Every year I hear from readers who are dreading the holidays, because it means dealing with their difficult relatives on a level they can avoid the rest of the year. Why is it so uncomfortable, threatening, and miserable dealing with these human beings you're related to? How has Covid made this even worse?
It is important you understand one critical thing about human behavior, we are all programmed toward one subconscious, evolutionary goal, to look for threats and protect ourselves.
Neuroscience experts say, from an evolutionary perspective, [our] ultimate goal is reproductive fitness. This means we have a subconscious tendency toward things like resource acquisition, self-protection, disease avoidance, social affiliation, status, and mate acquisition and retention.
In simple language, you are a walking, talking threat protection system, at work 12/7 to protect and defend yourself.
Experts say "this protection system is highly sensitive to fluctuating circumstances, and is more likely to be engaged when environmental cues signal that [you] are more susceptible to a threat." The Covid pandemic has done this to you. It has increased the perceived threat level that other human beings pose.
For two years, you have been told to stay six feet away, avoid contact, and protect yourself by wearing a mask, which puts a wall between you and others. You are more threatened by other people than you ever were before, and this could be negatively affecting your relationships.
In my opinion, Covid is making you more likely to get offended, feel more protective (selfish) and react more defensively. Add to this the current political divide and all the other divisive issues in play online, and you have a recipe for judgment, intolerance, defensiveness, division, and a lack of compassion and forgiveness. Do you find it harder to forgive others the last two years? Are you holding more grudges?
Covid is also making you more sensitive to loss or feeling taken from. If I asked you to make a list of everything you have lost the last two years (including quality of life, financially, and emotionally) it would probably be a long one. The loss you have experienced is subconsciously putting you on guard to watch for other losses. This means you might be feeling more protective of yourself than you ever have before. Are you more sensitive to mistreatment or more easily bothered by other people's behavior? You might be functioning in a fear of loss state, which is making you more protective than ever and this could negatively affect your family gatherings this year.
Evolutionary psychology also tell us that when we function in a fear state our emotions will drive our behavior more than our logic will. When you are functioning in stress (a fight or flight state) your frontal lobe actually shuts down, which means you are less logical, more emotional, and more defensive.
Take a minute and ask yourself, am I reacting to people with more defensiveness than I did two years ago? Am I quicker to be protective or get offended? Do I find fault, gossip, or talk about the flaws in other people more than usual?
If you can see a pattern of fear driven feelings and behavior in yourself, here are some things you can do to calm your protective tendencies and make your holiday more peaceful:
Remember that ultimately what other people think or say about you doesn't mean anything.
It doesn't diminish your value and it doesn't have meaning or power, unless you believe it does. You can be completely bullet proof if you just see yourself that way. Choose to see all humans as divine, amazing, scared, struggling students in the classroom of life, just like you. When they behave badly, choose to forgive it, because most of the time they don't intend to harm you. They are just functioning in fear.
Don't take anything personally
Everything other people do and say, is driven by their fears for and about themselves. It is never about you. As a matter of fact, all behavior is just a request for love and a sign that the person doesn't love themselves. It a relative says something offensive this year, let it bounce off and hit the floor. Don't let anything stick and whatever you do, don't pick it up and stab yourself with it later. You are in control of how much other people can hurt you.
The way you judge and value others, is the way you will judge and value yourself.
If you fault find and judge the mistakes or flaws in other people as making them less valuable, you will subconsciously see your own flaws as making you less valuable too. You can only love and accept yourself to the degree you love and accept your neighbors. Work on seeing their value as the same as yours, their mistakes and flaws as their perfect classroom and find love for them in spite of their negative qualities and you will find a new level of love for yourself too.
You aren't responsible for other people's happiness.
You are only responsible for your own choices, thoughts, words, and deeds. These are the only things in your control. Allow the universe to be in charge of other people and their behavior. The universe has their perfect classroom well in hand and doesn't need you to stress about it. Let go of feeling responsible for even the people you love. Focus all your attention on choosing your own positive feelings and behaviors, and allow others to be in their perfect classroom journey no matter what they are experiencing.
See whatever happens as your perfect classroom
This means you choose to see everything that happens as here to serve you. You choose to see everything that happens it a blessing in disguise to help you grow and become stronger, wiser or more loving. This means even when others say offensive things, gossip or judge you, it is nothing more than a chance to practice choosing to see yourself as bulletproof.
Be the question asker and give compliments
Instead of dreading the relative's questions, take the initiative and be the question asker at the party. Spend the whole time asking each person questions about themselves and their lives. This means you don't have to talk about yourself and your life at all, which is safer. It also means showing you care and are interested in knowing about and understanding others. Look for ways to compliment and validate others in the room. This creates an atmosphere of building people up instead of tearing them down.
Be the love in the room
Focus all your attention on making others feel important and valued. You cannot do both love and fear at the same time. If you are laser focused on giving love, you won't have the bandwidth to worry about yourself. Spend every minute of the party making others feel comfortable and accepted and your fears will go to the back burner.
Avoid controversial topics
I have a friend who puts a list on the front door of all the topics that are against the rules to bring up at her family gatherings. Politics, religion, vaccination, and the new Covid variant top her list. This takes all the hot topics off the table before the party even starts. Consider having a jar filled with safe "get to know you questions" that driven understanding, compassion, and love instead.
You can use Covid as your excuse to bow out of anything
If you don't think you can handle the family gathering and stay balanced, it's okay to bow out. You have the perfect excuse this year. Just say you might be feeling sick. But, this doesn't excuse you from the work of learning to love each person and yourself at a higher level. This should still be your goal, but if you need more time before stepping into the hot zone, it's okay to practice loving them from afar this year.
Even though you are subconsciously programmed to look for threats and protect yourself, you are also deeply programmed to love. I believe your love is really who you are. Focus this holiday season on being love and making others feel safer everywhere you go.
Notice that whenever human being face calamity, natural disasters, or tragedy, there is an equal upswing of love that follows. Hard times can bring us closer together and increase our capacity for love and understanding or they can bring out the worst.
You have the power to decide what is increased in you this year, more fear or more love. Will you become more defensive or more compassionate? Instead of letting your subconscious decide your response, consciously choose. Decide to make the pandemic increase your compassion and forgiveness this year. You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Question:I read your article about different ways people do religion and in my family, the problem is a little different. I have some children who are very religious and some who have left our church and are choosing not to be religious at all. There is tension and awkwardness at family gatherings when anything spiritual or religious is mentioned. Everyone gets uncomfortable, and then I have children in both camps who feel judged by the others. Our religious children see their siblings as wrong and gone astray. The nonreligious ones think the religious ones are wrong and even stupid for not questioning what they've been told. Knowing they both think this way, it's hard to foster mutual love and respect. Do you have any advice for how can we be comfortable together when we all have such different, yet strongly held beliefs?
When your religious beliefs are different from the people you love, it can trigger some fear in both of you. The discomfort you feel is that fear showing up; in fact, all differences create fear.
Whenever there is a difference between two people — be it race, religion, culture or color, or preferences of any kind — you both tend to believe that someone is right or better and the other wrong or worse. You do this because you are subconsciously programmed to compare everything.
If someone gives you two apples, you will immediately notice which is better, bigger or brighter. If you see two people, you will likely see one as better and one as less, even without meaning to.
"It is impossible to meet someone and make zero internal judgments about them," says Marwa Azab, an adjunct professor of psychology and human development at California State University, Long Beach in an article for Psychology Today.
None of us want to be this judgmental, but unconscious biases make us compare and judge. Our brains are just wired for judgment.
When you are around another human, you are immediately going to feel either feel comfortable with them because you see them as a peer, intimidated by them because they seem better than you, or superior because you see them as less than you. The more different they are from you, the more likely it is that you will see them as less. This is a harmful human tendency we all must constantly watch for; it is the core of racism.
Differences in religious beliefs can be weighty differences, too, because people often see them as having grave, eternal consequences. This means these differences create a great deal of fear.
Here are some common fears that arise with religious differences:
Here are some thoughts you can choose to have to make these relationships better:
What you (or they) believe is not a fact
Belief in God and in any particular religion is based on faith, which Merriam-Webster defines as "a firm belief in something for which there is no proof." This is what makes religion tricky: There is no way to prove or disprove anything. When you have religious differences with people you love and care about, it is easy to forget that whatever you believe, you can't prove you're right — which means you could be wrong. Never forget that.
What you believe feels like truth to you, but the other person is probably having the same feelings about their beliefs. So, instead of saying, "My church is the only true one," maybe go with, "this is the right church for me" or "this church feels like truth to me, though I know it doesn't feel that way for everyone." You might even want to make this clear to your family and acknowledge that you respect everyone's right to their personal faith and beliefs.
Every person as having their own perfect classroom journey
This means the perfect classroom for you is probably not the perfect classroom for everyone else. Trust that God and the universe are wise teachers who know what they are doing, and each person is right on track in their unique classroom. They are learning different lessons than you are, and you cannot compare journeys on any level.
Allow each person their unique path and trust that God loves them and has them safe in his hands on that path. There is nothing to fear. Choose to believe nothing exists that God did not create for the purpose of our education on love, and this includes differences and different religions. They are here for a reason and we need not fear them.
No one group has the market cornered on God or spirituality
People all over the world, with a vast number of different belief systems, experience a higher power, spirit, intuition, connection with divine and spiritual experiences. It appears that if there is a source of divine power, it is no respecter of religions. God speaks to everyone and his spirit is found everywhere. Never think because someone has different beliefs from yours, that they are less connected to God than you are. They may have a different type of connection to spirit, and it can be different without being less.
Think before you speak about religion or spirituality
Think a minute before you say anything. Ask yourself why you want to make this comment, tell this story, or talk about this thing. Is it going to just make you look or feel good? Does it serve anyone else? Is there anyone here who it might make uncomfortable? Do you really need to say it? There is not always a need to talk about your religion, your ward, or your spiritual experiences at every family function. Before attending a family outing, think about some other topics or questions you can ask others to give them a chance to shine.
If you really feel prompted to share a spiritual experience with another person, ask permission to do so first. Ask if they would be open to letting you share a spiritual experience or if they would prefer not to talk about religious stuff. Give them a wide, safe, window to decline. This is respectful and will strengthen the relationship.
People might judge, but that doesn't change your value
Remember, people will always judge — they subconsciously can't help it — but you have the same intrinsic value as every other human on the planet and nothing, especially the opinions of others, can change that. Your value isn't in question, cannot be earned or lost, and is based on your uniqueness as a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human soul.
Never let anyone's opinion change your opinion of yourself. You are safe, bulletproof and good enough no matter what others think, say or are experiencing in their classroom.
Members of your family who are different from you are your perfect teachers
Everyone around you who is different from you has the potential to stretch you, grow you and expand your ability to love. It is easy to love people who are the same as us; it is much harder to reach beyond those boundaries and love people we don't understand or like. These people show us the limits of our love and the places where we have work to do.
If you don't like a person or aren't comfortable around them, jump right into that and commit to the work of loving them anyway. Show up for them, ask questions to get to know them and who they really are. Choose to see them as amazing, unique, beautiful souls having a different journey than yours. They can teach you so much. Instead of dreading seeing them, ask God to help you feel his love for them. Work on finding love inside yourself to replace the fear. Other people are, for the most part, just like you: scared, struggling, students in the classroom of life.
You get what you give
Choose to trust God that your value is unchangeable and your journey is perfect for you, and theirs is perfect for them. Trust that you are in each other's lives to bless and grow each other. Choose to love them where they are and don't allow differences to matter.
Despite the differences you have, you and the other person still have much more in common than you think. You are both scared and you both want to be loved and seen. You both need validation and want to feel accepted. Remember, you get what you give and the more you give all these things, the more it comes back.
More helpI am hoping this article will help, but I wrote another article on KSL a few years ago about not letting religion define people, and it would be worth the time to read too. I recommend maybe sharing both of these articles with everyone in your family. Let them know that your only desire in sharing these is to have everyone feel safer and more comfortable with each other and honor and respect each other's beliefs.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I have written extensively in the past about personality differences and about how we all have a tendency to believe that our way of being is the right way. I've written about different communication styles, different value systems and the different core fears that drive our behaviors to help you understand others and yourself better.
In this article, I want to share personality differences that influence how we show up in our spirituality, religion and faith. We often judge other people when they don't practice religion the way we do. The truth is, no other person will ever have your genes, your parents and your unique life experiences and lessons. So, no other person will view the world, life and spirituality exactly the way you do. We each have the right to be wired our way and see the world from our perspective because we literally can't see it any other way.
We must honor each person's right to be wired the way they are and allow them to be who they are. We must see the value of having different people with different value systems, strengths and weaknesses in our community and choose compassion and gratitude for them over judgment.
As I explain the six spiritual values personality types, understand that you do not fit just one type. You are always a combination of a few — and maybe you even have a little of each — but you will definitely lean a bit toward one or maybe two that dominate the way you practice your faith. As you read about each, think about people you judge because they do faith differently than you do. Remember, there is no absolute truth that says one way of being is inherently better or worse than another. Your value system may tell you that yours is the best, but that is only because you see the world with your value system.
The point in learning about these different types of people is to lessen our judgment, increase our compassion and tolerance, and help us choose love for the people who are different.
The six spiritual values personality types
The enlightenment seeker
These people tend to overvalue personal growth, spirituality and personal spiritual experiences. They often see them as not just the point of life's journey, but as even more important than serving the less fortunate, keeping commandments or being obedient.
Enlightenment seekers take the time to meditate, pray and connect with the divine. They often have amazing spiritual gifts, intuition, visions or dreams. They are always hearing messages and being guided by spirit. They love to share the wisdom they gain and make wonderful teachers or spiritual guides or healers. They serve and give to others this way instead of making casseroles or watching children.
Enlightenment seekers can irritate people who overvalue doctrine, rules, systems or service. Other types don't think they are obedient, service-focused or disciplined enough, but we need people who are like this. We need these seekers to share their spiritual insights and show us how to spiritually connect to the divine.
The servant of the poor
These people tend to overvalue service, especially for people who are struggling, poor, marginalized or in pain. They are highly empathetic and they feel the suffering of others and believe the most important thing one can do is alleviate the suffering of others.
Servants of the poor sacrifice personal time to connect with God, study religion and follow commandments for time to help those who need help today. They find self-esteem, joy and fulfillment in feeding the hungry and showing up for anyone who is down.
Many people assume this way of being is the best value system and the way we should all be, but we also need people who are different from this, who are good at running the systems (churches and religions) and people who take time to have visions and inspired ideas. Servants of the poor can irritate those who see the letter of law as critical because a they will always bend rules to show up for a person.
The do what is righter
These people tend to overvalue the tasks they feel their faith requires of them. They are subconsciously wired to feel their value is connected to their performance and doing all the things God asks. They are obedient (or trying to be), disciplined, and striving to do what is right. This may include a great deal of serving the poor, but it is driven from doing what's right more than feeling the pain of others, like the servant of the poor.
Do what is righters are constantly worried about checking all the boxes, and if they fail to do enough they can be hard on themselves. They also worry about what others think, how they are seen, and they are often people pleasers. Spirituality for these people can be a busy and stressful experience, but they are amazing and productive in all the good they do and how hard they try. They can irritate people who think they are more worried about earning their salvation than they are loving others, but they feel subconscious pressure to earn their value and please God.
The heaven on earth creator
These people believe God means for them to live abundantly and have joy. They strive to create a life of happiness and wealth and then share their blessings with others. They are driven and hard-working but don't much make time for spiritual experiences or studying doctrine. They leave the enlightenment, casserole making, dogmatic ideas and strict obedience to others.
Heaven on earth creators are often very generous and happy to share their wealth with the less fortunate, and without people like this focused on making money and willing to share it, the servants of the poor wouldn't have the means to help others. We need these people and their contributions to make churches, communities and neighborhoods function.
These people can irritate others who fail to see the contributions they make as vital as their own and people who overvalue spirituality and lack balance in their life. Heaven on earth creators understand the importance of balance and they don't let spirituality, religion or faith take over their life. There is nothing wrong with this way of being, but you may think so if you are a type that overvalues spirituality.
The steward of systems
These people are practical, organized and logical. They are the ones who organize and run churches, meditation groups, Bible studies and entire religions. They highly value systems and making organizations function and they understand the need for rules to make this happen. This is something enlightenment seekers, servants of the poor, and heaven on earth creators don't want to do and aren't good at.
Stewards of systems are the ones making plans, creating structure and instituting the policies and procedures needed to make things happen. They are often seen as systemic, letter-of-law and obedience-driven in their practice. They can seem to care more about obedience, repentance, keeping commandments, avoiding sin, and controlling people than they do about love, but that's not necessarily true.
These people see their way of being as loving, because they overvalue the idea that obedience is showing God you love him. They feel God's love for them as they follow the rules. We need these people to be in charge of doctrine, procedures and systems because none of the others want this job.
The knowledge seeker
These people tend to overvalue learning, understanding complex concepts and ideas, doctrine, research and history. They are the great thinkers, writers and seekers of greater knowledge and understanding.
Knowledge seekers love God by seeking to know him and his ways. They spend their spiritual time learning and teaching, and they believe that God wants us to do this. They feel obedient and fulfilled when they are learning and gaining a deeper understanding of God.
These beautiful souls are also needed, though people who undervalue knowledge may be critical of their ways. Knowledge seekers aren't usually as empathetic, giving, spiritual or connected to love as other personality types, but the things they learn and share, serve us all.
For your own spiritual practice: You might want to see the six types in terms of where you are stronger and weaker. Ideally, balance is best and we should strive to be a little of each. If you are deeply entrenched in just one type, you will be overvaluing specific things and undervaluing something else. Could you focus more on areas you undervalue? Would this serve you if you did? Also, acknowledge your strengths and accept those traits and the beauty in them.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
SALT LAKE CITY — I was recently reading David Richo's book "Triggers: How We Can Stop Reacting and Start Healing" and was impressed with what he calls the five A's. These are 5 elements of a secure environment, which create a place where children (no matter their age) can feel safe and secure in the world.
The five A's are: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing.
In his book, Richo encourages readers to examine their own childhood and see if these five factors were present while you were growing up. If you were lacking in one or more of these elements, he says it might have created some shame, fear or feelings of inadequacy that you battle with today.
The truth is no parent ever does these five things perfectly, so we all feel unsafe in the world to some extent. Just take stock of which elements were missing in your childhood and think about how you can give yourself that element now. As an adult, you have the ability to heal yourself of anything you missed out on. All five elements are things you can give yourself every day.
Understanding Richo's five elements can also help you consciously parent your own children better and create an environment where they grow up feeling safe and secure. As you read about the five A's, don't focus on the ways you might have failed to give them to your children in the past; you have been doing the best you could with what you knew at the time. Instead, focus on what you can do today to make your child feel safe and "good enough."
You will also find that your spouse or significant other wants and needs the same five elements each day. Consciously focusing on giving the five A's to everyone in your life could drastically improve all your relationships. Every day, ask yourself: "What can I do to make the people in my life feel some attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing today?"
Everyone wants to feel seen, heard and known. We all need to know our loved ones see us, but without judgment or criticism. We need attention that isn't about monitoring or watching for what needs correction, but attention that is just honoring our right to be the amazing human we are, exactly as we are.
Children: Your children need to have you ask questions about how they feel and what they think; they need you to take the time to actively listen and strive to understand and know them. You might want to consider setting aside one-on-one time with each child, each week, just to listen and ask questions. Taking them for a treat or meal is a great time to do this.
Partner: In a personal relationship, you might also set aside some time to give your partner your undivided attention each week — time where you ask questions and listen so they feel seen, heard and understood weekly, too.
Everyone wants to feel accepted as "good enough" as they are right now.
Children: Children experience a great deal of correction, and this can sometimes make them feel inadequate, broken or unlovable. They need a great deal of validation about their unchanging worth to counterbalance all that correction. They need to feel you aren't trying to change them; they need to know that who they inherently are (without any effort) is amazing and perfect.
Acceptance can be hard to give to children, but it is so important that they be allowed to be who they are. The more you validate their right to be who and where they are, the more motivated they will be to improve. If they are constantly told they need to improve, they can resist changing.
Partner: In a personal relationship, you might also make sure you see the differences between you and your partner and honor your partner's right to be different and have the same value. Click here to read an article about honoring your partner's right to be different.
Everyone wants to be acknowledged for what they do right, as well as for their character and who they are as a person.
Children: Make sure the validation you give your child is not always tied to behavior or obedience. They need to receive some validation for simply being who they are. While you should acknowledge and appreciate any effort and accomplishment, you should also appreciate them just being in your life. One family I knew went around the table every night at dinner and told each person something they appreciated about them. Doing this daily made sure this need was always met.
Partner: In a personal relationship, you might also tell your partner regularly all the reasons you love them. Mention all the qualities you admire and the things they do for you and the family that you appreciate. Take time to do this on a regular basis, even if you think they already know. They need to hear it frequently.
Everyone needs physical touch, hugs and kisses to feel truly secure in the world; it is a powerful form of validation and love to receive physical contact from another person.
Children: Showing affection through physical touch is easy when children are young, but it often gets harder as they grow. Look for opportunities to give your children a hug or a simple touch on the arm every now and then. Make sure your child feels some contact daily. If you come from a family that doesn't express affection through physical touch, this might be something you have to consciously work on.
Partner: In a personal relationship, physical touch is vital to the health of the relationship. Intimacy with your partner is what connects the two of you and keeps the bond strong. If you struggle with motivation for intimacy, it may be because there are problems that need to be addressed in the rest of the relationship. Seek professional help at the first sign of trouble here. Be willing to do some work and make some changes yourself if you want this to improve. Click here to read other KSL articles on improving intimacy.
Everyone needs the freedom to become who they want to become. They need to be free from control, to some extent, and not feel forced into being something that isn't authentic.
Children: Children need to feel some freedom to explore the world around them and experience different things. They need encouragement to set their own goals and be allowed whatever interests spark a light in them. When parents force too much behavior or conformity on children, it can send the message that they can't be loved as they are. By contrast, unconditional love allows them to make choices and choose their way in the world without judgment, which builds confidence and teaches them to trust themselves.
Partner: In a personal relationship, it's helpful if you allow your partner to have the freedom to make some choices without your input, be the version of themselves they choose to be, and know that it's OK to be different from you. Some people need control to feel safe in the world, and they may inadvertently try to control their spouse to gain a feeling of security. Could this be you? Think about how you can trust yourself and your partner and let go of some control. You may need to seek professional help in this matter.
You might write these five elements on a piece of paper and tape it to the fridge as a reminder to make sure they each happen in your home every day.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
SALT LAKE CITY — There are always people in your life who you take issue with or who rub you the wrong way. There may even be some humans you just can’t stand.
It is important that you take stock of these people and why you have strong feelings against them. Maybe they did something that offended you, or they just have personalities that irritate or annoy you. Whatever the problem is, these people are triggering you for a reason, and figuring out the reason behind those triggers is important.
The people who rankle you hold clues about your beliefs, judgments, shame and inner pain. They provide opportunities for you to learn about yourself and heal. But in order to use these experiences to heal yourself, you have to recognize that they aren’t just annoying people; they are perfect teachers in your classroom.
The most important thing they do for you is show you the limits of your love. You are a loving person with love to give to everyone around you, right up until you get to THOSE people. Then, you hit a limit. Your love doesn’t extend that far. This is a place where some really amazing growth can happen if you are willing to ask yourself some questions.
What does the person represent?
Think about one of these teachers in your life who is showing you the limits of your love. Then ask yourself the following:
This is where the work starts
Now you get to explore the part of you that feels unsafe by the trait, behavior or fear this person represents. Why do you feel "not good enough" or "not safe" in the world if that trait, behavior, or fear is in play? What healing needs to happen for you so you can heal that part of you?
You may want to find some professional help from a coach or counselor for this work, but whatever you do you cannot keep projecting the problem on and blaming this other person for the way you are being triggered. They are only in your life as a teacher to help you see the place you need to heal so you can work on it.
This idea may be one you have to process and think about before you believe it’s true or worth the work. It will always feel easier to keep blaming and shaming someone else. Your ego will really want to keep making it about other people and their issues because this feels safer. The problem is that teachers will keep coming and this problem will not go away. It will keep showing up until you are ready to work on you.
Everyone you dislike holds a secret of healing and help for you if you are willing to look for it, but there is something else even more helpful they can also give you.\
Learning to love yourself
Another crucial thing you must understand about the people that bother you is they also show you the limits of your love toward yourself. You can only love yourself as much as you can love your neighbors, and you can only love your neighbors as much as you can love yourself. You may not be aware of this connection or want to believe it, but I believe it’s true. If you hate the darkness in yourself, you will hate every bit of darkness you can find in others. If you are hateful toward others, you similarly won’t be able to love yourself.
As long as there are people whose darkness (bad behavior or faults) seem to you to make them unworthy of love, there will also be parts of yourself that you will also see as unworthy of love. It’s like there are two options when it comes to love, and you are going to have to choose one. If you don’t consciously choose one, you will subconsciously choose one, so you have to choose. The two options involve how you determine the value of all human beings.
Option 1 – People can be not good enough. This mindset means you see human value as changeable and something that must be earned. This means life is like a test and you gain points or lose points based on your appearance, performance, property and what others think of you. This also means that some humans have more value than other humans and that judging who is better or worse makes sense. If you choose this option, you will gossip, judge and criticize other people because you need to see them as worse than you to feel better about yourself. You will also battle a terrible fear of not being good enough (and have low self-esteem), no matter how hard you try. You will always find people who have things about them you don’t have and you will never feel good enough. You will also see all human beings as different from you and you will feel separate from them, and this will encourage you to make more divisions and groups, trying to find some group identity that would give you a sense of safety (even though that safety comes only from hating or condemning other people). Can you see this happening in our world right now?
Option 2 – All people are always good enough. This mindset means you see human value as infinite, absolute and unchangeable. This means all humans (without exception) have the exact same intrinsic worth and there is nothing anyone can do that gives them more value than any other human being. There is also nothing you can do to have less value than any other human being. No matter what anyone does they have the same intrinsic worth as the rest of us. This will make you feel connected to the whole human race and you won’t need to form groups and declare some people better or worse. You will understand that we are all equal but different. The more you allow every human being around you to be a struggling, scared student in the classroom of life — just like you — the more compassion you will have for yourself, too. When you allow others' value to be unchangeable and you see them as good enough and worthy of love, even when they are flawed, this also lifts your worth. You will start to have stable, solid self-esteem because there is no possibility of failure. Life is a classroom, not a test, and mistakes create the lessons we need to learn, but they don’t change our value. This mindset makes you feel safer with others and could literally create more peace on Earth.
You get to decide about 20 times a day, which mindset you will choose. Every time you are tempted to judge or find fault in another person you are choosing a mindset. If you choose condemnation and judgment, you must understand you are also choosing that for yourself. If they are not good enough, you aren’t good enough, either. The option you choose for them you also choose for yourself. You can’t have it both ways.
We are on this planet to evolve, grow and learn. Every experience you have here serves that purpose, even feelings of dislike toward other people. Take the time to pay attention and think about these interesting people in your life, I promise it will serve you.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I had a client ask me about the anatomy of the argument they keep having over and over throughout their marriage. They have noticed that other couples say the same thing: they always argue over the same thing or around the same basic issue. So, I thought that maybe I would explain a simple way to take apart that argument and see what is really happening.
The first thing you need to understand is that fear is in play. I believe there are two fears we all battle with every day, and have done so since we were small children. They are the fear of failure (that I might not be good enough) and the fear of loss (that I am not safe). We all experience both of these, but each person has one that is more dominant.
Find the fear
When thinking about your most common argument, it’s important to figure out which fear is in play for each of you. Ask the following questions to determine which fear is dominant for you, and then for your partner.
Fear of failure questions
Fear of loss questions
Study the fight
The reason it is important to know a person’s core fear is that once you understand where their fear is based, you also know the key trigger that knocks them out of balance and brings out their bad behavior. Most of your arguments will be the same basic fear getting triggered.
People who are fear-of-failure dominant get offended when they feel judged, criticized, rejected, unloved, abandoned or insulted.
People who are fear-of-loss dominant get offended when they feel taken from, mistreated, disregarded, disrespected or like they are losing something.
Think back on your most common argument or disagreement you have with a person. Which one of the above offenses happened first? Someone started this argument when they felt one of those things. Can you see which fear was in play first?
When their first fear was triggered, the person reacted and behaved in a way that triggered the other person’s fear. Can you see which fear that was?
Whenever you react from fear, the behavior that results is almost always selfish and focused solely on protecting yourself. This behavior makes the other person feel unsafe. When you are so focused on protecting yourself, you are not going to be thinking about protecting the other person. It is important that you can see behavior that the first person displayed, or what they said that got the second person triggered, too.
What did the first person’s behavior make the second person feel? Did they feel ...
See the solution
It is critical to understand the anatomy of these arguments so you can see the solution. At the end of the day, you both just want to feel safe, loved, respected, admired and wanted by your partner. This argument is really about the fact that you don’t feel that way.
So, the answer to ending this argument for good is to learn how to make your partner feel safe, loved, respected, admired and wanted when they first get triggered.
What if you could pause right at the beginning of the argument, when the first trigger happens, and ask yourself:
Mary and John
Let me give you an example of how this works:
Mary and her husband John live on a tight budget and are very careful in stretching their paycheck to the end of the month. John opens the fridge and finds a bag of salad that has gone bad and has to be thrown out. He turns to Mary and in anger says "That is just great! Why didn’t you use this before it sat in the fridge and rotted? What’s the matter with you?" Mary yells back, "Why do you have to be such a jerk? You are the worst husband ever." The argument escalates from there.
Let’s take this one apart: This argument started when John got triggered by fear of loss. He was already worried about not having enough money this month, and seeing food go bad triggered that fear. But notice that he doesn’t see it as a money fear problem; he inaccurately sees it as Mary’s problem. So, he aimed his bad reaction right at Mary, insulting and verbally attacking her.
This, of course, triggered Mary’s fear of failure, as John was accusing her of being careless and wasteful. But instead of recognizing what John’s fear was really about (the money fear), she goes on the defense and attacks him back. Now, both John and Mary feel unsafe with each other and instead of addressing the actual fear issue, they have made the argument about each other.
The truth is that most bad behavior is a cry for help, love or reassurance because the person is scared of something; it’s always more about the person’s fears about themselves than it is about you.
People who are grouchy and rude and attack you for small mistakes, or right out of the blue, are usually battling a huge fear that they aren’t good enough; however, they aren't conscious of that, so they project their self-hate onto you, which is easier for them than facing it.
Many people who feel mistreated, taken from, or are easily offended are really angry at life for disappointing them. They can’t punish life for their losses, so they project the problem onto everyone around them. If you can start stepping back and looking at each argument through this filter, you will find they are easier to understand and resolve than you think.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
I have received numerous questions lately that involve stepfamilies or blended families, and I understand why. All family relationships can be hard, but these families face many more challenges than a biological family. Additionally, people who haven’t been in a blended family before are often unprepared to handle them.
Many couples marry thinking their love will be enough to make the family work, but they soon find out that’s not true. To create a successful blended family you will need to learn about the challenges and gain some new skills.
I share the following statistics from Pew Research and the Stepfamily Foundation not to discourage you, but to motivate you to get some help, education, skills and tools so your blended family can beat these odds.
Fortunately, that last statistic is changing, as there are more resources today than ever before. I highly recommend that couples who are in a blended family or are thinking about getting married, find a coach or counselor who is familiar with the challenges. You should also find every book, conference or seminar you can on the topic and read them together. These steps can considerably up your chances of making it. Knowledge and awareness of the challenges make all the difference.
Tips for blended families
Jeannette Lofas, an author and stepfamily expert, says the No. 1 factor in the success or failure of a blended family comes down to getting outside education, help and resources to deal with the inevitable challenges. Here are some important facts about blended families, from her book “Step Parenting,” which I highly recommend.
1. A blended family is very different from a biological family.
The issues that arise in a blended family will be some you haven’t ever had to deal with before. In a birth family, there are natural roles everyone falls into; but in a blended family, these roles can look very different.
No stepmother can fully replace the child’s actual mother (even if she is deceased). The stepmother role is a unique one that most people have never had before. The rules are completely different, and the same goes for the father, mother, stepfather, and even the oldest child, who now might not be the oldest anymore.
It takes time for everyone to understand and master their new roles. This cannot happen overnight and the road will be bumpy. All parties must be patient, easy-going, and slow to get offended or defensive. Everyone has to give everyone else some slack to learn and get comfortable with their new roles.
2. Love is not required, but respect is.
You cannot force your child to love a stepparent, but you will need a firm rule about respect, consideration and kindness. These are required from all parties all the time, even from the adults toward the children.
Everyone has the right to be honored, respected, heard and thanked for what they do. If a child or adult is struggling with giving respect, that is a sign that a conversation needs to happen where they can express their frustrations, pain or fears around the situation. As the adult, you must be able to listen to the child’s feelings and honor their right to have them, even if they are attacks at some level.
Everyone has the right to their feelings, but being disrespectful is not an option. If the adults are behaving emotionally or defensively, they need to seek some professional help with processing their own fears and feelings so they will be able to show up mature and stable and earn the family’s respect.
3. Your individual emotional intelligence is vitality important.
If you struggle with strong emotions, losing your temper, feeling mistreated or offended, you may want to seek some professional help to work on your triggers. Do not wait to see if things improve. Get professional help at the first sign of trouble. Every expert I talk to says this is the No. 1 thing they recommend. It is so much easier to fix relationships and families at the onset than to wait until things get really bad.
4. Blame the stepfamily situation, not the people involved.
Lofas says "One of the greatest mistakes is blaming yourself for the feelings and difficulties of the stepfamily situation. Such blame only makes you feel helpless, and it often keeps you from taking steps to deal with the problems."
It is not easy for anyone to be a stepparent. It is not easy for any child to have a stepparent. The entire experience is complicated and, at some level, can be scary or threatening. Everyone needs someone to talk to and resources to help them sort through the emotions involved.
5. Remember that transfer moments can be painful.
Every time children go from one home to the other (these transfer moments), all the pain around the divorce is brought to the surface again. Expect children to struggle and have emotions that can lead to behavior issues at these times. Overlook most of this and give them some room to feel bothered and even act out to some degree, because this type of behavior is natural as they process loss.
6. Everyone will have feelings of guilt.
Parents feel guilty for breaking up the family and loving someone their kids don’t like. Stepparents feel guilty that they can’t feel loving feelings toward these children that don’t belong to them. Children feel guilty for liking the stepparent or for disappointing the parent they aren’t with.
All this guilt leads to feelings of failure, which creates all kinds of bad behavior. A trained professional can help you process the guilt and, again, blame it on the situation, not on yourself.
7. Stepcouples should set rules together — alone.
Stepcouples must spend a great deal of time having validating conversations about rules, consequences, boundaries and who will do the disciplining and how. Do not have these conversations in front of the children. These things need to be worked out in private and then facilitated the right way (usually, this means having the biological parent do the discipline when possible).
Everyone must have a voice and feel heard and validated about their feelings. Even if you disagree, it will go over better if the other party at least feels heard. If you don’t have the skills to have these conversations in a validating and productive way, seek some professional help to learn how.
These are just a few tips and tricks to shine the light on some of the challenges stepfamilies face. In upcoming LifeAdvice articles, I am going to share advice and tips for fathers, mothers and stepparents in their unique roles. There is also a conference on blended families coming to Utah on Jan. 21 that I highly recommend you attend if you have, or are considering having, a blended family.
You can do this.
Family gatherings can be very painful experiences when you are going through hard things in your life. These well-meaning people who haven’t seen you in a while are probably going to ask questions about your relationship status, how your career is going, and where you are in your life. If you don’t have good answers to these questions, this can trigger feelings of failure and loss.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts for surviving family parties in a healthy way:
Keep fears in mind
If you have relatives who are hard to get along with, remember their bad behavior is often driven by their fears about themselves. If you choose to see them as scared (versus just being a jerk), you will have more compassion and will be less likely to take their comments personally.
Be sensitive about what your relatives might have experienced this last year and be careful what you say or ask. People who are struggling with something can be delicate and easy to offend. This year has been a rough year for many, so keep that in mind.
Create an emergency signal
Create an emergency hand signal and arrange with your spouse to rescue you from annoying relatives.
Be a strategic host
If you are hosting a holiday dinner, use place cards and arrange seating to keep touchy family members away from one another.
Be kind and let things go
Be patient and let unkind comments roll off. Remember, all bad behavior is a request for love. The worse the behavior, the more that person needs love and validation. Treat them with kindness, even when they don’t deserve it.
Don’t take anything personally. If someone says something mean, let it go. It’s not really about you; it’s about their fear and low self-esteem. They may feel like they have to put down others to feel good enough. Choose not to be offended and let them keep their negative energy to themselves.
Be a good listener
Ask lots of safe questions and let other people talk. Allowing another person to do the talking makes them feel valued at the deepest level. Be someone who cares enough to listen.
Avoid telling a story to top someone else’s. Let them have the spotlight and practice not needing it yourself.
Pay lots of compliments. Compliment everyone at the party. If you focus on giving validation to others, you won’t worry about yourself as much.
Be the love in the room. Be there to make others feel loved and valued. Don’t worry about whether they love you, just be there to give.
Consider not attending
If you can’t be around certain people without feeling discouraged, depressed or upset, it’s OK to decide not to attend the party at all. Start a new tradition and do something different instead. Get friends together and spend the holidays with the people you choose to be around.
Young adults would rather you didn’t ask about personal matters such as school or whether they are dating anyone. It’s better if you ask what they do for fun or what great movies they have seen lately. These topics are safer and less likely to embarrass them.
Don’t try to convert or lecture anyone on your ideas, beliefs or opinions. This party is not the right time for a debate. Obviously, don’t bring up controversial topics like politics or religion.
Drink too much
Don’t drink too much, especially if it tends to make you more confrontational or easily upset. Avoid sarcasm, correcting or criticizing anyone.
Remember, you are not responsible for other people’s happiness. If others choose to complain about the food, gossip about others, or share their woes too freely, leave the room, ignore them, or change the subject.
Give anyone the power to hurt you
Dealing with family members can be tricky because you care more about what they think than others. These are people who should love and support you, so when they don’t it hurts. Decide before your family event to trust that no one can diminish your value in any way. You have the same value as every other human soul and nothing can change that. This will make you more bulletproof.
If someone offers unsolicited advice, just smile and thank them. People often give advice to make themselves feel important too. It’s not really about you; don’t waste time being bothered by it.
When your family is hard to deal with, remember that these people are in your life for a reason: to help you become a better person. Their job in your classroom (life) journey might be to push your buttons and bring your fears and bad behavior into the light so you can work on them.
Ask yourself what dealing with your specific relatives could teach you. How could their annoying tendencies give you the perfect opportunity to practice being more loving, mature and calm? If you see them as your perfect teachers and try to use these experiences to grow and learn, you will at least feel good about yourself on the way home.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I have heard from lots of people who are worried about family holiday gatherings and dealing with difficult relatives.
We all have some complicated family relationships that can trigger tension, defensiveness and fear because of what they do and say. During the holidays it is difficult to avoid these relatives, so it's helpful to work on becoming more resilient and "bulletproof" before these parties happen.
Note: The following advice is not advice for dealing with abuse or trauma. This advice is meant for people who have some annoying, rude and disrespectful relatives who say hurtful things or treat you in a judgmental way. If you are dealing with abuse, trauma or really toxic people, avoiding family gatherings might be the best call.
For the rest of your people-problem situations, I have one powerful truth that can help you to stay balanced around your challenging relatives and hurtful things they might say this year.
'I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts'
A Course in Miracles lesson says: "I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts."
This is a tricky concept that might take some thinking to understand, but it means it is not someone’s words that hurt you, it is the thoughts you have about their words that hurt you.
If someone makes a hurtful remark to you — something that triggers pain — it can feel like a poison dart fired straight to your heart. It will sting for sure, but how long it stings and how badly it stings is something you do have some control over.
Do you ever let a dart stay in causing you pain all day or all week? How often do you pull the dart out and throw it on the floor so you can move on, but then later pick it back up and stab yourself with it again and again — for months, years, or even decades? It’s over and it happened a long time ago, why do you still think about it when it just causes you pain?
When the event is over and you are still feeling the sting, it has become a self-inflicted injury. You have the power to stop the stinging if you can change the way you are looking at what the other person did. If you can change the way you look at it, you can change how you feel.
This is high-level emotional intelligence, and it might take some work to get it right. So don’t be discouraged if you are not here yet. The more you read, practice and learn, the easier it will get. This is not victim shaming, though, because the fault does lie with the other person; however, at some point, you have to process the situation and decide to stop letting it hurt you. You have to take your power back. You do this by thinking about words, thoughts and opinions that come from other people. What are they? What are they made of? What power do they hold?
They are nothing. They are wisps of ideas drifting through people’s minds and out their mouths. They have no form and no matter. They do nothing. They mean nothing. They have no power unless you give them power.
Your thoughts about what the person said or did are what create the sting, and you are so powerful you can create that sting from almost nothing. This is especially true if you have some deep negative beliefs about yourself in play — beliefs you have had since you were a child. These old subconscious beliefs are your open wounds; they are spots where others can barely touch you and it hurts.
I have a deep fear that says, “I am not good enough.” Because I have had this fear my whole life, it is my problem. It belongs to me. But just like an open wound, it's a place where it’s very easy for other people to hurt me.
These other people are completely responsible for any unkind things they say or do, but I am responsible for my original fear issue that makes their comments hurt me so much. I am also responsible for the thoughts I have that intensify and prolong the hurt.
Your ego thinks stabbing yourself with these old darts for decades is a good way to protect you from further pain. It thinks the constant stabbing will remind you to protect yourself from that person in the future, but the cost for this perceived protection is decades of pain anyway.
Instead of allowing thoughts that make mean comments hurt longer than necessary, practice the following:
1. Trust that your intrinsic value as a person is infinite and absolute.
Nothing anyone says or does can diminish your value. No matter what happens to you, you still have the same value as every other person on the planet. When anyone makes an unkind comment, remind yourself that it doesn’t have any power and changes nothing. You are still intact and fine. Imagine the dart bouncing off and landing on the ground. Then, leave it there.
2. Trust that every person around you is in your life for your own good.
Everyone who surrounds you is there for one reason: to help you grow and become stronger, wiser and more loving. Some of these people help you by pushing your fear buttons, to give you a chance to work on your insecurities and issues. When you see them as teachers in your classroom who are giving you chances to practice being strong and loving, you won’t take their comments as personally.
3. Remember that thoughts or words other people say about you are irrelevant.
These words mean nothing and do nothing. They are wisps of energy that are immediately gone and have no power to sting you. You can only have pain if you think about their actions stinging you. Instead, send them on their way with this thought: “Thanks for giving me a chance to practice being strong, but I am done with that lesson and moving on.” Send them on their way (figuratively) with a blessing and hope for their own growth and learning.
4. Focus all your energy on being the love in the room at your family gatherings.
Find others around you who need validation, love and support, and spend the whole party giving these things to them. Turn your party into a focused, giving love session instead of a minefield of offenses and insults. Go into it with a mission in mind and don’t let anyone knock you from that focus.
Love works miracles because you cannot do love and fear at the same time. If you are focused on love for other people and yourself, you don’t have time to be offended.
You can do this.
I hate family holiday parties because there is one person who completely ruins them for me. They are negative and critical, and they never fail to insult me in some way. Do you have any advice for managing this situation, since I am expected to attend like it or not?
You are not alone in dreading this part of the holidays. Many people find family gatherings trying. If it’s not annoying relatives, it’s dreading the questions people will ask about your life (and your lack of good answers). Most families today are made of people with different beliefs, values, standards and ideas too, and these differences can create conflict, defensiveness and arguments.
There are a couple key things to remember to help you survive these parties:
1. Differences don’t mean better or worse, or right or wrong — they just mean different
The reason differences might scare us and make us feel judged and criticized by others is we might assume someone is right and better, and the other is wrong or worse. That's not true, it's just a perspective option, but it’s not your only perspective option.
You could choose to believe that all human beings have the same, unchanging, infinite, intrinsic worth — no matter their differences. This means different can’t make anyone better or less than anyone else. If you choose this perspective, you can be bulletproof at family parties or any other social setting. No one can judge you as less or worse and hurt you with their opinions, unless you let them. You can choose to believe you still have the same value as they do. If you choose this though, you also have to give up judgment and stop seeing them as bad or worse. Can you do that? Can you give infinite, absolute value to everyone else? If you can you will at the same time choose it for yourself, and no one can hurt you with their opinions again.
2. Give up judgment of others and let them all have the same value as you
You may subconsciously like being in a place of judgment toward certain family members and like spending the holidays complaining about them. You may do this because placing blame on these “bad people” makes you feel superior in some way. If you have low self-esteem (and are afraid you aren’t good enough) blaming or judging others might be part of your coping strategy. Be honest with yourself. Is there an ego part of you that likes complaining and gossiping about this person? Or are you ready to change yourself to feel better?
3. Choose to see life as a classroom and your relatives as your perfect teachers
I believe the real purpose for our being on this planet is to learn and to grow and the most important lesson we are here to learn is to love ourselves and other people. If this is truth, it means every single thing that happens to you here is a lesson on learning to love at a deeper level.
It also means the annoying, hurtful, bossy, rude people in your life might be here to serve as teachers and bring your fears, defensiveness and weaknesses to the surface so you can work on them. It's really important you see your family as your perfect classroom. It's no accident that this person is in your life and you are in theirs. Think about that annoying relative and ask yourself how they could be the perfect teacher for you. Do they trigger a fear or insecurity that you need to work on? Do they inspire you to be different than how they are? In what way could they possibly be here to help you grow? When you see them as here to serve you, you might be less bothered and more compassionate toward them.
4. Everyone is in their own perfect classroom journey experience, learning different lessons from yours, but they still have the same value
This also helps you stay out of judgment and stop comparing your life with theirs. The lessons you need to learn are different from theirs, so your experiences and struggles will be different too. Allow them room to be a work in progress with much more to learn (just like you).
5. Ask yourself these questions to help process your feelings toward this annoying relative:
Do this because it’s the kind of person you’ve decided to be. Spend your time at the family party asking questions and listening to others. Show people you value them at the deepest level and see their infinite worth. The more you do this, the better you may feel about yourself.
During those family parties, remember no one can hurt or diminish you because your value is infinite and absolute. Don’t give anyone the power to take away your peace and joy.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
FOR MORE FREE
Coaching is less expensive than you think - If you need help we can find you a coach you can afford.
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.