What Is It You’re Asking For?

1322As we talked about last time, people don’t always respond to us in the way we think they will. This response can take many forms, but when someone reacts in a way that we don’t expect, and is way out of the norm for them, we need to take pause before we respond and send events off in a direction none of us want.

Before we respond, we should ask ourselves these simple questions:

“What does this person want?”, “What does this person need?” “What is this person afraid to ask or say, that they could not think of anything else to say or do, than  what they just said or did?”

If we can take a few seconds to ask ourselves these simple questions we may respond in a much more compassionate and understanding way.Around the Games: Day 6 - 2014 Winter Olympic Games

At this time and season of Gratitude and Thanksgiving, Let us all look at each other, and ourselves with new eyes… and begin a new sense of understanding, forgiveness and acceptance of Ourselves and our fellow Human Beings.

As the French novelist, critic, and essayist Marcel Proust once said, ” We do not need to travel to new worlds to see new wonders; We need only to see our existing world with new eyes!”

May this beginning of the Holiday Season of 2017, bring you and yours all good things surrounded with Love, Compassion, and Peace!


Anger: Grabbing the Bull by the Horns

We have all allowed ourselves to become angry at one time or another. Anyone who feels they have never gotten angry needs to look at themselves long and hard! It is an emotion than can serve us well, when managed properly. Why do we feel the emotion of anger and what makes us exhibit it to others in the ways that we do?

Most of the ways we display anger are learned, culturally through the environment we have been surrounded.  At times in our life, we may have not had much control over our environment. One very important thing I want to say right up front is this:

There is nothing wrong with getting angry! Let me repeat that. “THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH GETTING ANGRY.” It is almost always the WAY in which we display our anger that’s causes an issue for ourselves or others. I will get back to that in a minute.

Anger is NOT a primary emotion, but a SECONDARY emotion. It usually bubbles up in us when we are afraid. Fear is a PRIMARY emotion. “FEAR”; that other four letter word…. The one few people want to admit having, especially we males.   When we are afraid or frightened, surprised by something that has scared us, or embarrassed us, all the flavors of fear well up in us and instead of admitting we were scared, we mask it by getting angry. It is an emotion we all understand, and although we don’t want to admit it; anger is an emotion more readily accepted in society than is fear.

We think of solders in combat who have exhibited great courage and bravery in saving the lives of friends and others in harms’ way. While what they did may have indeed saved lives and was a brave act, most likely the situation they found themselves in was frightening. The fear turned to anger at the situation, and they did whatever they could to stop the situation, to stop the fear… not to be thought of as brave. The fear, turned into anger, providing the fuel they needed to find a way to end the fear.

Let’s get back to how we display anger. Let me also add that fear is not the only primary emotion that can turn to anger, embarrassment works just as well.  I’m going to use a far-fetched example to make my point.

Let’s say a friend and I meet for lunch and I am wearing my favorite shirt. My friend greets me and as we say hi, I notice he is staring at my shirt. When I ask him if something is wrong, he responds,”Richard, I can’t believe you wore that silly looking shirt out in public. It is the dumbest looking shirt I have even seen in my life, especially on a grown man.”

Well needless to say, when I heard my friends’ comments about my wonderful, beautiful shirt a shirt that I picked out to wear especially for this important occasion, I was crushed. I was surprised and hurt to the point of being offended as well as embarrassed.

Before I responded to his comments, I processed his words and my feelings regarding them, all in the blink of an eye and I decided to respond. I decided to respond through the filter of anger. One reason I may have gotten angry is that my friends comment, brought me all the way back to being six years old, when I dressed to go out to play and my father saw my shirt.  He yelled and threatened me with being grounded if I did not go back to my room and change my shirt. He was not going to let me go outside in a shirt he thought would bring embarrassment to the family. (Luckily, that never really happened.) My friend’s comment stirred up a sad, scary, and embarrassing memory, which brought up the feeling of fear, which I tried to mask with anger.

To respond to any situation with anger is a choice. To respond in a specific way because we are angry is yet another choice.  In the shirt scenario, I could just look at my friend and shrugged his comment off.  I could think of it as his way of making a joke, or him having a bad day. However if my feelings of anger go unchecked and I decide to act in anger, all in a few nano-seconds, the results could go sour very quickly. I could get up and leave, make a disgusted face, make a comment about how much weight he has gained or how his hair is thinning or pour my ice tea in his lap or over his head.

Or,  I could have wondered to myself,”What is it about what he just said, that hit me in such a way that I decided to get angry about it as a result? I then have to decide which would be the most productive way to respond, if at all, all in a blink of an eye.

Anger is a useful emotion, if handled maturely and with everyone’s best interest at heart. It can be a signal to us that we need to look at something with-in ourselves that may need further work. It may be a sign to us, if anger continues to be the first emotion we seem to act on, that we need to change our view of the world. We can do this by looking at or environment with new eyes or change it to a more peaceful one that is more congruent to our values, beliefs and serves our highest good rather than our ego.

We will discuss some tips for better exhibiting our feelings when angry at another time. Until then… Be safe and be well!



Fair Fighting Rules

The following can be found on: the website: “For Your Marriage” Please click on 25 ways to fight fair

25 Ways to Fight Fair:

Don’t waste a good fight by not learning from it.coouple arguing

Please note that the words “fight” and “fighting fair” are used below to mean expressing one’s disagreement or anger to another constructively. At no time should physical harm be considered “fighting fair.”

  1. Know your own feelings. Seek to grow in self-awareness. Being in touch with your own true feelings is essential before you can constructively handle anger or conflict.
  2. Anger is an emotion – neither right nor wrong in itself. There is no morality to feelings. Try to understand what prompted the feeling. Morality comes into play when you take a destructive action as a result of a feeling.
  3. Negotiation and compromise are essential in any marriage. During a calm, clear moment agree that neither partner should “win” a fight. If one wins, the other loses and builds resentment. In effect, both have then lost because the relationship is damaged. Even when one spouse is wrong, permit him or her salvage self-respect.
  4. Cooling-off periods. Establish ground rules that permit either partner to “cool off” before trying to resolve anger. It may be necessary to walk or engage in some other physical activity in order to allow anger to dissipate. Such a period can allow a spouse to identify the issue more clearly and organize his or her thoughts, thus keeping the fight more on focus.
  5. Pin down a time and place. Be sure, however, that resolving an issue is not postponed indefinitely. After cooling off, pin down a time and place to continue. For example, after the news goes off and in the living room – not in the bathroom doorway while brushing teeth.
  6. Fight by mutual consent. Don’t insist on a fight when your spouse is tired or unable to handle the strain. A fair fight requires two ready participants.
  7. Stick to the subject. When a number of issues seem to be accumulating, present them one at a time. If you have not resolved past issues, put them on a current or future agenda. Make sure both of you go beyond skirmishing, insult rituals, or angry displays. Shooting broadside like a roaring cannon prevents resolution.
  8. State the issue honestly and clearly. Don’t simply say, “I’m hurt by the way you don’t show me respect.” Rather, be clear and specific as in, “I felt hurt when you said…or when your tone of voice sounds condescending toward me.”
  9. Don’t camouflage. Don’t evade a deeper grievance by allowing your feelings to center only on less important or extraneous issues. “The potatoes are too salty tonight!” might be a minor irritant that covers the unspoken, “I don’t think that you understand all the pressure I’m under at work!”
  10. Afraid to fight? If one of you feels afraid to fight, this should not evoke a put down but rather may be a fear of being hurt or rejected. Put the fear on the agenda for later discussion.
  11. Don’t hit below the belt. Everyone has vulnerable areas. Don’t use your confidential knowledge of your partner’s weaknesses and sensitivities to hurt him/her.
  12. Don’t label. Avoid telling your spouse that he/she is neurotic, depressing, or a bore. Rather, try, “I’m tense inside, honey, because you seem moody and depressed. I’d like us to talk about it.”
  13. Grant equal time. Agree that no resolution of an issue can be presumed until each partner has had the chance to express his/her feelings, ideas, and information.
  14. Feedback and clarification. If the fight is emotional and heated, slow it down by starting a “feedback loop.” One technique is to paraphrase back to your spouse what your heard. For example, “Honey, what I hear you saying is that I’m boring you because I have no outside interest. Is that right?” The other then responds by either confirming the accuracy of your statement or clarifying it.
  15. Gain new understanding. Extract enough new information and insight from a fight to permit growth. Don’t waste a good fight by not learning from it.
  16. Implement changes. Follow anger with a fair, firm, clear request for a change or improvement in whatever brought on the fight. Each partner must be clear as to what he/she agrees to modify or improve. Be specific and realistic. For example, it would be agreed that whenever the husband seemed tense, the wife would encourage him to tell her about it, instead of their old pattern of both keeping silent.
  17. Develop humor. Humor goes a long way towards promoting healing.
  18. Keep your fights to yourself. Exceptions would be when more serious problems suggest the need for a counselor. Good counseling is like medicine – it helps do what you might not be able to do alone.
  19. Handling anger in front of children. When anger and conflict initially erupt in front of children, also try to resolve these feelings in front of them. You may need a cooling off period first, but they need to learn about negotiation, discussion, and compromise by watching you do it constructively. Apologizing for excesses in front of children also teaches them about reconciliation.
  20. Don’t attempt to resolve a conflict when drinking heavily.
  21. “Touch” can begin dialogue. Use touch to help your spouse make the “entry” or “re-entry” into a communicative mood. A foot reaching over in bed, a hand on the shoulder can say eloquently, “Honey, one of us needs to begin the dialogue. I’m willing to start.”
  22. Exclude violence. Agree in advance that real violence is always ruled out.
  23. Is the problem elsewhere? Determine through honest inner searching whether your anger lies primarily (or only secondarily) within the marriage relationship. Spouses might be struggling with poor health, role insecurities at work, fear of death, anxiety about the future, or other unresolved issues. It can be reassuring when a couple realizes that their relationship may not always be the principle problem, even though the real problem still causes anguish.
  24. Respect crying. Crying is a valid response to how we feel. Do not, however, let crying sidetrack from getting to the real issue causing the conflict.
  25. Prayer as strength. Major religions view marriage as sacred and prayer as a vital strength. While human behavior principles must not be neglected in learning how to handle conflict constructively, neither should couples neglect the religious resources of their faith in working out their problems.

We Can All Be Authors

I have been working professionally with people for close to 40 years now, and one topic of discussion that comes up time after time is the topic of “relationships”, especially as that dynamic relates to family members.

I have given the idea of relationships a great deal of thought; how they work, why they work, if they work, what causes them to break down, and what helps them survive.

What I am going to discuss next doesn’t always happen, but often happens.

writer male

It seems to me that everyone one on the planet is writing their own autobiography, whether they are aware of it or not. In that work, people eventually get around to describing everyone they know in terms that make sense to them.  Some people in their lives may get a short “one liner”. Others may get a paragraph or two, while others may get pages and pages of descriptors in the person’s attempt to paint a word picture of what “the other person” looks and feels like to them.

I will be directing most of today’s remarks to family dynamics, but the concepts could just as easily apply to any configuration of relationships that we find ourselves a part of; at the work place or with friends.

Now, as sophisticated as we like to think we are, we humans are essentially still “pack animals” in the sense that we, for the most part, live, work, and play in groups. We generally want to get along with others, we want to be “nice”, and not make waves when we are together with others, especially with family. This however, seems at times, to be much harder than it should be. Sometimes it seems the harder we try, the worse things can get. We begin to understand what Rodney King was referring to when he uttered his exasperated plea,” Can’t we all just get along?”

One of the things that we seem to do, in our attempt to “get along” is to go to the “family library” and read up on what others in the family write about us, what they think of us, how they describe us to others. Once we have educated ourselves as to how, say our sister, views us, we are better prepared to interact with her and have, hopefully, a meaningful exchange with her.

That’s all well and good, and everything is going along just fine… Then, our brother walks into the room and joins in the conversation. Now what do we do?  We love our brother, we love our sister. However we have read our brother’s description of us in his book and guess what? It is similar to our sister’s description of us, but not quite. Some very major things in his page are different from what sis thinks about us and how we should act when we are together.

We want this conversation to go well but we are caught on the horns of a dilemma. If we try to act the way our brother sees us, our sister could get her feelings hurt. If we continue to act and behave the way our sister prefers, then brother will sense that he may be a “fifth wheel” and begin to act in a different way towards us and perhaps sister as well.

So how do we act? Do we change the way we speak or the way we behave? If we try to please one, we run the risk of displeasing the other.   Wait a minute, we can fix this… we’ll act the way mom likes us to act… that will work!  She loves all of us and we all love her; well, maybe not in the exact same way, but I’m sure at least that we all love her (this will be another post).

All the while we have been trying to figure out which “us” to be with sis, and then with brother, they have been trying to remember how to be the right “person” with each other and with us. Just as we decide on which course of action is best, in walks dad. The whole scenario now changes, and perhaps not for the better

We are all trying to get along with each other, all trying to remember what the other person expects from us, how they expect us to behave, and when dad walks in, the whole think starts all over again!  Each of us start juggling the balls, that are our different personas, around like crack-crazed clowns trying to be the best juggler in the center ring of a three ring circus tent, in a vain attempt to please everyone.

Everyone ends up trying to remember how they are supposed to act when they encounter each other, instead of just BEING, and having a good time.  As a result, none of us are as successful at this juggling act as we had hoped to be, and we come away possibly confused and often disappointed.

Perhaps this is one reason why family gatherings, holidays and the like, can be so stressful, and as a result of the stress, not at all what we hoped the experience would be.

Perhaps we need to change our focus.  Instead of spending so much time reading what others think of us and how we should act, we should instead begin to write our own story. Perhaps we should inform the world who WE are, and how WE expect to be treated, and let others know what is in OUR best interest and highest good. Then and only then, can we begin to show our true selves to the world.

To do so, and to do so effectively, we need to concern ourselves less with that others think of us, and become concerned with what we think of ourselves; discover, or better yet, begin to remember who we really are, and instead of living the fiction of others, write down the truth of our own story word for word.

It may seem a daunting task at first, but it really is very simple, if you have the courage to pick up the pen and begin to write. It can start as simply as David Copperfield’s story began under the pen of Charles Dickens:                                ladywriter1    “I was born.”