Thursday, November 21, 2013

Being Thankful

Being thankful is such a big part of being a contented person and living a meaningful life. There are always people who have more and less than we do, but there is joy in appreciating the people and blessings in our life. People who are grateful are less depressed and less anxious.

How do we stay in a grateful place?

Don't compare yourself to others. What they have or accomplish is really irrelevant to you.

Find ways to be of service to others, whether it's through opportunities at work, in your family, your neighborhood, the community, or the world. I know a wonderful elderly man I met at my grandmother's assisted living facility who, although he's nearly 90, widowed, and has serious health issues, makes the focus of his day helping other seniors more frail than he is. Wally picks up groceries or medications for them and helps the other residents order their meals in the dining room. He is a reminder to me that there is always someone in need of our love, kindness, and support.

Express your appreciation. Be in the positive flow by letting  people who make a difference in your life know that they do.

Let the losses and disappointments you have been through let you be sensitive to the losses of others, and allow you to offer support. It feels wonderful to transcend your own pain to be softened and reach out to others who need your kindness and understanding.

Develop your spiritual side. Having a spiritual life helps us reframe our life experiences, find meaning, peace, and stay focused on what's really important in our lifetime.

Wise people realize that life has, as Rick Warren, pastor and writer of The Purpose Driven Life notes, two sides of a railroad track that are always present. One side of the track has highs, and the other has lows. Everybody always has to experience both. No situation is ever perfect or without some hope. Having this perspective keeps you grounded.

Perhaps this Thanksgiving week, it's a good opportunity to verbally express or put in writing your appreciation of the people who are loving, giving, and supportive in your life.

On Thanksgiving, it's a good time to put other distractions away and focus on family and friends. Take a stand on not making Thanksgiving day or night just another day to shop, despite the fact that more stores are staying open for the holiday.

As spiritual writer Marianne Williamson notes,"Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are." If you really want to feel rich this Thanksgiving, stop to count all of the gifts you have which you cannot buy.

Have a happy and grateful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

When Adults Throw Tantrums

Have you ever seen a full-grown adult have a meltdown? If you are observant, you can see adult-sized tantrums occur wherever you go, including when driving, at home, at work, in stores, in parking lots, and in restaurants. These tantrums occur when some adults don't get what they want, are frustrated, have to wait, have people cut in front of them, or others don't do what they want.

Adult-sized tantrums, in either women or men, aren't pretty. They actually make you look a bit silly and like you just regressed to a younger age. I like the saying, "You can tell the size of a person by the size of the thing that upsets them."

Tantrums can make you red-faced, throw things, scream, yell, curse, and drive unsafely. Getting into a tantrum can make you feel justified to say extremely hurtful things to both strangers and those you love. Hurtful things that are said can never be erased. The other person could always remember them.

There is a long-lasting impact of tantrums and blowing up with your loved ones. It's hard to get over it. It's very difficult to feel safe enough to be physically or emotionally close to someone you don't feel safe with. You never know when a rupture is going to happen next. It keeps the other person on guard and wary of you.

Here's something else to consider: adult tantrums usually have an audience. What is your partner, your child or teen, your co-worker, employee, or other person thinking and feeling about you when they see you lose it? It makes the adult who is throwing the fit look ridiculous.

When it's your parent who tantrums, it's very confusing and hard for young people to deal with. I know children and teens who are frightened by their parent's rage when driving, as well as anxious when parents throw things, slam doors, stomp off, don't speak to other family members for days, or call them ugly names in anger. What's a child to do about it?

Your relationship with your child is like an empathic envelope you hold them in, with much of daily life occurring on the edge of the envelope, where children push the limits and we let them out a bit and pull them back in as needed. Losing it and throwing tantrums with your child is like blowing that relational envelope to bits.

Disagreements and differences of opinion are normal and can be expressed in healthy ways. This includes sitting down with the other person, listening actively to the other person, and also expressing your thoughts and feelings. Fighting fairly can actually help you understand each other's needs better, grow your confidence that you can work through differences respectfully together, and bring you closer.

Having a tantrum, including screaming, raging, throwing things and wounding the other person with hurtful and curse words, is incredibly unskilled behavior. Instead, own that you are upset and take 20 minutes to calm yourself down before talking things out calmly. Remember, everybody gets older, but maturity is entirely optional. Developing enough of a governor to recognize that you are upset and losing control of your anger is a basic requirement for being an emotionally mature person. If you want great, healthy and close relationships, you can't afford to tantrum. The cost is way too high.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

About Time: Appreciating the Little Things

This past weekend, I saw Richard Curtis' new film, "About Time." It's an interesting mix of a  heart-warming love story and a father-son tale, with a dash of science fiction thrown in. Curtis also directed "Love Actually" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral," and this film has the same witty, warm dialogue. The humor helps the dialogue feel more real.

Wouldn't it be great if you could rewind the action in your life at times and do a do-over? In this film, they can, as the charming Bill Nighy teaches his adult son, Domhnall Gleeson, about the unique ability men in their family inherit to time travel back across their own lifetime. Gleeson uses this ability to get a girlfriend, played by Rachel McAdams. Gleeson seems an unlikely leading man, which I found refreshing and endearing. Gleeson can make improvements all along the way in his courtship with McAdams, and the results are enjoyable to watch. Say something dumb as you first meet your beloved? Just take it from the top, and do it again with more confidence and style.

There is a beautiful storyline about the relationship between father and son, including reliving special moments together when they would take walks on the beach and skip stones into the water. Nighy is sprightly, funny, and insightful as he shares his views about the secrets of happiness in life. His combination of humor and authenticity is very effective. You are fortunate, he tells his son, if you find a partner to love for your life who is kind and has a good heart.

There are many sweet and poignant moments in the film, and several enduring themes. It is so important to appreciate the little sweet moments of ordinary days. Living each day as if it might be your last instructs us not to miss the loveliness of a kiss goodbye, a hug hello, or time shared with those we love. We are temporary travelers here, and this lovely little film reminds us of this fact.  It really is about time, because we have a limited number of days, and we want to make them count. Take some kleenex, and enjoy this sweet reminder about what's REALLY important.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Don't Be a Doormat

I am often struck by how many women are pleasers or doormats. Pleasers are afraid of conflict, so they try to avoid it at all costs. Pleasers don't stand up for themselves, what they need or want, in order to keep the harmony. It often comes at a high price. Doormats lay down and allow people to walk on them. I don't recommend either.

As women, we are raised and socialized to reflect the feminine archetype: nurturing, kind, comforting, and compassionate. While all of these qualities are very valuable, I see women get hurt all the time in business and in personal relationships by not speaking up enough. It's almost like some of our greatest strengths can cause us great harm if they aren't balanced with assertiveness, honesty, self-respect, and the ability to say our own truth when we need to.

A respectful relationship with a partner requires that you BOTH respect and listen deeply to the other person's feelings, viewpoint and expressed needs. Keeping the peace and withholding your own needs can make you sad, depressed, angry, hurt, lonely, overeat, overuse alcohol, and hold resentment. It can grow to feel like you are in the wrong relationship. The relationship may be peaceful, but you might feel dead inside. I rarely run into either men or women who are glad they picked this route to happiness.

In your relationship with your child or children, you also need to be an active parent and not use a doormat style of parenting. You are not your child's friend. You are the parent. You need to be loving, but also have reasonable and consistent limits. You must be brave enough to speak up and take action, whether your child has a learning disability, a bad attitude, is sinking academically, not making developmental passages, or is possibly drinking or using drugs. Peace at all costs is a poor plan for parenting your child successfully and into launching towards adulthood.

The workplace is another area of your life where you need limits and boundaries as well as a good work ethic. You are not volunteering at work. You need to have your time respected. You need to not be codependent with being yelled at, taken advantage of, or mistreated in the workplace as well. You need to think of yourself as a professional, act for the job you ultimately want, and command respect.

How can you avoid becoming a pleaser or doormat?

1. Don't automatically say yes to everything you are asked to do by others.

2. Realize there is power in being able to say no. It makes your yes more meaningful.

3.Consider your own needs as well as those of others.

4. Remember that you are responsible for teaching other people how you want to be treated.

5. Have limits. There are some behaviors that you NEVER have to accept from other people, including: screaming, yelling, physical threats or violence, verbal abuse, swearing, bullying, intimidation, etc.

6. Don't dish out or accept disrespectful behavior. Mutual respect is the keystone of all healthy relationships.

7. Speak up.

8. Be direct.

9. Don't hang out and stay in relationships that dishonor you or in which you are being treated badly. Get professional counseling.

10.  Set your boundaries and enforce them consistently and calmly.

There is value to being a nurturer and caring deeply about others. For people who learned growing up to be pleasers, such as people who grew up in an alcoholic home, it's critically important to grow strong enough to balance your compassion for others with your concern for yourself. You matter, too.
Just because you want to be loved or cared for by others, it's not fair to you to make everyone else's needs or keeping the peace a higher value than your own self-respect. Don't be a doormat; you deserve better, but you need to act as if you do.

While we're at it, let's update the feminine archetype as well, to a woman who is loving and kind but not a martyr or self-sacrificial. The feminine ideal needs to be both gentle and strong, loving but also having limits.