Bullying is the assertion of power through aggression. The forms change with age: school playground bullying, verbal taunts, put-downs, exclusion from the peer group, sexual harassment, gang attacks, date violence, assault, marital violence. Bullying is a conscious, willful, deliberate, hostile and repeated behavior by one or more people, which is intended to harm others.
It is a myth that depression is part of the aging process. Depression is a medical illness. Watch for complaints of aches and pains, inability to concentrate, mood swings, talk of worthlessness, frequent doctor visits without relief, and possibly alcoholism. Mental health specialists can help detect depression. Family physicians can help provide treatment or provide referrals.
Finding a therapist to help you should not be a difficult process. Are you willing to invest some time to find the right one for you?
There are many counselors, social workers, art therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and others who are trained and licensed in the field of mental health throughout the world.
Where do I start my search? Here are some things to consider when using the internet to search for a mental health provider. You can use a Directory which therapists use to advertise their services. There are many good ones to choose from. Start the search finding a therapist near where you live. You can do this through a Directory or by doing a general Google search. A Directory will present the therapist profile in a readable summary. Using some specific information will help narrow down your search. You can enter your city, town or zip code. If you live in a rural area you will need to enter a larger area that is close to you. Decide whether you would be more comfortable with a male or female therapist. Some will take insurances and some don’t. They may be able offer a sliding scale. You may have to come out and ask this question if not offered. This may make it more affordable for their services. Determine what issue or feelings that you are struggling with. We often don’t realize why we are struggling with such basic life activities. Sometimes a mental health “checkup” is needed. Visit the therapist website for more information about their location, office hours, services provided, insurances accepted or not, how many years of experience and are they licensed in their state. Finally, make a phone call to ask them some specific questions about their services and availability. Do a type of “interview” to see if they are the right fit for you. It is best for you to do the search than a family member. You know more about what you are looking for in a therapist.
Finally, be patient and polite.
When one or both of our parents age and need more care, who will do it?
There are options in this decision. First, have any financial preparations been made for additional or long-term care by your parents? If they are like most, retirement funds and social security are limited. nowadays, there are care facilities that reach to each end of the scale. Some, are very nice and very expensive. Their health and safety is so important. There are some facilities that are more affordable but just don’t seem the right place for your parent. There is guilt when moving them out of their home to some place that is unknown.
Second, more and more children are moving their parents into their home for daily care. There are limits to this scenario too. Your life will not be the same. You seem to spend every moment around their needs. Your life as you once knew it, is no longer that, your life.
Third, hire someone to come into their home or your home to help out. They can run errands with them, play games or do light cleaning. The question is how do you find someone who is reliable, honest and a good fit as a companion. It may take several trials and many different agencies. They may even need this service if they are in an Assisted Living Facility. This price would be added on top of that monthly rental fee. It boils down to COST. That is what every family ultimately thinks about. The decision and leg work is usually left up to the siblings.
Finally, when you are looking forward to retirement, you may find that your responsibilities grow with the care of your parent or parents. Unless, there have been provisions made or even discussed before the time comes. It will take time, family discussions and money to provide the right setting for your parent or parents as they age.
How to Spot Manipulation
We all want to get our needs met, but manipulators use underhanded methods. Manipulation is a way to covertly influence someone with indirect, deceptive, or abusive tactics. Manipulation may seem benign or even friendly or flattering, as if the person has your highest concern in mind, but in reality it’s to achieve an ulterior motive. Other times, it’s veiled hostility, and when abusive methods are used, the objective is merely power. You may not realize that you’re being unconsciously intimidated.
If you grew up being manipulated, it’s harder to discern what’s going on, because it feels familiar. You might have a gut feeling of discomfort or anger, but on the surface the manipulator may use words that are pleasant, ingratiating, reasonable, or that play on your guilt or sympathy, so you override your instincts and don’t know what to say. Codependents have trouble being direct and assertive and may use manipulation to get their way. They’re also easy prey for being manipulated by narcissists, borderline personalities, sociopaths, and other codependents, including addicts.
Favorite weapons of manipulators are: guilt, complaining, comparing, lying, denying (including excuses and rationalizations), feigning ignorance, or innocence (the “Who me!?” defense), blame, bribery, undermining, mind games, assumptions, “foot-in-the-door,” reversals, emotional blackmail, evasiveness, forgetting, fake concern, sympathy, apologies, flattery, and gifts and favors. Manipulators often use guilt by saying directly or through implication, “After all I’ve done or you,” or chronically behaving needy and a helpless. They may compare you negatively to someone else or rally imaginary allies to their cause, saying that, “Everyone” or “Even so and so thinks xyz ,” or “says xyz about you.”
Some manipulators deny promises, agreements, or conversations, or start an argument and blame you for something you didn’t do to get sympathy and power. This approach can be used to break a date, promise, or agreement. Parents routinely manipulate with bribery – everything from, “Finish your dinner to get dessert,” to “No video games until your homework is done.” I was bribed with a promise of a car, which I needed in order to commute to summer school, on the condition that I agree to go to the college that my parents had chosen rather than the one I’d decided on. I always regretted taking the bribe. When you do, it undermines your self-respect.
Manipulators often voice assumptions about your intentions or beliefs and then react to them as if they were true in order to justify their feelings or actions, all the while denying what you a say in the conversation. They may act as if something has been agreed upon or decided when it hasn’t in order to ignore any input or objection you might have.
The “foot-in-the-door” technique is making a small request that you agree to, which is followed by the real request. It’s harder to say no, because you’ve already said yes. The reversal turns your words around to mean something you didn’t intend. When you object, manipulators turn the tables on you so that they’re the injured party. Now it’s about them and their complaints, and you’re on the defensive.
Fake concern is sometimes used to undermine your decisions and confidence in the form of warnings or worry about you.
Emotional blackmail is abusive manipulation that may include the use of rage, intimidation, threats, shame, or guilt. Shaming you is a method to create self-doubt and make you feel insecure. It can even be couched in a compliment: “I’m surprised that you of all people you’d stoop to that!” A classic ploy is to frighten you with threats, anger, accusations, or dire warnings, such as, “At your age, you’ll never meet anyone else if you leave,” or “The grass isn’t any greener,” or playing the victim: “I’ll die without you.”
Blackmailers may also frighten you with anger, so you sacrifice your needs and wants. If that doesn’t work, they sometimes suddenly switch to a lighter mood. You’re so relieved that you’re willing to agree to whatever is asked. They might bring up something you feel guilty or ashamed about from the past as leverage to threaten or shame you, such as, “I’ll tell the children xyz if you do xyz.”
Victims of blackmailers who have certain personality disorders, such as borderline or narcissistic PD, are prone to experience a psychological FOG, which stands for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt, an acronym invented by Susan Forward. The victim is made to feel afraid to cross the manipulator, feels obligated to comply with his or her request, and feels too guilty not to do so. Shame and guilt can be used directly with put-downs or accusations that you’re “selfish” (the worse vice to many codependents) or that “You only think of yourself,” “You don’t care about me,” or that “You have it so easy.”
Codependents are rarely assertive. They may say whatever they think someone wants to hear to get along or be loved, but then later they do what they want. This is also passive-aggressive behavior. Rather than answer a question that might lead to a confrontation, they’re evasive, change the topic, or use blame and denial (including excuses and rationalizations), to avoid being wrong. Because they find it so hard to say no, they may say yes, followed by complaints about how difficult accommodating the request will be. When confronted, because of their deep shame, codependents have difficulty accepting responsibility, so they deny responsibility and blame or make excuses or make empty apologies to keep the peace.
They use charm and flattery and offer favors, help, and gifts to be accepted and loved. Criticism, guilt, and self-pity are also used to manipulate to get what they want: “Why do you only think of yourself and never ask or help me with my problems? I helped you.” Acting like a victim is a way to manipulate with guilt.
Addicts routinely deny, lie, and manipulate to protect their addiction. Their partners also manipulate for example, by hiding or diluting an addict’s drugs or alcohol or through other covert behavior. They may also lie or tell half-truths to avoid confrontations or control the addict’s behavior.
Passive-aggressive behavior can also be used to manipulate. When you have trouble saying no, you might agree to things you don’t want to, and then get your way by forgetting, being late, or doing it half-heartedly. Typically, passive-aggression is a way of expressing hostility. Forgetting “on purpose” is conveniently avoids what you don’t want to do and gets back at your partner – like forgetting to pick up your spouse’s clothes from the cleaners. Sometimes, this is done unconsciously, but it’s still a way of expressing anger. More hostile is offering deserts to your dieting partner.
HOW TO HANDLE MANIPULATORS
The first step is to know whom you’re dealing with. They know your triggers! Study their tactics and learn their favorite weapons. Build your self-esteem and self-respect. This is your best defense! Also, learn to be assertive and set boundaries. Read How to Speak Your Mind: Become Assertive and Set Limits. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free report “12 Strategies to Handle Manipulators.”
Are You a People-Pleaser?
Everyone starts out in life wanting to be safe, loved, and accepted. It’s in our DNA. Some of us figure out that the best way to do this is to put aside what we want or feel and allow someone else’s needs and feelings take precedence. This works for a while. It feels natural, and there’s less outer conflict, but our inner conflict grows. If we’d like to say no, we feel guilty, and we may feel resentful when we yes. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
Our strategy might create other problems. We may put in extra time at work and try to please the boss but get passed over for a promotion or discover we’re doing work we’re not enjoying at all. We may be very accommodating to family and friends and resent that we’re always the one called upon for help, extra work, or to take care of someone else’s problems.
Our love life might suffer, too. We give and give to our partner, but feel unappreciated or unimportant and that and our needs and desires aren’t considered. We may begin to feel bored, joyless, or mildly depressed. We may miss earlier times when we were happier or more independent. The anger, resentment, hurt, and conflict we always tried to avoid continue to grow. Being alone might appear to be a welcome escape from these challenges, but then we’d end up sacrificing our connection to others, which is what we truly want. Sometimes, it seems like we have to choose between sacrificing ourselves or sacrificing a relationship.
It’s Easier to Just Go Along
We often feel trapped, but don’t know another way to be. Accommodating others is so ingrained in us that stopping is not only difficult, it’s terrifying. If we look around, we might notice other people who are well-liked and don’t people-please. We may even know someone who is kind or admired and is able to say no to requests and invitations. What’s more, they don’t seem to agonize about it with guilt. How they do that is baffling. We might even envy someone quite popular who doesn’t give a hoot about what others think. If we bother to reflect on all this, we may wonder how we got into such a mess and question our fundamental belief that pleasing is the road to acceptance.
Although there are other people who choose to be cooperative and kind, we don’t feel as if we have a choice. It can be as hard to say no to someone who needs us as it is to someone who abuses us. In either case, we fear it will negatively affect our relationship, and the guilt and fear of rejection or disappointing someone is overwhelming. We may have loved ones or friends who would become indignant and even retaliate if we were to say no. Each time, it gets easier to agree when we rather not or to go along and not object. We can turn into a human pretzel trying to win the love or approval of someone we care for – especially in a romantic relationship.
Starting in Childhood
The problem is that for many of us, our pleasing is more than kindness. It’s our personality style. Some children decide that accommodating their parents’ wishes is the safest way to survive in a world of powerful adults and best way to win their parents acceptance and love. They try to be good and not make waves. “Good” means what parents want. Their parents may have had high expectations, been critical, had rigid rules, withheld love or approval, or punished them for “mistakes,” dissent, or showing anger. Some children learn to acquiesce merely by observing their parents’ actions with each other or another sibling. When parental discipline is unfair or unpredictable, children learn to be careful and cooperative to avoid it. Many of us are more sensitive and have a low tolerance for conflict or separation from parents due to genetic makeup, early interactions with parents, or a combination of various factors.
People-Pleasers Pay a Price
Unfortunately, becoming a people-pleaser sets us on a path of becoming alienated from our innate, true self. The underlying belief is that who we are isn’t lovable. Instead, we idealize being loved as a means to self-worth and happiness to the point that we crave it. Our need to be accepted, understood, needed, and loved causes us to be compliant and self-effacing. We conclude, “If you love me, then I’m lovable.” “You” comes to mean just about everyone, including people incapable of love!
Preserving our relationships is our uppermost mandate. We strive to be lovable and charitable and reject character traits that we decide won’t serve that goal. We can end up squelching entire chunks of our personality that are incompatible, like showing anger, winning competitions, exercising power, getting attention, setting boundaries, or disagreeing with others. Even when not asked, we willingly give up separate interests that would mean time away from a loved one. The slightest look of disappointment (which we may inaccurately infer) is enough to deter us from doing something on our own.
Assertiveness feels harsh, setting limits feels rude, and requesting that our needs be met sounds demanding. Some of us don’t believe we have any rights at all. We feel guilty expressing any needs, if we’re even aware of them. We consider it selfish to act in our self-interest. We may even have been called selfish by a selfish parent or spouse. Our guilt and fear of abandonment may be so strong that we stay in an abusive relationship rather than leave.
It’s not surprising that we’re often attracted to someone who is the opposite of us – whose power, independence, and certitude we admire. Over time, we can start to think that unlike us, they’re selfish. In fact, we probably wouldn’t be attracted to someone of the opposite sex who is as kind and pleasing as we are. We would consider them weak, because deep down we dislike ourselves for being so compliant. Moreover, getting our needs met doesn’t rank high on our list. We’d rather be submissive – but eventually pay a price for it.
We’re not aware that each time we hide who we are to please someone else, we give up a little self-respect. In the process, our true self (what we really feel, think, need, and want) retreats a bit more. We become accustomed to sacrificing our needs and wants for so long that we may not know what they are. Decades of conveniently accommodating “just this time” whittles away at our connection to our true self, and our lives and relationships begin to feel empty of joy and passion.
We can change!
It’s possible to change and find our voice, our power, and our passion. It requires getting reacquainted with that Self we’ve hidden, discovering our feelings and needs, and risking asserting and acting on them. It’s a process of raising our sense of self-worth and self-esteem and healing the shame we may not even know that we carry, but it’s a worthy adventure of self-reclamation. Learn more about the steps you can take in my books and ebooks on my website, http://www.whatiscodependency.com.
©Darlene Lancer 2014
By: Darlene Lancer
It’s must be cellular that men and women automatically feel humiliated when their partner cheats, even though they themselves have done nothing to be ashamed of. Too often, people feel embarrassed for their partners’ behavior, whether it’s domestic violence, emotional abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, gambling, or sex addiction, and too often, those addicts and abusers shift the blame onto their wives and husbands. It’s called “blaming the victim.” But the truth is that we are only responsible for our own behavior and others are responsible for theirs.
Betrayal is a devastating assault upon our ability to trust – trust in ourselves, other people, our sense of justice, even God. It can affect our self-esteem, if we let it. For some people, the worst part of adultery is the dishonesty – sharing our life with someone whom we discover has been living a lie day in and day out. We start to doubt our own senses, let alone our own attractiveness. Who was he or she, really?
We go over in our mind past intimate moments and wonder what was he or she thinking. We recall clues and doubt that we dismissed, and wonder what was I thinking! When the truth finally comes out, along with the pain is a sense of relief, because it validates what we intuitively suspected. But then we wonder did he or she love me all those years – was it all fake? Was I in love with a fraud? We can begin to distrust our judgment in the future. Can I trust or “love” again? Can I trust another man, or woman?
When our partner was unfaithful with someone we know, care for and trust, we suffer betrayal by two people. Sadly, it happens that spouses betray one another with their mate’s housekeeper, best friend, or sibling. The pain of the double betrayal is horrendous.
Rebuilding trust can be a long process. (See “Rebuilding Trust“) Building bridges of empathy with one another can only begin when the betrayer takes responsibility. Sometimes, adultery is a symptom of problems in the marriage – a lack of open communication, sex, or emotional intimacy. Other times, it’s an act of anger or a way to stake out some freedom or independence in lieu of setting boundaries or expressing anger directly with one’s spouse. It can be viewed as an act of defiance. That doesn’t mean it’s the other person’s fault. It means that the relationship itself and both partners need help in changing their communication patterns and developing a healthier intimate connection.
Addiction is rampant in America – our codependent country – and sex addiction is rarely talked about. An addict’s family life is built upon shame and secrecy that eats away at everyone’s self-esteem.
We are never responsible for someone else’s behavior, nor does it reflect upon our worth. Only our actions reflect on us.
If you’ve been betrayed, stop every self-doubt that creeps into your mind. Your value, and your self-respect, aren’t tarnished one iota!
©Darlene Lancer 2014
To learn more about Darlene Lancer and her private practice you can view her profile here.
Breaking up and rejection are especially hard for codependents. Breaking-up trigger hidden grief and causes irrational guilt, anger, shame, and fear. Working through the following issues can help you let go and move on.
- Codependents often blame themselves or their partner.
- They have low self-esteem, and any rejection triggers feelings of shame.
- Relationships are of primary importance to them.
- They fear this relationship may be their last.
- They haven’t grieved their childhood.
- Past feelings of loss and trauma from their childhood are triggered.
One of the main symptoms of codependency is poor boundaries. Codependents have difficulty seeing others as separate individuals, with feelings, needs, and motivations independent of themselves. They feel responsible and guilty for others’ feelings and actions. This accounts for high reactivity, conflict and caretaking in codependent relationships. They perceive their partner’s need for space or even to break-up or divorce as their fault. Even if they were blamed by their partner, it still doesn’t make it so. There may be instances where a person’s addiction, abuse, or infidelity precipitate a break-up, but if you look deeper, those behaviors reflect individual motivations and are part of a bigger picture of why the relationship didn’t work. No one is responsible for someone else’s actions. People always have a choice to do what they do. If you’re feeling guilty, take the suggested steps in my recent blog, “Essential Steps to Self-Forgiveness and Overcoming Guilt.”
Anger and resentment can also keep you stuck in the past. Codependents blame others because they have trouble taking responsibility for their own behavior which might include a failure to set boundaries. They may have been blamed or criticized as a child, and blame feels natural and protects them from their overdeveloped sense of guilt.
Low Self-Esteem and Shame
Shame is an underlying cause of codependency stemming from early, dysfunctional parenting. Codependents develop the belief that they’re basically flawed in some respect and that they’re unlovable. Children can interpret parental behavior as rejecting and shaming when it’s not meant to be. Even parents who profess their love may alternately behave in ways that communicate you’re not loved as the unique individual who you are. Shame is often unconscious, but may drive a person to love others who can’t love or don’t love them. In this way, a belief in ones unlovability becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy operating beneath conscious awareness. Some codependents have a shaming, “I’m defective” or “I’m a failure” script, blaming themselves for anything that goes wrong. Low-self-esteem, which is a cognitive self-evaluation, leads to self-attribution of fault and personal defects to explain why someone else wants to end a relationship. For example, if a man cheats, the woman often assumes it’s because she’s not desirable enough, rather than that his motivation comes from his fear of intimacy. Learning to love yourself can help heal shame and improve self-esteem. See my ebook on raising self-esteem.
Relationships are the Answer
In the dysfunctional and insecure family environment in which codependents grow up, they develop strategies and defenses in order to feel safe and loved. Some seek power, some withdraw, and others try to win the love of their parents by adapting to their parents’ needs. Stereotypical codependents keep trying to make relationships work – usually harder than their partner – in order to feel secure and okay with themselves. A close relationship becomes the solution to their inner emptiness and insecurity. It’s not unusual for codependents to drop their friends, interests and hobbies – if they had any – once they’re in a relationship. They focus all of their energy on the relationship and their loved one, which helps neither them, nor the relationship. Some couples spend their time talking about it their relationship, instead of enjoying time together. Once it ends, they feel the emptiness of their life without a partner. The adage, “Happiness begins within,” is apt. Recovery from codependency helps people assume responsibility for their own happiness, and although a relationship can add to your life, it won’t make you happy in the long run, if you can’t do that for yourself. It’s important to have a support network of friends and/or 12-Step meetings as well as activities that bring you pleasure whether or not you’re in a relationship.
Grieving the Past
Codependents find it hard to let go because they haven’t let go of the childhood hope of having that perfect love from their parents. They expect to be cared for and loved and accepted unconditionally from a partner in the way they wished their parents could have. No partner can make up for those losses and disappointments. Parents aren’t perfect and even those with the best intentions disappoint their children. Part of becoming an independent adult is realizing and accepting this fact, not only intellectually, but emotionally, and that usually involves sadness and sometimes anger.
The Last Hope
Losing someone can be devastating, because codependents put such importance on a relationship to make them happy. Fear is the natural outgrowth of shame. When you’re ashamed, you fear that you won’t be accepted and loved. You fear criticism and rejection. Codependents fear being alone and abandoned, because they believe they’re unworthy of love. They might cling to an abusive relationship in which they’re being emotionally abandoned all the time. These aren’t rational fears. Building a life that you enjoy prepares you to both live single and be in a healthier relationship where you’re less dependent upon the other person to make you happy.
It’s a psychological axiom that each loss recapitulates prior losses. You may have had other losses as an adult that compound grief about the current one. Yet often, it’s abandonment losses from childhood that are being triggered. Closeness with a parent was either blissful or you may never had it, or didn’t have it consistently. The intimacy of a close relationship reminds you of intimacy you once had or longed for with your mother or father. Either way, it’s a loss. Codependents may have been neglected, blamed, abused, betrayed, or rejected in childhood, and these traumas get reactivated by current events. Sometimes, they unconsciously provoke situations reminiscent of their past in order that it can be healed. They also may incorrectly perceive rejection, because they expect to be treated the way they were previously.
Grief is part of letting go, but it’s important to maintain friendships and life-affirming activities in the process. Blame, shame, and guilt aren’t helpful, but working through trauma from the past can help you sort out your feelings and know what you feel about the ending of the present relationship. Do you miss the person, what he or she represent, or just being in a relationship? Check out my blog on “Letting Go,” and get my “14 Tips to Letting Go.”
Letting go and healing involve acceptance of yourself and your partner as separate individuals. Usually, relationships end because partners have individual issues with self-esteem and sham, are ill-matched, or have needs that they’re unable to communicate or fill. Shame often causes people to withdraw or push the other person away. Healing trauma and losses and building self-esteem help individuals move forward in their life and take more responsibility for themselves. Sign up for a free copy of “14 Tips to Letting Go,” on my website, and get my ebook, 10 Steps to Self-Esteem. Look for my forthcoming book, Conquering Shame and Codependency.
©Darlene Lancer 2013
If you would like to learn more about Darlene Lancer please view her profile here.
The idea of self-love and self-nurturing baffles most people, especially codependents, who by and large, received inadequate parenting. The word “nurture” comes from the Latin nutritus, meaning to suckle and nourish. It also means to protect and foster growth. For young children, this usually falls to the mother, however, the father’s role is equally important. Both parents need to nurture children. Healthy parenting helps the grown child be his or her own best mother and father. A child must not only feel loved, but also that he or she is understood and valued by both parents as a separate, unique individual and that both parents want a relationship with him or her. Although we have many needs, I’m focusing on nurturing emotional needs.
In addition to physical nourishment, including gentle touch, care, and food, emotional nurturing consists of meeting a child’s emotional needs. These include:
The Importance of Empathy
A child’s thoughts and feelings need to be taken seriously and listened to with respect and understanding. One way of communicating this is by mirroring or reflecting back what he or she is saying expressing. “You’re angry that it’s time to stop playing now.” Instead of judgment, “You shouldn’t be jealous of Cindy’s new friend,” a child needs acceptance and empathic understanding, such as: “I know you’re hurt and feel left out by Cindy and her friend.” Empathy is a deeper than intellectual understanding. It’s identification at an emotional level with what the child feels and needs. Of course, it’s equally important that a parent appropriately meet those needs, including giving comfort in moments of distress.
Accurate empathy is important for children to feel understood and accepted. Otherwise, they may feel alone, abandoned, and not loved for who they are, but for only what their parents want to see. Many parents unwittingly harm their children by denying, ignoring, or shaming their child’s needs, actions, and expressions of thoughts or feelings. Simply saying, “How could you do that,” may be felt as shaming or humiliating. Responding to a child’s tears with laughter, or “That’s nothing to cry about,” or “You shouldn’t be (or ‘Don’t be’) sad,” are forms of denying and shaming a child’s natural feelings. Even parents who have sympathetic intentions, may be preoccupied or misunderstand and misattune to their child. With enough repetitions, a child learns to deny and dishonor natural feelings and needs and to believe that he or she is unloved or inadequate.
Good parents are also reliable and protective. They keep promises and commitments, provide nourishing food and medical and dental care. They protects their child from anyone who threatens or harms him or her.
Once grown, you still have these emotional needs. Self-love means meeting them. If fact, it’s each person’s responsibility to be his or her own parent and meet these emotional needs, irrespective of whether you’re in a relationship. Of course, there are times you need support, touch, understanding, and encouragement from others. However, the more you practice self-nurturing, the better your relationships will be.
All of the things a good mother does, you have the superior capacity to do, for who knows better than you what are your deepest feelings and needs, if only you’d look. Here are some steps you can take:
1. When you have uncomfortable feelings, put your hand on your chest, and say aloud, “You’re (or I’m) ____.” (e.g., angry, sad, afraid, lonely). This accepts and honors your feelings.
2. If you have difficulty identifying your feelings, pay attention to your inner dialogue. Notice your thoughts. Do they express worry, judgment, despair, resentment, envy, hurt, or wishing. Notice your moods. Are you irritable, anxious, or blue? Try to name your specific feelings. (“Upset” isn’t a specific feeling.) Do this several times a day to increase your feeling recognition. You can find lists of hundreds of feelings online.
3. Think and/or write about the cause or trigger for your feeling and what you need that will make you feel better. Meeting needs is good parenting.
4. If you’re angry or anxious, practice yoga or martial arts, meditation, or simple breathing exercises. Slowing your breath slows your brain and calms your nervous system. Exhale 10 times making a hissing (“sss”) sound with your tongue behind your teeth. Doing something active is also ideal for releasing anger.
5. Practice giving yourself comfort: Write a supportive letter to yourself, expressing what an ideal parent would say. Have a warm drink. Studies show this actually elevates your mood. Swaddle your body in a blanket or sheet like a baby. This is soothing and comforting to your body.
6. Do something pleasurable, e.g., read or watch comedy, look at beauty, walk in nature, sing or dance, create something, or stroke your skin. Pleasure releases chemicals in the brain that counterbalance pain, stress, and negative emotions. Discover what pleasures you. (To read more about the neuroscience of pleasure, read my article, “The Healing Power of Pleasure”.)
7. Adults also need to play. This means doing something purposeless that fully engages you and is enjoyable for its own sake. The more active the better, i.e., play with your dog vs. walking him, sing or collect seashells vs. watching television. Play brings you into the pleasure of the moment. Doing something creative is a great way to play, but be cautious not to judge yourself. Remember the goal is enjoyment – not the finished product.
8. Practice complimenting and encouraging yourself – especially when you don’t think you’re doing enough. Notice this self-judgment for what it is, and be a positive coach. Remind yourself of what you have done and allow yourself time to rest and rejuvenate.
9. Forgive yourself. Good parents don’t punish children for mistakes or constantly remind them, and they don’t punish willful wrongs repeatedly. Instead, learn from mistakes and make amends when necessary.
10. Keep commitments to yourself as you would anyone else. When you don’t, you’re in effect abandoning yourself. How would you feel if your parent repeatedly broke promises to you. Love yourself by demonstrating that you’re important enough to keep commitments to yourself.
A Word of Caution
Beware of self-judgment. Remember that feelings aren’t rational. Whatever you feel is okay and it’s okay if you don’t know why you feel the way you do. What is important is acceptance of your feelings and the positive actions you take to nurture yourself. Many people think, “I shouldn’t be angry (sad, afraid, depressed, etc.). This may reflect judgment they received as a child. Often it’s this unconscious self-judgment that is the cause of irritability and depression. Learn how to combat self-criticism in my ebook, “10 Steps to Self-Esteem,” available in online bookstores.
©Darlene Lancer 2013
If you would like to learn more about Darlene Lancer please view her profile here.
We all experience challenging situations at some point in our lives. Problems with a significant relationship, life crisis, or work overload can lead us to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
During times like these it can be easy for our brains to ‘go rogue’ and lose sight of what really matters. When we’re depleted by the body’s natural stress response, mental and physical exhaustion limits our ability to think clearly. We may even forget about caring for our bodies, minds, and our brains.
Research in the field of neuroscience (brain science) can help. Studies tell us that at rest, the brain consumes about 20% of the body’s energy. Imagine how much energy our brains use during an average day or a stressful period!
If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, consider these 3 basic ideas for the health of your brain:
1. Add more nutrient-dense foods to your daily food intake, and learn more about your body’s specific needs. You might also be curious, and want to observe how you eat. For example, do you swallow your food whole or do you chew thoroughly? Do you tune out when you eat or do you enjoy the flavors and textures that food brings?
2. Do some exercise on a regular basis – even a little bit every day. You might consider
adding another day or two at the gym, or walking around town. Brain studies
show that movement and exercise, such as yoga, walking, etc., contributes to a
healthy brain. Remember to speak with your doctor before starting a rigorous or new
3. Re-evaluate your sleep habits. Ask yourself, “how many hours of sleep do I need to be at my best?” For example, I’m at my best with 8 or 8 1/2 hours sleep. Knowing this information about myself is useful when a pattern of 5 1/2 or 6 hours has set in, so I can re-adjust.
Knowing your body intimately will help you meet your brain’s most basic needs. When we care for our brains they respond with
* a stronger immune system
* increased energy
* an increased ability to regulate emotional reactions
* clearer thinking
* feeling better
Going through difficulties in life isn’t easy or pleasant, and we may not be able to choose all that happens in life. But we can choose to care for the health of our brains by going back to basics. Talking with a psychotherapist can also provide a source of support, guidance, and growth.
Posted in Anxiety, General Information, psychologist, psychology, Therapy, Treatment, Wellness | Tags: Anxiety, brain studies, find-a-therapist.com, happiness, health, mental health, natural stress, nutrient dense foods, physical exhaustion, relationships, stress, stronger immune system, Therapy, treatment, work overload
- child psychiatrist
- child psychologist
- childrens counseling
- Eating Disorders
- General Information
- marriage counseling
- marriage counselor
- Online Therapy
- social worker