Lesson #10: Be Mindful of the Advice You Take

Lesson #10: Be Mindful of the Advice You Take iStock_000008791096SmallThis e-class has been all about how important you really are. You have a lot of power. Never forget this. But sometimes things get rough, and toughing it out all on your own may not be the best choice. Sometimes you do need help. To get perspective, emotional support, mental clarity, or some real guidance. Just because your emotions have logic doesn't mean that finding that logic is always easy. Just because you can identify your stories and personal narratives doesn't mean you can rewrite them in a day. These are challenging tasks, and it's okay to ask for advice. Just be mindful of the advice you take.

When you seek advice from someone else, it's important to remember they can advise you, but you have to make the choice.

When you act on advice given to you by others, you need to know exactly why you are taking it. (If you don't, and the advice backfires, you both feel the effects.) Because people give out bad advice all the time. Or speak from the air, pass on sure recipes for disaster, give advice they need to take, or give advice instead of working on their own problems. So when acting on the advice from someone else, make it your own first. (And be mindful of whether you even asked for it in the first place.) Put it into your own words. Come up with your own reasoning. And then sit on it for a few days. Get really clear on why you want to act on it. And maybe even ask for a second opinion. The more mindfulness, the better. Let's look at three common ways to seek advice, and how to bring them altogether.

Turning to someone you trust

In an ideal situation, you can turn to someone you trust for help. Preferably someone who's your equal, meaning they don't use their social status to imply that they know better than you. This person may be friend, family, or a relative. And you should trust them in a healthy, functional way.

When you ask for help from someone you trust, it's important to remember that they'll only be able to help you to the extent that they can help themself.

If you're going through a terrible loss that your friend hasn't gone through, you need to be careful. They might not understand the depth of your pain. They might advise you to "move on" too soon, or to distract yourself by getting busier. If they aren't comfortable being around your intense feelings of anger, sadness, desperation, and grief (all part of the healing process) -- they may not be in a position to provide guidance. Because their fear of your struggle will prevent them from seeing things clearly, and keep them at a distance from you. What's worse, they'll try to censor your negative emotions in the name of caring for you. People aren't trustworthy in the areas of life that they don't let themselves fully experience or struggle with.

When you ask for help from someone you trust, it's important to remember that they'll do their best, given her own belief systems, narratives, and personal constructs.

If you really trust your friend, their intentions might be good. But it's important to remember that their advice will be shaped by their own belief systems, narratives, and personal constructs. If they don't believe in life after death, they may not understand why you've fallen for someone that you feel as if you've loved before in a past life. This is not to say that their advice will be meaningless. Just that you need to be mindful of its limitations. Turning to professional help It's not always possible to turn to someone you trust for advice. Because they're not available. Or you concerns are too personal for them to handle. Or maybe because you just don't feel comfortable sharing so much of yourself. That's why there are professionals you can turn to. They're there to listen to your concerns, to assist you through your struggle. While mental health professional are often given a lot of flack, there is tremendous value in the service. And while the very system of mental health can be viewed as a codependent relationship, it doesn't always have to be the case. As long as you are seeing a counselor or therapist with clear goals in mind, and a mindful look at how your relationship with your therapist is going -- you can obtain a lot of useful advice and moral support. This requires that you take a mindful look at psychotherapy, seeing it deconstructed for what it is. Otherwise, you risk the trap that many fall into. And that's getting stuck going to therapy for years (the same goes for counseling or life coaching), without making any real changes in their life. Therapy is not something that will fix you.

You don't go to therapy to feel better. Go you to therapy to get perspective, and the advice and moral support of a professional -- who has gone through extensive training and education in the field of psychology.

It is assumed that because they have extensive training and education, they can give you good advice and educate you on how to be more response able to your life. But while this is assumed, it's essential that you remember one thing: your therapist is human.

Mental health professionals are people too. So don't put them on a pedestal, assume that they never make mistakes, or believe that they always have all the answers for you.

You don't rely on scientists to have all the answers to your Big Life Questions -- because science doesn't equip them to figure "everything" out. Mental health is a field that is rooted in scientific practice. While not all helping professionals use empirically-based treatments (Psychotherapy Brown Bag discusses this very topic), the field is only possible because of psychological research and theory. So psychology is an extension of science.

Psychologists (and other mental health and helping professionals) aren't equipped to answer all of your Big Life Questions either.

They can certainly help, but you need to realize the limitations. And that any therapist (or counselor or life coach) has personal biases and a therapeutic orientation that influences their advice. And that the bottom line is that it's a business relationship; you're paying for the service. And one final note on professional help. Unless you have a serious condition that requires professional intervention, professional help is far more effective when it also serves as long-term education. If your therapist is prescribing you treatments and exercises depending on your reported problems each visit, they may not be invested in your future. Your future depends on your response ability -- to eventually become self-sufficient and less reliant on professional help. An honest therapist prepares you for your future by helping you develop your response ability. By educating you so that you can learn and grow and make progress and become independent from their aid.

Good therapy is education that better prepares you to maintain long-term emotional health and well-being. Good therapy helps you gain greater clarity, practice greater response ability, and gain greater independence.

To make the best of your educational therapeutic experience, you need to have clear expectations, and listen to how you feel throughout a session. If you ever feel that someone is trying to get you to do something that is uncomfortable or doesn't feel right, it's best to bring that up right away. Also, if someone tries to tell you how you "should" feel, or if they judge "negative" emotions as being bad so that you can "get rid of" them immediately, I would be very cautious about their advice.

Turning to self-help

On Mindful Construct I've written a lot about self-help and personal development. I've disclosed my love affair with self-help and castigated it by talking pitfalls. Self-help can be a wonderful, ground-shattering vehicle for mindful personal development. But only if you use your dark side in balance -- by following your pain and shadow and working with your negative emotions (especially anger) in constructive ways. Self-help can save you a lot of money and hassle too, if you're laser-focused on what you want to achieve. That requires that you act upon the little-known secret to self-help success -- that it's the total art of persuading yourself. Which means you have to be delicate and mindful about what you convince yourself of. Which leads us to the first major pitfall of self-help (not the mention the eight ways listed here).

Self-help can do you wonders, but you're all on your own. You can learn things intellectually in a vacuum, but you can't learn them emotionally and experientially without interacting with other human beings.

And if you're self-help bound, keep in mind that the mainstream bookshelves are saturated with New Age hype -- and the New Age merely spouts the same old dysfunctional religious program. Mainstream bookshelves are also saturated with feel-good fluff. I don't blog about happiness because long-term emotional stability, health, and well-being don't come from being happy or seeking love and light. Simply put, they come from brunting out the pains and uncertainties in life -- being response able. True wisdom comes from being bitchy instead of a saint, complaining about life when it sucks because you have to be emotionally honest with yourself, and taking everything personally so that you can actually get over it. Contrary to mainstream opinion, the path to happiness is not forgiveness or mindfulness meditation or killing your ego or any other distraction from life's hardships. The red pill of personal development is nurturing your ego, and realizing that it's only a facet of you. The red pill of personal development is self-love.

You have to be careful with self-help literature and other resources, because the general consensus is that you should aspire to love and light and other good things, neglecting your negative emotions and your dark side.

True self-help is about learning how to use your dark power in balanced ways, and not misuse your light power. It's also about learning to recognize the dark side of the light, and the light side of the dark.

Self-help can only get you so far. To truly grow and prosper, you need to balance your dark and your light. You need to work constructively with your negative emotions. Reading books and taking workshops won't necessarily get you in touch with your shadow or your pain, when taken mindfully, they mobilize you in powerful ways.

Turning to a community

Community support can be a nice blend of self-help and professional help, as well as turning to someone you trust. You have so many different individuals to choose from when approaching a community. You have so many different life experiences to learn from. And you're not obligated to any one source or person for all your advice. However, the downside, or dark side, of a community, can cost you. Most communities are about unity, being stronger together, working as one. But it's how a community handles conflict and allows for differences in opinion that shows it's real worth. A groupthink community is not a great place to seek life advice. A community where the leader is a consistent hypocrite or out of their integrity frankly isn't safe for you. A community full of gossip and false appearances isn't a community. And a community that's actually a cult will only harm you.

A community is a diverse, dynamic, and unique place to seek advice -- only if it's a healthy and functional one. Be mindful of any community, how its leaders walk (not talk), and its effects on its members -- before seeking its advice. When you find the right community to turn to, the support may very well transcend what you were looking for.

Creating your own community

In an ideal situation, you create your own community. You might include people you trust, professionals, and even members of already-existing communities. It's your community shaped by you, and it's a social network designed and tailored to support you. It's not a community in the traditional sense, because not everyone is connected to everyone else. Instead, everyone in this community is connected to you. You're the common thread, and you get to decide who's in and who's out. It's up to you how that community grows over time, and how it remains healthy and functional. And you're the leader too. You're the one deciding how and why your community exists the way it does. And you can change you mind at any time, depending on how you grow. Because you're constantly growing wiser.

Follow your own lights

follow your own lightsThe whole point of seeking advice from others is to better equip yourself. To make your own decisions. Because your life is your construct. Advice can only guide you; it can't act for you. Be mindful of the advice you take, whether it be from someone you trust, a paid professional, a community, or your community. Remember, it's only advice. You're still the one navigating your life. And remember, you're really powerful. (We've been talking all about it in these ten lessons.) Don't ever forget this.

Thanks so much for taking this e-class!

I've really enjoyed having you as part of this e-class! Thanks so much for joining us! If you enjoyed the class too, please leave a comment here.

What you can look forward to...

Now that the e-class has finished, you can look forward to the Mindful Construct newsletter. You don't have to do anything else to receive it -- it will be sent to your inbox just as these ten lessons were. Again, thanks so much for joining us, and I look forward to continuing the journey... All the best, signed, Melissa P.S. Did you get here from a link from a friend? This is Lesson 10 of a 10-part free email series that shows you how your life is your construct. Learn more about it and sign up here.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Haider July 9, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Thank YOU for the e-class!

Regarding this last lesson, the section about community support reminded me of how members of a religion can overlook the problems an individual experiences because they’re too caught up in giving advice that defends their religion rather than offers solutions to the troubled individual.

This is especially true when the person seeking help is struggling with the teachings of the religion (and, in any community, the shared values of its members). Rather than acknowledge the presence of this human being in the discussion, or the presence of his problem, they focus on “winning” a theological debate.

I think people can sense when they (and their problem) are being overlooked, and that’s a good sign to take that the person you’re talking to is a bad source of advice.

Melissa Karnaze July 13, 2010 at 8:20 am

A great example of how communities can appear to be helpful and caring, but actually don’t respect you as an individual.

It’s a fine line. Because a community can’t bend to fit every naysayer that comes along. It needs to keep its own identity, while still respecting the individual who disagrees.

I think where religion goes wrong is that members of the group (especially authority figures) show respect, or pretends to but then shows disrespect in subtle ways that reinforce the belief that the person is wrong and in need of saving. Thanks for sharing Haider.

Haider July 14, 2010 at 8:30 am

I just had a few nasty flashbacks of authority figures being “politely” disrespectful.

I once asked a Muslim scholar about the principles of interpreting the Holy Koran, since I believe Muslims should be equipped with the guidelines for interpretation, rather than the conclusions of the scholars.

He said that these principles are taught in Islamic seminaries, but the course takes 12 years to complete (i.e. you have to be a scholar to know the principles).

During another discussion, this scholar threw in the question: “How many years did you study in a seminary?” I replied that my opinions are based on my own reading and observations. He replied with a nod.

The discussions seem respectful, but the scholar was trying to discredit me because I haven’t had any formal religious education.

Many believers would think his implications are reasonable, and so they would discredit their own thinking because they’re not scholars. Not a healthy support system at all!

Melissa Karnaze July 14, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Haider, I don’t consider that “politely” disrespectful — unless he was genuinely trying to be polite and trying to make you feel respected. It seems more like it was passive aggression, in a pompous sense. But it’s totally okay within the system because the system itself will tell you are in fact inferior.

With those subtle tactics layered on top of one another and a whole group of “leaders” and followers condoning it, it must have taken a lot of critical thinking and courage to break out!

Kelly December 4, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Hi Melissa,

Please could you give an example of creating your own community, or go into it in more depth?

Thanks for all the articles so far also!


Melissa Karnaze December 4, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Hi Kelly, you don’t have formally create a community.

On a less formal level, the people you consistently associate with form your daily community.

As an internet example, the people with whom you’re “friends” on Facebook or the people you follow on Twitter form your online community.

The bottom line is that you get to pick and choose who are included in your various self-chosen communities.

Helen January 25, 2012 at 1:40 am

Wow. I always go ‘wow’ whenever I read anything on mindful construct even when I disagree and it’s only after having read this blog that I feel ok if I disagree. Thankyou isn’t enough. You have given me the power to accept myself, lose the people who were pressuring me to ‘get over my grief’ telling me it was time to move on and that it could of been worse. It didn’t feel like it at the time I can assure you! Thankyou. I have moved through so many processes since finding this site. I mindfully construct my new relationship with myself and others. And of course as I started to change, the universe threw some curve balls just to see what would happen. And instead of being crushed and deflated and withering I got angry. And I figured out why I was angry. And then the anger dissipated and I moved on. It’s taken me 20 years to get that far. Thankyou you have opened up a new world where it’s ok if I don’t feel great and I dint have to stick things all over my house to tell myself the lie that everything is awesome. :))

Melissa Karnaze January 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Helen, thank you for your kind and sincere words. It really is a new world when you can start to accept where you’re at emotionally. “Moving on,” or moving through negative emotions then naturally happens more spontaneously too. Thanks for sharing!

Katie Prinsloo August 4, 2012 at 10:50 am

I needed this, and it came to me as if I put in an mail order to the Universe. Thank you!!

Ronan November 4, 2012 at 2:35 am

Hi Melissa

I’m sorry but I think you are wrong about meditation. Look at the scientific evidence that show how effectively changes the workings of the brain for the better.

Are emotions not fickle things that can change very rapidly. Should we not be aware of not placing too much importance on them. Giving them too much control over our lives. I believe meditation gives us the ability to become aware of not getting tied up with our emotions. It allows us to let go of our negative (and positive) emotions without judging them.


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