What’s So Special About Me?

Let your light shine

Can you describe your authentic self?  Do you even know what it means to be your authentic self?  Your authentic self is the real you; the genuine you; the spontaneous and free version of you.  There are many contributing factors from your history that may have prevented you from being your true, authentic self.  So, what do you think?  Do you know your innate, authentic self?

Try listing the qualities of your authentic, true self.  For example, here are some of my authentic qualities:  outgoing, welcoming, encouraging, inviting, open-minded, creative and expressive.  However, in my history I was shamed for many of these qualities.  I was taught that I was too much; that my personality was too big.

Therefore, throughout the years I have struggled to discover who I most authentically am and to learn to accept these parts of myself.  For example, on a scale of outgoingness I am at the very high end.  I have slowly learned to enjoy and embrace this aspect of me.  And, as I have aged I have learned how to monitor my energy by paying attention to social and cultural clues.  Many are intimidated by my strong personality qualities and I am much more accepting of this truth now.

Most important is to identify and take ownership of your authentic self.  If you are not clear, I encourage you to take time to learn about these aspects.  Without this self-awareness I don’t believe you truly can be happy and free.  You may have similarities to others and yet you are uniquely you!  I encourage you to discover and embrace your own special qualities.  Next is to surrounding yourself with close people that accept, embrace and love you for your authentic self.

Examine your most significant relationships.  Is your authentic self encouraged, accepted, appreciated and celebrated by these people? Or do you often feel put down, shamed or judged?  Do you tend to adjust yourself by trying to accommodate the other person so they will accept you?   This person could be your partner, parent, sibling etc.  In effect, you are basically denying and shaming your essence.  If this continues for too long you may forget who you really are.  Burying your authentic self is a form of self-abuse.  This self-denial and neglect often causes one to feel depressed.

 

I encourage you to save yourself.  Start remembering who you really are.  If you don’t know, get some help.  As you dig your true self out from the grave you will come back to life.  Then slowly you can figure out how to be your genuine self in your relationships.  If you find that being who you really are with those closest to you brings great fear, that is normal.  Seek support from wise people who can help you begin to take risks or set boundaries in those relationships.  Never dim your light for someone else.  Your light not only blesses others it ignites your soul!  Shine your brightest!

 

 

5 Things Not to Say to Someone Who is Grieving!

grief image

Grief and loss are universal emotions. Just about everyone is touched by them at some point in their life. If you have the privilege of living into adulthood and old age then you will likely experience loss in many shapes and forms. There is the loss that comes from the death of a loved one or a cherished pet. There is the grief that can be felt on a national scale suffered from events like 9/11 and theater shootings in Colorado.

Grief and loss stem from other avenues as well. These include divorce, job changes, moving, medical issues, infertility, natural disasters and much more. Loss comes in all shapes and sizes and impacts each person uniquely. Just because someone appears to grieve differently doesn’t mean they are right or wrong. This is imperative to remember. Grief deserves respect; in both ourselves and others.

For those of you who have been through major losses, you have most likely experienced how often people say inappropriate things that can really disappoint. It is such a fragile time in one’s life and you may be extra sensitive to everything. Many people don’t know what to say to someone who is hurting. Often the person will attempt to make you feel better by trying to give you an answer as to why the loss occurred or tell you how you should feel. You may have also experienced those people who just avoid you because your loss is too uncomfortable for them.   These people don’t understand that all you need is caring and comfort, or maybe they just don’t know how to give it.

While the list of “Things Not to Say to People Who are Grieving” is quite long, for the purposes of this article I am focusing on the five that stand out to me as very common mistakes.

After sharing these ill-advised responses, I have offered some insight to the grievers to help them understand and to give them hope and encouragement. My top five worst things to say to someone who is grieving are:

1.“I know how you feel.”

When someone is going through a loss they are often consumed by feelings that are indescribable and overwhelming. Even if you have experienced the same type of event, such as the death of a parent or the loss of a job, this doesn’t mean that your emotional reactions to the event will be the same. While a miscarriage for one person may have little impact; for another it may spiral her into a significant period of grief. And while you may “know how they feel” the one grieving needs to be heard first and foremost. The grieving person needs your listening ear and comforting shoulder.   This is about them. Keep the focus on them and off of you. You can share some of the commonalities you have from your similar experiences at a later time when the grieving person’s feelings aren’t so raw.

To the griever:  Your feelings are uniquely your own and nobody can fully understand the depth of your suffering. Even those who may be sharing your loss may be grieving differently than you. Your grief deserves its own attention. If someone tells you they know how you feel in a way that makes you feel minimized or dismissed, move on to someone else who can give you the support and comfort you need. This is a confusing time and it is important you talk to people you feel can handle you right where you are. If you know someone who has been through a similar experience and that brings you comfort; then by all means lean on them.

2.“God will never give you more than you can handle.”

A while back I did an all-day workshop on loss. During one of the exercises people wrote on the board the stupid or hurtful things people have said to them. This response elicited strong negative feelings from those in attendance.   While this may be your belief system and even the belief system that the griever adheres too, saying it to someone who is in the midst of suffering is not encouraged. I think people often say this because they don’t know how else to comfort the person or they feel a need to make sense of the situation. Please be considerate of the other person and keep that thought to yourself for the time being. This is especially true when you don’t know the person’s belief system.Even people with a very strong faith system question God when they are going through grief. This is normal. The loss the griever is experiencing in the moment usually feels like much more than they can handle or ever imagined experiencing. Statements like the above can make the person feel minimized, angry and they may want to distance themselves from you due to their mixed feelings towards God’s role in their loss. This statement tells the person that God wants them to feel this pain or that God had a part in it. The grieving person needs time to process their feelings towards God as they move through the stages of grief.

To the griever: I have no idea why you are suffering the loss you are experiencing. “Why?” is a normal question that is often asked. No one has that answer. The situation is overwhelming. Feeling like it is too much to handle is normal and natural. You are only human after all. I hope you will seek out others who understand the difficult time you are having. This is a time when you need the safe support of those who can help you through such a confusing and dark period. Don’t try to handle these feelings all by yourself. Please allow yourself to lean on safe and understanding people.

3.“You shouldn’t feel that way.”

What an awful thing to say to someone who is suffering a loss. Yet, amazingly, this has been said to many who are struggling. Grief is one of the most unpredictable emotions. It changes you forever. Everyone has a right to grieve in their own way with whatever feelings they are experiencing. You and I have no right to tell them how they should feel. When the grieving person is responding in a way that doesn’t fit with what another deems acceptable, then often that person will make a judgmental statement or behave in a way that is hurtful to the griever.I remember when I received the news that my brother had been killed. It was first thing in the morning. It was shocking. Since my family lived out of town I had to spend the day coordinating the quickest way to get home. It wasn’t until the evening that I called my best friend from college. When I called her I told her what happened in a very matter-of-fact way. By that time I was completely numb; there was no sobbing, hysteria, etc. I didn’t hear from her for three weeks. When I did talk to her she said she didn’t call because I didn’t seem that upset about it! We didn’t speak for a year.That is an example of how my friend had an expectation of how I “should have” been when I called her. She made judgments about me because I didn’t respond in the way see deemed appropriate. And this is someone with whom I had been close. She was not able to take into consideration what had gone on for me all day and to understand where my head was. In fact, her clear lack of support made her judgment of me very evident. It took a while to make amends in that relationship.

To the griever: Whatever feelings you are feeling from hour to hour, day to day are normal for you and your situation. Please be careful not to feel guilty about your feelings. Not all the feelings you have will make sense to you. Surround yourself with people who can handle the depth of your feelings. The hurt that you feel when someone you think cares cuts you off or tells you not to feel that way is significant. Tell them when they hurt your feelings. If they keep failing at supporting you reach out to others who do provide the support you need. Sometimes the people who can understand your feelings may surprise you.

4.“Time heals all wounds.”

What a popular saying. Is it true? Maybe for some things. I don’t think it is time that necessarily heals the hurt, but what we do about our loss during that time. Either way, telling someone that time heals all wounds when they just lost their child, or when their husband of twenty years walks out is not really what they need to hear. Ask yourself what the point is in you saying that? How is that helpful? Please try and respect that the griever is in a very fragile state and doesn’t need trite answers or platitudes. If you don’t know what to say, you could say, “Just wanted to let you know I will be thinking of you and praying for you.” That is very kind.I imagine if we interviewed those who have been through various losses and asked them if they agreed with the statement “time heals all wounds” we would get mixed responses. From my own life I can say time has greatly helped with some of the losses I have experienced, such as hurtful situations in relationships, different transitions etc. I think it was a combination of time and my own personal growth. However, there are several other losses that “time hasn’t healed” and never will. While I may not walk around crying every day or talking about it, the injury is still deep and impactful.

To the griever: If someone or several people say this to you I apologize for them. It is a trite and aloof comment. Feel free to respond “Well it doesn’t feel like it.” Or just brush them off and seek out others who will not try and tell you that you will feel better soon or in time. While that may be true it isn’t what you usually want to hear. The timeframe of your healing journey is yours and will be walked through at your own pace.

5.“Call me if you need anything.”

This one is a personal pet peeve of mine. Others may not put it in their top five worst things to say to someone who is grieving, but I like to be different! This statement reminds me of when someone asked you how you are doing, but you know they really don’t care or have time to listen. Here is the deal. When someone is going through a loss then you can be pretty sure they are going to need something. Whether it is to go to the grocery store for them, put gas in their car, drive their kids somewhere, cook for them, clean their house, wash their car, cut their grass etc. My recommendation is to just do these things for them. You call them and say “I am coming over tomorrow morning to cut your grass.” Or, “I am going to the grocery store this afternoon and I need your list.” While some grievers may be comfortable asking for help, others are not. If fact, I know many people who won’t ask because they don’t want to bother someone.To the griever: I encourage you to let others help you and support you. Let someone cut your grass or clean your car or your house. Receive help. Now is the time to let others do for you. If you know you have a need, ask for help from someone you believe will be reliable. I am guessing many people have offered for you to call them if you need anything; so do it. I know it can be risky to ask for what you need, but now is not the time to be superhuman. I hope you will give yourself permission to receive the physical support you need.In conclusion, there are many stages in the grieving process and each of us will travel through them differently. Understanding this can be very healing for both you and others who are suffering through the confusing maze of loss. I hope you can be more accepting of both your own grief process and that of another.

To the griever: There is support out there for you! If you don’t feel you are receiving enough support or just need more, please consider reaching out. You can call a grief counselor. Grief counselors can be found in private practice, hospice, churches and your local community mental health centers. There are also support groups for grief such as loss of a loved one, divorce, supporting aging parents, etc. Please don’t struggle alone. Transitions can be difficult and it is human to need some support through them. I hope you will give yourself the care you need and deserve.

 

Are You Responsible For Your Relationships Problems?

drama triangle

Do you feel like you’re always doing all the giving in your relationship and rarely getting anything in return?  Do you ever feel that know matter what you do it will never be good enough.  Are often irritated by people who don’t have much common sense?  Maybe you are living on the Drama Triangle!

One of my favorite tools I use on a daily basis to monitor my interactions with others is called “The Drama Triangle,” by Stephen Karpman.  While it is nearly impossible to give full credence to this wonderful perspective in a short blog, I will do my best to give a concise overview.

All unhealthy relationships take place on the Drama Triangle.  It describes specific ways one relates to others.  There are three positions on this triangle:  persecutor, rescuer and victim.  While only one position is called victim all positions are actually victim positions of sort.  We each have a primary position that tends to dominate our interactions.  The “starting gate position,” as named by Karpman is the one we learn from our history and shows up in most commonly in our relationships.

Imagine an upside down triangle.  On the upper part of each side of the triangle are the positions of persecutor and rescuer.  On the bottom is victim.  The persecutor and rescuer are on top because they are both one up positions.  Both of these positions require a victim to sustain their position on the triangle.  The victim is in a one down position.

The rescuer is the classic codependent.  This person is the savior, mediator, helper, fixer, etc.  The rescuer has to have someone who needs them to sustain their position.  Helping others is how this person defines who they are.  Rescuers often grew up not getting their emotional vulnerabilities met or validated.  Therefore they hide these emotional vulnerabilities by appearing needless.  They secretly keep hoping that if they keep giving and giving, one day someone will be there for them.  Their greatest fear is that no one will be there.

The persecutor sustains their one up position through domination.  They have to have someone to blame.  Hence a victim is necessary for the persecutor to project their unclaimed weaknesses on.  Persecutors do this in various ways; lecturing, teaching, blaming, yelling ect.  Persecutors believe they are always right.  Their greatest fear is being out of control.  Persecutors were often raised in abusive shaming households and sometimes take on the qualities of their abuser.  This position is often the hardest for one to take ownership of because the persecutor sees them self as a victim who is just trying to protect them self.

The victim position is one in which the person has given up or not claimed their God given ability to make decisions and trust their own competencies.   Instead they look to others to guide and lead them.  Often victims were raised by a strong rescuer.  Victims eat a daily venue of shame and believe they are intrinsically defective or bad.  The language of the victim often includes a lot of “yes, but…”

As you read this brief introduction to the three positions on the Karpman Drama Triangle which one do you relate too most?  Is it easy to pick your primary position?  The ultimate goal is to identify your pattern and learn to grow and change so you don’t fall into these dysfunctional ways of relating to others.

A Valentine’s Day for All!

Valentines blog

Valentine’s Day can be a joyful, celebratory time for many happy couples.  Often it is a time to rejoice about the wonderful relationship you share with your partner.   Unfortunately, the media has pivoted this day into one that is often filled with pressure to perform for our lover via making sure we get the right card, gift or proper festive event.     However, this year my hope is that you will keep this day in perspective.  It is fine to honor your love on this designated day, however, know that the relationship requires honoring and work every day.

And let us not forget those who may not have a special someone in their life.  This day can be about the many that touch our lives, not just someone we call our “lover.” Reach out to someone you care about and let them know they are special.  Send a valentine card or note to your friends, family, children or anyone else that you appreciate.  Reach out to that person who recently lost their loved one or is experiencing difficulty in their relationship.

With the “hype” that goes into this day it can have a significant negative effect on those that do not share a loving relationship with a partner.   I encourage each of you to reach out beyond just the traditional notion of Valentine’s Day and spread the feeling of appreciation all around you.  It has been said, “The more you give, the more you get.” Give on!

Are You A Giver Or A Taker?

Gift giving 6

While it is true that giving to others often brings more to the giver than the receiver and that giving is a lovely virtue; it is also just as gracious to be able to receive what others may want to offer to you! This could mean receiving a tangible gift and allowing yourself to enjoy the experience without any qualifications such as “you shouldn’t have.” However, many of the gifts others want to offer are gifts of encouragement, loving affirmations and help. Just as you feel blessed when you offer these to others it is equally true that the one offering you this gift will also feel blessed when you allow yourself to receive from them.   Remember this when you are hesitant to receive from someone: that you will be depriving them of a blessing!!!

Maybe you are reluctant to reach out to others you do sincerely care about. Maybe you don’t know what to say or what to do. For many this is very uncomfortable. My suggestion is that you don’t over think it. Most people will be grateful you even remembered them. If this person is someone close to you then pay attention to what is important to them. What do they talk about often? What activities are they involved in? For example, all my close friends know I collect cherubs. Try to be observant and you will see.

If you are struggling to reach out to someone who needs support I encourage you to allow yourself to be uncomfortable and offer that encouragement within a scope that you can tolerate. Maybe it will be sending a text or an email. Maybe you will mail a card. You might be more comfortable with “doing” such as cooking or cleaning for them. The important thing is to reach out and let that person know you are thinking of them.

Being able to both give and receive is important all year long, not just during the holidays. Each of us has a need for both!

Judge Thy Neighbor

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This judgmental, hurtful, rude way of responding is sure to win you the “Worst Listener of the Year” award.  The last thing someone needs to hear when they are opening up to you is your judgment of them.  Telling someone that what they feel doesn’t make sense or is stupid is an example of being judgmental.  Other examples are telling someone they shouldn’t feel what they feel or think; or one of the most shattering is “You don’t feel like that.”  This is a harsh response to the person sharing.  Have you experienced this from someone?  How did it make you feel?

If someone asks your opinion about what they are sharing it is fine then to give it.  However, that doesn’t require you to put them down or discount their feelings or thoughts.  If the person doesn’t ask for your opinion-don’t give it! When someone shares what they are feeling with you, try and remember that feelings are just feelings.  Feelings don’t always make sense.

It is also important to keep in mind that you don’t have to agree with the other person to be a good listener.  Good listening doesn’t require agreement.  It requires the sincere intent to understand the person from their point of view.  Perspective is everything. If he or she has a different perspective than you that doesn’t mean he or she is wrong. There is plenty of judgment in the world.  Please be careful not to perpetuate that trend.

A virtuous way to help you be less judgmental when you are listening to someone you don’t agree with or you don’t understand how they are feeling, is reflective listening.  As stated previously, this is when you confirm with the person that you have heard them correctly.  There is no judgment in this.  There is no opinion of yours shared.  It is simply hearing the other.

Are You There?

 

listening 2

Listening in body only is when you are talking and the person seems physically attentive, yet it is as if they are looking through you, sort of like they are in a conscious coma.  The person is physically present but is mentally elsewhere.  Have you had this experience before?   Usually after you have talked a little with no response you might wonder or even ask, “Did you hear what I said?”  Often the person will say “No, I am sorry.  Can you repeat that?”  The person truly was not mentally present for the conversation.  While I imagine this has happened to all of us at one time or another, it is an issue if it keeps happening with the same person.

Often the person who is zoning out while you are talking is preoccupied with something.  Life is overwhelming at times.  If you know you are overwhelmed and not able to give someone your attention who is asking for it, just let them know.  You might say, “I know you are really stressed right now and I do want to hear about it, however, I am too upset right now to focus.  Can we meet for lunch?”  This type of response is respectful to both self and others.  Or it could be that you have trouble with keeping up with what the other person is saying so it is easier to zone out and just do the best you can to give the appearance of understanding what they are saying.

Reflective listening is a wonderful skill to help you stay with the person mentally.  Reflective listening is simply repeating back what you think you heard the person say.  This is a very caring act.  It shows you are intentionally trying to hear what the person wants to tell you.  It is important when you reflect back what you think you heard that you do so without adding your own twist to it.

Think of this as if you were looking in the mirror.  What you see is your reflection.  No additions or subtractions; just you. With this type of listening that is all you do.  Reflect what you think you heard.  For example, you might say, “So you received exceeds expectations in every area but one and for the third year in a row you didn’t get a promotion?”  If you are correct the person will usually say, “Yes, and…” on they will go with more detail.  If you didn’t get it quite right the person can correct you so you understand what they meant.   “So you got exceeds in almost every area and they still did nothing to honor that?”  The person might say, “Well they did give me a good bonus, but I have been waiting for this promotion.  I am so frustrated.”   It is a wonderful gift to interact with someone who is sincerely trying to hear you.