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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!​

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.

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.

extrovert

The Extrovert’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving COVID-19

Written by Ashley Vaden, LMFT

It’s a basic human need to feel connected to others, and more importantly, connected to ourselves. The fact is, we are all in this together, and we share much more in common than we realize. Everyone knows what it feels like to be alone, or have your mental health rocked in a time of confusion or uncertainty. Here’s how to make the most of it:

Get creative.

There are a lot of posts/messages on social media about making this a productive time; to really buckle down and tackle projects that you haven’t had time for, read that book you’ve always wanted to read, and start that hobby that has always felt like a distant dream. The truth is, it’s great to get stuff done and “be productive,” but because this is a difficult time, we might be placing a little bit too much pressure on ourselves to “be our best selves” and “live the life you’ve always imagined.” While we are not advocating that you neglect our responsibilities, shun your school work, and stay in our pjs all day (although, we’re not against it), we are saying that instead of framing your quantity of work to equal a successful day, why don’t you give yourself he chance to be creative?

Is there any creative endeavor you’ve wanted to research, learn about, or even try? This is the time to go for it. Not only will you be more present because you’re learning something new, it adds an extra built in layer of meaning to your day that doesn’t have to come from getting stuff done. You are more than a number; use your imagination. Connect with your sense of wonder, your curiosity, your passion, your interests. Ask yourself, “what inspires me?” and run with it.

We know the words “mindfulness” or “meditation” may make your eyes glaze over.

But hear us out! Just 30 minutes of self-compassion a day has shown to make a positive impact on mood and increased happiness (Desmond, 2017). Doing this practice may add some much needed structure to your day and help to cultivate joy. A lot of people think that if they just focus on the future and the fact that one day the quarantine will be over, as soon as that day comes, they will be so happy! Full of energy! Thankful, blessed! However, our happiness doesn’t always work that way.

Most of the time, our happiness is kind of programmed to stay at a certain level, and if we aren’t intentional about smelling the roses and thinking about what we’re thankful for, even just in the current moment, then our happiness levels tend to drop and may take a while to comeback up. Kind of like if you don’t go to the gym for a while you can get out of shape. If you are intentionally working toward being positive during this time, you’re much more likely to be able to bounce right back when this is but a distant nightmare.

  • Take a few minutes to focus on your breath. Try taking 5 deep breaths, slowly in and out, and notice how your breath feels in your nose, and in your throat.
  • Focus on feeling thankful for breath. Focus on breathing in positivity and joy, and breathing out anything that is negative and does not serve your body or mind.
  • Identify and locate any positive sensations, thoughts, or feelings in your body, and imagine these growing, almost like a flower blooming. Welcome them to become as big as they want or even to stay the same.
  • Take a minute to write down what you noticed in the exercise and 3 things you are thankful for that day.

Volunteer and reach out.

If you’re catching yourself complaining, know that it’s ok, and that you can offset it by reaching out to someone or helping someone. We aren’t here to compare pain, or feel sorry for ourselves and others; we’re in this together, and there is always someone out there who maybe has it a little or a lot harder.

That’s not said to bring on feelings of shame, but more to make you aware that you can help someone in this time. There is a problem out there and all it needs is someone to care enough to fix it. If you’re naturally inclined to want to be around people and connect with them, find out how you can become involved in community efforts to make an impact. Your generation has so much to contribute that you may not even be aware of! This is an opportunity for you to notice a deficit and bring light to it with your natural talents, gifts, abilities, and interests.

Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social neglect; organize a Go Fund me with your friends, or even reach out to someone that you’ve been meaning to check on. This could be a great time to build relationships. Maybe someone that you’ve always wanted to know more about is feeling lonely at this time too; wouldn’t it be a great opportunity to connect or find out more about someone that you may not have had the opportunity to in the past? What if they are wanting to talk to someone just as much as you are?