Category: <span>Couples Therapy</span>

How to Create your Redemption Story

The Fall and Rise

Have you been hurt in your relationship? What have you done to try and manage this hurt?

Hurt doesn’t simply go away because we don’t acknowledge it.

In fact, when ignored, can fester, grow and leads to destructive behaviors- causing significant distress both for ourselves and our close relationships.

You may find yourself blaming, criticizing, becoming angry and resentful, or withdrawing, numbing and shutting down completely.

These responses to pain are common because in some way they do provide temporary relief. If you feel alone or not cared for in your relationship, it makes sense to get angry, become louder- try and be heard. It is a way to release the hurt- cover it up with anger.

The problem is, your partner is unlikely to see your hurt or hear what you are really asking for, but instead is busy putting on their boxing gloves to defend against the anger or running away and shutting down to avoid the fight.

The other response to hurt and pain is to shut down and numb. We pack down the pain so far down, we think it can’t possibly re-surface. When there is any sign of pain or discomfort, the first response is to fight it, try and make it go away- not to lean in and feel our way through.

There are many ways we find to do this– alcohol, drugs, money, sex, work, affairs, children, perfectionism, busyness and distractions… the list could go on.

In both cases, we end up avoiding the truth of what we are really feeling and don’t allow ourselves to become vulnerable enough to share it with the people closest to us in a way that invites closeness.

When we approach our hurt by lashing out at those closest to us or pull away and busy ourselves with distractions- we do not allow our true selves to be seen.

There’s a deeper part of us that just wants to say “see me, hold me, love me, accept me, tell me everything is going to be ok”, but that part gets overrun by what we do on the outside- protecting these more vulnerable needs.

Anger, blame and avoidance are how we get stuck and lead to increased conflict, isolation, distress and hurt in our relationships.

Pretending not to be hurt is choosing to become imprisoned by the pain, it may feel safe, but it doesn’t allow you to be the person that you want to be or have the relationship that you long for.

This is the fall…

Rising means we do not live in the shadows of the hurt and pain, but live in the freedom of expression- living in line with your values and allowing all parts of yourself to be seen. This allows for true closeness, connection and is what makes an unbreakable bond of a lasting relationship.

How to rise to your redemption story

  • Lean In: Your instinct is to do everything you can to get rid of and not feel pain or discomfort. This makes sense. But this way of living is so limited.

Your energy is so focused on everything you can control or try to do to make yourself feel better, you end up only feeling exhausted- and trust me the “to-do” list never ends.

Can you imagine taking a moment, taking 5 deep breaths and truly sitting with what you are feeling? By connecting with what’s happening, you actually allow it to process which makes it much less powerful and consuming than ignoring it.

Try labeling your experience- “I’m having the feeling that…Right now I’m experiencing…In this moment, I feel….” and breathe into it, notice the sensations in your body as you feel this.

  • Reality Check: What is the story you are making up about your experience?

People think, it’s what we do. And we are quick to judge. Most experiences are neutral, until we form a story or judgment about it.

A child does not know that crying is good or bad, they just do it as a way to communicate their needs. However, the second they are told “Stop crying. Only babies cry. Be a big kid. Pull it together.” Then, they now know that crying is bad and will likely carry the judgment with them the rest of their lives.

So what is the story that you are telling yourself about your experience? Are you stuck in shame? Are you being critical of yourself or your experience?

These stories create so much suffering. Recognize it. Name it. Own it.

  • Show Up: Once you allow yourself to feel and acknowledge your experience, you recognize your story/beliefs/judgements you are making up, you can then be in touch and acknowledge your true needs.

This is where true bonding, connection, and healing lies.

When you are able to be true to your experience and share or ask for what you need in that moment from a genuine place, not from your story (which just often fuels the negative reactions/behaviors mentioned above)- you can be free to live a meaningful and enriching life and have the close relationship you long for.

Showing up and owning our story is the bravest thing we can do~ Brene Brown

 

It’s a Darn Shame….

That shame and fear play such a huge role in our lives.

“I’m not good enough, He doesn’t love me, I don’t think I’ll get that job, She doesn’t appreciate me”- sound familiar?

The “Shame” Voice

We all know that critical voice that always seems to creep in at the worst times leading you to experience doubt, fear, uncertainty, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and shame.

 

As Brene Brown shares in her research, we experience shame when I am enough turns into Am I REALLY enough?

For many of us, shame and fear get triggered frequently. Often, when we experience any type of discomfort (in a relationship, in a social situation, at work, with family or friends) it can trigger the failure cue– leading us to go into our story of not being enough. This is where it gets dangerous as we often find ourselves reacting based off that story. The underlying fear of “I’m not enough” is so powerful that it actually hijacks our limbic system- sending you into fight or flight. When we feel small, unlovable or unworthy, it threatens our core survival instincts. So you may find yourself getting defensive, shutting down, avoiding certain situations or people. Exactly what we don’t want to do- we do! These behaviors often then block connection and support, which only reinforce those beliefs that you are not enough or don’t matter.

This is important- because life is constantly changing- So it’s a vicious trap and holds you back from living the life you truly want to live!

Don’t hide in the dark..

We feel most alive when we are connected with others and sharing our stories. When you are able to honor your experience and own your story, true healing occurs. The less you talk about these parts of you (fear, doubt, shame, hurt), the bigger they become. Once you name it- you then have power to change it.

How?

  1. Identify the triggers for your shame– What just happened before you formed the negative story and judgements about the situation? Notice what happened in your body as you experience this cue?
  2. Slow down and do a reality check– What is the behavior you are engaging in? Stop. Slow down. Recognize that you may be having the thought, or experiencing the feeling, but it is not who you are. You are the one having the experience. Imagine that you are the sky. And your experiences (fear, doubt, shame, discomfort, pain, anxiety) are the weather. They are always changing.
  3. Name it– This takes a willingness to lean in to the discomfort and vulnerability, which is not easy, in fact, it can sometimes feel darn near impossible. But this is the most important step in doing something different. These beliefs and stories have the most power when they are unspoken- but once you name it- it is no longer apart of who you are, just apart of your experience.

When you can make meaning of your emotions and speak them vulnerably, you can then choose your actions. Just because you are feeling uncertain about getting a new job, this doubt does not need to prevent you from applying as that limits your experience. You can choose to act according to what truly matters to you and live your best life, even if shame, fear, doubt, hurt and uncertainty still creep in. These experiences only have as much power as you give them.

Is love always a fairy tale?

A number of  women  have deep seated negative self beliefs that seem to block them from healthy love: “I am too old to find love, I am too unattractive to find love, All the good men are taken, All men want is sex etc.”
Why do we hold such negative beliefs about love? We have learned that love is a “fairy tale”. Watching all the princesses get swept off their feet by their prince charming- knight in shining armor- teaches little girls what to expect and what love should “look like”. So, when reality kicks in and young girls start dating (often immature boys), they may get their heart broken. This disappointment turns into resentment which form lasting negative beliefs- which then create that reality.
So how do we conquer these negative beliefs to open ourselves up to real love? First step- is recognizing your resentments, beliefs, feelings, doubts and disappointments. Do you have a group of girlfriends who you love to complain to and foster these negative beliefs about love, boys and end up feeling less deserving or less hopeful about ever finding something different? Talking about all the negative experiences may feel “healing” and relieving in the moment, but in the end it only results in feeling jaded and bitter. And the more jaded and bitter you feel, the more closed off you become, therefore- your reality mirrors your feelings. Start to notice every time you want to complain or say something negative about yourself, a situation, a partner, or past event that resulted in heartache. Maybe, you can then start to slow this process down enough to recognize these thoughts and make a choice in the moment to spend your energy elsewhere. This allow you to create acceptance. Accepting that people and love are imperfect. It can hurt, sting, and be the best thing all at the same time. This doesn’t make it ok that you’ve been hurt, but it does make it ok and worth it to put yourself out there to try again. If you haven’t or can’t experience the lows, how can you experience the highs? You can choose to sit and watch people ride the rollercoaster, or you can jump on knowing at times it’s scary but also that adrenaline rush is totally worth it.
The key is acknowledging and accepting that you have fears, hurts, disappointments- due to some painful experiences- and you can either choose to let these become your reality and hold you back, or you can choose to act according to what really matters to you and allow yourself to be open and vulnerable even though you have these thoughts, beliefs and fears. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it’s true. Your set back could be a set up for something amazing. Your beliefs and thoughts do not need to create your reality, each moment you are presented with a choice to do something different.

Love is a verb, not a noun

Although all relationships start with a “honeymoon” phase where love feels like butterflies, happiness, joy, laughter- that doesn’t last forever. So when does it change? The moment both partners become so comfortable in the relationship, that they stop trying to make the relationship better, to be the best partner they can be, and to understand the other partner’s needs. We get stuck in the endless day to day activities and stop putting energy into our relationship. Each partner has their own needs, desires, morals, values, belief systems, experiences- no wonder relationships are so difficult- it’s like joining two different worlds together. And when we work to get our needs met in relationships, we often form damaging and toxic patterns- leading to continual breakdowns in communication- leaving each partner feeling more hurt, alone, and disconnected.

We all long for a sense of love, acceptance and belonging. So how do we start to renew our relationship, and regain the trust and love that may have been lost a long time ago?

  • Take the time to understand– Each partner has their own needs, sensitivities, triggers, pain, ways to show and receive love and often we communicate from this part of us, but our partner may not understand the why behind what we’re communicating. We aren’t listening to each other! For example, let’s say Jill grew up with an emotionally unavailable father who never said I love you and would distance himself from the family by watching TV all the time. Jill is likely to be sensitive to anything in her current relationship that may remind her of this painful experience. However, when she requests that her partner limit his time watching TV and say I love you daily- he may perceive it as nagging and get defensive and argue about it. If her partner could understand Jill’s past and understand the truth behind her requests, he could have empathy for her and it would no longer be perceived as nagging and it is much more likely Jill will get her needs met in a more loving way- where both partners feel heard.
  • LOVE is a verb, not a noun– This means it’s active- something you work for, not just something that is there. Spend time together- Intentionally! Plan a date night (even if it’s a stay at home night), whatever you decide- find time together. Often, life gets so busy- it’s easy to just go through the motions and become roommates/business partners/co-parents with your partner- rather than actually connecting with one another. It may not be about quantity, but QUALITY time. This means get off your cell phone, turn off the TV and do something fun, something the brings you together where you can increase your connection- remember being in a partnership is choosing to do life together- it can be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding if the love is fostered and nurtured, not lost in the daily routine of activities.

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