Tag Archives: ANGER MANAGEMENT

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)

 

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

 

H.A.L.T. BEFORE YOUR ARGUMENTS ESCALATE!!

image taken from express.ok.uk

image taken from express.ok.uk

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Master NLP Practitioner, I’ve worked with countless couples and families since 2000.  In my work with them, I’ve learned how incredibly important it is to encourage them to discuss inflammatory topics when they are in resourceful states; it is the difference that makes the difference.  When couples or families are in resourceful states, each person is feeling calm, centered, open-minded, and desirous of hearing what their loved one wants to share and say; they seek first to understand, then to be understood. They know in their heart  that they have the resources within them to remain safe, fully present, and grounded even if their partner or family member says something that they wholeheartedly disagree with.  They also know that they are deeply lovable and worthwhile regardless of what is being said.

Unfortunately, couples and family members discuss feelings and other touchy subjects when they’re not in resourceful states.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve witnessed this misstep all too often, and I’ve seen couples and family members escalate the tension between them and saying and doing things that only serve to damage the safety and trust that serves as the foundation of their relationship.  As a result, I encourage them to be mindful of the following acronym:  H.A.L.T.  The letters in this acronym stand for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

Whenever a person is hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, they’re prone to hearing things in a distorted way.  They are vulnerable to seeing the world and their relationship through a dark prism, and they’re going to take assume the worst and/or misconstrue what’s being said simply because they’re not in a resourceful state.  On the contrary, they’re in an imbalanced state of mind and body, and therefore they’re unable to hear, think, and respond accurately or constructively.  In addition to being mindful of whether or not you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, I want to invite you now to consider what other states make it very challenging for you to truly listen and talk to your loved one without the likelihood of tensions between the two of you blowing up in your faces.

If you’re a woman, for example, I wonder if the day before your menstrual cycle or throughout your menstrual cycle you’re more likely to enter into a state of mind and body that makes you far more prone to misconstruing what’s being said or more vulnerable to seeing the people around you in a negative light.  If you’re a man or woman who is on medication and happens to experience withdrawal symptoms when you forget to take it, I wonder if this is a time when you’re more likely to be irritable, agitated, and unable to have a constructive conversation with the person you love.  If you’ve just received bad news, I wonder if this is a time when you’re not in enough of a resourceful state to have a challenging conversation.

Starting today, if you’re in a relationship and there is a challenging topic that you or your loved one wants to discuss, ask yourself if you’re in enough of a resourceful state to have the discussion without losing your cool.  Ask yourself if you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, tired, and/or any other emotion that will make it too difficult for you to be fully present, calm, cool, and collected to talk about something that might trigger you.  If you’re not in a resourceful state, I want to invite you to tell your loved one that you’d like to take a time out and revisit the topic in a  mutually agreeable amount of time to avoid unnecessary hurt  and preserve, instead, the well being, safety, and trust that keeps your relationship thriving.

Thank you for taking your time to read this blog.  I hope that you found it thought provoking and instructive.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/ Master NLP Practitioner/Certified Hypnotherapist

 

Checklist for Hidden Anger

Image taken from rottentomatoes.com

Image taken from rottentomatoes.com

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve often met with clients of mine who seem determined to put on a happy facade and deny their own anger.  Unfortunately, when they bury or hide their own anger from themselves, it can come out sideways or morph into anxiety and depression.  Instead of burying or denying your anger, it’s far healthier to acknowledge it’s presence and find safe ways to discharge it.  In addition, it’s far healthier to see anger as a metaphorical alarm clock that is signalling to you that beneath your anger you may be feeling wounded, hurt, powerless, ashamed, afraid, etc.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve learned through years of experience to hone in on the many signs of hidden, unexpressed, systemic anger.  These signs include the following:  obsessive preoccupation with the completion of imposed tasks, habitual lateness, a liking of sadistic or ironic humor, aloofness, impatience, closed off body language, unconsciously turning their hands into fists, contemptuous glares, sarcasm, cynicism, and flippancy in conversation.  In addition to these hidden signs of unacknowledged, unexpressed anger, people who carry with them the heavy, toxic burden of anger are prone to sighing a lot, yawning, getting drowsy at inappropriate times, slowing down their movements, speaking in a monotone voice, getting tired more easily than usual, withdrawing, isolating, and sleeping more than usual, maybe up to 12-14 hours a day, and being prone to boredom and apathy.

Other signs of hidden anger include over politeness, constant cheerfulness, smiling while hurting, and an attitude of grin-and-bear-it.  In addition, people who tend to deny or hide their anger rationalize or minimize their emotions, become excessively irritable and agitated over trifles, hold onto grudges, struggle mightily to forgive others, make cutting passive-aggressive comments, see things in black and white, and carry around a chip on their shoulder accompanied by a sense of injustice and self-righteousness.  On another note, they are also prone to having disturbing or violent dreams, clenching their jaws or grinding their teeth while awake or sleeping, and have facial tics or spasmodic foot movements that they’re entirely unaware of.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve also learned over the years that people who hide their anger from themselves often experience health problems, such as a chronically stiff or sore neck, aching shoulder muscles, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, etc.  Their bodies become physical manifestations of the anger they keep locked inside of them.  People who hide their anger may even experience chronic depression and extended periods of feeling down for no apparent reason.

Finally, another sign that people are hiding their anger is the many ways they act out in self-destructive ways: Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to numb their anger; Others have marital affairs; Finally others refuse to get help of any kind to angrily protesting to those that love them that they are no longer accessible to them and that they would prefer to be alone and disconnected rather than connected and within reach.

In my professional experience, hidden anger that’s been cast in the shadows must come to the light to be addressed.  It’s an emotion that can be worked through, often relatively quickly and effortlessly.  If you or someone you know is hiding your anger to yourself or showing signs of hidden anger that you weren’t aware of until now, rest assured that I have the expertise and resources to help you feel more serene and more at ease.  You’re welcome to call me or e-mail me anytime to arrange a time to visit with me in person so we can work together in helping you feel much better.

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

Sincerely,

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE

image taken from iffla.org

image taken from iffla.org

As a Marriage and a Family Therapist, I often encourage the individuals, couples, families, and groups that I work with to practice the art of forgiveness.  My intention is to make this practice a daily one for them. Oftentimes, my clients balk at the notion of forgiving themselves or anyone else for that matter.  They fear that I am asking them to justify or condone harmful actions, or they worry that I’m encouraging them to seek out or speak to those who have caused them harm.  Other clients fear that I am asking them to be fake or artificial, extending an olive branch of forgiveness to the undeserving.  They refuse to be inauthentic, and so I often notice their bodies’ contract and experience them becoming resistant to the whole idea right from the very start.

I explain to them, though, that I’m not encouraging them to seek forgiveness from others, for themselves, or for others for any of the reasons mentioned above.  First of all, forgiveness does not in any way justify or condone harmful actions.  Second, forgiveness does not mean you have to seek out or speak to those who caused you harm.  In fact, you may choose never to see them again.  Third, forgiveness must happen organically; it must be authentically and deeply felt.  Otherwise, it’s merely pain, resentment, grief, or rage disguised as forgiveness, and the person pretending to forgive is much like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Seeking forgiveness from others, for ourselves, and for others who have wounded us is so powerful because it’s a way of softening the edges or removing the calluses around our hearts.  When we lack forgiveness, our hearts become closed and dark, and we build a fortress around us to protect it.  Although we feel safe inside these walls, we become cold inside.  Forgiveness, like a magic potion, melts these walls away, and gives us access to who we truly are once again.  It helps us to let go of the pain, the resentment, and the outrage that we have carried as a burden for so long.  In time, we have renewed access to our passions, our child-like essence, our humanity, and to all of the lovable qualities inside of us that make us who we are.

So, when it comes down to it, seeking forgiveness from others, for ourselves, or for others who have harmed us is really intended first and foremost to serve our own healing and set us free mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually first and foremost.  And the way to begin this process is to first recognize that, as human beings, we are all fallible. We are all vulnerable to making mistakes, and we all fall prey to unconscious shadows that compel us to act out in ways that don’t reflect our highest selves.  If we had the knowledge and resources to make the very best choices in any given moment and time that would be in alignment with our highest values and would serve ourselves, others, and the world in the best way possible, we obviously would. Unfortunately, we didn’t, and so we sadly resorted to making the poor choices that we did with what whatever level of consciousness was currently available to us.

In light of this reality, we’ve all likely hurt or harmed others, betrayed or abandoned them, and caused them suffering, knowingly or unknowingly, out of our pain, fear, anger, and confusion at some point in our lives.  We didn’t do so because we were sadistic or inherently bad people.  We did so because we didn’t know how to manage our emotions more maturely. We simply lacked the tools, life skills, and practice to show up in our lives and in our relationships differently.  Knowing this essential truth, it becomes easier to soften the harsh voice of our inner judge and begin the tender process of forgiving ourselves for the many ways that we’ve harmed others.

In addition to hurting others, we’ve all betrayed, harmed, and abandoned ourselves through thought, word, and deed at some point in our lives.  We hurt ourselves not out because we were pathologically masochistic, but because we lacked the necessary self-awareness, self-knowledge, and resources at that time to do things in ways that would have served ourselves and others in more positive ways.  Again, chances are that we hurt ourselves through action or inaction out of our own fear, pain, and confusion. Knowing this, it becomes easier yet again to reflect love inwards and forgive ourselves for the many ways we’ve sabotaged ourselves in our lives.

Finally, it’s important to consider that there’s a high probability that those who have wounded, hurt, abused, and abandoned us in thought, word, or deed have done so out of their own fear, pain, confusion, and anger. Now this insight doesn’t mean that their behavior was therefore justifiable. On the contrary, their behavior was still never the less repugnant and wrong.  However, if you take a moment and imagine walking in their shoes from the time they were little boys and girls, chances are that the heartbreak and anguish that you’ll sense they’ve long endured will help you to feel some empathy or compassion for the long, torturous roads they’ve travelled mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

It is often within the sacred garden of your burgeoning empathy and compassion that the seeds of forgiveness come budding to the surface of your heart for the person who once perpetrated against you. As Longfellow once said, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” My hope is that if you can summon the will to do this, you can experience the peaceful release in your mind, body, heart and soul that takes place when you’ve mastered the art of forgiveness.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post.  I hope that you enjoyed it!!

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

MAKE USE OF TRANSITION RITUALS IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS, SPORTS ENDEAVORS, AND IN LIFE!!

Image taken from Williamhenry.net

Image taken from Williamhenry.net

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I work with individuals, couples, families, and high school, collegiate, and professional athletes.  I’ve often noticed in my practice that my clients don’t incorporate Transition Rituals into their daily lives;  In turn, their relationships and sports performances suffer.  I don’t begrudge my clients for not doing so, however.  I believe that they don’t make use of Transition Rituals because they don’t know what they are.  In light of this, I’d like to  take a moment to share with you what Transition Rituals are in the first place.

Transition rituals are periods of time that are carved out by someone for the  purpose of changing their psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual state.  In addition, transition rituals are intended  to help people access different parts of their personality.  They’re most effective when they’re done with with intention, purpose, and mindfulness.  When we engage in a transition ritual while feeling distracted and not fully present, they fail to assist us in any meaningful way. Take, for example, the morning Transition Ritual of getting out of bed, showering, brushing your teeth, and putting on your dress clothes. If these acts are done mindlessly and/or unconsciously,  they will fail to assist us in preparing ourselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for the day ahead.

Mild mannered Clark Kent, on the other hand, created a Transition Ritual that worked wonders for him, and he did so with conscious intention and purpose. In times of crisis, he would  ritually duck into a telephone booth or stock room to make his transformation into Superman.  As the Superman franchise evolved over the years, his new Transition Ritual involved quickly entering into a revolving door, spinning through it at incredible speeds while changing his clothes, and emerging moments later as Superman, donning a red cape while having access to superhuman strength and superhero powers so that he could go about saving the world one crisis at a time.

We can all use Transition Rituals in our daily lives to change our state and/or to access different parts of our personality.  Take, for example, the lives of a police officer, a family therapist, and a professional Mixed Martial Artist:

If an authoritarian police officer does not engage in a Transition Ritual before he comes home to greet his wife and children, for example, he’s likely to bring the same stoic, law-abiding, inflexible mentality home with him, which would in turn cause his wife and children to want to withdraw from him;  If a Marriage and Family Therapist doesn’t engage in a Transition Ritual after a long day of working with clients, he or she may be prone to offering unsolicited advice to family and friends at home and elsewhere;  If a professional Mixed Martial Artist doesn’t  engage in a transition Ritual before leaving the gym, he may bring his warrior energy and gladiatorial spirit to the outside world and energetically intimidate people and push them away.

Alas, if only the aforementioned professionals incorporated transition rituals into their lives!!  They would be able to then to switch gears, change states, and welcome in parts of their personalities that would enable them to show up in their relationships, sports, and lives in ways that would better support their deepest needs and wants.  The beautiful thing about Transition rituals is that they are often easy, effortless, and enjoyable.  Transition rituals include carving out time before or after work to do yoga, take the dog for a walk, read the Bible, go for a run, and engage in diaphragmatic breathing exercises; People can also choose instead to listen to calming or energizing music, listen to hypnosis CD’s, engage in progressive muscle relaxation exercises, take a soothing walk on the beach, meditate, engage in mindfulness exercises, and/or engage in visualization exercises; Sometimes  transition rituals include taking a warm, bubble bath, getting a massage, or calling a really good friend on your way home from work for some laughs.

I always encourage my clients to come up with and routinely engage in transition rituals that they resonate with the most.  In addition, I remind them to engage in their transition ritual with intention and purpose.  As for me, I currently engage in many transition rituals that help me a lot both personally and professionally.  In my co-ed Personal Growth Group, for example, I use a Tibetan singing bowl at the beginning and end of each group therapy session to create a calming sound that is intended to signal to the group members that they have now entered into a sacred space, or sanctuary, within my office that is separate and apart from the noisy outside world they’ve just left behind.  In my Men’s group, I burn sage 10 minutes prior to the beginning of each group session, and I ask them to participate in a smudging ritual that is intended to cleanse them of any thoughts or feelings that would otherwise make it difficult for them to be fully present during our time together;  Because our minds use and respond to symbolism, the men in our group  find this transition ritual to be very effective in helping them to be fully present and in touch with their hearts.

If you find yourself living unconsciously from moment to moment and day to day, then I’d like to strongly encourage you to partake in a transition ritual(s) that will help you to switch gears, access different states, and summon the parts of your personality that will serve you best in the countless realms of your life;  Do so with intention and a clear sense of purpose, and do so routinely so that you can show up consistently in your relationships, sports, and life in ways that will serve your highest good and help you achieve your desired outcomes. As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Performance Consultant, I would also like you to kindly note that I would be very happy to sit down with you in person to co-create a transition ritual(s) that you can incorporate into your daily life for the purpose of dramatically improving it!!

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog!!  I sincerely hope that you found it be interesting and informative.

John Boesky, LMFT/Sports Performance Consultant

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

MAN UP, MEN, AND TREAT YOUR DEPRESSION!! :)

Happy ManIn America alone, over 50 million Americans suffer each year from depression.  And depression is a crippling illness.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I see men alone, in groups, and in couple’s counseling a lot who are clearly suffering from this affliction.  Unfortunately, men are particularly vulnerable to feelings of shame.  To them, seeking help to treat their depression is shameful because it’s an admission of mental and emotional weakness.  Seeking treatment for them is tantamount to admitting that they’re inadequate or failures in some way.

Unfortunately, men have reasons to worry that suffering from depression is a sign of weakness.  This bias is culturally sanctioned!!  In reliable survey after survey, 71% of people in the United States attribute depression to emotional weakness.  65% of Americans attribute depression to bad parenting.  45% of Americans believe that suffering from depression is a personal choice. 43% of Americans believe that depression is incurable, and finally, 35% of Americans believe that depression is a direct consequence of leading a sinful life.  In light of Men’s vulnerability to feelings of shame, it’s really no wonder that so few men seek out treatment to feel better!!

Among the many problems that depression brings to a man’s life is the inevitable demise of their relationships to their partners, girlfriends, or wives.  In fact, if one person in a romantic relationship is clinically depressed, the couple is 9 times more likely to part ways or get a divorce.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve often heard the misconception that it’s a bad relationship that causes a man’s depression.  However, more often than not, it’s the other way around.  When A a man (or woman) suffers from clinical depression, he plays a big part in creating a bad relationship.  After all, he’s more likely to be moody, irritable, prone to rages, prone to withdrawing, filled with self-loathing, filled with irrational guilt, hopeless, etc.  Women, who are often more emotionally attuned to others than men are, can usually sense that the men in their life are depressed.  Yet when they reach out to nurture them, their male partners often close the door on their faces.  This is often because they feel so much shame and inadequacy for feeling depressed in the first place.  The women, in turn, feel isolated, afraid, and abandoned.

The truth is, depression is a real illness.  It has biological, psychological, social, and spiritual underpinnings to it.  Men ( and women) cannot will their way out of their clinical depression.  They can’t out-think it, out-wit it, or escape it by using alcohol or drugs. It’s very real, and it hurts a lot.  The good news, though, is that depression is highly treatable.  Men can take medication, for example, or supplements, exercise, see a Marriage and Family Therapist, participate in individual therapy, group therapy, etc.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I use all kinds of techniques and strategies to help my clients break through their depression.  I  also offer valuable insights and feedback to help free them  from the grips of their depression. Finally, I personally know of many excellent resources that I refer them to that supplements the work that we’re doing  together so that they feel healthy, happy, and whole as soon as possible.

Men, there is absolutely no shame in suffering from depression.  And there is absolutely no shame in seeking help to overcome your depression and reclaim your mental health.  The only shame there is, when it comes to depression, is when a man turns his back on treatment, thereby leaving himself and his loved ones behind.

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

COALS COMMUNICATION

Communicate with Positive IntentionAs a Marriage and Family Therapist, it’s imperative that I model effective active listening and communication skills for my clients.  I also choose to take these active listening and communication skills home with me to my wife and family, so that I not only talk the talk but walk the walk.  I want my intentions, words, and actions to be aligned with one another.  This way, I can proudly declare that I’m a man of integrity.

Family therapists often see couples or families who are accusatory, defensive, hostile, and withdrawing in their communication with their loved ones.  Instead of engaging in these counterproductive communication patterns, I encourage my clients to take deep breaths when they’re feeling triggered, and then to be the following in their communication with others:  Curious, Open, Accepting, Loving, and Listening.  The acronym for this is COALS.  When a client has the presence of mind to follow the COALS approach to communication, they emerge from their communication endeavors with others triumphant. The COALS approach lets the light in.  It creates space for two people to be heard, understood, and validated.

It takes self-discipline, mental rehearsal, and practice to enter into a COALS state of mind when communicating with others.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist and communication expert, I encourage you to give it a try.  You’ll love what happens next!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT

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