The Art of Non-Attachment – Learning to let go

heather edwards psychotherapy letting goI heard the crash of my beloved pottery as it shattered on the cement floor. It jolted me. It freed me.

17 years ago when I was starting out as a potter (one of my passions), I toiled endlessly to make each piece perfect. The walls needed to be straight. The mouth perfectly circular, and the form of the body exact – that’s the beauty and the art of it.

My instructor painfully witnessed my labor and determination for perfection everyday. I attended every open studio session and took multiple classes per week. I knew if I worked hard enough, I’d get it.

One night that instructor suggested non-attachment to the work. I had no idea of what he meant. He might as well have been speaking a foreign language that I couldn’t understand.

That platter was my baby. I devoted hours to making each curve exactly how I wanted it – the thickness, the angle, and the integrity of the lip. It all had to be a certain way.

heather edwards psychotherapy in new york

Despite my efforts, he saw a flaw. One that was unfixable. I pleaded with him to let me try to make it right. He insisted, “No, Heather. You have to let it go. Smash the platter with me.” I couldn’t believe my ears.

It took a moment, in front of a classroom of students but I decided to comply. He took a piece of his pottery and we agreed to smash them together in the air and allow them to shatter.

The moment that platter left my grip, there was no turning back. I gasped. I closed my eyes. I heard the breakage and the outburst of joy among my peers.

It liberated us all. It was freeing. It was a literal breakthrough. There would be no more toiling.

Now I had a clean slate and a fresh start. I could refocus and begin anew. Fresh possibilities emerged and my work improved.

Who knows how many more hours I would’ve spent on that unfixable platter? Almost two decades later, that invaluable lesson sticks with me.

What are you holding onto that no longer serves you? What is unfixable or  keeping you stuck that needs to be released?
heather edwards psychotherapy in new york

When you release what you cannot change, fix, or control – you are free. You become open to the real possibilities of the  moment and live wholeheartedly.

Ever since that day, I try to recognize the point where it’s time to let go. It serves me and everyone around me to be diligent in that effort.

I’ve lost contact with that teacher. I’d like to thank him for the lessons I learned. It’s shaped me in ways beyond my art.

My pottery continues to develop but, with much less angst and much more joy and fluidity. It’s become a model and metaphor for living authentically, without regrets and fully engaged in the now.

 

Is Shame Holding You Back? You are worthy.

heather edwards shameLet’s go alternate reality. Yes, AR. What’s your biggest wish for this year? Five years from now? Or for your lifetime? Tap into the full experience of that image. Be the hero in your own game. One where you make the rules. You tell the story. You determine the outcome.

What’s there? Who’s there? Smell the scents, see the colors, connect to the people, hear the sounds, engage with your surroundings. Notice the energy that fills you up. Close your eyes. Lock it in.

Wait. Did I hear the voice of self doubt? Disbelief? Uncertainty? It’s okay. It’s what we do. Notice it and dismiss it. Shift your focus to what you want. The nasty little self critic gremlin works hard at sabotaging your dreams. It’s his job. In some contexts it’s what keeps you alive. It notices danger and warns you. But sometimes it’s nothing more than insecurity and a sense of unworthiness holding you back in the form of shame.

When the gremlin rears his ugly little head, you stop. You get scared and small. You start replaying the mental tape of negative messages you’ve heard throughout your lifetime. After all, they prove the critic is right. Wrong!

Those sabotaging statements from your family, the mean boss, or the bully on the playground have no merit. They no longer call the shots. You do. The next time you feel stifled, small, or unworthy do this…heather edwards worthy

1. Practice an attitude of gratitude. Identify three things you are grateful for today. Meditate on each of them for 30 seconds. You’ll strengthen the neural pathways responsible for happiness and wellbeing. To boot, Brene Brown’s research has identified gratitude as the antidote to shame and unworthiness.

2. Stretch. Take up space. Literally reach for the sky. BKS Iyengar (the father of Iyengar Yoga) believed that raising your arms above your head stimulates the lymphatic system which builds immunity and can improve mood and coping. Other studies have shown that it increases testosterone production and reduces cortisol (a stress hormone), creating a calm confident feeling.

3. Give yourself a hug. When you place your hand on your heart, you signal the body to release calming hormones. It’s comforting and grounding. Like other pressure points on the body, it shifts your energy from being uncomfortable to being more relaxed and fluid. Pair it with a deep breath and mantra like, “It will be okay.” and you’ll feel like a million bucks again.

This is just the start of managing uncomfortable feelings. Get to the root of what’s keeping you stuck. The only way out of it is through it. When you turn toward them, acknowledge them, and replace them with healthy thoughts and behaviors you narrate the story. For a more in depth exploration, call a mental health professional. Be the hero in your reality.heather edwards counseling psychotherapy

What is Love?

Love. Heather Edwards

Love is... Heather EdwardsThis Valentine’s Day I’m challenged to answer the question, “What is love?”. Recent personal events have stretched and profoundly changed me in beautiful and unforeseen ways. Because of this, love has a broader, richer, more complex meaning than before.

So when I’m asked the question, “What is love?”. Its definition extends well beyond a Valentine’s Day celebration of attraction, sexuality, partnership, and mating. While I appreciate that, it goes much deeper.

It’s an expression of give-and-take, mutual support, sometimes giving more than you knew you could, truly being there for someone else in their darkest hour, accepting what may be difficult to see, and accepting love in its many forms when it comes back to you.

Where do you see love? In heart shapes in the clouds, a kiss between lovers, or a mother preparing dinner for her family?

How do you experience love? Do you notice butterflies in your stomach, a warmth in your heart, or a calm awareness of your safety and wellbeing when in the presence of someone special?

How do you express love? With your words, actions, or touch?

Love is... Heather EdwardsLove is… listening, sharing, supporting, trusting, relaxing, letting go, longing, aching, forgiving, caregiving, accepting, being yourself, graciousness, excitement, warmth, kindness, truth, vulnerability, openness, strength, courage, heart centric actions, positive energy, highest vibrations, healing, grounding, helping…

With so many ways to experience and express love, what will you do today to enlighten someone about their special place in your heart? Don’t assume they already know your love or that you have plenty of time to show them. The only moment that truly exists is this one. Make it matter.

L.O.V.E. Luminous. Open. Vulnerable. Expressive.

Here’s a Love Letter from Ludwig von Beethoven:

Love is... Heather EdwardsMy angel, my all, my very self

We shall surely see each other soon; moreover, today I cannot share with you the thoughts I have had during these last few days touching my own life –

If our hearts were always close together, I would have none of these.

My heart is full of so many things to say to you – ah – there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all –Cheer up – remain my true, my only treasure, my all as I am yours.

Ah, wherever I am, there you are also –

Much as you love me – I love you more –

Oh God – so near! so far!

Is not our love truly a heavenly structure, and also as firm as the vault of heaven?

my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us –

I can live only wholly with you or not at all –

No one else can ever possess my heart – never – never –

Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves.

Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together –

Be calm – love me – today – yesterday – what tearful longings for you – you – you – my life – my all – farewell.

Oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.

ever thine

ever mine

ever ours

Your faithful Ludwig

Share your heart. Share yourself. Share your love. Deepen your experience of each day.

Jumpstart Productivity: 7 Tips to Get on Track

productivityThose long lazy days filled with sunlight and flowers are nearing an end. Dawn and dusk last a bit longer as the sun’s angle lowers in the sky. Shadows dance through the trees upon the breeze while the air cools, just a touch. As the gardens wilt and turn to seed, shorts and tee shirts no longer comfort you. Instead, you reach for sweaters and pants each morning and enjoy the crisp new season. You begin looking forward to what autumn brings – change, purpose, and productivity.  While summer will be missed, you know it will come again. It’s bittersweet but the time is nigh to look ahead and plan for your most abundant fall and winter.

Here are a few tips to get started on making the new season a fruitful one.

  1. Establish a routine. The power of routine is immeasurable. Once you’ve created an order in your life that allows your brain to focus on higher level or creative pursuits, the mundane and trivial activities of everyday life become almost unconscious. This allows your mental effort to be applied to what you really want to accomplish, rather than getting bogged down in the details.
  2. Create accountability. Verbalize your goals with people around you to create an external source of responsibility to them. It’s motivating to answer publicly to your proclamations. Set clear boundaries and expectations for what you want. Use timers, calendars, and a daily schedule to keep on track.
  3. Clear your mind. Meditation is the most effective way of creating peace, clarity, and focus in your life. It can happen in just 20 minutes per day. It physically changes your brain structure to allow better coping with stress. Madonna, Clint Eastwood, Lady Gaga, Howard Stern, Katy Perry, and the list goes on… practice meditation to create a sense of calm groundedness amidst the chaos of a busy life.
  4. Just say, “no”.  This is an undervalued skill that makes life more manageable. How often have you overcommitted? When you’re frantically striving to complete many tasks, your quality of work is reduced. When you focus on only a few projects that are really important to you, your quality of work skyrockets. Practice the art of graciously declining invitations. It’s better for outcomes, relationships, and your health.
  5. Get some shut eye. The research into sleep is exploding. Recent studies are finding that sleep allows your brain to encode (save/remember) information, organize information, and cleanse itself of toxins. It not only allows your mind and body to rest, it can improve learning and memory, performance, and mood.
  6. Fuel your machine. Would you drive your car on an empty tank of gas, or expect your cell phone to ring when the battery is depleted? How could you expect peak performance from yourself without the proper fuel? Reduce your consumption of alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and other vices. Increase consumption of lean meats, leafy greens, fruits, fatty fish, and nuts. They provide nutrients that reduce depression, increase energy, promote healthy brain function, heart health, and immunity. The benefits of eating right are endless.
  7. Burn it off. Exercise increases feel-good chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It lowers stress related hormones like cortisol & adrenaline. Combined, these improve energy and balance emotions. Getting sweaty develops brain regions responsible for memory and learning, improves your overall physique, and can boost your self esteem. Commit to regular exercise.

productivityWhile the long, lazy days of summer are coming to a close, a new season of growth and opportunity beckons. Go with the flow, stay in the present moment, maintain your focus. When you implement these tips, you will improve your life. Start small. Begin with one change that will get you closer to the way you want to experience life. Make it a habit. Reap the benefits.

 

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo
1st Photo courtesy of free digital photos.net. by David Castillo Dominici.

Neuroscience, Narcissism, & Humanism

neuroscience heather edwardsHave you ever had an experience that was so attuned to your core essence that you felt completely content, aligned, and inspired? Well, the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium did just that.

This year, neuroscience and attachment theory for healing were the stars of the show – along with other hot topics in psychotherapy like story telling, yoga, & power posing.

It fed my intellectual appetite and at times, felt like being a kid in a candy shop – I was joyfully shoving colorful treats into my mouth, riding the sugar buzz, and continuously craving more! It was Willy Wonka minus the little blue men and scary boat scene. Just the good stuff – lots of candy & neuroscience!

Sex, intimacy, and the Tango were keynote subjects. Susan Johnson, EdD, the developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy shared her methods and data which prove sex is more than just a physical act. What better? Sex, intimacy, AND professional training – um, yes, please.

Neuroscience brain scan data backed up her claims of efficacy.  James Coan, PhD shared how certain calming regions of the brain are activated and blood glucose levels are lowered by specific types of supportive interactions between people. It was fascinating.

I was blown away when Dr. Johnson revealed that her clinical framework is Humanistic Psychology, Carl Rogers’ theory of Person Centered Therapy – and exactly the same as mine.  This therapy assumes that change can only happen when non-judgement and unconditional positive regard exist in the therapeutic relationship. Every clinical concept and intervention she proposed rang with perfect resonance in my ears. [Ohhhhhhm. Insert birds chirping and angels singing.]

“But what if your client is a narcissist?”, an audience participant asked. It seemed to imply that nothing could help them.

Dr. Johnson’s answer filled me with joy. She referred back to her clinical roots and stated that as a Humanist, labels are very limiting. Humanists move beyond naming, classifying, and judging people.

The Humanist believes each client is a human being functioning the very best they can within the context of their reality. What they’re doing makes perfect sense to them in their world. It serves a definite purpose, albeit not always the most effective one. 

The Humanist meets the client where they are, and supports them in finding a better place according to them at their pace and in their way. Each person is met with openness, acceptance, and non-judgement. She stopped herself short when she said, “…and if you can’t handle that!”. I quietly smiled and felt at home again.

Labels, therapeutic tools, and therapist interventions are worthless without first developing a therapeutic relationship based on positive regard and unconditional acceptance. Once the client is heard and validated, real lasting change can happen. There’s finally hard neuroscience that proves it.

The narcissist can be extremely difficult – even abusive and/or exploitive – that’s the nature of their personality. But one must ask, what purpose does their behavior serve for them? What circumstances had to exist for the narcissist to develop this type of personality?

What fundamental safety, survival, and/or bonding need was absent or threatened as they were developing as a young child?  And what can be done to shift those factors so that the narcissistic person can live a happier, fuller, more authentic, and intimate life? …and thus, those around them.

The point at which curiosity ends, judgement begins. I’m not suggesting that anyone wait around for a narcissist to change their ways, or tolerate abuse or mistreatment. You could be waiting a very, very long time and living in a toxic relationship that is unhealthy for you.

But anybody who wants to change, can change. We are constantly evolving and adapting on a neural and molecular level. Be curious. Be open. Be cautiously optimistic. Know your boundaries and limitations. Believe that anyone can change if they want to. It begins with unconditional positive regard, acceptance, and a lot of determination, desire, and time. The data proves it.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” – Carl Rogers

 

 

photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by atibodyphoto

Audio Blog: Fear Sucks. Get Up.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapist, Coach, FearFor my subscribers… a new treat. Audio versions of your favorite blogs. Now you can engage with me in a more personal way. These are readings of my writings, by yours truly. Enjoy. Please post your comments at the bottom of the page. I’m eager to hear from you.

Fear sucks, doubt debilitates and stress kills.Loneliness isolates and worry permeates. Anger enrages and sorrow depletes. Yearning drives and hope transcends. Joy eases – all or most of the pain, at least for a moment.

Darkness and light. Greatness and shame. Brilliance and defeat. Ecstasy and despair. Two sides of the same coin, right?

They’re separated only by a the velocity of a spin or gravitational pull from our Mother Earth.Unavoidable. Unmanageable. Unimaginable. Or not?

These are the feelings you will inevitablyexperience as a living, loving, breathing, growing, evolving human being.They’re scary. They’re jarring. They’re life changing. They’re normal.

At times, they force you to look them in the eye and realize the limits of your comfort zone. They reveal the distinction between being passenger and being driver in this ride called life.

Take the wheel. It’s high time we get off our seats and do something to catapult change.

A revolutionary personal change. Hardship isn’t fair, negativity is a travesty, and staying down – well that’s just not an option.

Get up. Notice what lies between the extremes – calm, happy, relaxed, comfortable, satisfied, confident, belonging. Gratitude, appreciation, generosity, affection, sadness, hurt. Disappointment, rejection, insecurity, and confusion. The list goes on.

Welcome to the midrange of your emotional experience. Give those feelings your undivided attention. Place them center stage.

Extremes steal the show. But they’re only one act. Make room for other players. Open the stage door to a full accompaniment of roles. Ones that ground, balance, andcompliment the full catastrophe.

This big, beautiful, complex experience deserves your full attention. In doing so, you can become mindful of the moment to moment realities – good, bad, or neutral.

Catch your internal monologue and bring those extremes down a notch – or up. Practice using less inflammatory words to describe your experience and see what happens. Notice how that feels. It can improve your tolerance, modulate your emotions, and open you to a fuller, richer life. Stop wasting time idling and reacting. Put it in drive.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapy and Coaching at Oasis

Heather Edwards Counseling and CoachingHeather Edwards, LMHC, NCC, BCC is a New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor, National Certified Counselor, and Board Certified Coach. She is a frequent contributor to Psychology Today writing on topics of wellness, clarity, and being the best version of yourself. She provides individual and couples therapy, and life coaching for career, relationships, and wellness.

Located at Oasis Day Spa, One Park Avenue, New York, NY she offers the following services:

The Couples Reconnection Session:

Validate and leverage your strengths as a couple. Rekindle the aspects of your relationship that drew you together and keep your bond strong. Together, shift your attention to the love, desire, and soulful foundation of your connection. Constructively, develop skills to work through conflict productively.

The Individual Reconnection Session:

Take a moment to reflect on your hectic pace and discover a mindful flow. Practice mindfulness through a personal exploration of your mind-body experience. Validate and acknowledge your experience without judgement. Leverage your strengths as an individual, clarify your purpose, and soothe your inner emotional responses to the many challenges of NYC life.

Heather Edwards Psychotherapy and Coaching at Oasis Day Spa

The Personal Transformation and Fulfillment Session:

Get crystal clear on your desires. Develop a step by step action plan to actualize the best version of yourself. Celebrate victories. Troubleshoot obstacles. Empower yourself to stretch to new heights and achieve the life you want.

Call Heather Edwards for an appointment: 347-515-3966

Personality Type:  Know Yourself

Personality type has its roots in a psychological theory dating back to the 1920’s. The Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung (1875-1961) known for his work on the psyche, ego, personal unconscious, collective unconscious, archetypes, and dream analysis also developed the enduring theory of personality types based on psychological opposites.  Jung and  Sigmund Freud collaborated from about 1907-1909 addressing Freud’s mission of making the unconscious conscious through the practice of psychoanalysis.

Jung’s personality theory explains normal differences between healthy people.  He concluded that these differences in behavior stem from inborn tendencies to use our minds in different ways and can be influenced by culture, family, and the environment. Each of us possesses all six characteristics he defined in his personality theory, but we favor one or the other of each opposite.  His personality typology has been so enduring that it has current practical applications in career, leadership, relationships, and learning today.  So what are the six opposites that in combination define eight different personality types according to Jung?  Furthermore, what is their purpose?  Let’s start with Introversion vs. Extraversion.

Energy:

Where do we get energy?  According to Jung, one aspect of personality called the “attitudes”, are the psychological opposites Introversion and Extraversion.  In Jung’s typology, he believed that individuals gain their energy either from internal reflection and subjective experience (introversion) or from the outside world of people and the environment (extraversion).  These opposites interact with the “functions” of personality in gathering information and making decisions.  Together, they create a dynamic individualized way of experiencing and interacting with the world.

Information:human resources image

How do we gather information?  The four dichotomous “functions” of personality are Sensing vs. Intuition, and Feeling vs. Thinking.  Sensing types tend to focus their attention on concrete information obtained from using all five senses – touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell.  Intuiting types tend to focus their information gathering on the big picture inferred from the five senses.   They tend to abstract information and use imagination and concepts.

Decisions:

How do we make decisions?  Those who prefer Feeling vs. Thinking tend to be compassionate and value driven. They tend to use their energy and information in ways that promote harmony and practice empathy, considering the feelings of others in decision making.   Those who prefer Thinking tend to be analytical and objective in making decisions.  They take a step back from the situation and evaluate the facts.

“The four functions are somewhat like the four points of the compass; they are just as arbitrary and just as indispensable. Nothing prevents our shifting the cardinal points as many degrees as we like in one direction or the other, or giving them different names…but the one thing I must confess: I would not for anything dispense with this compass on my psychological voyages of discovery.”C.G. Jung, Psychological Types

Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers made Jung’s personality theory their life’s work in developing the most widely studied and used assessment of personality type.  It is called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  It is based on Jung’s eight patterns of personality type.  Briggs and Myers added another dimension to the theory to determine which of the opposites are dominant and also extraverted into the environment.  It is the Judging vs. Perceiving function.  It expanded the theory to 16 personality types, all of which explain the way we get energy, gather information, make decisions, and interact with the outside world.

Dealing with the outside world:Man shaking hand

People who prefer Judging tend to be structured, organized and plan ahead.  People who prefer Perceiving are more spontaneous, open ended, and comfortable with last minute changes. These combined with the other “functions” and “attitudes” determine which of the psychological processes is dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior – or are varying levels of consciousness and unconsciousness, and which is extraverted.  Together, they form the gestalt of the multi-faceted 16 types of personality.

ENTJ is an example of a personality type based on Jung’s theory and the MBTI assessment.  It means the “attitude” is Extraverted, the “functions” are “Intuiting” and “Thinking”, and the way one deals with the outside world is “Judging”. Jung emphasized that one type is not better or worse than another type.  It is different.  Understanding those differences benefits the user in many ways.

In plain terms, according to Isabel Briggs Myers, Introduction to Type, Sixth Edition, an ENTJ tends to be “frank, decisive, assume leadership readily.  Quickly see illogical and inefficient procedures and policies, develop and implement comprehensive systems to solve organizational problems.  Enjoy long-term planning and goal setting.  Usually well informed, well read, enjoy expanding their knowledge and passing it on to others. Forceful in presenting their ideas.”  

Knowing your type gives you the information you need to understand the way you interact with others and thus, the way others interact, too.  It sheds light on the best ways to listen, gather, share information, and accomplish your goals.  When enlightened with the knowledge of “what makes you tick”, you also gain insights into what makes others tick.  This is invaluable information across the roles you play at work, home, and in personal development.

Jung’s legacy continues on in corporate environments, marriage therapy, and life coaching – among those seeking to better understand and leverage their personality type. As a Certified MBTI Practitioner, I’ve witnessed the profound personal growth and positive change created through increased self awareness and acceptance discovered through this process.

 

 

“1st Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

“2nd Image courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

“3rd Image courtesy of stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Bitter Endings:  How to free yourself of lingering resentment

Fire IslandThat lingering resentment from things gone wrong is hard to shake. Whether a bad break up or sudden job loss caused the grief, it’s best to resolve it and move on. Holding onto stress has negative physical, neurological, and emotional consequences.  In a perfect world, we’d all get exactly what we want when we want it… always!   The hard truth is that unexpected set backs can and do occur along the pathway to happiness.  

Now that you’ve been snafu’d, how do you pick up the pieces and gracefully carry on? Muster the strength to let go of the negative feelings.  Shift your attention to the possibilities and positive potential.  It’s what you need to get back on track.  Here are a few tips for an internal tune-up to get your engine revving again.

Get real:  

Notice your experience of the situation.  How does it affect you?  What are your thoughts?  What are your feelings?  What’s happening in your body?  Instead of looking outward for a quick fix, look inward.  Be mindful.  Be centered, self aware, and gain clarity on the situation and your reaction.  Use that information to consider your next steps.  Don’t play the victim role.  Take the power back by responding in a way that truly benefits you in the short and long run.  What is the best case scenario?  How can you move closer to that outcome?  Take one small step today.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

Be a friend to yourself:

Catch your internal monologue in action! The way we think affects the way we feel.  Is your self-talk blaming, judging, or critical? Tap the breaks.  Slow those thoughts down. Try this – Practice saying those negative thoughts aloud at an awkwardly slow pace. Breathe. Notice how they lose intensity when stifled in speed.  Choose one negative statement and change a word or two to shift its meaning to a positive or neutral one. For example, if you’re saying, “I can’t do it”.  Change that statement to, “I CAN do it”. Say this positive statement slowly five times.  Breathe.  Notice the sense of relief that emerges.IMG_9687

Welcome wisdom:

Acknowledge and validate your feelings while searching for a nugget of wisdom. This too is a life lesson.  Your feelings are a natural result of the events that occurred and how you thought about them.  Even when events take an unfortunate turn, it is possible to find positivity and self growth in the experience. Through a process of self acceptance, good and bad, a letting-go of difficult feelings can occur. Allow them to be – the more you deny your feelings and “should” yourself, the more energy you give to the self defeating thoughts and feelings.  

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.” – Lao Tzu

Stop “shoulding” yourself:

Instead of blaming yourself, ask yourself what you could do better.  For example, your self talk would sound like this,  “It would be better if…”, instead of, “I shouldn’t have done that!”. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary!  It’s a closed, judging word that implies guilt or wrong doing.  It may be true that you made a mistake – but what’s important is how you address it. “Shoulding” yourself keeps you stuck. Nobody’s perfect. This new, “It would be better if…” statement acknowledges the blunder and turns it into a motivating statement for self improvement rather than blame and burden.

Notice and release tension:  

Take a few moments to be still.  Take three deep grounding breaths into the bottom of your belly and exhale completely.  Do a body scan, beginning at the top of your head and working down through your chest and torso, through your arms and legs, and to the tips of your fingers and toes.  Is there tension or discomfort anywhere?  Some people feel a tightening in their shoulders and neck, others feel a knot in their stomach, or a clenching of fists or jaw.  This is where we store anxiety and stress.  Practice simple breathing exercises for 5 minutes each day with special attention to relaxing and releasing those tense places.

Now – back to the terrible ex or the mean boss…  That resentment you’re holding onto is not benefiting you.  It may, in fact be damaging you.  It’s no secret that stress kills. It causes illness and compromises the immune system.  Do something nice for yourself, let it go. Spend time on fulfilling activities and interests. Practice a few of the above letting-go techniques. Remember that resentment is a choice – instead, choose peace. 

In the words of Buddha… “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”

Psychology Today: The Horror of Addiction

You found out that a loved one is addicted. You feel desperate, scared, and helpless.

Your family is in a state of shock. Nobody knows what to do. The media stories of overdoses, death, and failed attempts at recovery flood your mind. You’re terrified that your friend, brother, or wife will be the next statistic. Suddenly, nothing matters more than knowing your loved one is safe, healthy, and drug free.

We’ve all heard of tough love. What this means is being real about the situation. Confront the problem, and your loved one. If you’ve been enabling the drug abuse in any way, it’s time to stop. You may be unaware of the ways in which you’ve actually sustained the problem through your acts of love and kindness. You may have exercised patience, provided money, or looked the other way when behaviors seemed unusual. The process of addiction is a gradual one and can be unnoticed on a conscious level. Now that this information is unavoidable, do something different.

Deal With Denial:

Get treatment for your loved one. This requires willingness on the part of the addict to participate and invest in recovery. Often there is denial,anger, or blaming that occurs before an acceptance of the need for help. Stand your ground. Share your feelings about how the addiction has negatively impacted you and your relationship. Suggest that your loved one try substance abuse treatment for the sake of their own well being, and the well being of those who care for him.

Educate Yourself:

There are many levels of care and support in chemical dependency treatment. Find out about those. Begin with Detox, Rehabilitation, Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient Treatment, Outpatient Counseling, and finally AA/NA and Sponsors for support. Find providers of treatments that mesh with your loved one’s philosophies on life and spirituality, and recovery and well-being. 12 Step Programs are not the only game in town anymore. With a broadening spirituality in our culture, there are broadened approaches to recovery that are non-faith, non-religious, and empowerment based instead of disease based and the higher power model.

Get Support:

You need support too. Find a group to join. Al-Anon and Alateen groups provide “a program of recovery for the families and friends of alcoholics, whether or not the alcoholic recognizes the existence of a drinking problem or seeks help.” Start counseling to process the changes in your life as a result of the addiction. It affects entire family systems. You need to know how to adapt to create the most supportive environment for sustained recovery and recognize triggers and cues of potential relapse.

The Action Plan:

Encourage her to get evaluated and begin a program. Stay involved as much as she will allow. Often, treatment facilities have family activities that provide education and support. This eases the burden of uncertainty and shifts the focus from fear and anger to hope and understanding. Most of all, it reminds you that you are not alone. Many people suffer the consequences of addiction in this world of easy access prescription drugs, illicit drugs, and alcohol.

Keep Perspective:

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive, because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.”

Believe in a positive outcome and continue to hold your ground.