Friday, February 15, 2013

Loneliness: The Case of the Romantic Partner Dilemma


Laura Hull, MA, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

 

Valentine’s Day week has the same holiday prerequisite as most other “major” holidays, the prerequisite being the potential to make us feel miserable.   It can be a time of fun and celebration or a painful reminder of what is missing in life, in this case, a romantic partner.   For years, I never really knew the whole story behind Valentine’s Day.  All I knew was that as a child it meant trading Valentine cards with classmates and maybe the occasional love note with the classroom crush.  Ah! If only life could stay so simple!  Even though I now know the “real” story of how we came to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I am still not convinced it is much more than a conspiracy between jewelers, florist, candy companies and card companies to make us part with more money after a frenzied Christmas buying season.  By the beginning of February, commercials run frequently on television and radio, reminding us that we need to show our love by buying expensive jewelry or sexy lingerie.   The daily commercial reminders that “every kiss begins with Kay” and fluff news stories reporting that the average American spends $126 on Valentine’s Day for the one he/she loves amuse me, in a nauseating kind of way.   If we don’t have that “someone special” in our lives to share in all this commercialism, it is easy to stare in the mirror and picture a big “L” in the middle of the forehead.  The “L” does not refer to “loser”; it refers to lonely.

 

Most of us have periods of time in our lives when loneliness is an issue.  Life hands us enough change that require us to shift and at times leaves us lonely.  In a previous article I wrote around the holidays, I mentioned some common situations in which we can find ourselves dealing with the reality of loneliness.  Job changes, relocation, times of physical or emotional separation from those we love are just some of the situations in which we can find ourselves struggling.  From an outsider’s perspective, we may appear to “have it all”; a good job, loads of friends, a plethora of activities/projects to which we dedicate large amounts of time.  However, the abundance of time consuming activities and a large social circle in our lives does not mean we are not lonely.  It just means we are busy.  For some, being busy does not allow for time to dwell on being lonely or analyzing what is potentially missing in our lives.  Still for others, not having that “special someone” in their lives or being emotionally distant from that life partner can be a crippling feeling.

 

Because we are right on the heels of Valentine’s Day, I would like to focus primarily on the loneliness associated with finding “the one”.  With the average first time marrying age creeping up into the late 20’s, many of us find ourselves spending at least some of our adult years looking for that “ideal” life partner.  With roughly fifty percent of first marriages ending in divorce, many find themselves again looking for “the one” at some point.  These gaps in time, these periods where we find ourselves still “searching” for that person God meant for us to be with, can be frustrating and lonely.  After false starts and a few train wreck relationships, some find themselves wondering if there really is someone out there with whom they are meant to share their life.  Some may wonder if God really does have someone in mind for them. And if so, where is he/she?  The Bible says that God created Adam, and that He saw that it was not good for man to be alone.  God created sex for the marriage relationship because the physical closeness with our spouse is good for us, both physically and emotionally.  Because God saw the importance of this type of relationship, it should not be at all surprising that finding our soul mate, can take on a sense of urgency at some point.  However, it is important to be patient with the process and not allow loneliness or desperation to provoke us to make a mistake in choosing our significant other. 

 

Loneliness can exist within marriage, as well.  It is not uncommon for problems to creep into marriage after the honeymoon phase ends.  When intensity and passion are replaced by complacency and monotony, trouble is brewing.  I have spent much of my career in couples work; trying to help couples find their way back to each other after long periods of time adrift on the sea of love.  I should probably pre-emptively apologize for the cheesy “sea of love” reference J.  However, people who love each other CAN drift apart.  When this happens, it can be the loneliest feeling in the world.  Relationships can only drift for so long.  Without rescue, drifters eventually drown. 

 

What can be done to address the issue of loneliness associated with significant others?  If still in the phase of life where finding a life partner is the goal, it is helpful to invest time in things that make US better life partners.  Are WE bringing our “best selves” to the table?  A good question to ask: “Are there things in my life, things about myself that I need to work on?  Are there issues in my life that keep me from being a good partner to someone else?”  If the answers are yes, then it’s time to address these things.  Maybe it’s time to ask a trusted friend or family member if there are things that are keeping you from being your best self.  Brace and be prepared to hear the truth, and please do not respond negatively to honesty that feels like criticism.  People who genuinely love us should be able to tell us the truth without fear of repercussions in the relationship.  After an honest self-inventory, it’s time to take steps.  Counseling is a safe and positive way to address issues in life that may be hindering healthy relationships from developing or moving to the next step.  It is always a good idea to bring our healthiest selves into any meaningful relationship.  Only when we are in a good place emotionally, are we in a position to be in a healthy relationship with a significant other.

 

Consider this:  Are we looking for love in all the wrong places?  We must be mindful of where we seek out others for long-term romantic relationships.   Is the father of your children or the mother of your child going to be found in a bar?  I am not saying it never happens.  Obviously it does…. sometimes.  But if we are looking for someone who will spend the next fifty years going to church with us on Sunday mornings and who will be sipping lemonade on the front porch with us when we are old, is a bar the BEST place to start looking?  Are we looking for people who are likeminded?   I am always amazed seeing people investing time dating others who do not have the same values.  Why do people spend time believing they can “make him/her be the one for me”?  I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “I thought I could change him/her”.  These same people are then bewildered when the relationship derails.  Picture in your mind what you want in a significant other, and do not waste time and energy trying to “make” someone fit that picture.  Please understand that I am absolutely NOT saying that marrying someone from the church singles group is going to guarantee an ideal life partner.  Bad marriages have been born out of church relationships, too.  But I AM saying that meeting likeminded people, who have similar goals and values in life, increases the odds of a good relationship working out in the long run.

 

For the loneliness that can exist in marriage, there is truly a sense of urgency.  Wearing a ring on the left hand and sleeping next to a warm body at night does not mean the relationship isn’t in trouble.  Loneliness in marriage that is left unchecked will be addressed eventually, potentially in a courtroom during a divorce proceeding or at the Motel 6 up the road.  If we are lonely in our marriage; if we aren’t getting what we need emotionally from our partners, we will find it somewhere else.  I am not necessarily referring to affairs, though that is often the case.  Loneliness in marriage is a hole in the soul we will fill up with something or someone else.  Many will pour all their time and energy into parenting, work, kids activities, church activities, anything really, that tries to compensate for what’s missing in the relationship; anything that takes up time and does not allow for much opportunity spent dwelling on what is missing or what is wrong.  This is a dangerous place to be.  Loneliness in the marital relationship has the potential to be fatal to the marriage. When recognized, it must be addressed swiftly and decidedly. 

 

Everyone experiences loneliness at one time or another.  It’s part of the human experience.  But it does not have to be permanent or debilitating.  Recognizing it and addressing it is the key to overcoming it.

The Lonely Side of Mothering


 
By Chris Hammond

I have been told many times that the best years of my life are when I was a stay-at-home-mom.  The comment came from an older woman who looked at me with envy while I struggled to change a diaper in a restroom with another child tugging on my pants.  Or the comment came from a friend who was driving to work after just having dropped off her child at daycare while I’m at home picking up sticky Cheerios off the sofa.  Or the comment came from my husband who wished he could stay at home instead of going to work every day while I’m wishing desperately for adult conversation about anything other than the kids.  For me, some of the loneliest years of my life came when I “got to” stay home with my kids.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not being ungrateful for the opportunity to be at home and watch my kids take their first step, play on the playground, pick on their siblings, or have one of their countless accidents that resulted in numerous trips to the emergency room.  I’m extremely grateful for these moments and will treasure them for the rest of my life.  These moments are priceless and I’m looking forward to the days when I can share them at my child’s graduation, their wedding, or with my grandkids.

Admit the loneliness.  I am grateful but I was also extremely lonely.  Many days would go by when my only real adult interaction was yelling at the commentator on the TV over some stupid political decision.  Many more days would go by when I would stop and enjoy a bathroom break without interruption let alone a hot bath or a pedicure.  Still more days would go by when I would sleep for an entire night without being awaken by a frightened child, a hungry child or a sick child.  Worse yet, no one seemed to understand my loneliness.  Not the older woman in the restroom, not my friend going to work, or my husband. 

Explain the loneliness.  I don’t blame the older woman, my friend or even my husband for not understanding my loneliness because I never communicated it to them.  I just listened to their comments and instead of interjecting my feelings about the matter, I stuffed it.  On occasion I would try to talk to them about it but it usually was mixed in with frustration and anger because I waited too long.  There are many ways to explain hard topics to another person and I never took the effort to even try because I was too focused on keeping up the image that everything was wonderful.

Embrace the loneliness.  Looking back over many years, I can now see that there will always be periods in my life of loneliness.  This does not define me as a person; I am not depressed, socially awkward, or have a dislike for people.  Rather the opposite is true in every way however I will still get lonely.  The only conclusion I can draw is that loneliness is on the full spectrum of emotions and I was created to experience all of the emotions, not just some of them.  How can joy be felt with suffering, how can peace be understood without strife, and how can communion be embraced without loneliness.

As our children grew, things got much easier.  The parents of my kids became my friends and they helped to bring back sanity and normalcy to a seemingly crazy life.  And now looking back on those years, I can honestly say they were some of the best years of my life but often with the best come some of the worst.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Valentine's Day Fail Process

If you feel Lonely without a card or candy does it mean you aren’t Loved?
White Castle dinner date.

 By Dwight Bain
It’s the worst day of the year for millions. No, I’m not talking about April 15th when Income Taxes are due- I’m referring to Valentine’s Day. Turns out this ‘romantic’ holiday has become one of the loneliest and least popular holidays according to the National Retail Federation. Here’s how American’s listed out their preferences for special days–
93% - Christmas/Hanukkah
87.8% - July 4th
83% - Mother’s Day
82% - Easter
77% - Father’s Day
60% - Valentine’s Day
54.2% - St. Patrick’s Day
With all the promotions on TV you might think Valentines is more about money than it is about love since the aaverage guy will spend $169 on jewelry, clothes, perfume, flowers or dining out… (twice as much as women will spend according to the National Retail Federation).The Greeting Card Association reports that people will send about 150 million cards to show their love, in all American’s will spend $17.6 billion dollars this year. So with the average person spending $4.52 on Valentine’s gifts for their pets, or the people who skip the love to go ahead and buy themselves the gift they want, is this day even about romance at all?
Valentines Day has some interesting expectations associated with it since there is a cultural tendency to believe a person who doesn’t get cards and candy aren’t really loved, just lonely… and nothing could be further from the truth. In case you are feeling that way today, let me give you a little perspective.
Saint Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration to honor an early Christian leader named Valentinus who was a martyred for his faith in Christ. Before he was killed he wrote notes to encourage others to stay strong in their faith. Quite a stretch from a heart shaped Hallmark card with a cute puppy on the cover. The wonderful tradition of writing a “Valentine” note to honor his sacrifice has turned into just another commercial holiday.
I believe the cultural expectation of getting romantic stuff, (like a gift card to Outback), from the person you want to receive it from will do nothing but set you up for crushing disappointment since there are 365 days a year to show love, and when someone ignores their partner for 364 days, 1 day won’t make up for it. It can’t. Yet too many people feel lost, lonely, rejected and hurt because of shattered expectations about how they weren’t loved and appreciated by that special someone they wanted to love them, the way they wanted to be loved.... see how confusing and convoluted that is?
However, when you move from the cultural model of getting; over to the Christian model of giving to others, expecting nothing in return for your kindness; then you are moving forward in the path of one who would rather die than to give up his faith. That kind of self-less love is a real reason to celebrate. So turns out it’s not about the chocolate after all.

About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2013), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeworksGroup.org

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Formulas That Can Lead to Depression



Brian M. Murray, MS, IMH

If you are feeling depressed there may be something you can do to relieve it. Feeling depressed can be due to an imbalance in the brain neurotransmitter called Serotonin of which medication from a medical doctor can help to stabilize. While antidepressants can help lift mood this is often not the sole culprit for depression. Studies show that the most effective way to relieve depression is through both mood stabilizers and talk therapy such as mental health counseling. Talk therapy helps bring a person to understanding and healing of why the depression is occurring in the first place with a goal of getting off of being dependent on mood stabilizing medications. There are times however when the body has a chronic problem with producing enough Serotonin to hold the lifted mood. In this case long term treatment with medications may be necessary under a medical doctor’s care.

When focusing on talk therapy there are three ways (formulas) that can help to relieve some of the depressive feelings. The first formula is about trying to change what cannot be changed. The Serenity Prayer is a brilliant piece of literature for addressing the worry that leads to depression. In this prayer part of it reads “to accept the things I cannot change.” Sometimes people can have the propensity to mull over things that they want changed and they hyper-analyze it to death. In the process of analyzing there is an absence of realizing that nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes. Over time it begins to weigh down the psyche, aka depressed. Sometimes we have to learn how to accept the things we cannot change, let it go, leave it in the past and move on.

Another formula leading to depression is unmet expectations. Unmet expectations fall into basically 3 common areas; expectations we have of ourselves, we have of others and those others have of us. Expectations are commonly grounded in childhood experiences when we learn how to handle life as it comes to us. However, when some needs become unmet they can turn into something else such as anger, anxiety and depression. One way to counter this is to begin to think or explore other alternatives to gratify the need.

The third formula is based on a cognitive distortion also known as unhelpful thinking habits. There are many of these patterns that can lead to mood problems, however there is one aptly named “compare and despair” which can be a real culprit when comparing our situation to others. What happens in a situation like this is people have a tendency to see the good in others, compare to what they have in themselves, and then come to the conclusion that they are not as good as others. If this goes on for too long and forms into a habitual way of thinking it can create a long term pattern of negative thinking. If everyone in the world around us is better than us, the underlying message often translates into something along the lines of “I don’t measure up” or “I am not good enough.” A helpful way of looking at a situation would be to strike a balanced way of self examination. If focused on just the negative, what are some positive things to help offset those things?

About the author- Brian M Murray is a devoted professional helping to empower people and overcoming difficult obstacles in life. He is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern located in Orlando and Winter Park Florida working as a counselor in a private practice setting at The LifeWorks Group.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005"

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Struggling With Parenting? Direct Parents are Motivating


 
By Chris Hammond

When your child comes home with a bad grade on a test, you sit them down immediately and try to help them set new goals for improving their grade.  You explain about the importance of setting long-term goals and how their current behavior is not consistent with what they want out of life.  You never miss an opportunity to encourage and motivate your child to become what you already know they are capable of becoming.  But there is no doubt during the moments of disappointment and stress that your child’s wishes and opinions are second to yours.  After all, you are the parent and they are the child.

You are a Direct Parent.  As a direct parent, your favorite questions will be centered around the word “What”.  What are you doing?  What are you trying to accomplish? What is your point?  You are goal-oriented, focused, and motivating but you can easily overpower your child to the point of bullying and therefore miss an opportunity for tenderness, compassion, and mercy.  If your child is like you, there will be numerous arguments in a constant struggle for control.

The Good.  You are very good at helping your child set realistic goals, modifying those goals to address new circumstances and motivating your child to keep going when the going gets tough.  Your child will always have some sort of direction, even if you have to decide it for your child because no direction is failure and failure is not acceptable.  There are rules in your home and your child knows them, is reminded of them and has consistent consequences if they are violated.

The Bad.  You can overpower your child to the point of bullying.  Your desire to help your child is genuine but to your child you sometimes come across as harsh, uncaring, and unsympathetic.  This is justified in your mind as proper training for the real world that your child will one day face however you don’t fully listen to your child so your training may actually be misguided.  Listening requires time, understanding, and patience as information that is forced out of a child can cause them not to trust you in the future.

The Ugly.  Playground bullies are a pain but they are nothing in comparison to the parent who is a bully.  Yes, your child is a child and they need guidance but the guidance does not have to be pushy, demanding, or belittling.  A child who is bullied by a parent, usually acts out and bullies younger or weaker kids.  As an adult, they will bully subordinates or co-workers.  In the end, no one likes a bully.

Understanding your parenting style is not about beating yourself up and or pointing fingers at your spouse.  Rather it is about understanding your natural strengths and weaknesses so you can build on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.  Remember, direct parents are motivating so be motivating and minimize the bulling.

 

Struggling With Parenting? Cautious Parents are Aware


 
By Chris Hammond

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  This is one of your favorite quotes and your child already knows it by heart.  You are a careful planner in every activity with many detailed lists in order by priority and usually color coded for easy reference.   This is responsible behavior and irresponsible behavior is not having a plan because danger lurks behind every corner and you might be unprepared.   It is important that you set the proper example for your child in behavior, thought, and control of your emotions so you are very careful about what you say, how you say it and explaining why you do what you do. 

You are a Cautious Parent.  As a cautious parent, your favorite questions will be centered around the word “Why”.  Why did you do that?  Why didn’t you finish that?  Why aren’t you doing it this way?  Cautious parents are detail oriented, analytical, and perfectionists but when pushed they can become irrationally moody and over explain.  If your child is like you, they will ask a ton of “why” questions and be thrilled that you take the time to respond. 

The Good.  There is reason and logic behind every decision and you are more than willing to explain how you came to the conclusions that you did.  You love to share your knowledge of the world in detail and could go on and on about one topic for hours.  Your child enjoys having their own personal “Encyclopedia” who is very resourceful and can cut research time down to a matter of minutes.  Unfortunately, most schools don’t accept “Dad” or “Mom” on the works cited page.

The Bad.  You have a desire to share your wisdom with your child but too much information at the wrong time can do more damage than good.  Over explaining things does not equip your child to reason through things for themselves and frequently your child will be lacking in critical thinking skills as they have learned to just trust your judgment rather than figure it out for themselves.

The Ugly.  As an adult, if your child is still relying on your wisdom to guide their life, they will continue to flounder at nearly every job they do.  Still looking for someone to spell out every detail so they don’t have to think for themselves and risk making a mistake, your child will find comfort in menial employment instead of living up their full potential.

Understanding your parenting style is not about beating yourself up and or pointing fingers at your spouse.  Rather it is about understanding your natural strengths and weaknesses so you can build on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.  Remember, cautious parents are aware so be aware and minimize the over explaining.

 

Struggling With Parenting? Bookkeeper Parents are Fair


 
By Chris Hammond

In your head you keep a constant ledger and running total of all the gifts, grades, thank-you notes, kind acts, punishments, harsh words, phone calls, and hugs for each child.  You carefully check the ledger daily to ensure that your kids are all getting equal time, attention, and punishment as the thought you might be unfair to one child is extremely painful.  It may sound exhausting, but the alternative of appearing to favor one child over the other is far worse than having to maintain the ledger. 

You are a Bookkeeper Parent.  As a bookkeeper parent, your favorite questions will be centered around the word “How”.  How are you going to do that?  How do you feel?  How are you doing?  Bookkeeper parents are very fair, diplomatic, and loyal but can easily get their feelings hurt in the process of parenting especially when accused of being unfair, undiplomatic and disloyal.  If your child is like you, they appreciate your fairness and see such an act as love.

The Good.  Because you pay attention to all of the little signs, the hurt feelings, and body language of your child, you really don’t miss an opportunity to show compassion, love and tenderness.  You are a gentle parent who tries hard to see things from your child’s perspective and given a choice you will side with your child over nearly anyone else including your spouse.  You really do care about your child’s struggles and you go out of your way to be understanding.

The Bad.  Rules are sometimes too flexible as you are more interested in understanding how your child could do such a thing rather than punishing them for violating a rule.  This can cause confusion for your child who quickly learns that by shedding a couple of tears they can win you over and reduce their punishment.  One comment from your child of “you are being unfair” is likely to send you in a tail spin as you examine your ledgers.  This becomes a great distraction from the real issue at hand and your child escapes without punishment.

The Ugly.  Your child will learn how to manipulate you and as an adult will manipulate others by using a person’s sensitivity against them.  They may even become uncaring to the point of ignoring the feelings of others all together because they see feeling driven people as manipulative.  This creates an unhealthy environment for their children who are likely to be more like you and less like their parent.

Understanding your parenting style is not about beating yourself up and or pointing fingers at your spouse.  Rather it is about understanding your natural strengths and weaknesses so you can build on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.  Remember, bookkeeper parents are fair so be fair and minimize the hurt feelings.

 

Struggling With Parenting? Active Parents are Fun


 
By Chris Hammond

Having kids is a blast.  There are so many places to show them, so many things to explore, so many things to do and so little time.  It seems as if your calendar is always full and it probably is with birthday parties, trips to the zoo, new playgrounds, play dates with friends, soccer practices and just going to stores.  At home there are plenty of toys, games, crafts, and most likely an entire room devoted to the kids where they can play for endless hours.  You like all of the activity and encourage your kid to try new things constantly.

You are an Active parent.  As an active parent, your favorite questions will be centered around the word “Who”.  Who else is going? Who are your friends?  Who do you want to be?  You are interested in the people in your kid’s world and usually use your kid’s interaction with others as an indication of how well adjusted they are.  If your child is like-minded, this conversation is easy but if not your child shuts down and can’t seem to figure out why this matters so much to you.

The Good.  Your kids will not be bored.  If anything, they will be exhausted at times and crave some down time to just sit on the sofa and watch TV.  You most likely encourage them to participate in a wide variety of activities and are not easily upset when your child changes their mind to a completely different sport.  After all, you probably did the same thing as a child.  Regardless of your financial status, your child will have many adventurous stories to tell, have a lot of physical activity, and numerous types of friends. 

The Bad.  Exhaustion from excessive activities and lack of proper sleep are two of the biggest down sides to active parenting.  There will be times when the excessive activities on your calendar are too much for you and your child to manage so someone is likely to get disappointed or hurt when you can’t deliver on a promise.  Your promises have a long shelf life with your child and as they get older, they will remember and remind you of all broken promises. 

The Ugly.  Too much activity does not allow time for recollection, rest, and relaxation so your child may grow up struggling with finding a balance between activity and inactivity.  The numerous friendships that you encouraged your child to have and maintain may also be overwhelming for them causing them to run in the opposite direction away from friendships.  Finally, your lack of following through on promises is an unhealthy model for your child who may also grow up making and breaking promises.

Understanding your parenting style is not about beating yourself up and or pointing fingers at your spouse.  Rather it is about understanding your natural strengths and weaknesses so you can build on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.  Remember, active parents are fun so be fun and minimize the number of broken promises.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Feeling Stuck? Do Things Differently!



Brian M. Murray, MS, IMH

Feeling stuck in life can bring about unsettling emotions and negative thinking. It can create questions in the mind about life, career, family and a whole host of other thinking patterns that can lead to major changes. Often the source of frustration for feeling stuck isn't so much about the position someone finds themselves as it is about how they think about how they see themselves in their current situation. This negative thinking pattern over time can lead into other issues such as low self-esteem, self-worth, depression and anxiety. To head this off at the pass before it gets to that level and therapy is needed to reverse course there are a few things a person can do to help get directed back into a positive mindset.

Watch out for and filter internal self dialogue that has a critical voice saying something that leads to thinking "I'm not good enough and I'm incompetent." This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame which has an underlying tone  that translates into "I am doing something wrong, or I am a bad person." This is language of negative thinking and when it goes on for too long it becomes a habit. Just like any other habit, the longer it is done the more reinforced it becomes.

Now the good news. Getting into a negative thinking pattern is something that is learned and when something is learned it can be relearned. It  is like learning bad math and going through life with the understanding that 3 plus 2 equals 6 can be frustrating. The idea is to learn new ways of doing things by replacing the old ways with new ways with something more realistic.  Many years ago Alcoholics Anonymous figured this out and they use a common phrase saying "watch out for your stinking thinking." They know that thinking despairing thoughts leads to distress and unhealthy coping mechanisms. So how does someone get into a more healthy and realistic frame of mind? Here are a few things that can help lead to change.

  • Be a self role model. If there is something that you do not like about yourself then acting more like the person you want to be can be a good starting point. This can be real or imagined, envision what this might look like and work toward that vision.
  • Take inventory of your posture. The way a person walks, talks, sits and stands can make a difference in how they feel about themselves. Using a confident posture can help a person feel more confident about who they are and their purpose in life.
  • No matter how small or big an achievement do some self rewarding. Feeling good and celebrating achievements helps reinforce something that was done that is good and puts things in a more positive light.
  • Recognize and accept your strengths. Be thankful for compliments and at times give some out to others. Sometimes a helpful way can be to write compliments down or thank you cards and put them into a file. If feeling negative a good technique for lifting mood in the future is to pull out that file and read a few of the notes tucked away. 
  • Changing language to reflect motivation. Changing internal motivational language goes from "I will try" to "I will." Trying can influence self doubt about the ability to achieve something and leaves an easy out. Motivational language reflects determination and a positive attitude about how "I can do it and I will do it."

When feeling stuck take a look at the bigger picture and think about how there may be other ways of doing things. This list is not exhaustive and being creative on how to get unstuck goes a long way. Step outside of yourself and see how you would see yourself if you were another person. What would that person say to you? What would you say to another person if they were having the same experience?