When to Take the High Road

As we get better at understanding and processing our emotions, we also begin to realize that sometimes we need to say something to another person about how they made us feel, and sometimes we choose not to. Sometimes, the choice to take the high road is the one that presents to us as the healthier option. Here are some general guidelines as to when to take the high road:

  • if your attempt to communicate is falling on deaf ears. If repeated attempts are not working, perhaps denial has gotten in the way. Dealing with a person who tends to be inflexible in their thinking will often produce the same result as they are not open to hearing it.
  • it isn’t the right time. Sometimes a moment calls for an open conversation and sometimes the timing is off. ‘Sleeping on it’ is always a good rule of thumb in creating enough space for processing.
  • it will only lead to conflict. If we know that someone is defensive or conflict driven, sometimes it isn’t worth the time or energy for the debate.
  • it just doesn’t feel right. When we take the time to reflect on how we are feeling; when we examine the what if’s about speaking up or taking the high road, our instincts will usually guide us in making the decision.

The important piece when taking the high road is to remain committed to processing the emotion surrounding the upset. Perhaps you have brought it to therapy, talked with a trusted friend, taken a long walk to mull it over. When we choose to take the high road it usually comes with a feeling of peace; choosing grace to build upon itself. And when it just doesn’t feel right to take the high road, that is when we pluck up our courage to say something – rewarding the effort and not the outcome, reminding ourselves that we are important too. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Am I Dating A Narcissist?

As I often note, everything exists on a continuum. The same can be said for narcissistic behaviour; if it goes to far, it can develop into a disorder. Unfortunately, if you are dating someone who exhibits narcissistic traits, you will most likely be left in their dust, as they require a whole lot of time and attention and often have difficulty giving it back. Here are some traits that tend to be narcissistic in nature and can lead to you wondering if you are dealing with a narcissist.

  1. They have a sense of entitlement and tend to feel they are superior to others. Although a narcissist is in fact, insecure, they present themselves in the beginning as being quite charming and confident. Not too long into the relationship, you will begin to notice that the narcissist only feels safe in top position, and they feel entitled to getting their own way, all the time.
  2. They have a constant need for attention. From you and from others; which often leads to narcissists either being unfaithful or finding someone else at the tail end of a relationship so that they aren’t alone. It is a process of validation that is tiring and without end.
  3. They have trouble taking responsibility for their actions. Narcissists tend to carry shame (that is masked of course by their sense of superiority), and so admitting that they made a mistake will threaten their tightly veiled system.
  4. They don’t tend to have a lot of empathy. Because their emotional capacity is limited, and they put lots of energy into producing a false sense of self, they really don’t have time to think about how you feel.
  5. They can turn on a dime. You are either the love of their life or their worst enemy; and they reflect both in their actions towards you.

As we all know, we can’t change another person. There are times in relationship, when changing our reactions or our choices can influence the relationship in a way that can produce a desired effect. Dealing with a narcissist; however, can prove to be a very unsatisfying experience as their need to maintain their false sense of self trumps their desire to have a healthy relationship.

Bottom line? If you see the red flags, heed them ๐Ÿ™‚

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Power in the Pause

In a past blog post, I spoke about the difference between a reaction and a response. Our reactions tend to be immediate – based more on the action urges that come as a result of our feelings, whereas a response tends to be more mindful. A reaction stays in the emotion brain, a response allows the rational brain to chime in.

The window of slowing down between a reaction and a response is the pause. It is that moment of recognition that things could go sideways fast – words that can’t be unspoken, behaviours that can’t be undone. There is power in the pause; it allows us to set our ego aside and become aware of the repercussions. It allows us to identify our feelings.

Taking a deep breath and leaning into the pause can help us to prevent:

  • the “0 to 60 response”
  • name calling or yelling
  • blaming others
  • “he said/she said” behaviours
  • “eye for an eye” behaviours
  • the look of hurt on someone’s face
  • the fearful look on a child’s face

Learning to slow down our reaction comes from the same place where we learned that it was somehow okay to skip past the feeling and go straight to the action urge. What is learned can be unlearned. When we know that there is power in the pause, we can use it to feel more grounded, stay mindful, and improve our communication skills. Sounds like a good plan to me ๐Ÿ™‚

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Healthy Relationships; Part 3

The choices that we make in a relationship are either going to help feed the health of a relationship or the dysfunction of it. In our last post about healthy relationships, I would like to talk about behaviour.

In any couple union, we are two individuals within a dyad. Although it is important that individual interests are respected within the relationship, the behaviours you choose are better served through the eyes of the relationship. Some examples of behaviours that feed the dysfunction:

  • not purposefully answering texts or phone calls (in an effort to avoid or ignore)
  • not asking your spouse if a certain weekend is free, or what needs to happen with everyone’s schedule before making individual plans (this is not about asking permission – it is about being respectful of everyone’s time)
  • making fun of your partner (in a way that is meant to embarrass or put down)
  • any form of unfaithful behaviour
  • expecting partner to carry more of the workload, finances (unless its agreed upon)

Examples of behaviours that feed the health of the relationship:

  • listening to your partner’s ideas or opinions
  • any form of affection or term of endearment
  • encouraging each other in accomplishments and successes
  • purposely doing small things for each other out of kindness

Whether you are contemplating a relationship, single and working towards one, or currently in a relationship, healthy relationships require trust, respect, open communication and investment. They can be built, but it is important for us to keep in mind, that in order for the foundation to be strong, we need both partners in on the work. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Healthy Relationships: Part 2

Yesterday we looked at communication and what that looks like in a healthy relationship. Today, the big word is investment. When a relationship is healthy, there is a general sense that both people are invested in the relationship. We can see this in the following ways:

  1. Respect. When two people care about the relationship, they are interested in their spouse’s wishes, feelings and opinions. They are able to respect each other’s privacy, not want to purposefully hurt their feelings and when they inadvertently do, they are able to apologize.
  2. Compromise. Decisions within a couple are not always easily solved; sometimes we can go up, down, and all around with conflicting opinions. But when two people are invested in the relationship, they understand that compromise and finding a solution are what keep a relationship strong.
  3. Having fun together. Invested couples enjoy each other’s company whether that be sitting across from the table from one another, sitting by a campfire, kayaking together, window shopping along a city street, watching a show together, going for a drive, playing a board game. They tend to find common interests in order to keep their friendship alive within the marriage.

Investment by both partners is an important element in a healthy relationship; it brings about feelings of security, comfort and the overall sense of a deepening love. Tomorrow will be our third part in our quest for what to look for in a healthy relationship.

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What to Look For in a Healthy Relationship: Part 1

One of the things we often want in a relationship is good communication. But what does that really mean?

  1. Consistency. When communication is healthy, there is consistency. Texts are answered in a fairly timely matter and communication routines get set over time (chatting over dinner about your day, phone call at lunch, daily contact when one is away, etc.) When consistency exists in communication, we are not left in a position of guessing and we can begin to count on our partner to be there for us when we reach out.
  2. General sense of openness. Let’s face it; having to tell our partner when we are upset about something is not always easy. Being on the receiving end of constructive criticism can also raise our defenses. But overall, when communication is open, there is a general feeling that approaching our spouse with something sensitive is going to be received in a respectful way.
  3. Anger doesn’t lead. When communication is healthy, anger doesn’t take center stage. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t disagreements, and of course, tempers will flare. But the focus then moves into repair. No silent treatment for days, no brooding or grudge holding as a way to punish. If anger is leading, you have lost the openness of healthy communication.

Communication is an important element in creating a healthy relationship; requiring a balance between our feelings, thoughts and actions. If newly dating, be cautious if these characteristics are not present (remember, people show you who they are early on) and keep in mind, that this is all workable stuff when both people in the relationship are invested. ๐Ÿ™‚ Tomorrow we will continue our exploration of what healthy relationships look like.

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Giving Ourselves the Same Grace

We tend to afford the people in our life empathy and compassion. Although at times it may be difficult to accept their difficult characteristics or what they can’t provide to us, weย  usually get ourselves to a place of acceptance; understanding that it is less about potential and more about capacity. We encourage and support our loved ones, provide praise for their achievements, forgive their mistakes, and by doing so, give them permission to grow.

What about our relationships to our self? Ultimately, we tend to be more grounded when we include ourselves in the group of ‘our loved ones.’ In order to give ourselves the same graces that we give to others, let’s keep in mind:

  • Our internal voice. If you wouldn’t say it to your child, spouse, friend, colleague – let’s not say it to ourselves.
  • Permission. Just as we give others faith in the capacity to change, so can we give ourselves permission. Permission to try something new, permission to change something we don’t like, permission to challenge our fears, permission to take the first step, permission to try.
  • Compassion. We can see ourselves in the same light that we afford others – by forgiving ourselves, giving ourselves a break, recognizing when we are being too hard on ourselves.

Let’s begin by simply including ourselves as being an integral part in who we consider our loved ones. By doing so, we begin to recognize our own value and the way we treat others will be afforded to us as well; leaving us to feel honoured, calm and cared for.

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A Phrase We Need to Learn to Say to Our Kids

In an article entitled “Author Kelly Corrigan reveals the hardest thing she says to her kids” by Allison Slater Tate and featured on Today.com, Tate writes about four phrases that we need to get comfortable saying to our children. Based on Corrigan’s book, “Tell Me More,”ย  I especially resonated with the first one featured in the article:

  • “I don’t know.” Tate writes: “In our effort to soothe our kids with an immediate answer โ€” often delivered with high conviction โ€” we are perpetuating an intolerance for uncertainty that carries into adulthood,” Corrigan told Today. She suggested establishing an “I don’t know” household, where everybody is comfortable with the phrase. “If you were to raise your kids to be able to live with the answer, ‘I don’t know, let me think about that,’ then you might help them introduce that critical pause between impulse and decision that could take them down different and better roads for the rest of their lives,” she said.

Let’s face it, sometimes we just don’t know the answer to something. Sometimes we don’t have the answer ourselves, especially when it involves an existential unknown. Sometimes we need to sleep on something before we give them an answer. In any case, being vulnerable to not knowing something gives your children permission to also pause when necessary, reflect, and process. And to accept that there are some things in life that we just don’t have an answer for, and that is okay. ๐Ÿ™‚

To read the full article:ย https://www.today.com/parents/tell-me-more-author-kelly-corrigan-t153170

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The Difference Between Potential and Capable

Relationship issues are often at the forefront in individual therapy. It can be a current issue that is affecting a relationship or it can be an issue that is historical and has always existed – a parent’s continued expectations or lack of acceptance, a sibling who is jealous and drama driven, a partner who is unmotivated.ย  Whatever the issue is, it remains something difficult to conquer, a continued disappointment; it has become unmanageable or heavy.

When it comes to relationships, we often grant our loved ones withย  “potential.” We see their good qualities, their soft side, we may see how they treat other people (or animals) and wish they could afford us the same care. Sometimes we reflect on how it was in the beginning. We see their potential. It is a word that is filled with hope but is also one that pertains to the future. That one day, our loved one might achieve what we wish them to achieve; that one day, we may see the change we have so been wishing for.

We are much better served to look at the capacity of our loved ones. We all have our wounds that get in the way of growth; our qualities, learned behaviours and patterns, our way of processing the world, our way of being. Perhaps our loved one will never be capable of giving us what we need. Perhaps they lack the capacity based on their own defenses. When we look at the capacity of our loved one, it gives us permission to either accept it or leave it. In either case, our hope is a realistic one and we are able ourselves to come to a place of greater empathy and compassion, not only for our loved one but for ourselves as well.

Potential versus capable; there is a difference ๐Ÿ™‚

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The True Task Before Us When it Comes to Love

This quote from Rumi gives us some food for thought:

โ€œYour task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.โ€ย  – Rumi

When you come to think about it, our built in attachment system sets us up to be able to love and to be loved back. It is what we have been taught about love or our negative experiences with desire, tenderness and devotion that tend to build walls around our hearts. If we are fortunate enough to have been raised in an environment that enabled us to be secure in our attachment, we are one step closer to not allowing our barriers to prevent us from the affection of others.

And if our childhood brought us pain, or those we sought out in love were not kind to us, we can still be in charge of our own destiny when it comes to love. By leaning into Rumi’s advice, we can explore our own barriers and make the choice to give our hearts first to ourselves, clearing a path for those that will follow. ๐Ÿ™‚

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