Tag Archives: Group Therapy

Human Needs

Image taken from everydaylifeandhappyiness.com

Image taken from everydaylifeandhappyiness.com

Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was a famous American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.  He believed that there are  fundamental needs that everyone has in common, and all behavior is simply an attempt to meet these six needs. These needs explain how come  human beings do the things they do;  they are the underlying forces that drive and shape all of our emotions, actions, qualities of life, and ultimately, our destinies.  According the Maslow, these fundamental human needs include the following:

Image taken from glosgster,com

Image taken from glosgster.com

1.Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.

2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.

3. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.  * Please note that while we all have a need for love and belonging that comes from our community and relationships, we must also love ourselves first and foremost, and we must come to realize that our sense of belonging resides in us; we belong to ourselves, the universe, and if you’re spiritual or religious, you’ll come to realize that you belong to a higher power or God as well.  Our house of belonging resides within us.

4. Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.

5. Cognitive needs – knowledge, meaning, etc.

6. Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.

7. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Although we are all, theoretically, capable of self-actualizing, most of us will not do so, or only to a limited degree.  Maslow (1970) estimated that only two percent of people will reach the state of self actualization. He was particularly interested in the characteristics of people whom he considered to have achieved their potential as persons.  By studying 18 people he considered to be self-actualized (including Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein) Maslow (1970) identified 15 characteristics of a self-actualized person.

Characteristics of self-actualizers:

1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty; As a marriage and Family Therapist, NLP Practitioner, Certified Dharma Life Coach, Sports Psychology Consultant, I believe that this characteristic is very similar to a person’s ability to master the art of achieving a state of equanimity even in the midst of life’s unforeseen viscissitudes, trials, and tribulations.

2. Accept themselves and others for what they are; They do not reject parts of themselves or others that they do not like. Instead, they compassionately improve on the parts of themselves they do do not like and understand, feel empathy for, and even forgive other’s limitations.

3. Spontaneous in thought and action;

4. Problem-centered (not self-centered);

5. Unusual sense of humor;

6. Able to look at life objectively;

7. Highly creative; Self-Actualizers choose to think outside of the box. In fact, they are often visionaries and innovators.

8. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional; In other words, they are willing to individuate from their family of origin and separate themselves from the “trance of unworthiness” that is so pervasive in our culture and discover and embrace the truth of who they truly are.

9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity; they choose to be of service to others,and they deliberately provide the stepping stones that benefit other people’s lives.

10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;

11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;

12. Peak experiences; Instead of avoiding pain, they turn toward having enriching, peak life experiences that bring immense pleasure to their lives.

13. Need for privacy;

14. Democratic attitudes; They believe in the principle of fairness, and they understand the Law of Requisite Variety, which states that the person who with the most flexibility of mind, heart, spirit,and behavior cultivates an aura of moral ( not to be mistaken with formal) authority.  In addition, they believe in creating win-win agreements with others.

15. Strong moral/ethical standards.  In turn, they create a list of their highest values and guiding principles and their actions consistently align with them.

16. *I believe that self-actualizers have an internal unity of mind, body, heart, and spirit governed by their conscience; You cannot have peace of mind without peace of conscience

17. *I also believe that self-actualizers subordinate their impulses, moods, and emotions and choose instead to align their actions with their highest values, guiding principles, and Universal Laws.

19  *As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve come to believe that self-actualizers are great listeners; they seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Behaviors leading to self-actualization:

(a) Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration;

(b) Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;

(c) Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;

(d) Avoiding pretense (‘game playing’) and being honest;

(e) Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;

(f) Taking responsibility and working hard;

(g) Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up.

The characteristics of self-actualizers and the behaviors leading to self-actualization are shown in the list above.  Although people achieve self-actualization in their own unique way, they tend to share in common many of these characteristics.

With the aforementioned in mind, it is important to recognize that  self-actualization is a matter of degree: ‘There are no perfect human beings.’ The growth of self-actualization (Maslow, 1962) refers to the need for discovery, fulfillment, and personal and interpersonal transformation through personal growth that is present throughout a person’s life. For Maslow, a person is always “becoming” and never remains static in these terms.  In regards to self-actualization, a person comes to find a meaning to life that is important to them.  It is not necessary to display all 19 of these characteristics to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people will display them.  Thus someone can be silly, wasteful, vain and impolite, and still self-actualize!!

As each person is unique, the motivation for self-actualization leads people in different directions (Kenrick et al., 2010). For some people, self-actualization can be achieved through creating works of art, writing, painting pictures, and inventing;  for others self-actualization is attained through sport, in the classroom, within a corporate setting, being a loving and nurturing Mother or Father, developing extraordinary emotional intelligence, etc.

8. Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self actualization.  * In my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist, NLP Practitioner, Dharma Life Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I wholeheartedly agree with Maslow that that helping and being of service to others includes helping them to find their own voice, being of service to them in a time of need, affirming them, and continuously reflecting back to them with such unwavering resolve, force, intensity and conviction your belief in their intrinsic value and potential that they come to see it in themselves.  Other self-transcendent acts include securing freedom for others, participating in organizations or causes that create paradigm shifts in governments, challenging and transforming antiquated local or international institutions that undermine the highest good of those they claim to serve, etc.  A person’s spiritual need for self-transcendence echoes the sentiments shared in the following quote by an anonymous source:

” I sought my God, and my God I could not find, I sought my Soul, and my Soul eluded me, I sought my Brother to serve him in his need, and I found all three; my God, my Soul and Thee.”

Although Abraham Maslow passed away in 1970, it is worth noting that knowledgeable Marriage and Family Therapists, Psychologists, Master NLP Practitioners, Certified Hypnotherapists, and Sports Psychologists agree that his Hierarchy of Human Needs are on point.  While human beings likely have more fundamental needs that he may have overlooked at the time, his list accurately contains the bulk of them.  In recent years, other people in the healing fields have shared many of Maslow’s fundamental human needs and added to them or simplified them so that people can benefit from understanding what these needs are.  As a matter of fact, world famous Life Coach Tony Robbins has recently reduced Maslow’s list of human needs  6 that he believes are most fundamental to all people.  I’ve personally found his abridged list illuminating, and I hope that you will too.

Image taken from businessinsider.comn

Image taken from businessinsider.com

According to Tony Robbins, The Six Human Needs include the following:

1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure

2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli

3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, Dharma Life Coach, and Sports Psychology Consultant, please note that looking for significance outside of yourself too much can lead to an unhealthy dependence on other people’s perceptions, judgements, and validation of you.  While our need for significance is real, I believe it is even more important to love and validate yourself, and it is imperative that you wholeheartedly know and trust that you are already intrinsically worthwhile, loveable, and significant in and of yourself.  This paradigm will spare you the emotional and psychological ups and downs that come with or without outside  praise and criticism.  I believe that if you don’t feel like you’re enough without it, you’ll never feel like you’re enough with it.

4. Connection/Love/Belonging: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something.

5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding.

6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to, and supporting others.

According to Tony Robbins, theses 6 fundamental needs and/or drives are encoded in our nervous system. The means by which people meet these six human needs are unlimited. For example, one of the six human needs is the desire for certainty so that we can avoid pain and gain pleasure (i.e. comfort). Some people might pursue this need by striving to control all aspects of their lives, while others obtain certainty by giving up control and adopting a philosophy of faith. Variety often contributes to us feeling alive, stimulated,  and engaged. Then there’s the desire for significance—a belief that one’s life has meaning and importance. Some individuals will pursue this need by competing with others, or by destroying and tearing down those around them. Others may strive to fulfill this need by working synergistically with other people, doing a great job at work, being a nurturing and loving son or daughter, sibling, or Mother or Father. People who are looking to fulfill their need for connection, love, and belonging will choose to cultivate deep, meaningful friendships, join a church or synagogue, participate in a Men’s or Women’s group, adopt a loving puppy, etc.

I believe that what drives our endeavors to meet our fundamental human needs is our penultimate drive for a sense of fulfillment in our lives; we all have a need to experience a life of meaning. Although the first 4 needs that Tony Robbins addresses are incredibly important for us to nurture, our need and yearning for fulfillment can only be achieved through a pattern of living in which we focus on the two spiritual needs: 1) the need to continuously grow; and 2) the need to contribute beyond ourselves in a meaningful way. Most dysfunctional behaviors arise from the inability to consistently meet these needs. When our attempts to reach fulfillment fail, we will settle for comfort—or for meeting our needs on a small scale. I want to take this moment to invite you to look to replace any dis-empowering ways of meeting your needs with things that empower and support you and others. I sincerely believe that understanding your needs, and which ones you are trying to meet in any given moment, will help you create new patterns that lead to you to living a life brimming over with a sense of lasting fulfillment.

With this in mind, I want to encourage you to take a moment and develop your Peak Performance Action Plan and reflect on the following questions:

1. Which of these six needs do you tend to focus on or value the most?

2. What are the ways (good and bad) you meet these needs? For example, in your relationships, work, eating, exercise, etc.?

3. How can you increase your focus on growth and contribution? What are some things you can do, or new experiences you can participate in?

I hope and trust that after you’ve answered these questions, you will feel more self-aware, more enlightened as to what needs you’re predominantly focused on meeting, and newly inspired to take action that will support your own personal growth as well contribute to the well being of others!!

Thank you for taking your time to read my most recent blog; I hope and trust that you found it informative, illuminating, and inspirational.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/Master NLP Practitioner/ Dharma Life Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist & 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

HOW TO SAY I’M SORRY

Image taken from cardboiled.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warmly,

John Boesky, LMFT

Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

 

 

GROUP THERAPY NO-NO’s

Image taken from fotosearch.com

Image taken from fotosearch.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warmly,

John Boesky, LMFT

Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

What Is Codependency?

photo by Christiemanning.com

photo by Christiemanning.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve been keenly aware of the fact that the term codependency has been around for almost four decades. Although it originally applied to spouses of alcoholics, first called co-alcoholics, it then became abundantly clear that family and friends also constituted a network of codependents whose lives centered around the alcoholic, or addict.  Researchers have since revealed that the characteristics of codependents were much more prevalent in the general population than had been imagined. In fact, they found that if you were raised in a dysfunctional family or had an ill parent, you’re likely codependent.

Dysfunctional families often include family members that are narcissistic, borderline, emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive,  passive, helpless, dependent, manipulative, enmeshed, dramatic,  and prone to martyrdom.  In this unsafe and chaotic environment, children never have the opportunity to develop a solid sense of themselves. Instead, they develop a list of characteristics or symptoms that include many common traits.  Before I present this list of symptoms to you, though, I want to credit Darlene Lancer, MFT, for putting together the bulk of what’s in the list below.  In doing my research on codependency, I found her list to be so clear and comprehensive that it seemed foolish for me to try and reinvent the wheel.  Never the less, throughout the list, I’ve added additional insights on the traits that characterize codependents to make your understanding of this phenomenon even clearer.

Incidentally, before reading through the list below, please bear in mind that most American families are dysfunctional, and therefore most people have some codependency traits!!  As a matter of fact, I would offer that most people have unwittingly entered into a codependent relationship at some point in their lives.  Therefore, if you recognize aspects of yourself in the list below, you can rest assured that you’re in the majority!!  In addition, if you worry that believe that you’re a codependent person or that you’re in a codependent relationship, there are ways to get treatment and reverse this trend.  I will happily list treatment options for you at the end of this blog.

Alas, the following is a list of symptoms of codependents.  You needn’t have all of them to qualify as codependent.

  • Low self-esteem.  Feeling that you’re not good enough or comparing yourself to others are signs of low self-esteem. The tricky thing about self-esteem is that some people think highly of themselves, but it’s only a disguise — they actually feel unlovable, fraudulent,  or inadequate. Underneath, usually hidden from consciousness, are feelings of shame.  Guilt and perfectionism often go along with low self-esteem. If everything is perfect, you don’t feel bad about yourself.
  • People-pleasing. It’s fine to want to please someone you care about, but codependents usually don’t think they have a choice. Saying “No” causes them anxiety. Some codependents have a hard time saying “No” to anyone. They go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people.  They usually engage in people-pleasing to seek acceptance and approval and to preserve their attachment to someone else; Their people-pleasing stems from their wish to keep their fears of imminent rejection and abandonment at bay.  Codependents who engage in people-pleasing often gravitate towards narcissists because they are all too willing to set aside his or her own needs to feed and fuel the narcissists ego. This gives the codependent a sense of purpose and a sense that they are needed, and codependents can’t stand the thought of being alone with no one needing them.
  • Poor boundaries.  Boundaries are sort of an imaginary line between you and others. It divides up what’s yours and somebody else’s, and that applies not only to your body, money, and belongings, but also to your feelings, thoughts and needs. That’s especially where codependents get into trouble. They have blurry or weak boundaries. Their poor boundaries often stem from their underdeveloped sense of self and their lack of individuation and differentiation from their family of origin. In turn, codependents often responsible for other people’s feelings and problems or blame their own on someone else. Some codependents have rigid boundaries. They are closed off and withdrawn, making it hard for other people to get close to them. Sometimes, people flip back and forth between having weak boundaries and having rigid ones.  When their boundaries are weak, codependents are willing to be victimized, abused, coerced, manipulated, etc.  When their boundaries are rigid, they may be too afraid of being victimized, enmeshed, or lost in yet another codependent relationship, and so they choose to withdraw become isolated from others.
  • Reactivity. A consequence of poor boundaries is that you react to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. If someone says something you disagree with, you either believe it or become defensive. You absorb their words, because there’s no boundary. With a boundary, you’d realize it was just their opinion and not a reflection of you and not feel threatened by disagreements.
  • Care-taking. Another effect of poor boundaries is that if someone else has a problem, you want to help them to the point that you give up yourself. It’s natural to feel empathy and sympathy for someone, but codependents start putting other people ahead of themselves. In fact, they need to help and might feel rejected if another person doesn’t want help. Moreover, they keep trying to help and fix the other person, even when that person clearly isn’t taking their advice.
  • Control. Control helps codependents feel safe and secure. Everyone needs some control over events in their life. You wouldn’t want to live in constant uncertainty and chaos, but for codependents, control limits their ability to take risks and share their feelings. Sometimes they have an addiction that either helps them loosen up, like alcoholism, or helps them hold their feelings down, like workaholism, so that they don’t feel out of control. Codependents also need to control those close to them, because they need other people to behave in a certain way to feel okay. In fact, people-pleasing and care-taking can be used to control and manipulate people. Alternatively, codependents are bossy and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. This is a violation of someone else’s boundary.
  • Dysfunctional communication. Codependents have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs. Of course, if you don’t know what you think, feel or need, this becomes a problem. Other times, you know, but you won’t own up to your truth. You’re afraid to be truthful, because you don’t want to upset someone else. Instead of saying, “I don’t like that,” you might pretend that it’s okay or tell someone what to do. Communication becomes dishonest and confusing when you try to manipulate the other person out of fear of rejection or abandonment.
  • Obsessions. Codependents have a tendency to spend their time thinking about other people or relationships. This is caused by their dependency and anxieties and fears. They can also become obsessed when they think they’ve made or might make a “mistake.”  The assume that if they make a mistake, they will be cut-off, abandoned, or rejected.  Codependents often engage in mind reading, and presume to know that others are thinking poorly of them.  They are prone to projecting their own sense of worthlessness and fear of rejection onto others, and this in turn often becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy where the other person eventually does leave them!!  Sometimes codependents lapse into fantasy about how they’d like things to be or about someone they love as a way to avoid the pain of the present. This is one way to stay in denial, discussed below, but it keeps them from living their lives.
  • Dependency. Codependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves. As I’ve already mentioned before, they’re afraid of being rejected or abandoned, even if they can function on their own. Others need always to be in a relationship, because they feel depressed or lonely when they’re by themselves for too long. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even when the relationship is painful or abusive. They end up feeling trapped.
  • Denial. One of the problems people face in getting help for codependency is that they’re in denial about it, meaning that they don’t face their problem. Usually they think the problem is someone else or the situation. They either keep complaining or trying to fix the other person, or go from one relationship or job to another and never own up the fact that they have a problem. Codependents also deny their feelings and needs. Often, they don’t know what they’re feeling and are instead focused on what others are feeling. The same thing goes for their needs. They pay attention to other people’s needs and not their own. They might be in denial of their need for space and autonomy, for example. Although some codependents seem needy, others act like they’re self-sufficient when it comes to needing help. They won’t reach out and have trouble receiving. They are in denial of their vulnerability and need for love and intimacy.
  • Problems with intimacy. By this I’m not referring to sex, although sexual dysfunction often is a reflection of an intimacy problem. I’m talking about being open and close with someone in an intimate relationship. Because of the shame and weak boundaries, you might fear that you’ll be judged, rejected, or left. On the other hand, you may fear being smothered in a relationship and losing your autonomy. You might deny your need for closeness and feel that your partner wants too much of your time; your partner complains that you’re unavailable, but he or she is denying his or her need for separateness.
  • Painful emotions. Codependency creates stress and leads to painful emotions. Shame and low self-esteem create anxiety and fear about being judged, rejected or abandoned; making mistakes; being a failure; feeling trapped by being close or being alone. The other symptoms lead to feelings of anger and resentment, depression, hopelessness, and despair. When the feelings are too much, you can feel numb.

In my experience as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve learned that when two people enter into a codependent relationship, they often enter into what is known as the Drama Triangle.  Imagine, if you will, the triangle below, and notice how at each of the three end points of the triangle are three separate roles that each codependent person in the relationship potentially plays at one time or another.  When each person in the relationship plays at least two out of these three roles often enough throughout the course of their relationship, it’s a tell tale sign that they’re in a codependent dynamic. These three habitual psychological roles include the following:  The Rescuer, the Victim, and the Persecutor.

photo by traumahealed.com

photo by traumahealed.com

The Rescuer, for example, plays the role of the care-taker, and he sees his partner as a victim in need of help.  He sets aside his own needs and becomes singularly focused on caring for his partner, who he believes is weak, helpless, wounded, and fragile.  The rescuer is not consciously aware, though, that by playing this part, he may be avoiding looking at his own anxiety, underlying feelings, absence of meaning in his life, hunger for a sense of identity and purpose, etc. In addition, he may be denying the sense of self-esteem and status he feels as he plays the role of rescuer nor the joy that comes with having someone depend on them. As he is rescuing his partner, his partner in turn is being treated as though she is a victim, incapable of caring for herself.  She is his damsel in distress, dependent on his heroic love, nurturing, and resources.  At first, his partner may welcome his wish to rescue her.  However, in time, she may come to feel smothered, and she may resent the tacit message that she is a victim who is unable to care for herself and therefore is in need of rescuing.  In turn, she may grow weary of his overbearing interventions and attempts to rescue her.  Soon she may grow more and more resentful of him, and she may finally lash out at him and reject his help all together.  In this moment, she has switched from playing the role of victim to playing the role of persecutor.  She feels angry, and she rejects his care-taking overtures and verbally accosts him instead.

In the aftermath of this confrontation, her caretaker may feel that his efforts to rescue her have gone unappreciated, and he may in turn feel very hurt.  Suddenly he finds himself playing the role of victim.  With his head bowed down and bent, he appears visibly wounded.  When the dust settles after this contentious fight, his persecuting lover may feel compelled to assume the role of rescuer again and make efforts to care for his hurt feelings.  If she doesn’t make this nurturing effort, he may take on the role of persecutor, and he will vent his anger and disgust at her for taking his rescuing overtures for granted.  In turn, she may feel victimized and wounded.  Seeing her in emotional distress, he may move away from playing the role of persecutor  and assume the role of her rescuer again.

Incidentally, Co-dependent relationships, of course, take on more patterns than just those presented above  in the Drama Triangle.  However, this dynamic is one that is very common among codependent couples and/or families.

Unfortunately, in my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve seen first hand how unresolved patters of codependency can lead to more serious problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, and other self-destructive and self-defeating behaviors.  People in codependent relationships are often more likely to attract further abuse from aggressive individuals, more likely to stay in stressful jobs or relationships, less likely to seek medical attention when needed, and are less likely to get promotions and tend to earl less money than those without codependency patterns.  In addition, for the codependent person who lacks a solid sense of self and feels like victim at times in his relationships coupled with feelings of  intense anxiety and a profound fear of rejection and/or abandonment, his or controlling ways can eventually turn violent.

The great news is that there are treatments and recovery paths for individuals, couples, and families that struggle with codependency.  Psychotherapy, Family Therapy, Group Therapy, Bibliotherapy,  Psycho-Education, Psychodrama,  Gestalt work, Hypnosis, EMDR, Assertiveness training, and support groups like Co-Dependents Anonymous ( CoDA) and AL-Anon are all powerful ways and places to go to overcome your codependency and feel happy, healthy, and whole again.

If you feel as though you’re a codependent person, stuck in a codependent relationship, or enmeshed and/or triangulated  in a codependent family system, please e-mail me or call me if you’d like help breaking free from this old pattern. As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I know of tools and techniques that can help you to feel more independent as well as learn how to participate in interdependent, reciprocal, and happy relationships instead.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.  I hope that you found it educational and informative.

Warmly,

John Boesky, LMFT

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

BECOME THE WATCHER AND REALIZE YOUR FULL POTENTIAL

human soul

image taken from squidoo.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I used to hear spiritually inclined people say that we are “spiritual beings having human experiences” with skepticism and a touch of cynicism too.  I was more secular then, and I was convinced that I was defined by my mind, my body, and my emotions.  Heck, it was the world renown philosopher, Descartes, who once said, ” I think, therefore I am.”

Time and exposure to new thoughts about who we are as people have changed my perspective quite a lot over the last few years, though.  After reading  Tolle’s  The Power of Now, and after chatting with several mentors of mine, it’s dawned on me that we are not our minds, bodies, or emotions after all.  Our Egoic minds, for example,  are actually quite primitive,  and they’re prone to cognitive distortions, storytelling, generalizing, black and white thinking, and propagating lies.  This is how come Zen masters call our minds “Monkey Minds”, because they’re prone to making messes and creating chaos.  Our Monkey Minds are trouble makers, and they often spew out lies about ourselves and others that damage our self-esteem and create disconnection with others.

If we were really our minds, then how come we’re able to step back from our thoughts and examine them, challenge them, explore them, etc.  In addition, how come we can go about changing our minds and still remain who we are.  No, we are not our minds nor are we our thoughts.  Our minds ( when they’re functioning optimally) are merely powerful tools that we can use to problem solve,  make good decisions, etc.

In addition to not being our minds, we are also not our bodies.  If you take our legs away, for example, we still exist, don’t we?  There have even been people who have literally flat lined and died on hospital gurneys who have come back to life hours later able to recall everything that took place in the operating room during and after they were declared dead.  These people generally say that while they were dead they took on spiritual forms and were able to watch their lifeless bodies and hear what the doctors and nurses were saying to each as they were being pronounced dead. In light of these happenings, it’s become clear to me that we are not our bodies either.  Like our minds, our bodies are tools as well.  They help us to move, play, etc.

Finally, we are not our emotions and their accompanying sensations.  This is because our emotions always have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  We don’t vanish or perish when one of our emotions dissipates and goes away.  In addition, how can we be our emotions if we’re able to step back from them  and watch our emotions with curiosity, awe, and wonder.  This is precisely what people do when they practice mindfulness and meditation.  They notice their emotions and observe them.  Sometimes the feelings intensify, and sometimes they soften and fade away. Emotions, like our minds and bodies, can serve as useful tools as well.

Instead, we are the Watcher that peacefully resides in each and every one of us.  The Watcher has many names. It has been called our Soul, our Essence, our CEO, our King or Queen, our Highest Self, our Light, etc.  The Watcher has also been described as being timeless, perfect, whole, and complete.

When the Watcher in us is in a resourceful state, brimming over with compassion, unconditional love, and unconditional acceptance  for ourselves and others, it is able to access the deepest truths that we hold about ourselves.  Some say that the Watcher is receiving our deepest truths from a Higher Power, the Universe, the Super Conscious, the Source from which all life comes, or from God himself.

Others who are less spiritually inclined might say that the Watcher represents the Essence of who we truly are deep inside:  Inherently good, wise, forgiving, non-judgmental, unconditionally loving and  accepting, intuitive, and discerning.  For them, the Watcher is able to see things as they truly are.  If their more primitive Egoic minds trick them into believing, for example, that they’re unlovable or inadequate, the Watcher in them knows better and can remind them of their deeper truths:  They’re deeply lovable and very worthwhile.

If you tend to get swept away by your thoughts and get overwhelmed by the lies that your Monkey Mind is relaying to you,  it’s high time that you learn how to access the Watcher inside of you and get in touch with the deepest truths about you really are.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have a specific experiential exercise that I teach my clients that helps them to effortlessly tune out the lies that are being propagated by their minds.  In addition, my clients are able to worry less and less about their body image and their bodily aches and pains.  Finally, my clients rarely feel  paralyzed by their emotions, and they no longer feel as though they are drowning inside of them.

My Deepest Truth Exercise is very powerful and life-changing.  Last night, for example, in my Men’s group, a man originally heard his Egoic mind tell him that he’s unlovable, and by the time the group exercise was over, tears welled up in his eyes as he  shared with the rest of us that his deepest truth is that he’s lovable, a great father, and a great friend.  A week ago, a woman in my co-ed group originally received the false message from her Egoic mind that she is invisible, and that no one cares to know who she truly is.  After accessing the Watcher and listening for her deepest truth, she shared with the men and women in our group that her deepest truth is that many people do see her and appreciate her.  In particular, she told us that people often share with her that they see how much she cares about others, and they really appreciate how big a heart she’s got.

If you want to learn how to access the Watcher, become acquainted with the deepest truths of who you really are, and realize your full potential, please call me or email me to arrange a time to meet with me in person.  In the meantime,  kindly remember:  You are not your mind, body, or emotions.  Instead, you are the Watcher, the Soul, the CEO, the King or Queen, and/or the Light that resides within you.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post.  I hope that you found it thought-provoking and helpful!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT

 

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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