Communication: Post III

It is important communicate directly, clearly, and honestly. Sarcasm, manipulation, and passive aggressive behavior have no place in a truly healthy relationship. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t criticize your partner. If they say or do something that bothers or hurts you, express your feelings about it. For example: “When you raise your voice at me I get scared.” “When I am speaking to you I sometimes feel you aren’t listening.”

These were just a few tips that could go a long way toward improving your relationship.

Are All Counselors, Coaches, or Therapists The Same

Not all professionals working in the area of “mental health” or “coaching” have the same level of expertise or the ability to connect with you. To be honest, I have worked with clients who had previous experiences with other professionals with approaches that were ineffective and offered poor advice. Some of the suggestions and advice was damaging. I have been astonished and disturbed many times with some of the stories clients have told me.

Some professionals use insight oriented approaches and can take years to see any positive results. Other professionals offer little or no help in finding a client’s solutions. They do little more than listen (I am sure many of you have experience with this approach). Others give advice and tell the client what they should be doing and how they should live. (I think we all have friends and relatives who do that quite well.) These are some of what to consider when deciding what road to take. There are hundreds of books, publications, and websites offering self-help and pop-psychology. It all gets quite confusing.

What I believe to be most important is finding someone you can really talk with and share yourself with who really gets who you are. Someone you feel safe with and someone who engages with you in a conversation rather than talking at you or just listens. I believe the best approach is to have a dialog with the goal being finding solutions that work for you. I do not believe that all professionals are equal and can offer the same level of help. Finding someone who fits you is really what is most important.

Communication: The importance of Honesty

When we first meet someone most of us tend to be pretty open about whom we are, our likes and dislikes, as well as our sexual preferences. After all, we have nothing to lose and can easily move on to another potential partner. I have observed over the years that couples tend to become less open and honest about their feelings, thoughts, or desires because of potential conflict or being judged by their partner. Over time they have more and more of an investment in the relationship and more and more to lose.

They eventually get into a pattern of being whom or what they think their partner wants them to be and hide who they really are. They are not intentionally deceiving their partner. They are, “not wanting to hurt them” or “avoiding a potential fight” or “they won’t understand.” They take the path of less resistance. In fact, this attitude and belief places barriers to communication and intimacy. This is very destructive to the relationship and lays a foundation of false security and can be very manipulative (even if that is not the intention). Ultimately it is disrespectful of the partner and the relationship.

It can be very difficult to maintain vulnerability with a partner and risk being judged by someone who’s opinion of us is extremely valuable to us. But, in order for relationships to continue to grow and be healthy both partners need to take the more difficult path and stay open and honest even if we are certain our partner will react in a less than positive manner. Without the facts, you and your partner will be unable to explore differences and resolve conflicts. You just pretend.

When couples come for counseling, all the things that were unsaid, all the anger and resentment that grew over time shocks, surprises, hurts, and angers the partners. They find out all the things they never knew. It is far easier to deal with these issues as the surface than having them all dumped at one time.

My advice to couples is to stay honest and open and vulnerable. If your partner is to have a relationship with and love you, then make sure it is you they see and not some version of you that you are trying to project. Who you are is good enough whether your partner agrees with you or not.

Improve Your Relationship

The biggest problem couples seem to have lies in communication. Being able to engage in open, honest, and effective communication is central to maintaining a healthy and rewarding relationship. Mis-communication increases conflict and stress and can ruin relationships. Listening and understanding what your partner is saying is crucial to good communication. It is helpful to reflect back to your partner your understanding of what they say. “What you said was…….. Is that correct?” Make sure what they intended to communicate is what you understand. Make sure they understand what you are trying to communicate. This will go a long way toward decreasing unnecessary conflicts.

If you believe communication is problem in your relationship add this simple step. It will help you and your parent be more effective communicating with each other and improve your relationship.

Can Anxiety Be Controlled Without Medication?

Anxiety is one of the most common emotional issues dealt with by people in our society. It is common for many people to rely on medication to control feelings of anxiety. Millions of people carry Xanax and take them when they feel anxious. It is not uncommon to hear, “Do you want a Xanax?” when a friend or acquaintance becomes distressed. Medications like Xanax are highly addictive and one of the most abused drugs on the market. It is easy for most people to get a doctor to prescribe this medication. It may reduce the symptoms temporarily, but does nothing to deal with the underlying issue that is the source of the anxiety. Medication does not allow people to develop the skills necessary to manage or overcome anxiety.

Anxiety is the result of our thoughts and the meaning we give to these thoughts. This is the source of all of our emotions. Most of the time people who become anxious are concerned about something that may or may not happen at some future time. This sets off a variety of physical reactions to these thoughts and that is how we recognize our anxiety (distress, panic, worry). In order to overcome and manage these symptoms people can learn to relax, focus on the here and now, and change thoughts that may be caused by irrational beliefs. People are fully capable of learning how to manage anxiety without resorting to the use of addictive medications.

This is a major part of how I have been helping my clients improve the quality of their lives.

Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Real?

Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.) which was formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder is probably the most controversial and misunderstood psychiatric diagnosis. Many people including some mental health professionals continue to question if this disorder is real. It is also confused with schizophrenia which is a psychotic disorder in which people have visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations. Many jokes are made about this disorder. It has been portrayed in the movies “Sybil” and “The Many Faces of Eve.” It is believed that .01 to 1% of the world population has this disorder and is more commonly diagnosed in women.
People with D.I.D. have been the victims of severe and continuing abuse as children. Their personality becomes fragmented and parts of them will “rescue” the victim by allowing them to dissociate during episodes of abuse. When “the host” returns, she/he may have no memory of the abuse. The victim can continue to fragment and develop any number of “alters” in order to deal with or cope with different situations. There is plenty of information on the internet about this disorder. Therefore, I will not go any further into the details of the disorder or how it is treated. Due to the questions about this disorder, the myths associated with it, and the jokes made about it, many people who have D.I.D. feel a great deal of shame. They fear coming forward for help and work very hard to conceal the disorder from others. They need to know that they will be accepted and understood in order for them to receive the help they need.
There is no doubt in my mind that this disorder is real. It is also a difficult disorder to treat and requires intense and long term treatment. I have worked with many people with this disorder in the past 15 years with some pretty good results. This is a valid disorder that is separate and different from other disorders listed in the D.S.M. (the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric association).

Does Talk Therapy Work?

I have been asked if someone can be helped to resolve issues by just talking with a counselor. The answer really lies in what is being spoken about and the focus. I am not a big believer that insight focused talk therapy is really affective in relieving symptoms and improving a client’s quality of life. It has also been my own experience as the client that understanding why I have a certain issue or behavior does little to help me change it.

I believe that solution focused, problem solving, and thought changing counseling approaches work best to help improve quality of life. Knowing why you are depressed does not help you overcome the depression or manage the symptoms of depression in the future. Knowing what makes you anxious or what you tend to worry about just provides the reasons you have those feelings. Learning how to change your thinking and what things mean to you can significantly decrease anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias.

Yes, talking helps. But, what is being talked about is most important in helping to reduce symptoms and improve a person’s ability to get the most out of life. That has always been my goal.

Life Is Not Perfect

Just as life is not perfect, I do not pretend to suggest it can be. Problems will arise in our lives. I object when people will offer up the supportive “everything will be okay.” No one has a crystal ball. No one can promise that all will work out. I can say in all honesty that whatever your issue, there will be a resolution at some point. You cannot control many of the issues that will face you during your life. But, you can learn the skills to manage your life better.

Coping With Injustice

(I am sorry that I have neglected my posting for the past several days.  I hope this makes up for it.)

“It’s just not fair.”
“How can they do that to me?”
“Don’t they care how this affects me?”
“This always happens to me. Why can’t I catch a break?”

Have you ever said anything like the quotes above? I don’t think anyone goes through life feeling they have been treated justly or fairly all the time. We have all fallen victim to injustice at some time in our lives. That is, unless, you have lived some kind of charmed life. It could have been a relatively minor injustice like not being selected for a team or passed over for a promotion or someone treating you poorly. Some can be major injustices involving major losses. They can be anything from being falsely accused of a crime and being convicted, infected by a disease or injured by someone who was negligent, or being the victim of a crime.
Recovering from an injustice can be quite difficult and take a considerable amount of time. Many times the consequences can affect lives in many ways and for a considerable amount of time (possibly even the rest of someone’s life). I am writing this post because I have fallen victim to an injustice that has had a considerable affect on me and my life. I am writing this from the perspective of a mental health professional and a person trying to work through this issue. I try to use my own experiences in life to illustrate or help the people I have worked with as a professional.
How do you deal an injustice and the effects it has on a substantive as well as an emotional level? These are the type of events that you never anticipated and were not prepared to deal with. We see the man who gets released after spending years in prison when they find he did not commit the crime. We wonder how he was able to deal with the situation. People find themselves in situations that are unjust every day. Many of us have an intellectual understanding the life is not fair. Life just happens and sometimes bad things happen to us for no reason. When faced with these situations we must find a way to cope. We must find a way to continue living a productive and rewarding life. The other alternative is to remain stuck in the anger and depression from something we cannot change.
A good place to start is to process the feelings associated with the situation or event. It is not going to help you in the long run to avoid the feelings or self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, or some behavior (sex, spending, eating, etc.). It is okay to feel sad or depressed, angry, or nervous. These are all natural feelings associated with negative events we experience. It is not a good idea to judge what we think we should or should not be feeling. Let these feelings out. Talk with family and friends, write in a journal, or find some physical way of releasing these emotions. I don’t think it is productive to try to get some meaning about the event or events. If there is a meaning, you will become aware of it after some time has passed.
There is a grieving process that can take place. You can’t decide how long you will grieve. Allow the process to happen no matter the level of pain or discomfort. The longer you resist the feelings and the process the longer it will continue. When you are ready to move on with your life you will begin to accept what is. You will learn to accept those things that you cannot change and get on with your life. Dwelling on the past or the negative things in our lives accomplishes nothing more than keeping us from getting pleasure from life. This is good time to be looking at what you may have learned from the experience.
Eventually, you will get to the point of being able to accept what happened and allow yourself to move on with your life. Thoughts of the event or events enter your mind less often. It also affects your emotional state to a lessening degree. You will begin to heal and more so over time. Healing is an ongoing process and the emotional effects could be with you for a considerable amount of time. In my case, whenever I have to deal with something associated with things that have happened in my life, my feelings surface to some degree.
I am not the type to tell people they can completely heal from all experiences. In some instances this is true. In some instances it is not true. The affect linger. But, you are able to recover and cope and get on with your life.