Tag: Relationships

Don’t Hide Your Feelings

Fake it till you make it. We’ve all heard this advice at some point in our lives. While there’s a time and a place for putting on a positive outlook to muscle through a situation – or until you genuinely feel better – it’s not healthy to do all the time.

I advocate being honest in your relationships and with yourself about how you’re feeling. Acknowledging your emotional state is the first step to improving it, and accepting yourself where you are does your mental health a world of good. While feigning positivity until you begin to stabilize your emotional state can be a useful tool, living your life while constantly denying your feelings is emotionally harmful.

If you’ve been masquerading as content, or pretending that you feel wonderful to hide feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, or resentment for too long – you have the potential to truly do yourself a disservice.

Being honest with yourself when you’re experiencing depression, grief, anxiety, anger, or resentment isn’t easy. Any unpleasant emotion can be difficult to face, especially if you’re doing it on your own. It may feel easier to hide, or to pretend that you’re happy. But you deserve true happiness – whatever that looks like for you. Acknowledging what you’re going through and how you’re feeling can help you move past those unpleasant feelings or to find ways of managing them.

That’s not to say that you’ll never experience unpleasant emotions. Our emotional changes are a part of our life, and that’s okay. They’re nothing to be ashamed of.

If you’re feeling unpleasant emotions for any length of time, it’s best to be honest with yourself and others about them. If you experience these intense and unpleasant emotions for an extended period it’s even more critical that you reach out to somebody. A loved one or a trusted professional can assist you in seeking help. You are not alone, and you deserve to feel true contentedness.

 


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

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


The Danger of Social Media Comparison

Social media is a part of our lives in today’s day and age, for better or worse. There are many parts of social media that are very good. It’s wonderful to connect with new friends and reconnect with old friends. It’s fantastic to be able to stay in touch with loved ones from across states, countries, and continents – all by logging in to our Facebook or Twitter. There’s a plethora of information available to us as a result of social media, as well. It’s easier to stay informed – not just about personal things, but about world events and breaking news. More than that, though, the driving need to post positive aspects of our lives on social media forces us to notice and capture what is good about our lives. As a result, we might push ourselves to be better, or we might feel more consistently content.

However, social media also has a dangerous side – the side of comparison. Being able to see all of the happy, shining moments of our friends’, families’, and colleagues’ lives can make us doubt the positivity of our own life. This is dangerous because, of course, it puts us in an unhealthy cycle of self doubt. It’s also dangerous because the “moments” we see that other people post about aren’t their whole reality. Everyone has ups and downs, and just as many moments of mundane day-to-day activity. But when we believe that everyone around us is only experiencing the utmost joy and happiness, it’s easy to wonder why we aren’t experiencing those things, too?

These thoughts can be dangerous – we end up spending too much time comparing. We spend too much of our time taking careful notice of the negative emotions in life. We are lacking balance.

This is unhealthy. And it leads to profound anxiety, and an inability to be mindful or to live in the moment. That is why it’s very important for people to be aware of social media’s negative impact on our lives. When we catch ourselves falling into the trap of comparison. When we find that the addiction to this comparison is becoming overwhelming, it’s critical that we unplug. This is so much more than turning off our phones, or leaving them in the other room (although that’s a start!).

It’s healthy to take social media sabbaticals from time to time. It’s also healthy to schedule meetings with our loved ones outside of social media – meeting for a cup of coffee, for example. When we take a trip, it’s healthy to wait until we return to post our photos or gush over our experiences with friends. Taking more time to focus on what we experience in the moment, and fully immersing ourselves in those connections, sometimes means turning away from being “connected” on social media. It’s okay to not constantly be accessible, or constantly be connected. Taking care of ourselves and our emotional, social, and mental well-being is always more important than being accessible and connected.


Preparing for Summer with Your Family: Prioritizing Your Relationship

Summer is an exciting time for families. Your kids are home, family vacations are planned, and you may often feel like you’re connecting more with one another. However, summer can also present challenges. If you work full or part time, having kids home may bring up issues with finding childcare or summer camps and activities for them to participate in. Even if you work from home or stay at home full time, this change in how you’ll be spending and organizing your time can feel like a disruption. One important thing to keep in mind is that even though your kids are home for the summer, your romantic relationship still is a priority. Here are a few ways to prioritize your relationship during family time or catering to the summertime activities that your kids are participating in:

Date Night

Date night doesn’t have to mean getting out of the house, and it doesn’t have to mean a fancy dinner or a show. Instead, tap into your creativity to create a “date night” that focuses on your significant other and still accommodates your summer schedule. Maybe you share a special dessert and watch a movie in your pajamas after the kids go to bed, or maybe you meet for lunch in the middle of your work day. The key is setting aside focused time for one another.

Vocalize Your Feelings

When we feel like we have plenty of time for our significant other and for ourselves, we might fall into a habit of not sharing how much that focused time means to us. This can evolve into forgetting to vocalize how much we appreciate one another and ourselves. When your life gets busy with kids being home for the summer, remember to tell your significant other that they matter to you. It doesn’t have to be a great speech, just a simple, “I love you and you’re important to me,” in the morning before your day starts can often be enough.

Make Family Plans Together

When your schedule shifts to accommodate your kids being home for summer break, it’s easy to have one person in your relationship take on all aspects of the planning. Instead, sit down together before school lets out and make plans. Whether that’s signing all of the little ones up for summer sports or deciding you’d like to take a week-long trip as a family, staying organized and unified before schedules get hectic is a great way to start things off on the right foot.

Approach Everything with Gratitude

Cherish the time you have during the summer with your family. It certainly isn’t the usual pace and schedule that everyone is used to, but change can be beneficial for the soul. Find gratitude for having your kids home, and for those special moments you share with your significant other as you continue to prioritize your relationship. The more gratitude you feel and express, the more you’ll enjoy all aspects of your season.


Social Media – Can We Have too Much of a Good Thing?

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Social Media can be a great tool with many positive effects. I use it weekly to get my articles out to the world with my blog, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, Tumbler etc. We stay connected with family and friends and our relationships feel as if they are deepening because it’s so easy to stay connected. Social Media allows us to interact with close friends and family no matter how great the physical distance. For those friends and family that are challenging to be in close proximity with, Social Media allows us the contact without the conflict that may arise if we share physical space. It is most useful in times of distress to gain support from others.

We often feel that we know someone just because we see and read so much about them, forgetting that it is what they want us to know about them. They have shared and posted the parts of themselves that for whatever reason they are comfortable with the world knowing. This is very different than having an intimate conversation or a heart to heart with your friends. It’s very easy to start to compare yourself to the life that they have portrayed. Comparing yourself to others often leads to internal disharmony and on social media platforms you are measuring against a manufactured image, not an actual person.

It can be easy to get addicted to the virtual social world as no one can see you unless you want them too. It is safe, it is fun, it is playing a game and fooling yourself into thinking you are connecting with and making real friends.

Look around the next time you are at a restaurant. I’ve had the experience of being seated next to a table where almost the whole family is looking at their phones. I recall being on a subway, jammed in like a sardine with so little room I couldn’t take my hands out of my pockets. Yet, three people around me managed to pull their phones out and play games on their devices. People are so used to being connected to their devices, they don’t know how to be present. Of course on the subway ride I can fully understand them not wanting to be.

Many studies have shown a link between the amount of time spent on social media and the risk of depression and feelings of social isolation.

As with most things, it’s about finding a healthy balance. Limit time on social media to help you control your time in the “virtual world” and be sure to schedule dates to see people “live” – enjoy true connectedness to foster feelings of self-esteem and to eliminate the possibility of feelings of anxiety, depression and social isolation.


Conflict Busters

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If you have been in a relationship, it is likely that you have experienced conflict. A friend, family member, partner, co-worker … the potential for conflict is everywhere, and your response has the ability to allow the relationship to flourish or wither.

How do we maintain our cool during stressful times in our relationships?

Don’t make assumptions. Isaac Asimov said, “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”  If you can drop your assumptions and see things as they are, you will recognize that there are many possible solutions. “ There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”…. Leonard Cohen

Recognize that everyone has an opinion. As much as you think you are “right”, the other person may feel that same conviction. Is being “right” really that important? Will this situation even be remembered a year, a month or even a week from now? Acknowledge that other people have concerns that are very valid to them. Treat them with the same respect that you would like to receive.

While communicating about the problem, be sure to affirm the person rather than criticize. For every concern you have, think of a respectful quality of theirs to share. People are more likely to listen if they don’t feel like they are being beaten up. Soften the discussion.

Sometimes it is better to let the issue go or wait for 24 hours. Are one or both of you hungry or tired? Is there something else at play that is creating friction? Is there really a problem?

If this conflict is with a loved one, or a relationship that you truly care about, let them know that the relationship is more important than this problem. Acknowledge the strain that the issue is putting on you both.

Listen. Listen attentively. It is the basis of successful relationships. There is nothing more important to a person than to know that they are being truly heard. When you listen, not only can you learn something new, you can make people feel validated.

In the midst of a conflict, if you can stop and listen, this will create a wonderful space for clear, open and productive communication.


8 Loving Tips To Improve Your Relationship

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Do you feel a little distant from your romantic partner? Could your relationship with a family member be closer? Are you experiencing some friction with a friend? Here are some Loving Tips on boosting contentment and happiness in your relationships with a loved one:

Accept the person for all that they are, and all that they aren’t. To truly love someone is to do so for who the person is right now, not for their potential or who you want them to be.

Resist keeping score. Keeping track of what you’ve done for him or her and comparing it to what you’ve received in return puts the focus on competition, judgment and may lead to resentment. Instead place your focus on love, kindness and gratitude. When you give or are kind to a person, do so because you truly want to rather than thinking that they will then give to you or be kind to you. If you do something nice for them and then expect a certain level of gratitude from them, you are not coming from your heart but from your ego. When we come from our egos, all that we do is unconsciously or consciously self-serving. When we come from our hearts, all that we do both consciously and unconsciously is purely from love. On an energy level, people know when affection or help comes with strings attached, which will create tension, distance and resentment in your relationship.

Keep your mind open instead of “knowing” their next move. When you predict someone’s actions based on your imagination or past experiences, you might be setting the relationship up to fail. If they do what you expect, there is the possibility that you have now cemented your negative prediction, which may close off possible positive future outcomes. And of course, if they don’t do what you expect, you may not fully accept it because your ego wants to be right. There is a saying, you can be right or you can be in a relationship, but you cannot have both. It is best to consider this if you find your ego wanting to be right and blinding you to the positive change that your partner or friend has made.

Offer the benefit of doubt. Remember that they are human and things happen. Some are within their control and some are completely outside of it. When a loved one falls short of their promises—or our expectations—and disappoint us, allow them the opportunity to have their side heard. Instead of jumping to conclusions based on what you think you “know” about them, ask him or her what happened. Be honest with your feelings of how their actions affected you. When the conversation has reached a resolution, even if that means to agree to disagree, let it go.

Listen. This simple tip is often overlooked. We sometimes go on “listening autopilot” when a loved one speaks, either because we “think” we’ve heard it before, are preparing our answer, or just daydreaming about other things. Think of a time you knew someone wasn’t listening to you and how that felt. It probably didn’t encourage a closer relationship with that person. Now think of a time someone really listened to what you had to say, and how that made you feel. For more on the skill of listening: How to be an Active Listener.

Get permission before unloading your day. When you have the urge to vent to your loved one about all the “crap” that happened in your day, first ask if they are willing to hear it. This shows that you respect their time and their choice to take on the energy you will be passing along to them. You will be expressing to them that you are aware that they are emotionally separate from you and that you know they may have other things on their mind. Often when one person shows this kind of consideration and respect, the other person learns how to show it as well.

Make distraction-free time for them. It’s not the amount of time you spend with someone that brings you closer; it’s the quality of that time. Set aside regular time with them that is “distraction-free,” which means silencing and putting away the cell phone and putting all your energy and attention on being in the moment with them.

Let them know how much you care. Friends, family, and romantic partners are sometimes the last people to hear how much we love them. Although you might consider it a given that the person knows your feelings, everyone appreciates hearing a reminder. At least 10 years after my grandfather had passed on, a much older cousin of mine told me how my grandfather used to tell everyone how proud he was of me. I had no idea as he never told me. It was nice to find that out. I would have appreciated knowing this when he was alive.


Life Balance

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Balance is an essential part of life. When elements in nature become unbalanced, they eventually correct themselves. The more out of synch the elements in nature are, the more intense the correction—what we call “natural disasters.”

If a houseplant is completely ignored, or only taken care of sporadically, the plant will not do well and might even die. If you give it too little attention—keep it away from sunlight, deny it water, or fail to plant it in the right soil—you can’t expect it to flourish. This is analogous to not taking care of an area of your life. By the same token, spending too much time and effort in a particular area of life is not healthy either. It’s like over-pruning the plant or providing it with too much water or sun.

As in nature, when we experience imbalance in areas of our lives—working too much, ignoring our finances, not taking time for self-love—there will be subsequent results.

There are 4 main areas of life most of us can identify with as being significant:

  • Relationships – Our interactions with and connections to family, friends, and community.
  • Finances – The money we earn, save, invest, and spend.
  • Career – What we do (for pay or not) that contributes to our profession or career goals.
  • Self – Our spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical needs and desires.

Every life area is important and needs attention to foster balance. When we spend most of our focus in one area—say, putting all our attention on our career—then another area will most likely suffer—for example, relationships or self-care.

Take a few minutes to determine what percentage of time and energy you spend in each of these areas. Are any of them lacking? Is there a way you can bring those areas into greater balance? What is one step you could take to do so? Perhaps it’s consolidating one or two workdays each week in order to spend that time with family. Or maybe it’s scheduling a monthly massage or earmarking 10 minutes each morning to journal. If your finances need attention, maybe consulting a financial advisor or a friend who excels in budgeting is in order. Commit to taking at least one action step in any life area that is out of balance, no matter how small it seems.

The amount of attention each life area needs may be different. Determine the amount of focus and energy that feels right for you. It may initially take a bit of focus, discipline, and effort to keep our life in balance, but like anything else we keep practicing, it will soon become second nature.


The Richness of Relationship

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Typically, we think of relationships in terms of our connection to the people we see every day, our friends, our families and ourselves, and perhaps to our immediate environment.

I think relationship goes much deeper than this.

Carl Jung coined the term collective unconscious, which is the idea that we are all connected on an ethereal plane because we share memories from our ancestral and evolutionary past. In this way, we have a relationship with everyone in the world and everyone who came before us.

However, I believe the scope of relationship is even larger than this. Not only are we all connected, but we are also all connected to the things around us.

Think about vegetation for a minute. Plants have an enormous relationship to sustaining life. Yet how often do we think of the relationship of non-human forms as being significant to our lives and well-being? We step on a plant and it dies. But what if you had not stepped on it and it had not died? Perhaps it would have grown into a beautiful peach tree that could have provided sustenance for a hungry person.

I noticed a beautiful Oriole in my yard today. For a moment, I was clearly aware of my relationship to this beautiful bird. I saw its connection to the tree, the sky, and how its song filled the air around me. I wondered how different my life would be if I did not realize that I was in relationship to this Oriole.

It is truly impossible to know the network of interconnectedness that exists and affects all living things. There is simply nothing that is not in relationship to each and every one of us. The secret to seeing the connectivity is a matter of feeling it, allowing ourselves to be aware that we are in relationship to all things.

Here is a short meditation you can practice to expand your awareness of relationship in the world:

  • Take several deep, slow breaths to quiet your mind. Tune in to your environment for a few minutes, while you continue to breathe fully. Notice what you feel and see yourself in relationship with.
  • Now consider what you may have missed. Try widening and narrowing the focus of your senses, and see if your perception changes.
  • Think of how you believe these discoveries affect you and how you affect them. How could you and the things you have relationship to affect others and vice versa? The world?

I would like to end with a quote by Carl Jung that speaks to the power of relationship:

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.