What is your inner child telling you? Do you want everyone to cater to your needs? Do you find yourself disappointed a lot? Do you have a lot of fear... anxiety?
The idea of having an inner child may be foreign to most people. But all of us have a part of us that's still us as a child. It's possible that our inner child never fully grew up or may not be fully healed from pain in the past.
Think about your current life and all the emotions and behaviors that you don't like and are continually trying to change. These emotions and behaviors come from our experiences from when we were small children.
From birth to about 6 or 7 years old, our brain functions at a relatively slow pace, which is a very "receptive" brainwave state. At this time we are profoundly affected by our life experiences. Our beliefs about ourselves and others are formed during this time based on our life's experiences.
As small children we will have been absorbing a great deal from our extended families, our caregiver(s), friends, religious institutions, etc.
Our experiences may have been filled with love and support or they may have been filled with neglect and abuse. Our subconscious takes in all this information and holds on to it for the rest of our lives.
We cannot change the script. The life we experienced happened, whether good or bad, it happened. And that script, how our brain processes our events, is designed to keep us safe. Hence, anxiety to keep us on the lookout for danger (as an example).
All of our life experiences have been "logged" into our sub-conscious minds and bodies. This all creates the pool in which we float, or sink. Inevitably, the water will be a bit dirty - or it may even be like thick mud. In this pool is our self-esteem, body-image, family trauma, shame and secrets (even if not spoken about). We sink down into this pool, or mud, whenever we are overwhelmed by our negative thoughts, emotions, self-doubt or self-loathing.
In therapy the aim is to sensitively lift out this dirt/mud, bit by bit, until we are left with just a stain of what was once there.
In therapy you can learn how to meet, rescue and “adopt” this wounded child who still lives deep inside you. This process of meeting, rescuing and adopting your wounded child is an amazing process. Any why you? Because you are the only person who you can guarantee never to leave you!
Signs that your Inner Child may be wounded:
low self-esteem, poor body-image, mood and emotional imbalances, problems with boundaries being too rigid or too weak, problems with eating, harming yourself, being a rebel/ a hoarder/ a bully/ a perennial victim or a super-achiever, intimacy problems, commitment problems, a general lack of trust in yourself and others, criminal behavior, excessive lying, just to name a few.
If you are in Orange County, California and interested in working on your Inner Child please feel free to reach out to me. We can begin with a free 15-minute consultation and go from there. Or you can reach out to any therapist in your area and ask if they do Inner Child work. I wish you all the best!
Liz Birch is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and certified Master Hypnotist who provides psychotherapy and hypnotherapy services at her office in Tustin, CA. Her areas of expertise are in communications, relationships, marriage strengthening, stress reduction, depression, trauma, anxiety, anger, personal growth and ptsd. Her website address is LizBirchTherapist.com.
We've just ended another holiday season. This is a time where, instead of joy, you may have been forced to be with family members you wished you didn't have to be with. You might have been present out of a feeling of obligation.
Instead of "how are you?", "I'm so glad to see you... tell me about your successes", did you find yourself subject to criticism, as usual? Is there one person who always finds fault in what you do? Is that person your parent?
Toxic people prey on others. They dominate and control, disregard your needs and feelings. They focus on themselves and don’t seem interested in you at all. They seem to see other people as tools instead of whole, autonomous beings. They look to take energy from others because they lack their own vital energy. Toxic people drain you! They create drama and chaos but they don’t see that this is what they are doing. They are the person who walks into a room and others will leave or walk away to avoid them.
Toxic people not only are taking energy, but they are also throwing their own pain and raw emotions onto everyone they interact with. This is because they lack the capacity to deal with the severity of a trauma that may have occurred in early childhood that caused them to have a worldview that people are out to harm them. Because of this view, that others are out to harm them, they have problems connecting with others.
Toxic people don’t appreciate you, so they don’t want you to appreciate yourself, either. They need you to ignore your own needs and desires so you can devote all your time to them. They use intimidation to keep you down, which means keeping you from living your truth.
But what if this toxic person is your parent? This is the person who is meant to love you, hold you, and take the sharp edges off the world, while teaching you with love, wisdom and warmth how to do it for yourself. There is a different kind of hurt that can only come from a toxic parent – someone who is meant to love you. It’s a hurt that affects you to the core.
Nobody is perfect, including our parents, but there is a point at which imperfect becomes destructive, taking away from children the love, warmth and nurturing they deserve and require and replacing it with something awful.
When children are raised on a diet of criticism, judgment, abuse and loathing, it’s only a matter of time before they take over from those parents, delivering with full force to themselves the toxic lashings that have been delivered to them.
A toxic parent has a long list of weapons, but all come under the banner of neglect or emotional, verbal or physical abuse. Toxic parents lie, manipulate, ignore, judge, abuse, shame, humiliate and criticize. Nothing is ever good enough. You get on the Junior Varsity team but they don’t understand why you didn’t make Varsity. You get elected as your class Secretary but they don’t understand why did didn’t go for and get elected as class President. You get an A in math but they complain you should have gotten an A+. They’ll demean you then complain you’re a crybaby when you show you are hurt. The toxic parent shows no warmth, caring or security which is paramount in developing attachment in children.
Any negative behavior that causes emotional damage or contaminates the way a person sees himself or herself, is toxic. A toxic parent treats his or her children in such a way as to make those children doubt their importance, their worth, and that they are deserving of love, approval and validation. The truth is that you, like every other small person on the planet, deserved love, warmth, and to know how important you were. You’re not useless at life – you’ve bought in to the messages that were delivered by a parent too broken to realize what they were doing. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
The good news in this regard is that:
In knowing all that, don’t wait for your parents to change, because it’s not likely going to happen. You have to become a fully autonomous person, completely responsible for your own life.
But you must be aware that you can’t change lifelong patterns overnight, no matter how self-defeating they may be. Emotional work on yourself can be pretty heavy, and thus it’s easy to start looking for excuses not to do it. In such cases, slowing down isn’t a problem. Just make sure you never stop.
How to heal from a toxic parent.
1. It’s okay to free yourself from a toxic parent.
This is such a difficult decision, but it could be one of the most important. We humans are wired to connect, even with people who don’t deserve to be connected to us. Sometimes though, the only way to stop the disease spreading is to cut it off. It doesn’t matter how much you love some people, they are broken to the point that they will only keep damaging you from the inside out. You’re not responsible for them or for the state of your relationships with them, and you are under no obligation to keep yourself being abused, belittled, shamed or humiliated. Healing starts with expecting more for yourself, and you’re the only person who can make that decision.
You must absolutely let go of the responsibility for the painful events of your childhood. You were in no way responsible for your parents’ toxic behavior.
You were in no way responsible for:
The toxic behavior is completely your parents’ responsibility. Even if no harmful intent existed, it’s the final result that counts.
2. It’s also okay to stay in a relationship with your toxic parent.
Don’t be harsh on yourself if you stay in the relationship. The act of returning to an abusive relationship can trigger self-loathing. ‘Why aren’t I strong enough?’ Know that loyalty is such an admirable trait, even if it gets in the way of your capacity to protect yourself. Own where you are and give yourself full permission to be there. Accept that for now, this is where you’re at, and fully experience what that’s like for you. You’ll never love yourself enough to change your expectations if you’re flogging yourself for not being strong enough. It takes tremendous strength to keep walking into a relationship that you know is going to hurt you. When you’re ready, you’ll make the move to do something differently. For now though, wherever you are is okay.
3. Be honest about the relationship.
If you’re going to stay, know that it’s okay to put a boundary between yourself and your parent. You can act from love and kindness if you want to – but don’t stay in the relationship unless you can accept that the love you deserve will never come back to you. If it were going to, it would have reached you by now. See their behavior for what it is – evidence of their breaks, not evidence of yours. Put a bubble around yourself and let their abuse bounce off. Love yourself and respect yourself enough to fill the well that they bleed dry. They might not be capable of giving you the love and respect you deserve, but you are.
4. Be careful of repeating the patterns.
You might find yourself drawn to people who have similarities to your toxic parent. There’s a really good reason for this. All of us are driven to find an ending to things that remain unresolved. Because love, warmth and nurturing are such an important part of child development, yet so elusive for the child of a toxic parent, it’s very normal for those children to be driven to find a resolution to never feeling loved, secure or good enough. They will look to receive what they didn’t get from their parents in others and will often be drawn to people who have similarities to their toxic parent. The theory is, with similar people, the patterns will be easier to replicate, and the hope of an ending closer to the desired one – parent love – will be easier to fulfill. The pattern often does repeat, but because of the similarities to the parent, so does the unhappy ending.
The decisions aren’t conscious ones, so to move towards healing, the automatic thoughts and feelings driving the choices need to be brought more into awareness. If this is something that’s familiar for you, it’s possible that you are being drawn to the wrong people because they remind you of your toxic parent, and somewhere inside you where you wanted things to stay hidden, is the wish that you’ll get from them what you weren’t able to get from your parent. Look at the people in your life and explore the similarities they have with your own parents. What do they do that’s similar? What do you do that’s similar to the way you are in your relationship with your parents? Which needs are being met? What keeps you there? The more awareness you have, the more you can make deliberate decisions that aren’t driven by historical wants.
5. Acknowledge your right to be loved and respected.
One of the greatest acts of self-love is owning your right to love and respect from the people you allow close to you. You’re completely entitled to set the conditions for your relationships, as other people are to set the conditions for theirs. We all have to treat those we love with kindness, generosity and respect if we want the same back. If those conditions aren’t met, you’re allowed to close the door. You’re allowed to slam it closed behind them if you want to.
6. Be careful of your own toxic behavior.
You’ve been there, so you know the behaviors and you know what they do. We’re all human. We’re all going to get it wrong sometimes. Toxic behavior though, is habitual and it will damage the members of your own little tribe as surely as it damaged you. You don’t have to be a product of the cruel parenting that was shown to you, and this starts with the brave decision that the cycle stops at you. People who do this, who refuse to continue a toxic legacy, are courageous, heroic and they change the world. We’re here to build amazing humans, not to tear them down. How would your life have been different if your parent was the one who decided that enough was enough?
7. You’re allowed to make mistakes and you’re allowed to do it on your own.
You may have been lead to believe that you’re not enough – not smart enough, beautiful enough, funny enough, strong enough or capable enough. The truth is that you are enough. Open yourself up to the possibility of this and see what happens. You don’t need to depend on anyone and making mistakes doesn’t make you a loser. It never has. That’s something you’ve been lead to believe by a parent who never supported you or never gave you permission to make mistakes sometimes. Make mistakes now, it’s okay. Give yourself full permission to try and miss. There will be hits and there will be misses. You don’t even know what you’re capable of because you’ve never been encouraged to find out. You’re stronger than you think you are, braver, better and smarter than you think you are, and now is your time to prove it to yourself.
8. Document the beliefs that hold you back. (And get yourself a rubber band.)
Document the beliefs that hold you back – write them down. The ones that get in your way and stop you from doing what you want to do, saying what you want to say or being who you want to be. Were you brought up to believe your opinion doesn’t count? You were brought up to believe that parents are always right? You were most likely brought up to believe that you’re unlovable, unimportant, stupid, annoying, incapable and worthless.
Now beside each belief, write what that belief is costing you. Has it cost you relationships, happiness, freedom to be, to experiment, or to explore? Then, rewrite the script. Thoughts drive feelings, behavior, what you expect for yourself and what you expect from relationships and the world. How are you going to change those beliefs? Just choose one or two to start with and every time you catch yourself thinking the old thoughts, actively replace it with a new, more self-nurturing thought – then act as though that new thought is true. You don’t have to believe it – just pretend it is. Your head will catch up when it’s ready.
If it’s difficult to break out of the old thought, try this: wear a rubber band (or a hair band) around your wrist. Every time you catch yourself thinking the old thought, give the band a little flick. This will start to train your mind to let go of the old thoughts that have no place in your life anymore. You just need a little flick, no need for pain, your old thoughts have been doing that long enough already. There is no right or wrong on this. All the answers, strength and courage you need to do what’s right for you is in you. You just need to give yourself the opportunity and the reason to hear it.
9. The dreaded “shoulds” - get rid of them.
“Shoulds” are the messages we take in whole (introject) from childhood, school, relationships, and society. They guide behavior automatically and this can be a good thing (“I should be around people who respect me”) or a not so good thing (“I should always be nice”). Take a close look at your “shoulds” and see if they’ve been swallowed with a spoonful of poison. Our “shoulds” come from many years of cultivating and careful pruning, so that when that “should” is fully formed, it automatically directs you without any thought.
It’s likely that the “should” that’s keeping you stuck has come from the person who wanted to keep you that way. Were you brought up feeling indebted to your parents? Did they make you feel you owe them? Did they make you feel like you’ll never cope if you separate properly from them? Did they deliver you messages to keep you small, quiet, or hidden? Believing the messages may have worked when you were younger, but it doesn’t have to be that way now. Don’t pick up from where they left off. You’re older now, with different circumstances, and in a different environment. Bring your “shoulds” out in the open so your actions can be more deliberate. If your “shoulds” are working for you, love them up and keep them, otherwise let them go.
10. Nobody is all good or all bad. Let that guilt go.
One of the things that make ending any relationship so difficult is that there will be traces of exactly what you want. Even toxic parents can sometimes be loving, warm or nurturing, though it’s mostly, if not always, done to further their own agenda. In the same way that being ‘a little bit bad’ probably isn’t enough to sever an important relationship, being ‘a little bit good’ isn’t enough reason to keep one. Step back and take a look at the big picture. If you feel miserable in the relationship more than you feel good, question your reasons for staying. If it’s because your toxic parent is old, frail, sad or lonely, that might be all the reason you need to stay, and that’s okay. If it is, own the decision in strength and put limits on contact or how much you will give to the relationship. You’re entitled to take or give as much to the relationship as you decide. Just whatever you do, do it deliberately, in strength and clarity, not because you’re being manipulated or disempowered. The shift in mindset seems small, but it’s so important.
11. Work on building yourself up.
Toxic environments are toxic to the brain – we know that with absolute certainty. The human brain is incredibly adaptive, and in response to a toxic environment it will shut down so as to protect itself as much as it can from the toxicity. When this happens, as it does during prolonged periods of emotional stress, the rate at which the brain produces new neurons (neurogenesis) slows right down, ultimately making people vulnerable to anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment, memory loss, reduced immunity, loss of vitality, reduced resilience to stress, and illness (research has shown that migraine and other pain conditions are more prevalent in people who were brought up in abusive environments, though the exact reason for the relationship is unclear).
We also know, without a doubt, that the damage can be turned around. Diet (omega 3, green tea extract, blueberry extract, reduced intake processed sugar and unhealthy carbohydrates), exercise (anything that increases heart rate), and meditation (such as a regular mindfulness practice) will all help to rebuild the brain and heal the damage done by a toxic environment. Increasing neurogenesis will help to build resilience, cognitive function, vitality and protect against stress, anxiety and depression.
Healing from a toxic parent starts with deciding that the lifetime of messages that have left you hollow or scarred are wrong. It means opening a heart that’s probably been closed for way too long, and receiving the love, approval and validation that has always been yours to own. Sometimes, it means realizing that parents break too, sometimes irreparably, sometimes to the point of never being able to show love to the people in their life who deserve it the most. Sometimes it means making the brave decision, in strength and with the greatest self-love and self-respect, to let go of the relationship that’s been hurting you.
Breaking free of a toxic parent is hard, but hard has never meant impossible. With the deliberate decision to move forward, there are endless turns your story can take. You are a whole and valuable person deserving of respect and love. Be open to the possibilities of what that respect and love can bring.
If you need help with leaving a toxic relationship, whether it be a parent or any one else, please reach out to a Marriage & Family Therapist in your area. They can help guide you through the process and work with you helping you see what a truly amazing person you are.
Liz Birch is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who provides services in her office in Tustin, CA. Her areas of expertise are in communications, relationships, marriage strengthening, stress reduction, depression, trauma, anxiety, anger, personal growth, and ptsd (civilian and military). She can be reached via email at LizBirchMFT@gmail.com, or by calling 714-584-6047. Her website address is LizBirchTherapist.com
1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
"their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition"
2. a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Relationships are the cornerstone of a good life both emotionally and physically. Relationships (for this article) don’t only mean between two people that are connected by blood or marriage, but are also interactions between two or more people in any setting. We may have a relationship with members of our community, co-workers or people we worship with. So when I refer to relationships it can be with anyone we encounter and how we talk, behave or deal with each other.
It’s been highly reported that being in satisfying relationships lead to a happier life with fewer health problems as well as reduced depression and cognitive decline. So you can deduce that being involved in relationships that are unsatisfying or negative can lead to negative health effects and poor daily outcomes.
So, now lets talk about relationships and mindfulness.
To be sure you understand mindfulness – “mindfulness” means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
Research on mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and at the Harvard Medical School shows that the majority of people who attend an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course reported lasting improvement in both physical and psychological symptoms from conditions such as heart disease, migraine headaches, some auto-immune diseases, obsessive thinking, anxiety, depression, and hostility. They also report an increased ability to relax, greater energy and enthusiasm for life, improved confidence and self-esteem, and more effective coping with both short-term and long-term stress.
Mindfulness involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts focus on what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than bringing up the past or forecasting into the future.
Here’s a closer look at mindfulness in a relationship:
A typical conversation between a couple may involve one partner remarking, “You used to want to go out every weekend. You used to enjoy going hiking on a moments notice.” This may spark a defensive response in the other partner: “What? You’re saying I don’t want to go out and have fun anymore? You think I’m boring? Well look at you? The only thing you want to do is stare at your phone and play games on it! You seem happy just sitting on the couch!” This type of angry and accusatory response tends to have a snowball effect. “I never said you didn’t want to go out any more, and now you’re saying I just want to play on my phone? I’m constantly working to make you happy. You’re so ungrateful.”
Couples tend to play off each other in the heat of the dialog. In that intense angry state, their resentments toward each other start to flow. At this point, their higher functioning brains are offline and the emotional centers are flying out. Strong, exaggerated, hostile statements are erupting. Yet, if either could be more mindful in the interaction, they would take pause before responding. Before reacting, slow down. They could notice what is happening and that they are being triggered. In a mindfulness state they can choose to do something else. Before reacting, listen intently to what your partner is saying. Imagine your partner’s emotions. Listen to the words. Fight being triggered and just reacting. You might need to take a break. This may mean taking a few deep breaths or going for a walk so you don’t become engaged in the angry fight.
The next time you find yourself in a more un-mindful moment (blaming, criticizing, judging) with someone, simply take a breath, observe your body and ask yourself the following questions:
Philip Moffet, who founded the Life Balance Institute, stated the following about Mindfulness and Relationships;
1. Begin your exploration of relationship with making an inventory of how “related” you feel to others in various situations in your daily life. Then cultivate a modest aspiration to deepen your feelings of relatedness. Avoid falling into cultural clichés around what different kinds of relationships are supposed to look like. Relatedness is an inner felt experience that you know in your heart and in your body.
2. Become interested in the nature of your friendships. Be honest with yourself. Are they friendships of convenience, mutual advantage, or circumstance? If so, how does that feel? Can you identify three people whose friendships offer the potential for deeper feelings of relatedness? Each of these opportunities may be less than ideal, but still there is opportunity. You are cultivating the ability of your mind and heart to be available for relationship and through mindfulness developing the skills to do so.
3. Turn your attention to your significant other. If it’s a long-term relationship, notice if you have ceased to seek intimacy. If so, why? Is it because of their imperfections? Your feelings of rejection? Boredom? Is the relationship failing to meet some expectation? This very same relationship offers an opportunity for deeper relatedness, if you are willing to accept the person as they are and not demand that they be otherwise. Commit to do doing metta [loving-kindness] practice for your significant other every morning for six months and observe what change occurs when you cultivate love without demand.
4. In most families there is a range of closeness among members. Do you feel more related to some members of your family than others? Start being mindful of how lack of closeness causes you to be defensive around a certain family member, or to shut someone out, or to ignore their full range of human dimensions. Begin a compassion practice for one such member of your family and start to explore how you can be more fully accepting of this person just as they are. And then notice how it feels within you when you do have a moment of such acceptance.
5. In one sense your co-workers are your work “family.” In fact the culture at your workplace will reflect the family dynamics of your boss. So you can do reflection #4 for your co-workers, just as you did for your family members.
6. Throughout your day you can notice and appreciate other people and be sympathetic toward their situations. Smile at them. Be kind to them. All of these actions represent numerous moments of relatedness. Develop a practice of mindful appreciation and kindness toward others. Observe how it starts to enrich your life within just a few months.
Liz Birch is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who provides services in her office in Tustin, CA. Her areas of expertise are in communications, relationships, marriage strengthening, stress reduction, depression, trauma, anxiety, anger, personal growth, and ptsd (civilian and military). She can be reached via LizBirchTherapist.com, email at LizBirchMFT@gmail.com, or by calling 714-614-0612.
One of the most common struggles that people come in to see me for is learning the art of letting go of the past. Many are stuck thinking about the wrongs that have been done to them and they are angry, frustrated, hurt, and sad. The unfortunate part about hanging on to those feelings is they continue to hurt and harm those that we love. That could mean hurting others that weren’t involved in the past misfortunes.
So let’s take a look at those past feelings. Those feelings aren’t really the past, they are the present. You are presently feeling angry, frustrated, hurt and/or sad. And it’s those feelings that are keeping the past alive.
What I first like to do with clients is to fester out all that the person is feeling, such as, anger, frustration, hurt, sadness – or any other feelings that they are experiencing.
Client: “I am angry that my parents worked all day and I was left alone to fend for myself”. Therapist: “You are angry that you were left alone?” Client: “Yes!” Therapist: “Tell me more about that anger.” Client: “They should have been there for me!” Therapist: “Tell me what it was like to be alone.” Client: “I had no one to talk to, I was bored, at times I got scared.” Therapist: “So you were scared to?” Client: “Of course I was scared, I was just a kid!” Therapist: “Let’s talk about you feeling scared.” Client: “I was scared because what if someone tried to come into my home when I was alone?” What if I got injured and no one was there?” “Why didn’t they care enough about me to be home with me?” Therapist: “What I heard you say in the beginning was you were angry because you were left alone but I’m also hearing you were frightened and you felt your parents didn’t care about you.” Client: “Yes, I guess, I feel they must have not cared about me so they left me alone at home.”
So we move from just being angry to actually carrying around a feeling that the client’s parents’ “didn’t care”. The above is just a short snippet of working through feelings and there’s more involved. It’s a process of several sessions to fester everything out. It’s like peeling an onion and working through all the layers by identifying all the feelings that were experiences. As we identify all that had happened, it’s validated.
I hope this gives you an idea of how to pull out all the feelings. I don’t want anything ignored or left out. I want to hear about the experiences that are causing so much pain. But what do we do about them now?
Experiences of the past need to be validated and never brushed off. Events happened and the feelings of the past are real. I spend time with clients letting them “feel” all that they have identified. That could mean they sit in sadness, anger or grief – but just for a limited time. We then move on.
Now we get to the part where we let it all go! Memories are just thoughts and thoughts have no power – unless the person chooses to give it power. Some thoughts stick with us, we react to them, and we keep thinking about them. Ugh! To keep thinking about them serves no purpose.
Some things you shouldn’t do:
• Make yourself forget about the past (you can not forget it)
• Stuff or ignore your feelings
• Wait for an apology or acknowledgment (if you never get an apology you will always sit in pain)
• Wait for time to heal all wounds
• Change the past (you can’t change what happened but you absolutely can change your reaction to what happened)
As a Cognitive Behavior Therapist I talk to my clients about how our feelings control our behavior. If you stay with anger, hurt and sadness, then they will become your reality. As an alternative, be open to moving forward. Prepare yourself to feel differently. Contemplate not defining yourself by thoughts about the past. Keep in mind, what you focus on, will become your present.
Many have been telling themselves their unfortunate life circumstances so many times that they aren’t allowing positive thoughts to come in. These negative thoughts keep you distracted from moving forward.
Some stuck thoughts that people hold on to:
• “I want to stay stuck because I was wronged.”
• “It is someone else’s responsibility to make this better for me.”
• “If I let go, I’m somehow approving another person’s bad behavior.”
• “I need an apology.”
• “Life is unfair.”
Holding on to those thoughts, the constant reminder, will only keep your unfortunate experiences in the present. How you feel is your responsibility, no one else’s. Once you realize all the power that you have, you can begin the process of letting go.
Holding on to the past is like wearing a pair of shoes that are a bit too small for you. You can get your feet into them but they hurt like heck. It’s time to take them off and begin to enjoy comfort again.
Remember, you are in control of how you feel. Begin by thinking more positively. But it might not be so easy at first. You have to reinforce those positive thoughts and behaviors so they will stick. As with any sort of training, the more you practice, the better you get—and, yes, you can practice being positive.
Live for today. Live for and look for the positive in others. Embrace the positive aspects of your parents, spouse, children and friends.
When you start feeling like the idea of being a positive person is daunting, remind yourself that all it takes is one small step in the right direction to move yourself toward a more positive attitude.
Believe in yourself and remember the most important lesson of all: A positive outlook is a choice that you can always make.
Liz Birch is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who provides services in her office in Tustin, CA. Her areas of expertise are in communications, relationships, marriage strengthening, stress reduction, depression, trauma, anxiety, anger, personal growth, and ptsd (civilian and military). She can be reached via LizBirchTherapist.com, email at LizBirchMFT@gmail.com, or by calling 714-614-0612.
When in a relationship it's important that you make it your top priority. Below are some tips to help make it last. However, if you find that you're stuck, things aren't flowing like you thought they would or you're looking for assistance keeping the love alive you may want to contact a therapist. They can help you get it back on track.
In the meantime, enjoy the tips below - they aren't too hard to follow and some are even fun!
1. Talk about great times from the past. Focus on the fun times and show appreciation for what brought you together in the first place. Talk about the romantic dinners, walks on the beach, your first kiss. It’s a great reminder of your love and a wonderful ego boost for you both. Don’t focus on the fact you may not doing that much anymore but shift it to the positive memories and the fun, acceptance and love you felt. Having a positive conversation like this will bring those fun memories to the forefront and increase the likelihood you incorporate those good times again.
2. Touch often. The power of touch is extremely important! Those little touches are a very powerful way to stay connected. As you pass each other touch a shoulder, hold hands, touch a cheek when kissing. When sitting on the couch together watching tv, softly rub his/her arm or leg. Give each other hugs! As relationships age the touching tends to decline. When was the last time you touched your partner? It’s amazing how soothing, calming and closeness a touch can bring. And … touching releases a powerful sex hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin causes a bonding feeling. It takes very little touching for the oxytocin to kick in… so please keep touching.
3. Be a good listener. Sometimes we just need to be heard. We don’t want a solution or a lot of talk in return. Venting is good! Let your partner vent, let them know you hear them, give them hugs or hold their hand when venting (there’s that touch). Your partner may not know if you want advice or just to be heard so communicate that. When we love someone we want to try to fix things. So communicate you just need to vent .. then .. your partner knows to be a good listener.
4. Communication! Talk to each other. Let each other know your wants. Ask your partner, “What do you need more of?” Then the key is, when they tell you, follow through on their answer. They might respond with “I need more alone time with you” or “I miss kissing you like we used to”. When you make your needs known resentment and anger doesn’t build because it's all out in the open. So talk, talk, talk. Get the conversation going. Once it’s been shared you can easily fulfill the request or talk about a compromise.
5. Accept that you each are going to have bad days. We all can’t be perfect every day. Your partner may snap at something you find ridiculous. Chances are it isn’t about that little thing that he/she’s snapping about but rather a bigger issue of something that occurred earlier. Like an argument with a friend or colleague. So before you jump back with a terse response, remain calm and listen (remember “be a good listener”). Try and understand your partner may just be having a bad day. Be a little sympathetic. When you practice this it will become more natural when it’s you having the bad day and your partner will see how nice it was that you remained calm.
6. Have fun! Every day life can be stressful. We are filled with bad news on the radio/tv, there’s financial problems, you hear of friends not getting along. All of this can pull a person down. Instead of focusing on the bad, take time to play! Grab a glass of wine and play a board game, play cards, plan a date of miniature golf. Get out the rut. Laugh! Giggle! Tickle! Be spontaneous! Remind each other how fun you both can be.
7. Be financially responsible. Money is one of the biggest relationship stressors, especially when times are tough. You both need to know the bills are getting paid which brings a feeling of security. Watch the unnecessary spending. What tends to work well is having a joint account for bills and necessities but also create a separate account for each of you. You don’t have to put a lot in the separate account if you don’t have much coming in, but, it creates a play account where you don’t have to ask permission to spend. Have a conversation on what amount will work for you both. It can be as little as $20/month. Trust me, it adds up over time. You each put the same amount in each of your accounts. Save it over time and then when you need a special item you can buy it. No hard feelings because it’s already been worked in the budget.
8. Give each other alone time with their friends. Sometimes events come up that might be just a guys or girls night out. Maybe the guys want to get together to watch a sporting event or the girls want to have lunch together. It’s okay! Don’t make each other feel guilty for wanting to spend time with their friends. Maintaining separate social lives and being supportive of each other boosts a relationship.
9. Fight Fairly. Don’t use words like “always” or “never” when arguing, such as, “You never let me do what I want!”. That distracts from the issue at hand. Remind each other that you need to stay focused on finding a solution. You each may say something that you don’t really mean but don’t realize it until the argument winds down. Know that it’s okay to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t really mean that”. Accept the apology and refocus on the solution which may involve a compromise.
10. Drop old issues. We all have “stuff” from our past. Maybe with old friends, dating times and/or family. Don’t bring up old issues to use in a new argument. Avoid the hot topics if you’ve already discussed them. Hopefully these have all already been worked through. If either of you are having a hard time of letting go and the past keeps coming up you may need the help of a therapist.
Liz Birch is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who provides services in her office in Orange, CA but also has options for home-based and online psychotherapy. Her areas of expertise are in communications, relationships, marriage strengthening, stress reduction, depression, trauma, ptsd and provides support to the military population and their families. She can be reached via LizBirchTherapist.com, email at LizBirchMFT@gmail.com, or by calling 714-614-0612.
*Photo via foter.com
People are meant to be social beings. When we have someone else to care about we live better, healthier and longer lives. However, many of us don’t realize the importance of connecting with others. Connections can help our businesses grow and enhance our personal life. Connections can alleviate that sense of loneliness.
Olds and Schwartz (Associate Clinical Professors of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School) argue in The Lonely American that loneliness is often mistaken for depression. Instead of connecting with others, we consume a pill. Being lonely is outside of our individualistic world view so we don’t even see it as a problem.
So if I load myself up with tons of connections will I be happier and live longer? Not necessarily. It’s not the number of connections one has but the quality of connections. If you want to enhance your business look to connect with individuals who are career minded and successful. If you want to enhance your personal life you might want to look for individuals who are supportive, caring and willing to listen during tough times. And you may want to include others who are a combination of the two.
In order to find those connections you need to, at first, work in numbers. Don’t just talk to one person and then decide that person isn’t right for you because you will then end up back to having no connections. So work at making lots of connections, initially, then you can choose who is right for you.
So how do we connect with others?
As you go through your day, pay attention to others around you. You’ll be amazed at how many connections are out there for you to make.
Liz Birch is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who provides home-based and online psychotherapy in Orange County and throughout California. Her areas of expertise are in communications, relationships, stress reduction, depression, trauma and she provides support for the military population and their families. She can be reached at LizBirchTherapist.com, LizBirchMFT@gmail.com and 714-614-0612.
Therapy in Orange County, California ~
I'm a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and certified Master Hypnotist who works with individuals, couples and families. I hope I inspire you to take risks and step out of your comfort zone. You might be surprised what you discover.
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