No Sexual Chemistry in Your Relationship? Here are some ways that you can talk about it without them taking it personally.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 20, 2019 sexual chemistry, talking to your partner about sex0 comments
What can you do if you and your partner just don’t seem to have good sexual chemistry? Wondering it there are there ways to overcome it? How can you talk to them about it without them taking it personally? If you have ever wondered about the answers to these questions, we have you covered, read on!
Having a great sex life with a partner, assuming you both have already established an interest in each other takes awareness and intention if we are talking about a long term relationship. To enjoy ‘off the charts sexual chemistry’ really means that both you and your partner have compatible needs for sexual frequency, sexual style, that your anatomy is compatible and for many people having some degree of emotional connection also factors in to sexual chemistry. Having a great sex life doesn’t actually start in ‘the bedroom’, at least not when sex is coupled with a long-term relationship. Even if your relationship started with a lot of sexual energy, there is no promising that this will continue in years to come. ‘Habituation’, the tendency for our responses to any stimuli to become dulled or muted with greater frequency of exposure dictates that the same sexual positions and responses which were once wildly arousing will eventually become less arousing.
Good news, There are things that can be done to bring some of the arousal back! If on the other hand the relationship has always lacked sexual passion or chemistry, then think thoroughly by taking an internal assessment of whether the sexual component of the relationship is actually important to you. According to the Kinsey institute, we all have different sexual needs. There are many components to a healthy relationship, sexual intimacy is just one of them. If you are an extremely sexual person and can’t imagine life with less than 5 steamy sex sessions in a week, a relationship with poor sexual chemistry might not be a good fit for you. If you enjoy sex but are happy with ones a week or a few times per month, maybe it will be satisfying to maintain a long term relationship with less sexual chemistry as long as you have an intimate conversation with your partner about what is happening between the two of you. Without any sort of mutual understanding about the sexual relationship, it becomes likely that resentment will build over time and start to erode at the other parts the relationship which might otherwise be very nurturing and meaningful.
A great way to start a conversation about the sexual relationship is to; Ask your partner what they think of the sex you have been having! You could be surprised to learn that they too have been struggling with it, or perhaps they have a history or sexual aversion, sexual shame, or a sexual arousal disorder that prevents them from enjoying their full sexual potential. Ask them what turns them on the most and what you can do to make them sexually comfortable. You also might ask if they talked about sex in their family growing up or did they receive a lot of sexually shaming information about how taboo and bad it is to be sexually intimate. You will likely be able to tell if they suffer from sexual shame as the conversation about sex will be palpably difficult for them with stammering, blushing, and bouts of silence. After understanding more about their perceptions of sex and needs for sexual frequency and style of sexual intimacy, share a bit about your own thoughts, feelings, and needs. When we talk about our own needs, we always use constructive language that presents opportunities for understanding and if your partner takes that personally or becomes defensive, there might be something to further explore with a sex therapist or marriage counselor.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 19, 2019 preventing suicide, signs of suicide0 comments
These are The Signs of Suicide You Should Know to Save a Life; By Melissa Howard
Suicide is not just a minor issue; it is a public health crisis. While medications and lifestyle changes can help prevent other health hazards, suicide can be much harder to recognize and treat. The actual act of suicide can be a split-second decision but the thoughts that lead to this tragedy tend to build off of experiences, mental health issues and all too often, addiction. Since suicide involved internal thoughts and emotions, rather than acute physical symptoms it’s vital to be aware of the following information when trying to prevent suicides.
Suicide signs can be hard to spot…
There are many warning signs of suicidal ideation and indicators that someone may be thinking about causing themselves harm. Some of these signs manifest in speech or outward actions, while others are subtle. This can make the latter signs difficult to discern, especially when they present on their own. Individually these signs might be meaningless, but when more than one sign is combined they can quickly escalate into someone actually attempting a suicidal act.
Dialogue can be a warning of suicide too…
Sometimes, words are the most powerful indicator that something is going terribly wrong with someone you love and know. The most glaring example of these spoken suicide signs is talking about committing suicide or some form of self-harm. Even statements that might be laced with sarcasm should be looked into as potential threats. In addition to these red flags, someone who
Describes themselves as hopeless or who constantly seems to be speaking with despair may be thinking of committing a suicidal act. You may also hear a loved one state that they are a burden to others. Such a statement, or saying that the world would be better off without you are announcements of suicidal thought, and should be addressed.
Actions can foreshadow suicide as well…
If you are concerned that a family member or household member is thinking about suicide, reviewing their web search history may help. If you see that person has been trying to learn about suicide methods, that’s a clear sign that they are seriously thinking about taking their own life. Aside from searching for this information, individuals who are distressed may also begin to withdraw from relationships and activities. If the same person begins to give away prized possessions, know that it is time to reach out for professional help.
Addiction is often linked to suicidal thoughts and actions…
An additional and crucial suicide warning sign that warrants further discussion is substance abuse. Substance abuse can be a source as well as a means for suicidal acts. Overdoses are often considered as the culmination of substance abuse disorders, but they may be deliberate in certain cases.
Addiction is connected to suicide through anxiety and depression. Someone who is afflicted with anxiety or depression will try to alleviate these feelings through a variety of self-administered therapies. But when these mental health disorders are self-treated with drugs and alcohol instead of with professional help, people tend to get caught in a downward spiral that drives them to want to take their own life.
Professional help can prevent suicides and provide real relief…
When you or a loved one is thinking about suicide, getting immediate help can be a matter of life and death. If you have untreated mental health issues, you should know that help is available. Treatment options are readily available to safely manage depression and anxiety in a way that allows you to function. If you are having problems with substance abuse too, there are rehabilitation programs and treatments that can help you take back control of your life. When seeking treatment options, look for licensed clinical social workers. These professionals are trained to diagnose and treat problems related to mental health, including substance abuse and psychosocial problems. They most likely earned their license by completing Master of Social Work programs at a U.S. university. These programs typically require as much as 1,200 hours of work in the field.
Being aware of the signs of suicide, whether subtle or pronounced, is a crucial first step in preventing more people from committing this tragic act. If you recognize these signs in someone you love, or even in yourself, please reach out for help. Call a hotline, call a friend, seek counseling, or just go to the nearest emergency room. However you get help, know that your life matters and you are not alone, and let those in your life who may be in danger know this as well.
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by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 14, 2019 ending counseling relationship, how long does marriage counseling last, how long does therapy last, how to know when to terminate counseling0 comments
Ending Counseling; It’s a Relationship too! When to do it and How to know For Counseling Clients as well as answers to Questions like, ” How long does Marriage Counseling last?’
If you have been seeing a counselor for several months or several years, you may have at first gained some significant benefits but then over time the therapeutic gains could have slowed down and you may even start to wonder if you should continue on with counseling or marriage counseling. All endings are difficult and ending relationships is even harder, the counseling relationship, is a kind of professional relationship and it also has a definable beginning, middle, and end. While length of treatment really varies and some clients or couples gain what they need in as few as 10-12 sessions, others continue to be benefited several years and at times even decades into the onset of treatment. It really depends upon what your diagnosis is and what factors are supporting your wellness as well as holding your back from achieving your therapy goals. Some individuals who hold diagnoses like certain personality disorders or those who have chronic mental health issues like major depression or schizophrenia, they will likely benefit best from long term therapy support. Others who are working through a situational loss, couples therapy, or grief counseling may need less time in counseling to feel better. The key is to identify what is working for you, even if at one time you were doing very good work with your counselor or couples therapist, there are times when the therapeutic repertoire of the clinician will have provided the best that it can for the clients benefit. In other situation’s the client may continue to grow in a different therapeutic setting, with a different therapist. Still other times, the client’s growth is limited by their own incapacity to be honest or share their concerns and they could move beyond their current hurtles if they shared an honest dialogue with their clinician about feeling stuck or stagnant. Here are several litmus tests to help you assess if you, the client should think about ending the therapy relationship and then a few easy steps for how to end it.
How to know if you should end the counseling relationship:
- If you have been using your therapy session to talk about how well things have been and notice that you are able to encounter life challenges in a constructive way outside of the therapy office.
- If you have cut back to bi-weekly or monthly, you are probably starting to ween yourself out of therapy- this is a good thing.
- You have achieved your therapeutic goals.
- You feel as though you are not a good fit with your counselor, or your counselor fails to respond to your concerns about their understanding of key parts of information that you have shared with them. Being a good fit and feeling understood by your counselor is vital, in fact studies show that this is the number one factor which influences positive therapy outcomes, how well you feel that your therapist understands and cares about you.
- You have talked with your therapist about wanting to end the therapy relationship. If you bring this into the conversation your counselor should start to talk about what has gone really well and to assess if there is any resistance that might be causing you to avoid counseling or if this is true counseling success!
Of course, its true that the counselor will also terminate counseling in certain instances and make an appropriate referral for the client as we therapists and marriage counselors sincerely want the best for our clients and that even means at time knowing that we can not help them. If the help they need is outside of our treatment specialty a referral is always appropriate, or if we notice that they are not responding to counseling we may recommend a higher level of care. If you are initiating the end of treatment because one or several of the above statements seems like a statement you have thought yourself then please continue to read how to end the therapy relationship.
- If you have done your therapeutic homework then you will likely have fostered some strong communication skills and emotional awareness, you will need to use them to have a conversation with your counselor about the feelings of growth or even stagnation you have noticed. They will have likely noticed this too and were waiting for you to assert your needs.
- You should follow a proper termination method which is often achieved by weening back to biweekly, monthly, and then having a final session. In here you will talk about the therapeutic gains you have mastered, a flash back to your presenting issues and a summary of the various phases of therapy that you have worked through. It should be a celebratory time for you.
- Feel free to be very honest with your counselor about your fears of stopping treatment, it is very common for a person who is having much success in counseling to fear ending their treatment. They fear relapse or don’t trust that they will be able to manage presenting concerns successfully outside of counseling. Your therapist will likely assure you that it is normal to feel that way and that if you ever need to check back in, they will be glad to see you in the future.
When it is all said and done, therapy is about you the client, not about the counselor, if you feel guilty or fearful of hurting your counselor’s feelings you shouldn’t and that says much more about you than about your counselor. Therapists learn through their training that the therapy relationship shouldn’t last forever, we take great pr
ide in our client’s growth and a good therapist takes it as a success when a client is no longer needing their services. So go out into the world and be well!Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 28, 2019 enhancing joy, how to be happy, peak experiences, what is a peak experience0 comments
When was the last time that you peaked? Felt the exaltation of true bliss, the innocent delirium of fulfilling pleasure uplifting your consciousness to a reality shift? A peak experience is the kind of long lasting joy which is available to all of us, when we have our minds right, our goals aligned, and our peace on high priority. It goes something like this, set off for a late spring trek in the forest, you spent weeks researching the best trails in your area, and when the day happens that you experience it the whole day is soberingly magical. From the sunlit sky which illuminates all of the most ethereal mountains you contemplate the echo of time which has carved out these vistas, each vivid magenta blossom unfolding in the balmy breeze surrounding you is subject to your endless curiosity. A part of you falls in love with the panorama around you, you feel your heart rate increase and the energy coursing through your blood in a way that inspires excitement, enthusiasm, and wonder. You have arrived my friend, you are peaking, and even sustaining your life, rewinding your biological clock, and serving yourself for years to come with the newly created memory of this amazing experience. Answer this question, what was your last peak experience?
Having peak experiences are important for longevity, vitality, and bliss. Science backs this up, the field of positive psychology looks at how peak experiences serve us. Originally discussed by Abraham Maslow, he defined peak experiences to be the off shoot of a self-actualized persons capacity for enrichment and joy. Now, science take this a step further to study how they high-jack the layers of our cortex’s capacity for embedding memories and serving as the anchors upon which the healthiest of us define our lifelines. According to research featured in Time Magazine by Beirut neuroscientist Arne Dietrich when experiencing a peak moment, there is a change in the way our brains operate, we gain greater attention and even wonder in exchange for the usually flow of optimal energy.
The very pathway to desiring to go on the exotic trip to Tokyo, getting the MBA, reconnect with the long lost friend begins to create greater joy at the onset of imagining the experience. Unless of course you suffer from myopic thinking as associated with depression, or the motivation dampening effects of anxiety which are illustrated when imagining what it feels like when your imagination wanders to some new experience and you can see only the possible perils or failures, in which case your first step toward bliss might be reaching out to a therapist near you.
When we are peaking, we are as the great spiritual leaders like Buddha encourage us to be, we are not thinking of yesterday or fearing tomorrow, we are in the now, fully within the moment, completely submerged in our attention to what is around us. It is not just an individual journey either, within healthy relationships we notice the tendency for couples to recount the narratives of the last best novel joy that they have experienced together, instead of the counter tendency to rehash the last unprocessed argument.
What are peak experiences but those moments that earmark the years, they define the decades of our one earthly life. It’s the wind whipping in your hair while sailing the boat on the Chesapeake, it’s boldly dashing through the finish line of the Pittsburgh Marathon, its deepening your meditation practice and the upturned moment of full arm suspension in a yoga headstand. While nature is a great ‘one upper’ when it comes to peaking, let’s face it the grandeur of the great outdoors is seldom matched by man made creations, including the benefits of forest bathing, but there are still other ways to get to the top of our emotional climate. Falling in love is often cited as a powerful interpersonal peak experience. The experiences that will lead to a peak are different for everyone. You can find it by asking yourself this, ‘what really makes you feel tuned in?’ Whatever path you take to get to your peak, research recommends that creating more opportunities for peak experiences in our lives leads to enhanced happiness, enthusiasm, and even motivation. Thinking that you do not have time for peak, you have deadlines and day care to get to, well then you my friend, need a peak experience the most. The fact is that by prioritizing meaningful joy, we enhance our energy and motivation to achieve other tasks, remember in the words of Stephen King, ‘All work and no play makes jack a dull, dull, boy.’ The act of striving toward bliss accumulates and accelerates our good vibes as we gear up to approach our experience, then the great act of doing what makes us happy will later become memories which can be relived at leisure. We, as living breathing animals aware of our well-being, require the opportunity to define ourselves by wonder, to celebrate our capacity for joy by honoring our awe over the humdrum monotony of routine, fear, and disappointment.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 20, 2019 counseling monroeville, how to overcome social anxiety, social anxiety treatment0 comments
Mindfulness for Social Anxiety, A Skills Group
This group is focused on helping clients practice mindfulness and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) interventions for the treatment of social anxiety in a warm and accepting group environment. With the help and facilitation of Steven Mollura, LPC participants will address the impact of social anxiety on one’s thoughts, physical sensations, relationships, emotions, and behaviors and then learn skills which will teach them how to overcome their social anxiety. The skill group will meet for 90 minutes each Sunday for 8 weeks beginning August 18th.
Outline of Goals:
Decrease Shame around social phobia and self-identity.
Go from avoiding social anxiety feelings to going towards them.
Social skills training and practice.
Skills to decrease distress in social situations.
Identify and pursue valued social goals
Mitigate self-sabotage thoughts and behaviors
Age: Over 18. No upper limit to age
No Gender requirements
Readiness for Group work: While the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh is glad to work with all individuals who are experiencing a range of clinical diagnoses, some individuals who meet the diagnosis or criteria for personality disorder, severe mental disorders, avoidant or aggressive personality style, Autism Spectrum Disorder will not be the best fit for participation in this particular group. Please keep in mind, the interventions and processes are appropriate for the specific needs of those who hold the diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder or who experience some degree of social anxiety. Additionally, no one whose anti-anxiety medication effects will interfere with group processes will be allowed to participate in group, please call and speak with Steven Mollura LPC, NCC directly to assess whether this might be true for you.
All clients will in advance agree to;
Confidentiality; No talking about others in or outside of session.
Attendance; Clients will attend all sessions and arrive on time.
Participation: Clients will participate in session.
Clients will not come to session high or drunk, not under disruptive effects of anti-anxiety medication.
Outline per week.
Introduction, psychoeducation on the topic of irrational beliefs.
Psychoeducation on social anxiety and social connection
Discussion of irrational or disruptive beliefs.
Psychoeducation and Challenging Irrational beliefs,
Process: 1.Social Situation 2. Identify Belief/s Triggered 3. Identify Feelings Experienced 4. Logical and compassionate reframes
Skill focus: eye contact and posture
Challenging irrational beliefs and reframing.
Skill: Assertive communication
I statements, eye contact, posture, firm body movements.
Assertive communication continued
Explain and practice assertive communication techniques
Mindful Acceptance: Describing VERSUS Evaluating. Acceptance of all experiences. Internal and external. Reframing.
Behavioral Flexibility (freedom to choose one’s behaviors despite noise of the brain/emotions)
Minimize suffering while doing so
Run Towards the Fear. Social Fitness Training
Use of fear as a tool to move towards goals.
Mitigating social self sabotage.
Review of course.
If this is of interest to you, please call our center at 412-856-WELL
All participants will speak with Steven in advance for processing prior to groups start. Steven does accept United, Highmark, and UPMC insurance. Self paying clients will be charged 50.00 per group of 400 for all 8 weeks if purchased in advance.
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by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 29, 2019 emotional intelligence, emotional iq, feelings chart0 comments
Emotional IQ is a hot topic and big buzzword, for good reason. Feelings matter! Lets get really honest, how well do you identify feelings? Can you notice them well in your partner or friends and colleagues? Do you have the ability to perceive feelings in yourself? How do you respond to others feelings and to your own? Meaning do you push them down or maybe you are on the opposite side if this spectrum and instead of holding them in, perhaps you overshare and let them out everywhere? Therapists and Counselors are usually rather masterful at honing in on others feelings, we often assess a persons primary emotions, which are fear, anger, sadness, and happiness. Then examine the deeper layer of secondary emotions, which means, what emotions are exhibited for having the primary emotions? For instance if you notice you are angry, do you then lapse into guilt for that? That would then form a feeling constellation which can be a web to disentangle and sometimes a source of anxiety and depression. It is said that for some women especially, depression is anger turned inward, it is especially taboo for women to express anger, culturally we make some space for men to express this emotion.
Furthermore, when learning about feelings counselors can also analyze meta- emotion, which means how does a given person feel about feelings in general. Tongue twister right? For instance, how much does a person exhibit comfort in having an emotionally fueled dialogue? Do you generally believe emotions have little significance and should be pushed away or do you appreciate your emotional state and tend to make decisions based on them? We also know that the more we seek to repress emotions, the more we end up injuring ourselves, according to good old, Sigmund Freud, the more we repress a thought or feeling, the more it will come out in even bigger ways. Which emotions when exhibited are triggering to you? All of these answers are vital to forming an understanding of yourself and the world of others around, they will be important to recognize if you’re going to have success in any relationship.
Some recommended exercises to enhance emotional awareness or emotional IQ are to check in with yourself a few times a day, possibly by setting an alarm on your phone. At 5 different intervals through the day, note which emotions are coming up for you, for some it will be best to focus first on identifying the primary emotions? Also, where do you notice those sensations in your body, for example, anger is sometimes felt in the head, sadness in the chest, and grief in the stomach. These can be very variable depending on the person. Start to notice what you feel, being mindful and suspending judgement of your emotional state. The first step is always to recognize. Identification is enough but later, you may also start to pay attention to any emotions that come up as a result of the initial feeling, the emotional constellation, for instance when feeling anger, do you then observe guilt for feeling angry, and then even deeper shame. Usually, in our happiness obsessed culture, we don’t attach as much guilt or fear with joy, but some people do feel guilt for experiencing happiness. Think about it, think about you, in all of your feeling states.
Take Away Learning Points
- To further enhance your emotional IQ, it is also good practice to start to think about what each of the above emotions feels like, where do you notices its sensation in your physical body and what feelings accompany it.
- The primary emotions are anger, sadness, happiness, and fear.
- Primary emotions can trigger secondary emotions and create feeling constellations.
- Emotions are important and the more we repress them the more they emerge in less healthy ways.
If you want to work on emotional IQ, Counseling can help!
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by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 20, 2019 essential oils for wellness, health benefits of essential oils, lemon essential oil uses0 comments
Each month in our quest for the best wellness tips that can be offered, we are sharing an oil and it’s health benefits as well as common uses. Lemon oil should not be rubbed in the eyes or delicate parts of the skin as it will burn and if placing it anywhere other than the soles of the feet or fingers/palms it should be diluted.
Essential oils contain active compounds which interact immediately with the body by entering into the blood stream and activating various parts of the brain. This month, for spring, we are featuring lemon oil. Like the season of spring time, it is known to be revitalizing and has uplifting benefits on mood. It can also help to aid focused attention and accelerate energy and motivation when used for deep breathing meditation! This oil also has a whole team of added benefits.
An added bonus to lemon essential oil is that it is very helpful during a cold or with allergies, with just a small drop on the finger and then placed just on the rim of the inside of your nostril, nasal congestion is instantaneously diminished. It’s pretty miraculous and works faster than any decongestant that we know of. Overall, it fights bacteria and for a very delicious way to sooth a sore throat, you can add some to your tea with honey for a time-tested healing drink. Other sources site that by placing a few drops of medical grade lemon oil in water, the immune system is boosted and it has even further benefits during cold and flu season.
When diluted as a cleaning solution, it is very cleansing for kitchen surfaces and makes a great substitute for those other artificial lemon scents. It also can take tarnish from silver and nourishes cracked leather goods. It also removes scuffs from hardwood floors.
For your beauty regimen, sources indicate that lemon oil can be added to your nighttime beauty cremes, placing just a few drops in your favorite crème will brighten your skin. It is also recommended that it can be added to oatmeal for a fresh and natural skin exfoliant. If your nails have a problem with fungus, try lemon essential oil to rid yourself of the pesky fungi. It also can be diluted and used on rough patches of skin on the foot to smooth out dry spots.
When diffusing lemon oil, it is best to add it to other scents like grapefruit, pine, and even peppermint which will further enhance you with a serious jolt of feel good energy!
The physical health, wellness, and household benefits aren’t the end of the goodness that lemon oil has to offer your foods. We can also consume cooking grade oils by adding them to sauces, pancakes, whipped crème, fish and just about any dish that you want to have a very bright flavor.
It is an all natural way to remove tree sap from the hands! Just try it and see!
A word of caution and this can be applied to your use of all essential oils, they must be high quality and always read the label of your favorite brand before consuming it as some are not meant to be eaten. Finally, be sure to dilute them before putting them on the face or body but generally a drop or two on your hands can be a pleasant way to inhale them deeply on the run. Lemon oil should not be rubbed in the eyes or delicate parts of the skin as it will burn.
For A Counseling or Wellness Consultation, Please call our office to schedule with one of our licensed therapists or wellness providers!Learn More
Is it me or is she/he/ or are they Toxic?
14 ways to tell if a relationship is toxic.
According the great writer Leo Tolstoy “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Our sources say, ‘Not true Tolstoy’, of course when psychologists and social scientists put their noses in the matter we can quantify and define exactly what happens in relationships that allows them to crest over the threshold of basic mediocrity, to the troubled zone of high conflict, into the slimy territory of out right, toxicity. A healthy marriage, friendship, or relationship is supportive, stable, and enriching. Use our relationship wellness checklist to learn more! A relationship that makes us feel bad sometimes isn’t enough to reach the criteria of toxic, it literally must ooze with the stuff, consistently embodying certain patterns of relating. Unfortunately, there are some people due to their own emotional traumas or psychological profile that do have a proverbial sign on their back for attracting toxic people as they really are more easily victimized by a toxic persons strategies. This article is for you, the people that dig in and remain a part of the toxic dance which twirls them way past their comfort zone, for the quick to forgive, and the long winded in making excuses for their beloved others. Let us look at what the cherished whispers of your intuition might be trying to convey to you as you wonder if its you, or is it them?
There is a lot of research on the effects of the invalidating environment, if you wonder what that means. Think about this, when you try to share your feelings or thoughts with this person, do they become defensive and tell you that you’re completely wrong? Do you have to continually work to get them to see your side of things or do they never see your perspective at all? While two people in a healthy relationship will sometimes not see things the same way, that is different from trying to convince a person that their perception is inaccurate and the only way to see things is theirs. One of the things that many couple’s therapists coach couples on is that, “there are two valid perspectives in the room.” People in healthy relationships set out understand each other’s feelings, that means that your partner tries to see your side even when you’re in the throes of a disagreement.
Are you walking around like a stick in the mud feeling like you’re always regretting something in the relationship? Maybe you’re being victimized by endless attempts at guilt. Try to tell them that you can’t make it to the holiday dinner this year and she says, “Well shows how much you care about this family!” We need to have the freedom to pursue what is right for us and the encouragement to express it without buttressing up against endless guilt trips.
Uses Manipulation or Gaslighting
Do you try to talk to a partner about feeling hurt or anxious over their drooling at the handsome guy at the cocktail party last night and they call you clingy and crazy? Does your loved one say things to you that are outright not true and sometimes you end up wondering if you are going crazy because their perception is so entirely different from yours? Does your friend or partner outright lie when you catch them doing something inappropriate? It is common for Narcissists and Sociopaths to use Gaslighting. Gaslighting is defined as purposely telling someone things that are totally untrue, this is even more sinister than lying, it is a form of brainwashing. It is intended to throw off your intuition and make you doubt your reality and the validity of your feelings. The sad truth is that those who are most vulnerable to gaslighting are those people who value others feedback more than they trust their own intuition, those who have grown up on high doses of manipulation, and especially the ‘people pleaser’ dependent personality type.
Are you always putting in work for the relationship and the other person simply isn’t? Whether friend, relative, or partner, healthy relationships are mutual, meaning both people put in the work to make each other a priority. If you have talked about this with them before or maybe are too afraid to talk about it because your intuition fears what you might learn, a good test is to stop putting in the effort and see what happens, do they reach out at all?
Minimizes your needs
‘They might be toxic if.’ Do you have to work really hard to make yourself understood? Have you stopped trying out of hopelessness? Tell your friend that you have a lot going on and need to make it home right after your dinner out and they say, “You can stay out for a while longer, you will be fine.’
Feel afraid to talk to the person
If any or all of the above has been happening for a while now, you may become consciously or unconsciously afraid to talk with this person. Maybe you start to turn toward others to talk out your thoughts. Perhaps you shut down and repress your authentic self completely because you fear that nothing will happen or that you will upset them if you try to talk about anything that they may not want.
Hold the relationship hostage
Does your partner or friend threaten to break up, leave, never talk to you again as though it is a script in their relationship? Sometimes this is a symptom of a person who doesn’t know how to manage their emotions well or is poor at resolving conflict. Other times, this is a big fat red flag marking the territory of a toxic relationship. Healthy connection is grounded in trust and commitment that you will be there for each other even when times get hard. Of course, at other times there is a breaking point when it becomes so hard for so long that one of the people in the relationship wants out, ending a relationship is not toxic, that is just done.
Uses the silent treatment
When something happens that is upsetting to them, they refuse to communicate for days, weeks, or even months? A person who uses the silent treatment is often trying to gain control over the situation or even more insidiously, they may be trying to hurt you by shutting you out. The antidote for the silent treatment is to develop a self-soothing strategy that creates enough calm so that life’s invariable relationship challenges can be overcome.
Makes you feel that you’re never enough
You will know when you experience it, if you tell them that you got an A or promotion, they say get the “A plus next time” or “bet the promotion wont last long”. We must champion each other in relationships and encourage each others success and find pathways to overcome problems, that is one of the reasons people enter relationships, to give and receive support.
When you have any relationship that’s more than a flip in the sheets or handshake, you’re going to mess up. Healthy people apologize when that happens and it takes a strong person to offer an apology when they are wrong. Toxic people will criticize, blame shift, deny and become defensive if you attempt to extract an apology from them.
When the apology happens, loving people do their best to forgive. Forgiving can be hard, depending on what happened you might now be able to forgive, for instance if there was an infidelity in the relationship or some other betrayal, you may forgive or you may find the need to end the relationship. The choice is always yours, however, if you decide to remain in the relationship then you also are committing to forgive and not use the mistake as a launching point for endless criticism, guilting, and shaming. At other times, if the same apology has been happening for a long time, it can become meaningless and you may start to realize that the perpetual issue is a deal breaker, in that instance, working toward honoring your boundaries should be the goal.
Uses name calling or makes you feel diminished
While we do end up feeling irritated with our partners behavior sometimes, healthy interactions focus on the behavior not the person. It is the difference between saying that you notice someone’s bedroom is messy and calling them a slob. Name calling can be outright abusive and is a sigh of a toxic person.
Goes into rages or uses anger to control
Does this person have a quick temper and use it to wield their power, saying and doing things that leave a lasting scar. Of course if we are talking about physical abuse or safety concerns, that is more than a sign of someone who is toxic, that is violence. Same with pushing, chocking, pinching, blocking someone’s exit to safety, breaking their items to name a few. Having a temper is never an excuse to make someone feel unsafe or do any of the things above.
Zaps your energy
Do you leave their company and feel depleted and out of energy? Is this the friend that always monopolizes the conversation, do you know so much about them but they know not so much about you because they barely ask? Or, does this person have more heads than the fabled medusa, constantly talking poorly about other people especially talking critically about others who they are supposed to be their friends or former partners? Do they constantly play the victim and come to you for rescuing? Chances are they are toxic!
The take home point is that toxicity is among us, others take on these characteristics out of necessity in their lives and they fail to integrate healthier strategies for relating to others. If we want a healthy relationship, we wont find it by accepting the above behaviors and dismissing our fears and intuition. Toxic behavior doesn’t change on its own, it does require professional intervention to support relationship health.
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by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 19, 2019 gottman counselor, gottman marriage counseling, gottman method counseling, marriage counseling near me, sound relationship house0 comments
Gottman Method Marriage Counseling
Gottman Method Couples counseling is a form of therapy created by Drs John and Judy Gottman, which aims to support a positive and constructive relationship between two married or dating partners. Gottman method counseling is grounded in research and is proven to be one of the most effective ways to help couples enhance their relationship. The theory identifies the ‘Sound Relationship House’ as the model that helps the marriage counselor and couple conceptualize the parts to their marriage or relationship. The Sound Relationship house includes the following, from the basement up: Love Maps, Shared Fondness and Admiration, Turn Toward instead of Away, The Positive Perspective, Managing Conflict, Make life Dreams Come True, Shared Meaning and the two walls of the Sound relationship house: Trust and Commitment. Let us examine each of these components to your relationship house.
Love Maps denotes the amount of cognitive space that our partner takes up in our thoughts. When we spend time talking with our partner we generally can stay in tune with what is important to them including their interests and people close to them. Often in the beginning of a relationship there is a lot of time spent on getting to know our partner. Love Maps need to be continually updated and this only happens with shared time and connection.
Shared Fondness and Admiration All of our relationships are a mirror of ourselves. When we notice that we or our partner doesn’t respect, admire, or care for us, we both start to feel poorly about ourselves as well as the relationship. Healthy relationships are full of respect and care that are exhibited and practiced on a daily basis. We have many ways to express fondness and admiration, including the love languages of Verbal Affirmations, Physical intimacy, Time Spent, Acts of Service, and Gifts. Fondness is expressed in what we say and do as well as how we say and do it.
Turning Toward instead of Away Couples make bids for each other’s attention and time regularly when they are in love. It is important to analyze how each person is responding to the bids by either turning toward it in acceptance, turning away, or even turning against. The Gottmans recommend a 5:1 ratio of turning toward each others bids for every one time in a day we turn away. A bid might be, “look out the window honey, the sun is so beautiful right now!” If Johnny the husband accepts that bid by saying, “oh yes, it is beautiful.’ Then Sandy the wife feels connected, understood and pleased that she has shared a marriage moment with her husband. If instead Johnny the husband says, ‘Why are you bothering me?” That bid has instead been turned against. If Johnny the husband doesn’t respond that is an example of turning away. Everyone will miss some bids sometimes, but healthy relationships accept five bids for each one they miss. Turning against bids has predictive value to divorce according to the Gottmans’ research.
The Positive Perspective A Gottman Method Couples Counselor is always analyzing whether a relationship is in a negative or positive perspective. This is really the color of the fabric of the relationship, the perceptual lens through which our partner’s behavior is viewed. When we are in positive sentiment overload, everything our partner does is cute, loveable, and easily accepted as well as overlooked. Conversely, Negative Sentiment overload is when we believe that everything our partner does is evidence of their failing or lack of caring. Think about your partner being 10 minutes late for dinner. In positive sentiment overload we would think, ‘I hope she is ok, I know how much she would want to be here on time.’ In the same scenario if we were in negative sentiment overload, we would think, “What a clown, she never takes anything seriously and is late all the time!” Perception is the foundation of our thoughts and feelings, and they contribute to our response to our partner which also contributes to their response to us.
Managing Conflict Every form of couples therapy should help the couple learn to manage conflict if those skills are not already in place. Conflict is one of the most common reasons that a couple decides to enter counseling.
Making Life Dreams Come True The best and most healthy relationships allow us to have a balanced and peaceful sentiment from which dreams and goals are born. When our partner is on our side, they collaborate with us to make personal and shared dreams happen. Conversely when we feel that our partner has different dreams and goals or is non-supportive of ours, little bits of those dreams and our love for our partner can begin to erode.
Shared Meaning Do you feel that you and your partner are on the same page and moving in the same direction, do you share friends, do you have rituals that help you move through time together like a weekend retreat? How do you continue to connect with your partner over the years?
Trust and Commitment In the Sound Relationship House, all of the preceding points serve as layers to the house, with the bottom ones needing to be in place before moving on to the next level. Trust and Commitment are the walls and without the walls to a house, even the strongest foundation will not make a safe home. Trust is more than trusting that your partner is honest and monogamous or non-monogamous if that is what is agreed upon, it is faith in consistent reliability. Commitment is equally important. If the relationship uses tactics of holding the relationship hostage by threatening to leave, it is difficult to have trust in the commitment. Both parts are necessary to open up, feel safe, and stay motivated to care for each other.
Just like with the house or home that you live in, your relationship requires consistent care and attention to become the best version of itself. When we care for our home and our love, it cares in return by providing safety, warmth, and can become a place of magic which is worth every bit of time that we put into it.
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by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 12, 2019 bdfn, brain health, healthy food, NIH, Uncategorized0 comments
How to Boost Your Brain Health, BDNF!
If you knew that tweaking some lifestyle habits could act like brain fertilizer, building new connections to reduce your risk of dementia, improve mood and reduce depression, improve heart function, and more, would you want to learn about it? Lauri Lang, RDN, LDN, is here as your licensed nutritionist to help you navigate those changes and learn about the best ways that nutrition can support your wellness.
Then read on! Above I have provided a brief explanation of a protein that impacts all of this, and possibly even lifespan, greatly, and below you will find multiple ways that we can increase its production. This magical protein is BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) and while some details of our individual levels are genetically determined, and it naturally wanes as we age, we have great agency in boosting its production through lifestyle choices and habits we make.
- Eat more oily fish! Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA or Eicosapentaenoic Acid, a neuroprotective nutrient found in the brain. Also, DHA Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, found in fish. Both of these nutrients have many benefits including increasing BDNF (it also has the most anti-inflammatory action). This is an essential nutrient, and studies show up to 95% of Americans are deficient in it. SMASH is acronym for high omega-3, low contaminant fish: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring.
- If fish consumption is not for you, supplements are also available, check for molecularly distilled 3rd party analysis and therapeutic dose levels. Omega-3’s are also found in vegetable sources like flax, chia and walnuts, and while still beneficial, contain ALA which may not convert well to EPA and DHA.
- Increase intake of Turmeric and Curry, Blueberries and Red grapes! Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color, and has a plethora of health benefits, including boosting BDNF. It has been recognized for many epidemiological aspects of better health in cultures where it is a staple, such as lower Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and less inflammation. Try a golden milk recipe, or cauliflower turmeric flatbread. It can be added to many dishes, with a sprinkle of black pepper to increase bioavailability. It is also available in supplement form. The pigment that gives blueberries their color, anthocyanin, and a phytochemical, resveratrol, found in red grapes also raise BDNF levels.
- Avoid sugar, processed foods and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) these items have the opposite action, as the SAD (Standard American Diet) which are high in these elements, has been shown to result in lower BDNF levels. For optimal brain and all around function, we have to put optimal fuel into the body.
- Intermittent Fasting is another way to increase BDNF, there is increasing evidence that periods of gut rest, as short as 12 hours, can boost our bodies repair mechanisms. While this is not for everyone, there is a growing body of research on the topic.
- Exercise!!! It is the best way to boost our BDNF levels. Find ways that work with your life, and that you enjoy, as developing this habit is a huge key to keeping our brain and hearts functioning optimally throughout our lifespan.
- Social Connection, Stress Reduction and Mental Stimulation! Nurturing relationships with close friends and family members, and spending time where authentic communication, love and acceptance are present provides a boost. People under a lot of stress produce less BDNF, so finding ways to reduce stress including meditation, yoga, exercise and mindfulness practices, getting out in nature, are critical.
- Sun can boost BDNF levels. This can be short amounts daily, while practicing skin cancer awareness and limits.
- Sleep….last but not least! Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep, this is critical to general health. BDNF is reduced with sleep deprivation. If you struggle with this, investigate changing your sleep hygiene habits, including trying a guided meditation for sleep.
So many great choices….where will you begin with your health and wellness goals???
If you are thinking about how nutrition counseling can help you or looking for a near by nutrition counselor, Lauri Lang, RDN, LDN is glad to help. Call us at 412-322-2129 or find our counselors near you at;Learn More