Monday, December 20, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
But when we can mix in some honest recollection of the ways we have been helped by the person we are angry with, the things they have done that we have appreciated or needed or benefited from, we can soften the bad feelings just enough to get some relief and deal with things in a more productive way.
Spouses who frustrate us may also have helped us co-parent well, or encouraged us in our career. Parents who behave irrationally may have helped support us in some way. Bosses who are difficult may have gone to bat for our raise. Friends who have been neglectful may have once listened well to us when we were a mess. And we ourselves, when we make mistakes, also have our good points. We are well served to remember them and appreciate them while we are taking a look at the things that we do that no longer serve us well.
Of course, I am not excusing bad behavior, but I think everyone fares better when we seek to understand it, and when we can support our efforts by telling the whole story, not just the painful parts. And of course, I know its not so easy to call up things to be grateful for when you are on brain rev from anger or fear or frustration or self attack. But still....
I maintain my great respect for anger and frustration, for talking and talking and talking some more. About what shapes us, what we believe, what we would like and what might be in the way of getting it. And I think that as we tell our stories, we are missing out if we don't also include the things that we have and are and do that work well.
Gratitude is the antidote to self pity. And since self pity (which you can certainly indulge in if you like) usually runs us in circles inside, a bit of gratitude can pull us out. I know I might be stretching it, but if your legs work, or your eyes, or you have a bed to sleep in, you have something to go on.
Yes, sometimes it is about perspective. But I think its also about allowing ourselves to have all our feelings, the good and bad ones, and fostering the hope that we can have them and get relief from them. And create resilient selves and resilient relationships.
Monday, November 8, 2010
And how it should be on the list of ways to survive and thrive when life is frustrating.
Sometimes, when we are hurting, we end up giving away to others what we ourselves need. Like patient listening, reassurance, acknowledgement, praise, gentle suggestion, hope, love, kindness, in the hope of then getting back what we ourselves need.
Or we do the opposite. We ball up and don't give anything to anybody. Either way, we may be left feeling alone, frustrated or depleted. And dipping our toe in the quick sand of self pity.
Kindness can be tricky.
Giving in order to get within the parameters of our healthy relationships is fine. Most good relationships are reciprocal. Taking care of one another, giving and getting at different times, in different ways.
And closing up can be a way protecting ourselves against rejection or further hurt. Sometimes that's a kindness to ourselves. Practicing kindness when we feel like closing down can seem impossible, or irritating, even.
But I think that kindness, small or large - for the sake of kindness itself, (not necessarily to the person who is part of our frustration - though some say that helps too) has so many benefits.
And there are so many easy ways to be kind. Inevitably, we end up getting back. Maybe not from the recipient of our kindness, but still.
Kindness shapes us. And reshapes us. It can help when we are angry, or lonely, or frustrated, or too wrapped up in our point and our pain. It helps us step out of ourselves just enough to do other things that will help us feel, be and live better.
Practicing kindness brings relief. It can bring feelings of accomplishment, of productiveness, of worthiness, value and competency. When we are feeling low, we can use all the good feelings we can get. To help carry us along. To get us out, even momentarily, from our own world of pain or angst.
I have great respect for anger, and anxiety and frustration, for fear, doubt and insecurity. I know there are many ways to get relief. And I am thinking that doing a kindness should be on the list.
Kindness to ourselves, yes. But I am talking about kindness in general. Even if it only offers a brief reprieve from OCD or panic, or addiction or rage. I think its worth it.
So here are some ideas, mostly on the small and reasonable list, but that count:
Say thank you to someone....for even the small things like taking out the garbage or holding open a door, or giving you your change at the store.
Notice and Express appreciation for something specific, or ordinary, for example, someone's kind words to you, or their delivering the mail, or for being on time or being honest or being friendly or working hard.
Notice and Give a compliment: on someone's outfit, or attitude or work or style. No need to be flowery or expansive, just genuine. Sometimes brief is best.
Give Charity. Give a dollar. Give a quarter. Give what you can. Drop something in the bucket of the folks outside the grocery store. Buy special stamps like the Breast Cancer Awareness ones that cost a drop more, but are an easy way to support the cause. Or donate online, or pick your favorite charity and send something their way.
Buy a flower for someone.
Cook a small meal for a stressed out friend. Or take some fruit to someone who looks sad.
Tell someone their kid is cute.
Tell a teacher you appreciate their efforts with your kid.
Call to wish someone a speedy recovery if you've heard they are sick.Check out kindness websites, like Do One Nice Thing or Partners in Kindness or Help Others.org
Have your anger. Have your point. Have your pain. Talk, rage, cry, write, walk. Talk more. And while you are waiting for insights, relief, progress, change, consider the benefits of small acts of kindness. You'll see. Doing a kindness will be like a small crack of sunshine on a grey day while you are walking on the road to better.
Monday, October 25, 2010
If you are grappling with grief, or frustration or anger, are you talking about it? Writing about it? Taking the time to honor it, feel it and tend to it? Are you able to take in good feelings as well, or do the bad feelings steal everything?
Recently, I was discussing with a group of healers whether its better to think yourself into acting or act yourself into thinking. Which is the quickest route to relief when you are hurting or trying to change something that is no longer serving you well? It was a lively debate, and the bottom line was: both. Depends on the situation, on your unconscious mind, on the severity of the pain. But either way, it was agreed that being curious about your feelings and feeling them, and studying them with compassion, is the bottom line below the bottom line. It's the treat behind the trick.
Whatever path you take toward working on your stuff, on your relationship with yourself and others, on feeling better, or having more, its best done with curiosity and compassion. Many folks, when in emotional pain are so prone to self attack, to giving themselves a hard time for feeling what they feel, that they stay stuck in the feeling just by trying not to feel it. And they beat themselves up for that too. And sometimes, underneath all the struggling is the quiet whisper of "It must be me." Meaning that even when things are going haywire, and people around us are acting like goons and goblins, somewhere, many of us think its really our fault somehow.
And there is some truth in this, we usually do have a role in our circumstance somehow. That's not to say that we registered at Macy's for it, lots of times it's unconscious of course. And it's not to say that we are responsible for the behavior of others, but we may play a part, and we do have the ability to take a look at ourselves. Another can-be trick, toward making life better. As long as it comes with the treat of compassion.
It's not aways easy to walk in the door here. My office is nice. The couch is comfy. Its quiet here, and conducive to talking. But still and all, many folks are nervous about it. Even those who've been to therapy before.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
It's human. We complain about complaining.
We feel guilty about feeling guilty, resentful about feeling resentful, and hurt about being hurt.
We have reactions to our reactions. In my office, when people talk about how hurt they are, how much emotional pain they are in, or how much they are struggling, they sometimes express frustration over feeling how they feel. I often hear
"I shouldn't complain, look at what happened to the people in Haiti."
"I wish I weren't this angry! I should just get past it."
"I feel so stupid not being able to just get past this, or get myself out of this. I should know better."
"I'm too old to feel this way."
"I'm too young to feel this way."
"I'm too smart to feel this way."
"I hate feeling this way. It's taking over my life. I just don't know to shake it."
It is what it is, though. With a vigorous nod to how painful anger is, or betrayal or frustration or self doubt....Why is it that we think that telling ourselves we should not feel what we feel will help? We can have respect and empathy for the pain and circumstances of others, and still feel our own pain. It does not have to be a choice.
And we can count our blessings and keep a firm grasp on our gratitudes, and still feel our feelings. We can let them live and breath and flow and they will pass. Faster, I think, than when we fight them.
Yes, perspective helps with emotional pain
Yes, gratitude for what we "yes" have helps with emotional pain.
Yes, talking to good ears helps with emotional pain.
Even complaining helps. To the right ears. Our expressions don't have to always represent the whole picture. In my office, bad moods are welcome. Complaints are welcome. All words are welcome. I think that relief truly starts when we just let ourselves be where we are first.
And then we can go forward.
(and stay tuned for some thoughts on feeling entitled to feel how we feel...)
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Some of us are prone to wanting to punish others to the point of despair. To the point of permanently damaging the relationship. Of course we may choose not to stay in situations that continue to put us in harms way. And of course its a natural feeling to want to punish people that frustrate or hurt us, but perhaps there is a stopping point.
I am, of course, the biggest fan of talking things through. Of being understood, understanding one's self and others. I like to analyze things. I am in the right profession. I also think that sometimes we have the idea that prolonged agony will protect us from future harm, at our own, or others hands. And I think we might be well served to rethink this.
I know its often easier said than done, and that there are good reasons for this within each of our psyches, but I also think that there are times when keeping things simple has its merits.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
I don't like to generalize, but I do get to observe a lot of patterns from where I sit, working with couples in pain. And I can tell you this: When feeling frustrated, angry and misunderstood, frightened or lonely, women can tend to threaten and complain rather than ask (for help) and explain (what they need). Its not that men don't threaten, but its the women who seem to somehow collectively, naturally, use threats and complaints to try to get what they need.
And it usually fails miserably. With devastating effects.
Example: Woman is at home all day with the baby. She is tired and worn out, and needs a break. Man comes home from work, also stressed out, long day too. He walks in and she is waiting for him. In her mind, she needs some love, some TLC, some appreciation for how demanding child care is, and household tasks. She wants him to mind read. She understandably needs what she needs.
He too needs some down time, he is thinking. He wants to check out that motorcycle ad on Craigslist again. He needs to stop thinking about his pissy boss. He wants to kiss the baby, grab a bite and go online. Later he wants sex. He feels kind of warm to his wife, but really wants his man cave time. He does not know she needs this love now. He would give it to her, actually, if he knew. Everyone knows they have to bend and give somewhat, but somehow that gets lost in the wrong words:
She says: "You're late."
He says: "My boss is at it again."
She says: "You could've called. You don't seem to think about us at all."
He says: "I am out making money to support us. What do you think I do all day, play cards?"
She says: "Do you think I'm eating bon bons here with my feet up?"
(okay, there are lots of versions of this, you know how it goes...and...on to threats....)
He says: "What do you want from me?"
She says: "Just forget it. I think we should separate."
There are a million reasons why women do this. Hormones, history, personality, biology. Too many bad feelings all at once. Abandonment, frustration, fear, self pity, disappointment, protest. Exhaustion. A stew of possible answers. Thinking that where there is love, there should be no need to ask for what you need and reward the giver. Thinking that we should not have to work so hard to choose the right words. Thinking that somehow a fight feels like some connection, some attention, some energy, even if its negative or hostile. Thinking that the thought of losing her will shake him into giving love. Or that the threat of seperation will inspire fear or establish power, or protect from hurt.
Often people think that they reach threats as a last resort. But I think its not always so. Threats seem to pop up impulsively, out of pain or frustration, but often times not nearly as a last resort. And not as a carefully thought out, well discussed (with a trusted, objective third party), and after having given the arch of pain some time to ebb just enough for some rational thought to be present. Threats are often the Id at work. We want relief. We want it now.
So it happens. The wrong words. Complaints and threats. Lots of times, out of pain or desperation, but still, they have a devastating, snowball and sometimes irrepreprable effect.
A male colleague of mine once told me that when his wife got really angry with him she would tell him that she wanted a divorce. He would always feel totally crushed and misunderstood by this, as well as attacked. He said it made him feel manipulated and abandoned and far too criticized and demeaned. He had some idea what she really wanted, but her complaints always gave him the idea that he could never quite satisfy or please her. He was frustrated and furious that she could not just tell him what would give her relief and pleasure. The threats squashed any positive feeling he had about his wife. He knew somehow, that she did not really want to divorce him, she just wanted to be understood, to work something out, to get him to give her something. He wished he could read her mind. In fact, sometimes he thought he could, but the effect of those threats, along with the criticism, seemed to chop off any positive feelings he could have, any logic even. And eventually any willingness to keep trying.
So after the last time she threatened divorce, he said fine. Lets divorce if that's what you want. And they did. He packed his bags that night and never came back. Not however, because either of them really wanted this, or because it was what was best for the kids, or for themselves even. There were, actually, plenty of good feelings between them too. They had helped each grow and make progress in life. She even begged him to change his mind after he left, and come back. But because he was so tired of being threatened, he attached himself to calling her out on her bluff. He stood his ground.
To this day, she blames him for it. She says she cannot believe that he actually left. She tells everyone that he left her. He shakes his head at this when he tells me about it. He tells me that she threatened divorce so often, that he could not go back. She did, he tells me, sound clear headed about it sometimes even. But when she tells her story, she says now, that she never really meant it. She really meant that she was hurting. That she wanted him to come closer. To understand her pain. To love her. To see how he hurt her sometimes. She was trying to get through to him, she says.
Crazy. It sounds crazy. And yet, I hear it all the time in my office. Why doesn't it go like this:
She says, "I am happy to see you! I know you've had a long day. I missed you. When can we spend some time together?"
He says, "Its nice to be home. My boss is a pain. You are sight for sore eyes. I need 10 minutes to cool off and then we can talk."
She says, "Great, thank you sweetheart."
And if she needs to say more:
"I am feeling so lonely. Can we hang out together more tonight? I always feel better when we do."
He says, "I did want to check out that motorcycle ad."
She says, "Can I check it out with you? Sounds fun."
This does not mean she has to agree to him getting a motorcycle, it means she can share his wish and dream with him! It means they can have time together. This does not mean she won't get to say how angry she is that he does not call during the day more. And this does not mean that all is peachy between them, but it means there is room to work. Room to really get what might be needed. To learn what might be needed. To have more instead of less. It means we do have to have other ways of saying how bad we feel without threatening, because after the divorce, its a lot harder to get anything, including peace of mind.
After the divorce, the blaming only gets worse. So does the anger for a while. Its a psychosis even, this rejection confusion. Who left? Who deprived who? And who's fault is it anyway? Everyone feels rejected, hurt and confused. And clear about one thing at least, that there is pain.