Learn To Love Yourself

With such a strong emphasis on achievement, accumulation, and recognition in our society, we can easily become discouraged or disappointed with who or what we perceive ourselves to be, especially in how we stack up in the “pecking order” with those around us. That's why it is more important than ever that you learn to love yourself and recognize that the relationship you have with yourself is more important than any other.

Being happy with ourselves is a choice that each of us can make every day by taking simple and practical steps to develop habits of happiness. It starts with creating an environment to work and live in that reduces our stress and work load and brings order and ease, making our work and our living easier.

This uplifting environment can also provide us the experience of soothing tranquility rather than focusing on the disorder and chaos that often defines the working and living environments we find ourselves in.

Cleaning out desk drawers, closets, discarding excess, and re-defining what is important to keep and what feels good to get rid of is a first step to creating a peaceful and happy living or working space. Creating an environment that truly resonates with our values is like building an oasis in the desert. By eliminating the need to accumulate more and more “things” around us, we can unburden ourselves in creating a more orderly, relaxing, and peaceful space to live and work in.

This is also true with friends and acquaintances. Just like with material things, we can also accumulate unnecessary or unwanted relationships that can make demands on our time and energy and often insert negativity or sap our physical or financial resources. Clearing out the toxic or unhealthy relationships we may have can bring personal renewal and further our sense of happiness and contentment.

Take the time to appreciate family. For most of us, there are few individuals who have done more for us than our family members. This includes anyone and everyone in our family who support us, are there when we need them, and provide a “safe harbor” throughout our lives.

Losing loving family members can be devastating but no more so than when we fail to appreciate them as they are helping us along life’s bumpy road. By taking time to give back and express our gratitude to those who care and nurture us will not only bring them pleasure and a sense of being appreciated, but it will give us a reminder of how loved and cared for we are, allowing us to feel more content and happy with being who we are. This reminds you to stop and love yourself too.

 

For more information about this topic you can access a free excerpt from the bestselling book Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn Proven Communication Skills by visiting www.changingbehavior.org.

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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.

 

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The Heart: More Than Just A Pump

There is little question that the heart is a muscular pump that transports nutrient-rich blood throughout the body. This function is, however, just a physical aspect of what the heart does and what influences its function. As with all of our organs and systems, the heart is affected by five specific components: (1) physical (2) emotional (3) nutritional-biochemical (4) environmental and (5) worldview (spiritual).

Beyond The Pump

The first popular books to explore these aspects of the heart’s function include:  Heart and Soul by Bruno Cortis, M.D. and The Heart’s Code by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D. These two highly recommended books offer varying perspectives and insightful information on the heart beyond its role as a pump.

Pearsall’s book explores in depth the emotional function of the heart and its “L” energy. Pearsall describes and clearly explains the impact loving has on a heart that loves. He also explores the effect this love exerts on the recipient of the heart’s “L” energy.  His presentation on the human heart’s independent electrical system (also known as the atrioventricular bundle) gives us an understanding of how the individual heart muscle has an emotional life of its own.

Cardiovascular Research

The current research on cardiovascular disease contains a surprising body of information. It shows that the single greatest factor affecting your chances of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease is not high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, a diet high in sodium or fat, a type A personality, anger, or rage.

Instead, as reported in the Science News Journal, the statically-documented, single most predictive factor of death by heart malfunction is: hopelessness. And it has been shown that stroke risk in women is also significantly linked to hopelessness.

What About The Broken Heart?

Broken heartedness occurs when the heart’s desire has been thwarted or eliminated and the heart is left without hope of fulfilling its desire. It’s been said: “Where there is life there is hope.” But without hope, our dreams perish and our heart breaks.

Although lifestyle elements like exercise, a healthy diet, weight control and having a purpose in life are all part of being heart healthy, it now appears that the primary, most important factor is keeping hopes alive and not giving up on our dreams. Without them, we lose our purpose and the joy for living.

The Power of Hope

A healthy heart is a hopeful heart. When you smile, you cannot be sad or hopeless. Prove this to yourself. Think a horrible thought, then really smile and see if you can think that same thought while you are smiling. You can’t.

When we smile, we tell the heart and brain that life is good and worth living. As the saying goes: “Be happmy be healthy.” When we have fulfilling and successful relationships, our hearts experience the “L” energy we all desire.

Our relationships provide us the L-energy we require; we need to nurture and cultivate the best relationships we can.

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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. 

 

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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.

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12 Steps For Handling Difficult Relationships During The Holidays

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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.

Transforming Our Relationships with Easy to Learn, Proven Communication Skills

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All of us, from time to time, identify things about how we behave that we would like to change. Changing our behavior is very difficult because it is the result of the many learned responses we develop as soon as we come into the world. There is research today suggesting that conditioning that can begin even in the womb.

How we learn to adapt to our environment, what outside events or stimulation feels safe or threatening, how we view the world we live in, what our beliefs and values are, and so forth all play a role in how we learn to behave towards ourselves and others. These factors also influence how we learn to communicate.

The variations of how each of us learns to adapt in the world around are most noticeable when we are in relationships with others. What behaviors each of us bring to a relationship determines how well, or not, we are able to work together, live together or love together.

An example of how our conditioning impacts our relationships is seen in how couples relate to each other and get along before and after having children together. It is often, after the children come along, that the couple begins to have conflicts which stem from how each of the individuals was raised, what values they have, or what they believe is best for raising a healthy or successful child.

While it is inevitable that we do have conflicts with others because we are uniquely different and uniquely conditioned individuals, there are easy to learn, proven communication skills that we can all apply to any of our relationships to make them more fulfilling and positive for both ourselves and others.

A basic and simple skill that we can all apply to our very next encounter to improve our communications with others is putting aside the ongoing conversation in our mind, our concerns of the moment, or what we want to say next, and focusing completely on the individual in front of us and what they are  sharing with us. Being fully present to another person shows them that you value and respect them and that you are sincerely interested in what they are feeling, thinking and communicating with you.

We all want to be valued and in our fast paced, electronic-communication world having another person look at us directly while we speak, respond to us with smiles, head nodding or other gestures that let us know they are listening, without their speaking or interrupting us is a wonderfully validating experience that uplifts both ourselves and the person who is generous enough to give such affirming attention.

If you would like more information on how to make your relationships more rewarding and successful through easy-to-learn, proven communication skills, you can download a free chapter from my book Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with East to Learn, Proven Communication Skills by going to www.changingbehavior.org

Our Love Affair with Pets

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In an economy that has been reeling in double digit unemployment and unending home foreclosures, the last thing you would expect is that last year we spent a collective 50 billion dollars on our pets. Even more surprising is the fact that this figure represents an 8 billion dollar increase in the last 3 years, during one of the worst US economic downturns.

Pet Care Costs

It is easy to imagine that this information must be a mistake as this represents more money now being spent on pets in the United State than the gross national product for all but 64 countries around the world. A staggering 25 billion of those dollars was spent on pet health care and medicines. These are out of pocket dollars for services not covered by insurance. Maybe the healthcare reformers could learn a thing or two from this data.

Over the last 5 years, pets have grown in popularity, and so has the value we place on them. The 2011 American Pet Products Association (APPA) survey reported that an astounding 62% of all American households have a pet living with them. Americans have come to view and treat their pets in human terms, providing them with everything from designer clothes and jewelry, gourmet pet foods, corrective dental braces and even plastic surgery to improve a pet’s self-esteem.

Pets With Human Responsibilities 

While the pet product industry is doing a brisk business, the majority of pets today share beds or sleeping quarters in their households and are treated as beloved family members. It can even fall to the family pet to hold a family together through difficult times. The shared custody of pets after divorce is now commonplace.

But what fuels our passion to treat our animal friends as humans?  What does it suggest about what may be missing in our human relationships that we are ever increasingly treating our animal companions better than our extended family members or even our partners or spouses?

One of my students recently shared that she had given her mother a puppy for her birthday last year. The student did so because she knew her mother and father’s relationship was emotionally distant and, as a result, the mother was away from the home a great deal. She hoped the puppy would keep her around more often and that would help the relational rift of the parents.

At first, the mother didn’t want the pet and looked to place it elsewhere. In a very short time, the pet became the center of the mother’s life. She home cooked or prepared all of the dog’s meals, and she took it for acupuncture treatments every two weeks for a minor leg injury. The dog has a groomer, trainer, nutritionist and is currently interviewing for a doggie play group. The mother was around the home more often but now placed her whole focus and most of her time on caring for the pet.

What about this woman’s relationship with the husband? The student reported that her mother and father are civil to one another but there is no warmth or affection between them, unlike the unconditional and extravagant love the mother lavishes on the pet. Is it safer to love a pet rather than deal with the disappointment, conflicts and hard work of achieving a loving relationship with those closest to us?

Missing Relationships

Am I suggesting that loving our pets is wrong? Absolutely not–my family is blessed with not only a fabulous Maltese canine but also a yard full of llamas, sheep, horses and goats. Our pets are important to us. Pets enhance psychological and physical well being. They love us, heal us and help us live longer.

Numerous studies demonstrate the healing power of pets. A Perdue University study demonstrated that when seniors face traumas or other adversity, the affection received from their pets and the bond between them helps prevent depression and loneliness. Animals provide emotional support, which is an essential component for health and healing. There is a long list of health benefits from the companionship of animals.

But are we going overboard? The American Pet Product Manufacturers Association (APPMA) estimates that this year millions of pet owners will purchase a Valentine's gift for their pet, spending an average of $17 for the gift. Consumers will also spend an average of $6.30 on friends, $4.97 on classmates and teachers, and $3.41 on co-workers. What does this tell us? Maybe that we feel emotionally safer to love our pets or that perhaps it is less work and less vulnerable to love our pets than to develop close relationships with most of the humans we interact with on a daily basis.

Our pets love us unconditionally. They listen to us, don’t complain or express disappointment in who we are. They provide companionship without the politics or agenda of most human relationships.  They accept our love and affection the way we to give it and best of all–they happily return it. This is a wonderful thing, if it does not become a substitute for intimate human relationships. Emotional intimacy with others of our breed is critical to good health.

Emotional And Spiritual Intimacy 

We are complex beings who require physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy with others. Social networking has become the way we communicate and “do” relationships. These days it is often over e-mail and text messages that we are starting relationships or ending them, sharing major life events–even proposing marriage. The intimate contact with other human beings from even 10 years ago, before the dominance of the internet and cell phones, is being replaced in large part by our pets.

To achieve balance and wholeness in our lives, we need to keep an eye on how we allow technology, and the maddening pace of modern life, to cut us off from one another, create fear and competition that robs us of the beauty and fulfillment of intimate and loving human relationships.

Our pets can be an essential part of the fabric of our lives, but in the end our challenge and our hope is to develop human relationships within which we can share, exchange, empower and enoble one another to make our lives and the lives of others more rewarding and fulfilling. 

References:

      

Forgive For Your Own Good

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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.

The Nourishment Of Our Relationships

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We don’t often think of relationships as nutritious, but indeed they are. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, made a statement about the power of love and relationships and their importance to our happiness: “We are never so helplessly unhappy as when we lose love.”

A Little Knowledge

Freud knew something from his experience about the human condition because of his many years treating patients who experienced difficult, unfulfilling and loveless relationships. We often forget that those who love us and those we love fulfill our basic human need to be known, valued and wanted. All healthy human beings want to be valued and want to experience being cared for and treated respectfully. We want to receive affection from those we care about.

As an older adult who, like Freud, has seen the ravages of love’s loss, I have come to appreciate and cherish those in my life who fulfill my need to be valued and wanted, my need to be loved.

Perfect Memories

It is important for each of us to remember that no one is perfect and that if we expect perfection in love, we will surely be disappointed. One of the gifts of age and experience is the relief of realizing that each act of love we give from our imperfect self to another and the love given to us by imperfect others is the most important wealth we possess.

At the end of the day, when all else is stilled and the distractions of work, ambition, success and achievement are put aside, those we “go home to” and the nourishment they provide us are our real treasures.

May we take a moment each day to appreciate how profound a blessing the gift of relationship is in our lives. For a free download on enhancing your relationship through communication skills, visit http://www.changingbehavior.org/.