Heart of Gratitude

Gratitude means having an appreciation for life in the present moment. It’s counting our blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging the abundance already here. When we are truly thankful for what we already have and content with what is – this is enough. We tend to take for granted all the good that is already in our lives. All too often, we hold out for the big achievements before allowing ourselves to be truly happy. It can be all too easy to fall into the trap of always wanting more and never allowing ourselves to be satisfied and content with what is. It’s as if we believe that life owes us something other than the greatest gift of the present. This mindset of lack and never enough can be a painful way to live, and is a surefire way to keep oneself just short of real contentment. This limited mindset is not in service to us and living in this way is a superficial form of happiness.

Most of us have a story about how our lives “should” be unfolding, and when this story clashes with reality, this creates discontentment. This discontentment is the outcome of placing our own mental projections onto how we believe life should be. There is a beauty in being able to recognize that life is simply unfolding and when we resist what is by placing our own demands on life, we create our own unhappiness. This type of denial and resistance of life as it’s happening in the now creates suffering. This may take the form of denying a reality that one feels afraid to face or may even look like an avoidance of feeling certain emotions. When we habitually focus on what’s not going right, we miss out on the good in our lives. On the most simplistic and basic level, the good is where life is, in the here and now.

The more we shift out of a mindset of never enough and a resistance to life and instead begin to adopt an attitude of thanksgiving, the “more” we find that we receive. Gratitude is often a mental acknowledgement of everything that is going well in our lives, and certainly this is important and valid on its own. However, there is a thankfulness that runs much deeper. This type of gratitude is a deep sense of our very presence and our sense of “being-ness” or aliveness. This is simply just the natural feeling ‘I am’, the sense of existence that is always present when we are not entangled with thinking about the past and future. We can access our natural being-ness anytime, because it’s always here, underneath the noise of the mind. When we are able to find the space between thoughts, there is a natural peace and contentment flowing within. As we become more attuned to this sense of aliveness, true gratitude starts to emerge automatically. Through being fully present with life as it’s unfolding now and recognizing our very presence, there is a felt sense of appreciation for all that is.

So in this way, true gratitude is powerful and transformative. We miss the natural wonderful-ness of life when we are arguing with the present or resisting what is. Being present with life and having a deep acceptance, allows us to find peace even in the midst of difficult situations and allows our choices to be guided from an honest and grounded place. In fact, when we have the maturity to accept the present moment with a heart of gratitude, we discover that peace naturally arises.

Each day it’s important to appreciate this gift of being alive. There are many ways to practice gratitude and acceptance. You might start with keeping a daily gratitude journal and write in it throughout the day or as you go through the day. You can become more aware of all the gifts, joyful moments and love in your life. You might notice the good that has come out of painful events in your life and start to see the grace and blessings in even the deeply challenging experiences.

One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude is to get into the habit of saying “thank you”. This is a very simple practice and can even be a form of prayer for some. On a basic level, one can even acknowledge and give thanks to God or life for their senses and being able to appreciate life so fully, for the breath and for the joy of family and friendship. We can offer thanks for the beautiful things, and, even the ugly things. We can feel gratitude for the small acts of kindness given or received, for the warmth of the sun, the sound of rain and the beauty of a flower. We can say thank you to existence and to the creative power of the universe, to the deeper sense of being that is always here. All of this provides a simple but powerful way to add so much beauty, strength and joy to your life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

Article by Stacy Hall, LPC

Fixing

As humans, “fixing” is part of our nature. We are logical, strategic, solution oriented beings that are often taught from a young age that a question always has an answer and a problem always has a fix. After all, we invented the wheel when things became to heavy to carry and found fire when we needed a better way to eat. In short, “fixing” is part of our nature because it’s birthed from our instinct to survive.

With that being said, no wonder it’s so uncomfortable for us when we encounter a problem that has no tangible fix.

For many couples seeking out therapeutic support, desire to fix, make better, take away a partner’s pain is often a common goal at the onset of therapy. Perhaps one partner has not been faithful, or has said something hurtful or has acted in some way, which has resulted in the other receiving the message “I am not important, I am not loved, I don’t matter”. With true genuine intentions, this partner often arrives in therapy hopeless and helpless, stating his or her belief that they have done all they could–no matter how hard they try to fix the problem, things just don’t seem to be getting better.

“Fixing”, while generally coming from a well-intended place, (we don’t usually enjoy seeing someone we care about hurting, especially when we know that our actions are the reason or at least part of the reason for the hurt) is invalidating. When we have hurt someone and we attempt to fix it or make it better, we are essentially sending the person we have hurt the message: “Your feelings make me uncomfortable so I’m going to do what I can to try and make them go away. This way, you’ll feel better and I can feel better knowing that you’re no longer hurting because of me.” While this is often happening at a subconscious level, it’s the reason why simply telling our partner “you are important, you are loved, you do matter” in these moments is often not enough.

You may have heard therapists or others use the phrase “lean into the discomfort.”—this is what that’s all about. While there is no tangible fix in these circumstances, what is really needed by the hurt partner is for the other to create space for them to be; to lean in to their pain, let them know that their feelings are valid and be asked what they need. When we can do this, we are able to acknowledge our partner’s pain and let them know that their discomfort makes sense. We come alongside of them and co-burden the hurt. In doing so, hurt and pain becomes more manageable because while it is still ever present, we receive the message from our partner that we are not alone.

By Aliza Cooper, LMFT

Boundaries

Self-esteem is partly determined by the ability to be truthful with a humble spirit in order to identify with the “realness” of who we are while gaining insight into our life story. No one can change what is unknown or denied. The transformation of our life script takes rigorous honesty, mentoring, reflection, self-care and a journey of faith, hope, and courage. A surrender and willingness to self-asses in order to self-govern with respect requires borders and boundaries. The essence of healthy relationships are indicative of healthy boundaries. Once established they reveal self-love and allow one to differentiate and to attach to others. Individuality defines the distinction of thoughts, beliefs, emotions, clarifying the moral compass and values before we speak, act and or decide.

Boundaries spoken and maintained educate the world around us how we would like to be treated. The three functions of boundaries are as follows: to define the essence of who you are, to protect oneself emotionally, sexually, physically, financially, intellectually, and spiritually, and to contain and regulate both internal and external triggers. Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries allow for freedom to be “real” and a passage into the maturing process. It is a walk of integrity, high regard and courage especially when challenged. Be best and stand in honor with boundaries!

By Brenda Garrett-Layman

Embracing Grief and Loss

Being human means being vulnerable. We are sensate creatures meant to feel and emote. We typically prefer safety and routine and when we are forced to leave all things familiar and secure due to death or loss, we experience fear and grief. In fact, we may on any given day experience loss to one degree or another. These losses might be experienced as “big deaths” or “little deaths.” Based on an individual’s experience with past trauma, spiritual beliefs, social support and values, our losses are experienced on a spectrum. Some examples of loss include:

  • Suffering childhood trauma
  • Loss of love
  • Loss of beauty, fitness or youth
  • A difficult birth
  • A near death experience
  • Losing sexual potency
  • Losing one’s virginity forcefully
  • Experiencing a natural disaster
  • Immigration/refugee status/loss of culture/language/tradition
  • Losing a pet
  • Leaving home or a school or job
  • Losing a parent, sibling, friend or child
  • Losing faith in government, church, corporation

Grief is a psycho-spiritual process. The ego is shattered. Our sense of self becomes submerged in feelings of despair and sorrow. A part of us is lost, yet we often feel pressure from friends, family and society to get back to our old selves. Usually this is because there is an inability in our culture to tolerate someone else’s pain. Grief is not simple or finite and it manifests in a variety of ways:

  • Anticipatory grief
  • Normal grief
  • Delayed grief
  • Complicated grief (traumatic or prolonged)
  • Disenfranchised grief
  • Chronic grief
  • Cumulative grief
  • Masked grief

There is a stark beauty that can be found in surrendering to grief. By embracing it, befriending it, sitting alongside it, being curious about it, we can move through it to find a renewed sense of self. A self that is wiser, more empathetic and compassionate with a better understanding that the control we once thought we had was an illusion. All we really have is this moment. We can then consider, “How shall I use this moment, how shall I choose to live?” Through exercise, energy work, tending to the body, meditation, narrative therapy, trauma resolution therapy, group therapy, talk therapy and finding meaning in service to others we can create a new sense of self. A self that is more expansive yet understands the value of humility. We can then transition from grief to gratitude.

For additional information on grief and bereavement:
Healing Through The Dark Emotions by Miriam Greenspan
A Broken Heart Still Beats: When Your Child Dies by Mary Semel and Anne McCracken
The Way Men Heal by Thomas R. Golden

Know Thyself

Intimacy is knowing and being known in a manner that creates connection and safety. I sit with many couples who want intimacy, to feel that connection, to know the friendship and passion of intimacy. However, few want to truly explore what it takes to build it. They express a desire to be known, but do not want to do the work of knowing themselves. We can only share with another to the extent of what we know about ourselves. Intimacy begins as a personal work—Know Thyself—which then gives rise to a relational work.

Although there are many ways of understanding personal intimacy, three are at it’s core: honesty, compassion, and boundaries. The first aspect of intimacy is honesty. I must be honest with myself about who I am and all of its complexity. Answering a few questions can start this process: What am I feeling at any given moment? What do I think or believe? What do I want or need? What do I like or dislike? What do I value? The key is in owning your story—what makes you tick? Telling your story is a start. Find a safe friend, therapist, 12-step group where you can put your story out to others—the good, the bad, and the ugly. When we begin to tell our story, and own it with safe people, we get clearer about who we are, begin to affirm ourselves, let go of shame, and can hold it up against who we want to be.

Compassion is another aspect of intimacy. I have heard it said, in one form or another, honesty without compassion is cruelty. As you own your story, do so with eyes of compassion. Show empathy towards yourself. See the wounded part of yourself and be gentle. Do something kind for yourself everyday. Breathe.

Finally, establish boundaries. Boundaries are not a way to control or punish others. Boundaries are rooted in self-care. Boundaries therefore begin with you. By getting clear about who you are with honesty, you can begin to see what you need to do to take care of yourself, how you harm yourself, and how you can harm others. Therefore, boundaries identify what I need to do and what I need to prevent myself from doing. Boundaries can look like getting to bed at a reasonable hour, eating healthy, or having fun family or friends on a regular basis. Also, boundaries can help us address issues that are destructive such as rage, isolation, or addiction, by keeping yourself out of vulnerable situations, learning emotional regulation, establishing accountability, and making amends. When we have healthy boundaries with ourselves, we are better able to have healthy boundaries with others.

By working on intimacy with yourself through honesty, compassion, and boundaries, you create an understanding which allows for greater intimacy with others. It is a life long journey with always more to discover. Take time to know yourself. You deserve it.

 

By Douglas Withrow

Sex Addiction Label: Helpful or Not?

It is important to note that there is no sex addiction diagnosis in the DSM V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used to identify and describe psychiatric diagnosis). There is however a sex addiction label which has gained more attention in recent years. There is much discussion and at times argument, as to if sex addiction is a condition at all. For the purpose of this discussion, it will be assumed that sex addiction is a legitimate condition that many struggle with.

Benefits of the Sex Addiction label may be:

  1. There is an identifiable condition to name when a person has struggled with sexual acting out
  2. There are behaviors and symptoms connected to the sex addict label to help identify what a person may struggle with
  3. The “addiction” part of the label can be a way to identify a person’s loss of control over his behaviors (However even if there is a loss of control, he is still 100% culpable for all of his behaviors).
  4. There are many 12 step, inpatient, IOP, individual therapists and other support groups to support people who identify with the label of sex addiction
  5. Many people address their shame by joining a recovery community and sharing their problems with their support groups
  6. There is an increasing amount of material available about sex addiction and different specific behaviors and problems within sex addiction

Some of the drawbacks to the label of Sex Addiction may include:

  1. A person rationalizing his infidelity or offensive sexual behavior through identifying as a sex addict
  2. A person who has been unfaithful to his spouse/partner may take on the label by his or her spouse out of guilt
  3. A person can be mislabeled if their sexual acting out is really an episodic period in their lives, but not long term and enduring (i.e as part of exploring one’s sexual identity)
  4. A person becomes over-identified with the label, which can be stigmatizing and shameful
    There may be an over-focus on the label, without addressing the specific sexual behaviors or problems, and the underlying issues beneath this (often trauma based)
  5. In the absence of a discussion about and understanding of what healthy sexuality is, sexuality can be pathologized

In the future, the label of Sex Addiction may change or be done away with. What is more important than the label itself, is that the behaviors and underlying issues are addressed, and a person is able to be supported in their healing. At its best, the label of Sex Addiction is used to help a person receive the help and support that he or she needs.

 

By Elijah Bedrosian, LPC

Sex Addiction: What You Need to Know

Rick Isenberg, M.D. and Medical Director for Psychological Counseling Services, discusses sex addiction and what we need to know in this Triune Therapy audio interview.

[su_button url=”https://www.triunetherapy.com/behind-closed-doors/sex-addiction-need-know/” target=”blank” style=”flat” background=”#003a54″ size=”7″ wide=”yes”]LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE[/su_button]

More on Rick Isenberg, MD HERE.

What Is a “Psychoeducational Evaluation” and Should My Child Have One?

If your child is struggling at school with learning, you may be concerned about whether he or she might have a learning disorder, such as a reading disability/dyslexia, math disability, or written expression disability. Or, you may wonder if there might be an attentional deficit (e.g., ADHD), or if your child might be just “bored” and not challenged. Alternatively, you may be concerned about emotional issues, such as anxiety or depression, which may be affecting your child’s learning progress.

If you are experiencing any of the above concerns, pursuing a psychoeducational evaluation for your child can be a useful way for you (and your child’s teachers) to discover some answers.

There are several areas that Dr. Gilbert assesses in her psychoeducational evaluations:

  • Cognitive Ability
  • Academic Achievement
  • Social/Emotional/Behavioral Functioning
  • Attentional Functioning

The cognitive assessment provides information about an individual’s intelligence, revealing any strengths as well as weaknesses. Areas assessed include verbal reasoning, visual-spatial skills, nonverbal abstract reasoning, working memory (auditory and visual), and processing speed. This information can be very useful in understanding your child’s thinking and reasoning abilities. For example, if your child’s verbal reasoning skills are significantly better than his or her nonverbal reasoning skills, it may be that your child may understand new information more easily when it is presented in a verbal, rather than visual, format.

Moreover, if your child is found to have a weakness in working memory and/or processing speed, this may mean that, in order to learn, your child may require information to be repeated, or may need to be exposed to material on multiple occasions, or may need the pace of instruction to be slowed down. Further, within working memory, it can be very useful to discover whether your child may have a weakness in recalling either visual or verbally-presented information. In this way, your child’s teacher can then be sure to introduce material in a format that works better for your child. The cognitive assessment may also determine whether your child is a gifted learner, and in need of gifted instruction at school in order to appropriately stimulate and capture your child’s learning motivation. Knowing your child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses can especially help teachers to understand that your child can learn, but that he or she may need strategies or accommodations to facilitate that learning.

The academic achievement assessment measures a child’s achievement in reading, math, and written language. In reading, the areas of sight-word reading, phonetic decoding, oral reading fluency, and reading comprehension are assessed. When children are young and their reading skills are still emerging, Dr. Gilbert often includes a test of phonological processing to investigate foundational reading skills. For math, timed math facts, untimed math calculations, and math reasoning are measured. In the area of written language, sentence composition skills, spelling, and essay composition skills are evaluated. This information may then be used to determine whether a Specific Learning Disorder is present in reading (dyslexia), math (dyscalculia), or written expression (dysgraphia).

To assess a child’s social, emotional, and behavioral functioning, parent and teacher rating scales are used. When appropriate, the child may also complete a self-rating scale. These scales include a wide range of concerns that children exhibit, including acting-out behavior, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and adaptive skills such as adaptability and social skills. Rating scales are also used to assess whether a child may be exhibiting significant difficulty with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Lastly, a computerized test is administered, which measures a child’s ability to sustain his or her attention, as well as to resist impulsive responding, when exposed to both visual and auditory information. Dr. Gilbert is then able to consider all this data, in conjunction with the child’s history, to determine whether ADHD may be present, or if anxiety is a primary factor preventing the child from making adequate school progress, or if depression may be playing a role, or if an Oppositional-Defiant Disorder may be at play. Included as part of the evaluation is a meeting with the parent(s) to review all the assessment data, and to discuss best practice recommendations that are provided by Dr. Gilbert. Because Dr. Gilbert is a certified school psychologist (in addition to being a licensed psychologist), she can guide parents in navigating the complicated world of special education services and IEPs if appropriate.

If you are interested in more information, please contact Dr. Gilbert’s office. The testing typically involves 4-5 hours of direct testing. The cost is generally $1250 – $1450, depending on what assessments are needed. Remember to bring your child’s eyeglasses if they are needed, to make sure your child goes to bed on time the night before, and that your child has a good breakfast/lunch prior to the assessment.

Mother Guilt/Mother Shame: Stop the Madness

On a weekly basis, I meet with women in my therapy practice who feel like they are not good moms. When I explore this with them, I find that in contrast to their feelings of failure, they are doing a really good job. Their children are thriving: They do well in school, they have friends, and participate in lots of different activities. And when their children have struggles (a part of thriving), they verbalize the thoughtful way they approached the situation.

I thinks it’s important to admit that I, a psychologist and a mom who should know better (notice the unhelpful, negative thought), struggle with not feeling like a good enough mom, too. Parenting is the most humbling job no matter how well prepared you think you are.

Many things contribute to creating and sustaining moms’ feelings of not being good enough. Many of us are struggling to balance our mommy roles with other roles in our lives and are feeling stressed about not doing everything perfectly. So, in this first entry, let’s look at the concept of being a good enough mom.

The concept of the good enough mother was first coined by Donald Winnicott in 1953. In his work as a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst he observed thousands of babies and mothers and came to realize that babies and children actually benefit when their mothers fail them in manageable ways. They need their primary caretakers to fail them in tolerable ways on a consistent basis to learn to live in an imperfect world. Like trees blown around by wind, children grow stronger by managing challenging events in their lives. The good enough mother is cognizant of her child’s development stage and supports her child’s learning and growth.

60 years later and good enough mothering hasn’t made its way into mainstream thinking. That is terrible. We need to change how we define parenting and celebrate it. Good enough is not mediocre. Good enough is thoughtful. Good enough is making rational choices. Good enough is supporting each other to be the best mom we can be. Good enough frees us and our children to be imperfectly perfect. Let’s start with getting the word out. #goodenoughmom

 

Article by Cathy Walls

My Child Saw Pornography

Annmarie Lange discusses the growing challenge many parents face in her article “My Child Saw Pornography, What Should I Do?

More and more young children are using the internet unsupervised. Lack of supervision leads to accidental exposure and misconceptions of love. Lange offers several great tips and considerations if you and your child are faced with this situation. These include:

  • Considering the age of the child
  • Using the exposure as a means to educate
  • Ways to respond as a parent
  • Starting the conversation early
  • Providing reassurance
  • Ways to address accidental exposure
  • Expressing concern for regular exposure
  • Disbanding assumptions

 

View the full article here.

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