Letting Go of What You Can’t Change.

Author Jonathan Morris once wrote, “Letting go of things that really do need fixing can feel like injustice, irresponsibility, or indifference on our part.” I would imagine some of you can relate. It’s natural to want to do something about things that feel out of our control. When we are faced with situations in life where we are playing tug-of-war with ourselves or something we just can’t fix, we often find ourselves pushing and pulling wanting to perfect the circumstance or make it right. We want “all things to be right with the world.” But, what we often find is the harder and harder we push back or try to make things perfect or right, the more things seem to fly out of control anyways. And it can be a humbling moment when we just have to relinquish control and let the chips fall where they may.

One of the happiest moments in life is when we find the strength and courage to let go of what we cannot change. Life is a series of events and situations that we don’t have power or control over and when we realize this, there can be so much freedom in doing nothing. The discomfort we experience initially in opening our hands and letting go may mean we could experience a little more peace. It’s not an easy task to accept the things we cannot change…but I recommend it as a regular practice. It requires a cognitive shift, changing the way we perceive and react to situations, as well as loosening our grip on what we can and cannot change. When we let go of those things we can’t control, you’ll be amazed at what you can refocus your energy on.

Healing our Parent Wounds

It is extremely important to observe, become aware, and understand how our parents impacted our brain during the developmental years. It is also important to feel our feelings related to what we needed and didn’t get emotionally from our parents. It is equally important to get to a point where we stop blaming our parents and take responsibility for our lives, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

Validating our feelings about our childhood and experiencing rightful anger at our parents are both important steps in the healing process. But we can’t stop there. We must get beyond the anger at our parents (this does mean “let it go” or simply “move on” or even “forgiveness). This means we try to find value in understanding our parents, their wounds, and look at ways we can prevent similar patterns in our own lives. We look for ways we can grow and not become trapped in repetitive relationship cycles in the next generation. If we continue to blame our parents and carry anger, it not only impacts our relationship with our parent(s), but it might affect our relationships with our intimate partners or our children.

When we take responsibility for our own lives and make a decision to break the cycle of family trauma, we foster a healthy and whole future for our own families. As we develop more compassion for our parents, it teaches us to be more compassionate individuals towards our partners, our friends, and co-workers as well. We begin to see others’ frailties and recognize their broken attempts to care for us, and we learn to love more fully and be more open to healing in our relationships. This can be one of the hardest tasks of our lives to accomplish – and it may require professional help – letting go of blame for our parents. But it can also be freeing at the same time.

After the Infatuation Wears Off

When the infatuation stage of a relationship wears off, that is when real intimacy can begin. Falling in love is a beautiful and important part of the experience but the “honeymoon phase” of a relationship is very euphoric and those intense feelings can cloud how we view our partners. Once we get through this initial stage, we start to see our partners for who they really are and not just who we thought they were. This is when real intimacy starts. This is a time when you begin to experience real truth, openness, and vulnerability. Partners make choices to work together to resolve conflict and heal unfinished childhood wounds. In doing so, they give each other and the relationship a massive gift.

As a relationship experiences these first bumps in the road and the many realities of “real life” together, you will need many tools and resources to navigate the road together. If you can get through these times, you will experience real, true intimacy, which is not possible during the infatuation stage. Many couples struggle as they come out of the infatuation stage – it is a difficult transition. You are no longer driven by simply hormones and euphoria and only positive experiences. You learn things you don’t like about your partner and it can be hard to face those things. Some relationships don’t survive this transition. But it is during this time that we get to make the very conscious choice to accept and love our partner for who they are. We get to learn to practice healthy conflict resolution. We learn to compromise. This is a time when we discover more about each other’s wants and needs. In every relationship, these are critical steps to moving towards real intimacy.

Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids.

As parents, we, of course, want the very best for our children. Raising emotionally intelligent kids will help them to become strong adults who will lead happy lives and have healthy relationships. Research by relationship expert Dr. John Gottman shows that emotional awareness and the ability to manage feelings will determine how successful and happy our children are throughout life, even more than their IQ. Seeing ourselves as “emotion coaches” to our kids will have positive and long-lasting effects. We can give them the tools they need to navigate the complicated relationships they will encounter in life, the challenges they will face in the real world, and all the feelings they will encounter in the ups and downs.

Here are a few ways we can train our children to better understand and cope with their feelings and emotions:

1. Help them put words to their emotions. Teach them to name what they are experiencing. As they put meaning to how they feel, it will help them to feel less overwhelmed. Teach them to say things like, “I feel angry/sad/happy/upset right now” and respond to them by saying things like “It sounds like you are hurt right now.”

2. Don’t dismiss or punish your child for being emotional. Dr. Gottman says, “Negative emotions are appropriate and will eventually subside as kids grow. If we disregard their feelings as insignificant or send the message that their feelings are bad, we in effect send the message that they are bad. This damaging perception can stay with them throughout adulthood.”

3. Take advantage of negative emotions. These are teachable moments and opportunities to connect. Use these moments to grow with your child. As frustrating as these moments feel, practice being compassionate and patient as you work with them through the emotions.

Parent Alienation.

In families where there is a divorce and one partner alienates the children from the other partner, this is called “parent alienation syndrome.” It is a very sad situation and happens all the time in our culture. The partner will treat the children like the surrogate spouse, talk negatively about the former partner and put the children in a very difficult position.

Parent alienation is not only harmful…it is abuse.

A parent who is angry at the spouse or ex-spouse accomplishes this estrangement by painting a negative picture of the other parent via deprecating comments, blame, and false accusations shared with the children. They may also “hoard” the kids, doing all they can to thwart the other parent from spending time with them.

According to Psychology Today blogger Edward Kruk, Ph.D, “Parental alienation is a serious child protection matter as it undermines a basic principle of social justice for children: the right to know and be cared for by both of one’s parents.”

If you are struggling with an alienation situation, do not struggle on your own. There are many resources available to help you connect with others living through the same situation and we’d be happy to talk with you more.

Worthy of Love.

Every human being, regardless of race, gender, age, or class is worthy of love.

You deserve to feel valued and respected.
You deserve to be treated well by others.
You deserve to be happy.
You deserve to have your needs met.
You are worth investing time and energy into.
You are capable of great things.
Your feelings are important.
You have power and wisdom inside of you.
What you want matters.

And all this is still true, even if you make mistakes. Even if you are not perfect.

As a therapist and life coach, I often sit with some of the most put-together, successful, talented, and intelligent individuals in the world who still sometimes struggle to feel like they are valuable and worthy of being loved. Many of them run multi-million dollar businesses, travel the world, parent wonderful families and yet still feel a huge disconnect in their soul.

The world can get us down and leave us feeling a bit bruised along the journey. But decide today: You are valuable and worthy of love and respect. You have something unique to offer the world. Never forget it.

Suicide Awareness Month.

September is National Suicide Awareness Month. Nearly 45,000 Americans die by suicide every year. Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for people 18-65 and for every death by suicide, there are over 22 suicide attempts.

*You have what it takes to begin again*

Suicide can be prevented. And we can all learn the warning signs and signals and reach out to those who may need our support. Seek help if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the signs described below.

–  Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
– Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
– Acting anxious, agitated or reckless
– Withdrawing from family and friends or feeling isolated
–  Talking about being a burden to others
– Sleeping too little or too much
– Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
– Displaying extreme mood swings
–  Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
– Someone talking about wanting to die or kill oneself

Learn more at Save.org

Teaching Our Children Boundaries.

Many of us weren’t taught how to set boundaries as kids. Typically, if our early caregivers didn’t know how to set boundaries it is because their parents didn’t know how to set boundaries, and they didn’t know because their parents didn’t know either. And so on. It becomes a generational repetition of patterns. Teaching our children boundaries is an important step in parenting and giving our children proper independence, teaching them how to be in healthy relationships, giving them an opportunity to self-advocate and equip them with healthy coping mechanisms as they go out into the world.

The most important way we can do this is to get clear on our own boundaries and model it to our children. Not only does that mean we set effective boundaries with our children but they need to see us setting boundaries in our marriage, in our friendships, in our work-life balance, for our physical health, and more. This will leave a lasting impact on them and will guide them in creating their own boundaries as they grow into young adults.

As we model healthy boundaries in the home, show respect for each person in the house, and give each child the rights to their own feelings and appropriate expressions of them, we are demonstrating healthy boundaries for our children. We are charged, as parents, with the task of helping our children to grow up and make positive choices in life. Teaching them about limits and boundaries will help to provide a solid foundation for their futures.

A gift to yourself.

When you have the ability to self-regulate your emotions and thoughts, when you can press pause on disruptive impulses and stories in your mind and think before you react, this is such a gift you give to yourself. It doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years of hard work to retrain your brain. But you learn to pick yourself up after disappointment and act in a way consistent with your deepest held values.

This is such an important skill. This kind of emotional maturity can bring you so much joy in your relationships and social connections. You will be able to face emotional, social, and cognitive threats with more patience and thoughtfulness. I always say “press pause on the stories you are telling yourself.” And this really is that ability. Pressing the pause button between the feeling or emotion and the action or reaction we take – taking time to think things through, make a plan, wait patiently to understand the emotion and where it comes from. Did something trigger me? Why might I be experiencing this? Does it remind me of something where I have been hurt or experienced pain before? Is this feeling in proportion to the situation at hand or out of proportion to the circumstances before me?

This ability to control our thoughts and self-regulate our emotions will carry us through life.