Joy Ignites Success

Telling Stories to Avoid Feeling

By  - Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Back in 2012 (OMG, that’s 7 years ago!) I wrote a blog about defending yourself to others and how that ramps up the feeling of being under attack. Recently, I started seeing how we do this to ourselves with telling stories about what we’re experiencing.

Here’s an example: The neighbor’s dog runs out into the street and gets hit by a car. I’m devastated. It brings up grief for the family, for the shortening of the dog’s life and the memory of my dog, Elsa, who was also hit and killed by a car. It probably also brings up fear that Beatrice (the current four-legged) will do the same thing.

What the mind likes to do in this situation is to protect us from the feelings. It will do that by making up stories about why that happened. “They weren’t watching the dog close enough.” “They didn’t take the time to train the dog.” “They must have left the gate open.” These are all made up stories (whether there’s an element of truth to them or not) to try to protect ourselves from our own feelings of fear and grief.

It would be one thing if this strategy worked. But it doesn’t. All it does it send our feelings underground, where they lodge in our bodies, to be processed at another time (and/or to create physical illness).

The choice instead requires courage. Let go of the stories and feel your feelings. Welcome the sadness and the accompanying sensations and welcome the fear of losing your loved one. When we welcome and allow feelings, they move through very quickly. It’s the resistance to them that keeps them hanging around.

We can also notice when those around us are making up stories to protect themselves. When we can see through those stories (especially if the story includes blaming us), we can recognize that he or she is probably scared at some level. When we can see our loved one as a scared child, it’s much easier to have compassion for them.

To help move through the feelings, rather than make up a story that doesn’t serve, practice simply opening to the sensations in your body and see what happens.

And give yourself some approval for the courage it might take to be with the feeling! Read More

Practicing KIndness

By  - Tuesday, April 02, 2019

8 Ways to Be Kind to Self

All too often, when I suggest to a client that they learn to be kinder to themselves, I am looked at as if I have three heads. I get it, if the only thing we learned growing up was pressure, blame and criticism, it can be hard to know where to begin in changing the way we treat ourselves.

So, I made a list. It’s an on-going list, consider this part 1.

  1. Slow Down- rushing creates a sense of panic in the body and sends an internal message of not doing enough and/or being enough
  2. Drive Kind- it’s far too easy to get pulled into franticness when driving; when you slow down to allow others to make that turn, pull onto the highway, etc., it feels good. Practicing random acts of kindness is good for both giver and receiver.
  3.  Read More

At the end of your rope?

By  - Tuesday, September 04, 2018

What to do when every little thing is annoying...
Do you have days (weeks? months?) where everybody and everything gets under your skin? It happens to the best of us. Maybe you haven’t been sleeping well, or you’ve eaten foods that don’t agree, or there’s simply too much on your plate. I’ve created a list of things to do and questions to ask yourself when irritability is getting the best of you.
 Read More

My Thoughts are Enough Thanks

By  - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Do you ever find yourself questioning how you should think or act based on what others might think? If you’re like the rest of us, the answer is likely yes. But is this wise? Is it effective?
There are multiple problems inherent in this behavior. The first glaring issue is that no matter how well you know someone, you are still just guessing what they will think. The deeper complication is that you are attempting to access the wisdom (or lack thereof) of another, rather than tuning in to what you know to be true for yourself.
This behavior eats away at confidence and self-esteem. Read More

Drop the Anxiety Label

By  - Wednesday, February 24, 2016

When I am working with a client it is not uncommon for me to ask what is happening in the body (probably because I am a body-oriented psychotherapist!). All too frequently, my client responds by saying “anxiety” or “stress”.
Anxiety is a label based on a past experience.  And most of the time, not a very useful label. Sure, it’s expedient (much like the word stress), but the ability to move through a feeling or sensation is not supported by calling it something. Quite the opposite. When you say you feel anxious (or stressed) there is immediate resistance to it and a desire to have a different experience. By resisting what’s happening, you are giving it energy (what we resist, persists).
Instead, when you are experiencing what you have historically identified as anxiety, try dropping the label and see what you are aware of in this moment. What sensations are occurring? Read More

Move from Lethargy and Heaviness to Joy and Freedom

By  - Wednesday, August 12, 2015

4 Do’s and Don’ts to Move from Lethargy and Heaviness to Joy and Freedom


Sometimes crappy moods happen. Blame it on the weather, moon cycles, sugar intake, your business partner or hormones. And sometimes, you may have an awareness that you’d rather feel differently. But, contrary to what some may say,  just “choosing to be happy” often doesn’t work.

Here are my 4 Do’s and Don’ts to move from lethargy and heaviness to joy and freedom.


1.    Beat yourself up for feeling the way you do. It happens.
2.    Self-soothe with substances that provide temporarily relief. You will likely regret it later and feel even worse.
 Read More

Are you guilty of overreacting?

By  - Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Okay, I’ll admit it first. Sometimes I overreact. Not always and not to all things. But when it comes to physical pain, sometimes I might be accused of being overly dramatic.
But last week, I did something different.
I was stung by a nasty wasp in our shed. It’s true, I invaded its home, and he or she may have been appropriately annoyed. But I didn’t know what I was walking into! I just wanted to get the lawn chairs for the party last weekend.
At first, I didn’t realize I’d been stung. I felt it hit my arm, nothing more. But then my arm started to burn just a bit, and I knew I was doomed.  Yes, doomed. The last wasp sting hurt like heck for hours and I was anticipating the pain. Then I caught myself! And remembered everything I teach. That getting jacked up wasn’t going to help the situation and it could actually make it worse.  I remembered that I didn’t have to get hysterical, start crying and pretend the world was coming to an end.
 Read More

Beyond Frustrated

By  - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How do I get my happy back?


I am being given yet another opportunity today to practice what I preach. I am dealing with a situation where I have been told repeatedly that a product I ordered (and paid for in November 2014) will be in soon and will be mailed to me when it arrives. I have followed through on my end with reminder emails and phone calls. There is no other source for this particular product and I am dealing with a volunteer organization.

What I really want to do is rip someone’s hair out (not mine) and shake them until they are blue in the face?
Have you ever felt this way?
Here’s how we can handle these feelings:
1.    Validate the feeling.  It’s appropriate, it’s allowed and you have a right to feel what you feel.
2.    Imagine doing whatever it is that you’d really like to do to that person if no one would ever know and there would be no consequences. Have fun with this. (I’m doing it as I write)
 Read More

Kicking the Worry Habit

By  - Monday, June 29, 2015
           Read More

Where the Body Goes, The Mind Will Follow

By  - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Your Body Can Show You How To Let Go


I have been dancing since the age of 4. Often just for the joy of it, but many times to move through a situation in my life or strong emotions. While I recommend dance for all, not everyone is going to take me up on that suggestion. But even if you won’t dance (don’t ask me), you will be spending an awful lot of time (in fact, all of it) in your body. Doesn’t it make sense to use it in a way that supports health and well-being?
In almost every situation, there is some way you could shift what your body is doing to support moving from where you are (emotionally, physically, spiritually) to where you want to be. February 11th is “Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk” Day. I’ll use the concepts associated with this day to demonstrate.
The saying “don’t cry over spilled milk” asks us to let go of what was and move on with our lives. Spilled milk could represent almost anything from breaking a glass to losing a loved one. And while the reactions will be markedly different, the process for moving through each is surprisingly similar.
 Read More

About MSI

Melanie Smithson Institute is dedicated to enriching lives through embodied education and training; using movement, play and releasing to connect with innate wisdom and joy.  

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