Monthly Archives: October 2013

Why Your Anger Isn’t Good For You

Recently, I’ve had several clients who are SO angry that they are blinded to any possibility other than getting revenge.  I have yet to find a way to help them understand that their anger really is only killing them.  Only when someone is open to entertaining the concept that there may be an alternative perspective, can he/she make a change.  No one else can make that willingness happen.

Some people seem to enjoy being angry.  I’ve often said that anger can be a smokescreen emotion. When we feel anger, we feel a surge of energy, and it gives us a sense of power – helping us believe we can protect ourselves.  It’s as if we’re putting on a bullet proof vest  (we often act before we stop to think that there might be arrows shooting back at us in reaction to our aggressive behavior, so until those reach us, we feel powerful).

But it’s a smokescreen because there are almost always other, more vulnerable emotions beneath the anger and aggressive behavior.  Feelings like hurt, embarrassment, shame, etc.  And most of those have probably been down there for some time, left unattended.  We may have been able to contain them for years, but as humans we aren’t built to hold them in forever. They begin to seep out, sometimes a little at a time.  And while the stream of steaming anger may be steady, there is also a pit of resentments inside us.  That pit becomes harder and harder, like petrified wood.

The way many people try to deal with their anger is to use it against another or an organization with aggressive behavior, abusive language and/or passive aggressive acts. These are destructive, impulsive behaviors.  They initially make us feel we can control a person or situation, but the reality is that they render us helpless and we eventually find ourselves at the mercy of these tools.

According to Robert Thurman and Sharon Salzberg in their new book LOVE YOUR ENEMIES: HOW TO BREAK THE ANGER HABIT & BE A WHOLE LOT HAPPIER, the only way to become invulnerable is to “change our view of enemies and learn to see every instance of harm as an opportunity — as something we can use to benefit ourselves and others.”

“Our enemies are our best teachers,” Thurman says. Because they ignite our anger and hatred, they force us to look at our own shadow sides, which is the first step to moving past reflexive negative behavior.

Once we have that wisdom, we can begin to employ more effective weapons — tolerance, compassion and love — and begin to reap real benefits. “If there weren’t people trying to harm us or keep us from getting what we want,” asks Thurman, “how would we learn patience and tolerance and forgiveness?”

We should be grateful to our enemies, for they teach us patience, courage and determination and help us develop a tranquil mind.                                                               – the Dalai Lama

 

Go to the Core

All of us have challenges in our lives.  Whether or not we see those challenges as problems or as opportunities will determine our sense of self.

Our problems are all near the surface.  When we have stress or anxiety, or any number of other concerns, as all humans do, it’s because we are allowing our ego to run our lives.  I’m not talking about ego as in Freudian terms.  My definition of the ego is  the human part of us that feeds the thoughts that make up our belief system. The thoughts we feed are the ones that gain weight and eventually become our beliefs.  It’s the ego’s job to keep us feeling less than.  It tells us we are not good enough, never have been and never will be.  If we continue to pay attention to these thoughts, we will eventually define ourselves in this way.

Therefore, our problems originate with the ego.  When we become completely wrapped up in the comings and goings of our outer life, it can quickly wear us down.  It’s my belief that some types of anxiety and depression – and certainly stress – are caused by living on the surface, and not recognizing, honoring and feeling what we need to feel at the time a situation arises — in our core.  Our troubles result from avoidance of reality.

That might sound ridiculous to those who worry and obsess about things.  They don’t believe they are avoiding anything.  They think they are trying to face it and “figure it out.” (And I know a lot about this, since I have been known to obsess a bit myself!)  But all that does is keep us in our heads (which is where the ego resides). And most of those thoughts we are feeding are the same thoughts we had yesterday, and the day before that, and will be the same thoughts we’ll have again tomorrow unless we consciously choose different ones. And I’d guess the majority of those thoughts are negative.

There is nothing to be gained by ruminating about something.  This is when we become identified with those negative beliefs.  We become victims. Victims have no choices and no personal power.

But we are more than whatever is bothering us.  If we detach ourselves and become a compassionate observer of our own lives (through meditation, mindfulness and consciousness), we discover the opportunity to address the causes of our problems, not just the symptoms. Often, there is something we can do but mostly, it’s just about an awareness of who we are at our unconditioned level of self.  That is the part without the ego attached; the spiritual/higher self that is at our core.  That part of us is connected to our Source – and to every other being in existence. When we can find that place within us, we’ll find peace.  Rather than defining us, our difficulties then give us an opportunity to move forward – powerfully.

So our troubles are on the surface – much like an ocean, which can be rough, stormy and unpredictable.  But if we go deeper – to the floor (or to our core, unconditioned self), it becomes quiet, calm and peaceful.  The answers are not in our heads, they’re in our hearts.

 

Grief

The death of a loved one changes our lives forever, no matter who we are. The suffering that ensues from such a loss ranks among the most distressing of human experiences. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most common.  We will all die, and so will our friends and family members.  Even though it is a universal experience, each loss is unique – and each individual’s reaction to the loss is unique.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  Most people, following a loss experience a period of intense sorrow, numbness and even guilt or anger. Other typical responses include reduced concentration, disrupted sleep patterns, a change in appetite and eating patterns, and a roller coaster of emotional energy.  For some, these feelings gradually ease, but for others the loss is devastating and the feelings do not improve with the passage of time.  In fact, the popular saying, “Time heals all wounds,” is just not true.  All time does is put space between us and the event we are mourning. It’s what we DO with that time that can heal us – or it can keep us feeling stranded and alone.

We never “get over it”, but most of us can eventually find a way to integrate the loss into our lives and move on.  Some become stuck in their grief for years, often because of unresolved issues between them and their loved one – guilt, anger and resentments, unanswered questions or missed conversations.

While we all have to go through this at some point in our lives, there is help available.  I’d like to make you aware of a new grief treatment that dramatically decreases the pain many experience.  Guided Afterlife Connections (GAC) is a cutting-edge therapy in which I’ve recently been trained.  This single, extended session (typically 4-6 hours) achieves a release of grief, replaced with peace and joy.  The session opens a portal to the other side. Grief, anger and feelings of emptiness are dissolved or greatly diminished.

As we finished her session, one client said,  “I feel so much lighter! The weight and heaviness I’ve carried around for the past two years is gone”.  This is one of the most common reactions I hear.  Clients report feeling peaceful and a sense of comfort that their loved one is still with them – not in the same way, but many say they feel even closer than before the death.

If you or someone you know is experiencing grief or still has difficulty with the loss of a love one after more than a year, I am available to answer questions.  For session availability for the GAC or if the grief is still fresh, please call my office at 816-510-1172 or email me at pattipete@pattipeterson.com

Grief and Loss

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has become well-known for her work on death and dying.  She was the first to recognize that dying and the grief process progressed through several stages, before reaching the acceptance of the reality of death.  Because this has been so much a part of my business, I used to mistakenly believe everyone knows about and understands these stages.  But I’ve found that is not the case, so here is a very short commentary on Kuber-Ross’s discovery.  (It’s important to understand that this is just one theory on how grief is processed, although it is probably the most well-known.  I will share other concepts at a later date).

The stages of grief and loss are:

1) Denial

2) Anger

3) Bargaining

4) Depression

5) Acceptance

After Kubler-Ross published her findings, an awareness developed that the grief process occurs when we’re faced with any loss – the loss of a loved one, a job loss, a goal not achieved, loss of material wealth or status, etc.

STAGES:

Even though we call them “stages”, they are not experienced in linear order.  We go in and out of each as we work through the process of the loss.  So just because you might feel “done” with one stage, don’t be surprised if you realize you’ve slipped back into it – often after the fact.

Here’s a brief explanation of each stage:

Denial sometimes gets a bad rap in my opinion.  It’s a coping mechanism we all use from time to time when something is too difficult to take in all at once.  Denial is like a warm blanket we wrap ourselves in when the cold, harsh truth is just more than we can handle.  At times, denial allows us to continue to function when some major, overwhelming change has taken place that might otherwise completely debilitate us.  Of course, we need to eventually put the blanket down, and deal with reality. If we hang onto it too long, it can prevent us from moving forward.  But it’s not a quick, easy process.  Denial sneaks back in once in a while, even after we think we’re done with it.

Anger:  I’ve told clients for years that if they notice they are experiencing anger, to also look beneath it for another, less acceptable emotion that feels more vulnerable.  Anger very often is a vehicle for accessing more inner power.  It’s like a bullet proof vest we can put on to protect ourselves.  But much like the denial blanket, we need to eventually learn to take that vest off.  As we maneuver through the process, we can actually learn to be OK with feeling more vulnerable.  We don’t have to like it, but we can recognize that vulnerability is what connects us all as human beings.

Bargaining:  This stage is characterized by attempting to enter into an agreement which may postpone the inevitable from happening.  When the loss is about approaching death, people promise anything if God will let them (or their loved one) live.  Bargaining during the bereavement process is still about postponement of dealing with the pain.  It almost throws us back to the point of denial, but at this point, we do acknowledge something has or is happening and that we need to handle it.  We just want to delay the feeling.

Depression:  At this point reality has set in.  We can’t ignore it any longer.  We feel empty, sad, alone and find it impossible to even smile or laugh at times.  This is a very painful time, emotionally and even physically.  We don’t feel like the same person any longer without our loved on in our lives.  This is actually the whole point of grief – it’s the most important growth process we go through in our lives, but it’s also the most difficult.  Our job, as the bereaved, is to eventually discover who we are without the the other person in our day-to-day physical lives.  This is where those vulnerable feelings show up, as if we were shedding a cocoon, leaving us naked and exposed.  It’s easy to see how we can slide back into denial, anger or bargaining from this place.

The final stage is acceptance.  Although, as I mentioned before, it’s a slow process, and even when we get to the point of accepting the loss, a certain situation or anniversary can take us back into one of the earlier stages for a while.  But we can’t reach acceptance without experiencing the previous stages.  I believe pain and heartache are like a fire that clears the wreckage away.  It doesn’t look very pretty at first, but once we’ve cleaned out the debris and let go of the relationship as we knew it (or as the dying person, we’ve made peace with our life on earth coming to a close) we are finally able to see the new beginning in front of us.  It will never again be as it was, but it can be just as good.  We never get over grief and loss, but we can integrate it into our lives so that it takes on a new sheen.  We can begin to look forward with anticipation and even excitement once again.

Guided Afterlife Connections is a grief therapy that helps the bereaved move through the latter stages to acceptance. For more information on this therapy, you can go to the links menu on the front page of my website.