Month: October 2016

Picture of old statues in which a King appears to be shaming a woman.

Understanding Shame and How To Heal From It

One of the biggest and most powerful obstacles in psychological healing can be healing the feelings of shame. Shame is a powerful and insidious emotion. It hurts us from deep inside and causes us to forget our own strength and potential. Shame colors how we see ourselves and can even help us paint ourselves and our obstacles in a negative light. For example, some of us may feel ashamed for struggling with anxiety or depression. Although these obstacles aren’t our fault, we may still feel as though we deserve to be ashamed for having them. In situations such as these, feelings of shame can forgo any sense of reason or logic. Instead, shame is irrational and, ultimately, harmful.

The Magnitude of Shame

Shame is like a deadly virus. However, rather than attacking our immune system, shame attacks our capacity to love ourselves and one another. Repeated shamings can lead to the development of beliefs such as our own feelings are invalid. Speaker, counselor, and teacher, Dr. David Bedrick explains that “when we are shamed repeatedly, we are taught to think that our feelings are wrong and our experiences are delusive.” This can occur during childhood or even as an adult. Unfortunately, the result is the same either way: when there is no one with the necessary compassion to understand the validity of our stories and experiences, we may have a hard time believing them as well. This is the case even when we know our experiences to be true and authentic. Instead, Dr. Bedrick says, “we learn to distrust ourselves; we learn to deny our own truth, even to ourselves.”

Three Steps to Healing from Shame

Dr. Bedrick is a highly experienced practitioner of what is known as process-oriented psychology. This method is also known as Jungian psychology, as it follows the school of thought of famed psychologist Carl Jung. When it comes to dealing with excessive feelings of shame, Dr. Bedrick has found that transforming this negative mindset requires plenty of patience. However, more importantly, it requires the patient be willing to witness and listen in a truly powerful way – through seeing, feeling, and ultimately, believing. These three techniques are incredibly important for the overall healing process. Their significance and their roles in combating negative mindsets like shame are further explored below:

1. Seeing

According to Dr. Bedrick, the notion of “seeing” is on that is heavily synonymous with respect. He breaks it down thusly: “ 1) spect: to see, to view, to look at; and 2) re: to do it again. To see in a way that heals shame, is to look and then look again—to see what is not seen and affirm the unseen with our physical and verbal recognition.” In other words, we must learn to see beyond the surface of any situation to truly what is going on. This isn’t an easy task, but it’s necessary to develop the proper perspective. Seeing can sometimes mean visualizing someone else’s emotional state, but it can also mean simply acknowledging how someone else feels and trying to understand why they’re feeling that way. This makes the feelings seem important, justified, and perhaps most of all – believable.

2. Feeling

Dr. Bedrick says that “to combat shame, we also need someone to be moved by our experience. We need to not only ‘see,’ but feel and express those feelings.” To accomplish this, we must not only listen to these experiences but we must pay attention to our own feelings and how they respond. This is a necessary exercise in empathy. When someone relays a story of a time they were injured, we may respond visually by wincing, cringing, or furrowing our brow. These physical cues demonstrate that we are not only passively listening to their experience, we are also attempting to understand how they’re feeling by partially adopting their perspective. This response also shows that we are compassionate, which can contribute to an overall sense of validation. Causing someone to feel moved by sharing negative experiences lends those experiences a sense of much-needed legitimacy.

3. Believing

Speaking of legitimacy, one of the most important factors in dismantling shame is believing. Dr. Bedrick describes shame thusly: “Shame is a thief. It steals our belief in our experience and our belief in ourselves.” In this way, the only way to properly combat negative feelings like shame is by restoring belief, both in ourselves and others. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every word we say must be regarded as absolute truth. Rather, the deeper truth within our stories and experiences must be believed – the core of these experiences. More importantly, we must be believed in, not only by others, but also by ourselves.

Once again we return to the theme of justification. When we listen to an experience and offer our support without questioning its validity we are showing that we believe in that person. This can be an important part of their ability to combat their own feelings of shame and self-loathing. Belief without questioning in circumstances such as these is sometimes known as radical belief. Dr. Bedrick explains that “being radically believed changes something, because when people are shamed, not only do they experience not being believed from the outside, but they also stop believing themselves.” Conversely, radical belief can help them combat that sense of shame as well as help them develop a greater sense of self-love.

Shame Can be Treated and Healed

Together, these three pivotal qualities can help individuals realize their own significance and value. They also begin to realize that their feelings matter and are worthy of talking about. We deserve to be seen and heard. But most importantly we deserve to be understood. These qualities, whether practiced by friends in a casual setting, or by a therapist in a safe, protected one, can help alter the trajectory of someone’s life. They can heal shame, and allow us to grow in the ways we’ve always wanted to, but never realized until now that we deserved.

If you have questions about personal therapy in Boca Raton to address shame and low self-esteem, please call our office today @ 800-378-9354.
young woman experiencing negative emotions

Treating Depression with Behavior Therapy

Depression can be a daily struggle. It can make even the simplest tasks seem monumental. With depression, it can be difficult to get out of bed, even with all of the opportunities that await us. We may not enjoy things that we normally would, and we may feel as though we have no energy to spend time with those who would otherwise make us smile. Symptoms such as these are why depression is being recognized as the leading cause of disability in the world, according to a new report by the World Health Organization.

This report, which was reviewed in April 2016, reveals that “Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.” Additionally, they confirm that “depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.”

Depression is Highly Treatable

Thankfully, however, depression is among those diseases that are highly treatable, particularly with therapeutic intervention. One of the most successful treatments for depression is CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT focuses on grounding the patient in the present moment to decrease rumination and reliving unpleasant thoughts and experiences. It can also help patients change their thoughts and behaviors to improve their overall mood. In many cases, therapy alone can be effective against depression, but for some patients, a combination of therapy and prescription medication is recommended. The most commonly prescribed medications are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

Medication can be a good way to reduce symptoms of depression but they don’t get to the root of the problem. This is where therapy is particularly beneficial. Therapy can help us understand what we’re feeling and lead us to possible reasons why. Through this, we can learn strategies to help better manage our emotions in a healthy and constructive way, rather than allowing them to consume us. However, there are a few things that we can personally do to help facilitate this process. Although depression can feel as though it has taken control of our lives, there are ways in which we can remind ourselves that we are in control: over our minds, our lives, and ultimately our happiness.

What is Behavioral Activation for Depression?

Known as Behavioral Activation, this treatment method involves focusing on altering certain behaviors to reduce depression. Behavioral Activation is a relatively low-cost and straightforward approach to combatting depression. To practice it, we must find activities in our lives which we enjoy, and which provide a sense of competence and importance. These feeling provide a sense of security, which depression is known for taking away. By using Behavioral Activation, we can identify which activities cause us to feel joy and fulfill us in the ways we need most. Below are a few strategies through which we can make the most of our Behavioral Activation. In this way, we can come closer to overcoming our depression.

3 Things to Try to Brighten Your Mood

1. Plan Activities You Enjoy

 Perhaps the most important step to the Behavioral Activation treatment method is to plan activities that are enjoyable and/or significant to us. Depression can make it hard for us to feel motivated to do the things we value, so it’s important that we learn to make time for ourselves so that we can establish a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It’s best to plan activities which produce some sort of reward which we enjoy. For example, planting seeds to grow a garden.

2. Take it Step by Step

When planning these activities it’s important to break them into manageable increments. If we try to take on too much at once we can become easily overwhelmed. For instance, we might decide to clean the house, but thinking of cleaning every room can be daunting. So instead, we may start by organizing some books, or doing the dishes. Starting with activities that are easier or more manageable allows us to enjoy ourselves more, rather than worrying about what we did or didn’t get done.

3. Be Accountable

When planning these activities we must make sure that we set aside an adequate amount of time for them, without cheating ourselves of the opportunity to engage in something we will enjoy. While struggling with depression it may be easy to forget sometimes the enjoyment derived from certain activities, but we can’t let the negative mindset of depression get in the way of our Behavioral Activation. Being accountable doesn’t necessarily mean being monotonous, nor does it mean being overly regimented. It just means that if we promise ourselves to do something we like, or something that is important to us, we hold to that commitment, and make time for us to do so. Basically, we are making a promise to ourselves to do something that will make us feel good. This commitment to our own happiness and well-being is a necessary step in overcoming depression,

In using Behavioral Activation, we are telling ourselves that activities we value are important. As such we are committing ourselves to making time to do things that we enjoy. We are reminding ourselves that we are important, thus our interests, passions, and ambitions are important to. Depression, though it may hinder our motivation, does not take away from our significance.

If you want to know more about seeing Dr. Mike or one of our therapists for treating depression in Boca Raton, give our office a call at 800-378-9354.
Young parents arguing while child holds her hands over her ears.

Tips on Better, More Authentic Parenting

The job of a parent isn’t easy. Despite our best efforts, we may find ourselves put in the position where we will have to make difficult choices. This means that there will be times where our children aren’t happy with us, but does that make us bad parents? The answer, in short, is no. Sometimes doing what is best for our children isn’t the same thing as doing what makes them happy. That’s not to say that we don’t aim to do the opposite, of course. Learning to be an authentic parent is a lifelong challenge. As parents, we also do what we can, when we can, to make our children smile. In this way, parenting can be like a double-edged sword. But the risks are always outweighed by the reward: building a better life and a successful future for our children.

When trying to guide and teach children, parents must remember to be mindful of what they say and how they say it. I’m sure most of us can recall a time at some point or another during our lives where our own parents ended up saying or doing something that hurt us. While their intentions may have been good, the memory and terrible feelings associated with it remain. These feelings may have even had a negative impact on our lives and/our choices, such as dissuading us from pursuing our dreams.

The Dangers of Being an Over-Protective Parent

More often than not, in instances such as these, our parents were merely trying to protect us from the unfortunate situation of having our dreams crushed or getting hurt. But in doing so, they may have unfortunately done the very same thing, themselves. No stranger to this sort of situation, Dr. Steven Joseph states that “Many people, when they think about their childhood, will recall times when their wishes, dreams, or aspirations were ignored, laughed at, or dismissed by someone whose role was to nurture and care for them.” An internationally-known leading expert in positive psychology, Dr. Joseph has heart many cases which resemble this exact situation. The reasons are almost always the same: “those parents and other adults say and do these things out of a misplaced desire to be helpful.  It may be that they genuinely think they are helping.”

As parents, we would never go out of our way to hurt our children intentionally. When we steer them away from something it’s because we’re trying to keep them safe. The problem lies, however, in our limited perspectives. In essence, we end up trying to guide our children towards what we feel is best for them, however this perspective only encompasses our point of view. In doing this, we end up trying to mold our children into the shapes we find most desirable, or, put in other words, we sometimes guide them down paths that we want them to explore, not the ones that they want or that will fulfill their needs.

Raising Children as Individuals

While our intentions may be good, noble, even, it doesn’t excuse our actions. As a parent, our lives will be full of tough choices but sometimes what is best for our children isn’t what we want. Rather, it is what they need. There will be times when these two vital things simply do not intersect, and we must be prepared for it when the time comes. To this, Dr. Joseph recommends something that he calls “authentic parenting.” This, he explains, “starts with the belief that each person is unique in what they bring to the world. Like an acorn that has the potential to grow into an oak tree if it receives the right amount of sunlight and nutrients from the soil, authentic parents do their best to care for and nurture their child so that he or she develops to their full potential.”

When we learn to see our children as individuals, and not just our babies, we learn to recognize their true potential, or what they can contribute to this world. In order to do this, we must learn how to listen carefully to their voices and learn to distinguish their superficial wants from their honest needs. Sometimes the latter can be lost in translation, resulting in their being unintentionally pushed by the wayside. By doing our best to understand their point of view, including their desires and wishes, and learning the difference between guidance and controlling, we can help to open up a whole new world of possibilities for our children, rather than just limiting them to a selection of preferred options. Our job as parents, then, is not to direct the lives of our children, but to enable and empower them to go in their own direction.

Learning to be an Authentic Parent

It all starts by showing interest. However, many of us are guilty of misunderstanding what that means. As Dr. Joseph explains, “Showing interest in your children is not telling them about your record collection or pushing them to play the sports that you liked as a child.  No, it’s about finding out what interests them and being interested in their world.” Showing interest is done by listening and asking our children what they think and feel, thereby demonstrating a genuine desire to understand them. In doing so, we can better support our children as individuals, and encourage them to be who they want to be, not who they think we want them to be. After all, we will love them no matter what. Therefore, we must allow them to be themselves.

Our children are ultimately going to follow a path that is different from our own, and that is perfectly fine. That being said, it can be difficult to provide advice when we don’t fully understand the direction they’re going, but we can still help by providing our love, support, and willingness to understand. We can help our children in developing the skills they need to navigate their own world, rather than focusing our energy on constructing that world for them.

It’s true that parenting can be challenging, but no one is perfect and mistakes are to be expected. Does this make us bad parents? No, so long as we learn from our mistakes and understand that an apology now and then doesn’t mean that we’re “losing” or that we’re incompetent. It just means that, like our children, and like our parents before us, we’re still learning. For life’s more difficult lessons, a family therapist can be a good method of learning new tactics and strategies of communication. They key is that we, and our children, are learning together, rather than growing apart.

For information about meeting with a family therapist in Boca Raton, call our office @ 800-378-9354.
A male and female interlocking hands in what appears to be a strong, happy relationship.

Building Communication with Relationship Therapy

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Man sitting on couch holding hands over his face as his partner walks away angrily.

The Five Stages of Ending a Long-Term Relationship

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Vintage photo of a peaceful, beautiful nature scene with river and trees.

Smell The Roses: The Benefits of Nature Therapy

With the hustle and bustle of our daily lives and responsibilities, it can be hard to remember to take time to “stop and …