Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Be Aware: "Shoulds" are Fear-Driven

In my previous post, I discussed aspiration-driven and fear-driven behaviors, emphasizing the importance of staying focused on your aspirations to drive personal growth and fulfillment. I hope you found this concept meaningful, as it has the potential to significantly transform your life for the better.

Additionally, some years ago, I wrote about my encouragement for you to avoid being controlled by "shoulds" in an article titled "So Many Shoulds and Shouldn'ts" (you can read it here). I want to emphasize that "shoulds" are inherently fear-driven, albeit often in a subtle form, and their influence on your life can be dramatically reduced once you gain a clearer understanding of them and refrain from overusing this expression.

Why are "shoulds" fear-driven? Because they often imply phrases like "I should do [ ] to avoid trouble" or "I shouldn't do [ ] because my father said so." These statements are rooted in fear. By revisiting my article on "shoulds," you'll come to understand that there aren't as many things in life that we genuinely "should" or "should not" do as we might think. Increasing awareness in your daily life and reevaluating or rephrasing your "shoulds" can invite more joy and aspiration into your life.

Many of us have been conditioned to live based on apparent and subtle fears (think about how many times you say "should" and "have to" in one day!), but it's essential to recognize that you have options and can overcome unnecessary fears to lead a more satisfying life. I hope you can see these possibilities and take steps to embrace a more fulfilling life.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Aspiration or Fear-Driven?

I encourage my clients to discern whether their actions are motivated by aspiration or fear. This perspective can be invaluable in decision-making, so I'll explore it today.

First, let me pose a question: Can you easily articulate your desires and what you want to do? Sometimes, people become so accustomed to focusing on what they don't want, what they'd rather avoid, and what they don’t mind doing. This inclination may also relate to today's topic. Therefore, if you find it challenging to express your desires, please pay close attention to this tendency as I explain it below.

When we feel compelled to take action, we can generally categorize our motivations into two types, as per my theory: Fear-Driven or Aspiration-Driven

Fear-driven behaviors often stem from a desire to evade fearful situations, such as saying, "I exercise because I'm afraid of gaining weight," "I turned down this promotion because I want to avoid extra responsibilities," or "I got married because I fear the prospect of loneliness," and so forth. Typically, when we engage in such behaviors, the fear doesn't dissipate; instead, it tends to gradually intensify. Moreover, we eventually tend to lose sight of what we genuinely aspire to achieve, which is a common tendency.

Although it may present more challenges, focusing on our aspirations and consistently pursuing them can lead to a more exciting and fulfilling life. For example, consider phrases like "I exercise because I want to feel more attractive," "I declined this promotion because I value my current work-life balance," or "I got married because I desired greater happiness with my spouse." When faced with two options, it is crucial to prioritize your aspirations over succumbing to fear. Overcoming fear by pursuing your genuine desires is a transformative process. As you become aware of this and cease nurturing your fears, your life will gradually shift, and you will discover greater enjoyment in it.

Additionally, if a situation can encompass both aspects, such as exercising to avoid gaining weight and aspiring to be more attractive, redirect your focus toward the aspiration that excites you most. In this way, you can enjoy the process more easily and happily!

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

“I’m Sorry If…”


Apologies and expressions of appreciation wield significant power within relationships. As a couples' therapist, I actively encourage couples not to withhold "I'm sorry" and "thank you" from each other. In a previous discussion, I addressed the issue with the common phrase "I'm sorry, okay?"—emphasizing its inherent risks and counterproductive nature. Today, I'd like to delve into another problematic apologetic expression: "I'm sorry if…"

Haven't you often encountered apologies that sound like, "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings" or "I'm sorry if I offended you," and so on? Regrettably, this form of apology is deeply flawed and should generally be avoided.

What makes this apology problematic? The phrase "I'm sorry if…" essentially conveys, "I didn't intend to do anything wrong. However, IF you're overly sensitive and perceive an issue, I'll begrudgingly offer an 'apology' to silence you." This fundamentally lacks a sense of responsibility or genuine remorse on the apologizer's part, instead placing blame on the recipient for misunderstanding or oversensitivity. Consequently, rather than engendering a positive response, this type of "apology" often leaves the recipient feeling culpable.

For this reason, when seeking to apologize for mistakes or wrongdoing, it's crucial to demonstrate ownership and assume responsibility. For example: "I apologize for my actions that led to [specific situation]. I acknowledge my error and for being unfair. I deeply regret hurting you and offer my sincere apologies by saying 'I’m sorry.'" In contrast, using "I'm sorry if…" could inadvertently spark further conflicts. Remember, employing effective communication strategies like these can significantly enhance relationships!

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Coffee, Tea, Me?


"Working Girl" 1988
If I suggested that you stay away from coffee and other caffeinated beverages for 2 weeks, ideally 4 weeks, most people would say, "Oh, caffeine doesn't do anything to me," and they wouldn't want to do it. However, IF you experience any difficulties with sleeping, anxiety and nervousness, restlessness, acid reflux, stomachache, or lethargy and sleepiness during the day, this experiment is truly worth it for you.

If you are one of the lucky ones who experience absolutely zero problems with caffeine and can simply enjoy the joy of coffee, that's fantastic! I wish I were like that too. It's tasty, and the aroma is nice. Having some time at a nice café is just lovely. Unfortunately, in many cases, caffeine masks your exhaustion, and it compromises your proper self-care: You miss appropriate resting, which causes even more exhaustion. By the way, energy drinks can be even worse! They should only be consumed like medicine, if ever, when you have an absolute deadline or need to drive to a hospital to visit someone in critical condition at night or any other absolute situation.

There seems to be a gap between the surface-level benefits and/or impact you get from coffee and its hidden negative impact under the surface, as I listed above. Because people don't feel much of the immediate effects, such as feeling energized or staying up late with coffee, they automatically believe coffee has no significant impact on them. But that's just not true. Therefore, this experiment is very important to find out if there is any unknown problematic impact on you or not. I know the thought of having mornings without coffee is scary for you, but I still strongly recommend it (or decaf options!).

A good number of people would be surprised at how much better they sleep, how less anxious they are, and how "Wow, the acid is gone!" Just to confirm that caffeine is not secretly affecting you, let's experiment! And if it does have an influence, you can still enjoy it occasionally, and the other times appreciate decaffeinated coffee and caffeine-free teas!

Coffee, tea, me? Always remember, "Me" comes first. Your health, well-being, and peaceful life are much more important than pleasurable drinks.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Dating is All about Assessment

Some people date solely for sex or companionship, and if that's the clear purpose, it's perfectly fine. However, for many young adults, especially those seeking a spouse, dating is about finding a life partner. If you're dating or looking to date with this goal in mind, it's crucial not to get distracted and lose sight of this fundamental objective. In this context, dating is all about assessing whether your date is suitable as a life partner or not.

You need to have a clear idea of the type of person who would be compatible with you and the qualities that are important for your life. To be honest, how much your date loves you or how nice they are is not the most relevant factor. Even how much you love the person is not the most crucial consideration. The truly most important thing is whether the two of you are a good match or not. Regardless of how wonderful your date may seem, if you two are not compatible, it's essential to let it go. Many people struggle with this aspect, and it often leads to tragic outcomes.

This process is similar to house hunting. Imagine being able to examine any available houses, but you can only purchase one house in your lifetime, and it's sold "as is." If a house is cute and appealing but too small and inconvenient for your lifestyle, or if a house is beautiful and spacious but has fundamental plumbing issues, would you still buy it? Even if the house is perfect in the countryside but you want to live in the city, it's not a match. Sometimes people tend to be more cautious and sensible when buying a house than when choosing a life partner. They might hold onto optimistic hopes such as "he/she will change once we get married" or "he/she will become more responsible once we have a baby," and so on. This hope is often referred to as DENIAL. Unfortunately, it is more common for a partner's problems to worsen after marriage rather than improve.

I understand that love matters and emotions are involved. However, when it comes to dating and marriage, excessive love and other feelings often hinder this purpose because they blind you from making the right decision. The fear of being alone, the release of brain chemicals from having sex, enjoyable experiences together, worries about not getting married, and concerns about the biological clock—these factors can push you, but you need to stay calm and assess what you truly want and whether your current relationship can withstand the test of time.

I am even skeptical about providing couples therapy for dating couples (although I will still do it if they insist, as it's my professional duty, but I suggest they assess the compatibility as well). Why is that? If they already need professional support while just dating, they are probably not a good match. Instead of forcing themselves to make it work so hard, they can find a better fit elsewhere. It may sound cold and mean, but for the remaining 40-50 years of their lives, do they really want to work on fundamental differences and issues between themselves? Well, some people still say yes to that, and that is totally fine. However, if they choose to proceed despite knowing their partner's issues, they cannot complain about them after marriage. They bought it "as is," so all they can do is accept it and appreciate whatever positives there are to make the best out of it.

The bottom line is the purpose of dating: assessment. You need to assess your partner and stoically evaluate compatibility. If it's not a good fit, let it go, even if it's not easy. If it is a good fit, cherish and nurture it as it is an incredible thing. It's a simple concept but often difficult to implement for the majority of daters. Take my advice and approach it correctly for a happier and easier life after marriage for you and your special spouse!

Monday, July 10, 2023

4 Helpful Tips to Incorporate Deep Breathing Exercises in Your Daily Experience More Easily

Today, I'd like to give you some helpful tips to help you incorporate deep breathing exercises more easily and smoothly into your daily routine. As I mentioned in my previous post, deep breathing is incredibly beneficial in many ways, and the best part is that it's free! Oh, and did I mention there are no side effects? There's absolutely no reason not to do it, yet most people don't do it enough. So, today, I'd like to share some helpful tips to make it easier for you.

Tip #1: Gently push your abdomen: Many people struggle with using their abdomens when practicing deep breathing initially. Instead, they tend to rely on chest breathing, which can feel uncomfortable and less rewarding even when done slowly. To overcome this, it's important to engage your abdomen. If you find it challenging, imagine there's a balloon inside your abdomen, place your hand on it, and gently push it in as you breathe out. Then, as you breathe in, visualize the balloon expanding and pushing your hand away. This technique allows you to utilize your diaphragm more effectively.

Tip #2: Close the back of your throat to slow down your breath: To slow down your breathing effectively, try exhaling as if you were fogging a mirror, but through your nose. By exhaling slowly and utilizing your abdomen (as in Tip #1), you can significantly slow down the pace of your breath. If this technique proves difficult, you can purse your lips as if you were whistling and exhale slowly, then inhale through your nose slowly.

Tip #3: Keep your tongue touching your upper palate: Breathing through the nose can be challenging for some individuals. It may feel impossible to remember to breathe through your nose consistently, as breathing is often an automatic process. To make it easier, just pay attention to the position of your tongue and keep it touching your upper palate. This simple action makes it more natural and automatic for you to breathe through your nose. Breathing through the nose has many benefits, which is what “Mewing” is all about, so why not give it a try? Once your muscles remember the correct tongue placement, it becomes much easier to maintain, resulting in improved breathing.

Tip #4: Focus on squeezing out your breath to exhale: When you experience sudden upsets, anger, shock, nervousness, or similar emotions, taking a deep breath can be very helpful. However, it's not easy to implement when you're highly upset. In such situations, try focusing on exhaling slowly by squeezing out your breath forcefully but slowly, using the technique described in Tip #2. By squeezing it out this way, it becomes an active behavior that's much easier to perform than trying to calm yourself down directly. You can even do it while feeling angry or enraged. When you exhale slowly this way, your body automatically adjusts by inhaling more slowly as well, leading to the amazing benefits of deep breathing.

In summary, I strongly recommend you incorporate any of the above tips or any other techniques you come across to enhance your deep breathing practice in your daily life. You'll experience a greater sense of peace, improved relationships, and a more relaxed life. 

Monday, July 3, 2023

Overrated “Motivation”

“Motivation,” I think, is a perfect topic to talk about today, as I have not written anything here for several years! Yes, it was my bad. I was not motivated and was so lazy.

Many people rely on motivation to explain what they do and don't do. Phrases like “I need motivation to do...,” “I did not do it because I was not motivated,” and “If I had more motivation, I'd do...” are very familiar, aren't they? We tend to value “motivation” as the driving force behind our actions.

Of course, I would not deny that. With strong motivation, we become more effective and efficient in doing what we are supposed to do. We feel more excited about it and get it done more quickly. However, if we rely too heavily on our motivation, it won't always be helpful. We are not powerless creatures controlled by motivation. 

What is truly important is to shift our mindset and view motivation as an optional boost: We expect ourselves to take action regardless of our level of motivation. We can appreciate good motivation if we have it, but we shouldn't depend on it entirely. We can still accomplish tasks as if motivation is not a necessary factor. By adopting this framework, we can free ourselves from the burden of motivation and simply appreciate it if and when it arises.

The bottom line today is that we may want to avoid overrating and depending too much on our motivation. If we let go of the expectation, all we have is the appreciation of motivation when we experience it, rather than treating it as a requirement we constantly wait for or seek. Just take action, and the sense of accomplishment will bring you satisfaction and possibly even fuel future motivation. Today, I pushed myself to write and upload this article, and I feel good now.