“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.“
My book will guide you to free yourself from the inner struggle of resentment.
My book will guide you to free yourself from the inner struggle of resentment.
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”
We all have certain core issues that need our attention. Core issues are emotional memories that anchor us in emotional fears and negative beliefs about ourselves. They can hold us back, form our reactions, and shape our thinking. The challenge with core issues is not necessarily the negative experience we had but the emotional charge that gets attached to it. The emotional charge becomes our frame of reference and keeps re-surfacing throughout our lives.
Look for a theme that runs through your upsets. Core issues gone unnoticed will either keep us stuck or push us off-balance. They can destroy our ability to find healthy solutions that are in sync with our true desires and they sometimes subconsciously force us to act in a way that sabotages what we truly want for ourselves. Core issues interfere with love and create opposition and resistance against our self. And if we are not careful they keep being recreated and replayed throughout our life. In most cases, core issues touch us at our deepest level and will remain embedded until we address them.
We all have core issues that emerged in our lives as a result of growing up. As Ram Dass said in a lecture, “If you think you are enlightened—spend a week with your family.” We are continually evolving in our lives as the adult child of our parents.
We all have a certain frame of reference that holds us back in self-doubt. Emotional fear is at the core of these feelings. When fear is activated, we could feel overcome. We may be frozen in apprehension or worry, or confused, or sense feeling rejection or disregard. We may even feel physical pain, tension or a sensation in our chest or stomach. In those times of emotional fear we instantly become reactive, we judge, criticize, blame or withdraw, all in order to defend ourselves from more hurt. Those triggers or intense feelings are our core issues. They are our embedded wounds from feeling unheard, unloved, unworthy or feeling helpless or hopeless or left-out or unable to express our desires or simply scared we would get into trouble.
We need to be aware of our core issues so we can monitor ourselves more productively and the quality of our reactions can be managed with self-respect and self-understanding. The more ‘real’ and true to ourselves we are, the more we can welcome our limitations. Experience your emotions so that you can be in tune with your place of vulnerability. When we can honestly be with our feelings it provides the space to have more freedom to choose to respond from a place of strength and clarity. When you are emotionally charged you can neutralize it with words that a nurturing loving parent or friend would say. Pause a moment. When you pay attention to your breath you have the ability to soften the intensity of the moment. Take a step back and see what benefit you are getting out of being offended, enraged, or angry. Pay attention to your needs and what you feel you are lacking. Parent or make friends with the part of you that needs attention or a dose of confidence. When you become clear of your core issues, you become much more empowered to override them in order to create what you truly want in your life. Life is difficult and also beautiful. If you are at peace with the truth of all that you are, you can more easily see a solution. Be gentle with yourself. As an adult child of parents that we had we deserve to treat ourselves with loving kindness.
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.
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.”