Resolving Anger

We all get angry at times. Anger is an emotion that is necessary. When our individuality is threatened in some way it is human nature to become angry.  Whether it’s a physical or an emotional attack, anger will arise when we are being threatened.  We will either fight back physically or verbally, but sometimes we will withdraw inwardly until we feel it’s safe.

How many times are we confronted by people who control our feelings by judgment, manipulation or criticism?  This may anger us.  But if we learn to look below the surface, we will find the real cause of what angers us.

When our emotions are overlooked and we feel invalidated, it can weaken our ability to express ourselves; we get frozen in the sting of disregard. Learning to manage our feelings when this happens requires balancing our inner feelings with the external situation. In order to balance our inner feelings, it is important to be honest about our emotional state and what we are feeling about ourselves. For instance, how does it affect you when someone close to you overthrows or negates your feelings by telling you that you shouldn’t feel a certain way or that what you said wasn’t important? Or how do you feel when someone continually points a finger with ‘you’ statements?

When our feelings are repeatedly disregarded, we can get caught up in blaming or belittling ourselves, negating what we truly want, or just plain swallowing our pride. It’s important to remember that the problem may not be that you have trouble learning to manage your emotions but, rather, that the other person has an unhealthy need to control, manipulate, and gain the upper hand. In that case, it may require that you distance yourself from him or her a bit or learn to navigate around his or her incrimination. It certainly does not feel good to continuously sense that you are being put down, defeated, or emotionally hurt by a parent, spouse, or other loved one.

So, begin to recognize what you are feeling so you can decide how to proceed. The goal is to feel the feeling and then proceed by gathering your pride.  When anger gets triggered, you can ask yourself, “What feelings about myself are activated?”  Do I feel disregarded, useless, unsafe, negated, rejected, abandoned, or lonely? These are our core issues that will get triggered over and over again.

Self-inquiry requires that you be aware and honest with yourself. Catch yourself as you are withdrawing.  Commit to inner validation of your emotions without blaming yourself.  And when you do withdraw, pay attention to the part of you that needs safety, nurturing or support.  Remember, even though, as children, we learned to distrust, deny, withhold, or doubt our feelings, feelings are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad–they just are.  Everyone has feelings, and our feelings are worthy of our attention.

Reconciling Change

My childhood home was sold this month. Sadly, the house is now empty and ready to be torn down.  I will miss it.Image

But as Goethe reveals, “Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.”  What are our choices for reconciling ourselves to change or loss? How do we cope with it?

We may want to avoid or deny the situation. Or, we may take time to linger over photos and save artifacts to retain our fond memories and to memorialize the past.  We may decide to move on and take the time to create new meaning and memories for our self and our family.  We may get angry at the change and agonize over the loss. Or, to accept the finality of the loss we reconcile ourselves to the unavoidable fact that this segment in our life is over. So, to return to the question of what our choices are, the answer is, it’s probably experiencing a bit of all those feelings that help us to reconcile a change or a loss.

Change or loss is ever-present in our lives. We continually face uncertainty, surprises, and transitions, with either positive or negative outcomes.  We get older, a child is born, people get sick, injured, or even die.  Summer vacations end, the new school year begins, friends move away, a new love is found, games are lost, and the list goes on. Change or loss can trigger any number of feelings; happy, sad, delight, resistance or grasping.  Life is a dance of sensations and we have to follow the rhythms of our hearts.

Understanding that change is inevitable helps us to let go of our expectations so that we can accept things as they are. When we cling to the past, we fail to recognize “life belongs to the living.”  To live is to evolve and progress — to change — not to continually return to what used to be. We must find meaning and appreciation in our new moments and reconcile the changes and losses we experience. As we reconcile changes and loss, the old merges with the new and  we find a renewed sense of energy and confidence in the beauty of our lives.

Quality Moments

People say quality moments are hard to find. We spend time working and undertaking daily responsibilities.  And we also use up moments drawing our own conclusions or creating a story of judgment about what we are doing, who we are with and the emotions that we have.  What we neglect to realize is that each moment we spend is a quality moment.

Imagine spending more time capturing who we are in any particular moment without categorizing it or wanting to improve or edit it.  Imagine just being with whatever we are feeling in that moment without critiquing it or doubting it.  Imagine trusting the process of life and recognizing that every moment of its unfolding is beautiful and perfect in its own way.

“Sometimes we like what we’re feeling and then suddenly we don’t like what we’re feeling. And then we like it again, and then we don’t like it again.”  It’s fine for it to be like that.  The problem is we become accustomed to doubting, negating, or evaluating our moments and not seeing the beauty in them.

Often our fleeting feelings are just as irrelevant as our momentary thoughts. We don’t need to get hooked into every thought or feeling that we have.  They just are.

Moods come and go. Some days are cloudy or even rainy, while other days are sunny. Some days we wake up with a headache or a heavy feeling in our heart.  But then there are other days when we feel everything is just right, when there is a certain lightness to the moment. There are moments when we smile. And then there are moments when it feels as if everything has all come together.

So let’s begin to have an appreciation for where we are in each moment and an acceptance for what is. And let’s not get caught in a flood of judgment. To accept is to say ‘yes’ to life in its wholeness.  To accept is to have the wisdom to experience what is happening in the moment and to believe that it doesn’t have to be different. It’s never too late to begin to appreciate all the moments of our lives-the warm breezes, the sunny days and even the passing storms.

Does ‘It’ Get Better ?

A common question many people ask me is, “So does ‘it’ get better?”  I guess the important word here is ‘it.’ What is ‘it’?

To me ‘it’ is the ‘freedom to choose.’ Freedom to choose to gather our courage and confront whatever situation is at hand.  And when I say confront, I don’t mean to go to battle. I mean to look at things honestly. We look at things honestly by choosing to respect and validate our feelings. At any moment, we can choose to step back from a situation, to pause, take a breath and reflect. We have the freedom to choose to view a thought or  situation from a different perspective.  We can choose to change our thinking at any moment.  Changing our thinking may even change how we feel about something. We have the freedom to choose how to respond to or what value we want to place on someone else’s judgments or criticisms. We can choose when  to communicate our concerns or feelings. We have the freedom to choose what actions to take. Sometimes we have the freedom to choose to change something, and sometimes it takes courage to accept things as they are.

When we are children, we are reliant on the actions and decisions of those around us. We don’t have a choice, nor do we fully understand the whys of our experiences. A lot of the time we conform, obey, and even become submissive to avoid further hurt. In so doing, we discount ourselves. We subconsciously build a barrier as a defense to protect our feelings, and then it becomes habit to neglect or doubt them. But just because we’ve experienced disappointment in the past does not mean it has to continue.

How long we stay stuck in what happened in the past is our choice. We often expend our energies blaming people from the past or holding onto resentments, but the reality is,  they may have done the best they could, given their shortcomings.  With  freedom, we are no longer victims. Blame subsides and turns into personal responsibility.

So, ‘it’ does get better when we acknowledge our freedom to choose.  With ‘it,’ we gain the freedom to honor and have trust in the expression of who we are; our deepest feelings, thoughts, desires, aspirations, hopes, and even our fears. We gain the freedom to take responsibility for ourselves, for our thoughts, our feelings and our actions.  When we become true to our self ‘it’ becomes easier and we can relax into being who we are. When I talk about things getting better,  being true to ourself  is at the heart of it. 

“It gets better” does not mean we can take a back seat and wait for things to happen. The ‘it’ puts us in the driver’s seat of life.  ‘It’ sets us in motion.  The roads in life are not always predictable nor smooth, but life flows much easier when we have the ‘freedom to choose’. Choosing to be ‘real’ and to accept life as it is will lead us on the road to creating a life that feels good.

Putting Our Feelings Aside

We all have emotions. It’s healthy  to  express them. Yet, there are times  when putting too much emphasis on our feelings can be detrimental. To avoid outbursts or unnecessary confrontations, it is better to express our emotions carefully. In order to avoid unhealthy confrontation, we can knowingly choose to “compartmentalize” or “put our feelings aside.”

We can identify and fully sense the inner turbulence of feelings in a situation without having to get swept away in them. By paying attention to the situation and wanting to stand our ground, we then can consciously choose to put our feelings aside for the moment. We are not denying our feelings, we are merely postponing the expression of them. As astronaut Mark Kelly stated in the Associated Press, “Ignore stuff going on in your personal life and just focus on your mission. The key word there is being able to compartmentalize things.”  Putting problems and personal feelings aside in little boxes and zeroing in on the task at hand is what astronauts, military personnel, firefighters, business professionals, nurses and surgeons do all the time. No one needs to know what’s happening inside our minds unless we really want them to.

We certainly have the right to be angry, hurt, etc., but how we handle these feelings is what counts. It is okay to hold back in order to keep peace for the moment or to get something accomplished. Having staying power in the face of adversity, or exercising great self restraint in expressing emotion takes courage. Consider a performer hearing bad news or having had an argument with their spouse right before a performance. They take a deep breath and “put their feelings on the back burner” until the performance is over.

Postponing our emotional upsets is easier than attempting to turn them off completely. In order to avoid becoming totally stressed and anxious, though, we must revisit and process our feelings when it seems safe and appropriate.

Knowing when and how to express our-selves takes honesty and courage. Keeping a stiff upper lip for a certain amount of time is okay, but it’s also very important to give our-self space to honor and express our feelings. When the time is right, journal, pray, meditate, create, talk to a friend and cry if need be. As Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

OUR DEFAULT SETTINGS

Your personal default setting is based on past experiences and conditioning.  As a child, you may go through a harmful experience, or even a series of experiences that set your emotional frame of reference. You may have wanted something, and instead you ended up receiving the opposite.  For example, if you wanted attention, and instead, you were neglected or criticized. You may end up with feeling as though no one really cares, and your limiting beliefs could be that you are not important enough or smart enough. Or, you may have apprehension or self doubt as your default mode.

You don’t have to be at the mercy of your default setting. You can shift it, just as you do any other habit. Bertrand Russell has a point in stating, “It is only the intellect that keeps me sane; perhaps this makes me overvalue intellect against feeling”.  I believe that you need to honor your feelings. But when your negative feelings become a common uncomfortable occurrence, then you need to override them with your thinking and intellect.

In order to reset and create a new pattern of feeling, you have to make a conscious effort to pay attention.  Next time you are in your default mode, pause and take a deep breath. Simply by choosing to pause you bring awareness to yourself in the moment.

Notice your feelings and reactions to what you are thinking.  Remember, though, do this as an observer, not as a judge!  

“Once your awareness becomes a flame, it burns up the whole slavery that the mind has created.”  ~Osho~

Self-inquiry is useful in breaking the energy-drain.  While you can’t always control the feelings that pop up, you can manage them and redirect them. This naturally disrupts the rush of personal judgment and doubt.

Each time you consciously recognize your thinking and how it affects you, you will begin to be reminded of the magnificence of your inner mind. The fact is, we have the ability as human beings to balance our intuitive-feeling mind with our rational mind.

As you use the power of choice to lead you toward positive thoughts, your default mode will begin to show up less frequently and with less intensity. And as time goes on, your reactive thinking and negative feelings will last five minutes instead of five hours.  So take pleasure in the subtlest of changes.

The New Year reminds us…

The New Year reminds us to assess our actions  so we can improve on getting what we truly want in our lives.  This  is the perfect time to be honest with ourselves. We  draw up a list of work to be done and things to be improved.  

In order to balance the list, though,  it is crucial to not just look at our imperfections and shortcomings, but to also look  at what we have  accomplished.  

What we want to build upon are our gifts, talents and abilities. They are the seeds we want to grow. Connecting with our  abilities and  strengths will help us to weather the ups and downs of our days.

Remember, the things that we say to our self are essential to how we act. Therefore, we can add a source of pleasure to our days by simply taking responsibility for the quality of our thoughts.  

Allow room for error.  The English poet Alexander Pope said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”  We make mistakes, we stumble, and we may wallow a bit.  When we acknowledge our error with compassion and forgiveness, we can pick ourselves back up and find our way on a path that feels good.

Let’s begin each day with a resolution to give positive meaning and direction to our actions. 

 

Varying Shades

Have you ever watched a sunset and noticed how the colors of the sky gradually change as the sun slowly goes down?

Carl Rogers said it perfectly: “One of the most satisfying experiences I know is fully to appreciate an individual in the same way I  appreciate a sunset.  When I look at a sunset … I don’t find myself saying, ‘Soften the orange a little more on the right hand corner, and put a bit more purple along the base, and use a little more pink in the cloud color … ‘ I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch it with awe as it unfolds.”

Give yourself a kindhearted break, and discover the beauty of your varying shades and the shades of those around you.

Each shade has its own unique quality. So remember, that your stumbles are as complete as your successes.  Each step, each breath, each action is complete as it is.  As you accept this completeness, it encourages you to learn and to develop appreciation for your life as it is.

Pause to Pay Attention

When you know you are off-balance or when you are feeling distressed…. pause a bit, and be willing to acknowledge your responsibility in all of it; your thoughts, your feelings, your actions/your reactions, the sensations  in your body. We pause to pay attention. With attention and acceptance for all that is happening, it becomes much easier to find a solution that feels right.

Pause
Breathe
Pay Attention
Assess
Adjust
                                      Allow