How to reclaim and regain your FREEDOM, and live your life with INTENTION.

Freedom is_Letting go of what other people think of you and listening to your intuition

Let go of the preoccupation with other people’s opinions of you.

One of the most liberating experiences is when you let go of what other people think of you…. Why? Because it’s none of your business what other people think of you! And because when you start carving out the path for your own life you won’t have the time or energy to care what other people think of you. It’s the biggest waste of time and energy to try and make other people like you. You can’t make others like you, even if you tried. They either like you, or they don’t. Listening to other people’s opinions also quietens your own inner voice. Listen to yourself and your own voice, and if you can’t hear it yet, spend some time meditating to help you find it.

Don’t just do things for people if you can’t help them to learn to do it for themselves.

Stop subjugating your needs for others.

If you do things for other people, at the expense of your own needs, it leads to a build up of resentment. Aside from that, rescuing others also does them a disservice. People need to learn and grow from their own struggles in life! So, if you want to do something nice for someone, do it because a) you want to and because the act of doing something for that person is rewarding for you, personally, and b) because it’s actually helping them to be their best self. Don’t just do things for people if you can’t help them to learn to do it for themselves. Most importantly, don’t do things for others because you want their approval or validation. It doesn’t help you to find your freedom, and it definitely doesn’t help them to find theirs either. It simply leads to a pattern of dependence.

Do it for the love, and let go of the fear.

Let go of fear of disapproval, fear of abandonment and fear of rejection. Fear blocks your energy from flowing freely. Doing things out of fear never leads you to a place of freedom and happiness. Genuine fear is there to protect you, but make sure your fear fits the facts before you act on it. Examining your fears is step one… if you are detecting a danger when there isn’t one there then you’re limiting yourself. Ask yourself if your is fear coming from a rational place. If not, then perhaps you need to raise your awareness by practicing mindfulness and sit with it for a bit longer until it passes. Don’t let fear control you. You can gain your power back. When you’re in the driver’s seat of your own life, you can take ownership and responsibility for the direction you choose to go in. Don’t take the backseat and let your fear steer you in the wrong direction.

Find freedom from the shackles of your feelings. Don't be a puppet in your own life.

Live your life with intention.

Don’t walk around on autopilot. Feel your feelings, but evaluate the effectiveness of your actions. Don’t let your feelings control you. Don’t be a puppet in your own life. You only have one life, so live it in line with your values, not your fears. Rise above your feelings and evaluate your actions. Don’t act on toxic feelings and stay stuck in a place that does not serve you or those around you.

Be YOU!

Be you.

Be your authentic, true, genuine self. This is who you were born to be! Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to be that person. Your purpose on this earth is to be who you were meant to be. You are a one of kind, unique person…. this earth needs you, and you were born into this world for a reason. Embrace who you truly are and follow your own passions, dreams and desires. You are stronger, braver and more powerful than you know. Harness and channel the power that was bestowed upon you, and let your light shine!

Freedom is_Taking ownership and responsibility for your life choices.

Own your life and your life choices.

Freedom comes with responsibility. Don’t be a victim of your circumstances. You impact everything and everyone that is connected to you. This is a really big deal! So take responsibility for yourself and your choices and how they affect this world.

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What I learned from Dr. Marsha Linehan: To change ourselves, we have to accept ourselves.

To change ourselves, we first have to accept ourselves

REAL CHANGE IS POSSIBLE.

This week I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend a 2-day training workshop by one of my all-time favourite psychologists and gurus, Dr. Marsha Linehan. Marsha is a pretty remarkable woman. In case you don’t know who she is, she is the pioneer and founder of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). DBT is all about building a life worth living and reducing suffering. It aims to find the synthesis of opposites. It embraces the idea that real change is possible, but that to create real change we first need to find the synthesis between acceptance and change. DBT affirms that everything is always changing, that truth evolves over time, and that everything is connected, ultimately. To change ourselves, we first have to accept ourselves; and likewise, to help change others, we first have to accept them!

Attending the workshop and meeting Marsha was such an amazing opportunity for me as a psychologist. A highlight was when she signed my copy of her DBT Skills Training Manual. I didn’t say much to her, just a simple “thank you”, to express my gratitude. She stopped writing to turn and smile and say, “You’re welcome”. It was definitely a major career highlight and fan-girl moment for me!

Sit back and let your mind figure it out.

SIT BACK AND LET YOUR MIND FIGURE IT OUT.

One of the first things I took down in my 20+ pages of written notes was something Marsha said right at the beginning of day one: “sit back and let your mind figure it out”. She was referring to being in a counselling session with a client, and giving yourself the permission to pause and reflect before responding. One of the biggest mistakes we make when communicating with others is that we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply. Marsha was saying that therapists should allow themselves the time to tap into their ability to figure things out first, to trust and to listen to their intuition. I liked that idea quite a lot, and I don’t think it just applies to therapists. So often, we get caught up in the chaos of the moment, processing a million things at once, the voice of our intuition is drowned out and we forget to sit back and figure it all out. So that was a major epiphany for me.

There can be more that can be known than what can be known from the senses

THERE CAN BE MORE THAT CAN BE KNOWN THAN WHAT CAN BE KNOWN FROM THE SENSES.

At end of day one, Marsha talked a little bit about her own personal journey and about spirituality… Marsha defines herself as a “Catholic Zen Master”, whatever that even means! I liked that she spoke about spirituality, because it’s often completely ignored by other prominent psychologists in the field. Spirituality is a really important area of life and one of my key research interests. I wrote my Master’s thesis on the role of spirituality in facilitating vicarious resilience in therapists and therapists in training. Marsha said, “there can be more that can be known than what can be known from the senses”, and that experiencing a sense of connection and “oneness” would lead to a sense of freedom and contentment. Marsha emphasised that freedom beats joy. Joy, realistically, is a temporarily emotion, while contentment and freedom can be ongoing. Marsha suggested using Mindfulness as the pathway toward finding more of these moments of oneness and connection with ourselves, and the world around us.Everything is being impacted by everything it’s connected to.

EVERYTHING IS IMPACTED BY EVERYTHING IT’S CONNECTED TO.

Marsha also talked about how change is transactional, and that everything is being impacted by everything it’s connected to. We often assume that all behaviour is chosen and deliberate and often it is simply automatic. Many problem behaviours are a result of a causal pattern or chain. Just stop for a minute and think about that…. It completely obliterates the concept of blame. If all behaviour is caused, how can we ever blame anyone for anything? We can’t! However, independent of what caused the problem, we do have to solve it! One way to do that is to give up judgment and the idea of “good and bad” and instead evaluate the consequences of behaviour – focus on what is effective and what works! Remember that there have to be consequences to behaviour for people to change. Being non-judgmental doesn’t mean you have to like or approve of it, either, it just means there’s a difference between thoughts and observations.

We are always learning and we are always doing the best we can (accept yourself).... AND, we can always do better (change yourself)!

YOU CAN ACCEPT YOURSELF, AND CHANGE YOURSELF.

The most important (and validating) reflection I walked away with from the 2-day workshop was that even Marsha (the guru herself) makes mistakes. During the workshop they showed a few videos of Marsha’s therapy sessions and it was extremely normalising to see that she wasn’t “the perfect therapist”. There is no such thing. If the woman who developed DBT and wrote multiple books and manuals on it can stuff it up (and admit to stuffing it up) then it’s most certainly ok for me to stuff it up. It all comes back to this very important dialectic: We are always learning and we are always doing the best we can (accept yourself)…. AND, we can always do better (change yourself)!

How to Develop (and stick to) a Health and Fitness Routine.

How to Develop (and stick to) a Health and Fitness Routine.

Changing habits and incorporating more exercise into your life can seem daunting at first. I’ve talked about change before and how challenging it can be, but I also know that it can be a really rewarding and worthwhile pursuit!

I know this because 6 months ago, I decided to change my lifestyle for the better, and since then I have felt the happiest, healthiest and sanest that I have felt for a really long time. It is amazing to see what an impact changing my diet, fitness and lifestyle has had on me. My migraines have become less frequent and less intense, I have become more present with my clients at work, my moods are more balanced, I am less reactive and less irritable with my loved ones, I have lost weight, and I am generally a happier and healthier version of myself. It’s a no-brainer, really.

Our minds and bodies are connected, and we need to nurture both of these to create an overall sense of balance and equilibrium. Taking care of your body by eating nutritious food and exercising regularly is the ultimate act of self-love and self-respect, but it’s not easy…. Developing (and sticking to) a health and fitness routine can be extremely challenging, especially if you’re a perfectionist. So I thought I’d shine some light on how I have managed to do it, and how you can too!

Take it slow.

I guess the first step for me was to set realistic goals. I was already exercising, but just not enough. I initially set myself the goal of running for five minutes and walking for thirty. I tried to do this three times a week, and do some stretching and yoga on the days in between. When I started off, I could barely run for five minutes. I was huffing and puffing and I honestly thought there was something wrong with me! Looking back on it now, I realise that I was just extremely unfit. I remember feeling pretty defeated that first time. At that point, I could have thrown in the towel and given up completely on the whole thing, but I didn’t. I thought about all the other big achievements in my life and that to achieve them I had to be persistent and consistent. I applied those same principles to this and simply slowed things down.

I also realised that it was unrealistic to think that I would be able to run non-stop for longer periods of time without increasing my fitness slowly. So, I increased my running by 1-2 minutes every time I ran, and I can now run for 25 minutes without stopping. For me, that is a massive achievement, and I’m so proud of my efforts. If you’re perfectionistic, it can be easy to start comparing yourself to other people, to feel defeated and to give up before you’ve even started. So don’t compare yourself to other people, just aim to be better than you were yesterday. Being healthy is a personal goal, so you’re only competing with yourself. Do it for yourself and in three months time, you will thank yourself.

Keep going. In three months, you will thank yourself.

Find out your “prime time” to exercise. Using a weekly goals planner can also be helpful for this. Look at your weekly schedule and see what days and times you can realistically fit the exercise into, but also when you know your body is going to want to. For me, I knew it would be easiest to achieve Friday-Monday when I have the evenings off, and more challenging Tuesday-Thursday when I tend to work later. I’m not a morning person and even when I try my hardest, I just can’t convince myself to wake up early to workout… it just doesn’t happen. I know this now, and don’t feel guilty about it anymore. Instead, I try to listen to my body and exercise when my body tells me that it wants to. It’s much easier to stick to the routine when you are doing it because you want to, and not because you’re forcing yourself to.

Be kind to yourself if you slip up. Changing habits takes time, so be patient with yourself. The “stages of change” theory in psychology dictates that when you’re actively trying to change a behaviour, you will go between the maintenance and relapse stages multiple times before you are able to sustain the change permanently over time. This is normal and natural! Relapsing doesn’t mean you are back to stage one. You haven’t gone backwards; so don’t beat yourself up for relapsing into old habits, it’s pointless and a waste of energy. Instead, figure out what went wrong for you to relapse in the first place, so that you can be better prepared for it next time. Most importantly, keep going and don’t dwell on it. Aim to be better than yesterday.

Think about how you want to feel, not how you want to look.

Think about how you want to feel, not just how you want to look. For me, this is a really important one, because aiming to feel healthy, strong, happy and fit is more important than aiming to look a certain way. Self-love is an inside job. Changing the way you look on the outside so you can feel better on the inside never works. If you haven’t done the work on the inside, there will always be something else you want to change or improve, and you’ll be stuck in a vicious cycle of jumping through hoops to get to some unattainable place. It also means that your motivation is extrinsic. Instead, focus on how you want to feel on the inside, and structure your health and fitness routine around this. For me, when I’m running, I feel invincible, strong, empowered and capable, so I focus on that feeling and that’s what inspires me to keep going. On days when I am lacking motivation, I remind myself of how I felt the last time, and that is enough to encourage me to move my body again. If your motivation to change is intrinsic, you will be more likely to sustain it over time.

Let exercise be your stress reliever, not food.

If you’re someone who uses food to regulate your emotions, start using exercise as your stress-reliever instead. The more you do that, the more you’ll start to see what difference it makes. Endorphins can be just as addictive as chocolate, but better for you, and you also won’t feel guilty afterwards. Get out of the guilt cycle by being kind to yourself. If you’re feeling sad, stressed, angry or anxious, do something NICE for yourself. Don’t feed the anxiety/depression with food; feed it with love, your body will thank you. The first step is to use mindfulness to notice when you’re using food as a way of regulating your emotions, and to create the space and time to respond effectively to what your mind/body needs in that moment. Observe your cravings. Use a journal to document your observations if it helps.

Get addicted to endorphins!

The more you respond effectively to your emotions, the better you will be at regulating them, and the more likely you will be to sustain the change over time. Short-term gratification is never worth it. Eating food to avoid distressing or uncomfortable feelings is engaging in a pattern of avoidance, and in the long run you will feel even more stuck and reduce your distress tolerance. Don’t give up what you want most (to feel healthy and happy) for what you want right now. It might feel like that ice-cream or chocolate will make you feel better, and perhaps in that moment it will, but remind yourself of your long-term goals and think about whether it fits in with those. Try some other distress tolerance skills instead. Take a few deep breaths, drink some water, go for a walk, draw, write, read…. Use whatever works for you. If you respond to your emotions effectively in other ways, the cravings will pass because you won’t be reinforcing them. And best of all, you’ll start to actually ENJOY your food instead of using it as a way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings.

Don't give up what you want most or what you want RIGHT NOW.

Change things up if you get bored. I’m someone who likes variety. If I do the same thing over and over again, I get bored easily. So to combat this, I try to do lots of different things, or the same things in different environments. For example, if I get bored of running on the treadmill, I go and run in a park or around a lake; I do yoga in the living room or in a class; I go to Zumba classes for a bit of fun and dancing; I do bike riding with my partner; I go up to the Dandenong Mountains to do the 1000 steps, to walk in beautiful gardens or try new walking tracks; I do strength exercises in the backyard; and next week I’m going to try swimming again. Basically, if you’re bored of the same exercises, change them. Changing your exercise routines also helps your body to adapt and to use different muscle groups, which is good for you!

Most importantly, have fun, believe in yourself and enjoy working toward your goals! Share your exercise tips with me on instagram!

P.S. Follow my blog and stay tuned to read about the equipment, tools and motivational tricks that I use to help and motivate me on my workouts.

Your Body Is Your Temple: Why You Should Move Your Body

Your body is your temple. Moving your body is the ultimate form of self-love and mindfulness

Moving your body is the ultimate form of self-love and mindfulness.

I have always loved to move my body. As a child I loved to swim and a dance (ballet and jazz), but over the past 5 years I have mostly moved my body through Zumba, yoga or walking. I started running about 6 months ago, and I can honestly say that it has changed my life. I have never been more present and aware of my body than when I am running. Running makes me feel alive in a way that no other form of movement ever has. It allows me to be in tune with my body; I can feel my muscles burning; I can feel the breath moving in and out of my body at an even pace; I can feel the momentum of my stride; I can feel the rhythm of my heartbeat and the rush of endorphins. For me, running is a form of moving meditation.

Running is a form of moving meditation

Running allows you to honour the process of change and transformation.

As I commit myself to moving my body, I am amazed by the gradual, but measureable, change that is happening to my body. There’s nothing more incredible than watching your body slowly transform. Every time I move my body, I feel stronger, leaner and more perseverant than the last time. I can run faster and longer but I’ve also learned to listen to my body. I’ve learned to trust myself and to push past the fear that was previously holding me back, but I’ve also learned to be aware of what my body is capable of in that moment or on that particular day. Thanks to running, I totally “get” the mind and body connection.

Moving your body helps you to honour the process of change and transformation

Unite with your higher self.

The word “yoga” makes reference to this. The root, “yuj” means “unity” or “yoke”. Yoga is one of my favourite forms of movement. Whilst running connects my body to my mind, I feel that yoga connects my body to my spirit. Yoga is special. It’s mindfulness in motion. I love it because it’s so grounding. With openness, curiosity and willingness, yoga can take your body to a whole new realm of experience. I feel so uplifted and in tune with myself after practicing yoga. One day soon I will write a blog post all about yoga.

P.S. I’m currently completing 30 days of Yoga with Adriene, which is really amazing by the way! You should try it!

How do you like to move your body? What helps you to feel in tune with your body? Tell me.

Dealing with People: Resolving Conflict and Fostering Connection.

I’m a fairly idealistic person at the best of times, but let’s face it: conflict is an inevitable part of life. We are all unique individuals with a unique set of needs, goals, desires, dreams and wishes in life. Whether it’s with your friends, family, spouses, bosses or colleagues, in any situation or context, there are going to be times when your needs and the other person’s needs are in conflict. It’s great when you can see eye to eye with the people who are around you, but what do you do when you want to eat Chinese for dinner but your partner wants burgers? Or when you want to design your website this way, but your colleague wants to design it that way? Or when you have strong opinions about how you want to live your life, but your parents have opposing views? Some conflict may be for BIG things, and some conflict may be for small things. Regardless of whether it’s big or small, there is great benefit in gaining skills in interpersonal effectiveness so that you have a way of communicating and asserting your needs to those around you effectively, but without damaging your relationship with them. I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of my thoughts on this topic and shed some light on how I have learned to resolve conflict effectively in my own life.

What is the importance of human relationships? Why do we need people anyway?

I guess the first thing I wanted to talk about is why maintaining a good relationship with others is so important.

%22We all need somebody to lean on%22Bill Withers

For our survival

As human beings, we are social creatures. It’s pretty simple, really. Humans need each other. We are highly dependent on others for our survival. Nearly everything we have in our life is made possible with the help of others – even life itself! There is no such thing as life without connection. Cooperation therefore gives us greater survivability. When people effectively cooperate with each other, great things can happen – we can go to the moon, advance science and medicine and be successful in our business ventures.

For our creativity

All of our current ideas, knowledge, tools and skills come from billions of years of interactions, relationships, exchanges, conversations, art and books. Our creativity would be stifled without other people. Other people can inspire us to achieve things that we may not have ever aspired to on our own! True learning doesn’t just come from reading textbooks and applying our knowledge – it also comes from learning the art of interacting effectively with people. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve learned more about human beings through the experience of interacting with them than what I ever did in my 6+ years of reading about them in academic journals and textbooks at university.

To meet our emotional needs

People play a crucial role in our lives – they make us smile, cry, laugh and think. Our interactions with others grow us. Having people around you that care about you can be a great source of strength and resilience. We also know that when people lack meaningful close relationships with others, they suffer. Being lonely therefore also creates a risk for developing mental health issues. We have a basic psychological need to feel connected to others. The research in this area suggests that people who have close relationships are healthier, less stressed and have a higher life expectancy than those who don’t. Close relationships also boost our immune systems! So, your family, friends, partners and community can all help you to live a richer, fuller and more satisfying life.

You can need people without being needy

Just because we need people, it doesn’t mean we have to be needy.

Needing others doesn’t make you needy. Western culture and society bombards us with this idea that we can be “self-made” individuals, that we can solve our own problems, remain emotionally detached and live completely independently without any help or support from others. It’s the classic “dream” and it’s used as justification to push people away. You know what? I call BULLSHIT on this. Maintaining a façade of complete control and independence isn’t strength of character; it’s avoidance – pure and simple. Anyone can shut other people out and pretend to be ok on their own, but it takes much more strength and courage to be vulnerable and transparent with others. No one is self-made! We live our stories together, and our stories become more meaningful and purposeful when they are shared with each other.

We live our stories together

It’s also true that some people need closeness, intimacy, attachment and love more than others, but in general we all need close and caring relationships. Personally, I’m an introvert by nature, so I get my energy from being alone or in smaller groups. Being in large crowds of people or spending too much time around others can be energetically depleting for me, whereas extroverts tend to want to spend more time around others, as they get their energy from being around other people.

Being needy, on the other hand, is when you don’t take responsibility for your own self-worth and wellbeing. It’s when you see yourself as the victim and blame others or your life circumstances. It’s self-judgment that creates the emptiness that leads to the neediness. So stop judging yourself! When you’re empty of self-love you expect others to “fill” you with their attention, love and approval. When your intent is to learn to love yourself and others and to learn to fill your own cup then you are better able to pour into others’ cups. This comes from an authentic need to share love and connect with others rather than a need to feel wanted. We need to connect with others, but we can’t do so when we are disconnected from ourselves. So forgive yourself first; show yourself compassion and kindness first. You will be way more likely to find the courage to ask for forgiveness from others when you can forgive yourself first.

To understand and connect with others we have to be open to learning about loving ourselves and others. To open up a genuine connection and sharing of love with others, we also have to open our hearts to taking responsibility for ourselves.

The importance of Empathy

We are able to successfully interact with and connect with others when are able to understand their feelings. To empathise with someone means to imagine being in their shoes and to try to understand how they might be feeling and perceiving the situation. Our ability to empathise with others falls on a spectrum. Some people are better able to empathise than others, but sometimes emotions can get in the way. Fleeting emotions, such as anger or fear, reduce our ability to empathise with others.

I would strongly argue that a lack of empathy is usually the root cause of most conflicts. Empathy erosion occurs when people fail to attend to the feelings, interests, thoughts, opinions and ideas of others. Narcissists, for example, are only able to see the world in relation to their own needs and desires. Narcissists do not see the intrinsic value of other people.

Fear and trauma can sometimes also create barriers in interpersonal effectiveness. When you have been repeatedly hurt, bullied or invalidated in your life, your defences are naturally going to be a lot more sensitive and reactive. When you’ve experienced trauma or abuse, you are conditioned to protect yourself against any further danger or threat – so things that are perhaps not such a big deal to others, may be perceived as a great big deal and major threat to you.

You can be a lover and a fighter

Learn how to be a Lover and a Fighter.

Some people think that in order to get along with others we have to always put their needs before our own. This is not true! You don’t have to subjugate your needs, be a passive people-pleaser or a doormat so that people will like you. In fact, people will probably like and respect you more if you are not always agreeing with everything they say, want and do. The good news is that it’s possible to be a lover and a fighter. It’s possible to assert yourself and your needs without damaging relationships. It’s all about the approach.

Get to know yourself and your needs first.

Understanding yourself is the first step. The more you can understand yourself and your own needs, the better able you will be to communicate them effectively with others. What is it that you want or need from this interaction? Can you meet this need for yourself, or is it something you need from someone else? Why do you need it? What do you have to do to get this thing that you want? Where does the need come from? Observe and describe your thoughts. Be curious about what you feel and need.

Notice and manage your judgment

Try to observe, but don’t evaluate. Take a non-judgmental stance with yourself, but also with others. Try to detach your opinions from the facts of the situation. Try to see the situation for what it is. And when you find yourself judging, don’t judge your judging! Let go of any vengeance, anger and righteousness that hurts you, and most importantly doesn’t even work! Stay away from thoughts of “right”, “wrong”, “should”, “should not”, “fair” and “unfair”

Preserve the relationship with the other person

 Act in such a way so that the other person will still like and respect you. Balance your immediate goals with the good of the long-term relationship. Remind yourself of why maintaining this relationship is important to you, both now and into the future. Ask yourself, how do you want the other person to feel about you after this interaction is over? What do you have to do to keep this relationship intact?

Preserve the relationship with yourself

Respect your own values and beliefs. Act in a way that is in line with your values and that makes you feel moral. Ask yourself how you want to feel about yourself after this interaction is over? What do you have to do to ensure you will feel this way? What will work?

Be dialectical

When you are using dialectical thinking, you are embracing the idea that there is always more than one true way to see a situation and more than one true opinion, idea, thought or dream. Two things that seem like (or are) opposites can both be true! Dialectics teaches us that all people have something unique, different, and worthy to teach that and all points of view have both true and false within them. You may be right, but the other person may be right also. Look for what is left out of your understanding of the situation. Open up to expanding your way of seeing things. Avoid assumptions and blaming. Get unstuck from conflicts and stand-offs. Find a way to validate the other person’s point of view. Let go of “black and white” thinking – bring a greater sense of flexibility to the way you see things.

In a conflict situation, it can be helpful to remember the DEARMAN GIVE FAST acronym from Dialectical and Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

Describe: Describe the current situation and what you are reacting to. Just stick to the facts.

Express: Express how you are feeling about the situation.

Assert: Assert yourself, asking clearly for what you want or saying no clearly. Assume that others cannot read your mind. Assume that others will not figure it out themselves unless you ask and don’t expect others to understand how hard it is for you to ask.

Reinforce: Reinforce or reward the person ahead of time by explaining the consequences. Tell them the positive effects of getting what you want or need and tell them the negative effects of not getting it. Show gratitude to that person ahead of time for doing or accepting what you want.

Stay Mindful: Keep your focus on the objective. Maintain your position and don’t be distracted.

Appear confident: Appear effective and competent. Use a confident voice, make eye contact, speak clearly and don’t whisper.

Negotiate: Be willing to give to get. Be willing to compromise and ask for alternative solutions.

Be Gentle: Be gentle, courteous and temperate in your approach. No attacks, no threats, no judging.

Act Interested: Listen to the other person’s point of view, opinions, reasons for saying no, or reasons for making a request of you. Don’t interrupt or talk over them. Be sensitive to the other person’s desire to have the discussion at a later time. Be patient!

Validate: Validate or acknowledge the other person’s feelings, wants, difficulties, and opinions about the situation.

Use an Easy Manner: Use a little humour. Smile. Ease the person along. Be light-hearted. Remember that you will catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Be Fair: To yourself and the other person.

No Apologies: No overly apologetic behaviour. No apologising for being alive or for making a request at all. No apologising for having an opinion or for disagreeing.

Stick to Values: Stick to your own values!

Be Truthful: Don’t lie, act helpless when you are not, or exaggerate. Don’t make up excuses.

Forgive yourself first

How I deal with conflict: My own journey in forgiveness

In my own life, I don’t always deal with conflict perfectly. I’ve found that using some of the principles from DBT in my own interactions with others has improved my life tenfold. We don’t realise how much negative energy we carry around with us when we are actively engaging in regular conflicts with others. Holding grudges against others is also pointless. Sometimes it means having to be the bigger person to apologise. Apologising doesn’t mean the other person is right, it just means I have more room in my heart for forgiveness, compassion and kindness. And regardless of what someone else has “done” to me, forgiving them creates more space in my life for peace and contentment. No one else is responsible for my life or how I feel. Only I own my own feelings so nobody can “make” me feel a certain way.

I’ve always believed in forgiveness. I was raised that way. I’ve always forgiven people for the hurt they have caused me to feel, no matter how major. The reason for this is because I recognise that other people are not actually responsible for what I feel. Nobody causes another person to hurt. Even if you had killed my entire family, you would still not be responsible for my feelings. The only person responsible for how I feel is me, and in order to be able to move forward after a conflict, I need to claim responsibility for my own feelings and actions. Likewise, I am not responsible for any anger or resentment that other people feel toward me. I am also not responsible for their actions, only they are, and vice versa.

I see my own parents, who’ve been married for 30 years, and the most important lesson I have learned from them is that people make mistakes, and sometimes, those mistakes lead to people hurting as a consequence. Yet, despite all the mistakes in the world, one thing has remained constant, and that is the fact that they care about each other and are able to appreciate each other for their positive and negative attributes. There are probably times when they don’t love each other. In fact, there are probably times when they hate each other too! But, they never stop caring. It’s not about giving people chances… it’s about recognising that everyone is on their own journey in life, and that during that journey, there will be many lessons to learn. Friendships and relationships are about attempting to walk down that journey together. The problem, however, is that in attempting to walk that journey there will still be individual lessons to be learned. Ideally you would want be able to learn from others’ lessons and therefore continue down that journey together… but often the individual lessons become a priority and the path splits into two. However, even when that path splits, there is still opportunity for it to meet at a crossroads again in the future and continue where it left off, but that can only happen if people choose to continue walking down the same path together. Unfortunately, not everyone chooses to do that.

In my life, I have walked down paths with many people, and there have been times when those paths have split and then met at a crossroads again. I have learned a lot about others and myself in going down those paths, and I still have much to learn on my own path in life. I have learned to heal from hurt by finding meaning and making sense of the things that have happened on my journey. It helps me to understand why things have happened the way they have, to learn from it and to forgive myself.

I hope this post has shed some light on your interactions with people and helped you understand that it’s possible to be a lover and a fighter. Feel free to share your thoughts with me!