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Emotional Fixers- Rewards and Risks

Are you an emotional fixer? Is it your role to make sure that the people you care about are happy and content? That there is harmony- always- and agreement for everyone around you? While peace and understanding are goals for which to strive, you may want to ask yourself a few questions: Is the harmony coming at the cost of minimizing, even eliminating, your own needs? Who assigned you this role? Are you trying to fix someone else's emotional distress for them?
I believe that respectful conflict is essential to healthy relationships and that disagreements can be one way in which values are explored and refined. In my personal and professional experience, I have seen the emotional fixer take the impossible task of pleasing others and trying to heal wounds that are not their own, but it is never enough... We all have a responsibility to do our own emotional work. You can be caring, loving and supportive while setting healthy boundaries between you and others. Otherwise, the risk to y…
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Hand in hand

I recently spoke with a very seasoned therapist about the role of the therapist in the therapeutic process- is it to witness and contain, to observe and accompany or to help facilitate change?
Should transformation come only as a result of the individual reaching insight on their own, or can the therapist take a more active role?
There are recent peer-reviewed studies showing that the outcome of therapy is very closely tied to therapists' characteristics, much more than to the type of therapeutic modality (like CBT, DBT, etc.). "Interestingly, more effective psychiatrists, meeting regularly with patients, achieve better outcomes administering a placebo than do less effective psychiatrists administering antidepressant medication (McKay, Imel, & Wampold, 2006)!"1
Among the qualities found to be necessary for effective therapists is creating an alliance that is steeped in empathy, collaboration, optimism and hope. Beyond the research, I believe that most individuals see…

It's getting better all the time? Part 2

As Spring becomes more present, as we start moving our bodies more, particularly outside, I turn my attention to a more micro understanding of "better". What does it mean to you, to be "doing better"? Even without the comparing-ourselves-to-others perspective I discussed in the part 1, what is at the root of the aspiration to better ourselves, for instance, do be fitter? I am certain that most of us know and appreciate the value of living a healthy lifestyle, eating nutritious food and exercising. But to what extent are some of us pushing our respective bodies beyond what is available to them without accounting for aging, physical or mental limitations? Are we adding guilt and shame where these emotions are not functional? It is an interesting tension to try and hold- striving to be healthy and fit AND accepting our bodies for what they can do at this moment in time. Maybe it is worthwhile for us to stop searching for "better" and start looking for "…

It's getting better all the time?

This week I've been thinking about our need to "be better". There are 2 facets to this notion for me- for now I will discuss the more macro one. I'm wondering why "being better than..." is, well, better than just "being". When and how do we learn to compare ourselves to others in order to evaluate how we are doing, and who we are? It may be tempting to point a finger at parents and relatives, but while they are in most cases complicit in the comparison habit, we may want to look beyond the family to notice themes of contrast, competition and judgement. We all realize that comparing can be a useful tool in discerning where we need to improve and that competition can be a very effective motivator, but should they be our only tools of evaluation and motivation? And how does harsh judgement get used as we compare ourselves to others? I invite us all to explore our own relationship with comparison and competition and examine how they've impacted ou…

An Angry Angle

Anger can be a powerful and useful tool for setting boundaries and stating what is acceptable to us. And it can be destructive, petty and hurtful. A lot of the work I do with the individuals I support is focused on identifying when Anger is needed, how to express it so it is helpful , and learning when Anger is a mask, hiding other feelings that needs attending to. When we remove our masks, we can connect in a more authentic, respectful and effective manner.

Meditating self-compassionately...

Recently, I had a wonderful opportunity to attempt mindful meditation using a different approach- one that does not propose only noticing thoughts that come to our head while we attempt to meditate, but one that suggests actually following these thoughts, learning from them and even celebrating them, instead of viewing them as a distraction.  This approach invites acceptance, gentleness and kindness directed at ourselves, since there is judgment even in labeling various thoughts or feelings during meditation as distracting or diverting from the “real” purpose of meditation.  It was fascinating and exciting to see where the mind, body and spirit can go when blame, shame, guilt, and following meditation “rules” are out of the way! If we treat even our challenging feelings and thoughts with compassion and welcome them into our consciousness (inside and outside a meditation process), we can learn so much about our commitments, values, identity, that was otherwise unavailable. And, we gai…

Is this is a time for acceptance, or change?

Mindfulness-based therapy modalities, such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy [DBT], make room for tension between two seemingly-opposite notions. One of the tents of DBT is the ongoing seesaw of Acceptance and Change. When facing a challenge, a decision that needs to be made, a moment of confusion, we may want to bring some clarity by asking ourselves what is needed right now- Acceptance, or Change. In order to do this effectively, we need to reflect on and identify the "uncontrollables" that we are so desperately trying to control; if we are trying to change something that is out of our control, and if we are attempting to accept something that requires change, we may find ourselves frustrated, hurt or stuck. Let's open the door to both possibilities and get support, if necessary, to choose the most helpful action for this moment in time.