Investing in psychotherapy involves time, money, and a desire to make changes with the help of a qualified clinician. Everyone has considered counseling in response to a life transition, a break-up, a death, or feeling like they have less control than they’d like.
“But can’t I get better on my own? Do I have to go to psychotherapy?”
When being The Good One hurts everyone involved
One of my favorite topics in the work that I do, because its function is continually fascinating to me, is codependence.
Because this word is so readily assumed to refer to relationships involving alcohol and drugs, the word may not be the best way of referring to the nature of what I mean when I say “codependence.”
My own history of codependent behaviors proves how unnecessary drugs or alcohol are for codependence to exist. To this day, I can count on one hand how many times either of my parents has had a drink, that I know of. I didn’t grow up in “an alcoholic household,” and I’m not an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. So why in the world would I do all the things listed in Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More in my early relationships?
It was thanks to eventually dating an alcoholic/addict that I pursued my own recovery. Thanks to my “qualifier” giving me the excuse to attend AlAnon because of his drinking/drugging, I was finally able to see that I was doing the same needy/martyred/controlling things with him as I had done with my previous teetotaling boyfriend. My behaviors did not have anything to do with alcohol. They had to do with ME.
This idea that part of the problem in an addictive relationship is created by the person who ISN’T USING may come as a shock. It can come as a shock to the user who, in recovery, comes to accept their culpability in the problems in their life. And it can come as a shock to “the good one” in the relationship, who has been motivated in large part, by the fact that they get to identify with being “the good one.”
What to Expect When Everything is Unexpected
4 Keys to Manage Big and Sudden Life Changes
A friend got pregnant at 41 with her husband who’d had a vasectomy. They already had 2 boys, 9 and 11, and were about a year and a half into the long adoption process for a child from another country.
It is generally seen as a positive scenario when a pregnancy happens to a committed couple with the resources to support the new life. This friend was definitely in that scenario. But it was not what she and her family, at that point, had imagined would be happening.
They had not intended to get pregnant. And yet, here they were.
Viewed initially as a negative or positive change (my friend has definitely come to view her new son as a positive!) the unexpectedness of a change can wreack havoc to feeling empowered in our own lives. It may have taken tons of work to begin to feel a sense of control with our schedule, in our relationship with a child or a partner, or with our bodies. And then along comes a major life change, out of the blue, just when we thought we’d gotten it all figured out.
So now what can I do?
As with all changes, in time we learn how to manage. And often, we are able to see the positives of what we may have initially only looked “bad.” In the meantime, here are a few tips to keep you operating as your best self during the adjustment.
1. Keep what works.
Maintaining the things that do bring comfort, or if not comfort- regularity, can ease a transition.
If your morning routine is normally to get up, make your coffee, brush your teeth, then let the dog out, continue to do exactly that, if you can. If you normally do some stretching before bed, don’t let that fall by the wayside. X, Y, Z can be unexpected and crazy, but you will know that you can still count on your morning cup of coffee. Or your evening meditation. Or your weekly walk with a friend. Or whatever you may have already in place that you count on to happen regularly. Regularity provides comfort.
2. Phone a friend.
Or text. Or just prioritize your social networks. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is so 5 minutes ago- we now know that depending on each other is the way we were intended to operate. And the way that we truly flourish. And really, there is no doing anything completely on one’s own, unless you are literally stranded on an island. We exist in community, so don’t underestimate how sustainable the friends and neighbors around you make your existence.
And by that, lets remember that we are living inside a BODY. This doesn’t mean find time to embark on a new exercise endeavor. It means connect with your physical self. Breathe into your belly and feel what your lungs do against the back of your chair. Stretch your legs (see No. 1 re: stretch before bed) and notice what sensations there are when you do. If exercise is your jam, do that as much as you are able during this time of transition- now is NOT the time to let physical activity fall by the wayside. There is empowerment in feeling connection to our bodies, in knowing the vehicle we are driving.
4. Allow reliance on faith.
It can be very lonely, even terrifying, to think that I alone have to will something to happen. To think that I alone have to ensure my own or my loved ones’ well-being – how could little ME possibly assure that? Believing in the possibilities of all that is greater than ourselves can be such a relief when we get wrapped up in the mindset that I am the biggest, baddest entity in my own world. Other people do things that contribute to your success. Weather conditions affect the happenings in your day. Traffic allows you to be one place or another at any given time of day- or not. YOU alone have only a small part to play in how your life is affected. You can choose to place your faith in the goodness of all that is greater than you (it is okay to call this “God,” if that isn’t too scary) that allows you to focus exclusively on what you have control over. And therefore do your very best at that.
With major change, the last thing we usually want is more things we have to DO. Think of the above as 4 Key Focuses, during this time of change in your life. When we choose what is most helpful to stay focused on, the resulting actions end up getting us where we are focused on going.
One of the top topics in my psychotherapy practice is WORK.
Looking at the Top 5 Reasons for Happy Employees and the Top 5 Reasons for Leaving a Job, it is no surprise to me as a relationship therapist, people want help with their workplace!
Top 5 Reasons for Happy Employees Top 5 Reasons for Leaving a Job
1. Relationship with co-workers
2. Contribution of work to organization’s business goals
3. Meaningfulness of the job
4. Opportunities to use skills/abilities
5. Relationship with immediate supervisor
1. Minimal wage growth
2. Lack of opportunity to advance
3. Excessive overtime hours
4. A work environment that does not encourage teamwork
5. A boss that doesn’t allow you to work flexibly
What do you see that these have in common?
All of these fall into categories of Meaning, Purpose, and Relationships.
Interestingly, each of these categories also contributes greatly to a person’s level of life satisfaction.
Think over how you feel about different periods of your life. You are most fulfilled when there is meaning in the things you do, when you know you have a purpose, and when you are an active participant in rewarding relationships. So. no surprise that these things make or break your work life!
Which of these have you been most fulfilled by?
Which have most bothered you about your current position?
May 18, 2018
Therapy made my life do-able.
This is what I hear consistently from my own clients and from friends. My own life has been made so much more fulfilling and comfortable than I imagined it could be- thanks to the therapists I’ve seen over the years. So it comes as no surprise when I hear it from others. Though I’m continually delighted to hear it!
I can’t be loud enough about how meaningful and relevant AND NOT JUST FOR PSYCHOTIC PEOPLE psychotherapy is.
The demand that we get rid of the stigma against psychotherapy is tremendous. That’s why I was thrilled to learn that the editor and creative director of Print magazine, Debbie Millman also proclaims that
“the best investment I’ve ever made was in psychotherapy.”
In Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors, Debbie says therapy “changed and then saved my life in every imaginable way.”
She offers some suggestions to consider, when embarking on psychotherapy:
Therapy takes time. It takes dedication, stamina, resilience, persistence, and courage. It’s not a quick fix, but it saved my life.
Tell your therapist everything. If you edit who you are or pretend to be something you are not, or project who or how you want to be seen, it will take that much longer. Just be yourself. If you are afraid your therapist will judge you, tell them. All of these things are important to talk about.
There is no shame in feeling shame. Almost everyone does, and psychotherapy will help you understand it. There is nothing like understanding your motivations and insecurities to help you integrate those feelings into your psyche in the most healthy and authentic way.
Yes, it will be expensive. But what is more valuable than better understanding who you are, breaking intrinsic bad habits, getting over much of your shit (or at least understanding why you do it in the first place), and generally living a happier, more contented, more peaceful life?
If you’ve experienced the changes available from psychotherapy with the right clinician for you, what tips do you have for others who are either on the fence about getting started, or who already embarking on that journey?
*Did you know you can do things BEFORE you get to your therapist’s couch, that might make getting started with him or her more efficient?
May 12, 2018
So you feel like you need a getaway.
What is it you want most from a vacation?
Seeing new things?
Whatever it is that drives you to yearn for a vacation is a clue into what will allow you to function better day-to-day.
I have a client, let’s call her Lana, who talks about begging her husband to go on a road trip ASAP. As we explore what she is so eager for in a road trip, she describes how glorious sunshine and being in nature would feel.
It is no irony that Lana started a new office job earlier this year where she has no window near her desk, she does not leave work for lunch, and she starts her workday before the sun rises.
Lana has come up with some things she can try immediately using this cue that she needs more connection to the outdoors- not just for a weekend, but regularly. She will step outside for just a moment each time she takes a bathroom break. She says that though she doesn’t have time to leave work for lunch, there is a place outside where she can take her food. She’d like to try doing that a few times each week.
Hopefully, she and her husband will soon be on the road to Enchanted Rock, Port Aransas, or Big Bend. In the meantime, she can get the Vitamin D, fresh air, and a few moments to clear her mind and refocus that we all need as living creatures.
Studies have shown that taking breaks improves productivity. More is accomplished when we take breaks in our workday than if we had pushed through without stopping.
If we can take notice of what we crave most in a getaway, when we are craving a getaway, we can take better care of ourselves in everyday life. So that the getaway serves as icing on the cake instead of a way of keeping your head above water.
Other simple examples of applying your vaca craving to daily life:
Wish you were on a trip so you could justify doing nothing?
What help can you recruit in order to DO NOTHING in the comfort of your own town?
Family? Friends? A local hire? You can figure out how to get some of your tasks off of your plate without leaving town.
Wish you could leave town so you could break out of your norm and see and do something new?
There is no way you have seen all there is to see in Austin. I am a huge proponent of getting out of the bubble of one’s hometown. And when that isn’t immediately possible, find a new shop, park, museum, performance venue, or restaurant right here in the 787 to check out.
Maybe even, venture north/south of the river!
Since day-to-day life happens more often than vacations, we might as well figure out how to use them wisely.