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Making Communication Even Better!

Posted: June 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Being Able to Still Like Each Other Even When We Disagree

It can be so frustrating to try to use the core skills of communication  and still feel like the conversation is stuck.  “But I’m using eye contact, open posture, and reflections!”  It’s because they are not enough.  Communication can be a maddening, complicated mess.  Usually  both parties want to connect but walk away from the interaction feeling, at minimum, disappointed.   Luckily, the following provide ideas to go that next step.

First, let’s address a common mindset.  Most people go into a conversation wanting to be heard and believing their side is right.  If we try to convince the other that we are “correct”, the other person knows it and will respond in kind.  This is not a conversation; it is a debate.  We spend our time arguing, defending, and focusing only on  perceptions that support our side.   Each person becomes an opponent, not someone we care about.

The antidote can be summed up in one word: humility.  Most situations are not about what is right or wrong but about perspectives.  Each of us have a set of experiences that shed light on the topic.  If we genuinely want to connect, we must be open.  Listen to what is important to the other person and elements that may have been overlooked or even unknown.  As we demonstrate receptivity, we invite others to do the same.  By the end, we can walk away with more information and greater awareness of the beautiful ways we can be unique.  Here are some questions to enhance humility?

  • What do I hope to gain by asserting my view?
  • How might my view be limited? Even wrong?
  • Do these differences matter in the big picture?
  • Am I tuning in to how the other person is responding to me or am I focused on my point?
  • Am I treating the other person in the way I want to be treated?

Next, we have to be careful that common bad habits do not sabotage our intent.  For example, we have all had moments when we engage in monologues where we talk at rather than with our audience.  Then there are tangents, which can be so disconnected, we can even forget our own point! Interrupting happens so often that it almost seems normal.

The great news is that these behaviors are not set in stone but it can be difficult because they often happen when we are on autopilot.  This means the first step must be awareness.  If you had an “ah ha” moment when you read the types mentioned, you’re already on the right track. It is then important to make a commitment to change.  It may help to express the goal and practice with loved ones.  They can kindly point out when the habit is active before we can catch it ourselves.  Meanwhile, these are the new behaviors we are building towards:   work on being a listener.  Provide space for the other to share their point.  Make statements that ensure you fully understand his/her position and then add your two cents.  Stay on the main point.  Consider what elements enhance the story and what details muddy the waters.  Share in short segments.  After one or two paragraphs, check in.  Look to see if the other person is giving input or sharing empathic stories.  Be wary when the other’s body language suggests disinterest such as looking around, flat eyes, or monotone responses.  Finally, create a reasonable pace by taking time to pause and breathe.

Finally, if we truly want to connect on a personal level, the main focus must be emotion.  Emotions are the most vital information.  We can learn about personal context like history, culture, environment, and modeling that demonstrates the foundations behind a person’s views.  There are also values, meanings, needs, and vulnerabilities that have a chance to surface.  People tend to share more when they are not having to defend a position and genuinely feel like the other person cares.

“But I don’t agree with her!”  Luckily, you don’t have to.  It’s possible to be empathetic and validating and still have a different stance.  Here are some examples to show you what I mean:  “You seem stuck.”  “How frustrating!”  “It’s daunting to go through so much change.”  “You sound hopeful.”   On the surface, this may sound easy, but it is actually trickier than it looks because it is largely foreign in our culture.  We are usually mired in the details, problem solving, or responding with personal stories that take the focus off the speaker.  I’m not saying that there is not room for these responses, just make sure emotions are the top priority.

I have seen these strategies at work and can attest to their impact.  Crossed arms change to hugs and from yelling to talking.   With a little patience and a lot of practice, we can converse without needing to retreat to our corners and can become a little wiser and a little kinder in the process.


Side By Side Is Moving Up- Literally!

Posted: April 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

I’m excited to announce that the office is moving to a new suite!  Don’t worry, it is in the same building, just on the top floor.  Clients will soon enjoy expansive views of the mountains and Arvada, along with an internal waiting area!  So when you are ready to meet, come in to the suite and enjoy relaxing ambiance until I’m able to greet you.  The original move date was set for May 1st, but due to some unforeseen delays, the official opening will be May 9th.  I look forward to enjoying the new space (Suite 550) with you!


How Therapy Helps the Grieving Process

Posted: April 3rd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

I am delighted to respond to a request about grief.  The specific question was based on the statement from Jesus, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” He wanted to know how that fits with modern counseling.  This is an important question because many people see no point in examining the past.  It’s over and they just want to move forward.  This is tempting but it is shortsighted.   A void exists that must be adjusted to.  Grief allows us to recognize what this missing piece meant in our lives and invites a revision of the ways we see ourselves and the world.  Our life is a story- shaped by the people and experiences we encounter along the way.  Refusing to grieve is like forgetting whole chapters.  Although you might be able to jump in to a new section, we will not understand how your current lives are connected to the past nor how they contribute to the meanings embedded in the journey.

There is no straightforward path when it comes to therapy and grief.  Each person’s experience is unique based on numerous factors.  The amount of unfinished business, the circumstances around the loss, and the level of support are just a few examples.  Still, the following are general themes of how therapy can be valuable for getting through this tough time.

First, grief is work!  It requires more than passively experiencing our reactions, many of which are intense and overpowering.  As Bridges (2008) notes, the way we deal with change develops into a habit.  If the main tool is avoidance or minimization, this will most likely be the form of coping for every subsequent struggle.  The more we stuff it away, the more it oozes into our lives, leaving us stuck and confused.  Alternatively, if we learn to move into and through pain, those strategies will only strengthen.   We are able to move towards acceptance and the chance to let go.  Here’s where therapy comes in: we are provided with skills so that the process is made as manageable as possible and leads to heling. Not only will this help with the present crisis, it will also embolden us with tools for inevitable future losses.

Second, grief requires that we feel what we feel, as long as we need to feel it, with someone to validate us.  Sadly, most people lack one or more of these ingredients.  Consider the challenges in FEELING WHAT WE FEEL.  Sometimes not all emotions are allowed because they have been seen as destructive or disloyal.  When these emotions surface, they are either pushed away or tolerated with the added pain of guilt.  This leaves grief work incomplete.  Other times, the individual is met with hostility because his/her grief does not match what another person feels.  (Ex: what if dad was tyrant to some and loving towards others?)  Then there are losses that no one recognizes like retirement, childbirth, the death of a pet, etc.  How can one progress if there is no recognition of the validity of the whole experience?

AS LONG AS WE NEED TO FEEL IT:  There are so many misunderstandings about how long the process takes.  Some people think it should be completed in a few weeks.  Others believe a year is plenty of time.  Yet, that is rarely reality.  A year means one Christmas, one anniversary, one season, etc.  For many, the work has just begun.  In therapy, there is no pressure to be at certain stage of the work nor an expectation that the feelings have to take a predetermined course.  It is what it is for a reason, and no arbitrary rule can take into account all the complex factors at work.

WITH SOMEONE TO VALIDATE:  Not all support is the same.  The Bible has a book devoted to this in the Old Testament.  Job is a man who has lost everything.  His wealth is gone, family dead, he’s estranged from the community, and endures physical pain because his body is covered in boils.  Three “friends” visit, and offer advice.  All tell him, with varying degrees of intensity, that the suffering is punishment for his sinfulness and the only way this will end is through repentance.  Needless to say, this is not helpful and we hear that Job feels angry and attacked.  While most people do not tell someone they deserve their grief, I have heard countless stories of people hurting because of well-intended responses.  Loved ones offer platitudes, try to cheer them up, suggest quick fixes, or simply give them space (without asking if that is needed).  These bring no comfort- instead they leave the griever alone no matter how many people are in the room.  A therapist knows better.  We are ready to sit in the feelings so it is possible to feel heard and understood.  We also have tools to help- whether it is learning safe ways to express feelings, figuring out how to get unstuck, or dealing with the other parts of life that can only add to the stress.

Finally, therapists do not forget that grief evokes an examination of beliefs and the potential for a spiritual awakening.  Sometimes this is painful because long held ideas that may have been sources of comfort are falling apart.  For example, most of us have a distorted sense of control, of fairness/justice, and a hope in long-term stability.    As pain pokes holes in these ideas, we are invited to develop new, deeper understandings about life.  Eckhart Tolle states, “Underneath the lay of opposites.. is an abiding presence, an unchanging deep stillness, an uncaused joy beyond good and bad.  This is the joy of Being, the peace of God.”  (1999, p. 183).  Here there are no absolutes, so we must beware of anyone who tries to impose what this is supposed to mean.  A therapist, however, works to create room to question and in time, for new connections to emerge.

Grief is not an easy journey for so many reasons.  But it is the work necessary to be able to have peace moving into tomorrow.  Some people are able to do this without support of a therapist; others appreciate the added help.  Whatever is right for each of us, I hope we all can rest in the fact that this is a time we do not have to go it alone.

_____________________________________________________

Bridges, W.  (1980)  Transitions: Make Sense of Life’s Changes.  Reading, MA: Perseus Books p. 8

Tolle, E. (1999).  The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.  Novato, CA: Namaste Publishing and New World Library.


Depression: More Than Just An Attitude Problem

Posted: November 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Every year, I am struck by how far we still have to go to learn what is going on in the depressed brain.   7.6 % of US citizens ages 12(1) and up suffer per year, and medications are unable to help at least 1/3 of those afflicted.

Part of the struggle is the sheer complexity of this phenomenon.    For example, Duman et al (2015) cited nutrition, sex sterioids, cardiovascular VEGF, stress, and the immune system all effect and are impacted by depression and anxiety.(2)   Others have noted how brain activity shifts so the sufferer struggles to remember, make decisions, and feel motivated.  The following article adds another component.  It describes how the very structures of the brain are changed, possibly minimizing the ability to recall positive memories while more strongly linked to areas associate with punishment.

http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-say-they-ve-identified-the-physical-source-of-depression-in-the-brain

Of course, these are not taking into account the environmental factors like trauma, social isolation, stressors (like financial, employment, relationship conflict) that also play apart.  In all, I never want to forget that a sufferer cannot easily solve this problem.  Hence why therapists like myself work with the person, and sometimes a team of people, to rebuild and repair.

 

________________________________

1  http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/depression.htm

Synaptic plasticity and depression: new insights from stress and rapid-acting antidepressants, Ronald S Duman, George K Aghajanian, Gerard Sanacora, & John H KrystalNature Medicine, 22, 238–249 (2016) doi:10.1038/nm.4050  Received 11 March 2015, Accepted 21 January 2016, Published online 03 March 2016

 


The Orlando Shooting

Posted: June 16th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

I’m still reeling from the news in Orlando that a devastating decision led to the worst tragedy since 9-11.  Someone, fueled by justification and hatred, deemed that the lives of over 100 people no longer mattered.  The victims were people out on the town, enjoying music and friendship, when this stranger burst in and brutally murdered 49, wounded 53, and altered the lives of the survivors and loved ones forever.

Sadly, the LGBTQIA community is no stranger to violence.  Paul Brussard (killed by 10 men in Houston), Matthew Shepard (tricked, beaten, and left to die in Laramie, W), Harvey Milk (shot in California) are just a few of a long list of hate crimes.  And the transgender community has so many murders each year that they have created “The Day of Remembrance” to annually honor their deceased brothers and sisters.  As we come up on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same sex marriage in all fifty states, this recent atrocity is just one more reminder that we still have so far to go before the community can ever feel safe, let alone accepted.

I hope that one day, diversity does not mean different or dangerous.  Where unfamiliar is no longer frightening but is approached with openness and warmth.  For no matter our uniqueness, we are all part of one race- the human race.  We are all part of the same family.  We should celebrate those who are bravely trying to live authentically, and cease turning the one you love into an issue.

We now must make a choice- do we now use recent events to fuel our hatred for the Muslim community?  Do we allow ourselves dangerous permission to dehumanize other people so it is gets easier to be cruel and inhumane?  Do we support institutions or doctrines that teach us that one group of people is better than another?  We must stop the contagious hate that is like a cancer.  We must stop waiting for others to take the lead and instead practice each day to work against bigotry and prejudice.  Finally, we must show solidarity with those who have been brutalized.  Please, consider making a financial contribution to a place dedicated to being a loving force to our traumatized brethren or to those organizations working to eradicate hate.

Meanwhile, may this tragedy offer us the opportunity to change.  May it bring us together, instead of apart.  May we take the challenge to make this world a safer and kinder place for all to live in.

Donation Suggestions:

Resources:


Mindfulness In a Nutshell

Posted: June 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

The following article does a great job of introducing us to mindfulness, noting some key benefits and complementary exercises:  http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2016/01/mindfulness/.  Some people get intimidated by the term, envisioning success only by donning a monk’s cloak and meditating for years in a cave.  It does not have to be that way, there are levels of practice and intensity that can range from general stress management to spiritual awakening.  

For those people who want to take a break from the frantic pace and constant noise of our day to day lives, brief meditation is a wonderful tool.  It encourages deep breathing and focused attention, reconnecting us with our bodies, the present, and the rhythm of this life-giving action.  Counting, visualizations, and calming phrases also distract us from nagging pressures that can keep us escalated.  By the end, it’s like the mind’s reset button has been pushed, and we have fresh perspective and a greater sense of center.

There are others who hope to take this a step further, working to become less mired in the constant stream of thoughts that are as persistent as a stalker.  Through specific exercises, a skill is created to observe the inner world with more detachment.  Instead of being controlled by the thoughts and the corresponding emotions, we can consider the health and value of what we see.  It is then possible to determine how the information can help us find positive trajectories and cease reckless reactivity and defensiveness. 

Finally, mindfulness has the ability to change the way we see and approach our life and those we encounter.  It is a spiritual practice, where one has long gaps where the thoughts are quiet, allowing one to tune in to what if feels like to just “be”.  This opens the way for connection to be felt with all living things, creating a blend of humility, gratitude, and contentment.  The ego has little importance here- instead, the focus is on how to be a positive influence in the world, using a sense of peace, wisdom, and compassion.

What you decide to aim for is whatever works for you.  Hopefully the article above can be a welcome introduction and give you a taste of something that could be a powerful balm for the challenges that come with each day.


Trans-Phobia and the Dangerous Legislation You Should Know About

Posted: April 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

There was a recent segment on The Daily Show that had a fantastic piece on aspects of being transgender.  Some elements were subtle, like Trevor Noah not falling for the common trap of asking Angelica Ross about her genitalia, but instead treating his guest like a three-dimensional human being.  But there was also a segment provided by Jessica Williams that highlighted the daily bigotry they have to endure.  Please watch April 6th’s episode:

http://www.cc.com/full-episodes/1b9vdp/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah-april-6–2016—angelica-ross-season-21-ep-21087

One important element not stated was that this community is constantly at risk for hate crimes without these policies.  Blazer noted that every third day a trans person is murdered.  Hate crimes released by the FBI in November 2015 gave a startling report stating that hate crimes tripled between 2013 and 2014.  In fact, this is such a painful reality for trans people that each year on November 20th, there is a sobering ceremony called the Day of Remembrance to honor those brothers and sisters who died under these circumstances in the last year.

This means that safety is one of the most important aspects a trans person must be constantly vigilant about.  “Passing”, or the ability to blend in with cisgender majority (people whose gender identity matches their biology at birth) is crucial. Imagine having to be a trans male forced to walk into a woman’s bathroom with a beard, or a trans woman having to use the men’s bathroom wearing a dress.   We are either asking individuals to have bladders of steel so they can “hold it” until they are home, or being instantly outed to a community we already know is hostile.

For those worried that this puts others at risk, there are no statistics supporting this.  Gender identity is separate from sexual deviance like pedophilia, voyeurism, or assault.  Nor is it linked to sexual orientation.  They aptly state in the segment that just because you have a job, like the priesthood, or an identity like being a feminist, republican/democrat, etc. does not mean there are inherent mental health issues.  And in case anyone quotes former diagnostic manuals, realize that the American Psychiatric Association has evolved enough to no longer consider gender dysphoria a disorder.  It is a therapeutic issue because, like other quests about self-esteem and identity, so therapists can help lessen the discomfort they feel every day.

These individuals want what most people want- to live in a world where they can be themselves, be safe, and to be happy.  Please do what you can to help make that possible, whether it is through political activism to educating yourself so you can be a compassionate person to those who need to be welcomed.

_______

Resources:

 Balzer, Carsten (2009). “Every 3rd day the murder of a trans person is reported” (PDF)(3).


Kava: Warnings About This Anti-Anxiety Supplement!

Posted: January 28th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

A local doctor recently share that the common herb used for anxiety, Kava, needs significant caution and doctor’s oversight.  Based on recent research, it not only has risks like impacting the effectiveness of birth control, some users have had liver damage in there have even been deaths.

We must be aware that just because something is a supplement/herb, does not automatically make it safe.  The Diet Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 means that these products are not regulated to insure consistency and purity.  In addition, these plants are medicines that create a chemical reaction within the body.  One needs an understanding of individual history, potential interactions, genetic factors, and research to ensure that a consumer has all the information to make an informed decision.  I highly recommend doing research before introducing something into your system, and consulting your doctor before you decide.  Health is precious- let’s do all we can to protect it.

Supporting articles:

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/features/risky-herbal-supplements?page=2

https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/is-kava-safe/


Platitudes

Posted: November 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

A client recently shared an article that highlighted another hardship people have to deal with in times of difficult- stupid platitudes. (see below)  I’m sure we have all been there, where someone tries to give “comfort” with some statement that is supposed to put a silver lining around pain. While I the person believes that they are being helpful, it is actually the furthest thing from the truth. The other person usually ends up feeling dismissed and is doing all they can to not throw something.

And for good reason. These “pearls of wisdom” usually come from an objective, removed position where there is no connection to the pain or vulnerability.  Instead, it is shared like a sage who sees with complete objectivity and clarity the way the universe works.   The pain is treated as temporary distress that will wane once the person sees the bigger picture. These are examples I have heard first hand:

  • The mother, whose baby who died days after birth- “You’re young- you can always have another child.”
  • The accident victim- “You should be grateful you’re alive.”
  • The woman who had a miscarriage- “This is nature’s way of clearing out babies with severe defects.

Another problem is that the statement is superficial, simplistic, and sometimes just absurd. This is particularly true when God is used in the statement. For example, I was sitting with someone recovering from an accident that occurred just moments before and a man told her, “The angels were watching out for you today.” As we saw medics rush to put two other people onto stretchers and load them into the ambulance, the survivor said, “Why weren’t the angels protecting them?”  The man had no answer.

For those wondering what is helpful, let’s start with a key principle- that some pain cannot be fixed. It can only be endured. A body altered by disease, an accident, a death, a betrayal- no matter the pain, we are forever changed by these experiences. When we stop trying to pretend that there is a way out, there can be a huge sense of relief that there is nothing we can (or should) do. Instead, it is time for a different but very precious set of skills- just being.

There is a short list to embrace. First, sit in the shit with them. Let their feelings have room to be expressed, whether through tears, anger, or a shrinking collapse. Hand out tissues, get fluffy socks, see the truth in their perspective, and validate. I can’t say more about the value of being heard. A person does not have to measure their words- s/he gets to pour them out, knowing that you are strong enough to handle what s/he is willing to share what’s overflowing on the inside.

Next, do all you can to understand what people experience in a specific situation. So many people begin to project their experience with pain onto others, then become concerned when the process does not follow their imposed blueprint.  However, others in similar situations can and do give insight into what is a normal course, especially the contextual elements that make all the difference in the world. For example, imagine how these situations might differ:

  • Death: natural versus suicide
  • Job ending: retiring or fired
  • Divorce: where two people grow apart or where one partner fears for his/her safety

Finally, realize that healing takes time and most people will get tired of the heavy demands of ongoing recovery. As others drop off, ill-equipped for the marathon, if you are able, gather your patience and if possible, stay the course.   Pain is already isolating- choosing to hang in there is an unmeasurable gift to your heartbroken loved one that will have long reaching impacts you can’t even imagine. One client said to me, “If it weren’t for her, I know I would not have made it.”

There are very few times in our lives when we will be called to be our best selves- this is one of them. We will be tested, tempted to take the easy road of verbal pats on the head that feel nothing more than patronizing. But if we can choose to be more- more understanding, more patient, and as self-less as possible, we become a light that leads those we love through the darkness.

________

Article: http://www.upworthy.com/magic-words-to-say-when-everythings-going-wrong-not-everything-happens-for-a-reason

***If you are needing a little lightness at the end of this, consider watching a quick clip from the people at the Onion, who have their own way of addressing this issue: http://www.theonion.com/video/report-leading-cause-of-death-in-us-is-god-needing-35522

 

 

 


Finding Forgiveness

Posted: September 15th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

It is so tempting to believe that there is some magic switch that will turn off pain and allow us to move forward.  Not only is this far from any reality I’ve seen in my 19 years working with trauma, it also denies the potential growth and wisdom we can gain by going through the process of letting go.  We cannot go back to who we were before the incident happened.  To quote Anne Lammott, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.”  But it also does not mean that we have to feel wounded for the rest of our lives.  We are more than what happens to us and we retain the power to find peace of mind.

I have borrowed from all kinds of sources- personal experience, religious leaders, colleagues, and the generous vulnerability and openness of clients who dared to take this path, to come up with the following steps:

Step 1:  Remember.  Many people do not want to dwell on what happened because it is painful and uncomfortable.  However, unless there is willingness to spend some time making sense of the experience, we remain blind to the harmful impacts that can continue long after the memory.  We must dive in, taking an honest look at all the facets and context we could not have processed while in the eye of the storm.  There are contributing factors, lies we swallowed, reasons behind our reactions, ways dignity was broken down, and meanings we adopted about ourselves and the world.  Robert Schreiter states, “Suffering only becomes redemptive or ennobling when we struggle against these corroding powers and rebuild ourselves in spite of the pain we are experiencing.” p. 33-34.

Step 2:  Identify the harm.  Determine the ways the experience was detrimental either permanently or for the time being.  Grief will be an intimate part of this process, because it acknowledges that some things can never be regained.  A victim cannot will themselves to be without scars nor can innocence be restored.  There might also be specific periods of times where opportunities passed us by.  Or perhaps there have been important segments of life that were deleted (example: lost childhood, independence, or life skills)

Step 3: Find the silver linings.  In many cases, we come out of struggle with greater understanding.  There will be new information about yourself and those who are closest to you.  Perhaps you saw some values that you had not noticed before or there may be strengths that had been dormant until then.   How were you able to grow in spite/because of what happened?  By exploring these factors, the situation is not just a tragedy- you found a way to empower yourself through it.

Step 4:  Identify the lessons.  Consider what information needs to be implemented for you to feel as safe and happy as possible.  For example, what has this taught you about skills you need, information gaps, etc.  Perhaps there are missing boundaries, or new appreciation for your intuition.   Maybe there is difficulty seeing warning signs or being able to determine trustworthiness.  The goal here is to determine how we can wisely interact with others in a way that provides protection from those who may harm but also does not keep us from taking risks and connecting.

Step 5:  Implement.  Insights serve little purpose if they do not turn into action.  Take classes, talk to people you respect, do research, and gain confidence to take risks.  During this time, it is important to remember that there will be a learning curve; you cannot be an expert without lots of opportunity to fall down.  Be kind and remind yourself that every time you try, no matter the result, is a success.

I find it very helpful to touch base with your value system for the next steps.  There is such a strong pull to be righteously angry that there have to be compelling reasons for doing something different.  For me, I try to keep in mind that I want to live a life that allows me to enjoy the moment without a lot of baggage weighing me down.  If I’ve done the work above, I’ve taken everything valuable I can from the experience.  Further review only keeps me upset and stuck, not centered and healthy.

Step 6:  Let go. Make a commitment to releasing the past. Intentionally engage in visuals and activities that suggest closure.  For example- write a brief summary of what happened.  Then create a ritual similar to a burial, where you burn the paper and say a prayer/poem about the life you are ready to embrace.  You may also consider putting all the pain and hurt symbolically onto a leaf.  Breathe the distress onto the leaf, then release it into a stream.  Watch as the leaf floats away, allowing you to breathe in the smell of nature, life, and peace that is left behind.  The Dali Llama encourages visualizing the distress of the incident then a positive state.  Note how each one feels and ask which you would rather have in your life.  There is then a promise made to yourself: “Whatever befalls me, I shall not allow it to disturb my mental joy.”

Step 7:  Focus on the present. The past is over. Bring yourself back into the present, hopefully with delightful enticements. Enjoy little things, play, work, make love, get dirty, feel, and make new memories.  If old thoughts and images return, acknowledge it happened and gently resume focus on the here and now.  If that is ineffective, deliberately distract yourself.  Over time, the pull of the incident will lesson because mental, emotional and energetic resources are no longer feeding it.

Step 8:  Feel compassion. Finally, cease to see the person who harmed you in a depersonalized way. He or she is a flawed human being, like the rest of us.  Since you are not responsible for making them change, you can release them from your grasp (and therefore any hold s/he had over you).   This does not mean condoning what they did- it is ceasing to be saddled with resentment.  Wish them the same happiness you hold for any living being and let a sense of compassion grow in your heart.

As you go through the various stages, please remember that each journey is unique.  Some steps will take little time while others may be tool you use from this point forward. As long as you continue to maintain dedicated effort, things will change.  In the end, you will have given yourself a great gift- peace.

 

References:



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Tania Henderson
M.A., L.P.C., N.C.C.