Family Answers

My son is addicted to pot

Hi! My name is Christina Gilkey and I am a licensed clinical social worker specializing in couples and family therapy.  I'm glad you reached out and hope the suggestions I am making will be helpful to you.  First, I want to praise you for recognizing your son's strengths such as passing all his Uni courses.  That fact alone shows promise in that he is still able to take interest in something and do it well.  I am also encouraged by him having the social support of a girlfriend and her providing an alternative lifestyle to him that does not include smoking marijuana.     I want to validate your concerns about him smoking especially every hour as that does indicate a possible problem.  In clinical terms, the question of addiction is "Does the marijuana smoking directly impact his level of functioning at home, work or school?"  It sounds as though you feel his level of functioning at home is impacted because of the conflict it causes between the two of you, his deterioration in maintaining hygiene and also not cooking for himself.  A deterioration in hygiene and change in appetite are often associated with marijuana use because the THC in the plant is a depressant.  Depressants do often cause a reduction in our concern about self-care and also impact desire to eat. Those things are certainly concerning as a parent who wants their child to be healthy and happy.    The underlying questions are WHY is he smoking and why did it start in early 2018?  His acknowledgment of something having happened to him indicates he may be utilizing the marijuana to self-medicate as an escape from a trauma and it also could be he is smoking as a relief from anxiety as this is a common coping mechanism for people who battle with anxiety disorders.  In terms of trauma, he may have been "hazed" while at school.  He may have failed a test or assignment and been harshly ridiculed by someone.  He also may have been robbed or assaulted.  In terms of anxiety, he may feel he isn't fitting in with his peers, he may feel immense pressure to succeed at Uni, he may feel overwhelmed by having to manage classes, projects and studying. There are a number of things that could be causing him to use marijuana as a coping tool.     Since he is an adult, there is very little you can do to "force" him to go to counseling or rehab for help to deal with his issue in healthier ways.  What you can do and what I highly recommend is to continue expressing to him in a loving way that you care very much about him and his success.  Continue telling him you want him to be happier and healthier.  Continue letting him know you love him, support him (although maybe not his decisions), are proud of him (for his good decisions and his successes) and that you will love him unconditionally.  You could also let him know that you heard him when he shared that you don't know what happened to him and you are there to provide him a listening ear in a safe space if he ever wants to get what happened out of his head (thoughts) and "off his chest".  Kids (even adult kids) truly desire to feel heard.  Sometimes as parents, we have to recognize when our kids just need us to be there for them and to love them through whatever hurt they are experiencing.  Kids often want/need to tell us about their problems but they just want us to HEAR them.  We often want to "fix it" for them but that is why they don't tell us their situation.  The fear burdening us with their issue or get upset thinking we will tell them what to do when they really just need us to listen.  Let him know you are there, always!
(MSSW, MSCFT, LCSW)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How do I feel fulfilled after leaving a high power job to stay home with children?

It can be a strange experience giving up power and control for a life that is filled with uncertainty and a feeling of feeling out of control. There is, at times, a motivation or drive that is deeply ingrained in individuals who have been at the top as the boss. There is a certain feeling of fulfillment. This can also happen with having children and building a family however, it is a different type of fulfillment. You as an individual person with successes and journey walked only by you, may disappear because the focus has shifted to your children. It is now their successes and failures that define you along with potentially household responsibilities.  Changing your attitude towards life means finding a new way to define your individuality. Children are everything to us however, they still need to see what it means to be an individual with a passion, goals, creativity, zest for life, and to know that we hold a title other than "mom" and "dad" because they will use us as a role model. We will show them that it is okay to self-care, how to develop coping skills, what it means to pick ourselves up when we are down, and how to protect ourselves mentally & emotionally. The way we communicate the majority of these lessons to our children is by making sure that we do not lose ourselves along the way to raising a family. Take time to ask yourself these questions:  What time can I create for me?  What is something that I can do while raising my kids that still gives me space to be an adult?  What time can I carve out to have my adult or alone time?  Who will be my support system when I am feeling like I need peer interactions?  What can be my new purpose in addition to my family?  How can I protect myself from losing my identity to my family?  What do I need in the moments where life is most stressful?  Who am I?  Who do I want to be?  These are just a few basic questions to get you on the road to really thinking about how to be a parent and a person. Think about how to be intentional in your day to day life now that your duties have changed. Remember that we are all human and that it is okay to need something for you too. 
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

What can help?

Hi Heyhey I am so very sorry that you are going through such a hard time. Dealing with your father's drug use and how he acts when he may be under the influence or afterwards when he might be experiencing withdrawal sounds like such a challenging task. It sounds like his use of drugs might be causing some lasting effects on the way he acts and interacts, even when he isn't actively under the influence. On one hand, you want to see him, communicate with him, and support him, but on the other hand, doing so sets you up to feeling abused, manipulated, and "insane".  I can imagine that you have a completely different vision for how you would like to feel in this relationship. That can't possibly feel good or healthy to be so far away from that ideal vision.   Talking with a trained counselor about your frustrations and challenges can be helpful to you in a multitude of ways. It might be helpful to just start to talk about and vent your experiences as a means of processing and finding a way forward toward emotional clarity.  Many people say that they get very confused by their feelings when dealing with someone they love who acts unpredictably and cruel when they are actively using or coming down after use.  Learning to understand your emotions and be clear about your feelings is a common goal of counseling. Another skill you may learn to practice through a linkage with a supportive counselor is the idea of setting clear and consistent boundaries in order to preserve the sanity you need in your life. Figuring out what safe and clear boundaries and limits look like and feel like can be an enormous help when dealing with the difficulties you are facing. I give you a tremendous amount of credit for having the courage to reach out for help in this way. What you are facing is not easy, but there is a way forward. I hope that whatever you decide about engaging in counseling that you find some measure of peace in your life. You deserve it. 
(MS, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

I take care of my mother completely and I can't live my life.

Dear 6Eherezada,   Thank you for your message and allowing me to understand more on the dynamics between you and your mother.   Through your words I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving/helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable, so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggle is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency, and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others'. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hear your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How do I find healthy ways to cope with trauma from childhood abuse?

Hi RJ!!!! So happy to meet you. It makes me sad that you had to endure something like this. No one should have to endure such pain and torment. I'm so sorry that no one came to your rescue or advocated for you, which may have made you feel so alone. Things like this can leave lasting effects, in how we show up in life, how we trust people, how we engage with others, and the list goes on and on. Yes, it would be nice to get an acknowledgment or an "I'm sorry, but sometimes, we never receive it. But that does not mean that you can't continue your healing journey. It just means that you have realistic expectations of what to expect from the party that hurt you and what boundaries you put in place when interacting with said individuals. As a child, one is to be protected, loved, nurtured, etc, but it does not seem as though you were afforded that opportunity. My hope is that through therapy you can talk about and process what you have been through, gain new supports, learn new coping strategies and learn to love yourself back to life. Like your partner stated, this can be the thing that help you be the best parent and support for your child, because you understand what it feels like to be on the other side. Also in therapy, maybe a few family sessions may be helpful, with a mediator in place to help you and your mother delve into the abuse, when you are ready of course. This process takes time and no need to rush the process. Anxiety, fear, worry will lead to panic attacks. Identifying your triggers will be super helpful so that you can better manage them even before they start.    I hope you find what it is you are looking for on this journey. I hope you include your supports so they can reach out on difficult days. This is a  journey and not a sprint...you will get to the other side. Please make sure to make use of this platform and reach out to your therapist as often as possible. A supportive counselor can make a world of a difference. I hope this message helps.    Be Well,    Tracy Augustin, MSW, LCSW  
Answered on 10/28/2021

How can I break free from the past so that I can live my day normally ?

Hello! I am glad that you reached out. I am sorry to hear that you have been through so much trauma. It's possible to be treated for trauma and gain healing. I recommend that you see a therapist who specializes in the treatment of trauma. Therapy can be an effective treatment for a host of mental and emotional problems. Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive person can often make you feel better. It can be very healing, in and of itself, to voice your worries or talk about something that’s weighing on your mind. And it feels good to be listened to—to know that someone else cares about you and wants to help. While it can be very helpful to talk about your problems to close friends and family members, sometimes you need help that the people around you aren’t able to provide. When you need extra support, an outside perspective, or some expert guidance, talking to a therapist or counselor can help. While the support of friends and family is important, therapy is different. Therapists are professionally-trained listeners who can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health problem to benefit from therapy. Many people in therapy seek help for everyday concerns: relationship problems, job stress, or self-doubt, for example. Others turn to therapy during difficult times, such as healing from trauma. But in order to reap its benefits, it’s important to choose the right therapist—someone you trust who makes you feel cared for and has the experience to help you make changes for the better in your life. A good therapist helps you become stronger and more self-aware. Finding the right therapist will probably take some time and work, but it’s worth the effort. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery. Therapy won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time at the beginning to find the right person. It’s okay to shop around and ask questions when interviewing potential therapists. The good thing about Betterhelp is that you have so many qualified therapist to choose from.  As you start to process your past sad and painful experiences you are more likely to reduce feelings of fear and insecurity and gain self-confidence. I wish you the best as you seek support!
Answered on 10/28/2021

How do I deal with a parent who lashes out at me?

Future Dr. Davis, I'd like to open your mind a bit to new possibilities. Lets use this alcoholic household as an example.  A little girl living with an alcoholic father who treated their wife as a punching bag. As the little girl grew up and got married and began to learn how abused her father was as a child, her eyes were opened to the fact he had major issues from his childhood.  Issues that were never addressed, or even spoken about. So she took all this into consideration and began to think differently, not just focusing on the trauma from her history, but everyone's trauma involved.  You see when all you see is their wrong towards you and don’t entertain that they are just carrying issues from their childhood it’s easy to judge someone into purgatory without giving them a chance to reveal why they are the way they are.  Now saying all that, you should never allow anyone to criticize, berate or humiliate you. You at 36 should feel loved, excepted, and respected by your mother. It’s apparent she has not excepted the fact your a grown young lady and not a child anymore. She needs to respect you as the woman you are. You need to teach your mom boundaries and how you will not accept this kind of behavior from her or anyone! The power is in you. If that means you have to separate yourself from her for a while until your able to relay this message then so be it. Refuse to walk on eggshells. This is a miserable feeling to live through. It’s just a mechanism to control you and people around them. I believe it’s also a way to keep people at a distance so they don’t they get hurt.  (Mother is saying….It’s worked in the past so I can keep doing this and maybe my daughter will never find out that in reality I’m afraid of losing her!) not realizing she’s pushing you away.!  I would say, separate for a time and when you are ready or she comes to you and your ready make your feelings known to her. She will probably throw a fit and say things she really doesn’t mean but she will feel she’s losing control of you, and for her that’s a scary thought. But that’s not your problem it’s hers.  If she doesn’t comply with your wishes then in love, let her know when she’s ready to comply you will let her in your life again. There’s no need to be angry or combative because it will just draw you into her control again. She could be unconscious that she’s even doing this. But you have to take control of your life and be the happiest person you know. Anger pulls you into a place you don’t want to go and takes your joy away.  If she never complies then it is okay to love from a distance. I hope this is helpful for you. Acceptance is understanding that peace might not look the way we planned for it to look, but accepting peace in a different way. Good luck to you!
Answered on 10/28/2021

Why do some parents favour their most dishonest child over their more honest ones?

I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with your family and feeling so neglected by them amidst being so much more functional. It will be important to recognize when your feelings have a purpose versus when they do not.  We of course want positive feelings in our lives, but sometimes negative feelings are there for a reason and we need to live out that purpose in order for it to get better.  If we do not live out the purpose of our feelings, it likely leads us to feel worse.  For example, something as simple as having anxiety about needing to get the chores done has the purpose of getting us motivated to get the chores done.  Therefore, if we do not live out that purpose and the chores remain undone, that can lead to more bad feelings, such as, “I am lazy” or “I am worthless.”  This is a simple example of how if we do not pay attention to our feelings and live out the purpose, they can become much, much worse.  So, I would encourage you to try and separate out the thoughts that have a purpose from the thoughts that do not have a purpose and are more intrusive.    For the ones that do have a purpose, it can be helpful to allow yourself to think through the anxious thoughts because anxiety has a nasty way of going to the worst possible scenario.  If you can wrap your head around that scenario, it can make it less scary.  For example, I had a client that was very anxious daily about being single for the rest of his life.  Thinking to that extreme is clearly anxiety and it just lingers there.  So, then he was able to think through that scenario and come up with a plan to make it less scary.  He then came up with that if he really is going to be single the rest of his life, which is highly unlikely, he is going to work towards being able to live close to the ocean since that is a dream of his.  Thinking about it now does not make him as scared because he recognizes he could be happy with that. So, try to think through specific things you are anxious about that have a purpose and make sure you have a specific plan on how to improve those things. For example, having a specific plan for how to address specific issues with your parents that see to your needs and feelings.     Intrusive thoughts tend to not have a purpose and it can be really helpful to try and overpower those before they are accepted as truths.   We can have power over our thoughts and I want to help you not engage in these thoughts that make you so upset.  The easiest example of this that I can think of is if I went skydiving.  If I went skydiving I would have some obvious, rational, anxious thoughts.  If I really have a desire to skydive though I will need to not engage in those thoughts.  I might have thoughts such as, "My parachute could fail, I will hit the ground, I am going to pass out, etc."  However, since I really want to follow through with skydiving, I would want to stop those thoughts in their tracks with, "I know this is going to be really fun, they inspect the parachutes ahead of time, people hardly ever get hurt doing this, etc."  By focusing on those thoughts and not engaging in the others, I would be able to follow through with skydiving. Try to sort through any thoughts that get you down about yourself and that you can’t handle all of this and try to overpower those.  These types of thoughts are very common when dealing with this kind of rejection from your family.       As you do those processes it can be helpful to validate yourself as someone of worth to your family and to others. Something that could be helpful for you is what I like to call centering thoughts.  These are thoughts that are predetermined and unique to you for you to turn to in low moments.  They need to be powerful enough to bring you back to your center.  It is important that these thoughts are accessible for you to look at when you need to.  Some clients prefer to read and re-read them and some prefer to write and re-write them until they feel better.  I have clients that write these somewhere they will see daily such as their bathroom mirror or phone background, while others simply have them in their phone to pull out when they need to.  An example of a centering thought would be from a client I had that related to nautical themed things and her thought was, "I will not let this sink me."  Another example is from an Olympic skier that actually had difficulties with negative thinking getting in the way of her performance so she went to therapy.  She mentioned that she learned about centering thoughts to battle all of the people telling her she “should be” or “should do.”  To battle those thoughts, she uses the simple centering thought of, “I am.”  She can then remind herself that she is good enough, that she is confident, and that she does want to still compete, which really affirms her own feelings and not others.  Hopefully you can come up with something that helps validate your worth and your strengths.   I hope that some of this is helpful and that you can apply it to your circumstances.  I hope that you can lean on some family and/or friends through this.  Doing so can help take weight off of your shoulders as well as hopefully get some valuable advice from them. Try to take the healing one day at a time and adding one positive thing back into your life each day. I wish you all the best and I hope that you are staying safe.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How does someone get over family emotional abuse that's been inflicted on their mom in front of her/

Hi That'sAnickname,  Thank you for reaching out with this problem. I will try to answer your question as best as I can based on the information you provided.    Although your post is about your mom, your main question highlights something so deeply important that often is overlooked. Post traumatic stress does not only happen to people who experienced a traumatic event, it can also apply to people who experience neglect and abuse as well as people who witness something terrible happening to a loved one. Even knowing a loved one experienced something terrible even though you did not witness it can lead to post traumatic stress for you.    Not only did you witness this behavior toward your mom and it made your heart hurt for her, you witnessed this degrading behavior and it has its own effect on you. Most people are affected when we witness any kind of negative actions toward another person. I can imagine that witnessing the way your grandmother treated your mom also affected your relationship with your grandmother.    Another aspect of this situation that may help you understand how you feel is a thing called generational trauma. I don't know where you call home, or information about your family, but you can look at your family history and you may see that your ancestors have gone through trauma of some sort. For instance, your grandmother may have gone through some difficulty as a young person that led her to being harsh toward your mother. In fact, when a person experiences trauma it can affect their DNA, which then gets passed on to their children and grandchildren up to 7 generations. So you may be experiencing these compounding effects of trauma which affects how you function as well.    I think it is really helpful to have some understanding about the science of trauma, and that it can be experienced in more ways than people think. If you'd like to know more, I highly suggest working with a trauma specialist who can also help you understand how trauma may have been experienced in your family. Also, working with a therapist and trauma specialist can help you develop some coping skills for when you feel anxious, angry, or upset. Also, talking with a professional one on one can help you resolve any unresolved issues regarding your grandmother, seeing your mom be treated that way, or your mom in general.    I know this doesn't tell you a clear step-by-step method of processing the relationships in your family and the things you saw. I genuinely believe the best way to move forward is to work with a therapist so that you can get individualized attention and talk more in-depth about your particular situation. 
(LMHC, CSAC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

I'm not sure um what to ask, um where do I start?

Hi!  I'm Brent Crowson, LPC, NCC.  Thanks for reaching out and exploring therapy.  I'm sorry that you're in a toxic household.  My first concern is for your safety.  If you are experiencing any physical abuse please call 911 or go to a place where you will be safe.  Next, let's explore therapy as an option.  Therapy can be very helpful in giving you a therapeutic space to openly and honestly talk about your thoughts and feelings.  That space and time with your therapist must be a place you feel safe to express yourself and be honest with yourself.  Your therapist should be someone you've grown to trust and feel safe with so that you don't feel judged or criticized.  But, therapy has its limitations.  You might not feel comfortable with your therapist and that's fine...you can talk it out with him or her or find one that suits you better.  Another limitation with therapy is that it does not fix problems...it's not that easy.  Rather, therapy helps you explore solutions that you decide whether to use or not to use.  In your example, therapy might provide a space for you to process how your parent's actions make you feel and offer insight into ways you can heal yourself even as you set personal boundaries for yourself. At first, therapy can seem intimidating and overwhelming.  It can be hard to know if it's "safe" to open up to a stranger (even if he or she is a therapist) and it can be hard to even know where to begin.  I know, I've been on the therapist's couch before too.  The way I do therapy is that you're in charge.  We talk about what you want to talk about and for as long as you want to talk about it.  I serve you, so I might ask you questions about your thoughts or feelings and may offer suggestions to help you gain deeper insight.  There is no pressure on you to accept any of my suggestions and no judgment either.  Where you being our journey is up to you.   If you've read my bio and you feel comfortable talking with me, I would be honored to journey with you.  We can work together to find strategies to get you to your mental health goals.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How can i forgive and heal my wounds so i could move on?

I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with forgiveness and it sounds like you have been through so much pain with your family. It will be important to recognize when your feelings have a purpose versus when they do not.  We of course want positive feelings in our lives, but sometimes negative feelings are there for a reason and we need to live out that purpose in order for it to get better.  If we do not live out the purpose of our feelings, it likely leads us to feel worse.  For example, something as simple as having anxiety about needing to get the chores done has the purpose of getting us motivated to get the chores done.  Therefore, if we do not live out that purpose and the chores remain undone, that can lead to more bad feelings, such as, “I am lazy” or “I am worthless.”  This is a simple example of how if we do not pay attention to our feelings and live out the purpose, they can become much, much worse.  So, I would encourage you to try and separate out the thoughts that have a purpose from the thoughts that do not have a purpose and are more intrusive.    For the ones that do have a purpose, it can be helpful to allow yourself to think through the anxious thoughts because anxiety has a nasty way of going to the worst possible scenario.  If you can wrap your head around that scenario, it can make it less scary.  For example, I had a client that was very anxious daily about being single for the rest of his life.  Thinking to that extreme is clearly anxiety and it just lingers there.  So, then he was able to think through that scenario and come up with a plan to make it less scary.  He then came up with that if he really is going to be single the rest of his life, which is highly unlikely, he is going to work towards being able to live close to the ocean since that is a dream of his.  Thinking about it now does not make him as scared because he recognizes he could be happy with that. So, try to think through specific things you are anxious about that have a purpose and make sure you have a specific plan on how to improve those things. For example, having a specific plan for how to address specific hurts that you still have with your family to feel like they are forward moving.     Intrusive thoughts tend to not have a purpose and it can be really helpful to try and overpower those before they are accepted as truths.   We can have power over our thoughts and I want to help you not engage in these thoughts that make you so upset.  The easiest example of this that I can think of is if I went skydiving.  If I went skydiving I would have some obvious, rational, anxious thoughts.  If I really have a desire to skydive though I will need to not engage in those thoughts.  I might have thoughts such as, "My parachute could fail, I will hit the ground, I am going to pass out, etc."  However, since I really want to follow through with skydiving, I would want to stop those thoughts in their tracks with, "I know this is going to be really fun, they inspect the parachutes ahead of time, people hardly ever get hurt doing this, etc."  By focusing on those thoughts and not engaging in the others, I would be able to follow through with skydiving. Try to sort through any thoughts that get you down about yourself and that you can’t handle all of this and try to overpower those.  These types of thoughts are very common when dealing with this type of barrier to forgiveness.        As you do those processes it can be helpful to validate yourself as someone of worth and someone that has been able to cope with challenges in the past. Something that could be helpful for you is what I like to call centering thoughts.  These are thoughts that are predetermined and unique to you for you to turn to in low moments.  They need to be powerful enough to bring you back to your center.  It is important that these thoughts are accessible for you to look at when you need to.  Some clients prefer to read and re-read them and some prefer to write and re-write them until they feel better.  I have clients that write these somewhere they will see daily such as their bathroom mirror or phone background, while others simply have them in their phone to pull out when they need to.  An example of a centering thought would be from a client I had that related to nautical themed things and her thought was, "I will not let this sink me."  Another example is from an Olympic skier that actually had difficulties with negative thinking getting in the way of her performance so she went to therapy.  She mentioned that she learned about centering thoughts to battle all of the people telling her she “should be” or “should do.”  To battle those thoughts, she uses the simple centering thought of, “I am.”  She can then remind herself that she is good enough, that she is confident, and that she does want to still compete, which really affirms her own feelings and not others.  Hopefully you can come up with something that helps validate your abilities to cope with challenges and the difficult circumstances you have been through with your family.    I hope that some of this is helpful and that you can apply it to your circumstances.  I hope that you can lean on some family and/or friends through this.  Doing so can help take weight off of your shoulders as well as hopefully get some valuable advice from them. Try to take the healing one day at a time and adding one positive thing back into your life each day. I wish you all the best and I hope that you are staying safe.
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How do I function when I’m overwhelmed?

"How do I function when I'm overwhelmed?"  This was your question and I would say start with "baby steps"...  I encourage you to start with therapy.  Therapy can support and help during times of being overwhelmed.  Therapy can help process stressors and prioritize issues.  I am so sorry for the loss of your brother.  I understand how difficult it is to lose someone.  Having to continue with our normal routines during times of grieving is hard.  Understanding that you are grieving is the first step.  Be understanding with yourself that you are processing a loss.  Therapy would give you someone outside of your circle to talk to and help with the journey that you are on.  Helping you to understand that it is  normal to have struggles in our every day routines such as work.  There are also bereavement groups that would support this time in your life.  The group could share experiences and how each members are functioning at the stage they are in.  Talking about the pain is the best medicine.  It gives us a way out of your thoughts and share our thoughts and feelings with others.  Talking with others also gives us the opportunity to hear from others and understand "we are not alone".  It is not easy losing a loved one and it brings us to some important factors that we tend to face after we lose a loved one.  Topics such as; "What is my purpose?', "Why the person is gone.", "Unfinished business", "Didn't take the time to say how I felt", "Questioning-God or Higher Power", "Blaming God".  There are so many other things that we start to question and think of.  In grieving we sometimes stop taking care of ourselves or use substance to hide the pain.  I encourage you to seek support whether it is with a healthy family member, friend, support group or therapy.  Reach out so you can have someone to walk with you as you process grief. Finding moments to take deep breaths, seeking time off to process the loss, increase walking and talking out loud to your brother, visiting the grave sight and sitting with him maybe having a picnic.  There are many things that can bring us to healing but it starts with "one step at a time".  Blessings to you and your familiy. 
(M.A., LMFT, M.A., LPCC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How do I begin to trust myself in setting healthy boundaries with family?

Hello Seeking Boundaries, I am glad you reached out for support at this time.  I am sorry you are struggling in this moment.  I would encourage you to start to work with a therapist to help you learn skills to help you overcome your struggles.  If we were to meet I would first talk to you about the counseling process through our site and how together we could help you obtain your goals going forward, how I work as a counselor and how I would try to help you through the counseling process.  I would also take the first session to get to know you by asking you a few questions to get a better understanding of your struggles, so that I am able to focus on a plan and goals to work on going forward. I want you to know that you are not alone during this time even though you may feel like you are alone at this time.  During the therapy process you can have support 100% of the time as you are able to reach out and talk to a therapist 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I am going to send you some skills and tools to help you during this time of struggle you are having.  If we were to work together we would be going over these and more tools to help you through our struggles and be able to ask for support from others. Setting up Boundaries1. Know this sad truth: no boundaries = little self-esteem. Many people don't know what their boundaries are, when in fact they should roll off your tongue like the alphabet. The first step is admitting that your lack of boundaries stems from your lack of self-esteem. After all, what's the point of saying we want to grow if we're not going to be honest with ourselves about where we are now? 2. Decide what your core values are. Who are you? What do you value? Once you get clear on what matters most to you, then you can take the bigger step of communicating this to others. Instead of creating your boundaries around a difficult relationship in your life, you must make your boundaries about you. For example, I set boundaries around phone time to honor the fact that I tend to get overstimulated by tech. This boundary is to decrease my stress level and not about avoiding others' phone calls or distancing myself from loved ones.3. You can't change others, so change yourself. Gosh, we all want others to change, right? I mean, that's part of the human experience. We get into arguments with our spouses, hoping, wishing, demanding even that they stop being difficult. We get mad when our moms call us five times in a day. You want your co-worker-that one who is so negative-to treat you with more respect. The list is long. We cannot change others. We are not responsible for what comes out of their mouth, the daily choices they make, or their reactions. The bottom line? Since you can't change other people, change how you deal with them.4. Decide the consequences ahead of time. So what do we do once someone inevitably tries to push our boundaries? Decide what the consequences are. The best way to figure out your own boundaries and consequences when people cross them is sitting quietly down with yourself and making this all about you. (Remember: Boundaries are about honoring your needs, not about judging other people's choices.) Write down what you decide so it's on paper somewhere.5. Let your behavior, not your words, speak for you. Present your boundaries clearly to people and then let your behavior do the talking. People will test, push, and disrespect your limits. You'll know you're getting healthier when this doesn't get an emotional reaction out of you. When your boundaries are your core beliefs, you will not get riled up if you are tested.6. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. The biggest part of boundaries is how clearly you communicate them. You can have the most healthy set of boundaries on the planet, but if you do not communicate them clearly, you are going to create some really confusing relationships, both for you and everyone else involved. One way to quickly get someone to question your character or authenticity? Say one thing and do another. Sometimes we're afraid to confront others with truth in love or relationships. We're afraid to tell people what we really want, to admit that we hate going to certain restaurants or have trouble spending time with a friend's toxic cousin or hate when a boss dumps deadlines on us at 6 p.m. on a Friday. We conceal our true feelings because we're scared of people's reactions. The more you ground yourself with your boundaries and values, the more you'll be able to be very clear in your communication.9 Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries When you think about the relationships in your life that most require boundaries, those with your friends might not immediately come to mind. You probably find yourself more frequently struggling to perfect the dynamic between you and your S.O. so you’re not spending all of your time together, or working on the kind of direct communication with family members that allows you to be an active part of each other’s lives without any simmering resentments or holiday meltdowns.But the need for boundaries doesn’t stop there, and they’re healthy to set with your closest friends too. Shannon Thomas, therapist, relationship expert, and author of Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse, tells us that boundary-setting can be a loving action to take when it comes to our pals. “Boundaries help to filter who loves us with conditions [versus] unconditionally,” she says. “When we speak up and our friends honor what is important to us — even if they don’t fully understand — they are showing us their willingness to truly invest in the relationship. We show our love within a friend group by allowing each person to fully be themselves.”Friendships that aren’t handled with appropriate communication can lead to resentment since they put us in the uncomfortable position of constantly giving more than we receive. A little selflessness here and there is key to the success of any relationship, of course, but there’s a limit to how much you can give. Thomas offers nine tips that will help you identify when it’s time for boundaries — and how to implement them — so that your friendships will be more satisfying and enjoyable all around.1.   Pay attention to your body’s signals. Your body may know long before your brain does that changes need to be made in the dynamic between you and a friend. Thomas notes that “our need to set limits often first shows up as stress,” so physical manifestations such as an upset stomach, rapid heartbeat, tense muscles, or a headache may be the first indicator that it’s time for some limits, particularly if those symptoms tend to present themselves whenever you’re around that person.2. Consider the history. We’re not saying that people can’t evolve, learn from their previous mistakes, and become better friends over time, but if the pal you’re dealing with has a history of upsetting you, establishing parameters could be a good idea. While it might not initially seem so, it’s actually a positive step to take for both parties involved because it means that you’re invested in the relationship and have high hopes for it moving forward. “When we feel guilty for setting limits, we should remind ourselves that some people don’t know when they ask too much of others, so it’s our job to show them how to be a healthier friend,” Thomas says.3. Check the fear factor. Do you feel nervous about sharing your honest opinion with your pal? Are you cautious with them whenever it comes time to discuss a topic that’s complicated or emotional? If your answer to either of these questions is “yes,” the relationship might not be as healthy as you think it is. Those underlying nerves are another signal that boundaries could be necessary.4. Take care of yourself first. This simple, clear guideline is a great way for you to start seeing how it might feel to create different expectations with those in your circle. If you have a friend who is chronically late to meet you in a way that feels offensive or hurtful, it’s okay to let her know that her behavior isn’t working for you. Or if your friend asks you to use a white lie to cover for her at work or with other friends, be honest if it makes you uncomfortable. “We always want to make sure we are giving out of the excess we have after taking care of ourselves and our own lives first,” Thomas advises. “Sure, in emergencies, we will drop everything to be there for our friends, but not every event is an emergency.”5. Pause and reflect. Before you start thinking about the best way to broach the subject, give yourself a little emotional cooling off period to make sure that the issue at hand is the rule, not the exception. “Wait and see if the bad behaviors are actually a pattern for a friend or just a weird one-off bad day or few days,” Thomas says. “We want to find the balance between jumping to say something and talking ourselves out of bringing it up and running the risk of becoming a doormat.” 6. Master the boundaries vocabulary. When you decide that it’s time to talk to your pal about expectations, Thomas recommends using phrases like “It makes me uncomfortable when…”, “I want to share with you how I’m feeling about…”, or “We need to come up with a different plan, because this isn’t working for me.”7. Don’t set it up as a confrontation. There’s no need to send your friend a formal invitation to some sort of official Boundaries Talk, and the words “We need to talk” are going to shut her down from the beginning. Alternatively, Thomas suggests that you bring up the new boundary (in the language discussed above!) in the appropriate context. If your friend has just shown up late or called you in the middle of the night again, that’s your moment to share how you’ve been feeling about the behavior and lay out your expectations for it to change. 8. Keep your self-talk positive. As you begin to prioritize your own life ahead of your friends’ needs, you might find doubt and self-judgment creep in. Stop them in their tracks! In the early stages of establishing limits, remind yourself as often as needed that healthy friendships involve two people who equally respect the other’s needs for personal time and space. Practice communicating parameters with love and confidence so that you’re not constantly afraid that doing so will put your friendships at risk.9. Don’t try to become someone’s therapist. If you find yourself constantly on call as an emotional support for one of your besties, quietly resigning from your role as her 24/7 therapist is an option worth pursuing. Be honest with your friend about what kinds of problems you actually feel able to handle and what times of day (or night!) might not be appropriate for a panicked email or text message. A friend who is constantly reaching out for your advice might even benefit from seeing a qualified therapist — after all, most likely you don’t have the proper training! I hope that these skills have been helpful for you in your struggles you have been facing at this time. I am going to give you my information if you are wanting to start to process through and work on your struggles going forward, please reach out to Betterhelp and ask to be matched with Crystal Westman. If we were to work together we would work on more skills and tools to help you when you are struggling and get back to a positive space.  I encourage you to reach out for support at this time to help you get to the best version of yourself.
Answered on 10/28/2021

I need to heal a relationship with an adult child who believes that I favor their sibling

Thanks so much for your question and I hope that my answer can help bring some answers to what you are looking for. I am sorry to hear you feel estranged from your child, that is truly heartbreaking. I do think there can be healing and restoration in a relationship if both parties want to be a part of the healing. Respecting and maintaining boundaries is a healthy place to start in the restoration process with your child. To start the healing process it will probably take going back to where you feel the estrangement began and look to see if there are parts where forgiveness is needed. Are your twins estranged from each other or only from you? It seems you had a relationship with both until recently when one became upset with you. Working through the situation that prompted your child to get angry could be a good starting place. It seems that part of your hurt and longing is for your individual relationship with your twins to improve and also their relationship with each other. You can definitely work to better your relationship with them individually yet unless they want to find healing and restoration with each other you can not able to heal their relationship with them. I know as a mom it is hard to see your children not get along and have an estranged relationship. As you work on your own healing it is helpful to remember your own emotional boundaries on how you cannot fix or do the work for your twins. As you start on your journey of healing, I hope that through your own growth your twins will see the benefit of working through past hurts and family dynamics and prompt them towards starting their own journey towards healing. It sounds like you have done your best to support your twins in their own personal ways while also them being the same age or similar. I bet that tension of being a twin mom has been hard to hold them being separate humans with individual needs while also being similar and the same age.  
Answered on 10/28/2021

BPD

Hello  Lisa and thank you for reaching out with your questions. I hope to provide you with some helpful information about your questions.  Unfortunately, I am unable to confirm any diagnosis or provide anyone with a diagnosis on this platform. I will do my best to give you information about the illness(es) you have questions about.  In terms of your questions about "BPD" there are two possibilities we can discuss regarding treatment options since I am unsure of which one you are referring to:   1. Bipolar Disorder   2. Borderline Personality Disorder   Both of these mental illnesses can be managed and treated in counseling. Borderline Personality Disorder can be treated and managed through the use of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Bipolar Disorder may require medication management depending on the severity of the symptoms but it can also be treated with counseling. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be helpful for Bipolar Disorder as it can help identify unhealthy thoughts that contribute to unhealthy emotions and unhealthy and unwanted behaviors.  In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we learn that we have automatic thoughts and core beliefs related to situations and events that happen in our lives. Once the event occurs, we have an automatic thought about it. That thought then influences our emotional state and then that emotional state influences our behaviors and this can develop into a pattern. Having said this, it is important to understand if and when we are having irrational or unhealthy thoughts (also known as Cognitive Distortions). Our thoughts directly impact our emotional well-being and our behaviors. If our thoughts are unhealthy/ irrational, then our emotions and behaviors will be as well. Therefore, if you are having unwanted emotions and behaviors, it is important to go to the root of the problem and take a look at your thoughts to determine if they are healthy or not. Again, I can not provide a diagnosis on this platform but I hope you find this information helpful in terms of understanding these two mental illnesses. I also think it is important not to make assumptions about your family members' mental health in terms of applying suspected diagnoses on them without them having any formal assessment. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for individuals suffering from mental illness.  I hope this information is helpful. Take care!
(MSW, LCSW, LCAS)
Answered on 10/28/2021

Ways to cope with Daddy Issues?

Good morning!  So, in regards to your question in relation to coping with this new information you received, it seems that you are really shocked!  The feeling of loss and shock is absolutely valid and sounds like this really caught you off guard.  I am very curious about your thoughts and feelings in regards to your family currently after you found this information out.  Like, the feeling of betrayal, but also am wondering what your thoughts are with talking to them.  In therapy, I think the focus on processing your thoughts and feelings in regards to betrayal, loss, and confusion.  I would also imagine there would be some hurt and pain regards to this information.  Ways to cope really depend on how you want to move forward and navigate the depth of your emotions.  However, we can work together to challenge negative thoughts that you may have (like negative self-talk that inevitably impacts your self-esteem) or view of the world.  Also, making sure you feel confident with your decisions moving forward.  Ways to cope will also depend on how this life change/adjustment is impacting you, such as if it is making you isolate, anxious, worried, sad, etc.  As well as individualizing your coping skills with what you like to do and what has and has not worked for you in the past.  I hope this is helpful, but I do think working together, or with anyone, a little more information may be needed to really give you the full support and information on what coping skills may work best for you.  My main therapeutic approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy which focuses on reframing stressful thoughts as well as processing trauma in an effective way to make sure you have a positive outlook on yourself, others, and the world.  Coping skills can vary anywhere from increasing exercise, to journaling, to listening to music.  But it also sounds like processing this information will be important to really understand how you are feeling about the situation and how you may want to move forward with each of your family members.
(MS, LPC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

Are all these symptoms normal ( don’t feel it at moment) Is there anything I can help my self.

Dear Bongo,   Thank you for your message.   What we are feeling and experiencing right now is a very natural, normal process of grief and loss. As human being the more we loved a person the more we experience the pain when we lost them. Meanwhile, in time we learn to love again and form meaningful and uplifting relationships. We have experienced loss grief before and we will experience them again, meanwhile, we learn to continue to love ourselves and others. There are times like this in our lives where everything has fallen apart, yet we do learn to pick them back up and put them into rightful places in time.   Therefore this is not a time to fight, this is a time to float and make choices that are nourishing to ourselves. We become our best lover and we learn to create the place where we feel belonged. We can do this together.   Before we dive in deeper if you would allow me to briefly explain what this grieving process looks like so that we can have the full picture of what this journey like, not just focusing on the stage that we are in.   This process is called "SWIRL", it's a cheesy name for a process that so many of us experience whenever we grief over losses. SWIRL stands for "Shattering, Withdrawal, Internalizing, Rage, Lifting"   This brief overview of the SWIRL process is written from the perspective of someone surviving a loss of love, but it reflects the grief process of the many other types and degrees of loss mentioned above.   Shattering:    The painful tear in your attachment, stab wound to the heart.  The sudden disconnection sends you into panic, devastation, shock, and bewilderment.  This can occur even when the relationship had only been one date and he failed to return your text.  You feel the disconnection as a painful jolt, instantly catapulting you out of the positive sense of future that that connection had given you, and sending you back to the beginning where you were abjectly alone.  In a long-term relationship, you feel symbiotically attached to your lost love –as if you can’t survive without him or her – which throws you into an intense emotional crisis – a true trauma. You’ve been severed from your Siamese twin and you’re in the recovery room, alone, crying out in pain. Where is your other half? You try to keep remnants of your fractured self together, but your whole sense of reality feels destroyed.  One minute you succumb to overwhelming despair, suicidal feelings, and sorrow.  The next, you see glimmers of hope, only to be dashed again on the shores of despair.   Withdrawal:   Love-withdrawal is just like Heroin withdrawal – each involves intense yearning for the object of desire, and its craving is mediated by opiates (opioids) within your body.  You feel aching, craving, longing, needing a love-fix that you can’t get.  You’re strung out, incessantly waiting for your lost love to call or return.  You’re plagued with separation anxiety – an expectant, urgent feeling of heightened vulnerability.  Physical components of withdrawal from love are the same as they are for withdrawal from Heroin.  You’re in withdrawal from your endogenous opiates with flu-like symptoms, as well as suffused with fight or flight stress hormones which give you butterflies and taut nerves.  Your withdrawal symptoms may include intense anxiety and restlessness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite – sick to stomach, and jumpiness. Just surviving the day feels like a full-time job. Your day is all about pain management.   Internalizing:   You begin to turn the anger you feel about being rejected toward yourself and beat yourself up, which creates the intense depression that accompanies abandonment.  You idealize your lost love at your own expense, indicting yourself for “not being good enough”, for losing the most important person in your life.  You internalize the rejection, interpreting the dismissal as evidence of your alleged personal unworthiness.  Internalizing is the most critical stage when your wound becomes infected and can leave scarring on your self-image.  You inculcate a narcissistic injury.  You have grave doubts about your ‘attachment worthiness’ – that is, your ability to hold someone’s love. You blame yourself for the loss.  Old feelings of insecurity merge into your new wound.  Without recovery, this onslaught to your self-esteem can persist and interfere in future relationships in the form of intrusive insecurity, a symptom of abandonment’s post-traumatic stress.   Rage:   You attempt to reverse the rejection, expressing rage over being left and over the situation you are in.  You are restless to get your life back in order, riddled with low frustration tolerance, your anger spurting out of control.  You resent being thrust into aloneness against your will.  You regress into fantasies of revenge and retaliation.  Your aggressive energy is like a pressure cooker.  You boil over easily, sometimes spewing anger onto innocent bystanders (like your friends when they suggest simple things like, “You gotta move forward” or “Just let go.”  You may have difficulty with assertiveness, tend to under-react – afraid to express your anger directly to your abandoner for fear of losing any more crumbs of his love and approval.  So your rage can remain impotent and can get inverted into an agitated depression.   Lifting:    Life begins to distract you, lifting you back into itself.  You experience intervals of peace and confidence.  Abandonment’s lessons are learned and you get ready to love again.   Without recovery, people can make the mistake of lifting above their feelings, losing touch with their emotional center, causing them to become more isolated than before, losing some of their capacity for love and connection. This causes many people to become attracted to the unavailable (“abandoholic”) because insecurity and rejection are the only feelings they are still able to “feel.”   We experience the stages not as discrete-time packets, but rather one continuous process, sometimes going back and forth between phases of experiencing two or more at once, and just as we think we=re through, something happens that thrusts us right back to the beginning.     We swirl through the phases within an hour, a day, a year, cycles in cycles, until we emerge out the end of its funnel-shaped cloud a changed person.     "SWIRL" is a universal process.  We’ve all been through it at one time or another – swirling through the disconnections of everyday life.   We swirled through the hurts and disappointments of childhood.  Our own unique style of swirling is based on patterns we developed from having survived previous losses, heartbreaks, and losses, as well as our temperament and personality, and our susceptibility to feeling rejected.   For abandonment survivors, with our heightened vulnerability, almost anything can cause us to swirl.  It can be very subtle.  Feeling left out, ignored by a friend, or failing to get recognition at work can set swirls in motion.  On a bad day, losing your car keys can send you swirling.  Rather than fault ourselves for overreacting, we need to recognize that we are going through the universal process of SWIRL beneath our taut nerves and tender feelings.   You might go into a mild swirl if, for example, a member of your abandonment support group fails to show up one night.  You and other group members feel the absence of that person as a nearly imperceptible letdown, a slight ‘disconnection’ (a mild form of Shattering).  You feel slight anticipation in waiting, hoping for him to arrive (Withdrawal).  You feel imperceptibly rejected, dismissed as if the group “wasn’t important enough to him” barely conscious of any self-depreciation setting in (Internalizing).  Then you feel some imperceptible annoyance that he “didn’t bother to call” (Rage).  And finally, even before these subliminal thoughts reach your awareness, your lift into the group discussion as it gets underway (Lifting).  You went through swirl on such a subtle level you weren’t even conscious of it.  But the vulnerability may have been there, tingeing the moment with subliminal self-doubt, disappointment, and slight agitation – even if you weren’t aware of it.   Meanwhile, as you know, this is a process that we go through and we don’t stay at a particular stage forever. We learn to lift eventually and form meaningful relationships again. That being said it is helpful to honesty acknowledge where we are and make choices that are nourishing and best meet our needs. It is absolutely natural to cry, to scream, to grief, to isolate, to feel hopeless.    We can do this together, know that you are never alone.   Looking forward to learning your thoughts, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How can I heal from narcissist parents?

Dear Hippiedoctor,   Thank you for your message.   Through your words I understand that in the past (maybe even in present) on one hand you care about others around you and you are constantly giving / helping, on the other hand through this process you might have been compromising or even sacrificing a lot on how you feel in order to keep this relationship going / please others. I can understand how tired you are with this pattern and how you would want things to change so that you can also feel more comfortable in your relationships.   Sometimes perhaps setting a healthy boundary would be helpful in managing your relationship with others in the terms that you feel comfortable, so that hopefully your relationships will continue in a way that is mutually comfortable. Otherwise, as your counselor I would support you to do what is best for yourself, even if that is walking away temporarily. This in itself, is also self-compassion.   In my coaching practice, many of the women and men I work with struggle with one common theme: setting healthy boundaries. I witness this challenge pop up in all relationships, whether it's with a family, business partner, a friend, or in a romantic relationship. We experience this uncomfortable pattern until we heal the root cause of the behavior.   In my experience, the root of all struggle is fear. Relationships become unhealthy when we act from a place of fear, rather than love. More often than not, we aren't even aware of the fears that have been driving our choices, blocking us from doing what's best for ourselves, and damaging our relationships. But learning to set healthy boundaries offers a perfect opportunity to strengthen our capacity to love ourselves and release the ego's fearful perceptions.   When you find yourself having difficulty saying "no" to others, doing things out of feelings of guilt or obligation, attempting to please others even at the expense of what's best for you, or not expressing your thoughts and feelings when someone upsets you, you are putting yourself last and putting others first-which doesn't serve any of the parties involved.   If we say "yes" to others asking of our time and energy and we've not filled ourselves up first, we are giving from a place of lack-which is a fear-based choice that sours the energy in a relationship and doesn't serve either party. It also breeds codependency, and prompts us to attract people and situations that drain us because we aren't honoring our own needs and boundaries.   Many times, this way of being can create anger or resentment in the person who is putting her or his own needs behind others'. This might manifest as complaining, feeling taken advantage of, or feeling powerless. These feelings are messages to us that we've chosen to perceive ourselves as the victim of a circumstance rather than stepping up and making choices for ourselves based on love.   The truth is, we're never a victim of our circumstances. We can choose how we would like to perceive something in any given situation-we can choose to perceive fear or we can choose love. And when we act from a place of love, rather than a place of fear, we experience a radical shift that transforms our struggles and breaks old patterns that are no longer serving us.   There are three main steps to changing the patterns that keep us in unhealthy relationships: Identifying our fears, choosing to adopt a loving perception of a situation, and taking action from a place of self-love.   Step 1: Identify Your Fears   Awareness is the first step to creating change. The moment we witness our ego's fearful perceptions and the stories it's been telling us, we can begin to shift them.   Common fears that show up in the context of boundaries include fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, or fear of being alone or abandoned. Many times, we adopt these fears as children (or at other points in our lives), and then drag these past experiences into our present and maybe even project them onto the future. This can result in us feeling like we don't want to upset others or lose their approval or acceptance, and valuing that acceptance over our own needs. Another result of letting these fears run the show is that as a consequence we may have trouble accessing how we want to be feeling and what we want to be doing-which prevents us from standing in our power.   Step 2: Choose Love   After we've created awareness around our fears, it's important to recognize that from a spiritual perspective, the fear isn't "real"-it's something we've learned through social conditioning, and not something we're born with. Instead of believing in these fears, we can choose to put our faith in loving perceptions, release our fearful illusions, and begin to experience beautiful changes in our lives.   This is more than a one-time choice; rather, it's an ongoing, moment-to-moment practice that involves witnessing fearful perceptions as they arise and actively choosing loving perceptions instead. To view the world through a lens of love, I recommend that people begin each day with a powerful intention: "I choose to release my fear and see love instead". Repeat this intention whenever fearful thoughts arise throughout the day.   Step 3: Act   Every time we choose love over fear, we commit an act of self-love. It is only when we are secure in our own worth that we can give and receive from a place of abundance, thereby creating relationships that serve us.   Saying "no" or speaking our truth when someone upsets us might feel scary at first. But as we begin to act in spite of our fears, we come to understand that when we act from a place of love, everyone wins. Contrary to what we may believe, there is never a situation in which what's best for us is not best for all. When we face our fears and express our thoughts and feelings openly to the person who upsets us or pushes our boundaries, internal healing occurs. We learn that it is safe to speak our truth and that those who best serve us will listen with love. Best of all, when we show up for ourselves, we provide an opportunity for those around us to show up as well.   Of course, we cannot control how other people respond to our feelings or choices. How others react is their personal spiritual assignment and how we react is ours. As we release our attachment to others' opinions and practice acceptance around however they choose to respond, we free ourselves from the bondage of fear, knowing that we are self-approved.   When You Need to Walk Away   Sometimes, walking away from a job or relationship that's no longer serving us is the most loving choice we can make. If we choose to leave a person or situation, it's important to trust and know that the universe has our back. The work is to call on our inner guiding system-the loving voice within-and to hear an answer, trust it, and act on it. This internal GPS never leads us astray, no matter how surprising or scary the answer may seem.   Saying "No"-The Takeaway   The most valuable thing that happens when we show up for ourselves with love is that we gain a sense of empowerment and a higher level of self-worth. When we give ourselves the love and acceptance that we desire, we no longer have to look for it outside of ourselves, which gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. This will reflect back to us with beautiful relationships that nourish and support us. As we approach our relationships more consciously and release fearful patterns, we break the cycles of guilt and obligation and begin to create new relationships and experiences that reflect our internal space of self-love.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to hear your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

I've been having trouble coping with the fact that I will be leaving for college soon.

You have some tough decisions to make. I wonder if going to school in Tennessee is the only option? So many schools now have online options, that may be a way for you to continue your education without having to make such a big decision in such a short period of time.    If you give yourself a little more time to think through all the possible options you may be able to figure out what is best for your family as a whole. One thing to keep in mind is we all have our own path and just because your family situation or educational experience doesn't look like everyone else's, doesn't make it any better or worse than what others are doing. The important thing is that your choice be the best option your you and your family.   Another thing to consider is the trauma and relationship strain you mentioned. School and an international move can be extremely stressful! Do you feel like you are in a good place personally? I'm not sure what your experience with college has been up to this point but sometimes the added stress of school, not just the learning aspect but also the financial piece, being away from friends & loved ones, time demands of work - class - study- grocery shopping - relaxation - and even just the daily activities of life can be a lot to juggle. Especially when you are dealing with previous trauma and your infant living in another country with your fiance. In no way am I saying it's not possible, I just want to make sure you are considering all of these aspects.    The financial aspect is something to consider too. If you are in a place financially where you can travel between Tennessee and Puerto Rico during breaks and between semesters that make things easier. Even though being a parent can be EXTREMELY rewarding it can also be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, you are already very well aware of this.    At the end of the day, especially with the limited information I have, the best advice I have for you is to gather all the information you can and make the best decision you can for you and your family.   Best of luck with whatever you choose to do!   
(M.Ed., LPC)
Answered on 10/28/2021

How can you change the dynamic that each person has in a family?

Hello! I am glad you reached out! I am sorry to hear about your difficult family situation. One way to receive support with changing the family dynamics is for the family to attend family counseling, but sometimes that is not possible because some of the family members may refuse to attend. If that is the case you may want to consider individual counseling for yourself so that you are better able deal with the family issues. Therapy can be an effective treatment for a host of mental and emotional problems, including family related issues. Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive person can often make you feel better. It can be very healing, in and of itself, to voice your worries or talk about something that’s weighing on your mind. And it feels good to be listened to—to know that someone else cares about you and wants to help. While it can be very helpful to talk about your problems to close friends and family members, sometimes you need help that the people around you aren’t able to provide. When you need extra support, an outside perspective, or some expert guidance, talking to a therapist or counselor can help. While the support of friends and family is important, therapy is different. Therapists are professionally-trained listeners who can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health problem to benefit from therapy. Many people in therapy seek help for everyday concerns: relationship problems, job stress, or self-doubt, for example. Others turn to therapy during difficult times, such as a divorce. But in order to reap its benefits, it’s important to choose the right therapist—someone you trust who makes you feel cared for and has the experience to help you make changes for the better in your life. A good therapist helps you become stronger and more self-aware. Finding the right therapist will probably take some time and work, but it’s worth the effort. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery. Therapy won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time at the beginning to find the right person. It’s okay to shop around and ask questions when interviewing potential therapists. The good thing about Betterhelp is that you have so many qualified therapist to choose from. As you start to process your past and current issues you are more likely to have control of your emotions and be on a path to a healthier future. I wish you the best on finding the best support and treatment!
Answered on 10/28/2021