March 26, 2009

Finding the best within us…

Posted in Between Us column, Relationships at 3:57 am by dinaheng


When the piggy bank is upside down, most of us get stressed out — we can’t sleep, we eat things we shouldn’t, we snap in anger at the slightest slight. We know the signs. We just don’t always know what to do about them.

Judith Orloff, M.D., a psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, has several suggestions on how to deal with stressful situations in her new book, “Emotional Freedom” (Harmony Books, $24.95), an interesting take on how to turn negative emotions into positive ones.

Orloff, who’s trained in conventional medicine, also practices intuitive healing, using psychic impressions to diagnose and treat patients. Her book looks at the biological, spiritual, energetic, and intuitive aspects of emotions, giving tools to better understand and cope with whatever we’re feeling.

“I wrote the book because the world is in the midst of an emotional meltdown, along with the financial crisis,” Orloff says. “I was taught to prescribe medications in conventional medicine, but wanted to present other options to deal with emotions in addition to medication. 

“In order to understand depression or anxiety, you have to tap into the still, small voice inside. You need to ask, how can this help me grow?”

Now that’s the question we all need to ask whenever we’re upset, because feelings exist to help us grow. Anger tells us when we are judging another. Guilt teaches us we are judging ourselves. Fear shows us the limits of our love.

The challenge of negative emotions is not letting ourselves get stuck in the muck. If a family member always pushes your buttons, taking the time to figure out why will stop the aggravation faster than just avoiding the person. If a boss intimidates you with cutting sarcasm, confronting the behavior calmly may teach your boss something as well.

Whatever we’re feeling radiates out into the universe. Some of us may think we hide our emotions well, but to knowing hearts, the energy we transmit is always felt.

Orloff’s book gives self-tests for discovering your dominant emotional type, which Orloff breaks down into four categories:

* the intellectual, who takes a cerebral approach to feelings;

* the empath, an emotional sponge who tends to take on the emotions of others;

* the gusher, who lets feelings out all the time, and

* the rock, who’s steady and responsible, and lacks fire in emotions.

Once you understand how you process emotions, you can turn the negative ones into positive ones.

“For example, it’s about transforming fear into courage,” Orloff says. “Without fear, we’d never learn how to be courageous.”

It takes courage to explore our emotions, and with stress escalating in the workplace, we all need to learn how to take a deep breath and let it out.

“As a therapist, I’ve never seen so much stress, worry and fear in people,” Orloff says. “People don’t know how to deal with fear. They get mesmerized by it, become addicted to it, focus on it, and feed it. Don’t focus on the fear.

“For example, if you’ve lost a job and are going through depression, stay in the now and focus on solution-oriented steps that set positive change into motion. Focus on what you can do, rather than what you’re afraid of.”

Constantly focusing on fear, Orloff says, decreases serotonin, a natural antidepressant, in the body. 

“You get agitated, don’t sleep well, and it creates a vicious cycle,” she says. “Focus on what you have to be grateful for while you’re trying to solve the problem.”

These may feel like uncertain times, but we don’t have to fixate on the uncertainty. No matter what may give us pause, imagine how different the world would be if we thought of this as being the best time of our lives. 

After all, the best is always inside us. We just don’t always feel it.


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