I have been thinking about the words I say during conversations with others, especially with those close to me. As I embrace the Gestalt way of slowing down to heighten my self-awareness, I realize that sometimes I say things to others with an expectation in mind, or to obtain validation of some sort. In other words my speech, in dialogue with another, is about ME.


“Honey, do these jeans make my butt look big?” How many of us have asked our partner/friend/S.O. this question, with the expectation that they reassure us that we “Look awesome in those jeans!”?

Now, having an agenda is perfectly okay. As I explain in counseling, it may be really important to have an expectation behind my words, such as in parenting, or when managing others as part of my profession. I want my partner to assure me that I look good in my clothing. I am focusing here on the awareness that I have an agenda. My speech is a means to an end.

Attaching a hidden expectation to our speech is where we can get into trouble. We put something out there with a little red flag on it that, unbeknownst to the other person, they are supposed to see and react to. When the other person does not react according to expectation, we become angry, hurt, resentful, or disappointed. [Our reaction to another person’s speech or behavior is good material for a future blog].

Hidden agendas are sometimes revealed in jokes or sarcasm, such as “Oh, I’m so (insert negative word i.e., ugly, awkward, etc.), that no one will want to go out with me.” The hidden agenda is the expectation that the other person will reassure us, console us, or in some way make us feel better about ourselves.

It is a lot harder to ask another person directly: “Do you think I’m ugly, awkward, etc?” or “Do you think anyone will want to go out with me?” Asking direct questions sometimes feels scary, because we might not get the validation and support we want or expect. We feel vulnerable. The fear of shame is very real.

Recognizing the motivation or agenda behind our speech is a way to learn more about ourselves. It informs us of our emotional state, and vulnerabilities we may be experiencing. It is a way to tap into what is often just beyond awareness. When we live our lives on “auto pilot,” quickly passing through each day, we miss the subtleties and the rich lessons available through heightened awareness. It takes slowing down and a willingness to examine these sometimes painful parts of ourselves.

Many of us do not want to slow down. We are busy, we have a lot of things on the “to do” list and many responsibilities. Yes, all valid points, dear reader. AND I invite you to slow down a bit, to raise your awareness of the speech you put out into the world, and to take a peek at the self you keep just barely out of awareness.

How can you change the agenda? In therapy sessions, we experiment with new behaviors that will lead to changing ingrained and sometimes unhelpful behaviors. The creative experiment arises from what is happening right now in the session.

A meditation teacher once invited me to consider these three questions before speaking:

1. Is it kind?

2. Is it true?

3. Is it necessary?

I would add another:

4. Do I have an agenda or hidden expectation attached to this?

If you would like some help slowing down, raising awareness and changing your agenda, I am trained to counsel and facilitate change. I am willing to speak to your group on any number of mindfulness, intentional, Gestalt, or counseling topics. Please see my home page for information about how to contact me.

I am always interested to hear how my readers experience these posts. My agenda is to write about counseling and therapeutic topics interesting to me, which will perhaps interest you. I would like to know your reactions to this post, ideas you have, suggestions, or questions.

Peace, my friends.


I have a handwritten sign in my house that says, “Live with Intention.” I see it every morning as I brush my teeth and it is an affirmation to consciously choose what I do today. There is a process to intentional living. It beings by slowing down to consider my thought patterns and my speech, and experimenting with the way I use language. This increases my self-awareness of how I may choose to live.

Each one of us has the privilege of choosing how to live and what to do. Does this mean we get to do whatever we want? Of course not. I am almost certain, dear reader that we both have jobs, bills to pay and other obligations to meet. By living with intention we can choose the attitude with which we approach our jobs, bills, and obligations.

Intentional living has a lot to do with the words we use. Have you ever noticed how much of your thought patterns and speech are automatic? Slow down and notice. By using certain words and avoiding others, we make micro changes to the way the brain works. We can change the brain from negative thinking to positive thinking. Empowerment follows. Stop and think about things you do and how you choose to do them. By using words like “I can’t,” or “I have to,” we take away our power to choose.

We can choose to feel obligated and indebted to our obligations, or see them as choices we make. Looking at your obligations from a positive perspective may help you to feel empowered about your existence.

Try it for yourself! See what works and what does not. I would love to hear about your experimentation with this idea. How do you live with intention? What other positive phrases can you come up with to replace the negative?

Here are six words to avoid using, and the positive replacements that facilitate intentional living:

Negative            Positive

Can’t                I won’t, I choose not to, It isn’t a priority right now

Need to           I want to, I am going to, I will

Have to           I am going to, I will

Must                I want to, I made plans to, I said I would

Ought to         I want to, I will

Should            I would like to, I intend to

My work as a Gestalt counselor focuses on choice, personal responsibility, and living in the present moment. I can help facilitate the transition from distraction to intention.


Is anyone else out there feeling sad, angry or overwhelmed by the violence, inhumanity, and partisan politics that are so present in the world today? I know I am. It saddens me that so much hatred and violence are being carried out against our fellow humans. Earlier this week I found myself driving aggressively, impatient with others, and just generally pissed off! One morning it dawned on me that I was feeling powerless against all these bad things that were happening all over the world. The negativity of the disturbed world was dragging me down. What could I do?

I decided to launch what I am calling the Peace Initiative. And I invite you to join me, in whatever capacity you wish. This is how my Peace Initiative works: During my runs, I am running on the left side of the road, into traffic (for all you non-runners, it is safest when running, to face oncoming traffic and see vehicles as they approach). As each car passes me, I bestow a little blessing to the occupant(s). I say, “Peace be with you.” It is not loud, drivers do not hear me, they do not know I am blessing them.

I am the one who benefits, as I feel empowered by spreading peace and love. It is only a small gesture, but I feel better. Perhaps the positive energy I emit will land on someone and make a difference. Is this something you, dear reader, are willing to do? Even if you are not a runner, what other ways might you bless your fellow humans?

How can the Peace Initiative be extended and expanded? Your ideas and suggestions are welcome. Tell me how you do it.

Peace be with you.