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alcohol

Awakening the Autopilot with Alcohol

Written by Rob Giltner, MAMFT

When we think of ourselves being on autopilot it can be helpful to consider that feeling as a trance. We go in and out of trances multiple times throughout the day. A trance can be a simple day dream or perhaps being zoned out while driving. There can be positive and negative trances which can influence our behavior.

Alcohol can create a strong trance.

When we drink too much and become inebriated we are in a bit of a trance. Continued use of alcohol can create a different type of trance. When our use of alcohol begins to negatively affect our lives we can experience two things; shame and guilt. Shame, which can be described as “I am bad,” can put us on autopilot by believing we are “bad.”

When assessing our use of alcohol it can be very helpful to consider our use as a relationship. We all have a relationship with alcohol. And with any relationship, it can be healthy or unhealthy. If we notice our relationship with alcohol to be unhealthy it could be because we might be on autopilot or in a trance.

A negative relationship with alcohol can be tricky. Alcohol may want to stay in a relationship with us even when we do not. It can manipulate our thinking or judgment in order to stay. Alcohol could make us rationalize and/or justify our behavior to maintain the relationship.

If we notice we might be in a trance and have a negative relationship with alcohol there are a few things we should do to protect us and make sure we are healthy.

  • First, we would want to find any ways our use has created a loss of self. A loss of self could be a loss of happiness or peace. It could be a loss of a friend or family member. Or it could be a loss of a hobby.
  • We would then need to set up boundaries to protect ourselves from alcohol and regain anything we may have lost. Not drinking and ending a relationship with alcohol is one boundary someone might make. Another, could be to limit the amount of alcohol an individual uses.
  • Lastly, if the trance of alcohol puts us in is very strong, therapy is a must. Therapy can help us heal from the affects alcohol and end the trance it creates.
trauma

Living with Trauma

Written by Rob Giltner, MAMFT

“Trauma has become so commonplace that most people don’t even recognize its presence. It affects everyone. Each of us has had a traumatic experience at some point in our lives, regardless of whether it left us with an obvious case of post-traumatic stress.” ~Peter Levine

What living with trauma can look like:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and beliefs that aren’t meant for you
  • Constantly finding ways to escape from reality
  • Sleeplessness, fatigue, nightmares, sleep disorders
  • Avoidance of anything connected to a traumatic event
  • Difficulty regulating emotions like anger, fear and sadness
  • Reoccurring flashbacks of past events
  • Extra sensitivity to physical and emotional pain
  • Addiction to alcohol and other substances
  • Increased panic and anxiety

Everyone responds to trauma differently, and finding healthy ways to cope and heal from those events and their after-effects is key to living a healthy life. It’s easy to minimize, normalize, and rationalize some of these less severe symptoms, but if healthy coping mechanisms are not developed, they can lead to patterns of self-sabotage and withdrawal from the world and relationships. Like Peter Levine also said ,”Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.”

The most courageous thing we can do is love our self during times of pain and struggle.

Being aware of our story, and owning it, requires immense bravery. After all, to be human is to think and feel, and our emotions are here to try and protect us. If we see anxiety and stress as friends and offer them empathy, kindness, and thankfulness, they will be able to relax and dissipate. When you feel them approaching, welcome them, be kind to them, be thankful that they are there, and then invite them to leave. Bringing our minds to the present can reduce stress, anxiety, and connect us to everything around us.

 

joy

An Exercise In Joy & Success

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

“…the measure of success is absolutely the amount of joy you feel.”

Take a minute and think about a time when you felt pure joy. Oftentimes we think of moments that were life-defining. When we proposed to our sweetheart and heard “YES!” Or maybe our wedding day, or the day our first child was born, or when we got that new job, that raise or promotion.  Unfortunately for many of us our emotions fluctuate fairly rapidly and it’s rare that we can maintain that feeling of pure joy.  But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if we could live joyful, or joy-filled, lives and experience this joy a majority of the time? Well, we can!

“Yeah, right!” I hear you saying.

Give me a minute to explain… What we’re talking about is viewing your life from a bit of a different perspective.  Instead of a perspective of LACK – “I’ll feel joy when I get that raise, meet the right person, lose 20 lbs, etc.” – and shift into a thinking of ABUNDANCE – “Everything is exactly as it needs to be. All I need to be is myself. Everything I need to know is already within me.”

See the difference?

Here’s what I want you to try: Write down the above messages of Abundance on sticky notes and stick them on places you look often – on the microwave, on your dashboard, at the bathroom mirror, on your computer screen. Make an effort to look at the messages and remember that feeling of Joy.  Soon you’ll start to associate the two together – the feeling of Joy with the message “Everything is exactly as it needs to be.”

Stick with it for 21-30 days and see what happens.  This is how long it takes to make a shift in belief, perspective or behavior change.  You are actually building new neural pathways in your brain.  The more attention you give the new perspective, and don’t give attention to the former perspective, the stronger the new perspective of Abundance becomes and the perspective of Lack begins to die off.  Remember, what we feed, grows. Give it a try!  What do you have to lose?!

When we focus on Joy FIRST, our lives will begin to shift so we experience success in multiple areas.

If there is an area that seems like a problem area now – your relationship, your job, your living situation – they will work themselves out as you are focusing on joy.  This might mean they will begin to bring you joy in new ways because you are seeing them differently OR because you see clearly now that there is no way they will bring you joy and you will make confident decisions to move beyond them.

Wouldn’t it be AWESOME to feel Joy AND Confidence?! Oh yeah, it can happen. You can do it.  Stay focused and give it 21-30 days. Be gentle with yourself. You will mess up but chalk it up to a learning experience and keep moving forward. Growth comes with growing pangs.

And if you find you need some help, we are always here to be a guide (and cheerleader!). Keep at it! We believe in you!​

listening

The Art of Listening

Written by Jennifer Komis, MAMFT, MDIV

The first class I took in therapy school was called The Art of Listening. I thought I had it in the bag. I mean, come on, I’d been listening for AGES (as an eldest child and total feeler). WRONG. Here’s what I learned…

Listening is easy if:

1) You already agree with what’s being said

2) You aren’t emotionally involved in making a separate point or

3) You’ve slept 8 hours, accomplished all of your tasks, have had a great day, and are your very best self (insert sparkly smile here)

Otherwise (which is most of the time), listening is HARD. We want to interrupt and make our point (I do). We want to insert a platitude so we don’t have to sit with the other person’s pain (Shh, shh, everything happens for a reason), we want to interject some kind of suggestion (If you try a, b, and c, I think it would help…), or we want to judge and silence to get it over with (This IS NOT a big deal. Get over it.).

We live in a culture that prizes efficiency, speed, debate, ego, and winning. This is deeply ironic because therapy research seems to say that what we really, deeply want is to feel heard. Things like being right seem to matter far less when we truly slow down, let go of the perceived threat to our worldview, and just hear one another out.

Can you hear it? That’s the voice of someone else. Someone else whose fought her/his own battles trying to put words to them. Someone else who is seeking to protect her/himself in a world that feels overwhelming at times. A person who is hoping to feel heard, seen, and valued, despite their imperfections. Someone else like you.

trust

Trusting the Process and Your Heart

trust

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

Trust is not easy.

When we are “trusting” something or someone, it assumes there is some uncertainty and we’re “having faith” or trusting something positive will happen. And typically, we don’t always love to feel uncertainty.

However, most of life is fairly uncertain. We think we know what’s going to happen but then we say, “Or I could get hit by a bus tomorrow!” However, do we really think we’ll get hit by a bus? No.

What this shows us is that even in the uncertainty and the possibility of getting hit by a bus, we TRUST that we likely won’t get hit by the bus and therefore are fairly calm with the uncertainty of what will happen tomorrow.

What is really happening psychologically when we do this is sending ourselves a subconscious message that we actually think good things are most likely to happen (we’ll be alive tomorrow) more so than the negative will happen (getting hit by the bus).

I love, love, love “The Law of Detachment” chapter in Deepak Chopra’s book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. He writes,

“In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty…in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from our past, from the known, which is the prison of past conditioning. And in our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.”

How poetic and reassuring; compassionate and wise. Calming even.

I wonder if you noticed how it spoke to your head or your heart, your thinking brain or your feeling brain, or both.

Or maybe you even felt the two, the thinking brain and the feeling brain, connect with each other in a way that left you feeling calm or some other positive emotion.

If not, give it another read and see what happens. Maybe something even more profound might happen. Maybe you’ll notice something come to you in a few days, a week, or even a month from now.

May we all be willing to step into the unknown; to allow ourselves the opportunity to see all the possibilities the universe has to offer.

 

you are enough

You Are Enough

Written by Jennifer Komis, MAMFT, MDIV

So often, we twist and turn to fit the molds of our culture’s making. We adjust our looks and our opinions to stay within lines that are rarely ever drawn, but somehow we know are there. We make life plans on autopilot with the goal of keeping up with the Joneses. But here’s the thing… are the Joneses even happy? Does anyone know? I have no idea, but my guess is they’re probably just tired.

Your birth was your invitation to be YOU.

And what a dramatic invitation that was! You fought your way pushing and screaming into this world with all of your uniqueness, complexity, fervor and passion. Remember that you? She/he is still there, ready to speak, ready to be enough just as she/he is, and ready to live a life that feels authentic down to your very bones. Find a quiet place and listen. Remember that, “you can’t hate your way into loving yourself.”

For many of us, “I’m not enough” is the painful mantra behind our fears. And for many of us, we came to this conclusion because of some life experience that left us feeling unaccepted or unloved just as we are. So we engage in a process of striving, running, racing, always pushing to earn that title of “good enough.”

But here’s the thing. YOU ARE. In this moment, with your scars, mistakes, big secrets, regrets, all of it, YOU ARE ENOUGH. Can you try that on for a day? Live in that truth for a day? See how it feels? What’s different? What’s scary? What’s refreshing?

Spread the good word: You, you, you, and you, all of us, are enough, just as we are.

living in the now

Are We There Yet???

Written by Cheryl Young, MAMFT

…. HOW MUCH LONGER???

Wow! Does this sound familiar to you? It brings back sweet childhood memories of long family vacations in the car. All four kids sandwiched in the back seat of our family Buick, literally sitting on top of each other (without seatbelts!. Stuck together through the hot summer sun on our way to our family vacation.

Where are we now?

Metaphorically are we still in the back seat of the family car…on the long car ride to where? And how long will we be on top of each other. How much longer???

Some of my best memories from those long car trips are making up games to pass the time and learning to appreciate the little things along the way. Finding hidden treasures, creating new memories and storing them in my personal polaroid picture album.

Do you remember the ‘World’s largest Yarn Ball’ or the ‘World’s Biggest T-Pee’ and ‘The World’s Biggest Rocking Chair?’ Family vacations always revealed the best hidden treasures along the way.

Perhaps…we are on the greatest Family Vacation ever right NOW!

I don’t remember missing the comforts of home during those trips – it was our ‘new normal.’ We learned to live in the moment and appreciate all of the wonderful food available at Stucky’s rest stops along the way, or cold sandwiches we packed in coolers. I also remember waiting patiently for the gas station breaks (even the see-through toilet paper!).

These experiences bring strength to our current day. What about your family vacation memories? My rosy perspective gives me the gift of remembering all the good memories of these trips and edits out the car sickness, wishing for more room or missing all of my friends…but they were all a part of this trip. Both existed at the same time.

While this current family vacation looks very different – and I am no longer sharing the same physical space with my siblings, they are still with me. And now, during this time of quarantine, I am able to meet my neighbors, recognize kids as they ride their bikes, wave at families while taking my daily walk. I am NOW starting to know my neighbors’ names and not just the cars they drive. This global and uninvited slowdown has given me the gift of perspective and appreciation.

Living in the NOW!

So, what if…this is your/our time?! THE time to create new memories is in front of us. It always has been. With or without the global pandemic…we are LIVING RIGHT NOW!

NOW is the time we need to be present and find our contentment and joy.

What if we decide to live TODAY as we choose and dream? What if we followed our passions and what is inside our heart and our dreams? Who would care- who else would show up?

I am still in the back seat of that Buick – trying to find my place in the ‘seat’ and also claiming my voice. What about you? Can you relate? I am uncomfortably – comfortable. I know that I am bigger, smarter and stronger – yet still hesitate to show up as my authentic self. What about you?

Is our journey today any different?

Let’s take the ‘mask’ off and ground ourselves in the reality that we are possibly living our ‘best life.’ What if we are already ‘There’ and NOW is the time to participate in this thing called life?

How would you go through your day differently if you knew this was it? We are no longer on pause – this is our Now!

Maybe have a dance party in the kitchen (BEFORE breakfast?!!)…or spend a little more time listening to those who matter to you?

Well, my friend…this is the time – I invite you to enjoy it!

finding your new now

Finding Your New “NOW”

Written by Cheryl Young, MAMFT

I don’t know about you, but the words, ‘unprecedented, unsettling and uncertain’ are starting to lose their shock value on me. It is disturbing to listen to the news and feel that I have lost control of my very purposeful, intentional and planned out future.

The myth of being in control is now clearly being revealed. The belief that we controlled any areas of our lives has been exposed to wishful thinking. Our ‘needs’ that we intentionally took care of are now no longer needs but simply ‘wants.’ How does this sit with you? Does this feel ‘unsettling and uncertain’? Our new ‘now’ is teaching all of us that we never really were in control and perhaps there are other ways to have what we ‘need.’

Prior to our globally forced slow down – what were your plans or dreams?

What were your barriers? How have they changed? How have you changed? And now… what will you choose? Very rarely do we choose to go through pain and discomfort to reach our desires.

Personally, I have found that you cannot find true joy, unless you learn to embrace the natural pain that comes along the journey. The degree to which you avoid discomfort is also the degree to which you cannot access the delight.

When we make the decision to begin a new exercise program…the pain is expected and even accepted. We physically feel the pain of healthy growth and even welcome it as a sign of our commitment in making new uncomfortable choices to improve our physical bodies.

This is also true for our mental, emotional and relational selves. We are wired to avoid pain and to seek pleasure. Yet the growth and strength in the many areas of our lives requires the decision and willingness to face what feels uncomfortable, and sometimes painful.

To choose connection and not isolation, we must accept the risk and sometimes pain of being known and vulnerable along with the risk of being hurt. To be emotionally healthy, we have to come in contact with and befriend the very emotions that we don’t want to have.

While my usual ‘silver lining’ outlook is growing skeptical and full of doubt, I have found that practicing intentional gratitude during these ‘unprecedented, unsettling and uncertain’ times has provided me with a new lens through which I look to greet the day or difficult situation. This lens doesn’t remove the ‘bad’ – it just allows the good to shine a little brighter.

Choosing to start each day with an intention of self-love, compassion and growth provides internal grit and strength to face the uncertainties and clouds of fear that hang over all of us. Having a daily intention allows us to pay attention to what we say is important to us and not let the distractions of the day take control.

The practice of gratitude and setting daily intentions does not eliminate the potential pitfalls around us. Rather, it allows us to respond in a way that we get to choose. Learning to accept the emotions that follow doubt and fear, allows us to release the power they have over us.

Finding your new now means being present with all of your emotions, feelings and thoughts. Accept the good with the bad. Allow the best of you to shine through even while we are living in these ‘unprecedented, unsettling and uncertain’ times. Always remember you have a choice of which lens you choose to look through.

Cheryl Young supports people on their healing journey. Email her to see how she can help you discover a healthier YOU at cheryl@louisvillemindfulnesscenter.com

toxic positivity

When the Dust Settles: Avoiding Gaslighting, Toxic Positivity, & External Validation

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

In Julio Vincent Gambuto’s brilliant article, “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting” we see that the treadmill we’ve been on for a decade has abruptly stopped. When life returns to “normal” or some semblance of a “new normal” the economy is going to need a huge boost and we will be sold a lie that we need stuff to soothe ourselves from the trauma we’ve experienced due to COVID-19.

Gambuto’s article refers to Gaslighting as: “Manipulation into doubting your own sanity.” The example he gives is, “Carl made Mary think she was crazy, even though she clearly caught him cheating. He gaslit her.”

The last several weeks of realizing that the treadmill is broken and there’s no way we’re ever getting back on it has been a traumatic experience whether we realize it yet or not. While we’re “in” the traumatic experience we go into survival mode (fight, flight, or freeze) to get through it. It’s not until the trauma has stopped and things go ‘back to normal” that we begin to see the effects of trauma unfold.

Most of us are quite resilient and will recover from the isolation of this pandemic just fine. Some of us will be shaken up for a while and need help getting our bearings. If this is you, therapy can be extremely helpful. Look for a wonderful therapist who will validate your experience and allow you to move beyond it as you are ready. Don’t get caught up in toxic positivity which forces you to think that if you aren’t “staying positive” something’s wrong with you. That’s a load of shit. You are human and your moods are watery, shifting and changing with the tides. A good therapist helps you make friends with the ocean so you can navigate it and find the balance that is best for you in each new moment as you ride the wave of life.

Click here to read the full article! 

calm yourself during covid-19

5 Easy and Practical Ways to Calm Yourself During COVID-19

Written by Megan Bayles Bartley, MAMFT, LMFT

I think I have COVID-19! I’m having a hard time breathing, my chest feels tight, and I’m more tired than normal. Or perhaps it’s just my wonderful friend Anxiety, reminding me I’m still alive and kicking.

Here are five things you can do to welcome your friend, Calm, into your life during this time:

1. Blow out Birthday Candles!

Say what?! Yup! When you are holding your breath, you already have a breath of air in so you want to focus on your exhale. Forcefully blowing out air and squeezing every last bit of air out of your lungs invites your body to breathe a deep breath in on the inhale. Do this a few times and it feels wonderfully invigorating!

2. Get clear on what you have control over and what you don’t have control over.

The easy answer is: You don’t have any control over COVID19, you only have control over yourself. Your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Even if it sometimes feels like you don’t, you can learn how to do this. What you don’t have control over is anyone or anything else — what they do, what they say, how they think, how they feel, or how this whole pandemic plays out.

3. Focus on Your Five Senses

Take a moment, or two, wherever you are, to focus on each of your five senses — sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Encourage yourself to find descriptive words for each sense you notice. Being curious and noticing counteracts the desire to judge or evaluate things. Allow what you notice to be just as it is without it being good or bad, right or wrong, you like it or don’t like it.

Click here to read the full article!