How to Manage Your Green-Eyed Monster

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How to Manage Your Green-Eyed Monster

Posted on: September 5th, 2019 by Lindsey Rogers, LCPC

Like something out of a horror film, when you least expect it, a powerful, hideous monster attacks out of nowhere. No one is safe when it appears, spewing negativity and dark thoughts. And the worst part is that this overwhelming ugliness is actually a part of you. The phrase “green-eyed jealousy” has been originally linked to William Shakespeare’s 16th-century play, The Merchant of Venice, to describe a character’s jealousy. It is thought that the color green is used to denote this emotional state because of its ties to decay and illness—when sick, a person’s skin color can take on a green tinge, and when food is rotting, it often grows green mold to signal that it is going bad. Envy is also included as one of the seven deadly sins according to Christian religion; philosopher Betrand Russell described it as “one of the most potent causes of unhappiness.” An emotional state that is tied to physical illness, decaying food, monsters, and other really bad stuff does not sound good. Yet envy and jealousy are a common state that many of us experience on a regular basis. Given that it is so terrible but so present, let’s explore this bad part of ourselves and find ways to tame it.

Understand Your Monster
Jealousy and envy are often used interchangeably but they are actually different concepts. If you think about all the monsters throughout history, they are often complicated, right? Homer Simpson, psychological powerhouse of television’s longest running cartoon, stated in a 2014 episode of The Simpsons, “I’m not jealous, I’m envious. Jealousy is when you worry someone will take what you have. Envy is wanting what someone else has. What I feel is envy.” The patriarch of the Simpson family was correct. Envy involves two people, while jealousy is a three-party situation. We can feel envious about someone else’s luxurious lifestyle or their recent promotion. There is a sense of wanting what someone else has or is doing or maybe an absence of something. How often have you felt envious of someone having to work less than you? However, jealousy is a bit of a different monster. We may feel jealous of our partner’s coworker because we see how engaged our partner is with this person and that might trigger some fears or worries about losing them.

Maybe you can remember the first time you experienced envy or jealousy. Because these monsters are powerful characters, you can probably imagine that sensory experience of watching your neighbor getting that super cool new bike when you had the garage sale special with the bad stickers on the handlebars. Maybe you can imagine that pit in your stomach and that hot feeling that flooded your body. And often, because we have such a negative reaction to these monsters, you may remember trying to pretend it wasn’t how you really felt. How often do we respond with an “I’m fine” or “I don’t care,” when the reality is we are overwhelmed by these negative emotions? We are so programmed to get rid of negative emotions and those darker parts of ourselves. We deny, push aside, or run away from them, and in turn they get stronger and more powerful. Maybe that’s how it played out for you as a child—pretending you didn’t care stopped working and then you ended up pulling the streamers off of your neighbor’s bike to ruin their new, awesome thing that you wanted so you could get some relief.

Take Control of Your Monster
As negatively as jealousy and envy are characterized, they are monsters who are here to stay. It is good to normalize these emotions in some ways. We cannot expect ourselves to feel nothing but joy all the time. But if these monsters are showing up for you all the time, taking up way too much real estate in your mind—or if you still find yourself destroying your neighbor’s bike—it is time to explore that.

Jealousy and envy are both created by a cognitive distortion of what you think is happening. We live in a time where social media is the lifeblood of these monsters. We look online and are bombarded by a curated version of everyone’s life and…BAM! Everything starts to get really green really fast! So first, acknowledge when you start to feel that pull toward envy or jealousy. As we said before, these emotions are often felt in a very visceral way, so pay attention to what is happening in your body. Once we can identify that, okay, yes, the monster is starting to get a little closer, we can figure out what to do about it. Perhaps you can take a step back to compare how you felt in your body before you went online as compared to during to afterward. The aforementioned go-to move of your youth—denial, avoidance, or aggression—is not necessary. If you are noticing some moments of jealousy or envy, try to make some space for them or be curious about why they are showing up in this way and in this moment. What is creating a moment of insecurity or want in yourself? Try to challenge some of those thoughts by considering the source. Social media posts tend to be filtered and not a realistic representation of life. So if the fantasy is creating some of those monsters, acknowledge the lack of reality.

The strongest weapon you have against these monsters is gratefulness. American Humorist Josh Billings said, “Love looks through a telescope; envy through a microscope.” If you have love for yourself and your life, you can decrease the overwhelming aspects of jealousy or envy. Those thoughts and feelings are not nearly as strong if you are positive about your own side of the street. A gratitude journal is a great way to turn your focus to what is good in your life instead of focusing on what others have. Tapping into awareness of the nuance in our lives can also be helpful. We aren’t just good or bad, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, etc. So do not get caught up in creating a version of life that is black and white where what you have is bad and what everyone else has is good. Life is always changing and evolving and we can pay attention to the ebb and flow of positives and negatives in ourselves and our lives without getting stuck.

See the Good in Your Monster
Jealous and envy are nasty but we can also see some positive aspects of them. Don’t the Beast or Frankenstein’s Monster stir up some sort of empathy from us when we better understand them and their complexities? When we notice what others have, we can motivate ourselves to try harder or do better. It can push us to strive and not just be complacent with ourselves and our choices. If you feel jealous of a relationship your partner may be having, it could motivate you to be more engaged and engaging. If someone’s work schedule leaves you feeling envious, you may feel empowered to explore your own options. If the monsters move you to a place of motivation or allow you to examine your feelings in a more realistic way, then they are certainly not as bad as we have characterized them.

Take care of yourself and try to have a balanced viewpoint of your life. If monsters appear, you don’t have to be so scared. Maybe with some care and understanding, the jealousy or envy monsters in you will start to look or act different and come around less often.

Dipping a Toe into the Mindful Waters

Posted on: July 30th, 2019 by Lindsey Rogers, LCPC

There is a Buddhist quote: “If you are quiet enough, you will hear the flow of the universe. You will feel its rhythm. Go with this flow. Happiness lies ahead. Meditation is key.” You might read that quote, take in a gentle breath, and feel validation radiate from within. You also might read that quote and have a reaction of intense frustration. You might think to yourself, “Oh great, I just have to clear my mind and be quiet and then I will be happy? Who has time and patience for that?!” Mindfulness can feel incompatible with our busy day-to-day routines or unobtainable in a lofty, self-help way. But there is a lot of evidence of how mindfulness and its formal practice, meditation, can have significant impacts on physical and mental health. Luckily, there are plenty of informal ways to explore mindfulness. So if you are in the non-Zen camp of feeling like meditation is impossible to achieve based on your lifestyle and how busy you are and how many thoughts you have all the time, take a breath (it doesn’t even have to be anything near a “deep, calming breath”) and consider some easy-to-use, practical ways to try on mindfulness. No yoga mat or headstands required.

Get in touch with your senses and inner child
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” When you think of mindfulness in this way, it does not have to seem so scary or unachievable. There is no requirement to clear your mind and void yourself of any thoughts. Formal practice of mindfulness involves guided or self-guided meditation for upwards of 45 minutes. However, being present and paying attention to your experience without judgment is something you can do at any point throughout the day.

The best way to start is to get better acquainted with your five senses. Remember those guys (and can you do it without counting on your hand)? Experiencing moments on a sensory level is a great way to tap into mindfulness. When you are outside, you are bombarded with a sensory experience. We can hear birds, traffic, and the wind through the trees; perhaps smell the grass or flowers in the air when we step outside; and see all of this nature that is moving and changing around us. It is possible to get in those remaining senses of touch and taste outside, too. When we focus on our sensory experience, we can get into that state of paying attention in the present moment. Exploring our sensory experience can, of course, happen inside as well. Eating is a total sensory undertaking and doesn’t just exist for our taste buds. So consider trying out some mindful eating. Can you pause before eating and look at your food, taking it all in visually, or really take in the smells of the various components of your meal? A huge part of Rice Krispies’ appeal is the sound it makes, and the squishiness and texture of a marshmallow definitely make it taste better, right? Appreciate the experience of eating your food for the way it looks and feels in that moment and before you know it, you are being mindful.

Another way to start this mindfulness journey is to put yourself back in the mindset of being a child. If you spend time with children, you know that they see the world with an experience of newness and wonder. Everything is an adventure and an amazing event to explore. Clouds become furry animals or cotton candy confections and a puddle is an ocean inhabited by sea creatures. Kids have a vantage point of always looking up and seeing the world as this big, curious place and they are experts at not judging their own experiences. Watch a toddler bust a move and you will see how they are just feeling that music, feeling themselves, never mind the audience. Children are not worried about the future or caught up in their previous experiences; they are living in the moment and their pursuit is happiness. We can learn a lot from this perspective because of its focus on the now. Okay, okay, we can’t shrink ourselves to a toddler’s size and obviously there are large benefits to maturity, but we can take a lesson from our younger selves to work on embodying the gentle curiosity that comes with mindfulness.

Unplug while you are still plugged in
We spend so much time on our phones and computers and there are a lot of benefits to being so connected throughout the day. We can work from anywhere, anytime, anyplace. We can stay in touch with family and friends despite geographic distance. However, the downside to the technology we are so attached to is that it causes us to feel less present and more detached from ourselves. The more we are present, the less we do things automatically. When we are on autopilot, we are often not fully experiencing a moment. Oftentimes we are looking at all of the emails and texts and social media posts and start to experience negative emotions such as frustration, guilt, or even shame. If we set some healthy boundaries with our technology, we can possibly avoid the negativity that comes with not being present. There are tons of mindfulness applications on your phone so set aside any worries that mindfulness and technology don’t mix.

We can choose to use technology in a mindful way by exerting intention and purpose with it. Instead of constantly looking at your texts and emails without paying attention or even having time to respond, try carving out time to focus on that technology. Maybe you can start a routine of waking up in the morning and delaying looking at your phone until you are out of bed. Maybe you then log on when you are ready to respond and can be aware of what you want to say versus being careless in your responses. Because how many times have you sent off a text while barely paying attention to it? How could your communications be different or better if you took the time to be more focused? Maybe you can shift to having phone-free mealtimes or checking in with yourself first before looking at social media. You don’t have to rid yourself of technology, but if it is keeping you from experiencing something like a nature preserve because you are too busy looking at your phone in order to get the best selfie in front of said nature, then perhaps take a break so you can tap into having a sensory experience. Next time you reach for your phone, first take a breath and notice how your phone feels in your hand before you actually use it. Before you know it, you will be feeling more present even when you are online.

Pay attention to the characters in your world
Another way to get into a state of mindfulness is to examine how we are communicating. We can definitely go on autopilot in the way that we speak or listen in our day-to-day tasks, especially with the people around us who are part of our routine. How often do you mindlessly answer your partner or family member? Or how many times have you been speaking to someone and felt unheard and detached from the conversation? We can spend more time focusing on characters in a movie or television show than we do in our own lives. We can take for granted the importance of active listening and being present in our communication. This is why the active listening that happens in psychotherapy can feel so new and validating. Mindful communication means listening when someone is speaking to you and taking in the whole experience of what they are saying, tone of voice, and body language. It sounds simple, but so often we are thinking about what we are going to say next instead of really listening and being present to whoever is speaking to us. Try out a conversation with someone important to you that involves giving eye contact and really focusing on what they are saying. Then notice what it feels like when you feel heard by someone else. Again, being present in the moments with people around you does not have to be extreme or void of distractions and thoughts. It is simply putting in a little more effort to focus and pay attention.

Mindfulness requires slowing things down and that can be hard to do. We are busy people and the automatic nature of the world can push back on a desire to be present. But by trying out mindfulness here and there, in these small ways as you go about your typical day, you can experience more focus and calmness. Start small and find ways you can be more present in your life.

I Now Pronounce You…Frustrated in Your Marriage

Posted on: August 27th, 2018 by Justin Tobin

Written by Lindsey Rogers, LCPC

Summer is here and wedding season is in full swing. Wedding planning is a billion dollar industry and months, sometimes years can go into creating a memorable day that celebrates a couple’s shared love and affection. But once the cake has been eaten, the last song has been played, and the thank you notes have been sent out, reality can set in. Couples often find themselves adjusting to a life together that they did not anticipate. The day-to-day of how to live together and manage responsibilities often are not given nearly as much attention or care as picking out registry items or deciding on a wedding hashtag. Certainly, unforeseeable circumstances can occur in any relationship, but some pitfalls occur in virtually all marriages, such as how to address the division of labor. No need to be a complete skeptic during your toast to the happy couple, but here is a healthy dose of reality and problem-solving to ensure the wedded bliss witnessed over nuptials does not have an expiration date.

Before the “I Do’s”…Who Is Doing What?
In an ideal world, before the whirlwind ride of “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage,” there comes some serious communication and exchange of expectations. Whether it is about finances, maintaining a home, intimacy, or parenting, it is easy to fall into a trap of feeling frustrated when someone is not doing what you want them to do. But if you never talk about it, your partner can’t know what you are thinking. Everyone is on their own journey with their own set of luggage from their past; maybe what you think is normal and obvious may not be so normal or obvious to your partner. If the rules and expectations aren’t clear, then it’s pretty hard to even play the game, let alone win. So be honest with your partner about what you want or expect. You may not agree, but there is likely room for compromise. The more communicating and compromising that happens, the less room for making assumptions. Maybe some of these topics, like parenthood or home ownership, are way off in the future or you aren’t sure if you have an opinion. That’s fine! But try it on and talk about it and then consider what your partner thinks or feels. As those topics become more real versus just far-off possibilities, make sure you are still checking in with each other versus making assumptions. Also, think about the non-negotiables versus topics you are flexible about. If having a clean house makes you feel less anxious and you can communicate that—the importance of it—that is easier to understand or work with, as opposed to the angry reaction when your spouse doesn’t pick up the dirty clothes off the floor.

Good, bad, or ugly, someone taught us by example (what to do or what not to do) of what marriage or a partnership is like. You may have moved away from your family system and never looked back. You may want to be nothing like them. However, you may think that Sunday evenings when you all had dinner together and then your dad did the dishes was pretty great and want that to be part of your lifestyle now that you are grown. You get to have thoughts and feelings about where you came from and how your family operated and incorporate them into (or excise them from) your lifestyle when you have your own family. But if you don’t take time to think about what is important to you or what you expect (or conversely, what would really bother you) and then share that with your partner, how are they going to know your needs and desires? How will they understand that doing laundry is important when they were raised with a housekeeper who did that for everyone and that makes sense to them?

Maybe you are reading this and thinking wow, great advice if I had a time machine to think about this before I married my spouse years ago. Here’s the thing: It is never too late to communicate. If there is a dynamic in your marriage that you don’t like, talk about it. If there is a dynamic in your marriage that you do like, talk about it. Find some time (when you aren’t arguing or about to go to bed) and check in with each other about how things are going. Start with the strengths—what is going well? Maybe for you, that is telling your husband that you are feeling really great about how much you guys are putting into savings each month. Maybe it is telling your wife that you are happy with how healthy your family has been eating since you haven’t used GrubHub this month. Get the positive stuff out there and then focus on an area you aren’t feeling so great about. Put your grievances out there but ask your spouse for help in devising a solution. At work, you probably have meetings with your boss or your coworkers to check in about how things are going. You likely have a performance review to evaluate how you are contributing. In school, there are report cards and parent-teacher conferences to discuss how a child is achieving. There is no pre-planned check-in to figure out how the marriage is going. So whether it is weekly, monthly, or whenever, get into the habit of asking your partner what they think about the marriage. And then make sure you share your thoughts and feelings as well.

The Honeymoon Is Over
Nothing reminds you more that “happily ever after” is a misnomer than when you realize your partner used the last roll of toilet paper and didn’t replace it. Just like you were thoughtful during the wedding planning, try to continue to think of the other person in your relationship while you are actually married. Your first dance wasn’t just you breaking it down by yourself. Your spouse was your partner for that first spin on the dance floor, so don’t suddenly pretend that person (who also uses the toilet paper) has now disappeared. Being considerate goes a long way.

Maybe you have heard or even doled out the complaints before: “You NEVER initiate sex” or “I hate that I am the one ALWAYS dealing with finances.” Whatever the flavor, the complaint results from a certain dynamic in the relationship that feels pervasive and personal. Sure, it can feel that way, but the truth is, it’s not actually that way. Do not fall into the trap of “always” or “never”-ing someone—no one is that consistent. This is where resentment grows, so something has to give. No one is getting what they want/need when everyone is being shut down with negativity. Where is the motivation to change or do better or differently if someone is telling you that you are doing something wrong not just once but always? Don’t ignore a problem but try to figure out what is contributing to that dynamic. Be a detective and problem-solve with your spouse versus being judge and jury and sentencing them to a lifetime of consistently bad behaviors.

Maybe your frustration is about feeling like you carry the majority of the mental load. It can be overwhelming to be the one who thinks about all the tasks and the dynamics. Life is complicated and often a married couple is responsible for a lot more than just themselves and the relationship. If you are feeling stressed about all the things to remember and do and your spouse looks perfectly engrossed in Netflix and oblivious to your rising frustration, well, I think we can guess how that one turns out. Not good. Again, communication is key. Talk about what you need before you explode, make a list to get organized together, divvy up responsibilities, and have faith that your partner will do what they have agreed to do. Here’s the thing: We are not perfect. That wedding day probably wasn’t perfect either, despite your best efforts to make it so. There are things we cannot control and we make mistakes. But pay attention to what works. It’s easy to focus on the problems or remember when things went wrong. It is often harder to acknowledge what makes things run smoothly in a partnership. Figure out what each of you is good at or what comes easily. For example, maybe finance is not your thing, or perhaps you would rather be good cop versus bad cop with parenting your children. Whatever comes naturally, that will be easy to divide up. Maybe you need to have a state of the union about the relationship every week or maybe you need a shared calendar. Maybe a list of groceries or house projects that is posted for all members of the family to see would work. The point is, be transparent and communicative. Operate like you want every person in your partnership to be successful and you want this thing—your relationship, your marriage—to also be successful.

Keep in mind that what may be important to you may not be important to your spouse. When planning that special day, maybe one person has more thoughts and feelings about the importance of seafood canapés and what the last dance song should be. You cannot expect your spouse to think and feel exactly like you do. Sure, maybe you have tons in common or maybe you could not be more different (after all, opposites attract). Regardless of your dynamic, once you have communicated what you need/want, you cannot expect your spouse to feel the same way. Your #1 on the list of tasks may be your partner’s #25 and that’s okay. All you can do is work through those differences by explaining why something is important or non-negotiable to you. Understanding is the goal, not necessarily agreement.

You’ll Need a Little More than Just Best Wishes
At this point, some say that it is easier to end a marriage than it is to stay together. Getting a divorce is complicated and costly but it is easier and has less shame attached than it did in the past. Yet despite the less-than-stellar odds, people continue to exchange wedding vows. There is still something very attractive (see aforementioned billion dollar industry) to that commitment and the idea of freely declaring your devotion to one another that has continued the idea of marriage and wedded bliss. Regardless of the varying dynamics, somehow a couple manages to compromise and communicate about what to do on their special day. And both people show up and try to be their best selves. So, whether you are about to get married or you’ve been in matrimony for decades, try to put some of that effort from planning the wedding into the marriage. Maybe get a third party like a couples counselor to help you on your journey. Marriage takes work and communication and compromise. But if you and your spouse can continue to exchange your thoughts and feelings just like you did during the planning process and on your big day, you will be celebrating wedding anniversaries for years to come!

How to take your best mental “selfie”

Posted on: March 14th, 2017 by Justin Tobin

Written by: Lindsey Rogers, LCPC

Taking a good “selfie” has become a real art form these days. You have to get the right angle (perhaps using a Selfie-Stick), make sure the lighting is good, and if all else fails, take multiple shots and use countless filters to make that picture your very best. Regardless of what masterpieces are filling up your photo gallery, the mental picture of who we are has a lot of weight in our day-to-day thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. What I am talking about is our self-concept: Our individual perception of our behavior, abilities, and unique characteristics. There are a lot of ways to conceptualize this idea. Some theorists think self-concept is two parts—our personal identity and our social identity, or how we are with ourselves vs. how we are with others. Self-concept is more changeable when we are younger and still going through the process of self-discovery and identity formation. As we age and mature, self-concept become much more detailed and organized as we form a better picture of who we are and what is important to us.

Just like when you are taking a “selfie,” you have to get the right angle; it is important to know your strengths in order to get the most accurate version of your self-concept. The best way to identify your strengths is to be mindful of what you are good at. Think about your day-to-day life, from the time you get up until the time you go to sleep—what is it that comes easily for you? What feels like a natural part of you? Maybe it is that you are a good friend, or a hard worker; maybe you are really great with numbers or a great parent. Paying attention to what comes easily is a good way to work toward identifying your strengths. As you identify those qualities or abilities that come easily but also make you feel proud or experience other positive emotions, that means you are getting a lot closer to tracking down your strengths.

If we think about a “selfie,” often times we think about what is wrong in the photo or why it isn’t quite right. We can be pretty great at our finding flaws. So with a task like coming up with strengths, it can be much easier to focus on your limitations. Or, in the same way, it can be easy to qualify a strength and thereby weaken it. Imagine that internal dialog: “Well, I’m pretty smart…but I really don’t read as much as I used to and argh, some days I just don’t feel that ‘with it,’ so maybe I am not really that smart? Maybe that isn’t a strength of mine.” It is important to notice if you challenge or limit your acceptance of your strengths. More is actually more in this case so try not to downplay or minimize what is truly you!

A lot of times, we form our self-concept based on how other people feel about us. It can be hard to give yourself that compliment or see those strengths. But being happy with ourselves and being mindful of our own strengths is the most important. You can’t be nice to others if you aren’t nice to yourself first. You know on the airplane, they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others? This is what I am talking about! Positive self-talk is a good way to work on being nice to yourself. Self-talk is the conversation we have with ourselves. Most of the time this conversation is not audible. But think about if you had to give a big presentation or a huge performance, what would you be saying to yourself beforehand? Think about the cast of Hamilton or one of the basketball players during the NBA Finals. The dialog in their heads before the curtain lifts or they shoot a free throw has to be positive and inspired. We don’t do well if we tell ourselves to fail.

Keep in mind that positive self-talk is not self-deception. It is not telling yourself lies. It is not looking at a situation with eyes that see only what you want to see. Actually, positive self-talk is about recognizing the truth—in situations and in yourself—and pushing yourself forward versus holding yourself back. It is possible you already have a mantra or something you say to yourself that makes you feel positive and confident. Maybe it is “I’m okay” or “I’m good.” That mental “selfie” can look even better if you keep that positive self-talk going on a regular basis. Remember The Little Engine That Could? What helped him get over the hill? “I think I can, I think I can….” Let’s be real, that train would not have kept going if he were thinking about how terrible he was and giving himself some negative self-talk!

In being kind to ourselves, we really need to adopt the “Inverse Golden Rule.” Children have to learn the Golden Rule as soon as they start interacting with others—treat others the way you would like to be treated. But the inverse is applicable here—treat yourself the way you would treat others. Oftentimes we are way better friends to others than we are to ourselves. It is important to take care of yourself, comfort yourself, value yourself. Just like you would treat someone who is important to you like a friend or family member: If they are having a bad day you would listen, tell them it will be okay, remind them how great they are. Well, we need to do this for ourselves too.

A great routine to get into is to spend some time each day noticing something positive that happened. Or use the notes app on your phone to write down three things you did well that day. What are you proud of? What made you feel happy? What went well? What are you grteful for? Paying attention to the positive aspects of yourself and your life in a deliberate way will foster more positivity. The mental photo gallery that you have of yourself will soon be filled with feelings and thoughts about yourself that are positive and motivating. Before you know it, how you see yourself will change from what needs to be deleted to what needs to be shared.

Healthy Living Starts Now

No matter your obstacles, you don’t have to face them alone. We offer comprehensive support so you can regain control and rebuild your life. To learn more about our services or to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, please call (312) 346-5156

We are in-network with Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO (BCBS PPO)

counselor blue cross blue shield (BCBS)