Monthly Archives: April 2013

Spoiled for Life

kid in jail straightened

Jail time is a common occurrence for John. Why is that? He has a nasty habit of picking fights and throwing fits when he doesn’t get his way. Even in jail, if people don’t cater to John’s demands, he resorts to threatening and hostile behavior.

John’s behavior hasn’t changed much since he was a small child. That’s because his blustery, bullying temper tantrums weren’t nipped in the bud before he became an adult. Instead, such displays were rewarded—he got his way. Unsurprisingly, he still expects the world to bend to his every whim.

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There are many stories like John’s—please share yours. Or if you have questions or comments, feel free.

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The Latest Wow: Set Yourself Free!

Free women

Here’s a poem written by a client who set herself free:

 

The wind blowing across the sea

Makes me wonder what it feels like to be free

 

I am trapped by my memories

wondering why I chose that path for me

 

Never letting go of the past, you see

always punishing myself indeed

 

Always looking at the mistake I made

Never appreciating the steps I take

 

Time has come to lift my head

To learn to live again

 

To have a life that will be free

To live a life with acceptance of me

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Don’t Spend Your Life Being Little

Stalled in Chicago traffic wasn’t Carrie’s idea of a wonderful day.

Planted in the driver’s seat, she silently broiled. Her anger didn’t stem from her two passengers, her husband and mother-in-law. Instead, she was furious with herself. Getting trapped in traffic was ohhhh soooo avoidable, because Carrie was adept at driving Chicago, maneuvering skillfully and comfortably through the maze of tangled highways.

So what went wrong? She failed to assert herself. Although situated behind the wheel, she let others “drive.” Carrie’s experience illuminates how things go wrong when we shrink down and take on a passive role. For one thing—as with Carrie—such behavior impairs our ability to take charge when a situation calls for solid leadership.

Limping, when fully capable of walking upright, is an act of self-betrayal. It’s felt at the soul level—a sickened feeling deep within.

Continue reading the article . . .

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True to Ourselves

high heel on rose framed

“Why doesn’t he leave her! I’m tired of this! I’m tired of waiting … for what … more disappointment?!”

That was Jill, Trent’s girlfriend, who’s at the end of her rope. Although he claims she’s #1, he has chosen to hang on to a relationship with Laura, a woman he no longer loves. What stops him from leaving? He can’t bear the thought of hurting her.

(To read about my session with Trent, see my previous post, Make YOU Happy.)

Jill’s frustration is so understandable. She’s waited years for things to change. Ironically, Trent’s efforts to protect one person from experiencing pain is creating pain in another. Jill suffers, but she rarely expresses it—not wanting to be a bitch or a nag.

Jill’s suffering is amplified because she makes assumptions about Trent’s stuckness. When her frustration reaches a fever pitch like it is now, she’s convinced he’s an insincere ogre who’s hell-bent on leading her on and using her.

I know that’s not true—he’s a tortured man. I explained that his guilt and needless sense of responsibility for Laura’s happiness is paralyzing him.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that doesn’t look at psychological barriers in the same way it looks at physical barriers.

Trent’s psychological barrier is as big and crippling as any physical barrier.

“I see,” Jill said, now in a calmer space. “He’s like a man in a wheelchair who wants to be in a foot race, but can’t.” “That’s true in part,” I replied, “but unlike the man in the wheelchair, Trent is capable.” It’s just not as simple as making the decision and, voilà! he’s off and running. He has internal barriers to overcome—barriers that have to do with him, not Laura.

At this point on Trent’s life journey, he’s being challenged to contemplate all the unconscious ways he’s being hurtful. He’s also challenged to either stay the course of self-compromise or opt to be true to himself while pursuing his own happiness.

“You’re being challenged in the same way,” I said. “You have to decide what to do with the circumstances as they are.”

Even though she has a better understanding of Trent, she still has a decision to make.

“Jill, realize you’re not expected to endure the unendurable,” I said. “In fact, you shouldn’t.  If you can’t endure the status quo, you have to honor that.”

I loved her next insightful comment: “I haven’t been true to myself, either.”

She’s so right, and like all of us, she’s ultimately responsible for her own happiness.

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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The Latest Wow: Fire Your Inner Critic!

Use words wisely I had a client tell me once:

“Every time I put myself down, I’m affirming that my mother was right.”

Click here to read about Dawn and Doug and how their childhoods were fertile soil for the formation of negative self-talk and low self-worth.

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Make YOU Happy

Jill and Trent have been in a relationship for a long time. They love each other very deeply and treasure their time spent together. The problem? Trent can’t leave his former girlfriend, Laura. He doesn’t love her, but he can’t bring himself to cause her pain.

Trent is one of those people who easily—too easily—feels guilty and responsible for the happiness of others. If someone close to him seems displeased or unhappy, he believes he caused it and should do something to fix it.

In our counseling session, I pointed out that he’s actually hurting Laura more by being unfaithful and deceptive. “And furthermore,” I explained, “we don’t do people any favors by catering to their illusions. It keeps them from growing and grappling with truth.”

The pain of lost relationships and fading hopes is built into the very fabric of daily living. We can’t escape it.

When he’s in Laura’s presence, he’s there physically, but that’s all. The rest of him is absent. In all likelihood, she senses that, which causes her a certain degree of suffering and unhappiness.

I just flatly told him:

“You can’t make her happy if you’re not happy being with her.”

Because he’s a divided man, his energy is diluted in each relationship. He pays a price as well. Sacrifice and self-denial is not a route to happiness. For his sake and the sake of everyone involved, he needs to follow the path of his truth.

“If you honor yourself—honoring what’s right for you—you’ll automatically be honoring everyone else,” I said.

“How can that be?” he asked. “I’ll be hurting Laura.”

I explained that honoring Laura means respecting her dignity and honoring her soul—the higher aspect of her. “You need to stop treating her like an emotional cripple—someone incapable of growing from pain and incapable of helping herself,” I said. “Stop making yourself her god.”

In the final analysis, Trent’s not responsible for Laura’s happiness, she is.

By the end of our session, I was encouraged by Trent’s response to my following question: “Why is suffering a good thing? What is good about it?”

He came off with this WOW:

“Suffering helps a person dig deep into their soul.  As a result they become wiser and stronger.”

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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The Heart Trumps the Spoken Word

A tragic accident took her son’s life. In a mere flash of a second he was gone … gone forever.

I had never met the mother nor the son, but my friend had. “What can I say to her?” she asked.

We’ve all been there—someone we care about is in the throes of immense grief, and we’re at a complete loss. We so want to lessen their pain … but how?

“Show, don’t tell,” I advised. “Sometimes words don’t cut it. Let the mother read your heart.”

An understanding look and a warm touch does just that. Such gestures convey “I’m here;” “Your pain matters to me.” That all sounds simple enough, but it’s hard to do. We feel more comfortable softening the awfulness, and our insecurities about death with statements like: “He’s in a better place now;” “It’ll get easier.” Comments like these may lift our mood but do little for the mourner.

My niece, Amanda, is a perfect example. Two years ago she lost her mother to cancer, and her suffering remains as intense and real today as it did back then.  We were talking one day, and she expressed a particular form of anguish to me … an anguish I feel many people can relate to. I asked her to write it down so I could share it with you. She did and here it is:

Why do people tell you it gets easier?

Time heals, they say . . . but I don’t see it that way at all. If anything, it feels worse. I feel more alone without her holding my hand. I feel less love without her big hugs. I feel more sad without her beautiful smile. Everyday she feels farther and farther away … how could this be easier?

My heart tells me she isn’t far but I’m reminded everyday that she isn’t coming back. My fear of her disappearing from my memories keeps me on edge. I’m afraid I’ll forget what her hands looked like. I’m afraid of losing the memory of her laugh that once filled a room or her voice that would comfort me in times that I needed guidance.

Before she passed, and knowing she was leaving me too soon, I would sit in stillness beside her and find myself breathing her in. I studied her face—memorizing ever feature. Now I can’t picture her face, or the scent of her that takes me back. I don’t see how time could heal a broken heart when the person that filled it is slipping away.

~Amanda Deutsch

Like Amanda, and the mother who lost her son, there are no words. Sometimes personal loss runs so deep that relief is elusive—the person’s grief is constantly felt just below the surface. Under those circumstances, the best we can do as comforters is respect that fact.

As a counselor I’ve found that I’m most successful when I suspend the need to fix and merely stop and listen … and let myself feel.

The heart trumps the spoken word when it comes to pain that’s as raw as grief.

 

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