June Converse

Thriving After Trauma - Author and Writing Coach

An Introduction to Discovery-Acceptance-Change

Recently I was told that we cannot change our character. Is that true? Am I stuck? Are you?

Certainly, some aspects of self are hardwired. I have blue eyes. I am five feet tall. I am female. I carry my extra weight around my middle. If I don’t get enough sleep, I struggle with mood and impatience. I have bi-polar. I was raised in the Deep South and that has a lifelong impact. My parents are who they are and they are gone now. And so on.

BUT – and this is a big BUT – not everything about me is unchangeable. My character is MINE to do with what I want. My character is MINE to de-construct and re-construct.

Character Development

The most important element of any story is the character. There are thousands of resources an author can use to develop three-dimensional characters. I am beginning to work on my third novel. I’m at the stage where the characters are revealing themselves to me. I now know what Abby and Ian look like. I know where they were raised and what their family of origin is. But, more importantly, I’m getting a sense of WHO they are, what they WANT, what they NEED.

As the author, I have to DISCOVER these people and then construct a story that pushes them to ACCEPT their strengths, fears, weaknesses and use that information to CHANGE. I get to decide what situations they face but I don’t get to decide how they react. I have to let the character guide my pen. In order to do that, I have to truly KNOW my characters. Abby and Ian have to be with me at all times – talking, arguing, challenging, laughing, crying.

If I can use character development techniques to understand a fictional character, I can use the same techniques to Discover-Accept -Change MY OWN CHARACTER. Just as I have to sit with fictional Abby and Ian, in order to understand myself, I have to sit in my own mud puddle. I have to delve deep, ask the hard questions, watch myself as I interact with the world. I have to be INTENTIONAL. I have to be CONSISTENT. I have to be ALL IN.

Background VS “Now“Ground

My fictional Abby recently relayed an argument between her and her father. It was painful but it explained so much about her decision-making and her reactions to the world. That one argument revealed a deep NEED in Abby. She hasn’t recognized that need yet – but she will because I will force the issue.

You already know some of your wants and needs. Or do you? In order to discover, we have to uncover the good, the bad, the mediocre. We have to be honest, if only with ourselves. It might be painful but it’s also Background not “Now”ground. “Now”ground is yours to plow. We can turn over the old dirt and plant whatever we want and more importantly, we can cultivate what we NEED. We have to force the issue in our own lives.

We don’t have to do all this plowing overnight. I hate the word ‘process’. But real change is a process. It’s looking at self then hiding from self. It’s being honest and then lying because lies are more comfortable. It’s being critical and then accepting and then being critical again. It’s lonely. It’s hard. It’s worth it.

I Am My Own Protagonist: What Will I Create

I refuse to believe I’m unable to change. I am NOT stuck. I can choose where to focus my energy. I can identify and accept those areas that I cannot change. I can identify those areas I can change. I can identify those areas I want to change – those I’m willing to change. I can choose my next best decision rather than let life roll over me.

An author creates scenes that force a character to react and to grow. While I can’t structure every scene in my life, I can use my life scenes to better understand myself. Once I understand self, I can make my next best decision no matter what scene I find myself in. Even better, I can begin to change and choose the scenes in my life. That’s my hope and my goal.

Go ALL IN

As I learn more about Abby and Ian through character development activities, I will use these exact same activities on myself. I will share what I’m doing and extend the invitation for you to join me. As always, I will be authentic and vulnerable. I will be afraid and excited, embarrassed and proud. I will ACCEPT whatever I discover.

I’ve gathered together some supplies for this journey (I also hate the word ‘journey’). I decided if I had everything organized and ready for me, I’d at least eliminate that excuse. My supply bucket includes:

  • My favorite pen
  • A three-ring binder to put the handouts and activities (I will provide a journaling sheet, but you might want to invest in a journal that represents you)
  • Some color pencils and blank paper for my ‘thinking’ time

Kick-Off

Discovery-Acceptance-Change is appropriate for every age, every gender, every race and faith. It is appropriate no matter who you are, where you are or what you’re doing. Share this with others. The more we look at self and furrow NowGround, the better the world will be. Your world. Your family’s world. THE world.

We start the “real” work next week. There will be a new “reveal” every week. Some of what I’ll ask you to do will hit painful nerves. Remember, I’m with you all the way. I’ve got my own pain to face. I also promise that some weeks will just be plain ol’ fun!

Until Next Week:

  • Start a notebook to collect these activities, your thoughts, your worries and hopes and fears. This notebook is be a source of pride and a reward.
  • Your first journal prompts:
    • Why are you considering taking part in Discovery-Acceptance-Change? What obstacle (internal and external) are you facing? How can you overcome those obstacles? What ONE aspect of self would you like to change? What are you most afraid of? Who can you ask to join you on this journey? What one aspect of your life do you need to ACCEPT? Why are you struggling to accept that?
  • Send this page as a link to anyone you think might benefit from Discovery-Acceptance-Change.

In yesterday's post, I talked about developing a campaign for myself.  I listed several potential goals that I want to analyze and consider carefully before I choose to apply "aggressive activities" that direction.  With that in mind, I created the following questionnaire for myself and wanted to share it with you.  It's a living document and will likely change once I start using it but I think it's a nice beginning. It might seem like a lot of effort just for goal setting but I'm thinking of it more as a road map for my future -- and that deserves all this effort.

Goal:

Category:

Analysis:

  • Is this more of a “should” than a true “desire”?               SHOULD         DESIRE
  • What five aggressive activities can I think of right now?  Am I willing to do these?  (note:  don’t spend much time on this – just throw a quick list together so that you can “feel” your readiness)
  • Am I willing to “go out there” – i.e., tell everyone and ask for true accountability?  What would accountability look like?
  • What resources will I need and do I have these?
  • What has kept me from being successful with this in the past?
  • WHY do I want this?  Be honest – be brutal with myself now or brutal on myself later!
  • Can I “handle” this goal – what about this goal scares me?
  • What obstacles will I face and what do I “feel” when I think of these obstacles?
  • When I think of this goal and all that it will require, what thoughts come up?  How does my body respond?
  • What do I picture if I “succeed”?  What do I picture if I “fail”? (another time for brutal honesty)
  • What does Dave think (discuss this after I’ve answered the above questions so that he has all the information to help me – ACCEPT that I need help balancing my goals and abilities)?
  • What else comes up when I think of this goal?

Will this goal make my FINAL CAMPAIGN?                        YES                 NO

While I won't bore you with all of my analyses, I will share a couple so that you can see how my brain and body are working together to chart a course that helps ACCEPT MYSELF and CHOOSE ABUNDANT LIVING.

 “….. he ran a campaign of discipline not impulse.” 

Do you campaign for yourself?  Before you roll your eyes at the absurdity of such a statement, read one of the definitions:

Campaign: a systematic course of aggressive activities for some specific purpose

dictionary.com

Let’s break this definition down. 

Specific Purpose

Do you have specific purposes for your life?  Or, like me, does your life often just happen? 

If I look at my life – how I spend my time, what I worry over, where my money goes – what campaigns do I support?  Do I run a campaign of discipline or impulse?  Do I run a campaign where I win or lose?  Are there energies, resources and efforts I need to shift or refocus? 

It’s 2018 and in last week’s post, I promised myself that I’d ACCEPT myself.  Acceptance is acknowledging that in this very moment, I am where I am.  Acceptance allows me room to choose a new place for my next moment.  Acceptance does NOT mean living a life I don’t love.  I ACCEPT that I suffer from bi-polar (or whatever juicy label I have today) but I can CHOOSE how to handle this.  I ACCEPT that I cannot eat what I want when I want if I want to be healthy.  I ACCEPT that I like to lily-pad and I need to structure my life so that I can do this (watch for a future post about lily-padding).

I ACCEPT that if I want to have a life I love, I must set a course.

Systematic Course

One of the things I hate most about political campaigns is that most candidates tell us why we should not vote for their opponent rather than why we should vote for him/her.  In other words, I want a candidate to tell me what platforms she supports – what are her agenda items, what systematic course is she committed to?

I’ve decided to develop a campaign for myself.  If I had to create a political ad, what would I promote, support, fight for?  But wait ….

The Skeletons In The Closet

Every candidate, every person, has skeletons in their closet.  For me, these skeletons will start to rattle the very second I decide to get serious about my campaign.  Past failures will pound on the door.  Unkind words will again have volume.  My negative side will get louder and louder.  Even as I write these words, one corner of my brain is reminding me that I’ve failed so many times.  The exact words I’m hearing are: 

  • “You always disappoint yourself and everyone else around you.  Just stop trying.” 
  • “Why should you have to give that up – it’s not fair that everyone else can have that and you can’t.”
  • “You won’t be able to handle this.  Look at how worthless you’ve been the last week.  You’ll fall into the abyss again and again.  Why don’t you just stay there?  Wouldn’t that be easier than climbing out over and over again.”   (this will be another post soon)

I ACCEPT that my mind is often my enemy, my opponent.  I CHOOSE to fight that.  I ACCEPT that I will lose some of those fights and will sink into the abyss from time-to-time.  I CHOOSE to keep climbing out. 

The Campaign Poster

If I designed a campaign ad, what would be on it?   Let’s make a list – don’t justify your list, don’t censor yourself.  Just write a list of all the things you’d like to have/do/accomplish/be.  Think small.  Think huge. 

I’m going to do this “real” time – I’m going to write a list for exactly five minutes (setting my clock now):

  • Get “Decide to Hope” published in April
  • Get “Journey to Hope” published in September
  • Start a 3rd novel
  • Start a “Better Accept & Change” Book Club
  • Learn how to market my book/myself (learn this social media stuff)
  • Lose this last 10 pounds
  • Stop drinking soda
  • Stop eating refined carbs
  • Keep this blog going and try to grow my audience
  • Continue to work on my mental health issues and management
  • Decide the best eating plan and become a FANATIC
  • Keep making the scrapbooks my family loves
  • Read read read read – anything and everything
  • Quit worrying about my weight – really get my eating disorder under control
  • Control other impulses
  • Keep my exercise routine (find a way to “shake things up”)
  • Find an accountability partner that really holds my feet to the fire
  • Find ways to show Dave love that fits my personality
  • Keep cultivating those 2-3 friendships that really matter
  • Hike Europe/Travel
  • Find the courage to join a writing group and stick to it (no matter what)
  • Actually get fully dressed whenever I’m leaving the house (or every day?)
  • Really evaluate my spending and make adjustments – look at this goal more carefully!
  • Start teaching (think outside the box)
  • Find a volunteer opportunity that energizes me
  • Continue to take classes/learn
  • Find some way to be spiritual
  • Financial goals – use a budget

Time’s up … these are the things that hit me at 8:15am on January 1.  Certainly the list is not exhaustive or all inclusive.  Because I want my campaign to succeed, I’m going to take the next week to refine my list.  Questions I’ll be asking myself:

  1. Is this a true goal for me OR is this a “should” goal?
  2. Am I willing to apply “aggressive activities” towards this goal?
  3. Am I willing to be held accountable for this goal?  If so, what would that look like?
  4. Do have the resources for success?
  5. Why is this important to me?
  6. Based on my mental health challenges, am I asking too much?  I have to find that balance.
  7. Do I have the support of my husband?  We must have aligned goals or I will fail.
  8. What does my body “feel” when I think of this goal?
  9. I'll come up with more questions once I start this analysis!  I will NOT avoid any questions that come to mind -- if my mind is sending me questions then they need attention!

Somatic* Goal Setting

I can’t believe I’m going to talk about this … it’s so “gooey*”.  But, I have come to understand how much my body tells me.  As I think of these goals, I get an immediate bodily reaction.  For example, when I think of volunteering, my shoulders tighten and I have trouble taking in a deep breath.  For me, that’s a warning sign that I need to acknowledge and listen to. 

Taking My Time

Campaigns don’t start after one day of thought.  While it’s January 1 and I’d like to have my campaign poster on my refrigerator today, I’d much rather have a campaign that I can win.  In order to accomplish that, I’m going to slow down, do some homework and come back to this next week.

Take The Time To Refine

I can’t do it all – maybe you can but I ACCEPT that I have a limited amount of energy, time and resources.  I also ACCEPT that my mental health requires dedicated self-care that limits me to some extent.  For the first time in my life, I want a campaign that I can fully support and execute completely.  I want to win!

My list only took me five minutes.  I can’t and shouldn’t finalize my campaign based of a five-minute session.  I want the final outcome to be ME – the ME I CHOOSE to be … in order to accomplish that, I need to:

Monday/Tuesday: add to this list – make it as long as I want.  I will also go ahead and strike anything I know is a “should” or that my body rejects.   I will discuss this with my husband – he knows me better than I do and he also has some goals that I need to incorporate.

Wednesday/Thursday:  create categories.  For example, many of the goals could be categorized as “physical health” or  “mental health” or “career”. 

Then I’m going to do the hard work:  as I write each goal, I’m going to listen to what my brain starts to say and how my body feels.  I’m going to write EVERYTHING down – by doing that I can identify the enemy.  There may be some enemies so strong that I don’t want to fight them right now – and that’s okay!  I ACCEPT that I only have a limited amount of strength and skills at this moment in time.  If I choose battles where the enemy is too strong, I will fail and that will create a domino effect where all of my goals crash.  I’m strong enough to admit that to myself and structure my life accordingly.  Of course, one of my goals will be to continue to build my mental, emotional and physical strength so that one day I can fight any enemy.  But, I’m not there yet and that’s OKAY!

Friday:  trim the list and discuss again with my husband.  Then, I’ll trim it again.  And again.

Saturday:  FINALIZE my campaign platform.  I’m going to go so far as to design a poster – I’ll post that next week!

Sunday, I’ll begin to develop my list of “aggressive activities” for each goal.  This will be the subject of my next post. 

I’ve had a very difficult December (see my post from December 31).  What I learned during that time is that I need to be intentional in ACCEPTING myself and all my “issues”.  The abyss is a hard place to be and even harder to climb out of … I’m going to be more careful about avoiding the abyss and I think that starts with being realistic with myself about what I want and need out of life.  It starts with campaigning for myself. 

I hope some of you will join me and share your experiences with this LIFETIME project.

*gooey -- I prefer to live in my mind, so when I'm told to listen to my body (somatic experience) or to meditate, I think of those activities as "gooey" or "woo-woo".  I used to avoid them.  While I still don't like them, I totally recognize their importance in staying grounded and balanced.

Some recommended resources:  

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June Converse with purple hair
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....
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