Monthly Archives: February 2016

Dealing with Resentments

Here’s a Gospel According to Patti: Resentments are hardened chunks of anger (anger you’ve carried around so long it’s become hard and difficult to chip away). I’ve never known a resentment that was truly justified. We try to rationalize it, but the reality is that when we resent someone or something, it only hurts us. (An old-timer in the AA program once told me, “If you find yourself living with a resentment towards another person, drive by their house at 3:00 am to see if they’re up worrying about it.”)  The reality is that the other person might not even know they did something to upset you.

Anger is often a smokescreen emotion, meaning it’s sometimes used to cover up other emotions that make us feel more vulnerable, such as hurt, fear, embarrassment, shame or guilt.

I don’t believe any emotion is negative, but of those that suck to feel, anger is a little more socially acceptable to express (at least more so than the others), because it doesn’t make us feel vulnerable.  Anger gives us a powerful rush of adrenaline. But while it can feel empowering, it usually stems from a sense of victimization or inequity – or it comes from someone or something not meeting our expectations (possibly ourselves).

At the psychological level anger, resentment and blame can also be used as defenses to ward off those feelings of vulnerability, which we perceive as weakness.  Giving up our anger can feel like giving up a piece of ourselves or a piece of our perceived power. We can experience it as a loss of self – if so much of us is invested in it that it’s become a part of our identity.

And if we feel deeply wounded, it can feel like our anger, resentment and blame are all we have that’s ours to hold onto – to keep us from falling apart – to protect us from possible future attacks.

I’ve sometimes encouraged individual clients to visualize their resentments as an invisible bullet-proof vest they wear. When they come into therapy, I ask them to take off that vest for the duration of the session, so we can talk about – and allow ourselves to feel the anger or the emotions under the anger. Then they can put it on again as they leave to protect themselves if they need it. Eventually, they need the vest less and less, as they get in touch with the human/vulnerable parts of themselves, and recognize they have done themselves a disservice.

Sometimes I believe anger is justified and healthy to feel, although I hope it is a temporary hangout and that the person can move on to experience other emotional environments that allow for more freedom and peace.  Resentments not only keep us from connecting with others, they keep us from our own truth.

As long as a man bears resentment in his heart, peace will never be his.

I’m on the Highway

My birthday is coming up this next week.  It’s not really a milestone – 68.  I’ve been a senior citizen, on Medicare and Social Security for a few years now. (When your income has been dependent on clients and insurance companies paying you when they manage to get around to it, a “steady income” and insurance that covers most of your needs at a relatively low cost is a pretty big deal – even if it’s only a drop in the bucket).

But back to my birthday. Any more, I use birthdays to reflect briefly on what I’ve learned and to  set my focus again on where I want to go. I no longer beat myself up over things I should have done, or thought I would have done by this time in my life. I recognize that I’m doing what I’m led to do. It’s one of the things I ask every day as I meditate – “Guide me today as I move along this path and bring the people that are supposed to be in my life.”

My husband teases me that I think I’m going to live forever. Yes, I do – the real me is eternal. My body is already deteriorating some. That’s just the reality of our physical beings. But I made the decision years ago that I was not going to let an old person move into my body.

I was discussing this with a friend, and she shared a cute comment one of her daughters made: “Mom, you’re on the highway and your exit is coming up!”

While I hope my exit isn’t coming for a little while yet, none of us knows when that’s going to be. Which is the point of this blog!

We’re all on the highway of life. Some of us travel the fast lane, at least for a while, but we eventually realize that can’t last forever for a variety of reasons. Some of us have learned that we need to take the scenic route at least occasionally (especially those of us who have been here a while); and some even make a number of stops to smell the roses and watch the sunsets. Regardless of what course we take, we need to realize the destination is not the point of the trip, it’s the journey.  (Have you ever rushed to get someplace you thought you really wanted or needed to go, only to discover once you arrived that it didn’t measure up to the hype? Or even if it did, once you got there & did all the things you wanted to do, you didn’t really feel as satisfied as you had hoped)?

That’s the problem with not living in the now. For me, planning the trip is usually the most fun part – the anticipation and dreaming about what it will be like. Living in the future like that can be exciting. And as those of us who have some anxiety know, it can also be exhausting and nerve-racking; and if we stay there, we’ll never really live the life we are meant to have.

So I don’t want to have any regrets when I come upon that exit. As long as I keep my vehicle on the highway, and don’t spend too much time looking in the rear view mirror or go off on too many detours, I’ll be OK.  In fact, I’ve come to understand more and more that I’m not even driving this rig!   I just have a seat on the bus and trust that it will take me where I need to go.


Grief on Valentines Day

Valentines Day is a day to recognize the love that connects you and your spouse, or any romantic involvement in the present. But if you’ve lost a loved one who was an intimate partner – or anyone who was very close to you, Valentines Day can be especially painful. The past can represent a hole in your heart where your loved one used to be.

Honoring that person in a specific way that meant something to the two of you together is one way to get through the holiday. Will it still be painful? Probably. But the choice you have is where you focus. If you put your energy on the good memories and allow yourself to revisit those feelings and stay with them as long as possible, it may help keep you in the love a little more than in the grief. But if all you allow yourself to think about is that he’s no longer with you in physical form, then the grief can overwhelm you.

But your loved one is with you – just in a different form. If you look for the signs she will show up. Those on the other side want us to know they are around. The signs are subtle. Don’t try to force them. They typically come when we least expect them. So keep your focus on the here and now as much as you can, but be open and attentive to possible signs. Here are some of the ways they let us know they are here:

-They send an animal to us. Some of the more common animals are butterflies, birds, dragonflies or deer. The animal does something it usually would not do, such as land on you, peck at your window or scream at you. If a particular animal held some significance for you and your loved one, it’s very likely that is the animal that will show up for you.

-They place common objects such as feathers, coins, or rocks in our path. Again, this is often something that was significant to them – or to you.

-They give off fragrances. Often you can smell her perfume or favorite flower, his cigar or cigarette smoke, or any other familiar smell they had. Once I smelled a roast that was made specifically the way my mother used to make it. I’ve never known anyone else to use that recipe. I was in my office where there was no kitchen and no one else around.

-They make songs come on at the perfect time. On several occasions, when I’ve been wondering what to do to help a client – or which choice to make in my life, I have had a song pop into my head or come on the radio that holds a message confirming my choice.  But often they play songs that meant something in your relationship.

-One of the easiest ways for them to come through to us is in our dreams. A dream that is a true visitation will be very peaceful and we will know it is our loved one. We will remember this type of dream in detail many years later. (On the other hand, a subconscious dream may be frightening or feel bad. This type of dream is not your loved one).

-They show us the same numbers over and over. They often give us numbers that are relevant to them or you, such as birth dates, anniversaries – or repeating numbers, such as 1111, 2222, 3333, etc. These numbers may appear on clocks, billboards, license plates or any other familiar place.

-They allow us to feel peaceful for no reason. When our loved ones are in the room, they usually make us feel so loved and at peace. It usually happens at the most unsuspecting time, so there is no logical explanation for our sudden bliss.  I have had an overwhelming sense of peace come over me  while driving in the car.

-They place thoughts in our head. Our loved ones don’t have an audible voice, so they give us messages telepathically. Pay attention to thoughts that just “pop” into your head. We can tell the difference between our thoughts and theirs by backtracking our thoughts. If you can find the thought that triggered the thought of your loved one, it is probably your thought. If something your loved one would say just pops in your head for no reason, it is probably him or her speaking directly to you!

-They love to play with electricity. They turn electricity on and off. They like to flicker lights, turn the television and radio on and off, make appliances beep for no apparent reason and mess with computers.

-They make buzzing noises in our ears. Because our loved ones speak to us on a different, higher frequency, we may hear ringing in our ears when they are trying to get our attention. This is a sign telling you to listen to what they are saying.

These are not the only signs our loved ones are with us, but some of the more common ones.  Again, the evidence is usually very subtle. But they love to be around us, especially on holidays that mean a lot to us and to them.

So do the best you can to focus on the holiday, or on whatever you need to do, and it’s very possible you will receive a sign.  Just be open to it.

Vulnerability and Strength

It’s not uncommon for people to sit in my office, feeling very down emotionally, and tell me they believe they are weak. I don’t believe our problems make us weak. We are often vulnerable, however. One of the benefits of therapy is to acknowledge our vulnerabilities. We can only become stronger when we can identify those areas – then decide if/how we can change them.

When we say the things that others want to hear, regardless of our own truth, or allow others or our environment to dictate how we behave, we might see ourselves as weak. As I’ve studied human life and explored my own sense of spirituality, I’ve come to understand that most of us have to go through these periods in order to experience how that feels. Our world is one where we often learn from opposites, so when we’re finally tired of feeling the way we feel when we aren’t living in our own truth, we’ll be motivated to change. That’s a process – and often a very slow one. But when we recognize that it’s OK to be who we really are, we’ll naturally be drawn to making the choices we need to make.

People respect strength, but they identify with vulnerability. Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s getting in touch with our humanity.

Strength is operating from effectiveness – with integrity and truth.

The following comes from one of my favorite authors, Melody Beattie. She writes like I think, so almost everything she writes resonates with me:

Many of us feel that we can only show our strong, confident side. We believe the face we have to show to the world should ALWAYS be one of politeness, perfection, calm, strength, and control.

While it is certainly good and often appropriate to be in control, calm, and strong, there is another side to all of us — that part of us that feels needy, becomes frightened, has doubts, and gets angry. That part of us that needs care, love, and reassurance that things will be okay. Expressing these needs makes us vulnerable and less than perfect, but this side needs our acceptance too.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable will help us build lasting relationships. Sharing our vulnerabilities helps us feel close to people and helps others feel close to us. It helps us grow in self-love and self-acceptance. It helps us become healing agents. It allows us to become whole and accessible to others.

Today, I will allow myself to be vulnerable with others when it’s safe and appropriate to do so.

 I’ve learned that the more vulnerable I allow myself to be, the more in control of myself I really am. -Anonymous