People love to make fun of the stereotyped therapy party line: “How does that make you feel?” Yes, it’s one of the biggest cliches in the therapy field, however what this question stands for still remains an important piece of psychotherapy.
When people come in for therapy, it’s generally because they aren’t happy with the way they are feeling, in one way or another. Whether it’s about relationships, depression, anxiety, stress, jobs, career, or any other areas of life, the reasons people start therapy is both to help the concrete, external situations, but overall it’s how these situations makes someone feel that matters most. Basically, if you’re feeling good about something, then you probably wouldn’t seek emotional help with it.
It can be difficult to appreciate who we are. There’s so much each of us has to offer to each other, and so much to offer the world. It would be nice if everyone could look at themselves and realize the power they possess within themselves.
Unfortunately, it isn’t so easy. We feel the pain, hurt, and rejection more than we feel the happiness, satisfaction, achievements, general positives, and so on. As a result, we end up with depression, anxiety, addiction, repeated unhealthy relationships, and more.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just let the negatives roll off of our backs, rather than holding onto them to the point of emotional injury? Obviously, it’s not a conscious decision. We don’t desire to hold onto the negatives, but when the hits are painful and repeated, eventually we’re going to get hurt. I imagine it more along the lines of rug burn. At first, it’s not such a big deal, but if you experience it repeatedly, it becomes raw and painful.
This is the “part 2″ to the article “10 Signs You May Be in an Unhealthy Relationship“.
It was brought to my attention that in the first article I made points of the things to keep an eye on, however I made few suggestions of how to handle those ten points. So this article is to address how to handle the ten signs of an unhealthy relationship that were listed in the previous article.
Technically, a relationship needs to only be defined by the people who are in the relationship. What is a “good (or healthy) relationship” for two people may be completely different than a “good (or healthy) relationship” for two other people.
However, there is a difference between a relationship having its own shape and character, and a relationship that is either harmful or generally unhealthy for one or both partners. These relationships can be difficult to spot from the inside because one or both partners grow accustomed to the life of the relationship. Denial can also be a factor due to fears of change, failure, or otherwise. So while it may seem like it should be obvious when you’re in an unhealthy relationship, it isn’t always so simple.
Here are some signs of concern within relationships. Note, the presence of one or more of the following signs doesn’t necessarily mean you should end your relationship. These are things to keep an eye on, and if they persist, may need further attention in order to improve the state of your relationship.
People often perceive life as a series of idealized milestone events, all of which have general time markers on them. Some learn to drive around age 16-18; at 18 they graduate high school and maybe go to college; at 21 they can order a drink; at 22 enter the “real world” or consider graduate school; maybe late 20’s early 30’s get married; couple years after, have children; then the extended period of work and family life; then children off to college 18 years later (with the repetition of milestones along the way for the children); then retirement around 65-70; then eventually, we’re done.
While obviously there are exceptions to these milestones, it’s striking for how many people this is the somewhat “solid” perception of life. The problem is, life isn’t usually so easily planned out, and when things don’t go according to this type of plan, it can lead to depression, anxiety, hopelessness, lowered self-esteem, and other manifestations of fear and disappointment.
Have you ever heard anyone use the phrase “hiding behind your computer?” It’s something that’s become increasingly common in the world of technology. People somehow feel safer and stronger to be mean, breakup, or communicate other negative emotions to others when they do it through email, text, IM, etc.
Why is this easier? It may not be the answer you think.
The obvious answer is that it’s less threatening to be mean — or disappointing in other ways — to a person when not face-to-face, or voice-to-voice over the phone. Some will say that they don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings, or face the consequences of irritating or disappointing them — such as seeing their facial expression change, or risk being yelled at, or some other notable and visible reaction.
Relationships all have their bumpy moments. Some happen more than others, but relationships that last are able to move forward from these moments without getting caught up in the bumps for lengthy periods of time.
One of the notable issues I’ve witnessed time and again in my practice are opposing (and complementary) processes that often occur between people in relationships. What tends to happen in an argument is that one person wants to immediately resolve the issue, while the other wants to get away from the conflict.
How many times have you been on the receiving end of a grudge? It’s not an easy place to be. Generally when someone has a grudge against you, anger, blame, contempt, and other forms of hostility and aggression are being projected. Often, grudges are done in silence (passive-aggressive). For some people, being on the receiving end can be a stressful position to be in, especially if what people think of them tends to be a worry. Some people, however, are just able to move on living their lives and let go of people who tend to hold grudges towards them.
While the relationship suffers for everyone who’s involved, what grudge-holders don’t always understand is how much strain on themselves holding a grudge causes. It takes a significant amount of mental and emotional energy to keep the steady stream of hostility and aggression (or passive-aggression) that supports a grudge. This kind of cognitive-emotional process is commonly seen in people who aren’t able to ‘let go’ of, or resolve issues that present in relationships.
I’m sure we’ve all encountered people who think the way they live their life is the “right” way. According to these people, everyone who lives life according to values that don’t align with their own needs to conform. They tend to spend more time judging and criticizing how others live their lives, rather than paying attention to their own lives.
Value judgments are one of the easiest ways to destroy relationships with people, whether it be romantic relationships, or with family or friends. The judgments often come in the form of unsolicited advice, and often use sentences starting with, “You need to…”, or, “You should…”
Assumptions have the ability to destroy relationships, and indeed they do just that. Assumptions can be direct, or indirect. A direct assumption is basically a thought that a person believes in, regardless of the validity of the thought. The thought may have no connection in reality, but the person assumes that the thought is true, and therefore responds emotionally based on the thoughts.