anxiety, counseling, psychology, self-help, Uncategorized

Anticipatory Anxiety: Why We Need to Get Comfortable with Discomfort

Anticipatory anxiety is the anxiety we experience in anticipation of exposure to our frightening triggers. Anticipatory anxiety is a more complex problem than other forms of anxiety because in our attempts to avoid what we fear, we only make our fear and anxiety THAT much stronger. The only way to overcome anticipatory anxiety is to face your fear.

Anticipatory anxiety is a negative projection about an unknown outcome.

Common ways we cope with anticipatory anxiety?
-Drinking alcohol

-Taking anti-anxiety drugs

-Avoiding the source of our fear

-Seeking reassurance from others

If you struggle with anticipatory anxiety, you likely suffer from high negative emotions. You likely have high trait neuroticism. If you’re highly neurotic, it’s possible that you feel trapped by the trait’s maladaptive thought patterns, or struggle with depression or anxiety, both of which are more likely to occur in highly neurotic individuals. (If you are interested in finding your level of neuroticism, I copied and pasted a link to the Big Five Factor test that assesses levels of neuroticism as one of the fundamental personality traits).

https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/IPIP-BFFM/

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If you struggle with anticipatory anxiety, you are likely NOT open to new experiences. Anything that is not routine and within your comfort zone is going to spike your baseline anxiety levels. People who struggle with anxiety tend to be high in neuroticism and low on openness to new experiences.

If you struggle with this type of anxiety, you hate dealing with uncertainty. The problem with this is life is chock full of uncertainties. The thing is some people are okay with having a lot of uncertainty in their lives, and other people cannot stand even a small amount of uncertainty.

Some people may be temperamentally more “high-strung” and biologically more vulnerable to anxiety. It is important you seek treatment as left untreated it tends to worsen with age. Learning coping skills to mitigate anxiety is transformational to those who suffer.

Some common traits of people who are intolerant of uncertainty:

  • Seeking excessive reassurance from others: You want others to agree with you or reassure you. This might be asking friends or family their opinion on a decision that you have to make or asking for excessive support
  • List-making: As a way of eliminating uncertainty, some people will make long and detailed “to do” lists, sometimes several lists every day
  • Double checking: For example, calling loved ones repeatedly to “make sure” that they are okay, or re-reading emails several times to check that they are perfect and that there are no spelling mistakes
  • Refusing to delegate tasks to others: Many people who are intolerant of uncertainty will not allow anyone either at work or at home to do certain tasks; this is because they cannot be “sure” that it will be done correctly unless they do it
  • Procrastination/avoidance: Because being uncertain can cause anxiety, some people simply procrastinate or avoid people, places or situations. If you do not do something, then you don’t have to feel uncertain about it
  • Distraction: Many people who are intolerant of uncertainty keep themselves “busy” most of the day, that way, they don’t have the time to think about all the uncertainty in life

A common way we see anticipatory anxiety play out is in a common fear many people have which is of flying.

Here is how it plays out.

If you are phobic of flying, booking a flight might bring upon some anxiety. The week before the trip, your anxiety will likely begin to escalate. By the night before you are scheduled to fly, you may be on the verge of having a panic attack. In anticipatory anxiety, you imagine the future. You experience an imaginary airplane, not a real one.  You imagine what might happen if you get on the plane. You are at home, imagining one or a variety of imaginary in-flight disasters.Or feeling anxious about being trapped in a rocket ship (your own “internal” claustrophobia). You see stress depends upon imagination. Note I am saying you “imagine” because your imagination is creating the worst case scenario. Anticipatory anxiety has you amping up your stress response and mentally psyching yourself out.

When the day comes and it is time to leave for the airport you may feel like you are on the verge of a panic attack. Your imagination runs wild. You will continue to feel your anxiety escalate as you drive to the airport, go through security, and sit waiting for your plane to board.

Yet when you actually board the plane and take it off, you actually feel okay during the flight. This is because anticipatory anxiety is different from phobic anxiety. Yet while flying you may feel okay, if you were to think about scheduling ANOTHER flight, your anticipatory anxiety would ramp up. The thing about anxiety is it is often quite  irrational in nature.

Anticipatory anxiety is the fear and dread you experience before the event or situation.

It’s what’s at play when you spend weeks dreading the results of a doctor’s appointment, yet the news is benign and manageable. Or when you have social anxiety–you may struggle with the decision to accept or decline attending a friend’s birthday, but eventually give in and go, and have a great time!  “Why did I do that to myself?” you wonder.

Most people experience anticipatory anxiety, every once and awhile. This experience is the body’s normal response to perceived future threats. In the days and hours leading up to an important event you may be anxious and nervous, which is the stress response in action. It is anticipating the need to protect the body from threat or danger. Although this system is critical to our survival when there is actual threat or danger, it’s a big problem when there isn’t.

People who struggle with anxiety tend to have faulty cognitions. This is why CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can be so helpful in the treatment of this disorder. It is understandable that during times of high stress and uncertainty emotions run high. However, people who are anxious perpetually suffer from high stress and out of control emotions. Anxiety suffers tend to see things in black or white terms, in other words, as right or wrong, moral or immoral. They are not able to see the nuances and complexities of situations.

Common areas of anticipatory anxiety include:

  • Applying for a new job
  • Speaking in public or other performances
  • Going on a date or to a party
  • Joining a club, team or sport
  • Starting a job
  • Preparing for an interview
  • Going on vacation
  • Tests, projects and oral reports
  • Life changes: getting married, having a baby, buying a house, relocating, retiring

Underlying this sense of anxiety is the feeling that you cannot handle whatever it is you fear. It is a lack of confidence in your ability to cope.

Yet every time you encounter something that forces you to “handle it,” your self-esteem is raised immensely. You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens. And in this way your fears are diminished immeasurably. You realize you can handle WHATEVER life throws at you.

Being anxious leads to behavior that drives others away. When we struggle with anxiety we feel compelled to control other people and our environment. Anxiety leads us to manipulate others because we desperately need them to act in a way that feels safe to us or predictable. It is a self-defeating strategy as this type of attitude will act a repellant to healthy-functioning people.

Once you have this confidence, you are able to face challenges head on because you are not dependent on a particular outcome. You know no matter the outcome you can cope.

People who struggle with anxiety lack the confidence to cope with stress. Remember true security and confidence is knowing you can handle things. Underlying any anxiety disorder is a lack of trust in ourselves.

Think of it this way: IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD HANDLE ANYTHING LIFE THROWS AT YOU, WHAT WOULD YOU POSSIBLY HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT? The answer is: NOTHING!

Remember that the mind and body is designed to adapt. Too often people forget the inherent resilience of the human spirit. As long as you continue to face the things you fear, your anticipatory anxiety should subside. Short-term use of medications that calm anxiety may also be useful — talk to your doctor to find out what is best for you.

As long as you continue to grow and evolve, there will be new challenges and fears to face.

So the choice is yours. Grow, evolve, and face your fears OR choose to stay stagnant and in a bubble throughout your life. If you continue to do what you have always done, you will get the same results. If you want new results, you need to try a new approach.

Attempting to do anything new is uncomfortable and anxiety producing. This is a universal human experience. But anxiety is paradoxical–face the painful feelings now and feel incredible after or feel relief now and face the painful feelings later. We must push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Because in doing so we get to the other side: a place of genuine growth and a better version of yourself.

Remember coping with anxiety is a life long process. Be kind to yourself.

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

Anew Counseling Services LLC

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

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

 

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anger management, counseling, emotionalimmaturity, forgiveness, loneliness, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, self-help, Uncategorized

Emotional Dysregulation: Can You Recognize An Emotionally Immature Person?

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Can you recognize an emotionally immature person? A person whose emotional age is far behind their chronological age.

Of course, this does not include children and adolescents. Children and adolescents are not expected to have a full grasp of their emotions. Part of their development process is learning how to regulate and control their emotional responses.

Yet once we reach adulthood, you will encounter two distinct types of people: the emotionally mature and the emotionally immature. You will be able to detect quite quickly the type you are dealing with.

Emotionally mature people master control of their emotions meaning they are emotionally regulated. Emotional regulation involves maintaining thoughts, behaviors and expressions within a socially acceptable range. Therefore, you are not going to break down in tears in public or in the middle of a tense work meeting. You are not going to start screaming at other people or make a scene in public. You are not going to hurl insults and name call your coworkers or clients. You are able to appropriately respond to life stressors. Emotionally immature people never develop this ability and tend to struggle with emotional dysregulation.

Emotional dysregulation is a term used in the mental health community to refer to an emotional response that is poorly modulated, and does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive responses. Possible manifestations of emotional dysregulation include angry outbursts or behavior outbursts such as crying or melting down, high levels of anxiety, being inflexible, aggression towards self or others, inability to adapt, etc.

Emotion dysregulation is associated with many psychiatric disorders such as major depression, PTSD and C-PTSD, mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder/borderline personality disorder, and substance abuse.

Emotional maturity is defined by the ability to control your emotions and take full responsibility for your life.  A large part of being emotionally mature is having the ability to handle anger, disappointment, fear, jealousy, resentment, insecurity, and a myriad of other feelings appropriately. Emotional maturity is defined when you have the ability to experience these emotions and then let them go. People who are immature seem to remain stuck in these negative emotions, unable to get past them.

Emotional maturity is the ability to see life clearly and accurately, and to deal with it. Often we may not like how it is but we are mature enough to recognize that it is what it is. We are not in control of much in life–including circumstances and other people. For many of us, this is just a given.

Emotionally immature people cannot do this-they often expect life to be easy or comfortable all the time and if it isn’t—they look at who or what is to blame. They often try to control others and their environment since they struggle to control themselves. These are very childish people in terms of their emotional responses.

No matter who we are, we will all eventually meet, perhaps at work or our extended social circle, an impossibly immature person.  The person may look mature, and have many adult responsibilities, but emotionally, they are still a child. A person who can at times present themselves appropriately but can turn on a dime acting hurtful, rude, inappropriate, tactless,and dangerously childish whenever the need suits them.

Emotionally immature people can be extremely challenging to deal with, because their ability to interpret and react to the variety of life’s challenges is often impaired.

Emotional immature adults are known to throw “adult temper tantrums.”  Whereas adults tend to stay calm, emotionally immature adults are quick to anger and rage. They cannot control their emotions much like a toddler. They can cry uncontrollably and be unable to hold themselves together when confronted with the slightest inconvenience or the smallest amount of stress.

Now this is to not say we all do not have our moments. None of us are perfect and we all will have our off days. What I am talking about here is a pattern of behavior over time.

Emotionally immature people tend to struggle with emotional dysregulating i.e. the ability to regulate their emotion responses.

Whereas mature adults, respond not react, immature adults are impulsive and can blurt out hurtful, tactless words.  Mature adults recognize sometimes it is better to say nothing than to say something we will live to regret. We are not going to flip out on our boss because we got passed on for a promotion or tell our sister to screw off because we are upset with her. We are able to think before we speak as to not make things worse for ourselves (and others). This is because people who are psychologically mature have impulse control. Emotionally immature people never cultivated such an impulse control.

Often for one reason or another, the person never quite grew up.

Below are the telltale signs of an emotionally immature person:

  • A person who is emotionally immature will: be reactive; see himself as a victim; act out his emotions (intense or gut reactions, like explosive anger, sudden crying, etc)
  • A person who, like a two-year old will throw temper tantrums because they are entitled to get their way even to the detriment of those closest to them (they feel they have the right to attack anyone who thwarts their wants, needs, goals)
  • A person who is be self-centered and concerned with self-protection; appear to always be justifying his actions to himself or others
  • A person will be manipulative; be motivated by fear or a feeling that he “has to” do something,” as well as a need to avoid failure, discomfort, and rejection
  • A person who whines & complains frequently or literally acts like a crybaby
  • A person who must be right and is incapable of hearing differing viewpoints
  • A person who escalates things emotionally
  • A person who loves to blame and name call
  • A person who has a low frustration tolerance. They are not able to deal with every day stress. As the result, they will become excessively emotional
  • A person who speaks recklessly without thinking about potential consequences (adults resist the urge to react in order to avoid shooting out hurtful words/action–they self-soothe). Such a person believes they can blurt out whatever they think or feel even if it hurts or alienates those around them
  • A person who bullies. Adults respect boundaries.  Emotionally immature adults do not
  • A person who has immature defense mechanisms. Children tend to regard the best defense as a strong offense.  Similarly an emotionally immature adult attacks anyone who expresses a viewpoint different from what they want
  • A person who is passive-aggressive. Subtle insults, sullen behavior, stubbornness, or a deliberate failure to accomplish required tasks.

As we grow up and mature, we learn that much of life we cannot control including other people and circumstances. We recognize life is constant change. The ability to adapt and evolve is a must.

We recognize much of life is unfair.

We do not get the job we deserve. We are passed over for the promotion. We have health problems. Financial problems. People we love pass away. Friendships fade, relationships end. People we love move away. We do not have perfect parents, the perfect partner. We are not perfect partners or parents either.

Yet there is a sense of humility in the emotionally mature. With emotionally maturity comes the recognition that many things in life are complicated. We develop the ability to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. We humble ourselves when necessary. We also recognize most things will pass and get better. If we let them. But emotionally immature people cannot get out of their own way.

Emotionally mature people recognize the complexities of life. We will not always get what we want. We will be disappointed. We cannot always get our way. Things will not always go according to our plans. Other people will let us down. We will let ourselves down.

As a counselor, often what brings people initially into treatment is an ongoing struggle with an important relationship in their lives: spouse, child, parent, etc. Our level of maturity will determine how we manage everything in life including our relationships.

Emotional mature people are able to acknowledge others are entitled to live their lives the way they see fit, to not like us; to leave us. We understand others have the right to speak badly about us, or even to hate us. This is not to say we do not try to discuss it with the person at hand or make things better but we know that this is not always possible. As I wrote on a previous post, this is where it is important to be psychologically flexible.

Emotionally mature people recognize we are only in control of ourselves. This is where our power is. We can be agents of positive change or negative change, the choice is ours. Mature people recognize they are not entitled to anything in life. A mature individual does not lose control and give into irrational thoughts simply because they haven’t gotten their way.

As a clinician, it surprises me how many people growing up, were never taught coping skills. I have seen many people were never taught to self soothe or regulate their emotions. They never learned how to effectively handle the problems in their life or deal with stressors. Some people will not be able to cope with the difficulties of life and do not have the ability to face and overcome obstacles. These people will continue to exhibit childish behaviors.We all have our bad days but if you generally function as a grown-up, the more clear you are about what qualifies grown-up behavior, the more you will be able to stay a grown-up even when you are interacting with someone who is acting like a child.

Emotion regulation is essential for healthy functioning (Grecucci, Theuninck, Frederickson, & Job, 2015). If you experience emotion dysregulation, you should consider seeking qualified 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

Anew Counseling Services LLC

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

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

counseling, forgiveness, loneliness, lonely, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, resentment, self-help

Loneliness: Do You Ever Feel Lonely?

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What do you believe makes us happiest and most content in life?

Some people might say money and success. Accomplishments and material possessions. Fame and fortune.

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Research shows this is not true. True joy and fulfillment comes from good relationships and feeling connected.

Loneliness is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Loneliness is an emotional state we have when we feel disconnected. Our need for connection is ingrained in our DNA. Loneliness is a signal that something is not right. 

People have a fundamental need for inclusion, to be part of social circles, and for close relationships. We function best when our social needs are being met.

As someone who works in mental health, feeling lonely is a common experience that people report to me. I always ask clients if they feel lonely during our initial session. Nine times out of ten the answer is YES. I truly believe loneliness in our country is on the rise and may be the next public health crisis (if it isn’t already).

If you haven’t suffered from it, I guarantee you someone in your life has.

In this technological age, people are feeling more disconnected than ever from their fellow man.The feeling of loneliness or being detached from others is not just a human emotion; it is a complex emotional response to a multitude of factors.

Loneliness a universal human emotion that is both complex and unique to each individual. Because it has no single common cause, the prevention and treatment of this potentially damaging state of mind can vary greatly.

Loneliness represents a fundamental discrepancy between the relationships we have and the relationships we want.

Loneliness is a serious issue, as it can lead to despair and depression. It is often an emotion experienced by people who end up committing suicide. In my humble opinion, if I had to pick one thing that is key to living a happy life,  I’d say: strong, close bonds with other people.

The hardest times in my life have been overcome by the close bonds I have with my family and friends. The happiest times of my life have been THAT much more joyful because I was surrounded by the very same people. Connecting with others is a strong psychological need and is fundamental to our well-being.

Research shows loneliness can be more deadly than smoking or obesity. It can lead to a whole host of physical ailments. Loneliness does not harm just the mind but the body. Emotional pain lights up the same part of our brain as physical pain. An insult can feel just as painful as getting your hand slammed in the door.

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When someone says you broke my heart it is not just an expression. Emotional pain hurts. LONELINESS IS PAINFUL.

Loneliness is a state of mind. It is distinct from being alone which is a choice. Many people love to be alone–some people say they find solace in solitude, do their best work in solitude. Being alone is not synonymous with being lonely. We can be surrounded by people yet still feel quite lonely.

Loneliness is a silent killer. It is an epidemic. People, at alarming rates, are reporting being lonely. I think the nature of relationships has changed in the last couple decades and we have failed to adapt. We live in this “always on” society. We are always connected digitally but failing to connect emotionally.

The lack of empathy in our society is alarming. Many people unless forced to empathize will unfortunately simply not do it. Most likely because being empathetic requires being vulnerable. Being vulnerable opens us up to being hurt and judged. Therefore, for many being vulnerable is too great a risk to their emotional and psychological well-being.

Yet the cost of this lack of vulnerability and empathy…is loneliness.

The reality is we need to be able to connect and empathize with others to be truly happy and fulfilled. We need to expand our capacity for kindness and compassion to overcome said loneliness.

One key — maybe the key — to happiness is strong connections to other people.

What are some signs you may be lonely?

~Irregular sleep: sleeping too much, too little, or struggling with falling asleep

~Low-grade, chronic anger and feelings of resentment

~Change is eating: eating too much or too little

~Being addicted to your phone

~You get sick frequently–every cold, every virus

~Shopping alot

~You spend time with other lonely people

~You are constantly tired

~You feel depressed

~You are drinking more or self-medicating in one form or another

~Taking long showers

~You blow things out of proportion

If you read the aforementioned, and you are thinking, “Yes, I AM lonely — so now what can I do to change it?”

1.Help others — teaching, volunteering, caring for children, aging parents, or animals — all helps to mitigate loneliness. These are also suggestions I give my clients suffering from depression–to try to shift your focus from self to serving others in some capacity. It can do wonders for many common mental health ailments. Helping others can also alleviate feelings of loneliness. Prioritize and ritualize connecting with others.

2.Try to figure out what’s missing from your life. Do you have close friends? Are you close with certain family members? I am talking about genuine closeness where you talk about feelings and emotions, not just physical closeness. Are you and your partner communicating outside of the superficial?  Do you feel you contribute to the world and society? Do you have something outside of yourself you derive meaning from? Think long and hard about what you feel is missing from your life. The more clearly you understand what’s missing, the more clearly you’ll see possible solutions.

3.Be positive and open-minded. Are you struggling with negative emotions? Negative emotions like judgement, anger, envy, ultra-competitiveness, jealousy, guilt, resentment are all are warning signs something needs to change in your life. These emotions also hinder your ability to connect with others. People can pick up on your negativity and will steer clear. Loneliness in and of itself can make people feel more critical, jealous, judgemental, and negative. If you recognize that your loneliness may be affecting you in this manner, you can take steps to counter it. Counseling might be a great place to start the journey to overcoming your negative emotions and feelings of loneliness.

4.Ask yourself, “How am I relating to others?” Are you communicating to others you are a safe, trustworthy person to connect with? Are you judgemental and negative? Are you respectful of differences? Are you open to building close bonds with others or do you feel other people are not to be trusted? Do you look at other people as kind and warm or selfish and cold? How you view others is an important part of this process. Do you do your part in reaching out to others? Are you scared to put yourself out there? Take time to reflect on your self-defeating thoughts. Remember we all eventually reap what we sow in our relationships.

5.Learn to be at ease with yourself. Accept yourself. The good,the bad, and the ugly. Stop running from your perceived faults and shortcomings. Some people spend their whole life in non-acceptance of their whole self. If you live your life this way, you will inevitably feel lonely. You will not be at ease in your own skin. If you cannot accept all of you, it will lead you to feel you NEED others. Loneliness will follow suit.

6.Check your ego at the door. The ego always lead you to feel lonely. Do you find you feel superior to others? Or inferior to others? Two sides of the same coin both of which will ensure loneliness. When we feel lonely, we tend to blame external factors including other people. The best way to stop feeling lonely in your life and relationships is to examine your thoughts and world view. Is your ego in the driver’s seat? An out of control ego coincides with feeling “separate” from others and life itself. The very nature of the ego is separation. Our ego drives us to be very isolated. In order to be connected with need to be seen, heard, and valued. In order to feel this way, we need to be capable of making OTHERS feel seen, heard, and valued. It is a two-way street. If your ego is in the driver’s seat, you will almost certainly struggle with loneliness for as long as that is the case, you will not be capable of truly seeing, hearing, and valuing others.

I truly believe we can change this trend in loneliness. But first we need to figure out a way to address this growing empathy gap in our society.

Try asking someone how they are doing. Be brave and put yourself out there. But remember people can only meet you as deeply as they meet themselves.

No matter who you are, you’ve probably experienced the depths of loneliness at some point in your life. If you are feeling lonely, remember, this too shall pass. If you are willing to do your part. It’s no wonder that loneliness can be an unhappy feeling, because most people enjoy other people’s company, and feeling connected with those who are important in our lives. Addressing your loneliness could be the key to unleashing your healthy mind.

I believe with a little ingenuity we can all have the relationships we want and need.

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

Anew Counseling Services LLC

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

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

aging, counseling, psychology, self-help

Do You Feel “Old?”

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There is a lot of things that suck about getting older.

There is a reason they say getting old is not for the faint of heart.

Fine lines, high blood pressure, slower metabolisms, gray hairs, never-ending bills. Just to name a few.

Psychologically speaking, aging can be daunting, to say the least.

Then there is the narcissistic injury that comes with aging. NONE of us get to escape it. As we pass our prime, it is with a growing awareness that younger people coming after us haven’t yet reached their peak. You look at younger people and see the torch has been passed to a new generation. The generational guard has changed. It is THEIR turn. Yours has come and passed to a larger extent. The next generation is still building and designing their lives: education, marriage, kids, houses, careers, ambitions. Whereas you life in comparison feels relatively set.

It can be a bummer to say the least.

Perhaps “excitement” feels like an emotion of yesteryear.

And then of course is the startlingly realization there are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it once we reach a certain age.  Everyone is winging it, some just do it with more aplomb.

Yet there is also something extremely liberating about getting older: a shift in perspective, one that comes hard-won.

At some point you start to say to yourself: “I’m too old for this.”

This has become my M.O. for how I view certain things in life. I have been practicing it frequently and often, amazed at how I can ignore nuisances that once would have gotten to me or upset me. How much easier it gets with each passing year to be comfortable in your own skin.

Getting older helps you gain such awareness of yourself and all the trivial things you have wasted your time on over the years.

All the silly things that you spent your time and energy on. Oy. Wasted moments, days, months…(hopefully not years).

What have I come to realize I am too old for?

Judgments. My own (self-directed ones mostly). You know that voice in your head. The one saying you aren’t smart enough, strong enough, wealthy enough, pretty enough, thin enough. I’m trying not to judge myself so harshly for being human. For some reason, this non-judgment comes so naturally in my role as a clinician, working with others, but is more of a challenge with myself. I feel we struggle for years to accept our imperfections. Yet the fact remains we are all flawed. I can list off my many flaws– I sleep with my makeup on. I eat sweets more often than I should. I skip the morning workout session to get the extra 20 minutes of sleep to power through a 14 hour work day. I skip exercise on the weekends to do a bottomless mimosa brunch. I cannot draw or do anything artistic to save my life. I can on and on.

Letting others make my decisions.  When we are children, we yield to our parents. Sadly many people never outgrow this inclination to yield their decision-making to others. Some live their whole lives yielding to the will of others. Sure, you may have family/spouse/friends whose insight you may seek, but you are no longer making decisions based on what others think you should do. You are making decisions based on what is right for you. It’s liberating. There is nothing sadder than someone who lives their whole life living for the approval of others (which may never even be granted).

Expectations–Unrealistic ones specifically (both for myself and others). Figuring out how to manage my expectations without sacrificing my sense of idealism has been a struggle. I see the struggle play out with clients in our sessions, many who find it challenging to manage expectations in their relationships. It is so hard for many of us to accept other people are not here to meet our expectations. You see our expectations are based on our experiences and we all travel different paths on journey through life. I am mindful that all people have their own hopes, dreams, identities, ways of operating, and plans for their lives. Letting go of expectations are a must if you want to have an inner sense of peace and healthy, enduring relationships.

In my work as a therapist, I’ve met with many clients who share with me their disappointment with their friends, family, and coworkers. Disappointment is a soul crushing emotion. Clients share it is hard for them to let go and forgive the mistakes of others. Others cannot forgive themselves. I can relate to the feeling-I have been there far too many times than I care to admit. A huge part of my own personal growth was freeing myself from external expectations–the ones held by others towards me and vice versa. I gently remind clients (and myself) we are ALL doing the best we can at our personal level of development. It is important to live with an internal locus of control.

I am too old to keep my mouth shut when I see injustice— Life is not fair. That is a given. But I cannot enable bad behavior–especially in the large issues facing our society (in politics we see bad behavior playing out on the daily). I no longer want to keep my mouth shut when I see an injustice. Or feel one. It’s not that I never spoke out, there were times when I did, but it was usually on behalf of someone else. I never tolerated people mistreating people I cared about. But I learned life is short and the older you get your time is PRECIOUS.  We need to serve goals and issues outside of our selves.  Injustice to others is injustice to all.

Thinking something is the end of the world. Emotional scenes are tiring and pointless. Nothing is the end of the world. You have been through enough downs to know there eventually is an up. Reacting no longer seems necessary. If you get treated like shit, it would be wise to exit stage left.

Spending unnecessary time with people I don’t care for — I struggle to be around people who mean, petty, and close-minded. I think we all can relate to being in situations where people are squabbling over something asinine and thought what am I doing here? Life is too short to spend unnecessary time with people who are not in aligned with your values.  The friends you keep in your life have your back… you weed out the others. It saves a lot of emotional angst. Ones of the perks of getting older is your circle gets smaller, but with quality people.

I am too old to try to change people.  People’s youthful quirks can harden into adult pathologies. What is cute and harmless at 25 is pathological by 40. Be wary of people who are committed to the same misery instead of trying to change things for the better. By now I’ve learned, the very hard way, that what you see in someone at the beginning is what you get in perpetuum. I have come to realize people find comfort in the predictability, even the ritualization, of the same problems with the same people over and over again. Instead of going through the struggle of changing dynamics for the better, people rather stay stuck in the familiar misery they know.

Marriages, friendships, family relationships….people do-si-do, round and round until the music stops. People will go through the same toxic, unhealthy patterns just because it is familiar.

Toxic people? Sour, spoiled people? We should simply walk away. We get to not just be too old for but too wise for such nonsense.  At my age and in my field, I can spot trouble coming a mile away  (believe me, this is a big improvement). I spare myself a great deal of suffering, and as we all know, there is plenty of that to be had without looking for more.

To think I am special. Growing up, the “special” movement was full swing. Trophies for everyone! The fact remains more about you is universal than not universal. I feel a small percentage of us is unique but for the most part we are part of the cohort. A bit disappointing and also a relief.  We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. But the fact is, most of us are pretty average at most things we do.

For firsts. When we are young, we have plenty of firsts.  So many great new experiences! First day of school. First day of summer vacation. First date. First kiss. First real relationship. First terrible breakup. First real job. First… you get the point. When we’re young, life is full of firsts. I am too old for many firsts. But I look forward to not firsts, but different times. It may not be a first time but it will be a different time.

As you can see with time you evolve, just as the world does.  One upside to getting older? Research shows the older we get, the happier we are. Studies show as we get, our overall mental health, including mood,  sense of well-being and ability to handle stress, just keeps improving right up until the very end of life.

Something to look forward to.

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

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

age

 

 

 

counseling, psychology, resentment, self-help

Dislike vs. Hatred: Why We Feel These Emotions Towards Others

Carl-Jung-irritates-us-about-others

Why do certain people irritate us or rub us wrong while others don’t?

You can be the most loving, kind, down to earth, open-minded person on the planet and STILL get extremely annoyed by certain people.

There are billions of us on the planet. The fact is we are not going to get along with everyone.

I can remember years ago studying Carl Jung who famously said, “Everything that irritates us about another can lead up to an understanding of ourselves.”

This may be a tough idea to get behind for many of us. For instance, if we don’t care for someone who is selfish, we wouldn’t think we dislike this individual because we, ourselves, are in fact selfish.

Yet Jung purported that if you are open enough to the idea, what you dislike about others, can teach you about yourself.

I think it is easier to apply this when the shoe is on the other foot. What I mean by this is it is easier to apply this theory when other people project their negative qualities onto us instead of when we are projecting our negative qualities onto someone else. I remember a couple of times in my past when people projected onto me the qualities that were in fact their own. Before I was trained as a psychotherapist, in all likelihood I  would have reacted. Being in this profession, I am cognizant of when someone is projecting and knowing this, I feel no need to react to it.

There is no need to react or defend ourselves against other people’s projections. Those projections are theirs. We do not need to OWN other people’s stuff.

some-burdens-are-not-ours

Usually when someone is projecting, they are trying to offload their negative qualities onto you.

Thus when someone is dumping their disowned feeling on you, if you are conscious enough, you cease the need to react at all.

The fact is everyone is your mirror. 

According to Jung, we all have a shadow self.

The shadow is irrational, prone to psychological projection, in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognized as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else (Jung).

Our shadow is an innate part of ALL of us, yet the vast majority of us are blind to its existence. 
jung

Many of us do our best to hide our negative qualities, not only from others but from ourselves. Thus we often criticize and condemn others to ensure the focus does not fall our destructive tendencies and fault. 

Many of us are only conscious of our persona. The persona is the social mask we as individuals present to the world. It is the public image of someone.

johari-window

Underneath the mask we show to the world, our shadow remains unconscious and can wreak havoc in our life.

The Shadow is all the thoughts and emotions we repress as being socially inappropriate. Rage, envy, jealousy, schadenfreude (the pleasure we derive from another person’s misfortune).  This is all shadow material.  The more we repress shadow material, the more of a hold it has on us.

But what about if we are talking about people we don’t merely dislike but people we hate?

See when we dislike someone, we simply avoid this person. We don’t feel the need to rage about them, yell at them, fixate on them. We do not want to get into a back and forth with them. Dislike suffices. We just move on with our life and limit our contact with this person as much as humanly possible.

Hatred is a whole other animal. Hate often arises because we see another as an “enemy.” In this enemy we see a part of ourselves we hate. Yet whatever we hate about our “enemy” can be explained by simple fact: they trigger dormant feelings of shame and inferiority.

The more insecure you are, the more you feel attacked by others, regardless of whether they are in actual attacking you or not.

How insecure you are will play a factor in whether you merely dislike someone or if you hate them.

Dislike vs. Hatred

Let us differentiate between mere dislike and hatred. When you dislike someone, you rather NOT be around them. You do not want to interact with them because it is unpleasant. You do not wish ILL on this person and if anything you feel apathetic for them. Many you even pity them because you recognize how unhappy and miserable they are by their behavior. When you dislike someone, you don’t care to give them much thought or energy.

Disliking people is normal throughout life. Yet for the most part, we are going to be neutral or people. We will not like them NOR dislike them.

Hatred, on the other hand, means you consider a person an enemy and a threat. Thus you are invested in their destruction. You wish ill on them and want to see them destroyed.

When you hate someone:

~you obsess over them. You will gossip and smear them to anyone who listens. You cannot let go of what they said or did.

~you feel good when something bad happens to them. If something good happens to them, you try to minimize it or dismiss it.

~you try to convince others of how horrible and evil this person is. You think people must know the “truth” about him or her. You desperately seek confirmation from others about how horrible this person is.

Long story short, the difference between hatred and dislike is the former involves time and effort while the latter involves apathy.

Personally, I have people I dislike but hatred to me is not something I allow myself to engage in because I am conscious of the fact it would just make ME miserable and unhappy. It also takes WAY too much energy and time to hate someone (and who has that?!) It destroys the person who feels it not the target of contempt and disdain. I believe is certain situations we all are capable of feeling hatred towards another person in passing but this emotion is not a fixture in our lives.

In psychologically unhealthy people, hatred may be felt by anyone who dare challenges their worldview or opinions (any famous figures coming to mind?!)

When you hate someone you feel compelled to verbally spar with them not because you want to win but you don’t want to lose. (Once again, people we hate trigger in us shame and inferiority). A person you just dislike, you don’t care to get into it with them. To you, it isn’t worth the energy. If you dislike someone, you aren’t being triggered by shame and inferiority. The person’s behavior just rubs you wrong (maybe they are in fact just obnoxious). And hey, if Jung has taught us anything, it is that we TOO can be obnoxious and rub people wrong!

Although most people would never acknowledge it, people who hate other people generally hate someone who they feel threatened by or triggers their feelings of inferiority.

You usually hate someone who exposes or highlights your issues, baggage, and insecurities. 

If you hate someone, you feel that this person is trying to expose your flaws to the world. Hatred is a very irrational emotion. The fact is most people are not interested in exposing your flaws (unless they are abusive or a bully). Most of us are just trying to hide our own flaws.

Hatred is a slippery slope. It is not wrong to get threatened or angry with other people, yet in taking it to the level of hatred, you are dwelling and ruminating on your own hate.

If we hate someone, we feel they are diminishing us. If you feel this emotion, it is time to begin the process of release.

Counseling may be a good place to start to weaken the grasp this toxic emotion has on you.

Hate will not go away on its own. You need to actively work at releasing its toxic hold on you.

Hate makes us want to fight. Dislike makes us want to not engage.

Hate makes us irrational. Dislike makes us rationalize.

Hate makes us want to smear the person to ANYONE who will listen. Dislike makes us not even care to mention the person’s name because they aren’t on our mind.

Hate makes us want to seek revenge. Dislike makes us avoid the unpleasantness of dealing with this individual.

It is possible to move from hatred to dislike.

Release the judgements.

Move on with your own life.

Being compassionate can mean walking away without saying ANYTHING. Often no answer is the best answer.

When we are at peace with ourselves, we stop being at war with others.

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

Anew Counseling Services LLC

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

(551) 795-3822
tamanna@anewcounselingservices.com