Tag Archives: Forgiveness

Human Needs

Image taken from everydaylifeandhappyiness.com

Image taken from everydaylifeandhappyiness.com

Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was a famous American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.  He believed that there are  fundamental needs that everyone has in common, and all behavior is simply an attempt to meet these six needs. These needs explain how come  human beings do the things they do;  they are the underlying forces that drive and shape all of our emotions, actions, qualities of life, and ultimately, our destinies.  According the Maslow, these fundamental human needs include the following:

Image taken from glosgster,com

Image taken from glosgster.com

1.Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.

2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.

3. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.  * Please note that while we all have a need for love and belonging that comes from our community and relationships, we must also love ourselves first and foremost, and we must come to realize that our sense of belonging resides in us; we belong to ourselves, the universe, and if you’re spiritual or religious, you’ll come to realize that you belong to a higher power or God as well.  Our house of belonging resides within us.

4. Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.

5. Cognitive needs – knowledge, meaning, etc.

6. Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.

7. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Although we are all, theoretically, capable of self-actualizing, most of us will not do so, or only to a limited degree.  Maslow (1970) estimated that only two percent of people will reach the state of self actualization. He was particularly interested in the characteristics of people whom he considered to have achieved their potential as persons.  By studying 18 people he considered to be self-actualized (including Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein) Maslow (1970) identified 15 characteristics of a self-actualized person.

Characteristics of self-actualizers:

1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty; As a marriage and Family Therapist, NLP Practitioner, Certified Dharma Life Coach, Sports Psychology Consultant, I believe that this characteristic is very similar to a person’s ability to master the art of achieving a state of equanimity even in the midst of life’s unforeseen viscissitudes, trials, and tribulations.

2. Accept themselves and others for what they are; They do not reject parts of themselves or others that they do not like. Instead, they compassionately improve on the parts of themselves they do do not like and understand, feel empathy for, and even forgive other’s limitations.

3. Spontaneous in thought and action;

4. Problem-centered (not self-centered);

5. Unusual sense of humor;

6. Able to look at life objectively;

7. Highly creative; Self-Actualizers choose to think outside of the box. In fact, they are often visionaries and innovators.

8. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional; In other words, they are willing to individuate from their family of origin and separate themselves from the “trance of unworthiness” that is so pervasive in our culture and discover and embrace the truth of who they truly are.

9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity; they choose to be of service to others,and they deliberately provide the stepping stones that benefit other people’s lives.

10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;

11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;

12. Peak experiences; Instead of avoiding pain, they turn toward having enriching, peak life experiences that bring immense pleasure to their lives.

13. Need for privacy;

14. Democratic attitudes; They believe in the principle of fairness, and they understand the Law of Requisite Variety, which states that the person who with the most flexibility of mind, heart, spirit,and behavior cultivates an aura of moral ( not to be mistaken with formal) authority.  In addition, they believe in creating win-win agreements with others.

15. Strong moral/ethical standards.  In turn, they create a list of their highest values and guiding principles and their actions consistently align with them.

16. *I believe that self-actualizers have an internal unity of mind, body, heart, and spirit governed by their conscience; You cannot have peace of mind without peace of conscience

17. *I also believe that self-actualizers subordinate their impulses, moods, and emotions and choose instead to align their actions with their highest values, guiding principles, and Universal Laws.

19  *As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve come to believe that self-actualizers are great listeners; they seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Behaviors leading to self-actualization:

(a) Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration;

(b) Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;

(c) Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;

(d) Avoiding pretense (‘game playing’) and being honest;

(e) Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;

(f) Taking responsibility and working hard;

(g) Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up.

The characteristics of self-actualizers and the behaviors leading to self-actualization are shown in the list above.  Although people achieve self-actualization in their own unique way, they tend to share in common many of these characteristics.

With the aforementioned in mind, it is important to recognize that  self-actualization is a matter of degree: ‘There are no perfect human beings.’ The growth of self-actualization (Maslow, 1962) refers to the need for discovery, fulfillment, and personal and interpersonal transformation through personal growth that is present throughout a person’s life. For Maslow, a person is always “becoming” and never remains static in these terms.  In regards to self-actualization, a person comes to find a meaning to life that is important to them.  It is not necessary to display all 19 of these characteristics to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people will display them.  Thus someone can be silly, wasteful, vain and impolite, and still self-actualize!!

As each person is unique, the motivation for self-actualization leads people in different directions (Kenrick et al., 2010). For some people, self-actualization can be achieved through creating works of art, writing, painting pictures, and inventing;  for others self-actualization is attained through sport, in the classroom, within a corporate setting, being a loving and nurturing Mother or Father, developing extraordinary emotional intelligence, etc.

8. Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self actualization.  * In my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist, NLP Practitioner, Dharma Life Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I wholeheartedly agree with Maslow that that helping and being of service to others includes helping them to find their own voice, being of service to them in a time of need, affirming them, and continuously reflecting back to them with such unwavering resolve, force, intensity and conviction your belief in their intrinsic value and potential that they come to see it in themselves.  Other self-transcendent acts include securing freedom for others, participating in organizations or causes that create paradigm shifts in governments, challenging and transforming antiquated local or international institutions that undermine the highest good of those they claim to serve, etc.  A person’s spiritual need for self-transcendence echoes the sentiments shared in the following quote by an anonymous source:

” I sought my God, and my God I could not find, I sought my Soul, and my Soul eluded me, I sought my Brother to serve him in his need, and I found all three; my God, my Soul and Thee.”

Although Abraham Maslow passed away in 1970, it is worth noting that knowledgeable Marriage and Family Therapists, Psychologists, Master NLP Practitioners, Certified Hypnotherapists, and Sports Psychologists agree that his Hierarchy of Human Needs are on point.  While human beings likely have more fundamental needs that he may have overlooked at the time, his list accurately contains the bulk of them.  In recent years, other people in the healing fields have shared many of Maslow’s fundamental human needs and added to them or simplified them so that people can benefit from understanding what these needs are.  As a matter of fact, world famous Life Coach Tony Robbins has recently reduced Maslow’s list of human needs  6 that he believes are most fundamental to all people.  I’ve personally found his abridged list illuminating, and I hope that you will too.

Image taken from businessinsider.comn

Image taken from businessinsider.com

According to Tony Robbins, The Six Human Needs include the following:

1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure

2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli

3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, Dharma Life Coach, and Sports Psychology Consultant, please note that looking for significance outside of yourself too much can lead to an unhealthy dependence on other people’s perceptions, judgements, and validation of you.  While our need for significance is real, I believe it is even more important to love and validate yourself, and it is imperative that you wholeheartedly know and trust that you are already intrinsically worthwhile, loveable, and significant in and of yourself.  This paradigm will spare you the emotional and psychological ups and downs that come with or without outside  praise and criticism.  I believe that if you don’t feel like you’re enough without it, you’ll never feel like you’re enough with it.

4. Connection/Love/Belonging: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something.

5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding.

6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to, and supporting others.

According to Tony Robbins, theses 6 fundamental needs and/or drives are encoded in our nervous system. The means by which people meet these six human needs are unlimited. For example, one of the six human needs is the desire for certainty so that we can avoid pain and gain pleasure (i.e. comfort). Some people might pursue this need by striving to control all aspects of their lives, while others obtain certainty by giving up control and adopting a philosophy of faith. Variety often contributes to us feeling alive, stimulated,  and engaged. Then there’s the desire for significance—a belief that one’s life has meaning and importance. Some individuals will pursue this need by competing with others, or by destroying and tearing down those around them. Others may strive to fulfill this need by working synergistically with other people, doing a great job at work, being a nurturing and loving son or daughter, sibling, or Mother or Father. People who are looking to fulfill their need for connection, love, and belonging will choose to cultivate deep, meaningful friendships, join a church or synagogue, participate in a Men’s or Women’s group, adopt a loving puppy, etc.

I believe that what drives our endeavors to meet our fundamental human needs is our penultimate drive for a sense of fulfillment in our lives; we all have a need to experience a life of meaning. Although the first 4 needs that Tony Robbins addresses are incredibly important for us to nurture, our need and yearning for fulfillment can only be achieved through a pattern of living in which we focus on the two spiritual needs: 1) the need to continuously grow; and 2) the need to contribute beyond ourselves in a meaningful way. Most dysfunctional behaviors arise from the inability to consistently meet these needs. When our attempts to reach fulfillment fail, we will settle for comfort—or for meeting our needs on a small scale. I want to take this moment to invite you to look to replace any dis-empowering ways of meeting your needs with things that empower and support you and others. I sincerely believe that understanding your needs, and which ones you are trying to meet in any given moment, will help you create new patterns that lead to you to living a life brimming over with a sense of lasting fulfillment.

With this in mind, I want to encourage you to take a moment and develop your Peak Performance Action Plan and reflect on the following questions:

1. Which of these six needs do you tend to focus on or value the most?

2. What are the ways (good and bad) you meet these needs? For example, in your relationships, work, eating, exercise, etc.?

3. How can you increase your focus on growth and contribution? What are some things you can do, or new experiences you can participate in?

I hope and trust that after you’ve answered these questions, you will feel more self-aware, more enlightened as to what needs you’re predominantly focused on meeting, and newly inspired to take action that will support your own personal growth as well contribute to the well being of others!!

Thank you for taking your time to read my most recent blog; I hope and trust that you found it informative, illuminating, and inspirational.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/Master NLP Practitioner/ Dharma Life Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist & Sports Psychology Consultant

 

DONALD STERLING: A WALKING MIRROR THAT REFLECTS THE PREJUDICES IN ALL OF US

image taken from designtrend.com

image taken from designtrend.com

Several months ago Donald Sterling, a Jewish billionaire and owner of the NBA franchise, the Los Angeles Clippers, was caught on audio tape saying various racist and bigoted things about African Americans and other races and ethnic groups.  It’s particularly ironic that he would speak so condescendingly and belittling about African Americans because the majority of his team is comprised of African Americans, and he was in the throes of an extramarital affair with a much younger woman that appears to be African American or, at the very least, bi-racial.  Never the less, this old man with a “Plantation paradigm” appears to believe that blacks are his inferior to him, and it’s apparent that his dying paradigm hasn’t modernized much at all even though beliefs and perceptions on the subject of race have changed dramatically since the Civil War.

Although Donald Sterling’s comments were indeed repugnant, I believe that in many ways they reflect the beliefs and perceptions of countless other people throughout America and the world who merely choose to repress their own racist feelings because they fear  the consequences that will surely come if they truly speak their minds.  These consequences usually include being fired from one’s job, being shunned by more progressive friends, and being silenced by the politically correct who are everywhere among us.  As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I can attest to this fact because I have personally worked with clients that have suffered irreparable damage to their reputations and careers as a result of saying the wrong, or politically incorrect, thing at the wrong time.

Sadly for Donald Sterling, his comments were so outdated and so incendiary that he morphed into a walking caricature or cartoon figure of the racists and bigots that walk more inconspicuously among us right before out very eyes.  If there was a tall, bloated balloon at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving parade that represented what a racist looks like, it would don the face of Donald Sterling himself.  Although it’s easy to castigate Donald Sterling, I prefer to see his bigoted remarks as a gift to all of us; his words are a reminder to all of us that are humble, courageous, and self-aware enough to admit it that we also have our own prejudices against all kinds of races, ethnic groups, sexual orientations, religious groups, the rich, the poor, Republicans, Democrats, the homeless, lawyers, professional athletes, reality TV stars, rappers, country singers, misogynists, short men, handicapped people, overweight people, powerful women, beautiful women, homemakers, drug addicts, people who are on anti-depressant medication, the mentally ill, illegal immigrants, those who live in America and don’t speak English yet, those without college degrees, laborers, rape victims, etc.  We all have our own shadows that we try to repress, deny, and/or disown, and these shadows darken the light that reflects our soul’s loving and compassionate nature; we all have our own conscious or unconscious prejudices, but we have been conditioned to wear a social mask and lie to ourselves and others that our thoughts are as pure as the white driven snow. When we deny or disown our shadows, though, we actually give them more life.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I often share with my clients that “what we resist persists.”

I will confess to you that I have my own prejudices, and I work daily to own them so that I can eventually transcend them.  One prejudice I have is against those who lie to themselves and others and claim that they actually have no prejudices!!  I’ve grown so weary of radio and T.V. personalities who say something that is clearly racist or bigoted and then adamantly deny having ever had a racist, homophobic, or other impure thought by saying things like, ”some of my best friends are black” or “I gave money to an AIDS charity that supports gays and lesbians” or “I grew up around bigotry and always vowed that I would never allow myself to think those kinds of thoughts.”  The sad truth is that all of their attempts to rationalize away what they have said are merely hollow and disingenuous attempts  to deny to themselves and to the public that their minds, like the rest of us, are actually impure and vulnerable to falling prey to having prejudices, biases, etc.   These very people  “protest too much” and they are therefore either hypocrites, in grave denial, or actively trying to pull the wool over their  eyes and our eyes too.  There are countless examples of such hypocrites in our midst that immediately come to mind.  Take, for example,  Michael Jordan, Jesse Jackson, Joe Biden, Al Sharpton, Spike Lee, Marion Barry, and Dan Rather.

Michael Jordan, who is widely regarded as the greatest professional basketball player ever to play the game, grew up in North Carolina during a time when there were more KluKluxKlan members in his state than there were in all of the other Southern States combined.  He once said, ” I considered myself a racist at the time.  Basically, I was against all white people.”  Jordan later said, however, that his Mother told him that he could not live a life consumed by racial hatred.  Jordan added that he finally began to understand more about race relations after watching the miniseries, Roots.  Although Jordan has conceded that he was once a full blown racist against white people while  adding that he’s since worked on owning this shadow, I highly doubt that there is not a trace of racism left anywhere in his mind, body, heart, and soul.

Never the less, as soon as the Donald Sterling scandal broke out, it was Michael Jordan who chose to say the following:  ”I am completely disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views…There is no room in the NBA- or anywhere else, for the kind of racism and hatred Mr. Sterling expressed.  I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country, and at the highest level of our sport…In a league where the majority of our players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level.”  Although I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Jordan’s sentiments, I simply don’t buy the idea that he has truly transcended his own ethnic and racial prejudices so thoroughly that he’s in a position to stand on a pulpit and denounce others for the very same prejudices and hatred he has acknowledged having had at one time for white people.  If I were a betting man, I would bet my house that Michael Jordan still harbors racist feelings towards whites, Jews, and countless other racial and ethnic groups as well.  I commend him if has  made great strides towards overcoming his prejudices.  I cannot in good conscience, however, stand up, applaud him, and make pretend that I believe that his heart and mind is entirely cleansed of all racism and bigotry.

Other public figures and celebrities that have allowed their politically correct, social masks to accidentally slip off include African-American Reverend Jesse Jackson, our Caucasian Vice President Joe Biden,  famous African-American movie producer, Spike Lee, famous Caucasian news anchor, Dan Rather, and former African-American governor Marion Barry. During his 1984 presidential campaign, Jesse Jackson derisively spoke of New York City as a place teeming with “Hymies”, and he even went so far as to call New York City “Hymietown.”  For those of you who don’t know, the word “Hymie” is a racist term used to disparage Jews.  Our very own Vice President, Joe Biden, said a few years ago, “You cannot go to a 7 11 or Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”  Regarding his own running mate, Barack Obama, Joe Biden said, “I mean you just got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate, bright, clean, and a nice-looking guy; I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”  As for African-American movie producer, Spike Lee, he once said, ” I give interracial couples a look.  Daggers…They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street.”

As for Dan Rather, he said of Barack Obama, “He’s a nice person.  He’s very articulate and this is what’s been used against him, but he couldn’t sell watermelons if you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic.”    Former governor, Marion Barry, once said, “We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops.  They ought to go.”  Although each of the politicians, public figures, and celebrities that I have  just mentioned clearly have racist thoughts percolating around in the recesses of their minds, I guarantee you that none of them would cop to it.  On the contrary, they would allude to friends of theirs that are Jewish, Indian,  African-American, or in a romantic partnership with someone of the opposite race.  Or perhaps they would talk of charity work they have done on behalf of the very people they have openly degraded, or they would talk of  extended family members that are married to someone who is Jewish, Indian, African-American, etc.  Their attempts to deny their own prejudices never end because they want to maintain their squeaky clean image.  What’s paradoxical and ironic, though, is that the more someone deflects and denies his or her own prejudices, the less trustworthy they become.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have been facilitating a Men’s group for over 7 years now.  I’ve noticed that the men that are most honest about their shortcomings and take ownership of their shadows are the men that the other group members trusts the most.  On the contrary, the men who deny their shadows and repress their darker thoughts are the ones that are trusted least.

Since the Donald Sterling story broke awhile back, there has only been one public figure that I have grown to respect and trust as it pertains to the topic of racism, bigotry, and prejudice.  His name is Mark Cuban, who is the billionaire owner of the NBA franchise, the Dallas Mavericks.  As everyone was clamoring to have Sterling banned from the NBA, Mark Cuban shared his thoughts on the matter in a self-reflective, honest, and forthcoming manner.  He said, ” I know that I’m prejudiced, and I know that I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways…None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses.”

Wow…

My sentiments exactly…

I want to invite all the self-righteous hypocrites out there who claim to be enlightened and pure of thought to kindly consider the possibility that perhaps the feelings of outrage that you openly express about Donald Sterling has just as much to do with you as they do with him.  I wonder if his blatant racism and bigotry awakens in you the realization that you have a little bit of him inside of you.  After all, it takes one to know one or “if you spot it, you got it.”  Marriage and Family Therapists and anyone else that works in the field of psychology call this phenomena “Projection.”  Whenever we have a strong “charge” with someone else and want to judge or condemn them, the chances are extraordinarily high that you’re seeing traits in that person that mirrors similar traits inside of yourself that you’d rather not acknowledge or take ownership of; you’d prefer to project the traits that you don’t like in yourself onto someone else.  For this very reason, I propose that Donald Sterling is a living and breathing mirror and/or gift for all of us; he gives all of us an opportunity to go inside ourselves and explore our “charge” with him so that we can take ownership of the prejudices that live inside of us and do the personal growth work it will take to make our prejudices smaller and smaller over the course of time.

Thank you for taking your time to read my blog on racism, prejudice, and the phenomena of  projection.  I hope  you found my blog thought-provoking and enlightening.

Warmly,

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/NLP Practitioner/Certified Hypnotherapist/& Sports Psychology Consultant

 

 

 

HOW TO SAY I’M SORRY

Image taken from cardboiled.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve worked with individuals, couples, groups, and athletes, and from time to time one of my clients owes someone in their lives a sincere apology.  I’ve seen husbands and wives call each other mean-spirited names, for example, and I’ve also met with couples who have even gone so far as to become physically abusive with their spouses!!  I’ve also had couples who have come in for couple’s marriage and family therapy to rebuild trust after one partner was unfaithful to the other.

As a group facilitator, I’ve occasionally witnessed a group member judge or shame another group member, leaving them feeling belittled and small.  In my individual work with clients, I’ve had people come in to see me for family counseling because their relationships with their parents or siblings have become strained as a result of a betrayal that they’ve committed, like stealing money from a loved one or using drugs while living in their parent’s home.

As a Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve worked with coaches who have mistreated their athletes or shown favoritism to some athletes on their team over others.  Finally, I’ve worked with some athletes who have hazed their teammates or given up on their team during an important game.  In all of the scenarios mentioned above, the perpetrators have owed their victims a sincere apology to begin the repair work needed to rebuild the trust and safety that serve as the foundation and pillars for thriving relationships.

Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t comfortable uttering the words, “I’m sorry.”  I’ve had clients concede to me that apologizing to someone else feels like a form of weakness to them, and they’re simply too proud to go there.  Other clients of mine have lacked the courage to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge to their victim that they’ve made a mistake, and so they choose to sweep their perpetration under the rug in the false hope that time will heals all wounds.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve also noticed that some of my clients simply don’t know how to go about the process of apologizing to someone else.  As a result, their apologies sound insincere, halfhearted, and incomplete.  In light of all of this, I’ve decided to write a blog detailing how to offer a sincere and thorough apology to someone you’ve hurt and want to make amends with.

To begin with, I want to strongly encourage you to engage in some introspection and self-reflection before you apologize so that you know what you’re apologizing for in the first place!!   Humbly and courageously acknowledge to yourself what specific actions, in-actions, words, deeds, and any other ways where you believe that you have faltered that warrants an apology to someone else.  Take this valuable time to pause and deeply understand what fears, shadows, beliefs, and behavioral patterns compelled you to hurt someone else, knowingly or unknowingly.  These insights will help you to grow emotionally and spiritually, and they’ll demonstrate to your victim as well as and reassure him or her that you have more self-awareness now and are therefore unlikely to act or repeat your hurtful actions again.

After you’ve acknowledged to yourself what you’ve said or done to someone else that warrants an apology, and after you’ve engaged in some meaningful self- reflection, ask the person you wish to apologize to if they’re open to sitting down with you and talking about what you did that led to your hurting their feelings and creating disconnection between the two of you.  Asking that person if they’re open to talking and if so, when, shows a willingness to honor their autonomy and free will as well as demonstrates that you want to be sensitive to whether or not the person you’ve hurt is ready to hear your apology.  Sometimes a person’s wounds are still too raw, and they’re just not ready yet to hear your apology, let alone accept it and offer you their forgiveness.

If the person you’ve hurt agrees to hear you out, I’d encourage you to be mindful of the tone in your voice as well as your body language.  The tone in our voice makes up %38 of our communication, and our body language accounts for 55% of our communication.  With this in mind, imagine that your voice and body is an instrument, and be sure that you’re instrument is finely tuned so that what you say resonates from your heart and vibrates genuine remorse while your body visibly reflects sincere contrition.

Speaking of your tone and body language, I want to invite you to make the tone in your voice soft, gentle, humble, and remorseful, and I’d encourage you to make your body language open and receptive to whatever your victim might have to say after you’ve said that you’re sorry.  If your arms are folded across your chest and your rolling your eyes while you’re saying you’re sorry, for example, you’re likely showing  signs of reluctance on your part to say that you’re sorry, or you may be unconsciously showing signs that you’re feeling guarded, proud, or too afraid vulnerably speak of your mistakes.

These body language cues often demonstrate a fear of vulnerability on your part, or they show a lack of emotional maturity.  After all, we are all imperfect and prone to intentionally or unintentionally hurting those we care about, and so summoning the humility, vulnerability, and courage to say that you’re sorry to someone speaks volumes about your character. If your arms, legs, and heart are open and you maintain gentle eye contact, the recipient of your apology will feel safe to hear what you’d like to say. He or she will likely admire your humility, courage and character as well, and they consequently  be far readier than before to accept your apology and reconcile with you.

As you’re apologizing, I implore you to take 100 percent ownership for what you’ve said or done that you believe warrants an apology in the first place.  Identify and articulate the specific ways that you fear that you’ve harmed your victim.  Avoid at all costs minimizing, rationalizing, justifying, or sugar coating your hurtful behavior.  Also, do not look to blame that person or anyone else for what you’ve said or done.

All of the above tactics merely dilute your apology and show that you’re either too proud or too fragile to summon the courage to take full responsibility for your actions.  In turn, the person you’re halfheartedly apologizing to will get an unsettling window into your character and learn that he or she really can’t trust that you won’t repeat your behavior again.  After all, you have just tainted your apology by your countless attempts to deflect accountability from the actions that you’ve committed.

In addition to avoiding in engaging in the deflection tactics that I’ve mentioned above, avoid using “distancing language.”  For example, don’t say, “I’m sorry for the things that happened” or “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you in any way.”  Again, it’s important to take personal ownership for the specific ways you’ve hurt someone.  The two attempts at apologizing that I just referenced sound vague and generic, and they lack personal accountability.  If a person says, “I’m sorry for the things that happened”, they’re not acknowledging what specifically happened?  The truth is, their behaviors didn’t just happen, as if they somehow fell out of the sky and into their lives.  Instead, they chose to do or say something very specific that caused someone else harm.

When a perpetrator says “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you in some way,” the word “if” implies that they’re not really sure what they have said or done that warrants an apology in the first place.  I’m addition, imagining that they have hurt their victim in “some way” implies that they don’t even know specifically what they’re apologizing for.  If this is the case, then it’s really not worth taking the time to offer a hollow apology in the first place.

After you’ve said that you’re sorry, taken 100% accountability for your specific actions, and shown through your tone, body language, and words genuine remorse, I want to invite you to go the extra mile and summon the courage to ask your victim  if there’s anything else they feel that you owe them an apology for that you may have missed. Seeking this additional feedback from the person you’ve hurt shows a sincere interest on your part to make things right and take ownership for every last drop of your hurtful behavior.

If the person you’ve hurt takes you up on your offer and shares new information that they believe warrants an additional apology, acknowledge ( if their additional feedback rings true for you) that you overlooked that piece and take ownership for those parts as well.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve seen this gesture help victims  feel deeply  validated  and heard, and they will deeply appreciate your willingness to  give them the time and space to voice any additional pain that’s been been festering  inside their hearts.

At this point, it’d be a very gracious overture on your part to ask how your behavior impacted the person that you hurt.  As you listen to him or her share their thoughts and feelings, be compassionate and empathetic.  Offer them your undivided attention, and acknowledge and validate how your behavior has impacted them.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I always encourage my clients to use active listening skills that reflect back to their victim, for example,”I truly hear that when I called you a nobody you felt belittled and degraded, and I’m deeply sorry for that.  Truthfully, I would feel belittled and degraded too if someone I cared about called me a nobody.”  Following your empathetic words, take this opportunity to reassure the person that you’ve hurt how you really feel about them.  For example, you might want to say,   “I want to reassure you, though, that I don’t feel that way about you at all.  On the contrary, I value you very much and I hold you in very high regard.”

After you’ve given your victim the time and space to share how your actions impacted him, and after you’ve offered them genuine compassion and empathy for the pain you’ve caused them, and after you’ve reassured them how you truly feel about them, take a moment and ask them if there’s any way that you can support them now and going forward to help them heal from the pain that they’re feeling.  In addition, you may even want to ask them if there’s some act of service you can do for them that will symbolically show them that you really want to move forward in repairing your relationship.

If and/or after you’ve mutually agreed on a specific act of service or gesture that will help to rebuild the trust and safety in your relationship, take a moment to reassure the person that you’ll continue to actively work on developing your own self- awareness so that you make every effort to never hurt that person in the same way again. You may even want to let them know something specifically that you’ll be doing to ensure that it’s your sincere intention to never repeat your hurtful behavior.  For example, you might say, “By the way, in my resolve to make sure I never call you belittling names again, I’m going to be seeing a therapist weekly for the next 6 months.”  Or you might say, ” To ensure that I don’t drink too much and black out and embarrass you again, I’m going to get sober and attend AA meetings at least 3 days a week.”

As a marriage and Family Therapist, I believe that such actions show the person that you’ve hurt that you’re willing to back up your apology with specific personal growth steps to ensure that you don’t hurt them again. When you do this, you’re immediately beginning the process of getting back into integrity with that person as well as filling them up with an increased sense of safety, trust, and reassurance that you’re going to be taking active measures to grow as a man or woman so that you treat that person and everyone else in your life in ways that are in alignment with your highest self and your core values.

After you’ve participated in an act of service to rebuild the person’s faith in you, and after you’ve offered them reassurance that you intend to take specific actions to ensure that you don’t repeat your hurtful behavior again, rest assured that a very significant and meaningful part of your journey to make amends and say that you’re sorry is finally over!!  In many ways, though, your journey to make amends has also just begun because it takes time to rebuild the trust and safety that you broke when you hurt someone else.  In addition, your journey to repair your relationship has  just begun because you must now follow through on your pledge to take specific actions to grow and evolve as a person so that you do everything in your power to not re-injure your colleague, friend, family member, or lover again.

If opening your heart and learning to be vulnerable and accountable enough to say that you’re sorry to someone that you’ve hurt is challenging for you, I want to take this opportunity to invite you to visit with me so that I can help you to learn the art of offering someone else a heart-felt apology.  I trust that you’ll find that learning this art form will serve as a tremendous catalyst for your personal grown, and it will help you to repair relationships that you want to salvage much sooner than later.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.  I sincerely hope that you found it enlightening and useful.

Warmly,

John Boesky, LMFT

Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

 

 

TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE

image taken from iffla.org

image taken from iffla.org

As a Marriage and a Family Therapist, I often encourage the individuals, couples, families, and groups that I work with to practice the art of forgiveness.  My intention is to make this practice a daily one for them. Oftentimes, my clients balk at the notion of forgiving themselves or anyone else for that matter.  They fear that I am asking them to justify or condone harmful actions, or they worry that I’m encouraging them to seek out or speak to those who have caused them harm.  Other clients fear that I am asking them to be fake or artificial, extending an olive branch of forgiveness to the undeserving.  They refuse to be inauthentic, and so I often notice their bodies’ contract and experience them becoming resistant to the whole idea right from the very start.

I explain to them, though, that I’m not encouraging them to seek forgiveness from others, for themselves, or for others for any of the reasons mentioned above.  First of all, forgiveness does not in any way justify or condone harmful actions.  Second, forgiveness does not mean you have to seek out or speak to those who caused you harm.  In fact, you may choose never to see them again.  Third, forgiveness must happen organically; it must be authentically and deeply felt.  Otherwise, it’s merely pain, resentment, grief, or rage disguised as forgiveness, and the person pretending to forgive is much like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Seeking forgiveness from others, for ourselves, and for others who have wounded us is so powerful because it’s a way of softening the edges or removing the calluses around our hearts.  When we lack forgiveness, our hearts become closed and dark, and we build a fortress around us to protect it.  Although we feel safe inside these walls, we become cold inside.  Forgiveness, like a magic potion, melts these walls away, and gives us access to who we truly are once again.  It helps us to let go of the pain, the resentment, and the outrage that we have carried as a burden for so long.  In time, we have renewed access to our passions, our child-like essence, our humanity, and to all of the lovable qualities inside of us that make us who we are.

So, when it comes down to it, seeking forgiveness from others, for ourselves, or for others who have harmed us is really intended first and foremost to serve our own healing and set us free mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually first and foremost.  And the way to begin this process is to first recognize that, as human beings, we are all fallible. We are all vulnerable to making mistakes, and we all fall prey to unconscious shadows that compel us to act out in ways that don’t reflect our highest selves.  If we had the knowledge and resources to make the very best choices in any given moment and time that would be in alignment with our highest values and would serve ourselves, others, and the world in the best way possible, we obviously would. Unfortunately, we didn’t, and so we sadly resorted to making the poor choices that we did with what whatever level of consciousness was currently available to us.

In light of this reality, we’ve all likely hurt or harmed others, betrayed or abandoned them, and caused them suffering, knowingly or unknowingly, out of our pain, fear, anger, and confusion at some point in our lives.  We didn’t do so because we were sadistic or inherently bad people.  We did so because we didn’t know how to manage our emotions more maturely. We simply lacked the tools, life skills, and practice to show up in our lives and in our relationships differently.  Knowing this essential truth, it becomes easier to soften the harsh voice of our inner judge and begin the tender process of forgiving ourselves for the many ways that we’ve harmed others.

In addition to hurting others, we’ve all betrayed, harmed, and abandoned ourselves through thought, word, and deed at some point in our lives.  We hurt ourselves not out because we were pathologically masochistic, but because we lacked the necessary self-awareness, self-knowledge, and resources at that time to do things in ways that would have served ourselves and others in more positive ways.  Again, chances are that we hurt ourselves through action or inaction out of our own fear, pain, and confusion. Knowing this, it becomes easier yet again to reflect love inwards and forgive ourselves for the many ways we’ve sabotaged ourselves in our lives.

Finally, it’s important to consider that there’s a high probability that those who have wounded, hurt, abused, and abandoned us in thought, word, or deed have done so out of their own fear, pain, confusion, and anger. Now this insight doesn’t mean that their behavior was therefore justifiable. On the contrary, their behavior was still never the less repugnant and wrong.  However, if you take a moment and imagine walking in their shoes from the time they were little boys and girls, chances are that the heartbreak and anguish that you’ll sense they’ve long endured will help you to feel some empathy or compassion for the long, torturous roads they’ve travelled mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

It is often within the sacred garden of your burgeoning empathy and compassion that the seeds of forgiveness come budding to the surface of your heart for the person who once perpetrated against you. As Longfellow once said, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” My hope is that if you can summon the will to do this, you can experience the peaceful release in your mind, body, heart and soul that takes place when you’ve mastered the art of forgiveness.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post.  I hope that you enjoyed it!!

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist