Archives for Self-control
Imagine that your daughter is late coming home. It's 3 AM and she hasn't called. The roads are wet--it's pouring rain. You are terrified. The minute she finally walks in the door, you're angry. You scream about how inconsiderate and irresponsible she is. Then she's back out the door, yelling that she hates you. You sit with your head in your hands. So many times you've been through this and promised yourself you'd handle it differently. But you can't just let her walk all over you, right?
Strengthening relationships and feeling less lonely is a challenge for emotionally sensitive people and can be overwhelming. Tiny Buddha's 365 Tiny Love Challenges offers a step-by step model that is easily understood and gives the reader a way to move forward. I am grateful to Lori Deschene, the author, for answering a few questions about her work. How did you get the idea for Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges? I knew I wanted to write a book about strengthening our relationships, both because authentic connection is such a huge part of Tiny Buddha, and because I’ve personally experienced the consequences of shutting people out. For years when I was younger I isolated myself in shame, afraid that people would reject me if they knew about my struggles and shortcomings.
Making decisions in emotion mind often has very difficult consequences. Being in emotion mind means more than experiencing strong emotions, it means your emotions are controlling your thinking and actions. Demanding in anger a divorce (that you don't really want), quitting a job you need when upset and you don't have another one, and walking out on your best friend who you still care about are all examples of acting on your emotions in ways that hurt you.
Eating when you aren't physically hungry can be so frustrating as well as damaging to your health. Afterward, you're miserably full and bloated and upset that you overate or binged yet again despite your determination to not do so. Overcoming emotional eating is very difficult and can be a constant challenge. Food is everywhere and tempts with immediate pleasure and relief. You can't practice abstinence from food.
Emotionally sensitive people are among the most compassionate and passionate people in the world. Often creative, you have talents as artists, writers, and musicians. You add to the caring and beauty of the world. Many times you also struggle with self-hatred, depression, anxiety, and horrible feelings of alienation. Those struggles are likely not due to your being emotionally sensitive. Much of your suffering may come from self-doubt and from an agonizing experience of being broken. That likely comes from what you are told and experience as a child.
One day in second grade I raised my hand to read aloud certain paragraphs of a story. I loved to read. I skimmed ahead and found a dramatic section that would allow for varying voice tones. The teacher selected a different section for me to read. I protested that I wanted to read the section I had chosen. She skipped me and I didn't get to read at all. I was being willful. We may think of willful behavior as typical of children. Picture the child in the store who is having a temper tantrum, refusing to leave without a wanted toy. That is willfulness. Another example would be when a young child is chosen by a team he didn't want to play on. Going home or sitting by the sidelines refusing to play was most likely not effective behavior. It probably didn't solve the problem and in addition he didn't get to play a game he enjoyed. Even the child who doesn't want the bubbles he blew to float away is showing willfulness. While we tend to think of children exhibiting such behaviors, adults can be just as willful.
Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. includes dialectical thinking as part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. One component of dialectical thinking is to find the middle path. When you think or feel in extremes, that usually leads to misery. In The Mindful Child, Susan Greenland tells a fable about an old man who lived with his son on a farm near a tiny village. One day the farmer's horse ran away. The neighbors told him how sorry they were to hear about his misfortune. The farmer said, "We'll see." The next day the farmer's horse came home, accompanied by two strong, wild horses. The neighbors said, "How wonderful!" The farmer again said, "We'll see."
When emotions are high and there are different viewpoints among participants, having an effective conversation can be challenging. In addition, emotions usually run highest when the outcome of the conversation means the most. People get tense and hyper-alert, bracing themselves for the worst. For example, consider your reaction when someone says "We need to talk. " Most people prepare for a difficult interaction by putting up barriers to defend themselves, not by relaxing and focusing on being more open with information. They're on guard before the deep conversation even starts. Their posture makes it difficult to freely share ideas. Many emotionally sensitive people avoid conversations that are likely to result in conflict. They fire people, break up with girlfriends, and cancel plans with friends by texting, sending emails, or leaving voice mails. Sometimes decisions are unilaterally made on incomplete information because difficult conversations were avoided. For the emotionally sensitive, tense conversations can be so painful that they avoid any deep conversations and avoid expressing their own opinions. In Critical Conversation Skills, the authors give guidelines for having difficult conversations in an effective way.
Emotionally sensitive people sometimes have difficulty trusting themselves. There's often good reason for this; when someone has intense emotions, she can't be sure how she will react in different situations with various people. Most emotionally sensitive people have experiences in which they've reacted emotionally in ways they wish they hadn't. Maybe they feel embarrassed or ashamed of the way they've behaved in the past and fear repeating that experience. Often they can't be sure of how they'll react if they become jealous or angry or envious of someone else or if they feel intimidated or judged. Even when there isn't an emotional threat of any kind, just not knowing how you might react around other people can be scary. Sometimes being skillful and then sometimes being unskillful can be confusing.
Emotionally sensitive people react to events quickly and with intense emotions, and then have difficulty getting their emotional reactions to subside. Finding ways to manage emotions effectively can decrease the pain they experience. Below are some suggestions for coping with intense emotions. 1. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness helps reduce anxiety and stress for everyone. Consider a way to practice mindfulness everyday that is easy to remember. Maybe mindfully brush your teeth or mindfully drink your coffee. Consider using a bracelet or a sticky note to remind yourself. 2: Play. If possible, find a way to laugh today. Be silly. Giggle. Dance, watch a comedy, run in the park, buy a balloon, dabble with paints, gather friends for games or play games designed for one player. Just for a few minutes. Enjoy a simple pleasure and focus completely on the activity - not on your concerns.