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I hope your holidays are filled with love and laughter. I bless you with inner peace that glows from your heart.
Unfortunately, holidays are not merry and bright for everyone. I’ve written this article to help people who struggle at this time of the year. However, you can apply these skills 365 days a year.
• Have loved ones passed on? Has there been a divorce or a relationship break-up? Are you still grieving?
• Are there conflicts in your family? Do you try to put on a happy face, but inside you brace against the next insensitive comment?
• Do family members refuse to come together because there is too much pain?
• Is there sickness?
Many people experience one or more of these situations. I want to extend my compassion to those of you who suffer during the holidays. When everything is supposed to happy, we may experience even deeper pain because we are hurting.
Here are 23 suggestions to help you develop inner peace and manage conflict.
1. First, choose to develop inner peace. You don’t have to know how to do it or even be good at it. Just choose it. Ask God to help you. Make a commitment to develop personal mastery even if your mother criticizes you. As a metaphor, if you want to become a black belt karate master, you begin with a white belt. Over time and with lots of practice, you develop high level skills.
2. Notice when you first begin to get upset. Don’t wait for the pressure to build up. It will be more difficult to manage. Observe yourself. Does your voice get edgy? Do you want to fight back? Do you emotionally withdraw? Do you get heady instead of being heart-centered? Do you breathe shallowly? Do your muscles tighten up? That’s what happens when we feel threatened.
3. Take a time-out to center yourself. Soothe your nervous system. It needs help because it went into hyper-arousal when you felt threatened. Our natural reactions are fight, flight or freeze. You might want to excuse yourself and go to the bathroom for some privacy. Or, go for a walk. Take a few deep breaths. Inhale to the count of four. Hold your breath to the count of four, and exhale to the count of eight.
If you go for a walk, count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. with every step you take. Breathe into your heart center and imagine your favorite beautiful place in nature.
4. Focus your attention on the people who love you and support you. Breathe that love into your heart. Place an imaginary protective bubble around yourself that envelops you and all the people who support you.
5. Ask for spiritual guidance from God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or however you conceptualize your spiritual support. Don’t just complain. Open your mind and listen to what God wants to communicate to you. Write it down if you can. It will sink in better. God will have a hard time getting through to you if you don’t ask for help. God gives you free will and waits to be invited into your heart and mind.
6. Have compassion for the part of you who struggles. If you try to be tough and stuff your emotions, you’re in effect telling a hurt part of yourself that it is unloved. I often think of this as my inner child. None of us like feeling unloved and neither do our inner family members.
Find the inner family member who feels hurt or angry or scared. Invite them to share their innermost feelings with you. You have a nurturing parent inside of you and the Holy Spirit who is compassionate. Listen to the pain of the inner child. Be empathetic. Ask your inner wise self and God for comfort. This process develops emotional and spiritual intimacy within your internal family. This will help you feel centered again.
You can experience inner peace no matter how others respond to you.
7. Remember, anger often covers up hurt, fear or a sense of rejection. If you lead with your anger or emotional distance, you’ll pull for defensiveness from others. If you lead with your softer feelings, you’ll pull for empathy. I know that’s challenging, but that’s what personal mastery looks like.
8. Take responsibility for your own emotional reactions. Don’t blame others. What arises from within you is the material from your own psyche. It’s your stuff. Own it.
I know it’s tempting to blame others and get angry with them when they don’t behave the way you want them to. You feel more powerful when you’re angry or stoic. But this is not the way to genuine empowerment, nor is it the way to inner peace. It perpetuates the cycle of suffering within yourself and your family.
9. You don’t have control over changing other’s reactions. Accept that. All you can do is take responsibility for returning yourself to inner peace.
10. When there’s a conflict, don’t get quiet or blow up. After you center yourself, apologize for anything you can take responsibility for.
11. Reach out to repair the relationship breach. Begin with a soft sincere voice and look directly into the other person’s eyes.
12. Tell your family member something positive … how much they mean to you … or give them a sincere compliment. Affirm them. That helps build an emotional attachment.
13. Tell them what is hurtful to you. Speak about your own emotions. Share the interpretations you made and check them out for accuracy. Don’t assume you are right. Get feedback and keep an open mind. Don’t analyze the other person and make them wrong. People tend to get defensive when you do that.
14. Invite them to share their feelings. Listen to understand.
15. Unless they have lots of training in communication skills, they may not take personal responsibility or listen well. Have compassion. They are doing the best they can. Listen for the heart of their pain.
16. Empathize and validate their feelings whenever you can. You don’t have to agree with them. Don’t argue about the facts and stay in your head. Express that you genuinely care about their pain.
17. After several interchanges, hopefully, your hearts will be more connected. Ask: “What can I do to support you right now?” Listen to understand.
18. Make a promise to help lessen their pain. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Do what you can.
19. Ask this question if you feel it is appropriate: “Would you like to know what you can do to support me right now?” Develop warmth and caring first.
20. Offer concrete specific suggestions. Focus on creating solutions rather than continuing to complain.
21. You may not do any of this perfectly. Do what you can. Start with one small step. Which suggestion do you want to start with? Practice that one thing.
22. Remind yourself of your goals. Put a post-it note on your bathroom mirror, your desk or your car dashboard. Set alarms on your smartphone. Choose a picture that symbolizes your goal and set it as wallpaper on your phone or computer. Make a sign and hang it on the door as you exit your house.
23. Be compassionate with yourself when you fail. Be compassionate with others. We all carry pain, and we don’t always know how to express it in the wisest way. Practice, practice, practice. That’s what it takes to move from a white belt to a black belt karate master.
Well, there you have it. I’ve given you two blueprints. One to manage your emotional reactivity and one to repair relationship breaches. I know it’s easier said than done. It takes practice just like anything else. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.
Blessings to you for inner peace, wisdom and love.
Would you like to improve your conflict management skills and experience more inner peace? Video and audio conferences are available worldwide. In-person visits and intensive retreats take place in Georgia, USA. Ask for a complimentary 10-minute phone interview to see if we are a good fit. Complete the contact form on either of my websites:
Watch these videos:
Click here to watch the video about my bestselling book: The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert, Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self.
Click here to learn about research by Dr. John Gottman on what makes masters and disasters of marriage.
“Four Horsemen: Don’t Let Them Ruin Your Marriage.”
I want to pass on the benefits of meditation that I’ve come to enjoy. It can bring so much more peace to your life.
My energy dips at 3pm. Meditation renews my energy for several hours. I don’t get cranky because my nervous system is so calm. Meditation helps me heal from illness. It eliminates pain. It heightens creativity. I’ve been meditating at least five days a week for most of the last 46 years.
There are many types of meditation.
Guided meditation is easier for many people. It gives our minds something positive to focus on instead of the monkey mind chatter.
I created a guided meditation CD called “A Journey Into Wholeness.”
It helps you relax, calm your nervous system, build self-esteem, strengthen your spiritual connection and heal difficult emotional experiences. Click here to read the full description and listen to an audio sample.
Here’s the story of how I learned to meditate.
You’ll find this story in my book, The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self.
When I learned to meditate in college, I did it twenty minutes twice a day every single day. I was amazed that I was able to memorize minute details like names, dates and places. I was able to understand complex ideas that were previously incomprehensible.
The following story was my first remarkable experience with meditation.
I was in a social philosophy class. For three months, the professor and one other student carried on brilliant dialogues that none of the rest of us understood. Three weeks before the end of the semester, the professor assigned a written report and an oral report that were to be completed the last week of finals. Half our grade depended on these reports.
We could choose any philosopher we wanted to study, and I picked Kant. Trying to read Kant was like trying to read Greek. The night before I was to give the oral report, I still didn’t understand this philosopher. I hadn’t written the report. My imagination began to show me scary pictures of what would happen the next day if I couldn’t give my report. I could see myself turning beet red and fumbling over my words.
I meditated to see if it would help me because nothing else was working. I read Kant again, and to my amazement, it was all crystal clear! So amazingly clear that I spontaneously wrote the report in one hour. I read it one more time and totally understood it.
I had one more hurdle to overcome. I hated public speaking. I had never taken a course in it, and I never wanted a course in it! I disliked feeling on display where everything about me could be judged. Highly sensitive people can be like that.
The next morning, instead of fretting, I meditated again. When it was my turn to give my presentation, I was nervous. Although my face turned red, the words flowed effortlessly. I was well-organized and poised in a way I never thought possible. After the class, students exclaimed to me, “That was the first thing we’ve understood all semester!”
How was it that meditation had helped me learn so easily? I couldn’t explain it. I had discovered a door into the part of my brain that gave me access to higher intelligence. This door opened only when I was deeply relaxed. Before this, the only way I knew to succeed was by putting a lot of effort into learning, and as I’ve said before, dyslexia made studying difficult for me.
Little did I know that 40 years into the future, neuroscience would provide plenty of evidence of how meditation not only calms our nerves but also stimulates creativity, lowers blood pressure and increases wisdom and productivity.
Meditation also helped me heal and recuperate energy that was easily drained from my highly sensitive body. I was able to unwind and rest instead of being so stressed all the time. I could ward off colds and the flu. My life became so much easier as I soothed my anxiety and opened to what experts call “the flow.”
Meditation wasn’t a cult like my parents thought. No one was trying to dominate me. I proved to myself that I had good instincts for trying unusual paths that led to success. As I look back on my life, I am proud of my 20-year-old self who had the courage to follow her own heart even though her parents disapproved.
To have the fulfilling life you want, self-care must shift to the front burner of your daily life. Meditation is a key part of good self-care for highly sensitive introverts.
Your health will improve, your relationships will be more harmonious, and your work will be more creative.
I recommend meditations that take you into such a deep state of relaxation that your busy thoughts vanish. I particularly like theta brainwave entrainment music that is engineered to help you enter this extremely peaceful state. You’ll feel like a wet noodle and be refreshed afterward.
Guided meditations are also useful to reprogram negative thinking and to heal and enhance creativity.
There are many forms of meditation, and it’s important to find the ones that work for you. If you’d like to discuss this, and other forms of meditation please contact me for a complimentary 10-minute phone interview.
Benita A. Esposito, MA, is a licensed professional counselor with office in Atlanta and Blairsville, Georgia, USA.
by Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor
“In insecure relationships, we disguise our vulnerabilities so our partner never really sees us.” ―Sue Johnson, Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships
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This is a semi-private group retreat perfect for couples who want to strengthen their marriage. It is also for engaged and dating couples who want to prevent unnecessary problems from arising in the first place.
One day: February 16, 2019. 9:30am – 5:30pm
Young Harris, Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia
As couples move beyond the “honeymoon” phase, they inevitably encounter conflicts. If not handled skillfully by both people, emotional wounds mount up, adding one more brick to an invisible wall. Don’t wait until the wall is too high to climb. Invest in the training you need to create the flourishing relationship you know is possible. Read more
We unconsciously act the way we do in romantic relationships for a good reason. Human beings have an innate drive to form emotional bonds with people who are precious to us. We suffer when we aren’t able to create secure bonds. The need for secure attachment is part of our inherited survival strategy. Historically, we survive better in packs than alone. Solitary confinement is one of the most devastating forms of punishment. Even though children in orphanages in war-torn countries have food, clothing and shelter, they frequently get sick and sometimes die without adequate loving attention. That’s how important emotional attachment is to us.
Healthy relationships are the number one predictor of our ability to heal from serious disease and maintain emotional and physical health. We live four years longer when we have healthy bonded relationships. (reference 7)
Psychological research shows that when we’re children, we develop one of four attachment styles based on the parenting style of our caregivers. According to Dr. Edward Tronick’s research, the attachment style of a one-year-old predicts the attachment style of a 25-year-old. (reference 3)
We develop our attachment style as babies. We instinctively figure out the best way to survive. Now as adults, our attachment style influences all of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors at an unconscious level.
Attachment styles have two categories: secure and insecure.
The insecure styles are divided into two sub-categories: (1) anxious and (2) avoidant. Some people have a third insecure style called anxious-avoidant.
1. Secure attachment style
Fifty percent of us enjoy a secure attachment style. Our parents were emotionally healthy, responsive and physically present. As children, we felt understood and cherished. We felt safe and secure. Our physical needs were met. There was no harsh discipline or emotional neglect or icy distance. Appropriate discipline was coupled with warmth and reassurance that we were loved and liked. We were given the appropriate amount of freedom to explore the world in a safe way, and encouraged to develop our unique personality. As adults, we anticipate that people will like us and we will like them. We develop healthy relationships and set appropriate boundaries for self-care.
Insecure Attachment Styles
2. Anxious Attachment Style
Twenty percent of our population has an anxious attachment style. Our parents were inconsistent in meeting our emotional or physical needs. We became watchful, trying to figure out how to please our parents so they wouldn’t abandon us. As adults, we worry that our partner will leave us if there is conflict. We might feel jealous.
When we don’t get our needs met, we get angry because anger is easier to feel than the loneliness of separation.
When we feel misunderstood and unloved, we become stressed. We act in a manner that is critical, defensive or contemptuous. We’re trying to get our partner to connect with us, but inadvertently we push our partner away. We’re called “pursuers” in the language of Adult Attachment Theory.
An anxious attachment style isn’t right or wrong. The description helps us understand each other and ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up if you have this style. Anxious attachment style people often mate with avoidant styles who withdraw in the heat of conflict, leaving us feeling more anxious because we feel the pain of being left alone.
3. Avoidant Attachment Style
Twenty-three percent of us have an avoidant attachment style. Our parents were emotionally or physically unavailable, neglectful or downright abusive. Scared and tense in our bodies, we became hyper-vigilant trying to intuit our parents’ unpredictable behavior. We had a big dilemma. How could we protect ourselves from parents who emotionally or physically hurt us, while being dependent on them to meet our basic needs for food, shelter and clothing? Without the much-needed emotional nurturance, our bodies didn’t feel safe, and we braced ourselves for potential threats. We emotionally distanced and tried to become as self-sufficient as possible. We tend to be loners as adults but that doesn’t mean we feel fulfilled. We experience physical pain, chronic fatigue, addictions and other diseases predictable from a lifetime of physiological hyper-arousal. We may fall into depression, or swing between anxiety and depression. Even when we want to form healthy relationships, we anticipate, “People won’t like me if they really know me, or I won’t like them.” We guard against getting too close. We may assume people will hurt us, or judge us, or try to control us. We’re called “withdrawers.”
4. Anxious/Avoidant Attachment Style
One percent of us have this combined style. We may jump into relationships quickly, feeling the endorphin high of romance, or we may hang back for a long time trying to determine if we’re safe with a potential partner. We’re often attracted to a person who also has an insecure attachment style. When conflicts arise, we try to work it out for a while. But if our partner doesn’t respond positively, we withdraw to protect ourselves. Then it’s difficult to open our hearts again, even when our partner begs us to connect, unless there’s a strong friendship already established.
The healthiest relationships contain at least one person with a secure attachment style. When conflicts arise, the secure attachment style partner provides a stable emotional base so the other partner still feels loved. To use an analogy, when the couple is dancing, and the insecure partner stumbles, the secure partner is grounded and warm-hearted enough to help the other regain their balance. (reference 6)
The good new is: People with insecure attachment styles can learn how to repair attachment injuries and connect in emotionally healthy ways. Couples can develop “earned secure attachment” so they both feel safe, understood and loved. Psychotherapy can help you make the changes you desire in your self and in your relationships.
The science of Adult Attachment Theory is relatively new. With the development of fMRI machines, neuroscience has been able to understand the interplay between our emotions, our physiological reactions and our behaviors, and what happens to make us feel safe or scared in our relationships. (reference 5)
Highly Sensitive People (HSP) and Attachment Styles
Research by Dr. Elaine Aron indicates that HSPs raised by parents who meet their emotional and physical needs develop secure attachment styles just like non-HSPs who have healthy parents. As these HSPs mature, they function well in relationships and they reach their life goals even better than many non-HSPs. They are creative, smart, compassionate, intuitive and innovative.
However, when the emotional and physical needs of HSP children are not met, they react stronger to the deprivation or abuse than non-HSPs. Their nervous systems respond with hyper-arousal (like pressing your foot on the car accelerator, driving at high speeds) or hypo-arousal (like having your foot at the brake), or vacillating between the two. HSPs are more prone to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to Dr. Elaine Aron’s research.
It’s challenging to form healthy bonded intimate relationships as an adult if we have an insecure attachment style. However, if we’re fortunate enough to mate with a secure attachment-style person, or we learn how to change our patterns in a course of successful psychotherapy, we can enjoy a flourishing life. We can change our insecure attachment style to “earned secure attachment.”
If you’d like help to change your attachment style, contact the author: Benita A. Esposito, LPC. Complete the contact page to schedule a 10-minute complimentary phone interview to see if her services are a good fit for you. Click here to read Benita’s credentials.
1) Article: The Science Of Adult Attachment: Are You Anxious, Avoidant Or Secure? posted on Elite Daily
3) Video: “The Still Face Experiment.” Learn what happens to the nervous system of a baby when her mother no longer attunes to her. Edward Tronick youtube video
4) Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love. Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A. 2010
5. Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships. Sue Johnson. 2014
6. Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Sue Johnson. 2014
7. Love and Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health. Dean Ornish, MD
Copyright. All rights reserved. The Esposito Institute, Inc.
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