Wednesday, April 30, 2014

You Can Prevent Bad Things From Happening to You

In 1981, the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, was released. It chronicled Rabbi Harold Kushner's  journey of doubt and fear that arose when his three-year old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that would dramatically reduce the length of his life.  The following year, my marriage to my high school sweetheart abruptly ended, throwing me into a downward spiral of anguish, grief, fear, despair, and anger. In many ways, I felt deeply connected to the Rabbi.

While each of us faces our own life struggles, many people react to ostensible unfairness by querying, "Why me?" Even as a child, that question never entered my mind when things would go wrong. In fact, I always thought, "Why not me? Bad things happen to everyone. I'm not the privileged one, immune to life's injustices." (Well, I actually am but I don't want to sound arrogant. Just kidding!) As I grew spiritually, I found myself responding to these unexpected hardships with "Lord, what do you want me to do with this?" I discovered that each event appeared for a reason and that God wanted me to use it for a higher good. If I was able to decipher the meaning, then the pain and hardship I endured would make sense. It was sort of like eating vegetables when you were a kid: they tasted really bad but you knew they would make you grow up to be healthy. So you learned to eat them as fast as possible, swallowing them whole if you could, simply to avoid having them linger on your taste buds long enough to savor the full impact of their "veggi-ness". Whether vegetables or life, we rush to reach the other side of unpleasantness, eager to restore our sense of well-being and happiness.

As I continued my evolution to a higher level of spirituality, my understanding of life's injustice, unfairness, and hardships, and the inevitable suffering that accompanies them, also began to undergo a deep transformation. What I came to realize was that events are neither good nor bad - they simply are. It is only when we assign value to them that they acquire a positive (good) or negative (bad) position in our lives. It's like rain on your wedding day: one can complain that it ruined the most special day of their life or experience the exhilaration of Gene Kelly's infamous dance routine to "Singing in the Rain" and simply have fun with it. 

My husband customizes vehicles for the handicapped. One of his clients is a young man in his 20's. To the vast majority of people, being in an accident that causes one to become a quadriplegic is a bad thing. To this young man, however, it has been a God-send. "I was headed down a very dark path when I had my accident. The choices I was making would have lead to me being killed. This actually saved my life and I am grateful to be alive." 

I can prevent bad things from happening to me not by controlling life or by stopping any event  from occurring but rather by my choice of how I define and label my experience. Remember, events simply are. They have no particular worth other than what I assign them.

 Here are five "R" points to practice - Replace, Remove, Remain, Relabel, and Remember:

1. Replace the phrase "to me" with "for me". Things don't happen to you, they happen for you. Every experience is a gift if you allow it to be.
2. Remove all expectations of yourself, others, and of life. Allow each to unfold naturally, exactly as they are meant to, rather than trying to force them to fit your demands.
3. Remain unattached to people, possessions, and events. Be in this world, not of this world. Be an observer without judgment. Let "It is what it is" be your mantra.
4. Relabel the events in your life. They only have the value you assign them. Make certain each has a beneficial classification.
5. Remember that every experience is ultimately meant to bring you closer to God, to help you to know Him in a deeper more intimate way, to establish an unbreakable bond of oneness with the Divine. In this regard, each and every experience is a blessing.

Whether it's the loss of a loved one, the diagnosis of a life-altering medical condition, financial ruin, or anything else, pay close attention to the value that you assign each event. You alone determine their significance. When you choose to view each as a critical step in your spiritual journey to oneness with the Divine then situations will continue to happen but they will not longer wear the label of "bad". In essence, they will emerge as the blessings they were Divinely preordained to be. 

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

Listen to past shows on iHeart Radio @

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Joe Frasier's Got Nothing On Me (Reactive Anger)

I was an instructor at the Learning Annex in NY City for many years. Classes ended at 9 pm and the ride home was a long one. One evening, after teaching an anger management course for three hours, I pulled into my driveway around 11 pm, exhausted and anxious to crawl into bed. I pulled my car into the garage and from there entered directly into the great room at the back of the house. 

Suddenly, an ominous figure  jumped out from behind the sideboard with arms extended over his head making a loud terrifying sound. Instinctively, I let out a blood-curdling scream while simultaneously swinging with a right jab to his shoulder. My poor husband screeched in pain. "Why'd you hit me?" he asked. "I was just playing around."  Really, I thought to myself? You jump out at me in the dark and scare the bejeezus out of me and you expect what - that I would throw my arms around you and say "Hi honey, how was your day?"

Intellectually I know that Mac was only playing. His silly playful side is one of the things I most love about him. But in the dark of night, one does not anticipate being greeted by their spouse in such an unorthodox  manner. The initial fear (one of the root causes of anger) that surfaced in me elicited the basic fight or flight response. Had I been in a wide-opened area, my natural impulse would have been to run as fast as I could to get away from my perceived attacker. However, in this circumstance my only option was to protect myself through the use of physical force. 

When I was dating my abuser, his violence was generally predictable. It was preceded by his growing anxiety, aggressive body posture, and increasingly demeaning vocabulary. In most instances, I was able to remove myself from him before he became physically abusive. On these occasions, my first choice was to get as far away as quickly as possible.
Humans are created with an innate need to self-preserve. When a real or perceived threat occurs our natural response is to protect ourselves from potential harm. Whether verbal, physical or psychological our reaction is very often instinctive. We do not consciously take the time to rationally assess the situation, explore all possible solutions, and make a determination as to which one will be the optimum choice. Very often we have a knee-jerk response to fear and lash out with aggression. 

Have you ever been verbally attacked by a family member, friend or coworker and lashed out with a defensive retort? "If you don't get all of your reports completed on time, I'm going to have to let you go", your boss warns you sternly. Fear of being without employment compels you to shout back, "Your demands are insane! It's impossible for anyone to get all of their work done on time. No one here even likes you!" The rationale is that if I am more threatening than my opponent, they will back down and leave me alone. In that moment, I feel safe and at ease.   However, aggressive behavior, whether in the form of an attack or a response to one, is always rooted in fear and the outcome is rarely advantageous.

Rather than react to a situation, I recommend to my clients that they practice the SWaT Strategy*: Stop, Walk, and Talk. With the exception of a life or death situation, at the first sign that you are becoming agitated or upset, Stop what you are doing. Secondly, Walk away. Put some space between you and the other party. Thirdly, Talk  yourself calm. Your internal dialogue, what you say to  yourself, will either calm you down or cause your anger to escalate. Once calm, judiciously choose the best course of action - one that will benefit you as well as the other party and one that causes the least amount of distress to all concerned. 

We all know those individuals or circumstances that trigger our anger. Whenever possible, avoid them. If that's not feasible, plan ahead how you are going to respond to them. And if you're caught off-guard as I was, utilize SWaT (not literally beating someone up as I did to my poor husband): Stop, Walk, and Talk. Lucky for me, Mac's pretty easygoing and forgave me. Happily, we're still together. But had I been married to Joe Frasier - he would have been proud of me!

*From The Secret Side of Anger

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

Listen to past shows on iHeart Radio @

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Always Be Right and Win an Argument Every Time

Disagreements - those annoying irritations that throw a monkey wrench into our otherwise blissful lives and disrupt any possible chances we have of experiencing serenity and  joy. Augh! "Why can't people simply agree with me, even if they don't, and just allow us to coexist peacefully? But, no - regardless of how right I am there are some people who will disagree simply to aggravate me. I can never win an argument and that annoys me even more!" Sound like anyone you know?

Have you even given thought to the fact that the majority of issues we argue about are ridiculously insignificant?  Before I invest my time or energy into debating an issue, I ask myself, "Will this even matter in ten years?" If the answer is "no" I let it go.  However, there are times when a discussion is necessary. When you and the other party disagree, is it possible to always be right and win every time? Yes, actually it is.

Ordinarily, when two people disagree, they express their opposing perspectives with the sole intent of convincing the other party to have a change of heart. They do so by imparting a very strong argument supported with verifiable  facts and strong opinions. They are steadfast upon proving the other party wrong, allowing them to speak only to the degree to which they are not perceived as being rude. So unwavering are they that they will not rest until their mission is complete, even if it means continuing the discussion at another time or calling in reinforcements. Ego overrides humanity in an epic battle to the bitter end. 

In my seventeen years of being married to "Mr. Right", I've learned that there is a way to always be right and to win an argument every time. Let me share with you my little secret:

At the outset, consider the following:

1. Give the other party ample time to present their point of view.                                           2. Make certain that they feel heard, understood, and validated even if you don't share their position. Never criticize or belittle them.                                                                                                                                                       3. Be certain to always treat them with dignity and respect.                                                                                                                                   4. A key ingredient to resolving one's differences is in making certain both parties needs are met, on some level, in some way, and within a reasonable period of time. Satisfy theirs before your own. 

"OK", you say, "I did that but they still don't agree with me. So, in essence I didn't win the argument at all!" (Patience, grasshopper. There is more.) 


Erroneously, we concern ourselves more with being right about issues than about being right. (What, you ask?) When you do what is right, (what is in accordance with Divine Law - such as treating others with consideration and kindness) you are right -in God's eyes. You cannot be wrong because you are extending Divine Love to your brother. When you treat others in a loving manner you garner their respect and trust. They appreciate your concern for their well-being and are very likely to reciprocate in a like manner. They become more cooperative and willing to see your point (and in some cases, even find common ground that you both agree on). You have solidified your reputation of being someone who is trustworthy, understanding, caring, and fair-minded. When you are right (with God and your former opponent), you have won trust, respect, loyalty, cooperation, self-respect, and favor with the Lord. And you have won an ally for life. Seems to me like that makes you a winner on every level. 

Do not concern yourself with being right. Care instead about doing what is right and you will, ironically, be right. Furthermore, do not obsess with winning the issue. Seek instead to win an ally.  But more importantly, you will win God's favor as well. 

Bonus Q and A

A. Love                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Q. It doesn't matter. The answer is always "Love".

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

Listen to past shows on iHeart Radio @