rogers family therapy
adults, couples & families
"a safe space for you to Real your Self back in."
"Healing the wound of doom from womb to tomb"
A shrink helping others expand
by Timothy Rogers, MA, LMFT
Licensed Psychotherapist Lic#101500
YOUR LAST THERAPIST - MY FIRST BLOG ENTRY
"There is no greater battle in life than the battle between the parts of you that want to be healed and the parts of you comfortable and content remaining broken."
January 1, 2018
For the first time ever, I commented on a fellow member's fb group post. She was a colleague, a fellow graduate school survivor, another clinical hopeful who was going to change people’s lives via counseling. She was yet another therapist in training and she had taken her licensing exams over, and over again….several times over actually. Why? You may ask. Well, I certainly didn’t have to ask. I knew exactly why this clearly highly intelligent (grad school ain’t no joke), obviously ambitious, and excellent writer could not, as she described it, "for the life of me pass the [expletive] things!"
So yes, for the first time, I gathered up the kind of courage it takes to not sign: "anonymous," on line, and I shared my experience of jumping through those tedious yet necessary hoops of evil (trademark pending) one must jump through in order to call oneself a licensed mental health professional. Not to mention be able to actually charge the public for a skill set obtained in childhood, experienced in life, trained and harnessed in graduate school and for which these exams have very little (if any) parallel let a lone indication of success as the aforementioned licensed mental health professional.
I thought, well, she’s posting MY story. She’s expressing MY feelings. She’s letting people know that it’s not as easy as it may appear, yet she wasn’t stating HOW it happens. So I commented. Here’s what I wrote:
It took me so long to pass my licensing exam that by the time I did, the therapists in training I had trained with, those colleagues and friends who told me that I had mentored them during my internship, had interns of their own!! I tried hypnosis, studying too much and not enough. Here's what I figured out...for me: in the simplest of terms, but not so conservative numbers of words.....I was unconsciously unaccepting of my rightful place as a licensed, knowledgable, and worthy professional.
I mean, I had the best reputation as one of the most successful interns in an extremely competitive and saturated field in Beverly Hills. My supervisors would basically leave me alone to do the deep work with what is considered highly clinically challenging cases. I was confident I was doing good work, and I was sure, so very sure, more sure than I’d ever been about any other career choice I’d made prior. But on some level, some very deep early and quite underdeveloped level, I could not, would not, did not accept that this was meant for me to not only have, but thrive within!
It wasn't the material, the effort or the temperature of the exam room (although can someone please tell me why they feel the need to complete with the both the North and South Poles regarding temp???). It WAS, however, that I needed to take a step back, I needed to get still, and I had to allow for the the recall. The recall that although I KNEW I had come an extremely long way (like, going back to grad school at the age of 40 kind of long way), I had THOUGHT that I had quieted that ironically insecure yet powerful voice that questioned my right, my deserving, my expectation of self-actualization. When really, I had only negotiated a temporary “contract” with my lonely, not so ironically insecure and clearly extremely anxious self.
This so called contract permitted me the mandatory motivation to keep on keeping on in life and eventually graduate school. It garnered me fierce ambition away from small town labels toward authentic big city identities. However, this was only for so long and for so far. In other words, I needed to consider who I would need to be once I passed those exams and actually became a licensed mental health professional.
That person is someone who absolutely forgives himself when he makes mistakes. That person unequivocally takes an empathic stance with himself first before he can give to others. He is more confident than unsure, and more focused on providing himself with self-care so that he can honestly and with seemingly unlimited empathy and professionalism, preach what he practices.
It was my experience anyway, that I had had more experience with the parts of me who hadn't passed than I did with the parts who had. By not passing, I was comfortable. Comfortable with good enough. Passing meant accepting and living as if I belonged and was worthy of the respect, opportunities and yes, the envy of those with whom I'd be in professional accord.
Passing those exams and becoming a licensed professional meant tolerating all the good parts of myself I had accepted in a more cerebral understanding, but of which I had not experienced ENOUGH from the more visceral acceptance point of view. I knew I deserved to be counted amongst those whom I consider to be answering a higher calling than just a job or career. Once I (along with my therapist) challenged my own understanding of my achieved self-worth, I allowed myself to viscerally experience what I needed to express.
I approached "studying" in MY own way and focused much more on self-care rather than the details of exam material. I paid attention to what I needed to FEEL secure and confident in myself EVEN IF I DIDN'T PASS AGAIN. and then, during that last time to study, in that last way of approaching the answers instead of the questions.
I approached the entire hoop jumping as a process for me. The me I knew AND felt I no longer was because of growth. The me, who actually had the discipline of SELF-care, SELF-esteem, SELF -confidence and finally, yes finally true SELF-worth. When I finally approached taking those EX - AMs………….I passed.
I'm telling you that I absolutely had to practice feeling like I deserved to pass, because once on the "other side" of it, THOSE parts of me that were so comfortable prior to passing have absolutely no place on this side. Do what you need to do in order to LET GO of those comfortable but antiquated parts of yourself that are trying so hard to stay relevant. Face the fear and do it anyway so that it, them, you will stop keeping you from realizing your dream!
Those self-challenging parts were good to you for a long time. They filled in the blanks when you didn’t know why and you couldn’t dare to challenge anyone else. Thinking and “feeling” yourself unworthy of achievement worked for as long as it did, but it seems that that time is played out. It’s done. It’s over.
I commented to my colleague’s fb post that with this experience of mine, it was time to accept that It was no longer working. It’s a different time. You’re a different you. You’ve changed. With this post and now this blog, I have accepted that when it comes to change…..it's time to let go or be dragged.
PRACTICE MAKES MANAGEABLE
“Psychotherapy, far from being any sort of procedure that is administered from a place of detachment, is always a dialogue between two personal universes, one that transforms both.”
- George Atwood
January 8, 2018
For me, addressing depression and anxiety as individual issues has always been a waste of time. They are two sides of the same coin. I've rejected the seemingly populist notion that depression/anxiety has been just an individual's reaction to their specific challenge(s).
However, if we don't FIRST honor that this specific individual has been made to feel like he/she/they are the only ones feeling, reacting and experiencing their world (THE world) in the way that they are, then it's a mute point to attempt to help them connect their experience/reaction (depression/anxiety) to their holistic selves.
I think the problem is that therapists/treaters stay in that First part. The part that honors, empathizes and acknowledges how specific the client's experience of (insert mental illness or diagnosis here) is. Even though I adamently subscribe to "validation is half the distance toward trust," we can become cemented in validating and encouraging and 'cheerleading' thus becoming another enabler to their "ailment" and dissatisfied lives.
It's not news to know that a lot of us enter the field in an attempt to heal ourselves (HEAL THYSELF 1st!), and so it stands to reason that staying in the role of perpetual cheerleader can be very self satisfying. However, helping people emotionally grow up also means helping them move into a more responsible place.
Responsible to themselves and then responsible to their world. The world. Besides, whoever said we were curing anyone or anything? We're healing not curing. There is a difference. Whaaaaa? You may say....Well, by helping others to manage their emotional reactions to life so well that they don't dramatically impose on their day to day existence.
Yes, OUR reactions to OUR world (first as children to the only world we know: with our caretakers), then OUR world becomes the communities in which we participate. OUR world becomes THE world. We do, have, and can change the world by starting with our own. How? You may ask... Well, wait for it......(insert unashamed plug for therapy)....by prioritizing our inner world.
Those with whom I am privledged to work (as do we all) have natural inner world reactions to our outer world challenges. As a therapist, I can help guide them (aka treatment) in being able to more AFFECTIVELY ( I know it's effectively but I'm making a point. We as therapists pay close attention to a person's emotional affect ) manage (aka growth) that natural but over extended reaction .
Over extended because of the amount of outer world challenges that increase. "But Tim, why do the challenges have to increase?" Because, my clearly intelligent reader: Life, if you're doing it authentically... is Hard! And it's brutal reality can flood, overwhelm, and painfully saturate your spirit (aka trauma).
Treating people isn't about helping them understand what the problem is and curing it by eradication. It's about helping them practice by assisting, guiding, modeling, reparenting the underdeveloped parts of themselves through more visceral experiences (aka feelings) which helps them better manage their world.... inside and out (see the movie, it's amazing)!.
In short, (I know, too late) it’s called Private Practice...I hope to help others practice this stuff privately first, then they can take it to the outside world and promote a NEW way to address a history of pain (aka anxiety/depression). And say simply. Very simply. With hope: Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes manageable.
F HAPPY TEARS!
"Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways." - Sigmund Freud
January 14, 2018
There is no such thing as "happy tears." It's an oxymoron to be sure. But it's not possible to express happiness by shedding tears. Tears are produced as a result of sadness. Sadness is about loss. When there is loss in our history and when we cry, that loss is at the forefront of our psyche.
Joy or happiness is expressed in many different ways. None of which is with tears. To be joyous is to be satisfied. To express to others how content we are with that given situation.
"Then why good sir, when I'm happy or filled with joy, do I weep? Why when I am elated with joy am I instantly moved to tears?" The answer, reader extraordinaire, is in the question.
Imagine having a history of great loss, sorrow, disappointment. Those experiences are very painful and who wants to sit in or remember that? Well, consider that in order to not be stymied with a life just full of grief, our mind (psyche) "takes care" of us with those protectors... (insert booming echoing voice): The Defenses!
Defenses like suppressing those sad feelings or minimizing them with a quick, "other people have it worse." If we aren't emotionally strong enough in experience (not ability) or self aware enough to know what's happening with our own mind, our defenses will take over and any loss (especially the big ones), will be suppressed.
Suppressed until we become self aware (Therapy plug), or until we experience the joy of NOT having a loss, consciously.
With each joyous moment, we are instantly transported back to those actual losses. During the happiest of times, we unconsciously recall that this joy has been a long time coming, and as we're happy, we also cry. Two separate feelings experienced at the exact same moment, commonly known as "Happy Tears."
This often confusing experience is a wonderful opportunity for us to recognize that all emotions and feelings (especially contradicting ones) are actually happening at the same time. We cannot control how we emotionally respond to something. We can, however become aware that there is a difference between what you feel, and what you do with that feeling.
We can handle them. We can tolerate them. We can accept and manage them. Why? (Good one!)...Because it's reality. Feelings don't have a timeline. They come up when they are good and ready.
It's up to us to allow them to be expressed, communicate to others what they mean to us, and allow them to inform us before we react or respond behaviorally. THAT we CAN control. We just need help at times with it that's all.
ADULTS CANNOT BE ABANDONED
"The fear of loss is a path to the dark side." - Yoda
The abandonment of self is the loneliest you’ll ever feel.
January 21, 2018
If there’s a childhood history of actual abandonment (physical or emotional and especially around age 2 or before when we’re forming ourselves), the loss is so great that as we grow we search for that part of ourselves in others.
As we naturally attempt to establish what we in the biz call ‘a sense of agency,’ or what real people call a sense of self, we form ourselves based in the reflection of our caretakers. If one or both, or all of those who are assigned to help us grow up is unavailable emotionally, or limited in experience with being mindful enough to our needs, or were never around at all or enough; they’ve left us, and we, in turn, leave ourselves.
It is then and consistently afterwards that being left, not considered or abandoned becomes a fear. A genuinely horrific and ever growing fear in which we place meaning. As humans we must make sense of things. So this first “unknown” this initial loss, which becomes the “hole” within ourselves that we spend a lifetime trying to fill, ‘means’: “I’m unworthy of anyone sticking around.”
We find ourselves “attracted” to people, situations, and circumstances that repeat this established dynamic of being left. Forgotten...not considered.
When people leave (and I mean everything from moving away, to leaving the room without saying something, to actually dying), we are left with the FEELING of being lost. Empty. With losing ourselves. Abandoned.
HOWEVER, in reality, they are just moving on or forward or to their next feeling. But for those who have actually been abandoned as children, we experience loss, disappointment or someone else’s mood shift as if we’ve lost a major body part!
Healing happens when we emotionally go back in time and allow that original abandonment to be mourned (yup, feelings!). Those vulnerable feelings must be validated. Viscerally. Only then can a reparative experience occur and only presently healed can we participate in a future we desire.
Until then, we literally (Not ‘like literally’) But LITERALLY stuff our feelings with food, minimizing our hurt with jokes, or filling the emptiness with toxic people, places and drugs.
That initial loss has us pushing away what we really want and deserve: Connection, Intimacy, Acceptance.
Heal the original, actual abandonment, release the current holding in, stuffing, avoiding and minimizing hurts by having the courage to have those feelings validated....(by someone objective and most effectively a professional), and our self-structure, sense of agency or sense of ourselves is reformed, healed! Aaand in the most exciting ways, you will not recognize your current life.
With this kind of inner-hard work, we can better tolerate loss and disappointment, and we are able to move forward and achieve all we were meant to and were holding ourselves back from.
“I took childhood insecurities and turned them into an adulthood and career of which I am proud, and I am compassionately committed to helping others do the same.” — T. Rogers
January 28, 2018
Within our society’s lexicon, A Trigger is defined as an emotional/psychological reaction caused by something that somehow relates to an upsetting time or happening in someone’s life. This reaction is often found to happen in war veterans, people suffering with PTSD, depression, and other mental disorders.
As of late, social media has jumped on and added its own definition of what it’s like to be triggered (heads up! Trigger Warning!). Well, I say it’s time to let go of old ways of reacting to new stimuli. Release that childhood, past traumatic and very real experience of pain and move on!
Notice I did not say ‘Get over it.’ That phrase (along with ‘I’m fine’ or ‘whatever,’) and oh so many other antiquated words of expressing relief needs to go! For those who are courageous enough to look at themselves empathically, ‘getting over’ past pain, loss or trauma actually means MOVING THROUGH and then Moving on.
Triggers can be reminders, as pain is, that something isn’t finished, hasn’t been worked through… unprocessed. That the current painful emotional situations we find ourselves in are influenced and are informed by our past experiences and those feelings.
Those unprocessed feelings (think of it as a range from 0–30) stick around and when something present occurs (a 30–60 range), we (and those in front of us) experience the emotional reaction as a full 0–60!
To be triggered (from a clinical point of view), means to react as if what’s happened in the past is happening currently. Work with a strong therapist takes you back to the original emotionally painful place(s) (say you were forgotten to be picked up from school: feelings 0–30) and authentically validates how that might have been for you.
That way when your current partner returns from the grocery store and doesn’t remember to bring home the kind of cereal you like (30–60, a valid disappointment) your reaction isn’t: “What the hell?! Do you even know me, you never consider me??!!” (0–60).
Minimizing how we’re triggered to the point of managing our emotional life isn’t easy. The world will through us curve balls in the form of disappointments, loss, feelings of confusion; and those curve balls can have us emotionally reaching back to a time of serious pain. But doing the inner work required can address those valid but historical feelings and keep your current reactions from being all mighty and hysterical. To borrow from Alcoholics Anonymous: If it’s hysterical, its historical.
THE FEAR OF SUCCESS....
There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal, to convey to others who we are.”
February 4, 2018
But what if everything worked out and you achieved all you hoped for? Well, you may not recognize that person. In fact, you may even reject or sabotage that person’s very real, very ambitious attempts at achieving success.
If we grew up without receiving ENOUGH encouragement, or appreciation. If validation in the form of attention was lacking in childhood. If you did not receive the message (in all different kinds of forms) that just to be you was enough, then you, like so many others have much less experience with tolerating the successful you. And, when we lack experience, we can become insecure.
When we’re insecure and vulnerable to criticism, we will retreat to old ways of coping, old ways of tolerating, and old ways to get through those new feelings we are having with each success.
We will emotionally recalibrate to a place we have the most experience and feel the most comfortable. It may be an old self, it may be unhealthy and not working for us anymore, but damn if it’s not what and who we know.
The remedy? THERAPY. The relationship established between you and your therapist is the kind of relationship that doesn’t just cheerlead your accomplishments, but walks with you as you tolerate how new it is to feel good about being you in that accomplishment.
Why? So that you do not get that promotion, find that partner, or win that award and feel: it’s not enough… I’M NOT ENOUGH.
Participating in therapy provides you with the authentic experience of DESERVING to achieve. Having heard — Don’t get “too big for your britches” or “someone thinks highly of herself” is some serious BS!
Surround yourself with people who believe in your brand and you will achieve, accept, tolerate and keep your achievements.
Being brave enough to go to therapy provides you with the experience of being with the successful, healthy part of you who has known and felt worthy, but got talked out of it by someone else’s toxic agenda.
Go already. Be brave enough to ask for help and you’ll find the strength to face the fear and do it anyway!
SELF-LOVE: Being in the ability to love someone else
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. "-Maya Angelou
February 11, 2018
“If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an AMEN up in here?!” These immortal words from the world's most famous dragqueen, RuPaul Charles, have become part of our society's lexicon. But what exactly does loving yourself in order to love somebody else really mean?
One of the most consistent dynamics I find in working with people of all shapes, sizes, races, sexual orientation and social economic stature is: feeling like you belong makes all the difference in having a satisfying life.
In the beginning, we learn, gain, and take in not only how or who we are as people, but how we feel as people. Especially how we feel about ourselves. How we feel about ourselves begins not with compliments or rewards. It begins with feeling as though we matter. Most espeically to the people who brought us into this world. Then, to those in the world we choose to have, then.. to THE world.
As children we want that feeling of a brightened, joyful face of relief on our caretakers when we enter the room. Without that experience, we wonder. We question. We become Confused. And if the dimmed face of our caretaker(s) [dimmed for whatever reason - that's a future blog topic], isn't explained to us via emotions and reactions and eventually words....soon ENOUGH... our wondering, questioning and confusion become INSECURITIES.
"What did I do wrong?" What did I do to make that feeling of being unwanted come up from that face and then smack me right into mine?" Of course noone (especially children) are conscious of these dynamics, but you better believe they are felt! Those questions become obsessions that need to be answered. Voids to be filled. And as the humans we are, we must fill those voids with something.. ANYTHING. For the most part, for the majority of us... those unanswered questions are completed with, "I did something wrong".... "I didn't do enough".... "I'M not enough."
When we establish that way of thinking as a norm or "hard wiring"... the feelings that follow provide "proof" and confirm or better yet, cement a way of exsisting that behaviors soon follow. Behaviors of "attention seeking," or "acting out." Tantrums, definance, eventually self-deprecating or even self-harm. Why? Becasue if we're not enough for the people who brought us into this world, who will we ever be good enough for?
We find ourselves in toxic relationships, low paying jobs, communities and careers which do not honor or value our input because , well, we're used to not feeling like we're enough. This becomes our base narrative and we actually believe it's who we are.. and who would love who we are (or who we believe we are)? So loving that person becomes less of an option and of course loving anyone who would love that person becomes "impossible."
Now, of course, not smiling at a child when they enter the room is not the trauma which leads to poor self-worth, HOWEVER... that message sent, that belief system made concreate by "proofs" here and there.. for ... years repeated over and over by our own voices in our heads.. THAT'S the stuff we as therapists help to unpack, revisit and provide a safe place for. And then what? Yeah, I know..
Well, and then we uproot that belief system by dancing with those defenses that have been so good to us as children. Those defenses that answered those questions for us, filled the void of: "What happened?" What did I do wrong?" Answers the question with: "It's your fault" or "You aren't worthy."
We dance and then help clients say thank you, but you are no longer needed to "keep me safe." When we can be vulnerable enough to place our defenses aside (once we first realize what they are.. see whey they call therapy work?").. then we can see with eyes wide open that the belief system, the thoughts and feelings that followed from a misinterpretation of ourself was false.
Then, and only then can we truly FEEL what it's like to experience self-appreciation, self-worth, self-love. From there... comes self-esteem and from there.. self-confidence. AND. FROM. THERE...... the ability to ALLOW someone(s) else to love us. and THAT my friends.. is how we know, feel and can behave like we are in the ability to love someone else. Amen.
LEARNING TO BE SELFISH!
To Thine Own Self be True:
Changing the way we see selfishness in relationship.
March 14, 2018
Most people understand and agree that dating is about gathering information. Would this person I’m physically attracted to be a good parent? Would she be someone I can trust to stay faithful? Would he be of support to me if I wanted to change careers? Would they accept all parts of me, good, bad, and the oh so seemingly ugly?
These questions seem obvious when considering those all important first few dates with someone new. Moreover, this can be the established line of questioning to our partners after being together for years. “What about you?” What do you want?” Where do you want to go for dinner? Me? It’s up to you. I’ll have what you’re having.”
But what if the questions to ask weren’t about the person sitting across from you on those dates or when the kids are with a sitter, or have gone on to college? What if those questions needed to be asked of the person in the mirror ...BEFORE the times when it’s just you and your partner?
In my therapeutic work with couples of all shapes, sizes, cultures, races, genders, sexual orientations, and religious affiliations I have found that across the board people don’t seem to take enough time to answer those questions (and oh so many others) of THEMSELVES before going on a date, or after years together....let alone before committing or reestablishing that commitment to a lifetime of partnering.
If we could make our vulnerable selves a priority, if we would consider what is more deeply important to us beyond parenting skills, imperfect but consistent emotional support or even the holy grail of fidelity. Yes, if we looked at AND beyond looks, bank accounts or potential social status... studies and my personal and professional experience have shown that there is a significantly higher percentage of couples having success not only staying married, but also in remaining happily married.
This, of course, can not only be a challenge but even controversial. How do I focus on me without making it ALL about me or being labeled a selfish narcissistic....person?! How do I consider my partner’s needs and mine without feeling like I’m getting the short end of the relationship stick?! Well... here’s how: it’s in the order of the consideration, and the redefining of what it means to be “selfish.”
Oh I know... you’re like, what? Repeat please. Huh? Come again! Okay, consider this: Being selfish is: ONLY considering yourself and not ever really considering others. Whereas considering others after you’ve taken the time to know how you feel first, is like ... you know how on a flight anywhere, they tell you in case of an emergency to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before placing it on that baby in your arms.”
Without taking the time, the effort, the attention to know who you are, and especially how you feel (which is how we find who we are.. but that’s another session)... how do we know to whom we are giving ourselves? How can we really be sure that the person we’ve chosen is the person for us ... forever? Let’s get even deeper... how do you know WHY you’re even attracted to this person? ....It’s in your self care.
Self care is a buzz word that has become popularized (thank goodness) in the lexicon of general society, but has not (in my humble opinion) been b-r-o-k-e-n d-o-w-n. Broken down in a way that helps us understand how AND really why it’s oh ..so ..VERY important... to everything in our life of relationships.
Connecting whom you choose to marry or stay with and the idea of self care may seem like a long shot, but hear me out.
Caring about and for yourself starts with your thoughts to yourself. The things we say to ourselves that no one else hears... buuuut everyone sees and feels! Yeah, everybody knows.
When we talk down to ourselves we are establishing the standard by which anyone we’re in relationship with will abide by. So then, why wouldn’t the person we find ourselves attracted to, the person we plan to offer to or accept a proposal from; the one person to whom we promise to stay together forever by marrying or recommitting to, treat us in any other way except by our own status quo?
Look, not only does what we tell children become their inner voice, but we date at the level of our self esteem. So if we take the time to learn about, appreciate and establish a way of treating ourselves, not only will we find and keep our ideal matched partner, we’ll be better able to pass on this level of expectation to our own children, the children of others and really to any children we come across. Especially the one inside of ourselves.
Change the way you’ve understood selfishness, and you change the way success in relationship becomes your true self ....in all relationships. #RelationshipGoals
TAKING PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together"
April 9, 2018
Mentoring is the answer period. Having someone who sees and helps encourage the real you whom you aren’t able to see. If you’ve ever listened to your own voice recorded, it doesn’t sound accurate to you but everyone outside your own head tells you it’s exactly how you sound. It’s because the acoustics within our skull keep us from hearing our accurate voice. It’s not physically possible to have objectivity of ourselves. So it goes with the sense of who we are or what we can achieve. We need an outside voice who sees us OBJECTIVELY.
Notice my suBtle use of be word objectively. Someone who has our best interest. Someone who thinks of us as human and knows we are valuable. Someone emotionally intelligent. Someone safe.
If we grow up with emotionally inept (trauma) or limited care taking (more self doubt than self aware), we do not have the sense of agency (or structured sense of yourselves) to even TRY to “rise above, “ or “pick ourselves up from our bootstraps.” We are limited and therefore at a disadvantage from our very beginning. It's like giving a 10 year old keys to a new car and when she wrecks it, we blame, punish and shame her for not taking personal responsibilty for her actions. We may chronologically be 35, but emotionally we are (depending on our emotional upbringing) MUCH, MUCH younger.
Society, if it’s to evolve to a truly successful place, must accept responsibility for ITSELF first and nurture those of its members who have no idea how much their limited thinking of themselves, come into the world with limited care taking (and therefore limited self-care taking) and an empathic but honest self-awareness. This is especially true since society’s own limitations in its self awareness is such a huge factor in a person coming into the world with limited caretaking in the first place.
When that happens (we are raised by human beings, so theres always something to look at), those caretakers are limited in their parenting because THEIR care takers were limited. Generations of self doubt, self destructive and self sabotage are woven into our personal fabric and strongly influence our limited and false sense of ourselves because society as a whole is still learning the inevitable truth:
that IF YOU WANT TO GO FAST, GO ALONE. IF YOU WANT TO GO FAR, GO TOGETHER.
THE MINDFULNESS OF THE MIND
"I can change my life one thought at a time ."
May 26, 2018
I turn 50 this year and I am working hard at managing my defenses so that they consistently work FOR me and not AGAINST me. Recent social media posts about how our mind messes with us for years, had me thinking....
Yes our minds mess with us,,, forever if we let it. There really is a reason(s) for everything, but of course we don’t know it until we do.
What I have learned both professionally and personally is that for years my brain (which holds the mind) kept me safe. Safe from emotional overload. Safe from imploding or exploding to the point of literal extinction! Thank you universe/god/Buddha,, All ya’ll!
Thing is, that wonderful brain holding mind only works from a logical, and biological point of view. It championed the very real logic of parents, who are older than I, and therefore in charge, know what to do always leaving little to no reason to consider otherwise. So as a child, if I have feeling, an emotion (especially a vulnerable one that continues to place me (logically) in danger, my mind takes over and blames the only other person in the room: the child.
So? Divorce? Kid thinks it’s kids’s fault. Abuse? Kid blames himself. Confused? No problem says the mind, here’s an answer: your fault. Or maybe doesn’t give you THAT answer, but doesn’t let you stay in confusion or “the unknown” for very long. No way! Our mind says: "Need. To. Protect." and “Let’s move on..” Seriously let's...
So one can imagine that over a period of YEARS, This way of thinking, of keeping us safe, is so intrenched in our psyche, that when we start to want to connect with others (puberty seems to be a consistent time for most), when the number one requirement to be seen by a partner so that we can truly see them is emotional intelligence... we absolutely have no real way to access that part of ourselves!
So sure, we talk with others, we may even have friends and “relationships” of the romantic type. But what’s really happening is that brain is still working overtime and that drive for procreation, that need to want to be with someone and have them want to be with us, manifests into getting naked with someone(s) (shortcut excuse for intimacy), and we go years without really “feeling” like we FEEL connected, whole, worthy.
We may not get involved with others and proclaim “I’m working on my career” only to achieve those goals in some form but feeling very empty inside. For most of us, it’s a crisis that provides us with an opportunity to get woke. We loose perspective on our value, because back in the day (yes, the childhood years), we didn’t have enough people do enough. Yes, they did well, kept us alive and for most, provided enough stability to get to adulthood. But even the most mindful parenting produces wounded people parading as grown ups when really they’re just kids in a man or woman suit. You see them when reacting to the cashier about taking too long, or couples fighting in public (“You don’t see me! YOU don’t see ME! - well, now we all HAVE to see you both!) and of course everyone’s favorite: the road racer. Yeah, that’s the kid in the driver’s seat for sure!
OR they may experience the world screaming :Looking good! Wow are you amazing! You’re so awesome. While on the inside, the kid is like: yeah, I have no idea what I’m doing....
So the crisis says: here’s the deal. Since childhood you’ve been living in reaction to the world. Congratulations you survived. Thing is, the mind didn’t have time (too busy keeping you safe), to tell you that this “childhood bliss” of not really making feelings important, that mantra about not needing to feel? Well, it has an expiration date. It’s called Adulthood. And yes you’ll need your logical mind for so many things in Adulthood, but the most important thing is connection with others. You’ll need to be emotionally mature to attract a mate, a solid group of friends (community) and to obtain and sustain that career or even just the money to sustain yourself you want and need so badly.
So yes, when there is trauma in childhood, and let’s face it., for those of you who have been raised by humans.. guess what? You’ve. Got. Trauma.
So,,, when there’s childhood, there’s a trade off. Don’t feel the chaos around you by intellectualizing or avoiding or denying or minimizing or blaming or laughing, or any one of our elaborate but effective defenses to keep us away from feeling our way through it. And in return, you live. Literally. Not a bad trade. Right? And see? There’s no blaming parents or care takers for too long, there is accepting that things happen. People do the best they can with what they know. Hopefully when they know better, they do better.
But in the meantime, those of us who actually do know better (after taking many emotional risks) must take the time to change it up for ourselves as adults and for any children we have or are exposed to as mentors. ESPECIALLY BOYS!
We must help, support, encourage and lift up children so that their minds don’t have to work so very hard to keep them safe. It’s our responsibly as adults, as their caretakers, their guides to take care of them, to keep them safe. To get them woke as early as possible.
Hip them to the FACT that without both intellect AND emotional intelligence, you spend half your life being half of you, and no doubt succeeding but with only half of yourself able to actually enjoy it!
Value and promote the value of our feelings and emotions? And watch the world ACTUALLY change! It’s proven to. Each person who changes themselves through a life examined, changes the entire world person by person, community by community. Social media platform by social media platform. What an amazing opportunity it is to be living now. To be able to express to anyone anywhere in the world immediately!
What will you say?
"The hardest work is tolerating the good in us." - Timothy Rogers, MA, LMFT
June 13, 2018
What if when you want to achieve a goal, you changed the way you THOUGHT achieving that goal? For example if you tend to minimize your accomplishments, what if you thought differently about minimizing and placed value to what you were actually able to DO. Wouldn’t you be better able to accept or tolerate your actual successes? And therefore wouldn’t you be more likely than not to actually be able to achieve that larger goal you originally wanted, but minimize first to yourself and then to others?
What if that was the process that brought us as close as we could get to actually knowing if we will be able to achieve what we want in life? How we think greatly influences the number one motivator behind those that actually achieve what they want. I'll give you a hint: It's HOW WE FEEL.
How's this for a bold statement: Whenever we have a "feeling" about ourselves that is critical or self defeating... What if it's not actually a feeling, but a thought? And what if that thought ... actually is not even yours? I know, I know... but check this out: If you are “feeling” ANYTHING pessimistic or negative about yourself, be curious about it. Live beings are meant survive in order to thrive. It’s our biology. So why would we have a "natural feeling" to beat up on ourselves if that is completely antithetical to our survival? "Feeling" stupid or like you aren't able to accomplish something doesn't help to survive. To achieve. To win.
So....what if you’re “feeling” is actually a thought. And what if it’s a THOUGHT trying to convince you that it’s a feeling so that you don’t feel. Like your mind is trying to "protect" you in the way it successfully did when you were a kid. You see, kids can't really handle or tolerate big emotions. Their brains haven't developed to the point of complex emotions until after preschool really. Providing preschool aged children from 2 to 5 with scientifically supported and creative curriculums to better understand and express their emotions has the power to positively affect the trajectory of their lives. (Psychology Today)
And soooo what if, what. if... that THOUGHT you think is a feeling, actually isn’t even your thought? What if it’s a message or maybe even someone important to you told you whatever that self-defeating, negative or abusive THOUGHT was. What if that important person told you by how they treated you, or how they didn't consider you enough, or minimized your actual accomplishments. What if THAT is what is having you “feel” negatively about yourself?
What if THEY had a somebody in THEIR childhood that gave them "their" negative THOUGHT which had them “feel” like hating themselves was the “right” answer to all of those seemingly unanswered questions we all have as children? The unknown. Might be anxiety provoking I'd bet. And what if, because you were a child, and because children have absolutely no choice but to believe the adults in their lives and what they say to them, or may not have actualy said, but the emotional message was sent loud and clear? Or for children... just loud?
What if other people’s thoughts (for generations) have been in our drivers seat posing as feelings in order to stay relavant. In order to protect the child? But the child is now an adult. An adult who wants to connect with others, have relationships, FEEL purposeful? How is this person, this live being supposed to utilize the most important ability and prerequisite to having healthy, satisfying and purposeful relationships.. achieve this? Well, they don't. They struggle.
I know, we all struggle, but these folks struggle so very unneccsarily, because they have not had the experience of valuing their emotional selves. Their feelings have been avoided, devalued or minimized so much for so long, they actually feel (or more accuratly think) they aren't in touch with or don't become emotional. Now, a lot of these people, actually most of them.. most of us....do eventualy learn to conncect (mostly) and have satisfying interpersonal relationships (in general). But it's usually after years and years and several "failures" that they "get it." And then only through heartache, participaing in actively perpetuating unconscious family patterns. The biggest way people learn that their feelings matter and so they matter.... .. is through experincing a crisis, or several crisises.
But what if change in general meant you had to make a general change?And what if that change meant you taking the emotional risk with someone whom you could trust. Someone not related to you. Someone who although you are paying for their time, you aren't paying for their feelings (because NO ONE can control their feelings).
And what if this person, this professional could guide you and assist you in YOUR acceptance of YOUR OWN thoughts, valuing your own feelings which come from YOUR ACTUAL THOUGHTS? And what if then you could ACTUALLY be responsible for your own behaviors. Because you’d be fully informed about who you actually are in ANY given moment?
And what if this knowledge of yourself led to specific, more pleaurable, more persaonlly satisfying situations which led to making stronger more satisfying decisions for yourself? Big decisions. The kind of decisions grown ups make. Decisions with confidence.
What if you CHOSE to accept that while we cannot change how we feel, we can greatly influence how we feel by changing the way we think. Which is completely in our abilty to choose. This is especially true when we change the way we think about ourselves. Look at your life. There is always something both accepting and challenging happening at all times and at the same time. We cannot control what what feel about what happens to us, but we can choose which way to look at it. And if it hasn't happend yet, like: Will I succeede? Then isn't there just as much of a change to achieve as there is to "fail?" If it hasn't happened yet, we actually don't know for sure.. so either one is as possible as the other. We can choose to focus on the achieving. No it's not a guarentee, but we're shooting for the highest possible percentage of achieving. And if changing the way we think can give us an edge to the stronger possibiltiy of achieving... well, it literally IS NOT a no-brainer! Change your thought and watch your feelings become influenced. Which then can motivate you to take action (behavior) toward achieving that success.
What if you were balanced in that what you feel (I’m worthy) which is influenced by what you think (I believe that is true because of this, this, and this - proof). Which motivates you to behave in way that says to yourself that you are worthy (by being kind, by considering your needs first and then considering others, or by experiencing self care as a necessity rather than a chore to find time for.
What if everything in your life had a greater change of working out, and that greater change enabled it to actually work out? What if because you did the work required to have it work out, it... just... did? Not perfectly or even as you imagined or hoped it would......but better?
You will succeed because you believe you can!
"I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it." - Dr. Maya Angelou
June 30, 2018
Until a personal crisis brought me to therapy, I thought this was just another B.S. platitude successful people told unsuccessful people, ironically.
In therapy I recognized that I had been living my life in reaction to the experiences and relationships (or lack there of) of my childhood. Through a child’s point of view, I was comfortable being alone. I thought marriage was antiquated and misogynistic. I had no problem either not having a “plus 1” or having different “plus ones” when invited to a wedding.
Now don’t get me wrong, I really did enjoy myself, but I was also feeling other emotions that were...not so positive. That wasn’t the problem. We all feel negative and positive emotions at the same time .. all the time. The problem was that I was not in TOUCH with those negative emotions, and because of that, I didn’t think I really had them. I mean, I’d get down and even Depressed, but I never thought (and therefore thought I FELT) I was lonely.
That’s a big deal you see because, if I couldn’t feel (but thought I had) I was lonely, then how is it that I COULD feel confident that I wasn’t? How did I know that my “too long” (whatever the hell that means) period of bachelorhood WASN’T negatively affecting me in ways I had no IDEA, but sometimes FELT .. off? Well, the thing is, I couldn’t know .... and the fact is.....I didn’t know.
And for 40 years, I presented as if I did. In therapy I was “forced” to look at myself. All angles. Why was I doing or not doing this or that? How was it that I came to feel or even think this or that about that or this? Let alone (🤔) FEEL like I knew the answers to those questions. In therapy, I came to many very clear and most importantly very visceral conclusions about myself. My REAL self.
And the largest one of all, the real information about my real self that I really was not aware of yet, I kind of, sorta was? Was that I did not know, I could not feel and was completely unconscious to the reality that I WAS lonely and ... I wasn’t ok with it.
Therapy granted me permission to ask: Why was I so very comfortable being alone? The answer, for me, was that I wasn’t. I wasn’t actually comfortable with being seen, considered nor did I really consider that I could or would be loved. Loved and accepted in a way that says, “You matter not because of all you do for me or others. But because you exist.” THAT kind of “ah-ha” moment was and continues to be life altering. Because it wasn't the concept that I didn’t understand. It was how much (or in my case, how little) the emotional contribution to my entire state of well being was, shall we say, less than 50%. And if you’re shouting to the rooftops that you’re living at 100% BECAUSE you don’t need anyone, but you’re actually at less than 50? Well, as Whoopi says in her academy award winning (don’t get me started) performance in Ghost: “You in trouble girl.”
So, at the ripe ole age of 40, single and “feeling” like: life? Oh I got this. This “it’s a choice” mentality and the lifelong Mantra of “I’m focusing on my career,” I decided to stop the career path I THOUGHT I should be pursuing, and follow through with what I FELT I actually had an affinity for. You know, the kind of affinity that continuously shows itself to you, but (for so many excuses I would call reasons) I hadn’t been willing to consider being true FOR 40 YEARS!
As a client of therapy, I decided, yes I decided to go back to school (15 years after graduating college), and while working full time, earned my Masters Degree, and became licensed as a Marriage & Family Therapist.
At 44, I met (because I was more emotionally open to meeting a quality of a person who had similar qualities to my person - "We date at the level of our self-worth"), the relationship where there is a significant age difference. Like, I graduated from high school the year she was born kind of age difference!
So, what I’ve once again failed at in being concise with expression, I’m saying to consider that it’s not black or white. And it’s certainly not about what you or anyone else THINKS you SHOULD or shouldn’t do with regards to being single or not. It’s about how YOU feel. And how you FEEL, is determined by how willing you are to question where it all came from that you think the the way you do.
In a shorter version: check out your own reactions to the subject matter. That’ll tell you more about the truth of how you feel than anything else.
Therapy & Men of Color
"To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time." - James Baldwin
July 4, 2018 - Independence Day
Why would any man, especially any black or brown man, agree to participate in psychotherapy? Men and our emotions (espcially our vulnerable ones) have never been on the same page, publicly anyway. This has, in general, been especially true for men of color. Why? Could at least one consideration be because of all the stereotypical and nefarious expectations of days gone by (or have they?) placed on men to be “the bread winner” or “Man of the House?”
For black and brown men though, it’s a step up to be considered nefarious. Meaning, if you were a part of the population that rarely, if ever, has permission or leeway, let alone any real opportunity to be vulnerable and NOT have all of your motivations, sexual identity or intelligence questioned, then I suspect hat being consistently considered wicked or criminal is a step from from being danger.
And no that’s not a type-o, my reputation as a man of color is not “just,” “be careful, they’re dangerous!” No, we as a people and most certainly as a gender, we, who have had an extensive and yet not an exhaustive history ....FOR GENERATIONS have a reputation forcibly injected into the lexicon of all “high society” AS FACT. WE. ARE. DANGER.
Now, I realize these are antiquated illustrations of pressure placed on men of color, and I know I may be preaching to the choir when I consider that most of you who would find your way to this writing are not the audience who needs to be lectured about the emotional injustices of black and brown men.
However, it is my personal and professional experiences that we are still playing catch up to the rest of the world when it comes to participating in psychotherapy. The one place where we can actually NOT be demonized, NOT have any expectation to be anything but ourselves, is also the one place that because of its stigma kills more men of color than police shootings!
If you read that and now have a more visceral reaction rather than just read it, then you’ve not only been subject to what I hope was only a small amount of emotional manipulation, but you also now have a small sense of why it’s important that men, especially men of color, would rarely accept enough to be in touch with, let alone express a need to feel safe enough to go and participate in individual psychotherapy.
As both a man of color and a licensed psychotherapist, I have experienced first hand how remaining unaware that asking for support is NOT being weak. It took me 40 years to realize that to continuously try and accomplish success and not quite achieve the level you’ve always desired, to know you’re capable, but feel inadequate and to finally subjugate yourself into the acceptance of that.
But it isn’t other people and it certainly isn’t us which keeps us from participating in something like the therapeutic process which has been taken for granted and produces results. It’s good ole fashioned fear. But it’s not the kind of fear that would have us cowering in the corner. It’s not the fear that would have us shy, intimated or a wallflower, hardly. The fear is that age old cliche … the fear of success.
I believe that men of color have been gaslit to believe, and follow through with, the Caucasian persuasion that if we own ourselves instead of accepting that we’ve been owned, we must own all that comes with it. Therapy says to look at yourself. Look at yourself with empathy, compassion and honestly. Look at yourself WITH someone who will help you see who you really are. Who you always were, but who had little, if any, choice (let alone awareness) in being that man. Especially if it meant that those in power would no longer be those in power.
The good news is that it is the 21st Century, and while there is a hell of a lot of repairing that needs to occur, one thing doesn’t. It’s that how we as men of color have experienced ourselves, has been through the perspective of those who would own us. Own us in an attempt to disown parts of themselves too painful to hold, own or carry.
Psychotherapy shows us that owning ourselves is the greatest weapon, tactic, strategy and power we as men will ever really have. A power which no one else can take, give away or sell off. So why therapy? and why would men, especially men of color benefit from partiiaping in therapy? Because we are leaders, fathers, brothers, sons, partners and have cultural influence. Because it's our turn to receive, be relieved, provided for, taken cared for and to be mindful of.
We men of color whom the world looks to project their fears, fanstancies and f*** ups upon deserve to be considered in this profound and necessary, very necesary way. Men, especially men of color would and have benefited from participating in psychotherapy because in those particular relationships, in those particular rooms and behind those particular closed doors (now open to us), can experience (and more and more with someone who looks like us), one last place where we can have the full benefit of mentoring, fathering, partnering and reflecting of ourselves...our true selves.
In therapy, we can wholeheartedly and in the truth of and about ourselves, finally be shown those parts stolen from us. In investing in ourSelves by going to therapy, we can learn how to be attracted to what is healthy.
The STILL of the Night
July 4, 2018
Participating in therapy requires us to be still with ourselves. Stillness “allows” our mind to take a break or as I’ve experienced (as have my patients) time away from being distracted from how we feel. Depression in particular (the suppression of sadness), is better able to rise out of ourselves and breathe if you will.
The goal is to not suppress our feelings during our waking hours, during the time we usually are distracted with DOING. Whatever we are validly sad about, as children but for whatever reason we haven’t had permission to express; OR we’ve expressed it to ourselves, alone without it being validated from someone we trust, OR we’ve expressed it to emotionally limited people who usually make it themselves or minimize it - stays away from our consciousness and with each disappointment, or loss as we get older continues to be unconsciously suppressed, Depression is manifested and our elastic brain keeps us in that track.
If this happens long enough without treatment (retraining the brain) medication intervention is often the only way to help the brain “re-track” as best as possible or people die. And as most everyone here knows, even medication doesn’t always help for a variety of very real and very frustrating reasons.
Another way the mind tries to get fixed or re-track or heal is to move into a “more manageable” place. The other side of this powerful coin, Anxiety. Our minds shift from depression into anxiety so it’s “easier” to manage. Problem is, as children and mostly surrounded by adults who mostly wouldn’t, couldn’t and therefore don’t know how to help kids manage their anxiety, they/we come up with our own.
By the time puberty hits, the most accessible way to manage is drugs, alcohol, sex, computers, food, picking at ourselves , cutting, risk taking behaviors, the list goes on.
So then our world, THE world now has myopic focus on treating (if we’re “lucky” enough) to have THOSE behaviors or coping mechanisms (Ritalin, diets, rehab) forgetting all about the underlying reason(s) we use those ways to cope in the first place!
The remedy? Proven time and time again, the answer is to heal what was the original problem. EXPRESS THE SADNESS! Let someone know how sad you’ve been about your childhood. Allow for someone to validate what it must have been like for you as a child who had no intellectual understanding of why it was so sad, but who still FELT the loss.
However, before that can happen, we have to express and process (therapy plug) all of the loss and disappointment we’ve had SINCE our sad childhoods. And that takes time to do.
So one can see that it’s “faster” to take more pills and/or deny how deeply sad we really have been because if you’re at all like I was (at age 40), feeling like it’s just too many years of too many disappointments and losses, to consider taking even more time to try and heal.
And when that happens, it takes only 3 ways which force us to consider addressing our original childhood loss: 1) we never address it, it never heals and we “live” unhappily or 2) We learn only through crisis and even then some of us “get it” or understand it, but never FEEL it enough for the crises to stop trying to wake us up to this and 3) Death.
Why therapy? Because the ache for home lives in all of us the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
In ANY of your relationships...Are you communicating effectively?
"You don’t have relationship problems. You have unresolved childhood problems that are disguising themselves as relationship problems. "
July 4, 2018
So, one day I was thinking of how I could best help my clients keep in mind the progress I experience them making duirng our work together. I needed a rubric of sorts that they could refer to whenever it "felt" to them that they were "stuck" or just not sure if It was working.
So I came up with this little guide that seemed to really help them and me check in and as objectively as we can.... check ourSelves and our ability to tolerate the good in us.....
1) VALUE IT - your feelings and emotions are of REAL value. They are everything in all relationships. You are NEVER wrong about your feelings, NEVER.
2) NAME IT - take the time to place a name to what you are honestly feeling for yourself. Being curious instead of critical.
3) EXPRESS IT - Be emotionally courageous. Express what you are honestly feeling to the person with whom you are wanting to connect.
4) TOLERATE IT - give yourself permission to be silent and allow the other person to express (non-physically) how what you expressed has them feeling.
You don't have to agree with them, just hear them, and tolerate that they have a right to an emotional reaction to what you've expressed.
Just because it's their feeling, doesn't make it a fact.
SERIOUSLY THOUGH, WHAT IS SELF-CARE?
"Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'
July 19, 2018
I HATE GOING TO THE DOCTOR -
Says everyone at some point in their lives. Especially men.
When we reject the possibly being taken of in a real way, especially as adults, we’re agreeing with those who didn’t take care of us - enough - as children. Yes, every parent, grandparent or caretaker does the best they can and we are all grateful for what they were able to do.
But it isn’t those "enough" moments, it isn’t the things they did "right” that brings people into my office nor has us left with feelings of less than worthiness. This is especially true if there is trauma in your childhood.
I encourage my patients to leave those wonderful and 'enough' aspects of their parents' parenting, just outside my office door, then we can discuss, be with, acknowledge and most importantly process their disappointments, frustrations, and often their unconscious rage about what didn’t happen enough for their childhood selves.
Therapy gets a bad rap for “blaming parents.” Most people think, "that stuff happened in the past, it's over, so why talk about all that now?" The reality of the therapeutic process is that without an accurate look at what didn’t happen enough for us as children, we’re not experiencing an authentic life as adults. To truly appreciate our care takers now, we have to try to be courageous enough to see them as our kid selves then. Holistically, emotionally realistically.
Everyone can benefit from therapy. We were all raised by human beings. No one got out of childhood without some sense of not getting enough from our parents. No one.
So, when we don’t practice self care or go to the doctor, it’s like we’re taking over where they left off, but instead of learning from their mistakes, we’re perpetuating the narrative that we aren’t worthy of being considered. And I’ll give you three guesses as to the number one reason people come to couples therapy! 😉 It’s not the way we actually FEEL. It’s a THOUGHT that isn’t even ours.
Don’t demonstrate fierce Independence and rebellion by self sabotage. Show yourself how it really needed to have been done. Value yourself in a way that those who were supposed to take care of you, but could not because they were limited (by their parents’ limitations), and accept the help now. Then, like we practice in my office, pick up your gratitude for them on your way out and use your now integrated self to pass it on to those who also know that same struggle!
Guilt is an emotional warning sign that most people learn through their normal childhood social development. Its purpose is to let us know when we’ve done something wrong, to help us develop a better sense of our behavior and how it affects ourselves and others. It prompts us to re-examine our behavior so that we don’t end up making the same mistake twice. Displaced Guilt has us feeling guilty or "bad" when all we've done is express ourselves. So not only might we not be feeling guilty, but it may not be a feeling we are "feeling" at all but a thought. Aaaaand.... it's even less likely that's it's even our thought. But a message or statement of opinion belonging to someone else!
------- THE MORE YOU FEEL -------
FEELINGS & EMOTIONS (being in touch with them) leads to satisfying RELATIONSHIPS with self and others (in that order) - which leads to OPPORTUNITIES which then leads to informed CHOICES we can make toward our satisfaction, relief and more possibilities of joy and being content in life.
July 19, 2018
You say you don’t even know how to respond BECAUSE you FEEL stuck. Stuck is not a feeling, it's a thought. So that’s why you don’t even know how to respond. To evenly or have a more balanced way to respond is for your thoughts and feelings to have their own (like you and your sister) place of priority. Separate.
You want to get out and escape but have no where to go. CONSIDER: That’s true, but not because of what you THINK makes it true. It’s true because you’re may ACTUALLY NOT want to escape. Why? Because you HAVE lots of place “to go” ...now. You’re free . What if you’re actually free from old thoughts which influenced your feelings of self loathing? What if your behavior could and does illustrate where you ACTUALLY are? Being free comes with a lot of responsibility (gotta love irony).
You say you KNOW that you’re not. Not what exactly?🤔
You said you’re aware that you’ve taken a giant leap forward. So... NOW that you CAN trust your thoughts (awareness), you’re going to NOT give them value? Seems convenient to do the same with your mind that you’ve worked so hard to no longer do with your emotions. It’s a defense.
YOU CAN TOLERATE TWO DIFFERENT CONCEPTS and FEELINGS at the same time...as a matter of fact, you as a healthier person can actually tolerate feelings, thoughts AND the behaviors that follow! Everything antithetical to that FACT, is a defense.
Consider: that is DOES feel like YOU’RE getting better, AND your family (let’s face it, your parents) are not... yet. So what if you’re feeling what they are feeling and naming it yours THAT’S what is driving you insane! Maybe what YOU’RE doing is .... changing the way you allow people with toxic, self loathing thoughts that they are naming as feelings and then justifying their horrible behaviors with, changing the process of you accepting theirs as yours. Maybe you are driving away from you as them and moving toward you as yourself. To accept your self.
Yourself vs Your Self
Separation anxiety is a real thing that CHILDREN go through. Adults call it “social anxiety” or “NEEDING” to be alone or with someone. They also find themSELVES using THINGS to manage that anxiety. In the biz we call that transitional objects. It’s a doll or a “woobie” or a pacifier. It helps CHILDREN regulate their emotions when they’ve been separated from the people who were to help and teach them to self-regulate.
If a CHILD doesn’t have an emotionally available (enough) parent and /or a parent who smothers that CHILD or CHILDREN, those CHILDREN never really become adults.
I mean, they grow up. But they don’t grew from within. They have tantrums and tend to be judgmental of others. They stay in denial of their own power, ability, and potential for success because if they accept it, they immediately become adults and cannot ever go back.
The irony is that he only way to be an adult who is in touch with their childhood selves, is to accept the reality that he difference between what is a child and what is an adult is their ability to tolerate, accept, express and manage their own emotional world.. in other words, to emotionally regulate their emotions AND express who they are (aka how they are feeling) to others. You can’t do that without prioritizing your feelings and emotions, because when you do that, you’re prioritizing yourself.
And that is the antithesis of BEING stuck. When you prioritize your SELF, you can count on (trust) any decision (thought), any vibe (feeling) and any next step (behavior) you may be wondering about. There really are no wrong decisions because as long as you are BALANCED with all three parts of your SELF (integrating those voices)...
YOU CAN’T GO BACK
The courage of acceptance
July 28, 2018
Those who have experienced over reaching parenting or enmeshment within a family as children, need to obtain the courage of acceptance in order to participate and sustain healthy intimate relationships as adults.
What are we supposed to accept? We must accept that we have lost what those in the Business of Psych call a Sense of Agency. What real people know as a Sense of Ourselves.
We have lost ourselves when we lost the internal understanding of how we feel, which leads to how and what we think, which ultimately leads us to what we actually do. We must viscerally accept that through no fault of our own, and without blame to our caretakers, that the responsibly of knowing who we are did not happen - enough - as children. Again, while this responsibility, falls in the hands of the adults in our lives, this isn’t about blame. Parents do the best they can with what they were given from their parents, but we cannot continue to go through life and hold our parents in the highest regard without looking looking at how human they were and are. We cannot truly appreciate what our parents did for us without acknowledging in a lot of ways, they were limited and we did not receive enough of what we needed.
Before any of us can find ourselves we must first realize then accept that we’ve been lost to ourselves because our parents were lost to themselves as was their parents and their parents before them. What are we supposed to accept? That there is no one to blame and the lost still happened and has negatively influenced our lives ever since. More so, that we can never go back and regain it. No matter how many video games we play as adults, no matter how many responsibilities we ignore, or how many tantrums we through because they got our order wrong. We cannot go back in time to our childhood self and learn how valuable we actually are. Never. It wasn’t anyone’s fault AND It just happened.
As we were learning and growing from child to young kid, to teen to young person to adult, we missed learning who we truly are and having the confidence in knowing our true selves. These feelings of extreme loss (abandonment of self) which come up during the process of acceptance, is what keeps us as children in denial (a way of protection) and as adults, denies us of the achievements being an adult can bring (adulting).
So the adult may present as child-like, have an underdeveloped emotional core and/or be seen as “immature,” or a man-boy. Or the couple who argue over who isn’t being considered THE MOST! The other extreme reaction to this type of loss is co-dependency or better stated: an incestuous trauma or profound feeling responsible for everyone else’s well being or happiness (aka people pleasing).
Think about how exhausting and unproductive it so often feels to learn these life lessons only by way of unprocessed childhood trauma. How many years of missed opportunities, successful relationships, objectives achieved. How has avoiding (yes, avoiding) the successes we’ve always said we wanted and hoped for have been dashed because we’ve been completely unaware of how our lost childhoods and our reactions to that loss, have influenced our current selves.
The traumatized child learns life’s lessons through experiencing crisis after crisis, and for those who don’t learn through crisis, those who hopefully learn through the natural process of aging (wisdom), it CAN be relieving to finally know what you didn’t know in youth. However, that process can take years and for some less…. conscience members of the population never really learning life’s lessons can be deadly.
This is why therapy is something everyone can benefit from. It addresses those childhood wounds and provides us with the perspective and clarity to see the potential of crisis, learn the lesson sooner than aging, and EVERYONE becomes self-aware so that life’s lessons are learned and life is experienced as having more joy than not.
If one of our personal goals is to not have to learn through crisis. To gain perspective on ourselves and then give to others. If we can do that without having to “going through a hard time,” then we can spend more time doing what’s considered THE REAL WORK.
Yes, there’s more! The REAL work is really what life is all about. Tolerating the good. Being well informed - enough- to be able to make truly informed decisions in our lives that we achieve what we want and need, together.
In attempting to tolerate the good. The good that’s happened. The good that’s happening. And most especially the good in ourselves, we gain momentum in more of our experiences of joy and implement, maintain, and encourage others to do the same.
I truly believe that THIS lesson, this experience of getting what we want is all about accepting, tolerating and consistency being the good that we are. THIS work is for the remainder of life and it’s so challenging at times because of the default of NOT accepting (resisting), NOT being sure (the unknown), “winging it” by not asking for help and therefore experiencing more and more the “remedy” to a joyous, happy and productive life: self sabotage.
It’s my life’s work to continue to tolerate the good and in doing so, help others get there and do the same for their others. Having a joyous, productive and satisfying life is as simple and complex as that.
Losing yourself at the hands of being too afraid to be with the alone we suffered as children is a choice. A choice to let go or be dragged.
My wife, my family, my friends and most especially my clients inspire me to be more of myself, to remember myself with self-care, self-appreciation, self-awareness and with less self-doubt. As a result, I am be better able to choose (be more self- informed) to be of support to others who are asking for me to consider them. IN THAT ORDER.
STOP SHOULD -ING ON YOUR SELF
August 23, 2018
“I need and should..”
That’s the challenge. It’s not about what SHOULD. be happening. It’s about the fact that you are in the feeling of the unknown.
Accepting that because you don’t know what the outcome will be and that because of that you’re naturally nervous instead of how you “should” be feeling, is making you anxious to the point of nausea.
Consider giving yourself permission to be nervous. Reminding yourself that it’s a natural part of not knowing. Being easier on yourself in this way allows you to accept reality.
That process takes as much, if not more, discipline than exercise or not partying so much or eating healthy consistently.
The discipline of self-caring™️ in this way (of thinking) is the key to unlocking displaced high anxiety (aka fear) and moving through how uncomfortable it is to feel the fear and do it anyway.
When we can let go of the self imposed doubt, insecurities and criticism(s) we fill in the blanks of the unknown with... we find ourselves less likely to fail because we accept the reality that we are all always living in the unknown and we’re doing just fine. Don’t nobody know what’s gonna happen next, but what we do know is that whatever happens there will be feelings attached to it we must tolerate.
So if we can tolerate uncomfortable feelings now, we’ll be able to tolerate them when WHATEVER happens, happens. No failure, no “wrong” decision or experience ,except for denying reality and thinking we can know anything more than how we feel.
For me, working with highly anxious people means helping them realize that instead of filling in the blank of the unknown with “what if” scenarios, we can choose to FEEL in the blanks and be Nostradamus instead of Norman Bates; more psychic less psycho.
Should yeah we can!
WHY EVERYONE COULD USE GOOD THERAPY
October 1, 2018
Why do I believe that everyone could use good therapy? Well, let's say that when we are born to human beings being human, the likelyhood of less than ideal childhood is very high. And if a childhood can be described as less than ideal then it stands to reason that we are most likely to experience an adulthood that is less than satisfying.
Now obviously there are some who have had wonderful childhoods and some whose stories of their childhoods can make you hate humanity as a whole. However, because there's such a large spectrum of what denotes a troubled, traumatic or ideal childhood, we shrinks look to what most likely happened to anyone raised by a human being. That even with the best intentions, teachings and resources, human beings are limited. And limited humans, make for limited care taking, and limited care taking informs the limited parenting we all experienced.
However limited doesn't have to been "bad." Limited means, well, limited. Unable to do perfected or even ideal parenting means having a life outside your kids. It means we're never going to get every single need meet at the time we need it, and it means we will never have exactly what we want even though we deserve it.
It's disappointing yes, it's a loss that we shrinks try to help people realize that what we needed isn't the perfect parent, but the Good Enough parent. The loss of this particular experience isn't necessarily what has people thinking, feeling and acting in ways seeking help from a professional is warranted. It is, however a great place to start when we are seeking answers to questions we've had about ourselves since we can remember.
For some, a lot more than you'd think, the loss of Good Enough parenting is so viscerally profound that it seems we lose ourselves too. That loss of Self, the person we feel we know ourselves to be, the personality from which we experience the world and for which others can relate to is something that may have us spending the rest of our lives searching for and have no idea that this is what we're doing.
We experience that search as a way to fill a void. That void, that empty feeling deep inside of us, is our lost Self. You may recognize those who are searching. "They" are the ones who may abuse drugs and alcohol or have an affair, or find others ways to cope with that loss, like shopping, gambling, sex, or work.
They find these ways of coping, satisfying in the immediate need to feel comforted or to avoid how painful that loss always feels. Those effective ways of coping may become so pronounced that they become the focus of “what’s wrong” with us. “He’s an alcoholic.” She’s a hoarder” “Those kids just want attention.”
If we’re lucky, and are exposed and not opposed to the idea of participating in therapy, we are able to go in and look at “the problem with us.” To examine our substance abuse, or infidelity, or overeating. A lot of people, get there through a set of unfortunate circumstances seemingly out of their control, or a partner’s ultimatum, or yes, that feeling of emptiness they can’t quite put their finger on. However most people don’t get to therapy at all, so they learn life’s lessons through crisis or they do get to therapy but it “doesn’t help,” or frankly isn't good....enough.
However it happens, taking the time, effort, energy, and of course financial commitment in investing in one's Self, to look at one’s Self with more curiosity than criticism, to put into practice what Socrates believed (and I certainly subscribe to) that “an unexamined life is not worth living.”, is nothing less than courageous. Courageous because while the ways people cope may get them to contact me, schedule an initial appointment and even show up.
See, the majority of people don’t consciously realize the depth to which this journey inward will take them. Once on my couch, they recognize that the “problem” they have with say drinking isn’t the actual problem, and in that recognition they begin to understand that the drinking or shopping or working or thinking negatively about themselves (yes, this is a way to cope also!), has actually been an efficient and at times, a very effective way to cope with the actual problem.
My clients are courageous because if the ways in which to cope with the problem is not actually THE problem, they are willing to ask themselves: well, then what is the ACTUAL problem? For the people who come see me, it’s a journey of Self discovery that will answer that question.
For most people who experience therapy as "not working" or "not good," the question is answered by a diagnosis. I must admit to to initially believing, as many of my colleagues in the practicing of psychotherapy as well as a large majority in the field believe and accept that a diagnosis or label or “disorder” is the answer to the question of what has so many of us behaving, thinking and feeling like something isn’t right with us.
However, this is what I (and many many others before and with me) now understand to be most true. A diagnosis is another way to cope. Naming the reason someone abuses alcohol as alcoholic or someone who has extreme difficulty managing their emotional reactions to life “Borderline,” or labeling someone a “Narcissist” because of an affair may help give an understanding as to why we behave in certain ways. It may provide relief (and continues to for many) to hear from a mental health professional that what you’ve been doing is no arbitrary, purely self-destructive problem “you’d stop doing if you were serious about it.”
It may allow for a new life that you’ve always hoped you’d have. But what if that’s still not the answer? What if finding relief from a lifetime of overeating because of a trauma in childhood that can ultimately be labeled as Depression or Anxiety wasn’t that answer or the filling in of that void, that emptiness we still feel after we’ve been diagnosed? What if the diagnoses was also a way to cope with that original loss of Self?
This is why I say that my clients are courageous. Because it takes real courage to consider and follow through with the kind of inner work it takes to go deeper than a diagnosis. Using a diagnosis (which, by the way is utilized primarily for insurance and psychiatric purposes), as guidance to go further in treatment is how I conceptualize, organize and assess what’s REALLY going on.
Bipolar II disorder (BP-II; pronounced "type two bipolar" or "bipolar type two" disorder) is a bipolar spectrum disorder characterized by at least one episode of hypomania and at least one episode of major depression. Lot of people diagnoses with this disorder cope by using drugs and alcohol excessively to manage or cope with the effects of how it feels to be at mercy of their extreme emotions of “Everything is Fantastic” and “waking up every single day is a disappointment… you.”
So in this example of a pretty typical and often overly diagnosed disorder, using drugs works because YOU control how high or low you WANT to feel. Of course this works for only so long. One because you can only get so high before you have to try all over again and again. Two because depending on the drug of “choice,” if you don’t find another way to cope sooner than later, your elastic brain will form to to that pathWay of coping and even if you want to stop, your body begs to differ. Finally, this method of coping is limited because eventually you will cease to know what it’s like to be alive.
A diagnosis of bipolar disorder (one or two), can allow for the clinician and patient to better understand how to intervene with those rapid cycles of mood and help the patient manage. The thing is, if we stop there (as most do), it may still be the proverbial bandaid on a bullet wound. This is because the deeper, more meaningful, and consistently long term relieving intervention has to due with an overhaul of personality. Yes, courage.
One of my tag lines to my practice is “It’s time to learn how to be attracted to what’s healthy.” Well, I can’t very well “promise” something like that without breaking down at least the first step. There is one requirement I have in my work with those who will have me: Willingness. If you are at least willing to look at the dark corners of you, we will see progress.
That willingness can truly be tested when it comes to the first step in learning how to be attracted to what’s healthy. You must be willing to rethink some of the major assumptions that have governed your life. Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. He believed (and I certainly subscribe) that psychological distress is a result of an imbalance within the individual that is often experienced as an alienation from the deeper personality, or what he calls the Self.
Private self-awareness is defined as the self looking inward at oneself, including emotions, thoughts, beliefs and feelings. All of these cannot be discovered by anyone else. Public self-awareness is defined by gathering information about your self through the perceptions of others.
When utilizing the elements of a deeper kind of treatment (Depth Psychology) the approach is to be open (willing) to the exploration of the subtle, unconscious, and transpersonal aspects of human experience.
Basically, Who are you REALLY? And What do you REALLY want out of your life? When those of us in the clinical profession can embark on a less diagnostic reasoning, when we are able to approach a person’s pain from a more strength-based exploration of what THEY consider to be who they are, when we put the manual down and honor the person sitting on the couch in front of us, then guiding them to themselves and helping them FEEL their way toward the answer(s) they’ve been looking for: THEIR answer.
So, WHY could everyone use good therapy? Ask your Self: If you could strive to come to know your Self so well that whatever life throws at you, you are able to manage with a balance of self-appreciation and self-discipline. So much so that achieving and maintaining your own self-actualization; and in doing so significantly contribute in guiding others toward their understanding of themselves and their actualized Selves, Would you?
Would you like to organically feel, and therefore know which behaviors are the ones most illustrative of who you’ve hoped you could be, who you wanted to be, and who you actually already are but do to being raised by humans you haven’t been in touch with? If that resonates with you as something of authentic interest, then you could use good therapy and good therapy could use you.
THE MOTHER SHIP
“The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”
October 4, 2018
“It’s all about the mother,“ As a therapist I have and continue to be extremely grateful to work with young people. The ages vary, but the result has been consistent. At some point in the therapeutic process, the parents (but especially moms) of these young, fiercely bright, inexplicably talented and embodied with such piercing wit of which the likes of Oscar Wilde would be envious, find their therapist... well, let’s just say that at a certain point in their young person’s process, my lack of parenting experience comes sharply into question. Extremely sharp at times.
Oh I get it. I do. It’s actually part of the process. Part of what I signed up for, and I welcome it willingly with each new client who demonstrates the kind of emotional courage to live an examined life. That of which I could not have imagined attempting for myself at their young ages.
So why then, you may be asking yourself, does it seem, that therapists always blame the mother??? Well, maybe, just maybe that’s not what’s actually happening. I mean, yes, I have at times mentioned that that “emotionally going to the mother ship” aka considering how a client’s relationship (past and present) with mom rules their world can and continues to produce such significant results in symptom reduction across gender, race, sexuality and socioeconomic populations that it would be ridiculously unethical, unpresedented in the field and quite frankly unrealistic NOT to consider it.
That being said, knowing your mother. REALLY knowing her. Understanding that she was a girl before a woman. A child before an adult. Always human, meaning imperfect. And never perfect but striving to be consistent just like you.
Therapy isn’t just about looking at our past or our story and being sad about what didn’t happen enough. It’s about the stories we end up telling ourselves about ourselves through getting to know who we truly are.
We START with what our parents did or didn’t do “right” by us. But if we don’t move from there, if we stay stuck where we don’t belong (in the past), we aren’t learning about ourselves and we’re repeating the negative patterns our parents made, except worse because we’re conscious of it.
It’s not about having kids or not and raising them better than we were. It’s about accepting that we had to “learn” so much on our own, (by feeling our way through it), and part of what we have to learn is that we are telling ourselves it’s THEIR fault or problem and WE’RE the ones who are so woke.
But if we’re so woke, why can’t we see how much we’re punishing ourselves by blaming them for the inaccurate feeling of our own “guilt?” Why are we refusing to stop picking up where they left off?
The healing that therapy can offer is about FEELING the process of letting go of YOUR own punishing Self and your need to punish her, him, or them.
Once you’re able to experience THAT loss. The loss that is rarely publicized when it comes to defining the process of therapy. The loss we CHOOSE to experience. The loss of being righteous and bitter while woke.™️
When the rage becomes anger, then hurt, then sadness. When you can view your Self with the empathy it takes to truly let go or be dragged.
THEN you are ACTUALLY informed. Your Self will be ACTUALIZED and you are ABLE to be the CONSISTENT YOU you hoped to achieve when you started this journey. The journey toward the true Self of which you have now become AWARE. What you’ve learned, understood and ACCEPTED about who you REALLY ARE will be the proverbial bell that cannot be unrung. Then the “proof” of your authentic Self will not only show up, but will stick around.
You’ll be there for your Self AND for others (in that order). YOU will be the hand that rules the world. YOUR world.
You won’t have to remember some mantra to say in order to gain and sustain confidence or manage a myriad of anxieties, because you’ll remember who you are.
You won’t have to do the “appropriate” things to make sure you’re being authentically you, and you certainly won’t have to blame others (especially your parents) for being humans being. You’ll just be. You. For always. And it’ll be enough. Because you are.
LOSING YOUR SELF:
Adulting from a Lost Childhood
"Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” - Brene Brown
October 7, 2018
You’ve lost who you might have been if the truth was told to you. If you knew AND FELT from jump that it wasn’t you who was crazy or wrong or only a face and body or not as smart or was selfish or angry “for no reason.” Who might you have been if you recognized then what you’re able to recognize now? You’d be confident, imperfect and ok with that. You’d have skipped the assholes and found someone who treated you and considered you like you deserve: with respect. Not because of what you can do for them, but because they don’t think twice about doing for you.
If you had been heard and seen and therefore appreciated earlier, you wouldn’t have to have learned these truths through crisis or pain. You would be disappointed but not crushed. Have bad hair days but not worthless or stupid or ugly or fat. You’d like and appreciate yourself. And you’d learn to love yourself properly. With dignity and have had the courage to say no and mean it. And no matter what the other person’s reaction was, you’d be more about what you’d said or done because... you would have had your feelings validated enough to FEEL what it’s like and request it from ANYONE you came into contact with.
You’d be who you are becoming, sooner. You’d be you wherever you were. And the labels of .. whatever would be ridiculous for you to consider because ... they don’t know you like YOU know you!
You would have had a childhood to look back fondly on instead of shame and confusion. And ... you’d NEVER question if you’ll turn into your mom, because you would have been proud to.
But you didn’t have THAT mom. So she has had the child she was limited in having. To her, she had someone not quite good enough (this is how SHE feels about herself), a “disrespectful” “child” who doesn’t appreciate what she has.
The thing is , she never had that child, but she made you think (and therefore “feel”) as though she had. As though you were.
So the trusting of what people say isn’t possible for those people with mom’s like that. They can’t trust mom, so they can’t trust themselves. That's how it works. They either trust no one and live alone (or for 44 years) or they trust people who are not trustworthy.
People who push boundaries, people who recognize the pain of being lied to, and keep lying to them. Because they need to win no matter what. Even when they loose the thing they said they wanted. They would rattler win, than be abandoned.
That has not, has never been, and will never be you. Those “feelings” that you THOUGHT you felt, were actually thoughts. Your parents thoughts about themselves. That’s all they have known... to THINK about themselves. 😔
And you and your siblings have been the “collateral damage” but THOUGHT you were just damaged. The reality is that your family collectively has been damaged.
However, with Self awareness comes the desire for Self care and opens you up to Self appreciation. When you can allow the FEELINGS oF THAT to exist long enough to be validated, then, in that moment? Well, THAT process can remind you of your Self worth. Well, Self esteem and Self confidence are not far behind.
Individual (inner) work, Couples (interdependence) work, and most especially the deep work that can be done within a Family (where it all began) with a therapist can produce a reparative experience. Reparative not cure from that collective damage we all (on some level) experience as children. But in doing The Work, we don’t have to be anymore. Not. Any. More.