Monday, December 19, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
So here are a few phrases that many folks have heard as they were growing up:
"You made your bed...."
"You are not working up to the best of your ability."
"You can accomplish anything you set your mind to."
"You should have known better."
"You should be ashamed of yourself."
"Sorry doesn't cut it."
"You'll get what's coming to you."
"Chin up." or "Man up." or "Suck it up."
"Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about."
"Don't let the bed bugs bite."
What to they mean? How to they play in our heads? Do we really have control over letting bed bugs bite? Does "chin up" mean we should not feel sad when we are sad? Should we pretend things don't hurt? Ignore our feelings? Will we really get what is coming to us? Does this mean that we deserve to be punished? That we should be frightened or worried? That mistakes are not allowed? Is saying we are sorry not enough? Ever?
When, and for what, should we really be ashamed of ourselves? And at what age should we know better? How can we know what we don't know? How much can children know anyway?
Can we really accomplish anything we set our minds to? If we can't, then what? Does this mean we are suppose to have control over things so long as we try? How do we know what the best of our ability is, actually? What if we don't want or need to work up to the best of it? Are we failing if we don't? How hard should we try? And what about that bed we made? Again, does this mean we are stuck with what we have? That if we've made a mistake we have no choices. That taking responsibility for our actions means we merit no empathy for errors or mess ups. Or no help getting to a better place?
I think that in the gentle study of human behavior, as we talk through our frustrations and fears, our hopes and longings, it helps to take a look at the words we have heard, to see what runs through our minds. It's a small part of the puzzle of our lives, but worth a look.
Monday, November 7, 2011
I think the answers are individual of course, depending on our own unique character and circumstance, though there may be some common truths. While some of us are more comfortable feeling how we feel, letting our feelings rise and fall and be what they will, others are more hesitant. We get besieged by shame, or guilt or hopelessness, or the idea that perhaps we are not suppose to feel the way we do, or that there really cannot be any good outcome, or that since there are others who have it worse, our feelings should not be what they are. Except that they are. I have not found that denying our feelings solves much of anything. We can't always get relief as quickly as we might like, but keeping ourselves in the dark does not usually offer us good results. Neither does attacking our selves for the feelings we have. Nor does misusing gratitude.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
What follows is often a feeling of giving up, or rebellion. We think, "forget it, why even bother?" Or "that's it, I'm out of here." Maybe we mean actually, physically, or maybe it means mentally, emotionally, or that we will stop giving or trying or showing up. We may go to the idea that we are worthless then, undeserving of love. Or that the person who has hurt us is unworthy, either incapable or unwilling to give us what we need. Either way, it hurts.
Sometimes the feeling lasts for a few minutes, sometimes a few hours, and sometimes it gets chronic and lasts for a long while. Sometimes it comes and goes. It's not unusual to feel some emotional loneliness even in the best of relationships. Though we may wish it, we cannot be connected all the time. And when we are hurting this way, it often eclipses all of the good things that may exist in our lives or in our relationships.
In our primary relationships emotional loneliness can be especially painful, as we expect and long for emotional connection there first, and when it lapses or does not happen the way we need it to, we can lose control, lash out, or turn to self destructive behaviors to cope, giving us, perhaps, temporary relief, but ultimately adding more difficulty or bad feelings on top of the pain.
There are options, of course. We do not have to suffer, though sometimes this can seem like our mantra, that we are meant to suffer. We can decide to take good care of ourselves, not just when the loneliness spikes, but in general. We can talk things out with someone, write, walk, sit quietly. We can decide that though it hurts, most likely, we are not the only ones who feel this way, and that it is possible to study what causes it, when and how it happens, and if it is new to us, or in fact a feeling we know well, from years ago. And we can make use of it to get ourselves better and direct our energies toward progress.
And when it comes to loneliness in marriages, I have worked with many couples who are able to sort through the confusion and come closer. Yes, it takes work to untangle the feelings, the history and the needs, but it can be done. And when we are willing to do the work, we do get closer to those we love; we go easier on ourselves and others and we get much more of what we need.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
Monday, August 1, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
But write, write and write. One of the best parts of anger is that it creates a lot of energy. While it may be hard to think of anger as having good parts to it, there may be an upside. And on the upside may be this: We can learn a lot more about ourselves and others. But we do need relief, and most of time with anger, at least the anger we know we are feeling, we want the answer right now, and sometimes the best course of action is to wait, to not act on impulse.
One of the best tools for anger though, is writing a letter to yourself from the person with whom you are angry. You can apologize, explain, analyze. You can write whatever you think you might want to hear from that person. You may even be able to understand where they are coming from. Ironically enough, much relief from anger can be had from understanding the other person's character, history and perspective. Amazingly, you may find that in addition to getting relief, you will open up new doors inside yourself as well. Sometimes, you can even figure out if you had a role bringing your anger about. This too can be relieving.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Since many folks have been asking me lately about how to deal with anger, I thought maybe this would be a good day to start a series of posts about anger. (At least I think it will be a series. We'll see how it goes.) And since anger is such a hot topic, I am looking forward to posting on it.
I think anger is such a hot topic because it's so painful, and because there are so many different faces of anger. And because anger can influence the way we act, and live and love and work. We often don't know we are angry, or how angry we are until we have really talked a lot about ourselves, or our moods, or our history, or what is not working as well as we'd like it to in our lives. Sometimes anger hides behind depression, addiction, people pleasing, busyness, sleep. Sometimes it's right there front and center. Anger is not the same thing, at least not all the time, as temper. Anger can last a few minutes, a few hours or a few decades.
So in the quest for independence I think there are a few basic ideas to begin with, and then a whole bunch of tools that can help move you from where you are to where you want to be. The ideas are these:
~Some part of you has to be willing to consider the idea that you may be angry (if its not clear to you).
~You (most likely) cannot order yourself to stop being angry.
~To move through and on from anger, some part of you has to be willing to, or want to.
~Letting go of anger does necessarily mean that you have to forgive or forget.
~Most likely, when you are angry, some part of that anger is directed toward yourself.
Okay...so next post will start with some "tools."
Enjoy the fireworks.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Someone once told me that nothing good happens after 10:00 at night. Of course I know that this is not a universal truth, but for anyone who is prone to worry or panic, or sleep disturbance, late night can bring anxiety to new heights.
At night, paranoid thoughts can increase, self attack intensifies, and what may have seemed like forgivable mistakes can become relentless self doubt. A friend of mine, who has some humor about her night panic, tells me that some nights she is convinced that there are goblins in her hallway, monsters under her bed and aliens on her roof. Her boss is waiting to fire her; her doctor is waiting to give her dire news and her husband has three secret other wives.
She knows its her brain on rev, but still and all she worries. And the worry is real, and it is painful. She worries about her kids, her marriage and her financial situation. Some nights the worry turns into obsession and the obsession turns into sleeplessness, and the sleeplessness turns into more self attack.
Physical and mental exhaustion, hormones, biorhythms, brain chemistry can all contribute. So can an unresolved bad feeling in a relationship. So can the darkness itself. And one's personal history, even if the connection is not readily apparent. Somehow, late at night the mind can start conjuring up a parade of bad thoughts. An attack of "what ifs" or a barrage of "awfulizing" can take over rational thought. When the anxiety gets really bad, it can leave you longing for relief, but believing that none is really possible. If only there were an ice pack for the brain.
So what helps?
Well, I think that sufferers of night panic have a few choices, and any one or a combo can bring relief at one time or another. And first things first is being willing to believe that relief is both okay and possible. If you are stuck in the thought, however subtle, that the worry is actually keeping you safe from anything bad actually happening, you may need to address this belief first. Planning, consulting and considering can bring good results but when we are stuck in panic, obsession and rumination the pain can be intense and can block the way to solving real issues or getting relief from relentless worry.
Here are a few ideas, in no particular order, that can help with night panic:
~Listen for the thoughts under the panic. Write them down in a stream of consciousness, no holding back fashion. Look over them the next day and see which thoughts are fueling the feelings. Come up with a few good reassuring answers to the panic thoughts (even if you don't believe them 100%.)
~Come up with a few reassuring mantras to say to yourself such as "this too shall pass," "the worry is always worse than the actual event," or "even if something bad happens I can find support and get help."
~Talk back to the panic. Tell it to leave you alone, get lost, that feelings are not always facts and you will not let its panic messages ruin your night.
~Go to bed earlier. I don't mean to sound glib, but for night worriers, turning in earlier can help.
~Take a personal history. Think back to what bed time was like when you were a child. What are your memories? What were your parents doing late at night? Where were they? Did they tend toward calm or toward anxious? What feelings come up? Consider connecting the dots between your experiences now and the experiences that may have shaped you as a child.
~Make a list of everything and anything that is on your mind from things to do - to things that are worrying you. Leave nothing out. Then put the list away to review during the day.
~Make a gratitude list, a victory list, a list of things that are good and right with you, and in your world.
~Talk, talk and talk some more. Talk about the things that may be making you feel angry, frustrated or helpless.
In the back and forth between accepting and feeling your feelings and actively using cognitive or behavioral techniques to help bring on relief, consider that there may be many good roads to relief. Often times there is meaning in our experiences, and when we are willing to tap into what that meaning is, we can end up with a richer life experience and better nights.
Monday, June 6, 2011
These things interfere with her enjoyment of a day, with her feeling contentment from her many accomplishments and blessings, and with her making progress professionally. As I was listening, I wondered, as I often do when I listen, about whose story she was telling. Her own, of course, but not only.
Her sister is a competitive, very successful, somewhat famous medical practitioner. Her mother is a musician who longed for fame, but never quite excelled. And her father, though kind, always made it clear that he sacrificed many of his own needs and dreams in order to support her and her sister.
I wondered if she had given any thought to her own narrative as it relates to her early experiences in life, and the experiences of those closest to her. Had she paused lately to think more about what has shaped her deeper and more subtle (unconscious) beliefs?
We were in the shelter of a great park, but we were not walking a therapy walk together, though the conversation certainly leaned that way. But it reminded me yet again how much we really can gain from taking the time to consider our narratives. Of course, in therapy, in the shelter of these four walls, the conversation often leans that way, when it seems it will be useful. Studying narratives can shed light on the connection between our current emotional lives, the lives of those we love and may have been shaped by, and the obstacles to having more of what we might like.
People who come in to therapy often tell me that they feel a quiet (or not so quiet) discontent. They wish somehow that they felt more serene, more content in the day to day. Yes, they want to achieve, to accomplish, to excel, but they are seeking a balance between the desire for success and progress and the wish for a deeper sense of internal peace. I think it's possible. Probable even. And I think that considering our narratives, and connecting the dots between our internal lives and those of our family can help shed light on what holds us back, what it will take to move ahead, and how best to be both mindful and content, while making satisfying forward motion in life.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Fear, frustration and fury often lurk beneath the surface of "nothing to say." Sometimes, we have the idea that we if say what we want to say it will cause harm, or more harm, or will create a distance rather than a closeness. Of course, this is true at times. Hence the old adage "Does it have to be said? Does it have to be said now? And does it have to be said by me?"
And another sage saying "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Don't say it mean." These are handy ideas, but sometimes we don't know what we mean. We need to talk things out a bit first in order to figure out what we mean. And sometimes we do sound mean, when we are angry, impulsive or emotionally seeking to lash out at someone who has hurt or frustrated us.
So how do we choose the right words, the right ears, the right time or place? When do we say what we need to say? When do we wait?
A few things, perhaps, can help. First, it helps to know what the goal is. What is it we are seeking? Second, it helps to know what kind of response we might like. Third, it helps to know what kind of effect we might want to have.
When we need to just talk, freely, openly, without reserve, without worry of our effect or our affect, to just be heard, and perhaps understood and supported, then we need more neutral ears.
If we want to inflict pain (if we've been hurt), it helps to know that. If we want to get a message across, get information, get insight, it helps to know that as well. Our choices can be be guided by our goals when we pause to consider what they are. It helps to slow down a bit and give ourselves the gift of relief in ways that help heal us.
It also helps to know that when we feel blocked into silence we can respect that, but we can also know that it does not mean that we have no outlet. We can look under the block and find the right path out.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Not so much, actually.
So what then? If you are among the walking wounded today? Functioning outwardly just fine, but inside feeling like you are black and blue, or numb, defeated or deflated? And tired. Really tired.
Let's say you've gone through the check list of pick-you-ups, like a long walk, or a hot shower, or good talk with a good friend. You've put your face to the sun, taken some quiet time, and even put pen to paper to sort out what's bothering you. And nothing seems to be helping much. What do you do when the old standbys don't seem to be making a dent in your down? What if your mood seems to be going on and on, and sadness seems to be edging its way toward real depression?
So lots of people have been telling me lately, when I ask, that in addition to giving themselves permission to feel how they feel (since the effort it takes to suppress your feelings often just adds to the pain), that they are willing to consider two things.
First, that maybe somewhere under the low mood, or above the high anxiety is anger.
It may take some digging, or some talking to uncover what's lurking underneath, but it's usually worth it. Sometimes anger, painful as it can be, can help turn moods around. We don't have to stay angry, but if we are angry, it helps to know about it.
And Second, maybe somewhere under the depression is an old belief still standing its ground and talking its talk. Maybe some quiet message about your self worth, or your abilities, or your future. Probably something negative and disrespectful to your sense of self.
And well, you know me, it helps to unpack it, to study it, to bring out into the light of day. Better feelings are not always fast in coming, but if we know what's getting in the way, then we have a good chance of clearing things up. And actually, this can really help.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Monday, February 14, 2011
"S/he Does Not Love Me for Who I Am...but Only for What I Do for him/her..." 5 Relationship Love Myths that Can Break You
Monday, January 31, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
- So, I am thinking about hope. And about resiliency and about moving forward, about acceptance and about effort. And a lot of folks I know are thinking about these as well. I like the idea of paying attention to what we believe about the intersection of hope and effort and emotional pain and healing... so here are some thoughts...
Is it worth the effort?...
It's the question that nags at our psyches...but it nags quietly. And it has many variations...
Is it worth the effort it takes to work through my anger?
Is it worth the effort it takes to say the right things even when s/he has hurt me so much?
Is it worth it to help him/her understand what I need? (When I wish they would know already)
Is it worth showing up at a 12 step meeting when I'm not really so bad off right now?
Is it worth it to talk about past pains, since they are in the past?
Is it worth it to reach out to someone I've hurt and make amends?
Is it worth it to learn how to forgive?
Is it worth it to keep a budget?
Is it worth it keep talking when I can't exactly define how it helps?
Is it worth it to work on the issues in my marriage?
Is it worth it to learn about my character?
Is it worth it to develop my creative side? To write? To sing? To paint? To dance?
Is it worth it to sit quietly and learn how to slow down?
Is it worth the effort to read things that will inform me, support me, inspire me?
Is it worth it to pray? To meditate?
Is it worth it to consult with someone when I am confused, impulsive or trying to understand something better?
Is it worth it to remember to be grateful for what I do have?
Is it worth the effort to take care of my mind, by body and my soul?
and then this, too...
Am I worth it?
Is s/he worth it?
Am I better off on my own?
Is it (am I) worth the money?
Is it (am I) worth the time?
and then this, too...
What if it doesn't help?
What if it doesn't work?
What if it no one approves?
What if the results are not fast enough?
What if it seems too hard?
What if s/he hurts me again?
What if I have to sludge through a lot difficult feelings?
What if.....(you fill in the blank...)
and what if it is worth it? Or at least worth an honest try?
I think sometimes that when things seem bleak, hope almost seems painful, as if answering "no, its probably not worth it" will protect us from further hurt, further disappointment, further frustration.
I land on the upside of hope. Yes, I think, in most cases, its always worth it.