotional brain. It becomes very active when you are upset. Lieberman found that when his research subjects deliberately labeled their feelings, the amygdala began to slow down and “relax.” Also, labeling an emotion engages the thinking part of the brain and better equips you to understand and resolve your problems.

YOU CAN LEARN SOME SIMPLE TOOLS   There are simple tools you can learn to help you stay aware of feelings and label them. These tools can also help you to let go of feelings safely and appropriately. “Appropriately” means to express them without hurting yourself or anyone else. Later I'll tell you where you can find those tools.

So label your painful, angry, and overwhelming feelings. Learn to let go of them and engage the thinking part of your brain. Your mind will clear and now, it’s time for the second question: What do I want?

BAD NEWS – GOOD NEWS     When you ask this second question, look for personal losses and conflicts. There may be surprises. The bad news is that often, emotions help you avoid knowing things you are not ready to face. The good news is that when you release those emotions in an appropriate fashion, the door usually opens to new understanding. This includes knowing what you really want.

EMOTIONS AND THOUGHTS CAN POISON YOU   Appropriately managing your negative emotions and thoughts is critical. If you fail to deal with them, they don’t just disappear. They just sit in you. Like bad food, they can poison you until you get them out of you. Whoa, you can become so toxic, confused, and stuck. Why not learn to recognize emotional paper bags and how to get rid of them?

Using the two questions What am I feeling? and What do I want? can help. You can learn about these questions and other things in the book, Become the Person You Were Meant to Be – The Choice-Cube Method. The method presented in the book will give you a mental framework, simple tools, and four steps to help you deal with all kinds of paper bags. You can download the first chapter for free.

Does Your Body Hijack Your Mind?

When Jack feels upset, he tries to figure out what’s going on. Sometimes, he can, but more often he can’t find the answer. Janice in contrast, doesn’t even try to understand what’s happening. She just looks for someone to criticize or blame

Tom simply is not interested in trying to understand. He thinks that if he just forges ahead and works harder and harder, things have to get better. But usually they don’t.

These are all examples of people caught up in efforts to control people, things, actions, and problems.  

At the other extreme, are the people who try to avoid difficulties. Fran, for example, escapes her problems by getting high. Jack stuffs his thoughts and feelings about the problem, while Alice collapses, submits to the problem, and wallows in it. 

We have failed to understand and manage the overwhelming power of our body and emotions to hijack our mind and negatively influence our everyday life.  

Instead, for years, our efforts to help people with problems have focused on changing how they think—on their minds. We have ignored the role the body plays in driving us to avoid or control things that make us uncomfortable or threaten us in some other way. 

Why would we prefer to focus on the mind? Because honestly confronting our stress and emotions can be uncomfortable, even painful. In fact, we often choose to feel stuck and unable to change rather than deal directly and honestly with stress and negative emotions. 

This is dangerous. When we refuse to consciously and appropriately[1] manage stress and our emotions two things happen. First, stress and our emotions lock in warped and distorted thinking. Second, they hide the whole truth—the big picture--from us.

We then tend to use the avoid/control survival strategies, mentioned above, to keep stress and negative emotions from overwhelming us. The problem is that each time we repeat an old strategy, we strengthen it and create habit patterns of negative beliefs, reactions, and dysfunctional behaviors. 

Like Jack, Janice, and Alice, we reach for old, familiar strategies that prevent healthy resolution of issues. We strengthen the stress and negative emotions attached to them and create habit patterns that we mindlessly repeat and reinforce through repetition. 

It’s time to awaken to the role the body plays in what we think, feel, want, and do. It’s time to learn how to manage our stress and emotions moment-to-moment, instead of allowing stress and negative emotions to take over and control us. 

A first step is stress management training. This approach makes us aware of our body and often enables us to stay present in the moment. Body awareness and knowing how to use our mind to stay present is foundational. But there’s more, much more. 

Can you imagine a dependable method for choice and change that provides a simple framework to help you immediately recognize and label stress and negative emotions; tools that equip you to make wise choices and changes; and 4 steps to guide that change? 

Such a method would create an internal sense of safety as follows. I can trust the framework to help me recognize my stress and negative emotions, I can use the tools to help me take responsibility and make wise choices and changes. I can follow these 4 steps and do something different that leads to positive action.

The framework, tools, and 4 steps are like a tool kit that keeps you moving through problems and difficulties to a win-win resolution of them. 

When you can recognize your reactions and take responsibility for them, hopefully you have some simple tools to help you manage them. The tools should help you let go of crazy, hurtful thoughts--distorted information—and the emotions attached to those thoughts. 

Both the thoughts and the emotions--energy in motion--are embedded in the nervous system of your mind and body. It’s this distorted information and energy and that create the stress and negative emotions in the first place.

I would like to offer you the Choice-Cube® Method framework, tools and 4 steps to help you move through confusion, anxiety, anger, shame, and feeling overwhelmed to honesty and compassion for others and yourself. 

Would you like to learn how to use the framework, tools, and 4 steps in your life? They are found in, Become the Person You Were Meant to Be - The Choice-Cube Method:  Step by Step to Choice and Change, by Dr. Beth Blevins Cujé. You can learn more about the method and sign up for a free copy of the first chapter of Dr. Cujé’s book. Just click here:


[1]  “Appropriately” means managing our stress and emotions without hurting ourselves or others.

Victims! Victimizers! What About Problem Solvers?


Republican presidential candidate Romney’s recent statement about victimhood brings to mind Herman Cain’s, declaration of some months ago, ”I refuse to be a victim!”

I was fascinated to hear Cain, an earlier Republican presidential hopeful, clearly state that he refused to be a victim. What exactly are these two powerful men talking about? 

WHEN YOU ARE A VICTIM.           Victims try to Avoid! Avoid! Avoid! They believe they need others to fix or provide for them. As result, they are willing to give up their healthy, independent selves rather than confront and resolve issues,. Victims respond to people and situations from an under-dog, one-down position. For a victim, it feels safer to avoid arguments and confrontation.

BUT THERE IS A PROBLEM.          The problem is that victims eventually find a way to become the victimizer.

WHEN YOU ARE A VICTIMIZER.        Victimizers try to Control! Control! Control! They send the message. “You need me to set things straight. I have all the answers. I know better. I’ll fix you and everyone else. It must be done my way.“ Victimizers respond to people and situations from a top-dog, one-up position. Being in control helps a victimizer feel safe.

THE VICTIM-VICTIMIZER SWING.         Just as victims swing into the victimizer position, every victimizer eventually collapses into the victim position. I call this swing from victim to victimizer or from victimizer to victim the “Victim-Victimizer Swing.” Every one goes into the Victim-Victimizer Swing from time to time. But gratefully, a third option exists.

WHAT ABOUT THE PROBLEM-SOLVER POSITION?            The choice to respond to people and situations as victims or victimizers tugs at us in every stressful situation. But those who manage their stress and negative emotions can stay aware and objective. They have a third option. They can respond as problem-solvers looking for a win-win solution. It all starts with honesty and a commitment to a win-win solution.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?        Using Eric Berne’s concept of “okayness,” might help you recognize when you go into victim or victimizer. When you feel stressed or confused, ask yourself which position you have adopted. 

  • I'n not okay  -- You're okay         --  Victim
  • I'm oaky --  You're not okay    --  Victimizer
  • I'm okay --  Your'e okay              --   Problem Solver

These are confusing times. Becoming victims and victimizers only adds to problems and detracts from finding solutions. Would you like to learn more about becoming a problem solver? In her book, Become the Person You Were Meant to Be The Choice-Cube Method, Dr. Beth Cujé helps you understand yourself and sets forth tools and 4 steps to help you become a problem-solver. Just click here to get the first chapter of her book for FREE.

Hey People-Pleaser, Time To Take A Risk!

“What?” Katie, a pleasant, thirty-eight-year-old looked surprised.  

 PEOPLE-PLEASING IS LEARNED BEHAVIOR         “It’s true,” I answered, “People-pleasing is a learned behavior. You know what I mean. In order to feel safe and get along in the world, you learned to pretend things were okay when they were not.

Instead of being honest and sharing what you really felt and wanted, you learned to accept whatever people handed you. You learned to avoid confrontation whatever the cost.” 

“Early in life,” I continued, “it probably felt safer not to argue or stand up for yourself-- to ‘make nice.’ So you repeated that ‘get-along nicely’ behavior over and over. The problem is that without realizing it, each time you repeated it, you made changes to your brain and body until people-pleasing became automatic and ‘easy’—a way of life.” 

“Learning to people-please is like learning any other skill—riding a bike, typing, or swimming. The more you repeat the behavior, the better you become at doing it, even if the “skill” (refusing to discuss an issue, feeling like a victim, or silently blaming others) is destructive or useless.” 

“So you learned very well how to get along ‘nice and easy.’ Allowing yourself to be honest may even seem dangerous. You may be afraid to be real (though you may not allow yourself to feel the fear). Because you usually react as a non-confrontational, people-pleaser you probably believe this is who you really are.”

 YOU HAVE A FALSE SELF AND A HEALTHY BEST REAL SELF           “But Katie,” I said, “that is not the whole story. Yes, you have that make-nice-at-any-cost part of you. I call it a false self. But you are ignoring the best of who you are. The gentle, loving part of you that wants kindness and harmony, that’s the best of who you are--the real you.”

“Circumstances, experiences and choices can morph the best of anyone into an anxious people-pleaser. Fear and the need to get along can distort your thoughts and make it feel dangerous to tell people what you want.”

“Anyone may create a false self to get along--to feel safe and in control. But repeatedly acting as the false self, causes that self to seem like the real self. In fact, the false people-pleaser can become so powerful that eventually it seems impossible to be honest and let others know where you stand—to set boundaries with others.  It feels too scary to come out of hiding.”

YOU CAN LEARN TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT           “But there is good news.” I continued, “Just as you learned to hide and make nice, you can unlearn it and learn to do something different! You can learn to be honest, but kind, and say what’s on your mind. Sure, it takes effort and time, but the alternative is to stay stuck doing the same useless and hurtful things over and over.”

WHAT ABOUT IT?  ARE YOU READY FOR A CHANGE?         These four steps can take you where you want to go. 

  • ·      Step 1:  Recognize when you go into your people-pleaser self.
  • ·      Step 2:  Label what you are feeling (anger, fear, shame). Then let go of those           feelings, safely and appropriately. (There are specific techniques for this.)
  • ·      Step 3:  See the big picture (your strengths and possibilities as well as your         weaknesses). Then focus on the positive.  
  •     Step 4:  Replace the negative with the positive and take a risk.  Act on it!

Would you like to learn more about why you fall back on people-pleasing and your false self? Take a look at Become the Person You Were Meant to Be - The Choice-Cube® Method: Step by Step to Choice and Change . In this book, I help you understand why you are the way you are. I provide simple tools to give you choice and take the four key steps to help you change.  Copyright Dr. Beth Blevins Cujé  2012


4 Proven Steps For Change

Hank was frustrated! He knew he should work things out with Franny, but he was so tired of arguing that he just did not want to make the effort. Trying to work things out with her seemed impossible. What about you? Has life ever seemed a battle between what you knew you should do and what you were willing to do? Have you ever felt you were losing the battle and that there was no way to resolve an issue? 

ONLY THREE CHOICES    The truth is that in every situation you have only three kinds of choices. And everything depends on the choice you make. You can try to avoid an issue. That's what Hank was doing. You can try to control it (use anger or try harder with no good results) or change and successfully resolve it.

It’s only natural to want to avoid or control an issue. Who wants to tangle with a snarling dog? But trying to avoid or control a snarling boss can lead to bigger and nastier problems. Problems start when we fail to resolve issues and get stuck trying to avoid or control them inappropriately.

Here's a important thought. With each choice we make, we program ourselves!

4 SIMPLE STEPS FOR CHANGE     If we choose to take responsibility for what we think, feel, want, and do, we begin to change the only thing we can change. . .ourselves. Let's look at the following 4 steps that can help us make important changes and solve problems.          

STEP 1:  We recognize when, instead of wanting to resolve an issue win-win, we try to avoid it (go shopping, dump on a friend, just give up) or control it (be right, no compromise).

STEP 2:  We manage our stress and express our emotions appropriately.

STEP 3:  We think more clearly now because we have dealt with out stress and negative emotions. Now, we can see the pros and cons of the situation and focus on finding a solution to the problem instead of focusing on the problem itself.

STEP 4:   We do something different and take honest, compassionate action.

THE CHOICE-CUBE METHOD CAN HELP    You may want to look at the Choice-Cube Method’s tools and 4 key steps as one way to make wise choices and changes. The method is found in my book, Become the Person You Were Meant To Be - The Choice-Cube Method:  Step by Step to Choice and Change. Click here to see inside the book.