Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fixing Your Life: Start from Where You Are

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
- Confucius

One of the first questions we ask when confronted with a major life issue is, "why did this happen?"

Lots of people, including me, think they have to understand a problem to fix the problem. And the previous post on our emotional wounds mentions understanding as a way to make better choices.

In the long-term, I still prefer to understand in order to help motivate ourselves and stay on track with our efforts. But we might have to remind ourselves to focus on our most critical needs first.

The truth is, in the immediate-term, you don't have to understand everything in order to start getting your life in order. All you need to know is what to do next. Thats it! We can all do that.

What you do next is the key.

Give yourself some time and space to calm down and think, so you can start making decisions about what comes after.

For example, you wouldn't want to stay in an abusive relationship until you figure out why it happens or how it all came to this, right? All you need to know is that you need to get to safety first and figure out the rest later.

In general, the more critical or time sensitive the issue, the more you need to focus on the next step.

And hopefully, you have had the time to consider options in the past before things became critical, and you have a plan or set of priorities in place.

Start with your personal safety and work your way out in building a plan for the future. All the way to what you most want your life to be.

So keep this in mind if you ever feel your brain spinning to figure it all out. All you have to figure out now, is your next step.

Then, over time, you can make the effort to understand the rest. And take those next steps that arise.

Share this with others, talk to friends and family, use all your resources. If you need help, email me to set a time to discuss it.

Live well.

- Rich

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Butterfly Effect of our Emotional Wounds

Imagine a woman who doesn't like crowds. She goes out of her way to avoid gatherings of people in places like theaters and festivals and cities. At most she might like a late lunch with a friend in a quiet place, a little after any rush. She is most comfortable at home.

Now imagine she is married to a man who likes social activities and the vibrance of being around people. He likes crowded restaurants, and night clubs, and is drawn to exciting places.

Before she learned of the reasons for her anxiety, she would simply refuse to go to these places and participate in these activities with her husband. She would become increasingly adamant in her refusal as he became increasingly angry that he could not have the experiences he longed for.

And this all got much worse. Irritation hardened into anger and emotional distance.

The growing conflict between them was a symptom of her past trauma. And her inability to identify it and cope with it effectively, and not communicating all this to her husband to gain his understanding and acceptance, was another layer of the situation.

This process can be a large task.

Many of us are wounded, in one way or another, from our past traumas.

This fact doesn't mean we are doomed to remain wounded of course. We live and learn, and make efforts to better ourselves and our lives.

But knowing we are wounded, by whatever trauma we have endured, means we should learn our individual feelings and behaviors that can be triggered and how that's likely to occur. Since recognizing that we are wounded, allows us to make choices in dealing with that fact.

Some of these feelings and behaviors might appear as our being sensitive to certain topics, or how we are addressed, or physically touched. The variations can be as numerous as the individuals who experience them. Our reactions are often extreme when someone, like our partner, touches that raw nerve.

These reactions are often indications of a wound we still carry. They are usually consistent, reoccurring, and long-lived in our history. But knowing those wounds and the indications that we are under their influence, can help us cope with them more effectively.

We need to be aware of them when we deal with others, especially our life partners, because it is a potential threat to our combined happiness if we don't. Allowing our reactions to run rampant is often damaging in one way or another. Making excuses or blaming others, makes the experience even worse.

Conscious understanding of ourselves is the key.

If they go unaddressed, our partners can begin to think of these wound sensitivities as destructive and annoying, or worse, if we have not explained them. Eventually, they can learn to accept our version of reality, and be more understanding of our needs.

If we are aware, we can all work to heal from our wounds, and we all try to carry on despite them. Identify the issue, ask why it exists, and ask yourself where it came from. Finally ask what needs to happen to resolve it or make it easier to deal with in your life.

Talk to friends and knowledgable others to gain perspective and support. Read books on the topic. Try some new coping strategies.

And if you need further help, call me.

Live well.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Relationship Advice: You have to be able to say anything to them

In the course of my daily activities, I like to ask people questions about issues that interest me. Usually, these questions are universal so anyone might identify with and wonder about them. Lots of people have very unique answers.

I was talking to a woman around Valentines Day and we'd been having a brief conversation about relationships. So I asked her if she had any advice about making a marriage work.

She seemed surprised and grimaced slightly as if annoyed and said she would have to think about it. I thought she wouldn't give it any more thought. But, within minutes she said, "You have to be able to say anything to them" referring to talking to her spouse.

She went on to tell me she had been divorced for 10 years and it had been a surprise to her to have her then-husband of 15 years, tell her he was moving on with his life, without her.

She described a multi-year effort to understand and accept her new reality as a single woman. Psychotherapy and book reading and discussions with friends, all helped her get through it.

When she least expected to meet someone she could love again, she did. She believes a big factor in their successful 12-year marriage has been their ability to say anything to one another without fear. That had not been a part of her previous marriage and she could see how that also kept them from connecting effectively.

You really do have to be able to say anything to them. The alternative can sometimes lead to invisible rifts that can grow and endanger your relationship.

The quality of your connection with your partner is the key to a sustainable marriage. A big part of that connection is the freedom to say what you need to, and address those issues that are difficult to discuss, but necessary.

Take her good advice. And live well now.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

No One Person is Ever "The Answer" for You

We are all looking for answers at one time or another. It can be a very powerful hope for us to have someone appear to offer the answers we need. Affairs, and other unhealthy relationships, often begin this way.

They provide hope and a welcome distraction from the problems in our lives. This distraction is a problem unto itself of course, damaging the relationships we are committed to fixing.

The more frustrated or desperate we feel, the more vulnerable we are to such relationships. Our vulnerability needs to be in our awareness when we have any lengthy period of desperation or unhappiness.

These relationships take us away from our real priorities and distance us from what we should be focused on. It is well worth being reminded, that no one is your answer.

You are the answer to your problems. You are the only one who can make choices and take action to change things for the better.

We should all see this for the good news it is. It is all within our capabilities to make the lives we want if we have the courage and patience to learn how and then do what needs to be done.

Live well.