Two things to note:
1) I am not an eavesdropper. I just happen to be extremely attentive and observant. I am part introvert. I can be silent when I really need to be, which allows me to be privy to a lot of conversations.
2) My best friend calls me an “old soul.”
“Visually, you look like a teenager. Spiritually, it’s like you’re in your own little world. And you can always tell what people are thinking. It’s like you can read their history in their face. And look at this face!” she said, pointing at a picture of 3-year-old me. “There is so much knowledge in those eyes…it’s like you know a secret about life that no one else does.”
Maybe. But the world does fascinate me, as does human behavior. And I’ve taken the scenic route when it comes to learning life’s lessons – as in I’m damn stubborn and it takes several in-your-face experiences to get me to learn something. There’s a lot of BS out there about emotional health, and I thought I would clarify a few here. Some are based on research, others on life experience. Whatever the case, they are myths that I realized no longer serve me:
Myth 1: Anger is wrong.
Emotion is a form of communication, not a reaction. It’s says, “There is something to notice here, something to pay attention to. Something to realize and learn.” Anger has gotten a really bad rap, but it’s not the emotion itself that’s a problem, it’s how we use it – or don’t. If your partner cheats on you, you have every right to be upset. Furious even. Go ahead and yell until your throat gets scratchy. Punch a couple of pillows. Anger is healthy. Throwing a bowling ball through your ex’s windshield isn’t. Taking revenge isn’t. And – here’s the kicker – keeping that anger inside is NOT noble or saintly. It’s unhealthy, and will find a way to express itself anyway, whether it’s through passive aggression, sarcasm, resentment, or various aches and pains in your body.
Myth 2: Life is a result of fate and cannot be changed.
If this were true, we wouldn’t have rags to riches stories. We wouldn’t have people who overcame great personal trauma and lived to tell about it. Take a peek into the lives of some of the most successful people in the world: Oprah, Shania Twain, J.K. Rowling, and 50 Cent. You’d be surprised at what they overcame with nothing but hope and a dream.
Myth 3: You must always put others first and love them unconditionally.
Boy, was this a hard lesson to unlearn. Daniel Rutley, author of Escaping Emotional Entrapment said it best when he put the myth of unconditional love to rest:
“How romantic. How giving. How foolish. Love for another person had better be with limits…it’s important that we all have definable boundaries of what we will and will not tolerate in our relationships and in all areas of our lives.”
“There is one particular person I suggest you passionately love, always treat superbly with a sense of acceptance, respect, compassion, and without limits, regardless of his or her behavior. That person is YOU.”
While he does say that the parent/child relationship should be based almost completely on unconditional love, you need to be able to love yourself first – in all of your imperfect glory.
Myth 4: Therapy is just for people who have serious disorders
A friend came to me once for advice about whether she should see a therapist. “I’m not crazy or anything,” she explained with a nervous giggle. “It’s just that…I don’t know. Never mind. I think I would be wasting the therapist’s time. They have more important people to help. People who have been through traumatic life experiences, bad childhoods, or something.”
“Are you happy?” I responded. “Are you living life to the fullest? Do you feel you are achieving your full potential? Do you feel happy to be you?”
“No,” she admitted sadly.
“Then there’s nothing wrong with talking to someone about it. Therapy is for guidance and empowerment – that’s the basis of it.”
Myth 5: No one can make you feel what you don’t want to feel.
We have a deeply-entrenched habit of placing our power in someone else’s hands. I fooled myself into believing that it was this person’s fault that I was angry; that failure that made me feel guilty; that partner who made me feel bad about myself and unworthy. Unfortunately, all that did was make me feel more helpless and powerless to change. The truth is, I chose to feel those things – and I can choose a different response, or choose not to let it get to me. Only you have the power to control your emotions, change your circumstances, and create your reality.
It’s time to put these myths to rest for good.