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How to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships

image taken from daniellepearsblog.wordpress

image taken from daniellepearsblog.wordpress

How to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships With Others

 As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, Certified Dharma Life Coach, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve been honored to work with countless individuals, couples, families, and athletes over the years.  In addition, I’ve had the privilege to facilitate a Men’s Group, a Women’s group, a Facilitation Skills Support Group, athletic teams, and business teams too.  As I’ve counseled and coached others, I’ve often sensed that many of my clients are longing to cultivate more meaningful relationships in their lives.

Many of my clients  feel ill-equipped to do so, however,  and many others feel weary and disillusioned with the shallow, superficial friendships or romantic partnerships they have that leave them feeling empty, unfulfilled, and disconnected, and alone even after they’ve have spent a lot of time in their friend or lover’s company.   I was recently asked by one man in the Men’s group that I facilitate, ” How can I develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with my friends and/or potential romantic partners?”

After a lot of reflection and thought, I wrote this article in the hopes of shedding some light on many of the ways all of us can cultivate the kinds of relationships in our lives that feel deeply enriching.  As you read my article, please note that I do not profess to know all of the ways that people can go about co-creating rich, meaningful relationships.  I do believe, however, that the ideas I’ve shared in my article cover many ways to achieve this goal.  With this in mind, I want to invite you to read this article and consider my suggestions so that you find yourself, sooner than later, surrounded by friends, family members, and romantic partners that provide you the sense of belonging, significance, and authentic connection that you long to have in your life.

I’ve shared with you my thoughts on how to cultivate meaningful relationships with others below.  Please note that some of my suggestions may sound familiar in some ways to other suggestions that I’ve made in this article.  While some of my ideas may appear to overlap with others, please note that each suggestion that I make is unique and different, no matter how subtly.  Alas, please carve out some time for yourself to read this article if you’re longing to acquire the insights, knowledge, and skills that will assist you in manifesting the kinds of meaningful and lasting relationships that you want to have in your life.

  • In Order To Have A Successful Friendship Or Romantic Partnership, Befriend Yourself First.

In your endeavor to cultivate deeper relationships with others in your life , I invite you to first engage in a “befriending practice” for yourself:  Take a few moments to imagine you are being nourished by something larger than yourself. Nature, god, love, anything that is not you, breathe that force in, imagine it filling you up, like the most delicious meal or warm golden sunshine. If your logical mind says, “Bull,” ask it, “Did I make gravity that is holding me to the earth? The oxygen I am breathing? I am part of the larger whole, I am always supported and I can consciously draw on that support to befriend myself.” Relax into life, and delight in the deliciousness of who you are and who you’re becoming.

  • Engage In Constant and Never Ending Improvement. 

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, and Dharma Life Coach, I wholeheartedly resonate with the spirit behind  Tony Robbins’s acronym, CANI, which stands for Constant And Never Ending Improvement.  As you endeavor to invest time in your own personal growth, you will acquire the relationship tools, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and even more solid sense of self to forge meaningful bonds and relationships with others.  In addition, you are far more likely to feel as though you’re brimming over with with self-confidence, self-love, self-compassion, self-forgiveness, and an intrinsic sense of self-worth.  As you feel whole, grounded, and self-assured, you will  respond to the challenges that arise in new friendships or partnerships without becoming reactive and saying or doing regrettable things that will undermine the spirit of safety, trust, and goodwill that you’ve been cultivating with that person

  • Become Emotionally, Psychologically, And Spiritually Independent.

According to Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, there is a maturity continuum that people fall under.  The most immature people are highly dependent on others to feel worthwhile, lovable, and safe. Dependent people also rely on others to get their needs met, and they engage in learned helplessness to compel others to rescue them and/or take care of them.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist,  Master NLP Practitioner,Group Therapist, and Certified Dharma Life Coach, I have found that the people that are emotionally, psychologically, and  spiritually independent represent the next giant leap on the maturity spectrum.  These people are resourceful, proactive, self-aware, emotionally intelligent, emotionally articulate, self-motivated, empathetic, self-disciplined, capable of regulating their emotions, and lead purpose-driven and principle-centered lives.

The third and final spot on the maturity continuum represent those people that are interdependent.  Interdependence is a phase of maturity that reigns supreme over the other two.  In order to engage in synergistic, interdependent relationships with friends and romantic partners, however, one must be emotionally and psychologically independent first.  Independence precedes interdependence.

A lot of people who are dependent wish to skip over the process of becoming independent and throw themselves head first into an interdependent relationship.  Unfortunately, this attempt to bypass the independent state of personal development will doom a person’s attempt to participate in a healthy, interdependent relationship. That person and his or her friend or partner will soon discover that they’re engaged in a parent-child dynamic or co-dependent relationship, and their endeavor to grow closer will quickly turn into a lose-lose proposition.

  •  Friendliness Begets Friendliness.  

According to Dale CarnegieAmerican writer, lecturer, and developer of famous courses on self-improvement and interpersonal relationships who wrote the world famous book, How To Win Friends and Influence People, always begin your new friendships and/or potential romantic partnerships by being kind.  Smile.  Be happy to see him or her, and show a genuine interest in that person.  Never neglect a kindness, and look for ways to do or say something nice.

  • Emphasize Areas Of Agreement.

If you and your new friend and/or new lover have a disagreement, make an effort to de-escalate the potential conflict first by emphasizing the areas in which you both agree. When you’re both in a more receptive, non-defensive, and resourceful state, you’ll have an opportunity to explore the areas in which you disagree and make mutually agreeable compromises.

  • Turn Towards, Not Away.

According to John Gottman, PhD and author of the research based book on marriages called The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, it is imperative that friends, romantic partners, and husbands and wives turn toward each other when their feelings are hurt, they want to air a grievance, they have needs that are not being met, they are struggling to reconcile their different perspectives on a matter, etc.  When friends and romantic partners turn towards each other to resolve conflicts, or at the very least have a dialogue to “declaw” a conflict, they are actually strengthening the bond of their relationship.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, a courageous willingness to turn toward your friend or partner and work through conflicts will bring the two of you closer together. More often than not, breakdowns precede breakthroughs!!  On the other hands, when friends or potential romantic partners turn away from each other and become cold, distant, and uncommunicative, they are burying their thoughts and feelings alive.  In turn, their buried thoughts and feelings become reincarnated and morph into feelings of resentment, contempt, and a wish to emotionally cut their deepening friendship or romantic partnership off.  The person that turns away will likely have thoughts of innocent victimization or righteous indignation, and soon enough he or she will create a negative internal script or dark narrative about his friend or partner that provides them the justification they’re seeking to abruptly end a relationship that may very well have enriched their lives.

  •  Be Open, Honest, and Real!

We may think we have to present a faultless picture of ourselves to the rest of the world, but why? No one wants to be friends with someone who is perfect!! We simply need to be our best selves and allow people to know the real us.

  • Be Discriminating and Discerning.

It is imperative that you be discriminating and discerning as it pertains to who you choose to spend your valuable time with.  George Washington offered some wise words about friendship when he said, “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few; and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.” I would like to add that as you endeavor to cultivate meaningful relationships with others, take note of how they treat others, how they treat themselves, how they treat their family members, how they respond to moments of adversity, etc.

By doing so, you will learn about their character, values, behavioral patterns, and guiding principles. If someone mistreats others, refrain from falling into the common trap that misleads you to believe that you’ll be the exception to the rule and that you will treat you differently by that person than everyone else.  In the beginning, that new friend or lover may treat you differently than they treat others, but it will only be a matter of time before they turn on you too.  If their character and integrity is questionable, you’re barking up the wrong tree, and you’ll be trying in vain to cultivate a meaningful relationship with someone who may be incapable of having one in the first place.

Finally, please keep in mind that your friends and/or romantic partners have the potential to shape your character, behaviors, emotions, and beliefs for the better or for the worse.  Surround yourself with friends and potential romantic partners who lift your consciousness up.  According to the Universal Law of Perpetual Transmutation of Energy and Vibration, higher consciousness has the power to transform and convert lower consciousness.  Likewise, people of lower consciousness can potentially pull you down and erode the essence of who you truly are.

  •  Build on Common Interests.

Take advantage of the common activities and interests that you share with others, and be sure to carve out time in your schedule to engage in these activities with new friends and/or potential romantic partners.   If you and a friend both like to exercise, go work out together!!  If you both like to read, go to the bookstore together to pick out your next book, grab some coffee, and talk about the last book you read and what you loved about it.  Welcome in the energies of levity, joy, laughter, and fun into your new friendship and/or partnership.  It’s important that your potential friend or partner associate you with feelings of joy and fun.

Please bear in mind that if the two of you only remain in the deep end of the emotional pool and speak only about traumas, losses, and other heavy topics, your friend or potential romantic partner will likely associate being in your company with feeling flooded, weighed down, and uncomfortable.  In time, that person may dread seeing you because they are anticipating that their mind, body, emotions, and spirit will feel spent during and after your get-together.  It’s imperative that you be mindful to find a healthy balance between talking about substantial topics and cheerily chatting about things that lead to shared laughter, levity, and joy.

  • Appreciate The Differences In Others.

Variety is the spice of life. I’m so glad that when I walk into an ice cream store, vanilla isn’t the only option! I’m glad, too, that our universe created people with a variety of personalities, talents, and interests. Each one of us is a unique creation.  If you and your new friend or potential romantic partner have different perspectives or paradigms about some things, see those differences as opportunities to potentially to learn and perhaps even see some aspects of the world anew. John Gottman refers to this openness to your friend or partner’s different thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, guiding principles, and paradigms as “being open to another’s influence.”

If you remain stubbornly entrenched in your worldview and discount everything your friend or romantic partner is saying, then you are unwittingly dismissing his or her unique “map of the world” outright.  If you choose to disregard your friend or new romantic partner’s different perspectives on life, then that person will inevitably feel unheard, shut out, disconnected, invalidated, insignificant, and painfully alone; your  relationship that was busy being born will soon be busy dying. If you happen to unequivocally disagree with your friend or partner’s point of view, then I invite you to agree to disagree agreeably with him or her.  It’s important to remember John Gottman’s research based assertion that 69% of the problems in our relationships are unresolvable.  Learning to make peace with and accept your differences is the more enlightened path to take.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I would like you to please note, however, that if your values, beliefs, and paradigms are too dissimilar, then it is quite likely that you and your potential new friend and/or new romantic partner have incompatible maps of the world.  In turn, the two of you will likely clash more often than not, and your relationship will be bereft of synergy, connection, and harmony.  In these instances I would strongly encourage you to move on and find friends or potential romantic partners that share worldviews, core beliefs, and values that are more similar to yours.

  • Treat Others As They Would Want To Be Treated

There’s an old adage that encourages people to “treat others as you would want to be treated.”  To some degree, this adage is right on the money.  For example, in light of the fact that I wouldn’t want to be cheated on or gossiped about behind my back, it would serve my relationship well to offer my friend or partner the same degree of fidelity and loyalty that I would want in return.  That being said, there are times when it will serve your relationships even better if you treat your friends or romantic partners as they would want to be treated.

For example, you might prefer to resolve conflicts in the heat of the moment and presume that your friend or romantic partner would like to do the same.  Its’ entirely possible, however, that your friend or partner would rather have space to pause, reflect, and calm down before making an effort to resolve whatever conflict has arisen between the two of you.  If this is what your friend or partner needs or wants, I would encourage you to honor their conflict-resolution style and give them the time and space they  and/or prefer to process things first before reuniting to work through your disagreement or conflict.

If your love languages are time spent together and physical touch, and  your friend or romantic partner’s predominant love language is words of affirmation, then it may very well backfire on you to  empathize with that person by giving him or her a hug and offering to take a day off from work to spend time together. Instead, I’d encourage you to  support your friend or lover by offering him or her words of  reassurance and affirmation. In this instance, you would be supporting or loving him or her in a way that resonates with him or her the most.

  • Be Loyal.

Loyalty is a rare commodity in today’s world, but it’s an absolute requirement in deep, meaningful, and long-lasting friendships or romantic partnerships.  When you are loyal to your  friend, you  prove ourselves worthy of many. One way you can show your loyalty is through your words — or lack thereof. In fact, a key to being loyal is keeping a tight rein on your tongues.

When we choose to be loyal, we won’t tear our friends down behind their backs or share their personal stories without their permission.  If someone else passes judgment on our friends romantic partners, we can demonstrate our loyalty in these moments by sticking up for him or her. In romantic relationships, it is imperative that we remain loyal to our partner and make a choice to remain exclusively intimate with him or her.  If a person chooses to stray,that person is actively undermining the trust and safety in his or her  relationship.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I can tell you that mutual feelings of trust and safety are two of the most important cornerstones that support the foundation of thriving relationships.  Without trust and safety, your friendship and/or romantic partnership will be fraught with mistrust, insecurity, jealousy, volatility, contempt, withdrawal, distance, and isolation. Making an effort to win back the trust of your partner may prove to be an unwinnable and insurmountable task. In addition to being loyal with your words and your deeds, I also want to encourage you to pay less attention to attractive others. When you conspicuously turn your head and notice other attractive men and women, you’re inviting that other person’s energy into the sanctuary of your exclusive relationship.  Although it’s certainly not comparable to the breach of trust that takes place if you choose to be sexual with someone else, it is a subtle breach of trust or a sign of disrespect to your partner never-the-less.  The kind of commitment that appears in flourishing relationships activates an implicit “attentional block” against the allure of attractive alternative partners.

  • Refrain From Passing Judgment on Your New friend or New Romantic Partner.

In other words, be a light, not a judge.  Be a model, not a critic.  Furthermore, if you feel judgmental towards your friend or romantic partner, embrace whatever “charge” you’re having with him or her and see it as an opportunity to reflect and discover how he or she is a mirror for your own frailties, shadows, or parts of yourself that you dislike and would like to disown.  It is very likely that when you feel compelled to judge your partner, you are projecting onto him or her traits or behaviors in yourself that you don’t particularly like. In light of this, kindly consider that your friend or romantic partner has actually gifted you with an opportunity to engage in introspection, develop even greater self-awareness, and actively participate in doing additional personal growth work.

  •  Take A Genuine Interest In Others.

Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” As we listen to others and show an interest in what is important to them, we begin to truly love and understand them. Every person has an invisible sign around his or her neck that reads, “I want to feel important.” Everyone has something to offer this world. We need to search for it, find it, and bring it to the surface.

One author suggested that scheduling an “Other’s Hour” is a good way to make time to be attentive to others. What is an “Other’s Hour”? It’s a sixty minute period of time that we can choose to reserve on our schedules each week to focus solely on our friends and their needs. I know that for a lot of people, if something is not on their calendar, it typically doesn’t happen. An “Other’s Hour” is a time when we can write a note, make a call, deliver a gift, or do a favor on behalf of our new friend or partner.

  •  Be An Active, Empathetic, and Inferential listener.  

To become a Master Listener, listen to what your friend or lover is saying between the lines.  Listen, for example, for unspoken emotions, unmet needs, unaired grievances, etc.  In addition, take the time to reflect back to your friend or partner what you’ve heard him or her say, and make a sincere effort to validate his or her feelings, experiences, grievances, etc.  Please note that when you validate another person’s experience,  you are not saying necessarily saying that you agree with their point of view.  You can validate and empathize with their feelings, experiences, and grievances while  holding your sacred ground and maintaining that their experience is not yours, and that while you hear, understand. and genuinely empathize with their feelings and grievances (given their vantage point), you have your own thoughts and feelings about the very same matter, given your vantage point.

  • Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood.  

Seeking first to understand, then to be understood is a principle championed by Stephen R. Covey, educator, businessman, keynote speaker and author of the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Covey is essentially saying that one significant component to building rapport and cultivating meaningful relationships with others requires of you a willingness to “Hold Space” and listen first to him or her, if you want to be heard.  Active and empathic listening requires you to listen without judgment and without defensiveness, seeking instead  to hear other’s point of view and  let the other person know that you understand the content of what they are saying as well as the feeling behind it.  It is often helpful to reflect back to your friend or potential new romantic partner what you’ve heard them say, what you’ve heard them reveal about how they’re feeling, and what you’ve come to understand more about who they are, what they’re wanting, what their dream is within a conflict, etc. To actively listen to a friend:

  • Get rid of distractions. (No multitasking with reading a menu or looking at your phone while your friend is talking.)
  • Watch for what is said, how it is said, and what’s not being said. (Communication is verbal and nonverbal. In order to pick up on the nonverbal, you need to watch as well as listen.)
  • Clear out preconceived notions of what you think your friend is going to say. (This is especially important between people that have known each other a long time, because you’ve probably heard them talk about things a bunch of times   and think you know them. To truly listen, pretend you’ve just met them.)
  • Before commenting or offering advice, determine if your friend is asking for this. (They might just want to vent and figure it out without your help.)
  • Go with your gut. (Is something off about what your friend is saying? Are they using a tone that isn’t like them? Are they failing to mention something but you can’t put your finger on it?
  • Spend some time on reflection. What did you miss when your friend was talking? What was implied?
  • Ask him or her for clarification if you don’t understand something that they’ve shared with you.
  • Be Thoughtful.

This includes offering your emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual support to someone that you would like to potentially cultivate a meaningful relationship with.  If you sense that the person could use some emotional or psychological support, offer to sit down with them, “hold space”, empathize with them, and seek to understand, hear, and see them.  If that person mentions a book they’ve been meaning to purchase or a movie they’ve really wanted to go to, take the initiative to purchase the book for them or treat that person to the movie that they mentioned in passing that they’ve been wanting to see.  Being thoughtful goes a long way toward making a profound impression on someone; your thoughtfulness will separate you from most people that are prone to thinking only about themselves.

  •   Remember.

This principle overlaps with the principle of being thoughtful.  If a potential friend or potential lover shares something with you, take the time to remember what they’ve shared. Remember the name of their dog, or remember that their dog has been feeling sick or is undergoing an operation.  Remember their names, even if you’ve only met them once; A person’s name sounds beautiful to them.  Remember that your potential friend or lover said he’s vegetarian, for example, and therefore treat him to lunch at a vegetarian restaurant.  Remember that they were playing in a tennis match two weekends ago or that they were visiting their parents on the East Coast, and ask them how it went.  People often feel invisible or easily forgotten in society today.  When you take the time to remember the details of their lives, no matter how big or small, you’re likely to sow the seeds to a meaningful friendship or partnership sooner than later.

  •  Be Inquisitive.

Ask your new friend or potential romantic partner  questions about themselves, their lives, their work, their family, their passions, their dreams, their childhood, their greatest accomplishments, etc.  Be mindful to be curious and inquisitive without overstepping your boundaries and playing “therapist”, being judgmental, trying to rescue him or her, or creating a parent-child dynamic between the two of you.  Be inquisitive and curious about their lives, their feelings, their dreams, their gifts, at a slow and steady pace.  If you ask too many deep questions about their inner world too soon, you may unwittingly push that person away.  Timing is everything as you deepen your relationship with someone else.  You must establish a rapport and cultivate a feeling of mutual safety and trust with your friend or partner before asking him or really personal questions.

  •   Be Authentic.

In other words, be yourself through and through and stand your sacred ground in your relationships.  If you shrink, puff up, engage in people pleasing, appeasing, become a chameleon, walking on eggshells, or repressing your true thoughts and feelings with your friend or partner, you’re creating an in-authentic friendship or partnership that isn’t worth cultivating in the first place.  Seek out like-minded people who value your thoughts, feelings, values, and guiding principles.  In turn, you will feel safe to be yourself.  If you choose to befriend someone or  partner with someone who has views, values, thoughts, feelings, and guiding principles that are diametrically opposed to yours, be sure that person is capable of honoring your different paradigms.  It is worth noting that two people can experience the same thing, see and/or experience it entirely differently, and still both be right; it’s not logical, it’s psychological!!

  •  Seek Out People Who Actively Participate In Reciprocal Relationships.

As you offer your time, attention, words of affirmation, fondness, admiration, thoughtful gifts, and acts of service to someone you’re growing closer to, be mindful that your new friend and/or potential partner shows you that he or she is capable of and wants to reciprocate these openhearted overtures back to you.

  •   Be Mindful That The Two Of You Put Deposits In The Emotional Bank Account Of Your Growing Friendship/Partnership.

As you make deposits, your relationship with inevitably deepen and the level of safety, trust, loyalty, care, concern, warmth, and love will grow exponentially.  Deposits in a relationship’s emotional bank account create a commerce between two hearts.  Emotional deposits include spending time with your friend or partner, offering him or words of affirmation, buying them little gifts, offering them acts of service, and being physically affectionate. Too many withdrawals from your relationship’s emotional bank account can lead to an overdrawn bank account, and sooner or later your relationship will be overrun by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  These 4 Horsemen lead friends or partners to feel hostile, lonely, isolated, and disengaged.  With an overdrawn emotional bank account,  the smallest problems in relationships become exaggerated out of proportion, and one or both people find themselves drowning in puddles.

  •   Keep The 4 Horsemen Of The Apocalypse At Bay in Your Relationships. 

According to John GottmanThe 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse that often corrode the goodwill in relationships include criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.  In addition to the 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse, Stephen Covey encourages people in relationships to refrain from allowing the 5 metastasizing emotional cancers into their relationships.  These cancers include criticizing, comparing, contending, competing, and being cynical.

  • Communicate With Courage and Consideration.  

The truth doesn’t need to hurt.  You can speak your truth openly and honestly while still being considerate of the other person’s feelings.  I strongly invite you to do so!!  In addition, when you have a grievance with your friend or partner, address their behavior, not their character.  In other words, it’s far more effective to say, ” You’re behavior was hurtful rather than say, “You are hurtful.”  I imagine that it would be far more effective and considerate to say, ” You made a mistake” rather than say, ” You are a mistake.”  According to John Gottman, When you address a person’s behavior rather than criticize their essence, you are making a healthy complaint vs. making a harmful complaint.

  •   Be Proactive And “At Cause”  In your Friendship And/Or Partnership.

In other words, take accountability for your mistakes, listen non-defensively, and refrain from being at “The Effect” of another person, blaming him or her for how they are “making you feel.” According to Stephen Covey, when you take responsibility for your actions, your mistakes, your choices, and seek out opportunities to grow from the inside out, you are choosing to be “at cause” for what you’re manifesting in your life.  This approach will leave you feeling empowered because you can only control how you show up in the world; you cannot make your friends or lovers change if they don’t wish to. When you endeavor to introspect and choose to learn and grow from your experiences, you are taking an “inside-out” approach to life; you are recognizing that  you “create our own reality, and you are responsible for what you create.”  In the event that you feel that you are “the effect” of someone else’s behavior, I invite you to become resourceful and make new choices to that you can be “at cause” for your life as soon as possible.

  • Be Vulnerable When The Timing Is Right.

In other words, I invite you to share your thoughts, dreams, feelings, painful memories, etc. with your potential friend and/or lover.  Be mindful, however,  that you’ve established enough rapport, trust, safety, and goodwill to be vulnerable with that person.  If you’re too vulnerable too soon in the beginning of your relationship, the other person may run for the hills. They may feel overwhelmed by too much of your vulnerability coming too soon.  In turn, they may wonder if you’re not emotionally self-reliant enough, or they may fear that you may have  emotional wounds and scars that haven’t healed enough yet, compelling you to turn them into your confidante, counselor, life coach, etc.  If you flood them with your vulnerabilities too soon, they may feel weighed down by your disclosures. I believe that in the early stages of cultivating new relationships, it is wise to share vulnerabilities with someone in droplets at first.   That being said, renown speaker and author of the book, Men, Women & Worthiness, Brene Brown, has astutely said that “vulnerability is the birthplace of connection.” When there are opportunities to let that person into your inner world and share your vulnerabilities, courageously do so!!

  •  Engage in Self-disclosure.

When you talk about your own frailties, “failures,'” family conflicts, triumphant moments, etc. you are giving your potential friend and/or romantic partner permission to do the same.  Your willingness to engage in self-disclosure is incredibly disarming to people.  They realize that they, in turn, can  share their frailties, regrets, losses,  and traumas with you.  Give yourself permission to share your triumphs, proudest moments, greatest accomplishments, and peak life experiences with them too.  In turn, they will likely share the most joyous moments of their lives with you in return. When you self-disclose about challenging times in your life, however, I’d invite you to remember to share how you’ve grown from your past trials and tribulations.  Share what you learned from those experiences, how you’ve grown and evolved, and how the vicissitudes and challenges in your life have strengthened you.  If you disclose something of a very personal nature and sound frozen in time, your potential friend and/or lover will strongly suspect that your past wounds remains wide open.  In turn, that person will wonder how those wounds and the pain you carry with you from those past experiences will manifest in your current relationship.

  •  Be Honest.

It is better to be trusted than liked, and it’s far more likely that you will be liked when someone trusts you implicitly.  Therefore, refrain from justifying your behavior, rationalizing away your behavior, minimizing your behavior, and/or lying about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  People are forgiving by nature, especially when someone is humble enough to acknowledge their mistakes and take full and complete responsibility for them.  On the other hand, people have little patience and tolerance for deflection, blaming others for their actions, conjuring up excuses for their behaviors, and lying.

Be forthcoming instead.  Your potential friend and/or lover will appreciate your humility and honesty, and they will more than likely forgive your mistakes if you take full ownership of them. In addition to being honest, I implore you to show up in your relationships with integrity so that you demonstrate that you are trustworthy.  In other words, be sure that your intentions, words, and actions are in alignment.  If you choose to live a double life, cheat, betray your friend or romantic partner partner’s confidences, say things you don’t really mean just to appease, placate, or win the favor of someone else, then you are building your new relationship on top of a hollow and broken foundation.  In addition to being honest with your friend or partner, earn their safety, respect, and trust by being trustworthy.

  •  Say, “I’m Sorry.”

Summon the courage and strength of character to say that you’re sorry when you’ve erred or hurt your potential friend or lover’s feelings.  When you sincerely apologize, your potential friend and/or lover will appreciate your humility and character.  In addition, you will earn their trust because you’ve demonstrated your capacity for humility, introspection, self-awareness, and emotional attunement as it pertains to how your words and actions impact others.

  • Be fair.

When you’re cultivating a potentially meaningful relationship with someone else, always be mindful to be fair with them.  In other words, do your best to arrive at win-win solutions, co-create agreements that feel good to both of you, and create limits, boundaries, and parameters for your friendship or romantic relationship that you both feel good about.

  • Be A giver, Not A Taker.

When you give to your friend or partner, you’re showing that person that you’re a giver and not a taker.  Takers tend to exploit others, use them, objectify them, etc.  When you’re a giver, that person is likely to give back in kind.  This aligns with the Law of Reciprocity.  We receive back from others what we put out. Be a giver, though who enjoys receiving back as well.  If you are giving to a friend or potential lover but refuse to receive in kind,  you are demonstrating an unwillingness to unwrap the gift of kindness and thoughtfulness that your friend or lover has given you.  In turn, you are denying that person the joy that accompanies giving.  This denial can arrest the bi-directional flow of your growing relationship.

  • Say Thank You.

Express your gratitude  and appreciation for an overture that your friend and/or lover has made on your behalf.   People yearn to be appreciated.  When another person’s overture is greeted with your silence, they will feel unappreciated and unacknowledged.  In turn, they will no longer make efforts on your behalf, and a stone wall of resentment and disconnection will rise between the two of you.

  •  Support Your Friend Or Partner’s Dreams.

Take a moment and encourage your friend or romantic partner to keep going after their dreams; affirm their courage, praise their persistence, applaud their willingness to march to the beat of their own drum, and acknowledge what’s laudable and praiseworthy about the dream they’re going after.

  •  Affirm Your friend And/Or Lover.

When your friend or lover says or does something praiseworthy, offer that person words of affirmation.  Reflect back to them the gold you see in them, and acknowledge their gifts, talents, and anything else that you think is beautiful about their essence or character.   Your new friend and/or lover will feel truly seen and valued.  As they feel cherished, they will want to share more and more about themselves with you.  As you affirm and bless them, they will also want to spend more and more of their time with you.  Sooner or later, I don’t know when, the two of you will be well on your way to co-creating a deep and meaningful relationship.

  • Share Your Own Needs And Wants In A Burgeoning Friendship And/Or Partnership.

In addition, honor the needs and wants of the other person.  If their needs and wants feel unreasonable to you, then find your voice and communicate with courage and consideration how come those needs and wants don’t resonate with you. Ultimately, you and your friend and/or partner want to feel free to in your relationship.  Do your best to encourage that person to fly.  If you spend too much time clipping their wings, they will fly away before their wings are entirely gone and they find themselves dying on impact as they hit the hard, unforgiving ground below.

  • Focus On Humility.

Just as courage is the Father of all virtues, humility is the Mother.  Those who keep their ego in check are more attractive and are evaluated more positively by potential friends and partners.  According to research done by Daryl Van Ton-geren at Hope College, “humility may be an important ingredient for relationship success.  In addition, humility is tied to forgiveness, a powerful tool in happy unions.”

  • Treat People As Though They Have The Virtues That You Wish They Possessed.  Give Them a Reputation To Live Up To, And They Will Work Like Crazy To Live Up To It.  

When you’re cultivating a meaningful relationship with a new friend and/or potential new lover, that person may behave in ways that you find unsettling, irksome, or out of integrity.  If you believe the relationship is worth investing in and cultivating never-the-less, I invite you to speak to their higher self and reflect back to them with effortless conviction that you see the gold glimmering brightly inside of them.  If your new friend is prone to drinking excessively, reflect back to them that you wholeheartedly know that they have the self-discipline and desire to stop drinking so that they can be fully present in their lives because, after all, you know that they want to realize the fullest potential.

If your new friend or romantic partner is prone to being stoic and guarded, reflect back to them that you have a very strong intuition that the deeper truth is that they are sensitive, deeply connected to their hearts, and possess all the courage in the world to let their walls down because, after all, you both would agree that he or she yearns for and richly deserves deeper connections with people.  As you speak to that person’s higher self with an unwavering confidence that you know who they truly are, he or she will feel inspired, and they will come to see themselves through your eyes and show up in your relationship in ways that align with their most praiseworthy values, conscience, and optimal set of guiding principles.

In conclusion, I want to share with you that there are countless ways to cultivate rich, deep, and meaningful relationships with others.  My hope is that I have touched on many ways to do so that you haven’t thought of or considered until now. While most people are capable of creating superficial connections with others, they often struggle to deepen and strengthen those connections.  In turn, their shallow relationships often leave them feeling hungry for something more.  As you learn how to cultivate more meaningful, substantial, and authentic connections with others, you will discover that your life has been enriched ten-fold.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article on how to cultivate meaningful relationships.  I hope that you found it informative and illuminating.

Warmly, John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

(Master NLP Practitioner/Certified Hypnotherapist/Certified Dharma Life Coach & Sports Psychology Consultant)

DONALD STERLING: A WALKING MIRROR THAT REFLECTS THE PREJUDICES IN ALL OF US

image taken from designtrend.com

image taken from designtrend.com

Several months ago Donald Sterling, a Jewish billionaire and owner of the NBA franchise, the Los Angeles Clippers, was caught on audio tape saying various racist and bigoted things about African Americans and other races and ethnic groups.  It’s particularly ironic that he would speak so condescendingly and belittling about African Americans because the majority of his team is comprised of African Americans, and he was in the throes of an extramarital affair with a much younger woman that appears to be African American or, at the very least, bi-racial.  Never the less, this old man with a “Plantation paradigm” appears to believe that blacks are his inferior to him, and it’s apparent that his dying paradigm hasn’t modernized much at all even though beliefs and perceptions on the subject of race have changed dramatically since the Civil War.

Although Donald Sterling’s comments were indeed repugnant, I believe that in many ways they reflect the beliefs and perceptions of countless other people throughout America and the world who merely choose to repress their own racist feelings because they fear  the consequences that will surely come if they truly speak their minds.  These consequences usually include being fired from one’s job, being shunned by more progressive friends, and being silenced by the politically correct who are everywhere among us.  As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I can attest to this fact because I have personally worked with clients that have suffered irreparable damage to their reputations and careers as a result of saying the wrong, or politically incorrect, thing at the wrong time.

Sadly for Donald Sterling, his comments were so outdated and so incendiary that he morphed into a walking caricature or cartoon figure of the racists and bigots that walk more inconspicuously among us right before out very eyes.  If there was a tall, bloated balloon at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving parade that represented what a racist looks like, it would don the face of Donald Sterling himself.  Although it’s easy to castigate Donald Sterling, I prefer to see his bigoted remarks as a gift to all of us; his words are a reminder to all of us that are humble, courageous, and self-aware enough to admit it that we also have our own prejudices against all kinds of races, ethnic groups, sexual orientations, religious groups, the rich, the poor, Republicans, Democrats, the homeless, lawyers, professional athletes, reality TV stars, rappers, country singers, misogynists, short men, handicapped people, overweight people, powerful women, beautiful women, homemakers, drug addicts, people who are on anti-depressant medication, the mentally ill, illegal immigrants, those who live in America and don’t speak English yet, those without college degrees, laborers, rape victims, etc.  We all have our own shadows that we try to repress, deny, and/or disown, and these shadows darken the light that reflects our soul’s loving and compassionate nature; we all have our own conscious or unconscious prejudices, but we have been conditioned to wear a social mask and lie to ourselves and others that our thoughts are as pure as the white driven snow. When we deny or disown our shadows, though, we actually give them more life.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I often share with my clients that “what we resist persists.”

I will confess to you that I have my own prejudices, and I work daily to own them so that I can eventually transcend them.  One prejudice I have is against those who lie to themselves and others and claim that they actually have no prejudices!!  I’ve grown so weary of radio and T.V. personalities who say something that is clearly racist or bigoted and then adamantly deny having ever had a racist, homophobic, or other impure thought by saying things like, ”some of my best friends are black” or “I gave money to an AIDS charity that supports gays and lesbians” or “I grew up around bigotry and always vowed that I would never allow myself to think those kinds of thoughts.”  The sad truth is that all of their attempts to rationalize away what they have said are merely hollow and disingenuous attempts  to deny to themselves and to the public that their minds, like the rest of us, are actually impure and vulnerable to falling prey to having prejudices, biases, etc.   These very people  “protest too much” and they are therefore either hypocrites, in grave denial, or actively trying to pull the wool over their  eyes and our eyes too.  There are countless examples of such hypocrites in our midst that immediately come to mind.  Take, for example,  Michael Jordan, Jesse Jackson, Joe Biden, Al Sharpton, Spike Lee, Marion Barry, and Dan Rather.

Michael Jordan, who is widely regarded as the greatest professional basketball player ever to play the game, grew up in North Carolina during a time when there were more KluKluxKlan members in his state than there were in all of the other Southern States combined.  He once said, ” I considered myself a racist at the time.  Basically, I was against all white people.”  Jordan later said, however, that his Mother told him that he could not live a life consumed by racial hatred.  Jordan added that he finally began to understand more about race relations after watching the miniseries, Roots.  Although Jordan has conceded that he was once a full blown racist against white people while  adding that he’s since worked on owning this shadow, I highly doubt that there is not a trace of racism left anywhere in his mind, body, heart, and soul.

Never the less, as soon as the Donald Sterling scandal broke out, it was Michael Jordan who chose to say the following:  ”I am completely disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views…There is no room in the NBA- or anywhere else, for the kind of racism and hatred Mr. Sterling expressed.  I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country, and at the highest level of our sport…In a league where the majority of our players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level.”  Although I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Jordan’s sentiments, I simply don’t buy the idea that he has truly transcended his own ethnic and racial prejudices so thoroughly that he’s in a position to stand on a pulpit and denounce others for the very same prejudices and hatred he has acknowledged having had at one time for white people.  If I were a betting man, I would bet my house that Michael Jordan still harbors racist feelings towards whites, Jews, and countless other racial and ethnic groups as well.  I commend him if has  made great strides towards overcoming his prejudices.  I cannot in good conscience, however, stand up, applaud him, and make pretend that I believe that his heart and mind is entirely cleansed of all racism and bigotry.

Other public figures and celebrities that have allowed their politically correct, social masks to accidentally slip off include African-American Reverend Jesse Jackson, our Caucasian Vice President Joe Biden,  famous African-American movie producer, Spike Lee, famous Caucasian news anchor, Dan Rather, and former African-American governor Marion Barry. During his 1984 presidential campaign, Jesse Jackson derisively spoke of New York City as a place teeming with “Hymies”, and he even went so far as to call New York City “Hymietown.”  For those of you who don’t know, the word “Hymie” is a racist term used to disparage Jews.  Our very own Vice President, Joe Biden, said a few years ago, “You cannot go to a 7 11 or Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”  Regarding his own running mate, Barack Obama, Joe Biden said, “I mean you just got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate, bright, clean, and a nice-looking guy; I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”  As for African-American movie producer, Spike Lee, he once said, ” I give interracial couples a look.  Daggers…They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street.”

As for Dan Rather, he said of Barack Obama, “He’s a nice person.  He’s very articulate and this is what’s been used against him, but he couldn’t sell watermelons if you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic.”    Former governor, Marion Barry, once said, “We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops.  They ought to go.”  Although each of the politicians, public figures, and celebrities that I have  just mentioned clearly have racist thoughts percolating around in the recesses of their minds, I guarantee you that none of them would cop to it.  On the contrary, they would allude to friends of theirs that are Jewish, Indian,  African-American, or in a romantic partnership with someone of the opposite race.  Or perhaps they would talk of charity work they have done on behalf of the very people they have openly degraded, or they would talk of  extended family members that are married to someone who is Jewish, Indian, African-American, etc.  Their attempts to deny their own prejudices never end because they want to maintain their squeaky clean image.  What’s paradoxical and ironic, though, is that the more someone deflects and denies his or her own prejudices, the less trustworthy they become.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have been facilitating a Men’s group for over 7 years now.  I’ve noticed that the men that are most honest about their shortcomings and take ownership of their shadows are the men that the other group members trusts the most.  On the contrary, the men who deny their shadows and repress their darker thoughts are the ones that are trusted least.

Since the Donald Sterling story broke awhile back, there has only been one public figure that I have grown to respect and trust as it pertains to the topic of racism, bigotry, and prejudice.  His name is Mark Cuban, who is the billionaire owner of the NBA franchise, the Dallas Mavericks.  As everyone was clamoring to have Sterling banned from the NBA, Mark Cuban shared his thoughts on the matter in a self-reflective, honest, and forthcoming manner.  He said, ” I know that I’m prejudiced, and I know that I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways…None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses.”

Wow…

My sentiments exactly…

I want to invite all the self-righteous hypocrites out there who claim to be enlightened and pure of thought to kindly consider the possibility that perhaps the feelings of outrage that you openly express about Donald Sterling has just as much to do with you as they do with him.  I wonder if his blatant racism and bigotry awakens in you the realization that you have a little bit of him inside of you.  After all, it takes one to know one or “if you spot it, you got it.”  Marriage and Family Therapists and anyone else that works in the field of psychology call this phenomena “Projection.”  Whenever we have a strong “charge” with someone else and want to judge or condemn them, the chances are extraordinarily high that you’re seeing traits in that person that mirrors similar traits inside of yourself that you’d rather not acknowledge or take ownership of; you’d prefer to project the traits that you don’t like in yourself onto someone else.  For this very reason, I propose that Donald Sterling is a living and breathing mirror and/or gift for all of us; he gives all of us an opportunity to go inside ourselves and explore our “charge” with him so that we can take ownership of the prejudices that live inside of us and do the personal growth work it will take to make our prejudices smaller and smaller over the course of time.

Thank you for taking your time to read my blog on racism, prejudice, and the phenomena of  projection.  I hope  you found my blog thought-provoking and enlightening.

Warmly,

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/NLP Practitioner/Certified Hypnotherapist/& Sports Psychology Consultant

 

 

 

THE SIX-STAGE MODEL OF CHANGE

Image taken from narconon.ca

Image taken from narconon.ca

I recently read an article written by Mark S. Gold, MD, and he spoke about how change happens.  Just as there are stages of grief, there are stages of change.  In the beginning of his article, Mark notes that almost 20 years ago, two well-known alcoholism  researchers, Carlo C. DiClemente and J. O. Prochaska, introduced a six-stage model of change to help professionals understand their clients with addiction problems and motivate them to change. Their model is based on their personal observations of how people went about modifying problem behaviors such as smoking, overeating and problem drinking.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve used this six-stage model of change to help my clients assess where they are in terms of their readiness to stop all kinds of behaviors that keep them feeling stuck and out of integrity with their own values and out of alignment with their higher selves.  In addition, I’ve used this six-stage model to help my clients  find and maintain the motivation to stop whatever self-destructive habits, patterns, or behaviors are getting in their way and precluding them from  realizing their full potential and leading healthy and fulfilling lives.  In addition to using this six-stage model to help my clients with addiction issues, I’ve used this model to help couples decide if they’re sincerely interested in salvaging their marriage or not, men and women with anxiety and depression decide if they’re willing to take medication to address chemical imbalances in their brain, athletes decide if they truly want to make the sacrifices that will be required of them to become professional athletes and/or champions, men and women decide if they’re sincerely ready to give up extramarital affairs, codependent relationships, criminal behavior, etc.

The six stages of the model are:

  • precontemplation
  • contemplation
  • determination
  • action
  • maintenance
  • termination

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Hypnotherapist, and Sports Psychology Consultant, it’s been incredibly helpful for me and my clients to understand their readiness to change by being familiar with the six-stage model of change. With this knowledge in hand, I  can help my clients make decisions that  that truly resonate with them in light of what stage of change they’re at.   Understanding where they are in terms of their readiness to stop self-destructive habits and behaviors  helps me to tailor how I approach our change work together, and it helps me to think of ways to motivate them to move away from what is familiar to what will serve their highest good.

Precontemplation

Individuals in the precontemplation stage of change are not even thinking about changing their self-destructive behaviors or freeing themselves from the quicksand that is making it feel impossible for them to make empowering decisions for their lives. They may not see their behaviors as problems, or they may think that others who point out their problems or paralysis are exaggerating.

There are many reasons to be in precontemplation, and Dr. DiClemente has referred to them as “the Four Rs” —reluctance, rebellion, resignation and rationalization:

  • Reluctant precontemplators are those who, through lack of knowledge or inertia, do not want to consider change. The impact of the problem has not become fully conscious.
  • Rebellious precontemplators have a heavy investment in their self-destructive behaviors, and they are  are hell bent on making their own decisions. They are resistant to being told what to do.
  • Resigned precontemplators have given up hope about the possibility of change and seem overwhelmed by the problem. Many have made many attempts already  to change their behaviors to no avail.  In turn, they feel defeated and destined to engage in their behaviors for the rest of their lives.
  • Rationalizing precontemplators have all the answers; they have plenty of reasons why their behaviors are not a problem, or why their behaviors may be  a problem for others but not for them.

Contemplation

Individuals in this stage of change are willing to consider the possibility that they have a problem or internal conflict, and the possibility offers hope for change. However, people who are contemplating change are often highly ambivalent. They are on the fence. Contemplation is not a commitment; it is not a decision to change. People at this stage are often quite interested in learning about change and transformation and what steps they must take to achieve them. They know that whatever habits and patterns they engage in are causing them  problems, and they often have a mental list of all the reasons that sticking with behaviors that are self-destructive or stop them from moving forward or in a different direction  is bad for them. But even with all these negatives, they still cannot make a decision to change.

In the contemplation stage, often with the help of a treatment professional like a Marriage and Family Therapist, life coach, Hypnotherapist, Master NLP Practitioner, or Sports Psychologist, these people make a risk-reward analysis. They consider the pros and cons of their behavior, and the pros and cons of change. They think about the previous attempts they have made to stop whatever behavior is keeping them stuck, and what has caused them failure in the past.

Determination: Commitment to Action

Deciding to stop self-destructive habits, patterns, and behaviors are the hallmark of this stage of change. All the weighing of pros and cons, all the risk-reward analysis, finally tips the balance in favor of change. Not all ambivalence has been resolved, but ambivalence no longer represents an insurmountable barrier to change. Most individuals in this stage will make a serious attempt to stop their self-destructive behaviors in the near future. Individuals in this stage appear to be ready and committed to action.

This stage represents preparation as much as determination. The next step in this stage is to make a realistic plan. Commitment to change without appropriate skills and activities can create a fragile and incomplete action plan. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I will help these individuals  make a realistic assessment of the level of difficulty involved in making new decisions and incorporating new behaviors into their lives. They will begin to mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually prepare for potential problems and pitfalls down the road, and they will come up with concrete strategies, resources, and solutions that will keep them moving forward toward achieving their goals.

 

Action: Implementing the Plan

Individuals in this stage of change put their plan into action. This stage typically involves making some form of public commitment to change their behavior or move toward their stated goal in order to get external confirmation of the plan. If they have not done so already, individuals in this stage may enter individual counseling, marital counseling, group therapy, outpatient treatment, attend AA meetings, or tell their family members and friends about their decision—or all of the above.

Making such public commitments not only helps people obtain the support they need to change, but it creates external monitors. People often find it very helpful to know that others are watching and cheering them on. In addition, such public commitments makes them accountable to those they’ve shared their intentions and goals with.

Nothing succeeds like success. A person who has implemented a good plan begins to see it work and experiences it working over time, making adjustments along the way. They reclaim sacred parts of their lives, and they develop hope and self-confidence as they continue to show up in ways that align with their highest selves.

Maintenance, Relapse and Recycling

The action stage normally takes three to six months to complete. Change requires building a new pattern of behavior and thinking over time. The real test of change is long-term sustained change over many years. This stage of successful change is called “maintenance.” In this stage, a new way of being with oneself, others, and the world is  firmly being established, and the threat of a return to old patterns becomes less intense and less frequent.

Individuals who have engaged in self-destructive patterns or paralysis by analysis may experience a strong temptation to fall back into old patterns from time to time. Sometimes relaxing their guard or “testing” themselves begins a slide back. I do my very best to successfully arm my clients at this stage of change with a variety of relapse prevention skills. They know where to find me, and they know where to get the support and resources they need elsewhere too.

People who relapse  back into old self-destructive behaviors learn from the relapse. The experience of relapsing and returning to new, healthier patterns of thinking and behaving  often strengthens a person’s determination and resolve to take right action in their lives going forward.

Termination

The ultimate goal in the change process is termination. At this stage, my clients no longer find that old, self-destructive behaviors tempt them; he  has complete confidence that he can thrive without fear of relapse.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.  I hope that you have found it illuminating and helpful!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/MNLP/CHT/Sports Psychology Consultant

 

5 Distinguishable Styles of Communication

CommunicateAs a Marriage and Family Therapist, I owe a debt of gratitude to the great psychotherapists and family therapists that have come before me. One such pioneer in the field of family therapy is Virginia Satir, who was widely regarded as the “Mother of Family Therapy.” One particular contribution that Virginia Satir made during her extraordinary career was her identification of 5 distinguishable styles of communication; she noted that communication has to do both with information and the style in which that information is relayed.

In light of this, Virginia named these 5 different styles of communicating as placating, computing, distracting, blaming, and leveling. The first four styles of communicating that I just mentioned are generally unproductive ways of communicating with others.  Satir saw leveling, however, as the healthiest  mode of communicating with others, and she and encouraged her clients to work towards becoming levelers in their interpersonal relationships.

Placators tend to engage in behaviors that are designed to please, soothe, and pacify others. They make unwarranted concessions to others and are prone to accommodating and pleasing others because they have an addiction to seeking out their acceptance and approval. In addition, they are afraid of being rejected or abandoned by others, fear that the people around them will become angry with them, and they therefore fear interpersonal conflict. Consequently, people who use a placating style of communication use language that is intended to win the favor of others, and they are constantly apologetic, and never confrontational or disagreeing. They also tend to walk on eggshells in their communication with others, and they tend to preface what they are about to say before they say it in the hopes that what they say won’t be misconstrued.  They do this to cover all their bases in order to preempt a misunderstanding that could unintentionally cause someone to be disappointed or angry with them.  As a result of this communication style, people who placate are often chameleons without a solid sense of themselves, or they are vulnerable to being codependent individuals or co-narcissists who give up their authentic voice because they’re too afraid of what’s at risk if they speak their truth.

Those who engage in a Computing style of communication tend to detach themselves from their emotions and attempt to respond to situations in their lives in a logical and controlled way that is not influenced by their feelings. They are intent on delivering responses that are dry, cool, and calculated, and they tend to keep their voices even and often make use of abstract language. These individuals are often prone to communicating in a computing style because they’ve often developed a fear regarding expressing their own emotions. People who use a Computing style of communicating tend to live in their heads, and they will even use language that reflects theirmore left-brained approach to experiencing relationships and the world at large.  For example, someone who uses a computing style of communicating is more apt to say, “that doesn’t compute with me,” “that’s illogical,” or “the facts and data that you’ve just provided for me simply don’t add up.”  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, it’s often a goal of mine to help those who have a computing style of communication to drop down into their hearts and share their thoughts and feelings from that sacred, vulnerable space.

Those who adopt a Distracting style of communication tend to behave and respond in an unpredictable manner that jolts and interrupts one-self and others. They are known to say or do things that are irrelevant to the language and actions of others; they are not emotionally attuned to others, and they are therefore unable to hold space for others because they’re so disconnected from their own thoughts and feelings. When they speak, they are often prone to being tangential and  jump from one topic to another. Distracters tend to feel restless and panicked physiologically, and they often use a tone that is fast, erratic, and unstable, varying in pitch for no apparent reason. These individuals often appear to have significant psychological issues which make relating to them very challenging. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve found that working with individuals and couples that have a distracting style of communication challenging because it can be difficult to follow what my client or clients are actually saying. As a group facilitator, I’ve found that individuals with a distracting style of communication can unintentionally interrupt the flow of what is taking place in my groups, and I’ve found that other group members become increasingly aware of this issue as time goes by.

Those who have a Blaming mindset are prone to looking for and seeing problems and fault in others, and they tend to boss others around and try to manipulate and control them. Blamers can often be quite narcissistic, and they believe that they are better than everyone else. They do not believe that they are accountable or at cause for any of the problems that they face in their lives. Instead, they see themselves as victims and believe that everyone else is to blame for everything that goes wrong in their lives. In addition, they tend to think in black and white, and they don’t see others or the world in shades of grey at all.  People who have a blaming style of communicating often distort events that have taken place, and their distorted, revisionist memories often serve to protect their fragile egos and preserve their pristine sense of self.  Sadly, they often  perceive that nobody is genuinely concerned about them, and as they become resentful and more angry at others, their tone can become loud, harsh, and abrasive. They can be insensitive to the feelings of others, and they are often very reluctant to apologize to those they’ve hurt because they sincerely believe that they’re the ones that have been wronged in the first place.  In addition, they are reluctant to say they’re sorry because they believe that doing so is a sign of weakness.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, it can be very challenging to work with people who adopt a blaming style of thinking and communicating because they are rarely interested in personal introspection and personal growth.

Alas, the healthiest communication style that Satir highlighted is Leveling. Leveling refers to the healthy communication mode of expressing oneself in an assertive manner so that one’s language and behavior is direct, straightforward, and congruent with one’s honest and authentic self. People who adopt the leveling approach express themselves in a way where there is harmony between their actions, words, tone of voice, and posture/gestures. They engage in active listening, are comfortable with silence, and they articulate their thoughts and feelings in such a way that people truly hear and understand them.  Levelers seek first to understand, then to be understood.  They also tend to value partnership, and they  look to create win-win scenarios when they’re talking to people.  They are also able to empathize with others and  see things from their point of view, and they are excellent at diffusing tense discussions by letting the other person know that first and foremost they want what is best for everyone.

People who adopt a leveling style of communication also tend to speak from their heart, and they’re comfortable being vulnerable with others.  As a matter of fact, they believe that being vulnerable with others is an act of courage and serves as a bridge to deeper connection.  They also see conflicts that arise in their interpersonal relationships as opportunities for personal growth as well as opportunities to grow closer to that person after the conflict is talked through and resolved. Levelers also tend to be the first ones to take ownership for their mistakes, and they apologize to others when they’ve hurt them.  They tend to be easy to understand and relate to, and they project themselves as “What you see is what you get” kinds of people. Finally, they contribute toward relationships that are safe, mature, and capable of genuine intimacy.

Now that you’ve read about Satir’s 5 different communication styles, I want to invite you to consider the following question: Which of the five communication styles mentioned above typically represents your strategy for communicating with others?

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’m a firm believer that how we choose to communicate profoundly impacts our relationships and profoundly shapes the course of our lives. There are countless other nuances and insights into effective communication that I’ve written about in other blogs on my website. Never the less, I trust that you’ll find it useful to consider your particular communication style and whether or not it’s been serving you to date.

If you’d like to learn how to adopt a leveling communication style so that you can make the most out of your interpersonal relationships and ensure that you feel seen, heard, and thoroughly understood, please get in touch with me so that I can help you to acquire a leveler’s communication style and skill set. You’re very welcome to e-mail me at jboesky8@gmail.com or call me at my office at (619)280-8099 to set up a time to visit with me in person so we can get to work!! I trust that you’ll discover that learning a leveler’s style of communicating will be a very rewarding process for you.

Thank you for taking your time to read my blog on the 5 distinguishable communication styles. I hope that you found it interesting and enlightening.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/MNLP
Marriage and Family Therapist/Master NLP Practitioner

HOW TO SAY I’M SORRY

Image taken from cardboiled.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve worked with individuals, couples, groups, and athletes, and from time to time one of my clients owes someone in their lives a sincere apology.  I’ve seen husbands and wives call each other mean-spirited names, for example, and I’ve also met with couples who have even gone so far as to become physically abusive with their spouses!!  I’ve also had couples who have come in for couple’s marriage and family therapy to rebuild trust after one partner was unfaithful to the other.

As a group facilitator, I’ve occasionally witnessed a group member judge or shame another group member, leaving them feeling belittled and small.  In my individual work with clients, I’ve had people come in to see me for family counseling because their relationships with their parents or siblings have become strained as a result of a betrayal that they’ve committed, like stealing money from a loved one or using drugs while living in their parent’s home.

As a Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve worked with coaches who have mistreated their athletes or shown favoritism to some athletes on their team over others.  Finally, I’ve worked with some athletes who have hazed their teammates or given up on their team during an important game.  In all of the scenarios mentioned above, the perpetrators have owed their victims a sincere apology to begin the repair work needed to rebuild the trust and safety that serve as the foundation and pillars for thriving relationships.

Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t comfortable uttering the words, “I’m sorry.”  I’ve had clients concede to me that apologizing to someone else feels like a form of weakness to them, and they’re simply too proud to go there.  Other clients of mine have lacked the courage to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge to their victim that they’ve made a mistake, and so they choose to sweep their perpetration under the rug in the false hope that time will heals all wounds.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve also noticed that some of my clients simply don’t know how to go about the process of apologizing to someone else.  As a result, their apologies sound insincere, halfhearted, and incomplete.  In light of all of this, I’ve decided to write a blog detailing how to offer a sincere and thorough apology to someone you’ve hurt and want to make amends with.

To begin with, I want to strongly encourage you to engage in some introspection and self-reflection before you apologize so that you know what you’re apologizing for in the first place!!   Humbly and courageously acknowledge to yourself what specific actions, in-actions, words, deeds, and any other ways where you believe that you have faltered that warrants an apology to someone else.  Take this valuable time to pause and deeply understand what fears, shadows, beliefs, and behavioral patterns compelled you to hurt someone else, knowingly or unknowingly.  These insights will help you to grow emotionally and spiritually, and they’ll demonstrate to your victim as well as and reassure him or her that you have more self-awareness now and are therefore unlikely to act or repeat your hurtful actions again.

After you’ve acknowledged to yourself what you’ve said or done to someone else that warrants an apology, and after you’ve engaged in some meaningful self- reflection, ask the person you wish to apologize to if they’re open to sitting down with you and talking about what you did that led to your hurting their feelings and creating disconnection between the two of you.  Asking that person if they’re open to talking and if so, when, shows a willingness to honor their autonomy and free will as well as demonstrates that you want to be sensitive to whether or not the person you’ve hurt is ready to hear your apology.  Sometimes a person’s wounds are still too raw, and they’re just not ready yet to hear your apology, let alone accept it and offer you their forgiveness.

If the person you’ve hurt agrees to hear you out, I’d encourage you to be mindful of the tone in your voice as well as your body language.  The tone in our voice makes up %38 of our communication, and our body language accounts for 55% of our communication.  With this in mind, imagine that your voice and body is an instrument, and be sure that you’re instrument is finely tuned so that what you say resonates from your heart and vibrates genuine remorse while your body visibly reflects sincere contrition.

Speaking of your tone and body language, I want to invite you to make the tone in your voice soft, gentle, humble, and remorseful, and I’d encourage you to make your body language open and receptive to whatever your victim might have to say after you’ve said that you’re sorry.  If your arms are folded across your chest and your rolling your eyes while you’re saying you’re sorry, for example, you’re likely showing  signs of reluctance on your part to say that you’re sorry, or you may be unconsciously showing signs that you’re feeling guarded, proud, or too afraid vulnerably speak of your mistakes.

These body language cues often demonstrate a fear of vulnerability on your part, or they show a lack of emotional maturity.  After all, we are all imperfect and prone to intentionally or unintentionally hurting those we care about, and so summoning the humility, vulnerability, and courage to say that you’re sorry to someone speaks volumes about your character. If your arms, legs, and heart are open and you maintain gentle eye contact, the recipient of your apology will feel safe to hear what you’d like to say. He or she will likely admire your humility, courage and character as well, and they consequently  be far readier than before to accept your apology and reconcile with you.

As you’re apologizing, I implore you to take 100 percent ownership for what you’ve said or done that you believe warrants an apology in the first place.  Identify and articulate the specific ways that you fear that you’ve harmed your victim.  Avoid at all costs minimizing, rationalizing, justifying, or sugar coating your hurtful behavior.  Also, do not look to blame that person or anyone else for what you’ve said or done.

All of the above tactics merely dilute your apology and show that you’re either too proud or too fragile to summon the courage to take full responsibility for your actions.  In turn, the person you’re halfheartedly apologizing to will get an unsettling window into your character and learn that he or she really can’t trust that you won’t repeat your behavior again.  After all, you have just tainted your apology by your countless attempts to deflect accountability from the actions that you’ve committed.

In addition to avoiding in engaging in the deflection tactics that I’ve mentioned above, avoid using “distancing language.”  For example, don’t say, “I’m sorry for the things that happened” or “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you in any way.”  Again, it’s important to take personal ownership for the specific ways you’ve hurt someone.  The two attempts at apologizing that I just referenced sound vague and generic, and they lack personal accountability.  If a person says, “I’m sorry for the things that happened”, they’re not acknowledging what specifically happened?  The truth is, their behaviors didn’t just happen, as if they somehow fell out of the sky and into their lives.  Instead, they chose to do or say something very specific that caused someone else harm.

When a perpetrator says “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you in some way,” the word “if” implies that they’re not really sure what they have said or done that warrants an apology in the first place.  I’m addition, imagining that they have hurt their victim in “some way” implies that they don’t even know specifically what they’re apologizing for.  If this is the case, then it’s really not worth taking the time to offer a hollow apology in the first place.

After you’ve said that you’re sorry, taken 100% accountability for your specific actions, and shown through your tone, body language, and words genuine remorse, I want to invite you to go the extra mile and summon the courage to ask your victim  if there’s anything else they feel that you owe them an apology for that you may have missed. Seeking this additional feedback from the person you’ve hurt shows a sincere interest on your part to make things right and take ownership for every last drop of your hurtful behavior.

If the person you’ve hurt takes you up on your offer and shares new information that they believe warrants an additional apology, acknowledge ( if their additional feedback rings true for you) that you overlooked that piece and take ownership for those parts as well.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve seen this gesture help victims  feel deeply  validated  and heard, and they will deeply appreciate your willingness to  give them the time and space to voice any additional pain that’s been been festering  inside their hearts.

At this point, it’d be a very gracious overture on your part to ask how your behavior impacted the person that you hurt.  As you listen to him or her share their thoughts and feelings, be compassionate and empathetic.  Offer them your undivided attention, and acknowledge and validate how your behavior has impacted them.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I always encourage my clients to use active listening skills that reflect back to their victim, for example,”I truly hear that when I called you a nobody you felt belittled and degraded, and I’m deeply sorry for that.  Truthfully, I would feel belittled and degraded too if someone I cared about called me a nobody.”  Following your empathetic words, take this opportunity to reassure the person that you’ve hurt how you really feel about them.  For example, you might want to say,   “I want to reassure you, though, that I don’t feel that way about you at all.  On the contrary, I value you very much and I hold you in very high regard.”

After you’ve given your victim the time and space to share how your actions impacted him, and after you’ve offered them genuine compassion and empathy for the pain you’ve caused them, and after you’ve reassured them how you truly feel about them, take a moment and ask them if there’s any way that you can support them now and going forward to help them heal from the pain that they’re feeling.  In addition, you may even want to ask them if there’s some act of service you can do for them that will symbolically show them that you really want to move forward in repairing your relationship.

If and/or after you’ve mutually agreed on a specific act of service or gesture that will help to rebuild the trust and safety in your relationship, take a moment to reassure the person that you’ll continue to actively work on developing your own self- awareness so that you make every effort to never hurt that person in the same way again. You may even want to let them know something specifically that you’ll be doing to ensure that it’s your sincere intention to never repeat your hurtful behavior.  For example, you might say, “By the way, in my resolve to make sure I never call you belittling names again, I’m going to be seeing a therapist weekly for the next 6 months.”  Or you might say, ” To ensure that I don’t drink too much and black out and embarrass you again, I’m going to get sober and attend AA meetings at least 3 days a week.”

As a marriage and Family Therapist, I believe that such actions show the person that you’ve hurt that you’re willing to back up your apology with specific personal growth steps to ensure that you don’t hurt them again. When you do this, you’re immediately beginning the process of getting back into integrity with that person as well as filling them up with an increased sense of safety, trust, and reassurance that you’re going to be taking active measures to grow as a man or woman so that you treat that person and everyone else in your life in ways that are in alignment with your highest self and your core values.

After you’ve participated in an act of service to rebuild the person’s faith in you, and after you’ve offered them reassurance that you intend to take specific actions to ensure that you don’t repeat your hurtful behavior again, rest assured that a very significant and meaningful part of your journey to make amends and say that you’re sorry is finally over!!  In many ways, though, your journey to make amends has also just begun because it takes time to rebuild the trust and safety that you broke when you hurt someone else.  In addition, your journey to repair your relationship has  just begun because you must now follow through on your pledge to take specific actions to grow and evolve as a person so that you do everything in your power to not re-injure your colleague, friend, family member, or lover again.

If opening your heart and learning to be vulnerable and accountable enough to say that you’re sorry to someone that you’ve hurt is challenging for you, I want to take this opportunity to invite you to visit with me so that I can help you to learn the art of offering someone else a heart-felt apology.  I trust that you’ll find that learning this art form will serve as a tremendous catalyst for your personal grown, and it will help you to repair relationships that you want to salvage much sooner than later.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.  I sincerely hope that you found it enlightening and useful.

Warmly,

John Boesky, LMFT

Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

 

 

GROUP THERAPY NO-NO’s

Image taken from fotosearch.com

Image taken from fotosearch.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Group Facilitator, I’ve already written in a past blog about the ingredients that make for amazing group therapy experiences!!  In this blog, however, I want to take a moment to shed light on the ingredients that can kill the momentum of a thriving group and/or cause a group to wither and die out entirely.  As you read about these poisonous ingredients, I want to invite you to also consider how some of these particular behaviors may be hurting your relationships at home  and at work too.  Groups, after all, are often microcosms for how we  show up in our lives in general.

Like cyanide poisoning, the following ingredients that that can kill groups, friendships, romantic relationships, and chemistry on sports teams include the following:

1)  Gossiping with fellow group members about each other; This can lead to group alliances and coalitions forming in addition to triangulation among group members; These relationship dynamics destroy opportunities for open, honest, and direct communication between group members.

2)  Disregarding the confidentiality agreement that everyone agrees to when they originally join a group; Doing so kills trust, safety, and other group member’s willingness to be vulnerable and honest with themselves and with everyone else.

3)  Shaming other group members.  This includes belittling them, invalidating their feelings, emotionally abusing them, etc.  Shaming can be done with words, a person’s tone, or even his or her facial expressions.  Eye rolling, for example, is a physiological way of passive-aggressively shaming another person.

4)  A narrow-minded intolerance towards another’s beliefs, values, goals, sexual orientation, emotions, etc.

5)  Name calling:  Calling someone else a name that’s intended to belittle them and hurt them threatens group safety and causes the recipient of the name calling to contract and shut down.  In addition, the person doing the name calling instills fear in the other group members, so he or she becomes a threat to the safety of the group container.

5)  Being defensive by talking over people, turning away from people, or digging in your heels and proving you’re take on things is right without considering other perspectives and points of view.

6)  Being contemptuous of others, haughty, smug, aloof, intimidating, arrogant, and self-righteous.

7)  Having a closed mind and a closed heart.  If you’re unwilling to open your mind to new ideas and listen to different perspectives, and if you’re unwilling to open your heart and share your feelings, then you will get very little out of your group therapy experience.

8)  Unleashing judgments on group members and/or offering unsolicited advice and feedback.  The purpose of joining a group is to do your own work;  it is not to rescue and/or fix other group members.

9)  Breaking group agreements such as being on time, honoring my 24 hour cancellation policy, honoring the group’s confidentiality agreement, etc.  When you break group agreements, you threaten group safety.  In addition, you are demonstrating to the other group members that you may not be reliable, trustworthy, etc.

If and/or when a group member is out of integrity and breaks a group agreement, it’s important then to be willing to explore the unconscious shadows ( reasons or motives) that may have compelled you to break the group agreement in the first place.  This exploration can turn into a growth opportunity for everyone in the group.  If you’re unwilling to engage in this self-exploration, however, you’ll likely create a sense of disconnection between you and the other group members.

10)   This group therapy NO-NO goes without saying:  there can be absolutely NO physical abuse among group members.  If you feel a charge or if you feel triggered by another group member, you’ve been given a rich opportunity to grow.  The person who  triggered you has been a gift to you in your life!!

11)  Do not pressure other group members to share more than they are ready to share at any given moment.  Everyone must feel safe and comfortable to grow at their own pace.

12)  Don’t delight in stirring the pot and intentionally triggering people.  Again, be in group to do your own work, and let that be your primary focus.

13)  Whether it be in my Men’s group, co-ed group, or Sports Psychology group, please do not flirt with other group members or attempt to date them.  Men and women may have unresolved issues with members of the opposite sex, and so being approached by another group member may cause a person to feel unsafe.  Even if two group members share a mutual attraction, dating while participating in the same group can create too much drama and upheaval in the group and destabilize the group in the end.  Plus, couples in groups may become less comfortable sharing their true thoughts and feelings because they don’t want to hurt their partner’s feelings.

Alas, thank you for taking the time to read my blog on Group Therapy NO-NO’s!!

If you’re interested in participating in one of my groups, please don’t hesitate to let me know.  Also, please keep this list of Group Therapy NO-NO’s in mind when you’re in my group or when you’re in any group for that matter!!

Warmly,

John Boesky, LMFT

Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

WHAT IS YOUR MISSION?

Image taken from elainefogel.net

Image taken from elainefogel.net

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve been privileged to work with men, women, couples, groups, and athletes. While some of my clients come to me with specific goals that they’d like to achieve in our work together, others come to me feeling rudderless and lost, and they have no goals to speak of;  They just know that they’re deeply unhappy in their lives.  Whether or not a client of mine knows what he’d like to get out of our work together or not, I’ve often found it to be very helpful to assist them in crafting a Mission Statement for themselves.

Crafting a Mission Statement is like creating a blueprint or road map for the kind of life they’d like to manifest for themselves.  A Mission Statement’s intention is to help my clients become deeply acquainted with his or her larger sense of purpose in their lives.  It’s a written guidepost, an affirmation, and a stated quest for how they want to live their lives in a way that openly expresses the deep joy, tenderness, wildness, and strength that they have within their bodies, minds, and souls.  Mission Statements often incorporate within it a client’s greatest gifts, his passions, and his highest values. Our Missions will evolve and change over time.  It is essentially the expression of a person’s deepest purpose in being alive IN THIS MOMENT, whatever it is.

In order to live our lives in ways that are in integrity with our Mission Statements, we must do the work to lift the shadows that block our light from shining in  and allowing us to give our greatest gifts to ourselves, to each other, and to the world that we live in.  Shadows that block our light include self-doubt, fear, guilt, unworthiness, weakness, dishonesty, confusion, and mistrust.  When we embrace our light, our shadows begin to diminish and fade away. We then have an opportunity to step into our own light, live authentically, and bring our gifts of love and service to ourselves and to the world.

Our Mission will not be finished in our lifetimes.  It is a way of living, a way of being in the world in our fullness as people.  In this moment, my Mission Statement is to be a conduit of the light; to be fully present, compassionately empowering myself and others to heal, grow, and transform.  I must confess to you  that there are moments in life when I show up in my relationships and in the world that fall short of my Mission.  When I do, however, I remember my Mission Statement, and I get back on my horse and steer myself in the direction of my deepest purpose;  I get back to living my life in ways that are aligned with my Highest Self.

In this moment, I’m wondering out loud:  What is your deepest purpose?  What gifts of love and service do you wish to give to yourself, your closest relationships, and to the world at large?  In other words, what is your Mission Statement?

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant,  I can be of help assisting you in crafting your own Mission Statement.  You’ll notice that over time your Mission Statement will affect the way you work, the way you play, love, parent, and the way you live and show up in the world!!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  I hope that you found it useful!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky

THE PERFECT RECIPE FOR SUCCESSFUL GROUP THERAPY

image taken from mehealthyliving.com

image taken from mehealthyliving.com

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve had the privilege of facilitating Men’s groups, Women’s groups, co-ed groups, Sports Psychology groups, and groups for therapists and life coaches looking to support each other in learning new ways to facilitate growth in their clients.  Along the way, I’ve discovered that great groups don’t just  come together by chance.  Instead, great groups have a balance of both structure and flexibility in them.  In addition, I use my family therapy skills to incorporate rituals, metaphors, transformational  vocabulary, experiential exercises, and interactive group exercises to bring group members together and create a strong rapport among them.

In addition, I strongly encourage group participants to be mindful of how important it is to create a feeling of safety within the group container that we’re co-creating together.  With this in mind, shaming, judging, blaming, and attacking others have no place in a group therapy setting.  Instead, group members are encouraged to actively listen to one another, deeply see one another, and be as emotionally attuned to one another as humanly possible.  They’re also asked to validate one another, empathize with one another, offer each other words of affirmation, and be respectful of one another’s different temperaments, belief systems, values, etc.  It’s also important that group members allow for moments of silence, which often allows someone to process or integrate a new learning more deeply.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I believe that vulnerability is the birthplace of self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness.  Therefore, I encourage my clients to be courageous enough to tell the story of who they are, warts and all.  I also encourage them to be compassionate towards one another, patient, flexible, open-minded,sensitive, curious, and fully present.  In addition, I encourage each group participant to be authentic, to be accountable for their actions, to be in integrity with their word, to own their projections onto others, to own their shadows, and to own their gold.  Group members are also encouraged to be resourceful, creative, and imaginative. I believe that everyone is full of wisdom, so I also encourage each group member to share their wisdom with their peers.  If someone has something to say to another group member that he or she believes will be helpful,  I remind that person to ask  first if the other group member is open to receiving  feedback. I remind them that it’s always important to honor and respect another person’s autonomy, and asking permission to share an observation or thought-provoking question does just that.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve often encountered group members who seem more focused on fixing other group members or calling them out on their stuff than on working on themselves.  This is often a way of feeding one’s ego and hiding from oneself at the same time. In addition to all of the other aforementioned ingredients that lead to successful group therapy experiences, it’s very important that each group member understand that first and foremost they’ve elected to participate in a group setting to work on themselves!!  By doing so, they will be stretching outside of their comfort zones and stepping into the light, and this is where the greatest growth occurs.

If this article has piqued your interest in participating in one of my groups,  please call e-mail me or call me at (619)280-8099 and let me know.  In my experience, group therapy settings become sanctuaries inside which personal growth and transformation inevitably take place.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article on groups!!

Your Marriage and Family Therapist,

John Boesky, LMFT

 

 

LANCE ARMSTRONG COULD HAVE USED A SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST

Astana Camp-13
photo credit: kwc via photopin cc

Sports Psychology gives athletes tailor-made tools, techniques, and strategies to realize their fullest potential in their chosen sport.  In addition to this, Sports Psychology gives athletes an opportunity to develop self and other-awareness.  In turn, these competitors develop a more solid sense of themselves.  They are, after all, more than just athletes and competitors.  They are multifaceted and multidimensional human beings, just like you, me, and everyone else lucky enough to grace this Earth for a short while.  They are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, friends, etc.  In order to develop connections with others and a sense of belonging in the world, they must learn to be humble at times, vulnerable, honest, accountable, compassionate, authentic, etc.  They must learn to strengthen their character, and they must learn to show up in the world with integrity so that their words and actions are in alignment with each other.  They must discover what they value most, what belief systems serve them and what belief systems sabotage them.  They must accept who they  they are, and they consciously choose to transform into who they want to become.  Then they must then learn to align their actions today with their vision for who they want to become tomorrow.  Otherwise, they risk becoming a champion in sport, but a loser in life.

In light of the aforementioned, I’m left wondering about superstar athletes like Lance Armstrong and countless others that have reached the pinnacle of their sport only to discover that they’ve lost their dignity in the process. In the short term, they performed brilliantly in sport.  In time, though, the truth catches up to them, and it becomes abundantly clear that they were frauds all along, and that what they accomplished took place behind smoke and mirrors. In time, these athletes realize that the ends didn’t justify the means after all. They lose virtually everything:  Their medals, their sponsors, and their money.  More significantly, they lose the respect and trust of those who loved them and believed in them.  They soon become outcasts, pariahs, and damaged goods.

There are those who believe that “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”  I believe that saying is merely an athlete’s way of trying to justify his unethical behavior.  The truth is, there are countless other athletes who have become champions in their sport the old fashioned way.  They did it through hard work, dedication, self-sacrifice, etc.   Roger Federrer, for example, has won 17  Grand Slam titles in tennis, and he’s never resorted to cheating, lying, or intimidating others to help him become the greatest tennis player of all time.  Instead, he’s won his 17 grand slam titles while simultaneously earning countless Sportsmanship Awards along the way.  As a Sports Psychology consultant, I deeply appreciate his athletic prowess.  I appreciate even more, however, his character.  He’s self-assured, respectful to others, willing to be vulnerable, compassionate, empathetic, honest, accountable for his actions, etc.  In other words, he has a very solid sense of himself.  He is the Real Deal.

I believe that had Lance Armstrong sought out the help of a Sports Psychologist long ago, he would have come to believe that his talents alone would have made him a 7 time Tour de France champion.  Or perhaps he might have discovered that his talents alone wouldn’t have taken him to the top of his sport.  In this moment, he would have had an opportunity to decide what kind of man he wanted to be.  Hopefully, he would have decided that being a man of integrity was far more important to him than collecting 7 Tour de France yellow jackets.  Yet without a sports psychologist, Lance denied himself an opportunity to develop his character.  Without self-awareness and time for self-reflection, he chose to be arrogant,dishonest, and unaccountable for his actions.  He didn’t understand that performing well in sports and performing well in life are not mutually exclusive.  True champions can do both simultaneously.

John Boesky

LMFT/MNLP/CHT

Sports Performance Consultant