In Honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

In times like these, as our country struggles with backwards-looking leaders and divisive politics, Dr. Martin Luther King's example of persistent, non-violent change is needed more than ever in this world.

As it was in the 60’s it is now. We must know who we are beyond the false and destructive politics of identity and exclusivity that limit our viability as a species. If we allow our value to be determined by external factors such as race, ethnicity and social class, we will never know our own humanity and will not know peace.

As a therapist, I believe that when individuals face the truth about themselves, even when it is unpleasant, it makes our world a safer place.. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, take a moment to remember that as humans we all want the same opportunities and the same peace in this world. It may not seem like much, but it is the truth.

Codependency and Anger

A brief definition of codependency is someone who tries to take care care of adults who actually should be taking care of themselves. By this definition, they will grow more and more angry because this is an impossible task. Yet they may not even realize they are angry!

To others, codependency is unlovely. The codependent person may talk as though they are put upon. They may snipe and complain about other people to the extent that others wonder what is being said behind their back. Codependents want to control things that are not always theirs to control. And when a codependent person's anger oozes out sideways, no one wants to get too close!

However, the codependent person may think of themselves as a nice person who is not consciously angry at all. They feel that other people are disappointing them and although this might make them feel depressed and anxious, or affect their self-esteem, they don’t feel anger. They feel disappointed because they try so hard to be helpful to unappreciative people.

Anger is often suppressed by codependent people. If their anger was faced head on, major changes in the way they think about and organize their lives would be in order. So irritable outbursts are soon forgotten. If anger does boils over, guilt and fear follow because they don’t want to risk pushing away or harming someone they care about. Its a tough life.

The good news is codependency is that it is a habit, not a character disorder. It may be deeply ingrained but it can be unlearned with the right tools and the right kind of support. If you suspect that you or someone you care about may be codependent, call me today. The journey away from this self-destructive - but reversible - habit is always worth it!

Are You a Procrastinator?

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Putting things off doesn’t feel as good as one might hope. This is because the defenses used in procrastination, such as numbing and denial, kill the fun you might get out of avoiding doing something unpleasant. Plus, when you eventually have to do the thing you avoided, there is so little time left that high anxiety or even panic ensues in order to get it done. Your end product will not be as good as it could have been.

If you are struggling with procrastination, please know it is a habit, and that like any habit, it can be broken. Part of getting rid of this of this self-debilitating habit is examining what might be driving it. Some common reasons people develop the habit of procrastination include:

  1. Perfectionism – the fear of things not coming out the way that you plan.

  2. Fear of Failure – of making decisions you might regret.

  3. Authoritarian parents – Attachment theory postulates that adults who had authoritarian parents often resist outside regulation, while at the same time not having much of a sense of internal control either.

  4. Self-esteem issues – the feeling that what you do doesn’t really matter and that you can’t change it anyway.

  5. Depression and/or anxiety - either of these can make focusing on difficult tasks feel impossible.

Creating an awareness of why you developed the habit of procrastination in the first place can be a first step to moving away from it. In my next blog I will talk about an approach to ending this habit. So stay tuned!

How To Feel Comfortable About Yourself

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If you are comfortable with your own self, you will also find yourself being much more comfortable with your family, friends and coworkers. Mark Twain once said, “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself”.

Here are four ways of becoming more comfortable with yourself:

1) Take care of your body. Eat, sleep and exercise in a conscious and consistent way. You will see a big difference in two weeks.

2) Remember times in the past when you have been content and things have gone well. Everyone has a share of sorrow in their lives, but no one has to stay there. If past negativity refuses to leave your thoughts, it is time to talk to someone safe about your thoughts or see a therapist.

3) Set goals and fulfill them. Taking care of business will help you to feel good! Even if it is just making a list of minor things that need to be done, crossing them off your list will give moments to experience your own competency.

4) By all means, go inward. Take time to contemplate, journal, take a walk, or otherwise focus you on you instead of others. This is the fastest and easiest way to become more comfortable with yourself.

Whatever you do, remember to focus on the present moment. In this way you will not regret the past or have anxiety about the present. Give yourself permission to focus entirely on what is right in front of you today and you will feel better now.

When Working Too Hard Feels Normal

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Careers can fill dimensions in one's life that they were never intended to fill. When this happens, other parts of one's life begin to suffer. If this continues, burnout will ensue because work will be done with less and less heart, spirit, time, clarity and sense of self worth.

Anxiety and avoidance and even depression are common signs that one is putting too much emphasis on work. Someone struggling with overworking may try to find relief through diversions such as going on an overdue vacation, buying things or even drinking too much. Diversions may seem to help, but when the novelty wears off, work is waiting and so is that exhausted and “hollowed out” feeling at the end of the day.

By utilizing professional support, one can begin to see the roots of the problem. For instance, was anxiety or high achievement prominent in one's family growing up? Is one's home life unhappy or even non-existent? Does one's depression have a biochemical component? Or is the job basically so demanding that any reasonable person would have to work too hard?

Getting support for working too hard outside of one's work environment is a good idea. Many employers tend to reward overworking - that is until the person becomes so negative and exhausted that they become a liability.

Other tools for coping with overworking may include 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.

Feel free to call me if you would like to discuss how your job might be getting the better of you.

Inner Worth

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It can be easy to lose touch with one's inner worth. Indeed, some people live their entire lives never experiencing what they are worth, and believing they are less than they are.

When a person becomes lost in the people, places and things around them, it drains one's capacity to find inner worth. No amount of outer worthiness – not social capital, a respected career or all the money in the world – can create inner worthiness or its corollary self-esteem. That is because self-esteem flows from a sense of inner worth, not the other way around.

A sense of self is developed through learning to use tools designed to cultivate it. A few of these are:

1) Down time, meditation, getting away, contemplation and spiritual practice.

2) Therapy, keeping a journal and deep conversations with oneself. Listening to oneself.

3) Respecting one's body - for instance, being moderate with alcohol or drugs or stopping them altogether, eating right, sleeping right and exercising.

If you are afraid of finding out who you really are, that is understandable. But few spectacular opportunities ever comes to a person who doesn’t get to know themselves. Find the support you need to begin to get a sense of the most important parts of yourself – the inner worth you were born with.

When Change is Unwelcomed

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Change is often unwelcome even after it has already made itself a guest in your life.  Change can cause one to feel helpless, confused and unprepared.  The voice that says you cannot face what must be faced is the voice of fear.  You can do what needs to be done, although it is so much easier if you don't try to do it all alone.

The great psychiatrist Viktor Frankel who survived a Nazi concentration camp once said:

"Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, and by doing so change himself."

Every change has a seed of positive growth in it, no matter how it may feel today.

Happy New Year!

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In this New Year, right now, all things are possible.  So why not prepare ourselves for a revelation?  A revelation is defined as a new disclosure, especially one with surprising or valuable information. 

A new year gives us a moment to look up, to see the world anew, to invite new intention and blessings.  Is is a time to put the woes that stifle insight and new meanings on a shelf in your closet.

If you want to know what you should do, or to set a new goal, or see things in a different light, be on the lookout for revelation by living in the present moment today.  Never give up hope - more will be revealed!

Happy New Year, 

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT


Winter Solstice Poem by Robert Frost

In Honor of the Darkness

In Honor of the Darkness

Winter Solstice is this Friday. In honor of the quiet joy of deepening Winter, I offer my annual poem by Robert Frost:


Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

 

My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   

 

He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.   

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.



Why I am Grateful to be a Therapist

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I am grateful to be a therapist. It is my second career – I used to work for IBM. As financially rewarding and safe as that was, it was no calling. Then my life was changed by a chance comment.

I heard that San Francisco State University had a graduate program to meet the requirements of becoming a therapist. Perhaps because until that moment I had no idea how one became a therapist, I had never pictured doing it - but once did, I jumped into the field with both feet.

2018 means I have had the pleasure to spend 18 years in this fulfilling work. Here are a few of the reasons why I love being a clinical therapist:

I support clients to feel better and make positive changes in their lives.

I watch people find hope and personal power.

I support people's efforts to both give and receive love.

If you are not in a career that you love, keep looking! Finding that career can make a huge difference in your life - and in the lives of others.

Holiday Blues

Holiday Blues

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“I'll have a Blue Christmas without you
I'll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won't be the same dear, if you're not here with me. . .”

Many people find themselves dwelling on memories of those who have gone from our lives during the holiday season. Especially if you are lonely, troubled or far away from those you love, December can be a time of sadness and grief. Watching others enjoy their holidays can make this feeling even more intense.

Remembering the past is not necessarily bad – its how the past is remembered. Here are a few ways to make those memories work for you instead of against you.

1) Try to experience gratitude for the memory of the person you miss having been in your life. Carry them inside you in a more positive way. Most likely, they would like you to remember them fondly and gratefully.

2) Refocus on those who have been good to you this year. It is easy to not acknowledge those whom we see us every day. Make a point to let others know you appreciate them.

3) Treat yourself extra special. Remember what makes you happy, and what makes you feel peaceful.

4) Think about your focus in the new year. This is a way to help dig your mind out of the past. New goals, ideas, plans – these have a life of their own.

5) If you are really still hurting, just grieve. But make sure you share it with supportive friends and/or relatives. All people have the capacity to relate to loss, especially around the holidays. If no one is available to talk to and you are feeling trapped in sadness, please call a therapist or other healthcare professional.

Seasonal Sadness

Seasonal Affective Disorder is Real!

Seasonal Affective Disorder is Real!

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is serious. It is most common this time of year, as the light leaves our hemisphere. It shows up with symptoms like being excessively tired, not sleeping well, feeling blue, depressed or sluggish. If you already have a mood disorder, it can be made worse.

Sometimes SAD can become so intense that it can lead to full blown depression, excessive anxiety, suicidal thoughts or a bipolar episode. So if you have notice that you are struggling with the darkness this coming Winter, don't take it for granted that your feelings will just go away! Talk to a professional.

Although the holidays themselves can contribute to feeling melancholy or blue, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a separate issue. I will address holiday blues in next week's blog. In the meantime, feel free to call me is you suspect you may be dealing with S.A.D.

Am I Telling Myself the Truth about Me?

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Are you being much harsher on yourself than you need to be? This is a common problem for many people and it leads to thinking that limits one’s capacity to enjoy life.

Below are a few other examples of what not being truthful about yourself looks like:

1) Believing you lack the talent, intelligence or emotional capacity to handle the task in front of you - when a person does not apply for a better job, shrinks from setting boundaries with someone or from learning something new, they are failing before trying.

2) Letting negative emotions such as depression or anxiety foreclose your capacity to see creative solutions to life’s problems - there is a difference between facts and feelings. Feelings may not be facts.

3) Avoiding seeing the truth out of fear - this can have very serious consequences. Having feelings can’t kill you, but not having them actually can!

Self honesty is the best way to become a grounded, productive and happy human being. So take the time to tell yourself the truth about your situation today. If the truth seems too overwhelming, please seek support from someone you can trust to listen to you, or talk to a therapist or other professional.

How to Find Peace Between the Holidays

Regeneration

Regeneration

With Thanksgiving now past, this is a good time to pause and be focused on the work you have to do today. By doing a good job at this very moment, you will give yourself a chance to recharge your batteries before the weeks of holidays ahead.

All you really have to do today – or any day - is make a good job out of what is right in front of you! Do so and find peace in the present moment.

Difficult Relatives on Thanksgiving Day, Part III

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Happy Thanksgiving! Here are your final three tips for dealing with difficult friends and relatives on your holiday:

1) After a little while with family and friends old unhealthy patterns often emerge. Don't be codependent based on past dealings with your relatives. Don't expect others to take care of you. And don't let others make you take care of them. Unless you are dealing with an actual child, treat the other person with the kind of respect you would give an adult coworker or friend. If someone tries to make you act codependent, take a break from them or even stay elsewhere.

2) Are you truly listening? Listen to your friends and relatives, even when what they say seems dull or annoying. Don't interrupt. When they have completely finished what they want to say, ask them if it is ok to repeat back what you just heard for your own clarification if you need it. If you do this, your experience of them will be greatly enhanced.

3) Don't confuse fighting with caring, as is done in many family gatherings. This negative form of “caring” easily becomes ugly and can even create family cut-offs. Deliberately find ways to be more positive with your relatives and friends, or step aside until you can see how to do better do this.

It is my hope that you will make some good Thanksgiving memories with those you care about. So no matter what others do or don't do, decide to act differently and be creative about finding ways to enjoy yourself during this special time of the year.

Dealing with Difficult Relatives: Thanksgiving Week, Part II

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Now that family and friends may be traveling far and wide to be together, it is time to look at a couple more ways to keep the peace and make good memories this Thanksgiving. These are:

1) Understand that a difficult relative or family friend may have no idea they are impinging on you. When people just want to feel important, are acting unconsciously, are drinking or just not feeling well, they tend to cross boundaries without even knowing it. Decide to believe that this is true and don't react.

2) Decide ahead of time that you would rather get along with your loved ones than engage in drama. Stay true to what you want the relationship to look like. Chances are good that if you do not respond to their negativity that you can win them over. Kindness is the fastest way to end a drama.

More tips are coming – if Thanksgiving day is difficult, check back on November 22. I will have three more tips for you then.

Dealing with Difficult Relatives Part I

When you get lemons. . .

When you get lemons. . .

Difficult relatives tend to emerge as Thanksgiving draws near. Many who expect to see extended family do so with trepidation. Sometimes, the people they are supposed to love are coming from a place of discomfort, anger or pain. Sometimes they drink too much, or abuse substances.

Over the next week and a half, I will be offering tips on how do get along better with your more difficult relatives. Here are my first three:

1) Remember that most of the reason they are upset has little to nothing to do with you. Their feelings and the thoughts that arise from them are creating a version of reality that is inaccurate. It is not you, even if you did have a cameo role in the drama they are creating. It is not personal.

2) If you go into the holidays thinking you somehow deserve to feel slighted, you will be. Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Don't let another person dictate your sense of self-esteem.

3) Feeling disliked stings. It is hard to not retaliate when someone seems to deliberately want to misunderstand and even hurt you! Do your best to not respond if you are emotionally reeling from a verbal attack, a nasty silence or show of contempt. Give both yourself and the other person time to back down.

Do your best to enjoy your holiday, and stay tuned for more tips on dealing with difficult family members as Thanksgiving season progresses!


Quiet Desperation

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“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”

- Henry Thoreau, Walden

This alarming sentence still applies today. When having a “good” job is seen as the goal of adulthood, it is easy to close other doors to one's full humanity and become unbalanced. Other occupations of one’s time can also leave one lonely - being too much of a caregiver, being unemployed or disabled, or enduring a destructive relationship.

To start to move away from “quiet desperation,” one needs to discover what else is important at the core of one's identity. For instance, how important is it for you to expand the relational, physical, spiritual and social side of life? Is there something else you would rather do to make a living, whether or not friends or family approve? Is there an interest that makes it worth while to go back to school? What is really important in life?

Keeping the universal aspects of one's humanity open for exploration is step one toward creating a balanced, happy life. Having the courage to explore what is essential puts one on the path to deep contentment.

Write in a journal about each aspect of what is essential to you. Talk these over with friends. Make plans to infuse the neglected aspects of your life. Even if they seem impractical, they will manifest down the line.

No one should have to lead an empty life.

Feeling Desperate?

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Desperation brings many people to therapy because their efforts seem not good enough in a seemingly hopeless situation. Desperate people make bad decisions most of the time. They just want to relieve the relentless anxiety and pressure to do something, and it backfires. Desperation can lead to things like ending a relationship, quitting work or moving across country without really having a plan. In the worst case, suicidal thoughts arise out of desperation.

If you are feeling desperate you actually do have options that you temporarily cannot see. Stop trying to fix what is broken. Being desperate puts you in a tight-fitting box and you can see only a little of the whole picture through the slats. Here are three ways to start to defuse desperation:

1) Don't do anything right away. The feeling that you need to do something now is usually not true. Wait 24 hours and your situation will look different.

2) Do your best. If it doesn't work, walk away peacefully because you have done what you can. This is the basis of humility. Don't give in to pride as it will lead you right back to desperation. Go inward and look at what you really need. Step out of the story of what others have done.

3) Don't let yourself continue to lead a life of “quiet desperation” focusing on people, places and things as a way to avoid your problems. If your best effort has led to your feeling desperate, then you probably need to find a therapist, mentor, spiritual leader or trusted friend to help you to go inward.

And please know you can contact me today for a free 15 minute consultation today to look at your options for getting out of your own way. Because no one should have to feel desperate.

Impostor Syndrome

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Impostor Syndrome creates a life of anxiety and stress in those who have it. It is exhausting! People who have it often report having symptoms like the following:

- Being uncomfortable with praise, promotion or being singled out for positive attention

- The feeling that making a mistake means you are not good enough

- People pleasing

- Not standing up for yourself when it would be appropriate

- Fear of rejection even when people seem to like you

- Feeling invisible

Our society frequently rewards people for being someone they are not, and in some families, wearing a mask is a pragmatic survival mechanism. But for people with Impostor Syndrome, the need to stay masked, even from oneself, runs deep.  Here are three tools that can help free one from this debilitating syndrome:

1) Acknowledge your own specific symptoms. Write them down and be aware that they are just stories and not real. Seeing them as symptoms will give you more clarity in choosing how you decide to think. act and feel.

2) Do something small every day to counteract Impostor Syndrome. Huge change all at once will probably be too much. Small measured steps work best.

3) Talk to someone who knows you well and has your back. Or speak with a mentor that you trust or a professional therapist. Talking about what is going on will help you to develop the resiliency that is needed for you to really start to be yourself.

Impostor Syndrome need not be a permanent condition. Get the support you need to go inward so you can begin to develop the strength to be your true self. By doing so, your life will become happier and much less stressful.