Dealing With Resentment

“Resentment is like taking poison but expecting it will kill someone other than you.”

Living with joy, in the present seems like an easy task…so simple.

Actually…it’s incredibly hard as the current culture is steeped in resentment and trained to escape the present by browsing electronically into space. I won’t go into the latter, as most of you know my stance on social media and its ability to influence self-esteem and perception.

I do, however, want to focus on what ultimately keeps us from living in the present: RESENTMENT.

First of all, resentment is not a character defect, as the definition is “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly”. Resentment is a fairly natural reaction to many of life’s challenges, because all of us at some point are treated unfairly. Unfortunately, many of us choose not to deal with the resentment, (and there is a choice) then victimization and sadness take a seat at our emotional table; because we were not valued enough to be treated well. Mission Accomplished: I Feel Invalidated.

Our minds begin to fill with scenarios of justice or revenge; like hoping the other person will have some tragic effect happen upon them because of how they treated us. Sound familiar? That is what the symptoms of unchecked resentment look like. Take a second look at the quote that starts this blog…making sense?

Again, feeling the initial resentment is OK, not dealing with it becomes the issue.

What is the antidote?

Joy and God is sad when we don’t take it and although it is elusive to find (at times) when we intentionally search for it we find it – Take it to the bank, I’m right about this.

I know, I know! This advice seems too simple and even tacky. But if you take even 5 minutes and find something to be joyful about within your life the resentment will shrink…do this everyday and all of a sudden the resentment will be gone. By the way, all of life’s best antidotes end up being the simplest one’s.

Finding joy needs to become a habit, sadly, many of us have found resentment and made that into a daily habit! Take a chance and reverse this.

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My 12 Step Program

Folks dealing with various addiction issues come to our office quite a bit. Something that has striked me over the years is how most 12 step programs miss the main point, or core issue of addiction…escapism.

So, after fine-tuning every other 12 step program, I finally decided to just write my own.

It’s a great program and it flushes out the meat and pulp of our feelings, issues and flaws. The key difference between this program’s philosophy and others is its emphasis on what I believe is the very root of addiction…escapism. If you don’t get to that root, you will keep trading addictions for other addictions. Yes, other 12 step programs deal with escapism but they only touch on it as a symptom, rarely as a root cause.

A few thoughts on escapism: Why do we escape…guilt. Guilt (in its simplest form) is basically feeling bad about something in the past. We are supposed to accept the lesson and move on guilt free but that doesn’t always happen, instead we ruminate and stay stuck. In dealing with the frustration of being stuck, and all the memories that go with it, we escape (i.e. alcoholism, pornography, hyper religiosity, legalism, etc.).

It is the ultimate chain of bondage, is invisible and can only be broken by the wearer.

A personal story: When I was six years old my father had a heart attack. I lived in fear of him dying for 23 more years and fear was the source of my rebelliousness growing up. I was in constant fear of abandonment, as my parents would escape to the casino or racetrack, (gambling was their choice of escapism). They had escaped the Holocaust but no matter what always felt “trapped” so they would run. Heart attacks didn’t help. In my mind they were either gambling and on the run or were about to die, I was alone either way.

GUILT followed me because I always assumed it was my fault (like all children do in these situations). As I got older I transferred that fear to being very watchful over my kids. Then low and behold their father had emergency open-heart surgery when my youngest was in sixth grade! I was on watch again and the guilt of assuming any sort of abandonment was my fault rose up its head…again. I felt I should’ve cooked better dinners instead of working, spent less money, caused less stress, etc. One day I stopped, looked at truth and decided to not look back.

The truth is guilt is a big liar. I have always done my best, loved my best, provided my best and I am allowed to be good in some areas and not so good in others. I am responsible for myself and my choices and not responsible for choices of others.

Thus, out my own journey and the experience of helping others, I have written a 12 step program. Its basic premise is to dissect the need to escape and help find comfort in freedom and joy, (which is not comfortable until you deal with the guilt and escapism). It’s tough work and not for everyone I admit. It is for those who want a radical assessment of their life.

Guilt is like hamsters…if you don’t seriously contain them they run all over the place and make you nuts! I got tired of hamsters, I bought a dog. You can too.

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Bye Bye Black

Summer is here! This means BBQ, swimming pools, the beach…and swimwear. Watching TV the other night, I caught a few commercials and was reminded / amused how much advertising uses hints of fear in their ads. For example, “It’s almost swimsuit season, LOOK GREAT and lose those 10 pounds now with our revolutionary diet”; did I look so bad in winter? If I don’t lose 10 pounds on your program am I ugly?

I am using this add partially in jest but you get my point about fear based advertising. It’s ridiculous how much of our world is programmed to respond to fear. Sadder yet, our relationships can have awful fear based tendencies. Ask yourself, “are my primary relationships love or fear based?”

Example: You love your spouse but don’t trust they will meet your needs and are constantly having to worry about being disappointed // No judgment but if this is you…Fear based.

Example: You change your clothes five times before a luncheon because you are worried about what people will think // Fear Based.

Example: You only wear certain colors to control people’s perception of you // Fear Based.

Example: You go to church (or synagogue) or do things you “have” to not to make God mad…You can fill in the blank _________. (As if we can control when and where God gets mad).

If you are living in a fear based world then joy, happiness, fulfillment and God are being pushed to the side.

And we keep them on the side because we live in a fantasy of believing with enough fear and control things will be fine. They are fine when we fix them and stop controlling with fear! But we don’t fix them, why? Fear. See the merry-go-round!

The only way off the merry-go-round (aka breaking the cycle) is to accept you may enjoy life more off the ride…take the chance of jumping off, let go of the fear. The following is an example from my own life, when I jumped off the merry-go-round:

I used to wear black all the time. I convinced myself that black was my color. Why of course it was. We all know black contains all the colors of the rainbow! It makes you look 40 pounds thinner too. What a bonus! I wore black pants, black sweaters, even black make-up. With black hair I was the perfect middle aged Goth!

Problem was it was a fear based look! I was afraid of being judged and didn’t want to stand out (kind of odd filter there). I wanted to hide being me.

One day I learned to love my outer self. It was an amazing day. First thing was bye bye black. Second was hello pink. I am really sparkle and butterflies (come to my office if you don’t believe me) and I realized how much happier I was loving me in the true expression of how I see my world. My relationship with myself is now love based.

Downside…I may leave a trail of glitter in your car.

Maybe this summer when you see the swimsuit adds or you find yourself frustrated and wondering what’s wrong, ask yourself the question…“is this love or fear based?”

Fear based won’t make you happier but love based will.
And if you need help sorting it out, we’re here for you.

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Forgiveness

Forgiveness…What is it really? Is it something those who screw us over have to acknowledge so we can move on…what happens when they don’t? We stay stuck? That is truly a lose/lose proposition!

Forgiveness has nothing to do with the person or persons that did the harm. Most often they could care less if they are forgiven or not, making it all the more aggravating!

With some people, trying to make them get it or “own their stuff” simply won’t work. They make a choice not to get it. The ever-ongoing process of hoping they do becomes a distraction from what real forgiveness is about.

Forgiveness is for giving us a release from the past. The moment we forgive is the moment we stop hoping to change the past (or the people involved) and are ready to move on.

Some of you reading this are asking, “But how do we move on?” The answer is this: Realize whatever wrong done to you wasn’t about you in the first place. If it was about you then maybe you could change some part of it. The reason you can’t is because it’s not about you…it’s about someone else’s dysfunction.

Let me give a personal story to bring home the point.

My mother was addicted to gambling. She played all forms of gambling, as she got older, Bingo was her game of choice. I know it sounds cute and innocent but it became so important she would get angry if she had to miss Bingo. The years roll by and my 40th birthday rolls in. It was important to me she was there (she had missed many birthdays) so I planned it months ahead…but the day came and went and my mother would not miss Bingo for my 40th birthday party. She never showed. I could not believe it! She would rather hope to yell B-I-N-G-O than sing Happy Birthday to me! When I asked her about it later all she said was “I had Bingo”. The invalidation hurt me deeply that day.

My mother is gone now and she never changed. Bittersweet as it is, through her dysfunction I learned the meaning of forgiveness.

I had to release her from her own insecurity of missing Bingo and see that my party was fine with or without her. Any feelings of resentment I had won’t change the story. She didn’t choose to come and that is OK, because her addiction to gambling had nothing to do with me; her inner turmoil and emptiness must have been devastating to her.

After some time I realized the silliness of caring so deeply about something that had so little to do with me. I could feel good about myself.

Some of you are still asking, “what about pain, what about the anguish we feel over people’s poor choices and how they hurt us?”

You know what makes pain disappear? Feeling good about yourself. You would be amazed how pain disappears when we begin to love ourselves (this topic deserves a blog to itself…coming soon).

I listen to many stories of people who are not forgiving because they are still hoping to change the past or someone in it…my hope is that you can release yourself from yesterday because yesterday’s wrongs probably have nothing to do with you. Let the pain melt away, the painful actions of others aren’t about you and begin to love yourself a little!

Don’t get stuck in the trap of believing forgiveness has anything to do with others acknowledging their wrongdoings.

Forgiveness is for you, not them.

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The Addiction Of Recovery

I hear it more and more in the office, the term “The God of Second Chances”. The statement itself is true and kind but often overused and manipulated as a crutch.

God doesn’t want you to fail so He can catch you the second time around and He doesn’t expect a repeat the third time around. Your life is not one big flop of “Oops I failed again, but its O.K. because God is a God of second chances”. Do you see where I’m going with this…Just because someone will pick us up, dust us off when we fall doesn’t mean we accept we just fall all the time.

Once we start taking on this attitude it invades other parts of our lives as well. The “Second Chance” also becomes an alternate reality of perfection that we wait for.

For instance…when describing myself:

I am a young middle-aged woman. That is the way I count it. My life…my rules. I am not waiting for my second chance. That would mean everything up to now was not what I wanted. I made choices and I loved those choices. I am making new choices and I am really excited about them. It is scary to think I may miss something because I am waiting for perfection. I am messy, embarrassing to take to a movie or sporting event, run up and pick up strange animals, get hostile when people cut in line (seriously hostile), I think out loud, am hypersensitive to noise, and have no consciousness that my sparkles get on everything. But these flaws and the countless unnamed ones should never stop me from walking through every door that God opens. I have gone through periods where I have felt shamed or embarrassed but fortunately, I have support persons in my life to pull me out of that.

The epidemic I see happening is the addiction to accepting failure as normal; it becomes your badge of courage, the ID by which you engage with others. As this becomes your identity the “Second Chance” Theology then morphs into an alternate reality where everything will be perfect.

Recovery becomes your new mantra and you don’t move on to the wholeness and joy (which comes through acceptance), you stay in the limbo of the “Second Chance” and miss out on everything in between.

The secret of the “Second Chance” is to understand that you never know when or where your purpose on this planet will appear. Living as if it is now and this moment you will never need a second chance and never worry if you get one. Once we conceptually understand this, accepting it is merely a choice.

Have you ever gone to a party where every one is “broken”? Have you ever gone twice?
No! Of course not!

Have you ever gone to Disneyland? Annual Pass? Why? They market it as the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can be your own personal Disneyland. You already have a lifetime pass (freewill) to choose happiness in every moment and not wait for it.

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Who Am I?

We often ask that question in our youth. Overtime, many of us begin to really enjoy the quest of “finding ourselves”, so much so we never stop looking…is there something to that?

Perhaps some of us are consistently looking outward to find ourselves in an attempt to never look within.

It’s ironic, but the search becomes a massive cover up to stay wonderfully dysfunctional.

The lie we tell ourselves sounds something like, “It’s OK and after all, I’m still finding myself”.

We want to know who we really are, but the fear of finding out might bring an inner confrontation…the need to change vs. I’m fine the way I am.

Denying that inner confrontation only brings excuses…“I can’t handle this, I’m overloaded and stressed out”.

Being overloaded / stressed doesn’t come from confronting the confrontation.

It comes from not truly being you. The truth is confronting yourself is the first step toward emotional freedom.

I encourage anyone reading this to take a look inside and have the confrontation! Don’t worry, you will win, God rigged the match ahead of time. All you have to do is decide to fight and it’s yours. You may get bruised up a bit but if you stay with it, the emotional freedom of being yourself and knowing who you are…it’s worth it.

**On a personal note…each season of my life I have to adjust “Who am I”. Some parts I have to acknowledge, choose to say goodbye and then reinvent. Some I have to embrace and stop waiting for and some I have to just realize are wonderful and thank God for.

A quick harmless plug…at our office we do personality testing. Mostly to help people work, date, and relate smarter instead of harder. A month or so ago I decided to take the test myself. I learned A LOT!

Even though I had taken many tests in school, in training, I learned relationship tools that I could use instantly. If you’re interested it’s crazy fun and you will learn a ton about yourself! Click here to find out more.

**On a psychological note…Painful, abusive experiences and fearful, unprocessed memories over the coarse of time can cause actual problems with the frontal lobe of the brain: judgment, planning, and / or emotional response is impaired. If this is the case looking inward needs to be done with someone who knows how to help. But that is a minute part of the time. Most of us just need to overcome the fear of finding out who we are (a therapist is helpful with this as well).

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I Matter

Do you ever feel like the fictional character Don Quixote, “willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause” only to turn around and be dashed to the ground because no one noticed, no one cared?

I was watching Oprah Winfrey’s new show last week; she was interviewing Steven Tyler, lead singer for Aerosmith. A gifted musician made famous by both his music and poor choices (drugs, alcohol, etc). Realizing now those choices were destructive, he is now on the path to making better ones (isn’t that what the journey is all about?).

Anyway, he was talking about while on tour, several years back, having a massive fall off stage.  The injuries were severe, the pain was major and the hospital was imminent. For Steven, that was not the painful part of the story…as he was in the hospital, none of his band members, who were like brothers came to see him.

He was hurt and angry. When he finally asked his band why they didn’t visit they answered, “Your manager told us not to”.

His response was something I could totally identify with…he said something to the extent of “if it had been them he was trying to get to, he wouldn’t have cared if they had been in the White House, he would have gotten in to see them”.

It would be easy to just blow off Steven’s anger as just that, anger- (especially at self absorbed band members). But that is not the core emotion…keep reading.

Oprah, understanding the complexity of the issue said it best, “you just wanted to know you mattered.”  

My mind burst!  

So often in these situations our anger is just ridden off as frustration at being ignored. But it’s so much more! Our anger is because we want to be someone’s cause!

A decade ago I was in Thailand working and my son got very ill.  Long story short he had to be hospitalized.  I was alone in a hospital with a child in and out of consciousness, with people working on him who spoke a language I didn’t understand. Although I survive well, I was really impacted because the people I came to Thailand with never came to visit us. Later, I found out they were busy at being tourists, riding elephants!

I was taken back while watching Steven and Oprah and I wanted to scream out from that Thai Hospital, “HELLO, I MATTER”!  I wanted them to care and acknowledge the significance that my son was very ill, I was alone and we mattered. I wanted my travel companions to make me their cause, not riding elephants.

We all want to matter and we all want that significance to be acknowledged.  We could have eloquent speeches and debates on “why” we should matter. But the truth is that no human being should have to justify his/her right to matter or to be someone’s cause, at least in a society that claims to honor God.  

If we could each day show one person they matter, that they are worthy of a cause, love would begin to heal and reflect the illumination of God. We matter to Him.

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Angry Loved One?

I have seen a lot of couples lately exuding a similar problem:

Spouse “A” is acting out at something; critical, angry, hostile, even raging…and their degree of emotion is totally out of proportion.  Spouse “B” is confused and hurt, doesn’t quite understand where this is coming from. Spouse “A” rages on, now saying personal, hateful things about their other half. Spouse “B” is now shut down, hurt and that only makes things worse. Spouse “A” now pushes harder and saying even more hurtful things. Now Spouse “B” is angry, all understanding has gone through the window as they say hateful things back. The cycle goes on and on and on until both parties are devastated.

We all know situations where someone we love is totally unreasonable and over the top, saying hurtful, personal things (BTW, it doesn’t always have to be your spouse).

Many of us know how frustrating it is to bear the brunt of explosive anger when it really should be pointed at someone else, usually from that person’s past.

Whether you are the one dealing the anger or on the receiving end, the question remains…

Why is this happening? “Why is the person I love exuding such cruelty? What does this accomplish?”

Why:

Typically the answer is frustration. Deep, deep frustration that the emotional pain inside is not being heard by the person they love the most.

So the person in pain “acts out” and attempts to make you feel the same pain they are.  

To accomplish this they will say horribly painful things, curse, recite spiteful names.

The more pain, the less validated they feel, the more they up the stakes and like Spouses “A” and “B”, the cycle continues, always downhill.

What to do:

First and not very easy, if you are on the receiving end of the anger…don’t take it personally. YOUR SIGNIFIGANT OTHER DOESN’T MEAN IT. Everything said is a reflection of how they see themselves, not you. Be patient.

Second, seek counseling.  The reason this is happening is because you may be the first SAFE person that your significant other can feel/express the pain in front of. Yes it comes out ugly, but working with a counselor towards dealing with the root cause will hopefully resolve the issue.

Third, know that love conquers all things, through the darkest times love is the light that pulls us through. Getting through hard times is how we learn to both give love and receive it.

So hang in there. It’s all part of a larger plan.

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Spiritual Depression

Spiritual depression is a time of feeling emotionally alone. You feel severed or separation from God; the ability to reconnect is out of ones grasp. The split can come from several directions, maybe a challenge to one’s theology or an incident where a person feels God did not act, respond or provide, as the individual believed He would. There could have been a “bargain” such as, “I will be obedient, give to the poor, etc. and God will do “X” for me. “X” does not happen, the person is devastated, they blame God and the relationship suffers a split. Whatever the scenario, the overriding emotion is “I’m alone” otherwise called loneliness.

The idea of broken dreams, hearts and relationships all ending in depression are common is human psychology but when carried into the spiritual realm brokenness takes on a new, more bitter meaning. The dreams that are from God, the heart you have welded to God’s and the relationship you have with the Creator is something that when broken…shatters every aspect of your being.

You walk by putting one foot in front of the other but you only exist. The reason for living has been put in suspended animation. Reactivation becomes critical to survival of the soul.

For a person to truly feel alive they must find the passion and the joy that consumes them. True love consumes, love of a child consumes, a cause or calling from God consumes but most of all a relationship with God consumes.

There is no spiritual Prozac or Zoloft. There is communion through intention. Goodness, tzadaka, kind words, prayers of reconciliation and cutting away the anger and resentment that formed through disappointment, seeking to understand God’s plan in moving you to a deeper place of trust. When it all comes together spiritual depression falls away, new life and purpose replace it. Darkness has no place to dwell and it leaves. Your life comes into alignment again with the Divine.

Understanding spiritual depression is to comprehend there are layers or levels of spiritual maturity. You reach the top of one level and God says “time to move up!” At first, we all think that should feel like a positive thing. But we have to try and see the bigger picture: Even when we move up a level, we start at the bottom of it, not the top and the bottom feels lonely at first. Perhaps spiritual depression is the ongoing act of spiritual maturity.

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