Emotional Rent – How much are you paying?

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Have you ever felt like you’re in a relationship where you have to pay emotional rent? It’s a relationship where you may get some of your needs met, but it comes at a cost of putting up with a variety of difficulties like passive-aggressive guilt trips, controlling behaviors, entitlement, manipulation, etc.

Can you really afford that kind of rent?

If you need help dealing with this, please get in touch.

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Complex Emotions

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When discussing embarrassment, according to the American Psychological Association’s Kristen Weir (APA, 2012),

“Embarrassment is what’s known as a self-conscious emotion. While basic emotions such as anger, surprise or fear tend to happen automatically, without much cognitive processing, the self-conscious emotions, including shame, guilt, and pride, are more complex. They require self-reflection and self-evaluation.”

For the purposes of this post, it is the self-reflection and self-evaluation part that defines the Complex Emotions. I should add that when we combine more ...

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Dyad & Compound Emotions

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Humans are very complex emotional beings. We are capable of far more than only the core/basic emotions. We can combine emotions that create entirely new internal experiences. We can process those emotions with a wide variety of thoughts, which feedback into the emotional experience, and can even alter it. And believe it or not, our emotions are stored in more places than just our brain! When we are stressed out, our back, neck, and shoulder muscles become tense. And ...

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Core Emotions

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There are a variety of models of emotional experience that identify different core, or basic emotions. I will give a broad overview of the model that most closely matches my basic approach to how we build our emotional experience: Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. Plutchik went far beyond this overview by asserting postulates that govern our emotional experiences. I do not cover these, nor will I delve into the definitions of primary, secondary and tertiary.

Plutchik went far beyond this overview by ...

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The Emotional Experience Series

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Over the next several weeks, I will be publishing a series of posts about our emotional experience. Some of the information will be based on currently published research, some will be based on my understanding of the implications of that research and the directions we should pursue moving forward. Due to the vast nature of the subject matter, there is no way I can cover all of the information available on each topic, but I will give a broad overview. ...

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Without Movement, There’s No Momentum

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Think about a spinning ceiling fan. When you turn off the fan, does it just stop? Probably not . . . it has momentum and continues to spin until that momentum is exhausted. In the same way that some negative emotional experiences take time to unwind after the negative event, being able to move forward with greater ease sometimes requires momentum. Let’s look at a common example: Exercise

When we talk about healthy lifestyle habits, like exercise, we can understand these ...

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Where to turn when you can’t even see which way is up

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I’m not just talking about a Murphy’s Law day. I’m talking about when things feel so messed up in your life that even deciding where to start feels impossible and is just another to-do on your already insanely long to-do list. When the people you turn to just aren’t there, or you realize that you’ve already isolated yourself and there’s really nobody to turn to. It’s a terribly lonely place, but there is a way out.

I tell clients that ...

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Loving-kindness Practice

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Ever seen that bumper-sticker that reads, “Practice random acts of kindness and beauty”? That’s a Loving-Kindness practice.  So is the idea of “paying it forward,” where you do something nice for somebody else when somebody does something nice for you–you send the nice act to another person, then they send it to another, and so on.

If “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” (–Gandhi), Imagine what paying Loving-Kindness forward does . . . especially if you do ...

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Cruel to be Kind Doesn’t Mean be Brutal

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There are times when the truth hurts, and the kindest thing we can do is be honest. Sometimes, people take that to mean that brutal honesty is the way to go. In most cases, that is the furthest thing from the truth! When you are being honest as a way to prevent things like false hope, enabling addictions, etc., there is no reason for to be brutal. The common metaphor we hear explaining this is that it is kinder to ...

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How to Help Teenage Anxiety

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Like depression in teens, teenage anxiety is a pretty common experience for adolescents. Whether it’s the jitters when it’s time to get in front of the class to present a report or the butterflies that show up when talking to that cute gal or guy in the lunchroom, it’s a pretty universal experience. But it’s not this simple for some teenagers.

Anxiety can be debilitating and actually lead to a very real depression. I remember the first time I asked ...

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Help! Teenage Depression!

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Most parents understand teenage angst, the sometimes obnoxious independence and defiance, even seemingly random outbursts of anger and frustration over minor annoyances (well, it’s minor to the adult . . . to a teen, it often feels like a major issue).

If we look at “problematic” issues in teenagers as a pile of dirt (I know, there are other metaphors . . . ), the first 6 feet of that pile is totally normal and nothing to worry about. If you ...

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Romantic Anxiety: Fear of Relationships

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When it comes to dating and romantic intimacy, all anxieties are not exactly the same; they’re certainly related in a variety of ways, but the different forms of romantic anxiety each have distinct differences. Just to name a few of these fears:

  1. Fear of connection (related to Social Anxiety)
    1. Associated fears: commitment, affection/intimacy, loss of independence, of being loved/accepted, being overwhelmed
  2. Fear of performance
    1. Associated fears: having to work too hard, failure, sexual performance, making a mistake in who you pick
  3. Fear of being hurt ...
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Pain is a Feeling . . . Suffering is a Thought

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Pain and suffering are not the same. Consider this for a moment. When you stub your toe, you feel pain physically. Suffering, however, is what happens in your head when you judge the pain, the situation, your clumsiness, or even the sidewalk itself! We’ve all done it . . . “that %*&&## stupid sidewalk!” Of course, the sidewalk is just being a sidewalk; it’s not stupid or trying to hurt you! But in that moment of suffering, your thoughts go ...

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Extracting Rejection

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Similar to Anticipatory Rejection, which happens before a situation occurs, one ‘extracts’ rejection after a something has already happened, and where the facts would show overt approval or acceptance. Usually, if there actually is rejection, mindfulness-based counseling will help you learn to not take it personally as the rejection is more about the other person’s tastes than about who you are.

I often use a food example to depersonalize this a bit: Think of a food you really ...

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Anticipatory Rejection

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Anticipatory rejection is a when you are so convinced that you will be rejected (or denied something) that you reject the other person before they have a chance to accept or reject you! It is an example of emotional masochism. By definition, anticipatory rejection occurs before something actually happens, whereas extracting rejection happens after a situation has occurred.

It’s one thing to read negativity into something somebody says when you’re having one of those Murphy’s Law days where everything is ...

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Is Choice an Illusion?

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Philosophically, choices can present us with a bit of a conundrum: Since we do what we’ve done, was there ever really a choice? Are we truly masters of our own destiny, or are our lives pre-determined somehow?

Some say that choice is an illusion . . . a false sense of control provided by the egoic mind in an attempt to maintain its perceived separateness from everything else—to keep its individuality—it’s sense of ‘self-ness.’ They call it an illusion because whatever ...

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When Defensive Denial Announces Truth

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“The Lady doth protest too much”

Shakespeare was a genius. In this quote from Hamlet, he delivers the essence of defensive denial announcing one’s true feelings that are contrary to what they are actually saying. In other words, when the Lady protested too much, everybody saw right through her.

“I’m NOT an alcoholic!!”

A charged proclamation of not having a problem often announces the problem. It’s not that denying always something makes the opposite true; it’s more that emotionally charged, vehement, LOUD proclamations ...

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Approach/Avoid; Inhibit/Excite

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These are some basic mechanisms that the brain works on: Approach or avoid, and inhibit or excite. And it is more complex than what it may seem. Activating something can slow things down, and inhibiting something can speed things up. We also have excitatory & inhibitory neurotransmitters that bind with excitatory & inhibitory neurons, which in turn make the post-synaptic neurons more or less likely to fire, thus creating some of the aforementioned approach/avoid dynamics of human behavior; it’s all ...

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Mindfulness & Balanced Efficiency

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When we think of efficiency, we tend to imagine something that requires the least amount of effort to obtain maximal results. In Positive Psychology, there is an idea called Flow Theory that is based on a premise of balancing traits to enter the “flow zone.” The gist of flow theory is that when balanced, skill and challenge yield a timeless, almost meditative state called flow. But skill and challenge in sports, video games, and music instruments are not ...

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Bullying

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Bullying. Not as simple as you think.

When I was growing up, bullying was face-to-face pushing and shoving, maybe some rumors, perhaps intimidating phone calls. Those were bad enough, but it was a little easier to take care of the situation. Now we have not only the physical and psychological bullying but now we have “cyber-bullying.”

I should mention that it is not just children and teenagers that get bullied; adults of all ages also experience intimidation and bullying both in their ...

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Anticipatory Anxiety

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Ever get nervous about becoming uncomfortably anxious before you’re even in the anxiety-provoking situation? It’s like looking over your shoulder, wondering when your boss is going to catch you surfing the internet at work because you know that you’ll get in trouble for it. Anticipatory anxiety is not exactly classic fear though; it is more of a meta-fear, or ‘fear of fear.’ And while you may have seen terms like “Anticipatory Anxiety Disorder,” it is not so much of a ...

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Basics of the Mind

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The mind is a complex process involving urges, thoughts, and drives that lead to behaviors that are either encouraged or discouraged though either pleasant experience or unpleasant experience. To understand how this vastly oversimplified explanation leads us to be who we are, let’s look at some of the basic processes involved.

Every unconscious thought (UT’s) has a set of possible conscious thoughts (CT’s) that may bubble up. It follows that every conscious thought has a set of possible behaviors (Bx’s) that ...

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Anticipatory Grief (pre-grief)

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Anticipatory grief, or pre-grief, happens when we know when in advance that we are going to lose something or someone that we care about. It may be due to a terminal illness of a loved one, an impending job loss, loss of a relationship or even knowing that we are going to move. In these cases, the grief still hurts and takes time to heal from, but the advance notice gives us a chance to wrap up loose ends, to ...

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Negative Thought Spirals

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Ever notice that during stressful times you are more likely to fall into negative thought spirals? These are those self-perpetuating cycles of thought that basically leave you feeling worse than when you began (Eckhart Tolle calls these ‘pain body’). . . And oddly enough, as painful as they are, you seem drawn to them (i.e. can’t shut them up). Examples include: Sitting on the pity pot (feeling sorry for yourself), beating yourself up for mistakes, what if’s, borrowing trouble, etc. ...

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Meditation

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You’ve probably seen meditation in the news over the past few years. It is an empirically validated practice that changes your brain structure, chemistry, and functioning. And it’s not about an empty mind . . . it is actually a mindfulness practice.

It is possible to find moments of peace. And it is possible to train your brain to remain calm during stressful times. You can practice this calmness and mindfulness just as you would practice basketball, chess, music, etc. ...

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Living Life vs Living Death

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When you are simply living life as a way to avoid death, then you are living your death, not your life. That can become a chronic condition at a very deep unconscious level. As a matter of fact, it is well-accepted in many schools of thought that most of our anxieties are somehow rooted in a basic, primal fear of death, or of the process of dying. This is an existential approach to suffering, and with a mindfulness ...

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Brain Science

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Brain science (neuroscience) involves the physical structure of the brain, its biochemistry, and experiences that help shape it. A brain repeatedly subjected to trauma (physical or emotional/chemical) is more likely to suffer some difficulty. Some, but not all, of the major players of brain function are:

Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that transmit information from one neuron to another across a gap called a “synapse.” Common neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and glutamate. Well over 100 have been identified, and ...

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Post Election Irritability

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Election anxiety has been in local and national media recently. And it’s a very good discussion to read up on. But I’d like address another troublesome dynamic that has reared its head this year more than any other year in my memory: Election irritability. Friendships are being strained, marriages are being thrown into chaos, even job sites turned into verbal boxing rings where management struggles to keep people focused on doing their jobs, not to mention doing them well. This ...

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The Authentic Self and Change

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Authenticity means truly being real with yourself, then with others. Most of us carry around a persona, or a mask, that we want people to see. But that persona blocks our authentic self from showing. If we think of truth as being light, then the persona blocks the light and casts a shadow. The “shadow self” is a collection of the traits that we have disowned. In the darkness, they are free to roam around the deep crevices in our ...

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Skepticism is not pessimism

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People often confuse skepticism with pessimism. While they both share a certain quality of questioning what is in front of us, neither is healthy in excess. A healthy balance, leaning towards optimism, is typically a great formula for happiness.

Let’s take a look and the differences, and why skepticism can be healthier when leveraged mindfully to counterbalance pessimism.

When we question something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are being stubborn or negative. It simply means that we are engaging in a ...

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Anticipatory Defensiveness

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First, we should differentiate between plain old defensiveness and anticipatory defensiveness. They share a certain vibe of irritability and protectiveness, but they are certainly different, and seem to come from different places: One defending what is, the other defending what we think will be, but isn’t yet here (except in our minds where we’ve already decided what’s going to happen).

When we become irritated or annoyed at something someone has said to us, and often about us or what we are ...

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Holiday blues

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You probably remember the ‘summertime blues’ from your school days. While most people are aware of the holiday blues, it doesn’t seem to be as normalized. Yet they seem to be far worse for many. There are reasons for this, and in many cases, they compound each other. But there is a way to counter this . . . but first, we need to identify the potential issues (Some solutions are further down in the post, I promise).

You’re strolling through ...

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Grieving an unfair loss

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Balancing the anger and sadness of an unfair loss can feel impossible, especially in the beginning. First, breathe and understand that this will pass even though it does not feel like it. Before going any further, if you are unsure, please get in touch so we can spend a few minutes on the phone to help get you back on track.

While it feels like no loss is ever “fair,” I think we can all agree that when a 99-year-old ...

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Compassion is not pity

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Compassion is often called the highest form of love. Pick any noble spiritual tradition and you’ll see compassion as a direct expression of love. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and so forth all teach compassion for all things and beings. It’s a beautiful teaching to practice.

But somewhere along the way, we got our wires crossed with compassion and pity. Pity is when you feel sorry for somebody. Even the grammar of “feeling sorry for” somebody highlights this. When you tell somebody that ...

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Teenagers & Ostriches

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Avoidance in teenagers can be infuriating, but try to remember that the impulse control center of the brain is not done developing until about age 25 (left medial pre-frontal cortex–behind your forehead, slightly to the left).

What’s the first image that pops into your head when you think, “Ostrich?” It’s probably either an image of one running, pecking at somebody or a cartoon of an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand.

Because teenagers are brand new, growing adults, they are ...

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How to be healthy

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Self-love leads you to health. It is a cornerstone of change. You are allowed to make things about yourself, particularly when looking to become more healthy. If you overlook yourself and focus exclusively on others, including how they perceive you, then you may miss some important nuggets of reality that could help you. You must treat yourself well in order to be healthy. Once you’ve done this, you can truly be available for those you care about.

I use the acronym ...

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Murphy’s Law

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Murphy’s Law says, “What can go wrong, will go wrong . . .”

. . . and at the worst possible time.

Lovely, right? We’ve all had these days, where you get up, stub your toe, put on mismatched socks, forget your phone, run out of gas on the way to work, get yelled at by your boss, bounce a check, then come home and realize you forgot to pick the kids up at after-school care. This is a bit of an ...

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The “Time Trap”

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Time time time, they say it’s everything. It can be the trap, and it can be the key to getting you out of the trap.

You come home from a long day at work, and immediately you are showered with questions, “When’s dinner?” “When are we going to plan that holiday?” “Can you help me with my homework?”

All you can think is, “If I only had 15 minutes to slow down and settle in. . .” And there it is, the ...

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Emotional Confirmation Bias

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When we think of “confirmation bias” we typically think of politics. As voters, confirmation bias is when we hold a particular belief, then selectively look for evidence to support it; this is typically an unconscious process (i.e. we are not aware we are doing it). The problem with this is we miss evidence to the contrary, and therefore, we do not have the complete data.

When it comes to our emotional well-being, confirmation bias is when we hold a belief about ...

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How can counseling help me?

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Counseling helps you be more “real.” This means that you become more aware of your strengths and your weaknesses. The more real you are, the more self-aware you can be. This sets the stage for lasting change.

Because many of the dynamics that cause our suffering are related to our own issues that are sitting in our blind spot, people often wonder how counseling can help them if they aren’t even sure what’s “wrong.” Part of the ...

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What to Expect from Counseling & Therapy

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  • Confidentiality. Everything is private, except as required by law (child/elder abuse, abuse of the disabled, life-threatening danger, etc.)
  • Have conversations that gradually help us get to know and trust each other. Talk about what brought you in, and what your goals are
  • Assess your strengths and the struggles that you’re facing. Tie your solutions to strengths you already have
  • Learn and practice mindfulness to help you see clearly what is happening, and how to find relief
  • Learn to recognize, improvise, and successfully ...
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Wise Mind

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In dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), there is a wonderful explanation of how the best of our thinking and feeling minds can be accessed. This “Wise Mind” is based on the idea that the thinking brain and feeling brain both have validity and can be used to inform each other during difficult times.

Read about Flow-Theory for another take on how Wise Mind is a balance of two dynamics.

The thinking mind does just that: It thinks thoughts. It uses logic, experience, ...

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PTSd and Crisis

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When tragedy strikes, it is rarely expected or planned for. Usually,
it comes in the form of unexpected trauma ranging from natural disasters
such as tornadoes and hurricanes to the unfathomable tragedies of 9-11
terrorism. As human beings, we are equipped to handle these tragedies,
but we must understand that part of what tells us we need help is
intense, and often shocking, distress that follows. If not addressed,
these symptoms (often referred to as Critical Incident Stress or Post
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Value yourself, not your valuables

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Self-worth has nothing to do with your financial or material worth.

When you value yourself based on your possessions, you’re disowning your most important self in exchange for your belongings. Having lots of money and/or lots of valuable things is fine; it’s mixing up your sense of worth with those valuables that become problematic.

A more accurate translation of the saying, “Money is the root of all evil” is, “Attachment to material goods is the root of all suffering” or even more ...

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Finances

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Finances are not the number one reason for suffering . . . it’s attachment to financial or material gain that is the root of suffering.

Money is the number 1 reason for relationship stress (I cover an effective method for how to bank in a relationship further down). And even for people that are single, money is one of the primary reasons that they experience stress. Learning to manage it effectively reduces concern about meeting budget needs, and it also provides ...

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Regret

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We’ve all been there: We had a rotten day and we were at the end of our rope. And when a loved one asks us for an innocent favor, we snap at them only to feel terrible later when we cool off and realize they were not trying to take us for granted. It’s that sinking feeling that is often accompanied by embarrassment . . . regret or guilt. They are closely related.

Words like guilt and blame tend to imply ...

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Getting Started on Change

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For years I couldn’t figure out what was stopping me from getting in better shape. For the most part, it was just thoughts like, “I’m in decent shape,” or “Wow, sleep is really important, so I’ll sleep in today and go run tomorrow.” But what stopped me from breaking the procrastination cycle? Well, thoughts. It’s always thoughts that prevent change.

Nike has a brilliant marketing campaign, “Just do it.” We all know what it means, but not everybody knows just ...

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Talking to kids about tragedy

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Many parents feel that they would like to protect their children from the darkness that is in the world right now. There is wisdom in limiting their exposure, especially to repeated scary-sounding news stories on TV, Radio, or computers.

But it is important that you be the one that helps them learn how to handle their questions, fears, and uncertainties. Kids today are exposed to far more information than previous generations. The internet puts the most traumatic images and stories right ...

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Apologies

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Apologies: follow through builds trust, not just the words.

In other words, apologies are hollow until they are filled with behavior change.

I cannot tell you how many people express frustration with repeated apologies that are not followed up with consistent behavior change; not just short-term change, but consistent, long-term change. And it is a valid complaint! When somebody accepts responsibility for their behavior mistakes, we begin to feel better that we have been heard and taken seriously, and we can forgive ...

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Resiliency

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Take a close look at the picture above. You’ll notice that this tree was chopped down, only to “bounce back” by re-sprouting new leaves! This tree cannot be kept down. It is the model of Resiliency.

Why can some people smile through failure? Come through heartbreak stronger than ever? How can I do that? CAN I do that?? Yes, you can. It is a teachable skill . . . a habit to be practiced. We’ve all seen this person . . ...

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In the Flow Groove Zone

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Flow Theory is an integral part of Positive Psychology. It refers to a zone where you lose track of time, experience yourself on “auto-pilot,” etc. We’ve all been there, and we can recreate it!

When you’re “in the zone,” or “feeling the groove,” or just “flowing,” you are in a state of balance between traits like skill and challenge. When these traits are balanced, you feel like you’re on autopilot, though fully present with what you are doing. You may even ...

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Parenting

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  • Feel like you cannot get through to your kids? Like they just don’t listen?
  • Are you fantasizing about sending your kids away?
  • Are you tired of the power struggles? Are your efforts at discipline creating more stress and anger in your home?
  • Would you like to have that nice balance of being a parent first, and a friend second?
  • Is your relationship or marriage suffering because of parenting issues?

There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ parent. Parenting is not about perfection. ...

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Communication Skills

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  • Do you feel like people just cannot seem to get what you are saying?
  • Do people often tell you that YOU don’t get what they are saying?
  • 80% of our messages are non-verbal (eye contact, body language, facial expression).
  • Of the 20% that is verbal, we can learn to be mindful of which words work best for our message.

Communication skills are about how to listen and how to be heard, not just how to talk. Communication is a cooperative process; in other words, while ...

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Mindfulness

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Look at the child in this picture. That stare . . . it’s called the 10,000-mile stare and you see it when somebody is totally absorbed in the moment. His eyes are open, but he is completely present with the smell of the flower. That’s mindfulness: absorption in the present moment. No judgment, just presence.

Simply noticing what is. Not judging it, not making assumptions as to why it is this way or that. Just allowing your mind to do what ...

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Co parenting

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Ever see a divorced couple that seems to get along great and wonder how they do it? It’s effective Co Parenting. There are skills that can be learned to cultivate a friendly co-parenting experience that benefits everybody, especially the kids! It can be tough in the beginning, but this is normal. Learn more about how to create a friendly vibe between you and your ex-.

  1. NEVER use your children as pawns to accomplish your agenda
  2. NEVER put your children in the middle ...
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Adaptation

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Acknowledge, improvise, adapt, and overcome. The Marines’ slogan is “Improvise, adapt, and overcome.” I add”Acknowledge” because it is implied in improvisation; if you’re going to improvise, you must first recognize what it is you are improvising in response to. This is an exercise in mindfulness.

Standing up in the face of adversity is a skill set that can be learned. There can be so many distractions though; don’t ignore them. Manage them. Leverage them.

To acknowledge your circumstances does not mean ...

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Habits

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We all hear about “Bad Habits” like smoking etc. What about “Good Habits?” Do those exist? Yes! Exercise, eating healthy, practicing meditation, just to name a few. But since the squeaky wheel gets the grease, we should look into how to move beyond those ‘bad’ habits.

The ones that are not healthy need to be replaced with either new healthier habits, or healthier versions of the habit itself. For example, if you are in the habit of exercising for 5 hrs/day, ...

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Motivation

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First, let me clarify something rather important: Motivation is NOT always necessary for healthy action to take place. I know that this may sound odd, but once you understand it, it can be quite comforting and encouraging.

We all know that there are times, especially if we feel depressed, anxious or stressed-out where we just don’t feel like messing with things. . . we may know that it would be in our interest to do these things, but ...

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Power

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Power and weakness are probably not what you think, so let’s look deeper into them. Using Mindfulness based techniques we explore the meaning of power as it relates to your authentic self. This means that you make confident decisions, you ask for help without feeling weak, and show confidence in anxiety provoking situations like a board room or a first date.

I am not referring to the ego based Power Monger mentality here. Power in its healthy state is about ...

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Choosing your reality

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This flower chose to let the asphalt be a perfectly good place to grow. Why? Because it worked. While I don’t suggest that we settle for simply setting for what works, I think the idea of doing your best with with the reality you are presented with is a good idea. This means using a Mindfulness based approach to your life. Accepting your reality as it is and leaving out the judgement so you can make calm, clear decisions. ...

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Letting go

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When letting go really hurts it can be extremely difficult to release the attachment fully. Whether it’s letting go of an unhealthy relationship, or letting go of a bad habit, the letting go can seem easier said than done. Very often, this is because we put ourselves in illusory boxes that seem to only have narrow escapes. To succeed in letting go, we need to change our thoughts and cultivate patience and persistence. And to change our thoughts, we need ...

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Discomfort

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Discomfort wants you to feel better. But when it comes to not getting things done, we can be extremely creative about feeling good about it. Does this sound familiar, “To be at my most productive, I need some down time, so I’ll just sleep in. . .”?

When you are living life out-of-balance, your mind and/or body begins to tell you with discomfort of one type or another (sickness, soreness, panic attacks, anxiety, etc). Remember, if you ignore an imbalance, you ...

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Change can be tough

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Change is often a wise investment that pays off in decreased suffering.

If you’ve read this far, then you have already experienced that change can be difficult. Not impossible, but often more difficult than we’d like it be, or than we’d expect it to be. Here’s some how to deal with some of the speed bumps. . .

Let’s say that you have correctly recognized that in order to be more healthy and balanced, you need to make some sort of lifestyle, ...

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Procrastination

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When it comes to not getting things done, we can be extremely creative about feeling good about it. Does this sound familiar, “To be at my most productive, I need some down time.” Or, “Sleep is really important, so I’ll just sleep in today . . .”

It’s when you wait until later to get something done that you know would be more useful to finish up in the now. We are more likely to do this when we are not ...

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Practice matters

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Practice matters a great deal when we talk about mastery of anything. The more you practice, the more proficient you become . . . this is true of skills like playing music, and personality traits like optimism and courage! Of course, a mindfulness practice is a central component of success in any type of practice.

For most folks, really living life will involve some sort of ‘practice.’ I’m not just talking about the repeat-the-behavior-over-and-over type of practice where you get ...

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Fear and Confusion as tools

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Fear and Confusion are amazing teachers. In the picture above, you can see that the eyes are opened wide, teeth are showing, and arms are extended to protect from a perceived threat. This is the classic “flinch response.”

We’ve been duped! We’ve been taught that fear and confusion are bad things to be avoided. I believe that all discomfort is just providing motivation to do something to return you back to a state of balance.

It is a survival instinct. It is ...

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Gratitude

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Gratitude and optimism are related in that each requires the seed of the other. Even when you are suffering, if you can find something, no matter how small, to be grateful for, you are more likely to see opportunities to make things better.

Gratitude is sometimes called “Counting your blessings.” My mom used to say that when I was bummed out, but I never quite understood it. Now that I do, it seems so simple!

To live with gratitude takes practice and ...

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Non Attachment

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Non-Attachment: Want without wanting. If you are not attached to anything being this way or that, then it is difficult to suffer. This idea is so simple that it can be hard to understand. Practicing non attachment is a practice in letting go of judgement.

Giving ourselves permission to want things/circumstances seems to fly in the face of non attachment; attachment being the source of suffering in many spiritual/philosophical perspectives.

So how do we ‘want’ something without being attached to it (attached ...

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Insomnia and Sleeplessness

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  • Trouble falling asleep? or staying asleep?
  • Do you wake up throughout the night?
  • Is your mind racing too fast to sleep?
  • Have your sleepless nights impacted you job? Family? Friendships?

Laying awake at night can be infuriating. It can keep you fuming about what happened today, and worrying about what may, or may not, happen tomorrow.

We’ve all been there . . . you get up in the morning, startled by the alarm; you had finally fallen asleep when it started screaming at you! Grumbling ...

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Optimism

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Optimism is not magical thinking.

There is no “secret” to success. No magical radio waves emanating to the universe that attracts success to you. It’s optimism. That simple.

Optimism . . . a trait that can be difficult to find when we are down and out. With practice, however, it can be found when we suffer. Finding optimism during suffering does not mean we become happy all of a sudden; instead, it means that we are able to see options ...

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Stress

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  • Do you feel stress and fatigue most of the time? Or do you feel “frazzled” most of the time?
  • Are you more forgetful than usual? More irritable than you would like to be?
  • Are you having stomach problems or headaches? Does your back and/or shoulders feel tense?
  • Do you have trouble falling asleep; or waking up during the night? Are you having very bizarre dreams?

You’re buried under paperwork, are behind on bills, and your car won’t start. Murphy’s law: Anything that can go ...

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Self Awareness

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  • Ever wonder what makes you who you are?
  • Family (Genetics, conditioning in childhood and the environment it happened in)
  • Life Choices
  • Neuroscience (The brain science of what we do and why)
  • Learn how these interact and how you can take charge of their influence!

Sometimes we see self-awareness as only being aware of our existence. It’s equally important to understand how neuroscience and genetics also impact how we are aware of our ‘selves.’

Self Awareness is more than a result of meditation and introspection; knowing ...

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Self Esteem

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Self-love is not selfish!

  • Struggling with feelings of worthlessness? Like you just don’t matter to anybody, including yourself?
  • Noticing that you have been more negative in how you experience others?
  • Feeling less empowered? Almost as if there isn’t enough of ‘you’ to go around?
  • Are you feeling depressed and/or anxious?

Along with optimism, self-esteem can be practiced and improved. Moving towards what we do want, instead of only away from what we don’t, we can see how the brain wants us to go ...

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Depression

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  • Do you feel sad most of the time?
  • Are you having head and body aches? Sick more often than usual?
  • Do you feel like you’ve lost interest in things you used to enjoy?
  • Do your emotions feel “blunted?”
  • Has your life begun to feel like an ordeal instead of an adventure?
  • Have you been isolating yourself? Not really participating in life?
  • Do you feel like you need drugs and/or alcohol to have fun?

Depression has been described as a dark cloud that just doesn’t go away. It ...

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Grief

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  • Feeling depressed because of a recent loss (of life or of a relationship)?
  • Does your grief feel unmanageable or like it will never go away?
  • Are you pulling away from people that are trying to help?
  • Do you feel like you are living in a dream that you cannot wake up from?
  • Are you concerned about your child or children’s grief? Do you have parenting questions about grief?

Grief isn’t just about healing from a loss through death. We also grieve ...

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Anxiety

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  • Feeling anxious or nervous when it doesn’t make sense? Have butterflies in your stomach?
  • Does this anxiety get in the way of living life to the fullest?
  • Do you avoid social situations because you’re not sure how to act?
  • Have you passed over professional opportunities because of fear of the unknown?
  • Do you get lost in thoughts of “what if . . . ?”
  • Dry mouth, pounding heart, out of breath? Perhaps feel your throat closing? Right before, or even during, an important presentation, interview, ...
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Family Dynamics

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  • Do you dread going home at the end of the day? Do you find reasons to stay away?
  • Do you get a sinking feeling when you pull up and see that your spouse is home?
  • Are you more irritable with your loved ones than usual?
  • Do you feel isolated in your family? Does your home feel like a prison?
  • Do you know what you want your family to feel like, but not sure how to get it there?

Family provides us with our first lessons ...

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Cathartic Writing

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The written word can heal. If you’ve every written in a journal and found it helpful, then you’ve experienced the benefit of Cathartic Writing. A catharsis can be thought of as a healthy emotional release that helps you to heal from some kind of pain. It can be grief, trauma, fear, or any uncomfortable emotion. In this article you will find an emotional letter from a dog to his human; it’s a masterful example of how words can heal even ...

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Existential Dilemma: The Universe vs. Mud-Pies

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Why am I here? What happens when I die? If E really equals mc squared (Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: E=mc2), then do I ever really stop existing? If not, what happens to my thoughts? my consciousness? even my soul? Soul? Do I have one of those? How do I make life matter more? How do I prepare for my own death? How do I make sense of life in terms of death? How do I stop freaking out about what ...

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