Category Archives: self

The Art of Making an Apology

This was too good not to repost. Here in full with a few light edits.
by Tatu (via fetlife)

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People are people and whenever they encounter one another,
occasionally they do something that perhaps injures. I’m not talking about physical injury, but words or actions that injure or alienate another. Someone says or does something that harms or offends.

Now one would think that this is basic preschool stuff that we should
have learned from our parents at home, but there are those who
obviously never learned “The Art of Making an Apology”. I say “Art”
because if not done so in a way that communicates and touches the soul
and somehow breathes a new and more positive energy; we will come away
feeling like we totally wasted our time with this person.  It is an art to listen and live beyond the pain.

Now I have to say I have heard a lot of “nambie pampie” excuses for an
apology in my years. Given I spent the 1st 20 or so years of my
professional career involved in relationship, marriage and family
counseling; and the last 15 expanding it into the legal services
business; trust me I think I have probably heard just about
everything; from dealing with the angry child or the rebellious
teenager, to the cheating spouse; and even interviewing the child
molester in jail for a case about to go to trial.

The online world has generated a minefield of potential relationship catastrophes due to the ease of not being in the actual presence of real human being, and the relative perceived anonymity of sitting behind a keyboard looking at an electronic screen. I mean like who’s gonna care, really? They’ll get over it, right?

What happens is that it is relatively easy for people shoot their
mouths off in an instant without engaging hardly any brain cells. It’s
sort of like the illustration of how there is only enough blood in a
man’s body to supply his brain . That’s why when a man gets that testosterone pumping his head drops, his brow lowers. Picture the Neanderthal here.

Same thing happens on line, especially for the males. They get that
testosterone pumping and they start typing. Before you know it they
are popping out all kinds of discourteous verbal abuse to the nearest
bystander or in some cases the object of their focused attacks. They
will puff their chest out and show the world how great they are by
attacking and putting down someone. Their tools are vile language,
ridicule, harassment, baiting comments and / or pointing out how
stupid you are for that typo and how you are just not “real” as they are.

They are people who have such a low self-esteem that they feel it
necessary to try to pull others down to their level in order to make
themselves feel as good as someone else, or they are egotistical
assholes bent on being heralded as superior to others, condemning you
to their holocaust of inferior beings.

Now with our western society having too few tools in the areas of
politeness, common courtesy, and respect; this means all hell can
break out in an instant in the online forum; or even in a local real
time community.

Sometimes however a real person steps forward and realizes they were having a bad day and see immediately that they need to make things right. Occasionally one comes to understand that they have a real problem with an issue and need to address it with counseling. He or she has left a path of destruction and chaos in their way. People have been hurt, and not always simply the person you directly abused in some way. Either way they know they need to rectify the situation and make amends.

The Honest Desire to Rectify the Situation

Before any reconciliation or healing can ever occur, one must come to
the realization that they truly did something wrong and desire to do
something to make things right.

Honesty with Self

The next thing I would say is for an apology to have the result one
truly hopes for, you must be absolutely honest about what it is you
did. To figure this out you must take some time to think about what
happened; perhaps put yourself in the other person’s shoes; see and
feel what it is you did to them. They are hurt, offended by what you
did, you need to find out and understand why?

In fact however you may come away at this point unable to fully grasp
why this person is so upset with you, or has withdrawn their
friendship and is acting in a very distant manner. You just know it’s
there, and you know something is not right. You may have a little
idea, but don’t assume. One of the best principles in life I have ever
discovered is “never assume”. Assuming anything at this point is not
what you want to do. Be transparent enough, that you
can honestly see what is. There could be some other issue at play that
you have not considered; be open.

Yet it is a positive thing to simply realize you messed up and you
need to make it right.

Communicate Openly and Honestly with the Person

So when you go to that person, it is vitally important to limit your
comments and simply listen.

Ask the person for a special time to talk. Face to face, eyeball to
eyeball is best, but in the online world that is not always possible.
If it is give them a call and ask to meet over coffee one day.

If you are close enough to share on the phone; that would be 2nd best.
I cannot stress enough the fact that you need to hear their voice; and
they need to hear yours.

So you might start off emailing this person and asking them if perhaps
you could call them and ask what would be a convenient time, that you
want to make things right.

Once you have come together what do you say?

I would suggest that you tell them that you have come to the
realization that what you did was wrong and if possible you want to
make it right.

Describe the situation that occurred simply and honestly.

NO EXCUSES.

If you start making excuses, your apology is worthless. You have to
truly take ownership for what you did. If you start trying to shift
blame in any manner whatsoever, it’s never going to be resolved. You
are just making a bigger ass out of yourself.

To shift blame is communicating, that you are not really sorry; you
just want it to all go away. You don’t want to suffer any
embarrassment for what you did.

So I recommend that you say something like this:

If you deceived someone, consider saying something like this:

“I lied to you the other day when I said (such and such); I know it is
wrong to deceive you. I won’t do it again. I am asking that you please
forgive me.”

Here are some other examples:

“What I did the other day, ridiculing you and calling you names, was not appropriate; what I did was not polite or courteous. I’m sorry.

For the person with anger of verbal abuse issue, perhaps you should
say something like this:

“I was very rude to you the other day when I said (such and such); I
was very wrong for saying what I said. It was rude and verbally
abusive. I’m going to see a counselor about dealing with my anger issues. ”

LISTEN

Next you need to listen. They may need to say some things you weren’t
expecting to hear. Don’t let it throw you. If your heart is honestly
in a place for reconciliation; your response should not be excuses,
but to include whatever in your apology.

You may need to ask:

“What do I need to do to make this right”? …and be willing to act accordingly.

Now, if you are the one who offended another, after you have made an honest apology, there is nothing you can do about this. It is up to the person who you offended to offer their forgiveness.

They may tell you to go take a hike. If that is the case and you have
done what you should have done in making an honest apology with no
excuses. It is no longer your problem, but theirs. If you however
attempted to cloak your apology with excuses or shifting the blame.
Then you deserve to be told to go take a hike.

In society when someone commits a crime, they are adjudicated guilty and they have to pay some price for their crime. It might be a fine or it might be time in jail.

When you harm someone in a human relationship, there can also
potentially be a price to pay. Alienation is probably what it will
come to. That person will not want to be around you and unless you are
a complete sociopath you will find it very uncomfortable being around
them.

Understand that your victim does not have to forgive you. As we said earlier, if you come to them with a bunch of bullshit excuses, they will know you are not truly sorry. Excuses only communicate that you

are ego filled that you want to shift the blame and want the situation
to go away so you don’t have to suffer the true humiliation of an
honest introspective look within.

They could tell you to go take a hike, and sign you out of their lives
if they want to. You cannot control their response.

So when one truly forgives a debt, there is nothing else to pay. If
the offended party says they forgive you, but then dish out all kinds
of crap in revenge, they have not truly given forgiveness.

FORGIVE

When one comes to you honestly asking for forgiveness, no excuses, no
justifications, no shifting the blame; and you grant them forgiveness;
that is the end of it.

So what happens if you don’t forgive them? One asks forgiveness, but the other says hell no! They live on in misery, month after month, year after year. Then one day the offended says “I have decided to forgive you. You know what the they will likely say? “Forgive me? I don’t need your forgiveness, you have put me through hell for the past 5 years.”

You know what, they are right. They are not in need of your
forgiveness anymore. They already did hard time.

It is true, however, that a relationship may be irreparably scarred.
It is possible to forgive, heal and for the relationship to continue and
grow and be okay. It is also possible that the harmed partner / spouse
may forgive you, but is not willing to move forward with the
relationship any more, or it may take some time and counseling until
they feel they can trust you again. This is honest reality.

A Public Apology

This is the part that is going to separate the truly sorry from the
pretenders, because it is going to involve humility before others.

If you involved others in your offensive act(s), then you need to make
that apology public. If you verbally abused someone, lied, ridiculed,
stirred up a rumor, anything in an online forum or in any public
manner, then you need to apologize not only to the person you directly
hurt, but post an apology to the group. The community needs to know
all is ok, so they can relax, breathe and know the negatives
have been removed.

So a public apology would go something like this:

“The other day I said (this and that) about Billy. What I
said was not true, and how I said it was rude and discourteous. That
was wrong of me. I personally apologized to Billy yesterday and he was
kind enough to offer his forgiveness for what I did; so I hope those
of you that witnessed my lack of courtesy will find it in
your hearts to forgive me as well.”

No excuses, no shifting the blame; just the facts and apologize.

Conclusion

I wish for more for our world. It begins one on one, honest communication, asking for and offering forgiveness; resolve in your heart to make things right.

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Mistakes

A client relayed a story of integration to me the other day:

One second she going about her day, the very next she was putting her cut finger under the water faucet. She felt the pain right away… but that wasn’t the part that got her. She was able to patch herself up quickly enough, however the negative thoughts  that followed were not as easily addressed.

Thought after  thoughts about her foolishness, distract-ability, and self-worth came tumbling through. From a mistake, the mindset was immediately about every inadequacy she had as a person. How is this even possible? It was an accident! These things happen. You live long enough, you run the numbers, and things are bound to occur.

She was caught in a very common negative thought pattern, where one small thing derails you and you end up feeling terrible about something small.  Here is the rest of her story about how she is working on changing that:

She stopped herself and remembered that she didn’t have to chase down every emotion or thought. She realized in the moment that the self-talk she was so willingly participating in was not something that was actually doing any good.  She took a deep breath and a few more for good measure. She felt her body center and came back to a more balanced state of mind. She had a choice… she could continue down this path of negativity or she could do something differently.

Notice that she didn’t have any expectation that she needed to feel or even think differently. She instead focused on what she could control right then and there. She stopped the autopilot of negativity, made the conscious choice not to attack herself further, and then went outside and took in the beauty of the clouds.

She still had that lingering feeling that somehow this represented all her worth (or lack there of). However, she also knew that logically this was not the case. Who she is as a person (her values, passions, and actions) is not based on a cut finger. It really makes no sense at all, however that is how old negative thought patterns work.  They just no longer fit in to what is going on within your life.

The client would like to say that she won’t have these feelings ever again, however that isn’t very realistic, and she knows it. Instead, she looks forward catching these negative thoughts faster, shift them more fully, and work to no longer have this pattern as her default when accidents happen.

The way it works is when you know better (the hurt finger is not a reflection of self-worth), you do better (stop the negative self-talk and do something centering/positive), you feel better (emotional responses will align more fully with the situation).  It isn’t easy to stop yourself and make the choice to do it differently, when in the moment you get little reward. You just want to not feel that way, but integration rarely hops-to in the way we want.  It takes work to change the patterns that are so well-worn. The payoff however is great and the effort is worth it!

You don’t have to be trapped in the same mind-set. Mistakes will happen it is about how to grow from the experience that makes all the difference.

Finding the answers

Clients want answers. I want answers. We all want answers! It is a given that we are curious to find out what is going on within us. And I’ll say something that one is probably not supposed to say as a therapist, “I wish I DID have the answers” perhaps better said: I wish I had the ability to quickly allow other people to find the exact answers they want for themselves. I really do. I wish I had THE right answer for each person that comes with insight, introspection, and curiosity. I would love to place my magic-therapy-wand (patent pending) upon their heads and grant them the wish of pure personal understanding.

I’m not morally or ethically opposed to the idea of helping this way. The reason being is that I believe that the answers differs for each person. I have yet to see any person exactly match the other in how they come to understanding of themselves and the world around them. That is what is awesome and frustrating about how insight and choice works.

There is no right answer that works for everyone. Even as you read this, there are people who will differ with the premise that there is no specific answer for everyone. See what I mean? What works for you may not work for another. You can have shared values, ideas, and methods of expression and still come to your path in a totally unique way.

So when you come into therapy and hear me tell you that I can’t give you the “right answer” I’m not just pulling out a therapy cliché.  It is true. I don’t think that I can nor should provide the answer as to who you are and what you want and how to get there (save the magic wand possibilities now being tested in a secret lab). It is up to each person to dive deep, discover your own personal ethos, and move ahead in the face of it all.

Embrace that you may not have the answers right now… but that part of the adventure is seeking for them!

Isolation Chamber or Peaceful Space

Imagine yourself within an isolation chamber up top a mountain overlooking a beautiful view. The music is playing and you are supposed to come up with an answer within a certain amount of time… and the question is:

What is the difference between isolation and solitude?

We tend to have an emotional response to these ideas.  Isolation often feels forced… when we want to be around other people but for whatever reason we can not be. Where solitude has a lofty chosen alone-time feel of desired self-reflection. The elements can be the same… you are by yourself thinking your thoughts and feeling your emotions. But something shifts within your perception. One is scary and sad where the other is wanted and pleasurable.

Curious how similar situations can have such differing feelings within us depending on our perception.

So how does this happen? Well there is a lot of people out there working on the answer to this question. However, one of the main points is that we get to choose. We are in charge of thoughts we put upon a situation. We may not control the emotional response but we do have the ability to go in with an approach that can hinder or help these moments.

For instance, you are in a crowded room and feeling overwhelmed. You an decide that you want to pull back for a moment and regroup. You can physically and or emotionally do this, but it is a conscious choice to take a moment to breathe. You might feel overstimulated by the number of people and data points coming at you. Hence, you are deciding to isolate yourself as a way to gather your thoughts and feel strong about yourself.

Also you can find yourself sitting in your home on a Wednesday night wishing the phone would ring. It won’t. You see yourself moving into a place of sadness. You can decide to allow your own curiosity to become part of a time for reflection. You don’t have to push aside the feelings or create a distraction. Instead you can take this moment to introspect and experience the sensation of being lonely or alone. And then you can consider all of the moments, interactions, and people who care for you on any given day.  Being grateful for the solitude you are experiencing now as a way to connect more fully with your own emotional states.

These are just two examples of how to turn you have the ability to turn any and every situation into an experience that works for you.  You may want to be by yourself or you may not want to but none of that matters when you get to decide what perception you want to take upon any situation. You are in control of your thoughts and actions. When you know better of what you want, then you do better, and when that happens then you feel better.  Deciding for yourself what things mean and having meaning for you is a huge step in gaining the strength and happiness you desire.

Speak Your Truth

A friend of mine recently stopped me in my tracks by making an important point. She explained that while she was  learning to share her thoughts and feelings with other people… that she was finding it was difficult to speak her truth to herself.

I took a long deep breath.  It is amazing when you can express yourself to others, but what about unflinching self honesty?  We are usually so outwardly focused with what others in our life will think or feel in response to what we share. We are fearful others will judge us (read: leave us in some way) and we don’t want that reality. We often tailor much of we say as a way to manage others. As we come to understand we can handle ourselves and the reactions of others , we find a new ability to interact in authentic ways. That is however, about dealing with ourselves in regards to others.

What about being able to do the same with your feelings about yourself? We spend a lot of energy trying to “not be” a certain way. There is a tremendous amount of effort put into changing who we are but what if all that pushing isn’t getting us where we want to be? What if it is so negative focused?

It can be a really rough proposition to sit with the reality that you might really be a brilliant sometimes,  that it is possible that sometimes you really are beautifully creative, and even more dramatic is that sometimes you really and truly might be an amazingly great person.  When we have those thoughts and feelings, we often create a defense to them… even if that defense is to think we are “always” something negative.

Not wanting to see the good is just as harmful as not wanting to see the areas we need to strengthen.  Hence, if you are ready to speak the truth … allow yourself the time to have your thoughts and feelings where you do not judge them as negative or positive.  They simply are what they are right now. Sometimes they are more and sometimes they are less. There is rarely an absolute in regards to ideas and emotions. We are complex creatures and things move and shift.

It is okay to acknowledge that you are “sometimes” all sorts of things. It is a part of you, not all of you, and to embrace that truth and share it with yourself. I assure you it can help you in all directions.

There is a “sometimes” in just about every context… just like “sometimes” you can allow yourself to be honest with yourself… even if it might include sometimes accepting the positive things about yourself too!

Fun? What is that?

Many of us have a tendency to focus on the parts of our life that are not exactly as we want them. There is nothing unusual or wrong about this feature of our brains. We naturally pick out what is different, as a way to better manage the world around us and make changes. We need to be able to look at the data around us and assess what it is we need to do to keep ourselves happy, safe, and healthy!

However, there comes a point where we tip right over the edge of constructive consideration into negativity.  I admit fully, that I at many times in my life, I have become best friends with anxiety and depression. They will happily keep you company when everything else seems just too much. But even the anxiety/depression combo is different from constant negativity. Having lots of fears and sadness still allows for moments of sweetness, tenderness, and positive acceptance.

So what is it about the negative that has such a pull upon us? My hunch is that we get used to feeling like nothing really going to bring us joy. We become comfortable in our discomfort with the world around us that for us to break beyond that becomes almost unfathomable to us. My goodness what would happen if we skipped…. declared our strengths…. smiled for no reason other than it feels good… or even played a game?

We all agree that having “fun” is good and important but many of us have no idea how that works. It can in fact be really scary to let down your guard if you have had past trauma.  Yet, without the small moments of bliss … then we can’t even begin to change the patterns that were set in early on. Don’t we all deserve to take a bike ride and feel that air against our face and giggle with glee about some silly quirk? Isn’t there a point where you have struggled and hurt enough that you can just take a moment to breathe?

I won’t pretend to have a lot of experience with having fun myself.  I often question the point of fun. And yet I still seek out something that relieves the stress, makes me laugh, or gets to step outside my hectic pace. I don’t have the answer as to why we should have fun or even what fun is… however I do know that without the full range of emotional response we are cutting ourselves off from a life we so richly long for! This is part of what got us to this point in the first place? Why continue to recreate a pattern when it feels so bad?

If for no other reason then to experiment with yourself, consider focusing on what brings you joy for a few days. Watch the world around you transform… it will I promise. Because, even for a curmudgeon like myself, the moment I am able to peel a label off fully without leaving any of the sticky residue… I feel a beautiful sense of ecstatic joy. It is a small sense of accomplishment that makes my heart sing. It will get my every time and I smile and think that I live a very charmed life.

It’s time to experience yourself in a new way… bring about positive thoughts and feelings…the rewards are instant!

What is trust?

Trust is a concept that we talk a lot about in therapy. But what exactly is it? Well that depends on the person…

There are many that believe that trust is about feeling comfortable.  Others would say  it is a matter of sharing secrets and keeping them.  Some people consider trust to be about having your words and actions match up on a regular basis.  All of these concepts and more are true.

The building blocks of trust are about our belief in another person to be there for us, protect our vulnerabilities, and follow through.

Yet when we talk about how to build trust or how to regain trust, it gets a bit more complicate.

TRUSTING YOURSELF

What if you have made some poor decision or have trouble with boundaries and feel like you can’t trust yourself? Well, you start by looking at things that are not emotionally charged. You consider how you trust yourself to get things done, what kind of preferences you have, and how you feel when you are most secure and happy. These  types of questions allow you to sort through the process you use to connect with your values.  It takes some time but once you start to see a pattern of choice, expression, and authenticity you begin to immediately see how trust is created within yourself.

TRUSTING OTHERS

When you have been betrayed it is hard to know what to do.  If you have experienced the acute feelings of mistrust, it is something that can shake you to your core. You relied on your abilities to judge correctly AND a person that you care about has mislead you. It is doubly heart wrenching.

How do you sort through it all? Should you protect yourself or open up again?  What if the answer is both?

Being able to refocus on your needs and values is a huge part of the process of trust. You are not just looking at trusting another person you are looking at how you understand your own ability to trust.  Consider what it is like to know what it feels like with relationships you do trust. There are signals that you send and that others send all the time that help you understand the mechanisms that you need to pay attention you. You know what are red flag behaviors from another it is about being more consciously attuned to them AND listening when these arise.

Building trust with others can be tricky.  There is a balance that has to be created. For a while the understanding that was once a given is now tentative. You need to honestly look at what you need from another person and present it to them.  Allowing the other person to know as clearly as possible what you need to get enough time, experience, and commitment helps you know when you are building trust directly. Just saying the words that you want to “build trust” don’t actually do much but stating what you want and need to the person that betrayed you gives you clarity and allows the other person to work towards actively regaining your trust.

TRUST IN THERAPY

There is  typically an unspoken notion that you will simply trust the therapist. But why?  If you are a benevolent person and typically allow yourself to be open until given a reason otherwise, coming and talking to someone new about private matters can be great. However, if you have experienced trauma, have had others betray you, or are unsure how to trust yourself then this expectation can seem almost too much to ask.

So, I  do things a bit different. I ask you to begin to trust yourself, by seeing what you need to learn about if  my approach to therapy works for you.  You can share as much as you want as fast as you want or as little and slow as you desire. It is not for me to dictate what you feel comfortable with. Therapy is about creating a bond that is respectful and empowering and that can take time for some.  Hence, paying attention to your own sense of what works for you is one of the biggest keys towards trust building.

Only you can decide if a specific person is someone you want and/or can trust.  It takes time and experience and honest expression to create those bonds of trust.  You are worth closely paying attention to so  you can make choices that best fit you and your life.

Allowing your internal monitor to teach you… who and what you feel uncomfortable and comfortable with goes a long way.