Monday, March 30, 2009

Why Try Counseling?

Why should we try counseling? That is a great question. One that bears examination as many partners turn to counseling in an attempt to strengthen and rebuild their relationship.

When partners begin a relationship they are generally thrilled with each other. They may spot areas early on that may be irritating or annoying, but are willing to overlook them because the strong positive feelings they share greatly outweigh any negative. Over time as partners become more comfortable with one another they begin to let down their defenses. They feel more accepted and begin to share their inner selves, allowing themselves to be more vulnerable. This increases their level of intimacy.

At this point the relationship is a living entity. It is being nurtured and fed by both partners on a daily basis. Many deposits are being made on each side and few withdrawals. The health meter of the relationship is high and the fuel tank is filled each day.

The intimacy of the relationship may begin to trigger old issues from the past for one or both of the partners. Intimacy can be threatening when partners feel old wounds from their past and don't understand what is happening to them. Suddenly they are upset or angry and don't understand why. In the blink of an eye an argument may erupt. Partners blame one another often unable to see their own part in the disputes.

Because of the high level of intimacy between the partners, even small disagreements can wound deeply. Walls begin to emerge. Each hurtful glance or sarcastic remark puts another brick in the wall. At first the overall health of the relationship compensates for the difficulties. The high level of past deposits allows for much forgiveness. But now the relationship is no longer being fed. Many withdrawals have been made. The account balances have dipped dangerously low. Partners have begun to tend to their wounds and place bricks in the wall. They have little energy left to feed the relationship. They have forgotten that the relationship is a living entity requiring care and nurturing to survive. As they continue to ignore their daily deposits the relationship bank account becomes overdrawn and the health meter dips down towards dysfunction. As this point the relationship is slowly dying.

Many times partners simply do not understand that feeling unease at new levels of intimacy is a normal part of the growth process. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can be terrifying, especially if we have lived with masks most of our lives. We have entered into a relationship with someone who has earned our trust and we expose the soft underbelly of ourselves. This complete openness may be frightening. If our self esteem is low, we may be unable to cope with the strong feelings that such vulnerability generates.

Getting help can reverse this process. Increasing the self esteem of each of the partners can rebuild the process that the parties used in the beginning to feed their relationship. Learning the tools of self care and applying them in our daily lives increases our self esteem. We can learn communication skills to effectively listen when our partner speaks and feel heard when we share. Compromise done in healthy ways creates loving bonds between partners who feel cared for and valued within their relationship.

It is imperative that we understand that our relationship is a living entity that requires daily care and feeding. When we practice the tools of communication, self care and compromise we insure that we will have the energy needed to make daily deposits into our relationship to ensure it's long life. Our relationship is our safety net. We rely on it to provide a safe haven for our partner, ourselves and our family. It deserves our attention and our care. As we use our tools, practice self care, communicate effectively and learn to compromise we increase our self esteem, rebuild the health of our relationship and give ourselves the gift of hope.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Self Care in Tough Economic Times

Wall street has raped our economy and now we face the worst recession in decades. The nation pulls together behind our new President to try to keep the recession from becoming a depression. In the process, tens of thousand lose their jobs, their medical coverage, their retirement savings, their homes and their self respect. What do we do if this happens to us?

In the face of serious personal challenges we recognize that we are going to go through a process of grieving. A significant part of our self esteem is tied up in our ability to provide safety and support for ourselves and our families. The five stage grieving process involves steps that integrate the loss we have experienced into our persona. How we take care of ourselves during that process can be the difference between those of us who come out of the challenges whole, and those who don't.

We cannot change the fact that the economy is in the toilet or that we may have lost our job. We can only change how we respond to this dismal situation. Because many of us have families that rely upon us to provide, we may need support at this grave time from other bread winners who are in similar situations. Having a place to go for support cannot be overemphasized when disaster strikes. Although we may continue to look for work and may receive some interim assistance from families, churches, charities or the government, we still must face the internal struggle that accompany such a severe loss. Our self esteem has suffered a blow that cannot be minimized.

At times such as these it is imperative that we use our tools, acquire new tools to help us through these difficult economic times, and ask for help. There is no shame in allowing others to aid us in an emergency. There are support groups forming through employment services, unions, churches and the like. We know in our hearts that we would certainly do the same for another if the situation were reversed. We must keep this in mind as we weather the economic storm.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I Just Can't Find the Words

We are on our way out for the day with our partner. We laugh and hold hands as we leave the house. One of the kids has again left their bike out on the lawn. They have been asked to put it in the garage countless times. Our partner gets upset, picks up the bike and puts it in the garage, making a few angry comments in the process. We say nothing and continue on to the car to wait for our partner to join us.

As we drive away we notice our partner is silent. We ask if they are all right and receive a short clipped, yes. Obviously everything is not all right. We feel that they are asking to be drawn out and once again ask gently if all is well. The explosion that follows lasts only seconds, but rocks us to our core. We are stunned by the intensity of the emotional outburst. We sit in hurt silence for a few moments then ask for an explanation. We are told nothing.

Does this seem all too familiar? In cave man times looking into the face of a predator didn't require thought, just reflexive action to keep us alive. That age old survival response system still takes over when we feel threatened. We may no longer be looking into the face of a predator, but our threat response is just as strong. Intense emotions cause our thinking brain, the cerebral cortex, to shut off. The last thing we need when staring into the face of a lion are random thoughts to distract us from surviving. Today's lion may be something as inconsequential as the kids bike or the credit card bill.

Our ability to rebound, after a perceived threat causes our survival response to kick in, is an indication of our emotional health. For some, the thinking and processing of strong emotions is so painful that it can take many hours. This can leave the other party wondering what has gone wrong. Here is where effective communication becomes paramount. In the example above, the overwhelmed party can let their partner know that they are unable to process their feelings as of yet, but will get back to the issue as soon as they can. This gives the overwhelmed partner time to process their emotions and associated feelings, and lets the other party know that these hurtful actions will be talked about at some point.

Children who have lived in a home with much chaos and drama may have no one to teach them how to regain their emotional center when they feel threatened. They may be left to cope on their own with virtually no skills. Many children find numbing themselves the safest way to overcome the extreme pain that being emotionally abandoned brings. As adults, the lack of coping skills that would normally be developed during childhood, makes dealing with strong emotions unbearable. To avoid processing the intense feelings that are associated with survival emotions, these adults still use their childhood defense mechanisms. They shut down and feel nothing. This leaves their partners and family feeling unimportant, ignored and unloved. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Being numb, even for a time, protected them as children from the trauma of emotional abandonment. These adults can learn to feel strong emotions a little at a time.

With our tools and ability to apply consistent self care in our daily lives, we can cope effectively with a partner who may find strong emotions overwhelming. As our partner learns to practice self care and use their tools, they can begin to process strong emotions more effectively. In this way we practice commitment in our relationship and detachment from our partner as we both grow in our ability to communicate and compromise.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Life is just... Life

Life is so hard! It's not fair! Why is this happening to me? I didn't do anything! I can't take it anymore! Who says so! How could this be possible? I wasn't there! When will all the drama end? If I have to say this one more time...! Why do I let this go on? Sound familiar???

No one said life would be easy. Life is just... life. And yes, life often isn't very fair. Kind, decent people die in terrible ways in wars. Stuff just... happens, and sometimes it doesn't make any sense at all. Life can be random and chaotic. Yet, through all the disappointment, loss and pain, there is the other side of life... the joyful, loving, balanced part where ordinary people live out a good portion of their lives with a significant degree of happiness. Yes, the painful times come to us all. How we cope with them is more of an indicator of our mental stability than how we enjoy the happier times.

These are the reasons we use our tools, practice self care, make our daily lives as positive as possible and try to see the glass as half full. We have many assets available for use in our lives. The most valuable of these is time. That is the one that we cannot recoup, cannot rewind, cannot say, "Do over!!" when it has past. We try to live each day to its fullest. We allow ourselves to be as present in each moment as humanly possible.

It is the realization that we have a limited amount of time in our lives that brings many of us to that point where we want to live a more meaningful existence. We question how we have used our time thus far and begin to make informed decisions about what we intend to do with the remainder of our lives. We can think about our choices with the following in mind: When we are lying on our death beds, what will we wish we had done more of? That is the place to begin spending our time.

Life is just... life. Make it the best trip!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Work that Struggle Muscle - Persistence

What is it, that inner something that drives us to keep on trying to figure out the solution to a dilemma? The answer is persistence. The part of us that believes that puzzling out the solution is a part of life's journey. We may be faced with serious problems or difficult situations that require introspection, communication and compromise, but persistence is the key to overcoming those challenges.

When we make a commitment to work on a relationship the path is often fraught with difficulties. Some days the obstacles may seem overwhelming. We continue to make the efforts because we believe that they will yield results. During our lifetimes we may have learned that increased effort on our part in trying new and different methods of solving life's problems have proved successful. When we continue to be open minded about the path that may lie before us, we give ourselves the opportunity for growth. We allow all possibilities to be presented to us for consideration. It may be that we cannot see the path that will lead us to joy. Our limited vision may not be able to discern the best road ahead.

Often times we may fear introspection, communication and compromise. If we have been seriously wounded in the past we may feel that looking within will leave us vulnerable to pain and injury once again. Our defenses may have left us with walls that permit no one in or out. If we stay behind these walls we may be safe, but we sacrifice intimacy and joy for our safety. Our partner may eventually yearn for the intimacy we do not permit and may be drawn away from the relationship.

To prevent ourselves from losing our relationship, we invest time in learning the skills needed to accomplish the introspection we require to see ourselves as others see us. We cannot do this alone. We can see ourselves only through the lens of our inner eye. The paradigm shift necessary for us to begin to see ourselves as others see us, requires input from an external source. We seek out a balanced individual with no stake in our lives to assist us in this journey.

We make the commitment to ourselves to learn appropriate communication skills, so as not to wound others with our pain. Recall that, hurt people, hurt people. No, that's not a typo. It is a fact. Once we are wounded, in an attempt to protect ourselves, we may fall back on survival and defense mechanisms learned in early childhood without realizing it. We inadvertently lash out, wounding others. Sadly, most often we wound those we love the most. Acquiring adept communication skills is a key to unlocking our survival and defense mechanisms. Once we can properly communicate with our partner, we can increase our intimacy level through introspection and compromise. These efforts take persistence and commitment to work through the challenges that present themselves as we shore up the foundation of our relationship.

As we practice persistence in our daily lives, and use our tools for self care, we increase our self esteem. Our belief in our ability to trust our decision making increases. We become more willing to risk vulnerability, leading us to the gift of intimacy in our relationships.

Shock and Disbelief... My Partner Wants to Leave

Spent some time tonight reading the blogs posted by folks going through serious difficulties with their partners. It seemed that there was a pattern in relationship failure that cropped up over and over again. One partner being shocked by the other wanting to leave the relationship and seemingly completely unaware of the deep unhappiness that their partner was feeling.

This speaks to a lack of communication between partners, as well as a failure on the part of both parties to address issues before they become serious road blocks to moving forward. In many instances small problems are swept under the rug as partners try to get along. They do not want to spend their time talking out thorny issues that they may feel are too explosive or too difficult to try to negotiate via compromise. Some may convince themselves that they are doing their partner a favor in keeping the peace. In reality, those issues that do not get discussed are generally the ones that are most important and need attention.

The investment of time discussing and working through smaller problems may eliminate the necessity of dealing with huge hurdles later on in the relationship. Getting along on a day to day basis is crucial in building a foundation for the future. However, ignoring small irritations eventually builds walls between partners that over time may turn into resentment and bitterness. The bricks in a wall of resentment cemented by bitterness are very difficult to tear down.

It behooves us to take what is called the five year test when deciding to address an issue. Will this matter in five years? If the answer is yes, then it must eventually be deal with at an appropriate time. If the answer is no, why deal with it at all. In this way we select what is important to us according to our values. We want to win overall in the relationship, not focus on the small unimportant nuisances. We must be honest with ourselves if this strategy is going to succeed. Can we really live with the issue in our daily lives if we do not address it? Do we have the tools to let it go? Does this violate one of our core values or beliefs? If we are truly honest with ourselves, we can navigate what may appear to be a mine field with clarity and self knowledge.

Our goal is to make our relationships more joyful and fulfilling. Effective communication may take up large blocks of time and feel awkward initially, but the dividends paid in the long run in intimacy and self esteem are priceless.

Monday, March 23, 2009

HELP... My Partner's Having An Emotional Meltdown

It's been one of those days when we've been trying to keep ourselves calm and centered in the midst of our partner having a melt down. As the pressure and hostility build, we feel as if we are about to explode. We bite our tongue, the air crackles with tension, we feel as if we are going to scream. What do we do now? What tools do we have to help us get through this crisis?

One of the most difficult times we may face in a relationship comes when our partner becomes emotionally unbalanced and cannot soothe themselves back into stability. The ensuing hours or days can be draining, upsetting and extremely difficult. A partner who has this pattern may be unpredictable in daily life causing much stress and tension. Unpredictability creates a feeling of walking on egg shells and the need by others to be hyper-vigilant in an attempt to avoid potentially triggering an emotional melt down.

Why is it that some people can effectively calm themselves in short order, while others may take hours or even days to regain balance? When we are small children we do not have the capacity to self soothe. We depend on our caretakers to lull us back into balance when we have become upset. They may cuddle us, coo at us, talk gently to us or simply smile at us. We respond by emulating their emotional stability. We imprint their model for handling stress onto our lives and make it our own.

What happens when our caretakers are unable to handle the stress in their lives... when they do not have the capacity to bring themselves back into balance? A caretaker who is in turmoil may not have the presence of mind to realize that their inability to interact appropriately with their environment is being imprinted on their children. If we grew up in a home with drama, tension, hostility and anger, it is likely that we may be unable to moderate our emotions. We may, as children, have never seen emotional balance exemplified and therefore have no experience with appropriate reactions. When we became emotionally upset, there may have been no one who was centered to soothe us back into balance. Now as adults, we are unlikely to be able to bring ourselves back into balance after emotional upset. We may have relied upon external regulators to accomplish this for us with unhappy results.

If our partner is one who may not be able to regain their emotional balance easily, we must practice self care at those difficult times. One of our most effective tools is to take ourselves out of the equation. We recognize that our partner is having an emotional melt down. We realize that we cannot stop the process, nor are we responsible for our partners inability to process their feelings in an appropriate manner. There is nothing we can do to help our partner.

We can take care of ourselves. We lovingly excuse ourselves from the situation. We can take a walk, go for a drive, enjoy a hot bath, get a latte, visit a friend or just run an errand. Getting ourselves out of the situation and away from the tension for even a half hour can be enough to regain our center and perspective. We will need all our empathy to get through the next few hours. We may wish to focus on how grateful we are that we can moderate our own emotional response, and how unfortunate it is that our partner must suffer so greatly.

Once we have regained our composure and feel calm we can make an informed decision about our next action. If our partner has a pattern that takes many hours or days, we may wish to take in a movie, do some shopping, visit a museum or just spend time with friends. We allow ourselves to enjoy our time and give our partner the space to deal with their feelings. We can let our partner know that we will be available when they have regained focus and wish to once again to be part of our social circle.

It may be tempting to become enraged at our partner when this pattern repeats itself in our daily lives. We may begin to feel that precious time is being wasted. We must recall that we are in charge of how we use our time. We have the choice in each moment of what we do next. If we practice self care and allow ourselves to feel pleasure and joy despite our partners situation, we will use our time productively and increase our self esteem.

Although we may feel we are abandoning our partner at a critical time, we are in reality doing them a great service. We are telling them through our actions that they are valued and loved, that we have confidence that they are competent to handle their situation without assistance and return to us a calmer more centered person. In this way we allow our partner to build their self esteem as they learn to manage their emotions in a productive way, without having us present as a distraction or pathway for blame. At the same time we give ourselves the gift of time... time to enjoy our daily lives and pursue our own interests and pleasures.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


It's finally the weekend... We all know how wonderful it feels after another week of work to anticipate the freedom of the weekend. We can sleep in, eat brunch, run errands unhurriedly, pursue our hobbies, visit with friends and enjoy an evening out. What happens when we run into a conflict with our partner? Can we cope with our feelings in a productive way? If we have tools at our disposal, are we using them?

When partners clash during recreational times it can be disappointing. They may start out their time with a relaxing plan of time spent together. If communication is inadequate, the situation may deteriorate from fun to frustration. When one or both partners fail to communicate their desires, the relationship may become unbalanced. One party may be steering the activities without knowing that the other partner is dissatisfied.

In partnerships it is the responsibility of both parties in the relationship to make their needs and wants known. If assumptions are being made by either party that the other knows what their desires are, then there is sure to be disappointment and unmet expectations. Each of us is responsible for communicating our desires. We must not assume that another knows what we think or need. We have an obligation to let our view be known. We may believe we are doing our partners a favor by going along with their plan. In the end, however, we will feel resentful that our needs are not being met. This may lead to hostility and discord.

Should that happen, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We must take responsibility for our lives and use our tools. We owe it to ourselves and our partners to voice our view, to announce our desires, and to ask to have our needs met. When we do this we give our partner the opportunity to validate our importance, as both an individual and as a party to the partnership.

The term partnership implies that we are equals, both important, both having needs to be met. We give our partners the pleasure of meeting our needs, as we have met theirs. We do not need to be wall flowers hiding ourselves from the light of day. We can stretch out our stems and enjoy the sunshine that comes with having our importance validated. We only lose when we don't ask. But when we ask, we give ourselves the opportunity to win. We must use our tools for self care in getting our needs met. As we do, we increase our self esteem. In this way we give ourselves the gift of validation.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Changing the Dance

Listened to the news this week and noticed a pattern that parallels life. Every station raved on and on about the AIG bonus payments and the related scandal. News casts on each channel continued the discourse throughout the week. Finally, on Thursday President Obama spoke on the Late Show and made the most intelligent comment about the AIG drama yet. He mentioned the feelings of outrage that we all share of this company getting funds from American taxpayers and using it to pay bonuses to those same executives who caused the economic collapse in the first place. But the real statement came right afterward. What are we going to do to make certain that no other company can hold us hostage with their risky behavior ever again... put regulations in place to prevent this type of risk taking with other peoples money.

How many times in our lives have we lived through incredible drama? We get through to the other side and are relieved it's over. In our haste to move on, we forget to put in place boundaries or consequences to prevent a recurrence. We may not even communicate fully to resolve the problem and insure that we and our partners understand one another. We end up in that same drama over and over again. It is a dance with steps we and our partners have memorized over time. We have a choice. We do not have to keep dancing. We can change the steps. The old saying, it takes two to tango, is true in relationships as well. When one partner to the dance changes their steps, the other party is left to choose. They can dance alone, a very awkward situation... they can complain, change back messages... or over time they can change their steps as well.

Preventing recurrences are one of the purpose of self examination and communication. We cannot control what others may say or do, but we can certainly control how we respond. We choose to moderate our behavior regardless of how others may be acting. We change our steps and by default the dance changes. It may take time and patience, but if we take the long view, we can work toward making positive changes in our relationships. We use our tools and practice self care. In doing this we give ourselves the gift of hope.

Friday, March 20, 2009

FWB - Friends With Benefits

Can the concept of FWB (friends with benefits) work? Can two consenting adults be friends and share physical intimacy regularly, without increasing their emotional involvement and risking relationship trauma?

Real friendship itself is in fact a significant form of intimacy. Friends share details of their daily lives with one another creating a web of links that bind them together. Sex, on the other hand, may not be intimacy at all. Sex by itself can be simply meeting a biological need... so long as there is no significant emotional attachment. Having casual sex with someone seen once in a great while during times when both parties are single does not necessarily involve friendship, but a casual physical link. The, meet you in the Bahamas once a year, thing can be fun, but that isn't what FWB generally means.

When we enter into a FWB relationship, we generally see one another regularly. It's the regularly part that may become the problem. Mixing real friendship and sex may eventually become problematic because expectations evolve during a friendship... honesty, reliability, accountability, trust... and this may involve exposing ourself to being vulnerable. Physical intimacy added to that equation may inevitably bring two people closer. Being friends first is a great way to start a relationship as long as there is honesty between partners about feelings.

Unfortunately, it is all too common that one party to the FWB pact is hoping that a more serious relationship will grow out of the new level of intimacy. Pretending to feel less than we do, may lead to significant disappointment if the other party doesn't feel the same. We can end up feeling shamed or used. It behooves us to go back and decide whether or not we are truly friends, or just casual acquaintances who are physically attracted to one another.

If we are casual acquaintances who are interested in becoming more intimate through physical contact, we must honestly approach our partner and be forthcoming about out true feelings and intentions. We protect both ourselves and our partner by laying our cards on the table. If we have no intention of becoming emotionally involved, we must be up front about this fact. It is our responsibility to let our partner know that we are not interested in any further level of relationship. This gives them the option to decline participation and protect themselves from the risk of emotional trauma, if they are hoping for more than what we can offer. If we believe that they are not being honest with us or themselves, we may take the initiative and decide not to further physical intimacy.

The concern is that we make a choice to be sexually involved with someone, later finding out that we or they actually do have feelings beyond friendship. Now what?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Ending of Relationships - Grief

What happens when a relationship ends badly? How do we survive the relentless emotional ups and downs, the pain, the overwhelming feelings? What do we do to take care of ourselves during this time of crisis?

One of the most difficult times in any life involves the ending of a relationship. Whether it is voluntary or not, the pain and emotional turmoil that follows can be life wrenching. At times we may feel that we are being buried under a mountain of feelings that we cannot process. We have many bad days and few, if any, good days.

The grief process is a difficult one, but a necessary step in healing our wounds. We may begin the first leg in our journey without even realizing it. We are told by our partner that they are leaving the relationship. We may feel shock, disbelief, anger, shame, sadness and pain all at the same time. This emotional overload cues our defense mechanisms to help us survive the trauma. We cut ourselves off from experiencing the enormity of our problem with denial. We may see what is happening, but we fail to grasp the complexity of our emotional response. We may initially feel nothing at all. We may be numb.

In the early part of the process we may feel okay with the changes that are occurring in our lives. We have not actually allowed the full impact of our situation into our conscious minds. Over time, as our new life unfolds before us we begin to realize all that has changed. We may begin to feel angry at the losses we are experiencing. The life we had led with our partner is no longer our reality and we are beginning to feel pain. We respond by protecting ourselves. We may allocate blame along with associated anger, resentment, rage and bitterness toward our former partner, and even toward our higher power. We may react with hostility whenever interactions occur. Our world has changed, and we are unhappy with the pain and anguish which are being forced upon us.

After we have displayed much anger and hostility, we may feel that a bargain is possible. Although we are unaware of it, our efforts are unlikely to bear fruit. Try as we may, the situation remains. We have attempted every conceivable tack in order to change the course of events and have been unable to do so.

We now feel the full brunt of our pain. It is overwhelmingly sad and we may be unable to do anything about it. This is the time when we may feel depressed. Our past life is over and we are powerless to change it. Our self esteem may be crushed. Our inner self has been rejected. The combined pain of loss and rejection is overwhelming.

As traumatic and frightening as this place may be, we are actually at the beginning of our recovery. We have begun the process of integrating what has happened into our conscious minds. We have started to accept that we cannot change what has passed. We are on the bumpy road of acceptance. The place of peace. Once we have processed all the pain, loss, shame and rejection and incorporated it into our being as an accepted part of who we now are, we can move on to a place of peace in our lives. This is not an easy task.

This may not be a one way journey. We can move back and forth between denial, anger, bargaining and depression until we finally reach a place of acceptance. We can help ourselves by using our tools. Reaching out for support, whether professional or otherwise, is imperative for self care. If we have others who rely on us in their daily lives, we have an obligation to them to care for ourselves in this time of crisis. Journaling provides an excellent outlet during times of extreme stress. We have the ability to vent in a safe environment. We can also look back over our past journal entries as time proceeds and view our progress. This is of great importance so that we can be aware of how far we have come on our recovery journey. Something that may elude us without written evidence. Activity will benefit us as well. The neurotransmitters that our brain needs to feel happiness are produced in much greater quantities when we work up a sweat. Finding and maintaining hobbies that we enjoy is another tool that we can access. The joy we feel in accomplishing a task which gives us pleasure is a great asset. Spending time with members of our family of origin, if possible, may also be a place of acceptance and support. One of our most important tools is meditation and/or prayer. We can reach out to our higher power for support and guidance. We are on a path that has been chosen for us.

We have many tools at our disposal for self care. Each time we make the effort to use our tools we increase our self esteem. As we raise our self esteem we find it easier to use our tools. Although we may find the first few steps in this process daunting, if we make the effort we will reap the reward. We must try to have faith that we are exactly where our higher power wants us, although we cannot yet see why. Our path is like a painting. We cannot see the whole picture until we step back and view it from a distance. We are learning the lessons we need to better our lives. Through this process of self care we give ourselves the gift of hope.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Love - Part 2

How it is possible that we could begin to equate love with drama and pain? As children we may have lived with circumstances that were difficult, frightening and beyond our comprehension. In an effort to assimilate our environment we may have made assumptions about what it feels like to be loved based on what we experienced in our daily lives. We may not have had any basis for comparison and therefore no foundation upon which to build an accurate picture of what love might resemble.

As we reach adulthood we may have experienced how families beyond our own family of origin interact. We may have seen love and acceptance practiced in these situations. This glimpse may alert us to differences we were previously unaware existed. We may wish to blend this new data into our own values and behaviors. However, we may not have the skills to incorporate this information into our daily lives.

We can learn using our tools and practicing self care and self acceptance. Our first goal is to see our family of origin with clarity. We need to understand that our caretakers did the best they could with the skills they had absorbed from their own family of origin. They may not have given us what we needed in the area of love and acceptance, but they gave all they could.

At this juncture in our lives it is now our responsibility to take over the task of giving ourselves love and acceptance. We do this slowly, uncovering our deeper parts gently. .. exposing all of ourselves to self examination. As we learn about our inner selves we treat ourselves with gentleness, love and admiration for surviving all that our childhoods entailed. Our defense mechanisms served us well during this early time, however we can now begin to cast them off as we no longer need their protection. We accept ourselves holistically... embracing all our parts without shame or regret and loving ourselves in our entirety. We continue to use our tools as we make our way through this process. We do this by using self care in our daily lives and taking whatever time we need to heal our wounds.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Love - Part 1

Love... that mystical feeling that we can't quite describe. What exactly does love feel like? Do we know when we are in love? When and how do we learn what love is? Why is love important? These are questions that people have been asking for thousands of years.

We learn about love primarily from our family of origin during our childhood. We observe our caretakers as they interact with one another, our siblings, and their world. We may be unable to provide words to what we view, but our young brains record the lessons through our senses. As we grow and interact with others, we may modify what we have learned to reflect our values. We may position ourselves in relationships mirroring that which we learned from our primary caretakers in our family of origin. We have learned what love feels like in our early years and may try to recreate that familiar and comfortable pattern in our adult relationships. We feel in love when the pieces of the puzzle with our partners mesh in that same way we observed in our family of origin. Love becomes the bonding agent of our lives. It ties us to our partners in a predictable and important way. We feel connected, valued, understood and respected in this primary and crucial relationship.

What happens when our family of origin is dysfunctional? When there is much stress, and arguments dominate family life. When one or both caretakers are unable to express love, either to each other or to us as children, how does that affect us?

When caretakers are emotionally unavailable, we as children feel a void we cannot comprehend or explain in our lives. We cannot process that an adult may have issues that hinder their ability to express their feelings. We may internalize the belief that somehow we are inadequate. We may try to be perfect so as to gain favor and admiration instead of love and acceptance. We may act out... recall that "negative attention is better than none"... trying to find a way to force a caretaker to notice us. We may withdraw into ourselves believing that we will be safer if we go unnoticed. We may begin to associate love with being in emotional pain. We create and maintain a system of defense mechanisms which protect us from the pain of feeling the lack of love, intimacy and closeness we desire during our childhoods.

As adults these defense mechanisms continue to operate on an unconscious level. We may be unaware of our reactions and behaviors emanating from these childhood wounds. We have come to a time in our lives where our defense mechanisms no longer serve the function they did when we were small. They were a key to our survival as children, but become a burden to us as adults. They may be inhibiting our ability to feel warmth, love and intimacy. We may be unable to feel comfortable in close relationships. We may find ourselves in a series of partnerships that inevitably end painfully. We may believe being in a relationship filled with drama and pain is being in love.

There is hope. We do not have to continue on this path throughout our lives.
To be continued tomorrow...

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Family... that word can conjure up such mixed emotions. For some, there is great anticipation of the next visit and pleasant memories of the past. For others, there is much trepidation. Will this time be okay, or will Dad blow his fuse? Will Mom drink too much? Will Brother steal again? Will Sister be high again?

Our family of origin can be a place of nurturing or of dysfunction. As we walk down our path of recovery, time with our families can be plagued with discomfort. We are no longer participating in the denial and white washing that has been the status quo since we were children. We clearly see the elephant in the living room. How do we continue to have relationships with our families when they are not on a path to recovery? What do we do to practice self care when faced with the dysfunctional patterns of our family of origin?

We begin by realizing that those who come to recovery do so in their own time. We cannot force another to take those first steps anymore than we can force a dog to become a cat. Each of us has within us a locked door leading to change that can only be opened from the inside. Our only path is that of detachment and acceptance. We can dislike the behavior that our father displays when he loses his temper, but we continue to love the person within. We can feel dismay when our mother drinks excessively, but we still love the individual. We can be angered by our brother's stealing, yet love him regardless. We can feel disappointment that our sister continues to abuse her body with drugs, but continue to love the human being.

We separate the person's actions, which we find offensive, from the person within, the human being, realizing that all are fallible. We try to accept that each of the members of our family are simply people with problems. We focus on what we can do to take care of ourselves. We use our tools to keep ourselves centered. We try to keep a healthy perspective throughout our visit. When we are able, we take time to practice self care. We use our tools: journaling, taking a time out, walking, calling a trusted friend, just to name a few. We can limit our visit if necessary. We can listen if someone needs to talk, but we try not to get pulled into the old family drama. We try not to take the bait. This can be a very difficult balancing act requiring much effort at living in the moment. We try to enjoy what we can while we are with our family.

We may not be successful during our first attempts. We will be better over time as we practice. Recovery is always three steps forward and two steps back. We practice patience with ourselves as we continue on our path, using our tools and practicing self care. In this way we give ourselves the gift of possibilities. Possibilities of relationships with our family based on honesty.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


When we are very young we absorb our values from our caretakers. We observe how they interact with their world and this becomes the basis for our values later in life. During our teen years we sort through all this collective information. We "try on" different value sets to see how we appear in them. As we go through this process we accept some values and reject others.

During the tumultuous teens we experiment with life. We can be kind, generous and supportive, yet at other times completely self absorbed. We experience the world almost exclusively through our own eyes during this period. We may have momentary flashes of how we appear to others, but we are mostly self engaged.

As we pass from teens to young adults our ability to see ourselves more holistically emerges. We begin to understand the possible consequences of our behaviors and set about modifying ourselves. We see how our actions generate unpleasant consequences as past missteps begin to effect our lives. This is the time when we take steps to correct areas in our lives where we may have gotten off track. We fine tune our values during this period as we morph into adults.

What happens when this process get derailed? When we come from a dysfunctional family of origin our growth process can be stalled. We may find ourselves stuck in patterns more appropriate for a youngster or teen. We may not be aware of what has happened or why we are reacting rather than responding to our environment. We have developed issues somewhere along the way. These issues may cause us to feel emotional pain. If we are stuck in a pattern we wish to change, our first step in the process is recognition. We have seen ourselves through the eyes of another and our paradigm has been altered. We are now able to adjust our behavior through the use of tools. We allow our higher power to lead us onto our path. The way may be rocky, but we are capable. We give ourselves the gift of increased self esteem through the use of tools in our daily lives.

Friday, March 13, 2009


"Take a lesson from the clock. It passes time by keeping it's hands busy." During recovery we may find ourselves uncomfortable when we are not busy. We may feel uneasy when alone. Our thoughts may lead us down paths we no longer wish to walk. We may find our alone time disturbed by mulling over past events in which we were wounded. Although we are working hard at improving ourselves, times of quiet may evoke voices from the past that cause us pain.

At times like these we can use tools to help change our focus. We can enjoy a hobby, clean out a closet, paint the bedroom, weed the garden, take a walk, go to the gym or just do the dishes. All these tools have one commonality. They are activities. When we feel overwhelmed or just plain low one of the most helpful tools we have in our tool bag is activity. We get ourselves busy and take our mind off our issues. This simple tool gives us a break from carrying the weight of our burdens. We can allow ourselves to change focus.

Activity also brings another benefit. When we get up and move we produce changes in our brain and body chemistry that help to relieve stress. Often times after a difficult day at work the last thing we may want to do is an activity. It may be easier to sit on the couch and feel exhausted. It is then that we are at our most vulnerable. If we find that our thoughts and feelings are becoming problematic, we have our tools available for self care. We become more able to enjoy our own lives and bring joy to those in our lives. In doing so, we give ourselves the gift of self care.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Communication Patterns

We are in a new relationship. We feel passion and joy once again in our daily lives. All the difficulties from our last relationship fade as we enjoy our new found partner. Time seems to stand still as we enjoy life once again. We believe our problems are finally behind us. They were, after all, caused by our previous partner. Gradually we begin to feel discomfort. We notice small annoyances at first, then larger problems surface. We find that we are once again plagued by the same difficulties which we left behind in our last relationship. We are puzzled by this development. How it is possible that we have once again selected someone who exhibits behaviors so much like our last partner?

This scenario may seem quite familiar to many of us. We select the same partner again and again. The names may change, but the inner persona seems to be the same. We are confounded by this pattern. We want to make better choices, but seem to be attracted to the same basic qualities. How do we change? What can we do to alter our result?

We begin by looking at ourselves. We may be unhappy with the result we achieve in our selection, but our choice is being fueled us in some way we have not yet recognized. We investigate our earliest memories to detect how we learned to communicate with others. We recall whether we learned to adapt when difficulties arose... whether we were taught to respect others when differences of opinion emerged.

We learn how to relate to partners when we are small. We watch our caretakers interact with one another. We observe as they disagree, discuss, compromise and resolve their issues. We are very young and unable to assess whether their communication style is healthy. We merely adopt their pattern.

What happens when we come from a family where we don't see disagreement, discussion, compromise and resolution? We may not learn the skills necessary for cultivating healthy relationships. When we come from a dysfunctional family of origin, it is likely that we will continue those dysfunctional patterns when we initiate relationships. We may have had no other example to follow. We may believe that our family of origin was healthy, and that the communication styles expressed are common and acceptable.

Many relationships suffer because partners have learned opposing communication styles from their family of origin. One partner may be a communicator, wanting to talk through issues and discuss solutions. The other may be a non-communicator who is uncomfortable discussing problems and wants to minimize difficult conversation. This partnership may suffer from internal stresses as the two individuals struggle to meet their own needs.

Learning the tool of dialogue may help both parties to meet each others needs. The communicator may be constrained from verbalizing immediately, giving the non-communicator time to process their feelings and position surrounding the issue. The non-communicator may also be obliged to agree to discussion once they have processed their feelings and clarified their position.

In dialogue, the partners listen to one another attentively, each having an opportunity to express themselves in their entirety and then receive feedback. Although dialogue may feel awkward initially, over time this tool can overcome significant communication differences and pave the way for a healthier relationship. As we feel heard we are more able to be present when listening to our partner. This validation allows increased self esteem. As our self esteem rises our ability to effectively communicate increases as well. We use our tools, practice self care and give ourselves the gift of increased communication skills and healthier relationships.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Process

We begin our journey into recovery by undergoing a process. That process takes us through stages of growth and change. As we move through the various parts we undergo a tremendous paradigm shift. We begin by seeing ourselves through our own myopic view. As we move along our path we come to see ourselves through the eyes of others. It is truly an illuminating experience. One only tackled by the bravest among us.

As we begin our expedition we may see an initial glimpse of how we are perceived by others. Our initial reaction may be one of denial. We may have a great deal of trouble accepting what we have experienced. There may be much shame and fear involved. Our defense mechanisms kick in to protect us from pain.

Over time as we repeatedly see these glimpses of ourselves and our behavior our defense mechanisms may falter and we may not be able to remain in denial at all times. This may produce pain. Our reaction may be to become angry. We may be infuriated at the thought that the world is not as we have perceived it. We may feel duped and shamed by our inability to discern accurately. We may be fearful of further disclosure. Anger protects us from feeling the full impact of our new knowledge.

As our anger subsides we may begin to bargain, with ourselves and others. Our defenses are again protecting us from the full brunt of incorporating our new knowledge. We may rationalize our behaviors, or the behavior of others as acceptable due to extenuating circumstances.

Eventually bargaining no longer protects us from the full impact of how we are perceived by others. We see ourselves for the first time with all our dysfunction. It is a painful moment. We may feel depressed as we process this information. But it is an important moment. We are at the true beginning of our recovery process. It is from this desolate place that we can rebuild into our best self.

We work hard, using our tools, practicing self care, taking three steps forward and two steps back, letting our higher power guide us along our path, coping with disappointment and frustration, having patience with ourselves as we falter. We rage and scream as we fight the changes that must be made for our higher selves to emerge. We may see no improvement for a time and then suddenly we see it... we have responded differently to a situation that previously caused us much consternation. We have changed!! Hope emerges like the sun on a rainy afternoon and we bask in the knowledge that we are succeeding. We have come to a place of acceptance. Our process works, we are secure in the knowledge that despite setbacks we will continue along our path, and our future brightens.

Investing Our Time

"...the biggest mistake made is the one most make, not living in the moment enough. This is particularly clear once the moment is gone..."

Living in the moment... being fully present... one of the favorite books for a short read, "The Precious Present"... all of these statements have one thing in common... sharing the message that time is our most valuable asset. We can undo almost any mistake we make in life. We can redo our marriage, we can reinvent ourselves, we can repair broken relationships, we can re-earn money, we can revisit a lost honeymoon, we can reconnect with people we have forgotten, we can do all these things... but one thing we can never do is recapture lost time.

We spend our money carefully, especially during difficult economic times. We plan our vacations with fun and relaxation in mind so as not to waste them. We go to work every day, protecting our future and our career. So often though, we waste our precious moments failing to be present enough to enjoy what is being offered. With one foot in the past, worrying if old hurtful patterns will re-emerge, and another foot in the future, worrying what will happen, we have no energy left for the present. The only moment we ever have is now.

If we view time like a bank account it makes much sense. We are given a large deposit upon our birth. We don't know how much that deposit may be. We have some power during our lives to make additional deposits by practicing healthy choices in our daily lives. We make withdrawals each moment of the day. Eventually we run out of time. It is our choice how we spend our time account in each and every moment of our lives. We strive to spend our time with intent, rather than reacting to our world. We cannot control the way that others spend the time that they have, but we can choose to invest our time wisely.

Let us use our tools to make the most of our time. When we invest in ourselves we increase the number of moments in which we experience joy. This is our gift to ourselves, the gift of living in the moment and being in the precious present.

Monday, March 9, 2009


When we start our journey into recovery we are excited, anticipating the boundless future we have ahead of us. We dive headlong into our work, eager to make changes, unblock our joy, increase our self esteem, find our happiness.

But the road ahead is long and filled with potholes. We take three steps forward and two steps back. For some, we feel for the first time in our adult lives. We may be overwhelmed with experiencing emotion. We hear negative self talk when all is quiet. We criticize our missteps and berate ourselves for not learning as fast as we might like. We wonder... will it ever be easy... will it ever come naturally... will we ever achieve our goals? We fight the changes, they are uncomfortable. We feel awkward. We begin to second guess ourselves... is this really going to help? Is this a waste of time? We question whether it is really possible for us to make changes. Our belief falters.

But then, we begin to see ourselves in a new light. Our self deception slips away and we glimpse ourselves as others see us. We see our underlying beliefs and begin to understand how they have effected the choices we have made in our daily lives. We start to see that our decisions have led us to our current circumstances. We realize that we can effect the outcome of our daily lives by becoming more present in the moment, responding rather than reacting and using our tools for self care. Our path becomes clearer and we begin to trust the recovery process once again. In this way we give ourselves the gift of patience. Patience with ourselves and patience with the recovery process.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


What happens when partners in a relationship disagree? There are choices available about how to deal with differences. Our first reaction to any conflict is often to handle it in the way our family of origin coped with disagreements. We may erupt with anger or rage, we may sulk and fume, we may shut down, or we can dialogue.

In many families of origin there are no communication skills. When disagreements arise all parties go to their corners to sulk and fume in silence. Nothing is discussed, no compromise is reached and solutions are improbable. In due time, all parties resume the relationship with the silently agreed rule that discussion of the the conflict will not occur. The unsaid rule in this type of family are: don't think (for yourself), don't talk (at all), don't feel. Communication and dialog are not valued and are not exemplified.

In other families of origin, parties scream and yell at one another hurling epithets and erupting with rage. In these situations old transgressions may be revisited with accompanying anger. Parties to the dispute rarely listen to one another and all leave the arena with hurt feelings and little or nothing accomplished. Nothing is discussed, no compromise is reached and solutions are improbable. The unsaid rule in this type of family are: don't think (for yourself), don't talk (just scream and yell), don't feel. Communication may be evident, but effective communication rarely occurs. When any party is screaming and enraged no one can listen to any intended messages.

Another family of origin pattern may be for one member to voice their view and all others accede to their demands... or else!! Or else what? The one who dominates may use the tools of emotional blackmail and the silent treatment to insure cooperation. Refusal to accede to demands results in punishment. Hours, days or weeks of silence. No amount of cajoling works with punishers. They are intent on teaching lessons. The lesson? If any rebellion occurs within the family structure, misery follows for all. Not only will the punisher press for demands to be met, but others in the family system who cannot tolerate punishment will create peer pressure to conform. In this family there is no open communication at all. No one is valued. The unspoken rules are: don't think, don't talk, don't feel.

There is one model which does provide for communication and feedback... dialog. Dialog allows each party to the relationship to have a voice and be heard. Those speaking have the undivided attention of their partner until they are understood. Those listening can be fully attentive knowing that they will have their turn to express their views and be heard. When dialog occurs, each party feels understood and valued for their opinions. In this way a viable compromise can be reached. This type of listening skill strengthens the bond in partnerships allowing both parties to feel valued for themselves. Attentive listening without forming opinions gives the speaker increased self esteem. In partnerships where both parties views are valued and open communication is present, participants have the opportunity to learn from one other, trading experience and wisdom, rather than anger, rage, manipulation and wounds.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dearest Readers

Dearest readers... absence from my blog for the last three days has been the result of a family difficulty that erupted during this past week. This was a dose of reality that was quite distasteful. Fortunately I was able to reach into my tool bag and find that I had the tools to help me get through this very difficult time. I used all the tools available to ease my stress.

After the initial shock coursed through my system, I got a jolt of adrenaline. My mind began to focus on assembling the information I would need to make the decisions that might lie ahead. I began by assessing the situation. I then called those who could inform me as to the options available and the probable course of action that would occur. I followed by informing those who might be of assistance. I then proceeded to my home to do some sorely needed self care and avail myself of support.

I had no other choice but to await the outcome. There was no path available for my involvement. This was the hardest part of all... waiting for results which might take hours or days. I took this waiting time to practice detachment, letting go, prayer, trusting in my higher power, allowing myself to receive love and support, and the wisdom of the flow of the universe. I read a wise thought: take a lesson from the clock, it passes time by keeping it's hands busy. I kept myself busy over the course of the next three days. It was a very difficult time, but I was able to keep myself centered and calm as much as possible. I am grateful that I have practiced using my tools in my daily life. They are always with me. I would not have made it through this extremely stressful time without them. I trust that my higher power has a plan for my life and those in my family.

I share these thought with you, dear readers, that you might have the belief and confidence in the tools that we share to practice using them in your daily lives. When we are tested, as happens in each and every life, we will be adept at using our tools. We will be able to get ourselves through the trials we face. We will emerge with increased self esteem, believing that we can triumph regardless of our circumstances. We are the sum of our values and beliefs. We can rely on ourselves to make appropriate choices. We are capable.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Shame... guilt... two concepts that get confused when talking about our feelings. What is the difference between shame and guilt? Guilt is the result when our actions don't match our values. When we do something that goes against our belief system, our inner voice tells us that we have breached our own boundaries. We feel guilt as a result of that action, often coupled with regret. These feelings are a warning to us, a red light, that tells us that our actions are not acceptable to ourselves. They may be an indicator of impending danger or consequences. Guilt, when earned, is a healthy reminder by our conscience to more closely monitor our own behavior. Guilt says, "What I have done is not okay." It is a judgement of our actions.

Shame says, "I am not okay." It is a judgement of us. Shame arises when we have suffered grave humiliation at the hands of another. We may not recognize that we have been shamed. We may have been too small when the incident occurred to understand the underlying message, but the message got through and we feel that we are not good enough. It can happen when a teacher calls upon a student in class who is day dreaming and doesn't know the question, let alone the answer. The teacher's cutting remark can wound that student leaving him/her feeling shamed. It can happen when a parent is having a bad day and shrieks at a child to just leave them alone.

The scars from shame are deep wounds that become triggers later in life and leave us emotionally unavailable. That wounded child in school may feel inadequate in all aspects of learning regardless of achievements. The scolded child may be unable to tolerate others anger as an adult. Shame fuels the demon, low self esteem, leading to insecurities and defense mechanisms designed to keep others at a distance.

When we are triggered as shamed adults, we react with the passion from the initial wound. We are unable to remain emotionally in the present. We cannot differentiate between that which happened long ago and that which is happening in the now. As a result of this, we can severely damage current relationships. Our inability to distinguish past events from the present causes our partners to collapse under the weight of our reactions to our triggers. We owe it to our partners to pursue recovery from shame. Learning to use our tools to empower us to overcome the prison of triggers will enhance our daily lives. We will overcome our shame, increase our self esteem, minimize our insecurities and be able to lessen our use of defense mechanisms. We do this to give ourselves the gift of emotional availability.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Emotional Flashbacks

Visualize the following: You're out to dinner with your partner. The ambiance is warm and inviting, the food is delicious, the company charming. The meal ends and you both walk out of the restaurant arm in arm, laughing and talking. Abruptly the conversation changes and you find yourself in the midst of an argument. What happened?

When we enter into relationships we don't arrive empty handed. We bring to the table both expectations and baggage. Expectations come to us during our childhood. We observe the interactions of our family of origin. We watch as our caretakers address conflict and resolution in their relationship. We watch as our siblings react to one another. If our family of origin is dysfunctional, they may not interact appropriately with each other or their environment. We may be too young to understand that we are being given misinformation about personal interactions.

As we become older and widen our field of interpersonal relationships, we learn through experience how those outside our family of origin behave. We may not initially understand the differences between these two groups and may suffer emotional distress as a result of our lack of experience. Over many years we may accumulate a collection of wounds due to our inability to properly decipher our environment. As time passes some of the deeper wounds may become triggers, areas where we are especially sensitive and harbor strong feelings of shame or fear. Triggers bring back old emotionally charged feelings from past suffering, making it difficult for us to interpret today's actions appropriately. We may feel as if a new person is perpetrating the same deed as has happened before. This is what we term, baggage.

How do we cope in a new relationship when we have both expectations and baggage? We must become aware of ourselves. We must decide to investigate our inner being, to look into our motivations and examine our beliefs. This takes time and effort. We embark on this journey to give ourselves the gift of knowledge... knowledge of ourselves. We uncover our fears and shame and look at them squarely without self deception. When we do this, we enable ourselves to accept our inner being as we are, with all our flaws and defense mechanisms. Through using our tools and practicing self care along this journey, we give ourselves the gift of acceptance.

Monday, March 2, 2009


During our daily lives we encounter many situations that require us to choose one path or another. We assess our surroundings. We sift through our past experiences in order to glean information that may assist us in making our choice. We ask others for their input. We then take all the information we have accumulated and make our decision. We place our trust in four key areas. First, ourselves and our ability to accurately view our situation. Next, the accuracy of our memories. Thirdly, our advisers capability to lead us. Lastly, our capacity to combine all the information we have collected into a clear view of our circumstances so as to formulate a decision.

What happens when this healthy pattern of decision making breaks down and we no longer trust our instincts? When we are young, we are incapable of processing the world around us as we do when we are adults. We rely on our caretakers to alert us to unsafe situations by both verbal and non-verbal cues. We trust that they will keep us safe. When we live in chaos and dysfunction as children, we misinterpret the unhealthy reactions of our caretakers. We don't know that they cannot properly interpret their world and are therefore giving us misinformation. We assume that what they say and do is correct. We feel that there is a problem, but we are two feet tall and they are giants. In order to survive, we choose to believe that their assessment is correct and stop trusting our instincts.

As we proceed through life we may feel gut reactions when faced with difficult decisions. Our instincts try to lead us, but we ignore them as a result of the interactions we had with our misinformed caretakers when we were small. We fight ourselves in a stressful battle where we are unlikely to win.

How do we regain that trust in our instincts that we have lost? We must begin a step at a time. We take a small risk and trust our ability to be guided by our instincts. When we have succeeded, we take a somewhat larger risk, and so on. As we experience success, our trust level increases and we raise our self esteem. We listen to our instincts more and let ourselves be guided by our inner voice, our higher power. We use our tools to make self care a part of our daily lives. In this way we give ourselves the gift of trust.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Why is it that some relationships flow with ease and others seem to smash themselves against the rocky shore? What is it about certain partners that make their efforts to get along work so well?

One of the many keys to effective interpersonal relationships is cooperation. When we cooperate with others we each take turns leading. At times we are the decision maker. At other times we defer to our partner. When differences of opinion arise we decide if our need to have what we desire, outweighs giving our partner an opportunity to have their wants met. We share, we take turns.

When we cooperate, we make our lives and our partners easier, more enjoyable. We employ our values in our decision making. We walk the walk in our daily lives. In this way we are making deposits in our partners emotional bank account. The more deposits we make, the healthier our relationship becomes. When difficulties arise and we need to make a withdrawal, we have made sufficient deposits to allow the issues to pass without damaging the relationship. This is vital for our long term emotional health. As we make deposits into our partner's emotional bank account, our self esteem increases. As our self esteem increases, so does our ability to make further deposits. We can focus on the needs of others without doing so at our own expense. We use our tools and practice self care in our daily lives giving us the gift of emotional health.