16. April, 2013Anxiety, Blog Posts, Relationships, UncategorizedNo comments
The pouting models in stylish advertisements look ‘cool.’ They do not look like people who would be easy or fun to love. Yet, their demeanor is admired and imitated by teens. Adults are also expert at stonewalling their feelings and acting smug. But these behaviors push people away. You will be easy to love when you learn how to embrace love. To do this you must look at why you withhold yourself and act as though you do not care.
As children we size up the world, reach (often mistaken) conclusions and make decisions that hold us back from fully expressing ourselves. These inhibitions prevent us from reaching our true potential in many ways, especially when it comes to love.
Parents bring the distortions of their own experience to parenting. Loving their children doesn’t mean they are able to fully or freely express their feelings. The example I give here centers on a father and his son but this behavior isn’t about men. For every Hard-Nose Harry there is a Critical Chrissy, a Withdrawn Walter, and a Haughty Hannah. And, while the example is straightforward, life and individuals are complex. In some manner and to varying degrees, we all display these behaviors.
Consider a little boy, Jason. His father is often critical. He reprimands, scolds, and complains about Jason to his mother. Jason’s mother isn’t nearly so demanding and even tries to compensate for the father’s unrelenting expectations. Jason tries hard to do what his father wants hoping for approval and affection.
When the desired result is not (or not often) forthcoming, Jason’s love for his father becomes confused with his father’s behavior. He will likely conclude that to get the love he wants the best way is to do what dad does: withhold himself and his affection. After all, it works for dad.
Thus, Jason suppresses his natural feelings, becomes a ‘tough’ guy, and learns to push people away. He does this not so much because he is hurt as because, in his child’s mind, it is the withholding behavior itself that makes his dad desirable. Jason wrongly concludes that pushing people away will make him lovable, too. And Jason wants to be loved just as much as he loves his dad. Instead of learning how to embrace the love of his affectionate mother he may even begin to disrespect her warmth and tenderness.
In this process Jason becomes twisted off from his real feelings, disgusted with his desire to give and receive love. Subconsciously Jason knows he is betraying his mother as well as himself. This leads to guilt, confusion and anxiety about love.
Love becomes privately humiliating and embarrassing. Only the weak seek love. The strong have no need to be loved.
These beliefs are deep-seated and will affect Jason as an adult. In the throes of new love he may be able to express his desire and show appreciation for love. But, when the honeymoon wanes he will revert to being disdainful of sentiment. Jason will have problems choosing a loving long term partner and difficulty being a loving partner himself.
He may demonstrate love in ways that he finds acceptable (working hard, making money, or financing a good lifestyle, for example). But in the behaviors he has determined are weak (perhaps, verbally, physically, or quality time) he will remain a cold fish. Attempts to open up in new ways will cause him to feel anxious and ashamed though he will not likely understand what is happening or why.
Further, Jason can’t bring himself to ask for or to receive what he needs. He is embarrassed to be vulnerable and unable to tolerate much in the way of tenderness. It is the same for all of us.
When we cannot ask for what we need, it is because we are ashamed to ask.
These inhibitions come into play when we reject someone who wants to love us in a healthy way because we judge that person is weak. We cry out to be cherished, yet we are drawn to the person who is unemotional and unwilling to give us what we desire. We perceive this behavior as ‘strong’ and ‘cool’.
To learn how to embrace love you must reflect on how you withhold your love from the person you care about by acting as though you do not care. The answer lies in your childhood experience, the behavior of your parents and the subtleties of your own behavior and feelings toward others. New understanding will lessen the anxiety you feel expressing your love. It will make love easy and make you easy to love. Each small expansion of your capacity to show love will be returned many times over in the love that comes back to you.
18. March, 2013Anger, Blog Posts, Boundaries, Relationships, UncategorizedNo comments
No human emotion is so reviled or misunderstood as anger. Anger is miserable. We believe we are wrong to be angry and we push the experience away. “If only I were more enlightened. I should be kind. I don’t want to be this angry person. It’s not who I am.” Is there such a thing as healthy anger?
Your anger is energy and it serves a purpose, sometimes life-saving and other times spiritual. Consider Elaine who lives with her verbally mean and unfaithful boyfriend, Ron. She is upset with herself for being angry. “I know I need to leave but, until I do there’s no need to be nasty to him. I shouldn’t let my temper get the better of me. I feel guilty when I yell.”
In fact, Elaine’s ill temper is her ally. It puts her in touch with her strength and the real truth of who she is. Her indignation at the way she is treated spurs her to find an apartment of her own even though money is tight.
Yes, Elaine carries a childhood wound that led her to choose Ron. Behind her choice was the longing to recreate the old circumstances and this time emerge victorious. This time the abuser (read, ‘parent’) would realize his love for her and demonstrate kindness and affection.
While it is essential for her emotional growth to realize the true source of her pain when Ron behaves spitefully, it is equally important for Elaine to remove herself from the relationship. The fuel is in her fury. Otherwise, Elaine’s pull is to keep on with Ron, struggling to rise above his behavior and hoping for his metamorphosis. Women and men who remain in abusive relationships are not in touch with their life force. They remain stuck in the longing.
Anger is the right response when it puts in place a boundary that gives us needed space and safety. The misconception is that we confuse anger with acting out and harming another. These are not the same but as children most of us were not taught the distinction and as adults continue to believe anger itself is bad.
The energy of anger musters our forces and urges us toward positive change. If that includes an occasional outburst, well, it isn’t likely to do anyone permanent harm. The danger is in denying the anger or, once angry, refusing to look deeply at the sources, both present and past. Both of these behaviors hold the pain and suffering in place.
We may believe our anger will only make things worse, or that we should understand and be mature. “Really, this is so petty. I need to get over it.” On the other hand, refusing to examine the source of our anger occurs when we take no corrective action, just go on being resentful, sometimes for years. Especially with old hurts and anger from childhood, there may be no obvious solution.
Alice was harshly mistreated by her older siblings. As an example, she was in a third floor closet and left imprisoned and terrified for hours on end on several occasions. When she went crying for protection her mother said, “You just need to forgive and forget.”
If Alice remains resentful as an adult she continues to suffer. Her anger surfaces in other relationships, putting them at risk. Appropriate action may be as simple as distancing herself from her siblings today. At the least, it would be an honest expression of her pain. It could serve as present day protection, real and symbolic, for that inner child from so long ago. It might also alleviate some of her quickness to anger with people in her life today.
As a final example: Kelly grew up with a mentally unbalanced mother, mean and spiteful then and now. Yet Kelly provides daycare for her mother, sinking into a loss of her life force as a result. Kelly wants to rise above the situation. A healthy response would more likely be to refuse the role of daycare provider. In fact, third party providers would have far more compassion for Kelly’s mother than Kelly can muster up.
Spiritual practice encourages us to be where we are, to be present in the experience of the moment. And we’re happy to practice presence – as long as we’re happy. Throw in anger and our attitude quickly changes. We want it to go away.
To achieve healthy anger, we must first develop a healthy acceptance of anger, all of it, whenever it occurs. Trust the misery. Have it and let it be with us. Then, examine the sources of the anger honestly, both past and present. Finally, we must acknowledge the difference in these two and take responsible action for our own happiness now.
Sandra Egli, Th.D, Ph.D. is an energy healer in Scottsdale, Arizona with more than 10 years of experience. If you’re interested in receiving Dr. Egli’s monthly newsletter, simply sign up for her Free Meditations on the top right column of the website and you’ll be automatically added to the Center of Intention newsletter list.
12. February, 2013Anger, Blog Posts, Healing Articles, RelationshipsNo comments
Most of our chronic upsets, when stripped of the story, are the recreations of hurts and pain, unresolved from childhood. Sometimes we are aware but often don’t realize that the unhappy aspects of our lives today are a reenactment from the past. The good news is that we can put a stop to this kind of suffering.
What is occurring is that we are reenacting the places in our childhood where we longed for some expression of love that we never received. This doesn’t mean our parents didn’t love us. Though imperfect, most parents love their children. Rather, there was some reassurance of love that you wanted from them, again and again, and they didn’t come through. This failure on their part is not the end of the world and doesn’t consign you to a life of misery. (This is good news for parents and children everywhere.)
31. December, 2012Blog Posts, Healing Articles, Relationships, UncategorizedNo comments
For his New Year’s Resolution, one friend is using affirmations to set and hold a positive frame of mind. He feels he has a negative mindset ingrained in his thinking since childhood and is committed to controlling his thoughts. He believes this is the way to accomplish his goals.
We were discussing this approach in contrast to Acceptance: not judging what happens as either good or bad. He questions whether Acceptance is simply resigning to what the universe dishes out and to our own worst habits.
Acceptance is the capacity to look at ‘what is happening’ as only ‘what is happening.’ In Acceptance we may be happy or not about what occurs but we are able to remain conscious of our experience without resisting, defending or denying.
The inability to accept what is happening is all about control. We think it is up to us to create and manage our lives. If we don’t like something we try to force something else to happen. This is why we make New Year’s Resolutions. However, affirmations and resolutions are often a rejection of reality and our selves.
14. November, 2012Blog Posts, Relationships, UncategorizedNo comments
For many people the promise of Thanksgiving is that we have a place (often, family) where we belong and that we are accepted and loved. The corresponding dread we feel is that the promise will not be kept. That once again we will be judged and found not good enough. We will leave the celebration feeling isolated, with the nagging sense that we don’t really belong.
There are always rules for belonging. We learn them early in life. The first set of rules is just what keeps our parents happy with us. We also learn our place, how we fit in with them, our siblings, and extended family. These patterns become a template for our future relationships. They affect not just the one-to-one interactions we develop later in life, but also how we relate to groups, whether social, professional, or church. The effect is subtle but pervades our lives.
10. September, 2012Blog Posts, Depression, Relationships, UncategorizedNo comments
Oddly, we usually dislike ourselves for the wrong reasons. We dislike that we are quiet and slow to make friends; we get upset with ourselves for being overweight; we beat ourselves up for losing our temper.
We set almost impossible standards for ourselves in trivial matters, such as exercise (“I’ve simply got to hit the gym more often.”) or socializing (“I never know what to say.”). This sort of guilt eats up a lot of psychic energy. It distracts us. We are focused on issues that miss the heart of the matter. Yet, they cause us to feel personally insufficient.
So, what constitutes true guilt?
13. August, 2012Blog Posts, RelationshipsNo comments
As children we formed a strong belief that happiness and the fulfillment of our desires go hand-in-hand. Anyone who has witnessed the temper tantrum of a child (or recalls their own childish fits) knows it is overwhelming, frightening, even infuriating when those who supposedly love us do not give us what we want.
We are better disciplined as adults but the conviction remains. We expect those who love us to give us (read ‘do’) what we want. When they don’t, we react, determined to have events go the way we want so we can be happy.
There are three typical ways we set about trying to get what we want, none of which are successful.
9. July, 2012Anger, Blog Posts, RelationshipsNo comments
The (Really Big) Secret to Keeping Your Cool
Anger is always in response to some perceived threat to survival. It can be physical but as often as not it is an emotional threat.
11. June, 2012Blog Posts, Boundaries, RelationshipsNo comments
When adults complain they can’t say “No,” the next remark is often, “I need stronger boundaries.” Yet, setting healthy boundaries can be an elusive goal. Another perspective on this may help.
For an adult the inability to say no comes down to guilt and shame, often false guilt and false shame. Consider a simple example: houseguests, perhaps unwanted in the first place, who overstay their welcome, never pitch in, expect free meals and laundry service, then announce their plans to return next year. Why would any host or hostess put up with this? The answer is guilt and shame.
The internal conversation may sound something like this: “If you say anything you look like a shrew. They’ll never speak to you again. They’ll say you treated them horribly. You’ll create a terrible rift in the family. It’s up to you to take the high road.”
This guilt is false. Yes, these concerns may come true. These houseguests may never speak to you again and they may create a family fuss. But this guilt is a ‘red herring’ and hides a deeper self attack.
9. May, 2012Blog Posts, RelationshipsNo comments
On Becoming a Mother by Susan Wadsworth
I have a vague memory of someone telling me one day when I was very young that I was adopted. I asked what that meant and they said, “It means you weren’t born from your mother’s tummy.” There was something mentioned that other people were born from their mothers’ tummies. I thought, “Oh, ok.”
Gradually I constructed my belief about what this meant. It went over time from not being born from my mother, to never having been born at all, or possibly having been dropped off by aliens, to the conclusion that if I wasn’t born like others were, maybe I really was an alien. So I spent many years feeling like an imposter, and every interaction with people (“real” people) was a test of my ability to get by unnoticed and pass for one of them.
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Meditation: Sandra Egli
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