The Power of Letting Go

The Power of Letting Go

In a month where spring cleaning is often the focus, what are some things we need to let go? What are the emotions, thoughts, feelings are we holding onto that aren’t serving us? 

Often emotions that are weighing us down come in the form of shame and regret – close cousins of the same family to be sure. But what are they, exactly? Simply, regret is wishing things were different than the way they are and shame is the resulting feeling of humiliation. But more than that, “Regret is a negative emotion that hinges on counterfactual thinking. Counterfactual thinking essentially means that we look back and concoct imaginary scenarios to convince ourselves things could be better” (Social Psychologist, Dr. Neal Roese / Self.com). 

This shame and regret and the corresponding thinking begs the question: Would things really be better? Can we absolutely know that? If the answer is no (as it likely is), how is it serving us to hold onto that belief?

In her work Loving What Is, Author Byron Katie encourages us to ask four questions when we are confronted with regretful beliefs:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react – how does it feel – when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought? 

The next step in Katie’s “The Work” is to “Turn it around.” This process certainly requires some practice, but can be extremely effective in moving past these beliefs. Need an example? 

Regret Statement: I shouldn’t have ended that relationship.

Is it true? Yes, it feels true. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? No.

How does it feel when you believe that thought? It keeps me stuck in a situation; it makes me feel guilty and sad.

Who would you be without that thought? Someone who could open herself to new relationships and be free of old, toxic behaviors.

Turn it around: I should have ended that relationship because now I am open to more healthy connections that allow me to be a better person.

Learn more about Byron Katie’s “The Work” and this process here.

As we move further into spring there is a natural tendency to want to shed, to throw away, to remove extraneous items (both tangible and intangible) from our lives. If regret – and the shame that results from regretful beliefs are among those things you want to get rid of – check out some of the resources below. But remember too, regret is not always a bad thing; it can help us learn and grow as humans. It is toxic when we allow it to grow and remain.

Remember: As spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle said: “Sometimes letting go is an act of far greater power than hanging on.” 

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understand-other-people/201704/letting-go-regrets

Loving What Is by Byron Katie

https://thriveworks.com/blog/how-to-forgive-yourself/

 

 

 

 

 

Self Care: The Whys and Hows

Self Care: The Whys and Hows

We’ve all heard the directions for the oxygen mask on the airplane, right? Before takeoff, the flight attendants remind you that you have to put your mask on before you help others with theirs. So it goes with the concept of self care: We have to help ourselves first, otherwise we can’t truly be of assistance to anyone else. 

But what happens when life happens? When parent guilt sets in because we feel we haven’t spent enough time with our kids? When we are experiencing grief, trauma, anxiety, or overwhelm?  Or – perhaps most commonly – when we are just “too busy?” 

More often than not, it seems that when life happens, self-care doesn’t. 

To define the term, self-care is taking care of ourselves, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And there is good reason to engage in self-care:  Research suggests that self-care can help us manage stress, increase our resilience, and even live longer.

Self care is also important in our relationships. Psychology Today notes that, “It’s essential that parents care for themselves…When parents “fill their own cups,” they have more patience, energy, and passion to spread to their families.” Likewise with other relationships in our lives. Practicing self-care can “minimize the effects of burnout, including depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, and stress perception.”

But how do you do self-care? See below for some practical ways to nurture yourself, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and be sure to check out the links at the bottom too for additional ideas.

Physical Health: The mind-body connection is an important one to consider. When the body feels good, the mind does too. Self care strategies to increase physical health include exercise, getting an adequate amount of sleep, and eating nutritious meals that feed both your body and your brain.

Mental Health: MBHA’s Holly Dunn says she takes care of her mental health by, “Bringing myself back into the present when my thoughts get too future focused/worried or past focused/regretful or ruminative, doing my best to refocus back to what is within my control when I am over-focusing on others/things that annoy me, and letting go of the illusion I have control over anyone/anything but myself.”

Spiritual Health: Care for yourself spiritually by journaling, practicing meditation, or praying. And don’t forget to practice kindness and compassion, especially with yourself. 

The flight attendants tell us in simple terms: your oxygen mask has to go on first. So take a deep breath and commit to your own self-care practice. Remember, the paradox of self care is that ultimately you are doing it for others.

*You can find more ideas for self-care on these websites:

https://www.marieclaire.co.uk/life/health-fitness/self-care-ideas-725076

https://www.womansday.com/health-fitness/wellness/g32619113/self-care-ideas/

https://wholefully.com/self-care-ideas/

 

 

 

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

by Holly Schweitzer Dunn, LISW
 

A new year often means new beginnings. While that may not look the same for each of us, any new beginning first requires taking an honest inventory.  Embarking on the journey of self-exploration can be scary, especially when it comes to taking a clear look at ourselves. In fact, one of the bravest things we can do is to look – truly look – at who we are. Perhaps even braver than that though is to look without judgment. 

As humans, we judge constantly. This is likely because our brains try to put things in an order: good, bad, or neutral, so the stimulus we are met with often falls into one of those categories. For a moment though, consider the possibility of exploring yourself with curiosity instead of judgement. Consider the power of the question versus the statement. Consider the power of self-acceptance.

When you begin the journey into the self, you will almost certainly be met with resistance, and the way this resistance manifests is often through shame or regret; the “shoulds” and “shouldn’t haves” tend to shape our perceptions, creating false narratives and judgment. The real challenge then, is to look at yourself with a sense of wonderment and curiosity. Be open to exploring the you that you are right now with the understanding that there is no good or bad. There is nothing you “should” be that you aren’t right now.

So, here is an invitation for a new beginning. It is an invitation to be curious and open to bravely starting the journey into self-discovery, the journey along a wild, wondrous road that only you can travel.

 

It’s [Too Easy] to Say I’m Sorry

It’s [Too Easy] to Say I’m Sorry

It’s [Too Easy] to Say I’m Sorry

It’s [Too Easy] to Say I’m Sorry

When it comes to family therapy and working with the dynamics of couples, one of the key elements of our work is cultivating a sense of connection through communication skills. Demonstrating an effort at empathy and concern can come through how we apologize – or not.  

Of course some individuals trend toward the side of being unable to effectively apologize for moments that cause harm to a person or relationship. Either the lack of verbal recognition or failure to attempt a change in behavior in the future can leave another person feeling unimportant or disrespected.

However, more often in our Sensible Midwestern Culture, and particularly among women – some people tend to default toward apologies when they aren’t necessary or warranted. What’s wrong with saying “I’m sorry” when you see someone experiencing anguish, or even slight discomfort, even when you didn’t cause it?

“I call them serial apologizers,” says Nicole Flores-McCune, LISW-S. “They actually lesson the power of a good apology when they use them all the time. It takes away from the moments when they need to call upon the words “I’m sorry”  and causes them to feel inauthentic.”

Apologizing for taking up space in public places like a grocery store aisle or being late when held up by traffic doesn’t convey a sense of sorrow, the true weight the words of an apology were meant to carry. Over time receivers find the phrase hollow and when circumstances require a true apology, you find it hard to convey your true sentiment.

Often we find our Serial Apologizers using hollow expressions of regret as a symptom of perfectionism, which exacerbates the sense of not enough they feel. This is why they feel compelled to apologize for saying no and drawing healthy boundaries, or even taking time, energy and resources to take care of themselves. They use “I’m sorry” as a way of softening the blow of “no.”

If you’re a Serial Apologizer, here are a few things to remember:

  1. You are entitled to “no.”  You don’t have to be sorry for saying it.
  2. Recognize that errors happen to everyone. Not all errors cause sorrow.
  3. Express your actual feelings rather than your expected feelings. If you trying to move  through a physical space and you bump someone, it would be a fine to say “pardon me.” If running late, express gratitude for someone’s patience in waiting for you rather than overextending sorrow.
  4. Elevate your own worthiness to the level you place others’. If you would cheer on a friend who took time for herself or put distance in a toxic relationship, then do the same for yourself – without apology.
  5. Find new ways to convey your attempts to do better without using blame statements: I’ll do better next time or that didn’t go the way I planned or even how could I improve this? are statements that allow you connect with someone without the weight of shame that Serial Apologizers often carry.

Over-apologizing is usually a sign we are taking on more responsibility than is truly ours to carry.  Pausing to acknowledge this and then asking ourselves “what do I really what to convey?” can help identify what we really mean.

“I’m here for you.”

“I feel for you.”

“I wish I could make it better.”

“This is so painful.”

“I feel powerless.”

 

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Partnership

Partnership

Partnership

Conversation hearts that read “QT Pie” can be adorable at the beginning of a relationship, but after 15+ years of marriage, messages that say “I went ahead and cleaned up the dog poop” actually go further to add vitality to a partnership. “We don’t fall in love and then get married; instead we get married and then learn what love requires,” says theologian Stanley Haurwas. Romance has its place within a relationship, but experience tells us that people want a living situation that supports their individual contributions to the world with companionship. We’re looking for partnership.

Mind Body Health Associates co-owners and therapists Landon Dunn and Holly Schweitzer Dunn work to create partnership in marriage and in their work-world. Having healthy systems and structures within their personal relationship has enhanced their work life because they’re practiced at looking for one another’s natural gifts and allowing that person to lead from their competence.

Both Holly and Landon recognize it’s not just about the role they play. They each complete tasks to keep the business – or the household – running smoothly.  Trust makes the relationship, business, and household systems work. Each person believes the other is capable to meet and overcome the challenges that arise.

“Landon and I are somewhat unique in that we split everything in terms of household responsibility down the middle,” Holly said. “We know this arrangement does not work for every family, but for ours it is key to things running (mostly) smoothly. There really aren’t male or female-specific roles.  We both raise our children, fold the laundry, work in the yard, and run the business. ‘Everything together’ is our motto.”

This lifestyle also depends on dedication to structures to help keep the balance. They keep a routine splitting dinnertime responsibilities and school drop-off duties 50/50. In this way, Landon and Holly each are afforded a few evenings to come home, sit down, and enjoy dinner after work. The key, the couple agrees, is seeking to understand and meet their individual needs as well as their partner’s needs as equally important as his or her own. “When the seven day structure is balanced, there is less need to keep score,” Landon said.

A family structured on partnership has allowed both Landon and Holly to function in patterns that lead to better individual and relational health. With less energy focused on who is doing what, or wondering if their partner is doing enough, both individuals find space to work on their own wellbeing. Less attention goes toward “what needs done” and instead is directed toward working through their own “stuff.” From that place of health, they can support and encourage their partner and children, feeding a healthier cycle of living.

In honor of love, Landon and Holly revere the wisdom of Khalil Gibran on the spaces between lovers:

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

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