How deep is your connection with your significant other? The answer lies in how well you know them. Love maps are a great place to start building and even re-building a connection in any relationship. This article will focus creating a healthy romantic bond but you can also use this technique with your family and kids.
Let’s talk “love maps”. They’re not so difficult to explain; if a map gives you the ability to navigate the globe, a “love map” provides you with the means to navigate a shared life. The term was coined by Dr. Gottman and it’s good you know it because love maps can make - or break - a relationship.
Why are love maps so important? Relationships are about not only connecting with someone, but also staying connected and it isn’t as easy as you’d think. Being human means our likes and interests change over time and if we don’t want to drift apart, we need to stay in the know. Being constantly curious about who we’re with is a great way of being connected...otherwise, years into the relationship, you may wake up next to a stranger.
To discover your partner's map, you simply need to know things about them. The questions will range in intimacy and are meant to help you connect and understand each other. Remember, it’s best to build on a good foundation of knowledge so...know the easy answers before jumping into the deep end.
Here are a few questions to get your started.
Emotional intimacy is an important part of feeling love. And to keep the love alive, it’s recommended that you build on your love map often; every week. Keep in mind that maintaining a healthy relationship is a marathon, not a sprint. The best news of all is, believe it or not, love doesn’t have to get boring or old. With love maps, love and connection can deepen and grow over time.
Thanks for taking the time to read and you’ll find it at www.meaningtolive.com
And until next time, awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
People naturally bond or connect with other people. This happens with close acquaintances, family, lovers, co-workers, etc. Fortunately, there are exceptions to whom we create bonds with - otherwise, we'd have much stronger emotional reactions to random people we meet in life. For a genuine bond to take place, we need to have some desire to connect with or gain acceptance from the other person. A bond is different from a connection. Connections happen like courtesy nods or hand shakes. Bonds are deeper, stickier and once established, they can be difficult to shake.
When you think “trauma bond” think of 2 things; cognitive dissonance and the chemical "oxytocin". Cognitive dissonance is the psychological component and it happens inside our heads when we try to carry two opposing beliefs about something (or in this case, someone). Turned inward, cognitive dissonance is felt when our values don't align with our thoughts. It's uncomfortable thinking about murdering someone when you think of yourself as a good person and believe a good person doesn't go around killing people. Cognitive dissonance turned outward happens when one person in your life plays a duel role of being good and bad. Having two opposing belief systems bouncing about causes dissonance. Our brains like things to be explainable and get backed up when someone we're bonded with behaves like the good Dr. Jekyll one day and the horrible Mr. Hyde the next. This is cognitive dissonance and to relieve the pressure, you’ll choose a side...Dr. Jekyll. Why? Because the thought of losing that bond is too painful to bear and with that, you're stuck. The trauma comes into play when we are hurt over and over - and over by the person we're bonded with. Your bonded in trauma.
Next comes the second component and for that, it’s all about chemicals - specifically, oxytocin. This sweet little bugger of a hormone is produced in the hypothalamus IN ORDER TO CONNECT. Let me say that again; as humans we wouldn’t be able to emotionally connect if it weren’t for this lovely chemical and it gets even better - the strength of the bond is correlated to the level of oxytocin produced! A low level of oxytocin release means it's easier to break the bond (and visa versa). And there’s more; turns out this chemical doesn’t care about the difference between healthy vs. unhealthy connection. It’s job is simply - to - connect. This is a bit of a 2-edged sword in that bonding can be extremely pleasant OR it can be extremely traumatic. The latter scenario (trauma) is where the term “trauma bond” is explained.
Here are 7 identifiers of being under the influence of a Trauma Bond.
How does one break the bond? It’s easier said than done because any connection with them only brings more bonding. Oxytocin is going to do its job whether you like it or not and will always be a 2-edged sword. So, if you don’t want to get cut by a reposte, stay out of the weapons reach! If possible, RIP THE BANDAID OFF! ABORT! RUN! JUMP OFF THE TRAIN! FLEE! If that’s not possible, create boundaries that limit your exposure. Less exposure, less chemicals, less bond.
A hummingbird once fell out of the sky
"I'm no good at birding", he said with a sigh
"Will you help me to learn? I promise I'll try"
"Oh, please help me, please! I don't want to die"
So we picked up the creature from off of the ground
And made it a home that was perfectly sound
Then fashioned a feeder with a syringe we'd found
Oh, I hope this weak, shaky thing comes around
And come around it...kinda did.
It stopped shaking and seemed to get quite lucid
But the growth didn't last for the little bird kid
Oh, how it got worse as he slid and he slid
We didn't understand, it was all right there
The bird had not for want and care
Yet there it was dying, seemingly unaware
Oh, how could this happen? Life just wasn't fair
So we doubled our effort and then we gave more
More money, more goodies, HIS own private door
We fought every battle for whom we adored
Oh, hummingbird remember how you flew before?!
Days turned to weeks turned to months and to years
The little bird learned to reduce us to tears
He pushed all our buttons and played on our fears
Oh, how some things are never as they appear
For this bird was a man now with hair on his face
He'd stalled out, of course, in the human-bird race
And would eventually fade in silent disgrace
But do not feel bad for he had OUR embrace
He had OUR attention in every endeavor
WE were beside him to guide him, our treasure
For years we enjoyed him, this BIRDLING, so clever
Till the loss - so great, we'd bury the ledger
A word of warning to hummingbirds, all
That, WHEN in FLIGHT, you head-butt a wall
Get up on your own, there is no worse fall
Than a life made too easy no one will recall
Jed Thorpe, October 2020
This is a topic that is near and dear to me…and yes, that sentence makes me sounds like a grandma. Let’s talk about First Responders and what NOT to say to them.
First, let’s go over what a “first responder” is (for my young readers). They’re medically trained professionals who are “first” on the scene of an emergency. We’re talking car wrecks, houses burning downs, plane crashes, finding someone dead in the canal and, oh yea, they’re also first on the scene when humans are rocked by natural disasters. Looking at you earthquakes, floods, fires and hurricanes. Of course there are many other possible scenarios that we could name but lets just end it with this; they’re the ones taking cats that are stuck in trees.
If you ask me, we should actually change their title to “emo superheroes”...get it?
Unfortunately, they don’t actually 'have' super powers. In fact, they’re really human just like you and I. They do, however, carry more than the average human. Being first to respond to tragic, unsafe, often bloody and high stress situations comes with a price. First Responders are more susceptible to having depression...in fact, they’re twice as likely to experience long term depression than the average Joe or Jane in America. Along with that fun fact, they have a higher rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and we could easily do a whole video on that topic alone. The scariest, though, is the suicide ideation they often have. Suicide ideation is when we think of being dead or existing no more and it happens when emotions are overwhelmed and feel too painful to carry any longer. This stat tops the charts, being 10 times higher than the general population. And don't get me started on addiction with this population!
This may be probably surprising and I’ll tell you why - First Responders ‘act’ like they’re bullet proof and why wouldn’t they? They’ve been treated like superhumans for decades when, in reality, they’ve been HUMANS dealing with a super amount of trauma.
The general population doesn’t realize this, which is why you’ll hear so many of their admirers say, “what’s the worst thing you’ve seen?” Or, “Have you ever had to shoot anyone?” Or, “what’s it like doing CPR on a child?”
When we ask these types of questions it allows trauma to re-surface. Remember, our brains store everything, good, bad and ugly. Asking a First Responder to remember tragic events they’ve witnessed is asking them to open up a wound that they’ve probably spent a lot of time trying to heal...UNLESS you have Tourettes Syndrome and then you get a pass. Otherwise, an entitled sense of curiosity doesn’t give us a golden ticket to hurt others.
“But Jed,” you say, “they are cool with it!” Actually, they’re not - they are really good at pretending, though - and compartmentalization can go a long way and even last for years but that’s another article.
Remember, they may act like superheroes but they’re human, just like you and I. So, don’t do it.
And for you First Responders reading this - thank you for doing everything in your power to keep us alive and well. I hope this article and the short video gives you the honor and respect you’ve earned. You can watch the video at https://youtu.be/JF7ydsqbHf4
Thanks for reading and until next time, awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Counseling as a profession isn’t one of those employments that people just ‘fall’ into. It takes a special breed and typically our background consists of having been some type of caretaker in the past. For me, it was taking care of my mom. See, my bio-dad died in a motorcycle crash when I was 3 and although mom remarried again when I was 6, I took care of her. Not blaming; explaining.
Who knows when it started but by the time I was in my twenties, it was normal for me to drop everything and help whenever she needed anything done around the house. Maybe it was the 2 year hiatus my step-dad took when he moved to Texas to get his nursing degree…I was around 12 or so and was suddenly the “man of the house”, chopping the wood, doing all the chores, watching my little sisters, etc. Whatever started my care-giving habit doesn’t really matter – it’s just something that’s good to know about people who choose being a therapist as a career.
Another behavioral attribute is more of something we’re born with and is quite unexplainable to me; we see dead people. JOKING - it's ok to laugh. Thankfully people just talk to us. We’re the ones that – for WHATEVER reason, people have always just told us things and not in a dramatic way. For me, this really became evident when I was in high school and my friends would just tell me things about them out of the blue. Random, odd stories that were pretty personal and I often thought, “why are they telling me this? Still, I listened and most of the time, didn’t say a thing. Maybe it’s a super-power that helps people feel safe but whatever you want to call it, people feel comfortable communicating personal things to us. We hear things like, “you’re just easy to talk to” or, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this” or my favorite, “can I run something by you?”
This superpower comes with a price. Unlike a job where you run numbers, cook, serve, market, sale, educate, drive a car, farm, build homes, etc. a therapist gets to quietly LISTEN while connecting emotionally with someone who’s working through very hurtful experiences. We’re talking rape, divorce, death, infidelity, betrayal, grief, loss, pain and the like. And here’s the thing, that stuff doesn’t just ‘wash off’ the person that hears it. Here, think of it this way, you know when you watch a show that leaves you feeling disturbed, uneasy or sad RIGHT BEFORE IT’S TIME TO GO TO BED? You know as well as I do that right away, you find a comedy to watch so you can fall asleep! Well, that’s what it’s like being a therapist – not the comedy part. Which reminds me, never watch "Oldboy".
Vicarious trauma is the term for it. You experienced it watching that jacked up show because and it’s quite normal. What isn’t normal is tapping into it emotionally over and over and over again. In fact, statistically speaking 1 in 5 mental health (20 percent) providers have suicidal thoughts and the number who take their own lives is twice that of the general population. Ends up we are at high risk for feeling overwhelmed which is why it’s so important to have emotional boundaries and to figure out what your own warning signs are.
Personally, I’ve got this on lock. Having worked in this field for over 25 years and a licensed professional for almost 10, I’m able to recognize my own red flags. It’s important to know these indicators and that’s a whole other article but for fun, I know when I’m getting out of the healthy area when my back starts hurting during sessions. I know it’s weird but it makes sense if you think about it. When this happens, I’ve learned to do some breathing exercises and then I back off from being a therapist for a bit. Oh, I still do therapy – just not as much.
Do you ever wonder how much your therapist works? Get out of that egocentric brain of yours and ponder it for a second…could it be that they work more than the hour they’re with you? Surprise, they are! Not only are they continuing to work through your session topic by charting for 15-30 minutes, they’ve got a bunch of other clients to see! Then they do groups for hours on end and then they do more individual sessions and then they deal with work drama (typically) which puts them past the 40 hour a week mark. When I was the rat running on that wheel, I’d tell my clients that if they wanted the best of me, SCHEDULE ON TUESDAY. You may laugh but again, it makes sense; On Monday you’re still getting into work mode so by Tuesday you’re aces…and by Thursday we’re emotionally spent so by Friday we’re running on fumes (or we’ve stalled out and are faking it). The only reason people even say “TGIF” is because they’re out of gas. Sound familiar?
How anyone who employs a therapist expects them to be a ‘good’ therapist while working them 40 hours a week is beyond me. Think of it like this; you live in Salt Lake City and you need to drive ten and a half hours to San Diego, over 600 miles – with 1 tank of gas. It just isn’t possible unless you break up the drive and get gas which is the equivalent of working a 4 hour day vs. the 8 hour day. Being an effective therapist takes lot of emotional fuel. OR, maybe they’re a unique breed of bipolar II – believe it or not, there are a very small percentage of this population that has a much longer level of mania to depression ration than normal Bipolar II’s. I actually have a high school buddy who has this superpower. He’s able to run with high energy on 2-3 hours of sleep nightly. But that is the VERY rare off-shoot and believe me, your therapist probably isn’t that. If they were, look for them to have created a therapeutic empire by the age of 35 because while everyone else is sleeping (literally), they are up and making it happen. Looking at you Kerwin Rae. Those people are the Sport Prius but way cooler. Alas, I’m getting off topic. Point is – there’s such a thing as compassion fatigue and how can therapists NOT burn out running a 40 hour week?
Here’s the truth; Counselors shouldn’t be therapatizing more than 20 hours a week. There, I said it. Now that I’m free of the full-time employment haze, I can see it more clearly. You may not if you’re still on the wheel but believe me – if you’re doing therapy, you’re not at your best and your client needs your best. Running my own business has given me the freedom to max out my week at 20 hours of sessions…which is pushing it, if you want me to be honest. 17 hours of sessions is the sweet spot for me. I’ll say it again; therapists need to see less people so they can give what the client needs emotionally and stay -not dead- or burned out while contemplating taking a long drive and never...coming back.
This may not be easy for a therapist to read especially if they’re dependent on their full-time job financially. If that’s you, ease up – I’m not saying you’re a bad therapist. I’m just worried about you - DAMN my caretaking! That said, pace yourself. Balance of life is good and when you’re able – unplug. And not just the ‘kind of’ unplug you're used to. I’m talking no cell phones, no being ‘on call’, no giving advice to other people, NOTHING. Bob Kelso it. Lastly, remember the great Dickie Fox who said, “They key to this business is personal relationships.” Fewer clients, less money. I’m expecting your Jerry Maguire mission statements by Monday.
Be well my fellow humans and God Bless you.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
There’s a 3 word phrase that isn't as helpful as you think. I’ve been running across it for years both while running process groups and individual therapy sessions. Odds are good that you’ve said this yourself and heard it roll off of other peoples lips. Here goes – “Let It Go”.
This phrase makes my insides pucker and not in a good way. Let’s use another 3 word phrase and “shut it down”. By the way, Disney did us NO favors by making the Frozen song so catchy. Are you humming the tune now? Well, DON’T! It’s not doing you any favors...and I can prove it.
The list of what people “let go” is endless and as a therapist, I hear them all. “Oh, you were mercilessly tormented for years by someone you trusted but you just let it go?” Or, “Yes, my only son punched me in the face and we haven’t spoken since but I’ve let it go.” Seriously, the list goes on and on but just writing about it saddens me because I know they haven’t just “let it go”.
We could go into the quantum physics of it but let’s just say that energy doesn’t just disappear. And believe me, there was and still is a lot of energy around what you supposedly let go. The truth is, it’s impossible to simply stop caring or turn off the feelings of being hurt emotionally. You haven't really "let it go". It IS possible to become numb to it, but that isn’t really taking the pain away – it’s getting used to the pain and who wants to get used to walking around with a broken leg?
Letting it with no explanation is not only impossible, it’s dangerous. The psychology world actually has terminology to warn people of this type of unhealthy thinking. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) calls it a thinking error. Other therapeutic models might say cognitive distortions. Why all the warning flags and emphasis for such a harmless phrase? It’s because this way of thinking is actually hurting you more than it’s helping you.
Narrowing the thinking error down would put this phrase in the ‘magical thinking’ category. Feelings don’t just vanish into thin air. Reality is, when people say this phrase they’ve actually just stuffed the uncomfortable feeling way…way down. It’s a complex form of compartmentalization and in this case, very unhealthy for mental wellness.
It’s impossible to just “let it go”. However, it IS possible to work through trauma. In fact, the only way to release and heal negative emotions so we don’t have sour feelings anymore would be to “work through it”. How about that, a healthy phrase and it’s only 3 words long. Maybe Disney will fix their catchy song that’s totally wrong.
Working through a hurtful experience looks a lot different than letting it go. In fact, it’s more uncomfortable at first because opening up old wounds can feel pretty raw. Fortunately, the festering hurt will actually heal when we change the belief systems attached to whatever happened. Typically this involves moving from a victim stance to a more empowered “jackpot” mentality.
Fun fact: it’s easy to find out if someone’s REALLY “worked through” something from the past. You can tell by their emotions around talking about the experience. See the trick of “letting it go” yet? With that sneaky maneuver, people avoid talking about it. When pressing the topic, you’ll be able to see how they really feel. If they’ve compartmentalized (stuffed it down), they’ll be very uncomfortable talking about it and will expose either anger, resentment, hurt, contempt or they’ll just cry. In therapy, the crying is the most healing. From there, we can start identifying and changing beliefs they’ve carried about themselves around what happened. From here, the broken leg actually begins to heal.
It’s magical but in a great, healthy and totally explainable.
The healing part of working through things can be tricky. A good therapist can help.
Thanks for reading and supporting the Meaning to Live movement.
Until next time, awareness UP.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Big changes can come from just a small deviation in behavior. This little article is short, sweet and completely valid. Are you ready to read something that will be helpful for the rest of your life?
Stop saying, "I know". Sure, it's an easy thing to say because you may very well KNOW but when you delete this from your vocabulary, people will connect with you more. The substitution that triggers the magical connection hormone 'oxytocin' is, "you're right".
Here's why it works; turns out that people really like being...right! Think about it - it's actually WHY you're in the habit of saying "I know" in the first place. Another reason replacing "I know" with "you're right" helps so much is because you're showing humility...and people love it. Lastly, saying "you're right" gives a covert message that you are confident.
Saying "I know" a lot speaks volumes. Most of that volume is filled with the message of, "I'm not confident!" You know it's true; anyone saying, "I know" repeatedly happens when whoever's knowing everything wants to feel good about themselves. And honestly, nobody likes a know-it-all.
You'll have better relationships when you tweak this one little communication.
Thanks for taking the time to read and don't forget to check out the website for ongoing therapy goodness. www.meaningtolive.com
Till next time, awareness UP.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
There are pros and cons to being a therapist. A huge pro is getting to connect with all kinds of interesting people and some my BEST memories have been with clients working through substance abuse. Addicts. And almost every time they start with the same question, “what is your D.O.C.?”
My answer, “Diet Coke”.
For those of you unfamiliar with substance abuse culture, “D.O.C.” stands for “drug of choice” and it’s a very common question intended to build a connection with others and the truth is, diet coke IS my DOC. Here’s the thing: we don’t have to be addicted to a mind altering substance to be “an addict”. In other words, you’re probably an addict…ignorantly.
You’re an addict and you didn’t even know it! If you don’t believe me, I’ll prove it – actually, you’ll prove it. Look it up! Online (because everything online is accurate), you’ll quickly discover that an addiction can be to substances (the one you’re used to), activities or things. Our society typically balks at this suggestion Did you?
Being an ignorant addict is no bueno. It’s like breathing polluted air without knowing it – you’ve no clue that your lungs don’t work as well as someone living in Midway, Utah! Side note, pollution also causes your lungs to age quicker than clean air lungs. Awareness is like a breath of fresh air…but what does this have to do with addiction? I’ll explain.
Being addicted is similar to being a slave. Being dependent is having to rely on or being controlled by someone or something else (again, it’s all online). Fun fact: Roman Gladiators were given “slavs” (people captured from Slavic countries) as servants – abd they called slaves “addicts”.
Just as air pollution restricts our lungs ability to expand, slavery restricts our ability to be free. Technically, if our emotional wellness (or freedom) is tied to anything external, we are restricted – we are slaves – addicts.
Remember, people can be addicted to substances, activities or things.
We may be addicts without even being aware. Actually, I have yet to meet anyone who’s NOT an addict of some type. Oh, they may not have the obvious ‘substance’ addiction symptoms but they absolutely display emotional withdrawal symptoms of an addict…which leads to the next question: what am I addicted to?
Ignorant addicts. If you want to identify an addict, take away their drug. Substance withdrawals are ugly and will feel like an intense flu for the heroin user…so intense that they’ll do anything NOT to experience the harshness. Side side note: people don’t actually die from opioid (ie: heroin, pain pills, morphine, etc) withdrawal. One can pass away from the sudden stop from using other drugs – looking at you alcohol and/or benzodiazepines (xanax, klonopin, etc). In other words, sustained substance use creates a physical dependence in our physical bodies which, in turn, creates a physical disturbance when the drug stops playing nice – or stops playing at all. Either way, it’s not a good scenario.
Remember how addiction can be to substances (see above), activities or things. Our emotions react negatively when we’re addicted (dependent) on activities or things. Emotional withdrawal looks like the following:
Do any of those negative emotions look familiar? Do you experience these negative emotions when something is missing in your life? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you are an addict. Welcome! And buckle up, we’re not done, yet.
Wherever you feel dependent; there’s your drug of choice (DOC). For some, it’s acceptance and they’ll be a chameleon – ever changing to whomever is around. Other people experience high anxiety if they aren’t in a relationship. Many ‘empty nesters’ suddenly feel depressed when their DOC (parenthood) vanishes as kids leave home. A huge DOC correlates to what people do for work and when they retire, their ‘golden years’ turn into years of feeling like they don’t matter anymore. In all these circumstances, people were emotionally dependent on their masters. They were ignorant addicts; emotionally enslaved. They were addicted to a particular thing or activity.
Living life as an addict is scary. In couples therapy, people gain awareness around how they attempt to control access to their DOC (the spouse). They’ve built up an emotional-wellness tolerance that leans too much on the other person and WATCH OUT if their drug threatens divorce! Chaos. Life-shattering. Newsflash, it isn’t really ‘love’ when we’re addicted to another person. The healthiest relationships are the ones that don’t need the other person to be emotionally stable. The couple in this scenario can actually choose to be in the partnership verses need the relationship in order to feel ok.
The list of less-obvious addiction is long. People emotionally enslaved (addicted) to sex (penile/vaginal acceptance), gambling, hiking, surfing and genuinely, the list really is too long to get through – so let’s end with my favorite culprit.
Most everyone I know is subject to this next master. It’s the subtle presence of MONEY. Didn’t think of that one, did you? It’s a pretty big and very distinct owner of many, many people. Maybe even yourself. How do you feel when you think you don’t have enough of it in the bank. If you don’t know, just refer to the list of emotional withdrawal above. Ha, and you thought you owned it.
When we are dependent, we are in bondage. I like talking about financial addiction because people get…well, squirmy. We don’t like thinking of ourselves as addicts, yet – here we are, completely identifying with the alcoholic. It’s good awareness, really. Plus, it completely explains why people put aside their personal values and work for mean, abusive bosses or unethical companies. They’re dependent on their DOC; money.
There are other DOC’s involved in staying in a bad work environment. They could be addicted to prestige or job title that comes along with the job. They need other people to perceive them in a certain way – and just like the meth-head, they’ll do just about anything to keep their drug of choice close by.
This is a different concept, yes – and it’s valid. We become slaves when we’re emotionally dependent on anything outside of ourselves. And now, with a little more understanding, we get to have more empathy for the ‘obvious’ addict because when it comes down to it, we – aren’t – any – better.
We are all the same.
Well done reading this! I hope it got you thinking and don’t forget to check out the website for more therapy goodness. www.meaningtolive.com
Till next time,
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase, “there are only 2 things certain in this life; Death and taxes.” And with that, should we talk about ‘death’ or ‘taxes’…let’s go with death – it’s way more fun.
Death is a topic that is brought up in session a LOT. And why wouldn’t it be?! No one gets to the next adventure without passing on. In fact, I never even HEAR from people after they die – I do, however, hear from those left behind. Dealing with death can be a struggle so we best work this out because if you haven’t experienced it yet; you will.
How do you work through grief? Let's start by examining why we get sad when a loved one dies. From what I hear, the answer generally sounds something like, “I miss them” or “life would be better with them still around” or “it’s unfair that they are gone.” Death is no respecter of persons and the most tragic occurrence typically stem from infant or child deaths. When this happens, people will be sad “for the kids” because they didn't get to "live" or "experience life", etc.
Listen, I get grief and am not trying to minimize anyone's loss. Be sad! Grieve! I love it when clients cry because that’s when the healing begins. Negative energy is released through crying those ugly cries. To be quite honest, it’s beautiful and my office is stock full of tissues for this very purpose ~ my issue comes from when the mourning isn’t allowed to move into healing. This "stuck feeling" happens often in our culture. In fact, to provide an answer for it, some professionals will say there is no time limit to grief…what a crappy message. It may as well be a politician answer. So, it’s ok to NEVER heal or stop feeling sad for the death of a loved one?! In my mind, that awful answer is a ‘middle of the road’ and ‘safe’ answer by someone who doesn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings and frankly, doesn't understand how actual healing occurs. As you can probably tell, I am inclined to disagree with the above belief system and for good reason; through years of grief counseling individually and in groups, I've discovered that it’s just not true.
Here’s what I've seen and this may surprise you. Everyone can heal from the loss of a loved one and the real shocker; Time is mostly irrelevant when it comes to the healing process. Yea, go ahead and read that again but be sure to read on - it makes sense, I promise. Working with people healing from recent death is JUST LIKE working with people that have been struggling for decades; The stuck feeling stems from their beliefs around death and often what it means to honor the deceased! Isn't that marvelous? Even better, processing through sadness can begin right away with one little thought.
In every case of healing, it began with gratitude.
“Oh Jed, C’mon – how can I be thankful for someone dying!?” Great question and here’s another for you. What might the person ‘gain’ with death? People are typically a little backed-up at this point so I’ll start you off. Ready? Ok, here's a quick perception shift. If you believe in an after-life (or after-energy) it must mean they’ve gone on to the next adventure! Or, you can even think of it as ‘graduating this life’. How cool is that! It's a gratitude maneuver. On the other hand…and in the same hand, if you believe that this life is it and everything ends when the heart stops beating it means that they STILL hit the jackpot because hey, they don’t feel any pain and they never will again. Not too shabby if you ask me. Booyah for them! Let's call it, "The gratitude shuffle."
It's good to have awareness into feelings. We think and then we feel and then we behave. If you really stop to think about it, we're not sad about the person dying. We're feeling sad for ourselves. Don't worry, this is normal and you're not a bad person for feeling this way. It’s natural to feel the pain of them being gone – it’s just good to know that you really can’t feel bad for them. They’re cool – you’re not. To work through this emotion let’s pull a gratitude maneuver and remind ourselves of the wonderful memories we had with them while they were still with us. Yes they’re gone, but how lucky are you to have had the time you DID with them? You really hit the jackpot.
It’s gratitude that heals, not sorrow.
It’s gratitude that heals, not sorrow.
Some cultures (emotionally healthier ones) CELEBRATE the life of the deceased. Our Western culture is coming around to that more which is wonderful. Every once in a while, instead of having a funeral, I’ll hear people describe the service as “a celebration of life”. Other cultures take things a step further into healing and believe that the happier they are for the deceased individual, the more they loved them.
I wonder what you believe. Do you believe that you’re honoring them more by being sad? Some cultures do that, as well…in fact, they actually hire professional ‘mourners’ to ensure that the dead person gets to heaven. True story.
If you’re feeling stuck working through the loss of someone you loved, try this:
Think of 3 of your favorite memories with them. It’s ok to smile. It’s ok to laugh! Now, as you’re thinking of this, imagine them sitting right here next to you. Can you imagine that? They’re right there! Now tell me, do they look happy as you’re sitting there imagining some crazy-fun-neat experience you had with them? Are they smiling?
It’s likely that they’re pretty stoked to see you smiling with their memory. Maybe you’re honoring them more by celebrating their life than crying over your loss.
Isn’t death great?!
This is one of my favorite discussions to have with clients. In fact, some of my absolute fondest memories are connected to working in groups or individual clients around this often dreaded topic.
It’s gratitude that heals, not sorrow.
Now, to figure out how to be thankful for taxes! Thanks for reading and for more fun, check out the website www.meaningtolive.com and until next time…
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Let's break down what it means to be a helicopter parent along with why it happens aaaand the consequences involved. Don't worry, peeps- after it's said and done, we'll talk about how to repair things as well.
Buckle up. This may sting a bit.
The term "helicopter parenting" has been around for a while but if you haven't heard of it, you will have witnessed hovering parental effects. Before we get into it, don't you just love the name helicopter parent? It creates a visual in my head of watching the news while they're recording a car chase...from above. The birds-eye view lets us, as viewers, take in SO MUCH information! We can see where the suspect is, where they're going, what they're doing...it really doesn't seem fair because the helicopter view sees EVERYTHING. Doesn't seem fair, does it?
Anyone else feel like it's unfortunate for the person being helicopter recorded? Kind of like watching a wounded mouse being toyed with by a cat.
Regardless, it's all a great example to explain this new style of parenting. With hovering parents, the child is being 'too closely' monitored. And too much observation often leads to excessive intervention. Helicopter parents keep tabs on all sorts of the kids life. Nothing is safe for the kid to do alone, including school, playmates, what they play, who they play with, how they read, what they read, when they're reading, are they reading too much? Too little? Are they isolating? What are they watching on the television and the list goes on and on...and on. Sounds exhausting, doesn't it? Wait, it gets worse. The hovering parent will OFTEN continue the controlling behaviors after the child grows into adulthood. We're talking parental control/strong influence of where the kid goes to college, what they do for a living and who they end up marrying or living with or 'seeing' if you really want to get non-committal.
I've even heard of parents calling up employers asking why their kid didn't get hired for a job. Whoa. You get the point, though - helicopter parents SEE EVERYTHING. Just like the news helicopter.
You may be getting the idea that this behavior may not be healthy. Correct. Here's the thing though, parents are doing this with the best of intention! They're not waking up in the morning thinking, "what can I do to take away opportunities to grow for my child?" So, why are they (we, because I'm guilty, too) continuing to behave this way? Well, let's ask this - do you want to help the fragile little mouse that's being toyed with by the mean ole' pussy cat? Of COURSE you do and it's the same thing with helicopter parenting - it's uncomfortable seeing a child struggle. Ends up, hovering parents are merely trying to protect their offspring. Call it a protection reflex...which ends up doing the complete opposite in the long run.
"Oh Jed, it's not that bad," you might say. "Oh, it's that bad" will be my reply. Consequences are many with the biggest bummer being correlated to resilience. Kids don't got it. They're...squishy and why wouldn't they be? It makes sense because they've not had the chance to figure out things on their own. They've had a 'buffered' life and when 'actual' life happens (like it always will), their little mouse is unprepared. The child turned adolescent turned adult hasn't built the emotional muscle needed to walk through much, if any, conflict or struggle.
Other negative effects include:
More health problems
Higher levels of anxiety and depression
A RELIANCE on medication
Labile emotions (can't regulate their feelings)
And - they're entitled. They confuse privilege with confidence.
Does any of this sound familiar? Listen, I'm not trying to bum anyone out, here. Parent's are doing the best they can with the thinking they've got - I get it! Like mentioned already, I am not innocent of this behavior. Now though, we've got more awareness. Now we can start raising our little mouses differently...so they don't end up being played with and punked by life. Instead of our young leaders running away or freaking out with potential struggle, we can teach them to be strong. It's not too late.
Here's what we can do:
Let them mess up. When you see they're going to very likely fall down - Don't help. JUST WATCH or better yet - turn around and walk away (but not too far). They'll get hurt when they fall down and then they'll get back up. Then, the beautiful part - when they get back up, they'll brush themselves off and look for you - THAT'S when you can be there for them. They can cry and we get to say, "I know you can make it through this" or "you can do this" or "it's ok to feel sad - we all do at times. You are resilient and I believe you'll do the right thing." And in our heads we may even thing, "eventually" while we raise our eyes in exasperation because they've made this mistake before and why are they doing it again!? When this happens, step back - don't pick them up - they'll figure it out.
A good saying goes something like, "don't do anything for them that they can do for themselves." The parents responsibility is to prepare the mouse-child for life - unbuffered.
Comments are welcome...and am I the only one who's guilty of this?!
Thanks for reading. If you're in the mood, check out my YouTube channel and watch the short therapy video on Helicopter Parents. It can all be found at www.meaningtolive.com
Until next time,
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Ever messed up? Of course you have – everyone has. Here’s the skinny about feeling guilty about something that’s happened in the past…actually, before we do that, let’s go over a couple of definitions that will help lay the foundation of this concept.
Shame and Guilt feels heavy. Often, my clients bring up past mistakes with huge feelings of remorse that they’ve carried for a long time. To begin the process of working through it, we need to know the difference between shame and guilt. Easy stuff here – Shame sounds like, “I am bad” while guilt is “I did something bad”. Told you it was easy. Now lets get to the fun stuff.
First off, isn’t it fascinating that humans can carry this heavy feeling for SO LONG? When this topic comes up in session I’ll hear something like, “Jed, it makes sense because I did things that had bad consequences so I need to feel this way.” From there we try to get an idea of how long they need to feel horrible and basically the conclusion ends with the understanding that it basically doesn’t end until they die. Sometimes people carry shame for decades.
I would laugh but it is just SO SAD! Thank goodness therapy exists because here’s the deal if this so happens to be you. You are making the judgment and are feeling bad ‘now’ from a completely different perspective than where you were when you did the messed up thing in the first place.
It’s an odd concept, I know – it’s also a true concept. Let’s explain it a little more.
Here’s how it makes sense. Your awareness and insight has grown from then to now so naturally it’s easier to see what you could have done better. This connects with the whole “hindsight is 20/20” saying. What is so fascinating is that it goes against nature to torture ourselves with these self deprecating statements that we tell ourselves after we mess up. I call this “shoulding on ourselves.” Go ahead and say that 5 times fast. It’s funny and it helps to remember how messy this can get.
Fortunately, we can clean this up with a new belief system. Ready?
"You did the best you could with the thinking you had." People initially balk at this thought, however it is completely valid. Think about it. Long term angst via shame or guilt makes as much sense as beating yourself up for NOT hitting the mega-millions lucky number power play jackpot. Sure, you gave it the best you had and used all the appropriate lucky numbers or birthdays, etc. but you messed up the winning numbers! So, go ahead and flog yourself for the next long while and while you’re at it, you may as well feel bad for crapping your pants when you were a baby. You did that crap for years! Don’t mind that you were a new human and your body hadn’t developed enough to appropriately discard your stinky excrement.
Yes, they are odd analogies and yes, they work.
Don’t fight losing this negative emotion. When you look back on life, you’re looking back from a completely different perspective than when you were making there and making the messed up decisions. Allowing this concept into our belief systems will help you understand that it makes no sense to grind our noses into some crap narrative. You were there, it happened, you did your best with the thinking you had and now your thinking is better because your awareness is higher.
Whatever happened in your life happened FOR you because it helped shape who you are and who you are is right where you need to be. This is the truth for everything.
Life didn’t happen ‘to’ you or ‘to’ your kids or ‘to’ your grandmammy. It happened ‘for’ you and ‘for’ them. Every conflict or struggle has helped you to become stronger. Any other way to perceive ‘bad things’ is a victim-stance and you are definitely not a victim.
This was a bit of a philosophical article…that happens sometimes. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to like, comment and share it if you think it’ll help someone.
Till next time – awareness up,
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Welcome to another Meaning to Live awareness article. You’re going to LOVE today’s topic.
Check it out, way back in the 1940’s, it was thought that running a mile couldn’t be done in less than 4 minutes. Belief systems are HUGELY influential. Turns out, our minds give us more hurdles (pun intended) than anything else in life. Here’s the story:
Roger Bannister came from a very ordinary background but had very un-ordinary dreams. He wanted to be a Doctor and knew that his family wouldn’t be able to afford him the education required. Attending University in Great Britain was a privilege for kids with more...financial fluency. See, the Bannister family was 'working class' so, clever Roger figured he’d need a scholarship if he had a shot.
Turns out, he was a pretty talented runner and was able to get in to Oxford University as a track athlete. **Seriously, there are just so many puns available here…on the right ‘track’. He ‘stepped’ up his game. He ‘ran’ into problems. So – many.** Ok, back on ‘course’. Roger became so good at running that he actually made it into the 1948 Olympics which, he ‘passed up’. I don’t know why but coming from my own 'working class' family, can easily see it having to do with confidence. "Who am I think I am – going to the Olympics. Pshaw." Or, I’m just a kid from Washington, Utah! Who do I think I am, trying to help the world become happier with a YouTube channel?" Or, "who am I to open a mental health clinic?" You know, the kind of thinking where we don’t go after something because way down, we don’t think we can do it. Sorry everyone, I keep ‘running’ off on tangents! Keep on 'pace', Jed!...admittedly, that was a little weak. So, Roger didn’t attend the 1948 Olympics but he did muster up the confidence to race when the Olympics came again in 1952 and with great expectations, the whole country of Britain watched.
Roger didn’t medal. In fact, he ran horribly which crushed him to the point that he almost decided to give up running altogether (who hasn't been there). Fortunately for this article, he flipped his victim stance around and looked into what he learned from the experience. This spurned him on to push his belief system limits and he decided to break the world record in the mile run. Because, why not? He already survived after 'dropping the ball' (wait, wrong sport) at the Olympics in front of the world.
Remember, the pro’s all said it was humanly impossible to run the mile in less than 4 minutes. Bannister wanted to prove them wrong and over the next few years he put what he’d learned to use.
He didn’t run more.
He didn’t train more.
He worked on believing more.
Roger broke the world record in 1954 while running in the wind on a wet course. Completely NOT ideal conditions.
It’s a great story, no doubt, but even greater is the fact that Bannisters record was broken a short 6 weeks after he set it! Wha?!!
The story continues...
Here’s what happened. When Roger broke the record he also broke the faulty belief system for the entire running population! And when other runners began to BELIEVE it could be done – other runners did it. Roger Bannister gave all of them the key by unlocking their minds. Turns out, our thinking is the only thing holding us back.
Now think about what this concept that Bannister taught us about the power of belief and ask yourself, “what does this mean for me”.
Maybe everyone has a unique story; even you.
Even though Roger Bannister died last year (2018), his impact continues on. Thank you, Sir.
Thanks for taking the time to read and until next time,
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
There’s a pernicious belief out there that the easy life is a lazy life. If I were a victimy man, I’d blame this pervasive idea on the 80’s Rock Band, “Dire Straits” and there hit song, “Money for nothing”. This idea only got more traction with the birth of social media because, lets face it, people post highlights so of COURSE life must be better when we’re only having fun.
Is this true? Is life better when hard work is taken out of the equation?
Oddly enough and I’m sure you already know the answer; it’s not. What you don’t probably know is that I know this for a FACT. I’ve tried it.
Fortunately for you, I won’t go into the hours and hours spent binge watching TV or the even MORE hours in the fantasy world of online gaming. This life is directly correlated to one of the 7 deadly sins! Capital vice stuff! Pride, greed, gluttony, lust, envy, wrath and “Sloth” -- the last of which is the stopping of motion and an indifference to work; laziness, idleness
I lived like this for years and even managed to attract other sloths who used me for my car but I didn’t mind because they helped me feel safe and accepted in the low responsibility life we all shared. Now that I think about it, that car actually housed me for a time. Not much room in the 1989 Dodge Colt E but it served to keep me out of the rain. Don’t feel too bad for me though, I lived in Southern Utah and washing up in the morning was as easy as finding a pool to swim in. Showering off afterwards and getting back on the street was done in less than 2 minutes. I had the procedure DOWN and nobody was ever the wiser. Eating was a bit trickier.
Ever notice that we attract other people on our same level? Before I knew it, I was living in a drug house (the Yellow house for those of you that remember) where I didn’t have to pay rent and could eat anything I wanted...if I could find anything to eat. I was there for a long time, just doing time. No noticeable life progression and before I knew it, my birthday came and 2 years had passed. I wasn't a bad person for this part of my life and neither were the people I lived with. This is just where we were and how we lived at the time.
I tried to get the ‘money for nothing’ yet somehow this fantasy life PROMISED by dire straits had eluded me! In fact, looking back - I was actually IN dire straits.
Is life better when it’s easy?
Until that point in life, I’d skillfully chosen the easy way, and, although it was a learning experience, the path of least resistance never got me very far.
The brains a tricky little thing. It’s main job is to protect humans from feeling uncomfortable - which, in life’s case is doing something hard. It accomplishes this task by weaseling up thoughts that keep us away from even trying to do hard things in life. My were, “I’m never going to be able to do that”. Or, “what’s the point?” Or, “that’s going to take too long”. Or, I don’t care about that anyway.” The one that makes me laugh is when I (my brain) came up with, "I want a girl who loves me for ME, not for my body." Good one, lazy Jed. Of course, the truth would have sounded something like, "eating healthy and working out doesn't sound like much fun...in fact, it sounds pretty awful." The list goes on and on. Do not fall for this trick!
When you do hard things now, your life will be easier over time. The opposite is also true. When you choose to skate in the easy lane now, your life will become harder over time.
It’s your choice.
Till next time - awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
There seems to be a persistent belief that relationships are fair. What a set up!
Let's be honest instead of nice and just talk truth. Relationships won't always be fair. I know, I know, Walt Disney would tell us otherwise but Disney, Hollywood and rom com's are not accurate on this topic. Truth is, sometimes you'll be getting more benefits than the other person and other times they'll be getting more. Trouble comes when the expectation of 'fairness' isn't met and couples start tallying up a score-card to reflect who owes who what in the relationship. Psychology coined this fun behavior as, "scorekeeping".
We all have learned to keep score from an early age. Just this morning, my 8 year old casually set 18 quarters on my counter saying, "I don't need these anymore" (which is more gangsta than I care to admit). Come to discover, he's eyeing a new 1100.00 cell phone (in order to locate pokemon) and figured a little 'gift' couldn't hurt his cause. Another term for this concept is 'quid quo pro'. This is just a fancy term for "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine." This mentality can destroy relationships because when expectations aren't met (which happen in every non movie relationship), humans end up focusing more on what they're NOT getting. In other words, their awareness around negative aspects of their partner go up. Way, way up. Simultaneously, their relational satisfaction goes down. Way, way down. Eventually this leads to the thought of, "I can do better than this" and kiss the relationship buh-bye if this thought takes root.
All of this starts with a little scorekeeping.
Gifts come in many forms. They can be physical gifts or behavioral gifts (service). When a gift is given with expectation, it's no longer a gift - it's a business transaction.
That's worth saying again. If a gift is given with strings attached (expectations), it's not a gift, it's a business transaction.
The key to lasting relationships is to figure out how to give to your partner because you love them and want to - not to get something in return. A little awareness in this area can go a long way not only in in creating relational peace; it will do wonders on your personal well-being, too.
Thank you for reading! If you think this information could help others, please share it, like it and comment. I'd love hearing your thoughts on this idea. Lastly, don't forget to subscribe to the Meaning to Live 'Jed Said' channel and visit the website for more therapy goodness.
Till next time - awareness UP.
There are a lot of beliefs about broken trust in a relationship. Warren Buffett says that “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” Another statement you’ve probably heard is “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.” Both of these statements have truth in it – but only to a point.
Working as a therapist, I’ve learned that there is a lot of gray area in pretty much everything. It’s also a fact that 'truth' can change...depending on how you look at. In other words, our perceptions can make or break a relationship.
Take the topic of trust, for example. What does “ruined” or “un-repairable” trust mean to a relationship? If you are to hang your hat on the above quotes, it’s easy to believe that the relationship is beyond repair or at a minimum is scared, ugly and not what it once was or could have been. To combat this rather hopeless belief system, let's talk about the art of repairing broken pottery...I know it sounds boring but stay with me.
'Kintsugi' is the Japanese art form of repairing pottery that began in the 14th century. Amazingly, a 600 year old pottery repair technique gives us a perfect example of how we can look at broken trust in relationships. See, with ‘Kintsugi’ a broken cup, bowl, glass or plate is carefully put back together. It's an odd concept, isn't it? Typically when something breaks, we would just throw it away and get another one but that isn't what kintsugi is about. In fact, they not only take the time to put the broken pottery back together, they use GOLD as GLUE. You heard me right, gold. The process is lengthy and takes a lot (LOT) of effort but don't be discouraged, the end result will be an even more beautiful and stronger cup, bowl, glass or plate than the original.
Shattered relationships, just like pottery, can be put back together. When betrayal (broken trust) is repaired correctly, the relationship is better for it. The couple isn’t scarred or permanently damaged. Feelings of shame or feelings of resentment dissolve as they identify and work through weak points in their ‘pottery bowl’. The relationship goes from broken to beautiful; fortified with love, understanding and commitment. Isn't that a wonderful thought? Instead of 'incident' being hidden away or stuffed down from view, the cracks and blemishes are strengthened and beautified resulting in a rare piece of art. The broken object is more enduring and valuable than it was prior to breaking. The same can go for a relationship.
Broken trust doesn’t have to “ruin” a relationship. A shattered heart isn’t easy to “repair” but it is absolutely possible. Just like the Japanese art of Kintsugi, repairing hearts takes time and effort – with the result being a piece of art that is admired by others but more importantly, means the world to you.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
You’ve heard it, your momma’s heard it, your grandmomma’s heard it…but is it actually true? And if it IS true, why does it happen? This will be the topic for todays article so buckle up.
This is a big topic but affairs may not be as ‘rampant’ as you might thing. Men are more likely to cheat (21% of males have had affairs) and women are slightly less at 15% average. Men win again! Animals. Ok, back on topic: lets answer the ‘why people cheat’ question before we answer if they’ll always be a cheater.
This is not a ‘one size fit’s all’ topic. The ‘cheater’ may have had cheating parents or they may be chronic liars. They may be narcissistic or have some type of attachment disorder – all mental health disorders aside, here are a few potential reasons of WHY people choose to have an affair.
Ok, the last one seriously borders on an attachment disorder but I really wanted to get to an even 10.
Looking at this list, you may be able to narrow it down even further. Often in couples sessions, we discuss the issue around ‘needing’ the other person to be ok. Now, look again at the list above; how many of the 10 things correlate to depending on the other person to be ok.
In every couples’ session the affair connects on 1 of 2 things – there’s something missing in the offender or there’s something missing in the relationship. It’s valid. Take reasons 1-3 and just add “I NEED more” at the end and you’ll discover that the issues stem from the person cheating, not the person being cheated on. Look again and you’ll be able to add “I need more” to reasons 5, 6, 7 and 9. That only leaves 4 (Resentment), 8 (Revenge) and 10 (Abandonment issues) to identify. Resentment and revenge dial into ‘victim stance’ and being afraid to get hurt or abandoned (IS EVERYONE) to the point that you’ll sabotage a relationship is really no. 7 so lets just take that one off altogether. Surprise surprise; turns out that a person who cheats likely does so because of their own personal issues - not the other way around. In other words, if you were cheated ‘on’, it’s not actually because you weren’t enough of something (sexy, loving, attentive, exciting, fun, smart, pretty, thoughtful, handsome, rich, etc.)
Now to address the main pop psychology message that ‘once a cheater always a cheater’. It is a myth and scientific research shows quite the opposite. People who cheat may never cheat again – in fact, many people only cheat one time. One and done. Repeat offenses happen when the root issue of infidelity isn’t addressed and worked through. Remember, the person who’s cheating is often going through their own kind of crisis - compassion is helpful.
Being rejected always feels harsh and most of the time, the person cheated ‘on’ leaves the experience feeling like it’s their fault. Like they weren’t enough for the other person which isn’t necessarily valid. However, if you’re cheated on often or more than once with the same person, you most definitely play a part in the pattern (which is something you get to figure out).
This can be a sensitive subject for many people. That said, a therapist can help immensely with the process.
Thanks for reading and as always, don’t forget to follow, like and share if you think this information was helpful. The website for all things therapy is www.meaningtolive.com
Till next time, awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
“Pop” psychology is short for a “popular” psychology take on any given subject. The dangers of this come from a lack of scientific backing and you’d be surprised what makes the list of MY personal top 3 “Pop” psychology facts that turned out to be myths. Which ones sound familiar?
#1. People only use 10% of their brains. MYTH! Turns out we use 100% of the brain every single day. This myth first began in the 1800’s and was reinforced in the 1900’s when scientists compared brain scans from a child prodigy to an average child. The prodigy has a more active brain, look! Fact is, the prodigy was able to utilize more parts of their brain at the same time. The average kid utilized the same amount of brain – just at different times.
#2. Opposites attract. This one shocked you, didn’t it? This is a huge ‘POP’ psychology MYTH. Scientific research actually finds that the more similarities two people have, the longer they will maintain a successful relationship. That’s right, the more you have in common, the better chances you have to stay together and the happier you’ll be – not the opposite.
#3. Smiling all by itself will make you happier. This one is very persistent in pop psychology – and guess what: MYTH! Turns out you cannot trick your emotions. ‘Fake’ smiling when you don’t feel happy can actually makes people feel worse. When you push down negative emotions, your stress level will rise and the unhappiness lasts LONGER. Whoops, curse you popular psychology!
I am on board with posture being connected to positive emotions.
There are many more MYTHS out there that have been passed on through the years – I think my next article will be on the popular psychology belief of, “once a cheater, always a cheater”.
Please BE careful of what beliefs you pick up – at a minimum, follow my blog and have all life answers at your fingertips.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to subscribe, follow, like, share, comment, etc. etc.
Till next time – awareness up!
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Depression rates are rising in the U.S. and Utah is at the top 5! We could speculate about possible reasons to explain this (I think it’s in the water) BUT, I’d rather get some great information out there to help people feel better.
You don’t need to be a therapist to have awareness around the topic of depression. It seems like everyone either knows someone personally or has had their own experience with being sad for long periods of time. When working with people who are feeling depressed, I've noticed one thing they have in common; the inner bully.
There are a lot of phrases used to describe this thought pattern of negative self talk. My favorite is 'shoulding on yourself'. Others call it 'stinkin' thinkin' and don't pretend you don't have your own favorite way to punish yourself. The one I hear MYSELF say (in my head) is, “Jed – dumb!” Or, "nobody is going to listen to you so why even try". You have your own go-to’s as well…you’re probably thinking of them right now. Clients working through depression have some pretty mean inner bully narratives happening almost constantly. Instead of, “dummy”, theirs is meaner and says, “you’re a real loser" or "you’ll never amount to anything" or "see, I knew you’d screw this up." or "people only pretend to like you…” The list goes on and on. This 'inner bully' is loud and relentless. It spouts out blame and shames you for anything ‘you’ can think of. Who wouldn’t be depressed with this harassing, broken record going on in the background ALL OF THE TIME?!
Of course, I understand that there is a chemical component of this but I’m don’t prescribe medication – I’m more into analyzing thoughts and how they connect with feelings. Think – feel – behave.
Here are the top 3 behavioral changes to calm (and eventually extinguish) the inner voice that brings you down.
4. Service. When you think AND do for someone else, you’re less in your head about your own worries.
Your inside bully won’t stand a chance.
Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope you enjoyed. Please like, share and comment as this helps spread awareness. Seriously, it’s time for Utah to start losing at being depressed.
Till next time,
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Are you too nice? News Flash: it’s not actually helping.
How can being too nice be a bad thing? Great question and lets talk about it. Imagine there’s a range of agreeableness and disagreeableness. On one side of the scale, the agreeable (nice) person has a lot of qualities that look like empathy, compassion and my favorite; compliant.
The most disagreeable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 The most agreeable
Where do you think you land on this scale? I’ve managed to get myself to around a 6 from an 8 and I’m working on getting even lower. Why? Because there are some negative consequences to being on the 10 side that I’m just not willing to dance with, anymore. Agreeable persons are often easily manipulated and pushed around. Why? Because they’re not that good at standing up for themselves! This is often reflected in how much we make in our jobs. If you very much dislike negotiating your salary, you may be an agreeable person – and you won’t be paid what you think you’re really worth. Another downside is that this type us 'agreeable' types KNOW deep down we're not being treated fairly. The years of swallowing the short end of the stick eventually leads to a lot of resentment. I'm not just talking about money, either; I'm talking about doing nice things, taking the fall for others, keeping your mouth shut when you know you're in the right in order to maintain compliance and/or 'be nice'. For you ‘agreeable’ types, have you ever thought, “I do so much for them – why aren’t they doing as much for me?” Think about it for a second…do you do more for other people than they do for you? If you’re agreeable you may have had others tell you something like, “it’s time to grow a backbone” or “stop being a doormat”. The more on the agreeable scale, the more people are likely to become the Gazelle’s (or prey) in life vs someone who’s less agreeable. There are a lot of gazelles in the wild – and they feed a lot of other animals. Do you really want to be a Gazelle?
If you’re more on the disagreeable side you are likely good at negotiating your salary (yay! You’ll make more money) but this goes beyond money – they also have better boundaries around how others treat them! They don’t get manipulated or walked on nearly as often because they have more practice saying 'no'. But Jed, I don’t want to be heartless! No worries - being disagreeable doesn’t mean you lack empathy or compassion. It means you’ve established boundaries around your compassion and empathy. Remember, though – this is a scale. I imagine that people that are a 1 out of 10 in disagreeableness, have much less feelings of compassion and empathy than someone that’s a 4 out of 10.
If you’re too far on the disagreeable scale, you’re likely to end up in prison. Sorry. It’s also one of the main attributes of being ‘anti-social’ which DOESN’T mean you don’t like being ‘social’ – it means that you are very selfish and use society for yourself with less consideration for other people’s feelings which is an ‘anti-social’ trait.
Where are you on the scale? The great news is that – with awareness – you can change your number! If you’re too far on the agreeable side, it’s TIME TO STOP being a doormat. It’s time to grow a backbone by placing boundaries around your empathy and compassion for others. Remember, agreeableness is basically just compliance. It’s not actually ‘nice’. Showing true kindness sometimes means saying ‘no’ and putting yourself first.
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Till next time - Awareness up,
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Have you ever known someone that knew everything or was never wrong? You’re not the only one. In my field, this often gets pinned on someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This behavior can be associated with male or female (men are better at it) and is so prevalent that Phil Collins wrote a song while he played in the band, “Genesis” called ‘that’s all’. It’s a whiny victim song about how he can’t leave even when he’s wrong about everything he thought was right – even down to the other person telling him “it’s black when he knows that it’s white! It’s always the same, it’s just a shame, that’s all.”
If you pay attention to the words in the music, you'll soon notice that this issue of people HAVING to be right pops up all over the place. The band “Disturbed” actually has a song called ‘Never Wrong’. “You’re never ever wrong, always something more to say, you’re never wrong.” Fortunately, the lead singer ‘David Draiman’ has more backbone than Cill Phollins and by the end of the song, finds resolution by saying, “I’m not willing to deal with someone who insists that they can never be wrong, So just keep on talking to the wall because I’m walking away.”
None of this victimy/whiny “I could leave but I won’t go”crap.
Ok! Back on topic - let’s find out what to look for in a potential ‘narcissist’.
In reality, narcissism is not as fun as it looks. They may seem to have things figured out, but that portrayed confidence is a just a mask to hide a well-established internalized belief that they are not good enough. The extreme avoidance of being vulnerable (trust issues) along with a deep-seated belief that they are not good enough result in a seemingly impenetrable defense around feeling negative emotions or being genuine. If the brains main job is to keep us from feeling bad – you’ve really got to give a hand to the narcissistic brain.
It’s EASY to condemn anyone who carries the above trait list. Hopefully, understanding more about this disorder will make way for more empathy.
Thanks for reading and remember, comments are welcome.
Till next time, awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Let’s talk about the very VERY old ritual of ‘the hand shake’. Back in the days of knights in shining armor, people shook hands to see if the other person was in possession of a weapon. Yup, shaking hands was a way to frisk someone. I guess that’s how dangerous meeting new people was back in the day! Today, shaking hands is used when greeting someone or even when your parting ways with someone you have a connection with.
This behavior might even be in our genetic coding – chimpanzees give each other fist bumps when they reunite as a show of respect (they also kiss and hug). Don’t try to fist bump, hug or kiss a chimpanzee because they can rip your arms off if they want to.
Ok, back on topic. Shaking hands is HUGE in our culture and can make or break life changing opportunities...so lets talk about how to do it right.
The biggest mistake I see others make happens with the initiation of the shake. People neglect to maintain EYE CONTACT. For the love, KEEP EYE CONTACT. I know, I know, it’s risky because you might completely miss hands but don’t fall for the temptation to look down. Keep eye contact. By doing this, you send the unspoken message of being secure – of being confident.
Next, tend to your grip. It needs to be firm. Not CRUSHING the other persons hand bones, but firm. Doing this sends the message that you are capable and can ‘hand’le yourself…pun intended. Should you choose to decimate the other persons hand, the message is that you’re a being aggressive or over-confident – cocky.
Third, if someone offering a handshake and you happen to be sitting down – STAND UP. For the love, stand up and THEN shake their hand. This signals that you respect them enough to out of your way (simply by standing up). It also sends the message that you’re not lazy and you think enough of yourself to rise to the occasion verses acknowledging someone who’s towering over you.
But Jed, what do I do if I don’t want to shake someone’s hand? Great question – shaking hands is a bid to connect. There’s even a ‘connection’ chemical called ‘oxytocin’ that is released in the brain when we have the physical contact/connection of shaking hands. That said, if you don’t respect the other person – or don’t want to connect with them – you don’t have to. Unless you want to check them for weapons.
As always, thanks for supporting this grass roots insight for the masses effort and if you found this to be good info – share it.
Till next time,
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
We think – and then we feel – and then we behave.
A lot of people have a negative concept associated the following 3 things when really, you should start getting excited when they happen. Why? Because you’re about to experience a “breakthrough”. You’ll know when you’ve had it because it’ll come with a sudden discovery about yourself, or an improvement in your life – it’s a level up. When I think of breakthrough, I think of a bird hatching. It doesn’t always look dramatic or spectacular but it sure is cool to see the baby bird break through the barrier that was keeping it from progressing in life. Here’s my top 3 indicators that happen when you’re about to level up.
1.Resistance increases. It’ll feel like conflict and you’ll get it from parts of life that you’d never expect. People you thought would be urging you on begin to do the opposite. And this even can feel spiritual/supernatural. After my first experience being incarcerated at the young age of 18 (and still in high school – hey, I have a late birthday!), I vowed to change my criminal ways. Everyone in jail and in my social herd advised that I would be back…and it went even further. Criminal opportunities seemed to rain down and they weren’t the normal scores I was used to. They were the ‘this never happens, once in a lifetime, how did I get so lucky’ fortuitous opportunities. It was as if my decision to change my behaviors created resistance from the criminal aspect of the universe! I never did go back – the food was horrible and I wasn’t fond of the whole loss of freedom thing. Breakthrough!
2.Ridicule happens. Doing something different makes people uncomfortable. The mockery takes place in an effort to change your behaviors to something that they’re more comfortable with (in other words, they want you to give up). They’ll laugh and poke fun at you with their friends and maybe even your friends simply because they’re trying to feel better about themselves…in other words; them making fun of you has nothing to do with you other than you’re doing something awesome. It has everything to do with their own insecurities. I’ve been ridiculed very recently about my “Jed Said” YouTube channel. Honestly, I allowed my feelings to be hurt for a moment. Nobody likes being laughed at or mocked…until they remember that this happens before leveling up! I don’t think the ‘Breakthrough’ has occurred just yet but it’s coming as long as I don’t allow being ridiculed to change my course/behaviors.
3.Feeling Frustrated. This should have probably been #1 as it happens the most often. I became frustrated just the other day while perched precariously on top of a wooden log…that was on top of a filing cabinet. Well, my frustration began prior to that as I huddled in my office with a steady stream of frigid air pelting me from the vent above. This was not a single episode and today I was going to DO something about it! Problem is - no ladder and I’m only 5’10” (11” on a good day and don’t even get me started on not reaching 6ft). After setting my mind to solving this dilemma and setting up the comical file cabinet/log combination, I realized that I needed a third arm while trying to screw in the vent screws. I was becoming more and more frustrated as each attempt resulted in dropping a screw or not being able to reach the screwdriver or abandoning the whole attempt in order to regain my balance. After a time, the vent was back in it’s position but closed instead of pointed right at my desk. I had done it and survived! BREAKTHROUGH.
Leveling up or having a breakthrough happens a lot in life but ONLY after struggle and conflict. It’s not supposed to be easy. Now that you know this, your going to be excited when the above 3 things happen because you're on your way towards breakthrough!
We think - and then we feel - and then we behave.
Hope you enjoyed blog today and as always, feel free to share...but ONLY if you think it’d be helpful to mankind. Fly little bird!
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
We're gonna go metaphysics with this blog. The law of attraction concept felt like mental gymnastics to me, initially. What I focus on – increases? The abstract feel of this came when realizing that I’ve attracted negative aspects of life and made them bigger by focusing simply by placing my focus on them. A story given by a client, Allie gives a perfect example of how this works (I'm paraphrasing a bit, here).
Allison's Story -
“I was snowmobiling for the first time in my life and was terrified of running into a tree. Throughout the day I became more and more comfortable driving but the thought was always in my mind, ‘don’t run into a tree, don’t run into a tree.’ At one point, while riding in a wide-open area, I noticed a lone pine tree. I looked at it and thought, “don’t run into that.” My anxiety grew as I kept looking at it with the pine with the thought ever repeating itself, ‘stay away from that, don’t run into the tree….’ And I was headed right towards it. The crazy part is that I was actually GOING TO HIT the tree even while my thought was screaming at me to do the opposite! Thankfully, I didn’t hit the tree but that’s only because my husband noticed what was happening and began frantically waving his arms. He was to my left and when I noticed the frantic movement - I looked towards him and began to veer away from the tree. My focus had redirected and I missed the tree.”
This story perfectly illustrates the power of focus. Allie was putting energy into the tree and was being attracted to it like a tractor beam (for you Star Wars and Trekkie fans). Here’s the twist – the energy of our focus doesn’t always care about the details. Ally absolutely didn’t want to run into the tree – BUT, her thoughts drew her to it nonetheless.
I see this concept happening in the addiction all over the place. Drugs and alcohol are the same to me (mind altering substance) but let’s keep it simple and pick alcohol as an example. Drinking eventually leads to negative consequences which then gives people the desire to stop. Here’s the stumbling block I observe repeatedly; when someone tries to stop, they actually think about not drinking a LOT. And then they run into the Pine.
Before you think this is ridiculous, I’ll prove it to you. Ready? Don’t think about a white elephant. See?! I just said to NOT think about a while elephant and you totally thought of a white elephant.
In other words, people who constantly think of ‘not’ drinking are at a very high risk of relapse. “Where attention goes, energy flows” is a common phrase in the self-help community (think Tony Robbins or ‘The Secret’) but it’s origins go way back – for recent findings (1960’s) and if you like Hawaii, checkout “huna”. This isn’t a new concept.
Ok, Jed – now that I know this, what do I do about it? The answer? Redirect. Allie had it right when she focused on something else. When we redirect our energy, our attention goes with it and instead of ‘not’ wanting to drink or not hit the tree, or NOT be anxious, or NOT be depressed – which actually increases them, we start to just be. If you’re not wanting to drink – think about something entirely different. Invest your thoughts on family, work, triathlons, biking, music, hiking, trail running, nutrition – anything OTHER than ‘not’ drinking (or staying clean, or hitting a pine tree, or being anxious, or depressed, etc.).
Allie doesn’t even come close to hitting pine trees anymore – in fact, she doesn’t even think about it.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out the Jed Said YouTube channel. You can find that at the website www.meaningtolive.com
The meaning of it all? Don't drive a snowmobile if there are trees around.
Till next time – awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Often people in unhappy marriages facing drastic changes like separation or divorce say the same thing; I don’t want my children growing up in a “broken home”. This sentence makes my butt-hole pucker. Still, parents are doing what they think is best with the thinking they’ve got which is where therapy comes to play – with honest talk, it doesn’t take long to expose what the real broken home looks like.
What does an unhappy family environment resemble? It can take the form of many ugly behaviors so we’ll just keep it general.
What would a divorced and healthy family environment look like? Easy – reverse all of the stuff mentioned above. Your children will be more stable, less stress/anxious and feel more connected not only to you, but to everyone around them. The kid will learn that it’s ok and safe to express negative (sad, stressed, anxious) feelings because the parent is finally an emotional state where they're able to support them in the normal ‘growing up’ sad times. They are more connected emotionally – in fact, the child will display a much larger emotional range than when he or she lived in the ‘broken’ marriage. They’ll learn what’s acceptable and not acceptable in a relationship. And maybe best of all – the child will connect with the parents because the caregiver is able to give them time that’s not tainted by angst, resentment or sadness that often lies just underneath the surface in the marriage that stays together for the childrens sake.
Now, which do you think, is the ‘broken’ home?
Marriage is a contract that is always changing. Behaviors that were acceptable to both of you initially could change – that means that you and your spouse ‘get’ to change as well. Marriage takes constant work, energy and effort with the end goal of you and your partner growing and changing with each other. Staying married takes effort from BOTH – not just one. If you are struggling in your marriage, please seek marital counseling. Working with a professional can be helpful but know that you and your partner will be doing all of the work...and it aint easy.
Thanks for reading. Comments welcome and don’t forget to check out the YouTube – I’m planning on doing a video on this topic soon. www.youtube.com/meaningtolive
Till next time
Jed Thorpe, CMHC.
Who hasn’t been teased?! Let’s talk about the 2 different types of teasing and how to best handle it.
1. Endearment teasing: This form is used to bond or build connection. Think of a friend (or potential friend) giving you a ‘hard time’ about wearing a hoodie in the summertime, your butt-chin, twiddling your hair, etc. I use this form of communication when I make up a name for people. The name isn’t malicious – it’s meant to connect and build a bond.
2. Influence teasing: This form is used to change a behavior. It’s not meant to hurt – rather, it’s meant to help as the behavior likely isn’t a positive one. Immediately, if someone is slurping their cereal their friend (noticing that it’s just the most horrible thing in the world and wanting to help their friend stop) will point out the behavior in a jesting manner. If it were me, I’d also slurp for a very exaggerated time while looking right at the person.Teasing can be a very good thing – teasing too much can easily step into the ‘bullying’ category. To tell the difference, just ask yourself if your teasing the other person to get closer to them (build a bond/connection) or help them (to make a positive behavioral change) OR are you trying to feel better about yourself by putting them down.
Now that you know what teasing is and the motive beneath it, you may want to know how to handle it as it can be pretty awkward (especially if you're not used to it). If you’re the one being teased (as long as it’s actual teasing), the best way to avoid any awkward potential is to GO WITH IT. Laugh at yourself. Smile with your friends. When you become ‘reactive’, the teasing will only increase. Say something like, “good one” (while smiling), or even exaggerate the thing that you’re being teased for – while staring at them. Remember, teasing is meant to either connect with you or to change a negative (in their eyes) behavior. If you can ‘take’ the teasing, the attention will naturally redirect off of you. One time, I heard a kid that was being teased about his backpack shrug and say, “it doesn’t effect my value”.
Remember, there are 2 types of teasing – Endearment and influential. If you're trying to connect or help someone to identify a behavior that's out of line, you're in the tease-mode. If you're not doing any of those things, you're likely being a bully.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to subscribe to the Jed Says YouTube channel.
Till next time, Awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC