So maybe I'll never have THESE moves...
"The devil's a liar! Don't listen to him! There are angels all around you!"
No, these weren't the words belted out across the pews at a church on a Sunday morning. This was inspiration found in a weekday funk dance class.
I'd decided to try an intriguing new class, CardioFunk, offered at my local gym. Scanning the others in the studio, it was clear that I wasn't going to be the only one relatively new to this style. There's something about dancing that can bring out insecurities and self-consciousness, making an otherwise capable adult feel as vulnerable as a gangly teen at a school formal.
Luckily, the instructor was onto us. Milo had enough experience teaching hip hop to suburbanites to know that we just might be feeling, well, a touch un-cool. That's when he started with the verbal support.
"Don't listen to that voice that's bringing you down. That's the devil and he's a liar! Let loose and dance like you're alone at home."
Milo's words were enthusiastic enough to override the negative thoughts that were threatening to derail our fun. His message was clear: the more you just go for it, the more confident you'll look and feel. I often use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques in my counseling work. I know how powerful our thoughts can be in affecting our feelings. Who knew I'd be reminded of a principle of psychology in my morning gym class? Thank you, Milo, for guiding us out of our heads and onto the dance floor.
Our lives get busy and, before we know it, we're already turning the corner to a new year. The winter season is a good reminder to slow down, reflect, and take a moment to appreciate that which has meaning in our lives. The new year is also a time of renewed hope, providing us with motivation to recommit to our goals. Mindfulness, or, being fully present in the moment, is a way to savor the experiences that define our lives. In this festive season, I hope you take the opportunity to feel and express gratitude for where you've been, where you're going, and for those who have shared joyfully in your journey.
Wishing you a beautiful new year,
Have you been wanting to come to couples counseling for months, even years, but haven’t yet made the appointment? If so, you are not alone. Many couples try to work out their problems on their own, often resulting in painful arguments and frustrating stalemates. Other couples take what seems like the path of least resistance: ignoring their problems and living like strangers under the same roof. This “blinders on” approach may reduce conflict initially, but underneath the surface, tensions are mounting. So, what is stopping some of these once-happy couples from seeking help with their relationship? Worrying about being labeled “the bad partner” can be a barrier.
No one wants to feel shamed. And why should they? If a member of a couple is afraid of being singled out as solely responsible for the conflict, of course they would be resistant to counseling. Let’s acknowledge that couples are a system. Even if the presenting issue is infidelity, for example, it did not occur in a vacuum. This does not mean that breaking the agreed-to relationship rules is okay, or that the non-adulterous partner is to blame. What it does mean, however, is that the couples session is a blame-free zone, and a place to focus on how to strengthen the relationship. Ideally, the therapist creates a safe space for the couple to share their feelings with each other, exploring together what went awry, how and if trust can be re-established, and ways to eventually move forward. Judgment (on the part of the therapist) has no place in couples counseling. No sides are taken. The spotlight shines on how to improve communication and the dynamics of the relationship.
If worry over being labeled “the problem one” in a relationship has been keeping you from seeking help, don’t allow it to be a barrier any longer. Asking for support in improving your relationship skills takes courage and shows your commitment to making things between the two of you even better. Call me at 949-648-7991 to schedule an appointment now and get started on getting back that strong connection with your partner.
What comes to mind when you think about parents and kids sitting down for a difficult conversation? Most people might envision parents having a heart-to-heart with their teen about the birds and the bees or substance abuse. But what if the kids are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s, and the topics they want to discuss include whether or not mom should turn over the keys to the car for good or what happens if dad has a stroke and needs long term care?
Family dynamics and communication styles play a large role in how these talks will proceed. If lines of communication were never transparent in a family, it’s likely that approaching an aging parent will be more challenging. Moving, money, health, and driving are commonly the trickiest topics to discuss with older adults (D’Aprix, 2010). This is due to the fact that, often, the parent is concerned about losing autonomy and shifting into a more dependent role. For decades, they’ve been the ones in charge of their own finances, home, and lifestyle, and often see no reason to cede control to their children. Adult children, however, may be worried about their parents’ safety and wellbeing, yet be uncomfortable transitioning to a caregiving role.
While broaching the tough topics with aging parents may be challenging, there are some methods that can help. Talking to parents before a health setback or other crisis occurs is paramount. Choose a calm, quiet, appropriate time and place to start a dialogue, and gauge if both you and your parent is in a relaxed mindset to have a discussion. These talks don’t have to be drawn out; twenty minutes is fine. Be sure to continue to keep talking at regular intervals. To avoid a power struggle, make the goal of the talks clear: maximizing the independence of the aging parent (Edmonds, 2012). The safer, healthier, and more financially organized the parent is, the longer the parent will be able to maintain the maximum autonomy. You, as the adult child, are there to assist and support this goal as long as safely feasible.
D’Aprix, A. (2010, November 17). Challenges of communication between older adults [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com /watch?v=b1sLvrTlaUo
Edmonds, D.S. (2006-2012). Talk to elderly parents about the future. Retrieved July 25, 2012, from http://www.talk-early-talk-often.com/talk-to-elderly.html
Julie simply couldn’t believe her ears. Considering herself a good friend, she had agreed to help with Barbara’s birthday party and be in charge of bringing the cupcakes. The afternoon before the party, Barbara had called in a panic. “Julie! I’m so glad I reached you. About the cupcakes: I need enough for 180 people and I need them to be vegan.”
Though dumbfounded by the nerve of Barbara to make such a demand, Julie took pride in her considerable ability to solve problems and come through for a friend in need. Though her gut told her that this was above and beyond a reasonable request, she called every bakery within a 20-mile radius and finally found one that could fill the last-minute order.
Fast-forward to two years later. Barbara is now engaged to be married and has asked Julie to be in the bridal party…and to do all of the floral arrangements. Could Julie do it all? Could she plan a shower, a bachelorette party, and coordinate the flowers? Of course she could! She is capable, organized, and naturally prone to saying yes when friends ask for help. This time, however, Julie stopped to listen to that nagging feeling that this was just too much. She took a beat, reflected on her resentment over the cupcake crisis, and remembered to listen to what she wanted. In a nutshell, Julie decided to take what felt like a risk, and put her own needs above those of Barbara. She uttered the magic word: “no.”
It was a qualified “no.” Julie realized that because she loves working with flowers, she would be genuinely happy to take on the role of florist for her friend’s celebration. But she was able to muster her courage, take a chance that Barbara would be hurt or angry, and say that she would not be able to take over the party-coordinating duties expected of a maid-of-honor.
If Barbara was upset, she did not show it. Julie felt relieved and deservedly proud of herself for identifying and prioritizing her own comfort zone. Ultimately, Julie’s choice to set boundaries resulted in a closer bond between the two women. Julie’s resentment dissipated and her own feelings of self-esteem blossomed.
Does Julie’s story resonate with you? Have you ever found yourself blind-sided by a demanding friend, only to kick yourself later for having given in? Here are three things that you can do to become for comfortable with setting boundaries:
1. Slow down. In the rush to solve someone else’s problem, you might say yes to something you are truly not comfortable with. By not responding right away, you give yourself time to check in with your own feelings. If someone makes a request that doesn’t immediately sit right with you, honor your intuition by taking the time to mull it over. Consider saying something like “I’m not sure about that. Let me think about it and get back to you.”
2. Don’t beat yourself up. In life, we have many opportunities to learn new things about ourselves. Julie may have over-extended herself with the vegan cupcakes, but learned from the situation and altered her behavior when it came to Barbara’s wedding. There is always another chance to change how you respond to others.
3. Tolerate ambiguity and stick to your values. Saying “no” can feel risky. You may not be sure if you’ll lose a friend or upset an acquaintance. In the end, Barbara’s reaction was not in Julie’s control. Julie could only control her own choices and behavior. Julie’s growth came in recognizing and following her own inner guidance and remaining true to herself. And that tasted sweeter than any vegan cupcake ever could.
Marnee Reiley, Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern, works with clients in finding their authentic voice, setting comfortable boundaries, and enhancing self-esteem. Learn more at www.YourOCTherapist.com.
It’s that time of year again. Graduation time. The greeting card section at your local drugstore is overflowing with ways to express congratulations to that soon-to-be graduate. But this year it’s different. This year, it’s your child that’s the one going out in the world, flying the coop, embarking on a new path.
It’s a hopeful time, a time of new beginnings. So, amidst this joy, why is there a nagging sense of sadness? Isn’t this the natural order of things? Shouldn’t we be happy to see our children grow and leave home to start their own lives?
If this ambivalence sounds familiar, don’t worry. It’s natural to feel conflicted. On one hand, you’re proud of having successfully shepherded this young adult to become the person they are. But their impending departure means that things are changing. Your role as a parent is shifting. What this signals is an adjustment in the way you see your relationship, not only with your child, but also with yourself. It’s not uncommon for parents to use the term “grieving” to describe how it feels when their child moves out.
Here are seven tips to help cope with the empty nest transition:
1. Ask yourself: “How much of my identity revolves around being a parent?” Follow that up with the question: “What are some parts of myself that are independent from my being a parent?” Writing down your answers in a journal can help you sift through difficult emotions and aid in self-exploration.
3. Be patient with yourself. Life transitions take time. Acknowledge and validate your feelings. Since the “launch” of a child into adulthood is the expected course, some friends may not empathize with your complex feelings. Seek out others who have been in this situation and understand what you’re going through.
4. Take stock of the context of this transition. Are there any other big changes in your life that are happening now? Menopause? Retirement? Aging parents that are requiring your attention? Additional losses can compound our already raw feelings and lead us to feel overwhelmed.
5. Set achievable goals and create a plan of action. What did you always promise yourself you’d do once the kids were out of the house? Dust off those dreams and take small steps towards achieving them.
6. Hold off on making any big decisions. Now may not be the time to spontaneously quit your job or sell the house on a whim. Wait until you are on a more even keel to decide on whether or not to make big shifts.
6. If you are married or have a partner, redefine your relationship with your significant other. Can you allow yourself to imagine that this might be the most fulfilling time yet? Share your feelings with your partner, and, together, create a vision of how you two can focus on enhancing your relationship.
7. If you feel overwhelmed and would benefit from some additional support, consider counseling. While this may be a time of jumbled emotion, there is hope that you’ll make it through this transition and even thrive.
Marnee Reiley is a Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern (IMF 61489) who brings empathy, humor, and warmth to her collaborative work with couples and individual therapy clients in Orange County. Marnee is certified in Grief and Bereavement Counseling and is honored to support clients through times of adjustment to change and life transitions. Marnee can be reached at 949-222-6681 or YourOCTherapist@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @YourOCTherapist. For more information, please visit YourOCTherapist.com. Supervised at Journey Coaching and Counseling Services by Dr. Paul True, MFC 42710.
I love this poem by Rumi and wanted to share it with you. To me, it speaks to radical acceptance of what is. Rather than push away our feelings and try to deny them, welcome them. The more quickly we acknowledge them, difficult as they might be, the more quickly we can integrate and process them. They're there for a reason. Invite them in.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
(The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)
A month ago I posted a short blog entry entitled "Couples: Five Ways to Enhance Your Relationship TODAY." Continuing on that theme, here are five more ways to strengthen the bond with your partner and bring even more closeness into your relationship.
1. Share Your Gratitude List. Take a few moments, perhaps cuddled on the couch together, to take turns sharing five things for which you're each grateful. Go even further by making this a regular ritual.
2. Get Out of A Rut. Does the television come on every night after dinner? Try shaking up your routine by taking a walk around the block with your partner instead, or playing a board game. Activities like these spark conversation and encourage connection.
3. Exhibit Curiosity About Each Other. What's something new you could learn about your partner today? Maybe it's something from the past such as a stand-out childhood memory. Perhaps it's something in the future like a five-year goal or fantasy career path. There's always something new to explore about your partner's inner world.
4. Share Meals Together. While this might be difficult due to conflicting schedules, make a commitment to eating together as often as possible. Sitting down to dinner together is an opportunity to hear about your partner's day and to share yours as well. No time this week? Set the alarm for a half an hour earlier in the morning to connect over a cup of coffee.
5. Have a New Experience As a Team. Doing something new can be energizing and invigorating on an individual level, and the same is true in a relationship. Imagine what would it feel like to take a rafting trip with your partner and conquer the rapids as a team. Closer to home, you and your partner could volunteer a few hours at a soup kitchen. Result? A shared positive experience of giving to others.
What other ideas can you think of to enhance the feelings of closeness with your partner?
By Marnee Reiley, Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
There could be a whole host of reasons why you’re delaying seeking therapy. Maybe you, like many of us, lead a busy life and are not sure where you’ll find the time for a weekly session. Perhaps you’re concerned about how much it’s going to cost and if it’ll be worth the investment. It could be that you are afraid that painful emotions are going to be stirred up that you’d rather not face just yet. Or, you might have heard some rumors about what therapy is and you’re skeptical that it’s for you.
Yes, these really are tough barriers to overcome. And, maybe you’re just not ready. That’s okay, too. It can take a lot of courage to seek help and can be difficult to motivate yourself to do something new. But let’s address those pesky rumors, at least. That’s one thing we can do together today to break down a roadblock.
Myth #1: Going to Therapy Means There’s Something Wrong with Me.
While some people still think there’s a stigma surrounding the idea of going to therapy, this attitude is on the decline. In fact, therapy can be a source of pride that you are caring for yourself and growing. Look at going to counseling as taking care of your mental health, just like you might see a doctor on a regular basis for preventative maintenance.
While people with severe psychoses are often under the care of a mental health professional, the typical client in a private practice setting is, more likely, someone looking for growth, assistance with issues, or support with difficult feelings and emotions. Of course, everyone is different and people seek therapy for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s for long-lasting trauma and more severe issues. Sometimes it’s for extra support while going through a life transition like a divorce or death of a loved one. Other times, it can be to improve communication skills and enhance your relationship with others. All of these issues may be addressed by the same client throughout the course of his or her life.
Myth #2: Therapy means talking about how my parents messed me up.
While therapists are generally well-versed in various techniques, every counselor is different in which ways they conceptualize their work. Some therapists may prefer to focus attention on the past in order to identify and work with family of origin patterns that can help identify some of the thought processes today. For example, have you ever assumed things are “right” just because that’s how you grew up, but you’ve never given much thought to why or challenged these thoughts? Looking at the past can give us clues and hints to aid us in the present and, thereby, improve our future. On the other side of the spectrum, some therapists might not choose to spend a lot of time in session looking back through time. The bulk of their focus might be in the “here and now.” Therapy is such a personalized experience, however, that most therapists are able to adjust to the needs of the client and display flexibility in their approach. In any case, the good news is that you, as the client, are ultimately in control of your own therapy. While it might be appropriate at some point to gently challenge your comfort level, you can choose what to work on now and what to leave for later.
Myth #3: Therapy is someone giving me advice.
Giving advice usually doesn’t tend to work so well. In fact, it can put us on the defensive and turn us off. After all, who likes to be told what to do? There might be exceptions to this if there were an acute crisis where the therapist had to be more directive than usual to keep you safe. However, therapy at its best is a collaborative effort with both the therapist and the client working towards a healthier tomorrow. Ultimately, the therapist can’t do the work for you; you are the one responsible for making positive changes and doing the hard work of introspection.
Myth #4: Therapy is only useful in times of crisis.
An acute event can be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” and lead someone to seek counseling. This personal crisis could be a couple filing for divorce, the death of a family member, or the loss of a job, for example. Therapy in these times of intense pain can provide the support that you need to help you cope to the best of your abilities. Periods of great emotional distress, however, are not the only times that therapy can be of help. Often, when a person seeks counseling during a calmer period in their life, he or she is able to delve deeper into self-awareness. When we are not forced to focus on just getting through the day, we have more freedom to explore other issues that might have been on the backburner. You can look at it like cleaning your house; your most pressing needs might be to do dishes, the vacuuming and the laundry. When those are taken care of you have time for the extras like polishing the silver.
The decision to seek the help of a therapist is a very personal choice. Taking the steps to concentrate on your personal growth and mental health is commendable. Hopefully, now, myths about counseling won’t stand in your way.