- “How do I know when I am angry?”
- “What events/people/places/things make me angry?”
- “How do I react when I’m angry?”
- “How does my angry reaction affect others?”
Answering these questions takes a while. It is likely you can rattle off several things that make you angry. You might even be able to identify several signs that you exhibit when you are angry (e.g., clenched fists, etc.). These quick answers are only the beginning, however; the low hanging fruit. You will want to continually ask yourself these questions for a period of time before you can be satisfied that you are fully knowledgeable about your personal anger.
Recognizing Physiological Signs of Anger
The first step in effective anger management is to learn how to recognize when you are angry. Some angry people see their emotions as a black or white state—they are either raging mad or they are calm. In reality, anger is not black and white, but rather quite gray. Anger occurs on a continuum between rage and calm where most of the time people experience some gradation of anger between these two extremes.
The same people who tend to see anger in terms of extremes sometimes have difficulty recognizing when they are experiencing intermediate anger states. Luckily, most people experience a number of physical, emotional and behavioral cues that they can use to let them know when they are becoming upset.
Some physical signs of anger include:
- clenching your jaws or grinding your teeth
- stomach ache
- increased and rapid heart rate
- sweating, especially your palms
- feeling hot in the neck/face
- shaking or trembling
Emotionally you may feel:
- like you want to get away from the situation
- sad or depressed
- like striking out verbally or physically
Also, you may notice that you are:
- rubbing your head
- cupping your fist with your other hand
- getting sarcastic
- losing your sense of humor
- acting in an abusive or abrasive manner
- craving a drink, a smoke or other substances that relax you
- raising your voice
- beginning to yell, scream, or cry
There are plenty of ways to relieve stress — exercise, a long soak in a hot bath, or even a massage. But believe it or not, something you’re doing right now, probably without even thinking about it, is a proven stress reliever: breathing.
As it turns out, deep breathing is not only relaxing, it’s been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system — and maybe even the expression of genes.
Mladen Golubic, a physician in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, says that breathing can have a profound impact on our physiology and our health.
“You can influence asthma; you can influence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; you can influence heart failure,” Golubic says. “There are studies that show that people who practice breathing exercises and have those conditions — they benefit.”
He’s talking about modern science, but these techniques are not new. In India, breath work called pranayama is a regular part of yoga practice. Yoga practitioners have used pranayama, which literally means control of the life force, as a tool for affecting both the mind and body for thousands of years.
Take A Breath
Judi Bar teaches yoga to patients with chronic diseases at the Cleveland Clinic. Bar uses yoga and modifications of traditional yoga breathing exercises as a way to help them manage their pain and disease.
Our breaths will either wake us up or energize us. It will relax us, or it will just balance us,” Bar says.
She demonstrates a “firebreath.”
“So, at first we pant like a little doggy, and then we close our mouth, and then the nostril breath starts right after that. OK, here we go,” she says.
Bar then begins to pant, first with an open mouth and then through the nose. It almost makes you feel lightheaded just watching. Afterward, she says she feels a little dizzy but energized enough to run around the block a couple of times.
Putting On The Brake
Research has shown that breathing exercises like these can have immediate effects by altering the pH of the blood, or changing blood pressure.
But more importantly, they can be used as a method to train the body’s reaction to stressful situations and dampen the production of harmful stress hormones. Esther Sternberg is a physician, author of several books on stress and healing, and researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health. She says rapid breathing is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. It’s part of the “fight or flight” response — the part activated by stress.
In contrast, slow, deep breathing actually stimulates the opposing parasympathetic reaction — the one that calms us down
“The relaxation response is controlled by another set of nerves — the main nerve being the Vagus nerve. Think of a car throttling down the highway at 120 miles an hour. That’s the stress response, and the Vagus nerve is the brake,” says Sternberg. “When you are stressed, you have your foot on the gas, pedal to the floor. When you take slow, deep breaths, that is what is engaging the brake.”
Changing Gene Expression
Harvard researcher Herbert Benson coined the term “The Relaxation Response” in 1975 with a book of the same name. In it, Benson used scientific research to show that short periods of meditation, using breathing as a focus, could alter the body’s stress response.
In his new book, Relaxation Revolution, Benson claims his research shows that breathing can even change the expression of genes. He says that by using your breath, you can alter the basic activity of your cells with your mind.
“It does away with the whole mind-body separation,” Benson says. “Here you can use the mind to change the body, and the genes we’re changing were the very genes acting in an opposite fashion when people are under stress.”
Of course, breathing is not the answer to every medical problem. But Benson and others agree: The breath isn’t something Western medicine should blow off. It’s a powerful tool for influencing individual health and well-being. And the best part is all the ingredients are free and literally right under your nose.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
While driving down the highway in the fast lane, the person in front of you appears to have no idea what the fast lane means. After running all over town with the kids, you arrive home. They know they have rooms yet insist that the entire house is their closet and drop things wherever they please. It’s your birthday and your best friend gets you just what you needed, nothing. It seems that in these instances, the first reaction is to take things personally. As if what was done was intentional, a personal attack.
As odd as it sounds, we often think that there are many forces against us and we are innocent bystanders. I don’t agree. While there are some truly random events, much of what happens is our own doing. How we feel and react to the things going on around us will largely determine what happens to us. In the preceding examples, what makes us think that the things that happen to us are directed at us? Instead of reacting with a “How dare you!” we often react with a “How dare you do this to me!” The truth of the matter is that each person is really more concerned about themselves than they are others. It’s survival of the fittest. The person driving slow in front of me in traffic is more concerned about having a wide open lane ahead of them than they are with me getting past.
A lot of our life is spent worrying about what others may think or feel about us. To paraphrase Dr. Phil, we wouldn’t worry near as much about what others thought about us if we knew how seldom they did. When we are emotionally reactive to things in life, we give up our power to choose. If we take things personally, whether intended personally or not, our reaction intensifies. All of the sudden we have to defend ourselves, though many times a response is not warranted. Instead it would be better if we could learn the art of self-soothing. To be able to calm ourselves in the midst of emotional reactions opens a whole new range of responses.
We all have this ability. We are born with it. Just the other day, my 2 year old was climbing up on a toy in the house for the first time. As I watched her, she had a moment of pause just before she stood up tall and proud. In that moment of pause, she gathered herself and found the internal courage to stand. We do the same thing just before we honestly speak our mind, or address an issue with our spouse or kids. Self-soothing can be enhanced and used in all situations. And doing so gives you much more power over life’s circumstances.
To put this another way; you teach people how to treat you. If you feel that many people treat you wrong or take advantage of you, it only happens because you let them. Learning how to self-sooth, then stand up will produce a different outcome. This in turn will change the way others treat you. If you demand respect, trust, love, honor, comfort, or whatever, accept nothing less. Whenever you receive less than you expect, rather than taking it personally and reacting as such, calm yourself and address the issue. Either put yourself in their shoes and see it from their perspective or stand up and be honest, or both. If this honesty comes from both your mind and heart, it carries much more weight than just emotional reactivity.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Now I know you have been in this situation. You are involved in your daily tasks with your family or significant other and they say something in passing to you. While whatever they said was innocuous, your interpretation was anything but. So you storm out of the room or react with a verbal unleashing that would give any baseball coach in an argument with an umpire a run for his money. If the preceding hasn’t happened, maybe the following has. You are so deeply involved in your routine of life and work that when you come home after a long day, you simply co-exist with your spouse. You don’t even talk anymore. You’ve drifted apart and are living lives together under the same roof but miles apart.
A common belief regarding the cause of these examples is usually that the people involved are having trouble communicating. They would benefit from some communication training. Learning how to be assertive and use “I” messages properly. Nothing against these types of approaches, they are each good concepts to learn and incorporate within the right contexts. It is however my belief that within a committed relationship is not one of these contexts. Let me explain. As a foundation for this article, keep in mind that you cannot not communicate (pardon the double negative).
Everything we say; spoken and otherwise speaks volumes. Everything we don’t say speaks loudly as well. Research continues to confirm that around 93% of our communication resides in our body language and tone. How we say what we say speaks louder than what we say. The reverse is also true, how we say what we don’t say speaks louder than what we don’t say. I think I just confused myself. Maybe an example will bring about a little clarity. My wife comes in while I am watching a show on TV and begins a conversation (sorry if this is stereotypical). I now have a choice. I can turn off the show (or more likely hit pause on the Tivo) and respond to her invitation for a conversation. I can continue watching without saying a word. Or I can leave the show on and respond with the distraction of the show still in the background. She will react to whichever path I choose since she will read whatever I am saying by my reaction to her reaction and so forth. No wonder there are times when it seems communication is difficult.
The fact of the matter is, more often than not, communication problems are not the result of trouble understanding each other; it’s that we understand each other too well. In other words, the problem lies in me not liking what the other person is saying, and then reacting. When we react to the spike of emotion we get while interacting with another human, we often do so in an attempt to sooth ourselves.
Back to the previous example. If I do not pause the TV show and respond, or at the very least ask to have the conversation later, that can be interpreted as a threat to the status of our relationship. The message could be the show is more important than the conversation, and then the relationship, and then the family, and then the marriage, and ultimately then my wife. She may as well pack her bags and move out. I realize that is a bit overboard but it often starts that simply.
A majority of communication within a committed relationship in my opinion is covert. We are afraid to say what we really mean because we are afraid to take the “hit.” So we say it in code. We also interpret what we hear and see on our own without asking for clarity. Mainly because we may not want to know what the answer really is. We treat our significant other with kid gloves so as not to damage them. Incidentally, when exactly did I marry a person who is fragile? Why do I treat them as though they can’t handle what I truly think?
Conflict is not all bad. It is only through some conflict that value and rewards are increased. I hate to break it to you, but living a life that is more alive requires some work on your relationships, unless this life you envision is alone.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
There are many events ripe for unearthing family dramas, often featuring a popular story line about competing loyalties. Though there are variations on the plot, the focus here will be on this dynamic as it plays out with men and boys and their mothers. Many men, caught up in powerful family dynamics from childhood, are plagued this time of year with having to choose between their mothers or their wives, as practical decisions regarding shared holiday time take on added meaning and consequences.
Holidays typically recreate old family dynamics as adult children reunite with parents, creating pressure from the original family system to replay the same patterns as before. This pressure invites conflict as new boundaries, competing with earlier ones, are tested and challenged. How the scene unfolds, and the outcome, depends on the level of differentiation achieved by the man from his mother, and the security of the boundaries he has established around his marriage and new family.
Loyalty binds are part of a common dysfunctional family dynamic which occurs when mothers use their sons to make up for previous loss, and lack of connection with -or anger at- their husbands. In such families, mothers often have a history of unresolved trauma, loss, or insecure attachments with their own mothers. This leads to a parallel and compensatory style of attachment with their sons, whereby instead of the mother tuning in to the child’s emotional states, the reverse occurs, requiring the child to adapt to the mother’s needs,
“Good enough mothering” involves a delicate dance of noticing and attuning to the child’s own rhythm, and adjusting one’s own rhythm to be in sync with the child’s need for closeness or distance, stimulation or retreat. Healthy attachment requires mothers to be secure enough to allow their children to safely differentiate from them without pulling them back in with the threat of anger, withdrawal, and/or guilt. Unresolved issues from the mother’s own childhood, particularly around separation and loss, can impede her capacity to allow the child’s needs and rhythms — not their own — to guide attachment.
As the child becomes an adult, a mother with this anxious, insecure attachment style may refuse to let go, secretly needing to remain the primary love attachment. This may not become apparent until her son finds a romantic love partner and devotes himself to her, allowing a competitor to enter the scene. The situation is then often enacted in full drama around family events and holidays when the mother’s explicit demands, and [unspoken] expectation of “loyalty” (e.g. exclusive love) from her son, conflicts with his role as a husband.
Jason’s mom required a possessive, symbiotic union with her son to guard against experiencing buried feelings of loss and abandonment. Losing her hold over Jason as he shifted his loyalties to his wife was the ultimate threat to her sense of security and control. When Jason married Kelley, the split he felt as a boy when he had to choose between his mom and dad – was recreated between his mother and his wife. This split became most apparent during their first holiday season together, when Jason’s mom made him feel guilty about how he divided his time, accusing him of abandoning her, and directing hate and blame towards Kelley
Jason’s parents divorced when he was a very young boy. Growing up, when he was at his dad’s, his mom called him frequently, asking him if he was ok – even when he was happy – and reassuring him that he had other people (her family) who loved him. She communicated to him in a variety of explicit and implicit ways her hurt and betrayal over his dad, which made Jason feel responsible for taking care of her.
Jason coped by developing a pattern of emotional detachment and blunting his feelings with both parents, so as not to let on that he was having too good a time with either. He experienced muted enjoyment with his dad in particular, often acting as if he were less excited than he was, especially when his mom phoned him, which was often. He felt particularly protective of his mom – the “abandoned one, ” often hiding the nature of his relationship with his dad, though it was secretly vital to him, and feeling guilty for leaving her alone. Jason’s father, in turn, took his son’s blunted reactions at face value, worrying that Jason did not like him or enjoy their time together, often pulling back in reaction or becoming angry.
Jason was in the dark about how he felt because both parents imposed their own feelings onto him. No one helped him understand what was happening or gave him a safe space to experience his own natural reactions, which went underground. Without help articulating their own and other’s states of mind through words and emotional resonance, children do not develop a “sense” of themselves. This self-awareness or inner wisdom is needed to guide us, allowing us to gauge what it happening in our relationships, and make decisions that are true to ourselves.
In place of authentic experience, Jason developed an adaptation to relationships in which he was detached and “other directed”. His reactions were driven by fear and dread of his mom’s unhappiness. When she was angry or hurt, through a process of “projective identification,” he took on her feelings as if they were his own, experiencing the weight of her depression, and the related feelings of guilt and badness she projected onto him.
Projective identification is an unconscious psychological process occurring in relationships whereby one person’s disowned feelings are put into the other. The recipient identifies with these projected feelings as if they were his own and both enter into a shared delusional cycle. In this case, Jason experienced his mom’s rageful accusations of abandonment as an emotional truth, feeling depressed, guilt-ridden and mad at himself for not looking out for her.
Using guilt, as Jason’s mom did, to control others in relationships disregards boundaries and disrespects the other person’s autonomy. This approach to relationships replaces mutuality and negotiation with greed and emotional blackmail, presuming a lack of faith that others would give of their own free will. It is typically an unconscious process whereby the guilt-tripper feels self-righteous, entitled, and innocent of any misdeed. Emotional manipulation through guilt can be costly – breeding resentment, limiting authentic engagement, and hijacking initiative and genuine desire.
In cases such as Jason’s, the lack of differentiation between mother and son is so complete and unconscious that the man may be unaware of the source of his resentment, easily displacing it onto his wife, usually a safer target than mother. This pattern leads to unintended collusion with the mother, causing the marriage to become divided until the man “owns” his unexpressed conflict with his mom, and recognizes that she is the source of his anger. An absence of anger towards his mother, or the inability to come forward with it is likely a sign of re-experiencing a once adaptive, but now instinctual, response to danger experienced as a child for any such emotional separation from mother.
Jason needs to see what is really happening in order to disentangle himself from his mother’s projections and find a space to think and feel for himself. Awareness of his internal conflict and anger over the emotional burden and manipulation he has had to bear will allow him the courage to set limits with his mom. Standing up to his mom will reduce his fear and avoidance, creating a space for him to act of his own volition and desire and choose his wife as his primary loyalty and partner in life.
Tips for the woman:
• Stay aligned with your husband
• Communicate feelings and requests clearly, without anger, or acting out
• Don’t demonize or bad-mouth his momRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Drew, 19, and Steve, 20, were close brothers raised in a volatile family. When Drew started getting into trouble in college, their mom arranged for the brothers to live together in an apartment, hoping that Steve could watch out for Drew. This solution backfired; the boys acted out family-related power plays. Physical confrontation escalated along with family-related conflict and hostility. At this point, the mom sought help.
Mom and Dad’s Perspective
Kate was an immigrant from Italy who, more than anything, wanted a better life for her children. She worked tirelessly to earn money for their education.
Consistent with the old-school style of authoritarian parenting with which she was raised, Kate demanded devotion and obedience. She was very involved with her sons and, though caring, she was also high-strung, anxious and unrelenting when they didn’t perform – yelling, threatening and lecturing – reminding them of her very real sacrifice and suffering on their behalf.
Drew perpetually disappointed and upset Kate. He failed to live up to her expectations and often lied to appease her. She worried about his ability to be independent, responsible, and protect himself. Steve, on the other hand, was seen as the ideal son: high-achieving, responsible, and aggressive. She constantly compared the two of them.
Both Kate and Don, the boys’ father, had frequent, explosive outbursts and acknowledged that, at times, they were physically abusive to their boys. Don had a short temper and unpleasant disposition, often angry, entitled and humiliating toward Kate and Drew. He was only minimally involved with the boys and didn’t attend therapy.
Brothers: Steve and Drew
With family, Drew typically was argumentative and defiant, defensively reacting to criticism and attacks for failing to measure up. Otherwise, Drew was friendly, good-natured and sensitive. He had a palpable longing to be loved, and a chameleon quality designed to get it. Drew’s sense of worth was tied up in how he appeared, always needing others’ approval, and often feeling insecure, anxious and bad about himself.
Drew had come out as gay in high school. In college, he tried to emotionally break away from his mom and flaunt his separate identity. Seeking admiration and celebrity, he began to dress in a flamboyant and revealing style, posing online in sexually provocative photos, and behaving in ways that put him at risk to be victimized, which he was.
In college, Drew became involved in mutually obsessive relationships in which he was dominated and controlled. In these relationships, he was unable to hold his own or break away, leading to the downward spiraling of his grades, family relationships, and friends.
Growing up, Steve acted as man of the house, protecting Drew and their mom from their dad, who picked on Drew. Steve also actively defended his brother from bullies at school.
Steve proudly considered himself “the alpha male,” coming across as loud, aggressive, and stilted as if lecturing. He had an intensity, dominance and perseverance reminiscent of his mom.
Steve behaved in a paternalistic and arrogant way toward his brother, acting as co-parent and agent of their mom. As they got older, this dominance and loyalty to their mom led to increasing fights between the two willful brothers.
Power Plays between Brothers
This cycle intensified after they moved in together, escalating into physical brawls, as Drew felt ganged up on and put down. Seeing himself as in charge, Steve used his authority and physical strength to try to force Drew to behave as he deemed appropriate, including around the house. Drew rebelled and fought back. Though weaker and less physically powerful than his brother, Drew wouldn’t back down, but inwardly became increasingly panicked.
Therapy initially involved Drew and his mom, but evolved into sessions with the brothers alone.
Children internalize blueprints from the family. Experiences in the family become imprinted in the brain, serving as templates for future relationships. In this family, aggression and threats were used to force obedience. The mom also used emotional force in the form of guilt and shaming.
Drew and Steve learned that the only roles available in relationships were perpetrator and victim, dominance and submission. In this dynamic, power is abused, and force is used to control other people in order to manage one’s own anxiety and helplessness.
Both boys internalized this blueprint. They submitted and accommodated to what was expected in an instinctive effort to keep their mom from getting upset. Doing so also protected themselves from physical and psychological threat.
Children’s Responses to Rigid Parental Expectations
On the outside, Steve became the man his mom wanted – obsessively driven and protective, with a reflexive survival instinct to dominate and attack. Underneath, however, Steve felt anxious, empty and lonely. He was also unsettled by the awareness that he was easily triggered into a detached anger and ability to get out of control.
Unlike his brother, Drew couldn’t develop the image or behaviors expected of him, and felt inadequate and ashamed. He learned to lie, and alternated between accommodating and rebelling. Insisting that no one could stop him from being himself or make him into someone else, Drew developed an “identity” based on needing to prove he could defy his family’s values and attempts to control him. In doing so, however, ironically he took on the familiar role from which he was escaping, in which he was the object of others’ fantasies – desperate to secure love and affirmation, but betraying himself.
Steve felt terrified and helpless as he witnessed his brother setting himself up to be victimized. His efforts to force him to behave not only failed but inadvertently trained Drew to be submissive in close relationships, and tempted him to break out and do the opposite of what the family wanted.
Steve felt protective of his brother and cared deeply about him. But when they talked, he lectured and made fun of him, modeling himself after his mom. Feeling overpowered and judged, rather than cared about, Drew shut him out and counterattacked, rigidly determined not to submit. This defense provoked Steve into asserting more dominance, perpetuating a battleground and stalemate between them.
Effects of Growing Up in a Stressful Environment
Steve and Drew were driven by a chronic sense of agitation and reactivity as a result of growing up in a highly stressful, chaotic environment. With looming emotional or physical threat, children are catapulted into a constant state of hyperarousal. This state perpetuates ongoing activation of survival instincts such as fight and surrender, persisting into adulthood even when threat no longer exists. Overwhelmed physiologically, and armed with a paradigm of rigid relationships, Steve and Drew were unable to extricate themselves from a battlefield mentality.
Therapy helped Steve and Drew see that they were re-experiencing the pervasive anxiety and power struggles they internalized growing up. As they recognized this, and saw that their fights were fueled by trying to fend off being overpowered or shamed, they no longer felt so divided. Also, when Steve recognized that his approach was reinforcing Drew’s inability to hold his own in other relationships, he was determined to learn more effective ways to relate to him.
Learning to Communicate Differently
Coached to use a softer tone and express caring directly, Steve began to reach his brother emotionally in the sessions. In turn, Drew became less defensive and more cooperative, and began to see that resisting others was not always the way to be true to himself.
Leveling the Playing Field
When the brothers first moved in together, the therapist empowered Drew to temporarily be in charge of household decisions, letting him know that he was on his honor to consider what was fair and take care not to abuse his authority. This strategy was designed to change their power dynamic, and give the brothers experience learning to consider the concept of fairness and respect for one another’s autonomy.
Respecting Autonomy and Learning to Negotiate
When being introduced to the concepts of negotiation and persuasion, Steve was instructed to practice making requests and tolerate the possibility that Drew might say “no.” They learned how to recognize the beginning signs of agitation and step back to calm themselves before engaging in conversation.
One night, dressed in a skimpy outfit, Drew woke Steve asking him for a ride to a party in town. Steve felt his anger beginning to boil. He felt held hostage and was outraged seeing Drew dressed this way. Steve knew that if he let his brother take the train looking so provocative, Drew would be at risk for danger. But he felt jerked around and didn’t want to be seen with his brother dressed that way. Previously, a predictable power struggle would have erupted in which Steve would make fun of and attack Drew, who would protest, “You can’t boss me – I’m my own person.” In the end, one or both would get physically injured, or Drew would run out and in fact get into trouble.
This time, Steve remembered how it usually played out. He calmed himself – attempting to step back from his survival instincts and commander-in-chief mentality. Instead of attacking his brother, Steve asked Drew to make a deal with him: in exchange for the ride, Drew would put sweatpants and a sweatshirt on for the ride. Drew initially started to engage reflexively in a control struggle, but Steve did not take the bait. Aware that they could persuade but not control the other, or use physical or psychological force, they managed to stay in the mindset of negotiating. Neither was happy having to compromise. But they smiled proudly as they told this story from the perspective of brothers on the same team.
Therapy helped Steve and Drew become less polarized and see that they struggled with counterparts of the same dynamic and that they were not so different from each other after all. As the brothers learned to solve differences together without force, they experienced a true sense of empowerment and the possibility of freedom from the inner world of the past that entrapped them.
Negative Effects of Authoritarian Parenting
Power plays can unconsciously protect people from a feeling of separation, loss of control and helplessness. But demanding submission and obedience can backfire. It can teach children dependency and automatic behavior and discourage the development of problem-solving, judgment and autonomous thinking. Requiring children to surrender themselves leads to the development of a false self, precluding authentic relationships and impeding the development of identity and self-reliance. Further, forcing obedience breeds aggression, resentment, and the need to escape through disobedience or becoming submerged.
Ultimately, in this case, Kate was able to loosen her hold over her sons, recognizing that she was unintentionally passing on family dynamics that created aggression, fragility and division instead of strength. As these patterns were made explicit, they could be changed, freeing Steve and Drew from expectations that did not fit them, and creating a space among them to accept and navigate differences.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
There are aspects of men’s experiences that are particular to being male. In working with men, it is important for a counselor to understand the differences in men’s experiences, what men need, and how to best help them achieve their goals. For men, psychotherapy can promote success in careers and relationships by teaching better communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills. Therapy can improve men’s relationships in general, at home and at work, by fostering greater self-awareness, self-confidence, and empowerment.. Therapy can also help men with issues of mid-life crisis, affairs, anger management, fear of entrapment in relationships, sex addiction, performance anxiety, social anxiety, and difficulties in relationships with women, e.g., understanding what women want from them.
Men often experience common dilemmas in their relationships with women. In relationships, men frequently overestimate their ability to sacrifice themselves for their partner, often trying very hard to please their women and accommodate them to make them happy and to keep the peace. These efforts may seem to go unrecognized or unappreciated, and they may experience confusing complaints from their partner in spite of their efforts. This pattern typically leads to a build-up of resentment and hurt, which the man may not even be aware of, except through his partner’s persistent accusations, of which he may feel innocent. These feelings may take a disguised form, for example, forgetting, being late or unreliable, not following through on his word, tuning out, working late, becoming impotent or losing sexual desire, having an affair. Men can be helped with this issue in a number of ways. Through psychotherapy men can learn to better recognize and identify what they need and feel, which may be foreign to them since boys usually grow up in this society trained to suppress or be ashamed of most feelings (other than anger). Once they become more self-aware, they can learn ways to be more direct, but non-combative, in expressing their opinions, even opposing ones. As men learn to express themselves more directly with words, versus actions, passive-aggressive expression of anger or resentment through actions, is no longer necessary. This change often leads men to feel stronger and more effective. Also, therapy can teach men how to decipher the language of women, so that they can more easily understand why they get upset and how to more easily satisfy them without sacrificing themselves.
Another issue particular to men, and often misunderstood by women, is the importance of sex. For a man, sex is often at the core of how he feels loved, and loved as a man. Though women may need to feel close or loved in order to have sex, men experience the reverse: they need to have sex in order to feel loved. This difference can create conflict and misunderstanding in relationships especially during times of conflict when their partners do not want sex. At these times whatever conflict already exists now becomes compounded by the man feeling more rejected, unloved, and angry, even suspect that his partner is using sex (or the withholding of it) as a weapon. When these patterns develop, men often retreat in hurt and anger or escape the relationship by acting out. Therapy can help by increasing self-awareness, developing more effective ways to communicate, and providing an experience of being understood.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The odds of at least one partner having an affair during the life of a marriage is anywhere between 20-40%; however, many affairs occur toward the end of an already failing marriage. That means that happier couples are less likely to fall prey to an extra-marital affair. Here’s some relationship advice for the aftermath of an affair:
Keep in mind that the “I didn’t go out looking for an affair” excuse may well be true. Unless a partner is a philanderer, affairs are often slow-growing and unplanned. Usually they happen to people who are going through a sluggish time in their marriage, who feel lonely or who are experiencing stresses and strains they don’t easily discuss with their spouses.
The kids don’t need to know everything. If the couple wants to save the marriage, it’s better that the children don’t know all the details of what went wrong. It can be confusing for younger kids and disheartening for older ones to know that mom or dad had an affair. The kids probably know already that mom and dad are having relationship problems. They’ll feel better once they believe that their parents are working things out without knowing the specifics of what happened. If the children do learn of the affair, they may take sides and add to the amount of tension in the household. It’s then important for the parents to let them know that the problems are being handled.
It is important for the unfaithful spouse to examine why the affair occurred and to ask serious relationship questions. Dissatisfaction with one’s marriage or unhappiness about one’s age or place in life common factors.
Addressing areas in one’s life that aren’t working well can help defend against an affair happening again. But the spouse who was cheated on may demand to know “Why?” over and over. That is because no answer to why can ever be good enough. At some point, an affair must be accepted and no longer explored.
Understand the stages to overcoming an affair. The months following the revelation of an affair are “roller coaster” months. Getting along one day can be followed by harshness and coldness on another. You may push away the guilty partner when he shows you affection, and be angry when he doesn’t show it. These ups and downs are exhausting and confusing but are not forever. They are usually followed by a stage of flatness— fighting is less, emotional outbursts are fewer and farther between, but passion and zest are absent. This is finally followed by a stage of peace and a rekindling of feelings of love accompanied by less resentment.
The guilty party must understand that trust will take a long time to rebuild. It’s realistic that arriving home an hour late from work may raise relationship questions. “Where were you? Why didn’t you call?” The guilty party is advised to accept these moments rather than get offended that there is mistrust. This may be a time when the person who had the affair is on a “tight leash.” He or she will feel controlled and not like it, but it can be helpful in the initial weeks or months for the injured partner to regain a sense of influence over the relationship. In the long run, there must be no leash, if trust is to return.
Schedule discussions. Random discussions about the affair—usually demanded by the injured party—are risky. They are often long and drawn out and tend to ruin the rest of the day for both parties. It makes the guilty party less willing to want to talk in the future. A better idea is to schedule discussions—daily or weekly—and have them be time-limited (no more than one hour). This allows the injured party to vent and ask relationship questions, and allows the other party to relax more during non-scheduled times.
No more lies. In most cases, it is not so much the sexual aspect of an affair that destroys a marriage but the deceit that went along with it. A partner needs to regain trust. Often, the guilty party will hold back certain facts to avoid more arguments and to avoid hurting their partner anymore than they already have. But if those hidden facts come out later, a spouse can be devastated and believing there must still be more that is hidden. Once an affair is revealed, it is best to put all the facts on the table, however painful.
The guilty party should raise the topic of the affair from time to time. Most often, the injured party thinks about the affair way more than the guilty one. This is why it’s very important for the guilty one to ask the injured party how he/she is doing. By initiating the discussion, the injured party will feel cared about and will not resent having to always be the one to bring up the subject.
If resentment lingers, consider couples therapy so you can have help working through questions about the relationship.
Tell the kids when real progress has been made. No need to get specific, but when real headway has been made in the marriage, tell the children. Let them know you are happier and that the marriage is on solid ground. It can ease their minds.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Fights are never what they seem to be. She may be saying she’s angry because you never help with the laundry. She may BELIEVE she’s angry because you never help with the laundry. But the laundry is a placeholder. It could really be anything. What she really wants is to be taken care of. It’s what we all want.
Over and over, couples come to therapy because one person feels alone, neglected, or unwanted. The person that feels this pain picks a fight, hoping to get through to their partner. The belief, often unconscious, goes something like this. “If I can make him/her feel as bad as I do, he/she will understand and do better.”
Instead, the original pain is lost to a chain reaction. The partner who is supposed to learn from being punished instead gets defensive. “Oh yeah, well you never help with the dishes!” (or bills, or diapers or whatever). And when the fight takes over, no one wins. Over time, these interactions erode trust, love and security.
If your partner is complaining or punishing you, it can really help to take a step back and ask yourself, what security need is not being met? There are only three to choose from, safety, soothing, and specialness.
Safety: Does my partner feel I’ve put them down, dismissed their needs, punished them or left them to fend for themselves? Can my partner talk to me about difficult things. Do I hear his/her emotional distress and respond with kindness?
Soothing: Has my partner had a rough day? Is he/she stressed? Is he/she not feeling well? Am I listening with my full attention. Am I being affectionate? Am I reassuring him/her that no matter what happens, I will always be here, I will always love him/her?
Specialness: Does my partner feel like he/she is special to me? Have I been spending time with him/her? Have I told him/her how important he/she is to me? Have I done anything recently to show him/her that he/she is the only one who makes me feel this good?
These may be the last things on your mind when your partner seems to be attacking you. Which is why I’m writing this. It might not feel natural to behave in a loving way with someone who is angry. The key is to see that the anger is a defensive way of communicating distress. If your partner could, he/she would tell you, “Honey, I’ve had the hardest day, and I really need you to hold me and tell me everything will be okay.”
You may be thinking, well that’s his/her responsibility, isn’t it? Why should I have to interpret what’s going on under the defenses? The answer is this. YOUR happiness and security depends on it. Would you rather spend the rest of the evening fighting or getting the silent treatment? OR would you like to have the power to defuse your partner’s anger and create more kindness and love?
Imagine what it would be like if you always knew the right thing to say to bring any argument to an end and feel loving and close. Isn’t that a win? And if it’s not a win, what defenses or demons in you are stopping you from being a secure base for your partner? Does gentleness or tenderness mean you’re a wimp? Does it feel shameful to feel or see someone else feeling vulnerable?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
You’re picking up his socks, fuming, muttering epithets under your breath.
You’re listening to another one of her tirades, nothing you do is ever good enough.
At a party, he jokes about your closet, or hobbies, or (gulp) weight.
Her girlfriends stop talking when you come into the room.
These are just a few of the many scenarios that leave couples saying, “why am I doing this?”
It would be great if they taught relationship skills in High School. We’d use them daily, unlike, say, algebra. But they don’t. And unless you come from parents who had amazing relationship skills (and taught them to you), then you’re winging it. Most couples wait too long to get help. It may be that therapy seems scary – what if the therapist takes the other person’s side or makes you do things you don’t want to do.
But counseling really helps when couples make it in early enough. In fact, pre-marital counseling is usually the most successful. In the early stages of relationship, there is a big emotional reserve of love and kindness that helps couples withstand conflict about money, in-laws, parenting, and how to load the dishwasher correctly.
Regardless of what stage of relationship you’re in, you can make positive changes, even if your partner doesn’t want to change! The key lies in understanding some basic concepts and committing to changing YOURSELF (not the other person).
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1.No one wants to be mean or hurtful, when we hurt others, it’s because we are hurting inside and feeling vulnerable.
2.When we feel hurt or emotionally threatened, our fight/flight reflexes take over. This is automatic and requires time, soothing and emotional safety to recover and return to a loving place.
3.Relationship problems are never what they seem. Everything from arguments about cleaning to infidelity are symptoms of attachment or bonding wounds, often from very early childhood.
So, if all of this is automatic and started in childhood, how do we change?
The first step is to realize that the PRIMARY function of your couple relationship is to provide a safe place for each person to be themselves.
The second step is to begin learning what makes your partner feel safe and what makes him/her feel unsafe emotionally. As you learn this, your job is to shift your behavior so he/she feels safer more of the time.
REMEMBER this step will backfire if you focus on changing the other person so you feel safe. Often your own safety will come naturally as your partner feels safer and softens toward you. If this doesn’t occur naturally within a month or two, then counseling may be needed.
The third step is to recognize that neither of you will ever be perfect. The good news is, you don’t have to be. Learning how to mend when one of you gets hurt is really what works. Take time to learn what makes your partner feel safe again and re-connected to you. For some people it’s a sincere and genuine apology. For others, actions speak louder than words. And for others still, it’s a combination that reflects you understand how your actions caused pain and your ongoing commitment to changing so you don’t cause more painRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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