Recognition and Grief

Recognition and Grief

I don’t have all of the right words to say, and honestly, I’m not sure what those are at this point.

Because there are not any words that can take away the pain, atrocities, and grief that occurred this past weekend.

I had another blog post planned for this week but to move on and ignore what has occurred would be one of the highest forms of disrespect. We do not consistently comment on current events in this blog, but this is more than a current event. I also write this blog as a white female who, although I am an ally, cannot fathom the true pain and atrocities racism brings.

We talked a few posts back about our threat response system. How it is sensitive and responds to any possible threat, whether real or imagined, in order to keep us safe. Even for those who do not live in Buffalo, the crushing reality of the racism in the American way of life is a very real threat.

For those in bodies who are not white, who live in America, there is a daily threat against them simply because of color of their skin.

Their grief needs to be recognized.

Reality needs to be addressed.  

Part of what we do in therapy is learn how to pay attention to our own voice and to the voices of others.

For those of you who want to support the community of color, I encourage you to hear the voices of those around you. Actually hear them.

They don’t need your opinion or the “here’s what I would have done”. Hear them so you can understand that your reality is not the full picture.

Once you have heard them, and I mean truly heard them – their perspective, how this has impacted their daily lives, the pain, the frustration, the anger, the grief – then and only then can you respond from a place of love.

For those of you feeling the grief, I encourage you to be kind to your bodies. No, spending some extra quiet time this week will not suddenly fix everything. However, if we are not regulated and rested, it will be nearly impossible to bring about the type of change that needs to happen. So spend some time, listen to your body’s voice. What does it need?

You are seen.

You are loved.

You are not alone.

Dealing with Disappointment

 

It seems that is a common theme these days.

Plans are made, an interruption strikes, and disappointment enters.

 

A relationship doesn’t work out the way we hoped it would, a job doesn’t turn out how we thought, plans we were looking forward to are cancelled.

The day becomes entrenched in it, the weekend overcome by it. 

 

 

 

However, we often give away so much of our power to disappointment.

What would happen if we viewed the impact of the disappointment differently?

Notice I didn’t say “view the disappointment differently”. This is not a post on maintaining only positive thoughts and ignoring sadness. In order to feel happiness, we have to also feel the other emotions, including sadness. We can’t push down one without pushing down them all. 

So yes, it is okay to be sad when something we were hoping for doesn’t work out. It is okay to be disappointed when we were really excited for something to happen.

The key is how do we allow the disappointment to impact us.

Part of casting off the lie of powerlessness is not allowing external factors to control us.

Yes, external factors will impact all of us. However, we get to control our mindset, our hope, and how we respond.

So after feeling the disappointment, where do we go from there? Here are two key questions:

 

Can I flow with the change? – Similar to waves coming onto a beach. If we stand against the wave, it crashes against us. If we go with the wave, it takes us right back to shore. With disappointment, can we flow with the emotions then adjust our mindsets?

Often, when we hold our lives, plans, and ideas with tight fists, any slight adjustment will send us spiraling. The key is to hold our plans and relationships with a dose of both hope and reality. Hope that things will progress a certain way, but also reality in realizing the world we live in and that plans can change.*

 

How do we adjust our mindset? – Let’s say plans are cancelled because you were exposed to covid (again). You now have more free time on your hands than you did before. How do you view that time? Do you allow it to be overcome by the disappointment or do you find ways to still live? This could look like reading a good book, maybe taking a much needed rest, or deep cleaning that space in the house that you’ve been avoiding.

In therapy terms, this is called “reframing”. It is this concept of taking the same picture (ex. the exposure) and putting a new frame around it. It does not negate what has happened or take away the frustration, sadness, or disappointment. However, it does change how we view the picture.

For your disappointment, what is a possible reframe?

 

*Idea of holding hope and reality together came from a book called, People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them The Keys by Mike Bechtle. 

Understanding Hidden Traumas

Amidst the wide scale destabilization that has occurred in our world over the past few years, hearing the word “trauma” has become almost second nature.

All of us could list off things that happened that we weren’t expecting or weren’t thrilled with. Things that were considered “crises” and relationships that were affected.

However, what about the hidden traumas that still impact us today?

Here’s an example:

Our society is incredibly individualistic. Now, this isn’t always a negative quality, but it can be detrimental when surviving a large scale crisis.

If we focus on the current war with Ukraine and Russia, even with the beginning of covid a couple years ago, the common advice that was given was to stock up on canned goods, extra cash, and even toilet paper. (Oh those days)

However, for those who are currently struggling to pay the normal bills, especially now with the ramifications of covid still affecting people, this advice is panic inducing.

For those working most of the day and taking care of children at night, trying to find the “extra” time to go to the store can add stress in an already maxed out life.

Since society is very individualistic, we really don’t have a safety net for those who are struggling. The “safety net” that is given is often broken, inadequate, or slow to manifest.

With how sensitive our threat response systems are, the lack of consistency and predictable situations would evoke a tendency to live in survival mode – aka we are ready to fight, run, or freeze.

Trying to function day to day in survival mode is not only exhausting, but it’s not sustainable. Yet so many people are currently doing just that and they are struggling. They feel alone and unseen.

Overtime, it’s like many small rivers are converging into a large river that is now flooding the neighboring towns. In other words, the visible and hidden traumas have piled up to the point we are no longer able to function or make decisions that we are proud of.

 



So how do we apply this now?


Identify your rivers: both personal traumas and collective society ones that have impacted you.

Analyze the support system in your life: are they consistent, safe people? Are they willing to show up when they say they will and when a disagreement occurs, are they willing to talk it out?

Identify the next right step for you when it comes to releasing the build up of this river: this will probably be something small. Could it be that the next right step is to give yourself time to rest tonight? 

If you’ve noticed that there are multiple rivers converging that you are not sure how to handle, I encourage you to reach out. Sometimes life presents us with multiple rivers. The most important factor is whether we engage it from a position of powerlessness or from hope and assertiveness. 

Surviving the Unknown

It took me a while to figure out how to begin this post.

So much has occurred in the previous weeks (years, really) that cannot be put into words.

The grief that has entered people’s lives, the chaos in the world today, and the fires that never seem to end. 

There have been so many “once in a lifetime” occurrences that I’ve lost track.

However, here is the dilemma : if we want to survive this, we have to find a way to survive. In other words, we have to find ways to take care of ourselves.

But if you’re anything like me right now, just being told to engage in self care is exhausting. It’s another to do list that I have no energy for, and frankly, don’t want to spend energy on.

So where do we go from here?

Below are three simple ideas that can maybe provide some encouragement during this time that take no energy to do at all

Comfort Corner : This one is my favorite. The whole premise is to find a place to de-stress. It doesn’t matter if it is a corner in your room, a seat in your car, or a place in nature. The goal is to have a place that is specifically used for receiving comfort and de-stressing. This way, whenever you go there, your body will actually begin to relax. Our director, Andrea, is doing a special Instagram Live on the Comfort Corner this week. You can visit our Instagram page to watch the video on more ways to do this, and other creative ideas. (My area that I go to currently has chocolate and cookies in it. I’ve prepped that area well.)

 

Drop the phone : Overstimulation is real. Our bodies were not created to take in coverage from the entire world non-stop everyday. The threat response systems in us are extremely sensitive to any possible threat, and that includes news coverage. Since it is also important to know what is going on outside of our immediate circles, maybe practice spacing out the times you are on social media or watching the news. For those born before the 2000’s, you probably remember how the news used to only come on at 5 pm. That’s when we would receive our daily updates for everything going on. Now, we are bombarded with information 24/7, most of it not comforting. So find times that work with your schedule – where there is an intentional time of gathering information and then a break to allow your body to regulate. 

*For those who want to really be challenged, try spending an hour (or even a full day) without your phone. Really allow your body to detox from the information overload it may have been experiencing. 

 

Release the shame : We live in a culture that is highly focused on performance. Not surprisingly, this has seeped into our view on taking care of ourselves as well. Now, we feel ashamed for “not doing enough” to take care of ourselves or those in our families who rely on us for provision and answers. Here is the truth though: you won’t have all of the answers and know exactly what to do every time. There will be days that getting out of bed is hard. There will be days that realizing you are awake and still here that are even harder. Give yourself permission to release the shame telling you that something is wrong with you or that you have failed. Physically push the shame off of your body. Like right now – physically push it off as you take a deep breath. As you inhale, imagine gathering the shame. Then as you exhale, imagine releasing the shame from your body.

As we continue this journey together over the coming weeks, I encourage you to form a mental mantra that you can repeat when you feel yourself getting burned out, exhausted, or just about to explode. 

For the end of this blog post, let’s practice one together. I placed the statements next to either “inhale” or “exhale”. As you breathe in or out, I encourage you to say those statements and allow your body to rest in them. I received this idea from an Instagram account called blackliturgies. Each post is powerfully written.

Inhale: I am still here.

Exhale: There is always hope.

For Those Who Want to Become a Therapist:

 

We are starting a new blog post series focused on those who would like to pursue becoming a therapist. The plan is to breakdown important questions to not only ask your future graduate school, but to ask yourself.

 

Now, as a precursor to this post, I want to direct your attention to a post our director, Andrea, has written about what it takes education wise to become a therapist, as well as how to maximize your own therapy experience. She states in “Maximizing Therapy”,

 

By the time a new therapist graduates from their masters program, they have spent more than 600 hours in graduate level classrooms taking courses dedicated to the art of helping people with life problems.  They have sweated almost 2000 hours on homework and completed 1000 hours of supervised internship.  All at a price tag of over $35,000 (minimum).  Upon graduation, they must work under supervision for at least two years, complete an additional 1500 hours of client service and pass a national competency exam.  When you show up in a therapist’s office, or log on to their teletherapy platform, you are meeting with a highly trained clinician who is there to help you reach your mental, emotional, and relational health goals.

 

Whew. The journey to licensure is no joke, but is highly rewarding to those who believe being a therapist is part of their calling. Let’s dive in to a few questions to ask yourself as you decide whether this journey is right for you.

 

Why do you want to be a therapist?

This will be a common question on graduate school applications. Take some time as you are researching different schools to explore what is driving you. 

Every individual enters into the master’s program for a different reason, many times because of their own stories. Responding from a place of healing and wanting the same for others can be powerful.

Alfred Adler was a psychotherapist in the 1900’s. (You’ll learn about him in grad school.) He commented on the nature of therapists who have struggled through different aspects of life and the power that comes from having done your own work. Now it was written in 1928, but there is much truth to what he says.

There must be experience [for the therapists] as well. A real appreciation for human nature, in the face of our inadequate education today, will be gained by only one class of human beings. These are the contrite sinners, either those who have been in the whirlpool of psychic life, entangled in all its mistakes and errors, and saved themselves out of it, or those who have been close to it and felt its current touching them….The best knower of the human soul will be the one who has lived through passions himself. (pg. 13)

 

Are you open to doing your own work?

One of the best mirrors to your own unhealed areas in life will be your clients. This is why it is so vital that you have explored your own story before sitting with someone else. Your clients are not there to save you, fix you, or help you figure out your stuff. You are there for them. As our supervisor, Larry Shyers, loves reminding us, “It is never ever, ever, ever, ever about you”.

I highly encourage you to continue therapy throughout graduate school. Implement the things you are learning, allow yourself to go on the adventure. Having an openness to growth and knowing that you are selecting a profession that will constantly challenge you is a necessity. 

If not, then when something comes up in session that reveals an area of wounding in you, it is so much easier to stick your head in the sand and push it down. When this happens, we can cause harm. The session inadvertently becomes about us and our own avoidance, thus taking the focus off the individuals coming to us for help.

At the end of the day, you are pursing a profession that has a profound impact on people’s lives. You may be the first person they share their deepest, darkest moments with. You may be the only support they have at this time. Please don’t take that for granted. Realize the impact you have on people’s lives and walk through your own story. Pursue your own healing. 

At the same time, you also have to realize that you cannot save your clients or rescue them from their problems (as much as we wish we could). There will be nights this rocks you to the core. There will be days you wish you could pull them out, especially when they are not a number or a “session” to you.

Continuing to walk through your own story helps you remain present and humble, no matter who may walk through your door. It also creates an environment of authenticity in the room that can be felt (even through telehealth).

Join us next week as we continue to explore important considerations and aspects of learning how to be a therapist.

Therapy 101

So you’ve decided you would like to begin therapy.

Typically, that should be the hardest part. Letting someone in, especially someone that you don’t know, to share your story in hopes of a better life is hard enough.

Unfortunately, “overwhelmed” is a pretty accurate description to how most people feel when they try to find a therapist. If you take a second and type in “therapist in (city)”, you will find hundreds, if not thousands of options.

So, how do you narrow down the field? Let’s say that you spoke to a friend and they gave you a referral, or you found someone on Therapy Den or Psychology Today. How do you know if they are a good fit for you? Below are two good criteria to look at and what Phenix does to meet those criteria.

 

 

The Therapist’s Bio

Depending on why you would like to attend therapy or what you have gone through in life, certain therapists will be more qualified to assist you. The bio on the website will tell you quite a bit about who they are and how they operate (hopefully). If one stands out to you, write down questions so you can hear more about their training and experience. 

At Phenix, each therapist took the time to write a detailed bio about our background, training, areas of focus, and how we view therapy. This way, you have a good idea of what to expect before even meeting one of us.

As a disclaimer, certifications and official trainings are great, but don’t base a therapist’s competence on only that. Which leads me to the second criteria…

 

Have they done their own work?

You can only learn so much in a training that lasts 3 hours or from textbooks in graduate school. The metaphor I use with clients is this: if I was climbing Mt. Everest, I would ideally want someone who had climbed the mountain before, not just someone who read about how to do so in a textbook. I would like someone who had done their research on how to help various people climb the mountain, learned how to help heal different wounds and levels of frostbite, AND had already made the journey. 

By climbing it themselves, they know which pitfalls to look for and which parts will be deceptively slippery.

They also know where to look to see the most beautiful sunrises.

There is a level of competence and humility that only comes from doing your own work in therapy. Everyone needs someone to talk to and process things out with. Ideally, through the therapy process, you learn how to form authentic, intimate relationships so that those are the people you begin to do life with. At Phenix, each therapist has gone down their own journey of healing and has surrounded themselves with people to continue that process. Instead of feeling like any of us has “arrived”, there is an ability to hold the unknown and simply be with whoever walks through the door.

 

Free Consult

At Phenix, we have a consult time with each prospective client. This is a free 50 minute session where the potential client can ask questions and get to know the therapist before agreeing to embark on this journey together.

When I was searching for my own therapist years ago (before the graduate school adventure), I was wary due to already having had some negative therapeutic experiences. So when I was paired with a potential therapist, I finally asked questions that I had not known to ask before.    

While our director, Andrea, implemented the consult idea during covid, it has remained due to being incredibly beneficial for both us and potential clients. My favorite part about it is that it gives prospective clients a time to ask questions and make their own informed decisions, instead of feeling like they were instructed who to see or stuck with someone. 

So no matter where you go for therapy, I encourage you to look at the above two criteria. Take into account professional training for your specific situation, as well as the therapist’s ability to stay present during the time with you due to having done their own work.

Surviving the Holidays: Parent Edition

 

Welcome parents!

This holiday survival guide is specifically for you, as the stressors you experience are unique. You not only are trying to take care of yourself during this time, but of all the children and extended family who are home for the holidays. So before we begin, let us take a moment to breathe. Deep inhale in, long exhale out.

Reality is, with how much stress some parents feel, moments like that are too rare.

As we dive into this blog post, I want to provide a framework for how to view this season. To start with:

You are not powerless.

So often, we assume that the holidays = stress and that this stress is just something that will take over the holidays like normal.

False.

You were not designed to be overcome by stress every holiday season. You have been placed in a position of leadership and counsel. Stress cannot overcome you if you do not allow it, because you are not powerless.

We also have to pair this knowledge with the fact that we cannot control others

So if that one family member decides to start their usual drama and you find yourself in the bathroom wondering how you will get through the following weeks, remember this:

You don’t have to attend every fight you are invited to.

If they choose to start up their own emotional rollercoaster in the living room, you don’t have to get on. They don’t get to have that kind of power. 

This is a great time to then practice the deep breathing (longer exhale) and take a moment to slow down. This time of slowing down gives your brain a moment to think about how you would like to respond in a way that represents your character and integrity. How to say what you want to say wrapped in love, while also setting a firm boundary that you are willing to protect.

Now that we have the framework set, let’s dive in to three main guideposts for this season. Remember, the goal is to thrive, not just survive.

 

Guidepost 1: You are a human being, not human doing.

Yes, it’s kind of cheesy, I know, but it’s so true. I forget where I first heard it from but it gave me pause when I heard it. I was shocked how much of my life actually fit the “human doing” phrase better. 

At Phenix, we are reading a book called Soul Custody this holiday season. The author, Stephen Smith says this on page 18, “The Chinese have two characteristics for the English word ‘busyness’, which they define as ‘heart annihilation’.” The Chinese definitely have a different perspective on busyness than the American culture does. However, I think they have a point. When we are overly busy, we miss so much.

So here is the challenge question: is your holiday season too busy?

If you notice that it is, what can you adjust or change entirely?

 

Guidepost 2: Take care of yourself

Part of the role of parenting is caring for others. However, in order to rebuild, you also have to take care of you. This looks different for everyone, but it has to be incorporated at some point. If not, our bodies usually take over and we are forced to rest. 

In the same book as mentioned before, Stephen discusses how “the word ‘care’ has its roots in a Latin word that means ‘cure’.” (p. 17)

If we listen to that connection, then caring for our souls becomes a necessity.

This time of caring for yourself has to be intentional, especially as a parent. What would it look like to incorporate small things that bring you joy throughout the day? (yes, cookies count) What would it look like to intentionally do something that makes you smile?

This doesn’t have to mean bubble baths and face masks, as mainstream media typically depicts self care. 

No, soul care is different. 

Soul care is realizing you are more than just a body that is expected to perform. You are a person, someone with worth and value. Someone with dreams and goals. 

Soul care is realizing that living a life where you feel depleted all of the time is absolutely miserable, and you don’t have to live like that.

My encouragement for you this season is to find time to rest, to regroup. Incorporate things that bring you joy.

 

Guidepost 3: Know you are not alone.

No matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays, please remember this guidepost. 

Some families right now are having their first Christmas without loved ones due to covid or other illnesses. 

Some parents have recently gone through a divorce or separation, and this is their first holiday season without their partner present. 

This season may come with mixed feelings. You don’t have to shove those down or repress them. 

If you feel like they are about to overwhelm you, like the grief is too deep to wade through, remember you are not alone. 

Grief, and emotions, are like waves (as our director, Andrea, points out). There will be times that the waves feel like they are swallowing you whole. Other times, they will lap at your ankles. However, the waves do recede. 

When you feel like a big wave is hitting, here are a few things you can do: talk to a friend, journal, draw, or do something with your hands (working on a car, gardening, cleaning) while you process. You are not powerless here. 

Thank you for tuning in to our holiday guideposts!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year.

See you in 2022!

How to Survive the Holidays: College Edition

Welcome back one and all to

our holiday survival guide!


This week’s post is for those of you out there who are trying to navigate passing finals, finishing the semester, moving, and surviving the holidays all at once.

Otherwise known as “college”.

This applies to those in undergrad, post grad, or doctorate level. There are just some similarities between all of them – primarily the stress level and the amount that is added to your plate late November through December every year.

Below are three guideposts specifically for you guys. I hope these help during this season and you are able to achieve the goal of not just surviving, but thriving.

 

Guidepost 1: Rest

The majority of individuals in college don’t have a problem with realizing how long their to-do list is during this time. What actually ends up being the problem is the lack of rest.

Your body needs rest, and no, 3 hours a night does not count, especially when you are living on coffee and red bull the next day.

As you are finishing finals over the next week and beginning to enter holiday mode 2.0, my encouragement is that you implement time to rest. Try allowing yourself to sleep for 6-8 hours at least one night. Have breaks during the day where you can walk, read, or just take a mental break. In order to function at its optimal level, your brain needs time to decompress. 

 

Guidepost 2: Nourish

You need food and water.

Yes, I know that seems self-explanatory. 

However, when our schedules get crazy, one of the first things to go (besides sleep) is adequate nourishment for our bodies. We start upping the caffeine intake, lessening the amount of water, and eating a full meal becomes a rarity. How much better do you think you would feel if you had food throughout the day and water to drink?

So let’s see what it would look like to change that.

Instead of picking a random goal, such as cooking three meals from scratch daily starting tomorrow, let’s pick one that is attainable. If you set goals that are easier to meet at first, it actually ends up encouraging you to keep going. If you set the goal too high at first and don’t successfully complete it, discouragement is the primary result. What would be an attainable, appropriate goal to set here? I would break it up so you have one for food and one for water.

 

Guidepost 3: Joyful movement 

Movement does wonders for the body, especially when dealing with a lot of stress or coming out of a stressful time. 

This doesn’t mean you need to go buy a gym membership and start tomorrow. Joyful movement isn’t based on weight loss, calories, or expectations. It is just movement that you enjoy. A leisurely walk, roller blading, yoga, dance, gardening, swimming in the ocean (it’s hot here in Florida), or walking the dog. All of these are examples of movement that can bring joy with no pressure. 

Meditative movement is also very helpful. This is movement you can do while letting your mind wander or focus on specific sensations in your body. I find both can be powerful. Sometimes for my walks, I just allow my mind to go. It allows me time to think through all of the million thoughts that are coming in at once. The walking helps my brain process them as well since my body is now involved. Other times, focusing on my body and the intentional relaxation of it is what is needed. This requires slowing down, deep breathing, and intentional thoughts. 

 

Guidepost 4: Celebrate 

Definitely couldn’t leave this one out!

Please celebrate.

You have worked so hard this past semester to finish so much. 

Pick something you enjoy – whether it be a specific place, people group, or food – and go!

 

How to Survive the Holidays Part 2

Welcome back to our holiday survival guide!

Last week, we explored how gaining awareness of ourselves and those around us is crucial in not only surviving the holidays, but thriving. 

This week, we explore the next three guideposts in surviving the holidays.

 

Guidepost 3: Time to evaluate

There are two main questions for this guidepost:

Was this Thanksgiving break a time of relaxation and reprieve (or did work become the escape)?

Overall, what do you want your holidays to look like? 

Both are great questions as we continue to dive into a holiday experience that brings rejuvenation, rest, and joy. I encourage you to journal or talk to a close friend about your answers here. Take some time and really explore them.

Thanksgiving was probably a good precursor to how the Christmas holidays will go. If it resulted in higher stress for you, this is the perfect time to evaluate what you would like to do for December. How you spend the time during the holidays matters. For many, this is one of the only breaks from work or school that they will receive all year. It is vital that there are some moments of rest.

Which leads me to the next guidepost… 


Guidepost 4: Know yourself and what you need

Here are your two main questions for this guidepost:

How do you recharge during your time off?

What can you add in during the holiday time to assist with that?

Again, Thanksgiving can be a great learning experience. If you felt burnt out or exhausted after this holiday, then you now have the opportunity and time to evaluate. How can you be creative during this upcoming Christmas vacation to add in moments of recharge and rest? 

For the clients I work with, I encourage them to add in moments that incorporate their senses, inner child, and relationships. Let me explain. Your five senses are used daily to experience the world around you. Each of us have things that we love to experience, whether that be through taste, sight, sound, smell, or touch. Adding in moments on a daily basis that bring you joy is so vital to thriving in this life. During the holidays, I know that a walk outside does wonders for my mood and stress levels. I love to hear the birds in the morning and spend time in nature. It helps me focus. For others, it is the feeling of a warm blanket wrapped around them with hot cocoa. 

This then also plays into your inner child. We are all passionate about different things. Incorporate those things this Christmas! Allow your creativity and playfulness to emerge. This can be through decorating the house, getting crafty, or implementing hobbies you enjoy (like baking cookies).

For moments that incorporate relationships, spend time with those around you who build into you, encourage you, and see you for who you are. These are the life giving moments that can happen as you take a walk with a friend, share a good meal with someone, or grab a cup of coffee since it’s freezing out. (Yes, I was born and raised in Florida. I get cold when a breeze blows.)

I would also encourage you to spend time with yourself. This is a relationship that is often neglected but so vital. Take a walk, read a good book, enjoy some yoga, build something new, or tear apart a car. This alone time is also recharging and necessary, just like the relational time with others is. 

And lastly…

 

Guidepost 5: No.

It’s a complete sentence. You are allowed to say it, especially if an environment, outing, or family member has been shown to be unsafe.

You are not obligated to attend any gathering or talk to every family member.

I know that this goes against so many things you have been told and is uncomfortable to even acknowledge. However, part of thriving during the holiday season is realizing that you can protect yourself, even here. You are worth protecting. (Read that sentence again.) You do not need to relive the childhood trauma you endured because the person who hurt you decided they want you to come for Christmas dinner. 

No is a complete sentence. 

 

Thanks for joining me on the guideposts to surviving the holiday season.

If you have any other guideposts you would like mentioned or broken down, leave a comment below and I’ll add them into the next post.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

How to Survive the Holidays (and not end up in jail) Part 1

Welcome one and all to our guide on surviving the holidays! (Part 1)

If you are one of those rare individuals who do not have family drama, conflict, or a long lost relative that chooses to reappear during the holiday season, that’s wonderful. For the majority of the population, the holidays seem to bring something out of those around us that we did not know was there (or that we desperately wanted to forget). Join me as we dive into not only how to survive this holiday season, but thrive. Now, thriving might still look like booking multiple therapy sessions come January, but no jail time is a win.

 


Guidepost 1: Gaining awareness

For those of you who have been in therapy at Phenix or have seen any of the Justin and Caitlin show (which will be returning for a season 2 btw), you have likely heard of the term “inner child”. For those of you who have not heard of this yet, our “inner child” is a part of us that represents our child self. The child self, when integrated, brings with it joy, spirituality, curiosity, and playfulness.

In general, our inner child loves to idealize situations and people, especially our family. It is an honest and vulnerable part of us that desperately wants our parents’ love, affirmation, and acceptance. For many people, their parents were either unable or unwilling to provide one of those qualities. The holidays then become the perfect time for the inner child to jump on the idealization train and hope that this year will be different. This is why the first step of surviving the holidays is gaining awareness of this tendency from little you. 


There’s nothing morally or inherently wrong with wanting your family’s love and acceptance. We are wired for connection and the foundational connection we crave is from our parents. However, if we continue to idealize the family members every year, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.

Which leads me to my next guidepost…

 

Guidepost 2: Gain awareness (of others)

I truly believe people can heal and relationships can be redeemed. With that belief, also comes a hearty dose of reality. Healthy relationships take authenticity and vulnerability, which requires a healthy amount of self awareness and desire to grow from each individual. Unfortunately, many families do not have relationships with each other that would be described as authentic and vulnerable. Gaining awareness of family patterns and dynamics will be vital. Here are some questions to ask:

How do the family members typically react to one another?

Is there a certain family member who consistently creates drama during the holidays?

Who becomes more stressed as Thanksgiving and Christmas inch closer? Why?

Who in the family is safe and healthy to talk to? 

Who models authenticity and vulnerability?

How is the communication level? Do family members actually talk things out peacefully, or are problems avoided until a blow up occurs? (if it ever occurs)

People typically behave in the same patterns until significant work has been done to change and heal. Depending on what you have seen from holidays past, it is a safe bet to assume this holiday will be similar. 

Now that we have a place from which to begin, join me next week as we discuss the action steps you can take to take care of yourself during this time.