Expressing Empathy

When my kids were young I just wanted them to be happy. When they were crying, agitated or sad, I immediately attempted to fix whatever was troubling them. I scrambled to change their focus and turn their attention to something positive. I would reassure them that everything will be better soon and it will all turn out okay. In fact even now as a parent of adult children, I still struggle with wanting to fix their problem.

There is nothing wrong with the desire to bring relief to someone who is suffering. It’s a natural response. However, insisting that a person come out of their immediate experience and into the one you believe they ‘should’ be having can be more damaging than helpful. Remember, “fixing” has a lot to do with what remains uncomfortable within YOU. You can’t keep your child or anyone else from being upset. Continue reading “Expressing Empathy”

When To Say You’re Sorry

On occasion, you lead yourself astray by saying or doing something that is unacceptably hurtful. It is human nature to make mistakes. When is it appropriate to express your regret for upsetting someone’s feelings? Undoubtedly, while you can’t go back and undo or redo the  past, you can take action to repair the harm you caused.

The ideal approach in most situations is to respond in a good positive manner. There are times, though, that you may feel stressed, insecure, overwhelmed, or conflicted and because of this, without realizing you enter into a reactive mode. Unfortunately, in that moment, you speak sharply in a defensive or insulting manner. Your unstable reaction becomes exaggerated and it results in a frustrating aftermath not only for you, but also, for the recipient.

While your intention may not have been to hurt this person on purpose, you recognize that your action nevertheless did hurt or inconvenience them. Without too much delay, if you genuinely feel bad, this regret needs to be communicated. In order to regain your equilibrium you need to deal with your lapse of carelessness.

It has nothing to do with right or wrong but with how you made a person feel. Hurtful feelings need to be respected and validated, especially, if you care about the other person. An apology simply means that you made someone feel bad with your words or actions and you are sorry about that.
Continue reading “When To Say You’re Sorry”

The Optimistic Pessimist

My father loved to tell a story of the two twin brothers. One was a pessimist, the other an optimist. On their ninth birthday, the father led the pessimist son out to the backyard and presented him with a beautiful pony. The boy fretted, “What if I fall off and hurt myself!”

The father went to the optimist son and led him to a room. When the boy looked inside the room, he found a pile of manure. Delighted, he exclaimed, “Oh boy! Underneath all this manure, there must be a pony!”

How do you explain the events in your life? The lesson here is that it makes a difference how you respond to whatever life presents you. To cope with the unpredictability of life, some of us think optimistically. A positive mental attitude empowers you to be aligned with your goals, values, and dreams. For others, with a pessimistic mindset they think of what did or might go wrong and only consider the downside. In both cases, the optimistic and pessimistic mindset is the driving force to protect against future disappointment or hurt. Continue reading “The Optimistic Pessimist”

Wanting Something Different

As the Buddhist teachings say, “to live you must experience suffering.” Throughout life, it’s natural to endure sickness, injury, tiredness, and old age. However, when we look at our emotional suffering, such as loneliness, doubt, frustration, fear, embarrassment, anger, jealousy, disappointment, etc., these feelings are more difficult to accept. When we feel upset we often get impatient and want to rid ourselves of these unpleasant feelings.

Many personal troubles involve being preoccupied with wanting something different.

Continue reading “Wanting Something Different”

Welcoming Our Struggles

Life is filled with countless emotions and experiences. When things are going well, we tend to glide easily through life. However, when suffering arrives, we struggle with it. Our difficulties usually bring us to a redefining moment. They challenge the way we look at ourself and our life. Our unfulfilled plans, mistakes, doubts and disappointments are all part of sorting through our life. All our experiences are valuable in some way.

Each day, we have the opportunity to welcome whatever emerges. Life is a full range of emotion. They arise when we arrive at a place in our life that fills us with joy, happiness or laughter. Or, we could reach a crossroad in our life that is filled with sadness, tears, and discontent. Sometimes, our pain gives us reason to wonder whether we will ever be OK again. A wounded heart can be just as alarming and unwelcome as a broken arm or an illness. However, just like physical pain is a call to action, our emotional pain needs to be welcomed and given attention. Give your hurt feelings, your physical healing and your unmet needs the kind of support that allows you to more easily shift your approach in how you look at your circumstance.

Continue reading “Welcoming Our Struggles”

Being Rattled

“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow  into your heart,  it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person.  It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow  in your heart…” Pema Chodron

Have you ever had someone talk AT you?

Thinking
Words coming at you!
There are times when people harbor frustration, then, without warning they harshly express what’s on their mind.  Their fighting words can catch you off-guard and ignite a rattled feeling.  It strikes an inner-core of familiar yet uncomfortable feelings; feelings of unworthiness or helplessness.
When you aren’t prepared for this type of criticism,  you instinctively react to protect yourself. Either you get agitated and verbally retaliate, or the opposite can happen–feeling hurt and overpowered, you respond with silence.

Continue reading “Being Rattled”

Listen to Your Discontent

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” 
Thomas Edison
 

Don’t let discontent linger for too long! 

Muhammad Ali said, “Often it isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe.”  Imagine you are walking down a pathway enjoying the beautiful scenery. At some point along the way, a little pebble gets in your shoe. After walking a few feet you realize it has become very uncomfortable. In order to continue your walk untroubled, you decide to stop a moment to remove the aggravating pebble. The discomfort was your signal to pause and adjust yourself. When you listen to your feelings of discontent, “your unhappy can make you a little bit wiser”.
Some people pay attention to that gnawing feeling, which then, motivates them to do something different about their situation. At the same time, some people get stuck in discontent. They may feel it’s a comfort zone because it’s familiar, but in reality, it’s not very comforting.
In addition, there are people that are discontent and choose to let it be acceptable. For instance, discontent with their work might feel acceptable because they have to earn an income to pay for their standard of living. Or, perhaps they are in a time-invested relationship, and they accept the discontent in order to wait for things to settle, pass over, or eventually get resolved. In these ways, they choose to learn to manage the discontent by accepting the obligation or commitment. However, the feeling of frustration, sadness or boredom is still calling for their attention to evaluate the situation.
Discontent can provide a reason to stay right where you are, or it nudges you to do something different. Remember, when you move away from the familiar, it  takes some courage to adapt.  This is when you need to rally your strengths, discover meaning and what fulfills your aliveness.
Take a step back. Listen.  If the discontent could speak, what would it say?