There is a lot of research showing the benefits of meditation. I generally recommend that my clients meditate as a great adjust to therapy to help them relax and focus. Meditation techniques can also be useful in addressing inorgasmia, because these techniques help you to focus your mind on your genitals and not your to-do list. Now that I’ve got your attention…
I think people generally realize meditation can be beneficial. However, I think most people don’t attempt it because they think it’s too difficult, or too strange. Really, it’s neither. I’ve explained meditation myths so often to my clients that at this point I think I should just write about it so everyone can get the same information. Don’t let these common meditation myths stop you from doing it!
- You can’t think about nothing. So, rather than try to think about nothing, which is impossible, try focusing on something when you meditate. It could be a visual, like a candle flame, or it could be your breath. Don’t try to think about nothing. It won’t work.
- Start small. Don’t sit down and try to meditate for 20 minutes. Start with a minute or two, and work your way up.
- It’s called “meditation practice for a good reason. You won’t do it perfectly. You mind will wander to other things, you will become distracted. This is all perfectly fine, and to be expected. The important thing is that you continually return your mind to your meditation. Don’t give up, and don’t try to be perfect.
The other day in spin class, after yelling at the class to go faster and push harder, the instructor removed her mike, slid up to my bike and told me to slow down a bit, you’re working too hard. Huh? She was just telling us to keep it up, push harder. Now she’s telling me, just me, not to do that. So, I got to thinking…what if you are the exception to the rule?
What if you are listening to someone with authority, like a boss or teacher, and they are instructing the group. Since you are part of said group, their suggestions/instructions/commands apply to you, no? What if they don’t? Think of how many times you have taken a leader’s words to heart. What if they didn’t apply to you? It’s a game changer.
See, leaders generally speak to the lowest common denominator. Meaning, in order to lead a group effectively they have to address issues that arise. Most leaders think that the best way to address issues is with the group, since addressing them individually could offend people and make them defensive, and therefore more difficult to deal with. But leaders aren’t going to tell you this. Rather, they just instruct the entire group to behave, figuring it will correct the behavior of the miscreants, and the performers will just disregard the comments. But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the comments sting.
I had a previous boss in my Corporate America life who did this all of the time. Rather than address the offender, he would tell the entire group things like “you must get your work done on time”, “answer your telephone”, “don’t leave early”, etc. I was left with the impression that I was a slacker. I wasn’t, I was just part of the group he was addressing. I was the exception. I wish I had known that back then.
So the next time you are given instruction as a group, question it. Try to objectively evaluate whether or not the leader’s comments apply to you. If you aren’t sure, ask a trusted colleague or approach the leader yourself and ask for specific ways in which you can improve. If the leader can’t come up with any, then there’s a good chance their edict doesn’t apply to you. Then you can just nod your head the next time the edict is presented, and that’s all you’ll do.
I realized yesterday as I was working with a couple that I repeat the same sexual myth-busting information over and over again. So then I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I blogged about it so everyone could have it? So…here it is, in no particular order:
Myth 1: Women Can Orgasm Via Intercourse Alone
This one is perhaps my most favorite. I’m not sure how it originated, but somehow people believe that the vagina (the internal barrel, not the outer lips, which are called “labia”, by the way) is analogous to the penis. Since they are counterparts, and since it is mostly the vagina that the penis comes into contact with during intercourse, ergo women should orgasm during intercourse. WRONG! The clitoris, not the vagina, is the organ that is analogous to the penis. It’s the clitoris, generally, rather than the vagina, that needs the stimulation. As a result, only between 20 and 40% of women are able to orgasm via intercourse alone. And, of these women, most require some form of clitoral stimulation.
Myth 2: Intercourse Is The Holy Grail
Why do people think sex is intercourse? Why do people think intercourse is the be-all end-all of sexual activity? Intercourse is required for procreation. Period. All the rest, including manual and oral stimulation, are just for fun, and usually required for female orgasm. Enough said.
Myth 3: Sex Stops When The Erection Dies
Why? See Myth #2. Intercourse is the only sexual activity that requires erections. Yes, a flaccid penis is capable of orgasm. Therefore, there are many, many other things you can be doing in the absence of an erection. Do you seriously need a list? ‘Cause I can give you one.
Myth 4: Women Should Come As Quickly As Men
The average length of time to orgasm for women is 14 minutes; men 4 minutes. Do the math. This gap is so common we have a name for it: “the arousal gap.”
Myth 5: The G-spot
Even professionals screw this one up. According to the original paper written by Dr. Grafenberg (The “G” in “G-spot”) the G-spot is an area in the upper third of the vagina that is very sensitive in some women. This sensitive area is due to the proximity of the urethra to the vagina, not due to a biological structure. However, recently there has been some evidence to the contrary…so stay tuned. Meanwhile, if you can’t find your G-spot, stop looking. You are perfectly normal.
Myth 6: Women Have To Desire Sex In Order To Have It
Recent research on the sexual response phases indicate otherwise. For women, researchers are finding that the first two phases, desire and arousal, may be reversed. What does that mean for women? Like Nike says, “Just Do It”. Your desire will follow. Unless you are really angry with your mate. Then schedule an appointment with me instead.
People have differing needs for space. Some people love being with their partners all of the time. Others are quite happy being apart for long stretches. Space needs are inherent in personality just like being a “morning person” or a “night person.” There are many reasons for these differing needs, which I won’t go into here. What is important is that everyone is different, and there is no “right way” of doing things.
People who need more space in relationships can get irritable if they don’t get enough “alone” time. In fact, according to a recent article titled “Need Space in a Relationship? Just Don’t Say It That Way” in the Wall Street Journal, 29% of people surveyed reported they didn’t get enough “alone” time. That’s a lot of grumpy people. The article also points out that women are more likely to suffer from this, since they usually have more social contacts than men, and are usually responsible for family caretaking.
I can’t tell you how many times in my office I have seen a couple where the man is literally begging for affection and the wife just can’t take yet another demand on her time. It’s a vicious cycle, and very difficult to break if it has gone on too long.
Space needs, just like anything else in relationships, need to be negotiated. There has to be a compromise and an understanding — and even a specific plan or schedule. Just as time is allocated for appointments, work, etc., time should also be allocated for “me time.” The together-partner needs to understand that the space-partner doesn’t love them any less, and that the need for space is a very personal one, and can be just as essential as proper sleep and nutrition. The space-partner needs to understand that they aren’t single anymore, and they can’t have everything that they want. In order to carve out the “me time” they need, they may need to give up an outside activity. They should also take care to assure the together-partner of their love and commitment.
As with most things in relationships, communication is key. Set up a regular time with your mate to discuss “relationship business” and add “alone time” to the agenda. Do not discuss these, or other such relationship business issues, on date night. Which of course you are having regularly, correct?
What is an “emotional affair”, you ask? Well, the answer may surprise you. A emotional affair is anytime that you take intimacy out of your relationship by sharing it with others. Your friendships are supposed to support the intimacy in your relationship, not take away from it. If you are sharing feelings, ideas, or thoughts with your co-worker that you aren’t sharing with your spouse you are having an emotional affair. So yes, you could be having an affair with your mother. Or your best friend.
And I’m not talking about the normal bitch sessions people need from time to time. I’m talking about a pattern of sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings.
Of course there are degrees to these affairs, just as there are degrees to the physical affairs. Obviously there is less danger in an “affair” with a family member or friend you aren’t romantically interested in, because there is a natural limit to the relationship. However, anything that you do that takes away from your primary relationship is a problem. So if you are having issues, the answer isn’t to confide in your co-worker, who you find to be cute and a great listener. That is a slippery slope to pain and confusion.
I’ve talked to people in my office who have had affairs. It isn’t fun. They are confused and guilty. It literally tears them in two. It creates conflicting feelings that they cannot resolve. They are neither here nor there. They can’t work on their relationship because they cannot let go of the affair person. They can’t commit to the affair person because they feel guilty about leaving their partner. Complicating matters further, they are comparing the fun initial stages of attraction (affair person) with the more muted and less exciting attraction to their long term partner. Totally not fair.
And it really isn’t possible to work on improving your relationship while you are still seeing the affair person, even if you have broken off contact. I don’t care if you work with them, or they are integral to your business, blah, blah, blah. If you really care about your relationship you will find a way.
So the next time you need someone to talk to, keep walking past the cute guy or gal at work and phone a therapist. I’d rather see you in my office struggling through a personal issue rather than trying to recover from an affair.
ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, and it’s cousin, ADHD, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, can wreak havoc on intimate relationships. We read a lot about how ADD or ADHD affects people, but we don’t get to read a lot about how it affects relationships. And we should.
Being married to someone with ADD is sort of like being on a wild roller coaster. It is super fun for the first five minutes, but quickly becomes dizzying and exhausting. Because people with ADD have a hard time focusing, and require lots of stimulation, they are constantly on the go and tend to exhibit impulsive behavior.
In order to maintain balance in the relationship, the partner must become extra-responsible. The partner with the ADD will probably start referring to them as “controlling” or “no fun.” Unfortunately, the non-ADD partner has to act this way in order to keep the household and family running smoothly. It’s not that they aren’t fun anymore, it’s that they feel like they can’t be. Worsening the situation, the non-ADD partner can feel ignored while the person with ADD is either off seeking stimulation or becomes extremely focused on a project. Resentments can build.
We think of the word “perfect”, and we think of the optimum, the ultimate, the absolute best. So, it follows that when we think of “perfectionists” we think of high achievers, high performers…you know, successful people. Nobody thinks of perfectionism as negative. But it is.
Perfectionists exhibit many self-defeating behaviors. They think that unless they do something perfectly, they are a failure. Since they are human, and rarely do things perfectly, well…you get the picture. Then they try to make up for their low self-esteem by accomplishing things. It can be a very destructive cycle.
Only…it doesn’t LOOK destructive to the outside observer, or even FEEL destructive to the perfectionist. Because our society places so much importance on achievement, as long as we are accomplishing things and being successful, everything is good, right?
Well, not really. What goes on inside the perfectionist is a problem. The amount of stress that they place themselves under to perform perfectly under any and all conditions is enormous. So enormous, in fact, that often they will not bother to do something unless they think they can do it perfectly. A lot of opportunities get missed that way.
And, have you ever met a happy perfectionist? You know, a peaceful, calm, satisfied perfectionist? I didn’t think so. And their unhappiness can carry over into other aspects of their lives. Their self-esteem gets eroded. Mental health deteriorates. Relationships suffer.
So, if any of this sounds familiar, it may be time to examine your own thoughts and behaviors. And ask yourself, would you rather be happy or be a perfectionist?
I just finished reading the trilogy “50 Shades of Grey.” And I’ve got issues. Not about the dominant/submissive sexual practices. Nope. I’ve got issues about how they have portrayed “vanilla sex.” There are several problems with how regular sex is portrayed in the novels, the results of which I fear will make women and men feel inadequate.
- First of all, women generally aren’t as sexually responsive as portrayed in the novels. The percentages of women who are able to orgasm via intercourse alone is in the range of 20 – 40%, and it is commonly thought that even these women require some sort of clitoral stimulation. Therefore, it is highly unlikely the main character, Anastasia, would be able to orgasm consistently via intercourse.
- It is extremely rare for women to orgasm from just nipple stimulation alone. (Sorry- I don’t have a number. A quick internet search appeared to yield a 2% rate, but I haven’t fully investigated the source yet). The fact that Anastasia did this on her very first sexual experience is almost ridiculous.
- Intercourse for virgins is usually quite painful. For Anastasia to orgasm via intercourse during her very first sexual experience is again, ridiculous.
- The usual way that women learn about their bodies is usually via masturbation. Anastasia had never masturbated (!) and so she had absolutely no prior experience with how her body responds. Yet, she was able to “shatter” each and every time, starting right at the beginning, and usually multiple times. Women vary widely on what type of stimulation they like, where they like it and how intensely. Somehow we are to believe Christian (her sexual partner) was able to read her mind? You know, the mind she didn’t even have because she had never masturbated before? Mind boggling.
- Out of the numerous sexual encounters between the couple, with the exception of one, Anastasia was able to orgasm despite how upset she was at Christian. Because Christian is one psychologically messed-up character, there was a lot to be upset about. The research about female sexuality tells us that women’s sexual desire is affected by outside influences (like relationship problems). Again, unbelievable.
- Women do not orgasm because their lover calls their name. Orgasm is not a conditioned response; rather, it is a reflex. And pressure and stress can interfere with reflexes- so it’s much better to just allow orgasms to happen rather than try to order them into existence. More rubbish.
- Now, onto Christian. For some unfathomable reason his penis is able to perform no matter what the situation, how tired he is, or how much he has had to drink. Penises are not machines. They are part of the human body, and as such, will tend to fail from time to time. Yet for some reason Christians’s penis always seemed to be erect. I’m wondering how his blood vessels withstood the pressure…
You may say, “lighten up, Barb, it’s just fiction.” The problem is, it isn’t. Firstly, it isn’t written as obvious fantasy. Secondly, because of the racy addition of the sadomasochism element the regular, or “vanilla” sex is portrayed by the novel as normal. And that is the problem. This isn’t normal sex. And if you don’t know much about sex, you won’t realize how impossible and ridiculous the portrayal is. Rather, you will probably feel inadequate, and that your partner is inadequate, too. Suddenly you won’t be so happy with your sex life. And, from what we know about the research, sexual unhappiness is tied closely with marital unhappiness. And I’ve seen too many couples whose unrealistic dissatisfaction with their sex life interferes with their sense of love and commitment. Now do you see the issue? Shame on E.L. James.
We all have this impression that somehow extraverts are more successful and socially desirable as introverts. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing this. Why are we judging the relative worth of a person based on a personality trait? Introversion is not a mental illness, so why are we treating it as something to “fix”?
I’m going to give you three reasons why introverts may actually have an advantage over extraverts when it comes to success in business and personal relationships.
- Introverts are great listeners. Because introverts tend to hold back information about themselves, they tend to focus more on listening to others. And, since most people absolutely love to talk about themselves, this means introverts are actually far superior in many social situations. Nobody is going to walk away from a one-on-one conversation with an introvert thinking what a horrible conversationalist they are. After all, the introvert actually seemed interested in the other person. That’s because they truly are.
- Introverts are effective business networkers. People think networking is about selling yourself and your business. No, it isn’t. That would be “sales.” Networking, on the other hand, is about building relationships. And introverts are natural relationship builders because they show a genuine interest in other people’s businesses. Extraverts are generally too busy telling people about themselves and trying to entertain you.
- Introverts are independently focused. What I mean by this is an introvert doesn’t rely on other people in order to think. In fact, they think better and more deeply when they are alone. Extraverts cannot do this. Put an extravert in a room alone to work and they will be miserable and unproductive. Do the same with an introvert and you will get a thorough and quality work product. And a happy introvert.
So can we please stop putting introverts down simply because they aren’t comfortable in the spotlight? The world is not a reality TV studio. We don’t all need to be in the spotlight to be effective human beings.
Money is a topic that can cause trouble for even the most well-adjusted couples. So many of us have emotional issues about money we aren’t even aware of, and these can rear their ugly heads when suddenly we find ourselves in a position where we need to articulate them out loud. Because if we’re going to be a couple, we have to talk about money. How to get it, how to spend it, how much of it we need, etc.
I think it would help to think about money as another point of negotiation. Because, really, aren’t all couple issues really about negotiation and compromise?
So…the first step would be to have a conversation about how you both view budgeting, spending vs. saving, and how much money you need to have in the bank to feel comfortable. Try to get on the same page. Now, remember, I said negotiate, not strong-arm or guilt-trip your partner into agreeing with you. I guarantee you’ll pay for that in the long-term because it will probably create resentment.
Then, sit down and go over all of your figures. Make sure both partners understand exactly how much money the family has (a recent study shows that men tend to overestimate their wealth, and women tend to underestimate). Include income, investments, expenses, etc.
Then, set some goals that both of you agree on. Make a concerted effort to understand your partner’s point of view. Use “I” statements, own your own feelings and don’t accuse your partner of stuff (don’t start sentences with “You”). If the conversation becomes heated, take a break and try again later. Yes, you are both going to have to compromise, or as I tell my couples “be equally miserable.” Marriage isn’t for wimps.
And don’t keep secrets. Don’t hide money from your husband or wife, unless you are in an abusive relationship and trying to escape. In that case, we need to be having an entirely different conversation…
Lastly, revisit as necessary. The decisions and goals you make this year may not be the same decisions and goals you make next year. Financial circumstances change. It’s OK to revise- just make sure you agree. If you still can’t resolve your money issues, then it may be time to consider couples counseling.
We all tend to internalize negative messages we receive, whether they are from our parents, friends, or romantic partners. These messages may have been explicitly spoken, or merely communicated through actions, or even inactions. We are often unaware of the degree to which we have internalized these negative thoughts. What happens is that we start to feel depressed and defeated. We may feel like we “take things personally” when criticized by others. We may even redirect our negative feelings about ourselves onto others by being overly critical or perfectionistic. And we have no idea why we are doing this.
The first step is to try to identify negative thoughts you have about yourself. For most people with this issue, this will be the easiest step. People suffering from self-defeating thinking are used to beating themselves up every day.
The second step is to try to identify the origin of these messages. This will be much more difficult, and may require the assistance of a professional counselor. Start thinking about what your parents told you, if they compared you unfavorably to other siblings, etc. Think about what past romantic partners have said about you, if they told you that you can’t do anything right or were constantly discussing your weaknesses.
Then, try to dispute these messages. Look for instances in your life when these things weren’t true. You will probably discover that these negative messages aren’t accurate! Think about the person sending the message and what may be motivating them. Remember, negative messages are often more about the sender than the receiver.
If your self-defeating thinking is really ingrained, you may need the assistance of a professional counselor to help you correct it. That’s okay. Think of it as hiring an objective coach that can evaluate how well your current thinking matches up with your past behavior. You will need to do this to be able to determine where your thinking errors lie.
Start today! Your self-defeating thinking has held you back long enough.
We may say that we want to be as successful as possible, but is this really true? Do we really believe we are deserving of success? I mean, so many other people have worked so much harder and know so much more than we do. Consider this portion of a famous quote from Nelson Mandela:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?…”
As women, we constantly put other people before ourselves. We are raised to believe that our own needs are not as important as others’ needs. We understand that the true value in life is in taking care of and nurturing others. After all, that’s what our most important role model — our mother — did.
So no wonder success makes us uneasy. It feels selfish. Uncaring. We think success is a pie, and because we just got a piece someone else will have to go without. And what woman worth her salt would allow another to go hungry?
So we subconsciously do things to sabotage ourselves. We dismiss our success; write it off to luck or say it’s no big deal. We’re afraid others will feel bad, so we don’t talk about our accomplishments and believe pride is a sin.
Here are some common things we tell ourselves:
“I just got lucky.”
“I couldn’t have done it without the support of _______”
“Yeah sure, I did that, but look at all the areas I am weak in.”
“I’m really not that talented. I just work hard.”
“Anybody could do my job.”
We tell ourselves that what we do is not that big of a deal. But oh, yes it is! We need to celebrate our success! We need to recognize ourselves for the multi-talented fabulous beings that we are! The sin isn’t in appreciating and recognizing ourselves, it is in downplaying our accomplishments and stopping ourselves from achieving the growth and success we were destined for. And Nelson Mandela would agree.
According to a recent study from the University of Southern California, men shut down emotionally when arguing with their significant other. Any wife or long-term girlfriend will tell you they didn’t need a study to tell them this. But, what is newly discovered is that when men are under stress, the regions of the brain associated with understanding social cues become disengaged from other parts of the brain. As a result, they withdraw. Women’s brains, on the other hand, stay coordinated regardless of how much stress they are under. Furthermore, women also use more of their brains for verbal processing, as opposed to men, who use it for spatial processing. So women have an unfair advantage even before the arguing starts.
Yes, I’m talking about what we relationship counselors call the “pursuer/withdrawer” dynamic. You know it as the “I want to resolve this issue but he shuts me out and tells me to stop nagging him” problem. Whatever you want to call it, what happens is that the woman will want to discuss an issue, the man doesn’t appear to care (remember: they are having trouble reading social clues right now), so the woman begins to get frustrated and escalates her irritated behavior, which causes the man to withdraw more to avoid her anger, which causes her to yell louder… yeah, we can see where this is going.
Ladies, he’s not trying to be a jerk. And you’re not a nag. Men freak out when their significant others are unhappy. Trust me, I’ve seen it over and over again. He’s probably just stressed out and has withdrawn because a) he’s panicked because you are unhappy; b) he can’t read social cues right now so he doesn’t really understand why; and to make it all worse, c) he’s no match for you because he doesn’t have the same verbal talents and capacity as you do.
Or maybe he really is a jerk who doesn’t care about your feelings. Sorry, can’t help you with that one.
What to do?
- Approach him gently. Be calm; try to use a neutral tone of voice. Allow him time to process and think about what you are saying.
- Then back off. Once you’ve made your point, back down and allow him to respond. This may take a few hours or even a day.
- Own your own feelings. Start sentences with “I”, state your feelings and do not be accusatory.
- Focus on the positive. Praise him and appreciate the good things he does.
- Consider your timing. Don’t approach him right after a stressful day at work, but rather during a time when he’s likely to feel relaxed.
You still may need help sorting all of this out. In that case, I recommend you seek the services of a qualified relationship counselor. Counselors with “LMFT” (licensed marriage and family therapist) after their name are certified by the state to be qualified to do relationship counseling.
As I sat recently in a restaurant waiting for an acquaintance to show up, I began to think about what it means to be reliable. And, as with most painful or interesting situations in my life, I attempt to make meaning out of it by turning it into a blog post. Or, more specifically, my husband will say, “That could be a blog post.”
As I sat seething, because I had arranged my entire day around this meeting, I began to think about trust. About how so many of my clients complain that they can’t “trust” people. But have they ever considered how their actions may affect other’s ability to trust them?
See, you may think it’s no big deal to decide at the last minute you don’t want to go to dinner with your friend. Or not bother to call someone back. Or be 15 minutes late because you tried to fit in one last chore before you left the house. (Not that the actual reason matters; late is late). You may think that that person will understand, and you are probably right. But what you may not realize is that all of these little incidences of flakiness add up. They affect how people view you. They affect your reputation. They can make you seem untrustworthy.
Oh, don’t be so dramatic, you may think. Or “rigid,” as I have been personally accused of. But this isn’t about me. It’s about you, the actual flaky one. Have you considered how your actions may affect others? Even if they won’t tell you? Have you ever felt “judged?” Maybe there is a good reason.
If you can’t show that you are trustworthy with small things, then people won’t tend to trust you with big ones. So if you are consistently late, or otherwise unreliable, others aren’t going to think that you are a trustworthy person. Is that what you really want?
So, next time, before you consider blowing off your friend, think about what being “trustworthy” means, and if this is one of the adjectives you’d like others to use in describing you.
“Yes” is positive. “No” is negative. When we think of successful people, we think of people who say “yes.” Go-getters. Ambitious. Action oriented. Busy.
But, busy with what is the question here. Running around like crazy doing things that don’t directly contribute to your own goals isn’t being successful. It’s just being busy. And being busy for busy’s sake is more of a statement of how you want to look to other people than it is about meeting your own goals.
So how do we get so caught up in other people’s agendas? Our egos. Without getting into a lot of pscyho-babble about why, we often let our own egos get in the way of success. Huh? You say. I thought egos were good for success. A requirement, even.
Well, not when they dictate your priorities. It can be very flattering to be asked to speak at public events, co-author books or articles, or volunteer for whatever board position happens to be open. It means people want you, you are important, and the center of action! Right? Well, no. Just because someone wants you for something it doesn’t mean that actually doing that thing will make you a better person. The only guaranteed result is that you will make the requestor happy because his or her life just got easier. Does this sound like the road to success to you? I didn’t think so.
So, the next time you are oh-so flattered that someone asked you to do something, no matter how prestigious it may sound, please take the time to reflect if this new obligation fits in with your own priorities. If it doesn’t, say “no.” Because “no” is really the path to success no matter what else you have read. It’s only by saying “no” to the things you don’t really want that you can say “yes” to the things you do. And that is success.
I’ve been trying to write this blog entry for about a week, but…I keep putting it off. Each time I look at my computer, there it is, the empty file titled “Procrastination blog entry.” Mocking me. Taunting me. Sapping my energy in ways that don’t feel immediately obvious.
See, each time I saw that file I felt bad. Guilty. “There’s another thing I haven’t gotten done yet but should,” I thought. “But I just don’t have time right now.” Unfortunately, however, I DID have time to feel bad about it. And I did. The irony that this was a post about procrastination just made my guilt worse. And each time I felt bad, I used up mental and emotional energy. Energy that could have, and should have, been put into writing the blog in the first place. Crazy, huh?
But we do this stuff all the time. Pulled in a million different directions, how can we not? Well, if we were more aware of how draining procrastination really is, maybe we would stop doing it. You know, like, maybe tomorrow.
So let’s think about it. Think about the chores or tasks you have been postponing. And I’m not even talking about something as daunting or dreaded as cleaning out the garage. I’m talking about the simpler stuff, like calling your friend back (you know, the one who has recently resorted to stalking?) or cleaning out your closet. Every time you think about that friend, or walk by your closet, you leave a little piece of yourself. You feel bad, guilty…which leads to “I can’t seem to do it all” which leads to “I’m a bad/lazy/selfish person.” All of this emotional processing takes energy, energy which would be much better utilized if it were applied to the problem in the first place.
So…what to do? First, let’s all start acknowledging that the dusty tchotchkes on your shelf are eating you alive. Literally. Second, start to think of priorities. Use your time in a way that most benefits you. Not necessarily what you would LIKE to be doing (probably the number one reason for procrastination), but what would be most beneficial. If the messy closet or neglected friend bothers you, then make them a priority. Use the energy you would normally use to talk yourself out of the guilt to take action. Make the phone call. Clean up the mess. Your energy will be freed for more worthy pursuits, such as writing blog entries.
Congratulations! You have made the brave and potentially life-altering step of getting some counseling. Good for you. But did you know that some very simple things you are doing right now could be sabotaging your progress?
When people come to see me, naturally the focus is on whatever relationship, sexual, or emotional issue they are having. But what I explain to all of my clients is that taking care of their physical health is just as important.
You are spending hundreds of dollars on counseling, but you may be unintentionally sabotaging the entire process. How? By not taking care of your physical health.
Nutrition and exercise are essential to mental health, yet many of you ignore both of these important ways of taking care of yourself. You are eating junk food, or not eating at all, drinking too much alcohol, not taking vitamins and not exercising. Then you come to counseling to say that you feel “depressed.” Of course you do. Your body feels like crap, and because the body and mind are connected, your mind does, too.
Now I’m not saying just eat right and exercise and all of your problems will go away. What I am saying is that treating your psychological issue without taking care of your physical health is like driving a bus with a broken wheel. We may make some progress, but we’re going to go in circles unless we fix that wheel. There is a plethora of studies on how nutrition and exercise affect mental health, heed them! Fix your nutrition and start exercising. See how much better you feel. Or at least do these things while you are in counseling. Then counseling can help you with whatever bad feelings are left.
For more detail on the connections between exercise, nutrition and mental health, visit this previous blog post.
Have you been to a counselor lately? That’s OK…don’t answer out loud. But if you have, or are considering visiting one in the near future, and want to make sure you get the most for your money, this blog post will be of interest.
As a private practitioner, I see many different people with many different types of issues. What most of them have in common, however, is their anxiety about coming to talk to someone. You know, like me. A stranger they have never seen before to whom they are going to reveal their deepest darkest secrets. It’s enough to make anyone nervous. And what do most people do when they are nervous? They talk.
So what usually happens is that once they come into the office, and we sit down, they start talking and don’t stop. Now, that’s fine. We understand you need to get your story out, and we’ve been trained not to interrupt you. However, there is a downside to this that I think you should be aware of. Your counselor probably isn’t going to tell you this, but I will.
When you interrupt us or do not allow us to speak, you are interfering with the counseling process. Which means it will take longer. Which means it will cost you more money.
See, we’re trained listeners, but we’re also trained responders. And, in most cases, it is necessary to have a two-way conversation in order for therapy to be helpful. We can’t just listen to a 40 minute monologue and then respond to the entire thing in 5 minutes. We’re good; but we’re not that good. So what usually happens is we will respond generally to the entire theme of what you are saying, or respond in detail to the last thing you said. Either way, you are missing responses to all the detailed stuff in the middle. Not good. And then you get frustrated because you think we haven’t said much, that we are holding back. And it’s true, but not for the reason you think. It’s that you haven’t allowed us to respond in the way that feels natural to us. The way we were trained.
So, what can you do to improve the chances of success? Allow your counselor to speak. Don’t hold up your hand and tell them to wait until you make your next point. Tell your counselor your story, but allow him or her space to respond. And don’t wait until the last 5 minutes in the session to ask for feedback. We just can’t manage to give you meaningful feedback in such a limited frame. Yes, you are the customer, but you aren’t always right. It is in your own interest to help us help you.
In short, trust your counselor. Don’t try to control the session. We are highly trained and educated, and we’ve done this before. We know what we are doing. And if you don’t trust your counselor, discuss openly with him or her why that is and see if it can be addressed. If not, then find another counselor. The counseling relationship is too important for your success not to.
Look around- life coaches, weight loss coaches, beauty coaches, nutrition coaches…everyone wants to “coach” you on something! And congratulations to you for wanting to improve your life. I’m not here to rain on your parade- I just want to hand you an umbrella so you don’t accidentally get drenched.
See, none of these coaches are regulated by the state when it comes to handling emotional problems. (Did you know that?) That means they have no required training, have passed no standardized test, have not been under supervision, and are not subject to the mental health licensing board’s continuing scrutiny. They are also not bound by a common code of ethics, mandated to take continuing education credits, including boundary issues, heck, I don’t even know if they are required to carry malpractice insurance.
Yet, these people will attempt to help you with your psychological issues. Sure, they will present themselves as “self-esteem” or “relationship” issues, or even “self-defeating thinking.” But do these professionals really know what to do when these common issues have roots that go beyond the weight that won’t come off, or your hesitation in pursuing that advanced degree? What if the roots of these issues were deeper? What if you’ve been told your whole life you were stupid (so you hesitate to improve your education) or that food meant comfort (so you never learned how to cope with depression in a healthy way). Life coaches do not have the intense training and supervision required to gain the advanced skills required to cope with these types of issues.
A few years ago I was on vacation in Utah at a spa. One evening, I was listening to a presentation by a life coach on how to overcome life’s obstacles (or something to that effect). Someone raised their hand and spoke about how hard it’s been to carry on with life since their spouse died last year. Immediately red flags raised in my mind, as they would in any other formally trained clinician. Unfortunately, not so much for the life coach. Instead, the presenter breezily said something to the effect that we must get over the bad things in life to get on with the good. Horrified, I sought out the widow after the talk was over to make sure she was OK. She told me she didn’t appreciate the life coach’s remark, that it was very insensitive and made her feel bad about feeling bad about her loss. I was glad I was there that night, because I was able to briefly explain that people just don’t “get over” a loss that painful, and that it would take a very long time, and did she have support, etc. See what I mean? I’m sure that life coach meant well, but she just hurt somebody by not understanding the limits of her own expertise, and not understanding enough about mental health to know what questions to ask and how to refer! Rather, in her ignorance, she just papered over someone else’s pain. And that widow didn’t pay money for this type of treatment, especially when she can get it out in the world everyday for free.
And, please, before I get hate mail from life coaches- I’m not saying they don’t have value. Sure they do. But before you use a life coach, you may want to ask if they work with a licensed mental health counselor, and how they decide whether or not to refer someone. If you get any kind of vague answer, I would recommend finding another one. As the objective professional, the life coach has the lion’s share of the responsibility in figuring out whether or not they are qualified to help you with your issues.
So, you’ve decided you’d like to see a counselor. Now what? Do a google search and you are faced with what seems like hundreds of counselors. Actually, there are about 400 licensed mental health counselors in Florida alone. So, how to pick one?
What most therapists won’t tell you, probably because they don’t keep up with research, is that about 40% of counseling outcome is a result of the strength of the therapist/client relationship. Yes, you have a relationship with your counselor just like you do with anyone else in your life. But this relationship is different (watch the video on the main page of my website for more details on this). Anyway, the point is: being a relationship, it’s important that you feel comfortable and trust, just like you would in any of your other relationships. The outcome of your therapy depends on it.
But, first things first. You have to find a counselor out of the hundreds. Based on my clinical experience, and what clients have reported, I have created the following list of things to look for when selecting a counselor:
- The first question is, are you using insurance? Do they offer mental health coverage? If so, you can use the following list to help you narrow down your choices from the providers your insurance carrier offers. Cautionary: please see previous blog on hazards of utilizing your insurance.
- In order to start filtering down, start with credentials. If you’re looking for relationship therapy, you are going to want a therapist trained in this modality, which is completely different than individual therapy. It differs from state to state, for example, in the state of Florida licensure for a marriage and family therapist is separate from an individual counselor. If you’re having sexual issues, look for a sex therapist, which is a licensed professional with specialized training in sexuality. Research appears to indicate that many counselors are unprepared to deal with their client’s sexual issues, even if they say that they can. So check the credentials.
- From there, see if the counselor has a picture and/or a video. Do they have a website? If so, check the biography under the “About Me” page. Not all therapists are tech savvy, so if this is important to you, you’ve just automatically filtered down your list even more. Don’t overthink it. If you can’t picture telling this person your deepest and darkest secrets then move on. If you can’t tell an inanimate picture, you probably will feel uncomfortable in person. And therapy won’t work.
- Next, look for recommendations. Most people you know probably aren’t going to tell you of the great therapist they just saw! So search online for client ratings, or see if the therapist has any testimonials posted. This should help you narrow down your search even more.
- Next, check for location. If it’s going to be difficult for you to drive over to see your counselor, you’ll be less likely to go. And that’s not good. Make sure there is ample parking, and you feel comfortable with the location, both geographically and the interior office.
- Last, check their office policies and fees to make sure they are fair to you and that you understand them. Most therapists will charge you for your appointment if you cancel within 24 hours. It’s important to understand these types of things before engaging their services.
Once you have found one:
- Do you feel comfortable talking to this person? Do they seem to understand you without judgement?
- Don’t tolerate a therapist who is perpetually late. Your time is just as valuable as theirs.
- Does the counselor do their homework? Good clinical practice standards dictate that counselors take notes on all of their sessions, and review them prior to your next visit. Is your counselor doing this, or does it seem like every time they see you it’s for the first time?
- Is there a direction, and goals to therapy or do you seem to just be aimlessly discussing the week’s events?
- Does your counselor ask to speak and consult with other professionals you are involved with, for example your psychiatrist?
- For even more tips, check out this article on the elements of good therapy.
Remember, even though your therapist is the expert, don’t be afraid to demand the best. Change therapists if you need to. It’s your right.