A Raleigh Therapist's Blog

Thoughts on counseling, healing, and creating the life you want

On Getting Older, Changing Your State and the Merits of a Personal Theme Song

I’m not quite 4o yet, but I sure am breathing heavily down 40’s neck, warming up her collar and whispering the tidings of my imminent arrival. I’ve done all the requisite machinations of a woman teetering off the edge of her youth and into a robust, and hopefully juicy middle age. I have fewer you know whats to give about how people judge me and what they may think. I’m doing all the things. You know, cutting my hair, learning to roller skate and thinking about getting a tattoo. Then, upon deciding that I am too afraid of needles to approach the tattoo with a 10-foot pole, I have bought myself a tiny, fierce new car. I’ve never been one for an ostentatious ride. I feel conspicuous in it. But, I think it’s everyone’s duty at some point in life to (literally and metaphorically) put down the windows, pump up your jam and roll out like you mean it.

Hopefully, unless we have had to cope with misfortune or trauma, our early years are a hothouse of blooming creativity and extravagant imagination. More often, youth is the place where we collect the experiential odds and ends we need to be really interesting humans further down the line. Forging an existence that has purpose  is a constant, iterative process of intentional engineering. If youth offers anything extraordinarily delicious, it’s a lack of expectation as one is becoming to know who you’re supposed to be. We’re allowed to make it up as we go, giddy with discovery and sensitive to meaningful newness. What I liked most about my twenties was trying on hats–journalist, therapist, swing dancer, poet. I stamped my own individuality all over my life. And, if I have learned anything about happy people in general, particularly the older ones, it’s that they continue to remain awake to the option to create themselves over and over again. Their dreams don’t stop taking up the really good real estate in their own lives. I’m talking psychological beachfront condos, baby!

To that end, I have decided that I need a theme song. You know–an intro and an outro. A slick beat that heralds my desire to be intentional, and kind of bad ass as well. I need something that will effect an immediate state change in me whenever and wherever I desire it–no matter if I’m hearing it through my stereo or in my head. Here’s an example of the hilarious Peter MacNicol gearing himself up to face a difficult situation via his musical spirit animal, Barry White.

This isn’t, of course, anything new. Anyone who loves Tony Robbins or any of the NLP folks will recognize the idea that when you’re stressed or stumped, purposely changing your state by physical movement, affirmations or meditation is a quick, easy way to ritualize a return to the productive zone. That’s the place we call flow, where we can create and thrive. I teach my clients lots of tricks to do this state change stuff, so they can manage it in meetings, traffic or even while they’re doing leisure activities. When you come in, we can try some of the intellectual widgets that have worked for other people and you can also develop a few idiosyncratic ones of your own. History is full of folks who used their own experiences, culled from years of living as themselves, to combat undesirable mental and emotional roadblocks. The incomparable Leonard Cohen, for instance, chants, “Pauper sum ego, nihil habeo” before performing. That’s Latin for, “I am poor, I have nothing.” This incantation is intended to “reduce the weight” he and his fellow musicians feel before heading onto stage. To someone else, that wouldn’t be a useful approach. But, it works for Leonard. It’s essential to figure out how you best do you, and then to do that. Not for nothing, Keith Richards just eats a shepherd’s pie. Because, you know, Keith Richards.

If we can help you notice the state changes you experience in times of stress, anger, hopelessness, anxiety or overwhelm, we are more than a few steps down the road to mindfully creating a blueprint for your own happiness and contentment. If you’re able to be very present in moments that ordinarily would have “just happened” to you, what interesting changes could you invite? There is a process of creativity to assembling a tool box. And I am here to tell you that it is fun, interesting work.

What will you be doing in the next few weeks to improve your chances of conjuring up a life at your highest vibration? Me? I’ll be listening to my new theme song…and feeling good.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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A Word About Loving Your Parents Well and a Freebie

luck dragon“If you stop to think about it, you’ll have to admit that all the stories in the world consist essentially of twenty-six letters. The letters are always the same, only the arrangement varies. From letters words are formed, from words sentences, from sentences chapters, and from chapters stories.” –Michael Ende

That’s a luck dragon over to the left, by the way. He’ll be helpful later in this post for getting you a free session. Read on, fearless reader!

All of my posts here on A Raleigh Therapist’s blog are directly related to topics I’m covering in sessions with clients. Sometimes, it seems like lots of folks come in with the exact same concern all at once. I’m not sure if that’s a phase of the moon thing, or perhaps this is simply the time of the year for it. But, lately the topic du jour has been this–how in the world do I get along with my parents as an adult child?

Despite all the colorful things I told my folks back when I was an angry Goth girl covered in black clothes and magenta hair, I think they did a pretty good job at shepherding me towards adulthood. And, to tell you the truth, my angry Goth days were sort of essential in shaping me into the person that I am now. That’s maybe a blog post for another day related to a comforting speech I often give parents of my teenage/young adult clients that goes something like, “I also wore black nail polish, had dark taste in music and nurtured a penchant for Sylvia Plath. Here I sit before you in boring, tasteful pumps with a Ph.D.–it’ll probably be fine.”

But, in all honesty, it’s not as simple as that sometimes, is it? Often your differences with your parents continue on long after the turbulence of those early years has settled.  The waters are not always smooth sailing when trying to negotiate an adult identity with the people who will almost always look at you (fondly even) as though you were three.

The relationship with our parents, for most of us, is the first  and most complex bond we’ll ever know until we have children ourselves. It’s rich in both love and conflict, and in so many ways is the template on which we base our adult relationships. So, what happens if the relationship with your parents is one in which you need to set loving boundaries?

1) You’re a Mean One, Mr./Ms. Grinch: You have a right, and even more importantly, a responsibility to behave in a fashion that is congruent with your own morals. When you allow people you love, your parents included, to push you to do things outside of those values (for instance, getting into screaming matches, sidestepping your spouse, or going into debt to offer financial assistance) you are not behaving in a loving way. The worst thing about capitulating to demands that aren’t in alignment with your sense of integrity is that it breeds a particularly vicious kind of resentment on your part. Then, it is impossible to behave in a manner that honors your parents, let alone allows you to enjoy that relationship. Let your parents know what your boundaries are and stick to them in a way that isn’t punitive.

2) Guilty as Charged: The main reason that most folks don’t want to have boundaries with their folks is because they don’t want to feel guilty. And, I think this is pretty freakin’ normal. Your parents may have sacrificed for you. Perhaps they had a difficult upbringing and have done their best to make sure you were raised differently. Denying some requests does not mean you don’t honor your parents’ contributions or that you stop making commentary on your gratitude for them. Rather, it means that the requests you extend yourself to offer you do with a joyful heart. Boundaries don’t mean you’re angry with anyone. If your family of origin translates boundaries as anger, you may need some help to sort out what to say.

3)Boundaries aren’t Walls: Sometimes it’s hard to imagine setting boundaries because we are concerned that the people with whom we set them will think we don’t love them any longer. It may be hard to believe this, but you can love more deeply and intensely when you know where you stand. Then, you don’t have to be angry at yourself and by extension, other people because you allowed yourself to be pushed into places you never wanted to go.

Could you use some help in figuring out how to set loving boundaries? Do you need a better sense of space in your relationships? I’m here to help. I’ll even give you a gimmie. If you’d like to win a free session with me, answer this question about one of my own very first acts of parenting:

My youngest son is named after one of the two lead characters in my favorite book by writer Michael Ende. I loved the idea of an underdog who could save the world with his big imagination. The luck dragon above is a hint. If you’re the first person to email me the name of that character I’ll offer you a free, hour-long session.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for compassionate individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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Imposter Syndrome, Anxiety and You

I used to work in community mental health. That is to say, I spent long hours attempting to help folks with poor resources, intractable mental illness and life circumstances that would knock most of us down for the count. Though I loved being on the front lines in that way (and think absolutely every therapist should do it before entering private practice) I often felt ground down by the hopelessness my clients articulated. Even if I viewed them as capable, vibrant individuals with lots to give the world, many of them didn’t view themselves that way. I found it maddening. How could I convince them that they were worthy and intelligent?

This was a problem I thought I would not be facing any longer when I moved exclusively to private practice. I mean, my clientele now consisted of NASA scientists, my elected officials, lawyers and professional performers and athletes just to name a few. If we gathered all these folks in one place, they truly represent the creme de la creme of their disciplines.  Yet, the story in my therapy room was much the same. No matter what professional heights they had reached, they were terrified that at any moment, the world would pull back the curtain and see that they were not all that great after all. It wasn’t that they were awesome, they told me. Nope, it was that they had tricked everyone into simply thinking that they were. Pretty soon, they reasoned, we would all figure out that underneath the degrees, muscles or charisma there was an empty shell where the intelligence and virtuosity should be. And boy, would the rest of us all be ticked that we had fallen for it. (Well, that or we would be smugly satisfied and get a good laugh out of it.)

Therapists call this particular phenomenon Imposter Syndrome. Though it’s not an officially recognized disorder (and personally, I don’t view it as a disorder–just an unhelpful way of thinking) it is a growing trend as far as I can tell. It used to be mostly thought of as something to which high-achieving women, minorities and folks in academia fell prey. But, more recent studies have demonstrated that it is increasingly wide-spread. Imposter Syndrome is associated with personality traits of perfectionism, thus making it pretty ironic that the folks most of us would evaluate as most capable are the ones who suffer intensely.

So, what can you do about it?

1) Be Present: I’m not saying this in a new-agey kind of way. Like, really, take stock of this moment and what is actually going on right now. When we have anxiety, worry is the activity we engage in to bind it up and do something with it. But, if we think about it, the whole point of worry (even when it’s warranted) is to project what could happen and attempt to avoid the bad outcomes. That sounds logical until you realize that you are a super-duper creative individual when it comes to worry. We all are. We can come up millions of things that could happen. And, when we do that, we are off in theory land. We can’t process the now, which is usually a far nicer place than our projections if we’re constantly somewhere else.  Even if it isn’t much nicer, it’s all we can control at this moment.

2) Mind your mental coin purse: I’ve mentioned in other blogs that thoughts are like taxis in NYC. Another one will come along any second if you don’t jump in this one. Be selective about which rides you’re willing to take. You’re paying for it if you take it both metaphorically and literally. You are offering mental/emotional/spiritual resources to that thought if you entertain it. Also, if you are constantly entertaining very negative, panic-provoking thoughts you are paying for it physically as well. Be a good steward of your resources.

3) Help Others: In all honestly, I remember more about how great of a therapist I am when I mentor other therapists than when I am with clients. If you have a skill set that you can share, you can hone it further by articulating it to your colleagues or those just coming up in your field. If you have to explain it rather than just doing it, the details become clearer.

Are you worried that the world will soon figure out your charade? Do you need help reminding yourself that you deserve the fruits of your labor? Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it?

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for compassionate individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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Failure is Feedback

“One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.” —Henry Ford

I have to admit something to you. I almost didn’t write a blog on this topic. Here’s the reason why: if you took me seriously on this idea in any area of your life it would put me right out of business. Finally, a tid bit that can be applied to anything you can imagine, because in its simplicity, it is revolutionary.

Over the years I have worked with a number of highly-accomplished clients. These folks are professional athletes, politicians, business owners and entertainers. You would recognize their names if I told them to you, but since I’m an ethical and law-abiding kind of therapist I won’t do that. Seeing as how I won’t spill those goods, I’ll just give you the important part. Would you like to know the difference between these folks and the rest of us mere mortals?  They believe that failure is feedback. 

Many individuals have a faulty interior logic that tells them that if they don’t succeed the first few times, they probably aren’t meant to do that thing. Worse, they may believe that these initial missteps before greatness are evidence that something is amiss in their intelligence or creativity. High-achieving individuals brainstorm about how their failures give them evidence of the way forward. What new twist or turn has been added to the map that you couldn’t see before? What has become clear?

Therapy is helpful because with help, you can quit catastrophizing and break your goals down into small enough pieces that they become possible. What prep work do you need to do in order to make these successes happen? The worst move you can make is to do too much too soon because you are ashamed that what you envision hasn’t already materialized. Let’s discover why failure has happened in the past and use that as a template to make the microadjustments that will get you on the path to achieving all that you are capable of doing.

Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it? I would be delighted to co-architect a plan for an exciting new year.

Your Partner in Healing,

Are you looking for compassionate individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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Why I Love Working with College Students

I don’t know if anyone has ever told you guys this, but getting a Ph.D. takes forever. I honestly thought that I would be strolling across that stage flanked by my grandkids, leaning on my walker before I ever finished the darn thing. It wasn’t too bad, because I’m one of those weirdos that loved graduate school. My undergraduate studies, however, were a different story.

I am always excited to see college students in my practice because I keenly remember what it was like to be one. Though I hit my stride in graduate school, I found the rush and confusion of my undergraduate program to be challenging. During my Master’s and Doctoral degrees, I studied psychotherapy or something related to it all day, every day. Life made sense. But, during those first four years, running from Underwater Basket Weaving to Spanish to Women’s Lit all in one day fried my brain. Fortunately, I learned to survive and thrive, managing both my classes and extracurricular activities. Despite the many obstacles to my success (like Algebra and my love for dying my hair purple) I still graduated from my undergraduate program as Editor-in-Chief of my university’s student newspaper. Who knows, if this therapy gig gets old, I might get a press pass and head back into the journalistic fray.

If you or your student is anything like I was back then, and could use some guidance in finding the track to success, a few sessions with me could be just the ticket. Counseling can help students get perspective on many of the common issues facing college students of any age. Here are just a few of the concerns I can help you or your student address:

  • Fears about exams and class performance
  • Difficulty fitting in and making friends
  • Worries about communicating effectively with instructors
  • Troubles with roommates and other peers
  • Finding activities that suit your personality
  • Choosing internships and talking with potential supervisors
  • Changing relationships with parents and old friends
  • Social Anxiety
  • Dating and sexual concerns

As this semester draws to a close, why don’t you come on in so that we can figure out how to make next term the best one yet? I promise there won’t be an exam, and I’ll teach you what I remember of Underwater Basket Weaving.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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The Importance of Sacred Spaces Plus an Invitation

I love putting together a new office. There is a wonderful sense of newness and urgency about it. It just feels like every great thing that is going to happen in that space will manifest all at once if I can hurry up and get the curtains hung. The new Lotus Therapy Center feels warm and cozy. I’m setting it up so that both you and I can express our awesomeness in there appropriately.

I think everyone should have somewhere–your car, a corner of your closet, a yoga mat and candle out on the fire escape–somewhere, that you can access a few moments of quiet and inspiration. For me, that place is usually my office. There are numerous reasons for this that include but are not limited to: 1) There are no legos to step on anywhere 2) I don’t have to put my coffee at a level somewhere above my head for fear that I will later be drinking after my mountain-climbing pug 3) I decorated it myself and all my best books are there.

Sacred spaces are important for recharging your batteries and equipping yourself to handle new challenges that come your way. You wouldn’t expect your car to continue to run if you don’t put gas in it. But, so many folks navigate the rigors of modern life by pushing through on fumes. Here are a few tips for creating sacred spaces in your life:

1) Wherever you go, there you are: Back in the day when I did in-home and in-school counseling, I carried around a very strongly-scented peppermint aromatherapy lotion from Origins. (It’s called Peace of Mind if you’re interested.) I did this for several reasons. First, studies show that athletes who smell peppermint feel better, perform more strongly and are more cheerful about the entire endeavor. Did you know you could get that kind of boost in a smell? Secondly, it gave a olfactory clue that our therapy sessions, no matter where they were that day, were sacred spaces. So, really all you need is a cue, a quiet place (seriously, your car will do) and a few minutes to set your intention on whatever will help you most.

2) R-E-S-P-E-C-T: I hope you just sang that in your head like I did. If you respect your responsibilities and want to do your best, you have to respect the instrument that will get all that stuff accomplished first–you. You are your own first and last resource for health and better performance. Can you make a corner of your office (you don’t have to tell anybody) a sacred space? My office has a plant my husband gave me many years ago, a special rock I got from a seminar I found inspiring, and a small statue of Kwan Yin. It doesn’t look like anything but a collection of mementos. But to me, it reminds me that if I want to practice compassion towards others, I have to do it for myself.

3) Come Together Right Now: There are those of us who make it our business to create sacred spaces to share. Folks who lead mediation groups, worship leaders of all religions, yoga teachers, massage therapists and a host of others are available to enter into those collaborative spaces with you. I would love to take this opportunity to invite you into mine.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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Taking a Chance on Change

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better  by change.” –Jim Rohn

If I had any one mantra for living life in a satisfying manner, this would be it. Go ahead and read it again because it’s important stuff. When you’re ready to throw up your hands and let life happen to you, that’s probably the time you need this particular quote tattooed on the back of your eyelids. As a matter of fact, I needed to reread ol’ Jim myself this morning. I am in the middle of choosing a new office here in Raleigh, and it’s not going well. Seriously, I have been ready to just abandon the whole process and start the Triangle’s first mobile therapy service. I’m thinking I’ll just get an old ice cream truck and ride around offering 15-minute mini-sessions downtown. Maybe I’ll actually hand out cones too. In other words, sometimes, even I would rather just think silly, discouraged thoughts and pine away for something to magically materialize.

Sugar-coated counseling sessions aside, I love this saying by business coach and author, Jim Rohn, because it is a call to action. And action, my friends, is what gets us out of muddles we have now and into the future we want most. Any client that I see, from folks presenting with OCD to those coming to alleviate poor relationship patterns, are asked this important question: “What would be the first, smallest change that would let you know your goal is starting to happen?” And then we start about instituting that tiniest change right away. I love rooting around in the past and looking at patterns and memories that will, when understood, help shine the light of understanding on a murky problem. But, I believe that contemplation has to be paired with the empowering sensation of forward motion. Otherwise, the reflection can begin to seem like all there is. And no matter what you are facing, wherever you are now is never all there is.

Here are a few tips to get you on the road to change:

1) Identify that first smallest step and recognize that there is never a step that is too small: I once treated an woman who struggled with a fear of leaving her home. She was so paralyzed by her terror that she could not go grocery shopping, attend appointments in person, or visit friends and family. Though we talked quite a bit about how this fear crept up on her, we paired it with action. She decided that her first, smallest step would be to open the front door and then close it again. That was all, and that was enough. Eventually, through adding many other smallest steps onto that first one, she was able to drive herself around again and resume a life she recognized as joyful and fulfilling. No first step is ever too small.

2) Put me in coach, I’m ready to play: I happen to think that I’m a pretty great coach and therapist even when I don’t offer frozen treats. But, I’m no match for your interior motivator. Find a quote that matches your situation and counteracts the internal voice that tells you that nothing can be different. Now, write it down on a card and cut it out. Now, put it in your pants pocket. Read it to yourself every time you go to the bathroom. There you go–it’s scheduled for a time when you’re already fumbling around with your pants and have some quiet time alone. Voila!

3) Get a room you two: Schedule some time to meet with a therapist or coach who can help you articulate clear goals that are in alignment with the future that you want. When most people do this alone they choose initial goals that are too big out of a sense of shame that the goal hasn’t already been accomplished. With someone to help you break it down into intelligent parts, you can get some wins under your belt that will guide you to that larger goal.

Why don’t you come on in so that we can get you on the way to your goals?

Your Partner in Healing,

Dr. Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in the Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to see how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com.

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Thoughts on Beck and the Apocalypse

Ths is an interesting time in my life. I am between practices so to speak, seeing a few clients from my Florida practice over Skype and waiting for the fine state of NC to pick over my credentials with its fine tooth comb. In order to get my NC license I have filled out a parade of forms that require I beset my closet colleagues with requests to also fill out a parade of forms on my behalf. I have had my licensure test scores resent, I have tracked down my old supervisor (in Georgia by the way–hi Steve) to fill out still more forms, and I have sent money. I suppose I thought that NC would take FL’s word for it that I was sufficiently educated and experienced to be a licensed clinician here, too. That, apparently, is not the case.

So while I’m waiting for my NC license to be delivered from the powers that be (and the powers that be are a board of people who don’t even meet again until mid-November!!!) I have been listening to music and thinking about death. No, I’m serious. I have seriously been compulsively playing  Beck songs, cleaning this goliath of a house, and wondering if the end is nigh.

When my clients come in with anxiety issues, I more than sort of get that because I have always been a little high-strung myself. But, despite that, I am a cup-half-full kind of gal. And, I have mostly figured that God likes me where I am for the moment and isn’t sending a divine lightening bolt anytime soon. I mean, why would he/she/it allow me to have two beautiful children, complete more college than anyone should endure, and move back to the home of my youth only to casually, and suddenly smite me? That was what I was thinking when I went to the ER a few months ago with pain in my gut that hurt more than labor did. As I sat there shaking and vomiting (classy, I know, but I want you to get the full picture) in the exam room, I assumed I had some kind of roided-out flu bug. But, the doctor comes back and tells me that I have a “mass” in my gallbladder and he thinks it’s probably cancer because of its unusual size. Yeah, he really said that. I remember blinking my eyes open and shut, open and shut like a cartoon character caught on the cusp of a big fall. I was hanging out there above the landscape below, gasping for air like terrified fish. Then, he sent me back for an abdominal scan where I attempted to lay very still in that horrible, loud tube. It was a week before I could get in to see a surgeon who examined my scans and told me that the ER doctor was an alarmist jerk and I only had gallstones that had fused together to form one mass.. I collapsed in his arms sobbing gooey, snotty tears into his crisp white coat. Yeah, he thought that was gross too, but I appreciated the take-one-for-the-medical-team pat on the back he gave me anyway.

So, to make a long story short, my surgeon snatched out my gallbladder, gave me some fun meds, and that was the end of the whole thing. Well, at least it was the end of it physically. Emotionally, and spiritually, that experience of believing I had a rare and deadly form of cancer has lingered on with me still. Never before have I better understood clients who whisper that they have a black cloud hanging over their heads…or feel similarly suspended–paralyzed as though something terrible is about to happen. I must admit, I have wondered (ok, ruminated about) what other silent secrets my body is harboring. My primary care doctor is a lovely man who not only went to Princeton, but also tells me to call him John instead of doctor something or other, and sympathetically hands you a tissue when you freak out about said hidden health boogie men in your routine yearly exam. And, he’s right– the best I can do is take good care of my health and stress levels and keep on keepin’ on.

So, you might be wondering why you’re reading a random personal blog amid the sea of professional advice usually found on this blog. I’m not really sure why, actually. Perhaps it’s because my usual blog posts are born out of an experience I’ve had in session that week with a client, and in the absence of regular practice-related experiences you get this instead. Or, perhaps, it’s because I am suddenly thinking over the clients and friends who have faced real, awful health issues and I am suddenly humbled with empathy. Either way, I hope that all of you out there are taking good, good care of yourselves.

You Partner in Healing,

Dr. Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

holly@lotustherapycenter.com

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The importance of Editing

Right now, as we speak, I am supposed to be hard at work finishing a writing project I started about 5 years ago. I’m not sure what all I have been doing lo these many moons, but it sure as heck hasn’t been carefully toiling over this long-hated research mess. So, I started thinking about what it means to us to finish what we start, and if sometimes it’s ok to simply decide to edit some things out of our lives entirely.

I don’t believe a stress-free life is possible, or even desirable. But, if we manage to lessen the things we “must” do down to the things that we have to do in order to be responsible, moral, and happy then we probably have a toehold on a pretty good life. Where are you overcommited?

1) Create more open spaces in your life: I don’t mean that in the literal sense. Though, if any of you wants to come and clean off the clutter of my toddler’s two-year-old birthday party (that was three days ago) I will be eternally grateful. What I mean is that Americans are waaaaaaay, waaaaaaay, too scheduled. We schedule ourselves into the ground at work, our religious centers, and with friends. But worst of all, we overschedule our children so much that there are whole families of sad, emotionally-winded people. Not to be a killjoy, but I am watching my fellow mommy friends put their toddlers into sports, music, art, and a host of other “lessons” and “learning opportunities.” Poppycock! I would rather sit with Gabe and dig in the dirt for three hours then listen to someone else tell me how to stimulate him to the ends of the earth. In my years of practice I have noticed that the children of all ages that are happiest are the ones who spend time with their folks. Period. They have, perhaps, a few activities to beef up the ol’ college resume, but that’s it. Take that time you were going to spend ferrying Jr. to freestyle football dance class and each of you read your own book on the couch, no cell phones. Now, that’s happiness. And literacy…but that’s probably another blog post.

2. Practice Gratitude: I believe that one of the single, best tools you can create for yourself is a gratitude journal. Take a few moments at some point during the day (I do it through an ap on my Iphone) to write down what’s going well and to thank God, the universe, or whatever floats your boat for the lovely things. I know this is a post about editing down your life, and I believe that this is a great way to do it. There are a few people (who shall remain nameless in case they read this blog) who really manage to push my buttons every time I see them. Seriously, even the therapist needs to go out back and have a quiet moment of resisting homicide sometimes. But, after that’s taken care of, I deliberately turn my focus instead to the myriad of people who are blessings to me. If I don’t do that, I for one, can ruminate. Unless it really is time for you to face a particular person or issue and make a big change–and by all means, don’t let me stop you–learn to pay attention to things that will water your emotional garden rather than grow weeds in it.

3) Have some Boundaries: Those people who know me might sometimes accuse me of being a raging liberal. On some points, I am. But I also think we live in an age of odd moral relativism. I know I’ll take some fire for that, but I don’t care. There are some things that you should do as a human being because they’re the right things to do. These include spending time with your children, keeping your commitment to your spouse or partner, and treating absolutely everyone else in your life the way you would want to be treated. If you’re lying, cheating, being a bully, and in general living in a selfish way you know who you are. Excuses like rotten parents, ugly breakups, and the whole host of other ills people use to justify mean-spirited selfishness just make the justifiers feel worse. If you’re haunted by something go ahead and get some help. Take care of it and choose not to perpetuate the emotional devestation that injured you. And, if you’re mollycoddling people like this you’re not helping them–you’re allowing them to remain emotionally handicapped and that is not kindness, it’s  facilitating a delay of their healing.

So, that’s it for me tonight. Happy editing to us both!

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

holly@lotustherapycenter.com

If you would like a free, 30-minute consultation to learn more about how counseling can be helpful to you, please don’t hesitate to call me at 407.913.4988 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com.

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Women and the Happiness Gap

Today I read an interesting story in the NY Times about the growing happiness gap between men and women. There have been a bunch of these out lately, piggybacking on a volume of research that suggests that men and women are not equally happy. In fact, women are decidedly more glum, exhausted and frazzled than our male counterparts. According to the newest stuff out, this gap is already apparent as early as high school. Thus, it is not simply a matter of more housework or childcare duties than our husbands or partners. Though, later on, those sorts of issues do play a big part.

 I am interested in this because I am in the business of helping people be happy. And, we live in times in which people are under relentless pressure to be happy, with little room to actually revel in a sense of well-being once we actually stumble upon it. Because, being happy is often called complacency. And, who wants to appear unmotivated? Women, it appears are unhappy not just because they are juggling more kinds of responsibilities than our grandmothers, but because we’re supposed to look so darn good while doing it. College girls report that they are miserable because while they are busy gettings A’s on their physics exams and dominating the field at Lacrosse, they are supposed to be doing it with 10 layers of MAC makeup and a size 2 rear end. I worry deeply about the young women in my office overwhelmed by pressure to be good enough on so many levels, mostly because the “good enough” bar for women has moved so much and in so many directions the past few decades.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and out of step with your goals, counseling may be of great help to you. Come join me for a women’s group dedicated to improving self-esteem and relationship skills. Call or email me for more details.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

www.lotustherapycenter.com

twitter ID: HollyCoxLMFT

If you would like a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION to see how I can help you have your best year yet, please call me at 407.913.4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com

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