I’m tired of feeling angry and hurt, but I can’t help it! Loved ones in my life make me feel terrible sometimes, especially when we disagree, and I walk away from discussions either fuming or near tears. Why can’t they just stop making me feel this way?
Sometimes, I find myself saying to the clients in front of me, “it seems like you might be trapped in a cage that you built.” Seeking individual therapy for relief, they feel stuck in endless cycles of negativity, they feel victimized by others, they feel powerless in the pursuit of peace and happiness in their relationships. But–back to the metaphor–it’s like every time you let anger or hurt envelope you as you walked away from an interaction with a loved one, you soldered another crossbar of this cage. Over and over again, as you came to the conclusion that he or she “made” you feel disappointed or “caused” you to feel rejected, you constructed a cage built of those painful feelings.
Except now you’ve realized that you’re trapped in the cage that you built. You’re rattling the sides–“I don’t want to feel like this anymore!” and yet you are stuck. But what if your feelings weren’t at the mercy of another person’s actions? What if you walked away from difficult interactions with loved ones choosing kindness, bravery, or patience?
The Dali Lama once said, “we have the source of contentment and happiness within ourselves, and it is related to nurturing our inner values.” When you challenge the thought that others force you to feel a certain way, you invite another thought–that acting in accordance with your personally held values leads you down another path. No longer trapped in a cage that you built, you’re free. Free to walk out into the open space of possibility, to choose positive feelings instead of negative ones, to live your life with respect for your emotional needs.
If you or someone you know is struggling with negative feelings, we hope you forward this post. Individual therapy in Bethesda MD helps people choose happiness and peace over anger and hurt in relationships with loved ones.