The ancient Greeks believed that books were psychologically and spiritually vital, often posting signs over their library doors which proclaimed them “healing places for the soul.” C.S. Lewis is attributed with saying “We read to know we are not alone.” And James Baldwin once wrote: “It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
Most any introvert will probably tell you she has found great great solace in books, that there have been times when they’ve saved her life. I know, for me, both fiction and nonfiction have gotten me through bad times and helped me see things from a completely different perspective so that I could improve my situation.
Recently, I discovered The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness, 751 Books To Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin. It may sound pat or like a joke book, but I kid you not, there are lots of helpful things in here on surviving everything from adolescence to apathy (once you get past your indifference to pick up the book).
I found the “love, unrequited” section absolutely fascinating, both for personal reasons and because, through the ages, it’s been a staple of many a fascinating novel.
Actress Jennifer Lawrence said once in an interview that when she likes someone a lot, “I’m terrified of them instantly. I’m not scared of them — I’m scared of me and how I will react.” That’s easily understandable, if you ask me. Whether you’re not sure how someone feels about you or you’re afraid that your pitiful attempts at a poker face will give you away, it’s a lot to process. If you are able to keep it together the whole time, you’re underwater, and you suffer in silence. It’s when you start acting out on your feelings when it becomes an entirely different, much more embarrassing situation (obviously not a good thing).
In an ideal world, crushes would be left far, far behind in high school and, as full-grown adults, we’d never ever have to face them again. Unfortunately, we sometimes may find ourselves moving from a simple crush to liking someone who doesn’t feel the same. And to make it worse that can happen in situations that are particularly trying, where you’re forced to be around that person on a regular basis.
“Unrequited love is a particular kind of love that can only ever go one way.” The authors of The Novel Cure write, and further ask, “How can the object of your love see anyone worth loving return when you are willing to throw yourself at his or her feet, exposed and bleeding like a piece of uncooked meat?”
In the novel Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, a young Swedish pianist suddenly declares his undying adoration for the soprano with whom he is traveling. It’s enough to make the singer wince in discomfort and Patchett adds, “The kind of love that offers its life so easily, so stupidly, is always the love that is not returned.” Moments like this are just plain cringe-worthy, for both parties.
Urban Dictionary defines a crush as “a burning desire to be with someone who you find very attractive and extremely special.” Crushes can generate barely controllable reactions — like feeling super shy and inexplicably giddy at the same time. You can’t choose who you have a crush on, but you can choose how you react once you figure out that you have a crush on someone. This is particularly true with highly sensitive people who can gravitate (on no conscious part) to highly impossible, overwhelming crushes or love. The absurdity of romantic love and how much pain we put ourselves through over it comes to light here in a way I’ve never seen before. As Anouchka Grose writes in Why Do Fools Fall In Love: A Realist’s Guide To Romance, “love is just mad.”
In fiction (most of the time) unrequited love turns out to be a complete misunderstanding and both parties discover they really do like each other. “It’s an experience of an unbearable absence,” writes Grose.
But there is help and hope because as one wiki on unrequited love states: “it’s hard to really, truly love someone when it’s all one-sided.” It’s not love, it cannot fully love the way we know it, the way we’re successful and happy in it, unless it’s reciprocated. Coming to a point where you accept this is one of the first steps towards getting your rollercoaster heart back on track.
In David G. Amen’s Unleash The Power Of The Female Brain, he shares research from the University Of Michigan which shows that people suffering rejection in love (whether through a breakup or unrequited feelings) have areas activated in their brain that are the same parts for responsible for physical pain.
Sometimes the writers of The Novel Cure spare no feelings. They won’t meander around the barn or soft shoe what they have to tell you because in cases like this someone needs to knock some sense into you. One passage that speaks to the part where you actually start to get over that crush:
“If the love you feel is not returned, pause in your foolish gushing and ask yourself the following question: in your eagerness to love, have you made yourself unlovable, lacking in self-respect? If the answer is yes, you’ll be incapable of inspiring more than a guilty no. Buck up. Look yourself in the eye and tot up your return. Then demonstrate that worth with the sort of behavior that someone as wonderful as the person you love surely deserves in return.”
In this case, I think some tough love is just what the doctor would order.
The Novel Cure suggests these titles may soothe the troubled soul:
Here are some helpful online articles and sites you might want to browse:
Why Unrequited Love Is Actually Good For You
Love Advice For Guys-Dealing With Unrequited Love
How To Handle The Pain of Unrequited Love
Loving Someone Who Doesn’t Love You Back: How to Get
Unrequited Love: Making A Bigger Fool Out Of Yourself
April is also Alcohol Awareness Month, and has been designated as such by the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) since April of 1987. For over 28 years, this organization, which was founded in 1944, has been tirelessly fighting to support, educate, and help individuals, and their loved ones overcome the negative effects of substance abuse. Widespread awareness on responsible alcohol consumption, as well as the consequences of irresponsible use and the triggers/motives that lead to abuse, are ways in which individuals can empower themselves with beneficial knowledge on how to avoid becoming a victim of alcoholism.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, alcoholism has been defined as “a chronic progressive potentially fatal psychological and nutritional disorder associated with excessive and usually compulsive drinking of ethanol and characterized by frequent intoxication leading to dependence on or addiction to the substance, impairment of the ability to work and socialize, destructive behaviors (as drunken driving), tissue damage (as cirrhosis of the liver), and severe withdrawal symptoms upon detoxification.”
The pervasiveness and widespread use of alcohol in our society creates a Pandora’s Box effect, in which the presence of certain factors in an individual may easily lead them from a point of control to one of no return. It seems that alcohol’s persistent popularity is due in part to cultural and social ties that are taught, learned, and reinforced through social media, and common traditions/celebrations. A few examples of settings where alcohol is not only readily available, but also strongly encouraged, are: college and university campuses around the country; sporting events and tail-gating gatherings; momentous life-defining celebrations, such as weddings; parties of all sorts aka the “we just want to party” party; the legendary post-work happy-hour; weekday/weekend restaurant, bar, lounge, club outings; coming home after a long day at work and helping oneself to a “cold one” or a glass of wine. Alcohol consumption in the aforementioned settings demonstrates just a handful of socially “acceptable” places where the ingrained social cues to partake in the act of drinking come into place.
According to the World Health Organization, harmful use of alcohol causes 2.5 million deaths worldwide each year. Therefore, abuse of the ole “giggle water” (early 20th century reference to an intoxicating beverage; alcohol) is truly no laughing matter, and one’s use should be approached with caution and respect. It is easy to lose sight of the detrimental effects it can wreak on the mind, the body, and the spirit when consumed to excess. From a historical standpoint, drinking, in all its multifaceted and two-faced glory, has been a liquid witness to some of the greatest joys and the most heart-wrenching tribulations for many people around the world; we drink it to feel happy, we drink it when we are mad, and we drink it if we are sad. Through these behaviors we reaffirm the power and position of alcohol in our society and culture. And it’s through straightforward and realistic education regarding alcohol use that young people can learn to mature into responsible consumers of alcohol (if they so choose). Boring lectures about alcohol that likens it to the big bad wolf of Little Red Riding Hood fame may not be received with enough serious attention; however, a live Q & A with someone that has experienced and survived the devastating effects of alcoholism may prove rather eye-opening.
There are currently many resources and services within Howard County that are available to those who feel they may be struggling with their ability to manage or control their use of alcohol. The Howard County Department of Health provides substance abuse and addiction services; Howard County General Hospital often provides classes and ongoing support groups regarding substance and/or alcohol abuse; Alcoholics Anonymous (Al-anon/Alano) meetings are held at the Serenity Center, and other locations; Howard County Mental Health Authority provides an extensive list of individual and group addiction counseling/therapy locations. Exploring each of the many resources available can be helpful, in order to discover what works for one’s personal goals towards recovery.
Let us take the time this month to reflect on our own personal relationship with alcohol, or reach out to someone in our lives who may be struggling with alcohol abuse right now. While there are many helpful resources for individuals, there are also plenty of resources available for their friends and family, i.e. Smart Recovery for family friends and Al Anon Family Groups.
Alcohol can be enjoyed with control and moderation. However, when drinking takes a dark turn, and abuse and addiction surfaces, seek the help you need. Just remember, you’re never alone.
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” I call to mind those resonant lines from the film The Help, in honor of International Boost Self-Esteem Month. I’ve just recently discovered that this month long observation existed, and I’m quite pleased to know that at least one month of the year (February) is set aside for something so important (in my opinion).
Self-esteem is something so integral to our overall mental and emotional well-being, and as such, should be nurtured and tended to often. How we feel about ourselves is a tenuous thing with the propensity of being influenced and affected by myriad factors. Just because our youthful days of impressionable naiveté are but a snug memory, doesn’t mean we cease to be exposed to stuff and people that can cause us to feel either a little bigger or a little smaller. Our boss, our loved ones, our friends, and even strangers can say or do something that seems to literally suck a little of our life force right out. Bit by bit, the toxic things that chip away at our spirit can stir up negative emotions that have wider implications on our health and happiness.
Like a plant reaching for and thriving in the sunlight, we should reach for those things and people that fill us with innate joy and happiness. The strength of the joy we build from within serves as the armor to defend us against the poison that aims to break us down. And mind you, sometimes that poison can come in the form of negative thoughts we ourselves create and believe. The point is that each of our lives is valuable and important, and we should never cease to be true to ourselves and those we care for. Our individuality, our differences, our very unique essence should be celebrated and reaffirmed by positive means. The children’s book, Incredible You! : 10 Ways to Let Your Greatness Shine Through, communicates this concept in such clear and simple ways. I urge you to grab a copy from your local Howard County Library System branch when you have a chance. It truly doesn’t take a peer-reviewed journal article or a doctoral thesis to state the case that we do harness the power of our thoughts, and the key to our happiness.
Feeling good about oneself, and having good self-esteem, is a foundation established in early youth. As we mature, we must nurture our spirit in our own unique way, by doing the things and being with those who encourage our greatness to shine. And if we’ve tried, and can’t seem to overcome the crippling thoughts, then we must seek out professional guidance. Life is too short to be plagued by low self-esteem.
So how do you feel about yourself today? What are the things you can do to nurture your self-esteem?
Rewiring Your Neural Pathways of Emotion
Bridget Hughes, licensed acupuncturist, Qigong instructor, meditation teacher, and owner of Healing Point Acupuncture & Healing Arts in the Medical Pavilion at Howard County has spent the last two decades looking at the many ways our mind-body connection enhances (or undermines) our health. Hughes calls the mind-body connection our “greatest yet least tapped personal resource for health,” and considers the best key to unlock that resource to be meditation.
“To meditate in such a way that the biochemistry of the body changes profoundly enough to support improved health,” Hughes describes, “a person must learn to reliably access resourceful and beneficial feeling states. This meditation isn’t what people typically expect; it’s not emptying the mind or focusing on the breath,” says Hughes. Rather, she describes her meditation technique to be more like “getting the right feeling song stuck in your head.” To further clarify, she quotes Paracelsus, the famous 15th century physician, “The spirit is the master, the imagination the tool, and the body the plastic material.” Hughes remarks, “We’ve known since at least the 15th century that using our mind, our heart, and our spirit changes our bodies. It is up to us to do it.”
On March 12th from 7:00-8:30PM, Hughes will teach us how. In a free community offering Rewiring Your Neural Pathways of Emotion, Hughes will teach us how to find the feeling states that scientists have shown change our biochemistry, neurotransmitters, and immune system, and how to use those feelings as a basis for a meditation practice. Says Hughes, “Meditation must be something we can practice as we are driving in rush hour traffic, and as we are dealing with a confrontative boss or colleague. The fruits of our efforts must be accessible right in the midst of our busy, challenging lives.”
Hughes explains that anything practiced over time changes the brain. “Rewiring Your Neural Pathways” is the result. “People intuitively know that anger, disgust, depression, and overwhelm are bad for their health” says Hughes. “They also can sense that states like love and gratitude can improve health. What they don’t know is how to change states, especially when life is frought with hardship. Many of us grapple with anger, depression, anxiety, or stress every day. For meditation to be most useful, it must be effective irrespective of how difficult the circumstances of life may be.” Hughes cites a passage from Maxwell Maltz’s Psycho-Cybernetics to describe her approach to meditation, “Feelings cannot be directly controlled by willpower. They cannot be voluntarily made to order or turned on and off like a faucet. If they cannot be commanded, however, they can be wooed…Remember that feeling follows imagery.”
“We are using imagery to woo the feelings that change the biochemistry” says Hughes. “Through such a meditation practice, we engage our greatest hidden resource for wellness: the power of our mind and the mind-body connection to heal.”
Class info: Wednesday, March 12th 2014 from 7-8:30 p.m. Howard County General Hospital: Johns Hopkins Medicine Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia, Maryland 21044. To register: (410) 740-7601. Free.
One of the struggles of living with a chronic condition, in my case rheumatoid arthritis (RA), is that when I’m feeling bad physically it leaks into my attitude and feelings about my self-worth. When I have a lot of joint pain and stiffness, after an extreme day (or several) I start feeling badly about myself.
My husband notices that how I talk changes, I’m more negative and down on myself. I blame myself for ridiculous things, like rainy weather or traffic delays. Everything I observe becomes clouded in gray and gloom.
I really can’t explain what happens because my usual self is annoyingly upbeat and optimistic. Somehow the weight of my chronic pain tips the scale and permeates my mind, poisoning it against myself. On these days, having a supportive outside observer, like my husband, really helps because he gently reminds me that I’m getting down on myself. With his observations, I’m better able to see through the clouds and recognize that it’s not me talking, it’s the RA.
When I’m able to see the mental cloud for what it is, I’m better able to recognize the problem and combat it with some strategies I’ve developed for myself.
- Positive self talk.
When I’m aware of the negative self-talk, I work to turn it around by speaking positively instead. No self-insults or criticisms allowed! Instead, I remind myself to speak sweet nothings of positivity and compliments. “You may feel bad, but you’re coping well.” “Don’t listen to the gremlins, remember how far you have come, how hard you have worked.” It may seem silly, but after you say nice things to yourself you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.
- Treats and rewards.
On bad days, sometimes I need a treat just for getting through it. Maybe a little chocolate, maybe listening to some favorite music. Rewards for managing tough days are vital for picking up my spirits. Sometimes I promise myself the reward or treat at the beginning of the day, other times it may be an impromptu decision. The point is to remember to treat yourself well, especially on the most difficult days.
- Taking a break.
Sometimes I just need to cut myself a break. I’m not perfect—no one is. And I can’t control my disease and a lot of other things about life. Remembering to be gentle with myself is important because I am my harshest critic. So in these moments I have to take a breath, let it go, and give myself a break. Tomorrow is another day and I can hope for better.
On Valentine’s Day remember that you also need to treat yourself well, try a little self-kindness and gentleness. When the negativity gets started, it can make you feel worse and harm your health. Some mental grooming may help with coping on bad days.
Here are a few books to help get you started with simple ways to take care of yourself.
I’m no relationship expert – in fact I feel a bit weird writing an article about relationships. My husband and I have been together for seven years and married for almost a year and a half. It’s no time at all when compared to the 30+ year marriages I hear about! However, we have a pretty healthy relationship and we’re aware of the ways in which we’ve improved in the past few years. I attribute most of our success to our ability to communicate and our mutual respect for each other. We’ve grown as people and as a couple since we’ve been together, and I thought I’d share what we’ve learned. Thanks to The Book of Love and Passionate Marriage for helping frame the following tips.
Respect one another. You likely have different strengths (and weaknesses) and together you can both benefit from those strengths and aid each other in overcoming your weaknesses. You both bring something vital and equally important to the relationship, and both partners should recognize and appreciate that.
Communicate. Discuss your day, big and little annoyances, interesting things you’ve come across, as well as problems. My husband and I always try to keep each other involved in decisions and informed on how we’re feeling. This way, nothing is a huge surprise and we’ve been discussing any little issues long before they become big problems.
Be kind. It’s easier to be rude or mean to people who are close to you, but that’s no excuse to treat your partner poorly. When I’m stressed, I snap at those closest to me, and I’ve been trying hard to stop that inappropriate treatment and apologize for it whenever I realize I have done so. Relating to that…
Forgive. Don’t hold grudges. “Don’t go to bed angry” is common advice and that’s because it makes a lot of sense. It’s basically a reminder not to dwell on frustrations or fights. You’re in this together and once you’ve discussed an issue, try to come to a conclusion concerning it, even if it takes a few conversations. One thing we do either in the midst of an argument or before one can escalate is step back and figure out what it’s really about. We aren’t actually fighting because the floor didn’t get vacuumed, but because of some previous underlying issue or even an outside problem.
Hang out. Enjoy each other’s company often. That can be in the form of date nights out, nights in watching a movie, or just going to bed early at the same time so you can unwind alongside one another. You wouldn’t be together if you didn’t like each other!
Try new things together. Don’t let boredom or restlessness negatively affect your relationship.Try new things, even if it’s just a new restaurant. Stay involved in each other’s lives. If you think you aren’t spending enough time together, discuss a new activity you’d like to try together like a gym class or guitar lessons, or even just watch a new TV show together – we have a lot of those at the library!
Maintain your identity and work on yourself. Don’t rely on the other person to figure you out or fix all your issues. Keep working on yourself individually as well as together. Your partner is there to support you, not solve all your problems.
Celebrate and recognize the uniqueness of your relationship. Try not to let other people’s perceptions affect your relationship. You and your partner may not be a traditional couple, or you might do things your own way, and that’s fine. Do what works for you and keep doing it as long as it keeps working. You are individuals who work uniquely from other people, and you know yourselves best.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means and while there are no absolute guarantees or hard and fast tricks to keeping a relationship healthy, it’s clear the essential element is the two of you working together.
Please comment below and share your tips to keeping your relationship happy and healthy!