By Dr. Steve
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The Magical Elixir
Wise men appreciate all men, for they
see the good in each and know how
hard it is to make anything good.
deepest principle in human nature
is the craving to be appreciated.
tried hard to fight back her tears. As her chin quivered, she absent-mindedly rubbed her
hands. It was as if she were trying to exorcise every last emotion from her being. The
hurt and anger burned white hot in her belly. As she laid in bed, feeling beaten down one
more time, she reflected upon the years of futility they had put her through.
whole life, she had endured the pain of being discounted. Her feelings, thoughts, and
beliefs, all the times she tried to exercise her own choices, washed away in a sea of
kindness that communicated the cruelest message of all, I know whats best for
those times. She wanted so desperately to just once receive a knowing nod, a kind word, a
look of support rather than that G.D. frown. Oh that frown said it all. I only want
whats best for you, dear. Somehow that sentiment implied Im
the only living authority on that subject. That frown seemed to be a license to
meddle, to undermine, to rob her of every sense of individuality that she possessed. That
damn frown gave a whole new meaning to that once innocent sentiment, Father Knows Best.
once she would like to be appreciated for who she was, not what they had tried to mold her
into being. Couldnt they see it, accept it? Why couldnt they honor her? It was
as if she were invisible. Yet, she didnt know how to fight back.
Self-loathing. Toxic shame. The war waged on inside of her, the war that tears a child
apart when shes torn between wanting to win her parents love and
approval and honor her own desire to be appreciated as a separate adult of value and
fight always took so much out of her. Standing up to them; afterall, maybe they were
right. Whereas you and I look to our parents to provide the emotional sustenance to help
create our sense of self, all she got were the toxic double messages that implied,
We will only appreciate you if....
so she waged the war that expressed her pain in a hundred different ways, but never
resolved the issues between her and her parents. She drank at them. Used cocaine at them.
Sexed at them. Last month, she had her third abortion at them.
was the only way she knew how to fight back. It was the only way to break through the
deafening silence, the subtle judgments, the crushing blindness.
could they be so blind to what they were doing to her? The weight of her unexpressed anger
made her spirit bow much as if it were an anvil crushing her shoulders. Beneath that anger
oozed the hurt from a wound rubbed raw from years of feeling unappreciated, unrecognized,
quite simply not valued.
Appreciation. Feeling valued. Thats the battlefield upon which much conflict is
waged between two people. Theres nothing so tender as our longing to be appreciated
by the people in our lives. Whether its our actions or our sense of self, we feel so
much better when somebody acknowledges the value they hold us in.
told you about my friend Stephanie Phillips. She has an older sister, Abby. Abby taught me
a lesson about how empowering it is for her when I let her know that shes worth my
time and consideration to help her become who she wants to be.
week Abby and I were playing basketball. She was frustrated by the limitations that her
age and size imposed on her. She let me know in no uncertain terms that she didnt
want to play ever again. So we sat down and talked about what was troubling her.
dont want to play anymore, Frischie, Abby adamantly declared.
not? I asked.
too hard. I just cant make a basket.
know, Abby, when I watch you play, I can see how much talent you have for the game, but I
know what its like to feel so discouraged. Would you mind if I tried to help you a
Frischie, you really think that Ill be able to learn how to play better? Abby
asked, somewhat hopefully.
theres no question in my mind. I know its hard for you to see right now. But
if thats what you want, then I want to help you all I can.
can you help me?
we could practice together, a couple times a week. I can give you some
You mean it, Frischie, just you and me? Youd really do that with me? Abby
asked. Her eyes were as big as saucers.
Ab. If thats what you want. Youre worth it to me.
appreciated is a tonic for much of what discourages us in our lives. However, sadly
enough, in many relationships, appreciation often is held hostage to pettiness and spite.
Is your relationship a celebration of who your partner is or a never ending chorus of what
they are not? Its as simple as the age old question, is the cup half-empty or
about this. Do you dwell on honoring your partner or bemoaning how they have disappointed
you? Does your sense of entitlement and self-indulgence override your willingness to honor
your urge to withhold overrides your willingness to acknowledge your partner, how does
that impact your partner? What does it stir within anyones soul when they are
feeling unappreciated? Most importantly, how do those feelings impact the well-being of
many of us give voice to that ache, our never ending desire to be acknowledged, to be
recognized for the person we are and the things that we do? Its such a simple word,
appreciation. Yet, its a sentiment that gets buried in the smoldering resentments,
all the unfulfilled needs, the unmet expectations, and the buried fantasies that can
overwhelm any of our relationships.
there a connection for you between unvoiced disappointments, hurt never expressed, buried
feelings from your partners disapproval, and conflict with your partner?
see it time and time again. The conflict may be complex but the seeds that give birth to
the conflict is simple enough. Appreciation is the heart and soul of what solidifies a
relationship. Knowing that theres another soul whos on your side, who will
acknowledge all the blood, sweat, and tears that you are expending, makes the game of life
a little more simple.
think about how it may be true for you. Think about how the conflict in your relationship
may be a smokescreen for something much larger. Relationships require cooperation,
sacrifice, give and take. The lubricant that keeps your relationship engine running
smoothly is acknowledgment, recognition, and your willingness to articulate your
appreciation for your partner.
look at appreciation from your point of view for a moment. How important is it to you for
your partner to express their appreciation of you? How do you feel when you believe that
your partner has not acknowledged you? Do those feelings get expressed to your partner or
acted out? Have you ever let your partner know how important it is to feel appreciated by
walk through this step by step. Make a list of those qualities you possess for which you
deserve to be acknowledged by your partner. Perhaps its the consideration you
exhibit towards your partner. Or the way you act responsibly towards your partner. Maybe
you feel especially proud of the fact that you keep your partners favorite cookies
in the cupboard at all times. Whatever those qualities are, make the list as long as
Now, look closely at this list. Think about all the times one
or more of those items has gone unnoticed. How did that make you feel? Take at least three
of the items listed above and write down how it makes you feel to have each quality go
next step is extremely important. Its important to develop an awareness of how your
hurt feelings get expressed--in words or in deeds? One premise of making molehills out of
mountains is that you need to express your hurt rather than act it out. Acting out your
hurt only perpetuates conflict rather than resolving it.
actions do you use to express your hurt? Do you use the silent treatment? Do you take a
hiatus from the relationship? Do you burn your partners dinner? Do you forget to
take the garbage out? Do you throw a temper tantrum?
most important thing to remember is that when appreciation is withheld, theres
invariably going to be hurt feelings. Whenever there are hurt feelings, the
potential exists for conflict. Our goal is to better handle conflict by expressing
our hurt rather than acting it out.
willingness to express your hurt is an important key to resolving the underlying
relationship issues. Your willingness to express your appreciation for your partner will
go a long way towards insuring that your partner will return the favor in kind. That is
the ultimate formula for reducing the hurt and resentment that two people feel towards
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
free. Learn how
to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.