Learn to Calm Your Anxiety

Learn to Calm Your Anxiety

“’Ask me whether what I have done is my life.’ For some, those words will be nonsense, nothing more than a poet’s loose way with language and logic. Of course what I have done is my life! To what am I supposed to compare it? But for those, and I am one, the poet’s words will be precise, piercing, and disquieting. They remind me of moments when it is clear- if I have eyes to see- that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me.”

-Parker J. Palmer, ‘Let Your Life Speak’ (pp. 1,2)


The author is referring to the poem ‘Ask Me’ by William Stafford, which describes the intangible of life, ebbs and flows in relationship, and sense of purpose. Both Stafford and Palmer warmly convey to the reader their solidarity. In a place where we try to manage the conflicts of uncertainty, their words are welcome impressions of unity.

Their offerings speak to a wish that many of us hold, the hope to feel a sense of ok-ness. We all want to be comforted from our pain and connected to our joy, this kind of “I’ll be ok once this happens,” thinking. Unfortunately, the more we engage in this kind of thinking, the outcome tends to be an experience of significant suffering.

There are all sorts of strategies that we employ when we are engaged in this thought. We read copious self-help books and exhaust many avenues of external guidance. We’re pretty sure that someone must have the key ingredient to end our suffering and reconnect us to our serenity- anyone outside of ourselves.

We’ve spent much of our lives creating our identities, who we are, what we do, our capabilities. We do this to give ourselves some sense of stability and grounding. Often, it’s keeping within the confines of this rigid thinking that prevents us from feeling grounded when we need it most. Kind of a catch 22, wouldn’t you say?

I encourage people to be curious about themselves, to listen to themselves. The more accessible we are to ourselves, the more accessible serenity is to us. Interestingly, a lot of people who come to see me have spent years avoiding themselves, not realizing that they have been running from the key to their very own peace. I’m not saying that it’s a mistake to ask others for help, to read self-help books, to explore your options, on the contrary. These tools can be incredibly useful. But tools don’t build the structure; you do.

To feel ok, we have to learn how to listen to ourselves.

So, how can you listen to yourself? First, quiet your mouth, your thoughts, and your body. Then, invite your innermost self to reveal itself to you. Essentially, you are allowing yourself to meet… yourself. Maybe it speaks first through a distracting body sensation, a racing thought, or an overwhelming feeling. It might be hard to make sense of it at first. You might experience fear or criticism of what you notice. Let it go. Keep going. Continue to make room for this voice. Giving yourself (and your self!) regular time, intention, and space will help you to understand what you need, how to soothe yourself, and to trust yourself. You will begin to “live the life that wants to live in you.”


Love and Be Loved,

Learn to Manage Your Anger

Learn to Manage Your Anger

I will be the first to say that plenty of things have irritated me, made me mad, frustrated me, or gotten under my skin. I will also be the first to say that I hated how I felt and wanted to be more easy-going about most of the things that bothered me. Some years back I decided that I should probably find out how I could manage my frustration if I wanted to feel more easy-going about things.

Eventually, I started reading, researching, and talking to people about anger. Where does it come from? What drives it? What are some effective ways of understanding and managing anger?

Before I started my quest, I felt the effects of anger on my brain, but I had a hard time seeing the fuller picture. I knew that it was hard to think clearly or make wise decisions the angrier I felt. As I explored the effects of anger, I learned the way the brain shuts down and impacts our behavior (and our relationships) as it succumbs to the anger. Simply, anger makes us stupid.

Sometimes it takes a lot to make us angry. Sometimes it just takes a certain look, a comment, or what would normally appear to be an insignificant action (but for various reasons sends you into full blown rage). It can start to feel like we’re at the mercy of our emotions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of being controlled by my feelings. I feel more stable and resourced when I am managing my emotions.

So, I decided to take what I had learned and put it to good use. Over the years, it has helped me to be more curious about my experience. What is important about how I am feeling? Why?

A couple of years ago, I brought this way of thinking to my therapeutic work to help other people who wanted to learn better ways of managing their feelings. Now, I am bringing it to you. If you have any questions or would like clarification about anything, let me know!

Alright, think of a situation that makes you angry. Maybe you feel it when your partner makes a particular comment or when you’re engaged in various activities at work. Thinking about it right now, ask yourself, “What is important about how I am feeling? Why?”

At first, anger appeals to us because it can make us feel powerful. Situations in which we might otherwise feel vulnerable or powerless tend to leave us feeling ineffectual. These are times when we might reach for the closest coping mechanism, no matter how it impacts us later. Eventually, using anger doesn’t feel as good as it used to and we start to feel like our anger is controlling us. What is that anger doing for us? And what is hiding underneath it?

Take a look at this:


A n g e r

/               \

Hurt       Fear


Typically, when we react in anger to something or someone, we are hiding behind that feeling to avoid experiencing less savory feelings such as hurt and fear. Depending on the accessibility of our feelings, it might take any amount of exploration. Why does a specific comment get to you the way it does? If you are honest with yourself, you know that it doesn’t simply “piss you off” or feel disrespectful. Ask yourself some questions. What about it pisses you off or feels disrespectful? Why is that important? These are good starter questions if you have a hard time thinking of yourself being hurt or fearful.

For those of you who have more access to your fear and hurt, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of? And what part of me is hurt/wounded and seeking protection underneath this anger?”

You can use these questions to slow you down in the moment or after the fact to gain perspective (and strengthen yourself for the next time around). As you use this strategy, let me know how it’s going for you. I can’t wait to hear about it!


Love and Be Loved,

How to Compromise in Relationship

How to Compromise in Relationship

Compromise: an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.

Think about the idea of compromise for a minute. What role does it play in your relationships? Do you compromise more than another? Does someone else? Is it pretty balanced? Or does it fluctuate?

Sometimes people dig their heels in until the other person, cries, blows up, or storms out of the room. There is a myriad of choices available to us when we think about ways to compromise… and ways to avoid compromise.

Someone can give in to another out of fear or exhaustion (or both). Someone can try to dominate or intimidate or manipulate. Usually, we feel better in our relationships when we find a middle ground.

However you decide to effect your compromise, it is most successful (and feels best) when it doesn’t include sulking, withdrawing, or harboring resentment against the other. If these things are happening, it probably means someone is not being completely honest with themselves about how they feel. When you compromise, it’s not so that either of you has something over the other; that’s not a genuine compromise.

The art of compromise takes willingness, openness, and trust. Making situational concessions within a relationship feels safer when these things have been built into your foundation. Interesting- when we compromise in a relationship with willingness, trust, and openness, we also solidify and strengthen these characteristics. And the more they solidify and strengthen, the less the act of compromise is perceived as a threat.

Here are some questions to think about:


1) *Mostly, we make decisions using arguments and yelling. (Yes/N0)

2) Often, I am/we are satisfied with how we resolve our differences. (Yes/No)

3) *I am/ my partner is incredibly stubborn. (Yes/No)

4) I believe/we believe that it is important to share power in a relationship. (Yes/No)

5) I am/they can relinquish partial control when I/they feel strongly about a particular issue. (Yes/No)

6) When we talk through the issue, we can usually find our middle ground. (Yes/No)

7) *One of us usually gives in to the other. We call that compromise. (Yes/No)

8) *If I give in, they do, too. (Yes/No)

9) *After compromising, one or both of us is left holding resentments. (Yes/No)

10) Each of us believes in meeting the other person where they are when we are working toward compromise. (Yes/No)

So, anything come up? If you answered “yes” to one or two of the questions with asterisks, you could probably use some other strategies when reaching a compromise. If you answered “yes” to three or more of the questions with asterisks, you could use some more strategies. If you answered “no” to any of the questions without asterisks, I would love to talk with you about ways that we can fortify your compromise skills.

Compromising isn’t easy, and there are times when we just don’t see any concessions we are willing to make. It doesn’t mean that you’re ill-matched or that you’re headed for divorce. It does say that you need to examine important characteristics, dynamics and wounds in (and sometimes outside of) the relationship. Let’s see what we can do.

Love and Be Loved,

More Tips for Managing Conflict in Relationship

More Tips for Managing Conflict in Relationship

Every so often, I find it useful to review a definition of terms with my clients. The clarification helps to illuminate more understanding (of the client’s self and their experience) and the most relevant strategies for moving forward. It’s a kind of connect-the-dots approach.

With that in mind, let’s review the difference between Compassion, Empathy, and Sympathy. Having Compassion for someone means that you have feelings of sensitivity toward them. It means that you appreciate the person’s experience without understanding and without attempting to understand what they are going through. Having Empathy for someone means that you not only have an appreciation for what someone might be experiencing but that you also understand and identify with what they are going through. If you have Sympathy for someone, it means that you pity or feel sorry them.

Most often, when we are talking about relationship dynamics (any relationship), we hear that Empathy is a rewarding way to interact. It’s pretty clear why so many of us recommend establishing Empathy in relationship. Mutual understanding fosters trust, appreciation, and connectedness between people.

When you approach people, relationships, and experiences with Empathy you create a space of safety and openness. When people experience you as safe and open, they feel more comfortable. They are less likely to feel and act defensively and much more likely to respond to you in a calm and positive way.  (Honestly, who doesn’t want to feel that their experience is appreciated and understood?)

Engaging Compassion is also positively impactful. While it’s not as powerful as Empathy (because it lacks a deeper understanding), it promotes a similar sense of safety within the relationship. I like to think of it as a useful starting point on the way to Empathy.

Sympathy is the least useful emotion since it involves no understanding, no attempt to understand, and no appreciation of an other’s experience. It connotes a kind of unilateral relationship between the sympathizer and the sympathizee. There is not much safety, openness, and connection where there is sympathy or pity. Often, Sympathy can create feelings of resentment in the sympathizee.

When you are feeling Empathic, you have less energy and room for irritability, indifference, and defensiveness. Difficult discussions are smoothed by this empathic, open, and safe space. Whether you are bringing a difficult topic to the discussion table or someone has approached you with something, the more empathy you employ, the more comfortable you will be as you work on the task.

At this point, I usually hear something like, “I need empathy, too. I don’t want to be the only one providing empathy here. What about them?!” And I get it. I don’t like my efforts of Empathy to go unmatched, either. They’re often not.Taking the initiative to create a safe place for connection is almost always reciprocated.

Some people might take a little longer than others to meet you with Empathy. Give it some time. On another hand, being the one to set the tone with Empathy also gives you the freedom and flexibility to try another approach as needed.

I’m curious to hear about how this works for you. Let me know so that we can talk about it!

Love and Be Loved,