Three Things that will Hinder your Therapy

Considering therapy? Honestly, I AM biased. I do believe we ALL can benefit from time with a good therapist. Getting the perspective of someone who is objective, studies humans for a living, and has the know-how to communicate what they see in a way that will benefit you is, well, just priceless. And finding the right one IS hugely important.

It’s not all just on the therapist, though. Go prepared.

When you head in for your session, there are a few skills and default thoughts you can leave outside the door, in order to have the best, most healing experience possible.

1. Argument. You’re not going to need this one inside.

Now I’m not talking about telling your truth. If the therapist is trying to identify how you feel and restates something you’ve said in a way that is just off, say so. As in “I wouldn’t identify it as anger so much as a burning desire to never see that person again.” Or “I don’t know, it just feels more blah than that. Like, I have a hard time even caring.”

Yes, clarify.

But don’t waste your energy arguing with the therapist. You’re paying this person to learn what they know, so when they share an insight, listen, consider it. (And they should be doing this- reflecting back to you, offering perspective, coaxing your insight- about 30% of the time. They should not just “validate your feelings” and nod or ask “how does that make you feel?” like we see in the movies all the time.)

If you truly ARE paying them to talk at them and you don’t want any reflection at all, by all means, tell them. Some therapists will still take your money, but I wouldn’t consider that very ethical…or frankly, all that much fun. I like to see people grow.*

*The two exceptions might be if you realize you are a “verbal processor” and you just can’t tell anyone else the truth about your life right now OR if you are intentionally engaging what we call “narrative therapy,” a method that can be really healing in certain instances, like processing grief.

2. Thinking “I already know this.”

Yep. Some of it you do already know. And you’re not doing the right thing with the information or you wouldn’t be having the distress that brought you to therapy.

Just notice when you think things like that. Instead of the reflex of thinking “I already know that, why should I pay someone to tell me what I already know?” replace it with, “hmmmm, that’s interesting. That sounds familiar. How can I use that to do something different?”

Plus, consider the possibilities. Listen better. You might not know what you think you know. Besides, that thing you think you know? Usually there’s more to it than you considered previously.

3. Defaulting to “It’s really just common sense.”

If it were common sense it’d be more common. And if it were common sense to you, again, you wouldn’t be in the distress that brought you to therapy.

Yes, many of the central concepts of health and well-being are common between disciplines. You will find relationships between concepts and insight with things you’ve heard or read or tried before. Listen and go further. Lots of the things that trip people up are simple and many of the adjustments therapy offers can seem simple as well. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy.

A good therapist sees and can identify your sticky spots for you and will let you know the ways she sees you getting in your own way. Let her.

Get the Most from your Therapy

These reflex tendencies are usually born of a sense of inadequacy, actually. Arguing with the therapist displays some defensiveness. You might think it’s masking your insecurity, but it’s really highlighting it. Honestly, you don’t have anything to prove, least of all to your therapist.

Thinking you know things already closes you off to possibilities. Yes, you know some stuff. You are an expert at your own experience. Go you! A good therapist is an expert at people. She’s probably intuitive. She’s got an arsenal of tools and skills and frameworks with which to approach your challenge.

And the only thing you need to keep considering when you’re thinking “it’s just common sense” is “how can I use these insights in my daily life?”

After all, applying what you experience inside the therapy office is key to your growth and you deserve to grow as much as possible. Be sure you’re doing all you can to allow your therapist to help you.

Wondering when you know is the RIGHT TIME to break up with your therapist (or at least spend less time there?) Stay tuned for the next blog post.

Your work in relationship

It can be really hard to do your work in relationship when you’re so bothered by someone else NOT doing theirs.

My mother used to say

“you are one hundred percent responsible for your actions and reactions.”

Gosh, I hated my mother sometimes. I rolled my eyes and knew she was right even as a young rascally little girl (with ten siblings!) intent on getting her own way at least some of the time.

It felt unjust to me. I got punished for “acting or reacting.” I got punished for “provoking.” The gist: I got punished.

The weight of being one hundred percent responsible as a child felt scary. Impossible. So burdensome. Too much.

And in fact, it is. There seemed no way to win except to somehow NOT FEEL.

I needed to know a healthy thing to do with my feelings.

Without acknowledgement for the very real thing I was experiencing (aka that feeling I didn’t like) I had no idea what to do with it except stuff it. We were told children should be seen and not heard, unless performing, which I was allowed to do for guests from time to time.

I needed someone in my life to reflect that the thing I was experiencing was real, valid, understandable, human. In short, I needed empathy. I didn’t need anyone to agree that I should feel that way or that I was right to feel that way or that my ensuing desire, hope, or fantasy about how someone else might fix my feeling was justified.

I needed to know I was not wrong or bad or crazy to feel the way I felt.

Instead I got the message not to feel.

It wasn’t common, respected, important, or expedient in my family to have feelings, much less act on them. It was okay to think stuff and do stuff, but talking about feelings… not so much. Displaying a feeling?! Good heavens! Moving an emotion from the rumble of our bodies to actually acting on it with movement or words?! Uh, that’s just not nice. That was punishable by OTHER activity (like running around the barn 20 times) or extra chores. From time to time, the assignment was to “go to your room and THINK about what you’ve done.”

So, we were allowed to “appropriately sublimate” our anger or rage or hurt.  We were allowed to think our feelings or run them out or work them out. And occasionally we were allowed to think our feelings.

Makes for some pretty intense resistance to being one hundred percent responsible…

for my own actions and reactions. I think this approach was very well-intended but what I learned was this: I should just get over it. And if that was hard for me I was being “too sensitive.”

Could have been part of the stoic German/Scandanavian culture and mindset so solidly part of my childhood. Could be that additional German/Protestant work ethic.

Of course, I would be doing my own work! Work is what we do.

And that meant all my own emotional and psychic work as well.

I’ve spent my life DOING just that very thing. And leading others into it as well. So, obviously, I agreed with and wrestled with this mandate in big ways.

Sometimes it meant I did TOO MUCH work in relationship.

I carried too much responsibility for the thing that needed fixing. I picked up other people’s work and tried to do their stuff too or, even better, I tried to do their work instead.

That’s a lovely recipe for disastrous results for everyone.

Maybe you can relate.

Now, I don’t know what are your cultural or family-of-origin contributions to this whole puzzle but they MATTER. They make a difference in how you approach this and how comfortable you are with “feeling your feelings, thinking your thoughts, and doing stuff” versus what you might do as a default: think your feelings, be your thoughts, and act out.

Those early influences also matter in relation to how well you can distinguish your real responsibilities for growth from someone else’s work in relationship.

You might have similar hurdles to mine. Maybe not.

What we know for sure:

We know relationships are healthiest when people are separate and whole individuals deliberately choosing connection.

We know each individual person has human challenges, pretty unique to the way (s)he is made. Lots of these challenges are made worse by the seemingly most-possibly-aggravating pairing of mates in love relationships.

And when that happens, it’s either an invitation to quit or a challenge to rise to the occasion.

Just be sure it’s the right occasion and not just a repeat of familiar, old patterns.

You can’t fix someone else.

And you can’t get someone else or a relationship to fix you. No one else can do your work for you.

Let me say one more thing about this. So often I see people trying to fill the void in their own lives with their primary love relationship. I see people going from relationship to relationship looking for the right person who is going to treat them the way they deserve.

This is a mighty tricky concept because there is a difference between having standards for healthy treatment within a relationship and having expectations that someone else will behave in a way that keeps you comfortable.

News flash: even among quite healthy individuals, you each have your own growth to attend to. You’re not going to get everything you want. And that other person is not going to make you happy, keep you happy, or secure your happiness once and for all.

Life is not a fairytale.

Life is good and love can be good. And you’ve heard me say before that love is not hard, it’s not a lot of work. And I stand by that. But there is no happily ever after. There’s just now.

Love is not a lot of work.

But doing your own work can feel mighty hard and it is still your responsibility. And sometimes doing that work is the most challenging piece of all. Most of us can’t do it all by ourselves. That’s partly because it’s tough to see our way around those common blind spots.

It’s also because it takes real courage to face ourselves, to be vulnerable, to tell the truth and see the truth and then do something truly constructive with the information.

Relationship is good.

We need it. Could be the best relationship you can have with anyone right now is the one with a therapist or coach who has been down the road ahead of you and knows how to gently illuminate the path for you to choose. One thing is sure: that relationship you have with yourself will be stronger for all the work you do that is truly your work to do.

I guarantee that.

And the relationships you have with others will get healthier and healthier the more you can see what is truly your work to do. Fun thing in the whole deal? You’ll be able to stop working so hard at the wrong things and get on with the work that actually makes life better.

It’s not so scary.

Give me a call if you want to talk about how I can support you in the work that matters.

 

 

facing grief and loss all alone can be daunting

An Ideal Grief

You might recognize yourself below. Grief and bereavement are strangely universal experiences and painfully unique. Whatever you are feeling during your process (and it is a process, not an event) this grief is something that will change you in ways you can’t predict. There’s no wrong way to do it. There are right ways to find support through it and real help from trained professionals who have gone through it and know how to sit with you in it, walk with you through it, and support your healing. You are not alone. You don’t have to grieve alone. Call 513-530-5888 or email me at bethluwandi@gmail.com. Group is forming now. Individual work is ongoing. All of it is healing. 

Humans are amazing. YOU are amazing.

From this perspective, that is, standing in today glancing back, it’s a wonder you survived. It’s a wonder you are surviving the weight of this grief.

You even think like that some days, glancing back. And I mean glancing. There aren’t many days you want to stare into the moment you learned (or watched) your loved one pass from this world into the next.

Next followed the fog of ceremony and people pressing you and somehow you moved through the fog and said words to people to comfort THEM all while wondering if your heart was in your body or your brain really attached to any kind of self you used to know. It was a blur. I know.

Your head ached with tears or the numbness of holding them in.

You wonder sometimes if you’re actually breathing now.

And some days he is all you can think about. She is the air and the soft sound and a smell next to you wafting out of nowhere just when everything was moving along like clockwork, like normal, like life again.

You see his face in the crowd. Hear her laughter in the theater.

A song, a scent, a memory.

A dream wherein you forget…

then remember on waking, pained all over again. Your brain brings you up to date on a reality you question and wrestle over with God or the Universe or the Powers That Be, trying to resist cursing them all. And then, yes, do curse them all. It’s unfair.

You feel hollow. Like your carcass and body are empty, the rest of you someplace else.

Yet you’re determined. You will get through. You will move on. You will heal. You are a strong person.

And you do. You do work. You do move. You take the kids to soccer. You hug people or you avoid touching anyone. You read to her and watch him give his speech and show up for the talent show and field the hushed questions from others who ask “how are you doing?”

“Fine,” you say, smiling, sometimes wanting to choke the pitiful look off the asker’s face, sometimes avoiding the deep wells of sympathy afraid you’ll either want to scratch them out or fall into their warm pools, wailing. And you focus on whomever might be hurting more because that’s easier. Diversion. John has a nervous stomach. He got in trouble at school. Mary isn’t sleeping.

They have a therapist. Not you.

You keep up with the tennis club, the softball team, the yearly trip with the friends even when the whole time the topic that cannot surface as anything deeper than surface talk floats dangerously in the middle of everything. It’s light interest. How are you doing and how are the children doing and how are mom and dad doing. It’s easier that way.

No one truly understands and if you had to talk about it, these would not be your people. The kids are in therapy and Steven is on antidepressants which is best because he’s away at college now and you are all good. You are doing as well as can be expected. Everyone marvels that you are holding it together so well.

You sleep. And drink. Then decide not to drink since it makes you cry and ache.

You sleep and smoke. That feels like nothing, like the stench of smoke and there’s relief in feeling nothing. Oh, that’s why people smoke, you realize and wonder if you want to be a smoker again. Probably not.

But you don’t want to feel. To process. To unpack this. There are things no one needs to know.  Those who invite reflection or suddenly bring him up or recall a story with her in it or call and want payment on an expired insurance policy or whip out her photos without warning make you want to scream.

You’d spend all day telling stories and looking at pictures if you wanted to.

And time passes. You’re doing well.

Did you go a whole day without being sad? How could you do that so soon? What if someone finds out you didn’t even think of her today? You went a whole day without crying over him, without that dull ache under your ribs. Is this what it feels like to heal from grief? Is this getting better? Is this what getting better looks like – forgetting and guilt?

Then the song floods out of the car stereo. You thought you didn’t have to change the channel this time but as you let it play tears stream and bricks return to your shoulders. You thought you could control this. But another reminder surprises you, even this long after. As bad as you imagined it would be, you could not have imagined this.

You are not alone. Now may be the time to reach out. Find a therapist. Find a group.

And of course, come here. You are definitely welcome here.

Call me at 513-530-5888 or send an email. Or scroll down and leave me a comment.

 

 

 

midlife love couple

Midlife Dating, Mating, and Relating

What makes Midlife Love so challenging?

You’d think midlife love would be a piece of cake. After all, we don’t have the same naivete we possessed as young 20-somethings just starting out. Now that we’re a little older, we’re supposed to be wiser. Yet, honestly, for many of us, we’re not sure we actually know what we’re doing.

We might feel wounded by life and the reality of circumstances. And we’re afraid the landscape has changed in ways we don’t understand. Maybe we think we’ve never been good at this stuff. Maybe there’s a long, awful track record of heartache and pain. Maybe it has ALMOST become easier to give up than to actually try for what we want.

Love and attachment, the forming of bonds, romance, sex, relationship… often a mix of fulfillment and pain. It doesn’t matter how old we get, romantic love is still a huge factor in life satisfaction.

It’s not too late!

Even though you don’t need the census bureau to tell you there are scads of single women and men (of all preferences btw) still longing for love, let’s start with some facts:

In Cincinnati alone there are 120 thousand men and 120 thousand women.  About 61 thousand of each have never married. About 13 thousand men and 16.5 thousand women are divorced. Sad stat?  About 33 thousand of each gender are currently married and separated. Chances of staying married 20 years or longer is still about 50/50 for both genders.

What does this mean?

Midlife love is statistically still possible

It means if you’re single at age 35 and beyond, the available pool is back to what it was in our early to mid-20’s! No wonder there’s a boom in baby boomer dating, mating, and relating! And there’s a plethora of advice about how to go about it.  That’s the good news.

What’s the flip side?

It means people could use some help finding, keeping, and relating to a mate! I have a theory that healthy relationships last. That’s why coaching in this area is a five phase process including: Preparation, Attraction, Connection, Evaluation, and Relationship.

If you are ready to actually be in a relationship with someone who can be a partner in life, I am here to help! Or if you want help in any of the areas listed above, even in a long-term marriage or relationship, it’s what I do!

Look for FREE wisdom in the blog because I’m not stingy. I’ll share some good stuff that will cost you only the time to read.

Of course, you can READ about things and TRY STUFF til you’re worn out. And for some of you that will be sufficient for you to get where you want to go!

But if you find yourself stuck, or just in a hurry to get where you want to be – no matter what you suspect might be getting in your way – we can do some very good work on-on-one. And no matter what your situation, if you want a good mate, there is someone for you. I can help you get there. Read more about the process of individual coaching here.

Ready to start? CALL to make an appointment or schedule your FREE 15 minute in-person consultation. 513-530-5888

demographics taken from American FactFinder, US Census, available at: http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk