In the end, perfection is just a concept - an impossibility we use to torture ourselves and that contradicts nature.
Guillermo del Toro
How is your need for things to be “perfect” or “just so” impacting your marriage, or otherwise important relationships? Those of us who suffer with the need to be perfect, or have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or obsessive compulsive tendencies, often need things in our lives to be “perfect” or “just so” or “completely organized”. We need things to be a certain way to feel comfortable and anxiety-free or else we suffer. When I say we suffer, I really mean suffer. The suffering is from the anxiety that ensues if this isn’t just so, or if things are in disarray, or not the way we need them to be. Unfortunately, our need for perfection often inadvertently spreads to those closest to us and can negatively affect our relationships.
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…do the thing you think you cannot do.
”If you see something, say something” ought not to be limited to seeing a suspicious package at the train station, the airport, or your neighborhood. It needs to be expanded to speaking up when we sense something, or witness something that may mean someone may be in jeopardy or need help. Even if we are not certain about this, yet our gut tells us something is not quite right. Something about the situation feels off, or uncomfortable.
The recent horrific story regarding the thirteen children abused and held captive by their parents, and the unfathomable number of young women sexually abused by Dr. Larry Nassar, the Olympic gymnastics team doctor, are just two examples that screamed something is wrong here! Something needs to be done! Yet even though there were people who saw something, nothing was said, nothing was done. Unfortunately, in these two situations it took the people who were being abused or victimized to come forth. Something needs to change so that these atrocities that are known by others cannot be ignored any longer.
None of Our Business
What is it that keeps some of us from saying, doing, or reporting something when we believe something is wrong, or suspect that someone may be suffering an injustice? Is it our fear, anxiety, or confusion? Is it because we do not want to get involved, or we believe that it is not our business…or is it that we do not know what to do—so we do nothing?
When people are being abused or neglected, or sexually assaulted, there is such trauma that they are not always able to speak for themselves, or reach out for help. What I am encouraging us to do is to explore within ourselves what stands in our way of saying something, or reaching out to someone who could do something, when we know or sense someone is being hurt in some way.
Is there something in our own histories that prevent us from saying something?
Were we told it’s not our concern and that we shouldn’t get involved?
Did we grow up in a dysfunctional family environment and now believe that loyalty means keeping secrets?
Were we taught that it is not okay to speak our truth or express our feelings and thoughts?
Do we assume that someone else will speak up, or that it’s not our responsibility?
Were we taught that if we say something we will get in trouble, so we don’t?
Could it be that some of us were raised in alcoholic, or otherwise dysfunctional, families where what we saw or experienced was minimized, ignored, distorted, or we were punished for saying something about it?
Is it Possible That We Don’t Trust Our Own Perceptions?
Sometimes in dysfunctional families children’s perceptions are called into play. We may base our expectations of how others will treat us from our early experiences.
For more tips on addressing emotions that keep us from acting, please click on the link below for my complete article.
Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.
Some of us continue to set ourselves up, once again, by setting New Year’s resolutions, which we have been unsuccessful in keeping in previous years. Some of us feel so discouraged about not being able to keep our New Year’s resolutions, or our intentions, that we abandon them totally, thus making ourselves feel even worse by not setting them at all.
The truth is all of these goals or New Year’s resolutions are important to work toward and can produce potentially life-changing patterns. Yet, they may be the same ones that we set in previous years and have had trouble incorporating into our lives.
Same Goal, Different Year
Sometimes we approach the New Year with lofty expectations that this will be the year we succeed with a huge or almost impossible goal, or multiple goals. We set goals such as, “I’m going to…”
Lose 30 pounds this year
Exercise every single day
Stop smoking, drinking, or compulsive overeating
Organize all my paperwork
Give up sugar and salt
Only eat healthy
Stop shopping compulsively
Make new friends
Be less negative
Cultivate my spirituality
Save more money
Argue less with my partner
Spend more time with my children
Get a better job
And we are going to achieve one or more of these goals…immediately.
It is only the second week into the year and here at Nassau Guidance and Counseling we are already hearing about the guilt our couples and psychotherapy clients are experiencing over their goals. Depression and anxiety around this has already begun setting in and for some a sense of hopelessness has developed. We have noticed that people are beating themselves up and are riddled with guilt because they have broken their New Year’s resolutions “already.”
So what do we do about this?
Do we not set New Year’s resolutions for ourselves and determine goals that we want to accomplish? Is avoiding resolutions and goals the answer to not feeling depressed, anxious, guilty, or angry with ourselves? Or do we need to approach this differently?
Perhaps if we set more realistic goals, such as focusing on losing 10 pounds instead of 30, or eating healthier as opposed to total diet restrictions, we might have a better chance at success. Even small changes, one behavior at a time, and not focusing on everything we want to improve in our life at once, can provide us with a taste of success to help us meet our goals.
Set an Intention. There tends to be an all-or-nothing approach or thought process that often accompanies setting these resolutions that many of us have, which really sets us up emotionally. I have always found that the phrase “New Year’s Resolutions” has a rigid feel to it, where instead setting an intention has a softer, gentler, more flexible feel.
For more tips on working toward your goals with a positive mindset and without feeling guilty, please click on the link below for my complete article.
I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.
Our country has never been so divided in so many areas in modern times. This division has expanded even beyond what we have experienced pre and post election. It is no longer just about which political party is right or wrong for us. There is also infighting within each party itself. These, and other issues, have also arisen beyond the political arena, which have further divided us. This division has gone beyond the media and the office and has now entered our homes. During the holidays there naturally tends to be more stress than other times of the year, thus adding political tension has a real impact on family gatherings and the enjoyment of the holidays.
Volatile Political Views
People have always had varying views on political issues. What seems to currently be different is the intensity in which people are feeling around what is happening in the world and their beliefs surrounding things such as:
What is considered sexual harassment and what is not?
What is racial profiling and what is not?
What is acceptable behavior and what is not?
What is acceptable, and appropriate, to say to someone, and what is not?
The calm, productive, and sometimes passionate, interactions around these kinds of conversations seem to be something of the past. The old adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” seems to have almost disappeared. Many of us who have strong feelings and beliefs seem to have lost our filter and just spew out whatever we think and believe without making space for, or having respect for, the other person’s point of view. This lack of respect and care can become destructive to our family and personal relationships.
Previously people might have been able to have healthy discussions, but now people are so passionate about their views that it has become problematic. Arguing erupts between spouses and partners, brothers and sisters, parents and their adult children, and yes, friends. A hostile division can arise between family members because of conflicting viewpoints, which can affect what were once healthy relationships. People who experience anxiety often suffer by these issues further exacerbating their symptoms, and those who don’t generally experience ongoing anxiety are starting to develop symptoms around this division.
Conflicting opinions abound on issues such as:
What we need to do about North Korea
How to address terrorism
Division around gun control and sale of guns
Here at Nassau Guidance and Counseling, and the therapy world in general, we have seen a significant increase in individuals, couples, and families seeking to help resolve the conflicts and to heal the wounds made by this division, which is wearing away our relationships.
Just Add Holiday Stress
It seems that many of us have less desire to make space for someone else’s view, even during the holiday season. The holidays are often stressful with sometimes unreasonable expectations of our busy schedule and this passionate division in viewpoints may further exacerbate this stress.
For more tips on maintaining happiness during the holiday season, please click on the link below for my complete article.
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.
William Arthur Ward
Some of us are struggling with finding gratitude and things to be thankful for during this tumultuous time in history. With all of the shootings, acts of terrorism, natural disasters, political discord, sexual harassment and sexual assault, intolerance for difference and hate, it is sometimes really hard to focus on anything else that is positive. It almost seems unnatural to focus on gratitude with everything negative occurring all around us. Although it can be challenging, it is possible to find things to be grateful for, it sometimes takes a lot of work to identify and embrace what is right in our lives instead of what is wrong.
We Have Much To Feel Grateful For
Most of us, however, have a lot to feel grateful for. If we really take the time to sit quietly and tune into ourselves, and what we already have in our lives, most of us will be able to come up with many things to be grateful for.
It might be that we are grateful for our…
It is less about what we possess and more about those people or things in our lives, including our own good qualities that fill our heart and feed our soul. It might be that we feel grateful for living on Long Island, the joy of reading, and our love of music, dance, yoga or art. Perhaps it is our creativity, our love of nature, our sense of humor, our athletic ability, intelligence, or our ability to problem-solve or our spirituality that fills us with gratitude. If we take the time to be mindful, our list can be an extensive one that we continue to add to.
Getting In Touch With Gratitude
Putting attention on what we feel grateful for does not mean that we are ignoring or minimizing what is emotionally painful in our life, whether it is personally or more globally. It just means that it is important for our wellbeing to take the whole picture into account to find the balance between what makes us feel good in our lives and what does not.
There have been many studies that talk about how getting in touch with our gratitude can enhance our feeling of wellbeing, increase happiness and may decrease depression and anxiety. We might also experience a reduction in some physical symptoms such as headaches, gastric issues, and muscle tension if we focus on gratitude. Better sleep patterns; improved coping skills and interpersonal relationships could also be experienced with a shift toward embracing feelings of gratitude.
Discover What Makes Us Feel Grateful
Everybody is different and different things work for different people. The Thanksgiving and holiday season is a wonderful time to begin observing what we are grateful for. To begin this process, however it is important to continue this process throughout the year.
For more tips on embracing gratitude, please click on the link below for my complete article.
Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than a parent.
It is challenging to talk with our children about the tragedies happening in the world. The Las Vegas shootings, the Baptist church in Texas, the car bombing in Times Square and other natural disasters like hurricanes Harvey and Maria are only a few of the recent tragedies. Even if we tried to shield our children from these events, we cannot escape what they hear on social media, and from their peers. We may want to try to protect our children from exposure and believe this will keep them safe, yet we can’t avoid these conversations without risking leaving our children feeling confused, anxious or unsafe. They need to know they can talk to us when something bad happens. But when we may be scared out of our wits, how do we talk with our children without transmitting this fear to them?
Start by Examining Our Feelings
If we first examine our own feelings then we can be prepared to deal with our children’s feelings and questions. To be able to talk with our children in a way to be helpful, we must find ways to release and express our own fears in healthy ways. It is important to let our children know that we too are feeling scared, yet not to the point that we are transferring our fear and anxiety to them. Not allowing our stuff to spill into our conversations with our children is probably the biggest challenge. Although we are parents and want to do what is best for our children, we are only human. Working through our own fear and anxiety around this is most important before we have these conversations. While it is okay to let our children see us sad, they may not be able to understand extreme emotional reactions.
When our children ask questions about these events, no matter what is happening, we need to be able to respond to them as close to the time they ask the question as possible so they don’t carry it with them throughout their day. Even if they are going to be late for school, or it is bedtime, it won’t benefit them to delay or postpone answering if they are asking questions.
Don’t Hide the Truth under a Blanket of Lies
They hear what’s happening on television, or from their peers, and they are also hearing what their peer’s parents are saying which may have been approached differently from your parenting style. There is such a delicate balance between not lying to our children about what is happening and what could happen and sharing the truth without scaring them further. They need to be able to trust us in order to feel safe. In order to gain this trust we need to tell the truth. We clearly do not want to lie to our children. We want to help them to understand that it is natural and human to feel afraid and not minimize this, yet not cause them further distress.
For more tips on talking with our children about tragedies, please click on the link below for my complete article.
What I fear most is power with impunity. I fear abuse of power, and the power to abuse.
Sexual harassment is not just about sex. It is really more about power and control. Although sexual harassment and sexual assault does also happen to men, more often it happens to women. Reportedly 1 out of 3 women experience sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace and seventy-five percent of those women who file a complaint of sexual harassment experience some type of retaliation.
It is no wonder then, that sexual harassment is sorely underreported and all pervasive. If it wasn’t awful enough to experience the fear, violation and trauma from the sexual harassment itself, then to be retaliated against by the perpetrator and others is just unfathomable.
Don’t Blame The Victim
There are individuals who don’t understand the paralyzing effect of sexual harassment or sexual assault or comprehend that the person responsible for it is the harasser. That he or she is fully responsible for the harassment and the person being harassed is not. It’s not their fault. It’s nothing they did. They are not responsible in any way.
Fashion Designer Donna Karan initially defended Harvey Weinstein by stating that women invite sexual harassment by how they dress or present themselves. She later repented and apologized and referred to her comment as a huge mistake. Unfortunately, the reality is one does not make such a statement without it being part of their true belief system. Large parts of the population, including women, really have the belief system that somehow the victim is to blame. Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, it’s still present. Thus further complicating a women’s desire to share about their sexual harassment or sexual assault. Furthermore, this makes it even more difficult for women to share with a friend, or someone close, even without reporting the harassment. This causes further alienation of the victim.
There Isn’t Usually A Simple Solution
It is distressing to have to walk into work each day and not feel safe and not know if the harassment is going to happen again today, or not. Some might suggest that the victim, “Just get another job”, or “Just tell them, no”. If it were so easy to just get another job, or just say no, then most women would do just that. It’s not that simple. The lack of understanding or minimizing that so often happens has a devastating effect that might make women stay silent.
Most women need their jobs. It might be the only way to pay bills or support their family. The concern of ruining future career prospects, the fear of retaliation, damage to reputation, or enduring the embarrassment of reporting the incident and risking becoming a pariah in the workplace might make women hesitate to report. When we have been sexually harassed and those around us such as friends, or coworkers, that we might have shared this with, minimize it or negate the experience, it is further traumatizing.
For more tips on coping with emotional pain from sexual harassment and sexual assault, please click on the link below for my complete article.
Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.
Earlier this week we were horrified to discover yet another tragedy had occurred. The mass shooting in Las Vegas flooded our hearts with fear, anxiety, distress and sadness. Some of us found out a shooting was occurring as it happened, while others of us woke to the sound of chaos and sirens on our television, or were bombarded with information online as soon as we picked up our phone or turned on the computer.
We no longer have to wait for the newspaper to arrive, or the evening news, to discover what is happening in the world. Sadly the recent number of tragedies has filled many of us with unease, as if we are waiting in fear of what catastrophe will happen next. We don’t usually have to wait long to find out if a tragedy has occurred since social media has made sharing information immediate, convenient and almost obligatory. In the event of a disaster, this instant access to every distressing detail can often be emotionally overwhelming.
Information Is No Longer Just From The Television Station
Social media has changed the manner in which we receive information. This advance to accessing and providing timely communication does have many positive benefits.
The light social media shines on individuals, and the world, can allow us to feel more open and connected to the world.
Helps us to ensure that our distant friends are safe if they use the Facebook Safety check feature in the event of a tragedy
Makes staying in touch with friends and family more possible
Chatting on social media can provide a sense of belonging or unity
Provides humor, education or entertainment
Offers a place to come together, find comfort, support and share with others
Reassures us that there are good people who care and allows us to heal over a senseless act or tragedy
This transparency can serve to help, or hurt, a situation, and affect our emotions. Social media can bring us together, or the light it shines upon fear can drive us apart.
How Much Social Media Is Too Much in the Face of Tragic Events?
Often fear and anxiety are stirred with tragic events. When a tragedy occurs many seek answers for an injustice when none are readily available. This can result in an increased emotional response. Thus, the process of healing from the tragedy is compounded with additional stress from those who lack an outlet for their anger and fear may turn to social media. Often over venting our thoughts and feelings about the tragedy may exacerbate what we are feeling instead of giving us relief. In fact it is almost akin to re-experiencing the trauma over and over again. The same may be though for those of us who almost obsessively stay in tune with what is happening. A way to determine if we are receiving benefit from our experience on social media, or if it is emotionally detrimental is asking ourselves, are we feeling better or worse?
For more tips on coping with increased anxiety and fear in the event of a tragedy, please click on the link below for my complete article.
People who suffer a lot, often times do so, because they are cognitively wrong about what they think they have a right to expect.
Abraham H. Maslow
Are you someone who expects certain things from your partner, children, friends, family members, coworkers or employer/employees? Do you notice that when what you expect doesn’t happen that you feel resentful, disappointed, hurt, frustrated, or angry?
Having expectations of others is a set-up for us. If what we are expecting does not occur, then we feel unease or uncomfortable to some degree. I am not suggesting that it is not okay to want and need certain things, or behaviors, from those in our personal and professional lives. I am saying, however, that there is a difference between expecting something versus needing, wanting, and hoping for it.
Expecting Vs. Hoping
An expectation does not leave any room for any other result. Either someone does something, or says something that you expect, or does not. This is about having an all or nothing perspective. So, is it no wonder that if we expect something from another and it does not happen that we feel resentful, disappointed, hurt, frustrated or angry?
If instead we try to approach this differently, by framing our thoughts as a request, a want, or a hope instead of an expectation, our emotional response is more likely to be less intense if what we ask for doesn’t happen. This means that we would instead think:
“I want this person to…”
“I would like it if they would…”
“It is important to me that…”
“I hope this will happen…”
Utilizing this way of approaching a desire is less likely to have a huge emotional response and one that is more in proportion with what we are looking for from another person. Thus, making it less likely for us to have negative reactions.
An Opening for Opportunities
This does not suggest that we are willing to accept less than we deserve or want. It just may mean that we do not have some rigid perspective of what is to happen. It gives us the opportunity to ask for what we need, yet, if it doesn’t happen we are not so stuck in our reaction that we aren’t able to help our partner, friend, family member, or employee/employer find a way to potentially give it to us. We can then teach them how to do this as opposed to being stuck in our intense feelings and reactions. Otherwise, if they resist we might find ourselves in a stalemate or a power struggle, which does not serve either person. We are not settling for less, we are just giving ourselves and the other person a chance to show up in a way that we may need, even if it means some negotiation.
For more tips on hoping for something versus expecting something from someone, please click on the link below for my complete article.
Your whole life is a manifestation of the thoughts that go round in your head.
My natural belief has always been that most people are intrinsically good and that I have been blessed as a recipient of heart-centered love and kindness from others on a regular basis. As someone who takes pride in seeking the positive aspect in situations and in others, otherwise referred to, as a “Pollyanna”, a new self-awareness I’ve observed within myself, and others, has been quite disturbing. Recently I’ve noticed that my natural faith in humanity and the goodness in people have been waning just a bit at times. The recent occurrences in our country have shaken me, and other positive-minded people, enough to test even those with the most optimistic outlook.
Too Many Tragedies
It can be challenging at times for even those of us who tend to be an eternal optimist to stay positive and open to the belief that people are kind, loving and giving more than they’re not when faced with ceaseless unspeakable tragedies throughout the world. A few recent prominent ones come to mind from my client psychotherapy sessions, which have had even the most hopeful people becoming discouraged. These include:
The white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Virginia
The terrorist attack in Barcelona, Spain
The explosion at the Arianna Grande concert in Manchester, England
The shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida
Unfortunately, this isn’t an all-inclusive list. The violence and outpouring of hate across the country and the world can often feel never-ending and test our faith in the goodness of humanity.
Casting a Ray of Hope
The recent tragedy in Houston, and surrounding areas in Texas, was devastating. But the response to the disaster came as a wonderful reminder that the world really isn’t all about the awful stuff which is often most prominent. Hurricane Harvey brought out an outpouring of people’s love, heart, money, generosity, energy and time. Despite the horrible tragedy, Hurricane Harvey brought out the best in people to remind us that, Yes, people are loving, caring, selfless and generous.
Many people on fixed and limited incomes gave whatever they could afford, and then some, and displayed how eager we are to help one another in a time of need.
The child who emptied his entire bank account to support the Red Cross, and the little girl who set up a lemonade stand and donated her proceeds, reminded us how important it is to teach our children to grow up and be kind people.
Even the multitudes of corporations, such as Amazon, Walmart, Dell and Disney, who are generally perceived as self-serving, stepped up and donated huge amounts of money.
These gestures helped us realize that no matter how big or small, how rich or poor, we all feel compassion for one another. Striving to have a positive outlook can help us identify this attribute more easily than always feeling overwhelmed by negative occurrences.
The Lens We View the World Through
How we view others and ourselves determines what quality of life we have, or don’t have.
For more tips on regaining faith in the goodness of humanity, please click on the link below for my complete article.