Reblog: The 6 Things Needed for a Healthy Family

by Boundaries

Believe it or not, there’s not a huge difference between leading at work and leading at home.

In fact, if we asked some of our colleagues who actually liked their statistics courses about the predictive validity of certain leadership traits in creating healthy families, my guess is that the number would be pretty high. And the good thing is that these are actual skills and abilities that people have and do every day at work. Our task is to get them to take those skills home!

So, if we think about it that way, what do leaders do that can be applied to creating healthy families? Here are just a few thoughts:

1. Cast a vision. One of the best fathers I know also leads an organization of thousands of people, and he takes this skill home. He gets out the white board and asks, “Ok, team, so what do we want this year to look like? At the end of the year, what do we want to have done that would make it a great year?” Or, “What does everyone want it to feel like to live here? What do we want family dinners to feel like or be like?”

He says that to get everyone working toward a positive vision, like having dinners without squabbling, gives a standard for them all to work towards, instead of just a nagging parent saying, “Kids, stop arguing with each other!” To be a family that every year learns or gets better at new skills makes piano, sports or reading seen in a different light. To have a vision of being a family that helps others sets a direction for reaching out to neighbors, or schoolmates, or learning other service oriented behaviors. Or, a vision of making it a fun year: “If we want this year to be the year of fun, what regular activities, or what vacation would be the best to do that?”

Getting the whole family involved in creating what they want their family to be like gives some tracks that will guide them down the same path.

2. Build unity. At work, leaders focus a lot on team building, unity and breaking down silos. They know that disconnection and dissent will wreck whatever they are trying to do and make life miserable for everyone. But, often they do not apply this same intentionality at home.

When you get parents asking the same strategic questions of themselves at home that they do at work, they get more engaged at building family togetherness. They begin to think about issues like these:

What settings are best to get everyone to share what is going on with them? Dinners? Family meetings? Walks around the neighborhood? Retreats or camping?
What kinds of tones do we need to set that is going to build trust?
How can I model vulnerability and acceptance that will get people to open up more?

Am I seeing anyone in particular not being a part of the team? Is anyone disconnected? How can I bring that person back in?
What fun “team bonding” activities am I regularly making sure happen? Crazy lunches? Goofy games? Bowling night for a non-bowling family?
What are some opportunities to “celebrate” victories by the individual family members?

3. Have regular meetings. No team gets where they are going without regular meetings, and the family is no exception. Family meetings can be a great regular structure where everyone talks about where they are in their individual plans, where the family is in terms of its own vision and goals that have been set, and a review of the behavioral contracts that everyone had for the week. For example, the family meeting is a great place to take the chore chart accounting and pay allowances or fines based on agreements. Also, it is a great setting to establish those expectations and have everyone talk about what the consequences will be, positive or negative, for adherence. Leaders hold their people accountable to standards of performance.

The family meeting can be a good place also to ask, “What does anyone need help with? Is there somewhere that we can pray for anyone, or help you do something?” And it is a good setting for talking about a value, or some other small lesson and asking questions like, “How are we doing in living this one out?”

4. Set stretch goals. We know from research that the happiest and most fulfilled people are people who set regular goals. I like to ask my kids to come up with their regular “stretch goals,” and share them in a family meeting. It gets them thinking of what the next “push” can be for them to stretch themselves in a particular area, and it also gives a context to check in and see how it is going. Added benefit: I have to give mine too, and it has helped me be more regular at working out!

5. Create a learning team with “continuous improvement.” Companies that thrive work hard on making their teams a place where mistakes, risks and failures are not punished, but used as an opportunity for learning. This does not mean that there is a lack of accountability or standards. But it does mean that the tone and nature of the standards are not punitive and shaming in nature. They try hard to “normalize” not getting it right so that mistakes and struggles can be shared and learned from. To make the family a place of learning, not punishment, is to create a growth environment.

6. Create and speak energy. Leaders energize, motivate and keep everyone moving. They are fuel for an organization, the fire that keeps it moving forward. So, they monitor their own energy and motivation, keeping it up and then making sure that they share it with their people. As is often said, they “speak energy” into initiatives and projects. In families, parents need to do the same thing. They need to ask themselves, first of all, “Am I motivating and inspiring everyone to get where we need to get?” And secondly, “Am I doing that in a way that creates more positive energy instead of negative energy and a drain?” In short, am I a positive charge when I walk in, or am I a drain? Leaders keep things moving forward, but they do it in a way that feels good to people.

So, it might be helpful to your clients to think of “Family Inc.” What they might find is that they already possess and practice many of the skills that it takes to be a stellar parent, and with a little focus, they could be having as much fun at home as they do at work.

Find the original article here.

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TED Talk: Why We Should Search For Meaning, Not Happiness

Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but what if there’s a more fulfilling path? Happiness comes and goes, says writer Emily Esfahani Smith, but having meaning in life — serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you — gives you something to hold onto. Learn more about the difference between being happy and having meaning as Smith offers four pillars of a meaningful life.

Reblog: You Don’t Have to Deal With Toxic Behaviors of Others

by Dr. Henry Cloud

I was doing a seminar one day when a woman asked this question: How do you deal with critical people?”

My first response was, “Why would you want to do that? Dealing with critical people is awful.”

She looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Well … because you have to!”

“I don’t find that to be true,” I said. “Why do you have to?”

She got very circumspect and almost in a whisper so no one could hear, she said, “Because they’re everywhere!”

“Everywhere?” I asked.

“Yes, everywhere.”

“Wow, let’s talk about that.”

And we did, right there in front of a thousand people. I asked her what these critical people were like and where she was finding them, and she began to describe judgmental, critical personalities that she knew in her work, her extended family and in her social circles. In a sense, she was right. They were everywhere – at least in her everywhere. Apparently, she had an uncanny ability to find them, no matter where she was.

It seemed that at her work or any other circle, she would somehow manage to be drawn to the most critical person in the group and become friends with them. After awhile, she would feel like, “all they do is criticize what I am doing and tell me I should be doing it differently.”

What I told her that while it was true that critical people can be found everywhere, it was not true that she had to keep finding them or become best friends with them. But as long as she needed approval of these people – which is impossible to attain – she would always need to find a critical person so that she could live out her lifelong strategy of finally getting one to like her. Good luck.

The observation here is that she needed a critical person to accomplish her goal of getting critical people to finally approve of her. Her “script” required a critical person, so without realizing it, she always looked for one. All she would know was that when she encountered a critical person, she would feel “not good enough” and would begin trying to be good enough in their eyes, exerting lots of effort and continually falling short.

“What do I do?” she asked.

“Easy,” I said. “Just be honest with them, and you’ll never hear from them again.”

“What?” she said.

“Just be honest with them. Tell them something like, ‘Yeah, I can see that you would do it differently, but I like it like this. What’s for lunch?’ ”

Recognize the boundary there?

“But they will keep telling me what is wrong with what I am doing,” she said.

“Probably. So then you just say, ‘Yeah, I understand you feel that way, but that is the way I want to do it. Let’s move on. What’s for lunch?’ ”

In this situation I just described, replace “critical” with a toxic behavior of someone you know. Now think of what you can do for yourself next time you think you have to “deal with” them. Recognize what you’re feeling and honor that. Define the boundary for yourself, and communicate it with the person with whom you have an issue.

For example, “I don’t like it when you treat me like that. If you continue to do so, I will choose not to be around you until you can respect me the same way I respect you.”

That’s a vague statement, but you can define the specific boundary that meets your needs.

Now take a moment to ask yourself: What role am I playing in the situation I find myself in? What am I contributing to this?

Understanding all of this gives you something you can work on. You can work on your tendency to allow toxic people to have that kind of power over you. You can work on staying separate from their opinions and have your own. And most powerfully, you can finally notice that there are other people in your life who don’t exhibit those behaviors.

Please note that if there is an abusive person in your life, the boundaries you set may require a strong support system. It is encouraged that you seek the help of a counselor, a group and/or contact local law enforcement as necessary.

Find the original article here.

TED Talk: What I learned from 100 days of rejection

Jia Jiang adventures boldly into a territory so many of us fear: rejection. By seeking out rejection for 100 days — from asking a stranger to borrow $100 to requesting a “burger refill” at a restaurant — Jiang desensitized himself to the pain and shame that rejection often brings and, in the process, discovered that simply asking for what you want can open up possibilities where you expect to find dead ends.

You Tube: How to Discipline Your Child Without Yelling or Spanking

When parents discipline their children with yelling or spanking, it’s often a result of emotional venting and is not particularly useful because of the negative side effects. Learn how to discipline children with guidance-based strategies with help from a licensed clinical psychologist in this free video on children and discipline.

Expert: Dr. Craig Childress

Contact: http://www.drcachildress.org

Reblog: How to Help Your Children Through Divorce

by Dr. Gail Gross

There are many affects of divorce on a family – emotional, economic and personal, and children are often the collateral damage. Parents are in so much pain and distress that they are unable to care for the emotional and physical needs of their children. As a result, children are caught in the crossfire, between two emotionally wounded people, who once said, “I do” and for whatever reason now, don’t.

Children, however, have had nothing to say about this decision, and the only place where they feel safe – their home with mother and father – has now been destroyed. All the structures, by which they identified and labeled themselves and their family, no longer exist and, regardless of their age, children can’t really get their minds around the idea that something they considered “forever”, no longer exists. Furthermore, we know today that the impact of divorce on children can be long lasting.

Longitudinal research on children from divorce informs us that trust, commitment and intimacy are more difficult to develop in relationships later in life when they are violated at an early age. Therefore, children of divorce, tend to marry later in life and often have problems choosing a life partner. Also, other delays are evident, as these children can be paralyzed or frozen in their emotions at the very stage of development that existed at the time of divorce – or they can be seen to regress to earlier developmental stages that existed before the divorce. However, this rather bleak scenario does not have to exist.

Out of 100% of the people in our country that have children, only 20% are traditionally married. There are all types of family structures in which children are raised. The important thing to remember is that children need to have their needs met; they need to be nurtured; and they need to be able to count on their parents to be reliable and be there for them. Consequently, parents must step into their adult mode; override their own feelings of incapacity and be there for their children – now. Though marriage fails to survive, the family can still prosper if divorce is a success.

What Parents Should Know About Divorce

Keep Children in the Loop – It is much easier to deal with things we know about. Parents must be open and honest and give age-appropriate information to their children. If you do this, then you can actually lower your children’s anxiety rather than have it be free-floating, looking for a place to reside. Tell your children together and try to promote a united front. This will signal to your children that though the marriage breaks – the family survives, and that parents from henceforth, will become co-parents – loving their children unconditionally no matter what. Keep it simple. Don’t exaggerate or over-react. Children take their cue from their parents. If you show them confidence, they will feel secure in a potentially out-of-control situation. The course is set – steer them through it, with competence.

Have a Plan – Structure and consistency offer stability. Children feel secure if they feel that you, their parents, will protect them and have a construct for their future. Restore a normal routine as quickly as possible, including a calendar for visitation and holidays. Practice and rehearse your children in their new living arrangements, including school. This will give your children the confirmation that their parents have put serious thought into what happens to them.

Reassure Your Children – Don’t burden your children with adult decisions and responsibilities. Let them have their childhood.

Do Not Split Your Children in Relation to Your Former Mate – Children bear the genetic inheritance of both parents and consciously or unconsciously, feel their identity wrapped up in mother and father. If you attack their parent, you are in essence attacking your child’s identity – who he or she is, as a person. Children are very loyal and empathetic to their parents. As a result, if you put them in the middle of your divorce, they will bear both, some of the responsibility and guilt for the outcome – successful or not. Don’t ask children to be responsible for things over which they have no control. It can damage them for life.

Be Authentic – Tell the truth to your children – but never speak against their other parent. Children have had their trust shattered, and it is the parent’s role to rebuild that trust for them through positive regard and experience – little by little, day by day. Reconstruct a secure familial model for your children, letting them feel that you can care for them and be counted on to tell the truth – no matter what. Answer questions honestly, keeping in mind age-appropriate information. Parents are required to parent and maintain a sense of self-control.

Put Your Children First – Don’t make them your ally or your agent. Don’t ask them questions about your ex-partner, their living arrangements or dating arrangements. This puts children in a double bind and makes them feel very uncomfortable, as they feel they may be betraying one parent or the other.

Create A Safe Family Environment – The family structure is now different and unfamiliar. Children see their parents fragile, for what may be the first time. Their safe haven – the family as they knew it – is gone. To protect their family – their parents, children often repress their own feelings. Grief is the natural response to loss as well as guilt, anger, and fear. Children blame themselves as they are very egocentric and have the feeling of omnipotence. It is the parent’s role to help their children deal with these feelings so that they don’t have either short-term or long-term injury. Unresolved grief, fear, guilt, and anger, when repressed, can lead to both childhood and adult depression and in the worst case scenario suicide. Children must be encouraged to express their feelings and parents must give them the space in which to do that.

The Empathic Process – The best way to reconnect to your children is to communicate with them often. The best way to communicate with them is to listen to them with empathy. Set a regular time as a family tradition, a ritual, to restore faith in the family’s ability to function securely and be protective. Find a neutral space – the kitchen table, which is the heart of the house and serves very well for family meetings. Make eye contact; listen attentively; touch hands; hold confidences; and never defend positions. This is a place for each child to tell their feelings freely. There are rules for the empathic process – each person gets equal time to talk without interruption; and each child is invested in ideas and solutions. As a result, problem solving can happen because everyone’s feelings are considered. Never discount feelings. Divorce is devastating to the emotional make-up of children and adults. Of course, there will be the expression of injury – including anger, hurt, and blame. The family can take it, because love in a family is unconditional. This is where the parent must rise to the occasion to stay in the adult mode and support by listening, not just hearing, the pain in their family. The consistent family meeting, gives children a chance to reveal their feelings and express them. It also gives parents a chance to check in with their children to see how they feel; see how they are doing.

Never Give False Hope To Children That The Marriage Will Reunite – This only encourages fantasy or magical thinking and delays healing. In a certain way, clear and straight talk with your children gives them an opportunity to transition from one family structure to another by reaching down into their own resource and finding out that they can survive.

Seek Professional Help – Parents must never use their children for friends or counselors. If parents can’t handle their suffering, they should go to either a meaningful person; a person in the clergy; or a counselor or therapist.

Children Who Can’t Move Successfully Through Divorce, Need Therapy – Group therapy; counseling and support groups of children in similar situation are very successful in helping children connect to their feelings. Sometimes dance therapy, art, journaling, help children communicate in ways that are often too difficult to verbalize. A good counselor can guide them through the process.

Create New Family Traditions – Sometimes families reorganize in a way that includes step-parents and step-siblings. Therefore, parents must take the lead and invite children into the process of creating new family rules and new holiday experiences. Remember once again – to parent – to shape the new model by giving freedom within limits. If you invest your children in these decisions, they will be more likely to adapt comfortably. These children may have inherited new parents and new siblings, and no one asked them their opinions – no one gave them a choice. The trauma of divorce is deconstructing and parents can lead the way toward healthy reconstruction.

Creating A New Family Model With New House Rules, Rewards And Consequences Is Very Important To The Success Of This Transformation – Children become very territorial once they have experienced the dissolution of their family and face the establishment of something new. In essence, they are fighting for a place for themselves. This takes love, patience and time. Remember – children need their needs met; they need to be nurtured; and they need to be able to count on their parents to be there for them now.

Recognizing Signs Of Distress – Divorce is a trauma for the emotional well-being of your child. It is important to know your child; to pay attention and see signs of change such as eating, sleeping, activity, school work, social behavior, anxiety, agitation, depression and in the extreme, giving away precious possessions. Children look to their families as a way to define themselves. It is a part of who they are – their identity. It is unthinkable that no matter how bad the family system is, it will actually dissolve. Divorce is so critical to the way that children feel about themselves, think and act, that if not handled well by the adults involved, can lead to a whole host of negative outcomes – not the least of which is childhood suicide. Parents can make all of the difference, but first, it is essential that they stay in their adult and parent. This means they should not burden their children with their problems; don’t take away their children’s childhood by making them responsible for themselves; and don’t make your children your friends and allies.

In the final analysis, children have two parents and their very identity is wrapped up in both. Seek professional help if you need support, but do not use your children as counselors; don’t make your children your agents; don’t ask them uncomfortable questions about their other parent; and don’t put them on the spot in a double bind. This kind of splitting can only lead to feelings of disloyalty and guilt.

Create a safe space for your children where you can communicate with empathy and listen. Check in with them on a regular basis; find out how they are doing; how they feel. It is important to know that your children want to be normal and the same as everyone else. Therefore, honor their feelings; confirm their feelings of hurt and pain and invest them in the discovery of options to help them find their own resource for survival. Return your children to a normal routine as quickly as possible, and remember to participate in the solution – don’t be the problem.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Your Child to Cope with Anger

by Dr. Gail Gross

Do you find your child lashing out? Are you having trouble communicating with your child during moments of extreme frustration or aggression? While children are growing and still learning how to cope with anger, they tend to instinctively use anger as a defense against physical and emotional pain. As the parent, there are many ways you can help your child through these emotional moments.

Here are some helpful tips to teach your children how to cope with anger:

1. DO recognize and acknowledge your child’s feelings. If you validate your child’s feelings, then your child doesn’t need to defend those feelings and is less likely to respond in anger. Acknowledging feelings causes your child’s anger to soften and leaves a safe space in which he or she can learn empathy and coping skills. On the other hand, if you discount your children’s feelings and experience, their anger will intensify as they fight to establish and validate their own sense of self.

2. DO practice empathy. By listening to your child’s feelings without interruption or defense, you create space for your child’s anger to dissipate, as they no longer need to use up energy defending the fairness of their position. By empathizing with your child’s feelings, you are helping them regulate the cortisol — the fight-or-flight chemical — that emerges through emotional stress. The consistency of your open reception to your child’s anger teaches him or her to react less emotionally and more critically. Ultimately, this is how nature and nurture come into balance, as a child’s behavior affects body chemistry and therefore, their emotional control.

3. DO teach your children problem-solving skills. Neurological tracking occurs when children creatively problem-solve. The more children practice and rehearse problem-solving rather than emotional reacting, the more their neurological pathways assist them in controlling their impulses. Parents can teach their children how to recognize, acknowledge and appropriately cope with their feelings by asking questions that prompt children to think up their own solutions, such as “What do you think would happen if you did Choice A instead of Choice B?” or, “What sort of options do you think are available to you and what do you need to do to find a resolution?”

4. DO establish clear standards for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. This means that though we want to validate all our child is feeling, allowing those emotions does not translate into the acceptance of bad behavior. There are common rules of engagement which include: no hitting, throwing, breaking objects or disrespect. By involving children in establishing the consequences for their behavior, you will find that your children are more likely to respect the rules. By limiting your children’s aggressive behavior, you are in a sense establishing a safety container for their feelings.

5. DO teach your child relaxation methods. By teaching children progressive relaxation, breathing techniques and other self-managing tools for stress, they can calm themselves down when confronted with anger. These techniques not only change the neural pathways, but also affect impulse control. Like every habit, the more your do it, the better you become at it. For example, if a child learns to breath in before giving in to the impulsive act of hitting, it gives that child a sense of control and lessens the need to establish control by acting out.

6. DO try a “time in” instead of a “time out.” As the parent, you are your child’s main guide in life, and as their guide, they rely on you to be there with them through their emotional experience, whatever that may be. Therefore, no time out, no isolation. Instead, try a “time in” — sit with your child and incorporate other methods mentioned in this post: work on breathing with them, ask them questions about their feelings. The important thing is to be fully present with them to help them through their emotions. Remember, you are teaching your child social cues and skills to be in relationships with others, rather than acting out alone. When children are isolated, they often ruminate and feel guilty for their behavior. This only serves to create concrete reasons for low self-esteem, which often cycles back to creating bad behavior.

7. DON’T attempt to orchestrate your child’s feelings. It is important to value what your child is experiencing. For example, if your child is hurt or crying, never say to them: “Stop crying.” But rather, validate your child’s experience, saying, “I know that hurts; that would make me cry also.” This makes an ally out of you, rather than a target for free floating anxiety and anger.

As an ally, your child learns to trust you, realizing you are there for them — no matter what, right or wrong, and that they can count on that. If your child can trust you, they can learn to trust themselves and the outer world. If, for example, your child tells you they hate you, or wants you to leave them alone, it is important to assure them that you will be nearby and that you will always be there for them — no matter what.

8. DON’T go down to your child’s level of behavior. Consciously and deliberately step into your role as the adult and remain there for the entire stressful episode. Little children can really work themselves up emotionally, especially while defending their position. Your job as a parent is to stay composed. Your state of calm allows your child to feel safe in the midst of chaos. A parent is always a child’s touchstone, the one they look toward, for security and safety. Children become afraid when their parents display anger. By staying in your adult role, you are teaching your child that it is okay to feel angry, and that when the feeling passes, you are still there, holding a secure space for them.

9. DO teach your children to recognize anger cues. If children can self-monitor, they can self-manage. By recognizing the feelings that accompany anger, children can recognize the onset of those emotions. This gives them time in which to self-manage before they are caught in the chaos of emotion. If you see that your child is over-tired or cranky, you have the opportunity as a parent to teach them to recognize their oncoming emotions by resting with your child, reading to your child, or spending some cozy time together.

10. DO teach your children how to bring their feelings to consciousness. By recognizing the emotions that drive their behavior, children can learn to skillfully manage that behavior. Writing, drawing and painting are wonderful ways to express the issues that are bothering children, especially if they have trouble verbalizing their emotions. When my children were little and reached the point of no return in their emotional intensity, I bought a Shmoo, which is balloon that can be punched and pops back up. I gave permission for my children to use the pillows on their bed or the Shmoo to release some of the pent-up feelings of emotions. Once those feelings are out in the open, you can collaborate with your child to find ways of coping with these feelings empathically.

11. Invest your child in the process of managing their anger. Ask your children to give you some tips on how they could positively manage their emotions. Make a list of five actions they can take — such as breathing deeply for one minute or drawing a picture — and leave the list somewhere your child can see it, such as his or her bedroom door or on your refrigerator door.

12. DO bond with your child. A well-bonded child can learn to cope and manage his or her emotions, to problem-solve, to process and to stick with a problem until it is resolved. They are also more adventuresome and will creatively explore different options as solutions to problems. The well-bonded child feels like he or she can depend on parents.

In the end, remember that you, as the parent, make all the difference. By following these tips, you can help strengthen your relationship with your child and give them the tools they need to cope with their anger. If you notice that your child has relationship problems, is a bully, or tries to hurt themselves, others or animals, do consider seeking professional help for both you and your child.

If you would like to learn more about how children process anger, please visit my website www.DrGailGross.com

Find the original article here.

You Tube: The Mad Family: Anger Management For Children

Anger can be a difficult emotion to understand, especially for children. This story walks through the process of moving from outbursts and repression to conscious, healthy methods of expressing anger. This is a condensed version of the book, “The Mad Family Gets Their Mads Out” by Lynne Namka, Ed. D., psychologist and president of “Talk, Trust and Feel Therapeutics.”

http://www.angriesout.com

Reblog: How to Help Kids Manage Anger

by Signe Whitson L.S.W.

As a school counselor, one of the most frequently asked category of questions I receive centers around ‘how do I handle my child’s anger?’  The question is almost always spoken by parents in a voice burdened with shame and embarrassment—as if anger in childhoodwas a bad thing or that any ‘good’ parent would know how to keep their kids perpetually happy.  Neither could be further from the reality of human nature and no adult need berate themselves for the fact that their children act like human beings.

To reassure caregivers that their questions about how to handle anger in children are valid and that they are not alone (by a long shot) in feeling weighed down by the challenge, here are my responses to a few of the most frequently asked questions about helping kids handle anger:

IS ANGER BAD OR HARMFUL TO A CHILD?

Anger is a basic, primal, spontaneous, but temporary neurophysiological feeling.  It is usually triggered by some sort of frustration and often perceived as an unpleasant state.  Anger is real and it is powerful—but it needn’t be feared, denied, or considered bad in and of itself.  Bearing in mind that all living creatures experience frustration, it follows that the feeling of anger is completely normal and natural.  It’s what we do with our anger that counts.  When anger is dealt with in healthy, constructive ways, there’s nothing bad or harmful about it.  However, too often we find that young people express anger in destructive ways that are harmful to friendships, parent-child interactions, student-teacher relationships, and even to long-term health.

DO ADULT ANGER PROBLEMS ALWAYS START FROM CHILDHOOD?

Problems expressing anger in healthy ways often trace their roots to childhood.  Some young people learn from the adults in their lives that aggression—whether it be yelling, name-calling, shaming, or actual violence—is the go-to strategy for expressing anger.  They may be taught that their momentary feelings are more important than the rights of others and that they are free to act out their feelings on others, no matter what the impact.

Then, there are other very different childhood experiences that are marked by impossible standards of perfection.  In these homes, kids often get the message that “anger is bad” and that “good kids don’t let anyone know that they are angry.”  Young people growing up in this kind of emotionally-restricted environment learn from an early age to hide or deny their natural feelings.  Even though suppressing anger may appear far more civil than outright name-calling or aggression, kids who are forced to mask their anger can suffer a great deal as adults, as they turn their anger inward and experience depression, or engage in passive aggressive behaviors to hurt others in hidden ways.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HEALTHY SPELL OF ANGER AND SOMETHING THAT’S A PROBLEM?

Healthy anger is marked by assertive communication.  In a healthy spell of anger, a young person can (and will!) honestly, directly and clearly tell someone else what happened that bothered them and make a specific request for that behavior to change or for amends to be made.  In some situations, this kind of communication is not an option and so a young person may make a conscious decision to distance themselves from the anger source or to “let go” of their angry feelings.  For example, in a school setting, students often don’t have the social power to be able to be 100% honest and assertive with a teacher they believe has treated them unfairly.  Making a choice to pick their battles and let a minor injustice go is a mature, emotionally-measured, and solution-focused way to make a bad situation bearable.

Problematic anger happens when an angry young person violates the rights of others through some sort of physical aggression, verbal outburst, or backhanded means of revenge.  Problematic anger is all about getting back at someone else and hurting them, while constructive anger is about solving a problem.

HOW CAN I HELP A CHILD WHO HAS ANGER ISSUES?

Any person at any age can learn that they have choices when it comes to how to express anger.  The good news is that just as aggression is a learned behavioral choice for expressing anger, so is assertiveness.  This knowledge is power.  When young people realize that their choices are bringing them results that they don’t want—scoldings, time outs, loss of privileges, restrictions on free time—they are often eager to learn better choices and strategies for expressing their angry feelings.

Physical strategies such as engaging in sports, exercise, mindfulness, and yoga are proven effective in helping young people learn to calm their brains and gain greater control over their choices in healthy behaviors.

As a mental health professional and school counselor, I encourage all schools to incorporate emotion management skills as part of the regular curriculum.  Since we know that emotional well-being is a pre-requisite for academic success, it only makes sense that schools make so-called “soft” skills such as problem-solving, conflict resolution, and assertive communication a part of their regular skills curriculum.  Prevention is our very best bet for helping young people solve their anger issues before they become lifelong patterns.

And finally, timing is everything when it comes to helping a young person who expresses their anger in destructive ways.  Telling a person that they have “anger issues” during a fit of rage is pretty much guaranteed to worsen the problem.  The child’s emotional brain is dominating their actions and they are not able to effectively access the logical, thinking part of their brain that allows them to make good choices.  For a young person to truly understand that their way of expressing anger is a problem for them (and for those around them!), they have to be calm enough to be able to clearly comprehend the costs of their destructive anger expression.   Helping a child learn how to thoroughly calm down from a bout of anger is one of the most valuable skills an adult can teach.  Listening (read: not talking) while a young person puts their feelings into words after (and only after) they have calmed down is a lasting way to help kids learn to understand and manage their angry feelings.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: 7 Reasons Why People Use Passive Aggressive Behavior

by Signe Whitson L.S.W.

Frustrating. Confounding. Relationship-damaging. Effective. Passive aggressive behavior is all of these things…and more. It is a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008) that occurs among both men and women, in all civilized cultures and at every socioeconomic level. Why is this dysfunctional behavior so widespread? This article details seven reasons why passive aggressive behavior thrives in families, schools, relationships, and the workplace.

1. Anger is Socially Unacceptable

Anger is a normal, natural human emotion. It is, in fact, one of the most basic of all human experiences. Yet from a very young age, many of us are bombarded with the message that anger is bad. During a period in our emotional development when we are highly susceptible to social pressure from parents, caregivers, and teachers, we learn that to be “good” we must squash honest self-expression and hide angry feelings.

2. Sugarcoated Hostility is Socially Acceptable

When people learn that they cannot express anger openly, honestly, and directly within relationships, the emotion doesn’t just go away. Rather, many of us learn to express it in alternative, covert, socially acceptable ways, often through passive aggressive behaviors.

3. Passive Aggression is Easier than Assertiveness

In this day and age of common core, standardized tests, and Race to the Top, social skills instruction is often edged out of a young person’s formal education. Yet study after study shows that specific instruction in such “soft” skills as assertiveness, emotion management, and relationship building are as essential to a young person’s development as any “hard core” math and reading skills.

Kids are not born knowing how to communicate their feelings in direct, emotionally honest ways; rather, assertiveness is a skill that needs to be taught and is best mastered though repetition. On the other hand, passive aggressive behaviors such as sulking, emotional withdrawal, and indirect communication are much more the mark of immature, untamed emotional expression.

4. Passive Aggression is Easily Rationalized

A young girl doesn’t feel like cleaning her room. When her parents insist, she pouts first, procrastinates second, and then shoves all of her earthly possessions under her bed. When her father becomes irritated by her behavior, she feigns indignation: “I don’t know why you’re so upset. I was going to do it as soon as I finished my homework.” When her mother shows exasperation at the alarming pile of dirty clothing peeking out from below her comforter, she plays the victim: “Nothing I do is ever good enough for you, Mom. You just want me to be perfect!” With both parents, the girl rationalizes her string of compliantly defiant behavior, casting herself in the role of victim and blaming her parents’ “unreasonable” demands and standards as the real problem.

5. Revenge is Sweet

Passive aggression involves a variety of behaviors designed to “get back” at another person without the other recognizing the underlying anger. Jason feels overworked and under-acknowledged in the office. He calls out sick on two consecutive days, thereby missing a key deadline that sabotages his department’s productivity and ultimately reflects poorly on his boss. The boss is overlooked for a promotion; Jason’s mission is accomplished.

As in this example, passive aggression is often a crime of omission; it is what Jason did not do that indirectly caused a major problem for the target of his unarticulated anger. Because it can be difficult to “catch in the act” and often impossible to discipline according to standard HR protocols, passive aggressive behavior often exists as the perfect office crime.

6. Passive Aggressive Behavior is Convenient

Not everyone who uses passive aggressive behavior is a passive aggressive person. For example, a husband who typically communicates directly and honestly with his wife may not have the wherewithal on a particular weekend day to say “no” to her request to fix a leaky faucet, so he promises to do it while making endless excuses to put off the task. The man is not passive aggressive across the board, but on this day when relaxing and avoiding a fight with his wife are his top priorities, he chooses passive aggression as a convenient behavior of choice.

7. Passive Aggression can be Powerful

By denying feelings of anger, withdrawing from direct communication, casting themselves in the role of victim, and sabotaging others’ success, passive aggressive persons create feelings in others of being on an emotional roller coaster. Through intentional inefficiency, procrastination, allowing problems to escalate, and exacting hidden revenge, the passive aggressive individual gets others to act out their hidden anger for them. This ability to control someone else’s emotional response makes the passive aggressive person feel powerful. He/she becomes the puppeteer—the master of someone else’s universe and the controller of their behavior.

In the short term, passive aggressive behaviors can be more convenient than confrontation and generally require less skill than assertiveness. They allow a person to exact revenge from behind the safety of plausible excuses and to sit on the sofa all weekend long rather than complete a list of undesirable chores. So, what’s not to love? Truth be told, while momentarily satisfying or briefly convenient, in the long run, passive aggressive behavior is even more destructive to interpersonal relationships than aggression. Over time, virtually all relationships with a person who is passive aggressive become confusing, destructive and dysfunctional.

Find the original article here.

 

Reblog: The ABC’s of Emotions

By Kelly Graves 

Have you ever felt so angry that every time you think back on it you’re angry again? Or experienced fear that never really went away? Stubborn emotions can feel like rocks lodged in your gut. But no matter how heavy they feel, emotions are not fixed or permanent. Like a weather system moving across a landscape, our emotional world might be cloudy for days—it might even experience a sudden volcanic eruption—but  they inevitably transform. In this interview from 10% Happier, mindfulness teacher Oren J. Sofer explores how to harness awareness and transform emotional intensity into wisdom.

The ABCs of Emotions

“A” is for Awareness

The first step is to be aware. Ask yourself: How am I feeling right now? Simply answering this question names the experience and creates a jumping-off point for a workable relationship with the emotion. Labeling an emotional state organizes the chaos in the mind so you can begin to notice and work with it more effectively. Cultivating awareness helps form the habit of acknowledging when an emotion has taken center stage, and naming the emotion provides space to work more skillfully with its drama.

“B” is for Balance

As your awareness grows, you’ll likely notice more often how difficult it is to stay balanced in the throes of emotional intensity—this is normal.  Balance does not mean never being knocked off kilter. It means being okay with the internal rollercoaster and having a willingness to go along for the ride. Pushing away unpleasantness or desperately clawing for a better experience actually feeds the power an emotion has. Instead, try to stay with the emotion. Notice what it feels like in that moment without trying to change it. Taking this balanced stance builds confidence in your ability to remain in any experience and have the endurance to witness emotions as they ebb and flow.

Pushing away unpleasantness or desperately clawing for a better experience actually feeds the power an emotion has.

“C” is for Curiosity and Care

Next, dig deeper and investigate the emotion. Be curious how it feels in the body. Does it feel tingly? Or hot? Where is the emotion most intense? Dropping out of your stories and into your bodily sensations deprives the emotion of reinforcement from thoughts, and eventually it will lose momentum. Curiosity also can reveal when an emotion has become too intense. At this point, it is important to take care of yourself by stepping back until you feel ready to return to your practice. Knowing when you need to exercise care is an important skill when working with emotional intensity in a way that is compassionate toward yourself.

“S” is for Support

When emotions reach a certain threshold where they are too intense to work with productively, tap into your support network. Support can come from friends, family, healthy habits, or resources available to you. Support can also come from inner states of mind, like cultivating self-compassion, loving-kindness, patience, and gratitude. Utilize your external and internal support networks when emotions become too overwhelming. Feeling connected during times of emotional turbulence will help you take better care of your well being and gently work with turning intensity into wisdom.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: 5 Reasons Why an Alcoholic Cannot Love

By  Toshia Humphries

As a spiritual life coach and counselor, I have worked with many clients who are romantically involved with or identify as an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. For the most part, they all have the same experience, feeling unloved or “not loved in an ideal way.”

The latter statement is typically a cover story for the real one; a way to stay in denial about the overwhelming sense of loss and grief over the familial or romantic relationship that either died or never existed. It downplays the fact that, regardless of whether or not they were told they were loved or given basic necessities, they did not feel a genuine connection, emotional intimacy or closeness of any kind. In other words, they did not ever experience love in action.

Here’s the real reason why alcoholics have a difficult time reciprocating.

1. They are codependent. Codependency is not love. In fact, it is based on dysfunctional needs and a lack of love or respect for self in the same way active alcoholism is. In a codependent relationship, the significant other or family member is treated as a means to an end (a hostage or a drug), rather than a feeling, thinking human being. Even if the word love may be thrown around a lot, it is typically used as a tool for manipulation or victimization, and therefore feels more like a weapon than a term of endearment. As this dynamic continues, it is likely that active alcoholics will never leave the relationship, but they’ll also never truly be there. Moreover, if given the choice, they’ll never let you go. Hence, the saying, “Alcoholics don’t have relationships; they take hostages.”

2. They don’t love themselves. It has been said that active addiction is an act of turning against oneself, and it is in recovery that an individual learns how to love. In essence, recovery is a movement away from ego and toward love of self and others. Given the fact that the relationship an active alcoholic has with themselves is the one in which they are most abusive and negligent – physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually – it is very clear there is a complete lack of self-love. Additionally, that abuse and neglect inflicted upon self is projected onto and reflected in other relationships. As such, they are abusive and negligent in all relationships; romantic, platonic, professional and familial.3.

3. They are emotionally unavailable. Because any active addict uses substances to numb, escape or avoid pain, they are typically void of any emotional cues. More to the point, they avoid situations or conversations (intimate ones) that might trigger unwanted emotional responses. Additionally, because active addiction is a disconnection from self and therefore they are not in touch with their own emotional or spiritual needs, they cannot connect to those needs in others. In other words, where love is an easy enough word to say, it requires a movement away from ego and fear to truly offer and fully accept. Active alcoholics are in a constant state of ego and fear; the bricks and mortar that make a very substantial wall which impedes emotional availability.

4. They seem to love the bottle more. The key word here (of course) is seem. We all know, alcoholics don’t truly love the bottle. Again, it’s more like a codependent relationship with the bottle in which they cannot leave but it kills them to stay. Still, the bottle does become like a mistress in a marriage and a priority over family, friends and other responsibilities, as well as self. Even with regard to functioning alcoholics who manage to maintain a successful career, alcohol is the first to receive their attention any moment they are free to give it. It is their most prized and protected relationship. And, for the record, the latter explains the level of defensiveness encountered when anyone speaks against or threatens it.

5. They have “King Baby Syndrome.” Active alcoholics are self-centered and egotistical to the point of being easily labeled narcissistic. Even though there is no real love for themselves, they do demand all the attention via victimization, manipulation and dramatic antics. Therefore the world must revolve around them. Additionally, they are impulsive and want instant gratification. As such, they don’t play the tape the whole way through, which is another way of saying that they don’t think about the consequences of their actions and how they will impact others or the future. Learning how to love again or for the first time takes work, and it takes more than merely getting sober. Personal growth, healing and spiritual reconnection are all a necessary part of the process. They are expressions of love in action toward self, and the journey forward is about learning to love you.

Find the original article here on Sober Recovery.

 

Reblog: How Do You Process Your Feelings After a Divorce?

By Dr. Henry Cloud

Divorce is, be definition, a loss. In fact, one of the Hebrew words for divorce speaks of “cutting or severing a bond.” Something has been lost. The loss is real, genuine, and deep, and it must be grieved.

Grief is accepting the reality of what is. It is internalizing the reality of the severing of the marriage bond on both the intellectual and emotional levels of the heart. That is grief’s job and purpose – to allow us to come to terms with the way things really are, so that we can move on. Grief is a gift. Without it, we would all be condemned to a life of continually denying reality, arguing or protesting against reality, and never growing from the realities we experience.

When you allow yourself to embrace the sadness and shed the tears for what you have truly lost through divorce, then you can move on to a new phase of life when grief tells you it is time. It is important to note that those who have not fully grieved the losses of their divorce are in jeopardy of either never getting over it or repeating it. When I am speaking to groups of divorced people, I often talk about this in terms of dating. I tell them, “When someone you are seeing tells you that divorce wasn’t that hard on them, and they really didn’t have a difficult time with it, burn rubber out of the driveway of that house.” A person who hasn’t grieved a significant loss has unfinished business inside and can cause others great grief as a result.

What does it mean to embrace grief in divorce? It means many things, including:

  • Allowing a painful feeling to come and go, without prohibiting them.
  • Reaching out to others to comfort and support you through this, rather than going it alone.
  • Putting an end to the protests and arguments in your head about how it shouldn’t have happened, or whose fault it was or was not.

Grief doesn’t allow us to be right, strong, and in control. Grief basically says, “You loved, and you lost. It hurts.” Yet, on the other side are safe people to catch, hold and restore us.

One of the most difficult yet important tasks in grief in divorce is that of remembering and experiencing value for the loved one. Let yourself feel the love you still may bear for your former spouse, the positive emotions you have, your desires for togetherness, your appreciation for that person’s good traits and characteristics. Most people who are trying to get past divorce don’t recognize the importance of this, thinking instead that they need to be aware of the other person’s faults, sins and mistakes. Sometimes they do this out of a desire for revenge; other times it is a reaction against the need they feel for the person, which causes the fear to get hooked back in. Sometimes they do this as a way to complete the letting-go process.

Yet grief does not work this way. When you let go of a love, you are to let go of the whole person: good and bad, weaknesses and strengths, positives and negatives. When we allow only the negative feelings, we then let go only of the person we dislike, which is just a part of the whole individual. We won’t grieve the other part, the person we still love and want, and with whom we have in our memories a repository of good experiences. That person is still in our present world, still active within our heart, and causing all sorts of difficulties. Let go of the desire to see only the bad, and allow yourself to appreciate and let go of the good person you are leaving. This is the key to freedom beyond grief in divorce.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: The Ingredients that Fuel Healthy Intimacy

By Dr. Henry Cloud

A healthy sex life begins with love. Love brings a couple together and allows sex to flourish. Love encompasses sex; it’s larger than sex. Love can create the desire for sex, but when the passion of sex is over, love remains. It continues and is present with the couple, holding them close to each other and to the Author of love himself.

A large part of sexual love is knowing, and sexual love is about knowing your spouse, personally and intimately. That means you should know your partner’s feelings, fears, secrets, hurts, and dreams, and care about them – and likewise, your partner should know and care about yours.

The vulnerability of sex increases that base of knowing, as husband and wife reveal their innermost souls to each other through sexual love. By its unveiling and exposed nature, sex demands that sort of openness. In sexual intimacy two people show each other the privacy of their bodies as well as the privacy of their hearts and feelings.

Love involves the whole person: heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love and sex both require an emotional connection between two people; both should be emotionally present and available. When two people can attach to each other in their hearts, a healthy sex life will emerge and develop. Yet when a couple lacks this kind of intimacy, their sex life will become atrophied because it cannot feed off the emotional connection. This can happen in several ways. Sometimes one mate will withdraw love out of anger, hurt, or a desire to punish the other. Other times one will be unable to take in or receive the other’s love. Still other times one mate has an inability to live emotionally in the world. Both people’s hearts must be available in order to connect emotionally. If this is not the case, while sex can occur, it more often than not does not have enough fuel to be ignited.

It’s also true that love, and healthy sexuality, cannot exist without trust. Because sex is such a symbol of personal exposure and vulnerability, a healthy sex life requires that couples develop a great deal of trust in each other, trust that the other person will not use what he or she knows to hurt the other person. When people trust each other, they feel free to continue their explorations of one another at deeper and deeper levels. In fact, one of the Hebrew words for trust also means “careless.” In other words, when you trust someone, you are careless with him or her. You are not anxious and fearful, editing what you say and feel. You are free to be yourself with the other person, because you can trust that he or she will not do wrong by you.

Love also changes our focus. It shifts our perspective from an emphasis on “I” to a focus on “we.” That is, in love, the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. It is not self-seeking; it is relationship-seeking. That’s why couples don’t talk about building their lives together. They discuss and dream about building a life together. There is a continual emphasis on how “we” are and on caring for the other person’s welfare, and when that happens, we can give ourselves to our significant other in vulnerable, yet, fulfilling ways.

Find the original article here.