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Doing Life Together

whyOne of the reasons we hold on to anger even when it troubles our relationships is because we think it works for us. We don’t’ like to give up things that serve a purpose.

So ask, what does anger do for me? Is it motivated by some deficiency or a reflexive response to unfair treatment?  If so, will anger bring me the purposes I desire—reconciliation, growth, better relationships and fulfillment in life?

Anger is often used to falsely think we are correcting wrongs. We hold on to the belief that life must be fair in order to cope with the fact that it is not. When we continue to believe and act like life must be fair, we collect a rich supply of injustices that only fuel anger.

Sometimes anger serves the purpose of self-pity. Anger is a strategy to manipulate others to feel sorry for us. So we complain and hassle people. This backfires in that people don’t want to be around complainers or someone who feels sorry for him/herself.

Anger also serves the purpose of covering vulnerability. Rather than showing the “weaker” side of our emotional lives, people use anger to appear strong. Letting go means being vulnerable.

Anger is also a simple solution to more complex relationship issues. It is a very narrow and rigid way to respond to issues that take time and thought to process and work through.

Whatever function anger serves for you,  be willing to give it up and do things differently. For example, if anger covers your vulnerability, be willing to be vulnerable.

The less dependent you are on anger doing something for you, the better your relationships will be.

militaryToday we honor our veterans who have served in our armed forces. Every day we are thankful for the freedom they secured, but today especially, we honor them as a nation.

As we appreciate the service of so many women and men, we realize the personal price paid. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have left approximately 22% of Veterans who fought in combat with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). This is almost double what was experienced in VietNam.

TBI results from blasts, blast plus motor vehicle accidents (MVA’s), MVA’s alone, and gunshot wounds. When a soldier has been exposed to a blast, he/she may experience the post-concussive symptoms for longer than a civilian and have residual symptoms for 18-24 months after the injury.

A tag along disorder is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), previously known as shell shock or battle fatigue. It is a condition experienced after someone has witnessed a trauma, physical event or terror so often seen in war. The reactions of shock, anger, fear, nervousness and guilt can be relived or avoided when something triggers the memory. PTSD can cause a Veteran to be moody, irritable, startle easily and cause problems with sleep, concentration, showing affection and more. Add to PTSD and TBI, chronic pain and substance abuse as potential problems as well.

But there are treatments available through the VA system. There are four  Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers and 21 Polytrauma Network Sites dedicated to treating TBI. Veterans may need ongoing cognitive and vocational rehabilitation, case management, and pharmacological intervention to return to their highest level of function. Treatments that seem to work best with PTSD and TBI include cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure and/or use of medications.If you are a Veteran or know someone who is and needs treatment, contact the VA for help.

Also be aware of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a Department of Defense initiative dedicated to providing cutting edge evaluation, treatment planning, research and education for service members and their families dealing with psychological health issues and TBI. Here is the link. 

And again, thank you for your service!

fightingJack and Rachel do not agree on household chores.  Both work outside the home and are tired when they come home. The last thing either wants to do is tackle dishes, clean, water plants, etc.

The conflict has come to a head and both are in the kitchen screaming at one another. Blame and accusations are coming rapid fire. Nothing is getting solve. It’s hard to listen when a fight gets to this level.

So here are 6 ways Jack and Rachel can calm down and try to solve this conflict.

1)  Use humor to break the tension. Crack a joke. Make a funny reference or laugh at how crazy they both sound. This will calm down their physical bodies as well. Rachel could say something like, “We sound like crazy people right now” and start to laugh. Or maybe, “Oh no, we are becoming our parents!”

2)  Acknowledge that some part of what your partner says may be true. It is easy to go on the defensive when confronted. But instead of reacting with anger, pause and ask if there is any truth to what the person is saying. You may not agree with the person’s point completely, but take responsibility for your part. Jack could admit that he doesn’t offer to help with chores. Maybe he should come up with one that he could do. Rachel could suggest they both come up with a list of what has to be done and then talk about the items one at a time.

4)  Agree to one point of positive change. Even when you are angry, it is possible to calm down enough to think and make a change. If you stay angry, you can’t think. So make it a goal to think of one possible change. For example, could Rachel and Jack agree on who does dishes, rather than trying to solve all the household chore problems at once.

5)  Tell your partner you see his or her point (show empathy) of view. Empathy keeps anger levels down. If you can see the other’s person’s perspective, you will understand the person better and his or her motivation.

6)  Check your physical and mental states. If you are tired, sick, hungry, anxious, overwhelmed, etc., you are more likely to respond poorly. Wait until you feel better to address an important issue. Maybe this is a topic for a weekend discussion when the couple feels more rested. They could say, “Hey we need to talk about this because we have to get things done even though we are both tired. Let’s deal with this Saturday morning.”

 

secretI was in the grocery store yesterday. The tabloids at the check out were headlining the secret love child of yet another celebrity couple. While we tend to expect this from celebrity relationships, secrets are a problem. They don’t usually end well.

I am often asked if it is a good idea to reveal secrets to a partner.

The answer to this begins with a question. How does it feel to find out a secret after the fact? Do you really want to be surprised with a secret ten years into a marriage, especially one that may have impacted your decision to marry in the first place?

Keeping secrets usually backfires.

Yes, secrets are difficult to bring out into the light, but keeping them sets the stage for heartache down the road. The hidden thing often surfaces later. Then the reaction is even more intense because now it is associated with dishonesty. Because of dishonesty, the impact is usually worse.

Furthermore, the person living with a secret carries a burden. That burden may interfere with intimacy as well. It’s hard to live with secrets—the guilt, the fear and anxiety of being found out rarely helps a relationship.

So should you keep secrets from your partner? Generally speaking, I’m not recommending it. Better to be honest. Otherwise, it makes trusting that person difficult. And trust is a building block of healthy relationships.

 

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