The Classic Dynamic of Pursue and Withdraw

One of the classic partnering-up that occurs in an opposite-attracts type way is a dynamic known as “Pursue and Withdraw.” In an attachment framework, one person is typically Pre-occupied and the other is Avoidant-dismissive. In layman’s terms, one partner tends to be more emotional with a need for connection, looks to their partner for reassurance and will fear being alone. The other partner tends to have less emotional capacity, will “shut down” when pressed for deeper connection and tends to struggle with closeness in relationships.

Initially, this couple will provide the yin to their yang; their peanut butter to their jam. But over time with increased stressors, and in times of conflict, the differences between how the two communicate will widen the gap. When one pursues, it creates an increased need for the other to withdraw, and withdrawing creates panic in the pursuer, who reacts by increasing the pursuit; creating a vicious cycle.

It becomes important to begin by recognizing the dynamic and then seeking help in lessening the gap. It is never the differences that lead to a break down of relationship, but rather an avoidance of self-reflection within ourselves and within the relationship. Learning how to correct some of these behaviours is the first step in understanding that when two people each have a healthy ability to regulate their emotions, they have confidence in their capacity to be an independent partner while still navigating as a team.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Kristina Litvjak on Unsplash

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Learning to Love Again

Getting back to yourself after a break up can be a difficult addition to the already painful swirl of emotions surrounding you. The Poem “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott focuses on loving the inner self after a relationship ends; moving towards the knowledge that within you is the power to heal.

Love After Love

The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror 
and each will smile at the other’s welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart 
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored 
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 

the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life.

-Derek Walcott

Photo credit: http://Photo by Loverna Journey on Unsplash

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What is Bibliotherapy and How Can it Help?

In a recent article entitled “How Bibliotherapy Can Help Students Open Up About Their Mental Health” by Juli Fraga and featured on KQED news, Fraga writes about a program that was developed at Westborough High School in Massachusetts in order to help young people deal with trauma and loss.

At Westborough High, the school librarian, Anita Cellucci and school counsellor, Ceil Parteleno, created a unique school-based support group, using literature and cognitive tools as a way to help adolescents understand and cope with their emotions.  I quote: According to Dr. Liz Brewster, a bibliotherapy researcher and lecturer at Lancaster Medical School in Lancaster, England, bibliotherapy can help people understand, process and consider difficult emotions. “When they recognize their thoughts and emotions in a work of fiction, or in a self-help book, it can help people to feel less alone,” says Brewster.

The meetings are structured; opening up with a mindfulness activity or yoga, discussion about the book,  as well as a focus on DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) skills as a coping strategy for overwhelming emotions.

What an absolutely wonderful way to incorporate storytelling into healing; providing to a person the use of validation and connection to another’s story as a way to help with their own understanding of themselves. Bravo, Westborough High!

To read the full article: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/50642/how-bibliotherapy-can-help-students-open-up-about-their-mental-health

Photo credit: http://Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

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Dr. Phil Podcast; Living by Design Series

You either love Dr. Phil or you don’t. He is a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is therapist and the reason I like him is because it’s authentically him. If someone is going to tell you the truth about your life, you want it to come from a genuine source.

My colleague Darlene directed me towards a Dr. Phil podcast series called “Living By Design.” First off, love the name; it implies that we can make conscious choices to achieve our goals and live a purposeful life. Dr. Phil uses humour, common sense and his own personal stories to create this podcast. As an aside, he tells this fantastic story about his life-law “You either get it or you don’t” when, as a teenager, he and four friends get caught speeding by a Southern, “don’t-take-any-guff” cop – it was absolutely priceless!

In Part I, Dr. Phil explores the concept of internal dialogue.  He says “What is your personal truth? You need to turn your ear inward and ask yourself – what is your internal dialogue? How do you label yourself? What do you say to yourself? Because if all through the day, you’re putting yourself down – until you change that internal dialogue, you’re never going to get the results you truly deserve.” 

He also talks about 4 criteria for rational thought which I consider to be very thought provoking:

In order for a thought to be rational or not:

  1. It has to be grounded in objective fact, not opinion
  2. It has to be in your best interest
  3. It has to protect and prolong your life
  4. It has to get you closer to the healthy goals you have in your life

Dr. Phil’s “Living By Design: Part I” is worth listening to.

To listen to the full podcast: https://www.drphilintheblanks.com/podcast/livingbydesign

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The Wisdom of Robin Williams

No one could make us laugh like Robin Williams did. His comedic genius masked inner conflict; although he was quite honest about his mental health struggles, it was easy to forget about that after seeing him on stage or in a move like “Mrs. Doubtfire”. Today I feature three of my favourite quotes from a man who could always make me get to the belly laughs:

  • “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”
  • “I always thought that the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.”
  • “But if there’s love dear, those are the ties that bind, and you’ll have a family in your heart forever. All my love to you poppet, you’re going to be alright.” – Mrs. Doubtfire

Photo credit: http://Photo by Brandi Ibrao on Unsplash

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What Anxiety and Anger Have in Common

You’re running late, feeling keyed up about not being on time; no one seems to be co-operating and the littlest one is starting to have a meltdown because she can’t find her favourite hat. Before you know it, you are yelling at the kids and yanking the closet door practically off of its hinges.

How did you go from anxious to angry so easily? Simply answered, our bodies set us up for it. When we are anxious, our body’s muscles tense up, our blood pressure rises, our heart rate increases, our breathing becomes more shallow and our attention narrows. The same thing happens when we are angry. Both our anxiety and our anger activate what is called the sympathetic nervous system which gets us ready for action. It becomes very easy when feeling stressed, to simply shift into anger because our bodies are already there.

It is our parasympathetic system that gets us back to a relaxed state. Eventually, whether anxious or angry, built in mechanisms eventually bring us back to calmness (picture driving to work after having dropped off the kids, coffee purchased and music playing). In the midst of feeling stressed, we can help that process along and allow it to get us there sooner by taking some deep breaths.

Focusing on slowing down our breathing pushes the reset button on both our physiological state and our mindset. We are much better served to stop, take some deep breaths and state to ourselves “It’s okay, like every other morning, we’ll get there.” Leaving everyone less rattled and the door still on its hinges 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Michelle on Unsplash

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Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis; great read!

A client recently recommended the book “Girl Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis. In it, Rachel addresses 20 lies that women typically tell themselves; her job is to debunk those myths and she uses her own story and humour to do it. Here are just a few of her musings:

  • I surround myself with positivity. I cringe even writing that because it sounds like a poster you’d see taped to the wall of your eighth grade gym class – but cheesy or not, it’s gospel. You become who you surround yourself with. You become what you consume. If you find yourself in a slump or feel as though you’re living in a negative space, take a good hard look at who and what you see every day.
  • This was her message to new moms or soon-to-be-mamas: A new mother’s daily list of goals should boil down to: a) Take care of the baby, b) Take care of yourself. Boom. The End.
  • Set goals, not time limits. I love goals. They can help you become your best self….but big dreams shouldn’t have expiration dates. As long as you’re working toward the things you hope to accomplish, it shouldn’t matter if it takes you a month or a decade. 

An important note: The Lie: I Will Never Get Past This, is a wonderful chapter on how to get past the traumatic experiences we have had in our lives.

“Girl Wash Your Face” is a worthy read.

Photo credit: Me!

Five Fun Facts About Laughter

Consciously keeping laughter as part of our daily routine is a great self-care strategy! Here are five fun facts about the importance of keeping yourself amused:

  • Laughter is contagious. People are 30 times more likely to laugh when in the company of others.
  • Laughter has bonding qualities; when couples tackle stressful situations with humour, they are more likely to report higher levels of satisfaction with their relationship.
  • The average person laughs around 13 times per day; spontaneous laughter bringing about more instances of belly laughs.
  • Whole-hearted laughter boosts our immune system, working against harmful illness.
  • In an average day, children tend to laugh 3 times more than adults.

What do these facts tell us about the importance of laughter? They all tend to focus on the importance of working towards adopting a carefree attitude to our daily stresses; using laughter as a way to counter some of the challenges we may face in our busy lives.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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A Mother’s Love

Today my mom would have turned 74. In honour of her birthday, I share this quote:

“Sometimes the strength of motherhood 

is greater than natural laws.”

-Barbara Kingsolver

The strength of my mother is where I find peace. I see it in her smile when I look at pictures, I pray to her on my walks, I feel it when a funny memory brings about laughter. I see it in the way I parent, I feel it when my girls hug me, I am reminded of it in my sister. The strength of my mother is where I find peace 🙂

Photo: I’m the one in her arms 🙂 Always a mama’s girl…haha!

Stuck at a Crossroad? Try these 3 things!

People often come to therapy because they have reached a crossroads in their lives. Unsure of which way to go, they end up standing at the crossroads, struggling to make a decision and feeling stuck.

A job presents itself but is accompanied by change, a relationship has reached a point of being unhealthy, a bad habit is beginning to feel dysfunctional, past trauma is affecting your current experience. In any case, the impasse represents our comfort zone; choosing a path is frightening. Turning back is always an option but most likely not a good one and standing in the same place puts you directly in the absence of growth.

Three things can help begin the process of choosing:

  • Find your direction. If you were lost, you would google map it. Get informed; find out as much as you can about what it would look like to take the paths in front of you. Curiousity is always one of the best ways to temper fear.
  • Ask for help. If you were standing there and a fellow wanderer came down the path, you may ask them about the best way to reach your destination. Use your loved ones as sounding boards; seek therapy.
  • Use your instincts. Let’s face it; you wouldn’t be at the crossroads unless something in your gut was niggling at you and telling you that some form of change was necessary to feel a difference.

Standing at a crossroads needs to be a temporary, not permanent position. The choice, ultimately is ours and being proactive and involved in the decision making will give us a sense of relief and confidence in having stepped towards a path.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash

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