07 May 2014
May 7, 2014

Inner Critic

News

“It’s like a big stick that I hit myself with from the inside. Really, would I want anyone I love to do that to themselves? Certainly not! And, I’ve made a commitment to support my kids and myself in putting that stick down. For good.  The other day…the part of me that is Unconditional Love stood up, turned towards the Critic, and embraced it. In that moment of love and connection, the critic dissolved. Now I make it a practice to embrace the Critic, over and over again. I am learning that whatever has a hold on me, that which we most want to turn away from, is exactly what needs undivided, loving attention.” — Jennifer Mayfield

This quote is the opening of Dr. Laura Markham’s latest blog post, 5 Strategies to Tame the Inner Critic, on her website, Aha! Parenting.com.

http://www.ahaparenting.com/BlogRetrieve.aspx?PostID=136781&A=SearchResult&SearchID=7913456&ObjectID=136781&ObjectType=55

One of the features of our inner critic is that it can operate and send messages at the subconscious level.  It often runs on a continuous loop in the form of background noise in our minds, and can insidiously damage our psyches and self esteem.

A powerful (and easy and relaxing) way to address this inner critic is through hypnosis.  My wonderful hypnotherapy instructor, Barbara Locascio Aquilino shared with us a systematic way to use self-compassion to identify negative self-talk, observe how it affects mind, body, and spirit, heal the damage, and prevent future negativity.

If you would like to explore ways to address your inner critic, please contact me, Susanna Rains Moriarty, at 706-425-8900 ext 709 or s.rains@ca4wellbeing.com

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Have you ever shared something painful or frustrating with a friend or loved one to be met with a response of, “look on the bright side…” or “at least…(something not as bad)”?  Does that advice leave you feeling better or worse?

I recall a friend stating in a Facebook post that she felt sad and angry that her mother was not alive to celebrate her birthday.  She received many empathic comments, but she also received comments advising her to “focus on the good memories” and that her “mother wouldn’t want her to feel that way”.  I knew that the people commenting cared for her and were genuinely trying to help, but I couldn’t help but wonder if my friend felt shamed for her natural and appropriate feelings.

It made me wonder further about the people leaving the comments.  I am 100% certain that their intent was not to shame but rather to help her feel better.  While I certainly prefer to receive empathy when I share painful things, and I assume that my clients do as well, I wondered if there is a certain group of people who feel better when they are immediately advised of the bright side of their situation in reaction to their pain.

I decided to launch a very “scientific” research study by asking the following question on my personal Facebook page:  “When you share with someone close to you something that is painful or frustrating, do you like it when they respond with pointing out the ‘bright side’?”

Most people who commented reported that either listening, empathy, or validation of feelings (or a combination of these) is their preference.  Two people stated that it depended on the situation; sometimes they wanted someone to listen and sometimes they wanted a positive perspective.  Two other commenters reported that they were open to the “bright side” but only after adequate validation and consolation.

The response I did not receive was an unqualified, “Yes, the ‘bright side’ perspective makes me feel better.”  How fascinating, then, that the “bright side” response is so often the immediate reaction to people’s pain.  How to explain this discrepancy between what people offer and what people need?

This led me to think about the experience of the person with whom the pain is being shared.  On the cynical side, perhaps the person has learned (consciously or subconsciously) that this response is often successful in extinguishing further sharing of pain.  They may simply not want to engage in this type of conversation.  The “sharer” will then often change the topic, not because they feel better, but because they realize they aren’t being understood.

Another reason may be that the person holds a belief that positive thinking is the best medicine and is wanting to provide a curative dose.  According to my Facebook responders, this is not received as the panacea it is intended to be.  It is certainly easier to find the positive in someone else’s situation than our own, isn’t it?

It is possible that the problem being shared is perceived to be easier than issues the person is dealing with him or herself.  For someone experiencing difficulty themselves, they may simply not have the emotional resources to provide the empathy that the loved one needs at the time.

Maybe the person feels a great deal of empathy but has difficulty tolerating emotions, his or her own and others’.  Being empathic requires you to feel others’ emotions yourself.  Dr. Brené Brown explains the difference between empathy and sympathy in this brilliantly illustrated RSA Short – “The Power of Empathy”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

Pain and frustration are universal experiences that can facilitate powerful connection between people.  Sharing these feelings allows others the privilege of knowing a person at a deeper, more intimate level.  Genuine, empathic interaction allows people to feel heard, understood, and validated.  It is from that place of security that the healing begins.

If you are having difficulty feeling understood and connected with your loved ones, please contact me at 706-425-8900 ext 709 or via email at s.rains@ca4wellbeing.com.

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Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to some graduating high school Seniors at their senior banquet at our local Methodist church. My speech was about rules for living.  I want to give credit for some of my thoughts to Cherie Carter-Scott who wrote a book several years ago called, “If Life is a Game, These are the Rules.” One of the rules I spoke of is…

WHAT YOU MAKE OF YOUR LIFE IS UP TO YOU.

Every person creates his or her own reality. Authorship of your life is one of your absolute rights; yet so often people deny that they have the ability to script the life they desire. They willingly give that power to someone or something else; and live life full of “yeah, buts…” that do not produce results but just reinforce the delusion of inability. I believe strongly in personal power and responsibility.

It is important to understand the difference between responsibility and blame. Blame is associated with fault, whereas responsibility denotes authorship. Blame carries guilt and negative feelings; responsibility brings the relief of not having to dodge the full truth anymore and releases that guilt. Blame implies fault; responsibility implies ownership. Blame is stagnant; responsibility propels you forward and onward to your greater good.

I believe that we have to take responsibility for our own lives and stop making others responsible for our own choices. No one makes us feel or do anything that we do not choose to do. If you drink too much with your friends, that is your choice. They do not hold you down and force you to drink. If you become angry at someone and decide to physically harm them, that is also your choice. You could choose to talk out your differences and find a more productive way of handling things. There is personal power in choice. Saying “no” to things that compromise you is powerful.

The road to self-respect requires that you be the captain of your own ship, that you take responsibility for your actions. If you are not, the waves will toss you about and you will be unsure of how to navigate treacherous waters. Being centered and responsible means you own your emotions. We do not have our independence until we live by our own morals and standards and take responsibility for our own feelings and thoughts. And we develop and evolve by the choices we make and the way we face our challenges. Always be open to learning. Being a know-it-all stunts growth. Don’t live a life blaming others for your situation. That road is a dead end.

Making life what you want it to be can be scary, mainly because it may require you to go against the flow, to be different than the popular opinion or more functional than your family or origin. It may make you anxious and afraid, but that is okay. Do not treat moments when you can go beyond yourself as not you. Treat them as moments when you are challenging your limits. I have a quote framed in my house that says, “Always try to do better.”

Measure yourself by your own standards, by your own moral code – not by what others think of you. Do the right thing even if someone else is doing the wrong thing… you will emerge with self-respect; something much more valuable than possessions or prestige. Goethe said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness had genius, power, and magic in it.” Setting an intention is half the battle.
I encourage you to exhibit courage as you face life and ask God to give you that courage. Courage is not defiance, defiance is fake courage. Courage is finding the inner strength an bravery required when confronting danger, difficulty, or opposition. Courage is the energy current behind all great actions and the spark that ignites the initial baby steps of growth. Courage is what it takes to struggle through life so that it will become something of your own making.

JENNIFER

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Here, in an interesting article, Keith Molyneaux helps us look at relationships from a different perspective: “Why Men Withdraw Emotionally”, and offers insights about men’s world. It may not apply to everyone, yet it certainly opens space to consider our own reactions: when we withdraw and why -man or woman-, whether it comes from protection and/or frustration, confusion or overwhelming feeling. It also brings more clarity about existing double standards and levels of expectations men have to face. Keith Molyneaux looks into the challenge of 2 partners needing nurturing, empathy, support and recognition at the same time, with one of the two having more experience, in this area, than the other.

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/02/why-men-withdraw-emotionally/

Resonating with this article? Open to explore each other’s world in a safe environment? Feel free to contact Aline Robolin, LPC at 706 425 8900, ext 705, or Aline@ca4wellbeing.com.

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www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2013/08/22/study-to-the-human-brain-me-is-we/

We are wired toward connection! This is an exciting time in terms of the emerging knowledge regarding our minds and our behavior in relationships.  I highly recommend you read the article linked above.  Interestingly, recent MRI studies show that participants react to a threat against a loved one with the same intensity as they would a threat to themselves.  Daniel Siegel, who is a pioneer in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, has written and spoken prolifically for years describing how our minds develop through interactions with others and that processes to integrate the mind heal relationships (and the reverse is true as well).  These MRI studies confirm what therapists have known for years about the importance of empathy in our relationships.  Also, this type of research is confirming what we know about couples: partners become emotionally attuned to each other and react to the other’s emotions and moods.

The really good news is that when we learn to have attuned communication with others, we actually integrate and improve the wiring in our brains.  Attuned communication is defined by Siegel as resonating with another’s inner world.  This connects with John Gottman’s research with couples also that happy spouses know each other’s inner worlds.  Siegel says we cannot just focus on the thoughts and feelings, but we have to be mindful of the energy in our exchanges with others.  Mindfulness practices and meditation can improve our ability to be present in relationships as well as improve our well-being.

If you are interested in improving your understanding of your own behavior in relationships and learning tools to enhance them, I am a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist and Certified Hatha Yoga Instructor with expertise in helping individuals and couples improve their communication and lessen their reactivity as well as change patterns that are painful.  Please call 706-425-8900 or email Suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com with questions or to schedule a session.

 

This talk by Dr Brene Brown “Shame and Empathy” has been, for me, invigorating, clarifying and thought provoking. I resonate with her statement about connection being the essence of human experience, as it gives meaning to our experience. She presents a concept about connection, where empathy and shame are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, and vulnerability/authenticity is the cursor between the 2: the more vulnerable/open you are, the closer you are to empathy; and the less you are vulnerable, the closer you are to shame -“I cannot let you see these pieces of me, because I fear that will create disconnection “-.  We armor ourself for self-protection from suffering, and as we live in a culture of fear about not fitting in, it does not leave space for vulnerability. Yet vulnerability and authenticity are the path to what we are longing for: love, belonging, trust, intimacy joy, creativity and innovation, as well as empathy. How do we create compassionate/safe space to share and listen to our stories? How do we create a place for connection?

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I am leading several groups of NonViolent Communication, also called Compassionate Communication (more information at CNVC.org). If you resonate with this subject and are longing to be heard and to listen to others in a safe environment, you can contact Aline Robolin, LPC at 706 425 8900, ext 705, or Aline@ca4wellbeing.com.

I invite you to watch this video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQiFfA7KfF0 and share your feedback if you desire.

 

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Goal setting plays an important role in moving ourselves forward in life.   At the beginning of a New Year, many people choose to make New Year’s resolutions with the intent to improve some part of their life.   I have made many over the years, many of which I had given up by the third week of January.   Also, there have been years in which I have sworn off the resolutions to avoid the feelings of lack of discipline and failure.

This year, after taking the first three weeks of January to consider what I wanted to create in my life, I narrowed down a list of several areas of my life that could use some help. Consistently, they all lead back to one simple basic habit. This simple, but often elusive, habit is crucial for developing and maintaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit.   It’s the basic practice of getting adequate sleep.  Seven to eight hours of sleep a night for an adult is considered to be healthy sleep.

Sleep affects the mind, body and spirit in numerous ways.  Most everyone has short-lived bouts of insomnia, which is generally nothing to be concerned about.  The bigger concern is chronic sleep loss which include sleeping issues several nights a week or less than six hours of sleep on a consistent basis.  Chronic sleep loss can contribute to health problems in areas such as learning and memory, metabolism and weight, anxiety and depression, blood pressure and hormone levels, and the immune system.

Sleep allows the body to do a lot of repair work both restoratively in the body through muscle growth, tissue repair, and growth hormone as well as cognitively in the brain with neural plasticity.   Sleep is a key to keeping your body and mind fit and healthy.

If you have difficulty sleeping, neurofeedback training may help you.   Recently, I worked with a client who had sleep problems for over five years.  After trying many sleep solutions including several prescription sleep medications and not having results, the client gave neurofeedback a try.  Now, he is sleeping through the night for at least eight hours on a consistent basis.

Getting adequate sleep can have life changing effect for health and well being.  Contact Pamela Key at Counseling Associates for Well-Being at (706) 425-8900 or Pamela@ca4wellbeing.com for information on how neurofeedback training can help you.

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I am not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions. I find them to be similar to diets in the way they create a setup of unrealistically harsh expectations for one’s self that are bound to fail. However, there is one resolution I would suggest and celebrate for anyone to make, and this resolution improves outlook and mood, health, relationships and all other aspects of life. This resolution would be a commitment in the year 2014 to improve one’s relationship with self. The relationship we have with ourselves is the longest and most important as it forms the basis for how we see the world and make choices for our behavior.

How does one improve that relationship? One way we improve it is by becoming aware of and improving our self-talk.  Many of us have developed a strong inner drill sergeant that seeks to motivate us to “be better” and “do better”.  I would argue that we get a lot further with compassion for self and treating ourselves as we would a dear friend.  Compassion for self does not mean denial or dishonesty, but looking at situations in our lives with the understanding we are human and deserve unconditional emotional support first and foremost.  With compassion and honesty with self, we are more likely to make choices such as better self-care or reaching out for help when it is needed-and we all need help as human beings.

I would suggest mindfully starting with this intention each day.  Take a few quiet minutes to meditate on the intention to be compassionate toward one’s self on a daily basis.  This alone could create quite a lasting change this year.  Contact me at suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com if you would like to work on a new approach to making changes and dealing with challenges. Happy New Year!

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So we just finished the Thanksgiving holiday celebration.  As it happens, my  birthday week falls around Thanksgiving every year. These birthday things keep happening year after year no matter what.  They are often a time to reflect, to take stock. I don’t generally enjoy so much thinking, but this year I thought about what I am thankful for about my advancing age.

I love that I finally can stop wishing that I can one day live up to the incredibly unrealistic physical image of 20 year old super models. I love that the things I now value are so much more important. I actually pause to be grateful that I can walk up flights of stairs or enjoy the beauty of the beach or enjoy a fabulous meal with friends or family.

I am grateful to have time to read even if some days  it is just the newspaper, or the captions under the pretty photos in my favorite magazines. I am grateful  to have some ideas about what I enjoy, and also to still have an abundance of curiosity about what else there might be to discover.

I am grateful that my vision is no longer what it once was. I marvel at the genius of the design that allows me to lose the ability to see clearly the wrinkles that are spreading like fine webs under my eyes.

I am grateful for the realization that painful moments do in fact finally end. When I was younger, it was so much harder to endure things that were difficult when I had no idea that “these things pass.”  I am grateful that there are still so many things to look forward to.   Getting older is getting better and better!  And gratitude is a wonderful thing.

 

25 Nov 2013
November 25, 2013

Stress Less

News, Stress, Wellness

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National Stress Out Week is this month, and the timing is just right. The days are shorter, and holidays are here. Shorter days, changes in schedules, and an increase in demands, whether actual or perceived, create stress.
The downside of stress is that too much stress over time can wear you down physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The upside of stress is that some stress can be helpful. It creates energy and focus needed to accomplish tasks. And, the stress that’s not helpful can be reduced or managed.

One of the first steps to managing stress is awareness. Observe when you feel stress. Be mindful of thoughts, actions, and circumstances that prompt feeling more emotionally anxious or even slightly frustrated. Stress is usually from some external source, like as request or perceived requirement from another person or a circumstance. The negative response to stress is often at least partically internal and may include emotions, thoughts, and even physical sensations. It can show up as anxiety, worry thoughts, sadness, frustration, physical sensations such as muscle tension, and even reduced immunity to illness.

There are many ways to deal with unhelpful stress and its impact. I like to address stress considering three factors.  These include mindfulness, reducing unhelpful stress, and managing what can’t be reduced. This approach is grounded in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and lines up with several other proven therapeutic approaches.
We are all different and respond differently to events and life circumstances. However, we all have some experience of helpful and unhelpful stress.
If you would like to learn, practice, and enhance stress management skills, I would be pleased to talk with you.  You can contact me, Alice Deal, at alice@ca4wellbeing.com or by calling 706-425-8900 ext. 703