EXPRESSING EMOTIONS = SELF RESPONSIBILITY
Do you view yourself as a responsible person? Hopefully most of us would say “yes” to this question. However, upon closer examination, maybe we are not as responsible as we think we are. How often do you express what you are feeling? Many of us repress what we truly feel especially if we are disappointed , angry or sad. As a practicing psychotherapist for 37 years I might argue in this case one is being irresponsible to their self.
I feel emotions are energy and always in flux. Look at the word "emotion"..."energy in motion"! Because they are energy, they need to be expressed in appropriate ways. “Appropriate” is the key word, for many of us never learned how to express feelings like anger in an appropriate way. Instead we were taught to “sweep them under a rug” hoping they would disappear. We may eventually forget the incident that made us angry but the energy remains until it is expressed. If we try to deceive ourselves and try to get away with this our anger will come to “bite us in the butt” at a later time when we encounter an incident that is even remotely familiar to the original incident that made us angry. In fact, we may have an overreaction to the current situation if we never dealt with the original event that angered us. For we are not only dealing with the emotions of the present event but also all the leftover energy from the original event. In addition, I believe that repressed anger transforms into depression. Suicide is a severe form of repressed anger. Often suicidal people have an external persona that all is well when inside they may be seething with rage. The energy has to go somewhere, so if we chose not to express it, it goes inward and wreaks havoc with our psyche and our lives. So there are no shortcuts, we need to deal with our feelings as they occur. Most of us have many layers of unresolved anger.
To me unexpressed anger is like unpaid bills. Most of us are conscientious in paying our bills in a timely manner and would not even think about throwing them in the garbage (as much as we may like to). However, most of us are in debt with ourselves emotionally. It can be exhausting to carry this energetic weight of unresolved emotions around with us and makes us less effective in our lives. The paradox is that the more we move into and express our feelings, the less control they have over us.
I am focusing on anger even though I am referring to all our emotions. I feel anger is one of the most difficult emotions for us to deal with because it has a bad reputation. When in actuality anger can be a useful emotion for we tend to get angry about things that hit our core. Therefore, we can use our anger to educate our loved ones about the true essence of who we are. In addition, anger can energize us to act in beneficial ways. Of course there is a time and place to express our emotions appropriately. The following are some ideas on how to pay your emotional bills to yourself effectively;
-Make “I feel” statements. Remember you are the expert on you so no one can argue with you when you preface statements with “I feel”. Starting a statement with “I feel” rather than “You” helps the receiver be less defensive.
-Did you know no one can hear you when your car windows are closed? So scream at the top of your lungs in your car. This is much more healthy than road rage.
-Exercise and as you are exercising allow your mind to develop creative images to work through the situation you are angry about.
-Temper tantrums are not just for 2 year olds! Have a temper tantrum when you are alone at home. Lay on your rug and scream and pound the rug about what you are angry about.
-Write a letter to who you are angry with using any language you want and don’t send it. Bury it in the ground or burn it safely in your fireplace.
-Go to the gym and hit a punching bag while thinking of what you are angry about.
-Listen to music or play the drums as you process what you are angry about.
-Be creative and think of your own ways of expressing anger appropriately.
-Notice how you feel emotionally and in your body after you try one or more of the above strategies. Usually there is a sense of relief and pride that you took care of your own business in this way.
I feel the more self-responsible we are in acknowledging and dealing with our anger in effective ways, the more positive energy we will have in self-actualizing our intentions in the world.
March 15, 2017
Do you ever wonder why opposites attract? Perhaps you are experiencing this directly in your own marriage or relationship. The law of complementarity can be quite powerful and both a blessing and a bane. We are often drawn to others in part due to what is lacking in ourselves. Sometimes we are drawn to someone who reflects the shadow piece in ourselves....a piece that is difficult to come to terms with. Perhaps this dynamic perplexes you. "Why did I not choose a mate more like myself" you ask yourself. "Life would have been so much more easy." However, just as an ocean without waves would be stagnant and boring, so is the case in a marriage where the mates are too similar. The waves give a magnificent energy to the ocean just as a couple's differences can give energy to their relationship.
How does the law of complementarity play out in the stages of a relationship? At first it can feel like bliss for we finally feel whole in the presence of our mate. They may expand us in new and interesting ways. This is often referred to as the honeymoon phase of the marriage. However, as the marriage matures over a period of time, we may find that the very thing that attracted us to our mate initially, is the very thing that is creating a rift as time goes on and eventually a wall can develop in the marriage.
The marriage often comes to a crossroads at this point where sometimes couples turn to therapy, affairs, separation or divorce. I often feel sad when couples resort to the last three choices instead of seeking out therapy. For this difficult stage often has the potential to help the marriage reach a new level of fulfillment and growth. When a couple has reached this juncture I try to assist them to define what quality attracted them to their mate initially when they first met. They may be able to see they are lacking in this quality themself. Their mate seems to have in excess what they need more of. Rather than continue to be dependent on their mate for this quality, I help them develop that quality in themself and nurture a psychological independence. This can be quite expansive and can help the spouse grow psychologically. However, it requires alot of ego strength to do this. For it is much easier for mates to point their finger at each other rather than to look at themselves and ultimately shift their own behaviors. Ultimately we only have control over ourselves and not anyone else. This process can free up the energy in the marriage to allow each mate to be with each other in new and exciting ways.The goal is to always feel whole and peaceful as an individual.There are no shortcuts. Although, it may be human nature to seek our wholeness in another, ultimately we come full circle back to our SELVES. In the end we each have to do our own work. As much as our spouse may love us and we love them, we can't do the work for each other only our SELVES!
This conflictual phase in the marriage is in essence like growing pains. For it can be a catalyst for growth both in the individual and in the marriage with long lasting rewards. Succes occurs when the couple is able to reach a new level of equilibrium in their relationship which is more fulfilling to each mate as well as to the marriage. I always feel honored when I can assist couples in navigating through this "marital life cycle" maze.
March 22, 2017
SELFISH vs. BEING CENTERED ON YOURSELF
Do you ever wonder if your behaviors are "selfish" or "being centered on yourself"? Several of my clients struggle with this...especially women for women are still pressured to give to others without much thought of themself. Let's tease these 2 terms apart abit. Webster's Dictionary defines "selfish" as "being overly concerned with one's interests and having little concern for others". Where as "center" is defined as "a point equally distant from all points on the circumference of a circle or surface of a sphere." Also, "a focal point". The former term implies some imbalance whereas the latter term implies balance.
Several of my clients have difficulty giving to themselves because they are fearful of becoming selfish. I feel "selfish" is unhealthy and a negative term while "being centered on yourself" is mentally healthy and a positive term. For when you are centered on yourself and giving to yourself, you are giving yourself energy. To give authentically to yourself it is important to be in touch with your true self. I feel our true selves are all good and part of being in touch with our true selves is to be mindful of others. So yes, you give to yourself but at the same time you are aware of others in your life. Being centered on yourself implies a balance...striking that balance between energizing yourself and being aware of how this might effect others. An example might be a busy mother taking a break from tending to her child to have fun by herself or doing something fun with friends. When she reengages with her children she finds she has more energy to offer them. It is kind of like giving our cars gas. We would never think of expecting our cars to run on empty and yet we often put that expectation on our selves. When we give to ourselves it is like putting money in our emotional bank account. Most of us are in debt with ourselves emotionally because we expect ourselves to give to excess without replenishing this energy to ourselves. Taking time out once in awhile to give to ourselves is a form of self-love and is a way to give elasticity to our internal rubberbands. For the stressors of life can stretch our internal rubberbands until it feels like they are going to break. Once we learn how to give to ourselves authentically, then we can give to others in more heartfelt , meaningful ways. This is the opposite of being selfish in which there is a disregard for others. And remember, giving ourselves our feelings also is a gift.
So it is time to befriend being "centered on myself" and view it as a form of self-responsibility rather than an indulgence. A regular practice of being centered on ourselves will renew our zest and vigor we direct towards our loved ones and all dimensions of our life. So go have fun and celebrate yourself guilt free!!
September 5, 2017
EFFECTIVE & ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION
Have you ever considered that there are two parts to communicationg effectively? The first part involves the sender asserting his issue and the second part is how it is received by the receiver.
We often determine the success or failure of a communication based on how the receiver resopnds to the communication the sender sent. If they "hear" what was said and respond favorably, we consider that a successful communication. However, if they dismiss what we said, we consider that a failed communication. We, therefore, tend to give more credibility to how our communication was received by the receiver rather than to what the sender was trying to actually communicate.
I might argue that the first part of the communication is just as important if not moreso than the second part of how it was received. The fact that the sender is asserting his feelings and taking responsibility for his issue in the first part of the communication is more important than how the receiver is receiving it. For all we really have control over is our self. We don't have control over how others receive our communication. It takes alot of strength and vulnerability to define our selves to others. Think of the first part as being the entree and the second as dessert. Of course the ideal flow of communication is to define your issues and have the receiver affirm them in his response and occaisionally this does happen. However, often it does not and the sender of the message often can feel like it was a waste of time to event attempt to communicate. They are leaving out the most important part of the equation, the "I", when they feel it a waste.
So think twice the next time you hesitate to communicate with someone thinking it is no use for they won't be able to "hear" you. Do it anyway and at least you can rest assured you took responsibility for your self and who knows, one of these days you may be able to enjoy dessert along with your entree!
See other articles I have written under the "Parenting" section.