On being with Dying, On being with Compassion

This is How Positive Change Happens… Last week, I happened upon this writing I did on Jan 24, 2004. During that time, I was preparing to apply for doing my Masters in Counselling Psychology. I decided to do some volunteer work to strengthen my application. At that time, I was also at the early stage of learning about developing mindfulness and compassion in my life. So, with those factors together, I decided to volunteer at a hospice. Here’s one of my profound experiences I had at that time that I’m still deeply grateful for today: On being with Dying, On being with Compassion: My Hospice Experience In the past two months, I’ve been enriched by the experience of volunteering at a hospice in Vancouver. While doing this delicate and sacred work of being present with people who are at the end of their lives, it has been very helpful to practice of mindfulness and compassion. The practice of mindful breathing has helped me to stay connected to myself as I face some of my own fears about death and dying while I worked with people in hospice care. One day when I arrived for my shift, I was told by the staff that an elderly man I had been with briefly the week before was in the final stages of the dying process. The staff asked me to sit with him and suggested that I massage his feet. Sitting with a person who is actively dying is an experience I’d never had in my life. Since this was such an unknown for me, I felt some fear arise within...

How to Resolve Internal Conflict

This is How Positive Change Happens… Do you notice some internal conflict going on? If you do, that would be really normal. Do you wonder how to resolve internal conflict? Or if it will ever resolve? Maybe a part of you really wants to speak up more about something important to a loved one and, at the same time, another part of you says it’s a bad idea to do that so just continue to keep quiet about it and don’t rock the boat. Or maybe a part of you wants to take the plunge and commit to a relationship more and, another part isn’t so sure about that so it holds back expressing more loving feelings and talk about the future. These are just a couple of examples of the internal conflicts we can get into in ourselves sometimes. We get stuck and struggle in the conflict. We have painful inner battles going on. We experience various symptoms like anxiety, frustration, confusion, and sadness. Internal conflict can be tough to to work through. Once we acknowledge it though, we can get support to work through it. This is where an amazing intervention, or tool, called Ego State Therapy, or Parts Work, comes in (I prefer the term “Parts Work”). In March 2016, I completed an intensive training in Ego State Therapy with one of the best experts on it, Dr. Sandra Paulsen. Her training included a lot of knowledge, tools, research, and most importantly, a lot of heart and respect for people and their struggles. Since my training with Dr. Paulsen, I feel inspired and excited to offer...

Are you a man in relationship with a woman? YOUR book has finally arrived!

This is How Positive Change Happens… Are you a man in a relationship with a woman? Or are you a man who wants to be a relationship, a good relationship, with a woman? Well, finally, your book has arrived! I’m excited to share this very good news with you.  “The Man’s Guide to Women” is an outstanding new book and it’s the first of its kind. It’s a science-based/research-based book that’s written in a really down to earth and, often, funny, way. This book provides a clear map for navigating the often confusing, tough terrain of a male-female intimate relationship. So much confusion and unnecessary fighting and disconnection can be cleared up almost instantly if you’re willing to learn and practice what this book suggests. “The Man’s Guide to Women” is written by the best relationship researchers alive on the planet. I encourage you to check it out no matter what your current relationships status is. If you do check it out, please feel free to send me your thoughts on it. Here’s a rave review from one of my clients: “Thank you for letting me know about the man’s guide to women. It made me chuckle, was informative, confirmed some things I am doing right, and taught me things I can do better. What I enjoyed most was the science the book brought to light. Chapter 11 on conflict stands out – lots of good physiology reactions explained here and connections made to our ancestry times. This chapter has greatly helped me understand myself more as well as better handle conflict with my partner when it arises. Great...

Give a Good Apology

This is How Positive Change Happens… A good apology is one of the best gifts to give and receive. Do you know how to give a good apology? When I do couples counselling, I really get to see how people give and receive apologies. I get to see the kinds of apologies that don’t work (and do further damage) and I also get to see apologies that work and therefore, create more closeness and bonding. I help couples to learn how to give and receive good apologies and to experience the healing benefits of them. When we receive a good apology, we know. It’s like we have a built in system in our bodies, hearts, and brains that recognizes a good apology. We can feel it repairing the wound inside. We feel acknowledged and we feel relieved. First, I’d like to share with you some examples of apologies that don’t work. Apologies that don’t work: “I’m sorry, okay?!” (often said in an abrupt and frustrated tone) “I’m sorry but…” “I’m sorry if you feel…” “I hope you don’t feel…” “It wasn’t my intention to…” “If you hadn’t ___________ then I wouldn’t have____________” “Look, I said I was sorry!” “I’m sorry but that’s your perception” And of course, not saying anything at all and expecting it to be a given for the person to know you’re sorry is not an apology. These non-apologies dressed up as apologies do nothing to repair a hurt or a rupture. It can even make it worse. Knowing how to effectively apologize is one of the most important skills we can develop in life. It...

You’re Needy: How to Communicate Better

This is How Positive Change Happens… You’re needy. We’re all needy. We’re born with needs, we live with them, and we die with them. There’s no choice in this. It’s a given of our human existence, whether we like it or not. It’s really the same as breathing. It would seem really strange to criticize ourselves or each other for breathing, right? Yet when it comes to needs, that’s sometimes what we do. We criticize, judge, minimize, or downright deny, that we have needs and other people do too. This gets us nowhere and causes a lot of pain and suffering along the way. The fact that we have a whole range of needs makes us human and, it makes us vulnerable. Dependent, in fact. Some of us really don’t like that. Some of us have been taught that it’s really important to be “independent”. We’ve coped with our important needs not getting met by parents in childhood by becoming really independent and telling ourselves, “I don’t need you anyways”. Yet, having needs, and being impacted by whether those needs are being met enough or not, is just the way life is. I’ve noticed, on a personal level and in my counselling work with clients, the more we accept our needs, the better life gets. Bad things don’t happen when we accept our needs. Quite the opposite proves to be true, especially in couples relationships. The Trap One of the reasons this is true is because there’s a direct link between how we feel (or our emotional state) and whether or not we’re experiencing our needs being fulfilled enough...

How to Meditate and Be More Mindful

This is How Positive Change Happens… When I work with people in individual counselling or couples counselling in Vancouver or via skype, I often hear requests for “tools”. That makes so much sense. We need tools to be able to achieve our goals in life whether that’s better communication or to feel more relaxed. Many people also tell me they “want to learn to meditate”. I always think “That’s a good idea” when I hear that because I know from my own experience that meditation brings many benefits and serves to improve our emotional and physical well-being as well as our relationships. In order to support the requests of “more tools” and the aspiration of  “I want to learn to meditate”, I want to pass onto you an excellent new tool that makes it very accessible to learn and practice meditation. It’s a book called The Mindful Teen created by my colleague, Dr. Dzung Vo. This resource helps us to develop mindfulness in our daily lives whether we’re teens or older. Dr. Vo gives us tools to help us slow down, connect more deeply, restore ourselves, be more present, and live more compassionately. To learn more, go to The Mindful Teen website: mindfulnessforteens.com You may also want to try some of the really good quality guided meditations Dr. Vo offers on his website (most are less than 5 min long and there’s also a 30 min Body Scan meditation). In my work with people in counselling, I often recommend using tools such as the guided meditatons Dr. Vo offers to support progress on other goals like anger management, stress or anxiety reduction, healing...

Self-Care is Giving to Others too

This is How Positive Change Happens… I just read an excellent article on self-care and one of the main obstacles to it: co-dependency or a pattern of focusing too much on other people and how they are/how their needs are being met to the neglect of focusing enough energy and action on getting one’s own needs met in life. Sometimes, this is understood as the balance between self-focus and other-focus. Self-care can sound like an easy thing to do but it can be a significant challenge because in order to do it on a regular basis the following is also needed:  healthy boundaries and the ability to assert and maintain them, enough self-esteem or enough of a sense that we are valuable and important too, support from family/friends, and the ability to slow down enough so there’s even room available for self-care in a relaxed kind of way not just as another task to jam into the busy schedule. So everytime you manage to practice some self-care, appreciate it as the triumph it truly is. To learn more about co-dependency and self-care, check out this article from the GoodTherapy.org website: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/self-care-enhance-relationship To book in for some extra support through individual counselling or couples counselling in Vancouver, call or email me...

Addiction & the Need for Connection

This is How Positive Change Happens… Today, my mind has been wonderfully blown and my heart has been beautifully blasted open. I’m so grateful a colleague shared an article with me that offers a fresh and amazing perspective on addiction, the causes of it, and the effective recovery from it. I feel inspired to share this article (link below) with you. Please share it with anyone you know who struggles with addiction and/or loves someone who struggles with it. To clarify, when I use the word “addiction” I mean any behaviour that someone does in a compulisve way that backfires on them and their relationships. This could be anything from staying online too long to drinking too much or using a drug too much. Another good gauge for checking in about addictive behaviour is:  Does part of me know this behaviour isn’t really good for me and my relationships but I’m doing it anyway? If the answer is “yes”, you’re engaging in some kind of compulsive, addictive behaviour that has negative consquences. Some people I work with have answered “yes” to the above and want to make a positive change but don’t know how. As the brilliant article I read today shows, we’ve often been trying to make those changes in ways that don’t really work. In order to break free from addiction, we can not go it alone. We need to get more connected to people that matter to us, people that can support us, people that can be there for us. Otherwise, we’ll go back to the addiction and/or find a new one. In addition, in order to...

From Criticism and Blame to What?

This is How Positive Change Happens… From Criticism and Blame to What? One of the biggest obstacles we can experience in communication is attempting to address issues or resolve concerns by coming at the other person with criticism/blame. That approach almost always triggers defensiveness (often in the form of a criticism too) and/or shutting down. It just doesn’t seem to work and we’re in a worst place to boot. When I work with people in individual counselling or couples counselling in my practice in Vancouver, we often do focused work on effectively dealing with this obstacle. The solution is not to back away from addressing our concerns but rather to change HOW we do it. That’s where excellent guidance from the work of the Gottmans as well Dr.Marshall Rosenberg come in. The relationship experts, Drs. John and Julie Gottman, have identified criticism as one of the top toxic behaviours we do and gladly, they offer us the antidote too: complain without blame. Useful but I often find people I work with don’t really know HOW to do that (which is completely understandable). That’s where I like to offer the tool of Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC). NVC is a very clear, four step process we can follow, like a map, to address our concerns in a way that the listener is way more likely to actually be able to respond to them. You can practice applying NVC today. Here’s an infographic and a link that show you what NVC is and how to use it:   http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/aboutnvc/4partprocess.htm      ...