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Three Principles For Loving On Purpose

Characteristics of a Good Relationship

Hey, welcome back! The last post I started a conversation about conscious loving on purpose. I told you that there were three things you needed to know to be successful in a committed relationship or marriage.

3 Characteristics for Couples Therapy PortlandIn case you missed it or just forgot, first you have to learn the basic principles of successful relationships. You also have to consciously practice until those principles become habits. That’s a key thing you’re going to be hearing from me in this space. Conscious, on-purpose practice or action is the key to a powerful, empowered life, whether you’re in a relationship or single. So remember this! Finally I said that you will need to experiment and innovate using some of those principles you’ve learned and practiced. In other words you’ve got to put some funk in your style! Your love relationship should be like a jazz, R & B, hip hop or gospel set.

The best Soul musicians always know the basics of the music they are playing, but once they get the basics down they feel free to innovate. That’s where the funk is in the creative innovation as they allow themselves to play off of the other people in the group. Wow, wouldn’t it be fun if you could riff and funk and create with your love partner like that? Well hold on, we’re going to give you some good stuff to make that possible right here, so keep coming back.

Back to Principles
In this post I want to share the principles that will help your relationship work right. We’re starting with the stuff you can do to make it good. We’ll come back later to share with you the things you might be doing to mess stuff up, but we’ll begin with what works. I’m betting that a lot of this will be familiar to you, even if you don’t think your relationship is going well. Even a broke clock is right twice a day right? I’m certain that even if things don’t seem to be going right today, there have been some days when you got it right. One of the things you have to get good at is learning how to notice what’s good and nurture it with each other. In other words you have to start remembering the good times on purpose. We’ll come back to that later.

Your Love Should Not Be an Accident!
I focused last time on the idea that a lot of folks approach relationships like a bad accident. We even call it “falling in love”, ouch! Then most folk after falling in love, wander around blindly trying to figure out how to make it work. The really good thing is that over the past fifty years or so, there have been real efforts to research, study and understand what makes intimate relationships work and what makes them fail. The overwhelming evidence points to the fact that relationships succeed or fail based on the practical things people do. The other thing that I can say with a little bit of confidence is that relationships today in the twenty-first century can not succeed using the expectations and ways of being in relationship that our great grand parents, our grand parents or even our parents had in the twentieth century!

Marriage Ain’t What it Used to Be
Let’s be honest, even as few as fifty years ago most marriages were based on a principal of commodity exchange and unequal gender balances where most women were told to perfect her cleaning, cooking and child care and seduction skills in the hope of finding a man who would take care of her, bring home the income, and be her representative in the public world. In exchange she agreed to be obedient, submissive and make sure that his home was well kept and he and the children were nurtured and healthy. It was an exchange based in built in and assumed inequality guaranteeing men the privilege of being real heads of the household, unchallenged. If a woman wanted the social protection and access without conflict to the social sphere it was important that she played the commodity exchange game. This was a game that was pretty much rigged and set for the benefit of men.

Look for Your Friend
Well that was then, but now, because women have legal access to the education, skill training income possibilities and social capital that used to belong to men, it’s a different game. Built-in inequality no longer guarantees men access to unlimited choices of women. Though it’s painful to hear for some men, women no longer need men for social survival. That means that twenty-first century relationships have to be built and maintained on a different principle. The research shows that the most successful relationships today are based not on unequal commodity exchange but on egalitarian friendships. That’s right, your best chance of having a good stable and happy marriage today is to make sure your partner is your friend!

Three Characteristics of a Good Relationship
Now I know some of you out there are slapping yourself up-side the head and giving me a big “Duh” because for you I’m stating the obvious, but I’m telling you, you’d be surprised at how many couples forget to be friends after the first year or so of a relationship. They just sort of let things run along on automatic pilot trusting in the magic of falling in love. In my practice I teach couples that good relationships often have three characteristics that reflect that you and your partner are be-friending each other. And just in case you haven’t got the point yet, successful couples are always, consciously befriending each other. So what are these characteristics of a good befriending relationship?

  1. Multi-Level Intimacy
    First relationships that work well usually have multi-level intimacy. I’m not talking about just sex here, though that’s really important (and we’ll talk about that on another posting) but intimacy is that thing that insures good sex long before you get to the main event. Couples who do well share physical intimacy like caresses, holding hands and hugs and kisses throughout their day. These couples share mental / intellectual intimacy by having ongoing conversations and check-ins to keep up with each others lives. Remember when you first got together, and you talked about everything all the time! Well couples who have good relationships keep doing that on purpose even years into the relationship. Finally couples who practice multi-level intimacy share emotional intimacy together. That means they allow themselves to be vulnerable and to share their inner lives, emotions and thoughts with each other. They are emotional risk takers with each other in an attempt to know and be known (yeah, that’s a hard one but it’s worth it).
  2. Reciprocity
    The second characteristic of couples who have good relationships is that they practice reciprocity with each other. There is a give and take in the relationship and sharing of responsibility. They also compromise and make sure that each partner feels valued and valuable in the relationship. When they have problems to solve they make sure that both their voices are heard and respected and decisions are based on knowledge, experience and the context of the moment for that issue and not on predestined privilege based on gender, age or some other intangible root of authority. Now I know that’s going to be a hard one for some of you out there, especially some of the brothers, but we can revisit this idea later.
  3. Mutual Meaning and Purpose
    Finally, couples who do well together and find success in their relationship, work on a mutual sense of meaning and purpose . These couples share the experience of going in the same direction. They have a sense of US-ness between them. Now this does not happen overnight. In fact it takes time and patience before you can get there. I mean it’s not easy bringing all of your own family stuff to this new relationship and deciding what practices and meanings and rituals you keep and which ones you can give up and which ones of your partners you decide to share in and then which new practices, meanings, and rituals you create together. It takes patience, compromise, physical, emotional, and intellectual intimacy, reciprocity and more to build that protective wall around your relationship that sets the boundary defining the Us in Y’all as we say down here in the South.
    These three characteristics of couples who are doing well and consciously loving each other on purpose are just a few of the principles I hope you will be open to learning as we continue sharing in this forum. If you’ve got questions or comments or if you have a topic related to relationships or mental health that you’d like to see me write about leave me a message and I’ll be happy to follow up with you. Until the next time, remember to keep loving each other on purpose!

Courtesy of Therapy Tribe

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How to Protect Transgender Kids from Bullying at School

Counseling Can Help Trans State University Students

Ways to help your trans student from bullying with counseling.Transgender kids face alarming rates of bullying and abuse. GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey found 83.7% of trans and 69.9% of gender nonconforming (GNC) students experience bullying at school.

Bullying can erode self-esteem, increase isolation, and make it more difficult for a child to assert their gender identity. Some bullied children become depressed and suicidal. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that any involvement with bullying—whether as a victim, bully, or both—raises a child’s risk of suicidal behavior.

Parents, educators, and other adults have significant power to reduce bullying and support trans kids at school.

TRANSPHOBIA STATISTICS
Transphobia is animus toward transgender people. It can cause bullying, physical aggression, and other forms of abuse.

Research consistently finds that gender-related discrimination is a problem in schools. GLSEN’s annual National School Climate Survey looked at over 23,000 children in grades 6-12. The study found 42.1% of trans and GNC kids are prevented from using their preferred pronouns. Nearly half of these kids (46.5%) are forced to use the wrong bathrooms.

Other research has found high rates of transphobic bullying.

Research published in 2017 found trans kids are two to three times more likely than their peers to be bullied.
A 2016 survey of adult transgender individuals found 60% have avoided public restrooms because they feared confrontation and bullying.
A 2012 survey found 61% of students have heard peers make negative remarks about gender expression. The same survey found 27% of students face physical abuse because of their gender expression.

CREATING A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR TRANS KIDS
Many parents and educators worry that there’s nothing they can do to stop transphobic bullying. Yet research consistently finds that creating an inclusive, gender-affirming environment can greatly reduce bullying. Even when kids are bullied in these environments, they may feel more comfortable reaching out to an adult than they would in less inclusive environments.

According to GLSEN, students at inclusive schools with curricula that feature LGBTQ-affirming content are less likely to experience bullying, hear transphobic remarks, or feel unsafe at school. They are also less likely to be forced to use the wrong bathrooms or the wrong pronouns. Inclusive curricula can also raise self-esteem, reduce the risk of depression, and even improve grades.

Some strategies that promote a safe environment for trans kids include:

Creating a trans-inclusive curricula. Schools can participate in LGBT History Month, feature notable transgender historic figures, and discuss transgender history and civil rights with students.
Asking students about their preferred pronouns or names and then using them. Educating teachers, school counselors, and others who work with students about transgender issues. Establishing safe spaces, such as counselor’s offices, where students can safely discuss gender issues and bullying.
Refusing to tolerate any bullying or transphobia, even from teachers or other adults. Parents who want to support a transgender child should urge their child’s school to promote an inclusive environment that actively works to prevent transgender discrimination. At home, parents can help by allowing children to assert their own gender identity in a safe, judgment free zone.

It is important to let the child determine what gender means to them. Parents should avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes or rigid gender ideologies. For example, a trans girl does not need to turn her entire wardrobe pink in order to “prove” she is a girl. No toy or clothing should be off limits to anyone solely because of gender.

Parents can also support their trans or GNC children by introducing them to the wider LGBT community. They may read books with their child that feature people of many gender identities and presentations. They may identify trans or GNC role models for kids to learn about. They may also help their children meet other trans kids through support groups, trans camps, and other communities.

Lastly, parents may wish to educate themselves about transgender history and issues. Children pick up on what parents believe, not just what they say. Parents who are uncomfortable with their child’s gender presentation may inadvertently stigmatize their child. Education can help parents reevaluate their own ideas about gender and become better advocates for their children.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR CHILD’S RIGHTS
Federal, state, and local laws determine a student’s legal rights. Trans students in some states have more protections than students in other states. Individual schools may extend additional rights to trans students.

Many courts have ruled that transgender individuals are protected under Title IX. This federal law forbids schools from discriminating against students based on their sex or gender expression. Under Title IX, transgender and GNC students have the right to:

  • Be protected from bullying, harassment, and violence.
  • Use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
  • Be called the correct name and pronouns.
  • Dress and present themselves according to their gender identity (so long as they follow the general school dress code).
  • Access the same educational opportunities and school events as other students.
  • Maintain their medical privacy, including the right not to disclose being transgender.
  • However, not all states share this interpretation of Title IX. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, only 17 states have laws explicitly protecting transgender students from harassment and discrimination. These include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. The District of Columbia also has anti discrimination laws.

Even between these states, the extent of civil protections can vary. For example, only California, Connecticut, and Washington currently allow transgender students to join school sports teams consistent with their gender identity. School districts within a state may also vary in their policies.

The rights of transgender students at school are continually evolving. Parents who worry their child is facing discrimination should consider consulting a lawyer who specializes in educational law or who has experience with transgender issues.

HOW THERAPY CAN HELP TRANSGENDER KIDS
Therapy can offer immense support to transgender kids and their families. Family counseling can help a family identify strategies for supporting a child’s gender identity and fighting back against bullying. When family members do not fully understand or accept a child’s trans identity, family therapy can educate them and encourage acceptance.

Individual counseling can help transgender kids who struggle with depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety due to bullying. The right therapist can also affirm a child’s gender identity and point them toward trans role models and literature. In therapy, a child can learn that being trans is not a mental health problem or a weakness, but an important component of a person’s identity that should be respected and celebrated. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about trans counseling, make an appointment at my Portland area office.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

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What Makes Therapy Good: The 4 Pillars of Counseling

How to Begin Healing in Counseling

pillars of good counseling take the past into account.What is good therapy? I recently wrote about tips for identifying the best counselor for you. I’d like to shift the focus a bit and talk about the role of relationships and what I call the four pillars of counseling: trust, respect, positive regard, and open-mindedness.

While these concepts may seem straightforward, fostering them within a healing therapeutic relationship can be challenging depending on the quality of previous relationships you’ve
experienced, whether you’ve been able to form trusting relationships in other areas of your life, how open you are ready or able to be, and how truthful you can be with yourself. I believe these  things form the foundation of the relationship needed to help you meet your goals.

I’ve been a counselor for a long time, and I’ve had counseling with many different therapists. Some of it was very good and helpful and some wasn’t. None of it was bad or meant the therapist wasn’t qualified. I believe the connection between the counselor and the person seeking support is the most important part of a therapeutic relationship. Creating a strong relationship with a counselor is affected by personality, age, gender, race, life experiences, and other factors. There must be a good fit in order for therapy to be effective.

While the relationship between the counselor and the counselee is important, the relationship you have with yourself is equally important. From the moment we are born, our relationships begin to form everything about us—from our beliefs to our behaviors, traditions, and rituals. The strength of our earliest relationships directly impacts the strength of our relationships in the here and now, which directly impact the relationship with the counselor you choose to work with.

When relationships in early life aren’t nurturing and supportive—which can happen for many reasons, including abuse, neglect, or the inability of parents to emotionally bond with a child—the impact can be long-lasting and prevent people from developing healthy connections. It can take a long time to experience trust in a relationship if you have experienced broken relationships or abandonment, especially in childhood.

Whatever the challenge in a relationship, the first step of therapy must be to identify and name that pain. That takes courage, regardless of how scary it may feel.

Good therapy addresses the pain that brought you into therapy and helps you develop solutions to the issues you are experiencing. It focuses on the goals you have set and the challenges and limiting beliefs that may prevent you from reaching those goals. Recognizing these beliefs can occur when there is trust and respect between you and the counselor. If you sense the counselor is open to your challenges, you may be more open to addressing them using tools the counselor provides.

When early life relationships are inadequate, a person’s ability to trust can be severely impacted. Without trust between a counselor and a person in counseling, therapy can be ineffective. It is the counselor’s responsibility to work with you to develop trust though open-mindedness, communication, consistency, and compassion. Your responsibility is to try to meet the counselor in this process as best you can.

Because you are so deeply impacted by your relationships, both past and present, you must examine them as a part of the therapy you seek even if you believe they are unrelated. We are interconnected to everyone we have ever interacted with in a good or not-good manner. Like it or not, our relationships help determine who we are and how we are in the world. This truth must be acknowledged and honored in order to begin the journey of healing in counseling.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

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Yet

image“Yet” is such a small word yet has a lot of strength. I can say, “I don’t know how to feel better,” now add that tiny word behind, “I don’t know how to feel better yet.” A different feel. It has a sense of hope to it.  It unlocks the possibilities.

I use this word quite a bit in my therapy and coaching practice. People may feel depressed or anxious and have an idea of how life is or should be, their own capabilities, what is possible. When adding “yet” to the end of the sentence, it adds an openness. It is not a period at the end of the sentence, it is more of an open endedness.

I notice when I say, “I don’t know how to do this,” I feel heavy, defeated, as if there is no other option  I don’t know how and that is the way it is. When I say, “I don’t know how to do this yet,” I notice a sense that there is a possibility of me knowing how to do it in the future even if I don’t know how to now.

If you choose to continue in this exploration, play with adding “yet” onto the end of your sentences. If you are in relationship play with it in sentences about what your partner is or isn’t doing that you want.

Photo compliments of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

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Holidays with Family

Your Deepest Roots Can Be Nurtured With Counseling

Often times when people are in therapy or coaching and working on different patterns, it can particularly troubling or difficult when they visit family and step right back into the same patterns. Family counseling offered for Portland area clients.

I tell my clients that family is often where the deepest roots are. Imagine trying to pull up a sapling. You could probably do it without any problem. Now think of a larger sapling, perhaps up to your knee. You would still most likely be able to do it easily. Now think of one larger, up to your head. You may need to put a little more into pulling it up. What about one that is about 3 inches in diameter. At this point, it will take longer. You will need to push, pull, maybe dig. I think you could probably do it although it will take time and effort, certainly more effort than the last several trees. Now imagine one that is 100 feet high. You may not be able to get your arms around it. This will take a significant amount of effort. You may ask others for help, use some tools. Even with the assistance, it will take longer than the first tree.

Now imagine these as your patterns. Family dynamics have been going on for years. These are like the 100 foot tree. Is it impossible to remove that tree. No, I wouldn’t do my job if I didn’t think it was possible.

A couple of things to remember when you are visiting family:

  1. Give yourself some compassion, even just a little. Do not expect automatic changes either from yourself or for your family. Go easy on yourself. Maybe you notice the pattern in a different way, even noticing the pattern at all is a significant change.
  2. Take time for yourself. In my world, self care is important. Especially when traveling and being out of your typical routine or zone. Get some fresh air, call a friend, ask for support from your significant other or a friend, take a walk, read a book.
  3. Plan ahead. Imagine where you may get caught up in the dynamics; for example it may be around a certain family ritual or a certain topic of conversation. This is a not a fail safe, although you may notice the pattern starting and planned to take a breath before responding or excuse yourself to go for a walk or even just to the bathroom or for your spouse to look at you or put their hand on your back.

I would love to hear how it went and what you did to support yourself in the journey. Contact me today to find out how I can help with therapy and counseling.

Photo compliments of samurai at freedigitialphotos.net

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Comparisons

Portland Area Life Coaching for Your Daily Life

Comparison is something that often comes up everywhere. In school we are given grades, in job evaluations, in reality tv, in fashion.  How am I doing in comparison to others? It may not be a conscious thought, it may just be a judgement of what someone else is or isn’t doing. Whether you have lost someone dear to you, are in a relationship, starting a new job, continuing in one for a while, or going to the gym. We are all on our own journey. There may be similarities with others on a similar road. And it is still your own individual, unique journey that life coaching can help with.

For example if I go to the gym to build muscle, I can follow a routine that others have suggested—a friend, a youtube video, a personal trainer. This routine may have different outcomes for someone else because we eat and consume differently, have different body types,  or are different ages.

Life coaching in the Portland area.What does comparing get me? What does it get you? Perhaps feeling better or worse about myself or my situation. This leaves me in a one up or one down from others. It doesn’t leave room for seeing everyone as whole or even myself as whole. It distances me from others, it puts a wedge in the relationship, even if I haven’t talked to the person.

Stepping stone: If you are interested, notice where you compare yourself to others. Is it in a particular setting? Is there a certain judgement that comes up? Notice how you respond to the comparison and to the other person or situation. Is this something that you want to continue?

If you need help with these questions and more, contact me today to see how I can help you on your journey. 

Photo curtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at freedigitalphotos.net

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Making Clear Agreements

This is a skill that I think is super helpful in life. Often times friends, intimate partners, or family members will have an idea of something. This is usually not said. Then when someone else has a different idea that is often not shared either, tension and arguments can ensue. Take for example coming home. One person may want space to take off their shoes, put their stuff away and take a moment to breath before greeting the other person. The other person comes in wanting the other to drop everything and give them a big hug, acknowledge that they arrived and are happy to see them. This is often not talked about which then can cause disrupts and irritation. You may expect something and have an agreement on your end and the other person wasn’t aware of the agreement. (Another of my favorites is when one person in a couple does something on a regular basis, then they stop and the other person gets upset, “But you always did that.”)

In Need of Couples Therapy in Portland?

What if you could make a clear agreement about what you wanted. What if it was actually ok to ask for what you want? The other person has the ability to say no. If it is not said it is not an agreement from both people.

Stepping Stone: (Instead of homework, since some people have a hard time with that word, esp teenagers) Share with someone else what you want and making a clear agreement that you both agree to. Do not agree if you don’t really want to, that is a set up for failure and broken agreements which breaks trust. Portland, Oregon Couples Therapy.

Example: Hey, I really like when you greet me at the door when I come home. What do you think about that?

Or: Hey I noticed that you push me away when I come up to say hi when you first come home, do you want some space before I say hi?

Work more on agreements with me for couples, family, or group therapy at my Portland office. Contact me to set up an appointment.

Photo compliments of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

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Are you taking time for you?

I think our general culture here in the US tends to be get stuff done, go go go, be productive. With that mindset, it doesn’t really leave time for sitting and resting and rejuvenating the self. It can be labeled “lazy” or “selfish” to “do nothing.” The idea of sitting, resting, laying down in the shade/sun, reading a book as “doing nothing” is so connected to how the culture views certain activities.

This is something that comes up especially with parents. For a lot of couples, between work and kids, there is not a lot of extra time for the couple let alone yourself. Yet it makes such a difference. Even if it is five minutes. I see it as recharging that internal battery.

How Relaxing is Important in Couples Therapy

Personal time is important in couples therapy.I am married and am used to my spouse and their energy and movement. A friend has been staying with us for several months now and I noticed today, Sun, that when both my friend and spouse left, that I hadn’t been home alone for at least two weeks. Maybe it is having a different energy in the home. Maybe it is just having silence, knowing that I am here alone. And I also realized that it is something that I want to enjoy more regularly. And I don’t necessarily need the whole day, I just want to have my space, my time, with no one around.

Side note: I often tell the couples that come to see me as coaching or therapy clients to go on a date and not talk about the kids, money or their relationship. Go out and talk about topics that aren’t “business” related.  Here is a link to first date questions.

If you want to continue the exploration: Take a moment to think about what activities you consider to be productive vs unproductive. Where did these ideas of what is and isn’t productive come from?  How do you take care of yourself? Make a list of self care activities. And determine what you want to do and by when for your next you time.

Contact me today to make an appointment for Portland area couples therapy.

Photo curtesy of at freedigitalphotos.net.

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What Dogs Can Teach us: Lesson 2

 

Lesson 2: Jump into the mess

ID-100207428Dogs jump right in. Typically speaking, dogs don’t shy away from mud. They love to play. They aren’t worried that they will get messy and that you won’t love them anymore. They play and get messy solely for having fun.

What if you/I/we weren’t so worried about getting dirty. About literally getting muddy or even messy in terms of showing emotion or sharing what is going through your mind.

Challenge: Play with getting messy. 1) Literally go out and play in the mud/dirt/puddles. 2) Get messy with sharing emotions and what stories you are making up. You may want to start with someone that you trust, let them know you are going to get messy.

Side note: Notice that dogs don’t create meaning or story around something that happened. Something happens, then they are there again fully. Unless the dog has been trained otherwise.

Photo compliments of jiggoja at freedigialphotos.net

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Where is Your Attention?

Do you notice your energy drop? Maybe you have a hard time gathering your energy? Perhaps when you are with a certain person, you lose interest?

ID-100213531A fun trick is to notice where your energy is. Do you notice it outside of you or directed internally? Often we can feel drained when we leave our attention out or in for an extended period of time.

Do an exercise with me right now. Look at something that is further away- the wall, a tree, a person. Now bring your attention half way between that and where you are. Now bring your attention to your body. you can place it on your body as a whole or a part of your body. It can be a physical sensation- your feet on the ground, your bottom in the chair or a body sensation- butterflies in the stomach, pressure on your chest.

Challenge: notice when your energy drops, now notice where is your attention directed. If it is in, place it outside of yourself. And vice versa.

 

Photo curtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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