Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Betrayal, Injustice, and Loss: Getting Beyond the Anger

One of the predominant complaints I hear from my clients is "This isn't fair!" Referring to an incident where they or someone else has suffered a perceived injustice, they feel angered that things were not equitable. There is a universal misconception that if you play by the rules you will be treated justly. If you show up at work on time each day and put in a productive eight hours, you'll receive your yearly raise and Christmas bonus. If you are a loyal and faithful spouse your partner will appreciate you and yours will be a fairytale marriage. When the raise is not forthcoming or your spouse decides to leave you for  someone else or when your best friend reveals a secret they vowed to take with them to their grave, the natural reaction is feelings of betrayal and rage. 

Moving beyond our personal experiences, we also feel a sense of outrage when a crime is committed and the felon receives the minimum sentence or worse, none at all. We grieve the loss of a mother whose children were killed in a car accident caused by an intoxicated driver. Each of us could site dozens of incidences where we have experienced betrayal, injustice or loss on a personal or broader level. It is easy to become disheartened and angered at the unfairness life presents us with on a daily basis. Yet each has logical reason for occurring and there are methods to move beyond the anger and hurt.

The key in not being held hostage to each of these experiences is to understand their purpose and value in our lives. Readjusting our expectations of others and of life in general helps alleviate the shock and frustration when betrayal, unfairness, and/or loss enters our lives. Keep in mind the following: 

1. Understand that others are not here to live up to our expectations of who/what we want them to be. Some are not trustworthy due to deep rooted personal issues. Others may feel justified in breaking a promise even though we may not share their point of view. Their position is a valid to them as ours is to us. This may not be an issue of right or wrong and we must be careful not to make it one.

2. We need to abandoned the notion that life is fair. There is no real justice in this life simply because humans are imperfect, have different opinions, and make mistakes. Additionally, we each have our own ideas of what fairness is. I may think it's perfectly reasonable that if I do a favor for you, you will reciprocate. However, you may not be in a position to do so or you may not have asked for my help initially and therefore feel you don't owe me anything. Even in the case where we feel justice has been served, it is really retribution for a committed offense that we are seeking. Retribution does not undo the wrong-doing. It simply brings some satisfaction that the other party had to "pay the price".

3. Loss is an inevitable part of life. Nothing was meant to last forever, in part, because God does not want us to become attached to anything or anyone. Loss is laden with fear as we relinquish control in a situation. The fear of the unknown - not knowing what will come next or how it will impact me and if I will be ok in my new circumstances. But loss is necessary for growth. We must be willing to let go, to give up, to be free of what is no longer a necessary part of our lives. Even in our relationships - none was meant to last forever. By letting go of the fear associated with loss, we open ourselves up to being able to fully enjoy what we currently have rather than worry about when we will lose it/them. God wants us to only cling to Him and in doing so, in having faith and knowing that all I ever need is already and always present to me, I need no longer fear loss.

Remember that betrayal, injustice, and loss are all a vital part of our life's journey, necessary for our personal growth, and most noticeably, essential for our spiritual development. Have faith, trust in God. All is exactly as it is meant to be. 

To order a copy of The Secret Side of Anger or The Great Truth visit

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fear: the Good, the Bad, and the Solutions

I've never met anyone who wasn't afraid of something. I have encountered those who claim they aren't scared of anything but upon deeper introspection, they realize that there are things in life that they worry about or that concern them.  (Both worry and concern are milder forms of fear.) There are some common fears that the general population agrees upon: losing someone you love,  becoming unemployed, street violence, death, war, terrorism, financial issues, natural disasters, speaking in public, being rejected by those who are important to you, and so on. 

When I was a teenager, I took horseback riding instructions from a former NYC police sergeant, James Gannon. Horses are very sensitive creatures and pick up on the emotions of the rider. Any fear a rider is experiencing will be communicated to their mount and the animal will react. This could have devastating consequences for both rider and  equine. Therefore, for the safety of both, the rider must remain confident and secure at all time. Sarge explained that there were two types of fear: rational and irrational. Rational fear are those issues where there is a legitimate concern for our safety and well-being. Having someone point a gun at your face while demanding the contents of  your wallet is a rational fear. Hearing  your smoke alarm sound in the middle of the night is judicious. These kinds of concerns trigger our innate survival instincts and put us in a fight or flight mode. They are designed to keep us safe and alive. 

Irrational fears, however, can wreak havoc in our lives. They are based on erroneous perceptions that limit us from experiencing life to the fullest. The "what if's" are a perfect example. Not fact based, they originate from assumptions leading to a perceived devastating outcome. "What if my boyfriend breaks up with me?" "What if I can't lose this weight?" "I'm afraid of bugs." There is no solid basis for our concerns and upon closer examination, these fears can be logically explained and dismissed.

While most people hold an outside circumstance or individual responsible for their fear, when analyzed deeper, we find that the real cause of our fear is wondering if we will be ok with our new circumstances. If I truly believe that I can survive the breakup of a relationship, then while I may prefer that it never occur, should the inevitable happen I am confident that I will survive and even emerge stronger. If I think I may lose my job due to downsizing but feel secure that God has something better planned for me, then I can rest easy knowing  unemployment is merely a crossover to a better life.

So the underlying cause of our worry is not in the set of circumstances themselves. It is the level of confidence we have in our own resourcefulness and determination. Therefore, the more one believes in their own competency, the less worry, fear, and anxiety they will experience and the greater their level of overall enjoyment in life. On a deeper level, fear is a lack of trust in God. When one fully knows that God is forever with us, providing all we need to face our current circumstance, that each challenge brings us to a deeper understanding of life and ourselves, accesses untapped strengths and internal resources, and strengthens our relationship with our Creator. Knowing this, we can live with confidence and in peace. 

Believe in  yourself. Believe in God. Draw upon Him for all of your strength and valor. Let go of fear. You are far more competent than you realize. You are already equipped to survive and thrive from whatever unexpected challenges life puts in your path. And with each unforeseen challenge, your relationship with your Creator will be taken to a deeper level and that is the greatest outcome of all. 

To order a copy of The Secret Side of Anger or The Great Truth visit

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

(Really Smart) Advice About Anger

One of my clients complained that her boyfriend had an annoying habit of constantly chewing gum. It drove her crazy! "Aside from that, he's perfect." she exclaimed. "But how do I get him to stop? He knows it bugs me yet he continues to do it. He says he's not doing anything wrong and then accuses me of nagging! Can you believe it? If I was doing something that bothered him, I'd stop because I love him. Why won't he do that for me?"

Oh goodness, I thought. She is not going to like what I have to say! But I had to be honest. That's my job. When someone else's behavior is problematic for us, we must first and foremost look within ourselves and ask the very tough question, "What is it about me that causes this behavior to be bothersome?" The behavior itself is not the problem. It is the way in which a person perceives and interprets it that causes the difficulty. In reality, problems only exist in the mind so in order for this to no longer present a challenge, my client needs to look within for the solution. Once she resolves her internal issues, his behavior will cease to upset her. 

Secondly, I reminded her that we have no right to ask or expect another person to change for us. With the exception of behavior that is illegal, immoral, or puts us at risk, people have a right to be who they are and to engage in activities that suit them. We must learn to either accept and appreciate who they are or politely exit the relationship, giving them the opportunity to be with someone more accommodating. 

Finally, I addressed her rationale that if he loved her he would change. This is a desperate attempt to shame him into conceding to her demands and to manipulate him in the hopes of getting what she is seeking. Her actions are self-serving, arrogant, unloving, and selfish. Authentic love supports and encourages the other party to freely express who they are, to live in a way that is comfortable for them, to feel safe enough within the relationship to be authentic without fear of criticism, ridicule, comparisons, or the need to change. Clearly, she does not fully grasp the concept of unconditional love.

Anger, annoyance, and disappointment result from unmet expectations. We all demand (whether explicitly or covertly) that others be a particular way, look a certain way or act in a precise manner that conforms to what we believe to be right or acceptable. When those expectations are not met, we become angry and inflict pressure on the other party to conform. Their resistance is often interpreted as defiant, uncooperative, rude, selfish, disrespectful or unloving when in fact it is more likely an attempt to maintain their personal integrity and authenticity. Learning to love means removing those demands that are petty and insignificant and choosing instead to be at peace with their uniqueness. The fewer demands we place on others the less anger we'll experience and the more freedom we'll have to truly enjoy their company. 

To order a copy of The Secret Side of Anger or The Great Truth visit

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Five Tips to Mediate a Dispute

I enjoy a good robust debate. I find it can be very stimulating and present an opportunity for me to learn something new. In every facet of life, we encounter individuals with whom we have disagreements. Recently, a woman in her forties came into my office seeking suggestions as to how she could best deal with her soon-to-be ex husband.  

"There's a ton of stuff we have to work out such as dividing up our assets, child support, visitation, and such. Every time we talk it ends up in a fight. I just can't take it anymore! He's impossible to deal with!" Been there, done that, I thought. However, my divorce more than three decades ago was relatively amicable. I made the decision the day he left that I would not allow it to get ugly, that I would not fight or argue with him, and that I would always treat him with respect. Even at such a young age, I had enough wisdom to know that fighting never works.

We all enter into negotiations with different agendas, points of view, different needs and wants, hope for a particular outcome, and concern for our own well-being. Very often there is a lack of trust in the other party that they care enough about us to consider our feelings and rights. We believe we must fight for what is rightfully ours. With fear as the foundation of our dispute, our approach is laden with trepidation and defensiveness.  Sensing our uneasiness, our opponent prepares to defend him/herself as well. This is a recipe for disaster.

Here are five steps you can implement to make the process proceed smoothly to a mutually satisfying conclusion.
1. Enter the negotiation with an open mind. Like a parachute, a closed mind is certain death. Both work best when open. Be willing to listen to and consider what the other person is saying.
2. Rather than listen simply to prepare a response, listen to better understand their position. Understanding leads to compassion and compassion allows for a more equitable settlement.  
3. Be fair and reasonable. Refrain from making outlandish demands. It damages your credibility as a rational individual.
4. Speak honestly and politely. Always make certain your heart is an active participant in any conversation.
5. Be willing and prepared to compromise. It assures the other party that on some level you respect their rights as well as your own. In the event future negotiations arise, they will be much more willing to cooperate, remembering how just you were originally. 

Whether you are involved in a divorce, a contractual dispute, or a simple disagreement with a friend, these five principles will ensure a shorter and smoother road to a resolution. That leaves plenty of time for more fun activities.

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