Friendship Answers

How do I get over my friends being close to someone that physically attacked me?

Wow. Your story really touches me. I hate that you have gone through this and are still dealing with the complexities. I'm so glad you have distanced yourself from this person and are safe. It strikes me that you mentioned that this all happened in February. While that has been a few months, it's not so long ago. It really makes sense that your emotions would be all over the place, given that has only been a few months and that your social group is still connected with this person. It's hard to move on from any situation or relationship when it keeps coming up and reminding you. Also, the nature of the physical assault can be very traumatizing to your body. This person who you trusted not only was not trustworthy but violent. That is a betrayal on top of violence. Which is really like two traumas in one. It sounds like your body intuitively knows that and has made the moves to seek safety away from the person and even the other friends that aren't honoring your pain. That part is also so painful. All around it really sounds like you a feeling alone and betrayed. Humans are relational creatures. When we are disconnected from those we are closest to, our bodies go into a stress state. Emotions can feel intense, totally numb, or just all over the place. Please be gentle with yourself right. Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling. The last part you wrote about struggling still even though it happened in February almost sounds like you are questioning or criticizing yourself for struggling. I want you to hear loud and clear from me that what you are feeling is valid and a totally appropriate reaction to the situation.  The process of moving on is a complicated one, like with any relational hurt. The first step is to accept where you are and really allow yourself to grieve the loss and feel the pain. I really would hope that you would take advantage of therapy or at least another safe person in your life to do that with. You were hurt by others and you will heal with others. You may need to do more specific work in the trauma of the assault and work on any other issues from your past that is connected to this experience. The fact that you have even reached out to this end lets me know that you are already on the path of healing. You are taking steps towards accepting and validating your pain. You are sharing it with others. Those are huge steps. I hope you can continue with that and you get the support that you deserve. 
(MA, LPC, NCC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

What is the best way to deal with the lost of a close friend?

Hello and thank you so much for reaching out. First off, I am very sorry to hear that you lost a friend that is very dear to you. Sometimes things happen. Sometimes the best thing we can do is learn from it. Before you can apply what you learned, it can be very important to process your feelings. You have every right to do this in a safe way. Weekly counseling may be very beneficial to you as you go about this. You deserve to be in a space that is welcoming and non-judging in nature. I'm sure that it hurts very much that he will not talk with you. Perhaps you can process your feelings and look at them objectively over time. it definitely takes time to move through a loss, especially that of a dear friend. Please do take the time you need to feel your feelings. This is a grieving process for you. There are many ways to go through this. Counselors that are trained and licensed use what are called evidence-based practices. This means that techniques have been tested for both validity and reliability. You only deserve the best. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps a person to look at the way our thoughts impact both feelings and behavior of a person. This may include looking at the thought distortions. For example, a likely distortion could be that you are the only one to blame. However, if there are two people involved in the challenge, both of you have a role. While I am uncertain what part you played or your friend played, we could say it is a distortion to think that it is completely 100% on you. Perhaps a way to change the thought is to take responsibility for your part and realize that your part is different than the totality of what happened. You may also want to do something like write a letter and share it with a therapist or just read it out loud to someone you trust. This is a way to share your feelings and have them be heard within a safe space. It can help to move some of the difficult feelings into a more productive space. This can allow remembering the good times. Lastly, please do you know that I wish you the best on your journey.
(LMHC, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How to get out of emotional exhaustion

Hello.  First of all, I am so sorry that you are going through all of this.  I'm not sure that I understand completely the situation, but I will do my best to address the concerns as presented.  It sounds like you and your friends of 8 years got into an argument over a relationship that you are in that has become toxic, mostly due to your own actions, but now you are wanting it to be a healthy relationship.  That's what I got out of the question, so I hope it's somewhat close to accurate.  The question does not address how your partner who is also involved in the "toxic but wanting it to be healthy" relationship feels about the situation.  I can't be clear if they are also wanting to work on the relationship, if they want out, or if you are aware of their opinion at all (which could be part of the toxicity).   So firstly, I am sorry for all of this that you are going through, and I am sorry that you got into a fight with your friends.  But next, I have to say that if you were involved in behaviors that were harming other people and you got called out on it, then you are correct, these are the consequences.  I can't tell you that your romantic relationship or your friendships are going to be the same.  I don't know the extent of your actions, so hopefully, they are not that bad, or this was a temporary lapse in judgment or character for you, and things are easily resolved.  In that case, try to give these people space and then re-introduce yourself, apologizing for your actions (assuming you are sorry, don't give fake apologies), and reminding them of the person you really are who they used to be enjoy being friends with.  If these actions were more malicious in nature, or if they've been going on for a considerable amount of time, then I hope that this is taken as a learning opportunity.  For your own sake try not to think about the other people as having abandoned or harmed you.  Try to really think about your actions, how they affected others, and how you can do better in the future.  I wish you the best of luck.  
Answered on 10/21/2021

How to learn detachment from people?

It is hard to detach from others, especially when you feel there is a genuine bond. On the other hand, change is necessary, especially when the relationship becomes toxic. You have the ability to make friends as well as set boundaries with others to avoid someone being overbearing and/or inappropriate. It is hard and overwhelming to let go; however, examine how your mood/thoughts impact the relationships you are currently in and/or have detached. Focus on how your style or pattern of communication may impact the relationship.  Toxic relationships deplete you! I often ask people where did they learn to take abuse so well and remain in meaningless relationships. A lot of people learned the behavior as children. They have learned when to speak, how to walk on eggshells, and mask feelings by continuing to go on living undetected. So, moving forward, examine how worthy you are of being respected, avoiding toxic people who jeopardize your peace, and providing self-care that provides you with the esteem that you feel empowered.  It's okay to let go, especially when you do not feel the relationship(s) are healthy. Examine if you allowed people to remain in your life because you don't want to be alone. If the answer is yes, working on self-esteem and self-worth may aid you in feeling more empowered and identifying how those toxic persons are in your life. Each day, recite positive affirmations, such as I am worthy of having positive people in my life, I am wonderfully made and need people in my life who can respect me, etc. Furthermore, utilize self-calming cues that will aid you in relaxing. Keep your body hydrated, get in exercise to decrease stress, and rest. Resting is essential in revitalizing and healing. Also, keeping yourself busy may also aid in you detaching from toxic individuals. When you are busying doing an activity you enjoy, you feel empowered, happy, and less stressed. This will also take away from the time you feel you have to interact with others out of boredom or loneliness.  Take time for yourself and reflect on your happiness.  Remember, you are wonderfully made and worthy of being happy. 
(EdS, LPC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

What can I do to forget a betrayal from close friends and let it go?

HI Microbe,  Thank you for reaching out with this question. I will try to answer it and give you some guidance based on the additional information you provided in the description.    The first thing I want to say is how sorry I am to hear that your close friends said something about you behind your back. It is a deep hurt and a betrayal of trust in your relationship. I wonder how you learned about what they said. If it was a third person who told you I would encourage you to take a step back and consider if this person was being genuine and giving you the truth. That person may have misrepresented all or part of a statement or interpreted a neutral statement that was said in a negative way.    Perhaps you learned about what was said through a screenshot of a conversation. Again, I would encourage you to think about giving the benefit of the doubt to your friends. Maybe they said something the wrong way or maybe you or someone else is reading into things a certain way. Communication is not just words that are said or typed, but also how a person's voice changes to add emphasis, and body language. This is why so many misunderstandings can come from text conversations.    Either way, the most important thing you can do is have an open heart to heart conversation with your friends. It is so often so hard to hold friends accountable and to ask them to reflect on what they meant and to acknowledge that they may have hurt you. At the same time, it is important to your relationship with them, to be honest about your feelings. When you can tell your truth and be heard, real healing can happen, and you can deepen your relationship with these friends.    Here are some steps to having a difficult conversation:  1) Make sure it's a good time to talk; that there are no distractions.  2) State the problem. Let them know you want to talk about something you heard that was upsetting to you.  3) Give the benefit of the doubt. Even though this step might be hard, let them know you don't think they were trying to hurt you.  4) Make a request. Ask for what you need. If you need them to apologize, you are allowed to ask for that. If you would like them to explain what happened and hear their side, ask for that. If you want them to be able to talk to you if they have an issue or concern, let them know and ask for that.  5) Thank them for their time and for listening to you.    This part of a difficult conversation reads like a monologue, and it is sort of supposed to be. Hopefully, your friends can listen while you get through the whole thing, but it doesn't always go smoothly in real life. So what you can do is use this as a guide and go in with the talking points. You can even write it out to feel more confident in your presentation of the problem. After they respond, no matter what, thank them for engaging in the conversation. It will likely be uncomfortable for everyone.    The next part is to hear them out and see what they say. I hope for a positive response for you and them. If the response isn't positive, you may want to rethink your friendship with these people. You may also be thinking "that's nice, but can't I just get over it without talking to them?" It is much harder to do that, and it doesn't honor your hurt and experiences. To forgive without addressing the situation involves you acknowledging your feelings and making a full and conscious effort to let go. When the thoughts, feelings, and memories come up you can practice mindfulness, deep breathing, and other grounding techniques to calm your mind. Then remember that you are choosing to let that go; that you are happy with your current friendships the way they are, and give your friends the benefit of the doubt; that you don't know the full story or meaning of their words.    I hope you have found this answer helpful. If you feel like there may be more practical advice you need on this issue, I would suggest reaching out to a licensed therapist who can talk with you about the specific experiences you have had and provide you with more guidance on how to move through this difficult space. 
(LMHC, CSAC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Is it normal to change the way you feel about a relationship constantly?

Hi! Thank you so much for reaching out. I'm sorry to hear you are struggling with your friend.  It's incredible to have such a long-lasting friendship though and I'm sure you value it dearly.  Sometimes the issue is actually within thought- have you experienced any new stressors in your life? Things that may make you quicker to judgment or to become easily agitated? Is this problem happening with other people in your life besides him? I would suggest doing a thorough look within to see if there's anything that may be going on with your life first.  Having a short temper or irritability can be signs of depression or stress and anxiety.  If you find this to be the case, I would suggest speaking with your doctor about the next steps or possible medication.   This can also often be seen in a defense mechanism known as displacement- for example, being mad at your boss, but feeling like you are unable to say anything and coming home to yell at your dog. If that's the case, find some ways to practice self-care to avoid being short-tempered with those in your life.  I think when we make time and prioritize ourselves, we are then better able to care for our relationships as well.  If the answer is no, then it may just be time for some space.  People grow, change, and develop as they age and may have different needs or wants from their relationships.  In addition, we are all at different phases in our life despite possibly being the same age. For example, relationships status or whether one of you has children.  It may take some adjustment, but it sounds like you care for this individual and your relationships and are willing to put in the necessary work to repair the issues.  Lastly, it's important to have open communication.  I would suggest that when you are feeling frustrated and irritable with him, you express yourself and your needs calmly.  For example, "I'm sorry, I'm having a rough night and feeling out of sorts. I don't want to lose my temper with you so I'm going to head home for the night.  I will touch base with you tomorrow."  This will in term prevent him from feeling the need to get defensive and causing an escalation of the situation.  Remember, "the most beautiful discovery true friends can make is that they can grow separately without growing apart." 
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I deal with feeling of being stuck and constantly waiting for loss in relationships?

Dear Apapie,   Thank you for your message and sharing.   I understand how difficult it is to try stopping your thoughts. I could imagine how hard you have been trying and how frustrating to feel that nothing is working.    We can't stop our thoughts, but the more we practice being mindful of the present, the better we can catch ourselves with our thoughts and develop an alternative response to them, and learn to let go.   During moments like this, I remind myself of the teachings regarding worries, it consists with a 2 part questions:   1. Is this problem within my control? If so, then this problem will be solved given time and the right intervention. 2. Would worry about it make any difference? If not, then is it worth it to sacrifice our time and mental health worrying over something that (1. can't be solved anyway / 2. will be solved anyway)?   This is definitely easier said than done, therefore as a fellow human being, I am working with you to pay attention to what is good, what is kind rather than our worries.   Obsessive or consuming thoughts can make living miserable when you are plagued by them, but this very situation can become the invitation to transcend the mind and be free of suffering forever.   Can you stop obsessive thoughts? - If you could, it would be great, but the truth is that it's slightly more complicated than just suppressing your thoughts which at most you can do for a few seconds. Plus suppressing thoughts is even worse than enduring thoughts. It builds up a lot of negative energy inside.   So how to stop these stops thoughts? The secret to stopping these thoughts is to detach from the mind because You cannot fight the mind with the mind. Let's look at this in more detail.   What Causes Obsessive Thoughts?   If you generated the thoughts, you could've controlled them too.   The truth is that you don't generate thoughts, the mind does. And the mind is on auto-mode most of the time.   You can see this for yourself; can you predict what you will think 30 seconds from now? If you can't how can you assume that you are generating the thoughts?   If you believe that you are your mind, that's a false notion again.   If you are your mind then how can you observe the thoughts? So you must be separate from the mind to see what the mind is doing.   The mind generates thoughts, which are mostly just energy forms. These thoughts pass through like clouds. We identify with some of these thoughts and obsess over them.   So in truth, all thoughts are just neutral energy forms; it's your interest or association with the thoughts that make them obsessive. If you can understand this truth, you have taken the first step towards getting rid of obsessive thoughts.   How to Stop Obsessive Negative Thoughts?   If you are asking this question, ask yourself another question - "is this question not another thought? It's a thought about killing thoughts".   All your attempts at suppressing and stopping thoughts fail because you are using the mind to stop the mind. The policeman and thief are both the mind; so how can the policeman catch the thief?   So you cannot kill the mind by force. The mind dies its own death by the poison of disassociation.   What gives power to a thought? - Your interest. If you have no interest in a particular thought then it loses its hold over you.   You can try this out now. Let the thoughts flow through your mind but don't take interest in them. Just stay as a bystander or a watcher and let the thoughts float.   Initially, you might have a hard time watching thoughts because of your inherent habit of associating with each thought that arises.   It helps to know that you are not your thoughts, that thoughts are just energy forms created in the mind. Why does the mind create thoughts? No one knows - it's just something it does, why bother. Do you ever ask why does the heartbeat?   With a little practice, you will get really good at watching thoughts and not involving yourself with them.   You will stop giving power to thoughts by not giving them your interest. Thoughts die immediately when they are deprived of this fuel of interest. If you don't associate with the thought or give power to the thought, it will wither away quickly.   What Are Thoughts?   Past events get stored as memories. Your mind conditioning and beliefs are also stored as memories. All this is unconscious storage; the mind does all this in auto mode.   Perceptions and interpretations are created in the mind based on its past "external" conditioning and also it's natural conditioning (genetics). These interpretations, perceptions, and judgments come up as thoughts in the mind, and they can be positive or negative depending on the mind's conditioning.   Thoughts are generated based on past incidents/memories, future projections, and interpretations of the present life situation. It's like a computer trying to predict or conjure up projection based on the data it has collected so far.   When thoughts are negative in nature (thoughts of worry, anxiety, stress, lack, resentment, guilt, etc.) they produce resistance to the movement of your life, and this resistance is felt as suffering. Negative thoughts will always stand in resistance to the movement of your life, like blocks of stone in the midst of a swift current of water.   Life is a stream of pure positive energy and hence any negative thought will stand in opposition to it, causing friction which is felt as suffering in the body.   The thoughts in your mind gain power from your attention and interest. Your attention is the fuel for your mind. So when you give attention to consuming thoughts in the mind, you are unconsciously fueling it and thus attracting more momentum for these negative thoughts.   The momentum of negative thoughts in your mind will slow down, and ebb away, automatically when you stop feeding your attention to it. Stay as an open space of awareness without focusing your attention on the negative thoughts of the mind, and soon they will lose their momentum.   You can focus on the positive thoughts generated in the mind, and thus develop a positive momentum in your mind. Every time your mind produces some positive thoughts, e.g thoughts of love, joy, excitement, abundance, beauty, appreciation, passion, peace, etc, focus on it, milk it, and give attention to it.   This will cause your mind to attract more positive thoughts and thus build positive momentum.   Whenever the mind thinks negatively, don't give it attention or interest, this will cause the ebbing away of the momentum of negative thinking. It's really that simple. Once you understand the mechanics of how thoughts gain momentum in the mind, you will be in total control of your state of being.   The Practice of Watching the Mind   All you need to do to get rid of obsessive thoughts is to watch the mind without getting involved.   You will get really good at this with just a little practice. This practice, or "sadhana" as called in Hindu scriptures, is the root of awakening from the illusion of the mind.   Without trying to understand this practice just implement it. The more you try to understand the more mind gets involved. Just watch the mind and you will soon see that you are not the mind at all.   That the mind is like a machine in your head that generates thoughts based on your attention/interest. Be free of your mind by depriving it of your interest. This is the only direct path of becoming free of the mind.   Please let me know if this is helpful, looking forward to talking with you more :) Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Why is it that when I interact with this one friend, I get very self-aware and insecure?

Hello there! It doesn’t sound like a messy situation, just a little complex with a lot of potential areas of focus. I want to encourage you to never apologize for reaching out for help and I am so happy that you made a choice to reach out for some clarity on this situation.It sounds like this is stemmed from some issues surrounding self-esteem. It also sounds like you may be putting a little bit of pressure on him to act in a way that you would act as a friend. Perhaps there is something else going on with him that is causing him to be distant from you or have the wall up. In situations like this, I am always inclined to focus on the client, and not external forces. For example, let’s shift that focus off of his behaviors and on to your interpretation of them. Why do you feel as if he is judging you? Was there something that took place that confirmed this belief? Do you have any evidence to support this belief? We want to make sure that we are aware of our reactions to situations. Even though our reaction maybe our “truth”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that is what is actually happening. We often assume our thoughts are simply observations about what is true. “I’m pathetic” or “Nobody cares about me” can feel just as real as “the sky is blue”. Be on the lookout for the interpretations you’re making about yourself, others, or the world. Realize that these thoughts are simply stories that your mind has created, and they may or may not be true. At this point, you sound very conflicted in this friendship. If we were working together, we would begin to identify the strength of this friendship and I would encourage you to decide if this friendship was something you wanted to maintain or not. Once we have worked through building up self-esteem and focusing less on the actions of others, we will begin to evaluate the relationship. Oftentimes, it can be us overthinking, personalizing, and internalizing what the other person is saying or doing. Once we work through that, and the issue is still present, at that time we will begin to explore the friendship or relationship. I would also be inclined to explore your reaction to his intelligence. If he says something that comes across as intelligent, we want to make sure that it is simply left at that. His intelligence does not negate yours. Summarizing this, it really sounds like at the root of this is an issue with self-esteem and insecurity. Now, I don’t know the entire picture, of course, however, as long as he is not intentionally saying things or doing things to make you feel less, more often than not, it stems from a place of insecurity and low self-esteem. Learning to love yourself and not compare yourself to others is going to be the basis for that journey. Notice when you’re comparing yourself unfavorably to others’ good fortune or success. These comparisons are often painful and trigger feelings of envy or inadequacy. Then, expand the frame: who is worse off than you? What do you have or what you accomplished that others might admire or envy? What happens emotionally when you make that mental shift. I am wondering if there is a pattern in this particular relationship, as we often find comfort in people who are familiar to us. Let’s also look a little more into that. Does this behavior remind you of a close relative or friend who may have exhibited the same or similar behaviors (making you feel less than)? Or perhaps there was a time in your life when you felt inadequate or you were struggling with imposter syndrome? If this sounds familiar, his behavior may be triggering this response from you. Our faults or limitations often feel very personal, even if they’re an unavoidable part of being human. When you’re feeling critical toward yourself, remind yourself that you’re not alone. There are probably countless others who have similar struggles. See what it’s like to take your imperfections less perfectly.Ask yourself some questions:How has anxiety, over-thinking, rumination, or other thought disturbances contributed to emotional over or under-reactivity in your life? Do you find that you have healthy ways of coping?What are some ways you've found that are unhealthy in the way you manage anxiety? If we were to work together to find more effective solutions for you, what would be different about your day, your week, or your life?To be able to bring more awareness to your thoughts and feelings throughout the day, I always recommend some type of mindfulness practice. This can be in the form of meditation, or in the form of deep breathing. There are many ways to practice mindfulness in our daily lives. Being aware of the emotion or reaction at the moment can be so helpful in correcting the behavior or challenging the thought. If we are not aware in the moment of our thoughts, feelings, or reactions; we aren’t able to challenge those thoughts at the moment and shift our focus. This typically is something that people find the most challenging, as we aren’t always in control of these automatic thoughts and feelings that seem to come on so suddenly.One coping skill I can suggest for self-esteem building is to build someone else up. Pay someone an unexpected compliment today for behavior that often goes unrecognized. It might be the skill and good cheer of the bagger at the grocery store, the care your partner takes in cleaning the kitchen, or anything else you find. Notice the person’s reaction and your own experience of seeing and commenting on others’ strengths.I would love to work with you on building your self-esteem and focusing on reducing that insecurity, as well as tackling anxious and intrusive thoughts. I would also recommend expressing your feelings to your friend when you feel ready. It sounds like he may not be aware of how he is making you feel, and it may be helpful for him to be aware of how you have been feeling.
(MS, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can i control my emotions, dramatic actions, manipulative words that i wasn't aware of using it

Hello and thank you for reaching out to Betterhelp for support with your question. It sounds like your relationship with this one friend, in particular, fell apart because of several factors but it is also important to consider that communication purely through messaging can put much more pressure on tone and content because you don't have that in-person dynamic to judge the person on. You are judged purely through how you present in messaging which might not paint a full picture of who you are as a person. It is also important to reflect on if this is something that you struggle with in other relationships too or just this one specifically. If it is a tendency you have across the board then I would definitely suggest working with a therapist to explore your triggers and the reason for having strong attachments that present in manipulative tendencies. If you were frustrated with your friend, it seems like you projected that onto them directly. Keep in mind that when we are opening up to friends (in person and online) they don't have to always have the right words to say. They might not have advice but even if they did try to offer a suggestion, it could be the wrong thing and they would not want to project that onto you. When friends just validate and provide a listening ear, it can be perceived as a lack of interest even though they care. Everyone supports their friends in a different way.  If the friend saw erratic behavior from you, it could be scary especially because the relationship is purely online. At the end of the day you don't owe each other anything and this person could have felt like the relationship was not worthwhile if this would be the treatment. It is important to take it as a learning experience and reflect on why you lashed out at them and what you were hoping to gain. Do you feel like you got too attached to soon? Do you feel like you had been bottling emotions for a while and needed an outlet? It pays to reflect and then be more mindful with future interactions. 
(LMHC, CRC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

Why do I detach from people easily?

Hello Natalie, and thank you for reaching out for help with regards to your concerns about the relationships in your life. In my experience, this sort of experience derives from low self-esteem, shame, and/or fear of rejection likely due to some sort of trauma in an individual’s past. For the sake of this response, I will focus on shame, as shame tends to be the common denominator from all of these variables. Shame typically comes up when you look inward with a critical eye and evaluate yourself harshly, often for things you have little control over. This negative self-evaluation often has its roots in messages you’ve received from others, especially during your childhood. When parents or teachers criticized you, rather than any poor behavior choices you may have made, they planted the seed of shame. Shame centers on your very identity as a person, and it becomes particularly toxic when it starts to impact your sense of self. Toxic shame opens the door to anger, self-disgust, and other less-than-desirable feelings. It can make you feel small and worthless. It can trickle into your inner dialogue like a poison, locking you into a painful loop of negative self-talk. When toxic shame lingers without resolution, the desire to hide from it or escape from yourself can lead to potentially harmful behaviors like substance misuse or self-harm. To understand how shame can become toxic, let’s take a step back to explore the difference between shame and guilt, two self-conscious emotions often confused with each other. Guilt relates to specific actions, such as making a mistake; doing something you know you shouldn’t; and/or causing harm to another person, intentionally or otherwise. People often find it easier to discuss guilt, perhaps in part because guilt implies remorse. It may feel more natural to talk about wrongdoing when you regret it and want to repair any damage you’ve caused. Like guilt, shame can promote behavior change, since disappointment with yourself can prevent you from making a similar mistake. But shame relates to your sense of self, and it can cut deeper, so these feelings can linger long after you’ve apologized or made amends. Toxic shame refers to shame that sticks around and starts to contaminate the way you see yourself. As you grow up and learn more about how your actions affect others, you begin to develop a better sense of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Your parents play an important role by (ideally) reminding you mistakes are normal and guiding you toward better choices by teaching you about the consequences of your actions. Yet parents can send unhelpful, harmful messages, too:    -“I can’t believe how dumb you are” rather than “It’s OK, everyone makes mistakes.” -“Stop sitting around like a fat lump” instead of “Let’s go take a walk and get some fresh air.” -“You’re not smart enough,” when you share your dream of becoming a doctor.   Disapproval and disappointment that focuses not on actions, but aspects of the self, can make you feel painfully vulnerable, inadequate, even unworthy of love or positive attention. Abuse, neglect, and emotionally distant parenting can also trigger the development of shame. Parents who ignore your physical or emotional needs can give the impression you don’t belong or deserve love and affection. Toxic shame can also develop in adulthood when mistakes continue to haunt you long after they happen. Feeling unable to admit what you did or take some sort of reparative action can make this outcome even more likely. Believing negative messages about yourself can lead you to avoid and withdraw from others. The idea that you’re unworthy of friendship or intimacy can make you feel anxious about revealing your “real” self to people who seem to care about you. Toxic shame can also relate to actions you regret, such as infidelity or dishonesty. You might worry you’ll end up hurting anyone you try to form a relationship with or decide you don’t deserve another chance. Living with toxic shame can make it difficult to open up to others. If they learn how awful you really are, you might assume, they’ll run away. So you keep a lot of yourself back and never feel comfortable relaxing your guard around loved ones. This could make you seem distant, so loved ones may feel as if you’re hiding something and have a hard time trusting you. Shame can also contribute to relationship conflict. Well-intended constructive criticism or comments about your behavior, however kind or empathic, could remind you of being shamed early in life and reinforce ideas of your own inadequacy. Difficulty accepting criticism could provoke defensiveness, feelings of anger and sadness, and lead you to lash out at your partner or shut down emotionally.     Toxic shame can fester like an untreated wound, but the strategies below can help you begin to recover.    1. Challenge and reframe negative internal messages You can’t heal shame without recognizing how it shows up. Perhaps you notice certain phrases constantly run in the background of your thoughts:   “I can’t do anything right.” “I’m ugly.” “I’m stupid.” “I’m hopeless.”   These beliefs come from somewhere, but they’re not an accurate representation of reality. To start reframing them with a self-compassionate outlook, try this:   Acknowledge the thought. “That’s one way of seeing things.” Explore where it comes from. “My parents always looked at me like I was a failure when I didn’t meet their expectations.” Consider the evidence for or against it. “What about the things I’ve done right?” Consider other perspectives. “I made a mistake, but I can fix it — and now I know what not to do next time.”   2. Treat yourself with kindness Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s only natural you will, too. You’re not flawed, or a failure. You’re a human, worthy of love — especially your own love. Like other kinds of love, self-love doesn’t happen overnight. You have to nurture it before it can flourish. Exploring positive traits about yourself, or personal values you consider important can help you practice strengthening self-worth. Try brainstorming positive characteristics in a journal or as an art therapy exercise. Meditation can also help you promote compassionate and loving feelings toward yourself. Mindfulness meditation can increase awareness of shame-triggered beliefs that come up throughout your day, but that’s not all it does. It can also teach you to let these thoughts pass without intense emotional distress.    3. Seek out supportive relationships People living with toxic shame often end up in toxic or troubled relationships. Patterns that resemble childhood circumstances can seem attractive, in part, because they seem to offer the opportunity to redo those early relationships and heal the pain they caused. Or, maybe you believe you don’t deserve any better. Allowing yourself to pursue fulfilling relationships with people who care about your well-being generally has more of a positive impact on your efforts to break free of toxic shame, however. It may take plenty of support and compassion from loved ones to rewrite deep-seated shame, but patience and self-compassion can make this possible. Sharing feelings of shame can also have benefits, though it requires vulnerability. Shame is common, and learning people you admire and care for experience similar feelings can help you feel less alone. It may even prompt you to reconsider some of those long-held negative beliefs about yourself.   4. Talk to a professional Shame can be so pervasive that working through it alone can seem daunting, but don’t give up hope. A trained, compassionate therapist can offer guidance and support as you begin to explore its origins, identify its impact on your life, and practice confronting it when it creeps into self-talk. A therapist can also provide treatment for mental health concerns related to toxic shame, including depression, social anxiety, low self-esteem, and a myriad of other disorders and issues. If you’d like to learn more about challenging and reframing negative thoughts, cognitive behavioral therapy may be a helpful option. Psychodynamic approaches, on the other hand, can help you unpack and heal distress at its source. Inner child work can have particular benefits for addressing shame that began in childhood. This approach provides the opportunity to get in touch with your inner child and replace early shame and disgust with healing kindness and love.   The bottom line is that Toxic shame often cuts deep, but self-compassion and self-love can be helpful tools for smoothing away the scars it leaves behind. Confronting shame might feel impossible, but you don’t have to do it alone. When you feel ready to heal (and there’s no time like the present), a therapist can help you take the first steps. I hope this information was helpful and should you have any additional questions or needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I wish you all the best!
(LMHC, MCAP, TIRF)
Answered on 10/21/2021

What do I do when I have no support system?

Dear Dave,   Thank you for your message and sharing.   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 struggles 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 ba4f5rrrrrrrrrrrrr7sed 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 hearing your thoughts. Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I move on?

Give yourself time and ask for help We all know that you need a little time to heal after a breakup, but this time is especially important if you plan to stay friends or keep a relationship. McBain explained the importance of grieving and understanding that a breakup is a loss, even if you were the one to make the call. “It’s not only a loss of how you hoped things would turn out in the present, it’s also a loss of future hopes and dreams attached to this relationship as well,” McBain said. Taking time for yourself doesn’t have to be a month of face masks and spa visits and Netflix movie nights in. McBain suggested seeing a therapist or discussing the grief of this relationship through therapy. She said it could be a great place to grieve as well as process what went wrong and what went right with that relationship so you don’t make the same mistakes in the future.    Understand why you need boundaries If you think you and your ex don’t need to set boundaries, then you and I have a lot in common, and one of those things is that we’re wrong. Setting boundaries is important for any relationship, especially one that’s just ended. “Establishing healthy boundaries with an ex give you both space to grieve the loss of the relationship early on, but also gives both of you space so that you can also move forward and start to date other people (when you’re ready to do so),” McBain said. Boundaries are there to help the two of you navigate the breakup and whatever remaining relationship you want to have. Are you still going to talk? How often will you text or call each other? Will you follow each other on social media? How will you navigate being together in social settings or hanging out with mutual friends? Will you unfriend/unfollow their family or friends on social media? There are dozens of situations that will change after a breakup, and while it may seem awkward, setting expectations of how you both will act will make it much easier in the long-run.   Talk to them When the time feels right, you should be able to talk to your ex about the boundaries you want to set, and they should be able to discuss it with you too. Your opinions and ideas might differ, and that’s OK. Focus on compromising in a way that is beneficial, easy, and works for the both of you. According to McBain, this conversation should be “open and honest.”   Block them if you need to  If seeing your ex on Instagram or noticing that they watched your stories is causing you stress, it’s OK to block them from your story or block their account altogether. Focus on your mental health here instead of worrying that blocking them will cause a riff in your relationship. According to McBain, if the other person isn’t respecting the boundaries that you’re setting, blocking them and taking more time for yourself might be a good next step.  However, she also suggests paying attention to your intentions. If you’re blocking them to show them up or be petty (guilty!), that’s a different situation. Also, if you’re only planning to temporarily block them, pay attention and set a timeline of when you’ll unblock and reevaluate your social media relationship. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about this. They should be understanding that having them as a friend or following them on social media can be triggering to you and that it’s about your mental well-being.
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I stop being insecure or jealous

Dear Leah,   Thank you for your message and sharing your reflections regarding insecurity and jealousy.   Through your words I think we have built a common understanding that we have this insecurity about ourselves that we are not good enough. We tend to overly-focus on our weakness and mistakes, as a result we feel inferior compare to others and we never give ourselves the validations that we deserve.   Meanwhile it seems that we look for validations through us being needed / wanted by others, does that mean that we don't know our values if we are not getting feedback from others?   Despite being extremely difficult, admitting your weaknesses can pay dividends in the end. Once you admit to your lack of confidence and overcome these insecurities, these aspects of your life will turn from monsters in your closet to facts that you’ve acknowledged and beaten.   Overcoming insecurities is no easy battle, as there are many factors that cause them, and they’re constantly reinforced by daily events. However the more we challenge these core beliefs that we have and the thoughts that are generated from them, the more our self-image will change.   Here are some thoughts I have about how to approach insecurity and things that we don't like about ourselves. Please let me know if they make sense to you.    I'll try to be as practical as I can, maybe this approach can help us put something into practice and begin making some changes.   1- Find the root Think about where you are lacking confidence: Do you think you dislike yourself when you look into the mirror? Are you the last to talk to someone because you think you look bad? Do we feel awkward about ourselves because of the response from others after we have said something?   Consider where these thoughts come from. There may have been certain occurrences in your life that made you think less of yourself. Once you’ve found the root of the problem, it’s much easier to get a handle on the insecurity, because it was most likely created by one or two isolated instances that have no real importance on your current life. Recognize where that insecurity started, and it’ll seem more manageable.   2- Invalidate the problem Once you’ve pinpointed the specific incident that created the crater in your self-image, consider why that occurrence doesn’t prove anything about your life as a whole, and think about the times in your life that prove the opposite. We are often too quick to forget the compliments or positive reinforcements that we’ve received from friends or colleagues, dismissing the kind words as pity or politeness.   Don’t focus on your lack of achievement when your cube mate scores a big account at work. Instead, remember when your boss complimented your own work or just how far you’ve come since you were a bottom-feeder at your company. Recognizing your successes will remind you of how great you are and how lucky your company is to have you. This will help you celebrate your coworkers' successes — and remember that it can only be so long before your next big break.   3- Stop comparing yourself to others It’s easy to become insecure when you constantly compare yourself to seemingly strong, flawless people. For example, if you compare yourself to the person who seems to have a grip on socializing with others and appearing confident, you may come out feeling clumsy and awkward in your encounters with others. But, what you’re likely unaware of is that this person has his/her own set of problems that they have to deal with. Maybe they are covering up their fears of being abandoned therefore they need to keep seeking attention? Instead of focusing on how you stack up against them, focus on what you can do and your skills.   If you can’t measure up to your buddy, maybe you should measure up to your own strengths…   It can be equally as treacherous to compare yourself to your friends. For example, when you see your friend — whose downfalls and ineptitude you are familiar with — succeed, you might end up feeling threatened and insecure about your own abilities.    4- Consider your known strengths A lot of your insecurities come from focusing on the things that you have trouble with. The truth is that everybody has strong and weak points, but successful individuals have learned how to play up their good points — a skill that has helped them flourish. Despite your insecurities, you have achieved a certain level of success in your life because you have great qualities. It's your job to pinpoint and foster those qualities and build a successful life.   Take those qualities, learn to focus on them, and remember that there are more ways to use your set of skills than you think. Perhaps you’re nervous about giving a presentation to clients because you’re not very good at making anecdotes or using metaphors. What you seem to forget is that you know the project inside and out; focus on that and answer all of your client's questions before they ask them. Remembering what you can do will give you the confidence not to choke under pressure.   5- Put your insecurities behind you Once you’re aware that your strengths and weaknesses will balance out in the end, forget about what you lack and draw on where you rock the competition. If you fumbled today at the office meeting, remind yourself of your performance for the past three months. You can always enhance your weaker points at a later date.   If you find that you’re focusing on your insecurities, think of the faults that other people have and how they’re able to get around them, or just remind yourself of all the things that you’ve achieved in life. The more you focus on your strengths, the more they’ll be visible to others. In the end, you’ll not only be happier, but you’ll be more successful.   The bottom line for beating your insecurities is this: Everyone has them and the key to success is to identify them, invalidate them and move past them. Focus on your accomplishments and recognize that insecurities are usually irrational fears of inadequacy.   Your faults are no more visible or detrimental to your success than anyone else’s unless you let them get the better of you. Failure tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you worry that you will fail, your performance will lack and turn your ruminations into a reality.   Looking forward to talking with you more, Jono
(MSW, LICSW, LMHC)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I move forward and plan a future as a 68 year old single woman?

Dear Sahara,   Thanks so much for writing to Better Help with your question. From what you shared, you live outside of  your town and you have been feeling quite isolated lately. We have been surviving through the pandemic, and now we may have another wave of the virus, but you also have been fully vaccinated now.  You also shared that you have a lot of family members, but these family members are spread out across the country. Do you also work now? What are some of your main hobbies and interests? Do you know anyone in the area where you live?   In terms of how to deal with the isolation feeling, I think that the first step is to feel fully comfortable with yourself, and really tap into your main hobbies and passions. What are some of the things that you greatly enjoy doing? Maybe even think back to your childhood years, what were some of your key passions? How can you engage in even more of your hobbies, interests, and passions if you have not been as much lately? How can you find peace, company, and comfort within yourself?   While finding our own peace and contentment is key, humans are social animals, and thus it is vital to continue to interact with your own community and family. Who are the people that you talk with the most? How often do you talk with them? Would you like to expand your own network, whether that be "in person" or virtual?    In terms of your existing friends and family members that may live far away, how can you be more consistent in your communications with them? For example, can you make a note to call or text them more often? Can you set up virtual facetime type events with your friends and loved ones? Sometimes it takes some additional planning and organizing to increase the communications?   Also, in terms of expanding your social circle, are you feeling safe and comfortable going out now that you are vaccinated? What meetups, meetings, activities, classes, etc could you attend? Are there also some virtual classes or events that might interest you? 
(Ed.S., M.C., L.P.C.)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How do I deal with emotional stuff, when I was not taught of understand my emotions?

Hello there!  What we see and observe growing up most definitely shapes how we behave as we become adults. It can be really difficult to "unlearn" what we were taught throughout childhood. One problem with bottling things up is, as you mentioned, everythign builds up. It is like shaking up a soda bottle! Eventually, something causes everything to explode out, and we typically cannot predict what will cause that. What results from that is an immense amount of intense emotions and it usually doesn't feel that great. Due to that experience being unenjoyable, we then go back to disconnecting and bottling things up. It is a vicious cycle! It sounds like you have a pretty good awareness of when you are pulling away or checking out. If this is true, what you may want to try is doing the opposite when you notice yourself wanting to retreat. Try to stay in the moment, stay with the person you are wanting to pull away from, remain in the conversation for a few minutes longer than you would have.  Starting therapy could possibly help you learn how to identify emotions more efficiently, as well a learn what to do with them and how to manage them. That can be a long process, especially if we were not taught these things growing up. While it may be long, it is definitely a doable and reasonable challenge. It takes a lot of commitment and consistency from the individual wanting to learn more about their emotions and what to do with them. If you have trusted people in your life, you could also ask them to help you out. If they start to notice you checking out or pulling away, they could share that observation with you so that you have real time feedback and can, hopefully, do something about it in the moment. This actually would be extremely useful in building more awareness and insight in to your trends and patterns. I give you a lot of credit for all of your self-awareness that has led you to reaching out and asking this question. It is not easy to ask for help. Good luck with everything!
(LPC, NCC, CEDS-S)
Answered on 10/21/2021

What is the best way to meet new people and make friends ?

Hello!  Thanks for sharing this question with me!  You didn't mention anything about the interactions you have being difficult with ASD - Making eye contact, recognizing and responding to social cues and expressions, standing too close or hugging too long, understanding humor.  So, I am understanding that the issue is simply being in the presence of others with whom you can enjoy community, common thoughts, ideas and likes.  You can try BumbleBFF.  I know I know, it is a dating site, but the BFF part of it is just for people who are looking to connect as friends.  You can also check Meetups.com.  I will share that I have personally used this one and am connected in a few different groups in my area.  So this might be a good option for you as well.  You didn't mention any groups you are already a part of such as church or other community based groups.  You did mention that you live in a small town so I have to wonder if transportation is an issue?  If not, go to wherever the big city near you is.  Go to the library and see what is going on in the town.  See if there is anything of interest.  I would say that when you get some 'leads' be persistent.  For example, send the person an email asking them to lunch or coffee next week, and follow up afterward to say you had a good time and mention something specific that was funny or memorable.  Another thing you can do when you are out and about is to set a goal.  It might sound superficial, but the next time you go to a party, tell yourself you want to leave with three new friends (or maybe just one). That way, you’ll be more open to meeting people and starting in-depth conversations instead of just smiling at the person ahead of you in line for the bathroom. OH!! And I don't want to forget to mention not to take things personally.  If you invite a new pal to coffee or a movie and they turn you down, don’t freak out.  Maybe they really are busy with work. Maybe their family relationships already take up too much time. Consider that it really isn’t you after all. Perhaps you can take a rain check and try again in the future.  The other thing I want you to consider is thinking outside the box.  What I mean is It’s possible that up until now, all your friends have been 20-something women who work in fashion (for example because I don't even know your age). But why limit yourself? Variety is the spice to life and all that. You could just as easily hit it off with someone 20 years older than you who works in finance. Be open to forming new relationships with co-workers, neighbors, and classmates, no matter how different from you they appear to be.   These are just a few insights on what you are asking.  The key is exposure.  Putting yourself in situations where you are around people.  Follow up and don't get bummed if it takes a while to warm up.  You are trying to figure this out so be patient and compassionate with yourself.  OH!!  I didn't think about this until now.  Promise, last thought - contact a national (or local if you know) agency for Autism.  They would be a GREAT resource.  Obviously I am not suggesting that you should carry yourself as someone who is barely making it, but since that is what they do, they probably get LOTS of resources for just this thing.  Remember that there is no shame EVER in reaching out and two (or more) heads is sometimes much better than one. Take care of yourself and I hope something I have said has been helpful or at least helped you think of things that would be more helpful!
(MSW, LCSW)
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I stop lying?

I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with lying when things get complicated. 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 anxieties you have around things between your friends.     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 avoidance and anxiety with conflict.     As you do those processes it can be helpful to validate yourself as someone of worth to your friends even when things are complicated. 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 with your friends.   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 10/21/2021

How do I become comfortable and not used or unhappy

Hi Bev,  Thank you for your question. I'm so sorry you're struggling with feeling taken advantage of and used. There's no reason to feel ashamed of having a kind heart or looking for the best in people. Sometimes it's better to change the people that you're investing your time and energy into rather than trying to change the things that make you who you are. Generosity and kindness are qualities that are more rare than they should be and it sounds like you have a great deal of both of those things. The key is learning to advocate for yourself when you start to feel this way rather than allow it to continue. When you feel like you're not taking care of your own needs that can lead to the kind of feelings you describe in your question.  Take a moment before you say yes to a request from a friend, especially if this is someone that has taken advantage of you in the past. You don't owe your friends a yes or an immediate response. Check in with yourself before you respond. Is this something you really want to do? Would you be saying yes from a sense of obligation?  Keep in mind that saying no is completely okay! This is something that is hard for many of us to realize, and can even be difficult for the person we are denying to accept. However, you have every right to a strong "no" and practicing saying no when your yes is anything less than enthusiastic is a good habit to get into. Start small and work up to the really important no's that will help you manage your time and relationships more effectively.  If you're not able or don't want to say "no" to a friend- know your limits. When you take the time to check in with yourself about whether you want to say "yes" in the first place, you can also decide on how much of a "yes" you're ready to give. Boundaries are crucial and another practice that will help you succeed in many different areas of life. Your needs matter just as much as anyone else's- that belief in itself can be radical. It's not selfish to do not want to continue extending your kindness to those that are not appreciating you. You're demonstrating self-respect when you establish limits, care for yourself, and take a stand when you're being taken advantage of.  Spend some time exploring your values- what is most important to you? Discovering what your core values are can increase your confidence and make it easier to make decisions because you’ve identified whether a decision aligns with your values. Discovering your values takes some time and self-reflection. Values are typically personified in people whom we admire and love. Generally, when we admire a quality in others it’s because it’s something we value ourselves. Write down six people you admire, who are role models or valued connections for you. Explore how those values show up in your life and if the decisions that you're making align with the themes you see in your reflection.  This is a lifelong process and is not something that's going to happen overnight- so when you run into another situation where you feel used again (because this will happen) it's going to be really important to forgive yourself and keep working on how you're going to handle the situation next time. You are the only person who can change these patterns and disrupt these feelings. That being said, talking to a therapist can help you understand the forces that might be underlying these patterns and help you identify them more readily. An external perspective can help you strategize around how to handle specific situations. You have the power to make these changes, but there's nothing wrong with asking for and getting help as well. You've got this!
Answered on 10/21/2021

How can I deal with past trauma?

Hello and thank you for your question. Betterhelp is an online therapy platform to help guide its members in understanding their thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Oftentimes these concerns are impacting our relationships, and our daily functioning. Therapy with Betterhelp is a way to gain further insight into these concerns; gain psychoeducation related to our symptoms, and learn new techniques to support our management of those new behaviors. You asked "how can I deal with past trauma" and "will I be able to get over this". These are all really great questions. I would first say that an assessment or an initial appointment with a mental health provider is important. This opportunity would allow for you to further explain more about your experiences and behaviors, and in a safe space. The mental health provider would be able to provide reflective listening, empathy, and guidance to properly address your needs.  Yes, problems or concerns can be worked through and resolved in a way that is satisfactory to you, with support from a therapist. Additionally, the insight you mentioned you've "gotten better at self-improving myself, I have closed myself from close interactions with potential friends. I want to have close friendships, but i am scared of getting hurt again", are all things that should be processed more with a provider. A lot of what you are describing, could be supported in a number of ways, starting with simply talking and processing these experiences. A full assessment to address your questions and needs is my suggestion, at this time. I acknowledge your efforts in reaching out. I understand you are seeking a better understanding of your thoughts and beliefs and the impact on your relationships. Sharing this question suggest that you are seeking support in understanding more about yourself, which is commendable. I hope you find this response helpful. For next steps in connecting with a mental health professional here on Betterhelp, please visit the website www.betterhelp.com and click on the "Start Therapy" button. Please fill out the short questionnaire to provide some general and anonymous background about you and the issues you'd like to deal with in online therapy. It would help match you with the most suitable therapist. Completing the therapy goals worksheet in the beginning, will also give the counselor a good starting point in understanding your needs.   Best Regards, Teisha Levi, LMFT
(MA, LMFT, Author)
Answered on 10/21/2021

I'm in late 20s, could you advice me on forming relationships with people and making new friends?

Hello Jungtinis, 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. How to Start a Conversation …1. Memorize some conversation startersHere are several examples of good conversation starters for different social settings:Party conversation starters·         How do you know people here?·         What brought you here?·         Do you know [the name of the host]?·         Where are you from?·         I like your [part of their outfit], where did you get it?·         I believe we met before at [place where you met before]?·         Hello, my name is [name]. What’s your name?Dinner conversation starters·         Have you tried the [dish]?·         What’s your favorite type of cuisine?·         If you opened a restaurant, what kind of place would it be?·         What’s the most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten?·         What’s your favorite comfort food?·         Are you a keen cook?·         What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?Work conversation starters·         What department do you work in?·         What projects have you been working on recently?·         Where did you work before you started this job?·         What do you like most about working here?·         Did you have to relocate for this job?·         How do you handle stress when work gets busy?·         I think the company’s new policy on [whatever the policy is about] is [give your opinion]. What do you think?Group conversation startersWhen you join a group conversation, avoid rehearsed conversation starters. Instead, listen in on what people are already talking about and contribute to the ongoing conversation. With that said, there are times where a topic dies out. Here are some ideas for how to start a new interesting group conversation.·         Have you heard the news about [news story]?·         Have any of you seen [recent movie release]? What did you think of it?·         What does everyone think of [latest episode of popular TV show]?·         Has anyone heard the new album by [artist]?·         Have any of you met before?·         What’s everyone’s dream vacation?Conversation starters for dating/asking a guy/girl/crush·         What’s your favorite thing to do when you have a day off work?·         What’s your family like?·         Do you have any cool hidden talents?·         When did you last go to the movies?·         Do you have a bucket list? What’s on it?·         When you and your best friend hang out, what do you like to do?·         When was the last time you felt really proud of yourself?Conversation starters for friends·         How’s it going with [something you’ve talked about before]?·         What’s your favorite memory?·         Would you ever like to be famous? If so, what would you like to be famous for?·         Do you ever think about what you’ll do when you retire?·         Have you ever been so embarrassed that you wanted the ground to swallow you up?·         When do you think we’ll be able to take day trips into space?·         Have you ever wanted to keep a rare or exotic pet, like a tarantula?For most situations, you’re better off starting a conversation based on the situation rather than using a memorized line. The remainder of this guide will cover how to do this.2. Ask something about the situationExamples of day-to-day situations where you might want to strike up a conversation·         At the lunch table with a random person from another job department or class.·         Standing with others in the hallway waiting for class to start.·         Sitting next to another traveler on a train or plane.Don’t ask direct questions in day-to-day lifeAt social events, which we talk about here, the norm is that strangers present themselves to each other. In day-to-day life, on the other hand, you can’t be so direct.Ask a simple question about the situation rather than the other personTo ease into a conversation, we can ask a question about the situation we’re in.That gives us a reason to start talking, and it’s not too direct.It helps to ask something that you already have on your mind. But if you don’t, you can use your surroundings or the situation for inspiration.An example of a day-to-day conversation from last weekLast week I ended up next to someone on the train.I’d been wondering if they served snacks on board. It was a natural conversation starter because it was already on my mind and related directly to my surroundings.I asked her, “Excuse me, do you know if they serve snacks here?”She responded with something like, “Hmm. Yeah, they should!”It was natural for me to ask a follow-up question: “Good, I forgot breakfast today.” (Both of us smiled) Me: “Do you take this train often?”Let’s go through some common worries about starting a conversation, and then I’ll talk more about follow-up questions.3. Know that you don’t have to be cleverYou don’t need to ask a deep or meaningful question. What you actually ask isn’t important.[1] You don’t have to try to come off as unique or smart in your first interaction. The best conversation starters are usually simple.Asking a question is a way to signal that you’re friendly and open to social interaction.[2]In reality, small talk is often mundane, and people are OK with that. Small talk is just a warm-up for more interesting conversation.4. Look at the direction of their feet and gazeWhen you know what to look for, you can tell from someone’s body language whether they want to talk to you. See this article for more tips: How to see if someone wants to talk to you.It’s normal to just get a short “yes” or “no” answer to your first question. It doesn’t mean that people don’t want to talk to you, just that you have to give them a few seconds to switch over to “social mode.”But if they only give short answers to your follow-up questions, it’s usually a good idea to say “Thanks” or “Nice chatting with you” and move on.Article continues below.A recommendationIf you want to improve your social skills, self-confidence, and ability to connect with someone, you can take our 1-minute quiz.You’ll get a 100% free custom report with the areas you need to improve.Start the quizLook at the direction of their feet and the direction of their gaze. If they look away from you a lot or point their feet away from you, it’s often a good sign that they want to end the conversation.[3] You might have lots of interesting things to talk about, but the other person might not be in the mood for social interaction. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, so try not to take it personally.Make sure your body language is friendly and openYour body language needs to match your words; it should signal that you are relaxed, trustworthy, and happy to talk.Remember to:·         Maintain good eye contact. Don’t overdo it, or you’ll come across as intimidating or creepy. This article will help you get the balance right.·         Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Avoid rocking or swaying because these movements make you appear nervous.·         Stand or sit up straight, but do not stiffen your back. Push your chest out slightly and keep your head up. Good posture signals confidence.·         Use a genuine smile. When we smile naturally, our eyes crease slightly at the corners. You can practice this in a mirror so it comes easily to you during conversations.For more advice on how to improve your body language, see this guide.5. Ask follow-up questionsTo signal that we’re interested in talking to someone, we can ask follow-up questions.In the example with the train, I asked: “Do you take this train often?” That’s a simple follow-up to my question about whether there were snacks available onboard.Rather than asking a series of general questions like, “Where are you from?,” “How do you know people here?,” and “What do you do?,” you can use follow-up questions to dig deeper.For example:You could ask, “Where are you from?” followed by, “What was it like growing up there?” and then, “What do you miss the most about it?”Digging into a subject like this rather than asking superficial questions tends to make the conversation more interesting.6. Mix asking questions with sharing about yourselfWe don’t want to ask too many questions in a row or talk too much about ourselves. So how do you find the balance? Use the IFR method.Inquire: Ask a sincere questionFollow up: Ask a follow-up questionRelate: Share a little bit about yourself that relates to what they saidYou can then start the loop again by asking a new sincere question (Inquire).The other day I was talking to someone who turned out to be a filmmaker. Here’s how the conversation went:Inquire:Me: What kind of documentaries do you do?She: Right now, I’m doing a movie on bodegas in New York City.Follow up:Me: Oh, interesting. What’s your takeaway so far?She: That almost all bodegas seem to have cats!Relate:Me: Haha, I’ve noticed that. The one next to where I live has a cat who always sits on the counter.And then I inquire (IFR repeat):Me: Are you a cat person?You want to make the conversation go back and forth. They talk a little bit about themselves, we talk about ourselves, then let them talk again, and so on.[4]7. Use open-ended questionsAn open-ended question is a question that requires more than a “Yes” or “No” in response. By using open-ended questions, people often feel inspired to give a longer answer.Examples of closed-ended questions:Did you like school?What’s your job title?Are you going to take a vacation this year?Examples of open-ended questions:What was school like for you?What sort of things do you do at work?What would your ideal vacation be like?However, this doesn’t mean that all closed-ended questions are bad. For example, if you initiate a conversation in day-to-day life, an open-ended question can feel too abrupt, while a close-ended question is more natural:For example, “Are you done reading that magazine?” is more natural than “What did you think of that magazine?”Here’s a longer list of examples of closed and open-ended questions.8. Know that tone is more important than wordsThe impression you make on other people depends partly on what you say, but it mainly depends on how you say it.Many people focus too much on what to say rather than their delivery.You want to speak in a friendly and relaxed tone of voice. If you do, you don’t have to worry about the exact words you use.Examples of how to start a conversation in day to day lifeRather than fabricating questions, you can ask about things that are genuinely interesting or at least relevant to the situation (like I did on that train). Don’t worry about asking obvious questions. If you sound friendly and relaxed, the questions will sound natural.When sitting next to someone on a train or plane:You: “Do you know how to make the seats recline?” (Question about the situation)They: “You have to press the button to the right.”You: “Thanks! Are you also going to Denver?” (Closed follow up-question)They: “Yes, I am! I’m going to visit my family.”You: “Nice, me too. I haven’t been home in 6 months. Where do you live now?” (Sharing about yourself and asking an open follow-up question)When having to socialize during lunchtime with someone from another department at work:You: “What kind of fish is that?” (Question about the situation)They: “I don’t know actually.”You: “I’m no fish expert either, haha. But it looks good. What department do you work in?”(They explain where they work)You: “Okay, nice, I work at (explains). How do you like it over there?” (Sharing something about yourself and asking an open follow-up question)Waiting with someone else in the corridor for class to start:You: “Is this the physics lecture hall?” (Question about the situation)They: “Yeah.”You: “Great. How do you feel about the test?” (Open follow-up question)They: “I hope it’ll go well. I felt like I grasped the material better yesterday when I went through it again.”You: “Yeah, same here, even though I didn’t have time to check out the last chapter. How come you chose this course?” (Sharing something about yourself and asking an open follow-up question)9. Make a positive remarkThis is my go-to method with people I’ve only had short interactions with before, like a “Hi” or a “How are you?”Because you know each other a little bit, you can be a little bit more direct than you can be with complete strangers.Examples of situations where you can use this method:·         When sitting next to someone you barely know at a friend’s dinner.·         When you want to speak to someone from another class who you’ve previously exchanged nods within the corridor.·         When you want to talk with the barista at the cafe where you get your morning coffee every morning.In these situations, I make a positive remark about something in the environment.Examples of positive remarks:“The salmon looks delicious!”“This place looks great since they renovated it!”“It smells wonderful in here! I love the smell of freshly roasted coffee.”(I don’t make positive remarks about them, e.g., “I like your dress,” because this type of remark can feel too personal if you are only acquaintances.)When you say something positive, you’ll come off as more friendly. After all, they don’t know you yet, so their first impression of you will be based on the first few words they hear.You can now continue the conversation, as I showed in these examples.10. Use your five sensesIt tends to be harder than usual to think in social situations, and sometimes it’s difficult to come up with anything to say about our surroundings.The five senses exercise can help. By tuning into your senses and noticing what is going on around you, you can get the inspiration you need to begin a conversation with anyone.It also acts as a grounding exercise that helps reduce your anxiety. Instead of focusing on your anxious thoughts, you’re fully present and living in the moment.[5]Use each of your five senses to notice things in your environment.See if there are things in your room that you can:·         See·         Hear·         Feel·         Taste·         SmellHave you found five things? Great!Can you choose one or two things and say something positive about them? Or, if you want a real challenge, can you find something positive to say about all five?You can use this method whenever you want to start a conversation.Here’s what I came up with when I did this exercise. They are all good examples of good questions to start a conversation:“I like indoor plants. It makes the room much nicer.”“That’s a great design for a kitchen.”“You can see really far from here.”“I love the coffee smell.”“I wonder if coffee tastes good just because it makes me feel good, or if I actually like the taste of the coffee itself?”“I like it when the evenings get a bit chillier.”But David, you might be thinking, these are just meaningless statements!What we’re doing here is signaling to people, “I’m not a threat, and I’m open to making conversation if you are.”It’s not about what you say – it’s about what you convey.[6]That’s why it’s important to make positive remarks. It shows that we’re friendly.[7] You can find more conversation openers here.11. Ask a few “Getting To Know You” questionsIn day-to-day life, we need to break the ice before we can start interacting with someone.But sometimes, we’re expected to talk to people. In these situations, you can start the conversation by asking a question about them. I call this the Getting To Know You method.Examples: Starting a conversation by asking these “Getting To Know You” questionsThese questions can be used to get to know someone new at work, in school, at a party, mingle, or dinner.“Hi, Nice to meet you! I’m David…”“… How do you know people here?”“… Where are you from?”“… What do you do?”Pro tip: I’ve memorized these questions, so I can fire one off if I run out of other things to say to start a conversation. Here are some examples that also illustrate how you can use follow-up questions to keep the conversation going:You, at a writing workshop: “How do you know people here?”They: “I know Becka over there.”You: “Nice, how do you know each other?”(They explain)You: “OK, I see. I know Jessica. She and I are friends from college. She loves writing, so she asked me to come, and now I’m very happy I did. How did you and Becka get into writing?”You, at a friend’s party: “Where are you from?”They: “I’m from upstate New York.”You: “Cool, do you live in NYC now, or do you commute?”(They explain)You: “I’m from Sweden originally but moved here a few years ago. How do you like it here?”You: “Hi, I’m David. Nice to meet you. What brings you here?”They: “I’m here because I always wanted to learn more about photography.”You: “Me too! What do you like most about photography?”(They explain)You can then tell them what you like most about photography, and then you can ask a follow-up question: “What’s it like shooting analog compared to digital?”As you can see in these examples, you want to share a little bit about yourself in between asking questions. I hope that these skills on how to start a conversation with others has 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 and start to build relationships and friendships.   I encourage you to reach out for support at this time to help you get to the best version of yourself.
Answered on 10/21/2021