Archive for Learning Life Skills
Therapy can be a vital part of healing. To get even more benefit from your therapy experience, consider adding one or all of these 10 practices to your life:
- Physical self-care. A healthy diet helps you clarify your thinking and be more present in therapy. Exercise helps relieve mild to moderate depression so that you can confront challenging issues.
- Meditation. Sitting with your thoughts can increase your capacity for insight and self-awareness.
- Support groups. Groups provide continuity between sessions and often help clarify your issues.
- Bodywork. Treatments such as massage and Reiki can bring to consciousness buried feelings and traumas stored in the body.
- Artistic/creative pursuits. These soul-nourishing activities promote healing by opening access to wiser places inside.
- Dream tracking. Dreams bring up unconscious or semiconscious material that you and your therapist can work with.
- Affirmations/positive self-talk. Such practices can boost your self-esteem and the confidence you’ll need to confront issues.
- Relevant reading. Books and articles provide context for the work you’re doing with your therapist.
- Volunteering. Helping others who are struggling can increase your compassion for and tolerance of your own struggles.
- Time in nature. Being in nature can bring a sense of peace and appreciation that promotes healing.
“There are no classes in life for beginners,” wrote poet Rainer Maria Rilke. “Right away you are always asked to deal with what is most difficult.”
Saying the hard thing can be one of the most difficult things we ever do. And for many of us, just thinking about doing it can cause worry, fear and stress. The good news is that getting these conversations right has more to do with planning and practice than saying “just the right thing.” And when we dare to broach these hard topics with other people, there are often hidden rewards.
The Benefits of Speaking Up
Difficult conversations have the power to get you what you really want from life. They can clear the air between you and someone else. And they can give your self-esteem a real boost.
Revealing how you really feel and what you really want is a life-long practice that sets you up for more good things to come. Regardless of what happens or how the other person responds, making your true self visible will only make you stronger, healthier and more at peace with yourself.
Setting the Stage for a Productive Conversation
1. Bring it up.
It’s wishful thinking to hope that the other person will broach a hard topic. In some cases, he or she may not even be aware of the need. That means, like it or not, it’s up to you.
2. Be clear on your intention.
Are you discussing a sensitive topic to make a decision, reveal what you’ve already decided, make a request, or something else? Being clear about why you are having the conversation—and what you hope to get out of it—will help you frame what you’re about to say.
3. Be mindful of your mindset.
Sidestep the tendency to blame and assume you know exactly what is going on. Leave room in your frame of mind for discovery and revelation. Stay curious. Remember how much you care for the person, and envision how you’d like your relationship to be after the conversation.
It can be helpful to practice your conversation by writing in a journal or talking it through with a trusted friend or therapist. This will help you become more familiar with your feelings and point of view, and help you relax before you say the hard thing.
5. Set the tone: Use “I” messages.
“You” statements tend to assign blame. For example, rather than saying, “You hurt my feelings,” it is better to use an “I” message and say, “I feel hurt.” If you’re afraid, say what you’re afraid of at the beginning of the conversation. For instance, “I’m scared that you won’t like me anymore or that you’ll go away or that we won’t be friends anymore after this conversation.” Then take a deep breath and begin.
Saying the hard thing is like any other exercise: every time you do it, you’re building muscle…and your hard work will unquestionably pay off in more meaningful relationships in the end.
“It’s very strange, but the mere act of writing anything is a help.” — Katherine Mansfield
As long as there has been something to write on, humans have been keeping journals. You could even say that the earliest cave drawings were journals—capturing the events of a hunt, drawing pictographs that related stories, creating images of the sacred.
A journal is a way of recording and reflecting on your inner life. It is a way of expressing yourself freely, trying out outrageous ideas, tapping into inner wisdom, clarifying thoughts and feelings, recording your dreams, venting emotions, tracking your personal growth, and delighting in unexpected “Ahas”!
A journal is a safe haven, a non-judgmental friend and a trusted confidante. Journal writing is good for our health; it relieves stress, can help boost our immune system, and improve our feeling of well-being.
There’s no right or wrong way to keep a journal. You don’t need expensive equipment. The tools are a notebook—whether a special blank book, a composition book from your local drugstore, or loose-leaf pages—and a pen you enjoy. You can use a computer, but writing by hand is more physical; it keeps you in touch with your breath and your heartbeat.
The only rule about journaling is “Allow!”
Guidelines for Journaling
Write as regularly as you can—at the same time of day, if you can. It is not necessary to write every day, but the more frequently you journal, the easier it will become and more productive you’ll be. If you can set aside twenty minutes or a half-hour every morning or evening, or during lunch break, and simply begin writing, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover.
The morning is an especially good time to write: your mind is fresh; your dreams are still alive. Practice writing your dreams down when- ever you can. Then journal about the images.
Keep your hand moving. Write quickly and freely. Don’t stop to edit or re-read what you’ve written until you’ve completed the session. If you get stuck, write, “I don’t know what to write,” or “I’m stuck.” Repeat the same phrase or sentence, if necessary, until something else comes. Writing from wherever you are will move you to the next place.
Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar. Don’t worry about it being “good,” or “right.” There’s simply no wrong way to do it.
Go deep. Writing about what matters most will give the most benefit.
Leave your censor outside the door. This is free writing. Simply allow the words to come and let yourself be surprised. In the words of Julia Cameron, author of The Artists’ Way, “The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” Have fun!
Suggestions for Getting Started
Begin with a few chosen words. “Today I…,” “I feel…,” “I want…,” “I don’t know…” or “I remember….” Just follow your pen. It won’t take you further than you want to go.
Be imaginative. Write about what color you like and why, your kitchen drawer, or your mother’s hair. Describe the weather, your room, or the sounds you hear. Let it lead you somewhere.
Explore the positive along with the negative. Celebrate yourself and your life as well as venting your emotions.
Date your entry. This will keep you grounded in the present and help you reference entries you may want to find later.
Journaling as a Communication Tool
Using a journal to communicate with people or things can provide insight and lead to the transformation of a challenging situation. Here are two ways to do this:
Letters. Write a letter in your journal to anyone: family members (even people who are no longer living), pets, bosses, or your future longed-for mate. Write a letter to Love, to Anger, a or to your past or future self. Write a letter to yourself from one of these people or aspects.
Dialogues. Have a written dialogue with people, situations, an aspect of yourself, such as the Hurt Child or the Workaholic, or a part of your body. Next to your name or initials, write a statement or question. Write your dialogue partner’s name or initials, then allow the answer. Simply trust the process and write down whatever comes to you.
Journaling teaches us to both trust and nourish our inner lives. If, in your writing, you discover some feelings you’d like to explore further, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Anyone who’s ever been in a close relationship––that means almost all of us––knows that while cruising along life’s highway in tandem with someone else, bumps are bound to appear. Potholes sometimes. Even roadblocks. Skillful driving, plenty of fuel and a good roadmap are needed to stay the course. That’s what good communication is all about.
True__ False__ 1. I don’t assume my partner can read my mind. I say what I’m thinking and feeling. Likewise, I can’t expect to read my partner’s mind. When I have questions about something, I ask.
True__ False__ 2. I acknowledge my partner for being, not just doing. I say “what I appreciate about you is …”
True__ False__ 3. I’m specific about issues I want to discuss.
True__ False__ 4. I stay in the present rather than bringing up the past, and try to resolve one problem at a time.
True__ False__ 5. I try to bring up concerns or objections as soon as they occur, or at the first appropriate opportunity.
True__ False__ 6. I focus on the positive aspects of our relationship, rather than dwelling on the negative or hard times.
True__ False__ 7. I speak in “I” messages rather than “you” messages, saying “I feel hurt,” rather than “you hurt me.”
True__ False__ 8. When I’m wrong, I apologize. And when my mate apologizes, I accept readily.
True__ False__ 9. I don’t blame my mate when I’m having a bad day or take it out on her/him when something goes wrong.
True__ False__ 10. I don’t criticize or show contempt for my partner.
True__ False__ 11. I never become physically aggressive or threaten harm. I don’t yell at my partner. When things start to escalate, we take time out.
True__ False__ 12. I don’t call names or label actions (that’s a “man’s issue” or a “woman’s thing,” a “stupid” mistake).
True__ False__ 13. When something needs to be talked through or resolved, I don’t avoid my partner or withdraw. I don’t avoid issues, either.
True__ False__ 14. I keep my communications as simple and clear as possible, rather than sending double messages like “I need your help / leave me alone.”
True__ False__ 15. I listen. I make time and stay present.
True__ False__ 16. When issues come up that we can’t work through alone, or communications break down, I’m willing to ask for outside help.
True__ False__ 17. I say I’m sorry. I say I forgive you. I say excuse me. I say please. I say thank you.
True__ False__ 18. I say I love you often.
Not everyone can answer True to all the questions all the time, but if you’ve got more False answers than you’d like, it might be time to tune up your communications skills.
If we could ask each one — the famous and the familiar — “What got you through your crisis?” in all likelihood the responses would be similar. One by one, they would describe inner resources that enabled them to survive. These are the qualities Brian Luke Seaward, author of Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, calls “the muscles of the soul.” Courage, faith, humor, patience, compassion, imagination, humility, forgiveness, intuition, creativity, optimism, honesty, and love.
It is in exercising these muscles that the health of the human spirit is maintained. And the fitness of the spirit is vital to our total well-being. Read More→
When the weather changes and the leaves begin to wither, it starts. By Halloween, it’s gathering momentum and by Thanksgiving, it has us in a full-body press. “It” is The Holidays, and whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or simply “the season,” what everybody has in common this last quarter of the year is stress with a capital S.
No wonder. All those events and activities, family gatherings. The kids are out of school again, house guests are coming, or you’re planning a trip. Don’t even mention shopping for gifts, sending greeting cards or decorating the house. The credit cards are maxed out, you’ve got more chores than you can shake a stick at and your “to do” list is longer than Santa’s beard. Read More→
When he was a boy, Stan vowed he’d never be a father like his own father—aloof, critical and emotionally unavailable. Yet, 30 years later, he catches himself treating his son harshly and constantly judging him for not measuring up.
Patricia loves her job and her boss. The only thorn is that her boss prizes punctuality and Patricia just can’t seem to be on time for anything, whether it’s a team meeting or that project that was due last week.
What Stan and Patricia have in common is self-sabotage. It eats away inside, creating a cycle of self- destruction with the result that we aren’t really living the life we want for ourselves. Read More→
Fulfillment in life is related to how well you are living in alignment with your values. Values are not morals or principles. They are the essence of who you are—not who you think you should be. For instance, money is not a value, whereas the things that money might buy, such as free time, risk-taking, and being of service are values.
When you’re aligned with your values, you feel inner harmony, your choices are more easily made, and your actions are in accord with your true self.
Take this quiz to see how well you are living in sync with your values… Read More→
Let’s face it…family gatherings are not always roses and cotton candy. For some families, they’re masked balls, with everyone straining to maintain a façade of harmony. For others, they’re Wild West shootouts. Try some of these tips, if your family get-togethers are tense. Read More→
Josie is a woman in her twenties. She lives at home with her mother who makes all of Josie’s important decisions: how to spend her money, who to go out with, even what clothes to wear. Josie is anxious and depressed.
Matt ordered a new printer for his office. When it arrived he discovered it wasn’t compatible with his computer. “Those idiots,” he ranted, “why didn’t they tell me this was the wrong printer?”
Sally and Jerry had a fight. Now Sally’s tossing and turning in the bedroom while Jerry beds down on the sofa. Neither is getting any sleep and both think the other should make the first move to apologize. Read More→