tbartley on January 29th, 2009

“Remember, remember, remember” were the words I heard at one of my first 12 step meetings.  What those words came to mean to me was that if I forget the results of my obsessive, compulsive, insane behaviors I would again have to suffer the painful consequences.  I am grateful for the newcomers sharing their own painful experiences to remind me of where I would be without my recovery.

During one of my repeated returns to an unhealthy relationship many years ago one of my friends said that I must be a glutton for punishment.  I thought that they didn’t understand that I had the persistence and strength to make it work.  I repeated the painful process many times over two years until my higher power helped me find the strength and different ways to believe that I was alright and deserved to be treated with love and kindness.

Now I have red flags in my relationships to remind me of the consequences of my healthy and unhealthy behaviors.  I need to remember that I’ve been here before and I have the power to choose the easy and painful or the hard and happy road.  When confronted with seemingly overwhelming relationship situations I remember my tools, my steps, my traditions, and what happens when I facilitate other people stepping on my boundaries.  I especially like to remember, “Is it kind?  Is it loving?  Is it necessary?”  ”Remember, remember, remember.”


Tags: behavior, Recovery, remember

tbartley on December 24th, 2008

There is only one reason I ever got mad; I didn’t get what I wanted or expected.  I have never been angry because I got what I wanted.

Anger is a control emotion and usually pops up when I feel something is totally out of my control.  it always sneaks up on me when I think I have an agreement or a contract, implied or written, and a right to expect something.  Subtly, I discover the contract is breached and I am hot.  I may shout and swear before I realize that I am anxious and want to pound on something.  If I accept my anger as one of life’s emotions I don’t have to act out to process the feeling.  Getting quiet and focusing on “plan B” also helps.  Sometimes anger can be prevented by setting the stage ahead of time:  “God grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change.”  

Another view of anger is fear turned inside out.  Because I know that faith and fear cannot live in me at the same time, I picture my guardian angel sitting on my shoulder looking up and saying “God, it looks like Tom is having a hard time.  Please help him.”

The short version of the whole story goes something like this.  Unfulfilled expectation => resentment, anger => fight, or flight, adrenaline ^ => bad for my physical, mental, and spiritual health => relax, use tools to process => faith, serenity. 

One bad thing about expressing anger is that it exposes buttons that can be pushed by someone again in the future, unless we learn.  Hmmmmmmm.


Tags: agreement, anger, buttons, contract, control, emotion, expect, exposes, faith, fear, fight, flight, focus, guardian angel, mad, quiet, resentment, serenity, shout, swear

tbartley on December 24th, 2008

There’s no doubt about it for anyone that has experienced a Yoga class, Yoga is physically strenuous.  However, “harder”, “tougher”, “stronger”, does not make Yoga stretches any easier.  I took me two years to let my mind/body relax enough to accomplish a “plow” pose.  A plow is an inverted position from lying on my back where my legs come over my head and my toes touch the floor.  The key was to “let go” and relax my whole body while only tensing the muscles required for the position.  A Yoga class typically ends with a quiet meditation period of feeling and contemplating all the muscles used in the class.  The end result of practicing Yoga is a more flexible relaxed body and better skills for releasing tension during the day.


Faith in a Higher Power and meditation is my Yoga for the soul.  The key is to “let go” of all the worrisome thoughts and drama while fully being present to experience the NOW around me.  As I use my tools for life to practice spiritual and behavioral “stretches” my actions and skills get quicker and easier.  I became more flexible in handling my feelings, not letting them drag me to places I don’t want to go.  Yoga and meditation both require practice, time to process and learn, and an awareness of the balance in my mind, body, spirit, and soul.  The results are an increased capacity to enjoy life and are certainly worth the effort. 


Stand up and stretch.


Tags: awareness, behaviors, capacity, drama, enjoy life, faith, feelingspractice, flexible, harder, Higher Power, inverted position, let go, meditiation, mind/body, muscles, NOW, on my back, over my head, physically, plow, relax, soul, spiritual, strenous, stretches, stronger, tension, time, tougher, worrisome, worth the effort, yoga, yoga class

tbartley on December 5th, 2008


Life, music, and dancing have various rhythms and tempos, usually a somewhat constant pace within a frame work of phrases and the flow of an overall theme from the beginning to the end of the day, song, or dance.  When I’m feeling pushed, confused, or overwhelmed I find myself skipping beats, and shortcutting the events and steps that other wise make the flow graceful.  This usually means that I am not present to myself or others and I send conflicting and unsure messages to my leads and follows in my relationships.  I don’t hear the people and situations around me.  As the discomfort and pain catch my attention I finally notice the red flags waving.


Solution:  Listen to the Music.  I sit down, get quiet inside, listen to the music of the universe around me, and remember to get the order straight:  my Higher Power, myself, then others.  I quietly smile and open my heart and senses to pick out the rhythms, themes, and flows.  I picture in my mind, my Higher Power leading my choices, my spirit, my thoughts, and my physical movements to “get back into synch” and go with the flow. 


In dancing, not only moving to the beat of the music, but also hearing the breaks and changes, stopping, and preparing for the next moves adds style, variation, and pleasure.  Similar to the musical breaks, rather than being annoying and perplexing, the interruptions of life offer adventure, opportunity, and messages from the universe to add perspective to the next short and long beats of my life’s rhythms and tempos.  Time and tide continue no matter what, but my attitude and program offer serenity no matter what.



Tags: Attitude, beats, breaks, confused, dancing, flow, interruptions, life, listen, moves, music, pain, phrases, pushed, red flags, remember, serenity, synch, time

tbartley on December 4th, 2008

The past is history, the future is unknown, and now is a gift; that’s why it is called the present. 


Various versions of this statement have appeared as a motivation for having gratitude.


One of the best ways to get into the present is to go skydiving.  55 seconds is all there is between leaving the airplane and pulling the ripcord.  Beyond that, there are few choices for plan B.  Skydiving does require a plan, but even that part is typically less than 10 minutes of training for a beginning tandem jump. 


I’m glad about the passage of time for the negative events in my history because they are diminished.  Likewise, I’m sad about the passage of time for the positive events because I would like to hang onto them as they fade away.  My serenity and self acceptance comes when I see all my past events for just what they are, part of me and my story that got me to where I am today.


The future happens by extending the present with dreams and plans, but like any other compulsive addiction, the problems arise when I get into expectations that lead to preconceived resentments.  In my excitement I need to be reminded that all I can do is my best to do my part with all my limitations and then let it go because the rest is not up to me.  I continually use the principles and tools for life to help me be still, look, listen, and feel for what is my part. 


Willie Sutton used to rob banks because that where the money is.  I stay in the present because that is where life happens, the wind, the rain and snow, the hot and the cold, the tastes, the sights and sounds, the hugs and kisses, and watching the behavior of my grandchildren.  What are they going to do next?


When I feel overwhelmed by life, like I want God to stop the planet because I want to get off for a break, I focus on doing the next indicated thing and keep doing it to stay and appreciate the present.  The next indicated thing in my human interactions is to first respect the presence, in person or on the telephone, of the other person and then, with confidence from strength, hope and experience, pull into use my other tools of loving communications and boundaries.  I’ll leave those for another time.


Any comments now?

Tags: banks, behavior, dreams. plans, future, grandchildren, my part, negative events, next indicated thing, overwhelmed, past, plante, ppositive events, present, principles, ripcord, self acceptamce, serenity, skydiving, tandem jump, time, tools, Willie Sutton

tbartley on December 3rd, 2008

As a child I easily memorized bits of life as I built a base of experiences. 


As an adult I learn better than children from associations and analogies because adults have a more extensive experience base than children.  The physiology of the brain supports this concept by forming more neuron interconnections as we age.  One of my favorite analogies is comparing a healthy relationship to a good dance partner.  Partner dancing can be thought of as an interaction (connection) between two people.  Try substituting the word relationship for connection and see if it describes how interactions work in the world of codependency and healthy relationships.   


The key to dancing and acting as partners is connection. A good connection is based on a stable body framework (boundaries) by both partners.  The connection is at several different points of contact, hands, shoulder, back, and elbows.  It is firm and consistent without to much push or pull.  The leader does not move the follower but rather provides communication to indicate where the partnership is going.    Each person moves themselves independently, but must rely on the connection to communicate and coordinate the simultaneous movement.  If the connection is too soft (unstable boundaries), the, hands arms legs feet flail around and, for awhile, may give the appearance of dancing together (always compromising), but coordinated motion soon falls apart, especially if the music rhythm (life) is fast.  This also happens if one partner collapses into the other without frame boundaries.  The leader feels smothered, can’t move freely and can’t lead.  If the connection is too stiff (mutual control issues), it’s like fighting or pushing against each other and very tiring.  The feeling is so heavy that the movement can’t keep up when the beat (life) quickens.  If the partners pull too far apart, losing the connection framework, the lead-follow clues disappear and coordinated motion can only occur slowly if at all. 


A good connection has a soft touch and is very sensitive to slight push and pull pressures.  Both partners have enough information to know where they are and their partners are at all times.  They generally look at each other and they are confident, at ease, relaxed and can move quickly together in a variety of moves and rhythms.  Partners that dance well together have movement that fits and interprets the musical dance floor environment.  They are confident in their own actions and those of their partners.  They are also aware of their own partner space and the space of the other couples (friends and family) around them.  The better the connection and the experience, the better they are at creative moves together, apart and back together without braking the flow.


Finally, good dance partner (and relationship) skills are transferable to other partners and dances.  Connections will be different because of individual differences like tall and short, but the sensitivities remain.  Some partners connect better than others and may prefer one dance rhythm over another, the same as individual preferences in life’s activities.

In partner dancing only one partner leads at a time.  The roles can switch during the dance but still just one at a time.  More advanced leaders may invite the followers to take the lead with their own styling to communicate interpretive moves similar to the back and forth communication in a vocal conversation.  While the leader focuses on communicating the next movement, the other, following partner focuses on picking up clues from the leader so the dance pair can move smoothly together.  This the dance version of talking and listening.


I am referring to leader and follower dance partners, not to just dancing in front of another person who may also happen to be moving.  Nor am I referring to choreography where each move is planned and practiced with few or no deviations and the participants usually use musical queues to synchronize their movement. 


Lead and follow roles in healthy relationships change as partners adjust to a connection that works best for them at a particular time.  If in doubt, check out to see who’s leading so you don’t miss the coordination clues.




Tags: analogies, asssociations, boundaries, child, clues, codependency, confident, contact, control, coordinate, creative, dance, flow, framework, healthy, interconnections, movement, partner, pull, push, relaxed, rhythm, smothered, soft touch, successful interactions

tbartley on December 2nd, 2008


Would you like to dance, er, have a relationship? 


Partner dancing etiquette has taught me some healthy relationship communication skills.  “Would you like to (join me) …….?”, clearly and directly expresses my offer (my part) and respects the other person’s power to choose.  It’s a lot better than “Let’s (do something) ……”, that implies I’ve got control and you come along.  Now, my part is to listen for the answer and accept it.  Answers generally fall into categories of “Yes”, “No”, or “Some other time”.  The only answer that I need to respond to is “Yes”. 


In dancing, the next step is to establish a connection before we start moving together with the music.  A good connection starts with a body posture frame, and hand and arm touching that are appropriate for the style of dance, not too tight or close, not too loose or far away, with enough space for me to lead (my part) and my partner to follow (her part).  In my relationship activities either partner can take the lead and start the “dance” as long as we are clear on who has what part.  We communicate to find each other’s frame of mind and find the appropriate mental, emotional, and physical connection points for the present environment (dance music).  When the music (activity environment) changes, the lead, frame, and connection may change.  If the change doesn’t flow and we aren’t moving together its time to stop and restart with more communication.


At the end of the dance, I thank my partner and decide what I would like to do next, take a break, change partners, or dance again with the same partner.  When I can’t feel the music I find its best for me to stay on the sidelines and watch. 


How many parallels can you draw with your past or pesent relationship?

Tags: answer, clearly, connection, control, dance, directly, etiquette, follow, frame, lead, listen, posture, power

tbartley on December 1st, 2008

Try having a conversation with “I” statements only.  First, consider that self-centered is not necessarily selfish.  If I know and love me I have the self confidence to let you see the real me and be much more open to listening and learning about the real you“I feel …” or “I think …”  is a vulnerable representation of me as long as I agree to the rule of not attacking you.  It’s pretty hard to get defensive or challenge my statement if I only talkabout me.  Another rule is not to interrupt the speaker.  When I am finished talking about me, the roles reverse and you get to talk about you and I can’t interrupt.  the conversation proceeds as the roles keep reversing.  More than two people can participate.  It can help to have a speaker’s token, something that the speaker holds until they are ready to give up the floor and pass the token to another speaker. 

This type of conversation may take a little practice, but it instills into the communication a sense of safety and openess. 

Do you feel safe in responding to this blog?

Tags: "I" statement, conversation, defensive, openess, roles, safty, speaker, token

tbartley on November 30th, 2008

What did you want that you didn’t get? 

Can you remember any time that you got what you wanted and you got angry?  Probably not.  Does this mean that we should not want anything to prevent getting angry?  If you believe in God or any power greater than yourself, try putting your wants through that higher power and let it go.  You’ve done your part.  Now let that higher power take care of the yes, no, and when.  It takes faith to believe that if you don’t get what you want, it’s for the best.  Faith takes practice and eliminates a lot of anger.   Caution:  No matter what you want another person to do, you don’t have any power over them to do anything.  You can only set boundaries and consequences.

Another form of anger is resentment.  Expectations are preconceived resentments.  Are you conscious of your expectations?  Do you let other people know what you expect?  Have you ever thought about a written contract to establish clarity and agreement?

Are you getting what you want from reading this blog?  What did you expect?


Tags: anger, faith, power, resentment, want

tbartley on November 24th, 2008

“You make me ______ (sad, cry, sick, mad, angry, feel worthless, …….)”


That negative statement immediately puts the other person on the defensive, stops communication, irresponsibly tries to shift personal accountability to another person, and, if we truly have free will, isn’t true.  “You make me _____ (happy, excited, joyful, feel wonderful, …)” is the positive form that also says “You have power and control over me, and I am not responsible for me; you are.”  Neither form of the statement is conducive to effective communications. 


Try a more effective form that invites further discussion, takes responsibility, and exposes vulnerability with strength and power:  I feel _________ (sad, like crying, sick, mad, angry, worthless, happy, excited, joyful, wonderful, …) when you _________ (describe the other person’s behavior). 


I feel encouraged when I read responses to this blog.


Tom Bartley






Tags: accountibility, communication, Feel, responsibility, You Make Me