Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

How Your Tone of Voice Effects Relationships July 5, 2013



If you can remember everyone’s behavior is a reflection of them and not you, even when the fall-out directly effects you, then their tone or attitude doesn’t have to send you into a tailspin.


The benefits of shifting cognitive gears and thinking, “This has absolutely nothing to do with me,” are truly beyond belief. Instead of taking things personally, you detach with love from other people’s issues, agendas, and projections. You become less defensive, reactive, and easily angered. Reframing your thoughts does not come easily or naturally, and takes a bit of practice, so let’s get started.


Say, for example, someone close to you takes a tone you think is sarcastic, impatient, or condescending. Does that press your buttons? Does it trigger past memories of someone, perhaps a parent, who took that tone and catalyzed feelings of shame, embarrassment, ineptitude, or unworthiness in you? If so, join the club. Everyone has had those experiences. Of course, that doesn’t make it good, just part of life. The question is: How can you deal with it?


First, remind yourself:


This is not about me.

This is not about my parent.

I am no longer a child.

I do not have to take this personally, even if it feels like an attack.

This is not about my past. This person is not consciously trying to press my buttons. Perhaps, they feel threatened, angry, or vindictive and are unconscious of how those emotions might be influencing their behavior.


Even if they are saying things in a tone of voice that reminds me of old pattens and pain, I do not have to react without recognizing I have a choice. I can choose to see their behavior as a reflection of them, not me.


If someone’s tone is consistently pressing my buttons I can talk with them, look at my own responses, and own them. By taking responsibility for my emotional reactions, I reclaim my power over myself.


In the moment, when you feel your sympathetic nervous system engaging its flight, flight, or freeze modes, consciously take a deep, deep breath. Feel it infiltrate every cell as you inhale and relax each one as you exhale. Feel yourself grounded in your seat or feet, connected to stability and firm resolve. Your agenda is to keep breathing, feel secure, and only speak once you have thought about your response. This may mean there are longer pauses between their remarks and your retorts. Let that be just fine. It’s not chess, and no timer will chime if you take a few extra seconds.


By allowing yourself to notice your reactions on physical, emotional and cognitive levels without rushing to react, you can calm down and process what is happening.


Assume the best. Choose to believe this person is not trying to push your buttons. However, if you know they are itching for a fight, let that be another reason to keep calm.


If you feel threatened, ask yourself: Is there any real danger? Naturally, if you think someone might assault you get away as fast as possible. More typically, it is emotional pain or interpersonal conflict we want to avoid. If that is the case, remind yourself how you have lived through plenty of pain and conflict in the past. While it wasn’t pleasant, you survived. That should help calm you even more, enabling you to respond thoughtfully, rather than lash out defensively. Later on, when you can leisurely assess the situation, you may decide to spend less or no more time with that person; or, if they are very close to you, you may want to work through things. That may mean talking about it once tempers cool, or enlisting the help of a therapist.


Another way people typically get defensive is when their expectations meet reality. Expectations are a sure-fire way of setting yourself up for disappointment on a good day, and anger or depression on a bad one. If you keep cultivating unrealistic expectations about all the people in your life you will find yourself reacting badly to their tone of voice or attitude.


Perhaps, you discussed someone’s sarcastic or condescending tone of voice and are surprised when they talk to you that way again. Just because you alerted them to their verbal patterns does not mean they will change them. Thinking other people will adjust their habits to suit your desires is a guaranteed path to disappointment, as is trying to motivate them to want to change. Rather than embark on a fool’s errand, you might want to work on the only person you can change: you.


Last but not least, resist the urge to think, “If they really loved me they would change.” and “They know how much this bothers me. Obviously don’t care enough to behave differently.” Those thoughts may sound rational but aren’t. They are a perfect example of unrealistic expectations and assuming you know what motivates someone else’s behavior. Since each head is its own universe, you can’t possibly know. Resist the urge to analyze other people’s actions and erroneously attribute negative motivations to them. Sometimes, people are just oblivious, distracted with their own issues, or forget how much something bothers you. Hard as this may be to believe, even if someone adores you, you aren’t the center of their universe every minute of every day. They are.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

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Personal evolution May 2, 2013



“…may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple…may my heart always be open”

e.e. cummings


It’s not a revolution, it’s an evolution. I think it’s personal evolution that will bring about planetary evolution. So that’s what I’m focusing on.

Woody Harrelson


Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.
Chinese Proverb

 

How do you think your perception of life might shift if you viewed everything through the lens of your constantly evolving self, understanding each thought, action and emotion moved you towards a greater ability to love and learn? Each victory, defeat, or challenge would be just another opportunity to change and grow. Since life is fraught with uncertainty and transitions, why not choose to view them all as catalysts for personal evolution?


When living is hard, and it certainly can be, why not embrace the discomfort, pain, inconvenience, and ego injuries with curiosity? Do the opposite of what you initially desire–running away–and paradoxically, run towards the challenge. What an opportunity to see how capable you really are. How much you can handle, and how deep wells of compassion for yourself and others open up when you move towards that which you don’t like.


Of course, it is natural to rant and rail against the injustices, aggravations, inconveniences, and indignities of life; and, that can feel cathartic and freeing. Unfortunately, rarely does mere venting build resilience or make you feel better in the long run. Taking a paradoxical approach and moving towards what you want to shun can be refreshing and full of interesting surprises. It shifts your perspective 180 degrees, enabling you to see something positive in a situation that only seemed miserable seconds earlier. Committing to approach something negative with a different attitude reminds you that, no matter what the situation, you can almost always choose your response.


The ancient yogis knew this and practiced setting intentions, meditating (either seated, with breath work, or doing yoga postures to calm the body-mind), and using mantras as ways to harness the mind’s power to enhance feelings of self-determination. You may get the flu, your request for a mortgage can be denied, the job promotion you wanted goes to a colleague, or any one of a multitude of things happens that harshes your mellow. In almost every case, except those that involve brain damage, you can consciously choose to re-frame your perspective. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Though, with perseverence and practice it becomes easier.


The toughest aspect of this path is how frequently you can get derailed. It might be a small catalyst, like someone cutting you off the road, or a large one like the death of a parent. You thought you had practiced accepting life on life’s terms; yet, suddenly, you are feeling angry, anxious, guilty, worthless, hopeless, or depressed. This happens to almost everyone, and is no reflection on your desire to maintain emotional homeostasis. As a matter of fact, it is simply a cosmic reminder to take a breath, think differently, re-focus your perspective; or, just stop and be grateful for every gift that has been bestowed on you.


In Buddhism, the concept of shenpa refers to our ability to get hooked into unpleasant emotional and behavioral reactions, including shutting down, when certain buttons are pushed. Even if you have been working diligently on yourself for decades, you will get hooked. So, it is crucial to be vigilant for times when complacency and ego appear. Thinking you are so firmly rooted in your balanced view of life that nothing can blow it up is just hubris. The ego loves to think it has something all nailed down; but, life’s vicissitudes are always ready to teach it a lesson. The best strategy is to gracefully accept how challenging being human can be. Give life’s quirky surprises the respect they deserve, and give yourself credit for doing what you can to navigate the ups and downs.


When things are going your way, enjoy them to the hilt, for they won’t last. When tough times emerge remember your practices (they are strewn throughout this website: cognitive, physical, spiritual, nutritional, social, etc.), and re-commit to doing them. While almost all require some measure of self-discipline, each will help you feel a greater sense of control, even if it is just observing a breath while waiting for the challenge du jour to end.

 
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Fake It ‘Til You Make It January 11, 2009

 

There are many jewels in the AA program.  One of my favorites is : Fake it ’til you make it.  Contrary to what you might think, this doesn’t mean you are being phony.  It is simply practicing a new way of thinking, or a new behavior, in the hope that it will become second nature. In AA the practice is not drinking alcohol, but there are many opportunities for growth in other areas of your life.

 

An excellent way to see what might be helpful is to scan through the list of affirmations on this site and, as you read each one, monitor your reaction.  Is adopting this concept likely to change your world view?  Make it easier to emotionally adjust when things don’t go the way you think they should?  Enable you to be more flexible and open to new experiences?

 

Try a little experiment. Choose an affirmation and repeat it to yourself for 30 days as often as you can.  At least, twice a day.  At the end of the month ask yourself if your attitude or behavior has changed.  Very little is as powerful as what you tell yourself.  

 

Another approach is to heighten your awareness of your inner dialogue.  Is it kind and loving, or harsh and critical? If you find the latter is true, gently steer your thoughts towards something supportive and positive, away from the self-downing and negative. Since you have been practicing thinking a certain thoughts for years, substituting new ones, or faking it ’til you make it, is challenging.  Sometimes, you will think it’s hopeless. Persevere, with repetition your new ways of looking at yourself and the world will become automatic.  

 

Faking it ’til you make it can also mean you pretend you already believe those wonderful new ways of thinking, and act as if they were your truth. How would you react to bad news if you really believed that everything was happening for your highest good? How much more relaxed would you be if you really believed you don’t have to figure it all out now? How much more peaceful if you chose to believe you were calm and could handle anything that crossed your path?

 

If simply reading those last three sentences makes you feel better imagine how great your mood would be if you owned them.

 

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

 
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