Better Ways to Cope with Stress: Your Way Out of the Toxic Triangle
By Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D.
Depressive symptoms, unhealthy eating habits and heavy drinking unite to create a space that's so poisonous for women that I have called it the toxic triangle.
Here are some of the major steps toward positive change:
1. Step back and notice what you're thinking and feeling.
One way to do this is to use mindfulness techniques, which teach
us to notice our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and memories without immediately categorizing them as good or bad. We learn to be more compassionate
toward ourselves, responding to our thoughts and feelings as a friend might, rather than as a slave to a master.
By being able to step back and notice, rather than be overwhelmed or ruled, by our feelings, we become better able to choose how we want to feel and act in difficult situations.
also teach you to be more aware of the present moment. By practicing “being with” our feelings and thoughts we can become less frightened and overwhelmed by them and thus less motivated to escape them with unhealthy behaviors.
We can also learn a great deal about ourselves, particularly the ways we have internalized
social pressures to cast ourselves in a certain way (i.e., in terms of how much we weigh)
or to behave in certain ways (such as always putting others’ needs before our own).
If mindfulness techniques don’t appeal to you, just try keeping a diary of
key events in your day and how you think and feel about them. There may be something specific that triggers these urges and feelings – a difficult interaction
with another person, going by a restaurant, being alone at home.
Or they may come from out of the blue. It doesn’t matter, just write down what's
going on and then get quiet for a moment and tune into what is going through your head.
likely that you may begin to recognize the theme of relationships or a certain relationship in your diary accounts.
As you begin to recognize the role of key people in these difficult times, use your reflective abilities to consider what
it is about them that contributes to your sad or anxious feelings, or to your desire to drink or eat.
2. Conjure up an image of the positive You.
Shut your eyes, get quiet, and conjure up a very positive image of yourself. Watch that positive You get up in the morning, get dressed. What are her interactions with her family like? What does she do for the rest of
the day? Does she go to the same job you have? Her interactions with other people? What kinds of things does she do over the
course of the day? How does she feel? At the end of the day, what does she do?
your attention back to the Real You and tune into how your body feels. Is there a sense of happiness or excitement at the prospect of the positive You? Or frustration and defeat? Concentrate on what’s going through your mind. Some of the characteristics of the positive You are likely to represent impossible goals that you have internalized based on society’s messages about what you – and other women – should be.
Then rewind the tape of your positive You day. Shut your eyes, and before you play the tape again, say to yourself, “Be gentle.
Be kind. Accept who you are. Be realistic.” Then try running the tape again. How does the positive You look different this time?
Are there things about her that now look more like the Real You? Which characteristics
of her or of her life bear little resemblance to the Real You?
For example, perhaps the new positive You still has quite a different relationship with her husband than you do. Or perhaps she has a pleasant evening without
alcohol, when the Real You seems to need a drink to relax. Does she have energy and interest in what she does, while the Real You is always tired and unmotivated?
Rerun the tape a couple of more times, and each time begin by telling yourself, “Be gentle. Be kind. Accept who you are. Be realistic.” Notice which differences between positive You and Real You keep coming back over and over, because those are likely to be the changes you do want to make for yourself. Get a piece of paper and write each change down in the language of approach goals – new behaviors or ways of living that you want to move toward, rather than things you want to avoid or give up.
3. Make a plan to move toward the positive You.
Now you’re ready to begin working toward these positive goals. Make a list of simple, everyday things that you find enjoyable, and that are relatively easy to do. One of the most important
steps to moving away from bingeing and toward a more positive you is to find things to do that can take your mind away from your urges, filling up the time during which you would normally
binge. Plan activities for the times between meals and snacks when you otherwise don’t have anything to do. When you feel an urge
to binge on food or alcohol, go back to something you’ve done, and enjoyed, before.
activities you have come up with so far are meant to lift your mood, take you away from negative overthinking, and
fill the time you would otherwise have spent bingeing. These are small steps, although critical ones, down the road to the
positive You. Now you are ready to take bigger steps – ones that will begin to overcome the larger problems in your life that
drive your unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, and that help you reshape the Real You into the positive You.
Take one of your major goals, or a significant change you want to make in your life, and consider how you would apply each of the following steps.
a) Generate as many possible activities to move you toward your goal as you can think of without judging whether any of them is “good” or “bad”.
Rank order each of these activities, thinking about how easy it will be to accomplish it, and how effective it would be in moving you toward your goal. If you find yourself thinking, “That won’t work! Nothing’s going to help!” try using your mindfulness techniques to slow yourself
down and be more open and gentle with yourself.
Once you decide what would be most helpful in moving toward your goal, develop a plan to carry it out. i.e., if you’ve decided you need to take some courses to improve your job skills and get a new job, then the first step is to investigate a local educational
The 2nd step is to sign up for a relevant course. The 3rd step is to
take the course. It may also be helpful to consider the available resources for each step. For example, you may need to look into financial aid.
d) Schedule the first step
in your plan. Scheduling simple activities such as “Look up courses in the course catalog” may seem silly, but the act of
scheduling will make you more committed to carrying out the activity and will help insure that you find the time to do it.
e) Once you go through with your scheduled activities, evaluate
how well they worked. How did they make you feel? Did they accomplish what you wanted them to?
f) At this point,
you may need to revise the plan, especially if you didn’t get as far along the path to your goal as you hoped. Again, be gentle and generous with yourself - you don’t get to the positive You overnight, just as you didn’t travel into the toxic triangle overnight.
You may need to go back to Step 1 and repeat the process of generating ideas that move you toward your goals.
g) Whether or not everything you tried was successful, reward yourself for just trying! i.e., treat yourself to a meal at your favorite restaurant or to coffee with a friend. Women’s empathy and strong emotional ties to others can lead them into the toxic triangle, but they can also help them escape it.
Copyright © 2006 Susan Nolen-Hoeksema
A Vision of a New Morality
Oct 1, 2005When looking at society and seeing the constant hypocrisies, the inconsistencies, the lies, a person can be
inclined only towards two mindsets. They'll go along with what they see, they'll believe what they're told, they'll find it awkward that anyone could challenge things the way they are.
Or, they'll see the outrightly
absurd nature of things, they'll see the lies, they'll see the propaganda, they'll see the inconsistency and they'll refuse
to believe it. They'll cry out for anything but this society - they'll seek out reason, logic, truth.
Anything that's well-reasoned
will sooth their heart, anything that's logically demonstrated will be at peace with their mind. Their life will be transformed into a journey, ceaselessly looking for the truth, wherever it is, whatever it tells us, no matter what must be sacrificed to discover it. In our society, we find that there
are two people.
Those who will accept what they're told, will obey authority, will exist in the way that television and radio has commanded them to exist.
And there are those who'll condemn the way things are, will resist authority, will point out all the inconsistencies and lies given to us.
In generations to come,
they'll be called heroes. In our own time, they'll be called instigators. Historians will regard them as the cause to a change in society. Rationalists will treat them as the finest examples of intelligent people. But what is it that they can truly
Searching thru the expanse
of human language, what name can rightly apply to someone who uses their mind? A person without shackles on their mind, without
a blindfold on their eyes, without bondage on their heart, without lies in their mind... may be called a Freethinker.
The theory which may be questioned most by any Freethinker, is the theory of the modern morality.
By this, I mean the theory of monogamy, that a person ought to only have one sexual partner at one time.
But this theory is more
than just that. Not only is it a one-sexual-partner ideal, but it covers other ideas. Those who are promiscuous with their bodies are treated as heartless and brutal.
A modern moralist will paint
a picture of a slut and every vice will be given to them. They'll say that promiscuous lovers are cruel, are merciless, are
vicious, will do anything to get sex, they have no values, they can't understand love, they're beyond the scope of sympathy...
A modern moralist will speak
such great lies about the promiscuous lover. Yet, they're wrong. I contend that there's no such thing as a human being who is beyond the scope of sympathy, who can't understand.
Sympathy and love: these are but the most simple, most basic, most true of all principles to any mammal. I've never known a human being
who didn't know the meaning behind tears; I never knew a lover who didn't know the warm touch of affection; even to those who have betrayed me or otherwise believe me to be a vicious mongrel, I know that they too are capable of knowing the truth of love.
To say that a promiscuous
lover breaks this very basic, scientific rule - the rule that states that all can know love & sympathy - is to debauch the face of truth.
The modern moralist will commit more crimes against truth. It's believed that the person who is willing to be physical soonest is of the lowest character and it's believed that the person holding out the longest is the greatest.
A person willing to give a kiss on the face to a person who has been disappointed by life, a person willing to share intimacy and kindness thru the physical act of love, a person who knows that being a lover means loving - this person will be called a "slut" or a "whore."
But then, there's another
type of person... There will be a man or a woman, who'll refuse to touch another from the opposite sex, who will look the
other way when someone is attracted to them, who'll resist any form of affection.
This person, who has been
taught to be revolted at the thought of sex or physical kindness, will be upheld as a saint, as a "true person of goodness." These lies that we're told, they sicken me. There was once a
time when, with a lover, my fingers caressed the smoothness of her palm and she kissed my neck.
A philosopher who believes in the sanctity of monogamy will look at this and he'll call her a tramp, a slut, a whore. But when I was in the peace of those most cherished moments, I see her angelic face, I feel her soft skin and in my mind, every trouble is a thousand
miles away. For those few brief moments with this lover (who I'd known less than an hour),
I discovered peace and love.
A person who believes in monogamy can speak all they want, they can exhaust the human language as much as they can. But what they say, will never
take away the sincerity my lover's affection, will never remove these memories that I tend to revisit when I loss the peace I once had.
What arguments can I offer? What reasoning can I barter with? When I
feel the warmth of another's body close to mine, when I know the tender caress on my face... what can I say to defend this lifestyle?
Call it "promiscuity" or
"whoredom," call it what you like. All the slanders & libels in the world will not detract from the pleasure of it, will
not destroy the intimacy of it. When I'm looking into the eyes of a lover, I'll not be thinking of what they say about me.
They'll condemn me to hell,
but I'm deaf to their damnations. They'll say I have no virtue, but still, I can't hear them. So long as my lover is running
her fingers thru my hair, as my fingertips run down her back, they can say all they want about me, because I'm not hearing
it. I remember once, as a child, seeing a statue of a man and a woman.
The woman was laying back
onto the chest of the man, while their hands were met together. It was made by the Etruscan culture. Looking at this statue
then, I saw intimacy and kindness. I saw "I feel I can tell you anything." I saw "When I hear you breath, it makes me live."
I saw the gentle emotions of a lover not wishing to cause any distress... In this small Etruscan statue, I found respect, kindness and truth. It was only several pounds of clay, but it may have contained the secrets of the Universe.
there's any argument that can be offered on behalf of Free Love, or Polyamory, or whatever name one desires to give the belief that we shouldn't have one sexual partner - if there's any argument, it's the naturality of sex.
Any person who confesses
they don't have lust is a liar. And any person who wishes to convince others that their natural lust is immoral, this person
is a vagrant. When the passions that exist between the sexes are natural, when they're a normal part of our minds, when they the act of love is simply a bodily function, on what grounds can it be condemned?
By playing a sport, or by
conversating with a friend, or by putting your sincere thoughts on to paper, a person is using the parts of their body. There's nothing wrong with it. There's no crime in it. No one is
But, when a person all of
a sudden decides to use their sexual organs, to please their natural desires, to express affection, to know the depths of intimacy, our moralists will call it a crime!
By using our body,
as we please, for the ends that we desire and by hurting no one, they call this a crime!
But the search for our soul's
content, the endless journey of spirituality - whether it manifests itself in the arms of your lover, or in the books of the ancients - it's always been condemned by
those who were too blind, too ignorant, too set in their ways, to see more than 5 feet ahead of
The search to know what
it means to feel gentle intimacy and friendly kindness, when this search becomes sexual and a person express their desires, the slanders I described above will be put against them.
A man who loves sex will
be called a pervert and a woman who hates it will be called a prude.
A woman who
loves sex will be called a slut and a man who hates it will be called a misguided fool.
We're told these lies, over
and over, by a society too foolish to think for itself. It's been said by every liberal that freedom means, doing what you
will, as long as you don't infringe upon the rights of others.
If this is true, if liberty
isn't a guide but a path to happiness, then by what right can we condemn those who wish to be free form sexual dogma?
Why, in fact,
deny the natural instincts of one's own sexuality?
When we refuse what our
heart seeks out, when we turn away from our desires, when the aching to know the truth that is inside all of us, when it is treated with an anesthetic - at this point, our soul begins to whither and our spirit
becomes something foreign from when we were first born.
If all men are born free, then it's by rejecting our true selves that we become slaves to misery and vice. I don't believe, however, that all men and women seek out sex as the greatest good, nor do I believe they should. I believe that a person should look into their hearts and see for themselves what they want.
They shouldn't be afraid of what society calls them. They shouldn't be afraid of how their friends react. They shouldn't be afraid of what may happen by discovering their heart's desires.
Upon discovering what sex
means to them - whether it's a great means of pleasure, whether it's the most perfect way of expressing one's affections, whether it's a combination of these and other ideas - once a person discovers what sex means to them, they should live a
Just take some hypothetical scenarios... If you were alone with a friend whom you cared about deeply and you knew there was an attraction between you - and you felt that sex was the greatest way to express your
soul - then what would be so wrong about making such a proposition?
Feeling the gentle touch of a lover over your body, there's little more that can be seen as perfect security, as perfect tranquility. What then, would you have gained from such an encounter?
will serve you in your darkest times, memories of kindness, peace and intimiacy; physical pleasure and knowledge.
What would be the benefits
of refusing such an encounter, when you know that you longed for it in your heart? I can see little. Peace and truth are the greatest ends of every humane person.
There should never be a
reason for avoiding the path that leads to these humble desires. I had once heard that a person was imprisoned by the government for oral sex, what the law had regarded as a "Crime Against
I contend that
the greatest crime against nature is refusing what your heart tells you to do, allowing your soul to grow bitter and disenchanted with life.
By this new morality, this idea that it's no crime to
rub your face in the neck of your love, to let your fingers speak for your soul...
By this new morality, I
propose that there should never again be a girl full of tears, because she is lonely but feels sex is immoral. I propose that there should never again be a man frustrated with sex, because his hormones are building up but he feels sex is a crime.
I propose that men and women everywhere should throw off the chains of an antiquated morality,
of a slavery that kept their heart in bondage.
There should never again
be a person who compromised the desires of their heart with a vicious society, there should never again be a person who is content with the daemons of loneliness, there should never again be a person who knows the stinging pain of being alone, there should never again be a person doomed to pain - never again should we allow these tears to amount to nothing, never
again should we allow these cries to go unheard -
I propose that every man
and woman shouldn't be afraid of sex, that they ought to do as their heart tells them, as long as they make no one suffer...
I propose that our culture
adheres closer to the sentiments of kindness and charity and closer to the principles of truth and reason.
When You Need A Gentle Push...
By Iain Legg
You've been misled... It's
ok NOT to think positive all the time. It's natural.
We all have biorhythms &
that means our moods swing up & down each month. Naturally. Trying to think positive thoughts all day when you're feeling down will drive you insane!
Make the most of your positive
days & work hard towards your goals. If you're feeling down & start to feel stressed, take a step away from your goals
& just relax.
Stop worrying. You'll only
attract the things you're worrying about. Take a walk. Take a vacation. Have some fun. It's all about balance & working
with the flow... instead of fighting with yourself.
Or feeling guilty
because you're not fighting at all... If fears & doubts are holding you back from making progress on your dreams this
motivation exercise may help get you started - Secret Mind Power Technique For Motivation Think about the most important BIG
goal you’ve set yourself.
Think about how you’d like to be really motivated to reach it & to be really motivated to take action on those smaller goals that will lead you there.
Now, think back to a time
in the past when you were really motivated. Think about how you took action on that motivation & did whatever it was you set out to do. Run thru that event & make the pictures bigger, brighter & more colourful.
Feel what you felt &
suck that motivation into your body as if you were there now, doing it again for the first time. Make the emotions stronger
& stronger & keep building up the feeling of taking action & successfully doing what you set out to do.
Run the story thru your
mind several times, each time building the momentum. Now, as your motivation builds up, rub the palm of your dominant hand on your thigh.
As you do so, think about even more occasions when you were highly motivated & increase those sensations even further. Keep rubbing your thigh & know that whenever you want to call upon that
highly motivated feeling, all you have to do is rub your thigh.
Finally, while still rubbing
your thigh, think about your most important BIG goal & all of the smaller goals you must complete to make it. Imagine reaching them with
everything going well, reaching that big goal right on your deadline. Can you see what we’re doing here?
We're taking your motivation – which you clearly have – & adding it first to the motion of rubbing your palm on your thigh &
secondly adding that motivation to the thought processes of reaching your most important goal.
Now the great thing is that
you can do that exercise for every goal you set yourself. By imagining it all going perfectly well & reaching every goal
on time, you’re increasing your self-belief & getting your motivation flowing around your body.
And when you’re highly
motivated & you take action on that motivation then you’re much more likely to reach your smaller goals which, in turn, breeds even more motivation.
If it helps, do that exercise
a few times. You’ll soon feel incredibly motivated & when your motivation starts to subside, rub your palm on your thigh to start bringing back all of those amazing motivational feelings!
And if at any point in the
future you find your rub-your-thigh motivational trigger subsiding, simply do the entire exercise again.
Gifts that Never Go Out of Style
The holiday season is a time for giving. When most of us think of giving, we think of gifts. The mere thought of tackling that Christmas list can be daunting. Maybe there isn’t enough money
to buy the gifts you’d like to give. Or perhaps you have a few of those “hard to buy for” people who have everything. So you put on your Betty Crocker
hat and spend hours in the kitchen making cookies, sweet breads, and fudge to give as gifts. You make homemade ornaments and other Christmas crafts, or you buy another pair of socks and another boring tie.
I’m going to ask you to think a little less traditionally about gift giving, and consider giving of yourself this holiday season. I’ve been reading Rick Warren’s new book “God’s Power to Change
Your Life”. In his book, he discusses a well known topic – the fruits of the spirit. I got to thinking about how
wonderful it would be to make a conscious effort to give one or all of these 9 gifts. These gifts can be given to anyone and everyone, they cost you nothing but your heart, and they never go out of style.
What is love? So many people think of love as a strong feeling we have. We love our kids, our spouse, and our friends, especially when they are nice to us. But do we love people when they are unlovable, or do we love people who have hurt us deeply? Love is a matter of choice, and love is an action, not a feeling. How can we stretch ourselves and offer love in the most difficult situations?
Give the gift of forgiveness to someone you’ve been holding a grudge against. Think loving thoughts of people when they are really aggravating you. Act lovingly to someone you do not like, and pray for people that mistreat you.
The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, but yet many of us don’t feel it. We equate joy with happiness, but the two are not the same. Your happiness depends on your circumstances – whether you’re having
a good day or bad day.
Joy, on the other hand, is an attitude we can choose to have. Regardless of our situation,
we can choose to be joyful. Consider changing your perspective and chucking self-pity. Focus on God’s love and His plans for you, which are always
good, even when you have to walk through the valley first. Give the gift of gratitude, cheerful giving, and service. Everyone loves to be appreciated and served with a smile.
Most of the time, the holidays are anything but peaceful. The stress that often comes
with holidays makes for a chaotic time. So how can you offer peace to the people around you when they most need it?
Spend time in prayer so that you can receive the spiritual and emotional peace that comes from God. Then you
can give relational peace to others by having an internal sense of peace and turning away from conflict. Meet criticism with a calm
and listening ear, instead of defensiveness. Offer compassion and understanding instead of anger and fighting words. Manage
your own stress so you can be an example to everyone around you.
Rick Warren says you can test your patience in four ways. How do you deal with interruptions?
How do you handle inconveniences? How do you respond to the irritations in your life? What is your reaction when you have
Let’s face it. The holiday season can really test our patience. Whether it’s having to drive to
5 different stores to find the one toy that is out of stock, dealing with irritable and snobbish people, or waiting in endless
lines, our reaction is the true test of how patient we are.
Give the gift of patience by developing a deeper love for people, changing how
you view situations, learning to laugh at the craziness, and depending on God to see you through the stressful times.
Do you ever stop and ask yourself how you can be kind to someone today? Acts of kindness require thoughtful effort. Smiling at people who are having a bad day is an act of kindness. Kindness can be expressed by taking the time to listen to someone who is hurting.
Giving people genuine compliments and seeing the best in people is a way to show kindness. Go out of your way to do something nice for someone, and don’t wait until it’s convenient for you because that
time often does not come. In this busy world, everyone can benefit from a little kindness.
According to Rick Warren, “God
says in his Word that the good life is not based on looking good, feeling good, or having goods. He says the good life is
a life filled with goodness – being and doing good. When you are being good and doing good, you are going to feel good,
and you are even going to start looking good – or at least looking better.”
How can you give the gift of goodness? By being and doing good according to God’s word, and not the world. Whenever I am perplexed
by how to handle a tough situation, I always ask myself, “What would Jesus do?” How would Jesus offer goodness
to people this holiday season?
Giving the gift of faithfulness means you are reliable, trustworthy, dependable and consistent. If you say you’re going to do something, do
it. If you make plans to meet a friend, follow through with the plans, and do not cancel. Keep your promises and be a woman
of integrity. Let people know you can be depended on for help this holiday season.
Avoid gossiping and instead be a trustworthy friend. Be faithful to God by spending time everyday thanking Him for the love and blessings he gives you, as well as giving of your time, talent, and financial resources. We all need faithful people in our lives – don’t underestimate the power of this gift.
Everyone loves a gentle spirit. Gentle people are well liked and offer the gift of love and healing to wounded souls. There are so many ways to be gentle to people. Consider having compassion and understanding by being able to set aside your own needs and see things from someone
else’s point of view, instead of demanding your own way.
One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone is that of being non-judgmental. Have you ever wanted to share something that was really important to you, but
you feared how people might judge you?
How good it would feel to be able to open your heart to someone that was totally non-judgmental. Gentleness involves talking to people with respect and disagreeing peacefully. James 1:19 says, “Let every man be quick to listen
but slow to use his tongue, and slow to lose his temper”.
Give yourself the gift of self-control. Many of the problems we face in our life develop from a lack of self-control. Whether we face weight loss issues, financial debt, bad habits, or disorganization, the root of the problem usually starts
with us. So how can you give yourself the gift of self-control?
It starts with taking responsibility and committing to change. Think positive, believe in yourself, and do not
let your past failures dictate your future success.
Ask someone in your life or hire a life coach to hold you accountable to the change you’d like to make.
Stay away from anything that tempts you to backslide on your goal, and rely on God’s power to see you through to the
end. While the holiday season is about giving, you too deserve a gift.
There is no reason to worry about money or buying the wrong
gift because everyone appreciates receiving gifts from the heart. So this holiday season give your family, friends, neighbors, strangers, God and yourself the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.