Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC

513.795.2562

Therapist In Mason Ohio

How Fish Sticks can Strengthen your Marriage

When I was a kid, my two brothers and little sister and I were often babysat by local teenagers while my parents went out for either dates, parties, or other fun get-togethers.  We all knew that if my mom was baking fish sticks or potpies and getting out the applesauce, it was a sure bet that either Mary Estelle Kennelly or Susan Langloh was going to be babysitting us that night.

We didn’t complain about it much.  It was actually normal (and even fun!) for us to have babysitters 2 to 3 times a month, because my siblings and I all had a visceral understanding that our parents were adults, who were married, and that their needs and plans were just as important as ours.

But these days, it seems like that kind of attitude is scorned. Putting the well-being of your marriage even on the same level as the well-being of your children, is considered unusual at best, and selfish at worst.

And despite the articles and research that have been written, proving that putting your marriage’s needs above those of your children is the most beneficial way to manage your family’s needs, couples still insist on making excuses for why they don’t have the time, energy, or money to maintain the connection that they so lovingly created in the first place.

It makes me wonder — given the “permission” to swap priorities, would couples actually do it?

marriedI’ve worked with many married couples who have become incredibly disconnected due to putting their children’s needs first.  It’s called a child-centered marriage.  The kids become the main “glue” that keep them together.  Healthy marriages need so much more than just their children to keep them connected!  How about other glue — like humor, common interests, a strong circle of friends, great sex, fun trips, meaningful conversations, and creating any other kind of sacred space that’s off limits to the kids?

Marriages are organic entities, which means they are always evolving, changing, morphing, and needing different things as time goes on.  It’s like software that keeps running and updating in the background of your busy daily lives.  If couples don’t pay attention to this entity, it will either crash or it’ll look so different by the time the children grow up that they’ll have no idea how to care for it.  Because they wanted to live up to the standard of being “good parents” who put their children first, couples have lost their ability to openly and comfortably talk about and care for their relationship.

If you do have children who are dominating your home life, I implore you to talk with your spouse about factoring in more time and energy for just the two of you.  After the kids go to bed, spend quality time together.  Give each other love and affection every single day.  And at least twice a month, find a babysitter or take them to grandma’s and go out!!  Don’t have relatives nearby?  Don’t know where or how to find a sitter?  Go to these sites, where you can find profiles, pictures and reviews of people who’d be more than happy to watch your little ones:

www.sittercity.com
www.care.com

In Northern KY and Mason, OH, they have a childcare drop-off business where professionals will watch your child/children day or night for an hourly fee: www.skidaddles.com

If these options are too pricey, consider forming a Babysitting Club with other parents in your area, through www.meetup.com or on Facebook.  Here’s an article with more details: http://www.wordconstructions.com.au/articles/family/bsitclubnew.html

Remember….your relationship existed before any children came along, and it will exist well after they have left home and started families of their own, if you’ve taken good care of it.  Don’t feel guilty! It’s much easier for children to learn to like having babysitters and fish sticks than it is to be raised by disconnected, unhappy parents.  So do this for them.  More importantly….do this for YOU!

It’s Not Your Fault

boyWhen we are children, we are very watchful.  We learn to think and behave in the ways that get our needs met.  Sometimes that means being seen and not heard, just to keep things calm in our family.  Other times it’s having to make a “scene” in order to get attention from anyone.  Or maybe a child learns to become a high achiever or perfectionist in order to get praise or love from others.

Whatever behaviors or thought patterns we develop, growing up, is what helps us survive.  They’ve worked for us enough times that they almost get stitched into our DNA.

Then we move into adult life.

When we leave home and venture into the academic or work world, with new people, in new environments, with new obstacles to overcome, what responses do you think we’ll use first?

We’ll use our previous patterns of thinking and behaving, because that’s the formula we know — and we know it very, very well.

Sometimes they’ll work beautifully.  If we’ve learned to be polite and respectful of authority, or if we’ve learned to hold our tongue to keep the peace — others will likely respond positively to that and we’ll be accepted.

But someday, in some different scenario, with different people, those beliefs and behaviors may not help us.  In fact, they might HURT us.

For example, if we’ve learned to act out and be loud and argumentative to get our way, that’s probably not going to bode well when we’ve found a boyfriend or girlfriend who just wants to talk or compromise on something.  If our belief about our self is that we aren’t worth much and that we need to just ‘fly under the radar,’ that can lead to never opening ourselves up to relationships, getting better jobs, or standing up for ourselves when we’ve been treated unfairly.

What I’m saying is, the schemas we learned growing up were learned for good reasons and they worked for us back then.  So we weren’t wrong in developing them.  A lot of our perceptions and reactions were not our fault, but simply how we got through our childhood.

But when we become adults, it’s our responsibility to reevaluate them — no matter how ingrained they are. As an adult, we no longer have our parents to blame for acting the way we do, or our old environments to justify why we interpret things the way we do.

Considering our new surroundings, the people who are currently meaningful in our lives, and the different needs and expectations we face, we’ll have to decide which knee-jerk responses can be kept, which need to be changed, and which need to be buried.

Think of it like going through your current wardrobe.  Now and then, we need to see which clothes still fit, which ones are out of style, and which just need to be altered a bit.

After this reassessment is done, we leave room for new beliefs, responses, experiences, and even new types of relationships to come into our lives.  And we’ll need to do this throughout our lifetime to make sure we’re adapting appropriately to our environments.

Again, we weren’t wrong in subconsciously designing ourselves the way we did, when we were children — we had to make the best out of our little worlds!  But we would be wrong not to reassess and possibly redesign ourselves, in some ways, to live our best adult life.

5 Ways To Reconnect With Your Man This Month

So Valentine’s Day is upon us this month — a day when most people do the traditional dance of making dinner reservations at a nice restaurant, drinking some wine, having a fancy chocolate dessert, opening cards and gifts, then heading home to go to bed and make love.

But what if you’ve been feeling disconnected from your boyfriend or husband? Sadly, many women do.

Getting reconnected in your relationship means trying to tune into each others’ unmet needs, then find a meaningful way to actually fulfill those needs. If you can have a conversation with your boyfriend/husband ahead of time, then it will make things easier.  But women are pretty intuitive.  Most of them know the underlying desires that their men have — they just aren’t currently attending to them, for whatever reason.

But trust this — one of you has to be the first one to reach out with an effort.  If the effort lands correctly, you’ll see a boomerang effect.  It may not happen right away, but keep at it.  Here are some ideas to start implementing to show your man that you’re making an effort to be attentive to his core needs.

Respect

dreamstime_m_6265617This is a big one for men, and one way to show how much respect you have for him is to show up with coffee at his place of work, let him give you a tour, learn more about what he does each day, meet some of his colleagues, and either bring lunch or treat him to a nearby lunch spot to connect further.  Show how impressed you are with what he does.  Take interest and ask questions.  What he needs from you is for you to see him as important, smart, and capable.  Since caveman days, men have always valued being good providers for their families, so do what you can to augment the recognition of and appreciation for his hard work.

Confidence

Along with respect, men and women alike need boosts to their self-confidence.  There are many ways to help remind of how attractive, caring, courageous, accomplished, strong, funny, sexy, and how great of a father he is.  You can write affirmations like:2

“Your eyes (smile, broad shoulders, laugh, etc) make me melt”
“You did such a great job with fixing _________”
“I saw how enormous your heart is when I witnessed you _________”
“I can always rely on your strength to keep me safe”

Either put them on small pieces of paper and fill up a jar with them, or write each one on a page in a small, spiral-bound notebook that he can carry with him.

Physical Touch/Affection

dreamstime_m_29516705I know that women are much less likely to want to have sex with their guys when they don’t feel emotionally connected, but there are many other ways to touch and be affectionate, like offering your man a foot or shoulder massage with scented oil.  Or a place that really gets tense for men is his head — so running your fingers all over his head, as if you’re washing his hair, is a huge relaxation point.  Have him relax so that you do the work.  That way, YOU are in charge of where it starts and where it ends.  Remember, your goal here is to reconnect, so take a risk by giving him your sincere affection.

New Perspective

One great way for both of you to get a different perspective on your new relationship together is to rearrange and/or redecorate your bedroom.  4Collaborate on a new floor plan, your favorite colors, new artwork for the walls, area rugs, new bedding.  Putting your minds and muscles together, and investing in things that bring you pleasure can be the united effort you need to break some ice. Get rid of any office furniture, clutter, and things that no longer serve you.  Let this room be a symbol of a new and redesigned relationship that you’ve co-created.

Reassurance

5I saw this idea on Pinterest and thought it was a cool idea.  This involves writing a series of short letters with various themes, placed into envelopes and titled “Open When….”  Give your guy a stack of letters he can open when he needs things like:

* a boost in self-esteem
* hope/encouragement that things will get better
* reason why you married him
* a sense of belonging
* happy memories from the past
* a good laugh
* visions of your future life together
* reminders of the good things he’s done for you
* reminders of what’s going WELL in your relationship

Some of these may take the entire month to accomplish.  Some only a day or two.  But putting forth the effort to feed and nurture your husband and marriage is the best thing you can do to honor the true meaning of Valentine’s Day.  Practicing and sharpening your skills to tune into what’s needed to reconnect your broken marriage will serve you more than you think.  Put yourself out there and LOVE GENEROUSLY.

It certainly can’t hurt. 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Day!

Mother-Daughter Battles: When Taking Care of Yourself is Judged as ‘Selfish’

ee-cummings-quote-be-yourselfThis past July, my 15-year-old daughter sat on my bed and calmly told me she wanted to start living with her father full-time. It came as a complete shock to me and I immediately welled up with tears as I asked “What? Whyyyy?” 

She explained that she’d rather live with him because of two main reasons.  The back-and-forth routine of living in two households was keeping her from feeling rooted, organized, and connected with her friends.  This did make some sense to me because her dad lived closer to her school and friends. Having her things at one place would help her be more focused and organized. The other reason was harder for me to swallow — that she just didn’t feel connected to me anymore and didn’t think I was the mom for her, because I was so selfish.

She objected to me putting certain core needs of mine first, rather than being the type of parent who puts their children first, no matter what (as her dad does). She also thought my expectations for keeping the house clean, for the kids’ schoolwork to be their best, holding them accountable for their own responsibilities, and being firm about general behaviors that were and weren’t ‘appropriate’  — were too high and, frankly, ridiculous.

Uhhhhh……wow.

Like me, many mothers are juggling a full-time job (in my case, running my own private practice), making sure household chores are completed, getting food in and preparing meals, paying bills, IN ADDITION TO attending to their husband’s and children’s needs.  I was raised believing that the more we teach our loved ones how to fish (rather than giving them fish), the more they’re able to take care of some of those needs on their own, helping us be less frazzled and more effective mothers (think oxygen-mask theory here).

But no….this generation gives parents (especially mothers) a much harder time if they are made to attend to certain needs on their own. And if we take time for ourselves (which we’re advised to do, even by Oprah!), or make other life decisions that feed our needs better, we are judged as utterly selfish and they feel entitled to have an equal and democratic vote in what may be changing.

Now…as a psychotherapist, I studied Piaget’s developmental stages and know that parents naturally go through an “individuation” stage with their teenagers anyway.  This is the separation process that helps every adolescent disconnect from being a child to become a more independent individual.  It’s the reason why they’ll say the sky is purple if you say it’s blue — just to be different from you.  They’ll break from old traditions, take more risks, and try to blaze their own trail away from the family.

Daughters butt heads with their mothers most especially, with hormonal changes on both parts repelling each other like North and North poles on a magnet.

During this individuation time you’ll feel like you can’t win, no matter what approach you take.  They’ll roll their eyes if you do or say anything, making you feel stupid, “out of touch,” and old.  It can also be a hit-or-miss relationship, where some days and activities mesh well between you, but other days go down the toilet.  Either way, they’ll leave you feeling rattled and confused.

But, on a deeper level, it’ll leave you feeling hurt
from this senseless abandonment by this beautiful
boy or girl who used to adore you so much.
for_sale__crying_woman_by_art_adoption-d5s9wrqAnd that’s what I’ve felt over the past 5 months — grieving the loss of my relationship with my daughter.  I’ve cried a lot, apologized, bargained, denied it, gotten angry and felt depressed.  Ultimately, though, I found myself second-guessing my gut instincts as a mother, and that’s just not right.Despite what your children’s accusations are, you need to hold onto what you believe in, as a mom. In some ways, they’re testing how strong your convictions really are, so stand firm with your core values.  Do I have regrets about what I should or shouldn’t have said or done in the past?  Of course! But for the most part, I believe that I’ve loved my children by kissing and cuddling with them, empowering them to be loving people, be self-disciplined and responsible, to have a strong belief in themselves, and to follow their dreams.  It’s also important to me that they take care of themselves and their things, respect authority, be mindful of how they package what they say (as my mom used to say “Know your audience!”), be able to adapt to outside changes where they won’t have much choice sometimes, and — ultimately — to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them.Although these might not be clear to my daughter now, I have to believe that at some point, she will appreciate these lessons as her life unfolds and will feel pulled to emulate the same values and decisions when she becomes a mother.  It truly is one of the hardest battles to choose to be true to yourself…but I can’t stop fighting it. I am who I am. And if that sounds selfish and wrong, then so be it. They’ll figure it out one day.

Top 5 Ways To Fully Benefit From Counseling

My New Leaf Top 5 ways to fully benefit from counselingIn this generation, we are very fortunate that using a counselor to get through major transitions, devastating losses, depression, anxiety, or to just improve our low self-esteem is no longer taboo! People are much more open to it, we share stories or insights from our sessions, and it’s available almost everywhere for any age. Most medical insurance plans cover mental health office visits, so you have the option to make it more affordable that way, or you can pay out-of-pocket to keep it discreet and avoid being labeled with a diagnosis.

Either way, counseling services can become time-consuming and expensive if not used wisely. This can then lead to feeling stuck and unmotivated, or to an inability to pay for ongoing sessions.  So here are the Top 5 ways to get the most out of your individual or couples counseling experience: 

  1. Find the best fit.  It may take a few tries to find the therapist with whom you really connect — but it’s worth the time, because you’ll be sharing some private and emotionally sensitive things with this person. Having a warm, safe, therapeutic relationship with the right counselor will be what motivates you to keep coming, open up, and make progress. How will you know when you’ve found the right fit?  Assuming that they’re well qualified in the issues you’re dealing with, it’s when you get a ‘good vibe’ from them and they take the time to really listen and show you that they ‘get’ you. 
  2. Take it seriously.  Using a counselor to get through something difficult in your life is an important commitment and investment. You owe it to your Self and/or your relationship to keep regular appointments and be willing to work together. If you frequently miss or reschedule appointments, the momentum for change starts to sag and it’ll take a while to get back on track.
  3. Come prepared. The more you’ve thought about what you want to get out of counseling, and what obstacles are currently in your way, the faster and more focused the process will be.  Also, if you’ve been given something new to think about, some different behavior to practice, or any other ‘homework’ to do between sessions, come to your appointments with those things completed. You’ll then have feedback for your therapist about what worked and what didn’t.
  4. Be open to vulnerability and feedback. Sometimes (but not always) therapy will make you feel worse before you feel better. That’s because your therapist will be asking you some questions which bring up some difficult memories and/or wounds that you’ve probably been repressing or denying for a long time. Being open to exploring these dark areas is key to figuring out why you operate the way you do, and how it’s leading to negative outcomes. Getting constructive feedback about certain maladaptive behaviors, beliefs, or other patterns from your counselor is not to make you feel targeted, blamed, or ashamed — it’s to provide a professional, objective perspective to help get you closer to your goal(s).
  5. Use a journal. I always recommend that people keep journals while in therapy because they help in 3 ways: to remember key points made in your sessions that you want to remember and think about further, to write down questions or issues you want to bring up in future sessions, and finally, to use it as a ‘growth chart’ to show how far you’ve come since Day 1.

If you are focused, motivated, and curious about your life, then you’re the perfect candidate for psychotherapy.  Just like with physical therapy, you need to come prepared to exercise weak emotional muscles to create better strength and support in various areas of your life. It does challenge you to push past comfort zones, but if you use the time wisely and are open to outside feedback and direction the payoff is well worth the effort.

Land Ho! Getting Through Life’s Transitions

Although change and transition are inevitable over the course of our lives, and the pace of life and these transitions seem to be avalanching upon our heads more and more, most people are grossly unprepared to cope with them.  But it’s not just the pace of change or our lack of preparation for it that leaves us disorientated.  

Another reason is that many Americans just don’t suffer well. Our society is constantly helping us avoid pain or discomfort with quick-fixes.  Our banking system offers us credit cards and loans so that we don’t have to wait to save money for big-ticket items.  Mood-altering drugs are easily available to avoid emotional upset.  Diet pills, cleanses, and herbal body wraps help us lose pounds and inches in days, rather than months or years. 

Still another reason for this disorientation is that people have lost faith that the transitions they’re going through are actually getting them somewhere. It certainly helps to have a picture of the new phase of your life in your mind, to tolerate the means to the end.  But there are no guarantees and the picture might even change during the process.  Anything that doesn’t have a clear destination toward where you are moving, will seem frightening, eternal, and maybe even impossible.
  
But change is unavoidable.  So let’s do this.

In his book “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes,” William Bridges talks about how each transition consists of three stages: an ending, a period of confusion and distress, and then a new beginning.  

The ending stage involves letting go of an old way of doing or seeing things.  It may take the form of a death, a divorce, an illness, a move, a layoff, or bankruptcy.  It can also be a letting go of a certain phase in your life, or an innocence or ability of some kind. Think of this first stage as diving off a pier, into  a lake.  It’s a launching off from the OLD in order to swim to the NEW.

The period of confusion and distress stage is where people freak out and want to swim back.  When they look back, however, they most likely find that the dock has broken loose and is already headed downstream.  This stage is the most distressing, tiring, lonely and intense part of the transition.  During this ‘swimming’ stage, there appears to be an abyss, or “stuckness,” that people need to somehow get through before they can find and land upon whatever the next shore is.  There is no rule for how long this stage lasts, but the more support and positive beliefs you have, the more quickly it passes.

The new beginning stage is when things start to fall into place.  You feel your feet more firmly on the ground, you develop a stronger inner confidence, and relief finally comes forward — you have arrived!

We can think of these stages with the metaphor of remodeling a kitchen.  In the beginning, you tear down all the cabinets, pull off the countertops, and rip up the flooring.  You pack things up and move them out and lose the general functioning of your kitchen. There’s a lot of mess and frustration during the in-between stage, and there might be problems or delays that you face.  But then…one day you notice that the new cabinets are being put up, then the countertops are nailed down, a backsplash is applied, and new tile flooring and appliances are in place.  After all is said and done, you might even admit that the new and improved kitchen was worth the wait and the headaches you had to endure!  Now, can you imagine if you decided to put back all of the old things and go back to the way the old kitchen looked, because you just couldn’t tolerate the temporary mess and dysfunction of the transition process?

The way to hang on during the confusion and distress stage is to develop as clear of a picture of the new phase as possible.  If you can develop at least 70% of it, it leaves the remaining 30% up to fate, the Universe, God, or whatever else you might believe in.  If you have some general idea of your direction, it helps you stay the course.  I once heard someone say that you can drive from the east to the west coast in the dark with your headlights on and only see 20 feet in front of you the entire way. The entire transition will NOT be lit up for you to see 100% clearly.  But learning to develop strong coping skills (i.e. engaging in good self-care, comforting activities, and healthy distractions), having a good support system in place (family, friends, therapist), and keeping focused on at least 70% of a mental vision that you have faith in, will empower you to embark on and endure the journey that Life’s inevitable transitions will put on your path.  You can do this.

If you need more convincing or inspiration, here are some movies about loss and renewal that may help:

May I Help You?

When I went to college and became increasingly independent, I held a pretty firm belief that I was then supposed to be completely self-sufficient with all the responsibilities in my life.  By the time I graduated, I’d already lined up a job in downtown D.C., secured an apartment with some roommates, had my own car, and never had to rely on my parents’ help for money or other types of assistance.  Good for me, right?

One day, though, my mom and I were out shopping for dresses for some special occasion, and when it came time to purchase the dress I’d picked out, my mom tried to pay for it.  Startled, I whipped out my credit card instead and said “No, no…I have this, Mom” and we went back and forth like that for a little while until she finally put her hand on top of mine, looked at me with warm, pleading eyes and said “Will you please let me do this for you?”  

It kinda shook me inside!

A little light shined on a new awareness that allowing others to do things for you didn’t necessarily mean you were dependent on them or that you owed them anything in return, but that they simply wanted to care for you.  I allowed her to pay for it, she felt good about caring for her daughter, and I felt loved in a new, more adult way.

I also remember my first professional massage.  I was lying face-down on the table, under warm and comfy  sheets and blankets, and the masseuse asked me “So do you know how to receive a massage?”  What a weird question, I thought.  But she explained that it was difficult for some clients to fully surrender their bodies to her touch, her manipulation, her repositioning, etc.  This is a good example of how people go about allowing others to care for them.  Can you surrender your story, your emotions, your guard, your beliefs….just for a moment….to connect and give permission to be loved, listened to, cared for, assisted, and comforted?
 
This American culture, in my opinion, has made us self-sufficient in too many ways.  We’ve isolated ourselves from the care and help of others — not necessarily to keep them out, but to continue proving to ourselves “I can do it!”  “I’ll take care of it!”  “No, no…don’t bother, I can handle it!”  

You don’t earn any prizes for holding the entire weight of life in your arms.

In my blog last year called The Healing Power of Connection, I wrote about this similar subject.  How can we shift our perspective on the need for others to care for us so that we don’t look at it as any kind of failure or sign of weakness on our part? Or see it as burdening others?  The simple fact of the matter is that when we decline someone’s help, we actually rob them of a chance to be part of our lives, our healing, our stories, and even our joys! 

People are out there waiting to give you their time and attention and compassion.  Instead of seeing this as your inability to handle everything in your life (and let me tell you a secret….YOU CAN’T HANDLE EVERYTHING, no matter how much you try to believe it!), see it as giving certain people the chance to do something nice for you.  Many of your fears about doing this — like the fact that they’ll pity you, or use the information against you one day, or will betray your trust, etc — turn out to be false assumptions anyway.  I’m not saying you won’t need to be careful with who you allow in, but erring on the side of letting others in and possibly getting burned, is better than never letting anyone in at all.  You don’t earn any prizes for holding the entire weight of life in your arms.

“May I help you?  Please?  Can I care for you?  Let me do this for you.  I love you and want to connect.”  Sometimes we need to just take that as face value, smile and say “Ok, thank you.  That’s so nice of you!”

When You Feel Like You Suck at Life

Ever have one of those weeks or months when you feel like you just SUCK at something — like parenting, marriage, your job, finances, keeping yourself organized, staying fit, or just Life in general?  

Yeah….I’ve been on a roll lately.

Especially with parenting, as I have two teenagers who are in the midst of pulling away from the “mom-bond” we used to have.  Despite knowing that this is a normal stage of development, their apathy, thanklessness, critical comments, and negative attitudes toward my attempts to connect have brought on all kinds of feelings of personal ineptitude: “I put my career first too much”  “If I’d had more money, I could have done more things with them”  “I should let them feel more comfortable (i.e. messy) in their home here.”  And then the big one:  “I f*cked up their lives when I divorced their father.”

Everyone has certain levels of expectations for themselves, and most of us set those pretty high.  I’m definitely one of them.  And so, when things aren’t “working right” or “measuring up” we are quick to berate ourselves to the point where we do feel like big, fat losers.

Before I go any further with this, let me just say two important things:

First, sometimes you HAVE to give yourself a break and accept that you might not get an A+ in certain areas of your life.  As long as you know you’re doing your very best, than that’s ENOUGH.  

Second, there truly are NECESSARY LOSSES that have to happen in life.  It could be that you’re in a transition that feels messy, disorganized, out of control, or even painful.  But it doesn’t mean it’s permanent — it’s just a deconstruction of something that isn’t working (for whatever reason) in order to open you up to something better.  In those cases, it’s not that you SUCK at whatever isn’t working (like not being able to find a job or a new boy/girlfriend), it’s just a matter of time before life unfolds the new development.

In my case, I have to remind myself that my kids are displaying NORMAL, teenage behavior; that I’ve been a good mom and a good role model in many ways; that they DO love me and rely on me to be a steady heartbeat in the midst of so much change going on; that there are certainly worse mothers out there than I; and, that if I’d stayed with their father, they would have been raised by an unfulfilled and detached mother, as opposed to a happier and more engaged one.  Could I work on improving my parenting skills?  Absolutely!!  But I have to also believe that, at some point, my kids will come back and we’ll be reconnecting on new levels. 

For those of you who feel like you really ARE failing or negligent in certain areas of your life — career, money, marriage, health, social connection — think about when you WERE a success in them.  Write down what you remember when you WERE at the top of your game at work, or when you DID have enough money, when your connections to your spouse and children were SOLID, when you were fit and looked HOT, or when you had a really GREAT circle of friends.

If you can come up with those positive moments, then it means you’ve been able to achieve these things at one time, so you have a better chance of recapturing them, just in a different way.  Think of this as “muscle memory.”  When you have these moments written down, analyze them by asking these questions:

1.  What was going on in my life that made things better/easier?  
     (Are there other ways to recapture some of those elements?)
2.  What needs were getting met at that time, that I might not be getting now?
     (How can I get those needs met now?)
3.  What was I doing back then that helped make that happen?  
     (Can I start doing those things again?  What new skills have I developed that I could add?)
4.  What motivated me to make that work?
     (What motivates me now?)
5.  Who helped me back then?
     (What type of person or people do I need to surround myself with to help out now?)

These questions will at least give you the sense of power and control that anyone needs when they’re wanting to improve something in their lives.  If you’re too busy feeling helpless, depressed, stupid, and worthless, then Life will feel like IT’S in control — not YOU.  So to get back in the drivers seat, remind yourself that things weren’t ALWAYS bad, and that you may just need to put some new tactics in place to rebuild that muscle of accomplishment, happiness, and connection.

Whether this is a transition stage and you remind yourself that you’ve done the best you can and just need to wait things out, or it’s an opportunity to get back in the saddle and take action to rebuild the “muscles” you once had, it does NOT help matters to believe that you’re a decrepit loser and that things will never get better. 

So put your emotions aside, do some self-reflection, cut yourself some slack, shut down your pity party, and look forward to turning things around.

Six Ways To See Your Life With New Eyes

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

–Proust

If four different people witness a car accident, each on different corners of an intersection, and the police interview them all afterwards, they’re most likely going to get four different stories based on their vantage point.  

Same accident — four different reports.

If life really is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it, then it means that our reactions to situations, people, and things are all based on our personal perspectives — whichever corner of the intersection we happen to be on at the time.  

There are times when we find ourselves in situations or relationships that are stressful, hurtful, frustrating, or simply boring — and yet we cannot change them (at least at the time).  My first advice to clients is to find a different approach with which to see the issue at hand, because it can make a world of difference.

Six Ways To See Your Life With New Eyes 

  • Organize something.  I don’t care if it’s your closet, your office, or the drawers in your kitchen.  Clearing out the old and revitalizing the new in a different way has a significant effect on how we see our capabilities.  One successful organization project can lead to many more, as you build increasing evidence of your ability to really transform something.
  • Change your lenses.  If you know you look at your life through gray-colored lenses, then make an effort to list the people, situations, and things for which you are grateful each day, for at least 2 weeks.  There’s no doubt that this will change your general attitude for the better.  The grass grows where it’s watered, so if you’re paying more attention to positive things, those things will automatically pop out for you more frequently.
  • Get a new look.  Physical makeovers do more than just make you look better.  It also gives you a shift in confidence and the way you carry yourself.  Take on a new hair color and/or style, buy clothes you wouldn’t normally wear, get a spray tan, or go big and get some plastic surgery! The point is, you and others will respond to the new look differently and as a result, your life will naturally feel newer.
  • Revitalize your marriage (or other long-term relationship).  When we get older or have been through new experiences, sometimes the old way of being with each other doesn’t work as well.  Talk to each other about what new needs or wants have developed and be open to responding to each other differently.  I know old habits are hard to break, but try to incorporate new activities or daily regimes that fit better and breathe more passion and energy into your relationship.
  • Embrace physical fitness.  If you haven’t already done so, start taking better care of your body — whether it means joining a gym, playing tennis, taking walks or runs, doing yoga, or changing to a healthier diet.  Choose something that you enjoy and can stay committed to, then reap the benefits of your body’s new energy.  Improving our physical health can easily help us see our lives from a new perspective.
  • Make a new home.  If you’re able, packing up and moving your belongings into a brand new place, possibly even in a new area, can be very therapeutic.  If you can’t move, then redecorating can be also be very cathartic.  I’ve seen couples grow closer because they’ve partnered together to make home projects happen.  I’ve also known individuals who’ve moved into a new area, after a divorce or other loss, which helped them make new friends and have new places to go in order to give their world another perspective.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, in Eat, Pray, Love, that her favorite Italian word was attraversiamo, which meant “let’s cross over.”  It’s symbolic in many ways, but here I’d like to use it to symbolize the effort we often need to make to look at the same situation from a new angle, gaining new perspective on that which we cannot change. 

So if one car accident can reap four different reports, don’t limit your life to only one interpretation — cross the street.