Monday, February 24, 2014

5 Negative Thought Patterns You Need To Drop Now

1. Catastrophizing

We go from 0 to “my life is OVER” in five seconds flat when we get caught up in this thought pattern. It usually involves some awesome exaggeration as to how one tiny little mistake is going to be the end of a career, or some similarly important aspect of life. This creates loads of anxiety, fear, stress, and even hopelessness or helplessness.
To steer clear of this one, go with the facts based in reality. Be wary of getting spun up into the anxiety cloud by making something far worse than it really is. Also, DON’T jump to conclusions (another negative thought pattern).
2. Generalizing
We take one thing and run with it. We color all our future interactions by one event. Ever heard “all guys are liars” or “all women are high maintenance”? Watch out for the use of "all" and "none," and break this bad habit for good!
3. Personalizing
The world does not revolve around you. It doesn’t revolve around me, either. Keep this in mind when you take something personally. People’s reactions have much more to do with their own issues than they have to do with yours. Give yourself a break from taking all the blame automatically or assuming (another negative thought pattern) that you're causing someone to feel or do a particular feeling or action. We only have that much power over ourselves.
4. Filtering
Calling all my Negative Nancys. They can find the dark cloud regardless of how many rainbows show up. Filtering focuses on only the negative aspects while ignoring the positive. This is a type of skewed thinking. To stay clear of this one, make sure you’re viewing things from a clear and balanced perspective. There are few things that are all bad or all good.
5. "Should"-ing

This is probably one of my favorites as I “should” on myself all the time. Shoulds imply that we aren’t up to snuff and that we're falling behind in some way. Add enough shoulds to your plate, and you’ll be overwhelmed and feeling defeated in no time. Your get out of jail free card is that if you really should be doing something, then make the time to do it! If it isn’t really that important, then kick it to the curb. You have enough going on right now, and that’s OK!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I want to revisit the topic of belonging because it permeates so many areas of our lives – impacting our behavior, our social interactions and our relationships. We live in a fast-paced world and have access to technology which enables us to connect with millions in virtual space.
We not only have the liberty to express our opinions on ezines and blogs but we can simultaneously engage an audience in multiple forums, influence contemporary culture and even affect current events. This is truly awesome! I believe this has an effect on the way we view our opportunities for belonging.
We are no longer limited to belonging in nations, tribes, clans, villages, religions or cult groups. Our membership sphere extends to virtual networks where barriers of race, color, creed and political thought have become enmeshed, enabling us to navigate across boundaries. We now belong to interest groups and lifestyle clubs based on our cultural practices and thought preferences. We are no longer limited by geography or tied to our birthplace – even if we never get to leave it. By the same token, the world has experienced unprecedented migrations across continents and insurgencies of large populations in virtually every nation because people are forced to flee their homeland due to ruthless dictators, civil wars, warlords, drug cartels, various renegade groups with access to money, guns and vigilante power.
Vivian Diller, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in New York City tells us that “reactions to a natural disaster, an act of violence, mortal combat, bankruptcy or the loss of loved ones can be pretty different. But, almost always, there is the before and after, the desire to forget and a need to remember -- common experiences that follow throughout life.”
The question is what happens to our sense of belonging in the context of these seismic shifts? Does survivor’s guilt and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) transform our need to belong with a need to flee from our past and seek non attachment? 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Links Entitlement To Belonging?

I was in the hospital waiting to get a mammogram when I heard a lady next to me ask the nurse navigator who happened to be African, “The Asian lady with long hair, can she do the mammogram for my sister?” I cringed in my seat thinking that the nurse navigator might find this at the least presumptuous, and even demanding. I also thought she might be offended that a patient was telling her how to conduct her work. In such an environment, most people, myself included, would simply follow the procedure and do as they are told.
Some feel entitled to reach for what they want in all situations. They never lose sight of being entitled and being demanding comes naturally to them. This separates those who might lead from those who would only follow.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 
 It got me thinking that feeling entitled may be linked to a sense of belonging. Now we all know that belonging is right up there with bread and butter in the human condition. Everyone is looking to belong somewhere. That’s why sovereign states exist, why people band together in tribes, why individuals twist themselves just to fit into a powerful circle or become part of a status group.
Oftentimes patients do not want to make special demands because they don’t want to spoil things. The patient’s sister may not have felt vulnerable and that might have been why she could demand her chosen service provider, however offending it might be to the nurse navigator.
As a patient surviving breast cancer, waiting for a mammogram blocked any attitude of entitlement I might have felt previously. In general, there is nothing to lose by going for it, and we are  empowered when we reach for what we truly want. In actuality, it all depends on whether or not we feel there is something at stake. We measure our birthright to exercise our unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness against the odds of our belonging. So being part of that which may seem to overpower us has a great deal to do with harnessing our entitlement and harvesting all of the gains that come from it.
Next time you are in a situation which feels uncomfortable, chew on this and see what happens.

Monday, January 27, 2014


The English word infinity derives from Latin infinitas, which can be translated as "unboundedness", itself calqued from the Greek word apeiros, meaning "endless." (

Earlier in my career, I was an FAO consultant conducting participatory research to evaluate the impact of the Land Reform Proclamation of 1975 in remote villages of Ethiopia. We were in the southern Zone of Gamo Gofa in what was then known as Gofa Woreda (a tiny district) as remote as one could imagine without any kind of modern amenities. At the district we found a guide who spoke the native language as my team and I moved deeper into the hinterland to study the culture and production system of the natives. Based on the 2007 Census conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA), this Zone is an area of 18,010.99 sq. kms.  Gamo Gofa has a population density of 144.68. The largest ethnic groups include the Gamo (64.61%), the Gofa (22.08%), and other minorities. Gamo is spoken as a first language by 63.75% of the inhabitants, and Gofa by 22.01%. Photo above shows young men from the Hamer tribe. 
It was still dark when we set out from our base on mule backs in the wee hours of the morning. After a few hours of a slow and agonizing journey through the thick tropical forest and mountainous range, we reached a tiny village whose name now escapes me. There was an eerie silence, the few households were all shut; not even a single person could we find to ask where everyone else had gone. No children outside, not even stray dogs on the dirt road. One of our team members said that our guide suspected there may be some kind of epidemic. Apparently he had heard rumors at the district there was a cholera epidemic in some villages. While our guide went knocking door to door, I took refuge near an old tree. As I leaned against the tree searching for a place to sit, something truly awesome caught my eye.
In a space of less than three feet there were countless variety of ants. Prior to this time, my experience of the ant variety was limited to two. The big black ants that came into the house or we found on a wet path during the rainy season; often people threw hot coal or put eucalyptus leaves on their path to get rid of them. The other variety I knew were called “Tinkusht,” tiny little brown ants whose bite would burn and sting for a very long time. I was introduced to what seemed like an infinite variety as I saw ants in red, brown, green, orange colors, some had very big heads, some had stripes and long bodies; their varieties was unimaginable. They worked in harmony moving up and down in lines; some carried pebbles, others dirt or straw, some worked in groups, some alone. Ants thrive in most ecosystems and may form 15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass.[6] Their success in so many environments has been attributed to their social organization and their ability to modify habitats, tap resources, and defend themselves. Their long co-evolution with other species has led to  mimetic,  commensal,  parasitic, and  mutualistic  relationships.[7](
That moment of discovery was one of the clues that Spirit gave me and it has served me as a lighthouse whenever I lost my way in the sea of weariness from thinking of my limitations. As for the village, cholera epidemic had indeed wiped out the entire village, only one survivor, an old man gaunt and fragile looking came out of his home to tell us that only a few are left, they too were dying and he urged us to flee. We could not report the epidemic to the government as we were beyond the range of telephone or radio communication so we moved on. There was a reason I was at that spot at that time.The lesson was not about our helplessness and our limitations and inability to save that village. On the contrary, that experience was for me to bear witness to the limitless abundance of a life force. It was an experience that enabled me to internalize the idea of infinity in a span of few minutes.
So here area few questions for you to ponder; should you choose to engage me in the conversation, you could post a comment within the blogspot or write on my FB wall or send me email
  1. Do you believe infinity applies to you and daily life?
  2. Do you focus on limitations (I don't have time, money, energy, patience, wisdom, courage, strength, opportunities, luck, so on and so on)? If you answer yes, you might be blocking the abundant flow of opportunities, resources, and power of a Universal life force.
  3. Have you connected to your Spirit’s invitation to the infinite possibilities within you and for you? Please share your story, it may give us a different perspective.
Knowledge is internalized when we have an organic experience and understand what it means not with our intellect alone but with our whole being. I believe this is what Deepak Chopra refers to when he speaks of “Knowingness.”

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man, has closed himself up till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.” 
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Monday, January 20, 2014


My journey so far has been amazingly remarkable at times, and even cataclysmic and filled with wonderful challenges, but I always felt restless and longed for something more.  I found myself on a quest to find that one thing that felt perfect for me. You might say I was on a single-minded search of my Divine purpose, my raison d’ĂȘtre, my ultimate Destiny.
It dawned on me that while I’d thought of myself as STRUGGLING because I was constantly reshaping myself, morphing from one professional role to another in pursuit of financial stability and a life of meaning and fulfillment – I had actually been living my life on my own terms. Who knew? What a revelation and a simple notion but it made all the difference to how I perceived myself and how I valued my lifelong pursuits. Apparently, I had bought into a social prescription that insists “we must have stable jobs, we must have a single defined vocation and excel in it and we must acquire monuments of all sorts as testaments to our success.” Whether these monuments come in the form of spreadable wealth, partaking of an affluent lifestyle or leaving a legacy that bears our individual identity, we all aspire to be inducted into a hall of fame, the Guinness Book of World Records or to join and graduate from a Master Class. This prescription like many on the market had a negative side effect for me, I call it the self harassment syndrome (SHS).  Here I was a freelance international consultant  – technical writer – facilitator – writing coach – artist and entrepreneur and yet I thought something was profoundly wrong with me, because I had not found a clear mandate from above. As one of my cousins so aptly put it, “we’re not even asking for a burning bush  just a tiny hint would do.”
I so wanted a one word answer to that proverbial question people ask me at gatherings of any kind “so what do you do?”  After I went through many ups and downs and nearly drove myself to the brink of burnout from my quest, I finally gave myself permission to just relax and find out where God would lead me. I was determined to stare my fear in the face and step into the unknown having removed everything except one single focus, Love.
Over time, with prayer and mediation and a bit of humble pie, I had more clarity and with the stress of getting to the conclusion removed, I had even more insight. My Eureka moment came when I heard myself saying if I am so conscientious as to not waste anything how would God? I realized that my Creator and Heavenly Father would certainly do something to make sure that I’d get to use all of what He gave me. As one blessed with a privileged upbringing, a loving family, good genes, common sense, lots of talent, imagination and curiosity, I felt responsible to make a difference in this world. Previously I had reached a deep low point and felt lost but here is the hint I’d been waiting for a long time. It led me to recognize that I can choose to make all of my life’s circumstances – even the painful ones  count for something. That’s where the meaning to my journey lies. The purpose for my life’s detours and downfalls suddenly became crystal clear.  I felt the burden dissolve and my spirit got lifted up.
The conversation in my head changed – life is not meant to be an indefinite struggle. Life is a STRADDLE between cultural paradigms and a state of mind that keeps us vacillating from I’m doing great to I‘m drowning.
So here are some tips for when you think you’re struggling:
  1. Good things happen when we relax; remember to exhale, slow down, look about and take in the Majesty of the Divine around you.
  2. Deadlines imposed by external forces do not write the chapters in our lives; we have time to find whatever we set our minds to. Time does not make us – it’s the other way around. Consider rearranging your priorities: that’ll help you to make the time for what fulfills and brings you joy.
  3. Give yourself permission to go against the grain or to choose to opt out.
  4. Be humble: we are not really in charge; it’s a less bumpy ride when we let God drive. Otherwise fear leads the way to dead ends.
  5. Check in frequently to see if you are listening to yourself and not just reacting to people or external forces.
  6. Change the conversation in your head and with those around you to an optimistic one filled with lofty ideas, truth, and a healthy respect and compassion for all. Avoid negative and toxic thoughts/conversations that sap your energy and flag desperation.
  7. Find balance between work and family, play and duty, self and community, faith and facts so you can endure through times of not knowing. Be poised to discover.
  8. Don’t fight yourself or anything that comes your way – be flexible and receive everything with continually loving energy. Love conquers all!
  9. Trust the invisible and indomitable spirit of abundance and infinite love that always reigns  within; it will guide you moment to moment.
  10. Connect the dots at all times because you are given clues and support every step of the way.
  11. Accept the generosity that God sends your way and give thanks.
  12. You may be broke but you are never poor because you always have love to give and when you recognize your Divine gifts and embrace your inner wealth, abundance will flow towards you.
So when life gets you down and you feel that things are not going your way, just remember you are not struggling only straddling.

Happy Straddling!

Hanna Kebbede
Writing Coach
Multimedia Art and Craft