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How Anger Destroys Relationships

Think about what happens when you or someone you are in a relationship with gets angry.  Blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, and worst of all, communication comes to a screeching halt. The ability to remain loving and rational leaves on a Lear jet, and when the confrontation is over, the wounds may have caused irreversible damage.  If you or someone you love has an out of control temper, it’s time to talk about it and make real changes that will strengthen the relationship.

Long lasting, sincere, balanced relationships are sustained when anger is kept in its proper place. Let’s face it, we all get annoyed at times, anger is an emotional reaction to what feels like an injustice or hurt. If a partner has betrayed our trust or hurt us, it is natural to feel angry, but not productive to remain in that place.  On the other hand, raging over small incidents such as towels not being folded a particular way or toothpaste caps not on, or losing it when your partner doesn’t like the same music as you—is unhealthy and destructive.

Relationships need to be nurtured with open lines of communication. Too much angst on a daily basis will erode the very fabric that binds you and your partner.  When you are angry, you are not thinking with your rational mind but rather your emotions, and if you don’t step out of the situation to let tempers cool off, you may end up saying hurtful things to your partner.  Regardless if said in a fit of rage, words can damage, degrade, and diminish a relationship to the point of being unsalvageable.

Rather than going down that slippery slope, count to ten, then walk away and simmer down before you speak. Write a letter and get out everything you want to say, uncensored, and then burn it.  If you want positive results, communicate your needs with a cool head rather than a hot temper. The truth is, any satisfaction you get from saying something mean, is temporary.  In the end, the anger subsides, and you’re often left with guilt or shame and sometimes a feeling of emptiness. None of these feelings are constructive to you or your relationship.

Being angry all the time or dealing with someone who is, is exhausting.  All the energy spent on getting fired up or attempting to control it’s effect on you, stifles your ability to achieve, to create, and to love.  If your partner is often mad and blames you for everything under the sun, you may feel as if you are walking on eggshells.  If you are the culprit, you may have a difficult time keeping any lasting relationships and begin to feel misunderstood and alienated.

Anger is both learned and innate, and it manifests in different ways and can stem from a variety of causes. How you saw anger management modeled as a child plays a role in how you handle your own anger.   If an abusive parent that modeled chronic anger or fits of rage raised you, you might be imitating that bad behavior as it seems “normal” to you.  Maybe you feel emboldened by anger as it gives you a false sense of control.

The good news is whatever the underlying cause, excessive or explosive anger is treatable. The first step is recognizing and owning up to it, and then through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and/or EMDR, you can learn how to live without anger controlling you.

If you and your partner want to change your patterns, practice using “I” statements rather than shaming and blaming (which fuels anger and defensiveness), “I feel betrayed when you don’t follow through with what we agreed upon.”  Try being empathetic to your partner. Empathy helps us understand the why behind another’s emotions—that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate bad behavior. Compassion provides valuable insight that can help you understand your partner, which in turn gives you the ability to respond less defensively as you realize it’s not about you. Count to twenty-five, breath, exercise, go for a walk—do whatever it takes to cool off and let your anger dissipate before you speak. Perhaps making an appointment with your partner to discuss the issue the next day at a specific time would be best as this will give you both time to cool down.

When you both feel ready, touch each other—give a hug, make-love, kiss, hold hands, reconnecting physically, is healing.  Practice not flying off that proverbial handle, cultivate patience and eventually you will be able to respond rather than react.

How Anger Destroys Relationships was originally published on Bridge of Life


Saying Good-bye

Whether it’s saying good-bye to a friend who is moving, a child going off to school, or parents who were visiting for the holidays, regardless of the scenario, saying farewell is hard.  It can elicit feelings of loss, sadness, and melancholy that can stop you in your tracks, at least temporarily. You may experience old feelings of abandonment or separation anxiety. Know that all of these emotions, although uncomfortable, are perfectly normal. Here are a few suggestions that may help.

Let yourself be in the moment with your feelings, acknowledge them knowing you are not alone in coping with good-byes, everyone experiences them.  Give yourself a day or two to notice your emotions and give yourself room to breathe. When we stuff feelings they tend to lasts longer and can fester causing you to feel prolonged grief or sadness. You may choose to lighten your work load for the first day or two giving yourself permission to take it easy. Listen to music that soothes you, talk to friends that are comforting and kind and that can relate to those good-bye blues.  Be honest with yourself and others about how you’re feeling rather than putting on a mask and parading around as if you’re absolutely fine.

Plan how you will stay in touch with the person, you can do this ahead of time. Eventually you’ll look forward to those letters, skype sessions or phone calls, as they will enrich your sense of connection.  Send cards out on a regular basis, the old fashion snail mail way. Recall the delight you get when receiving something happy in the mail, such as a thinking of you card and start a tradition with the people you said good-bye to.

Take a walk or do a home yoga practice, allowing your body to move can help you process feelings.  Getting outside in nature can lift your spirits and renew your sense of well-being. Breathe and remember all of the joy and happiness you experienced with the person or situation you are missing.  Smile and recognize the value of healthy happy relationships in your life and the gift of change. We could attempt to dodge loss if we never loved or took risks, but what sort of life is that?

Try journaling your feelings.  Sit down and write in a notebook or on the computer (whichever feels right for you) and pour your emotions onto the page, uncensored.  Getting feelings out, literally, can help put them into perspective. Write down all of your feelings, the happy, the sad, the confused, the silly and don’t stop until you have them all out.  If you are saying good-bye to a child going off to college or moving away, compile a list of all of the wonderful things you want to remember. Listing can help you sort through feelings as writing helps you declutter your mind, it lightens the load.

Draft a poem or write a song or draw a painting about your feelings.  Some of our greatest creativity can stem from loss.  You don’t have to be professionally in the arts to create, simply allow your emotions to evoke a piece of art.  It can be a profound process that may open up the artist within.

Give yourself time to readjust.  All of us get into patterns and routines or we take for granted that a particular person (whether at work or home) will always be there, till they’re not.  We are disrupted and forced to deal with a different experience. Set small achievable goals like changing your sheets or cleaning a bathroom—avoid making major decisions or tackling big project until your feelings of sadness have subsided.    

Although you can’t avoid the pain of saying good-bye, you can be proactive in how you cope.  Throughout your life there will be plenty of hellos and good-byes, recognize this is a reflection of the rich tapestry of loving caring relationships that fill your life and those around you.  

 

Saying Good-bye was originally published on Bridge of Life


How to Live With a Narcissist

Does your partners’ every conversation revolve around her/himself, or do they chronically take credit for things they had nothing to do with?  You may be living with a person who has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People with NPD build a fantastical overinflated image of themselves from which they navigate their lives.  They have a heightened sense of superiority and self-importance. People often describe a narcissist as pompous, arrogant, manipulative, and cocky. Yet, a narcissist can lure you in with their grandiose fantasies and charm.  Needless to say, it is challenging to create healthy intimate relationships with those who have NPD, but not impossible.

People suffering with NPD are often unconscious to, and want to avoid their buried feelings of insecurity, which is the root cause of their narcissistic behavior. They do this by creating delusions of grandeur in order to mask their feelings of inadequacy. Despite their inner hidden feelings of shame and of not being enough, their attitudes and conduct do not get a pass; they are responsible for them.  One of the first things you can do is identify behavior that is not conducive to a healthy relationship. Because narcissists lack empathy for others, it is difficult for them to listen. It is hard for them to sympathize with the pain and suffering of others, you included. Rather than explaining bad behavior away, it is essential to set and stand up for your boundaries and needs.

Once you have established boundaries, guard them closely for the narcissist is used to being the one in control and will rebel.  They are extremely resistant to change. They may even resort to name calling or rage, walk away and stand your ground. Don’t tolerate abusive language or behavior, there is never a good excuse for it.  It is not normal or okay for a partner to dominate and demand constant attention and admiration.  Nor is normal for a partner to be overly critical while at the same time never being able to admit their own faults or misconduct. You can alter your response to these narcissistic behaviors by establishing very clear boundaries that you adhere to out of respect for yourself. Write them down and then begin to implement them. Eventually like a well-tended garden, your efforts will yield resolve and self-confidence and perhaps a more balanced relationship.  

Separate reality and fiction.  People with NPD have a tendency to blame their partners for anything that goes wrong and for any of their shortcomings. They distort the truth.  Remember, narcissists often try to defend their inflated self-image and will lie when they deem fit to keep it propped up. They tend to feel entitled to whatever it is they want and when it does not happen, they often lash out and condemn you.  Redirect the truth by pointing out simple realities and facts in a way that does not shame the narcissist. Role model what it looks like to admit failures, pointing out the lessons that can be learned, but don’t expect the narcissist to have an immediate about face.  It will take time and consistency for them to realize that they can safely let go of having to be right all of the time. That in our failures we learn to stretch and evolve into a fuller human being.

In order to preserve your own self-worth while living with a narcissist, it is essential to deflect any projection of who you are as a person.  In other words, a narcissist may make belittling comments slowing chipping away at your self-esteem. “Oh you are so lazy, you’re lucky you have me, no one else would want you. If it wasn’t for you, I would be further along in my career.”  You get the point. Feed your self-esteem by spending time with others that are positive and uplifting. Validate yourself by living the life that you want, follow your dreams and passions. Equally important is to let go of the false stories in your head that the narcissist may have planted.  By knowing who you are as a person, it’s much easier to redirect undeserved blame.

Realize the narcissist’s blame is not really about you at all, it’s about their protecting the image of themselves.  As tough as it is to take unwarranted criticism, remember that you have nothing to do with it. If you imagine holding up a mirror, know that the narcissist is really talking about himself or herself.

Denying the bad behavior of a narcissist will not make it go away.  Ask yourself if being in the relationship is what you really want. If you want to keep this person in your life, start by gently beginning to speak out against their behavior.  Stay focused on how the behavior makes you feel.  Narcissist want admirers, railing over all of their faults and poor conduct will unnerve them.  A kind and gentle approach will have a more powerful and positive impact.

Take time to construct real answers to questions such as how will you enforce your boundaries.  What has not worked in the past? Look at the balance of power in your relationship, how will that be impacted?  What do you want from the relationship? Is your love real or are you in the relationship for other reasons? Sincere reflecting will help you create a realistic plan for the changes you want to make. Be patient with yourself.  Cultivate wholesome relationships with friends (outside of the narcissist’s inner circle) where there is a true ebb and flow of give and take. Notice how that feels.

Narcissists can change, if they want to. They can learn to listen, to follow through with their promises, and to be more engaged with your needs and desires. It would be unhealthy for you to live your life waiting for this if the person suffering from NPD has no interest in working on their behaviors with a psychotherapist or couples counselor.   

Ultimately, deciding how much of your time and energy you want to spend in/on this relationship is paramount. Search within yourself so that you live a happy joyful life.

How to Live With a Narcissist was originally published on Bridge of Life


Shedding Toxic Friends in the New Year

Life happens in seasons. The New Year tends to be a time when we evaluate our lives and make big decisions or changes. While this is a positive thing, it can also be confusing when the things we decide need changing are our friends.

Sometimes the people who have stayed in our life as friends become toxic over time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they themselves are toxic individuals – just that they no longer serve a positive purpose in our life. Just as life happens in seasons, friendships happen in seasons, too.

A friend who may have been very close to you in a season when you needed them and they needed you is someone to cherish. But that relationship can sour for any number of reasons. Maybe you two just aren’t in the same place anymore. Maybe they aren’t being supportive as you try to make positive changes in your life or to break bad habits. Maybe they feel intimidated by you as you move forward with other positive, supportive friendships and romantic relationships.

Whatever your reason for feeling that a person may not be the friend they once were, “breaking up” with them is never going to be easy. Still, it’s important to remember there is only one you, and YOU, are the only one in charge of taking care of yourself. It may seem as though these friends need you, or you may feel an overwhelming sense of guilt for distancing yourself from the relationship. If you’ve carefully evaluated the relationship and deemed it hurtful or unhealthy, there is no reason to continue feel guilty.

A few symptoms of a toxic friend are:

  • They regularly and repeatedly tear you down with actions or words.
  • They don’t support the positive changes you’re making.
  • They encourage negative or destructive behavior.
  • They lack empathy.
  • They take advantage of your kindness.
  • They lie or act in an untrustworthy manner.

If you feel your friend fits these characteristics, or if the relationship is consistently one-sided, it’s okay to act in your best interest and shed the relationship. By doing this you give yourself permission to start fresh this year. You give yourself time to grow valuable relationships that positively contribute to your life. You never know when you’re going to find a wonderful new friendship in someone who is kind, encouraging, and supportive.


Small Acts of Self-Care

Starting to incorporate self-care into your routine can positively impact your outlook, productivity, self-perception, and interactions with others. But during busy seasons of life it may feel like a challenge to set aside time in your days to practice self-care. Luckily, there are many small ways to weave self-care into your schedule – some of which you may not have considered before!

#1: Read a Book

Turn off your phone, step away from your laptop, and crack a book you’ve been wanting to read for a while.

#2: Take Yourself to a Show

Whether you prefer live music, or you want to see the latest movie in theaters, take yourself out on the town. Work can always wait – and you’ll appreciate getting out of the house to decompress.

#3: Take a 5-Minute Break

Short on time? Try a 5-minute meditation break. Take deep breaths, clear your mind, and pull yourself out of stress and into the present moment.

#4: Eat Well

When you’re in a busy season of life, eating habits can slip. Try to prepare healthy snacks and meals for yourself ahead of time or at the beginning of the week. You deserve to eat healthy, filling food to fuel you through your day.

#5: Dance

Relaxed breaks can be calming, but the endorphins released during movement can be equally beneficial. Take a few minutes at the end of your day and sway to your favorite song.

Self-care doesn’t have to be the stereotyped examples you read about in magazines. You can find a system that works for you – whatever that looks like. Care for yourself in a way that brings joy and peace to your mind, body, and soul.

Small Acts of Self-Care was originally published on Bridge of Life


How to Unplug

In today’s world, we often get caught in a social media comparison trap. No matter how engaged we are with our own lives, or how content we are in our day-to-day, we see the highlight reel that friends and family share online and feel inadequate. This comparison can lead to increased anxiety, frustration, and overwhelming dissatisfaction.

Though social media can be beneficial when it comes to reconnecting with distant friends or family members and staying up-to-date, it can be beneficial to unplug.

“Unplugging” may be harder than it sounds. We tend to develop a reliance on technology, and our social media feeds are no exception. If it helps you, start small.

Start by leaving your phone in your bag or pocket while you go on a walk. Or turn it off before you go to bed – filling your pre-sleep time with book reading or listening to music instead of scrolling through Facebook.

As time goes on, challenge yourself to let go even more. Enjoy an event without taking photos to post online. Or take a weekend away – and send all social media apps to ‘the cloud’ for that weekend; to truly connect with your experiences. After the weekend you can download them from ‘the cloud’ as you wish.

Unplugging can be a healthy practice that has a colossal positive impact on your life. When you do choose to “plug in” you’ll be much more likely to enjoy social media the way it was intended – to appreciate and celebrate the highlights of life and to connect with those you love.  

How to Unplug was originally published on Bridge of Life


Choose Your Best Self

Do you ever feel as if your life has come to a grinding halt, as if stuck in the mud with no idea how to get out?  Are you working a job you dislike but are afraid to leave, or in a dead end relationship? If the answer is yes, you are not alone.  Even in these modern times where choices abound, many of us are too fearful or complacent to bust a move, to take a risk.  The good news is you don’t have to stay stuck; by taking a few steps at a time you can begin living the life you envision.

First, get very clear what you want to let go of and what you want to take on.  Ignore listening to the nagging thoughts that say, “you can’t”. Simply write down all of your ideas regardless of obstacles that you perceive    Pauline Kael, a film critic who wrote for the New Yorker magazine once said, “If there is a chance in a million that you can do something, anything, to keep what you want from ending, do it.  Pry the door open or, if need be, wedge your foot in that door to keep it open.”  In other words, don’t allow limiting thoughts to stop you from achieving, and moving forward.  Often the obstacles we imagine are simply self-imposed restrictions.

Start where you’re at, challenges and all.  If traveling is your goal, save money work a little extra, if it’s going back to college, start with perquisites online, if it’s a new job, make a new resume and send out five a week.  Invest in yourself, human beings are dynamic, our cells are in constant movement, we can create change and free ourselves from those habits and thoughts or behaviors that limit our life.  Take scissor and cut the cords that keep you stuck.  Perhaps that means letting go of perfectionism by allowing yourself to stop being afraid of making a mistake.  Mistakes can be our greatest teachers.

Post positive encouragement around you, make “I can do this” sticky notes and put them everywhere.  We all need positive feedback, but when there’s no one there to give it, seek it out for yourself.  Listen to guided meditations and read articles that inspire you. And most important, protect yourself from naysayers.  Family and friends can unintentionally sabotage our desires by expressing their own fears and judgements, but they have nothing to do with you. Find like-minded folks who have made the trek from fear to freedom.  Share your doubts and ask for advice, not that you have to take it, but useful insight is fantastic for it can fuel you when you’re feeling low or depleted.

Even if you take baby steps, they are steps towards changing your life.  Do an inquiry on yourself, ask why is it difficult to take risks, what in your life taught you to play it safe?  Once we become aware of the source of patterns, we can begin to revise the script.  Put the old tapes in the garage and see yourselves as the writer, doctor, mother, that you want to be.  Dare to dream, and make your dreams come true.  Face the fear head on, shake hands with it and bid it on its way.  When fear sneaks back at your mind’s doorstep, remind yourself that you no longer have to let it in.  Acknowledge it, then dismiss it.

Live your way into life, sitting around thinking about change doesn’t bring it on action does, whether it’s about exercise, eating healthy, or finding a new career.  You deserve to be the person that you are meant to be.  Everyone has gifts to share and once you acknowledge yours, put pursuing your dreams on top of your priority list.

Choose Your Best Self was originally published on Bridge of Life


Speaking Truth in Our Relationships

When I work with couples, I always advocate for one thing consistently – always stay honest with one another. Regardless of the problem you’re experiencing in your relationship, it can likely be traced back to a moment when you weren’t entirely truthful either with yourself or your partner. It’s easy to want to hide our truth sometimes. We may be afraid of rejection. We may be afraid of hurting our partner. We may be afraid that our truth is selfish, or negative in some way.

But the honest truth is that hiding how you feel or what you think from your partner does far more harm than good. If you hide your truth, you may experience feelings of resentment. And from their perspective, they may experience resentment, as well.

I believe that honesty is the best policy – whether that’s in your romantic relationship, with family, with friends, or with colleagues. Expressing how you feel and what you think helps to open up a productive dialogue. You may be surprised to find the listening party is incredibly receptive – maybe they’ve been feeling the same way or having similar thoughts. You may be equally surprised to find that they disagree with you – but are willing to openly discuss the disagreement.

The more open you are about your experience and your truth, the less likely negative interactions are. Your openness draws in openness. Your energy attracts similar energy. If you are open and honest and someone disagrees with you, there may be a moment of tension. But by accepting their honesty in kind, you move forward in productivity and understanding rather than in negativity and bitterness.

Of course, there are ways to ineffectively communicate your truth. You may be feeling negative emotions – like anger or sadness. These may lead to you lashing out and being brutally honest in a way that’s intended to hurt or offend your partner. It’s important to understand that speaking your truth comes from a place of self-respect and of respecting others – not from a place of anger, fear, or desire to be hurtful. If your words are rooted in good intentions, they will likely be received as such.

Communicating honestly and openly by speaking your truth can lead to great things within your relationship. You will find yourself being more open to hearing the truth of your partner. You will find that your partner truly hears you and empathizes with your experience. Most importantly, you will no longer feel a masked bitterness within your relationship that results from you (and your partner) not being honest with one another (or yourselves) when resolving conflict.

Speaking Truth in Our Relationships was originally published on Bridge of Life


Have No Fear, Spring Is Here: Are You Ready to Say Yes to Life?

Have No Fear, Spring Is Here: Are You Ready to Say Yes to Life?


Holiday Blues?

20101231_0693It’s not unusual to feel stressed, blue and overwhelmed during the holidays. Ken Duckworth, MD, mental director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness says, “A lot of people would say that the holidays are the worst time of the year. They’re just straight up miserable.”

It’s like Facebook on steroids… reminders of other people’s happiness can be particularly difficult when we are feeling lonely or sad, or if we are dealing with any sort of loss or family conflict. The holidays hold an expectation of joy, from music on the radio, to TV and movies, to decorations everywhere we go. Many people have a fantasy vision of what their holiday ‘should’ look like, and it’s usually doesn’t turn out exactly as they anticipate. Disappointment occurs. Many people feel pressure to be happy and social. Trying to be someone they are not exacerbates the problem as well.

Loneliness and depression can be very painful, and it can help you to realize that you are not alone.

Knowing this brings me to my second point. Helping others is one of the best ways to lift yourself out of the blues. This can be thought of as the giving aspect of the holiday season. There are always folks who could benefit from your assistance and good will. Whether it’s a smile on the other side of a soup kitchen serving station or visiting a senior citizen housing complex, volunteering at an animal shelter, working at a homeless shelter or even just a show of compassion by giving the clerk at Macy’s a bottle of water to recognize that she doesn’t have the easiest job during this time of year, you can change someone else’s day.

What else can we do to help ease us through this holiday season?

  • Lower or better yet, eliminate your expectations
  • Plan ahead… be selective with how you spend your time.
  • Do something every day that you love to do. What makes you happy? Painting, reading, yoga, cooking, Tennis … Nurture that part of you that fuels your spirit.
  • Limit alcohol, sugar and carbohydrates. Too much alcohol can be the catalyst for problems where there might otherwise be none. Sugar, caffeine, and refined carbohydrates elevate cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to feelings of anxiety.
  • Relax … even if it’s 10 minutes a day. Shut your eyes and breathe slowly.

The holiday season seems to accentuate for many people the shortcomings they perceive in their life. Keep in mind that feelings are temporary and they will pass, as will the holidays. Be kind to yourself!