Celebrating Differences


Psychology for Living

Gwen Randall-Young

Built into our culture is a natural tendency to compare ourselves with others. From the time a child starts first grade, he or she becomes aware of subtle, or not-so-subtle evaluations and placements. Whether the teacher is showing an example of ‘good work’, or the pecking order is being established on the playground, each child has a sense of where he or she stands in relation to others.

As we grow up in a society that fosters consumerism, the goal of advertising is to make us feel like we need more – that what we have, or where we are in life, is not good enough. Further, with media focus on unrealistic standards of style and beauty, it is easy to feel on the ‘outside’. This is the complete opposite of how it should be.
Every individual is unique, and in that uniqueness is something rare and special. Other than snowflakes, I cannot think of aspects of nature that are truly one-of-a-kind. Something wonderful happens when we celebrate what is ‘different’ about each of us. It is the differences that define us, and differentiate us from all others.

Think of the people in your life, and what you like about them. My guess is you will find it is something that is different from anyone else. Think of what is different about you. Consider celebrating that aspect of your being or even finding more ways to express it. If the creator intended us to be the same, there would have been no need for so many different molds.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit http://www.gwen.ca


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Family Estrangement

How nice it would be if everyone could have a storybook family. Unfortunately, few do. Many families suffer from the pain of having one member who wants nothing to do with the rest. Often it is one of the grown children. The parents and siblings feel the loss, almost like a death. There are feelings of guilt. Family gatherings are always a sad reminder of the fractured relationships. Sometimes efforts to heal the rift only make things worse. 

What is the best way to handle this situation? First off, we must release the notion of obligation. If we think that any adult is responsible for the happiness of the rest of the family we are locked in a codependent stance. If the family were as perfect as we might like the world to think it is, then it would not have an estranged member.
An individual may distance from the family for a variety of reasons.

It may be that past hurts are too painful, and being around the family brings them all to the surface. In order to keep stability and balance in his or her life, the individual may need to back away for a time. It might be that the family is currently dysfunctional. If the individual feels judged or criticized by the rest of the family, or if one or more members has an addiction or anger problem, it may simply be more than the individual is willing to cope with.

Sometimes the difficulty is with the partner of the estranged person. If the partner has not been accepted by the family, it becomes awkward for everyone. It becomes easier just to stay away.

The hardest possibility to deal with may be that the individual does not like the family. As people get out into the world, they meet others, and their values, preferences and even their personalities may change. We cannot command others to like us, or to want to spend time with us. If we become angry and demand explanations, they will be driven farther away. If we keep pursuing them, after they have made their wishes for space quite clear, they will take even more space.

In situations like this, sometimes the best thing we can do is to respect the needs of the other. If we let them know they are important to us and will always be welcome in our lives, chances are time may heal things.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit http://www.gwen.ca


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When We Are Upset

Gwen Randall-Young

We have all had the experience of being so upset with a partner or child that regardless of how much love we have for the person, at that moment it is hard to like them. It can be an almost frightening feeling to wonder if you even like your spouse or your child. You do not want to feel that way, but it can be hard to shift the energy.

What is happening here is that our attention has become focused on a characteristic or behavior in that person that we do not like. The more we think about it, the more magnified that undesirable part becomes. Further, it may remind us of someone in our past, or even more disturbing, of some part of ourselves we do not like (although the latter may be unconscious). The result is that we begin to distance from the person, and perhaps even become angry because they are not fitting with the image of who we want them to be.

At this time, however, we are not seeing who they really are. Instead, we are viewing a negative characteristic (or one we dislike) under the magnifying glass of our own emotional reactions, and projecting that onto them as though is the totality of their being. No wonder we become stressed and unhappy! We can shift our perceptions, and when we do, our feelings will shift accordingly.

Take the example of a child with whom you have been completely exasperated Finally you get the child to bed, and have a little time to yourself, to relax and calm down. Later on you peek in on the sleeping child, who now looks like a complete angel, and you forget the frustrations of the day as your heart overflows with love. It is the same child, but we are seeing the innocence as opposed to the frustrating behavior.

A similar strategy can be used to move back into a place of love even in the midst of conflict or struggle. Instead of playing over and over in our minds a litany of complaints about the one who is irritating us, we can remind ourselves of that individual’s good points. We may even have to take a time out, forcing ourselves to sit down and write at least ten things that we love and appreciate about the person. We may still be angry, but at least our thinking will be a little more balanced.

If we feel we have to work through our concerns with that individual, it can be very powerful to first share those positives with him or her. It can be devastating for anyone to think they are being defined in strictly negative terms. If we are upset with another, they too may forget that there are things we appreciate about them. Counting to ten slows down our reaction time, but may not change the reaction. Counting ten good things may transform not only the situation, but the relationship as well.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit http://www.gwen.ca

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist.  For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit http://www.gwen.ca


BACK to margotbworldnews.com