Destiny or Self-Effort?

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People often believe they are destined for a certain fate from deep in the core of their being. Sometimes they believe they are destined to a particular future that may be great or tragic. But which has more power – destiny or self effort? I say self effort. Whether you make yourself into a better or a worse person, it is what you work toward that determines your good fortune.

If you find yourself thinking “But I can't help it – my family always ____”, or “other people might be able to do that, but not me” this is not destiny. It is victim-hood. Ridding yourself of victim-hood is perhaps the highest form of self-effort.

Please note that one of the myths about self-effort is that it means you have to do it ALL by yourself. This is rarely true. The support of others is practically essential. Isolation is a core factor in feeling like a victim, while having support (but not pity) buoys one toward success.

Never Underestimate the Present Moment

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In the rush of everyday living, life itself can be neglected!

The stories we tell ourselves about what we should be doing, and why we need to hurry can rob us of a sense of all the moments where life really takes place. The devil is in the details – it is the quality of the small moment-by-moment actions that determine how much happiness and contentment we can find in living.

If we do not pay attention to what we are doing and feeling in the the small moments of our lives, the big moments will not feel as precious either. Life is not a race. Slow down a few microseconds before embarking on the next detail and in doing so, become more present. 

There is no present in life that is as valuable as that of the present moment.

Change - the Portal of Opportunity

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During times of change, all of us have greater access to our inner selves.  We are given the opportunity to make new decisions and connections.  We have access to the energy it takes to create a better reality for ourselves and those we care about.

At the same time, change is stressful and even exhausting.  Friends and loved ones may only be able to listen to us for so long.  We may feel uncertain about strong and conflicting feelings, and feel little unmoored in our daily lives.

This is an natural time to share your changes with a professional therapist.  A therapist can help you to make sense of where you find yourself today.  They can also help you reorganize your life in a way that is more effective than ever before.  A therapist can help to ameliorate your painful feelings and improve your relationships with the people that are important to you.

Feel free to contact me today for a free, 15 minute consultation as to whether therapy might be be right for you.


Risk Taking

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All of us have areas of our lives that we would like to change. What stops us? Risk. There are small risks, medium risks and risks that would make major changes to our lives, even risks that feel like death.

Small risks are those like finishing a task that one has put off. Things that we know we will eventually follow through with.  Medium risk might be something like leaving a bad job.  But a life-changing risk is something else. It feels like it takes more courage than one has. Like a divorce, for instance. It can feel like death.

Many people live with all three levels of risk present in their lives, although most of us try not to look at life-changing risk if possible. At what level does risk become foolhardy? The truth is, it is usually not foolish. When a risk is being contemplated, it is usually worth taking in the service of being true to oneself.

Being willing to take risks is a courageous endeavor that can lead to a great contentment with oneself down the line. If you are contemplating a risk that seems overwhelming, now is the time to shore up your courage and move forward in the service of your own best destiny.

When Change Feels Magical

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When change feels magical, be grateful! Failure is common. It is easy to feel derailed or give up. But once you find yourself changing, know you have discovered a pathway that was always there, just waiting for you.

Sometimes change seems to happen out of a longing for things to be different, without much real effort. If this happens, you are very lucky because this is not usually the way it happens!

Change most often comes when one becomes consciously willing to try something different, even if it means being uncomfortable, vulnerable or even exposed. It can be hard to take the first step toward change, and even harder to take the second. But eventually, doing things differently becomes easier, and then one can look back and see that real and positive change has occurred.

Unfortunately, many people grow up in situations that kill the belief that their lives can ever substantially change for the better. Worse, they may look at those who try to change as being a bit foolish. What a recipe for staying stuck!

There is magic in the power of looking past one’s limiting beliefs. For change is always possible if you will work for it.


Seven Tips for Making Friends With Your Mind

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A mind turned against its owner is a sad sight. The person may see good in the world and in others, but be unable to see the good in themselves. Even when others point it out their good, they do not believe it is true.

What causes a mind to be one's enemy? Often, a past and present condition, and sometimes even a person's physiology. However, a lot can be done to change these sad circumstances. Below are a few steps one can take to make friend of one's mind:

  1. Take care of your body. Eat, sleep and exercise can go a long way to righting one's frame of mind about oneself.

  2. Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Make sure to set aside time when them when they can really listen.

  3. Take a break from the people who bother you. Go off by yourself if necessary. A walk in the woods, a mental health day, or other solitary activity can allow you time to make better friends with your mind.

  4. Meditate. If you don't know how, sit by yourself in quiet for 5 minutes. Close your eyes, breathe, and allow your thoughts to stream by without getting caught up in them.

  5. See a doctor. If you have an unpleasant feeling about yourself that you cannot shake, there may be a physiological disconnect happening in your body. Depression and anxiety, forgetfulness and other states can show up in testing. Even a vitamin deficiency can wreck havoc with your mood.

  6. Thought stopping. Just say to yourself the next time you find that yourself picking on yourself: “I choose not to have this thought”, and change the dialog with your mind. You can actually do that. Try it!

  7. If you still find that you are down on yourself after all these suggestions, maybe it is time for you to see a professional therapist, psychologist or counselor.

Mistakes

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Everyone makes bad decisions - unless of course you are perfect. Mistakes made cannot be unmade However, harm done can almost always be mitigated and the results can help fertilize your soul. On the other hand, when a mistake is denied or continues to be repeated, can become a recipe for eventual disaster.

The mind is a funny thing.  It can say "It's alright. No one will find out, no one will get hurt."  But in the meantime, what happens to you?  Are you still at peace with yourself?  Do you find yourself distancing from people you care about, or worrying about being found out?

Since mistakes are inevitable, admitting them as soon as you can and making amends is often the best course of action. However, if a mistake is big enough and serious enough, you may first need to find someone that you can trust to talk to about it. Otherwise, you will be left listening to the distorted advice of your own troubled mind.

Most people who make mistakes overestimate the amount of harm they do to others, and underestimate the amount of harm they do to themselves. It takes bravery to rectify a bad decision, but it is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. Even more importantly, taking responsibility for your mistakes helps to develop the priceless gift of humility.

Why Worry?

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“I am an old man and have a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” - Mark Twain

What did you worry about a month ago? Did the things you worried most about happen the way you thought they would? After listening to people worry over a 20 year career as a therapist, I have come to believe that 90% of the things we worry about either do not happen or happen very differently. The actual bad things that do happen in a day usually were never foreseen.

The truth is, it doesn't pay to worry! Worry robs sleep, makes us unhappy and takes up too much precious energy – energy that could have been used to take care of the real challenges faced in a day.

I have a theory that worry is simply a fertile imagination gone rogue. Our complex brains allow us to anticipate what might happen in advance so we build scenarios that help figure out what we want to do in the future. We can imagine all sorts of futures before we ever actually do anything.

When imagination is under the grip of a strong negative emotion, such as fear, anxiety, anger or depression, worrisome scenarios can haunt us. Our imaginations create and recreate all kinds of trouble. But rarely do these scenes play out the way we think they will.

We can decide to deal with our emotions before they morph into worry. We can redirect our imaginations to ideas of how to be happy, healthy and helpful to others. By examining what emotions our worries stem from, we can rein in our imagination and put it to good use. So if you absolutely have to worry, worry about your own feelings. If that feels like too much, get support to help cope with what you feel.

Humility

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Humility is perhaps the most precious of all virtues.  It can create a good outcome where a bad one seems inevitable.  It can save a life. It can promote peace. As is with most things that are precious, humility doesn't often come easily, and disappears as soon as you think you have it.

So how does one be humble?  I think humility is an intentional set of practices that one can get better at over time. Some ways to practice humility include:

Not wondering that someone has wronged you,

Not demanding deference,

Realizing you don't have all the answers,

Setting boundaries - admitting what you are capable of giving and what you are not,

Not doing someone else's job.

Can you think of other ways to practice humility? There are many, too many for a blog post I am sure!

A Well Lived Life

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"Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself."

- Richard Bach, Illusions

When one is true to oneself, the losses and gains of the world are secondary to one's peace of mind and purpose.  Being true to oneself is the ultimate security in a world where everything chages.

Living with one's eyes open to one's inner truth takes effort, courage and conviction.  But it is the heart’s most priceless asset.


Work Anxiety

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Is work eating up too much of your life? Trying to finish all your deadlines perfectly? Doing more and more with less and less heart, spirit, time and clarity? You may have work anxiety. This takes a toll on one's performance and leads to a “hollowed out” feeling that negatively affect all your relationships.

Anxiety is often behind overworking. Temporary relief can come from getting ahead in one's work, but this only raises the bar for what is “normal” for you and leads to impossible standards and from there, more anxiety.

Anxiety about work is isolating. In fact you may be getting rewarded for working too hard. To change this pattern you may need to talk to someone other than one's boss, family or coworkers.

Talking to a professional can help you sort out whether your job is actually too demanding or if the way you are doing your work is making it harder than it need be. It can introduce you to tools such as cognitive behavioral techniques, mindfulness and healthy work boundaries. It can also help you to discover the origins of anxiety. Did one grow up around anxious or demanding parents? Does your anxiety have a biochemical component? Are you avoiding a less than happy home life?

One can also find ways to cope with workplace anxiety by reading books such as “Feeling Good, the New Mood Therapy” by David Burns, or “Dare, the New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks” by Barry McDonagh.

Whatever method one uses to disrupt one's anxiety, the first step is to reach out for support. If you could do it all alone, you would have already!

Finding Control Over Unwanted Thoughts by Thought Stopping

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Thought stopping is the habit of watching one's own thoughts and deciding when they are helpful or not.  If they are not, you can literally say to yourself "I chose not to have this thought" and then actively decide to think other thoughts.  It is a deliberate not going down an unhappy, obsessive path inside your head.

A lot of people feel they cannot do this simple thing.  But in most cases, they can..  Painful and intrusive thoughts are often the result of habit, pure and simple. There is no reason you have to pay attention to a particular thought just because it wants to play in the field of your mind.

Habits are ruts. You know you are in a rut with your thoughts when your thinking does not resolve a hurtful problem or situation.. You can also tell that you are caught in runaway thoughts when your your friends and family are not as sympathetic or patient with your problem as they once were.  

So try redirecting your unhappy thoughts, over and over again until you find one day you are thinking of them a lot less. If you try this without success, you may want to try going to therapy.  A supportive trained professional can give you the tools to support you in moving more quickly through your problems

What are Your Values?

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Having a set of values in life is important. Knowing what you value and acting on it can enhance self esteem and self knowledge. When you can trust yourself to do the right thing, it increases self esteem and others may also appreciate your integrity.

Having a set of values can sometimes be uncomfortable, especially if you have different ones than those around you. But as long as your values are not too rigid or black and white, being uncomfortable is perhaps the price you pay to feel good when you look at yourself in the mirror.

Here are three ways to help grow one’s sense of personal values:

1) Pay attention to how your choices make you feel.

2) Notice what you admire and value in others, and consider whether you would be a better person yourself by integrating similar values.

3) Trust your gut.

Is it Hard for You to Accept?

Being able to accept help when you need it.

Being able to accept help when you need it.

For some people, accepting a compliment, or favor or help when it is really needed is difficult. And the urge to “pay back” the person who helped can ruin the whole experience. Learning to accept graciously without giving into the urge to “pay back” can enhance one’s self esteem as few other thing can. In the novel, Time Will Darken It, William Maxwell writes one of the best paragraphs on learning how to accept:

“You can’t pay people back for the kindness they show you when you’re in trouble,” Dr. Danforth said emphatically. “There isn’t any way of measuring, in terms of money, what you owe them. You can go on paying them back forever, and still be indebted to them. Sometimes they don’t need any help. Or maybe the kind of help they need you can”t give them. All you can do is look around for somebody that is in need of help and do what you can for them, figuring that it will all be cancelled out some day.”

What We Tell Ourselves Really Matters!

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How many times have you caught yourself saying things like:

If only I was good at. . . .I just can't get along with. . .If I only had enough money. . .

Statements like these hold us back more than anything anyone can say to us!

What are three statements that you tell yourself - and others - that make you and everyone else believe that you are inadequate?

Today, turn those statements on their heads by creating positive, empowering statements that are more true to who you really are. Such as:

I am good at. . .I am lovable when. . .I have enough money to. . .

Try this exercise and see if it works for you, then keep it up!

Warm Regards,

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT

Three Symptoms of Codependency

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Codependency is often hard to understand because relationship patterns are deeply rooted and feel so natural. So where does one draw the line between healthy caring and codependency? Here are three indicators:

1) Trying to get someone else to change - this can cost considerable amounts of energy with no real payoff.

2) Being totally "fed up" with a partner, child, friend or colleague but also feeling quite attached to them. This is confusing. Anger, despair and love are not mutually exclusive, and a person can be totally caught up in this drama and not be able to take action.

3) Not knowing what you want or even need while at the same time trying to provide others with what they want and need.

What then is the reward for codependency? Usually it is tied up with avoiding fear, sadness or emptiness.. Also, obsession with another person can be a drug-like escape when one feels trapped in one’s current situation.

The good news is that codependency is a habit, and habits can be broken. If you are wondering if you are codependent, then you have already taken the first step to changing your life. Feel free to contact me, or check out CODA (CODA.org). If a loved one is involved in substance abuse, contact Al-Anon (Alanon.org). Your suffering for someone else can start to end today.

Is Someone You Know Mentally Ill?

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Discovering that someone you love has a mental illness can feel awful. It may seem as though the person you have known has gone away and someone you don’t really know has taken their place.

Being around someone who is mentally ill may even cause you to doubt your own sanity. Anger, loneliness and shame may haunt you, as well as questions like is their problem a mental or physical illness? Is your behavior driving them crazy? Can trying harder to help bring your loved one back?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, known as NAMI, is a great resource for the families and friends of mentally ill loved ones: https://www.nami.org/

NAMI’s website offers a list of symptoms that someone you know may be mentally ill. A few of these that I have seen from my practice are:

  • Excessive worrying or fear

  • Feeling excessively sad or low

  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” - euphoria

  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people

  • Changes in sex drive

  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs

  • Thinking about suicide

If you are having doubts about someone in your life, please get support for yourself to sort out what is going on for you and what steps you can take. Don’t wait for the mentally ill person to get help first. They may not have the insight or willingness to see what they are doing to themselves and those who love them.

What is Maturity?

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Maturity

Eleanor Roosevelt's book "You Learn by Living" has a chapter on maturity.  Below is a paragraph from that chapter that I think nicely sums up maturity:

 "One must be willing to have knowledge of oneself.  You have to be honest with yourself.  You must try to understand truthfully what makes you do things or feel things.  Until you have been able to face the truth about yourself you cannot be really sympathetic or understanding in regard to what happens to other people.  But it takes courage to face yourself and to acknowledge what motivates you in the things you do."

How true!  Especially the part about courage.  But with courage comes contentment, and that is the best present you can give yourself.