Problem Solving

Should We Share Our Relationship Stories?

heart-door
Whether you are single in the city, dating, partnered, married, or divorced, you most likely are an expert storyteller about your relationship(s)or lack their of. With friends, some family members, and even choice colleagues, your relationship stories may be sprinkled with a mix of humor, sarcasm, and disbelief. While the laughter or shock factor keeps things light, this level of storytelling doesn’t reveal any fears about relationships, intimacy or you. Part of us holds onto the idea that “this (experience) will make a good story.” This notion protects one from feeling or thinking about why your relationship isn’t working or why you’ve been on endless OKCupid,match.com, Tinder, JDate.com, eHarmony, or speed dates without finding any lasting connections.

At some point during the ups and downs of being single, dating, or partnered, most of us will have had our fears about life, others, or ourselves exposed. Our inner dialogues, banter and stories about our relationships are most likely too painful to share.

Many people tell the story that all of the data points in their life reveal a singular – capitol “T” – TRUTH. The data points show that they are (the only one) not worthy of a being in or having a real relationship. Our inner stories are often not shared because we believe that everyone else around us has it figured out or is doing it better than we are.

When we want to reach out for real support, sometimes we are at a loss. What we are wanting is be met with empathy to be seen for our humanness. However sometimes, we are judged, blamed or shamed for our struggle or story.

Learning who has the right to hear our story is an invaluable skill. Below, I share a few tips of when to share or not share your story.

When Should I Share My Story?

Consider friends or family in your life. Out of this group, who takes you as you are, accepting or loving you for all of your strengths or struggles. Often, there may be 1-2 people in our lives, who fit this description. You trust them. These are the people, who are able to hear your story or your struggle and respond with empathy. When you do choose to reach out to them to check in about the inner story you are telling, you feel more connected because they meet you where you are. They may not know your specific relationship struggle, but they connect with you from a deeper place of knowing a painful struggle in their own life but they don’t make the conversation about themselves. The offer feedback when you request it. Their feedback is nonjudgmental. They are willing to sit with you in your struggle knowing they can’t take the pain away, but they share that they will there for you. Practicing reaching out to this type of person can be helpful to manage the pain and disappointment that comes with relationships. This takes both vulnerability and courage.

When Shouldn’t I Share My Story?

Think about the people in your life you have been sharing either the internal version or external version of your story. If after sharing either version of your story, you were met with unsolicited: feedback, solutions, advice, sympathy, sarcasm, judgement, blame, or shame, you may want to consider not sharing with them in the future. Those responses are disconnecting on many levels. We feel disconnected from the responder, from ourselves and even at times from our sense of worthiness. It often time unsolicited feedback and responses further fuels the data points that detail our inner story, tapping into our worst fears around feeling unlovable or that we will never belong. Learning to set clear and healthy boundaries is essential. This will support you in not sharing your story or struggle with people who judge, blame or shame you.

Between the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell others, navigating relationships can be challenging. I highly recommend the following books to support you on your relationship journey.

Beattie, M. (1987). Codependent no more: How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Gotham Books.

Chödrön, P. (2000). When things fall apart: Heart advice for difficult times. Boston: Shambhala.

Johnson, S. M. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. New York: Little, Brown & Co.

If you are ready to create a new story around relationships or need help navigating them, call Amy at 202.540.076 or email her at amy@amytatsumi.com for a psychotherapy free 20 minute consultation today.

Top 10 Recommended Books

My clients often appreciate receiving resources and homework as a part therapeutic process.  They are ready to continue moving forward toward their goals.  I provide book recommendations as one avenue for clients to maintain their momentum and support with self care between sessions.

           Top 10 Recommended Books

Top-10-Books 1.  Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Dr. Brene Brown
Vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.  Brene has a gift for languaging people’s experiences, and men and women alike can connect to taking different paths in their families, organizations and communities.

2. Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind by Dr. Kristen Neff
If you are able to extend kindness, generosity and compassion to others, but you often go to being self critical before thinking of showing yourself compassion, this book may be for you.  Dr. Neff  provides the research on benefits of building a practice of self-compassion to cope with life’s big and small challenges.  If you would like to learn more about Dr. Neff’s research, read more in this post.

3. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
Do you have a need to control people or relationships or put them before yourself or believe if they would just change, you would be happy?  Melody offers a variety of stories, exercises, and questions to help you navigate codependency.

4. Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change by Robin Norwood
Are you interested in emotionally unavailable men and do you find nice guys to be boring?   This book can help understand the roots of your patterns in relationships and is another lens to look at co-dependency.

5. The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate by Dr. Harriet Lerner
Anger can be a difficult and complex experience for many women.  For women struggling with anger, Dr. Lerner teaches you  how to identify the true sources of your anger and use anger as a powerful vehicle for creating lasting change.

6. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman
If your marriage is dominated by criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and withdrawal, consider committing to reading this book and using Dr. Gottman’s four-step program as a couple for breaking through negativity and allowing one’s natural communication and problem-solving abilities to flourish.

7. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Dr. Daniel Siegel
No matter if you are dealing with depression, anxiety, or trauma, Dr. Siegel shares his research around the non-spiritual practice of mindfulness based techniques as a means of managing symptoms, stressors and challenges to lead a more healthy and fulfilling life.

8.  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. If you are an introvert or in a relationship or work with an introvert, this is a must read.

9. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
Traditional Buddhist wisdom is offered with radical modern clarity and accessibility.  Most people try to avoid pain and discomfort, which only leads to more pain and discomfort.  Pema offers advice that goes against the grain of our usual habits and expectations that helps one to navigate painful and uncomfortable situations and experiences.

10. A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life by Jack Kornfield
Another Western Buddhist master, Kornfield shares everyday wisdom for developing a spiritual practice of awakening.  He offers great insights around metta mediation or the practice of loving kindness, which can provide much healing.

FAQ: How Long Is Therapy?

During my free consultation calls with potential clients, I recognize that it takes much courage to contact me.  Many people have a lot of anxiety about contacting a therapist, scheduling the first session, and being in therapy.  After discussing what their needs, concerns, and challenges are and what to expect in a first session, they are able to ask questions about working with me.

the-work-of-therapy


One 
FAQ people ask is: How long is therapy?

The duration of therapy is a very personal process.  How long you stay in therapy is ultimately up to you.  I individualize each client’s process based on their needs, strengths and goals.  The work of therapy is a collaborative process between the client and therapist.  The duration and goals of therapy are addressed on an ongoing basis between us to ensure that you are being supported in achieving your positive outcomes.

 

Some clients come to therapy to address one area or goal in their life.  This may be resolved in a short period of time, and the client may decide to end at that point or continue to work on deeper feelings and larger goals.  While other clients may come to therapy feeling unfulfilled, unhappy, knowing that something needs to change, or wanting to live a different life.  The work for these clients tends to take more time and commitment to have the most long lasting changes.

Regardless of the length of the therapy process, I recommend that the final session be planned.   In the last session, we summarize the work that has been done in therapy and say “good-bye.”   There are numerous positive long-term outcomes for the clients when ending in this manner.  A few months or a year after therapy has ended, clients are also able to schedule“tune-up” sessions to help get back on track if needed.  

 

Seeking More Motivation, Stronger Relationships, and a Healthier Lifestyle, Begin a Self Compassion Practice

The idea that a practice of self compassion will offer more motivation, stronger relationships and a healthier lifestyle is in direct conflict to our strong cultural norm.  Within American culture, we are taught that self criticism leads to stronger self motivation and less laziness.  The research indicates that a practice of self compassion improves various aspects of lives, whereas self -criticism actually has the opposite effect. The self compassionate practice is linked to increased motivation, stronger relationships and taking greater responsibility for a healthier lifestyle.

Dr. Kristin Neff is an expert and pioneer researcher on self-compassion.  She has published numerous journal articles, a book, “Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind,”  and has presented: The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion: Kristin Neff at TEDxCentennialParkWomen.

self-compassion

Dr. Neff’s research outlines that our self-esteem driven culture in which feeling special and above average is the expected norm and feeling average or less than usually feels devastating.  There are many costs to a self-esteem focused society: the highest rates of narcissism in history and a bullying epidemic to name just two.  Focusing on advancing our own self esteem, feeling stronger and better than the other depends upon success.  Failure is not an option, especially when the self critic is at the helm. We are often our own worst enemies.  Many people rarely treat themselves as they would their closest friends or partners.

In contrast to a self critical focus, a practice of self compassion is one where we relate to our whole selves for our strengths and challenges.  It is a practice of treating yourself with the kindness, understanding, gentleness, encouragement that you would extend to your closest and dearest friends.  The practice of self-compassion connects us to ourselves and to others in our own humanness.

The practice of self-compassion is also at its core, a practice in mindfulness.  Being with what is in the present moment is central to a self-compassionate practice.  In essence,  we accept that we are suffering to give ourselves compassion.  If we go into self-criticizing mode, we get lost in the role of the critic, and don’t realize that we are suffering.  When in self compassion, we acknowledge the moment and experience of suffering, which leads to the resolution of the suffering.

The research shows that when we self criticize,  adrenaline and cortisol are released, which activates the fight flight response.   The threat to self is attacked, setting up a dynamic where we are the attacker and the attacked. In this constant state of stress, we are more prone to mind and body illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, adrenal failure, fatigue, and sleeplessness.

In contrast, when we are in a self compassionate state, we feel safe and comforted.  Dr. Neff’s research reveals this is an optimal state of success strongly related to having less depression,  experiencing greater motivation,  taking more responsibility for healthier lifestyle choices, and enjoying better interpersonal relationships.

There are so many ways to begin this practice.  A yoga of teacher of mine in graduate school used to end each class with this self-compassionate filled statement.  See how it resonates with you.

Walk gently and sweetly with yourself.
Take each moment to love who you are.

Let us know your thoughts about self-compassion and self-compassionate practices.

Warmly,
Amy

Why Art Therapy Works When You Are Feeling Stuck

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. ~ Albert Einstein

unstuck-butterflies

When I tell people that I’m an art therapist, they often ask lots of questions about the field.  One of the most common questions I receive is, “Why Art Therapy?”  The conversation can unfold in numerous directions depending on who is inquiring about art therapy.  We typically spend at least part of the discussion exploring: Why Art Therapy Works When You Are Feeling Stuck.

In my work across settings in public mental health and private practice, I have seen that art therapy can be effective for adults, teens, children, and their families when they are feeling stuck.  This can occur in problems with identity, relationships, depression, anxiety, play, work, school, faith, community, and countless others.  Often, clients report that they have seen a problem from many different perspectives and tried various ways to address and solve it.  No matter how hard they try, stuckness seems to prevail.  Albert Einstein offers a great explanation of why people remain stuck: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Art therapy via the creative process offers access to untapped levels of consciousness.

When clients engage in the art making process, they start to see their problem and themselves from previously unknown perspectives.  Whether it is painting, drawing, sewing, building, or beading, the problem and its characteristics are being embedded in the art making process and product.  Once the client and I see it from multiple perspectives, the subsequent discussion can illuminate new levels of consciousness. From perspective taking to consciousness expansion, people begin to shift out of feeling stuck. What do these shifts from a new conscious level look like? People begin taking healthy risks from a place of authenticity, courage, compassion, and vulnerability, rather than making decisions from shame, fear, or unworthiness.

Reconnecting to YOU through the Creative Process

We moms are so busy that sometimes we lose the connection to our creative selves. Read on for some thoughts/resources on how to find your “flow” and help bring your heart and mind together from Guest Blogger, Amy Tatsumi.

What makes you feel alive?  What allows you to be connected to your true self? For some, it is singing or dancing when no one is watching. It could also be reading, swimming in the ocean, stargazing, running, enjoying spa time, or eating fresh strawberries.  Others may relish old traditions kept alive: Baking bread, knitting, family dinners, or making art.  All of these activities involve the action of creating directly or indirectly for ourselves.

Sometimes we, as mothers, are so busy with all of our responsibilities that we can get disconnected from our true selves.  We may begin to view life from an intellectual or pragmatic place where we over-think or rationalize the same scripts over and over in our heads.

We tend to put everyone’s needs before ours because that is what mothers, wives, single parents, or outstanding employees are supposed to do (no matter how tired or burnt out we are).

The mom wars of our time seem to reinforce this script that no matter what path of motherhood you choose, someone may find fault with you.

From internal and external pressures and criticisms, we can see our brilliant light dimming.  We don’t make time for ourselves or for the pastimes or activities that help us to feel alive.  We then experience less joy, satisfaction, contentment, and equanimity in our daily lives and relationships.

What can we do to bring our hearts and minds closer together?  The creative process supports both those who have the words and those who don’t. Art therapy provides a healing space for children, teens, and adults alike to connect with images, the creative process, and words to better understand how and why they are feeling disconnected.

Art Therapy helps people who struggle with anxiety, depression, grief & loss, trauma, chronic illness, relationship issues, major life changes, and decision-making. It is practiced in schools, hospitals, wellness centers, the military, and in mental health centers. It is important to note that you don’t need to be artistic to benefit from art therapy.

Art therapists are master’s level credentialed clinicians with training in counseling and art.  They offer various mediums (e.g., paint, digital photography, sewing, sculpture, etc.) to help their clients create solutions for the hows and whys of their lives.

Recently, I met with a mother who was feeling unfulfilled and overworked.  She began reconnecting to her hopes and wishes through talking and exploring metaphors in watercolors.  The fluidity of the watercolor medium helped this mother to make decisions for herself and family that flowed with balance and joy most of the time.

Another woman contacted me because she was feeling anxious about returning to the work force after being home with her child for some time.  She was stuck in feelings of guilt and anxiety about her home and work balance.  Through exploring a variety of art mediums, this mother used the art making process and her personal metaphors and imagery to feel more grounded and balanced in her everyday life.

Tapping into the creative process can help you reconnect with your authentic self. Try it to discover how your heart and mind can work together to live a life filled with possibilities.

This blog was originally published on http://jenniferkogan.com/archives/764