Couples Counseling Articles

Relationships & Connections

The Moment I Knew…

I had mine at 42 and have had several since.

Almost everyone has a moment. It’s when you know or understand something that was previously a source of confusion. Somehow out of reach.

This moment of clarity can be filled with relief…or terror.

Maybe it’s been germinating in the background for years. But when a ‘moment of knowing’ shows up, it feels sudden…and it’s packed with lessons that teach us how to listen and trust ourselves.

If we listen, life starts moving in a new direction.

Here are some examples of such moments……

  • I’m going to marry him/her.
  • We’re pregnant.
  • My life isn’t working anymore.
  • Something’s got to change.
  • I’m going to start a business.
  • I need to go back to school.
  • I want a new job.
  • I’m going to leave him/her.
  • S/he is going to divorce me.
  • We need an intervention.
  • I’ve been betrayed.
  • I must do that ONE thing I’m afraid to do…or at least try!

Typically, these are intimate landmark moments of knowing. They’re about ordinary things….that end up creating memorable, life-altering experiences.

These game-changing moments do not like being neglected.

When ignored, they don’t disappear.

Instead, they wait patiently…for years, sometimes decades…until the next opportunity arises.

And, when it taps you on the shoulder, that’s when you know. This is the moment.

How Do We Make Things Better?

We don’t think of it often but, culture defines nations, neighborhoods, families …and corporate entities.

Starbucks and Dunkin’ have different cultures, for example.

Families differ culturally too…

And, every marriage merges two cultures.

When we spent Thanksgiving with one of my relatives, my dad would grumble all the way home.

It makes no sense,” he would say with an eye-roll, “Why would anyone serve Jello at a holiday meal?”

Culture is a set of ideas that affect our behavior in certain ways.

It’s shared information and values….stored mostly in our brains.

(Yes, it’s also stored in libraries and museums.)

Some of these stored ideas are clear and explicit. Others, not so much.

They’re vague and few ideas last for long.

Most simply disappear.

But when an idea is exceptional (good or bad) it gets embedded and resistant to change.

Like long-lasting relationships, long-lived ideas start to shift too.

When the shift happens…and it always does…perhaps the most important question to ask is,

How do we make things better?

Couples, Communication and Confusion

It can happen while sitting around sipping an extraordinary Australian cabernet….

Or between episodes of Bridgerton…..

Or even while giving simple directions to someone you love.

Things can get awkward and frustrating because communication is fundamentally flawed.

Even the best communication involves abstraction and guesswork on the part of both people.

It’s filled with errors on the part of the communicator and misunderstandings by the recipient.

Messages shared and messages received are rarely the same.

And, over time…patterns develop.

Communicating with any human being depends on putting an abstraction, or thought, into words as precisely as possible.

At first glance the recipient thinks s/he understands….but take a closer look… and you’ll see that they have to guess.

Does s/he mean exactly this? OR Does s/he mean exactly THIS?

The brain gets confused and it happens so fast that we don’t notice.

Even if we do….we rarely take time to check things out …because we’re not doing scientific research here…right? Instead, we move on.

The brain makes a quick interpretation and we make our decision from there.

Seems simple enough, right? But hold on.

We also ‘make meaning’ out of these new interpretations.

If there’s a meaning or interpretation we don’t like….well….the brain can take us on a harrowing roller coaster ride full of emotional ups and downs.

That’s when we develop a false sense of certainty….and the brain makes up even MORE stories we believe to be true.

It all happens in seconds and when the stories fit our narratives and beliefs…

…we get frustrated… rarely show mercy….and find someone to blame.

Sometimes, we even blame ourselves.

Perhaps…these self-created interpretations get in the way for all of us.

These Essentials Are The Solution… But They’re Not For Everyone

Problems are conflicts of ideas and perception.

I may have an idea and see things one way. That means something to me.

My partner sees things another way….. that means something to him.

There’s a good possibility we’ll fuss over it.

This kind of conflict happens to all couples and most often…..we move on.

Because most problems are uninteresting and work themselves out.

But there are times when a couple gets stuck in a conversation that goes around in circles.

It’s a never ending cycle and can be about something major….or seemingly insignificant.

A negative pattern can develop in the relationship that is so profound, it brings up dread.

Oh, no. Here we go again!

Once embedded in the relationship, this cyclical pattern can go on for years, even decades.

Try deflecting it with silence or politeness and it works for a while.

Then comes the inevitable jab.

It hurts.

For lots of people, it’s easier to just take the jab; stay quiet and wait.

It keeps things tidy. It also keeps things from getting better.

The ultimate solution requires courage; taking off the mask and stepping into possibility.

It involves taking risks and speaking up….simply….creatively.

These are the essentials that get us UNSTUCK and move things forward.

And this is where we find passion, connection, emotional safety and trust.

I’m Betting on The Future

My team and I built this Word Cloud to recognize the New Year and start fresh in a changing world.

We used words that best embody who we are and the work we do. We trust they’ll guide us as well.

I share them with you because….I’m betting on the future.

2020 gave us a history-accelerating crisis, dysfunctional politics, ineffective governance, amplified inequality, explosive social tension, isolation and an unspeakable sense of helplessness.

It also gave us businesses that shuttered as cardboard boxes, with smiles on them, landed on our doorstep….one after another.

2020 shined a spotlight on our unshakable ideal; that ‘more’ and ‘bigger’ are better.

It left some of us wondering how we’ve changed…..how some of us absorbed the trauma of lockdowns and others revolted….

While others still risk their lives every day, working harder than ever, supporting themselves and their families….helping those who need it most.

We get weary of bad news. I know. Sometimes it’s just too much so we look for distractions.

Anything to help avoid the unfathomable tragedy and enormous loss of life….fellow Americans….over 350,000 to date and more to come.

I think we have to distract ourselves…..not because we don’t care…..but because it’s too big.

No one really knows how to access that level of compassion and empathy.

Yet, here we are, in the New Year….each of us, doing our best to maintain equilibrium.

I believe we will come out of this crisis remade both individually and as a culture…. and no one knows what that will look like.

Still…I’m betting on the future.

There will be so much NEW to get used to; how we live, work, heal, communicate and learn.

The differences may not be obvious at first.

What’s likely to become obvious….pretty quickly….is how much we need each other.

We’ll witness a sped-up version of the world we knew and, most of us will try to keep up.

This will amplify our fatigue, frustrations, our vulnerability and…our fears.

If we cover our eyes as the pace accelerates…..and pretend like it’s not happening….even our denial could get bigger.

All of this might make you want to hit the snooze button!

But you won’t.

Instead, consider this your wakeup call and an opportunity to transform…..to tap into the transformative stuff you are made of.

It’s an opportunity to choose…..to be creative and harness some of the forces that have been unleashed…..and help move this accelerating world toward a more compassionate and more appealing destination.

Here are some of the things we’re doing and YOU can do too:

  • Slow down before speeding up.
  • Identify your most deeply held values and beliefs.
  • Prioritize.
  • Focus on what’s important; leave the rest.
  • Identify your genius…your superpower.
  • Approach with new commitment.
  • Be trustable.
  • Speak truth.
  • Love more.
  • Commit to do creative work every day that connects people and builds peace.

This is our commitment and why I’m betting on the future.

Truth be told….I’m betting on you too and I would love, love, love to hear from you!

Working From Bed

After binge watching The Crown a while back, I read that Winston Churchill frequently ran Britain from bed.

He’d stay there till 1pm with his typewriter and Scotch, reading and firing off memos to his ministers.

I’ve always loved that idea and considering where we are these days…..I can tell you…..it’s …awesome!

It’s also luxurious and feels REALLY GOOD. (Minus the Scotch – ONLY because I can’t consume alcohol and work at the same time!)

Where is she going with this?…. you ask.

Well…..I want to remind you, that love and connection feel REALLY GOOD too!

If that feel-good sensation is missing in your relationship, consider this…..

It’s always confusing when partners experience emotional pain AND profess to love each other.

Look a little closer and you’ll notice a sense of unsafe-ness or lack of trust. It happens when we feel

  • Judged
  • Invisible
  • Unappreciated
  • Unheard
  • Rejected
  • Overwhelmed
  • Not-good enough or
  • Shamed.

It’s also there when we feel

  • Hurt
  • Abandoned
  • Unimportant
  • Unwanted
  • Isolated
  • Alone
  • Disconnected or
  • Desperate.

ALL of these emotions are real and reflect a lack of emotional safety and trust.

This is when our hearts hurt, our brains light up like Christmas trees and our central nervous system goes into overdrive.

This is a UNIVERSAL human experience….and happens automatically when we feel unsafe.

Our bodies (and our brains) respond with the Fight, Flight or Freeze response.

No matter who we are, what we do for a living or where we come from…. our brains and hearts ALWAYS want to know:

  • Are you there for me?
  • Am I safe with you?
  • How are we doing?
  • What’s next? and
  • Where do we go from here?

If the answer to any of these questions is ambiguous or a flat out ’No’…… bad things start to happen….from the inside out.

This year, more than any other, our emotions and reactions have been on steroids.

So give yourself – and those around you – a break.

Do whatever you need to do and make mental Wellness YOUR top priority for 2021.

That means committing to self-care by…

  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Eating clean food.
  • Hydrating often.
  • Moving your body.
  • Tapping into wisdom.
  • Having a spiritual connection and…. above all else
  • Cultivating relationships.

If you can’t do them all – then simply pick ONE and start.

This crazy, crisis-filled year has been a challenge for everyone – including the entire Wellness Team!

  • We’ve learned a lot and Self-Care is one of the things we’re keenly aware of – now more than ever.
  • That’s why I want to share a few important details with you before taking my own, personal long-awaited and well-deserved time off.

Our offices will have very limited coverage beginning Monday December 21 thru Friday, January 1 inclusive. We will be back at our desks Monday January 4. We will check email and return calls during that time – but on a very limited basis.

Because what we do is so important to our clients and their families, it’s a priority for the Wellness team to take some solid time to rest and celebrate with our own families.

Please plan accordingly.

We appreciate YOU more than words can say and want only the BEST for you.

We wish you a wonderful Holiday Season and encourage you to take good care of your (PRECIOUS) self and the people you care about!

Stay safe and stay healthy!

5 Tips for Courage, Compassion, Conviction and Celebration on the Side

2020 has been a year!

Here are 5 super quick tips on how to share all the courage, compassion and conviction you can muster…along with some year-end celebration on the side.

  1. Acknowledge Your Team: In 2020, simply entering your workplace presented an element of danger. Working from home has been isolating. Your team is weary and needs YOU and your leadership. Stay connected. They may be overwhelmed and they’ll appreciate your compassion and your presence.
  • Inform daily.
  • Answer questions.
  • Listen to their concerns.
  • Show appreciation.

Neuroscience tells us the brain always wants to know: How am I doing? and What’s next?

  1. Assure Your Customers & Partners: Key stakeholders have similar needs. Assurance that you’re doing as much as you reasonably can.…that you’ll be there and that you’ll provide timely information is a golden opportunity to strengthen your bond and build trust.
  • Use candor.
  • Solidify your relationships.
  • Be responsive and engaged.

Have the courage to let credibility and trust be your North Star.

  1. Pace over Perfection: It’s time to move…thoughtfully, swiftly and confidently. Triage:
  • What do we absolutely need to implement?
  • What are our most critical functions?
  • What can wait and for how long?

Then shape your new reality with conviction. Communicate, connect, collaborate and make your moves. Adjust as needed. Stay nimble and strive for excellence (which is not to be confused with perfection!)

  1. Let Crisis be Your Teacher: Difficult events are transformative. New ideas emerge. Long held beliefs are challenged. Legacy thinking suddenly appears too rigid or entrenched. Don’t stress. Instead, ask:
  • What do I need to learn here?
  • What is this crisis here to teach me?

Others, (including your kids) have probably been wondering when you’d step into the 21st century. Welcome!

  1. Give Yourself Oxygen: Take care of yourself,.
  • Stay healthy.
  • Rest, eat well, exercise.
  • Above all else…Celebrate!

You did it! They did it! Congratulations! Well done!

Now, it’s time to give yourself a much needed and well-deserved rest so you can show up fully present in the New Year.

Your leadership is needed now more than ever!

What’s The New Workplace Imperative?

Humans are complicated and yet…we’re not, really.

We like to think of ourselves as strictly rational beings.

But at the end of the day neuroscience tells us we are driven first… by emotions.

A better understanding of brain science (and our experiences with it) helps us be more in tune with ourselves and others.

Turns out, emotions play a huge role in helping us reach our full potential.

Emotions drive our thoughts and behaviors.

Ultimately, people perform based on how they feel.

How does it feel to work in your organization?

Under the circumstances of 2020, most of us carry on with our lives as best we can.

While we outwardly joke about it…most of us quietly wonder what’s in store for 2021.

What changes are ahead? What will stay the same?

Work, home-school, kids, parenting, care-giving…. routines are beginning to look “normal” again…on the surface.

Most of us are getting enough sleep, working out and eating well.

Still, things feel different and not quite right.

So, what’s going on?

As I see it, we’re experiencing a flood of different emotions every day and don’t quite know what to call them…how to talk about them…or process them.

These universal human emotions… like overwhelm, reactivity, fog, sadness, confusion, fear, anger…and grief are uncomfortable and for many of us…new.

They’re also unfamiliar and when we experience them it’s common to ruminate and slip into critical thoughts and negativity.

Then, when self-criticism slips in, we’re off and running with catastrophic thinking.

The first thing to do is stop. Take a deep breath and know this is completely normal.

It’s the fight or flight response at work and even though there are no lions or tigers chasing us, the ancient cellular structure of our bodies and brains kick in.…trying to protect us.

We’re hardwired to avoid danger.

So, what to do when we’re in this swirl of thoughts and emotions?

I like to stop and lean into the feelings.

I notice the sensations in my body and acknowledge them with as much compassion as I can muster.

In The Guest House, Rumi the 13th century Persian poet, reminds us not to resist the thoughts and emotions passing through us but to meet them with courage, warmth, and respect.

And what does this have to do with leadership?

Today’s cutting-edge leader, has the opportunity to grow and support others in this new and uncertain environment.

It starts with the willingness to be candid about our own experiences and give others the space to do the same. And, it all comes together through meaningful conversations with our team that reduce fear, increase trust and build human connection.

This is the New Workplace Imperative.


If you would like to know more about applying the principles of Emotional Safety and Trust with your team, click here to read more:

https://EmotionalSafetyandTrust.com

Time to Lean In and Get Started

2020 is coming to a close (did I really just say that?).

So much has changed..and NOT as I might have imagined.

The events of this year not only changed the way we work and live…they also changed us.

Team members who went home in March are not the same people who left the workplace…with their desktops… on a moment’s notice.

I think about this profound change and human resilience a lot.

I think a lot about how this rapid change has affected me…my work…my family…my world.

Across the country and world-wide, knowledge-workers rallied and set up offices at home with the speed and efficiency never seen before….and we have all been impacted.

We’ve had new experiences and seen things we cannot un-see, un-hear or un-know.

  • Have you taken time to reflect on your own experience?
  • Do you know how your team members are doing?
  • Do you know how they’ve been impacted?
  • Are you clear about what they need, think and feel?

Probably not, because as a rule, people aren’t comfortable talking about these things openly; especially their emotional well-being. As a leader, you may not feel comfortable asking.

And it’s hard to know how wide the gap is between what you think is going on and what people know to be true in their own lives.

We know organizations depend on people and it’s clear…. from this point forward…those that lead with a People-First philosophy will stand out and win.

Engaging people and creating Emotional Safety and Trust in the workplace will be considered table-stakes for survival.

That means it’s important to build a culture by having sometimes uncomfortable conversations that create emotional safety, reduce fear, increase trust and build human connection.

As we lean into these courageous conversations and build strong bonds between people we create winning cultures that attract and retain the best talent.

Today, cutting-edge leaders understand there’s a direct correlation between connection and belonging, and the human ability to be effective, high-performing and engaged.

This is great news!

It’s also the new workplace imperative…because without this very basic understanding and application, cultures will continue to focus on symptoms without addressing the root cause of what’s really going on.

It’s time to lean in, roll up our sleeves and get started.


If you would like to know more about applying the principles of Emotional Safety and Trust with your team, click here to read more:

https://EmotionalSafetyandTrust.com

On Blame

Underneath anger is fear. But until that’s clear to us…I mean really clear…we blame.

Blame is a way of dumping anger.

Here. You take it.” Is essentially what the blamer is saying.

Most often, the receiver picks it up and throws it right back.

Now you have a blamer’s tennis match and the longer it lasts, the harsher it gets.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

There are no points for nastiness and no trophies for blamers who inflict pain. It lacks honor. It requires zero bravery, courage or skill.

Continue Reading On Blame