Episode 69

March 30, 2024


#69 | Dr. Arianna Brandolini | How Do I Deal with Bitterness?

Hosted by

Tony Siebers Bina Colman
#69 | Dr. Arianna Brandolini | How Do I Deal with Bitterness?
Parent Projects - Aging In America
#69 | Dr. Arianna Brandolini | How Do I Deal with Bitterness?

Mar 30 2024 | 00:29:00


Show Notes

Today, on the show, we again have Dr. Arianna Brandolini, a clinical psychologist who maintains a private practice in New York City. Her main areas of expertise include the assessment and treatment of individuals suffering from OCD, anxiety, depression, and trauma-related disorders using cognitive behavioral therapy and other research-supported techniques. Dr. Brandolini also sees people for a variety of other issues, including adjustment to difficult life events, life transitions, challenging family dynamics, and relationship problems. Her main goal is to create a safe, supportive space where she can provide practical and effective treatment that is tailored to one’s specific needs. She is also a speaker and educator on mental health and is passionate about empowering people with the knowledge and tools needed to thrive.
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Episode Transcript

[00:00:06] Speaker A: Hi, and welcome to Aging in America. This is the podcast brought to you by parent projects and I am your host, Beana Coleman. We are back with Doctor Ariana. If you did not catch her last show with us, you'll want to go back and listen. She's amazing and explained a lot about the grief process and cycles. And it's just some wonderful advice on where to start if you don't even know where to begin or start. So thank you to doctor Ariana for that last episode. And now we're going to move forward with this episode with her. Just to catch you guys up, doctor Ariana studied at Harvard University in Faircloth graduate School of Psychology. She now lives in New York City where she has a private practice. And today she is back with us to have a conversation about resentment and anger. As we work through supporting our parents and the aging loved ones in our lives, sometimes we feel like we're the only one carrying the load. And it can be a lot, you know, a lot come up with this topic and I'm very happy to be talking to Doctor Ariana on it and I think you guys will all learn a lot. So let's get started. So, Doctor Ariana, welcome back. As I said, thank you for being with us again. We chatted about grief and I loved our conversation. I really felt it could teach a lot to a lot of people. So thank you. And we're getting into another heavy topic, bitterness and anger and how to process that while caring for an aging loved one. So let's just jump right into it. A lot of our audience is caring for loved ones. That's really what brought them to parent projects and on top of their own busy life. I always call it that sandwich generation. They're just dealing with everything and they maybe feel like this particular person may feel like they're doing the full load for that aging loved one, their parent, their aunt, their uncle, whatever the case is. And how would you ask them to deal with that anger and bitterness? Where would you even begin when you're feeling these things? [00:02:08] Speaker B: Yes. Thank you so much for having me, Bina. This stuff is really important to chat about because so, so many people deal with this. You know, in my private practice, I talk with many people about relationship dynamics. And it often happens that people feel alone, they feel the load is uneven when it comes to dealing with hard things within families. And so being able to navigate our own feelings about these things and not allowing bitterness and anger and all that stuff to impact us is, you know, it's really helpful and important because ultimately all this stuff is actually going to harm us in the long run. And so, you know, what we often talk about and what I think is so important to discuss is, okay, how are you going to navigate this and how are you going to process those emotions that you're carrying so that they're not impacting and impeding you? Right. And how do we help you navigate something really hard? The best you possibly can. Not perfectly, but the best you can. Right. And so there's so many places to go, I don't even know where to start. [00:03:27] Speaker A: I completely do understand that. I feel like this is a really broad and big topic because I feel like I hear with all my clients, you know, it could be the oldest daughter feels this way, or maybe there's no daughters or maybe there's a daughter. I mean, there's just a lot that goes into one person feeling that they are doing more than the others. [00:03:49] Speaker B: Yeah, absolutely. And so, you know, and this might be a familial pattern, you know, and one of my, my sister in law, who's also a clinical psychologist, doctor Pauline Yegnazar Peck, also did a podcast with you guys. And she's wonderful because she talks often about culture and how often in different cultural situations dynamics, the eldest daughter often ends up taking a brunt of this load. Right? So, you know, I know people have probably heard the term comparison is the thief of all joy, right? And it can be really, really hard to navigate that feeling of, oh, look at this other person and look at what I have to deal with. And it is so unfair. So unfair. It's so unfair. And one of the main things I talk about is actually being able to sit in the acknowledgement of the unfairness of it all. One thing, you know, there's a formula that, you know, some very enlightened monk somewhere said pain plus resistance equals suffering. Okay? This is a great formula for you to take away in your life, everybody. Pain plus resistance equals suffering. Pain is something that you are going to feel all the time because half of human emotions are negative, half of your experiences are going to be negative. Right? It's just the balance of life things. Exactly. And so pain can mean many different things. Pain can mean loss. Pain can also mean unfairness. Pain can mean being taken advantage of. Pain can mean anger. And oftentimes when we feel like something is unfair and that we're dealing with something alone, that is pain. Suffering is resistance to that pain. What do I mean by that? It means it shouldn't be this way. It has to be different. This is so unfair. I need to have this change. I can't function if it's going to keep going this way. Right. That resistance results in suffering. It results in double pain, because already the situation that the reality of your situation that you find yourself in is painful. But then on top of that, using, well, if you have resistance, there's suffering. So it's double pain. And again, I'm not. I'm not saying that any of the stuff is untrue. All of it is true. But the problem is, is that it's creating suffering within us, and so we are experiencing double pain. Right. And so I think you're the one. [00:06:32] Speaker A: That ends up the most hurt. [00:06:33] Speaker B: Exactly. Exactly. Right. And so, you know, this is sort of the dichotomy that I talk about a lot, and I'm sure we're going to get into this, too, where it's like, okay, how do I come to a place of acceptance of my situation and being able to navigate that radical acceptance without resistance while also asking for help and actually practically coming to resolutions or thinking about ways that I can get my needs met, whether it's from my siblings, whether it's from somebody else, it's kind of holding these two things in tension. And so, again, this stuff is messy. It's not linear. But I think one of the things that radical acceptance offers us is that we're able to. We're able to fully embrace the reality of this situation, and so therefore, we can actually do something about it. Right. And so, you know, one of the things that I talk about is how do we not compare? Right. And that's really, really hard. [00:07:42] Speaker A: Very hard. [00:07:43] Speaker B: Yeah, really hard. But if you want to think about, okay, even if I never get any help when it comes to my parent, do I still want to operate the way that I'm operating? Right. I often talk about trying to connect to your values and to your why. And so one of the things I talk about a lot with my patients is operating and behaving out of your values, not out of anxiety, fear, anger, resentment. Right. And so all that we can have control over is ourselves. We can't control anybody else. And that's really frustrating, and that's really annoying. And that's part of that resistance piece. Part of the radical acceptance is saying, okay, you know what? All I can control is myself. And so how do I take my power back to be like, okay, this is the reality of my situation. And if. Is there anything you. That I need to change? Right. Maybe it's what I'm focusing on. Am I always focusing on, oh, my brother's not doing anything and I always have the thing and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All you're doing is rehearsing that resistance and it's creating so much suffering. Right. And so when you find yourself maybe ruminating or engaging in that comparison, how do you bring it back to, you know what? My value as a child is to take care of my parents. I would do this for my parent even if I never got any help. My value is to be this kind of daughter, this kind of son. My value is to treat my loved ones with respect. It's to be there for them. Right. And so once you can sort of connect to your why and say, even if things never change, how do I get to a place where I feel like I'm operating out of my best self? And then that gives you a folk that gives your sense of control back to you. Right. You're able to say, okay, you know, given that, what do I need to do to help myself navigate this well, right. And so I think that being able to evaluate our why and to focus on our values is a really important practice when it comes to this kind. [00:09:58] Speaker A: Of stuff you brought up, I can't even tell you. Like I kept thinking, I got to remember this point you brought up in that point you brought up. But there are so many wonderful points you brought up because truly it is something that happens, you know, and sadly, it might fall on one person. But you're right. You have to understand why you're doing that as that one person. Maybe other people don't understand. Maybe it's going to take you a minute to understand. But once you really feel okay with your decision, it's your decision. And I think that will make you feel better about moving forward and being that caregiver to that loved one that, you know, you're doing the bulk of the work for. And in the long run, you will have those memories and you will have that to yourself. So I do think that's great. [00:10:40] Speaker B: Yeah. And you'll be able to connect, you know, once your loved one maybe isn't around anymore, you're gonna be able to say, you know what? I actually navigated that the best. I absolutely knew how and I can feel good about that. Right. [00:10:51] Speaker A: Absolutely. I agree. Especially when you feel so much guilt and you don't know where to start. There's so much that goes into actually being in that caregiver journey. I think really saying to yourself, I'm good with what I'm doing this is a great thing for myself. I think it makes you feel better. I love that. And then something we talked about in the other episode kind of mentioned, but the whole, the mindfulness or connecting with your reason of why. So I thought that was really fitting to say together. [00:11:19] Speaker B: Yeah, exactly. And so, you know, that's why I love talking about mindfulness, because it fits. It is such a great life skill, you know? And mindfulness is just, all it means is being fully present and aware of a current experience without judgment, whether it's internal, like a feeling like you're breathing, like how your body is feeling, tension in your body, or it can be external, like noticing colors in a room or the weather or the temperature. And so being able to have space, you know, oftentimes when we're dealing with really difficult things, we're living in our heads. We're constantly living in our heads because we're doing to do lists that we have tasks we need to do, and we're thinking about our sibling and resenting that person and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And actually what's important to help us navigate hard things, it's processing pain. It's being present to our experiences and being connected to our bodies. And even when it comes to bitterness and anger and resentment and all that kind of stuff, actually being present to it and giving it space, actually allowing it to be there and give voice to it and be like, yeah, I'm really angry and I'm feeling really alone and I'm really frustrated. It's beautiful. And it's important because then you're going to be able to actually do something effective with it and problem solve it as opposed effectively, as opposed to constantly living in that mindless rumination of, you know, of your head and your brain. So, you know, we talked about in the last episode about ways of actually building mindfulness into your life and making it a lifestyle. And if you're actually able to practice it at least eight minutes a day, it's actually really going to impact your life for the better. [00:13:10] Speaker A: And I love it. It's just eight minutes when you really think about it. So it's wonderful advice. [00:13:14] Speaker B: Yes. [00:13:16] Speaker A: So it is great advice. Like I said, you know, sometimes you can get in that really good place, but you're just so desperate for help still. Like, you just can't do it all. How would you ask for help or to get your needs met in the caregiving journey without being defensive or, you know, really saying, guys, I just need this, but I'll do everything else. [00:13:37] Speaker B: Absolutely. And so this is why that first part is so important, right. Being able to come to a place of sort of acceptance and being able to process that bitterness and anger and recognize, you know what? I'm actually choosing to behave this way, you know, that's really going to help when it comes to, you know, I talked about that tension, right? The tension of accepting and being fully present to and accepting your situation without resisting it while also figuring out what do I need and how do I ask for the help that I need. And I'm not powerless in this situation. And so it's kind of these two things in tension where you're constantly accepting while also meeting needs and asking for help. Right. It's kind of holding these two things in tension. And so when we're able to actually let go of that bitterness and resentment and anger, we're able to ask for things much more effectively. Right. We're able to actually ask for things, as you mentioned, non defensively because oftentimes, you know, and we all know this, when you're feeling angry and you're like, well, if you were to help me once in a while, then, I mean, just come out. Oh, my gosh. [00:14:47] Speaker A: Yeah, exactly. [00:14:48] Speaker B: And then, of course, the other person's, the last thing they're going to want to do is help. And they're going to be like, well, I did this. You know, it's just, it's just completely unproductive. [00:14:56] Speaker A: So unproductive. Agree. Yeah. [00:14:58] Speaker B: And so, you know, what I'm always trying to go back to is what is going to be best for you? How are we going to make this an effective and healthy journey for you? And oftentimes holding on to this stuff, it's important to be real about it and to process it. But then how do we help it not impede you doing healthy things, things for yourself. Right. And so, you know, sometimes people just don't know how they, you know, I talk a lot about communication and non defensive communication. Right. And how do you ask for help? And so, you know, one thing that is very plausible, and I talk about a lot with people I work with, is, listen, there have been dynamics in your family for a very long time where you have been the fix it. You have been the person who usually goes in there and, and helps and carries the load. And other people, they might not know how you're feeling. They actually might not know how angry you are, how much you're drowning. [00:16:01] Speaker A: I agree with you on that. [00:16:02] Speaker B: Yeah. How alone you feel. And so have you actually been able to have an honest conversation that is, again, not out of place bitterness and anger, but genuine vulnerable connection to be like, hey, I know I seem like I have it all together and I've been doing this, but I actually feel like I'm drowning and I really, really need some help. And so one simple way of doing this that I talk about is something called fact feeling, fair request. This is a little formula that you can use, right? So rather than saying, you never help, and I'm always overwhelmed and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, right, whenever we say things that are in a, you know, we call it, you, language that's kind of slightly accusatory or feels passive aggressive, everyone's defenses are gonna come up and everyone is gonna be busy defending themselves, right. This is a way to kind of bypass all of that. And it just, it focuses on the way that we're feeling about a situation and give and practically, how do we need help, right. We give people practical solutions, because oftentimes it's like, I wish you would help me, and people don't know what that means. Right. It might mean something very different for them than it does for you. And so, you know, the first step is actually, have you really had an honest conversation in communicating what you need and really communicated how you're feeling? So the way that fact, feeling fair request goes is fact is describing something factually without emotional language. Right. As opposed to, like, you never call. You know, you can say when you haven't called me in the past for the past week. Right. Fact. [00:17:53] Speaker A: Exactly. [00:17:54] Speaker B: Feeling is, it makes me feel like you've forgotten me and you really don't care about how I'm doing. Right. It's actually focusing on how something makes you feel, as opposed to saying something like, you never call, you're so selfish, and blah, blah, blah, how do you actually say, hey, when you do this thing? This is how it makes me really feel, and I feel really sad, and I feel really lonely. Fair request gives people something to anchor themselves to. And saying, you know, I'd really appreciate it if you tried to call me once a week, even if it's just for ten minutes, for a catch up. I would really love to hear from you. Right. And so that can apply across the board, right. Even if it's something to do with, like, you know, helping a parent, being like, hey, I know that maybe you don't know how to help me sometimes. This is what I actually would really appreciate some help with. Is this something that you can do? Right. And so if you're able to have kind of like a non defensive, you know, even keeled discussion and giving people practical guidelines about, hey, this is actually something that would be helpful to have off my plate. Is this something you can do? And then, you know, they hopefully will say yes, and then that's going to take another step of radical acceptance that they're probably not going to do it the way that you want them to do it. [00:19:20] Speaker A: And it's about great points. [00:19:22] Speaker B: Yeah, it's about letting go of protection. If you want help, you gotta let. [00:19:26] Speaker A: Go of control and the expectations. [00:19:29] Speaker B: Absolutely. Which is very scary for someone who probably does it very well. And you're like, if anyone's got to do, if I want anything done, I got to do it myself. Yes, you can keep having that attitude. However, then you're always going to be angry and resentful. So you got to choose your heart. Either it's letting go of control and being like, you know what, they might not be as good at this as I believe that I am, but if I'm actually able to, like, accept that and let them do it, good enough is good enough, right? [00:19:59] Speaker A: Oh, Doctor Ariana. I had goosebumps. I love that. So it's fact. Feeling, feeling, fair request. Oh, I feel like that is just something you can use with anybody. Everyone can use. And it's a powerful tool and it's great to practice too. [00:20:14] Speaker B: You know, like doing it when we're feeling really emotional is probably not going to go well. And so if you're feeling really emotional, really angry, it's not the time to have this conversation. It's about waiting until you've calmed yourself down and then actually practicing. You can even practice it with someone else and be like, does this sound okay? You know, does this sound? And listen, people are like, that's putting in so much effort to someone who's, you know, being really annoying. And I'm like, I know, but this is actually gonna help you get the outcomes that you want or it's gonna at least increase the chain chances of that. And listen, it might not go anywhere. People might, you know, sibling or whatever might be like, no, they don't follow through. They check out. And that sucks. And we need to grieve that. Go listen to the episode on grief. We need to process that. And then it's like, okay, this is information. If I'm not going to be getting help in this avenue, where else am I going to find it? And at least it gives you the realistic expectation of, okay, now, I actually, rather than continuing to bang my head against a wall and expect something that I'm never going to get and feel constantly disappointed. I can actually problem solve to find something in a more helpful place that I actually might get a need met. [00:21:29] Speaker A: It allows you to move on. It allows the caregiver to move on. They've asked for what they need and, you know, if they don't get it, like you said, they'll figure out another way to get it. [00:21:39] Speaker B: Yeah, absolutely. [00:21:41] Speaker A: I love that tool. What if, honestly, what a fabulous tool for caregivers. You mentioned being powerless, and I do believe that is something a lot of the caregivers feel in this caregiver journey. Everyone goes on. Everyone has a different journey. But I think powerless is the term most people can use at one point in it. How would you try to get people out of it if they just feel so stuck in that powerless feeling? [00:22:05] Speaker B: I know. Yeah. It feels so overwhelming. [00:22:09] Speaker A: Yeah, it's overwhelming. [00:22:10] Speaker B: Oh, my gosh. With all the different things you have to navigate in your own feeling on everyone's. So many people are like, I don't have time to process this stuff. I have so many things I have to do. There's a reality that this stuff is really messy and perfection is not required. It doesn't mean that you have to do this stuff perfectly or well, you know, again, everything is dealing with a really enormous thing. And so, you know, oftentimes, another thing I talk about quite a lot with people is productive versus unproductive worry. And so oftentimes we're in unproductive worry when we are in our brains and we're constantly ruminating over what, what if this happens? And what if this happens? And then, if this happens, and then I'm gonna have to do this. And then, you know, it's kind of like living in this future where we're, where we're imagining all these different scenarios and trying to come up with solutions for it. Right. [00:23:09] Speaker A: And it seems like a waste of the time, but I know people go through it. It's the anxiety they're feeling. [00:23:15] Speaker B: Yeah. You're trying to kind of anticipate things. It's the way that you're, you know, you're feeling anxious and you're feeling overwhelmed. And so a product of that feeling is that your mind is going to race. The thing is, is that that's not productive. It's actually just, it goes over and over and over. And your anxiety is telling you if you keep on thinking about this problem, you're going to come up with a solution. But it's not. But it doesn't work that way. Right. Usually you've thought all the thoughts that you could possibly think about the thing, and all you're doing is spinning your wheels. And so, you know, when we look at a mountain and you look at the top of the mountain, you're like, oh, my gosh. How the heck am I supposed to get all the way up there? And it feels so overwhelming. It feels impossible. But if you focus on, oh, there's a rock five steps over there. Okay, I'm gonna walk to that rock. And so productive action might look like, okay, I know that I have to do this one phone call, so let me just make this one phone call. And so you walk over to the rock, and then you're like, oh, there's a bush over there. I can walk over to that bush. And then you walk over to that bush. Maybe the productive action is that you have to have a conversation with someone. Right. If you actually look at the productive steps in front of you, right. Part of it is it's also kind of incorporating that mindfulness thing. It's like being present and saying, what is something that I can actionably do about this problem? Is there something I can actually do? What does that look like? And let me take one step in that direction. And so I often encourage people, that is where you live. You live in the steps. And if you just focus on the next thing, eventually you will find yourself at the top of the mountain, but you can't focus on it. And so when you're feeling overwhelmed, that's okay. It is actually a normal feeling, and you will get out of it. You're not going to feel it forever. One way that you can, you know? And when we're feeling overwhelmed, we feel inert. We just freeze. Right. Because we're just feeling. I don't even know where to start. Right. And you just have to start somewhere. What do I have control over? What is one thing I can do? Maybe it's doing a search on the Internet. Maybe it's actually calling your best friend and saying, I am so overwhelmed, I have no idea what to do next. And having them help you, you know, you're not meant to do this journey alone. And so, you know, have your friends, therapists, support systems, you know, anything to help help you even maybe focus on that next step. And as you keep doing that, as you move, you're going to start to feel empowered again. But it's. Again, it's messy. It's not like it's going to feel great all the time, but it's, you know, I often say success is living in the good enough. This is good enough. This is good enough. I just got to do good enough. And that's going to help you keep going. [00:26:01] Speaker A: I mean, that analogy of the mountain could not be better. Yeah, I really believe it's a wonderful analogy. And when people do and will feel powerless, you know, that's a great way for, you know, when I'm speaking to people or other concierge at parent projects are speaking to people. I love that. Like, you know what, there are these little baby steps that will get you to the top of the mountain. Let's just do it together or. Yeah, I love that. Oh, Doctor Ariana, this is a wonderful episode as well. Same as before. Can you let people know where to find you? [00:26:35] Speaker B: Sure. So you can find me on my website, drabrandolini.com. So dashabrandolini.com. I have a bunch of resources on there as well you can take a look at. And then also a good place to find me is on instagram. So it's Ariana answers. Dr. Ariana answers. And you can link to even my facebook from there and a bunch of other places. I put out content on a bunch of different things often, so that's a good place to find me. [00:27:08] Speaker A: Well, this has just been wonderful. I think like I said earlier, if you haven't caught our first episode with Doctor Ariana, please go listen about grief. This one is about dealing with resentment and really some wonderful suggestions on getting past that and hopefully understanding that you're not in this alone. You just need to communicate kind of like we talked about. So I love that. So thank you. Thank you for your time and thank you for being here with us today. [00:27:34] Speaker B: It's been a, it's been fun. Thank you so much for having me. [00:27:37] Speaker A: You're welcome. [00:27:43] Speaker C: Well, that's it for the team this week, and thanks for joining us. If you've enjoyed the content, remember to subscribe and share this episode on the app that you're using right now. Your reviews and your comments, they really help us expand our reach as well as our perspective. So if you have time, also drop us a note. Let us know how we're doing for tips and tools to clarify your parent project, simplify communication with your stakeholders and verify the professionals that you choose. You can find us on YouTube, follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Thanks again for trusting us. Until our next episode. Behold and be held. [00:28:15] Speaker D: Thank you for listening to this parent projects podcast production. To access our show notes, resources or forums, join us on your favorite social media platform or go to parentprojects.com. This show is for informational and educational purposes only. Before making any decisions, consult a professional credential in your local area. This show is copyrighted by Family Media and Technology Group, Inc. And parent Projects, LLC. Written permissions must be granted before syndication or rebroadcast.

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