Life: Failure to Meet Expectations

You can pretty much count on life handing you a big bag full of disappointment at one time or another, and it usually comes in 2 main varieties: disappointment in ourselves; disappointment in others.  The question is what to do with this uncomfortable feeling. Life’s failure to meet expectations is something that comes up a lot in therapy. And disappointment is almost like a skill we have to learn. It’s part of life. How do you rise from the ashes? Roll with the punches? Pick your Unknown-1
metaphor here.  In therapy we try and figure it out together.  For starters, we look at:

  1. Reasonableness of expectations of self and others
  2. Is perfectionism or Type A-ness getting in the way?
  3. Willingness to learn from the experience
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Bad Kitchen Yoga

When talking about perfection, participating in mindful and meditative experiences, like yoga, are often recommended. For the true perfectionist, meditation and yoga just present more activities to perfect–so frequently people will steer clear of trying either activity.  That’s why I recommend bad kitchen yoga.
Here’s how it works:
Pick a gracious mellow yogi you can stream on your device of choice for 20 minutes or less.
(I like Rodney Yee – he seems less type A, and more forgiving than some others.) If you can, drag your preferred streaming device into the kitchen. (Attempting yoga in a kitchen already makes perfection impossible and instantly lowers expectations.) Then allow yourself to do poses badly—not dangerously. Maybe have a cup of coffee while you try things out. Free yourself up to laugh at how funny you must appear to your neighbor who just walked by the kitchen window with a snow shovel. Encourage yourself for trying (“Good Self!”) and try enjoying the challenge of not taking it all too seriously.
Why do I recommend bad kitchen yoga? Because there is some benefit to doing something badly, and finding a way to laugh about it. 1. It’s practice for real life –no one can be perfect all the time—it’s exhausting. 2.Being able to laugh at ourselves is an important life skill—it’s a part of self-love/ self-compassion. 3. Moving your body for 20 minutes is helpful. Even some gentle bad yoga can be good for you. 4. Okay, yes, it’s a small group of small studies, but research is starting to show some correlation between humor and lessening of anxiety. Humor seems to help mitigate anxiety. If nothing else, it’ll give your neighbors something to talk about! (Exposure therapy!)Unknown

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Flourishing? It’s not all water and sunshine….

IMG_0206When you think about it, what makes a plant flourish is not all water and sunshine—there’s a fair amount of crap involved too. Okay, we call it fertilizer – but often—at least in my garden, cow manure plays a part.  “Flourishing” is not about things going well;  it’s about being well—(or wellish) even when things are going horribly wrong. Without the crap, there is no flourishing, or rising above. But not all of us were born or grew up with the skills to bounce back after a storm.

Some of us grew up in parched soil, so we may be a little more emotionally tender. Others have grown up overwatered, over-tended— ending up saturated with too many thoughts and emotions to separate out. Luckily, we can learn skills to help us flourish in our lives, work, and relationships. Teaming up with a therapist you feel comfortable with can help figure out what needs be added or changed in the soil to help us grow in a more healthy way.

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Who’s Your Port in a Storm?

 

IMG_0359Looking out the window at the wind whipping waves of snow against our house, waiting for our latest winter storm to pass, I noticed a gray squirrel braced on branch in our old oak tree using the tree’s trunk to break the force of the wind—a safe port in the storm. It got me to thinking who (or what) is my port in a storm?

We all need a port in a storm. A place to go when life feels wretched, and things aren’t going our way. For some people it’s a spouse, family member or best friend. For others it’s shopping, a big bowl of ice cream, binge watching movies, and a glass or two of wine at the end of an awful day. Whatever our “ports” are it’s a way of seeking comfort. Some places are more are considered more “healthy” than others, but it’s important to recognize what comforts us—in a non-judgmental kid of way. Just notice. Who or what  we go to when things are tough. Our ports can tell us a lot, but they are also changeable. And, like most things in life, our places of comfort often change as we go through life. Who or where is it now?

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Consider “the No”

Saying “Yes!” when you truly want to say  “no” can get you in a lot of trouble.

(That, and a trip to Greece over twenty years ago is why I don’t drink Ouzo anymore.) Often folks are encouraged to say “Yes” more. To be positive. To me this is black and white thinking. I think it’s more helpful, to be mindful and consider the no, as well as the yes. After all, we are the ones who have to spend the rest of our lives with ourselves.  Who wants all that regret and resentment rolling around in there?stock-footage-the-blackboard-of-yes-or-no-decision-making-for-visual-presentation

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“Humor is the ultimate survival skill.”

It’s a quote from Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello

What?  You didn’t expect me to be all science and self-help!  *meiobit-freud[1] copyAlthough, science does back up Tonello’s observation. A sense of humor does seem to reduce the effects of stress. Maybe it’s because in many instances you have to have some insight into yourself to have a sense of humor– like when you spill coffee all over your new white dress shirt! What makes you laugh?

 

 

 

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Valentine’s Day Reckoning

Chocolate HeartIt’s like Valentine’s Day is a day of a relationship reckoning.If you’re not in a relationship it reminds you ‘Hey, you’re not in a relationship—no flowers for you.’ If you’re in a relationship what kind of relationship is it? What are the expectations? Are you in the flower-phase, or the I’ll-catch-you-next-year-slump. What does it all mean?

Maybe nothing. Being single is preferable to a taxing, or toxic relationship. Flowers are nice, but they are no guarantee of affection. Maybe Valentine’s Day is more a Rorschach test. What it means to you may tell you something about yourself– like perhaps you just really like eating lots of chocolate in mid-February! I know I do!

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Wanting More

enough rockRecently, there was an interesting article in NYT Science section on new research on scarcity. The focus of the research is on our human reaction to economic scarcity. The less money there seems to be, the more we want to spend it. Research has found the opposite is true too—the more we have, the less we feel the need to spend.  It made me wonder about other scarcities we face—like the scarcity of compassion for ourselves. Especially when we don’t believe we are “enough”– as sociologist Brene’ Brown says.

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Screaming from the Sidelines

mirror-neurons-ic-1Some parents can’t watch their kids play sports without their anxiety level shooting up sky high! It could be mirror neurons at work. We see something we relate to– and it kinda feels like it’s happening to us. You can see mirror neurons vibrating on the sidelines of any kid’s sporting event. Parents pace the sidelines, yelling out instructions to their kid, “Left, go left…” and muttering less encouraging comments to the refs.

Researchers in Parma, Italy discovered mirror neurons. Brain scientists were conducting an experiment watching how particular neurons react in a monkey’s brain when a monkey picked up a peanut.  One fateful day, the monkey was sitting there, still hooked up to the neuron imaging equipment, and plotting his escape, when the monkey watched a hungry researcher pick up the peanut. As the monkey saw the researcher do this, the monkey’s brain reacted as though had been the one to pick up the peanut. It was the beginning of mirror neuron research.  Check it out here: NOVA: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3204/01.html

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