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April 2011

netPsychologist.com Newsletter

Tools and Tips For Success Validation

Ignored, Overlooked, Invisible (Can You Relate?)

Maybe you think you're alone in feeling alone, or even weird for wanting to love and be loved. The truth is, most people want and need this for their emotional health.

Feeling alone is like being at a party where not only do you not know anyone, but no one talks to you. That is a pretty hard-core feeling and when it becomes a way of life it has devastating consequences on health. People feel marginalized, alienated and dead inside when their loneliness is not managed.

I have yet to work with a single person who does not want to be recognized and seen as a unique individual. Some people are on the egotistical end of that spectrum and others on the self demeaning end. But no one really wants to go through life an invisible, unsung hero.

The cure for feeling alone is to receive validation from someone we trust. People need to be seen and recognized for their uniqueness. This is not just for kids. The genuine secret is, adults crave it as well.

"I love you," is good to hear, but it's almost cliché. Those are great words to say but they need to be followed up with specificity in order to convey real validation of the uniqueness of the person you love. It doesn't take a lot of creativity to use a few more words to describe the reality you experience in someone to whom you're willing to say, "I love you." It just takes a little honesty.

"I love your humor. I love your beauty. I love your creativity. I love your loyalty. I love your tolerance and forgiving spirit. I love the way you administer compassion. I love the way you touch me." The personalized list can easily go on until the person you're speaking to squirms with delight.

You can deepen the experience by being even more descriptive. "Your beauty is like the Grand Canyon. Your humor is like a refreshing mountain brook. Your touch is like lemon cup cakes in my mouth."

By itself, being told we are loved is rarely enough to cure feeling alone. Fleshing out the list of things that make your beloved attractive to you is the best way to say to them, "I see you and you are not alone."

(Skip this if you never get angry.)

There is research to show that exercise blunts anger. So, for example, if you know you're going into a situation that's likely to make you angry, go for a run first. That, or some other kind of exercise could help you manage your anger better.

However, for most of us it's much more complicated than that. Although anger is a normal human experience, some will say that anger is one of the most universal and destructive moods. The destructive aspects of anger come into play when anger is mis-directed or applied where it doesn't belong.

The more common destructive application of anger or rage is not physical but emotional. Emotional abuse is so common it can be taken for granted as "normal" and often not even recognized as abuse. In the long run, it can do more damage to a person than physical abuse.

It's been a horrible day for you. You know the drill: gridlock traffic, coworkers and bosses that get crosswise with you. Technology that doesn't work properly. The last straw is when you bend over to pick something up off the floor and the seam in the seat of your pants rips.

But you are able to manage your anger and frustration. Some one lends you a few safety pins and you get through the work day. You walk through the door at home and someone (or animal) you live with says or does the "wrong" thing. And they get it! No, it's not physical, but it's a nasty mood that you brought home and it leads to emotionally abusive interaction: yelling, name-calling, put-downs, blame for things that person had nothing to do with, etc.

Many couples and family members have figured out that a transition period is necessary before interacting with family once you get home. Go to the bedroom before you speak to anybody. Set the pillow up on the bed and pound the pillow. Yell at the pillow all the obscenities you need. Tell the pillow how hard it's been for you because of it getting in your way of progress all day long. Blame it for all your woes. Rip the pillow to shreds to show the pillow how you felt when it split your pants open. Flog the bed with the pillow until your arms are weak. Not only will you feel better after 15 to 30 minutes of this kind of exercise, but you will be a nicer person to live with for the rest of the evening.

Emotional abuse is almost always misplaced anger. Work out your anger literally either with exercise and/or with verbalization's rather than emotionally beating up on your loved ones.

Anger is emotional waste in a manner similar to physical waste. Making waste is a sign of life. How we manage the waste is what matters. Most homes have bathrooms and commodes that accommodate physical dumps. We also need homes that matter-of-factly provide spaces (and time) for emotional dumps.

"Hey Dad, where are you?"
"I'm in here taking an emotional dump, working on my anger. Leave me alone. We can talk when I'm done."
"Hurry up. I need to use the anger room myself!"
"Son, use the one down the hall! I'm in here now."

Taking an emotional dump, that is relieving yourself of pent-up anger, in the wrong place at the wrong time in the presence of the wrong people has negative consequences you will regret in much the same way you will regret taking a physical dump in the wrong room at the wrong time with the wrong people present.

"...to feel myself beloved on the earth."

Raymond Carver

 

The Antidote To Guilt and Shame math formula

"And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth."

from "A New Path To The Waterfall," by Raymond Carver

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I asked Natalie Goldberg while taking one of her writing workshop what literature is. She immediately read this Ray Carver poem to the class. He wrote it shortly before his untimely death due to lung cancer.

Ray Carver was a recovering alcoholic who fought for his sobriety. He knew guilt and shame. He also discovered that if we are loved, feel accepted, loved and validated, the feelings of unworthiness and embarrassment evaporate.

 

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