How to Use Your Anger to Improve Your Life

This is How Positive Change Happens… How do you feel about getting angry? If you’re like many of my clients, you might believe there’s something wrong with you for feeling angry. You might even think something bad or dangerous will happen if you let yourself acknowledge and experience your anger. I get it. I’ve been there myself. There’s this common belief that anger is just a “negative” emotion. But I don’t buy it. Anger is one of our primary emotions. It’s impossible to live without feeling anger. A lot of experiences in life naturally evoke anger in us. Like the rest of our emotions, anger serves a purpose. If we let it, anger can mobilize us to take adaptive action, like standing up for ourselves and for each other. But when we refuse to acknowledge and experience our anger, then anger cannot do its job. One client tells me, “I have a hard time standing up for myself and being assertive.” Another shares, “I’m afraid of my anger.” You’ve probably noticed that anger gets a bad rap. These inner struggles with anger are painful, burdensome, and destructive. It’s the emotion we freak out about most. When we feel anger coming up, we tend to unconsciously fire a bunch of “defenses” rather than being honest about feeling angry. “Defenses” are therapy-talk for things like: • Getting anxious or afraid when we’re not in objective danger • Going into a depressed state by turning our anger inwards • Defending against our anger by putting up a wall, distancing ourselves, shutting down, pretending we don’t feel angry • Judging ourselves mercilessly, criticizing...

How to Deal with Your Emotions

This is How Positive Change Happens… When people initially contact me to do counselling and therapy, they often say: “I want to work on how to deal with my emotions”. That’s a worthwhile goal because our emotions are a hugely significant part of our lives and they can definitely be hard to deal with. The first step I offer is a different view of our emotions: Maybe our emotions don’t need to be dealt with. What they do need is more willingness to be worked with rather than against or suppressed. How do we do that? We can choose to practice – over and over again – accepting, validating, and tolerating our emotions. Not just a little. Not in a way that’s immediately followed by quickly moving on to bigger and better (and less unpleasant) things. Our emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear need to be identified, accepted, connected with, and tolerated. This process can be really challenging. In theory, it might make sense. Doing it can be monumental. It takes a lot of courage, effort, and support for us to accurately identify what we’re actually feeling, deep down, and then to accept it and validate it. When we try to do so, our defense mechanisms often block us from feeling our emotional pain. They fire so rapidly we sometimes don’t even know it’s happening.  For example, when connecting with an emotion or a feeling like anger or sadness, after a second or two, we may find ourselves saying something like “I feel like my partner/parent thinks I’m…”. Once we do that, we’re no longer dealing with our actual...

My Top 10 Books for Positive Change

This is How Positive Change Happens… I often get asked for book recommendations which is great because reading and learning is an important part of positive change and growth. Including reading books in the counselling or therapy process is called “bibliotherapy”, a fun word and one that’s not used much because it sounds kind of clinical or even, pretentious. Here’s my Top 10 Books for Positive Change (these are in no particular order): When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron Hold Me Tight or Love Sense by Dr. Sue Johnson Man’s Guide to Women: Scientifically Proven Secrets from the Love Lab about What Women Really Want by Drs. John and Julie Gottman with Douglas Abrams and Rachel Carlton Abrams Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships by Marshall Rosenberg Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – And Keep – Love by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Harold Bloomfield, Melba Colgrove, and Peter McWilliams The Mindful Teen: Powerful Skills to Help You Handle Stress One Moment at a Time by Dr. Dzung Vo (this is not just helpful for teens) Curiosity Killed the Caterpillar by Tamara Skjolden How to be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys for Mindful Loving by David Richo Poetry by Mary Oliver, Rumi, Hafez, David Whyte, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pablo Neruda, or whatever moves you & a variety of fiction too! Also, in recognition that we also learn through video/audio, here’s two of my favourite videos ever (and they’re less...

Going for a Small Goal

This is How Positive Change Happens… Whether I like it or not, as a New Year approaches I find myself grappling with the possibility of participating in the popular cultural phenomena of crafting a “new year’s resolution” or not. This year I decided to participate but with a different approach than usual – different for myself and the general cultural trend. I decided to go for a small goal. A really small goal. Here’s an except from my HuffPost article, Going for a Small Goal: Over the past couple of weeks when I started – somewhat reluctantly – reflecting on my “new year’s resolutions” and my “goals for 2017”, I started to wonder about the potential power in going with a small goal. Really small. Yet, a tiny behaviour that affects the quality of my daily life. I find I’m increasingly skeptical about big, lofty goals. I’ve noticed those types of goals tend to set us up for failure and that doesn’t feel good. Of course, I’ve got my big goals like most people and I’m working on them to varying degrees. I was also longing for a small goal I could see and feel success with in a consistent way and preferably, immediate way. go here to read more: Going for a Small Goal...