Take Me to Church by Hozier

This song has been around for awhile now and while it is super catchy and difficult to get out of your head once you’ve heard it on the radio, the message might be catchy in a destructive way. After helping a few clients through codependent relationships this song had a whole new meaning to me. It goes to show that there is a culture of codependency in relationships currently. Instead of mutually supportive, interdependent relationships it has become normal to be dependent on the other for our worth or identity.

Hozier’s lyrics say:

 I should’ve worshiped her sooner

 If the Heavens ever did speak

 She is the last true mouthpiece

While it is natural to care about what our significant others think, giving them this much power is dangerous. If we decide that their opinion is god-like then the moment they’re upset with us, hurt by us, criticize us, or simply have a different opinion than us, we’re ruined. I’ve found that in these relationships the person is quick to do whatever it takes to get back in the other’s good graces, even if that means forgetting who they are personally. In a healthy relationship each can have their own thoughts and opinions and be respected for them. No one’s thoughts are more important or more right than the other. 

The chorus says:

 Take me to church

 I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies

 I'll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife

 Offer me that deathless death

 Good God, let me give you my life

Whenever we choose to worship another person whether it be a spouse, friend, boss, or parent, we forget that they are just as human as we are. The line about worshiping like a dog creates the sense that this person is worth less than the significant other. Seeing ourselves as less than human never goes well. Often this mindset results in making decisions that keep us in this “less than” mindset. The relationship described does not sound appealing and yet the person seems content to be treated this way. Being vulnerable with another should never result in an opportunity for them to use those things against us. In a healthy relationship, the other listens and supports when fears, mistakes, failures, or concerns are shared. These thoughts should not be used as ammo later on in arguments.

At the end of the song, after talking about how he has gone through her criticism and tried his best to please her, Hozier says:

 Only then I am human

 Only then I am clean

In codependency we often stay in a relationship much longer than we should simply because we need the relationship too badly. The relationship is doing something for us. It makes us feel loved or accepted or needed, so we are willing to put up with the abuse. The opportunity to be human and clean is that “okay-ness” he was looking for and why he stays around. If there is some sense of relief and accomplishment then he thinks the relationship is worth it. If we know we are able to find this fulfillment elsewhere we won’t stay. In a healthy relationship each party is treated like a human simply because they are human. This is not treatment that has to be deserved. 

Set boundaries with the people in your life. Make sure you’re in a mutually supportive relationship where your thoughts and opinions are being respected. Make sure your mistakes and failures aren’t being used against you and being treated like a human is a given. Don’t give in to worshiping your significant other. They’re only human. 

Letting Go

We've all heard the benefits of letting go of someone or something that isn't right for us anymore, so why is it so hard to do it? Whether it's a loved one, a lost relationship, an unhealthy relationship, or circumstances out of your control, letting go of what was or what could be can be one of the most difficult things to do. The process of letting go can be an excruciating and drawn out experience that often takes several tries before we feel competent in walking away from something or someone. Some people choose never to let go because the imaginable pain is too much to bear. Whatever your choice, here are a few ways to make letting go a little more manageable. 

  1. Feel your feelings: Letting go is much like greiving a loss of someone or something. If we suppress, ignore, or deny our feelings we often extend this greiving process. Sometimes you may feel sad, angry, scared, or upset during this process; that is okay. Find a trusted friend or professional to walk alongside you during this process.
  2. Reflect on areas of that relationship that were not working and choose to learn from it.
  3. Start a journal as a way to process what you can take from that relationship or even write a letter to the person, even if you never will give it to them, in order to process your own emotions.
  4. Practice positive self-talk, by reminding yourself who you are, what you can control, and choose to focus on those elements.
  5. Practice self-care: this is the time to direct your love to yourself by taking care of your emotional, social, and physical well-being.

Letting go is a process so be patient with the journey you are on. Like anything in life, the hardest and best things we can do for ourselves take time to see the positive outcome. You are stronger than you think!

3 Types of Grounding Techniques

The last session we discussed the benefit so of grounding. Here are specific techniques you can try to help when feeling overwhelmed.

Physicalinvolves becoming attuned to your senses. For example, noticing physical elements such as the position of the body (slouching, tense, etc.), the temperature of the environment or even our body temperature, the feeling of our toes in our shoes. Some people like to carry a grounding object to keep you as a way tofocus on the here and now; you can use whatever feels most comfortable to you.

Soothingor kind self-talk involving keeping your eyes open, scanning the room, staying neutral. Remember the focus is not on right or wrong, the most important things isfocusing on the various sensations. Additional ideas might include making a list of positive statements you can tell yourself, actively picture people that care about you (focus on as many details as you can get), describe what your safe space looks like in minute detail or even use words from a quote, a song or a poem.

Mentally would be repeating that you’re in a safe space, focus on as many facts as possible-where you are, the day of the week, place, etc. Try to create various lists of trivia facts you can run through: colors, names of cities, TV shows, names of schools, the sky is the limit.   

Key Factors inSuccessful Use Of Grounding Techniques

  1. Simple but frequent practice will help you get the most benefits
  2. Give it enough time (20-30 mins), on multiple occasions
  3. Track what type(s) you would respond to best
  4. Start as early as possible rather than letting it snowball out of control
  5. Make index cards or notes on your phone of the techniques you like best
  6. Enlist the help of your friends or family, if you find yourself struggling with the consistent use any of the methods.  

Most important: Don’t give up!

Grounding: Detaching from emotional pain 

Intensive psychological pain may actas an uncomfortable and aching feelingand often experienced physical form. What about is it about these negative feelings that lead usto we carry and reminisce aboutthem, or worse yet allow them to drifttoward grumpy, irritable moods? 

Someone feelingoverwhelmed due to his or hercurrent situation might describe the pain something like “everything is scrambled up; it feels like I’m out of control and it’s difficult if not impossible to concentrate on anything.” 

In situationslike this, grounding can be a useful tool to address the overwhelming feelings. First off grounding is not merelyignoring the intrusive thoughtsand feelings. Instead, it’s an active strategy to disrupt your focus while re-establishingyour connection to the external world.  In a way,it’s like changingthe channel from an extremely upsetting show to somethingmore pleasant. 

Grounding is not going remove the overwhelming thoughts and feelings entirely; however, it will help reduce it to a more tolerable level. When you consistently use grounding techniques, you are naming the problem(s) which allowsyou more clearlysee the scope of the issue and begin working to stop it from controllingyou. Given enough practice, you will find it easier to be able to acknowledgethe problem, identify your reasons for feeling this wayand address it in healthier ways. 

Do not try to ignore anxiety or pretend it will go away; it is futile to deny it.  In attempting to denying it,you can feel like a failure which doesn’t help anything. Instead, acknowledge it the presenceof the upsetting feeling(s) and work towards identifying reasons you might be feeling them.  

In the next blog, we’ll identifymore specific grounding techniques. 

Social Media ‘How To’ for Parents

Parenting in real world can be tough. Parenting in the virtual world can be even more difficult as the screen hides much of what your child may think or feel about themselves or the world around them. Engaging with your kids about healthy use of social media and online gaming may seem intimidating, but as with anything in parenting, openness follows connection. Here a few tips in helping you navigate parenting in the digital age. 

  • Foster interest in their online accounts. Let them teach you how to use them and ask non-invasive questions about their viewings and friends.
  • Encourage wisdom and thinking about the future when posting. Their digital footprint is available forever, so what is posted today could affect how they are perceived in the future. 
  • Set appropriate posting rules for maintaining autonomous accounts such as no vulgarity, must be fully clothed, no revealing of school or home address, asking permission before posting about anyone else, etc. 
  • Create and enforce healthy, age appropriate time limits for social media and gaming use. This is best enforced when you as the parent model healthy boundaries and on your devices and engage your kids face to face.

Below are links to the popular social media sites your child may be using. Click one each networking site to find helpful tips explaining the differences, uses, precautions, and privacy settings of the online forums. 

Instagram

Facebook

Snapchat

Kik

Tumblr

Roblox

Reddit

Twitter

Youtube

Pheed

Vine (currently discontinued)

Creating Family Structure for Summer

Summertime can muster up mixed emotions. Most kids experience pure excitement with options of sleeping in, binging on Netflix, and more time with friends. Many parents dread the lack of school schedule predictability and feel inadequate to provide a healthy balance of growth and relaxation for their children.  Here are a few suggestions to help with creating a fun, learning centered summer for both parents and kids of all ages.

·      Schedule weekly family game nights –Daily socialization may be lower when out of school and some kids tend to find ways to get more attention using negative means. Kids long for positive attention from their parents, so knowing that there is a scheduled time for interaction and fun with the family will help funnel the energy! 

·     Create a summer bucket list – As a family, sit down and compose a list of fun activities and goals to accomplish before school starts back up. Let kids be creative and feel ownership in designing the timeline for completion. Marelisa Fabrega’s “Idea Book – 500 Ideas For Your Summer Bucket List” is a great resource. 

·      Construct a chore chart – Write out a list of household summer chores and let kids alternate picking a chore they would like to be responsible for until the list is fully covered. Decide which day each chore is to be done and allow them to earn privileges for going above and beyond or completing chores without prompting. 

 Teach money management and setting financial goals – Allow each kid to use their ingenuity and special gifting to find ways to make money. 

This link provides several ideas to get the entrepreneurial juices flowing: https://www.sixfiguresunder.com/ways-kids-can-earn-money/  

Anti-Thought

One of the things I enjoy most about meditation is the idea of anti-thought. When I first heard this phrase it struck me a little odd.  I’ve always heard and understood meditation to be this place of reflection, to organize thought or an Eastern approach to finding your Chi. As I began to embrace meditation as a form of anti-thought I found myself enjoying the process and looking forward to my next meditation session. 

The developers at Headspacehave created a wonderful app to help you explore the value of anti-thought.  A seemingly endless library of guided and unguided meditation sessions will help you to learn to allow thoughts to pass by as if they were cars whizzing by in traffic. The sessions focus on a variety of topics from stress and anxiety to grief and relationships teaching you to acknowledge your positive and negative thoughts experience their emotional connection and then allow them to pass by. 

If you have a busy life and find yourself feeling overwhelmed by tasks and thoughts try take a few minutes to find the right headspace.  

Let Them Fly or Clip Their Wings? 

Every baby is destined to be an adult, and the environment those first 18 years heavily impacts his or her ability to become a thriving, responsible, honorable adult. Beginning with this end in mind is an excellent starting point for creating structure, boundaries, rules and expectations for your home.

The first step to transferring responsibility to your future adult is clarity of rules and expectations. Begin by asking yourself, where would I like my child to be in regards to finances, relationships, emotional intelligence, work ethic, etc. when they leave my home? Once you figure out the goals and rules, communicate them clearly and often to your child as they needing structure and to thrive. If your kids are aware and respectful of those rules, then give them the space to make mistakes.

Do not be surprised when your child inevitably tests your rules and limits to “see for themselves” how far they can go. This is normal and not a reflection of you. What is a reflection of you is how well you uphold your end of the deal when they do challenge you. Lovingly allowing them to fail, suffer natural consequences, learn from their mistakes and be held accountable are some of the best lessons you can give your child while they are in your home. 

Parenting in the teen years is similar to having a safety net when learning to walk the tight rope. There is autonomy and support. If there is consistency and progress in your child making healthy decisions and learning from their mistakes, let them fly. They will thank you for it later, and you can sleep a little better at night when they are out of your house. However, If their decision making is revealing they cannot handle the responsibility that comes with more freedom, then tighten the reigns. This may require more concrete expectations, rules, consequences and rewards, so they can once again try taking flight again with more support. If ever there appears to be something bigger going on beyond the scope of your skills and understanding, schedule a family therapy appointment with a licensed professional for evaluation and regrouping. 

If you are wanting additional support as you work to create structure or implement change in your home, click here to find Developing Rules and Consequences by Mark Gregston of Heartlight Ministries. It is an excellent resource full of examples, worksheets and guidelines to help you thrive in parenting.

Goal setting

I find that most people don’t consciously have goals. Have you ever walked into an interview and the one of the questions they ask you is, “where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Most of us don’t have answers. We sort of have to make one up on the spot. 

As a therapist, knowing my client’s goals are very important to me. However, more often than not, and just like the scenario above, most of my clients doesn’t have goals. None that they have placed any conscious thought on anyway. So I have to help them come up with one.

Do you want me to help you come up with a goal?  You’re probably groaning at the thought. It’s okay. I promise, it’s not as hard as you may think. You only need to answer one question: What is it in your life you are currently unhappy about? 

The beauty of knowing what you are currently unhappy about is that it can guide you towards what you do want in life.  Are you unhappy about your marriage? Then your goal is to be in a happy relationship. Are you unhappy about the way you see yourself? Then your goal is to see yourself in the opposite manner. When one gets in touch with what’s really causing unhappiness in their life, then one can target and transform it. Obviously, we still have to carefully explore and expand on the goal. But, it gives us a starting point and a direction. Once we can identify a goal, all we need to do to is get you there. 

This is Us - Trauma

Season 2 Episode 5, Brothers gave us a lot of information about the Pearson family that we didn’t have before. We learn that Jack had a brother named Nick, Deja has had quite the experience in foster care, and Rebecca and Jack’s dad meet for the first time. The strong impacts of trauma stood out in this episode both with Deja’s story and Jack’s. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD shows up in people’s lives when they have lived through a life threatening situation (or witnessed someone in a life threatening situation) and their minds don’t know how to file the incident away. Our brains are constantly trying to make sense of what we are experiencing and usually trauma doesn’t fit into the boxes we already have laid out. If before trauma we believe that the world a generally good place then trauma throws us for a loop. If we believe the world is a dangerous place trauma more deeply confirms that this is true. At this point it is common for people to start believing that the trauma was their fault or they in some way deserved the trauma. In the moment its the only way the brain is able to make sense of what happened. 

Dealing with all of these thoughts takes a tole on the body and mind. People dealing with trauma usually have trouble keeping memories of the trauma at bay either through thoughts, nightmares, of flashbacks. There is also something (a place, person, event, item) that they avoid to keep from thinking about the trauma. Lastly they have negative thoughts or feelings that started or got worse after the trauma. Having all of these things going on in their minds at once can be very distracting. Often this causes people dealing with trauma to react strangely to their environment or have trouble keeping friendships alive. In order to protect themselves from potential threat they often react in anger or isolation. 

I think we see slight signs of this in both Jack and Deja. Jack avoids talking about his brother. There are hints of thoughts he may have about his brother’s death being his fault. He responds to Kevin and Randall’s disagreements with a little more force due to this topic sitting heavy with him. Deja is the same way. When Randall tries to keep her from eating the shrimp tail she responds in a way that most people would think doesn’t match the situation. Deja is hypervigalent to any harm that might come her way. This keeps her from being able to connect with the Pearsons like she might want to. 

Even if the diagnosis of PTSD isn’t met, those who have experienced trauma might have some of the symptoms discussed above. It can mean a world of difference to have someone offer them a second chance and understand why they might respond in a strange way. It’s important to support those you know who have experienced trauma so they have the opportunity to heal. Predictability is key. If you have influence over someone’s life who has experienced trauma try to make a schedule they can count on. It is also very important that they feel safe in their home. These symptoms don’t have to last forever. With proper attention, and the chance to view the trauma accurately, these memories are able to be filed away in a way that no longer disturbs the person. 

Some Things to Consider:

1. Have you experienced some type of trauma in your life that keeps you avoiding certain thoughts, memories, or emotions? Who could you reach out to in order to start sharing your story?

2. Is there someone in your life that shows signs of struggling with PTSD or symptoms of trauma? How might you create a sense of safety when you are around them in order to help them heal?