A Raleigh Therapist's Blog

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

Therapy, Anxiety and Striking While the Iron is Hot

hot iron“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” – William B. Sprague

Insight is a funny thing y’all. Be careful that it isn’t all you long for in life. Because, when you substitute the constant search for meaning for a more balanced sense of both action and understanding, you are more stymied than if you had never learned anything about yourself at all. Truth.

As therapists, we probably shouldn’t tell you guys this kind of stuff. Honestly, it isn’t great for our bottom lines. I love a good frolic through your emotional landscape as much as you do. Isn’t it intellectually and spiritually delicious when you can put your finger on an attitude or assumption, connect the dots, and realize how you came to think/feel/behave that way? Yes, it is freakin’ fantastic in short. But, it’s also only half the equation. And, if I let you stay there rather than pushing you to change things up a bit, I feel like I will only be doing about half of my job. Now, given that perspective, I’m not the therapist for everyone.  I’m alright with that–it’s part of the reason I offer a free consultation–so we can see how it will go without you incurring a fee.

I am pretty transparent about the parts of my life that have created who I am as a therapist. One of those important factors is a pretty strong dose of anxiety. I am a highly sensitive introvert. It’s one of the things that makes me a fantastic therapist. But, the other side of my exquisite sensitivity is a tendency to vibrate with stress if I don’t keep a good hold on my health. I have a pretty nuanced understanding of where all this comes from (and that’s another interesting blog for another day) but understanding doesn’t do all that much in the practical experience of it. So, I had to actually DO something to change my life and health for the better. In fact, I have to do it every day. I practice transcendental meditation and it helps me feel balanced, loving and grounded. It’s seriously good stuff. My mind was just too active to do much with other forms of meditation, but this one clicked for me. If you’re curious, you can find out about it here: http://www.tm.org/. (Just as an aside, you get a discount on the TM training if a health care provider refers you. So, you can say I did. Consider yourself referred.)

What can you do to start making tracks on your concerns?

1. First smallest thing: What is the first, smallest, behavioral thing that you can do differently? We’re not looking for big changes yet. As you guys know, I think if you make those too quickly, sometimes they won’t stick. So, to use couples concerns as an example, if the first thing you can do differently in the service of being a better partner is open the mail every day start there. Don’t trumpet it. Don’t make yourself a nuisance by seeking approval for your change. Mostly this is about you knowing you can do something differently. So, decide for yourself that this small kindness is where you will start. It will teach both you and your spouse that things are always changing, and that even two old dogs like you can learn new tricks.

2. Deal with your guilt/shame bugaboo: There are some things in our lives that we feel terrible about precisely because we know they could be different by now. We give ourselves so much grief about these things that we are too intimidated to change them. (Weight, panic attacks and poor anger management skills are a few of the ones people bully themselves about most). Remember number 1 up there? Yep, it’s small changes that save the day and more importantly set the tone for bigger new choices. When people feel ashamed that they have not reached an obvious goal they try too hard to change things all at once. Then, they fail and feel terrible about failing. It becomes a mean-spirited circle, doesn’t it? Don’t be afraid of examining the ways you bully yourself. Then, give yourself permission to let the shame go as you decide to start your smallest thing.

3. Take an Inventory: How are you doing at marrying the behavioral changes mentioned in #1 with the emotional/insight-oriented changes we discussed in #2? Are you starting to feel like your values and your actions are more congruent? I love that word–congruent. My clients are always using it themselves by the time we are through because it is such a lovely way to denote that what goes on inside you and what you put out into the world are in alignment. When your behaviors and your insights are congruent you feel grounded and alive.

Do you need help getting any of these steps going? I would be delighted to talk about it with you. Why don’t you come in for your free 30-minute consultation so that we can get started now?

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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Premarital Counseling: Building a Toolbox for Success

Premarital counseling is still one of those things folks don’t talk about very much. I mean, if it ain’t broke, why fix it, right? But your marriage could be so much better and more rewarding if you anticipate the places in which marriages often get broken a few years after they start. Premarital counseling helps you build a toolbox full of helpful remedies for the common problems couples face.

Committed partnerships are a ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ kind of endeavor. Often, you’re far afield of your original dreams and intentions before you even know how that happened. What kinds of things should you be examining before you tie the knot? Here’s my list:

1) Finances: I have found this an interesting difference between working in NC and practicing in Florida. Lots of couples here have separate bank accounts. I don’t inherently have a problem with this, but I am interested in how couples decide to either merge or create boundaries around their monies. If you want a really good, sane and easy way to get started talking about this topic, I recommend The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. My husband and I used to take turns reading this book out loud to one another on trips to the grocery store or gym. It took us awhile to get through it, but reading it together at the same pace allowed us to stop, make observations and even argue about things we weren’t sure how to implement in our household.

2) Careers: This can encompass all kinds of things. Will one of you support the other while he or she goes back to school? If so, what are your opinions about accruing student loan debt? Are you willing to move for your partner’s job if that is necessary or desirable? If you have children, will one of you stay home with the kids? If one of you wants to start a business, how will you save for that and plan for it?

3) Children: Do you want any? How many? A guaranteed barrier to happiness is believing that you can bring your partner around to your ideas about having or not having kids. You should always go into the marriage as if your partner will stick to his or her guns about this topic. If one or both of you already has children, what role will the new spouse play in those children’s lives in terms of discipline and decision-making?

4) Living Situation: Where will you live? Are you comfortable moving to another city or state? How long will you wait before you buy a home? If one or both you owns homes already, what will you do with them?

5) Sex: What is alright and what is taboo? Is pornography an OK adjunct to your sex life or do you believe it is  exploitative or wrong? What assumptions do you have about how your sexual bond will change and/or deepen after you get married?

6) Conflict Resolution: All of us have problem-solving techniques we have picked up along the way from our families of origin and other relationships. What are your preferred means for working out troubles? Do you like to talk it out or take a break? When is a conversation heated as opposed to aggressive?

7) Technology: What roles will Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networking sites play in your social lives? With whom can your new spouse connect? What are the boundaries around cell phones, emails and texting with others outside of the marriage? How will you decide in which instances to put your phones away (dinner, before bed, etc.)?

Those are just a few of the many topics we cover in premarital counseling sessions. With what concerns do you need to reach a collaborative understanding on as you move forward? I would love to have you in to 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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Making your Relationship Work: The Fine Art of Losing the Battle to Win the War

There are lots of things I teach couples in my therapy room. Some of them aren’t even about counseling. Ask the couple who endured my rousing rendition of  “Toma” by Pitbull whilst telling them a story about the importance of stress relief and date nights. Talk about helping couples find a way to talk about difficult relationship topics. Sometimes, I mostly just herd them back towards constructive conversation with the threat of awkward rapping and terrible dancing. Score.

But if you were there with us in that session, the other topic you would have heard us discussing is how to lose fights in your marriage. Yes–you heard me–how to lose a fight. I know it would be more PC of me to couch this whole thing in terms like “de-escalation of aggression” and “a collaborative vision of problem solving.” But, sometimes you just have to call the thing what it is. And, what it feels like to back down from your opinion when you don’t want to do so is losing the argument. But, stay with me here. There is wisdom in losing the battle to win the war.

We live in a society that values a high degree of individuation.  The idea is to discover who you are, and then to advocate for yourself vigorously. And, I like that, I really do. But I also know that the things out there that want to pull our committed partnerships apart are many and they are powerful. I don’t need to list them here, you probably could name 20 for me. So, we have to learn to knit back together what the world tears away. And, part of the way we do that is by ceding ground when it won’t be emotionally or spiritually impoverishing for us to do so. Here are a few examples:

1. What are you nit-picking about that you could decide to let go because the universe won’t implode if it isn’t done that way?

2. What could you do for your partner that would irritate you, but lighten his or her load?

3. What can you laugh about that before you would have taken too seriously?

I have said before, and I will say again, that couples come to me in order to figure out how to offer one another extravagant kindness. That is at the root of healing from anything you face together–addictions, affairs, anger management issues, loss of affection and intimacy…etc., etc., etc. Believe me, kindness is more challenging and complex than any other reaction you could possibly have. That’s why most of us (a certain rapping therapist included) are too emotionally lazy to take that route a good portion of the time. That’s where the work always, always is.

Are you ready to start fortifying your union against the onslaughts of the world? Would you like to hone your relationship skills to a sharper point? Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it? I would love to have you.

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:

Twitter: HollyCoxLMFT

Pinterest:DrHollyCox

Facebook: Lotus Therapy Center

Google +: Lotus Therapy Center

 

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