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4 steps for conquering emotional muggers

I bet you got pushed around,
Somebody made you cold,
But the cycle ends right now,
You can’t lead me down that road,
You don’t know, what you don’t know...

Someday I’ll be living in a big old city,
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me,
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.
Why you gotta be so mean?

Taylor Swift


A while back, I came across Martha Beck's article, How to Stay in a Good Mood and I bookmarked it because I knew someday I would need her tips. That someday has arrived. Lately I've been dealing with a very difficult coworker. For whatever reason, she has taken a dislike to me and belittles me with her dismissive attitude, unresponsiveness, and snide remarks. In addition, she brings almost everyone around her down with her constant negativity. No matter what anyone says, she has a pessimistic point to make.

Try as I might, I cannot find a way to coexist with this particular coworker. I've grown increasingly frustrated with the situation, and it's causing me quite a bit of unnecessary stress. Fortunately for me, I stumbled across Beck's article earlier today and it helped me to realize that I'm dealing with an emotional mugger. What, you might ask, is an "emotional mugger"? According to Beck, emotional mugging is this: "You're going along minding your own business, and suddenly, when you least expect it, you're faced with a shocking attack on your mood or peace of mind. Being emotionally mugged can be crippling, but because the damage is so often invisible, few of us are ever taught self-defense."

Well, with the help of Beck's advice, it's time to change that. I'm learning emotional mugger self-defense, and I'm going to use it every chance I get. Much as I would like to, I can't escape from this mugger -- but I can figure out the best way to deal with her. After reading Beck's article, I came up with a four-step plan to deal with this cranky colleague -- and tomorrow I'm going to put it into action. 

Avoid an Attack: 4 Steps for Conquering Emotional Muggers


1. Create a peaceful and happy mindset for yourself. Emotional muggers, just like regular muggers, typically hang out in bad neighborhoods. Don't make your mind a place for them to do their dirty work. Fill your mind with inspiration and positive thoughts and it will be much harder for them to bring you down. Only you can control what you think -- don't let them taint your positive thoughts with negative ones. 

2. Know what you're dealing with.
There are apparently six types of emotional muggers. Learn to identify them and master the tactics that tackle each one. After reading Beck's article, I learned about all six and how to deal with each one. I'm pretty sure I'm dealing with a puppy-kicking, deflecting dementor. Yikes. Here are the six types you might be up against: 

Puppy Kickers: People who are super stressed out in their own lives or dealing with some sort of emotional overload and lash out at others (often those they care about most). 
How to deal: Find someone else to hang out with or, better yet, as the kicker if you can do anything to help him/her deal with the stressfulness. 

Exploding Doormats: People who keep all of their emotions to themselves, harboring hostility and then they explode (often at a small thing) when they can't take any more. 
How to deal: Have an open discussion with this person (post-explosion, after s/he has had a chance to calm down) and help develop ways to address the issues. 

Deflators: People who find negative in everything and always manage to bring you down -- no matter how happy you are -- with a pessimistic comment. 
How to deal: These don't do well with discussions so it's best to happily reject their negativity. If they say "you can't," you say, "I can and I will." 

Secret Keepers: People who freak out or overreact over seemingly small things because they are actually keeping secrets from you. Their outbursts seem very surprising and dramatic.  
How to deal: If something seems off, don't ignore your instincts. Do what you can to figure out what's really going on -- look for clues, ask questions, and trust your gut.   

Cannibals: People who bring you down constantly, only calling you when they have terrible news or want to complain about their bad day. They instantly suck any positivity out of your day. 
How to deal: Don't give into these positivity vampires. Challenge their negativity with a quick, positive comment and move the conversation forward. Don't let them dwell and don't waste time comforting them. 

Dementors: People who thrive on causing others pain because they are incredibly unhappy. They don't care who they hurt as long as someone else is in pain. 
How to deal: Distance yourself from this person as fast as you can. If that's not possible, do what you can to emotionally distance yourself.  


3. Don't dwell in victim mode. Recognize the negativity in the situation belongs to the mugger -- not you. It can be tempting to wonder what you did wrong and worry about the situation. Don't. Emotional muggers are not worth your time or energy. Figure out what you're dealing with, handle them as best you can, and move on to more positive things. 

4. Watch out for future muggers. Keep an eye out for future muggers. I'm guessing that the more you encounter them, the easier they will be to spot. When you're interacting with people, listen to your instincts and pay attention to how you feel when you are around them. If they bring you down, stay away. Far, far away. 


Emotional mugging is the kind of thing that happens with people even realizing it. Sometimes it can be so quick and surprising that you even fully understand the hurt that comes along with it until much, much later. But whether it's happening to you right now or it's happened to you in the past, you know how much emotional mugging can affect your life. It's frustrating, unsettling, and painful -- and it's not something you have to put up with in your life. So use the steps above to handle the emotional muggers in your life and start avoiding those emotional attacks ASAP!

live and let live: how detaching can improve relationships


In the latest The Oprah Magazine, there's a great article by Martha Beck about how you can improve relationships with others by not caring what they do. Sounds like it wouldn't work, right? How can you have a good relationship with someone and not care what they do? According to Beck, you can both not care and love someone; in fact, she argues that not caring is a great way to love someone. By not caring, we can stop trying to change those we love. We can fully accept them for who they are and, as a result, be at peace with whatever they do. Beck advises that we do the following: 


The 4 Steps for Detaching from Loved Ones

Step 1.
Choose a person you love, but about whom you feel some level of anxiety, anger, or sadness. 

Step 2. Identify what this person must do to make you happy, but using this sentence: "If _________ would only __________, then I could feel ____________."

Step 3. Delete the first part of the sentence, so it reads: "I could feel _____________." Realize that this is the only honest truth in the sentence and know that you have the power to feel that way no matter what anyone else says or does. 

Step 4. Shift your focus from controlling others to creating your own happiness. 


These four steps create an environment for those around you to feel loved and accepted -- no matter what they do -- and they also create an environment in which you can be happy and at peace with those you love. Now, much as I love Beck's advice, these four steps can be really hard. If you are dealing with a family member that has an outrageously abrasive personality or a loved one who is battling an addiction, for example, deleting that first part of the sentence (in #3) can be really difficult. Especially if you are around the person often. 

Detaching yourself from others' behaviors is great, in theory, but it's a difficult thing to actually do. It takes a lot of personal strength and mental bravery to recognize that you can be happy and positive no matter what other people do. It's completely possible -- it's just hard. Which is why I think these additional tips will help anyone trying to master these steps. 


  • Find your own unique sources of happiness. Relying 100% on one person is a big no-no when it comes to having a happy relationship. It's key to find some activities/people you can enjoy outside of the relationship you have with a significant other and/or family member. 

  • Surround yourself with external support. If you're struggling to understand someone you love or having trouble dealing with his/her actions, it's essential to have some support outside of your home environment. Find a close friend or a therapist you can talk to. 

  • Remember that you are powerless over others. This is such an important thing to remember if you want to improve your relationships (or just live a positive life in general). No matter what you would like to believe, you have zero control over others. Realize this and you will free yourself from a lot of mental anguish. 

  • Focus on the positive things about your loved one. If you're struggling to deal with a specific behavior from someone you love, a great exercise to combat any negativity you might be feeling is focusing on the positive things you love about that person. Most likely you've been ignore a lot of positive things!

  • Focus on the positive things about yourself. Remember that there are a lot of positive things about you too. Sometimes when we're dealing with an upsetting behavior, we forget to focus on the positive things about ourselves -- like our strength or our resilience. Remind yourself of your awesomeness. 

  • Know that who you are is not defined by who you love. Sometimes it can be really hard to deal with a family member or loved one's behavior and it can be even harder to separate ourselves from it. We sometimes take it to be a part of who we are -- but it's not. Who you love (or are related to) is not who you are. 

  • Communicate your intentions with the ones you love. If something really bothers you about someone you love, ignoring it can be tough -- as can changing that person. In my opinion, it's best to communicate that you love the person, you don't love the action, but you're going to do your best to accept it.


The idea of "live and let live" is a tough one to abide by. As I mentioned, in theory it sounds great, but it's hard to keep it in mind when you're dealing with loved ones who, let's face it, can drive you crazy at times. It's incredibly difficult not to be influenced by the people we surround ourselves with and, unfortunately, we can't always choose who we have around us. And, for that reason, we have to make the most of the relationships in our lives. It's tempting to be critical and to want to change others, but remember that change must come from within and it's not up to us to change other people. Hopefully Martha Beck's exercise and my additional tips will help you (and me!) deal with the difficult behaviors of others, making our relationships -- and our lives -- more positive. 


Have you had to deal with difficult behaviors in your relationships? 
How have you handled them? Detachment? Confrontation?
Has the "live and let live" motto worked for you?  


bring positivity home: decorating for an optimistic outlook


The other day I received an email from Positively Present fan, Lindsay, asking me if I had any decorating tips that would offer Positively Present-like inspiration. This struck as a surprising, yet wonderful, question. Most of us spend a fair amount of time in our homes so why shouldn't we do what we can to increase the positivity in them. Positive decoration is something I've done, but not really thought about doing. After receiving Lindsay's email I decided to give this concept some more thought and put into words some the the tactics I use to make my home a positive place to be. 

Below you'll find some of my personal tips and tricks. I'm no home interior expert, but I do love creating a place to live that feels like home. And I'm definitely a big fan of organizing (see: The Best Ways to Organize Your Living Space (and Your Life)) my home. A disorganized home, to me, just doesn't feel right. However, I realize that everyone is different and the word "home" can mean so many things to so many people. So, as you read through my home decorating words of wisdom, keep in mind that ultimately you should decorate and arrange your living space in a way that makes YOU happy. 


Bringing the Positivity Home: 7 Home Decorating Tips

Cb2meaningfullness 1. Incorporate inspiration. One of the first things you must do if you're trying to bring positivity into your home is to incorporate inspiration. Whether it's photographs of people you love, a meaningful poster, or items that remind you to stay positive, you must incorporate them into your decor. It's important to think about what is really meaningful to you and then find ways to add bits of that meaningfullness to your home. For example, one of my favorite things in my home is a meaningfullness canvas from CB2. Every time I look at it, it serves as an important reminder to focus on the things that truly mean something to me. It's one of the first things I see when I walk in (or out) the door, which allows it to serve as a good reminder when I'm both coming and going that I should focus on the meaningful things in life. 


Cb2orangecounch 2. Choose hues wisely. Despite the black-and-white print mentioned in #1, color plays a very big role in my life -- and also in decorating. All my life I've incorporated bright hues into my decorating schemes. Whether it was the neon green flower print I covered my room in when I was in high school, the red hues I veered towards in college, or the bright orange I return to over and over again, I've always been a fan of color and I strive to incorporate it whenever I can into my decor (see my couch to the left). However, that's just my personal preference. It's important that you evaluate what colors are your favorites and incorporate those into your living space. Choose hues that make you feel happy and surround yourself with them. 


3. Do more with less. I'm a big fan of simplicity. This is a personal preference and I'm sure some people would find my apartment to be a bit cold and un-homey with its lack of pictures and knick-knacks, but I really believe that a simple aesthetic in the home can help cultivate a simple, pure mindset. Clutter can be overwhelming to the mind, causing our brains to take in a lot of information at once. Therefore, I think one of the best things we can do to create a positive living space is to reduce that clutter and focus only on the things that matter most to us. For example, I love books so I've made books the focal point of my place with an wall of bookshelves. Figure out what is most important to you and make that the center of your decor. 


Fireisland5 4. Keep an open mind. One of the best things about decorating is that there are so, so many options. No matter what style you prefer or what colors you gravitate towards, there is a decor design for you. If you feel torn between a variety of elements -- say, hippie chic and slick modern -- don't fret. The great thing about decorating your own space is that it's yours to do what you want with. You can mix and match and choose the things that are most inspiring to you. Don't be limited by what you read in magazines or online. Be open to new ideas and fresh ways of looking at design. For example, I probably will never live in a beach cottage where the image above would really work, but that doesn't mean I won't someday find a way to incorporate that amazing chair into my decor. I collect images of things I love and know that someday I will find a way to make my mix-and-match decor come to life. 


5. Screw objectivity. It might be tempting to want to take a step back and look at what you've designed from an objective perspective. Don't. Life is too short to live in a place that other people have designed for you. There's nothing wrong with getting input and help from others, but when it comes down to making the final decisions on the decor of your living space, keep a subjective point of view. After all, you'll be the one living in the space, returning to it time and time again for inspiration. If you don't feel happy and alive in the place you live, you'll be missing out. Ignore design "rules" and the well-meant advice from interior decorating magazines. Do what feels right to you and you will always feel inspired in your home. 


Bulbserineverafter_large 6. Listen to your heart. Yes, this might sound like the most cliched advice on the planet, but it's been around forever for a reason. When it comes to decorating, your heart can be a great guide. Deep down, you know what inspires you. You know what you want to see first thing when you wake up in the morning and what you want to welcome you when you return home each evening. So many people asked me, "Are you sure you want to commit to an orange couch?" but I never doubted the decision for a second. Pay attention to your gut instincts. If something appeals to you instantly, there's probably a reason for that. Don't settle for furniture or decor just because it's convenient or appealing to others. Listen to what your heart is telling you and you'll be sure to create a living space that really feels like home. 


7. Be ready for change. Over the years, some things will remain constant. For example, I have always loved the color orange and, though many people have told me I will tire of the color, I haven't yet. However, there are certain elements of decor that I once loved that just don't suit me anymore. We grow and we change and so do our tastes. What you like today, you may not find appealing in ten years or so. And that's okay. You don't have to commit to a decor style for life. You are allowed to change your mind -- and you probably will. Keep this in mind when you're buying big ticket items. If you have even the tiniest inkling that something is more of a phase than a life-long passion, incorporate that element in smaller doses. You don't want to overdo something and then hate it later. Move slowly and thoughtfully when it comes to incorporating new decor into your life. Seek inspiration, not instant gratification. 



Decorating -- especially one's home -- is an very personal, very important aspect of life. So many factors can impact our choices and sometimes we have to take into consideration the wants and needs of others. Whether you're a teenager waiting to redecorate your bedroom (as I did many, many times) or an adult living with roommates or a significant other, don't forget to take into consideration what others might need or want when it comes to your decoration desires. It's tempting to dive in head-first (especially if you're the type of person who gravitates toward #5), but it's also important to weigh the pros and cons of your choices against others' desires. If you're not living alone, keep in mind that others may want to have a say in how you decorate. Use the tips above as a team (or group) and do what you can to make the most of whatever space you have. 

Whether you're living in a multi-bedroom mansion or a tiny one bedroom apartment, whether you're in the poshest of neighborhoods or in an area you'd rather not be living in at all, you have the power to make your place a positive one. Even if you're limited in resources or funds, there are small things you can do to improve your living space. Where you live -- the place you call home -- should be a source of inspiration, happiness, and comfort. You cannot control everything about your home, but there are a few things (like decorating!) that you have the power to improve. Use that power to bring positivity home and create a place that will always inspire an optimistic outlook. 

Looking for some home decorating inspiration? Click below!


Oh Joy!

How About Orange

Cupcakes and Cashmere