Archive for the ‘Anger’ Category

How to Find Your Way Out of a Conflict

A while back my husband, Gary, and I were discussing something very important. At one point, Gary said something that made me feel like he disagreed with my viewpoint. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have bothered me very much. But because this issue was such a raw issue—one that carried a lot of “baggage”—our discussion immediately escalated into an argument.  For me, it felt like I was emotionally flooding—drowning in the intensity and alienation of it all.

Since our emotions were so strong and peaked at such a rapid rate, it startled me. Thankfully God used that intensity to grab my attention, and I immediately tried to gain some perspective.

  • I asked myself, Why am I feeling this so strongly?
  • I asked myself, Why is Gary not seeing my point?
  • I asked myself, How does this discrepancy look from his perspective?

As I considered my answers to those questions, I realized almost immediately that seeing things from his perspective was crucial and key to my understanding of where he was coming from. Quickly, my feelings soon followed suit, calming down and transforming into empathy.

So I told him that I could see his perspective, and from his perspective I could understand how he would feel the way he did. Once I said those words, it was like turning a key in a locked door. Immediately, our communication opened up and we were able to discuss the matter with patience and greater understanding.

Very often when any of us are in a moment of conflict with someone, we lose perspective. We get lost in the jumble of emotions and words. I think that all that I did to bring clarity to my situation was play the game of, “Where’s Waldo?” or in my case, “Where’s Gary?” In other words, I needed to inject myself into the issue from Gary’s point of view.

When I’ve played the actual game, “Where’s Waldo,” I’ve often felt a bit overwhelmed by the confusion of it all. It’s really very hard to find that goofy little guy! You have to spend a good amount of time scanning over every tiny image and overlapping detail. But when you finally find him, you feel exhilarated! You feel amazed at your accomplishment. My hope is that you feel that same exhilaration when you find your “Waldo,” whoever that might be!

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Is Venting Your Anger Unhealthy?

Have you ever had an infestation of ants or roaches or . . . what about those dreaded bed bugs? Yuck! I hope not! But if you have, then you know that those little buggers can find the smallest places to hide or invade. And you wouldn’t try to get rid of them by locking all your doors and windows, would you? Of course, not!

Unfortunately, anger manifests in our hearts and minds very much like an infestation of bugs. When that happens, we may try to ignore our anger or lock it down tight. That won’t work for real bugs, so why do we think it will work with our anger?

Unless we squash or exterminate our anger directly, it will find a way out—either through our actions, words, or unfortunately, through physical or psychological problems. That explains why venting is often the first line of defense we turn to in order to get rid of this “bug.” But if we do that in a destructive way, it’s sort of like burning our house down to kill a few cockroaches!

I believe there are some misconceptions about what venting may involve. So if by venting you mean you are criticizing and degrading whomever you are angry with (to them or to others), then venting is absolutely destructive. But if by venting you mean you are simply looking for an outlet to respectfully process your anger with a positive purpose in mind, then I’m all for it!

We all, from time to time, need to process our angry feelings with at least God, but also with a trusted friend, and sometimes even with a trained counselor. BTW, the idea of meeting with a friend to process anger should not be to gossip or indulge in a gripe session. It is about finding a safe, confidential place to express our hurt and disappointment with the goal of gaining perspective in order to better respond to the one who offended us.

In my experience (because I am very prone to self-deception), God has used many a truth-telling friend to help me see how I’ve been thinking wrong. I thank God for those Divine moments, because God is using someone to help me to turn from my sin and face my responsibility. When I do that, I am doing the “One anothers” of the Bible like, “Carry one another’s burdens . . .” (Gal. 6:2a HCSB)

Venting or dumping our anger can be unhealthy, but we all need to find healthy outlets or we’ll just end up, as my late father used to say, “With ants in our pants!”

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I Just Need to Vent!

Have you ever heard or said those words? I know I’ve felt like venting at times, but I’m not sure I always describe it in such graphic terms. I’d rather say it in a more palatable way like, “I really need to talk” or “I need to let off some steam.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. In fact, I’ve come across some research that indicates that venting may not be a healthy way to deal with anger. As a counselor, I’ve always helped people to work through or process their emotions, be they anger, sadness, whatever. However, I have often considered venting and processing to be two different things.

In a later post, I will be sharing some of the research that I’ve found about venting that should give all of us more clarity on the subject.

  • So, what do you think?
  • Do you think that venting is different than talking through a problem in a positive way?
  • What are some of the positives you’ve experienced due to venting?
  • What are some of the negatives you’ve experienced due to venting?

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Marriage Mistake #5 – Negative Focus

Have you ever tried to tend a garden? If you don’t have the plastic weed barrier firmly in place, then you might as well resign yourself to a long-term battle with your finger on the trigger of Round-Up—aiming to kill.  In the same way that weeds can take over a flower garden, I allowed “weeds” to invade my marriage garden.

In the early years of my marriage, I tried to avoid dealing with conflict, (Marriage Mistake #3). Often when this is the method a person chooses, it comes out somewhere.  The person either complains to friends and family about the offender, or complains internally. I did both, but more often than not, I did the latter.

At the time, I thought that this was a great way to manage my anger. I was able to dwell on all the bad things I thought my husband was doing, enjoying the rush that comes from feeling justified and indignant, and I never had to face his anger.  Well, at least that’s how I thought it worked.

Actually, the negative thoughts, like weeds, began to take over and warp my view of reality. I began to think my husband was the biggest villain of all time, and I was his poor pitiful victim—strapped to the railroad tracks and all! This approach not only made my anger grow, but also my defensiveness, since I couldn’t imagine that my bad attitude had anything to do with me!

When I look back on it now, I’m embarrassed to admit that I believed that all that garbage could remain underground.  Eventually, the weeds of my mind made me an angry, bitter woman who could get ticked off by the slightest provocation. It was at that point, that I went down that path of “fighting fire with fire,” (Marriage Mistake # 4) another ridiculous strategy.

Thankfully, God intervened in my madness. He convicted me that my negative thoughts were not benign little contemplations that I could pull out and play with like evil Lincoln Logs.  So I began to train myself to notice when those delicious, but very destructive, thoughts wanted to surface. And in those moments, I made a choice to focus on the positive.

Almost immediately I felt a difference. I didn’t feel as angry or irritated. And there was an added bonus for my husband, who didn’t feel as defensive or rejected.  With consistency and time, I knew I had found an important strategy that clearly improved the love and positive feelings within my marriage. Now, every once in a while I notice that I’ve let one slide under the radar undetected, but believe me, it doesn’t stay alive long.  I “Round-Up” that thought and aim to kill!

So, what’s on your mind?

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

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Marriage Mistake #3 – Avoided Conflict

I grew up in a family that didn’t really know how to resolve conflicts. My parents played opposite positions in times of conflict, but neither position was healthy. They were living examples of the extremes in communication. My mother would aggressively confront my dad regarding a problem and my dad would passively run the other way.

In marriage, we often tend to follow the examples of our parents.  And so that’s what I ended up doing, as well. In the early years of my relationship with my husband, I adopted my father’s approach.

The conversations between my husband and I would go something like this: he would notice that I was being unusually quiet and sullen.

He would then say, “Is something wrong?”

I would say, “No, I’m fine.” (Often said in a curt way)

He would then say, “Something’s wrong! Tell me the truth, Beth!”

I would say, “No, really, I’m fine!(Still not convincing him)

At that point, he usually pulled out all the stops to literally drag me out of my place of hiding. But unfortunately, this approach didn’t work.  As you can imagine, it only made matters worse!

I must admit that we both made a marriage mistake when it came to conflict resolution.  I withdrew from him in steely, cold silence, which felt very much like abandonment or at least harsh rejection. And he advanced forward, pursuing me with such voracity that it seemed he turned from simply desiring openness to an all out attack.

As I mentioned before, we were operating at the conflict resolution extremes. Actually, there really isn’t “resolution” at the extremes. Everyone must find the middle ground when trying to resolve conflict.

I will go into more detail about how to resolve conflicts in a later post.  Before I go there, I want to share one more marriage mistake in days to come that sets the stage for discussing conflict resolution.  So, stay tuned! But until that time, please let me know, . .

Do you relate to this problem?

Are you still struggling to find that middle ground?

What fears or hesitations get in the way of dealing directly with conflict?

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4 Ways to Handle the Crazy-maker in Your Life

Is there someone in your life who drives you crazy?  If so, I can relate.  Here are 10 tips that I hope are helpful to dealing with that crazy-maker in your life.

1. Pray about your attitude.

Tell God exactly how you feel about this crazy-maker. He already knows, so you might as well be honest with him.  And the need to vent about your stress and frustration will be released into the arms of the only person who can do something about it!   In other words, ask God to change and rearrange the crazy-maker in your life, and more than anything, ask God to change your heart too!

2.  Stop expecting the other person to change.

The sad facts are that we cannot change someone else.  We can influence the other person, but we cannot change the crazy-maker in our life.  But if we adjust our expectations when the crazy-maker makes us . . . crazy, then the dynamic shifts.  Often the irritation we are feeling is drastically reduced simply because we’ve adjusted our expectations of the other person.

3. Journal about your feelings.

Yeah, yeah, I know some of you are groaning out there!  But even though every counselor recommends journaling, it really does help!  And of those of you who groaned—how many of you know that exercising is important to your physical health?  Well, journaling is like the exercise of your heart, mind and relationships, and is necessary to bring and maintain that health.  I like to address my journalings to God.  But you can simply write out your thoughts and feelings about the crazy-maker in your life, and it will help you to feel better and, most importantly, help you to gain perspective.  We all need more perspective in our relationships—especially with the crazy-makers in our lives.

4.  Find one or two ways you can positively impact the situation.

It may seem hopeless at times, but often there is at least one thing that you can do to improve the way you feel.  For example, if the other person resists doing things your way, then stop suggesting ideas for him or her.  Instead, ask “What are some strategies you think we should try to deal with this problem?”  Of course, that means you might have to give up control of how the situation is handled, and that can be harder than dealing with resistance! But often the other person comes up with at least one solution that you both can agree on and do.  This also can ignite personal responsibility in the other person, who may have needed that vote of confidence from you in the first place.  As the other person feels you are listening to his or her concerns or just sharing the decision-making, you may see the crazy-maker’s fears and resistances transforming into cooperation. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!

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Don’t Lower Yourself

We all have a bad habit from our childhood.  I’m sure you remember it.  And if it’s hazy, just watch your kids for a minute or two and I’m sure they’ll provide a much needed trip down memory lane! Some kid slaps, pinches, or simply touches another kid and the victim feels compelled, even duty-bound, to hit the other back.  It’s one of the oldest games of all time—the game of “Tit for Tat.”

Allow me try to illustrate what this looks like for us, as adults.  Let’s say you’ve had a really bad day.  If something could go wrong, it did.  Your kids were extra needy and messy and . . .  mischievous.  Finally the evening rolls around and you and your husband have a chance to relax.  But instead of pleasantly chatting, he criticizes you for how little you picked up around the house that day.  You can’t believe his nerve!  So you immediately shoot back at him, “Well, if you’d help out a little around here, maybe it wouldn’t be so cluttered!” You feel an instant rush of justification and the high that comes from venting your stress and frustration (a powerful and intoxicating combination!). But instead of it setting your husband straight, it instantly ignites a long and heated argument.  Just what you needed to end your long, hard day!

Do you remember the old motherly saying, “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” It makes perfect sense when you say it that way.  No one wants to do something stupid simply because someone else did it first.  But we do it all the time. We do it in hopes that our offender will learn his lesson.  But they never do.  And we never do—at least as long as we play this awful and destructive game.

The biblical story of David is a great example of refusing to play this game.  In 1st Samuel 24:1-22, David was being pursued by King Saul who erroneously and arrogantly believed David was out to get him.  So when King Saul went into a cave to relieve himself, he didn’t realize that David was hiding there in the shadows.  And instead of killing King Saul—something David’s men urged him to do—he chose to rise above the situation.  He chose to not return evil for evil.  Instead, he crept up and cut off a part of Saul’s robe without him ever knowing.  And when the king left the cave and was a safe distance away, David revealed his act.  He reminded Saul that he could have killed him, but he chose to trust God and be merciful instead.  This convicted the king beyond any point that a harsh and mean-spirited lesson would have taught.

David refused to play the game of “Tit for Tat.”  He chose not to lower himself to his enemy’s standard.  Instead, he rose to the standard of Christ—one of mercy and grace.  Remember that example above?  What if it went something like this instead, “This house is a mess.  What were you doing all day?”  “I know the house looks a mess, but it’s been a really challenging day.  Do you think we could do a little straightening together this weekend?” (Of course, you can’t say those words without graciousness on your lips and a prayer for compassion in your heart.)  It’s not easy resisting that urge to play the “Tit for Tat” game, but when you refuse to lower yourself, everybody wins.

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