Perfect Words for this Time of Year

I came across this passage that reminded me of why this time of year is so refreshing:

“I don’t have a favourite season, I have a favourite feeling. It’s the windows open, silent back roads with dirty bare feet feeling. It’s when I can walk straight outside without pausing to fish out a jacket. It is curtains dancing around my room because of the cool breeze that brushes against the fabric. It is the sunset after desert and grass as my pillow. The sound of lawnmowers, of falling leaves and rain against the window. Pockets of shade and walks along a gravel road…I don’t have a favorite season… I have a favorite feeling.” ~ Author unknown

Sometimes it is all in how we look at something. When we can appreciate the little things around us, we feel content. When we are grateful for what comes with every season, we can focus on the good feelings they invoke. 🙂

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The ‘Space Between’ and Why It’s Important

Being in limbo is a difficult place to be. We tend to like direction, feel better when we sense movement. If the circumstances of our lives create for us a time of limbo, perhaps one of the ways we can cope is to begin to see this time as the ‘space between.’

The ending of a relationship, the loss of a job. The process of grief and our year of firsts. The summer before we enter college, the unknowns associated with just about anything. Being in a pandemic.

We often struggle with limbo; leaning into unhealthy coping strategies as a way to deal with the uncertainty. But maybe this is the time when we are actually meant to slow down the most; to push past the fears of uncertainty and lean into a time of reflection, of tolerating the discomfort, of having faith that things will work out. As they usually do.

The space between, when we can accept it, is often the greatest time for growth. It is a time to build our sense of agency. And when homeostasis is finally achieved, and certainty comes our way again, we can further understand just how grounded we have become by allowing the space between to work its magic.

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Emotional Bank Accounts and Their Importance

Stephen Covey, in his best selling book entitled “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” spoke about emotional bank accounts. Covey’s concept of an emotional bank account refers to the effectiveness of our relationships with others. Very much like a financial bank account, we can either make deposits or withdrawals – deposits will create greater bonds with others, withdrawals lead to damage and depletion of the relationship. His theory includes 6 major deposits:

  • Understanding the individual. This is about listening; getting to know the other person with the intention of understanding. Avoiding preconceived notions and judgements will help in keeping an open mind to someone else’s experiences.
  • Attend to the little things. When we do something for others that we know matters to them, we automatically show our appreciation.
  • Keeping commitments. Not the intention to keep commitments, but rather a conscious decision to come through for people. It is value based and creates trust.
  • Clarifying expectations. This one is about making sure that our communication is open and we are not “expecting” that others know what we need from them. When we clarify, we take out the guess work.
  • Showing personal integrity. Do our words and actions match? If yes, we are using integrity in our relationships to build emotional bank accounts.
  • Apologizing genuinely. If you have made a withdrawal, recognize it and apologize with a genuine intention. This helps to build repair and will help temper the withdrawal.

Having a full and healthy emotional bank account helps us when going through challenging or tough times. By our actions, we can help others feel supported and cared for. Seems like a win-win to me 🙂

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Food for Thought from Eckhart Tolle

When I first read this quote by Eckhart Tolle, I paused. And then I said “Yes.”

“What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.”

– Eckhart Tolle

We can be so bound by our thoughts. Because they can also be very automatic and instant, we believe them. When exploring automatic thoughts in therapy, it is important to go back – most of the time, our thoughts are linked to core beliefs formed in childhood. Because we internalize everything as children, those messages, with time and reinforcement, will become tied to our self-identity. Forging a well used pathway in our brain, the thoughts now have a ‘mind of their own,’ and we must ask ourselves at one point, “Is this really my own voice?”

I can tell you that if the automatic thought is a critical one, it is not your voice. We are meant to be light in spirit and our instinct is to love – that includes ourselves. If we have negative, automatic, critical thoughts about ourselves, those are planted seeds. And it is our responsibility to say “Does it have to be this way?”

When we give ourselves permission to challenge those thoughts and replace them with a more realistic portrait of ourselves, we become liberated. Lighter. Grounded. At peace with ourselves. Thank you Eckhart Tolle for the reminder. 🙂

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To Understand Codependency; Post 3

In our last post in this series on codependency, we look at how to create a healthier space in relationships so as to lessen codependent habits.

It is important to note that when trying to create a healthier relationship, both parties have to be on board. If only one person is doing the work to create structural change, it is not effective. In many circumstances, the only choice that remains is to leave a codependent relationship.

When we notice that codependency might be an issue, we can:

  • Get informed. Read the literature, have conversations in which you address what you think might be going on between you, seek outside guidance if you need it.
  • Set boundaries. This is perhaps one of the most important strategies for breaking codependent habits. It will require you to think about what boundaries need to be set and then work to maintain them as consistency is key. “I am not going to lend money/support this person any longer.” “I am not going to engage in constant conflict with him/her.” “I am not going to answer 2 am texts/angry texts/texts sent during work hours.” “I am going to spend time with my friends.” “I am going to spend time alone each week.”
  • Be prepared for testing. When we put boundaries into place that are now threatening established patterns, be ready for some push back. It is bound to happen initially as change tends to be avoided. Again, consistency is key.
  • Spend some time apart with the goal of pursuing your own interests. In codependent relationships, there is often an imbalance to time spent together. Find things that you enjoy doing on your own so as to appreciate a sense of independence.
  • Find worth in yourselves so as to create interdependency, not codependency. As in every relationship, we need to be self-reflective and aiming for growth so as to find security in ourselves; only then can we truly find security in others.
  • Make the decision to end the relationship. Although difficult and painful, sometimes it remains the only choice. What doesn’t change only repeats itself. Once free of the codependency, clarity will help to build your sense of self back up to where it needs to be. We are best served at that point to remain relationship free for awhile to allow some time to heal.

This concludes our series on codependency, from recognizing it, to moving towards change both in self and relationship for a healthier you. 🙂

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To Understand Codependency; Post 2

Yesterday we looked at the definition of codependency in relationships and the impact that it can have on both our sense of self and the relationship itself. Anyone can become codependent; the first step in moving towards a healthier way of being is through work on the self.

The tendency to become codependent can come from childhood; if you had an alcoholic parent, you probably learned some enabling behaviours from family members; perhaps you were also parentified by your parent’s substance abuse. Children who are taught that they need to gain a parents approval to gain love can form codependent relationships in their adult life; same thing can happen when children are taught to submiss their needs. And of course having a codependent parent sets up the scene perfectly for enmeshment.

When we begin to understand that codependency is actually damaging to our sense of self, we can begin by:

  • Explore through journaling. What are my values? What are the things that are important to me? What are my needs in relationship? Who do I seek approval from and why? What are my feelings about this? When do I feel most like myself?
  • Create positive affirmations to counter negative self-talk. “I deserve a healthy relationship.” “It is not my job to fix or be responsible for someone else’s feelings/choices/behaviours.” “I can make my own decisions.” “I am important too.”
  • Begin making decisions on your own. Even small ones are a step in the right direction – not answering a text right away, not leaning in with an immediate solution, writing out a pros and cons list, starting an activity that interests you, seeking outside guidance.
  • Spend time alone. This might be a tough one, but is an important step in getting to know ourselves better. Start in small increments so as to get used to the feeling of being comfortable in this vulnerable position. Be curious. What does it feel like to spend some time alone? What might I do that would create a feeling of contentedness within myself?

These are some ways that we begin to develop a stronger sense of self. When we can place a higher value on who we are, we move from a more confident position; we have faith in who we are and we move away from needing someone else to fill that space for us.

Tomorrow’s post will explore what needs to change in the relationship to move out of a codependent position.

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To Understand Codependency; Post 1

The term codependency is heard often when describing an unhealthy relationship. But what is codependency and how can we move towards a healthier way of interacting with our loved ones? This series on codependent relationships will attempt to answer those questions.

We first learned of codependency in addiction literature. It referred to the unhealthy dynamic that exists between the addict and their partner/loved one, in which there was a taking care of to the point of enabling or enmeshment. The codependent partner essentially becomes centered around his/her loved ones unhealthy behaviours and a need to try and control the behaviour develops. It is a reactive position, and one that is often futile as it involves constantly sacrificing your own needs for that of another person (where addiction is fighting for primacy.)

In today’s psychological literature, the term codependency has grown to include patterns of behaviour in which either partner (or both) are overly dependent on another person in order to feel good about themselves. It is an unhealthy dynamic as there exists the seeking the approval of another person in order to have a sense of self-worth. It can occur between partners, but it can also exist with parents and children or between friends or siblings.

You may be in a codependent relationship if:

  • you find yourself always needing to fix or rescue the other.
  • you find yourself nagging, wanting to control, or enabling the other’s behaviours.
  • you have trouble putting boundaries into place.
  • you have trouble being assertive to those boundaries and lean into wanting to please the other.
  • you focus on someone else’s issues, leading you to ignore your own needs.
  • when you are with that person, you often feel anxious or fretful.
  • you struggle with guilt when it comes to the other.
  • you feel responsible for them and will often feel frustrated and annoyed.
  • you find yourself making excuses for the other.
  • you find yourself minimizing the impact of that relationship on you.
  • you feel very tied to them because you don’t want to hurt them.

This begin our short series on codependent relationships. Tomorrow’s post will begin to explore ways that we can move to a healthier place in ourselves; followed by creating space for healthier relationships.

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A Lovely Passage to Remind Us of Our Goodness

This lovely passage is by Nikki Banas and it is entitled “Always Gentle:”

Always Gentle

My beautiful friend, be gentle with yourself and your soul…Be kind to yourself when you feel like you’ve failed or when you feel like you just can’t get things right.

Know that your mistakes only feel big right now, but soon they’ll just be little moments of the past. And also know that they don’t define your future; you can still grow and become in every way that you want to….

Be gentle with yourself. Be one of the people who believes in you wholeheartedly – there is plenty of discouragement out there, so create a space of encouragement within your own heart. Become the voice that always says you can, the voice that has faith in you regardless of what others say.

Be gentle with yourself, beautiful friend. Be gentle especially when you are hurting and when you’re down. Always gentle…. you really are doing great. – Nikkie Banas/Walk the Earth

“Be one of the people who believes in you wholeheartedly.” What a wonderful reminder that we can have faith in ourselves; to best create a self confidant and secure feeling in who we are, but to also shine our light so that others can follow our path.

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5 Facts About Boredom

Sometimes it is nice to simply learn five fun facts about something. Today’s topic? Boredom:

  1. Boredom is described as the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest. Feeling bored is a common feeling and at times, is unavoidable.
  2. Boredom is the psychological feeling of missing something. We often mistake feeling bored for feeling empty; this can lead us to looking for something to ‘fill ourselves.’
  3. Boredom is also linked to control. If we feel we don’t have control over something (waiting rooms are a good example), we can end up feeling restless, bored, frustrated.
  4. Boredom can be related to depression. If we purposefully avoid restorative activities or we blame ourselves for feeling bored, we may need to get clarity as to what is really going on.
  5. We can work with boredom. Understanding ourselves and why we may feel bored is the first step. Curiosity and creativity both help to temper it. Being prepared for the times you have to wait will also help pass the time; there is nothing like a great playlist or capitvating book to keep your attention.

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Self-Reflection Question 13

Today’s self-reflection question is one that feels timely to me:

“What is life asking of me?”

Right now, I would answer that by saying that life right now is asking that I keep things simple. Working from home and keeping up a routine that allows me to get outside and feel refreshed. Daily prayer in the morning, walks with Cricket, finding time to read, cooking supper every evening, drives for a DQ treat, shows in the evening with Kurt.

Life is asking that I stay in touch with my loved ones. As a mom, that means still seeing our kids. It also means socially distanced walks with friends, phone calls, texts and video chats right now. Staying connected and committed.

It also means processing my feelings. I have had some blue moments about having to cancel travel plans including a trip I had planned with my girls to the Azores in June, sad feelings about not getting to see extended family, disheartened feelings about how long this will last. Processing how I feel helps me to land in acceptance (it is what it is) and gratitude (I still have so many blessings in my life.)

And lastly, I believe that life is still asking that I continue with my goals. I write in my blog daily and have started advertising it. I added training into my work day as client hours have shortened. My flower gardens make me feel accomplished, and our new house is organized and (almost) finished – it is amazing what you can order online!

And so, I would say that life has asked me these days to slow down, keep things steady, look forward to life resuming. I can handle that 🙂

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Photo credit: Me! This is a video family chat where we all represented a colour 🙂