Codependency and Anger

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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!

Three Things to Consider When Starting Therapy

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Therapy can bring positive changes to a person's life that last a lifetime. Here are three suggestions to help make your decision a more powerful and meaningful.

First, consider if you really have to want to change whatever is causing you pain. You might think, "Well, of course I do!” But it is not that clear cut. Are you willing to look at the ways you have coped with difficult situations that are not really working for you? This can be a little scary! You may find that habitual ways of seeing the world, while unproductive and satisfying, are still familiar and comfortable. Do you want to give these up?

My second suggestion is that you be willing to be frank with your therapist and most importantly to yourself. How do you think you have gotten to the place you are in today? How are feelings affecting the quality of your life? Who in your past has shaped the way you see the world? Questions like these can have many layers of truth. You may not be able to immediately understand how you tick, but the importance elements of your story will reveal themselves to you at the right time. A good therapist will be sensitive to your pace. You may discover that letting someone truly know you can be not only a major relief, but a turning point in your life.

Thirdly, spend some time finding the right therapist to work with. Is the therapist you contact willing to talk to you on the phone first to help you decide if their personality, training and style feel like a good fit for you? Do they seem kind? Can they listen? After a session, do you leave a therapist's office feeling better than when you walked in? Trust grows from a good relationship, and therapy is about being very real.


When therapy works, it is a powerful healing tool that allows you to see beyond your present circumstances. It can be an experience that not only enlivens your thinking and feeling, but gives one the kind of hope, clarity and connectedness you need to live life more fully. Therapy is a unique relationship like none other, and trust grows when therapy feels right.

When Life Seems Like a Series of Unfortunate Events - 3 Tips

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Sometimes life can feel like a trap, due to a to a series of unfortunate events that can seem endless. Sometimes there is a theme to the events and at other times the events can feel totally random.

The biggest symptom of this state is that life can begin to feel like a swamp to be slogged through every day. Sometimes it can feel like depression, and sometimes it actually is depression. At times, this state is totally circumstantial, such as when one is experiencing profound grief, loss or illness. But what matters most is that it feels the same.

Here are three tips to help you to get through life's unfortunate events:

1)  Think about other times in your life when you were discouraged.  How long did they last?  How did you resolve things, or did time just sort them out for you?

2)  Detach.  Step back from the “story” you and others may be telling about what is going on. There is a bigger picture.  In Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" the most sticky and uncomfortable of journeys ultimately were challenges that led to profound personal growth.

3)  Don't be alone in the slog.  Talk to friends, see a therapist, go to self-help meetings or if you have a spiritual path, follow it more closely.  Suffering is lessened from something as simple as talking to another person.

To you in Your Journey,

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT 36764


Why Alcoholic Mothers Don't Get Sober

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Drinking mothers often don’t realize they are damaging their children. In fact, they are two-and-a-half times less likely to go to a treatment facility because they believe their children need them at home. This distortion is due in large part to alcoholic denial and also the need to feel in control of their lives.

When an alcoholic mother does get sober and realizes how her drinking has affected her children she faces a very painful guilt. Also, her children realize the rules have changed and frequently they will begin acting out. At this point she may also lack a stable adult relationship. People leave alcoholic women - in much greater numbers than they leave alcoholic men.

Early recovery is a time for self-care as well as self-absorption. This makes having kids around even more difficult. So when a mother's emotions, such as anger, remorse, sadness and loneliness become unmanageable, they can become triggers for relapse. For all these reasons and more, it can be very difficult for mothers to get and stay sober.

If you know of an alcoholic mother, or were raised by one, please feel free to give me a call. No situation is truly hopeless, and there is no pain that cannot be lessened.

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT



What to do When Anxiety About Work is Ruining Your Life

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Anxiety manifests at work as trying to get everything perfect to the point where one ends up burnt out - doing more and more with less and less heart, spirit, time, clarity or sense of self worth. It takes a toll on one's performance at work, creating an exhausted and “hollowed out” feeling by the end of the day. And it can be ruinous for one’s personal relationships.

Anxiety is almost always the cause of overworking. The temporary relief one receives from of having worked too hard is a temporary lessening of anxiety. But the anxiety will return, and overwork will become an ingrained habit that will eventually lead to even deeper problems and even more anxiety.

To end the self-defeating loop of anxiety and overwork, you may need to work with an expert who can offer you solutions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness therapy or help one to develop life-work balance. These approaches have a good track record because they get at the root of the problem - anxiety.

By utilizing professional support, one can begin to see the why of the problem. For instance, was anxiety a part of one's family growing up? Does one's anxiety have a biochemical component? Is the job basically so demanding that any reasonable person would develop anxiety?

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 habitual anxiety, the first step is to realize that anxiety is the cause of the problem, and overworking is the symptom. Then follow that anxiety back to its sources and start there.

Regards, Cheryl Deaner LMFT#36764

Codependency - The Dark Side of Kindness

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Being nice is not the same as being kind. Here are common examples of “being nice” that are not kind but are actually codependent:

  • Being nice to someone at your own psychological expense

  • Taking at least partial blame for something that is not your fault to avoid conflict

  • Being nice in order to manipulate someone into doing what you want.

  • Taking care of someone who should be taking care of themselves

Kindness is altogether different from niceness. It springs from being kind to yourself, which puts you in a much better position to be kind to others.

Here are examples of being kind to yourself:

  • Acknowledging what your gut says is true about others

  • Setting boundaries with people who want more of you than you have to give them

  • Not letting an adult form the habit of being dependent on you

  • Spending more time with people you like and less with those who are draining.

Often, codependency starts in childhood or from a lack of self-esteem from tough experiences later in life. Almost everyone has been touched by its brush, some more than others.

If you feel yourself slipping into doing something you really don't want to do with someone, step back. Feel your feelings, then set them aside and make a decision in a kind yet truthful way. You will not only feel better about yourself, but you will actually be more respectful to the other person.

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT

Photo of My New Noe Valley Office

This is a picture of my new San Francisco therapy office. Located in Noe Valley, I am now seeing clients there on Sundays and Mondays.  Tuesday through Thursday I am still seeing clients in Emeryville.

My return to Noe Valley came about in an unexpected way. A dear colleague and friend of mine passed away unexpectedly in the Summer. After a sad and somewhat challenging period of helping to close her therapy practice on 24th Street, I realized how much I missed my clients, friends and colleagues on this side of the Bay.

When I come to San Francisco, I still miss my dear friend, but am also grateful to have the opportunity to practice again in Noe Valley.


Sincerely,

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT

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How to Deal With Stress and Anxiety

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It takes a lot of courage to face life when you feel anxious. Anxiety is a response to fear that may be external (for instance, lay offs at work) or created in your mind (like expecting way too much from yourself). As a result, the weight of the world is on your shoulders.

What's worse, chronic anxiety may feel normal to you. Many people live with anxiety for years and think its just how life is. Life doesn't have to be so hard!

Here are six signs that you may be dealing with chronic, debilitating stress and anxiety:

  • Your closest relationships are difficult

  • You have a hard time focusing

  • You experience sleep disturbances

  • You feel “revved up” at the wrong times

  • You always feel like you should be doing something better

  • You have experienced a panic attack, or fear that you soon will.

If you have three or more of these symptoms, you probably suffer from chronic anxiety. Here are three highly-recommended ways to deal with this life-sucking condition:

  1. Find coping tools. Go on social media and put in “dealing with anxiety” to see ways people do this. But just finding tools usually isn’t enough.

  2. Talk to someone safe about your thinking. It is a hallmark of anxiety that the story in your head is far worse than the reality of your situation. Having someone hear about your anxiety can help you to get a perspective.

  3. Invest in getting to know yourself. Make the time to go deeper than you have in the past into who you really are and why you relate to your family, friends, coworkers the way you do.

    An examined life is not a wasted life! Self-help books, 12 step programs, psychotherapy, spiritual paths, harm reduction workshops and other life-balancing efforts may take time, but they can be super effective in changing the entire course of your life to a more peaceful and balanced state.

Warmly, Cheryl Deaner, LMFT

You Don't Have to Face Life All Alone

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The voice of loneliness and doubt speaks to everyone. It is the one that says, “if people only knew how you felt…what you did…who you really are”.

This is the voice that makes people pull away from getting the support they need right when they need it the most. It says that suffering alone is better than revealing one’s pain to someone - especially to someone you know! And sometimes there is not a safe person. Or perhaps your friends and family have already listened as much as they can, and you don’t want to burden them further.

In times like these, you need a supportive person who can help you to feel better as soon as possible. If you are feeling this way today, please call me to see if therapy might be right for you. No one should have to do it all alone.

Regards, Cheryl Deaner, LMFT#36764

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Open Yourself to Change - It is Your 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.

Regards, Cheryl Deaner, LMFT #36764

How Do You Talk To Yourself?

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A person can easily be much more negative towards themselves than anyone else could.  The human mind is built to try to solve problems, to notice when things are not right to remember negative outcomes.  People have do a lot of very critical thinking in order to feel safe.  Unfortunately this and lead to talking to oneself in a harsh way.

Accepting that this is true is the first step toward being nicer to oneself.  Most self-criticism is overblown or unnecessary and is often the result of a lifetime of programming.  For instance, if your parents said you were not good at math repeatedly, this idea will bob up in your mind every time any sort of transaction involving math comes up, which can be several times a day.  Even if you are actually adequate in math, you would still habitually believe otherwise.

Learning to replace negative thoughts with positive ones is a process that can start immediately, but which usually takes time.  This is ok - trying to change overnight often leads to relapse.  Practicing letting go of one's negativity with rational, positive thought will eventually win the day. 

Blessings,  Cheryl Deaner, LMFT 36764

Are You Lucky - or Do You Create Your Own Luck?

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The instructions to become lucky are simple.  However, the will to follow them can be weak due to fear and inertia.  So decide to embrace them with hope and firm belief that you have volition over your thoughts.  Here goes:

To find more luck, see what is right in front of you with optimism and gratitude.  Live in the present moment, not the past or future, and make your luck there.

 If you see something that looks like bad luck, decide that it is a precursor to a new direction, a clearing out of presumptions about the course of your life.  Misfortune can easily lead to positive growth.  

Good Luck Today!

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT 36764

What Does it Mean to Be Independent?

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I do not believe being independent is the opposite of being dependent.  I think it is acting from one's deepest sense of self.  This means giving up the inner negativity that can dwell within a person's mind throughout a lifetime, starting with one's earliest caretakers all the way up to one's current friends and colleagues.

Peace and joy can be found in independence that cannot be bought with money, status or worldly power.  What's more, anyone can access it with persistence and patience.  

Warmly, Cheryl Deaner, LMFT 36764

Patience

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As I get older I hold patience with more and more respect. Patience is a virtue connected to many feelings, such as hope and forgiveness, and a lack of it is evident in frustration and despair.  It is the antithesis of reactivity and self-sabotage.

Patience is something anyone can practice anytime, because patience saves time and energy. It enhances one's relationship with oneself and with others. It is a sign of self-respect. Practice patience in the smallest things you do today, and you will have a better outcome all week long.

Warm Regards,  Cheryl Deaner, LMFT#36764

 

How Thought Stopping can Help Change You for the Better

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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 think other thoughts or change what you are doing. Try it!  

A lot of people feel they cannot do this simple thing.  But it is not true in most cases.  Habit is behind a lot of painful and intrusive thoughts.  You can chose not to pay attention to a particular thought that wants to play in the field of your mind.

Unhappy thinking occurs with your mind is in a rut. You know you are in a rut with your thinking when there is never a clear answer to a problem, and when your friends and family are not as sympathetic or patient as they once were.  But just as you got into a rut through repetition, refusing to think certain thoughts can get you out of it in most cases.

Finally, not all problems can be solved through a technique like thought stopping.  If you have a problem that is so painful or disturbing that you are not able to stop thinking about it, you may want to try counseling or therapy.  A supportive trained professional can give you the tools to move much more quickly through hard or intrusive thoughts.

Regards, Cheryl Deaner, LMFT 36764

Unwanted Change

Change is often unwelcome even after it has settled into being a long-term guest in your life.  Change can cause one to feel helpless, confused and unprepared.  But the voice that says you cannot face it is the voice of fear.  You absolutely can do what needs to be done, although it is much harder if you try to do it all alone.

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Victor Frankel, the great psychiatrist and survivor of a Nazi death camp, once said:

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

I believe that all change can be transformed if you are willing to work for it.

Feel free to call me anytime,

Cheryl Deaner, LMFT#36764

Everyday Choices

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We each have thousands of choices to make each day.  If each choice we make is like a drop of rain, over time those choices become the streams, lakes and oceans that determine the course of our lives.  It is really that simple.  What we do today creates the flow of our lives, and there is always a right or less-right choice to make.

Luckily, one of the choices we also have is to not always have to make those choices alone.  Life has many great teachers, leaders, friends and well-wishers if we are open to them.   If we are willing to accept the support of others when we aren't sure what is best, we will go far.

Good Luck, Cheryl Deaner, LMFT 36764  

Comparing Yourself to Others

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A friend told me at breakfast today about her amazing charitable work in the world - it was global in scope and when she left I was tempted to compare it to my local daily life and find mine wanting.  This is a very common theme for many people I see - how one's sense of worthiness can be internally challenged by news of other people's stories and events.  

Lucky for me, another friend at the table and realized how I was feeling.  He asked what it was that I did do with my time, and as I explained it, I was able to focus on the positive activities I do everyday but find easy to ignore. 

It is so easy to compare oneself to others!  I will never be able to keep up the globe-trotting pace of my friend, but what I do, including offering my support to her activities, affects many.  

We all have a place in the interconnected web of life.  It is our job, our dharma, to maintain our own thread of the web.  Think of all the things you DO do in the world, not what someone else does, and you will feel a lot more comfortable with yourself.

Warmly, Cheryl Deaner, LMFT 36764