Tag: relationships

Parenting Struggles? Master the Art of Understanding

understandingWe all want be heard, seen, valued, and understood for who we really are. We desire unconditional love and acceptance. This isn’t debatable. We all recognize this desire, right? Isn’t this behind all the fairy tale romance stories and the cry for tolerance? See me, know me, love me, warts and all.

Maybe we focus so much on being understood that we forget to really understand those we love. Enter our children. Did you know they have that drive too? Kids need to be fully known, loved and accepted first by their parents. I’ve sat with people who did not experience this in their childhood and are dealing with the impacts this has left on them. The opposite of being understood is rejection. If a child doesn’t feel fully understood and accepted first at home, they may be sensitive to rejection in the future.

Now, I know we are put on this earth to guide, teach, train, and discipline our kids. Yet, I think sometimes we focus only on the externals and we miss what is going on in their heads and hearts. We miss their insecurities or their fears. Our kids are more than grades, athletic accomplishments, or artistic performances. They are more than their behavior.

We all want be heard, seen, valued, and understood for who we really are. Click To Tweet Maybe we focus so much on being understood that we forget to really understand those we love. Click To Tweet

If their behavior is rebellious, ugly, or emotional, they may be struggling in a way that they don’t feel safe to share with you.

If their behavior is always good, they may be attaching their identity to never making a mistake and this is a recipe for anxiety.

Behavior is just one component of personality. We are physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual beings. Behavior is the physical domain. It seems to me that as parents we focus a lot on that aspect of our children and less on the mental, emotional, or spiritual domains. Why is that? Well it’s much easier, right? But I know you want to raise a child who is confident in all areas of who they are, not just that demonstrates good behavior. And what if, by seeking to understand them in all areas you have an impact on their behavior.

I have witnessed many kids who have great behavior but are stressed and overwhelmed trying to maintain the “perfect” life. Just looking at their achievements and grades, you wouldn’t know how much they are struggling. But there are moments that it comes out. You see, the danger of focusing only on behavior, good or bad, is raising kids who focus on the external things they do or ahieve for their sense of value. Now I am not anti-discipline, this is needed  (ask my kiddos we have rules and limits in our home). However, relationship and understanding your kids comes first. How do you know what discipline will work if there is no understanding?

Let’s face it, feeling understood is extremely powerful.

Let's face it, feeling understood is extremely powerful. Click To Tweet

Pause and think of a time you felt completely seen, loved, and accepted for who you really are? Visualize the moment. Who gave you that feeling? How did they do it? What would you have done for that person? How did you feel toward them? It’s an incredible feeling right? Did you know you have the ability, the superpower, to give this experience to your kid? Can you see how it might change everything?

So how do you learn understanding and give your child the experience of being understood?

  • Get to know them. Use the phrase “tell me more”. Tell me more about  (what’s behind the tears, the emotional outburst, the difficult situation, etc.).
  • Validate their feelings. This sounds fancy but it is simply letting their feelings be valid and real, no matter what they are. Regardless of how you would react in the situation, their perspective and feelings are what they are. Let them be that. Tell them you see it and remember a time you felt that way. “You really seem happy about something, tell me about it” (see how I combined them both) OR “Wow, you are really upset about this, tell me more about how that hurt you”. “That’s so sad, I’ve been sad to and it’s hard”. Let it be okay for them to feel what they feel. Be a safe place for their feelings. This helps them learn to validate their own feelings as they grow.
  • Learn what matters to them and how they are struggling. Listen to understand and not fix things.
  • No matter what, start and end things with how much you love them.
  • Compliment effort not results. “Wow I saw your grades, it took a lot of hard work and I admire how much time you invest in your studies”.
  • Be real about your own struggles.
  • Spend time with them. Have fun. Be silly. Take a genuine interest in what interests them. (don’t ask me how much I know about all kinds of things that I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for my kids….star wars, star trek, magic the gathering, pokemon, legos, marvel comics, etc etc etc.)
  • When in doubt, ask them for guidance. Just be real

I challenge you to look at your kids differently this week, whatever their age. Seek understanding. What are their passions, who are their friends, what’s the latest thing they are interested in, what are their fears, or current struggles? Warning: don’t ask all that in one sitting. LOL. It doesn’t work. Understanding comes over time as you deliberately seek to take the time and opportunities that present themselves. I think learning about my teens and watching them grow into who God designed them to be rocks! I have to set aside my agenda sometimes but that’s okay…my stuff will be here long after they are grown. Let’s seize the moment when it comes.

Seize the moment when it comes to really understand your kids. It's your parenting superpower. Click To Tweet

Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/understanding-parent/

Top 5 Things that Hurt a Marriage and the Top 7 Things that Help

Marriage are like plants

We all want a better, closer marriage. Learn what you are doing that is damaging your relationship and how to make it better. Want to change your interaction patterns? Want to do something different? Take a minute to consider these things that that hurt and wound the marriage relationship. Then take a look at the things that specifically help marriages grow and thrive. A relationship is like a plant. It needs to be both nurtured and weeded

A relationship is like a plant. It needs to be nurtured, watered, and weeded. Click To Tweet

5 Things that Hurt Marriages 

  1. Assumptions. Yep, you heard me right. The number one thing that hurts relationships are assumptions. We assume our spouse’s motives. We assume they intend to hurt us or personally wound us by their behavior. We assume they aren’t interested in something without asking. It is my experience that our assumptions are frequently wrong. In fact, they are often based on our wounds, fears, or insecurities. Our assumptions are frequently wrong. They are often based on our wounds and fears. Click To Tweet
  2. Attacking the person during a conflict. We are going to disagree with our spouse. It is inevitable. Yet how you approach conflict matters. Is it you and your spouse against the problem? Or is it you against your spouse. If it is you against your spouse, then this is a dangerous place to be. Nothing tears away at connection like attacks.
  3. Busyness. We are crazy busy in our culture. With cell phones, we are always available for work. When we aren’t busy with work, sports, school, kids, volunteering etc…we have unending options for distractions available. It is easy to let life just blow by and relationships take a back seat to the busy.  It is easy to let life just blow by and relationships take a back seat to the busy. Click To Tweet
  4. Focusing too much on the kids. This is so easy to do. Let’s face it…every stage of parenting is demanding. We love our kids and there are things that have to be done. Yet, neglecting the marriage relationship actually is harmful to your kids.
  5. Not taking time for each other. This is similar to busyness but it is worth noting separately. Not taking time to connect emotionally, mentally, relationally, and sexually on a regular basis will damage the core relationship. How can you have a thriving relationship where there is no connection?

7 Things that Help Marriages Thrive

  1. Assume your spouse is a person of good will. I know…I used the word assume. THIS IS THE ONLY ASSUMPTION THAT IS OKAY! You married this person and they may be different than you but ultimately they love you so give them the benefit of the doubt. Assume they are for you. The only exception to this would be if they are abusive. Please reach out and get help if you are being abused. Click here for resources.
  2. Bring everything into the relationship. If you feel slighted or hurt. Talk about it. Share your fears and concerns. Let your partner tell you what they are thinking and feeling so you don’t have to guess or assume. Let them comfort you and be your safe place. When your partner brings something to you that you’ve done to hurt them, own it…even if it was unintentional.
  3. Use I statements. When sharing with your partner only start you sentences with I. I feel…….I think…..When that happened, I……. Please don’t start sentences with you. That assumes motives, puts others on the defensive, and is an attacking stance.
  4. Listen. I know what you’re thinking. You know how to listen. Do you really? Most of us spend the time we should be listening thinking of what we are going to say next. Listen. Summarize what they’ve said and ask if you heard it right. Listen for the emotions they are feeling and share that with them.
  5. Deal with your own stuff. We all have stuff. We have strengths and weaknesses. Know your weaknesses and work on them. Actively work to grow as a person. Some of us have more woundedness from childhood than others. I promise…your woundedness from childhood will impact your marriage relationship. But, there is so much hope here because this can be healed, you need a good therapist but it can be healed!  Your woundedness from childhood will impact your marriage relationship. But there is hope. Click To Tweet
  6. Study your partner. What do they like to do? What is their personality type and how is it different from yours? How do they experience love? What energizes them and what drains them? What are their hopes and dreams? What are their fears? How are they different because they are a male and you’re a female (or vice versa)? Make it your goal to know them well and appreciate the uniqueness that is your spouse.
  7. Spend time together. Relationships only grow in closeness when you are together. Do you talk each day about life? Do you have regular date nights? Do you put the kids to bed early so you can spend one on one time with each other?

Now it would be great if both partners read this and applied these principles. I hope you’re married to someone open to that. You may not be. There is great power in one person changing. It really can change the whole relationship. If you struggle with any of these things, I would recommend seeing a counselor who works with couples. Most people wait too long before they see a counselor. There is so much hope.

There is great power in one person changing. It really can change the whole relationship. Click To Tweet

Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/marriage/

Feelings: What’s the Point??

feelingsI can’t begin to tell you how many people come into my office with problems because they:

  • think they are crazy for having feelings
  • ignore their feelings and now they are too big to ignore
  • they see no useful value in feelings yet are confused as to why they are stuck
  • they are frustrated with some relationship in their life

Let me first say, EVERYONE HAS FEELINGS!!!! (There, I FEEL better).

It is perfectly normal to feel, emotions don’t make you crazy but actually NORMAL. Click To Tweet

It is perfectly normal to feel, emotions don’t make you crazy but actually NORMAL. Yes, that is right, feelings are perfectly normal. WHAT?? Even the “bad” ones like anxiety and sadness and anger? Yes, even those are completely and totally NORMAL!

Somehow, we have lost an understanding of the purpose and benefit of emotions. We have decided that they are for the super emotional, nurturing types (like touchy feely counselors) but that “normal” people don’t talk about, acknowledge or express feelings. Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of problems like: clinical anxiety disorders, major depression, relationship problems, and addiction issues.

Emotions are a God given, God designed signal system, similar to our senses. Click To Tweet

Emotions are a God given, God designed signal system, similar to our senses. We collect information about the physical world through our five senses (sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch). No one labels one of these senses as bad, just because they smell something bad. They just give you information. There is a bad smell; I think I should leave the room (this may or may not happen a lot in my house…boys).   Our senses serve to protect and guide us through the physical world.

Emotions work in a similar way. We get information about the relational world through feelings (sad, angry, afraid, happy, content, shame, safe, love, alone etc.). Emotions give us information. They tell us what we need and give us energy to take action. Emotions serve to protect and guide us in the relational world.

Emotions serve to protect and guide us in the relational world. Click To Tweet

If you ignore a feeling, because it is trying to give you information and you aren’t listening…it will get LOUDER. I mean, wouldn’t you get louder if you were trying to get someone’s attention?? So ignoring, stuffing, numbing, or denying a feeling only creates louder feelings. These louder feelings are what send some into panic, depression, or fits of rage. Not only that, if you ignore, stuff, numb, or deny the “bad” feelings…then you mute the “good” feelings too. YIKES!

Another reason people avoid emotions is because they don’t like the feeling and are concerned they will get “stuck” in a certain emotion. Emotions are not permanent states of being. We feel a variety of different things throughout the day. Emotions ebb and flow like running water.

Emotions are not permanent states of being. Click To Tweet

So what can you do to start paying attention to the signals your emotions give you:

  • Give yourself permission to feel.
  • Pay attention to the emotions as they flow throughout the day, name them, write them down.
  • What message is the emotion giving you, what do you need?
  • Share your emotion and need with a safe person (someone who loves you as you are, flaws and all)
  • Watch the movie Inside Out for more help on understanding feelings and their purpose (such a good movie…I can’t even begin to say how much I love it).
  • Seek help. Counselors can help give you language for emotion and will walk you through this process with a specific focus on you, your history, and your issues.

Emotions serve to help us identify needs, connect in relationships, and heal from hurts and traumas. To deny this aspect of your self is like living life on mute instead of full stereo sound OR in black/white instead of full color!

“Don’t be afraid.  Don’t give up.  The Lord your God is with you.  He is mighty enough to save you.  He will take great delight in you.  The quietness of his love will calm you down.  He will sing with joy because of you.”  Zephaniah 3:16-17

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Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/feelings-whats-the-point/

What Am I Reacting To?

What Are You Reacting To? Reactions are strong emotions (i.e. anger) that we have in response to external events (i.e. being cut off in traffic) or people.

For example, let’s say my spouse points out a mistake or corrects me in some area (this is a made up example…ha ha). I feel hurt, frustrated, and angry. Seems simple enough, a lot of us have been there. However we don’t just leave it at…I feel hurt, frustrated, and angry… we take action based on these strong emotions. In my above example, when I feel hurt, frustrated, and angry, I might lash out with some disrespectful retort or stomp off but give the silent treatment later (again, this is made up and has never happened…wink, wink).

There are a million ways we act based on how we react!

But what if, we aren’t reacting completely to the words or actions being done to us? What if there is more behind it? Knowing what is really behind my emotions could make a huge impact.

So there are a few questions to consider when we feel a strong emotion, like anger, fear, or sadness:

  1. Does this remind me of something from my past? Could you be reacting to a past trauma, a past relationship, or a controlling or dysfunctional parent?? Since our emotional brain, pairs emotions with situations and bypasses our thinking brain, it is common for us to be in a situation that our brain sees as similar to a past experience and feel the past emotion in the present. This happens without your awareness, so your perception may be that the current situation caused the emotion but it’s possible that you are reacting to something else entirely. This is very common for people who have experienced any type of trauma.
  1. What am I assuming? Could I be making some assumptions about the other person’s motives? Am I mind reading their intentions? Could they have good, loving intentions that I am assuming are evil? Am I assuming something about the future? Am I considering my assumed version of the future is truth rather than just one possible outcome? Our assumptions taint our reality. I may think that someone is intentionally being critical, mean, and is out to harm me in some way…but, perhaps they had a totally different motive. Yet, I react to what I assume the other person was thinking and feeling. And let’s be honest, we have no way of really knowing what someone else is thinking and feeling unless we ask them. Yep, don’t tend to want to do that in the middle of an unpleasant emotion. What if I did and I learned their real motive, perhaps my emotional experience changes?
  1. What am I expecting? Am I expecting this person to not notice that I have weaknesses, sins, and imperfections? Am I expecting that person to never sin or show their personal weakness and imperfections? Am I expecting that person to meet a need that no human can meet? That’s really at the heart of a lot of it, we don’t like to see our yuck and it hurts to have it pointed out. We don’t like other people’s yuck because it impacts us. We expect things from situations and relationships that just are not realistic.

Now most of the time our past, our assumptions, and our expectations happen automatically without a lot of analysis on our part. Something happens, we feel, and then we react. But, what are you reacting to? How can you slow the process down?

One big way is to learn to share your emotions instead of your action in response to the emotion.

Back to my totally made up example, my spouse points out a mistake and I say, “wow that hurt and I am starting to feel angry”.

I know what you are thinking, “people don’t talk that way…that’s only for touchy, feely, counselors”. You may be right; most people don’t talk that way. However, talking that way:

  • Brings your experience into the moment.
  • Brings your experience into the relationship.
  • It gives the other person the benefit of the doubt and allows them to say, “Oh, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I thought I was being helpful because I love you” (or something like that).
  • It gives people an opportunity to comfort us.
  • It gives people an opportunity to tell us their real intentions.
  • It helps distinguish this situation from past situations.

So what am I reacting to??? Worth some more thought, don’t you agree? I would love your thoughts.

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Permanent link to this article: https://counseling4hope.com/reacting/

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