Archive | January, 2018

Ground Rules for a Healthy Argument

30 Jan

Even the best of relationships have their share of arguments and fights. It’s a misconception that arguments are all bad. Arguments are both healthy and necessary for two people to understand each other and create growth in their relationship

All arguments need not be stressful. Done sensitively it can be a way to work through challenges which can eventually strengthen a relationship.

What matters is not how often we argue with our partner but how we say what we say when we are upset. Does it leave one of the partners feeling resentful, bitter or misunderstood is the key question we need to ask ourselves.

Arguments begin when one partner feels his needs are not addressed or his feelings are not attended to. He lashes out in anger which hides the sadness and vulnerability he is actually feeling. The person who gets yelled at usually yells back or withdraws or mentally detaches from the other. Either of these can fan the flames of conflict which then escalates into a full blown argument.

Learning to fight fair is far more important than trying to avoid having a fight or argument.

These are a few absolute ‘No – No’s during an argument

# Trivializing – Do not minimize your partners feeling [ “…. You are just over-reacting; it wasn’t so bad…”]

# Blaming – Not owning up to your part of the fight [“…. I said this because you did this first…. “]

# Invalidating – Rejecting or Judging the way your partner is feeling. [“Its wrong to feel like that……”]

# Bringing in artillery from past fights – [“Last week you did X and then you promised …..’]

# Name – Calling [“what an ungrateful **** you are …”]

# Putting down – Shaming your partner [ “…. There you go …crying …That’s all you know…”]

# Using ‘Always; Never’ [“you always do this or you never do this ….”]

# Bringing the ‘But” into the sentence. [“…I know you are tired but you could have….”]

# Threatening – Hurtful threats incite anger and are hard to forget or forgive [“if you do this …..i will take the kids to my mothers house…”]

Anger sometimes makes one say hurtful things to their partner and get at their vulnerability. That is unfair and immature. How a couple handles disagreements affect the health of their relationship.

A few tips on how to resolve an argument without any emotional injury

# Empathy. The one important thing to have during an argument is Empathy. Empathy says ….i do not agree with you but I am willing to listen to you and understand from where you are coming’. When you are empathetic towards your partner, he/she feels understood, calms down and the overall tension is defused.

# Communicate clearly how you feel. Don’t just talk about what your partner has done. Talk of your feelings. Use ‘I feel’ more than ‘You did’ statements. Sentences that begin with …’I feel hurt when you don’t ask me where I want to go on a vacation….’addresses feelings which put both partners in a place where repair is possible.

As you begin to empathize and communicate clearly the conversation changes in nature – you begin to talk less and listen more. Its at this point that you begin to understand and address the needs of your partner – needs that lie hidden behind all the shouting …..needs that are otherwise difficult to express.

# If the arguments start to escalate, if tempers fly or harsh words are flung at each other then ……its ‘Time Out’. This is not quitting or sulking; its pressing pause to cool off for a while. It helps because it allows you and your partner to calm down and maybe  a little later come up with a strategy to resolve the matter.

Couples who go through their conflicts and arguments and move into a more harmonious existence, share greater intimacy and mutual respect for each other.

Conflict is a given; You are two different people with unique personalities, thoughts and opinions. There are three entities in a relationship – you, your partner and your relationship … and its important to watch out for the health of all three.

It’s the way couples deal with their disagreements that make or break a relationship.

Couple Counselling can help identify negative patterns of communication which have eroded the quality of interactions between a couple and help them learn new skills to recognize and resolve conflict.

 

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Get Over That Slump

22 Jan

Halfway through January and it seems like a struggle to keep up with the resolutions you made.

No doubt the goals were carefully written down with all good intent but two weeks later that exhilarating feeling with which they were written down wanes away and your center of gravity doesn’t let you move away from the couch.

So how do you set yourself up to follow your dreams; stay engaged once the initial excitement is over.

This has been a forever challenge with me and I have come up with a few steps that help me stay on task.

#Rethink what is meant by motivation.

Motivation isn’t all energy and zest. Some days it is the quiet plowing away at things even if you don’t really feel like it.

Einstein’s observation that ‘nothing happens until something moves’ can be applied to every aspect of life including being motivated. Get off that couch and begin doing something …….. Motivation doesn’t necessarily have to precede action. Don’t we do so many things that we don’t feel like doing – like calling your banks customer service or paying bills etc. Similarly, you can begin a task by just going through the motions without feeling like it. You may not always ‘feel’ like doing something but begin anyways. Action often pulls Motivation along. What you need is to just get started

#Start with the small things.

Build momentum by tackling the tiny jobs first and soon you will get going – A few things done will make you feel victorious and will give you the necessary fuel to break the Inertia making the larger tasks seem more achievable.

#Start with the superficial                            

Have a shower, put on your favourite clothes, maybe play some happy music. Chances are that you’ll feel ready to get going. Looking like you are ready to begin work will nudge you to feeling like it too. Dawdling Mid Morning in flip-flops and pyjamas are not conducive to any kind of inspiration.

#Get accountability from friends and family

Tell a few people what you intend to do and ask them to check on how you are getting along. This way you are less likely to give up.

#Remind yourself of how important this goal is to you

Write down 3 reasons why this goal matters to you and put it up where you can see it. Read them during periods of low energy so they give you the encouragement you need to take that step forward.

#Be kind to yourself

Adopt an inner voice that treats you like you’d treat a good friend. You certainly wouldn’t deride your friend for not sticking to his intentions; instead you’d point out that each day is a new opportunity to start again. Likewise, you need to treat your self with understanding and compassion

Its important to note that incase you feel a lack of drive to do anything for more than two weeks it could be anhedonia [ a symptom of depression]

It is a condition where your anticipatory pleasure is numbed so you don’t feel like pursuing any rewarding stimuli. This condition can derail you from finding the energy to follow through what you intend to do. This is treatable but it is important to visit your therapist and get the right kind of help.

 

That Caring Space Within You

16 Jan

“This is the best place to be “I said to my colleague as we sat savoring the sun set gently over the hills. She was quiet for a while and then burst into tears.

“There is something wrong with me” she said between sobs.” I just don’t feel good”. She went on to explain how flawed she was, never up to the mark and felt so unworthy.

As she spoke I saw how she berated herself and criticized herself for all her real and perceived errors.  She seemed to have lost the ability to love herself. Dwelling on her flaws, she brushed aside her positives and went on explaining how imperfect she was and how she hated herself for it.

It was as if in her belly basement there were hundreds of bottles of fear, rage and despair.

Occasionally during therapy one comes across people who find it difficult to love and accept themselves – Imperfections and all.

She needed to understand and implement the art of self- compassion or kindness to self – The ability to recognize the difference between making a bad decision and being a bad person. It reminds you to unconditionally accept yourself along with all your personal short comings rather than harshly judge yourself for every act of yours.

People who have self compassion are able to navigate through life’s disappointments without losing their self worth.

If we hold ourselves to impossible standards and never allow ourselves the possibility of things not going the well, chances are we wont allow the same for others and thus be incapable of forming healthy relationships not just with ourselves but also with others.

To live a life of happiness and contentment – self compassion is a key ingredient.

Tips to be kind to yourself –

# Reflect on your thought process

Acknowledge that the thoughts and feelings you carry along with you are responsible for the pain/anger/anxiety/depression you experience. What do you do when feelings of unworthiness grip you? Do you set out to prove you are better than others; get discouraged; resort to addictive behavior? Do these feelings persist because you try to live life according to the expectations of others? Its only when you get increasingly mindful of what your inner voice tells you each day that you will want to free yourself from that painful prison.

# Direct a more focused attention onto your feelings

Investigate without judgment what is it that’s asking for attention. A more pointed kind of inner inquiry will unearth those key feelings that lie masked under the unworthiness – A need to please others or the need to do everything right …every time? Imagine you bend down to pet a cat and she smacks you with her paw. After the initial anger you notice that her tail is caught in a trap. Now your anger shifts to concern and you understand that the cats’ reaction came from vulnerability and pain……So your focus shifts to easing its pain. That’s is what attending to your feelings do……you become aware of your painful feelings.

# Treat your self with compassion

Consider yourself as a child in a painful situation…. what would this child need the most ? Give yourself the same love as you would this child.

Compassion arises when we connect with our suffering

# Allow yourself to be flawed

Give yourself the ‘permission slip’ to be imperfect or lazy or having made a wrong decision. After all you are human and hence fallible.

# Challenge your Inner critic

Be aware of how your inner critic sabotages your thought process and distorts your reality.  Whenever you hear his persistent voice – know that its time to challenge him. Question these automatic thoughts and come up with realistic alternatives. No one is free from mistakes. That’s completely OK because fallibility is an inherent part of the human experience. Use affirmations like “I’m not perfect but I am learning’

# Work with a Therapist

Patterns of thought and behavior take time and effort to change. A therapist can hand hold while you learn to notice your thoughts, have a more realistic perspective of yourself and others and internalize new skills required to treat your self with compassion.

 

You need to treat yourself kindly; Infact you owe it to yourself.

Each of us is unique- A genuine bona fide snowflake of imperfection.

Both we and our lives are amazing and perfect the way it is –  And that’s what make us beautiful.

The New Year I’m looking forward to

3 Jan

What will 2018 be like?

Health, Happiness, Wealth have been going around in the many new year wishes that one sends and receives. Warmth and camaraderie filling our inboxes.

The euphoria of the new year celebrations having waned…. its time now to think back about the year that was, the happenings in and around us and how each experience left its impression on us; The resolutions we made …some which we kept, others that we broke.

Sifting through these experiences we take with us new insights and look ahead to the new year with a little planning and lots of love.

Most of us make meaningful resolutions and embark sincerely on their ‘to do’ list. All the same very few of these resolutions get past the first month of the year.

The internet is filled with tips on ‘how to create Smart and doable Goal Plans’ and yet these are not enough to help stick to your dream goal.

So These 4 questions would be what I would focus on this year so that I move in the direction of my resolutions?

# What is it that I want to feel this year?

For me I’de say – More togetherness, More love, More recognition, More reaching out, More abundance.

Picking out what the the heart wants to feel is a better energizer than having my resolutions as a task list to get done.

For eg: My desire to connect with the youth is what motivates me to write. The feeling I was looking for was to connect …. that gives me the momentum and motivation to write.

# What can I do when there are slip ups?

Problems do arise along the way …You need to remind myself that you are there for the long haul and so its helpful to practice the art of Reflection, Recovery and Repair when you bungle up.

This would entail spending time thinking about what went wrong, acknowledging and allowing yourself to make errors in planning and putting together a new plan each time the old plan doesn’t work.

Giving yourself the freedom to have miscalculated or made mistakes makes navigating the rough patches easier than berating yourself for being less than perfect.

Sometimes we are much harsher with ourselves than we are with other people and its time we need to stop that.

The important thing is to figure out why you are not able to stick to the plan and then act accordingly.

So Plan, but be flexible enough to tweak your plan along the way.

# Who can I get on board to help me achieve my plans and who could I help achieve theirs

The first part of this is more or less like a public commitment. It gives me accountability and helps me have a few supportive friends to egg me on when when am not feeling my best.

The second part of helping a friend achieve their resolution pulls the focus off me and allows me to contribute to someone else’s life. There’s a lot you learn about yourself when you lean in to assist another.

# What is that one quality I want to have more of this year.

This could be a quality that either your friends, family or you want to cultivate within yourself [eg patience, forgiveness, courage, transparency etc]

There could be many such qualities you would like to imbibe but start with one. Focus on that one quality every morning reminding yourself that you are going to practice being more of that through the day and actively search out opportunities to put that quality into action.

And so as I ask myself again – What’s 2018 going to be like ?

The answer is clear ……

Its not going to be any one thing. There are 12 months that’s 365 days;  All the days cant be just- Good or Bad or Promising or Difficult .

Instead the year will be an eclectic mishmash of sometimes chaotic, sometimes peaceful, and sometimes usual happenings – and that’s a Good thing.

I will make plans and feel all the excitement of having a fresh new start but I also know that I may make errors and that OK.

The important thing is to get back into the business of picking up where I left and moving on – living life wholeheartedly.

And yes there’s one thing am going to try – that’s taking a day off once a month to reflect on the happenings around me …. for as Margaret Wheatley says Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.

Anyone else trying this could message me about  their experiences

For now, i am going to warmly wrap up the year that was and move forward into the new year using my focus questions to create a nourishing life that I cant help but love.