Tag Archives: Emotions

What’s wrong with these emotions?

10 Feb

Here’s a quick rundown of the emotions that society tends to refer to as the “negative emotions” or the “bad emotions”.  Take a minute to see why in fact they are not “bad” and discover the functions they serve.   Author Pia Mellody reminds us of the most important thing to remember.  Feeling healthy emotions is a positive experience.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of our emotions, as long as they are expressed in a healthy, functional way and not an abusive one.  As part of the equipment we need to live life fully and functionally, each of our emotions has a specific purpose.

Anger gives us the strength we need to do what is necessary to take care of ourselves.  Anger enables us to assert ourselves and be who we are.  We can use healthy anger to our own best interest by facing it and expressing it in non-abusive ways (either to ourselves or others).

Fear helps us protect ourselves.  When we feel fear, we become alert to the possibility of danger in our environment from which we need to protect ourselves.  Healthy fear keeps us from getting into situations and relationships that would not be in our own best interest.

Pain motivates us to grow toward increasing maturity.  Normal healthy lives are full of pain-producing problems, and feeling the pain produces growth.  A functional person uses pain as a means to work through problems, heal from their effects, gain the wisdom that comes out of painful situations, and continue in the maturing process.  Repressing the pain and not facing it or medicating it in some way keeps us injured and immature.

Guilt is a healthy warning system telling us we have transgressed a value we consider to be important.  Feeling guilt helps us change our behavior and get back to living up to our values.

Shame gives us a sense of humility that lets us know we are not the Higher Power.  Healthy shame reminds us that we are fallible and that we need to learn to be accountable and responsible.  Shame also helps us to correct our areas of fallibility that impact others and society adversely.  This process helps us to accept the rest of our imperfection as part of our normal, healthy humanity.  We can also relate to a Higher Power in a healthy way that is necessary to live as a responsible mature adult.  We experience shame whenever we notice ourselves making a mistake or being imperfect.

There is purpose in everything we feel.  I encourage you to feel the emotions and use them the way they were intended.  You are not experiencing any feeling that hasn’t been felt by countless others.  Instead of running from it, ask someone else how they moved through it.  Seek guidance from your higher power and get ready to grow.


Self Renovation

28 Jul

I’ve been cleaning and painting a house every day for the last week. It’s my rental house. I have dusted, scrubbed, washed, swept, wiped down and picked at things with my finger nails that I probably shouldn’t have. I’ve taped, cut in, painted and repainted every nook and cranny. I’ve changed light bulbs, put in curtains and air fresheners in every room. The place went from trash to treasure in about 10 days time. To see the change has been nothing short of moving and somewhat emotional.

I was about 5 days in when I began to see the changes really taking place and my first thought was, why haven’t I done this in my primary home? What has kept me from spending money on new lighting, paint and vanilla fragrance in the home I live in every day? It didn’t take much time to convince myself that was what I should do. Another 5 days went by and then I did what I always do, I make meaning. I find a way to relate it to my existence as a human being and learn a lesson. I strongly believe that is what we are all here to do anyway.

If you’ve ever dabbled in any dream analysis and tried to figure out why the heck you keep dreaming you’re late for class, running around naked or your legs won’t work when you’re running from the bad guys, then you may know when we dream about a house, it often represents ourselves. When we explore different rooms in the house, we are often exploring different parts of our being – perhaps our roles as a parent, a sibling, a professional, a creative being and so on. Or perhaps it’s the cynical part, the depressed part, the hurting part, the people pleaser part and the broken parts.

Now back to my task of making meaning and allowing this rental house to represent me for the sake of learning. Before I did the cleaning, the house smelled. It was instinctual to turn away and walk the other direction. Is there anybody that perceives me that way? I’m not asking if I stink, and I’m pretty sure I don’t but I am asking if people are more inclined to approach me or turn away from me at first glance and at first encounter with my energy. Am I positive or negative? Do I attract or repel? And if I did a little more upkeep on my attitude, would I draw more positive people to me? I believe what I put out there comes back to me so it is on my to-do list to refresh my attitude.

The old flooring had stains. It had weird icky gooey stuff. It had years of memories, liquid and otherwise. I picked at some of these trying to clean them up. What kinds of stains am I carrying around? I know when people unknowingly pick at one of my old wounds the feelings come gushing out at a rate that is more than called for in the present situation. In other words, they see me “over reacting.” I’ve been triggered and they don’t know it. I think instead of letting these old hurts continue to embarrass me and cause me to look overly dramatic and then just scab over, I might just try some therapy, some meditation, some healing of the soul. Rumi says the wound is where the light enters so I’ll make sure I don’t make them disappear completely (aka denial) but I’ll take better care to clean them and prevent further scarring.

The most damage and dirt in the house was upstairs. It is also in the “upstairs” of me. It’s in my eyes when I look in the mirror and in my mouth when I say those ugly things about my hair and my body. It’s in my ears when I hear only the negative. It’s in my head, in my thoughts and in the old scripts I’ve repeated over the years. I need a lobotomy. Okay, not really, but obviously it’s time to clear the dust from my eyes and see the beauty in this woman that God created. I will shut this mouth and do what my mother said; if I can’t say something nice (about myself) well then I won’t say anything at all. I don’t know what to do about the way I hear things. I guess I’ll probably encourage those that love me to repeat themselves again and again until I can hear it for what it is. They say I am beautiful, that I am kind and strong and smart. That is worth hearing so I will listen. My brain that has the old scripts is really just that little girl version of me still crying about who knows what. I believe the adult version of me is going to just have to sit her down for a come to Jesus meeting and tell it like it is. I will tell her we’re cleaning house and it feels good.

A New Twist on Old Advice

9 Jul

I heard some great advice the other day. It wasn’t new advice and it didn’t come from a stranger. It was a twist on old advice from someone I greatly respect and get advice from all the time. For whatever reason, on this day, I heard it differently. It was simple really. She said, “You’re behavior is all you’ve got. Hold on to it.” It was a twist on, “You can’t control other people, only yourself.” or even, “You can’t control situations, but you CAN control how you respond to them.” I hear this advice all the time. I give this advice all the time.

This time though, it was more about recognizing when other people’s behavior is out of control or at best, not to my liking, I always have the option to control my own behavior. I can make a conscious choice not to get caught up in their rage. I can ignore their “f” bombs rather than throw in my own. I can hear them escalate and soothe myself rather than join them in their chaotic world. If I can manage that, I might even choose to throw in a little prayer for them or at least a “Bless their heart.”

Behavior is observable. We see it and therefore, we judge it. We decide if it’s good or bad and whether or not we like it. What I have managed to forget is that while I am busy judging, my behavior is simultaneously on display and living in the land of right or wrong for others to see. What would they say? Could I defend myself? Am I modeling appropriate behavior for younger eyes that are watching?

People that push our buttons are excellent “baiters.” They dangle the bait right in front of us and it is all we can do to no jump up and take it. We think we’ll be quick enough to grab it and fool them. Get in and get out and we win! The truth is, they catch us, every time. We are hooked and immediately on the behavioral decline right along side them. How do they do it? I’m curious about that, but I know my time is better spent figuring out how not to take the bait. I think I will tell myself that my behavior is all I have…hold onto it. I’m going to hold on for dear life. I am the only one accountable for everything I say and do. I might even bless their heart.

Change a Tire, Change a Heart

30 Mar

Isn’t the universe a funny thing? Sometimes I wonder why I even try to be in charge of my own life.

I met someone recently and over the past month we’ve been sharing with each other the ins and outs of who we are. It was just a few weeks ago when I shared something with him that I share with almost everyone I know. I hate doing “man stuff.” I was referring to the times when I am forced to deal with things that require tools and testosterone. Mostly car troubles, things in the house that need fixing, mastering the pool equipment to keep my pool clean and other things of that nature. So I said to him, “I hate doing man stuff.” As soon as I said it I felt whiney and was sure I should hand over my “equality for women” card. This made me nervous, so I did what I always do when I get nervous, I kept talking… a lot. Thank goodness I did, because I finally said something I needed to hear. It came out of my own mouth. It was my truth. This is what I said. “I hate doing man stuff. It’s so frustrating and I usually end up crying. I mean, I can do these things myself or certainly be resourceful enough to get them done. I just hate doing the “man stuff” because it is a reminder that I am alone.” (Insert Aha! Moment)

Well how about that? It turns out it wasn’t so much the “man stuff” that got me so upset after all. It was that undeniable awareness that I am alone. There is no partner around to do the “man stuff.” There is no other adult in my house to help me navigate the up and down days of my life. It is just me.

So I heard my truth come out and I have to say I was a bit surprised. I am strong. I am independent. I can do a lot of things. These are truths I speak more often. I am familiar with them. This new one was unfamiliar and I wasn’t sure I liked it.

Recently, I shared something with my children and every client I’ve seen in the last two weeks. I talked with them about courage and what it means to have courage. I told them it seems that people these days align courage with acts of heroism. I told them that I believed that courage means being able to speak from the heart, to speak your truth. I said very clearly to each of them, “The bravest and most courageous thing you can do is to ask for what you need.”

Fast forward to this morning. I woke up with a full agenda for the day and a flat tire. Crap! Man stuff! With a heavy sigh I began to problem solve. My first step was sending a text to that same person. I figured this was a good move since I’d already proclaimed my hatred for “man stuff” to him. This would not shock him and he’d be able to tell me what to do.

He replied with a text followed by a phone call. Would you believe he had the nerve to offer to drive across town just to take off the flat tire and put the spare on? I began to think…He must not know I’m strong. He must not know I’m independent and that I can do all kinds of things. Whether he sensed my hesitation or not, he suggested I think about it and said he’d call me right back. And that is when it hit me. Damn you universe! I hear you loud and clear. It’s time for me to take my own advice. It’s time for me to own a new truth that I have so adamantly tried to push on to everyone else. I really didn’t think “I need help” fell in line with “I am strong, I am independent, I can do all kinds of things.” Well it doesn’t, unless you have courage. The courageous ones know that getting your needs met doesn’t make you weak or dependent.

He called back with his offer still standing. I accepted. I also told him how extremely difficult it was for me to ask for and accept help. He said he understood and was on his way. He arrived, he changed my tire and he forever changed my heart. He was the teacher I needed in the moment I needed him. He gave help without judgment and thought no less of me. It turns out that I can do all kinds of things including having the courage to ask for what I need. Thank you universe and thank you James.

Breaking Bad News To Your Kids

14 Oct

Have you ever felt ill-equipped to communicate with your kids when something bad has happened?  Have your found yourself looking for a book about it so that you can just read to them instead and hope they get the message?  If you’ve felt like this, know that most people do.  It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s nothing short of painful to see your children hurting.  Most people are at a loss for words when a pet runs away, a divorce is pending, or a grandparent dies.  While it may be your natural instinct to want to protect your children from painful experiences, it’s not what is best for them.  Life is full of painful emotions, so here are some guidelines for you to help your child navigate through them.

The first and most important thing to do is to check your own emotions about the situation.  Get a handle on them before addressing your children.  The last thing you want is for your children to worry about taking care of you. It’s understandably harder when it is an emotional issue for you so determine if perhaps there is someone more appropriate to deliver the message to your children.

Be open.  Kids may react in a variety of ways in which you did not expect.  They may cry, laugh , get angry or do nothing at all.  Don’t worry too much about initial reactions, some kids just need time for the news to sink in.  Be there when it does.

Make sure you give information according to your child’s age.  The younger they are, the less information they need.  Your teenagers will need more information and will likely have more questions for you.  Answer any and all questions as they come.  Don’t be surprised if you get blamed for the bad news.  Children don’t have a lot of life experience yet and simply don’t understand that sometimes bad things just happen.

Reassurance is important.  Remind your children that you love them and you are there for them.  If you are uncertain about how long you are able to be there for your children  (such as when you recieve a terminal prognosis), make sure they know of other caring, trusted adults who will be there for them.

Talk about what the bad news means for them personally.  Be specific.  Will it change their life a lot?  Not at all?  Be willing to talk about details with your older children so they can know what to expect.  If you are concerned that your child isn’t talking to you about it,  make sure other adults in their life are aware of what is going on.  Talk to coaches, teachers, youth group leaders and anyone who can offer support.

In the midst of breaking bad news, do your best to stay positive and talk about how to hang in there while dealing with the situation.  This is a great time to model healthy coping skills during times of stress.  Your children are watching you and following your lead whether your eat or drink your way through stress or surround your self with a support network to lift you up.

Bad news is part of life and your children will come to recognize that as they grow up.  Now is the time to equip them with the skills to handle whatever comes their way.  Talk to them – I’m wishing you the very best!

Leave a comment if you can offer some strategies for breaking bad news to kids.

*This blog was pieced together with information on breaking bad news to your kids found on www.parentfurther.com.  It’s an incredible resource for parents!

How Important is Emotion?

14 Sep

“It’s huge!”  That is what I’ve always said, for lack of a better explanation. I have always found it difficult to find the words to explain the important role of emotion in one’s life and furthermore how the role of emotions can be used effectively in therapy, in fact emotions are one of the greatest tools for healing.  I’ve been called overly emotional myself.  But what I know that some people don’t, is that my life is richer when I experience emotions directly and viscerally in the absence of my defense mechanisms.  In other words, in those moments where I feel safe to be me, without feelings of shame or embarrassment and I am not worried about being judged, I laugh louder, I cry freely and I feel transformed.

I am reading an amazing book right now called “The Transforming Power of Affect: A model for Accelerated Change” by Diana Fosha.  It’s not an easy read.  I’ve read most of the pages twice to make sure I understand.  One of the highlights of the book was finding the words to explain the role of emotion and it’s importance.  Here are the words I’ve been searching for…

“Emotional occasions…are extremely potent in precipitating mental rearrangements.  The sudden and explosive ways in which love, jealousy, guilt, fear, remorse, or anger can seize upon one are known to everybody.  Hope, happiness, security, resolve…can be equally explosive.  And emotions that come in this explosive way seldom leave things as they found them.” (James, 1902, p. 198)

That’s it.  That is what I’ve been trying to say.  One of the greatest contexts where this process of transformation can occur is in the romantic relationship.  Person(1988) in his work on romantic passion and the state of being in love discovered this:    

“Romantic love offers not just the excitement of the moment but the possibility for dramatic change in the self.  It is in fact an agent of change… Romantic love takes on meaning and provides a subjective sense of liberation only insofar as it creates a flexibility in personality that allows a breakthrough of internal psychological barriers and taboos… It creates a flux in personality, the possibility for change, the impetus to begin new phases of life and undertake new endeavors.  As such, it can be seen as a paradigm for any significant realignment of personality and values. (p.23)

Don’t it make you wanna fall in love?

Thanks for reading! 


Gifted and Talented: What It Means To Be Wired Differently

25 Jul

Most people think that GT is a label that begins in school and ends in school.  While most schools have made a concerted effort to identify and serve our gifted and talented children, they often fall short when it comes to understanding the emotional needs of this unique and very special population. 

Thanks to the work of Polish psychologist, Kazimierz Dabrowski, we now know so much more of what it means for these individuals to be wired differently than the peers.  We are beginning to embrace the knowledge that their individual make up isn’t something that is turned on the first day of kindergarten and left behind upon graduation from high school.  This is so much more than a school label.  It is who they are from the inside out and who they will remain for a lifetime.   Dabrowksi exposed us to what he calls the “overexcitabilities” and OE’s for short.  The gifted are extremely sensitive in a variety of areas.  It’s a stimulus-response different from the norms.  It means that in these 5 areas, a person reacts more strongly than normal, for a longer period than normal to a stimulus that may be very small.  It involves not just psychological factors but central nervous system sensitivity.

The 5 areas are:

  • Psychomotor
  • Sensual
  • Imaginational
  • Intellectual
  • Emotional


This is often thought to mean that the person needs lots of movement and athletic activity, but can also refer to the issue of having trouble smoothing out the mind’s activities for sleeping.  They may display lots of physical energy and movement, fast talking, lots of gestures, and sometimes nervous tics.


Here is the “cut the tag out of the shirt” child who will limp as if his leg is broken when only a sock seam is twisted.  They also have a love of sensory things – textures, smells, tastes, etc. or a powerful reaction to negative sensory input (bad smells, loud sounds, etc.)  They tend to be sensitive to bright lights an harsh sounds.  A baby who cries when the wind blows in his face, a child who plugs his ears when the automatic toilet flushes.  The child who is awed to breathlessness at the sight of a beautiful sunrise or cries hearing Mozart, etc.


These are the dreamers, poets, “space cadets” who are strong visual thinkers, use lots of metaphorical speech.  They day dream, remember their dreams at night and often react strongly to them, believe in magic and may take a long time to “grow out of” Santa, the tooth fairy, etc.


Here’s the usual definition of “giftedness”.  Kids with a strong “logical imperative” who love brain teasers and puzzles, enjoy following a line of complex reasoning, and figuring things out.  A love of things academic, new information, cognitive games, etc.


This includes being “happier when happy, sadder when sad, angrier when angry,” etc.  There is an intensity of emotion, but also a very broad range of emotions as well as a need for deep connections with other people or animals. Unable to find close and deep friends, they may invent imaginary friends or simply make do with pets or stuffed animals.   They are full of empathy and compassion.  A child who needs a committed relationship will think herself “betrayed” by a child who plays with one child today and another tomorrow and refers to both as “friends.” This is also the OE that makes the kids susceptible to depression.

Dabrowski believed emotional OE to be central — the energy center from which the whole constellation of OE’s is generated.

Highly gifted people tend to have all 5 of these, but different people lead with different OE’s. The engineer types lead with Intellectual, the poets with Emotional and Imaginational, etc. but variations in the levels of the individual OE’s explain a great deal about the temperamental differences we see!

These five describe the unusual intensity of the gifted as well as the many ways in which they look and behave “oddly” when compared to norms.


Adapted from Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities: A Layman’s Explanation by S. Tolan