Comment

Episode 8: Why I quit drinking when I wasn’t an alcoholic

Listen to Podcast >>

In the first year of falling in love with the man of my dreams I drank more than I ever had before. Which wasn’t to say by society’s standards that was a huge amount, but it was more than I had before. For one, it felt like a time to celebrate, I finally was in love for the first time in my life and that filled by body with adrenalin and excitement. Also, we were going out on dates all the time, getting to know each other.

I do not know if you have seen any episode of The Bachelor but on every single date in every single activity, alcohol is involved. Because that’s what you do, at least if you’re a contestant on The Bachelor or a member of my family.

And lots of it was fun. We danced, we had tipsy nights with our family and friends, we played golf with a buzz. The world seemed brighter and some of it seemed like it was from the alcohol.

Then after a year of working hard during the week, playing hard during the weekends, we started reading more about spirituality and began meditating more. In a lot of the stuff we read, people talked about the fact that alcohol dampens your ability to connect with your higher self by numbing and disconnecting you from your intuition.

Mark and I were thinking about it and we couldn’t remember a weekend when we were not having at least a couple drinks, and so we decided to take a month off. We liked the idea in part because it made us feel so uncomfortable. It made us question whether we could really have as much fun.

The goal was not to hide ourselves away and reappear 30 days later; it was to do everything we would normally do, just sober. During the 30 days we attended parties, watched sporting events at bars, went to family gatherings.

The entire month I felt awkward. I was already a shy person who didn’t thrive at parties. Now I was putting myself at parties with no social lubrication, this made me down right anxiety ridden. Going to Mark’s family gatherings where the first language was Arabic also felt extremely hard. After I had 2 coronas the voice in my head would stop telling me how alone I was, but now I had to figure out how to do that with no help. And just in general the weekends felt a little less fun.

The entire time I was counting down the days until we could unwind with a nice big margarita. For different reasons Mark was too. We got to the end, went to our favorite Mexican restaurant, ordered the drinks and then….just didn’t feel like having them. Something had changed. I can’t really explain it to you except to say that once we were off our commitment to ourselves and free from alcohol for that period of time the negative things alcohol brought with it seemed much clearer:

1) Sometimes when I drank with Mark it was fun, other times the voice in my head about my own insecurities got louder, making me feel upset instead of free

2) Even when I had a blast drinking over the weekend by Monday afternoon I started to feel this anxiety and shakiness in my body that I only felt after I drank

3) Not drinking made me feel overall more balanced and happier

And I’ll tell you six years later giving up alcohol did all the things I mentioned and more. It got me to a whole new level of confidence in myself. I love that I can access my internal peaceful place any time, anywhere, and I love that being with the people I care about and being in nature are the times when I am having the most fun and feel the freest.

Comment

Comment

Episode 7: Manifesting Master

Listen to Podcast >>

The Law of Attraction states that we manifest our experiences by our thoughts : what we focus on we attract into our lives, and our beliefs shape our experiences.

Today I’m going to talk about how to become a manifesting master...

Let’s start with the big picture: the key to manifesting is be excited for the possibility of creating something awesome in your life without feeling bad that it’s not happening right now. It’s like difference between the guy in the bar that is desperate to get a woman’s phone number and the one who has an air of confidence, who is just there connecting with you in the moment no strings attached.

Simple right?

NOT, how many negative thoughts do you have in a day? The voice in our head is not actually designed to be positive and hopeful, but that is for another talk. All I am saying is it’s tricky to pull off manifesting something that you really want...

I think about myself and how badly I wanted to fall in love with somebody, and I tell you it was a long journey...

When I was younger 4 people committed suicide in my family, and my family was not that big to begin with.

One way I coped was watching romantic comedies. I watched When Harry Met Sally 1000 times and fantasized about what my love story would be.

I did not have any energy to actually go and socialize with the opposite sex especially since I went to an all girls school, but I fantasized about it.

When I reached 25, I was finally ready but now I was behind because of all those years I spent hiding.

Tip #1 to becoming a Manifesting Master: be in action. The manifestation process can go a lot quicker if you are taking action towards your goal...So I started reading about how to attract a mate. Some of the stuff I read said to visualize what I wanted. It also told me to brainstorm what I needed to work on in order to be attractive to the kind of mate I wanted.

Mostly what I needed to work on was how to actually socialize with men.

Besides being delayed by my depression my mom was a feminist who greatest fear was us becoming a shallow privileged white women.

In order to combat this she became a modern day robin hood.

We helped all the elderly people in the neighborhood, we cleaned up houses in the projects, and we watched kids for the parents who were in a bind.

And if you meet one of the 100s of people my mom has helped they will go on and on about her generosity and the impact she had had on them.

What she did not teach me was how to value my femininity. I remember feeling embarrassed even when my friends would complement my outfit and I was extremely awkward around flirting.

Given all of this you can see why it might be hard to truly believe that I could make this dream a reality. Tip #2 to becoming a manifesting master: manifestation only works when you truly in your heart can feel the feeling as if you have accomplished your goal. Not 100 % of the time but enough of the time that you attracting into your life more of the positive than the negative.

So how was I going to do this, well the more action I took to feel comfortable in the dating world, I thought the easier it will be for me to believe.

It was now my mission to develop my dating skills to get closer to feeling the feeling...so I let my friends give me a makeover, I said yes to parties and I signed up for online dating.

I started going on dates and I was terrified! What if I felt trapped?! What if not guys liked me?! What if I was murdered?!

But over time it got easier, it got so easy in fact it got boring.

Fast forward 4 years later, I have gone on 100’s of dates and no Mr right has shown up.My friend is goofing around online one day and she picks the next man for me to date; we email him together and he calls me to set up a date.

I drive into the parking lot and he looks nothing like the man of my dreams. The man of my dreams I pictured is wearing converse and a flannel, a has messed up hair like he just had went surfing or something. This guy is wearing a polo shirt and dress pants, has a hairy chest, and looks like a man!

The biggest thing was he looked like a man, I didn’t feel like a woman yet so I never had imagined myself with an actual man.

But tip # 3 about becoming a manifesting master is things don’t always appear as we originally imagined, so STAY OPEN so you don’t accidentally close the door on what you’re trying to create.

So we went in and had lunch. It was a nice lunch, he asked me real questions (not preplanned questions that you bring out on the first date), but questions that showed a genuine interest in me.

He talked about himself in a humble but confident way; that was rare; most guys are either cocky or self-deprecating but he was neither, he was definitely getting a second date.

The next day we went to a restaurant on a lake for Sunday brunch, I ordered a Bloody Mary even though I never drank during the day.

I don’t know how it happened but I told him my life story. My story although I find it empowering is also filled with tragedy and I hate being seen as a victim, but something about him made me feel safe…

His eyes were genuine, he was empathetic and he surprised me by telling me his life story which was just as intense as mine.

After lunch we walked down to the lake and he kissed me, it was the perfect first kiss, soft and sweet, and he stared deeply into my eyes with tenderness.

When I went home, I stood in my bathroom still buzzing from the 2 Bloody Mary’s, looked myself in the mirror, “ is this it?! Is this the moment I have been waiting for? Don’t get ahead of yourself Jesse… but what if it was!!!”

Over the next 2 weeks it became clearer and clearer to me that this is what I wanted, we had something, it was fun and deep and interesting and could be amazing. As the realization came to me, I woke up on Monday morning in a full blown panic.

You would think when you’re dream is about to come true and your about to get everything you asked for you would just jump up and down with joy but the thing is if you have had a hard time believing that you could really have it, you can freak out and sabotage yourself, and that is exactly what I started to do.

My heart was beating, my breathing shallow, and I felt a cramping in my stomach that I had not felt in years.

“Oh shit! I want this, this is the man I want to be with, what if he doesn’t see it? What if I am not showing him all of myself? What if this wall that all my friends talk about that I have with guys is much bigger than I ever anticipated?”

Then my other voice kicked in and I recognized what was happening so I just kept repeating in my head, “surrender Jesse, surrender, surrender, but I don’t know how!!!!!”

I called my mother she was on her way to kundalini mediation class and she told me to just to get in the car and come.

Just to give you a little back ground, she had been trying to get me to come with her to a meditation class for years! When I was 23 she left my father for a woman after discovering spirituality. She had discovered a kundalini yoga class in the hood and it allowed her to accept herself and others in a way that was completely freeing for her.

I HATED spirituality it had given my mother permission to leave my father and destroy my family.

But I was desperate so I went, when I got there class was already going, everyone was chanting and holding their positions w eyes closed.

I slipped in, got into position and the tears just started streaming down my face. This surprised me because I rarely cried. My heart rate slowed, my breathing deepened, and I felt the release of everything I was holding onto in the future. Like a stereotypical spiritual experience, I was one with now: my thoughts stopped, I was calm.

Tip #4, if you start to be afraid slow down, be accepting of the fact that you are afraid and ask yourself what you need to come back to the present.

After the class my mom and I went to lunch. It felt good to be with the new spiritual version of my mother who just accepted me where I was at.

This began a Monday ritual for us- we mediated and we ate and I talked about all the things I felt about finding the man of my dreams: my fears, my excitement, my frustrations, my gratitude.

That’s right, I was right about Mark: he was the man of my dreams, he was able to see our potential despite my slow moving self, and I was able to see him, the real him. We made a fantastic team.

We are still together and I am still meditating and eating with my mother, so really I got 2 for the price of one.

Comment

Comment

Episode 6: Shoulds vs Have Tos

Listen to PodCast >>

Full Transcript:

People often ask me what the key to happiness is and if I had to boil it down to one single thing I would say… how many shoulds or have tos a person has. It is natural for people to feel trapped by different things throughout their lives like finances, familial obligations, self-doubt, physical ailments but the more we are able to see the freedom we DO have to make our own choices the happier we are. Viktor Frankl who lived in a concentration camp during World War II said it best when he said, “the last of human freedoms is to choose ones attitude in a given set of circumstances.”

In other words, despite almost all of Dr. Frankl’s freedom being taken away he was still able to create happiness for himself by having a perspective of his life choices that made him feel good.

As a teenager I spent a large part of my day hating life. Everything seemed pointless and hopeless, and I could not imagine ever feeling different.

I often fantasized about suicide. I was prescribed sleeping pills by a doctor and instead of taking them every night I saved them in case I got to the point where I wanted out. But, the truth was I did not want to die, I wanted the power to be free.

I felt trapped by life's shoulds and have tos. I had to wake up and go to school every day. I had to do my homework. I had to hang out with kids my own age even if I thought I couldn't connect to any of them. I had to spend time with my family. I had to get a job. The things that I felt I should and had to do were not horrible, but I felt the rest of my life was going to be a forced march towards a meaningless, stressful, depressing existence.

My parents sent me to group therapy. One day we did an exercise where everyone wrote down on a piece of paper what they thought the person needed to know to make his/her life better. When it was my turn, everyone wrote down the exact same thing, “you are a victim of your life!” These words hit me hard; I had survived all of these difficult experiences in my life, and considered myself strong, not a victim.

I went home and thought, “they don't understand all that I have been through. I am going to take my pills, and then they will see how they hurt me.” But then as I calmed myself, and thought about things, I realized these people are my friends, and so they are probably trying to tell me something valuable...and then it came to me I DON'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING I DONT WANT TO DO, and I can do anything I want to do. I flushed my sleeping pills right then. In that moment I gave up suicide as an option.

I realized I did not need a death option to be free, I was already free. From this moment on I took should and have to out of my vocabulary. It was a challenging fight considering how deeply embedded these words were in my way of thinking, but I attribute this philosophy change with the joy I now feel on a daily basis.

The fear is that if we are not pressuring ourselves with shoulds and have tos, then we will not be living productive, meaningful lives. I have found with myself and my clients the opposite is true. The more we allow ourselves the freedom to choose what we want, the more motivated we are to become the best version of our selves. I challenge you to take an inventory of all the things you are doing in your life right now that do not feel like your choice. See if there is anything you would like to do different or relate to differently. If I do not stop to check in with myself on a regular basis it is easy for me to slip back into a passive place. I am committed to living the happiest life I can which means being able to see and make all of my choices by extinguishing “the should.”

Comment

Comment

Episode 5: How I Became a Therapist as an Awkward Introvert

Listen to Podcast >>

Full Transcript:

I am on the floor of my bathroom in my new apartment in Sherman Oaks. I can’t breathe. My heart is racing and it feels like my insides are going to explode. I remember what I learned about how to calm panic attacks years before in therapy sessions: slow down my inhales and exhales, remember this state is only temporary and when I find the present moment, I will feel calm again. I have not had a panic attack in years but it is happening now. I moved to this apartment to be close to the Graduate School I am going to start tomorrow. I have had a dream of becoming a therapist since a therapist saved my life as a teenager. But now on my bathroom floor, the only thought I have racing through my head is, “what was I thinking! I am an awkward introvert who is great at math. I can’t imagine a more terrifying career choice for myself, why didn’t I become an accountant?!.”

Now it is 14 years later and I have created a thriving private practice. I love what I do. How did I get here? Well it wasn’t easy.

For college I majored in psychology and studied heaps of fascinating research about how the human mind works. What college did not do was prepare me for was to actually counsel anybody, so when I chose a graduate school, I picked a place well known for its experiential curriculum. I walked into my class on the first day of school, and I was the youngest by far; most of the students were beginning their second career. They looked like professionals. I was not an old 22 either: I was quirky, and didn’t have a great fashion sense. I spent my free time watching Gilmore Girls reruns and snowboarding. I hadn’t had a serious romantic relationship yet. I took a deep breath, I told myself I am going to take this one day at a time.

One of the first activities we did was pair up and ask each other getting to know you questions. Then after about 10 minutes with one partner we rotated and switched to the next. What I noticed right away was my partners were varying levels of condescending towards me. The message I received was, “isn’t it cute that this girl has a dream of becoming a therapist, she thinks she can help others because she was sad, awwww.” My classmates were now mirroring my greatest fear: that I was small and young and naïve in thinking I could actually help people or start a business. You might think this would grow my anxiety, but instead the exact opposite occurred. I love being the underdog, I always have. I love the feeling of people completely underestimating me and then surprising them….

So as each of my classmates smiled at me with a hint of superiority, a power inside me grew. By the end of the first day, I was ready for battle. I read all the reading assigned to us and more. I volunteered for every role play possible, and found it invigorating to act out the parts of the therapeutic process. The first year flew by and by that summer I felt bonded to my fellow therapists in training and ready to tackle the next step.

That was until I realized the next step was me having to counsel real people with real problems. In the second year of school we picked internships. Even though I had come so far in terms of my confidence, I started to shake inside again at the thought of being in the room with my clients. My internship was at a high school that was for teens who had difficulty making it their regularly assigned schools. Many of them had been expelled due to behavior problems or drugs. It was mandatory for my clients to attend weekly therapy sessions. In other words, none of my clients wanted to come see me, they felt like I was a punishment assigned to them because they were seen as screw ups.

My first session with a 15 year old girl named Ramona who had been kicked out of her previous school for getting into numerous physical fights. What I noticed right away was the hardest part of the session was not what Ramona was doing or saying to me, it was the voice in my head. The entire time I am trying to get to know her and figure out how to help her I have my own internal dialogue yakking at me, “Jesse, you look so nervous, What are you possible going to talk about for 45 minutes, why on earth would she open up to you: you are some nerdy white girl?!.” The louder that voice was and the more it had to say to me, the more distant I felt from Ramona.

When I went back home that night I flashed on the experiences I had with therapists when I was a teen. Every therapist I had before the one that impacted my life looked at me with either concern or apathy. I always felt like there was this huge distance between me and them and had no real faith that they could help me. The first therapist I had would end every session with, “our time is coming to a close,” exactly as there was 5 minutes left in the session; it didn’t matter if I had just said, “I love puppies” or “I want to die right now,” the end of the session was exactly the same.

When I met Joan, she was different from the get go: her office was covered in client art and had couches that looked cozy. She looked me in the eye in a way that made me feel like she wanted to know me. As I worked with her I got better and came into myself. As I remembered my relationship with Joan, I remembered what mattered most. Sure Joan was well read and brilliant at connecting different theories together to help me understand my childhood better, but the most transformative thing that she did for me was be in the present moment with me, genuinely care about me, and hold hope for me even when I didn’t have it for myself.

My new goal with my clients wasn’t to help them understand their problems in the context of psychological theories, it was to get myself 100% in the present moment with them and have empathy and hope for them. After I mastered that, I could then worry about integrating “technique”. So that’s what I did…

And the short answer is, it worked. I gave myself what I was going to give my clients: I had empathy for myself that it was going to take time to calm the negative voice in my head and work through my fears. I reminded myself of my strengths. And I kept showing up day after day. I put everything I had into becoming the best therapist I could be while at the same time accepting me for me. By the time I graduated school I had had some amazing breakthrough moments with those kids. Not to mention Ramona had decided to apply to college and was completely free of fighting for 6 months when we finished the school year. I was now ready to start building my private practice.

Through this process, I learned that I was a lot tougher than I thought and that achieving success was more about putting myself out there and leaning into my fear than anything else. Many people looked at me and thought she is not extroverted enough, business savvy enough or life experienced enough to become a therapist running her own private practice. In reality, there were many people who wanted someone just like me to help them. Many of my first clients in my own office were teenagers who picked my picture off psychologytoday.com. They looked at me and saw someone they could relate to. I could go into session with my clients and help them to have more understanding of themselves and the adults in their lives. I could also help parents empathize with their teens right back. I was the bridge between 2 generations of people. I believed I could provide something of value and so I did. I see that with my clients now all the time: more than anything else it is the fear that gets in people’s way versus “the obstacles” that we think are going to affect our success.

Comment

Comment

Episode 4: EMDR

Listen to Podcast >>

Full Transcript:

So about a year ago my mom came to me and told that I HAD to get trained in EMDR, she would even pay for me and my best friend to go. That was how important it was for her. She had a friend who went through abuse as a child and felt anxious a lot now, had tried lots of different talk therapies for years but nothing would rid her from that unsafe feeling she had carried with her since she was young, she went to 6 sessions of EMDR and she felt like weight was lifted; she felt free for the first time.

This definitely made me curious so I looked into what exactly EMDR is…

EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing has been around for the last 25 years or so and researchers have found to have great success in working with people who have been through trauma like veterans and abuse victims. The basic idea is that when we go through something that is traumatic (or highly emotional), it is stored on the right side of the brain, the creative emotional side of our brain, but when we try to heal it later by going to talk therapy or just by writing about it or talking to our friends we are processing it on the left side of the brain, the side of the brain that is connected to language, lists, and logic. But if in fact we think about the event or feeling we are trying to heal while stimulating both the left and right side of the brain, our brain automatically knows how to heal traumatic memory just by giving it access to it.

You can stimulate the left and right sides by moving your eyes back and forth, alternating tapping your feet, walking or placing vibrating paddles in both hands which alternate vibrations. After reading the heaps of research to support this method, hearing other people recount experiences of how it helped them and attending a few EMDR sessions myself I was ready to give this training a shot. I mean who turns down a free training any way.

My friend Zoe and I went and like we always do whenever we are together, we laughed a lot. We found it hilarious that people could have powerful transformative experiences simply by sitting in a chair being asked to feel the feeling they were trying to work through and then the therapist would tap on their legs about 20x and ask them what was happening now. No matter what the answer was the therapist would say, “go with that,” and repeat the cycle. We watched video after video of people having this experience in every one the person would start with something they wanted to feel differently about and by then end of a 10-50 minute session the feelings would always change to something more adaptive and calming.

We found this so funny because we thought can that really happen?! We spent all these years talking to people as therapists and put all this effort into helping our clients change their mindset, whereas the modality of EMDR was saying all that needed to happen was let people feel the feeling and stimulate both sides of their brain???!!!

Plus come on were these people just brainwashed into thinking this worked and that’s why it actually worked?

Well in between the times when we were watching videos and listening to lectures we were practicing EMDR on each other, and we both couldn’t deny that we noticed small shifts. Like I felt some anxiety lift about expressing myself perfectly that I had been carrying with me. But the shifts were small which still allowed part of me to doubt this whole EMDR thing.

But the deeper we got into the training the deeper we were trained to go with each other, and on the last 2 days of the training something magical happened…

First of all I went through a home invasion when I was 12 years old and even though as a 35 year old I would not have told you this event was affecting me in huge ways I did still see lasting effects. I would become more hyper vigilant about danger in the fall because that is the time of year when it happened; I liked to sleep further from the doorway in hotel rooms because it made me feel safer; I didn’t like being in the pitch black dark, nor would I every consider wearing ear plugs or a mask when I sleep.

I decided to process this event at the training because I was more curious than anything what would happen. Mind you we are in a room with 20 other couples who are processing too. My friend asks me to bring up the image of the home invasion (we have to bring up the memory because at this point I can’t feel any feelings around the event) and then she starts tapping on my legs stopping every 30 seconds to ask what’s happening. Well about 2 minutes into this experience I have total access to the feelings I felt that night, I am so scared I almost want to stop processing because it feels so overwhelming, but I keep going, next I see an image of myself in my bedroom in bed starring at the doorway. I am hallucinating a man standing in the doorway even though no one is there (I forgot that I had this image for years after the attack, and would run down the hall as fast as I could to sleep in my parents’ room).

The next image is of a tree in the fall with all the leaves falling off of it, accompanied with the feeling I felt every fall of vigilance and anxiety.

The next image is of me cutting myself, as a teen 3 years after this event occurred I started cutting myself, I never connected my cutting to the PTSD from the attack because there were a lot of things that felt overwhelming in my life at that time, but in this process it feels so clear that at least part of the cutting was about distracting from the overwhelming fear of not being safe after that event occurred.

The next image is of me crawling into someone’s arms and feeling safe from harm in that moment

And the visions keep going and as they do my terror turns to calm and I feel like my brain is literally releasing some of the fear that I have carried around all these years.

When we are finished processing I am completely calm and have a huge craving for ice cream- my mom always took me for ice cream after I went through something challenging.

The next day (which is our last day) I am so in awe of the experience I had I want to do more, I want to know was that just a fluke or can I really have access to healing myself consistently by just sitting with someone and doing this process…

I chose to work on something completely different for variety sake. I have this feeling when I am out in the world sometimes that I do not want to look strangers in the eye. Again it does not affect me negatively in big ways but this resistant feeling appears sometimes and I am curious what it is about.

We begin…I get nothing, I can feel a slight feeling in my chest of anxiousness but it is slight we keep going… and about 5 minutes into it I get an image of feeling, safe, happy, free and completely myself while I am alone at the beach.

The next image that comes up is me at a Christmas party my family used to throw when I was growing up, I am about 10 years old and I feel confident and strong, I am taking care of all the kids at the party- leading them in games, making sure they all feel included.

Next I have the thought I cannot be connected to other people unless I am feeling confident and strong, if I am not perfect, I will be by myself.

I then feel intense hopelessness and worthlessness, it is so surprising because in my conscious life this is not how I feel now, it is how I felt in my teens and early 20’s but it has been a long time since I felt this.

I feel like there is no way I am going to ever transition from this place in this session…

It just keeps becoming clearer and clearer through more images and thoughts that there all these different parts of me the alone and happy part, the shy and scared part of me around others, the confident leader around others, the alone and lonely part, etc. and that I will never be able to integrate them all, and now my friend watching me becoming more and more hopeless and anxious asks me if I can remember a time when I felt imperfect AND connected to someone else, and even though I could have told her many examples of feeling that in my life now just 30 minutes ago I now no longer have access to feeling that.

My left brain knows I will not feel like this forever and probably not in a couple hours, but my emotional self feels lost in a vortex of pain.

All of a sudden we do another round of processing and I have an image of my soul it is glowing and blue and in the shape of a gingerbread man, and floating behind it are at least 20 other glowing ginger bread men which represent all the different parts of me and in a flash they all integrate into my soul at the front and as they do, the anxiety and hopelessness in my chest instantaneously change to excitement, hope, centeredness. I feel so good that I am laughing and my friend nor I can believe how quickly everything changed.

It literally felt like a part of me was healed

In the next few days I feel open and vulnerable. I have images of pain from my childhood, but relatively quickly as those images come so does a release of emotion that I was carrying with me from that time…And 3 days later I feel centered, confident, accepting of myself, free from worry about how others will perceive me. I would have told you before this experience that I could not really imagine my life any better than it was…I love my job, my partner, my friends, and me, but after this experience it feels like a whole new level of calm was accessed and I am so grateful for that.

I am an EMDR believer and am excited already to see what is happening for my clients.

My only caveat is EMDR is amazing but it is 1 tool in a box full of many tools to reach happiness and fulfillment. I believe that part of the reason my experience was so powerful and fast was all the years of work on myself I had done before this. Talk therapy, meditation, coaching, eating healthy, exercising, creating meaningful relationships, having a job I love, all these things set me up for a break through. So go out there use EMDR as a starting point, an ending point or a stop on the journey but do not see it as “the answer” it is one piece to a big puzzle that we all have our whole lives to unlock.

Comment

Comment

Episode 3: Bad Decisions

Listen to Podcast >>

Full Transcript:

BAD DECISIONS

What to do when someone in your life is making “bad” decisions…

I met my friend Skyler when we were both 28 years old. She has long flowing hair, and a tattoo of a nymph on her arm that she designed. She is funny and smart and almost too cool for me.

Guys love her not only because she is beautiful but because she has the perfect balance of feminine energy and adventurousness that makes you feel like something fun is going to happen every time you’re with her.

I met her on a camping weekend with some mutual friends. She was feeling free but also sad from just having broken up with a guy that she had previously thought was going to be the love of her life. 

His name was Sam, he was a successful artist like her, had a deep appreciation for music and completely embodied her idea of "hot"! He had played hard to get in the beginning but then completely fell for her and told her she was the one. 

The only problem was he sucked at expressing his feelings and often guilted her for wanting to spend time with her friends. This left her feeling more and more isolated and depressed. The kicker was she caught him cheating on her. And not just a one night stand oops I made a mistake one time kind of thing. She discovered a profile he created to court other women.  She had to leave.

So she did, but the hard part now was all of her friends and family were mad at her for having disappeared into this relationship that made her sad all the time.

This is the dynamic that I'm going to talk about today... what do you do when your loved one is making “bad” choices?

First let's dissect what emotionally happens when this happens. Skyler's friends felt mad but underneath that anger was actually fear. I'll let you in on a little secret all our anger is actually rooted in fear. When we corner a dog in a corner it will growl not because it is angry at us but because it is afraid and feels helpless in that moment.

So what Skyler's loved ones were feeling was actually fear of 2 main things- 1) that they were going to lose her and not be able to be close to her anymore and 2) that she was going to get hurt and they were not going to be able to protect her. 

This is where I came in... so I am on this trip with her meeting her for the first time and I can see what powerful, amazing woman she is. We bond, it's magical like we have known each other for years but it's only been a few hours. We laugh and talk deeply about our lives and by the end of the trip I know we are going to be friends for a long time.

We are now back in the real world and her and I continue to hang out regularly and talk on the phone and about 1 month into our friendship she decides to meet Sam for lunch. Just to see what he has to say, and get some of her stuff back. It's harmless just a quick closer lunch since things ended so abruptly and so bad.

Well you can probably guess what happens. By the next month she is back with him. He promises to be different and communicate more. And really she never felt this way about a guy before so maybe he is the love of her life and just needed a wake up call. 

Now it's my move: I have been around the block a few times and so internally my prediction is this is not going to be good, he probably wasn't able to change in those last 2 months and often when people cheat they do it again. But every single person in her life has now voiced this position, “he's an asshole, you deserve better, don’t be naive and go back to him; if you do go back I am not spending any more time listening to you cry about how much pain he is causing you.”

On one level I am with them, I don’t want her to end up with someone who is not going to treat her amazing. I don’t want her to live in pain. But you can see the conundrum I am in: she is back in love with this guy and feeling like none of her friends get it, and even worse she feels like they are angry at her and judging her decisions. If I join that band wagon there is a good chance that she will push me away like she had already done with everyone else and she will feel even more invested in the relationship with her Sam bc she now has no other support system she feels like she can turn to.

So what do I do? Well I am a therapist by trade so luckily I have a few ideas. When we see someone we are close to is in pain and making decisions that we believe will keep them in that pain, our first instinct is to snap them out of it with sheer force. Remember that scene in the movie Airplane where the person is panicking and the other passengers on the plane take turns walking by the person and slapping her across the face.

Just like in the case of Skyler, the more loved ones are making the person in pain feel bad for not being able to get their “problem” in check whether that be a crappy relationship, eating too much, not being successful in school, or overcoming depression, the more alone and hopeless the person ends up feeling.

But I digress, so again, Jesse, come on already what do we do? So the most powerful thing we can do for people when they are in a situation like my friend Skyler is to have hope for them that they are going to find their way through it. I believed that Skyler was going to figure out what was best for her and that all she really needed from me was for me to be there for her and listen to her without judgement.

When Skyler talked to me in the good times and the bad she could feel that I genuinely cared about her, and I didn’t have an agenda. I only offered my observations if she asked. And I was careful even how I phrased my observations because there were moments where she had clarity that Sam was being a real jerk but I knew I shouldn’t jump on that because when she flipped to being in love with him again she could feel like she couldn’t talk to me about it if she thought I thought she was not smart to be with a jerk like him. Instead of attacking Sam I pointed out how I hated that she was in pain and I wished that she didn’t have to be, and she would draw her own conclusions about potentially leaving him.

Skyler and Sam went back and forth with each other for another 2 years. And through that time instead of feeling like Skyler was a senseless person that was messing up her life. I understood where she was coming from. I learned that she had a pretty tough childhood and an absent father, so I guessed that some of the reason she picked a guy who wasn’t great for her was her feeling the feelings she had not resolved from when she was a kid.

Side note: I believe that every human being wants to be happy and successful and good, so if that is not happening it is because they are stuck trying to resolve some pain loop that they do not know how to get out of yet. That thought helps me not be mad at people when they are making decisions that could potentially hurt them.

And even in that crappy relationship Skyler did grow because she got better at taking care of herself, like telling Sam, “I am going out with my friends whether you like it or not because that is important to me”. Eventually, Skyler felt ready and strong enough to leave for good. That was 5 years ago and we are still great friends. Skyler is now traveling the world living the life she always dreamed of living.

Now you might be listening to my speech and thinking that is all well and good Jesse but have you heard of a little thing called enabling?! It sounds to me like you are saying to support bad decisions and not take care of yourself. That is 100% not what I am saying. In no way do I think you should financially support your nephew who is smoking weed every day and living on your sofa trying to find himself. I think you should talk to your nephew in a loving nonjudgmental tone, have empathy for him, while at the same time telling him what you need from him in order for him to be able to crash on your sofa.

And in no way did I drop my life every time Skyler was really upset and felt like the world was caving in on her. I took care of myself first: I ran my business, I got enough sleep, I exercised every day, my point is I did not start drowning with her (when she felt like she was drowning), nor do I with anyone who is in crisis. I give what I am able to give from a place of unconditional love.

If I do not have love to give and I am starting to resent the person who is coming to me for help then I go take care of myself first, and then I reconnect with that person when I am recharged and want to give more.

So to sum it all up, the most transformative thing we can do for the people we love is to accept them completely and understand where they are coming from. If we come from that place it allows them to see the best version of themselves and often gives them the strength to reach for the next level of fulfillment in their lives. I know that’s what unconditional love did for Skyler!

Comment

Comment

Episode 2: Mad Anxiety

Listen to Podcast >>

Full Transcript:

MAD ANXIETY



I’m a little bit of an obsessive person, ok ok a lot obsessive. What’s great about this is my mind works in a series of charts and lists and I am constantly calculating how to make things more efficient. How do I run my business more effectively? How do I implement a better eating program for my client who is suffering from health issues? How can I maximize the time I spend with my dad so he feels the most taken care of and I feel the most connected to him?

Where this whole organizational system can backfire is when my mind gets stuck in a negative loop. As I have mentioned I struggled a lot when I was younger and spent massive amounts of time working through different negative thought patterns.

But of all the things I have evolved and all the things that can potentially trigger me, the one that has been and is the hardest for me is people being mad at me. Oh man I can be living a perfectly peaceful content existence and then I find out someone is not happy with what kind of relative I am being or what kind of job I have done and I can be thrown back into that anxious child who just wants everyone to love her.

And as vulnerable as this is for me to share (I am supposed to be invincible because I am a therapist you know) it feels like it may be the most important thing for me to talk about. First because I can have true empathy for anyone who has difficulty with this and second because I have put a lot of time into figuring out how to solve this.

I feel like the best way for me to explain the things that have helped is to use an example from my life:

when I was falling in love with my boyfriend it was the first time I fell in love and I felt swept up in a hurricane of lust and love and a huge desire to be with him, talk about him and dream about him. And this momentous event came after a decade of pretty much being single where I was available and depending on my friends for all the support you might receive from your significant other- I talked to my friends every day, I hung out with them all the time. And I was present to them for emotional support. And all the mean while saying things like I am never going to be like those people who fall in love and disappear off the face of the planet. That is so "codependent" and awful. You stick with your people and you don't abandon them just because some guy comes into your life.

Well guess what... I did exactly that.

Mark came along and it was like being on drugs, I never felt a pull so powerful, and because having a partner was something that I had wanted for so long and so afraid that I was not going to get, when I found it, all I wanted was to enjoy the ride.

Well meanwhile this is hard for my friends. And so they are now coming to me and saying, “where are you? We miss you. You are being everything you said you would never be. It feels like we don't even know you anymore.”

As they are giving me this input I can feel a huge anxiety bubble growing in my stomach. On the outside I tend to look stoic and not let on how little and insecure I feel, but on the inside I am freaking out. Adrenaline is shooting through me. My nervous system is sending signals to my body that we are in imminent danger, RETREAT, RETREAT, RETREAT!

The logical part of me is saying breathe, this is not a big deal. They are merely voicing their upsetness at you. Just tell them you love them and make more time for them, problem solved.

But another part of me knows I am screwed, because often times when something like this happens I can be stuck in an anxiety loop for days or in bad times weeks depending on how ongoing the external situation is.

So what have I learned to do when I am in a situation like this one:

First things first take out my journal, the therapist I had when I was teenager would always tell me I cannot help you relieve your anxiety unless you tell me what the thoughts and beliefs that are connected to it.

When my anxiety got triggered by the situation with my friends I could tell you I do not like when people are upset with me, they were upset with me, now I have a knot in my stomach. But this is not a deep enough understanding of my anxiety in this moment for me to actually release any of it. What I need to start writing about is the root fear I am having. So I start writing as if I am the anxiety talking, “you better be careful, Jesse you are in danger of losing all your friends, you really messed up big time, and are a crappy friend. You are being everything you said you wouldn’t, nobody likes people like that. You know from your younger years when you did not have any friends that it is pretty miserable to be alone and sad. We don’t know if Mark is going to be here forever so DO NOT mess this up for you and them. Don’t be one of “those females” that doesn’t value herself and her girls.”

My anxiety would then flip to, “I am so mad at them, they know how long I have waited for this and how I am not one of “those females”. They know who I am, and if they think they do not know me, maybe we can’t be friends anymore. Maybe we have grown apart and I just need to move on.”

What my anxiety has just illustrated is that there are 2 places our mind goes to when we are anxious: judgements/fears/anger directed at ourselves and judgements/fears/anger directed at others. So now that I am in touch with my deeper fears I am ready for step 2…

Step 2, acknowledge and feel the feeling
When we write this stuff out and start to feel the deeper fear connected to our anxiety, our instinct is to jump to making it better. But like I told you in the beginning, I and most people already know the end point we are trying to get to (that this is not an actual emergency and everything is ok). But in order to release the anxiety we have to accept that the fear is there. A great teacher once told me, “what we resist will persist and what we accept will transform.” In other words, the more we deny the anxiety is there the longer it lasts, and the sooner we acknowledge the fear some of it releases.

So once I see the thoughts that are making me anxious, I take a deep breathe and give myself a big hug. And I say to myself Jesse, “it is ok that you are scared. You’ve been triggered but it will be ok.”

I often in this moment like to take a walk, go to yoga , meditate, get a massage, doing something for myself that is both loving to me that also moves the energy in my body.

And as I have acceptance for the fact that I am scared, some of that fear leaves me, so I am ready for step 3.

Step 3: is there anything that I can do to be better?

Sometimes the answer is no, someone is angry with us and it’s just about realizing that their anger is not about us and we just need to repeat steps 1 and 2 with lots of self-care.

On the other hand, often especially if our loved ones are upset, there is a call to action that we can choose in order to be better. You notice this is not until step 3: if I don’t stop and have understanding and empathy for myself first I am likely to screw this step up. Either by getting angry at the person who is angry at me or by doing what I often had a tendency to do which was over apologize from the wrong internal place, “I’m sorry I’m sorry. I was a horrible friend. What can I do to make this right?! I’ll do anything!” The message I’m giving is please don’t give me anymore feedback I’m not strong enough to hear it. Let’s just move on and sweep this under the rug.


I’m sorry can be very powerful but only from a place of strength and looking to truly rectify the situation. It might sound like, “I’m sorry I have been distracted. I value our friendship and want to us to be close. Can we make a regular plan to hang out and put it on the calendar?” I’m trying to give the message: I hear you and understand why you’re upset and I truly would like to make it better.

What did I do in the situation with my friends?

I’d like to tell you I did it just like I demonstrated above but I did not. Common, I told you at the beginning of this speech that people being mad at me was the my toughest anxiety loop. And this situation was 8 years ago and it took some time for me to work through it with them. I was integrating Mark and his giant Lebanese family into my life.

So…. sometimes I hid from my friends especially when I was worried they were particularly upset with me. Sometimes I over apologized from the wrong place. Sometimes I got mad at them for not understanding my perspective. AND In some conversations I got it just right communicating exactly what I felt from a strong place and owning my part in creating distance between us.

In the end, I was close enough for me and for them. Life’s a growing process and none of us are perfect. And the closer we are, the more opportunity we have to trigger each other’s anxieties.

The thought that helps me the most through is whole loop is, “I have good intentions, and I am striving to be the best communicator I can be, and the people who see that are my people. “

Comment

Comment

Episode 1: Recipe for a Successful Relationship

Listen to Podcast >>

Full Transcript:

RECIPE FOR A SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIP

Psychologists often talk about the importance of basing your romantic relationship on love and not dependence but what does that really mean? And why do we care? 

Love is the feeling we feel when we are not looking for our partner to change or be different in anyway. It is when we are in the space of feeling total positivity towards them. 

Dependence is when we are looking for our partners to fill a need inside of us. It can look like wanting them to express their love in a certain way, or act a certain way around our loved ones, or for them to make decisions in their life the way we want them to.

The truth is in romantic relationships, we constantly fluctuating back and forth between love and dependence. It would be unrealistic to think a perfect romantic relationship consists of not wanting or needing anything from our partners (why even be in a relationship then). At the same time, what often destroys good relationships is people not being aware of the balance. 

The recipe for a successful relationship is as follows:

  • Fill all the needs in yourself that you are able to

  • Accept everything you possibly can about your partner

  • Whatever is left over communicate to partner with love 

  • Tell your partner you are grateful when they change to take care of you

As a younger person every single one of my relationships was based on me trying to feel the love and safety I didn’t feel in my childhood. My parents we're not raised with parents they could be emotionally dependent on and so they passed on the same process to me. They raised me to be smart, adventurous, compassionate, but also kinda lonely. 

When I got into the dating world all I did was look for people who could make feel secure and loved. This worked in some sense; I got lots of love and codling. What didn't work was I did not feel inspired by my partners or pushed to grow in any way. As soon as all of my needs were filled in relationships, I was not interested in them anymore. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum when my partner stopped telling me they loved me every second of the day I would turn into a needy mess. 

It was not until I took break from relationships to focus on myself that I was really able to change the cycle. In the time off: I went to therapy, I pushed myself to find what I loved about myself, got emotionally closer to my parents and took some surf trips all on my own. 

After getting really comfortable on my own, I started dating again, and when I found the man of my dreams I was ready. I worked on really getting to know him for him. Finding what I admired about him separate from my own needs. I loved how passionate he was about music, hockey, and his own business. I also loved his live in the moment attitude! 

Of course the deeper we got into our relationship, the more my dependency monster started to reel its head. I wanted him show me love the way I thought men should show love: cards, flowers, planned dates. As I ruminated about what he was doing wrong, it pushed me further away from him. 

Luckily this time I was prepared, the work I had done on myself had paid off… When I noticed myself wanting to be upset with him, I refocused on whether or not he was showing me love. It turns out he was: he was taking me and my loved ones out to dinner. He took up skiing because he knew I loved snowboarding so much, and he woke me up every morning with tons of kisses telling me how much he loved me. It was in this reflection that I realized I could either focus on what he was not doing or focus on all the ways he was amazing to me! 

Over the last 6 years there have been many examples of this process. Of course there are times when I ask for certain things that I cannot let go of. Overall it has surprised me that 99% of the things I thought I needed, I just needed to change my perspective on. The more fulfilled I am, the more unconditional love I have to give and guess what? The more unconditional love he gives me back.

Comment

Coaching and Therapy

I have recently started a success coaching practice in order to help people get to the next level in their careers, relationships, and life fulfillment. Below, I wanted to explain a little about my theory behind this new program and my attraction to coaching.  

People usually seek out a therapist or a coach for different reasons: They may go into therapy because they feel like they need to be fixed, whereas they may go into coaching in order to build upon their strengths.

People are innately good, with a natural desire to be productive and the ability to be successful. When we are not creating the kind of life we want, it is not because there is something inherently wrong with us, it is because we have not yet figured out how to tap into the potential already present within us.

As a therapist, I have helped people tap into that potential for ten years. I have noticed that people often arrive with a presenting issue --“I have panic attacks,” “I am unable to get along with my spouse,” “I do not like my job”-- that we are able to quickly fix.

But my clients stay with me after the "problem" is fixed because as soon as a level of inner peace is attained by getting rid of the "problem," a whole new level of aspirations and desires open up.

Do you notice that whenever we achieve a goal in our careers, relationships, or recreation, our minds immediately come up with a new goal? So sometimes we don’t take the time to appreciate what we have achieved.

Because humans are naturally productive, I never worry about directly motivating people. Instead, I help people get clear about what they want in life, uncover the blocks that prevent them from achieving their goals and help them stop to reflect on the progress they are making. They take the time to feel great about the life they are creating, which fuels the passion inside of them to reach their next set of goals, hence maximizing their motivation and sense of fulfillment simultaneously.

My new role as coach is really no different than what I have been doing for my entire career. As a coach though, my clients get the added bonus of a structured curriculum, a focus on success and achievement from the start, and my passion as their partner to help them live better.

How to Deal with Transitions

1) Accept that you will have some feelings.

Every transition brings with it a multitude of feelings including fear, but we tend to resist our feelings of fear by talking to ourselves negatively or denying that those feelings exist. The way to move through feelings is to identify them, accept them without judgment, and then they begin to move through us.

What are the feelings you have about the next phase of life?
 

2) Have a positive outlook.

Our mind tends to focus on our weaknesses and what is wrong with our life, in order to combat this we must gently redirect ourselves towards a positive outlook. (The fatal mistake in this step is to beat ourselves up for not being more positive instead of having empathy for ourselves that is step is extremely challenging).

What are the qualities you have that make you more confident that you will succeed?

What are you grateful and excited about for the future?
 

3) Identify the worst case scenario.

When we are having a big moment of fear, it is helpful to take that fear to the ultimate end in order to know we will be okay no matter what.

What is the worst case scenario and how will you work through it?
 

4) Look for the next growth steps.

Instead of viewing the parts of ourselves that we are not done growing yet as weaknesses, take a proactive role in becoming the best version of yourself. We all have stuff we can become better at.

What are the skills you are worried you don’t have yet?

What are the small steps you can take to develop them?
 

5) Ask for help.

It is important to surround yourself with people that will lift you up and support your goals and dreams. You might go to different people at different times depending on what you need in each specific moment.

Who are the people in your life that help you to achieve your goals?

What does each specific person in your life give you?
 

6) Define what success is.

We cannot achieve success unless we have defined it in great detail.

Define what success is for you, so that you can give yourself credit when you have achieved it.

SHOULDS & HAVE TOS...

As a teenager I spent a large part of my day hating life. Everything seemed pointless and hopeless, and I could not imagine ever feeling different. 

I often fantasized about suicide. I was prescribed sleeping pills by a doctor and instead of taking them every night I saved them in case I got to the point where I wanted out. But, the truth was I did not want to die, I wanted the power to be free. 

I felt trapped by life's shoulds and have tos. I had to wake up and go to school every day. I had to do my homework. I had to hang out with kids my own age even if I thought I couldn't connect to any of them. I had to spend time with my family. I had to get a job. The things that I felt I should and had to do were not horrible, but I felt the rest of my life was going to be a forced march towards a meaningless, stressful, depressing existence. 

My parents sent me to group therapy. One day we did an exercise where everyone wrote down on a piece of paper what they thought the person needed to know to make his/her life better. When it was my turn, everyone wrote down the exact same thing: you are a victim of your life! These words hit be like a ton of bricks; I had survived all of these difficult experiences in my life, and considered myself strong, not a victim. 

I went home and thought, they don't understand all that I have been through. I am going to take my pills, and then they will see how they hurt me. But then as I calmed myself, and looked over my notes again.,I realized these people are my friends, and so they are probably trying to tell me something valuable...and then it came to me I DON'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING I DONT WANT TO DO, and I can do anything I want to do. I flushed my sleeping pills right then. 

I realized I did not need a death option to be free, I was already free. From this moment on I took should and have to out of my vocabulary. It was a challenging fight considering how deeply embedded these words were in my way of thinking, but I attribute this philosophy change with the joy I now feel on a daily basis.

The fear is that if we are not pressuring ourselves with shoulds and have tos, then we will not be living productive, meaningful lives. I have found with myself and my clients the opposite is true. The more we allow ourselves the freedom to choose what we want in our lives, the more motivated we are to become the best version of our selves.

PARENTING A TEENAGER

PARENTING A TEENAGER

A parent's anger at his/her teenager is often

1) Fear that her child won't get what she wants out of life and/or

2) A parent's anger/judgment at himself for not creating what he wanted for his own life (including fear about not being the parent he wants to be)

Parents often complain about not being respected by their teenagers, but teens are often not able to provide "respect" or empathy because they don't have a strong enough sense of self to be able to put themselves in others' shoes, especially their parents, who they are trying to separate from. If a person is not able to love/respect herself, she is not able to give that feeling to others.

If then, the anger is really the ultimate fear that the teenager will not be able to have ambition, follow through, be honest, empathetic (respectful), how do you go about creating that?

1) Be the example: go after things you are passionate about, learn to create joy in life no matter how small, learn to love/respect yourself (this where consistency as a parent comes in- don't draw the line often, but when you do pick something you can enforce, and tell him from a place of love and a desire for him to grow as a person versus as a threat for being a "bad" child) - and if you react in anger, don't be afraid to admit fault and show him what respect/empathy is.

2) Reinforce the positive things with her on a daily basis, have faith in her that  she has the ability to create a beautiful life, so when she looks in your eyes she sees a positive reflection of herself:

- The reason I say this is not to sweep the negative under the rug, but because every time a child is given positive feedback (if it is authentic) that part of her grows a little bit inside. Every time a child is given negative feedback that part of her is anchored inside (i.e. if a parent calls her child a liar over and over, liar starts to become part of her identity).

- Therefore, punishment is used to create a boundary to protect teens or to teach them something, but never used in a way that puts down their self-esteem- this is an extremely difficult task, which is why I say use it as little as possible.

3) Help him in whatever way he'll let you by finding him mentors, searching for programs he might be interested in, taking him job hunting, talking about your experiences and letting him share his.

 

Why do I encourage negotiating with a teenager?

1) It helps them to leave the power struggle and to think about what is best for herself versus how to beat her parent.

2) Teenagers are starting to prepare for being adults and living on their own. The teens that didn't have enough freedom and practice while living at home tend to be out of control and not know how to self-regulate when they start living in dorms or move out for the first time.

3) I don't believe negotiating with teenagers is giving up your power as a parent because in the end you always have the final say.

4) Giving teens the power to articulate what their needs/wants are allows them to begin looking inside themselves to see what's important and why, which is the beginning of having passion in life.

5) It demonstrates your respect for their opinion and desires, which is a characteristic desired in return. To create respect you must make your child feel respected and he will respect you back.

MANAGING ANXIETY & PANIC ATTACKS

Anxiety is the most common mental health problem in America. Why? Because we have been taught to fear our fear. In our society, it is not okay to feel fear. We view being scared as a weakness and tend to talk ourselves, and others out of it.

Imagine a friend comes to you and is nervous about starting a new job, a common response to their fear is, "There is nothing to be scared about, you'll be fine." The message being given by this response is that there is something wrong with being afraid. This can leave your friend feeling invalidated and hence judging herself for having the feeling. If we allow our friend instead to feel the fear and ask her what she needs, she is more likely to move through her fear. 

Anxiety is the effect of being stuck in the emotion of fear and trying to keep it at bay. The more we try to prevent feeling fear, the more fear grows. The following are some steps that can help you deal with anxiety: 

1) Validate that fear is a normal part of human existence.

2) Bring yourself back to the present moment.

3) Figure out what you are actually afraid of. 

4) Calm the fears surrounding your anxiety. 

 

1: Validate that fear is a normal part of human existence

Fear is a normal part of human existence. Often what compounds anxiety, at times taking people to the level of panic attacks, is judgment about their own anxiety. People say things to themselves like, "I suffer from anxiety," identifying themselves as  anxious people. When we believe that our personality is anxious, every time we become the slightest bit fearful, we will over-focus on those symptoms instead of looking at the ways in which we can calm our fears. Conversely others may say, "I have nothing to be anxious about." This statement devalues our fear, not allowing us to be able to calm it. Not only is the person scared about whatever he is scared about, but he is also angry at himself for feeling this way. If you are mad at yourself for feeling anxious, it is impossible to cope with the fear, leaving you stuck in anxiety. 

 

2: Bring yourself back to the present moment.

Bring yourself back to the present moment. Once you have gotten rid of your judgment about your anxiety, the next step is to know anxiety is fear of the future. To immediately calm anxiety or a panic attack, bring yourself back to the present moment. It is nearly impossible to feel anxious in the moment because ninety-nine times out of a hundred what is making you anxious is not what is happening right now, but what you fear is going to happen. So how can we bring ourselves back to the present moment? There are a number of different ways, and it is important you experiment until you find what works for you. Some examples include: 

1. meditation (the art of clearing your mind of the actual thoughts making you anxious)

2. allowing your friends to distract you

3. concentrating on your breathing - inhale and exhale into the belly

4. doing an activity that gives you pleasure and forces you to focus (i.e. taking a walk, listening to music, stretching/yoga, dance, gardening)

5. working out

6. tightening and loosening your muscles starting from your toes and moving up your body

Furthermore, the greater the level of anxiety, the more simple the activity you choose to calm yourself with should be. For example, when having a panic attack start with trying to bring your body back to normal functioning: find the position that makes you the most comfortable (i.e. laying on the floor), focus on your breathing, count 3 seconds in for an inhale and 3 seconds out for the exhale and/or drink water slowly while in a crouched position (which will slow your heart rate down). Finally, keep telling yourself, "I will be okay."

 

3: Figure out what you are actually afraid of.

Figure out the thoughts creating your anxiety. Once you have brought yourself back to the moment and are in a calmer state, it is time to create long term coping strategies for the anxiety. In order to begin this process, you have to identify the thoughts that are creating fear for you. Most people say, "There are no thoughts, I'm just really anxious." However, it is impossible to have these feelings without thoughts about the future. Sometimes these thoughts can be hard to find because they have been ignored and /or denied for years, so it important to give yourself time and space to figure them out. One of the best ways to do this is to make a list of all the things that could potentially be making you anxious, then read through this list one item at a time, slowly, to see if your body reacts to any of them. Once you know what is making you scared, you can begin to cope with it.

 

4: Calm the fears surrounding your anxiety.

Calm the fears surrounding your anxiety. Once you identify your fear thoughts, it is important to validate them for yourself. Life is full of many scary things and in our society people often think themselves weak or vulnerable for feeling this fear. Actually, the opposite is true: if individuals are able to see what they are anxious about, not judge themselves, and then calm themselves around those fears, they move through them quickly. The trick is to talk to yourself as if you were calming a kindergartener's fears. We often know how to be loving and empathetic when it comes to others, but don't apply the same rule to ourselves. When we are little, it is our parents and the other adults in our lives' job to help us cope with our feelings. Some people have adults in their lives that are very good at this. When these people become older and it is time for them to calm themselves, the voice in their heads is already soft, sweet and caring. Others are not raised by people who know how to calm fears, and so when these individuals become older they have to spend time building a voice that is calming and compassionate. Most of us have a mixture of both, and the key to becoming a calm, centered and high functioning person is to work on figuring out what voices in our heads are productive and help us reach our goals, and at the same time to calm the voices that keep us stuck and fill us with fear.

BUILDING COMMUNICATION

BUILDING COMMUNICATION

Thoughts (Beliefs, Values, Opinions, Morals)

Feelings (Mad, Sad, Glad, Scared)

 

Open:

- active listening, reflect back thoughts/feelings of other

- ask other questions to fully understand their position

- empathy (feeling what the other feels. whether or not you agree with their thoughts, you can always feel what they feel)

- expressing fear, sadness, or happiness

 

Closed:

- arguing with other about their thoughts,

- waiting to say your point instead of trying to understand theirs or taking the ball and talking about self nonstop

- judgment (deciding what the other feels is not valid)

- expressing anger, frustration, or irritation

How to Choose a Therapist

Recently while sitting down for lunch with a friend, he asked me how to know whether he had picked a good therapist. I realized that for many years I have been advising my friends to interview multiple therapists before settling on one, but I had never elaborated on what the goal of that interview was…

Before I became a therapist myself, I assumed that if someone worked hard and met all of the requirements to become a therapist than she or he was probably good at the job. But then when I went to graduate school in Marriage and Family Therapy I was in for a shock. Honestly, I would not want to seek help from many of my classmates.

I realized that an important part of what makes someone helpful to others is their having worked through their own life struggles to become a centered, confident, compassionate, happy person. Unfortunately, some people are attracted to becoming therapists because for them it is easier to focus on other people’s challenges than their own.  In other words, if I focus on you, than I do not have to look at my own feelings of unhappiness and fear.  So how then can you tell whether a therapist has done his/her own work and is a good fit for you?


1) Feeling Understood is the first thing to look for when choosing a therapist. Not all therapists are going to give you spectacular life-changing advice in the first session, but if the therapist is the right fit, you should feel listened to and empathized with early on in your relationship. A person cannot help you to grow if they do not “get” you first.


2) Therapist Adaptability is a sign that the therapist has done their own emotional work. As a client, you should be able to ask for what feels good to you in the therapy sessions. Some people like concrete advice, others like to be asked questions that help them come up with their own answers, other people just want to be listened to, and still others like to feel connected to the therapist by knowing a little about their personal life. Some don’t want to know anything about their therapist’s life. You should be able to verbalize those preferences and be able to ask for changes as your relationship progresses as well.  As you verbalize your needs and preferences, it should feel as though you and the therapist are collaborating, each offering your own perspectives to create the best potential for growth within you. 


3) Intuition is the most important assessment tool you have in deciding who you want to be friends with, who you want to do business with, who you can trust with your secrets, and who can babysit your children. It is also the final and best tool for deciding who is helpful to you in becoming the best version of you. Clients don’t always leave therapy sessions feeling “better,” because sometimes emotions that are not yet worked through are brought up, but overall your gut should be telling you that you are growing and seeing a greater perspective about your life.

How does the Law of Attraction REALLY work?

A movie called "The Secret" came out several years ago. The premise of the movie was that putting your desires out into the universe attracts those objects or achievements to you. You can manifest what you want in the world. Many people, including me, created a "dream board" based on this premise. A dream board is a collage of all the things that you would like to attract into your life, such as a trip to Tahiti, or a fit body, or a boyfriend. 

However, in spite of creating my dream board, and repeating over and over that I would like to have more money and meet the love of my life, nothing happened. My desires did not manifest. Through investigation and reflection, I realized 4 things...

1) The process of manifesting is happening all the time, not just when you stop to consciously do it.

So if I spent 90% of the day worrying about money problems, and 10% of the day envisioning more money coming to me, I would unintentionally repel money. To avoid this problem, I learned to keep myself in a positive thinking state by being grateful for the life I already had. The more I felt fulfilled by my current life, the less dependent I was on it changing, which allowed me to be excited for the future.

2) It is important to dream things that you actually believe can happen and to be specific.

Instead of saying I want more money, I pictured myself on my dream surf vacation. I imagined how excited and free I would feel, how I would meet new people and would be filled with confidence and laughter. Specificity helps the process because…

3) The key to manifesting is to really imagine the feeling of having whatever you are trying to attract to you.

So, if I wanted a boyfriend it was important that I spend time imagining feeling the love I would receive from that relationship. When I became anxious about not getting what I wanted, I unintentionally interacted with men from the fear that they wouldn't like me. But as I practiced bringing myself back to a place of excitement to meet the man of my dreams, many more opportunities to meet him presented themselves.

4) It takes action to make things happen.

Instead of just daydreaming about having more money, I looked for opportunities to build my business. I consulted a business coach, I updated my website, and I talked to everyone I met about my goals and dreams. Instead of waiting for Mr. Right to show up, I online dated and said "yes" to every social event I was invited to. Each week I put energy into what I wanted to create.

In the end, I got everything I wanted and more. I went on an amazing surf trip in Bali; I was handed money that I did not expect; it became easy for me to motivate myself to work out, and I fell in love with the man of my dreams.

Those things were all awesome, but looking back, I realize that what I really wanted was the feeling that came from working to achieve the things I was trying to manifest. The process of manifesting-- feeling grateful for what I already had, being specific about what I wanted, imagining the feeling of having my desires, and taking real action-- made me feel at peace, grateful, confident and hopeful.

How to meet the love of your life

How to meet the love of your life

A teenage client requested that I write a blog about how to attract the opposite sex, and so this is my story and insight gleamed from years of being in the dating world.

I was someone who was always fantasized about the possibility of love but was petrified that I could never have it. I would say things to myself like, “I am too shy to meet anyone; I don’t look like what men are attracted to; there is no one out there who is going to get who I am as a person; I don’t like going to bars so how can I possibly meet anyone,” and the list went on and on. After years of alternating between putting myself out there and shying away from the idea of ever meeting anyone, I met the man of my dreams. He is smart, successful, funny, compassionate and, he completely loves and adores me. I am writing this blog because I want to instill hope in all of you doubters out there; I truly believe that by taking a few simple steps, love is possible for all of you.

A good friend of mine once described falling in love as the experience of falling in love with yourself, and I would argue that this is the true. We can only expect to feel another’s love as deeply as we love ourselves. Therefore, the key to opening yourself up to falling in love is to learn to truly love yourself.

STEP 1: 

I started this process by making a list of my strengths and the qualities that I could bring into a loving relationship. I then proceeded to read this list on a daily basis to reinforce my good feelings about myself.

STEP 2: 

I looked in the mirror every morning when I got out of the shower, and made the decision to appreciate the beautiful parts my body instead of picking apart what I thought was wrong or imperfect about it.

STEP 3: 

I then made a list of all the things about me that could be potential problems with my future mate. With each thing I wrote on this list, I had compassion for myself, just as I would any friend (because everyone has their stuff). Then from a place of love and acceptance for myself, I picked one thing to work on for a specific period of time depending on how big it was. I started by working on my shyness. I made it a goal to start conversations with people I met in the world. I noticed the more I pushed myself to work on these things, the less scared I was that these things would be an issue.

STEP 4: 

I set the goal to become the best version of myself and to open myself to the possibility of love. I decided when negative thoughts came into my mind about the impossibility of love that I would redirect them to focusing on the beautiful parts of me. As I loved myself more and more, I realized that I could create an amazing life with or without a romantic partner. The reason this last part is so important is that others can sense desperation, and when you walk into a situation needing love versus wanting it, others can feel your fear, and it can prevent them from seeing the whole, confident, unique you.

STEP 5: 

I knew there would be a higher likelihood of meeting someone, the more I put myself out there. I said yes to practically everything I was invited to especially if it was a) something I would not normally do, and b) I had the potential to meet new people while doing it. I also signed up for online dating which gave me the opportunity to practice connecting to all different types of people. I showed up to these events and dates with the goal simply to have fun and connect to new people.

Through this process, I discovered not only the love of my life, but even more valuable a deep love for myself, and I hope it can do the same for you. If you have any questions or comments feel free to write me at jesseg333@aol.com.

Better Than, Less Than

Do you ever notice how we are in a constant state of comparison?

“She is better than me at dressing fashionably.” 
“I am smarter than him.” 
“I would never talk to someone using the tone of voice she did.” 
“I am different than other people, I am not shallow.” 
“Nobody has difficulty expressing themselves like I do.”

These are just a few examples of the kind of running dialogue in our minds all of the time.

 

What is the problem with that?

The problem with constant comparison is that it creates distance instead of closeness. It keeps us from genuinely connecting to others and to ourselves. The times when we stop comparing ourselves to others are the times we are able to relate to others, feel our similarities, and empathize with them. Love is true acceptance of ourselves and the people we are trying connect to.

Is it possible to motivate ourselves to reach our full potential without constant comparison?

When we give up constant comparison and simply ask ourselves, from moment to moment, who we want to be, we can connect to others and accomplish practically anything.

WHY MEDITATE?

WHY MEDITATE?

I used to cringe at the idea of meditating. My mom began meditating during my teen years, and since I had the mindset that whatever she believed was beneficial I was going to do the opposite, I decided meditation was for hippy dippy weirdos. Also, the mere idea of meditating made me extremely anxious. I felt like if I was told to sit in quiet for even 5 minutes, my mind would take over and I would combust. Then over time the more I read about finding fulfillment and peace, the more meditation came up as a necessary tool. So one day when I was having an anxious day, I called my mom and she happened to be on the way to a meditation class. She said, "why don't you meet me there and we can have lunch after." In my desperation I got in the car, and while in class, I sat with  my eyes closed and cried the entire time.  As someone who had difficulty letting go and letting the tears flow, I felt like a weight was lifted. I started attending the class weekly. Even though it still caused part of me anxiety to think about meditating, another part of me liked the idea of having quiet time set aside every week to sit with my thoughts and feelings. I began controlling my mind instead of my mind controlling me. Getting this control didn't come easy. My mind would say to me: "I don't want to sit still and do nothing for an hour,"or "I have a lot of work to do," or "this isn't helping me I still have no control." But the more I resisted going, the more I felt like making the commitment to go. Anything that was so simple to do, but scared me so much felt like it needed to be conquered. Over time, meditation felt good. My mind talked to me less and less. And the less my mind talked, the more control over my life I had.  I thought that if I stopped listening to my mind, I would be less productive and centered, but the exact opposite occurred. Through meditation I found that I could focus for longer periods of time; tasks that felt difficult to start became easy to complete, and most of all the sense of fulfillment and peace I felt in my life grew to a magnitude that I could never imagine attaining.