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Put Away The Labels When Dealing With Loved Ones:

By: Rhonda Greenberg, Psy.D. & Rob Kall, M.Ed.

"For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation" Rainer Maria Rilke

When you get mad or frustrated, do you talk impulsively to release the volcano built up inside you? Do you spew out negativity, swear words, put the other person down, or try to ignore the person and the problem situation, shout out words that bring up all their past transgressions, or lie to get out of owning up to the problem? Or can you just allow yourself to be with your feelings, breathe quietly, and then address the situation in a manner that will bring about resolution and growth for both yourself and your loved one?

When we label a person, the conversation is practically guaranteed to come to a stand still. When you say, "You are lazy! (or an idiot, or stupid,)" the receiver has a very limited choice of responses. They can defend themselves by saying "That is not true" Then you see how the conversation usually goes from here...it is true, no it isn’t, and so on. Withdrawal is usually the other typical option, because the words are so hurtful. Where do you go from here? No where to go. Quicksand. Stonewalled.

Our intimate relationships reveal how our most difficult challenges become our greatest gifts. When you feel angry, or hurt, or sad, or fustrated, what can you do to maximize your potential to love more, learn more, and to fulfill more of yourself? Wouldn’t you agree that this is a much more suitable outcome? If so, then try out some of these ideas:

First, become fully acquainted with your most uncomfortable feelings. Start with the Physical: What does anger feel like in your body? Take some time to explore what tensions, boiling sensations, and uncomfortable experiences you note in your body?

Then go to your Thoughts. What do you say to yourself? What is your self talk? Are you mumbling away to yourself, are you putting yourself down, are you trying to ignore your thoughts and feelings, are you trying to protect yourself from a truth about yourself? Or are you seeing how your anger escapes from your self- control? Then take a little time to observe and coax it to the point where you can acknowledge what you are thinking and feeling. Take time for a walk, quiet meditation with music, talk it out with a friend, or do some journal writing. By doing so, you let the anger go out from you, like controlling the release of air from a balloon. Then you have the ability and wisdom to react and be proactive in dealing with your partner.

Next, identify what it is you really want. I mean really want at the core of your being. And then act from there. Identify the beliefs and attitudes that best exemplify what you would like. Use descriptive words, not labels; talk, don’t accuse; express yourself openly; don’t defend and withdraw; use humor when appropriate; not disarming negative statements. As Lee Lampolsky states: "When you identify what ... you really want, you will find that it is always some aspect of love". Let us know via e-mail, how this worked for you.