Skeptical About Couples Therapy? 3 Things You Should Know

Is couples therapy actually going to work?

As a couples therapist, I hear this question a lot. And it’s a valid question. When couples come to therapy, they are usually in pain and in search of relief. If I had a painful illness and the doctor prescribed treatment, my first question would be, “Is this going to work?”

When I was introduced to emotionally focused couples therapy (EFT), I was relieved to learn of this established method, with a science behind helping couples. And it works. Research shows that EFT helps 70% of couples recover from marital distress. Ninety percent of couples report significant improvements. If I were sitting in a doctor’s office with an illness and was told treatment had a 90% success rate, I would feel relieved.

3 things to know about couples therapy in Grant ParkBut despite the success rate of the approach, it is still normal to have some reservations about couples therapy. Before you knock it, though, I recommend learning more about the process. As a marriage counselor, these are some of my thoughts about three of the common reasons people are resistant to couples therapy.

1. People can’t change.

We are who we are, right? In couples therapy, I’m not seeking to change anyone. I’m not trying to help anyone change their personality or their partner. I’m seeking to change the dynamics of the relationship. An EFT therapist helps couples understand and meet each other’s needs in effective ways.

These needs, which EFT therapists call attachment needs, already exist in each person. We aren’t changing a person to create these needs, since they are already a part of each partner. But often these needs go unacknowledged. In other cases, partners attempt to get their needs met in ways that prove ineffective. In EFT therapy, therapists simply help each partner access their emotions and needs in a way that helps them bond. In other words, we are pulling out emotions and needs that already exist but are often covered up with reactivity. We are helping decode this reactivity in order to understand the feelings and needs underneath. By doing this, we can help both partners engage with each other in ways that help them both feel close and connected.

2. My partner won’t do the work.

EFT is not about going home and doing “homework.” In fact, change occurs in the session. Experts have studied the process of change and determined the specific change needed for events to occur. An EFT couples therapist knows these change events and can guide the sessions to help create them. These events help change the way partners view each other and the relationship, which can bring about organic change in the relationship.

When these change events occur, couples can shift from feeling distant and disconnected to feeling safe, secure, and connected. When couples feel more connected, reactivity can naturally change and soften outside of the session. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go home and try new things, such as planning more date nights or learning new communication tools. It just means the success of therapy doesn’t depend on doing “homework.” In EFT couples therapy, doing the work simply means showing up to the session and engaging in the process.

3. There is too much hurt.

Couples who seek out therapy have often engaged in a series of hurtful behaviors. One or both partners may have felt hurt by the actions of the other. Sometimes, this pain can feel overwhelming. Couples may have engaged in such a negative cycle that they have been unsuccessful in repairing these hurts on their own. The hurt has happened, and the unsuccessful attempts to resolve the hurt often only exacerbate the pain.

EFT therapists work to help couples dismantle their negative cycle so hurts can finally be felt, shared, heard, and healed. Most importantly, the way EFT therapists guide the conversations in therapy allows the emotions from these hurts to be shared in a way that bonds and connects couples. So yes, hurts can actually help bond a couple—when they are dealt with properly.

HOW DOES CHANGE OCCUR IN COUPLES THERAPY?
Jill and Paul came into therapy after years of feeling disconnected. During sessions, Jill described to the couples therapist their nightly routine: Paul retreated to his home office after dinner, while she would watch TV alone in her bedroom. Jill explained that despite her getting upset and angry at Paul for how much he worked, the pattern of loneliness continued. “He doesn’t care about how I feel. He only cares about his work,” Jill concluded.

The therapist helped Paul and Jill unpack the dynamics that led to these familiar lonely nights. The therapist helped Jill shift out of her anger and talk about her sadness regarding their distance. From there, Jill was able to express her desire to feel close and connected to Paul. Jill shared, with sadness, her belief that Paul hid away in his office at night because he wanted to get away from her.

With the therapist’s help, Paul was able to talk about his experience. He shared how through the years, Jill’s angry comments made him feel rejected. As their cycle repeated over and over again, he came to the conclusion that he wasn’t able to give her what she needed. He also explained his feeling that anything he says when Jill is upset only makes things worse. He shared how he wished he knew what could make her happy and that he has started to worry that maybe he doesn’t make her happy anymore. So instead of doing or saying something that may make the situation worse, he goes into his office at night.

Paul’s explanation helped Jill see that Paul pulled away from her not because he didn’t care, but rather, because he cared so much about protecting their relationship that he didn’t want to make things worse.

Many change events that occurred in therapy ultimately helped Jill and Paul get out of their negative cycle and create a way to communicate their needs more clearly and feel more connected to each other.

They identified the negative cycle occurring between them. They started to recognize the cycle, not each other, as the enemy or problem.
Paul was able to share his feelings of rejection and his fear that if he did anything to make things worse, Jill might decide to leave him.
Jill could see the care in Paul’s eyes as he spoke about letting her down. Her belief that “he didn’t care” started to dissipate. She recognized Paul’s retreat as his way of protecting their relationship from further damage.
Jill was able to express her desire for Paul. In the past, Jill expressed her frustrations of disconnection through anger, which Paul interpreted as rejection. Paul was able to see how upsetting it was for Jill to feel distant from him and how much she still longed for him and desired him.
Jill was able to communicate her needs for connection more clearly, being mindful of how her anger would shut him down. Paul was able to recognize her frustrations as protests against their disconnection.
Paul was able to hear Jill’s attachment need of feeling close and connected to him.
Jill was able to hear Paul’s attachment need of feeling desired by her.
Paul and Jill still found find themselves back in their familiar negative cycle at times. But as a result of the pivotal change events they experienced in therapy, they could more quickly identify the disconnecting cycle between them and find their way out.

WHEN DOES COUPLES THERAPY NOT WORK?
With all of this said, there are some factors that can inhibit therapy success. I like to be realistic with couples about the prognosis of their relationship. If any of the following factors are present, success is less likely.

Viewing problems as the fault of the partner. If you are not able or willing to look at your own contribution to the problems of the relationship, progress is limited. Couples therapy is an introspective process. It does involve looking within and understanding yourself better. Being introspective can be very difficult for some, and this can hinder the progress of couples therapy.
There is a competing attachment. If there is an active addiction or ongoing emotional or physical affair, couples therapy may not be helpful.
There is physical or emotional abuse. A couples therapist cannot create emotional safety if there is abuse present. Safety is crucial for the bonding process.
One person has checked out of the relationship. Most couples wait a long time before seeking help for their relationship. When couples have been unhappy for so long, sometimes one or both partners have checked out. However, there is still hope for re-engagement, even when this is the case—as long as both partners are willing to invest and commit to a process of reconnection.

When you are ready to start the process of couples therapy, make an appointment at my Grant Park area office.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

3 Things Your Therapist Wants You to Do Before Couples Therapy Begins

How to Survive Before Couples Therapy Begins

Suggestions to cope before therapy begins at Buckman couples therapyFrom my many years as a couples therapist, I have learned one of the most difficult phases of the work is when a couple has committed to repairing your marriage, but before the repair has begun.

It’s an important time: you and your partner have decided to go to couples therapy, so you’ve researched local counselors and booked an appointment. But your first session hasn’t happened yet and you’re still feeling distressed, disconnected, or dissatisfied.

Some models of relationship counseling have specific tasks for this stage, such as the online relationship assessment for the Prepare/Enrich program. Therapists may also have their own preferred assessment measures, such as the classic Dyadic Adjustment Scale or the newer Gottman Relationship Checkup.

But these assessments are meant to inform your therapist about where to start treatment, about the issues and dynamics contributing to conflict or distress. They don’t help you and your partner get through the days or weeks until your first appointment with any more peace or patience.

So what should you be doing? Thinking about? Paying attention to? Here are three things I ask of couples seeing me for the first time, before therapy begins:

1. PREVENT FURTHER DAMAGE
To prevent further damage, do your best to stop unhealthy patterns of interaction that are causing distress in the relationship. There has been enough conflict already. In other words, it’s important to bring your best self to every exchange so you don’t heap problems on top of problems. You’ve committed to therapy to make positive changes, and they can start right now.

For example, if you’re used to yelling at each other, preventing further damage means keeping your volume low and your tone pleasant. If you’ve been sleeping in separate rooms, preventing further damage means respecting the boundaries each of you have set to avoid distress.

2. PRIORITIZE SELF-CARE
To prioritize self-care is to choose behaviors that nourish your body and spirit. The road to relationship health through therapy may be long and difficult, so it’s important to prepare yourself mentally and physically. Prioritizing self-care means taking good care of yourself.

If you find yourself back in a familiar dance of hurt feelings, miscommunication, or bad habits, remember to prevent further damage.

Here are seven ways to be intentional about self-care:

Eat fresh, healthy foods.
Drink plenty of water.
Rest when you are tired.
Prioritize sufficient, uninterrupted sleep.
Exercise and stretch your body.
Seek joy through the arts (music, comedy, theater/movies, art).
Soak up love from supportive relationships (children, friends, family).
You may realize it’s been a while since you were intentional about caring for yourself. Don’t worry—self-care can start right now.

3. PRACTICE INTROSPECTION
No matter which theory of couples therapy your therapist is trained in—Emotionally Focused Therapy, Imago, and the Gottman Method may be the most well-known for their evidence-based practice—one of the primary ways your therapist will intervene in your distress is to help you and your partner think and feel differently about what is happening. These skills of perspective taking don’t come naturally to all of us, but there are ways to practice before therapy begins.

One way to practice introspection is to think about your experience from a new perspective. I’ve written previously about the power of therapy to shift your point of view, and the metaphor can help before therapy even begins. Ask yourself: What are the ways I understand or explain what is happening in my relationship? Are there alternative ways to understand it, even if I don’t agree with them? How does my partner explain what is happening? Are we looking at things from the balcony or the dance floor? What might I see if I look from the other perspective?

Another way to practice introspection is to become familiar with the idea of mindfulness. Yoga, guided imagery, apps like Headspace or Calm, or spending intentional time in nature are readily available ways to bring mindfulness into your life.

When you are ready to start the process of couples therapy, make an appointment at my Buckman area office.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

Regret About One’s Ideal Self Often Hurts the Most

A Counselor Can Help One Cope With Regret

Regret of the ideal self study in counseling.

Regret can be painful, even debilitating. People plagued by regret may feel guilt or shame about what could have been. They can even develop symptoms of depression or anxiety. Yet regret in life is inevitable. No one is able to live up to every goal they set.

A new study published in the journal of Emotion explores the psychological underpinnings of regret. Researchers found regret stings the most when people fail to live up to their idealized selves. Regret about duties and obligations is less painful. Although regret about one’s idealized self is often more painful, participants were less likely to take proactive steps to live up to idealized versions of themselves.

Understanding Regret

The research used six studies to survey hundreds of participants about their feelings of regret. The study draws upon the notion that there are three components of a person’s self: the actual self, the ideal self, and the ought self.

The actual self is who a person believes they are.

The ideal self is who a person wishes they were. The ideal self includes dreams for the future and goals for living up to values. It also includes traits a person wishes they had.

The ought self is who a person thinks they should be. The ought self is more focused on obligations, such as holding down a job. Regrets involve failures to live up to these duties.

Researchers asked participants what kind of regrets they had most often. Most participants (72%) listed regrets about their ideal self. Only 28% of people listed regrets about their ought self. When people were asked to name their biggest regret in life, 76% mentioned a regret about their ideal selves.

This finding suggests regrets about the ideal self may be more painful. They may also be more likely to contribute to an overall feeling of regret.

Preventing Regret

The study also found people are more likely to take steps to correct regrets related to their ought self than to their ideal self. This trend may be because ought-self regrets often involve explicit criteria. Fixing duty-related regrets can often be corrected with specific steps.  For example, if a student regrets doing poorly in class, they can resolve to raise their grade through studying.

Meanwhile, regrets involving one’s ideal self tend to be vaguer. A person may have a dream to “be adventurous” or “be a great parent.” Yet such goals rarely have a concrete way to mark success. Without a clear destination, many people wait for inspiration to guide them toward these goals. If inspiration doesn’t come, a person may let opportunities pass them by.

Fear of how the pursuit of a good life might look to others may also hold people back. That’s doubly true when there’s a conflict between a person’s ideal self and ought self. For instance, a person may wish to go on a backpacking trip with their child. But they may turn down the trip so they do not miss any work and appear “unmotivated” to colleagues. In this scenario, the person prioritizes the work duties of their ought self above the parenting dreams of their ideal self.

A trained counselor can help people cope with regret. They might help a person explore ways to build self-compassion and self-esteem. In therapy, a person can also learn goal-setting skills to help them grow into their ideal selves. Make a counseling appointment at my Portland, Oregon office.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

Posting a Daily Photo May Improve a Person’s Well-Being

Life Coaching Tip for Improving Well-Being

On Instagram, more than 1.5 million photos have been tagged #365. People use this tag when they plan to post a photo each day of the year. Taking a daily photo and posting it to social media may improve well-being, according to a new study in the journal Health.

The study says people who post about daily practices (such as writing, photography, etc.) do so as a form of self-care. This mindful commitment may improve well-being or offer greater connection to others.

Could Photography Make People Happier?

How your life can be improved with a selfie and Portland coaching.The study followed social media users for two months. Researchers gathered data on the photos people posted and the text they added to the photos. They also recorded users’ interactions with others around the photos.

Users found posting daily photos encouraged them to be mindful. Many spent time each day seeking something interesting or unusual. Some found looking for the perfect photo encouraged them to get out of their homes. Taking daily photos helped many users feel accomplished and get more exercise.

In some cases, sharing daily photos reduced loneliness. It helped users meet people with shared interests and encouraged new friendships. Sometimes communities formed around the process of sharing photos.

Social interaction around the photos often added meaning to the activity. Captions helped users communicate narratives and memories connected to the photos. Adding text to photos cultivated more mindfulness. Comments from other photographers often gave more social meaning to the photos.

Healthy Use of Photography on Social Media

Many studies have assessed the risks and benefits of regular social media use. They have shown mixed results.

A 2016 study found social media can harm mental health in certain circumstances. Users who negatively compared themselves to others were more likely to have depression.

In 2017, a report by the Royal Society for Public Health said Instagram users were more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and bullying. Yet the report also said social media can promote community involvement and self-expression.

Another 2017 study found quitting Facebook immediately lowered people’s stress levels. Yet quitting Facebook also lowered life satisfaction.

The way a person uses social media platforms may change how they affect mental health. When daily photos are a form of self-care or friendship-building, they may improve well-being. When people use social media to dwell in envy or negativity, the effects may be harmful. If you are looking for help with your day to day life, contact me for a life coaching appointment at my Portland office.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

Tips For Trying to Manage Your Anger

Coaching Tips For Anger Management

It may seem that anger is increasing everywhere you turn, whether in people around you or in the world in general.  There isn’t much you can do to change other people’s anger. But there are a few things that may help you with your own irritation or rage.

Holding on to anger can lead to emotional distress and wear a person down. If you struggle with anger, a compassionate counselor can help you address its causes and explore new coping strategies. These tips, which involve things you have control over, can also help you make a difference in your anger.

  1. Make your physical health a high priority.

Coaching tip for anger management is healthy foods.

We’ve all seen how cranky kids can get when they are hungry, tired, or have been sitting still for too long. As adults, we may be better at hiding this type of agitation, but physical discomfort still affects us. Going for long periods of time without eating, running on sleep deprivation, or sitting for hours in an office or your car, can easily lead to an irritable mood.

Eating nutritious food every three or so hours during the day, sleeping eight hours every night, and not going for more than two days without exercising are some steps you can take that can help minimize outbursts of anger.

Drugs and alcohol can also take a toll on physical health and may lower thresholds of tolerance and the ability to give others the benefit of the doubt. Avoiding these can also help you minimize anger and irritability. Taking care of your physical health can help you better about yourself, which is likely to lead to your having more generous feelings to those around you.

  1. Remember anger is a secondary reaction to fear.

Traditional anger management techniques may fail to work because they do not address the underlying cause of the anger itself. Anger is not a primary emotion. It only comes after (sometimes very, very quickly after) feelings like fear or hurt. Anger is a protective emotion. It gives us a feeling of power when we’re afraid we’re in danger. When we are afraid of being hurt, embarrassed, left, inconvenienced, taken advantage of or fired, anger may be triggered in an attempt to keep us safe.

To combat this, focus on developing coping skills for your fears. Coping skills can make controlling the subsequent anger much easier. For instance, giving yourself extra time to drive to work can help minimize the fear of being late. Learning to take yourself less seriously can provide relief from the fear of being embarrassed. Developing your self-confidence and believing you could find another job can reduce the fear of losing your current one.

Cultivate the belief you will be able to handle whatever life may bring your way. Attending individual or group therapy can help you build confidence and believe you will be able to find solutions to whatever comes along. You have handled many difficult situations in the past. You will be able to do the same in the future.

  1. Develop an attitude of gratitude.

Anger and its preceding emotion, fear, are run by the concern that something may go wrong or become out of control. One way to counter these feelings is to pay attention to what is going right in your life. Practice gratitude by taking notice of the blessings that show up every day. Keep a gratitude journal of what you’re grateful for each day. Make it a habit to comment on the unexpected pleasures or joys that happen to you, no matter how small they might be.

Some things you might notice:

  • A bill that was just a little less than you thought it would be
  • A parking space that opened up just as you arrived
  • The natural beauty of the world around you
  • Comforts in your day, such as good coffee, a delicious meal, or a good book
  • A compliment someone gave you
  • A friend or family member you are grateful to have in your life.

Practicing gratitude changes neuropathways in the brain. You can literally rewire your brain to notice what is going right with your life rather than what is going wrong. Practice complimenting yourself and others. Doing so will help you focus on what is safe and good.

Using these three techniques may help you feel calmer and more at peace. Remember to be kind to yourself. If you have long practiced responding with anger to the frustrating situations in your life, it may take some repetition to develop a new response. Commit to a calmer life. You deserve to have serenity no matter what is going on around you.

For more information on how coaching can help with your anger management, make an appointment at my Portland office.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

Coping with Loss as We Age

Life Coaching to Help Cope with Loss Through Life

Dealing with loss with life coaching in Portland.One inevitable feature of life as we age is loss. Some losses are minor; some are massive. We lose physical characteristics, abilities, and loved ones—our hair, our bone density, our eyesight, our hearing, our best friend, our spouse. These losses can lead to grief, loneliness, and despair. We may wake up in the morning with an overwhelming sadness that starts before our conscious mind is even alert, and we’re reminded of what happened, that it wasn’t just a bad dream.

VIEWING LOSS WITH REALISTIC POSITIVITY

Realistic positivity means seeing and accepting what is now—both in our inner and outer worlds—and then putting our focus on what we would love. Seeing life through the lens of realistic positivity can have a massive effect on our enthusiasm for life and interest in moving forward after loss. When we accept the truth that “the only constant is change,” and that change often entails loss, we become more resilient in the face of loss. We are open to life filling the void without our intervention, and we can proactively fill it when it doesn’t.

For example, a woman I know had fantastic hearing one day, and the next day experienced the sudden and complete loss of sound in her left ear. No doctor could bring it back. She grieved her loss—an essential part of realistic positivity is accepting “what is”—and then came to appreciate how incredible the neuroplasticity of the human brain is: Her brain “rerouted” sounds to her right ear. Losing her hearing in one ear made her realize how little she appreciated it while she had it, and it taught her not to take anything seemingly so basic for granted again.

Other times, though, we must proactively replace losses when they occur.

REPLACING THE LOSS OF A CAREER

Whether we were laid off, forced to retire, or chose to retire, the loss of a job or career can feel devastating. In the U.S., we treat our careers as almost inseparable from who we are. “What do you do for a living?” is often the first question we’re asked by new acquaintances right after “What is your name?”

I find it helpful to think of the void a loss has left as merely a space for something new and gratifying to enter our life. If we approach the loss of our career with realistic positivity, we can both accept the reality of what is—our career as we once knew it is has ended—and turn our focus to what we want and need—a drive to accomplish or experience something new, a purpose. The loss of our career leaves a space we can now fill with new ventures. We can write a book, travel to India, learn a new instrument or a new language, volunteer, or start an entirely new career—one not focused on income potential, but on passion.

REPLACING THE LOSS OF A LOVED ONE

When we lose someone we love, we have the opportunity to deepen our connections with those still with us or forge new ones. We gain resilience by being proactive in replacing our losses. When a loved one dies, we may lose several things at once: the person, our relationship with them, our way of being with them, their help, our plans with them, and so on. We must replace the loss not because we didn’t truly love them or don’t miss them, but because our own life is still worth being the best it can be, and to live a good life, we need good people in it.

Replacing the loss of someone we loved requires allowing ourselves to fully grieve and letting go of the expectation that we will find someone who will fill our loved one’s shoes in precisely the same way. We must examine and acknowledge our needs and be willing to reach out to others. We must also have patience and compassion for ourselves as we find our way into the future.

SEEING THE GIFT OF LOSS

Loss is a gift? It is if through it we learn to value life in the present, to live and love fully, with the knowledge that we may not get another chance. Loss can help us if we recognize the lesson it teaches us—that every moment counts, material things don’t matter in the end, and we’re not defined by what we do or don’t have. Loss can be an impetus to meet new people, have fresh experiences, and explore additional ways to achieve the affirmation and love that we need. Experiencing loss also can make us more thoughtful, loving, and compassionate. By showing us what is essential, and what isn’t, loss helps us to let go of what is false and not serving us and guides us to our truest, best selves.

If you or someone you know is struggling with loss, set up a life coaching appointment at my Portland office.

Courtesy of GoodTherapy.org. 

Life Presence Coaching For Better Living

Stay Present in Life: How to Attract What You Want

Coaching life presence for better living. PortlandWho doesn’t want to live their dream? I don’t think many of us would say “no, thanks” if the opportunities and relationships we desired were offered to us on a silver platter. It can be encouraging to remember that ultimately, we are the creators of our own life.

In a literal sense, we can create or impact outcomes we desire if we keep our head in a good feeling space consistently.

We are all artists, creating our lives thought by thought, action by action.

The areas we focus on are a big deal. These are the difference between a life we feel aligned and satisfied with versus a life we are constantly questioning and trying to figure out.

To quickly gauge where your focus tends to fall, ask yourself this question:

“Do I tend to focus on the good things (what’s abundant) or what’s a problem (what’s lacking) in my life?”

Focusing on what’s wrong will often leave you in a state of anxiety and in a “fix it” mindset, while focusing on what’s going well can support more positive experiences coming your way. This is often the case because what we focus on dictates our feelings and thoughts. How we think and what we spend our time thinking about becomes a habit. For better or worse, our thought habits can affect how we perceive our life. This spider web effect is nothing new. We’ve all heard it, especially those of us familiar with the Universal Laws of Attraction.

Here are some tips on how to help attract good things in your life.

BELIEVE WHAT YOU WANT IS POSSIBLE

Life tends to mirror what we believe to be true. It’s common for our human minds to need to see and have proof of an outcome or reality before we believe it’s possible. Our need to see before we can believe is where we get stuck. The trick is to allow yourself to dream while pressing the pause button on your logical mind. Our logic is waiting for things to make sense. The reality is, sometimes how things come to be defies logic, and unexplainable things do happen. Start believing in them and how they can happen to and for you.

I understand why it’s hard for many adults to believe in what we can’t see. After all, we grew up and became “practical.” Responsibilities present themselves; all of this is valid. There’s no denying that. However, it’s to our benefit to tap into that childlike part of ourselves and remember how to imagine, dream, and believe.

FOCUS ON FEELING GOOD

What makes you feel good? Great, do more of that.

Make sure you’re surrounding yourself with people, environments, and activities that align with who you are. I want to emphasize that life’s not about feeling good all the time. This belief can cause people to deny or not process uncomfortable emotions.

Life provides contrast, including both yin and yang, good and not so good feelings. When negative situations and emotions come up, do your best to acknowledge them. Allow them to be there while continuing to focus on the positive things that are also in your path. You will always have options in life; the key is to choose wisely. When possible, choose the things that bring you joy.

GET PRESENT

When your mind is stuck in fear, anxiety, worry, or depression, good things are often blocked from coming into your space. When your mind is chronically stuck in the past, a common symptom of that head-space is depression. When your mind is constantly stuck in the future, the common consequence of that mindset can be heightened anxiety. These conditions can be your body’s natural way of alerting you that alignment is off. Being in the present can help us feel centered and balanced.

Practicing staying in the moment can help you discover more presence in your life. Here are some quick ideas of how to practice being present in your life:

  • Be mindful of over-planning
  • Rid yourself of distractions that don’t serve you
  • Disconnect from relationships that are not supportive and feel draining
  • Be thoughtful of how you spend your time

Clearing out the activities and distractions that are not serving you while creating more space for good things to come in can allow you to spend more time on the things that matter most to you.

Believe that good things are possible and are, in fact, on their way to you. Expect good things to happen to and for you. This frame of mind may help you cultivate more overall goodness in your life.

If you’re having trouble reframing your mindset or focusing on what’s positive, coaching can help. Call to learn more about life coaching at our Portland office.

© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org.

How Mindfulness Coaching Can Help Relationship Empathy & Conflict Resolution

Mindfulness Can Help Build Empathy & Resolve Conflict

Portland relationship coaching for conflict resolutionWhen we talk about mindfulness, we usually focus on mindfulness within the individual: an awareness of one’s own thoughts and emotions or staying present in the moment to enjoy one’s own life. What’s missing from the conversation is the mindfulness required to create meaningful connections with others. To have a successful relationship, you can’t be mindful of only your own interior experience; you must be mindful of the other person’s, too.

So much of our conflict with loved ones comes from an unawareness of another human being’s inner reality. The phrase buried in so many apologies is “didn’t mean to”: “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” “I didn’t mean to make you angry,” “I didn’t mean to upset you.” The truth would sound more like, “I wasn’t paying any attention to you when I said or did whatever created a problem for you.” Sometimes we may be unaware of a button we’re pushing or a wound we’re picking, but often those slights are not the result of ill intentions, but of having no intentions at all.

You probably know that identifying and attending to your emotions is a key to psychological well-being. But you might not know that identifying and attending to the feelings of others is a key to relationship well-being. You can’t grow a loving relationship without regard to the feelings of those for whom you care.

Conflict in a relationship arises when you focus your intentions entirely on your needs and ignore or dismiss your partner’s. You might not mean to hurt them, but when your mindfulness practice goes one way, your intentions don’t extend any love or concern to your partner.

Having a mindful relationship means deciding whether the connection is important to you and what you want from the other person, and then keeping that in mind when you communicate or are in conflict. If your intention is a loving, romantic partnership, all disagreements should be approached with love and partnership in mind.

Being mindful of your partner’s needs plays an important role in disagreements. Too often when we are in conflict, even with someone we love, we want only to win. We want the other person to change their behavior without us having to change a thing. We don’t mind a win-lose solution as long as we’re not the loser. Studies show that losses have a more significant psychological impact on us than wins do. Losing is an affront to our sense of self. But this attitude—win at all costs, or at least don’t lose—is toxic to relationships.

Does that mean for a partnership to work you have to be okay “losing” an argument sometimes? Not at all.

The win-lose scenario isn’t the only way to end a conflict. Try the win-win instead.

Winning a fight doesn’t always mean being right. If you get into an argument with your partner because you want to go to a party and they want to stay home and watch movies, one of you isn’t right and the other wrong. Pressuring your now-resentful partner into going to the party might feel like a win, but is it? A real win, the kind that lasts past one fight and makes your relationship stronger, is one in which your partner hears your point of view and addresses your needs or desires, and you do the same for them.

To address your partner’s needs, you have to practice mindfulness. You must be mindful of their boundaries and need for not just necessary physical requirements such as food and shelter but also for their emotional and psychological requirements, such as affection, acceptance, independence, and so on. There are some fundamental needs that virtually all people share, and they are crucial to keep in mind:

  • Respect:Respect is the basis of an emotionally healthy relationship. Respect your partner’s boundaries if you expect them to respect yours—and they should.
  • Time and attention:One of the most powerful ways to show your partner you love them is by giving them undivided time and attention.
  • Affection:Not only is physical affection an essential part of intimate relationships because it makes your brain release oxytocin, the “love hormone,” but studies show a link between affection deprivation and physical pain and poor sleep, which in turn increases negative emotions.
  • Approval:As a child, you seek approval from your caregivers and teachers; as an adult, you seek it from your loved ones. Simple compliments are easy to give and go far in building closeness and positive regard.
  • Security, predictability, and consistency:We all want a warm bed to come home to at the end of the day, a secure base we can retreat to. Your closest relationships should provide this base of support for you. In turn, you need to be there reliably for the people you love.
  • Autonomy and control:No matter how close you are to your partner, for the sake of your mental health and sense of self, you both need to maintain a separate identity. Your partner may sometimes have a priority that takes precedence over you, and that’s okay.

To create and maintain a loving relationship, decrease the frequency of conflict, and solve the conflicts that arise in a way that’s worthy of your partnership, you must be mindful of your partner’s needs and desires. For love to last, empathy must be a two-way street. No one can lose if everybody wins, and everybody wins when both of your needs and desires are treated with respect and validity.

If you are experiencing relationship issues and are wanting to know more about mindfulness, contact me for coaching in Portland.

© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org.

Is Your Regret Causing Anxiety? Understand Your Regret

Portland Therapy Ideal for Understanding Regret About One’s Ideal Self

Regret can be painful, even debilitating. People plagued by regret may feel guilt or shame about what could have been. They can even develop symptoms of depression or anxiety. Yet regret in life is inevitable. No one is able to live up to every goal they set.

A new study published in the journal of Emotion explores the psychological underpinnings of regret. Researchers found regret stings the most when people fail to live up to their idealized selves. Regret about duties and obligations is less painful. Although regret about one’s idealized self is often more painful, participants were less likely to take proactive steps to live up to idealized versions of themselves.

Three Components of A Person’s Self

The research used six studies to survey hundreds of participants about their feelings of regret. The study draws upon the notion that there are three components of a person’s self: the actual self, the ideal self, and the ought self.

  • The actual selfis who a person believes they are.
  • The ideal selfis who a person wishes they were. The ideal self includes dreams for the future and goals for living up to values. It also includes traits a person wishes they had.
  • The ought selfis who a person thinks they should be. The ought self is more focused on obligations, such as holding down a job. Regrets involve failures to live up to these duties.

Researchers asked participants what kind of regrets they had most often. Most participants (72%) listed regrets about their ideal self. Only 28% of people listed regrets about their ought self. When people were asked to name their biggest regret in life, 76% mentioned a regret about their ideal selves.

This finding suggests regrets about the ideal self may be more painful. They may also be more likely to contribute to an overall feeling of regret.

Coping With Regret Helps By Knowing Selves

The study also found people are more likely to take steps to correct regrets related to their ought self than to their ideal self. This trend may be because ought-self regrets often involve explicit criteria. Fixing duty-related regrets can often be corrected with specific steps.  For example, if a student regrets doing poorly in class, they can resolve to raise their grade through studying.

Meanwhile, regrets involving one’s ideal self tend to be vaguer. A person may have a dream to “be adventurous” or “be a great parent.” Yet such goals rarely have a concrete way to mark success. Without a clear destination, many people wait for inspiration to guide them toward these goals. If inspiration doesn’t come, a person may let opportunities pass them by.

Fear of how the pursuit of a good life might look to others may also hold people back. That’s doubly true when there’s a conflict between a person’s ideal self and ought self. For instance, a person may wish to go on a backpacking trip with their child. But they may turn down the trip so they do not miss any work and appear “unmotivated” to colleagues. In this scenario, the person prioritizes the work duties of their ought self above the parenting dreams of their ideal self.

A trained therapist can help people cope with regret. They may help a person explore ways to build self-compassion and self-esteem. In therapy, a person can also learn goal-setting skills to help them grow into their ideal selves. If you’re interested in learning how to cope with regret or in need of anxiety therapy, make an appointment at my Portland office.

June 15, 2018 • Contributed by Zawn Villines, GoodTherapy.org 

References:

  1. Davidai, S. & Gilovich, T. (2018). The ideal road not taken: The self-discrepancies involved in people’s most enduring regrets. Emotion,18(3), 439-452. 
  2. Woulda, coulda, shoulda: The haunting regret of failing our ideal selves. (2018, May 29). 

Portland Life Coaching Tip to Boost Your Happiness

 Your Social Life May Be Key to Boosting Your Happiness

The quest for a better quality of life is a common one. Some people believe if they reach a certain goal, they will finally be satisfied with life. But not being able to achieve these goals may make people feel even worse.

A study in Psychological Science suggests some strategies for happiness may work better than others. The pursuit of a better life need not include endless efforts at self-improvement. Instead, the study says people who make social goals are more likely to have greater happiness a year later.

A Life Coaching Key to Happiness : More Time With Others?

Portland Life Coaching Tip to Boost Happiness With Social Life In 2014, the study gathered data on 1,178 German adults. Participants were gathered from the nationally representative German Socio-Economic Panel Study.

The study asked participants to rank their life satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10. A score of 0 meant completely dissatisfied, and 10 stood for completely satisfied. The study also asked participants how happy they thought they would be in 5 years.

Then the study asked to list their strategies for a happier future. About half (596) had no set strategy. Some claimed they could not do anything to improve their lives. Others said something outside of their control—such as a different political climate—would improve their lives.

The other half (582) provided a specific strategy for greater happiness. Most of those who set goals (398) mentioned an individual goal such as quitting smoking. The remainder (184) said doing something social—spending more time with family or friends or helping others—might make them happier.

A year later, participants again rated their life satisfaction. People who listed a social strategy reported greater life satisfaction the second time they were surveyed. People with individual goals showed about the same level of satisfaction as before. There were no significant differences between people who had an individual strategy and those who had no plan at all.

Further analysis revealed the group with social goals had increased happiness partially because they socialized more with others during the year. This finding suggests people who want to improve their lives might benefit from focusing on their relationships with others. Setting only self-improvement goals might be no better than setting no goals at all.

The study’s authors emphasize that further research is necessary to assess the long-term effects of goal setting. Future research may measure why some happiness strategies might work better than others.

Life coaching can help people achieve their goals, offering a chance at a better life. It can also help nurture relationships and improve social connections. If you are interested in how life coaching can help better your life, make an appointment at my Portland area office.

June 8, 2018 • Contributed by Zawn Villines, GoodTherapy.org 

References:

  1. Rohrer, J. M., Richter, D., Brummer, M., Wagner, G. G., & Schmukle, S. C. (2018, May 18). Successfully striving for happiness: Socially engaged pursuits predict increases in life satisfaction. 
  2. Social pursuits linked with increased life satisfaction. (2018, May 29).