How to Deal with Your Emotions

This is How Positive Change Happens… When people initially contact me to do counselling and therapy, they often say: “I want to work on how to deal with my emotions”. That’s a worthwhile goal because our emotions are a hugely significant part of our lives and they can definitely be hard to deal with. The first step I offer is a different view of our emotions: Maybe our emotions don’t need to be dealt with. What they do need is more willingness to be worked with rather than against or suppressed. How do we do that? We can choose to practice – over and over again – accepting, validating, and tolerating our emotions. Not just a little. Not in a way that’s immediately followed by quickly moving on to bigger and better (and less unpleasant) things. Our emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear need to be identified, accepted, connected with, and tolerated. This process can be really challenging. In theory, it might make sense. Doing it can be monumental. It takes a lot of courage, effort, and support for us to accurately identify what we’re actually feeling, deep down, and then to accept it and validate it. When we try to do so, our defense mechanisms often block us from feeling our emotional pain. They fire so rapidly we sometimes don’t even know it’s happening.  For example, when connecting with an emotion or a feeling like anger or sadness, after a second or two, we may find ourselves saying something like “I feel like my partner/parent thinks I’m…”. Once we do that, we’re no longer dealing with our actual...

My Top 10 Books for Positive Change

This is How Positive Change Happens… I often get asked for book recommendations which is great because reading and learning is an important part of positive change and growth. Including reading books in the counselling or therapy process is called “bibliotherapy”, a fun word and one that’s not used much because it sounds kind of clinical or even, pretentious. Here’s my Top 10 Books for Positive Change (these are in no particular order): When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron Hold Me Tight or Love Sense by Dr. Sue Johnson Man’s Guide to Women: Scientifically Proven Secrets from the Love Lab about What Women Really Want by Drs. John and Julie Gottman with Douglas Abrams and Rachel Carlton Abrams Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships by Marshall Rosenberg Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Harold Bloomfield, Melba Colgrove, and Peter McWilliams The Mindful Teen: Powerful Skills to Help You Handle Stress One Moment at a Time by Dr. Dzung Vo (this is not just helpful for teens) Curiosity Killed the Caterpillar by Tamara Skjolden How to be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys for Mindful Loving by David Richo Poetry by Mary Oliver, Rumi, Hafez, David Whyte, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pablo Neruda, or whatever moves you & a variety of fiction too! Also, in recognition that we also learn through video/audio, here’s two of my favourite videos ever (and they’re less than 6 min each): A Self-Compassion Exercise Boundaries with Brene Brown If you check out any of...

Going for a Small Goal

This is How Positive Change Happens… Whether I like it or not, as a New Year approaches I find myself grappling with the possibility of participating in the popular cultural phenomena of crafting a “new year’s resolution” or not. This year I decided to participate but with a different approach than usual – different for myself and the general cultural trend. I decided to go for a small goal. A really small goal. Here’s an except from my HuffPost article, Going for a Small Goal: Over the past couple of weeks when I started – somewhat reluctantly – reflecting on my “new year’s resolutions” and my “goals for 2017”, I started to wonder about the potential power in going with a small goal. Really small. Yet, a tiny behaviour that affects the quality of my daily life. I find I’m increasingly skeptical about big, lofty goals. I’ve noticed those types of goals tend to set us up for failure and that doesn’t feel good. Of course, I’ve got my big goals like most people and I’m working on them to varying degrees. I was also longing for a small goal I could see and feel success with in a consistent way and preferably, immediate way. go here to read more: Going for a Small Goal...

5 Things You Can Stop Feeling Bad About: my first HuffPost article

This is How Positive Change Happens… I’m happy to share the news of my first article in the HuffPost! It’s called 5 Things You Can Stop Feeling Bad About.  I was inspired to write this article based on observing many people (including myself) feeling bad about things they don’t need to. As a psychotherapist, therapy client, and recovering New Ager, I’ve grown acutely aware of some of the ways we try to cope with life that actually make us feel worse. Life is hard enough as it is. I felt compelled to offer a much-needed dose of relief. I hope that reading this article will get you closer to the liberating possibility of chucking these burdensome (and rather popular) 5 things so you can be relieved of unnecessary suffering and enjoy a life of more compassion, and peace. Here’s an excerpt from 5 Things You Can Stop Feeling Bad About.  Here’s what I’ve noticed over the years: We often feel bad about things we don’t need to. Ironically, some of the ways we try to relieve our pain cause us more pain. While we need to cope with life’s inevitable challenges, we get into trouble by feeling bad about feeling bad. When faced with a difficult situation, we often think we should feel different than we do. Piling on this unnecessary judgment creates shame and we end up feeling bad. Here are five doozies you can stop feeling bad about: go here to read more… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-things-you-can-stop-feeling-bad-about_us_576c5283e4b06721d4c04126  ...

Are you sure you want to diagnose yourself with “depression”?

This is How Positive Change Happens… Sometimes, a counselling session with someone starts out with the client saying something like this: “I’ve got depression” or “I’m depressed”. Whenever I hear that, my ears perk up even more than usual. I often respond with “I’m sorry to hear that. Have you been diagnosed with depression?”. Sometimes, I hear “Yes, my doctor sent me to a psychiatrist. They asked me lots of questions and then told me I have depression”. Okay, so this client has been assessed and given a diagnosis from qualified professionals. The diagnosis is more likely to be accurate and we go from there in our counselling work together. I offer research-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) strategies for depression and that client is often including doctor-supervised drug therapy in their treatment plan too. Other times, I hear something like “Well, no, I haven’t been diagnosed. I’ve done some reading online and it seems like a lot of the info on depression applies to me. I really feel depressed”. This kind of response calls for a different approach from me. I wouldn’t do this client any favours if I immediately hopped on that train with them and went along with a framework and diagnosis that turns whatever they’re struggling with into a mental illness. Clinical depression may or may not be accurate or relevant here. We need to get curious and investigate more together first. Here’s some life experiences that can be mistakenly interpreted as, or mislabeled as, “depression”: hard-hitting, deep sadness from grief and loss of a loved one through death or the ending of a relationship of any...

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...

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...

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...