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Coping With Christmas

Contrasting Christmas dinner at your house with the Christmas dinner portrayed in the Hallmark movies can be depressing and disappointing.  The two images just don’t align. Coping with Christmas is very difficult because of the idealistic portrayals that have been pounded in our heads and the actual portrayals which might include coping with mental illness, dysfunctional family dynamics or substance abuse. We cling to the notion that despite these problems our Hallmark Christmas dinner is just around the corner. Coping with Christmas is very difficult because we often do not know what to do to make our holidays seem “normal”. We have not yet come to terms with a definition of holiday normal that is right for you and your family.

OUT WITH THE OLD AND IN WITH THE NEW

CREATE YOUR OWN TRADITIONS  

Coping with Christmas requires an authentic expression of new traditions works for you and your family. We do not have to engage in traditional rituals that do not work for us. If traditional family dinners or family visits create arguing and fighting, you might consider not participating. Emotions run high during Christmas and maladaptive patterns run rampant. If Christmas creates the perfect storm for family members to act at their worst, give yourself permission to not participate. We are trying to feel normal by engaging in traditions that are not right for many families. If there is an alcoholic in the home perhaps free flowing alcohol is not a good idea. Perhaps if your family already has everything that they really need, participating in a mass shopping frenzy is not the best choice.

“Christmas is a baby shower that went totally overboard.”– Andy Borowitz

BE AWARE OF YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Attempts to create an ideal Christmas despite overwhelming family problems does not end well.  Instead of coping with Christmas we burn out our reserves of energy, peace and joy. The Christmas season can be a sacred time of renewal and reconnecting if we are mindful of our expectations. Spending to much time with dysfunctional family members is a recipe for disaster and an unrealistic expectation. Although it is perhaps a long-standing family tradition perhaps a better expectation is that you attend Christmas dinner and then make a graceful exit. As you become mindful of expectations, we naturally begin to define new traditions that although unconventional, are more healthy. If your expectations and new boundaries are cultivating peace, joy, and generosity in your heart or mind then you are on the right track.

Be Mindful of Your Expectations and  Create New Traditions That Renew You

SET BOUNDARIES

Coping with Christmas when it involves dysfunctional or abusive family dynamics includes understanding your personal limits and knowing when it is time to set a boundary.  Setting boundaries skillfully is not easy. In our attempts to set boundaries we can make the family dynamics worse if we do not do so skillfully. I think the most important ingredient to setting a boundary skillfully is to do so with love and compassion in our heart and mind. If we must say, “I no longer tolerate these behaviors”, we must try to do so with an energy tone of peace and equanimity. That is not easy because usually by the time we get up the nerve to set a boundary, we feel anything but peace and equanimity. We likely feel anger and resentment. Re-establish peace and equanimity before setting a boundary by using what ever coping skills work for you such as prayer or meditation. The next important factor to skillfully set a boundary is using the right level of firmness. I almost always help clients identify the right level of firmness to use in problematic relationships. We discuss factors such as roles, power differential, right timing, tone of voice, body language and word choice. The sweet spot involves crafting your message in an assertive manner. Assertive boundary setting does not include wish-washy hinting, nor does it include anger, resentment and exaggeration of offenses.

Do you have any success stories about in coping with Christmas?  If so, please share your wisdom. It may help those of us who are still trying to master the art of coping with Christmas.

Be in peace – diane

Mindful Reactions to Hate Speech

The current political climate continues to create a culture of division that has our collective feeling tone hovering in the fed-up to angry range. As the rhetoric heats up, discussions that are charged with animosity and hate speech have become the new norm creating anger and fear in our hearts and minds. They lash out, we lash out and so it goes.We need a compass to know how to mindfully respond to hate speech, so we do not create more pain and suffering in our hearts and minds and in our local and global communities. Mindful reactions to hate speech is progressive.  The first step is to develop equanimity and peace so that our wise responses are expressed with patience and calmness. After equanimity is established, we investigate morality and integrity and respond in a way that uplifts, protects, and supports justice and freedom. Finally, we impart and share wisdom and insight so that we may all be liberated from misunderstandings and ignorance.

Establish Equanimity

During the Vietnam War, Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) served as a non-political peace activist who aided refugees by rebuilding Vietnamese villages as they were bombed by both Communist and Capitalist Countries. Thay refused to endorse either political agenda of the Communist or Capitalist countries.  He endorsed a humanitarian agenda that aided the Vietnamese people. In his efforts, Thay has stated that he helped to rebuild the same village three times. While attending a public forum on meditation Thay was verbally assaulted by a man who asserted that he had the “blood of his people on his hands”. The heckler stated that because of his influence with Vietnamese people if had chosen a side the war would have ended sooner. How painful and insulting that must have been. Thay realized that the hateful accusations had caused anger to rise within him. Although the auditorium was full of people who had come to hear him speak, Thay knew that the right response was to first reclaim peace and equanimity. Thay walked off stage and practiced mindful breathing behind the stage curtains before returning to address the man that had verbally assaulted him.

Cool the Flames

The flames of hate and anger are cooled by peace and equanimity. Mindful reactions to hate speech does not amp up the flames of anger. When we respond to hate speech with anger in our heart and mind, we exacerbate and fan the flames of hate.  Our first response is to lash out and protect ourselves when we are being verbally assaulted. If we can calm our mind and heart before responding, we have touched an elevated state of awareness. Elevated states of awareness such as love and compassion are our true nature.

Morality and Integrity

Freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment and like it or not this includes hate speech. Anger and hate are bound by wrong views and perceptions, yet erroneous and ignorant views are allowed expression to the same degree as insightful and beautiful expressions.

Those who use hate speech often do so in order to control, manipulate and hurt marginalized groups for their own personal interest and gain. There are often immoral and corrupt intentions behind hate speech. Mindful reactions to hate speech re-balance the imbalance.  Mindful reactions to hate speech considers the right level of firmness needed and responds accordingly. Sometimes the right level of firmness is assertive and at other times mindful reaction to hate speech is nobly passive.

Then Jesus went into the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those selling doves. And he declared to them, “It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’” (Matthew 21:12–13)

Jesus over turning tables in temple
Mindful communication includes considering the right level of firmness.

Jesus knew that a high level of firmness was needed to stop the high priest from exploiting the faithful. A firm boundary was needed. Politely asking for a meeting with the high priest and explaining his concerns of economic exploitation would not have been effective, so Jesus threw furniture. Jesus could throw furniture mindfully. If throwing furniture is the right response, we can try to do so mindfully. If we need to raise our voice do so mindfully. Mindlessly shouting over shouting only creates more shouting.

Have We Become To Sensitive?

Since the Me Too Movement, there has been a great deal of discussion around perceived new levels of sensitivity. Consider catcalling. Many women feel threatened and angry by unsolicited and often crude comments made about her body as she is walking down the street. If the woman has been sexually assaulted a cat call can be quite a triggering event. Other women may not find it offensive or feel threatened.  The intention of the catcaller may not be intended to threaten. Perhaps it is intended as a compliment, albeit an ignorant way to do so. Other times the commenting is meant in a sinister threatening manner. Either way, societal responses intended to protect and believe women who have been hurt by sexual assault over the last decades (or perhaps since the beginning of time) have been abysmal at best.  Women are angry. They are  sensitive to any sexually charged communication. Perhaps a period of sensitivity is needed to re-balance the imbalance by reminding us to be mindful of our words. To restore morality and integrity we should understand the sensitivity of women and minorities and help to protect and comfort them. Even if their response resonates as being “overly sensitive”.

Wisdom and Insight

Hate speech, including racial slurs and sexually intimidating language, has only recently evolved from culturally sanctioned to unacceptable forms of communication. The pendulum has begun to swing the other way. Marginalized groups are not having it, speaking up and resisting.

Some argue that we have become over sensitive and standards of “political correctness” has made it impossible to have meaningful dialogue. A young woman recently shared that an old man in rural Georgia referred to her as “Hon” as she payed her bill at a local restaurant. She let him have it and was quite aggressive in responding to what she deemed as a demeaning expression. The old man was in shock not understanding how being addressed as “Hon” might resonates to a young woman. Was she to sensitive? I think a better question is, why would she respond in this way? Perhaps there is more to her response than sensitivity. Perhaps the long history of sexual assault, combined with the resistance and accountability being demanded by women have emboldened her. She does not intend to be a victim again. However, as she is understood and her pain acknowledged perhaps she can see that in this situation perhaps the old man meant no harm. “Hon” is a term of endearment often used in the south without sinister intentions. Mindful reactions to hate speech requires that we look at our own sensitivities with wisdom and insight. Our hearts and minds are clouded with the  poison of past pain and we over react when words are inappropriate or lacking elegance but not intended to be intimidating or threatening.

Be in peace – Diane

drawing of brain with caption energy psychology

Energy Psychology – Fast & Effective Treatment

When I began studying modalities of energy psychology I was skeptical. The techniques and interventions were strange. But after using these techniques I realized energy psychology was fast and effective for many mental health disorders and clients were pleased by the relief they felt.

I wish energy psychology was a mainstream intervention for psychological disorders. Why? Because energy psychology is fast and effective.

These are some physiological changes that occur in the body that explain how energy psychology works.PICTURE OF ALBERT EINSTINE WITH QUOTE THAT EVERYTHING IS ENERGY

  • Tapping on acupuncture points is thought to down regulate areas of the brain such as the limbic system and amygdala which are activated during stress. These points help to turn off the fight/flight/freeze response.
  • Techniques used in energy psychology change brain wave patterns to lower frequencies. These lower frequencies indicate relaxed states and higher frequencies indicate greater arousal.
  • Hormones such as cortisol, are reduced. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone” because it is used to activate the body’s stress response during anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Acupuncture points and meridians correspond with connective tissue in the body.  Connective tissue is made of collagen which is a conductor. Therefore, tapping on acupuncture point triggers the endocrine system to regulate the body’s parasympathetic chart showing results for vets with ptsd after using energy psychologynervous system

The simplest answer may be that everything is made of energy and therefore our thoughts and emotions have energy. We can use the interventions offered in energy psychology to instill healthy thought patterns and diminish the intensity of unhealthy thought patterns through the manipulation of the associated energy fields.

The scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of energy psychology is mounting.

103 Studies have been reported in Scientific Peer Reviewed Journals. 102 of those studies reported benefits of Energy Psychology. This chart shows results after 49 vets used an Energy Psychology technique know as tapping. The results are astonishing.

Clients report that not only are the techniques effective but the benefits are lasting.

be in peace – diane

 

two people standing beside eachother

Tips for Improving Relationships

Relationships Are Difficult. I was recently asked by RelationshipsAreComplicated.com to provide relationship advice and tips that I most frequently provide clients to improve and grow loving  grow loving and fulfilling relationships. I hope you find the information helpful!

How and/or why did you become a therapist?

I became a therapist because I love helping people become the highest version of themselves possible. Relationships are certainly complicated and have enormous potential to add to our suffering. All individuals have a unique presentation of personality quirks such as wrong beliefs, perceptions, traumatic experiences and less-than effective communication styles. I love helping people recognize the thoughts, behaviors and emotional reactions that are preventing them from reaching their highest level of functioning and identify better ways of coping. I can’t imagine work that would be more meaningful.

I have been a practicing Buddhist for the past 6 years and have studied meditation and mindfulness with Zen master’s during this time. I draw a great deal from Buddhist Psychology. There are wonderful insights in Buddhism which are very beneficial for improving interpersonal relationships. One of the main concepts of Buddhist Psychology is mindfulness. If one is attempting to resolve a conflict but they feel angry it is of great benefit to know that you are angry. You should not try to resolve conflict when you are angry. Mindfulness is a very deep practice. For example, if you are ware of your thoughts, emotions, body, and expectations when engaged with another person, you will know if you are cultivating aspects of the relationship that you seek, or if you are destroying those aspects. Another technique is using right action, right effort and right communications. These practices are part of the Eight-Fold Path, which was the Buddha’s instructions for alleviating suffering. I never try to convert a person from their religion, but I find most people are open and very receptive to these strategies although they are cornerstones of Buddhism. Most people can see that they are congruent with the faith they practice.

What are your favorite or most interesting interpersonal relationship tips/advice?

My favorite relationship advice is to understand your own true nature, and the true nature of other people. You have the capacity to be judgmental, selfish, fearful, and ignorant. When you engage in these patterns try to encourage self-compassion as opposed to self-blasting. Do your best. Learn from your mistake and try to do better next time. Be gentle and loving. Your beloved, boss or neighbor also has the capacity to be judgmental, selfish, ignorant and fearful. Understand why and how these conditions arise. Do you understand the nature of your partner, and do you act with loving-kindness and compassion when they are not engaging at their highest potential?

What are some things about therapy that you want to increase public awareness about?

lady meditating at river bank
Find the meditation level and practice that is right for your ability to concentrate and quiet the mind.

I want to raise public awareness about the benefits of meditation and the different techniques available to begin a meditation practice or to go deeper in an existing practice. I teach all clients to meditate. Many people try to meditate but feel like they cannot because their mind is to racy. There are many levels of meditation. If you try but are having difficulty, perhaps you are trying a level that is to difficult. One should also be willing to tolerate a certain amount of discomfort when learning to meditate. It will feel frustrating at first. You try to quiet your mind and stay in the present moment, but instead find yourself living in the past or future. This is what the mind will do if you have not practiced calming and concentrating the mind. Stick with a practice and you will find a peacefulness, acceptance and wisdom cultivated. These ingredients are crucial to fulfilling and loving relationships.

What are some of the biggest mistakes a therapist or patient can make?

One of the biggest mistakes or misunderstandings is a client’s expectations that a therapist will be able to fix relationship problems through talking. Talking in a caring, safe and supportive environment is indeed very therapeutic. It releases some of the energy of the angst and hurt we feel. However, long lasting changes come from changing elements of emotional reactions, cognitions or behaviors. The work is not easy. Anyone who has ever tried to change a habit know this. Another misunderstanding is around wrong/right effort. Don’t expect that entrenched relationships patterns will have a positive impact the first or second time a different response is generated. The same energy that was used to cultivate the entrenched pattern is necessary to change the pattern.

The original post can be found at

Interview with Counselor Diane Chrestman

man yelling into megaphone. Text that reads "Affordable counseling in Georgia"

Affordable Counseling in Georgia- Resources & Contact Information

In 2016, 13.9% of Georgia residents were uninsured. For uninsured individuals, comprehensive mental health care, including therapy, is often a rare commodity. The following resource list contains agencies in Georgia who offer affordable counseling, and other mental health services.

       Brenau University 

Low cost clinics are available in two locations: Norcross and Gainesville. In addition to counseling, psychological assessments are available at a reduced rate.

Care and Counseling Center of Georgia

A nonprofit, ecumenical organization offering low cost counseling, pastoral care and education to individuals, couples, and families. They have several counselors in training. Located in Decatur, GA; 404-636-1457.

Emory University Outpatient Psychotherapy Training Program

A Department of Psychiatry training program for new psychiatrists, providing evaluations and individual, couples and group therapy, as well as medication management, on a sliding fee scale; 404-727-0399.

Emory University Psychological Center

A Psychology Department therapy training center providing individual, couples, family and group psychotherapy on a sliding fee sale. They also provide a variety of lower cost psychological testing, including IQ, learning disability, attention deficit disorder and neuropsychological assessment services; 404-727-7451.

Georgia Community Mental Health Service Boards

The publicly funded adult and youth community-based mental health service system in Georgia, provides affordable counseling treatment for mental health and addiction disorders; 404-657-2136.

Georgia State University Psychiatry  Clinic

A Georgia State Department of Psychology training center for new therapists providing individual, couples, family, group psychotherapy, and psychological testing on a sliding fee scale; 404-413-6229.

Heartwork Counseling Center

A therapy training center providing some low fee counseling through their “Project Open Heart” program.  Located in Inman Park, near the Marta station; 404-658-1222.

Jewish Family & Career Services

An organization that provides health, career and human services, including low fee counseling services, serving people of all faiths. They have several locations and counselors in training; 770-677-9305.

Karuna Counseling

Located off Clairmont Road just north of the Emory campus; 404-321-4307.

The Link Counseling Center

A nonprofit community counseling center located in Sandy Springs, 404-256-9797, and Cobb County, 770-541-1114.

Mercer Family Therapy Center

A Mercer University training clinic for new therapists, providing couple and family therapy; located at Piedmont Hospital, near Buckhead; 678-547-6789.

Metropolitan Counseling Services

A nonprofit community counseling center and training center for new therapists providing affordalbe counseling services to adults, located in Atlanta, on Buford Highway; 404-321-0305.

Open Path Collective

Website where therapists register and clients can search for therapist by zip code. This site is for discount sessions $30.00-$50.00 per session. Client’s must pay an initial registration fee of 50$. Individual therapist set their own prices for their counseling services.

Sage Center, Sage Therapy and Education Partnership (STEP Program)

The Mission of the Sage Center is to promote comprehensive wellness in the community by providing quality support services through counseling, consultation, education, and mentorship to individuals, professionals and organizations. Sage Center is committed to serving with integrity, compassion and respect in a balanced and collaborative environment. Reduced fee counseling services available now between $40 – $95. Clients seeking services through the STEP program may complete a short application at www.sagecenteratlanta.com that will help identify the counselor that can best meet the client’s needs and also determine fee. For more information or to inquire about services, please visit www.sagecenteratlanta.comor call Sage Center at 404-419-4221 Extension 103. Sage Center is conveniently located in North Atlanta near interstates 85 and 285 inside the perimeter.

The Training & Counseling Center at St. Luke’s (TACC)

An outreach of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church serving people of all faiths, providing sliding fee scale. Located in downtown Atlanta just south of Crawford Long Hospital off of Courtland Street; 404-876-6266.

Authentic-Life Counseling does not have first hand experience working with any of these agencies.

The reference list of agencies offering affordable counseling in Georgia has been provided as a resource.

Special thanks to Allyce Wellons, psychotherapist, who originally posted this content.

confused, indecisive woman holding a ball that says Yes and one that says No

Responding to The Unreliable & Wishy-Washy People In Your Life

If you love a person who is wish-washy, unreliable and commitment-phobic (WWUCP), I feel your pain. Many people feel your pain. The unreliable person is a far to common complaint.  We give a pass to serial no-shows, last minute change of plans, and an inability to make a commitment.  Because of the passive-aggressive nature of the WWCUP actions, we are made to feel unjustified in expressing our unhappiness with the constant disappointment.

We should recognize that trying to cultivate a meaningful relationship with unreliable people has a negative impact our mental health. It is not good for us. It is time to respond to the Wishy-Washy, Unreliable and Commitment-Phobic People (WWUCP) in your life.

Stop Feeling Guilty About Setting A Boundary.

If a friend or family member was stealing from you, you would set a boundary and put a stop to it. If you do not, you are enabling their behavior.

Unreliability and an inability to make a commitment is a passive-aggressive form of theft. It steals your time which is a precious commodity.

Time manipulation is often tolerated because of the passive-aggressive nature. We don’t see it as a form of disrespect and theft, but it is.

Stop Accepting The Never Ending Excuses

We all have busy lives. Your time is not more valuable than mine. Unreliable people cancel with weak excuses. Don’t accept them. Weak excuses include canceling plans at the last minute because “Something else came along” or “I changed my mind at the last minute” is more than inconsiderate, it is disrespectful.

lady sitting at river bank
Social isolation and loneliness are one of the effects of having unreliable people as friends.

Call Out Minimizing

WCCUPS friends and family members are great at minimizing their behaviors. “What is the big deal?” “You could have still gone without me.” “Why are you getting so upset?” are familiar justifications. Minimizing their inconsiderate behavior while attempting to shine a light of hard-to-please, demanding, and needy behavior on you.     

Opportunity Cost

Often used in business, an opportunity cost is defined as –  A benefit, profit, or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else. Since every resource (land, money, time, etc.) can be put to alternative uses, every action, choice, or decision has an associated opportunity cost.

Your time is valuable, and when it is manipulated, unreliable people make you pay an opportunity cost.

Social Isolation

Loneliness and social isolation has been linked to depression, low-self esteem and shame. If you are experiencing lack of social contact because of WCCUPS’s manipulation of your time, you should understand these mental health implications. It is time for you to set a boundary.

Setting Boundaries with Inconsiderate People

Don’t Wait

You should feel confident and assured when setting a boundary. You are not being mean or inconsiderate by expressing your feelings and insisting on respect. The longer you tolerate the WCUUPS behavior the more resentful you will become. Inevitably this leads to you expressing how you feel when you are angry. Don’t wait.

Boundary Setting With WWUCP

If you do not know what to say, use this basic boundary setting format. It allows you to express how you feel while minimizing the risk of creating defensiveness.   

“I feel blank when you do blank.”

Examples:

I feel manipulated when you cancel our plans at the last minute.

I feel sad that I missed the opportunity to go out and have fun on my only day off.

Use Appropriate Levels of Firmness When Setting Boundaries

Start with a lower level of firmness and increase as necessary.

A lower level of firmness might include explaining your feelings of disappointment. Lifting the firmness level up a little would include an more assertive body language such as raising your voice slightly, changing the tone. Be mindful that when you set a boundary you never use an apologetic tone. Use a tone of voice which is confident and assured but kind. Give the WCUUP the benefit of the doubt that they do not understand the impact of their behaviors.

Ask for what you want and need in terms of commitment and reliability. For example, canceling plans at the last minute without a good reason is frustrating.    

Use Higher Levels of Firmness When Necessary

After determining your needs and asking for what wait to see how they respond. If your needs and desires continue to be ignored you have some tough decisions to make. This may include limiting contact and declining future invitations. The relationship may only be able to continue in a  superficial manner. You may need to face the fact that it is time to find new friends.

 

I hope this was helpful. Please leave a comment below and tell me how you are affected by WWUCP’s.    Be in peace – diane

Angry Incredible Hulk Figure with Authentic Life Counseling Logo

Anger Management Skills

Anger is a master that demands an outrageously high price. Anger destroys physical and mental health, relationships, self-esteem and dignity. There are many victims. The individual which feels angry, and the unfortunate target on the receiving end of the anger. Both pay a price. To manage anger, individuals often turn to counseling to learn Anger Management Skills. Effective anger management provides tools to address the many dimensions of anger, including the physical, emotional and the mental (cognitive or thinking) aspects.

The Physical Response 

Anger triggers the fight/flight/freeze response in the body which signals an internal state of emergency, and subjects the body to a great deal of stress. To protect ourselves from the (perceived) threat our heart rate and blood pressure increase, breathing becomes faster and we suffer headaches and abdominal pain.

Self-Soothing Skills Young man with head bowed practicing self-soothing

Skillfully using self-soothing techniques is an essential anger management skill which should be practiced to calm the physical reactions of the body. Self-soothing skills regulates and retrains the Central Nervous System so that the relaxation response is strengthened and, the fight/flight/freeze response is weakened. Two easy self-soothing skills include:

Deep Breathing – Take slow, deep breaths. Practice counting as you breath to help anchor the mind and prevent racing thoughts. Notice the in/out – up/down rhythm of your breathing. Feel the sensations of your breath as it moves in and out of your body.

Visualization – Use the power of your imagination to experience being in a beautiful, peaceful relaxing place.  Bring in as many sensory details as possible as you practice visualization. See, hear, feel and smell details of your imagined experience. This exercise is best practiced when one is in a relatively calm state and will help regulate and normalize the responses of the Central Nervous System.

The Cognitive (Thought) Response

Understand the irrational and intrusive nature of your thoughts with a compassionate curiosity is the attitude to have when learning anger management skills. Be willing to question cognitive  anger traps such as mind-reading the intentions of others and the projecting unreasonable demands and expectations into the future.

Challenge Cognitions Young boy looking through binoculars with caption Look At Your Anger

Challenge your beliefs and assumptions with a compassionate curiosity. Anger is an emotion which sees the world through a lens of assumptions. An obvious fact to you may be a fairy-tale to me.

Just The Facts – What did you actually see or hear? When we are angry we tend to project beliefs, opinions and assumption on to the triggering event. Stick to the facts. Find a trusted friend or family member who witnessed the triggering event and ask them to help collaborate and distinguish facts from fiction.

What Are Your Assumptions? – You are likely assuming a rule been broken. The problem is that the rule may only be known to you. Or perhaps you are assuming that everyone should subscribe to your rules. Your rules are valid in your mind, but possibly not mine. Are you basing your assumptions on historical events, and assuming history will repeat itself? Do you mind read the intentions of the person you are mad at? Do you really have a working crystal ball? If the answer is no, stop mind reading. You are on you way to using anger management skills effectively when you begin to see your assumptions.

Response Control

Evaluate what your angry mind is telling you to do before acting in its behalf. When we speak, act or respond with anger, you are acting in behalf of your lower (or lowest) self. Things are broken when the “lowest self” is in control. Important things like our relationships, self-esteem, and dignity are diminished.

Change the Response – To change a conditioned response or behavior, we must be motivated and “buy-in” to the need for change. If we have buy-in, the cost of “doing the work” is worth the price of the effort and the discomfort we are surely going to face to change the pattern. Buy-in is fortified by recognizing the cost of our anger.

What Will Be Broken By Your Actions? – Your angry mind does not act on your behalf or on behalf of the future. Like a little child, your anger acts on behalf of immediate impulsive reactions. Responses are more extreme than they need to be when angry. They are over the top. If you act on the impulse to go over the top, what will your break? Your job, your wife, your child’s self-esteem. Evaluate the cost.

What Has Anger Broken In The Past – As a counselor, I am still touched and saddened to see the high price of anger. Investigate the cost you have paid. Look at the physical, emotional, relational, and financial cost with compassionate curiosity.

Evaluate Outcome of Your Efforts 

When anger becomes a problem, the emotional, behavioral and thinking patterns that have sustained it, have been reinforced for a period of time. Be patient, because it will take time and energy to learn new responses.

Recognize Successes – Be reasonable. Rage-alcoholics, by nature are not reasonable. See even slight changes as successes. Perhaps you remembered to practice self-soothing skills or asked for clarification before making an assumption. Know and feel these small wins.

Practice Strategies – Transforming anger takes time and patience. Anger management skills are effective in changing emotional, behavioral and cognitive patterns from one of anger and rage to peace and joy. But it does take practice. Be compassionate with yourself as you practice.

Be in peace – Diane

Santa Clause wearing boxing gloves

Surviving Christmas in a Dysfunctional Family

Visions of the perfect story-book holiday is a particularly difficult idea for many people.  Surviving Christmas in dysfunctional families requires us to pull out all the tools we have learned in therapy so that we are not triggered by mal-adaptive thinking and emotional patterns.

 Let This Dose of Encouragement Strengthen You

You have probably survived a lot already and will survive another Christmas too. Strengths, capabilities and wisdom are in you. Feel them and know that they are in you. Access your strengths now. In the words of the remarkable Louse Hayes:

“You have the power to heal your life, and you need to know that. We think so often that we are helpless, but we’re not. We always have the power of our minds…Claim and consciously use your power.”
― Louise L. Hay

 

  • Create Your Own Traditions – Surviving Christmas in dysfunctional families requires an authentic expression of new traditions. We do not have to engage in traditional rituals that do not work for us. If traditional family dinners or family visits create arguing and fighting, you might consider not participatichristmas tradition woman sitting in front of Christmas treeng. Emotions run high during Christmas and maladaptive patterns run rampant. If Christmas creates the perfect storm for family members to act at their worst, give yourself permission to not participate.

 

  • Be Aware of Your Expectations – For years I tried to create an ideal Christmas despite a great deal of dysfunction in my family. Of course, after the “big event” was over, I felt exhausted, anxious and sad. I had to accept that my expectations were irrational. An idyllic Christmas was not in my future. Once I accepted this reality, the holidays became much easier.

 

  • Set Boundaries – Surviving Christmas in dysfunctional families involves understanding your personal limits when you are exposed to mal-adaptive or abusive behaviors by family members. Perhaps that line in the sand is when too much alSleeping puppy with santa hatcohol is consumed, or passive aggressive actions are directed your way. Know what your limits are, and plan your escape strategy. Perhaps setting boundaries is limiting the time you spend with dysfunctional family members, or declining to participate in gift exchanges. Know your limits and protect your sanity.

 

  • Lean into Your Coping and Self-Care StrategiesIf you come from a dysfunctional family, hopefully you have developed coping skills and self-care strategies to get you through the holidays. Lean into them or develop new ones. Be creative and give yourself permission to do what you need to do. Practice self-compassion.

If you have established a new traditions or coping strategies that has helped you survive Christmas in your dysfunctional family, please share your wisdom. It may help those of us who are still trying to master the art of Surviving Christmas in a dysfunctional family.

Be in peace – diane

 

the word Anxiety in text

Anxiety Treatment

Top 5 Approaches

Although anxiety is classified as mood disorder, there are physical and cognitive (thinking) patterns that maintain the condition. Effective anxiety treatment not only addresses the anxious mood, but also the physical and cognitive aspects that support the anxiety.

At Authentic-Life Counseling, anxiety treatment utilizes traditional Western medicine and non-traditional Eastern healing techniques.  The top five anxiety treatment approaches include:

5. Anxiety treatment – Addressing the Physical Aspect

Woman lying down on bed.
Body relaxation techniques such as progressive body scans are effective in anxiety treatment. 

When our body relaxes our mind relaxes. Many techniques are effective in calming the body. Progressive body relaxation is an example of an anxiety treatment frequently used to relax the body. Many guided mediation apps and YouTube videos are available to teach and guide individuals in learning this technique. The important thing to remember is to practice.  The goal is to train the Central Nervous System to calm down so that the fight/flight/freeze response in the body is not so easily triggered.

4. Anxiety treatment – Life-Style Assessment and Changes

This may be a no-brainer but, anxiety treatment must include a thorough assessment of life style patterns. Poor sleep hygiene, exercise habits and diet contribute to the anxiety epidemic. Most people fail to honestly evaluate their life-style habits. Formulating a plan to make changes begins with setting small goals. Be mindful of realistic pacing to reach your goals. Ask for support from your family and friends. Be aware of your accomplishments and reinforce them in a meaningful way.

Woman doing yoga
Life-style habits including diet, exercise and sleep patterns are important considerations in anxiety treatment.

3. Anxiety treatment – The cognitive Aspect

Mindfulness.  Many anxiety producing thoughts project a fear into the future. Mindfulness practice anchors us in the here and now. We are not in the future, we are in the present.  The only place you can touch your life is in the present moment. In the present moment you can begin to notice the coming and going of sensory input. Your eyes, ears, and body are perceiving sights, sounds and physical sensations. Just let the sensations come and go.  Something in you is witnessing the sensations. This is your consciousness or observers mind. Try to be a mindful witness of the present moment. Do not add anything to the present moment.

2. Anxiety treatment – Meditation

woman meditating on bed
Regular meditation practice reduce the symptoms associated with many mental health disorders

I teach all clients how to meditate, because I believe that meditation improves mental health. The intensity of  racing thoughts determines how to begin your meditation practice. The easiest level of meditation is guided meditation. After learning to relax and concentrate during guided meditation, practice evolves into  sitting meditation with a mantra. The purpose of a mantra is to stabilize and concentrate the mind, and relax the body. More difficult still, is releasing the mantra and sitting in observer’s mind. In this meditation practice we let mental processes arise, with acceptance and observance. We do not let the content of the thoughts hi-jack our emotional reaction. The thoughts are simply mental processes.         

1 Anxiety treatment – The Subtle Energy System and Energy Psychology

These acupuncture points are often used in Energy Psychology treatments to reduce anxiety.

In the East, the subtle energy systems of the body are utilized to support healing. The subtle energy systems include the Chakra and Meridian Pathways. Energy Psychology is an evidenced based treatment which combines Eastern subtle energy healing with Western psychological modalities such as exposure therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are.  In the treatment of anxiety, the intensity of anxiety producing thoughts are reduced by moving the subtle energy associated with and maintaining the anxiety producing thought. Conversely, reinforcing belief systems to promote our strengths and capabilities are strengthened through the manipulation of the subtle energy systems.

be in peace – diane

Buddhist engaged in mindful consumption of meal

Mindful Consumption

I started my journey of mindful consumption almost 10 years ago after reading the following words by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

“When I drink my tea mindfully, I can see the universe in my tea.”

I had no understanding of what the words meant. At best, I was only able to sense a profoundly deep nature of such a practice. Although I did not understand the words, when I read them, something inside me woke up. I knew at a very deep level that I had found something I had been searching for.

The practice of mindful  consumption revolutionizes. It has the capacity to revolutionize you and it has the capacity to revolutionize our world. I drink my tea differently than I did 10 years ago. Before I practiced mindful consumption, I practiced mind-lessness and forgetfulness. I would drink my tea in the morning while checking my email, making a shopping list and watching the news all at the same time. I did not taste or enjoy my tea. In our fast-paced world, we proudly, call this “multi-tasking”.

Mindful consumption of tea
Consume in a manner that grows your capacity for love and peace.

Being proud of multi-tasking is ignorant. It is the same as being proud of not showing up to live your own life.

Where is your attention when you are multi-tasking? Scattered. Nowhere. Everywhere. My tea is gone and I have no recollection of drinking it. I never tasted it and did not enjoy the experience. When we live mindlessly, we grow a sense of boredom or dissatisfaction with our lives because we are only giving it half of our attention.  The act of mindlessness and forgetfulness then becomes habituated. After beginning my practice of mindfulness, and my awareness grew, I realized most of my consuming was mindless. I would look down at an empty bag of potato chips, and not remember eating one bite. Everything thing we do with mindlessness has a karmic effect. If I eat potato chips mindlessly, the consequences are not so big. Only my cholesterol level and my mass. I don’t feel well afterwards and I gain weight.

Other types of consumption done mindlessly have big karmic effects. I began to have a deeper awareness of all types of consumption. I realized my ears, eyes, mouth, and mind all consumed mindlessly.  What we watch on TV or read is consumption. The images your children see on video games is eye and mind consumption. Consumption of trashy and violent movies or video games desensitizes us to the images of violence which go into our consciousness.

When we are listening, we are consuming. When you are listening to resolve a misunderstanding with another, be mindful of how you are listening. If your listening has the qualities of impatience, anger and judgement, there will be karmic effects to the outcome of your conversation. If you can listen with patience, peace, and openness, there will be a different outcome.

Man and woman arguing. Mindful consumption includes mindful listening
Mindful listening changes the outcome of difficult relationships. It has the qualities of patience and openness.

We can either choose to consume in a manner that supports or un-supports our mindfulness practice. We can consume material that makes us smarter and refreshed or more ignorant and unconscious.

be in peace – diane

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