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Unworkable Patterns

What is an unworkable pattern? It is helpful for us to examine the cycles and infinity patterns and routines that keep us stuck. We revolve in patterns of thoughts, feelings and actions. Also, we engage with others in repeated patterns – often unworkable patterns. How do you release or change a pattern that is destructive? How do we evolve?

Healthy changes begin with awareness. Beliefs are engrained in our youth and developed into patterns of thinking and feeling. To make changes we need to challenge beliefs that are outdated or no longer useful. We can begin with one assumption and visualize how we want the outcome to be different. Once we can see a picture in our mind of what we want the result to be, we can match it with a feeling of success, joy, pride rather than fear, guilt, anger or hurt. We can then ask ourselves “what thought do I need to cultivate to sustain that feeling?” Once we cultivate new thoughts and feelings, we are changing unworkable patterns. Congratulations on new cycles.

Sharon Nelson, LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor- Feel Better, Live Better

Courage

Many of us are familiar with the Alanon Book “Courage to Change”. It is a collection of healthy messages for daily living. Many of the passages speak of the courage to let go of resentments, courage to care for ourselves in mind, body and spirit, and courage to allow others to face their own challenges without smothering them with controlling thoughts and actions. This book is the centerpiece of 12 step recovery for family members who love someone with alcoholism or addictions. It takes courage to change ourselves rather than focus on the wrongs of another. Courage comes in ways of being still in the midst of a storm and other times standing strong for our boundaries.

Courage is exemplified by being able to ask for help when our pride says “you need to handle this alone”. Asking for professional help from a trained therapist/counselor may be the catalyst for a more satisfying life. Let’s grow our “Courage to Change”.

Sharon Nelson, LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor- Feel Better, Live Better

Feel Better, Live Better: Rules vs. Relationship

We all know parenting can be a challenge. Trying to figure out how to be there for your kids, while also maintaining structure can be tricky. Two important components to consider are rules and relationship; what are they and how do they interact?

In families, rules are the behavioral guidelines set by the parents. Having these guidelines enables children and teens to know exactly what is and is not acceptable, giving them the freedom to live without uncertainty of what is expected of them. In this way, rules serve as a sort of safety net. When children generally know what to expect, and can predict how the family will function from day to day, they feel safer and more confident. This also translates to how they interact with authority and with peers outside of the home. Appropriately utilizing rules in your home includes making sure that rules are enforceable, are clearly defined, and that consequences for breaking these rules are consistently followed through upon. Rules are not meant to micro-manage, but rather to create a safe set of guidelines for age-appropriate behavior that help your home to be a safe and happy place.

While rules are an important part of parenting, they are only part of the equation. As a well-known psychologist has stated, “rules without relationship leads to rebellion”. A healthy relationship with your children and teens is an imperative part of bringing up healthy children. This does not mean that there won’t be bad days, or attitudes, or door slamming. It does mean that no matter what happens, pursuing quality time with your children on a consistent basis is a priority. Quality time may look like going out for ice cream one on one, or simply taking a few minutes to play a game. No matter how you spend quality time with your kids, remember to listen without judgement, and to ask questions. This is their time to know that you’re there, and that you value them. While some parents struggle with quality time, other parents may place too much emphasis on the relationship aspect. This can look like trying to be your child’s best friend, allowing unacceptable behavior to avoid conflict, and not following through on limits to hopefully improve your child’s view of you, among other things. This type of parenting may ultimately do your child more harm than good. While they may interact well with you, they often struggle in other aspects of life such as school or work.

Both rules and relationship must be consistent. A child feeling loved one day and unloved the next can produce feelings of insecurity (and poor behavior) just like enforcing a rule one day and letting it slide the next. While rules and relationships are both important parts of parenting, one will rarely work without the other. They operate like a scale, and when you have too much of one or the other, things get off balance. A healthy relationship with your children is a foundation you can build on with the structure offered by appropriate and reasonable rules. You are more likely to get compliance from a child who respects and wants to please you than a child who is only trying to avoid a negative consequence. On the other hand, a child is more likely to respect a parent who consistently keeps their word by sticking with the defined rules and consequences. Life is far from predictable, and parenting is an extremely hard job. Always remember to listen to your kids, to create a consistent home environment, and to ask for help when you need it.

FAMILIES, COMMUNICATION AND TECHNOLOGY: DANGERS AND CHALLENGES

Family communication has been forever changed with technology, in both positive and negative ways. Previously, I shared ideas on how to use the technology already in your daily lives to increase and improve communication in your family. This article focuses more on some danger zones and challenges parents are faced with through our children’s access to technology.

Readily available information 24/7 online: This can be a very positive thing if a school report is due tomorrow morning and it is 8:45 pm. However, it can also be dangerous at times. Kid have ready access to lots of information, such as depression symptoms, but when searching for depression symptoms or ways to decrease it they are also likely to come across sites discussing suicide and possibly even ways to commit suicide. Some of the teens I have worked with have regular conversations with other teens across the country who they have never met in person to discuss their depression. If one of the internet friends decides suicide is their best option this could negatively impact your child or lead them in that direction also. If you have no idea what sites your children or teens are accessing, this could be a discussion you want to have to avoid future problems or surprises. On a positive note, you will probably also learn of some interesting websites you might also enjoy on hobbies or interests your child is engaged in.

Increased intimacy of relationships: Teen romantic relationships are getting significantly more intense and intimate than in the past due to technology. If a teenage girl or boy is constantly in contact with their boyfriend/girlfriend all day and all night they feel they know that person well very quickly. Some teens actually use certain apps such as Skype or Facetime to “sleep together.” They fall asleep and wake up with each other and this can quickly lead to sexual intimacy which they wouldn’t jump into as quickly if they only talked to each other at school and after school events. Controlling behavior patterns emerge quickly as well since one partner in the relationship may demand instant response to texts or calls or use these to track where the other person is at all times.

Access to inappropriate material: Everyone is aware that pornography is readily available online. What you may not know is that even kids in elementary school are hearing about this and learn what words to google or what sites to go to through conversations at school or on the bus. I actually worked with a 5th grader who had been watching 5-6 porn videos a day in the afternoons before the parents got home from work. The parents learned of it about 4 months after it started. That is a scary amount of exposure to that type of material. Parents need to be ready to have conversations with your kids about sexual activity and porn earlier than in the past due to this open access to the information online. It is a good idea to randomly ask about conversations at school or on the bus that may have confused or embarrassed them. If you ask them, they will tell you, but be prepared to respond in a calm way with age appropriate answers instead of getting upset or agitated, which they will interpret as getting in trouble. Make sure you have parental controls set to block inappropriate content on any device your child has access to in order to minimize their exposure to these types of websites.

Camera access 24/7: Most parents believe that sexting and inappropriate pictures only happens when kids get to be teenagers. However, on school buses and playgrounds some kids have cell phones and will ask girls to take pictures of themselves in the bathroom or boys will be trying to get pictures under girls’ skirts or dresses with their device. Most of the young teens I have worked with who are coming in after parents learned they are sexting or sending inappropriate pictures have never had a conversation with an adult about that issue. In each situation the parent(s) said “Well, I didn’t think I had to tell her/him not to do that” or “they should have known better.” This leads to huge conflicts and hurt feelings on both sides. If we don’t tell them it is not appropriate and all of their friends seem to think it is normal, why do we think they will know it is wrong? I recommend that parents have discussions with any child who will be independently using a cell phone or device that connects to the internet about appropriate sites; regularly check their history online; and have a technology curfew. The curfew means no phones or devices in the bedrooms after a certain time, usually close to bedtime. For obvious reasons, this is the most common time these types of activities are occurring. (It might be a good idea to implement a technology curfew even in parents’ bedrooms. Think of the increase in communication with your spouse or partner if the phones and iPads were not in the bedroom. Just a thought.)

Perpetrators have ready access to our kids: My daughter is 10 years old and last year during a winter storm I took her to my office since school was closed for the day. She was playing Minecraft online with her cousin and suddenly gasped and said, “I can’t believe he said that to me.” Evidently, when you play Minecraft and have the chat feature turned on, other people online can chat with you. Someone had asked her, “Do you want to have sex?” She was literally 2 feet from me at the time! My niece was totally not surprised and her statement back to my daughter was, “Oh yeah, if you don’t turn off chat they do that all the time.” She was not at all shocked or surprised. I didn’t even know there was a chat feature in Minecraft! Other apps and video games have similar features, such as Xbox online games. Some kids I worked with in the past had gotten in trouble with their parents after gifts started arriving in the mail that were not appropriate and parents’ learned they had given out their address to people they were talking to while playing video games online. If your child is going to have access to these games and apps, you need to be prepared to have a discussion with them about safety, not sharing personal information, and when to seek you out if someone approaches them about inappropriate things such as sex or meeting in person somewhere. It would not be a bad idea to occasionally hang out in the room they are playing in and listen to some of the conversations they are having to make sure they are safe.

Dangerous websites: Some of the websites that teens locally find funny or interesting are treasure troves for sexual perpetrators. Kids go online to look at sexual pictures and content and a lot of them see it as funny or gross rather than inappropriate. I have worked with young teen girls who met people on these websites pretending to be teen boys and asking for inappropriate pictures. This escalates into threats against the girl’s family if they don’t continue the behaviors and follow the offenders directions, only to get into serious trouble with their parents when it is discovered. When the parents have gone to the police to try to press charges on the perpetrator in those instances, they have been told there is no guarantee the girl will not also be charged with distribution of porn so none of the families have moved forward with prosecution because of that. This is emboldening the offenders to reach out even more because there are rarely consequences for them.

In short, technology is advancing quickly and is very useful and make parts of our lives much easier. However, it can also be a dangerous tool in the hands of the wrong people. To protect your kids, you need to be aware of the dangers and prepared to have open conversations with your children about internet safety on a regular basis. There are some programs in the area that go to schools or churches to teach kids about internet safety, such as the Morgan Nick Foundation. Check with your school counselor or google internet safety for kids to find programs to use with your child or just so you can learn the information and then educate your children yourself.

I hope this information is helpful and starts some meaningful discussions in your family that will open communication and keep everyone safely connected to one another at home and online. Please feel free to contact us about an appointment if you learn your child has been involved in some of these activities or even if you just aren’t sure about how to approach the subject with your kids and need some pointers.

By Paula Coleman, LCSW – Pinnacle Counseling NWA
Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

Individual Support for Marriage Problems at Pinnacle Counseling

Healthy Habits for the New Year

People expend a great deal of effort contemplating their own happiness or lack thereof. They invest a great deal of time and mental processing power in seeking to understand how they could be happier. Those prone to depression or anxiety might spend their time contrasting their current circumstances with their expectations or an idealized version of what they want their life to be. Whether a client is dealing with panic attacks, anxiety, depression, or a general lack of direction and fulfillment, counselors generally find that their clients do not benefit from attempts to think their way out of their problems. Often, actions are more beneficial than thoughts.

If you want to change how you feel, change your habits. Replace unhealthy habits with healthy habits. Research shows that habits form naturally if behaviors are repeated consistently. Habits may form in as quickly as 18 days. Sometimes it takes longer, over 100 days. We recommend clearly defining the healthy habit you wish to form and using a calendar to track your daily progress. Place a large X on every day you successfully execute the behavior.

The more specific the behavior, the easier it will be to monitor progress with the calendar.

The types of behaviors you wish to change may include:

  • alcohol or tobacco use
  • eating habits
  • exercise habits
  • use of TV/Internet
  • sleep patterns
  • spending habits

The purpose of process is to take something that seems very complex — how am I going to feel happier, more fulfilled? — and make it much simpler — did I successfully limit myself to one hour of television today? If you are able to achieve your daily behavior objective, mark an X and relax. By the time your new behaviors are habits, you may feel differently about yourself and the direction your life is taking.

Communication Breakdown: Opportunity to Not Understand

When we communicate verbally, we are using symbols to convey meaning. If I tell someone that my car is red, there is a high probability that (if they are listening) they will understand what I am trying to communicate. Because he or she probably has a very clear understanding of what the word red and car represent. People don’t argue often about whether something is red or not. Or whether it is raining or not. These type of concrete statements rarely the source of confusion or disagreement.

Emotions, on the other hand, can be slippery. Here is a small example using a common emotion: fear.

I am afraid of big, barking dogs.

Simple statement. The meaning should be clear. A deeper examination of two test cases, however, demonstrates that when emotions are the content of the message communication is rarely black and white (or red). The same statement communicated by two different people can have radically different meanings.

Person A: I am afraid of big, barking dogs. Person A is does not like loud noises in general. Neither does he like dogs. He thinks they are filthy creatures who track mud everywhere they go. Barking dogs are a combination of two things this person doesn’t like. Loud noises make him nervous and bigger dogs bark louder.

Person B: I am afraid of big, barking dogs. Person B was attacked by a neighbor’s dog as a child. He had to go to the hospital to treat the injuries and still has scars on his arms. He vividly remembers being told that the dog was friendly, all bark and no bite. He feels tightness in his chest when he is close to larger dogs.

Same statement. Completely different meanings. It is the responsibility of both the speaker and the listener to ensure emotional statements are understood.

 

Feel Better Live Better

Do you talk to yourself?

Of course!!  Everybody does.   The better question is “what do you say to yourself?”

Brene’ Brown, LCSW, a leading researcher in resiliency and human behavior notes that current research demonstrates that the difference between those that are confident and those who are not is that those who are — “claim their confidence”.  They tell themselves positive messages, feel the positive feelings and act accordingly.  Confident people don’t wait for someone else to give them permission for confidence or wait for others to take away confidence.  I recommend that you take some time to check out Brene’ Brown on You Tube or one of her books.

A helpful exercise is to set an alarm to several intervals throughout the day.  Then check to see what you are telling yourself.  You may be surprised by the results.

What we put our attention on grows and what we take our attention away from diminishes.  We need to counteract negative, blaming thoughts which destroy our growth.

The following are 5 affirmations which are worth time and effort in exploring.

  • I have courage.
  • I release my old unworkable patterns.
  • I deserve a supportive relationship.
  • I release my disappointments
  • I am creating the life that I want.

Let’s consider some dialogue or self talk about each statement.

I have courage.  We can picture a mountain road which has turn backs and inclines and declines.  We can have the courage to keep moving knowing that it is not all uphill or downhill, but will lead to a vista with perspective.  The root of courage is “cour”, referring to the heart.  Listen to your heart.

I release my old unworkable patterns. Imagine a large old worn box in which you are contained.  Now picture a new comfortable beautiful box.  Visualize yourself stepping from one to the other.  In this new box, you can embrace new habits and thoughts.  You can try new ways to say and do things as well as new self messages.

I deserve a supportive relationship. We teach others how to treat us by how we treat ourselves.  We can protect ourselves by putting up barriers to hurtful, controlling remarks and demands.  Picture how animals  protect their boundaries and respect others to take care of themselves.  Ask yourself what a supportive relationship looks like to you and share it with those who are of support to you.  Believe in your own value.

I release my disappointments. Hanging on to resentments and misgivings is a sure way to build anxiety and depression.  Releasing disappointments can be visualized in many ways.  One way is to name the disappointment and imagine putting it on an imaginary leaf to float down an imaginary stream. Another graphic visualization is to release one or several disappointments in an imaginary  hot air balloon.   You might also visualize a room with two doors in which you see the disappointment come in one door and exit the other.  The disappointments don’t need to live in your mind, body, or spirit.

I am creating the life that I want. Putting your focus on the life that you want is the way to attract your desires.  Try spending five to fifteen minutes a day watching a movie in your mind about the life that you want.  Your intention will create your destiny.  You’ll begin taking active steps to create a reality that is life fulfilling. Follow your positive self talk to create a meaningful life.  Spiritual connection with a higher power will also give added guidance to your life. Knowing the recordings in your mind and where they came from is part of the equation to a healthier happier life.  The other more important part is to choose what you say to yourself. This takes a conscious effort. Counseling is a valuable resource to identify the healthy and unhealthy messages an how to make adjustments.  Listen to your voices and talk back.

By Sharon Nelson

Self-Esteem Counseling at Pinnacle Counseling

 

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