Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Improving Communicating after Breakups

Communication can be a challenge no matter the circumstances. It's especially difficult if emotions are running high. If you are recently divorced you most likely have run into problems in this department.  The suggestions that I have will not be as helpful if your ex is under the influence of substances, or if they are the reincarnation of Stalin! There are limits for everything...
That being said, the suggestions are simple, but challenging to put into practice.
To begin with, it would be helpful if you created a Persona for this new stage of your life.  A Persona is the mask you wear in different settings; you have a "Party Persona", a "Work Persona" etc. Create one that has nothing to do with being a victim. If you have one that feels like it's problem-solving focused and cooperative, use that one. Put on your Cooperative Persona and ... TRY TO COOPERATE!  Notice if you had a physical aversion to this idea just now after reading. Take a deep breath if you did, and have faith that things will get better.
Here are a few suggestions on how to go about practicing this. First off, reconnect with the memory of falling in love and marrying this person. That person may not be visible any longer, but surely some qualities are still there. This is why it was so hard for you to leave them in the first place. So take some time and remember the human-being behind the betrayal, or the anger, or the frustration. When you're talking to your ex, try to remember this person. Attempt to leave your grievances and betrayal at the door.  Make the effort to remember the likable human-being underneath. Find yourself a good therapist who can help you clear up all of your toxic feelings toward the person so that it will less effect your interactions with him/her.
Prevent yourself from shifting into hostility, arguments, passive-aggressive responses, or bitterness. Stay with the persona of "cooperation". If the other party won't play along, be okay with walking away and letting them know that you will try this again another time. A helpful resource is a book series called "Nonviolent Communication" by Marshall Rosenberg. Reading it can help you become more skillful at communicating.
You once loved this person enough to try for a life together. That part of your life is still worth honoring. If you need to fake the attitude until it comes more naturally, do so. It's the anger and hurt that your ego and heart have suffered that prevents decent, effective communication. Stop operating from your woundedness. Notice I've said nothing about forgiveness here. You can make room for that later.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

How to handle being a target of gossip

It's perfectly human to want to experience acceptance and feel liked by others. But at some point in time you will fail in this pursuit. Whether in the workplace, at school, or on social media, you are bound to be on the receiving end of gossip, slander or a personality conflict. Automatically, you will want to defend yourself, or want to win the person over. But sometimes this isn’t plausible, safe, or in your best interest. My field of counseling is one of many where the ethics of confidentiality prevent us from telling “our side” of the story. In the work place, or at school, retaliation may add fuel to the fire, making the situation worse and even unsafe. 

I often think of the Gospel of Matthew as helpful in situations like this...where Jesus teaches "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; but I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”.  To me, this teaching is about staying in your integrity. To be on the defensive robs us of our power and hands it over to our perpetrator. Here are a few ideas to help restore your inner sanctity if you have been wronged in some way.

In Buddhism, Equanimity refers to the state of being calm in the midst of difficulty. This state of mind is cultivated through mindfulness; one such meditation is to imagine the person who has created your suffering as a being who, just like you, experiences love, joy, as well as pain, lose, etc. They too, suffer and  have been victims of unkindness. Practice this daily for a few minutes and you may begin to feel the shifting of the struggle. The perspective of feeling like a victim of an angry, or mean spirited person shifts to the perspective of being fundamentally alike and thus they hold no power over you.
There is an old Chinese proverb: “Slander cannot destroy an honest man; when the flood recedes the rock is there".
While it is painful to feel a target of untruth and gossip we must attempt to preserve what is true in ourselves and live inside our integrity. When the flood water of gossip dies, the truth of who you are remains. Even if you alone know it to be so.

Here is another thought; pick three people to tell your story to and only speak of it to those three. Author, Carolyn Myss recommends using this as a guide, so as to not give all your power away to an unpleasant event.  Choose a few safe people to unburden to and then choose not to talk about it anymore- let it go. You can do a ritual around letting go, such as writing a letter to the person and burning the letter,weeding out your garden and let the weeks be the negative person, or cleaning your closet and envisioning cleaning out the negative feelings.
My final contribution to this topic is to make it a point to not participate in malicious gossip, or slander. Do your best to not pass ugliness forward. If you need to complain about someone, do so with the awareness that there are 3 sides to any story; yours, theirs and, somewhere in the middle; the truth.  As parents, teach your kids that words hurt and words have power, so wield them carefully. The challenge for all of us is practicing how to speak our truth while attempting to keep from squelching someone else’s spirit.