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Poor anger. It gets a bad rep. Of all the emotions humans experience, anger (and maybe jealousy) are probably the most discouraged and misunderstood. Here's the thing: Our emotions show up whether or not society deems them appropriate—and if we don't witness and learn healthy management of these more intense feelings, we're signing up for a lot of unnecessary frustration.
“Why do I struggle to visualize a future for myself, let alone a positive one?”
In the 10 years I’ve been practicing as a clinical psychotherapist, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some iteration of this question. And the question is almost always paired with some degree of incredulity that there are people out there who can really, truly do this—think forward decades into the future and visualize a positive, happy outcome for themselves and then work backward, taking steps that secure that future.
When we think of virtues, we usually think of the classics: wisdom, compassion, humility, patience, fortitude, courage, kindness, gratitude, and the like. But there are a number of underrated, less-discussed virtues that are vitally important in creating a good life. One that rarely makes the top-ten lists is curiosity. When it comes to virtues, curiosity gets short shrift and sometimes has to defend its right to even identify as a virtue. But curiosity deserves our recognition and a place on the greatest-hits list of virtuous qualities. Not only is it vitally important for creating a good life, but also for maintaining lasting love relationships.
Last week several of my therapy clients said to me, "I feel like something is wrong with me." One person said it as the reason why they thought they were single. Another said it was the cause of why they didn't have many friends. Another used it as an explanation as to why they thought they stalled in their career development.
Research has repeatedly shown that what you don’t know about your partner can hurt you—not to mention your partner and the relationship itself. When the misunderstandings that arise from such ignorance are constant or serious enough, separation and divorce are all too often the outcomes.
A victim mentality—or a belief that one is a victim of external circumstances, generalized across a wide variety of situations and relationships—is a relatively common socioemotional problem. Among the most devastating aspects of this issue is its potential to prevent true recovery after adversity and to stop healthy relationships from developing. While many people in the world will experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, an eternal sense of victimhood can bring any subsequent resolution to a grinding halt.
Is your life designed around anxiety? I know from personal experience and from my therapy practice that anxiety can be a controlling presence in our lives. It can fill our minds with threatening thoughts and shrink our worlds as we try to avoid the danger we see everywhere. Without realizing it, we can allow anxiety to dominate every part of our day.
If you want to improve your therapy, what might you discuss with your therapist to help you move from feeling good to feeling great?
Several months ago, I talked to psychiatrist Dr. David Burns, author of multiple self-improvement books. Currently 79-years-old, Burns tirelessly writes, teaches, and produces podcasts listened to by thousands.