Sometimes I get discouraged.  Can we really change our thoughts, attitudes and actions?  This business of changing, growing, being the best we can be is hard work!  I can’t sit in autopilot, just operating the way I always have and expect myself to be healthier.  I know this is true when it comes to physical health.  I have to get up a little earlier to fit in a walk before I head out the door, which means I have to think about it the night before when I set my alarm.  I actually need to get up when the alarm goes off.  I have to tell myself, “Karen, if you don’t get up you are not going to have time to walk.  If you don’t walk, your muscles will begin to atrophy (which they do a lot faster at 47 than they did when I was 30).  Your back and neck are going to hurt.  Your clothes will get tight. OK, OK I’m getting up.”  It’s all very intentional.
So it is with my mind and emotions.  My last post on grabbing the steering wheel of your emotions has come around and slapped me in the face.  I have had to say to myself several times in the last week, “You are responsible for how you feel, you are responsible for how you feel, you are…” to keep me from giving in to my automatic responses.  I want to lash out at others.  I want them to change, not me.  I want this to be easier!!!  But, it’s not.  My job is to put one foot in front of the other.  To take one moment at a time, to breathe, to sort things out – Why am I feeling what I’m feeling?  Where do I have control?  What is mine to own in this situation?  I also benefit by pausing and looking back over the course of my life.  What is different since I have been on my growth path?  Oh yes, I’m willing to take more risks.  I don’t live in safe mediocrity.  I don’t beat myself up as often as I once did.  I am softer.  I like the changes, which means…all this work is worth it!
I have also learned none of us can do this on our own.  I have worked with my own therapists and coaches, I have been in a recovery group and I have friends who are linking arms with me as we continue on the path of healing and growth.  I encourage you to seek out the help you might need as you journey toward healing.  You may need to find a counselor/therapist, a coach or recovery group to help you in your quest.  Supportive friends you can trust are mandatory if you want to see true lasting change.
We can heal, we can grow, we can change.  It takes being intentional, staying with it, and supportive people.

About Me

I’m a licensed counselor with a private practice in Lafayette, CO (near Boulder and Denver).  I believe in the therapeutic process.  I believe that change is possible.  My focus as a therapist is to uncover the underlying causes of ineffective behaviors and attitudes, empower my clients to heal, and equip them with healthier ways of relating to themselves and the world around them.  So much of who we are as adults is affected by what we had to do as children to get the love and acceptance we needed to survive.  In a healthy family unit, a child is provided with unconditional love and acceptance.  The environment is warm, truthful and encouraging.  The problem is that most of us didn’t get that.  Maybe bits and pieces, but our parents or caregivers were imperfect and couldn’t possibly give us everything we needed just as we needed it.  So we learned to hide parts of ourselves that we thought (most likely at the subconscious level) were unacceptable.  Maybe we heard the negative verdict about those parts directly or maybe we interpreted  the information that way with our young minds.  It doesn’t take a major event or abuse to cause a child to put a part of herself into hiding.
Many of us are walking around with unhealthy beliefs about ourselves and others.  Those unhealthy beliefs get in the way of living in freedom.  Do you ever feel stuck?  You just keep doing the same things in relationships and can’t figure out how to change?  That’s where therapy comes in.  Once we figure out the wound that you are dealing with, we work to create healing opportunities.  Believe it or not often all we really need is for someone to know everything about us and stay.  That’s what I do.  I stay.  I hear what you really think and feel and I don’t leave.  I encourage you to find safe people who can do the same:  know everything about you and stay.
We work on changing some of the false beliefs you have about yourself with the truth.  We are all created with purpose.  Not one of us is an accident.  Each of us brought joy to our Creator the moment we came into existence.  Before we did one thing we were loved.  The doing part of our life doesn’t change the amount of love God has for us, not any less and not any more.
Skill building is another facet to changing unwanted behaviors and attitudes.  We work on that, too.  Sometimes we have to rewire the way we handle certain situations or triggers.  It can take a lot of time and be quite frustrating, but in the end, it is worth it when you see yourself living life the way it was intended: in freedom.  No baggage, no shame, no burdens pulling you down.
I share my thoughts and views about life and counseling in this blog.  This blog is not intended to replace therapy.  Please find a good therapist if you need one, don’t rely on my written word to bring about the changes you seek.  A few places to start are PsychologyToday.com and Theravive.com.  They are sites that list thousands of therapists around the US.
Some information about my training:  I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, a Master of Science in Counseling and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor.  I have received additional training in EMDR, DBT, The Hendricks Institute Foundations Seminar, Gottman Method Couples’ Therapy and Shadow Work Basic Facilitator Training.  In addition, I attended the Cloud and Townsend Ultimate Leadership Intensive and One Week Intensive for Counselors.  I am currently attending the Counselor Training Program, a one year training with John Townsend. ( www.cloudandtownsend.com)

The Benefits of Assertiveness Part II

Just before I clicked “publish” to post “The Benefits of Assertiveness Part I,” I knew I was going to write a follow-up.  That’s when I edited the title, adding “Part I”.  I realized that the encouragement to go for it with assertiveness could be paralyzing for some.  Often the parts in us that seem to be in hiding are not simply going to emerge with gusto just because we’ve read an inspiring article.  I know, I’ve been there.  I’ll read something that makes life change seem so simple.  Broken down into tidy steps: 1, 2 ,3.  I see myself taking the steps and voila! the problem is gone.  When I actually attempt to make the change…well…it sure doesn’t resemble anything that would be preceded by “voila!”
The journey toward emotional health rarely follows a straight line upward and to the right.  It looks a lot more like a zig zag going up and down, all over the board, yet still revealing a general trend heading gently upward and toward the right.  It can be challenging to notice that our movement isn’t always consistently going in the direction we want it to, but that’s reality for most of us.  We are flawed, imperfect beings.  We are inconsistent by nature.  The goal in our growth cannot be perfection.  Not only is perfection discouraging, it simply isn’t possible.  When we set the bar so high that we can never reach it, we tend to find ourselves stagnated by discouragement.  Ever been there?
If being assertive is a challenge for you, I hope that you will find comfort in knowing that you are not alone.  Sometimes it helps just to be aware of that.  “Oh, so this part of me that doesn’t work the way I want it to is something other people deal with, too?”  Yes!  You might even be surprised if you could hear the very real and honest thoughts of those around you.  Thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, fear of failure, thinking they are too much or not enough just to name a few.  Acknowledge what you are dealing with and how you feel about it.
Notice that part of you when it shows up.  In my example with assertiveness, I started being aware of it.  I would notice what it felt like when I had something to say, but held it in or chose to be inactive instead of acting on something.  I asked myself what was holding me back.  In most cases it was rooted in a long-held belief that I have to be liked.  I thought people only liked those who were always amenable.  There is another root for me and that one is perfectionism.  If I attempt something and it’s not perfect, I believe I will not be accepted.  The work on those two pieces actually required therapy.  Yes, even therapists need a therapist.  In fact, I believe a good therapist has participated in therapy and continues to work on her stuff!  You may need to work with a therapist, too.  If you continually find yourself stuck, desperately wanting to change but never seeing any results, I recommend you find a good therapist.
Once you’ve identified the why behind not being assertive ask yourself the risks involved with changing.  For me, the risk of being assertive meant not everyone will like me and I might not execute things with perfection.  I grew to be ok with that.  As I let go of my desire to be liked by everyone (which is just not possible, anyway) and my perfectionism, I began taking steps toward expressing my assertiveness.  It’s not always neat and tidy.  I stumble along the way, but I’m moving.  I like to think of working on our undeveloped parts being like a baby learning to walk.  Have you ever witnessed this feat?  They never go from laying on the ground to walking.  NEVER!  They first have to develop the muscles necessary to get themselves up on all fours, gradually moving to pulling themselves up to standing.  When they finally take that first step it is wobbly.  They typically fall, a lot!  Oh, and they never go from first steps to running with ease overnight.  It takes years to graduate to smooth running.
I like to keep this in mind any time I am changing a behavior or developing a new way of relating to myself and those around me.  We can be so hard on ourselves when we don’t see immediate change.  Just accept that it isn’t possible, be gentle with yourself as you travel down the road of emotional growth.  It takes time, it is messy, inconsistent and so worth it!