Becoming a Better Listener

Becoming a Better Listener

Becoming a Better Listener

communicating effectively

“Listening well is about giving up control. It’s releasing your perspective, holding back your impulse to speak or prove yourself. It’s living in the moment with the person you are listening to and truly feeling their world.” – Brendon Burchard

 

Becoming a Better Listener

 

Have you ever been in conversation with your partner or a friend and noticed that you can’t recall what they just said, or perhaps you hear them talking, the words are familiar, but the meaning isn’t setting in? I’m sure you aren’t intentionally tuning them out, but when it comes time to reply, are you engaged enough to offer intentional feedback? 

Listening well is a required skill for productive communication. If your partnership or friendships struggles with communication (and to be transparent, many do!), a good place to start is assessing your listening skills. 

“Listening” seems simple enough, tune in and do your best to not tune out. But there is so much more that goes into the art of listening than just, well, listening! As a couples counselor and individual therapist, I work with clients on becoming better listeners, and today I want to discuss with you the importance of this fundamental communication skill and tips you can implement in your conversations right away for becoming a better listener.

 

Struggling to Listen

 

Listening becomes a second priority to internal contemplation generally for one of two reasons:

  1. You have personal thoughts on what is being shared with you, or it’s reminded you of a story or point that you’d like to share. In order to not forget your train of thought, you have now tuned out the person speaking and are tossing around your own ideas waiting for a moment to interject.

     

  2. You cannot relate to what is being shared with you, or you are uninterested in the topic or person who is talking. Perhaps unintentionally, you have moved on to other thoughts and ideas – leaving the conversation altogether. 

Let’s take a moment to look at the first reason for not listening well: personal thoughts/stories/revelations relating to or in connection with the conversation at hand. We are all guilty of this one from time to time and there are reasons why this may happen more frequently or without personal recognition. One reason why people may turn internally and away from the conversation is that they are anxious or nervous about showing up for the conversation in just the right way. Have you ever felt like you needed to form your answer or response internally before you could speak? While this might feel like a good way to set your conversation up for success and share your point of view, it takes away from your ability to fully engage with the person speaking.  

Similarly, when you’re listening and are reminded of a great point or idea and you immediately interject the conversation abruptly, it can leave the person speaking with the impression you aren’t listening, or don’t care to hear their full point of view. You aren’t intentionally wanting to make them feel this way, but by not practicing better listening habits you are essentially saying, “What I have to say is more important than what you’re sharing with me now.”

Listening can feel less of a priority when we want to share our perspective or insight. We become quicker to voice our opinions, perspectives, or stance and unintentionally stop paying attention to the person speaking to us.

If you’re anything like my clients who come to me wanting to become a better listener, you’re a caring and kind person and you want to strengthen your communication skills with your partner, friends, family, or others in order to encourage growth and happiness in your most important relationships. 

So, how do you know if this is an area of strength or one of weakness? And how can you become a better listener? Read on for more!

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Intentionally Listen

Listening is a skill that takes practice. You’re not going to go into one coaching session and walk out as a professional listener. You’re going to have to put in the work. In my work with therapy and coaching clients, how to listen effectively feels challenging for many. [Curious if you're a bad listener? Here are 10 Signs You're a Bad Listener.]

What I think we miss early in life is how to be aware of what is going on in our present moment, both internally and externally. We have this amazing brain that sets us apart from everything else, but sometimes, we can be so stuck in our heads that we find ourselves working mostly on autopilot. We may be focusing on something we did or trying to prepare for something we need to get done and because of this, we can forget to intentionally ground ourselves in the present. 

So, how does this affect our listening skills?

If we are unaware of our emotional state, are stuck in our head preparing what to say, or ruminating on something that happened yesterday, it becomes pretty difficult to be present when someone is speaking to us. Our mind’s ability to multitask, which is something we need, can actually make listening less effective because of these distractions. We learn to communicate from those around us and through that communication, we learn to listen.

To truly listen, understand, and show that we are present in the conversation, we need to be playing a more active role. Intentionally listening to empathize, validate, and understand is not passive, it takes effort, it takes active listening. 

The encouraging part of all of this is that you can actually start active listening on your own today. By intentionally practicing your listening skills, you can gradually build better listening habits. Here are a few key skills you can implement today to begin actively and mindfully listening:

Active Listening Key Skills

Pay Attention – Give the speaker your undivided attention. Maintain eye contact, notice when a distracting thought pops up, acknowledge it, and direct your attention back to the speaker, listen to understand – not respond, and pay attention to body language.

Show That You’re Listening – Use your body language to show that you are engaged in what they are saying. Nod your head occasionally, smile, or use other facial expressions, verbal affirmations for the speaker to continue like “yes” or “uh-huh.”

Reflect, Clarify, and Summarize – Your role as the listener is to understand. Our own perspective can often filter what we hear, so in order to put those aside and get to what the speaker is really saying reflect on what is being said and ask clarifying questions. 

  • Reflections may sound like: “So, what I’m hearing you say is…” or “It sounds like you’re saying…”
  • Clarifications may sound like: “Did I hear that right?” or  “What did you mean when you said that?”
  • Summarize what you are hearing every so often to make sure you’re understanding. There is a lot happening in just a few minutes of conversation!

Defer Judgement – Interrupting can frustrate the speaker, and ultimately, it impacts how well you understand their perspective. Allow the speaker to finish before asking questions. 

Respond Appropriately – Be open and honest in your response and share your opinions respectfully. 

Mindful Listening Key Skills

In addition to Active Listening skills, I like to consider the benefit of Mindful Listening skills. This is where that present awareness can be helpful. 

Check-In with Your Body and Mind – Prior to a conversation, check-in with your body and mind. Did you have a stressful day? Are you carrying any tension in your body? What emotions are you presently feeling? If you find that your mind is cluttered with past and future related thoughts, give yourself a chance to refocus and bring yourself back to the present. This can be done with a few deep breaths, counting to four on the in-breath, pausing, and four on the out-breath.  

Cultivate Empathy – Empathy is also an important listening skill as it lets the other person know that we not only hear them, but we are trying to feel what it might be like from their perspective. In fact, Empathy is The Key to Connection and Communication. By being empathetic, you are showing that you can set aside your own lens, perspective, and belief in order to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they might be going through. 

Periodically Check-In with Your Body and Mind – Throughout the conversation maintain that present awareness of your own inner “cues” similar to the check-in from earlier notice when thoughts, feelings, or reactions come up that might block out our ability to be present or see the other’s perspective. 

Mindful listening is a way of listening fully to the speaker without judgment, interruption, or criticism while being aware of your own internal thoughts and feelings that might get in the way of communicating effectively. When you combine active listening skills with mindful listening skills you show the speaker that you are present in that moment with them, you hear them and respect their perspective and what they have to say. 

Emotional Intelligence and Listening

Emotions are essential to communication. The speaker is conveying their perspective through their feelings as well as their words. While we listen, emotions are triggered inside of us as well. Emotional intelligence is recognizing and managing our own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. 

With awareness and management of our own emotions, we can use active and mindful listening skills more effectively. If we are not recognizing and managing our emotions, we can often react without thinking and these emotions can affect what we think and hear. Essentially, emotions can control how we react to someone speaking to us. Instead of feeling controlled by our emotions, we can use them to improve our conversations. They can become a tool to better understand the speaker and in turn, make us a better listener. 

Practice Emotional Awareness

Recognize/identify the emotions the speaker may be experiencing and the emotions we are experiencing during the conversation. This is where those active and mindful listening skills can be so helpful. Stay present, reflect, ask clarifying questions, empathize. Try to see the topic from their perspective. 

The Speaker’s Emotions: Pay attention beyond their words. What is their tone of voice? Something said enthusiastically could mean something different than the same thing spoken out of frustration. Pay attention to the tone of voice, facial expression, and body language to help understand what those words actually mean, and what emotions might be behind them. 

Our Emotions: As the speaker is speaking, we will pick up on their words, body language, and tone of voice, and emotions will be triggered inside of us. We might easily identify ones such as annoyance, joy, frustration, or excitement, but others might be harder to identify. Maybe we cannot name a specific emotion, but we feel something different. It can be easier to overlook these cues or even push them away, but they all give us important information. 

Reflect the Emotions of the Speaker

Again, we are using those reflective and mindful listening skills here. When you notice an emotion that the speaker might be experiencing that seems relevant to their story, reflect this. 

Example: “I noticed as you talked about your new position at work, you seemed a little tense or frustrated. [reflection] Why is that? [clarifying question]”

Example: “You look excited. [reflection] What’s up? [clarifying question]”

Recognize and Use Your Emotions

When a strong emotion is triggered inside of us, we want to avoid reacting without first pausing. Pause to identify the emotion you are experiencing, then use this emotional experience to ask a question directly addressing the topic that triggered the emotion.

Example: If we start to feel frustrated or defensive, use this emotion to craft a question directed at the speaker’s message that roused that emotion.

  • “That’s an interesting perspective. What led you to that view?”
  • “I haven’t heard it described that way before, can you tell me more?”

Manage Your Emotions

While listening, manage emotions that are triggered inside so that they don’t end up preventing you from understanding the speaker’s message. Managing your own emotions allows you to remain calm and open, which may help the speaker manage their emotions as well.

Managing your emotions prevents you from reacting impulsively. When reacting impulsively, we skip emotion recognition and regulation and are most likely reacting prior to fully understanding the speaker’s message. Depending on the reaction, the speaker may not continue trying to express their message or it could even lead to conflict. 

I have found that questions and reflection can really be helpful when emotions are triggered. You are redirecting your emotional energy into understanding the message more clearly. You are intentionally calming your own emotional response by turning your focus on listening carefully to better understand the speaker. 

Practice Makes Habit

Practice, practice, practice! Practicing these skills can create a habit. The way we have learned to listen is still something we have learned, so we can unlearn it too. It may take time because we have been listening to respond for so long, but it’s possible. Awareness is key. Notice how you are paying attention when someone is talking, when you are focused on your response over what someone is saying, and if you are quick to jump in with your perspective rather than listening to understand. 

Start to recognize emotions as they arise and name them, “Earlier, when my partner wasn’t responding when I was trying to get their attention, I noticed I felt tense and frustrated.” Then explore that emotion, “I wonder if it’s because it felt like they were ignoring me? Maybe that hurt my feelings and instead of being sad I got angry?”

Breaking down these listening skills into small steps can make it feel less overwhelming or intimidating and over time you will notice this practice paying off in your conversations with friends, partners, family, and colleagues. 

However, if while practicing these strategies you notice a few are really tough to learn and use, asking for help or more resources could get you over that obstacle. Emotional intelligence coaches can help coach you through the more difficult aspects of identifying emotions, regulating and managing them, and utilizing these skills in your relationships. 

So, it turns out there is so much more to listening than just hearing what another person is saying and responding to them! I hope these skills are useful in your exploration of how you listen to those around you and hope they help cultivate presence, openness, empathy, and better understanding in your relationships. 

Warmly,
Kara Castells, M.A., MFTC

Online marriage counseling new york florida online couples therapist

Kara Castells, M.S., MFTC is a couples counselor, life coach, and individual therapist who creates an accepting and supportive environment for you to find clarity in your personal life and relationships. She is skillful at applying systemic and evidence-based approaches to create lasting change.

 

 

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Becoming a Better Listener

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Practicing Intellectual Humility to Improve Your Relationships

Practicing Intellectual Humility to Improve Your Relationships

Practicing Intellectual Humility to Improve Your Relationships

“I could be wrong…but…”

Recently, a buzzword in the field of psychology caught my attention: Intellectual Humility (IH). I was intrigued because humility is commonly thought to be a quality associated with emotional intelligence. An endearing quality; humble people tend to be agreeable and easy to be around.

So what does intellectual humility mean, and how might we use it to improve our relationships? Author Shane Snow describes intellectual humility as “being open and able to change your mind about important things, and being able to discern when you should.” 

The emphasis on discerning when we should change our mind is an important nuance. Intellectual humility is not simply being open to new ideas; rather, it is actively considering the validity of opinions and beliefs that differ from our own and—here’s the rub—being willing to change our view.

Perhaps you and your spouse have disagreements about parenting, or your children are challenging the values you are trying to instill in them. Maybe you have a friend or family member who holds different political views than your own. 

Given the current state of the union, being willing to consider views different than our own is essential if we are to engage in meaningful conversations and find win/win solutions to the challenges we face.

Intellectual Humility in Intimate Relationships

Our perception could either be our path to nirvana or an invisible cage that bottles us up. ~ Pawan Mishra

In my work as a marriage and family therapist, one of the main complaints I hear from couples is their inability to communicate effectively. Desperate to be able to connect with each other, they find themselves falling into a repetitive cycle of big blow ups as well as frequent, petty bickering. 

Often, each partner feels misunderstood and resentful, which makes it practically impossible to see eye to eye, never mind resolve their differences. Over time, this pattern of negative communication can erode the relationship to a point where they no longer feel a connection, at times barely recognizing even a friendship.  

One of the most important building blocks for restoring connection is for partners to begin to consider things from each other’s point of view. Often, when embroiled in an argument, each person is so busy defending themselves that they do not actually hear the other. Each thinks they have the “correct” view of the problem and are certain they know the solution, which is usually what their partner needs to do differently. In other words, how they are right; and their partner wrong. 

The distortion that can come from our biases is nicely illustrated in the Buddist parable known as “the rope in the road.” 

The story goes something like this: 

A man walks along a path at night. In the darkness, he sees something long and thin coiled in the road ahead. Believing it to be a poisonous snake he runs in the opposite direction, delaying his travels. 

The next morning, the man summons the courage to start again. In the light of day, he sees that what he thought was a snake was actually a rope. In this moment, he realizes that in the darkness, he could not see clearly, and allowed his fear to cause him to imagine the worst.

When we are locked into our own viewpoint, we are seeing the rope as a snake. We become guarded, defensive, and—in a process known as confirmation bias – seek evidence that supports our view. When immersed in conflict, this bias leads couples to assume the worst about their partner and make negative conclusions about the motives behind their behavior. They continue to build their case against each other, and as a result, the relationship continues to deteriorate. 

Back to the parable for a moment. What if the traveler, upon recognizing that it was a rope and not a snake in the road, remained hesitant to trust his eyes, in spite of his new understanding? He may have abandoned his journey out of fear, and perhaps never reached his destination.

In a similar manner, continued misunderstandings can keep couples traveling down the wrong path—away from, rather than toward each other, and keep them from reaching their desired destination of harmony and connection.

This is where a coach or therapist can help, by offering strategies that allow couples to actually hear each other, perhaps for the first time, and to consider possible alternatives to their perceptions of problems. By learning to clearly communicate what they need from each other, they can repair misunderstandings and reconnect.

Grow, Together.

Before we sought help from you, I was at a point in my relationship that I had really given up on hope... you have changed our lives.

— Couples Counseling Client

Communicating with Intellectual Humility 

It is not what the ego says, it is how much it is believed. ~ Mooji

An exercise I often conduct with my clients is the Imago Dialogue. Partners take turns sharing their thoughts and feelings about any given topic. While one partner is sharing, the other’s job is to listen to what is being said, and simply reflect back on what they are hearing; checking in with their partner to see if they are understanding them correctly and completely. 

Many couples find this exercise difficult, because this process highlights how they are usually not hearing each other, but rather thinking of how to defend themselves. With this exercise, they are asked to actually listen, become curious, and validate not their own, but their partner’s perspective. 

This exercise fits nicely within the intellectual humility framework, in that couples are asked to suspend their own opinions or deeply held biases, and become willing to put themselves in each other’s shoes—feel what they feel, see what they see—and how things make sense from each other’s perspective. 

IH principles also align well with the work of renowned marriage researchers Dr.’s John and Julie Gottman, who provide evidence-based strategies for inviting compromise and improving relationship satisfaction. In the exercise known as “yield to win,” each partner finds ways to compromise on behalf of the relationship, rather than pursuing their own need to be right.  

The Gottmans caution that if one partner is winning an argument, the relationship is most likely losing. By yielding to win, each partner is victorious, because the relationship is championed. 

Do You Want to Be Right or Do You Want to Be Happy?

Keeping an open mind is a virtue, but… not so open that your brains fall out. ~ Carl Sagan

Intellectual humility does not ask that we roll over and let someone else’s opinion or beliefs supersede our own, or forfeit our ability to think for ourselves. Our ego serves a purpose—it is the self with which we relate to the world, and our beliefs serve as a roadmap to living our lives according to our values. These core values should not be abandoned simply to make peace. 

Rather, it is when we become so attached to our beliefs, opinions, and self-image that we become inflexible and unable to meet life with spontaneity and curiosity. We may become “set in our ways,” which can make it difficult for us to engage with others or find a compromise. 

Intellectual humility encourages us to recognize when to put our opinions and beliefs aside, and open our hearts to new ways of thinking and relating to others. Rather than tightening up in defensiveness, we are asked to open our hearts to each other, and the vulnerability we may feel. But why is this so hard to do?

Our discomfort with being wrong is grounded in our survival instinct and is at the core of our ego-identity. Think of it as our internal GPS—we want to think our radar is accurate. Often, we identify so much with our opinions and beliefs that they seem to represent “who we are.” To consider that we are wrong means to acknowledge that we have a blind spot, which can lead us to feel k and unsure of ourselves. From this perspective, it makes sense that ideas that challenge our beliefs could feel like a challenge to our very sense of self. 

Now, I know what you may be thinking: What if, in fact, I am right? What if we practice intellectual humility, consider others’ thoughts and perspectives, but in the end analysis—we still consider our own views superior?

The good news is that by opening our hearts and minds, by listening and sincerely considering the value of another’s perspective, we will have created a more collaborative and harmonious environment, in which conflicts are more easily overcome, and connection can thrive. Particularly with our loved ones, isn’t this the very definition of winning?

10 Ways to Practice Intellectual Humility in Your Relationships

Here are some practical ideas on how to incorporate intellectual humility into your day-to-day relationships and interactions:

  1. Soft Start Up. One of the most important skills I teach my clients is known as “soft start up”.  Approaching each other with kindness, stating your sincere intentions, using “I” statements, and avoiding accusations or blame will increase the likelihood that the value of your perspective will be received.

     

  2. Do not interrupt when listening to each other’s viewpoints. This is a fundamental way to show respect. Likewise, do not monopolize the conversation. Allow for a give and take of ideas.

     

  3. When sharing a strong viewpoint, acknowledge, “I could be wrong, but…”  By acknowledging the possibility you might be proven wrong, you are always half right!

     

  4. Agree to disagree. Do not put down or otherwise attack the person who has a different viewpoint than you. No one is receptive when they are being talked down to.

     

  5. Avoid black and white thinking, including absolute statements like “always, obviously, clearly.”

     

  6. Try to find something you can agree with. This is nicely reflected in the Chinese symbol of yin/yan – seek to find a bit of truth in opposing viewpoints.

     

  7. Notice if you are emotionally triggered. The purpose of stress hormones racing through our body is to aid in our self-defense, which is by design the opposite of being open. Take a pause and try again when you are in a more receptive state.

     

  8. Seek to understand the values behind the other’s viewpoint, even if you disagree with them—everybody has some reasons for what they’re doing.

     

  9. Listen to the other person’s story of how the topic at hand is impacting them. Hearing their experience without taking it personally will help you to better see their point of view.

     

  10. Play together! – Find common interests and enjoy them together. Having fun together helps build a bridge between people with opposing views.

If you are interested in learning more about Intellectual Humility, I recommend Shane Snow’s comprehensive report Intellectual Humility: The Ultimate Guide To This Timeless Virtue where you can also find a self-assessment to measure your current intellectual humility and the interactive app Open Mind, which guides the user through steps to engage more constructively across differences. 

Wishing you the best,
Roseann Pascale, M.S., LMFT 

 

Online marriage counseling new york florida online couples therapist

Roseann Pascale, M.S., LMFT is an empathetic and intuitive couples counselor, therapist and coach. Through authentic connection and a down to earth demeanor, Roseann can guide you in developing clarity and cultivating well-being. Using the practices of mindfulness and values-driven action, she helps individuals and couples overcome their challenges and create fulfillment in all aspects of life.

 

 

 

Meet a Few of Our Relationship Experts

The marriage counselor, couples therapists and premarital counselors of Growing Self have specialized training and years of experience in helping couples reconnect. We use only evidence based strategies that have been proven by research to help you restore your strong bond, and love your relationship again.

 

 

 

Roseann Pascale

Roseann Pascale

M.S., LMFT

Roseann Pascale is a marriage counselor, therapist, and life coach with years of experience in helping couples communicate more effectively, find new solutions to old problems, repair their strong bond, rebuild trust after affairs, successfully blend families, improve their sexual intimacy, and parent joyfully together.

Roseann is a former student of the legendary family therapist Salvador Minuchin, and has a strong foundation in systemic, evidence based approaches to couples and family therapy that emphasize helping you both make positive changes to your life mindfully, and create an intentional relationship that honors your deepest needs.

Roseann is licensed as a marriage and family therapist in New York and Florida, and is available for online marriage counseling and relationship coaching.

Kensington Osmond

Kensington Osmond

M.S., LAMFT, MFTC

Kensington is a relationship counselor and coach, she provides relationship counseling, relationship coaching, marriage counseling, and also pre-marital counseling. She provides clients with a safe, supportive, non-judgmental environment where they can feel understood, gain insight, and create lasting change in the most meaningful parts of their lives. 

Silas Hendrich

Silas Hendrich

M.S., MFT-C

Silas is an engaging, friendly and relatable couples counselor, therapist and life coach. He utilizes the evidence-based Gottman Method of marriage counseling with is couples, which emphasizes healthy communication skills training, restoring the strong foundation of commitment and friendship at the core of your marriage, and how to show each other love and respect in the ways that are most important to each of you. 

Silas is available to meet with you in person for marriage counseling in Broomfield, Colorado. He also provides online marriage counseling and online relationship coaching to clients across the US and internationally. 

 

Anastacia Sams

Anastacia Sams

M.A., N.C.C., LMFT-C

Anastacia's authentic, caring approach to marriage counseling and relationship coaching helps couples find each other's "noble intentions," and re-commit to showing each other love and respect. She can help you heal old hurts, improve your communication, restore trust, and work together as a team.

Georgi Chizk

Georgi Chizk

M.S., LAMFT

Georgi is an incredibly kind, compassionate marriage counselor and premarital counselor who has a knack for bringing out the best in both of you. Georgi practices evidence-based Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, which helps you restore your empathy for each other, see each other's noble intentions, and helps you create a strong, secure attachment bond of love and appreciation. Her approach focuses on helping you repair your emotional connection first, which then makes it easier solving problems and make behavioral changes.

Georgi's services are exclusively available to residents of Arkansas. She can meet with you in person for marriage counseling in Bentonville, AR or she can meet with you for couples therapy online if you live in Arkansas. 

Related Post

Becoming a Better Listener

Becoming a Better Listener

Colorado therapist and relationship expert, Kara Castells, M.S., MFTC is on the Love, Happiness and Success blog discussing Effective Communication. Learn how to have meaningful conversations, connect on a deeper level, and develop your listening skills through active and mindful listening. Read more here!

Grow Together, Or Grow Apart

Grow Together, Or Grow Apart

Couples under stress will either grow together, or grow apart. Dr. Lisa shares the small “make or break moments” that will strengthen your relationship… or damage it. Learn what you can do — today — to cultivate the healthy, happy, connected relationship you want and deserve.

Learn and Grow

Learn and Grow

Self-development and personal growth are already yours once you learn how to appreciate your strengths, feel empowered by your accomplishments, and tap into your hard-won inner wisdom. This podcast and free download activity will show you how to connect with the magnificence of who you already are.

Personal Growth: The Greatest Gift

In this season of gift giving, it can be easy to forget what our loved ones really want: Our unconditional love, trust, kindness, appreciation, attention, time, understanding, empathy, respect, emotional safety, and cherishing. However, we can't give those to others without prioritizing our own wellness. On this episode of the podcast, learn the personal growth strategies that will help you grow into your best self, and also become a true blessing in the lives of others.

Radical Self Acceptance

Radical Self Acceptance

Radical Self Acceptance

Radical Self Acceptance:

Why Accepting Yourself Changes Everything

Radical Self Acceptance

Are you already worn out from pushing yourself toward another goal? Do you feel that no matter how many times you try, you are still not growing or changing? If your answers are yes, you might want to take a step back and try radical acceptance.

In this episode, I help you understand how radical self acceptance works and why it is essential. It is an emotional intelligence tool used to guide us to understand and value ourselves. And consequently, lead a better life. 

Listen to the full episode to better understand radical self-acceptance!

In This Episode, You Will . . .

  • Understand the relevance of radical self acceptance in your life.
  • Recognize (and release) your tendency to beat yourself up for having feelings.
  • Learn how to accept your feelings without judgment or shame.
  • Become aware of how toxic shame can worsen your well-being.
  • Find out how unconditional self-acceptance can help in your relationships.
  • Discover self-love through practicing mindfulness.
  • Recognize the power of facing negative emotions. 

You can listen now by scrolling down to the podcast player at the bottom of this page, or tune in to “Radical Self Acceptance” on Spotify.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa

Radical Self Acceptance: Episode Highlights

The Relevance of Radical Acceptance

The art of radical acceptance — radical self-acceptance — will change so much more for you both on the outside and the inside than you will ever even know.

There are four goals of radical acceptance, which are a prerequisite to genuine personal growth. You have to ask to understand:

  • Who are you?
  • What is important to you?
  • Why are you the way you are?
  • What works and what does not work with you?

Stop Beating Yourself Up

When people stress themselves out into something they should be but are not, they become the opposite of their goal. These people start to create an internal emotional environment, which is the antithesis of the calm they need.

As a therapist, I often recommend radical acceptance to my clients, but sometimes are apprehensive at first. It's because they equate “acceptance” with “giving up.” That is not the goal. The goal is to feel calmer and less stressed or upset about what's currently happening. From that space of strength, you will be much better able to take steps towards changing the situation. (If you want to. You don't have to).  

What is Radical Acceptance?

Radical acceptance is about believing our inner reality or experience and not judging ourselves for having it.

When people don't feel good on the inside, it’s because there is a gap between how they perceive the way their world is or how they are and how they think they or their world should be.

In 2018, a group of psychology researchers examined the overall mental and emotional wellness of several people. They compared two groups of people: those who were accepting of and those who did not like experiencing negative emotions. The first group had excellent mental and emotional wellness, but not because they experience less negative emotions. It is because they openly accept that they will experience negative emotions from time to time.

Accept Yourself

The true path to happiness and wellness is not eradicating any challenging emotions, difficult situations, or problematic thoughts. Rather, it is understanding non-judgmentally that it happens sometimes. Not only is it normal and expected, but it is also okay.

You do not have to change or escape from negative emotions. In other words, you do not have to do anything at all. You have to let the negative feeling stay inside you, then observe it mindfully. It may float off, but sometimes, it does not, and it becomes a persistent feeling of sadness. However, this negative experience is never an indicator that you are a flawed human being.

Once you accept negative experiences as a normal, healthy, and expected part of your life, you will feel incredibly liberated.

Toxic Shame

Here’s an analogy to better understand radical acceptance: If you're feeling sad and you go to somebody who loves you, and you say, “I am so sad right now. I don't know how we're gonna get through this.” Sometimes it's just so hard. And to have someone be with you and say, “Yeah, it really is hard,” without judgment.

To be straightforward, you do not need someone who will try to fix, change, or reject your negative feelings. Most of the time, you will only feel worse or alone. It’s because they are indirectly implying that you have feelings you should not be having.

You may also tend to shame yourself for having negative feelings. It is intolerable for you to show that you are not okay because you believe you should be okay. And as opposed to this, radical acceptance advocates that it is okay not to be okay.

Unconditional Self-Acceptance

A byproduct of practicing radical acceptance is having compassion, tolerance, and love for yourself even when you are not 100%. You are also better able to connect with people when they are not okay. Since we can face our own negative emotions, it becomes more comfortable to sit with others who experience the same.

In my experience in couples counseling, when one vents out their negative feelings toward their relationship, the other's acknowledgment and acceptance are enough.

However, when the other chooses to reject and disprove their partner's feelings, the conflict starts. It is just one more moment where there wasn't understanding, empathy, and tolerance for the reality of the other person. And all of a sudden, they feel lonelier and more ashamed.

How to Practice Self-Love

You should start by choosing to release the idea that you should be feeling anything specific. You have to believe that relentlessly stressing yourself out for not being okay will only sink you.

Here’s a Buddhist story about two monks who were robbed and were pushed into a river:

One monk got too consumed and distracted by his anger that he drowned and was never seen again. The other monk also felt anger but was able to return to a place of radical acceptance. It no longer mattered to him how he got in the river. What matters is that he is in the river and what he must do to survive.

When you get wrapped up in negative emotions, it becomes nearly impossible to get out on your own. Nonetheless, you can strive to shift into a space where you acknowledge and accept what is without any judgment. From there, you will be better able to see and try to solve the problem.

The Power of Facing Negative Emotions

Even with radical acceptance, you are allowed to feel resistance to what is happening. You are allowed not to like what is happening, wish it was different, or feel sad about it. Sometimes that sadness can point us in the direction of a thing that we would like to create in our lives, but we don't know what that is until we listen to the sadness.

The people who have been working hard to avoid their negative emotions do not like grieving. So I help people like them to understand that negative emotions are not bad. It is healthy for a person to feel legitimate sadness, anger, or grief.

People are also afraid of accepting negative emotions because they might get consumed and never be okay again. This fear exists because they have been avoiding these big emotions for so long.

I also guide my clients through their negative emotions:

  • Touch your negative emotions without any judgment.
  • Examine what the emotion feels like in your body.
  • Talk about what you feel at the moment.

There is power in facing your negative emotions. When you stop resisting your truth and rejecting your feelings and begin to radically accept any and all of how you really feel, that in itself becomes a point of resilience and truth. It is also a point of growth because you are not afraid to admit when you are not okay. 

Resources

I’ve introduced you to the essential life skill of radical acceptance. What did you learn and can apply in your life from this episode? We would love to hear your thoughts on the comments below this post. 

Did today's discussion inspire you? Please review, subscribe to, or better yet, share the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

Wishing you all the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

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Radical Self Acceptance

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

Music Credits: Denver's Mike Masse, with a cover of “Dear Prudence”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Radical Self Acceptance: Podcast Transcript

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Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness and Success podcast.

 

[Dear Prudence by Mike Masse]

 

It’s just one of my favorite songs of all time. “Dear Prudence,” of course, recorded originally by The Beatles, that particular version, is performed by a really talented local Denver artist by the name of Mike Massé with an “E” on the end, M-A-S-S-E. He has a website mikemasse.com, and he does all kinds of cool stuff. So you should definitely check out more of his things. And if you ever like to hear that song again, you can call Growing Self and talk to Erica, first of all, who is a gem. And then if you're lucky enough to get put on hold, like, if she's transferring your call or something, we have the privilege of using Mike's lovely song as our hold music. So, thank you, Mike, and thank you for enjoying this beautiful song with me because it's good stuff.

 

And so, that is our segway into our topic today because we are talking about how to be engaged with a world as yourself, as authentically as is your truth and with the world as it is. And, practicing I think new for some of us but very important life skill of radical acceptance. And I am very deliberately posting this particular podcast for you on the week after the turn of the year because how much of the time are—you know this time of year, it's like, “Okay, this year, I'm going to make all these changes. I'm going to go to the gym, I'm going to starve myself, I'm going to make myself do XYZ,” and it's like, so exhausting. 

 

We also know from research that any kind of new year resolution thing is generally not helpful when it comes to making real and lasting change in our lives. And there are certainly things that are. We've talked in the past about habits and really like doing deep work on yourself. All of that is well and good. But for many people, the biggest, most important, powerful life-changing point of growth is not changing at all, but rather experimenting with something called radical acceptance, radical acceptance. 

 

If you want to take it up a notch, we could talk about radical self-acceptance and how we understand, and appreciate, and value ourselves for exactly who and what we are. And absolutely release the inner critic and the judgment and the self-blame and even just that uneasy feeling that you should be doing something different, something better, something more. You should have a goal, you should have a resolution, new idea. Radical acceptance is a release of all of that. 

 

And that's what I really want to talk with you about today so that I can just—hopefully helpful counterbalance in your ear if you are being besieged by other forces in your life right now. Who are doing this cheerleader “This year is the year everything is gonna be different” voice in your ear, and that may or may not feel congruent for you. 

 

Radical acceptance that's what we're doing today on the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. And I'm so glad you're here to join me. I am Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I'm the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. We're based in Denver, Colorado, but we see clients all over the world. We specialize in couples counseling, marriage counseling, and a lot of coaching. I think more of what we do than therapy these days is really in the coaching camp. But because me and everybody on the team, we have a background in mental health. Like myself, I'm a licensed psychologist, I'm a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and I am also a Board Certified coach. So I like to think that we take it to a deeper level. 

 

And that's also what I try to do for you in this podcast is, give you hopefully helpful new information, new ideas and, and different ways of supporting you on your journey of growth. So we're always talking about your love, happiness, and success. And the topics that I select for my podcast are all about you. I am listening to you, thank you, if you're one of the many who's gotten in touch recently on Instagram @drlisamariebobby or gotten in touch with Growing Self @growing_self on Instagram, or through our website. We have a very active blog community at growingself.com. There's always a lively discussion in the comment section. You can also connect with us on Facebook if you like, or you could just send an old fashioned email to hello@growingself.com if you would like to share what's on your mind lately. 

 

And our topic today is born of what I'm hearing from you, which is that, boy, there are a lot of you—and hey I can relate, who can't? Who is just, like, coming out of the end of this year feeling like you've been through a meat grinder on so many different levels. And it's hard to even know what to do next, or what to try, or what to grow, or if it's even possible to have goals right now. And you know what, there's again, a time and a place for growth and goals. And I'm right there as a life coach, but I tell you what, as a psychologist, the art of radical acceptance, radical self-acceptance will change so much more for you both on the outside and the inside than you will ever even know. 

 

I see there's this weird paradox when it comes to personal growth, that before people can really change and grow and develop and do anything different. They must first understand themselves, understand who they are, understand what's important to them, why they are the way they are is often very helpful. And also, get a lot of clarity around what is working, what isn't working, to begin to create a plan that will move you forward into a different reality.

 

And here's the paradoxical part in my experience, both as a life coach and as a therapist, when people, as we so often do—no judgment. But when we expend a lot of time and energy into feeling upset—usually with ourselves, sometimes with other situations—when we badger ourselves and criticize ourselves and shame ourselves into being something that we should be that we're not, it creates an emotional environment inside of us, that is absolutely the antithesis of the kind of calm, compassionate, non-judgmental way of being that true growth and mental and emotional health really requires. And there is an enormous amount of value in figuring out how to accept yourself and the world around you.

 

Many times when I first introduced the idea of radical acceptance or radical self-acceptance to my clients, they have a very common reaction, which is some variation of “So, do you mean I'm just supposed to give up? That I'm just supposed to tolerate these things that feel intolerable to me? That I'm supposed to stop trying, that I'm supposed to stop doing the things I think are important for me to be better or some aspirational thing.” And, so it's like, there's a lot of anxiety when people think about moving into a space of self-acceptance, or even general acceptance because it feels like this is hard to put into words, but I'll try. When people don't feel good on the inside, it is because there is this gap between how they perceive the way their world is, or how they are, and how they think they should be, or their world should be. So the larger the gap between what you want to be or what you want your life to be about, what you want to have, and your present reality, the more unhappy you will feel. And this is always true and can be useful when we apply it to generating motivation—topic for another day. 

 

But what is incredibly insidious, and what happens so often more often than you would think, although if you can relate to this, they'll probably be like, “Yes, I could see other people doing this too,” is that when people believe that they should be happy, they should be free of negative emotions, or dark emotions, they shouldn't be angry, they shouldn't be sad, they shouldn't feel upset or disappointed, or guilty or even shame, when people have inner experiences that are different than what we think they should be, this, in itself, can create enormous feelings of unhappiness and shame. Because we feel something that we believe we shouldn't feel. This is a little bit mind-blowing, okay, but I want you to like, let it sink in for a second. 

 

The fact that we aren't okay, the fact that we are not having a good time, or not feeling good about something is itself a cause to feel badly about and beat ourselves up. Say you are feeling a little low, or depressed, or not motivated, or don't want to get up and go jogging at five o'clock in the morning when it's 10 degrees out, okay? Just say that you don't actually feel like doing that. If you haven't cultivated this radical acceptance idea, that inner reality in itself, can then generate all of these negative feelings. This, “What is wrong with me? Oh, my God, I am such a loss. Why am I depressed? There's something wrong with me for feeling the way that I do. Oh, my God, I wish I felt better, why don't I feel better, I really want to feel better. Ah!” And it turns into this, like, avalanche snowball-ly thing of beating yourself up for like, being a human with human feelings, and desires, and longings, and sadness, and loneliness, and all of these other things that are actually the human experience. 

 

And so when we talk about radical acceptance and radical self-acceptance, what we are really talking about is how we can have an inner reality, an inner experience without judging it, criticizing it, believing that there is something wrong with us for having it in the first place.

And this isn't just my idea, I'd like you to know that. There have actually been a number of very interesting research studies. I think one of the more recent ones was in 2018. 

 

A group of psychology researchers compared the overall mental and emotional wellness of people who were really pretty good at accepting the fact that they had challenging emotions sometimes, compared to the overall mental and emotional wellness of people who really didn't like the fact that they sometimes had negative thoughts or feelings. And what they found is very interesting, and I think an important takeaway, which is that the people who identify themselves as most generally happy is having a lot of mental and emotional strength and wellness, and really like being the most psychologically resilient and hardy, we're not the ones who were experiencing the least amount of negative or dark emotions. The people who were most resilient were the ones who were most accepting of the fact that they did have difficult feelings sometimes. Isn't that interesting? 

 

That the true path to happiness and wellness is not eradicating any challenging emotions or difficult situation, or problematic thoughts, it is rather understanding nonjudgmentally that that happens sometimes. And that not only is it normal and expected, it is okay. And that you don't actually have to do anything, to change it, to escape it, to make it be different. You don't have to do anything at all. Because the fact is that when we, really patiently, compassionately, and mindfully sit with exactly who and what we are, and how we feel, and think about why we feel the way that we do, and how it's absolutely legitimate when we see it through our own mind. And if you just kind of like, let that feeling be inside of you. It just is there for a little while.

And then that sort of floats off, then you don't have to do anything to change it. 

 

And sometimes it doesn't float off. It's sort of a persistent feeling of sadness, or loneliness, or disappointment that you carry around with you for a while. And that is also okay. It doesn't mean anything is wrong with you. It doesn't mean that you're some sort of uniquely deficient human that you're having that experience. That is the human experience. And when we can accept this as being a normal, healthy, expected part of our life, sometimes it is incredibly liberating. 

 

Very analogous to if you're feeling sad, and you go to a friend or family member or your partner, somebody who loves you, and you say, “I am so sad right now, I have just had the hardest day. I am just so sad about some of the things that are happening in the world. I don't know how we're gonna get through this. I just sometimes it's just, it's just so hard.” And to have someone with you, and be with you and say, “Yes, it really is hard,” without judgment, without being like, “Look on the bright side.” Without saying, “Look, this funny cat meme I found. Watch this cat meme. It'll cheer you right up because you shouldn't feel sad. I'm going to make you not feel sad. Let's fix it. Let's do something. Let's change it.” Right? 

 

I mean, how do you really feel in those moments when you're like, “No, I'm actually sad right now.” And somebody's like, “No, no, that's not okay.” It feels worse. It feels like you shouldn't have the feeling in the first place. It feels lonely. That feels like the person that you're trying to share with how you're feeling doesn't understand you. And it feels like you don't have the right to your feelings. Feels like kind of shaming, like, “Oh, I guess nobody else feels this way.” Makes you feel more alone. And think about how often we do that to ourselves without really even realizing it. You know that it's so intolerable for any of us to just not be okay sometimes. So, we have to take an antidepressant or to do something to be better because I'm not supposed to feel this way. 

 

And radical self-acceptance is just predicated on this one idea that it's actually okay to not be okay. And how do we have compassion, and tolerance, and love for ourselves when we're not 100%. And fascinatingly, like we don't want to attach specific outcomes to our radical acceptance practice because that is entirely not the point. 

 

But I will also say that often, a happy byproduct of a good radical self-acceptance practice is that when you become able to tolerate and have compassion for and just sit with nonjudgmentally, any and all thoughts and feelings that happened to be true for you in the moment, you become much better able to stay compassionately connected to other people, in their moments of not okayness. 

 

When we are putting a lot of energy into criticizing ourselves, judging ourselves, feeling ashamed about the way we feel, and you know, like, “I feel so bad and ashamed because of the fact that I feel shame sometimes,” right? When we have that going on, in our own mind, it's like this almost frantic energy to escape what is happening inside of you, if it's not happy and light and all good, which it's not sometimes you're not a damn robot, like, it's part of the human experience. 

 

But when we can't do that inside of ourselves, for ourselves, it is virtually impossible to sit with somebody else who is actually in that place. And you see that a lot, especially my role as a couple's counselor, like some couples where they're both just dying to be seen, and cared about, and understood, and loved for who and what they are. And it can take a lot of work sometimes in couples counseling to just sit with a couple and have one person say, “I just feel so sad sometimes and I feel like you're disappointed in me. I feel like I can't be the person that you want me to be. And it just, sometimes it makes me feel like just withdrawing or it's too hard to try that I'll never be who and what you want me to be and that makes me feel really bad about myself.” For somebody to be able to say that, and have it be heard, and received, and loved by someone who cares, without having to change it, that moment in itself is enormously healing. 

 

Compared to the exact same sentiment that's expressed to a partner that says, “You shouldn't feel that way. That's not true. That no, let me tell you five reasons why that's not true.” And honestly, but like the paradox here is that they're oftentimes trying to make their partner feel better. They're saying, “No, no, no, don't feel that way. Don't feel that way. Because here's—because I'm going to tell you why you're wrong. And that wasn't always true. And that is not what I did, by the way.” And so it like, turns into this defensiveness and this push back, and that is a rift in the relationship. It is just one more moment, where there wasn't understanding, there wasn't empathy, there wasn't tolerance for the reality of the other person. And that person all of a sudden feels lonelier and more ashamed. And more like how they feel so badly about themselves as actually true.

 

So, it happens in relationships, and it happens inside of ourselves, and it's time for it to stop.

So how do we do that? How do we push back against self-judgment and move into a space of radical self-acceptance? I think it begins with a choice. You have to decide that it is actually okay for you to not be okay all the time. And to release this idea that you should be feeling anything specific, because you will feel sad, lonely, disappointed, guilty, angry, shame, I think we all do, from time to time, annoyed with yourself, annoyed with other people. 

 

And there's an enormous power that comes with making a decision that it is okay. You are allowed to have all of those feelings. It is normal and expected for you to have all of those feelings. And there's nothing wrong with you for feeling the way that you do sometimes. And that it is really the thing that will hurt you is to relentlessly beat yourself up and judge yourself and criticize yourself and demean yourself and shame yourself for not being okay, and not being happy, and not being perfect. That is what will really sink us. 

 

I think the idea of radical acceptance, in addition to being applied to radical self-acceptance, is also enormously helpful when it comes to accepting circumstances that are not what we really want. And there's a story. I think I've probably shared this before in a previous episode. But there's a Buddhist story that illustrates the point of radical acceptance. And that I think, again, we can all relate to.

 

And the story goes that there were two monks walking by a river minding their own business, and this person maliciously came out of nowhere, and just jumped them and robbed them and took their stuff and threw them into the river. And this was a cold, fast deep river, a dangerous river that we're rapids. Now these two monks are in this river, and there's rocks and whitewater it's bad, I mean, it's like really a bad situation. And the first monk is like, “What just happened? That was not okay.” And he's like, the guys walking off in the distance like carrying their money like, “How dare you? I can't believe you did this. I am so mad. That was angry.” And like just absolutely beside himself wrapped up in the anger, and the injustice, and the horror about what had happened. And was just in the state of “I cannot—this is not okay.” And because so wrapped up in this emotion about what had happened, he drowned. The river got him; he breathed in water and hit his head on a rock and was never seen again. 

 

The other monk was equally distressed and upset and that same emotion, and like “I'm so—how dare that? But this is not okay.” And then very quickly, came back to a place of radical acceptance of “I am in a river. I am in a fast cold dangerous river, does not matter how I got here. What matters is the fact I am here now. And what do I need to do right now to survive this.” And “Oh, look, there's a branch sticking out over the water, I'm gonna see if I can paddle out over that way,” and grab hold of that branch, and hauled himself out of the river and lived to fight another day. 

 

Did that second monk have the right to be just as angry and upset at the injustice of what they had just experienced? Yes. And what he was able to do is mindfully accept that even though a bad thing had happened, he was able to kind of release the almost judgment, like, release the ideas about what should be happening compared to what was actually happening. And instead come into the, here and now, where he was in the river. He was accepting the fact that he was in the river and figuring out what he could do in this present moment to make his situation just incrementally better without being upset about it. 

 

And also not getting attached to any outcome. There might not have been a branch there. There may not have been a way to make that incrementally better. And so we would have floated along for a while, just in the river. I am in a river right now, sort of looking around what's happening next. But it's this, like, mental state of being present, mindful, without judgment or angst in the face of difficult circumstances. Because when we get all wrapped up in our anger or injustice of it all worked up, shaming ourselves around, “Oh, my god, this is so terrible that I feel the way that they do or that this thing is happening.” It becomes impossible to get out of it on our own that the inner experience that we are having in response to something external, an external circumstance that is happening, “to us,” or that we don't want that be happening right now. Or that same level of angst and judgment around an inner experience that we think should be different is what will ultimately sink us. 

 

And the big, the big lesson, a big shift is coming into a space of being able to say, without judgment or criticism, “This is happening, this is happening.” And can I solve the problem? You know, if there is a solvable problem, let's go ahead and do that. But you will be much better able to find solutions and actually solve problems. If you're in a space of acceptance, right? Then like laying on the floor, bawling your eyes out. “So what is happening, what do I have to do, but one foot in front of the other.” 

 

And then also, when it comes to that radical self-acceptance, to be able to say, “I don't like this. I don't feel good about this situation. I wish it were different. I feel sad that this is happening. And that is okay. I'm allowed to feel sad that this is happening.” And as we've been discussing in other podcasts recently, not only is it okay for you to feel sad or angry about something, what is the hidden gift, even of the sadness or anger? 

 

If it is motivation, to say, “You know what, I don't want to do this again, what do I actually need to do to not have this particular life experience again, because I don't like it.” Or “If I really listen to this sadness right now, what is it telling me that maybe I need to listen to, like, why am I sad? I am sad, because I miss my friend, or I miss my life, or I miss feeling stable in my world, or I miss maybe a relationship that has ended. I feel sad about that.” And you know what, sometimes that sadness can point us in the direction of a thing that we would like to create in our lives, but that we don't know what that is until we listen to the sadness. 

 

But you know what, sometimes sadness says, “You have the right to grieve. You can be sad, and experience a loss and feel the sadness of that loss.” It is grief, and it is okay. Because the path through grief, like so many other things, is not rejecting grief, talking yourself out of grief, making grief go away. It is embracing it. Allowing yourself to be sad and angry and all of the things for as long as you want to or need to. And then that's it. That is actually the work of grief. It's giving yourself the time and space to feel those feelings and trust that even in dark emotions, especially in dark emotions, sometimes the act of feeling them and being present with them is in itself, the paths through them. 

 

I know that sounds weird, particularly if you have been a negative emotion avoider. When I present this idea to some people who have worked really hard for a long time to not feel bad things, or you know that they label as bad in their own mind, right? That's oftentimes part of our work is having to say “that's actually not bad, it's healthy.” It's a challenging emotion. And it's incredibly healthy to feel legitimate sadness, and anger, and grief, it's a good thing. So we have to reconceptualize that, first of all. 

But the other part and I don't know if this is true for you, but I've had people say, “I am afraid that if I accept this feeling if I allow this feeling to come in, and be inside of me, and if I really let myself feel sad or mad, or any of these things, that I will be consumed by this emotion. I will be lost forever. I will always feel this way. And I will never, ever be okay again.” I know that like when I say it out loud, it doesn't sound like a rational thing. But it is so true when people have become afraid of fear, afraid of sadness, afraid of big emotions, it is because they have been avoiding it for so long. And that's part of the like, cognitive framework that makes them push it away as “No, I can't let this in because if I do, I will be steamrolled and lost forever. This sadness will be a bottomless pit. I will never, ever be okay again.” 

 

And so then, of course, what we do in therapy, or sometimes coaching is to actually have a little experiment or somebody practices sitting with me, and touching that anger or that sadness that they've been resisting for so long into practice. Just accepting it nonjudgmentally without trying to change it, or make it go away. And we talk about what it feels like in their body. We talk about how it makes their face feel flushed, or their stomach hurt, or that makes the tears come. We talk about the thoughts that come up alongside of it. We talk about the feelings, and then after a while, there's not really anything more to talk about, we're just sitting there breathing, looking at each other. 

 

And then I say, “Now what are you aware of?” “I feel better. Actually, it sort of, like, didn't last as long as I thought it would. I'm actually alright.” And that, that is really the moment of healing and truth because when people stop resisting their truth and rejecting their own feelings and begin to accept, radically accept any and all of how they really feel, that in itself becomes a point of resilience and truth. And is a point of huge growth. 

 

Because when people are okay to be not okay, when they can say, without judgment, or self-criticism or shame, like “I feel ashamed of myself right now. Or, you know what, I am kind of judging myself right now.” And that's okay. I do that sometimes, like without it turning into this big horrible thing. They can then be like, “I'm judging myself. I do that sometimes.” I don't want to judge myself and be able to sort of walk themselves through that the way you would compassionately take a child by the hand who's wandered into something that maybe is not really to their highest and best like, “let's go over here.” It's like this friendly way of being with yourself. Like, “You know what? You don't have to judge yourself for this. You don't have to beat yourself up. Let's go back and listen to that podcast. Dr. Lisa recorded a couple weeks ago, where she made us list out all of the awesome things that we have done and all of the strengths that we have, why don't we revisit that again, because that is true.” Yes. 

 

And to also be able to sit with that inner child sometimes and say, “You know what? You have every right in the world to be sad. And to wish things were different and I love you. And I'm just going to sit right here with you while you have these normal, healthy, legitimate feelings that do not need to be changed. They just need to be felt and embraced. And we're just going to sit here and do that together without any attachment to any particular outcome, and certainly not with any expectation that they're going to go away because they don't need to. It's all okay.” 

 

Radical self-acceptance. So much compassion, so much love in this perspective. And before we close today, I would also like to share that if you've been inspired by these ideas and like, “Yes, I want to get better at radical self-acceptance,” you will invariably find that it's hard to do that. And I would like to just invite you to consider that—it is hard to practice radical self-acceptance, and it is also okay to struggle with radical self-acceptance. Yes, and not have it turn into another thing that makes you feel bad about yourself. If you are not always perfectly self-accepting, because it's hard. And it's okay. 

 

So, radical self-acceptance, and also radical acceptance of reality is a—I think, incredibly healing and affirming, and empowering way of being, that is also irrefutably true, and is also something that you have 100% control over, no matter what else the world throws at you. And it can be difficult and disempowering to set goals and be pushing yourself onward and upward and constantly and all these things. And again, time and place for that, but that foundation of radical acceptance and radical self-acceptance is a strong floor to stand on. If you decide to build on it down the road, great. But it's really hard to do, to do more until you accept what is. 

 

And so that's the idea that I would like us all to be sitting with this particular New Year season. I hope it helps you value and accept and appreciate all of your experiences that are valuable and worthy, without judgment. And just like “Dear Prudence,” you too get to be in the world and loved and appreciated for exactly who and what you already are. You don't have to change anything. And you have the right to feel exactly the way you do. And so do others. As you practice self-acceptance and self-compassion, you may notice yourself having more compassion and empathy for people around you. And happy byproduct as you feel more accepting and comfortable in yourself. You will also, as a happy byproduct, strengthen your most important relationships while you are, at the same time, strengthening your relationship with yourself. So all good things. 

 

I hope that you enjoy it. And I hope that you also respect and appreciation for the parts that aren't fun because there are light and dark and all things, and it is all valuable and rosy, just like you. All right, talk to you next time.

 

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What's Your Anger Telling You?

Anger is one of the first emotions we learn as a child. It is easy to express, and therefore usually the first emotion we show when we are upset about something. The problem is that anger is a secondary emotion or an emotion that only shows what is happening on the surface. 

I often use the “iceberg analogy” with my clients to talk about anger as a secondary emotion– When you think of an iceberg, you might immediately visualize a large piece of ice floating on the surface of the water, however, what we often forget is that there is a massive chunk of ice underneath the surface as well. Maybe you’ve heard of the expression, “that’s just the tip of the iceberg”? The same is true with anger!

Anger is what is happening on the surface, and if we keep exploring underneath, we might begin to see the larger picture of our emotional experience. Underneath we find our “primary emotions,” the ones that explain where our anger comes from (e.g. shame, fear, disappointment, hurt, and loneliness). If we are able to access these primary emotions, then we can communicate them to others. Doing so also helps us resolve those emotions quicker than simply responding with the secondary emotion, anger. 

Where Your Anger Comes From

Anger is not bad. Yep, I said it! Anger is actually a very useful tool that we’ve picked up as humans to protect ourselves. You see, in moments of anger, our brain sees a threat and is trying to protect us from it. In fact, our brain is triggered into its “survival mode” where we find our fight, flight, freeze response, which in most cases is demonstrated with anger.

Long ago, our ancestors were faced with real-life threats, such as bears and snakes, and they needed their brain to kick into survival mode instantaneously in order to live. While we don’t necessarily have the same predators lurking around our neighborhood today, our brains still operate in the same way, only this time the threat might be your partner yelling, your child throwing a temper tantrum, or someone cutting you off on your way to work. 

Your brain kicks into survival mode, your heart rate, and blood pressure increases, your pupils dilate, and you might get flushed or hot. The blood rushes from the front of your brain where logical problem solving occurs and settles in the back of your brain where your flight, fight, freeze response occurs. Your body is preparing for an attack and is using anger as a defense mechanism to protect you. While this was helpful for our ancestors, it's not as helpful for us (unless you're hiking and encounter a mountain lion!). 

Vulnerability and It's Connection to Your Anger

Vulnerability makes us susceptible to pain, the opposite of what our brain wants when it feels threatened. Even the word vulnerability is defined as “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded” in the dictionary.

Since we know that our brain is usually operating in survival mode when we feel angry, it is very hard to convince our brain that being vulnerable with our emotions is a good idea! Our brain is looking right back at us saying, “Yeah, yeah, nice try chump.”  But what if the threat our brain is perceiving isn’t really a threat at all? What if we’re expending so much “survival energy” just to push away people who actually care about us and want to help us survive?

It makes me think… maybe we should redefine vulnerability? 

Maybe being vulnerable with our emotions can actually help us find a deeper connection with others. There are some cases when vulnerability is not a good idea, such as when emotional or physical abuse is happening. In those situations, your brain is doing its job very well. However, most of the time, what we are experiencing is not a threat to our existence. In fact, sometimes it’s the very opposite! It’s a moment when a loved one might want to connect with you in an intimate way. However, we often miss out on these moments when we react in anger. 

Stop The Cycle of Not Allowing Yourself to be Vulnerable

Little by little, teach your brain that it is safe. This requires consistently taking a risk. Putting yourself out there, sharing your primary emotions, and trusting that the other person will respond in kind. I know, I know, this is scary stuff! Especially if you’ve lived your whole life avoiding vulnerability. But isn’t it worth it to experience an intimate connection with someone you know you can trust and love? 

As hard as this may be, the good news is that our brains are incredibly flexible. We can shape it and teach it our whole lives if we try! The more you practice vulnerability the easier it becomes, because your brain is learning that there’s no actual threat to your survival. 

"I have tried counseling for about a decade with various counselors and have never been able to connect or grow with them. [My Growing Self Coach] has connected with me genuinely and helped me grow more in two meetings then several counselors have done in a decade.”

— Coaching Client

3 Steps to Better Communication When Angry

Step 1: Help your brain! The blood needs to move back to the front of your noggin where logical thinking occurs. The best way to do this is by giving your brain more oxygen to move the blood back where it belongs. Try taking deep breaths, leave the room momentarily to take a break from the “threat,” or simply find a mantra that reminds your brain it is safe! I tell my brain, “You’re okay, just breathe.”  

Step 2: Think about the iceberg. Ask yourself, what’s really going on underneath the surface here? Do feelings like shame, fear, or hurt explain what I’m experiencing better than anger? Try using an I feel statement to describe what you're feeling at that moment (I feel _____ ). But instead of filling in the blank with “angry”, reach for a word that tells the fuller story. 

Step 3: Remind yourself that you survived! Your brain saw a threat, you helped it realize you are safe, and you practiced vulnerability by communicating how you’re really feeling underneath the surface. If you did it once, you can do it again. And the more we practice the easier it is for our brains to realize there’s no need to “survive” next time. 

As a couple’s, family, and individual therapist, I’ve had the privilege of watching countless people take control of their brains and risk vulnerability which ultimately leads to a beautiful connection with their partner, friends, family, and many other people in their lives. Regulating anger can be a difficult and scary task, but it is possible. So in the words of the great Gloria Gaynor, tell your brain, “I Will Survive!” 

Warmly,
Georgi Chizk

 

Bentonville Arkansas Marriage Counselor Bentonville Therapist Bentonville Premarital Counseling Bentonville Family Therapy Online Therapy Arkansas

Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT is a warm, compassionate marriage counselor, individual therapist and family therapist who creates a safe and supportive space for you to find meaning in your struggles, realize your self-worth, and cultivate healthy connections with the most important people in your life.

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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Learn and Grow:

The most important life lessons uncover your strengths.

“May you, every day, connect with the brilliancy of your own spirit. And may you always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path.”

Catherine Jane Lotter

LEARN AND GROW: We all want to learn how to work on ourselves, grow and learn, and become the very best version of who we are. Sometimes, the true path of personal growth is not forcing yourself to change into some new iteration of yourself, but rather to discover and embrace the strengths and virtues you already have.

For the last several years, on the Love happiness and Success Podcast I've done experiential growth actives with my listeners in order to help them reflect on past years and set goals for their future aspirations. There's a time and place for that type of forward focus and personal challenge. If you are here seeking a goal setting experience, I invite you to check out last year's Ten Year Plan podcast and activity.

You're Already Amazing

But it's also true that there are also times when it's more helpful to rest and reflect, and embrace our strengths, life lessons, and accomplishments rather than charging forward into new goals and aspirations.

I believe that this is a time for reflection and acceptance, and this episode of the podcast is going to be a personal development podcast that walks you through an activity designed to help you do exactly that. By the end of our time together today I hope you have:

  • Greater appreciation for your strengths,
  • A sense of empowerment for all that you've already achieved,
  • Deeper clarity about your values
  • A different perspective about your obstacles
  • Receive wisdom from your dark emotions.

I have created a set of journaling prompts / exercises to help you not just follow along with the personal growth activities I describe in this episode, but to dig in!

Download the workbook that goes with this podcast (below) then scroll down to the bottom of this post to listen and follow along. Or you can listen to Learn and Grow on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen to things.

Learn and Grow

It can be easy to over-focus on constant-and-never-ending improvement, new goals, the next step, and all the things you have yet to achieve.

But the truth is that you have already grown so much, learned so much, and done so much. Sometimes it can be more empowering to slow down and respect the enormous amount of work you already have done rather than pushing yourself.

So often, personal growth can feel like chasing some idealized version of yourself. It can feel discouraging rather than inspiring, especially if you feel like you're never quite good enough. In contrast, radical, compassionate self-acceptance is the highest form of growth because from this place of self-awareness and self-love we can truly be the very best of who we are.

The love, happiness and success we seek through our efforts to “change” can sometimes be elusive. But so often, they miraculously show up on their own when you stop working so hard to change yourself, and instead focus on how strong, amazing, and accomplished you already are. (You are).

This type of self discovery process is often achieved not by charging ahead into the next level of your personal evolution, but rather by digging in to who you already are.

Important Life Lessons

It can be easy to over-focus on the things we haven't done, or the mistakes we've made, or the times that we have struggled with disappointment. But a door to powerful personal growth and self-development opens when we shift into what the hardest times revealed about our character, our values, what we're capable of, and what's truly most important.

When we have the courage to face the hard parts of life from a place of compassion and radical acceptance rather than anger, we have the opportunity to receive the hidden gifts they have to offer.

Uncover Your Strengths

It's often said that “character is revealed through adversity.” But in my experience, character is often formed through adversity. You don't know who you really are until you've experienced disappointment or hardship. Only then can you fully be aware of how strong you truly are, and what you're capable of.

Those are often moments that lead us to greater self-love, self-acceptance, and self-esteem too. It's often the personal qualities that we don't love the most about ourselves that are the most useful to us when times are hard. Recognizing and embracing these aspects of your “shadow self” can help you appreciate yourself in a whole new way. (For more on this topic I invite you to check out the “Shadow Work” episode of the podcast).

Sometimes personal growth happens when you challenge yourself to think, feel, or do things differently. But sometimes the most important growth occurs when you realize that you don't have to change or do anything in order to be good enough, strong, accomplished, and worthy of love and respect. You're already there. Your life lessons and strengths are yours to keep.

The “personal growth work” is not one of creation and effort. It's of discovery and acceptance.

Thanks for joining me today. I sincerely hope that these ideas and activities support you on your journey of growth.

With gratitude for the gift of YOU…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

Learn and Grow

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

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Please Rate, Review & Share the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let's  Talk

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

Personal Growth: The Greatest Gift

Personal Growth: The Greatest Gift

Personal Growth:

Why You Are The Greatest Gift

PERSONAL GROWTH — Why YOU Are The Greatest Gift: You are already amazing. You, and your life, is a gift to the world. You are on a courageous path of personal growth and development. As you work on yourself, cultivate areas of personal growth, develop yourself, and liberate yourself from the things that are holding you back… you are actually helping others. Not only are you inspiring them, you are benefiting them and their wellness just as much as you are your own.

Does that idea surprise you? That you are actually the greatest gift of all? That by working on yourself and your own personal growth, you're helping others too?

If so, it's worth re-evaluating your understanding of personal growth.

Why Is Personal Growth Important?

If your personal growth feels like an afterthought, you may not fully appreciate just how incredibly important and impactful you already are. Without having a full awareness of how much you really matter it can be easy to dismiss the importance of your personal growth, and make it (subconsciously) less of a priority than it should be.

When you don't recognize the true power of your presence in the lives of others, it can be easy to think that people value things about us, or want things from us that they might not. This misperception makes us think that the way we “give” or show love to others is through giving presents or doing special things for them. While those typical gift actives are certainly nice, they are no replacement for what people really want.

The truth is that what your loved ones want (and need) more than anything else is the very best, happiest, and healthiest version of you. 

The Greatest Gift You Can Give Someone

This concept of giving to others by our own personal growth is sometimes more easily understood when we think about it from the other side. Think about it this way: Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who was exhausted, or constantly stressed, or had super-low self esteem, or who was struggling with untreated mental health issues? (We all nod our heads).

Think about how you felt with them: Like, perhaps, they were in such a not-great place that it felt like they didn't have the capacity to be your soft place to fall. Or that they were in so much pain that they legitimately couldn't be there for you. Or that, due to their own issues, they reacted to you in a way that didn't make you feel emotionally safe, or understood, or secure, or that you could trust them.

I bet that the thing that would have mattered more to you than anything (much more than anything they could give you, or buy you as a present) would have been their fundamental mental, emotional and physical health. If they were healthy and well, they would have been able to be what you needed them to be for you. 

Their wellness would have been a gift — both for them, but also for you too.

Self Care is Not Selfish

From that perspective, it can be easier to understand how you and your personal growth is truly the ultimate gift.

We think of loving others as being outward in nature. Our idea of “love in action” may include the way we do things for others or gift them with things. Particularly in our consumerist culture, it can be very easy to get tricked into believing that gifts or presents or experiences or things is the ultimate expression of our love and care.

It can be easy and understandable to lose sight of the fact that what people want the most, more than anything in the world, are the big things. Unconditional love, trust, kindness, appreciation, attention, time, understanding, empathy, respect, to feel emotionally safe, and to feel cherished for exactly who you are is truly what we're all craving.

However, when we neglect our own personal growth and fundamental wellness, it is nearly impossible to have the level of mental and emotional wellness that those things require. Think about it:

  • When you're personally depleted and exhausted, it's impossible to feel fully present and patient with others.
  • When you struggle to have compassion and empathy for yourself, you'll struggle to feel it for others too.
  • When you aren't taking care of your physical health and wellness, you won't have the energy to spend time and energy with others or engaging in fun activities.
  • When you're pushing yourself, criticizing yourself, and judging yourself, you inadvertently become emotionally unsafe for others.
  • When you'e depending on others to make you feel secure or worthy, you'll become emotionally reactive and others won't feel safe and secure with you.

I could go on. The point is that our ability to give others what they genuinely need and want from us is dependent on willingness to invest in our own personal growth, our own mental and emotional wellness, and our own devotion to becoming the highest and best versions of ourself.

Being who others really need and want us to be is not selfish, it's selfless. Your being okay is the ultimate act of love towards others.

The Gift of Personal Growth

On the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I'm taking a deeper look at the topic of personal growth counseling and discussing some specific ways that, through your own growth, you can become an even greater gift in the lives of others. We'll be talking about some new ideas that can foster your personal growth and wellness, in domains including:

  • Your self esteem
  • Your empathy for yourself
  • Your appreciation for yourself
  • Your physical health
  • Your unique strengths and talents
  • Your mental health and emotional wellness
  • Your emotional intelligence
  • Your financial wellness
  • Your being emotionally safe and compassionate for yourself
  • Why cultivating all those aspects of your own wellness directly benefits others, as well as yourself

This episode is intended as a gift to YOU. I hope that this discussion helps you appreciate and embrace just how incredibly important you are. I hope that this new perspective helps you to prioritize your own personal growth, release any notion that your personal growth and self development is “selfish,” and instead, embrace the truth: The ultimate gift you could ever give anyone is actually you. (YOU!)

With much love to you and yours,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

The Gift of Growth

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

Music Credits: Rodello's Machine, “The Beauty of Your Life”

Spread the Love Happiness & Success

Please Rate, Review & Share the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let's  Talk

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

More Love, Happiness & Success Advice

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In this episode of the podcast you'll learn the art of radical self acceptance, and how to truly love yourself for who and what you already are.

read more
Anger is a Secondary Emotion

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Arkansas Therapist and Online Life Coach, Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT discusses anger as a secondary emotion and how you can learn more about yourself and where your anger comes from, here!

read more
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read more

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In this season of gift giving, it can be easy to forget what our loved ones really want: Our unconditional love, trust, kindness, appreciation, attention, time, understanding, empathy, respect, emotional safety, and cherishing. However, we can't give those to others without prioritizing our own wellness. On this episode of the podcast, learn the personal growth strategies that will help you grow into your best self, and also become a true blessing in the lives of others.

read more
Feeling Good About Yourself and Your Body

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