We all know physical pain is a great teacher: Touch a hot stove and you quickly learn not to do that again. What (and how) can we learn from our emotional pain?
Sometimes a little Eeyore can save you a whole lotta heartache. Here’s how you can turn that frown into a force for good.
My husband and I were talking yesterday and remembering a quote from the movie “Parenthood.” Steve Martin, father of three, tells his wife, “My whole life is have to!” I said I feel that way sometimes, and my husband does, too–like everything we do is something we have to do. Not a good feeling.
So in the grand tradition of those who can’t do, write blogs–here are my thoughts:
I was just reliving my younger years as I worked on the Teen Angst playlist for Spotify, as inspired by my novel “Don’t Try to Find Me.” Adolescence, for many, involves overwhelming emotion, in part because so many of the emotions feel new as well as intense. What’s the best way to understand and cope with all these emergent feelings? In some ways, that’s the key developmental task of adolescence.
But for some people, the struggle continues on into adulthood. They might hear themselves called “oversensitive”‘; they might often feel misunderstood or invalidated as a result. This can lead to a difficult spiral that actually intensifies emotions that already feel like too much to handle.
So where to start?
I practice emotionally-focused couples therapy, which is about trust and security being the bedrock of a relationship. The core question we’re all asking, on an emotional level, is: When I need you, will you be there for me? Can I count on you?
If we sense–again, on a subterranean emotional level, possibly beneath our conscious awareness–that our partner is unreliable, or unreachable, all sorts of issues can ensue. We might find ourselves more prone to stress, irritability, mood swings, sadness, anger, defensive detachment and emotional shut-down…If this sounds familiar, read on.
In every relationship, there are times when you’re closer and times when you’re further away. Often, the distance resolves itself. It was just a busy and/or stressful week (or month), and there’s no underlying relationship issue.
But if you’re finding that the distance has persisted longer, and/or you find you’re experiencing some of the symptoms I listed above, then it’s time to address the problem. Start by asking yourself what’s causing the distance. Is it logistical? About scheduling, or the overall architecture of your lives? Or is it that one or both of you are in avoidance mode?
Sometimes there might be unexpressed hurt, frustration or anger. Sometimes rather than speak up, people just pull away. This could be a lack of assertiveness skills, or it could be that in the past, efforts to resolve things have ended badly. Maybe one partner is feeling like there’s no point in trying.
If you’re that partner, examine this more deeply. Think about what it would mean to your relationship to never deal with what’s bothering you. How far would it go? To separate bedrooms, separate lives? If you’re assuming the feelings will just dissipate (if that’s what you’re hoping for), but it’s not happening, you might need to go to Plan B. That could be forcing yourself to have some hard conversations.
If you’re the other partner–as in, noticing the pull-away–it might be time to ask some questions. Consider how to do this in a supportive, rather than a demanding or attacking, way. Remember that what we all want, deep down, is to feel loved and …
Teen suicide is way more common than you’d think. 1 in 12 teenagers have attempted suicide, according to a 2012 report. And the idea that people who talk about killing themselves are not actually going to try has long been proven to be a fallacy. If someone is talking about it, then they’re thinking about it, and thinking about it is a step toward doing it.
But if your teenager is talking to you about those thoughts, consider yourself lucky. That’s an opportunity for you to get help and instill hope.
What if your teenager seems unhappy but isn’t talking to you? You probably want to create an opportunity.
Some abuse is obvious; some is much more subtle. Domestic violence is about a pattern of control and coercion, which might mean emotional abuse only with no physical component.
If you have a sense that something is not quite right in your relationship and in the way your partner is treating you, then please read on.
Are you in the habit of fooling yourself? That could mean procrastination (“Oh, I’ll do that later” when deep down, you know you won’t.) It could be convincing yourself to settle for something, pretending it’s good enough, when deep down, you know better. Maybe you’re struggling with addiction, in which case deceiving yourself and others can become a way of life.
A lot of us would never lie to others the way we lie to ourselves. And sadly, lying to yourself can be most detrimental of all. Here are some suggestions on how to stop the self-delusion and improve your life.
I just watched the PBS Frontline Generation Like. It was eye-opening in terms of how teens’ “liking” is becoming big business–how what teens call empowerment is really part of a giant corporate marketing strategy. But what I came away thinking about is just how much teens liking is about a desire for self-definition, and to be liked themselves.
Adults are certainly not immune to this. We all want to be liked. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping this post would garner likes, retweets, etc. But my self-esteem, my identity, and my social world aren’t on the line if that doesn’t happen. For teens, though, it can be. And that’s where the danger lies.
So what’s a parent to do?
Over the course of a lifetime, it can be rewarding and motivating to dream big. But day to day, it might be better to expect little and be pleasantly surprised. Here are some ideas of how to scale back expectations in order to increase happiness.