Saturday, February 21, 2009

Conflict: Why Do You Argue, Why Do You Fight in Conflict?

Think about the last time you had a conflict with someone and you argued either with your partner, your friend, your parent, your child, or someone else in your life.

What did you argue about, and why did you spend your energy arguing or fighting?


Here are some of the reasons you might argue and fight in conflict situations:

* You believe that you can get the other person to see things your way - that if you say the right thing, be very convincing, be very logical and rational, be right, be parental, talk very loudly, yell, threaten, blame, attack, call names, or even hit - you can have control over getting the other person to think and feel the way you want. You believe that not only can you win, but that you can somehow have control over the other's thoughts and feelings.

The problem is that, while you might be able to get control over another's behavior, you cannot control their thought and feelings. No matter how right you are, another thoughts and feelings are not yours to control.

* Dumping anger on another person may be a way of not dealing with your own feelings. Perhaps you are projecting your own self-abandonment onto the other person, i.e. you are not listening to or hearing yourself so you attack the other person for not listening to you or hearing. Or you are judging yourself so you attack the other person for judging you. If you are judging yourself or not listening to yourself and not taking responsibility for your own feelings, then you may be blaming the other person for the guilt, shame and aloneness you feel within.

* Perhaps you are terrified that if you are open with the other person, especially your partner, that your partner will see things about you that he or she doesn't like. You might be using fighting as a way to avoid true intimacy, while at the same time creating a connection through the fighting. The connection you feel through fighting might feel safer than creating true intimacy.

* Perhaps you are afraid that if you get really close to someone, you will lose yourself or be taken advantage of. If this is the case, fighting might be a way to feel safe from engulfment. Once again, you can feel some connection through the fighting without actually having to feel close enough to lose yourself to the other person.

* Perhaps arguing and fighting is the only way you know to assuage your fears of rejection. Fighting might give you a sense of control over not losing the other person.

* Perhaps you feel frustrated and helpless in a job situation or a situation with someone else, and fighting with the person you are fighting with is a way to release the frustration and gain back a feeling of control.

* Anger and arguing can be an addictive way of avoiding your feelings of aloneness and loneliness. All addictive behavior cover up painful feelings, and anger and arguing are no exceptions.


Until you want 100% responsibility for all of your own feelings - your feelings of anger, frustration, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, fear, hurt, loneliness, aloneness, helplessness over others and outcomes, and so on - you may continue to use arguing and fighting as ways to avoid this responsibility. Until you are ready to lovingly attend to your own feelings with a deep and compassionate desire to learn about your own thoughts, beliefs and behavior that create your feelings, you may be stuck trying to control others into making you feel better. And until you fully accept your lack of control over others thoughts and feelings, you might continue to attempt have control through arguing and fighting.

Friday, February 20, 2009

We Don't Have Friends, We Have Mirrors

Tonight I was in a coaching class and the instructor made the statement, “We don’t have friends, we have mirrors.” I thought that was so interesting because it is describing the law of attraction, that what we are, we attract. What we reap, we sow, etc. We develop friendships with people who have similar interests, backgrounds, or other commonalities such as location, career choice or even mental outlook.

The friends as mirrors concept is really great. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have lots of different friends that reflect different sides of your personalities, or your different moods. I admire my friends for different reasons and have different types of conversations with them when I’m with them.

I have my old friends from high school. With a couple of my friends, we can’t go 10 minutes without reverting back to talking about people from high school or talking about the “old days”. My husband just LOVES to hang out and listen to us rant and rave about all of these people who he doesn’t know! But even though I know how bored he is, I cant’ help but laugh and whoop it up with these friends even when the stories we’ve told have grown so old that my husband could recite them from memory. Then, I have friends that I talk “kids” with on a regular basis. We share our secrets for motivating our kids or swap stories back and forth of how the kids are doing at school. Several of these friends I see at school so we also have that in common. I find it comforting to connect with these friends a few times a week for short minutes at a time. I know they’re living their personal or work life in between the hours of 8-3:00PM like I am and many of us are doing kid stuff in the afternoons like Taekwando.

I have my “beautiful friends” who I talk to about staying in shape and working out. I want to spend even more time with these friends as this is an important part of my life right now. But truth be known, I sometimes avoid these friends if I’m feeling particularly sluggish, fat, or the feeling I’m having a bad hair day. And if I’m going to see any of them, I usually work out hard for several days in a row to drop a few lbs before I have to go out with them. It’s always great motivation having friends like these. I know they’re not judging me, but they genuinely know my desire to be in shape so they come armed with lots of ideas and motivation.

I have my “TV” or “PR” friends who have creative minds and are constantly in the “Know.” I find them intriguing and exciting and when I’m around them, I want to appear brilliant, creative and witty. Of course this doesn’t always happen and so I sometimes have to get back with them about something I’ve found out that they might like. I always want to feel like I’m bringing them as much value as they bring me. These folks are similar to my work associates or friends. These are people I’ve worked with or for through the years, and we catch up a few times a year. I enjoy hearing about their lives and their triumphs as well as their struggles. I knew them for a “season” in my life when we were close and although we’ll never be that close again, we’ll still remain friends, just at a distance.

Then I have a few of those, “just come as you are” type of friends. We have no masks, no games, and no agenda. We can pour out our hearts to one another without the risk of rejection and no fear of losing the friendship. These are the friends whose calls I’ll take any time of the day or night, and will return their call promptly as soon as I see it on the screen. These friends include my mom and my sister, and a few others who will always be some of my best friends. We can go months without talking, or talk every day, but the intimacy and realness is always there.

I’ve had to let a few friends go here and there. The ones who had unreal expectations of the amount of time I was able to offer in friendship, were told the truth. Others had other agendas in their lives that made it hard to relate. Still others, didn’t understand my role as a mom and the choices I made separated us by our own individual beliefs. Some new friends have had to be told that I’m just not able to get together now due to some additional responsibilities, and that in a few months, my personal situation will probably be a bit different. I’ve found that honesty is the best policy, because even new friends can tend to get their feelings hurt when you don’t respond to their invitations.

Some friends I’m surprised are still with me. I’ve been through so many personal ups and downs that I can’t believe they’re still around to cheer me on. Other friends, I wish I could connect with more, but for one reason or another their lives have taken them on a completely different journey. Many of them I miss, and will always think of them often.

If our friends are our mirrors, I’m feeling pretty good right about now. Even though my life isn’t full of socializing, I still feel the closeness of a few very dear friends and blessed to enjoy the personalities of many interesting individuals who I enjoy wholeheartedly. Lives become rich because of the friends we keep and the relationships we nurture.

We don’t have friends, we have mirrors. What is in your mirror today? =)

9 Ways That Humor Heals

Of all my tools to combat depression and negativity, humor is by far the most fun. And just like mastering the craft of writing, I’m finding that the longer I practice laughing at life—and especially its frustrations–the better I become at it, and the more situations and conversations and complications I can place into that category named “silly.”

G. K. Chesterton once wrote: “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” And Proverbs 17:22 says that “a happy heart is good medicine.” I’d add that human beings can heal (at least partially!) from a host of different illnesses if they learn how to laugh. Here are just a few ways our bodies, minds, and spirits begin to mend with a dose of humor.

1. Humor combats fear.

I know this first hand, having sat in a community room of a psych ward watching a video of a comedian poke fun at depression. Like everyone else occupying a chair in that room, I was scared to death. Of many things … That I would never smile again. Or love again. Or even WANT to love again. I was fearful of life, and everything it involved.

That panic didn’t instantly transform into a hearty chuckle once the psych nurse popped in the funny video. But the climate of the room was noticeably different. Patients began to open up more, to share some of the details they had left out in the prior group therapy session.

Humor disengages fear because it changes your perspective: of the past and of the present. The traumatic childhood episode loses its tight grip on your heart if you can place it into the “ridiculous” category of other stories from the past. With a playful perspective, you can remove yourself from the marital problem that has you debilitated with anxiety. Laughter forces a few steps–some much-needed distance– between a situation and our reaction. We all would do well to follow the advice of Leo Buscaglia: “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. And swing!”

2. Humor comforts.

Charlie Chaplin once said, “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” I suppose that’s why some of the funniest people out there—Stephen Colbert, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, Art Buchwald—have journeyed through periods of torment.

There is an unspoken message hidden within a chuckle–even the slightest cackle– that says this: “I promise, you’ll get through this.” Just like the comforting hug of your mom when you were three. In fact, New York City’s Big Apple Circus has used humor to console sick children since 1986, when they started sending teams of clowns into hospital rooms with “rubber chicken soup” and other fun surprises. “It’s for the children, yes,” explains Jane Englebardt, deputy director of the circus, in an “American Fitness” article. “But it’s also for the parents who, when they hear their children laugh for the first time in days or weeks, know everything’s going to be O.K.”

3. Humor relaxes.

Like any exercise, laughing relaxes you, and works against chronic stress that most Americans wear on the shoulder. Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., a heart surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, explains why this is so in a 2005 “Reader’s Digest” article:

When you push any engine, including your body, to its maximum, every once in a while it slips a gear. The ways the body manifests that are: irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, and increased sensitivity to pain. When people use humor, the autonomic nervous system just tones down a bit to take it off high gear, and that allows the heart to relax.

4. Humor reduces pain.

Apparently the psych nurses at Laurel Regional Hospital weren’t the only ones gathering patients around the TV to watch funny flicks or videos. Dr. Elias Shaya, chief of psychiatry at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore also tries to instill the importance of laughter in his patients. Says Dr. Shaya: “I advocate finding ways to laugh by watching comedy or engaging in looking up jokes and sharing them.”

“Humor rooms,” which encourage people to use humor in their recovery from any kind of illness, are now available in some hospitals. And science backs these efforts. In a study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing, humor very definitely seemed to diminish pain. Says Dave Traynor, M.Ed, director of health education at Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield Center, Connecticut in “American Fitness”: “After surgery, patients were told one-liners prior to administration of potentially painful medication. The patients exposed to humor perceived less pain as compared to patients who didn’t receive humor stimuli.”

5. Humor boosts the immune system.

Whenever I prick myself accidentally, I tell a joke, and my finger doesn’t bleed! Well, not exactly. But if you are laid up in bed with a terrible strain of the flu that your four-year-old brought home from her play date yesterday, try to find an itsy-bitsy thread of humor in your situation, and you’ll be back to work in no time. Or, better yet, dwell in the misery and stay away from the cubicle longer.

In 2006 researchers led by Lee Berk and Stanley A. Tan at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Califormia, found that two hormones—beta-endorphins (which alleviate depression) and human growth hormone (HGH, which helps with immunity) increased by 27 and 87 percent respectively when volunteers anticipated watching a humorous video. Simply anticipating laughter boosted health-protecting hormones and chemicals.

In his “American Fitness” article, Dave Traynor explains a separate study at Arkansas Tech University, in which concentrations of immunoglobulin A were increased after 21 fifth graders participated in a humor program. (I’m nervous to hear about the details of that fifth-grade humor program, because my kids roar whenever you throw out a bathroom term.) Laughter was once again found to increase the ability to fight viruses and foreign cells.

6. Humor reduces stress.

The same research team at Loma Linda, California, conducted a similar study recently to see if the anticipation of laughter that was shown to boost immune systems could also reduce the levels of three stress hormones: cortisol (”the stress hormone”), epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopac, a dopamine catabolite (brain chemical which helps produce epinephrine).

They studied 16 fasting males, who were assigned to either the control group or the experiment group (those anticipating a humorous event). Blood levels showed that the stress hormones were reduced 39, 70, and 38 percent respectively. Therefore, researchers suggest that anticipating a positive event can reduce detrimental stress hormones.

7. Humor spreads happiness.

I remember playing the game of “Ha” as a young girl at my third-grade slumber party. I would lay my head on my friend’s tummy, and she would lay her head on another friend’s tummy, and so on. The first person would start the chain of laughs with a simple, “Ha!” The second person, “Ha Ha!” The third, “Ha Ha Ha,” at which point everyone would break into hysterics. About absolutely nothing. The way a person’s abdomen tightens and moves when she says “ha” makes you want to giggle.

My point: laughter is contagious. That’s why there are 5,000 laughter clubs around the world—where people laugh for no reason at all. Say what? According to Dr. Shaya of Good Samaritan Hospital, “These clubs have exercises that teach how to move your face, how to laugh more intensely to involve the shoulders, then the belly.” Laughing yoga classes are also popular today.

8. Humor cultivates optimism.

Humor is like gratitude in that it nurtures optimism, and Dan Baker writes this in “What Happy People Know”:

[Appreciation] is the first and most fundamental happiness tool. … Research now shows it is physiologically impossible to be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time. Thus, appreciation is the antidote to fear.

So if humor can change a perspective on a painful memory of the past or a gnawing issue of the present into opportunities to laugh at the inherent craziness of life at times, then a person can better facilitate his own healing.

9. Humor helps communication.

This is good marriage advice for anyone. But especially for the person prone to anxiety and depression. Most of Eric’s and my fights end with one of us making a sarcastic remark that is met with a snicker, and then a yuk, and then a roar. Voila! The quarrel is magically resolved! Sort of.

Humor is a way to articulate those truths that are so difficult to express otherwise. It’s handy language for someone like myself that doesn’t like to use big words, who is still fretting about her low verbal SAT scores because the college administrators didn’t think they were funny. If only they had read this article!