A List of Ten Odd Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW to Help Fight Seasonal Depression

A List of Ten Odd Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW to Help Fight Seasonal Depression

1. Put non-alcoholic beverages in your fanciest glasses at home. I recently started doing this after getting home from work at night, and let me tell you…this little act brings me so much joy. It combines my need to be creative with my desire to stuff my face. Also, being sober is cool. Alcohol makes depression worse, and this is a fun way to sip a beverage and stay happy. You can do coke with cherry grenadine, seltzer water with lemon slices, an Airborne tablet with water and a rosemary sprig, whatever excites you the most and feels the fanciest. Win and WIN!

2. Watch a movie that is an old favorite. It can be just about as comforting as meeting up with an old friend. Warm fuzzies abound. Pop some popcorn, get into your comfy clothes and relax. Escape to a faraway imaginary world; bonus points if you watch something tropical, sunny, or beachy!

3. Build a pillow fort or tent in your living room. Decorate with twinkle lights and get in touch with your inner child (he/she/they will thank you)! It’s uplifting to feel a little silly and childlike every now and then.

4. Play hide and seek in your house. Seriously try this with your partner or a friend. So many laughs to be had. Document it using Snapchat or your phone’s video recorder so that you can come back to watch your partner/friend hunting for you for you in hilarity.

5. Sing along to an upbeat song…or a sad song, whatever is your jam. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good singer; singing heals the soul.

6. Phone an old friend or family member and ask them about their day. Ask more probing questions like, “what thoughts have been rattling around in your mind today” or “what’s your post-Covid travel agenda?”

7. Grab a journal or some paper and write about your thoughts and feelings. Put it all out there. You’d be surprised at how much journaling can give you mental clarity and a mood boost. Maybe burn what you’ve written and have a bonfire with it in your back yard (assuming it is safe to do so) if the mood so requires.

8. Ask for a hug from a loved one. If you are alone, give yourself a manicure or pedicure. Massage your own hands. Physical touch can boost mood as well, as it releases oxytocin, the chemical responsible for assisting in creating attachments.

9. Make and eat your favorite meal. Cooking can bring out your inner creative, and food lowers cortisol, the stress hormone, almost instantaneously. Just remember to do so in moderation.

10. Try your HAND (hah) at drawing or painting. Try drawing your dog, your television, your coffee table, or anything you see in front of you. Alternatively. You could go a more abstract route and draw a dream you had, some scribbles, or try to copy some modern art.

If all else fails, contact your local mental health professionals (Moore Vulnerability Counseling is a good place…or so I hear)! Sometimes we need an outside perspective. Perhaps more is going on than just seasonal depression, and that’s okay! We all have tough times, and we all need a mental health check up every now and again. Take care out there; seasonal depression affects between 50-70 percent of those of us who live in the Midwest. Being prepared with your preferred and healthy mood boosters can help you make friends with the darker half of the year.

5 Ways to Deal with a Narcissist (if you have to)

5 Ways to Deal with a Narcissist (if you have to)

A few weeks ago, I made a post about how to recognize a emotional abuse (here). Often times these are the tactics used by narcissists in order to keep their victims/lovers stuck and dependent on them. While many people choose to permanently “social distance” from a narcissist, in many cases, this is not possible due to co-parenting, work, or familial ties for example. In this post, I will give you some tools that you can use to disarm a narcissist, if you must. Here are the top 5 ways you can de-escalate interactions with a narcissist.

#1-Gray Rock/Safe Detachment: When you think about gray rocks, what comes to mind? For me, I think of smooth, round stones clustered together on a beach. Just like no one stone stands out among the others, uniformity is the goal of the gray rocking technique with a narcissist. Simply put, you are trying to make yourself appear as bland and un-special as possible in both mood, personality, and appearance. Neutrality is your new friend. Did your narcissist love the way you looked in jeans? Time to get comfy in sweat pants. Your sparkling, bubbly personality? Time to act flat and depressed, and the reality is that your depression “act” may not be an act at all. This tactic is good to use if you are trying to safely end a relationship with a narcissist without them trying to suck you back in. Narcissists love having exciting people around who sing their praises, and if you are no longer that person, they move on to greener pastures. Keep your social media private, block them, or don’t post any updates for a while. Take some much needed time to move on, and don’t let them see when you do.

#2-The Medium Chill: this technique is most effective when having to frequently be in contact with a narcissist due to employment, children, family, etc. The goal of medium chill is to be assertive in the most non-confrontational way. If the narcissist tries to draw you into their drama, simply come up with the most bland, uninteresting, or neutral responses possible, and say them in a flat or unemotional tone. Do not volunteer any personal information about yourself. Some examples of phrases might be: that’s too bad, that’s nice, I can’t do anything about that, you should talk to your doctor/lawyer/dentist about that, that’s up to you, I don’t know about that, let me get back to you, I don’t know what to tell you, that’s a shame, I’m sorry you feel that way, I can’t be there, that doesn’t work for me, that is none of your business, etc. For a full list of phrasing suggestions, visit outofthefog.com The important things to remember are to monitor your tone, keep a calm demeanor, and neutral responses. If you find yourself angry, exit stage left or hang up the phone. The goal is to give them nothing.

#3-Broken Record: this technique is best when your narcissist is arguing with you about a decision you have made, or when you find yourself in a circular argument with them. When this happens, it is best to repeat the same phrase over and over again. This combines both the gray rocking and medium chill techniques. For example, Narc: can I drop off our kid early? I want to go to the bar with some of my buddies. You: That’s too bad. I won’t be home until 8pm. Narc: you’re so selfish! I thought this was a 50/50 split. You: I’m sorry, I won’t be home until 8pm. Narc: you aren’t even going to consider my needs? You: No, I won’t be home until 8pm. And so on and so forth. Again, the most important part is to keep your tone calm and neutral. Practice it a hundred times if you need to!

#4-Boundaries/Your Stuff, Their Stuff/The Clean Up Rule: much of dealing with a narcissist is mental in nature. Many selfless and loving people are drawn to narcissists because they want to see them healed; however, it is important to realize that YOU cannot be the one to do the healing. The narcissist must heal him/herself. The narcissist will keep you hooked by making you believe that only you can save them. They are exploiting your kindness through manipulation. A good rule of thumb: everyone is responsible for their own feelings. Everyone is responsible for cleaning up their own messes. You have your stuff to take care of, they have their stuff to take care of.

#5-Personal Safety: personal safety refers to not only your physical safety, but also your mental and emotional wellbeing. Your safety and the safety of your dependents is your highest concern. If your narcissist threatens to harm you physically, your child(ren), themselves, or anyone else, call the appropriate authorities immediately, and perhaps from a safe distance away. This is a manipulative tactic used by the narcissist in order to avoid abandonment. Do not be fooled, but take it seriously. Remember, it is not your job to save the narcissist if they are suicidal. Only they can do that with the help of professionals. If you are being insulted or verbally attacked, try politely ending the conversation. If your boundaries are not respected, calmly leave the room/area. Protecting your emotional health is vital to your wellbeing.

I hope that this article has given you some tips on how to handle dealing with a narcissist if you must. Find support for yourself and your dependents. Outofthefog.com is also a great resource for understanding and coping with relationships with personality disordered individuals. Check out the Amazon link below to the book Out of the Fog.

https://amzn.to/3jcHpyg

Social Anxiety in the Age of Corona

Social Anxiety in the Age of Corona

Social anxiety is THE most diagnosed form of anxiety. Before the pandemic, this was probably one of the more common issues I treated in therapy. However, post-Corona social anxiety is especially cruel. It causes your social anxiety to feed on itself, because avoidance of what you fear creates more anxiety. Guess what we are not supposed to be doing right now? Socializing! Unfortunately corona gives those with social anxiety a new (very real) reason to avoid social contact and thus, the anxiety grows. Here are some common ways that you might be struggling with Corona-Social-Anxiety and what to do about it.

  • You might be afraid to go on dates. Most people have a level of normal anxiety about dating, but due to our current pandemic situation, this anxiety is amplified. You are forced to start online dating profiles when you would rather meet potential partners in person. Not only that, but it can be challenging to find something to talk about in the initial stages of dating when you don’t have much going on in your life. You and potential partners must decide very quickly if you see the relationship being serious in order to determine if risking exposure to the virus via meeting up in person is worth it. What to do: while difficult experiences such as being ghosted are now probably more common, you also are less likely to waste time on someone who wasn’t ready for a commitment. You are able to sift through the “frogs” much faster in order to find your prince. The risk of contracting STDs is also much lower, as the trend is that people are holding off longer on having the initial in-person meeting in favor of getting to know one another online. When the physical aspect of the relationship comes into play, you’re more likely to have already built a great deal of trust with your partner than you would if you had just met at a bar and had a hookup.
  • It might be more nerve wrecking to find a new career. Forget pre-interview jitters. Most people with social anxiety struggle with fears of finding the “right thing” to say. This anxiety is amplified if you are trying to stand out among other candidates vying for the same position due to much of the country experiencing lay-offs due to the pandemic. Many are being furloughed. Many people are stuck sitting at home with a bunch of time on their hands. While financial concerns are very real, there is help if you seek it out. What to do: Use this time. Take time to reflect on yourself: are you meeting your full potential? Is there something you have always wanted to do, but have put it off because of a lack of time? Take the RIASEC test (free version online) to determine if you are in a career field that suits you. Never before have you been given the freedom to reflect and take stock of your life. Think of this time as a training ground for the next stage of your life: the BETTER stage. You may never get this opportunity again. Use it.
  • You might find your social skills are a little rusty. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Staying in isolation can wreak havoc on even the social skills of an extrovert. You may find that you are at a loss for words during your online meeting. You may stammer more when talking to someone on the phone. This point will especially apply if you have had to go through this pandemic alone. You may be tempted to avoid socially distanced meetups with friends. It might become easier to just not reach out, but this just feeds social anxiety. What to do: depending on your social needs, make sure to have at least weekly social contact, whether that be on the phone, through a zoom chat, or a safe and socially distanced meetup with friends. Keep your social skills fresh. If hanging out in person for a long period of time feels like too much, start smaller and build. Remember: avoidance of what you fear breeds more fear.
Why We Stay in Unhealthy Relationships

Why We Stay in Unhealthy Relationships

Girl, you’ve got options“…is what I say to many women who feel that they must stay in their negative and abusive relationships. Sadly, me saying this is often a revelation to many women. It is not that I don’t also say this to men, however the focus of this post will be about women specifically, because society “programs” women differently. What is it that makes us stay in bad relationships? Why are toxic relationships so enticing for so many? As it turns out, a toxic mixing of our spheres of influence is to blame. Our spheres of influence include our relationship to self, our relationship to family, and our relationship with society at large.

I have discovered that it seems as if one of the main factors keeping so many in unhealthy relationships is low self-esteem, or the relationship with ourselves. “Nobody else will love me the same”, “I will never find someone as attractive as him/her” are things that we don’t necessarily say out loud, much less admit to ourselves. These messages can sometimes be buried deep in our subconscious, which is why they can be difficult to identify. We tell ourselves that we love the person, have never felt such strong attraction, feel as if the other person is “the one”, or–the kicker–that this is the person God intended us to be with. These thoughts can be powerful motivators to stay, but often the real reason is much more subtle. Often we stay because we have low self-esteem.”Wait a minute,” you might say, “I have high self-esteem, or it least it feels as though I do.” Having low-self esteem can often times be hard to spot. Many of us think that self-esteem is how we feel about our looks, talent, or success, when in fact self-esteem has even more to do with our self-worth. Do we feel worthy of the love we deserve? Do we believe that something better actually exists?

For many, it can be hard to believe that a relationship can be better than the negative one right in front of them. This can happen when abuse and mistreatment are pretty standard in the houses we grew up in. Perhaps we were even abused in some way, shape, or form, and in our minds–deep down–we think, “this is what I deserve”. This is how the second sphere of influence, our familial ties, can have such an impact on our dating relationships. We internalize messages of shame, all the while our gut tells us that something is not right about the way we are treated–but it is all we know. Sometimes knowing the streets of hell can feel more comforting that dreaming about the possibility of heaven.

The third sphere of influence that keeps people in toxic pairings is the unhelpful cultural narratives and expectations our society has about gender, sexual orientation, sex, and body image. For women who grow up in the evangelical church, we are told that our virginity is a precious gift that we should save for our wedding night. Not only is this difficult, it is dang near impossible when our culture constantly tells women that we must be sexual in order to be valuable. Women who are sexual must also look and dress a certain way, they must be a certain weight, must have specific body proportions. When respectful men keep their distance from women, this can feel like rejection or disinterest to women with self-esteem issues. This creates some pretty strong abandonment fears that are counterproductive to a healthy relationship. In fact–fears of abandonment can either sabotage a potentially good relationship, or more often than not, abandonment fears can attract individuals who wish to exploit this fear through manipulation. Men, on the other hand, seem to get an entirely different mix of conflicting cultural messages.

So, what is the solution to all of this? These overlapping and often contradictory spheres of influence can really wreak havoc in the lives of so many women AND men. Often, the first step is seeing a therapist in order to identify how these interpersonal and cultural influences may be affecting the individual. Sometimes a little bit of insight and education is all that is needed. However, often times it can take a bit more than just insight and education. We have to identify and change the internal messages we tell ourselves, and we have to change our spheres of influence. Many surround themselves with healthier friends, leave the church, or distance themselves from unhealthy family members. Day by day, new internal messages can emerge:
You are worth it.
You are beautiful.
Your sexuality is not wrong.
You deserve better.
You will be loved.
You have options.

Many of these ideas that I’ve been trying to put into words for years are expressed much, MUCH better this book I have been reading. For those of us who received toxic messages from the church:

https://amzn.to/3kO1kEL


Recognizing and Dealing with Emotional Abuse

Recognizing and Dealing with Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is often difficult for us to identify. How many times have we heard the story of a jealous girlfriend (or boyfriend, because no gender discrimination here) demanding that her man be available 24/7, lest he be accused of cheating? How about this one: a child is told that they will remain in custody of his or her parents, even though they are being verbally berated daily, because there is “no physical evidence of abuse”? Or there is the more subtle classic of a child’s parent wishing the child were “less emotional” regardless of gender. This parent may tell their child to “just get over it” or use a plethora of tactics to invalidate the child’s emotions. Are these instances of emotional and psychological abuse? You bet! Unfortunately, due to our culture downplaying the importance of emotion, it makes sense that emotional abuse is harder to recognize to the untrained observer. More tragically, those who are abused even have a difficult time recognizing it as well, which sets them up to be abused over and over again in their adult relationships. Alternatively, you might find that you yourself have used these tactics in the past in order to get your needs met. This is not meant to be a judgmental post if you fall into this camp, but a self-check and hopefully a catalyst for self-reflection and change.

I am writing this post to help us all be better able to recognize emotional and psychological abuse. (Side note: One of my favorite Instagram artists @blessingmanifesting posted a cool infographic about recognizing emotional abuse. It inspired me to write this post, so look over at the sidebar to get a full list of emotional abuse tactics abusers use.) Some of the most common emotional abuse tactics that I see when working with victims of narcissistic abuse are:

  • Gaslighting (rewriting events to convince you they happened a different way than what you remember). This is one of the most devastating tactics used, because it causes the recipient to doubt their own perception of reality. Victims quite literally feel crazy. They want to believe their abuser’s often more positive spin on what really happened because they want to continue to love and get their needs met by the abuser. Example: “No I didn’t hit you. You are remembering it wrong. I simply shoved you out of the way because I was starting to get mad.”
  • Your boundaries don’t matter. Examples: You tell your boyfriend or spouse you are not comfortable being physically intimate, and they pressure you despite your attempts to say no as firmly as you can. You tell your friend that you can’t do one more favor for them, but they beg and plead despite you continuing to tell all the reasons you cannot help right now.
  • Using your empathy against you. Example: “I really need your help, especially after what Sheila did to me. You know how I don’t handle breakups well.”
  • Threatening to harm or kill themselves in an attempt to get you to comply. This is one of the most extreme examples, and if you have ever been on the receiving end of this, I am terribly sorry. Please know that another’s life is NEVER in your hands in this scenario. If someone kills themselves (often after a breakup) it is NEVER your fault! Their decision to live or die is theirs alone. They are responsible for how they handle their emotions, and it is not your job to make them feel better.
  • Shaming you into not talking about it. Examples: “Everyone will think you are __________.” “If you talk about it, your friends will think you’re a real drag.”
  • Nothing you say or do is good enough. This one causes its victims to become either rebellious in nature, overly compliant, or it causes individuals to adopt ridiculously high standards for themselves. Victims never feel satisfied with themselves or other people. Their inner self-voice is very critical of even minor mistakes.
  • They idealize you, then discard you. This is a pattern very typical of narcissists during dating. They will come on very strong in the beginning, and will pursue their mates very intensely. To someone with low self-esteem, this can be like water to a dry well. One the victim is hooked, the narcissist will either a) become very critical of the flaws in their partner, insisting that they change constantly, b) find an arbitrary reason to break up with their partner, often very suddenly, or c) a combination of a) and b).

If you are currently the victim of emotional or psychological abuse, please seek help. There is no abuse too small to address in therapy. It also may be helpful to bolster yourself with additional reading materials. A book I recommend for dealing with abuse recovery is “Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse” by Jackson MacKenzie. Click the link to purchase from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3i78l1d

There is truly a plethora of reading material on healing from emotional abuse. Here are some additional books and resources to help you on your journey. (Side note: a percentage of purchases from clicking these links will go to Moore Vulnerability Counseling and will help me stay afloat during these difficult times. Thank you.) Some will have pictures posted next to them, and some will not. Be sure to subscribe to my blog so that you don’t miss my next post about how to disarm an abuser!

https://amzn.to/2Ps0BdO<<<“You Can Thrive After Narcissistic Abuse” by by Melanie Tonia Evans and Christiane Northrup M.D.
https://amzn.to/3idqDOF<<<Narcissistic Abuse Survival Guide; a book for dealing with more subtle forms of narcissistic/borderline abuse, abusive parents and family members
https://amzn.to/3gvrLMV<<<7 Steps to Recovery by Eric Monroe
https://amzn.to/30rYFIR<<<My Soulmate, My Love, My Narcissist
https://amzn.to/3fseTpu<<<Co-Parenting With A Narcissist
https://amzn.to/2XseAVL<<<Emotional Abuse Recovery Workbook
https://amzn.to/39XwkNr<<The Gaslighting Recovery Workbook

Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert?

Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert?

If you are curious which camp you fall into, as many people are unsure, this post today hopefully will bring you some clarity! Neither extrovert nor introvert are better than the other; however both types face particular challenges that are worth noting. I’ll also be linking you to some pretty popular introvert and extrovert books on amazon.

The basic definition of extroversion is that you get your energy from being around people. You recharge by connecting with others. You may also have a tendency to act or speak before thinking things through. This is the camp I fall into; however, like many *shy* extroverts I can be choosy about the type of conversation I enter into. Talking about sports? For me that’s a *nope*. What items you found on sale today? Nah. The weather? Maybe. It’s a necessary evil. But are you…talking about what makes you tick? Your life’s passions? Funny stories from yesteryear? Planning a trip? Plotting to take down the establishment? Oh, I’m so there. 

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💁

If you’re an introvert, you can also be a “social introvert”. This means that you are good with people, perhaps like meeting their needs, but ENOUGH is ENOUGH! At the end of the day, you recharge with quiet thoughts to yourself. You may even enjoy long car rides alone in order to process the day. Cuddling up with a good book is a favorite past time. After a weekend doing some solo self-care, you are ready to take on the world. 

💪
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My hope is that you all will see that introversion and extroversion is not a black and white dichotomy. There is room for grey, and many of us fall somewhere in the middle. It’s a spectrum! Recently there has been a surge in the term “ambivert”. This term just means that you fall smack dab in the middle of being an introvert and an extrovert. Sometimes you are recharged by people, and sometimes you are recharged by quiet reflection and contemplation. My personal opinion is that if you get to know yourself well enough, you will be able to figure out your preference for either extroversion or introversion–even if it is just a slight preference over the other.

So tell me: where do YOU fall on the introversion/extroversion spectrum? Leave a comment below. Also, check out these great books on this topics from Amazon! If you end up purchasing a book, a portion of the proceeds will help me stay afloat during these pandemic times. Thank you!

https://amzn.to/3jSKW5y
https://amzn.to/2X9gGtf
https://amzn.to/2EzeW6p
https://amzn.to/3g6icDY
https://amzn.to/3jYnxjh
Book Recommendations for Sexual and Relational Issues

Book Recommendations for Sexual and Relational Issues

It is absolutely no secret that couples are struggling during the Coronavirus pandemic. I have heard increased reports of marital and partnered dissatisfaction over the past few months primarily due to people having to be locked up with their significant others in quarantine. It is during times like this where you may find that you are having more arguments than ever with your partner! This is almost certainly causing anxiety and may even be casting a shadow of doubt over your entire relationship. Fortunately, I have some good news–you are not alone, AND it is totally normal to experience this type of dissatisfaction when being forced to spend so much time together. With increased togetherness comes the natural inclination to examine the relationship and all of its problems in greater detail…all while observing your significant other leave an un-rinsed dish in the sink once again. It is understandable why you may be having less than desirable feelings towards you paramour, both in and out of the bedroom. Have no fear! Below I have compiled a list of books to help you have more productive conversations about sex and about your relationship.

The first book I am recommending is by Emily Nagoski, PhD called “Come As You Are”. This book discusses in a fun, quirky, AND scientific way how we work sexually. You will explore topics such as turn ons, turn offs, positive versus negative sexual experiences, recovering from trauma, desire discrepancy, sexual physiology, and so much more. The most fascinating thing I learned from this book was about the dual control model–how some of us have a sensitive accelerator (turn ons essentially), some of us have sensitive brakes (turn offs), and some of us have a combination of the two. Being able to discuss sexuality in this way will revolutionize how you discuss sex with your intimate partners. There was recently a workbook released that you can purchase alongside this book in order to help facilitate these sometimes difficult conversations!

https://amzn.to/3g1zcv5 <<<<<<<<Click here to purchase Come As You Are from Amazon!

The next book I am going to discuss deals with the largest sex organ in the body…the brain! This book discusses how fear of abandonment and other mental health issues affect relational and sexual functioning. I like this book because it closely correlates with the schema therapy model that I use with individuals, and it also focuses on how to form secure attachments in relationships.

https://amzn.to/30JMXYX<<<<Click here to purchase Anxiety in Relationships from Amazon!

This next book is called “Hold Me Tight” by Sue Johnson. I have not personally read this book yet, but it is definitely on my reading list because it focuses primarily on healing attachment wounds through relationship. It also talks about being more in tune with ours and our partners emotions in order to navigate conflict more successfully.

https://amzn.to/30JbBJg<<<<Click here to order Hold Me Tight from Amazon!
What Is Schema Therapy and How Can YOU Benefit From It

What Is Schema Therapy and How Can YOU Benefit From It

Simply put, “schemas” can be referred to as “life traps”. Life traps are self-defeating patterns of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that keep us stuck. Do we all have life traps? Yes, and here is why: none of us get out of childhood unscathed. Try as they may have, none of our parents ever peaked at perfection. We have all experienced trauma in our lives, believe it or not. Whether that be “trauma” with a lowercase “t”, “Trauma” with a capital “T”, or all caps “TRAUMA”, we have all had our needs neglected at some point or another, or terrible things have happened to us in varying degrees. The bottom line is, life traps are unfortunately easy to develop.

Life traps are easy to develop because when we are young, we need these 6 core emotional needs to be met in just the goldilocks right amount in order to thrive and become well-adjusted adults: basic safetyconnection to othersautonomyself-esteemself-expression, and realistic limits. To the degree that the child is denied or given in excess any of these core needs, that is the degree to which he or she will struggle with a particular life trap. There are a variety of factors that influence if we get too little or too much of these core emotional needs. These factors can include mental illness of a parent, lack of structure, environmental disasters such as hurricanes, financial stressors, lack of education on the parents’ part, political unrest, and so on and so forth.

Regardless of whatever it may be that the child is lacking, one hundred percent of these factors are out of the child’s control; however, children are perceptive creatures. It is highly unlikely that a child perceives a traumatic event correctly. This is because when we are young, we tend to view things in black and white or simplified terms. For example, if a child’s parents get divorced, without proper and very delicate communication from the family regarding this divorce (the core emotional need of connection to others), the child may incorrectly assume that he or she was the cause of the divorce. They may have thoughts such as “Daddy left because I was hard to deal with”. This child will then take on undue shame and guilt, and develop what is known as the Defectiveness life trap. That child may be fearful of entering romantic or platonic relationships for fear that they may “screw them up” or that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. As an adult, the child with the dependence life trap will avoid intimacy for fear that their flaws are terrible; they believe that nobody could ever love them once their flaws were found out.

Conversely, another child experiencing the same situation of their parents divorcing may have a different reaction. This other child may develop the life trap known as the Abandonment life trap. Sufferers of this life trap tend to be preoccupied with keeping loved ones close to them. They may cling out of fear of being abandoned. Tragically, their clinging often drives people away, and the life trap becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The negative reactions of others are the consequence of their clinging behavior, and thus the person continues to believe that they will always be abandoned.

It is often not until this person enters therapy that this life trap is exposed. More importantly, therapy gives this person the chance to experience an emotionally corrective relationship with the therapist. That is, the therapist responds in ways that help heal the original attachment wounds of the person. For example, if a client frantically and excessively e-mails their therapist for extra sessions, the therapist does not judge the client for this. The therapist has unconditional positive regard and care for the client. The client with the abandonment life trap picks up on this and learns that their needs for connection are good, and that others want to meet their needs. The therapist can then train the client on how to appropriately ask for their (very valid !) needs to be met.

At this point, you are probably wondering, “So what ARE the various life traps?! Which ones do I have?!” The answers to these questions are probably best answered between client and therapist, as life traps and how they manifest in your life can be quite complex to explain in this short amount of space. The answers to these questions are also going to be highly personal depending on the individual, which is why it is important to discuss in the “safe space” of therapy. I will list the names of the life traps here, but for more information, the book “Reinventing Your Life” by Dr. Klosko and Dr. Young is an extremely helpful start. Click the link at the bottom to purchase this book on Amazon! And now, without further ado, the 18 Life Traps in brief:

  • Abandonment
  • Mistrust/Abuse
  • Emotional Deprivation
  • Defectiveness/Shame
  • Social Isolation
  • Dependence/Incompetence
  • Vulnerability to Harm or Illness
  • Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self
  • Failure
  • Entitlement/Grandiosity
  • Insufficient Self-Control
  • Subjugation
  • Self-Sacrifice
  • Approval/Recognition Seeking
  • Negativity/Pessimism
  • Emotional Inhibition
  • Unrelenting Standards/Hypercriticalness
  • Punitiveness

https://amzn.to/3jCzJWI

CLICK HERE ^^^ to purchase Reinventing Your Life! A portion of the proceeds will go to Moore Vulnerability Counseling. Thank you!

Vegetables

Vegetables

One of my favorite things to tell my therapy clients is this: starting to date individuals who are healthy for you is kind of like getting used to adding more vegetables to your diet. At first, it may seem a little bit boring. After all, you are used to eating “fast food”; it’s addictive, tasty, quick, and convenient. Fast food is much like relationships where there is a high amount of chemistry. However, just in the way that we know fast food is not good for us, we also know that those addictive relationships are not good for us either. Why is it that some of us are most attracted to those chaotic, “fast food” relationships, while others seem to have no problem loving “vegetables”?

The answer lies in how we were raised. This does not follow the old belief that you “marry your parent”, but rather that the way our parents loved us and one another sets the template for how we view love in general. To put it in another way, they are our first models of what love looks like. Unfortunately for those of us who grew up in chaotic households where there maybe was much fighting or neglect, this dynamic becomes very familiar albeit—unhealthy. This familiar dynamic is what creates intense romantic attraction or chemistry. We are most attracted to what is familiar, not necessarily what is the most healthy. We like fast food and put up with the negative effects because it feels familiar, and at first it is exciting.

Learning to love vegetables takes a lot of time and willingness to admit some hard truths about ourselves. We must tease out what Imago (Latin for “image”) therapists call our inner love maps. We must identify the negative traits in our partners that we are repeatedly attracted to, and we must reflect on what we stand to gain as a result of being in a relationship with these individuals. For example, someone with parents who were emotionally absent in childhood may be most attracted to partners who are emotionally unavailable. By being highly attracted to these emotionally unavailable “fast food” partners, life presents this person with the opportunity to heal old childhood wounds of feeling emotionally abandoned. Unfortunately, unless their emotionally unavailable partner is willing to seek therapy for why they are emotionally unavailable, the hurt from this person’s childhood is likely to repeat itself.

Part of what I do as a therapist is help my clients discover what unhealthy traits they are attracted to. I then have clients make an honest evaluation of the people in their lives: are these people they are dating or in relationship with working on themselves, or are they perpetuating negative patterns? Then, I help my clients learn to love “vegetables” (with cheese—because you do need at least a little excitement in dating in order to keep the momentum going). We discuss the traits of healthy individuals to date or marry. Although it may take some time, and it may seem boring at first, many individuals learn to love vegetables (with cheese)! If you’re interested in doing this kind of work, contact Julia@northsidementalhealth.com and schedule your appointment today!

Full Range of Motion

Full Range of Motion

In yoga there is this concept of full range of motion. It is why we push ourselves to be able to reach certain poses and lean in a little bit further. Many people never get to their full range of bodily motion because it takes years of dedicated practice, and the willingness to be constantly be leaning into your physical pain. Not to mention attending trainings and buying the equipment needed can be costly—ouch! However, with dedication, consistency, willingness to learn, and maybe spend a little, people can get close—if not completely—reach their full range of motion. Little by little, if you stick with your daily practice, you will begin to notice more ease in your daily movements. This is a place I have gotten to with yoga before; however, many barriers came up along the way, and eventually I lost the dedication and inspiration. Needless to say, I am back to having back pain and general discomfort as I move about.

But we are more than just a body. In yoga, the focus on bodily postures (asana) is only one of the eight “limbs” of yoga. In the Western world, we tend to focus on this aspect of ourselves more than the others. Most yoga classes are mainly concerned with increasing physical flexibility and strength; however, to ignore the other aspects of what it means to be human would not be reaching our true range of motion. I

In addition to the body, we have a heart. The heart is the home to our emotions. By increasing the range of motion in our hearts, we are able to love fully and be loved. We are able to regulate our emotions and cope well with the stressors of life. We can empathize and relate to people, but also recognize when we are perhaps giving too much. Having a full range of motion in the heart also includes recognizing when it is time to take care of ourselves.

Often seen in contrast to the heart is the mind. Too much rigidity in the mind leads to black and white thinking. Too much flexibility can cause us to be flighty or non-committed. Having full range of motion in the mind is often referred to in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy as “wise mind”. In wise mind, we can take into account our emotions; we observe them without judgement; however, our wise mind does not necessarily permit us to impulsively act on our emotions. The wise mind observes and validates emotions, and only then—out of a validated state of mind—chooses the best course of action based on all of the information given.

Finally, having full range of motion in the spirit is often overlooked in therapy circles. Many believe that the spirit refers to religion, but this is not necessarily true. Ideally, a religious place of worship is where we get spiritually fed; however, this is often not the case unfortunately. Thankfully, there are ways to gain spiritual range of motion without the institution of religion. Often times I get the question, “What is a spirit, and what does it have to do with therapy?” When I discuss the spirit in my sessions, I am referring to a sense of purpose in your life, or a sense of inspiration, meaning, and calling to something greater than yourself. Often my clients with a lack of motivation towards career goals recognize that they have been neglecting their spirit, or their sense of a higher purpose. Balancing the spirit is also essential in trauma recovery work. Unfortunately, I see a lot of individuals who have been hurt (or even abused) by the church in a number of ways, and this causes them to lose a sense of hope and purpose in recovering from their trauma. Traumatized individuals often have questions such as, “Why did I have to suffer so pointlessly? What was that all for?” Addressing spiritual range of motion can help individuals come to conclusions of these questions and find peace and healing through the grief process.

Addressing the full range of motion through therapeutic intervention is often referred to in therapy circles as “treating the whole person”. You are not just a body; you are not just a mind, heart, or spirit. I enjoy helping individuals reach their full potential, and one of the ways I do that is through discussing the enneagram and your individual enneagram type. The enneagram has been used for decades to help people self-actualize, and it predates modern psychiatric diagnosis by centuries. To discuss the issues outlined in this post and more, contact Julia@northsidementalhealth.com to book an appointment.