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speaking your truth

Speaking Your Truth

Written by Jennifer Komis, MAMFT, MDIV

I learn a lot from my 3-year-old niece. Last time she visited, she walked in and immediately said, “Do you have Popsicles?” When I said “no” (terrible aunt oversight), she looked at me point blank and said, “Well, you should get some.”

Such directness. Such self-assurance. She asked for what she wanted. And while her attitude is typical of a 3-year-old, she made me wonder on a deeper level how we lose this directness, this wildness. When do we stop asking for what we need? What causes us to get all “polite” and quiet and afraid to say things like, “I need this. I want this. I miss this, love this don’t like this.”

Many of us stop making these requests as adults.

We think staying quiet equates to “making things work” or “keeping the peace.” But does it?

For a very long time, I thought my messy parts were unacceptable. I thought the “in process” version of me needed to be hidden in order to be loved and accepted. And so I hid, and watched many of those around me do the same.

I was presenting to the world the image of a final product instead of the messy, always-becoming work in progress that I am, that we ALL are. And that was not helpful. If anything, it was destructive and furthering a lie that being all of ourselves is somehow not okay.

The world NEEDS us to be messy because it gives others permission to be messy too.

When we stop pretending we have it all together all the time, we meet each other in actual reality, which is complicated, beautiful, good, bad, scary, exciting, and so much more. We grow together in ways false facades don’t allow. Most importantly, we get real and know that we are loved precisely because of that realness.

Isn’t there still a voice inside of you that has something important to say, something that might make life more authentic and real? When we don’t share those words, we create a barrier.

How do we share our truth in a kind and direct way? How do we ask for what we need and hear others’ requests for what they need? It’s certainly not easy, but when we do it, when we begin to cross those bridges with ourselves and others, we find ourselves feeling closer, realer, and safer than we ever could have imagined. Be you. Be loving, be wild.

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!​

self love

What Is Self Love?

Written by Ashley Vaden, LMFT

What is self love?

I’ve found the idea of self love to be an elusive concept. A term that people like to throw around that I’ve never really grasped or experienced fully for myself. It’s like when you’re a kid in the backyard and mysteriously, a butterfly lands on you, only to fly away and never touch down again on purpose.

Has self-love ever felt like that to you? A feeling that comes close but never quite sticks? That’s why, for the past year, I’ve ventured to expand upon my understanding of self love and the explanation of it in more concrete, tangible ways. I’ve read books, listened to podcasts, worked with a mentor, interviewed trusted friends, and along the way, I’ve learned that instead of falling in love with ourselves, we grow in love with ourselves.

Self love is really about growth of self.

I’ve learned that it’s messy, and difficult, and a choice hell bent on expansion and expression. I’ve learned that we never really are the best versions of ourselves, because we are growing each and every day, but we can operate from the best versions of ourselves by choosing self and embracing authenticity. Here are my thoughts on how to grow in self love.

Self Discipline

Self discipline is the act of making promises to yourself that you in turn keep. These promises can be and should be small and specific, especially as you build confidence in yourself and require momentum in practicing self-compassion. As we strive toward bigger goals, the challenges we face may become greater, but the self discipline remains the same. Here, consistency is king. It is intention followed by action. It is choosing these values and these promises even when they are difficult to uphold.

I have found many small acts that have helped me achieve self discipline and thus expansion of self love. These include daily meditation, making my bed, drinking more water, reading for 15 minutes a day, spending time connecting with a loved one. I don’t achieve each of these tasks every day; but every day, I try to at least incorporate 3 of these intentions, whether I’m feeling rushed or I’m feeling good.

Jordan Peterson writes,

“As you attempt to climb a higher mountain or aim at a higher target, the things around you become increasingly dramatic and of import. That happens by necessity because if you’re aiming and working hard at something difficult and profound, your life is going to become increasingly difficult and profound. That might be exactly what you need as an antidote to the implicit limitations that you face as a human being.”

I think we often get this illusion that if we face obstacles that this means we are not on the right path, when essentially you must understand that the fact that you are feeling resistance means you are moving forward. I think we also misconstrue that these tasks of self discipline are difficult when we are in a place of low mood or energy. When we are feeling well, we forget the grounding practices and habits that keep us humbled and persistent. So, make promises to yourself, and keep them. Those promises lead to a larger goal when kept consistently. This journey of action aligned with value keeps you in synchrony with the growth of yourself and self love.

Click here to read the full article!

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.

blame

The Blame Game

Written by Bridgette Allen, MAMFT

Do you play the blame game?

Why are you giving all of your power away?

Finding fault on the outside is a way of relieving uncomfortable emotions you feel on the inside. Personal accountability is tough to swallow sometimes. If we’re accountable for any part in our relationships, including the one we have with ourselves, we are also responsible for making it better.

We may choose not to accept accountability because we have developed very little self awareness and are unable to observe our personal contributions to the challenge. It is also possible to be very self aware, while realizing being accountable will bring about discomfort, so we ignore and continue to project it onto someone or something else. Most of the time we work from somewhere in between these two perspectives.

An important thing to note is that being accountable does not mean you release responsibility of another for their part in the issue, rather you empower yourself by taking control of you.

Areas of personal accountability:

  • Choices
  • Happiness
  • Sexuality
  • Emotions
  • Learning
  • Healing
  • Behavior
  • Self-care
  • Desires/passions
  • Loving
  • Change
  • Emotions
  • Forgiving
  • Success/failure
  • Validation
  • Thoughts
  • Mental/physical illness
  • Motivation
  • Personal care
  • Relationships
  • Progress
  • Fitness/Health
  • Routines/Habits

This list is not inclusive of every area of personal accountability, but it gives us a good idea of the power we have over our own lives, if we take it. Another reason to stop playing this game, is that you will always lose, and especially in relationships. Blaming has the ability to help us escape our emotions, and can become a sort of addiction. So the next time you are tempted to blame, pause, then observe your physical sensations, thoughts and underlying emotions. Notice the discomfort you are experiencing. Soothe yourself and ask yourself how you might be playing a role in it.

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

parenting in a pandemic

Parenting in a Pandemic: 3 Ways Not to Lose Your Mind

Written by Chris Davis, MSSW, LMFT

Parenting is difficult. End of story. I have done office-based and in-home therapy with parents and kids for over 10 years. I believe I have just about seen it all. But how about parenting in a pandemic when it seems like the whole world is falling apart and we’re pretty much stuck inside with our kids? Sounds like a parent’s nightmare. And in many ways, it is.

However, it is possible to shift our thinking, feelings, decision and actions to break the trance of “I’m stuck and this sucks.” In a previous article, I discussed important steps to take before reaching a point where we might possibly abuse the ones we love. Many of the same principles apply here. However, I would like to focus on three other important principles we can follow that will alter our experience enough to make it through these difficult times. 

1. Adjust Expectations

There is no template for how to live, much less parent, during a pandemic and extended quarantine. We are all on shaky ground struggling to find our footing. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen when working with parents during the quarantine is the expectation that they can continue parenting as they always do. Their kids will continue to act in the same ways and need to be parented the same ways. This is not the case. NOTHING is normal or the same.

While our children may seem oblivious, or as if they don’t care about what’s happening, they are aware and do care. They are experiencing a significant amount of stress and trauma like the rest of us. Children are very sensitive and pick up on all the stimulation around them. They are like little antennas for stress. Adjusting our expectations and establishing a “new normal” can make all the difference in how successful our parenting is during these difficult times. 

2. Strike a Balance

Parenting is on a continuum. On one side are very permissive parents. On the other are very authoritarian parents. Most parents fall somewhere in between. During the quarantine, most parents will attempt to continue parenting as they always have, as discussed in the previous point. Some parents will swing the pendulum to the other side, however. This severe change in parenting can leave children quite confused. The goal of parenting, as with most things in life, is to strike a balance as close to the middle of that continuum as possible. Children need enough guidance and structure to keep them from falling too far without a safety net. But they also need enough room to make some mistakes and learn from them.

During the quarantine, parents who find themselves a little too far on either side of the continuum can benefit from shifting more towards the center. If you are a parent who counts every minute of your child’s screen time, it might behoove you to be a little less stringent on that. If you’re a parent who more or less let’s your kids do whatever they want as long as they aren’t getting hurt, it might be best to tighten that up some. Striking a balance in our parenting can make this quarantine a better overall experience for us as parents and for our kids. 

3. Prioritize Play

I believe one of the most important things parents can do to make not only their parenting better during the quarantine, but also just their own personal experiences, is to prioritize play. What I have heard from many parents is that they are struggling to keep themselves busy. They often finish their work faster if they are at home. They clean the house. Then deep clean the house. They hang up that picture they’ve been meaning to. They even organize their sock drawer. Ultimately, they are struggling to find something productive to do. Therein lies the problem: the idea that we should all be productive all the time. We have a serious problem in our culture in that we do not know how to play. This is not everyone of course. There are plenty of adults who are gamers, hikers, and cultural creatives. But many adults struggle with being able to adopt an attitude of play. Now we can relax. And we can vacation. But it’s not the same thing.

Playing is the language of children that we forget as we grow up. When we grow up, our culture tells us it is time to work. We are also told it is okay to rest. Playing, however, is a rarity and requires the ability to flip the idea of being productive on its head. Playing is the opposite of being productive. It doesn’t mean that being productive can’t be a byproduct of play. Some of the greatest inventions and accomplishments came through an adult at play when they occurred. The end product wasn’t even the goal. So, during this time where we are all mostly isolated in our homes with our families, try finding some activities where you can purposely not be productive. You just do the thing, whatever the thing is, for the sheer enjoyment of it. A great way to start is to let your kids teach you their language. Ask if you can join them in whatever activity they are doing. Then branch out to find your own activities that you can immerse yourself into. By prioritizing play, we can detach for a while from the madness the world is experiencing. We can drop into a different experience with our children. 

Chris Davis is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 10 years experience working with individuals, couples, and families. Chris’s passion is helping couples increase their intimacy and connection with one another to have the type of relationships they have hoped for. Chris is also passionate about helping everyone he meets to experience increased awareness and mindfulness to be more present in their lives. He utilizes a variety of techniques and approaches to meet each individual and couple where they are.