Archive for December, 2016

I am not sure that you actually can answer my question, but it has to do with trust. How long does it take, generally, to earn back trust? I have an uncle, who does not have much time left, and I would like to patch up our problems before it is too late.

You might want to think of trust in two ways: Trust because of one area in a person’s life (he or she is a compulsive gambler, for example) or trust more generally (the person harms you in many ways and across time).  Does your uncle have a particular weakness, such as we see in the gambling example?  If so, then he would have to start building trust by small steps.  Perhaps you are slowly seeing that he no longer asks for money from you, as an example.  You need time to see that the particular actions are no longer hurtful. That may take a number of exchanges between the two of you before your trust begins to build.  This could take weeks or even months.

If your uncle has general patterns of injustice which have hurt you, then this can take a lot longer.  Try to look for instances of genuine change in him.  Is he beginning to see what he has done?  Is he remorseful by showing an inner sorrow for what he has done?  Has he apologized or expressed regret to you?  If he can give back something tangible to you, has he tried to do that?  Look for what I call the Three R’s: remorse, repentance, and recompense.  If you begin to see these, then your trust may begin to build.

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I sometimes feel a general kind of stress. I am all worked up inside and am restless. How can I begin to understand the source of this stress, its cause? It usually is not caused by something that happened to me that day.

When some people have a persistent unease within, it can be traced to anger that begins because of unjust treatment by others in the past.  The key here is to think through any unresolved issues from the past.  Did someone treat you very unfairly?  Have you not yet started a process of forgiveness with this particular person?  Try to take an inventory of unfair treatment, starting in childhood and moving up to the present time.  You might consider for this exercise the Forgiveness Landscape Rating Scale (Appendix B) in my book, The Forgiving Life.  If you discover deep, unfair treatment against you which you have never truly confronted, then you can start to forgive the person, which may decrease anger toward the person and reduce your general stress.

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What techniques can help me to recognize my anger?

  • You could create a journal in which you record instances of unjust treatment and your level of anger on a 1 to 10 scale.
  • You could ask a confidant how angry he or she thinks you are about certain instances.
  • You could think about the psychological defense of denial and ask yourself the question: To what extent might I be hiding anger from myself ? Then reflect on what you consider to be a particularly unfair action against you and rate the anger there on the 1 to 10 scale.
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I am interested in character development. What would you suggest to me if I want to change my character so that I do not hurt so much from what happened to me? I don’t want to be consumed by the pain.

A paradox is to bear the pain of what happened so that you do not run from it or deny it. It seems like a contradiction to ask you to bear the very same pain that you do not want.  Yet, as you courageously bear that pain, you begin to see that you are able to stand under the weight of that pain.  You begin to see that you are stronger than you might have realized.  As you continue to stand in courage like this, the pain begins to lift and you then have a confidence that you can confront and defeat any future pain that comes your way.

A paradox is to bear the pain of what happened so that you do not run from it or deny it. It seems like a contradiction to ask you to bear the very same pain that you do not want.  Yet, as you courageously bear that pain, you begin to see that you are able to stand under the weight of that pain.  You begin to see that you are stronger than you might have realized.  As you continue to stand in courage like this, the pain begins to lift and you then have a confidence that you can confront and defeat any future pain that comes your way.

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Suppose that I do see the two children arguing and I do sense what you call emotional pain because of injustice. I then step in to encourage forgiveness (after a period of anger that is appropriate to the children and the situation). What should I do? I so often hear parents say to the one who acted unfairly, “Say you’re sorry.” The parent then says to the other, “What do you say?” hoping for something like, “It is ok. I forgive you.” This seems a bit superficial to me. What else would you suggest?

I would suggest trying to get the one who did the injuring to see the pain in the other.  Try to get the child to step inside the hurt child’s shoes to understand the pain inside.  I further would try to get the injured child, once he or she has settled down from the pain and anger, to see the injuring child with a wider-angle lens.  You have to be careful not to suggest excusing of the hurtful behavior.  The point is to see the humanity in the other, to see that he or she has strong points.  This is a first step in forgiving.

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