“I just want this day to be over…”

It’s 3:45 and the clock out whistle couldn’t come soon enough. You are tired, uninspired and longing for a view from anywhere but where you are. Maybe it’s 6:15 and the kids are on full tilt. You promised them that they could stay up until 8 but it slipped your mind that they would be this energetic until the last possible minute.

The future is full of tempting notions. “I can’t wait until it’s Friday and I can just sleep in…” “I can’t wait until school starts back and the kids are gone all day…” “I can’t wait until I get promoted away from all of this ridiculousness of this office…” Somewhere along the line we were taught that the future can cure all that ails us.

Who on Earth came up with that?

Are there good days ahead? Probably so, yes. Really crappy ones too, I’m guessing. Really, in all likelihood, that future you long for is probably going to have it’s own shit-storms. That mess is always in the forecast. The problem in longing for the goodness and relief of the future is that it takes your eyes off of the beauty of now.

The idea here is as basic as the homework on your first day of class. When you feel yourself wishing for a moment in the future, take a deep breath and look around you. I bet, if you look hard enough, you’ll find SOMETHING that this moment holds that is pretty wonderful.

Own the now. Love the now. Live in now.

You can either daydream away every day waiting for the magical tomorrow or discover and acknowledge the magic that already exists all around you right now.

Who Holds Your Hindsight?

       There is beauty in retelling a story that happened years ago: your actions can make more sense as you grow to learn more about yourself and how people work. Our ability to look back on chapters of our lives and see with clarity why we did things is so powerful. Being able to say, “Ohmigosh, that’s why I was acting so weird yesterday, I was PMSing,” or “Of course I got so sick at the fair, I was lactose intolerant!” We grow and learn things and the more we know the more compassion we can lavish on ourselves.  

         Hindsight, however, is not always a beautiful gift. Sometimes it is guided by the most critical parts of us and we hear it bemoan the sad, ill-informed choices we make. “How could I have broken up with him? We were so perfect together!” “What an idiot I was doing so many drugs in college, I could have gotten myself killed.” “I never should have said that to my mother, I didn’t know I’d never see her again.” Sadly, hindsight is also the seed of our deepest regrets. We punish our younger selves for being ignorant as though a person can solve an algebra problem having only learned to count. As I get older, I grow more and more prone to believe that there is no such thing as a bad choice, there are only choices that we make with the information we have and the perception of ourselves and available solutions. In the end we make decisions based on what we most value, or what we feel we deserve.

         The job of hindsight is to help us choose the filter through which we view the past. When we look back at something we choose the words and sentiments we use to articulate what we estimate happened. Let’s make up a simple event and watch the power of the story we tell.

         It’s 7pm and I’m pulling out of my office to head home after a long day of work. It was a terrible day full of challenges and problems. I notice that my dashboard says my tank has an estimated 35 miles left before it reaches empty. I live 18 miles from work. Ugh. I should get gas now. But I don’t want to. I’m tired and besides all the gas stations all the way home are on the left side of the road. It’s too much! I can get it when I wake up.

       As you likely predicted, I woke up late the next morning without enough gas to get to work. I was forced to stop to fill up and made myself even later. Also traffic was terrible because it was ten minutes later than my normal commute and apparently that means congestion. In my haste I also spilled gas on my shoe and smelled terrible the rest of the day, giving myself a migraine.

       In the minutes and hours following such an incident I have a choice. I can frame myself as an idiot who has gotten herself in trouble with her procrastination time and time again. What was I even thinking putting gas off until the morning? I wasn’t thinking. I was being lazy and ridiculous like always.

        Or, I can choose to use hindsight to find reasons to be compassionate with myself. I didn’t know when I made that choice that I would oversleep. I didn’t know traffic would be this bad. I only knew that I was exhausted and just wanted to be home with my family. I made an effort to give myself what I deeply felt I needed at the time. Had I know the added stressors of the next morning I likely would have chosen differently. In fact, I would imagine that getting gas would have been almost relaxing had I done it the night before. Perhaps next time I can make a different choice. Lesson learned.

        You can feel the varying emotions in just reading the inner dialogue. The first frame, the one where I’m an idiot, made me feel terrible and stupid. I had to blame someone and I was the only idiot available. I also made it a character assassination by crediting it to the fact that I am just lazy and a procrastinator. If something is a part of who we are it is much harder to correct it and adds to the reasons why we don’t deserve love and good things. My second choice to treat myself with a bit more compassion used hindsight to see things from the point of view of the version of myself who actually made the decision. I wasn’t maliciously setting myself up for failure and being defiant. I was tired. Tired people need rest and compassion. Warm and loving responses flow much more freely toward the second story than the first.

        As it turns out, we make a thousand little choices daily in nearly every inner dialogue we have to either frame ourselves as competent and worthy individuals, or as scum-sucking misfits. Every inner dialogue choice we make contributes to a thought path we wear into our brains to the point that they become automatic to us. Yes, hear that. Eventually, you can automatically think you are a competent worthy individual, or a scum-sucking misfit.

         Hindsight then is only a tool. It’s a magnifying glass we use to investigate the scene we have left behind. If we hand it to the critical, judgmental part of us we will turn up evidence that we are idiots. If we give it to our compassionate inner nurturer, we will uncover reasons we made the decisions we did that make sense, increase self-empathy and restore our faith in ourselves.

If you need help restoring faith in yourself and can’t wrestle your hindsight magnifier from the hands of your inner critic (and live in the CSRA) call me, maybe.

What Good is Therapy?

For a while “You should see a therapist,” was an insult. When therapy first started to mainstream only the weirdest most baffling of psychiatric disorders were given a lot of attention. To see a therapist way back at the advent of psychotherapy meant no one on Earth understood why you acted the way you acted and you either needed a straight jacket or some kind of tranquilizer. Fortunately, that is no longer the case.

Even though most of us understand that totally sane and “normal” people seek out therapy, we might not understand what good therapy is for us regular folks. I personally find a great deal of value in talking with a therapist. I just love feeling someone totally focus on me. In regular conversations there is a give and take and you have to allow the other person time to talk about themselves. Not with therapists! I also love the judgment free zone. Sometimes I just want to say something and see how it feels to say it. If you do that with the regular people in your life they might hold you to it! It’s also so empowering to sit down for an hour a week with someone and intentionally focus on your own growth and heart. But truly, these are all just perks. If you’re lucky, you can find these kinds of perks in a really wise friend or mentor. So what makes a therapist different than a good friend? The main roles of the therapist, (and what you pay them so much to do) can be seen in two stages: Conceptualization and Treatment.

Conceptualization

This is a seven syllable word that roughly means “what is going on with you.” (hey look that was seven syllables too!) This is where the therapist uses all of their training and research on human behavior, development, systems, psychology and relationships to help you understand what might be happening in your given situation. It’s equivalent to that swelling part in movies where the side kick tells the main character that they are running away from love just like their Dad ran away from them! Some therapists will offer some poignant analogy that sums up your life and causes you to see things differently. Others might ask one innocuous little question that causes all this salt water to pour right out of your eyes. It’s a time of discovery. It’s the part of therapy that makes you sigh and think “Ohmigosh, that’s exactly what is happening.” Full disclosure: this is my very favorite part. It’s not always so profound and dramatic.

 

Treatment

Treatment is the part after conceptualization where the therapist uses all of their training on behavior, effective methods and facilitating change to help you reconsider and redesign the way you think and function around a given topic. After the initial shock of emotional disclosure, this is the hardest work of therapy. Sometimes change is really slow and you might start wondering if this is worth it at all! Struggling through this part with another person is deeply rewarding and can dramatically change your life. Quite often you get to work on an area and you see just how many ways you have completely entrenched yourself in a way of being and it’s just really hard to let go.

 

In reality this one-two sequence might happen a thousand times over the course of your therapy. Regardless of what you see someone for, the most important part of this whole process is your relationship with your therapist. You have to like them at least a little bit. Everyone is different and different people see things in different ways. You want to find a therapist that makes you feel really seen, heard and understood.

 

If this sounds exciting to you and you live near Aiken, SC, feel free to go here and come see me. I promise if you don’t feel seen, heard and understood from me, I’ll do what I can to help you find someone better suited to help you.

When is Couples Therapy Necessary?

Being a couple’s therapist is a difficult job. It’s not that it’s hard to sit in other people’s pain or hear couples yell and fight over every little thing. That’s ok. The hardest part is when a couple comes in and it’s just too late for them. They put off counseling for months or years and by the time they finally decide to sit on my couch they are so hurt and traumatized by each other that they don’t have the heart to go through it anymore. The hardest part about being a couple’s therapist is knowing that I’m often a last resort.

So when do you need to start couple’s work to see real benefit? Let’s look at this.

 

BEFORE YOU GET MARRIED:

Premarital counseling is often something couples choose to do with their officiant or pastor. Some pastors even require four sessions to make sure everyone is ready to commit to marriage. This is a great idea. When I do Premarital Counseling we try and cover everything just to see how compatible a couple is and where they might find potential hardship or disagreements. More than that, I try to teach a couple two very important things: How to fight and how to hurt each other.

What?! Fighting is an important skill and you have to know how to go about it fairly and respectfully. Hurting each other is necessary in a relationship too. There will be times when your spouse upsets you and you have to talk about it. There will be times when your spouse does something that irritates you slightly and you need to let them know. You need to know how to talk to your spouse about complaints, fears and worries in a way that isn’t critical or contemptuous. Hurting each other without damaging each other is an important skill.

 

WHEN YOU START FEELING DISCONNECTED:

When you first fall in love the connection is powerful. You genuinely want to do everything together and things hardly annoy you at all. At some point in every relationship that changes. People want to pursue individual interests again. They want time to themselves and little things that used to be cute are real annoying. These little things and little desires can muddle up simple connections. You can find yourself growing defensive and impatient and critical with greater frequency. Then is a great time to come in to a couples counselor for a few sessions and have them help you wade through all of the things that are muddying the waters.

 

WHEN YOU FEEL REALLY TEMPTED TO SPY ON YOUR PARTNER:

You see their phone. They spend a lot of time on that phone. They are always typing something, or scrolling something or laughing at it. You hate that phone. What is even on there that is so interesting?!

Ok, please stop. You don’t have to spy on your partner to find something incriminating enough to prove you need counseling. The fact that you have lost trust in them to the extent that you have proves that they are either acting shady enough to not be trustworthy or you have issues that need to be addressed. Either way, put the phone down and just schedule an intake session. What you’re looking for does not exist on that phone. You want connection, you want intimacy. You don’t want to be the warden.

 

WHEN YOU EVEN CONTEMPLATE HAVING AN AFFAIR:

Listen, I get it. It’s easy to talk to that other person. They really listen to you. They’re mostly just your best friend. Occasionally, they creep into your fantasies but you would never. You just aren’t that kind of person. I’m telling you, it can happen to you.

Marriages can overcome infidelity. I bet my business on it daily. I’ve seen it happen. But infidelity rarely rarely happens for no reason. If you are even feeling more connected to someone other than your spouse and are at all attracted to them: something is going wrong in your marriage. Why wait until all that shit hits your fan and you have go through the pain of confession or getting caught? Infidelity is a painful, awful thing to overcome. Trust me.

 

If any of the situations sounded like you, maybe just mention it to your partner. Just tell them what you’re feeling and why you think counseling would help. You can’t force anyone into therapy, sadly. But sometimes expressing the desire to someone and telling them you feel disconnected can go a long way.

And hey, if you need therapy and you are in Aiken, you know who to call.

3 Steps to Convince Someone they Really Need Therapy.

Step 1: You Can’t. 

Therapy is a personal choice made by an individual who is tired of life as it is and is ready to make a change. The decision to enter therapy is a complicated one. For some people it feels like giving up, like admitting they can’t handle their life on their own. It feels like an admission that they are weak, or broken.

Now you and I know that isn’t true, sure. But when you’re hurting and feel really alone and your own friends and family try and send you to a therapist your loved one just hears “I can’t handle you. You are too messed up.”

Sometimes a person even feels TOO messed up for therapy to work. They think, what the hell is talking to someone about all my problems going to do to solve the problems? They might feel a little hopeless about themselves. Changing your mind about these things doesn’t come from outside, it comes from within.

 

Step 2: Talk to a Therapist Yourself.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed dealing with people who are hurting. It can impact us so much especially if we share space with them, or if they isolate from us. It would help you through a rough time to seek out some counseling for yourself and work on expressing that frustration and setting boundaries that help restore and nurture you. (warning: don’t go to therapy just to tell them you went to therapy, go for you.)

 

Step 3: Don’t lose hope. 

They say that a person will only change when they finally see that the pain of the change is less than the pain of the problems as they are. Sometimes they refuse help because they think the work ahead of them is impossible and will hurt way more than the pain they have already grown familiar with. Sometimes we have to let people hurt until they decide they are done hurting and are ready to start to do the work to free themselves. It hurts so much to watch people we love suffer, but we can’t do the work for them. We can only gently remind them that help exists and give them the numbers and addresses to local mental health options.

 

Hopefully, this wasn’t too disappointing for you to read. I wrote this because it is a painful truth I have to say to someone nearly everyday. Genuinely, there is nothing I have come across that really works to get our loved ones to accept the help they so deeply need. Until such a tactic is revealed, we commiserate with one another as at some point we will all have someone in our lives we want to help feel better.

 

If you need someone to talk to either because someone in your life is hurting, or if you are the person hurting and need someone to talk to, feel free to sign up today.