According to the most recent APA "Stress in America" survey, nearly half of today’s adults reported being more stressed out. And just as many say they’re simply unable to control the important aspects of their lives. It’s this inability to control outcomes that causes stress. So what’s the answer? Is this really a lose-lose situation? Are we doomed to a cycle of stress, loss of control and more stress?
In my book, The Ecstasy of Surrender I discuss how the answer to stress is letting go, relinquishing control, and being more flexible in dealing with work, finances and relationships. I’ve consistently seen with patients and in myself that resisting or stiffening during challenging times only increases stress and saps power, what I call bunker mentality. Everything becomes about defense, worry, and fear, not love. Similarly, people get more severely injured in accidents when they tense up. If you fight pain or adversity, the spasm of discomfort tightens. But when you relax suffering lessens.
Work Stress—Don’t Compare, Compliment
If you’re stressed out at work, stop comparing yourself to others, and focus on what you're grateful for. Instead of envying someone's success, consider what you can learn from them and wish them well. Letting go this way can be very liberating, freeing you to change at least some of your work related behaviors.
Relationship Stress—Show Compassion, Relinquish Control
Yelling at your spouse, partner, or children won’t relieve your stress. The key is to stay calm, no matter what buttons your loved one has pushed. Don’t react or get defensive, and allow the other person to finish talking. Let what they say sink in before you respond. Substitute compassion for control. Accept where they're coming from.
Physical Stress—Move Don’t Mope
Here is a surprisingly simple solution: To let go of physical stress, let your body do what it was designed to do - move. At least several times a week, visit the gym, walk your dog, swim, or do yoga stretches. Movement relaxes muscles, reduces tension, and helps you sleep better. If you are physically stressed out surrender to the bliss of your body's sacred energy and love your body through movement.
Time-Related Stress—Let Nature Calm You
The American culture rushes people through life, work, and relationships. We don’t allow ourselves enough time to let things happen at their own pace, and surrender to the flow. Take time stressors to go outside and focus on a cloud, watch it drift, and notice its changing shape. Let the air rush through and around you and clear out your mind. Drink a glass of water and take a relaxing shower to cleanse the negativity and work deadlines from your system. These calming exercises can help your rushing mind slow down and gain perspective.
Illness-Related Stress—Trust Your Body’s Healing Powers
An illness can often lead to depression. To keep negative thoughts from overwhelming you, change your negative beliefs (I will never heal) to positive ones (I trust my body's healing powers). Instead of getting stressed out, listen to your body—and if a treatment or a doctor's approach doesn’t feel right to you, question it. Get enough sleep and avoid people and settings that deplete or de-energize you.
One of the keys to surrender is making your mind feel safe enough to soften its resistance to new ideas. To do this first reassure it that you are not giving up control or ignoring survival instincts. Then give your mind a good reason to make a change. Remind it that by letting go you will reduce your stress, have more energy, live longer and improve your relationships. This allows you to give your intellect a say in the decision to update your perspective and let go of knee-jerk reactions.
As an energy psychiatrist I know that to come out ahead with drainers, you must be methodical. Emotional vampires can’t savage your peace of mind or prick you to death with corrosive remarks if you’re onto them. This survival guide from my book, Emotional Freedom covers everything from recognizing an initial exposure to deploying techniques to deflect negativity. It will enable you to stay centered in difficult relationships.
The First Strategy: Determine Am I Being Sapped By An Emotional Vampire?
Anyone who has ever shared an office, car pool, or attended a family dinner with a vampire can attest to experiencing some common emotional side effects. Even after a brief contact, you feel worse; they feel better. To find out if you’ve been bled, watch for these signs. Experiencing even one indicates you’ve met a drainer on the prowl.
In addition, sometimes intuitive flashes and dreams can raise a red flag. Pay attention. For instance, following a dinner I attended where the guests had something negative to say about everything, I dreamed I was bombarded by a storm of leeches. Similarly, after a critical friend skewered one of my patients, she felt as if she’d fallen to the bottom of a well. Another patient dreamed that a pigeon pooped on her head--splat, there it was: her reaction to a nasty altercation with her apartment’s superintendent. Whether you’re awake or asleep, notice telling imagery that conveys emotion. This will help you identify a vampire.
The Second Strategy: Practice These General Do’s and Don’ts With Emotional Vampires
Whenever possible, eliminate drainers from your life. However, with those you can’t or don’t want to remove--for example, friends going through a rough patch or relatives who are fixtures--follow these tips:
Also consider what kind of emotional vampires you’re facing; we often attract what we haven’t emotionally resolved in ourselves. If you’re fearful, you may find yourself surrounded by legions of fearful people. However, once you’ve begun to heal an emotion, you’re less likely to magnetize it towards you, nor does it possess the same ability to wear you out.
If you decide that the pros outweigh the cons of remaining with an emotional vampire, say a bullying colleague or mate, you must take responsibility for that decision and the way you respond. Ask yourself, “How can I stay in the relationship and not feel oppressed?” This means concentrating on the good and accepting someone’s limitations.
The Third Strategy: Could I Be An Emotional Vampire? How Do I Know?
We’ve all got a smidgeon of vampire in us, especially when we’re stressed. So, cut yourself a break. It’s admirable to admit, “I think I’m emotionally draining people. What can I do?” Can’t be free without such honesty. Then you can change. These are some common indications that you’re becoming a drainer.
The solution is always to own up to where you’re emotionally stuck and change the related behavior. For instance, one patient in computer graphics kept hammering his wife with a poor-me attitude about how he always got stuck with boring projects at work. Instead of trying to improve the situation, he just kvetched. She started dreading those conversations, diplomatically mentioned it to him. This motivated my patient to address the issue with his supervisor, which got him more stimulating assignments. Similarly, whenever I slip into vampire mode, I try to examine and alter my behavior or else discuss the particulars with a friend or a therapist so I can change. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance when you’re stumped.
The Fourth Strategy: Identify and Combat Emotional Vampires
To be free of vampires, you must know the nature of the beast. Each one has a special talent for emotionally disabling you. The good news is that vampires are predictable. Once you get their number, you won’t be caught off guard. Understanding vampires from multiple angles gives you the upper hand. So does having empathy for their emotional wounds--intuitively, these feel as real to me as physical injury. Think about it: No one becomes a vampire because they’re happy! Whether or not they know it, vampires are driven by insecurity and weakness, infirmities that impede goodwill. This doesn’t excuse their predatory acts. Rather, it allows you to show compassion for people you may not like while setting limits, a paradigm for emotional diplomacy that frees you and reduces drain. This framework will help clarify your relationships, but realize there’s much more to a human being than any single definition. Stay focused: your aim isn’t to rehabilitate vampires, merely to counter them with uncommon grace.
It may sometimes be awkward to set healthy boundaries with negative or draining people, but it is an important skill to learn. If someone has unrealistic expectations of you or unable to respect your feelings remember “No” is a complete sentence. A key to setting boundaries is to come from a centered, unemotional, place—not to be reactive. For example if someone has been saying disparaging comments about you, from a heartfelt center say, “Please don’t talk about me to others. It’s inappropriate and disrespectful.” Then refuse to argue about it, even if your buttons are pushed.
Dealing with an Emotional Drainer
If you meet someone and your energy starts bottoming out, don’t think twice about politely removing yourself from this killing interchange. One of my favorite foolproof lines is, “Excuse me; I really have to go to the bathroom.” Even the most intrepid vampire doesn’t have a counter-argument for that. It’s important that you move at least twenty feet from beyond the person’s energy field. Whenever your well-being feels at risk around certain people, make a tactful and swift exit. In a spot, physically extruding yourself is a sure, quick solution.
Dealing with a Constant Talker
The secret to dealing with a constant talker is knowing they don’t respond to nonverbal cues. You have no choice but to make your needs audible. Tone is especially critical with these vampires. They’re hypersensitive to rejection, which provokes them to ramp up their verbiage. So, with a constant talker try to be caring--these are wounded people!--but stay definite and neutral. Then, from a heart-center, set the parameters of your dialogue. Then you won’t be left limp, resentful, or forced into rudeness. You can politely say, “I’m a very quiet person, so excuse me for not talking a long time,” or “I feel left out when you dominate the conversation. I’d really appreciate a few minutes to talk too.”
Dealing with a Criticizer
If an intimate or co-worker keeps telling you how to deal with something, politely say, “I value your advice, but I really want to work through this myself.” You may need to remind the controller of your position several times, always in a kind, neutral tone. Repetition is key. Respectfully reiterating your stance over days or weeks will slowly recondition negative communication patterns and redefine the terms of the relationship. If you reach an impasse, agree to disagree. Then make the subject off limits.
Dealing with a Complainer
The moment you sense a complainer revving up, take a slow, deep breath to center yourself. Breathing is a wonderful way to quickly reconnect with your life force so their in-your-face intensity won’t sear into your energy field and cause burn-out. Keep concentrating on your breath. Tell yourself you know what’s happening, and you can handle it. As I remind my patients: you have power here. I know how easily we can lose it. But, when beset by this overheated drainer, you need to own that moment. Do so by letting your breath release tension and ground you. This will keep you from getting caught up in their story. Then lovingly tell them, “Our relationship is important to me, but it’s not helpful to keep feeling sorry for yourself. I can only listen for five minutes unless you’re ready to discuss solutions,” or “I’m really sorry that’s happening to you.” Then, after listening briefly, smile and say, “I’ll keep good thoughts for things to work out. I hope you understand, I’m on deadline and I must return to work.”
If you feel like you are being overwhelmed by a difficult person here are some strategies to help you gain control and become centered again.
I’m a fanatic about following your passion. As a psychiatrist and intuitive when I work with my patients and workshop participants my mission is to hunt down and reinforce what creatively jibes for them from jobs to finger-painting. In my book, Positive Energy I devote a full chapter to help people to reconnect with their passion and creativity. Whether you’re writing the great American novel, laying bricks, or sprinkling rose petals on a salad, your delight and surrender to the impulse is what catalyzes energy.
Now this is your chance to investigate what does or doesn’t inspire you. The purpose: to honestly access
where your energy goes so you can constructively re-route it. To remember all inspiring inklings, I suggest you keep a journal and review it. Don’t be discouraged if you’re stuck in a rut or feel far from inspired right now. This inventory will turn all that around. Re-inspiring your life takes courage. It’s a solution-oriented process of uncovering, then commencing change.
My focus will be helping you to re-inspire your current job, even tiny bits of it--there’s always a way. Throughout this process, the poet Rumi’s words will be our mantra:
“Let the beauty you love be what you do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
But how do we get there? Here are some basic steps from my book, Positive Energy.
Step One: In A Journal Define the Conflict About Your Job.
For instance, “I’m exhausted after eight hours, and I hate my work.” Or “I’m bored and need a change.” Or “I feel taken for granted.”
Step Two: Ask yourself the following questions:
Why doesn’t my job inspire me? Pinpoint the cause.
Step Three: Modify Your Current Work Situation
How to Re-inspire your Job:
If you’ve tried to re-inspire your job, but the situation is unredeemable, you may want to look for another. It could be an upward or lateral move. This may make all the difference. One of my patients who felt battered by her Napoleonic boss’s mood swings, found her blood pressure normalized and her inspiration returned when she quit that job and began working with another boss she enjoyed. In these cases, a change of place is just what’s needed.
Sensitive men are incredibly attractive. They are path-forgers in the new paradigm of the evolved man. Strong and sensitive. Intuitive and powerful. They’re able to give and receive love without ambivalence, being “unavailable,” or commitment phobia.
In my book Emotional Freedom, I write extensively about the power of empaths and describe strategies for how empaths can stay centered and strong in an overwhelming world. Since I’m an empath and worship sensitivity, I want to help empathic men (and women) cultivate this asset and be more comfortable with it. Empathic men often have a harder time than women because in Western culture sensitivity may be seen as a weakness or too “feminine.” This is a huge misconception. The new evolved man is skillful in balancing both the masculine and feminine in himself, embodying his full power.
Empaths are highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions. They feel everything, sometimes to an extreme and are less apt to intellectualize feelings. This is particularly challenging for men as they are often told by society while growing up, “Big boys don’t cry.” That’s why it’s so important for sensitive men to let go of stereotypes and learn to embrace their gifts. I understand how hurtful the negative messages about being “overly sensitive” can feel—also how easy it is to get overwhelmed by excessive stimuli in the world. I've always been hyper-attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. Before I learned to protect my energy, I felt them lodge in my body. Crowded places amplified my empathy.
The great beauty of male empaths is that they can feel where you are coming from. Some can do this without taking on people’s feelings. However, for better or worse, others, like myself and many of my patients, can become emotional sponges for other people’s stress. This often overrides the sublime capacity to absorb positive emotions. If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish. Negativity, though, often feels assaultive, exhausting. Thus, empaths are particularly easy marks for emotional vampires, whose fear or rage can ravage them. As a subconscious defense, empathic men may gain weight as a buffer. Plus, an empath’s sensitivity can be overwhelming in romantic relationships; many stay single since they haven’t learned to negotiate their special cohabitation needs with a partner.
A man’s empathy allows him to love more fully and be more committed in a loving relationship. But empathic men must nurture their sensitivities while also grounding themselves in their power and setting boundaries with negative people so they aren’t drained. For more relationship strategies read my blog, “Relationship Tips for Highly Sensitive People.”
Recognizing that you’re an empath is the first step in taking charge of your emotions instead of constantly drowning in them. As one empath to another, I want to legitimize your sensitivity so you don’t think you’re losing your mind. I’d had numerous patients who’ve said, “Judith, I thought there was something wrong with me. I feel like such a sissy.” Not so. Our systems are just more permeable. Also realize that the fact that you’re the only person feeling something doesn’t invalidate your perceptions. To maintain resolve in an emotionally coarse world, empaths must have enough self-knowledge to clearly articulate their needs. Staying on top of empathy will improve your self-care and relationships. Here’s a summary of this emotional type.
Upside of Being an Empathic Man
Downside of Being an Empathic Man
Honestly accessing which traits are productive or not makes you freer. Of course, you want to be emotionally charitable, intuitive, and open, an empath’s assets. However, empathy won’t make you free if you walk around perpetually raw, easily fractured, or have your wildness go out in a whimper because you’re constantly having to emotionally defend yourself. For a male empath to be comfortable in his own skin it’s important to find the right mix of intellect, feeling, and grounding. Here are some exercises from my book, Emotional Freedom to help you achieve this.
Emotional Action Step. How Empathic Men (And Women) Can Find Balance
Practice these strategies:
When empathic men can learn the above skills to develop their sensitivities and ward off negativity, they will be more alive, more loving, more creative. Over time, I suggest adding to this list to pinpoint new protective strategies. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you’re on emotional overload. With pragmatic strategies to cope, empaths can feel safer, and their sensitivity talents can flourish.
Emotions can come at you hard and fast. You must be prepared.
In a flash, negativity can spin you into a tizzy, your center blown to smithereens. Not to worry. In my book, “Emotional Freedom” I provide readers with strategies for dealing with every angle of emotions--cerebral and intuitive, from earth to heaven.
There are four major components of emotions: their biology, spirituality, energetic power, and psychology. Together, these components create an elegant portrait of your emotional self, revealing breakthroughs about how you operate that will lead to freedom. Here is a summary of these four secrets that I discuss in “Emotional Freedom” to help you combat toxic energies and keep your peace of mind.
Secret 1: Reprogram the Biology of Your Emotions
To know thyself, you must know some basics of your biology. Biology lends piercing insights into our emotions. It is the awesome science of life that defines the laws of how living things relate, both physically and emotionally. All emotions trigger biological reactions that shape your health just as distinctly as what you choose to eat or how you choose to exercise. When you learn to change your emotional reaction to a situation, you change your biological reaction as well.
Emotional stress depletes your body and calm revives it. Finding calm is an emotionally stressed out person’s salvation, a humane time-out from turmoil when you’re centered and at ease. Stress hormones wane, as spasms in your shoulders and gut loosen, heart rate and blood pressure lower, mental frenzy relents. Your body can breathe freely again and gratefully releases its guard to become more open, soft, expansive.
Applying the First Secret: Reprogram the Biology of Your Emotions
Reduce Stress With This Three-Minute Meditation
This simple, stress-busting meditation is an initial action step you can take to forge a winning partnership with your biology. Practicing it, you’ll become increasingly adept at upping endorphins and short-circuiting your flight-or-flight response, biological gifts of meditation.
Secret 2: Uncover the Spiritual Meaning of Your Emotions
As a psychiatrist, I’m in the sacred position of getting to hear what goes on in people’s heads, from soccer moms to movie stars. Despite how externally different we may seem we all have basic emotional commonalities, and often keep getting similarly sabotaged. Everyone wants love, but negativity, our own or another’s, often subverts us. So what is our suffering for? The puzzle can be solved, but it requires a spiritual perspective.
Spirituality, as I’m defining it, is a quest for meaning that goes beyond the linear mind to access a vaster force of compassion to frame everything. Spirituality is freeing because it means opening the heart and doing your darndest to see every nanosecond of existence through this aperture. Always, you must ask, “How can a situation--any situation--help me grow and develop loving-kindness toward myself or others?”
Applying the Second Secret: Uncover the Spiritual Meaning of Your Emotions
A Heart Centering Meditation to Counter Negative Self-Talk
This meditation is a surefire antidote to negative self-talk. I’ve never seen anyone able to sustain a denigrating diatribe when they’re centered in the heart.
Secret 3: Learn the Energetic Power of Your Emotions
In Energy Psychiatry I’ve learned to see emotions as a stunning expression of energy. Positive ones nurture you. Negative ones deplete you. You feel emotions internally, while their energy extends beyond your body, affecting everyone you contact. Similarly, the emotions of others can register in you. I’d like you to begin to think of emotions in terms of subtle energy, a “vibe” emanating from yourself and others, an intimate sensing. Subtle energy is right in front of you, but isn’t visible. It can be felt inches or feet from the body.
I realize that it’s one thing to know this, and yet another to live it. The problem is that negative emotional energy is basically louder, wilder, and more seductively grabs your attention than the positive. On an intuitive level, emotions such as grief and terror are easier to sense than the lower keyed vibes of calmness or confidence. It’s important that you channel this knowledge into new behaviors so you’re not the doomed moth eternally drawn to the flame.
Applying the Third Secret: Learn The Energetic Power of Your Emotions
Try An Intuitive Experiment: Sense the Difference Between Positive and Negative Emotions
In this experiment, you’re going to compare two scenarios. With both observe how your words and tone affect your body and emotional state. Spend at least a few minutes trying these words on.
Scenario 1. Stand in front of a mirror and sincerely say to yourself in a loving, appreciative tone, “I look terrific and I’m a fantastic person.” Stay focused on your positives. Then feel, don’t think. Notice: How does your body react? Are you breathing easier? Do your shoulders relax?
Scenario 2. Stand in front of the mirror and say in your nastiest, most hateful tone, “I look horrible and I despise myself.” Really mean it. Flare those negatives up. How does your body react now? Notice: Your shoulders? Your gut? Chest?
I’m so taken by this exercise because it spells out that positive and negative energy are about as opposite as you can get. No confusing them. Ask yourself: Which do you prefer?
Secret 4: Map the Psychology of Your Emotions
Why do you feel what you feel? Where do fear of commitment, alpha achieving, or looking on the bright side begin? Which emotional coping styles hinder or serve you? These urgent questions are the life-blood of psychology’s study of emotions and behavior. You need to know your psychological self so unhealthy patterning doesn’t stifle you. Here’s a look at how psychology can liberate your heart and head. I’ll focus on one principle--“You are not your parents”--which is so central to your emotional freedom that it can dictate how you treat yourself and everyone you love.
Applying the Fourth Secret: Map the Psychology of Your Emotions
Take An Emotional Inventory of Your Parents
To get a well-rounded picture of your parents, I’d like you to take an inventory of their top five positive and negative traits. When identifying these traits, try to see your parents as human rather than idealizing or demonizing them. Get their pluses and minuses down on paper so they can stare right back at you. When reviewing the inventory, consider ways your parents’ assets or liabilities impacted you. Also, be truthful about the traits you too possess. If they are positive, embrace them. If they are negative, begin to work with one at a time to free yourself. You don’t have to worry about turning into your parents if you take action not to parrot their dysfunction.
Self-knowledge is a most impressive oracle, crystallizing who you are and can be. As it mounts, expect to feel a coming together inside of you, a beautiful feeling of awakening. I praise consciousness so unflinchingly because it’s the path to freedom.
As a psychiatrist, patience is an invaluable skill that I teach all my psychotherapy clients. In my book Emotional Freedom I emphasize the importance of patience as a coping skill and how to achieve it. Frustration is not the key to any door. Patience is a lifelong spiritual practice as well as a way to find emotional freedom.
We need a new bumper sticker: FRUSTRATION HAPPENS. Every morning, noon, and night there are plenty of good reasons to be impatient. Another long line. Telemarketers. A goal isn’t materializing “fast enough.” People don’t do what they’re supposed to. Rejection. Disappointment. How to deal with it all? You can drive yourself crazy, behave irritably, feel victimized, or try to force an outcome--all self-defeating reactions that alienate others and bring out the worst in them. Or, you can learn to transform frustration with patience.
Patience doesn’t mean passivity or resignation, but power. It’s an emotionally freeing practice of waiting, watching, and knowing when to act. I want to give patience a twenty-first-century makeover so you’ll appreciate its worth. Patience has gotten a bad rap for the wrong reasons. To many people, when you say, “Have patience,” it feels unreasonable and inhibiting, an unfair stalling of aspirations, some Victorian hang-up or hangover. Is this what you’re thinking? Well, reconsider. I’m presenting patience as a form of compassion, a re-attuning to intuition, a way to emotionally redeem your center in a world filled with frustration.
To frustrate means to obstruct or make ineffectual. Frustration is a feeling of agitation and intolerance triggered when your needs aren’t met; it’s tied to an inability to delay gratification. At our own risk, we’ve become too used to immediate results. Emails zip across the globe in seconds. Parents text messages to their kids to come in for dinner instead of yelling from a front porch. You can get the temperature in Kuala Lumpur or the Malibu Beach surf report with a click of a mouse. Despite the digital age’s marvels, it has propagated an emotional zeitgeist with a low tolerance for frustration--not just when you accidentally delete a computer file, but in terms of how you approach relationships and yourself. Without patience, you turn into your own worst taskmaster. You treat spouses and friends as disposable instead of devoting the necessary time to nurture love. But with patience, you’re able to step back and regroup instead of aggressively reacting or hastily giving up on someone who’s frustrating you. You’re able to invest meaningful time in a relationship without giving up or giving in. In fact, patience gives you the liberating breath you’ve always longed to take.
Frustration prevents emotional freedom. Expressing frustrations in an effort to resolve them is healthy, but it must be done from a non-irritable, non-hostile place. If not, you’ll put others on the defensive. Wallowing in frustration leads to endless dissatisfaction, placing us at odds with life. This emotion makes us tense, kills our sense of humor. It also leads to procrastination; we put things off to avoid the annoyances involved. Conquering frustration will revive your emotional life by making it your choice how you handle daily hassles and stresses.
I’m defining patience as an active state, a choice to hold tight until intuition says, “make your move.” It means waiting your turn, knowing your turn will come. Once you’ve gone all out toward a goal, it entails trusting the flow, knowing when to let the soup boil. With patience, you’re able to delay gratification, but doing so will make sense and feel right. Why? Intuition intelligently informs patience. It’ll convey when to have it and if something is worth working on or waiting for. As a psychiatrist, I’m besotted with patience because it’s intimately intuitive, all about perfect timing, the key to making breakthroughs with patients. I can have the sharpest intuitions or psychological insights, but if I don’t share them at the right moment, they can do damage or else go in one ear and out the other. With regard to this, I strive for enormous patience; anything less would impede healing.
I’m also struck by the fact that every world religion sees patience as a way to know God, an incentive for me to practice it, and perhaps you too. Whereas frustration focuses on externals, patience is a drawing inward towards a greater wisdom. Lastly, patience doesn’t make you a doormat or unable to set boundaries with people. Rather, it lets you intuit the situation to get a larger, more loving view to determine right action. Patience, a gift when given or received, moves within reach when you can read someone’s deeper motives.
To practice patience, try this exercise. I do it all time to turn frustration around in long lines. I advise my patients to do this too.
Emotional Action Step. Practice Patience In A Long Line
To turn the tables on frustration, find a long, slow-moving line to wait in. Perhaps in the grocery store, bank, post office. Or if you’re renewing your driver’s license, dare to take on the mother of all lines in the DMV. But here’s the switch: Instead of getting irritated or pushy, which taxes your system with a rush of stress hormones, take a breath. Tell yourself, “I’m going to wait peacefully and enjoy the pause.” Meanwhile, try to empathize with the overwrought cashier or government employee. Smile and say a few nice words to the other beleaguered people in line. Use the time to daydream; take a vacation from work or other obligations. Notice the stress release you feel, how your body relaxes. Lines are an excellent testing ground for patience. To strengthen this asset, I highly recommend standing in as many as possible.
Practicing patience will help you dissipate stress and give you a choice about how you respond to disappointment and frustration. When you can stay calm, centered and not act rashly out of frustration, all areas of your life will improve.
As a psychiatrist, I realize that comparing is a natural tendency we all have. It can be absolutely neutral, as when you merely evaluate similarities and differences. Such comparison is essential for astute reasoning. It’s also productive if you’re inspired to emulate another’s impressive traits. However, it becomes dysfunctional when it stirs envy and jealousy, if you judge yourself as better as or less than others. Think about it: without comparisons jealousy and envy couldn’t exist. Interestingly, it’s more common to feel inferior to those with “more” than to feel grateful compared to those with “less.”
We’re a society of comparison junkies. It starts from day one. Babies are compared to each other. Who’s smarter, cuter, more precocious? Then comes grammar school. I remember a hideous game some of my king-of-the-hill classmates would play. They’d pick a target, usually the shy, insecure student. Then, in a taunting tone they’d sing in unison, “There’s a fungus among us. Her name is (fill in the blank) fungus” until the poor kid, totally humiliated, slunk away. So, at school, there were basically the funguses and the non-funguses. Not so different from the breakdown of our comparisons in later life, interpersonally and politically. Shiites and Sunnis. White Supremacists versus Jews and Blacks. Protestants and Catholics in Belfast. Comparing yourself to others can preclude a bond of common fellowship and is a disservice to finding true worth. Either you’ll end up with the short end of the stick, or, if you deign to put yourself above anyone, you’re nowhere. (No one is above anyone else.) Self-esteem must come from simply being you.
In my book “Emotional Freedom,” I emphasize that comparing ourselves to others can come from low self-esteem and lack of belief in the integrity of our own unique life path. In a spiritual sense, comparing your path to another’s is comparing apples and oranges. Why? Your life is explicitly designed for your own growth. Every person you meet, every situation you encounter challenges you to become a stronger, more loving, and confident person. Try to appreciate the grace of both the hurdles and the joys you’ve been given. This is life’s legacy to you. Self-esteem comes from embracing this, working with what each day brings. How you spend your time here is up to you. Why squander it by comparing? Realistically, you’ll probably still do it. We all will. Even so, let’s strive to keep our eyes on ourselves to build self-esteem so we can become more emotionally free.
The following exercise will help you to turn jealousy and envy around. The more you practice it, the easier it will get.
Stop Comparing, Build Self-Esteem
Enlisting these methods helps you take your eyes off of other people and back to yourself. The point is to appreciate what you have rather than focus on what you’re lacking. A big part of emotional freedom is developing self-compassion rather than beating yourself up. Praise yourself. Gain self-esteem from your efforts to deal with jealousy or envy positively. Showing humility and avoiding comparisons let you build self-esteem. It fosters a loving versus defensive posture in relationships.