Welcome to my weekly message page!
I plan to post something weekly that I hope will be helpful to clients or other site visitors.
5/27/20 Mind Control
If you are experiencing fears, possibly even fears that at some level you know are irrational, you are not alone.
Our thoughts have a deeply profound impact on our emotional state; how we are feeling. One of the things that can be very helpful when you are dealing with fears, is to do a deeper dive. Digging into the details related to our fears. This is at the heart of cognitive therapy. Often just saying your thoughts out loud (especially to a neutral person) causes the fears to lose power.
It can also be very helpful to explore the evidence that supports your fears (this is usually easy), and then explore the other side, the evidence that does not totally support your fears (this is much more challenging). Then you can craft a more balanced statement that combines the evidence from both perspectives. It is amazing how much less fear we can experience when we get connected to a more rational and balanced thought.
The next time you are feeling anxious / fearful about something try it out. Writing the evidence and thoughts out can really help too. If this does not help, it's probably time to contact a therapist.
5/20/20 Awareness is the First Step of all Change and Growth
I am hearing a lot of clients report they are noticing that they are getting irritated, angry, or shouting at their kids more. Some say they are biting their nails more or turning to alcohol more. When I hear this, I say "Good!" That usually gets their attention and stirs curiosity.
Then I go on to explain my belief that noticing these things is a good thing. When we have awareness about our thoughts, feelings and actions we then have a wonderful opportunity to choose something different. Maybe we choose to think about things differently (less extremely or pessimistically). Maybe we choose a different behavior (possibly a healthier one). Maybe we choose to communicate differently (possibly in a more respectful way).
I believe awareness is really the start of all change and growth. Without awareness, we are really unlikely to make changes in our life. I think this is at the heart of the counseling process. Therapy provides the dedicated time and structure to look at our lives strategically with awareness. Self-awareness is a powerful thing. It can provide an impetus to make changes to help us live more peaceful, joy-filled lives. Other-awareness, being able to pick up the cues other people are putting out so that we have a deeper understanding of what might be going on in their inner world can also lead to better relationships.
The next time you notice one of your thoughts, reactions or feelings, think "Good, now I have the power to make a choice about how I want to proceed!"
This pandemic situation reminds me of a maxim that resonates with me. It is the humanistic / postmodern perspective that perception is reality. Now I do believe there are some absolute truths, but I would be reluctant to espouse them. Here is a quote from the person considered the father of counseling, Carl Rogers. "The only reality I can possibly know is the world as I perceive and experience it at this moment. The only reality you can possibly know is the world as you perceive and experience it at this moment. And the only certainty is that those perceived realities are different."5/13/20 Perception is Reality vs. Reality TV
We all see the world (including this pandemic) through our own lens. How could we possibly see it differently? Our paradigm is a natural extension of our: gender, age, birth order, ethnicity, race, religious or spiritual beliefs, education, socio-economic status, geographic location / origin, values, career choice, relationship status, and all the other stuff including traumatic and wonderful life experiences.
The question for me is, can I honor my perspective (reality) without dismissing yours? Can I hold my truth and allow others to do the same?
I also believe we are a better society when we appreciate, respect and make policies informed by this diversity!
5/7/20 Sporadic Sunshine
My view of light at then end of this pandemic tunnel keeps coming and going like sunshine in spring.
Just when I thought I was seeing the light of hope and optimism about less lockdown, I see new dire predictions about a secondary spike, or waves of spikes related to contamination and death. What started out as shocking predictions about a month ago of maybe 250.000 deaths in the US, started going down to as low as 60,000 and now are back up to about 135,000 predicted deaths by early August.
It feels like I'm on an information and emotional roller-coaster!
Here is one thing I think I know. Nobody knows! All the best minds, even with technology and science don't seem to be able to accurately predict what we are in for. That's unsettling. We like certainty. It feels good to know. What I also am witnessing is our human desire to make the uncertain, certain. It's a defense coping mechanism. Even in the absence of great supporting evidence, it feels really good to "fool ourselves" into a belief in certainty and to tell the world "'the truth" about a situation. It is comforting, and gives us peace. Without certainty, even just feigned or perceived certainty, we feel anxious, helpless and hopeless. What we often fail to recognize is that it's just our truth. Our perspective. Our reality. And this truth is different for everyone.
This feels vulnerable, but I'm ready to broadcast my perspective. I have no idea what the right answers are! My truth is somewhere in the middle of the polar opposite perspectives I hear.
I am watching for data, evidence, expert opinions and divine or laws of nature signs to guide my behavioral choices and I hope everyone will be less self-righteous and more compassionate about other's opinions and choices.
Be well, be peaceful and please be tolerant and compassionate during this pandemic uncertainty.
4/29/20 Let There Be Light!
Ok, we are certainly not out of the darkness yet, but I think I am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.
Or, am I hallucinating from isolation?
It appears to me the curve is flattening. In some areas of the country (including our area) it seems we may be at the beginning of the downward side of the curve. It looks like our health systems are not being overwhelmed to the point where decisions about who will get ventilators and who won't are happening (as feared). Officials and organizations are making plans to reopen things. The stock market has rebounded. People, including officials seem to be ready to start taking some chances again, balancing all risks (Covid and non-Covid related).
I am ready. I miss my friends and extended family. I miss my clients who have not been comfortable with or able to do tele-health sessions. I miss being out in our community. I am ready to see my son interacting with his friends more.
It is probably too early to abandon all social distancing, and it's likely too early to throw a big party to celebrate, but I do sense a brighter future.
Let there be light!
4/22/20 Pandemic Prophesy
No I'm not making predictions about an end to this.
I have no crystal ball.
I am however starting to experience an intuitive hunch that things are on the verge of getting back a little closer to "normal".
The sense I get, from listening to others including health and economic "experts" is that this is all about balancing risk vs. reward, or cost vs. benefit, and that things are about to begin opening up some.
This is literally a metaphor for all choices in our life isn't it?
I am also noticing how emotionally-charged and politically divisive this topic is. People seem to be divided mostly along political lines and strongly believe their party perspective is "right" and the other side is "crazy"!
When should we start opening things back up and be more social? From my perspective this calls for careful exploration of all the best available data and coming to some balanced decision that considers all the likely costs and benefits. I have found what is usually the best choice for me in my life is something in the middle. I find the polar extremes of any issue are not typically my healthiest (most balanced) choices.
I sincerely hope people and especially our leaders can set aside some of their partisan bias and make decisions during this crisis that are balanced.
Be safe, be well, be balanced.
4/16/20 Pandemic Ponderings
This is surreal.
So much change, so fast. So much uncertainty about the future.
When will things get back to something similar to my previous "normal" life?
No one knows!
Here is what I think is true for me.
At times I feel scared and overwhelmed about all the unknown possible bad things that could happen.
I often feel the tug to watch the news, catch up on the stats or do something else (to feel like I have more control).
I have also noticed many good things during this bad time.
My life is slower, with less busyness. I am spending more quality time with the people I live with. This has resulted in deeper, more meaningful connection. I appreciate things more, especially other people in my life (I think because of my increased awareness that I could lose them). My increased awareness about death, especially my death, has increased my faith in a higher power. It has increased my awareness about my illusion of control.
It is easy to fall victim to our intrusive thoughts and fears and to resign ourselves to them being beyond our control.
The reality is, with awareness we have choices.
Choices about what we notice, how we think about things and how we spend our time.
There are healthy choices and unhealthy ones.
I am trying to chose ones that increase my physical and mental well being. Things like: relationship development, self-care, learning, exercise, healthy eating and sleeping, and strategic (longer time horizon) efforts like acquiring the capability to work with clients using video therapy technology.
What are you choosing?
Be well. Be safe. Choose wisely!