Archive for the ‘Emotions’ Category

How to Encourage through Validation

You want to talk about f-f-f-feelings?


Yes, I live in a household full of males, and that’s often the refrain I hear when I want to have a “deeper conversation.” But the truth is, even women don’t often know how to talk about feelings—or more specifically, how to validate them.

So today I want to talk about one of the best ways to encourage someone—through the validation of feelings.

I have to say that validation is a fine art that should be practiced often and with great precision, because it is like a warm embrace to a frozen heart. But first, we must understand the steps to take in our efforts to meet this important human need.

Step One: Understand the magnitude of someone’s spoken feelings

When people disclose personal feelings, realize there are invisible questions that every person thinks:

  • Are my feelings okay?
  • Do you understand them?
  • Do you care about them?
  • Do you accept them?  (And remember, accepting someone’s feelings is not the same as agreeing with them)

So, be sure to communicate a welcoming attitude to your friend from the outset.

Step Two: Acknowledge their feelings

This can be done by simply reflecting back what you’ve just heard the person say. For example: “It sounds like this is a very frustrating (hurtful, confusing, fearful, etc.) experience for you.”

Third Step: Seek Clarification

Most of the time, we don’t understand all the emotions that are brimming under the surface for our friends. It’s easy to skim over this and try to shift the focus back to ourselves, where we feel more comfortable. Resist this tendency and ask for more details about how the person feels. So the next step connects the words in step two with step three . . .

“It sounds like this is a very frustrating (hurtful, confusing, fearful, etc.) experience for you. Is that what you’re feeling right now?”

Remember, don’t rush this part or move on until you’ve gained an assurance that you’ve clearly heard and understood the other person’s feelings.

Fourth Step: Show Empathy

Hopefully, once you’ve fully explored all that your friend is feeling, you will catch a glimpse into the pain or confusion that is your friend’s feeling(s). So at that point, communicate how your friend’s feeling(s) has emotionally moved you.

For example: “It breaks my heart to see you in this pain. Please know that I want to be a safe place for you as you go through this time.”

If you practice this simple method of validation, I can guarantee that you’ll have given your friend an invaluable gift. Emotional validation is the soft and comforting embrace we all want and need when life gets hard. Try it today!

“Like free radicals, feelings wander around the conversation looking for some acknowledgement to hook onto.  They won’t be happy until they get it, and nothing else will do.” –Henry Cloud and John Townsend



5 Things You Should Do If You Want to be Rejected

  1. Always wear a mask – Your mantra should be to never let anyone know who you really are or how you truly feel. That way you’ll appear to have it all together and no one will be able to relate to you.
  2. Never show your softer emotions – This means that you should never cry around anyone or appear to be moved by anyone’s pain or feelings. When you practice this strict discipline, you’ll appear to be either a cold, distant robot or a perfectionistic control-freak. Either way, you’ll have people running for the hills in no time. I’ve tried this. I promise, it really works great!
  3. Judge someone’s motives – Now this is easily achieved when you’re in the heat of debate. But please don’t make the fatal mistake of mentioning their behavior. After all, they can prove you wrong in that realm. So focus only on what you cannot see—their motives—then they’ll never know what hit them. Of course, rounding it out by casting a pious look their way adds power to the punch.
  4. Never apologize – This is like a gunfighter dropping his weapon in the middle of a dual—how crazy is that? Unfortunately, admitting how you were wrong changes the dynamic on a dime—so avoid it like the plague!
  5. Never forgive – This is similar to “never apologize” except that it can be done covertly. This means that the awkward distance they are feeling with you can only be felt and never identified. It’s the perfect way to keep people from coming back, or for that matter, coming toward you in the first place! It’s a true win-win!

Although we may laugh at this and not take it seriously, looking at rejection from this angle makes it a little easier to see our tendency to do many of these things—unintentionally, of course!

So take a minute and score yourself on these 5 issues (or if you’re brave enough, have someone else score you!) — rating a “1” for not at all to a “10” for this is me to the core! Then take the time to work on the area(s) where you scored highest.

I have to admit, I really need to work on number 2—and just so you know, I’m crying now as I admit this! (wink! wink!)

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!”


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?


Getting Your Control Freaky On?

Do you have a control freak in your life? Or perhaps you are one! Sometimes I am, especially when my anxiety is running high. The Control Freak lives by this motto – If a situation is spinning out of control, the way to stop it is by controlling the situation!

On the surface that makes sense, but the problem is that a true Control Freak:

  1. Doesn’t know how much control should be exerted and often controls too much
  2. Doesn’t know when to leave the situation in the hands of God

A perfect example in the Bible of a Control Freak is the disciple, Peter. In Matthew chapter 26, we see a situation that seemed to be spinning out of control. Jesus was being confronted by a mob that had come to arrest him. True to form, Peter decided to take charge of the chaotic and threatening situation. He grabbed, or had, a sword tucked away in his cloak for just such an occasion.

Now, you’ve got to give Peter credit for his desire to put his own life at risk by defending and rescuing Jesus . . . the Savior. In case you didn’t notice, that last sentence reeks of irony and makes me wonder, What was Peter thinking? I just want to laugh at Peter or kick myself for being just like him!

Back to the story . . .

Peter sprung into Super Hero action, probably lunging at the closest member of the mob, the high priest’s servant. I can only imagine what Peter must have been thinking,

“This will make them sit up and listen to my beloved Messiah!”

Of course, if he really wanted them to listen, he probably shouldn’t have tried to cut off someone’s ear!

Christ didn’t need Peter’s help and the situation truly never spun out of Jesus’ control. His sole purpose in coming to earth was not to keep His life, but rather to give it.  When Peter arrogantly tried to control the situation, he unintentionally got in the way of God’s plan being communicated and fulfilled.  Thankfully, Christ, who had ultimate control, remedied the dilemma immediately.

  • Are you facing a situation, thinking you have a better plan than God?
  • Are you trying to somehow control the situation or the people in your life?
  • What would surrendering your situation to God look like or involve?

From one Control Freak to another, I would love to know!

tuesdays unwrapped at cats


Take This Job and Shove It? Not Me!, the world has turned its attention to the “Take-this-job-and-shove-it” fiasco with Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant. If you don’t already know (and I don’t know how you could not), a JetBlue customer was rude and confrontational with Steven, who decided he’d had enough. So he grabbed a beer and exited the plane and his job on the escape slide of the plane. Talk about going out with a bang!

The reason I bring this up is not to discuss the rightness or wrongness of the flight attendant’s actions, but to consider the mind-set that we all can fall into at times. We grow discouraged by the difficulties we face or the persecution we are receiving, and decide to let our feelings and other people’s bad attitudes determine our choices.

Today I was reading in Nehemiah, chapter four. If you’re not familiar, it is the account of how Nehemiah rallied the people of Israel to rebuild the crumbled wall around Jerusalem. But that wasn’t even half of the story. The Israelites faced fierce persecution and criticism from a man named, Sanballat. Sadly, Sanballat and his friends decided to shout out insults to the people about their work and their God. This reminded me of Steven Slater’s situation, however, the response of the Israelites was vastly different.

Don’t get me wrong. There were many Israelites who wanted to give up. There were people who specifically came to Nehemiah wanting to “take this job and shove it.” But Nehemiah encouraged them to “Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious,” and to continue to persevere in the face of hardship. Thankfully, the people listened to Nehemiah and trusted God to protect and provide for them. So what about you?

  • Is there a situation where you are discouraged by the problems that keep cropping up?
  • Is there a person who continues to put you down or discourage you in an area of your life?

Honestly, I can relate to the flight attendant’s frustration.  But I want to be a person who does not let other people’s bad behavior determine my response. And in order to do that, I need God to help me to rise above the fray. Are you willing to make that hard, but right commitment?


The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

A very long time ago, (especially for those of you who weren’t born before the Saturday afternoon show, “Wide World of Sports”), there was this incredible opening line,

“The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!”

Recently I came across a winner’s story who experienced both of those extremes in the example of the prophet, Elijah. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah had just kicked some Baal prophet butt! He had challenged the prophets of Baal to a dual, and by the end of the day, it was:

Prophets of Baal – 0

Prophet of God – Won!

After this great miracle of God, Elijah ordered that the prophets of Baal be executed. Unfortunately, this royally ticked off, Jezebel, the queen of Israel. She sent a message to Elijah telling him that by the end of the next day, he would be as dead as the prophets of Baal. Then something happened that was just as amazing as the miracle God had performed—Elijah was terrified and ran.

Excuse me? Wasn’t this the guy who not only:

  1. Defeated the bungling prophets of Baal by drenching an altar to God with enough water to float a pile of rocks and . . .
  2. Who called down fire from heaven to lick the soggy sacred stones drier than the humor on the TV show, “The Office”
  3. And then knocked off every one of those powerless prophets of Baal better than Don Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.”

Dissecting the Mind of a Prophet

What could have caused a man to cower and run who clearly had felt the “thrill of victory” by defeating the prophets of Baal—literally wiping them out of the land—just days before?

As I’ve said in my last post, When You’re on the Hot Seat, strong emotion distorts our thinking. But keep in mind, not only does strong emotion distort our thinking but also extreme swings of emotion can easily warp our point of view—going from the thrill to agony in one fell swoop. This huge slide took Elijah from being on top of the world to having a bull’s eye on his back and it sent him reeling toward the loser’s circle.

If emotions hadn’t been a factor, Elijah would have realized that God was going to protect him. And in time, God would turn Queen Jezebel into a “meal fit for Rover” (2 Kings 9:30 – 37). God helped to calm Elijah’s emotions and brought his perspective and faith back into view.  So my question for you is . . .

What strong emotions or emotional swings are distorting your view and your faith in God? If you are on that emotional roller coaster, then try these two important strategies:

  1. Begin to pray about your emotion on a daily basis, being completely honest with God who already knows more about your feelings than you do.
  2. Find a trusted Christian friend and/or counselor who can help you to process your emotions in a positive direction.

If you do this, you will find that not only does your clearer perspective return, but also your faith will increase. And then you’ll be able, with God’s help, to face down any queen or king-sized threat in your life.