Category Archives: support
My book review of Solution Building in Couples Therapy by Elliott Connie was released within the Journal of Sexual and Relationship Therapy. I discover various aspects of Solution Focused Therapy, how this model works, plays into therapy, and the results. Please feel free to read the review. You can read it at the Routledge site linked below or pick up your copy of the Journal of Sexual and Relationship Therapy.
Check out the newest discussion between Two Therapists Talking. This round we talk about if you can control your emotions or not?
It often can seem like there is no chance of anything changing at all. You are totally stuck in the depths of sadness and loneliness. These negative thought patterns can feel insurmountable. I often consider these feelings like trying to run through molasses. This is what it can feel like to be depressed. You want to move and change, you want to feel happy, you want to engage in your life but you just can’t get there. It is hard and it really can seem like nothing you do matters.
However, there is an ever so small truth that often gets left out of the depression equation. That is that change happens one small step at a time. When you go in thinking that nothing you do matters or can change your situation, that is where the error occurs. You are not in control of your feelings they come up naturally as a response. However YOU ARE IN CONTROL of your thought and actions. When you have a strong emotional response, you have the ability to not follow it with negative thoughts and/or actions. Because if you do, it increases the negative feelings that make you feel stuck.
Hence, the smallest change of how you react to your emotional responses has a great impact on how bad (or not) you continue to feel. Because you can control your thoughts and actions you have the opportunity to make a change in your pattern. It may seem small but think about what happens when you feel bad and then add on it terrible thoughts about yourself and even take actions that harm you. It all just feeds into the negative pattern and you are stuck in a bad cycle of self-hatred. Instead, when you have a negative emotional response to someone, you can stop and decide to not follow it down with a negative thought.
You are having a bad work day and feel pretty sad. A co-worker comes in and is short with you about some paperwork she can’t find. You might respond thinking thoughts like: I am such a bad person, I can’t even get the files she needs, what is wrong with me? And then you feel worse, continue to pile on more negative thoughts, not take any steps towards finding the files, and then go home and isolate. All of this making you feel even more depressed.
Instead you can STOP this pattern and try something different so you can break the cycle.
In response to the same situation you can consider other alternatives like: Wow it seems like she is really stressed out, she has a lot of pressure right now I can understand why she might need help finding the file. You then decide to go help her find the necessary files and begin to feel good that you were able to keep perspective, help out, and go home in turn possibly even invite a friend over to talk and have dinner.
It seems so small but that little change in thought leads to action, which turns into a new pattern that is positive and productive. So just when you think there is nothing to do and that you are stuck. Remember that you are in control of your thoughts and actions and that you can take a negative pattern and turn it around. That small step is what starts to move you from a negative into a positive direction.
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There is a myth that making change for the better is somehow supposed to feel instantly good. It is as if, once you decide that you no longer want a behavior or response that… BOOM! everything will be sunshine and unicorns. This is rarely the case (and even when it is… it is usually because so much has already been processed through unconsciously that is gives the appearance of radical shifting).
Most often what occurs is that you decide you want to make a change in your life, you identify the ways that you are interested in making it happen, and then you slowly begin the process of enacting the desired behaviors. It all sounds rational,very rational… because it is. However, the emotional responses are the ones that often drive this process. And that is where it gets tricky.
It goes a little something like this:
You are eager to stop doing the things you dislike and sooooo ready for the results of all the things you want to positively happen, there is a ton of effort going into the process. Yet it is the gap in between where stuff actually happen. The messy middle of change.
Professional Therapy Tip Moment:
Change is going to feel crunchy, confusing, a bit scary, and frustrating. This is how the growth process works, it is a new approach to an old model, so there are going to be some bumps.
Just because you decide to be healthy, make changes, and see results… doesn’t mean that you will feel like a super star right away. It is scary to do things outside your comfort zone and is often anxiety provoking. It is actually common to feel a lot of discomfort as you move from past negative patterns into current positive ones. It is a natural response to be unsure about what you are doing and think “Am I even changing, am I doing this right, is this working?” because it is unknown territory.
Here is what I know for sure… when you question about if you are doing things differently, it is the exact moment you should realize you ARE! You are in the middle of doing it differently because you never would have asked yourself that question if you were still inside the old patterns. So embrace the awkwardness, the confusion, and even the anxiety. You ARE changing, you ARE doing it, and you ARE already succeeding by the very nature of the emotional responses.
Now take a few deep breaths and smile. Success is yours!
This was too good not to repost. Here in full with a few light edits.
by Tatu (via fetlife)
People are people and whenever they encounter one another,
occasionally they do something that perhaps injures. I’m not talking about physical injury, but words or actions that injure or alienate another. Someone says or does something that harms or offends.
Now one would think that this is basic preschool stuff that we should
have learned from our parents at home, but there are those who
obviously never learned “The Art of Making an Apology”. I say “Art”
because if not done so in a way that communicates and touches the soul
and somehow breathes a new and more positive energy; we will come away
feeling like we totally wasted our time with this person. It is an art to listen and live beyond the pain.
Now I have to say I have heard a lot of “nambie pampie” excuses for an
apology in my years. Given I spent the 1st 20 or so years of my
professional career involved in relationship, marriage and family
counseling; and the last 15 expanding it into the legal services
business; trust me I think I have probably heard just about
everything; from dealing with the angry child or the rebellious
teenager, to the cheating spouse; and even interviewing the child
molester in jail for a case about to go to trial.
The online world has generated a minefield of potential relationship catastrophes due to the ease of not being in the actual presence of real human being, and the relative perceived anonymity of sitting behind a keyboard looking at an electronic screen. I mean like who’s gonna care, really? They’ll get over it, right?
What happens is that it is relatively easy for people shoot their
mouths off in an instant without engaging hardly any brain cells. It’s
sort of like the illustration of how there is only enough blood in a
man’s body to supply his brain . That’s why when a man gets that testosterone pumping his head drops, his brow lowers. Picture the Neanderthal here.
Same thing happens on line, especially for the males. They get that
testosterone pumping and they start typing. Before you know it they
are popping out all kinds of discourteous verbal abuse to the nearest
bystander or in some cases the object of their focused attacks. They
will puff their chest out and show the world how great they are by
attacking and putting down someone. Their tools are vile language,
ridicule, harassment, baiting comments and / or pointing out how
stupid you are for that typo and how you are just not “real” as they are.
They are people who have such a low self-esteem that they feel it
necessary to try to pull others down to their level in order to make
themselves feel as good as someone else, or they are egotistical
assholes bent on being heralded as superior to others, condemning you
to their holocaust of inferior beings.
Now with our western society having too few tools in the areas of
politeness, common courtesy, and respect; this means all hell can
break out in an instant in the online forum; or even in a local real
Sometimes however a real person steps forward and realizes they were having a bad day and see immediately that they need to make things right. Occasionally one comes to understand that they have a real problem with an issue and need to address it with counseling. He or she has left a path of destruction and chaos in their way. People have been hurt, and not always simply the person you directly abused in some way. Either way they know they need to rectify the situation and make amends.
The Honest Desire to Rectify the Situation
Before any reconciliation or healing can ever occur, one must come to
the realization that they truly did something wrong and desire to do
something to make things right.
Honesty with Self
The next thing I would say is for an apology to have the result one
truly hopes for, you must be absolutely honest about what it is you
did. To figure this out you must take some time to think about what
happened; perhaps put yourself in the other person’s shoes; see and
feel what it is you did to them. They are hurt, offended by what you
did, you need to find out and understand why?
In fact however you may come away at this point unable to fully grasp
why this person is so upset with you, or has withdrawn their
friendship and is acting in a very distant manner. You just know it’s
there, and you know something is not right. You may have a little
idea, but don’t assume. One of the best principles in life I have ever
discovered is “never assume”. Assuming anything at this point is not
what you want to do. Be transparent enough, that you
can honestly see what is. There could be some other issue at play that
you have not considered; be open.
Yet it is a positive thing to simply realize you messed up and you
need to make it right.
Communicate Openly and Honestly with the Person
So when you go to that person, it is vitally important to limit your
comments and simply listen.
Ask the person for a special time to talk. Face to face, eyeball to
eyeball is best, but in the online world that is not always possible.
If it is give them a call and ask to meet over coffee one day.
If you are close enough to share on the phone; that would be 2nd best.
I cannot stress enough the fact that you need to hear their voice; and
they need to hear yours.
So you might start off emailing this person and asking them if perhaps
you could call them and ask what would be a convenient time, that you
want to make things right.
Once you have come together what do you say?
I would suggest that you tell them that you have come to the
realization that what you did was wrong and if possible you want to
make it right.
Describe the situation that occurred simply and honestly.
If you start making excuses, your apology is worthless. You have to
truly take ownership for what you did. If you start trying to shift
blame in any manner whatsoever, it’s never going to be resolved. You
are just making a bigger ass out of yourself.
To shift blame is communicating, that you are not really sorry; you
just want it to all go away. You don’t want to suffer any
embarrassment for what you did.
So I recommend that you say something like this:
If you deceived someone, consider saying something like this:
“I lied to you the other day when I said (such and such); I know it is
wrong to deceive you. I won’t do it again. I am asking that you please
Here are some other examples:
“What I did the other day, ridiculing you and calling you names, was not appropriate; what I did was not polite or courteous. I’m sorry.
For the person with anger of verbal abuse issue, perhaps you should
say something like this:
“I was very rude to you the other day when I said (such and such); I
was very wrong for saying what I said. It was rude and verbally
abusive. I’m going to see a counselor about dealing with my anger issues. ”
Next you need to listen. They may need to say some things you weren’t
expecting to hear. Don’t let it throw you. If your heart is honestly
in a place for reconciliation; your response should not be excuses,
but to include whatever in your apology.
You may need to ask:
“What do I need to do to make this right”? …and be willing to act accordingly.
Now, if you are the one who offended another, after you have made an honest apology, there is nothing you can do about this. It is up to the person who you offended to offer their forgiveness.
They may tell you to go take a hike. If that is the case and you have
done what you should have done in making an honest apology with no
excuses. It is no longer your problem, but theirs. If you however
attempted to cloak your apology with excuses or shifting the blame.
Then you deserve to be told to go take a hike.
In society when someone commits a crime, they are adjudicated guilty and they have to pay some price for their crime. It might be a fine or it might be time in jail.
When you harm someone in a human relationship, there can also
potentially be a price to pay. Alienation is probably what it will
come to. That person will not want to be around you and unless you are
a complete sociopath you will find it very uncomfortable being around
Understand that your victim does not have to forgive you. As we said earlier, if you come to them with a bunch of bullshit excuses, they will know you are not truly sorry. Excuses only communicate that you
are ego filled that you want to shift the blame and want the situation
to go away so you don’t have to suffer the true humiliation of an
honest introspective look within.
They could tell you to go take a hike, and sign you out of their lives
if they want to. You cannot control their response.
So when one truly forgives a debt, there is nothing else to pay. If
the offended party says they forgive you, but then dish out all kinds
of crap in revenge, they have not truly given forgiveness.
When one comes to you honestly asking for forgiveness, no excuses, no
justifications, no shifting the blame; and you grant them forgiveness;
that is the end of it.
So what happens if you don’t forgive them? One asks forgiveness, but the other says hell no! They live on in misery, month after month, year after year. Then one day the offended says “I have decided to forgive you. You know what the they will likely say? “Forgive me? I don’t need your forgiveness, you have put me through hell for the past 5 years.”
You know what, they are right. They are not in need of your
forgiveness anymore. They already did hard time.
It is true, however, that a relationship may be irreparably scarred.
It is possible to forgive, heal and for the relationship to continue and
grow and be okay. It is also possible that the harmed partner / spouse
may forgive you, but is not willing to move forward with the
relationship any more, or it may take some time and counseling until
they feel they can trust you again. This is honest reality.
A Public Apology
This is the part that is going to separate the truly sorry from the
pretenders, because it is going to involve humility before others.
If you involved others in your offensive act(s), then you need to make
that apology public. If you verbally abused someone, lied, ridiculed,
stirred up a rumor, anything in an online forum or in any public
manner, then you need to apologize not only to the person you directly
hurt, but post an apology to the group. The community needs to know
all is ok, so they can relax, breathe and know the negatives
have been removed.
So a public apology would go something like this:
“The other day I said (this and that) about Billy. What I
said was not true, and how I said it was rude and discourteous. That
was wrong of me. I personally apologized to Billy yesterday and he was
kind enough to offer his forgiveness for what I did; so I hope those
of you that witnessed my lack of courtesy will find it in
your hearts to forgive me as well.”
No excuses, no shifting the blame; just the facts and apologize.
I wish for more for our world. It begins one on one, honest communication, asking for and offering forgiveness; resolve in your heart to make things right.
What is longing? Well, to me it is about seeing a photo and wishing that I could spend the day with this dearest of friends. It is her birthday after all, hence natural to want to be around her in person. Yet, she lives far away and I’m unable to celebrate with her. The truth is… there is something deeper going on with my reactions.
I don’t just miss, I have a powerful visceral response to seeing her photos. I miss her so acutely at times it feels like my heart might just burst into a pieces. Sound dramatic? It is… because for me longing is a painful and sweet emotional expression of wanting something I can not have.
Longing gets it power by not relating to the present. It is very often a reminder of something that has changed and a desire to have it returned. Or on the other side it can be a forward projection of what you wish you could have in the future. However, it isn’t a here and now formation.
When we move into a place of longing for what we don’t have it takes up the available space to enjoy what we do! Hence, what this does is take us out of being part of the current experience. We are no longer living in the moment where the richness of experience is found but rather manufacturing an imitation of such.
This is not to say that having an emotional response is in any way negative, however allowing that emotional response to be coupled with negative thoughts about how your life is lacking, shifts the focus from who you are is in abundance now. So when you are pining away for someone or something that you want, take a breath and re-center. Shift your focus more towards how it is wonderful that you have experiences that are so powerful that they still resonate with you. This reframe allows you to bask in the here and now rather than taking you away from the very parts of life you want.
And to use this technique even within my own emotional framework and this blog post, I will say:
Happy Birthday and thank you for being in my life. I’m honored to have a connection with someone who brings me continued joy and inspiration!
See? Longing can become a reminder tool to focus on what living is all about. It takes a bit of effort to shift into being present. It is worth it to be able to enjoy the current experience rather than separating from it. Give this approach a try. You are bound to be more presence.
Last week was tough for a number of clients. I got to thinking about how great it would be if Madison had an Anger Room (a safe place to express anger in multiple forms). Navigating angry feelings can be confusing and when you have abuse in your past it can be even more difficult to know what to do. A place like the Anger Room provides an outlet for learning about different expressions.
One might think that we all experience anger so what is complex about the process? Many of us suppress it for fear that we will act out in a way similar to the abuse or abuser we experienced. It is a scary thing when one has spent their life being a good, caring, gentle person who wants to stay away from conflict and angry feelings. It almost seems logical to become someone who is on the opposite side of rage. However, because anger is a universal signal that something isn’t right, problems occur if we ignore or push it away. People that experienced abuse didn’t feel that they could express themselves properly (for whatever reason) and were also taught that it was not okay to have the feelings of anger. Hence, in many ways their system is taught that it isn’t safe to have a response of anger, even when it is a healthy reaction.
Any time we pretend that our emotions don’t exist or don’t honor them, they float back up in unpredictable ways. And this very thing is often what a person is trying to avoid by suppressing the emotion in the first place. So what is a person to do if they are scared or unfamiliar with how to feel anger and express it?
One of the first things is to begin to identity when you think you might be having anger. You begin to be aware of when you feel angry and where it is in your body. This allows for grounding and a signal that you are accessing the situation beyond just a momentary reaction. Once you have basic identification of what you consider to be angry feelings, you can look at what the anger is about… the person/situation that is currently happening or a trigger to how you were treated in the past. Once these beginning steps are in place, you can look at how to express the anger in a healthy way*.
People hold anger in different ways and that means that what works for one may not work for another in providing some relief from the intensity of the emotion. Some people need a strong physical outlet, others need to write, many need to express the anger with the person (in a safe way) verbally, and others might need a more creative way to share these feelings.
Anger isn’t a bad thing, it is an emotional response to learn and teach you about your system. What is harmful is when you don’t allow yourself to express emotions in a healthy way. Your angry feelings are telling you to listen to yourself and look at the situation around you. This is a powerful tool for the ability to set boundaries, create a plan, and act in a healthy way.
*Please seek help from a therapist if you need assistance with this process.
I think often we have unspoken rules about how we want to conduct our lives. It can be confusing for someone to automatically know that -you-should-take-your-shoes-off-when-you-come-inside-the-door. Then when the person doesn’t quickly act in the way we are expecting, we are confronted with a choice. We let the new person know the expectations directly or we sadly can stay silent and be upset that they didn’t do it right.
This is the same thing that we do with the rules of self, we expect that everyone will know how to we want to live our lives, what works and what doesn’t, how to treat us, what our boundaries are, and the very best way to show us love. This is mind reading at its best. It is all so obvious to us.
I have a saying that I use with clients a lot “If it is obvious, then you need to say it out loud.” We are so accustomed to our own mind and beliefs that it seems a given, but if it is that ingrained within us that means it is pretty important. Hence, saying our ideas, expectations, and boundaries out loud not only makes sense but also creates a much more open dynamic.
The approach of letting others know what your personal house are allows everyone to have a framework of interaction. You get to avoid a lot of the messy parts of stepping on each other’s toes. Everyone decides if the structure is workable and provides an understanding of the boundaries. It sound so simple but that is exactly what we so often miss, stating that which seems like a default to our own system.
I really love the idea of putting your house rules out for everyone to see (physically like photo above or state directly). Consider wearing your expectations with a badge of honor that you want others to know about from the start. Be proud of who you are and what you want from yourself and others!