What to Do When Therapy Gets Hard

when therapy gets hardSo you’ve started therapy, and it’s actually going pretty well. Maybe you’ve been going for just a couple of months or a few years. You’re working well with your therapist feel you’re making good progress. The counseling seems to be helping. Things are humming along.

 

Then, whether gradually over time or all of the sudden, there’s a shift. Life gets really hard. Almost unbearable. And so does therapy.

 

Wait a minute. Weren’t things supposed to get better? Why now is the terde hitting the ventilateur?

 

It’s important to understand that I’m speaking in generalities here, and painting with broad strokes.

 

But often there’s a really good reason why therapy gets hard. It means you’re doing the work. Here’s what I mean.

Addiction and the Impact of Trauma

addiction impact of traumaIf you’ve read other blog posts I’ve written, you’ve probably learned by now that I think that people use substance and sexual behaviors in problematic ways because use these addictive behaviors often solve emotional problems. They help people feel better, or, as is often the case, to feel less.

 

For instance, problematic addictive behaviors can give people a break from their relentless, shame-driven inner critic. They can help chronically depressed people feel more expansive and alive. They can help people detach from feelings that are too painful to experience. The list goes on and on.

 

People use substances and sexual behaviors such as pornography and masturbation to address whatever personal vulnerabilities they have when nothing else seems to work. Often, they’ve learned through early direct exposure or modeling that porn, substances, or another addictive behavior can help.

 

But what causes these personal vulnerabilities in the first place (and we’ve all got issues, OK?)? Trauma.

What I Learned About Our Need for Connection from My Son’s Meltdown

need for connection

This is not my son. My son is much cuter. #sayseveryfatherever

My three-year-old had an epic meltdown yesterday. “Game of Thrones” season 8 epic. The huge battle scene in the “Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King” epic. Metalllica’s Black Album epic. And for that matter, the Beatles’ White Album epic.

 

The morning started off well, actually. Our family has been a bit stressed as we’re getting back into the groove of things after the holidays, as so many of us are. The Missus started school again this week and left very early yesterday for school. We had all enjoyed spending more time together during her holiday break from her studies, especially my son.

 

Saying goodbye to her when she leaves in the morning has sometimes been very hard for my son, so I was a little surprised yesterday when there were no tears at her departure. “Goodbye!” he said, smiling and continuing to play. She kissed him goodbye, then me, and wished us both a good day.

Get to Know Your Shadow for a Better Year in 2019

get to know your shadowSomeone recently recommended to me a book called Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche by Robert A. Johnson. He was an author and a Jungian psychoanalyst (more on what that means in a second). I’d heard of his works when I was in high school. Unfortunately, he died this past September, which made the recommendation a timely way to remember him.

 

It’s a primer on the unconscious mind, or what Carl Jung called the “shadow.” But what is the shadow? Each of us have a part of ourselves that we don’t know about, that’s outside of our awareness, and yet is very much a part of our being. Knowing about this part of ourselves is so important because the shadow has ways of showing up in ways that, well, we least expect.

 

Not so sure? Studies indicate that the unconscious mind influences an astounding 90% to 95% of our actions and behaviors. But how? And how can you bring your shadow into the light so that you can have a more fulfilling, meaningful New Year?

Navigating Family Gatherings When You’re in Pain

tips for navigating family gatherings when you're in painDuring my drinking days, there were holiday seasons when I was really struggling. I remember being so anxious about what was going on in my life and so ashamed about my drinking that I really didn’t feel like talking to anyone.

 

With the holiday season upon us, so are the joys unique to this time of year. But if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, if you’re reeling from an intimate betrayal, dealing with an addiction, or whatever, the holidays can be a tough time of year.

 

Family gatherings can present challenges. How do you deal with your family, who may have contributed to your pain in the first place? How much do you tell about what’s going on for you? Let’s take a walk through some ways of navigating family gatherings when you’re in pain that might help, no matter what’s going on in your life.

How to Get Over Your Past

Have you ever wondered why therapists seem to care so much about it was like for us as kids? That is, why are therapists so interested in our childhoods?   While not all therapists focus on what's happened to us in the past, many therapists do pay...

Read More

What to Do When You Don’t Know

what to do when you don't know“I don’t know.” I’ve had no fewer than three clients today say this to me. It’s such a privilege to be with them in this sacred space at the edge of their awareness and understanding.

 

“Hold on,” you say. “‘I don’t know’? What does that mean? Don’t know what?

 

That’s a great question, because chances are, you’ve experienced a moment in your life when you’ve tried to make changes and haven’t quite known how to get there. There are a few different ways to think about what to do when you don’t know, especially when it comes to counseling. Let’s dive in.

Your Two Best Tools for Better Communication with Your Partner

best tools for better communication“We need tools to communicate better.” This is one of the most common things I hear couples say when I first start counseling with them. And of course, it makes sense. After all, anyone going to marriage counseling or couples therapy would expect to learn ways of communicating better with his or her partner.

 

There’s more to the story here, though. In order for couples to communicate better and grow closer together, they need more than tools. They need to become skilled at using those tools, and that means that they themselves need to grow and change. 

Minding Your Emotions: How to Recognize and Deal with Your Feelings (Part 3)

minding our emotionsGetting to know and understanding ourselves, our stories, and our feelings is such an important part of personal growth. Learning to live with difficult feelings instead of self-medicating, numbing ourselves, or in some other way avoiding vulnerability is the stuff of life. Doing this hard work of being aware of and owning our “stuff” is key to living with meaning and fulfillment.

 

In part 1 of this series, I shared a personal experience to illustrate how important learning to deal with our most painful feelings is important. In part 2, I talked about why some people have trouble identifying and describing what they feel. In this post, I’d like to share with you some strategies for how you can learn to get to know yourself and your feelings a little better.

Why We Have Trouble Knowing Our Feelings: How to Recognize and Deal with Your Feelings (Part 2)

why you have trouble knowing your feelingsRemember the last time you felt something so strongly that your emotions got the better of you? Maybe you did something you regret. Maybe you spoke words that you wish you could take back. Or maybe you just gritted your teeth, trying your best to hang in there while it felt like the world was falling apart. Because in moments when strong emotions have ensnared us, it really does feel like the sky is falling.

 

Most of us, in moments like this, have at least some idea that we’re caught up in powerful feelings. What we don’t always know is what we’re feeling and why. As we’ll see, being aware of what you’re feeling is the first step to taking the reins back from your strong emotions.