Grief

When we think about grief and grieving, we usually think of the death of a loved one or perhaps if we are experiencing a chronic illness for which there is no cure. However, grief can surface for other reasons, also. A type of grieving takes place when we lose a dream or ideal that we embraced for many years. Loss of dreams or ideals can have a devastating effect on our sense of well-being. We may remain in denial about the loss of these dreams, and as a result may feel disconnected to our self or discontent. The grieving process is one of letting go. I often meet with clients who feel stuck in their anger, disappointment, or resentment. Perhaps they feel that their life has not taken them where they wanted to go. Sometimes they may feel anger or sadness that their partner isn’t able to give them the ideal relationship that they had dreamed he/she would. Another example is feeling disappointment that their parent(s) couldn’t give them the type of love and support that they craved. These scenarios often cannot change to a great extent. We can’t change our parents or it may be too late in our life to fulfill a dream we had when we were young. What do we do when we feel stuck in it? Most of the time, we just try to push it away, but then it tends to resurface at inopportune times and we feel blind-sided by our emotions. Just like grieving the death of a loved one, when we grieve our ideals and dreams, we have to tap into...

What’s Your Marriage Dance?

Every relationship creates its own dance – whether it be with your spouse, your children, or your siblings. These dances are about security and connection, but unfortunately sometimes the emotional connection gets lost in the shuffle. In the secure marriage relationship, couples can have disagreements, but still remain connected at the core. They experience security and love in enough of their interactions that times of disconnect are not threatening to them. However, when the times of misattunement become more frequent, couples find it difficult to find the attachment and security they crave in the relationship – they begin to feel lonely even when they are together. Dr. Sue Johnson identifies three “Demon Dialogues” in her book titled Hold Me Tight. The first dialogue is called “Find the Bad Guy”. Good to its name, the partners each try to blame the other for the problems in the relationship. It’s much easier to point a finger at another than to look at our personal contribution to a negative relationship cycle. We look at our partner’s faults and ignore or dismiss any concerns expressed to us about our behaviour. The second dialogue is called “Protest Polka” and is considered the most common cycle in which relationships get stuck. In this dance, one partner steps forward and the other steps back. One partner pursues dialogue because he or she is protesting the disconnection and the other retreats because it feels like criticism. To the ones that withdraw, the pursuit feels like: “I’m not good enough,” or “You think I’m a failure in this relationship.” They then withdraw because they feel stuck and do...

Am I depressed?

Sometimes clients come into my office wanting a diagnosis of depression. They may feel that this diagnosis validates their low mood, which they then can take back to their significant others and to help give explanation for their experience. Although psychologists have guidelines to make such a diagnosis, I often hesitate before doing this, explaining to my clients my view on depression. For many people, depression can be placed on a continuum and most people move along this continuum throughout their life span—ranging from happy and content to major depression. Depending on your current life situation, the coping skills you learned throughout your life, traumatic life experiences in your childhood, and the amount of support you have in you life, you can move along this continuum in your lifetime, at times feeling happy or content and at other times feeling discouraged or depressed. What is depression? Following is a list of symptoms for depression. These symptoms can be a normal part of life. However, the more symptoms you have, the longer you are living with them, and the stronger they are, the more severe the depression: Sleeping too much or too little; Feeling hopeless or helpless; Difficulty concentrating; Major change in appetite; Irritability; Hard on self and/or increase in negative thinking; Suicidal thoughts (seek help immediately if this occurs) What should you do? How do you know when you should go on antidepressants? Are there alternatives? How do you know when you should seek therapy? Many of my clients who experienced some or many of the above symptoms were uncertain whether they should seek help, and thus, may have...

Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion

Clients come to see me for a various reasons, however, a pattern that I often see is difficulty with emotions, especially anger. People often try suppressing anger by shoving it down or trying to rid themselves of it, only to find themselves exploding at inappropriate times or boiling over for minor infractions. This situation then reinforces their belief that they need to get rid of their anger. Anger turned inward can have a detrimental affect on an individual. If individuals feel that it’s too dangerous to express or feel angry towards a situation or person, they may turn it inwards, berating their self for feeling the emotion in the first place: “Don’t overreact.” or “You’re being silly.” This self-criticism leaves them feeling shameful and deflated. Holding your anger in can prevent you from accessing your needs. By not accessing it, you avoid making clear statements of what you need, want, or think. People often avoid accessing this emotion because they are afraid that if they express what they truly feel, they will hurt those around them, or create a conflict that they feel is unmanageable. Unfortunately, this over-control can lead to resentment and bitterness. People also experience physiological stress if they over-control their anger. By tightening the jaw and muscles, stifling a shout, or holding your breath, stress occurs. This type of stress reaction from constriction of emotion can contribute to health problems such as stomach ulcers, high blood pressure or tension headaches. Sometimes we use anger to avoid the feelings underneath that anger, such as hurt at being criticized, rejected, or low self-esteem. Rather than feeling sad and...

14 ways to say "I love you"

February is the month of love. We think about our partner, and at times we wish we could reclaim the passion that we felt early in the relationship, or we wonder where it has gone. For the lucky ones, the passion remains and is incorporated into daily life. For the average relationship, though, the intense passion has subsided, especially if the stresses of life, including family life, are part of the equation. Saying “I love you” often means something different 15 years into the relationship than it did 15 months into the relationship. So, how do we continue to show our partner that we are “in love” when the intensity of infatuation has waned? Of course, “I love you” is still very important. No matter how long you have been together, your partner will always appreciate being reminded that you love him. The next 13 ways of saying “I love you” are divided into Appreciation, Apology, and Influence. Showing your partner that she is appreciated lets her know that you are not taking the relationship for granted. Being able to say “I’m sorry” in different ways lets your partner know that you are willing to keep the lines of communication open, even when you disagree. Allowing your partner to influence your decisions or opinions tells your partner that you still find his input valuable. So, how do we say this in our daily life and relationship? (Taken from Gottman’s Repair Checklist) Appreciation Thank you for (e.g. being open about…) One thing I admire about you is… I am thankful for… I know this isn’t your fault. Apology Let me...

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