Posts Tagged With: anger

We Always Have Control

Our lives are filled with so much out of our control like illnesses, political decisions, weather, other people’s choices… So what’s a person seeking to live a healthy life supposed to do? Look at each situation in your life and pull it apart, investigate it. What’s really going on? Who are the players? What is their role? Is this something you have absolutely no control over in the happening part of it? Where do you have control?

We always have some control. At the very least, we can control what we are going to do in any situation. If a person has a gun to my head, I can still make choices around my words, my thoughts and my actions. I might end up shot anyway because I don’t have control over the other person. I can dress appropriately for the weather, but I can’t control what the weather does. I can take care of my body to the best of my ability, but I can’t make it be healthy. I can write a letter or call my Representatives in the US government, but I can’t force them to vote how I want.

When we look at and act on the areas where we do have control we get a sense of empowerment, which usually spurs us on to take more action within our control. Remember when exercising control to keep it in the realm of healthy, legal and wise. Very rarely¬†you might find yourself dealing with an oppressive government or situation which might call you to do something illegal. I’m thinking of the underground railroad during the time of slavery. It was illegal to provide shelter and escape for the slaves, but people did it anyway because the law was wrong. Breaking the law was about preserving human decency, not taking it away.

Most of us aren’t, and hopefully will never be, in that type of situation. For now, find the areas in your life where you think you have no control and give it another go. Process through it and find strength in your God-given right to decide how you want to deal with it. ūüôā

Categories: Acceptance, Boundaries, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, self care, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

De-Icing

ice formations in winter streamIt’s that time of year again, the holidays. As with each year since I started blogging I will post holiday-related topics for the next few weeks.¬†Last week was Thanksgiving for those of us here in the States. Generally I have enjoyed my¬†Thanksgiving holiday but¬†not so this year. There were some highlights: gathering together with most of my children and grandchildren, seeing siblings, nieces, nephews, a few cousins, my mother-in-law¬†and my mom. It was a chaotic experience with many people I did not know and¬†that was¬†not enjoyable. Sometimes I am in the mood for conversations with strangers but this year, not so much. This year, I just wanted to be with family. I definitely felt my dad’s absence and that was part of my sadness.

I¬†experienced the¬†strangling of disappointment and anger taking over inside of me. It¬†sucked me down into a ¬†familiar hole. I stayed there for several days. I was less patient with those around me, especially strangers in cars who received eye rolls and shouts of frustration. All of which I’m sure went unnoticed. It felt safer to yell at them. They can’t yell back (or at least I won’t hear them if they do). You know those times when you only want to have one-sided conversations because you are pretty certain a two-way conversation won’t go well? I felt gloomy, eyore-ish, and it’s been hard to get out of it.

I stopped to take stock of the why. My self-care¬†was nearly¬†non-existent while I was away for the week of Thanksgiving. I had been expecting myself to survive on the basics alone and that is not enough for me. On my last day away, I grabbed my husband and our puppy¬†and¬†went on a walk. I griped along the way, getting all¬†that life-sucking¬†poison out. I requested that we leave early (a looming snowstorm sealed that deal for me!) to put an end to this misery. Along the way, we stopped on a pedestrian bridge that¬†overlooked the Roaring Fork River (sounds big but it’s just a stream really, especially in the winter). The clear frigid waters lolly gagged and splashed around huge boulders and scattered tree limbs. Patches of ice formed on the rocks on the¬†downstream side of the bridge while the upstream side,¬†in full sun, remained ice free. Something about that caught my attention. Maybe my heart was like the river. When I am on the downstream side, away from my source for internal warmth, I ice over. It’s harder for me to stay grounded. When I move toward the warmth of my source (in my case, God), the hardness and ice inside of me begin to melt.

But it doesn’t stop there. Ice builds inside of me when I am not getting out on walks, feeling fresh air and sunshine on my skin. I desperately need¬†to soak in nature,¬†do yoga, and spend time in solitude with my thoughts and prayers. Those are my biggies, the most important pieces of my self-care that must be regular ingredients in my life. I had a profound experience of what happens to me when I starve myself. I am working on stabilizing again, turning toward the sun, feeling the ice crystals softening and chunks of ice peeling away from soul. I feel warmth growing again and with it, hope that I will be ok.

Categories: Depression, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, holidays, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Relationships, self care, Self-Help | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Freaked-Out? Sad? Angry?

human_mindNot happy about current circumstances and want to navigate well? You don’t have to just wallow in your misery, you can do something productive. First, clearly identify what you are feeling (anger, sadness, fear…) and the thoughts that are dictating the emotions. Emotions don’t just show up all on their own. They are linked to cognitive thought: you have a thought and an emotion will follow. We sometimes notice the emotion and not the dictating thought so it’s super important to get back to, “Where did this feeling come from?” The reason? If the thought isn’t based in reality, it’s not worth entertaining and neither is the accompanying the emotion. We often feel these not-based-in-reality emotions¬†anyway and develop incredibly unhealthy neural pathways that become ingrained in our brain and feel like a reflex when in fact they are an unhealthy learned behavior that we keep feeding.

For instance: “With this new President-elect, our country is going down the tubes, freedom will be lost, this is horrible!” What is true at this moment that you know for sure beyond a shadow of a doubt? We have a new President-elect. That’s it. We don’t actually know what he will do. We know what he said he will do, but nothing has actually been done yet. Breathe. Remind yourself of what you know for sure. Let go of all the places your mind is going with the “what ifs”. They are crazy-making and completely unhelpful. You can mourn the loss of your candidate if you did not vote for Trump. You can celebrate that your candidate¬†won if you voted for Trump. That’s it. Nothing more. Don’t get too puffed up about all that is going to happen or too depressed about all that is going to happen because–none of it has happened yet. Stay with the here and now and breathe deeply and slowly.

Next, after feeling the emotions based in reality, take a deep breath, splash some water on your face and ask yourself, “Where do I have control? Is there anything I can do about the situation that is healthy, legal and wise?” At the very least, we always have the ability to choose how we are going to react, what kind of attitude we are going to have, if we want to smile and find the joy in our life. Always! Viktor Frankl learned this in a Nazi-run concentration camp during World War II. If he learned this concept in the very worst of circumstances then we can surely do this in our circumstances. I know, if you are reading this, you already have way more freedom and more to find joy in than a concentration camp prisoner.

Now, move on. Surely you have something you need to be doing or could be doing that is productive. Maybe it’s time for a good dose of self-care (something you can do that fills you up in a good way–healthy, legal and wise!). Go for a walk, pet your dog/cat, talk to a friend, listen to music, feel the sun/fresh air, read a book, knit, play piano, write…the list could go on and on. Be good to your body and your mind. Fill up and restore so you can reset. You will deal with whatever happens when it happens and until then, you can¬†take care of yourself, anchor to the present and bring joy into this world in your own unique way ūüôā

Categories: Acceptance, Depression, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“If we take responsibility for our feelings, we can use them to make our relationships better. Our anger is often a signal that someone has wronged us. If we feel that the person who has wronged us is responsible for our anger, we are in trouble. We will stay angry until the other person decides to make it better, and that could be a very long time.”
– Dr Henry Cloud

So, this is the quote I opened when checking my email tonight. This¬†might not seem like anything to write about until you know the circumstances. I got into an altercation with family. As my anger rose and I sequestered myself, I thought I would use the time to check my email. I don’t always open Dr. Cloud’s emails because I get one every single day and I usually don’t have a whole lot of time to check¬†my email so his¬†usually just get deleted. When I saw it tonight I thought, “Hmmm, I wonder what Dr. Cloud has for me…hopefully something relevant,” and I got the quote above. It was awesome! So, I am breathing deeply, acknowledging and owning my anger, understanding it makes sense (based on reality not a made up story), accepting my part in it all and working on letting it go (not an instant action but I am on the right path).

Categories: Growth, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Experiencing The Unpredictable

I laugh when the very thing I write about catches me and spits me out! We planned a once in a lifetime trip for my husband’s mother. She is Norwegian but has never set foot on the soil of Norway…or anywhere outside of the United States. My husband¬†had been promising her he’d take her there someday. ¬†At 81 someday needed to happen soon! So we decided to take the plunge this summer. The itinerary is planned, tickets purchased and passports are ready to go! Then, the unplanned jumped out and smacked us. My father-in-law’s health plummeted and my mother-in-law needs to stay with him. Go figure!

At first I was understanding. Then this nasty poison crept in. I realized we planned this whole trip for her! What!? You mean we’re spending all this money and taking time away from work (which for me with a private practice means zero income) and she isn’t even going? What?! Visualize¬†my red face, temper rising, anger beginning to leak out all over the place!!!

In church a woman prayed, among other things, to speak blessings instead of cursings…healthy conviction began sinking in…well, after I had a little fit! Now I am amazed at my behavior. Really, Karen? You are incredibly self-centered sometimes. I must give myself grace as I always tell my clients and yet, I do hope that one day I can be more concerned about others than myself. Oh, and roll with the unpredictable a little earlier in the process.

 

Categories: Acceptance, Forgiveness, Growth, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Misery of Growth!

I heard a quote generally attributed to James A. Garfield from a friend recently, “The truth will set you free but first it will make you miserable.” Prior to my journey into my own emotional healing and understanding the lies I had been believing about myself and others, I would not have resonated with¬†this at all. When we delve into the world of understanding and healing our reactions to situations and people, we go through a season when it is as though we are falling apart at the seams. In my journey, I learned my once useful coping strategies were unhealthy and I knew I didn’t really want to stay that way.¬†At times I felt devastated. I can remember sitting in deep despair and wanting to quit. I was a mess!

I’m not finished with my healing process. I will be in this journey for as long as I am breathing and¬†I know first hand it is worth it. At some point I turned a corner and had positive¬†experiences¬†of emotional health and connectedness. Seeing myself change and reaping the reward compelled me to keep moving forward. This doesn’t mean the journey is easy now. The dynamic nature of life and a commitment to growth are anything but boring and stagnant. I regularly¬†encounter challenging situations that show me new areas where I can work on my skills. I get frustrated sometimes but in the end, I realize I am free and I will never go back to being a captive of lies!

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Mind: Friend or Foe?

Taking a break from the “I Have A Question” series to remind you about the power of your mind. Most of us, barring any major mental health disorder, can choose what we want to believe. It seems like we don’t but we do…always.

Be aware of your thoughts and notice how they affect your emotions. Emotions follow thoughts. If the thought is negative, the emotion will be, too. For instance, if you make a mistake,¬†then start thinking of every mistake you’ve made and end up in a depressed tailspin, you have chosen to go down an unnecessarily brutal path. Keep your mind focused on the one mistake you just made and use it as an opportunity to learn something. You can be mad but don’t dwell on it for too long.

The dialogue, either audibly or in your head, might sound¬†like this: I totally screwed up the report. Ugh! I am so mad at myself! This is going to take time I don’t have! Ahhhhh! OK, take a deep breath in and out…in and out. Now, what can I do about this and what went wrong? Oh yeah, I didn’t double check my work. I was in a hurry, rushed through it and skipped proofreading. That’s on me. I don’t need to beat myself up over this, that won’t help. Just recognize it and learn from it. Deep breath in and out again…let go of the anger…and move on. I have other things I need to be doing right now and wallowing in this will not help me at all. I am human. I make mistakes. I can learn from my mistakes. Now, I’m going to work on this next task. You will¬†need to repeat this each time the negative thoughts start creeping back in. They are kind of like cockroaches…hard to get rid of but if you’re persistent you will!

If you veer off the path and start recounting every time you screwed up or start telling yourself you are a loser, STOP! That won’t help you one bit. Literally say stop to yourself. Say it aloud if you can and start the above dialogue to get out of the old way. I can tell you from personal experience this works! Every time I use it,¬†I have success and feel so much better. An added benefit is I usually have more clarity and energy to use on productive, life-giving tasks.

The shift is not easy. Meaning it won’t come naturally. We all have many horribly unhelpful neural pathways that are as strong as the fastest highway you can imagine. When we get on this learned neural pathway it seems like it’s a reflex but it isn’t. We learned it over time from a young age. It was likely modeled for us or it’s just part of how we are wired or it’s both. Knowing the origin and working through it can be helpful but you don’t have to in order to change the pathway. Be super intentional. Take this seriously and you will see results!

 

Categories: Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grief Revisited

Grief is a fascinating experience. ¬†I have felt it several times in all its intensity but never with the death¬†of a deeply loved and intensely close being. ¬†I went through the ups and downs of my daughter’s failing health, lung transplant and cancer. ¬†We came close to losing her, but we didn’t and still haven’t. ¬†She’s doing really well! ¬†I have been grieving the mortality of my dad as his health has been failing significantly in the last few months, but he’s still here and I get to have sweet special moments with him.

Mighty Maya!

Mighty Maya!

My current grief is a result of my tiny seven pound dog being¬†snatched out of our yard about two weeks ago most likely by a coyote. There have been sightings of a mountain lion in our area but we didn’t see the creature only its paw prints in the mud near our fence and on the top rail of our fence. Whether coyote or mountain lion, it leaped from the field next to our house right into our yard and decided to take Maya. We were spared the gruesome remains of her but there was plenty of evidence to indicate she had been mortally wounded and removed.

It was a normal morning. I let her off the bed onto the floor (she was too tiny to jump), and she promptly headed outside to go to the bathroom. That’s all she ever did in the morning. Just a quick trip out and right back in. She has been doing this routine for the eight years we have lived in this house and never had a problem. But on this day, she didn’t come back in. When I went to look for her, she was gone. Vanished. I had no idea at that moment what had happened to her.

As the details came together, I was heartbroken. I sobbed and sobbed for the first two days. I was useless. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I got a warning for speeding. I told the officer I wasn’t paying attention to my speed only thinking about the death of my dog…I guess my authentic tears really got to him. He said he had to walk away before he started crying, too. He was sweet. That was no excuse for speeding, and I owned that I was being unsafe. I decided I better limit my driving for a few days and when I did drive I had to intently focus.

I thought about her tragic death which brought on heaving sobs. At first I was just really sad, then I moved to beating myself up for not going outside with her. If I had been there maybe I could have shooed away the animal. Then I moved to being mad at the circumstances because I just want my dog back. I want her to be curled up on the couch, taking all of about a 10 inch radius of space. I want her cute little face to look inquisitively at me while I ask her questions or talk to her. I want her company on my walks and I don’t want to have to go through the trouble of deciding if I want another dog (do not read that as I want someone to surprise me with a puppy! No, no, no!).

I am now deathly afraid to walk out on my deck at night because I’m literally gripped with fear that something is out there looking for something to devour. I don’t feel safe. When I go on walks, I am looking around, certain I’m going to get attacked. I never worried about these things before. I thought about it at times because we live in an area where coyotes live, too but I was never afraid of running into one. I’m only 12 days into this particular grief process and I realize that most of what I’m going through is normal, but when you’re going through it, it doesn’t feel normal!

The best thing I can do for myself is bring others into my grieving, which I have done. I am also allowing myself to feel all the emotions that come up.¬†I let the tears fall. I notice the fear and understand why it is there. I feel the anger and get why I would be mad. As time is moving on, I’m noticing the intensity of the emotions is dissipating. I can focus on tasks again (including driving!) and I’m accepting reality, well, sort of.

It’s interesting to grieve the untimely and tragic death of a pet. I did not expect the intensity to be like this. My husband’s uncle died last week. I was sad for him and his family but he wasn’t in my life on a regular basis. I had only known him for eight years and saw him briefly a handful of times. I felt more sad for others in that situation than myself. My dog has been a constant companion. She adored me. I was definitely her favorite and everyone knew it. I’m realizing now how much I bonded with her. Our bonds can be with skin or fur…and the loss of either can be painful. I also believe we learn to connect with others more deeply when we are willing to connect with our grief.

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Series on Guilt Part 1: What is Guilt?

For starters, guilt is not an emotion, it is a state of being. ¬†For the average person it may seem that I am splitting hairs, but for the therapy world, it’s helpful to know the difference. ¬†If you are sick, you don’t necessarily need to know that much about your body to describe it to your doctor; however, your doctor better know details about human anatomy and system functions in order to treat you. ¬†Emotions generally fall into four categories: joy, anger, sadness and fear. ¬†Notice guilt isn’t one of them, nor is shame, the paralyzing cousin of guilt. ¬†The common denominator of emotions and most states of being is they are all centered in your brain. ¬†Each is a result of thoughts. ¬†The thoughts are generally a reaction to an outside stimulus, either in the moment or any amount of time later.

Guilt is a function of our brain when we have done something wrong or something we perceive is wrong. ¬†This function helps shape us to move toward the common good rather than just benefitting ourselves. ¬†Guilt is imperative for the health of a community. ¬†A person with Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopath) sees himself as above the law in all respects. He does not feel guilt or remorse for his actions. ¬†Without guilt, we have an ‘It’s all about me” attitude. ¬†Every person has this attitude some of the time but those with Antisocial Personality Disorder have it in nearly all circumstances. ¬†This can be taught or it can be a malfunction of the brain; some people with Antisocial Personality Disorder are a result of their environment, some are a result of DNA and some are a result of a combination of both.

Guilt is often misunderstood. ¬†Some see it as bad, but it’s not. ¬†No more than the emotions of anger, sadness or fear. ¬†These functions of our brain help us live in community in a healthy way through being authentic and connecting with others. ¬†When we eliminate any one of them, we damage ourselves and healthy interactions. ¬†The movie, Inside Out portrayed this beautifully.

Your first action is to notice your guilt. ¬†Ask yourself some questions about it. ¬†What did I do that I am feeling guilty? ¬†What is the standard by which I am measuring my actions? ¬†Does this system make sense – is it in the best interest of both myself and the common good? What if someone else is telling you that you did something wrong, but you don’t see it that way? ¬†Find out what that person’s reasoning is. ¬†Is it for both the good of you and the common good or is it some arbitrary set of rules that don’t make any sense?

Next week I’ll continue this series with how to process your guilt in a healthy way that leads to restoration.

Categories: Depression, Emotional Healing, Forgiveness, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside Out Is Right Side Up

I saw the new Pixar movie, Inside Out with my daughters the other day. They were by far the oldest children with their parents. At 23 and 22 it’s still fun to hang out with them! I thoroughly enjoyed the movie…ok there were a few moments where I thought it was dragging but they had to give us our money’s worth I suppose. So much of what I explain to my clients about the value of all of our emotions was right there on the big screen with color and animation rather than abstractly defined. The movie also clearly displays the importance of sadness in creating healing, connection with others and staying integrated internally.

I think I’ll add watching this movie to my homework assignments! ūüôā

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth, Processing Thoughts and Emotions | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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