A Different Truth

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Your brain will only believe what you tell it is true.

Your brain is not an artificial intelligence. It is a taught repeater. It does not make up things on its own.

The information that is taken into your brain is what your brain will put back out.

And anything that is put into your brain by either yourself or others with belief that it is true, your brain will believe it is true. It does not matter whether it is actually true or not. If you say it to your brain and you believe that it is true on any level, your brain will process it as the truth.

If it is repeated to your brain over and over and over throughout your life it becomes embedded as a neural pathway related to an image, experience, words, and trauma. Those things when recalled as memories are always attached to the truth you have told your brain about them.

Your brain will not repeat something else unless you tell it to and you believe what you are telling it that you now believe about these memories.

Think of the most often repeated phrase in your brain related to yourself in a negative way. Some of the more common ones: I am not worth love, I am stupid, I cannot do anything right, I am not perfect, I am not good enough, I am not valued, I am fat, I am a disappointment, I have to make others happy. Whatever your most repeated phrase is say it out loud.

Then pay very close attention to what image, whose voice, what experience, what trauma is attached to these words. Someone else made you feel this way. You were not born believing this negative crap. Someone caused you to internalize it. Think back, way back, these things almost always start in childhood from birth to age 7. Who do you see, who do you hear, what images do you remember, what emotions do you remember feeling?

This is where your brain started believing that this phrase was true. And every time it has been repeated by others and repeated by yourself has reinforced it into your mind as the truth…the only truth. Even though it is a lie. Your brain does not know anything other than this repeated statement you have believed is true.

How do we change this? We must repeat something else to our brains in relation to these memories. How about the actual truth? And not what someone else told you or showed you that THEY felt. It was never what you felt about yourself until you repeated it and believed it.

How long will it take to retrain your brain? It can take a while, a long while in some cases and you must be absolutely diligent in your new repetitions. Every day, every time the lies come up, EVERY SINGLE TIME. You must confront the old beliefs every time and immediately with the new ones.

It is hard work. It is a long process. And it is the only way to emotional freedom and health. As long as you live believing the lies, your emotions, relationships, and life will be chaos.

It is time to speak a different truth to yourself starting right now.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Who You Are

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I have never been a big fan of new “trendy” words used to describe things in therapy. Imposter syndrome, trigger, serial monogamy, etc. I prefer the less trendy childhood trauma, cause, relationship issues and questions to find the root of thoughts and behaviors.

Many people feel that their inability to be who they are started in their own minds and beliefs. In all the years I have been in mental health counseling, I have never, not even once, found that to be a true statement.

The thoughts and beliefs that people have about themselves started when someone else made them feel or think something negative about themselves through words, actions, or no words, and no actions. They were conditioned to believe these things about themselves.

This conditioning done at very early ages is then internalized and carried on into every aspect of life that follows.

The words of negativity become ingrained in the mind and then in the belief and then in the behavior. People live out what others have caused them to feel and believe.

Even if they go through life having success, being smart, looking amazing, they still feel that they are not that person but the one with all the voices in their head who can’t be successful, who isn’t smart enough to do big things, who never looks good enough. And the lies, if unprocessed, are always far louder than the truth.

So what is the truth? Who are you? It can be very difficult to find that person as many times you never met them. The childhood trauma started so early, it is the only person you know.

Who do you want to be? If you could be anything, do anything, think anything who would that person be?

If you examine the truths in your life you can find out more about who you truly are. What are your successes? When have you been smart? When have you done big things? When do you look amazing? What have you overcome? What have other people noticed about you that you continually fail to see or believe?

It is not going to be easy to dig that person out of the lies. And once again, there is only one way on the path to truth. Repetition and reinforcement. Constantly repeating the positive, the true, the things you want to be, and reinforcing them in words, writing, thoughts, actions. And doing this again, and again, and again for as long as it takes to replace the lies that currently reside in your head.

The path also includes a side quest, acknowledgement. Recognizing and addressing where these lies started. How old were you, who said them, in what ways were they reinforced in your mind by others and by yourself. Acknowledging that YOU did not start these lies. They are not yours. And you do not have to keep living them.

Who are you…..let go of fear and find out.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

No Answers

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One of the biggest issues that we as humans have is that some questions have no answers.

As humans, we are driven to find answers. We feel that we must learn things and know things. We feel as if everything must have an answer. And when no answer is found, we create an answer to satisfy our need. Even if that answer is a lie we fashion into the truth.

It is always the hardest questions that have no answer. The questions that shape our lives and beliefs and we are never given the answer to the most basic question….why?

If we experience abuse as a child, we ask why. If people we love suffer and die, we ask why? If our relationships are consistently failing, we ask why. If our parents were not able to love us or care for us properly, we ask why. If someone makes us feel unloved, unworthy, not smart, not pretty, we ask why.

These questions can have answers, but most often we reject the answer in favor of something more easily believed. If the answer to abuse is that the person who abused us has unresolved trauma, that is not an acceptable reason for what they did to us. If the answer is that every human dies, that is not good enough. If the answer is that it is our own unresolved trauma that prevents us from forming healthy relationships, somehow that must be false. If the answer is that our parents did the best they could with who they were and are, it does not make anything better for us.

There are always answers, but as humans we find them unacceptable. The answer must be something else. Or someone else’s fault or our own fault. The truth is often harsh and does nothing to help our pain.

And because we are still in pain, we create answers that we can accept more easily. Even if these answers bear no truth, they make us feel better. It is like coating a bitter pill in sweet chocolate. The bitter pill that provides no relief must be avoided at all costs. It is just too hard a thing to swallow.

The search for answers about our lives provides us with one thing for certain – choices. We can choose to accept the sometimes harsh and hard truth or we can choose to create truths we can accept. This is always the choice when we seek answers.

One leads to acceptance and the other leads to constant battles within ourselves to keep our created truth alive.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Fear Of Change

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When clients come to see me for the first time, they always say that they want to change their lives and change who they are in their lives. However, when we start working on that change and they start to think about what that change is going to look like, their fear can sometimes keep them from making forward progress.

When we have trauma, we have developed responses to that trauma since the trauma started. With every subsequent trauma, we have more responses added. All of these responses shape how we think, how we react, and how we live.

Over years of time, regardless of how miserable we are or how bad our lives have become, we become comfortable in the knowing that this is the way things are and we know this person we have become very well. Much like an old blanket or comfortable slippers, they don’t exactly keep us warm anymore but we know them, we are comfortable in them, and we are not inclined to change them for something new.

When the little thoughts of change or the actual changes start to occur when we start to address our trauma and responses, fear becomes a constant companion. Fear of who we will be without these worn in parts of ourselves. Fear of what we will lose and who we will lose if we opt for the new person we can become. Fear of the unknown instead of the old and comfortable.

This fear can be overcome, but it is not going to be comfortable. No serious work on trauma ever is. It is not going to be easy. It is not going to be quick. It may well be the hardest work you will ever do and the scariest.

So what can help us overcome this fear of change? Accepting that we will be different. Accepting that our lives will be different. Accepting that not everyone will make this journey with us. Accepting that we can live happier, healthier lives and that we deserve to do so.

The first step is always the hardest. Admitting that change needs to happen.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Creating A Universe Of Gratitude

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Zig Ziglar is credited with saying:

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.”

And he is so right. Of all the emotions we can experience pure gratitude is one that boosts our “feel good” chemicals, increases joy, makes us more mindful, and attracts or brings more good things to our lives. Gratitude costs nothing outside of our effort to be thankful.

Practicing gratitude is like all other things we practice and make habits in our lives. If done daily, even as little as once a day, it can become a habit in as little as 30 days. To do it more than once a day allows us to fully be aware of all the things that we have, things we are thankful for, things bringing good to our lives.

The brain is trained to focus on what we present to it as being the most important. Most of the time what we present is what we are worried about, angry about, sad about and that takes up all the brain’s focus. If we deliberately, purposefully, redirect our brain to the things we are grateful for, it will focus there. Being focused on these things instead of the things we don’t have, or the things we wish weren’t in our lives, or the things that don’t bring good things to our lives frees us to embrace happiness and joy.

There are many ways to practice gratitude. Mental gratitude — being thankful just in your mind, thinking about the things we are grateful for. Spoken gratitude — speaking out the things we are grateful for. Written gratitude — writing down the things we are thankful for. A combination of these gratitude exercises can increase the habit of being grateful daily.

I have been talking about writing as emotional transference quite a bit in sessions recently. Writing can also be very helpful in being grateful to reinforce your gratitude and the habit of being thankful. There are many, many options for gratitude journals online. You can also just as easily use any kind of paper for a journal. You can use a guided or prompting journal that gives you specific things to be grateful for on that date or you can just write about anything you want.

Many apps allow you to practice gratitude daily. I use the Gratitude Journal — Private diary & affirmations on my phone to keep a daily record of my gratitude. But I also incorporate mental and spoken forms of gratitude during the day and while practicing meditation.

It doesn’t matter what you are grateful for. It can be something big like your family, a home, a job, or health. It can also be something seemingly insignificant like coffee, a pen, pajamas, or dark chocolate. It is not what you are grateful for that matters it is that you practice BEING grateful every day to increase your happiness and joy. If you have more on the grateful side of things, you will find that more joy, more happiness, and more things to be grateful for come your way.

To create your universe of gratitude, you must put your thankfulness out into the universe. With each thankful moment you release, you are building a universe of gratitude that accepts your thanks and returns to you more things to be thankful for. If your brain is occupied with thankful thoughts more often than it is the thoughts that keep us trapped, we feel happier, freer, more at peace with ourselves and our universe.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Try Love

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I read an article earlier this week that was shocking, sad, and truly hard to believe. One of those stories, that you almost never hear about but that happens millions, even billions of times a day around the world. Yet we remain unaware in a world of constant information.

With the 24/7 Internet providing us with what we THINK is all the information all the time – there is SO much that I, You, We do not know that goes in in this world, this country, your neighborhood, in your next door neighbor’s house and lives.

Mental health issues are what I would estimate as immeasurable during this current time. And services for those issues continue to be underfunded, underutilized, and understaffed. Just yesterday I learned that the shortage of therapists in the state where I live is astronomical. And my state has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation.

This story was one of multiple millions, even billions that are similar and much, much worse going on right now every second and I, you, we know nothing about it.

So what can be done? Such a complicated question with millions of possible answers.

I think though starting at love thy neighbor as thyself might be good and to truly love means to know them, their lives, their needs, their issues, and find some way, any way, a single action to help. But start with love no matter who they are, what color they are, what political party they support, what hot button issues they agree with, or any other thing that we might feel separates us from them.

Love has no separation. True love, true acceptance, true support does not see barriers, differences, politics, religion, etc.. True love sees that we all the same, HUMANS.

Will we choose today to not hate, not blame, not divide, not separate and try love instead? It is a choice regardless of what we do…we choose to do it. And one choice could save a life, a human, a soul.

Choose love for we know not what others are suffering only that they like us are humans and we all need love.

Until next time, be well,

Deborah

Your Life Matters

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Your life matters.

In the last few weeks, many of my clients have expressed an increase of anxiety, worry, feeling a loss of control, and not taking care of themselves. Many have stated that much of their time is spent worrying about other people, other events and crises, and just about anything but themselves.

They often say that all these other things matter more than taking care of themselves and often add that if they do self-care or even think about self-care they feel selfish.

Self-care is not selfish. It is sustainability. It is resilience. It is rest. It is renewal. It is filling your vessel so that you have something to pour out to other people and things.

Self-care is immensely important. Especially in times like these. Just the overwhelming nature of anxiety and worry and adding serving other people and things is so great that we can easily find ourselves crushed.

We then feel hopeless, defeated, tired, empty, sick, and lost.

Many people push back at the idea of self-care because they think it must be some grand gesture or huge undertaking that they assume they have no time for. But self-care can be minutely small and still have a huge impact.

If you get up five to ten minutes earlier before anyone else and spend time alone just gathering yourself and your thoughts. You can have a cup of coffee or tea, read a short uplifting or motivational item, sit and watch the sunrise, meditate, deep breathing, a warm washcloth to your face, stretching, yoga, or anything you can put in just a short few minutes.

It can change your life.

If you schedule all this time for other people and their needs and events and other things or events and it is in your calendar of things you have to do, there is nothing stopping you from scheduling time for yourself in the exact same way except you.

Make time in your calendar for something just for you. Again, it does not have to be grand or huge and does not have to consume a lot of time. But it does have to be just for your, to serve to fill you up, to build you up, to give you strength, to reset your mind, to feed your body. Something to relax you or invigorate you as you need.

Plan for your self-care. Schedule it. Follow through with it. Accept it. Know that it is for your good and therefore the good of everyone and everything around you. When you are filled and cared for, it is so much easier to fill and care for other people and other things.

Vary your self-care to serve all the parts of yourself. Sometimes you fill the creative you. Other times you fill the physical you. Still other times you fill the mental or spiritual you. And even still other times you fill the you that just wants to take a power nap.

Try something you have always wanted to do but felt you had no time or that it was selfish to do so when so many other people and things needed your attention. Have you ever wanted to paint, or learn to crochet, or mix essential oils, or make a body scrub, or try a something active, or start a journal.

ANYTHING works for self-care as long as it is about filling yourself up in some way or replenishing some part of yourself.

Do not wait until you think you will have more time. If you have time for other people and other things you have time for yourself. Choose to love yourself because your life matters.

Feeling Untethered

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Many of us go through our lives believing we have control over them. We believe we control our day to day decisions and the decisions of those around us.

Many of us also feel that we are tethered or tied to our daily existence through this belief in our control. We believe that our daily life has routine and constancy. We do not feel as if we are an escaped balloon floating without safety bouncing from one place to the next and one event to the other.

More often than not, we feel relatively safe in our daily lives because of this belief in our control.

Welcome to 2020 and coronavirus. Everything about the effects of this virus scream feeling untethered. Our belief in control is shattered and we find ourselves frustrated, fearful, and lost.

All of the things we believed we decided are now being decided by the virus and the subsequent mandates, restrictions, and consequences. All of the control we believed we had has vanished and all ties we had to those beliefs and the lives we were leading are many times hard to see.

We feel constantly as if the skin of our lives is being ground away by the sandpaper of this new reality.

We are told how we can work, go to school, interact with others, recreate, and spend time with friends and families. We are told what we have to wear and how long we have to isolate ourselves.

We are told not to see family and friends as we would like to do. We are told not to celebrate birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries, even deaths the way we would have in the past.

Untethered.

We feel disconnected from our lives, from our people, from our belief of control, from our safety.

So how do we manage this untethered feeling? We have to make connections in whatever way we can in this environment. Texts, calls, video calls with family and friends. Finding ways to continue working and going to school.

Recognizing what is happening in the moment. Are you safe? Are you doing all you can to manage your life and stay connected to others?

Realizing that this is not a situation that will last forever. Practicing meditation and breathing every day, even multiple times a day. Remembering your self-care activities that offer enjoyment and fulfillment. Finding ways to create tethering even now.

Understanding that most everyone feels untethered at this time in our society. That what you are feeling is what most people are feeling. Be kind. Let go of quick judgment, angry responses, and blame.

Some escaped balloons can find themselves entangled in trees and their out of control condition is changed. Find your tree branch and hold on. Find one thing to tether yourself and your mind in this chaotic world.

Deep breath in through the nose for 5 seconds and out through the mouth for 7 seconds and repeat and repeat and repeat. Say to yourself I am calm and I am safe in this moment with each breath. Repeat as necessary feeling your feet on the floor or ground. Becoming tethered once again.

We can get through this one moment at a time.

Until next time,

Deborah

Sharpen The Saw

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The last of the 7 habits of highly effective by Dr. Stephen R. Covey may well be the most important and the hardest for many to accomplish. We spend a great deal of time taking care of others needs and also trying to accomplish everything in our daily lives that we forget about the most important person – ourselves.

The phrase sharpen the saw is used to describe self-care or self-renewal. To be effective for others, we must take care of our own physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual health. We cannot pour ourselves out onto others or into the other parts of our lives (work, school, family, friends) if our own vessel is empty.

We can attempt to pour from an empty vessel, but in doing so we will find that we are very ineffective and our own bodies, minds, and spirits become worn down, sick, and unable to function in a healthy way in any part of our lives.

Taking care of our physical self and renewing our bodies requires beneficial eating, exercising and resting. Choosing more healthy options over fast food, meal planning, picking nourishing foods with which to refuel ourselves. Exercising as much as possible and getting creative when we have less time such as taking the stairs instead of elevators, parking farther away from where we need to go so that we walk more, incorporating yoga or tai chi into our office breaks. Adequate sleep is paramount in renewing our bodies and minds. But adequate sleep that is actually restful is even better. Finding ways to achieve deep, restful sleep such as meditation before bed, warm baths, herbal teas, or supplements.

In renewing our social and emotional selves we must make intentional, meaningful connection with others. Intentionally reaching out to friends or family to sincerely connect with them even if it is just for a few minutes of your day. Many people use texting as their only method of communication and it is connection, but what if we had an actual phone call, sent a hand written letter, or made time for lunch or coffee instead.

Renewing our mental health means not only addressing our emotions and responses to stressors and trauma, but adding learning about ourselves and our mental health. Reading about how to strengthen our minds and emotional resilience. Writing our emotions in journals. Seeking out therapy if needed. Being open to processing and working through things that impact our mental health.

Expanding our spiritual renewal by spending time in nature, utilizing meditation, music, art, prayer, or acts of service. Connecting with whatever our spiritual beliefs might be and being aware of our spiritual self and connection with the universe. Enriching our spirit through reflection and meditation.

These acts of self-renewal or self-care allow us to grow and change as individuals to be able to offer more to others and to the world around us. Renewal allows us to increase our ability to handle challenges that arise because we are fresher and stronger.

If we live our life in balance we take the time to renew ourselves. The four areas of renewal when practiced regularly have an overlapping center that contribute to our ability to be our best possible selves within all areas of our lives, and especially for our own self-care. Without this, we are unable to be effective anywhere else. A saw that is not sharpened will not be of any use.

“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.” ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Seeking Synergy

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As we continue the exploration of the 7 habits of highly successful people as written by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, we come to habit number six, synergy. The definition of synergy is as follows: the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

When we have differing points of view, as is the case in many aspects of society today, problem solving WITH others of different points of view becomes somewhat of a unicorn in communication. Meaning it is mythical and seldom seen. Many of us spend a great deal of time trying to convince others to our point of view and synergy is nowhere to be seen.

Synergy requires creative cooperation. Working together, being open-minded, and working to find solutions to problems.

Synergy is however not the same as compromise. A compromise is rarely an even trade. One side will likely get more than the other. Synergy is one plus one equals three, or fifty, or millions or more.

If we are willing to be truly open setting aside biases, prejudices, past hurts and truly listening to what someone else has to say, we can find new ways of seeing things. New approaches to problems begin to emerge just from the addition of different points of view.

Synergy starts with differences to which the next step that must be added is be willing to listen. Clarify what the end goal needs to be. Explore the alternatives – all the alternatives. Seek first to understand (listen) and then to be understood (heard).

Being in synergy can be manifested in several ways. Having a change of heart, seeing things in a new way, feeling that the relationship has been transformed, and ending up with an idea or result that is better than what either one started with.

Do you truly value differences with others in the mental, emotional, and physical realms? Or do you just wish everyone would agree with you so you can all get along (on your terms only)? Are you willing to look at any of the things you say you believe most strongly in willingly, openly, with others who have differing opnions? Or do you wish only to drown out all opposing viewpoints?

Many people mistake everyone believing the same way as unity and sameness for oneness. If we expect everyone to believe, look, and live the same as we do, then we are not trying to achieve unity but forced compliance.

Synergy is better than my way or your way. It’s our way. ~ Dr. Stephen R. Covey