The Difference Between Being Angry and Feeling Angry

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 8.54.46 AMThe Good Men Project just published my article on anger – read it here, “Speaking of Anger:  The Difference Between Being Angry and Feeling Angry

Excerpt:

Oh, how some men do anger—with flair, full throttle, and theatrically. There are men who even do it in cars. Some especially do it in cars. An automobile can punctuate anger: A sharp right turn says I mean business, engine revving at a red light means this is only over when I say so, and yanking the car to the side of the road while yelling “Get the fu*k out of the car!” means tonight, I am god.

The automobile is to anger what the stage is to Shakespearian Theater! Consider the acoustics—how easily anger is amplified inside a 4-door Accord with the windows up. It’s not polite to leave during a theatrical performance and it’s not safe to jump from a moving vehicle.

You’ve got the audience right where you want them, in their seats. Still, when people, objects, or life fail to behave as you want them to, is anger the show you’re still putting on? You know this:

  • People won’t do what you want,
  • Objects will fail you,
  • Life will throw curve balls.

Those are givens. Why put on the anger show, again?

It’s time to try a new script. Toss your tired Angry Guy lines aside, and practice the lines of the man who experiences a feeling called anger.

- Read the whole article at: goodmenproject.com

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Amy Eden is the author of The Kind Self-Healing Book: Raise Yourself Up with Curiosity and Compassion

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Be Charlie Brown

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 4.37.19 PMThis week’s post on my Facebook page for guesswhatnormalis.com drew so many views that I’m posting here, too. This is about why we should keep trying, even when others don’t see the point of our trying and when we also might not see the point of trying.

I saw The Peanuts Movie the other night. I’m glad not to be someone who jumps up once the final scene is over, because while watching the credits I came to understand the essence of Charlie Brown, at long last.

Here’s why you should watch the credits of at least this movie:  You get to see the classic, now iconic “dance” of Charlie and Lucy. By “dance” I mean dynamic. During the credits we see an updated version of Lucy holding the football for Charlie to kick while Charlie gears up to run and kick it. He’s focused. He’s hopeful. Every time in the past Lucy has withdrawn the ball at the last minute, and yet Charlie wants to try again. And as he’s about to begin his run, the audience starts thinking, “Don’t! Don’t be a fool. Don’t fall for it, you know Lucy will pull the ball away — she does every time!”

But he runs for it. He runs and as he pulls his leg back to kick the ball…Lucy does her thing, she pulls the football away and Charlie lands on his back. Then Lucy calls him “gullible.”

What I need to tell you is: Be Charlie Brown.

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Even if your spouse or old friend joke at your attempts to learn something new, even if one of your inner voices tells you to give up and that it’s no use to go to the gym, to learn yoga, to take a cake decorating class, to change your hair style, to stop because you’re not getting the hang of it quickly enough, to try new things for the heck of it…to try and try, again and again — do it.

Don’t concern yourself with what Lucy will or won’t do, that’s Lucy’s shtick. Lucy symbolizes chance, life, and the ‘haters.’ Concern yourself with what you will do, your own story, will, and your bliss.

There’s no greater humiliation than not trying. Charlie embodies trying, again and again.

Be Charlie Brown.

- be kind to yourself

 

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Amy Eden is the author of The Kind Self-Healing Book: Raise Yourself Up with Curiosity and Compassion

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Did Chronic Stress in Childhood Raise my Risk for Autoimmune Disease?

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 10.51.05 AMThe answer, in a word, is yes.

All along, nestled in my DNA, was a marker for autoimmune disease. Who knew. If no chronically stressful or physically traumatic events had occurred in my childhood and adult life, the disease may have gone un-triggered for my lifetime. It might have just laid low in my DNA forever. Instead, ongoing stress throughout childhood and a life-threatening childbirth in my thirties flipped the switch, and triggered my autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

It took about three years to land on a firm diagnosis, a typical, irritating, confusing, and very common story for others who’ve experienced the long and winding trail to figuring out they have an autoimmune disease. What’s more, my endocrinologist says that while he considers me as having Hashimoto’s, that I actually have only “half” the diagnosis because my thyroid gland is healthy but my autoimmune response is high (extremely high levels of antibodies specific to the thyroid gland). If my thyroid were damaged, I would have full Hashimoto’s.

I eat and live differently now, and will write about that at some point; in a nutshell, I now meditate and eat a gluten-free, plant-based diet. And oh! What that did for my energy levels! (I wrote about the 21 day cleanse that helped me get started, although when I did the cleanse, I didn’t yet know about my autoimmune disease.)

Was Your Childhood Lived Walking on Eggshells?

For those of us who grew up with chronic stress—whether waiting for the next scary outburst of anger, domestic argument, or upsetting reason to run to our rooms and blot out or fantasize-away the crazy reality of our household—we know that our most sensitive and important developmental stages were lived waiting for the other shoe to drop, chair to be thrown, or car tires pealed out of  the driveway and away from the house.

I wish that the fallout from less-than-nurturing childhoods started and ended with the emotional wounds we know so well — the characteristics of adult children of alcoholics, but the truth is there are health risks to understand, too.

Here’s what you need to know:

A chronically stressful childhood, and one that includes anything on the list below, is one that falls into the category of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and are known to raise one’s risk of disease in adult life.

Do You Know What Your ACE Score Is?

Often or very often in childhood, did…

- a parent or adult swear at you, insult, push, or humiliate you?
- your parents separate or divorce?
- a household member struggle with depression or was mentally ill?
- a household member go to prison?
- a parent or adult push, grab, slap, or throw something at you?
- a parent or adult at least 5 years older than you ever touch you in a sexual way?
- you feel that no one in your family loved you or thought you were special?
- you feel you didn’t have enough to eat, wore dirty clothes, or needed more care then you were getting?
- your parents drink too much or get too high to care for you?
- a parent or adult have a drinking or addiction problem?

If those questions resonate for you, take this quiz and get your ACE Score here.

Do You Know What Your ACE Score Means?

If you answered yes to a couple or flew of those questions, please read up on ACEs. Why? Oh my, because you may be at increased risk for any of the following:

  • liver disease
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • ischemic heart disease (IHD)
  • depression
  • alcohol abuse, over use, and alcoholism
  • domestic abuse
  • suicide
  • smoking and/or early initiation of smoking
  • early initiation of sexual activity

That list is science-based, based on a longitudinal study that crossed class and race lines. If you haven’t yet watched Nadine Burke Harris’ TED talk about Adverse Childhood Experiences, please view it (she is a hero of mine for three reasons: her impassioned voice, awareness-raising, and her remarkable, important work of identifying these nascent issues in children). Don’t assume that you’re not as risk — the study’s findings are compelling and show that not one of us is too rich, too poor, too pale, or too dark to suffer from the impact of our childhood. It’s not as simple as growing up and moving away from your family of origin. (The list above was taken from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study website  - I urge you to visit their site and learn about ACEs.)

If you have one of the 100+ known autoimmune diseases—such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Grave’s disease, Celiac disease, endometriosis, or multiple sclerosis—reflect on the frequency and severity of stress in your childhood home as well as events in your adult life, such as a car accident, bike accident, major fall, or chronic domestic abuse. Why? Many people who have autoimmune diseases find that they were ultimately triggered by an accident of some sort.

Steps You Can Take to Live Wisely

I wouldn’t leave you without an action plan, friends. If you’re now wondering about your health in relation to chronic stress in childhood, take the reins and take these steps:

  • Get your ACE Score (take the quiz)
  • Get a physical exam if you haven’t in the past year
  • Tell your doctor about the ACE study if they haven’t heard of it
  • Ask for tests to understand your heart and liver health and establish a baseline to track against
  • Stop multitasking

But don’t wait till your health is poor. You can change your diet now (to include more plants!) Also, check out some books about heart and liver health so that you know what pro-liver and pro-heart living looks like. Invest in your health so that you don’t have to suffer. A couple books to check out are “Healthy Heart, Healthy Planet” and “The Healthy Heart Kit.”

Learn about — and practice — breathing techniques (I recommend Dr. Andrew Weil’s breathing techniques) and also, meditation. I love this 10 minute meditation, “10 Minute to Ease Worry, Anxiety, and Urgency” as well as this one, “5 Minute Anxiety Reduction Guided Meditation.  Those will address the chronic stress that it’s my guess you’re still living with because it’s all you’ve ever known.

As always and above all: Be kind to yourself.

Amy

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Amy Eden is the author of The Kind Self-Healing Book: Raise Yourself Up with Curiosity and Compassion

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The 3 Stages of Self-Healing and Recovery Work

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Recovery Isn’t What You’d Expect

On a recent trip to Portland, I grabbed a copy of Co-Dependence, Healing the Human Condition, by Charles L Whitfield. I’ve long admired Dr. Whitfield’s work. He’s been writing about co-dependence, inner child work, and adult child issues for decades (and authored dozens of books!) His is one of the enduring voices for adult children of traumatic and dysfunctional upbringings.

A Note to Therapists
If you’re treating clients whose parents struggled with addictions or who experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), please study Dr. Whitfield’s work. Therapists are part of the moment as those who help clients turn-around the effects of childhood trauma. You can bring greater understanding of the core issues to your therapeutic work and better help clients by integrating Dr. Whitfield’s deep knowledge into your own.

I’m slowly digesting this fantastic book, and will share gems as I go.

The 3 phases of recovery is one of those gems.

DISCLAIMER:  All of this language is my own, inspired by the book. The concept of three phases and the nature of the three phases is the work of Dr. Whitfield.

Stage One – CRISIS! PEOPLE, I NEED A SOLUTION HERE!   

This first stage is the “AH-HA!” moment we experience — the flipping of a switch — in which we feel so, so sick and tired of being sick and tired. We realize that there’s something wrong in our life, and we think that ‘something’ is living and operating within us.

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We feel powerless. We are hurting. We know we’re sick of the patterns and we know we want to change them. But here’s the rub:  we also feel powerless to change them. That is the conundrum, and it’s a painful one.

We finally realize that (a) there’s a Problem and that (b) we cannot solve the problem Alone. We decide, “I’m going to seek help.”

This stage brings contradictory feelings:  we feel relief but confusion, we feel hope but huge overwhelm! We are feeling a lot of feelings and we are overwhelmed by the magnitude of feelings. We would give up and return to the chaos, drama, and codependence — except: we are done with the frustration the the cycles, and in pain. We’re really, truly DONE and ready to END THE INSANITY.

That’s when we reach out for help. A therapist, a 12 step group, group therapy, blogs like this, or online communities. We quickly realize we are not alone. We can survive this. There is a road starting here.

Something to watch out for is addictions, addictive behavior, and the whack-a-mole of addictions (you stop drinking but you unconsciously start shopping more). When you’re in pain and feeling overwhelmed, that may be when you reach for:  food, the “BUY” button online, sex, stirring up drama with people, alcohol, dugs – you name it. So, be aware and watch out for new and/or different coping habits.

Stage Two – TAKING CONTINUOUS ACTION TO HEAL

We begin to think:  It’s not me. It’s my childhood. Something is off. The something is in me, but not because of me or who I am. As we begin to do research we learn a new vocabulary – adult-child, codependence, ACoA, toxic shame, etc. And we begin to relate the theories we come across online with our childhood — we read something like, “Children of alcoholic parents have trouble finishing projects, ending conversations, feeling like themselves…” and we identify. We realize we are one of those people, and that we have a “diagnosis” (so to speak) and even better, that we have a tribe.

Much grieving occurs during stage two.

The grieving comes as we learn how to find ourselves again, and we see what we missed out on in childhood. As we take action to become actors in our lives, as we move out of a life of victimhood and reacting to everyone and everything and into a life that we steer and in which we take action, we grieve what we didn’t get. We grieve who we didn’t become. We grieve the loss of love that we are slowly learning to give ourselves.

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Deep self-discovery and the work of putting what you learn into action begins in this stage. It’s a stage with steep climbs and temporary plateaus. You begin to start saying “no,” to establish boundaries, establish needs, and disengage from codependent dynamics. You might end friendships or marriages, or you may transform them. This stage begins and repeats over time.

As you enter stage two, you will probably believe that it won’t take “long” to heal. You’ll imagine you’re going to work really hard and wrap it up in a year or so. Tee hee. We all find that after a certain period of time (a year, or so) that our thinking was right and wrong, both. We realize that self-healing and recovery are a way of life, not a destination. We see that we’re feeling good when we put what we’re learning into practice. Because of that satisfaction from the work, we stop asking, “How long is healing myself going to take?”

However, if you are still asking that question, read my post from last week.

Stage Three – I HAVE A SPIRITUAL LIFE

This stage just creeps up on you. At some point after you’ve given yourself over to stage two being a way of life, a journey without a destination, you suddenly find that your spiritual life is blooming and central to you being You.

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When you’re in stage three, you’ll be regularly practicing self care and doing your daily spiritual practices. For some people, knowing God is what happens in this stage. For others, like me, that is feeling deeply connected to and empowered by All-That-Is. The Universe.

This is where you know, and cultivate, a connection to God, to Goddess, to a higher power, to All-That-Is. Your emptiness is filled. You will begin to think to yourself, “I am loved.” You will love yourself, love being alive, and feel ready to be of service to others making the journey.

You’ll feel overwhelmed during this phase too, but not overwhelmed by pain or by resentment. You’ll feel overwhelmed by love and gratitude.

You can handle small “relapses” without being distraught or destroyed when you fall. You know your identity and true self and have fewer and fewer instances of ‘forgetting’ who you truly are.

- Be kind to yourself.

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You can get Dr. Whitfield’s book here, Co-Dependence Healing the Human Condition.

Reference:  Co-Dependence: Healing The Human Condition: The New Paradigm for Helping Professionals and People in Recovery by Charles L. Whitfield, M.D. (HCI Publications 1991).

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Amy Eden is the author of The Kind Self-Healing Book: Raise Yourself Up with Curiosity and Compassion

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How Long is Healing Myself Going to Take?

6a00d8341c692c53ef014e8a8eb750970d-320wiIf you ever find yourself wondering how long it takes to heal, you’re not alone. I have asked that question. We all have. I started this work in the early 90s with that very question. And as soon as I looked under the hood of my pain and discovered that I had deeply-rooted self-loathing and that it was affecting all of my relationships, I let that hood slam shut again. I first wanted the answer, before I dug in: “How long is this going to take?” As if I were asking a mechanic! As if the question were answerable. This past weekend two readers emailed to ask me, How long? We all want to know, How long will it take to heal myself and be the kind of person who can feel contented most of the time and not have so many damn issues?!

I can now say that it’s a beginner’s question. It’s a valid beginner’s question. It cannot be answered. The only answer is a Buddhist one, “Begin the work.”

Here’s why. As soon as you commit yourself to self-healing, the question drops. The question of “how long?” becomes irrelevant.

Once you begin, you’re on a journey and that makes the question irrelevant; you’ve stepped off the cliff’s edge and into thin air where the path is forming under your feet with each step forward.

Recovery work is a practice. It’s work, but not the kind of work that gets “done,” or wraps-up. A practice is something you’re committed to doing (like guitar or yoga) over time. And over time as you practice regularly, you improve. But the goal isn’t to “finish,” it’s to become someone who plays guitar, does yoga, heals himself or herself — you! — and whose life reflects that practice in both small and large ways. Your practice informs your choices. As you practice self-healing, you begin to realize that your choices are those of someone who is healing and wants better for herself or himself. Making choices that suit you is a result of your practice and making choices is the practice itself. We make time for ourselves by making time for our practice. We might mention our practice to others, saying, “I’m doing an hour of self-care every week now.” And, as we practice self-healing, we begin to notice something:  we have come to love the qualities, routines, and ritual of practicing. We’ve let go of the results because the results are the practice, too.

Be kind to yourself.

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Amy Eden is the author of The Kind Self-Healing Book: Raise Yourself Up with Curiosity and Compassion

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