Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Anger and Self-Pity: The Shortest Road to Misery

I've never been one to feel sorry for myself.  When bad things would happen in my life I never asked "why me?" I would, instead, inquire "why not me?" I learned early-on that bad things happen in everyone's life and I was not exempt so I developed a mindset of quiet self-resignation - I simply accepted life's misfortunes.

It's easy to recognize those who wallow in self-pity.  They use phrases such as, "Why me?" "What did I do to deserve this?" "Nothing ever works out for me." They continually complain about life's unfairness, always viewing themselves as the victim. They compare themselves to others, struggle with jealousy, and focus largely on the negative. I have a client who buys lottery tickets each week but never a winning one. "If it wasn't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all", he complains. He fails to see that he has a great job and doesn't need the additional winnings provided by Powerball. Years ago I had a friend who was consumed with bitterness after her husband left her for a younger woman. Upon receiving her final divorce papers, she threw herself a "pity party", inviting all of her female friends for an evening of whining (with wine) and complaining. I politely declined. 

Pathetic Pity People (P3's, as I refer to them) are narcissistic drama queens who find it hard to recognize the good in their lives or to make light of their personal hardships. They crave attention and sympathy from others. Behaviors, if repeated frequently enough, can become habitual and feeling sorry for oneself is emotional quicksand - it can be psychological suicide. 

Is there hope that P3's can redeem themselves from this affliction? Absolutely! Awareness is the first key.
1. Take notice of the times when you feel sorry for yourself. Replace regretful thoughts with those of gratitude, regardless of how trivial they may seem.
2. Substitute the word "to" with "for": "Why is this happening to me?" becomes "Why is this happening for me?" To positions me as a victim; for as the recipient of a gift. A simple shift in perception changes the way one views themselves.
3. Engage in physical activity. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals naturally released by the brain that alleviate stress, anxiety, anger, sadness, self-pity, and such.
4. Utilize prayer and meditation as a preventative measure to ward off any negative thoughts. Read the Bible. Recite daily positive affirmations.
5. Ask yourself, "Do I want to be miserable or happy?" Since all feelings are generated by thoughts, choose the appropriate internal dialogue to create the emotions you want to experience. 
6. Seek the life lessons in each event. Find their purpose and value and apply them to improving the quality of your life.
7. Discover your purpose in life. Does self-pity support your life's mission or sabotage it? Know that your reason for being here is vital. Focus your energy in being as successful as possible in your endeavors.
8. Remember that you are a sacred child of God, loved beyond measure, blessed daily by the abundant grace of a loving Father. "Let not your heart be troubled." ~ John: 14 Ask God to make His presence known to you. It is impossible to feel sorry for yourself when you feel God's love.

As I got older I discovered the teachings of the Dalai Lama. One of his most profound quotes that impacted my life was, "There are no victims in life; only students." I realized that I was not a victim of injustices, favoritism, betrayals or my circumstances. On the contrary. Not only did I participate on some level with every circumstance that entered my life but each was here for my higher good. Much later on, I came to a deeper understanding that everything was, in fact, designed to bring me into a deeper more intimate relationship with God. How can one pity themselves when ultimately everything in life is a blessing? From loss, to abuse, to prejudice and even disease - all of life's events have the potential to assist us on our spiritual expedition if we choose to use them as such. Self-pity is a reinforced concrete wall that obstructs the beauties along our journey. It is the shortest road to misery. So traverse the longer road: with all of its bumps, unexpected twists, and detours is more the scenic route, one filled with exquisite encounters and pleasures, moving you ever closer to your Grand destination.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Your Two Greatest Weapons Against Anger

We all get angry. Lord knows, I've had my share of inappropriate tirades and years of pent-up anger as well. While anger is a vital part of the human experience, I'm not pleased with the times I'm blown things out of proportion, allowed others to push my buttons and elicit an unsightly response, silently seethe over things I was unhappy about, or choose unhealthy ways of trying to cope with my emotions. I wish someone had taught me about anger as a child what I finally learned in midlife. It would have prevented so much suffering for myself and those around me. 

How often have others told us to just get over it or to not let things bother us. Easier said than done, right? "But I can't help how I feel!" we whine. "I don't want to be angry - it just  happens. If people would stop making me angry or being so ignorant I wouldn't have this problem." Ah, yes, blame it on the other guy. That's certainly is empowering.  The moment we hold someone else accountable for how we feel (or behave) we are nothing more than puppets being manipulated by a master puppeteer.  Helpless and powerless (the very definitions of anger), we succumb to the role of victim. A victim experiences fear born out of powerlessness which is one of the root causes of anger. In essence, they create a vicious cycle of vulnerability, fear, anger, blame, and back to defenselessness again and again.
Is there a way out of anger? Indeed there is. In fact, each of us has two very powerful weapons available to us at all times that will combat our incense. The first is:

Intellect: Our ability to gather data, process it, understand, and rationalize the information. I can observe any situation, any circumstance, any individual's behavior and ask questions. What is happening, why is it occurring, how did it originate, who is involved, and what was each party's role in this event?  The what, why's, how's and who's are critical pieces of information that provide a deeper understanding and awareness of the issue at hand. Once acquired, our intellectual brains can process, sort out, categorize, and prioritize all pertinent material, discarding that which is irrelevant, misleading, or inaccurate. My logical self, my brain or thought process, then makes a determination as to how to view the situation, how to feel about it, whether or not to respond, and if so, how.

Free Will: One of our greatest assets is our ability to choose for ourselves. No one has the power or authority to make decisions for us. Of course, there are those who we may give permission to or those who try to pressure us but ultimately we opt for that which we believe to be the best or right determination. Unless one is under the influence of a mind-altering substance or is mentally incapable of managing their own life, we all have the ability to choose our own thoughts. I can choose to judge someone harshly or to be considerate; to criticize or praise them; to love or hate; to act or remain still. Once I choose my thoughts I accept the corresponding emotions attached to said thought. In that regard  I choose my own anger. 

Consider the following questions before engaging in anger:
Is this situation worthy of my anger? If so, how much and for what period of time? In what way will I express and/or use it - for destructive purposes or to benefit all those concerned? How much anger is sufficient or appropriate for these circumstances? Am I willing to relinquish my happiness, health, inner peace in order to feel irate? Will being angry benefit me and those around me or potentially cause harm?

Choosing not to be angry is as simple as entertaining a different thought. Our internal voice, what we say to ourselves in the quiet resources of our mind, is the most powerful tool we have. Combine that with the ability to intellectually process and rationalize information and you are armed with all you need to resist anger. So think carefully and choose wisely for your choices determine your levels of peace and happiness. 

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

7 Steps to Regret Free Decisions

We're all faced with making hundreds if not thousands of decisions each day. From choosing the time I get up to what I want to wear, whether I should have breakfast or not, how I'm going to spend my day, or what my attitude will look like - we make choices from morning till night that impact the quality of our life.  Some are pretty straight-forward and simple: Do I wear my blue suit or the grey one? Aside from the event I'm attending or the temperature, it may be a toss-up. However, other decisions carry greater significance: "I really need to have it out with my office manager today. I've taken more than enough crap from her for far too long." Deciding what to say, when to do so, and the manner in which to present yourself could seriously impact your employment with this company and/or the nature of your relationship with coworkers and management. You could potentially find yourself at the end of the unemployment line unable to sustain your independence or support your family. The long term and far reaching consequences could prove devastating not only for you but to those dependent on you as well.

In order to make more qualified decisions we often seek the counsel of those we know and respect: a family member, trusted friend or trained professional. Their input can significantly impact our course of action. However, all advice is tainted with personal beliefs, past experiences, unresolved issues, thought processes, and such. While we may gain some valuable insights and receive much needed reassurance, how can we be certain we are making rightful choices that won't lead us down a path of remorse and regret? 

In my latest book, The Great Truth, I advise individuals to go directly to the Infallible Source of all knowledge and perfect guidance: God. In order to make right decisions that are rendered proper and allow us to be at ease, we only need to know if what we are about to say or do will please God.* But how can one know for certain the answer to such an intangible inquiry?

One only need remember that God is Love and any love-based behavior is pleasing to Him. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before engaging in any activity: 

Is what I’m about to say or do kind?                                                                                        
Does it emanate from a place of love for all parties?                                                                                                                           
Is it based on truth rather than speculation, lies, jealousies or my own insecurities?                                                                                                                              Does it care about the well-being of all those concerned?                                                                                                       
Does it take into consideration the feelings and needs of the other parties?                                                                                         
Is it absolutely the best choice possible to make at this time?                                               
Will it achieve long lasting and far reaching benefits for all those concerned?
A resounding yes to each of these questions is a strong indication our decision will be favorable and pleasing to God and will yield long-lasting beneficial results for you and all those concerned.

"Love is patient, love is kind, Love does not insist on its own way.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails." ~ Corinthians 13:4-8

Making decisions needn't be an arduous task. When one chooses to live solely to please the Divine, right choices become clear and efforts undemanding.

*In The Great Truth, I got into great detail as to how one can fully know if an act will be pleasing to God or not. For the sake of this blog post, I have acquiesced to the abbreviated explanation. 

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How Your Anger Benefits Me

Your anger can actually benefit me. That sounds a bit ludicrous, wouldn't you agree? Anger hurts the one experiencing it but how can it possibly work to my advantage? If you become angry with me, I might feel upset, disrespected, scared, or angry in return. On a deeper level those emotions can prove to be insightful and so to that extent yes, I can benefit. But is there something more that can be gained by witnessing or being the target of another person's ire?

1. Loss of Control:

We make decision in one of two ways: either emotionally or intellectually. Emotions cloud rational judgment. When we become angry, we don't necessarily think things through clearly and sometimes say or do things that could potentially be counterproductive. Intellect allows us to rationally collect data, process it, and draw a logical conclusion. Much like medical personnel in a hospital, one must keep a clear head in order to effectively address the task at hand. To become emotional could prove catastrophic. Regarding anger: when the other party becomes highly emotional, I can more easily gain control over the situation simply by displaying composure and a clear mind. To those observing us, I appear to be more mature and coherent thereby garnering their respect and giving me greater authority. Should their anger become physical, legally I again have the upper hand as well and may chose to press charges.

One who is highly emotional is also more easily manipulated. Fear of not being heard or getting their way can easily result in their talking over the other party and/or not paying attention to the actions being taken and decisions being made until long after they have calmed down. By not listening to, understanding, or taking part in the decision-making process they relinquished their power and are at the mercy of the other party. Anger negates logic giving those who maintain their composure the upper hand.  When you lose control I can easily capture it.

2. Anger and the Innocent:

The way in which you  express your anger can reflect poorly on you. If you are bashing me, gossiping behind my back, making false accusations, criticizing, embarrassing, or humiliating me in front of others, there is a high probability that others will leap to my defense. I could easily be perceived as an innocent victim (regardless of any preceding circumstances or inappropriate behaviors on my part) evoking compassion or sympathy from others while relegating you to the unfavorable position of bully. I need only to sit quietly and maintain my image of innocence while allowing you to ruin your own reputation. 

2. Anger, Self-esteem, and Health:

Frustration (aka stress) is an underlying root cause of anger and a leading cause of health issues. Knowing that her husband has high blood pressure and is considered high risk for a heart attack, Karen broaches a highly controversial issue (remodeling the kitchen), knowing full well that when her husband becomes angry and upset, all she need do is remind him that should he become overly stressed he could easily suffer a heart attack. Therefore, it would be in his best interest if he simply conceded to her demands.

How easy is it to manipulate someone into being submissive using such statements as "You're out of control; there's something wrong with you; no one is taking you seriously; if anyone sees you acting like that they're going to think you're crazy." For one with a poor self-image, their anger can be their downfall, enabling the other person to manipulate them into full compliance. Add to that any potential health issues and the one at risk may easily back down.

3.  Anger - Purveyor of Truth

People often say things when they're angry that they would not normally say under agreeable conditions. They may reveal how they really feel about you or inform you as to what others are saying about you. As hurtful as this can be, it can be a blessing in disguise for it enables the receiving party to more deeply understand the nature of their relationship as well as give them some possible insights into themselves that they may not otherwise be aware of. This affords them the opportunity to work at improving their relationship with the other party and/or correct any (possible) unflattering behaviors.  

4. Covert Anger

Not all anger is obvious. Sometimes it presents itself under the guise of sarcasm, rejection, constructive criticism, silence and more. Repressed anger may reveal a dormant issue between both parties now coming to the forefront for discussion. Or perhaps the issue lies strictly within you, thus providing a window of opportunity with which to acknowledge, express, and potentially resolve it. Covert anger invites the individual to become acutely aware of passive or passive/aggressive anger within themselves or the party. In either case, one can now address the behavior and underlying issue, get it resolved, or  if necessary set clear and firm boundaries. 

Anger is one of the most powerful of all human emotions. If you choose to entertain it into your heart, at the very least, be your own beneficiary of your ire. Use it to motivate you to make positive changes that benefit you as well as those around you. In that way, your anger can be a gift to all who are present. And that's exactly what it's meant to do.

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