Living on the other side

Living on the other side

Wondering what it takes to actually live the life you’ve dreamed of?  

What do you need to know before you take the leap into living your life differently?

The promised land, where your new story begins…

I have written here about the general arc of therapy we follow.  We have offered tips for maximizing each stage of therapy and we have written specifically about Phase Two – the grieving process.  Today, I want to write about the final phase of therapy – activating the true self you have discovered and walking in your new story.  

I have referred to the grieving phase as “the land between”, but embarking on this final phase of therapy is also a transitional season in a different way: A twilight zone between what you have deconstructed and completion of what you are constructing.  Anyone who has had a house built understands that it is a PROCESS!  One of fits and starts…which may find you living in temporary digs until the new house is ready.  Despite the best blueprints, some things just can’t be understood until you see the pieces in place and you may realize, that’s not what I thought it would be.  Back to the drawing board you go to choose a different faucet or refrigerator.  The whole thing takes time with all sorts of surprise obstacles, but perseverance leaves you with the home of your dreams.  

Moving from one house to another always illuminates your possessions in a fresh way, causing you to question why on earth you’ve kept certain things all these years.  Some beloved objects have to be released because they simply will not function or fit in the new home.  If you are living in temporary quarters, you are surrounded by the chaos of missing vital belongings that are in storage and not being able to permanently settle what you were able to keep with you.  Likewise, here are the discomforts that come with leaving behind the life you deconstructed:

  • Most of the relationships you had before therapy were chosen from the adaptive self you are shedding.  Hanging out with friends will often leave you wondering why on earth you tolerated the behaviors, talk and ways of thinking that you now see with clearer eyes.  You may find yourself regularly irritated by family members who operate out of the dysfunctional patterns you now recognize.  Bitterness and resentment become dragons requiring daily battle.   
  • These folks from your old life are used to the adaptive self you crafted and may not know what to do with who you are becoming.  They may not even like your true self, especially if you are no longer willing to offer what they used to get from you!  That rejection truly stings…
  • This season of therapy can be very lonely as you find yourself distancing from those who operate under your old rules, but you have not yet built healthy replacement relationships.  It can be incredibly tempting to return to aspects of the old adaptive self in the face of this loneliness.  Some fade out of the therapy process at this point but they cannot unknow what they have learned, making their compromise existence a cruel game.  
  • You may realize the job or career you are in is not a good fit for you.  Perhaps your job is actually a toxic environment.  Maybe the career field you spent thousands of dollars to prepare for will never align with what you now understand to be your strengths and what brings you fulfillment and joy.  Again, the decisions you made about work came from the adaptive self you are retiring, leaving you in a situation that is no longer workable.  
  • The old adaptive self is one you mastered.  You know how it works.  Saying no to the familiar is extremely difficult.   

Living in transition and setting up your new “home” comes with many challenges.  Temporarily crashing in someone else’s space is inconvenient, humbling and disorderly.  Even after you’ve moved to your new place, there’s usually a stage of, “I’ve made a terrible mistake – why did I move here?” before you start meeting neighbors and finding new favorite restaurants and local activities to love.  It’s the same when the rubber of therapy meets the road of life:

  • The new ways of thinking and behaving that will take you in the direction you want to go will feel awkward and clumsy.  Very quickly, you begin to wonder if you can really pull this new story off as you move toward new friendships, romance, faith, calling, etc.  
  • When our brains have been normed to the stimulation of dysfunctional life patterns, healthy people and activities will feel boring at best, downright unattractive at worst.  It takes time to rewire the brain to enjoy this new existence.  
  • You must retrain the people in your life, how to interact with you.  This takes work and will not likely be well received.  Conflicts will arise.  A few will make it through this process, many will fade away or depart in a fiery blaze.  Are we willing to let go of those who cannot steward well, who we are becoming?   
  • For all of these reasons, embracing the true self is terrifying.  Offering a committed “YES” to that which is true of you demands Courage with a capital C.  Remember, courage is not the absence of fear, it is feeling the fear and moving forward anyway.  That is the very definition of Phase Three therapy at Phenix!    

Many people assume that once they have done the work of deconstruction and grieving, they need only find healthy people who have also done their work and relationships will be easy-peasy.  Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.  Healthy relationships between mature individuals take work but I can promise that it is fulfilling work.  Forcing dysfunctional relationships to run is devastating work.  I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather do the fulfilling work of assessing acquaintances for core relational competencies, learning and teaching about the nuances of each others’ personalities, building trust, and allowing others to meet our appropriate needs as we meet theirs.  (Many clients find relying on others one of the most difficult steps to master.)   

Then there is an aspect of this phase that I don’t think we talk about enough: It is one thing to intellectually assent to what was lost or never provided.  It is another thing altogether to experience life as it should be – the dynamics you didn’t have before.  Such experiential understanding ushers in a new level of grieving.  This is a surreal, dual experience: moving forward in building the new story while simultaneously holding space for the sadness that comes with truly understanding what you were missing.  

The foundational principle to establishing the new “home”, the true self, the new story, is the fact that commitment and action precedes emotion.  You will not feel like doing the things that need to be done.  Yet, we do not advocate a “fake it till you make it” approach.  It’s not about bumbling around, creating a new adaptive self in hopes of getting what you want.  It is about tuning in to what is true about you and aligning your actions with that truth versus the lies your old self believed.  It’s mindfully walking in truth until your brain, body and soul have enough experience to actually believe it.  It is one of the scariest processes you will ever undertake in life.  Courage will be required in Costco-sized amounts but the payoff is worth it, just like that dream house we get to live in when the moving truck pulls away, the boxes are unpacked and the interior design has been fully executed.  All those months of planning, crisis response, expense, letting go, cleaning, organizing, learning, choosing and moving are absolutely worth all the trouble!     

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. 

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.

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!

 

Confessions of a Counselor Part 3

Confessions of a Counselor Part 3

How aware are you of your self-talk and the words you use with yourself and others? 

It’s time again to share another hidden treasure of therapy, which at first can seem really annoying, but over time becomes a tremendous asset. That hidden treasure: awareness of the actual words you use with yourself and others. What do I mean? Well let’s take a quick inventory. I want you to stop, slow down…. and listen to what is going on in your mind right now. Do you notice these words: must, have to, got to, should have. Those are cue words. Those words are pressuring and usually a solid sign that your self-talk has switched into a critical nature. If you are in therapy with us and you have chosen to use parts of self as your lens for the work, the words listed above are signs your critical parent is in the driver’s seat, which is not where we want that part of self in the car.

Again – stop, slow down, and take notice of the words you are using with others. Are you noticing those, have to, should have, need to, and got to’s? This is typically a sign that you are triggered and maybe feeling that you are not good enough, you didn’t do enough, or feel a loss of control. When those feelings rise up, we tend to grasp at controlling those around us. Yikes…

So, why are we talking about this? Well, one of the benefits and early annoyances in therapy is that not only are you generally growing in awareness of how you behave, but also the words that are running around your mind. Now, more than ever, you’ll be cognizant of the verbiage you use to communicate with others. This is important because sometimes we are unaware of how our self-talk switches through the day. Becoming aware of those words you use with yourself is imperative to the therapeutic journey because it is in those moments of catching the self-talk changing that you can check-in and ask, “what just happened?”. Otherwise, you simply go on the ride of how your mind always operated before you began therapy.

When you are able to stop and ask the above question it now gives you the opportunity to see what may have triggered you or bothered you. This is amazing because now you can take back the power and control over your thoughts and reactions. You can really begin the process of change!

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!

Confessions of a Counselor Part 2

I guess I am going to turn this into a mini-series (check back to last week’s blog post). Except, I am not going to a Catholic Priest to confess and then do my penance. I have done that twice in my life though. I was a child and had no idea what I was doing. Had I been going to confession during my late adolescence and 20’s, the congregation may have had to toss me in the holy water fountain and hope for the best. We all have our histories right? Right guys?! Okay, onto the topic at hand. 

Confession #2: There are parts of your dysfunctional behaviors you will keep and that’s a good thing. Wait…what!? Read on…

In therapy you may ask yourself, “Do my dysfunctional coping mechanisms have any redeeming qualities or am I just highlighting it all, hitting the delete button, and starting over?” Good question. And every counselor says, “It depends.” Confession: That’s our go to response. I will say this post is most relevant to those of you who have ventured through the first 2 phases of therapy (awareness and grief), have gotten to the other side (no small feat!), and have begun the process of developing your new story. If you are not at this point in therapy, it’s okay, because if you stay the course this will become relevant to you down the road. 

I started this blog by mentioning dysfunctional coping mechanisms and whether they have to be eliminated completely or not. To simplify this blog, let’s focus this down a bit and highlight codependency as a dysfunctional coping mechanism. 

Codependency is a common struggle for many people. Confession: I am one of these people. Codependency is really centered around a thought and behavior process where you have learned to anticipate other people’s needs, meet them, and forget all about yourself. That is until you are frustrated and become resentful of the person you are rescuing. If you want more on this – come to therapy. 

As you begin to walk out your new story you may think to yourself, ‘Wow, I have to get rid of all this codependent behavior with my new story.’ Well, not so fast. There are gold nuggets and good that can come from even the most traumatic backgrounds. Where codependency falls flat on its face is when you forget about yourself and others’ needs become more important than yours. Well, a focus in therapy would be to learn how to voice yourself and let your needs be known. This is a great and amazing goal because YOU MATTER! The gift you attained with being codependent is that you know how to read people and situations and see what is needed or missing. 

Maybe you recognize a facial expression in somebody ahead of you in line at the grocery store. When they are at the register to pay and you already know the face they are making means they are short money. Maybe you have been there before and maybe now you have the means to pay the difference and be a blessing to that stranger. Your prior codependent skill of anticipating needs will help you in situations like this. How about that person in the office that people tend to take for granted? You notice that, that person has been sad and it looks like they need a pick-me-up. So, you intentionally bring flowers and a card to their desk reminding them they matter. Again, you see the need and the hurt, so you are able to take action when appropriate. 

You see, therapy isn’t a firesale of all things you, but rather a remolding of yourself. The authentic you was/is always there, it just got covered up by life’s unhealthy happenings. Hang in there. Stay the course. Keep writing that new story.

Confessions of a Counselor Part 1

Have you ever wondered what some of the hidden benefits or struggles are with therapy? Have you ever wondered how you came into therapy wanting to reduce anxiety, and a few months later you are grieving losses from your childhood, and seeing the world differently? You see, here at Phenix, we have a strong belief in transformational work, which is why you see the word ‘transformation’ on our website and all our social media accounts. We firmly believe in the process of long-term sustainable growth and change. Not saying there is anything wrong with solution focused approaches, but generally it is not our cup of tea. Within the deconstruction and reconstruction phases of therapy, there are goals put in place by the client. In our field we call this the treatment plan. The treatment plan becomes the flight path for the focus of therapy, but other benefits and challenges come along the way.

 

So, onto Confession #1

 

There comes a point in therapy where there is a point of no return. Not that you are forced to continue the process or that you must complete some mandatory journey, rather that your eyes and mind are now more aware than ever. You cannot unsee what you’ve already seen. You cannot unknow what you now know. The joy, pain, and sadness in the world will hit you in new ways and in ways you never thought about. Just because you stop therapy does not mean the new insights stop. 

 

Since we are heading into the holiday season, let’s use the holidays as the scenery for this first confession. Maybe in years past you have joined your family for Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas Eve adventures, but you never were able to recognize the maladaptive behaviors and functioning of your family of origin like you do now. Maybe you begin to see and sense the sadness in your brother or mom’s eyes, even though they mask it with a smile on their face. These are the things you can no longer unsee and unfeel. Sorry. What you become aware of now causes the brain to create new neural pathways and it becomes a daily part of the ‘scanning’ your mind does. 

 

It is like the old cliche’ car salespeople use when you are on the lot looking to buy a car from them. They usually say something like this, “You’re gonna be seeing a lot of these on the road.” Yea, that’s because they know your mind is now wired to be looking for the same new car/SUV as you wander down the highway. The car/SUV was always there roaming the roads with you, but they never stuck out to you because your mind never had a reason to cause it to come to your consciousness. Now it does. Has this ever happened to you? Where you went to the Ford dealership to check out a Mustang and now you see every new Ford Mustang on the ride to work. You cannot unsee the Mustangs….they’re everywhere ha. 

Again, my apologies… sorta. Awareness is a part of the journey. Gaining awareness and insight into your functioning is amazing. It gives you the power and control back in your life to begin choosing new ways of responding, behaving, etc. The more you become aware of, the more you can change. The more you realize you can change, the more hope you have of a brighter future, and after the last couple years, I think some extra hope is a good thing. Join me next week for confession #2.

Career Work

One of the courses I teach regularly is Career Development.  As a result, that topic is regularly on my radar.  I really enjoy teaching the class and love even more – working with people who are making decisions about their career.  So, how does the process work?

Career development begins with knowing yourself.  (Does this blog have a theme or what?) How can we determine our best career fit if we don’t fully know ourselves?  Thus, the counseling process begins with working collaboratively to drill down to the true self – who God created you to be.  I use a combination of the Career Style Interview (CSI) developed by Savickas as well as results from familiar assessments like the MBTI or the Strong Interest Inventory.  Assessments are wonderful for identifying specific traits, interests and talents but if the goal is to get to know the true self, we have to go deeper and that’s where the CSI comes in.  It offers a creative way to explore who you really are, the foundational ideals that define you, environments in which you thrive, how you deal with problems, and the deeper preoccupations that drive you.  This gives context to the assessment results.

The second part of the career development process applies to clients who wish to include their faith journey.  For this, I use Gordon T Smith’s book, Courage and Calling.  It is the best resource I’ve found for walking through the process of discerning God’s call on our lives.  Not everyone is a reader so perhaps we use the book on audio or I share the videos I’ve created from the book for the class I teach…whatever works to get into the material.  Then, we digest it all according to your learning style: journaling, expressive projects or discussion.

The peak of the process is in stepping back and looking at all the data: the contextual picture of self, specific assessment results, and the spiritual principles learned (if we took that route).  At this stage, I provide interpretation and suggestions to help you create the vision for your future that feels most authentic to your God-given purpose.  Homework usually involves the research needed to craft your specific strategy – typically interviews with folks in your field of interest, visits to schools if further education is required, etc.  With this information, we are able to set out a step by step plan for walking in your vocation.

Incidentally, as we work through this career focus, it is not unusual to uncover issues that need counseling attention: holes in self knowledge, self esteem deficiencies, unaddressed losses or traumas that hinder living out your calling.  In such cases, you have the option to detour and attend to it, or simply make note of the need and commit to the work at a later date.  Overall, the career development process can be one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling experiences in counseling!