After a lifetime of chronic fatigue, illness and depression, my energy has dramatically lifted and I’m feeling positive and more productive :o)
There is much truth to this quote … I went ‘no contact’ with my entire family a couple of months ago and my life is only getting better. I feel better!!
I had been robbed for too many years of my peace and joy.
The majority of my family members are ’emotional bullies’. I come from a historic line of bullies, my father, my husband, my sister, my daughter…. they carry that archetype (role model)..
When I shone a light on the continuing cycle of emotional dysfunction and depression throughout our family I was ostracized..
Emotional bullying has devastating results on your health and peace of mind.
Of course there are parts of my family I deeply miss .. but the peace and energy I now feel I wouldn’t trade for anything. Best thing I ever did was to walk away from the dysfunction and drama.. only wish I did it many many years sooner…
‘Rising Strong’ by Brene Brown
It is the rise from falling that Brown takes as her subject in Rising Strong. As a grounded theory researcher, Brown has listened as a range of people—from leaders in Fortune 500 companies and the military to artists, couples in long-term relationships, teachers, and parents—shared their stories of being brave, falling, and getting back up. She asked herself, What do these people with strong and loving relationships, leaders nurturing creativity, artists pushing innovation, and clergy walking with people through faith and mystery have in common? The answer was clear: They recognize the power of emotion and they’re not afraid to lean in to discomfort.
Walking into our stories of hurt can feel dangerous. But the process of regaining our footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Our stories of struggle can be big ones, like the loss of a job or the end of a relationship, or smaller ones, like a conflict with a friend or colleague. Regardless of magnitude or circumstance, the rising strong process is the same: We reckon with our emotions and get curious about what we’re feeling; we rumble with our stories until we get to a place of truth; and we live this process, every day, until it becomes a practice and creates nothing short of a revolution in our lives. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness. It’s the process, Brown writes, that teaches us the most about who we are.
“But feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem.” ~Anne Frank
As a sensitive person, I have a complicated relationship with my feelings. They are the sensors I extend out into the world, to pull it in. They are the guides that help me decide what works or doesn’t work for me. But there are also times when my feelings rise with such force that I am left gasping for breath.
Then, I am tempted by the thought that not feeling so much would have definitely made things easier.
And yet, I don’t feel all my feelings. Parts of my emotional life feel numb. For a long time, like many people, expressing anger was extremely difficult for me.
We’re all like this, whether we think of ourselves as sensitive and emotional or logical and rational. Our emotional lives are a patchwork made up of beliefs we have internalized and things that we have seen modeled.
We are never taught how to relate to our emotions, and so, we must make our own way through.
Here are some things I have learned that might help you:
There is no such thing as a negative emotion.
We are trained to think of emotions as positive and negative. But in truth, every emotion serves an important function. What would we be without anger to protect our boundaries? Where would we be without fear that tells us that something is wrong? How can we let go of things if we never allow ourselves to feel sad?
We confuse a negative or destructive expression of a feeling with the feeling itself. Yes, unhealthy expressions can be harmful. But if we banish some feelings and don’t allow them to move through us, we get stuck in places that we belonged to a long time ago.
These are no longer our reality, but we go on living as if they are.
Giving up the belief that certain emotions are okay to feel and certain emotions are not okay is the first step to help us process our emotions.
But many of us don’t even know what is it that we are feeling. How are we supposed to channel something that we can’t even name?
Expanding our emotional vocabulary can tell us where we are in our emotional lives.
Think about what happened when you first started learning new words. You had access to a whole new universe. You had a way of naming your experience more precisely than you had before.
Cognitive psychologists are now finding that a more precise vocabulary (for example, having specific names for light blues and dark blues, as Russian speakers do) helps make people quicker at identifying subtle differences.
In a similar way, if we can name our emotions precisely, we can identify subtle nuances and hone into what exactly we are feeling. That can help us take the most effective emotional action.
Karla McLaren, the author of the wonderful The Language of Emotions talks eloquently about the different forms in which one single emotion can show up. Did you know that indifference can be a form of anger? So can coldness, resentment, and impatience.
In its mood state, anger can show up as sarcasm and arrogance. And of course, we know anger when it erupts in rage and violence. But bitterness is also an intense form of anger, albeit a hardened, calcified form.
Seeing that anger shows up in different degrees and forms can help us get straight to the heart of the problem.
McLaren tells us that the question anger poses is: What must be protected? What must be restored? If we are feeling resentful or cold, where have we given too much of ourselves away? What can we do to enforce limits that will make us feel protected?
If we do this, we catch anger before it morphs into an even stronger form and becomes harder to deal with. We also stay on course instead of getting lost and disoriented about the direction of our lives. For me, the belief that “Nice people don’t get angry” meant that I stayed in an exploitative work situation for several years.
As soon as anger came up for me, I dropped it. I would work harder, be better till someone noticed me. But what I didn’t realize was that the increasing fear and shakiness that I was feeling was a direct result of rejecting my anger.
How can you not feel scared and insecure when you have opened yourself up to harm?
The fear had risen because I had banished the protective energies of anger. I was, indeed, in undefended psychic territory.
So, fear, another so-called “negative” emotion comes bearing its own important messages.
My fear took the form of confusion and disorientation. Your fear might take some other form, depending on what the situation is.
In its diffuse form, McLaren tells us, fear can be experienced as our caution, uneasiness, or instinct. You might feel disconcerted, doubtful, or concerned that something is off. You might feel jumpy, nervous, or suspicious.
At the root is the same feeling. It’s showing up in different ways, and asking you to probe for answers.
Is the fear natural? Is it tied to something that is happening around you? What can you do about it?
But what if you get stuck in one feeling? What if you have repetitive fearful thoughts that don’t track back to real dangers? Then, it’s likely that your feeling response is locked in place.
This often happens is we have experienced trauma in the past. We remain hyper-vigilant long after the traumatic event is over. If this is the case, we need professional help to release the traumatic material.
But in the normal course of our days, feelings naturally ebb and flow. They direct our attention to what is happening in our lives. They urge us to take action.
Venting and repressing feelings are not the only choices we have.
But what action should we take? Isn’t that the trickiest part of dealing with feelings?
One of the reasons that I didn’t allow myself to feel anger in my work situation was because I was not sure what I could do with it. Expressing it felt dangerous, because I had stored up so much emotion. Repressing it felt like the only other thing to do.
Many of us get stuck in this tricky space.
We keep hearing that the only way out is through the feeling, but doing that doesn’t seem viable without expressing it and hurting someone or harming something in the process.
One of the ways that I am learning to work with my feelings is to first consciously experience the feeling myself. One way to safely release anger, for example, is to beat pillows for ten minutes or so. That lessens the intensity of the rising emotion.
Another practice that McLaren suggests is called “conscious complaining.” You sit all by yourself and complain loudly about all the things that are going wrong in your life. Again, we are attempting to use up some of the energy of the feeling, and move it out of our systems.
For fear, we can put on some music and imitate the shaky energy of the feeling, and lessen the burden that it is putting on us physically.
Remember that emotions, by their very definition, are energies that move us to take some action. So, a physical release is important.
Something is rising, and we are letting it move us. We are now just choosing that movement consciously.
Once we have released some of the energy of the emotion, we can then think of what action we can take to address the issue that it has brought up. For example, if we are angry, how can we restore the boundary?
One important realization I had about anger was after reading Harriet Lerner’s book The Dance of Anger. In it, she tells us that venting anger is often ineffective. We are trying to convert someone else to our point of view. If they don’t agree to what we are saying, we often get stuck in the space of trying to get them to agree.
Believing that we need agreement is what keeps us stuck. We are, in effect, maintaining the status quo.
If it’s something important to us, a limit we are choosing to place, then we don’t need permission. What we need is the clarity and courage to enforce this limit and to deal with the anxiety that rocking the boat often brings.
This emotional process has been a learning curve for me. It is not easy and I often falter. But whenever I can experience my feelings and move through them, I feel a sense of ease.
I guess it’s because I am not invalidating my experiences. I am owning them, letting them speak their truth.
What about you? What will opening to all your own feelings do for you?
By Anna Newell Jones
1. Befriend the lonely person
2. Introduce yourself to your neighbors
3. Compliment a stranger
4. Sing Christmas Carols at a nursing home – Then have everyone over to your house after for cookies and cocoa
5. Adopt an animal from the pound
6. Donate your talents
7. Send paper thank you notes
8. Pay for the coffee, the toll, or the bus fare for the person behind you
9. Let the person who seems rushed cut in front of you
10. Hold your tongue – Pause before speaking or writing when you are mad, agitated or doubtful
11. Be empathetic – Really try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes
12. Be thoughtful – Did your co-worker have a bad day today? Bring her a coffee tomorrow morning.
13. Hold the door open for someone
14. Play cupid – You know those two people who would totally be great together and they just haven’t met yet? Get them in the same room together and let nature take it’s course. Helpful hint from a wannabe match-maker (me) don’t tell them you want to set them up and then sit there and watch them all night long to see how it’s going and if you were right (been there, done that, totally doesn’t work. All I’ve got to say about that is, hello awkward!). Introduce them and then bring up the common ground that they share. “Betty Sue, you’re from New Orleans just like Tim Bob here!” (you like those names don’t you). They just might be a match, and then, at their wedding (we’re going full-on optimist here) you’ll be able to tell everyone, “Told you so!”
15. Give your boxes to someone who is moving
16. Be thankful
17. Be encouraging
18. Let people merge-in during traffic
19. Help people move
20. Say “Thank you”, a lot – Everyone works hard. Thanks are especially important to the postal worker, the government employee, the DMW clerk, the bus driver, the grocery store cashiers (especially when you bring up all that produce and they have to look-up every single code) and baggers
21. Call your parents and tell them you love them
22. Let your partner watch their show – And don’t roll your eyes or huff and puff about it
23. Don’t be annoying – Make a conscious effort to avoid doing the things you know annoy your spouse (or roommates)
24. Send your friend a letter
25. Volunteer at a department of corrections or juvenile hall
26. Spread your skills – If you have a skill (photography, outfit styling, cooking, website programming, etc.) and you know someone who has expressed an interest in what you do offer to teacher them what you know
27. Give freely – Go through your things and give freely to those in need
28. Have a shirt that your friend always compliments you on? Why not give it to her?
29. Offer to get groceries for your friend or relative who has a broken leg or other mobility problem
30. Make extra copies of photos and send them to the people who are in the images
31. Offer to help your friend unpack
32. Call everyone you know and tell them you love them
33. Give warm clothes, shoes, and boots to the homeless
34. Help someone whose car has broken down
35. Connect people to each other
36. Walk the cart back to the front of the store
37. Reach out to a person who has made a difference in your life
38. Send a care package to a solider
39. Listen when no one else wants to
40. Be patient
41. Try to find goodness in the person you don’t like
42. Ask someone if they’ve lost some weight or tell them that they’re “just glowing”
43. Know someone who just had a baby or other major life event? – Bring a meal, offer to clean up their house or do a load of laundry for them.
44. Do you know that your partner hates doing the dishes but you don’t really mind doing them? Do them.
45. Don’t nag – Even if you really, really, really want to
46. Be kind to yourself – Make peace with your past mistakes. Use that knowledge to help others who might be going through the same thing.
47. Let it go
48. Be someone’s cheerleader
49. Already sweeping leaves or shoveling the snow off your sidewalk? – Do your neighbors sidewalk too.
50. Do nice things and don’t tell anyone about it
51. Notice a kid being well-behaved? – Tell their parents how good they are while the kid is standing there. It will encourage the kid to continue being good, and will make the parents feel good.
52. (Along the same lines as #51) Compliment people in front of others – For some reason compliments hold more weight when they’re done in front of others.
53. Bring donuts or other delicious sweets to work
54. Give chocolate generously and often;)
55. Tell your boss how much you like working for them and how much you’ve learned from them over the years
56. Bake a cake for the birthday person
57. Don’t complain
58. Be the eternal optimist of the group
59. Recognize the good in others
60. Look for the best in the situation
61. Leave nice comments on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook
62. Stand up for the underdog
63. Come to the rescue of someone in need
64. Smile easily and laugh – Even at the so-so jokes
65. Share – Even if you don’t really want to
66. Let someone else have your seat on the crowded bus, light-rail or subway
67. Rather than throwing away obviously lost items turn them into the “Lost and Found” desk
68. Do the task no one else wants to do
69. Create a happy book – Gather all your good memories and thoughts into 1 spot
70. Keep a pen on hand – Lend it to people when needed
71. Don’t leave others waiting for you – Be on time
72. Fill up the gas tank and/or wash the car for your partner and then leave candy on the dashboard for them to find in the morning before work.
73. Tell your partner how amazingly “hot” they are
74. Tell your partner what a good hair/butt day they’re having
75. Tell your partners parents how talented your partner is at something
76. Tip generously
77. Say “Hi” to strangers
78. Smile at people
79. Help lost people – See tourists wandering around lost? Help them out. Be their new local friend. Someone did this for us once and we were so, so thankful.
80. Offer a ride to someone who is car-less
81. Help that stressed parent by offering to babysit
82. If the work-day is running late and you know your co-worker has somewhere they have to be offer to stay late so they don’t have to worry about figuring it out
83. Thank your co-workers for doing a good job, for getting extra supplies, for thinking ahead, for being easy to work with
84. Donate your old car and clothes to charities
85. Go to your friend’s kid’s event
86. Buy the stuff the neighbor kid is selling – Moderately, of course;)
87. Stop at the neighbor kid’s lemonade stand and make a purchase
88. Create a “Dress-Up” box for a kid
89. Skype or FaceTime with the kids in your life – My nieces and nephews LOVE FaceTiming and I love to see them smiling and showing off their latest creation or other things that they’re prod of :)
90. Pick up the tab – Go up to the waiter and pay when no one is watching (of course only if you’re in the financial situation to do so)
91. Avoid gossip – No need to spread any negativity
92. Give the painter, electrician, or handyman a glass of water or offer them a pop
93. Be understanding – Assume the best in others. If someone is running late or has called in sick don’t assume they’re trying to get out of something.
94. Go to your friends art opening
95. Spread the word – If you know someone who takes pictures, paints interiors, is a super nanny, a wonderful accountant, etc. Let others know. People who work for themselves needword of mouth referrals more than anyone else.
96. Be inviting – Ask people to do something with you
97. Leave extra time in the parking meter
98. Don’t write the complaint letter that you’re thinking about writing
99. Hang out with the person who just moved to town
100. Drop quarters on the sidewalk for people to find
101. Leave a whole bunch of pennies heads-up for kids to find on the sidewalk or other public places – Kids love finding heads-up pennies
102. Be understanding of traveling parents with the grumpy or noisy kids
103. Pack extra snacks and offer them to your co-workers or friends
104. Leave good books (or other nice stuff) for your fellow apartment dwellers to take from your shared common spaces
105. Compliment people on their homes
106. Forgive the person you used to hate back in the day
107. Make amends for the wrongs you have done
108. Respect your partner and don’t make decisions without their input
109. Let someone else have their way without putting up a fight about it
110. Donate your vacation or sick days to a person at work who is struggling with cancer or another horrible illness
111. Participate – The people who organize events always worry that no one will take part. That ugly sweater contest or bake-off needs you!
112. Respond timely – Even if you have to say, “Hey, just wanted to let you know I got your email and I’ll get right back to you.” People like to know they’re not being ignored.
113. Don’t leave people hanging – If you’re not into something someone suggests just tell them so (especially in a professional or work-related situation – don’t act like they’re a date that you want to stand-up/avoid- not professional or cool, at all. Be kind.)
114. Lend your expertise – Know intellectual property law? Help out a friend who really needs that assist.
115. Give CD’s to your friends that have your favorite songs on them
116. Send a surprise book to someone from an online retailer
117. Don’t let your friends (or co-workers or acquaintances) be alone on the holidays
118. Listen to someone’s life story – Yes, the whole thing
119. Be friendly on public transportation
120. Keep your bad attitude to yourself
121. Decorate for the holidays
122. Be happy for others
123. Be super enthusiastic when people have good news!
124. Don’t butt-in or give advice when you’re not asked for it – Have confidence in others; trust that they are fully capable of being in charge of their own lives.
125. Mind your own business
126. Selflessly help (and promote) others
127. Give a glowing recommendation
128. Tell the person who is looking for a job when you hear about an opening
129. Know that someone was Valedictorian, Homecoming Queen, or Prom King in high school? Tell others because they can’t tell people themselves (without it sounding like they’re bragging)
130. Call your in-laws
131. Help people out who might be feeling awkward
132. Generously give your knowledge
133. Have you discovered something that has changed your life? – Share what you know and inspire others to change their lives too
134. Spread the goodness – Let others know you are on a mission to spread kindness and they will be inspired to do the same