Dealing With Hurtful People

We all know the world isn’t what it was meant to be. People say hurtful things and it is often difficult to know how to handle it. Similarly, it is difficult to not take what they say to heart. What’s important to keep is mind is that we can’t control what others do, but we CAN control how we react.

Theology of The Body reminds us that we are all works in progress but the best way to see that God’s plans are fulfilled in our lives is to build each other up, not tear each other apart. When we are frustrated, we have a tendency to criticize and pick at each other. It’s good to address the problems and concerns we have with others, but we need to make sure we are approaching people in a way that is respectful, loving, and solution-focused, instead of angry, hurtful, and problem-focused. With God’s grace, we can learn to address the frustrations we have with each other in a way that leads us to be closer to each other instead of worn out by each other.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for dealing with hurtful people:

Clarify and Do-Over–Believe it or not, sometimes hurtful people don’t know they are being hurtful. The first step in addressing another person’s criticisms is not to take offense or even to respond to what they said, but rather, to clarify. When you feel criticized, picked on, or attacked by someone, the first thing to do is say, “I’m sure you didn’t mean to come off as hurtful, but something about the way you said that really seemed hurtful. Can you say that again so I can hear what you’re really trying to tell me?” Don’t attack back. Don’t argue the point. In fact, don’t respond in any kind of substantive way. Instead, give the hurtful person a chance to think about what they are really trying to say by first giving them the benefit of the doubt, then telling them how their statement made you feel, and finally, inviting them to say it again–more thoughtfully this time.

Don’t Ask Permission to Be Offended–Sometimes, even after you’ve told a hurtful person how much they’ve hurt you, they react by denying it. “I didn’t mean anything!” “I was just kidding!”  “You’re too thin-skinned.” Don’t fall into this trap. The best response is to say, “Listen, I’m not asking you permission to be offended by you. I’m telling you that what you said was hurtful. If you want me to hear what you’re really trying to say, your going to need to say it again.” Then leave it to them. If they decide to respect you enough to listen and correct themselves, do your best to listen respectfully and move forward with the conversation. On the other hand, if they refuse to take a more respectful approach, it’s ok to end the conversation even if they act put out about it. Don’t ever ask permission to be hurt by someone. If they hurt you, say so and stand by it.  If they love you, they’ll adopt a more respectful approach going forward.

Build Good Fences–If your attempts to clarify and be respectfully assertive are not effective, it’s time to set some boundaries. Limit your relationship to those places or contexts where the person is less likely to be hurtful. Do they do better in public? On the phone? For shorter visits?  Limit the time you spend with them to these contexts as much as you can. If they complain, simply say that you’d love to get more time with them but in order to do that, they’d need to be more sensitive about the ways they speak to you. Then see how they respond. If they manage to be respectful in the contexts you’ve limited the relationship to, then you can re-evaluate some of your boundaries, but if they continue to be hurtful in their speech or actions, you can either hold the boundaries where they are, or further limit the relationship.  Let their good behavior determine how close you can be.  Good fences really do make good neighbors.

For more on how to effectively handle hurtful people, check out Unworried—A Life Without Anxiety and tune in to More2Life—weekdays, 10am E/9am C—on EWTN, SiriusXM 130!

Finding Peace Amid The Storm

Some days it can feel as though stress is coming at us from every direction. From family life, to work life, to the ongoing influx of news and social media, it can seem very difficult to find peace among the storm of stress. Thankfully, increasing the peace in our lives can be easier than we tend to think!

Here are three More2Life Hacks for increasing peace in your daily life:

Don’t Confuse Quiet & Peace–When things are going badly, we have a tendency to want to escape, to just ignore the problems and runaway. The temptation to do this is understandable, but it’s problematic because it assumes quiet and peace are the same thing. They’re not. Quiet is just the absence of conflict. That doesn’t SOUND like a bad thing, but if all we do is avoid conflict, eventually the problems pile up and cause even more stress, worry, and anxiety.  St Augustine said that peace is actually “the tranquility that results from right order.”  If we want peace, we have to work for it. We have to actively address the problems in our lives, address the conflicts, and make a plan for handling our responsibilities. Peace does not come from running away or pretending things are OK when they’re not. It comes from doing what’s necessary to make sure our relationships are genuinely loving and that we are being responsible for maintaining our corner of God’s kingdom.

Find Your Center–Peace is not just what happens when all our problems finally go away. That’s called “death.” But here’s the good news. You don’t have to wait for the end of your life to find peace, you can actually find it right now, even in the middle of the crazy. Peace doesn’t come from outside us. It comes from maintaining your center in the middle of the storm. How do you do that? You hold on to God. You reach out to the people who love you. And you work hard to remember what it means to be your best self in this moment. If you want to increase your peace when your stress temperature is starting to rise ask yourself three questions. 1) How can I know that God loves me right now and how can I draw closer to that love? 2) What do I need to do to remember that the people in my life love me and how can I draw closer to their love? 3) What would I need to do to love myself by acting more like my best self right now– even if I don’t feel like it? These questions will help you find your center and claim your peace even when Satan and the whole world seems to be aligned against you.

Practice Surprise-Proofing–We often lose peace because we underestimate our capacity to be surprised by the same goshdarn problems happening over and over again. We pretend that that thing that irritated us yesterday is gone for good, and then we’re SHOCKED!  Shocked I tell you, that that same problem had the audacity to show up again. Peaceful people practice surprise proofing. They make a note of the things that didn’t go according to plan. They assume that those things are going to happen again. They make a plan for how they are going to learn from their experience and handle it even better next time. And finally, they mentally rehearse their plan in the times before those problems are most likely to occur.  No, we can’t plan for everything. But we can learn from our experience and often, that’s enough. Being mindful in this way allows us to anticipate problems, see them as opportunities for growth, and then head them off at the pass instead of allowing the same problems to bushwhack us again and again, making us feel foolish and incompetent.

For more on how to increase your peace, check out God Help Me! This Stress Is Driving Me Crazy! and be sure to tune in to More2Life—weekdays, 10am E/9am C—on EWTN, SiriusXM channel 130!

Men, Keep the Ball in Play!

Guest blog post by Dave McClow, Pastoral Solutions Institute.

Fighting that works!

Ever been in conflict and not known what to do?  Some men like a fight, some avoid it at all costs.  Too many of us drop the ball during a conflict….But first, let’s look at the bigger picture.

The Ball

When I taught a marriage class at a local Catholic high school, I held up a 10-inch playground ball and said, “This ball is going to teach you about the deep mysteries of life, relationships, marriage, and the Trinity.”  Yes, I went big!  I threw the ball back and forth with volunteers in each class.  I asked them what they learned about the Trinity from this.  They understood immediately that it reflected mutual self-giving, or extending and receiving, between the Father and the Son, which becomes the Holy Spirit.  I explained that the body speaks this same language in sex—males extend and females receive, bringing forth new life—babies and/or bonding.

The Infinite and Primordial Liturgies

Extending and receiving is the basic movement of life and love.  This movement within the Trinity I called the “infinite liturgy,” defining liturgy as a ritual and routine that communicates love and creates communion.  God uses liturgy to remind us who we are in God, to form our identity—think the liturgies of creation, the seventh day, and the Mass.

On a psychological level, this movement is seen in all our communication, starting with hello.  “Hello” is an extending; and if the other replies, “Hello,” the cycle, the liturgy, is complete, bringing new life to the relationship.  Deeper exchanges increase both our risk and rewards, while no response causes a little death.  Since our human extending and receiving was from the beginning, in the Garden, it could be called the “primordial liturgy.”

In the domestic church, the family, the primordial liturgy is our expression of love and the bedrock of our identity.  Without love, St. John Paul II says our lives become senseless and incomprehensible.  Without love, we live in fear.  Even more, these liturgies are the very structure and movement of love which casts out fear.  In fact, I think this extending and receiving should be the foundation of all spirituality, especially a lay spirituality—the micro-level of Therese’s little way.  Families should not imitate a monastic spirituality, carving out hours of time for prayer and feeling like failures when life interferes.  Instead, what if every interpersonal exchange, where extending and receiving is completed, is considered a prayer and a gift, directly reflecting the Trinity’s love?  That’s a liturgy we could practice all day long!

Fear, the Ball, and Bad Liturgy

In the class, I talked more about fear, explaining that while love moves us towards others, St. Augustine says sin (or fear) curves us back in on ourselves.  I then demonstrated our fear reactions of fight, flight, and freeze, or as we call them in our counseling practice, tantruming, pouting/withdrawing, and expert mode.  When my volunteers threw me the ball, I smacked it to the ground—tantruming on the receiving side.  And I faked a hard throw that made the first rows jump—another tantrum, but on the extending side.

Next, my volunteers threw me the ball, and I caught it and walked away.  This was pouting/withdrawing, or flight.  Expert mode happens when one person has a wonderful solution for the other person (extending), but the other is not interested (not receiving).  To represent this, when they threw me the ball three times, I let it hit my chest and fall to the ground.  Teasing, I told the kids I was sure they never did this to their parents.

Satan’s Anti-Liturgy

The tantruming, pouting/withdrawing, and expert modes are fear responses and always disrupt the primordial liturgy.  They are Satan’s plan for relationships and illustrate the literal meaning of his names: Satan—to accuse, and Devil/Diablo—to separate.

Conflict: Rally Ball vs. Ping-Pong

In conflict, we tend to forget love, the extending and receiving, and respond in fear—we “drop the ball” in some way.  The primordial liturgy is disrupted.  We start playing ping-pong, where we try to outsmart the other person to win.  But rally ball is the model needed during a conflict, where the object is to keep the ball going back and forth as long as possible.  If the ball is dropped, you simply start over.  The ideal in conflict is to receive the other’s hostility with empathy while not allowing yourself to be destroyed.  But sometimes this can be difficult, and you may need to end the argument with, “I am too upset to continue this conversation,” so you don’t move into ping-pong.  More on this in upcoming articles.

The Trinity, with its extending and receiving, the infinite liturgy, is the new foundation for a lay spirituality. Reflecting the Trinity in the primordial liturgy of the domestic church can make every interaction between persons a connection with God.  Men, radiate the Father’s love by living the extending and receiving in your families—and keep the ball in play, even in conflict!

 

For more about Dave McClow and Pastoral Solutions Institute, visit us at https://www.catholiccounselors.com

Maintaining Your Marriage Connection

It’s easy to tell when someone is happy. People often express outward signs when they are feeling good, such as smiling, using an upbeat tone, or having a bounce in their step. But it can be harder to tell what someone is thinking when they are feeling down, tired, or upset. These emotions are often masked or do not come with as markedly definitive expressions. While you may think you know all of your partners’ “tell tale signs” of their emotions, new research suggests otherwise. Psychologist Chrystyna Kouros states “We found that when it comes to the normal ebb and flow of daily emotions, couples aren’t picking up on those occasional changes in ‘soft negative’ emotions like sadness or feeling down…They might be missing important emotional clues.” Because of this, there are a few things that we must keep in mind to maintain the connection in our relationships.

Theology of the Body reminds us that we were created for communion, but of course, sin ruptures that communion.  Because of sin, instead of coming naturally to us, making connection to others takes effort.  It requires us to be intentional about asking questions, scheduling dates, praying, reflecting and planning in order to create the kind of closeness and intimacy we were created to enjoy naturally. The sense that great relationships should “just happen” hints at the time before the fall, where Adam and Eve enjoyed Original Unity and it also hints at how things will be once we are united with God and the Communion of Saints in heaven. But here, in this sinful world, creating connection takes real work, and doing the work that is necessary to create loving communion–first, within our families and then in the world–is what it means to “build the kingdom.” Doing good works, serving in the parish or community, saving the world are all important things, but creating connection is the most important work a Christian can do.  Remember what St. Paul said, “If I have the faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Let’s refocus on the great work of being intentional about creating meaningful connection with the people closest to us and let God multiply our efforts to bring the world to him through our efforts to consciously connect.

Don’t Assume–Too many couples assume that things are “fine” if there isn’t any conflict.  They think that the lack of arguments is the same things as satisfaction. But there are a million reasons a couple might not be fighting that have nothing to do with intimacy. Don’t ever assume your marriage is on solid ground just because you’re not arguing. Instead, ask. Make time everyday to say to each other, “What can I do to make your day a little easier or more pleasant?”  Make sure you get meaningful answers. Don’t settle for “I don’t know” or “Nothing.” If those are the answers you get more often than not, make a point of scheduling more focused conversations–at least weekly–about how close you feel to each other, what pressures you might feel are challenging your sense of togetherness, and what you might need to do to grow closer–even if things are good. Happy couples, don’t wait for conflict to tell them they are off-course, they regularly check their course and make tiny course corrections every day so they can make sure to stay on track

Give Your Connection to God–God wants you to have a great marriage, both because he wants to fill your hearts with his love AND because he wants to show the world–through your relationship–that the love that everyone longs for is truly possible. But God doesn’t expect us to create that kind of connection on our own.  He wants to teach us, and he will, if we bring our relationship to him everyday.  Take a few minutes every day to sit down together with your spouse and say to God, “Lord, we give you our relationship.  Help us to love each other the way you want us to. Help us to really listen to each other, take care of each other, be honest about our needs, and be generous in our response to each other’s needs. Teach us to be a couple after your own heart, so that our hearts would be filled with your love and so that the world would see your life in us.” Let God teach you how to create and maintain a powerful, loving connection. Sit at The Master’s feet and learn to love each other with his love.

Connect Consciously–Most couples assume their relationship will “just happen” since they’re living under the same roof. But truly happy couples are conscientious about creating times to connect. Make a point of scheduling even 10 minutes every day to work, pray, talk and play together. Working together might mean setting the table together or cleaning up the kitchen together after dinner. Praying together just means bringing your day and your relationship to God and asking for his grace. Talking together means asking, NOT just about what happened in the day or what’s on the schedule tomorrow, but about how you’re feeling about the direction of your life and relationship and how you can better support each other. And playing together can be as simple as taking a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood, or playing a couple rounds of a favorite game. The point is, happy couples don’t assume relationship connection will “just happen.” They make mini-dates everyday to briefly maintain their ability to work, play, talk, and pray together, and then they look for bigger blocks of time to have more significant opportunities to connect across those levels as well. Being conscious about connecting daily, helps prevent you from feeling alone even though you’re always together.

For more on how to maintain the connection in your marriage, check out For Better…Forever! and tune in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 139.

Practically Perfect in Every Way – Three More2Life Hacks for Overcoming Perfectionism

shutterstock_587245688

In the age of social media, self-criticism and perfectionism are more prominent than ever. We continue to become increasingly focused on being “perfect”: having the perfect physique, having the perfect job, or keeping the perfect house. In reality, however, this striving for “perfection” simply makes us increasingly unhappy as we lose focus of what we are really working towards.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve ourselves, but both theology and science show us that it is a mistake to believe that we can somehow mentally force ourselves into perfection.

Theology of the Body reminds us that God’s plan for us is written in the design of our bodies. Brain science shows that the more self-critical we are, the more our brains lock down and become resistant to change. It’s actually self-acceptance that creates the chemistry necessary for new neural connections to form.  Ultimately, it’s important to remember that while none of us is perfect, it is God’s love that perfects us.  We are destined to be, as Jesus puts it, “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect” God does not expect us to get there on our own.  TOB teaches us that it only by cultivating a receptive posture to God’s love and grace that we are able to be transformed from the inside out through an authentic encounter with God’s love.  Perfection doesn’t come from flogging ourselves to be better. It comes from letting God love us and learning to see ourselves as he sees us–works in progress, certainly–but on the road, by his love and grace, to becoming the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled people we are meant to be.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for preventing perfectionism from taking its toll on you:

Mind Your Mind–Beating yourself up, feeling “not good enough,” engaging in  self criticism are all signs that your brain is overheating. Brain science shows that giving into these behaviors actually makes the brain resistant to change as it locks down in the face of a perceived threat.  When you hear that inner-critic ramping up, don’t try to challenge those thoughts directly at first.  Instead, remind yourself that self-criticism is just a symptom of the real problem–trying to do too much, too fast.  Give yourself permission to slow down, to create more realistic goals, and make a more realistic plan.  Remind yourself that jobs take the time they take.  Getting mad at them, or yourself, doesn’t alter time.  It just makes you less able to make good time by making you less efficient and less effective.

Deadline and Done–Perfectionistic people have a hard time just walking away. They always feel like they have to add just a little more or review it just one more time. A better approach is to pretend that you are on one of those reality shows where you have a certain amount of time to complete a task and when the clock runs down you have to step away and be done.  Whether you are working on a particular project or trying to plan your day, give yourself what you think will be a reasonably generous amount of time to accomplish your tasks, but when that time hits, walk away.  You can always come back to it some other time if you need to.  But for today? Be done! Perfectionistic people tend to get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture. Setting an arbitrary deadline allows you to step back and gain perspective.  If a particular project really needs a little more effort, then it will still be there tomorrow. For now, move on to other things–like taking a break to connect with the people who love you and can remind you that you are a person, not a machine.

What’s the Point?  Perfectionism is almost always a faulty means to achieve some deeper end.  We WANT love, approval, validation, acceptance, peace, but we PURSUE being a perfect employee, a perfect parent, a perfect homemaker, a perfect…whatever.  But the harder we work at being perfect, the further we get from satisfying the real emotional need driving our perfectionism.  Ask yourself what the point of your perfectionism really is.  Take some time in prayer to reflect on what you are trying to accomplish–emotionally and spiritually–by being so self-critical and task oriented?  When you find yourself giving into the temptation to perfectionism, remind yourself what you are REALLY looking for, and ask yourself what you would need to do to get that?  If you honestly don’t know, then it’s time to seek some help so that you can step off the hamster wheel and start getting your needs met instead of constantly running but never getting anywhere.

For more information on how to strive to be the person God meant you to be, check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart, and tune in to More2Life Monday-Friday 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 139.

Unsupported? Simple Tips to Get The Help You Need

shutterstock_321375020

Feeling overwhelmed is something that we all experience all too often. Our “to-do” lists are seemly endless between work, home life, family life, relationships, and every other commitment or obligation we may have. Because of this, it becomes very easy for us to fall into the mindset of “I have to get everything done!” and we feel like “everything is up to us” which hinders us from getting the help we need.

Furthermore, sometimes, we struggle to open up to the help that’s available because “it’s just easier to do it by ourselves.”  And other times, we know we need help, but we’re not sure how to ask for it, or if it’s even worth it. However, Theology of the Body reminds us that we’re never alone. We were created for communion. By helping each other and opening up to the help that others are able to offer, we grow together and support each other in becoming everything we were meant to be. We should never hesitate to ask for help or, for that matter, offer help when given the chance. Mutual service is the heart of creating a community of love.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for getting the help you need:

Recognize You Need Help–Sometimes it’s hard to know that we need help. We get so caught up in “just getting through this” that we don’t notice that we’re getting further and further in over our heads. If you are starting to feel harried or resentful, those are your emotions’ way of telling you it’s time to ask for help. Whether you are struggling with keeping up with the house work or having a hard time working through a marriage or family problem, resist the temptation to just keep pushing through. Instead, ask yourself, “what kind of support would help me get through this situation more gracefully?” Even if it’s difficult to arrange for that kind of help right now, identifying the help or support that you need allows you to start looking for ways to get more of that kind of support in the future.

No One Is A Mind-Reader!–Often we don’t ask for help because we assume it’s so obvious that we need it that if other people aren’t offering, they must either be too busy or just uninterested in helping us. People can’t read minds! If you need help, you need to ask for it! Remember, Theology of the Body reminds us that there are two ways to be generous; by helping people, and by allowing people to use their gifts to help us. Don’t you feel good when you can make a difference in someone else’s life? Well, give someone the gift of feeling good about making a difference in yours. No, that doesn’t justify being a “user” but it does remind us that we’re not meant to struggle alone. You have a right to ask for–and expect to get– the help you need.

Keep At It–Sometimes it can be hard to get the support we need even when we ask for it.  Sometimes that help isn’t readily available. Other times, people are reluctant to help. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that means you’re doomed to keep feeling like it’s all up to you. Instead, bring the situation to God, and ask him for the strength to keep seeking the help you need to overcome the particular challenge you are facing. God did not mean for us to struggle alone. He wants you to get the help you need to thrive. Don’t stop looking for ways to either find the right help or hold accountable the people who are meant to help you. Remember the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge. The widow only got the judge to help her because she persisted to the point of driving him mad. If we need help, have the courage to persevere in asking for it until you get it.

For more insight into getting the help you’ve been looking for, check out God Help Me These People Are Driving Me Nuts!, tune into More2Life Monday-Friday 10am E/9am C on SiriusXM 139, or check out our tele-counseling services at CatholicCounselors.com

Are Cola Wars Killing YOUR Marriage?

shutterstock_239236330

We all have our preferred brands: Our favorite kind of soda, our favorite brand of ice cream, or even our favorite type of laundry detergent. But did you know that our personal brand preferences can have a serious effect on our relationships and even cause divorce? It’s not as silly as it sounds.

A new study conducted at Duke University reveals that “preferring different brands can affect our happiness in relationships more than shared interests or personality traits.” Researchers discovered that the more powerful or influential partner in the relationship usually determines what brands the couple uses, however this can have a negative effect on the happiness of the lower power, or less influential, partner. Power, in this case, is indicated by an individual’s ability to shape or influence their partners’ behavior. Because of this, the less powerful partner usually loses out on buying his or her preferred brand, which could cause increased levels of unhappiness long term.

In other words, when one partner is consistently choosing their preferred brands without considering your preferences it can lead you to feel uncared for and undervalued.  Plus, since these are such little things, no one wants to make a big fuss about it, so the petty resentments can pile up into one big mountain of, “You ALWAYS get EVERYTHING you want! When do I get MY turn?”

Take heart, however, because knowledge is power. With this information about brand influence, we have options for how to negotiate this potential problem. First, we can talk to our partner and learn to compromise. For example, one week we will buy Diet Coke and the next week we will buy Diet Pepsi. Second, we can adopt new preferred brands. For example, instead of buying either of the originally preferred brands of cereal, we can go to the store with our partner and find a cereal we both enjoy. The point is, the devil really is in the details.  Even though any one of these micro-conflicts is no big deal, a little thoughtfulness, over the long haul, goes a long way. Taking small steps like these can have a big impact on the overall health, well-being, and happiness of our relationships.

For more tips on how to have a happy and healthy relationship, check out When Divorce Is Not An Option: How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love or contact us at Pastoral Solutions Institute on the phone (740.266.6461) or online at CatholicCounselors.com

Can We Decrease Anxiety by Changing the Tone of Our Inner Voice?

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

We all have an inner voice. I’m not necessarily referring to the “Jiminy Cricket, conscience” type of inner voice, but rather, an inner sense that helps us identify emotions, opinions, make decisions, and so on.

Because we have this constant inner voice, however, it is easy for us to get caught up in our personal monologue which could cause unnecessary anxiety.

A new study by Dr. Mark Seery, an associate professor in the University of Buffalos Department of Psychology, found that switching from first to the third person as the framework for our self-talk “can help us see ourselves through someone elses eyes and can lead to improved confidence and performance.”

For instance, if your name was “Pat” and you were to use the technique to help decrease your anxiety about an upcoming job interview, you might write, “Pat feels nervous about his upcoming job interview.”  It may seem silly, but this study found that writing or speaking about feelings in the third person actually activates the para-sympatheric (or “calm down”) nervous system in powerful ways that puts the breaks on the physical experience of fear, worry, and anxiety. Most significantly, people who used this technique had much greater control over their heart rate in anxiety situations than people who simply spoke of their feelings in the first person.

This type of third person self-talk is referred to as “self distancing,” or taking a “distance perspective.” Dr. Seery states that “Being a fly on the wall might be the way to put our best foot forward.” By inserting our name where we would usually simply say “I” allows us to gain a new perspective and “see ourselves as an outside observer.” As Dr. Seery found, this seemingly minute change can make a big impact on decreasing anxiety and gaining a healthier, more balanced perspective on both the big and small issues that we encounter in our lives.

For more tips on decreasing anxiety, check out my book God Help Me! This Stress Is Driving Me Crazy! and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network!

Stop Dreading Disagreements

shutterstock_584766541

A lot of us dislike conflict, and because of this, we dread even the concept of facing disagreements. Often, however, disagreements are unavoidable, and sometimes even necessary. There’s good news, though! If we take a caring and loving approach to disagreements, we will have healthier, more productive conversations and less to fear about conflict!

Theology of the Body reminds us of the importance of mutual self-donation, the idea that a healthy relationship is characterized by the commitment to work for each OTHER’s good.  That applies to arguments as well.  The opposite of angry isn’t “calm.” It’s “care.”  The commitment to being mutually self-donative challenges us to actually care about the needs and POV of the person we’re arguing with.  Doing this doesn’t mean we have to surrender our own perspective or give up getting our own needs met.   It just means that we should be equally concerned about meeting their needs as we are getting our own needs met. Doing this in arguments allows two people to encourage each other through the tension and find solutions that are actually satisfying.

Here are a few tips on cultivating care in conflict:

1. Make Breaks Count–When you “take a break” in an argument, don’t just step away and distract yourself by not thinking about the disagreement.  That just sets you up to pick up the fight where you left off the next time you start addressing the issue.  Taking a break is an opportunity to think differently about the disagreement; to take some time to see the other person in a more sympathetic light so you can come back to the topic with a more caring heart.  When you take a break from a disagreement, spend some time in prayer reflecting on questions like, “What needs does the other person have that they are afraid I’m not willing to meet?”  “Why might the other person think I’m not interested in them or their concerns?”  and “How can I show them that they are important to me–even though we’re disagreeing?”  Taking some time to ask questions like this helps you make breaks from conflict count and allows you to go back to the person, confident that you can approach each other again in a more compassionate and productive wa

2. Look For the Positive Intention–If you’re struggling to feel sympathy for a person you’re disagreeing with, make sure to look for the need or the positive intention behind their words or actions.  Doing this doesn’t excuse any bad behavior.  Rather, it gives you a way to address it respectfully.  For instance, you might say something like, “When you do THIS or say THAT, can you help me understand what you’re trying to do?”  Then, when the other person explains their intention, you can brainstorm together about ways to meet that intention more respectfully and efficiently in the future.  Looking for the positive intention behind offensive words and actions gives you a way to be sympathetic without being a doormat.  It lets you work for change, respectfully.

3. Give It To God–When you’re disagreeing with someone, don’t forget to pray for them.  Not, “God, please make them see that I’m right and they’re wrong!”  But rather, “God, help me know how to express my concerns in a way they will hear and to really hear what THEY are saying so that we can both get our needs met and draw closer because of this disagreement we’re having.”   Giving your disagreement to God doesn’t mean giving up your needs or, for that matter, trusting that God will sort it out while you ignore the elephant in the room.  It means asking God to guide you in the steps of having more compassionate conflict, where the tension between you and the person you care about can lead to even greater closeness. Don’t try to pray away your needs or your feelings.  Instead, ask God to help you find ways to meet those needs and express those feelings in a manner that reflects God’s grace, honors your concerns, and respects the dignity of the other person as well. Let God show you how to master conflict instead of just avoiding it.

For more information on how to effectively handle conflict, check out When Divorce Is Not An Option and tune in to More2Life Monday-Friday, 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, SiriusXM 139.

When Your Emotions Get Derailed: Here’s How YOU Can Get Back On Track

18447716_1326200774095096_1823817419_nYou overslept through your alarm, you’re late for work, and—on top of that—your kids are sick… With all of this going on its easy to feel overwhelmed and out of control, which only adds to the stress of daily life, instead of helping to solve the problem. So how do we get back on track when our emotions get derailed?

Theology Of The Body reminds us that God made our bodies to work for our good and the good of others–that includes our feelings which are a function of our bodies. If our emotions are making it difficult for us to function at our best or treat others well, the answer is not to blame others for the feelings our bodies are making, but rather to learn to take responsibility for our bodies and our emotions. Taking responsibility for our emotions doesn’t mean shutting them down or shutting them off, but rather making sure that we express them in ways that help us meet our needs efficiently and make our relationships with others stronger and healthier.

Here are three More2Life hacks for getting your emotions back on track.

1. Reclaim your Power–When feelings throw us off track, we can feel powerless over our emotions.  The good news is that both psychology and theology agree, no one is in a better position than we are to manage our emotions effectively.  The trick is to not see it as a choice between venting your feelings or stuffing your feelings.  Instead, let the goal be expressing your feelings in a way that serves you well.  Before acting on overwhelming emotions, try to remind yourself of times when you handled high pressure situations well.  Ask yourself how you could use those same strategies in THIS situation.  Remembering past successes helps you connect with the fact that–despite how it feels right now–your emotions are not the most powerful force in your life.  GRACE is.  Bring these feelings to God and ask him how to express them in a way that solves the problem AND respects both you and the people around you.

2. Remember the True Opposite of Anger–The opposite of anger is not calm. It is empathy.  If you are being derailed by anger, frustration or irritation with someone, don’t focus on calming down so much as focusing on trying to see things through their eyes.  The point of empathizing with the person you are frustrated with is NOT excusing any offense or explaining away a problem.  The point is trying to get yourself to the place where you can stop seeing the other person as an obstacle to your progress and, instead, inviting them to be a partner in helping you make progress.  Research shows that problem solving works better when the problem-solvers feel like a team.  Acknowledging your anger doesn’t mean you can’t empathize with others as well.  It just means being able to keep your needs and theirs in mind at the same time.

3. Return to the Scene of the Accident–Often, when we lose our cool, we allow our guilt and shame to cause us to refuse to return to the topic. We MIGHT apologize, but beyond that, we may feel like we have surrendered our right to address the problem that provoked our reaction in the first place.  Nothing could be further to the truth.  By all means, if you need to apologize for something you said or did, be sure to do so, but don’t forget to circle back and address the problem that caused the train to jump the tracks in the first place.  For instance you could say, “I’m really sorry that I lost my temper.  You didn’t deserve to have me speak to you that way.  I would like it if we could make some time to talk about X, however, because as long as that’s an issue, there’s a chance we’re going to end up going through this again.” Returning to the scene of the accident allows you to learn from the past and avoid repeating it.

For more information on how to keep your emotions on track, check out Broken Gods! And tune in to More2Life on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, SiriusXM 139—Monday-Friday 10am E/9am C!