Look Away from the Screen! (Not Yet – Read this First)

If you’re in the majority, you probably have more than one technological device (smartphone, tablet, gaming system).  You or your loved ones also are probably inclined to be on any one of these devices more often than not–instead of actual human interaction.  Our “family time” has become people sitting near each other, each in their own techno world.  Why is that?  Why do we look at a screen instead of a person?  Well, I am just as guilty as the next person and admit that it’s convenient, entertaining, and rewarding to be able to answer any given question at any given time (I love to google everything!).

Seriously: 3 little kids with tablet computers on the Q train.Michael Monello via Compfight

However, I find myself thinking often about how it is sad that my family and I cannot get through a dinner without someone checking their phone, or complaints about dinner at the dinner table instead of in front on the television.  What happened to good ol’ conversation?  Well, I have compiled a list of ideas to help combat this ongoing and ever growing concern of family relationships in the digital age…

6 Ideas to Reduce or Improve Screen Time

1.  Think about instituting a no tech time: maybe at dinner, one night a week, or one day over the weekend.

2.  Incorporate technology into quality time: ask and be interested in what each other is doing on their various technological devices.

3.  Make a point to slow down, appreciate the moment and be present when a non-tech opportunity to interact arises: your son/daughter is playing a sport, instrument, etc.

4.  Get creative!  Use ideas from technology (pinterest, facebook, etc) and get your family involved in something that might get them a little messy and give them a chance to express themselves creatively.

5.  Model for kids (the younger, the better) interactions without technology.  If you are making a point to not take calls or emails after a certain time, kids will pick up on that.

6.  Use waiting times to engage with your child, either with or without a tech device.  We know this happens to us all: waiting for a table at a restaurant, waiting at a doctor’s office.  So, let’s use that time for things other than checking our email.

 

Remember, your kids will take their cues from you.  If you are making the point to engage and interact, then this will be their norm.  If you make it a standard to set aside technology, even for just a short time, then they will see that.  Lastly, keep in mind that this is an ongoing challenge, especially with more and more technology options.  It sounds easier than it is, but you can do it!

15 Apr 2014

4 Destructive Relationship Habits

Relationships are complicated and require daily work to maintain. When we maintain healthy relationships the payback can be quite fulfilling and rewarding. Often when couples get together they believe the fairy tale of happy ever after. There is a happy ever after for those willing to put the work in and look at their individual part in maintaining the happy ever after.

John Gottman of the Gottman Institute has studied relationships and has identified four criteria in couples that are predictors of success or failure in the relationship. He calls them the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and names them this because relationships do not end because of anger and conflict but how the individuals communicate in their relationship. Gottman believes anger and conflict can be good for the relationship if the communication helps them clear the air. Anger and conflict can become destructive when the four horsemen ride into the communication. Gottman calls the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling. (Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman)

First step to ridding your relationship of these four horsemen is for you to observe and recognize when you use these tactics. With recognition comes the opportunity to change these behaviors so communication goes from destructive to constructive.

1. Criticism is the overgeneralized complaints that attack your partner’s character. Criticism uses phrases like: “You never,” “You always,” “You should,” “Why don’t you ever,” and “Why are you always?” When we criticize we set up a scenario where one partner is right and the other one is wrong. Criticism inevitably invites in another horseman: Defensiveness, because when we are criticized we feel we need to defend ourselves.

2. Contempt is psychologically abusing your partner with hostile words and body language. Contempt is more destructive then criticism because contempt is meant to harm and hurt with words and body language. When someone uses contempt they often will use putdowns, insults, name calling, yelling and screaming, sarcasm and hurtful phrases. Phrases like: “You’re no good”, “There is something wrong with you”, or “Why can’t I get you to understand your thinking is wrong”. Contempt can also be conveyed by how you respond to the person non-verbally. Examples are; eye rolling, looking away, not making eye contact, stomping out of the room. These behaviors, words and phrases send a clear message you do not see your partner as a full participating person in this conversation. The message is meant to demean and take away from the other person’s self-esteem and self-worth.

3. Defensiveness is a way of protecting oneself from a perceived or real attack. People will say they are feeling attacked and have become the victim. Defensiveness is a way to block a verbal attack. Defensiveness leads to flooding of emotions, which leads to blocking out what the other person is saying. This is where blame and hardening of your stance grows and you no longer hear what your partner is saying, you simply defend. This can then lead to escalation of out of control behaviors. Anger is matched with anger, blame with blame, excuses increase and phrases become black and white; “You never feed the dog”,” It’s all your problem”, You never do what I want you to do”, “Yes but”, “It’s not my fault I…” Defensiveness keeps you from solving issues and impedes communication.

4. Stonewalling is withdrawing from the relationship in order to avoid conflict. When the discussion has digressed to yelling or nonproductive communication stonewalling is a way of shutting down the possibility of any resolution. Leaving the room, giving the other person the silent treatment, turning away and focusing on something else, turning up the volume on the TV are clear signs the situation has digressed to disrespect, mistrust, accusations and nonproductively. Sometimes the person stonewalling thinks they are calming things down, in reality it sends a message of displeasure, disconnection, division, complacency, arrogance or self-riotousness. Stonewalling is a behavior that predicts a relationship is in trouble.

Do you experience any of these patterns of behavior regularly in your relationship? If so there are things you can do to change how you communicate so there is an increase in healthy communication and enjoyment in your relationship. Please call us if these behaviors have become too familiar in your relationship.

(Four Patterns that will sink your Relationship: Review of Gottman’s Four Horsemen by Michael T. Halyard, MBA, MS, MFT)

12 Mar 2014

6 Ways to Help an Anxious Kid

Do you believe your child has issues with anxiety or stress? Kids are supposed to be carefree, right? In today’s world, stress and anxiety are common in everyone—including children. There are many things we can do as parents and adults working with children that can help an anxious kid manage things better.

First, it helps if you can determine the triggers that may be contributing to creating an anxious kid:

1. Stressful Environment-Is the home and/or family experiencing stress? While it may seem obvious, it is important to notice how much stress is going on around your child. Children are very sensitive and often pick up on the slightest bit of tension (especially those that are more sensitive!) Think about how you can sense if you walk into a room and can immediately tell two people were arguing—there is a tension in the air. Children are very adept at picking up on our energy!

a. Be aware of the level of stress your child is exposed to and try to limit it as much as possible.

b. Make a point to manage your own stress appropriately so that it is less likely to impact your anxious kid. Plus, you will be modeling stress management!

2. Changes-If there are a lot of changes occurring in the home, school, family, friends, this could be triggering the anxiety. Is your family going through a divorce? Moving? New baby? Some children struggle more than others with change.

a. Pay attention and validate his or her feelings. I always tell kids that their feelings are never wrong, though I also go into how intensity and frequency can create a problem.

b. Prepare kids for changes! You can keep it simple and kid-friendly. For example: “mommy needs to stay at the hospital with the new baby so the new baby is not lonely. Mommy will visit us and you can visit her. Mommy and baby will get to come home in ___ weeks.” Allow your kids to ask questions, too!

3. Transitions-Some kids, especially those that are more likely to experience anxiety, struggle with transitions. You may see this more often when they have to stop one thing and transition to another (especially if they like the first). There are ways to help this!

a. Prepare kids for changes and plans. Give them a heads up and timeframes when transitioning (i.e. in 5 minutes, it will be time to clean up).

b. Keep a routine as much as possible, so kids know what to expect. Post a visual schedule so they can anticipate what is coming next. If it is “in writing” then it helps diffuse arguments. For example, “the schedule says that after dinner is homework time which is before TV time.”

Therefore, after you determine anxiety may be an issue, the first step to helping your child is figuring out possible triggers and trying to limit them. Stay tuned for more on coping strategies for anxiety in kids!

03 Mar 2014

Mindset and Mindfulness

One of the most significant areas in which individuals can work to improve their well-being has to do with how we focus on what we are thinking. Whether you are considering therapy or are actively working with a professional, it’s likely you spend much of your time reflecting on what you are actually thinking. This process is sometimes called metacognition, or “thinking about thinking.”

Researchers have known ever since the earliest days of psychology that there is a connection between feelings, thoughts, and actions. New data shows that being actively aware of your thoughts can have either a positive or negative impact on your life. The two terms to keep in mind are “mindset” and “mindfulness.”

What is mindset?

Carol Dweck, author of the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” explains that people tend to have one of two basic perspectives about their own capacity. With a fixed mindset, people believe that their basic qualities–such as intelligence, skills, or talent, are part of their identity and cannot be changed. People with fixed mindset tend to spend their time cataloging what they can and cannot do, and assume that talent is the main force behind success.

However, people with a growth mindset believe the opposite. Their view is that basic qualities can be developed through hard work and devotion. Someone with a growth mindset is not concerned about the talents they started with, but the talents they can grow over time.

What is mindfulness?

According to the Mindful Awareness research center at UCLA, mindfulness is “paying attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is.” Unlike mindset, being mindful is not about holding a perspective but about taking in experiences without judgement or evaluation.

Considering mindset and mindfulness together

A healthy person is one with a growth mindset who is also capable of mindfulness. That means when they are working on their life, building their career, or developing relationships, they are doing so with an eye toward what is possible. But at the same time as a mindful individual, a healthy person is able to relax, enjoy life’s experiences without judgement or discomfort, and be happy without the immediate need for external validation or support.

If you feel you might be stuck in a fixed mindset, consider picking a copy of Dweck’s book. And if you’re struggling to find moments of peace in which you can be with yourself, perhaps it’s time to seek help from an expert. Call the therapists at Integrative Health Resources today to make an appointment and find a path to a better you.

 

 

 

19 Feb 2014

Moving Forward after Grief

The pain of saying good-bye is something most of us have experienced. I often have clients come to me for assistance in handling the process of losing a loved one due to death, divorce, moving, losing a job, having a child move out or simply moving to a new stage in life. I am frequently asked how to “get over” the pain. Just as frequently I have people tell me that their friends or family have told them they need to “get over it” and move on in life. Grief and loss is not about getting over the loss but learning how to live with the wound loss leaves in our heart. With time most wounds heal but leave a scar as a reminder.

Grief and loss comes in many ways. When someone or something triggers our sadness we may cry or get angry that this loss has happened. Sometimes grief will hit us when we least expect it like a wave of sadness moving through us. Frequently, after my mother died I would be at the grocery store and see a food item she loved and tears would well up. When I stopped the tears it just made it worse, so I learned to allow those tears and as time went by the pain lessened. I still miss my mom, but time is the great healer and has allowed the sadness to fade. Remembering my mom is now more about the joy and love she gave me. Time has allowed me to make room in my heart for the sadness of missing Mom and the joy I experience remembering the love she gave me.

Clients often ask what the worst kind of loss is. My answer is; “Your loss is usually the most difficult because you are the one experiencing it”. Sudden loss is difficult because we have no time to mentally, emotionally and physically prepare for it. When one loses a loved one due to a prolonged illness the loss is great but often some of the grieving has already begun. The loved ones have been able to talk about their impending transition. When there is a move from one city to another the planning of the move and the chance to say good-bye facilitates the mind and spirit to prepare for the change. Change may not have been our choice but adjustment has already begun.

So how do we move through the process of living with grief? Talking about the loss is helpful, seeing a therapist, keeping a journal, writing letters to the ones we loved and lost helps even when we cannot give the loved one the actual letter. Often I tell people if the loss was sudden find a way to express pain through music, art, writing, walking, create a ritual/ceremony to allow you to say your good-byes.

Invite your support system to help you. One client reported she would run every day. She felt like her husband had abandoned her by dying. She was angry and needed to work out the anger. She would put pebbles in her pocket and when she got to a pond she ran by she would throw the pebbles into the water and watch the ripples move out. In the beginning she threw hard and fast to release the anger.

Pebbles

After a time she was able to throw fewer pebbles and began to realize the loss was more bearable and the anger was dissipating. She no longer felt he did this to her. He died because he was terribly ill and his body could no longer sustain life. She still missed him but she also knew she was going to be able to pick up the pieces of her life and move forward. I have had many clients tell me planting a tree has been a way to honor and ease their loss. Finding a means of expressing grief is paramount to healing.

When we experience a sudden loss the challenges are different. We have not been able to prepare for a sudden, swift and irrevocable change. Our bodies go into shock as a way of insulating us from the sudden pain. This type of loss happened to me recently. For fourteen years I went to the same place to work, met with many of the same clients and then due to financial realignment and reorganization in one day it was gone. There were no good-byes! I worried terribly about how this was going to affect those I had been treating. How were they going to survive without me? There was anger, tears, some choice words and a sadness that simply swallowed me up. The shock insulated me from my own pain. I became caught up in how my clients were going to manage. I forgot to do just what I had suggested to so many clients over the years, cry and allow yourself to feel the pain, even if only in small doses. I became preoccupied with finding a job, finding a way to say good-bye and also a way to avoid the pain.

I am fortunate because I have a wonderful support system; I have a faith that carries me when nothing else does and with time I have the ability to see that change is necessary and forces one to grow and see life from a different perspective. With nudges from my support system I have remembered the skills I so often taught others to help them move through pain. I have the ability to write about my loss and hopefully my story will reach others that have not had a chance to say good-by, so they too may find a way. I have written this as my way of saying good-by to so many wonderful people who shared their lives with me, both clients and co-workers. I have written this because loss is no small matter when it is my loss and healing means the wound gets better but the scar is always there as a reminder of the treasures I experienced. People came to me with their pain and trusted me to walk with them in their healing. My heart reminds me of those courageous folks and their example helps me move forward.

Grief and loss is no small matter and each of us experiences it in our own ways. It always hurts worse when it is yours. What I know is if I do not deal with my grief I cannot ask others to deal with their loss. Will I “get over the sadness” probably not, but I will learn to keep moving forward allowing time to heal the wound in my heart and the scar will gently remind me of the good things about the past 14 years.

If you have experienced loss in any form feel free to contact me at Integrative Health Resource 317-471-8780 kathleen.maxey@ihrindy.com.

Image credit: Creative Commons License aussiegall via Compfight

04 Feb 2014

Struggling to Succeed? Everyone Begins As a Novice

Remember when you were young and learning to ride a bike? Maybe you tried it first with training wheels. Eventually you were ready to ride on your own.  Think about the first time you rode by yourself. Did someone help you get started by giving you a push?   No matter whether you had help or not, we all know that you fell over.  No one ever does it perfectly the first time.

How did you feel after you fell? Did you feel discouraged, maybe even embarrassed? But encouraged or not, humiliation and teasing or not, at some point you got back on the bicycle and tried again.  Because if you did not, you would not know how to ride a bicycle today.  Because the only way to learn to ride is to get on the bike and ride until you know how.  People can give you pointers.  They can support you so that learning is easier. Or you can do it all on your own.  No matter what, eventually it is just you and the bicycle.

Through the struggle of figuring out how to balance yourself and the pain of falling, something begins to happen.  You begin to realize that you can do this.  Often that understanding or feeling comes long before you actually can ride by yourself.  You begin to realize that the embarrassment of the laughter or the aloneness of trying on your own is going to be over soon.  You are going to conquer this.  You are going to succeed.  You get a glimpse of the freedom ahead.  You feel the wind blowing in your face and hair.

Then it comes.  You can stay up.  You may still be a bit wobbly but you are doing it.  You are riding.  You let in a deep breath.  Riding is no longer so hard.  You know how to balance yourself.  You are free.  You are no longer bound by how far you can walk.  You can now journey into the world as far as your bike can take you, or at least as far as your parents will let you go.  And occasionally maybe even a bit further than that.

Ah but that was then and this is now.  You are an adult now.  For many of us, we are no longer willing to allow ourselves to feel embarrassment as we learn.  We must hide when we don’t know.  We shy away from letting others see us struggle.  If we cannot get it quickly, we do not try.

Yet whenever we do not face the struggle, we lose a bit of ourselves.  Whenever we shy away from the hurt and pain that comes with taking risks and falling until we succeed, our world shrinks a bit.  One day we wake up and wonder what happened.  Where is the wind blowing in my face and hair?

We have forgotten that struggling may not be bad. It can be part of becoming more alive.   I hope that you will find your adult version of a bicycle and struggle with it.  Figure out what it takes to succeed at whatever your bicycle is.  You know that you can do it.  You just have to find the way.  Remember the aliveness that lies ahead as the wind blows through your hair.

25 Jan 2014

Anxiety Overlooked Problem for Children

Issues with concentration…constant erasing…trouble completing work….In my work with children, anxiety is one of the most overlooked issues by far. Often times, possible indicators of anxiety are mistakenly seen as inattention issues/ADHD, annoying behaviors (constant questions), or even perfectionism.

All children have anxiety from time to time. For example, a movie was scarier than expected and now they can’t sleep or stressing out over a big test.  The question is whether the kid’s anxiety is significant enough to be considered a diagnosable anxiety disorder.  While there is no singular cause of anxiety, some common risks for childhood anxiety are:

  • Genetics: family history of anxiety and/or other mental health concerns increases risk
  • Environment: lots of change, transition, and/or chaos
  • Personality style: kids that are quiet, shy, and/or cautious have higher incidence of anxiety
  • Parenting style: some parenting styles clash with some personality types

The fact is that one in eight children are affected by anxiety disorders! That is, an actual diagnosable anxiety disorder, meaning the anxiety is enough so that it impacts a child’s functioning. I don’t know about you, but to me that seems like a high number!

So, when does it become a problem? When does it become something where you may want to consider getting some professional help? Some helpful ways to know are:

  • Does the anxiety/behavior/meltdowns seem more extreme than the situation calls for? Does it impact your child being able to interact, function, learn?
  • Is it worsening? Increasing?
  • Have you tried interventions on your own without success?
  • Do you have your own anxiety or stress issues making it difficult to address those needs in your child?

If any of these things may fit for your child, you may want to consider getting some help for them.  You don’t have to handle it alone!

17 Jan 2014

Holiday Stress!

This is the time of year when stress begins to build and tempers get shorter.   These three questions can help you identify expectations for the holiday season and manage holiday stress better.

  1. What does the holiday season mean to me?
  2. What are my priorities?
  3. Who do I wish to spend my time with and how do I want to spend my time?

If you can answer these simple questions then you are half way to having a calmer, more enjoyable holiday season.  We have turned this holiday season into a time of frenzy and stress and when it is all over we find ourselves in debt, exhausted and wondering what just happened.   How is this supposed to be enjoyable?

So get clear about the holiday, set some ground rules for spending money, time management and self-care.  Yep I said self-care.   I remember when my children were young and Santa was still coming down the chimney, I wanted everything to be perfect.  I would shop for everything reasonable on their long list of wishes, I would bake everyone’s favorite cookie, and I would stay up late decorating. Christmas morning would arrive, I was exhausted and the children were wired. Within ten, maybe 15 minutes all the  gifts were unwrapped and paper was strewn all over the floor.   With the gifts and paper strewn all over we would pack up the car with more gifts and food, rush to church, and then proceed to two different sets of grandparents, eating too many sweets, ripping open the obligatory gift exchanges (possibly wondering what will I do with this) and seeing people we would not see again until next year when we would do it all over again. I remember it was exhausting  and I often would wish we could have just stayed home and let the kids enjoy their new toys, maybe even participated in playing with the kids and their new toys.

I loved those years and have many fond memories of them. I also know that in the frenzy of doing my best to make this the best holiday I sometimes forgot to stop and enjoy the smiles on my children’s faces, or enjoy the cookie making, or sitting up late at night with a nice glass of wine and the tree lit.  I forgot to determine what the holiday season meant to me. I lived with holiday stress.

Things are different now, the kids are grown and spread out across the country and they are doing the holiday frenzy dance with their children.  Last year I was fortunate enough to travel to my son’s to enjoy the holiday with him and his family.  Before travel day arrived I decided how I wished to allocate the short time we would have together.  I made a commitment to take the focus off the presents and focus on the  time we spend together.   I did not buy lots of gifts they really did not need or want but I spent time and thought in writing a letter to each of my children and to my son’s family. What a wonderful trip down memory lane this turned out to be for me.  I focused each letter on the individual.  I admit this took longer than I had ever imagined it would but it also forced me to stop and reflect, giving me time.   I then put each letter into fancy envelopes with another family members name on the envelope.  This meant the person opening the envelope read the letter to the actual receiver with the rest of the group looking on.  It was an amazing experience and I must admit there were no dry eyes when we were done (don’t tell anyone but even my 17 year old grandson had a tear or two).   Each recipient of a letter has told me more than once how much they appreciated the letter they received.  I received far more then I could have imagined watching and listening to them as they heard how much they are cherished by me.

I set my priorities; I aligned my idea of the holidays with my personal meaning and took care of myself by avoiding the stress of shopping.   Most importantly I was fully present to those I care about the most.

So, before you get too caught up in the frenzy take a look at those 3 questions and take some time to answer them.  If you are clear about what you wish the outcome to be you will be amazed at this new found freedom to enjoy the holiday the way you choose.  And remember to breathe!

I would love to hear what the outcome was if you try the letter writing idea or if you have another unique or creative way of celebrating the holiday, please share.

23 Dec 2013

Internal Barriers to Dreams

If money, time or other commitments were no obstacle in 2014, what would you do? Describe your vision!

A seemingly innocent question. If the obvious barriers were removed – money, time, obligations – what would you do? The trouble is, these external barriers are nothing compared to the internal ones. The internal barriers are the ones that really stop us.

Internal Barrier
Creative Commons License jenny downing via Compfight

What Are Internal Barriers?

Internal barriers are the negative beliefs we hold about ourselves. The small voice in our heads that tell us what we want is impossible. The ready excuses that come to mind when we contemplate what we really want. The internal barriers might be a belief in a fore-shortened future or the idea that we won’t live to an old age. Or a belief that protecting ourselves from emotional pain is the only choice, closing out chances for love and connection. Internal barriers can be the chip on our shoulder, the defensiveness that protects us. It might be a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness or despair. The barriers might be the voice in our head that tells us we aren’t pretty enough, thin enough, tall enough, rich enough.

Where Do Internal Barriers Come From?

Internal barriers come from many places. They might be echoes of a parent’s criticism. Maybe the experience of being picked on, excluded or rejected when we we were young. Internal barriers can come from the messages of a larger society, the subtle ways that we learn who is worthy. Sometimes they are the beliefs that enabled us to survive and overcome the painful things we experienced. If we expect everyone to hurt us, then we won’t be hurt as bad when they do. It was inevitable right?

How Do Internal Barriers Hurt Us?

The worst part about internal barriers is they are extremely hard to see, nearly invisible. Wherever they came from, they are things we believe to be true about ourselves and the world around us. They shape our expectations and cause us to limit our possibilities. At their worst, internal barriers can drive us to hurt others in ways similar to how we were hurt. Internal barriers create unnecessary stress and conflict within us and within in our relationships with others. They can make us decide not to pursue the things we really want and convince ourselves we are happy with a half-lived life.

What Can We Do About Our Internal Barriers?

Internal barriers can only be discovered and addressed through a willingness to do it. Taking a serious and honest look at ourselves can be the most courageous, terrifying and complicated thing we can do. We have to be willing to admit our own weaknesses in order to discover our strengths. Often discovering our internal barriers will require the presence of others. As we share and talk with others, we see ourselves through their eyes. Maybe we are fortunate enough to have one or two or more supportive friends to be part of this process. And maybe even the greatest friends have limitations that prevent them from really helping us. This is where professional counselors and therapists come in. A quality therapist supports us unconditionally, regards us in a positive light, and has no personal stake in the outcome of our growth.

So what do you think? Will you cast off the internal barriers holding you back?

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Brought to you by today’s prompt from ThinkKit

19 Dec 2013

Therapeutic Humor

While therapy is serious business and hard work, humor transforms the experience. Frequently my sessions with clients include gigantic peels of laughter.

Humor Is Medicine

Laughter is common in our office, and I believe it speaks to our ability as therapists. Self-deprecating humor builds the relationship with a new client and helps him feel comfortable. By laughing at myself right away, I show clients I am human, and therapy isn’t scary. Using humor in therapy requires some skill however.

As the work and the relationship progress, teasing and laughter become milestones for progress. As I get to know my client, I learn when teasing can gently lead to insight or when it risks causing pain. I know my clients have made amazing progress when they start to laugh at their own stumbles.

I have two clients who are very similar in many ways. Both struggle with “mind-reading” what others are thinking or seeing catastorphy around every corner. They are both aware of their tendencies, and they both slip into them again and again. Since this pattern shows up in nearly every session, I gently tease my client each time.  Their responses give me a sense of how far they have come.

I believe that becoming emotionally healthy is about learning to accept our weaknesses, love ourselves anyway, and learn to live effectively despite them. Some of my clients remain fully determined to eliminate any flaw and make themselves miserable in the process. Some learn to tolerate and acknowledge their flaws. And some learn to view themselves with compassion and honor the “flaws” that make them who they are.

Laughter reveals where a client is in the process. A client determined to change their flaws cannot laugh when I tease them. A client who is tolerating their flaws will chuckle or at least smile. However, a client that has compassionately embraced their challenges will laugh, often a delicious and engaging laugh. Pay attention to others around you – can they laugh at themselves?

Humor Is Coping and Celebration

Laughter in my counseling sessions helps client’s cope. I have  clients who healing from a large amount of intense sexual abuse as a child and their psychological pain shows up as seizures. These seizures are unsettling, unpleasant and very disruptive. Yet we can laugh hysterically about flopping like a fish out of water during session. Humor makes something horrible into something bearable. I also work with clients who are caregivers to those who are terminally ill. They frequently feel powerless and helpless. By laughing at their situation, something shifts and they are able to continue to provide the care their loved ones need.

Infectious giggles take over when a client is doing well. Since I specialize in trauma, I don’t typically see clients when they are doing well. Most of my clients are fairly fragile and hurting. Yet every so often a client comes to session in a great mood. These sessions are full of laughter. My teenage clients often fall in this camp. I find my clients’ joy infectious.

Never underestimate the value of good laugh. Never take yourself  or a situation so seriously you cannot see the humor. Laughter is a clear sign of mental health. :)

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ThinkKit Prompt: When did you laugh out loud? Share a funny or humorous story from this year.

13 Dec 2013