Ep 84: Moving to the center of conflict

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We spend a lot of time avoiding conflict because we’re not always sure where it might take us. But avoiding conflict keeps you stagnant and can take you right off the board.

Learn how to embrace conflict and make it work for you to create the healthy relationships you want to have.

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Full transcript 👇

Ep 84: Moving to the center of conflict

Hi. I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

One of the hardest things to navigate in a relationship is conflict.

Not because it’s so difficult to resolve but because so few people are willing to to actually deal with conflict directly.

In a previous episode, I talked about passive aggressiveness, those indirect ways that we communicate to the people in our lives that there’s a problem to be solved.

Instead of approaching the issue with honest feelings, we let our actions speak for us. This puts us in a game of “guess what I’m feeling and I’m very angry that you can’t see what I’m feeling.”

This kind of interaction almost always misses the mark.

On the other end are people who go out of their way to avoid conflict altogether. They will take the responsibility for things that don’t belong to them just to keep the peace at any costs.

In both of these cases, conflict is seen as a threat.

If I tell you how I’m really feeling, then you may get upset.

And I may not know what to do with that.

Instead of coming to you with the idea of resolving the issue, I place my hope in the conflict magically going away.

That almost never works.

You may be able to slide by for a bit dancing around the issue but it almost always comes up in some way, somehow.

  • Your frustration with your boss works you up so much that you decide to leave the company looking for a less war-like situation.
  • Your spouse suddenly tells you the marriage is over and you didn’t see it coming at all because you had no idea there was even an issue.
  • You stop talking to your best friend because she made you really angry when she made that comment last month about your kids.

In each of these cases, there is a loss of an important relationship.

In each of these cases, issues boiled under the surface but never made their way to where you could interact with them and figure out what’s going on.

You just find out when you see the water suddenly moving and the steam burns you.

That’s the result of poor conflict resolution.

You see, the most important thing in your relationships isn’t communication.

I think we all know people who communicate constantly but never really say anything.

The most important thing in a relationship is the ability to resolve conflict. That’s where progress in a relationship happens.

Taking time to resolve an issue with someone means that you both put something in this and that you’re both invested in the relationship getting better.

Resolving conflict together brings you closer.

It forms a bond in the relationship because now you’ve been through something together.

Healthy relationships aren’t based on how well you get along. They come from the ability to hear and validate others in spite of your own feelings, and to have others do the same for you.

That’s not something to run from.

So how do you approach conflict in a way that grows your relationships?

A big way to start is to speak from your own experiences and emotions.

When we’re angry with someone, it’s so tempting to assign motives to their actions. That’s usually the first thing we want to get into when we do decide to approach someone.

And it’s the thing that makes conflict blow up, the thing we hate about it the most.

We make comments like, “You always make me feel like that.”

That’s a quick way to put someone on the defensive.

Instead of focusing on their actions, describe the actual emotion you felt as a result of that action.

“When you speak to me in that tone, it makes me feel hurt, angry, sad,”…whatever.

Describe your specific emotions without assigning motives. You’re just a reporter of information about you.

While they may not agree with you, they can’t take away your feelings. You own those.

Then, let them respond.

When they do, listen to understand, not to reply.

This is really hard.

We’ve all had those conversations where we’re crafting our witty response while the other person’s talking.

You may come up with a great response, but you just missed a whole bunch of great info coming from them while you were inside your own head playing speechwriter.

You’re listening so you can come up with your own response instead of really hearing them and validating their feelings.

That doesn’t help them feel heard either.

Listen to what they have to say and summarize it back to them to make sure you got it right.

This is an easy way to actively listen because you’ll have to pay attention to make sure you don’t miss something.

It also allows them to clarify the details so they can walk away feeling heard.

Above all, lean in to your own responsibility to keep the relationship healthy.

So many times we wait for the other person to kind of “get it” and come to us first.

If you value the relationship at all, you may need to make the first move. Maybe that doesn’t feel fair, especially if you feel like you’re not in the wrong here.

But making the first move says that you value this relationship enough to get this process going, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Waiting only serves to let the issues continue to bubble and increases the chance of a much bigger event later.

Besides, you’re part of this relationship and it’s on you to do what you can to keep it healthy. You play your part, too.

What the other person does or doesn’t do is on them.

The best part about approaching conflict in this way is that once you engage, you find that there are some things you just didn’t know.

You get knowledge that can help you understand their perspective sooner instead of stewing over assumptions and assigning motives.

You may not like the knowledge you get, and that’s fine.

Maybe you do decide to make a drastic change in the relationship after walking through this process.

But at least you can make a more informed decision before you just shut everything down.

Conflict resolution allows you to keep the air clear so you can move ahead together as a team instead of viewing each other with suspicion and anger.

This is the price of admission for healthy relationships.

It requires some humility and intention but it can bring you closer to more satisfying relationships.

Isn’t that all any of us want?

You can catch episodes of Mental Health Moment by visiting mymentalhealthmoment.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Just search for “Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.”

If you want Mental Health Moment delivered right to your inbox, visit mymentalhealthmoment.com to sign up to get these delivered to your email every day.

If you’re STILL wanting for more, you can find articles and videos about stress and mental health, by visiting my website at LoriMiller.me.

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

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Ep 74: You might be passive aggressive…

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How do you know you might have some passive aggressive behaviors? The same way you know you might be a redneck. You make a list!

Here’s a fun and informational take on the Jeff Foxworthy classic, “You might be a redneck…”

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

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Full transcript 👇

Ep 74: You might be passive aggressive

Hi. I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

You’ve no doubt heard the comedy bit from comedian Jeff Foxworthy called, “You might be a redneck,” where he lists all of the behaviors that might tell you you’re a redneck.

I’m no comedian but I have a little list I like to call, “You might be passive aggressive…”

What does it mean to be passive aggressive?

Passive aggressive is when you communicate your anger or displeasure about something, but you do it indirectly.

Instead of approaching someone in a straightforward way with the intent of resolving a conflict, you let your behaviors do all the talking.

This leaves the other party trying to guess how you might feel based on what they’re seeing from you.

We tend to associate passive aggressiveness with people we don’t like or people that are difficult to get along with.

And it’s true, for some people passive aggressiveness is a way of life.

But lots of people demonstrate passive aggressive behavior. And it’s not because they’re bad people.

It’s mostly because they like to avoid the conflict that arises from a direct and honest conversation.

Many times, a passive aggressive person simply lacks the assertiveness skills to ask directly and politely for what they want.

Instead, they prefer to just show you and hope you get their meaning.

It’s like the world’s worst game of charades , where the actions don’t make any sense and people’s feelings get hurt.

Actually, that sounds like most games of charades I’ve ever played.

You can see how much this might go off the rails pretty quickly.

Being passive aggressive is not an efficient or ideal way to communicate.

But it goes on in homes, schools and workplaces every day.

So here we go, without the witty southern Jeff Foxworthy accent, I present to you my version of “You might be passive aggressive…”

  1. If you’ve ever slammed kitchen cabinet doors while unloading the dishwasher you asked your son to unload this morning, you might be passive aggressive.
  2. If you consistently show up late for work and justify it because nobody really understands how hard you work anyway, you might be passive aggressive.
  3. If you talk about your coworker’s shortcomings behind their back, you might be passive aggressive. Also you might be a gossip, just sayin’. Watch out for this one.
  4. If you avoid eye contact and give your spouse the silent treatment after they went on an unplanned night out with their friends, you might be passive aggressive.
  5. If you’ve ever used the words “fine, whatever” in a discussion about something you’re having trouble getting, you might be passive aggressive.
  6. If you’ve ever used sarcasm as a response to someone and your neck got hot and red, you might be passive aggressive.
  7. If you’ve ever ignored a text or email so that the other person will know just how mad you are, you might be passive aggressive.
  8. If you’ve ever said yes to something you really didn’t want to do, then silently blamed the other person for making you feel awkward about saying no, you might be passive aggressive.
  9. If you’ve ever put on your very best smile and nodded in agreement like a Derek Jeter bobblehead even though you really, really disagree with something, you may be passive aggressive.
  10. If your response to someone who has just told you no is to make them feel guilty by recounting for them all the times you’ve helped them, you might be passive aggressive.
  11. If you’ve ever disallowed someone to use their blinker and move in front of you in busy traffic because earlier they pulled out in front of you unexpectedly, you may be passive aggressive.
  12. If you’ve ever been asked to do something at work you didn’t want to do and you didn’t give it your best effort because it’s not really in your job description anyway, you may be passive aggressive.

These are just a few examples.

But in each one of them, simply communicating from your own feelings and experiences would at least get a better ball rolling.

Granted, this kind of conversation can be uncomfortable because the other person will have something to say.

There absolutely will be conflict.

But learning to identify your own emotions and express them in a way that honors both people goes a long way to resolve the conflict.

You miss all that when you play this passive aggressive game of charades.

And in the end, resolving conflict brings you closer together because now you’ve been through something together that required each of you to grow.

What does this have to do with your stress, especially your stress at work?

Well, how unhappy are you when you don’t feel like you’re getting as much out of your work experience as you would like to?

How do you feel when you see others realizing their potential and somehow figuring out how to keep the pieces together?

Are they any better than you?

I would propose that they are not.

Not getting what you want, and not being able to ask for what you want is a sure fire roadmap to stress and anxiety.

And believe me when I tell you this is a skill that you can learn. It will change how you engage with the world and keep you from feeling helpless and left out.

You’re expending a lot of energy in every day. Let’s make sure that you’re using all the tools available to you to get what you need to feel engaged, focused and purposeful.

You can catch episodes of Mental Health Moment by visiting mymentalhealthmoment.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Just search for “Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.”

If you want Mental Health Moment delivered right to your inbox, visit mymentalhealthmoment.com to sign up to get these delivered to your email every day.

If you’re STILL wanting for more, you can find articles and videos about stress and mental health, by visiting my website at LoriMiller.me.

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

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Check out the best of Mental Health Moment

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Mental Health Moment on break

It’s summer, and my son is getting married this month! 💞❤

So I’m taking a short break from new episodes of Mental Health Moment.

I’ll return with NEW EPISODES on June 24.

Until then, here’s a few early episodes you may have missed!

 

Episode 2: Sticky note wins the day

 

 

 

Episode 3: Don’t stress exercise

 

 

 

Episode 4: Deep breathing isn’t just “take a deep breath”

 

 

 

Episode 5: Five things (and also 20 things) to reduce stress

 

 

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes of Mental Health Moment wherever you are! 

 

Get Mental Health Moment 🎧

in your inbox every day.

 





 

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
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Help spread the message about good mental health!

 

Ep 60: Why you should identify your feelings

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What does it mean to identify your feelings? Well, have you had those moments when you can’t quite put words to what you’re feeling? You may not have a well developed emotional vocabulary.

Part of handling your emotions is to know what those emotions are to start with. Here are some ways to identify your feelings and improve your emotional language.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

If you missed my series last week on resilience, you can check out all the episodes here.

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes of Mental Health Moment wherever you are! 

 

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Full transcript 👇

Ep 60: Why you should identify your feelings

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

When dealing with emotions, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what you’re dealing with.

We don’t always have the right words.

We start learning vocabulary words in kindergarten to describe everything from trees to animals.

But we don’t get words to describe how we feel.

Part of being able to manage your emotions is to be able to identify what they are in the first place.

I’ve heard several teenaged clients tell me that they get so frustrated when their parents constantly beg them to tell them how they feel.

How can they tell their parents how they feel, they say, when they can’t even describe it themselves?

Being able to speak from an emotional vocabulary is an important step in understanding what you feel so you know how to address it.

Usually we group emotions into larger categories.

In the later part of the 20th century psychologist Paul Eckman identified five basic emotions that he believed were experienced by all cultures around the world:

  • anger,
  • disgust,
  • fear,
  • happiness,
  • sadness, and
  • surprise.

He and other scientists believed that these were the hardwired emotions that early humans needed for survival.

These five emotions helped early humans know if they needed to defend a territory or respond to danger.

Who knew that we would all one day live in a world where a device in our pocket would allow us to peek in on our friends Facebook page and get angry about their POLITICAL stance?

That’s a long way from feeling angry about the clan leader from the next village stealing the food from your last hunt.

We can get emotional about just about anything now.

Our lives now are lived on a full spectrum of emotions.

  • You may not feel angry but you might be annoyed.
  • Maybe you’re not disgusted per se, but you might feel suspicious.
  • Maybe you’re not necessarily happy but you do feel content.

Part of having good stress management skills is being able to identify and label exactly what emotions you’re feeling.

I don’t have to list them here. You can simply Google “list of emotions” and find some great lists out there.

Just like your teacher gave you a vocabulary list to study in the third grade, download one of these lists and take some time to define each of these emotions.

  • How do they play out in your life?
  • How do you typically respond when you feel, say, embarrassed?
  • What does it look like for you when you feel proud?

Become familiar with each of them so that you will know when you’re experiencing them.

Once you have a working emotional vocabulary, then you can use these words to quickly label how you feel in an emotional moment.

You can actually make a verbal statement right in the middle of your emotional experience that describes how you feel.

If you’re annoyed because you’re stuck in traffic, you can simply state to yourself, “I am so annoyed right now.”

The person sitting next to you might be like yeah, no kidding?

This is called affect labeling. And it is a physiological response.

This part is very cool.

Affect labeling slows down a part of your brain that’s responsible for your emotional responses.

That part of your brain is called the amygdala which is part of your limbic system and helps you manage your mood.

Functional MRI’s have shown this area of the brain quite literally cools down after simply putting feelings into words.

That almost sounds too simple, right?

Making a simple statement about the emotions you feel causes your physical body to respond.

It may not make the traffic any better, but it will take the edge off the annoyance you feel in that moment.

But in order to label that emotion, you have to know what you’re dealing with.

That’s why the vocabulary is so important.

This is a great little skill to learn to help you not feel so overwhelmed by the full range of emotions you might feel in a day.

Learning to identify your emotions is the first step to understanding what you’re feeling.

Articulating to yourself what you’re feeling helps you understand better what solutions you might need to look at.

And all of this forms a terrific foundation for better communication skills with others because now you can explain what you’re really feeling.

Take some time to explore your emotional vocabulary and find ways to increase your knowledge of your emotional experiences.

You can catch episodes of Mental Health Moment by visiting mymentalhealthmoment.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Just search for “Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.”

If you want Mental Health Moment delivered right to your inbox, visit mymentalhealthmoment.com to sign up to get these delivered to your email every day.

If you’re STILL wanting for more, you can find articles and videos about stress and mental health, by visiting my website at LoriMiller.me.

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
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Help spread the message about good mental health!

 

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Ep 59: Are strong emotions bad for you?

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Did you grow up thinking your strong emotions are bad for you? We get the message early on that emotions are either bad or good. This is mostly based on what we do with those emotions.

It’s easy to avoid emotions that make us uncomfortable because we don’t think they have a role to play in our lives.

But emotions, especially powerful emotions, can tell us a lot about ourselves.

Learn how to let all your emotions find their natural place in your life.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

If you missed my series last week on resilience, you can check out all the episodes here.

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes of Mental Health Moment wherever you are! 

 

Get Mental Health Moment 🎧

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Full transcript 👇

Ep 59: Are emotions bad for you?

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

How many times have you missed the mark with something because you just couldn’t handle your emotions? And then you chastised yourself for feeling such difficult emotion?

You don’t need a therapist to tell you that emotions are powerful.

Even though this therapist did just tell you that. 😀

Emotions represent some of the most basic needs that we have as humans.

The ability to love, fight for justice, feel joy, and move bravely through sadness is what makes us human.

We are absolutely wired for emotion, even the messy ones that spill out all over everybody around us.

From the minute we enter the grand stage of our life, one of our earliest, most basic needs is to attach to others.

This happens through a profound process of love and physical nurturing from a caregiver.

Attachment is a dealbreaker for every baby human to start healthy development.

And all that happens from powerful emotion going from one person to another.

Since we’re little kids, we are led to believe that some emotions are good and some emotions are bad.

The evidence for this is largely due to the behaviors that we show when we feel certain emotions.

  • If we get angry and we throw something, then anger is bad.
  • If we do something that pleases others and we didn’t get upset about having to do it, then we must be happy.

One fun exercise I like to do with kids is to give them a page full of different emojis. The faces range from happy to angry, and all points in between.

I simply ask the kid to cross out the bad faces and circle the good faces.

They waste no time crossing out the obvious angry face, the frustrated face, the sad face, the worried face, and sometimes the confused face.

It takes them a lot longer to pick out the good faces. Once they get past the obvious smiling face, you can see the philosophical war going on in their head with silly face and rolling eyes face.

They’re fun faces, but are they good?

When they’re done, I ask them to pick out one of the faces they crossed out.

In almost every case they pick the angry face. What makes that face a bad face, I ask.

Because that face was mad and did something wrong, so they got in trouble for it, comes their reply.

I keep probing.

So…it’s bad to feel angry?

They look at me as if I suddenly grew a third eyeball right in the middle of my forehead.

Of course it’s bad to feel angry because when you get angry you get in trouble.

So you shouldn’t feel angry.

And there it is.

Before you even hit puberty, you’re taught to avoid emotions that make you uncomfortable.

Yelling back at your mom or throwing your Xbox game controller on the ground is bad, so anger is bad.

Unfortunately, well-meaning parents focus just on correcting the negative behaviors that stem from unhealthy emotions instead of helping their kids listen to what those powerful feelings are trying to tell them.

And there’s almost no focus on healthy emotions and understanding how to appreciate that for the gift that it is.

Hearing what your emotions are trying to tell you helps you learn what to do to manage them when things get difficult.

Emotions are dashboard indicators that tell us what’s important to us, or to pay attention to something that’s bothering us.

  • Anger may tell you that you were actually hurt by a situation and you need to repair a relationship in order to move forward. You don’t need to run from that.
  • Contentment and joy may tell you that your focus on prioritizing your family is actually making you happier. Keep doing what you’re doing!

Emotions are less good or bad and more healthy or unhealthy.

Unhealthy emotions can lead to unhealthy behaviors, but that doesn’t make YOU bad.

Framing emotions in this way gives you more power to actually feel like you can have some mastery over them.

When you lose your cool with your kids, instead of beating yourself up for reacting in anger and thinking you’re a bad parent, you can spend some time trying to understand what’s really happening here.

  • Are you overwhelmed with all of your other responsibilities?
  • Have you set up clear boundaries with your kids so that they clearly understand the role they play in the family?

Figure out what’s laying underneath that unhealthy emotion.

Do you feel like you’re going to lose it every day at work? Maybe you feel like you’re swimming in a cesspool of frustration, powerlessness, jealousy and boredom.

That’s a recipe for disengagement for sure. But this isn’t a bad thing. You can tap into each of these emotions and investigate the situations that got you here.

  • Are you jealous of that coworker who got promoted ahead of you? Maybe you’re feeling hurt that you didn’t get chosen and you feel rejected.
  • Fine. It’s okay to feel that way. Now you know that promotion was important to you.
  • What role can you play to make any changes that might set you up for the future?
  • What other options might you have?

In order to do the healthy work to improve yourself, it’s important to lose the idea of good or bad when it comes to emotions.

That’s a super fast way to judge yourself and others.

There are just too many variations on our emotions to think that just one set of emotions is good and the rest are bad.

Learn to be curious about what your emotions are telling you.

Emotions add color and joy to our lives.

They complement logic and reason because sometimes things are not always so black-and-white.

Even difficult emotions add value because they are a testament to what we’ve been through.

And if we’re still standing, our emotions and our ability to use them can show us just what we’re capable of.

You can catch episodes of Mental Health Moment by visiting mymentalhealthmoment.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Just search for “Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.”

If you want Mental Health Moment delivered right to your inbox, visit mymentalhealthmoment.com to sign up to get these delivered to your email every day.

If you’re STILL wanting for more, you can find articles and videos about stress and mental health, by visiting my website at LoriMiller.me.

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
  • Share this episode on Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn .

Help spread the message about good mental health!

 

Get Mental Health Moment 🎧

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Ep: 14: Don’t hate on anger

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Could your anger be telling you something? We tend to think of anger as a bad emotion and something to be avoided.

But anger can be an indicator of what’s not working for you.

You can learn from your anger and use it to discover what you need to work on.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes of Mental Health Moment wherever you are! 

 

Get Mental Health Moment 🎧

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Full transcript 👇

Ep 14: Don't hate on anger

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

Anger gets a bad rap.

Most of us are taught early on that anger is a bad emotion and should be avoided.

So we learn to feel guilty about being angry or we look at it as some kind of character flaw.

First of all, please understand that anger isn’t a bad emotion.

There are no bad emotions, just healthy or unhealthy ones.

Thinking about it like this removes some of the character shaming that comes from labeling things as good or bad.

Because if we think of our emotions as good or bad, we might be tempted to think of ourselves, the owners of those emotions, as good or bad.

If we listen to our anger, we may find valuable data to discover what we need to work on.

Anger is known as a hard emotion.

It covers and protects softer emotions. Softer emotions are things like fear, vulnerability, hurt, and disappointment.

It’s easier to be ticked off and angry than to admit you’re hurt and scared, right? Because that means you’re out there with no protection and you can be hurt even more.

And then what do you do with that hurt?

Anger is simply an indicator of what we’re not getting.

Think about the last time you got angry at someone who cut you off in traffic. Did you get really upset?

Why did you get so enraged at a perfect stranger, someone you’ll never see again and who has nothing invested in your life?

Think about it.

What would have happened if they’d hit your car and caused you to spin out? And what if you suffered a traumatic injury because of it?

That total stranger’s actions would have kept you from your goal — arriving safely at your destination.

We get angry at people because their actions are blocking us from our goal.

  • We get angry at a spouse who cheats because they’re blocking us from our goal of a healthy marriage and a strong family.
  • We get angry at an abusive parent because they’re blocking us from the unconditional love and acceptance we thought we were supposed to get.
  • We get angry at our boss because their actions may very well keep us from advancing in our careers.

So breaking free from all that anger really isn’t the goal. Without anger it would be hard to know what’s bothering us.

Instead, we can use anger as a measuring stick for our pain and ask ourselves some real questions.

  • Should I leave?
  • Should I forgive?
  • Should I set some boundaries?
  • What’s really going on here?

Anger isn’t a character flaw.

It can be a diagnostic tool to help you discover a way forward in some very difficult situations.

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at Lorimiller.me.

 

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
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Ep 8: It is what it is

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Where you are now is where you are now. You know that.

Now how do you deal with it?

One of the most powerful ways you can gain real control over your mental health is to practice radical acceptance. We really don’t own much, but we do have the power to decide what to let go of.

In this episode, I share a bit about this radical acceptance and why it’s so important to add this tool to your toolbox.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes of Mental Health Moment wherever you are! 

 

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Full transcript 👇

Ep 8: It is what it is

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

It is what it is.

Have you ever said this? Boy I sure have!

If something doesn’t go my way, I take that deep breath and say, reluctantly. “Yep, it is what it is.”

It sounds like I’m giving up, but there’s a way to make “it is what it is” work for you.

There’s a specific type of therapy called dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT.

In DBT, “it is what it is” has a more clinical name.

It’s called radical acceptance.

Radical acceptance means accepting your circumstances. It doesn’t mean you approve of those circumstances or even expect them to never change.

But you help yourself understand that where you are now is where you are now.

DBT was mainly developed for people with borderline personality disorder.

Clients with this disorder struggle with extreme emotional dysregulation. It’s really hard for them to simply manage their emotions when things happen that they just don’t understand.

They can’t even think of moving forward because they’re completely ruled by their past and their emotional response to their past. It’s a very difficult place to be and hard to change.

Radical acceptance helps people with borderline personality disorder to better manage their emotional selves.

Because you can’t control what you can’t control, right?

You can’t really move forward and take meaningful action until you acknowledge that things are the way they are, for whatever reason they are.

The serenity prayer is based on this idea. Having the courage to accept what you can’t change is very powerful.

Because it allows you to leave a lot of junk behind you.

Sounds simple but it’s hard, I know.

Practicing radical acceptance is a deliberate and purposeful action.

You have to commit to accept something regardless of how you feel about it in that moment.

But it allows you to look ahead and really weigh your options. Now that you accept what you can’t control about your life, you can decide what you do have control over.

And more importantly, what you CAN change.

Radical acceptance creates a line in the sand that you can step over.

It engages you in your options instead of looking back and wallowing in things that may never change.

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at Lorimiller.me.

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Give yourself a Mental Health Moment every day!

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Amazon Alexa skill - Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller

Sometimes you need some encouragement right at the top of the day so you can stay focused on what will keep you energized and productive. 🌝

I’m excited to debut my Alexa skill, Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.

It’s a little shot in the arm to start your day.

Every day I’ll talk about small ways you can inject a bit of sanity in your day.

If you have an Amazon Echo you can enable Mental Health Moment in the Alexa store. You can also download the Alexa app on your phone or tablet and enable the skill there.

Check out all the details on my Amazon skill page.

Feel free to leave me a review. I’d love to know what you think! 🤔

How anger at work affects you and what to do about it

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Anger at work

Few things are as destructive in the workplace as anger.

And it’s quite stealthy.

I’m not talking about the kind of anger at work that wells up when you open the break room fridge and find your lunch MIA. This has never happened to me. I suspect it’s largely because my lunches contain mostly quinoa and avocado.

I’m not even talking about the yelling, slamming-fists-on-the-table kind of anger. I know realistically we’ve all worked with someone like that at some point. The person who name-calls and yells, is visibly infuriated, flies off the handle when they don’t get their way, and makes everyone uncomfortable.

Some people say you should just let this kind of anger out, that catharsis is healthy. I’m not so sure about that, domestic violence being what it is.

Silence is rarely golden

No, I’m talking about a more silent anger. One that hides behind smiles and professionalism, but drives many of your behaviors and decisions at work.

You may not even realize you’re angry. Maybe it really feels more like frustration. But if left unchecked, frustration can boil up and surprise you when you can least afford it.

Suddenly you’re saying and doing things that are out of character for you.

Then what?

  • Good relationships get pummelled because things were said that can’t be taken back.
  • Trust erodes when anger at work rears its head because we assume the worst about people and their intentions. People like our bosses.
  • Projects don’t get finished because no one can focus on their actual work and companies make less money.
  • Good people quit good jobs when they get angry at work because they feel powerless to make change.

The work game can set you up for anger

Work sometimes reminds me of the game called Keep Away (Piggy in the Middle, for my British friends). Did you play this game as a kid?

There’s one ball and three people. The object of this game is to toss the ball back-and-forth between two people and keep the third person, who finds himself in the middle, from getting the ball.

That’s pretty much the game.

Great laughter and sneering ensues while the third person flails around pathetically trying to catch the ball.

Maybe when you were a kid you were athletic, tall, aggressive, quick, crafty or Lebron James but in my storied past, this is how I looked when this sad game went down.

I remember being seriously ticked off playing this game.

Those two knuckleheads tossing the ball were blocking me from what I wanted, and it made me so angry.

But being a good Southern girl, I smiled and laughed it off while downing my sweet iced tea with lemon.

Anger is an obstacle

Anger usually presents itself when something or someone is standing in your way to a goal or a status you are trying to achieve.
  • You might be angry because you didn’t get the promotion you thought you deserved.
  • You may be angry because a coworker didn’t finish their part of the project and now the whole thing is in jeopardy.
  • You may be angry because you feel disrespected in spite of the value you bring to your team.
  • You may feel angry because you don’t have the resources to be successful.
  • You may be angry because you feel invisible, or you feel like you’re too visible and take the rap for everything bad that happens.
  • You may be angry because you can’t find peace to get your work done.
  • You might be angry because the changes never seem to stop and you just can’t get your legs under you.

No one may even have a clue you’re angry about these things. You’re good at hiding it because you don’t want to be yelling-and-slamming fists guy (or girl, girls can slam fists). That’s unprofessional.

How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.

So if you’re all smiles and giggles, how does this anger show up?

  • Have  you ever dropped sarcastic remarks in response to someone’s input on something?
  • Have you ever removed yourself from others in an effort to “show them?”
  • Have you ever asked deliberate leading questions to get someone to admit something or to make them look bad?
  • Have you ever talked about someone behind their back?
  • Have you ever withheld information someone might need to do their job?

These kinds of behaviors are all passive aggressive.

Meaning, you’re angry, but you act like you aren’t and use unrelated actions to communicate it.

Like when your spouse slams the dishes around while cleaning the kitchen you were supposed to clean. There’s a message there, but she’s not being terribly clear about it. But she is being loud.

And like that game of Keep Away, staying angry and flailing around about what you’re not getting isn’t going to get you anywhere.

At some point, you have to take action or nothing will change. In fact, your anger could give way to things like anxiety and depression.

So what can you do?

Stop letting anger block you

Anger is an excellent indicator that something is wrong. It wraps itself around and protects things like fear, vulnerability and hurt.

Anger can give you useful data to find out what you really need to work on. Anger is a beetle (What!? More on that here.)

Understand what you’re angry about

Take an honest assessment about what is making you angry. Write down each thing that you get upset about.

A good way to know when something has made you angry is if you sit at your desk and ruminate about it constantly and can’t get your work done.

Write. It. Down.

Then, rate from 1-10, how angry that thing makes you:

  • 1=”not so much,”
  • 10=”off the freakin’ rails.”

Look for patterns in the things you rated as off the rails, or close to off the rails. What common elements do they share?

Use this data to find out what you’re wanting and not getting.

You can also review your list and see if you can identify any other possible scenarios that might explain the situation.

Your boss ignored your email?

  • Perhaps it’s in her spam folder.
  • Maybe her daughter had to go to the ER and she’s been a little busy with that this morning.
  • Maybe she drafted a response and got sidetracked and forgot to hit Send. That happens to me soooo much.
  • Maybe she actually doesn’t care about your email. The negative response is always a possibility but it doesn’t have to be the first thing you come up with.
  • Try to explore all the possibilities before you go all Walter White on her.

Be brave and communicate it directly

Now that you have some idea of what is making you angry, give some consideration as to how you might communicate it to others so you can speak honestly about your experience.

In a work environment, this can be tricky. Most organizations have mechanisms to deal with slamming-fist people, but many are not that skilled with the finer emotional events that drive everyday work.

You will have to be the one to take the initiative, and it will be good for you because initiative is the anti-passive-aggressive.

So who should you talk to? Your manager?

You have to gauge this one based on your relationship with your manager. Many managers want to know when their people are unhappy, but just as many don’t know quite what to do with it.

Give some thought as to how your anger might sound on their side of the table and see how you might frame it in a way that will help them help you.

One way to do this is to communicate your concerns using “I” statements.

Speak from your own experience, describing the emotions you feel and how it has affected your situation.

And, this is important: you do this without casting blame or trying to assess the other person’s motives.

For example, NOT this:

“I noticed my accomplishments were not mentioned in last month’s report to the CEO along with everyone else. How could you disrespect me like that? I worked so hard and sacrificed a lot of personal time to get it done. I can’t believe how little you care about me and my work.”

Dang! No…

Try this instead:

“I noticed my accomplishments were not mentioned in last month’s report to the CEO along with everyone else. Gotta be honest, that made me feel a bit angry because I worked extra hours and sacrificed personal time to meet the goals. My goals and my team’s goals are really important to me. Help me understand what you need from me. What could I be missing?”

In the last scenario, you speak to your anger, but not in a way that puts the other person on the defensive. Instead, it’s a call for more information to improve the process, and ultimately, it’s more collaborative.

“I” statements are a powerful way to communicate with anyone who may have a real stake in your life: coworkers, spouses, kids, friends, the geniuses at the Apple store.

If you can’t talk to your manager, is there someone else in your internal network who can hear your concerns? Maybe someone in a different department who has a voice in the organization?

Don’t be a jerk, let it go

Whether you address your anger with someone else or not, you are still faced with the prospect of letting your anger go.

Anger is exhausting and doesn’t really serve anyone, least of all you. You may not get your justice, and you may have to be okay with that.

Letting it go serves to start with a clean slate, for everyone. This is a great foundation to build trust and can actually strengthen your relationships.

There is great value in exploring and processing anger, but the road always leads to the same place: to move forward you have to release it.

This is the part you can control

Letting go of anger is a decision and a commitment. There’s no magic trick that will distract you from it or make it seem better than it is.

It is an act of humility that says the greater good is bigger than my feelings in this moment.

It’s easy to look for others to be the cause of why we’re struggling at work, but we forget that we hold so much power over our emotions.

Anger is tricky because it seems like it’s mostly caused by something or someone else.

But the decision on how to deal with anger is largely left up to us.

That’s not fair, but that seems to be the way that particular cookie fell off the sheet.

We can choose how to perceive others’ actions in our workday, and we can decide what role we might play in the solution.

Who knows how that might change the outcome?

What about you?

How have you experienced anger at work? What has helped you? Please share!

 

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Don’t hate on anger

Anger gets a bad rap.

Out of all the emotions, it’s the only one people don’t seem eager to embrace. No one really relishes wallowing in anger like they do disappointment, sadness, and especially fear. (Don’t lecture me, some people enjoy their pain. You know I’m right.)

While there are certainly enough books on managing anger or letting it go, there aren’t as many trying to explore what anger may be trying to tell us.

Things like, “Hey, this person’s not good for you.”

Or, “Look how that lost opportunity really meant something to you.”

And the always popular Twisted Sister-esque, “You don’t have to take that anymore.”

We can learn from this scorned emotion before we start trying to shoo it away. Anger can give us valuable data to discover some things we need to work on.

Anger isn’t a bad emotion.

One of the first things I like to tackle with my clients, especially with kids, is the perspective of emotions as good or bad.

First of all, we therapist types like to think in terms of healthy or unhealthy. That removes some of the character shaming that can come from labeling things as good or bad.

Because if we think of emotions as good or bad, we might be tempted to think of ourselves, the carriers of those emotions, as good or bad.

And nobody wants that.

If I hold a pen in my hand, and with said pen I stab you in the hand, is that pen a bad pen?

What if I took that same pen and wrote you a beautiful note extolling your wondrous virtues? Is the pen now miraculously a good pen?

If you’re keeping score at home: it’s neither. Pens are neither good nor bad. They’re just pens, for corn’s sake.

The devil is in how they’re used.

Anger protects softer emotions.

Anger is sometimes called a “hard emotion.” It lays over the top of softer emotions like fear, vulnerability, hurt, and disappointment.

Consider, if you will, the plight of the beetle.

Beetles have a pretty hard exoskeleton. It’s designed to protect the vital organs just under that hard shell, and it’s quite durable against many natural predators.

But when you step on a beetle (by accident or on purpose, I’m not judging), what immediately comes splattering out? White, gooey, soft liquid. That’s the real existence of the beetle.

Lying just under its supposedly impenetrable exterior was its own true nature, where the real beetle lived. That hard shell was doing a bang up job. Until it wasn’t. Now the beetle is exposed and in our little scenario, likely dead.

Wow, that’s really gross, Lori.

It’s easier to be pissed off and angry than to admit you’re hurt and scared. Because that means you’re out there and you can be hurt even more. And then you have to do something with that hurt. Who wants that?

Better to just avoid flat-footed humans and keep that outer shell in place.

Stay angry, my friends.

Anger is an indicator of what we’re not getting.

Think about the last time you got angry at someone who cut you off in traffic. I know you can think of something because everyone these days has a bad traffic story.

Why did you get so enraged at a perfect stranger, someone you’ll never see again and who has nothing invested in your life?

Think about it.

What would have happened if, in cutting you off, they hit your car and caused you to spin out? And what if you suffered a traumatic injury as a result of that collision? That stranger’s actions would have kept you from arriving at your destination safely, which was your intended goal.

Not to mention possibly changing the trajectory of your life, maybe keeping you from achieving your life’s dreams.

Believe it or not, all this goes through your mind when you get cut off in traffic (in addition to any relevant profanity).

We get angry at people because their actions are blocking us from our goal.

  • We get angry at a spouse who cheats because they are blocking us from our goal of a healthy marriage and a strong family.
  • We get angry at an abusive parent because they are blocking us from the unconditional love and acceptance we’re supposed to get from our parents.
  • We get angry at a boss because their actions may keep us from advancing in our careers.

Breaking free from all that anger really isn’t the goal. Without anger it would be hard to know what’s bothering us.

And of course, I’m not talking here about anger that results in violence. We all have to make responsible choices about what we do with that anger.

But we can use anger to measure our discomfort in certain areas, and ask ourselves some real questions.

Should I leave? Should I forgive? Should I set some boundaries? What’s really going on here?

Seeing anger as a diagnostic tool, rather than a character flaw, can open your mind to discover a way forward in some very difficult situations.

#alwaysbelearnin

Photo: Creative Commons “Anger” by Rob Oo is licensed under CC BY 2.0