Fight Right: Turning Conflict into Connection

“Nothing builds intimacy like vulnerability” – Janet Hardy …. and nothing is quite as vulnerable as an intimate conflict.

We are in such close quarters right now. General frustration and tension is so high – it is only natural we are going to be more likely to snap during this time.

How do we do capitalize on this opportunity to connect?

First, there’s a few things we need to understand

  • Give yourself grace
    • During crisis we can only function around 80% as well as usual, let this be 40%, 60%, etc for compounding issues: loss or financially insecurity
    • Further take 20% (40%, 60%, etc if compounding issues) off your plate.
  • You can’t fix something you just found out about OR something that has been going on for a long time in a short discussion – give heated discussions lots and lots of space
  • It is unfair to ask your partner to sit and listen to even subtle forms of blame, accusation, or judgment; to be the target of your frustration:
    • We are right to resist our boundaries being crossed 
    • Major backfire alert in terms of getting what you want and need
  • Intimate conversations can be a set up for disaster:
    • They bring up our deepest, most subconscious wounds creating fast, blind, big reactions
    • No one can fight fair in this adrenalized, triggered state

SO, make rules:

1.When and where is it safe to have heated discussions?

2. Use, and respect, safe words to slow down or stop when triggering is happening

    • no last words, just STOP
    • not about fault
    • set a time to check back in

 

* Pausing for pauses – how and why to do it*

    • It can hurt and be hard to do, especially at first
    • You need 15 minutes of unstimulated time to get out of the adrenalized state
      • may need to journal, exercise, dance or listen to music first
      • just let that ugly dark stuff we all have flow on out
      • then set your timer for 15 of distracting relaxation: game, music, tv, internet, podcast, etc.
      • don’t kid yourself with meditation, most people don’t have the mental capacity to do that during such a hard time.
    • Nurture time outs with quiet: do you need:
      • separate rooms or spaces? headphones? to let the kids know about these rules?

 

3. Schedule a time to check back in, and another time to resume discussion

  • when you honor your agreement to check back in, you may need to say or hear that 15 more minutes is needed to fully come back to compassionate calm.
  • when you are ready to come back, do not resume discussion when you check back in
    • go on a walk, watch something pleasant, grab favorite food
    • schedule a time to resume your discussion another day

 

4. Practice

  • the more you practice the more your brain learns how to self soothe, and you will become less easily triggered and handle triggers better, in the future
  • fire drill before the fire
    • what’s an easier conversation to try using slow down and stop safe words, as well as sharing I feel statements?
  • When you are starting to notice you are getting upset about something your partner is doing, write out feelings and thoughts
    • promise yourself to sit with this writing for 2 days
    • If after 2 days it still feels like it needs to be said, go back thru:

 

5. Use I statements

  • “I feel… _EMOTION word  “
    • NOT ” I feel … _verb ending in -ed   “
    • NOT “I feel that…”
  • Listener: hear and validate the speaker. THAT’S IT.
    • It may feel hard, even painful, not to offer your partner advice, comfort, or to comment …but for now, give each other the freedom to just listen without needing to provide any response other than:
      • “Yes” “I hear you” “mmhmm” “OK” “I understand”
  • Speaker: don’t go off track with ideas, strategies or suggestions
    • Just share what’s in your heart, your feelings.
  • Before saying what you feel, first reflect the feelings you heard

 

RESOURCE: Most of the material I have summarized today is from a small part of just one chapter in Janet W Hardy’s and Dossie Easton’s brilliant book, “The Ethical Slut” This book is jampacked with compassionate, practical, incredibly expert wisdom and tools. I can’t recommend it more highly. Try to get a physical copy to dog-ear and underline as soon as you can.

 

Need more help?

Myself (Florence Paquet) and Revitalist’s other counselor, Jeff Cockerham both offer unique expertise in relationship issues. I love helping individuals transmute relational trauma and issues into confident juicy expression. Jeff loves to work with couples!

Finding Peace and Happiness in the Midst of Chaos

25 Mar 2020 General

In times of uncertainty, it is easy to focus on what’s making you anxious.

In today’s world, every day you are confronted with new information and forced to consider the unknown.  There are different perspectives on everything and how respond. Depending on where you live, the questions are even more intense. Anxiety looms large.

Almost every conversation, meme, gif, news channel, and form of communication involves the Corona Virus. It has become our focus and understandably so. As a result, it’s important, now more than ever, to focus on peace and happiness.

So spend time each day focusing on something that brings you peace and happiness.

Additionally, practice sharing what you find with those you are with at home.  If you live alone, find someone to speak and share with through video chat each day. Ask them, at the end of every day, “What brought you happiness today? What brought you peace?”

The goal is to give your brain a rest from the fear, negativity, and anxiety to which it is being exposed and wired for.  Focus on something positive. Also, knowing you have to share this at the end of the day will encourage you to look for it. When you are looking for peace and happiness, you often find it in the simplest things.

It could be something like a good meme or gif. Or it can be something grander like the sun shining for the first time in a few days.

Shift your thoughts. Find peace and happiness in the midst of our unknown times.

 

Here are some of my favorite memes today. Hope they bring you some laughs and happiness.

There’s a Murderer Under My Dresser!

18 Mar 2020 General

One night when I was a young boy, I woke up from a deep sleep and noticed legs sticking out from under my dresser. My heart stopped. Who  was it?!? My heart beat so fast my body trembled.

“THERE’S A MURDER UNDER MY DRESSER!” I thought.

There was only one thing to do. Having watched The A-Team every week, I had rehearsed countless times for a moment just such as this! I stood on my bed, took a running leap out the door, and performed a textbook swat team roll down the hallway to the safety of my parent’s room. Hannibal would have been proud!

My parents came in and turned on the lights to find under the dresser the pair of pants I had worn earlier that day. It wasn’t a murderer after all! Just a dirty pair of jeans! Sigh.

It’s amazing what happens when we shed a little light on the subject. Isn’t it?

TODAY’S MONSTER

Today, there is a monster lurking in our midst…the Corona Virus. There is still not enough light to shine on this monster to feel safe yet (although we could discuss the differences in viruses and how this became a pandemic). We only know for certain we haven’t seen anything like this in our lifetime. So the world is in a panic and justifiably so!

So we are the little child on the bed summoning the courage to take a swat team roll down the hallway into the safe arms of loving parents.

So what do we do?

If you’ve paid attention, you know what to do. You get a dozen emails a day from various organizations that all say the same thing, so I will spare you another. Do those things to increase your odds to avoid contracting the virus.

What do we do about anxiety, fear, anger, and other intense emotions?

Now there is a different story! Here are some practical things you can do until the light is turned on and we know where we stand:

  • Practice deep breathing. Take 10 deep breaths 3 times a day (or every hour on the hour!). Focus on the air going in and out. Breathe in deeply for seven seconds.  Use your diaphragm fully.  Hold the breath for two or three seconds, which allows time for calming chemicals to reach your brain.  Release the air slowly for eleven seconds while relaxing the tension muscles in your body. Deep breathing is the best antidote for anxiety.
  • Practice gratitude. Write down 10 things each day for which you are grateful. VERY SPECIFIC things like a smile, something that made you laugh, a cool breeze, a chance to relax, and the like. Gratitude is the best antidote for depression.
  • Practice giving. A worldwide pandemic offers many opportunities to give. Share toilet paper if you have extra. Run errands for those quarantined. Give to other organizations who are helping. Giving to others helps you stay socially connected with others in ways that won’t violate social distancing. For more read this blog.
  • Practice laughing and smiling. Laughing and smiling produce positive chemicals like oxytocin in your brain. There is nothing like positivity when everything else around you seems bleak. YOU NEED OXYTOCIN.
  • Practice paying attention to small things. For more information read this blog.

Follow these suggestions for emotional regulation. You will have a better glimpse of the pants under the dresser, even before the light is turned on. Practice these techniques daily as your survival guide through the chaotic emotions during a chaotic period in our history.

Prepare for that swat team roll out of this mess down the hallway, where you will surely hear Hannibal say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

In the meantime, if you need teletherapy or an immune boost of vitamins, reach out to us here at Revitalist.

Turn Your Empathy Outward – GIVE

12 Mar 2020 General

Sometimes during the depression cycle, empathetic people turn their empathy inward, igniting their ability to feel emotions against themselves. One antidote for depression is to serve others and turn empathy outward. It ignites the love, compassion, empathy, care, and concern emotions in the neocortex of your brain.

A functioning neocortex will confront the negative emotions that surface in your amygdala. So once you practice turning empathy outward, your brain keeps looking for more things for which to be compassionate. That’s how the virtuous cycle gets created. Likewise, it confronts depression and negativity. So…

Go give of yourself to help others.

Here is what happens when you practice giving:

  • Your brain floods with reward/positive chemicals.
  • Your anxiety and depression symptoms lessen.
  • Your hypothalamus works better, which controls and regulates:
    • Hunger
    • Sleep
    • Body temperature
    • Metabolism
    • Body growth
  • It enhances your resilience, which is your body and brain’s ability to bounce back from seriously stressful/traumatic events.
  • You will fall asleep more easily. Consider Thanksgiving…it’s not just the turkey that makes you sleepy, it is the grateful brain.
  • You experience more positive emotions overall.

 

So take opportunities to serve and give…and do a lot of it!

GIVE TO COMMUNITY CHANGE

Consider Community Change, a local non-profit created to support veterans, police officers, teachers, and other working class citizens who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or suicidality. Consider a person you know in one of these areas who needs health services, but is unable to afford them. Would they benefit from counseling or other mental health services? If so, you can donate to help fund those services for them.

Check out their website and donate money.  Give $5, $10, or $25. Heck…give a million if you have it!

In doing so, you will help those who serve our community and create a virtuous cycle in your own mental health. Your gift will change our community.

 

 

 

Fun with Mis-matched Libidos

 

Every libido is a unique fingerprint woven together by a variety of complex factors: interests, fantasies, beliefs, values, morality, physical body, preferences in activities, settings, sensitivity of touch, frequency and type of activity, and on and ON!

With such a broad spectrum, many folks who believe they, or their partner, might be unhealthy or dysfunctional are just DIFFERENT.

So here are a few reasons why mismatched desire is so challenging:

  • it hurts to reject and be rejected
  • it is frustrating to not know what to expect and can build resentment over time
  • both sides are often shamed for certain reasons: the low libido partner is broken and frigid, while the high libido partner is an insensitive sex addict.

So in most healthy happy couples, the foundation of their cake is connection – how strongly bonded you both feel. However, there are always ebbs and flows and challenges in this!

Issues and solutions for connection:

The 2nd biggest layer, where healthy happy couples spend most of their time in terms of behavior is – cuddles and kisses: hugs, rubs, small massages, kisses, pecks, making out, flirtatiousness, and the like.

  • some people like kissing and touch, some people don’t – preferences may be rooted in trauma, beliefs, messages, or simply because they just don’t like it :
  • big takeaway here – IT’S ALL OK. You just need to talk about it and focus on what you DO like. Ask questions, like: Is there anything that could be adjusted that you might like better?
  • If you can’t have this conversation with gentleness and openness – you may need to find a sex therapist to help.

The 3rd and next to smallest layer would be what a lot of people will call foreplay and what most sex therapists will just call sex or outercourse

  • anything from goosing and spanking to manual and oral sex and dirty talk
  • same as above – There are lots of unique preferences here that are ALL OK

The final and SMALLEST layer, where healthy happy couples spend the least amount of intimate behavior, is actual intercourse

  • many healthy happy couples cannot or do not have this at all (intercourse is often limited to young heterosexual couples)
  • this layer is where we encounter the biggest number of problems: physical pain, erections, lubrication, and orgasm difficulties
    • these issues often make sex traumatic. With each encounter, anxiety and avoidance of all intimacy and sexual activity becomes heightened.
      • If you are here, STOP intercourse. Your pain and anxiety are real and need to be addressed. These are all treatable conditions.

So what does the cake with your partner look like?

  • many couples will find their cake is upside down, or that their intimacy is focused solely on intercourse. Whoops! (too bad we can’t talk about sex more, amirite?)

What do you want it to look like?

  • We often focus on how we can’t get everything we need (yup, that’s a tough pill to swallow)
  • Shift the focus on how you can you get (AND GIVE) more of, or enough of, what you (and your partner) need.

Need more help? Have more questions? 

Email me at growwithflo@gmail.com – I specialize in sex and sexuality, as well as empowering sexual vitality after trauma related to relationships, sex, and birth.  Jeff Cockerham, our other therapist at Revitalist specializes in couple’s counseling and can also help!

Turning Pain into Growth

27 Feb 2020 General

On Wednesday, I attended an Ash Wednesday service at our church.  After the service, I attempted to lead fifteen or so 6th grade students through the symbols, meanings, and subsequent actions. It went as well as you can imagine.

If it had been more successful, they would have learned about the concept of mourning, the symbols of sackcloth and ashes, and how observing such a tradition can help them grow as humans in time. Maybe we can learn something together to assuage my efforts to teach holistic health and wellness through meaningful symbols.  If you don’t mind, at least just sit still for a few minutes for me while I share. Thanks you so much.

Mourning and Grief

Mourning and grief share the same function. They succor healing. They provide a vehicle through which pain and suffering transform into meaning and purpose. Practice mourning pain of loss; lost ideals, transitions in life, the loss of loved ones, unfulfilled dreams, and the like.  In doing so, find purpose, growth, strength, and meaning.  For more on grief, read this past blog.

The Perfect Time

Forty days serves as the period of Lent. Forty day in scripture represents the perfect time, not necessarily literal days, years, nights, or other units of time. It represents the perfect time.  The perfect amount of time to wander. The perfect amount of time to mourn. The perfect time to fast. The perfect time to prepare for something significant.

Interestingly, some research indicates it requires six weeks to develop a new habit; roughly 40 days. The perfect amount of time to change. The perfect amount of time to discover. The perfect amount of time to remove a bad habit and replace it with one that promotes growth. After 3 to 6 months of practice, thought and behavior improve. In 6 months to a year, the enzymatic changes occur in your brain in order for the habit to become conditioned.

Move Toward Holistic Healing and Strength

It is interesting to me that a meaningful act of spiritual worship can be so closely tied to emotional and mental wellness. Don’t you think? We call that holistic wellness. Give it a try. Seriously. Right now. Stop and think of something in your life that is detrimental to your holistic health and growth. It can be something you do. It can be something you think. Now think of something positive you can do that stimulates brain growth; gratitude, deep breathing, laughing, optimism, meditation, exercise, intellectual stimulation, diet, and the like.

For the next 40 days (or 6 weeks), replace the detrimental activity with the positive one. Allow it to become a habit. In 3 to 6 months, see if you feel better.

Go on. I dare you. Give it a try.

Even if you are a 6th grade who can’t sit still for more than two minutes.

 

 

Vulnerability: A Path to Wellness

20 Feb 2020 General

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.  -Brene Brown

I love these words by Brene Brown. I’m convinced true vulnerability is the path to wellness, wholeness, and peace. It requires great courage and confidence in your identity and purpose.

After serving in churches for two decades, being trained in biblical interpretation and theology, and doing my best to follow Christ, I have discovered that Christ provides one of the greatest examples of vulnerability.

Jesus was beaten, bruised, broken, bloodied, whipped, accused, mocked, slapped, spit on, and nailed to a cross.  There he remained arms wide open, naked, humbled, and vulnerable on the cross.  On one side of him, a person rejects him.  On the other side, a person accepts him.  He did not force either into their choice.  He focused on his purpose and identity.  That was enough.

Jesus didn’t require others to choose his love to find his worth. Even in the midst of rejection, he still knew who he was and his purpose.  In that knowing, he opened himself to rejection, but remained confident in his identity enough to not be swayed by the ones who would reject him.

A picture of vulnerability. A picture of strength and wellness.

There are many other champions of vulnerability. I use Jesus because it speaks to me. Who else comes to your mind?

So…Are you able to be rejected and still remain confident in who you are? In your purpose?

Perhaps discovering the answers to those things will enable you to be at peace, not relying on the approval and love of others to know you are good enough and lovable just the way you are. Be vulnerable and see where it leads you.

 

Every Day Should Be Valentine’s Day

13 Feb 2020 General

At Valentine’s Day, each year children design drop boxes in order to have their class mates give them a valentine themed in their favorite cartoon, sport, movie, or other popular trend that year.

We send relatives, close friends, and other loved ones texts, phone calls, messages, emails, or cards letting them know we love them. We bake cakes and share other desserts designed to express our love to others. We lavish our loved ones with gifts of affection and romance (if you need an idea click here). We often have parties and recognize Valentine’s Day in a number of different ways, but should we?

Short answer is yes.

We should express love and friendship in grand fashion when we have the opportunity.  So maybe the better question to ask is, “Shouldn’t we share love and appreciation EVERY day?”

The Gottmans, renowned marriage experts, discovered little things are important EVERY day.  In a recent blog, they suggest:

The key to lasting love is showing care and affection in the small moments. Over time, the little stuff sets the scene for grander gestures to have a bigger impact.

In short, in marriage or any romantic relationship the answer is a resounding “YES!” Show love and appreciation every day! Small gestures matter!

What about people who have recently experienced a break in their relationship?  Or one who sits alone on Valentine’s Day?  Or one who is in the midst of grief over a loved one?  A day like Valentine’s Day can be difficult. So, yes, we should show them love and appreciation every day. Even more, during celebrations of any kind, we should always remember the hurting because those moments are triggers of hurt, pain, loneliness, and grief.

So send them texts, phone calls, messages, emails, or cards.  Share a meal with them. Consider their needs. Be present. Hear their pain. You might change their world of hurt if you do.

Every day can be a day of love.  We just have to be intentional.  Small things matter. Isn’t that the better reason we celebrate Valentine’s Day?

The Subtle Aggression of Self-Improvement

“The subtle aggression of self-improvement” this was something my mentor used to say that always stuck with me.

I often encounter clients with a giant self-care to-do list and numerous wellbeing service appointments – often accompanied by a lot of exhaustion, dread, and fear.

Fear and dread of the burden of keeping up with it all – but also that our Selves, as we are, are not enough unless we are constantly improving, being fixed, growing. 

When moving with depression or anxiety this aggressive pursuit of self improvement can backlash hard.

On depression, when it is very difficult to feel any kind of motivation or have much energy at all, a self care list feels so immovable, dreadfully heavy.

On anxiety, a to do list becomes yet another thing to live up to, there is a sense of desperation and frenzy to stay on top of this list, get more tools, do more things, invest in more services of self care.

So how do we strike a balance? because we do need to take care of ourselves and grow and heal.

Something we have all heard: baby steps, the babier, the better.

You may need to scrap your self care plan for only these three things for a while. 

  1. 1 minute of meditation a day – here’s a couple on youtube!
    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7PxEy5IyV4
    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fcdv0kFVMs
  1. 1 minute of HIIT cardio a day – 20 seconds of jumping jacks, 10 second rest, repeat or sub out with
    • high knees
    • bicycle kicks
    • burpees
    • planks
    • jump squats
  2. Swapping out or decreasing (not cold turkey) foods with gluten, corn, sugar (known to cause mood dysregulation)
    • zevia instead of coke
    • gluten free bread/pasta
    • dark chocolate or “paleo” sweets – you can make “banana bread” in a mug and a minute in the microwave with an egg, almond flour, and a banana – bonus points if you add a dash of salt, vanilla extract, chocolate chips and/or cinnamon

Another thing my mentor always said is “Self-acceptance is a means and a measure of wellbeing” 

There are tools to be with your Self, good bad and ugly – as a human who will always move with fear and pain in cycles, mood disorder or not. As a human that needs maintenance – especially when we are entering anxiety and depression territory. As a human who wants and needs a break from keeping up with it all sometimes.

A World Grieves Kobe Bryant: From Shaq’s Perspective

30 Jan 2020 General

On Sunday, the world tragically lost an icon in Kobe Bryant.  Kobe wasn’t just a sports icon but a global icon, The Black Mamba. The world responded in palpable grief.  The indestructible icon, dare I say immortal, dead at the age of 41.

I have to confess.  I am a long time Boston Celtics fan, along with Western teams from Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas.  So I’ve never liked Kobe. He broke a lot of dreams with my teams during his Hall of Fame career.  I never liked him, but I always feared and respected him.

When notifications buzzed my phone all day Sunday, it shocked me. It stunned me. The human being in me stunned more than the NBA fan.  You see, I am the father of a 14 year old daughter. I am a human who once saw myself as immortal, until our family lost three men tragically in two years.  Strange how perspectives change in tragedy.

The world expressed similar sentiment through its grief this week. The NBA showed many demonstrations of respect and love. Most players and former player used social media and television to share their shock and grief.  Take Shaquille O’Neal’s response.

A few months ago, Shaq lost his sister to cancer. Early on in life, he lost his father. Now, he lost what he refers to as a brother in Kobe Bryant.

Shaq on TNT.

Did you hear Shaq’s grief? Did you see it in his face. He is experiencing and expressing several stages; anger, denial, physical pain, lack of sleep, going through motions, survivor’s guilt, and the like. His words sting with stages of grief. Perhaps we can learn from them.

Speaking of his sister’s death, Shaq said, “I work. We laugh. We kid. We joke. Then I get back home and look at reality. She’s gone. It hurts.” Numbness abounds, as he goes through the motions.

When he heard the news of Kobe’s death, he presents expressions of denial and anger, “I snapped. I didn’t want to believe it.” .

Through words of survivor’s guilt and regret, Shaq then said, “We take stuff for granted. I don’t talk enough. We won’t be able to joke at the HOF ceremony. You can’t get those back. I wish I could say something to him again.”

Pay close attention to the next part. Resiliency begins to appear, a tragic experience moving into action and attempts to better oneself, “It changes me. I’m going to do a better job of reaching out to people.”

Lastly, Shaq explains that grief requires help from others to process, even the help of a professional, “People are going to have to get treatment.”

Grief lasts forever, but it continues to shape you and motivate you to become something better if you allow it. We call that process resiliency.

Shaq’s words give us something to consider in our grief, “I wish I could have said one last thing.”

Say the words you need to say to your loved ones. Hug them a little tighter before you say goodbye. Cherish the moments. You, nor the ones you love, are immortal. Cherish them. Cherish yourself.

Even though it’s hard for this Celtics fan to speak well of two Lakers, not learning from them would be a disgrace and a waste. So Kobe, thank you for all the drama through your days in the NBA. Thank you for these lessons in your death. Rest in peace.

For more on grief, read this previous blog.

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