How The Walking Dead Taught Me Unconditional Love

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By Marla Keller

Unless you have been off serving in a very isolated part of the world for the past four years, you’ve (at the very least) heard of the comic and the AMC original series The Walking Dead. I’ll have to admit, I’m a huge fan of the show. I think a big reason why it is so successful is because of the character development. And, while we can’t relate to a nationwide zombie apocalypse, we all can very much empathize with the humanity expressed by the characters and how real they are willing to get. Last night’s latest episode was extremely touching to me. Now, if you wish to keep reading the only SPOILER ALERT there is is the fact that I mention two of the original characters that have survived. Other than that, I kept the big secrets to myself (as I mentioned before, I’m a huge fan, and totally respect the suspense of waiting to find out what happens for yourself). 

5 Important Life-Lessons from Last Sundays Night’s The Walking Dead

1. Emotional Growth Hurts–Transformation from Fear to Humble Power (empowerment) is painful and messy and difficult, and it is always worth it. It feels as though you are losing yourself, but in reality you are discovering who you really are. Carol, who had been in a very abusive marriage when everything turned to hell, has experienced a transformation from helpless and fearful to empowered. She states, “Who I was with him, she got burned away, and I was happy about that. Not happy, but… at the prison, I got to be who I always thought I should be, thought I should’ve been. And then she got burned away.” Daryl responds, “We’re not ashes yet.” I resonate with this. I’ve been through a devastating, life-changing fire of sorts, and I am not ashes. I survived, and so can you.

2.  Compassion and grace can grow out of emotional destruction–Carol feels like a monster because of the terrible things she has done, but she’s not, “and all the fire in the world can’t burn away her humanity and leave her numb — that was obvious in the subtle, gut-wrenching way she flinched when she saw that the walker” had a child with her (read the recap of this episode HERE). Either you choose emotional growth that leads to compassion (for yourself and others) or you become numb. Which path have you chosen? How alive do you feel right now?

3.   Judgment of self and others only leads to emptiness and shame – Even though Daryl knows that Carol has had to make horrible decisions for survival, he also does not judge her nor does he reject her because of those things. He believes the truth that she has a beautiful and loving heart. I have been very critical of myself and others, and it has only caused me more pain. My control issues were out of control (pun intended), but Jami still valued me, loved me, and stood by me as I struggled to shift from a very shameful place caring desperately about what others thought of me into this place of liberation. Does your mind automatically go to judgment? “I’m thinner than her,” or “Once I complete this goal, I will be enough.” A critical spirit creates a life of despair and loneliness. The free spirit creates a life of joy and passion.

4.    Forgiveness of ourselves is the best gift we can receive – Both Daryl and Carol struggle with demons from their past. They have not lived a perfect life. They have not always made good decisions. But neither have I. Clearly, Daryl has forgiven Carol for the things she has done that she believes are unforgivable. To find freedom, Carol will need to see herself through the eyes of grace, Daryl’s eyes, and forgive herself. This may come across as flippant, but forgiveness of others was mostly not difficult for me. But forgiving myself felt like losing my identity. If I could hold on to that unforgiveness, then I would keep myself safe from repeating those shameful things. But it actually was having the opposite affect on me. I was becoming hardened and numb and was abandoning myself over and over again. Then I chose to forgive myself. And. I. Am. Liberated! Are you quick to forgive yourself? Give yourself the gift of freedom today.

5.     Relationships and community matter (“No man is an island.” ~Donne) From the moment we met Daryl in Season One of The Walking Dead, he was a lone ranger. But as each season has progressed, he has increasingly valued the community he has chosen to be a part of. Community matters. Relationships matter. We need each other. We need to struggle through the hard stuff together, demolishing the shame, fear and control. I need my chosen community. I need to struggle through the hard stuff with them. I need to stand alongside, and allow them to stand alongside me. What kind of community are you a part of? Is it accepting, graceful and open? If you aren’t apart of a loving community, it’s time to look for one. “Lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity” (more on this HERE).

What I am learning through this show is perspective on what it means to unconditionally accept, and therefore love, others. The very essence of community surviving is accepting each other for all the ugliness and standing together. Of course, it is usually not a matter of life or death for us in the real world, but I do believe our emotional well-being and trust in the communities we choose relies on it. And our emotional health as a community matters for the future of our world. 

What do you think about this? Have you learned the same thing from a different show or experience, or had the same feelings about The Walking Dead? 



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Marla is the co-founder of Passion Provokers. With her degree in family counseling, she and her husband Jami have built their life around healing others. From personal trials to professional success, they have changed what it means to have and to be a Life Coach and have assisted people from all over the world move from a place of defeat to dynamic success using a short-term model. 

How to Expand

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Are you fighting for the most important things in life? When it comes down to it, the most valuable “things” you have are your relationships.

 Recently a Medical Doctor told us why she started to refer patients to us. She said that most of her patients would return after visiting with the person she was previously referring to, and explain that upon their second or third visit the therapist would recommend divorce. This (of course) was shocking…but then not really. 

The divorce rate is actually down. This is because people are not choosing to get married as often as they did in the past. 

There is one group who is divorcing more than ever, the Baby Boomers. It used to be that there were few divorces after the age of fifty. Times are changing. The reason for this is because the skills that are required to thrive in a long term relationship are no longer a part of the culture. Some have them, but often take them for granted and most others are not present to the critical foundations that create highly satisfying relationships.  Most of the time, Passion Provokers can help people. We teach people to be able to address the disciplines that are key to knowing your heart. Learning to share that heart and soul in a safe way to really give and receive love can be the biggest game changer in all relationships.

Because the success of our clients is so great and relationships are salvaged we have expanded. We are taking our process where it needs to be (which we believe is everywhere).  We have trained six other coaches and have plans to invest into the Northwest and eventually worldwide. To be clear, this is not about making money. Like all businesses, we need money to keep going. We have been blessed to be able to do the work that we do because people pay for our services. We ran into limitations doing this solely from a non-profit company, and that is why we formed Passion Provokers. As founders, we live simply and have focused our energy and resources on the purpose of helping people find peace, power and joy.  We are asking for help in this expansion. We need your help. Even $5 would help.

If your reading this, it is because you are one of our friends, family, connected past clients, current clients, a curious reader, or a supporter of our dream. Your help is vital! One of the consistent features of investment campaigns like this is that if the warm market can get to just 30% of the campaign goal, then a bigger market takes notice. 

This Thanksgiving, we ask you: Are you grateful for your relationships? Are you grateful enough to help others find the same (or better) love? If you are, and feel compelled to join us, we encourage you to check out our campaign on Indiegogo. Lets #ExpandPassion.

Thank you for your time reading this, and thank you for your support, let’s change the world together, and let’s not do it one relationship at a time, let’s do it by regions, and nations. 



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Jami Keller is the co-founder of Passion Provokers. Earning his degree in Physical Therapy from Loma Linda University in 1990, he was passionate about healing people. In the mid-90’s, he and his wife started working with couples who had struggled with domestic violence, and after some serious discovery about himself and his relationship, he and Marla started their journey as Life and Relationship Coaches.

How To Understand (and Identify) Lifestyle Friends

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By Ariel Minter 

When I was about 16, I would imagine “growing up” and picture my twenty-something self as totally put together, with a core group of amazing drama-free people I called friends, an organized closet, and no more blemishes. The truth is, most people still act like their in high school, my closet forgot to magically organize itself with age, and I still get blemishes.

In my 20’s, I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to discover who I am, trying (and sometimes forcing) this aura of self assurance, focused on this thought process of what success means, and hoping to build lifelong friendships. 

I know this is not just my experience. At the last 20-something gathering I attended, I spent the majority of my time talking with two other 20-somethings about friendship. We were swapping war stories of feeling heartbroken and wary, because friendships we originally thought were so strong, weren’t. In fact, most of the situations explained didn’t come close to how even a marginal friend should treat another. 

Unfortunately, hurting people hurt people. Most “grownups” are still hurt because they haven’t figured out a good way to not be. 

Throughout our conversation, we kept coming back to the point that these people were friendly when we would do what they really liked (i.e. running, going downtown and drinking their favorite craft beer, etc.) but wouldn’t come over to watch a movie. These people were our friends when we were doing what satisfied their lifestyle and when we would meet them there. That was it. 

Friendships all have a lifeline. Sometimes, you become friends with someone and you both almost immediately know you really will be friends forever, and you actually are. This type of friendship is like your great-grandmothers ring. You treasure it. Other friendships happen quickly and end quickly (not necessarily because of bad blood). You love these used-to-be friends and wish them well, but you don’t really have that much of a relationship left with them, and they revert back to more of an acquaintance. 

Then you have Lifestyle Friends. 

The reason why Lifestyle Friendships, or LFs, can be so hurtful is because, at first, they seem so real and permanent and reliable, and you treat them that way. It can almost bring you to happy tears by how much love you have for these friends. As time goes on, and you start changing your lifestyle (maybe you are more into yoga when you were once a hardcore runner), suddenly all your bestie running friends slip away. You don’t understand or really notice at first, but you start realizing that you would do more for them than they would for you, or at least you feel that way. 

When I first realized what a LF was, I was pissed. I was so mad. I was sad. I missed them. And I didn’t feel like they missed me at all, since another person, who was more in-tune with that lifestyle, quickly filled my place. 

A few months after this, I realized I was going through this loss by going through the 5 Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and then (finally!) Acceptance. I was embarrassed at how upset this transition made me. Mostly because it seemed like the LF didn’t skip a beat without me. This may go without saying, but I am a highly sensitive person. I have a hard time not taking things personally. When I finally was able to appreciate the friendship as a lifestyle one, I was finally able to let go of the heavy heart I felt from the seeming “loss” of it and not take it personally any longer. It finally made sense to me.

There is nothing wrong with LFs. They are motivators, lovers of your soul for a season of your life, they are there for you as you are growing through a certain part of your life, and they are necessary. 

The most valuable thing my LFs have taught me is that my expectation of all relationships has to be let go. If my expectation is to have this friend as my best friend forever, I’m most likely going to be disappointed (because, how many people really end up with 20 rings from their great grandmother?). 

I don’t really think there are “bad” friends or “good” friends. I believe that we are all doing the best we can, and a lot of the time it’s not the best for certain people. The opposite of this is also true. That is a beautiful aspect of people. We have so much to love and to learn about those around us. Lifestyle friends are a huge part of that. 

So, to all my past, present, and future LFs, thank you. You have been, are, and will be so transformational in who I have been, am, and will be. 


Ariel is one of the authors of the Passion Provoker blogs. She also created the Passion Provokers website. She is 23 years old and became coach certified in 2010. She is passionate about using her words and thoughts in order to “get the point across…in a raw way.” If you are interested in contacting Ariel about web design or would like to feature one of her blogs on your website, you may contact her at [email protected].