Authentic apologies

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Recently I read an excellent article written by Dr. Harriet Lerner in the November/December issue of Psychotherapy Networker magazine. In it she discussed the challenge of offering a sincere apology when faced with criticism. Being criticized makes up feel vulnerable and judged, and apologizing to the protagonist may be the last thing we want to do at that moment. However, assuming we want to stay in communication with this person and, perhaps, improve the relationship, it is worth our while to find a way to genuinely address the concern and own up to our part in it.

Dr. Lerner wisely suggests that we learn to “listen differently” and to ask questions that help us better understand the other’s feelings. Doing so is not, in and of itself, an admission of any guilt or responsibilty, but it is the beginning of an opportunity to learn what our words and actions mean to someone else and to realize how they affect the other. After doing so we may be better able to apologize, with sincerity, for what we did that hurt the other. Learning how to listen is vital first step to any honest and heartfelt communication and to eventually being able to offer an authentic apology.

Making Your Own Happiness

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

How can we make our happiness? What does that mean? First we have to decide if happiness is an end goal or a fluid state of mind. If getting an A on a test makes you happy, does that mean you are not happy while you are studying for the test? When you see a person you like, that usually makes you happy. Are you not also happy while you are anticipating seeing the friend? Or even thinking about him or her? Perhaps good feelings are available to us most of the time, even when we have not achieved what we hoped to, have been wronged or disappointed, or even when we have done something we regret.

Lists of things you can do to bring yourself peace of mind and happiness are readily available in self-help books and on-line. A few of my favorites include the following:

  • Start each day with an affirmative statement, no matter what you are facing that day. One example is “Today is going to be the best day ever!”
  • Let go of self-pity. It is enormously draining and elicits little or no sympathy from others
  • Reach out to someone else who needs cheering up. Focusing on someone else is a surefire way to decrease your own low mood
  • Compartmentalize your problems. Consider each one separately, allowing yourself to reflect on positives in your life in between, in order to feel the balance between both
  • Remind yourself that life has to have some negatives and unhappy moments. Feel the pain, then breathe into it and move onto a happy thought. Recall the last time you were happy and stay in that thought for a while.

I Make My Own Happiness

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

What does it mean to “make my own happiness”? It is so easy to blame something or someone for our state of mind. Our upbringing, past abuse, trauma, physical limitations, loss, poverty – all are fair game for being given responsibility for our satisfaction in life. How easy it is to say, “Of course I’m unhappy; look at what happened to me!” That’s not how I look at my life. Of course I have disappointments, poor communication and losses. However, if I allow those things to dictate how I feel, I am at the mercy of circumstances rather than being in control of my own feelings. I make my own happiness – no one else can do that for me. My boss, my colleagues, my customers, my family – they are not tasked with giving me pleasure or meeting my needs. That is my job, and mine alone. It is my choice how I arrive at that.

Yes, it is far easier to say this than to truly embrace and live it. And yet, I will try.

Asking for what you need

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Last month I spoke about bravery, and recognizing it in others.  For some of us, one of the bravest  things we can do is to ask for what we need. We may consider this to be an act of selfishness, putting our needs before others, being self-centered. However, becoming strong and independent requires a certain amount of self-care, and getting that self-care involves identifying our own needs and meeting them. For example, if you want to be recognized for something you’ve done that you are proud of, don’t wait for people to discover it – let everyone know! Celebrate yourself and invite them to celebrate with you. Feeling low, sad, forgotten? Call someone you care about and ask for a few minutes of conversation and support. We may be surprised at how often others gladly give us what we need when asked, and even appreciate the asking. It saves them the trouble of figuring it out themselves.

Bravery

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

Sometimes I think that my bravest clients are those who are considering changing something fundamental about themselves. My first thought was of my transgender clients. The challenges they face are practically unimaginable to people who have not experienced such thought, which adds to their sense of isolation. Even with support and validation it is a frightening and life-changing journey. One only hopes that the benefits are realized early on in the process and that one is open to the joy of self-realization.

However, as I continue to follow this line of thinking, I realize many of my clients that are facing major changes in their lives share the same courage. Those who are leaving a long-term relationship, losing or changing jobs, or simply facing a characteristic in themselves they don’t like are preparing for a long and hard journey. We may have more in common with one another than we think, at first glance. I feel pride in all of my clients’ efforts and hope I tell them often enough.

Kindness

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

A friend once summarized her guiding principle in life in this way: It’s better to be kind than to be right. While that sounds fairly simple, in reality it is far from easy to adopt. Being right often brings immediate gratification and at least temporarily boosts our self-esteem. It is self-validating and establishes our superiority or at least our intelligence and competence.

So what does being kind do for us? Is that the right question? Perhaps we should be asking what being kind does for others. Let’s examine that. Being kind allows others to feel validated, to save face, to be “right”, even when they are wrong. It gives us space to pay attention to what is important, and what really matters. More often than not, what matters is not how we look to others, but how we make them feel.

Give kindness a chance. And most important of all, be kind to yourself.

Miracles May Happen

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Miracles May Happen

No one should depend on a miracle to save them. If a miracle has saved you once, you must not depend on a miracle to rescue you a second time.  – Zohar 21

 

What is really a miracle? Some of us see miracles every day. We see the birth of a baby, the falling of leaves, heroic acts as everyday miracles. Alternatively, some may think miracles are rare, spectacular events. They think of the burning bush or the parting of the Red Sea. However, we understand that we cannot depend upon a miracle to save us. Of course, Divine intervention would be welcome when we feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges. However, it is one thing to be open and receptive to the out-of-ordinary experiences and quite another to expect such an event to save us. We cannot sit back and wait for miracles to fix our lives by saving us from disasters or changing our mood or fortunes.

Instead of waiting, no doubt in vain, for that miracle to occur, we can seek opportunities to make seemingly miraculous changes in others’ lives. By being actively involved in life and grateful for the opportunities that come our way, each of us can be the bearer of small miracles for others.

 

Taken from Rabbi Lori Forman-Jacobi

Listening: The Best Form of Therapy

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Are you proud of your ability to multi-task? Can you listen to the radio, wash the dishes and talk to a friend at the same time? Perhaps you can…but when you are done with the washing, program and conversation, do you ever feel somewhat dissatisfied? Truly listening is a gift that you give not only to the speaker or task, but also to yourself. Giving 100% of our attention forces us to do several things – to give up whatever else we could be doing during that time, to hold our own opinions and even thoughts for a period of time (perhaps forever) and to acknowledge and affirm whatever is being said or done.

Truly attending to someone involves a form of self-control that is not comfortable for most of us. It requires withholding our own comments, opinions and reactions to what is being said, other than to assure the speaker that we heard it correctly. Responses such as, “I think you are saying”, “I see” or “Is there anything else that made you think of” not only assure the speaker you are completely attentive, but also give her the opportunity to examine her own words and thoughts to go deeper and discover new things she may not have considered before.

This is a technique that requires a great deal of practice, but which ultimately is greatly satisfying to both parties involved. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

When Is The Time For Hope?

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

We have all had dark moments, periods in our lives when we question our reason to go on, even to live. Some of us suffer through longer and more frequent periods than others. The longer these periods continue, the harder it is to feel they could ever end. So when is the right time to feel hopeful? Now and always. Regardless of the hopelessness of one’s situation, one must strive to feel even the smallest glimmer of anticipation that things will eventually get better, or even that they won’t get worse. Hope is what gives us a reason to live, to go on, to keep trying. If will often feel futile, naive or absurd, but it is far superior to the alternative – despair. Start by just saying the words, “this too shall pass”, or “things will get better”. Write them down, email them to someone you know, whisper them out loud. Eventually you will actually believe them, and they will.

Overcoming Powerlessness – Three Initial Steps

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

We have all felt powerless at one time or another. For some it is an occasional occurrence when a person or situation makes us feel out of control, such as a criticism by a supervisor or a traffic jam. Others find themselves facing this feeling on a daily, almost ongoing basis, especially if trapped in an unhappy marriage or a bad fit with one’s job.

The first steps include:

 – Education

We must educate ourselves regarding healthy relationships or attitudes toward our situations. What is an appropriate way for a supervisor to address you? Do we know the difference between behavior that is rude and that which is inappropriate or even illegal?

– Empowerment

Building our self-esteem is a critical step in regaining a sense of ability and control. Physical exercise, counseling, pursuing a hobby can all help us find renewed sources of strength and capacity within ourselves.

– Encouragement

You are NOT alone! Find others to travel this journey with, through a trusted friend, neighbor, or support group. Small successes build us up; start today to feel more in control.

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