Popular culture is focused on attracting love, yet you’ll only be able to receive as much love as you give to yourself. You’ll deflect or guard love that doesn’t resonate with you — like a compliment you don’t believe. The opposite is also true. You’ll allow others to abuse you a bit less than you abuse yourself. So if you desire lasting love, learn to love yourself, because your relationships will parallel your relationship with yourself.
The subject of love interested me from an early age after reading Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving. I was still young and unconscious of my feelings about myself. For years, the concept of loving myself eluded me. Like many on a spiritual path, I became very good at compassion for others, but had no idea what self-love meant. Little by little, I’ve learned that it starts with self-esteem, self-acceptance, and finally compassion and love – all progressive stages.
Most people determine their worth based upon other-esteem. They seek approval and validation from others, and their opinion of themselves isn’t very high unless they get it. True self-esteem isn’t based on what others think of you, since its Self-esteem. It’s basically what you think of yourself. You may think well of yourself and your competence in some areas, but not in others, and your estimation may fluctuate with illness and life’s ups and downs, but if you have good self-esteem, you’ll return to feeling good about yourself. You won’t blame yourself, nor take others’ opinions or what fate throws you too personally. You’ll think you’re an okay person despite losses, ill heath, mistakes, and rejection. Many people focus on their flaws and have trouble acknowledging their assets. Others have inflated, unrealistic opinions of themselves. Studies contend that narcissists have high self-esteem. I say they lack true self-esteem, because when a major loss occurs, their self-esteem can plummet, especially if it’s in areas that support their self-concept, such as beauty, public acclaim, or material success. The biggest obstacle to self-esteem is self-criticism.
Unlike self-esteem which varies, self-acceptance is steady and unconditional. You accept yourself despite your flaws, failures, and limitations. You’re more self-forgiving and let go of self-judgment. Instead of comparing yourself to others, both positively and negatively, you appreciate your singular individuality. You feel that you’re enough without having to improve upon yourself.
Self-acceptance works wonders. Once you start accepting yourself, you gradually stop worrying what others think and become more spontaneous and natural. Self-acceptance is what allows you to be authentic. You can finally relax, and allow more of the inner, real you to be seen. You’ll have no shame or fear of revealing yourself when you accept yourself unconditionally. This is the key to intimacy and spiritual relationships and enables you to accept others.
Whereas self-esteem is an evaluation and acceptance is an attitude, love combines both feeling and action. Contrary to what many believe, self-love is healthy. It’s neither selfish, nor self-indulgent, and neither egotism, nor narcissism. Actually, egotists and narcissists don’t love themselves at all. A “big ego” is compensation for lack of self-love. Most people think too little of themselves, not too much, and often falling in love is merely a compensation for inner emptiness, loneliness, and shame. No wonder most relationships fail (including those who stay together). Erich Fromm correctly pointed out that love is an art form that takes dedication and practice, not something you win or fall into. Rather, being able to love is a faculty to be developed. It entails effort and begins with learning to love yourself.
Fromm contended that Western society has been influenced by the Calvinist belief that we’re basically sinful, and thus self-love was considered sinful. But since the Bible says, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” how can loving your neighbor be a virtue and self-love be a vice? You’re part of humanity as worthy of love as the next person. Many kind or religious people are able to love others, but unable to love themselves. They believe having a high regard for themselves is indulgent, conceited, arrogant, or selfish. The opposite is true. The greater is your love of self, the greater will be your love of others. The inverse is also true; hatred of others is indicative of self-hatred.
When you love someone, you try to understand their experience and world view, although it differs from your own. You offer your attention, respect, support, compassion, and acceptance. Your caring involves knowledge, responsibility and commitment. These virtues are not compartmentalized, because love is indivisible. Thus, as you develop these abilities, your capacity to love yourself and others grows.
Developing the faculties of attention and compassion necessitate discipline and time. To learn anything requires that you desire it and find it worthy of your effort. Although self-love is certainly an important goal, our society is full of distractions, and its emphasis on speed, performance, and productivity make developing self-love a challenge. Meditation, yoga, martial arts are helpful in learning self-awareness and focusing attention.
Compassion for yourself enables you to witness your feelings, thoughts, and actions with acceptance, caring, and understanding as you would when empathizing with another. Compassion is expressed with gentleness, tenderness, and generosity of spirit — quite the opposite of self-criticism, perfectionism, and pushing oneself. When most people are stressed, overwhelmed, or exhausted, they attempt to do even more, instead of caring for themselves. If you weren’t nurtured as a child, self-nurturing can be absorbed in therapy over time. You’ll learn to integrate the acceptance and empathy offered by your therapist. Self-compassion differs from self-pity, which is a judgment about your situation or feelings. Rather than acceptance and compassion, self-pity says, “It shouldn’t be this way.”
Fromm states that self-love entails faith and courage to take risks and overcome life’s setbacks and sorrows. Faith in yourself enables you to comfort yourself and face challenges and failures without lapsing into worry or judgment. You develop the ability to see yourself objectivity and know you’ll survive, despite present emotions. If you constantly seek validation and reassurance from others, you miss the opportunity to develop these internal functions. As knowledge is pre-requisite to love, spending time alone with yourself is essential to identify and listen to your feelings with sensitivity and empathy. Acquiring the ability to witness and contain your emotions are also faculties learned in psychotherapy.
Perhaps you’ve concluded that learning self-love isn’t easy. Look at it this way. Throughout the day, you’re confronted with many opportunities to disregard or attune to your feelings, to judge or to honor them, to keep commitments and be responsible to yourself, and to act in accordance with your needs, values, and feelings. You have an opportunity to learn self-love all the time. Every time you talk yourself down, doubt yourself, exhaust yourself, dismiss your feelings or needs, or act against your values, you undermine your self-esteem. The reverse is also true. You might as well make healthier choices, because you and all your relationships will benefit.
How To Deal With Angry People: A Survival Guide
Dealing with angry people in our society is becoming increasingly challenging. Some days, it seems anger surrounds us at home, in the workplace, on the roadways, and at sports events. It is easy to get caught up in an escalating spiral of angry exchanges which usually upsets everyone and does nothing to improve communication or solve the problem at hand.
As an alternative, this survival guide is designed to provide practical tips on how to deal with two types of angry people in your life: (1) explosive people who might be dangerous and (2) people who are chronically angry toward you.
PART 1- EIGHT TIPS TO DEAL WITH EXPLOSIVE PERSONS WHO CONFRONT YOU: DEFUSING POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS SITUATIONS:
1. Do not respond in kind. Hostility often begets more hostility.
Respond instead with a non-hostile message to defuse people who are behaving in a hostile manner toward you. The classic example of this is in when simple inconsiderate driving or even aggressive driving suddenly escalates into road rage due to two drivers ratcheting up hostility in response to the other’s hostile acts, words, or gestures.
Please remember that in these and other hostile situations, you contribute somewhat to the outcome by your decision to return hostility or not.
2. Take their upset seriously and validate their feelings.
Listen to what they have to say and hear them out; ignoring them or minimizing their feelings will tend to escalate their anger further. There have been untold numbers of workplace violence incidents that could have been averted had supervisors or managers listened with empathy to disgruntled employees rather than responding in an insensitive, or uncaring manner.
3. Never argue with someone when they are intoxicated.
When someone is drinking or intoxicated, this is no time to try to solve relationship or other problems (especially if you too have had a few drinks). A high percentage of angry confrontations as well spousal abuse arrests occur when drinking is involved by one or both partners. Drinking often impairs judgment, decreases inhibitions (resulting in saying things we don’t mean), and distorts your normally astute reasoning ability.
4. Respond to the feelings they are having – not the content of what they are saying.
Try to hear and respond to the underlying hurt or pain the person is experiencing underneath the angry words. Use statements such as “I can appreciate why you feel that way,” “It sounds like you are very angry right now,” “Many people feel the way you do.”
5. On roadway, don’t make eye contact with an aggressive driver.
This is the secret signal in the animal world to engage in combat and will frequently escalate things, sometimes into “road rage.” Just ignore aggressive drivers and stay out of their way.
6. Allow angry people to physically escape the situation.
Don’t block their way or prevent egress, or you may be putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Take off the heat rather than increasing the pressure! Don’t insist on solving the problem “now” when the other person is in an agitated state.
7. Don’t defend yourself by attacking back at them or their character flaws.
Defensiveness often escalates anger in the other person and, in fact, is one of the predictors of divorce, according to recent marital research. There is a time to present your side, but not when your partner is unable to hear it due to his or her anger.
8. Don’t try to solve an emotional issue with logical arguments.
Trying to diffuse an angry person with overwhelming evidence of their thinking errors or mistakes in logic, or facts to the contrary, or reasons for why they shouldn’t feel the way they do, or why they should feel differently – usually makes the situation worse.
Part 2- HOW TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE WHO ARE CHRONICALLY ANGRY TOWARD YOU.
1. Consider changing your behavior that triggers their anger.
Sometimes the most practical thing to do is to change whatever it is that triggers anger in people close to you. Not that you should go overboard on this, but simple changes can do a lot, especially if they don’t lower your self-esteem or don’t “cost” you a lot to change.
2. Think about terminating the relationship.
Truth is, some relationships we get involved in are so “toxic” that it is self-abusive to continue in them or to try and repair them. At times, you need to protect yourself from people in your life who create an atmosphere that is not good for your well-being.
3. Limit your time spent with them.
If terminating the relationship is too drastic of a step, consider simply limiting the time you spend with toxic people in your life. Decide you can put up with the person several times a year at the family Christmas party, for instance, or that you will be tolerant toward your angry ex-spouse once a week for the sake of your children.
4. Ask them directly why they are often appear angry toward you.
A straight line is the shortest distance between two points. Sometimes the quickest way to find out why someone appears constantly angry with you is to simply ask them. They may not even realize they were communicating angrily toward you, so your inquiry may open up a great opportunity for dialogue.
5. Communicate clearly how their negativity affects you.
Honestly letting people know how their behavior is affecting you emotionally is often an “eye-opener” to the other person. Start with “I feel” statements rather than “you” or “you should” statements.
6. Adjust your expectations of them.
People may be chronically angry toward you because you communicate that they are disappointing you in some way and they are perceiving you as overly critical. Adjusting those expectations you have toward others may result in their being less angry toward you!
7. Stop trying to solve unsolvable problems in a relationship.
According to some marital researchers, up to 60% of issues in a relationship are unsolvable due to the couple’s being “gridlocked” around it. Trying to solve unsolvable problems creates much anger. Instead, find a way to dialogue about the issues and live with each other around them, rather than trying to fix them.
8. Suggest ways to remedy anger, if the other person acknowledges he or she has an anger problem.
If the angry person in your life is open to it, suggest an evaluation by a psychologist or physician to determine what the problem is. There are many underlying problems such as Depression, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Bipolar Disorder, and other conditions which can lead to anger problems. Often, anger management classes are recommended in addition to treatment of an underlying problem.
A Little Black Pen