Podcast Episode 81 – Unhealthy Relationships, Choosing Emotions and More

Jul 3, 2023 | Podcast

I’m Diana Swillinger, and you’re listening to Episode 81 of The Renew Your Mind Podcast. Difficult Relationships, Choosing Emotions, and more. 

DIANA: Hey. Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode. I have Rianon with me today. Hey, Rianon. Hello. How’s it going? 

Rianon: Good. I, uh, do just have a little bit of a cold. 

DIANA: Okay. 

Rianon: To warn you if I’m coughing or sound a little congested, but I’m doing good. 

DIANA: I can’t catch it over video, so I feel totally fine about your cold. All right, well, I’m just going to give the reins to you. Let’s just talk. I’ll just mention these have become my most popular episodes on the podcast because I can see the number of downloads that I get per episode. And every time we record one, within two days, the numbers that our episodes together get it surpasses like all the other ones. So, uh, sometimes, like, two to one, these are the most popular episodes, and I think it’s because you bring thoughts and questions from listeners, but then you also get to help bolster where they’re coming from and their perspectives. And so I really appreciate that. So I’m very excited to dive in and get to some more questions. 

Rianon: Okay, so the first question that I have is in relation to a post that you made in the Renew Your Mind Facebook group, um, which said, if you could feel more of one emotion, what would it be? Um, and you had a whole bunch of different responses. And not surprisingly, positive emotions are typically what people want to feel. 

DIANA: Nobody asked to feel more frustration? 

Rianon: I don’t think so. But I don’t know, I guess you have had a few clients that have asked for some of those tougher ones, right? 

DIANA: Um, I had one asked, uh, to practice being uncomfortable, which is really yes, being willing to sit with any of those uncomfortable emotions, really, which is a skill. And I don’t think anyone should be asking for those from the start. I think that’s kind of like next level mind renewal. Like, I’ve gotten okay feeling disappointed. It doesn’t even bother me. It’s not a problem. And I’m less afraid to do things that could bring uncomfortable emotions because I’m okay having them. But anyway, we all start with wanting to feel more positive ones, and that’s fine. That’s the best way to practice and get started. What’s the question? 

Rianon: Okay, so this question is from Carla, and she says, how do we feel more of the emotions you asked us about? 

DIANA: Well, I mean, just could be any did you write down any of those emotions, do we know what some of them are? 

Rianon: so, let’s see, there’s energized, confident, love, um, content, enthusiasm, fulfillment, humility, jubilance. Um, those are some of the ones that I’m seeing here. 

DIANA: Yeah. Yes. Emotions come from our thoughts mostly. Like, I always leave room for the Holy Spirit to impress emotion and feeling upon us. But even if somebody else does something that we think makes us feel something, like, oh, when you do that, you make me feel so mad. No, when you do that, I have thoughts that you shouldn’t be acting that way. You should know me better or something. There’s some thoughts happening very quickly and then I feel mad. But somebody could say things about me, anything, and I could think something different. Instead of thinking, oh, you shouldn’t be saying that to me, or how dare you? Or whatever, I could think. I think they’re having a tough time right now, mhm. The way they’re talking to me makes me really think they’re having a tough time right now. I bet that’s true. And then I could feel compassion instead. So how are we going to feel any of those emotions is going to come from changing our thoughts. I just gave an example on feeling compassion, right? If we want to feel more humility, it’s going to come from having thoughts that you’re no better than I am. 

I’m no better than you are. You’re no worse than I am. I’m no worse than you are. We are humans who have equal amount of fallibility and mistakes, and equal amount of value and worth. And here we are together, doing life. I think that’s like, where true humility rests. And we’re not going to feel that unless we actually believe that. Mhm. And I know there’s a lot of other layers in here. We’re never just in a moment, let me stop the world. Time stops and I can think just one thought. Our brains are like supercomputers that are offering us multiple thoughts at one time. So it can be hard to figure out exactly what thought should I be thinking, or what thought is sabotaging me. Because sometimes that’s the case too. Uh, so, uh, this is a process. So it is a great question. How do we feel more of these? And the simple answer is to think a thought that allows you to generate that emotion. But actually executing that can be what’s challenging. Because, uh, we get neural pathways in our brain. We’re used to thinking certain stories. Neural pathways, basically, just like the road well traveled. Um, if you think of a thought train in the movie Inside Out, it’s the train of thought. Like, it has a set track. It goes on if you take it off the track, it’s like, I have no idea where to go, I need to go on the track. But we can create new neural pathways. 

We can create a new train track for our thought. It just takes consciousness and effort. The biggest place to start with is being aware. If you want to feel more love, start with what m am I feeling now instead of love? Mhm? What am I thinking now that is making me feel something that’s not love? If I wanted to feel love, what kind of thought might I think? What’s a time in the past that I felt love? What was I thinking at that moment? Can I take a thought similar to that and apply it to now? So it’s a lot of self, uh, awareness, seeing what’s going on in your head and being curious and then switching to something new. I mean, I help people come up with new thoughts all the time. But one of the and I just said it, so I’ll just reiterate this again, one of the tricks I use is to think of a time that I have felt that emotion that I want and try to tap into what might I have been thinking at that time? A real quick example, and then we can go on to the next question. But a few years ago when I was coaching someone, she had a preteen daughter who was coming into the kitchen in the morning before school in clothes that mom did not feel were appropriate. So daughter walks in the room and mom has a thought about her clothes. And she starts feeling angry and frustrated. And the thoughts like, I told her not to wear those and she’s wearing them again. She’s totally disobeying me. And then she feels angry. And then she says, I’ll just call the daughter Sally. Sally, what are you doing wearing that? You know you’re not supposed to go get changed now. And then Sally’s like and they’re now in um, friction and argument and contentious situation. And she didn’t want to feel angry or frustrated with her daughter because she could see that wasn’t helping it. And it just felt terrible. And it wasn’t helping the moment, it wasn’t helping the relationship. And I asked her what she wanted to feel and she wanted to feel love. So I’m um like, well, you can’t think, what is she doing? She’s disobeying me. How dare she? 

That’s not going to feel like love. And what we ended up getting to was, instead of thinking about the clothes, how can I think about her wearing those clothes and feel love? Like, well, uh, what if you don’t? What if you just think about her? So Sally walks in the room and you just think, there’s Sally. I love Sally. I love seeing Sally’s face in the morning. Something like that. And then I said, what would you feel? She said love. Perfect. Now, from that space of love, you can go on and address her outfit like, hey sweetie, it’s so great to see you this morning. I, uh, see you’re wearing a crop top. And we just don’t wear crop tops to school. You can wear it around the swimming pool in summer, but not to school. So head back in your room and change and then we can have breakfast. Totally different response and feeling love. And then even if Sally bucks up back at you, you can still stay in a space of feeling love if you keep practicing this kind of thing. So see times in the past that you have felt that feeling you want to feel more of. See what kind of thoughts you use to generate it, then see if you can apply them to now and just practice. 

Rianon: Mhm, yeah, I remember when I was coaching with you and kind of had the awareness kind of thing, and then it was like immediately I was like, well, I don’t want to feel that way anymore, I want to feel this. But it was like, you’re like, hold on, hold on. I don’t know, I think about how sometimes we need to process through the emotions we’re actually having before we move on to those positive emotions too. Because sometimes we judge ourselves or we think, I don’t want to feel that way, or, uh, I don’t know, some kind of form of rejecting that, which actually does not help us get to where we want to go. So I don’t know, that’s what I thought of with my experience coaching with you. How it’s like, okay, now I get it. Let’s go now. More joy, more peace. It’s like, uh, it doesn’t work that way. 

DIANA: Yeah. And I could get into a really long discussion on that because I feel like we’re more in integrity and we’re less hypocritical and we’re more authentic as Christians, as humans, as God’s children, when we actually allow the emotions. That we’re having not act out of them and react from them and go out and do whatever, but allow them as part of our human experience. Another person I coached this week, I’m like, stop pushing away the feeling of disgust. Let yourself feel disgust. That’s where you’re going to find the integrity. She was resisting it so much that she’s like and the thought keeps coming and then I want to feel disgust, or it would bring up disgust, but I don’t want to feel disgust because then I would be a hypocritical Christian, because I shouldn’t feel disgusted at someone else. That’s not right. And she had this big inner battle. Well, the real freedom to it was allowing herself to process that disgust from whatever situation was happening in her life. Mhm, give that space, be real, honor yourself, and then move through it, and then you get to pick. Now I don’t want to stay in disgust for that person. I want to move to compassion. Now that I’ve allowed that to be there, I’m ready to do that. 

Rianon: Right. 

DIANA: And, uh, it’s so much easier and no resistance. Yeah. 

Rianon: All right, the next question that we have is from Anne and she wants to know how to stay healthy in an unhealthy relationship. 

DIANA: Uh, it’s a really good question when I get a question like this. I think I’ve probably been somewhat authentic out there because this is my life. I have worked many years to try to improve relationships in my life when the other person isn’t changing. So I’ve had a boss, I’ve had my marriage, I’ve had a, uh, sister friendship. Uh, I’ve had lots of practice where the relationship was difficult or some unhealthy things were happening and I wanted to be okay regardless of what the other person was doing. Let’s see, what are a couple I’m just trying to think of the ways that are um, the first thing I’m thinking is have your own back, which I’m going to explain, um, which is love. And I’m making notes so I can hit these because this is a layered question. 

Have your own back. Have love and compassion for yourself. Have humility. Um, and accept what is. There might be a lot of other strategies here, but let me talk on these three. So in a difficult relationship, a lot of times what we’re doing is we’re looking for value or worth or appreciation or support or encouragement or validation from the other person so that we can feel okay with ourselves. And so this difficult relationship feels really terrible because we’re making it mean all sorts of things about ourselves. They don’t understand me, so they don’t accept me. They’re not appreciating me. They’re always mad at me. They don’t want to connect with me. Feels like they’re always judging me, whatever the story is. And then we internalize that against ourselves. Like, mhm, something’s wrong with me. Why can’t I get this right? Why can’t I communicate better? Why can’t I get them to understand? And it’s painful as we shame ourselves. Oh, there’s so many things going through my head because this is such an involved question. There’s no way we’re going to get it done. 

Rianon: I love that you just mentioned Shame, because I just recently had a situation like this. Uh, I was trying to figure out too, what I was feeling. And at first it was anger, but I was like, okay, anger is a secondary emotion. There’s something underneath it. And I finally was like, it’s shame. 

DIANA: Yeah, it’s shame. 

Rianon: So, uh, I’m glad you said that because I was like, yes, that totally makes sense because that’s what’s going on. 

DIANA: In that oh my gosh. It’s at the core of everything. Honestly, when we are feeling shame and we’re taking the load of the relationship on ourselves, we’re taking responsibility for the relationship on ourselves, and we’re assigning all that pain to us, like, I’m screwing it up. I’m not doing this right. Uh, and that’s painful. This is where I was saying there’s so much else we could talk about. Because I also want to say the other reason we have pain is because we want our needs to be met. We want to feel that love. We want to feel that connection. We want to feel valued. 

All these things that we want to be validated as a person, God put that in us. It’s really, really a big burning desire in us that ultimately we use our relationship with God to realize all of our value and worth, regardless of what all the people around us are doing. But God also uses people that’s, uh, why when someone encourages us, it feels good. When someone smiles at us, it feels good. When someone holds our hand, it feels good. Because God made us to get this from each other as well. So we have the pain of the shame, uh, that we’re putting on ourselves for thinking we’re doing it wrong. And we have the pain of the unmet needs. And I’m saying we need to have our own back. We need to look out for ourselves. And this is where I think as Christians, it’s so easy to be like, we have to take care of the people, we have to take care of the people, we have to take care of the people. 

But then when we’re just in pain all the time with our own shame and all of our unmet needs, we don’t get to be our full selves who God created us to be in all of his glory through us. We don’t get to be like, Here I am, Diana. God made me to be amazing like this, and now I’m going to share this with the world. If I just lived in my shame and pain from relationships and I stayed there and I never worked on loving myself and having compassion for myself, none of you all would be listening to this. I m would just be hiding in my closet still. I started getting my own back. I am a worthy person. Whether that person engages and connects with me or not, I am. God made me that way. Period. End of story. Can’t deny it. He loves me as I am. I get to be a human who makes mistakes and love me as I am. I’m a human who makes mistakes, and God loves me as I am. He does. He does. He does. I know we’re supposed to be on a path of growth, and that’s what this is all about. Why even renew our mind if we’re not supposed to grow and become more Christlike? But that’s not because God doesn’t love us as we are. It’s because that’s our response to his love. 

Because he does love us as we are. We want to honor Him more and grow more anyway. We are worthy. We are lovable. We are human. And we get to accept ourselves, love ourselves and have compassion for ourselves. And in that being in a relationship, um, that’s what was the word she described in the question? 

Rianon: Um, well, she asked how to stay healthy in an unhealthy relationship. 

DIANA: Okay? So when we’re in an unhealthy relationship, that’s how we stay healthy. We feed our own needs. That core of our being that wants to be seen and be valued, we feed it. Then if you’re not getting it in the relationship that’s unhealthy. You get it elsewhere. You get it from God, but we get it from other humans. He made us to want to receive it from other humans. He’s never made us to thrive in isolation. We need relationships in our life. Have people that you connect with that affirm you, that see you, that say kind things to you and see the goodness in you and help build that up, that will make you healthy. All right, let’s see what else I had. Humility. Humility in an unhealthy ah, relationship allows you not to excuse someone else’s behavior if it’s damaging or hurtful or neglectful or whatever else may be going on. But it allows you to know that you’re no better than them and they’re no better than you. They’re just a human who has pains. They’re a human who has their own psychological issues. Uh, they’re a human who has their own well ingrained neuropathways that they’re stuck in. They’re a human who doesn’t have all the answers and they’re trying to figure it out. I mean, just like me, they’re a human who screws up. Just like me. Sometimes they get things right. Sometimes they screw up. Sometimes I get things right. Sometimes I screw up. It takes the pressure off of the other person having to perform in some way to feed what you think is a healthy relationship. Taking that pressure off allows you to be more healthy. And by the way, if you’re feeding your need for love and compassion and giving that to yourselves and getting it from other people to feed that in yourself, and then you come to a relationship with humility. They’re human. They make mistakes. I’m human. I make mistakes. Uh, I’ve been getting filled up with love and compassion. I can offer that to them. Then we’re showing up in the relationship as our best self. Mhm. Sometimes the other person starts getting healthier when we do that too. Shows up in healthier ways. Yeah. 

Rianon: I think what I’m hearing from you is like, really working on your relationship with yourself, like being a friend to yourself and having that kind of emotional separation. Like whatever that person says, does, thinks, feels, whatever is not a reflection on you, it’s them. I don’t know, it just kind of sounds like, um, what you’re saying is like, work on that relationship with yourself and everything kind of comes from that. 

DIANA: It does. I just read a great book called oh, I don’t remember it. David G. Benner. I recommended it to you. 

Rianon: Oh, yes. Um, I just ordered it too. Um The Gift of Being Yourself. 

DIANA: Yes. The gift of being yourself. 

He’s a Christian psychologist. He kind of talks about what comes first, the chicken or the egg. Like, first build your relationship with God and know God, or first know yourself, and then you’ll be able to better know God. And basically it’s happening simultaneously. So, yes, as much as it sounds like I’m saying yes, have that relationship with yourself, also simultaneously, be nurturing that relationship with God, because, uh, as you do it together, he will expose more of your true self, and you will learn more of his true character, and it will all get revealed together. And it’s such a fortifying, healthy way to grow in yourself. Mhm. 

The last thing I would say on this, staying healthy in an unhealthy relationship is just accepting what is. The more we go around saying, it shouldn’t be this way, it shouldn’t be that way, they shouldn’t do this, I shouldn’t have done this. It should be different. No, it shouldn’t be any different than it is. Take that frustration out of your life of thinking anything should be different than it is. I mean, it doesn’t mean don’t strive or aim for something where you grow and you’re better and you’re evolving and you’re becoming more Christlike. It just means here in this moment, it is what it is. That person doesn’t want to talk to me right now. That person’s ignored me for a week when I’ve texted them like, they’re ghosting me. That person said something mean to me. My boss shames me in public again. Whatever it is, it is what it is. The more you tell yourself it shouldn’t be this way, the more agitating and frustrating the relationship is for you. I’m not going to say it shouldn’t happen. It just is. Now what do I want to do? Yeah. 

Rianon: Um I don’t know. It was a tough one for me to really even grasp that concept, which I first heard that from you. And I don’t know. I don’t know if other people have a hard time with that. But I’m, like, I did finally kind of get it. It clicked. Um uh, I don’t know, because it feels like you’re saying it’s okay. Like, if you’re accepting what is and I know that’s not what it means. 

DIANA: But it’s not saying, like, this is morally okay or this is morally acceptable or this is acceptable in line with exactly what I’d like in my life because I’ve been in unhealthy relationships where I’m like the way they’re acting is not what I choose for my life, but it is what’s happening now. But since I also know that’s not what I would choose for my life, what would I like to do in a situation like this? Okay? In a situation like this, when they’re done talking, I’m going to get up and leave the room and go somewhere else. I’m not going to engage in an argument. I’m not going to defend myself. Um, but that’s just the way they are. That’s what they’re doing. Right now, that’s what they do. I don’t need to be mad at that. And I can stay in see how you can stay in a more peaceful zone with that and then you have more clarity of thought of what is it I would actually like to do, mhm? So it’s not just I accept this for the future of my life, it’s just I’m not arguing with reality of what’s happening in this moment. Right, it is. So now what? Mhm, so those are some three of the major things that I’ve done and I’ve helped people do in their own life to feel a lot healthier even if they’re in a relationship that is not functioning in a healthy manner. 

Rianon: Um, so the next question that I have is from Maureen and she asks, how do you cultivate feeling content? I want to be happy or joyful and I’m not sure what content feels like. DIANA: So contentment is an inside job, it’s not an outside job, it comes from nothing on the outside. Where does contentment come from? Doesn’t come from circumstances or situations or other people or money or jobs or anything. Contentment is an experience we have within ourselves based on how we choose to think about any moment in time or any circumstance or any situation and ultimately it just is what it is. Nothing needs to be different.

Rianon: Um, being content is kind of like being okay, no matter what, is that what you’re saying? And she also used the words happy and joyful. I’m just wondering I know you love words. 

DIANA: Well, those are all different. 

Rianon: Yeah, that’s what I was wondering because, um, I think maybe joy and contentment are similar. 

DIANA: I think joy and contentment go hand in hand, uh, generally the way most people have come to understand the word happy and think of how we use it colloquially as well, I never know if I say that word right. Colloquially we say, I’m so happy to see you, or uh, I’m in the front row of the concert, this makes me so happy. We do tend to describe happy circumstantially, which I think is fine, mhm? I don’t think if I see somebody having a fist fight in front of me at the Brewer game, I’m not going to be like, I’m so happy, but I can still have joy. Sure. So in the dictionary, content is synonymous with satisfied and the definition is pleased or content with what has been experienced or received. 

Now for Paul, if he’s not resting his contentment on whether he has little or much or anything going on around him, what might he be resting his contentment on? Something that has been received or experienced that he is pleased with? We can be pleased with what we received. We have been given eternal salvation through Jesus death on the cross and we can be pleased with what we have received. Mhm? And if nothing else is needed, if that’s all we truly need. We can be content all the time. But if we fool ourselves and think I need my son to be happy. I need my daughter to talk to me. I need enough money in the bank. I need a job that pays the bills. I need a husband to be nice to me. I need my friend to stop judging me. When all those things line up, I’ll feel content. We are resting our contentment on being pleased with outside sources. And that’s not where true contentment comes from. Then we’re just at the whim of circumstances and people. And our life journey is a lot of letting go of all the outer things that we think are going to give us satisfaction, which is what contentment is. And to turn to God for that instead. 

I always think these answers sound easy. And in concept, they’re easy. But in practice, from shifting to what we have thought and wanted and desired before to a new way to think and a new way to choose how we want to desire what we want to desire, it takes time sometimes. Sometimes we can change an outlook or a thought or a mindset or whatever in just a moment. And other times it takes years of questioning our thoughts and moving towards that. And because this is a deeper thing and this is ultimately about being fully satisfied in God and who he is in our lives and letting go. This is the death to self, the self desires for things of this earth instead. M mhm. That takes time. But the true contentment is in nothing to do with the circumstances or surround us. And, uh, about being pleased with the one thing that really matters. Yeah, that’s good. All right, there we go. That was fun. Um, so that’s it for today, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll catch you next time. Take care of you. 

As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast.com to get my free resources or a free coaching call.

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