Tag Archives: emotions

You Have a Choice: Walnuts or Apples

apples and walnuts

 

Once upon a time, a walnut tree decided to start producing apples instead of walnuts. He was shunned by some and admired by others for his raw courage.

He had defied his programming.

No question, if this had actually happened, the news of this free-thinking walnut tree would have received world-wide attention in a matter of seconds.

In truth, we all know that it’s impossible for walnut trees to grow apples. They’re genetically programmed to produce only one thing … walnuts. And just like walnut trees, we humans are genetically programmed. Take our physical appearance. It’s directly influenced by genes passed down from our ancestors.

But unlike walnut trees, we also undergo parental programming that shapes our behavior, our thoughts and attitudes. That we can change! And if we choose to do so, we will be shunned by some and admired by others. ūüôā

For example, Cheryl has been programmed to put her mother’s needs before her own. If her mother requests something or manipulates Cheryl through guilt tactics, Cheryl drops everything and caters to her wish. Even if it’s hugely inconvenient.¬†Even if her own family suffers.

I’m happy to say that’s all changing. Lately, when Cheryl has the impulse to drop everything and do her mother’s bidding, she stops and asks herself: What do I think is the best use of my time right now? How do I best take care of me and my family?

In other words, what do I choose to do?

Then there’s James. He gave¬†countless examples of his father yelling at him when he was a boy and telling him how worthless he was.

“In his eyes, I sucked at everything . . . I couldn’t do anything right.”

For 40 years, James bought into that piece of damage. He even picked up where his father left off. As an adult he would mutilate his own self-esteem with the same messages he got from his dad.

Not long ago, he chose to see himself in a new light.

Katie was programmed to tough it out. Instead of comforting her when she got hurt—either physically or emotionally—her parents would sternly say: “You’re alright.”

Her programming failed to prepare her for understanding and¬†working through her emotions. So she was at a loss—to the point of panic—when her dog died, when her car broke down on a busy highway, when her boyfriend cheated on her, and when she became the target of cyberbullying.

By the time I met her, she was inches away from suicide.

Today, she’s choosing to embrace her feelings. By doing so, she’s on the road to learning how to manage them.

Each of these individuals chose to defy their programming. They’re to be admired.

Walnuts or apples? To break the spell of programming, make it apples. ūüôā

 

(c) Salee Reese 2016

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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The Truth about Tears

inside out

“Only strong people allow themselves to feel pain.”

–Heather, 16

If you haven’t watched the movie Inside Out, drop everything and head for a theater immediately! The story takes place inside the head of 11-year-old Riley, where five key characters reside—all representing her main emotions: Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness.

The story carries a powerful message about the important role each emotion plays in our life, including those less desirable emotions such as sadness.

In the movie, Sadness starts out as a bother but ends up the hero. That’s because she knows how to handle Riley’s problems. Unlike the other emotions, she knows where to take things so they can change for the better.

She’s also the only character who demonstrates ¬†empathy. When Riley’s imaginary friend—Bing Bong—from early childhood, becomes sad and discouraged, Joy is powerless, but that isn’t true of Sadness. She listens in the only way that counts—at the heart level. Bing Bong got better.

And when Riley’s parents got in touch with their sadness over Riley’s sadness, they were capable of listening. The result? Things got better. Prior to that, Riley believed that the only allowable emotion was joy. And in the movie we learn that joy has its limitations.

It was apparent that Riley was sheltered from negative emotions from the start. Therefore, she was poorly equipped to deal with the stresses and heartbreak of moving to another state at the age of eleven.

As I lost myself in this movie, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Heather, whom I quoted above, a teenager¬†I counseled who was grappling with overwhelming sadness. Her parents were oblivious to that fact¬†until they found her suicide note.¬†Read her story here.

Both Riley and Heather needed the freedom to feel, and the freedom to express it. They needed to be understood, and that was best accomplished when their parents felt with them.

When I asked Heather: “When you’re hurting, what do you need most from your mom? Do you need for her to be strong?” Without any hesitation, she replied:

“No! I need to see her feelings. Showing feelings isn’t being weak—it’s being close.”

That says it all.  Thanks, Heather.

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality

(c) 2015 Salee Reese

 

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Trained By a Dog

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Let’s face it, if we’re vague about what we want,

we won’t get it.

Like Karen, a former client, we’ll only cultivate inner frustration.

“Never—ever!—did I anticipate the day I’d be jealous of a dog,” she said, “but I am . . . If the dog wants to play, Sam drops everything and plays with him.”

“Dropping everything,” meant abruptly turning his attention away from Karen. Despite her obvious advantages—the fact that she’s human, intelligent and married to her husband—she felt reduced to second-class citizenship.

Clearly, the dog had the edge in their relationship. All it took was a certain whimper or a wet nose placed strategically on Sam’s lap and Karen was out.

My advice was strange but it worked: “Take your cues from the dog. I guess that means you gotta get more dog-like.” ¬†Click here to get the full scoop.

 

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It Takes Courage to Feel

tear

Some people think that being tough has to do with muscle strength and detached emotions, but it’s the opposite. It takes courage to feel.

Brenna, a client in her 20’s, mistakes strength with being stoic—devoid of emotion like one of Clint Eastwood’s characters. Her mom matches those qualities, and Brenna feels weak in comparison.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen her cry,” Brenna said.

In contrast, Brenna wears her heart on her sleeve. Her emotions are right out there—she feels them all. In our sessions, she often gets teary-eyed and then immediately apologizes for it.

Not long ago she said, “I wish I were strong like other people.”

I had to tell her she’s got it all wrong. “Look,” I said, “compared to you, unfeeling people are lightweights. Quit apologizing for a strength. Quit apologizing for something that’s beautiful about you!”

We humans tend to avoid feelings of pain, grief, fear and annoyance, because the experience is like being in a small boat on stormy seas. It rocks our serenity. It frightens us and threatens our sense of control … meager as that is.

I explained to Brenna that it’s not unusual to discover that the people who are detached emotionally—who seem unfeeling—are actually submerged in a flood of unbearable emotions. Life has left wounds that are just too over-the-top to bear. For those people, detachment is a godsend—a means of coping.

Throughout her life, Brenna has suffered the effects of her mother’s detachment. ¬†Wrongly, she misread it to mean her mother didn’t love her very much. That’s changing. Brenna’s coming to realize that her mother’s emotional detachment is actually an outgrowth of her detachment from herself . . . not to be taken personally.

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality

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The Latest Wow: Military Officer Endorses Tears

Tear

I want to share with you a touching email I received from a Naval Officer stationed in Viriginia Beach.¬† He wrote to me after reading Tears Are As Natural As Breathing”—the column I refer to in the previous post, “Dare to Cry.” Here it is:

“Salee, I just wanted you to know that shortly after reading your column, I stood in front of¬†a class of junior officers and instructed them to pay close attention because I had something very important to tell them. I then proceeded to tell them that it’s okay to cry. You could hear a pin drop.”

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Dare to Cry

“Tears are a sign of a soul feeling awake.”

— Michael Meade

I love that quote because it slams the notion that something is wrong with shedding tears.¬†In truth, something is probably wrong if we don’t.

Like so many of us, I learned at an early age that tears aren’t acceptable, and that they stand for weakness.¬†Better to put up a good front.

I finally grew up . . . from that sort of thinking. What I came to realize is spelled out in my column, Tears are as Natural as Breathing. There I write about two clients, “Jill” and “Ken,” who were conditioned as I was to fight their tears. Here’s an excerpt:

And far from indicating weakness, tears can be a sign of maturity and strength.  Think about it:  It takes toughness and courage to feel deeply, to hurt deeply, to grieve deeply. Only the courageous among us dare to do that. Tears are for the very gutsy, not the fainthearted.

Tell me your thoughts . . . .

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