Navigating Controlling Relationships

In each of our lives, we run across individuals who want everything to go their way. They have tend to have strong personalities, strong wills, and often strong egos that make them controlling, often narcissistic, and manipulative. Here I will discuss the ramification and what you can do to navigate controlling relationships more effectively. 

They might be a friend, spouse, relative, or even a boss, but people of this description often try to suppress us from voicing our opinions. When we are dealing with family members who have a history of being demanding, it is easy to become manipulated by them, sometimes to keep the peace or because other family members go along with their demands. Unlike with family, we can choose to have relationships with friends or not. But even elective friendships become toxic when one individual disregards the needs and feeling of the other person. These situations are not only frustrating but can also have an affect on our health and our morale. 

The Toll Of Controlling Relationships

These types of relationships take their toll on us physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. They can become the source of continued anxiety and frustration, creating stress that can become physically debilitating if it goes on long enough. These relationship stressors have been shown to cause chronic conditions, such as skin problems, asthma, and stomach or bowel issues.

With emotional relationships like these, we can lose our sense of self and self worth. The only way we can avoid these types of relationships and the negative feelings they engender is to empower ourselves and take control over the quality and tone of our relationships.

To appreciate an actual situation, let's discuss dealing with a friend who is never on time for scheduled meetings and appointments. This makes you feel disrespected and not valued. In addition, his being late also has ramifications for you, causing you to be late for appointments as well.With this scenario in mind, let's review some steps you can take to regain control of your time, your feelings, and your relationship.

Strategies

Start by being honest with yourself about how you feel when your friend or family member acts in a controlling and disrespecting manner. Decide how you would like to change the situation, and make a goals list of how you can achieve that outcome.

 An example would be to admit that your boyfriend's lateness really drives you crazy and is underminding your relationship and causing you resentment. Then, imagine a solution you can apply to change the usual outcome. Try discussing this strategy with others and see how explaining it either confirms or alters your strategy.

1. Be Specific: Be very specific about what is important to you in terms of what you are determined to change about your experience. It is important to be committed to your goals no matter how small or large they may be.

2. Express Your Opinions: If you are determined to transform a relationship, an important action step to take is not to allow yourself to stifle your opinions or preferences. Telling others of your goals and preferences anchors them into a deeper commitment. If your friend or boyfriend cannot be on time, then let them know you are willing to leave without them the next time they are late for an event. 

3. Don't Back Down: Be absolutely firm about your commitment to change your toxic friendship or relationshand. At the same time, don't be afraid to let go of expectations in the relationship. Often when we let go of our expectations, things have a way of working out on their own.

It is important to take control over negative or toxic relationships. Only you can empower yourself and take control over your life and your feelings. It takes effort and time, but it's worth it.

 

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
888-354-4325 Take charge of your health!

Learning To Forgive

Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves that helps us live more peace-filled, healthier lives.It has been scientifically proven to decrease depression, increase hopefulness, decrease anger, increase self-confidence, improve relationships, and decrease stress. It may also reduce physical symptoms of illness, decrease heart disease and increase immune function. There are many excellent books on the subject to assist with and facilitate the process of forgiving the unforgiveable.

Healing Power

Dr. Luskin is the author of the book Forgive for Good, and a world renowned researcher on the subject of forgiveness. His scientific studies demonstrate the healing power and health benefits from the process of forgiving others for actual or perceived transgressions against us or those we love. Dr. Luskin was the lead researcher on a study in Ireland that included individuals from both sides of Northern Ireland’s civil war. These individuals had all lost a loved one due to this civil conflict. 

In his groundbreaking book, “Forgive for Good”, he outlines what forgiveness is—and, what it is not:

  • “Forgiveness is for you and not the offender”
  • “Forgiveness is about your healing and not about the people who hurt you”
  • “Forgiveness is taking responsibility for how you feel”
  • “Forgiveness is a trainable skill – just like learning to throw a ball”
  • “Forgiveness is a choice”
     
  • “Forgiveness is not condoning unkindness or poor behavior”
  • “Forgiveness is not forgetting that something painful has happened”
  • “Forgiveness does not mean reconciling with the offender”
  • “Forgiveness does not mean giving up your feelings”

Learning to forgive starts with understanding the true nature of forgiveness.So then what does forgiveness mean? Forgiveness means being willing to find new ways to experience “justice” and to choose not to be victimized by other’s choices or actions.

A New Perspective

It can also mean experiencing an event from a different perspective, which allows us to reclaim our life from the depths of our suffering, loss or despair. This leads to the recognition that while people can do the unimaginable, much of what we experience in our lives is perceived hurt of rejection that causes us not to forgive another. Perceieved meaning that the hurt we feel might not have been intended. 

 

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
888-354-4325 Take charge of your health!

The Root Of All Misunderstandings

When couples are asked what in their relationship makes them feel fulfilled, the answer is inevitably that they feel “understood and cared about." Contrary to what many believe, misunderstandings are not the real problem in our relationships. It is not the misunderstanding that creates bad feelings and unhappiness in relationships, but rather not feeling that the person care most deeply about doesn’t understand who we are and what we are feeling.

In order to feel loved, we must experience that others understand us and regard us as good and valuable human beings. If our significant others do not understand or get who we are and how we feel, we are left with a feeling of being misunderstood. It can also lead to feeling alone because only someone who truly knows us can truly love us for who we actually are.

When we are in a relationship, we do not want to continually explain ourselves to another person, or justify our values, beliefs or the choices we make. If, after a time, that person cannot be present with us, listening and sharing their own thoughts and feelings, the relationship quickly deteriorates. This is why one of the important focal points in good couples counseling is learning what is called “active listening.”

Being present

The main purpose of active listening is to let your partner know that you are truly listening to them and that you are really “present” to them as well – meaning that they have our full attention. And by giving them our full attention, we can more authentically understand how they feel and what their point of view and opinions are about the important discussions that make up all relationships.

A key component of active listening is reflecting back to the other person what we understand they were communicating to us, so that we can be sure that we understand and not misinterpret their communication. When we do this, we ask questions to clarify, such as “Are you saying that you were upset that I did not go to your aunt’s house for dinner on Sunday, even though you had said it didn’t matter if I went or not?

By working together so that the listening partner and the speaking partner both understand that clarifying their understanding of what is being communicated and also participating in active communication as well as active listening, the relationship can take on a greater depth, intimacy and fulfillment.

Effective communication is always the key to avoiding misunderstanding and nurturing any good relationship.

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
888-354-4325 Take charge of your health!

12 Steps For Handling Difficult Relationships During The Holidays

hd-thanksgiving-day-pics

Thanksgiving is just over a week away, and the December holidays are on the horizon. Some say: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Or is it? For many of us, the holiday visits back home to family members are something to be dreaded. While we look forward to the pleasure of celebrating these festive times, there is also the memory of past conflicts and the very real possibility of new confrontations that we find ourselves anxious to avoid. We can tell ourselves that this is the year we will not get stressed out or upset with visits to or from our families. This is what we strive for yet, most often, not how things turn out.

Difficult Family Dynamics

According to Dr. Jeffrey Fine, Ph.D., director of the American Foundation for Conscious Parenting, our families can be “a breeding ground for repressed resentments and hostilities left over from childhood.” We might anticipate that once we have grown up and moved away to create our own lives and families these feelings would diminish, but, as many of us experience, unfortunately they do not.

One potential solution to transforming the holidays from stressful to joyful is the application of identified communication skills that have been researched and shown to facilitate changing difficult relationships. Behavioral Engagement is a 12-step set of communication skills that has been the subject of hospital pilot studies over a 2-year period.

The outcomes of these pilots showed the participants experienced a significant improvement in their relational outlook and attitude after interacting with the communication skills model. Originally developed to enhance relationships between doctors, nurses and patients, the model was also applied and studied with business and family relationships.

James Prochaska, Ph.D., renowned researcher on behavior change and author of Change for Good — the Six Stages of Transtheoretical Change says of Behavioral Engagement: “The process of Behavioral Engagement has the potential to transform relationships that are suffering or struggling to ones that are thriving!”

Generally, one of the most recommended approaches to staving off holiday conflicts is to “try and accept family members or friends as they are.” Unfortunately, this good intention can be easily sidelined without specific communications skills that can help keep us on track.

Easy 12-Step Model

The 12-Step Model of Behavioral Engagement offers specific, easy-to-learn communication skills that have been proven effective in changing conflicted relationships into compatible relationships based on the understanding that we all want to be valued, respected and listened to. The steps are based on physical, psychological, hormonal and neurological aspects of human relationships and communication. They start with the understanding that while we cannot change others’ behavior we can change our own behavior in how we relate to others, which can result in a transformative outcome for all participants.

We can do so by using specific, simple communication skills and following the steps that have been shown to be effective in creating greater receptivity and generating more positive emotions in relationships that have previously been conflicted or stressful.

If you have experienced or are anticipating challenging relationships during the holidays, you may wish to apply these easy steps and see if they can assist you in having happier and even healthier holidays.

Step One: Be physically comfortable when communicating. This removes discomfort that can distract from the conversation. Distractions reduce your attention, focus on the person you are speaking with, and decrease the conversational rapport and receptivity.

Step Two: Understand what you want. Our intentions are powerful behavior motivators. Understanding what we want from an exchange or a relationship can assist us in communicating more clearly our thoughts and feelings, inviting greater understanding and intimacy. Example: “I really want to understand what you are upset about.”

Step Three: Centered body posture. Uncross arms and legs and present open, receptive body language. To send the message that you are respecting the conversation and giving the other person your fully attention, do not play with your watch, glasses, hair or continually look away from the person you are speaking with. Committing to being focused is an important element in communication and sends the message that you care. We can all feel when someone values being with or speaking to us.

Step Four : Sustained, soft eye contact has been shown to stimulate oxytocin, which opens emotional centers of the brain and enhances trust and feelings of love and intimacy.

Step Five : Respectful inquiry. Asking rather than telling or directing and using “I” statements rather than “you” statements creates a safe, non-judgmental environment for the other person to communicate openly.

Step Six: Responsiveness. Using appropriate responses, such as facial expressions, smiling, head nodding and so forth, indicates you are listening and understanding what the other is saying without interrupting or interjecting. This acknowledges the value you have for their communication.

Step Seven: Pauses between responses. Instead of immediately speaking as soon as the other person is finished, allowing for appropriate pauses when someone has shared a thought or feeling with you creates for them the experience that they are being respectfully listened to, and that you are truly present to them.

Step Eight: Non-judgment. By not allowing yourself to focus on your unspoken mental and emotional judgments you eliminate the unconscious communication that is sent through subtle and gross body language. Unconscious, non-verbal body language is something most of us pick up on and they can make or break the communication.

Step Nine: Leave the ego at the door. Eliminate the push-pull or power struggle of previous relationship interactions by letting go of taking control of the communication and allow for equity between you and the other individual.

Step Ten: Re-centering when you start to lose focus. Mentally repeating simple words you identify as prompts to get you back to the focus of the conversation is a quick and effective way to get yourself re-centered in the exchange. Example: “Back to focus” or “Get centered.”

Step Eleven: Collaborative mindset. Working toward having a win-win outcome eliminates conflict and improves the quality of the relationship in both the short term and the long term.

Step Twelve: Sacredness of relationship. Sacredness means “worthy of respect.” When we are aware of appropriate verbal and behavioral boundaries within our communications, we hold the other person in high esteem and create fulfilling, lasting relationships.

When dealing with family holiday conflicts it can be helpful for us to try simple, proven communications skills but also to reflect on the wisdom of the question: “Would you rather be loved than be right?” Often times when we elect love over being in control or being right relationships shift for the better.

Forgive For Your Own Good

pexels-photo-24592-large

We read and hear that forgiving is something we need to do for others, and that when we forgive others it allows us to let go of feelings of anger and resentment. There are now numerous studies that show when we forgive others, the biochemistry of letting go of the negative feelings we have carried around with us has the power to transform our own health and sense of inner peace.

In the daily news, we see the most unthinkable and unimaginable events occurring. We see people who harm and kill others, parents who violate and abuse their own children, and even children that murder their own parents. For most of us it is difficult to forgive even benign insults and events in our relationships (such as a rejection or slight), let alone something of horrible tragedy. The thought that a victim of such cruel violence could let go of a grievance against another person who has perpetrated such acts seems impossible.

The Danger Of Holding A Grudge

However, what science is now demonstrating is that the simple act of “holding a grudge” against another person can create chronic long term stress with accompanying feelings of anger and frustration. This chronic emotional and physical response to a perceived hurt or insult can lead us to become sick and even develop ongoing, chronic disease states such as hypertension, asthma or digestive problems.

The use of the term “perceived insults” or wounding is intentional. This is because while there are people in the world who do unimaginably horrible things to others, much of what we experience in our lives is a perceived hurt of rejection that causes us not to forgive another.

What Is Forgiveness?

In 2000, as a result of a lecture arranged at a hospital I worked at, I had the privilege to meet Fred Luskin, PhD, founder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, and hear him present his work and research on the subject of forgiveness. Dr. Luskin is the author of the book Forgive for Good, and a world renowned researcher on the subject of forgiveness. His scientific studies demonstrate the healing power and health benefits from the process of forgiving others for either actual or perceived transgressions against ourselves, or to those we love.

Dr. Luskin was the lead researcher on a study in Ireland, which included individuals from both sides of Northern Ireland’s civil war. These individuals had all lost a loved one due to the country's civil conflict. In his groundbreaking book, Forgive for Good, he outlines what forgiveness is—and, what it is not:

“Forgiveness is for you and not the offender”
“Forgiveness is about your healing and not about the people who hurt you”
“Forgiveness is taking responsibility for how you feel”

“Forgiveness is a trainable skill – just like learning to throw a ball”
“Forgiveness is a choice”

“Forgiveness is not condoning unkindness or poor behavior”
“Forgiveness is not forgetting that something painful has happened”

“Forgiveness does not mean reconciling with the offender”
“Forgiveness does not mean giving up your feelings”

So then what does forgiveness mean? Forgiveness means being willing to find new ways to experience “justice” and to choose not to be victimized by other’s choices or actions. It can also mean experiencing an event from a different perspective, which allows us to reclaim our life even from the depths of our suffering, loss or despair.

The Benefits

Forgiveness has been scientifically proven to decrease depression, increase hopefulness, decrease anger, increase self-confidence, enhance relationships, decrease stress and physical symptoms of illness, decrease heart disease and increase immune function. Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves that helps us live more peace-filled, healthier lives. There are many excellent books on the subject to assist with and facilitate the process of forgiving what seems to be the unforgiveable.

Dealing with Difficult Relationships During the Holidays

anger-clipart
The December Holidays are just around the corner. Some say “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Or is it? For many of us, the holiday visits back home to family members is something to be dreaded. While we look forward to the pleasure of celebrating these festive times, there is also the memory of past conflicts and the very real possibility of new confrontations that we find ourselves anxious to avoid. We can tell ourselves that this is the year we will not get stressed out or upset with visits to or from our families. This is what we strive for yet, most often, not how things turn out.

In is common, according to Dr. Jeffrey Fine, Ph.D., Director of the American Foundation for Conscious Parenting that our families can be “a breeding ground for repressed resentments and hostilities left over from childhood.” (Link 1) We might anticipate that once we have grown up and moved away to create our own lives and families that these feeling would diminish but, as many of us experience, unfortunately they do not.      

One potential solution to transforming the holidays from stressful to joyful is the application of identified communication skills that have been researched and shown to facilitate changing difficult relationships. Behavioral Engagement is a 12-step set of communication skills that has been the subject of hospital pilot studies over a 32 year period. (Link 2)

The outcomes of these pilots showed the participants experienced a significant improvement in their relational outlook and attitude after interacting with the communication skills model. (Link 2)  Originally developed to enhance relationships between doctors, nurses and patients, the model was also applied and studied with business and family relationships.

 James Prochaska, PhD, renowned researcher on behavior change and author of “Change for Good – the Six Stages of Transtheoretical Change” says of Behavioral Engagement that “The process of Behavioral Engagement has the potential to transform relationships that are suffering or struggling to ones that are thriving!”

Generally, one of the most recommended approaches to staving off holiday conflicts is to “try and accept family members or friends as they are”. (Link 3) Unfortunately, this good intention can be easily side-lined without specific communications skills that can help keep us on track. 

The 12-Step Model of Behavioral Engagement that Dr. Prochaska endorses offers specific, easy to learn, communication skills that have been proven effective in changing conflicted relationships into compatible relationships based on the understanding that we all want to be valued, respected and listened to.

The steps are based on physical, psychological, hormonal and neurological aspects of human relationships and communication. They start with the understanding that while we cannot change others behavior we can change our own behavior in how we relate to others, which can result in a transformative outcome for all participants. 

We can do so by using specific, simple communication skills and following the steps that have been shown to be effective in creating greater receptivity and generating more positive emotions in relationships that have previously been conflicted or stressful.

If you have experienced or are anticipating challenging relationships during the holidays, you may wish to apply these easy steps and see if they can assist you in having happier and even healthier holidays.

Step One – Be physically comfortable when communicating. This removes discomfort that can distract providing your full attention to the person you are speaking with. Distractions reduce your focus on the person you are speaking with which decreases receptivity which sends the message that you may not be listening to them, which can flame the fire of resentment.

Step Two –Understanding what you want. Our intentions are powerful behavior motivators. By understanding what we want from an exchange with another can assist us in communicating more clearly our thoughts and feeling, inviting greater understanding and intimacy. Example – “I really want to understand what you are unset about.”

Step Three – Centered Body Posture. Uncross arms and legs, present open, receptive body language. To send the message that you are respecting the conversation and giving the other person your fully attention, do not play with your watch, glasses, hair or continually look away from the person you are speaking with. Committing to being focused is an important element in communication and sends the message that you value your time with the other person. We can all feel when someone values being with or speaking to us.

Step Four – Sustained, Soft Eye Contact has been scientifically proven to stimulate oxytocin which opens emotional centers of the brain and enhances trust (Link 4) and feelings of love and intimacy.

Step Five – Respectful Inquiry. Asking rather than telling or directing, and using “I” statements rather than “you” statements, creates a safe, non-judgmental environment for the other person to communicate openly.

Step Six – Responsiveness. By using appropriate responses, such as facial expressions, smiling, head nodding and so forth, indicates you are responding to and understanding what the other is saying without interrupting or interjecting. This acknowledges the value you have for their communication.  

Step Seven – Pauses between responses, allowing for silence between statements. Instead of immediately speaking as soon as the other person is finished, allowing for appropriate silence when someone has shared a thought or feeling with you is an important part of the experience of being respectfully listened to. It is also a component of being truly present to them. 

Step Eight – Non-Judgment. By not allowing your unspoken mental and emotional judgments to invade your attention, you eliminate the unconscious communication that is sent through subtle and gross body language. Unconscious, non-verbal body language is something most of us pick up immediately. They can make or break your communication and relationships.

Step Nine – Leave the ego at the door. Eliminate the push-pull or power struggle of previous relationship interactions by letting go of taking control of the communication and allow for equity between you and the other individual.

Step Ten – Re-Centering when you start to lose focus. Mentally repeating simple words you identify as prompts to get you back to the focus of the conversation is a quick and effective way to get yourself re-centered in the exchange. Example: “back to focus” or “get-centered”.

Step Eleven – Collaborative mindset. Working towards having a win-win outcome eliminates conflict and improves the quality of the relationship in both the short term and for the long term.

Step Twelve – Sacredness of Relationship – Sacredness means “worthy of respect”. When we are aware of appropriate verbal and behavioral boundaries within our communications, we hold the other person in high esteem and create fulfilling, lasting relationships.

When dealing with family holiday conflicts it can be helpful for us to try these simple, proven communications skills, but also to reflect on the wisdom of the question – “would you rather be loved than be right?” Often times when we elect love over being in control or being right then our relationships shift for the better. You can download a free excerpt of the book on Behavioral Engagement by visiting www.changingbehavior.org

Link 1 http://www.leecountytimes.com/why-families-fight-during-the-holidays/

Link 2 http://www.wholehealtheducation.com/news/pdfs/PubMed_ImproveDelivery_2005Mar.pdfep 1   Link 2 http://www.wholehealtheducation.com/lemuel-shattuck-hospital

Link 3 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress/MH00030

Link 4: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17888410    
              http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20047458  
              http://www.news-medical.net/news/2008/02/11/35124.aspx

Handling Conflict in Relationships

Conflict in relationships is inevitable, but the way we handle and respond to it is not. Some of us try to avoid dealing with conflict, while others want to immediately resolve things head on. Instead of trying to avoid the conflict, it can be constructive to objectively write down our thoughts and feelings and share them with the other person in a way that expresses how we feel, and in a style that makes us comfortable, such as possibly in a letter, a greeting card or by e-mail.

For those of us who tackle conflict “head on”, it can be helpful to take a step back and discern if this issue is something that must be resolved immediately, or can we give ourselves time to process what has occurred and see the conflict from the other person perspective.

Respecting your partner’s or friend’s experience of a particular conflict doesn’t mean you “go along to get along” or that you should not express your own experience or feelings about it. It does mean that you respect and consider the other individual’s unique experience of what has occurred and that they want to be seen, heard and valued just as much as you do.

By being open to accepting what the other person is feeling and what they have experienced, you send the message that you sincerely care about their feelings. And, while you may not agree with their feelings, you bring integrity to the relationship that allows them to be who they are and express how they feel in a safe and non-hostile environment.

Would You Rather Be Right or Be Loved?  An important question to ask ourselves when we are dealing with conflict in a significant relationship is would we rather be right or be loved. This is a simple litmus test that can help us to find a balance and a win-win situation for both the parties in a conflict, and also allows us to reflect on what is important in both our life and in our relationships.

Communication is a key to successful relationships and to solving relational conflicts. For a free chapter download to better understand why others behave as they do (and why we behave as we do) as well as for well-researched information about how to improve your relationship communications, visit www.changingbehavior.org.