counseling, goals, happiness, psychology, Uncategorized

Why Fall is a Great Time for Self-Reflection

Autumn-Wallpaper-autumn.jpg
“If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection.
It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone.
Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.”
– Mitchell Burgess –

Autumn in the Northeast is a special time of year. Fall is an opportune time for introspection and reflection about life. As the leaves begin to change color, the days get shorter, leaves fall away, and colder nights start to appear – these all are the signs of a new change in the circle of nature. Fall is a bittersweet season–the leaves are beautiful but they are in fact dying. This time of the year with its picturesque beauty always inspires me to reflect. Similarly, to nature that follows its seasonal patterns, we also face constant changes in our lives.

While fall may seem a season of decline as we head towards winter, it is actually a good time to sum up the results of the year, set new goals and begin something new. To find yourself is a lifelong process–do you ever find yourself wondering how you ended up where you are? Often we avoid asking ourself the hard questions because they can bring about uncomfortable feelings. If you are not careful, not mindfully aware of where you are going, you could end up somewhere far from where you want to be.

Fall is the end of many things but it can also signify new beginnings. Autumn can be a time to see the colors, notice the details, explore nature, and find beauty in the moment. All of these changes going on around us can signal a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

wheel.jpg

Self-reflection is defined as “meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives.”

Too often we don’t stop to pause and take a deep breath. We keep moving. We live on auto pilot. We push through. We don’t stop to reflect. We stay in jobs that are (literally) killing us, relationships that zap our energy, circumstances that leave us stressed, unhappy, frustrated and tired.

We keep running on the treadmill of life thinking we don’t have time to waste. So we keep moving in order to keep up. But too often, we just crash and burn. That’s because the only way to keep up with the pace of life is to STOP. To hop off the treadmill. To reflect on what’s working and what’s not.

Self-reflection is a four step process:

  • STOP: Take a step back from life or a particular situation.
  • LOOK: Identify and get perspective on what you notice and see.
  • LISTEN: Listen to your inner guide, the innate wisdom that bubbles up when you give it time and space to emerge.
  • ACT: Identify the steps you need to take moving forward to adjust, change or improve.

It’s about taking a step back and reflecting on your life, behavior and beliefs. Some questions to help facilitate the process:

1)Am I using my time wisely?

2)Am I waking up ready to take on the day?

3)Are my relationships healthy? Are the people I am allowing into my life the right people?

4)Am I where I want to be? If I am not, how do I get from where I am to where I want to be?

5)Am I taking care of myself physically?

6)Am I taking care of myself mentally?

7)Am I letting matters that are out of my control stress me out?

8)Am I achieving the goals I set out for myself?

9)Are there any beliefs that are limiting me?

10)Am I living my life according to my values?

If you find you are not happy with the answers to these questions of self-refletion, counseling can be a great avenue for helping you change the course of your life. If you are interested in scheduling a session with me and are a reader living in New Jersey:

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

 

anxiety, counseling, denial, emotionalimmaturity, happiness, humility, psychology, self-help

Letting Everyone Around You Grow Up

bowen 1.jpg

I am a big fan of family systems therapy—specifically Murray Bowen. One of the pivotal concepts he posits is differentiation of self. Level of differentiation of self can affect longevity, marital stability, reproduction, health, educational accomplishments, and occupational successes. This impact of differentiation on overall life functioning explains the marked variation that typically exists in the lives of the members of a multigenerational family (Bowen).

Bowen also explores how the most trying part of becoming emotionally healthy is not over functioning in our relationships.

What do I mean by “over functioning?” By over functioning I mean doing your part and the other person’s “part” in maintaining a relationship.

I think the best thing you can do for yourself and other people is allow them to grow up.

What does it mean to let everyone around you grow up? It means to allow people to be who they are without you swooping in. From a Bowen family perspective, a true “grown up” is a self-differentiated individual–a person who has allowed themselves to grow up and allowed the people in their life around them to grow up (or not grow up).

The truth is some people are not personality wise able to grow up–but most people can, and most people will.

growing_up_2

Here are the steps to allowing everybody around you to grow up:

1)Stay connected to others but do not do MORE than your part. This is about knowing where you end and where others begin. 
We learn this growing up in our family of origin—if we didn’t learn that well, we can always go back and learn it. Counseling is a great avenue in processing through this emotional minefield. It is not easy for people who grew up in dysfunctional families. The message of self-differentiation is I care about you but no I cannot do that–the message being I cannot do more than I can or want to.  This is important for accomplishing self-differentiation.

2)Stop over functioning. If we attract underfunctioners–alcoholics, narcissists, takers, the self-absorbed, the immature, the needy, the demanding–we will be in a relationship system that pushes us to over function. We will find ourselves doing 150% or more of the work in the relationship. This allows these personality types to have a buffer to life’s realities. The truth is we give to others when we have that to give. But the truth is those of us who are overfunctioners, codependents, etc. tend to allow people to take from us when we DO NOT have it to give or do not WANT to give it.

Trying to be perfect is a form of over functioning. Perfectionism is a form of over functioning.

3)Stop figuring people out. The process of figuring people out is a form of over functioning. Now, I as a counselor, am in the business of “figuring people out.” But we should not do this in our personal relationships.  We figure people out because they do not want to do the work of figuring themselves out. Sometimes we figure them out to be more self-differentiated but often we are figuring others out to further the over functioning in our relationships. It is unhealthy. Figuring people out in our lives is a form of enmeshment. 

4)Stop over empathizing. Having and practicing empathy is not good for those who are not self-differentiated and well-defined (which is probably MOST of us). It is important to become more well-defined before we practice MORE empathy (hence why therapists are pushed to work through their own “stuff” to be effective in their practice). Focus on your thinking process, more than your feeling process to ensure you are not over functioning. Too often other people want us to over empathize and over sympathize to enable us to become enmeshed with them (remember, this is not a conscious process but subconscious). Do not over feel when it is the service of enabling or over functioning—a common issue with codependents. Start thinking more than feeling more.

5)Stop the enabling. Enabling is doing for others what they should do for themselves. It is taking the consequences or life lessons for others when they should be experiencing them themselves. Often, we over empathize and enable (especially with our children). In doing this, we are telling and sending them the message they can’t do life on their own–they are not strong enough, smart enough, capable enough leading to learned helplessness. Everybody has the same tasks in life as I do—we have to deal with unfairness, struggles, adversity, work, relationships, families, this is something we all have to deal with. NOBODY GETS TO OPT OUT and say nope, I can’t do it, so you need to do it! Our enabling helps and hurts at the same time. We often learn to enable at a very young age and from our family of origin. We need to root out this imprinting.

6)Focus on your own maturation process–your own self differentiation process. Look away from others and focus on yourself—certainly not in a selfish way but in a knowing yourself and becoming aware of yourself. We far too often become experts on OTHER people and NOT ourselves. Begin to become an expert on yourself!

Learn the lessons of self-differentiation. Learn more about that and how it works. When we are immature, we tend to focus on our fears and neediness AND others’ problems, issues, and immaturities. We need to get focused on OUR fears, our immaturity, and not get all focused on THE OTHER. We will be much more effective as people and be able to help in much more mature way.

7)Stop the one-sided relationships. If we have a relationship that is a combo of giver and taker, with us being the giver, this can become toxic and abusive. One sided relationships are the result of our low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, family of origin issues, fear of rejection, worthlessness, shame and reveal we are looking for love and acceptance from others –specifically others who are immature–no matter what the emotional cost to us. This is when it becomes a problem for us. WE CHOOSE RELATIONSHIPS THAT FIT OUR LEVEL OF SELF-DIFFERENTIATION OR OUR LOW SELF OR FEAR OF ABANDONMENT. Heal your self-esteem and you will heal your relationship choices and how you play your role in relationships.

8)Stop our illusions, naivety, fantasy thinking and feeling. We believe we can change others: FANTASY/NAIVETY. We believe we can make our parents be who we want them to be or fantasize if they will behave as we always wanted–an illusion. We put conditions on the relationship–if I only work harder, than THIS GOOD will come of it. If I do more, love more, become more–whatever the more “is,” I will change my spouse, my parent, my child, etc. No! Those are illusions. We need to root out the nativity in us. Learning about your own naivety is a good way to grow up. We continue to believe we have self-worth when everything points to us not having self-worth–this is denial. Our unresolved family of origin issues make us naive and immature because that is the family system, we grew up in. It is still inside of us regardless of our chronological age. To allow others to grow up, we FIRST must deal with our illusions and fantasy thinking.

9)Step down so other people can step up. Use the under functioning leverage for others to step up. Intentionally try to under function. This places the pressure, pinging, and systemic pressure on the other to step up. Or not. THEY MAY NOT. But the pressure is on THEM to GROW UP. If they don’t choose to, it is time for you to start dealing with your illusions and beliefs about the other. The best way to find out if they can change is you step down so they can step upIf they are not going to STEP UP that tells you something very important which you may not want to hear or know. But is important to our emotional health.

10)Get out of others way. If you’re a caretaker, fixer, overfunctioner, you’re getting in the way of others’ lives. The universe is trying to speak to them to grow up and be more mature and stop under functioning. We get in their way by stepping up too much.

11)Stop defending yourself with others. Defending yourself is a way that you enable other people not to look at themselves. Whenever you defend yourself, others don’t have to look at themselves because you are filling up all the noise with your defensiveness. Your defensiveness only furthers their denial and keeps the focus on you not them. Defending yourself will not bring about change in others but only will reinforce you on low self-image. REMEMBER DEFENDING YOURSELF EQUATES WITH ENMESHMENT. Do anything but defend yourself with those who do not want to grow up. Behave with boundaries, maturity, and calmly. More talking, more defensiveness, more explaining will only stress you out more and not accomplish your goal with the immature around you who do not want to grow up. If you stop the defending, they must deal with you and the situation more.

12)Exit triangles. Triangles are formed to keep the immature around us from growing up. If you told the other, time and time again, something you want them to know or understand and then you go to a third party and go communicate these things—now we have a triangle. Triangles are fundamentally unhealthy in relationships especially in families.

a1

Remember a person can have all the trappings of adult life–marriage, mortgage, career, kids. This does mean they are an emotional grown up.

Letting someone grow up is the BEST gift you can give someone. Letting yourself grow up in the best give you can give yourself.

These are just a few steps in the process of differentiation but there are probably many more. If you find you are struggling with any of the components of being an emotional grown up, counseling can be a great way to explore the differentiation of self-process.

If you find you are struggling with a self-differentiation in YOUR LIFE and would like to schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

 

counseling, happiness, prosocialbehavior, psychology, self-help

Why Are People SUCH Jerks? Don’t Take it Personal!

“Why are people such jerks?” seems to be a wistful thought we all have contemplated from time to time. I know I have! Yet we often let other people’s “jerkiness” impact us far more than it really should. Oftentimes when people come into counseling, a significant portion of a session can be dedicated to venting/processing experiences regarding the “jerk or jerkS” in a client’s life.

Definition of jerk

1aan annoyingly stupid or foolish person was acting like a jerk
b: an unlikable person especially : one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded; a selfish jerk

It runs the gamut on WHO a jerk IS–it can be someone’s coworker, a person in one’s extended social circle, a boss, a family member. Jerks can appear in any realm of our life.

Clients will oftentimes wrap up a story they share with me about someone’s jerkiness with a, “Do you BELIEVE this?” regarding a person’s behavior or something that the jerk in question had the audacity to say. ACTUALLY, I do believe it–I have heard enough to know none of us escape people who get under our skin or act inappropriately. It is a common experience brought into the counseling room.

However, many people can adapt a jerk’s role in their life to what works best for them as to lessen the impact this person can have on them. Obviously, this is harder to do if the person in question is your boss or your mother. Other people get stuck in the indignant stage where they try to CHANGE the other person or start getting stuck in why someone is treating them so poorly.  Yet the more that people can recognize that the unhealthy behavior they experience from others is either unintentional or is more about said person rather than about them, the less they personalize the jerkiness of others and the less impact it has on them. A jerk’s way of being is usually about some flaw they have or distortion in their thinking. Unless you have done something significant, it is not about you.

I also think as you begin to recognize that other people’s bad behavior is about them, not you, you begin to depersonalize and detach from the rotten experience of dealing with a jerk (which we all inevitably will).

Jerks can be hard to understand. Who wants to conduct their life in such a negative manner? Especially since there is a lot of incentive for us to get along with others. For starters, humans are incredibly social beings who need positive, healthy relationships. In fact, there really would be no chance of society existing if people did not, by and large, cooperate with each other and get along.

Yet people often harm each other on purpose. As disgusting as that is.

Why is this? Why do people so often want to hurt and harm others? There are many reasons which I will go into below but for the most part, people are mean to others in order to feel better about themselves. A person who is a jerk gets to feel good at your expense.

SO, why are people such jerks?

I don’t believe most people are jerks. However, under the right circumstances, most people can act like a jerk.

Jerks are Noticeable

Often there appears to be so many jerks in the world around us, because the behavior of rude, obnoxious people tends to be more noticeable. One reason for this is probably the way our brains are wired—we are designed to pick up on possible threats to us and those we care about.  We are wired this way for survival. Another reason these people are more noticeable is that their behavior is often particularly hurtful and offensive.

Being a Jerk is often REWARDED

Perhaps the reward can be tangible such as a ruthless attorney being rewarded by making more money and developing a thriving practice.  However, it can also be rewarded with attention (albeit often negative attention) or escalation of conflict. It varies with each person what sort of reward is the end goal, although for the obnoxious behavior to continue there must be some sort of reward to the person exhibiting this behavior.

Why People Are Jerks

Intentional and Unintentional Reasons

1)Never socialized properly/lack of self-awareness. There are people who have poor social skills. They may not have been taught the proper social skills as children (ie MANNERS) or they may not have the experience with social interaction to have learned the skills. As a result, they may be awkward interacting with others. Some people may have little insight or awareness of how they and their behavior impact others. They might tend to be more concrete in their thought processes and don’t realize their behavior may be hurtful or rude. For example, a simple question such as “How old are you?” may not have much undercurrent of meaning but the person being asked such a question feels insulted.

2)Miscommunication. Communication is at the very least a two-way street. At any particular point, one person is conveying information and the other is receiving information. Problems can occur anywhere in the process. Ever hear the expression people hear what they want to hear? YUP. Miscommunication is when the individual conveying information makes errors in the process of communicating. Or selectively chooses what he or she takes in.

3)False Assumptions. When someone engages in assumption making, often referred to as “mind-reading” because they think they know what the other person is really thinking, they may sometimes react accordingly. For instance, the person who believes that the other person doesn’t like him/her may tend to interpret EVERYTHING the other person says as an insult. Reactions due to these assumptions may lead to more negative consequences such as the other person perceiving him or her as unfriendly jerk.

4)Self-protection. Meanness in the case of self-protection is due to a person’s inability to take responsibility for their problems and to do something about it. Healthier people among us try to recognize when they are mean, apologize and make amends, and try to make changes. Self-protection has many possible root causes to put on this defense. Low self-esteem being one. A person with low self-esteem may be hurting emotionally, and unfortunately, an effective way to feel better is to feel superior to someone else. So, there are a number of ways that this may occur—jealousy, passive aggressive escalation, projection, rationalization, the list goes on and on. People tend to be mean when their self-worth has been challenged and they are not feeling particularly good about themselves.

Sadly, insecurity drives much of the evil behavior in the world.

5)Controlling personality. Some people protect themselves by trying to control others. They are trying to create a comfortable world for themselves. In the process they may cause a great deal of discomfort for others and come across as a controlling jerk. People with controlling personalities can be trying to mitigate anxiety, struggle with a need to always be right, tend to be rigid in their thinking, and need validation of their negative world view. For some people who are miserable, validating or confirming their negative view of the world helps them to feel less miserable because they can feel good about their assessment: “See, people ARE only out for themselves.”

6)Reactive reasons. One of the most common reasons for meanness is due to emotional reactivity. In such situations the person may just be reacting without thinking through the impact of their reaction. Therefore, often their focus may not be for the purpose of hurting someone else although it can be. Also, the reaction can sometimes be quite severe and harmful. Therefore, it is included more towards the malicious end of the spectrum of why people are jerks.

6a)Frustration. When someone is frustrated with a situation, they may react in a manner to release tension. When this reaction is directed against someone else, it can be considered mean. For instance, a mother hits her shin against a piece of equipment in the garage and then yells at her son and blames him for stuffing the bin full of equipment.

6b)Denial. Another way of attempting to reduce stress is through denial. However, the process of denial can potentially be mean to someone else. You cannot accept the reality of who you are and how you act, and you slip into this defense mechanism.

7)Superiority. A person who struggles with feelings of superiority can lead to mean behavior that may not always be deliberate but can be very hurtful to others. Some people TRULY believe they are superior to others.

8)Mental illness. A person with a mental illness can be downright mean even if not intentionally doing so. For instance, a woman with obsessive-compulsive disorder who demands that her family engage in excessive cleaning of the house such as vacuuming IMMEDIATELY after they come into the house. If they don’t comply, she becomes very angry in her attempt to control them and lashes out screaming at her children and spouse.

9)Attempts to gain respect/attention. Some people confuse respect with fear. They believe that if they mistreat someone, they will gain respect. Other people are like the schoolyard bully–they never grow up and continue to hurt others in adulthood for the purpose of obtaining attention–even if it is negative.

10)Attempts to gain power. Power struggles exist all around us. We can see how making someone else hurt or react gives someone a sense of control over that person and allows them to feel more powerful. The attempt to gain power can be either direct and aggressive or it can be passive-aggressive. A real jerk way to behave!

To Sum Up

This was an overview of some of the many reasons a person acts like jerk. Unless you have done something tremendous, another people’s meanness is not about you.  Mind you, people who are mean will often find some minor thing that you have done to justify their meanness and blame you.

The main purpose of this post is to assist people in recognizing that meanness is often rewarded when the attack is successful. But it needs YOUR participation to be successful. In other words, if you feel bad about yourself, the meanness has been successful.

My suggestion is DO not participate. Recognize that unless you have done something that clearly hurts someone else, you are not the cause of the meanness. Likely you will see this person act nasty to many people—you are just one of many. Pity or feel sad for jerks whose experience of the world is small, negative, and limited.
One definition of the word mean is “small.” Mean people live small, think small, and feel small—the smaller, the meaner. They are likely to experience the consequences of their meanness and won’t live very happy lives.
  Focus on living your life and don’t get involved in the pettiness of mean people.

a1

If you opt to live your life consciously, you’ll find that a story acknowledging your hero’s strength to not be impacted by the meanness of someone else feels truer than one depicting you as a victim of someone else’s dysfunction. You’ll see that whatever your physical size, you really are a bigger person than any jerk out there.

If you find you are struggling with a jerk in YOUR LIFE and would like to schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

anxiety, counseling, happiness, psychology, self-help

Why It is Time to Stop Ignoring Your Mental Health

As a mental health counselor, I am a bit biased when it comes to touting the importance of mental health. Yet there still seems to be an ongoing stigma that permeates our society regarding mental health issues and a sense of shame that persists for people who struggle with their mental health. What alarms me is that the stigma can keep people from seeking treatment. If you’re afraid of how your family, friends, or colleagues might react to a psychiatric diagnosis, you’re far less motivated to actually seek out help to get the diagnosis (and the accompanying treatment) in the first place.

Think about it. Would you be comfortable going to work and announcing you are struggling with depression? Or even coming clean to your close friends and family about emotional and psychological struggles–would you be able to share you have panic attacks with your loved ones? Or would you be embarrassed and try to hide this from those you love most? Admitting mental health struggles still seems uncomfortable and threatening for many in our culture. Enormous progress has been made but we still have a way to go.

It is something that frustrates me as I have witnessed firsthand how poor mental health can deteriorate the state of someone’s career, relationships, physical health, and life in general.

The fact remains that when someone comes down with a cold or stomach virus, the vast majority of us don’t hesitate to pop a pill or visit the doctor. But if we can’t seem to shake our endless worries or that nagging sense of worthlessness, we plug along as though nothing is wrong. We don’t care for our mental health with the same regard as our physical health (even though mental health can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches, stomachaches, insomnia, etc). The relationship between mental health and physical health is now evident.

People with mental health problems, especially mild symptoms of anxiety or depression, often fly under the radar of their families, friends, doctors, coworkers — typically at great cost to individuals, families and society in general. Think about what a different world we would live in if people addressed their mental health issues before heading out into the world each and every day. Even if you’re able to work, fulfill family responsibilities and otherwise function in daily life, mental health problems can have serious consequences.

I truly believe mental health is just as important as physical health. Why? Because our mental health impacts every aspect of our life. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.

Our mental health has a direct IMPACT on how we think, feel, and act. This means it impacts how we feel, think and behave each and EVERY day. 

Mental health impacts EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR BEING. It  determines how you handle conflict, stress & adversity. Your mental health impacts how you relate to others & yourself. Your mental health is central in the way you go about making choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Your mental health is integral to living a healthy, well balanced life. Mental health struggles do NOT discriminate—people from ALL walks of life can struggle with their mental well-being.

Good mental health means you’re able to cope with daily stresses and accomplish personal goals. You are not fearful of new experiences or an uncertain future.

People who are mentally healthy have

  • A sense of contentment
  • A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.
  • A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.
  • The flexibility to learn new skills and adapt to change.
  • A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem (www.helpguide.org)

Ask yourself–do you feel that you are as mentally healthy as you could be? There is no shame in struggling.  Having good mental health doesn’t mean you never struggle emotionally or do not experience bad times.

a1.jpg

Help is out there. The health of your mind if just as important as the health of your body. Counseling is a high-value–but temporary–investment in yourself.

Counseling is a proven process that teaches you how your mind works. Behavioral and emotionally interventions can and do help people who are struggling. Counseling helps you navigate your feelings, communicate better, build better behaviors, develop better relationships, build on coping skills, and relate to your thoughts differently so you can live the life you want.

Wouldn’t you like to learn how to handle your emotions better, boost your mood, and build on your resilience? This is YOUR LIFE after all. If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and still aren’t functioning optimally at home, work, or in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

counseling, defense mechanisms, emotionalimmaturity, forgiveness, happiness, humility, prosocialbehavior, psychology, self-help

Conflicts and Grudges: How Counseling Can Help You to Move On

Conflict is an inevitable part of life. There is no denying that.

Many people come into counseling because of an ongoing conflict in their life that is causing them great pain.

Are you someone who is able to resolve conflict? When conflict is mismanaged it can cause great harm. If you are not comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them during times of high stress, you will not be able to resolve conflict successfully.

An unresolved conflict can eventually harden to a pathological grudge if you are unable to confront and process your OWN feelings.

I recently worked with someone on processing deep rooted feelings of a long-standing grudge towards her father. Watching someone process through a wide range of emotions–from love to hate and everything in between is fascinating work. It really takes courage to confront the more vulnerable feelings under all the layers of anger and resentment.

If a person is feeling vulnerable the quick fix is just get angry.  Feeling sad, anxious, or vulnerable? Nothing is quicker to restore a false sense of power and control like anger!

Yet there is substantial collateral damage to our anger especially as it relates to our relationships. As a clinician, a grudge signifies to me a person who is not comfortable being vulnerable or losing that false sense of control. 

A little vulnerability is a GOOD thing. Being able to be emotionally open takes great courage. It takes strength to process one’s emotions and come out on the other side with a better understanding of yourself. Good emotional health is just as important as a good physical health. I have always believed releasing emotional toxins is JUST as important as cleansing your body of physical toxins.

I have found when you fail to process your emotions and experiences, you create triggers and emotional wounds within yourself. This can manifest in anxiety, depression, anger, sadness, rage, etc.

As a culture, we place much importance on measurable intelligence through grades, tests, degrees, income. Yet we do not focus enough on building emotional intelligence—being able to recognize your triggers, manage your feelings, or be cognizant of how you treat yourself AND others.

Emotional intelligence is vital to be a well-rounded person.

The truth is some of people’s biggest wounds are from childhood–towards their parents or others who have hurt them. People carry these wounds into adulthood, impacting how they are able to manage their relationships with others. Childhood wounds are easily triggered in adult relationships.

Your level of emotional intelligence comes into play when you eventually get into conflict with others.

Let’s be honest. Most (healthy) people do not enjoy conflict. Most of us know it is a part of life and while we may not enjoy it, we can understand why it is necessary. We accept that being alive means sometimes getting hurt and sometimes hurting others. It is best to move on and not waste much of your time OR energy on relationships that at the end of the day do nothing for you.

Grudge holders cannot do that. They believe their is strength in holding a grudge.

There is a reason the saying goes refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for SOMEONE ELSE to die. Grudges are irrational in their very nature. You hurt yourself thinking you are in actual hurting the other person.

Grudges arise from unresolved conflict. The truth is conflict is inevitable but if the conflict resolution process cannot successfully play out, this can lead to a grudge.

a1

Holding onto a grudge is essentially holding onto stress. It is also about disempowering yourself. You may be waiting on an apology or for the other person to do right by you. Yet when you are waiting on someone else to act, you are giving them person control over you. You are allowing that person to still effect your well-being long after the initial hurt has passed.

To a grudge holder, they feel holding a grudge gives them power when in actual holding a grudge is disempowering.

The fact is we ALL have been hurt by the actions or words of another.  But if you don’t practice forgiveness you are the one who pays most dearly.

Forgiveness is to embrace peace, hope, gratitude, and joy for YOU and YOUR mental well-being, not the person who you were hurt by.

In forgiving another person, you are taking away the power the other person wields in your life. It has nothing to do with getting another person to change his or her actions, behaviors, or words.

Unfortunately for a grudge holder forgiveness is not part of their repertoire.

c5

Just as haters are gonna hate, grudge holders are gonna grudge. Think of the Donald Trumps of the world—not only are they going to be SMUG about it, these personality types have a way of making their outright defiance a central part of their personality, wrapping themselves in self-righteousness. Grudge holders tend to be simplistic thinkers and childish. Remember as a kid, when you saw the world and people as good or evil? A person who can’t let go has never developed past this level of thinking.

To me, nothing was pettier than watching Donald Trump’s grudge against John McCain play out even after the poor man’s death. But at the heart of ALL grudges are pettiness and ego.

No matter how you slice it, it is not a good look. It means you have not developed a better way to cope with a trying life situation. It is an ineffective way of coping. It may be important to get yourself into counseling to process out those feelings and move past the hurt. A good clinician can help you take a more balanced approach in your thinking.

Do you ever ask what makes some people move on and other people hold onto a grudge for dear life?

I find people who hold grudges like the identity it gives them–of victim. Of someone who has been wronged.

I find grudge holders tend to be black and white thinkers—people who see people as ALL good or ALL bad, right/wrong, with them OR against them. Black and white thinkers cannot see people or life in a complex, more nuanced way. Often, they are what therapists refer to as “splitters.”

Grudge holders tend to think they are justified and their mistreatment of another is well-deserved and appropriate. Grudge holding is a very self-righteous state of mind. Grudge holders tend to like to PUNISH. Most times, both the grudge and the anger are disproportioned to the perceived wrong

Grudges tear families apart. Ruin lifetime long friendships. Destroy the people who keep them going because if you are holding a grudge that strongly against someone you are certainly not allowing peace, love, and happiness into your lives.

Grudges are not healthy. Yet being at the end of someone’s grudge is a whole other different beast.

The issue that can arise with being the target of someone’s grudge is that you may begin to think you did something wrong even when you didn’t I have seen this play out in counseling where clients begin to doubt themselves because of someone’s extreme reaction. Experiencing the ire of someone’s grudge can be extremely painful—grudge holders can be no holds barred when they want to release their rage.

If you feel you are in a never ending conflict, I recommend getting yourself into counseling. It can help you process these feelings and perhaps create a new perspective on an old problem.

If you find you are struggling with conflict in your life or are the target of someone’s grudge, here are some ways counseling can help:

-A therapist can help you learn to recognize people who can turn into grudge holders/people who like to manufacture conflict. People who are spiteful, judgmental, bitter towards others tend to be grudge holders (does a certain leader of the free world come to mind?) If they behave like that towards someone else, it will be your turn eventually. Learn to be cognizant of risky people who run in your circle.

-Counseling can help you process painful truths. Remember people who hold grudges may be unable to see their own role in the situation or face the pain they caused. It comes back to being able to be vulnerable. Grudges are typically about harmed egos after all and protecting those fragile egos. Know that a grudge holder will lie, connive, and do anything to protect and elevate their image at your expense.

-Counseling can help you accept the grudge holder’s perspective.  There is no right or wrong when it comes to perspective. Reality is different for all us–our thoughts color our perception and some people think faulty thoughts. As a counselor, I bear witness to this EVERY DAY. To a grudge holder, YOU ARE THE BAD GUY.  That is just how it is–it does not matter how irrational or outlandish another’s perspective is. Knowing this may help you accept the end of the relationship (do you really want relationships with people who view you as a bad person?)

-On the other hand, counseling can help you to be open to a reconciliation. Down the road, a person holding a grudge against you may decide they want you back in their life. Try to keep an open mind—see if this person is truly capable of hitting restart on the relationship. While change is unlikely we should never give up hope people can change for the better.

-Therapy can help you to appreciate this person’s ABSENCE. Move on. At some point, you must accept things will not change. Some relationships are beyond repair. Be honest–do you really want someone in your life who thinks so lowly of you? Life is short. Surround yourself with people who appreciate ALL THE GOOD you have to offer.

-Lastly and most importantly, remember it takes much more energy to hold on to hate than to forgive. Counseling can help you put your energy into positive emotions like love, kindness, openness and not negative toxic emotions like resentment and hate. Focus on all the loving relationships in your life.

Counseling is a great avenue for processing negative emotions and gaining a more balanced perspective. If you are struggling with an ongoing conflict in your life, a good clinician can help.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com