Boys and men have a unique set of relational challenges following centuries of being placed and stuck in domineering roles. Effective Relational Skills are rising up into awareness for men, and promise to play a large role in creating a healthy human experience for individuals, families and entire communities…one where we are all more likely to fulfill our innate need for connection. I listen, empathize, reflect and collaborate on relational solutions. We build effective relational skills. See “Mens Relational and Mental Health” Facebook page for more information.
In our first 9 months of life we were totally dependent on our mother. Then we became dependent on our parents, followed by a period of interdependence and finally independence. Not independent from, but independent with. The idea that we are solitary islands is a Western myth.
Often people join into intimate relationships rather early in life, after leaving the home(s) they grew up in. Our relationship training might have been a class at school or church, media, and experiences of our own parents (modeling behaviors as partners and parents). We often vow to do things a little differently, and sometimes not at all.
Struggles show up when we, or the other, feels that our ways of relating in intimate relationships don’t mesh well. Oddly, they too learned in their family, not ours. Noticing the differences we often forget the spirit of our intentions for partnership and fall into individualistic thinking, about ‘me versus him or her.’
We need connection…healthy connection. The kind that transcends the unhelpful learnings in childhood to attain the healthy stances of assertiveness, cherishing the other, and strengthening the WE over the Me and the other. In my office, I always take the side of nurturing people in healthy relationships. As Terry Real says, “You have a choice; to be right or to be married.”
Symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD and other disorders point toward a response, not a steady trait, or fact. Most often these are noticed by a variety of objectionable behaviors, which mostly are pain based. Usually it is not an event that brings us down, but our thoughts about that event. If our thoughts are happily anticipatory, we become energized, activated, productive. If our thoughts of the event are foreboding, unhappy, or fearful, we might withdraw, get angry, numb, dump, or please.
Trauma– a body response to subconscious familiarity to life or self threatening events – shows up when an event in the moment seems like a moment from the past and our amygdala and limbic neural systems kick in before our cortical brain (Wise Mind) responds.
Depression, Anxiety and PTSD have behavioral components, body components and subconscious components. For example, I did not call my mom on her birthday. I feel bad about it. I start to give in to carb cravings and eat cookies and ice cream. I gain weight and feel bad. I get tired more readily and feel bad. I have learned now to recognize that sitting on an otherwise angry Dad’s lap and eating ice cream was the best of times when I was young. Today's behavior makes sense.
Therapy yields a personal understanding of what made us how we are, developing acceptance of ourselves...and from acceptance we can chart a course into how we want to be.
Grief is a term used to label the myriad of reactions and responses to the loss of a significant person, place, job, ability, or vision. Grief is not a straight line process. It is predictably unpredictable. Understanding your grief with support and compassion will help to transform it in a way that broadens the tapestry of life. All people – each one unique – grieves differently.
There is no right way.
I counsel the people close to the grieving person to respond in silence, in patience, in empathy. I counsel the grieving to go gently on themselves, think their thoughts, feel their feelings, to make no significant choices, to take as much time as they need. I might say, “I’m sorry. What might you need right now?” and then wait for the answer.
Throughout human history, grieving processes were communal, lasted many days, were about healing the hole left by the lost love, not about getting back to work. I think the current common thought that it has to be quick is a disservice to us and forestalls the healthy process.
The goal is not to forget, not to shuck the hurt off, but to learn to love and live another way. To still be you, but in a way that honors the transformation that grief can bring.
I think of anger as in outward energy formed in reaction to a sensed wound to ourselves or others. Displays of anger result from a subconscious call to react. They are often triggered by feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and injustice. Anger is not a conscious choice: it is a reaction. Violent anger expression is a learned and patterned response. It bypasses the wiser part of ourselves. It fools us into thinking “problem solved” and keeps us unaware that we made things worse, not better.
Anger presents as a coping mechanism, among Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn and Flock. In anger, the fighter fights and the fleer escapes, all in order to protect a sensitive wounded part of ourselves. This, by the way, is not intentional. It is subconscious.
I strive to help clients discover and understand the connections between what happened to them, how they learned to cope, and what they might better do now, in their present relationships.
This is an educational, insight-building, supportive, and transformational process. On the other end of therapy is a person who recognises the sense of anger and responds quickly with curiosity, patience, communication, and resolution. From our work together, new and healthier habits form.