Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Just Say "No" To Drama

It seems as though one cannot make it through an entire day without drama popping up somewhere. Whether at work, in the news, or within our own homes, we are constantly surrounded with chaos and crisis. While some seem to thrive on it, others avoid it like the plague. Not all drama is harmful. Like stress, it can be an opportunity to develop problem solving skills that will also help us in other areas of our life. And it can motivate us to take a closer look at its source and make any necessary changes that benefit us and those around us.

Life is very much like the theater: there are dramas, mysteries, musicals, and comedies. You are the writer, producer, director, and actor of your own production who chooses what genre you live in and the nature of the script. You also choose which productions to purchase tickets for should the play be that of another play write. You are not required to attend or perform in the innovative work of any other person. If invited, you can always decline using the standard excuse, "I'm so sorry but I have other plans that evening."

Chaos gives the illusion of power as those who initiate or engage it in can at times evoke certain responses from the other actors. For some, this behavior is considered the norm as it has been present in their lives since the get go. Others assign themselves the role of victim to those who are stirring up drama.  It is a behavior that, like drugs and alcohol, can become addictive. Severe or extended crises  can damage one's health, relationships, and overall quality of life. 

How does one remove or reduce chaotic behavior?
1. Know when to mind your own business, stay focused on your own life and work on your own issues. Be firm with your decision not to engage in other people's drama.
2. Keep everything in perspective. Not every event needs to be classified a crisis.
3. Offer assistance on important issues if necessary and you are so inclined to do so. Remain positive and hopeful. Help others to see things from a positive perspective.
4. Set conditions for your involvement such as what you are willing offer, how much/long/to what extent you will do so, and what is expected of the other party as well.
5. Know when it's time to withdraw and walk away without guilt or regret. 

Like a great theatrical writer, carefully determine the genre of your life:
                Choose comedy first, infusing generous doses of laughter and fun.
                Introduce a little mystery, seeing life as a an adventure to discover, an enigma to unfold, a riddle to be solved.
                Blend in a musical component: fill your play with beautiful music and song. Sing and dance with passion  -  it's good for the body and soul.
                When necessary, prudently infuse a hint of drama, careful not to contaminate the overall substance of your production.  

Inviting drama and chaos into your life drowns out any hope for inner peace. You were created to live peacefully and joyfully. So chose the content of your life carefully for you are the writer of your own destiny.
“Each one has to find his peace from within. And for peace to be real it must be unaffected by outside circumstances.” Ghandi
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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Twisted Tongue: When Others Manipulate Your Words

Effectively communicating with others can present enough challenges without the added issue of one who twists and distorts your words. Below is a transcript of a recent conversation I had with someone (who refers to himself as a member of the black race) on facebook. He posted the controversial  chant "Black Lives Matter" in an attempt to garner support against the recent shootings of black men by white cops.(My posts are preceded by the initials JP.)

JP: Perhaps someone should inform the "black" community that their lives matter since black on black crime kills more blacks than any other. They need to start valuing themselves.

MS: If you believe that authority has the right to commit indiscriminate genocide on one race of USA citizens, may they start doing so on Caucasians, too.

JP: please DO NOT put words in my mouth or make ridiculous assumptions. NO WHERE in my post did I even elude to such nonsense. I am dealing with statistics that show the ratio of black on black killings vs other so-called races. (FYI: I do not buy into the man-made concept of race. There is only ONE race, the Human race and to perpetuate the myth only perpetuates racism.) How about we all just start valuing ALL life and leave it at that?

MS: Your blindness and deafness are not solving a thing. In fact, you are contributing to the problem.

JP: I'm not the one promoting racism, I promote equal value and equal rights for all humanity. THAT is the solution to the problem.

At no point did I even remotely suggest that anyone has a right to commit genocide on any other human being. Even my sincere attempt to clarify my original statement failed as is evident in MS's response that I am blind, deaf, and a contributor to this specific atrocity against humanity. When another person added a post in support of MS, once again distorting my words, I respectfully bowed out of further dialogue. 

Whether on social media, through text messages, or face-to-face conversation, we've all been subjected to those who twist and distort our words. In some instances, we ourselves are the guilty party. Let's take a closer look at what happens, why, and how we can best handle ourselves in such situations. 

What happens

Omission of keys words: "Excessive wealth is sinful" becomes "Wealth is sinful" to one arguing against the upper class with one who supports free enterprise.

Misinterpreted statements: A wife states, "I'm not buying any more junk food for this house" is angered by her husband who claims she's prohibiting him from consuming any more snacks.

Fabrications and Exaggerations: Others may exaggerate what the other party is saying or completely fabricate new words. An example regarding abortion: one who is "pro-life" is misrepresented as "anti-women" by those who favor abortion. The opponent of a  politician advocating cutting back on Medicaid to save the program funds a campaign accusing them of not caring about the poorest of the population. 

Why it happens

People are passionate about certain subjects and are uncomfortable with opposing views. To even consider another's perspective puts them at risk of realizing their position may not be as accurate as they previously believed. Those with insecurities cannot accept admitting they were mistaken or that the other person's argument holds more truth than theirs. In that regard, they will seek to discredit the other party using some of the above mentioned strategies, try to make them look foolish or prove they're "wrong". They will only accept "proof" that supports their beliefs and continue to validate their level of intelligence, and will attempt to frustrate and incite the other enough to cause them to back off, thus creating the illusion of "winning".

How to handle "tongue twisters"

Be confident in your position.

Be crystal clear in how you present your beliefs. Repeat or clarify only once.

Recognize and do not allow yourself to be intimidated by their manipulative tactics.

Accept and acknowledge their position as well even if you don't understand or agree with it.

Refrain from trying to prove that you're right and they're wrong.

Allow the other party to maintain their dignity. Always be respectful when conversing with them. Be fair and firm.

Key: Know when to walk away and disengage. One cannot have a meaningful discussion with a closed and fearful mind.

And lastly, although it must always be first and foremost: look within yourself and recognize when you are distorting the words or message of the other party. Remember, as Ghandi said, "I must first be the change I want to see in others."

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

3 Keys to Anger-Free Life

Have you been upset about an issue that seems to make no sense and asked yourself, "Why  did I get so angry over something that was relatively minor?" Oftentimes, our response is triggered not by the present issue but from an alternative source. Odd as it may seem, the past and future can hold the keys to why we are angry. It is the discovery of these secrets that can enable us to live an anger-free life. Let's take a look at each one:

The Past:
Many people don't realize how much their past influences their present. A child who lost a parent can experience abandonment and hold on to that fear well into adulthood. Anger when a loved one threatens to leave or a simple disagreement between friends can trigger the anxiety of being alone. One becomes angry with their family member over an insignificant issue rather than addressing the root cause beneath the obvious incident. One who was bullied become distrusting of those who are critical and demanding. Feelings of helplessness and powerlessness (the very definition of anger) overpower the now adult who responds with an aggressive or hostile gesture or statement. Even a well intentioned request from a neutral party can conjure up unpleasant memories from times past. 

Memories live deep within our inner conscious minds and can resurface without warning or apparent logic, causing unexpected or inappropriate reactions.

It is critical to identify those issues from our past that are causing distress in our current lives and heal them. Redefine them; re imagine or replace old painful memories that no longer serve you well with more positive ones that do. Ex: forgive the bully who made fun of you in front of the entire 7th grade class. See him not as a hateful child but one who was immature or troubled. Allow your memories to bring you peace rather than discomfort. Heal your past and live anger free. 

The Future:  It's sometimes hard to feel hopeful in today's world. Economic distress, terrorism, immorality, dissension - for many the future looks bleak. The young who have no distinct plans for their future, the middle aged who do not see themselves in a better place five or ten years down the road, those who believe the best is over and that it's "all downhill from here" fill their minds with anxiety (fear, an underlying cause of anger) and hopelessness. Older adults who fear not being able to retire and sustain a reasonable lifestyle, or who are concerned about physical maladies and limitations live with dread brought about by the unfairness of life. Projecting into the future negatively will only foster negative feelings as well. However, those who look to the future with hope and enthusiasm, who eagerly plan new adventures and experiences thwart off any potential anger and instead feel excitement and hope for what is yet to come. 

Like a blank page in a book, the future is yet to be written and you are the author of your life. Write something wonderful! 

Create your future and live anger free.

The Present:  Someone once said that if you're resentful (old anger) it's because you're living in the past; if you're worried or anxious you are projecting into the future. We are encouraged to be mindful of where we are in the present moment for it is truly all we have. All I need concern myself with is exactly what is occurring at this very moment.
Imagine being in Hawaii on vacation. However, rather than enjoy your snorkeling adventure surrounded by brightly colored aquatic life, you are thinking about the three feet of snow and bitter cold temps you left behind in Colorado. Can you fully embrace your once-in-a-lifetime experience? Of course not. Physically you may be in a tropical paradise but mentally you are buried under a blanket of frozen white precipitation. 

It is only when I am fully present to the present (moment, that is) that I can give it my full attention, take control over its happenings and savor every moment. 

Embrace and empower the present and live anger free.

Always remember that anger is a choice. All emotions originate in the mind with a single thought. Focus on what is good and beautiful and wonderful and these thoughts will block out any anger, allowing you to fully savor all that life has to offer.

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