Archive | Anger

Post-Election: Time to Stop Judging

December 2016

It’s an interesting time in history with the recent election combined with social media and the ability to comment on news articles.  On one hand, the Internet is a great way to connect and share opinions.  On the other hand, it creates a destructive environment of judgment, attack and shaming others.

Facebook and the news stories are filled with wide-sweeping labels and judgment.  Even the “take action” articles that people post on their Facebook timeline – are typically filled with angry, negative, shaming and self-righteous statements to support one perspective.

Is it ok to have opinions related to a definition of right versus wrong?  Yes.  Is it acceptable to live your life based on morals/values? Absolutely – it’s called your conscience. Is it ok to hold a belief that a person’s behavior is wrong?  Yes. Is it acceptable to label any human being as bad, stupid, ugly or worthless?  No.

You can hold onto your own morals by deeming a behavior bad – but you cross the line when you call a person bad. What you don’t see, don’t understand — is that your judgment leads to suffering, division and pain.  You inflict pain when you judge and that pain can boom-a-rang back at you when friends or family get hurt by your judgmental ways.

Ask yourself: Am I tolerant of all people – except those that think differently than me?

Do you think you judge fairly?  You can’t possibly know the interior soul of another person – because you don’t walk in their shoes.  Judgment closes your eyes, ears and heart.

As human beings, we make up stories in our head to support our viewpoint:  “They voted for that candidate because they don’t care about the environment — are socialists — are xenophobic — are feminists — are weak — are single-issue voters — are morally bankrupt — are racist”.  Your story is not the tuning fork of truth. It’s a story.

3 Reasons People Judge:
1.  You feel judged
I once had a friend jokingly say, “I’m not judgmental.  I only judge those who judge others.”   You cannot and will not change another person’s judgment with a response of judgment.  Actually, you seal the deal of being judged when you speak to others with your own voice of judgment — and the burn of resentment is fanned inside you and others.

2. You are scared
When a person is scared or feels unsafe or intimidated – they bind together and attack others who think differently.  Post-election, people are afraid they are going to lose something or are fighting to regain something that was taken from them by the previous rule of authority.   People bind together on Facebook and news feeds to express fear and blast those who feel differently.  The reality is that judging provides no sense of rooted, long-lasting security.

3. You feel helpless
Change can create a feeling of “something is being done to me.”  Judgment gives a person a sense of power and control in a misguided attempt to get away from being controlled.  People believe that by putting big negative, shaming labels on others – they’ll get that other person to stop.  The result is perpetual helplessness and more judgment.

6 Ways to Stop:
1. Cut back on your news consumption.  The media sells stories by stirring the pot and jumping to conclusions. Stay in the present moment. There’s no point in imagining the worst case scenario when it might never come to be.

2. Notice your thoughts.  When they go negative – push them in a positive direction or move away from the triggering event or take a positive action step.

3.  Stay off Facebook for a while.  If you feel an immediate urge to respond to a negative post – don’t.  If friends trigger you on Facebook, unfollow them for a while.   Don’t re-post articles that contain language that is demeaning.  If you have negative, shaming comments on your timeline — remove them.

4.  Ask those around you to stop judging.  Judgment begets judgment. Discuss the issues — not the badness of the person.  Listen for the common ground.

5. Avoid sweeping statements.  Stereotypes are never, ever good – and perpetuate division. Don’t use broad-brush labels (feminist, stupid, socialist, racist, hippie, homophobe, gun toter, redneck, etc).

6. Look for change in yourself.  Do something other than complain about the past President or the President-elect.  No matter if your candidate won this election or not … make a difference in peaceful ways and get behind what you believe in: write a letter to elected officials – volunteer – pray – visit the elderly – sponsor a child – ladle soup at a local kitchen – plant a tree – carpool to work — join a goal-oriented advocacy group.

Remember how it feels to be judged, bullied, shamed and misunderstood.
Now stop doing it to others.
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Let Go of Stress * Let Go of a Grudge

May 2016

Noun grəj/
: a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury

Grudges impact you negatively — physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Joseph Neumann PhD, who has researched the relationship between grudge-holding and heart disease, reports, “When I treat patients with heart disease, I am struck by how many are bitter, angry, resentful and depressed.”  He went on to say, “Holding onto grudges and resentment affects their health and their ability to heal.”

Grudge-Holding Impacts Stress Levels:

  • Bitterness – Loneliness – Anger – Depression – Anxiety
  • Tough to enjoy new experiences
  • Decreased self-esteem
  • Feeling misunderstood
  • Negativity that takes up a lot of room
  • Consumed with revenge and punishment
  • Difficult to build new relationships
  • Perpetual energy drain to hold onto “I’ll never let this go”

Verb for-give
: to stop feeling anger toward someone who has done wrong
: to stop blaming

Here’s the truth about holding a grudge – it hurts you – not the other person.

Resentment is like swallowing
poison and waiting for
the other person to die.

Forgiveness is a process – it’s not an on-off switch.

  • Acknowledge that you hold a grudge and set an agreement with yourself that you want to begin the process of letting it go
  • Reflect upon the benefits of forgiveness for you (not the other person).  Do I want that person to have so much power in my life today?  What would it would feel like to not have that rock of hardness in my heart? 
  • Connect to a spirit of forgiveness and acceptance through:
    • Books:  Two of my favorite authors are Dr. Wayne Dyer “Living An Inspired Life” and Catholic author, Father Jacques Philippe “Interior Freedom”.
    • Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”
    • Visualization:  Feel the anger and resentment in your body.  Now, picture yourself in a beautiful setting in nature (on top of a mountain – by the ocean – in a sunny meadow).  In that place of beauty, breathe in kindness and forgiveness.  Breathe out anger, resentment, vindictiveness and hurt.  You can ask God or angels or a divine light to help you release the negativity and take in a refreshed, forgiving spirit.

Very often we feel restricted in our situation, our family, or our surroundings.  But maybe the real problem lies elsewhere…in our hearts.
Fr. Jacques Phillippe, Catholic Author – “Interior Freedom”

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Does Your Mouth Have a Mind of Its Own?

March 2016

What comes out of your mouth in relationships with those you love?  Do you use sarcasm, placating, bluntness, anger, explaining, silence, name-calling or do you give a perpetual apology? Perhaps you use passive-aggressive gestures that speak volumes … such as rolling of the eyes, slamming of a door or shaking your head.

Understand Relational Pain from your Brain’s Perspective
If you believe that “the past is the past” and it doesn’t impact you today — that’s coming from a very logical/rational area of your brain.  The amygdala controls and rules over your emotions — and it doesn’t believe that the past is the past.

The amygdala is part of the limbic system within your brain.  You have two small amygdala — they are the shape and size of an almond.  They are the powerhouse that stores painful memories and feelings from the past.  Much of it is in your unconscious.

Your responses (anger, irritation, frustration) become fused together with certain emotions (sad, alone, hurt, rejected, hopeless) within the amygdala. When you are hurt today — the amygdala attaches meaning on your hurt of today based on your hurts of the past.

The speed at which the amygdala processes is 5-6 times faster than your logical, rational thoughts.  Anger, irritation, frustration, blame, placating and silencing yourself … kick into gear before the logical portion of your brain even knows there’s a problem.

When you have been hurt or disappointed by people throughout your life (mom, dad, sibling rivalry/teasing, childhood friends, grade-school bullies, high school sweethearts, insensitive teachers/coaches, previous divorce/affairs), the amygdala stores those smells, sights, sounds, tastes, feelings to that painful memory and person.

When you automatically and repeatedly use the same responses over and over — you might begin to see the negative impact on your relationships:

  • Pulling away from your spouse increases the feelings of hurt/alone and rejection.
  • Moving toward your partner with defensiveness or irritation destroys relational connection, increases relational ache and drives loved ones away.
  • Drawing closer by appeasing/placating, solidifies your feelings of not being heard  and can boom-a-rang back at you since your partner doesn’t ever really know what you need.
  • Putting up walls guarantees your relational needs won’t be met and increases your own feelings of being alone, hurt and misunderstood.
  • Seeking out comfort from another person (friend or lover) to soothe your feelings – robs you from repairing the relationship with your loved one and feeds the relational sickness.

The Solution
Awareness of how you respond is the first step to changing it.  It means slowing everything down when you begin to experience a strong reaction (irritation, frustration, “not this again!”, shut down).  By slowing yourself down, you allow time for your logical/rational brain to catch up and realize that you have more choices in how to respond in that moment.

Giving your partner the same response over and over — puts your relationship on a perpetual merry-go-round that feeds the downward spiral.

A different response from you — gives a greater chance for a different response from them.

Easy?  No.  Worth it?  Yes.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

~Albert Einstein

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Silent Treatment Speaks Volumes

September 2014

If the silent treatment is a key part of your marriage — your relationship may be endangered.  The silent treatment can spell ruin for a relationship.

Researchers say the cold shoulder is the most common way people deal with marital conflict and the most troublesome.  Research indicates that when one partner withdraws in silence or shuts down emotionally because of perceived demands by the other or feelings of hurt — it is felt as both emotional and physical pain. 

The more this pattern emerges within your relationship, the greater the chances one or both partners experience heightened levels of anxiety.  There is also a higher likelihood that both people will begin to engage in practices to emotionally distance the other person.

When I ask a client why they withdraw – they often label the problem as belonging to their partner.  They state they have no other choice — that withdrawing is the only way to feel safe.  I often hear that it serves as the best way to “punish” the other person – they want their mate to feel the same pain they feel.  Clients often express that the silent treatment is a way of displaying anger in a safe and passive way.

The silent treatment is typically a strategy one learns as a child — to shut somebody out and to punish.  Pouting, running away and shutting down can be part of normal development as children learn to interact.  But it is an outdated strategy that has no place in healthy, adult relationships.

Researchers find that couples that use the silent treatment, experience lower relationship satisfaction, less intimacy and poorer communication, which is also associated with higher divorce rates.

Conflict is inevitable but how you manage it makes a difference.  Try these tips to break unhealthy patterns:

  • Be aware of what’s happening.  Each person should ask: “Why am I behaving this way?  What do I need to do or say to re-connect with my mate?”
  • Agree to take a timeout. When the cycle emerges, both partners need to cool their heads and warm their hearts before re-engaging.
  • Be careful of what you say.  You can never take the words back after they come out of your mouth
  • Use “I” statements.  Example: “This is how I feel when you stop talking to me.”
  • Apologize with sincerity as soon as possible.
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Resentment is like drinking poison & thinking the other person will die

May 2014

Perhaps you have had an experience where someone hurts you, intentionally or otherwise, and you deny your emotions by shoving them into a box, labeled “I’ll deal with this someday.” However, someday never comes and all the stuff in the box transforms into icky, sticky resentment that begins to burn a hole in your gut.

Letting go of resentment is a 3-legged stool:

1.  Practice forgiveness
You cannot control what other people do, but you can control how you react. When you practice truthful living, self-expression, and forgiveness, resentment simply has no place or power in your life.  The ability to wholly and truly forgive is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give yourself.

Forgiveness sets you free.  When you forgive, you stop letting your past dictate your present. When you embrace forgiveness, resentment ceases to exist.

2.  Express yourself

To deny your feelings is to deny truth. What kind of life are you living if it is not grounded in truth?

All emotions are good – meaningful – and are meant to be expressed.

When someone hurts you, you have a responsibility to express your pain.  You also need to take ownership for your side of the street that might have lead to some of your own hurt feelings.  It is your right to express that pain in an effective, healthy manner.

3.  Communicate with love
It takes strength and courage to express your pain to the people who hurt you. In doing so, you expose your vulnerable side—the very part that you want to protect and keep safe.

The next time someone hurts you, try telling them how you feel. For example, “When you ignore me, I feel unappreciated.” Choose the right words and tone.

Set a boundary from a calm and balanced frame of mind without a shaming/blaming agenda. For example, “I won’t talk to you on the phone if you’ve had more than 2 drinks.”  That boundary is simple and straightforward.  Then, stick to it.

Your main motivation for expressing your feelings and setting healthy boundaries is to live life without resentment or regrets.

Where there’s less resentment — there’s more love.

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I’ll Never Regret that I’ve Forgiven

April 2014

Most people want to let go of their resentments and connect with people genuinely. It feels better to run through the fields in flowing cotton garments — not sit around in pajamas, twisted with bitterness.

It’s one thing to want to forgive someone intellectually – and quite another to actually feel that forgiveness – deep down to the bone.

And forgiveness can be confusing.  If you forgive, does it mean that person is off the hook?

It’s as if one part of your brain is saying “It’s all good” and another is saying, “Ah, I don’t think so.” 
Here is one client’s story to finding the key to forgiveness:

1.  Thoughts Are Linked to Feelings
A few years ago, Chrissie was engaged to be married and she had a nasty argument with her sister with an exchange of angry words.   Chrissie’s sister backed out of the wedding party and they hadn’t spoken since.  

Chrissie was now pregnant and wanted her sister to be part of her life – but she didn’t know how to forgive her sister and extend the olive branch.

After a few sessions, Chrissie realized that her “I’m not good enough” radar was going off big time.  Her hurt feelings were due to what she thought of herself deep down.  

She also realized that her anger and resentment were playing a big role to protect her from feeling hurt.  All of which blocked her from forgiving.

Like the unpeeling of an onion, Chrissie accessed new layers of understanding as she talked about her thoughts and feelings, such as  – she never considered the perspective of her sister.  Chrissie said, “I never thought about how hurt my sister must have been.  I was always too busy thinking about my own hurt and my anger.”

At that moment, Chrissy stopped blaming her sister for her own feelings of hurt.  And, began to inch toward forgiveness.

2. Feelings Need to be Noticed
Many people try to deal with their feelings by ignoring them.

Instead – try this.  Just notice your thoughts and feelings — without getting caught up in them.  Listen to them without trying to judge or fight with them.  Feel them in your body while taking deep breaths to calm those feelings.

Chrissie said, “For years I tried to push down those feelings by working longer hours at work and totally burying them.   But, as I increase the attention to my feelings — my anger and sadness decrease.  I feel more understood – which brings me more peace.  It’s actually the opposite of how I always thought it worked.”  

I’ll Never Regret That I Asked for Forgiveness

After Chrissie reached the place of forgiving her sister – she realized she needed to ask her sister for forgiveness.  

The first step was to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs she had done and how those wrongs had affected others.  As Chrissie went through this process, I helped her to avoid judging herself too harshly. 

Chrissie was now truly sorry for her side of the street and was ready to admit that to her sister. 

Chrissie wrote her sister a letter that spoke from her heart — of her sincere sorrow and regret —  and then specifically asked her sister for forgiveness.  Five months later, Chrissie received a phone call from her sister who expressed her own sorrow, remorse and asked Chrissie for forgiveness.

Chrissie said, “The biggest lesson I learned is that I can’t force someone to forgive me and I have to take responsibility for my own feelings and actions. Getting in touch with my feelings gave me greater capacity for love — love for myself and for my sister.”

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Nobody Wins the Blame Game

October 2013

How many times have you said these words, “It’s not my fault, don’t blame me!”? – and then heard these words back from your spouse or partner.

When you are have difficulty in a relationship, you tend to feel vulnerable and find fault with your spouse as a means to protect yourself.

When I work with couples, they often tell me of a recent fight and each of them only remembers the hurtful words from the other person. 

Why Does This Happen?
Your psyche is composed of many different parts with different emotions. You might have feelings on opposite ends of the spectrum, “A part of gets so irritated when my husband criticizes me and another part of me just melts when he looks me in the eyes with affection and respect.”

If your spouse judges, criticizes or pulls away from you, it can trigger a Hurt Child part of you that feels sad, worthless or unlovable. Then a Blaming Part of you might blast your partner so you don’t experience the unbearable feelings of the Hurt Child.

When The Blamer gets angry and judges your spouse, it is primarily trying to protect you from feeling attacked. The Blaming Part wants to shift the fault to your partner so your Hurt Child is safe.

Couples are particularly prone to using blame to protect from the emotional havoc of feeling blamed, judged, shamed, unlovable, criticized and/or worthless.

What Can You Do?
A good way to shift out of the blame-game is to make an effort to be aware of your parts and take responsibility for them.

Notice when something comes up inside of you that feels “icky”. Take a time-out. Slow everything down.  Feel the various parts emerge.

Be with the Blamer and Hurt Child in a loving way to ease their intensity and pain. This opens up compassion for yourself and for your spouse.

By realizing that many of your fights are the result of parts getting triggered, you can ease the friction to allow for understanding and softness.

Ultimately, you begin to catch the blaming before it starts – and end a game that is always a lose-lose.

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Soothing the Sizzle of Anger

August 2013

I know about anger.  For a number of years, I provided counseling to men and women who had encountered some type of serious problems due to their anger.  Those problems were usually evident in their home, at work and/or in relationships.

I helped people understand that there are 4 styles of communication:

(1) Aggressive: You let hurtful, angry things fly out of your mouth that send the signal to the other person – “ You don’t count.”

(2) Passive: You stuff your feelings down that sends a signal to yourself – “I don’t count.”  Over time, you may experience a lot of pain as you keep your emotions bottled up.

(3) Passive-Aggressive:  Outwardly attempting to please people while rebelling against them in subtle ways that leave them frustrated and confused.

(4) Assertive: You speak FOR your anger (instead of FROM your anger) which sends the message, “You and I both count” so the other person feels valued while you express your feelings and bring up tender topics.

EXERCISE:  Think of a time in the recent past where you were angry, agitated, irritated, resentful, blaming, defensive or sarcastic — even if you didn’t show it on the outside.  Envision that moment and allow yourself to feel the same emotions as when it was happening and recalling the words that you said silently to yourself or aloud to another person.

As you re-experience it right now — notice where you feel that anger/irritation in your body.

Experience the discomfort — allow yourself to feel the anger without judging it — don’t try to change it. Just be with it.

Notice the words/phrases that you’re hearing inside of you (he was jerk –she was bossy – he acts like a know-it-all – she disrespected me – he’s a big mouth– she makes me feel like a nobody — they didn’t include me — etc.).

Now, take a few moments to calm yourself right now — being conscious to use self-soothing, calming words (“It’s ok – I’m ok – That other person is not here right now – I’m safe – I can relax right now – I’m not in that situation right now.”).

See what emotion is being covered up and protected by the anger…. perhaps it is sadness – loneliness – fear – hurt – worry – shame – abandonment – worthlessness – feeling unloved?

Once you begin to gain a deeper understanding of what’s underneath your anger – you can respond to people around you in a way that demonstrates you care for them and you care for yourself.

You can live your life with respect for your anger — and the wisdom that it holds.

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Type A’s & Stress

June 2013

There is no doubt that work is important in today’s society.  People who are hard workers and take their jobs seriously are often rewarded with promotions, bonuses and accolades from family, friends and the boss.  Our results-oriented culture admires people who produce – that makes sense.

However, hard work and success can actually become addictive.  Without even realizing it, a person driven by success begins to measure their personal worth by how much they get done and how successful they become.  Fearing failure and needing to experience the next success, a person may be driven — moving from one success to the next, faster and faster.

Often times, this personality trait is seen as early as grade school or high school.  It carries a badge of honor for the youngster to succeed in one or more areas, especially if it results in athletic and scholastic achievements.  Teachers, parents, coaches, friends – send the message that “you are somebody” as the child or adolescent begins to equate success to self-worth.

In the 1950’s, two heart specialists – Rosenman and Friedman – developed the term, Type A.  They conducted an 8-year study of middle managers and executives and asked questions such as:
• Do you feel guilty if you use spare time to relax?
• Do you need to win in order to derive enjoyment from games and sports?
• Do you generally move, walk and eat rapidly?
• Do you often try to do more than one thing at a time?

Rosenman & Friedman described Type A behavior as competitive, ambitious, impatient and aggressive.  Type A’s tend to have a harrying sense of time urgency.  Individuals displaying this pattern seem to be engaged in a chronic, ceaseless and often fruitless struggle with themselves, with others, with circumstances, with time and sometimes with life itself.

Energetic and strong-willed Type A’s become caught in a self-made trap of attempting to hold everything together, trying to achieve greater success, negating the poetic and personal side of life and struggling to answer the question, “Has it been worth the price?” as marriages dissolve, their children grow distant or they are laid off from their beloved job. Type A’s are so focused on the destination – that they treat themselves like machines until they break down one way or another.

The first step is a candid self-appraisal.  How many of these beliefs do you hold?

  • I must always be competent.
  • I must get everything done on time.
  • I don’t have the limits of normal people.
  • I must work hard all the time.
  • I feel more valuable when I accomplish something.

The  second step is to begin to softly shift those beliefs.  You might find a phrase to say yourself several times a day that is meaningful to you:

  • I do not need to work harder than others.
  • I am a worthwhile person — separate from my work.
  • I am loved for who I am — not what I do..
  • I can rest.  I don’t have to do it all.
  • I do not have to control everything.

The  third step is consciously take time each day to slow down:

  • Take mini-breaks throughout the day (stretch, walk, eat lunch with someone).
  • Take deep breaths and relax your shoulders, neck, jaw, hands when you feel tension increasing.
  • Set a goal for what time you’ll leave at the end of the day — and stick to it.
  • Leave your briefcase at work.

I encourage you to reach out to a mentor, spiritual advisor or counselor if you are having trouble making changes by yourself.

I’m here if you need help.

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