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...

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/...

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...

The Counselling Process: Tools for Acceptance

This is How Positive Change Happens… Tools for Acceptance One of my trainers shared this insight with me: “As therapists, we’re assisting people to befriend reality”. Sounds simple enough yet, it can be very challenging for all of us to identify, confront, and befriend the realities of our own lives and life in general sometimes. We have a tendency to try to run away from, minimize, or protest reality. We might get some temporary relief from those defense mechanisms, and on a deeper level, we also end up giving ourselves and others more suffering. One of the tools I find helpful for accepting reality comes from David Richo’s work, “The Five Things We Cannot Change”. Richo identifies and encourages us to accept these five qualities of life as a way to experience less suffering and more happiness. As he says, There are five unavoidable givens, five immutable facts that come to visit all of us many times over: 1. Everything changes and ends. 2. Things do not always go according to plan. 3. Life is not always fair. 4. Pain is part of life. 5. People are not loving and loyal all the time. Since I’ve been working with accepting these “immutable facts”, I’m less shocked and surprised when any of these five things happen in my life or life in general. I still feel my emotional reactions like sadness or anger. Less shock or surprise helps me to be able to process through the experience better because I get less stuck in “I can’t believe______________happened”. Instead, I go to “I can believe_______________happened”. That perception helps me to feel...