Tag Archives: hostility

“Telling it like it is…???”

by Dr. Ken Larsen

I was talking with a friend recently.  He was telling me about his holiday experience with his ex-wife.  He was describing how difficult it was for him to get along with her.  He finally “unloaded” on her, telling her that as long as he was with her, he could not be civil.

That word “unloaded” struck me.  I’ve thought about it over the past few days.  What is being “unloaded”?  I can only speculate that it was his emotional load of anger and anxiety that was being dumped on his ex.


In a way I believe this is a “normal” reflexive reaction.  When we are hurt, our first reaction is often retaliation.  We express that reactive retaliation by what we consider “honesty”.  In our culture there is a certain value placed on “telling it like it is”.  But aren’t we all tired of the bad feelings and turmoil and conflict that results from reactively retaliating to a real or perceived hurt?

The tragedy is compounded when we realize the instinctive retaliatory reflex exercised by nation states as a primary weapon in our foreign policy arsenal.   Most of our international conflicts are the result of a commitment to “if you hurt me, I’m going to hurt you right back.  Only more.  And harder.”

If this is an instinctive reaction, what can we do about it?  One thing that we can do is to use our “metacognition.”  To think about how we are thinking.  To ask ourselves “is retaliation the best way to respond?”  There is an old cliché’, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”  We may not be able to change the direction of conflicting foreign policy, but we can change the way that we respond and relate to one another.

One of the foundational bits of wisdom Dr. Glasser gave us is the question:  “Is what I am doing (or going to do) bringing us closer together or driving us further apart.”  He challenged us to realize that we have a choice.  Do we want to fight or do we want to seek understanding?  Perhaps in this coming election we can look for those candidates who are willing to explore alternatives to retaliation as policy.

Mental health and happiness cannot co-exist with hostility.  We need to be thoughtful in how we relate to one another, especially when confronted with conflicting emotions.  Are we just reflexive reactors or do we have the power within ourselves to choose a better response to one another?  Not easy, to be sure, but is it doable?  I think it is, especially if we accept that we can make progress even though perfection is a bit elusive.

I do not agree with what you have to say, but..

by Dr. Ken Larsen

The inner turmoil that comes from conflict can rob us of our mental health and happiness.

Much of that inner turmoil, I believe, comes from the compulsion to “be right.”

I recently heard Tara Brach make the claim that the world is divided by those who think they are right.

bullhornI cringe at the lack of civility in so many clashes of opinion. I have to wonder what makes people think that denigrating another will convince them of much of anything.

There seems to be a trend to belittle and call names to those who may have a differing point of view.

Can we simply state our position, and then listen carefully to the other, trying to understand?

A quote from Wayne Dyer recently floated through Facebook.  It got a lot of “likes”.  Here’s the quote:

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.”

Most of us strongly oppose bullying.  I believe we need to stop and recognize that the disrespectful attacks on another because their beliefs don’t coincide with yours is a form of bullying.  A bully seeks to overpower another.  This can be done on the playground, or it can happen in the political arena, or any place where opinions clash.  How about the old proverb, “live and let live.”?

The common bond of our humanity takes precedence over our differing opinions.  Aren’t we tired of history repeating itself time and time again with the clashes that lead to violence?  These clashes have an understandable beginning.  One person is convinced he is right and is equally convinced that the other person is wrong.  Can we step back a bit and look at ourselves, listening to what we are thinking and saying about others?  Then ask if what we are doing is getting us what we want.  If we step away from the sort of hostility I am describing, I believe we have a better chance to maintain our mental health and happiness.


Driving to Mental Health

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

At his point in my life, I figure I have been a passenger with at least 100 different drivers. Some are happy and entertaining while they maneuver through traffic. Some are conscientious, safe and good drivers. I only have to apply the imaginary brakes on my side of the passenger seat on rare occasions with very few.

canstockphoto0012473What I find the most astounding, however, is the large number of drivers who are outraged by other drivers. Without hesitation some drivers let fury, scorn and abuse fly at the other drivers sharing their road and route. I am amazed at their level of hostility, anger and scathing opinions they have of these other drivers. Most of these folks are family members or dear and close friends. This aspect of their personality only comes out when they are driving. I would wonder, How can this dear person allow other people’s driving to dictate her feelings, mood, and happiness? 

That is until I moved to a new region of the country. I have now become one of those unhappy, impatient, and screaming drivers. The common courtesy and rules of the road that I practiced in New England are not the same in the Rocky Mountains. Too often I find myself arriving at my destination furious and blustering about the other incompetent drivers on the road. “Don’t people know how to drive in this state?” I complain but no one seems to sympathize with me.

I also realized sound just like my brother-in-law did when he moved from New Jersey complaining about all of the incompetent drivers in Rhode Island. At the time I thought he was nuts. Now I’m becoming the same nut! And Jack has since moved to Georgia where he is complaining about how poorly people drive in that state too!

I have been recently reading my niece’s Facebook entries. She lives in South Carolina and has made the conscious choice not to drive a car but to use her bicycle instead. And she is bitterly complaining about the dangers and cavalier attitude of drivers toward bicyclists! This became my final straw.

In order to improve my own Mental Health & Happiness, I’m changing my ways. I know for sure that I cannot change the way other drivers drive, or cyclists ride, or pedestrians walk. I can only control myself. It is time I followed my own advice.

When I look for the other drivers who are driving cooperatively, safely, and considerately I always find them.

I’ve started a new habit. Every time I get behind the wheel, before I start driving, I thank my fellow drivers for driving cooperatively, safely and considerately. I vow to do the same. Let’s work together to arrive at our personal destinations safely and filled with love. 

So far I have been amazed how much more considerately, safely and cooperatively the other drivers have become!




I know what I’m saying…..I’m not sure what you are hearing

Dr. Ken Larsen

We know that relationships and being connected pleasantly with others is essential to our mental health and happiness.

There are many ways that those connections hold us together.  There is the loving glance, the friendly smile, the intimate embrace….and, perhaps the most common link, the words that we use to communicate with one another.

I had a recent experience with a longtime friend.  I had loaned him a book that I valued.  He returned the book dismissively, stating in what appeared to be a disdainful manner, “poorly written.  Didn’t read it.”  I had also shared a video clip of an English speaking Asian that I thought was meaningful.  He emailed me back, “only watched a minute.  Couldn’t tolerate the accent.”

hearingI asked him, “do you know how negative you sound?  You must be missing out on a lot that life has to offer.”  His response, “not being negative.  Just being honest.”

The best response I could think of was pretty lame.  “OK.  Thanks.”

What do you think the chances are of me sharing anything with this guy again?

If I could step outside this situation I would recognize that perhaps this guy really wasn’t interested in what I was sharing.  How could he be honest in telling me that without taking the risk of placing a barrier in our relationship?

I have to look at my own behavior in this situation.  Someday I hope to be able to work this through so that I can communicate a bit more of a loving response.  Even now, I want to resist any resentment I feel and move into a more understanding approach to our relationship.

I think we must be honest with one another, but I also recognize that honesty without understanding and compassion can be perceived as hostility. 

I once heard a preacher pray  “Lord, help me today to make my words sweet and tender.  Tomorrow I may have to eat them.”

In our verbal connections with one another, let’s help maintain our mental health and happiness by using words that include a message of care and respect along with our honesty.



Turning OH NO! into OH BOY!

By Dr. Nancy Buck

There aren’t many people in my life and my world who bug me. How lucky am I to be in that state of grace! So when I encounter a person who really “rubs me the wrong way” it feels even more annoying and upsetting.

I fully realize that this person is just being herself. It is my expectation and perception of her that creates my own disturbance. In fact, she can say the exact same words as a friend, but coming out of her mouth it’s annoying, unkind and just more evidence for what a jerk she is!

As I sit here writing this story I know how absurd I’m being. If the words are the same and the only difference is the messenger then doesn’t that indicate a faulty receiver? That would be me. I put on a different filter when hearing these words from the annoying person than I do from my friend.

Hmm, I seem to be interfering with my own Mental Health & Happiness.

I’m determined to change! I know I have a much greater chance of succeeding if I work to change me rather than waiting for her to change!

I’ve decided I’m going to look forward to the GLO whenever she speaks. It’s possible that everything in life is offered to me as GLO if I choose to see it that way. What is GLO?

 G – a gift
L  – a lesson
O – an opportunity

It is up to me to make the shift of receiving everything this woman has to offer as my GLO. In fact, just thinking about this now has already shifted my thinking.

Here is my plan. Every time I’m in her company I will enter thinking “I look forward to all the GLO that is coming my way!” Every time she speaks I will silently ask myself Where is the GLO?I might even say out loud, if it’s appropriate and can be said without sarcasm, “I’m trying to understand and find the GLO here. Can you say that differently please?” And every time she does or says something I don’t like or approve of, I will write it down to be GLO’d upon later. She is not annoying. I’m annoying myself. And I have something I can learn here so don’t miss the opportunity she is giving me for more GLO in my life.

Great plan! Already I feel less anger and hostility toward this person. The GLO that she’s offering me right now is my ability to shift my perceptions so I can still be the open, curious, engaging and kind person I want to be. What someone else says, asks or the way they behave does not need to alter who I am, as long as I look for the GLO. 

And just to create my own safety net, I’m going to approach every interaction I have with all of the people in my life the same way. That means I can practice and be more of an expert on finding the GLO when I’m faced with challenging people. Plus, I don’t want you, my friends, to be thinking you are “that”person if I happen to ask you “Where is the GLO?