Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy (?) Holidays

Time flies and it is already the end of 2017. Wow, already!? Gosh, 2020 will soon be here before we know it, let alone 2018!

So once again, the holiday season has arrived. As I wrote in the past about the holidays, (Holidays: Are they a Tough Time for You?), the holiday season can be a tough time for many people because of things like social isolation, personal loss that coincides with the holidays, unreasonable expectations of what’s expected at this time or year, or perhaps even seasonal affective disorder. Let’s try to have good awareness of our own personal condition at this time of the year and provide good self-care as needed.

Physically speaking, you may have extra activities and events, where you eat unusual things and in bigger portions, and consume more alcoholic drinks (or sodas). These in themselves can lead to inner conflict if you are at the same time trying to diet or eat healthier. Or you may become busier with shopping and work celebrations before you get to take some time off. Perhaps, even, you don’t have a job and feel the pressure of gift-giving when you don’t have the economic resources. Some of you may also be traveling or driving far to visit your family and friends at one of the busiest travel times of the year. So as you can see, it can be a time of year that is physically demanding, and loaded with expectations, which can be unreasonable.

Being busy by itself is stressful. Even if it is a fun time, parties and gatherings can be emotionally draining and exhausting. Whether you don’t have much to do over the holidays, or you have to work a lot to make it a success for family or friends, it can be hard not to compare yourself to others, as if everyone else is happy with their loved ones, but not you, leaving you feeling less-well-off and lonely. This is one of the worst times of the year for many people to feel lonely and unhappy.

Someone has asked me, “So then, what can we do if we are not feeling good?” As I wrote before, first, try to let go of the pressure to feel happy and/or have a great time with others. You may find all the pressure and expectations bothersome, annoying, time-consuming, and/or expensive. If that is the case, then just accept your feelings as they are. If you feel that way, don’t fight it. Fighting against these natural feelings is to give in to these expectations and will make you feel worse. Also feel ok to bitch about it as needed as much as you want to. Expressing yourself really helps to survive this time. Once you are okay with not forcing yourself to feel happy about the holidays or faking being happy about the holidays, then you can relax more. If you’re lucky, focus on appreciating what you have, while not comparing yourself with others unnecessarily. Being grateful for things, anything, is a great way to start feeling happier. 

If you are a more proactive-kind of person and you want to do something to recognize the holiday season to help yourself cope with your negative emotional experience, there is one thing that really works. You can do something good for others. For example, join some volunteering activities. You will be surprised how much you can do for others and how much people can appreciate you. We human beings experience happiness when we do something meaningful for others, and if you do, you will be feeling really better. For example, there are bound to be charities, churches, and foundations in your area that provide Christmas dinner for homeless or poor families, and they will be looking for volunteers to help out. 

If youfeel physically exhausted and/or your health is affected by your food and drink, be aware of your condition and take care of yourself better intentionally. Try and make the holiday season a time to take some breaks, eat better, slow down, and so on in order to treat yourself kindly. Your body is your vehicle to keep going in your life and if you don’t maintain it well, you will pay the price. Caring for yourself is one of the most valuable things you can do at this time of year. 

In short, again, it is really important to monitor your condition and take care of yourself. It is a myth that everyone is happy with no problems around the holidays. And it is okay to feel tired, stressed, and/or lonely. Let’s just be aware of our experience, and be kinder to ourselves!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Additional Miniatures!

Last time, I posted about my new and great therapeutic tool, Sand Tray and its Miniatures. I somehow wanted to have a few more essential ones, and I got them! I will introduce the new members today.

This is the first group. Fairy tail characters. We have read a lot of stories and they are really great to represent people in our life! I hope my clients love them.

By the way, it is so interesting that they look like they are posing together, as if they are a performance group or something like that, although I did not intend to display them that way! :)

The second group is venomous creatures. Creepy? Yes, they could be. But we do have toxic people and experiences in our life, and I thought they are needed to be available options. I'm pretty happy that they joined us.

These two groups above were the ones I wanted to add to the whole miniature set, but I also happened to find this very small perfume container at home, which appeared quite interesting. Anything that stimulates our imaginations, creativity, and associations is great. Therefore, I added this one as well.

Some of my clients have already expressed themselves amazingly well through the sand tray. I love it.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sand Tray Therapy!

I’m excited to announce that my office now has a Sand Tray Therapy set!

Sand Tray is a powerful tool with which people of any age can express themselves outwardly and physically. It may appear to be cheesy and childish for you at first, but once you experience it, you will see how powerful it can be! I use it to help my clients express their thoughts, feelings and experiences to an extent they could never imagine. The visual image as a symbol is quite vivid and it does affect our neurons. You will be surprised what we can do with this small box with the collection of miniatures. I hope you also find it very inspirational!

This small shelf has a lot of miniatures which can be used as symbols of many of our experiences.

These figurines can represent any human beings, animals, or objects in our lives, and I will buy more!

There are more mythical figurines as well.

And there are sea creatures!

Of course, we cannot forget about animals, including dinosaurs.

We love plants and animals, don’t we?

But yeah, fights are part of our experience too, unfortunately...

Apart from these, we have insects and vehicles.

We can also take a trip to all over the world.

And romance, spirituality, and death are not avoidable…

The sand tray can help you express your world inside you. I hope you will find it interesting and valuable!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Trust IS a Choice

Trusting someone is a big deal for many of us. You may hear someone saying, “I have a trust issue,” “I cannot trust people,” and “I want to, but I can’t trust him/her.” Yes, it is understandable. But there is actually something many people misunderstand about trusting others, and I would like to talk about that today.

The difficulty of trusting other people is nothing strange or wrong in and of itself at all. We are all naturally concerned about protecting ourselves one way or another. So naturally, trust is very difficult and challenging! The biggest reason I can think of why this is so is because there is always a chance that you can be betrayed and hurt at some point; other peoples’ minds and behavior are not in our hands, therefore, even if we trust someone, we can never be totally sure of what might happen. Because trusting someone is to leave ourselves open and vulnerable, if betrayed, the damage is really huge.

For this reason, I have no complaints about people struggling with trust. Trusting someone is indeed a very difficult thing to do. However, the challenge I would like to extend to those who have a “trust issue” is to understand it that Trust IS a Choice. Trusting someone does not happen naturally out of nowhere, except for some kids and/or adults who are kids at heart. While growing up, it becomes a more and more difficult thing to do. And once it becomes difficult, then it will not happen easily or naturally unless we choose it.

However, lots of people with a “trust issue” seem to think that someday something magical will happen to them to help them be able to trust people. Or they continuously and desperately look for evidence to be able to keep trusting someone until they find a reason why they can’t do it any longer (and this pattern repeats). Neither one will work.

As I said above, trust is a choice. You actually have to choose to trust someone no matter how scary it might be.

Then you may wonder about the risk of being hurt, betrayed, and so on. Yes, it is a risk. But you still choose to trust the person because you decide to do so. Again, we never know what might happen, and the mind/feelings/behavior of others are things outside of our control. Thus, all we can do is to choose to trust, despite the fear and lack of certainty.

Yes, being betrayed is a possibility. The situation may change and even your BFF may not want to be your BFF any longer. No matter what happens after that, however, the fact that you were able to choose to trust that person will remain with you, and this is your power. Even if someone was not who you thought they were, the fact that you were able to decide to trust that person won’t change at all! This is an amazing thing. Why is that? If you “cannot” trust people and stay lonely and miserable, it won’t do anything for you and you will remain the same lonely miserable person. But if YOU decide to CHOOSE to trust someone, then first, you can be proud of your ability and courage to trust that person, no matter what happens after that. And second, you open yourself to the opportunity of having an amazing encounter and connection with someone who is really great.

If you are betrayed, then you will have more clarity that it is not worth it having that person in your life and you can get rid of someone toxic from your life. This is liberating and great for you, isn’t it? In reality, however, lots of decent people actually do respond to your trust well, because decent people respect and appreciate your trust implicitly understanding what a difficult thing it is to do.
Also I would like to say that trust is either 100% or not at all. There is no “mostly,” “90%,” or “somewhat.” Either you do or you don’t trust someone once you choose to trust them. It is all or nothing. Yes, it is scary, but that is why it is such a valuable thing.

By the way, if you have been betrayed by someone badly or on many occasions, and you still choose to trust that person, then you probably have some fundamental issue in play. Your attachment, abandonment, fear of rejection, or something like that is not healthy for you. But that is not what I’m talking about today. Also, some people have incurred more deep-rooted damage, resulting in an inability to even trust themselves and/or their own judgment. This article does not apply to those who have such issues.

Anyhow, what do you think? I hope this was interesting and thought-provoking. The bottom line is: When you CHOOSE to trust someone, it is in your hands and you are more empowered. Trust IS your choice to make.

Friday, July 21, 2017

"Are you okay?"

“Are you okay?”

This is a very common expression you’ll hear and probably even you use it when you have some fellow human-being who is suffering or hurt for one reason or another. However, it is an expression that I usually avoid using, and I would like to discuss why this may not be such a great expression for you to use either. I hope some of you will find my reasoning interesting.

Why don’t I like to use this expression, particularly when something actually does appear not to be okay with someone? Well, the issue is that by using this expression, there is an implicit expectation for the person to whom you address it to reply, “Yes, I’m okay.” In other words, it's as if you don't really want to hear what is really going on. And even if you do want to know the truth, this phrase does not invite more of a response than "Yeah, I'm okay"; the person my in fact subconsciously feel pressure not to upset or involve you in their situation because culturally that's how it goes with this expression.

Let me give you an example. If you are sick, or you look sick, and you tell someone that you are sick and then they ask, “Are you okay?” …Well what can you do with this? Don’t you think you are just expected or even pressured to say, “Yeah, thank you…” Or, if you are sad and crying, and someone asks you, “Are you okay?” Don’t you wish you could just say, “Can’t you see I am NOT okay right now!!??” A response like that might be something we see in a movie, but not often in real life. We may not be consciously aware of it, but yes, we are expected to say and to hear, “I’m okay.”

So here is the issue. When you ask “Are you okay?” it makes it sound like you are concerned for the person you are talking to, and that may indeed be true. Having expressed concern you may feel good about it without even thinking that it may not be such a great expression of concern. And the person to whom you address the question cannot complain about the expression easily because you appeared to show some concern and it’s a culturally accepted expression. It’s so tricky. The tragedy is that this question does not do anything much for the person who is “not really feeling okay.”

I have even experienced a good number of therapists using this expression and it makes me feel sad to see it. (Well, to be honest, it drives me nuts). Many of our clients, by nature, already have difficulty sharing what is going on in their lives with people. If therapists could be a little more sensitive and avoid this kind of insensitive question, our clients could express themselves much more easily.

If you really want to show true concern and hear what is going on, you can just say something like: “What is wrong?” “What happened?” “Is something bothering you?” etc. Then, they can share what is really going on relatively more easily, and you can now provide real support. Yes, it is a tiny thing but it does make a big difference!

Well, you may now wonder, “but if it’s just my coworker or neighbor and I don’t really want to hear too much detail, then what can I do?” In this case, one, you can just keep using “Are you okay?” to demonstrate your basic level of concern for the person, not really intending to offer help or invite an explanation, but just to show some level of “social appropriateness.” It does work well for this purpose and is totally fine. Or, you can say something like, “You don’t look good. I hope you can go easy today,” “Here is some tea for you,” “I Hope you feel better soon,” etc. For me, putting a person who is obviously not okay in a position where they feel obliged to say “I’m okay,” is the last thing we should want to do.

I am not writing about this today out of some concern for being “politically correct,” I in fact don’t care much about political correctness or that kind of thing, to be honest. However, I do care about the effectiveness of communication. If you are more aware of small nuances in your daily expressions and express yourself more effectively, you will have more quality experiences and relationships. As a psychologist and life-coach, I am quite sensitive to this small but important matter and hope eventually to introduce to you more and more things like this here.

By the way, why did I specifically say “fellow human-being” at the beginning? Because I say “Are you okay?” to my puppy all the time, when he does not look good. He always wants to reply “Yes, I’m okay. Let’s go for a walk” no matter how bad he might feel!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

When we are desperately wanting something…

It is quite interesting and may sound somewhat superficial, but I think there is some truth to it, and I would like you all think about it today: When we are desperately wanting something, we really need to slow down and take stock.

This “want” can be about anything. It is often a strong desire to have someone, such as boyfriend or girlfriend, it can be some job or a promotion, or it can be more materialistic things, such as cars, toys, or collectible items. In any case, when we are really desperate for something, it seems like we often don’t get  what we desire for some reason. Either we end up with something less satisfactory, or we get so worked up, frustrated, and anxious that we lose our well-being.

I want to share something personal with you today. After losing the little tiny fury family member last year that I wrote about previously, there was a long period of bereavement for me. As I wrote my previous post, however, I allowed or almost forced myself not to run away from my emotional experience, and eventually, the pain was healed. Then what? Get ready for another fury family member!

Wow, I had no idea that rescuing a dog could be so stressful… Different facilities have different requirements and rules, and the requirement to actually be physically present for an adoption is not always possible because of work and distance. I finally found one I wanted to adopt, but then it didn’t work out… Then we tried for another…, etc. etc…. It really got to me. I became desperate, emotionally worked up, and frustrated and anxious. One day I realized something was NOT OKAY with me.

I got some invaluable support from a close and wise friend, and I realized that I needed to let it go. I let my control go and let the universe handle it, while maintaining a strong belief that it would eventually work out. It was such a huge relief! Even though I knew that such a state of desperation would not be helpful in general, nonetheless it sometimes creeps up on us in a sneaky way without us even noticing it at first.

Life is so interesting. I came to this realization in one brief morning after I asked my friend for help. In the evening on the same day, Mr. Max joined my family. What luck, what a weird scenario, how strange… Yes, I do understand that some people may say that this is just unscientific and superficial, but I think there is something in this that we can take seriously since so many people have had this kind of experience, don’t you think?

When we are desperately wanting something, we really need to slow down and stay calm. Let it be, and allow things to happen to come to you.