Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


Let Go Or Be Dragged

One of the greatest things I learned while reading about Buddhism was the concept of detaching from expectations that things be different.  It sounds simple enough, but it’s one of the hardest things we have to learn in our lifetime.  It means that we have to let go of our need to be right, or our desire for something to happen (or not happen) — just giving up CONTROL over certain aspects of our lives.
Definitely not easy.  
A client of mine once told me that when she struggles with her control issues, she has a mantra that goes “Let go or be dragged.” I loved that!

“The Untethered Soul,” by Michael Singer, is a book I highly recommend because it explains the concept of detachment with beautiful analogies (which I love).  He says each of us actually just plays the role of the Observer in our lives, much like watching a movie.  If we get too wrapped up in the movie, we get “dragged” in by the consequences – heartache, disappointment, anger, struggle – rather than remembering that we are just sitting in the chair in the theater, watching and learning from the people who come in and out of our lives, the countless events that occur on our paths, and all the other experiences that we’re subjected to in our lifetime.
A good friend of mine in college used to always say “That’s interesting,” whenever she was acknowledging something significant but didn’t want to judge it.  For example, she’d say things like, “Wow, that’s interesting that he would have said that to you” or “OK, this is an interesting twist to our plans.”  That simple change in phrasing puts you in the role of the Observer.  Think of it like playing chess with God, or the Universe, and that it’s made a move you weren’t expecting.  You can choose to look at it as a challenge, or something spiteful that’s happened.  If you choose the latter, you’ve attached something to that move and are holding onto it, and so it’ll burn and fester.
Let it go….or be dragged.
If you think about it, we can blame some of this on our culture.  We humans can quickly become VERY attached to news, people, experiences, and opinions.  One of the latest topics has been the Trayvon Martin verdict — people became firmly attached to what they wanted to see happen, then many reacted by voicing emotions and opinions in the myriad of social media outlets.  Just look at what’s trending around the world, and you’ll see what bandwagon people have jumped on and what they’ve become attached to!
But most of the issues that clients come into counseling for are due, in large part, to the fact that they are attached to a certain belief or behavior that no longer is working for them.  These engrained beliefs and knee-jerk responses were developed for very good reasons and may have worked beautifully in the past, but now….with different circumstances….not so much.  
So it may be time to let go of a pattern we’re used to engaging in, like:

  • shutting people out when they piss us off
  • keeping quiet about something, pretending there’s no elephant in the room
  • making excuses and getting defensive
  • getting angry when things don’t go exactly our way the first time
  • having strict expectations of our children, spouse, friends, etc.

The first step in this Letting Go process is not to recognize where you HAVE control, so much as where you DON’T.  What does the Serenity Prayer say?  “Give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  It’s that “strength to accept the things I cannot change” part that gets many of us hung up.  In a world where we want things NOW, and messages everywhere order us to “Take charge of your life!” there seems to be a lot of pressure for us to set a goal, get very attached to it, then do whatever it takes to GRAB it!

The problem is, it leaves NO room for random things to happen, for bigger plans to be in store for us, or for opportunities for us to do and see things differently.  For those of you who are spiritually minded, it simply leaves no room for God (or whomever you choose to believe in) to work in your life. (Not to mention — it doesn’t leave any room for a therapist to help you make CHANGES!  Ahem!)
The second step is to consider the fact that there’s a reason behind the struggle you’re facing.  Your marriage may be faltering because there’s a different way you need to be loving and communicating with each other.  Your teenager may be rebelling against college because they’re meant to go another path toward their greatness.  The job you interviewed so well for didn’t come through because it would have brought you into a toxic environment.  You just don’t know!  But if you refuse to let go (or at least loosen your grip) of your specific goals and expectations, you’re limiting yourself (at best) and allowing yourself to get dragged (at worst).

Nobody says you have to stay the same way for the rest of your life.  
Let go
Give way
We are supposed to be evolving entities.  Remember, if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting, and that may be nowhere.  Learn to step right, instead of left, in your dance of life.  The more flexible and detached you are, the less chance you’ll be hurt, disappointed, angry, or feel disillusioned, and the better your chances are that you’ll stay calm, take things in stride, and be able to connect with a broader array of people and circumstances.
Look at life’s potholes as “interesting,” relax and consider them “challenge moves,” then let go, observe, and make room for something beyond your expectations.

Drawing Your Line in the Sand

“The most important distinction anyone can ever make in their life is between who they are as an individual and their connection with others.”    –Anne Linden

A common issue that has been brought up in my therapy sessions with clients these past few weeks is the concept of building and maintaining appropriate boundaries in one’s life, without sacrificing relationships.  Some clients are getting overwhelmed by care-taking responsibilities, others are resentful for being asked to do things they don’t want to do, and still others feel their significant others’ needs have been outsourced to other individuals or activities, violating their vows of trust and fidelity. 

All of them have this in common – that they feel violated, taken advantage of, or taken for granted.  It’s a feeling of betrayal and hurt that others have not valued and respected certain boundaries.  But my first question to them is…

”Have you made your boundaries loud and clear?”

All too often, guilt and fear keep us from defining where we end and another begins – guilt that we are being selfish and uncaring, and fear that others will be angry and reject our new-found bravery.

Limits promote and preserve our very INTEGRITY.  Cells hold their shape because of their membranes.  Skin holds our body together, distinguishing and protecting us from others and our world.  These barriers determine what can and can’t permeate them.   And so it is with personal relationships.  Our integrity would die if we let toxic people or behaviors past the membranes of our lives.

A strong deterrent from declaring when enough is enough, is the feelings of guilt and shame for wanting a little something for ourselves.  Mothers overextend and exhaust themselves, caring for their children, without taking time to rest or rejuvenate.  Professionals rack up vacation or sick time because they feel guilty about taking time off.  People will tolerate indiscretions by their spouses, because they don’t believe they deserve 100% of their love and devotion.  We will go to various family functions we don’t want to attend, to avoid the negative assumptions that may ensue about us if we don’t. 

For some of my clients, defining their edges, firmly and distinctly, means that they are isolating themselves and that no one will want to connect with them.  They’ve learned somewhere in their lives that to be in relationship means to mergewith another, not stand side-by-side.  In their eyes, being a solid and distinct person with clear boundaries means being ALONE.
Another fear is that others will see the new boundaries as challenges to break through, walls to tear down, or power to extinguish quickly.  Their loved ones have gotten used to their adjustable margins and want to keep them that way.  They will try to snap them back into that role, time and time again.  Though they may say they love them, they are not respecting these clients’ limitations or integrity. 
But here’s the TRUTH…
There’s a beautiful balance you can find between both your integrity and your connection with others.  When you can establish, communicateand then consistently enforce boundaries, the ones who matter will eventually get it and respect you.  The ones who don’t, need to be re-evaluated and possibly extracted from your life.  It makes for a more authentic and healthy connection with others and your world, because you are being HONEST about who you are and what your mind, body and spirit can handle.

You are no longer living by the belief that you deserve any less than that of others. 

Think of how much more meaningful that kind of connection would be, if you could hold your own shape and be completely in charge of which people, feelings, thoughts, values and behaviors you let in.

So….where do you start?

Get out your journals, drawing pads, notebooks, pens, markers, paints….whatever!  Make it as creative a process as you’d like.  Then ask yourself:

What makes me survive?
What makes me THRIVE?
What makes me crumble?
What kills my Spirit?

If this doesn’t come easily for you, having a good therapist can be a helpful addition because there may be certain people, beliefs, values, or emotions you THINK are protecting you, when in fact they need to be challenged and redefined.

For example, you may believe:
…it’s better not to rock the boat      .
…everyone deserves a second (third, fourth…) chance.
…you don’t deserve the good things
…you have to say yes to make certain people happy.
…you have to be perfect, pretty, rich, etc.

Protect your Self as your skin would protect your body.  You can still have strong connections with others, but you have to be loud and clear about what you expect, how much you can do, and where you have to draw the line in the sand.

For further reading on this issue, check out:

14 Rules for Being YOU

Be yourself.  Trying to be anyone else is a waste of the person you are.  Embrace that individual inside you that has ideas, strengths and beauty like no one else.  Be the person you know yourself to be – the best version of you – on your terms.  And above all, be true to YOU – if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.
Starting today…

1.  Get your priorities straight – 20 years from now it won’t really matter what shoes you wore today, how your hair looked, or what brand of jeans you bought.  What will matter is how you loved, what you learned and how you applied this knowledge.

2.  Take full responsibility for your goals – If you really want good things in your life to happen, you have to make them happen yourself.  You can’t sit around and hope that somebody else will help you; you have to make your own future and not think that your destiny is tied to the actions and choices of others.  Read Quitter.

3.  Know your worth – When someone treats you like you’re just one of many options, help them narrow their choice by removing yourself from the equation.  Sometimes you have to try not to care, no matter how much you do.  Because sometimes you can mean almost nothing to someone who means so much to you.  It’s not pride – it’s self-respect.  Don’t expect to see positive changes in your life if you surround yourself with negative people.  Don’t give part-time people a full-time position in your life.  Know your value and what you have to offer, and never settle for anything less than what you deserve.

4.  Choose the right perspective – Perspective is everything.  When faced with long check-out lines, traffic jams, or waiting an hour past your appointment time, you have two choices:  You can get frustrated and enraged, or you can view it as life’s way of giving you a guilt-free breather from rushing, and spend that time daydreaming, conversing, or watching the clouds.  The first choice will raise your blood pressure.  The second choice will raise your consciousness.

5.  Don’t let your old problems punish your dreams – Learn to let go of things you can’t control.  The next time you’re tempted to rant about a situation that you think ended unfairly, remind yourself of this: You’ll never kill off your anger by beating the story to death.  So close your mouth, unclench your fists, and redirect your thoughts.  When left untended, the anger will slowly wither, and you’ll be left to live in peace as you grow toward a better future.

6.  Choose the things that truly matter – Some things just don’t matter much – like the kind of car you drive.  How big of a deal is that in the grand scheme of life?  Not big at all.  But lifting a person’s heart?  Now, that matters!  The whole problem with most people is, they KNOW what matters, but they don’t CHOOSE it.  They get distracted.  They don’t put first things first.  The hardest and smartest way to live is choosing what truly matters, and pursuing it passionately.  Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

7.  Love YOU – Let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as unaccomplished as you’d like to be.  Yes, let someone love you despite all of this; and let that someone be YOU.

8.  Accept your strengths and weaknesses – Be confident being YOU.  We often waste too much time comparing ourselves to others, and wishing to be something we’re not.  Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it is only when we accept everything we are, and aren’t, that we are able to become who we are capable of being.

9.  Stand up for YOU – You were born to be real, not to be perfect.  You’re here to be YOU, not to be what someone else wants you to be.  Stand up for yourself, look them in the eye, and say “Don’t judge me until you know me, don’t underestimate me until you challenge me, and don’t talk about me until you’ve talked to me.”

10.  Learn from others, and move on when you must – You can’t expect to change people.  Either you accept who they are, or you start living your life without them.  And just because something ends, doesn’t mean it never should have been.  You lived, you learned, you grew, and you moved on.  Some people come into your life as blessings; others come into your life as lessons.

11. Be honest in your relationships – Don’t cheat!  If you’re not happy, be honest, and move on if you must.  When you’re truly in love, being faithful isn’t a sacrifice, it’s a joy!

12.  Get comfortable with being uncomfortable – Life as we know it can change in a blink of an eye.  Unlikely friendships can blossom, important careers can be tossed aside and a long lost hope can be rekindled.  It might feel a little uncomfortable at times, but know that life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  So if you’re feeling uncomfortable right now, know that the change taking place in your life is not an ending, but a new beginning.  Read The Power of Full Engagement.

13.  Be who you were born to be – Don’t get to the end of your life and find that you lived only the length of it; live with the width of it as well.  When it comes t living as a passionate, inspired human being, the only challenge greater than learning to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, is learning to walk a lifetime comfortably in your own.  Follow your heart, and take your brain with you.  When you are truly comfortable in your own skin, not everyone will like you, but you won’t care about it one bit.

14.  Never give up on YOU – This is your life; shape it, or someone else will!  Strength shows not only in the ability to hold on, but in the ability to start over when you must.  It is never too late to become what you might have been. Keep learning, adapting, and growing.  You may not be there yet, but you are closer than you were yesterday.

Taken from marcandangel.com

Motivation Education

It’s that time of year again when people are starting to look at the new year and decide what goals they want to achieve.  Last year, my big goal was to start my private practice, New Leaf Counseling, and I’m very proud that I was able to accomplish that one.  The goals for losing 15 lbs, buying a new car, and going on a trip to Chile with Tim did NOT come to fruition — but there’s always next year! 🙂

So what’s the most effective way to accomplish goals?  Numerous books, blogs, and articles have been written about this, but ultimately I think it has something in common with finding one’s Love Language, or teacher’s figuring out what their student’s best learning style is.  I’m not going to tell you there’s one sure-fire way to get goals accomplished.  You have to reflect upon your past successes and determine what the common denominators were in accomplishing them.   

What were you motivated by?  What helped you muscle through, when you didn’t feel like doing the work required?  Were there certain PEOPLE you needed to be around?  Was there a specific STRATEGY you used?  Did you need structure, or were you someone who did better with having a looser agenda?  Take this quiz to get you started thinking:

A.   I definitely need structure and plan of action to accomplish my goals.
B.   I do better if I can “go with the flow” and see what mood and energy level is for the day.

A.   I like to treat myself to something whenever I accomplish mini goals along the way.
B.   I don’t really need rewards along the way – the end result is reward enough.

A.   Being with another person, or group of people, is helpful because it holds me more accountable.
B.   I’d much rather go it alone and not join any groups or have any partners.

A.   I’m someone who needs to write things down, like creating a mealplan or chart to stay focused on what I’m doing.
B.   Writing things down and creating charts seems like too much work to me.

A.   I do best if I have a coach, mentor, or other type of teacher to lead me from Point A to Point B.
B.   I’d rather be self-motivated and learn things by doing my own research.

A.   I tend to get discouraged and lose motivation if I don’t see immediate results.
B.   I’m realistic and patient enough to know I may have to delay gratification and wait for results.

A.   I get easily bored with doing the same routine.  I need variety and creativity to keep me interested.
B.   I do better with the same routine because it means I don’t have to think too much.  I like consistency.

A.   I find myself soaking up other people’s energy – whether it’s positive or negative – like a social chameleon.
B.   I’m like Popeye – “I y’am what I y’am” – and other people’s energy doesn’t really affect me.

A.   Sometimes I wonder if I have Attention Deficit Disorder – “Squirrel!” – because I get so easily distracted.
B.   If I have a goal and am sufficiently motivated, I can ignore minor distractions.

A.   Watching reality shows like “The Biggest Loser” or “American Idol,” or a movie like “Rocky” motivate and inspire me.
B.   Reading biographies or talking to others about their achievements are what motivate and inspire me. 

 If you answered mostly A:  You are someone who needs structure, a support group, creativity, periodic rewards, and visual inspirations to keep you motivated and on course.  You know yourself well enough that distractions and any delay in gratification can contribute to extinguishing your internal “fire,” so you’ll need extra help to stay focused and keep your eye on the ball.  It’s also helpful to have someone else lead you sometimes, so you’re not the only one behind the wheel.
If you answered mostly B:  You find the thought of pre-set plans too limiting and need to just focus on one day at a time.  You feel capable enough to do your own research and motivate yourself, rather than needing a coach or support group to teach or cheer you on.  You’re patient and don’t need to reward yourself or see immediate results very often.  Consistent habits are easier for you than coming up with a variety of strategies.  You tend to be more practically minded, independent, and introverted.

Whether you’re an A or a B, there are a myriad of resources you can use to fit your Inspiration Type.  Here are some WEBSITES that you can customize to fit your needs.  Browse through them to see what might be a good fit for you:

This is a free site where you can create a cool profile (upload ‘before’ pictures or other pictures that inspire you), set your weight and other goals, track your food intake and exercise, and read articles on fitness, motivation, lifestyle choices, and nutrition.  You can even earn points toward rewards.

If you’ve always dreamed of completing a marathon, this site helps you with finding local races, where to run, workouts to improve your stamina and strength, nutrition, and more.

This is a very inspirational site that helps you create a 100-day challenge for any goal(s) you want to achieve.  It’s a great place to become part of a community of like-minded people.  You can post video or written blogs, join online support groups, and post pictures of your progress.  It also encourages daily practices like looking at your Vision Board, meditation, and doing affirmations.

This site helps you with goals you may already have, but also give you ideas for what to put on your life’s bucket list.  You can make your goals public or private, but if you make the public, it’s cool to see how many other people share the same goal(s)!  It links up with Facebook and Pinterest so you can access tons of articles and blogs on a variety of goal topics.

If you’re the kind of person who really needs more motivation, this site gives you an option to put money on the line.  If you don’t achieve it, stickK will send your money to a friend, charity, or an organization you don’t like! (LOL – talk about incentive to make sure you achieve your goal).  The site says that your chances of success when you put actual money on the line increases up to 3 times!

This is a website to search for special interest groups in your area – everything from dancing to education to languages and lifestyles.  And if you can’t find a group in your area, you can start one of your own!  Meetup also has an app for your iPhone or Android that you can download, to keep in touch with members of your group.

If you’re more of a MOVIES person (like I am), here are some that I routinely recommend to my clients that make you think and inspire you to do great things:

Rocky (any of them)                         The Shawshank Redemption
The Horse Whisperer                        The Pursuit of Happyness
The Blind Side                                  The Secret
Good Will Hunting                            Pay it Forward
Shirley Valentine                              Rudy

Goal-setting is an integral part of living a LIMITLESS LIFE.  YOU were given YOUR unique life to see how much you can make of it.  So let’s see: 

How far can you stretch yourself?   
How many amazing experiences can you have in your lifetime?
What gifts are you meant to cultivate and give to the world?
What barriers are you going to be able to overcome?

The possibilities are endless, and knowing HOW you are motivated is the first step toward climbing whatever summits you’d like to reach.  So latch on to whatever motivates you and get ready to s….t….r…e…t…c….h your life!

The Value of Fighting

Verbal “fighting” can actually be useful for a couple, to communicate their thoughts, needs, wants, and feelings.  It can also increase passion in the relationship by going through a heated debate then resolving it with great “make-up sex!”  But the most effective fights have to be packaged in such a way that the focus is more on WHAT you’re saying, rather than HOW you’re saying it.  Too often, the couple is caught up in the drama surrounding the fight, rather than the underlying problem.

Here are a few types of fighting styles that people have come in with that do NOT work.  Can you identify with any of these? 

The Drop & Runner
  • Avoids arguments until they build up into an explosion 
  • Yells about something then storms out of the room  
  • Won’t allow time for any response or reaction from the other person 
  • Tends to be uncomfortable with confrontation and intense emotion
The Snide Sniper  
  • Makes sarcastic remarks about their partner  
  • Gives back-handed compliments (i.e. “Ah, I see you finally made dinner.”)  
  • Tends to be passive-aggressive in other areas of their lives  
  • Can be verbally abusive
The Mousy Manipulator
  • Gives the “silent treatment” when angry and  uses facial expressions (i.e. dirty looks) instead of words  
  • Withholds sex and affection  
  • Uses guilt to get their partner to give in to what they want  
  • Involves others in the problem rather than facing the partner privately
The Lunge-Attacker
  • Says exactly what they feel at the time without any editing  
  • Has a low tolerance for frustration and ambiguity 
  • Mainly concerned about getting their own point across, rather than listening  
  • Unafraid of intense emotions (i.e. can be loud and dramatic)
So how do you fight fairly and constructively
so that it actually ENHANCES
rather than BREAKS DOWNyour relationship?  
Make these key changes and find out!

Timing is Everything
The best scenario for arguments is:
  • After you’ve had enough time to cool down (deep breaths help) 
  • When you have privacy (NOT in front of the kids or others) 
  • Have no distractions (cell phones, TV, and needy kids turned OFF) 
  • When you have enough time to allow both sides to express themselves

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Agree who will go first (flip a coin if you have to) and then take turns explaining what made you so hurt, angry, or frustrated.  Try to keep it to about 10 minutes so you don’t lose the other person’s attention.

  • Tell them how YOU feel and how the situation affected YOU, rather than using your time to attack what THEY did and how THEY responded. 
  •  Try to stay calm, but direct.  Look them in the eye, but soften your face as much as possible so they listen to your words and not get distracted by your body language. 
  •  Say “Next time, I wish you would…” to give them information about how they can respond differently if the situation arises again.
  • Listen not only with open ears but with an open heart.  The key here is to really try to understand their point of view and see the situation based on what you know about that person.  
  • Know their soft spots, or vulnerabilities.  Imagine yourself in their shoes, with their insecurities so you can better understand why they may have had such a strong reaction.
  • Calmly reflect back what you’ve just heard so they know you fully understand what they’ve said.  Repeat this until you get it right.

Seal the Deal YOUR Way
Anyone can shake hands, but if you have a special handshake with a friend, it means there’s a special bond between you.  Same goes for saying “I’m sorry.”  Anyone can say it, but if you have a unique ritual for the way you say (or imply) it, after the air has been cleared, it’ll mean so much more.  Here are some suggestions:
  • Close your eyes, put your hands on each others’ shoulders, and touch foreheads before saying you’re sorry. 
  • Hold a full-body hug for at least 1 minute (that’s a long time!) 
  • Leave a token of some kind, like a polished rock with a word like “Love” or “Heal” on it, or a flower, or a note in a place where they’ll find it. 
  • Use any phrases, pet names, songs, or goofy inside-joke things you guys might have to smile, laugh, and release the tension. 
  • Have make-up sex — thought I’d forgotten about that, huh? 😉
Arguing can bring out opposing energies (yin and yang) that can make our relationships juicier and more meaningful.  We are supposed to be different!  As Wayne Dyer said “If both of you are the same, then one of you is unnecessary!   So expect that you’ll have fights, but enter them consciously, with calm self expression, empathic listening, and a unique way to apologize for any harm that’s been done.  Making these 3 changes will lead to a stronger and deeper connection to each other.

Being Your Own Delicious

I recently hired a business coach to help me become better focused on how to run the best counseling practice  I could.  There’s a lot that goes into it, of course — the logistics of overhead costs, being compliant with policies and procedures from the counseling board, keeping files up to date and organized, and making sure my husband and I know how to do the billing.

But my coach seemed to shoo that aside for more important questions.  “Who are you?” she asked.  “What makes you unique?”  “What do you have to offer that other counselors don’t?”  “How would you brag about yourself?”  

Well…this was somewhat of a shocker.  Here I was, trying to better understand the demographics and needs of the potential clientele in my area, and then adapt to those needs.  I’d forgotten that it was I who had to define the parameters.  It was I who got to say with whom I wanted to work!  

I journaled for about 3 hours, with my iPod shuffling through all my favorite music.  By the time I was finished, I had a crystallized vision of my office, my clients, my services, and my expectations.  It was liberating!

As I was writing, I couldn’t help but think of how many times we do what I fell victim to, when trying to connect with others.  We can sometimes become social chameleons, morphing into what is needed and expected, rather than taking time to fully understand and love what WE have to offer, and then going out into the world to see what kind of marvelous people will “buy” what we have.  

Ask yourself the same questions:  “Who are you?”  “What makes you unique?”  “What do you have to offer that other people don’t?”  “How would you brag about yourself?”  My coach asked me to ask others how they would describe me.  She had me think….really think….about what kind of settings, actions, and people energized me.  

If you’re stuck in some area, then take some time to DREAM.  Dream BIG!  What would be your ideal relationship?  Job?  House?  Life?  And what do you have to bring to the table that is unlike anything else in the potluck?  What would draw people to YOU.  It’s an exercise in knowing and loving and offering up yourself.  If you can’t find anything unique or wonderful about yourself, then ask others their opinion.  And if you want to be a certain kind of unique, but haven’t quite gotten there yet, then set your mind and heart to creating whatever it is that you’d be glad to brag about.

Don’t settle for bringing just a bag of chips to a potluck — people who do that haven’t gone to any trouble to seriously make something fabulous and interesting and delicious.  Yeah, I said it….make yourself delicious!  Then the right kind of people just won’t be able to get enough of you. 🙂

The Discipline of Being Amazing

No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed. No stream or gas drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined. 
 Harry Emerson Fosdick
The Summer Olympics have now come and gone…each athlete boarding their flights to return home after overcoming their own personal obstacles and presenting the fruits of their labor in their various disciplines.  Some received medals, and others suffered the blow of defeat.  But what is admired by all who watch — from their family rooms, on their sectional furniture, probably eating something unhealthy – is the end result of a commitment that a human being has made to begin something difficult and see it through to the end by setting their mindset to a goal they envision so strongly, and want so unconditionally, that they sacrifice “traditional” lives to achieve. 
Discipline means you show up.  Every time.  Even if you don’t feel like it.  It’s finding the override button in your soul to move past what is comfortable and strive for something just slightly out of reach for that day.  And then you do it again the next day, and the next day, and then the day after that – until you hone your skills to a point of brilliance. 
Many of us, myself included, react to the notion of this kind of self-discipline with some sense of fear, pushback, and maybe even some self-deprecating sarcasm:  “Yeah right, I’m going to become a prima ballerina,” “Oh sure, Mom I’ll get into Harvard Law School.”  “Of course I’ll start my own business and make millions!”  Absolutely …I’ll write a novel before I’m 40!”
Still – I was struck by something I read by Andrea Balt, when she wrote about the notion of Creativity.  She first identified what it was not: 
  • “The birthright of a privileged few. 
  • A talent.  Art. (Unless you consider yourself a living work of art, which I strongly suggest you should).
  • A ‘lucky-you’ kind of magic. 
  • Inspiration. (that’s a catalyst and a result of creativity, not creativity itself) 
  • A genie in a bottle.
  •  A limited resource, available only to special people – which, in order to get, we must step over another creative’s dead body. (It’s everybody’s Precious).”
I liked that she reassured her readers that we all have the potential for Creativity – i.e. pulling something beautifully expressive out of ourselves, anything to which we choose to apply our discipline.  We are all capable of becoming self-disciplined and developing something amazing, astounding, other-wordly, and mind-blowing.  It may start in darkness and fearful anticipation, but then anything great does.   Julia Cameron wrote, “Creativity – like human life itself – begins in the darkness.”
It takes Courage.  It also requires a vision of, a belief in, and a curiosity to find your own magnitude.   Do you have that?  I think there are too many people who, either consciously or unconsciously, firmly believe they were not destined for any kind of greatness.  They settle for what they have, what life’s given them, and nothing more.   But not the athletes we saw in the Olympics.  Not the great musicians whom we’ve conducted into the Hall of Fame.  Not the Pulitzer Prize winners of the world.  Not even the seemingly average men or women all around us who have privately set lofty goals for themselves and, through the power of self-discipline and will, have mastered them. 
It’s just too easy to give in to our feelings and thoughts of self-doubt or weakness.  We can let ourselves off the hook and avoid the discomfort of, say, sitting down to write for an hour, or going to the gym to work out, or finding alternative ways of turning away from our addictions and knee-jerk reactions.  It’s easy.  Way too easy.  And that is why it is jaw-dropping, goose-pimpling and eye-welling when we see someone take the harder route, reaching out OVER what’s easy, out of their comfort zones, to stay on a certain course from beginning to end. 
To build your muscles of self-discipline, do this:  Commit to doing something that feeds your soul every day for 10 days.  If you skip a day, go back to the beginning.  When you can do all 10 days, do it for 20 days, then 30.  They say it takes 100 days to develop a habit.  Practice self-discipline by showing up for something meaningful every day – harnessing that inner wild horse, confining that steam, tunneling your internal light and power – to see what mind-blowing things you’re capable of achieving.  It’s not for the “chosen few” as you might think.  Achieving something difficult but rewarding is the birthright of us all. 

Do You Feel Like the Man in Your Relationship?

Right now, I know more women – both friends and clients – who are better educated, have a more stable job, look like cougars, and have more girlfriends and high self-esteem than do their husbands. Why is this?  Women have a (not so) secret desire to have a strong man take charge of more things, be…well…masculine, and sweep them off their feet!  This is why so many of them have fallen in love with alpha male characters like Tony Soprano in The Sopranos; Don Draper in Mad Men; Edward, Bill, Eric, and Damon in the latest vampire shows/movies; and Christian Grey of 50 Shades of Grey, just to name a few.
Here’s the thing. Women seem to be developing more masculine traits in their relationships.  Increasingly, they are becoming the primary breadwinners and “doers,” while maintaining their traditional maternal/feminine roles of taking care of children and homemaking, all while staying attractive and sexy for their men.
Women developed bigger social muscles in the late 60’s and are continuing to climb ladders in the traditionally “Man’s World” with such positions as CEO’s of major corporations (i.e. WalMart, Costco, Ford, and Xerox), and the political ranks of congresswomen, judges, various cabinet members, prime ministers, and even presidents.
We asked for this, right?  We obtained new, traditionally masculine rights and then adapted by becoming super-moms, integrating them with our old duties so that no balls would drop from Life’s juggling act.
Well…I believe certain “balls” have dropped.  This intrusion into male territory has, in many cases, caused an imbalance of feminine and masculine energies in our marriages.
I’m not sure if it’s the chicken or the egg that came first here, but with more men suffering with Depression, being either unemployed or underemployed, not taking care of their health or appearance, and not having as wide of a social network, I wonder if women overcompensated because men’s depression happened first, OR…if women became so good at multitasking both the yin and the yang in their lives, that men no longer felt as useful or needed — thus falling into a learned helpless that has ultimately settled into a subconscious state of self-loathing.
Let’s consider the opposite scenario:
Given the understanding that most women would tell you that their primary feeling of feminine “worth” would be to have a child and/or be nurturing, let’s say medical science found a way for men to have babies.  Let’s pretend that they discovered that they could not only have a baby and be nurturing but, in some cases, could be better at it than certain women.  Let’s also include the fact that there were entire movements and several programs out there to provide attention and support, and expand this ability for men.  
Now….initially, I have no doubt that women would respond with “Hey, go for it – see how YOU like all those sleepless nights, stretch marks, puke on your shirts and sore nipples!  Woohoo – FREEDOM!!!”  But then…I think some women would start to feel less “special.”  Some may feel displaced and threatened.  Men would be managing things so well, now taking both the feminine and masculine energies on successfully, and women would be wondering what their real role or “worth” was in their families.  Would women see this downshift in power as something they were victimized by, or as an opportunity to find other roles and ways to define themselves?
In this dire economy, salt is being rubbed into the wounds of male egos.  Though their wives have been praised and supported as amazing super moms for many years, at least men felt like they had their careers and prestige in which to be amazing.  Now, so many are either unemployed or underemployed, not knowing where to find their sense of Self, so they’ve sort of shifted into Neutral.
According to Dave Dieda, in his book The Way of the Superior Man, when men don’t contribute to the relationship with their masculine energies – like being purposeful, confident, and directed,
“…the two of you will become depolarized by each other’s energy.  She’ll be in the masculine, you’ll be neutral, and there will be nobody in the feminine pole. It becomes chronic, and then the two of you will begin to feel like friends rather than lovers.  The attractive juiciness of polarity will be replaced by two buddies.  If you refuse to offer your masculine gifts [to the relationship], then she’ll have to learn to depend on her own masculine capacity, and trust it more than yours.  Then you will find that she trusts you less and less across the board.”
So how could a couple rebalance the masculine/feminine energies of their relationship?  What part of the responsibility would fall on the women, and what part on the men?  If you look at this like tennis, I think both have the responsibility to engage in the volley.  What I would suggest would be interventions women could initiate that grow progressively more confrontive, if change still doesn’t happen.
Level 1:  Address the imbalance out of concern for the relationship.
Saying something like “I’m worried one of us is going to end up having an affair,” or “I’m worried that we’re headed for divorce” to address your unhappiness in the status quo, may be enough of a wake-up call for your husband to make some changes and contribute more to the marriage.  If they’re being notified that their marriage is in danger, this could be the catalyst needed to address needs that aren’t being met.
Level 2:  Offering support and suggestions. 
  • If the wake-up call works, but your husband doesn’t know howto fix things, the second level of intervention would be to offer suggestions and support.  Like a tennis volley, you’d lob a ball over to his side of the court and see what they’ll pick up and lob back. 
  • If he suffers from low self-esteem, your “serve” could be such things as verbal affirmations, gratitude for the things he does contribute, or suggestions for how to look/feel better about themselves.  
  •  If he is under- or unemployed, offer to help fully assess his skills, interests, and values.  Read What Color Is Your Parachutetogether to get some ideas.  Help him redesign his resume to make it more clear and readable.  Put together a Vision Board, portfolio, or Power Point presentation of all the accomplishments he’s had in the past.  Brainstorm a list of contacts you have (or who might know other people) to get further along in the job search.  Hit whatever balls you can think of over into his court. 
  •  Make room for your spouse.  Resist the temptation to take care of things because it’s “just easier to do it myself.”  It cuts him out of the picture.  Let him take the reins on some things.
  • Give attention to your sex life and ask him to take the lead for a while.  You may have to be specific, but that’s okay.  It’s valuable information for him.  He needs to feel like he can please you, as a man.
 Level 3:  Individual and Couples Counseling
If no balls are being returned to your side of the court, and your spouse is still either clueless or appearing helpless, or if he is critical or has excuses for every ball you serve, then it’s time for some outside intervention.  In most cases, women at this point will feel like their husbands are choosing their own egos or fears over the relationship, which is hurtful.  Men will just feel like this is yet another thing in their lives where they are losers.  A therapist can help assess the situation and may suggest individual therapy as well as the couples’ counseling for you, to get the root of the problems.
Level 4:  Give the ultimatum.
If there still isn’t any change after counseling, and you’re still unhappy in the balance of yin and yang in the marriage, then it’s probably time to give your husband an ultimatum.  Either he takes the marriage seriously or you’re leaving.  You can try a temporary separation at first, then move toward divorce if this, too, doesn’t make a difference.
Yes, women are happy to be in more equal positions and sharing power with men, but not at the expense of their marriages suffering from an imbalance of power and energies.  I believe you owe it to your relationship and to yourselves to better understand the origins of how you got unbalanced, then take action to rectify it.  When you get right down to it, women still need the strength of a man and men still need the nurturing of a woman.  Life’s too short to stay stuck in victim roles and too short to live in miserable relationships.  Reclaim your vital energies and develop a new, more empowered marriage. 🙂

Where Do YOU Belong?

It starts when you’re in about 6th grade, right?  You start to become more keenly aware of just where it is we belong in our environment.  You recognize different groups and cliques — you get accepted by some and rejected by others, and when you do get that rejection, your feelings are deeply hurt and it feels like your world is falling apart.

Where you belong, at school, will change over time — as you adopt new interests, make friends with different people, move to different neighborhoods (I’m thinking of my mom, who had to move more than 14 times during the course of her childhood, because her father was a marine), join various extracurricular activities, etc.
As preteens and adolescence, you tend to take your own family for granted as a place where you ultimately belong; it’s a given.  But it is your Outside Family (or Second Family) who feels more important during this time.  It’s those groups who speak your language, know your experiences, listen to the same music, have the same pressures, and either love or bitch about the same things.  You work hard to stay a part of this and other groups, to maintain your status in them, and continue to belong somewhere.

When you go to college, or try “Life In the Fast Lane” after high school, you try to find your niche all over again.  What major really defines you?  What fraternity or sorority will accept you?  What roommates or other people in your dorm will like you?  I remember finally figuring out where I belonged while I was a junior in college (yes…my 3rd year).  Through a series of wrong turns with other majors, I stumbled upon Psychology classes and as soon as I saw the curriculum, started taking my classes and began interacting with the kind of people who were attending them, I knew I’d found my sisters and brothers.  It was an amazing feeling to have such a strong sense of BELONGING.

If you went via the Life In the Fast Lane route, you may have tried a series of shit-jobs until you finally connected with one you had a knack for — you liked the people, the work was challenging enough (but not too hard) and you had a sense of capability and accomplishment that you were actually proud of — it was a good fit for you.

So then you looked for a mate.  With whom did you belong?  Like trying on a stack of collected clothes in a dressing room, certain guys or girls may look cute on the hanger, but when you actually try them on, they are hideous and/or don’t fit you at all.  We all go through this — one relationship after the other — until you finally find “the one.”  And since you want to belong to that person forever, you agree to commit ourselves to them — so you marry them, and now suddenly you belong not only to them, but their family as well.

You’ll have a feel for whether the place you both choose to live will be one where you belong.  It may be that it’s in the same neighborhood in which you grew up, or it may be one that caters to the stage of life you’re in at the moment (i.e. DINK’s or YUP’s).  Or…one or both of you may be in careers that move you around a lot, uprooting you from place to place, giving you very little time to grow roots and get a sense of belonging there.  In these more “transient” neighborhoods, you can bet there are a lot of superficial get-togethers, to force a sense of community.  
Then, you move into where your children fit in — schools, daycare, playgroups, etc.  You get the picture. All of this being a continuation of building, connecting, and belonging.

Until things start to unravel…
If your marriage starts to become mundane, distant, or unhappy, and you find yourselves in the ugly process of divorce, you move through the very painful process of pulling away, detaching, separating, unglueing, and splitting apart.  THEN where do you belong?  As a human bing, you have an existential NEED to belong somewhere.   an existence.

You might be the kind of person who goes back to their parents — moving back in “until you get on your feet again.”  On one hand it’s pretty humiliating, but on the other, it brings comfort to have people with the same last name, who know you like avocado on your salad, and who will sit and watch “American Idol” with you without judgment.  But it’s their presence that counts most.
For others, they go within and accept their isolation like a sentence they can’t appeal.  Their suffering gives them a “lost” look, and people notice.  Why?  Because when people see that someone isn’t connected to anyone or anything, it’s unsettling.  They have no way of defining that person, so they lack that Lego connector piece to make anything with them.

The fact is, with this existential need to belong, it is stitched into our DNA.  And if we don’t feel like we belong anywhere or with anyone, it causes major psychological damage.  When we get divorced, or we lose someone vital to our lives, or even if we’ve lost a job that closely aligned with our identity, it’s like we’re tumbling in a sea full of waves and we don’t know which end is up.  It’s one of the major reasons we don’t leave relationships (or careers) that are abusive or unsatisfying — it’s because we fear the lonliness and the impending process of hainvg to find a new place to belong.

I believe the key to having that process be less terrorizing, is that you learn to spread your eggs out in many baskets.  You need to belong in LOTS of places — diversify!  Make a list of all the groups in which you belong.  Right now, I belong not only with my husband and children, but with my colleagues at work, my co-workers at my private practice, my fellow yogis at my yoga studio, my siblings in three different states, my parents in two, my regular hairdresser and the employees there, and many other little “groups” with whom I share commonalities.  This is why Facebook has become so popular!!  It helps us “belong” to so many different groups! 
Look at the pie chart of your Life — see what sections you have in it and identify where and with whom you belong.  What really defines you and your purpose here?  If you were a Lego piece, how many connectors would you have and be a part of?  Are you just a 2-dimensional being or a multi-layered one?  You can build UP and you can build OUT — it’s all a matter of how you can contribute to the structures’ functions.  
Listen…you belong to more constructions than you may think…AND, if you keep developing and updating your particular connector piece right, you’ll be part of many, many others across the course of your life.  Think of how the Lego Company has adapted!

The Roadblocks to Your Passion

Hold up your glasses and let’s toast!
The New Leaf Counseling website finally went LIVE this past weekend!!
Cheers and thanks to everyone who assisted with it coming to fruition.  It’s been a rough road, but I’m hopeful that many good things will come to those whom have waited. 🙂
Looking back at that rough road, I reread my first blog topic here, entitled “Getting Started with Anything.”  I had used the success of the planning of my wedding as a springboard to my firmer and more positive beliefs that I could also create/design a unique and thriving private practice as well.  I’d determined that it was going to take plenty of positive beliefs in my abilities and the patience to take things in small steps, so that I didn’t overwhelm myself with various fears.  Yessir, I was ready to take the plunge and to finally make my dream a reality. 
Well 2½ years later, brick by brick, here’s what I’ve accomplished:
·        The practice name and logo are now “defined and designed.”
·        I have professional business cards, as well as coffee mugs and pens with the NLC logo on them. 😉
·        Tim helped me set up my first business account and we have checks that say New Leaf Counseling on them!
·        I’ve now published 15 blogs which have been viewed by over 850 people worldwide.
·        I set up and post regularly on the NLC Facebook pagewhich has received positive reviews and activity from over 260 fans, to date.
·        I have a Twitter account (which I’m still trying to figure out) which helped me to announce various events, like my first Women’s Relationship Group (which has been successful and will be wrapping up at the end of this month), to network with other therapists and like-minded individuals, and to share insightful things I stumble across throughout the week.


 …with success comes sacrifice (and sometimes drama), and there have been several roadblocks along the way – most of which have been out of my control — that have made me angry, frustrated, and confused.  And though they left my head and stomach in knots, I did learn a few things that I will be keeping in mind as this and other major endeavors unfold.  I wanted to share the top 5 realities I’ve learned so far, in regards to “Getting Started with Anything:”
#1        Sh*t happens
The account manager, who had expertise in setting up therapy practices, got sick after some oral surgery and ended up in the hospital with life-threatening side effects that required FIVE surgeries. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she (for whatever reason) never notified the company owner, but instead told her supervisor, whom she’d put in charge of my ongoing project.  And then he didn’t even say anything about it so, as far as the owner knew, the original project manager had jumped ship with company property (laptop, Blackberry phone, files, etc).  This was just cray-cray.  Who does that??
#2        Be ready to be a squeaky wheel
When this supervisor didn’t follow through on several promises made to me regarding timelines and completion dates, he decided to quit the company without notifying me.  This was where I had to become a lion and ROAR!!  Contrary to my true Pisces nature, I wrote a scathing email to the owner of the company and threatened to report them to the Better Business Bureau, review my contract with the company and consult my attorney.  Well…the squeaky wheel got its grease.  He tried to make amends and pick up the pieces by assigning yet another project manager, but I still have to keep on my armor because I’m still not convinced she knows what she’s doing.  Here’s the thing, though…..when you care enough about something you’re working on and you feel taken advantage of by someone you’ve entrusted, you need to go beyond your comfort zone and be willing to be a shrew.  It’s a matter of respect and integrity.
#3        Legalities and logistics are unavoidable
There were a lot of legalities and disclosures that had to be included on the website so that I could safely, legally and ethically provide online therapy from the state of Ohio to people outside of the state.  I hated to have to do this because I was afraid it would deter a lot of clients, but it was necessary.  This part had to be researched and then condensed into 5 forms on the website that clients now have to submit before I can provide services.  It took a lot of attention to detail but, c’est la guerre.
#4        Be able to delay gratification and accept what’s feasible
So get this — in my excitement and anticipation of launching my own practice, I went office space shopping!  I visited four or five reputable office parks and learned a lot about services that are out there these days for self-employed or off-site professionals.  I came home and babbled for an hour to Tim about all the possibilities and how warm and welcoming I could make the office look (I mean, I was seriously envisioning a Keurig coffee maker in the waiting area).  But then he sat me down, looked at me seriously, and said the five words I hate to hear: “I know you’re excited, but….”  The realities were these: the website wasn’t finished; I wasn’t generating any additional income yet; the online therapy would be taking place in my home office anyway; and I really couldn’t squeeze any more hours, outside of my home, for the office clientele that I was anticipating.  Grrrr….so *pop* went that balloon.  I redecorated my current office instead. 😉  
#5        Come prepared to work hard
I know this may sound obvious, but I was completely unprepared for the amount of additional attention I’d be spending on growing this “plant” of a business.  Notwithstanding the actual counseling I’ll be providing, the operations of the practice are brain-cramping:  regularly posting on Facebook and Twitter, writing the monthly blogs, monitoring responses from Facebook ads and the Psychology Today directory, staying current with new topics in mental health and wellness, responding to referrals and potential clients, making sure my project manager is doing what she’s supposed to, and keeping files on everything just to stay organized…it’s crazy!  And all this while working a full-time job and taking care of my kids, marriage, house, and Self!  It’s a wonder so many practices and businesses stay afloat!  Believe me, I have much more respect for those owners now.
The Buddha has said that suffering comes from having attachments to outcomes, and I suppose that’s what happened to me.  I was attached to my lofty ideas, a certain order of events, others’ competencies, and my personal preparedness, among other things.  This has been a huge lesson in letting go and allowing my new leaf to grow the way it’s meant to.  Despite it all, I do remain optimistic and passionate, believing the end will ultimately justify the means.
And this isn’t meant to discourage anyone, of course, because dreams ARE worth chasing!  But it’s similar to telling a new parent about the realities of having a baby – it’s amazing and gratifying, but it’s also a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and stretching of your limits.  Just be prepared for the roadblocks and don’t get attached to too many expectations, and you WILL eventually enjoy the fruits of your passion.