Posts Tagged With: friends

Our Pain Becomes Another’s Salve

Female supportI’m realizing more and more the hardships I face are always used to comfort another. Last week my 20 year old my son had an extremely bizarre experience which sent him to the ER. Since he goes to school just 20 minutes from home, his step-mother and I also found ourselves at the ER.  One event led to a series of events all filled with questions and concerns. While the even itself is over, the aftermath is not.

As I shared my experience, my fears, my sadness with others I found comfort. The most comforting came from a mother whose son has walked a similar road as mine. As I thanked her for her sweet salve, I realized I felt a conflict about her situation. I was sad for her but thankful she knew what I might be going through. Then it struck me: when we walk hard roads we are equipped to walk with another who is on the same road. If I skip happily down the road of pain because I don’t have pain, I have no business being on that road.

While I don’t really want more pain in my life, I am learning to embrace each experience as a connection to others. I am more effective in my work with clients, I am more compassionate with friends. It’s a fascinating twist to the human experience; the more I experience the challenges, pain, sadness and disappointments of life, the more qualified I am to sit in the muck with others. If my life goes easily and always as planned, I am ill-equipped to say anything to anyone who is actually facing hardship. With that, I tentatively say, “Bring it on!”


Categories: Acceptance, Depression, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , | 4 Comments


valentines-day_110001316-012814-intSelf-love is critical if we want to enjoy this life and relationships. Some wonder if self-love is selfish, “Is it really ok to put myself first? Won’t people who need me get mad about that and tell me I’m being self-centered?” Yes and yes. In order for us to be able to authentically love others and truly be there for and with them, we must have that love for ourselves. We can’t give what we do not have. Not everyone will appreciate your self-love. Some will challenge you if you say no to them so you can take care of yourself, especially if people are used to you saying yes all the time. When we say yes to someone or something, we are saying no to someone or something else. If the no has been for yourself, then the switch to yes for yourself is going to feel strange and wrong. The people you were always saying yes to will tell you that you are wrong. That dynamic will mess with you and your journey toward self-love.

How do you navigate this journey toward self-love? Start by being aware of your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in your body. Just notice yourself. Notice what you like and what you don’t like. When you are eating ask yourself if you like what you are eating. Does it taste good to you? Does it feel good in your mouth, going down and settling in? When you bathe, do you like the method; shower or bath, warm or cold? Ask yourself these questions with everything you do in your life. If you run into hurdles and can’t answer or the answering becomes emotionally painful for you, you may need the help of a professional therapist. Ask if he/she will guide you toward self-love, awareness, mindfulness and boundaries.

Once you are aware of what you like and don’t like, it’s time to start voicing it. “I started listening to myself and have discovered I don’t like this. I’m not going to do it (eat it…) anymore.” There are some limits here. If you have a baby and don’t like getting up in the middle of the night to feed or change him or her, sorry! Some things we must do. If you don’t like your job, I don’t suggest quitting until you find another job you like better if you don’t have any reserves to tide you over until you find a job you like. If you don’t like driving the speed limit, again, sorry! Some things are have-to’s because of morals, laws and positions we have put ourselves in. Beyond those areas, there are a lot of other areas where you have the choice, so exercise your choice in those areas. This self-love action will fill you up to deal with the areas you can’t change because it’s not legal, healthy or wise to change them.

If you have always bailed out your alcoholic brother, it is not wise for you to continue; although your brother will tell you that you are selfish not to help him. He is not a helpless baby. He is an adult who is making unwise choices because of his addiction. It is up to him to decide to deal with it. Not you. You can say no. “I love you. It is not my job to take care of you. You are an adult and it is up to you to go get help. I will help you find an AA meeting, but it’s up to you to make sure you get there and keep going.” (You could go if you want to. Also, you don’t have to help him find the AA meeting. That’s your decision.)

This is just the beginning of your journey toward self-love. Get started on it…it will be the best decision you ever made for yourself (and ultimately everyone around you!).

Categories: Acceptance, Boundaries, co-dependency, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Freaked-Out? Sad? Angry?

human_mindNot happy about current circumstances and want to navigate well? You don’t have to just wallow in your misery, you can do something productive. First, clearly identify what you are feeling (anger, sadness, fear…) and the thoughts that are dictating the emotions. Emotions don’t just show up all on their own. They are linked to cognitive thought: you have a thought and an emotion will follow. We sometimes notice the emotion and not the dictating thought so it’s super important to get back to, “Where did this feeling come from?” The reason? If the thought isn’t based in reality, it’s not worth entertaining and neither is the accompanying the emotion. We often feel these not-based-in-reality emotions anyway and develop incredibly unhealthy neural pathways that become ingrained in our brain and feel like a reflex when in fact they are an unhealthy learned behavior that we keep feeding.

For instance: “With this new President-elect, our country is going down the tubes, freedom will be lost, this is horrible!” What is true at this moment that you know for sure beyond a shadow of a doubt? We have a new President-elect. That’s it. We don’t actually know what he will do. We know what he said he will do, but nothing has actually been done yet. Breathe. Remind yourself of what you know for sure. Let go of all the places your mind is going with the “what ifs”. They are crazy-making and completely unhelpful. You can mourn the loss of your candidate if you did not vote for Trump. You can celebrate that your candidate won if you voted for Trump. That’s it. Nothing more. Don’t get too puffed up about all that is going to happen or too depressed about all that is going to happen because–none of it has happened yet. Stay with the here and now and breathe deeply and slowly.

Next, after feeling the emotions based in reality, take a deep breath, splash some water on your face and ask yourself, “Where do I have control? Is there anything I can do about the situation that is healthy, legal and wise?” At the very least, we always have the ability to choose how we are going to react, what kind of attitude we are going to have, if we want to smile and find the joy in our life. Always! Viktor Frankl learned this in a Nazi-run concentration camp during World War II. If he learned this concept in the very worst of circumstances then we can surely do this in our circumstances. I know, if you are reading this, you already have way more freedom and more to find joy in than a concentration camp prisoner.

Now, move on. Surely you have something you need to be doing or could be doing that is productive. Maybe it’s time for a good dose of self-care (something you can do that fills you up in a good way–healthy, legal and wise!). Go for a walk, pet your dog/cat, talk to a friend, listen to music, feel the sun/fresh air, read a book, knit, play piano, write…the list could go on and on. Be good to your body and your mind. Fill up and restore so you can reset. You will deal with whatever happens when it happens and until then, you can take care of yourself, anchor to the present and bring joy into this world in your own unique way 🙂

Categories: Acceptance, Depression, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

When Life Takes a Turn for the Worse

Life isn’t filled with good all the time. I know, not a shocking statement and yet, when we face adversity or challenges many of us can easily slip into a downward spiral. If we know life isn’t always going to happen the way we would like, then why are we so surprised when life doesn’t go well? If you’re in a “life isn’t so good” place, keep your eyes focused on just this moment. We will often go to the “this is never going to get better” place. First of all, you have no idea what’s going to happen until it does. It is possible that your life won’t get better but you won’t know that until you take your last breath and realize it never got better…though you might not know you are taking your last breath and be spared that realization. Live each moment as its own. Avoid lumping moments that you don’t know anything about into this one that you actually know something about because it’s real and happening…now.

When life is going well, celebrate it and enjoy it. When life takes a turn for the worse, grieve and mourn as necessary and remind yourself to focus only on the moment not a created future-tripping story. Sometimes that moment is just a wave. Sometimes it’s longer. Just be where you are, be vigilant about healthy, wise and legal self care and be sure to have safe, healthy, wise support along the way.

Categories: Acceptance, Depression, Emotional Healing, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Failing at Perfection?

While watching the Seahawks/Green Bay game last Sunday, a thought hit me.  These guys are the best in their division.  They train nearly every day to be the best.  They eat, sleep and breathe their profession.  Wouldn’t dedicating themselves to football result in perfect or nearly perfect games?  The obvious answer if you watched that game, or any for that matter, is no.  So, why do we expect perfection of ourselves when the professionals in any given field are not perfect?

Perfection is actually an unattainable achievement and yet we get really down on ourselves when we miss the mark on any goal or expectation we have.  Does beating yourself up help you do better?  Generally the answer is no.  There are always exceptions but eventually the exceptions implode.

So what is the goal or expectation you have missed that you are now beating yourself up?  Evaluate the goal or expectation.  Is it realistically achievable?  If you’re not sure ask a few trusted people what they think.  It might help to get some outside perspective.  If it is achievable, what is keeping you from reaching your goal?  Is it a negative belief about yourself along the lines of “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t deserve to do well,” “I never reach my goals so why should I think it will happen now”?  Start by challenging the negative belief when you notice it.

Are you trying to reach a goal alone? It usually helps if we have others either joining us or encouraging us along the way.  Back to those trusted people in your life.  Invite them to be a part of your “team” cheering you along or maybe even joining you.  Don’t have trusted people in your life?  Find them!  We were not designed to live life in isolation.  Get involved in a group and find people you connect with and, over time, can trust.

Be gentle with yourself in this process.  We can be so hard on ourselves, expecting perfection, and when we miss the mark we berate ourselves.

If you are hitting walls in this area, meeting with a coach, counselor or support group could help.

Categories: Acceptance, Growth, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is in Your Cage?

I’m stealing a post from another therapist, Dr Henry Cloud.  I’ve posted before about the importance of sharing our lives with other people.  Well, here’s some scientific evidence of the positive effects of this from our friends, the monkeys.  As I have walked the path of my daughter’s lung transplant, this need has become so apparent.  I am more calm, in part because of the support system I have.  This past week I was concerned about how she was doing.  We have learned that one of her medication levels was too high which was a contributor to her nausea.  No big problems, just little ones.  It was a friend who helped me put my concerns in perspective which brought a calming effect.  Left to myself, in isolation, I can percolate on problems and turn them into seemingly insurmountable obstacles.  Ah, the gift of companions!

Dr. Cloud says, “One of my favorite studies was done years ago with monkeys, measuring the effects of relationships on cortisol levels in the brain. (Cortisol is a hormone associated with high levels of stress.) In this particular experiment, a monkey was put in a cage and exposed to a high level of psychological stress, including loud noises and flashing lights. They pretty much scared him to death. 

When the monkey was totally terrified, the scientists took a baseline measure of stress hormone levels in the monkey’s brain as it was exposed to these stressors.

Next, the researchers introduced one change into the experiment: they opened the door and put a buddy, another monkey, into the cage. That was it. They exposed the monkeys to the same loud noises and flashing lights, and then took another measure of stress hormones. The Result? The level of stress hormones in the brain had dropped in half. The lone monkey was only half as good at handling stress as the pair was together.

So my question for you guys… who’s your monkey?!”

I got a kick out of one person’s comment to this.  She said there are certain monkeys she has to remove from her cage.  They don’t help her at all.  She is choosy about the monkeys she lets in.  Good advice for all of us!

Categories: Boundaries, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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