Facing the Dragon Together

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Bad things happen. We struggle. We feel pain. We need our loved one by our side. This is what Dr. Sue Johnson, Creator of Emotionally Focused Couple’s Therapy would call “Facing the Dragon Together”. As human beings this is one of the reasons we are wired for human connection and bonding, to get us through the tough times. As Dr. Johnson would say, “We are bonding mammals.” It is part of our survival system.

I had the opportunity to obtain some additional training with Dr. Johnson this last weekend in Austin. The focus was on Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy for Trauma Survivors. This kind of therapy focuses on adult attachment. As we are now learning, attachment and bonding is not just for children.  We all need a secure base of attachment with knowing someone is there for us and will respond with helping us to face the dragons we encounter.


Dr. Johnson’s acronym: ARE is helpful in looking at the key points of attachment.

ARE YOU THERE FOR ME?

  • Are you ACCESSIBLE? – Do I matter?
  • Are you RESPONSIVE? – Can I depend on you?
  • Are you ENGAGED?

What is NOT helpful when couples face internal or outside the relationship distress is DISCONNECTION. Isolation and withdrawal only fuels our panic and feelings of being over-whelmed. This leading to escalation of helplessness and more disconnection. This is a behavioral cycle that  make matters worse.

The dance of  “attunement, engagement, and responsiveness” leads us to the  “safe haven” we all need. Reaching out and taking a chance and engaging in a “dance of attachment” with our partner is what we need to “face our dragons together”.

When we experience fear, we need a place of safety. We need connection and comfort to sooth our anxiety.  This is what our secure attached relationship can provide.

We all have dragons to face at one time or another. Secure attachment to our partner protects us from trauma. Plus, we cannot forget the “healing power” of our relationships if we must face trauma. So take your partner’s hand and face your dragons together!

Source Material for this Blog Article: Facing the Dragon Together: EFT for Traumatized Couples. Presented by Dr. Sue Johnson. November 3-4, 2017 in Austin, TX.
Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

 

 

Five Strategies to Ease Anxiety Due to Ongoing Tragedy in Our World

Five Strategies to Ease Anxiety Due to Ongoing Tragedy in Our World

As I write this I think about another event in our country that has occurred leaving us all shaken and disturbed. The massacre in Las Vegas has affected us all and our feelings of safety. I woke up last night … Continue reading

“Letting in the Good” Even When Things Are Not Going As Planned

The Brown Couch at the Airport

We had just started our vacation and so happy about this time off to re-coop and spend some time with each other as a family.  As we were walking toward our gate at the airport we got a text from our airlines saying there was going to be a 3 hour delay. Not the way we envisioned the start of our trip. We were exhausted from a very busy week and the rush to get off and frankly it was a bit of a bummer.

I was thinking to myself “I really just need to lay down for a bit.” Had been planning on trying to sleep on the plane, which actually normally does not work out too well for me. But that was the plan. We went no more than around the corner and my husband spotted a brown leather couch straight ahead in a quiet spot away from the gate areas. A little closed coffee shop “oasis”. Perfect! We settled in. Of course I got the recline position with my husband being a wonderful pillow to lay up against. As I lay there I started thinking maybe this is what I needed – a place to lay down and rest as I probably would not have been able to really rest on the plane. We talked and were together in this unexpected time & place. It was actually really nice to cuddle up for a bit and catch up, without any pressing agenda. And take a little cat nap, feeling all safe and cozy up next to my husband in a quiet area.

As I truly let go and relaxed, I started noticing small things around me, a woman who was traveling with her little dog and it being given its own special water in a little bowl. The sweet little puppy dog prancing and excited about his water break. The lovely Indian Sculpture that was close to where we sat, had the late day sunlight streaming in across its features, creating a halo around it.

Right before we boarded our plane 3 hours later we were told that due to lateness and delay, we would need to spend the night in Seattle opposed to traveling on to our destination. Not in the plan. My first reaction, was “Another delay! What is going on here?” Well what was going on was a mechanical problem. I came to the decision to be grateful for not being on a plane that may have a safety issue and getting an unplanned bonus day trip into Seattle. We had at one point thought about doing this, so we ended up getting our original wish after all. So we boarded and I got out my favorite peppermint tea and enjoyed the night lights from above. Don’t see those everyday.

The “good stuff” is all around us, even when it does not come on our time-table or in the package we might envision it in. Or unfold in the way we planned.  We just have to be open to seeing the good and letting it into our very imperfect, human lives.  

 

Tanna at Fairbanks Botaninal Garden August 2017 off the path by some blue flowers

 

Here I am a little bit off the path checking out some of the beautiful flowers around me on my  vacation.  Was it a “perfect vacation”. No. More delays on the way back, but you know we had lots of “good things” to happen. Some of those unexpected and just as powerful as the planned ones. Here is to stepping off the path and making your own happiness in whatever the circumstances.   

 

Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

 

Less Serious, More Playful

Less Serious, More Playful

Feel like your life is one endless stream of “to do” tasks? All work, no play. You can go through your life seriously “serious” all the time. I have to admit I tend to run this way, full of purpose … Continue reading

One Strategy to Recapture Your Calm & Focus on What You Do Want

One Strategy to Recapture Your Calm & Focus on What You Do Want

We all have been there. Too much to do. Too much to manage. Too much overwhelm. Just simply too much! There are lots of things we can to do work on these issues. Sometimes due to circumstances we have to … Continue reading

“Lean Into” More Happy Feelings

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After you have done some processing of your upset feelings, consider “leaning into” your more happy feelings.  I am not talking about disconnecting or not acknowledging your upset feelings. Your emotions are your guides to telling you that you need to attend to and work through something. But after you have processed your feelings, it can be healthy to begin to choose to not let the issues of life steal your joy, to begin the process of “leaning into” your happiness.

What does it mean to be “lean into” your happiness?

  1. It means to move past what is “not going right” in your life.
  2. It means to face each day with an expectation that it is going to be a good one.
  3. It means to focus on the good that is in your life.
  4. It means to live in “the present moments of your life”, finding the happy that is right there in front of you.
  5. It means to fly above the muck below, letting in your happy feelings.

Again this is not to say you should ignore your upset feelings. It is more about moving through to what is good in your life. It is good for you to allow your sad or angry or upset feelings to come up to explore and decide what you want to do with them. You can decide.  You get to choose what you do next. “What do I want to do with these feelings? Do I need to take some kind of action or no? What will make me feel better?” And then going with it.

At some point it is up to you to decide what you can do to feel better and to “lean into” the more happy feelings that reside within you.

It is a bit of a two-sided coin, this balancing of acknowledging your feelings and processing them AND the moving to a more happy place that is inside of you.  It is really about being respectful of all your feelings and caring about yourself enough to move to place where there is more happy, peaceful feelings. It is possible to have both going on within your self. You can be in a grieving process or have been hurt badly and still allow for joy to express it self. You can take a break from your upset and let more happy feelings come into your life.  And at some point you can decide to let go completely of the upset. So “LEAN INTO” more happy today!

Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

How to Create What YOU Really Want for the Holidays Ahead

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I cannot believe I am writing a blog post on this, but it has already began – the thinking, the obsessing, the worrying, the planning, the stressing about the holidays ahead. The four upcoming holidays can feel like they all merge together into one massive overwhelm. It can be hard to separate them out. But of course it does not have to be that way. I want to share some ideas on creating holidays that are truly what YOU want. And now is the time to contemplate all of this – at the beginning of this time frame.

It is so easy to get caught up in it all and end up doing things you may not really want to do. Or to sometimes not really plan and end up not doing what you really want to do with your holiday time. So here are some ideas to consider.

 Questions you might ask yourself about the upcoming holidays that may help you be the true “creator” of  YOUR  holidays:

  1. What would my perfect holiday times look like? What would I be doing? Who would I be with? Ex. – For some it may mean enjoying time with loved ones. or slowing down to enjoy a special what ever it might be.
  2. What does each holiday really mean to me? Or what do I want it to mean to me? Ex. –  One family may say it is a time to reflect on what we are really thankful for?
  3. Does what I do reflect what I want my holiday to look like and be about? Ex. – Yes and No. Maybe yes we spend time together. But no there is too much competition with iPhones, video games, etc.
  4. What are my most favorite memories of past holidays? What was I doing? Ex.- One child may say when we had the snow ball fight in the front yard. Dad may say, when we went out looking at holiday lights and had hot chocolate after. Mom may say when we all made a holiday meal together.
  5. What are my most un-favorite memories and what can I do to avoid these from happening again? Ex. – This might be for some – the stressing and rushing and overwhelm.
  6. Do my holidays all merge together without a real feel of truly enjoying each one for what they are? A very good question, are we really mindfully enjoying each holiday?

Develop a Flexible Plan That Fits You and Your Family

  • Meet together as a couple or a family to talk about some of the above questions.
  • Decide together (or for yourself if you are single) what your main goals for the holiday are. Is it to relax? To be with family? Enjoy special holiday activities? Celebrate a particular religious belief? A mix?
  • As a couple or family you can put together a flexible plan of the kinds of things you want to do and begin gradually to work toward this.  Incorporating everyone’s ideas is very important if you are in a family or as a couple.
  • Keep in mind that too much will feel overwhelming for most people and that thoughtful choices are a much better route to go. It is not so much about how much you can pack in, but incorporating what you most want to do and really taking time to ENJOY it.
  • Try to stay open and flexible as plans shift and change as they will at times. Knowing you can be happy even if things do not happen exactly as planned.

My hope for you and your family is that you create what you most want and desire. Happy Holidays to you and your family!  holly-leaf-small


Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

Being Open to the Unexpected Good that is All Around You

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I think when you leave a space within yourself to be open to “unexpected blessings’ or the variety of ways good can come into your life, you increase your chances of not missing out on the “good stuff”.  It is so easy to get down and discouraged. But when you keep a place open for unexpected good to come in, you have a much better chance of new and varied ways for happiness to evolve.  I know personally that when I take time to train my mind in the direction of the good stuff, I get more of it. And secondly, when I let go of the need for something to happen in a specific way, I open myself to a much wider array of positive possibilities.  This is true, even if it is not exactly the way I had “planned” or first desired it to happen.  This opens up space for more happiness.

 Here are a few concrete strategies to help with keeping open to the unexpected “good stuff” that we all so want in our lives.

1.  Start your day with “expecting the good” and that it may come in unexpected packages. You may be thinking “How do I do that?” That may be different for different folks. Some possible ways may include:

  • Before you get out of bed, take a few moments to tell yourself that you are expecting “good things” to happen today and that they may come in unexpected ways or forms and the you are open to them. You can even offer thanks for the “unexpected blessings” to come.
  • Say a few affirmations to yourself as you prepare for your day. This may be as you put your make up on or put your clothes on for the day. Or it may be as you eat your breakfast or do your daily morning walk, etc. This is just simply internal self talk of the good things you are expecting with acknowledgment that they may come in a form that you expect or envision.
  • Write down a few thoughts about the good you expect for the day ahead and add to that list that you know they may come in surprising and unexpected ways and that you are open to that. Add in a word of thankfulness for all the good and expected blessings that will appear for you in your day ahead.

2.  Be on the “lookout” for the good and unexpected to happen in your day as it unfolds. When you LOOK, you FIND. It is your focus that gets you where you want to go.

3.  Be thankful for the good and the “unexpected” that does occur in your day. Take a moment to be thankful in “real-time” as these positive things happen in your life.  Let this feeling “sink in” and bask in the glow of this goodness.  You can also end your day recounting all the good that has happened that day, which would include unexpected positive things that occurred  in a journal or just mentally thinking about them at the end of the day.

So be on the look out for all the GOOD, which includes the UNEXPECTED FORMS OF GOOD that will come into your life each and ever day. You will be glad you did!

Best Wishes,

Tanna

 

Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

 

 

 

ACT Limit Setting for Children

I love the ACT Therapeutic Limit Setting method for children. This is a wonderfully positive and helps children to begin to develop self-discipline. This is what we ultimately want for our children – to be able to regulate their emotions and behavior; in addition, being able to set healthy boundaries for themselves and others. That is what I feel this kind of limit setting model can do for those who use it consistently.  I had an opportunity to present to a group of therapists last week and part of this training was presenting this model to them.  It is simple, but effective.  I find it to be respectful of children and gives parents the needed skills to set healthy limits with their children.

Here are the Basics for the ACT Therapeutic Limit Setting, which were developed by Dr. Garry Landreth, University of North Texas and author of  “The Art of the Relationship” and co-founder of Child Parent Relationship Therapy.

ACT Limit Setting 

  1. Acknowledge the Feeling – Example: “I know you want to eat some cookies right now. You are hungry and you like cookies.
  2. Communicate the Limit – Example: “It is almost time for supper. Cookies are for after supper.
  3. Target the Alternative – Example: “You can have some carrot sticks or you can help me set the napkins on the dinner table.”

This is simple, but effective. Part of making it effective is REALLY listening to your child and reflecting what they are feeling. And then respectfully letting them know the boundary, with a follow-up of “what they can do”. This last part is so important in giving the child something to move toward that is acceptable.

You might ask what do you do when the child will not comply? You can first repeat what you initially said. Some choose to repeat this a couple of times, with a bit a space in between the information giving. If there is still no movement toward what is needed, you can then make the choice for the child or follow-up with a natural consequence. With the child in the above example you might simply put the cookies up high out of reach or ask that they go to another part of the home as they are getting into things that are off-limits. Of course standing by the limit you have set is important as well. This all said in a calm, matter of fact voice is best.

For more information about this method you can go to Dr. Garry Landreth’s book “The Art of the Relationship”.

I highly recommend the following video on the ACT Model of Therapeutic Limit Setting. This video is done by Dr. Theresa Kellam. She is one of the co-authors of the Treatment Manual for Child Parent Relationship Therapy. This video is of her own personal experience with her own child when she first learned this method of limit setting and what happened afterwards with her child as she grew older.

www.youtube.com     Go to: ACT Limit Setting by drkellam.

I encourage you to try this model of limit setting. I think it is a healthy interaction in helping children to learn to self regulate and in learning how to accept and set boundaries themselves when needed.

 

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Here I am presenting a workshop on Family Play Therapy, in which I cover ACT Therapeutic Limit Setting.

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Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact a local mental health professional . Strom Individual & Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.

 

How to Set Healthy, Respectful Boundaries

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Do you need to set some boundaries with someone and not sure how to do it without being offensive? I wanted to share some thoughts on boundary setting and how to do it in a healthy way. For many folks boundary setting is not easy. We all want to be loved or we want to protect our relationships. Setting a boundary can feel scary as we may worry about any upset that it may cause. Setting a boundary or limit or saying no can come off abrupt and sharp or it can be done in a way that is respectful and non offensive.

Boundary setting is something that can apply to lots of different kinds of situations. This is intended to share information in regard to the general idea of healthy, respectful boundaries for all relationships. And among that sometimes it may not be a relationship but a situation that is occurring.

If you care about yourself and want to do good self-care, boundary setting will be a necessary interaction that you will need to engage in from time to time or quite frequently depending on those you are in contact with. Here are my thoughts on setting healthy, respectful boundaries.

Healthy Boundary Setting

  1. Let’s first look at what Boundary Setting is. This is about self-protection and good self-care for your self OR if you are a parent setting a boundary with a child or teen, it may be about protecting them and caring about their well-being. Respecting and standing up for yourself is a part of boundary setting. Healthy boundary setting is also about being respectful of those you are setting a boundary with.
  2. What is the difference between Offensive Boundary Setting and Healthy Boundary Setting? Offensive boundary setting may come off as harsh or uncaring. Healthy boundary setting will be aiming toward a respectful dialog and a healthy relationship.  Examples – Talking to your spouse: “I know you are upset with me, but I need you to tell me in a softer voice and without yelling” OR  Talking to your teen: “I know you like talking to your friends late at night, but our family rule is no cell phones after 10:00 pm.”
  3. Healthy boundary setting involves you deciding what is best for you or as a parent of children at home for your children.  It is about being in touch with your feelings and honoring what feels right to you. If someone is doing something that feels hurtful or abusive, then setting limits of how you are willing to interact is important. You cannot control another person, but you can choose to step away or disengage from someone who is being hurtful or disrespectful in an adult relationship.
  4.  Arrange a time to talk with the person you need to have a conversation with that is a mutually good time. Or it may be that you need to have this conversation as the need arises in a more natural consequential way. 
  5. Take some deep breaths and center yourself before you embark on a conversation about boundaries.
  6. When having a boundary setting conversation, start with letting the person know you desire a good relationship (if this is part of the issue) or that you need to let the person know your feelings on something. 
  7. You can acknowledge the other person’s needs or feelings first before begin to express your own.
  8. Use respectful language about your feelings and what you can and cannot do, keeping your voice calm and using a low tone.  You can ask for what you need. The important thing is that you express your feelings and needs. The person you are engaged with may or may not be willing to accommodate you. If not then you will need to decide what you need to do. This is not in retaliation, but in the stance of good self-care and respect for yourself.
  9. Stand your ground and keep with what you feel is best for you. Do reiterate if your boundaries are pushed again or if your initial request was ignored. But at the same time don’t push it in someone’s face if they are cooperating with you.
  10. Feel good about your self growth of being able to stand up for your self.

Boundary setting will involve you having a healthy self-esteem, knowing that you matter and how others treat you matters. It also involves having courage to have a potentially hard conversation with another. I  recently read one of Rick Hanson’s articles in which he talked of “speaking from the heart”. That is really what we are talking about here – speaking from your heart and letting the real you express what is needed to be said to help you feel better.

Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact a local mental health professional. Strom Individual & Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action  you take in regard to this article.