Category Archives: GROUP THERAPY

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)

Healthy Complaining Vs. Harmful Complaining in Relationships

Healthy Complaining Vs. Harmful Complaining in Relationships

 

photo taken from clipartguide.com

photo taken from clipartguide.com

As a Licensed Marriage and family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, Dharma Life Coach, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I wholeheartedly agree with John Gottman’s assertion that it’s a myth that happily married people don’t complain about each other’s behaviors.  The reality in partnerships and marriages is that we all have our own idiosyncratic needs, rhythms, desires, and habits.  Inevitably, sometimes our different needs and desires can collide.  Given that it’s inevitable that partners in relationships inevitably have complaints about each other, it’s incredibly helpful for the vitality and well-being of your relationship to know how to engage in healthy complaining vs. harmful complaining

One strategy that simply won’t work, however, is stifling your complaints and burying them alive.  This well-intentioned strategy or fear-based endeavor only serves to create “negative sentiment override.”  In other words, over time your bad thoughts about your partner override your positive thoughts about your partner, and you eventually associate him or her with feelings of pain, resentment, anger, or loneliness.  When you stockpile your grievances, your bad feelings fester and grow, and sooner or later you find yourself distancing yourself emotionally from him or her to avoid feeling pain, or you might lash out at your partner while he or she feels blindsided because your silence has left them clueless and in the dark.  When your offending partner is in the dark, he or she can’t improve his ability to meet your needs because he doesn’t know what is wrong until after you’ve already hit your limit and exploded with a barrage of criticisms.

In a moment, I’m going to share with you examples of harmful complaining, and then I’m going to then share with you healthy ways to complain to your partner instead.

Harmful Complaining

 

Harmful Complaining:  Describe your perception of the problem as an absolute truth:  “Anyone can see that…”

Harmful complaining:  Stockpiling complaints

Harmful complaining:  Make broad, sweeping statements using always or never:  You never take me anywhere…

Harmful Complaining:  Digging up grievances from the past

Harmful Complaining:  Don’t complain:  Expect your partner to mind read and guess your needs and desires…

Harmful Complaining:  Criticize your partner’s personality or character

Harmful Complaining:  Give your partner unsolicited advice, telling him what he  should or shouldn’t do, say, behave, appear, etc.

 

Harmful Ways to Respond to a Complaint

 

Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Ignore the complaint, stonewall, be dismissive of the complaint, become defensive, and/or counterattack.

Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Belittle or criticize your partner for complaining, become sarcastic, condescending, critical, or contemptuous.

Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Defend yourself; find justifications and rationalizations for your behavior, your lapses in integrity, your broken agreements, etc.

Harmful Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Deny responsibility for the problem and deflect the blame back on the other person.  Ultimately, we must remember that we are responsible for how we choose to respond to people, regardless of how they treat us.

 

Healthy Complaining

 

Healthy Complaining:  Express your needs and/or complain in ways that are clear, respectful, specific, and immediate.  Your partner is more likely to hear your complaint and respond to it when you share your complaint in this manner; this approach leads to problem solving, building intimacy, and strengthening your relationship.

Healthy complaining:  Share responsibility for the problem vs. blame problem on other person

Healthy complaining:   Describe the problem in terms of your perception, opinion, or style:

Healthy Complaining:  Focus on a specific problem, tackling each problem one at a time

Healthy Complaining:  Focus on the present

Healthy Complaining: Focus on your partner’s actions and share how they make you feel (“when you do…, I feel…”)

Healthy Complaining:  Tell your partner about your needs, longings, and desires

Healthy Complaining:  Ask your partner for what you want rather than focus on what you don’t want.  Address his or her behavior instead of his or her character.

Healthy Complaining:  Ask your partner first if he or she is open to hearing your complaint and/or constructive feedback; Asking him or her first respects your partner’s autonomy and opens their hearts to being more receptive to what you wish to share.

Healthy Complaining:  Preface your complaint by first sharing your positive intention and positive desired outcome for  sharing your complaint in the first place.

Healthy Ways to Respond to a Complaint

 

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint: Rephrase your partner’s complaint so your partner feels heard, acknowledged, and trusts that you understand what he or she is saying

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Ask questions for to understand your partner’s frame of reference more.  Ask open-ended questions to give him or her room to elaborate and share even more about what’s weighing on his or her mind.

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Acknowledge and empathize with the feelings behind your partner’s complaint, even if you don’t agree with what he or she is complaining about

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Take ownership for your actions and apologize when an apology is warranted.

Healthy Way to Respond to a Complaint:  Take responsibility for your contribution to the problem

Healthy way to Respond to a Complaint:  Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  In other words, listen first, talk second.

Healthy way to Respond to a Complaint:  Be mindful of your body language, and respond with a receptive, soft tone of voice

Please keep in mind that it’s not uncommon that one or both partners in a relationship are highly sensitive to complaints and criticism. People who are highly sensitive to complaints and criticism likely developed these patterns in childhood:  usually this heightened sensitivity stems from growing up in homes where there was substance abuse, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, abandonment, or emotional neglect.  Small Children are naturally Egocentric and falsely believe their actions cause family problems or instability. They feel responsible for the unfortunate circumstances going on in their lives that are beyond their control.  In turn, they are prone to blaming themselves for their parent’s divorce, the death of a loved one, their parent’s abrupt departure to fight in wars, etc.  As they grow up, they feel compelled to defend themselves, to say constantly, “It’s not my fault.” If they hear a complaint, they automatically brace themselves and prepare to fight back, whether they’re under attack or not.

This can be a real struggle in a close partnership or marriage.  What starts out as one person sharing his needs can quickly devolve into a full-fledged battle.  The highly sensitive partner might be prone to jumping to distorted conclusions about what his or her partner is saying and presume that he or she is being deliberately hurtful or malicious when this may not be the case at all.  The antidote or solution to this pattern is for the highly sensitive partner is to listen carefully to the words his partner is saying when he is stating a need or a making request; your partner may not be as critical as you first think.  Be particularly aware of times that you automatically react by defending yourself.  Think or imagine a different response instead, and mentally rehearse that new response in your mind’s eye repeatedly so that you’re more likely to respond in kind the next time you feel emotionally criticized. Take a deep breath, pause, and courageously challenge yourself to agree to anything that your partner says that rings true.  If you wish, you can also summon the courage to ask your partner to tell you more about his need or complaint.

If your partner is highly sensitive, take extra care to avoid criticism when stating your needs.  If your partner responds defensively, avoid responding the same way; respond to defensiveness by clarifying your statement of need.

Thank you for taking your time to read this blog.  I hope that you found it illuminating and helpful.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

( MNLP/CHT/Dharma Life Coach & 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

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

 

 

PSYCHODRAMA

Image taken from Londoncentreforpsycodrama.org

Image taken from Londoncentreforpsycodrama.org

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I often use Psychodrama with individual clients as well as in the groups that I facilitate.  Psychodrama is an action method, often used as a psychotherapy, in which clients use spontaneous dramatizationrole playing and dramatic self-presentation to investigate and gain insight into their lives.  Developed by Jacob L. Moreno, M.D. (1889–1974) psychodrama closely recreates real-life situations, and acting them out in the present, clients have the opportunity to evaluate their behavior and more deeply understand a particular situation in their lives.

Psychodrama is most often utilized in a group scenario, in which each person in the group can become   therapeutic agents for one another’s scenes. Psychodrama is not, however, a form of group therapy, and is instead an individual psychotherapy that is executed from within a group. A psychodrama is best conducted and produced by a person trained in the method, called a psychodrama director.

In a session of psychodrama, one client of the group becomes the protagonist, and focuses on a particular situation to enact among the group.  A variety of scenes may be enacted, depicting, for example, memories of specific happenings in the client’s past, unfinished situations, inner dramas, fantasiesdreams, preparations for future risk-taking situations, or unrehearsed expressions of mental and emotional states in the here and now. These scenes either approximate real-life situations or are externalizations of inner mental processes. Other members of the group may become auxiliaries, and support the protagonist by playing other significant roles in the scene for an individual to respond creatively to a situation through spontaneity, that is, through a readiness to improvise and respond in the moment.  By encouraging an individual to address a problem in a creative way, reacting spontaneously and based on impulse, they may begin to discover new solutions to problems in their lives and learn new roles they can inhabit within it.

In psychodrama, participants also explore internal conflicts by acting out their emotions and interpersonal interactions on stage. A psychodrama session focuses principally on a single participant, known as the protagonist. Protagonists examine their relationships by interacting with the other actors and the leader, known as the director. This is done using specific techniques, including mirroringdoubling soliloquy, and role reversal.

During a typical psychodrama session, a number of clients gather together. One of these clients is chosen as the protagonist, and the director calls on the other clients to assist the protagonist’s “performance,” either by portraying other characters, or by utilizing mirroring, doubling, or role reversal. The clients act out a number of scenes in order to allow the protagonist to work through certain scenarios. This is obviously beneficial for the protagonist, but also is helpful to the other actors, allowing them to assume the role of another person and apply that experience to their own life. The focus during the session is on the acting out of different scenarios, rather than simply talking through them. All of the different elements of the session (group participants that hold the energy and remind the protagonist of someone in their past or present, props, lighting, etc.) are used to heighten the reality of the scene.

The three sections of a typical session are the warm-up, the action, and the sharing. During the warm-up, the actors are encouraged to enter into a state of mind where they can be present in and aware of the current moment and are free to be creative.

Next, the action section of the psychodrama session is the time in which the actual scenes themselves take place. During the action section of the psychodrama, the protagonist has an opportunity to give or receive love to or from someone that he never had a chance to in the past, give or receive forgiveness, slay old dragons (someone who may have been abusive to him or her, for example), empower him or herself in the presence of someone who belittled or emasculated them in some way, express angry thoughts and feelings, etc.  During the action sequence of the psychodrama, the protagonist has a chance to have a “corrective emotional experience”; he or she can experience themselves differently, re-write an old script that no longer serves them, and literally superimpose new memories on top of an old ones.  After all, our unconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined, so what’s taken place in the protagonist’s reenactment profoundly heals and transforms their relationships with themselves, others, and the world at large.

Finally, in the post-discussion, the different actors (group members) are able to comment on the action that just took place and share their empathy and experiences with the protagonist of the scene. In addition, the protagonist can share with the group members what his or her experience was like, what new insights and awareness have come up, and what positive shifts they notice in terms of how they feel in the scene’s aftermath.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve found that there are several techniques that are used in psychodrama to make it an enlightening, transformational experience for everyone involved. Mirroring, for example, is an important technique in that the protagonist is first asked to act out an experience. After this, the client steps out of the scene and watches as another actor steps into their role and portrays the client. Afterwards, the client is asked to comment on the action and/or reenter the scene.

Doubling is another psycho-dramatic technique, in which the client is joined by another actor in his or her portrayal of him- or herself. The second actor assumes the role of an “auxiliary ego,” which reveals hidden parts of the protagonist’s behavior, by acting as him or her. Role playing is another method, in which the client portrays a person or object that is problematic to him or her. In soliloquy, another technique, the client speaks his or her thoughts aloud in order to build self-knowledge. Finally, role reversal is a technique in which a client is asked to portray another person while a second actor portrays the client in the particular scene. This not only prompts the client to think as the other person, but also has some of the benefits of mirroring, as the client sees him- or herself as portrayed by the second actor.

In conclusion, I’ve found that using Psychodrama in the groups that I facilitate in my Marriage and Family Therapy Practice has been a powerful interactive tool in fostering growth and transformation among my clients.  If you’re interested in having corrective emotional experiences and superimposing new, more empowering memories onto old ones that still limit you, I invite you to be in touch with me and ask to join one of my groups.

If you’d prefer to do some psychodrama in an individual session with me, no problem!!  EMDR, NLP, and Gestalt therapy are all therapeutic technologies that I use with individual clients that incorporate the very same psychodrama tools and techniques that I use effectively in groups.

To reach me, please call my office number at (619) 280-8099 or e-mail me at jboesky8@gmail.com.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this article.  I sincerely hope that you found it enlightening.

Warmly,

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

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

 

 

GROUP THERAPY MAGIC

A Group

Image from montrosecounselingcenter.org

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve facilitated Men’s groups, Women’s groups, Sports Psychology groups, Therapist/Life Coach Training groups, etc. I’ve found time and time again that there’s a magical self-transcendence that takes place in them. Individuals are no longer islands unto themselves privately working one-on-one with a therapist. Instead, they become part of a larger collective, and they develop a sense of kinship and belonging with their peers that they don’t have with their closest friends. This is because groups, when capably facilitated, become safe, sacred sanctuaries where people can take off their masks, shed their personas, and become truly vulnerable and authentic. When this happens, people develop self-love, self-compassion, and self-acceptance which in turn frees them to experience the grounded joy that comes from connection to themselves and others.

The common misconception that group therapy provides a forum for self-pity, whining, and passivity couldn’t be further from the truth. On the contrary, group therapy is a very dynamic experience. Group members compassionately challenge each other to stretch beyond their comfort zones in order to expand and grow. As for me, I ask my clients to participate in experiential exercises that get them to think and feel and act in new ways that will serve them most in their lives. I also offer my group members teaching pieces on mindfulness, communication, active listening, etc. Most importantly, I make it my top priority to have my clients feel deeply seen and truly understood. Before you know it, everyone is learning how to deeply see, understand, and validate each other. Group members become co-creators, challengers, coaches, confidantes, and great friends.

If you’re looking to grow emotionally, psychologically, and/or spiritually, a therapy group is definitely one place where you can do this. As a matter of fact, in my experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist, Self-transcendence and self-transformation often take place faster in groups than they do in individual or couple’s therapy alone. In light of this, if you’ve ever wondered about participating in a therapy group, by all means give me a call!!  I look forward to hearing from you 🙂  John Boesky, LMFT