Tag Archives: Empathy

Forgiveness: Letting Go Of Grudges And Bitterness

When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge — or embrace forgiveness and move forward.

Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Perhaps your mother criticized your parenting skills, your colleague sabotaged a project or your partner had an affair. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or even vengeance — but if you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

What is forgiveness?

Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.

What are the benefits of forgiving someone?

Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for compassion, kindness and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:

• Healthier relationships
• Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
• Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
• Lower blood pressure
• Fewer symptoms of depression
• Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse

Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?

When you’re hurt by someone you love and trust, you might become angry, sad or confused. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.

What are the effects of holding a grudge?

If you’re unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present. You might become depressed or anxious. You might feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs. You might lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.

How do I reach a state of forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. To begin, you might:

• Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time
• Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well-being
• When you’re ready, actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
• Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life

As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.

What if I have to interact with the person who hurt me but I don’t want to?

If you haven’t reached a state of forgiveness, being near the person who hurts you might be tense and stressful. To handle these situations, remember that you can choose to attend or avoid specific functions and gatherings. Respect yourself and do what seems best. If you choose to attend, don’t be surprised by a certain amount of awkwardness and perhaps even more intense feelings. Do your best to keep an open heart and mind. You might find that the experience helps you to move forward with forgiveness.

What if the person I’m forgiving doesn’t change?

Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words isn’t the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.

What if I’m the one who needs forgiveness?

The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how those wrongs have affected others. At the same time, avoid judging yourself too harshly. You’re human, and you’ll make mistakes. If you’re truly sorry for something you’ve said or done, consider admitting it to those you’ve harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and specifically, ask for forgiveness — without making excuses. Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever the outcome, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.

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20 Tips for a Positive New Year

These suggestions will help you start off the New Year right!

1. Stay positive. You can listen to the cynics and doubters and believe that success is impossible or you can know that with faith and an optimistic attitude all things are possible.

2. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement: My purpose is _______________________.

3. Take a morning walk of gratitude. I call it a “thank you walk.” It will create a fertile mind ready for success.

4. Instead of being disappointed about where you are, think optimistically about where you are going.

5. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a Prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

6. Remember that adversity is not a dead-end but a detour to a better outcome.

7. Focus on learning, loving, growing and serving.

8. Believe that everything happens for a reason. Expect good things to come out of challenging experiences.

9. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead, invest your energy in the positive present moment.

10. Mentor someone, and be mentored by someone.

11. Live with the 3 E’s. Energy, Enthusiasm, Empathy.

12. Remember, there’s no substitute for hard work.

13. Zoom focus. Each day when you wake up in the morning ask: “What are the three most important things I need to do today that will help me create the success I desire?” Then tune out all the distractions and focus on these actions.

14. Implement the ‘No Complaining Rule.’ Complaining is like vomiting. Afterwards, you feel better but everyone around you feels sick.

15. Read more books than you did in 2015. I happen to know of a few good ones!

16. Get more sleep. You can’t replace sleep with a double latte.

17. Focus on “Get to” vs. “Have to.” Each day focus on what you get to do, not what you have to do. Life is a gift, not an obligation.

18. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements:

I am thankful for __________.

Today I accomplished ____________.

19. Smile and laugh more. They are natural anti-depressants.

20. Enjoy the ride.

“You only have one ride through life, so make the most of it and enjoy it.”

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Woman standing outdoors underneath fabric

Men And Women After Trauma: Coping With Differences

• Do men and women react differently after trauma? Yes.

• Does it mean one suffers more than the other? No.

• Do the differences confuse and often create tension for couples? Too often.

The Differences

What we find across cultures is that in the face of traumatic loss, women need to speak about what has happened and men need to do something about what has happened. In one scene from the devastation of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2005, the women gathered, crying for their lost children while the men rebuilt the homes.

In their 2006 review of 25 years of research on sex differences in trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in the Psychological Bulletin, David Tolin, and Edna Foa reported that although men have a higher risk for traumatic events, women suffer from higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. In their analysis, they suggest that the different rates of PTSD may actually be a function of the fact that men and women manifest their emotional pain in different ways.

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, women are more likely to have feelings of anxiety and depression, while men are more likely to express distress and depression in terms of irritability, anger and increased alcohol consumption.

Couple Response

Caught in the physical and emotional pain from a traumatic loss or event, couples often have very little patience for differences. It is hard for them to believe that their partner could feel different. It is even more difficult to believe that their partner could feel the same and react so differently.

When she suffered a miscarriage in the beginning of her fifth month, Claire was devastated. Then in her late 30’s, she was worried that this might have been her only chance to have a child. Even when she regained her strength, she was often unable to concentrate or sleep. She would ruminate and blame herself for waiting until her career was set before starting a family.

Claire was further upset by her husband John’s reaction. He was upset by the loss, but he seemed confident that there would be other chances. Claire wondered why he wasn’t blaming himself for their decision to wait to have kids. When she questioned him about this, he felt judged and blamed her for making it worse. They would end up fighting.

According to Dr. John Gray of Mars and Venus Starting Over, in the aftermath of the loss, both men and women need time to grieve. As such, it is often more common for women to blame themselves and for men to blame others.

Differences Don’t Equate to Lack of Love

If you find yourself struggling with your partner in the aftermath of a traumatic event, it does not mean that you don’t have a good relationship, or that you were never truly in love.

• Traumatic events are beyond what we ever expect. No one is prepared to respond.

• Differences in response don’t mean that as a couple you won’t cope or can’t heal.

If you take your time and give yourself and your partner a chance to grieve, cope and regulate stress in your own way and different ways, you will be able to use your relationship as an asset for coping.

• She joins a bereavement group at the church.

• He increases his workout schedule.

• She doesn’t want to socialize on the weekends, but he needs to get out—they settle on a movie date together.

Couple Considerations for Coping

• Everyone deals with trauma in their own way and in their own time – there is no right way.

• When in doubt don’t assume the worst about your partner – assume you don’t know.

• Interest and acceptance of your partner’s reactions invite sharing and empathy, which enhance healing.

• Being physically next to someone you love is a natural buffer for stress and emotional pain.

• Talking about the pain at times for her, valuing the shared silence for him—reflects the resilience of connection.

Sometimes the best-traveling companion in life is someone who sees and reacts to things in a way you would never have considered.

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Respect The Feelings Of Others

Throughout in our life journey, we are destined to have many people around us in form of relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. They all play important role in our lives; help us to evolve. But they all keep different feelings, beliefs and behaviors in accordance with their unique needs and motivations. They cannot react the same way in any given situation. However, having a respect for their feelings help us to realize our desired goal smoothly and live a contented life.

By respecting the feelings of others, we encourage them to share their feelings and experiences in a more friendly way, which reinforce relationship. Only having a respect for them is not enough, we have to show them we care through empathy and understanding. We should never criticize, advice or lecture others, just listen to them with empathy and nonjudgmental way so that they can share their feelings comfortably. Further before making a decision or taking an action, we should consider their feelings also.

Finally, feelings are what makes anyone feel worthwhile or worthless. It requires only a little bit of efforts to make anyone feel valuable. Therefore, one should learn how to respect the feelings of others to sustain relationship and have a happy life.

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Seven Simple Steps To Improve Your Relationship.

There are so many books and articles written about how to communicate effectively that it often can be overwhelming knowing what to believe. Below are some of the most important factors couples need to focus on to improve their relationship.

My ideas are based on my observations of working with hundreds of couples over the last 6 years.

1. Seek to understand before trying to be understood.

One of the most common negative patterns I see in my work with couples is the cycle of criticism and defensiveness. This often happens when you hear something you perceive as an attack or criticism from your partner, which leads you immediately to defend yourself.

This pattern sets both of you up not to be heard. As soon as you start to defend your position, you’ve lost the opportunity to understand your partner. Even if you feel under attack or think you hear a criticism, try to understand your partner’s thoughts and feelings before you respond.

2. Slow down your communication to truly hear your partner.

Many issues get out of control because once this dynamic of criticism and defense is under way, the interaction often moves very quickly. When your communication is speeding up, you can miss a lot of important information that your partner is expressing. This fast pace also increases the volatility of your discussion, making it harder for you to keep the conversation calm.

If you notice that your discussion is moving too quickly, intentionally put on the brakes and slow down the exchange. Make sure your partner knows you truly want to understand what he or she is saying. This helps defuse the reactivity and allows you to continue to communicate in an adult-to-adult way.

3. Be curious about your partner’s perspective.

This one is easier said than done when you’re feeling blamed, criticized or attacked. However, one of the best things you can do in such circumstances is to be curious about your partner’s perspective. This can be disarming in a positive way, and it immediately helps de-escalate the rising tension between you.

By being curious, you can learn new things about your partner, as well as support your conversation in moving toward a resolution. You can still disagree with your partner’s perspective and remain curious and interested in how their view is different from yours. Practice this next time you feel a heated discussion coming on and see what happens.

4. Recognize your emotional triggers and learn to self-soothe.

When you know what your emotional triggers are, it allows you to be aware when the potential for their activation is present. We all bring ‘baggage’ into our relationships — from our childhood, previous relationships, school experiences and of course, our family of origin. There’s no such thing as a person who is ‘baggage-free;’ however, you can use your awareness of your hot spots to know when they are likely to be triggered.

Practice observing yourself, even when you feel triggered by your partner. See if you can name it by saying “I’m feeling [insert feeling] now, and I think it’s also touching something in my past that’s not related to you.” By naming the trigger, it helps your partner understand that there’s more at play here than just the current conversation. This understanding can help both of you be less reactive in the moment.

5. Practice using empathy to foster a closer connection.

Empathy is the fuel of good relationships. Being empathic is about imagining yourself walking in your partner’s shoes seeing the world from their perspective. When you can respond empathically to your partner, it facilitates a deeper bond and creates a strong sense of safety and trust between you. When you’re feeling attacked, however, this is the last thing you feel like doing. It does require you to be able to step outside yourself and begin to appreciate a reality different from yours.

Practicing empathy does not mean that you have to completely surrender and give up what you want or give up your own reality. It just means you need to suspend your own perspective, even momentarily, so you can appreciate the smallest part of how your partner sees things. Start small – even if you’re imagining only one to five percent of what your partner feels — and then build on that. Your partner will feel the shift and will be able to let down his or her guard a little, opening up the possibility of a better connection.

6. Listen for the hidden unmet need or emotion.

When your partner is in distress and voicing a complaint or you’re feeling criticized or blamed, there’s always some unmet need, want, desire or unexpressed emotion underlying this cry. The challenge for you is to go underneath the overt complaint and see if you can tap into the hidden emotion. By uncovering this emotion and tentatively asking if the covert emotion is also going on for your partner, you can bypass the surface anger, irritation or resentment and cut to the core emotion that needs to be validated.

This is no easy task, as it requires you to figuratively step up and out of the current conflict and to look and listen for what’s not being expressed. It also requires you to suspend your own reactivity and defensiveness in order to connect with your partner’s deeper needs. When you find yourself in a conflict situation, pause for a moment and see if you can feel what else in the conversation your partner is not expressing. To help you with this, remind yourself that your partner is in distress, but is not able to share the whole picture of the distress with you. Listen carefully for this and use your curiosity to find out what else is not being overtly shared.

7. Anticipate issues before they become issues.

Many current issues could have been dealt with much earlier in the relationship, but weren’t. Avoiding talking about small issues often can lead to unresolved issues festering and expanding over time, only eventually to explode and become much bigger than they were initially. You may not want to rock the boat when things seem to be going well. You may believe that nothing good comes of raising complaints or issues.

The reality is, couples who seek to avoid conflict almost always end up in lots of it. Get into the habit of naming and flagging issues with each other, even when they are small. One of the ways to do this is to have a regular check-in to discuss current issues and assess where your relationship is going. Over time, this structure can help you feel more confident about your ability to effectively deal with conflict and disagreements.

Communication in a relationship requires constant attention. Start with the basics and establish rituals of communication and connection to ensure the longevity of your love and connection with each another.

 
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How To Deal With Uncomfortable Feelings & Create Positive Ones.

“Hope is the feeling that the feeling you have isn’t’t permanent.” ~ Jean Kerr.

We are driven by two connected motivations: to feel pleasure and avoid pain. Most of us devote more energy to the latter than the former.

Instead of being proactive and making choices for our happiness, we react to things that happen in our lives, and fight or flee to minimize our pain.

Instead of deciding to end an unhealthy relationship and open up to a better one, we may stay and either avoid confrontation or initiate one to feel a sense of control. Instead of leaving a horrible job to find one we love, we may stay and complain about it all the time, trying to minimize the pain of accepting the situation as real—and enduring until we change it.

A girl, from her very young age felt overwhelmed by pain. As a pre-teen, she ate her feelings. As a teen, she starved them away. In college, she drank and smoked them numb. And in her twenties, she felt and cried her eyes red and raw. 

She sobbed. She wailed. She shook and convulsed. And she wished she had never chosen to feel them, but rather kept pushing them down, pretending everything was fine. Except when she did that, they didn’t just go away—they compounded on top each other and built up until eventually she exploded, with no idea why she felt so bad.

One time when she was 17, she couldn’t open a jar of jelly. After ten minutes of twisting, banging, and fighting, she finally threw it at a wall and broke down.

You may think that was a sure sign of emotional problems she had, and assume there was some pill to help anesthetize that sadness.

That’s what a lot of people thought. But the reality was a lot simpler: She simply never dealt with her feelings from events large and small, and eventually they dealt with her.

As unpleasant as it may sound, she needed to learn how to feel bad—but first she needed to understand why she felt bad so often. It’s a whole lot easier to deal with pain when it’s not the default feeling.

This, I’ve learned, comes down to three steps:

1. Developing emotional intelligence.
2. Learning to sit with negative feelings.
3. Creating situations for positive feelings.

– Emotional Intelligence:
Researchers originated this idea as the missing link in terms of success and effectiveness in life. It didn’t seem to make sense why people with high IQ’s and superior reasoning, verbal, and math skills could still struggle in social and professional situations.

If you have a high EIQ, you likely regulate your emotions well; handle uncertainties and difficulties without excessive panic, stress, and fear; and avoid overreacting to situations before knowing the full details.

If you have a low EIQ, you might be oversensitive to other people’s feelings in response to you; obsess about problems until you find a concrete solution; and frequently feel a tsunami of emotions that you can’t attribute to a specific life event. Or in other words, you may feel bad far more often than you feel good.

Some Steps to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence:

1. Understand what emotional intelligence looks like.
There are five elements to EI: self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. This means you understand what’s going on in your head and heart; you don’t make hasty decisions on impulse; you can motivate yourself to delay gratification; you listen to, understand, and relate to other people well; and you’re able to focus on other people.

2. Use meditation to regulate emotions.
It’s infinitely easier to deal with emotions as they arise if you’ve already done a little work to create a calm inner space.

3. Take an honest look at your reactions.
Do you frequently jump to conclusions without knowing all the facts? Do you need other people’s approval to feel comfortable in your own skin? Do you assume you know what other people feel and take responsibility for that? Do you freak out over stressful situations, blaming other people, getting hard on yourself, and panicking over possible consequences?

4. Practice observing your feelings and taking responsibility for them.
It’s not always easy to understand a feeling when it happens, especially if you think you shouldn’t feel it; but forget about should. Instead, try to pinpoint exactly what you feel—scared, frustrated, worried, ashamed, agitated, angry—and then pinpoint what might be the cause. 

Simply find the cause and effect, i.e.: your employer seemed unhappy with your work, so now you feel stressed, or your significant other expressed dissatisfaction, so now you feel scared. Anytime you feel something uncomfortable that you’d rather avoid, put a magnifying glass on it.

Once you know what you feel, you can now challenge both the cause and the effect.

You can ask yourself whether or not you’re overreacting to the event or worrying to find a sense of control. And then you can accept that there is an alternative—you can choose to interpret the situation a different way, soothe yourself, and then feel something different. No one else causes our feelings. Only we can choose and change them.

– Learn to Sit with Negative Feelings:
Even if you re-frame a situation to see things differently, there will be times when you still feel something that seems negative. While not every situation requires panic, sometimes our feelings are appropriate for the events going on in our lives.

We are allowed to feel whatever we need to feel. If we lose someone, we’re allowed to hurt. If we hurt someone, we’re allowed to feel guilty. If we make a mistake, we’re allowed to feel regretful. Positive thinking can be a powerful tool for happiness, but it’s more detrimental than helpful if we use it to avoid dealing with life.

Pain is part of life, and we can’t avoid it by resisting it. We can only minimize it by accepting it and dealing with it well.

That means feeling the pain and knowing it will pass. No feeling lasts forever. It means sitting in the discomfort and waiting before acting. There will come a time when you feel healed and empowered.

Our power comes from realizing we don’t need to act on pain; and if we need to diffuse it, we can channel it into something healthy and productive, like writing, painting, or doing something physical.

Pain is sometimes an indication we need to set boundaries, learn to say no more often, or take better care of ourselves; but sometimes it just means that it’s human to hurt, and we need to let ourselves go through it.

– Create Situations for Positive Feelings:
This is the last part of the puzzle. As I mentioned before, we tend to be more reactive than active, but that’s a decision to let the outside world dictate how we feel.

We don’t need to sit around waiting for other people to evoke our feelings. Instead, we can take responsibility to create our own inner world.

We can identify what we want to say yes to in life and choose that before struggling with whether or not to say not to someone else. If you love dancing, take a class. If your greatest passion is writing, start a blog. If you daydream about being a musician, start recording.

Don’t worry about where it’s leading. Do it just because you love it..

We need to do the things we love—or as Sonya Derian phrased it: make feeling good our new religion.

– Concluding Thoughts:

Negative feelings are only negative if they’re excessive and enduring. We won’t hurt ourselves into eternal misery if we let ourselves feel what we need to.

Still, we don’t have to feel bad nearly as often as we think.

If we choose to foster a sense of inner peace, challenge our perceptions and interpretations when our emotions could use some schooling, and learn to take responsibility for our joy, we can not only minimize pain—we can choose to be a source of pleasure, for ourselves and the people around us.

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