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Archive for October, 2015

How two friends put their bad feelings aside and grew in love

I lost my friend Mark to cancer a couple of months ago.

I liked a lot of things about Mark — his soft-spoken manner, his easy laugh, his sense of adventure, his willingness to try new things, his zest for life. But above all, the thing I admired most was Mark’s ability to let go of a hurt and move on.

Mark had a friend named Bill, and every so often the two of them would get together for lunch. One day when they were to meet, Bill never showed. So Mark had lunch alone.

The sad thing was that when Bill realized he had missed lunch, he failed to call his friend and apologize. So Mark was a bit miffed.

When Mark saw Bill, he said, “Say, Bill, what happened to our lunch?”

Bill shrugged and said he had forgotten.

Mark said, “But you didn’t call.”

Bill replied, “Yeah, I know, but I got busy.”

With that brush-off, Mark said, “Well, I’m angry about that. You should have called.”

Again Bill defended his actions.

At this point I could see things weren’t headed in a happy direction, so I jokingly said, “Okay, you two. You guys know you love each other. So Bill, tell Mark, ‘I love you, Mark.'”

Bill looked at me a little askance (men don’t say “I love you” to their friends). Then he got this big childlike grin on his face and said, “I love you, Mark.”

Without hesitation, Mark smiled and said, “I love you, Bill.” And the incident was over. From that moment on, I believe Mark never looked back on that missed engagement.

Addendum: Over the next year as Mark was struggling with his illness, Bill would frequently say, “I love you, Mark.” Mark would get a grin on his face and respond, “I love you, Bill.”

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Ways to Control Jealous Feelings.

Jenny told me she was at her friend’s house looking through old pictures when she came across an old photo of her husband and another woman. “Instantly I felt jealous,” she said. “I thought, ‘Who is that, an old girlfriend? And why does she have her arms around my husband?'” On closer look she realized the picture was actually one of her and her husband five years earlier.

As we talked, Jenny confessed that she has always struggled with jealousy. When she walks into a room, she is most conscious of how the other women look and how she herself compares. If she decides that someone is more attractive or has on a better looking outfit, her joy disappears. “I can be ever so happy, but then I see someone who I think looks better than me, and instantly I feel envious,” she confessed.

Unfortunately many people silently struggle with feelings of jealousy. “Telling someone you’re angry or unhappy is one thing,” said Bill, a fellow I’m seeing in therapy, “but telling them you’re jealous of their position or their wife — this is not something you’re going to find too many people willing to admit to.”

Why does jealousy consume some, whereas others seem to revel in the success of their friends? This less-than-admirable feeling of jealousy may actually be the result of what went on between siblings years earlier.

Once you reach the ripe old age of a year and a half, you’re already aware of what’s happening in your family. You know who gets the lion’s share of positive attention. You’re aware of whom your folks favor. If it isn’t you, you’re likely to feel hostile. Instead of directing those negative feelings toward your parents, however, you direct them to your sibling. Why? Because you want your parents to recognize and love you and being angry at them would be self-defeating.

Another factor is the way you were disciplined as a child. If you were disciplined more harshly than your brother and sister, you may have hostile and jealous feelings toward the siblings who were handled more gently.

Comparing of children also leads to jealousy. If Tommy is held up as the smartest, and Daniel is told he’s the best athlete, each is likely to become jealous of the other if an attribute they value is ascribed to their sibling.

With regard to Jenny, the woman who was jealous of herself, we traced her jealousy to what happened in her family. Her mother tried to make everything equal between her and her younger sister. Equal time, equal presents, equal number of chores, equal number of kisses and hugs. Following their mother’s lead, the girls got into comparing. Once this way of thinking was established, this woman expanded it to comparing herself to everyone.

The way I worked with her was to have her make a list of people she admired. She was to include her sister, three co-workers, three friends, and three famous people. The next step was for her to write down the ways she was better and the ways she was not as good as all ten of these people. With the celebrities, she had to read up on their lives.

What she learned was that every person is in some way better and in some way not as good as every other person. To dwell on the better and less was a waste of time, however, and often leads to bad feelings.

I told her also, “When you start to think competitively, say to yourself, ‘Don’t go that way, because if you do you’re defeating yourself.'”

Happily, she was able to act on this advice. She is no longer consumed with comparing herself to others, and as a result, she rarely feels jealous.

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