Thursday, December 10, 2009

What is the Purpose of Our Relationships?

Every relationship arrives in our lives to give us the opportunity for healing. What we do with that opportunity is our choice. If we waste it trying the same old behaviors that didn't work for us in the past, we can repeat the same old mistakes and get the same lousey results.

If we decide to do our recovery work and begin the journey within, we may find that we have been presented with the same lesson again and again. Our Higher Power has the patience and all the time in the world to teach us the lessons we need to improve our lives. If we don't learn our lessons, they are repeated over and over again until we finally get it. Once we learn the lesson, the next one is presented.

Each time we have a choice... it's okay to lose, just as long as we don't lose the lesson.

Here are some of my lessons...

I learned patience, tolerance, forgiveness, wisdom, kindness, generosity, and letting go from my relationship with my son's Dad after we no longer lived together.

I have learned tenderness, love, gentleness, loyalty, respect, acceptance and that change can be safe in my relationship with my partner.

I have learned to let go and allow my son to become his own person, a capable adult.

These were all difficult lessons. Some hurt a great deal, some left me with scars that remind me of the difficulty of the lesson every day. But all of them are lessons I needed to learn to be the person I have become. I regret none of them.

The most important lesson of all I saved for last... trust... I learned that from my Higher Power

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Am I Angry or Enraged?

I like to think of anger as a stop sign. It is a signal to us that someone or something has crossed our boundary or violated our values. If we ignore our anger and internalize it we eventually experience it coming out sidways... possibly passive aggressively, making ourselves sick, or a multitude of other avenues.

Anger is the tip of the emotional iceberg. Most of the time is it our defense mechanism rising up to protect us from experiencing deeper feelings... like fear, loss, saddness. That's why I like to call it a stop sign. If we stop and consider, why am I angry? We may get a chance to know ourselves better. We may be able to realize a deeper feeling underneath the anger and address an unresolved issue.

There is another form... rage. Rage is very different from anger. Rage is not a response to a current boundary incursion or value violation. Rage is a response to a trigger from the past. When we react toward current events with rage we are reacting to something that happened long ago that has remained unresolved.

Rage feels different than anger. It rises us from the depths of our toes, it burns like a fire, we feel it bubble and boil in our guts. Rage causes us to react with a 10 when a 2 is appropriate. Rage is a signal that we have been triggered and have an unresolved issue that needs attention.

Anger has a place in relationships. When we are angry we can take some time to think about our situation, figure out why we feel the way we do, then choose to do something about it.

Rage has no place in relationships. Rage is a destructive force that injures both parties causing resentment and bitterness over time. Rage is a form of abuse.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why Is Betrayal So Complex?

Betrayal is complex. Although it appears simple and straight forward it is not. Betrayal comes in many forms... adultery is one, domestic violence is another, so is spousal abuse.

There are a number of reasons why people betray. The most profound is that before we can betray our partner, we must first betray ourselves. As partners we generally agree on basic human values. We have made certain agreements about how we will behave in the relationship.

When we make the decision to betray we first decide not to honor our own internal values. We intellectualize our emotions and turn off our feelings. If we permitted ourselves to feel, we would be overwhelmed with saddness and disappointment in our own behavior, so we choose to feel nothing.

Once we have become numb it is impossible to feel the pain and loss that we are creating by our betrayal. We are living in our heads, not in our hearts. After the initial numb phase has passed and the reality of our situation has begun to sink in, we may begin to defrost. This is a very dangerous time for us. We may face an overwhelming backlog of feelings that have been stifled during our numb stage. As we process these feelings we may swing from grief and regret over the losses we caused to anger and blame over the consequences of our actions.

Through it all we may find that we are no happier with our new life than our old one. We have not dealt with our issues, only substituted one set of problems for another. The common denominator being the same... us.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

How Can I Get Along With Difficult People?

everyone else is a jerk

Since many of us have house guests around the holidays and want to enjoy our time with them, here is some excellent advice from Dale V. Atkins, PhD on how to get along with difficult people.

It’s inevitable that at some point we will have to spend time with people we don’t like. Maybe you don’t like your spouse’s best friend or your daughter’s boyfriend. Here are some simple guidelines for getting through these tricky situations...

This is someone you can’t avoid completely but with whom you can spend only so much time before he/she starts to drive you crazy. Perhaps your sister is a slob, and you’re very tidy... or you have a parent you love, but who is overly critical.

With these people, it is best to keep activities confined to neutral zones, such as going to a movie or a restaurant. Usually, in these places, conversations don’t get too out of hand. With a movie, you’ll be able to talk only before and after, though you’re still spending time together. Also, these activities have built-in time limits, so you will be spending quality time with someone you love, but you’ll also be giving yourself an exit.

Keep in mind that while you may be tempted, it’s usually not worth your time to try to redesign someone’s personality. This almost always meets with resistance and can lead to fights. Just try to focus on the best aspects of his/her personality.

When you don’t like your partner’s friend, it can be difficult for both you and your partner. First, try your best to see things through your partner’s eyes, and try to find something you like or can appreciate about his friend. It can be something as simple as appreciating his sense of style or a joke he told once.

Let your partner know that it’s OK to do things without you, but try to attend if there’s an important event in the friend’s life -- for example, a wedding or a party for a promotion.
Never try to turn your partner against his friend. You don’t have to like him as much as your partner does, but you should respect the relationship. Don’t be rude or say nasty things about him.

Let your partner know that it is OK to not like your friend, but it’s not OK to be rude or dismissive to him/her. Ask for the same respect to be shown to your friends that you show to your partner’s friends.

Cultivate your relationship with your friend without your partner, and don’t insist that everyone spend time together. Sometimes it’s easier to do this during the week, instead of on the weekend, when you may have family obligations.

One of the trickiest situations is when your child marries someone whom you do not like. It can be very hard to hide your feelings, but for the sake of your relationship with your child, it’s a good idea. Make every effort to get along with your child’s spouse, and do your best to care about him/her and show him respect.

Don’t say anything bad about your child’s spouse. You don’t want to put your child in the middle of a conflict between you and his spouse, and it is not fair to make your child choose between you and the spouse.

If there is a legitimate issue between you and your child’s spouse -- for example, if she is rude to you in public -- it’s best to pull her aside at another time and try to work it out.

It’s always hard to see someone you love making bad choices. Maybe a child is spending too much time partying at college or a friend is in a damaging relationship.

Talk to him/her in an open way, and share your concerns -- but don’t pressure and don’t be overly judgmental. Discuss with him the consequences of his actions. For example, if your child is partying at school more than studying, there is a real chance that he could flunk out.

Remember that he must choose to change -- you can’t force that on anyone. Tell him that you love him and that you always will, but that you don’t agree with his choices.

One way to reduce the stress you feel when seeing a friend or relative in situations you don’t agree with is to focus on your own wisdom and be grateful for what you have and who you are.

Sometimes there’s no way to avoid having your castle invaded by people who get under your skin -- whether it is your partner’s old college roommate or your great-aunt Helen.

Try to carve out some time for yourself. Find something relaxing and recharging that you love to do. Take a quiet walk by yourself... have a relaxing bath... or meditate.

It may help to put your guests to work if they are staying with you for more than a few days. Having them do some dishes or fold some laundry can help to greatly reduce your own stress level. If you have less stress and less work to do, you might even enjoy your guests.

Regardless of what tools we use and how we cope we may face stress in dealing with difficult people during the holiday season. If we remember to practice self care whenever we begin to feel overwhelmed, we will be able to enjoy our family and friends and rejoice in the precious present.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Have I Become My Mother?

Don't we all have one of those Mom's who give us the crazies when we really just want to reflect and process?

I certainly do. My Mom is a loving caring woman... she is probably one of the nicest people you would ever meet. She literally can kill you with kindness. But... she is tenacious too... she learned a long time ago that if she bugs me enough I will most likely do whatever it is that she wants... to get the bugging to stop... even though it's done so sweetly it almost feels like she's not bugging... and yes, I do love her a great deal. But the bugging... she has a way of instilling this feeling in me that I have failed miserably as a person if I don't do this one thing... whatever it is... whether it's a small thing or huge... it's immaterial... I must comply... and then sweet surrender... and the bugging stops... and I can breathe again. Until the next request!

Ah yes... one more area where I do not want to be like Mom... and yet, as I get older and look in the mirror.... my God... there she is. And I find I am bugging... ~gasp~

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Can't I Clear Out The Fog?

Why is it that we can clearly see problems and solutions for others and yet when our own difficulties come into play we often remain in a fog?

We have the ability to practice a form of mental self defense where we either deny a challenge exists all together, or we rationalize away its severity. We may intellectualize our issues, not allowing ourselves to feel our emotions fully. We may do this to minimize pain and loss, or in an attempt to keep ourselves from recognizing the truth of our situation.

We may have begun learning this defense mechanism when we were children. If we lived in a family of origin where there was a great deal of chaos we may have needed this defense in order to survive. As we grow into adults we may find that our old defense mechanisms have begun to hinder our ability to fully participate in our own lives. We may be incapable of recognizing when we are being treated poorly. We may be unable to experience joy. We may be marching through life in a state of suspended emotional animation, existing, but not living.

When we begin our walk on the path of recovery we may initially find our emotions overwhelming and feel incapable of handling the waves of feelings that surge through our minds and bodies. As time progresses we become more comfortable within ourselves and feel capable of handling our strong emotions. We may recall that as children we may have had no one to guide us through the maze of our own feelings. They may have been strong and frightening, so we locked them away. Now that we are adults we can unlock those stored childhood feelings, process them in our adult minds and allow them to become a part of us.

In healthy families adults model appropriate reactions to strong emotions by regulating their responses. In dysfunctional families there may be no responsible adult present to serve as role model. The only model we see may be an emotionally frightened or enraged caretaker who is incapable of managing their own feelings and is acting out. If we grow up in an environment such as this, it is no wonder why we, as adults, may feel overwhelmed by strong emotions.

Learning to properly respond to feelings and challenges is a skill that is developed over years of observing role models and experimenting with our own abilities. If we have not developed these skills in childhood we may be emotionally immature.

We can learn the skills necessary to function in a healthy manner in all our interactions. It may take practice, learning new skills and a great deal of failure before we finally become adept at handling our strong feelings appropriately, but we can master the necessary skills with time and practice.