What If Your Feelings Could Talk?

Sadness might be telling you it is time to cry. Loneliness might be telling you of a need for connection.
Shame might be telling you to increase self-compassion.
Resentment is talking about people (or self) you need to forgive.
Emptiness may be sharing a desire for more creativity.
Anger could be trying to tell you to add more boundaries in life.
Anxiety could be telling you to breathe more, or at least exhale!
Stress might be telling you to slow down and take one step at a time.

Feelings are often untrusted physical and emotional sensations that can lead us to make impulsive, irrational decisions. But I believe this is more due to our mis-understandings of them than their inherent deceptiveness.


We are taught, from childhood, to stuff our feelings and keep them under control. How are we then able to partner with them for greater emotional intelligence in later life?


Most men funnel all their emotions into their anger. Anger is respected and awarded to men in most cultures. They are told to “man up” or “keep a stiff upper lip” when it comes to other emotions.


The consequences of squelching emotions are poor communication that stonewalls relationships, increases disease risk, and destroys self-esteem and personal worth. The answer is to begin making friends with our emotions and see them as messengers who provide you with wisdom for life’s journey.


Start learning the vocabulary of emotions. Most men in couples therapy appear to have no capacity for emotions or refuse to comply with the therapist’s and partners’ requests to share feelings. The real problem is lack of competency, not compliance. They don’t know the words. When men are presented with a list of feelings words to describe what they are experiencing, they can share a dozen real emotions.


Why could they share their emotions when they have a list but couldn’t come up with it when asked in the “heat” of the interaction with the therapist or partner? Often, it is simply a lack of practice recognizing their feelings.

TIPS FOR MAKING FRIENDS WITH FEELINGS:


Allow your feelings to be neutral. Think of them as messengers designed to help you interpreting information from the sensory world. Our bodies are not machines but complex information processing systems. They are your “gut instincts” that can guide you through complex situations.

When your feelings are your enemies, you will be in a continual “fight or flight” state. Creative problem solving shuts down in this hyper-response situation. Conscious thought is powerful but slow. The body/brain system is rapid and responsive but will hijack you every time. Make friends with your feelings by practicing calming strategies.

Deep breathing is an easy way to connect with feelings. Science has proven that breathing in a pattern of longer exhales will bring almost instant relaxation. Try repeating a 4 second count for inhale and an 8 second count on exhales.This simple exercise engages the “vagus nerve” responsible for “rest and digest.”

Inhale on a 4 second count and exhale on a 8 second count.

Do this exercise as many times as you would like but most people start to feel more relaxed after two or three tries. Once you are feeling relaxed, check in with your body and notice what physical sensations and feelings are located in your body. Put you hand on this location and do the breathing exercise again. Allow the sensation or feeling to speak to you…what does your body need you to know? Maybe you are just sitting in a weird position and need to adjust yourself. You didn’t even realize you were sitting so oddly.

Start to journal your feelings and narrate what they are saying. Give them a name and watch when they show up in your daily life and how they are trying to help guide you with some wisdom. What happens when you listen or ignore them? Where the consequences helpful or harmful? Use a feeling wheel or chart to build your emotional vocabulary. Practice using feeling words in your communication with the simple script of “I feel X when Y happens.”

Thank your feelings for coming to your aid. I know, it sounds weird to talk to your feelings but they will show up in the wrong ways at the wrong time if you ignore them…Start by making friends today and learn to hear the important messages they are trying to tell you.


Learn more techniques for regulation and resiliency in our TraumaToolbox.com ecourse or connect with Ron Huxley for a session today.

Need Better Communication? Be BRIEF!

A common complaint of couples and families is poor communication. We have to communicate our needs, wants, and dreams. Trauma and pain can shut communication down or result in explosive words and feelings that damages our relationships. Here is a simple tool to help you build better communication skills. Use the acronym BRIEF to start improving your ability to connect today.

BRIEF Communication

B = Be calm and concise. Request a good time to talk. Don’t discuss more than one thing at a time. “I would like to talk about what happened this morning. When would be good time to talk?”

R = Recognize the other persons situation. See to understand be being understood. For example:

“I realize you were busy trying to get ready for work and worried about your meeting today when…”

I = Use “I Messages.” “You messages” create defensiveness.  I messages create safety that allows you to be heard and known. For example:

“I feel hurt and ashamed when you call me ugly names and slam the door.”

E = Express your wants and needs. Families can develop rules that wants and needs are not allowed. Complete inner lifes can be shut down by angry, abusive parents. For example:

“…and I need you be respectful towards me and not run away when we talk.”

F = Focus on a solution that will benefit both of you. This communication skill is not just for me. It creates a win/win opportunity for both parties. For example:

“I will TRY not to talk to you in the morning when you are on the way out of work or I would like to start seeing a marriage counselor together.”

Need more help building power-full communication skills? Contact Ron Huxley today to set up a session time via telehealth.

Conflictual coparenting is under an illusion

conflictual divorce and coparenting

Conflictual coparenting acts like it is a form of competition but that is an illusion. High levels of conflict has no winners, only losers! Parents fight to one up each other or get revenge for past hurts and this includes the children.

Most mediators, myself included, want parents to put the “best interests of the child” first but this is difficult for parents to do when consumed by anger and resentments. The costs are high, and not just financially with on-going court costs. The emotional costs are high for everyone. Research is clear that children who go through long-term, conflictual divorce, are negatively impacted. There is the risk that children will have severe mental health issues into adulthood.

The legal definition of the “best interests of the child” is about who the child belongs to…the psychological definition of the “best interests of the child” is who belongs to the child. There is a big difference between these two definitions but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive of each other. Setting boundaries, using strength-based language, and keeping the needs of the child paramount will help a true cooperative parenting process.

The best way for parents to reduce conflict is to learn to manage themselves. Keeping the focus on personal healing and not on how the other parent should act or be. Managing ourselves is the only guarantee that we can have of making the coparenting relationship healthy.

Get more support and help with your coparenting conflict with a session with Ron Huxley today.

Telehealth for Trauma: An effective treatment strategy

According to the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Telehealth or TeleMental Health services are an effective treatment strategy for trauma. Telehealth uses information technology, such as email, phone calls, FaceTime video, and Secure Online Video to conduct therapy services. This technology allows a therapist and a client to engage in real-time two-way interaction. Services that can be provided via Telehealth include assessments, individual and group therapy, psychoeducational interventions, and general therapeutic interactions.

Traditionally, mental health services are engaged in face-to-face, office visits. Just because this is traditional, doesn’t mean that is is more effective. There are times when face-to-face visits are preferred due to lack of adequate technology, challenges with privacy at home, or personal limitations of the client in using technology. In all other situations, TeleHealth is a unique service that provides several benefits, including:

  1. Savings in time and money,
  2. Overcome geographic distance for rural populations,
  3. Increased access to care for individuals with mobility issues (lack of transportation),
  4. Flexibility of appointment times (e.g., out of town for work, babysitting concerns, or other restriction on clients availability like a lunch hour, etc.),
  5. Promotion of physical health by avoiding spreading a contagious illness (COVID-19 or general sickness, like a cold).

Telehealth is not new. It has been used for six decades, in the medical field, and is now being adopted by TeleMental Health as a flexible option for individuals. It is not a “lesser” alternative to mental health care. Outcome research has proven it to be very effective in many areas of mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, and trauma. It also offers convenient support for many general concerns, such as parenting education, life transitions, spiritual direction, and more.

A recent article from the Washington Post points out how global pandemics, like the COVID-19 virus, have shifted the landscape of mental health services through the use of technology allowing more people to attend to their mental health needs. Therapists and individuals may be just blocks away from one another geographically, but medical issues isolate and create an insurmountable “distance” between them. The use of Telehealth or TeleMental Health eliminates geographic and social distance.

The reality is that people around the world are suffering and in need of mental health treatment, education, and support. Children and adults who have experienced trauma cannot wait for medical cures or be punished for lack of mental health access. Telehealth/TeleMental Health is a powerful tool to bring immediate hope and healing.

Learn how to use TeleHealth with Ron Huxley by clicking here!

Read about our security measures and informed consent for Telehealth services here!

SOURCES:

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/txessentials/telemental_health.asp https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/ser-a0034963.pdf https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/23/coronavirus-is-mental-health-emergency-too-we-must-remove-barriers-care/?fbclid=IwAR3JK9PIihf_5_nbwbPtgtC1coPpflzmWnAPEDE5FL5kgjsvCnUix_N74aY

What’s Your Parenting Style?

Parenting_Styles-_How_to_Balance_Love___Limits

What’s your parenting style? Are you happy with the results you get from your interaction with your children? What about with your spouse? Do the two of you work well together or do you have oppositive ways of parenting that results in arguments and resentments?

This doesn’t have to spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R for your family. Even complete opposites can learn how to work together by focusing on each other’s strengths and compensating for each other’s weaknesses.

Parenting styles can be categorized into four main styles that correspond to a balance of “love and limits” that include:

 
* Rejecting/Neglecting Style: Low Love and Low Limits.

* Authoritarian Style: Low Love and High Limits.

* Permissive Style: High Love and Low Limits.

* Democratic or Balanced Style: High Love and High Limits.

“Love and limits” are terms that describe a parents discipline orientation. Parents who are oriented toward a “relational discipline orientation” are said to use love as their primary style of parenting. Parents who use “action discipline orientation” are said to use limits as their primary style of parenting.

All parents incorporate both love and limits in their style of parenting. It is the balance of love and limits that determine a parent’s particular style. Only the democratic or balanced parenting style have both high love and high limits. In addition, each style has strengths and weaknesses inherent in them and are learned from the important parental figures in our lives. These figures are usually our own parents.

Parents who use love as their primary style (permissive parents) consider love to be more important than limits. They also use the attachment and their bond with their child to teach right from wrong. They spend a lot of time with the child communicating, negotiating, and reasoning. Their value is on “increasing their child’s self-esteem” or “making them feel special.”

Parents who use limits as their primary style (authoritarian parents) consider limits as more important than love (relationship). They use an external control to teach right from wrong and are quick to act on a discipline problem. Consequently, children are usually quick to react and rarely get their parents to negotiate. The value is on “teaching respect” and “providing structure.”

Parenting styles are defined as the “manner in which parents express their beliefs about how to be a good or bad parent. All parents (at least 99%) want to be a good parent and avoid doing what they consider to be a bad parent. Parents adopt the styles of parenting learned from their parents because

1) They don’t know what else to do

or

2) They feel that this is the right way to parent.

You can learn how to balance love in limits in your relationships using our Family Healer School ecourse “Parenting Styles: How to Balance Love and Limits” (CLICK HERE). 

Keeping Love Alive

lovealive

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

How we love family members during the emotional distances and dark shadows of our relationships determine the long-term quality of those relationships. All relationships have ups and downs and our ability to ride out the extremes is challenging but a normal process of loving others. At the heart of the dark moments, we want to abandon the roller coaster ride for the firm safety of the ground. Our inner brains want us to fight or flee or if both of these options fail us, to freeze internal emotional reality. How do we overcome the turbulence and deep disconnect for the long haul?

One truth is to develop our identity and remind ourselves that relationship is not contained in the ups and downs but over the entire course of life. Look for the long tail of relationships and how to keep a spark alive even if it just nurture by you and not the other. The fight or flight mechanism of the brain wants us to rush our actions or reactions when we really need to do in these crucibles is slow down and evaluate our choices. My best advice to families in the middle of chaos is to slow down but that is one of the hardest things to do. Many fail in the attempt.

A lot of my therapeutic work is with adoptive families. Many times the early life trauma results in an out-of-control teenager that ultimately forces the parent to consider residential care. They believe they have failed as parents and the relationship feels like it has ended. The truth is that relationship trumps residence. Your connection is stretchier than you thought. You may have to make a decision to create distance to ensure safety but you are not letting go of the relationship. You are protecting it and that is very different.

Because we like “up” moments filled with laughter and hugs and emotional closeness and hate the “down” moments with its harsh words, self-pity, victimization, and loneliness, we can start a rocking motion that swings faster and faster between the ups and downs. Pushing on one side and then the other increases chaos that throws everyone off the see-saw entirely.

When I work with bitter couples, hurt by infidelity and emotional rejection, I ask them to step off the see-saw, remember what attracted them to each other, the values they used to believe and to forgive one another. Too many nurture the wound and do not receive the healing. It is difficult to forgive but unforgiveness is like a poison that kills the heart of the relationship. It doesn’t say what was done was acceptable or that I will “forget and forgive”. You do not forget but you must forgive to allow life to start up again. From here we rebuild new creations that last.

Give up the illusion of control. You cannot control anyone else. You only have 100%, guaranteed results with yourself. You must manage you. Controlling your reactions is what allow the extreme ups and downs to settle and become smooth again. Take 5 to keep your relationship alive and pause to consider your best long-term actions. Take 10 and then reconsider again. If you need to make a hard, drastic decision, it is better to take the time to think it through completely vs. carrying a weight of regret.

Identity is the most important ingredient in loving through the distance.  Victim-minded people seek their identity through others instead of operation from a place of a sense of self. If I need you in order to be me and you are the source of my hurt and pain, then I cannot manage me that doesn’t exist. I cannot sustain a relationship that is one-sided. Start a journey of knowing yourself and your needs and your drives and your desires to deal with others in the distant relationships. Operating FROM a place of identity allows you to remain you even if others reject you. A simple starting place is journaling or talking to a therapist.

A final truth is that love is unconditional. It doesn’t have to agree with the other person’s actions or allow it to continue damaging the family but it doesn’t have to turn off. It can continue from a safer distant to provide an opportunity to bring it into closer intimacy. We don’t turn off love when others don’t do what we want. That is false power. Real power says I can set a boundary and I can exist without you but I choose to continue to love you. If you do not choose the same than I will remain me and love myself and others too.

Discovering your love road map and dealing with conflict

road map

How do you get from point A to point B? You can put in your own destinations for each point… The answer is simple. Look at a road map or in our modern technological society, tell your phone to pull up the map.

The “point” is that if you want to get anywhere you have to have a road map (or in the case of our phone, a GPS). In relationships, we need a love road map. When it all hits the fan, and it will sooner or latter, we need to know how to get back to a place of love and trust.

The research of John Gottman, PhD, shows us that the road to relational stability requires this type of emotional guidance system. In order to be a master of relationships and not experience the disaster of it, you can start building this map today. According to Dr. Gottman, you have to know a lot about your partner or child to navigate through difficult times and moments of disagreement. The process to build this map is asking a lot of questions that search the soul of the other person. Questions like what do you think about injustice or what countries you would like to visit or how do you feel about your career in life? These are open ended questions that go deeper than did you do your homework or pay the electrical bill?

How does your partner feel about their role as a mother or father? Does your child enjoy his or her friendships? After these heart-probing questions are asked, you have to remember the answer because this is what you will use to work through conflicts. The intensity of our fights with our most intimate companions aren’t really about an “F” on a test or dishes in the sink. They are really about our hopes and dreams and desires. They can also be about our disappointments, fears and losses. The more deeply connected you are with the former, the better you will find your way through the latter.

When people ask you these questions they show their interest in you. It makes you feel valuable. Conversely, scanning for mistakes, even with the motivation to help the other person be better in life, destroys intimacy and trust.

It has been said that a joyful life is created in the little details, conversations and moment to moment interactions. This is exactly how you build a love road map that will help you deal with conflict. Conflict is part of the human relationships and can’t be avoided so be prepared and get to know the inner world of others.

Action plan: Ask some deep questions of people who are closest to you in the next 7 days. Take notes of their answers. There will be a test! 

 

 

Keeping Love Alive Loving Through Difficult Times

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

How we love family members during the emotional distances and dark shadows of our relationships determine the long-term quality of those relationships. All relationships have ups and downs and our ability to ride out the extremes is challenging but a normal process of loving others. At the heart of the dark moments, we want to abandon the roller coaster ride for the firm safety of the ground. Our inner brains want us to fight or flee or if both of these options fail us, to freeze internal emotional reality. How do we overcome the turbulence and deep disconnect for the long haul?

One truth is to develop our identity and remind ourselves that relationship in not contained in the ups and downs but over the entire course of life. Look for the long tail of relationships and how to keep a spark alive even if it just nurture by you and not the other. The fight or flight mechanism of the brain wants us to rush our actions or re-actions when we really need to do in these crucibles is slow down and evaluate our choices. My best advice to families in the middle of chaos is to slow down but that is one of the hardest things to do. Many fail in the attempt.

A lot of my therapeutic work is with adoptive families. Many times the early life trauma results in an out-of-control teenager that ultimately forces the parent to consider residential care. They believe they have failed as parents and the relationship feels like it has ended. The truth is that relationship trumps residence. Your connection is stretchier than you thought. You may have to make a decision to create distance to ensure safety but you are not letting go of the relationship. You are protecting it and that is very different.

Because we like “up” moments filled with laughter and hugs and emotional closeness and hate the “down” moments with its harsh words, self-pity, victimization, and loneliness, we can start a rocking motion that swings faster and faster between the ups and downs. Pushing on one side and then the other increases chaos that throws everyone off the see-saw entirely.

When I work with bitter couples, hurt by infidelity and emotional rejection, I ask them to step off the see-saw, remember what attracted them to each other, the values they used to believe and to forgive one another. Too many nurture the wound and do not receive the healing. It is difficult to forgive but unforgiveness is like a poison that kills the heart of the relationship. It doesn’t say what was done was acceptable or that I will “forget and forgive”. You do not forget but you must forgive to allow life to start up again. From here we rebuild new creations that last.

Give up the illusion of control. You cannot control anyone else. You only have 100%, guaranteed results with yourself. You must manage you. Controlling your reactions is what allow the extreme ups and downs to settle and become smooth again. Take 5 to keep your relationship alive and pause to consider your best long-term actions. Take 10 and then reconsider again. If you need to make a hard, drastic decision, it is better to take the time to think it through completely vs. carrying a weight of regret.

Identity is the most important ingredient in loving through the distance.  Victim-minded people seek their identity through others instead of operation from a place of a sense of self. If I need you in order to be me and you are the source of my hurt and pain, then I cannot manage me that doesn’t exist. I cannot sustain a relationship that is one-sided. Start a journey of knowing yourself and your needs and your drives and your desires to deal with others in the distant relationships. Operating FROM a place of identity allows you to remain you even if others reject you. A simple starting place is journaling or talking to a therapist.

A final truth is that love is unconditional. It doesn’t have to agree with the other person’s actions or allow it to continue damaging the family but it doesn’t have to turn off. It can continue from a safer distant to provide an opportunity to bring it into closer intimacy. We don’t turn off love when others don’t do what we want. That is false power. Real power says I can set a boundary and I can exist without you but I choose to continue to love you. If you do not choose the same than I will remain me and love myself and others too.