Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Healthy Anger

Anger is one of the most powerful yet misunderstood emotions we experience. On the one hand, it has become a form of entertainment on TV, video games, social media, and Youtube. Housewives from states across the nation screaming at one another and flipping tables are cheered on each week by millions. Amateur cell phone videos of physical altercations posted on Youtube receive tens of millions of hits world-wide. This misunderstood emotion has become a global phenomenon, a form of entertainment. Yet in real life, it continues to carry a social stigma. It is prohibited in the workplace and can cost an employee his or her job. In domestic situations, physically expressed anger can land a person in jail. Out of control, it can kill. 

A common misconception about anger is that it is inherently bad. However, anger itself is not an issue. All emotions have purpose and value. I learn much about myself based on how I feel in or about any given situation. Anger enables me to discern what truly matters to me as opposed to what I consider insignificant; or to identify personal issues I still need to address and heal. Emotions even reveal how I feel about myself. It is the expression of those feelings and/or how I use them that determines whether or not they are beneficial or destructive to myself and those around me. 

The FILD Test is a simple way to gauge when anger is an issue: 

1.Frequent: is your anger chronic? Do you become upset quickly and easily? Do you have a short fuse or quick temper? Do relatively small issues bother you? Are others telling you that you have anger issues?
2. Intense: does your anger run deep? Are you easily enraged rather than mildly annoyed? On a scale of one to ten (ten being off-the-charts angry) where do you typically function?
3. Lasting: do you have difficulty letting go of your anger? Do you allow it to fester long after the incident has occurred? Do you replay it over and over again in your mind? Is forgiveness difficult elusive?
4. Destructive: is your anger hurting yourself or others? Do you lash out at others, punish yourself, or damage personal property when you're upset? Do the consequences for your actions make your life more difficult and/or cause feelings of remorse? Has your anger alienated others or caused you to get in trouble with the law?

If any or all of the above apply then anger is creating an issue in your life. However, I'm not recommending that you eliminate it from your emotional cache completely. Instead, try  the following suggestions to ensure that it is utilized in a healthy and productive manner.

Consider the LEFC Approach: Listen; Express; Forgive: Change

1. Listen to your anger. It is a messenger of great importance. What is it here to reveal to you? Seek to understand it before expressing it. Ask yourself, "Why did I respond so intensely in this situation? Are there deeper issues I'm not aware of that need my attention and healing? Is this issue even worthy of my indignation?"
2. Respectfully Express how you feel to the appropriate party. (The optimum word being respectfully.) Give yourself enough time to calm down and cool off before doing so. Carefully craft your comments before speaking, picking and choosing the precise words and tone to accurately convey how you feel. Always consider how your words will sound to those listening and how they may possibly affect them.
3. Forgive those who have hurt or offended you. Be less judgmental and more compassionate of others. Everyone is struggling with something and our challenges often express themselves in the most unfortunate way. Set boundaries in your relationships whenever necessary.
4. Seek Change. Use your anger to motivate you to make constructive changes in your life or in the lives of others. In doing so, you can channel your time and energy into something beneficial rather than destructive. 

Anger is a very necessary and useful emotion. After all, even Jesus experienced anger at the injustices He witnessed. But He never misused it to cause harm to Himself or those around Him. I spent three years in a domestic violence relationship. Only when I became angry enough at my abuser for the pain he was subjecting me to did I channel my energy into ending the relationship. In this way I protected myself from certain death and rebuilt the amazing life I now enjoy. Additionally, I've been able to share my awareness of this powerful emotion with people world-wide and provide them with the understanding and tools they need to heal their pain and rediscover the peace God intended for them. All-in-all, my anger, properly channeled, has benefitted not only myself but millions of others. Now that's a productive use of energy.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The 15 Minute Conflict Resolution Solution

I abhor arguing. It's a waste of precious time and energy and robs me of my serenity. Conflict, however, is horse of another color. Conflict occurs daily in each of our lives. It simply means that there is a disagreement, a difference of opinion. My husband and I engage in disputes on a regular basis yet interestingly enough have had fewer than five arguments in our eighteen year marriage. Unlike popular opinion, conflict is not synonymous with fighting. I'm willing to engage in a discussion but will never allow it to escalate into a battle. Let me explain by first clarifying the words I'm referring to: conflict is two opposing forces; to argue is to give reason for or against something, to prove or try to prove  (this often entails the need to be right); fighting seeks to gain authority over another by way of struggle, a hostile encounter between two parties.

Let's take a closer look at each. Two people, each with a different set of beliefs, preferences, needs, or goals enter into a conversation: a wife dreams of traveling around the world while her husband wants to settle down and have a family - conflict. One person is raised Christian, another Jew, and yet another with no beliefs in a higher power form a friendship and share their beliefs - conflict. Conflict even occurs in nature: a sun shower, salmon swimming upstream to lay their eggs, a collision of warm air with a cold front. The difference between human discord and natural divergence is that in nature there is no ego to complicate matters. Humans have an inherent need to be right, to win in order to feel good about themselves, to raise their sense of worth. Nature on the other hand simply allows differences to occur and works within the context of its ever changing circumstances. 

Yet when two creatures of the human species disagree ego wages war on the so-called offending party, prepared to prove it's superiority and claim victory over its opponent. What begins as a simple disagreement quickly rivals The War of the Roses. 

But there is an alternative. Many disagreements can be readily resolved in a matter of minutes by adhering to the following fifteen minute protocol:

1. Allow each party sixty seconds (that's right: one measly minute) to state their position. This prevents the dialogue from becoming contaminated with blame and excuses or veering off track. Total time: two minutes.

2. Each party is allotted thirty seconds to state their desired outcome, what they would ideally like to see happen. Total time: one minute.

3. Both parties must contribute a minimum of three possible solutions. This allows for six potentially workable resolutions. Each person is permitted three minutes. Total time: six minutes.

4. Together, extract the best components of each suggestion and determine which elements can successfully be incorporated into the final solution. Tweak if necessary. Total time: six minutes.

Approximately 13% of the total time focuses on the challenging situation leaving a whopping 87% to finding a workable and mutually satisfying remedy. 

The advantages of a Fifteen Minute Conflict Resolution Solution is that by moving the process along quickly one dramatically reduces the chances that the situation will escalate into an argument or fight. The mind must remain focused on finding a solution rather than concerning itself with being right. Time is of the essence and one cannot afford to become distracted by ego. Putting this issue to rest allows both sides to move forward to the more enjoyable aspects of living. Short and sweet = complete. Pretty cool, don't you agree?

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Healing Anger With Help From Beyond

I was truly blessed: when my first husband and I married I acquired a second set of parents. I could not have loved "Bob" and "Mary" more and their fondness for me was generously reciprocated. For the eighteen years I was with their son, we were family. However, my husband's decision to end our marriage radically changed that. The love they felt for me vanished instantaneously. The praise once given so freely was replaced with venomous declarations of contempt and fabricated lies construed to discredit me as a person and mother. A betrayal of this magnitude was intensely heartbreaking. But in order to move on one must accept that which they cannot change. Still, the pain lingered.

Twenty years passed when I received a tragic phone call that Bob had died suddenly. I felt compelled to pay my last respects but was instructed not to attend his wake. An unexpected flood of emotions rocked my soul as tears freely cascaded down my cheeks. The disdain he felt for me, the hurt I held onto over his betrayal, the sadness that our lives took separate paths left me unprepared for the upheaval of emotions I was called upon to address. After all, our relationship had died decades ago. Still, I mourned deeply for the man who once embraced me as his own. 

For two weeks I was unable to free myself from the deep and real sadness that shadowed my heart when quite unexpectedly, a most enigmatic incident occurred: Bob appeared to me in a visitation. He looked radiant - a brilliant white light framed his silhouette. His sparkling eyes, affixed on mine, complimented the luminous smile that caressed his face. He moved effortlessly towards me, arms outstretched. As we entered each others space he wrapped his arms around me in a loving embrace. And as our hearts converged, I knew emphatically that our love remained forever intact. All anger, bitterness, pain, sadness, and judgment vanished instantly and what lingered was a pure and perfect love germane only in the spiritual dimension.  

I have had other visitation since then, most noticeably from my dad who journeyed home in 2009. What I know for certain is this: the painful emotions that cause havoc in our physical lives are relevant only to the human experience. All that exists after our return to Father is pure love.  Everything else dissolves into nothingness.

How can spirit assist us in healing our anger? Here are some suggestions:

1. If you can't take it with you when you leave the physical world, don't hold on to it now. Hopefully, I'll be moving in a few years to a new location. I look at all of the "stuff" I've accumulated over the years. In helping me decide what to take with me and what to get rid of, I ask myself, "Am I willing to pack it up, pay a mover, and unpack this item in my new house?" If the answer is "no" then it has no significant value and I need to unload it now. Emotions serve as valuable messengers: extract the meaning and apply the lesson. The rest is unnecessary baggage.
2. People, all people including you and I, act out what they're struggling with. An angry person is actually hurting, worried (afraid), or stressed (frustrated). Few understand this about anger and inadvertently take it out on others. Help them identify the root cause and work on healing it. Remain emotionally neutral when interacting with them, expressing only compassion and patience.
3. If you look at the history of an abuser there is a very high probability that they have been abused in their past. Abuse is a vicious cycle based in issues of control (all fear induced). Remove all judgments and labels. Forgive them for the pain they have imposed on you. This will allow you to experience the peace that is Spirit.
4. Spirit genuinely cares about those of us still in the physical world and is eager to assist us in our daily challenges. Call upon them and heed their guidance. Let them be the example of fully embracing the life we were created to live, free of pain and suffering.

Remember, healing can occur at any life stage, even when one crosses over. So why wait? Why not avail yourself of a peace-filled life at this very moment? The choice is yours. So-called bad things enter every individual's life. You can personalize and take offense to every infraction or welcome them as necessary stepping stones in your spiritual evolution. 

Waste not a single precious moment of this life consumed with potentially harmful emotions. Find that healing in your heart now. Have faith; be at peace; "Let not your heart be troubled."

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fear or Faith; Anger or Peace?

When I was a child my dad would take all of us for a "Sunday drive".  Mom, my sisters, and I  would pile into his 1950's Chevy sedan with the green vinyl seat covers and off we'd go. I never knew where he was taking us or when we would arrive home. But two things I knew for sure: Dad would always keep us safe on our mysterious adventure and we would have fun. I completely trusted my father. When I became old enough to venture out on my own, I was not as calm and relaxed. Although I was a responsible driver, I would become mildly anxious as I envisioned everything that could possibly go wrong.  Seems I had more faith when I was with my father than when I was on my own. 

Why do we worry? One of mankind's primary fears is that of the unknown but not for the reasons most imagine. It is not the uncertainty that we fear but rather how it will impact us. If I win an all expense paid vacation to a secret destination, I do not concern myself as to the location or nature of the trip if, in fact, I trust that those who planned it have my best interest at heart. If I believe emphatically that I will be fine and have a wonderful time, then the excitement and anticipation of my impending trip is exhilarating. Only when I doubt the motives or capabilities of those planning this excursion do I begin to worry. "What if the place is a dive? What if it's dangerous?" For many there is a profound need to be able see and touch, to have tangible proof of the situation, in order to feel relaxed. Science relies on concrete evidence to alleviate doubt and create assurance. Faith, on the other hand, trusts in that which cannot be seen or touched. It is an inner knowing, a sense, an instinct (even when we do not fully understand) that guides us through life. 

Fear erodes our sense of well-being and serenity. It's also one of the root causes of anger. Faith, on the other hand, creates a sense of peace and tranquility, knowing there is more to our existence than what can be visually seen or physically felt. Science can often predict what will occur and sometimes prevent it based on relevant physical facts. Faith relies on the knowing that everything that occurs has purpose and value; that whatever is needed will be provided by our benevolent Creator; that even when life escorts you down a different path than you planned, you are fully equipped to successfully and meaningfully navigate your way through and beyond. A tiny seed finds itself buried in the Earth's darkness yet it does not worry for it instinctively trusts that Nature has a plan for it. In its most fundamental state it relies on a higher power to shepherd it to its intended purpose. 

Recently I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Deepak Chopra on television. He spoke of peak experiences, those instances when a deeper truth is revealed to us, something Oprah used to refer to as an "a-ha moment". It is in these Divine Inspirations that an issue is brought into the light, the veil of doubt is removed, and uncertainty dissipates. In an instant, our lives are forever changed as clarity and awareness expose Universal Truth that permeates our minds with a sacred peace.

Those who live in fear run the risk of angry episodes that put their health at risk, damage their relationships, jeopardize their jobs, and sabotage their happiness. Faith is the antidote to fear - trusting that God is fully aware of every situation that enters our lives and if necessary will either shield us from it or provide the resources we need to negotiate our way through. 

Just as a child draws comfort and strength from their human parent, so do we acquire our security in our Heavenly Father who always and only has our best interest at heart. Only when we lose faith do fear and anxiety prosper. 

Fear and Anger or Faith and Peace? The choice is yours. As for myself, I choose God every time.
Mark 11:22 "And Jesus said to them, 'Have faith in God.'"

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