Signs You Have a Bad Therapist

Signs You Have a Bad Therapist

Signs You Have a Bad Therapist

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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Bad Therapy Happens

 

How to avoid bad therapy: Not all therapists, marriage counselors and life coaches are created equally. Don't get me wrong, most therapists who are in practice are wonderful, and at the very least, well-meaning.

However, even lovely, well-intended therapists and marriage counselors can be ineffective.  While it may not be harmful to get involved with a therapist who isn't going to move the needle for you… it can still be a waste of time and money. (Even though therapy and life coaching might not be as expensive as you think, it's still always an investment in your life.) 

There is a dark side though. Getting involved with the wrong therapist can have consequences.  If you go to mediocre therapy that (unsurprisingly) doesn't work for you, you may begin to believe that you're doomed to repeat the same old patterns in your life or relationship. Maybe you stop trying, or settle for what you have come to believe is possible for you. 

There is also a big risk for couples at a fork-in-the-road moment in their relationship. Couples who get involved with a practitioner who advertises couples therapy (but doesn't really have the education and training to provide high-quality couples counseling) and then “fail” may believe that because couples therapy was unsuccessful for them…. that divorce is the only answer. That is a tragedy, especially when you consider that getting involved with effective marriage counseling could have had a completely different outcome. 

I'm here to tell you that it might not be you. You could move forward. Your relationship can be repaired. The problem might be your therapist.

Signs You Have a Bad Therapist

There is a wide variety when it comes to quality in therapists. (And by “therapists” I'm also lumping in Marriage Counselors and Life Coaches too). Education and experience matters, however, so does personality, approach, and the level of energy they put into your success.

Today on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I'm going to be talking you through the signs that you might have a bad therapist. I'll also be talking about subtle signs that your therapist might be nice, but ineffective. There are also shady therapists out there; I'll be talking about how to spot unethical therapists from a mile away.

We'll be talking about:

The top nine clues your therapist might be ineffective.

Six signs that your therapist may have crossed over to the dark side, and is engaging in unethical behavior.

Lastly, it's also true that there are fantastic, effective and impeccably ethical therapists and marriage counselors out there. I'll be sharing some tips on how to find a good therapist and how to choose a marriage counselor. Then you'll know what to look for so you can connect with a dynamic professional who can help you make real and lasting change in your life.

I hope that these insights help support you on your journey of growth.

 

Warmly,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

P.S. At Growing Self we're all about scouring the earth to bring you the very best therapists and marriage counselors in order to ensure that working with us means the highest quality evidence-based therapy, marriage counseling and coaching. But… we all know “meh” or downright scary therapists are out there. I shared a couple of my own scary therapist stories in this episode but if you have your own cautionary tales to share, gather-round the campfire of our comments section and tell us what happened! Xo, LMB

 

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Signs You Have a Bad Therapist

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

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How to Let Go of Anger

How to Let Go of Anger

How to Let Go of Anger

Release Anger + Reclaim Yourself

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How to Let Go of Anger

Not to long ago I was talking with one of my life coaching clients about a regrettable situation that he experienced with a family member. There was a bad argument that actually became physical, and an already strained relationship felt like it was broken beyond repair.

He was okay with that: This family member was so toxic that it was probably in the best interests of all to not attempt to mend that particular relationship, but rather focus on healthy boundaries.

In our coaching session we talked about the event itself, and we both agreed that he handled himself as well as possible under very difficult circumstances.

But, as is so often the case, even though the event itself was in the past, he still found himself having intrusive thoughts and feelings about it. Specifically, he felt angry. He felt angry at his family member for being so horrible. He felt angry that he'd been assaulted. He felt angry that this person had been so disrespectful and hurtful to other family members. He felt angry that a holiday gathering that should have been a happy time for his family had been spoiled.

His question to me, “How do I let go of anger?” was such a good one that I thought I'd share the answer(s) with you, too. Why? Because I bet that you, like so many of our life coaching and therapy clients here at Growing Self, might also be harboring some anger that it's high time to release.

Anger: When The Past Is Emotionally In The Present

There are many different types of anger that often impact our life coaching, therapy, and couples counseling clients here at Growing Self. All are different in some way, and similar in others. All are important, and deserve attention.

Anger After Being Mistreated

Many people harbor feelings of anger after being mistreated in the past. Perhaps they were wronged by a parent, or a sibling, or a friend, or a co-worker, or in a former relationship. They have the right to their pain, and often the anger itself is entirely legitimate and justifiable: They were treated badly and have a right to be angry.

The issue arises when they are feeling angry, now, in the present moment, months or years after the event occurred. The anger attached to the past event is still very much alive inside of them and impacting the way they feel, as well as their sleep or even their physical health.

Having unresolved anger from the past can also impact your current relationships. Until you've worked through your anger, it's likely that you will be triggered by situations in your current relationship and that can lead to problems. If you find yourself having feelings about things that seem out of proportion to what is actually happening, it may be helpful to do some exploration around whether you have lingering feelings of unresolved anger from past experiences.

Anger After Infidelity

It's extremely difficult for many people to release anger after infidelity or betrayal. One of the biggest hurdles to many of our marriage counseling or couples therapy clients who are trying to repair their relationships after an affair is helping them let go of anger after infidelity or betrayal.

Feeling so angry with your partner after a betrayal is very common, but unless you're getting support in how to work through that anger constructively, anger can also be extremely destructive to the relationship. While there is a place and time for anger, if you don't find a way to work through it, ongoing anger after an affair can sabotage your efforts to rebuild your relationship. 

Anger After a Divorce or Breakup

Similarly, many of our breakup recovery coaching clients are dealing with massive amounts of anger after a breakup or divorce. While it is absolutely normal to be angry after a divorce or breakup, anger is also one of those emotions that can keep you stuck in the past for much longer than is healthy for you.

Many people find that working through the anger about their breakup or divorce is an essential step in their healing process.

Feeling Angry With Yourself

It's also not uncommon for people to be carrying anger towards themselves. This is often (paradoxically) true for people who have done a lot of wonderful personal growth work and are very different people than they were years ago. As they evolve personally, they may become aware that they did things in the past that they would never do now — and they feel angry with themselves for it. Learning constructive ways to deal with feelings of regret, or forgiving yourself for behaving badly or betraying yourself in the past is often a crucial step towards ultimate growth and healing.

Why You Need to Let Go of Anger (Eventually)

If you've had bad things done to you, you will understandably feel angry. And sometimes, in certain circumstances, anger is actually a very healthy, helpful emotion. Anger protects you, it warns you, and it gives you the energy to defend yourself. But at some point, anger no longer serves its original purpose of protecting you.

However, unresolved anger simmers inside of you, creating a physiological stress response that over time, damages your body. Furthermore, unresolved anger leads to thoughts and emotions that constrict your ability to feel positive emotions. Worst of all, unresolved anger can trap you: Tarnishing the present moment, taking up all the space in your relationships, and coming out in ways that are destructive to you or others.

Letting Go of Anger

So on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I'm going to be sharing my best advice for how to let go of anger. We'll be discussing:

  • Different types of anger
  • How holding on to anger harms you, ultimately
  • Strategies to work through anger, productively
  • Ways to maintain a more positive emotional equilibrium
  • How to find forgiveness (and still have boundaries)

I hope this podcast helps you on your path of growth and healing.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Letting Go of Anger

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

Music Credits: The  Golden Dawn, “Let The Sunshine In”

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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

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How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

Let Yourself Feel Loved

OVERCOMING INSECURITY | It's not uncommon for both women and men to feel insecure in a relationship from time to time. We often see emotional insecurity as an underlying issue to address with couples who come to us for marriage counseling, couples therapy, premarital counseling and relationship coaching. After all, when couples don't feel completely emotionally safe and secure with each other it tends to create conflict and problems in many other areas of their partnership. [For more on the importance of emotional safety and how it may be impacting YOUR relationship, access our free “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz and my mini-couples coaching follow up video series.]

It's especially true for people in new relationships to have some anxiety, but even people in long-term relationships can worry about their partner's feelings for them sometimes. While very common, feeling insecure in your relationship can create problems — for both of you. 

Root Causes of Insecurity

If insecurity is an issue in your relationship — either for you, or your partner — you might be speculating about the root causes of insecurity and how to heal them. People can struggle to feel emotionally safe with their partner for a variety of reasons — sometimes due to their life experiences, but sometimes, due to things that have happened in the current relationship itself. 

Insecurity After Infidelity: Certainly being let down or betrayed by your partner in the past can lead you to struggle with trust in the present moment. Insecurity after infidelity or an emotional affair is very common. In these cases, the path to healing can be a long one. The person who did the betraying often needs to work very hard, for a long time, to show (not tell, but show) their partners that they can trust them.

Anxiety After Being Let Down Repeatedly: However, insecurities can also start to emerge after less dramatic betrayals and disappointments. Even feeling that your partner has not been emotionally available for you, has not been consistently reliable, or was there for you in a time of need, it can lead you to question the strength of their commitment and love. Trust is fragile: If your relationship has weathered storms, learning how to repair your sense of trust and security can be a vital part of healing. Often, couples need to go back into the past to discuss the emotional wounds they experienced with each other in order to truly restore the bond of safety and security. These conversations can be challenging, but necessary.

Insecurity Due to Having Been Hurt in the Past: Sometimes people who have had negative experiences in past relationships can feel insecure, due to having been traumatized by others. For some people, their very first relationships were with untrustworthy or inconsistent parents and that led to the development of insecure attachment styles. This can lead them to feel apprehensive or protective with anyone who gets close. However, even people with loving parents and happy childhoods can carry scars of past relationships, particularly if they lived through a toxic relationship at some point in their lives. It's completely understandable: Having been burned by an Ex can make it harder to trust a new partner, due to fears of being hurt again.

Long Distance Relationships: Certain types of relationships can lead people to feel less secure than they'd like to, simply due to the circumstances of the relationship itself. For example, you might feel more insecure if you're in a long-distance relationship.  Not being able to connect with your partner or see them in person all the time can take a toll on even the strongest relationship. Couples in long-distance relationships should expect that they will have to work a little harder than couples who are together day-to-day, in order to help each person to feel secure and loved. In these cases, carefully listening to each other about what both of you are needing to feel secure and loved is vital, as is being intentionally reliable and consistent.

Feeling Insecure When You're Dating Someone New: And, as we all know, early-stage romantic love is a uniquely vulnerable experience and often fraught with anxiety. Dating someone new is exciting, but it can also be intensely anxiety-provoking. In new (or new-ish) relationships where a commitment has not been established, not fully knowing where you stand with a new person that you really like is emotionally intense. If you're dating, or involved in a new relationship, you may need to deliberately cultivate good self-soothing and calming skills in order to manage the emotional roller coaster that new love can unleash. 

Feeling Insecure With a Withdrawn Partner: Interestingly, different types of relationship dynamics can lead to differences in how secure people feel. The same person can feel very secure and trusting in one relationship, but with a different person, feel suspicious, worried, and on pins and needles. Often this has to do with the relational dynamic of the couple.

For example, in relationships where one person has a tendency to withdraw, be less communicative, or is not good at verbalizing their feelings it can lead their partner to feel worried about what's really going on inside of them. This can turn into a pursue-withdraw dynamic that intensifies over time; one person becoming increasingly anxious and agitated about not being able to get through to their partner, and the withdrawn person clamping down like a clam under assault by a hungry seagull. However, when communication improves and couples learn how to show each other love and respect in the way they both need to feel safe and secure, trust is strengthened and emotional security is achieved.

Types of Insecurities

Emotional security (or lack of) is complex. In addition to having a variety of root causes, there are also different ways that insecurity manifests in people —and they all have an impact on your relationship. As has been discussed in past articles on this blog, people who struggle with low self esteem may find it hard to feel safe in relationships because they are anticipating rejection. The “insecure overachiever” may similarly struggle to feel secure in relationships if they're not getting the validation and praise they thrive on. 

For others, insecurity is linked to an overall struggle with vulnerability and perfectionism. People who feel like they need to be perfect in order to be loved can — subconsciously or not — try to hide their flaws. But, on a deep level, they know they're not perfect (no one is) and so that knowledge can lead to feelings of apprehension when they let other people get close to them. In these cases, learning how to lean into authentic vulnerability can be the path of healing. [More on this: “The Problem With Perfectionism”]

Sometimes people who are going through a particularly hard time in other parts of their lives can start to feel apprehensive about their standing in their relationship. For example, people who aren't feeling great about their career can often feel insecure when they're around people who they perceive as being more successful or accomplished than they are. This insecurity is heightened in the case of a layoff or unexpected job loss. If one partner in a relationship is killing it, and the other is feeling under-employed or like they're still finding their way, it can lead the person who feels dissatisfied with their current level of achievement to worry that their partner is dissatisfied with them too. 

Insecurities can take many forms, and emerge for a variety of reasons. However, when insecurity is running rampant the biggest toll it takes is often on a relationship. 

How Insecurity Can Ruin a Relationship

To be clear: Having feelings is 100% okay. Nothing bad is going to happen to you, or your relationship, or anyone else because you have feelings of anxiety or insecurity. The only time relationship problems occur as a result of feelings is when your feelings turn into behaviors.

If people who feel insecure, anxious, jealous or threatened don't have strategies to soothe themselves and address their feelings openly with their partner (and have those conversations lead to positive changes in the relationship), the feelings can lead to behaviors that can harm the relationship. Some people lash out in anger when they perceive themselves to be in emotional danger, or that their partner is being hurtful to them.  Often, people who feel insecure will attempt to control their partner's behaviors in efforts to reduce their own anxiety. Many insecure people will hound their partners for information about the situations they feel worried about. Still others will withdraw, pre-emptively, as a way of protecting themselves from the rejection they anticipate.

While all of these strategies are adaptive when you are in a situation where hurtful things are happening, (more on toxic relationships here) problems occur when these defensive responses flare up in a neutral situation. A common example of this is the scenario where one person repeatedly asks their partner if they're cheating on them because they feel anxious, when their partner is actually 100% faithful to them and has done nothing wrong. The insecure person might question their partner, attack their partner, check up on their partner, or be cold and distant due to their worries about being cheated on or betrayed — when nothing bad is actually happening. This leaves the person on the other side feeling hurt, controlled, rejected, vilified… or simply exhausted. 

If feelings of insecurity are leading to problematic behaviors in a relationship, over time, if unresolved, it can erode the foundation of your partnership. 

How to Help Someone Feel More Secure

It's not uncommon for partners of insecure people to seek support through therapy or life coaching, or couples counseling either for themselves or with their partners. They ask, “How do I help my wife feel more secure,” or “How do I help my husband feel more secure.” This is a great question; too often partners put the blame and responsibility for insecure feelings squarely on the shoulders of their already-anxious spouse or partner. This, as you can imagine, only makes things worse. 

While creating trust in a relationship is a two-way street, taking deliberate and intentional action to help your partner feel emotionally safe with you in the ways that are most important to him or her is the cornerstone of helping your insecure girlfriend, insecure boyfriend, or insecure spouse feel confident in your love for them. The key here is consistency, and being willing to do things to help them feel emotionally secure even if you don't totally get it. This is especially true of the origins of your partner's worry stem from early experiences of being hurt or betrayed by someone else. 

Tips to help your spouse feel more secure: 

  • Ask them what they need from you to feel emotionally safe and loved by you
  • Give that to them (over and over again, without being asked every time)
  • Rinse and repeat

How to Stop Being Insecure

Of course, it's very frustrating to partners who feel like they're not just true-blue, but doing everything they feel they can to help someone feel safe and secure… and yet insecurities persist. While partners of anxious people do need to try a little harder to help them feel secure, the person who struggles with insecurity needs to also take responsibility for their feelings and learn how to manage them effectively. Note: This doesn't mean not ever having worried or insecure feelings (feelings happen y'all), but rather, learning how to have feelings that don't turn into relationship-damaging behaviors.

Without the ability to soothe yourself, become grounded in the here and now, and get your emotional needs met by your partner (or yourself), unbridled insecurity can put a major strain on a relationship. But how? How do you manage insecurity? That's the million-dollar question, and that's why I've made it the topic of the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast! 

If you're struggling with insecurity in your relationship — either as the person who worries, or the one who's trying to reassure them — you'll definitely want to join me and my colleague Georgi Chizk, an Arkansas-based marriage counselor and family therapist who specializes in attachment therapy as we discuss this topic. We're going deep into the topic of insecurity in relationships, and how to overcome it. Listen and learn more about:

  • The root causes of insecurity
  • The surprising ways insecurity can impact a relationship
  • Practical strategies to help someone else feel more secure
  • Actionable advice to help yourself feel less insecure
  • How trust and security are healed and strengthened
  • Concrete tools couples can use to banish insecurity from their relationship

We hope that this discussion helps you both overcome insecurity, and create the strong, happy relationship you deserve.

With love and respect, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby & Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT

P.S. Pro Tip: Once you listen to this podcast, consider sharing it with your partner. Doing so can be an easy, low-key way to start an important, and necessary conversation about how to increase the emotional safety and security you both feel in your relationship. xo, LMB

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How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

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

Music Credits: Juniore, “Panique”

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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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Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

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

More Love, Happiness & Success Advice From the Blog

Mindful Self Compassion

Mindful Self Compassion

Mindful Self Compassion

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.

Mindful Self Compassion

MINDFUL SELF COMPASSION: As you may know, in addition to my work here as a therapist, couples counselor and life coach, I love addressing listener questions on the Love Happiness and Success Podcast (not to mention the wonderful questions that you guys leave for me on our blog). A while ago, one brave listener reached out with a heartfelt email, sharing a bit about her life, and asking how to handle some really difficult things, like: “How do I forgive myself when I've hurt someone?” “How do I break my old patterns so that I don't do harmful things again?” “How do I stay emotionally available when I fear being hurt?” These are important questions that many people wrestle with, and I decided to tackle them on the show. We'll be discussing:

How to Forgive Yourself When You've Hurt Someone

While so many resources are there to help you if you've been hurt by someone else, or need to forgive someone who has betrayed you, or how to rebuild trust in a relationship, few resources exist to help those suffering with feelings of guilt, regret and remorse. This is unfortunate, because who among us hasn't done something they regret? The worst is when you've hurt someone you've loved, and maybe lost a relationship as a result of it. We'll discuss how to apply self-awareness and mindful self-compassion to this situation in order to find forgiveness for yourself, by putting your actions in context of both your life experience and your inner experience. We'll talk about how to practice self-compassion, and also some self-compassion exercises to help you develop this skill. Resources: Here's the link to the attachment styles article I mentoned. One of the other resources I discuss here is our “What's Holding You Back” quiz to help you gain self-awareness (here's the link if you want to check it out).

How Do I Break My Old Patterns?

The crux of any personal growth process is using your self-awareness and your feelings to get clearer about your values, help you guide your future behavior and future choices. But all we have is the present moment. We'll talk about how to combine compassion for yourself, empathy for others, and mindfulness skills to manage yourself in the moment so that you create better outcomes in the future. Resource: Mindfulness, For People Who Hate to Meditate

How Do I Stay Emotionally Available in Relationships?

When you're feeling fragile and emotionally reactive, it's hard to have healthy relationships. Instead, we usually fall into either losing ourselves and being dependent on another for our feelings of self-worth. (Which too often leads to emotional enmeshment and codependency). Or, we swing into self-protection, lashing out, shutting down, or breaking off relationships. The key to finding a middle path — connection, and confidence — is through loving yourself and strengthening yourself. Resource: Here's the link to the Self-Love article I mentioned. Also, an article about cultivating healthy vulnerability in relationships. At the heart of all the ideas, skills and strategies here for forgiving yourself, and using your mistakes as a launch pad for growth is the concept of mindful self-compassion. I hope you keep that idea with you, on your journey of growth and healing. Your fellow traveler, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Mindful Self Compassion: How to Forgive Yourself

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

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What Are You Communicating Non-verbally?

What Are You Communicating Non-verbally?

The Power of Non-verbal Communication

Oftentimes we think that “communication” refers solely to the words being spoken in a conversation. We are taught from an early age how to communicate our needs, thoughts, and feelings verbally to others around us. In our society, there is a high level of importance placed on language that is used in conversation to convey your message in the most understandable way possible to the listener.

While the focus on verbal communication skills is highly important, it means we could be ignoring what we are communicating to others non-verbally. This article aims to shed light on the ways that non-verbal communication can impact conversation with those around you, as well as suggestions on how to reduce non-verbal communication that could be negatively impacting conversations.

As a coach and therapist with Growing Self, I spend time in sessions to help clients reflect on what their non-verbal communication might be conveying to their partner, friends, family, etc.

What Is Non-verbal Communication?

Before we can move into how to reflect on your communication, and ways to reduce negative non-verbal communication, we need to first explore what falls under the umbrella of “non-verbal communication.” Simply stated, non-verbal communication is what takes place outside of the actual words that are being used in conversation.

Non-verbal communication has been studied and said to make up around 90% of communication, leaving the remaining percentage to be associated with the words we are choosing to use in conversation. There are many different types of non-verbal communication that exist and have the ability to impact conversations we engage in.

Paralanguage: This refers to areas related to vocal qualities such as tone, volume, pitch, etc.

Facial Expressions: Facial reactions can convey feelings about a conversation through smiling, frowning, squinting, raising your eyebrows, etc.

Proxemics (Personal Space or Physical Closeness): We can also non-verbally communicate by how much space we allow between each other in conversation. The norms or expectations for physical space can vary with cultures and settings.

Kinesics (Body Movements): This type of non-verbal communication covers bodily actions that are used in conversation such as head movements (nodding), hand gestures, rolling your neck, etc.

Touch: In some conversations, we may choose to hug or use light touches to convey meaning or understanding to others.

Eye Contact: With the use of eye contact, we can show others our level of interest in a conversation. When we are continuing to break eye contact or look off in different areas, it could convey to the speaker that we are not fully invested in the conversation.

Posture: This area focuses on how sitting versus standing or closed versus open body posture can impact a conversation. This type of communication has the power to communicate emotions and overall attitude about a conversation.

Physiology: While this area is more challenging to control, this refers to noticeable changes with parts of our body such as blushing, sweating, or beginning to tear up.  

Opportunities For Reflection

With non-verbal communication making up such a large part of conversation, there is seemingly no way to entirely eliminate non-verbal forms altogether. However, there are opportunities to reflect on how our non-verbal communication could be negatively impacting a conversation or conflict. 

Think about a time where your partner, friend, or loved one came to you and the conversation turned into a disagreement or conflict. I encourage you to reflect on ways that you used non-verbal communication to communicate your feelings of frustration, anxiety, hurt, or disappointment. In those moments, do you feel the conversation could have been impacted using non-verbal communication instead of conveying our feelings to the other person?

If there are people in your life who you trust to help you with this reflection, I encourage you to open up a dialogue about non-verbal communication that they have previously noticed you using. There is opportunity for this discussion to shed light on areas of non-verbal communication that you might not even realize that you use in conversation and/or conflict.

How To Reduce Negative Non-verbal Communication

Many clients I work with report having, as we call them, “default settings” with non-verbal communication. This may be rolling eyes, increased volume, head shaking while the other is speaking, and so on. I often see these “default settings” being used as a protective mechanism in communication. Frequently, when we are using negative forms of non-verbal communication, we are feeling hurt, disappointment, frustrated, or overwhelmed by the conversation or other person. 

Instead of naming our feelings, it can feel safer to communicate those things through non-verbal communication and hope that the other person picks up on our feelings. However, this can lead to a negative cycle where both parties are only utilizing non-verbal communication to communicate their feelings and can sometimes increase the level of conflict or disagreement that was already taking place.

Instead of falling back to our “default settings,” I encourage you to think about how the dynamic might change by being able to open up to the other person in the conversation about how we are feeling in that moment. I have seen drastic shifts in conversations when “I feel…” statements are used instead of letting non-verbal communication do the talking for us. 

By replacing an eye roll with “I am feeling really disappointed right now” can be a powerful turn in a conversation where both participants can then talk about their emotions. 

This takes practice to be able to feel comfortable with and requires challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone of relying on your “default settings.” With time, people feel more comfortable naming their emotions in conversation rather than putting the other person in the position to make assumptions based on non-verbal communication.

Another way to challenge yourself to change negative non-verbal communication is by thinking about the response you are hoping to receive in conversation. If we use a harsh tone, increased volume, or roll our eyes, we cannot expect a positive and gentle response from the other person. 

I encourage my clients to think about setting the other person up for success in conversation to give us the response we are hopeful for. If we are aiming to receive a gentle and understanding response, we have to be mindful to use an approach that gives this response the opportunity to be present in the conversation.

With all things, practice makes perfect. If you have been stuck in “default settings” mode for a while, then it will take time for this new way of communicating to feel like your go-to. 

There will be times of success with challenging yourself, and then there may be setbacks along the way. My hope is that the setbacks do not cause you to be hard on yourself but encourage you to think about how you want to be successful next time the opportunity presents itself.

Warmly,
Kaily

Long-Distance Relationship Breakup

Long-Distance Relationship Breakup

Should We Breakup?

As a couples therapist and relationship coach who provides services online, I frequently work with couples who find themselves in long-distance relationships. Long-distance relationships are more popular than ever these days, especially as more and more people are finding love through apps or websites that expand their pool of potential partners beyond their own towns and cities. 

Lots of great articles and podcasts exist for people in long-distance relationships about how to improve their relationships or maintain their connections. However, today, I want to talk about a side of long-distance relationships that usually gets less attention–how to know when it’s time to let go, and how to move on once you’ve made that decision.

What’s The Real Problem–the Relationship Or The Distance?

When working with couples or individuals who are going through a hard time in their long-distance relationship, one of the most common questions I receive is whether the problems they are experiencing are just being caused by the distance or whether it’s the relationship itself that isn’t working. 

In my experience, the answer to this question is most often that the challenges at hand are from a combination of the two. For example, I often meet with couples who experience some communication difficulties when they’re together that then are exacerbated into something larger when they are long distance. 

In these kinds of situations, I recommend that couples work with an experienced couples therapist or relationship coach who can help them determine the root cause of their challenges and give them tools to help address them.

Here are a few of the questions that I usually walkthrough as I help my clients determine an answer to whether their challenges are being caused by being long distance or by deeper issues within the relationship:

  • What is your relationship like when you are physically together?
  • Have you been physically together for extended periods of time before?
  • Have you been physically together when real-life stressors are present? (Or in other words, not just on vacation?)
  • In thinking about your relationship’s challenging areas, what are those areas like when you are physically together?

A final point about this common question: If your relationship is likely to remain long-distance for months or years to come, differentiating between problems caused by the distance and problems caused by the relationship may not matter all that much.

When clients ask me this question in our work together, they’re often assuming that if the relationship is all good when they’re together and it’s really just the distance that’s causing difficulties, they can discount the problems caused by physical separation as somehow less real. However, if being long-distance is a standard part of your relationship, the problems that come along deserve serious consideration as you decide whether to continue in the relationship.

What If You Can’t Make A Long-Distance Relationship Work? 

There are lots of valid reasons why partners might choose to end a relationship, and when it comes to couples who are long-distance, physical separation also often plays a role. While there are absolutely couples who are able to have healthy and happy long-distance relationships, not being able to consistently share physical space with your partner can be a legitimate challenge.

One reason for this is that being in a long-distance relationship requires more intentionality to help each partner feel loved and cherished. When you live with or in the same city as your significant other, it’s relatively easy to share little moments that build your connection, such as doing small acts of service for each other or holding hands as you talk about your day. In a long-distance relationship, it often takes more planning and forethought to show these small gestures of love, which means that it’s easier for them to fall to the wayside.

If you come to the conclusion that a long-distance relationship and the intentionality necessary to maintain it is not right for you, but still want to maintain your relationship with your partner, it may be worth exploring if you or your partner relocating to either live together or in the same city is a feasible option.

What Are Some Of The Signs That It’s Time To Let Go Of A Long Distance Relationship?

How to know when it’s time to let go of a relationship, regardless of whether it’s long-distance or not, is one of the most common questions that I get asked by my clients. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that no one knows your relationship like you do, and only you and your partner can make the final decision of when to end things. With that in mind, here are some of the signs specific to long-distance couples that I often discuss with my clients about when it may be time to consider letting go of your relationship:

  • You realize that you or your partner has needs that are too difficult to meet when you are long-distance, and these unmet needs are leading to resentment.
  • You or your partner don’t have the energy or time to exercise the intentionality that’s necessary to have a healthy and thriving long-distance relationship.
  • You don’t want to be long-distance anymore, but there is no feasible way for you and your partner to live together or in the same city in the near future.

What Is The Best Way To Initiate A Long-Distance Breakup?

Just like with all breakups, showing your partner respect is a key part of ending your long-distance relationship. Here are a few things that are helpful to consider when trying to figure out the best way to break up with your long-distance partner: 

The Medium. A good rule of thumb when breaking up with your partner is to choose a medium as close as possible to speaking in person, like a video chat or a phone call. Because long-distance relationships often rely a lot on text messaging or email as a means of communication, it can be tempting to break up through these means of communication as well, especially if you’re a person who hates conflict. Resist that urge! 

Unless there were extenuating circumstances in the relationship that could endanger your emotional safety during a phone or video conversation (like emotional abuse or gaslighting), it’s always better to go with a phone or video call if possible. 

The Timing. Another important factor to consider when initiating a breakup with your long-distance partner is timing. Ideally, try to choose a time when you know they won’t be busy, like in the middle of their workday, or preoccupied, like right before an interview or large presentation.

A Head’s Up. It can be helpful to your partner (and help get the ball rolling in the actual breakup conversation) if you give them a head’s up about having something important to talk about with them when you schedule a time for your phone or video conversation. 

There’s no need to go into too much detail (after all, you don’t want to do the actual breaking up here), but simply letting them know that when you have this conversation, there’s something important you need to talk with them about regarding the relationship will give them some time to mentally prepare for what’s to come.

How Can I Begin To Heal From The End Of My Long-Distance Relationship?

In my work as a breakup recovery therapist and coach, one of the ways that I have seen a long-distance breakup be different from typical breakups is that, at first, your life may not seem to change all that much. 

In a typical relationship, a breakup often involves moving out from the living space you share with your partner or finding new things to do during your evenings and weekends. However, when your long-distance relationship ends, your living space will usually not change, and your day-to-day life will likely remain largely the same, minus some messages and calls from your ex.

Because long-distance breakups tend to change people’s daily lives less dramatically, it may take longer for the reality of your breakup and the typical grieving process to set in. Once it does, however, healing from the end of your relationship is much like healing from the end of any relationship. Grieving your relationship, experiencing a range of emotions, and eventually, growth, are all normal and to be expected. To learn about the stages of a breakup in more detail, I recommend checking out Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby’s podcast episode specifically on this topic: Long Distance Relationship Questions.

As you heal from the end of your relationship, should you feel that additional support beyond what your friends and family can provide would be helpful, I would also recommend meeting with a therapist or coach who specializes in breakup recovery for private meetings or group sessions (like my online Breakup Support Group). 

Gaining professional guidance can help you make sure that you are on the right path to healing, and, if you decide to attend a group, hearing from others in similar situations can help you to know that you’re not alone.

If you find yourself in a long-distance relationship that doesn’t seem to be working, I hope that some of the perspectives I’ve shared here can be helpful to you.

Warmly,
Kensington

Utah online marriage counseling Denver online breakup recovery group

With compassionate understanding and unique insights, Kensington O., M.S., LAMFT, MFTC helps you improve the most meaningful parts of your life, from your emotional well-being to your relationships.

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