What the Mind/Body connection teaches us about relationships?

By Terry Richardson MSW LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

PinnacleCounselingNWA.com

Feel Better Live Better- What the Mind/Body connection teaches us about relationships?

Of the most important things we need to know about life, having healthy relationships is foremost. So where do we learn this vital information? It’s easy to identify relationships that aren’t working, a short read of the newspaper, fifteen minutes of the evening news broadcast or just standing in line at the grocery store reveals the difficult and sometimes tragic results of a relationship gone wrong. So what does a healthy relationship have? From my perspective, each of us, in our mind/body existence, are given a natural example of the potentially perfect relationship.

The essential elements of all healthy relationships are balance, contrast and complementarity. Effective application of these elements give us tools to interact with family, friends and coworkers, and how we treat ourselves.

In order to illustrate the mind/body relationship think for a moment about your body as a vehicle and your mind as the driver. The next time you get into your car, consider the relationship you have established with it because of the cooperative and collaborative agreement you have with it, you accomplish your purpose of being transported from point “A” to point “B”, and whether it’s in a Lamborghini or a Ford, the results are the same. The mind/body relationship your “self” is the journey you are on and the people in your life are passengers for the trip. Are you having fun yet?

Balance

What is balance? One physical definition is “the equalization of forces.” In other works, neither the body or mind dominates or assumes complete control. If you’ve ever experienced a stuck gas pedal wildly accelerating, had to push a car you’ve failed to fuel, or the frustration of an exhaustingly long trip, and in spite of “cruise control” your hands on the wheel – literally in “co-operation.” In a healthy relationship sharing responsibility is more productive than dominance or control.

Contrast

Night and day, sweet and sour, sharp and dull, old and young. Contrast is what helps us examine and experience one thing by knowing its counterpart. Though not always an opposite, contrast is an inescapable acknowledge of the other side of the coin, the “flip side” of what is known versus the unknown. Contrast helps us get clarity about our own identity by providing a framework of reference that makes us distinct from our surroundings. A healthy relationship creates a backdrop in our experience of life so that we might more clearly define and know who we are.

Complementarity

I would be ludicrous to get behind the driver’s seat and just sit there, waiting for the trip to start. Why? It is the interaction of all of the components involved that makes the difference. Complementarity is the harmonic blending of balance and contrast into action. It is the reason that apparently impossible things can happen – the reason you can” drive” to St. Louis in 5 hours. When we focus on complementarity in our relationships, conflicts created by power struggles and insecurities created by differences, dissolve. In a healthy relationship strengths and differences are assets that make the sum greater than its parts.

In my work as a psychotherapist, I often remind couples or individuals I am working with, that most people know more about maintaining a car that a relationship. That is primarily because we too often accept relationships as a “given” part of life, whereas a car is something we work for, and need to know how to take care of. Our learning about relationships “just happens’ through observation and experience (primarily trial and error) and when we do ask for advice we generally don’t consult the experts.

The next time you find yourself unhappily stuck by the side of the road, the mind/body owner’s manual of relationships might be the first place to look.

Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

By Terry Richardson, MSW LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

PinnacleCounselingNWA.com

Feel Better Live Better- Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

 

Worried about being worried sick? Is laughter really the best medicine? Your body may know you’re depressed before you do and doing its best to get your attention. There is growing evidence, supported by research, indicating your mental state really influences your body’s ability to protect and heal itself! In fact, your state of mind could be the best tool you have when defending yourself against illness and maximizing treatment of cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes and aging. All of your natural defenses are compromised in response to stress (primarily mental).

Most people have at least heard the term “psychosomatic” which quite literally means “mind/body”. Unfortunately, this term was and is commonly misused when someone is thought to have imagined an illness and can then produce symptoms. In confusion, we generally label and dismiss what could be more accurately described as “hypochondria” and have overlooked the power of the psychosomatic process itself. As Woody Allen said “I’m not a hypochondriac, I’m an alarmist”. Ironically, even this rather negative misunderstanding of psychosomatic also confirms the acceptance of the ability of one’s mind to influence a physical condition. Now, scientific research is validating that possibility: we could use the power of the mind (i.e., thinking) to create optimal conditions for becoming and remaining well.

What makes the mind/body perspective worth reconsidering at this juncture? It is the transition which has been occurring, from the realm of “fuzzy logic”, “magical beliefs” and “spiritual eccentricity”, to the realm of solid measurable data. Consider the placebo and nocebo effect. What are the “placebo effect” and the “nocebo effect”? In the simplest terms, it’s the “sugar pill” effect. It’s the uncanny result that is obtained from a substance, or sometimes a behavior, when none of the “treatment” properties are present to create the desired change, and yet, benefit is derived. The nocebo effect accounts for adopting the “belief” that a substance (or change) won’t work, and it doesn’t! The placebo/nocebo effects are so powerful in fact, that all research conducted must allow for the possibility of these effects in their research data. If science is nothing else, it is the domain of measurability, and its primary mantra is “if it cannot be measured, we cannot know it exists”, therefore, thoughts, emotions, feelings, mind and spirit had been relegated into the arena of unscientific observations. Today however, we live in a world of electron microscopes, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and the previously immeasurable can now be measured, observed and replicated.

Mind/Body interaction had been observed and documented by Hans Selye in his work on stress as early as 1946 and the “General Adaptation Syndrome” became popularly known as the Fight-Flight- Freeze response. Of special note regarding mind/body relevance, the stress experience creating the cascade of measurable physiological responses could be triggered consistently, regardless of the threat being real, imagined or perceived (through a mental interpretation) of danger. The body reacts to stimulus by activating the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to stress (real or imagined) results in suppression of the immune system, wear and tear of several body systems, placing the individual at higher risk of dis-ease. This was the advent of the earliest biofeedback strategies.

Pioneers in the field of mind/body research have expanded on Selye’s work. Researchers and practitioners have emerged from a broad array of disciplines, including cellular biology, neuroimmunology, psychotherapy and spirituality, representing the specific focus of their disciplines, be it mind or body. The unifying premise of these disciplines is an acknowledgement of the fallacy or artificial separation of mind/body interaction.

These individuals have united under a variety of identifying umbrella labels usually incorporating the terms “Holistic or Wholistic”, “Mind/Body” or “Complementary Alternative” Medicine.

So, with an acceptance of the inter-relatedness of the mind/body concept and the availability of sophisticated equipment, it has become possible to identify and measure methods to enhance mind/body interaction. The implications for psychotherapy are obvious and substantiate the value of “talk therapy” as a viable treatment alternative for mental and physical health. The mind/body perspective includes approaches of prevention that are proactive, health maintaining, healing, and driven by the individual. Today, rather than viewing the dis-ease “treatment” as a response, directed toward a passive recipient, we can engage the whole person on a mind/body journey toward wellness. Be well!

The Habit of People Pleasing

Are you in the habit of always thinking of everyone else first and putting your own needs dead last?  Well, you are not alone!  That issue comes up frequently when someone shares with me about their anxiety or depression.  There are likely several factors at play that cause you to sell yourself short.  But in the end, you are left feeling resentful and exhausted.  Who is there to meet your needs?

We have to start “showing up” and making our own needs and wants known.  A favorite saying of mine is, “You teach others how to treat you by what you allow”.  Powerful stuff! Think about your current relationships.  Do these relationships have a 50/50 balance, with you and the other person being equally important?  If not, why?  Chances are, you definitely deserve to own 50% of the input in the relationship.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a powerful tool for overcoming the habit of people pleasing.  We learn a life time of “messages” we receive from others which reinforce that our opinion doesn’t matter.  We learn that it’s not ok to make others upset or disappoint them. That belief may have served you once in your life, but with those kinds of thinking patterns our souls can really take a beating after a while.  CBT helps by uncovering the messages you hold to be true and teaches you to re-write the script.  The technique of assertive communication is important here, too.  The two extremes, passive and aggressive styles of communication, usually aren’t very helpful in the long run.  Assertive communication says “Your needs matter, and so do mine”.  Try to get in the habit of thinking and responding with that thought in mind.

To many, making themselves a priority has never crossed their mind.  How is there room for that when you are busy being supermom/wife/employee…?  You may find that by taking care of yourself first, or at least making your self-care an equal priority in the equation, you have more to give to others.  You may feel guilt about this, and frankly others may try to make you feel guilty about it, but self-care is vital to mental and physical health.  Self-care can be as simple as taking 15 minutes to enjoy coffee with a friend, getting to the gym for a work out, reading quietly- anything you want that is nurturing to your soul.  The only requirement is that it takes care of YOU.  It is ok to be nice to yourself!

Rachael Nachtigal, LPC

Sports Psychology in Everyday Life (part 1)

As a former student-athlete, I have always considered there to be a huge difference between athletes and all “normal people”. We watch their highs and lows on Friday nights during the big game, root for them to get scholarships to play for good schools, and hope that one day, they can take their passion to the next level in professional sports. We eat, sleep, and breathe for the moment when we get to see our child light up after a tough game or when our alma mater beats our hometown rival. Athletes spend countless hours in the gym, practicing the perfect jump shot, strategizing over a playbook, and conditioning to prepare for a game. They obsess over their skill set, teammates, coaches’ opinion, and preparation level each moment of the day. At the end of the season, athletes assimilate back into the lull of offseason athletics and train for the next year. While athletes are just one example, we are all hyphenated people: student-athletes, working mothers, stay at home fathers, best friends, supportive spouses; but overall, we are not that much different than our favorite star players. This means that “sports psychology” is not only for athletes. It is for the rest of us who live our lives as complex people, hyphenated people. In this three part series, we will explore how everyone can benefit from sports psychology tricks and tips for your everyday life.

Why sports psychology does not apply only to athletes:

Reason #1: Sports psychology involves the connection between your mind and body while performing an activity. The interaction between your thoughts, body movements, sensations, and total involvement in a task creates a unique experience that is not only for athletes. This connection can happen when you do anything you are passionate about. All you have to do is realize what your passion is—reading, lifting weights, playing with your children, running, walking your dog, or writing—and do that. The “zone” and “flow” will come faster than you realize if you allow yourself the freedom and pleasure to do what it is that you love.

 

By Erika McCaghren

Check it out!

The Search for happiness

TED.com pioneered the digital presence of speakers on a world stage, to your own computer, tablet, or smartphone. Happiness and people’s perception of happiness is a hot topic of discussion today. How we each choose to pursue and believe in our own happiness is an ever-changing process of growth, introspection, and inspiration. Below are videos from TED Talks about three people’s very different views of happiness and how one can practice happiness daily.

#1: Matthieu Ricard – The Habits of Happiness
Ricard discusses navigating what some call “the dirty work of happiness” and how happiness is an attitude that can be found from within oneself, regardless of the outer experiences of life.
http://www.ted.com/talks/matthieu_ricard_on_the_habits_of_happiness.html?embed=true

#2: Neil Pasricha – The Three A’s of Awesome
Blogger of 1000awesomethings.com, dedicated to celebrating the simple things in life tells his personal journey with the three A’s of awesome: attitude, awareness, and authenticity.
http://www.ted.com/talks/neil_pasricha_the_3_a_s_of_awesome.html?embed=true

#3: Matt Killingsworth: Want to be happier? Stay in the moment
Killingsworth discusses his research into the mental state of everyday people and when they are happier. He talks about his findings that when a person’s mind wanders, people tend to be less happy.
http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_killingsworth_want_to_be_happier_stay_in_the_moment.html?embed=true

 

“May you be well. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering.”
–traditional Buddhist prayer

 

Erika McCaghren

Psychotherapy

The first word of this compound word says it all “psycho”. No one wants to be associated with something that is strange, difficult to handle, and perhaps the worst of all: a scary, new experience. If you were to ask a friend or family member what psychotherapy is, they would most likely say something about paying a lot of money to talk about problems (and that’s putting it nicely). If you were to ask a counselor or therapist, we would describe it as a chance to be heard, without judgment through the ears and eyes of a professional, in the comfort and safety of a confidential session. The talking part might be easy…or hard depending on how you view your problems. If providing a safe place where clients can talk about whatever it is that is troubling them is the job of the counselor, what is your job as a client in psychotherapy? What do you have to know before you even walk through the door? Most first time clients wonder how we expect you to tell everything that you are thinking and feeling after just meeting.

These are common questions that can be answered. A client simply has to make the appointment with a counselor or therapist and come ready for the experience. Okay…that may seem a bit more intimidating than helpful, but it’s the truth. If you are open to the experience of psychotherapy as something completely different and refreshing you are on the road to understanding what it is and how it works. Before you walk through the door, you should know that you are not alone. Every single person you pass on the street has a past, a story, a journey. That road is paved with troubles, hardships, and bumps that throw off your sense of balance as you walk the road. This is where you have to believe that there are trained professionals ready to help and to listen to you. Why would a counselor want to listen to all of the “bumps” along the way in your life? Because we are trained to provide the safe haven for you to explore the inner workings of what is really going on in your life. There is no façade, just a real and honest experience with another person to ensure that you don’t trip on the bumps of life and walk, silent and hurting, through the rest of life.

If you are working through the bumps in your life and decide that the word psychotherapy is not as scary as facing it on your own…that is what we are here for.

 

Erika McCaghren

Have the Courage to be Your True Self

“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our own story is the bravest thing we will ever do.”

-Brene Brown

Vulnerability is scary.  It is so often avoided.  It means to show the parts of ourselves that we are afraid aren’t “good enough”.  But you know what?  Everyone has the same fear of not being good enough.  When we are held hostage by that fear, we miss out on our true happiness.  You live a life that you think others want you to live.

No one is perfect.  Perfectionism is a cruel joke.  Perfectionism makes us wake up every day feeling like we failed yesterday.  There is no joy in that life.  Dare to practice loving yourself for who you really are.

For more on this, watch this clip of Dr. Brene Brown on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YeulUgWNp8

or the full  TED talk:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o

Rachael Nachtigal, LPC

April is Counseling Awareness Month

April is Counseling Awareness Month! Although many people know generally what counselors do, this is a time for counselors everywhere to stand together to promote the use of counseling services. We do this by reaching out to clients, readers, social media outlets, and through simple word of mouth that “We are here”. Pinnacle Counseling stands in full support of Counseling Awareness Month by showing people that we care and are here to support you. Knowing that there is a group of professionals near you, ready and willing to listen and help you through a particularly hard time or everyday struggles of life is a valuable tool. In any given situation, no matter the cause, difficulty, or time you have been dealing with the issue—we are here. Simply remember…Keep Calm and Call a Counselor!

 

Erika McCaghren

 

Sources: American Counseling Association