A Raleigh Therapist's Blog

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

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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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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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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Spring Cleaning for your Brain

I am having a very good week.

Several of the clients I am most concerned about are doing much better, I got the thumbs up from my doctor to begin planning for a new pregnancy in the fall, and my house is reasonably clean. There are many weeks when I reach Friday by crawling across the finish line rather than sailing over it. But this is one of those rosy-hued swaths of time when everything seems to be going mostly as it should.

Pretty soon now, my practice will being slowing down for the summer, and I will start to make plans for warm weather trips to the beach up to North Carolina to see my folks. I’m already attempting to drag my friends out for a pre-pregnancy trip to Las Vegas. Last time I was there I took my one-year-old munchkin. Not as much fun as one would imagine. Don’t get me wrong, chasing him through the neon jungle of smoke and leather-skinned lounge lizards from Omaha with one shoe on was fun. But, I think I’ll pass on it for next time.

What are your plans for the spring and summer? Will you be using this time as a detox for something big you’re planning? Have you hit your stride and are planning on keeping it that way? Here are a few tips for making this time of the year a real oasis of awesomeness.

1. Be Friendly: I know you guys must think I come up with the hokiest stuff. But, I have started to really take stock of what my clients say when they tally up their happiness quotient. They have told me that when they get their heads out of their own lives and tune into others (not in a codependent way, mind you) they feel better. They are able to clear the air mentally. They feel less bogged down.

2. Practice what you Preach: I have noticed over the years that the speeches people give best to others are the ones that most reflect their own personal areas of challenge. I know that I am consistently giving people the “slow down and smell the roses” talk from my soapbox. I have perfected it because I know of what I speak, and have come up with some pretty good advice for myself about it. As a journal exercise, write down the advice you seem to give most often or most eloquently to others. Reflect deeply on how that wisdom could be used lovingly in your own life to break some nasty emotional habits that are just waiting to be conquered.

3) Roses have Thorns: I am repeating this particular pearl of wisdom that was passed on to me by one of my most insightful and wonderful clients. She told me once that she has realized that boundaries are a good thing because even the most beautiful roses have thorns just to slow the world down from picking them off willy nilly. She’s right about that. Where do you need more boundaries in your life? Do you need them with work or your family? Do you need to develop boundaries with food to address overeating, anorexia, or bulimia? Maybe you need to make a boundary with worry, and set a few moments aside in which worry will not be allowed to intrude.

Good luck with all the big things you’re planning for the upcoming season. I’d love to hear what they are!

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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In praise of Thanksgiving

I am the only person I know who has had swine flu.

I knew it was out there, marauding and claming victims left and right, but one tends to have a sort of personal mythology about one’s own immune system. Nonetheless, I found myself grimly slumped over in the doctor’s office not long after my son’s first birthday with a horrific Q-tip on a filament stuck deep into my left nostril to get a sample of snot. I squirmed, and  yes, cried a little, as a too-happy medical cowboy of a Texan doctor proceeded to blithely ask me questions about my weight, height, and family history of high blood pressure. With a chortle, Tex unceremoniously yanked said instrument of hell out, sent it to the lab, and declared me at one with the oinks.

To make a long story short, two months-worth of antibiotics and steroids later, I ended up in the hospital with what the admitting ER physician believed to be a mini stroke or TIA. Fortunately, the cardiologists who later examined me decided that my “TIA” was really a terrifying reaction to the long courses of powerful medications. But, that didn’t happen until after I had spent 24 long hours believing that I was going to have, as the ER doc coined it, “the big one” that might cut short my life as a wife, mother, sister, friend, daughter and therapist. It was the most deeply terrifying, horrific night of my life. There are no further words I can add to editorialize the bleak possibility that you might never see your son graduate from preschool, much less highschool.

The point of my sharing this bit of personal trivia with you is to bring up a discussion about gratitude. It seems almost cinematically appropriate that all this should happen in the few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. In fact, I wonder sometimes about the cosmic timing of stuff like this, and I am assuming that there is not only a reason for it, but something to be gained by the experince. Existential pontificating aside, I am darn lucky to be here. And, I am very grateful to be alive.

Studies (yep, scientific ones) have demonstrated that those who practice daily gratitude, even in the form of keeping a simple journal of stuff that you are thankful for, are healthier. Think about that. I’ll wait. Not just happier, but healthier. Think about that some more.

So, poor schmuckos like you and I can not only give ourselves a case of the smiles by practicing gratitude, we can spend fewer nights with the good people over at ORMC. I, for one think that is a big deal. Clients often tell me that I have a “glass half-full sort of mentality.” And, they’re not wrong about that. I deeply believe that the individuals who do best are those who decide to focus on what is working in their lives and do more of that. That is not to say that it is not helpful or appropriate to do some life archaeology to see how we got off track. But, ultimately, it is the things that we have, do, and notice that are empowering that will get our behinds out of the sling and in a forward-thinking place.

So, as you devor the last of those turkey drumsticks, hoist high a big cheer of thanks. Better yet, not it down for yourself in your blog, notebook, journal, or fancy cellphone. Your health will thank you for it.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

holly@lotustherapycenter.com

www.lotustherapycenter.com

If  you would like a FREE 30-Minute Consultation to determine if I might be a good fit for your needs, please call (407) 913-4988 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com.

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Anger Management For Adolescents

Is your child rude, difficult to talk to, or sad? We all recognize the most noticeable face of anger; those behavioral problems that manifest as blowups. But, anger can translate not only as an overtly aggressive child, but also as one who withdraws and refuses to communicate. If you feel like there is more going on with your kid than meets the eye, you may be right to be concerned.

Though kids may not appreciate parents’ interference in their affairs, it’s better to confront these cries for help before they escalate. As always, the litmus test for making any decision in your child’s welfare is evaluating if that child will appreciate you for it when he or she is an adult. No teenager will thank you for limiting his or her freedoms now, because that is counter to their developmental level. But no 25-year-old I have ever met inside my therapy room or out has been thankful to parents for allowing them to experience things (drugs, sex, autonomy) they later realize they were not ready to handle. So, with that in mind, here are a few tips for helping your angry teen.

1) Limit the number of violent things they watch/listen to/play: Experts estimate that the average teen has seen thousands of violent deaths depicted in tv, movies, and video games by the time he or she turns 18. We would be foolish to think that this does not desensitize our children to glamorized shows of anger. Think carefully not just about what you are allowing your teen to absorb through his or her media choices, but also about what they can be exposed to when they are at their friends’ houses as well. Keep tabs on who they hang out with, where, and talk to them about how to make good choices when they are not with you.

2) Be a good role model: Kids will do as you do, not as you say. If you routinely lose your temper, become angry and aggressive in traffic, yell at or hit your partner/spouse (or allow him or her to do this to you), and are rude and dismissive towards service people, your child will always model that behavior. They learn how to manage conflict and mediate stressful emotions from you. Consider yourself the architect of the blueprint for how your kids will treat their future employees, spouses, and children. If you need to get help to manage your own levels of stress and acting out, tell your kids that you are doing so, and then really do it. Parents are not to blame for all of their children’s problems. Certainly, some kids come into the world with tendencies that will be expressed in their behaviors. But, parents often have more influence over their children then they realize. Use it wisely.

3) Help your kids feel empowered: Resolving anger isn’t just about decreasing negative behaviors. It’s about increasing self-esteem so that kids feel positive about themselves and have more options in lieu of the bad behaviors. If your child is being bullied at school, be proactive about making it stop. If your child is the bully at school, help him or her get into counseling immediately. Some kids have a more difficult time fitting in at school than others. If your child is one of those kids, help him or her find another outlet like art, dance, sports, or youth groups at your place of worship.

4) Help your kids unplug and be part of the family: In the old days, when kids left school, all further communication with their friends had to go through the family phone. Now, teens are connecting around the clock via private cell phones with texting and social networking sites. The high drama of being a teen with any sort of social life needs to be mediated by the unconditional love and positive regard of being part of a family. Though they don’t know it, kids benefit from time to decompress from constant social interaction with their peers. If you’re not the one talking to your kid about his or her day, putting it all into perspective, and giving advice, someone else (much younger and less wise) will be doing it.

If you have any questions about how you can help your kid get off to a good start this school year and keep the momentum going, please feel free to drop me an email or give me a ring.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation to see if I might be a good fit for your counseling needs, please call me at 407.913.4988 or email holly@nova.edu.

www.lotustherapycenter.com

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Are you having an Online Affair?

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about a website that helps married people find other married people with whom to start affairs. Since the good people at wordpress are kind enough to provide me with stats about what folks are looking for when they stumble across my site, I have discovered that most of the people coming through this blog lately are reading that particular article and searching for the term ‘online affair.’

It makes sense that this is one of the most-searched terms on people’s finger tips these days. As the world at our door grows larger and larger via the connections we can make online, humans will continue to do what we’re good at–explore new things. However for some, exploring this new frontier has proved to be anything but harmless fun. Rather, it has allowed them to put themselves into positions that both they and their partners may view as the new gray area of relationship ethics. So how will you know if you’re starting to sail some dangerous waters? Here are a few warning signs:

1) Don’t ask don’t tell: Are parts or all of your online relationship a secret? The best litmus test for knowing if your interactions with an online “friend” are starting to stray into an emotional affair is to ask yourself if you would be afraid or ashamed for your partner to read anything you have exchanged between the two of you. Yes, I know, your online amiga or amigo may be a much better listener, or more sympathetic, or funnier than your real-life spouse. But, that person also doesn’t see you in your dirty underwear or listen to you snore at night. It’s easy to build up intimacy in cyber space. Even if you have known or know your pen pal in real life, that is very different than 24-hour contact. The very fact that you are starting to share personal details of your life is a warning sign. You are building intimacy with every click of your mouse. Emotional infidelity can pave the way towards physical infidelity by creating the illusion that you are meant to be together because you understand one another so well. This is particularly true if you are sharing derogatory information about your partner and recieving support in your frustration with him or her.

2) Take a look at me now: Are you sharing pictures of yourself with your online friend or getting pictures of him or her? It doesn’t matter if these photos are sexual in nature, or a shot of you in front of great grandma’s house. This indicates that it has become important to you or to your friend to “know” one another in an increasingly personal way. Trading pictures is often the first step to initiating other forms of offline contact.

3) Thinking it over: Are you spending increasing amounts of time thinking about when you can next get online to write to, chat with, or web cam your friend? As the thoughts become more intrusive, they not only interfere with your ‘real’ life, but they further enforce the distance that is growing between you and your current partner. As you allow that distance to grow, and focus all your emotional energy into your online relationship, you are creating more of the problems in your primary relationship you may be seeking to escape by engaging with someone else.

There are many reasons why both men and women seek emotional or physical intimacy outside of their primary relationships. If you believe that your actions are starting to put your relationship at risk, or if you think your spouse might be seeking connection outside of your relationship, there is help. Individual and/or couples therapy can help you sort out what to do next, and how to move forward, whatever that means to you, in a healthy way. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them here, and I’ll do my best to briefly respond so that the folks who are stumbling across this blog can get some additional, tailored help.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION please feel free to contact me at 407.913.4988 or holly@lotustherapycenter.com

www.lotustherapycenter.com

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