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What really matters?

What really matters?

This summer has been pretty horrific as far as natural disasters. The Northern California fires particularly affected me since they were close enough that I was breathing in the smoky air. You can’t help but think of what you would do in such a horrific situation. What if you really only had moments to get out of your house what would you take? 

I think most of us know that with little time the priorities are our families including our furry ones. You hear a lot of people say that people and pets can’t be replaced everything else can be. That is both a true and untrue statement. Of course, family and pets are irreplaceable but so are some items. I read a lot about people losing things that connected them to people that were no longer with them. Those items can’t be replaced. And those items mean something to us. I think we all have some items that we keep just because they connect us to someone we have lost. It may be antique jewelry or it may be a worn out tee shirt that still has their smell on it.

I have several voicemails I have saved for quite a while. Two are happy memories and one is a sad one. I don’t listen to them. But I don’t delete them either. I was recently talking to a friend about this and she said maybe I kept the sad memory one to remind of the time before that sadness entered my life. That is was a marker for me of before and after. That made a lot of sense to me.

I constantly try and fight to be present and enjoy my current life. It can be a struggle especially in times of tumult like we have in our country right now. However, I also know that life is fleeting and can totally kick us down when we least expect it. And I want to have good memories when those bad things happen not memories of me worrying about what was to come. What really matters is relationships and connections. We like to keep those tee shirts and jewelry because they remind us of that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2017-10-31T18:27:52+00:00 October 31st, 2017|Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|0 Comments

Coping with political differences with family and friends

Coping with political differences with family and friends

I have been listening to Brené Brown’s new book “Braving the Wilderness”. I like to listen to Brené rather than read her books. They just resonate more for me that way. She talks a lot about relationships in this time of turmoil in our country. She believes that talking to others that are different from us is a good thing. Many of us are in opinion tunnels where we only spend time with people that have beliefs like us. I am going, to be honest; I am struggling with what I am hearing her say. One the one hand I do believe that being around people that are different from us is good for us. We all should be exposed to diversity in people it makes our lives richer. On the other hand, I struggle to be close to people that support things that I find abhorrent.

Right now the country feels as divided as I have ever seen it in my life. Talking about politics with everyone I know never seemed important to me. Now it all feels so critical. It literally feels like lives are on the line and I truly do not understand people that have such different views than I. Brené says we should be curious and respectful and I agree with that. At the same time when I have tried to do that I often feel very attacked from the get-go. And I will admit I do not respond well to that.

Recently I tried to dialogue with a friend about a political issue and was just immediately shut down. What would Brené say to do next? I am not sure. I suspect she would say keep trying to be vulnerable and authentic when I can. I believe she would also say it is also okay to set boundaries if people cannot respond in kind.

What I can do now is to keep trying to dialogue with people that are willing to do so. I am also trying very hard to be very mindful of kindness in my daily life. I try to go out of my way to be nice to those I know need it right now. That is what I feel capable of doing to counter the negativity that is going on. I will also continue to challenge my self to do more. Let me know in the comments how you are coping with this.

Brené’s book link is found below. This is an affiliate link so if you click through I get a small commission.

 

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Trump Anxiety-7 Tips to Manage It

Many therapists and other professionals have written about Trump anxiety since before the election. What I am seeing now is more than anxiety it is a sense of fear and overwhelm. Many people are really really scared.   They are scared of being discriminated against. They are scared of being physically attacked. They worry deeply about the future of this country. They worry about how this will affect their children. Some express their fear as anger. Others as sadness or as having a feeling of apathy. The unpredictability of how the government is run and the constant barrage of news escalates these feelings.

So how to cope. There is honestly no easy answer here. Every person needs to find their own way. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Be an activist. Many people feel more empowered if they are able to take action. There are many groups out there you can join.
  2. Find your support system and lean on it. Know the people in your life you can talk about this with and do so. As often as you need to.
  3. Regulate your news and social media activity. While I understand that it can be hard not to be constantly connected that connection can elevate your anxiety level. Stay informed but not constantly.
  4. Keep doing the things that bring you joy. You know what they are. Movies, reading, walking, gardening, being with family, etc. If you lose the joy in your life despair may come.
  5. Keep up on the basics. Eat well. Prioritize sleep. Exercise if you can. Even a walk makes a difference.
  6. Start or continue a mindfulness practice. Meditate for 10 minutes every day. It helps to pull your body and mind out of the constant fight or flight state it may be in.
  7. If it feels like too much seek professional help. A therapist can provide support and help you navigate your feelings.

 

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2017-09-06T16:16:42+00:00 September 6th, 2017|anxiety|Comments Off on Trump Anxiety-7 Tips to Manage It

Practicing self-compassion

Practicing self-compassion

I work with many people that are very empathetic and compassionate, except towards themselves. It is interesting to me how so many of us have a double standard for behavior for ourselves and others. I believe that self-compassion is a cornerstone of a happy life.

Compassion is defined as

“a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/compassion

 

So feeling the pain or another and wanting to make it better. So why is it that many times when we have the opportunity to do this towards ourselves we cannot?

The other day I got into a fender bender. It was my fault. It was an accident and no person was hurt and the damage was relatively minor. But I beat myself up over for a few days. I knew I was doing it. Friends called me out on it. And I know that if a friend did the same thing I would say it’s okay. It was an accident. Things happen. So why did I struggle with it?

 

  1. We have visions of perfectionism for ourselves that we don’t hold others to. Somehow in my mind, I felt like I need to be perfect and I am not allowed a mistake. Not kind and not very realistic.

 

  1. We second-guess our decisions if they turn out poorly. I questioned why I had parked in the spot I had questioned earlier on. If I had not parked there the accident would not have happened. I did not question any of the million of decisions I made earlier in that day that turned out well. I picked one that may or may not have really contributed to the accident and focused on that.

 

  1. We have some sort of association that equates punishment with an accident or bad decision. In my mind, I had to beat myself up and give myself consequences for my mistake. Instead of just living with the natural consequences of repair costs.

 

So what did I do and what could I do differently. Well since I am practicing compassion I can say overall I did ok. I did ruminate on it for a bit but I was able to let it go after talking to friends. I recognized that my thought patterns were distorted and were not helping me. I also challenged my beliefs that this incident was going to be bigger than it was. I remind myself that even those compassionate to themselves might have a bit of self-pity or worry after a fender bender. I allowed myself to have my feelings and I moved on. Hopefully next mistake I make I can do even better with kindness towards myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2017-07-18T18:38:46+00:00 July 18th, 2017|anxiety, mindfulness|Comments Off on Practicing self-compassion

Yay-Boo How Lifes Gives Us Different Perspective

Yay-Boo How Lifes Gives Us Different Perspective

Recently I went to see a show Ann Randolph’s Inappropriate in All the Right Ways.  At the end of the show, this introvert was tricked into audience participation. Ugh. Ann had talked about Yay-Boo. She explained that life is a series of Yays followed by Boos. So I went to college-Yay. Then I failed out-Boo. Then I started a wonderful career-Yay. Then the recession hit-Boo. And so on. She wanted audiences members to write a series like that on their own. What I noticed was that the Yay-Boos that I focused on were in the last few years. When I tried to go back earlier I came up with Yays but wasn’t finding the Boos. I remarked on this to my friend and she wisely said that those Boos didn’t seem like much anymore since I had faced far more challenging stuff in my life in recent years. So my perspective had shifted. Things that I know I both struggled with and ruminated about in my younger years no longer seemed like a big deal now. As I have become middle aged the struggles are very different, losses in particular. I had never had a real loss prior to recent years.

My insecurity of my 20’s and perhaps even 30’s seems so meaningless now as I both experience loss and watch others experience the same. To me, life has become precious in a way that I could not understand when I was younger. When you are younger mortality seems so vague. When you get older it becomes very present.

And even now I know that there are losses in my life that will come eventually that may be even harder. That’s not to be negative it is instead to say that I am recognizing even now my struggles may seem silly in the future. Which is okay. I have also learned over time that I can face life’s struggles in a way that allows me my feelings but also allows me to push through the tougher times and find more enjoyment in the easier times. That to me is a Yay-Yay.

 

 

 

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2017-07-18T17:34:52+00:00 June 2nd, 2017|gratitude, grief, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|Comments Off on Yay-Boo How Lifes Gives Us Different Perspective

Putting a little kindness into the universe

Putting a little kindness into the universe

I will admit I used to be exceedingly shy. In my 20’s I would have rather done almost anything rather than speak publicly. It gave me a bit of a reputation as aloof. Which wasn’t true. If I knew you I was super friendly but if not I could barely raise my head to talk to you. Back in the days when I got licensed (I had to throw this in), we had to take an oral exam along with the written exam. I knew I had to be able to do that. So I started on my own exposure therapy plan which included me teaching some classes. It worked and I passed the exam first try and subsequent to that I would no longer consider myself shy.

However, I would not say I was very friendly either. Again if I knew you it was fine but if not…. I am not sure what shifted in me one day but I became friendly. I started to talking to people everywhere. Not on every occasion but when something came up in a grocery line I would talk to the person next to me. I even initiated conversations. And what I found was that rather than draining this introvert it actually invigorated me.

There is a lady that lives on my street (this is related I promise) who walks a lot and has always seemed rather odd. Not bad just odd. One evening she rang our doorbell and gave us a package that had been misdelivered to her house. She had made a concerted effort to bring it to our house when we were home to make sure it got to us safely. It was very nice. Ever since that day every time I pass her she waves and I wave back. In fact, the other day I passed and she was waving at me with two hands. I actually almost stopped the car because I thought something was wrong but it was just an emphatic wave. It brought a big small to my face. She has been so happy to be friendly with us in this small way. I wonder how she gets treated in the world and I know perhaps people ignore her a lot because she does come across as odd. But not looking beyond is so short sighted. We won’t be best friends ever but I think it is nice for both of us to be able to exchange our friendly wave. And when I saw her two-handed wave the other day I really realized how important this small acts of kindness are. there is a lot of negative going on in the world right now. I think it serves us all to try and put a little bit of kindness out there when we can.

 

 

 

 

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Affirmative Counseling with Transgender Clients

Affirmative Counseling with Transgender Clients

One of my specialties is working with people that are exploring their gender identity. In my other work world, I teach classes on marketing and have online CEU classes for therapists to take (not psychologists). I have been long working on a class as an introduction to working with transgender and gender non–conforming clients. I have heard many horror stories from my clients that brought gender issues into the therapy room and had a bad outcome. So I am putting together the introduction I wish I had when I started my work with transgender clients. As I say in my affirmative counseling presentation I firmly below advocacy and fighting for social justice is part of the therapist’s job.

As a part of that class I put together a slide show on affirmative counseling. I thought by sharing it here it would give my clients and those checking me out as a potential therapist insight into how I work as a therapist. The video of the slide show is below. Please let me know if you think there are more concepts that that need to be added.

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2017-05-02T19:10:29+00:00 May 2nd, 2017|Gender identity, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|Comments Off on Affirmative Counseling with Transgender Clients

What Your Mother Probably Did Not Tell You

What Your Mother Probably Did Not Tell You

I am at that age that can be called middle aged. Which means I have middle aged friends. I also work primarily with women and between discussions with friends and clients I have found most women are sorely under-prepared for the hormonal shifts that occur in middle age. In fact, most women seem to think menopause just happens. You turn 50, your period turns off, you may have hot flashes but that is it. But it is not it. Google mood swings and perimenopause I dare ya.

Perimenopause is that period leading up to menopause where all sorts of things may happen, or not. Menopause is official when you have stopped menstruating for a year. Perimenopause can be the up to 10 years (YES 10 YEARS!!) prior that you have other symptoms. These might include anxiety, tearfulness, bursts of anger, hot flashes, insomnia, breasts that hurt, irregular periods, depression, and many more fun things. What is striking to me in talking to women is how often they just put up with the symptoms. They don’t know what is going on. They feel crazy. They may try and see a doctor but more often than not they are told to either take hormones or just suck it up.

I have found that for most women finding some connection with other women that can normalize the experience for them is a big help. It is also good to find out some information so you can have reasonable expectations. Everyone is different and some women go through the entire experience super smoothly. Most have some bumps along that way. There are all types of herbal supplements and products you can try if you wish (please always do due diligence and research each thoroughly and let your doctors know what you are taking).

The most important thing is to recognize that if you are on an emotional roller coaster it will pass and you are not crazy even if it feels like it in any given moment.

A few books that are highly recommended are below. Please note that these are Amazon affiliate links which means I get a small fee if you purchase through the link. My affiliate disclosure statement is here.

The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup M.D. 

This article onIs It Perimenopause” from Prevention online is also short and helpful.

 

2017-03-25T23:07:59+00:00 March 22nd, 2017|Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|Comments Off on What Your Mother Probably Did Not Tell You

A Therapist Works Hard To Take Her Own Advice

A Therapist Works Hard To Take Her Own Advice

I often tell my clients that No is a complete sentence. You don’t have to say anything past it. You don’t have to explain your reasons or make someone feel better you can just say no.

Great advice to give not so easy to actually put it into practice. Women in particular can be socialized to have a very hard time saying no. We are also prone to saying “I’m sorry” a lot more than is necessary. It is very hard to shift those behaviors. I fully admit I struggle with this as much as the next person.

Recently someone asked me to do something. I didn’t want to do it. It was a big time commitment and quite honestly I did not want to give up a precious weekend day to do something as a favor to someone. And it was a work sort of a favor not a helping a friend move type of favor. See what I just did there I rationalized my saying no as I write a blog post about it.

Anyway, instead of taking direct route one which was to just say no I first used a delaying tactic and said I had to check on something to make sure I could do the request. After I did that I knew it was a mistake but I followed through and checked out what needed checking and indeed I was capable of doing the project. Easy out gone. Darn it.

Next I procrastinated a few days before responding. Then I asked a friend advice on how to say no diplomatically which essentially means without upsetting the other person or having any consequences. I am a therapist I know this. They gave me advice that I hated about making it a business decision. Then we both agreed I could say it was just about the time commitment, which is actually the true reason. It is hard to just say no without a reason. I wrote and edited the email a few times and then quickly sent it off before I could change my mind.

Good news is that I set my limit. And the other person respected it. It was uncomfortable for me to do it but I have found the more I set boundaries and say no the easier it is to do it. Maybe someday I will do it when the request first comes to me. Maybe it will always be a struggle. The courage is in finding the way to try anyway.

2017-03-25T23:07:59+00:00 February 17th, 2017|Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|Comments Off on A Therapist Works Hard To Take Her Own Advice

Vulnerability and Empathy

One of my favorite places on the Internet is Humans of New York. A photographer in NY goes around and takes pictures of people and writes a sentence or paragraph of their story. It is full of vulnerability and empathy. The subjects are vulnerable when telling their stories and the photos show such empathy and kindness to the them that it amazes me.

The reason I bring this up is that it feels like we have become completely incapable of listening and hearing each other. In conversations everyone seems to focus on their next point in an argument that will never be won. So how has it become that we have become culturally unable to listen? That answer may be beyond me but what I do think it that listening requires both vulnerability and empathy. In order to engage in a true conversation we have to be vulnerable and we need the other person to respond with empathy. Empathy doesn’t mean you have to agree with what anyone says but it does mean you have to hear his or her feeling underneath and respond to it. When we have a conversation in which we are vulnerable and the other person responds with something other than empathy we often become defensive or even angry. They respond in kind and an argument ensues.

I am not sure how we move forward in communicating with vulnerability and empathy with those that differ from us so much. It is hard to be vulnerable when you feel like you are going to be attacked. I suspect that is the reason that many of us right now are in our safe places where we only converse with those who are like-minded. And that is okay. We need to feel safe. But perhaps when we push out of our safe places instead of having a discussion about current events we can ask the other person about themselves. What is their story? What are their fears and their goals and desires? Maybe if we can find a way to connect with them on that level then at some point in the future other conversations can happen. Maybe not. I admit to fluctuating between saying stay safe and try to connect with other that are different from you. I think that there is room for both.

What I do know is that when we can listen it makes a difference. And listening to people’s stories always matters.

2017-03-25T23:07:59+00:00 December 19th, 2016|connection, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|Comments Off on Vulnerability and Empathy