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      ...

Remember Death: The Best Intervention?

This is How Positive Change Happens… Remember Death: The Best Intervention? I worked with a client who was having difficulty sleeping because their mind and heart began to get intensely preoccupied with that fact that they were going die. This person did not have an illness and they were not in any real danger. They were going to die…like all of us. They expressed this preoccupation with their impeding death (eventually) as a bad thing they were doing and that needed to be shut down at once. To their initial surprise, with curiosity, I asked, “If there was some wisdom in these death thoughts, what might that be?”. My client paused and perhaps, thought I was a little crazy. But then, the wisdom came. As they shared more, it became clear that a part of them, let’s call it “Remember Death”, was telling them to live more. Every day they were spending a significant amount of time surfing the internet and checking social media sites. As compelling as that was for another more superficial part, the deep Remember Death part knew that they were getting lost and wasting their life. Remember Death could hear the yearning for far more meaningful, challenging, and vibrant experiences and knew that continuing to postpone them was a very risky game to play. As this wisdom was revealed, a sense of relief washed over them and even an appreciation for the fact that they had been going through this whole seemingly weird death obsession. They could feel their own brilliance. And better yet, they were now inspired to live more. I asked them to...

The Gottman Couples Retreat Board Game

This is How Positive Change Happens… Great News! The Gottman Couples Retreat Board Game Relationships can be really hard sometimes. That’s why we need lots of tools to deal with the inevitable conflicts, disconnects, and slumps. One of the effective tools I offer in couples therapy are approaches from the research-based work of Drs. John and Julie Gottman. In my work with couples, I support them to learn and practice new behaviours that are proven to strengthen relationships such as shifting from criticism to complaining without blame and from defensiveness to increasing accountability. The Gottmans and their team have poured a lot of time and energy into deeply observing what kind of behaviours work well in a relationship and which behaviours erode it or destroy it. Their findings provide some very concrete information we can practice in our relationships. And just this week, I was happy to receive the news that the Gottmans are offering their incredibly valuable tools in a board game! Yes, let’s make working on our relationships FUN, whenever possible! Here’s the link in case you’d like to play at home and enhance your relationship in a new, impactful, and fun way: http://www.gottman.com/couples-retreat-board-game/...

Compassionate Forgiveness

This is How Positive Change Happens… Compassionate Forgiveness One of my newsletter subscribers wrote and asked me if I would write about forgiveness.  I am happy to take on the challenge. I say “challenge” because I have long felt that forgiveness, as a concept and as an act, is difficult to really grasp in an authentic way. I better understand “forgiveness” by understanding the practice of compassion. The term “compassionate forgiveness” resonates with me. When we activate compassion in ourselves we open ourselves to acknowledging and feeling our own suffering and the suffering of another. With compassion, we can understand with our hearts (not just our heads) that someone has hurt us because they are suffering. When we know this, we can experience softening, understanding, and release. I have noticed that some people often think they “should” forgive someone and in doing so, they prematurely force themselves into forgiving. The true experience of forgiveness is not reflected in how their body reacts when they think about or talk about the other person. This is not authentic forgiveness. It’s an act of “spiritual bypassing” or forcing oneself to feel forgiveness (or any other emotion/spiritual state) when one is not ready to do so.  We can prevent this by focusing on attending to our wounds first. When someone has hurt us, it’s best to start with giving compassionate forgiveness to ourselves.  When we meet ourselves with a more open and soft heart, we experience healing and, from that place, then we can actually feel compassion and forgiveness for another. Here’s a couple of exercises that can help us to feel more compassionate...

True Sharing, True Acknowledgement

This is How Positive Change Happens… True Sharing, True Acknowledgement “If your partner has never shown that he or she deeply feels your emotional pain, the pain will remain alive. No logical conversation will fix the hurt. There needs to be an emotional repair of what happened. In order to heal the wound, you need to be able to feel that your partner really cares and feels the hurt that was caused. You may need to open your own heart and share your pain to help your partner understand the impact of the hurt. It is only when your partner is able to communicate how deeply sorry he or she is for what was said or done, that you can start to let go of the hurt, and trust again. Only then can you begin to believe that your partner will be there for you in the future. Only then can your emotional injury begin to heal, and the way toward renewed closeness be opened”. ~ from Hans Beihl, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist When I read the above this morning, it resonated with me so deeply. I felt compelled to share its truthful and healing message with you. In my own relationship and in my work with couples, I find the process of true emotional repair from hurt that Beihl describes so well to be true over and over again. Sometimes, when we hurt our partner, we know we have. It’s a moment of true love when we stop and offer an acknowledgement and an apology to our partner as soon as possible. For example, we might say, “I...

Ingredients for Happiness

This is How Positive Change Happens… Ingredients for Happiness I think I’ll go out on a limb and make the sweeping generalization that basically all humans want to be happy. And, it seems that there’s also quite a bit of confusion about what happiness really is and how to actually experience it. Sometimes we get confused because we think certain experiences will bring us happiness but they actually don’t. We experience fleeting pleasure or excitement, but not the deep and more sustaining happiness we were hoping for. When I was on a mindfulness meditation retreat, the topic of happiness was explored in depth. The teacher, a Buddhist nun, described how to experience happiness. The way she described it was entirely new to me and it was so helpful. She broke it down for us and by doing so, she de-mystified it and made it much more accessible. Here’s the secret recipe she shared: If you want to experience happiness, focus on developing these qualities in your thinking, feeling, and action:     Gratitude     Letting go     Compassion, towards oneself and others To me, this teaching is gold. I think about as if I had a desire to make a really great cake. If I don’t know what the necessary ingredients are, I can’t make that really great cake. Once, I know what the ingredients are, then, voila! I now see being happy as a very intentional creation. It’s not going to just magically happen. When I want to increase my feeling of happiness, I focus on practicing gratitude, letting go, or compassion. And it works. Ever since I heard...

Working with The Wall

This is How Positive Change Happens… Working with The Wall Maybe we all have an internal wall. There seems to be a part of us that quickly goes into self-protection mode when we perceive a threat, sometimes even a slight one. Our walls can take many forms, some more obvious than others. Sometimes, we can recognize the wall through arms crossed over the chest or through getting too intellectual. The wall is not bad or wrong. It’s trying to protect us. Sometimes we really need it to protect us from actual physical and/or emotional danger. Other times, we don’t really need its help and it ends up blocking us from an important experience that we really want to have in our lives such as deeper intimacy, fun, or freedom. When I work with the wall, I start by recognizing and accepting its existence, non-judgementally. I make an invitation to get it know it better: What does it look like? How big or small is it? How old is it? Is it really solid or is it somewhat moveable? Where can you feel it in your body? I often apply EMDR, a tool that can help us access information more clearly and deeply, when working with the wall. Once we get more acquainted with the wall, I start to encourage the development of a more conscious relationship or dialogue with the wall. For example, what do you want to do to the wall? What does the wall what to do to you? Sometimes, a feeling of wanting to destroy the wall will come up. That’s understandable. But because the wall...

Maybe Self-deprivation isn’t Fun

This is How Positive Change Happens… Maybe Self-deprivation isn’t Fun When I was meditating recently, I had an insight. I’ve written it up on a sign and pasted it on my bathroom mirror. In bold letters, it says: I’m determined to fill my tank. There is no need for self-deprivation. The sign is there to remind me to live by these words as much as I can every day. It’s also there because I struggle with doing so. Maybe you struggle with it too. If you do, I hope you find this enews-letter helpful.For me, as I start my day, I often have a pretty good sense of what I need in order to feel healthy, balanced, and more restored (or, what I need to do or not do to fill my tank). For example, a part of me tells me, “You need to get to bed earlier tonight. Let’s aim for 11pm. You’ll feel better”. At that point, I respond with, “Yes, that’s a great idea. I agree”. The plan is set. As the day unfolds though, sometimes I get too busy or overwhelmed. I return home feeling kind of depleted but I’m no longer on board with the plan to fill my tank by taking good care of myself with a good night’s sleep. Now, another part of me kicks in and says, “Hey, you’ve worked hard. Let’s have some fun. You don’t need to go to bed by 11pm. Let’s watch detective shows on Netflix!”. That’s one of my things. You might do that one too or you might do something else. Watching too many detective...