Monthly Archives: June 2011

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Relationships: Disappointment Redefined

Here is an article coauthored with my colleague, Vicki Carpel Miller, B.S.N., L.M.F.T.

Disappointment occurs so frequently in the area of dating and love relationships; a person deserves to experience it as a blessing rather than a burden.  The key to this shift in perception rests in conscious and gentle decision-making when dealing with unsatisfying relationships so that you can effectively use disappointment rather than allow disappointment to use you.

Conventionally, disappointment signifies some form of personal betrayal or failure in the fulfillment of your life goals and hopes.  Disappointing dating or relationship scenarios can happen with certain predictability.  An online prospect backs out of a date at the last-minute; you find out after the fact that your boyfriend has been previously married and didn’t disclose this information to you; your partner goes back to a former lover; you find that your wife is a closet alcoholic; the person you’ve been dating asks you for a loan after 2 weeks; you overhear a woman at the health club talking about her last evening’s date with your boyfriend; your spouse is having an extramarital affair. At these relationship crossroads, you are spiritually challenged to integrate the ensuing disappointment with a style that does not lessen faith in yourself as a valued and lovable person.

While disappointment is typically defined as a betrayal or failure, the etymology of the word itself actually denotes the state of not being appointed or chosen.  When you utilize this definition from the spiritual side of your personality, you can perceive a far more empowering picture. Please read on.

A “calling” while dating or participating in an ongoing relationship serves a higher purpose in human interconnectedness.  You are here to positively touch the lives of certain people and you are not here to touch the life of everyone who comes your way.  When a potential partner goes on to someone else, you can precariously judge it as your failure and your betrayal, or you can embrace the universal perspective that it is everyone’s success when someone feels connected with another.  You can then perceive it as acceptable that another person is the chosen one for that particular other.  Concurrrently, you are obviously the chosen one for someone else who is only waiting for you to free yourself of negative self-talk so they may openly be invited into your sphere of influence.

It is important to stay conscious of the spiritual nature of relationships which is to be in connection with others.  When disappointment occurs against this frame of reference, you can utilize it to peacefully let go of someone you may love, but who would be better served elsewhere.  In so doing, you simultaneously magnetize and attract to yourself the person who is a better match for you.  Have a little faith in yourself, redefine your disappointment and you may very well be chosen.


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Anger Management: Pity and the Pedestal

If you are in a relationship, occasionally feeling angry with your partner is an inevitable part of growing together. The resolution of conflict in a win-win manner is what builds emotional intimacy between two people. In order to make anger work for, rather than against the relationship, it is helpful to gain some insight into how anger may manifest itself. It may not always be obvious.

Anger comes in all shapes and sizes.The most common form is the overt variety. The overtly angry person is intense, fiery, visibly upset. They may yell, blame, accuse, criticize and can be quite intimidating. The overtly angry person is at risk to get into trouble with their expression of anger and they are frequently found in anger management programs either by court order or by order of their significant other. These angry people tend to act their anger out.

Another common, yet less obvious example of an angry person is one who utilizes a passive-aggressive style of expression. They walk away from an important conflict; they sulk and pout; they don’t show up; they don’t answer the phone; they drop the iron curtain on communication with a stoney silence. This type of angry person may be less intimidating, but they can remarkably beat up another person with their sullenness, reticence and unavailability. These angry people tend to act their anger in.

Then there are those people who use pity and the pedestal. These types of angry people are usually found in abusive relationships where they unwittingly participate in a cyclical pattern of being treated poorly. They tend to disown their own legitimate experience of anger at someone’s bad behavior by substituting pity for that person or by putting them on a pedestal. You might hear these angry people make remarks like: “Oh, he works so hard and has so much stress; I feel sorry for him, so I ignore his bad behavior.” or “She is such a beautiful and successful person who is in demand and so admired by others, she can get away with being mean and over-reactive.”

Disowning your experience of legitimate anger through pity and the pedestal is not a good way to take care of yourself. If you don’t have your anger, sooner or later it will have you. It might likely come out “sideways” somewhere on a spectrum of emotional pain that ranges from rage to depression.

When a person takes responsibility for their anger, they communicate about it in the first person: “I feel angry when you treat me poorly and I am requesting you work on that in the spirit of helping our relationship to continue to grow stronger.”  This appropriate expression of anger utilizes the feeling for its best and highest purpose: healthy change.

So please check it out. If you are pitying someone or putting them on a pedestal, you might be peeved, instead. Maybe you don’t like the way you are being treated and you are backing down from speaking your personal truth on the issue. Don’t disown your anger; just have it responsibly with the goal of growing your relationship so that both participants feel enriched as a result.


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My Mother’s Father: A Deliberate and Gentle Life

This Father’s day, my mind does not go to my late father who literally ran himself into an early grave by overdoing anything and everything he did. God rest his soul; he lived addictively and it cost him his life. Life with my father may have to wait for another blog because he is actually not who I am thinking of on Father’s Day.

As I was washing dishes yesterday and thinking about Fathers Day, I noticed the clear, crisp water rushing out of the faucet and I was reminded of my mother’s father and the example he set for living a deliberate and gentle life. The running water reminded me of him because when he washed dishes in his tiny kitchen, he would set the water to a trickle so as not to waste it. This trickle of water greatly lengthened the time he spent at the sink, but he never seemed to care. He enjoyed himself in every moment of his life; whatever that moment happened to encompass.

My grandfather immigrated to America in his teens from a little mountainside town in Italy. He worked as a tailor and met my grandmother in a sweatshop in New York. He owned very little and learned at an early age to appreciate the gentle nuances of life: the fresh air he breathed, the warmth of the sun, the caress of a breeze, the taste of a succulent peach, the melodious song of a sparrow.

He approached his world deliberately and slowly. He would be the last person at the dinner table, chewing slowly and savoring every bite of his food. He would press a garment as if he were creating a sculpture, methodically steaming every inch of it so that it looked like a work of art when he was finished. He tended his garden for hours, gently pruning and watering his abundant tomato plants. He would repeat to me in Italian, “Piano, piano, carissima.” In this context, the word “piano” means “gently” in English. He wanted me to learn the value of slowing down and taking it all in.

My grandmother would become irritated at him and yell at him, “Andiamo! Subito!” “Let’s go! Hurry!” She would sometimes say to me in exasperation, “How can I live with a man who goes so slowly?” I would laugh because her approach to life was the opposite of his. How they died provides a significant example of this: my grandmother died in her early eighties of a massive stroke and my grandfather was well into his nineties when he passed. He died predictably in his sleep after giving his nurse a goodnight kiss on the cheek.

My mother’s father approached life humbly, gently and deliberately. He noticed the details around him and took the time to appreciate all the tiny treasures in life that many of us multitaskers fail to notice in today’s electronic jungle. He was impressed by the beauty in all things and he experienced his life with patience and gratitude.

Happy Fathers Day to fathers everywhere. I dedicate this day to my mother’s father. My wish for you, if only for this one day: “Piano, piano.”