Inspiration… so how do I DO it…

April 2016

The Courage to Change …  11 Ways to Shift out of Fear

It’s not that you can’t do it, you just haven’t done it yet

We’ve all experienced the inner discomfort  of feeling STUCK, stagnant, immobilized, unhappy, anxious, fearful that we’ll be stuck living this way forever.  Feelings, thoughts, memories may immobilize you, rob you of the courage it takes to make the changes you need to make.  You know it’s not working anymore, leaving you angry and sad.  Oh.. and did I mention “afraid”?

newDeveloping the courage to change what is familiar to us is hard to do alone.  We are weakened by the time spent feeling stuck.  We are afraid of the unknown.  We feel alone. We get lost in regret. When stuck, our minds easily become consumed by regrets and our choices limited by inner statements that begin with “But I have to… ” and “I should… ” or “shouldn’t have done…”  The language of change begins with, “And I could…  ” and “Or I might… “.

Find a wise partner for the journey and ask for help, because we don’t have to do it alone. And it may even be that trying TO do it too much alone, created all this fear in the first place!  As Ghandi reminds us, “Become the change you want to see.” When stuck, it’s easy to forget that we are the change agent and that all change, slowly but surely, begins within us.

cat lionHere we go…

  • Get to know your fears, with self-compassion.  Be curious and look deeply … what makes you hesitate to be direct, take risks, step into decisions, try something out, trust yourself, believe that you are worth it?

  • Prepare for change.  What do you want that you don’t have…  or what do you have that you don’t want?  Ask, what will I gain or lose if I make this change… or that change… or none at all? What qualities or resources do I have that will help me?  What do I need to learn? Who can help me do this?

  • Become a witness to the courage of others: look for the masters of courage and study their ways. This can save you years by learning from others who have walked the path.

  • Accept that the emotion of fear is simply a feeling, not a command to withdraw or a reality that is certain doom.   As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing that scares you every day.” Practice.

  • Be truthful with yourself. Accept with kindness your current human struggles, strengths and resources. Notice  where you need help. Be willing to work persistently to gain the strength and courage to move through them, and don’t insist on doing it alone.

  • Move toward what you fear, but not alone.  Ask for help.  The emotion of fear is inborn and cannot be eliminated, but it can be changed in form from apprehension to courage. It is in the midst of fear that the roots of courage are developed. This is where the work of therapy comes in.

    As Susan Jeffers wrote, in Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, Dynamic techniques for turning Fear, Indecision and Anger into Power, Action and Love, “Remember that underlying all our fears is a lack of trust in ourselves.”

  • Bring the situation into the present…  Anxiety is always about the future, what will happen if…  ?”  Instead ask, What can I do about this, right now?” If there is something , however small, do it.  If not, let it be for now.

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You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.      ~Eleanor Roosevelt

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  • Surrender the outcome.  Outcomes are beyond your control.  If you have the courage to act, you’ve succeeded. Period.  You are not in charge of results.

  • Redefine your “failures” as making efforts and as “practice.”  Taking action, regardless of outcome, is far more courageous than mediocrity. It is a badge of courage to be willing to fail and take action anyway.

  • Know and develop your spiritual courage. Develop a deeper understanding of yourself as a person with value and purpose. Consider the remarkable examples of courage found in the lives of those with enduring faith.

afraid-set-you-free-copy-copyCourageous living means having the strength to walk forward through uncertainty, developing a grateful spirit even as as you face difficulties. Courage includes the willingness to look something in the eye, and say, “I will walk through my fears to overcome this and, God help me, my spirit of courage will grow strong in the process.”

Blessings on your journey…

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And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.   

~Anais Nin

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June 2016

boohoo

Getting out of the “MUCK”

  . . . healing for relationships in trouble

(it really doesn’t have to be this way)

As a psychotherapist, I work with many troubled relationships that are causing conflict and pain.   I want to help restore a relationships that once was loving and is in trouble, develop open honest communication, create bridges where there are walls of defenses, and develop a mutual Relationship Vision to which partners commit themselves for now and the future.  Few relationships survive well, without a shared vision.

I have observed several commonalities among the different couples who come for help with their relationship. These include:  the declaration of the relationship as a war zone, and one’s partner as The Problem;  living in the certainty that the other is an impossible obstacle;  unforgiving and justified retaliation; assuming, mind-reading and projecting the worst intentions onto him or her. Instead of honest communication partners are living  by their beliefs about the other’s intentions and motives.

As two people practice doing one or more of these things, day after day, their assumptions come true.. it becomes a war zone at home and there are no limits on using escalating insults and hurt to shut down a conflict or “win” the argument.  They practice blaming and projection, all the while believing that it is the partner who needs to change.  Of course there are other struggles that bring a couple into therapy, such as a great loss, illness, infertility, or major unexpected life change, but most often it is these hurtful communication patterns are familiar.

Practice makes “permanent” even if the things we practice are terribly flawed. Ouch.

AA woman-man standoff

Jack and Nancy (not their real names) came in for their first session, and the opening of their conversation went like this:

I think she is out to get me.  To catch me at something. There is nothing I can do right. She can find an ulterior motive in almost everything, the last accusation was that I wanted to take away anything I knew was important to her. The truth is, I  do love her and have never planned to make her feel anything but that.  Somewhere we went really wrong.

As she sat listening to “all of this” no matter what he said she knew what he really meant…and she was very clear about the “truth” of his bad motives, interrupting with her interpretation throughout the course of a session.  Much of her time was spent stewing, hurting, assuming the worst, creating an image of her husband in her own mind that no one would like or trust, who required reading between the lines to get to the “real” meaning.

Over the course of the year, listening, trying new approaches, learning about one another instead of accusing, and establishing a Relationship Vision, brought forth the love again.  Challenging changes, and the willingness to change  It was not easy, but it surely was worth it.

Below are some of the commitments in their mutual vision for their couple handshakerelationship, the vision for how they would like to resolve conflicts and grow closer.

(1) Assume the positive intention of the other person.  Starting here, we keep the lines of communication open in a disagreement, avoid counter-accusation, and remember that what we seek, is connection.  We give up mind-reading and ascribing negative motives.  We refuse to take everything personally, and assume that there IS la foundation of love between us. Assuming positive, protects and restores.

(2) When a critical statement (or action) is received, respond by making an “I statement” and asking for clarification.  For example,  “When you said you should have known better than to expect that I would..    I assume that you think I cannot be trusted to do what I say I will, and I feel misunderstood.  Have I let you down in this way?  When criticized in a close relationship, care enough to find out more about it… Questions are encouraged.  Clarification is required. No guessing games allowed.  No silent treatment.  Seeking clarity creates mutuality.

(3)  When a disagreement about who is “right ” flares up, look for areas of agreement with in the other person’s position, and only then add our own perspective.  “I agree with you that (our daughter) should not have the car if she fails to make her curfew.  Rather than simply taking away the car for a month, I have another idea to help her to make curfew.” Refuse to debate who is “right”, it is likely that you are both partially correct.  Look first for what  you can agree with, and build from there, refuse the angry temptation to get involved in arguing to “win”.  Validation creates the opening for mutual accommodation and trust.

(4) In a conflict, look for what we ourselves are doing to make the situation worse, and admit it.  We will not take the other person’s inventory or express blame.  Sometimes we get stuck in a boxing round of back and forth blaming.  Take a break from each other until each of you is calm, then and only then, resume the dialogue.  Personal humility creates connection, replacing competition, with cooperation.

(5) When giving criticism, speak in specifics, describe the situation in concrete terms, avoiding generalizations like “you always” or “you never.”  When you kick your shoes off and leave them in the middle of the bedroom, I trip over them at night going to the bathroom (not, “you are always so sloppy I can’t stand it… you never think of anyone but yourself). Which one would be more likely to get a cooperative response?  Respect creates mutuality.

(6) When it’s least expected, catch your partner doing something “good”.  Express appreciation.  For many of us, the people we find most difficult to praise are the ones closest to us—our mates, our children, our parents, and sometimes our friends.  Research into long- lasting, happy marriages reveals that the ratio of positive to negative interactions in a happy marriage is 10 to 1! In troubled marriages, it is the opposite. Express “thank you” (for remembering to… for taking out the trash… for making the coffee…  for stopping at the store, for smiling when I came in – small things, many opportunities).  Look for what is present and appreciate it, rather than what is missing and criticize it.  Gratitude creates trust and intimacy.

 (7) Practice, practice, practice… Simple changes.  Loving changes. Not easy changes.  Kindness.  Getting yourself calm before responding.  It will take some time to train yourself away from over-thinking and reading between the lines, but it can be done. And you (and your partner) will be happier, stronger, and more resilient because of it.  Practice, makes permanent… choose wisely.

The words below were written by Nancy when I asked her to summarize in writing her experience of the relationship, a year after they finished with their couples’ therapy:

I was surprised how quickly making small changes changed my perspective.   I stopped spinning crazy stories in my head and focused on the moment, what this man who loved me was trying to convey. He did the same, now equipped with the knowledge of my looking for hidden meanings, because I admitted my insecurity. When I didn’t understand, or the understanding I had was negative, I asked for clarification.
He always freely gave it. Who knew???
He wants the relationship we have to be as reciprocal and loving as possible, and he knew we both had quirks to overcome.
Really??? It started to seem workable. It was not easy, but it was much easier than the relationship I had created in my head. That, was pure insanity.
The truth was there in plain sight, in the honesty of his words. He wanted the best for us in everything. He wasn’t out to get me. He was out to love me, to share a life with me, and what I had to do was take him at his word.
The day we vowed to assume the best intentions in each other was as powerful as the day we vowed to join our lives together.  We are actually enjoying time together now and looking out for one another.

 couple interested

Transformation of conflict into communication in a relationship means that something new arises out of the old and takes on a “life of its own”.  When the need to be right is replaced by the desire to be together and happy together, defenses fall away and a cooperative spirit grows stronger and more resilient.

Blessings on your journey… and do call if you want help along the way, I am here for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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