Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.
Arthur Somers Roche
There is no question that there are life situations that trigger anxiety for many of us. It may be a job interview, going on a date for the first time, traveling, public speaking, going to a networking event, attending a retreat, or just from doing something that you haven’t done before. Then there are experiences that we have that are anxiety provoking because of the thoughts we have, or as I like to describe it, what we tell ourselves or the stories we create.
The What If’s
When we have the thought that begins with, What if? It automatically tends to trigger anxiety or fear, or something that we create that is anxiety producing as opposed to anxiety reducing. Generally, when we say What if it is because of some kind of negative thought. Rarely do we create anxiety for ourselves by worrying about a potential positive occurrence. This is anxiety that is self-created by thoughts such as…
What if I fail this exam?
What if he or she gets angry at me when I say no?
What if I don’t get the job?
What if I do it wrong?
What if I’m not good at being a parent?
What if I can’t…
What if I’m not good enough at…
How Feelings Influence Our Behavior
What we think affects how we feel, and then what we feel affects how we behave. What I mean by this is that what we tell ourselves, or the thoughts that we have, actually trigger the anxiety. For example, if we are thinking, “What if I go on this job interview and say the wrong thing?” We are producing anxiety about something that could happen in the future, but it may not even occur. Thus, these thoughts are anxiety provoking and we may self-create unnecessary worry.
One approach to reduce this unwarranted anxiety is to utilize the basics of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Utilizing CBT techniques can be very helpful with identifying thoughts that are anxiety provoking to develop coping strategies to alter these unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that may cause anxiety. Working with a psychotherapist utilizing CBT may help to identify and decrease negative thought patterns thus shifting from the feeling of anxiety to a more comfortable feeling state.
Although there is a difference between feeling anxiety because of a life circumstance and feeling anxiety due to what we tell ourselves. It is important to first find a way to differentiate these because how we deal with these feelings will be different.
Differentiating between Real and Self-Created Anxiety
If we are feeling anxiety or fear because we are preparing to deal with a significant life-changing situation such as sitting for the bar exam, or medical boards, it is natural and understandable to feel some level of nervousness even for those who don’t usually struggle with anxiety.
For more tips on dealing with self-created, or situationally based, anxiety please click on the link below for my complete article.
Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory.
Help! How do I stop this lifelong pattern of putting everyone’s feelings and needs before my own? It feels like it’s killing me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Yet, I don’t know how to stop. Is it even possible? Is it just too selfish to even consider it? I’m exhausted. Depressed. Anxious. Downright disgusted. I am consistently praised by those I love and society for being so selfless and caring. Yet, I am stressed out and sometimes I feel like I’m dying inside. I feel like I’m drowning. If this sounds like you, then you may be a people pleaser.
What is a People Pleaser?
A person who is a people pleaser is someone who feels that they must please others, or put others before themselves regardless of the emotional or physical price. Often this pattern comes from a place of feeling that if we don’t do this then someone will be angry, disappointed, or may reject or abandon us. The thought of this may feel unbearable, so the pattern of people pleasing continues.
Is This What Life is All About?
Some of us are in denial about being a people pleaser. Explaining to ourselves that, “I’m just a caring, compassionate human being and I really like it. I love doing things for the people that I love and it doesn’t really matter how it affects me. I’m good with it.”
For others of us we do not feel that we have been people pleasing for so long that it’s just hopeless to even imagine changing it. We’ve always been the one to say yes despite the exhaustion of overcommitting ourselves. “Is this what I am destined to do forever? Please others and not myself?”
The Effects of The Need to Please
It is simply exhausting to be a people pleaser and always trying to figure out what the other person wants and needs. Especially when each person in our life wants and needs something different. Therefore, people pleasing depletes our energy—physically, emotionally and spiritually. We may neglect ourselves and our own needs and we might often become resentful. Yet we still don’t stop. Often this is where a psychotherapist can help us explore and work through these patterns.
How Did This Pattern Start?
For many of us, our people pleasing behavior was born and nurtured during our childhood. This behavior may have been a result of being raised in an alcoholic, or otherwise dysfunctional, family. Or becoming a people pleaser may have been because of being a middle child who may have felt invisible. Doing things for others may have been one of the only ways of receiving positive attention. We were the straight A student, or the child who always asked mom or dad “Can I help you?” thus, the son or daughter everyone wanted. Then the positive attention may have been reinforced by our parents, siblings, extended family and teachers.
For more tips on identifying and altering people pleasing patterns, please click on the link below for my complete article.
Your body is a vehicle of your emotions and a vehicle of feelings and a vehicle of whatever you need to get done in life. And you've got to take care of that vehicle.
So many of us are shocked when we receive the diagnosis of osteoporosis. We’ve seemingly been healthy, vibrant, and have taken good care of ourselves. We take calcium, we exercise—well, maybe not so much, but still…osteoporosis? All this time we thought this was a disease that older women had to worry about. Not us.
Often when we hear, or read, about osteoporosis it tends to address the cause, effects, treatment and how to help with prevention by building bone density. Instead I want to talk about the emotional and cognitive aspects of this frightening diagnosis.
Osteoporosis, how could it be?
So many of us have a stereotypical view of who develops osteoporosis and who does not. It’s certainly not us. We envision someone who is much older, fragile or frail, bent over, and out of shape. We’re shocked to discover that this is not necessarily true. It’s not only older women who receive this scary and upsetting diagnosis. We might be surprised that we may not even be able to detect someone who has osteoporosis.
This Can’t Happen to Me
For some of us, when we receive this diagnosis we may go into denial, or retreat into a numb place within ourselves. We may move back and forth between feeling deeply upset and denying the diagnosis. We may start obsessing about how only older women have osteoporosis and not vital, funny, intelligent, sexy women.
This, or other, obsessive patterns can deepen the depression and a sense of helplessness. Sometimes the disbelief is around the feeling that this can’t happen to me. Unlike many other diseases, this silent disease often presents with no symptoms and thus no warning. We have no time to emotionally prepare ourselves.
We’re Not Going to be a Victim
For others, after the denial lifts, we rush to fix the issue. We jump into action. We set up an exercise regime that might include walking, yoga, and aerobics. We begin taking calcium and vitamin D. These actions certainly help us to feel as if we can regain control of the body that we might feel has betrayed us somehow. Although these are all very helpful ways of addressing what’s happening, it also helps us to feel less powerless and that we can really do something about this. We’re not a victim.
Then once the new exercise and supplement regime is in place often our frozen feelings begin to thaw. Once we’re doing something about the diagnosis, hopefully feelings start to emerge because the emotions need to be experienced. There is no short cut to feeling the feelings.
Dealing with Our Underlying Feelings
For some of us, however, we need to first identify, and perhaps work through, those feelings of anger, disappointment, and resentment before following through with life changes and pattern shifting. We may experience sadness, anger, fear, resentment, anxiety and depression. There may even be a sense of guilt around this diagnosis.
For more tips dealing with the emotional and cognitive aspects of Osteoporosis, please click on the link below for my complete article.
I've learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom - how great is that?
When I say feel the fear yet do it anyway, I do not mean ignore, repress, or minimize the feeling of fear about doing something that is uncomfortable. I mean, feel the fear, validate it, yet do not allow it to stand in the way from doing, or saying, something important. Have you ever allowed your fear of doing something stand in the way and later had regrets about it? One way of minimizing regrets is to face the fear and work it through.
When we’re talking about fear, I’m not talking about the kind of fear that is experienced in response to a real danger. I’m talking about the fear that if not worked through may stand in the way of life enhancing experiences, more effective communication with others, and perhaps even increased self-esteem. If we don’t work through the fear we are limiting ourselves from having a more fulfilling and enriched life.
What Are We Afraid Of?
There will always be things that we fear doing. If we really are in touch with our feelings, we know this. With different situations, we may experience just a little fear, or a great deal of fear, or something in between. It’s unavoidable. Just by living life it is inevitable that we are going to feel fear at one time or another.
Some of the things we may feel afraid of are things we may actually want to do. Yet, it still feels scary and hard.
We may feel afraid to share a need, want, or concern with our partner.
We may feel afraid to lead a meeting in our community.
We may feel afraid to approach someone we are attracted to.
We may feel afraid to go to a social event or join a new organization.
We may feel afraid to ask for a raise.
We may feel afraid of traveling.
Other things we may feel afraid of are those that we may not want to do, yet it is in our highest good to do them. Such as how fear may lead us to avoid addressing someone that we feel angry at so we can resolve an issue, or we may evade seeking out a better job because we fear the job interview.
Feel the Fear
Often, we are not open or willing to share that we are afraid about something because we may appear vulnerable or weak to someone else. We may feel that we may be taken advantage of. We may be afraid to ask for what we want or need from our partner, family member, friend, or boss because they might get angry. They might say no and then we feel rejected.
Sometimes we may just avoid doing something without checking in to see what is at the bottom of our avoidance. Sometimes we may rationalize that we really don’t want to do something and not look deeper into what may be really going on inside of us. We may not even know we are afraid. During psychotherapy, I’ve stressed that one of the first steps to being able to do, or say, something that we are afraid of is to first notice that we are afraid.
For more tips on Feeling the Fear, please click on the link below for my complete article.
Why does watching a dog be a dog fill one with happiness?
Jonathan Safran Foer
We often talk about the unconditional love that we receive from dogs. Instead let’s talk about how dogs can help us to discover and connect with who we truly are. Dogs have so much to teach us if we allow ourselves to learn from them. Their pure light and love is palpable. They are incredible beings who do not judge or criticize, they just love who and how we are. No questions, no expectations, they just enjoy being with us in the moment.
Looking at Life Through the Eyes of a Dog
Everything is fresh and exciting to a dog, even if they have done something dozens of times before. They miss us when we are gone, and give us attention when we return. Most dogs are open playful beings and like to cuddle. They are always true to themselves. Is this the kind of being you might like to be?
When my sweet precious black lab, Keegan, is lying in her bed belly up and all four paws to the sky, I have a visceral response. My heart opens to unimaginable proportions and my whole being responds. Notice what happens for you when you are in the presence of a dog. Is this how you would like to feel more often?
Do You Need “Dog Therapy”?
So often we lose touch with our authentic selves as we get caught up in the demands of the day to day. What we might truly feel is buried under what we feel are expected adult behaviors and how we must act to appear responsible. But sometimes, truly being with a dog can be therapeutic for us.
Do you sometimes feel that you have lost your sense of humor, or never really had one in the first place?
Do you find yourself so caught up in life’s routines, and fast paced lifestyle, that you walk around the world feeling oh so serious, or wearing a scowl on your face, or perhaps even more concerning—no expression at all?
Do you ever think that all the warmth inside has drained from you, or there was never any warmth to begin with, and just rigidity and a sense of detachment from self or others?
Do you ever feel that you are just walking through life on automatic pilot and not really feeling or experiencing the world?
Interacting with a dog might help us relax and regain that comfort level with our authentic selves. Enjoying time with a carefree dog can allow us to relax. Our troubles melt away as we become playful. In fact, being silly with a dog is encouraged and met with their unbridled enthusiasm. Often, we then find that enthusiasm contagious and rediscover our sense of humor and joy for the little things in life. Things we may not have noticed, or embraced, as we hurried through our day.
For more tips on how dogs can help us to get in touch with our authentic self, please click on the link below for my complete article.
People who need help often look a lot like people who don’t need help.
Glennon Doyle Melton
Therapy is a time where we are not taking care of anyone else. We are taking care of ourselves, giving us the gift and opportunity to focus on us. What we think, what we feel, what we want, what we need. Just like a massage is a way of taking care of, and soothing our body, therapy is a way of taking care of our emotional body and massaging our souls.
A Gift We Give Ourselves
So many of us turn to therapy to help us find a way of balancing job, career, intimate relationships, family and self. Some of us turn to therapy to receive help with more effectively managing our stress. Others seek therapy to help develop better communication skills within a relationship with our partner. Some of us want to become better parents and find that therapy is an arena to share frustration and develop improved parenting skills. Some of us seek therapy because we are going through a life transition and want to find a smoother way to move through it and explore possible new avenues. Some of us feel that there’s something missing inside even though our lives externally appear to be working and we want to discover what that is to live a more fulfilled life.
Everyone Needs Help Sometimes
For many of us asking for help feels hard, and sometimes impossible. If asking for help from a loved one and from friends seems difficult, then it is no wonder that asking for help from a psychotherapist, or couple counselor feels daunting. We live in a culture that overtly, or covertly, states that independence is to be revered and defines independence rigidly. The reality is, we can still be independent men and women and need help sometimes. Some might feel that taking care of our mental health needs on our own is a sign of strength, and that seeking help with a therapist, or counselor, is a sign of weakness. Often needing help is confused with being needy. They are not the same. We all need help at times and deserve to have it.
No Crisis Required
Therapy has become less of the ‘dirty little secret’ that we don’t talk about. I love how therapy has become something that many of us are more accepting and open to. Psychotherapy is no longer only something someone seeks when in a crisis, or when we have experienced trauma, depression, panic attacks or a major loss. Therapy has now become something that is sought out, and embraced, for non-crisis oriented life experiences. Every day, normal experiences—which are just as important.
For more tips on how therapy is the ultimate way of taking care of ourselves, please click on the link below for my complete article.
All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.
Leonardo da Vinci
Often there may be a distortion, be it big or small, regarding how we see ourselves, others, or our lives in general. This distortion, or as I call it, the story we tell ourselves, frequently leads to emotional pain, increased anxiety, and potentially depression. That is because feelings aren’t facts.
The phrase, feelings aren’t facts, is commonly used in 12-step programs, yet it is profoundly true for all of us. This phrase uses the term, feelings, in such a way that it is not about emotions such as sadness, grief or anger. Instead it refers to our beliefs, perceptions, interpretations and thoughts. It speaks to the ways in which we experience ourselves, or others, in a subjective way.
Perception is Reality
When we say, for example, “I don’t feel good enough.” How could this statement not create further unease? Although others in our world may perceive us as amazing, or more than good enough, it is what we tell ourselves, even if it is not a fact, that emotionally distresses us.
This may be further exacerbated by making comparisons based on our assumptions about other people. We may tell ourselves, “That woman has got it all together. Look at her. How come I don’t?” This story may also not be a fact, yet because we believe it is, it may further exacerbate, or contribute, to the wearing away of our self-esteem.
Fact or Fiction
When we operate from a place of misconception, distortion, or fiction, then we walk through the world from this place. This can produce a distortion of ourselves, of other people in our lives, or the world in general. If we function from a place of fear, anxiety or anger our perception of reality can be tainted with negativity. These painful feelings, although triggered by non-facts, can still ultimately affect us.
Another person’s comment may remind us of something that occurred in our history. Accusations and judgements that occurred in our childhood, or adolescence, that were not resolved may influence our interpretation of circumstances in our current lives. The other person, and even ourselves, may have no idea this unresolved issue has influenced our perception unless this interaction is explored or clarification is sought.
We Believe What We Perceive
Our internal process, or how we internally experience or interpret something, is often more about our history as opposed to what the other person may truly mean. The stories we tell ourselves about what the other person means may negatively affect the relationship.
Often we use the word feeling for what is not a feeling. For example, I feel that you are accusing me of lying. It is important to differentiate this thought from the feelings that are triggered by it.
For more tips on separating feelings from facts, please click on the link below for my complete article.
The soul would have no rainbow, had the eyes no tears.
John Vance Cheney
When I say, I love to cry, I do not mean that I love to feel sad, hurt, grief, or disappointment. What I mean is that I love that I have a vehicle (tears) to move my sadness, hurt, grief and disappointment out of my body. I am grateful that I have become comfortable enough with crying that tears just naturally come when they need to.
In a recent article, I spoke about how much I love to laugh. Here I will be talking about how much I love to cry, and how cleansing, and important, it is to do so. Tears are our bodies way of releasing sadness, emotional pain, grief, frustration, anger, and yes, joy.
Have you ever been so moved, or touched, by something someone said, or did, or experienced something so profound that you noticed you were tearing up? Did you allow yourself to cry freely, or did you suppress, or hide, your tears? So many of us find crying, or being with someone crying, uncomfortable.
How many times have we heard as a child, or adolescent, or even adult, “Don’t cry”? This response implies there is something wrong with crying, that it is not okay to do so, or even more so, there is something wrong with us because we are crying. As opposed to the reality that tears are a natural response to distress.
Others of us have heard, or been asked, “What are you crying about?” Again, a clear message that something is wrong with the person who is crying. Or in dysfunctional families, some of us have heard, “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.”
The Cleansing Gift of a Good Cry
Allowing ourselves to cry when the tears want to come is a gift we give ourselves. If we are with someone who feels the need to cry, allowing them to do so, and holding the space, is a gift we give them. So many of us push back our tears hoping we can contain them. Others feel sad, hurt, grief, and yet the tears are stuck and don’t come. Our culture doesn’t encourage and support crying, it’s just the opposite—it discourages it. How many times have you noticed oneself, or someone else, crying and the person is immediately handed a tissue? This nonverbal gesture implies, wipe your tears.
Your Tears are Welcome
In my psychotherapy office, although there are tissues on every table, I do not hand them to someone out of concern that they will misinterpret that I’m wanting them to stop crying. Instead I encourage someone who is crying by saying something like, “Just let that come. Your tears are very welcome here. It’s okay.”
Often, when I say this, the tears come in full force. Later when we process what happened I hear something like, “This is the first time, or one of the rare times, someone has been okay with my tears.”
For more tips on the cleansing gift of a good cry, please click on the link below for my complete article.
You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
Many of us trust too easily only to discover that we were betrayed. Others of us don’t trust at all. Trusting too quickly, or not trusting at all, usually says more about us than about the other person. Trust is not something that we want to automatically do when we meet someone. We also don’t want to automatically mistrust someone either. Some of us experience an involuntary response to trust, or not to trust, and neither one of these extremes serve us well.
Trust is something that takes time. It’s a process.
Trust is a process
When I say, trust is a process, it means that it takes time to get to know someone. If we enter a relationship at a slow and steady pace, we will discover more about who the other person’s true self. We can then determine whether they can be trusted with our feelings, and our shared personal information, because our trust is the greatest gift we can give someone.
Finding the Balance
Some of us were betrayed early in life, and we don’t trust easily because of that. Others so desperately want to be in a relationship, or a friendship, that we rush to trust someone to make that happen. We don’t give ourselves the opportunity, and time, to get to know that person to determine if they are trustworthy, or not.
In adulthood, often not being able to trust a friend, or a potential romantic partner, may be because we have been betrayed in our childhood, adolescence, or at some time as an adult. The person desiring our trust may very well be trustworthy, however we may not be able to recognize this due to our history.
Our Past Relationships Reflected in The Present
One of the first big tasks of our lives is establishing trust versus mistrust. As a child, we develop a sense that our needs will be met, versus a sense that they won’t. Our view of the world is often determined by how secure we feel that we can rely on others for our expectations to be met. If we have had good, consistent relationships in the past, we may assume as much from our current and future relationships, and trust too easily based upon this experience.
If our parents, or our experiences in past relationships, were inconsistent in meeting our needs, we may fear current and future relationships will respond the same way. We make ourselves vulnerable when we trust. Withholding our trust may be used as self-preservation to protect us from being hurt again. How can I trust myself from past mistakes?
It’s Not You, It’s Me
Sometimes it is challenging to differentiate to determine if we are not feeling trustworthy of someone else. Is it about them? Or is it about our own history? So many times, I have heard during psychotherapy sessions that, “My friend is talking about other people and I’m uncomfortable. I don’t know if I ought to trust them or not.”
For more tips on establishing trust, please click on the link below for my complete article.
Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.
Do you find it hard to admit to yourself, or to others, that you made a mistake? Or, when you do make a mistake, do you beat yourself up mercilessly and give yourself no slack for it? Do you judge others who make mistakes and give little space for their humanity?
The reality which none of us like to admit is that all of us make mistakes. If we didn’t, that would mean that we were perfect, and perfectionism does not exist here on earth. We’re all human. Some of us may attempt to strive for perfection, however this is an unrealistic goal.
It Wasn’t Me
So many of my clients, and the people that I come in contact with, struggle with admitting mistakes. Some may be challenged by either judging one’s self, or others, for mistakes, or by not being able to take ownership of one’s own mistakes.
Do you find yourself blaming others for your mistakes?
I would not have made that mistake if…
It’s not my fault. If my boss didn’t …
If only my partner hadn’t…
Do you measure your self worth by the number of mistakes you make, or not make? Is it hard to simply own a mistake and say,
“I’m sorry, I’ll try to do better next time.”
Being the Bigger Person
I was inspired to write this article when I heard about the mistake that was made recently on the Oscars announcing the incorrect best picture of the year. The graciousness of the “La La Land” Producer, Jordan Horowitz, impressed many. When he was informed that the coveted award was not his, he simply stated, “I’m sorry, there’s a mistake, ‘Moonlight’, you guys won best picture. I’m going to be very proud to hand this to my friends from, ‘Moonlight.’”
He didn’t seek someone to blame, but instead acted incredibly courteous in a moment that had to have brought much disappointment to him, and the rest of the cast. Would you, or I, have been able to act with the same cordiality in such a moment? That may be determined, in part, by the environment, and the people, who raised us.
What we were taught as a child, an adolescent, or an adult, about mistakes helps to shape our beliefs about them. We must first consider, when growing up, what we were taught about mistakes. Was it communicated verbally, or non-verbally, that it is okay and human to make a mistake? Or were you ridiculed, or punished, for them?
Methods in which we might judge ourselves, or others, may be overt, or covert, and may also be quite subtle to the point that we aren’t aware of our behavior.
Oops, I made a mistake
As an adult do you find that the people in your life—partner, friend, or family, have little tolerance for mistakes and you are always apologizing, explaining, or feeling terrible or not good enough? Do you recognize any of these ways of communicating that a mistake has occurred? Consider whether you think such words to yourself, say them to others, or someone in your life says something like this to you.
For more tips on learning to accept mistakes, please click on the link below for my complete article.