Tag Archives: Mindfullness

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

BEWARE THE EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS

Imgae taken from timesofmaldta.com

Image taken from timesofmaldta.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve learned from life experiences as well as from working with my clients that  life is inherently impermanent; nothing lasts forever.  Seasons come and go, youth gives way to old age, beauty gives way to wrinkles,  life gives way to death, and because everything eventually dies, all relationships come to an end.  A lot of us, however, turn a blind eye to how fleeting our lives are, and how ephemeral our good fortune is. We blissfully assume that the strong winds that we have at our backs will carry us forward for the rest of our lives. In addition, we become too attached or overly identified with these winds, and we believe that they represent the sum total of who we are. Gil Gronsdal, in a talk that he gave on Equanimity in 2004, referred to these winds as the “EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS.”  These winds include praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, and fame and disrepute.

As for the first of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, I believe that becoming overly invested in Praise can tend toward conceit, and it can also compel us to seek out external validation from others rather than look inward for internal validation.  This habit can feel very dis-empowering over the long haul, as our sense of self becomes more and more dependent on what other people say about us.

As for the second worldly wind, I believe that shouldering too much Blame can lead us to develop a shame-based sense of self. We are not the sum total of our mistakes.  I believe that we would make far better use of our time, energy, and resources if we tabled the blame and instead, with self-compassion and self-forgiveness, thought of ways to learn from our mistakes so that we can do things more effectively the next time around.

As for Success, the third of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  When I see my clients and people in general become too attached to their own successes, I notice that they become prone to becoming  arrogant, entitled, grandiose, and narcissistic.  Often times, what lurks beneath this inflated facade lies is a profound fear of failure or being exposed as frauds. They’ve become so attached to their success and defined by the trappings of it that they’re fear of falling off the mountain top paralyzes them with self-doubt, and soon enough their performances go down the tubes.

As for Failure, the fourth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  I believe that the  more we identify with failure, the more we feel intrinsically incompetent and inadequate.  Soon Failure becomes an integral part of our life story.  We see ourselves as the sum total of our life experiences  through this dark prism, and therefore we conclude that the winds of life have always gone against us.  This belief system often creates a victim mentality in us, and we walk around with a chip on our shoulders and/or have a contempt for other people  and/or have a deep-seeded contempt for ourselves.  For those who have become overly identified with failure, they’ve been unable to step back and recognize that although they’ve experienced failure, they never had to allow these experiences to define them as people. We are not, after all, our behaviors or our life experiences.  The essence of who we are transcends these fleeting moments.

As for Pleasure, the fifth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  I believe that the experience of pleasure is wonderful!!  However, when a person seeks personal pleasure only at the exclusion of everything else, his or life often lacks depth, connection, meaning, and purpose.

Reacting to Pain, the sixth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  When we experience pain, it’s our natural tendency to contract, resist the pain, and focus on it.  Unfortunately, when we resist our pain, the pain is likely to get worse.  In addition, when we focus on our pain, it tends to expand.  Although it seems incredibly counter-intuitive, the key to managing pain is to acknowledge its presence, welcome it, and be present with it.  In addition, practice the art of equanimity, equanimity arises from the power of observation, to see your pain with patience, understanding, and compassion.  Finally, remind yourself that you are not your pain; There is a soul or light inside of you that is separate from your pain and watch it from a distance, and when you learn how to do this, you pain will subside considerably for you.

As for Fame, the seventh of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve had the privilege of working with famous businessmen, businesswomen, actors, actresses, and professional athletes.  As a lay person, I’ve also watched the rise and fall of businessmen, politicians, actors, actresses, and professional athletes on television and read about it in the newspapers.  I imagine that you, like me, have all watched these famous people navigate their ways through the fame machine and come out the other side with a distorted sense of themselves and a warped world view.  In addition, many of them appear to me to be emaciated, ghostly, and like they’ve unnecessarily subjected themselves to multiple plastic surgeries while in their 20’s no less.  To me, these are clear signs that these “stars’ got lost somewhere in the darkness, and they lost their center of gravity.  In other words, they become imbalanced and, like a leaf carried away in no particular direction in one of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, they got caught up and then lost in the gravitational vortex of fame.

Finally, there is the eighth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, and that wind is the wind of  Disrepute.  When I’ve seen people fall into disrepute, they often feel deep shame and  feelings of personal despair and disgrace.  They’ve become so attached to standing atop a pedestal and being seen as larger than life that their fall from grace crushes their ego.  They’ve spend so much time cultivating a make believe image of perfection that being seen warts and all makes them want to crawl into a hole and hide forever.  Now they feel like leapers, exiled,  shunned, and  rejected from family, friends, and foes alike.  Often times the people who have fallen into disrepute are the very same people who once enjoyed the spoils of fame.  Just as their egos and identities became too attached to their fame, now their sense of selves have become too entangled with their broken reputation.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve found that there are many ways to avoid getting caught up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS.  The first antidote that comes to mind is having the wisdom to know that our sense of inner well-being is independent of the eight winds.  When we know this, we are more likely to remain on an even keel in their midst.  In addition, another piece of wisdom that can protect us from getting caught up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS is the awareness of the nature of impermanence.  The reality of life is that things change so quickly that we can’t hold onto anything.  Therefore, we must become masters at the art of letting go.  Letting go brings us peace of mind and equanimity.  As an old Buddhist saying goes, “let go, or be dragged.”

Another antidote to getting caught up in the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS is to develop the equanimity that arises from the power of observation; the ability to see without being caught by what we see.  Also, it’s incredibly important to learn how to see with patience and understanding. When well-developed, such power of observation gives rise to peace of mind, body, and spirit.  When we can observe the highs and lows of our lives from a grounded space, we feel rooted in the essence of who we  truly are.  In these moments, we remain centered in the middle of whatever is happening.  As the “Watcher” inside of us observes all that is going on around us, we remain palpably in touch with the strong presence of  inner calm, well being, balance, integrity, and confidence that  keeps us upright, like a ballast that keeps a ship upright in strong winds.

Other ways to remain balanced, grounded, unattached, and able to observe life’s EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS without being tossed about by them is to practice meditation, yoga, and to engage in any spiritual practice that is grounded in faith and wisdom.  Also, practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, seeing a capable Marriage and Family Therapist, Sports Psychology Consultant, life coach, NLP ( Tony Robbins Stuff) Practitioner, EMDR Practitioner, or turning to any resource that resonates with you and encourages you to cultivate calm and concentration as well as strengthens your sense of self will help to keep you grounded as the Eight Worldly Winds continue to draw people in and spit them out, just as they have for generations and generations.

In addition to practices and resources that I’ve already referenced, I’d also like to strongly encourage you to strive towards being impeccable with your word and having integrity with others so that you can walk into any room in any crowd of people and feel blameless, free from from the ghosts of blame, shame, guilt, and disrepute. When you don’t engage in gossip, it’s amazing how the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS look for new targets to descend down on.  Finally, I’d like to encourage you to focus on doing the very best that you can in your life; focus on your “Performance Scorecard,” not on your “Outcome Scorecard.”  If you’re identity is riding on your results, then you’re you’re more or less gambling day to day with your sense of well being, because your results are then dependent on variables that are often out of your hands. However, if you’re sense of well being and sense of self comes from achieving your performance goals, then you’re far more likely to feel confident and successful, regardless of the outcome of your efforts.  This is because you’ve taken care of matters that are within your control.

If you’re finding yourself swept up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, I want you to rest assured that you’re hardly alone. If you’ve grown weary, however, of twisting like a leaf out in the unpredictable winds and would like to learn how to return to your center and rediscover the essence of who you truly are again, then I want to invite you to e-mail me or give me call so that we can set up a time to visit in person.  I would enjoy that very much 🙂

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/Sports Psychology Consultant