Posts by: "gina"
Conquer shame

Conquer Shame!

We’ve all experienced shame in our lives. Sometimes we have our shame triggered and don’t even know how or why…but we can feel it…somehow we are feeling worthless, less than, fearful of being “found out.”  It can happen at work, with friends and family, in the car alone…anywhere!

Over the years I have developed a number of things I say to myself to work through these nasty and negative thoughts and feelings I have when my shame gets triggered.  I have shared these with clients over the years and most have found them helpful.  So I thought I’d share some useful ideas, strategies, and affirmations here that I employ to help me move past shame when it attacks.

Often shame is triggered when an old wound that’s being tapped.  When our emotional reaction is out of proportion for what occurred, we can assume we are in some wounded child state.

To help conquer my shame I made a decision to accept my imperfection and allow myself at least one mistake an hour and one REALLY BIG one per day.  This way whenever I made a mistake or did something that I thought others would judge I could tell myself I was within the norm.

I remind myself that I am a good person even though I’ve made a mistake or been imperfect. (Deep breathing can help here, allow all your negative and anxious self-talk to leave your body with each breath)

Years ago, when I got up my nerve to ask people close to me what they thought, I was pleased to find out others did not judge me as harshly as apparently, I did myself.  So sometimes I will still ask someone else for their opinion and ask if I seem crazy to them.  This gives me some perspective on my own intolerance of myself.  I have found that most people judge themselves far more harshly than others do and so now I remind myself that this inner voice of shame I have is often irrational.  I love having a healthy support system…life-saving!

I have really changed my world view.  I believe that we are “all born naked”, as I often say.  Meaning that no one is born better than anyone else, we all have equal value in the universe and that all “better thans” and “less thans” are made by humans trying to cope with their own shame.  How I look, how I act, how much money and things I have do not determine my worth.  What determines my worth can only come from me.  I get to decide what being the best person I want to be will mean.  I can listen to what others think of me and decide if it’s a problem or not.  If I want to I can change myself at any time.  No matter how old I am I can always change and grow.

I have decided to live a life full of respect for all.  For the Me that is inside and for all others I interact with.  Family, friends and strangers…yes, even customer service people on the phone!  If I can’t think of a nice way to speak my truth I have to stop.  I do not have the right to say things that will hurt and or damage another.  When I do this I feel good about myself.

I have had people leave my life.  People who have decided, for one reason or another, that we are not a good fit.  I used to feel horrible and allow that to define my worth.  I felt huge shame attacks and embarrassed to even talk to anyone about it.  So I gave myself permission to not be liked by everyone in the world without allowing it to determine my worth.  I asked myself, “How many people do you really need?”  I decided that 3-5 would be good enough and that allowed me to allow others to go.  It gets easier and easier over the years to talk my way through these losses.  In fact, what has also changed is that I have decided that I should also be picky about who I allow in my inner circle.  I have to respect the other person’s choice to end our relationship and wish them well.

We should have an INNER CIRCLE into which we only allow people who are kind, loving, respectful and generous.  If people are not those things I do not allow them in.  I don’t like feeling like I have to walk on eggshells around anyone anymore.  I had way too much of that in my life and did not enjoy it one bit.  When I start to see eggshells around someone I start to back off and protect myself.

In all of this, I continually develop my “Functional Adult” (from Pia Mellody). I speak these affirmations to myself in various ways:

  • I matter and have inherent worth
  • I set healthy boundaries with others and myself in a compassionate way
  • I know the real me and am her in my daily life
  • I know how to get my needs and want’s met in moderate ways
  • I know how to be moderate in my life

I remind myself that my feelings of shame come from my childhood and do not have a place in my adult life.  I am Good Enough just as I am.  The old messages I carried from childhood do not have credence in the adult realm.

No one else has the right to define me.  Only I get to make that decision.  Old behaviors do not define me.  Only I get to make that decision and it may change from day to day.  Who I was yesterday does not define who I am today or in the future.

If someone doesn’t like me or what I do I remind myself that it is not about me.  How they view me is based on their own filters and how they experience me, but does not define me.  I can be open to what they say, listen well, and then decide if this is something I can or am willing to change to keep the relationship.

If people don’t tell me what they are upset about or need, it is not my job to figure it out.  If they choose to not tell me “it’s not my circus, not my monkey.”  I will just have to wait until they choose to talk.

 

 

Listen, up…we have to listen to what we hear and see what we see and stop making up fantasies when we’re handed a bunch of crap!

Anyone heard this story before?:  Leah and Fred have been dating for a little while (plug in 3 weeks or 3 months here) and Leah starts to get fed up that Fred is never available (plug in here Fred is fed up with Leah) and decides to end the relationship in a reasonable and responsible way:

“This really isn’t working out for me.  I think we have different needs for a relationship.”  No blaming, no shaming…just we are two adults who aren’t looking for the same things, right?

Commence the storm of nasty texts, ALL CAPITALIZED WITH !!!!*&^*(!!!! full of nasty comments, accusations, criticisms of everything about her/him.  Reaction?  Really, what…?  We didn’t even have a commitment of any kind and they react this harshly?

Ignore the texts, don’t answer the phone, don’t read the emails for a few days and you think it’ll blow over.  Whew!

What do you think happens next?

He/she shows up at her/his workplace with flowers, apologies, offers of fun and expensive things to do together….you can’t believe it!

What would you do?  Do you think going back will mean a change and a better relationship?  What clues lead you to believe that?

Unfortunately many people are tempted to and do go back into this snake pit expecting a different result.  It rarely turns out well but we talk ourselves into believing it can.

Ask yourself this question:  How can this wound be healed?  How can a person make up for having said such horrible and hurtful things?  If this happened so early in a relationship, what makes you think it won’t happen again?

I want to tell you this fact:  There are plenty of nice people out there who could love you just the way you are…you don’t need to SETTLE for anyone who doesn’t have  basic human respect!

Time to move on, respect yourself and your life and let it go.

 

After years of dating badly and marrying badly ( for some of us), it can be hard to break the old habits and patterns.

One pattern that many, except Jane The Virgin, fall into is jumping into sex right way.  My belief is that people do this somewhat because of lust and libido but mostly out of fear of loss and abandonment.  There’s a subconscious belief, even though we’ve been proven wrong many times, that if we have sex with someone it will mean there is love and that person will be committed and stay.

Sex means different things to different people.  Some think it means love and commitment and connections while others are just scratching the itch.  Don’t assume.

If sex is a relationship cementing act for you, do you really think YOU can know that you want to be with this person forever in a first date??  Get real!  Neither of you know each other no matter how many deep conversations you have, no matter how many things you feel you have in common.  There is no such thing as “Love At First Sight”.  Sometimes people who are attracted to each other can build on the initial plunge, but it’s not a given that the initial attraction will make a relationship work.  Really not.

So make sure that, before you do Relationship-Cementing activities,  you really like and value and respect the person you are doing them with.  Don’t do anything if you’re not sure you want to be with them and build a relationship.  How long do you think it takes to know that?  I’m thinking it takes Four Seasons and even then people can change.

Also, if you’re having sex with someone early on, do you really know that they are not doing the same thing with someone else?  Ask yourself, how would you feel about doing this sexual stuff with them knowing they’re doing it with someone else?  If you’re OK with it, go ahead.  But if you’d be hurt, jealous, feel shame or less than…don’t do it!

Take things slow.  Slow and steady wins the race.  What’s the hurry?  Oftentimes when you wait and see,what you see you will not really like.  Wait for it……

How many tearful, angry women come into my office in extreme pain over feeling like they have to have “sex for peace” with their husbands for fear of their anger?  What kind of life is this?

Do their husbands know these women feel this way?  Could they possibly continue to pressure their wives for sex knowing that they feel this way…that it hurts their wife and their relationship in ways that may never be able to heal?  For someone to pressure, manipulate and hold happiness hostage for sex is a huge BOUNDARY PROBLEM!  It is a sign of severe CODEPENDENCE on his part that he is that out of touch and has such damaged boundaries about sex and intimacy.  At the extreme, he becomes an abuser and possibly predator.  In a relationship, it can become abuse and an intimacy killer.  (Read Pia Mellody’s book, FACING CODEPENDENCE 2003

I find it so sad that women, smart and sophisticated women, feel this way and live this way.

Their rationale is that if they don’t have sex with him often enough, or when he wants it, he becomes sullen, pouty and mean to her and the kids.  They claim to have sex with a man, with whom they feel nothing but anger and pain, in order to have a peaceful and safe home for themselves and their kids.  How is this not prostitution or rape?  Isn’t it “forced” sex for emotional/behavioral remuneration?

Women of all classes live with this distortion on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.  They do not even see it as abusive because they see themselves as “colluding” in this “sexual” dance.  They believe it is a wife’s responsibility to “make” her husband happy.  They feel there is something wrong with them, at some level, or they wouldn’t put up with it.

When I tell women they do not have to do this, they look at me as if I am speaking Greek.  Educated, intelligent women can take months in a supportive therapy relationship before they can see another possibility.  Or even before they see they have the right to say NO!

Because there has been so little honest communication in the relationship by this time, the first step is to help women get the courage to speak their truth.  They have to tell their husband that they are not happy about this and say they do not want to have sex under these conditions.  They have to explain to their husband that they have felt forced and resentful and hurt to the point of not even liking them anymore.  They have to ask for this to change clearly, honestly, calmly and specifically.  And they have to be ready to stick with it and be firm.

“I do not want you to demand or manipulate me into having sex anymore.  If I say NO, I want you to respect my No.”

“I do not want you to be irritable with me and the children if I do not want to have sex with you.  If you are unhappy it is your responsibility to find a way to soothe yourself and not take it out on others.”

In some cases, the men are totally unaware that their wives have been feeling this way.  They may be defensive at first, in reaction, due to their own shame about their sexuality or behavior.  They may feel rejected and unloved and have a hard time hearing the feedback.  They may have their own unfinished business from childhood that’s got them feeling so miserable.

If a respectful conversation takes place as a result of opening this up, great!  Keep talking.  Listen to each other and work out a plan for how to have mutual respect and rebuild the love.

If the response is defensive and attacking, walk away.  Take a time out and tell him you’ll came back later when he’s ready to talk about this in a respectful way.

If it doesn’t get better, seek out some professional couples counseling to help you hear each other.

While it is possible to come back from this destructive marital dance, it does take two to tango.  If either party is unwilling to talk it through and work on it respectfully, it is time to end the marriage.

Women and men need to know that they do not have to stay in a relationship in which they do not feel loved, respected and valued.  We should never have to beg to be loved and treated well.  We have the right to EXPECT this in all our relationships.

 

Many of us carry many misconceptions about the opposite sex that we bring into relationships. However, there are three common misconceptions about dating the opposite sex that I observe repeatedly.

After a while of dating the opposite sex without as much success as we want, we start to make up stories about them and how they are so different from us…and horribly unchangeable!  I think this an effort to understand, as if to understand would help us change or fix it.  It gives us some relief from the pain and confusion to laugh with our friends about how men are or how women are.  But when we come to believe that it is all absolutely true, we get ourselves into trouble.

Understanding some differences can help enhance our relationships, or it can help us build up resentments and walls against being able to get truly intimate with someone.

So Misconception #1 is that MEN are DIFFERENT than women.  We are all human beings who need relationship to survive.  Sometimes men are stereotypically male and sometimes not.  Sometimes women are stereotypically female and sometimes not.  No way to know for sure until you know the person you’re with, for sure.

Misconception #2 is that all WOMEN are the SAME.  REALLY??? If men get together and talk about their relationships and all say the same things:

*  all women just act like they want sex until you marry them

*  all women want is a man to take care of them

*  all women are emotional and get out of control for no reason

*  all women are needy and can never be satisfied

*  all women cheat

Does this make it all true about women?

Misconception #3 is that all men are the same.  If women sit and talk about how men and how hard it is to have relationships with them and all say the same things:

*  all men act like they’re into you until you get attached and then they start to disappear emotionally

*  all men have problems with communication: don’t call, text or write often enough

*  all men cheat

*  all men are irresponsible about work, money and household tasks

*  all men are little boys and have no idea how to be grownups

Does this make it all true about men?

The more I work with PEOPLE, men and women and those in between, the more I realize that we aren’t that much different from each other.  I really think we (men and women) are all the same…with variations.  The differences may be more due to how men and women have been socialized in our world rather than something they are born with.  You can read Lillian Rubin’s book, Intimate Strangers, for some theory on how it happens that boys are trained to be instructional and afraid of intimacy while girls are raised to be relational and afraid of disconnection.

But once you scratch the surface of any human being you will find the similarities if you open up and let them in.  We all crave connection but not everyone knows how to achieve it in a healthy way.  We all want to be happy and loved.  We all fear rejection and abandonment.  We all want to be important.

If you approach relationships with a fear of THE OTHER and differences, you will keep up your emotional walls and never achieve true intimacy.  If you leave your heart open to love and connection and trust yourself to walk away if the relationship isn’t being respectful and healthy, then you don’t need walls.  You just have to trust yourself to take care of yourself, NO MATTER WHAT.

Woman_cling_2If you’re scared of being alone, chances are you will allow people and relationships to pick you rather than you picking them.  You will settle for people who don’t treat you with respect, you will settle for people who don’t share your values and you will ignore all of the Red Flags.

Our wounds can come from childhood, our traumas from dysfunctional families or friendships, but they leave us feeling unloveable and as if we need another person to make us whole.

We learn that we have to be part of a family or part of a group or part of a relationship to have value.

No person and no relationship can make you whole.  No matter how many people love and value us, we will not believe it or feel safe until we can love and value our own self.  If those people are no longer around, what will you have left?

We’ve all heard this and we may even believe it….but how do we change how we feel inside when we have spent our life riddled with shame and self doubt?  When we have been taught to depend on the love and admiration of others to “feel” it for ourselves?

Of course there is no magic pill.  It takes work.  It takes time.  It takes commitment.

Therapy:  Unravel all of the negative messages and experiences that have made you into the person you are.  Heal some of those old wounds by talking them through, understanding them and let go of them.

Relationships:  Yes, finding healthy respectful people to support you on your journey will help you have the courage to depend on yourself.  People who don’t need you to be or do anything for them can support you to be and do everything for yourself.

Educate Yourself:  Have a thirst for knowledge about yourself and the world you live in.  As you learn you will find yourself:  What are your values?  What brings you joy?  What are your goals?

Books:  Fiction and self-help books as well as internet blogs and articles can help you find what makes you tick….can help you understand the things that have kept you confused and dependent on others….can help you get smarter about who you are and what you need.

Movies:  Escaping into other worlds can help you find your own values, truths, person. Absolam, the blue caterpillar in Alice In Wonderland, asks, “Whooo ArrrE YoUUU?”

Practice:  Experiment with being alone, doing things yourself.  Get used to it so it’s not so scary.  Can you go out to eat by yourself and not feel conspicuously unloveable?  Go to a movie without feeling like everyone knows you’re a loser?  The more you do it the easier it gets.  You might actually start to enjoy being about to pick your own movie without having to take everyone else’s opinion into consideration…and you get to eat ALL of the popcorn!

Start doing these things whether or not you’re in a relationship right now.  It will prepare you for being alone and can make you a better partner.

Remember this is a lifelong process.  No one is born confident and self assured and knowing themselves.  And if you’re shamed into feeling badly about yourself or discouraged from this journey early on in life, it doesn’t mean you can’t work through it all in time.  We are all evolving creatures, always learning and growing.

When do you want to start your adventure?

Our long lasting and enduring personal smiling cloudhappiness comes from inside of us, not from someone else. Where happiness lies is within our souls. But we must make the choice to find, grasp and hold on to it, in spite of the obstacle’s life puts before us.

In fact, no one “makes” anyone feel anything. We feel things based on the story we make up about the facts we are presented with. We can change the story (perspective and perception) and change how we will feel.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to get what you need from someone else and don’t wait around for the “Right One” to come along and bring you to happiness.

The happier you are within yourself, the better choices you will make in who you allow into your inner circle.

Have you been out in the dating world a while? Off and on find yourself single?  Have you found yourself thinking no one is quite goodworry_diva enough for you? Or are you picking at all the details of a potential mate in hopes of avoiding yet another bad relationship? Do you find yourself always worried what your friends and family are thinking, fearing that others will be judging you and your choices?   To avoid getting mad at yet another humiliation, have you become hyper vigilant and overly sensitive to “Red Flags”, real and imagined to others that may lead you to sabotage your happiness by misjudging and mistreating potential mates before their true intentions are known?

In short, are you a Dating Diva?

If so, here’s a Cornerstone Tip for you:

Be real. Let down your guard and be the real you. In spite of being hurt previously, the good news is that once you learn to Date Smarter you will find that it’s OK to be vulnerable again – under the right circumstances. The trick is to keep your heart open but not get so attached, or detached, that you can’t recognize when to walk away when you see someone is not a good fit for the new you. When should you walk and when should  hang around for another date.  You’ll never find Mr Right if you can’t keep your heart open and able to love while trying to learning from bad experiences

Opening your heart does not mean that you have to close your eyes, compromise your values or lose your “self” in desperation.  Nor does it mean you will be trapped forever.  Remember, in learning to Date Smarter you realize that finding a healthy, loving relationship is a journey; love and relationships come and go and this does not define us as not loveable,  not good enough, or too good. We can love and be wrong and love again. We get as many tries as we want and no one else has the right to tell you otherwise. The trick is to learn the skills necessary to eventually find the one who is right for you and get off the dating merry-go-round.

As you learn to value  and care about yourself, you will learn to know when to walk away when it’s no longer good for you. And as you Date Smarter, and allow yourself to be vulnerable but protected, you will also learn when it wise to risk hanging around a bit longer. Who knows, you just might find someone who finally “gets” you, respects the real you and believes it is worth investing the time to cultivate a mutually satisfying relationship with your authentic self….

couples_in_conflictSadly, many couples who start out full of love for each other become couples lost in battle for their individual identities and entrenched in hateful, confused and competitive conflict over time.  They meet and see in each other ideals that sparked joy and hope for a life of love and companionship….how does it go so wrong?

Most people get attracted to someone because they see in that person qualities they would like to have.  Or they see the hope of healing their childhood wounds in the safety of a relationship with them.  And, once in a relationship, they try to change them to be more like themselves….or like those they have been trying to escape and heal from.

It doesn’t make sense.  If you admire someone and want to be more like them, why would you want to change them and make them more like you?  Why would anyone want to recreate their past bad relationships and continue their own suffering?

In my work with couples I see this all the time.  And as they reveal to me the history of their courtship and relationships, it is sad to see the path they have chosen that has led them to so much pain and torment.  So many of the patterns and traumas could have been avoided if only…….

Know Thyself and Where Thy Behavior Comes From…

Our childhood experiences mold us.  We learn to see ourselves and how we fit in the world from our early childhood experiences.  Even as adults we often evaluate what goes on around us with a child’s eye view.  Our emotions are triggered by how we’ve been treated in the past and it’s easy to misread and misinterpret others while believing our perceptions are Absolute Facts.

If we don’t examine our past and how it has molded us we are doomed to repeat it.  We will view and evaluate everyone and everything with the same filter.  Our partners and closest friends and children and co-workers don’t stand a chance.  We will miss out on really getting to know who they are.

Look At Others With Open and Honest Eyes…

When people paired up they often didn’t look, honestly, at each other. Love is blind. Is it? We always want to be the best person we want to be in a new relationship and we also want the Other to be the best person we have been hoping for. How much of what we see is real? How much is the Other being the best person they want to be? How much is it our love blindness fantasizing the Other into something they never professed to be?

Accept Who The Other Wants To Be

Why do we think, after only knowing someone a few weeks or months, that we know them better than they know themselves? How do we come to believe that we have the right to decide what is best for them and what they want and then try to make them change back?

Set Healthy Boundaries For Ourselves and Keep Them

If we want to be treated with respect, love, kindness and generosity then why would we stick around with someone who doesn’t treat us that way? How many bad endings could you have avoided if you had walked the first time you were treated badly? If we only allowed into our Inner Circle people who treat us with kindness, generosity and respect could we have saved ourselves a lot of grief and heartache? You bet!

Always Set Communication As A Top Priority

And for long term relationships these processes need to never stop! You don’t have to stop respecting your self or the other person just because you got married, do you? People continue to grow and change over time and sometimes they don’t grow together, in the same direction or at the same time. Couples can get kind of lazy and expect the other to stay the same or go the direction they want to go in. They stop talking about who they are and what they want. They start talking in short hand, or not at all. They start believing in mind-reading, believing either that they can or the other should.

* work becomes a priority
* kids become a priority
* family becomes a priority
* money becomes a priority

Relationships get put on the back burner
Emotional and sexual intimacy get put on the back burner

In order to keep a relationship vital and relevant we have to find ways to talk through the bad times and work through the uncomfortable topics. How can you get on the same team and share the goals and dreams again?

Nothing is more important in growing a relationship over time.

Don’t Let Resentments Replace Relationships

When you do something for someone else and don’t feel appreciated, or their behavior doesn’t change the way you’d like it to or they don’t reciprocate the way you think they should, hurt feelings turn to anger and resentment.

Couples take on responsibilities to make a family/household run smoothly. Sometimes they feel like they have choices, other times they feel they have no other option. Some things get done well and are taken for granted, other things are done badly leaving them feeling inadequate and vulnerable. Husbands take on the responsibility of paying the bills but don’t pay attention to detail and there are late fees and credit collectors and dings on credit scores so the wife takes over and starts building a story about how inadequate and irresponsible and unloving he is. Wives focus on raising the kids (because he obviously doesn’t care enough to do it) and husbands feel shut out and unimportant (we all know women only marry men for money and children and then they don’t like sex anymore) and he starts making up a story about how cold and unemotional she is.

What would happen if everyone only did what they wanted to do and could do without feeling resentful? One of my rules of thumb is to not agree to things unless I am willing to accept whatever outcome happens without blaming someone else. If I think I might feel used or burdened or unappreciated, it is my responsibility to say no, not theirs. It is not someone elses fault if I can’t say no.

Lose Your Losing Strategies

Needing To Be Right
Trying To Control The Other Person
Unbridled Self-Expression
Withdrawal
Retaliation

(The New Rules of Marriage by Terry Real)

Get Help To Get Back To Remembering Love

Often times, by the time we’ve realized we have dug ourselves a hole, we can’t dig ourselves out without help from others. Some relationship counseling can help you and your partner find love again and tweak the relationship enough that you can remember why you got together in the first place. If you find that you can’t get past fighting and taking pot shots at each other, it’s best to get someone who can tell you honestly what you need to do to rebuild and revitalize the trust and love you once had in your relationship and give you some ideas of how to reconnect and feel safe with each other.