Get Out of Your Head and Follow Your Feelings to Find Joy & Peace

Are you aware of, and do you honor, the wisdom that lives within your body?  Or do you allow your inner critics to control you by “living in your head”? This differentiation, between living in your head vs living in your body is important if you want to have a peaceful and joyful life.

Should vs could
If satisfaction and joy are escaping you, you’re probably telling yourself, consciously or unconsciously, that you “should” many times each day.  Perhaps you’re even saying ‘should’ aloud to others?  My mentor, Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, Ph. D., founder of Nonviolent Communication, used to say “the ‘s’ word” is one of the most violent words in the English language and I wholeheartedly agree.  

I resolved, 35 years ago, to stop using ‘should’ in my thoughts and in my communication with others.  I decided instead to use the word ‘could’ because it acknowledges that I have choice.  I could do A, I could do B, or I could do nothing.  ‘Should’ tells me what I am ‘supposed to’ say or do.  Says who?!  Who is this ruler that’s setting expectations of me?  

‘Should’ reveals what society expects, how you are ‘supposed to be’ and dictates your thoughts and behavior. ‘Shoulds’ serve those who want to control you and make decisions for you. My mother used ‘should’ to shame me and control my behavior as a teen. “You should be a virgin when you get married”. “You should get good grades”. “You should lose some weight”, etc.  

‘Should’ gives you two options: submit or rebel
You have two options when your inner critic tells you what you ‘should’ do.  Your first option is to submit. That is, do as you are told.

The other option you have when your inner critic tells you what you “should” do is to rebel-to not do what you are being told.  As a human being, you have a need for autonomy: to do things your way and in your time.  If a doctor tells you that you need to stop smoking, or you will die within months, you might choose to continue smoking because you need autonomy. I believe our need for autonomy is at the core of all addictions.

Awareness: Your first step toward freedom
Becoming aware of your thoughts is the first step toward loosening their control over you.  Maybe you tell yourself that you “should” be on time.  Combine this internalized “should’ with your need for autonomy and you might be late everywhere you go!  You may not even be aware that this inner critic is controlling your behavior.  You may be submitting to, or rebelling against it, and eliminating choice.

My choice, whether in response to an outer or inner ‘should’, is usually to rebel.  As a teen, I took several beatings with a leather belt while distance and resentment grew during each battle that ensued between me and my mother.  These days, when I hear my students use the word ‘should’ I imagine them pulling out a whip and giving themselves painful lashes with it.  Sometimes, I encourage them to “put the whip away” and give themselves choice instead.

Compulsive and addictive behaviors quiet ‘shoulds’
We have an epidemic of addictions: alcoholism, drug addiction, compulsive shopping, credit card debting, workaholism, gambling, over-eating, busyness and even compulsive exercising.  Compulsive behaviors help you to drown out your inner ‘shoulds’.  

Your compulsive habits help you submit or rebel in response to your internalized ‘shoulds’.  Submitting results in living a life you don’t enjoy, for instance, going to a job you hate each day because you ‘should’ earn more money.  Forcing yourself to work a job you hate compels you to anesthetize your daily misery.

On the other hand, you might numb out to escape the inner ‘should’, rebelling against your inner critic, even if an addiction traps you down the road.  The compulsive behavior initially provides relief from the pain of hearing your inner ‘shoulds’, even if down the road it becomes an addiction and takes away your choice and freedom.

Take responsibility, consciously choose instead
Rather than submit or rebel, you could consciously choose, which create more peace and joy. Choosing can be scary because it requires taking responsibility.  If you experience success, you can take credit for it.  Yet if you fail, you are responsible for that as well.  I recall being afraid to take responsibility-I was scared I would make the “wrong” decision, a ”mistake”.  I’m grateful I now believe there is no such thing as a mistake, as long as I learn and grow in the process.  “Live and learn” is my motto these days.

Put your attention on your body/feelings, instead of the thoughts in your head
Just as Siri tells you to “turn right” on the GPS in your car, your inner GPS, is always there to let you know the “right” direction for you.  Imagine saying yes to a new job and see how your body feels.  Then imagine saying no and check-in.  If you feel relieved or happy, that is your body saying ‘Yes”.  If you feel sad or disappointed, that is your body saying “No”.  Choose the option that feels best in your body rather than the ‘should’ in your mind.  Making decisions from your body keeps you out of your head which keeps you from ‘shoulding’ yourself.  Life can become one joyful experience after another and making decisions becomes easier when you follow your body’s guidance.  

Accessing your feelings isn’t possible when you’re practicing compulsive or addictive behaviors.  You’re numb and unable to “hear” your body’s guidance plus rationalization comes with addiction which complicates the inner ‘shoulds’. Yet you can re-discovered joy as soon as you stop the compulsive behaviors.  

I remember laughing harder than I’d laughed my entire life after I quit smoking cigarettes, at the age of 29.  I felt things I had not felt when I was smoking.  Smoking had served to lessen painful feelings but much to my surprise, it had also numbed my joy, which I was delighted to reclaim!

Our bodies course-correct us toward joy and satisfaction
I earned my Masters Degree and then worked in the Corporate world for five years. Then, five doctors told me I could no longer do that work.  My body was ill-it was telling me I was off course.  I was honoring the ‘shoulds’ to make my parents proud, earn a generous salary, and gain respect from my colleagues.  I began listening to my body and quit that job.  I became a Massage Therapist instead of a Consumer Research Analyst, and changed the direction of my life.  My body course-corrected me toward a career where I found satisfaction, peace and joy every day, for 33 years!  

Terri Moon, MS, is a Heart-Based Communication trainer, coach and mediator since 2005.  She supports entrepreneurs, activists and those building communities to connect, resolve conflicts and live authentic, artful and value-aligned lives.  Get her free Communication Transformation Tool to empower you to express your heart in ways that connect at   

The Difference Between Demands and Requests and Why it Matters

There’s a world of difference between a demand and a request. A demand is when you tell someone what to say or do. Demands alienate others by inferring that their needs are not as important as ours.

A request is when you ask another to say or do something. Requests can increase connection-if you are open to hearing “No”. Seems like the difference between the two is obvious but is it, really?

Submit or rebel?
There are two ways you can respond to a demand. The first is to submit. That is, you do what the person is asking. Perhaps it’s easier to go along with what is being asked than to negotiate something different? Yet going along, for the sake of ease or harmony, especially if you do it regularly, can leave you feeling resentful.

Doing things when and/or how someone else wants you to, rather than the way you would prefer, may lead to a loss of autonomy. You could set up a pattern where you lose your ability to choose and where they become accustomed to you going along with what they want. This is especially likely if the person making demands is an authority (parent, boss etc.).

Your other option, when presented with a demand, is to rebel or say “No”. Rebelling may require mustering up your energy, strength, courage or all three! Rebelling may leave you feeling free or empowered as you take a stand to prioritizing your own needs, building confidence that your needs matter-both to you and to others. You may feel proud that you are meeting your need for autonomy or choice rather than prioritizing someone else’s needs. Saying no to someone’s request may boost your self-respect and also teach others to respect your needs. It could also leave the other person thinking that their needs don’t matter to you, thus adversely impacting the relationship.

How to tell the difference
It only becomes clear whether a demand or a request has been made when the other person hears your “No”. If they attempt to convince you to cooperate by shaming, guilt-tripping or other attempts to manipulate your behavior then they’ve made a demand. If you buy into these tactics, you could end up feeling worse about yourself than if you had gone along with their demand in the first place!

Restoring choice and collaboration
Rather than submit or rebel, I suggest getting curious instead. Ask about the needs that would be met by doing what is being asked. Curiosity helps the person get clear about their need, which they usually are not aware of (***more about this later) and also lets them know that you understand what they need. Curiosity demonstrates care for their need, which increases goodwill and harmony between you. Getting curious also preserves choice and turns the conversation into a collaboration, so both parties can simultaneously get what you need.

***We live in a culture where people are not aware of our needs. Usually we jump over our needs and instead move into strategies. Strategies or “fixes” create conflict while needs create connection! Getting clear about the underlying needs of both parties allows you to find a strategy that meets all needs without conflict or compromise. Meeting all needs is a matter of getting creative: finding a way to meet both parties needs simultaneously, which preserves and protects harmony.

Do you fear that meeting the needs of both parties will take more time? As a mediator, I’ll assure you that mutually agreeable outcomes happen within 20 minutes of both parties understanding the other parties need, making this a very efficient use of time and energy, especially when you consider future ease in the relationship. Doing so requires pausing in the moment, getting curious and communicating-three habits we are not accustomed to. In my 16 years of experience, the efficiency and collaboration that result are more than worth the required change in habits.

Their relationship appeared similar to my marriage when I was 18 years old (I was divorced by the time I was 24). I had heard demands over and over again “Why don’t you put out?!” “You are not doing your wifely duty!” and/or experienced “wham, bam thank you Mame” with no hint of my satisfaction being important in the process of meeting his needs. Over our six-year marriage, the only time my ex physically touched me was when he wanted sex. Over time, my instinct was to recoil rather than participate. Eventually, we went to a therapist and were given homework to course-correct our marriage: he was to be physically affectionate without pursuing sex. After six months, not one attempt had been made to do this homework, so I ended the marriage.

Increasing physical Intimacy, an example
An example that comes to mind is a client who was frustrated because his girlfriend was not co-operating, to meet his need for intimacy. He wanted my support, as a communication coach, to learn how to convince her to cooperate. I spoke with his girlfriend and noticed that she rebelled at nearly every word he spoke. Clearly, she was attempting to protect herself. I suspected that his girlfriend had constructed her unrelenting boundaries after having submitted to his demands so many times that intimacy with him was no longer an option. I suspect that, over the course of their relationship, she had become more and more resentful as her needs had not been taken into consideration.

Their relationship appeared similar to my marriage when I was 18 years old (I was divorced by the time I was 24). I had heard demands over and over again “Why don’t you put out?!” “You are not doing your wifely duty!” and/or experienced “wham, bam thank you Mame” with no hint of my satisfaction being important in the process of meeting his needs. Over our six-year marriage, the only time my ex physically touched me was when he wanted sex. Over time, my instinct was to recoil rather than participate. Eventually, we went to a therapist and were given homework to course-correct our marriage: he was to be physically affectionate without pursuing sex. After six months, not one attempt had been made to do this homework, so I ended the marriage.

A request for heterosexual Men and one for Women
If you are a man who makes demands for sex, I have a request for you. Would you be willing to make requests, rather than demands, for physical affection i.e., not shame or guilt-trip your partner when she says no? Doing so will allow you to enjoy sex more often, and to more deeply enjoy the process when she does agree to be intimate. When your partner is enjoying herself and is at choice it will even reduce your families medical bills (by contributing to her physical health and emotional well-being). If you haven’t been taught how to have sex that pleases your partner, this is a learnable skill. Schools and/or your partner can teach you these skills which could even save your relationship.

A request for women who are with partners who make demands, rather than requests, for sex. Would you be willing to find a partner who honors your need for pleasure, or to teach your partner to make sex pleasurable for you? If so, you will be supporting the health of your entire body as well as contributing to the long-term success of your relationship. If so, I trust you will both be glad you did!

Terri Moon is a communication coach, mediator and Heart-Based Communication trainer. She supports relationships based on honesty and curiosity, to meet the needs of all involved, rather than attempting to change or coerce anyone to cooperate. Sign up to receive her free Heart-Based Communication tool at

Three Tools to Fend Off Anxiousness & Despair this Winter-or Any Season

Three steps to move from anxiousness or despair into grateful, grounded and empowered. 

woman meditating in the park
Listening within brings freedom

Our feelings are our Inner GPS system.  Our feelings can guide us toward lives of meaning and purpose, satisfaction and joy.  If we are experiencing anxiousness or despair, it’s because we are not present in this moment, are unaware of our thoughts, or don’t realize we can choose what we think.

If you tend toward anxiousness or despair, here are some tips that can support you to successfully navigate these emotions, especially during what some anticipate will be one of the darkest winters in history, the winter of 2020.

Continue reading “Three Tools to Fend Off Anxiousness & Despair this Winter-or Any Season”