Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Six Steps to Rebuilding a Broken Trust

Have you ever disappointed someone or broken a promise? Was the incident serious enough to ultimately compromise the trust between you? We all have been untrustworthy at some point. That doesn't mean that we're bad or selfish. Sometimes, even under the best of circumstances, we let people down. We give them information believing it to be true only to discover it lacked integrity. "You lied to me! I'll never trust you again!" 

There are some who will deliberately mislead others. While they reassure you they are trustworthy their actions contradict their words. Politicians are notorious for this. They make campaign promises knowing full well they will not follow through once elected.

We've also been deceived by those we believed in. "I promise if you tell me about your brother-in-law's affair I won't say a word to anyone. You can trust me." "I promise to love and honor you through good times and bad all the days of our lives." (That one hits home for a lot of us doesn't it?) Or perhaps a coworker steals your idea and receives company recognition rightly belonging to you. Your underage child assures you that there will be no alcohol at Saturday's party then stumbles home at 2 am reeking of beer. A minor infraction ("I know I promised to be at your retirement dinner but I totally forgot it was this weekend.") may be easily overlooked. One of a more serious nature ("I can't pay back the money  you loaned me to buy a new car.") might require more than a simple "Opps, sorry!" to move beyond. A damaged trust can completely destroy an important relationship. 

There is a strong connection between trust and anger. My definition of fear is "a lack of trust". We are leery of those we find unreliable. "I have to watch what I say around Uncle Joe. He can get nasty and volatile." We may feel as though we are walking on eggshells around those we are suspect of. This anxiety (a mild form of fear - one of the three root causes of anger) can easily convert to anger as a means of self-protection. 

Some believe that once broken a trust can never be rebuilt. I'm not one of those people. I've personally regained my faith in someone who deeply deceived me and restored a wonderful relationship with him that continues today. I've also witnessed couples rebuild their fractured marriages after a painful infidelity. But unlike respect, trust must be earned. Like many others I've learned the hard way that not all people are deserving of trust. But there are specific steps one can take to restore a broken relationship:

1. Consider the true nature and moral values of the offending party. Was this an isolated incident or a habitual pattern of behavior? Even the most astute people sometimes act imprudently.

2. Has the offending party acknowledged their mistake? Awareness is the first key necessary for any restoration to occur.

3. Have they offered a sincere apology and displayed a willingness to make amends or restitution? Saying "I'm sorry" is only the first phase. One needs to take the necessary steps to rectify the offense.

4. Does the individual fully understand the underlying issues that precluded their actions? By doing so, they are better equipped to prevent a reoccurrence.

5. Have they been willing to see the situation through your eyes? Do they fully understand the depth and scope of how this has affected you? Do they "get it"? Empathy and compassion  lessens the risk of a reoccurrence.

6. Have they made the necessary changes and proven themselves to be consistent? Words are cheap; actions reveal. Only through repeated uniform acts can one prove they are reliable and worthy of your trust.

If all of the above components are present then individuals can move beyond the unfortunate incident and ultimately repair and rebuild the relationship. Like a broken bone: the area of the fracture, once healed, is stronger than that which has always remained intact. 

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dealing With Insults Effectively

My husband is brutal: he teases and torments me unmercifully. But I'm just as bad. From the moment we wake up until we crawl exhausted into bed at the end of the day, we are constantly harassing one another. In fact, the first words out of his mouth as he opens his eyes at 5 am are "Are you annoying me yet?" To which I respond, "I can begin whenever you want." Or perhaps I'm feeling more considerate at that moment: "I'm trying really hard not to but it's not working."  If, later in the day, he asks why I'm being so irritating I simply reply, "Because you make it so easy for me!" Then we both have a good laugh. It doesn't matter how many times we repeat this exact scenario, we still find it hilarious. We know each others funny bones intimately and are well aware of what each person is comfortable with in terms of teasing as well as what crosses the line. I can tell simply by his body language if I've gone to far. It may be that I've touched upon something sensitive or perhaps he's simply not in the playful zone at that moment. Either way, I immediately acknowledge my lack of sensitivity and apologize. He, like each of us, decides what is and isn't amusing to him or when something, once taken in jest, has lost its lighthearted component. 

But how can one know if a cutting remark is playful banter or a biting insult? There are a few key elements that distinguish the two. To insult is "to treat with indignity or contempt; to injure  or offend; rude" - powerful words all indicative of disrespect with an attempt to harm. Good natured, witty, and joking are words used to define banter, quite a contrast from a verbal slur. In addition to one's choice of words, intent is critical in determining whether a comment is impudent or witty. Your best friend may refer to you as crazy. Insult or banter? If that term suggests that you are mentally imbalanced and possibly dangerous you would probably take offense. However, if she was referring to your unpredictable, free-spirited, and fun-filled behavior you may very well delight in her assessment.

Prior to engaging in playful banter, consider the following:
  • Know person's level and style of humor before making any remarks.
  • Pay careful attention to your motive: is it playful, light-hearted; intended to make the other person laugh?
  • Avoid sensitive topics or anything that may be perceived as offensive or impolite.
  • Be certain the individual is in a jovial mood.
  • Check your sarcasm  at the door. Sarcasm is not humor - it is passive/aggressive anger.
The following characterize insulting behavior:
  • You seek to get reaction out of other party, to exert power and control over their feelings and actions; symptomatic of bullying behavior.
  • Your comments are embarrassing, humiliating, hurting or causing discomfort to the intended party.
  • Your comments are unkind, disrespectful, negative, and serve no productive purpose.
If in fact, you are subjected to derogatory statements, take positive action:
  • First and foremost, seek to understand why their comments bother you. This experience can truly be an enlightening moment if you allow it to be.  Ask yourself, "What within me needs to heal?"
  • Speak up, be assertive. Inform the other person that you do not care for what they are saying to or about  you. Set and enforce firm and reasonable boundaries.
  • Remove yourself from the individual or situation. Re evaluate if it is in your best interest to continue having a relationship with them and if so, to what extent.
  • Remember, their comments are not reflective of you but rather are a portal to their issues. Forgive them for their insensitive remarks. 
Conversation needn't be stuffy or restricted. One can speak openly and honestly to others even concerning sensitive issues. But when words hurt, we need to take a step back, re examine ourselves, consider the motives behind such statements, and choose how we interpret and respond to them. Words can fill our souls with joy and laughter or rip our hearts to pieces. So choose them wisely for once spoken they can never be retracted. And the effects can be long-lasting.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

You're Right (or not) to Be Angry

Don't you hate it when someone tells you not to be angry? People seem to think that they know best how we should or shouldn't feel. I was on the phone recently with a friend who needed to tell me something sensitive and prefaced it with "Now don't get mad at me for telling you this." So I responded (tongue-in-cheek) with, "Well then, who can I be upset with if I don't like what I'm hearing? Give me a name so I won't accidentally take it out on you." 

Very often, when others tell us how to feel or not feel, it's because our emotions make them uncomfortable. If you are distressed, it may cause them sadness; if their spouse is angry they may worry that he/she might hurt or leave them.  If I tell you not to be angry it may be because I feel pain when I see you upset. Then, too, I may worry that your anger may cause you to behave in a manner that is detrimental to your safety or well-being. If you get mad enough, will you take it out on another person - either verbally or physically? Will your anger lead to medical issues such as high blood pressure, headaches, ulcers or worse? Your well-being is a concern for me. My comments are a portal to what is occurring deep within me and are not necessarily about you per se. 

Then, of course, there are those who become indignant regarding your rage. "Don't you dare be angry with me! This was all your fault!" "You have no right to be angry with me - not after all I've done for you!" These demands may be means for deflection: the individual may not want to take responsibility for their actions and attempts to manipulate you with accusatory, humiliating or shaming statements. 

It is imperative, too, that you always consider the consequences of your ire. While anger is normal and useful, it  is a very powerful emotion that has the potential to cause significant harm if channeled incorrectly. Likewise, it can generate a world of good when harnessed in a positive manner. 

I was trained from early childhood not to get mad. "Don't be angry. It's a sin." "People won't like you if you're angry." So I learned to suppress and even deny my true feelings. I've since learned that emotions, all of them - even anger - are useful and serve a purpose. They function as messengers of our wounded selves and beg the question, "What needs to heal in me?" None are bad or wrong. However, it is the way in which we choose to express and use them that determine their value. Keep in mind: you have certain rights and "not" rights in this matter:

Your Rights
                ~ You have a right to whatever emotion you are choose to experience. No one has a right to tell you how to feel at any time ever.
                ~ You have a right to express your anger with the appropriate party(s) in a respectful and proper manner.
                ~ You have a right to protect yourself from someone else's improper, unacceptable, unkind or rude comments or behaviors.
                ~ You have a right to heal your anger and live in joy.

Your "Not" Rights:
                ~ You have no right to ever use your incense in a hurtful or destructive way, either against someone else or yourself, or to damage personal property. In that same regard, you don't have a right to hold on to or suppress it either as that can be harmful to your physical as well as your emotional well-being.
                ~ You have no right to tell others how to feel or not feel. 

There you have it: the have's and have not's. But the real query is not "Do I have a right to be angry?" The real question becomes "Does being angry serve me and those around me well?" Is anger truly what you want to feel? Would you rather experience joy or happiness, stillness or peace, enthusiasm or hope? The human mind can only process one emotion at a time so carefully choose the one that serves you best. In that regard you have every right. 

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Let Go (My) Ego: the Connection Between Ego and Anger

While in college back in the 60's, I majored in psychology. While it was not my eventual degree, I continued to find it a fascinating subject even decades later. I remember during one of my classes the professor stated that there were only two emotions: love and fear. I found that difficult to comprehend at age nineteen as I was certain I had experienced far more than just two feelings during the my life. Over the years, I've frequently reconsidered this concept as I gradually began to understand its veracity.  In fact, the more I studied and understood spirituality the more I was able to grasp this idea. 

In recent years there seems to be a growing debate between the role of ego in our lives vs the function of spirit. In its most simplified form, (according to Dr. Sigmund Freud), the ego is that part of our psychic energy that seeks to satisfy our basic urges, needs, and desires whether life-sustaining or frivolous. When a need is not satisfied, (me speaking again) we experience tension, agitation, and anger. In The Secret Side of Anger, I define anger as the direct result of unmet needs and expectations. Ego identifies itself as separate and apart from others, protecting itself from its perceived lack of resources, a sense of  unfairness or injustice, or a threat (whether physical, verbal or psychological). "I must safeguard myself from those who seek to harm me; I must take what is rightfully mine before someone else claims it; I am entitled to, deserving of, should have what I want; this belongs to me." Each of these statements affirms a fear-based mindset. Ego's motto? Obtain - Secure - Protect from the (apparent) enemy.

On the flip-side of ego is spirit: our life force, the very essence of who we are - spiritual beings  temporarily encased in physical form seeking to fulfill Divine Intention. Spirit is the extension of the Divine, longing to express its authentic self in every word and action. Spirit has no desire or need for possessions, status or recognition such as does ego. It is Absolute Love whose "soul" purpose is to love; not to be loved but only to offer love. Rather than deprivation and lack, spirit recognizes the infinite blessings God has graciously bestowed upon us knowing that all needs are provided by Father and distributed equitably among His children. Spirit identifies it's oneness with all Creation - no division, only unity and concern for all. Born from the Divine, spirit possesses like qualities of its Creator: compassion, kindness, understanding, fairness, justice, forgiveness, stillness, and harmony. Anger and fear cannot survive where God's peace resides.

On a human level, ego is necessary for our survival. Were we not concerned about our well being, our need for food and water, safety from our enemies and/or nature's threatening elements our physical bodies could be at risk for harm and possible death. The key is being acutely aware of ego's influence for without proper restraint it has a tendency to become demanding, haughty, rude, arrogant, envious, hostile, and aggressive - all fear-based behaviors. 

Spirit, on the other hand, has no agenda or capabilities other than to love. Period.

So the question is: Love or Fear? Spirit or Ego? Love engenders peace. Ego resides in fear (a root cause of anger). Do you desire less anger? Then transition away from ego and dwell in Spirit. It is your  undeniable essence.

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