Looking for Sweet Revenge?

Playing dead is the sweetest step in the sweetest revenge.

Maybe someone betrayed you. Manipulated you. Lied. Cheated. Insulted.

Whatever the flavor, someone hurt you and now there’s a surging flood of anger in your veins. You. Want. Revenge.

The “R” Word

When we fill wronged by someone, we want justice. We want them to feel what they made you feel. We want them to pay for their mistreatment and misdeeds.

But when we hunger for revenge, do we really know what we are asking for?

The word revenge comes with that nifty little prefix at the front: RE

re: back or again

Then there’s that solid root word in revenge: VENGE— a Latin word:

venge: protect, avenge, punish

Did You Hear Yourself?

Do you know what you are asking for with revenge? (GIPHY)

So, when you ask the Universe for revenge, you are essentially asking to experience punishment or a sense of vengeance again.

Think of revenge as a wound you keep picking: it’s only going to grow more irritated and bloody with time.

Now what about this idea of venge meaning protection? Are you really protecting yourself when you are punishing someone else? The fact that you are doing so “again” sounds downright exhausting.

The Cat and Mouse Game

I get it: you’re hurt. Angry. Hungry for justice. But we’ve already established that revenge — the idea of punishing someone else — will only inflict more pain back onto you.

Revenge is a cat and mouse game. You are the mouse. When you seek vengeance, you are only making the cat claw at you more.

The only way to end the cat and mouse game: to play dead. To surrender to the injustice, cruelty, mistreatment, and any other terrible behavior of the someone who has hurt you.

When we surrender to the what is of someone’s awful behavior, we are no longer dependent on them for peace.

Make no mistake: abuse of any kind is unacceptable. I am not saying: Allow this person who hurt you to keep hurting you. On the contrary, I’m saying:

Live your life. Focus on things and people that bring you genuine pleasure and happiness.

The cat only has power if you allow it to. Each time you get into the ring with the cat, the game will only continue.

Get out of the ring. Play dead.

Then you can enjoy your life. And what a beautiful life it is. The sweetest revenge is living your best life, filling it with appreciation for even the smallest of things: the sound of birds outside a window, the air you fill your lungs with.

When we let go of the need to justify our anger, life’s sweetness returns.

And when you feel angry, let it out to people you trust.

Don’t go seeking understanding from the source of your pain.

This life can be amazing and awful. It’s up to you how you choose to perceive it. How sweet is that?

—-

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The Friendship Diet

Discover the connection between food and relationships in my book: The Friendship Diet

Letting Our Kids Fail

And the invaluable gifts that arrive when we do

Sometimes, the best parenting involves letting go.

One of my kids is struggling. Struggling to make a decision. Afraid to make the wrong one.

The decision will effect the rest of his life. No one else’s. Not mine. Not his father’s. His life.

Fortunately, the decision is not life threatening.

“What do I do?” he asks me.

Finding Your Voice

We humans learn best through action. Sure, we can preach about what matters, the lessons we’ve learned from life, but ultimately, none of it sticks and penetrates the heart and mind like experiencing it (whatever “it” is) for ourselves.

We find our voice, our inner compass through trial and error.

My son wants me to tell him what to do, to take the stress over making a decision off of his shoulders.

But removing the burden of responsibility and choice from his psyche would thwart his growth in the long run.

The Gift of Biting Your Tongue

Do I have a strong opinion? Absolutely. And when he asks for this, I share it with him. But to advise him is to remove an opportunity for his self-awareness; to shove my opinion as fact upon him is to deprive him of self-discovery.

Much better for me to bite my tongue until I taste blood than navigate and discern the world for my teen.

So instead, I listen.

Cultivating Autonomy

My son struggled with the “what if” of his decision. I listened as he played out each scenario.

I listened.

By the time he was finished, he looked like a balloon that had lost all of its air.

“We can’t control the actions of others or life’s outcomes. We can only control our choices, moment by moment.”

Needless to say, he didn’t like my answer.

Yet, he did make a decision. From my vantage point, the decision is based in fear and steeped in a need for survival.

But it is not my place as a parent of a teenager to tell him what to do. Again, the decision he is making affects him alone and is not life threatening.

Regardless of his decision and my opinion of it, he has taken a closer step in his autonomy. 

There are already consequences of his choice out of fear. It is downright painful to watch. 

But when a toddler falls and cries, we kiss the boo-boo and remind them they can just “get back up.”

When there’s salt in my son’s wound, I comfort him, reminding him that he did the best he could based on what he thought at that time.

Humans are self-correcting creatures. When we allow our kids to self-correct, making adjustments based on new information, independence is fostered.

Cultivating Confidence

The consequences of my son’s decision is offering opportunities for him to make new decisions. Those decisions are continuing to be fear-based.

“I’m in survival mode,” he says.

Okay then. He’s doing what he thinks he has to do. I remind him there’s always another way. 

(Again: No one is in danger, nothing is life threatening and the consequences of his actions affect him alone.)

I can see the self-proclaimed “survival mode” in the tightness of his jaw, the rolling of his eyes if I even hint at broaching the subject. Translation: I know what I’m doing here.

There’s a confidence brimming inside of my son now. He knows he’s supported — simultaneously knowing I’m not in favor of his decision yet respect his choice.

Cultivating Trust

When we surrender to what we can’t control, (i.e. another’s decision), a bridge of trust is built:

  • The trust you foster for your child is returned to you.
  • The trust your child feels from you bolsters inner trust in themselves.

Caveats

I am not promoting trusting your teen to take illegal drugs until they “figure it out” nor am I suggesting a child decide on whether or not to treat a life-threatening condition.

Giving our children a chance to explore what works and doesn’t — while under our guidance — offers them the gift of self-awareness. 

Encouraging autonomy when the stakes are small, allowing them space to “fail” will offer first-hand experience in getting back up on their figurative (or literal) feet.

Behind the Curtain:

Life Backstage Tells a Different Story

The front row has nothing on the real drama backstage.

The other day I was venting to my sister about pressing financial matters.

“I guess I’ll just be working well into my 70’s.”

“You could be like those older ladies I see at Macy’s. They are at least that age and so adorable working there.”

My sister’s tone was genuine, making the delivery of her words sting that much more.

“Great idea! That’s always what I wanted to do late in life.” My voice dripped with sarcasm.

“I think it would be fun.” 

Now the gloves were off. Like a water hose finally unplugged, I unleashed my anger her way.

“Fun? How can you say that? Why the hell would I want to work at some meaningless job in retail out of necessity in my 70’s?!”

Behind the Curtain of Anger

My sister hadn’t done anything wrong. The anger I unfairly threw her way stemmed from a genuine fear of which her words had, inadvertently, fanned the flames.

Fear is the backstage entity often cloaked in anger. When we aren’t in alignment with ourselves, the slightest comment or action of another can be perceived as salt on a wound.

My sister had genuinely tried to comfort me. She, of course, could only do this from her own vantage point:

“I’d love to have a job like that someday. My career involves so much responsibility. I can’t imagine not working even after I retire, so doing something in retail part time would be fun.”

Wearing Someone Else’s Shoes Hurts

When we look for comfort from someone else, we need to remember that they:

  • only possess their own vantage point
  • are not responsible for the other person’s inner alignment

My sister can hear that I’m experiencing a fiscal crisis, but that is not the same as experiencing it. Likewise, I can hear my sister express her potential enjoyment at working in retail later in life, but I can’t make myself share this sentiment.

Asking someone to feel what you are feeling is like shoving your shoe onto someone else’s foot: it’s not going to fit and can be downright painful.

It’s important to know what you are asking for from that person in the first place. My sister was only sharing her thoughts on the idea of working in her 70’s.

 But I had never been clear about where I was standing: blazing, unfiltered fear.

Say Where You Are

I hadn’t acknowledged the intense fear and instead danced in front of the figurative curtain with haughty anger.

My attitude had been a defiant “Can you believe this bullshit?” but inside, behind the curtain, I was peeing in my pants.

How could we expect anyone to be there for us emotionally if we don’t tell them where we are emotionally?

Spend Time Backstage

After touring the backstage area of my psyche, I got real with the fear. 

When we spend time in the discomfort of fear, acknowledging its presence, and facing it head on, the fear itself dissipates. 

The fiscal situation is still there, but my spiritual awareness of the bigger picture has kicked in, and with it, I know that my health is the most invaluable gift there is and not worth sacrificing to the external (and temporary) reality.

Backstage is where fear likes to lurk; it is a stealthy entity, hiding behind anger. But when we face our fear head-on, peeling back the curtain to the what-ifs that plague our psyches, light pours in, leaving no room for fear to hide.

Doormat Syndrome

Feeling like a doormat in this life? Consider whether you are a victim or active volunteer…

Most of us humans want to do good in this world. We want to help people. And this is a beautiful thing. But there is a fine yet distinct line between helping other and losing ourselves in the process.

Pilot Philosophy

The pilot’s directive in case of a flight emergency is always the same: put your oxygen mask on first.

Yet in life, many of us tend to ignore our own needs in order to care for another. 

Living in the Gray

Nothing is black or white in this life. There’s gray. There are, of course, times when we put aside our own needs to attend to another. When:

  • an infant needs to be fed
  • a loved one is close to the end of their life
  • someone is in danger

But even in the examples above, there is gray: 

  • The infant can be fed within 5–10 minutes
  • You can get something to eat/go to the restroom at the hospital during your vigil
  • You can call an ambulance/the police without putting yourself in direct danger (again, even here the situation is filled with gray based on the nature and scope of danger)

Recognizing Patterns

My cousin regularly caters to her grown children and subsequently complains that they don’t appreciate her and treat her like a doormat. If she has plans, and they arrive, unannounced from out of town, she changes her plans. Some are carnivores and some are vegan. Regardless, the expectation is that “mom” (my cousin) will “take care of it.”

So she…

  • shops, prepares, and serves the meals to her grown children’s families’ tastes. Then she washes up the kitchen — solo.
  • does her children’s and grandchildren’s laundry
  • cleans the house after them daily

And then they leave and don’t call her unless they need money.

My cousin’s pattern:

Doormat + Complainer=Resentment and Helplessness

Victim or Volunteer

A wise therapist said:

If there’s a negative situation you keep experiencing, you have to ask yourself: What am I getting out of it?

There’s always a positive in the negative. There’s always some kind of reward we receive that keeps us stuck in that negative pattern.

My cousin might complain, but it is never to her daughters or their husbands. She will complain to the rest of the family. She will complain to friends. But she stays quiet when it comes to the source of her unhappiness.

Why? I can’t speak for her. One reason might be fear — the fear of what might happen if she tells her grown children how she truly fells.

“My grandchildren are my whole life.” We become the stories we regularly say to ourselves and others. 

Another potential reason? There’s a comfort in the roles we play for a long time. My cousin is quite comfortable in her victim role. It’s a false safety net, trapping her in its familiar web.

Growth happens when we step out of our comfort zone.

It is uncomfortable to sit with the notion that she is a volunteer, not a victim. It is uncomfortable to sit with one’s responsibility for an unpleasant experience.

The late First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt wisely said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Nothing is stopping my cousin from speaking up, allowing the figurative chips to fall in her self-caged prison.YOU are the author of your life. What’s your narrative going to be? (GIPHY)

The Greatest Storyteller

The greatest storyteller is the one reading this right now. It’s YOU. Whether you are a victim or a volunteer is always up to you. If you don’t like the narrative, change it.

Changing a narrative is not so simple as “okay, now I am no longer a victim.” That is the physical equivalent of a child shoving their strewn toys under their bed. The mess has simply moved and still not dealt with. 

Changing the narrative requires great courage. The willingness to see the patterns we’ve created and the WHY behind those patterns.

Only when we’ve looked with both eyes open can we start planting new seeds and growing a different, empowering narrative — with you as the hero.

The Little Death: What It is and Why You Need It

Authentic forgiveness requires a little death. The pain felt is required to heal.

Mourning. Grief. It looks different for everyone. It’s also the underbelly we don’t want to look at and feel. Much better to hide behind the minutia of daily life, running toward a future we’ll never get to in order to escape the painful ghosts of the past.

Kinks in Our Armor

The problem with running from pain: eventually, we wear out. Whether it’s hiding behind alcohol or an obsession with cleanliness, our beloved addictions can only stave us off from the inevitable negative emotions for a limited quantity of time.

Our psychological armor develops chinks over time. The more stubborn of us might be able to manifest a Botox-reminiscent smile, insisting that everything is fine, fine, fine. But the body doesn’t lie. The body keeps score, housing all the flavors of pain in our mortal coil: regret, shame, grief, blame, revenge, anger, guilt–all the negative emotions surrounding those memory ghosts simmer below the surface.

Watch for Fake Forgiveness

Fake forgiveness is the cubic zirconia of genuine forgiveness. It looks like the real thing. It may even sound like the real thing. But it won’t feel authentic.

Could you fool the ones you love with fake forgiveness? I’m sure you could.

The problem? You’re the one who’s continuing to suffer. You’re the one who, as Billy Joel famously said in his song, My Life:

“sooner or later you sleep in your own space
Either way it’s okay, you wake up with yourself”

Fake forgiveness is almost worse than admitting we aren’t able to forgive. It’s a lie we carry in the cells of our bodies, an invisible albatross weighing on our heart.

The Little Death

We can’t live this life without getting bruised and cut. But the same is true for our hearts and minds. Those painful memories we hold will continue to fester until we are willing to remove the Band-aids stuck in place.

The very thing that terrifies us and we try to avoid at all costs — pain — is often the very thing we need to experience in order to heal.

The little death is the acceptance that arrives with our pain. It is a spiritual surrender to what happened, to the choices we made that affected others and ourselves. Authentic forgiveness requires the death of what is no longer or what never was. Perhaps it is the death of hope and expectation, so new life can flood in. The little death allows us a rebirth.

If I tell you to think about anything BUT green elephants, what happens to your mind? Likely, all you are thinking about are those darn green elephants.

Why?

Our minds try so very hard to protect us. They are overthinking machines, working oh-so-very hard to help us. And, as in the case of our “Green Elephant” example, they don’t often do a very good job at this.

Pain is our brain’s Green Elephant, working overtime to protect us. But we need to embrace the pain if we want to get to the other side and experience true peace.

Brene Brown on Hurting

We live in a culture where immediate gratification reigns supreme. Lose weight–quickly. Get rich–quickly.

But while technology has greatly and rapidly improved in a short time span, the human soul timelessly needs what it needs: forgiveness, compassion, kindness, empathy. And there’s no Instagram or Twitter account that will acquire those things for us.

Peace arrives when we are willing to remove our psychological armor in a compassionate, patient light, trusting that the hurt will pass.

—–

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What’s the Big Deal with Meditation?

Meditation is about giving the fractured parts of us a space to commune.

Last night, the rain slammed against the windows of my home and woke me up, thunder making sure I stayed awake. I tossed and turned, not quite asleep but not awake either, as the light bled into the bedroom with the dawn.

A couple of years ago, a storm like that would have easily rendered me hitting my pillow, counting, and recounting the hours of sleep I was missing. A couple of years ago, I perceived life coming at me more than coming through me. A couple of years ago, I saw my brain’s worst-case-scenario game as something belonging to me instead of a mere function of that organ warehoused in my body.

My external life hasn’t changed much in these past couple of years. There’s still bills to pay, traffic to maneuver through, personal challenges to face — you name it, life stressors continue.

So, what’s changed? What’s given me the gift of inner peace, the ability to both strive and surrender, to relish experience over destination, to trust that everything is always working out — even at those times when my brain is telling me a very different story?

Meditation. I love it and cannot recommend it enough.

The prefix medi is Latin for middle. When we meditate, we are putting ourselves into this middle space between waking and dreaming. We are both in our physical bodies and beyond them.

In the middle, we are able to watch our thoughts without judgment or censorship. Meditation allows us to go from a micro to macro perspective. The late and great, Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote powerfully about this in his book, The Shift: Taking Your Life from Ambition to Meaning:

“Becoming the observer (step back) you begin to live in process, trusting where our source is taking you. You begin to detach from the outcome. That detachment allows you to stop fighting and allows things to just come to you…You get to a place where you begin to be guided by something greater than yourself.” -Dr. Wayne Dyer

The gift of meditation grows over time. Each time I take those 10–15 minutes in the morning to meditate, my spiritual muscles are stronger than the day before. If I find myself in what I perceive to be a stressful situation, I am able to catch myself that much sooner and breathe through any unpleasant feelings that arise, “welcoming the unwelcome” (Pema Chodron), knowing as the pithy goes, “This too shall pass.”

There is no wrong way to meditate. Go for a walk, listen to the air conditioning as you sit comfortably on a chair, fold laundry, paying attention to the sensations of the fabrics your fingers touch.

Meditation is about giving the fractured parts of us a space to commune. It’s an opportunity to slow down and observe, to watch without fixing, to feel without concealing, to allow our sheer being to just…be. Over time, you learn to trust both the Universe and your inner knowing (which, in my book, are one in the same).

“People can tell you all kinds of wrong directions, lead you around any corner. You can’t trust any of that. You can’t even trust me. What do they say in car adverts? About the navigation system? Comes as standard. Everything you need to know about right and wrong is already there. It comes as standard. It’s like music. You just have to listen.” How to Stop Time (author, Matt Haig).

Meditation is the portal to listening and by extension, knowing ourselves.

What’s the big deal about meditation?

In my opinion, everything. Cultivating our inner compass is where the real magic happens.

The Most Important Bank Account

The most important bank account has nothing to do with your 401K.

            It’s not the number of stocks or annuities in your retirement portfolio, nor the percent of interest accruing in your money market account. It isn’t the bonus received or expected from work or the amount of dollars in your checking and savings.

            The most important bank account isn’t measured in cryptocurrency, gold, or one’s investment in semi-conductors. Those values, like everything else fiscally measured, will rise and fall. Just peruse renowned investor’s Ray Dalio’s recent books, Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail to discover the cyclical nature of economic abundance and poverty.

            After our most basic needs are met—thank you Maslow (air, water, food, shelter, sleep), our spiritual bank accounts require our attention.

            Only we humans possess an affinity to avoid pain and discomfort. We flee from hurt, instead of looking at it directly. We hide behind schedules or alcohol, or addiction to numb our pain.

            Avoiding the pain, denying what we are feeling creates two potential outcomes over time:

  1. Mountain-out-of-a-molehill behavior 
  2. Illness in the body and mind

Author and speaker, Brene Brown (Atlas of the Heart), refers to this tendency to be triggered over something seemingly insignificant as “chandeliering.” 

We see this triggered behavior all over the world and in our own backyards: 

-the “Karen” ready to attack someone for having a different opinion

-the road rage against a total stranger on the highway

-the friend who starts cursing up a storm when their iPad won’t charge

In all of these examples, the anger lashing out is not about what appears to be the source of their anger. The anger is a symptom of an inner pain that is going unaddressed.

The anger is misplaced, unexamined pain and a symptom of a depleted spiritual bank account.

Then there is the manifestation of pain in our body:

-the back pain that worsens in traffic

-the chest pain that “comes out of nowhere”

-the panic attacks 

-the frequent malaise

Brene Brown refers to our tendency to swallow our pain, pushing it down, so it can’t see the light of day as “stockpiling.” These are the folks who say everything is fine, like a spiritual Unikitty (Lego movie) when things are feeling far from fine.

If we are in denial like a super-charged positive Unikitty, ignoring our wounds, they will fester. And if we aren’t “chandeliering,” we are likely to “stockpile” our negative emotion until they show up in our bodies.

It’s human nature to avoid pain and seek pleasure. But there’s a real danger in denial, in running from our negative emotion or swallowing it and swimming like a duck through life—graceful on the surface but fighting for our lives below.

Unexamined and untended to pain that remains hidden will fester, affecting either others (when we lash out) or our own bodies negatively.

When we take time to look our wounds directly in the eye, something wonderful happens: the wound itself begins to heal.

Our spiritual bank accounts fill when we honor our journey and respect the emotions we experience along the way. Emotions, like the weather, change; it’s only when we deny their existence or demand that certain ones stay that our bank account falters.

The Bar Date or the Coffee Date?

First date coffee or first date drinks? One of them is better than the other. The answer depends on where you are right now.

*Samantha and *Matthew are good friends. Both are divorced, though Samantha is 10 years post the end of a marriage and Matthew is in the embryo stages of life after divorce—a few months shy of a year. Friends since college, there is an ease between them that can only come from a combination of time and knowing each other in their formative years.

Since Matthew’s divorce, their friendship has morphed into an unspoken mini therapy group of two: sharing each other’s trials and tribulations in the dating world. Matthew wants to get laid; Samantha wants to experience a romantic relationship. Their different goals cause the other to shake their head.

“Why are you wasting your time on a coffee date?” Matthew asked.

“I want to get to know the person.” Samantha said.

“But you can’t make out with a person in a Starbucks.”

“I don’t want to make out with a total stranger. You do?”

“Uh, yes! That’s the whole point of meeting at a bar.”

Both have approached me separately, telling me how foolish they think the other person is. They are both right…and wrong.

Matthew is newly divorced and still licking his wounds from his ex’s desire to end the marriage. “I was happy,” he tells Samantha. Married for almost 19 years, the only roles that remain constant in his life are father and business consultant. Overnight, he’s gone from living in their family home to residing in a one-bedroom bachelor pad. 

“What are you looking for on all those dating sites?” Samantha’s asked.

“I don’t know. Nothing serious. I’m all messed up now. But I’m still a guy.”

So, Matthew meets women at bars. For now, this works—for him. He doesn’t want a relationship now; he wants to “make out” and wake up the next morning and drive his daughters to school. He wants physical intimacy without emotional intimacy; he wants easy sans—for now—self-reflection.

Samantha wants to get to know someone without alcohol coursing through her veins. She doesn’t want the commitment of a meal with a total stranger. She wants to pay attention to the person she meets without the distraction of loud music or the subterfuge that comes with a smoky, dark bar.

“Meeting at a bar just sets up a different set of expectations,” Samantha says.

“Exactly,” Matthew says.

                        Again, they are both right…and wrong.

                        Both Matthew and Samantha are dating the way that works best for each of them. They’re both honoring what they need. The issue between them is wanting the other to live through their lens; the dating diet that works for each of them is a prescription that works for them and them alone.

                        Matthew is hungry for physical intimacy; Samantha is hungry for emotional intimacy. Both have different ways of acquiring what they want. Both are good people figuring out what works best for each of them.

                        When it comes to dating, honor the journey you are on. Decide what kind of dating style works for you. There is no right or wrong when you heed your intuition. 

*Names have been altered to retain the privacy of individuals.

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The Subtle Signs of Control

There’s often an unconscious mindset, a spiritual sleepwalking involved in the unspoken agreement between the controller and the controlled.

*Dana started making jewelry as a hobby. But the designs she gave to family and friends were so well-received, they began asking Dana to sell her creations. Within a year, Dana’s hobby was a part-time successful business.

            Unfortunately, Dana’s husband didn’t like his wife’s success.

            “A hobby is one thing but now it’s taking away time from our family.”

            Dana stopped selling her jewelry.

            *Brian dreaded calling his mother each day. He knew her judgement and disappointment were waiting for him on the other end of the line, knew he would be insulted within five minutes of the call. 

            “If I don’t call her every day, she freaks out, says she’ll call the police if she doesn’t hear from me. It’s just easier to call her and get it over with.”

            While Dana and Brian are two different people and genders experiencing different relationships, both are people in a controlling relationship. Like the metaphorical story of the frog that’s slowly boiled to death, Dana and Brian are in hot water, living a spiritual death each day.

            Controlling relationships manifest in all forms: romantic, friendship, family, and professional. Like the allegorical frog that is put in a pot of water that, ever so slowly, gets warmer, we can often miss the early, subtle signs that we are about to experience a “slow death.”

            Whether you are wondering if you are in a controlling relationship or about to start one, there is always the opportunity to wax reflective and consider the following warning signs:

  • Do you often feel like you are walking on figurative eggshells with this person?
  • Do you find yourself second-guessing your feelings regarding things this person does or says?
  • Do you find yourself agreeing to “get along” (think of the “Ostrich in the sand” mentality) with this person?
  • Do you feel guilty for privately resenting this person?
  • Have you found yourself altering your lifestyle (i.e. your choice of clothes, diet, faith, friendships, career, politics, etc.) to “make peace” or “satiate” this person?

Dana stopped selling her jewelry to make her husband happy. But just like the frog who sits in water that gets warmer and warmer until its boiled alive, Dana’s decision to please her husband before herself is an ongoing theme in their marriage: like the frog that doesn’t notice the subtle increase in temperature, Dana slowly rationalizes that “it’s not a big deal” that she wears high heels because he wants her to, or cooks lamb for him when she is a vegetarian, or receives an “allowance” from him because he’s informed her that she just “doesn’t have a head for numbers.” While Dana is a physically alive woman, in many ways, she’s no different than that boiled frog.

            Brian’s consistent cortisol spikes around the need to please his mother, usurping his own needs for hers, has long term effects on his biochemistry. An adult man, Brian has the power to decide how often he calls his mother. He can get out of the boiling water any time. But like our metaphorical frog, the Appeasement Game has been in place for years, so he thinks he’s forever trapped in that pot.

            Getting out of the pot isn’t necessarily easy. In fact, getting out of that water will feel downright cold, if not plain frightening. But that is the price of freedom—a gift and right deserved for everyone.

*Names have been altered to retain the privacy of individuals.

Are You Wearing Emotional Spanks?

Donning an emotional “everything is fine” mask in our personal relationships is psychological Spanx, making it difficult for authentic connection to develop.

Spanks. Those ingenious undergarment items that smooth our bumps and bulges has helped many of us feel our best. But there’s an emotional kind of Spanx wearing that tends to occur in our personal relationships: the idea of hiding our authentic selves from a potential or actual partner in an effort to be liked.

It’s one thing to want the illusion of a slimmer physique but when we hold back who we truly are in our personal relationships, we are doing a disservice to ourselves, our partner, and the relationship itself.

*Gena just started dating someone.

“I really like this one. I think there’s real potential. But then I saw him on TikTok, throwing emoji kisses and hearts to another girl. Psychologically, I went down the rabbit hole. But I’m not letting him see that. He thinks I’m all cool with his online flirting emoji-fest.”

It’s a couple of weeks into Gena’s dating “Mr. Real Potential.” Two weeks of seeing his online TikTok flirting, two weeks of keeping her angst inside like a muffin top hidden under Spanx. And just like the physical Spanx, the emotional Lycra needed to eventually come off.

“I found myself getting passive-aggressive with him. I couldn’t take not knowing who these girls were that he was online emoji kissing. So, I asked him, ignoring my head screaming at me that I looked like an idiot.”

That inner voice is fear; it’s our brain’s meaning-well-attempt to protect us. But we aren’t in danger when we are honest. Ironically, removing our emotional Spanx is the best thing you can do for everyone involved. Your relationship can literally breathe better.

A dear friend of mine is a bit of a branding guru (https://www.catheynickell.com). She recently had a speaking engagement where she shared her most popular posts on Instagram:

“It’s typically the ones where I share something about me, something personal and authentic. People are drawn to authenticity.”

Authenticity not only boosts one’s potential popularity on social media; it nourishes our relationships. When we, as Brene Brown ingeniously coined it, “dare greatly,” we are showing up in this life, removing our psychological Spanx to experience genuine intimacy.

Shortly after Gena’s confession, her Mr. Real Potential shared that he appreciated her honesty and assured her that it was just playful texting and that he only dates one person at a time.

Could Gena have experienced Mr. Real Potential giving a different answer, one filled with negativity? Judgement? Disappointment? Anger? Absolutely. To “dare greatly” is to know there are risks and to do it anyway. The greater risk is to keep the emotional Spanx on and live a lie with yourself and your partner.

*Names have been altered to protect the privacy of individuals.