by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 12, 2021 best counselor for me, counseling pittsburgh, pittsburgh, relationship0 comments
“Listening is an art that requires attention over talents, spirit over ego, others over self.”
– Dean Jackson
The Attitude of Great Listeners
Developing effective and compassionate listening skills is absolutely essential in order to maintain a strong and healthy relationship. Becoming a great listener is not only vital for flourishing romantic relationships, but it is also a skill that is relevant in all aspects of life. Effective listeners are effective people. Unfortunately, these skills are not often taught, and the result is that listening skills don’t get much emphasis or development in our society.
This two-part series will focus on helping you to understand the basics of effective and compassionate listening and also teach you how to put those basics into practice. Following these simple guidelines can have a tremendous effect on both your romantic relationships, and your ability to reach your goals. In this month’s Part I blog post of “How to be a Great Listener,” we will cover the attitude of compassion that is necessary to be a compassionate and effective listener. In our next blog post, we will address the technical skills of listening that will build on this compassionate attitude!
Learning to Listen is like Learning to Ride a Bike
Learning to be a great listener can be a difficult process, often times in the beginning it feels awkward, clumsy and a bit uncomfortable. Many times, when working on listening skills in couples therapy, people tell me that this type of communication is not “them.” They may say that it does not feel right, that it is not natural, or that these listening skills do not feel authentic. My response typically sounds something like this, “I appreciate that you are letting me know that this feels unnatural, and that is okay. When I was first learning to be a counselor, this type of listening felt unnatural to me too! Thankfully, listening is a skill, it is not a personality trait, and just like any other skill it can be developed!” I tell my clients that at first it might feel unnatural, but as they develop these listening skills, they will become more personal, and will feel more natural. It is just like learning to ride a bike, or to type on a keyboard! At first, the movements may feel forced and uncoordinated, but with practice and attention, soon these skills become more familiar, they open up new and exciting avenues of exploration and expression! The same goes for listening, however when you listen, you get to explore one of the most beautiful sceneries to ever exist, the intimate world of another human being. Although becoming a great listener can be challenging at first, it is a skill that can truly transform our lives!
Great Listeners are Compassionate & Effective
Becoming a great listener can be broken down into two major aspects which come together seamlessly to allow the listener to be both compassionate and effective. The first major aspect of listening is adopting and expressing an attitude of compassion. The second major aspect of listening is developing specific listening skills and techniques to listen effectively. This post is going to focus on the compassionate listeners attitude. Most of the time we are so consumed in our own world, that we do not take the time to intentionally step into the world of another and to see the word through their eyes. In order to be great listeners, we have to possess a willingness to humbly (& momentarily) put aside our own perspective and opinion and be willing to truly witness the person in front of us. The attitude of humility and genuine interest equips us to post-pone our own agenda and to tune in to what the speaker is saying. Your goal is simply to understand.
The Golden Rule of Effective & Compassionate Listening: Don’t Problem Solve
“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart.” Tich Nhat Hanh
Listening is more than just hearing; it is a willing and active participation in the life of another person. The attitude of compassionate listening is embodied in this one rule: don’t try to problem solve. One of the most common pitfalls that hinders the compassionate listening beautifully described by Tech Nhat Hanh (a global spiritual leader, peace activist, and poet) in the quote above, is the urge to jump into problem solving. When someone tells us about a difficult situation they are encountering, it can easily bring out our insecurities and trigger the experience of anxiety. It is intimidating to think that we might not be able to help our loved ones in a satisfactory way, in the way we think they need to be helped. Not only is it intimidating, but it can also be embarrassing. Whether it is a major life dilemma, or a small frustration, we might think to ourselves, “Oh no, this person needs help, what can I possibly say to help this person?!” We can feel overwhelmed by a sense of insufficiency and experience a sense that we must do something.
Problem-solving capabilities are the primary reason that humans have survived throughout history, so it is understandable that our first instinct is to try to fix the issue, but most of the time following the impulse to offer a solution can be damaging. More than a solution, the person experiencing a dilemma or difficulty needs the presence of another person willing to simply be with them.
Instead of problem solving or advice giving, try to tune in to what the person is experiencing. Seek to really understand what they are going through, and what emotions they are feeling. Exhibiting the willingness to sit with someone in their difficulty, conveys a sense of unconditional acceptance to that person. When we listen to someone’s difficulty and seek to truly understand their experience, we say “I accept you as you are, even when you are stressed, depressed, or anxious, and I see you as you are, completely acceptable, no matter how you are feeling.” It is essential that before jumping into problem solving, or trying to make your partner feel better, you show your partner that you really hear what they are saying. This is an opportunity to demonstrate our unconditional acceptance of the ones we love.
We are social and emotional beings that thrive on human connection. When our partner is telling us about their experience, often times, they are seeking to connect with us. They aren’t just telling us a bout a difficult situation, they are also building an emotional bridge of connection. If we miss the emotions, then we will miss the bridge, and our partner will end up feeling isolated, unimportant and invalidated. Human emotions are not problems, and they cannot be solved. Emotions are processed through expression and when you ask about those emotions you create an opportunity for processing, as well as validation. Although it might feel right for us to immediately jump into problem solving or advice giving, it is a sure way to invalidate your partner and crush the connection. Deeply listening to your partner’s difficulties is an opportunity for you to show your partner, how important they are through your presence, your patience, and your attention! If your partner wants your advice, they will likely ask for it, but unless you first show your partner that you truly understand their experience and care about their feelings, problem solving is likely to be a burnt bridge of connection. Problem solving in itself is not bad, but it is essential to listen and reflect your understanding back to your partner first, and problem solve later (like, way later). Implementing this golden rule of listening becomes much easier when we have a humble attitude complimented by some practical skills and techniques!
Your Presence is a Precious Gift
Your attitude is a tremendous tool that can set you up for success or put you on the fast track to failure. In order to be a great listener, you must embrace an attitude of humility and generosity! Effective and compassionate listening requires a strong focus on the person speaking, rather than yourself. Sometimes, the most difficult aspect of embracing this attitude is that you have let go of your own insecurities. If you hold on to the belief that you “aren’t good enough,” you will never be able to give your partner what they need most in their times of difficulty and dilemma. Whether it is an everyday frustration, or a major life transition, as humans we all long for companionship. All of us want deeply to be seen, and to be known, and at the same time, all of us are terrified of what might happen if we allow ourselves to be seen and to be known. There is nothing greater you can give someone than the gift of your human presence, of your human heart full of compassion, of being someone that is willing to sit in solidarity with the discomfort of the one you love. This is truly the gift of listening. It is not simply being silent and allowing your ears to hear. It is participating in the life of another through actively showing them, “you matter to me, your experience matters to me, your emotions matter to me, and I am willing to listen.” Through communicating in this way, you invite them to truly be themselves in an authentic and organic manner. It has often been said that the greatest gift one can give a friend is their life, and there are countless stories of people who have given their lives so that their loved ones could survive. To build on this belief of sacrifice, we should take into account the fact that one’s life can only be lived in the present moment. When you give another human your full and undivided attention, even if just for a moment, you give them your life, for life can only be lived in the now. Through letting go of your insecurities and humbly believing in the power of your human presence, you allow yourself to become a source of healing through solidarity. This is the essence of compassion, “to suffer with.” It is through embracing your own human value that you allow yourself to give another the gift which all of us long for, to be known, to be seen and to be accepted. This type of presence and belief in the power of the human spirit opens up the opportunity to extend profound empathy.
In this first part of learning how to become a great listener we have covered the basic attitude of compassionate listening. Your attitude is everything! Remember, listen first and problem solve later, way later! Jumping right into problem solving before you truly understand your partner is a sure way to crush an opportunity for compassionate connection. Have confidence in the fact that your presence is enough! Simply sitting with someone and seeking to understand their difficulty can have a profoundly healing impact on someone who is experiencing difficulty. But how do you do that?! Tune in to our next blog post where we cover how-to’s of expressing empathy and the do’s and don’ts of putting this attitude into practice!
Culture of EMPATHY Builder: Carl Rogers – page 1. (n.d.). Retrieved April 03, 2021, from http://cultureofempathy.com/References/Experts/Carl-Rogers.htm
Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (2016). The Gottman relationship guides. Seattle: Gottman Institute.
Rogers, C. R., & Kramer, P. D. (1995). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view on psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 12, 2021 social anxiety, treatment for anxiety disorder0 comments
Traditional psychotherapy has been the usual approach to dealing with issues such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. It can involve real and tiring work including reliving uncomfortable memories and feelings out loud for multiple therapy sessions. Historically, this has been the responsible process to identifying and resolving deep issues about thoughts and feelings and functioning in the world. It has been the popular and accepted route to mental wellness. Many people have avoided getting the help they need because they do not want to be subjected to any further stress. They don’t want to do the work.
Happily, there is an alternative.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a new and non-traditional psychotherapy. It uses a patient’s rapid, rhythmic eye movements to lessen the effects of emotionally charged memories of past traumatic events. During a typical session, which can last up to 53 minutes, the therapist moves their fingers back and forth in front of the patient’s face. Sometimes they use an object instead of their fingers, similar to the way hypnotism was portrayed in old movies by swinging a long-chained pocket watch. They have the patient follow these hand motions with their eyes while recalling the distressing event. Eventually the therapist leads the patient to discover more pleasant thoughts, diverting their attention away from the distressing event. The effects of this process are, diminished debilitating memories. This is achieved without talk therapy or medication.
If you are someone who suffers from a specific phobia, such as the fear of flying, EMDR could help you. Replacing negative emotions with positive ones through the EMDR process has provided a sense of security for those afraid to fly. One study which examined a woman who was afraid to fly after the attacks on the United States on September 11, showed positive results quickly. Following only one session she was able to fly on multiple occasions without fear.
If you have had a bad experience at the dentist, studies have shown this non-invasive approach has proven effective in reducing effects of dental phobia. Quoted directly from a study which implemented EMDR: “The most important result of this study was that a high number of patients overcame their avoidance behavior and visited the dentist regularly following treatment.” This study included several 90-minute sessions and proved to be effective in reducing anxiety and changing behavior. Fear of going to the dentist was no longer debilitating.
EMDR is used for a wide range of issues such as panic attacks, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more. If you are someone who suffers from any of these issues or a similar one, this therapy has proven to be successful in eradicating effects of negative experiences. Taking adverse thoughts, memories, emotions, and sensations and rewiring them in the brain has produced a higher level of control and normal functioning.
Although psychotherapy can be stressful, not getting help can also be stressful. If you are ready to seek mental wellness, EMDR is a proven, specific, and results driven approach. EMDR allows negative experiences to become manageable and you to be well.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 29, 2021 healthy relationships, parenting, Parenting and Families0 comments
Nothing can fill a parent with trepidation quite like watching their teenager enter the world of dating.
While you may feel some “mama bear” instincts to shut it down, your teen needs you to be there for them. And they’re probably craving to know (without telling you): what does a healthy relationship actually look like?
Instill these five teachable habits to help your teen build healthy relationships.
Relationships rest on emotions, words, and actions. Teach your teen that emotions can’t be controlled, but words and actions can – and they form the basis of a communication.
Actions communicate broad messages like “I want to be here” or “I like you”. But words are the real powerhouse of healthy communication.
Especially when swept away in the beginning, your teen may feel like they can read their partner’s mind. But at some point, this illusion will end. Hurt feelings often result.
Save your teen trouble by teaching them to air out issues before they happen. Remind them to speak gently when opening a conversation. It helps all parties feel like they can say what’s really on their mind.
If your teen and their girlfriend/boyfriend know where they stand on relationship status, sex, and expectations, to name some heavy-hitters, they can navigate from a thoughtful place.
Clear boundaries set a relationship free. They remove the guesswork. Teach your teen the nuts and bolts of boundary setting in a relationship.
Your sounding board can help them get in touch with their inner voice. Inquire in a helpful way. “Do you want him to text you that much?” “Do you feel ready to take your relationship with her to that level of commitment?” Encourage them to answer from their gut instinct.
Then let them know they can request a boundary directly, i.e. “I only want text a few times a day”. Make it clear that if the person involved with doesn’t respect that boundary, it’s a red flag.
Help your teen understand what constitutes physical and emotional safety in a relationship. Encourage them to take time away from the partner to reflect on how things are going. Remind them that any relationship worth keeping will be there when they return.
Highlight the difference between safe and unsafe. Safe should feel comfortable, open, trusting, unpressured, and generally easy. Unsafe situations will evoke feelings of pressure, hiding, secrets, shame, and general ickiness.
Vulnerability and Intimacy
Your teen may feel nervous about getting to know somebody they like. It can be scary to put yourself out there! Give them foundational talk skills to help get over that knot in the throat.
A powerful but underrated conversation skill is asking open-ended questions. Coach your teen to say “How do you feel about your biology class?” instead of “Do you like biology?” Questions like this can really get the conversation flowing. Your teen’s crush will feel their care and interest, and your teen will feel empowered to listen and share.
Enjoy the Fun
Provide gentle but realistic perspective for teenage relationships. The person they date in middle school and high school, in all likelihood, will not be who they marry. It might not even last a few weeks or months. And that’s okay.
Emphasize that relationships are about learning at this point – and fun! If they’re not having fun, encourage your teen to set a boundary to change or end the relationship. Support their discovery of what’s fun or not fun for them.
These building blocks will help them down the road. In the meantime, they’re building happy memories and growth-oriented relationships that uplift them in an often tumultuous season of life.
For more relationship support for you and your teen, consult the following resources:Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 14, 2021 child counseling, child therapy, family counseling, family counseling during corona virus, parenting, Parenting and Families0 comments
Whether you’re a parent or caregiver, weathering the pandemic with children has probably felt like a pressure cooker at times. Boredom, turmoil, and anxiety arise when faced with remote school days or filling long afternoons sans extracurriculars.
Kids look to the adults in their lives to help them cope with this complex, global situation. How can we make strong mental health choices to protect them?
Start By Helping Yourself
It’s difficult to support others when you feel unsupported. Take some moments at the beginning of each day to center yourself. You could wake up a little early to do a 20-minute yoga class. Perhaps digest the headlines over a quiet cup of coffee. Even stopping to breathe deeply for one minute can make a difference.
Now that you are calm, transmit that to your children. Start with basic facts about COVID-19. Dispel any scary rumors that may be circulating. Especially be aware of internet and TV messages. Assure them that, although we do need to take it seriously, adults are working to keep everyone as safe as possible.
When your child has a question about the coronavirus or lockdown life, take the time to listen. Give them space to air out their concerns. It may help to provide multiple modes of expression, like drawing, playing, and talking.
Measures of Control
We all like to feel some control of our lives, however small. The same goes for young people. Fortunately, the safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 translate into simple activities. Guide kids to wash their hands, wear a mask in public, and stay at least 6 feet away from anyone outside their pod.
Lighten the mood when you can. Hand-washing can be made into a fun game with songs. Mask crafts add color and art to something obligatory.
Social distancing may especially distress kids who miss their friends. Take some extra time to emphasize why it’s important to keep distance. Explain that the infection spreads when people are in close contact with each other. Assure them that it’s temporary, and they will see their friends again. Meanwhile, engage in remote or outdoor socializing when possible.
Middle schoolers and high schoolers may benefit from graphics that demonstrate how “flattening the curve” works. This helps them understand the bigger picture and empower them to be part of the solution.
Come Up With Fun Distractions
On the bright side of lockdown, we have so many opportunities to spend quality time with our kids. When we’re safe at home, there’s no need to ruminate on pandemic worries. Have a family meeting where everyone lists a hobby or interest they want to grow during quarantine: puzzles, art, reading, writing, music, gymnastics, bird-watching… Maybe you all make a pact to work on doing the splits by the end of quarantine. Maybe you remodel a room and turn it into an art studio or sublime reading nook.
Most of us have some kind of dream home project that’s been sitting on the shelf. Time to get into it! The antidote to worry is action.
We Can Pull Through This
If the stress of the pandemic seems to be wearing on you and your children, make the wise choice: seek counseling. Zoom makes family therapy readily available, and it’s just as effective.
It’s true that we’re all in this together – if your family feels overwhelmed, you don’t have to tough it out alone.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 3, 2021 healthy relationships, marriage, marriage counseling, marriage counseling near me, marriage counseling pittsburgh, marriage counseling south hills, marriage counseling wexford, meaning of rituals0 comments
Creating a love that lasts takes time and commitment. One of the keys to this kind of love is intentionality. Intentionality is acting in a deliberate manner that shows your partner that you love them. It might look like cooking a nice meal for your partner, or getting them a special coffee, or maybe another gift like flowers. Being intentional is a necessity to maintain romance and foster a fun and exciting atmosphere in your relationship! As a couple it is important to foster a sense of intentionally, not just toward your partner, but toward your relationship as a whole. Taking time to create Rituals of Connection is one of the best ways to intentionally foster love and intimacy. Rituals of Connection are specific times of interaction, both informal and formal, that help couples come together and build intimacy. Building rituals of connection is a way to deepen your connection and create shared meaning in your relationship.
Rituals of connection can be simple and informal, like sharing meals together, the way you leave for work, coming home from work, working out together, and even rituals before bed. They can also be more formal and scheduled, such as planned relationship check-in’s, weekly dates, scheduling times for intimacy and romance, and routine times to release stress. Rituals of Connection also include how you as a couple celebrate achievements, anniversaries, and even hosting friends in your home.
Why is it important?
Rituals of connection create a sense of healthy anticipation and expectation for emotional intimacy. They provide ways for you as a couple to connect emotionally in a manner that is personally meaningful. You might be thinking that having this type of structure in your relationship would kill spontaneity, but it actually does the opposite! Planned out Rituals of Connection build intimacy and a sense of oneness in the relationship, and this actually increases that likelihood that you will go off the cuff and do something spontaneous. Having a planned ritual is not a structure that holds you back. It is a strong foundation that empowers your relationship to explore the world around you and grow as a couple.
The Top 5 Rituals of Connection to Create in Your Relationship
- The Daily Stress-Reducing Conversation – a Stress Reducing Conversation is a great ritual of connection to introduce into your day to day routine. A stress reducing conversation is a conversation where you simply take some time to listen to each other. It is a conversation where you simply take turns listening to each other about things that are stressing you out that don’t have to do with your relationship. This is a great time to decompress and reduce stress from work or hectic to-do lists. It is a time to listen to your partner without trying to problem solve, or correct, but just to hear them out, and understand the stressors that they are experiencing in life.
- The Weekly “State of the Union” conversation – The weekly State of the Union conversation is a weekly conversation in which you and your partner review your week in terms of your relationship. It is a time to talk about the things that went right in your relationship that week, to show appreciation for each other, to process or discuss any problems or difficulties that may have occurred, and finally to ask each other, “What can I do next week to make you feel loved?” The State of the Union conversation is a great way to stay up to date on your own relationship, set goals, and ensure that you are on the same page with your partner.
- The Weekly Date – Don’t underestimate the importance of having a weekly date! It doesn’t always have to be fancy or extravagant even having a coffee date, or maybe simply going on a walk is a great way to build your relationship. Having a weekly date is a great way to maintain a sense of adventure and fun in your relationship. Often times it can be overwhelming to plan a date, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Just do something! The weekly date ensures time to build emotional intimacy and check in with each other.
- Daily Cuddle Time – Couples need to be physically connected as well. Taking time each day to cuddle, hug, hold hands and kiss is a great way to connect and let your partner know you love them. Whether it is while reading, watching a movie, sharing a glass of wine or a cup of tea, being physically close to your partner builds connection and shows affection.
- Rituals about Sex – For many people talking about sex is uncomfortable, but discussing sexual needs and desires is a key component in creating a more satisfying sex life and expressing your love and connection to your partner. In love that lasts, sex is built on a foundation of friendship. Having conversations about how you would like to initiate sex and love making is crucial! Another crucial aspect of this ritual of connection is to discover a way to say “no” to sex, that works for you as a couple. It is important to be able to communicate needs to each other without ending emotional connection.
Discovering how to integrate these essential Rituals of Connection into your relationship strengthens and illuminates that bond that you share with your partner. These five rituals of connection are just a few of the many ways that you can work to establish a strong lasting relationship with your partner. Take some time this week to talk to your partner to see how you can integrate a few of them into your weekly routine!
Doherty, W. J. (1997). The intentional family: How to build family ties in our modern world. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing.
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2018). The seven principles for making marriage work. London: Cassell Illustrated.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 28, 2021 anger, anger management, anger management counseling0 comments
Do you remember the last time you felt angry? Perhaps you were peeved that your kid left a sliver of milk in the jug and didn’t add it to the grocery list. Maybe a truck cut you off at the freeway entrance, and you muttered obscenities. Or maybe it’s hard to look back at the last time, because you punched a hole in the wall.
We All Get Angry
Though sometimes unpleasant, anger comprises a natural part of the human emotional experience. However, chronic and intense anger may take a toll on your body, mind, and relationships. Depending on the seriousness, this could range from a stress headache to a cardiac event.
Anger tends to surface in our relationships where we spend the most time. You may lash out at loved ones and feel regret. If this becomes a pattern, it can wound long-term relationships.
Unchecked anger that becomes physical aggression may evoke larger social, legal, and even criminal consequences.
If you find yourself struggling with this emotion, remember that eliminating anger from life is not an option. But you can learn to reduce persistent, intense anger.
Abundant Anger Management
Square one: anger management resources are widely available in this day and age. Think you don’t have the time or money? Positive effects have been noted from just a handful of interventions.
Common techniques include mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and non-violent communication. Some help diffuse intense feelings when they arise. Others equip you to work around or through situations that anger you.
Most interventions teach life skills that are simply good to have. Keep reading to learn what you have to gain.
Mindfulness: the Power of the Present
Mindfulness and relaxation techniques teach calm observation, which can help you self-soothe when tense. This can be useful whether you’re tolerating an annoying coworker or coaching yourself through airplane turbulence.
On top of anger reduction, mindfulness enhances enjoyment of day to day life. When you feel anchored in the present, it opens the door to deeper connection with yourself and others.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Flip Your Perspective
Cognitive reframing offers another multi-tool for life. To reframe, take a step back and examine your reaction to situations that provoke strong emotion.
For example, what thoughts fill your mind when you feel angry at your spouse for not emptying the dishwasher? “They don’t value my time. I do all the chores…” What if your spouse didn’t empty the dishwasher, because they were busy cooking dinner for you? Do you feel different about that full dishwasher now?
It’s natural to see that reframing could serve many emotions and circumstances, not just anger. You may find yourself reframing all sorts of assumptions that once weighed you down.
Non-Violent Communication: Get to the Root
Remember that anger may be telling you an important message about your needs. The hidden need might be personal (“I need more time to recharge”), but it could also draw you to a larger cause. Anger-fueled protests that call for justice are a classic example.
Whatever the message, non-violent communication teaches you to focus on the need beneath the emotion. Suddenly, you may find anger isn’t a roadblock anymore. Instead of choosing aggression and rumination, you energetically solve problems.
Take the First Step
With these benefits in mind, can you visualize yourself getting a handle on your anger?
Professional counseling can make a huge difference in the speed and health of your recovery. Reach out to find a therapist who’s a good fit. Get the support you need on the journey to freedom from chronic anger. If not now, when?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 12, 2021 healthy relationships, marriage counseling, marriage counseling monroeville, marriage counseling near me, marriage counseling pittsburgh, marriage counseling south hills, marriage counseling wexford0 comments
Many predict that divorce will be at an all-time high during the time of COVID-19 quarantine.
One relationship therapist emailed a survey to over 700 clients and found that thirty-one percent of respondents claimed the quarantine had hurt their relationship. With record amounts of time spent together in close quarters, it may feel like there’s no escape for a married couple, especially with none of the usual “me time” activities like gyms, spas, and dinners with friends.
For that reason, marriage counseling is more important than ever. Having a dedicated safe space to process issues, especially during a stressful situation like an ongoing pandemic, can help strengthen the bonds of a couple immensely. Below are just a few of the many reasons couples may want to seek marriage counseling.
1. Support Navigating Shared Relationships
A married couple has many important relationships outside of their marriage itself. The dynamics of these relationships can also affect a marriage. Couples may need outside advice on how to properly set boundaries and interact with children, parents, in-laws, friends, and members of blended families. A third-party who is impartial can be especially helpful in these scenarios because problems often arise when both members of a couple have a different relationship with one of these outside people.
2. Help with Sexual Issues
Many times, underlying relationship issues play out in the bedroom. Sexual issues can come up again and again, shaping a large part of a couple’s intimacy issues. Luckily, studies show that improvement is largely possible, especially when a sex therapist gives both partners coping strategies to employ when they encounter sexual difficulties. A study that followed 140 couples over the course of one to six years of sex therapy found that the long-term outcome for those seeking sex therapy was excellent, and the results carried over into the couples’ attitudes about their relationship in general.
3. Gaining an Impartial Ear
When weathering marital troubles, many people seek advice from friends and family who bring their own biases to the table. For example, someone’s mother is likely to want to see them as innocent and their partner as the villain. Marriage counselors don’t have previous associations with either party. They are more likely to hear both partners’ concerns fairly.
4. Rebuilding Trust After Infidelity
Studies show that between 20 and 40 percent of married people end up seeking an extramarital affair. These statistics are especially troubling when 42 percent of divorces cite infidelity as one of the causes. That said, when the right steps are taken, infidelity does not have to end in divorce, and a couple can ultimately rebuild broken trust and become even stronger.
According to Psychology Today, part of the process involves an opportunity for both parties to discuss the whole truth. It’s natural for the person who has been cheated on to have many questions they feel need to be answered to regain trust. To reach a place of forgiveness, the transgressor needs to be emotionally honest and take responsibility for what they have done. Without taking this step forward, forgiveness may not be found and an intimate connection may not be restored. A relationship expert can help couples navigate this tricky process together.
5. Avoiding the “Four Horsemen” of Conflict
Relationship expert John Gottman has defined the four horsemen of the “apocalypse” of a relationship: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. None of these are productive ways to respond to a partner, and employing these tactics will only heighten tensions and drive a couple further apart. A marriage counselor can help a couple identify when they are responding to each other in these unproductive ways and help suggest healthy alternatives that promote a healthier conversation.
6. Creating a Safe Space
Rather than bringing negative energy into the home, it can be helpful to have a neutral territory to discuss conflicts. Furthermore, a therapist’s office provides a space for a couple to discuss their issues away from those who may overhear them, such as children or other family members. A couples therapy session is a place where each party can feel safe being honest without fear of judgment.
7. Fostering an Attachment Bond
While attachment science is often discussed regarding child development, it is equally important for adults. Emotionally Focused Therapy is an emerging field that focuses on a couple’s attachment to one another. A secure attachment bond has shown to provide resilience to the couple and improved self-esteem to each individual. Therapy provides a time and place for a married couple to get to know each other better and become more secure in their bond.
When things may look grim for a person’s marriage, there is always help. Like all things, when a couple is willing to put in the time and effort, they can look forward to the reward of a healthier, happier relationship. Marriage counseling can help married couples find common ground and feel bonded once again.Learn More
Every romantic relationship needs a strong friendship at its center. Friendship is essential to long-lasting, passionate connection. It is like the coals of a bonfire that maintain the heat through the night and remain even after all the wood has burned up. Even in the morning with a little stoking and more wood, the coals quickly blaze again into a warm fire. Friendship is the foundation of long-lasting romance.
The friendship we share with our partner is not second rate to the romance and passion of love. Without a strong friendship, there is no foundation for romance. If you tell me that romance and intimacy is dead in your relationship the first thing to start working on is your friendship! When friendship with your partner dies out, the whole relationship loses its foundation and its spark.
The great philosopher Aristotle once said in his writing, “A friend is a second self.” This is one of my favorite phrases to think about when considering friendship, especially in the context of romantic relationships. True friendship brings forth the desire to know your partner as intimately as you know yourself. Of course, you will never be able to know your partner completely, but you can get pretty close! Desiring to grow in intimacy with your partner in such a deep way creates a continued journey to know our partners and be known by our partners. If you don’t know what your partners hopes, desires, and aspirations are, then how can you support them in those? If you don’t know what their stressors, sensitivities, and hurts are, then how can you be present to their pain and difficulty? Friendship is the foundation of love that lasts.
Drs. John & Julie Gottman are world renowned relationship experts. They have dedicated their lives to learning what separates the “relationship masters” from the “relationship disasters.” The Gottman’s call their blueprint for healthy relationships The Sound Relationship House. Each level of the Sound Relationship House contains an essential ingredient for making love last, and at the very foundation of the Sound Relationship House is friendship. The Gottman’s refer to Love Maps as the center of friendship, and the foundation of love that lasts. Love Maps refer to the amount of mental space you have in your brain for your partner. A Love map is your knowledge of your partner’s inner world. Research conducted by the Gottman’s has revealed that the amount of mental room a partner has for their relationship and for the world of their partner predicts how stable the relationship will be.
Masters of relationships develop a map of their partner’s history, likes, dislikes, concerns, preferences and the current world of their partner. The Masters of relationships create Love Maps of their partner’s world by asking open-ended questions. An open-ended question is a question that can’t be answered by a simple “yes” or “no.” An example of an open-ended question is, “How was your day today?” This question leaves room for your partner to respond in the way they would like and lets them really tell you about their day. It shows that you are really interested in their life and their experience. In comparison, “Did you have a good day today?” is a closed ended question, and while it shows you are interested and care about their day, it limits the response of your partner to being “yes” or “no.”
Just like the operating system on your phone, the Love Maps of your relationship need to be routinely updated. We are always changing and evolving. Our perspectives, stressors, hopes and dreams can change with time, so it is important to take time to update the Love Maps in your relationship. This exercise below is a simple way to update your love maps and to develop the skill of asking open-ended questions about your partners answers. Enhancing your love maps is really about building friendship on an intimate level. True friendship is the bedrock of love that lasts. Try this activity to test & build Love Maps with your partner!
THE LOVE MAPS QUESTIONS GAME
Now that you understand the importance of building Love Maps, play a fun, light-hearted game with your partner. The more you play, the more you’ll learn about the Love Maps concept and how to apply it to your relationship.
Step 1: Both you and your partner take a piece of paper, and with a pen, write down twenty numbers between 1 and 60.
Step 2: Below is a list of numbered questions. Beginning with the top of your column, match the numbers you chose with the corresponding question. Each of you should ask your partner this question. If your partner answers correctly (you be the judge), he or she receives a point. If your partner responds incorrectly, neither of you receives any points. The same rules apply when you answer. The winner is the person with the higher score after you’ve both answer all twenty questions.
- Name two of my closest friends (2 points)
- What is my favorite musical group, composer, or instrument? (2 points)
- What was I wearing when we first met? (2 points)
- Name one of my hobbies. (3 points)
- Where was I born? (1 point)
- What stresses am I facing right now? (4 points)
- Describe in detail what I did today, or yesterday. (4 points)
- When is my birthday? (1 point)
- What is the date of our anniversary? (1 point)
- Who is my favorite relative? (2 points)
- What is my fondest unrealized dream? (5 points)
- What is my favorite website? (2 points)
- What is one of my greatest fears or disaster scenarios? (3 points)
- What is my favorite time of day for lovemaking? (3 points)
- What makes me feel most competent? (4 points)
- What turns me on sexually? (3 points)
- What is my favorite meal? (2 points)
- What is my favorite way to spend an evening? (2 points)
- What is my favorite color? (1 point)
- What personal improvements do I want to make in my life? (4 points)
- What kind of present would I like best? (2 points)
- What was one of my best childhood experiences? (2 points)
- What was my favorite vacation? (2 points)
- What is one of my favorite ways to relax? (4 points)
- Who is my greatest source of support (other than you)? (3 points)
- What is my favorite sport? (2 points)
- What do I most like to do with time off? (2 points)
- What is one of my favorite weekend activities? (2 points)
- What is my dream getaway place? (3 points)
- What is my favorite movie? (2 points)
- What are some of the important events coming up in my life? How do I feel about them? (4 points)
- What are some of my favorite ways to work out? (2 points)
- Who was my best friend in childhood? (3 points)
- What is one of my favorite magazines? (2 points)
- Name one of my major rivals or “enemies.” (3 points)
- What would I consider my dream job? (4 points)
- What do I fear the most? (4 points)
- Who is my least favorite relative? (3 points)
- What is my favorite holiday? (2 points points)
- What kinds of books do I most like to read? (3 points)
- What is my favorite TV show? (2 points)
- Which side of the bed do I prefer? (2 points)
- What am I most sad about? (4 points)
- Name one of my concerns or worries. (4 points)
- What medical problems do I worry about? (2 points)
- What was my most embarrassing moment? (3 points)
- What was my worst childhood experience? (3 points)
- Name two people I most admire. (4 points)
- Name my favorite ice cream flavor. (2 points)
- Of all the people we both know, who do I like the least? (3 points)
- What is one of my favorite desserts? (2 points)
- What is my social security number?
- Name one of my novels. (2 points)
- What is my favorite restaurant? (2 points)
- What are two of my aspirations, hopes, wishes? (4 points)
- Do I have a secret ambition? What is it? (4 points)
- What foods do I hate? (2 points)
- What is my favorite animal? (2 points)
- What is my favorite song? (2 points)
- Which sports teams is my favorite? (2 points)
*Adapted from John Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
PhD, G. J., & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert (Revised ed.). Harmony.
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
By John Paul Dombrowski – Therapist Intern
6 Simple and Effective Techniques to Curb Your Self-Defeating Perfectionism in 2021
The pursuit of perfection is the road to unhappiness.
Has anyone ever told you that you were a perfectionist? Perfectionism is a barrier to sound mental health and stands in the way of you developing sound wellness and wellbeing. But, have you ever tried to stop your perfectionism? People are quick to give off-the-cuff advice about things you should or shouldn’t do. Maybe they say, “Stop this”, or “Do that”, but it is rare that they follow their advice up with practical steps on how to change the habits they point out. In David Burn’s powerful and life changing book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, he spends a chapter outlining 15 practical techniques to overcome perfectionism. Our mental health counselors have chosen the top 6 of his simple and effective techniques that will help you to overcome perfectionism in 2021!
- Make a list of the Pros & Cons of being a perfectionist.
If you take some time to think about it, you might realize that your perfectionism isn’t really helping you. Have you ever stopped to wonder if your perfectionism does more harm than good? Perhaps you feel like it gives you an “edge,” but have you thought about the downsides? And what if you could perform just as well, or even better without it? Maybe it’s not that you’re successful because of your perfectionism, but rather that you are successful despite your perfectionism. The first simple tip is to take some time right now to write down a pros and cons list of being a perfectionist. You can do this on your phone, or on a piece of paper. Do the pros outweigh the cons? You may find that the advantages are pretty slim! If the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages, why don’t you give the advantages a second look and test them out.
The Pleasure of Perfection Experiment.
Try altering your standards in various activities so you can see how your performance reacts to high standards, middle standards, and low standards. You might be shocked to realize that by lowering your standards of perfection you will feel better about what you do and do it more effectively! Use the following experiment to test out the advantages of your perfectionism:
Believed advantage from your list of Pros: “My perfectionism makes me more effective.”
- Choose an Activity for example cleaning, reading, writing a report for work, cooking a meal for a loved one, or anything else in which you think striving for perfection makes you more effective.
- When you start that activity instead of trying to be 100% perfect, set the goal for 80% perfection, 60% perfection, or even 40% perfection.
- After completing the activity with a less then 100% perfection standard see how much you enjoy the activity and how well you completed that activity compared to before.
Now ask yourself, “Was I less effective? How much did I enjoy that activity?” You can try this with any task, and any standard of perfection. Give it a try and see what happens!
- Developing a Process Orientation
Another approach to curb your habit of perfectionism is to learn to adopt a processes orientation. Focusing simply on outcomes is a recipe for all-or-nothing thinking. When David Burns was a young therapist he held the belief that he had to do outstanding work with each client each session. When his patients benefited from a session he was on top of the world, but when a client responded poorly on the other hand, he’d feel miserable all day and tell himself he was a failure. Bringing this problem to his colleague Dr. Aaron Beck, he was told. “Imagine that you had a job driving a car to City Hall every day. Some days you hit mostly green lights and made great time. Other days you’d hit lots of red lights, and traffic jams and the drive would be much longer. Your driving skill would be the same each day, so why not feel equally satisfied with the job you did?” The Dr. Burns learned that instead of focusing on outcomes, he could focus on good, consistent effort at each session, regardless of how the patient responded. This process outlook guaranteed he could experience 100% success with the effort he put forth each day.
Emphasizing the process you are engaging in, rather than the outcome, provides a greater opportunity for learning and mastery. Appreciating your engagement, learning, and the effort you put forth on activities, protects you from your perfectionistic evaluation. It allows you to be more present in the moment, and to develop a sense of mastery. Try to focus on learning, development, and effort in activities you do, rather than a success or failure perspective. Ask yourself, what are some ways that you can focus on developing a process orientation in your life.
- Overcome perfectionism by setting strict time limits on all your activities for one week.
Place a time limit on how long you plan to engage in each of your daily activities for a week. This will help you focus on the flow of life and allow you to enjoy your time more fully rather then getting wrapped up in perfecting everything you do. If you want to be happy, set modest goals! Schedule your time in the morning and decide the amount of time you will budget on each activity. When the time is up, quit that activity whether or not you have completed it, and move on to the next project. Most people have a tendency to overestimate how much they are able to get done in a day. Your perfectionism likely becomes procrastination because you insist on doing everything so thoroughly. This means taking far longer than necessary to complete daily and weekly tasks. The result is an ever-growing to-do list that is never completed. At the end of the day you probably beat yourself up for not getting “enough” done. This is completely avoidable by more effective planning and placing time limits on activities. Instead of trying to completely organize your closet, set a time limit of 20-minutes each week. This way, you create a frequent habit, rather than a weekend cleaning frenzy! Planning your activities based on specific amounts of time promotes the development of healthy, sustainable habits, and helps you to move past your self-defeating perfectionism.
- Learn how to make mistakes.
Are you afraid of making mistakes? This may be holding you back from taking healthy risks! We can easily forget that mistakes are not all bad! This leads to trying to do everything perfectly. Mistakes give us an opportunity to learn, grow, and relate to each other. A powerful method for overcoming perfectionism is learning how to make mistakes. One helpful approach is to write an essay describing why it is both irrational and self-defeating to try to be perfect and to fear making mistakes. Writing a personal essay for yourself exploring why it is okay to make mistakes can help you to be more confident in your journey to give up perfectionism. Remember the world won’t come to an end because of a mistake you make! Writing a letter can be a tangible reminder that mistakes are okay, and that they allow us to learn and grow!
- Focus on your success’s not your failures.
Do you have a habit of only focusing on the ways you fall short? If you are a perfectionist, you probably have a tendency to focus only on the things you have not done perfectly, or that are incomplete. You end up ignoring and forgetting all the things you have done right. This can create an unhelpful and overly negative view of yourself and the world. It doesn’t make any rational sense to just focus on the things you have on your to do list, and completely forget all of the things you have already completed! Here is a very simple, but very effective technique to help you foster an attitude of appreciation and recognition for your accomplishments and successes both big and small.
Try this simple exercise to reverse this habit!
- Keep a piece of paper next to your bed.
- Before you go to sleep at night, go through your day and count all of the things you did right. Make sure to count all of them, nothing is too small!
- Write down that number of things you did right, or that you completed on your paper each day for two weeks and allow yourself to notice all the things you are doing right!
- Keep a weekly count of all the positive things you’ve done, and tasks completed.
This exercise will help you focus on the positives and have a more balanced perspective. Remember to count literally everything you do right! This might seem too simplistic, but just because it is simple, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. What do you have to lose?! Give it a try and see how you feel after two weeks.
- Use logic.
My personal favorite tool to use is this logical equation:
Premise One: All Human beings make mistakes.
Premise Two: I am a human being.
Conclusion: I make mistakes because I am a human.
If all humans make mistakes, and I am a human, then it follows that I will make mistakes because of my humanity. Logically you will and even should make mistakes. It’s in your nature! Next time you make a mistake, instead of beating yourself up, say to yourself, “I made that mistake because I am human,” or “That mistake just proves that I am human like everyone else,” or “Making a mistake doesn’t mean that I am a failure, it just means that I am a human.” Mistakes are a part of who we are; they are an essential part of our development.
You can take it one step further and ask yourself, “What can I learn from my mistake?” Write down one of the mistakes you have made and then list all the things you have learned from that mistake. Learning to appreciate mistakes helps us to realize that being perfect is not part of the human condition but learning and growing certainly is! In the words of David Burns, “If you were perfect, there’d be nothing to learn, no way to improve, and life would be completely void of challenge and the satisfaction that comes from mastering something that takes effort.”
The Pursuit of Perfection is the road to Unhappiness.
If you maintain a standard for evaluating your performance that you cannot ever meet you are going to make yourself miserable! If the standard of perfection doesn’t fit reality, why not give it up!? Perfectionism is founded on all-or-nothing thinking. Most of the time, it just steals our joy and satisfaction. If you look around you, how many things can really fit into an all-or-nothing mold? Is your room a complete mess, or are some (maybe even many) things out of place? Do you know anyone who is perfectly calm and confident all the time? All-or-nothing thinking doesn’t really fit life very often, and neither does perfection. Most importantly, you don’t need to be perfect to be happy. If you don’t believe me try this thought experiment, take a moment to imagine a time in your life when you were really happy. Close your eyes, and picture that moment in vivid detail. Now ask yourself, “What was perfect about that time or experience?” In all likelihood, nothing was completely perfect, but it didn’t stop you from being happy! You don’t need to be perfect. Just be you. This year, instead of seeking perfection, use these tips and techniques to focus on thriving as your own unique self.
This Post was adapted from Dr. David Burns book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.
Burns, D. D. (2017). Dare to Be Average: Ways to Overcome Perfectionism. In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy(pp. 345-375). Blackstone Audio, Incorporated.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 22, 2020 albert ellis, holidays stress reduction, irrational beliefs, stress, stress management, Uncategorized0 comments
Cut Down on Stress by Cutting out These Two Words
Stop Stressing Yourself Out!
The Holidays are an easy opportunity to let stress bubble over and become full blown anxiety. Stressors are a fact of life, but a majority of the stress we experience is actually a result of the things we tell ourselves. Often, our anxiety is rooted in the unfortunate human tendency to take our hopes, goals and desires and morph them into what are called absolute demands. We take our wants and then mistakenly, and usually without realizing it, turn them into needs. Inevitably, we come up short and the result is a mix of shame, guilt, and anxiety. We fail to meet the rigid demands we place on ourselves, and then we beat ourselves up for not meeting these unrealistic and unachievable standards! The most common way we do this is by using the words “should” and “must.” Without realizing it, you are probably causing yourself a lot of unnecessary anxiety with these absolute should’s and must’s. If you want a stress-free holiday one simple and effective trick is to replace “should,” and “must” with flexible language.
When your thoughts are flexible and rational, you experience positive and negative emotions in a healthy and balanced way. Rigid and inflexible thoughts set unachievable standards, and when these standards aren’t met the result is extreme and dysfunctional emotions. With plenty of things to do, places to be, and relationships to manage, the holidays are a prime time for high standards and rigid beliefs to run wild. How often do you tell yourself you, should, must, have to, or need, to do something? If you find yourself using these words a lot, it might be a sign that you are stressing yourself out! The good news is that you can stop most of your worryin
g by recognizing your irrational beliefs, when we notice that we are making statements that begin with ‘should and must’ we know that we are using irrational beliefs, instead we should alternate those statements by replacing them with flexible and rational thoughts.
Should’s and must’s fall into a category of common mental mistakes that we all make called absolute demands. They are rigid forms of thinking that result in unhealthy negative emotional states like shame, guilt, anxiety and depression. Without realizing it, we take our preferences, hopes, desires, and goals, and turn them into needs. The fact is your wants are not needs. We say things like, “I need the approval of other people.” “I should be more successful.” Or, “I must be perfect in everything I do.” The result of our illogical jump in thinking is that these thoughts are not rationally based. When our thinking is not based on reality, things can quickly get out of hand! If our need’s for approval, success, or perfection are not fulfilled we experience it as a total catastrophe. Our rigid musts lead to extreme, and unhealthy beliefs, overgeneralizations about ourselves, other people, or the world. Everyone will express these must’s and should’s in slightly different ways, but here are some basic examples of what this might look like:
The absolute demand, “I must/should do well,”
Leads to the extreme conclusion “or I am no good.”
The absolute demand, “You must/should treat me well,”
Leads to the extreme conclusion, “If you don’t, you are worthless.”
The absolute demand, “The world must give me what I want, when I want.”
Leads to the extreme conclusion, “If not, it a horrible place.”
If we didn’t create these absolute must’s for ourselves, we wouldn’t experience most of our unhealthy emotional reactions. Other examples of absolute demands are have to’s, ought to’s and need to’s, but the two main forms of absolute demands are our should’s, and must’s. The fact of the matter is that there is no logical reason for these must’s and should’s. They are actually illogical, and the result of rigid and illogical thinking is more rigid and illogical thinking, leaving us in an emotional mess. If you think about the words literally, and from a rational perspective, anything that should be already is. If something must be then literally it already is that way. When we use should and must we don’t always literally mean what we say. The issue is that our brain doesn’t know that, and it reacts to the logic we use, thinking those things like success and approval are needs. We believe what we tell ourselves. The desires for approval and for success are very good and healthy human desires, but they are wants, not needs. The real need’s humans have are food, water, and oxygen, almost everything else is a preference or desire. The result of turning these preferences into should’s and must’s in our self-talk is unhealthy negative emotion, and dysfunctional behavior.
Respond to Your Should’s & Musts
In order to replace your should’s and must’s with flexible beliefs the first thing you have to do is pay attention to your thoughts. Try to notice all the times when you use these should’s and must’s. After you catch yourself, there are two steps to responding to your should’s and must’s with flexible beliefs. The first step is to tell yourself what your want is, and the second step is to acknowledge that you do not have to get what you want. For example, If I thought to myself “I should have woken up earlier today.” The effect of this thought is that I feel ashamed and guilty. I may even make the extreme conclusion, “I’m lazy and no good for not waking up earlier, this just proves that I am a failure.” The result of my thinking is unnecessary shame and guilt. I can respond by telling myself what I would have preferred to happen, and then acknowledging that I am still okay even thought that didn’t happen. I might say to myself, “I would have liked to wake up earlier this morning, but just because I slept in, is no justification to say I am no good.” I could even add, “On top of that, just because someone sleeps in once, does not mean they are completely lazy or no good! That is a huge overgeneralization.” This is an example of using this flexible and preferential language to address my should, and to dispute my irrational thought. The result of my flexible thinking is that I feel much better and feel motivated to do better next time.
Here are a few more examples of possible Holiday should’s and must’s:
Holiday Should’s and Must’s & Alternative “Preferential Thinking”
|Rigid Thoughts||Extreme Conclusion||Flexible Thoughts||Rational Conclusion|
|The Holidays are a time where everyone in the family should get along.||If not, it will completely ruin the celebration.||I would really like for everyone to get along, BUT there is a chance someone might not get along and it will be okay.||If there is a fight, it will be difficult, but it won’t completely ruin the celebration.|
|The Holidays are a time where everyone in the family should get along.||And, If not, it will completely ruin the celebration.||I would really like for everyone to get along, BUT there is a chance someone might not get along and it will be okay.||If there is a fight, it will be difficult, but it won’t completely ruin the celebration.|
|I must complete my holiday to-do list||And, If I don’t, I won’t be able to enjoy myself.||I want to complete my Holiday to-do list, But the world will not completely stop if I don’t.||If I don’t complete my holiday to-do list, I will be a bit disappointed, but I will still be able to enjoy my holiday|
|I must get the perfect gifts for everyone.||And, If I don’t my family will have a terrible Christmas and I couldn’t stand myself.||I want to get the best gifts I can for everyone, but It couldn’t possibly get a gift that is perfect in every way.||Even if I don’t get everyone the most perfect gift, I will be able to enjoy Christmas and I will be able to accept myself.|
|My significant other must appreciate the time and effort I put in to find their gift.||And if they don’t, it means they are a terrible partner.||I would very much like for my significant other to appreciate the time and effort I put in to find their gift, but I don’t have to.||If my significant other doesn’t appreciate the time and effort, I put in to find their gift, it doesn’t mean they are a terrible partner.|
|I should be more organized with Holiday planning.||And, If I am not organized, I am a failure.||I would like to be more organized with Holiday planning, but there is no universal law that says I must be more organized.||If I am not organized, it does not mean I am a failure, it just means that it is an area in my life that could be improved upon. It does not change my value as a person.|
|I must cook the perfect meal for my household or loved ones.||And, If I don’t, Christmas will be ruined.||I would like to cook the best meal I can, but there is no perfect meal. A good meal will be just as good!||Even if I don’t cook the perfect meal for Christmas, my family will still be able to enjoy the celebration, and I will still be able to be happy.|
We Stress Ourselves Out
We mostly upset ourselves by adopting dysfunctional and rigid standards and then when we don’t meet these standards, we beat ourselves up. We take our preferences, hopes, wants, and desires which are usually all good and healthy, and we turn them into absolute demands. For example, It is perfectly rational to want things to be easy, but when this desire for leisure becomes a need for everything to be easy, we can get overwhelmed when things are difficult. This type of rigid thinking creates extreme beliefs and dysfunctional emotional reactions. When we think irrationally, we upset ourselves. When it comes down to it, and we evaluate these demands on a rational level, they actually don’t hold much weight. This is a common mental mistake that we all make, but in order to stop our unhelpful thoughts, we have to pay attention to our self-talk, and adopt flexible language.
Unhealthy Self-Talk Makes You Stressed, Depressed & Anxious
Thinking is a habit, and learning new habits of thinking that are flexible and rational will result in decreased stress, and increased life satisfaction. This holiday season try to replace your demands with desires. Preferential language is flexible and accurate, and it helps us feel the way we want to feel, and really enjoy our experiences. Rational Thinking provides us with healthy and accurate interpretations of ourselves, the world, and others. Now that you know that your feelings are caused by your thoughts, you have to actually practice noticing and responding to these unhelpful thoughts. You have to start to stubbornly refuse to upset yourself! This is what is called thought disputation. If you want to be happy, healthy, and stress free, stop telling yourself things that aren’t true. Inflexible rules and demands result in unhealthy emotions, and create guilt, frustration, and unhealthy negative emotions. Pay attention to your thoughts, ask yourself “do I really “need” to do this?” “Is this thought really true?” “Is this thought Helpful?” If it is not, try to respond with a more flexible thought. By recognizing your inflexible, rigid thinking and replacing it with accurate rational thoughts you will create a climate of healthy self-talk. It’s especially easy to be hard on yourself around the holidays, but you deserve a break! One simple and effective trick you can do to lessen stress, and cultivate healthy self-talk is to replace your should’s and must’s with flexible, preferential language.
By John-Paul Dombrowski