Therapy advice to put in your pocket and take with you.

Archive for the ‘self-improvement’ Category

Taking Back Control of My Life

What do you mean I haven’t blogged in six months? How is that possible? This is a prime example of how life gets away from us. I have been focused on attending to the crises that present themselves, “putting out fires” as they say, and I’ve put the other stuff on the back burner until I have time. Well we can see how that worked out. Six months went by! I have always known this. You have to be proactive. You have to make time for the things that matter. But it sure is easy to get wrapped up with things and way off track.10313784_726687540767928_6619839759579931771_n

There is a nice trend this New Year that instead of setting resolutions that they worry will fail, people are choosing theme words that represent an attitude or a commitment for the year. One of my friends has chosen Organization as her word, and will use it to keep her life that has started to feel chaotic more in order. Another friend chose Nurture and plans to nurture her body and her family and her job. There are so many ways to apply these words. They become a Mantra that you can whisper to yourself every single day as opportunities present themselves for self-care.

The word I have chosen is Schedule. I am taking charge of my daily and weekly life. I am planning exercise and recreation, as well as chores and bill paying and even blogging! I’m not a control freak about time, that actually might be the problem. I tend to wing it. I can be very productive that way and do well at multi-tasking. But the old way tends to only focus on what the world is demanding from me rather than what I CHOOSE to see as important. So this year I am even scheduling time to schedule time. I will be realistic and build flexibility into the schedule, but being proactive will help me make sure my own priorities are attended to and not left to sit and then six months goes by.

Will you choose a word this year? If so, be sure to make it positive rather than punishing. Have it be applicable to many situations and be kind to yourself. This life changing stuff is a big deal. (Here is a link to my friend Margo’s blog about this One Word Resolution making. No Resolutions or Goals)10628115_726130297490319_2284401736206326049_n

Disappointment with a Capital D

This is a topic I started counseling when working with kids in anger management. We’d discuss how anger is a secondary emotion. It’s real, but it’s second, happens after the primary or underlying emotion. If you are angry, I teach, that is a cue to ask yourself what else are you feeling inside also.Because to manage the anger we must address the emotion that is fueling the anger. That emotion might be sadness or worry, powerlessness or fear. But most often, the number one cause of anger is Disappointment with a capital D. What I have discovered, after years of talking to clients, is that adults should be aware that Disappointment triggers them too. disappointment-sign

Mother’s Day. Valentine’s Day. A birthday. Times we get our hopes up for something to happen, but the result doesn’t meet our expectations. That’s hard. It’s a bummer. It kinda sucks. When a kiddo has a fit because they don’t get their way, we tell them to knock it off. Grow up. Deal with it. And yet, adults really aren’t much better at handling disappointment. Our fits might be more controlled (or not…I’ve seen some serious adult temper tantrums…!) but we have them just as often as kids do. Why is this?

Unrealistic expectations is a big reason. Being hurt and disappointed that a family member doesn’t offer more support. And yet, truth be told, that person has never been good at offering support. I’m not justifying it, I’m just saying it is what it is. If that person has been a jerk for 20 years, why would they change this year? And yet, there we go, hoping this time will be different. And there we go, upset again. We get our hopes up and we get disappointed yet again.

In researching images for this blog post I found many pictures saying “if you expect nothing, you’ll never be disappointed.” I don’t think that’s what I’m suggesting here. I think its okay to hope. But if there is a pattern, realize there is a pattern. Don’t be in denial or ignore the facts and then be surprised that it turned out the same way it always has. If you don’t like how it turned out last time, do something different. Change your expectations, or put your faith and hope in someone who is more likely to accommodate your need. Try to get some clarity so you can have more realistic expectations.

That’s not always easy. It requires insight and observation. Asking yourself, what am I hoping for and can that happen? What are the chances? Accepting that you’re not going to get the results from the current situation can be difficult too. It can mean accepting a truth you don’t want to face, like this person really won’t ever stop drinking or you won’t ever get promoted in this job, or your parent will never be the accepting nurturing parent you think you deserve. Accepting those facts might pressure you to change and change is scary. I tell people all the time that they don’t have to change. But they do have to accept where they are if they want to stop being disappointed. acceptance

I asked a young nine-year-old client to give me an example of a time she felt disappointed. She said, “when my brother got invited to the Cardinals game and I didn’t. I was mad because I really wanted to go. THAT was disappointing.” She was right on the money. She got it. Hopefully we adults can also be so wise and recognize the emotion for what it is and get better at handling that gigantic capital D.

Everyone Must Always Do This Or Else Bad Things Will Happen

What is wrong with this title? If we think like this, we might feel rotten! So let’s break it down:

“Everyone” is an overgeneralization. “Must” is self criticizing and inspires guilt feelings. “Always” is another overgeneralization. “Bad” is an all-or-nothing term. “Or Else” is fortune-telling. And the whole sentence is considered “catastrophizing” or blowing things out of proportion. Most people don’t think all of these terms in one phrase, but many people think some of them often…

If you are working on being more positive, optimistic or in less of a funk, there are some simple tools you can use to accomplish this. The first step is to pay attention to the thoughts in your head and the things you say,  try to recognize negative statements and turn them into positives. One common list of negative thought patterns in the world of psychology is called cognitive distortions. These were made famous by psychologists Aaron Beck and David Burns who taught that catching them and turning them into positives is called cognitive restructuring. More simply put, we are going to catch those negative thoughts and turn em around, catch em and turn em around, changing the bad habit of negative thinking. Here are the most common patterns to watch for. negative thoughts (more…)

But I’m not Catholic.

Last Wednesday began the Christian season of Lent, the 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.  Every year I make a personal committment of positive self-growth during Lent.  But when I tell this to other people, they often say, “But you’re not Catholic!” Ok, you’re right, but I don’t think Catholics own the rights to Lenten sacrifice. Granted their no-meat/ fish fry season is well-known among us heathens, but obviously there is so much more to Lent.  My friend Pastor Scott Elliott shares his thoughts in the following YouTube video about the meaning of Lent.  The letting go of the old, and changing BEHAVIORS as a process of renewal.  This does not have to be a Christian-only practice. The concept of personal sacrifice for renewal is well-known.

Yogic science practices 40 days to change a habit.  I have heard people say it takes 21 days in a row to change a habit. There are stories of people who set a goal to make a change for a year, giving up credit cards for a whole year, or eating only 7 foods for 7 months. People fast for political change. Many of us set New Year’s resolutions to make personal improvement and change. Monday is the day to start the diet. National Smoke Out Day reminds smokers to quit.  All landmark dates of Mark, Set, Go!

Besides being a reminder of a Man who sacrificed his Life for ours, Lent can be a recommittment to personal growth, to positive change. A kick in the pants to keep working on self-improvement.  Of course you don’t have to start on Ash Wednesday, or follow the Lenten calendar.  Pick a day, any day, and make a committment to yourself.  In high school we had a motivational speaker named Mark Scharenbrock who taught us “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”  This resonates in my head all the time.  Where do I go from here?  If we focus too much on the past we get stuck. So let’s put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.  In AA treatment they talk about “therapeutic relapse.” Does that mean it was good to start drinking again? No, but let’s learn from it, why did it happen, and how can we keep it from happening again.  This can be true with anything we want to change. Give yourself room for error, 92% is still an A.

Below are some links I found when I googled sacrifice and change. They do a good job at suggesting how to set these personal change goals and make them happen.

We all know teetotalers. We all know hypocritical church-goers. Lent is not just for Catholics or Christians, it is for anyone who wants to make a personal committment to self growth and renewal. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, let’s get started. Ready, Set, GO!

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