My Blog

How Self-Love Leads to Change

overcoming feelings of inadequacy

Does your blame and self-criticism help you to change your behavior? Many of us get locked into criticizing ourselves for the mistakes we make or things we don’t do that we think we “should”. But does the negative self-talk that goes on endlessly in your head actually result in teaching you a better way? For most people the answer is a resounding, “No!” In fact, the criticism most often leads to shame, which only keeps you from believing that you are even capable of change. So since it doesn’t work, why not give yourself permission to try something different?

See Yourself Like You See a Child

Try looking at your behavior the same way you would look at the behavior of your child or a really close friend. I’ll bet you wouldn’t berate and criticize your child or endlessly lecture your dear friend for a mistake innocently made. So cut yourself some slack and try offering you a word or two of encouragement to do better and praise for being willing to keep trying for improvement.

See Mistakes Through the Eyes of a Friend

When mistakes are made try to see them through the eyes of your friend. Do you imagine that your friend would call you names or demean you? Probably not, or they would not remain your friend for long. You are as worthy of forgiveness (self-forgiveness in this case) as anyone and a little self-forgiveness makes you more responsive to the need for change and increases your belief that you are able to change.

Assess Your Limiting Beliefs

Next take a look at your self-limiting beliefs. Many of these beliefs got their start in childhood. When your self-talk takes on the harsh sound of a negative parental voice or the whiny “don’t-pick-on-me” excuse making sound of a small child, you know that reflects a limiting belief. Tune in to self-talk and check out your beliefs. Some of the most common limiting beliefs include: “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not important”, or “I don’t matter”.

Help people good better best achievement

Offer Yourself Love and Kindness

Affirmations, the exact opposite of your limiting belief stated in the present and in a positive way, can help change those limiting beliefs quickly when regularly used. Turn away from self-criticism and toward self-acceptance. Offer gestures of loving kindness to your inner self.

A happier, healthier world starts with a happier, healthier you. Having goals for changes to bring about your own happiness and health is a good thing. Change is possible and more likely when you see yourself through the eyes of love. Make it more likely that you will succeed by turning your self-criticism into self-acceptance. Your first relationship is the one you have with yourself. Make it the most loving relationship you have and get ready for a world of change.

If you feel stuck in your limiting beliefs, call me. Change is possible.

           I can help 801-494-7612

Boost Your Confidence!

confidence is

Have you ever heard some version of “fake it til you make it”? Perhaps, “act as if” or “As a man thinketh, so is he”? Well intentioned people will often suggest to others that pretending confidence that they do not feel will help them perform better. Maybe it is true some of the time but often it is not. Why doesn’t it work? It sure sounds like a dynamite concept. And it is a great concept, but it is easier to say than to do.

We are talking about confidence, having it or acting as if you have it. You almost need to HAVE confidence in order to act confident. In an effort to use fake confidence, many people put on airs of arrogance, swagger, or noise. They really miss the mark. It usually looks fake and typically provokes a negative reaction in others.

If this isn’t confidence, what is?

Bring up a mental image of a confident person and the overall image will most often be one of good posture, head held high with a direct yet gentle gaze, good eye contact, and a relaxed smile. The person will appear healthy and engaged. This person tends to have a soft yet strong voice and shares ideas freely while encouraging others to do the same. This is the person everyone else wants to be with and be like.

Here are a few things to work on that will give you the look of confidence:

  • Posture and Appearance

Your posture is one of the first things to signal your level of confidence. A slumped posture indicates not only a lack of confidence, it often signals depression or health problems. Sit or stand up straight, shoulders back but not stiff, and feet about a shoulder’s width apart. Taking slow, regular breaths sends plenty of oxygen rich blood to your brain improving your thinking and telling your body that you are safe and in control. Avoid crossing your arms or legs as this is often a sign of defensiveness.

  • Movements

A confident person moves with grace and ease. So don’t fidget. If you find it difficult to stand without swaying side-to-side, try leaning against a wall. Movements that are jerky or choppy appear nervous, so move with a purpose, as though you never rush. Keep hand gestures slow and graceful.

  • Interactions

Once you have an opportunity to interact with others, your confidence may be challenged so remember your interpersonal skills. Eye contact should be direct and relaxed, not drilling into your conversational partner. It may be helpful to remember the three second rule. Make eye contact for 3 seconds and then look away slowly before returning your gaze to your partner. Look around your environment occasionally to show that you are interested in what is happening around you but avoid rapidly shifting your gaze as this appears nervous too.

Don’t forget to smile.  A toothy smile is a sign of health as well as confidence. It sets others at ease and demonstrates your non-threatening (and non-threatened) intent. When you speak calmly regulate the speed and tone of your speech and learn to listen twice as much as you speak. Silence can be powerful and seductive. Leave a little mystery.

Confidence. Business Background.

Confidence is a belief in your own self-worth. It is quiet power, strength, and tenderness when appropriate, and it is genuine. Confidence is incredibly sexy. It may take a long while to work on the internal areas of yourself to truly increase your level of confidence, but improving these three areas will help you to fake it til you make it. You will be able to act as if you have all the confidence you need. Then you will wake up one day and realize that you have stopped faking it… because you made it!

Need some help getting back your confidence?

Give me a call 801-494-7612

Is It Really Trauma?

Tornado destroying a woman's house

I was recently talking with a woman who told me, “I’ve never been in a plane crash or lived through a hurricane. I’ve never even been in a car accident. Yet when I hear people talk about their trauma, I feel like I have the same things going on. How do I know if I have been traumatized?”

Trauma seems to be a big buzz-word these days. It is certainly getting a lot of play in the media. With all the hype and mis-information portrayed in movies and other media, it can be quite confusing.

You may be familiar with the trauma that results from walking out of the World Trade Centers on 911 or surviving Hurricane Katrina. Who isn’t aware of the traumatic results that military personnel experience who served in Viet Nam, Iraq, or Afghanistan?

Most people accept that there are traumatic symptoms associated with many violent and “larger than life” events, but what about the twenty-something year old woman, living in the heart of Happy Valley Utah, who has never been in a war or experienced any form of life-destroying natural disaster? Is it possible for her to have the very same symptoms?

The Past Lives In The Present

As I talked a little more with the young woman responsible for beginning this conversation, I learned that she had witnessed the physical abuse of her mother from her father for four years when she was in elementary school. She had been the recipient of several humiliating verbal attacks from her mother in front of her school peers. And her husband had recently yelled at her in front of the neighbors for letting their three year old daughter play in the front yard in just a pair of shorts. Can this cause trauma?

What Is Trauma?

The simple answer is that for some, yes, indeed, it could result in traumatic symptoms. To understand how and why, you need to know that trauma is a collection of reactions having to do with how information is stored in the brain when a person experiences something they perceive as overwhelming, threatening their survival, and leaving them with a sense that there is no escape or recourse. It is far, far less about the event and significantly more about their experience.

To further help you understand how someone who has never been through the typically accepted forms of traumatic events can be traumatized, think of Big-T and little-t traumas. Big-T traumas are the types of events I’ve mentions, earthquakes, huge storms, rapes, drive-by shootings, and so on. Little-t traumas come from events that occur to nearly everyone, things like feeling humiliated in front of others by one who is in authority or is respected, or being the observer of violence to another and unable to intervene, or even the silent, lonely, neglect that many children experience.

These things may be traumatic because they stir the fight-flight-freeze response in an individual, because some power differential places the child or vulnerable person at the mercy of an uncaring situation, and because the vulnerable one is left feeling that their survival is at risk…whether or not anyone else would interpret the situation the same.

Event Versus Experience

One aspect of little-t traumas that make recovery more difficult is that people place a higher emphasis on the event than on the experience. This may cause the victim to avoid discussing their pain out of a sense of shame and the inability to adequately describe what was so terrifying about their experience. An interesting aspect of many trauma studies is that neglect, where no physical injury is deliberately inflicted, often causes more trauma than traumatic experience, which leaves visible wounds.

Women's hand goes to the man's hand on blue background

Rather than trying to justify whether or not an event is sufficiently “severe” to cause trauma, it is more meaningful to assess the effect on individuals than the events which caused the effect.

Many sociologists believe that traumas, both large and small, will be an ever-growing part of our future. Surely we would all benefit from an increased awareness of the vulnerability that leads to so much sadness and pain.

If you are experiencing symptoms of trauma, don’t let others define it for you. Reach out for the help you need. Traumatic symptoms are treatable. You do not need to live in fear and pain. Get help. As a counselor trained in treating trauma, I want to help.

                            Give me a call today.

Love Is A Choice

Valentines Card with love lettering

This coming Saturday will be Valentine’s Day, a day in America synonymous with love, hearts, cupid, and candy, but mostly LOVE. It’s a day for which people in America spend $1 Billion on cards, $4 Billion on jewelry, and much more on chocolates, fancy dinner out, and flowers. In addition, it is a day on which roughly 6 million couples become engaged. In terms of both the amount of money spent and its popularity, Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas. The modern version of Valentine’s Day is celebrated by 62% of Americans. No wonder it seems like “love is in the air”.

With all the sweets, candy, flowers, and jewelry abounding and people getting hitched, it’s easy to believe that this is one of the happiest days of the year too. That is not always the case, however.

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin”

In my therapy practice, I see a significant number of individuals and couples who are suffering in their relationships, marital and otherwise. Many people come into therapy in great pain, their heart aching, and their mind racing to find their way back to “that lovin’ feelin’.”I often hear the lament, “I just don’t love my (wife/husband/partner) any more. What can I do?”

Among the first things I try to help people sort out is what they really want from their relationship. If they really do want to reconnect with their partner and heal the wound between them, my goal is to help them see that love is not just an emotion.

Love is the result of many specific choices. Love is a series of actions leading to the commitment and attachment of two people to each other.

Increasing Love

Many of the people with whom I work have learned that relationships often experience ups and downs. It’s not hard for them to then see that with some effort, specific actions lead to more ups than downs. Then it is logical that more positive energy between them and reorienting their goals to the same purpose will bring about increased feelings of affection, connection, and commitment. Some would call this LOVE.

Dr. Helen Fischer, a biological anthropologist, says that love involves three separate brain systems:

  1. Sex drive
  2. Romantic love
  3. Attachment

When you meet someone that you find appealing and attractive, a part of your brain, deep at the base of the skull releases dopamine, a hormone that is a stimulant intended to produce wanting, craving, focused attention, and motivation. When this happens, you begin comparing that person’s characteristics with items from your love map*.

A love map is a theorized template for the ideal partner, buried somewhere in our subconscious. It includes things like physical characteristics, such as hair and eye colour, height, body build, as well as non-physical characteristics like level of education, temperament, experience, sense of humor, etc. Items from your love map converge with other elements such as timing, yours and the others’ availability, etc., and if everything aligns, presto: you’re falling in love.

Infatuation vs Love

Sadly, American culture is so permeated with notions of romantic love, strongly tied to sex drive, that people often mistake feelings of infatuation with the deeper levels of love that include attachment. This romantic notion leads many to believe that they are finished with a relationship when they no longer feel the heady buzz of infatuation, especially if there have been wounds or slights within the relationship.

If, on the other hand, the relationship is essentially whole and the partners are willing to work together to mend any offenses given or taken, feelings of romantic connection can be relatively easily restored, leaving the individual or couple free to consider the importance they give to attachment and commitment.

Red Rose Flower isolated on Black background

You Can Love Stronger Than Ever

When they are willing to learn and make the needed effort, most couples can return to the intense feelings of being in love that were present in their early relationship. In fact, many who improve their communication skills and develop their relationship support “muscles” find that the relationship can be stronger and more passionate than ever!

Well, Valentine’s Day is close on the horizon. If you are in a healthy relationship, I hope you’ll make the effort to continue to woo and win the object of your love.

If your relationship needs work, this is a great opportunity to make a start on rebuilding what you want it to be like.

And if your relationship is hurting, let Valentine’s Day be a gentle reminder that it is never too late to rescue something you value and never too early to learn the skills needed that will increase love, romance, and attachment with each little choice you make. If you need help to heal please reach out for help, give me a call. LOVE is too precious to let it go.

I hope you choose Love.

Your Unfinished Everyday Grief

Мультфильм лица с эмоциями

My private practice in counseling seems to currently be filled with grief issues. Does that mean I am dealing with lots of people who have lost a loved one to death?

Well, yes, one of them has lost a spouse and another client’s husband died a few years ago but the new marriage is very satisfying. Yet this client is grieving because an old relationship that was thought to have ended has recently been brought back to life in ways that are extremely disruptive to the entire extended family. I work with a client who is grieving the loss of a canine companion that brought great joy and a sense of safety, remarkable since following sexual abuse in her youth, she has feared she might never feel safe again. However, not all grief is related to death.

Reasons Other Than Death

One of my couples is working on healing their relationship following a long separation due to poor choices made on both their parts. Each of them experiences a form of grief.  For a different client, anxiety is the thief that stole away the freedom to go where he wants when he wants and grief is part of his process. With another client, we search for ways to help her adjust to the changes in her life that are the result of her children getting older and making some very difficult choices, not always the way she would have them choose. Her grief is, in part, about the loss of an imagined life she has been developing since got married some twenty plus years ago.

Grief In Every Day

Grief isn’t always about death, dying, or bereavement. You grieve over many things in most of your days. Lost opportunities, lost time, lost health, lost jobs, all kinds of losses, but you also grieve over changes. The promotion that takes you to a new state, the difference of opinion that challenges a friendship, the doubt you feel rise up in your heart when some policy seems to discount those you love, or the space you feel grow between yourself and your partner while he or she mentally works out a particular issue…alone. These lists go on and on.

Grief and Loss

Yes, grief is about loss but loss is more than the result of death. Think about what form loss takes and to what degree you feel it in everyday, because when you ignore loss, even the subtle and less apparently destructive types that occur with change, the effects can be cumulative and they will be cumulatively negative. In effect, if you cannot grieve the small stuff day-to-day, how well will you grieve the big stuff like the unexpected death of someone you love?

Loss and Disappointment

You may ask: So what am I supposed to do when I don’t get the promotion I expected: go home and wail and cry and gnash my teeth? You could…if it hurts that deeply and only you will know exactly how deep any given loss (read disappointment) hurts. On the other hand, if you think of your lost promotion as a disappointment then chances are your reaction will be milder, but you will still have a reaction. Facing it head on and honoring the hope you had, which is now dashed, and expressing the distress, to whatever degree you feel it, completes your relationship with that pain. It allows you to release it and move on.

Grief in the Relationship

Completing the relationship is a great way to look at how to deal with the day-to-day experiences of grief we all have. Using the promotion as an example, your hope or expectation for the promotion is the object of your relationship. When it fails to materialize, you will benefit from expressing whatever your real feelings are. You can do that mentally or aloud to your partner or spouse. You may choose to speak to the one whose decision resulted in your feelings, to the person who received the promotion instead, or elsewhere. You can do it verbally, in writing, or mentally, as mentioned.

Woman consoling her crying friend and sitting on the sofa

Finish Relationship Business

Not expressing your thoughts and feelings of disappointment may result in you seeing yourself as unworthy of happiness. Thoughts and feelings not expressed leave the relationship incomplete and may thereby cause you to limit your life.

Appropriately expressing your sadness, disappointment, or even anger when you experience loss or change in relationships completes an interaction. It is an opportunity to finish the business of your feelings and actions. It allows you to experience the ending as “clean” and thus you are free to move forward in health.

Complete Your Griefwork

At the end of each day, consider reviewing your experiences and completing whatever business lingers from changes, endings, or losses. Say what needs to be said in whatever way it needs saying, then go to sleep with the ease of knowing the griefwork for that day is done, finished, completed. You can awaken in the morning refreshed and ready to take on a new day.

Practice on the daily small stuff will result in an easier time with the next BIG grief issue. If you find yourself stuck in the daily things that cause you disaapointment, anger, envy, or other difficult emotions, it may be that you have not allowed yourself to grieve something. Give me a call and let’s work to complete that business.

                                    801-494-7612

Be B.R.A.V.E. to Stop Anxiety

Hope4theheartalways.com

Hope4theheartalways.com

Everyday I work with clients who suffer with anxiety issues. They come to see me with symptoms ranging from nervousness, shortness of breath, and fears to a racing pulse, heavy sweating, feelings of doom, and a great urgency to avoid whatever it is they perceive as the problem. In a word, anxiety. My treatment is often to ask them to be B.R.A.V.E. No, I am not asking them to pluck up their courage and face the terror that confronts them.

B.R.A.V.E.  is an acronym used to describe several cognitive behavioral therapy methods for coping with anxiety.

Each letter of the acronym B.R.A.V.E. stand for a specific way of approaching anxiety to lessen its grip. Think of a tool chest with many different tools in it. Sure if you are pounding nails it’s good to have a hammer, but what if you need to place some screws? Then you need a screw driver. I like to help my clients develop as many tools as possible because no one method works for every person- in every situation- all the time. So let’s look at the  B.R.A.V.E. ways of treating anxiety.

B

The B stands for body symptoms like a racing heart, shortness of breath, or sweating. Physical symptoms are always a good place to start because coming from the body they will always tell you the truth and suggest a quick way to deal with the problem. Diaphragmatic breathing, postural changes, a drink of water, and movement all can affect the physical aspects of your anxiety.

R

The R in B.R.A.V.E. stands for relaxation. Most relaxation techniques will decrease anxiety; some are easier to learn than others. Some are great to do when you’re alone and not so great when you are in public. So it’s a good idea to have a variety of relaxation methods such as guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and breath work. And the neat thing about breath work is that it can’t NOT work. It is a biological response that all mammalian bodies have neurologically built in.

A

Another very effective management tool for anxiety is acceptance, the A of B.R.A.V.E. This fall under a category of psych-education. I help my clients understand that the harder they “try to avoid” the anxiety the more anxious they will feel, but acceptance can actually “cure” the anxiety. For example, if you know that every time you go into Wal-mart you feel increased anxiety, and you are able to accept that you are going to feel some anxiety and that it’s OK because your anxiety will not harm you, then you can go to Wal-mart with (reduced) anxiety simply because you are willing to accept having the sensations and beliefs that go with it. Over time, the acceptance continues to reduce the level of anxiety until it is no longer a problem.

V

V stands for viewpoint. A simple way of explaining this one is that we want to move toward relaxation versus moving away from anxiety. It is a small change in your perspective. However, chances are you have been told at some point to “just clear your mind of the troubling fears” or “push those thoughts out of your mind”. Those well-meaning suggestions rarely work, but look at it from a slightly different direction: try gently shifting your attention to the floor or chair beneath you, noticing the sights and sounds around you, imagining your lungs calmly breathing slowly and deeply in and out. Can you see how much more effective it is to not charge straight on at your anxiety like a bull at red flag?

E

Finally, the E stands for exposure and here you finally get to face your anxieties. There are two basic types of exposure: imaginal and real exposure. Imaginal exposure consists of thinking of an image of the feared person, place, thing, or situation. Or it may involve looking at photos, drawings, cartoons or other images. Real exposure is obviously actually having some form of personal contact with the cause of your anxiety. Anxieties that require the use of exposure, real or imaginal, may need the help of a profession to deal with them effectively, but the process of exposure should always be approached gradually, gently, and from a position of the least anxiety producing to the greatest.

Just knowing the acronym B.R.A.V.E. won’t take away your anxiety but it may help to give you hope that there are many, many techniques and tools to help you manage your anxieties. If you have tried on your own without the degree of success you want, consider seeing a counselor. Anxiety is the #1 mental health affliction in America and it is also a highly treatable problem. Don’t suffer another day.

Give me a call and let’s work on helping you find your peace.

Can Trauma Be Healed?

Genähtes Ei

I have worked off and on with a lovely woman whose husband died by suicide coming on two years ago. She had deep complicated grief to deal with and she also had trauma issues to overcome. On this journey, she has worked hard to honor their relationship by doing the grief work. It is difficult to tease out the grief versus the trauma issues. It’s not like you can create a list with the grief symptoms on one side and the trauma symptoms on the other. And although it would seem ideal to work on one and then the other, I have often found that it is much messier than that.

Is it grief or trauma?

Recently, my client had an experience in which her trauma symptoms were once again provoked into high gear and it destroyed her calm for nearly a week before we were able to schedule more trauma work. She expressed great frustration: she felt like she was back at the beginning again and that it would never end. I assured her that she had made great progress and pointed out some specifics to help her see it. Soon she was reassured and ready to take on the next piece of the journey.

My goal at that time was to help her do more sorting of the grief and trauma symptoms to decide which of these needed the most urgent work. It quickly became apparent that they both needed more work but the trauma symptoms were the most troublesome.

This woman is amazing. Once she is committed to doing a piece of the work, she puts her whole self into it. She had written one of those letters we therapists suggest to clients in which they can tell their deceased loved one whatever unfinished messages they have. My client’s resulting letter was about 8 pages long and was remarkably thorough. In our session, she agreed to read it to me. Her written words flowed like silk, but initially she struggled to read them and the trauma showed up in deep gasping breaths, heaving sobs, and gushing tears. Several times, as she read, she paused saying, “I don’t think I can get through this.” Then she would press on. (What courage!) When she finally read the last words, she took a few moments to cry out her pain and then gathered her strength to see where we would go next.

Facing the trauma

I encouraged her to discuss just briefly the experience of having written and then read aloud for me this incredible letter to her beloved. Talking about it gave her some emotional recovery time and space between the worst pain and the next piece of our work , which would be on the trauma. One of the things I was able to share with her was that it seemed to me that the working part of her grief journey had concluded and that, although grief might continue to come up from time to time, it would do so in manageable pieces. However, we still had some work to do on the trauma.

When she had calmed more completely, we did the trauma work. As we finished the first half of the trauma work, she said how much better she felt. The second half of this trauma piece was to have her re-read her letter aloud again to check for the effectiveness of the trauma work. She breezed through it with only a few (appropriate) tears and “normal” sadness. When she finished reading, her first words were, “Wow! What a difference!”

Shell.

Freedom!

Trauma is about fragmented information and experience that can’t resolve because fragmentation doesn’t allow for a coherent narrative. The work we had completed did not change the events of the past. It did not remove the troublesome memories. It simply aligned the various aspects in her brain that had been previously so fragmented. She now had a coherent narrative, a full story with a beginning, a middle, and an end and the overwhelming, negative charge had disappeared. She even looked different: lighter, freer in her own skin, less weighed down.

One of the things my client had written to her beloved was that she was making an effort to “live in the thriving moments.” Her journey, like most grief and trauma journeys, has been a roller coaster for almost-two years. But she has had thriving moments. I’ve seen her grow personally and professionally. Her relationships have become more open and honest and, I think, more enjoyable. There is a dynamism to her now that is fun to be around like never before.

I love her phrase “thriving moments.” It is wonderfully descriptive. Life is lived in moments. The past is a memory; the future is a dream, a possibility; the only real time we have is right now, this moment. And she has chosen to focus that reality as time to thrive.

My client gave me a real gift with this phrase and I plan to incorporate it into my own thinking process. How about you? Are you ready to start living in the thriving moments?

Trauma can be healed. Many people are not aware that this is so and they may stay stuck in the pain of a past event(s). Please share this article with your friends and family so that others can see that traumatic pain can be overcome and life can be sweet once more.

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Communication: Is it better to shut up or shut down?

Access denied concept.

Do you ever notice that your partner seems “quiet” or withdrawn and ask, “What’s the matter?” only to hear him snap back at you, “I’m fine.” Do you continue in confusion saying something like, “Well, you seem angry or upset or something.” Again you might hear your partner reply, “I’m NOT angry. I’m fine” and their increased volume or change in their tone tells you that your guess hit close to the mark.

If this sound all too familiar, you are not alone and for many couples this pattern of dealing with tough emotions through denial can lead one partner to shut up and shut down. The result is ultimately a loss of emotional connectedness and the ruin of intimacy.

Shutting Up and Shutting Down

It may be clear to you that your partner is avoiding talking about something, but the truth is your partner may be doing more than simply avoiding a discussion. He may be denying some particular emotion that feels too risky to share, either with you or himself. In time that denial can shut down emotions.

When you are afraid to share something with your partner, denying the emotion avoids conflict for a short time. Sooner or later, however, your brain will find a way to act out what you are avoiding, often in ways that cause emotional pain, the very thing being avoided in the first place.

Emotions provide information

Your emotions allow connection between you and your partner. Even your so-called “negative” emotions, such as anger, shame, and guilt, provide important information to you. They can be a source of rich discussion and deep growth for you and the one you love.

We are all communicating all the time. In fact, you can’t not communicate. Your words, posture, facial expression, and tone are constantly conveying information and just as it is impossible to not communicate, it is also impossible to not relate. The question is, what are you communicating and does it bring you closer or create distance?

For example, have you ever given your partner that “come hither” glance that says, without a word, that you want to be close, and closer? Or flashed that almost imperceptible little frown that conveys a certain disappointment? It takes only 100 milliseconds for your face and body to transmit to your partner the emotion you feel but it will take your partner’s brain a full 600 milliseconds to respond.

There are more really good reasons for you to deal with difficult emotions too, besides the fact, that no matter what your words say, your face and body have been broadcasting the truth for 500 milliseconds before a response is even possible.

Welcome.

Communication of difficult emotions creates trust

First, you learn that you can trust your own ability to “read” your partner’s emotions. Second, discussing things honestly builds trust. Telling your partner that you are not angry, when in fact you are, prevents the two of you from learning how to support one another. When you admit to your partner that you are, in fact, feeling the difficult emotion they identified and then continue to discuss for increased understanding, intimacy grows; you learn that you can trust each other with vulnerable emotions.

Denying emotions can kill a relationship

Studies show that denying emotions can be as harmful to a relationship as raging is. Most children deny their emotions some of the time because they feel vulnerable. We all did it as children and it worked for our survival then. If you continue to deny your difficult emotions in your adult relationships, it usually indicates that you feel unsafe and over time it builds distance between you and your partner. And if you are denying your emotions often, that may need looking at too. What about your feelings or your right to have them are you trying to avoid?

That’s the danger you face by denying your painful emotions. You keep yourself safe (read “comfortable”) in the short run but put your relationship at risk for the long-haul.

It can be scary to share your feelings of anger, shame, and guilt but by doing so you teach your partner what you need to feel safe. It can open the door to compassion, being more fully known and understood, and strengthen your loving bond.

In the final analysis, you must decide which is more important to you: a few moments of discomfort or a lifetime of connection.

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I’m Grieving For My Friend

Grief in the Cemetery

My best friend’s husband died a few weeks ago. He was 74 years old, not in good health, and still recovering from a major (and very risky) surgery from 3 months previous. He had to use a cane or a walker to get around and that infuriated him. In fact, he hated and resisted everything that had to do with aging. It wasn’t a surprise that he died. The timing of his death, on the other hand, couldn’t have been worse.

My friend was out of town for a week for work. Although he never answered her calls or texts while she was on her trip, that wasn’t completely strange. So she didn’t really begin to worry until the last night that she was away. When she arrived home, she found him dead on the floor in their bedroom. The coroner said it appeared to have happened nearly a week previously.

When she called to tell me about it, she was well into the guilt many would experience in such circumstances, even though there was no accurate reason for it.

My friend is a therapist too.

I have dragged her to enough continuing education offerings on grief to KNOW, like me, she is well informed about grief. However, it is never the same when it is your own situation. In addition, she has a lot of support from her wonderful family. She has sisters and brothers who rallied to her aid, two marvelous daughters,  grandkids, and a son who live locally and will do anything and everything they can to help their Mom. In this regard she is a very fortunate woman. Yet she has just begun a journey that is incredibly painful and lonely, even if someone travels it with you.

I have been surprised at how hard this has hit me. My friend lives in Ogden and I in Orem. For all the help I can be to her, I might as well be on the moon. She knows that she can call and talk anytime she needs to do so, day or night and I hope she does. She was there for me when my husband died by suicide in 2000 and I will be there for her now, in any way I can. Yet, I feel so impotent.

The intensity of my reaction to my dearest friend’s loss robbed me of my energy for several days. I found myself confused and unable to concentrate at my usual level. Working with my own clients required real effort for me. I think (and I hope) that they were unaware of my difficulty. It almost feels like I am grieving myself and maybe I am a little.

My friend has lost relationships previously, and she had been through the death of both of her parents. But she has never had a spouse die, especially under circumstances as complex as this.

calla lilies

In grief work it is said that when you lose a parent, you lose your past; when you lose a child, you lose your future; and when you lose your spouse, you lose your present. Who are you now, without that person? What do you do now, the rearranging of responsibilities, etc.? And since you can’t go on as part of that dyad, why go on? For some people, it can really undermine the things you believe.

Thinking about what my friend has lost now and the things she will be called on to work through over the next weeks and months– this is what has exhausted me. It really hasn’t brought up pain from my own grieving experience, but I do have some idea of what challenges lie ahead for her. In a way, I wish that I could shoulder some of the burden for her, but that really isn’t possible. Nor would it be kind. It would rob her of the opportunities that grieving brings.

So instead, I will be available to walk this valley of the shadow of death alongside my friend. I will be available to cheer her, encourage her, listen and just be with her on this, one of the most difficult journeys that humans are called to take.

I survived my own journey on that lonely path, with the love and care of a few good people, and she was one of them. Now I have the privilege and opportunity to pay it back, just a bit. Who knows what marvelous things I may learn along the way…

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Happy New Year 2015

2015 happy new year celebration background for your posters.

This morning we woke up to whole New Year! Any time you write the date today, it will indicate the year 2015 and there are 364 more days on the calendar that have never been used. Think of that: all that time of fresh choices. What can you do with 364 days in which to make new decisions on what to think, what to do, and even what and who to be? The point is that on this day all that time, with all those choices are in front of you and if you decide today to spend some time thinking about and planning for it, you can captain this year in the ways of your own choosing.

I spent New Year’s EVE with a dear friend. WE went out for a lovely meal and then watched a DVD late in the evening. At midnight, we mixed Cran-Rasberry juice with 7-Up in darling little plastic champagne flutes and toasted in the New Year. We both said farewell to the old year and sent our wishes out to The Universe that 2015 will be the best year of life thus far. It was the beginning of plans to make this year a really great one.

I believe in making plans in order to live intentionally. Living intentionally means having specific things that you want to accomplish, which you formulate into goals and then make plans on how you will accomplish those goals. Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America is quoted as saying, “If you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail.”

I spent time at the end of 2014 reviewing the year, checking what had been successful for me and why.  This was a relatively easy process for me since I keep a journal and write in it frequently. At year’s end, I always take time to skim through it, reviewing the successes and failures of the preceding year. After I took the necessary time for a thorough review, I started writing down exactly what I want to accomplish this year.

Smart goals on blackboard

I have tried to be specific. For example, I want to see more clients this year. So I wrote down how many days per week I want to work, how many clients per day I want to see, and how much money I want to make for the entire year. Now that I have a better idea of what specific goals to aim for, I can begin planning how to gain more clients, how to consolidate my appointments into the number of days I want to work, and how to increase my annual revenue.

Without a plan for accomplishing the goals I have for 2015, I would probably continue to do pretty much what I have done over the previous year. While that has been a good experience and I have learned a lot, I have aspirations to accomplish more than I have so far. In order to do that I will take the time, do the work, and see the results of setting and reaching my goals.

This part of the work creates the pathway to your goals (and even to your dreams). It is the easiest part of the process but for many it is the most difficult to discipline yourself to do.

Travel and trip

  • Take the time to review 2014, if you haven’t already done so.
  •  Consider what you want to accomplish in 2015, and write it down. Writing it down makes it more concrete and easier to see the pathway to accomplishing it.
  •  Set specific goals that will move you toward your final intention. And once you have your goals set, start listing the little steps that will help you make each goal a reality.

You are the only one who can decide what will bring you happiness. Choosing what you want and how to get what you want take some effort and time. Instead of making resolutions that most people break within two months of the New Year, take an organized route to accomplish your goals and make 2015 the best year of your life so far.

Remember that every journey begins with a single step, but you’ll never finish if you don’t start (-Lao Tzu). Start your journey now. Success is the prize waiting at the end of this journey.

                       Happy New Year 2015

 

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