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.
Life is as it is, we take it to be hard or easy. It’s all about our perception, attitude and level of gratitude.
When you hear the phrase, “It is what it is,” do you feel relaxed? Do you feel like screaming? Or do you go into an apathetic or complacent place? More and more we are hearing others, and ourselves, saying, “It is what it is.” What exactly does this mean? It means different things to different people and it means different things depending on the situation or where we may be in a given moment. Determining what the phrase means to us can allow us to learn a lot about ourselves.
What Does The Phrase Mean?
“It is what it is,” means different things depending on who is saying it and their perspective on life. The phrase would mean one thing to a person who tends to have more of a hopeful nature and is working toward letting things go that are outside of our control. It means something entirely different to the person saying it if they tend to be of a more negative nature. To them the expression might be about giving up or giving in.
For some of us it may be an acceptance of what is happening. Similar to that of the serenity prayer that talks about accepting things we cannot change. For others it may have a more negative connotation, meaning, “screw it”, or “who cares.” What I do know is that I am hearing, “It is what it is,” in psychotherapy as well as so many other venues. People are using this phrase on an increasing basis regarding so many situations, in various circumstances regardless of age, culture or ethnicity and often with different perspectives about the phrase. So what we mean when we use this expression may not be how someone else interprets it.
One Phrase With Many Meanings
Some of us may say, “It is what it is”, to our partner, friend, family member or colleague…
In a passive aggressive way which another may interpret to be insensitive or hurtful
Perhaps when we are not wanting to do something
To avoid taking responsibility
If we are minimizing or not paying attention to what the other person is saying
In realizing we can’t change the past and instead choose to focus on the present or the future
For some of us we may say it, or think it is what is as a way of…
Avoiding addressing what we may need to talk about if the subject is…
Too hard, too uncomfortable, too scary, or too anxiety provoking
To avoid interaction with someone, being flippant, or dismissing the topic as if rationalizing “That’s just who he is.”
What Does Saying This Say About Us?
What may be most important is what we mean when we say, or think this. Determining what we believe the meaning behind the expression, may tell us a great deal about ourselves, our perceptions, our views of life, and our relationships.
For more tips on determining our personal meaning behind the phrase, "It Is What It Is", please click on the link below for my complete article.
Some persons talk simply because they think sound is more manageable than silence.
Lately it seems that many of us are trying to classify ourselves, and others, as an introvert or an extrovert when in reality it’s not always distinctly one, or the other. Yet, all too often introversion comes with a negative connotation. Frequently we judge, criticize, or label ourselves, or others, as snobbish, pretentious, unfriendly, antisocial, or just downright disconnected for being quiet, or not talking and interacting enough. When the reality may be that we, or others, are either introverted, or simply too scared and anxious to interact. There isn’t always a simple explanation for someone who is quiet. The reason behind the silence may actually be complex. Introversion is certainly misunderstood, and often, criticized.
What’s So Bad About Being Quiet?
What may be misconstrued as shy, may be more about feeling comfortable observing and listening, without talking, yet still enabling us to fully experience the interaction and feel connected. Although we are not overtly participating in an active, observable way. “People who are introverted tend to be inward turning, or focused more on internal thoughts, feelings and moods rather than seeking out external stimulation”, according to Kendra Cherry. Our natural rhythm may be that we are quiet, and like to listen as opposed to talk. We prefer enjoying quality relationships to a large quantity of them. We may enjoy interacting with others but find ourselves drained afterward and need time to recharge alone. Then there are some of us who are truly shy and afraid of sharing or speaking up. We may feel uncomfortable in social situations and just withdraw because it feels too anxiety provoking to do anything else.
So often we misinterpret someone else’s lack of spontaneity, or their expression, or lack of greeting, as unfriendly. We might say to ourselves, “What’s wrong with them?” When the truth may be that the other person may really feel anxious and too uncomfortable to say hello, or smile, or to even look us in the eye. Often what happens then is that we label that person and don’t extend ourselves to them because of our judgment. Thus, creating a cycle of disconnection.
The Silent Struggle Is Real
It is all too common that we, or others, judge and criticize those who tend to be on the quiet side. Often they may be labeled as rude, unfriendly or antisocial, because their behavior doesn’t match our cultural idea. Our culture often sees the extroverted, outgoing, social personality type as the ideal.
Perhaps it would be kinder for us to not make these assumptions because of how we perceive others outward behavior. Seldom do we ask ourselves, “Might that quiet person feel uncomfortable or shy about saying hello or interacting in a conversation?” Or “Might this person fear rejection because of one’s unresolved history?” If they were reaching out to other people, for example, and then someone did not reach back they might hesitate to approach others. Perhaps if we took the time to provide quiet company and encouragement instead of making a quick judgment we might discover more about ourselves as well as others.
For more tips on the struggles of shyness, or introversion, please click on the link below for my complete article.
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.