I’m Resisting By Reducing My Fees

I am reeling as I know many of you are from the vitriol and lack of concern for vulnerable populations this administration has shown. I’ve felt so many things over the last few months. I think the most painful has been a sense of helplessness.

 

But, to paraphrase Jefferson Smith, helplessness is just another word for giving up and so I have thought and thought how I might use my gifts and strengths to resist. There are so many places where it matters that we show up now. We must show up in support of what we believe in and we must show up as a part of this democracy. I am becoming far more politically active than I ever was before and that feels good and right. But I want to do more.

 

I know the difference therapy can make in our lives. It makes us healthier, it gives us the power and the strength to use our voices. It heals us from whatever wounds keep us from being what we are meant to me. We need more of this. It is only when we learn to have compassion for ourselves that we can gather the strength we need to fight the battle we are in.

 

So, in an effort to help more people I am decreasing my fees. I am ending my relationship with managed care so that I am free to lower these fees for all of my clients. Starting today, a 50 minute session fee is changing from $100 to $75, an 80 minute session is changing from $150 to $120.

 

If cost is still an issue, please know that I will work with you regarding how often we meet. I work with some clients weekly, others every other week or once every three weeks. Still others pop in for a session every few months. We will work around whatever works best for you.

If this still feels out of range for you, please contact me anyway. There are resources available in our community and I can help you find the right fit.

When You Feel Alone

We’re facing a new chapter in this country and many of us are feeling less safe, less supported and more fearful. Unfortunately, this external threat magnifies the pain and vulnerability that go along with any internal struggle we may be facing.

Whether you are struggling with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, relationship troubles, parenting challenges, gender identity, issues around sexuality or self esteem, you are not alone. And now, more than ever, is the time to reach out. Our struggles often feel so personal and raw that we retreat inward. We nurse our wounds as best we can never recognizing that the key to healing is coming out into the light.open-hands-clipart-canstock5272365

I want to gently encourage you to reach out if you are hurting. There are people all around you who want to help. Whatever issues you are facing, I can guarantee that someone else has been there and come out stronger, healthier and happier on the other side. It is our experiences of hurting, struggling and making it through that allow us to extend a hand to help someone going through it all just behind us.

There are organizations that support the issues I listed, and many others that support the ones I haven’t listed. Here are a few:

Texas Parent 2 Parent (a list of resources for parents and caregivers of children with a chronic illness, disability of special need http://www.txp2p.org/resources/

Warm Line (a free phone service available to parents and caregivers 9 am to 3 pm. Volunteers are available to provide friendly support, helpful suggestions, resources and developmental facts) http://www.dallasparents.org/warmline.html

DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) Online support groups http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=peer_Online_Support_Groups

Youth First Texas (providing group interaction and individual support for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning youth) http://www.youthfirsttexas.com/index.html

Renee Baker, LPC, (list of a variety of Trans Organizations in Dallas) http://www.renee-baker.com/transgender-counseling-dallas/transgender-group/

You may also find individual or relationship counseling helpful. Counseling provides a safe place and a safe partner to explore the issues that are keeping you from having the life you want.

If you are looking for counseling fees set on a sliding scale, the University of North Texas Dallas campus has an excellent counseling clinic available to the public, http://www.untdallas.edu/ccc. They provide individual, couples and adolescent counseling as well as play therapy. Evening hours are available.

Please let me know how I can help.

On Emotional Boundaries and Gated Communities

aviara-point

Emotional boundaries are limits that keep us safe. They represent the bottom line of what we will and will not accept or do.

 

Healthy emotional boundaries keep us mindful of our responsibility to ourselves and keep us from feeling responsible for others’ feelings.

 

They let us know who we should let in (and just how far) and who we should keep out.

 

It can be difficult to envision healthy emotional boundaries, so I like to think of them as different barriers within a gated community.

 

Imagine yourself living in a beautiful and well protected gated community. You live in a warm and cozy house. This is the place you feel safest. The people you invite into your emotional home are the people you most enjoy. They love you and you love them. When you’re with them you feel good, accepted and understood.

 

The next boundary in your neighborhood is your front porch. Imagine yourself greeting someone at the door of your home. You close the door behind you and  invite them to visit with you in a space on your front porch. This space feels less vulnerable and open than your home.

 

 This space may be reserved for people you don’t know well. Or people who have a tendency toward the negative. These people may be more critical or judgmental than the people you invite into your home. They may use manipulation and guilt to get from you what they want. By keeping them outside your home, you stay more cognizant of your boundaries and aware of red flags that may come up as you interact.

 

Now, you take a short walk to the perimeter of your neighborhood. You wave to the security guard and she opens the gate for you. You greet your next visitor warmly but with reserve. You know this person. She seems to really care for you, and yet, you always feel bad after spending time with her. So you talk with her for a bit, keeping the conversation light and superficial. She hints that she would like to visit you in your home, or at least your front porch. But you know better.

 

You hold your boundary politely, but firmly. You are actively guarding against manipulation, shaming, guilting and blame in this interaction. This comes quite naturally to you here at the gate.  You are conscious of your feelings, your communication and what you choose to own in this interaction.

 

The next day, you are having coffee and reading the paper when your security guard buzzes you. There is someone here to see you. It’s someone you know well. In fact, you have a long history together. This person has been abusive to you. You’ve attempted to share your feelings with this person before. You’ve tried to let them know what it was like for you to be abused by someone you loved and trusted. This did not go well. This person became angry and blamed you for the abuse.

 

You recall your experiences with this person and inform the security guard that you are not taking visitors today. Your security guard shares this information with your visitor and you go on with your coffee and paper.

 

Guilt begins to creep in. Maybe this person only wants to talk with you, or apologize even. But you remind yourself that you are responsible for protecting yourself emotionally and you are not responsible for the emotional well being of your visitor. You choose to focus on enjoying your coffee and the paper.

 

There may be times when you find you’ve let someone in closer than you would like. Or perhaps you haven’t let someone in as much as you would like to. That’s okay. Each day is a new opportunity to be intentional in setting your emotional boundaries. Remember that it’s your neighborhood and you get to choose the limits and boundaries that feel best for you. Learn more about healthy boundaries here.

Balancing the Wheel of Life

Know yourself to improve yourself. ~Auguste Comte

Too often we find ourselves unhappy with an area of our lives but unsure of how to improve it. Or maybe we have some ideas, but implementing them feels overwhelming.

The Wheel of Life can help. It is a coaching tool for understanding which areas of your life are most fulfilling and which areas are lacking. Once you assess these areas you can begin to implement small changes that move the different areas of your life into balance.

The Wheel of Life Exercise

  • First, draw a large circle on a sheet of paper. Divide it into 8 sections: career, romance/significant other, family and friends, physical environment, health, growth, money, fun/recreation. Rate your level of satisfaction in each area: 0 is the center of the circle, 10 is the outer edge of the circle. Once you marked your rating in each section, connect the dots to make a new inner circle. What does this new circle look like? Where are you most satisfied? Least satisfied?

  • Brainstorm several ideas for increasing your satisfaction in areas that are lacking. Do not edit your answers no matter how far-fetched they may seem. Editing is the next step, for now, just let the ideas roll.

  • Editing: Pick one idea from your brainstorming exercise for each section that is less than a 10 in satisfaction. Start small. Small changes are easiest to maintain and build your confidence. Write down a plan for implementing this strategy this week. Make it specific and measurable.

  • Assess: At the end of the week, think about how well each strategy worked for you. If it’s working, kudos! Keep up the good work! If not, go back to your brainstorming activity and pick another strategy. Implement this strategy this week and repeat.

  • Go easy on yourself. Remember that this is a process. It may take some time to find and implement the right strategy for improving your satisfaction. That’s okay. Every exercise you try teaches you something about yourself and what works (or doesn’t) for you.

If your are struggling to come up with ideas for improving your satisfaction, check out these resources:

I do this exercise at least once a year and I am often surprised by the results. Were there any surprises for you?

 

Picture credit: Ferris wheel:praram via photopin cc

Small Changes Lasting Results

People think that you have to do something huge, like go to Africa and build a school, but you can make a small change in a day. If you change Wednesday, then you change Thursday. Pretty soon it’s a week, then a month, then a year. It’s bite-size, as opposed to feeling like you have to turn your life inside out to make changes.~Hoda Kotb

Want to feel better, strengthen your relationship,  build your self esteem, lose weight, increase your fitness, eat healthier or give more generously? There’s a small change for that.

Small changes are the most effective changes. Radical changes are difficult to maintain and often leave us disappointed and discouraged.

I have been a faithful follower of Leo Babauta and Courtney Carver for years. Both of these bloggers have achieved amazing life goals one small change at a time. You can learn more about their journeys at their respective sites, Zen Habits  and Be More With Less.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on your own small change path:

Increase Your Physical Health

If you are not regularly exercising at the moment, add 5 minutes of walking to your day. Just 5 minutes. The reward is not so much the physical change (for now), it’s the difference in your emotional state. You are spending 5 minutes of this precious day doing something for you. Get some fresh air. Use the 5 minutes to listen to a song you love, or to think of what you are most grateful for today. If you find yourself wanting to walk further, great! But there should be no pressure to do so. At the end of a week,  add another 5 minutes.

If you are a regular exerciser, think about your motivation. Are you exercising because you enjoy it or is there an element of self-punishment or the elusive pursuit of perfection involved? Re-frame your workouts as time for nurturing yourself. Make a point tuning into your self-talk. No discouraging or harsh words allowed. Support and encourage yourself as you would a beloved friend.

Looking for an easy way to improve your diet? Drink a smoothie for breakfast. Better yet, make it a green smoothie. Angela Liddon has a wonderful post (with recipes) on how green smoothies helped change her life.

Improve Your Emotional Well-being

Journal. It needn’t be anything fancy. It doesn’t even half to be complete sentences. Just grab a notebook or a journal and write down 5 things you’re grateful for everyday. This simple exercise can change your outlook significantly.

Limit your exposure to social media. Be mindful of the time you spend there and what you are feeling. It’s so easy to compare our inside’s to others’ outsides. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

Limit your exposure to other forms of media as well. 24 hour news, reality TV, crime shows. Much of what is available for our consumption is negative. Pick what you really enjoy and turn off the rest.

Strengthen Your Relationship

Eliminate the words “always” and “never” when you are communicating your needs or frustrations with your partner. These modifiers are rarely true and can put your partner on the defensive making it more difficult for her/him to really listen. Limit your discussion to the specific thing you are upset about. Your partner will feel less overwhelmed and attacked and you will likely get a more empathic response.

Remember what you love about your partner. Keeping the good in the forefront of your mind, especially when you’re frustrated or angry can help you keep things in perspective and reduce conflict.

Give Back

Nonprofit Tech for Good lists 29 online stores for various nonprofits. Products range from handmade soaps, bags, jewelry and home accessories to toys, children’s books and pet items.

 Nonprofit Shopping Mall lets you choose a charity and donate a portion of your purchase from dozens of big name online retailers.

The organizations listed above make giving back incredibly simple. There are many other organizations like these. You can find the top 100 nonprofits on the web at www.topnonprofits.com.

Flexibility and Change

The most important part in incorporating these changes is building in flexibility. Sometimes you won’t walk for five minutes. Some mornings you’ll have donuts instead of a smoothie. Sometimes you’ll say “always” or “never” (or both!). This is okay. Expect that there will be times when your plan falls apart. Just pick back up the next day, or the day after that and move toward your goals with small, steady steps.

I would love to hear from you! What other small changes would you add? How do you feel about small v. big changes?

The Art of Reappearing

I stand here waiting. To disappear or sing. ~Francesca Lia Block

There’s a tragic trick that some of us mastered as children. We learned to disappear.

We made ourselves, our feelings, our needs and our desires invisible  to save ourselves. We did it to keep peace in the home and to make ourselves less of a target. We did it to appear self sufficient so that we would be less of a burden to the ones we loved.

As children in our families of origin, this disappearing act was adaptive. It helped us survive.

The trouble with this response in our adult lives is that it no longer serves the purpose. As adults, we have far more control over our actions, our reactions and how we choose to show up in our own lives.

When we disappear, we shortchange ourselves and everyone around us.

Disappearing takes many different forms. All of them are destructive to us and our relationships with others. We may disappear by:

  • Refusing to take care of ourselves because we only find value in caring for others

  • Keeping quiet when we have something to say

  • Ignoring or suppressing our feelings because they are not convenient

  • Filling up our time with commitments and distractions so that we never have to really feel our feelings

  • Telling ourselves that honoring, valuing and loving ourselves as much as we do others is selfish

  • Allowing ourselves to be mistreated by others

  • Refusing to set boundaries

  • Anticipating the needs of others and expecting the same from them

Reappearing is not easy. In fact, it can feel really uncomfortable. We are asking ourselves to let go of a deeply ingrained way of being and to embrace something new. As with all change, small steps work best.

We can begin to reappear in our lives by

  • connecting to what we feel, when we feel it. Try journaling or talking with a trusted friend about what you are feeling at any given moment. Examine your day, what stands out for you and how did you feel in each instance?

  • setting boundaries. Boundaries are a challenge for many of us. Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin by Ann Katherine is an excellent resource. This article can be helpful in learning more about boundaries and their significance.

  • remembering the analogy of the oxygen mask on the plane. We cannot care for others without first caring for ourselves.

  • asking for what we need. Out loud. And giving others permission to do the same. We are not mind readers and neither are our loved ones. Love doesn’t mean anticipating every need. Love requires an open, honest dialogue.

  • speaking up when we have something to share. What we connect to in others is their authenticity and their willingness to be vulnerable. When we bring these qualities to our relationships we invite a deeper connection.

  • keeping a margin. Eliminating some of the distraction and commitments in our lives frees up physical and emotional space. This quiet time can be scary so fill it with things you love. Reading, hot baths, yoga, a chat with a friend or a walk around the block.

  • finding as much value in caring for ourselves as we find in caring for others.

How will you reappear in your own life? What feelings do you have around self care?

Picture Credit: Francesca Lia Block: veritatem via photopin cc

Fighting Depression: You Are Not Alone

That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key. ~Elizabeth Wurtzel

Depression is a quiet thief. It steals into one’s life and takes away so much: energy, joy, productivity, relationships, even lives.

According to the Centers of Disease Control, 1 in 10 Americans suffer from depression.

Of those affected, only 20% will seek treatment.

This statistic is heartbreaking because, for most people, depression is treatable.

If you are experiencing depression, please know that you are not alone.

Depression is especially challenging because it can sap your motivation to get better. Reaching out for help can feel almost impossible. But I encourage you to do just that. Talk with someone, tell them you are struggling. Ask for help. Ask a loved one to help you find the right resource for you. It may take a couple of tries to find a good fit, but once you do, you will begin to take back your life.

Common symptoms of depression can include

  • change in eating patterns, weight gain or weight loss

  • loss of pleasure in formerly enjoyable activities

  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

  • fatigue and decreased energy

  • sleeplessness or sleeping too much

  • irritability

  • feelings of worthlessness, helplessness or guilt

  • persistent anxious, sad or empty feelings

The most common treatments for depression are psychotherapy and medication. We are beginning to understand the link between nutrition, exercise and depression as well. Following a whole foods eating plan and including 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days each week has been found to be as effective as an antidepressant in treating moderate level depression

Psychotherapy is often the first recommended method of treatment. Therapy can help treat depression by addressing the root of the problem and by providing

  • a supportive, encouraging and accepting environment

  • help sorting through the life events and problems that have contributed to the depression and how to heal or change some of these for the better

  • coping skills

  • restructuring of negative or critical thoughts that increase symptoms of depression

  • increased self-esteem and self acceptance

  • a feeling of control over one’s life

Medication has it’s place and can often provide enough of a boost in mood to allow one to work through the issues or problems that triggered the depression. For people who’ve experienced two or more episodes of major depression, staying on medication for the long term may be recommended.

You don’t have to fight depression alone. Help is available. If you or someone you love is suffering with depression take a look at the resources listed below. If you have questions about finding the right help for you, email me, thlaxson@gmail.com. You are not alone.

The Importance of Insight

He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened. ~Lao Tzu

I worked with a woman who struggled to create a close relationship with her partner. She grew up with a single mom and little contact with her father. She felt neglected and alone as a child. She vowed that as an adult, she would have the family she longed for. She knew what she wanted, she could envision the relationship she desired with her husband, and yet, she could not seem to create it. She felt disconnected and lonely.

Our work together took her through her early experiences and the mistaken beliefs she internalized as a child about herself and others. She learnt in her family of origin that relying on others is risky. She became versed in hiding her feelings to keep from being a burden. These beliefs and skills insured her emotional survival as a child. As an adult they kept her from connecting to her husband.

When she began to understand these mistaken beliefs and where they came from, her life began to change. Rather than simply reacting, she began to question her thoughts, feelings and behaviors. She became intentional.

When we understand our mistaken beliefs, we take back our power. We begin to understand that we can choose to question the script that runs through our minds and in doing so change the way we interact with ourselves and others.

There are many ways to get to know yourself better. If time is an issue, try setting aside just a few minutes each day to work on one of the following suggestions. Start with the one that resonates most with you.

  • Write your life story as a fairy tale with yourself as the hero/heroine.
  • Create a collage. Gather old magazines and a large piece of paper, cut out whatever appeals to you and attach to your paper. Journal about what you picked and why.
  • Write a letter to your younger self.
  • Create a timeline of your life.
  • Record your dreams.
  • Write down what you value most in your life and why: examples could include autonomy, independence, relationships/family, health/wellness, physical attractiveness, helping others, creating, financial security, travel
  • Meditate. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits offers a great guide to getting started here.
  • Consider the types of stories (art, books, blogs, shows, music) you are drawn to. What about them appeals to you?
  • Therapy can be an important part of the process if you are feeling stuck or unsure of how to create what you want in your life. You can learn more about finding the right therapist for you here.

*Sometimes exploring who you are brings up painful memories of trauma or abuse. If this happens to you, it can be overwhelming. You may require help to get through it. Look to a therapist, spiritual adviser or other trusted professional for help.

Let today be the beginning of your journey. I would love to hear from you. Music can be an especially powerful link to the unconscious. What kind of music do you really connect with? What feelings come up when you listen?

Let in the Light

Myths which are believed in tend to become true. ~George Orwell

Insight shines light on why we do what we do. If you have ever felt stuck, or that what you want is just out of reach, insight can help.

We often have no problem thinking of what we want to be different in our lives. Better relationships, more intimacy, a successful career, financial stability, peace and contentment. The struggle is making it happen.

Insight allows us to understand ourselves . When we understand what we believe about ourselves, others and our world, we are freed to change our paths.

Our beliefs are shaped by our caregivers and environment in our earliest years. These beliefs reside just below the surface yet they are powerful predictors of our behavior. Whatever we believe about ourselves becomes our truth.

The problem with this is that we often internalize beliefs that are untrue and destructive.

When we are young, we have very little frame of reference. We believe we cause both the good and the bad in our lives. When caregivers struggle to provide what we need, we assume this is because we somehow fall short.

We accept these beliefs as truth and it is through this lens that we view our potential, our relationships and our ability to have what we most desire.

Common mistaken beliefs include:

“I’m not worthy of love or acceptance unless I’m achieving, doing for others or sacrificing myself.”

“If I express my needs or desires in a relationship, I risk rejection. It’s safer to pretend I don’t have them.”

“I must always be stoic, if I express uncomfortable emotions, I am a burden to others.”

“I am responsible for keeping the feelings of the people around me upbeat. If they feel sad, angry or hurt, I have failed.”

When we gain insight into our mistaken beliefs and where they come from, we understand ourselves better. We begin to understand the circumstances that led to our perception of ourselves. We better understand how our caregivers’ struggles have influenced this perception.

When we understand these things, we can accept ourselves as human. Flawed but worthy. This is a powerful step. When we understand and accept ourselves, we become far more accepting of others. This strengthens our relationships and allows for authenticity, peace and nurturing.

Insight can come from many places. It often arises from our connection to someone else’s story. We see ourselves reflected in another’s journey or struggle and we understand ourselves a little better. This can happen when we listen to a friend or family member, when we watch movies, read books and listen to music that speaks to us.

Journaling is an excellent place to find insight. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or eloquent. Simply writing down what you’re feeling throughout the day is a great place to start.

Counseling is one of the most effective places to find insight. In fact, counseling is all about insight. It’s about figuring out what’s working, what’s not working and letting go of what’s holding you back.

What are your thoughts on insight and how it occurs? 

Boundaries and Intimacy

“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” -~Sam Keen

The Webster dictionary defines boundaries as “A line that marks the limits of an area.” Boundaries are limits. But in relationships boundaries set you free.

Emotional boundaries define what we need for ourselves and from our partners. We share the limits that help us feel safe, loved and protected. Boundaries are the foundation of emotional intimacy.

Each of us comes to our relationship with a unique set of experiences, interpretations and beliefs about the world that signal to us what feels safe and what feels threatening.

When you hold back from setting boundaries essentially what you’re saying is, “I’ll keep my needs, limits, feelings and desires to myself to keep you here/happy/in love with me.” This can’t help but backfire. When you hide what you need or assume your partner would know if s/he really loved you, you grow resentful. You may carry on for a while pretending you’re not hurt, but eventually you blow up. The pattern repeats and before you know it you have convinced yourself that your partner really doesn’t love you, or at least not enough.

This is not to say that stating your boundaries ensures they’re never crossed. We are all human and we inadvertently (and sometimes intentionally) tread on each other’s boundaries. But stating them out loud in a respectful way helps your partner knows what’s really important to you.

In healthy relationships, boundaries are welcome. You want to support, encourage and nurture each other. You strive to respect your partner’s unique self, boundaries and all.

Thank you for reading! If you found this post helpful you can subscribe here and connect with me on twitter.