Before You Go to Couple’s Counseling

If you’re having relationship problems, here are some things to consider before you and your partner walk into a therapist’s office:

1) Are you getting enough sleep?

Sleep has a big impact on our perception of problems and on our mood. If you are suffering from chronic lack of sleep, work to improve that as soon as possible.

2) Have you had a physical recently?

Just like sleep, an underlying medical condition could greatly impact your mood and problem-solving skills. Make sure both you and your partner have recently had blood work done. If anxiety and/or depression are present, this will most certainly affect your relationships. ADHD is another condition that influences our ability to communicate effectively and typical ADHD behaviors are often misinterpreted by others. If any of these conditions are present, it may still be beneficial to attend couple’s counseling. A counselor can help you and your partner learn new skills to work-out your problems.

3) Reach-out to a friend you can be real with. 

Community is of upmost importance for our health and wellbeing. Sometimes we need a trusted friend to remind us that we’re not alone in our troubles. Even the best therapist can’t replace the comfort of a loving friend. A good therapist will always encourage you to seek outside support. If you do have such a friend in your life, remind them that you just need a listening ear, not advice. Also, a true friend will be honest with you about how you may be contributing to the relationship problems, which leads me to…

4) Have you considered how you are contributing to the problems in the relationship?

It’s so easy to see how our partner can do better, but have you considered your part? In my article, How Couple’s Counseling Works, I describe a relationship gone wrong. You’ve heard the term, “It takes two to Tango?” Well, it’s true. No one can make you behave a certain way. Sometimes it feels like we don’t have a choice but that’s just not true. We always have a choice to respond in way that reflects who we want to be. Consider journaling daily about your relationship. Note how you are contributing to the problems. 

5) Are you being the partner you want to be? 

Make a list describing the kind of partner YOU want to be. Now is the time to reflect on who you want to be as a partner, regardless of who you are with. Often, we become resentful, frustrated, critical, or hopeless when we aren’t taking care of ourselves by setting good boundaries. If you find yourself being critical when you’d like to be more patient, ask yourself why that is. Patience isn’t required in easy situations. Patience is required when other’s fall short of our expectations. However, if you find that your patience is constantly wearing thin, maybe you haven’t been setting enough boundaries. It’s possible that you need to take some responsibilities off of your plate or lower your expectations of yourself. Here are some examples of boundaries:

  • If you need to go to bed before your partner, maybe you could agree that one of you will sleep in the guest room so that you can get a good night’s sleep and aren’t awakened when they come to bed.
  • Choosing to have PB&J two nights per week for dinner to lessen the pressure of meal planning and prep.
  • Gently telling your partner that you will not discuss an issue further if they continue to yell.
  • Telling your boss that you won’t continue to answer work emails on evenings and weekends. 
  • Hiring a babysitter one night per week to deal with the bedtime routine while you go to a local bookstore. 

When it’s time to see a therapist. 

Any or all of these suggestions may help to solve the problems or they may serve as a great start towards a better relationship. If it feels like you and your partner are stuck, reach-out. Changes are hard to make and you don’t need to go through this alone. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a third-party present who is trained in relationships. This person can help identify your unhealthy pattern and get you on the path to better communication, better self-care, and better problem-solving. Send me an email or search for a therapist near you on Psychology Today.

Thanks for reading!

Like pdf’s? This is for you!

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How Couple’s Counseling Works

Does the thought of going to couple’s counseling make you nervous? If so, I don’t blame you! For many people, going to therapy sounds about as fun as going to the dentist. When we have a painful cavity, we know it needs to get fixed. We also know that that getting it fixed will cause more pain at first. Counseling is similar in that it usually gets harder before it gets better. However, after all is said and done, couple’s therapy can make our relationship stronger than ever before.

So why does it have to hurt before it can get better?

Usually, we go to counseling because something hurtful has happened in our relationship and we want to feel better. It’s hard to look back and remember times that our partner has hurt us. However, if we don’t look at the wound, examine it, and determine its cause, how could we possibly know how to fix it? Just as the dentist has to poke around on our gums to find the problem tooth, we have to poke around and find where you have been hurt emotionally. This usually involves your therapist asking questions about recent arguments or maybe even looking at ways you’ve been hurt in past relationships.

Why do therapists always get into the childhood stuff?

It’s not always necessary to get into childhood issues but it can be helpful. As kids, our brains were developing as we learned about the world. We learned about what love looks like, whether the world is a safe place or not, whether we can trust people, and so on. Sometimes we’ve developed beliefs that are harming our current relationship. For example, if I learned that people don’t like to hear about problems, I may believe that I need to keep my problems secret from my partner. If that is my belief, I will most likely think it’s not ok to ask for help. So, let’s say I’ve had a serious problem with my boss at work. When I come home work very grouchy my partner has no idea why. My partner may try to ask but I’ll just push them away. Being pushed away may feel hurtful to my partner, so they close down too. Now we have two people in a relationship who are both feeling very alone. 

Who’s in the wrong here?

One could argue that no one is. I have been doing what I have learned is the loving thing to do in a relationship- keep my problems to myself. I think that I am protecting my partner from negativity by not sharing my troubles. Unfortunately, my partner feels like they must be doing something wrong. If I don’t share with them, they must not be a good partner. Maybe they believe that people who really love each other share everything with one another. They start to doubt my love for them. Now my partner is feeling insecure and alone. I am feeling overwhelmed and alone. Both of us are just trying to do the right thing but we’re operating from different belief systems. 

Here’s the difference between blaming a person and addressing the system.

I learned in childhood that people don’t want to hear about problems. I believe I need to keep things positive and not complain. When I came home in a grouchy mood, my partner asked me, “What’s wrong?” I snapped back with, “Nothing.” My partner is not an idiot. They know that something is wrong. My lack of sharing has triggered some sadness in my partner. You see, my partner struggles with never feeling good enough. Now that they see their beloved withdrawing from them, my partner is convinced that they must not be good enough to share with. Now my partner withdraws too, feeling hurt and rejected. This example illustrates why it is so important to move away from blame and move toward self-awareness. 

How does therapy undo the damage?

Therapy provides a safe place to come and get to the root of your issues with a neutral party. Therapists are trained to not take sides but to look at the whole relationship dynamic. If you’re in therapy, and you feel that your therapist is taking sides, you need to bring that up to them. You may even need to find a new therapist. The role of the therapist is to help you find what your underlying belief systems are. Notice I didn’t say that the role of the therapist is to find what’s wrong with you or your partner. Rarely is it one person that causes a relationship to struggle. It’s the system of communication that is based on faulty beliefs that is the problem.

Therapy helps us to see the unhealthy patterns that we slip into when life gets hard. Once we realize what we are doing, and why, we can address it. Using the example above, I must believe that my partner actually wants to hear about negative stuff that they’re facing. My partner must learn that I struggle with sharing hard stuff, but not because my partner is a bad partner. The hope here is that I will bravely begin to share more of my heart, even though I most likely fear they will be criticized for it. When I do share, my partner must work to make sure they are making it safe to share (not judging, giving advice without asking first, etc.). My partner must also realize that if I choose not to share, it may be because I am scared. See how this helps us both to have much more compassion for each other?

Results of Couples Counseling

When we have more compassion for each other (and ourselves) we are slow to criticize and quick to connect. Often, we take the behavior of our partner’s personally. In reality, we all come into relationships with baggage. We’re all wrestling with our own demons. Counseling helps us to reveal what those demons are and then learn new ways to relate so that they don’t effect our current relationships. If you feel stuck with your partner, consider finding a therapist near you. We all get stuck sometimes, going to a therapist can help you to identify the patterns you get stuck in and then give you tools for staying un-stuck. 

In the meantime, here are some free resources to help:

Thank you for reading! Please share with anyone who might find this helpful. 

Take Care,

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Summer Book List by Enneagram Type

Summer is just around the bend and that means it’s time to get your summer read on! I love books, and as I’m sure you can imagine, I REALLY love books about living your best life. My mom said she never knew a teenager with such a propensity for self-help books! It’s true, I love non-fiction, this is not new. However, my love for the Enneagram, is new.

Haven’t experienced the mind-blowing, soul-affirming tool that is the Enneagram? Get on that. Here’s a link to a free test and here’s a link to paid test. Taking a test will start you on your journey. Keep in mind, however, the tests aren’t always accurate because the Enneagram is seeking to find the motivation behind your behavior which can be extremely difficult to tease out. Take your results with a grain of salt and use them as a starting place on your journey towards discovering your type.

For those of you who do know your Enneagram type, I have a treat for you! A list of some must-reads based on your number. These are books that will help guide you to your integration point. They should be like a drink of cool water for your soul but could also challenge you to think in a new way. I have included two books for each type, one secular and one spiritual. The Enneagram is seen by many as a spiritual tool and I wanted to honor that by including a book that uses the lens of spirituality. The secular books are listed first, the spiritual books second.

I have also included the focus of the “work” for each type as a brief explanation for my choosing the books that I did. This is an incredibly simplified description of the work for each number. If you have more questions about why I chose the books that I did or would like to add to the list, please comment! I would love to get a conversation going.

And so, without further ado…

Non-Fiction Books for Growth Based on Your Enneagram Type

Type 1: Integration Point 7

The work for Type One is to quiet the inner critic and to embrace life on life’s terms. 

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Type 2: Integration Point 4

The work for Type Two is to become more in touch with their own needs and to let-go of the desire to compulsively help others. 

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight

The Dream of You by Jo Saxton

Type 3: Integration Point 6

The work for Type Three is to seek rest from striving and find home in who they truly are. 

The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self by Deepak Chopra, Debbie Ford, and Marianne Williamson

Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen

Type 4: Integration Point 1

The work for Type Four is to find respite from inner-angst and to discover the beauty in the ordinary.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō

Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Type 5: Integration Point 8

The work for Type Five is to find the inner strength to reach out and impact the world. 

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises from the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Type 6: Integration Point 9

The work for Type Six is to slow down the mind in order to enjoy the present moment and connect with others. 

Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel J. Siegel

The Untethered Soul by Micheal A. Singer

Type 7: Integration Point 5

The work for Type Seven is to find joy in the every day gifts of life and to push through the uncomfortable, painful parts of life. 

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Type 8: Integration Point 2

The work for Type 8 is to dedicate their passion and energy towards the betterment of the world. 

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Seven by Jen Hatmaker

Type 9: Integration Point 3

The work here for Type 9 is to learn to rest in the tension of life, to show-up and to be fully seen. 

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen

 

Happy growing!

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Raising Respectful (and Kind) Kids

Discipline comes from the Latin word discipulus or disiplini, which means a follower of truth, principle, or venerated leader. – Jane Nelson, Ed.D.

How many of us think of punishment when we hear the word “discipline?” I know that I do. That’s how many of us were raised to think. In fact, most of us think that there are two options for parenting: punish or step back. What I’m learning through Positive Discipline is that neither are very effective for developing character. The thing about character is that it sticks with us no matter who is watching. We call this having an “internal locus of control.” Unfortunately, punishment (and rewards) rely on an “external locus of control.” In other words, someone else is in charge of how I act- I’m being watched to be good. Stepping back, or being too permissive, on the other hand doesn’t create good character either!

So… how do we know what makes for good character?

Here are the Significant Seven Perceptions and Skills (or the things we want our kids to think about themselves):

  1. “I am capable.”
  2. “I contribute in meaningful ways and I am genuinely needed.”
  3. “I can influence what happens to me.”
  4. “I understand my emotions and am in control of myself.”
  5. “I’m a good friend. I can understand the emotions of others. I can work well with others, listen to their needs, and be flexible.”
  6. “I understand the limits and consequences of everyday life. I will do what’s right even when no one is looking.”
  7. “I can make wise decisions.”

We all want our kids to be “followers of truth” whether we’re watching or not right?  I don’t know about you, but when I was young, my behavior wasn’t always consistent. I acted one way when my parents were looking, and another when they weren’t. Punishment has been proven to teach “sneakiness, low self-esteem, violence, and other negative skills.” And when they say punishment, they don’t just mean spanking, we’re talking about time-outs too! What?! Stay with me!

The problem with punishment (and rewards) is that they require an authority of some kind to determine whether a kid is acting right or acting wrong. That puts a heck of a lot of pressure on the adults in the situation and unfortunately, doesn’t teach kids to have integrity when we’re not around. What if I told you there’s a way to guide kids that will promote their internal sense of right and wrong?

As a parent, I have been so thankful to learn about Positive Discipline and now, as a Certified Educator, I get to share this philosophy with other parents too!

Here are the Four Criteria for Effective Discipline:

  1. Is it kind and firm at the same time? (Respectful and Encouraging)
  2. Does it help children feel a sense of belonging? (Connection)
  3. Is it effective long-term? (Punishment works in the short-term, but has long- term negative results)
  4. Does it teach valuable social and life skills for good character? (Respect, concern for others, problem-solving, accountability, contribution, cooperation)

So, if we don’t punish bad behavior and we don’t reward positive behavior WHAT IN THE WORLD do we do??

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Gifts That Foster Connection

If you’re still on the lookout for some holiday gifts, here are some of my favorites that have the added benefit of enhancing your relationships. Please include your ideas in the comments as well!

For Kids

The Ungame – is great for for kids 6 years and older. The game includes great questions that give you a peek into your kiddos minds- and they get to do the same with you!

And Then, Story Starters – This is a great book that allows your child to let their imagination run wild. You’ll have so much fun hearing the stories they create and maybe get a little insight into problems they might be dealing with.

Video Game Console– Now, I understand this is incredibly controversial, but research has shown that kids who have parents that play video games with them, also see their parents as more of a resource for life in general. Obviously, if the game is only played by a child alone, it will not be a connecting opportunity. Yet, if it is used intentionally as a tool for teamwork, it can be a really fun way to build trust and a closer connection.

Lego Building– Or really any kind of building activity that will require your assistance. This goes along with the video gaming concept. It’s an activity that is meant to be done together to reach a common goal. My son and I were drooling over this set at the Lego Store today.

For Adults

Love Books– This is a really fun way to document a friendship or love relationship. They have tons of customizable options, including apology books (just sayin’). I’ll admit, I haven’t personally ordered one yet but they have great reviews. If you’ve ordered one, let me know what you think!

Hot Seat– This is a game best played with adult friends or family and it can get pretty wild!

Date Night Bucket List– One of my favorite sites to find unique and fun gifts is UncommonGoods.com and that’s where I found this gem. You can use this “bucket” with date ideas as a challenge to get those date nights on the calendar! There’s also a “Family Fun” option as well.

I hope these ideas helped to spark some excitement and ideas of your own!

Happy Holidays everyone, I hope this season you choose to intentionally slow down and enjoy the greatest gifts you already have- your relationships.

Take Care,

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When You’re Always the Helper

What if Clark Griswold had ‘just said, No”?

The holidays are just around the bend and for many of us, that means: Family Time! Family time is great except that “family time” sometimes means “forced events with difficult people time.” Sometimes we just don’t get along with people, but other times we feel obligated to help family members (or friends) who just can’t seem to help themselves.

I’ll admit, it is so hard to “let go” when we see a loved one flailing. We want to help. Of course we do, I mean, to help means to care right? Yet.. you know that other people care but yet they don’t seem to feel the same pull to jump in that you feel. How is that other people who care are able to do so at a distance?

In my practice, I often help clients through the heart-wrenching task of differentiation. This is a fancy word that can be defined as a the delicate art of letting go while staying connected. It’s saying, “I am me, and you are you. I can only control myself, but I still care for you.” I would be remiss if I were to say that I haven’t had to grapple with this process in my own life. I can vouch that it is a difficult but rewarding journey. What initially feels like a separation from a loved one, evolves into a relationship that has more room for grace, love, and joy. When we are differentiated, we no longer waste the energy that we once spent on attempting to control another.

Differentiation is not a destination, it’s a journey. There are different levels to experience and often we achieve different levels with different people. For example: When we have loved ones who struggle with self-harming behaviors in our lives, it is more difficult to differentiate from them than from those who take better care of themselves. Although for some of us, when we have grown-up with a care-taking role in our families, it is hard to remain differentiated in most of our relationships.

When we aren’t differentiated, we may find ourselves:

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When Your Partner Resents Your Growth

image from Summit Point

“I’m afraid if I change, my family won’t grow with me.” – KG

Hello Everyone!

Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. Today I want to talk about something that came-up in a group that I am facilitating. The group was created to help women create self-loving habits around food and exercise. We’re about three weeks in and some are hitting road blocks.

One group member courageously shared that what holds her back is realizing that the changes she wants to make could leave her isolated from her family. It wasn’t long after that many others in the group resonated with her experience.

I’d like to speak to this dynamic that is so common in relationships. I call it, the, “Now I see Me” phenomenon. The truth of relationships is that they often reveal our inner lives, the good, the bad, and sometimes the very ugly. Friends, family, coworkers, partners, kids… ALL will bring-up unresolved issues within us. So when someone does something offensive and we find ourselves reacting in a way that is disproportionate to the ‘crime,’ we need to start digging deeper. We need to stop and intentionally search within ourselves for the cause of such a reaction.

“I know that what I was doing was the right thing for me but for some reason, it was like my wife couldn’t stand it.” – LD

Now that will take time, work, and possibly therapy for you to uncover what’s really going on. That’s hard enough as it is. But what do we do when we’re not the one having the disproportionate reaction? Let’s go back to the concept of, “Now I see Me.”

For the sake of clarity, we’ll discuss through the lens of an adult romantic relationship. When your partner is resentful of you for positive changes that you want to make in your life, there’s a good chance that it is due to fear.

Let’s say that you and your partner make a regular habit of drinking to the point of blacking-out every Friday night. It’s been fun sometimes, but horrible at other times. You’ve decided that the horrible times outweigh the good times. There’s something in you that has been whispering, “This is not healthy.” So, you tell your partner you’re not going to do that anymore.

Now your partner’s behavior has been challenged. What was once a joint activity, will now be a solo one. They start to question for a split second if what they are doing is wrong too… Oh shit, now I see ME. This is terrifying. You see, whether it’s drinking, or overeating or whatever, that behavior was serving a purpose. Most likely, the behavior was allowing you both to escape or hide from an emotion or truth that is uncomfortable. Most people aren’t aware of this but when their behavior is challenged, some very intense emotions rise-up. Fear is incredibly powerful.

“My boyfriend and I had huge issues when I started changing my eating and exercise habits. He said he was afraid I’d think I was too good for him.” – LM

“Now I see Me,” is saying now I see my brokenness. And now they could be terrified that you’re going to see it too. They may fear that you will come to a place where you think you’re better than them and leave. Remember how I just said that fear is incredibly powerful? Well, for humans, an intrinsically social species, fear of being alone is the probably among the worst and being LEFT leaves a particularly deep wound.

In my practice, have seen couples with this dynamic- when one is ready to explore and grow and the other is digging their heels in the ground. This is actually very normal. We’re talking about two separate individuals, each on their own life journey. To expect us to always be in the same place at the same time is unrealistic. However, it is not acceptable or healthy for one to demand that the other not grow. It also isn’t healthy for one to want to change but not to do so out of fear of the other’s reaction.

So what do you do?? 

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Spotting Red Flags in Your Kid and What to Do About Them

Photo cred: divorce-matters.com

I get more questions about child development than any other psychological phenomenon and I’m not surprised. When I became a mom I was floored by how much there is to know, how many “experts” can contradict each other, and how common sense seemed to have no place in many parenting situations. Shouldn’t there be some kind of owner’s manual that comes with your new kid? Maybe the reason why we don’t have one is because much of parenting is viewed subjectively. Meaning, we base what is right and what is wrong on our personal values (or our parents’ personal values… or our in-laws’ personal values… or the values of the well-meaning yet intrusive elderly man at the grocery store), not on hard based facts. This is why, in my opinion, things get way harder than they need to be. Basing parenting decisions on objective information such as brain development, would make everything a whole lot easier for everyone.

First, let’s start with what is normal behavior and what is not. 

But before that, let’s get you in the right head space:

While even the word “normal” can be subjective, let’s not get too caught-up on it. Falling outside the normal range isn’t necessarily bad, it just means that there is important information to be taken into account. So shake-off any fears about what not being normal might mean. If your child does fall outside of the normal range, they need you to be ready to handle it and you definitely can. It’s ok to be scared at first, be honest about it, but don’t let yourself dwell. There are so many resources available and as long as you’re willing to ask for the help you may need, you’ll handle this like a champ.

Now, on to the red flags.

  1. A Dramatic Change in Personality or Behavior

Was your child once shy and introspective and is now chatty and needing to be around others constantly? Or maybe they were quite friendly and now want to be by themselves the majority of the time. Do they suddenly display violent behaviors or explosive anger? Or maybe your once potty trained 5 or 6 year old is now bed wetting.

Any time we as therapists hear a report of a dramatic change in behavior (that can’t be accounted for by medication, illness, or life event), we assess for abuse. If you are concerned after reading this, please don’t hesitate to talk to your child and have them assessed by a mental health professional.

When a behavior change is probably due normal development:

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If You’re Wondering How You Can Be a Better Parent to Your Kids, Just Ask Them.

Photo by Joshua Keller Photography

Yesterday my four-year-old son came to me and said, “Mom, how else could you have said that to me?” Implying that I could have used a kinder tone. (I may have been a little bitchy about asking him to put away his fishing rod, again.)

He’s also been known to say things like, “Look in my eyes please” and “Mom, you’re not being very nice.” So weird, because I, of course, ALWAYS look him in the eye since ask him to look me in the eyes when I’m speaking to him. I’m also ALWAYS kind. ALWAYS.

So why don’t I flip the flip out on my smart-mouthing kid when he says these things? Because he’s being the exact kind of “smart” we want more than anything. The kind of smart that’s more likely to help him succeed in life than any other kind. I’m talking about emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence includes the ability to ask for your needs or desires to be met. Lack of emotional intelligence generates a life of frustrating relationships and perpetual loneliness. We expect others to read our minds and guess our needs. Newsflash: this is a recipe for disaster.

Sometimes my partner and I flat-out ask our kid how we can be better parents to him. And you know what? He has very simple, but very helpful answers. Yes, it hurts to hear sometimes. It requires some hard core humility and also grace for ourselves.

When he tells us how we can better, we accept his feedback the same way we want him to accept feedback. We thank him for his thoughts, we validate his feelings, we share that we would like to improve, and we don’t get defensive. We model that feedback is good. It’s not scary, it’s not so powerful that we can’t survive it. We want him to be able to handle criticism well so we have to do the same.

We also acknowledge that sometimes in our culture, we have a double-standard for our expectations of children’s behavior versus our expectations of adult behavior. For example, we may angrily scold our child for being unkind to their sibling every time they do it. But let’s be real, are you ALWAYS sweet and gentle when you speak to others? Do you ALWAYS say “please?” Be real.

We can’t expect our kids to be perfect all of the time. We’re not. So when we can admit our own imperfection, we can also help our child to see that we need grace sometimes too. Otherwise, we seem just a teensy bit (actually, VERY) hypocritical. It’s an impossible standard we hold over them. We inadvertently teach them that they must be the epitome of politeness in front of adults but as soon as they’re out of our sight, they can be unkind to their peers or those smaller than them.

So how do we help kids to handle feedback positively, speak their needs and not be jerks to other kids behind our backs?

We must model who we want our kids to be, ask them how we can do better, and when we fall short, we have to own it.

You got this,

 

 

 

PS Hey! Did you know that I’ll be practicing therapy again soon? Unless you’re my mom (Hi Mom!) you probably didn’t. Let’s get you in the know! Sign-up for my monthly newsletters over in the right hand column and then you’ll get great relationship tools like this one and you’ll also receive updates about my practice and other upcoming events. I also appreciate feedback (obv) and would love your requests for relationship tools. Send them to jaclyn@jaclynsnyder.com.  Thanks for reading!

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Let it Slow: A December to Remember

“We dare not get rid of our pain before we have learned what it has to teach us. Most of religion gives answers too quickly, dismisses pain too easily, and seeks to be distracted—to maintain some ideal order. So we must resist the instant fix and acknowledge ourselves as beginners to be open to true transformation. In the great spiritual traditions, the wounds to our ego are our teachers to be welcomed. They should be paid attention to, not litigated or even perfectly resolved.” Richard Rohr

There is a reason why the holiday season can bring out the absolute worst in us. The financial stress of spending. The social stress of time negotiation. The emotional stress of facing old and perhaps never healed wounds.

It’s no surprise that January is a peak month for psychotherapists! All that the year has buried becomes unearthed by the friction of holiday chaos.

Here’s the good news: you don’t have to wait until January to get your feet on solid ground. You can make the choice right now to intentionally live out the remainder of December. Notice, I didn’t say you will get through December unscathed. Pain is an inevitable part of life. As the Richard Rohr quote states above, let’s take this opportunity to learn from the pain.

We don’t need to be afraid of the uncomfortable feelings that may surface this season. We need to face them head on if we are to ever make peace. Putting it another way, Brene Brown, author of Rising Strong and more, says that to speak our shame is to remove its power.

So this season, I encourage you to find the time for daily self check-ins. If you can, jot down what you notice in a journal or share it with a friend. Now may be a good time to choose a trusted partner whom you can call when you start to feel stressed, sad, disappointed, angry, overwhelmed, etc. Remember, the idea is to “speak” the feelings in some way, bring them into the light. The goal is not to erase them or fix anything. Your partner’s job is simply to listen and validate your feelings. Finding such a partner is not always an easy task but you can vow to be this for each other and your commitment to this process is invaluable.

If you would like, here are some prompts to help guide your self-discovery:

1) I’m feeling something unpleasant. (Take a deep breath) I accept that what I’m feeling is valid. This feeling could be called: (sad, lonely, discouraged, etc.)
2) Where do I feel this feeling in my body? (Tightness in my chest, knot in my stomach, etc.)
3) Do I want to call and share or journal about this experience?

I think you’ll be surprised at just how powerful those three steps can be! Also, make sure to listen to my podcast Mountains are for Moving this week to hear some beautiful ideas about how to have a slow and intentional holiday. This episode goes live on Thursday, December 8th, 2016.

Wishing you peace and love this holiday,

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Here are some free downloadable images to use as wallpaper for your smart phone or desktop as a reminder to slow down and stay connected to yourself and others this holiday.

Option 1:

image1

Once you download this image to your phone, you can adjust the photo to look like this:

image2

Option 2:

image4

Once adjusted for your screen, it should look like this:

image3

Help spread the spirit of slowness and share with your friends!

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