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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.

Humility

Written by Jennifer Komis, MAMFT, MDIV

Humility is the willingness to stay teachable regardless of how much we already know.

Have you ever spent time with someone who views her or his self as the best human in the room? Maybe it was a friend, partner, boss, or coworker. How did it feel? How’d the conversation go? Did you enjoy it? Want to talk more to this person or less?

It’s hard NOT to assume we don’t own the truth.

Our experiences shape us to believe and think certain things, sometimes passionately. It’s hard for us NOT to see our version of reality as the right (or only) version of reality. BUT. While it may feel threatening, there’s so much more freedom and opportunity in allowing others to “own truth” too. Think of it as trying on another’s experiences, imagining how their life may have led them to their thoughts, fears, biases, dreams. Think of it as trying on humility.

When we get stuck in the idea that we own the truth, we constrict around that.

People become “good” or “bad” as judged by our inner critic and we fight against them and their ideas from a place of self-protection. We are less apt to seek to understand them. Instead, we seek to protect our truth above all else because we believed the false rumor that doing that somehow protects us. We hunker down, refuse feedback, and struggle to imagine that safety, security, AND multiple truths can coexist.

Instead of trying to be the best human in the room, what if we tried to be the best version of ourselves in the room, in our families, careers, and relationships? What if that was less about proving something and more about listening? What if the deepest strength is really found in compassion, empathy, and humility? How might we experience ourselves and life differently if we trust that?

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.

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.