What do you do when the person you rely on for shelter in life is no longer there? How do you deal with the tsunami of emotions that come with a break-up, a divorce, a death? When that person is no longer there, we feel sadness, anger, hurt, fear—sometimes all at the same time. Sue Johnson, author of Love Sense and originator of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) says that “we are wired for connection.” The anxiety and deep sadness we feel when we lose a loved one is not because we are “co-dependent” or “needy”, but because our partners matter to us. They impact our own need to feel accepted and loved. When a relationship ends, it is a loss. We are suddenly alone.
Saying sorry is not that hard. Not when you’re pulling out your carry-on from the overhead compartment and you bump that unsuspecting passenger. Or when your colleague has been waiting for that email from you since yesterday morning. Not even when you’ve just cut off someone because you were in a hurry and they make sure to let their horn tell you how they feel.
But when it comes to those who live and interact with us more intimately, apologizing is one of the hardest things to do, much less do effectively. There is a price to letting others into the limited confines of our heart space—we will bump into each other. Given the inevitably of these collisions, I’d like to speak to a few principles outlined by Harriet Lerner, PhD, that can help in making effective apologies. The following principles are taken from her interview with Brene Brown. Continue reading
Your Personal Drill Sergeant
We have all had some exposure, likely through Hollywood movies, to the overbearing drill sergeant yelling at a group of soldiers:
- “You’re a maggot!”
- “You smell like failure!”
- “You’re worthless! . . . Drop and give me twenty!”
The drill sergeant’s objective is not to provide care and compassion, but to yell, push, and criticize in order to prepare the soldiers for threats. It may be hard to identify at first, but if you slow down and notice some of messages you tell yourself, you may find that a voice similar to the overbearing drill sergeant has taken place in your mind. This is called the “inner critic.” Continue reading
Do You Assume the Worst in Others?
In the day in which we live, it can be tempting sometimes to assume the worst in others. The driver who cuts us off can suddenly become an enemy to us. The child who defies our direction can be seen as rebellious and troublesome. The spouse who ignores or lashes out can be seen in the moment as uncaring and hateful. Yet, the reality, as unreal as it may seem, is that we’re all doing the best we can, given the knowledge and experience we have gained up until that point in our lives. Continue reading
Lost in Technology
Today, it’s common to see people lost in their smartphones, heads dropped, engaged in social media, emails, or games, ignoring everything and everyone around them. This phenomenon is the new normal.
That’s why my recent experience at Impact-Sack Lunches for the Homeless stood out. The organization utilizes volunteers to prepare and hand out sack lunches to Denver’s homeless population. As I stood there, slicing bagels to be passed down the assembly line, I noticed a new phenomenon. It was me, my friends, and strangers, families, kids…all joining and working together on the common goal of helping someone in need. The entire day, I did not see one person on their phone. Continue reading
The word “should” has become somewhat of a “bad word” in the counseling community. We often hear the playful warning to be careful not to “should all over yourself.” The push here is to let go of what you think you should do, in exchange for doing what you want: a practice that has allowed many to reduce shame and dissatisfaction and find a more meaningful path for themselves.
But the word “should” pops up in other nasty ways, outside of our “to do” lists and judgments around our motivation and priorities. In the same way we apply judgment and pressure to our actions, we can apply it to something we have even less immediate control over: our emotions.
“I know I shouldn’t feel this way.” Continue reading
By Joshua Downs
How Can Couples be So Wrong about Each Other?
As a couples therapist I have lost count of how often it becomes obvious that I am sitting across from two people who are genuinely good, sincerely love each other, and who have good intentions. Yet these same two people struggle to see each other in that positive light when they are experiencing emotional distance. If I can see their hearts even when I’m witnessing them at their worst, why can’t they? Continue reading
Perfection is a Bad Word
Perfection has recently become a “bad word” in my vocabulary. Let me share why.
To one degree or another, we’re all guilty of pursuing perfection. For some, it is a part of their religious creed: “Be ye therefore perfect” declared Jesus to his followers. Some have actually been told by a parent: “I just want you to be perfect.” Others might simply feel the pressure to be perfect because of family expectations or the image society paints in our minds of what is and isn’t acceptable. Continue reading
I have had a number of first sessions with couples where one of them ends up saying some variation of “I didn’t know.” Whether that is “I didn’t know you were so unhappy,” or “I didn’t know we were in such a bad place” or even “I didn’t know I was so miserable.” Sometimes this realization comes after a life-changing circumstance comes to light such as infidelity, addiction, financial betrayal, etc. Sometimes the realization comes too late and the relationship ends. While there are multiple issues and patterns that can leave a partner or partners in the dark, I would like to recommend one tool that can help to increase emotional connection and a couple’s ability to truly know each other: frequent check-ins. Continue reading
By Lisa Rosen
Have you ever heard of Charles James II? He is a cornerback for the Houston Texans. I recently read an article he wrote called “Heart Over Height.” His story might not “fit” the normal NFL or Hollywood storyline, but he is an amazing example for the rest of us.
Charles is only 5’9” and 175 pounds – outside of the traditional mold of an NFL player. He attended a small school. You have probably never heard of it. Charleston Southern University. If you look up “Charleston Southern University Football” on Wikipedia and go to the heading, “Notable Former Players,” you will see one – Charles James II. When he spoke of his future in the NFL, people laughed at him. He was a small player from a small school. He had no shot.
As he attempted to make it to the NFL, he was criticized, doubted, and rejected. Continue reading