Dear Dr. Norquist:
The New Year is fast approaching. I’d like to make a fresh start this year. I have a past that is full of anger and disappointments. I’ve struggled a long time with anger at my parents for not supporting me, for not being able to accept me for who I am, and for not protecting me when I needed it. I don’t know why they couldn’t give me the love I needed. I think they were too busy with their own social lives. I left their home five years ago, but the anger and hurt is still with me. What is the way to leave this stuff behind and start the New Year without these feelings that keep dragging me down?
Dr. Norquist responds:
It sounds like you recognize that you are the one who is keeping these feelings alive in your life. This is a huge step beyond the stage of "blaming the other" that can be so captivating and so stagnating. Carolyn Myss, in her book "Anatomy of the Spirit," presents an interesting concept that is appropriate here. She proposes that when we continue over time to think about people who have done us harm, we are investing our energy and our spirit in that person. This creates an energetic drain on our system and can lead to poor health. If we never allow ourselves to move beyond our wounds, according to Myss, we end up depriving ourselves of the spiritual energy needed in the present to maintain the health of the cells of our physical body. Our negative thoughts, exercised over and over, create a vulnerability to health problems. This is why forgiveness is so beneficial to the one who is doing the forgiving. Through the act of forgiveness, we are releasing our negative energetic connection with the ones who have hurt us; or, as Myss puts it, we are recalling our spirit. This leaves us feeling healthier; more energized, lighter and more whole. I think this would create the ‘fresh start’ that you are looking for in the New Year. Remember, in forgiving, you are not condoning the other’s behavior. Forgiveness is a cleansing that you do for your own emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
Try this exercise. Sit quietly in a relaxed position with your eyes closed. Take a few slow deep breaths, and then focus your attention on your heart. Envision in your heart, a golden white ball of light (like a mini-sun), and feel its’ warmth. For a few minutes, sit with this vision, and experience the growing warmth of the expanding light in your heart. With your mind’s eye, see your parents, and send a beam of this golden white light to them, connecting with their hearts. Hold this vision for a minute or so. Do this exercise one or two times a day for a week. As an experiment, you could write down how you feel towards your parents before commencing with this exercise and then again after doing the exercise for the week. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results. Happy fresh New Year to you!
Dear Dr. Norquist:
I have been married for three years, and I just had a baby. I love my husband very much and I am sure he loves me too. The problem is that, like all couples, we fight. Only we fight very often and very viciously. Most of the time it is just a bunch of yelling and screaming but sometimes it gets violent, and in front of my son. My husband has a terrible temper, and I seem to irritate him very easily. It is hard for me to admit this, but he tends to put his hands on me more than I would care to say. He doesn’t actually hit me or anything, he just pushes me around- very hard. A couple of times he pushed me to the ground, and once or twice he even put his hands around my neck and started to choke me. I’ve discussed this with him a number of times and every time he says he is sorry and he only does it because he is mad, that he would never really hurt me. But he does and I don’t know how to get him to realize the severity of the situation. I have tried to leave, and I even put a restraining order on him. Later I found out I was pregnant so I dropped it. I don’t want to leave him and I don’t want my son to grow up to learn these flaws. Do you think it’s possible for people to change? I try to get him to go to counseling but we have no money and he doesn’t want to go. How can I get him to go so we can have a normal marriage and a safe loving environment for our son?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Certainly people can change, however, the initiative has to come from the individual who is doing the changing. The fact that your husband is not choosing of his own accord to change his behavior is important information for you to consider. It is never OK for your marital partner to be physically violent with you. The excuse that it was because he was mad is not sufficient. His response should be to do whatever it takes to make sure it never happens again. Under the current circumstances, it is not possible for you to provide a safe, loving environment for yourself or your son. If he is not choosing to remedy this situation, then you must do so by removing yourself and your son from this environment. Your continued presence there gives him the message that you will tolerate his behavior. Statistics show that the longer one stays in an abusive situation, the harder it is to leave. It looks like the ball is in your court on this one.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)
Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding and treating physical symptoms and health-related concerns. Practitioners of the following techniques are available to answer your questions: psychology, acupuncture, therapeutic and neuromuscular massage, yoga, meditation, spiritual & transpersonal psychology, Reiki, Cranial Sacral Therapy, and Alexander Technique Ó 2002 Chaitanya Counseling and Stress Management Center