Friday, November 13, 2015

Doing Conflict with Love

Advice of the Day: 
Enter every difficult conversation with someone you love with the idea held clearly and firmly in your mind *that you love them*. If you engage in every single conflict or disagreement, however major or minor, from a place of love, you will default to respectful language and kindness even when you're frustrated. You will actively strive for a win/win, and engage in conflict in the spirit of collaboration. You will stop being afraid to express yourself because you will learn to trust that the space will be safe even in the midst of conflict. 
If you love a person, you do not have any desire to harm them. In fact, you would willingly do whatever was required to protect them from harm. This includes verbal harm, first and foremost, even though sometimes we forget that words are fully functional weapons. This includes *even if/when they have harmed you first* and you feel it is grossly unfair for you to have to do any emotional heavy lifting or apologizing. If you love a person, you know you lose nothing when you apologize first, because your priority is resolution, not retaliation. 
If you love a person, this includes taking no pleasure in making your loved one cry or in saying whatever cruel thing you can conjure up to ensure they end up feeling as badly as you do. If you love a person, you do not kick them when they're down, you reach your hand out and help them up. You feel as invested in their happiness and comfort as you do in your own. 
Sometimes when we are in a really sad or hurt or angry place, it seems nearly impossible to muster up positive intentions towards even our most intimate partners. But conflict, when done well, is about catharsis. It's about saying what needs to be said so that you can find a way to move forward and let go of the problem once it's solved. It's not an inherently negative thing to have conflict. Some incredibly healthy relationships can contain a fair amount of conflict, especially when you combine two strong personalities. It's not the conflict itself that is damaging, it's the *collateral* damage of unnecessary harm caused by sharp words and emotional retaliation. 
If you love a person, always remember that you love them. If you can't talk to them right now, remember my earlier advice and say "I love you too much to have this conversation right now" or once engaged in conflict, one or both of you might want to say "Don't forget that we love each other." Being able to hold in your mind that you first and foremost love this person and wish them no harm will radically change the way you do conflict. (I promise- it works).


Next class on How To Do Conflict Well (aka Don't be an A-hole) is Thursday, 9/1 from 630-830 p.m. in my office. $50
www.millercounseling.org

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"Active happiness"

The question of "comfort vs. happiness" comes up repeatedly in my sessions. A lot of my clients come to me to help sort out where they are in their lives and how it aligns with and supports where they want to be. Often, people are feeling some kind of existential "emptiness" that they can't quite put their finger on. My first question is always this: 

"Are you happy?" 

Usually the answer is…"not really" followed by a "…but…" 

Oftentimes, the problem is just that we don't know what it even feels like, much less what will make us "happy". Happiness is this elusive state of being that we can't even really imagine. Some of us don't feel, at our core, that we are entitled to happiness. Some of us have responsibilities and obligations that preclude us from prioritizing our own happiness. We feel selfish when we take inventory of our lives and see that while we've been so busy supporting and taking care of the people we love, we have neglected to attend to our own happiness. Some of us just feel stuck in endless loops of getting by and getting through each day. 

And it's hard to put a finger on what doesn't feel right, when you're just getting through each day. Sometimes we don't even know what we're missing until we get a taste of it. I use the analogy of chronic pain. Sometimes we can get so used to something in our body being off or in pain that we just stop noticing it. But then when it stops hurting, we are like, HOLY SH*T I FEEL AMAZING. That's what it feels like when you suddenly get a taste of active happiness after years of just getting by. That is the beautiful thing I get to witness at work all the time. 

The thing is: just because you're comfortable or familiar with the feelings you have now, doesn't mean you're "happy". 

Active happiness is my goal for each client, regardless of their unique individual circumstances. By my definition, active happiness is the state of being genuinely content. All is well. Full of gratitude. More often than not, optimistic. Able to be present in the current moment. Connected in a deep way to the people we love. Nourishing our spirit in whatever ways resonate with us. Taking care of our bodies. 

Etc. 

You'd be amazed at the number of people in the world who are simply not happy. 

Ironically, sometimes *getting* happy requires a major upset. Perhaps something happens that shakes us to our core and forces us to take inventory. I have mentioned before that I have clients come to me in the midst of crises of spirit all the time. There has been a death, a loss, an illness, an infidelity, a move, a birth. 

In the midst of the crisis, it becomes clear that all is not well. Something is out of alignment. Sometimes in the process of moving through and healing from whatever the crisis is, it becomes clear where changes must occur to achieve this state of active happiness. Sometimes people may even look back and be glad whatever crisis happened, because if it hadn't, s/he could still be trudging along in their empty-but-comfortable life.