As people, we make mistakes all the time, but we tend to vary in the way we respond to it emotionally. Some of us feel embarrassed, angry or disappointed. Many of us feel guilt and/or shame but only few might know the differences between these two emotions. In order to tolerate, accept and learn from our mistakes, it is important and helpful to be able to separate these emotions. First off, let’s define these emotions. Here is the most commonly agreed definition:
Guilt is “I have done something wrong; therefore I FEEL bad about it”
Shame is “I have done something wrong; therefore I AM bad.”
Guilt is about feeling badly about the actions; which helps us separate our actions from our self -identity, and in turn have the motivation to change those actions. However, shame influences our view of our self as a whole. It leads us to think that it was not just “some” action I have taken that is bad, but it’s me and who I am that is bad. Shame can lead to the view of self as inadequate, inferior, and/or unworthy which are ingredients to having low self-esteem. As a result, change becomes much more challenging and daunting because now we are faced with the question of how can I change who I am at my core. Shame leads to a negative evaluation of our self whereas with guilt it is about the negative evaluation of the action. Guilt is “I made a mistake” vs. Shame is “I am a mistake.”
When shame is tied to who we are it has additional negative consequences. When feeling shame and thinking badly of ourselves we often isolate and disconnect. When guilt guides us to look at the behavior, it also allows us to reach out and repair by owning up to our actions and making amends. Therefore, guilt has a more healing power to bring us together and strengthen our connections. When you notice the differences between connections vs. disconnection, then it goes without saying that guilt is a healthy emotion where shame is unhealthy.
Now that you have a clear distinction between these two emotions here are some helpful tips:
1. When addressing a conflict, focus on your actions and take responsibility for them by saying, “OK I did say (blank) or I did do (blank).”
2. Avoid making any connection between the action and yourself, for example: do not make the conclusion that “because I did (blank), I must be (blank)” such as “because I cheated on my partner, I must be a bad person.”
3. Identify few ways you can make amends giving the context of the mistake and the relationship it affected, i.e. professional vs. personal relationship.
Part of this awareness is to look at how mistakes were handled when you were growing up? What did the process of forgiveness look like? Were there a lot of grudges and mistakes being used as ammunition? If these questions are sparking an interest, then therapy might be the right place to explore more. Let’s talk!
Tell me the first word that comes to your mind when you hear the word Love? Is it: romance; passion; understanding; respect; trust or security? Love means different things to different people. So is there a right answer? Absolutely not! The key is to simply ask yourself the question; what does love mean to me? How do I define it? Maybe some of the words described above will be the answer or maybe it’s more complicated than just one word. Many of us are in search of love but haven’t taken the time to figure out how we define it and how we like to give and receive love. Once you figure out how you define love; then you must communicate it! What do I mean by that? It’s the process of assessing if the elements that you use to describe love are present in your current relationship. For example, if love means trust and intimacy; and you find out that there are plenty of trust but little intimacy; then you focus on addressing the intimacy. In any couple’s relationship, it is crucial to voice our needs and wants but also know when we need to re-assess and re-negotiate. Re-assessing and re-negotiating mean taking the time to communicate whether your needs are being met. If you decide to improve the intimacy in your relationship, after making some changes, you want to check in with your partner and communicate if the new actions you two have taken are working. On Valentine’s day and throughout the year, love not only be celebrated but also explored, communicated and worked on!
When you first thought of what love is, how quickly did you think of the question in relation to another person? Since we are wired for social connection, it’s very common to explore your definition of love in context of a romantic relationship. However when we jump right into thinking of it in context of a relationship with a partner, we miss a very crucial step: the Self-Love. One thing that is well known and agreed upon is that you can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself first. Now let’s think about how you define love in context of you! What are the words that come to your mind when you hear “Self-Love;” is it authenticity; self-identity; compassion; boundaries or respect? Do the words change or remain the same when you think of self-love vs. love for someone else? Self-love is not different in that when we define what it means for us, we also need to practice it. Maintaining healthy boundaries and a stable balance in our lives are just some ways we can maintain self-love. How do you practice elements of love for yourself? How do you engage in self-respect or self-compassion? What about honesty with one self? If any of these questions gets you thinking, then therapy might be the right place for you to explore more.
“What’s your New Year’s resolution?” A common question asked in a family gathering, a work party or a social event. It’s a question that some have a very definite answer, where others refuse to come up with one. In their defense, the New Year’s resolution doesn’t have the best reputation. Often the number of people who stick to their resolution decreases as the months go by. By the end of the year only a very few have followed through and accomplished their goals. So one wonders, if the success of the New Year’s resolution is so low, why do we still talk about it? What’s behind this annual ritual? I think that the most important motive behind the resolution is a desire for change. There are often many things we wish to change in our lives, which could be about work, relationships, physical health or leisure time. And for some reason change is often pursued at a particular time, like the first day of the week, first day of the month or the first day of the year! We seem to look for an external motivator to get us going; like a noticeable time. And I think this is where it fails; we can’t rely on some external source for change. It needs to come from an internal motivator. So you have to ask yourself what do I want different out of 2018? Why do I want that? Asking these questions are only the first step to change; but the answer to it can build the foundation to the change you are seeking.
Grief is a type of experience where no two people may respond the same way. This complicated and notably painful experience can be even more challenging during the holidays. As we come together to celebrate the Thanksgiving, it can be helpful to rely on some tools to protect and experience our grief while enjoying the holiday. David Kessler is one of the world’s foremost experts on healing and loss. Here are three important tools he discussed to help you deal with the holidays.
First of all, let go off expectations! It doesn’t matter if this is your first year without your loved one or your tenth year; every year can and may feel different. Therefore, allow yourself to let go of how it should be and be present in what it is. Kessler reminds us that releasing the expectation can release the pressure.
The second tool is that your grief is nobody else’s business! We tend to worry about what others think not only during the holidays but also throughout the year. It will be making things more difficult on us if we worry about what others think about the way we grief. Kessler reminds us that our focus needs to be on honoring the loss. That means letting go of what people think and focus on doing what you need to do to feel your grief. For example, you might want to visit the cemetery before heading out to a Thanksgiving dinner. It is OK to take the time to connect with your grief and your loved one.
Last tool to consider is to give thanks for the loved one. This might be the most challenging. It may be hard for us to find gratitude in the midst of our pain. Kessler reminds us that the goal isn’t to feel gratitude instead of the pain but in addition to it. When you remember a memory or something you love about the one you lost; you give thanks by saying, “I am grateful we went to that trip” or “I am grateful for his humor.” Kessler says, “What you water is what you grow.” How will you give thanks to feel your grief and gratitude?
When things get stressful and sometimes overbearing, we find comfort in things around us. Sometimes it’s a song or a picture that reminds us of our strength. It can also be a transitional object that belonged to a loved one or from a period in the past that made us happy. For me, it has always been inspirational quotes that guide me back to my path. Research shows that words that make up our internal dialogue have a great deal of influence on our moods and overall view of others, the future and ourselves. Negative and self-discouraging self-talk can cloud our judgments. We can connect with quotes to regain our motivation and strength. Below are a few of my favorite quotes. Now it’s your turn to find your inspiration!
We cannot start over, but we can begin now, and make a new ending- Zig Ziglar
In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself – Deepak Chopra
What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create – Buddha
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change – Wayne Dyer
Every human being on this planet has their pain and their heartache and it’s up to all of us to find our way back to light – Diana Nyad
The inspiration you seek is already within you. Be silent and listen – Rumi
If you don’t make peace with your past, it will keep showing up in your present. – Wayne Dyer
Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny – C.S. Lewis
To the heart in you, don’t be afraid to feel.
To the sun in you, don’t be afraid to shine.
To the love in you, don’t be afraid to heal.
To the ocean in you, don’t be afraid to rage.
To the silence in you, don’t be afraid to break. – Najwa Zebian
In psychotherapy, often there are goals about emotions. In particular, finding ways to manage and reduce their destructiveness. Most avoid, repress or run away from their feelings. Learning how to manage our emotions and lead an emotionally friendly life lies in understanding and believing in the purpose of our emotions. Emotions exist for a reason. Often they are messengers; guiding us to pay attention to what is going on within or around us. For example anger often alarms violation of one’s values, needs or boundaries. Anxiety can alarm to us to danger. Depression can point to the dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment in one’s life. We have an opportunity to grow when we start to embrace our emotions rather than reject them. In order to learn from our emotions we must first recognize and identify them. When you notice yourself experiencing an emotion, label it! Use of an emotion-chart can be helpful tool. When that emotion is recognized it is important to accept its existence. Be a good host and welcome the emotion with kindness and compassion. If we can learn to accept emotions, then we are one-step closer to tolerating them. Lastly, share your feelings. You can write about, draw it, or simply talk about it. Most importantly express it! Remember, emotions have a tendency to pile up when ignored.
We often hear “be grateful for what you have,” “count your blessings,” and “there is so much to be thankful for.” While we believe there to be a truth in these phrases, it seems easier said than done. What are the barriers that prevent one from practicing gratitude? There could multiple explanations: gratitude like any other skill is not innate but rather learned; you are often too focused on the next task at hand that you don’t pause and enjoy what you have; you live in the past and recycle your past failures while ignoring your accomplishments. Having an understanding of what interferes with your ability to be thankful is the first step. Next, you need to set an intention to practice gratitude daily and make time for it. You can decide if you would like to start your day or end it by going over your gratitude list. You can also practice gratitude in your actions by telling your loved ones how much you appreciate them. Gratitude like any other value needs to be practiced!
When we think of Halloween we typically think of scary movies, lively costumes or haunted houses. It’s a time where it is OK, maybe even a little fun, to be scared. This seems to be such a stark contrast to how we spend rest of our time. Many people expend tons of effort avoiding and repressing their fears. We get uncomfortable and overwhelmed by just thinking of its existence. After all we have so many of them: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment and fear of commitment. Simply coming up with a list of fears can be daunting enough, yet alone facing and confronting them. Many are afraid to figure out the origins of these fears. Despite how hard we may try to run away from them, our fears have a tendency to catch up with us. The problem isn’t what we see on the surface i.e. the fear itself. The problem is the way we respond to our fears. Instead of running away, stand tall. Instead of repressing, recall with clarity. Instead of denying, accept. Instead of letting it control you, take back control. Only when we learn to live with fears, may we find the strength, courage and wisdom we need.
CBT stands for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Among its very effective tools, the fundamental principle of CBT proposes that our thoughts affect our emotions, which affect our behaviors. On a good day, it looks something like this: I think to myself “this isn’t that hard,” so I feel “confident,” “interested” and/or “able,” which motivates me to pursue or give it a try. However if it’s one of those days when the negative self-talk is at its loudest, then the relationship between our thoughts, emotions and behaviors can be very unhealthy. Imagine a day where you think to yourself “I won’t get the job, there are so many people better than me.” These thoughts lead to feeling anxious, scared, and/or doubtful. You are now more likely to delay or avoid an action or a decision. This relationship helps to understand that behind unhealthy behaviors or intense emotions lay unhealthy, illogical, or rigid thought patterns. If we start to identify and challenge our thinking, we will find new ways to manage our emotions and change our behaviors.
The key here is to understand and recognize the power of thoughts, and more specifically the power of words that makes up our self-talk. We can chose words that can help us think in a way that is healthier, more flexible and more rational. What are these words? They are called Positive Affirmations. Telling yourself at the end of a long day “I have done the best I can” or beginning a day with a thought such as “I am thankful for what I have” can bring sense of strength and/or contentment. These feelings can bring out the best in all of us. So pay attention to your inner talk! Check in with the words you use. Are you being kind to yourself and your biggest supporter or are you being your own worst enemy?
I would like to share with you few books that are great additions to anyone's library! These books have guided me in broadening my understanding of different issues as well as providing me with insight, strength, and hope. Hope you enjoy it! Happy Reading!