SARAH L. WEBB INTERVIEWS NOELLE STERNE
Author of Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams
April 16, 2013
Have you ever heard about something that you just couldn’t keep to yourself, something you just had to share with others because you knew it would improve their lives?
I had that kind of experience recently when I read Dr. Noelle Sterne’s book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams.
I’ve written before about how bitter I was about “wasting the best years of my life,” and Trust Your Life offers the perfect anecdote to that type of guilt.
And they say lessons come along just when we need them. I felt huge burdens being lifted as I read in her book about how to deal with toxic relationships, how to reprogram our thinking, and best of all, how to start living our dreams today!
So, I thought I’d give you a taste of Dr. Sterne’s valuable insight, and she was kind enough to spend a little time discussing some important principles. It’s so jammed pack with wisdom that I had to split it into two posts. (Read Part 2.)
If you enjoy the interview, be sure to buy the book!
SLW: Hi, Noelle! How are you?
NS: Very well, Sarah. It’s a pleasure to be with you today, and I’m looking forward to our discussion.
SLW: I’m very excited and appreciative that you took the time out to answer some questions with me today.
NS: Thank you. Your questions have made me think. Your listeners ought to know that we are discussing my book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams, published by Unity Books. It’s available in paperback and various e-forms. In fact, it is featured in what Unity Books is calling their 2013 Summer of Self-Discovery, which is my book and two others from Unity Books on Goodreads. They’re having a discussion group and webcasts with each author here. My author page is also on Goodreads here.
People can go on Goodreads and they can go on Unity Online. Also, the three books will be available in a discounted pack. So, with that introduction, we’re talking about this book called Trust Your Life.
SLW: Why is it important for you to share your insight and offer guidance?
NS: It has been important for me to share the insights in this book and offer the guidance that’s there because first, I had the overwhelming and unstoppable desire to write about what I’ve learned. Second, I learn continuously myself from writing, and third, I have the hope and the impetus to help others through the insights and guidance, even though what I have to say or explain may not be for everyone.
SLW: Well, I know reading through your book definitely was for me. I was taking a lot of notes for me personally, not just for the interview and presenting it to the readers. Hopefully I’ll get to read the other two books in the Unity Series.
NS: Right. Let me just say what they are, and both are on Amazon. One is Native Soul by Doug Bottorff. The other is Living Originally by Robert Brumet. That is actually coming out mid-June. But presale is available now. Whoever chose these at Unity Books, these three are complementary.
SLW: On Page 79 of Trust Your Life, which is your book, you use the term “courageous confrontation.” In your opinion, what’s so courageous about confrontation, and what do we need to confront in order to live the life of our dreams?
NS: I use this phrase in the context of listening to our Inner Voice and acting on it rather than stifling our responses, especially responses of anger or pretending, or outright fibbing that everything is fine. The listening that I refer to can sometimes take the form of an inner shout, or a nudge, or an uneasy feeling, or a bad feeling. We know we haven’t really expressed ourselves. For many of us, especially women in our culture, expressing anger or disagreement is difficult. You may have experienced this too. We’re afraid, for example, that we’ll be disliked, or rejected, or worst of all, labeled b**** or PMS-prone. Men are not similarly labeled, but they’re often admired for displays of anger and aggression. So, even though women have made great strides in our society, I think it still takes courage for many of us to express ourselves fully and risk those perceived responses.
Another reason we need to confront is to truly express our inner resources and responses. If we don’t, we repress them. Repression leads to depression and illnesses. Most importantly, in terms of reaching one’s dream, repression uses energy that we would otherwise have available for pursuing our dreams. Now, I’m sure we all know women, especially, who do or say anything to help keep the peace; who smile, for example, when they should be screaming or weeping; who agree to too many tasks for others when they’d rather be home reading; and who, maybe without explanation and without anyone’s understanding, after years of a so-called perfect marriage, suddenly pack a bag and head out the door. I’ve read about things like that.
So, as I point out in the book, repression actually precipitates chemical, physical changes in our bodies. It affects our immune system and our enzyme and hormone production as well. Medical science today does acknowledge the role of repression and resentment in many stress-related illnesses, for example, and activation of cancer.
In this context, I recommend Louise Hay. I hope your readers are familiar with her. If not, they should look up her books on mind-body correspondences. She has these wonderful charts and discussions on how our emotions and our bodily manifestations, ailments, are connected. Then she has affirmations on dealing with and routing out any ailment at its source, which is our minds.
Courageous confrontation is a part of all of that. Expressing ourselves, even if it’s tactful, keeps us emotionally clean and without the proverbial baggage. Then, we’re not taking time and energy ruminating over a relationship, for example, who said what, why the other guy should be blamed. We’re using our time and energy to think more clearly and take the actions that will lead to the fulfillment of our dreams.
SLW: I think just that one answer can change somebody’s life, let alone the whole book and everything else that we have to talk about.
That takes me into my next question pretty nicely in terms of confrontation and thinking about the atmosphere that we’re in. In the book you use an example of a friend you call Greer to talk about how our surroundings might be affecting us. What can people do if they find themselves in an atmosphere that’s stifling them or that’s very negative?
NS: First of all, we can admit that the atmosphere is stifling. Sometimes we intend to smooth over. We say, Oh I guess it’s me. Maybe I’m hungry. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe it’s indigestion. I will say this—my husband has an uncanny and infuriating ability to sense when I am less than positive. I may be smiling and speaking sweetly, but he’ll announce that he doesn’t want to be around me until I change my attitude. Of course, it’s a little embarrassing for me (I can’t hide anything from him), but he can feel it in the atmosphere, and he’s not willing to tolerate it. So, we can take a lesson from him, much as it hurts me to admit it. He recognized the atmosphere around him and declared its existence, and he doesn’t want to be a party to it.
Now, what we can do otherwise, which he does sometimes, is we can remove ourselves physically, if possible. If not physically, we can remove ourselves mentally. One way is to fill our minds with positive thoughts—mantras or one-line prayers, whatever one likes. For example: I am unlimited. I am unbound by other’s judgments. I am free. I am loved. Anything that occupies our mind, and since nature abhors a vacuum, then we’re not being subjected to that negative atmosphere.
In the book, on page 108, I also list questions about how we can recognize people who project a stifling atmosphere. When readers answer these, they can see who’s keeping them down and how. Then they can apply affirmations. Maybe they can talk to the other person (that takes a little courageous confrontation), or arrange as much as possible and practical not to continue in the other’s company. As I saw with Greer and other friends, sometimes the confrontation may mean gently terminating the friendship. With family members, it may mean another kind of courageous confrontation and a declaration that you refuse to be affected by their often doom-saying, negative judgments, criticisms, never being satisfied, when are you going to get married, that kind of thing.
SLW: Another theme that’s huge in the book and is in the title itself is forgiveness of self and others. I’ve heard some people say that you can’t really forgive someone unless you fully restore the relationship back to its original state, or before the original “offense.” So, what do you think of that perspective?
NS: Well, you’re right. Forgiveness is a big part of my writing and a constant life theme. I’m sure I need it as much as anybody. I believe that forgiveness works like repression. If we don’t forgive, we hold on to the judgments, the rage, the gripes, and they sap our energy and affect our bodies too.
In relation to your question about restoring the relationship to before the original offense, I believe that really depends on the relationship. The original state may have been much less than healthy, a dominant-submissive or codependent relationship. Rather, I would say that we have truly forgiven when—now this is a toughie—when we no longer feel even a twinge of irritation, or better, we don’t even think about the person and his or her offenses.
I’m a student of A Course in Miracles, and it has two wonderful lessons on forgiveness in which you first catalogue all of the other person’s faults, and then you see that person in Light. In case anyone’s interested in the workbook in a Course in Miracles. These lessons are in the Workbook, Lessons 46 and 121). They really are challenging, I must say, because to forgive really takes LOVE. Readers may also be interested in the Miracle Distribution Center, founded to publicize and help the study of the Course.
SLW: Is it possible to forgive but no longer trust the person with your life, essentially, or with your mental, spiritual, physical, or emotional wellbeing?
NS: I think it’s possible to forgive but no longer want to or feel you must associate with that person, if that’s what you mean. The way you put the question, I don’t think it’s possible to associate if you no longer trust the person. Yes, it’s possible to forgive them. If you don’t trust them, the relationship won’t work, and it won’t be nurturing for either party, I believe.
Again I would apply certain lessons as in the Course in Miracles. As you can get rid of all your resentment and anger, you just allow the other person to be. You become neutral about that person. In a way, that may be the best touchstone of forgiveness. But you can also recognize that you no longer have anything in common with them. Their outlook may be stifling too, as it was for me, when I finally realized it, with Greer. Also, you may realize you’re growing at a different rate, but you can bless them for what they gave you in both positive and learning ways. I think of examples such as friends from earlier years that we all have, even family members.
Many spiritual teachers point out that people come into and go out of our lives for different reasons, and we’re supposed to learn from each relationship. Coming back to one of your major earlier themes, we’re supposed to have the courage to see what is healthy and optimal for us and take the right action. Sometimes this means terminating relationships or just letting them go gently. You realize that now a great friend from high school and you are on completely different wavelengths, and you’ve grown in a certain way and they haven’t, or vice versa. Sometimes though, you reignite the relationship, often on new and delightful grounds.
SLW: Alright. That does give us a lot to think about, as do your writings in general. And speaking of your writings, in Trust Your Life, there are a lot of practical strategies that people can use to gather the courage to confront, or to forgive, or to pursue their dreams. I’m wondering if there will ever come a point after reading your book where it’s not such a conscious effort and that it comes more naturally.
NS: We’d all like that, wouldn’t we? I think of the co-founder of Unity, Charles Fillmore, who wrote a wonderful little booklet called A Six-Day Healing Practice. It has denials and affirmations for each day of the week. In the introduction, he says that each day’s passage “is to be repeated over and over until it manifests its living presence and potency in consciousness” (Unity Village, MO: Unity School of Christianity, 1986, p. 10). So he recognized that it’s not a sudden snap-of-the-fingers thing.
I believe that the time for non-conscious, or not trying, to live with the principles comes by degrees as we continue to practice faithfully and regularly. Of course, this is not easy. Our minds and society have decided to focus on negativity and dire appearances. We may need much more effort and outright denials to continue to affirm and visualize. I’m sure you know too that it takes a lot of self-discipline, mental discipline, but the more we do these things, the more our mental habits change.
It’s like with meditation. At first we can barely concentrate. We’re into the to-do list, and thinking about food. As we practice and forgive ourselves for all the mental flitting about, we tolerate a few more seconds, and a few more. Then optimally, best scenario, it becomes easier to slip into that meditative state at will anywhere and without all the candles and cushions. So, I think that as we “leaven”—that is, raise—our consciousness with these tools, it does become easier to respond almost automatically to the positives we’ve learned.
Is it ever not conscious? Well, for Jesus and other enlightened people, likely. For the rest of us, I think it depends on our hunger for the positives and our degree of surrender to them in the face of opposite sense evidence. So, keep practicing! Keep practicing! Keep at it! I’m talking to myself too.
Stay tuned for part two of Noelle Sterne’s interview on 5/13!
Author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne writes fiction and nonfiction, publishing over 300 pieces published in print and online venues, including Funds for Writers, Pen and Prosper, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, ReadLearnWrite, Women on Writing, Transformation Magazine, 11.11, and Unity booklets.Her monthly column, “Bloom Where You’re Writing,” appears in Coffeehouse for Writers. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has helped doctoral candidates complete their dissertations (finally), with a psychological-spiritual handbook in progress. In her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books; one of ten best 2011 ebooks), she draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. See Noelle’s website: www.trustyourlifenow.com. With Trust Your Life, Noelle appears in the Unity Books 2013 “Summer of Self-Discovery” on Goodreads with two other authors of positive messages for discussions and free webcasts here. Starting in May 2013, Noelle will be one of five featured authors on Author Magazine’s ongoing blog, exploring writing, creativity, and spirituality.