Category Archives: emotions
It often can seem like there is no chance of anything changing at all. You are totally stuck in the depths of sadness and loneliness. These negative thought patterns can feel insurmountable. I often consider these feelings like trying to run through molasses. This is what it can feel like to be depressed. You want to move and change, you want to feel happy, you want to engage in your life but you just can’t get there. It is hard and it really can seem like nothing you do matters.
However, there is an ever so small truth that often gets left out of the depression equation. That is that change happens one small step at a time. When you go in thinking that nothing you do matters or can change your situation, that is where the error occurs. You are not in control of your feelings they come up naturally as a response. However YOU ARE IN CONTROL of your thought and actions. When you have a strong emotional response, you have the ability to not follow it with negative thoughts and/or actions. Because if you do, it increases the negative feelings that make you feel stuck.
Hence, the smallest change of how you react to your emotional responses has a great impact on how bad (or not) you continue to feel. Because you can control your thoughts and actions you have the opportunity to make a change in your pattern. It may seem small but think about what happens when you feel bad and then add on it terrible thoughts about yourself and even take actions that harm you. It all just feeds into the negative pattern and you are stuck in a bad cycle of self-hatred. Instead, when you have a negative emotional response to someone, you can stop and decide to not follow it down with a negative thought.
You are having a bad work day and feel pretty sad. A co-worker comes in and is short with you about some paperwork she can’t find. You might respond thinking thoughts like: I am such a bad person, I can’t even get the files she needs, what is wrong with me? And then you feel worse, continue to pile on more negative thoughts, not take any steps towards finding the files, and then go home and isolate. All of this making you feel even more depressed.
Instead you can STOP this pattern and try something different so you can break the cycle.
In response to the same situation you can consider other alternatives like: Wow it seems like she is really stressed out, she has a lot of pressure right now I can understand why she might need help finding the file. You then decide to go help her find the necessary files and begin to feel good that you were able to keep perspective, help out, and go home in turn possibly even invite a friend over to talk and have dinner.
It seems so small but that little change in thought leads to action, which turns into a new pattern that is positive and productive. So just when you think there is nothing to do and that you are stuck. Remember that you are in control of your thoughts and actions and that you can take a negative pattern and turn it around. That small step is what starts to move you from a negative into a positive direction.
I talk a lot about gratitude in sessions. There are discussions about how one can be grateful for things … like breathing, having a friend, that the sky is blue, that you enjoyed eating breakfast, or even being able to laugh. You can pretty much be grateful for anything, big or small. It all counts. But what exactly is gratitude? It is about being thankful and appreciative for what you have and honoring it as important to you.
There is research about how being grateful and keeping a gratitude journal can improve your life and happiness. So if you go in with the intention that throughout your day (or in writing) that you will seek out the positive things that you are happy to have in your life… that your attitude begins to change. You start to see the world filled with wonder and joy rather than negativity or despair. Basically, you find what you are looking for and when you start looking for things to be grateful for you will discover that they are everywhere.
I bring this up because recently I saw a video that felt like gratitude. It was unexpected. Hannah Hart has a youtube series and recently she asked for funds to be able to go on tour to see her fans. She was able to reach the goal much faster than she ever thought possible. Her reaction is pure authentic gratitude. She is joyful and thankful and watching her reminds me of what it feels like to be in the presence of gratitude. If you ever wondered what real gratitude looks and sounds like, I ask you to watch this video and experience gratefulness.
Just in case the video below doesn’t show up for you, you can watch the video here.
You can tell from every ounce of her being that she is grateful for what is happening in her life. You can have this experience as well, start writing down all the things you are happy about, grateful for, and appreciate in your life. Once you start looking for the positive the magic will unfold right before your eyes. Enjoy being grateful!
I had the opportunity to interview Dan and Dawn of Erotic Awakening . Erotic Awakenings is one of the most listened to podcasts dealing with kink and erotica. Jay Blevins joined me and we talked to Dan and Dawn about how they have integrated dealing with past trauma into their relationship.
Learn about how to have a healthy power dynamic relationship even when having trauma in your past!
There is a great deal of re-activity that happens within individuals. Re-activity is the emotional defense that comes about as a response to another person. It is by its nature something that is generated from a place of being re-active rather than pro-active. Hence, it is natural that it is going to produce a reaction in the other person as well, which typically leads to a negative spiral effect for all involved.
Here let me give you an example.
A friend of yours is continually late for a known scheduled coffee get together. And when you have asked this person previously why they were late, they always had a lame excuse. However, you never directly told the person that it isn’t something you like, instead you only question why they are tardy.
So once again, your friend shows up 15 minutes late to coffee and you feel upset. They launch into some big story about how their dog needed to be fed and how crazy traffic was this time of day. And within an instant you are angry and you react with a laundry list of all the things you dislike about the person and how disrespectful they are and walk out of the coffee shop. Your friend is left there dazed by your reaction and feeling confused and hurt by the outburst.
Now you have a right to be upset, you do feel that your friend is being disrespectful of your time and friendship. However, lashing out at the person is a reactive approach as opposed to a pro-active action lead by your values. If you feel that the friend is being disrespectful of your time and friendship that is a value. That is something that should be expressed directly and allow the person to take that knowledge in and make a choice of how they want to act accordingly from then on. However, if you react with emotional outbursts the friend then focuses on the re-activity and feels wounded and hurt. There is little movement on how to guide either one of you ahead in future interactions. All you have is two people feeling wounded and not communicating.
So, a more pro-active, direct, and value lead response would be as follows:
When your friend comes in late once again to the coffee shop, you greet them pleasantly. You make the choice to enjoy the conversation as that is what your value set is seeking. You are leading by your values not reactions.
You don’t attack the person with your emotional responses the moment they come in the door. You realize that your values are yours, they won’t be swayed by waiting 15 minutes for you to compose yourself. (Tip you can also way a day or so to have this conversation if you need more time to process how to bring up your values).
Once you feel comfortable bringing up the topic, you begin with the idea that there is an interaction between the two of you that you have wanted to address. You make sure that you state that these are YOUR values and that the other person doesn’t have to do things your way, but that it is important for you to state what is important to you within a friendship.
Then you rationally explain that being late for coffee time after time feels disrespectful and that you would like to either have the person come on time or make the get together time 15 minutes later. If neither of those options seems to be amenable to the other person, then you can ask for feedback on other possible options for continuing to get together. Finally, when your values have been shared in a rational not attacking way, you can ask the other person for their feedback on what you have suggested. And the two of you go from there with the new understanding that this is important to you and how to two want to handle coffee from here on out.
Note that this approach tends to work a million times better than lashing out, saying mean things, or leaving the situation completely. Plus, that isn’t what you really want anyway. Your values leading say that you want to have coffee with your friend and share in that relationship in a positive way. Hence, negative responses don’t match your goals for the situation. If for some reason your friend still shows up late, you remind them of your previous discussion and make the choice if you want to continue to meet with them or not based on their actions. No matter what choice you make, you are taking into account your value set and what is important to you. You are not acting out from hurt or anger. This allows you to come to a place of calm discussion and direct action.
Consider leading with your values rather than your reactions, and see what happens!
Jasmine St. John MS, LMFT
I recently watched a documentary about the origin of venture capital, Something Ventured. Specifically, I was struck by Don Valentine because while all the other investors were not interested in giving funding to Apple, Valentine saw something. He talks about the rough personalities he dealt with, the crazy conditions, and the in-fighting of the business. But beyond all that, before the world would forever change due to personal computers, Valentine was willing to take a risk.
It is known that VCs are risk takers but when all the other risk takers are not willing to move ahead, it is a scary proposition to believe in an idea that is beyond the current popular notion of acceptance or understanding. It takes a great amount of courage to go against the grain. It all sounds like easy enough cliches but when you really have to make a choice to go ahead with something you believe in or turn back, it is that moment what you are made of that comes to the top.
Valentine’s philosophy is one that I really appreciate: ”The world thrives best when individuals are left to be different and creative.” It becomes clear that if you want to do something new that you are going to get some push back from those around you. The people that are seeking to change the world are often not accepted. In fact, numerous people seeking venture capital have devoted themselves to a singular idea, to the exclusion of other things in life, that could shift the way we understanding our very existence. They believe in themselves so deeply, they will risk everything. That is a powerful concept!
I don’t expect that if you are reading this that you have millions of dollars to invest in new companies. However, I do expect that if you have a desire for something new or different for your life that you would do everything you could to make your vision become a reality. People might think you are crazy, they will judge you, it is possible they will even dislike you for your new idea/approach/concept but I encourage you to take that push-back as ever more reason to move ahead.
There is no way that you will ever be able to please the world but you just might be able to change it with who you are! It isn’t just okay to be different it is encouraged! Please… allow yourself to express, dream big, and be passionate about the life you live. It is that drive that will make this place better for everyone!
Last week was tough for a number of clients. I got to thinking about how great it would be if Madison had an Anger Room (a safe place to express anger in multiple forms). Navigating angry feelings can be confusing and when you have abuse in your past it can be even more difficult to know what to do. A place like the Anger Room provides an outlet for learning about different expressions.
One might think that we all experience anger so what is complex about the process? Many of us suppress it for fear that we will act out in a way similar to the abuse or abuser we experienced. It is a scary thing when one has spent their life being a good, caring, gentle person who wants to stay away from conflict and angry feelings. It almost seems logical to become someone who is on the opposite side of rage. However, because anger is a universal signal that something isn’t right, problems occur if we ignore or push it away. People that experienced abuse didn’t feel that they could express themselves properly (for whatever reason) and were also taught that it was not okay to have the feelings of anger. Hence, in many ways their system is taught that it isn’t safe to have a response of anger, even when it is a healthy reaction.
Any time we pretend that our emotions don’t exist or don’t honor them, they float back up in unpredictable ways. And this very thing is often what a person is trying to avoid by suppressing the emotion in the first place. So what is a person to do if they are scared or unfamiliar with how to feel anger and express it?
One of the first things is to begin to identity when you think you might be having anger. You begin to be aware of when you feel angry and where it is in your body. This allows for grounding and a signal that you are accessing the situation beyond just a momentary reaction. Once you have basic identification of what you consider to be angry feelings, you can look at what the anger is about… the person/situation that is currently happening or a trigger to how you were treated in the past. Once these beginning steps are in place, you can look at how to express the anger in a healthy way*.
People hold anger in different ways and that means that what works for one may not work for another in providing some relief from the intensity of the emotion. Some people need a strong physical outlet, others need to write, many need to express the anger with the person (in a safe way) verbally, and others might need a more creative way to share these feelings.
Anger isn’t a bad thing, it is an emotional response to learn and teach you about your system. What is harmful is when you don’t allow yourself to express emotions in a healthy way. Your angry feelings are telling you to listen to yourself and look at the situation around you. This is a powerful tool for the ability to set boundaries, create a plan, and act in a healthy way.
*Please seek help from a therapist if you need assistance with this process.
Recently there was a discussion I attended that brought up the concepts of reality and truth. I admit that I have used these ideas interchangeably many times. I will finesse the words as I see fit but the fact is that often times whatever is real to me is also my truth AND whatever is the truth often doesn’t feel real. It is all rather messy when pushed to differentiate.
Here let me give an example… I’ll say that I enjoy playing games. This is true. I _do_ like playing board games. However, the reality is that what I like about game play is the interactions of those around me. So, yes I do like playing games, but it is rarely about the game itself. Rather it is the dynamics of the individuals involved that are playing the game that holds my attention. This is true and real and the complexity of it all comes together to provide a larger context. Does it mean that I don’t like playing games for the sake of the game? No, I do enjoy specific games. However, I tend to enjoy specific games because of the way it involves the players in differing ways. Does this mean that I lying when I say I enjoy game play? No, but it does mean that I’m not sharing the full depth of what I mean when I share this information. It is a verbal shorthand of sorts. I’m describing something that is true about me within reality but it is not nuanced. One can see how even with something as simple as this, it can become confusing.
Beyond the philosophical debate of these ideas, I will ask you to consider how we tend to do this very thing with emotions. For example, we might state that we are “angry” with another person. We expect them to just understand and then act accordingly to fix whatever is wrong. Neither of these things usually happens, and then we react even more strongly in the irrational hope that more anger will explain the details. Again, this approach rarely provides us with the outcome we desire.
Instead if we are to consider the fuller spectrum of what we are trying to share, it might just help us in what we are seeking out from another. There is something that being angry means to us. It could mean that we are seeking to connect and don’t know how, we want attention and so we create something that isn’t real but feels truly upsetting (i.e. being lonely). Or perhaps a true boundary of ours has been crossed and we really want to make it known. Maybe someone or something that has no real connection has had an impact and we need a way to express our frustration. Sometimes we really and truly are unsure as to what is making us so upset. These are just a few possibilities for what could be going on when someone uses the shorthand of emotional expression.
It would be wonderful if we could all just easily explain what is real and true to each one of us. Life would be so much easier if we understood ourselves so quickly and deeply that when we rattle off “the obvious” that it made sense to everyone else. However, we have unconscious and conscious motives… many of which we don’t always want to share with others. Hence, the process of what is really true and truly real becomes almost a game of cat and mouse.
So what happens next? Ah, this question I do have an answer to… the best answer …is to ask questions. It is just as circular as the idea of reality and truth within the realm of feelings. Feelings are not facts but often times appear as such. This is to say, that it is a fact that you are experiencing an emotion, however that emotional response does not necessarily represent reality in full. It can be difficult for anyone of us to sort out what is what. One of the best ways to go about this learning process is to query yourself and others.
When you consider your personal values and what actions you want to take when you are at your best-most-centered (some say rational) self, what choices would you make?
If you were to give advice to a loved one, what would you say to them about the situation?
In the past, when you were unsure of your feelings or of those around you how were able to figure out what was the best option?
When you consider the possible outcomes what responses lead to what most directly reaches your goals?
Notice that most of these questions are about thoughts and actions. This is because emotional responses can shift around people, moods, and situations. It is totally possible to have emotions swing around from one end to the other. And yet our goals and our actions often reflect our deeper sense of personal convictions.
You may be confused about what is real or true within emotions but I encourage you to ask questions of yourself and others in an attempt to locate what is centered and sturdy over time. How do you want to act, how do you want others to remember your actions, and what principles do you want to live by? These kinds of questions will take you to the heart of your emotional responses and get you back on track when you are feeling lost.
What is truth or reality after all? In my opinion, it is a steady continual reflection of who we are from the past, present and future. You are a complex matter of intricate data points: feelings, thoughts, and actions combined together to create your ethical framework. It is really and truly wonderful process!