A Raleigh Therapist's Blog

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

Changing the Storyline

elliott_smith_5049_jpg_640x500_q85“People you’ve been before that you don’t want around anymore…they’ll push and they’ll shove and won’t bend to your will…” –Elliott Smith, “Between the Bars” (That’s the late Elliott Smith over to our left. If you’d like to listen to this really lovely song in its entirety, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPD-a1FjUtU)

I write a lot about the stories we live inside and how they define us. What I really mean to say is that if we could only wake up, just for a moment and see them as malleable, we would begin to re-author some of the worst narratives. We would stop defining ourselves in so narrow a fashion and begin to fill in the chronicles of whatever small successes are only unwritten hopes hanging around the corners of our heads.

Sometimes, when I’m driving home at night after a day of doing therapy, I listen to that song by Elliott Smith and marvel at how completely we cling to some of the people we’ve been before, no matter how unsatisfying those existences are. Even if they are disempowering, we’ve lived inside these emotional skins so long, it’s terrifying to think of shedding them. Are you worried that some of the past versions of you–the one who abused drugs, the one who cheated on your spouse, the one who was too shy to make friends…Are you worried that you can’t ever get out of that story completely? In what way do those shadowy doppelgangers hold you hostage?

One of the things that I can’t do as a therapist is offer you fairy dust that will make transitions feel natural and entirely safe. I’m not sure, but I think it might be an artifact of our current society to believe that all things that don’t feel easy are thereby treacherous waters. No, my friend. It isn’t true. You’ve already done what felt natural and it didn’t work. You have already taken the route that made the most sense, and it didn’t lead you home. So, now it’s time to make changes that might feel uncomfortable or bizarre in exchange for a story that casts you as heroic, successful and curious. I believe in you.

If you haven’t been a communicative partner in the past, you can let that old version of yourself go and learn new skills.

If you haven’t taken care of your health, you can rewrite the script as many times as you need to until you are fiercely protective of your body.

If you haven’t stopped using, you can build real relationships despite what alcohol or drugs whisper in your ear.

And, I could go on and on and on because a failure to launch into the next best version of yourself is a normal, human struggle. But, you don’t have to struggle alone.

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:

Twitter: HollyCoxLMFT

Pinterest:DrHollyCox

Facebook: Lotus Therapy Center

Google +: Holly Cox

No Comments »

Finding My Internal Compass and an Invitation for You to Find Yours

Nobody can break your heart like your kids.

Last week, when I was tucking my oldest son into bed, he looked at me with those giant, liquid eyes of his and said, “Mama, you know what my favorite part of the day is? It’s when you come in at night and kiss me when you think I’m asleep, because I don’t get to see you that much anymore.” Heart. On. Floor. After a not-so-glamorous Boo-Hoo session in my bathroom, I collected myself, got ready for work, and headed back out into the night for my evening sessions. But, something changed for me in that moment with Gabe and I am still sorting out what it all means.

Things have gone really well in my practice here in NC. In fact, they have gone so exceptionally well that I often have session requests from more clients than I can see, and I’ve gotten into the habit of breaking my own rules about when I’ll be in my office and when I’ll be at home. Do you do this too? I don’t know why you guys get out of work-life balance, but I have been sucked into my job lately because I’m one of those rare, blessed individuals who loves what she does. And, I have gotten so many interesting cases that I have found it difficult to turn away a person or couple who would offer me work that I find rewarding. I even have a larger caseload of pro bono clients than I typically do at any one time. (My therapist friends should go check out giveanhour.org if you’re interested in some of those same opportunities.) Usually, when clients needlessly apologize to me in a late session I can say with absolute truth, “I only schedule appointments when I want to be here.” But lately I have felt a little tired, so I know I need to recalibrate. That’s not to mention the fact that my 5-year-old sweetheart reminded me of what my first, best priority should always be.

compassMy professional life is devoted to helping people save their relationships and change their lives. I can say with joy and honesty that I am very, very good at what I do. I have transferred my big-time nerd tendencies into a life-long pursuit of the best, most profound methods to effect change between partners and inside your own interior dark spots. I would like to do that for you too–especially because we’ll make it happen in the confines of my new, kid-friendly office hours.

In which parts of your life do you need to remember where your values are? How will you begin to pay attention to the internal compass that tells you if you’re on track? Why don’t you come on in so we can talk about it? I’ll be waiting for you with a cup of coffee.

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:

Twitter: HollyCoxLMFT

Pinterest:DrHollyCox

Facebook: Lotus Therapy Center

Google +: Holly Cox

No Comments »

Dating Advice From a Marriage Therapist–How to Avoid my Couch

I don’t post a whole lot here about dating. Mostly, that’s because I think there are plenty of respectable places to find information about that, and about half a million more crazy ones deserving of a collective side eye from all of us. I’m doing it now to offer you the perspective of a marriage therapist who spends a great deal of time working with couples much later in the life cycle of a relationship. I want you to only need me for a tune up now and again, not for major surgery. dating

I do a lot of couples work. Like, seriously, it’s most of my day. And sometimes, I wish I could tell someone in a newly-formed partnership to run, not walk the other way. It’s one thing for long-term partners to have some pretty deep divides. It’s quite another for couples who have been together for a year or less to already be facing down major differences. That’s not to say that it can’t work out for the two of you. Of course it could. But, there are some matches that are better than others. Before you settle down for good, I encourage you to look deeply not only at how much you love one another, but also at the potential for happiness this relationship contains. Sometimes those are just two different issues, as much as we would like to be otherwise.

Here, for your reading pleasure, are a few of the common troubles I see folks encountering:

1) Don’t be a White Knight/White Dame: I had to Google what the female equivalent of knight is. Am I the only one who didn’t know that?  Anyway, I understand that many of us are strongly attracted to folks in whom we see a heroic struggle to be functional/employed/happy (insert your own word here). There’s nothing wrong with being a shoulder for a person who is going through a tough time. But, people will do what you teach them to do in relationships. Some folks, some of the time, are perpetual projects. If you give without taking, they are going to mostly take without giving. That’s not because they’re bad folks. It’s because you have set that up as the template for the relationship. Why should they expect you to flip the script on them? They will resent you for taking the relationship out of the familiar when you demand more and then you’ll respond by falling back into knight/dame mode. If you find yourself doing this you need to get yourself some perspective, stat! You’re not crazy yet, but you will be after years of an unsatisfying rescue mission that never ends. Figure out why you only feel worthy when you’re doing something for others and likely feel selfish when you try to take up real estate in your relationships.

2) Values Matter: I can’t emphasize this enough. I’m not talking about stuff like political leanings or which sports team you like. In the long haul, it matters if you and your partner have completely different points of view about key issues. This doesn’t mean you need to be in sync about every topic. However, it is something that should be discussed at peaceful moments so that a way forward can be intentional and collaborative.

3) But, They All Love Him/Her: You know, I think it’s great if your family and friends like your partner. I mean, they know you better than anyone else does in theory, so shouldn’t they be in a position to help you choose Mr. or Ms. Right? Though I am somewhat troubled when folks tell me that all of their loved ones hate their beloved, I am sometimes more perturbed by the ones who state the approval of near and dear as the only reason for staying in a relationship. Years ago my sister dated a wonderful guy. All of her friends and family (me included) lobbied hard for her to make him a permanent member at our Thanksgiving table. Thank heavens she had the guts to end that relationship because she knew that there wasn’t enough between them to make it work. Your family and friends may want what’s best for you, but they don’t have to live inside those relationships. Committing to someone you have very mixed feelings about is a quick ticket to meeting me in a couples counseling session.

Are you wondering if you’re on the right track in your relationship? Would you like to discuss about how you can be sure? I think it’s time you come on in so that we can begin to work on it.

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:

Twitter: HollyCoxLMFT

Pinterest:DrHollyCox

Facebook: Lotus Therapy Center

Google +: Holly Cox

 

No Comments »

Marriage Therapy in the Middle–Why the Third Session is Weird

Have you guys ever heard of Mangrove trees? I was trying to make a Mangrove reference in session today, and realized that it was one of those metaphors that made total and complete sense to my Floridian clients and was comprehensible at a level of zero to my NC folks. I got about halfway through it and thought to myself, ” Yeah, I need a new metaphor.” But, since I haven’t thought of one yet, I’m going to put my mangrove madness out here for y’all to see anyway. Today, I want to offer you some insight into why the hardest marriage therapy sessions are not those explosive first few, but rather the quiet, more meditative middle meetings.

Something rather lovely happens for many clients somewhere between session 3 and 5–they won’t really be sure what to talk about in counseling any longer. For the most part, we go hard in those first handful of sessions. They will be tiring and you will leave with homework. I know lots of therapists do a big formal assessment thing in the first meeting. I think that’s actually not a half bad idea, so I will do some historical fact-finding too. But, I will begin working right away to monkey with the way the story is told. I’ll ask you to change right now, before your partner deserves it and I’ll ask the same of him or her. We’ll hit the ground running because in my humble opinion, that’s what you’re paying me to do. Clients tell me that I am “proactive.” (You know, or pushy. Either one.)

The lack of direction does not come from everything being solved in short order. Rather, it is a sudden release of all the white noise that has been drowning out each partner’s point of view. As clients begin to manage their own defensive styles and collaborate with intention, the communication issues that overlay the really big stuff begin to dissolve. This can be such a relief that partners don’t want to mess with it by bringing up some of the more vulnerable, tough concerns. Yet, they know that there are still unresolved issues there.6548737-mangrove-trees-in-baySo, inside my head–which to be fair might be a kind of terrifying place–I refer to these middle sessions as the Mangrove sessions.

Take a good look at this handsome specimen to the left. Mangrove trees are unique because they can live in salt water environments and have these huge, cool root systems. You can imagine that at high tide, a person kayaking by might get trapped in all the roots that aren’t above the water. These sessions are like that. Better communication skills buoy up the relationship, but underneath there is still a tangle of hurt and unresolved desires. Clients are terrified of getting stuck.

But, don’t panic. You’re okay, really. Getting started is the big leap of faith, not confronting the submerged issues. By that time, you’ve already committed to a different, more gentle kind of caretaking for one another. Couples who begin to resolve the white noise of fighting about fighting are making deposits every day in their partners’ hearts. You’re buying yourself some kindness and latitude because you have been giving it. You can approach all those things in the dreaded third session and beyond without upsetting the apple cart. I have faith in the process and I have faith in you.

Are you ready to get started?

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:

Twitter: HollyCoxLMFT

Pinterest:DrHollyCox

Facebook: Lotus Therapy Center

Google +: Holly Cox

 

No Comments »

%d bloggers like this: