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”

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?

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”

Practicing Awareness

 “Our greatest instrument for understanding the world—introspection . 

The best way of knowing the inwardness of our neighbor is to know ourselves.”

                                                                                          Walter Lippmann

How well do you know yourself? The foundation and practice of awareness is about putting yourself first. By curiously becoming a witness of who you are; your thoughts, feelings, memories, needs, fears, and sensations, you can strengthen your natural ability to understand and know yourself.  It gives you a psychological edge in all areas of life. People who are self-aware are in the best position to see their choices more clearly,  rise above disagreement, and freer to find solutions that feel right.

When you practice awareness it nurtures the relationship you have with your ‘self’.  It cultivates acceptance, appreciation, and patience, not only for yourself but for others.  As C. G. Jung expressed,  “Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

When faced with disturbing situations, the key to breaking any negative downward spiral is stepping back from your emotional reactions. Attentively use your senses to explore what’s happening.  Notably, your behavior is mostly driven by your desire to achieve self-worth. Even a tiny bit of self understanding and compassion  can bring  a sense of relief, perspective and make it easier to get to the bottom of an issue. Continue reading “Practicing Awareness”

Glimmer of Doubt

So many of my clients over the years have asked me, “How is it I can trust?”  Trust is a difficult topic. When we have been disrespected, it becomes challenging to trust.  So, how can we trust again?  Is it possible to rebuild trust in someone who totally disappointed us?

We learn to distrust trust by being hurt or lied to or betrayed or misled. Not only do we lose trust in other people, but we also begin to distrust ourselves. We fear being upset, and we become guarded and expect the worse from people. So, when we have been conditioned to not trust, it takes some effort to realize what healthy trust feels like.

Creating genuine trust is a process that happens over time, and it’s not an easy task. We need to be in tune with our ability to evaluate people. We all have an inner sense; all we need to do is listen to it. A glimmer of doubt will nudge us when we have an uncomfortable feeling in someone’s presence.  So pay attention. Observe their mannerisms, their reactions to situations, or the things they say or doesn’t say. When you listen and observe, you will get a sense of how to proceed.

It takes time to build a trustful foundation, and it only takes moments to shatter it. If someone has let you down, let the rage settle. Trust grows with patience. The springboard to trusting is to investigate the reasons for their behavior. Listen and ask questions in order to become aware of their perspective in the situation. The glimmer of doubt you feel is your gauge to guide you to be empathetic. Look for the sincerity of their words or actions.  Take the time to develop communication. Look for explanations, compassionate feedback and understanding.

We all make mistakes, and if we understand the other’s point of view, it becomes easier to formulate a conclusion as to whether to trust them again or not.  But even when we understand our wrongdoer and possibly even forgive them, we are not necessarily obligated to trust them again. When you simply sit with what you know and you decide to rely on your wisdom, you will come to a conclusion that feels right.

What is most upsetting is not necessarily that our trust has been violated, but that the glimmer of doubt becomes more apparent. As Lady Gaga says, “Trust is like a mirror, you can fix it if it’s broken, but you can still see the crack in that mother fucker’s reflection.” Look within to determine if you can see past the cracks or whether they have been shattered beyond repair. Step back and take some time to find peace and equilibrium. Then you can move forward cautiously trusting again.

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.