I was talking with a client the other day and we had an interesting conversation. The idea of choice.
Yes you choose the therapist you work with. You may interview a couple to find a good fit. You may work with one, something may happen and you go to another therapist.* You are the initiator of the process. You reach out to someone who you think may be able to provide guidance and support through something you are dealing with.
There is another side of the coin. The therapist also chooses. It may not be a good fit for the therapist for a variety of reasons. What you are dealing with may be out of their schope of practice and expertise. You may also be looking for something the therapist doesn’t offer and they refer you out. Things change through the time you are working together and someone else may be a better fit for what you are currently going through. The client may be pushing certain boundaries the therapist has set, for example cancelling more than coming in.
Therapy and coaching are a two way street. It is a choice on both sides.
*I do encourage you to talk with your therapist if something comes up that causes to to change therapists. I think there is a lot of value in you advocating for yourself. We are therapists and can pick up on a lot, and we also miss things and make mistakes. It may be hard to bring up the topic as conflict/disagreement is not something that most of us are taught. This allows a conversation (ideally the therapist would not be defensive or judgemental) adn the possibility of the bridge being rebuilt. And you may still choose to change therapists.
Photo compliments of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net.
How do you know what you want or don’t want? How do you let others know? How do you respond when others share their what they want or not?
This can cause a lot of disrupt in relationships. Often times people will see someone saying no as a rejection. Perhaps even sharing what they want could be seen by themselves or others as being selfish.
I see anger as a boundary emotion. It lets us know when something needs to stop or change. Yet, when we hold onto this anger/frustration/irritation/annoyance/etc, it festers and comes out typically as an argument or a lingering mood that can last several hours, days or months. I will also share this: yelling and anger are not the same thing. I think yelling happens when it festers.
What would life be like if that anger was noticed in the moment and something was either acknowledged by that person or even shared out loud. Now, wait a moment, if you are like a lot of people, you may say that is impossible or you simply couldn’t do that or what chaos would erupt if you allowed yourself to do that. Take a breath. I am talking about going inward and noticing and acknowledging. That in and of itself can make a huge difference. Wow, I feel angry (vexed, ill tempered, you use whatever word works) and noticing I had hoped you would do the dishes. Anger doesn’t equal blame, it can come out as blame, but they are not one in the same.
Homework if you choose to accept: take a moment when you notice yourself getting angry (agitated/ displeased/ huffy) to simply notice and acknowledge that. Then ask yourself what boundary have you or someone else stepped over. And what do you want around that? It may be an agreement with someone (your friend shows up late). A cultural agreement (a car speeds by you going 20 miles over the limit).
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Your Deepest Roots Can Be Nurtured With Counseling
Often times when people are in therapy or coaching and working on different patterns, it can particularly troubling or difficult when they visit family and step right back into the same patterns.
I tell my clients that family is often where the deepest roots are. Imagine trying to pull up a sapling. You could probably do it without any problem. Now think of a larger sapling, perhaps up to your knee. You would still most likely be able to do it easily. Now think of one larger, up to your head. You may need to put a little more into pulling it up. What about one that is about 3 inches in diameter. At this point, it will take longer. You will need to push, pull, maybe dig. I think you could probably do it although it will take time and effort, certainly more effort than the last several trees. Now imagine one that is 100 feet high. You may not be able to get your arms around it. This will take a significant amount of effort. You may ask others for help, use some tools. Even with the assistance, it will take longer than the first tree.
Now imagine these as your patterns. Family dynamics have been going on for years. These are like the 100 foot tree. Is it impossible to remove that tree. No, I wouldn’t do my job if I didn’t think it was possible.
A couple of things to remember when you are visiting family:
- Give yourself some compassion, even just a little. Do not expect automatic changes either from yourself or for your family. Go easy on yourself. Maybe you notice the pattern in a different way, even noticing the pattern at all is a significant change.
- Take time for yourself. In my world, self care is important. Especially when traveling and being out of your typical routine or zone. Get some fresh air, call a friend, ask for support from your significant other or a friend, take a walk, read a book.
- Plan ahead. Imagine where you may get caught up in the dynamics; for example it may be around a certain family ritual or a certain topic of conversation. This is a not a fail safe, although you may notice the pattern starting and planned to take a breath before responding or excuse yourself to go for a walk or even just to the bathroom or for your spouse to look at you or put their hand on your back.
I would love to hear how it went and what you did to support yourself in the journey. Contact me today to find out how I can help with therapy and counseling.
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Portland Area Life Coaching for Your Daily Life
Comparison is something that often comes up everywhere. In school we are given grades, in job evaluations, in reality tv, in fashion. How am I doing in comparison to others? It may not be a conscious thought, it may just be a judgement of what someone else is or isn’t doing. Whether you have lost someone dear to you, are in a relationship, starting a new job, continuing in one for a while, or going to the gym. We are all on our own journey. There may be similarities with others on a similar road. And it is still your own individual, unique journey that life coaching can help with.
For example if I go to the gym to build muscle, I can follow a routine that others have suggested—a friend, a youtube video, a personal trainer. This routine may have different outcomes for someone else because we eat and consume differently, have different body types, or are different ages.
What does comparing get me? What does it get you? Perhaps feeling better or worse about myself or my situation. This leaves me in a one up or one down from others. It doesn’t leave room for seeing everyone as whole or even myself as whole. It distances me from others, it puts a wedge in the relationship, even if I haven’t talked to the person.
Stepping stone: If you are interested, notice where you compare yourself to others. Is it in a particular setting? Is there a certain judgement that comes up? Notice how you respond to the comparison and to the other person or situation. Is this something that you want to continue?
If you need help with these questions and more, contact me today to see how I can help you on your journey.
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This is a skill that I think is super helpful in life. Often times friends, intimate partners, or family members will have an idea of something. This is usually not said. Then when someone else has a different idea that is often not shared either, tension and arguments can ensue. Take for example coming home. One person may want space to take off their shoes, put their stuff away and take a moment to breath before greeting the other person. The other person comes in wanting the other to drop everything and give them a big hug, acknowledge that they arrived and are happy to see them. This is often not talked about which then can cause disrupts and irritation. You may expect something and have an agreement on your end and the other person wasn’t aware of the agreement. (Another of my favorites is when one person in a couple does something on a regular basis, then they stop and the other person gets upset, “But you always did that.”)
In Need of Couples Therapy in Portland?
What if you could make a clear agreement about what you wanted. What if it was actually ok to ask for what you want? The other person has the ability to say no. If it is not said it is not an agreement from both people.
Stepping Stone: (Instead of homework, since some people have a hard time with that word, esp teenagers) Share with someone else what you want and making a clear agreement that you both agree to. Do not agree if you don’t really want to, that is a set up for failure and broken agreements which breaks trust.
Example: Hey, I really like when you greet me at the door when I come home. What do you think about that?
Or: Hey I noticed that you push me away when I come up to say hi when you first come home, do you want some space before I say hi?
Work more on agreements with me for couples, family, or group therapy at my Portland office. Contact me to set up an appointment.
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I think our general culture here in the US tends to be get stuff done, go go go, be productive. With that mindset, it doesn’t really leave time for sitting and resting and rejuvenating the self. It can be labeled “lazy” or “selfish” to “do nothing.” The idea of sitting, resting, laying down in the shade/sun, reading a book as “doing nothing” is so connected to how the culture views certain activities.
This is something that comes up especially with parents. For a lot of couples, between work and kids, there is not a lot of extra time for the couple let alone yourself. Yet it makes such a difference. Even if it is five minutes. I see it as recharging that internal battery.
How Relaxing is Important in Couples Therapy
I am married and am used to my spouse and their energy and movement. A friend has been staying with us for several months now and I noticed today, Sun, that when both my friend and spouse left, that I hadn’t been home alone for at least two weeks. Maybe it is having a different energy in the home. Maybe it is just having silence, knowing that I am here alone. And I also realized that it is something that I want to enjoy more regularly. And I don’t necessarily need the whole day, I just want to have my space, my time, with no one around.
Side note: I often tell the couples that come to see me as coaching or therapy clients to go on a date and not talk about the kids, money or their relationship. Go out and talk about topics that aren’t “business” related. Here is a link to first date questions.
If you want to continue the exploration: Take a moment to think about what activities you consider to be productive vs unproductive. Where did these ideas of what is and isn’t productive come from? How do you take care of yourself? Make a list of self care activities. And determine what you want to do and by when for your next you time.
Contact me today to make an appointment for Portland area couples therapy.
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Lesson 2: Jump into the mess
Dogs jump right in. Typically speaking, dogs don’t shy away from mud. They love to play. They aren’t worried that they will get messy and that you won’t love them anymore. They play and get messy solely for having fun.
What if you/I/we weren’t so worried about getting dirty. About literally getting muddy or even messy in terms of showing emotion or sharing what is going through your mind.
Challenge: Play with getting messy. 1) Literally go out and play in the mud/dirt/puddles. 2) Get messy with sharing emotions and what stories you are making up. You may want to start with someone that you trust, let them know you are going to get messy.
Side note: Notice that dogs don’t create meaning or story around something that happened. Something happens, then they are there again fully. Unless the dog has been trained otherwise.
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Anger Management Tips Learned from Man’s Best Friend
I was talking to someone recently about how much dogs can teach us and what they can show us about anger management.
How to express anger. I think the American culture has an idea that feeling anger is either stewing or full on rage. What if anger is a boundary issue? Ie: “Don’t step on my tail!” when you step on a dog’s tail, typically the dog will bark or growl or yelp, jump up and move, and then come back and want to be pet.
What if anger was that easy to express as humans? Express and come back to connection. Let the other person know, “I don’t like that.” It doesn’t mean you bite the person’s hand off (say things that you don’t mean or intentionally say to hurt the other person). It also doesn’t mean that you sulk for hours or days.
Challenge: Play with noticing what are your boundaries. And how can you express in an easy, friendly way?
Contact me today to make an appointment for anger management counseling in the Portland area.
Photo compliments of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Do you notice your energy drop? Maybe you have a hard time gathering your energy? Perhaps when you are with a certain person, you lose interest?
A fun trick is to notice where your energy is. Do you notice it outside of you or directed internally? Often we can feel drained when we leave our attention out or in for an extended period of time.
Do an exercise with me right now. Look at something that is further away- the wall, a tree, a person. Now bring your attention half way between that and where you are. Now bring your attention to your body. you can place it on your body as a whole or a part of your body. It can be a physical sensation- your feet on the ground, your bottom in the chair or a body sensation- butterflies in the stomach, pressure on your chest.
Challenge: notice when your energy drops, now notice where is your attention directed. If it is in, place it outside of yourself. And vice versa.
Photo curtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Something that I think comes up somewhat often with the couples I see in couples therapy and coaching as well as my own life is having different perspectives of what quality time looks like.
Are you in a couple? Do you want argue over things to do together? Or even time that you spend together? Does one of you want more time than the other?
Quality time looks different to different people and if you don’t actually know what the other thinks is “quality time” than you may be arguing over the time you have together. If this comes up with your spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend, have a conversation about it. You may find out that one thinks quality time is going to a movie, sitting on opposite or the same side of the couch reading, looking longingly into each others eyes, having the other person’s full undivided attention, doing a project together, eating dinner with or without the tv on, sitting and talking. What kind of attention do you each want for your quality time and if you have what seem like contrasting ideas, how can it become a both/and vs an either/or?
Challenge: have the conversation and see if you are on the same page.
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