What Are Boundaries in Relationships and Why Are They Important?

Boundaries are limits put on a relationship in order to establish the safety of an individual. These limits are for the purpose of maintaining the relationship to the degree that is emotionally/physically/sexually safe for the individual. This part is very important because good boundaries are not walls. Walls push people away and shut them out. When you establish certain boundaries in relationships, you are essentially saying to them, “This is what I need to feel safe in this relationship. If you can’t give me that, I can’t feel safe.” Boundaries are about needs not wants or what is convenient for you. Setting a boundary and telling your spouse that you can’t feel safe unless they put the silverware down properly in the dishwasher is not a healthy boundary. However, stating to them that you don’t feel safe having sex with them as long as they are looking and engaging in pornography and not telling you about it is a healthy boundary. Everyone has boundaries even if you don’t realize it (e.g. you probably don’t tell your pharmacist about your sex life). Healthy boundaries are ESSENTIAL to a lasting healthy relationship. When healthy boundaries are not established or respected in a relationship, emotional and relational distress WILL BE created. There are a number of requirements in order to use boundaries in a healthy way.

1) Good Intentions

The intent of the boundary has to be safety and to maintain the relationship on a level where this safety is respected. In other words, you shouldn’t use boundaries to control the behavior of other individuals or to punish them in any way (e.g. “You’re being a jerk today so you can say goodbye to any chance you had with having sex with me tonight!”)

2) Rational Mindset

Never establish boundaries when in a reactive/emotional state. Boundaries should always be established and expressed in a rational thoughtful manner where there has been sufficient time to think out the decision. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be feeling fear and worry when you express a boundary to someone. It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to set healthy boundaries. You have to be willing to take the risks of losing possible connection to get healthier connection for both of you.

3) Follow Through

It is essential you follow through with consequences if your boundaries are not respected. If you are not willing to do this then don’t waste your time in setting the boundary in the first place. For example, if you state to your partner, “Bob, I want to understand how you are feeling, but I don’t feel safe to talk to you if you continue to speak to me with degrading and demeaning language. If you choose to use this language to communicate your feelings then I will have to emotionally protect myself by disengaging in the conversation.” Therefore, it is essential that you follow through with this promise. If you choose to get defensive and use the same language back then you are choosing not to respect your own boundaries and therefore, your partner will not either.

4) Clear and Specific

Boundaries need to be clear and specific. Vague expressions of boundaries can be confusing for your partner and yourself. Spend the time trying to establish specific limits for your safety and the consequences when those limits are broken or not respected by other individuals. What are your non-negotiables in the relationship? Non-negotiable are specific boundaries that will require separation or divorce if ever broken. What are your sexual, physical, and emotional boundaries that you are required to have to keep yourself safe and connected in the relationship? If these boundaries are broken, what would you need to do to continue to create safety for yourself?

5) Expression

Boundaries also need to be expressed when appropriate. We can’t expect people to respect our boundaries if they don’t know what they are. It’s wrong for us to assume people should know how we feel and what we need. This is one of the most common mistakes in relationships.

For more information about boundaries, I suggest reading Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life by Cloud and Townsend. Sometimes it can be difficult to see what boundaries need to be set in our relationship as well as how we should follow through with them. Seek guidance from an experienced counselor to help direct you in these decisions.

Advertisements

Three Unhealthy Ways We Deal With Shame

iStock_000016192491LargeShame is something everyone feels on a consistent basis. We have both overt and covert shame. Overt shame is where we recognize the messages our critic tells us in our heads. These are things like, “You will just fail again like you always do” and “You can’t do anything right because you’re not good enough.” Covert shame is where we don’t recognize those messages but they are indeed inside of us and run our behaviors. This type of shame manifests itself more in actions.

In order for shame not to have power over our behaviors and turn the mistakes we make into more healthy emotions such as guilt, we need to be able to recognize it and label it for what it is. Paying attention to the ways we usually respond to shame will help us to see the shame that tries to bury us covertly. Brené Brown talks in her lectures about three ways we primarily deal with shame: 1) Moving away, 2) Moving towards, and 3) Moving against.

Moving Away

The way we move away from shame is by isolating ourselves when something shameful happens. We don’t want to confront people. We just want to hide and keep secrets. A good example of this is when someone makes a passive aggressive comment towards our parenting or even our character and it produces in us a shame response. Someone who is moving away from shame would respond to their comments by moving away from the person or conversation, ignoring them, or pretending like it never happened, but inside they are hurting. Another example is if a child walks in on their parents having sex and the parents pretend like nothing happened. The parents are feeling so much shame about being caught in the act that they are terrified about asking how their child might be feeling about the situation. However, most of the time when people move away from shame they are trying to hide their true selves from the world. They don’t want their loved ones to find out about those things that bring them the most shame.

Moving Towards

The second way we move towards shame is by pleasing people. We do this by trying to be the person others want us to be. We deny authenticity and adapt ourselves to what we think people want from us. We also try to fix whatever mistakes we have made by something we said or did that might have influenced how people view us. A good example of someone moving towards shame is when a child is feeling rejected and unloved by one of the parents and then tries to earn that love by being the “perfect” child. They might try and do this by cleaning the house or doing other things that he or she might feel would please the parent. In the therapy world, the term we often use to describe this type of response towards shame is codependency.

Moving Against

The two most common ways we try to move against shame is blaming and perfectionism. People who respond to shame in this way can immediately go to blaming themselves or others in response to a shameful event, or they just might try to prove the shame wrong by being their most perfect selves. Perfectionism can also show itself in moving towards shame, but perfectionism associated with moving against is about controlling negative emotions such as anger and anxiety by trying to control the environment around you. Addicts fall into this way of shame living quite often. An addict is often going from trying to control their behaviors and fulfill the expectations that they have put on themselves to feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by their failures to the degree of acting out. An example of this would be a wife catching their husband looking at porn and responding by telling her, “I wouldn’t have this problem if you would just give me sex more often!” People who move against shame often try to control their environment. Unfortunately, this can lead to controlling the feelings and actions of people who are in their lives.

It is a normal process of life to respond to shame in these ways. Shame is a self-protective reaction. We do this as a survival mechanism. However, because it’s self-protective it leads to self-consuming perceptions and behaviors. We learn not to see other people’s perceptions and walk into judgment towards ourselves and others. Being too caught up in our shame is a very lonely and isolating road. When shame comes up for me in my daily life, I take a few steps to manage it effectively. First, I label it. Second, I excercise compassion on myself and for what I have been through. Third, I reach out to important attachment figures in my life and heal the shame by bringing it into the light. Although, sometimes we might do all the steps necessary to manage our shame and we still let it take a hold of us. In these situations, therapy can be invaluable. We often need a professional to help us get through the deepest parts of our shame and guide us into managing it more effectively in the future.

The Greatest Enemy to Your Happiness That You Never See Coming

Many of us try to rid ourselves of those things in our life that we feel weigh us down and prevent us from experiencing happiness (addictions, toxic relationships, depression, etc.). Sometimes we are able to do it. Other times it continues to plague us like something that we feel is apart of our selves that we can’t ever imagine our lives without. So what keeps us from getting what we truly desire and on to a path of peace and out of the constant suffering?……. Shame.

Fossum and Mason defined shame in their book, Facing Shame, as “an inner sense of being completely diminished or insufficient as a person. It is the self judging the self. A moment of shame may be humiliation so painful or an indignity so profound that one feels one has been robbed of her or his dignity or exposed as basically inadequate, bad, or worthy of rejection. A pervasive sense of shame is the ongoing premise that one is fundamentally bad, inadequate, effective, unworthy, or not fully bad as a human being.” Or in other words, we don’t take off our chains of unhappiness because we don’t believe we are capable or worthy as a person.

People often confuse shame with guilt. However, in reality, they are two very different things. Shame is a secondary emotion while guilt is a core emotion (see my blog on secondary vs. core emotions). Fossum and Mason also do well at defining guilt as “the developmentally more mature, though painful, feeling of regret one has about behavior that has violated a personal value. [It] does not reflect directly upon one’s identity nor diminish one’s sense of personal worth.” Guilt leads to change in behavior by feeling it and is an outward emotion (meaning it is about others and how we have affected/hurt them). Shame does not lead to change in behavior and experiencing it just leads to more shame and despair. Shame is an inward emotion (meaning it is self-focused and about ourselves). We use it to protect ourselves, but it just leads to more despair, isolation, and hiding.

There are only three ways that I have seen that helps us to get out of our shame. First, bring it out into the light. Talk to people about how you are feeling and what is happening with you. Talk to them about your fears and especially about the things you fear they will reject you for.

Second, building a connection with God. Prayer and a spiritual connection with our higher power helps remind us of our value and potential as humans.

Third, facing the shame. Notice when shame starts to creep up on you. Practice some self-compassion and mindfulness practices. Also, turn that shame into what your body needs to feel; the core emotion. This might be sadness and fear but is probably quite often…guilt. Let yourself feel how you might have affected yourself or the individuals around you by your actions. Whenever I catch myself going into shame I recognize it and start doing a guilt process. I think about other people and how they might have been affected by my actions. This gives me a sense of love and compassion for them and brings me out of the darkness and into a desire to do better and to change.

Getting yourself out of shame can be difficult to do. This is why it’s important to seek help from a therapist or coach to assist you in walking through these processes and out of the shame.

Why are some emotions more intense and painful than others?

There are numerous kinds of emotions and all emotions are important, but some emotions are deeper and more important than others. Our deepest and most painful emotions are called core emotions. They are core because they have two important features. First, they are the deepest and most basic emotions. Second, they are the only ones that can truly bring us “change” inside ourselves if we can honor them and feel them. There are five basic core emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Guilt. All emotions are subsidiaries to these emotions. It’s important to remember that there can be many other types of emotions that we would consider core, but these five are just a way to categorize all of our core emotions. For example, Sadness can be used to describe core emotions such as hurt, despair, or grief. Unfortunately, the core emotion (Joy) that we seek most of the time is often covered by our other more painful emotions.

Furthermore, sometimes these emotions can be intense and painful. Because of this we go into less painful emotions. These are known as secondary or counter emotions. These emotions are still hard to bear, but they are less difficult to face and our bodies are very aware of this. These would not be considered core emotions because keeping ourselves in these emotions can often lead to feeling stuck or overwhelmed. In addition, there is always a more painful and necessary emotion that we need to uncover underneath these emotions that can lead to healing. Some common counter emotions are frustration, anxiety, shame, depression, anger, and resentment. Anger is a little tricky because it can be a core emotion, but it is a secondary emotion most of the time. The other core emotions can also be acting as secondary emotions covering up something more painful and intense. Sometimes these emotions can be too much to bear so we put up defenses. These are things like intellectualizing, addictions, distractions, laughter, etc. Once we build all of our baggage of emotions on top of one another, we can feel overwhelmed or, on the other side of the spectrum, numb. Once we get to this phase, we have taught our brains to continue to seek relief through our defenses. Then the cycle of misery continues…

So when this happens, how do we get back to the joy? In order to do this, we need to move past our defenses, through our counter emotions and into our core emotions. This can be difficult when we have spent years repressing them. Once we can access them, we need to allow ourselves to feel them and deal with them. We know we have done this properly when our painful core emotions start to dissipate and we begin to experience Joy (i.e. love, peace, forgiveness, compassion, etc.). However, this might be equivalent to Mount Everest unless we receive guidance from a therapist trained in emotional work.

Untitled drawing

The Three Pillars of Happiness

photo_6953_20080816I have learned through my work with clients and in my own personal life that there are three pillars or foundations that I think are necessary for overcoming any trial (e.g. addiction, individual trauma, life stressors) and obtaining peace and happiness. These pillars are: The Emotional Pillar, The Spiritual Pillar, and The Choice Pillar.

1) The Emotional Pillar

Often times, we underestimate the emotional side to our problems. We live in a society that teaches us that emotions or feelings are trivial or unimportant. We focus much of our efforts in overcoming and getting rid of the feelings that we don’t like rather than trying to understand them. We hope that through the passage of time, our problems will work itself out. We tell ourselves, “I just need time.” In fact, what we are really saying is, “I don’t want to feel this way anymore so I just need some time to numb my pain and distract myself with other things.” Addicts of all kinds do this on a regular basis, and they are often completely unaware that the constant porn use, or the “just a little more television, then I will go to bed,” or the constant need to find something to eat even though they are not even hungry is most often the result of not properly managing and dealing with emotional needs. Many of us are not sure how to deal with what we are feeling without making matters worse. This is why therapy can be important. Sometimes we were never taught how to deal and manage our emotional turmoil. That’s why it’s okay to get help.

2) The Spiritual Pillar

I firmly believe that spirituality is an important foundation for happiness. However, I think that many of us often mistake religiosity for spirituality. They are actually quite different. We can go to church and show our worship for a Higher Power but still feel completely disconnected to that Higher Power. Each of us needs a connection to something more powerful than ourselves; a personal and intimate connection. Someone that we feel will lead and guide us in our lives and onto a better and happier path. We need to feel that something or someone is out there looking over us and has a plan for us. Gaining a greater spiritual connection with our Higher Power can greatly increase our individual self-worth and give us the motivation to live the life we need to be happy.

3) The Choice Pillar

I have been racking my brain on what to call this pillar. I think the choice pillar has a mixture of our individual behaviors to obtain the happiness we seek, the work we need to do for ourselves and others, and how our thoughts often determine our actions and the importance of changing them. I have realized that it all comes down to “choice.” Many of us frequently feel that we are stuck in our lives and that no matter what decision we make, it is a dead end. We can also feel at times that we are bound to certain behaviors or actions and that we cannot control them no matter what we do. This is really a hopeless place, isn’t it? It is also a lie we often tell ourselves because sometimes it is easier to give up then to keep trying and always failing. Then we start to wrestle with ourselves. A part of us knows we can do better, but the other part is telling us that we can’t. This is when it really gets frustrating. However, we should never loose sight that no matter what battles occur within ourselves that we always have the choice to do something different then what we are presently doing. Even if it is impossible to believe that we can’t envision our life without porn, television, food, etc., we can choose to make a step in the right direction. Even if it is just a small step. However, often times, we expect more of ourselves than just small steps and then if we can’t live up to our high expectations then we tell ourselves that we might as well not do it at all. I see this all the time with people setting individual goals. I once set a goal to read a chapter in my scriptures everyday. I lasted a week and then gave up. Later, a wise person said to me, “If you start with a chapter you will never meet your goal! That’s like saying that my goal is to run a marathon by next week, but I have never actually ran a day in my life. Why don’t you just start with a verse a day and go from there?” It was great advice. Since then, I have rarely missed a day. Don’t set your goals too high. Start small and work from there.

Often times, we might focus on just one of the pillars and neglect the other two feeling that we don’t need them. This often ends with failure to overcome our difficulties and can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness. I see this with porn addicts all the time. Many of them feel that if they have faith in God, pray hard enough, and do all the work necessary to keep them from acting out (Pillars 1 and 3) then they can overcome their problem. Sometimes it works too. However, what usually happens next is because they neglect their Emotional Pillar, they find themselves starting new addictions (e.g. video games, television, food).

For myself, every time I face a problem I will ask myself about these three pillars and which of the three pillars I might be neglecting that is influencing my dilemma. First, “How am I emotionally with this issue?” or “What is happening with me on an emotional level that might be contributing to this issue?” I then ask, “How is my relationship with my Higher Power? Am I feeling distant?” Lastly I will ask, “What is my part in this? What can I do to get through this and on to the path I want to be on?”

I believe that if we focus on all three of these pillars to overcome our problems, we can gain the happiness and peace we really look for and let go of the chains and baggage that we so desperately seek to let go.

There is No Such Thing as Constructive Criticism, All Criticism is Destructive

Being married to a therapist can be difficult. I am sure my wife would agree with that statement. Often times, I find myself getting wrapped up in what “I” think is best for our two girls and their development. Because of this, I don’t hesitate at practicing some constructive criticism and making it known to my wife what I feel is best for her and our girls. After all, I am the expert, right? Shouldn’t my wife just hang on to my every word regarding how best to parent our children? WRONG!

One of the most difficult things to face as a therapist is that often people look to you as the expert, expecting you to have it all together in your own relationship. Well, I don’t!!  Just saying this makes the little therapist inside of me yell in my ear, reminding me that I am not supposed to admit that.

At times, I find myself guiding couples through important principles that they need to adopt in their relationship and then immediately recognizing how I lack those principles in my own. I just had the pleasure of reliving this experience. I know for myself that knowing something and doing it are two different things. In spite of this, luckily, I have the tools necessary to fix the problem.

This time, what I reminded myself to watch out for is the common practice of using constructive criticism in relationships. I notice how this comes up quite a bit with couples. Some common examples of this type of criticism in relationships is when one partner expresses to other partner what he or she should do to fix their dilemma. This occurs frequently with parenting. With my own experience, my wife will often come to me and talk about her frustrating day with the girls. She will often express the difficulties that she had faced because one or both of our daughters were not listening to her prompts. My first initial reaction to this is to “fix” the problem. Isn’t that why my wife is coming to me in the first place? So I can tell her what to do? WRONG AGAIN!!

The last thing she needs is for me to tell her what I feel is best for her and the girls. My intentions might be good. After all, I feel sad that she is having a rough time. I might also feel responsible for her current emotional state. I believe it is natural for a man to feel powerful in wanting to protect and provide for his family, not only on a temporal level but a spiritual and emotional level as well. However, I have learned the hard way that using my constructive criticism to tell her how to fix her problems has ended in her feeling I don’t care and understand what she is going through, and it has left her questioning her abilities as a mother. For this, I feel responsible for. The fact, that my actions has lead her into feeling doubt about her abilities as a mother pains my heart and brings me to sadness.

What I have learned and often try to help other couples to understand is that a husband and wife are EQUAL PARTNERS. It is not my right to remind my wife of her faults and shortcomings!! This is not my role as a husband. However, I am justified to offer a suggestion on how to better her situation, but she is equally justified to reject such a request to give her advice. Plus, that’s not what she really needs from me. What she is looking for in that moment of crisis is for her husband to understand her fears and worries as a parent. She needs validation and a reminder that she is doing the best she can with what she has. She needs to be reminded of her abilities as a mother and that there are innate qualities that she has, in spite of her weaknesses, that makes her more capable of nurturing our children than I am. Ultimately, she needs me to lift her up and support her through her crisis. This is the only thing she needs from me at the time. She doesn’t need a husband telling her what she should and shouldn’t do!

One of the most rewarding experiences I have had as I have strived to be the support and rock that she has needed through validation and empowerment on my part is the joy I have received knowing that I have practiced my role as a husband, and as a result, she feels loved and cared for by me. To me, being emotionally available for my wife is one of the highest levels of masculinity that I have found.

 

 

How Stress Can Actually Help Us Live Longer

http://www.upworthy.com/a-whole-new-way-to-think-about-stress-that-changes-everything-weve-been-taught-2

This is a great video on how important stress can be and what messages it gives to our body. What we do with the stress is essential and how reaching out and connecting with others is what our body really needs in the end.

The Secret Ingredient to a Happy Relationship

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

You could probably “google” the title of this blog and get hundreds of different responses. Despite this, I would like to share what I think is the secret ingredient most couples and family members lack when they experience relational distress. I believe it is human intuition that when our character or role in a relationship is threatened we immediately want to put up a defense to protect it. One of the reasons we do this is to avoid feeling shame about ourselves or the role we play in our relationship distress. Most of us naturally want to feel important as well as feel we are making a positive difference with the people around us. The way we react to disapproval or criticism is similar to how our bodies react to a cold virus. When our bodies recognize that something foreign has invaded it and is threatening the system, it gives off antibodies to fight and defend itself. Unfortunately, in relationships, these natural efforts to defend ourselves from others’ disapproval usually causes more harm than good. Often times, we feel the “need” to help our loved ones hear our side of the story because if they don’t (we say to ourselves) they will think the worst of us. Then as soon as we express what “really” happened, we expect our loved ones to succumb to the “truth” of it and admit that their views of the incident are in error. Unfortunately, as you might have guessed, our episodes most often don’t unfold in this manner. What often happens is two people feeling unheard and misunderstood and leave feeling more frustrated than ever. However there is a key piece of knowledge here that many people have a hard time contemplating. It is that TRUTH IS POINTLESS IN RELATIONSHIPS! Trying to convince each other to hear the “real” story often ends up in a conversational debate about who is right and who is wrong. Now don’t get me wrong. I think there are certain things in the relationship that need to be regarded as “wrong” and “right.” However, for the most part, healthy relationships are often founded on a mutual understanding of each other’s unique perspectives. This leads me to the SECRET INGREDIENT……..VALIDATION. Validation is the ability to step inside our partners world and to see the world as they see it. When we have done this we given them permission to feel whatever they are feeling and acknowledge their difficulty and pain in the events that have occurred. When couples and families are able to validate one another’s story and feelings, positive interactions can start to succeed the negative ones and lead us on the road to relationship satisfaction. I think that often times we fear that if we validate and understand our partner’s feelings that we are afraid that our own feelings won’t be heard or understand. However, that is often not the case. When we are able to listen to our partners on an emotional and authentic level and our partners are able to express themselves on a vulnerable and authentic level, our partners are much more likely to step inside our world and listen to our reality.

The Importance of Authenticity in Relationships: A Personal Story

In the process of change and growth in relationships, authenticity is a vital, yet difficult, attribute to develop. In his book, Becoming a Whole Man, David Matheson states, “To be authentic means to live out of the core of who we truly are, undistorted by our shadows, wounds, or symptoms. It means being the real thing—being genuine or pure. It’s something more than blunt honesty. Rudeness is sometimes honest. Rage can be honest, so can hatred, lust, and selfishness. But authenticity represents the highest and most mature level of ego consciousness of which we’re capable. [It] springs from the guiding self that exists at our center.”

I wanted to share a personal example in my own life to show how authenticity can change relationships for both the good and bad but ultimately lead us to healthy and happier lives. This experience occurred quite recently.

During my first year of college, I moved in with my best friend (let’s call him Joe) and his brother. The three of us started to get pretty close over the coming months and their relationships had become important to me. After several months, some friends from their hometown started to move into the complex and what began as a small group of guys hanging out became quite a large one. At one point our apartment complex needed us to switch apartments. So, on moving day, I headed down to the office and asked what apartment I was moving into with my friends. They told me Joe had told them that I was moving into a different apartment with some people I had never met prior to this.

When I had confronted Joe, he told me that he wanted to move in with his hometown buddies and he didn’t have the heart to tell me. I was devastated. This overwhelming feeling of rejection overtook my body. I decided from that day to lock my heart up and keep my distance from my friend emotionally. I told myself that it was too difficult for me to be emotionally influenced by him any longer. Over the years I started to distance myself from him more and more, and he eventually moved away so we rarely spoke after that.

In spite of my efforts to distance myself, Joe has been pretty persistent these past several years in keeping our friendship alive and has always done well to call me and ask me about my life. Joe had apologized for his actions previously in our apartment turmoil, but up until a few weeks ago, I had been avoiding his calls. At first I wasn’t consciously aware why I had been avoiding his calls because I had thought I had done my own therapeutic work already around that fateful day. However, I had recognized some fear I was experiencing every time I thought of calling him and knew there was some unresolved work around this.

So, I decided to be vulnerable and authentic with him about my fears. When I spoke to him, I apologized for avoiding his calls and told him that it was a result of my hurt around that fateful moving day. I told him that in spite of his apology, my body obviously wasn’t over the issue and that I was currently working on it. I told him that I felt it was my issue and asked for his patience. He was able to respond warmly and told me, “If I had been a better friend, you wouldn’t be feeling this way. I want you to know that I love you and think of you as one of my best friends.” I told him that if it weren’t for his willingness to see how I was doing on a regular basis, I would have made excuses not to call. I told him that I loved him too and that he was important to me. His words to me were exactly what I needed to hear, and I felt my fear dissipate. We have talked quite often since, and I felt that our conversation was just what I needed to resolve my fear. Joe was able to validate my hurt feelings, and I felt a connection with him on a higher level than I have ever felt with him previously.

I hope my story will help each of you get the courage to take the risk and become vulnerable and authentic with the people you care about. It will bless your life. I believe that authenticity in relationships can help increase your own feelings of worthiness as human beings and help you on the path to becoming whole.

Many individuals have spent a large portion of their lives trying to be the types of people they believe others want them to be. They do this to gain acceptance and love from those around them, but in this process they forget their true selves. It is as if they’ve locked up their unique true selves in a prison inside their unconscious mind, in order to protect it from danger and avoid acknowledging it any longer. If we’re able to open the prison door and listen to the part of us we have kept locked up, we will come to find that the true authentic versions of ourselves are actually the versions that people desperately want to see and come to know.

The road to authenticity can be a difficult journey, and it may include letting ourselves become vulnerable, sometimes even to those individuals who are capable of hurting us. This journey may require us to explore the pains of our past. However, if we let our true selves be seen by others, and take the risks required to connect to those people who are willing to see us for who we really are, the ultimate goal of becoming whole and finding lasting happiness will be much closer than we have imagined possible. So, let’s find relationships that encourage us to become genuine and authentic. These are the relationships that are so vital to our success in living up to our whole potential as human beings and obtain the happiness we so desperately desire in a world filled with constant turmoil and chaos.

This video clip from the movie “The Adjustment Bureau” addresses the concept of authenticity in a really unique way. Check it out.

http://www.wingclips.com/movie-clips/the-adjustment-bureau/authentic-speech

The Value of Controlled Emotional Expression

photoRaising my two daughters has taught me a lot about parenting (considering the fact that my degree at BYU was in child development). My oldest (Rylie) can be a handful sometimes, especially since she is like me in most ways. Sometimes, she wakes up at night and will just cry for about 20 minutes then fall back asleep. Knowing that it is most likely Night Terrors that are the cause of this, I try to calm her down so she can go back to sleep. However, our youngest (Raelyn) sleeps in the same room as her and will sometimes wake up as a result of the crying. When this happens, it can be frustrating because now I have two crying children that I am trying to get back to sleep. I am sure many of you know what this is like. Recently, Rylie woke up crying again and in an effort to not wake Raelyn up, I appeared very anxious toward Rylie and encouraged her to calm down. This of course made things worse. After this, I kept on repeating, “Shhh” to Rylie in an attempt to stop the crying so she wouldn’t wake up the baby. After doing this several times, I had realized exactly what I was doing wrong. First, I was indirectly telling Rylie that Raelyn’s sleep was more important than her Night Terrors or how she was feeling. Secondly, I portrayed the message that sharing her feelings was not allowed in the family and that she needed to repress how she was feeling in order to prevent causing a stir with the rest of the family. Whether she interpreted the situation like that or not I do not know. I had realized that in spite of my good intentions I was teaching my daughter that expressing her emotions was not important to me. Of course, one situation like this is not going to cause an emotional disaster with Rylie in the future, However, I believe that an accumulation of the indirect message “Your feelings are not important right now” can very well teach my children to repress and not deal with what their bodies are feeling.

I see the affects of this with many of the people I see in therapy. Because of the messages that they might have received in the past, they have taught themselves that allowing one to experience core emotions such as sadness, fear, shame, or anger is not safe to do. Unfortunately, when we repress such emotions we begin to carry them with us in a suit case where ever we go in our lives. If you think you are effectively dealing with the issue in this case (pun not intended) I assure you it is not so. I have noticed that many of my clients are afraid of expressing an emotion such as anger, especially if it is towards a deceased family member. They feel that it is not their right to be angry at such a person especially since the family member is not here to defend themselves. However, They are already angry with the deceased member whether they accept this or not, and that by not facing the anger they are already holding towards the family member will most likely continue to tarry with them where ever they go and affect their relationships in the present and future. However, if we can learn to ACCEPT our emotions and the fact that they are part of us as human beings and begin to process through the anger (or other emotions) effectively , we do not have to let it control our lives or influence our relationships any longer. However, this processing can be difficult and dangerous to do and manage especially if you are not being guided by a trained therapist.

As for parenting, A book that really helps parents to teach their children the importance of processing through emotions is called, “Raising an Emotional Intelligent Child” by John Gottman. I recommend it to any parent who is interested in helping their children understand the importance of processing their emotions effectively.

Of course for my own parenting, despite all my mistakes (and future mistakes), as long as I continue to apply my own principles of parenting as best as I can (crossing my fingers) and most importantly as long as they know that I love them MORE THAN I LOVE MYSELF I would consider my parenting a success.