Thursday, July 31, 2014

7 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

Disclaimer: By difficult, I mean people who have historically been hard to deal with, please, or satisfy. We have all been difficult, at times, and this is not meant to be a terminal diagnosis for anyone. In fact, it is my belief that we can transcend these patterns. It is with this understanding that I write this post.

Everyone has a difficult person in their life. How do I know this? Because we live on planet Earth. Over seven billion of us and counting (if I Googled that right). Have you ever asked yourself, What do I do here? Should I cut my ties with this person? As for questioning whether or not you should stay in contact with a difficult person, only you can answer that- but, whatever you decide, here is some information to get you considering your best coping strategy. I hope it offers some relief from the grief!
  • Don't take it personally. You are only responsible for 50% of an interaction. A difficult person's problems with you (their 50%) may not be about you at all- and they definitely aren't all about you. You become a screen upon which their difficulties (fears, pain, sorrows) are projected.
  • Have compassion for yourself. Dealing with difficult people is painful (because they are in pain). We need our compassion most when we are suffering. Be kind to yourself- you deserve it!
  • Have compassion for the other person. It's hard being a difficult person in this world! Another word for difficult is unhappy. Imagine being in their shoes- and be glad you're not. It can help inspire compassion to imagine them as a young or hurt child. Healthy people aren't difficult. 
  • Don't give your power over to a difficult person. It makes no sense to place your happiness in the hands of an unhappy person. Think about it. Ultimately, you must decide your actions.
  • Set boundaries. Limit your time with difficult people. Take breaks and deep breathes. Practice the art of distraction. It's all about staying clear-thinking and grounded. Staying in control of you.
  • Detach when it makes sense. There is a lot to lose and not much to gain from sharing vulnerable parts of yourself with someone who is unable or unwilling to go there with you. What might be a more comfortable level of sharing? Keep it surface. Keep it light. Keep yourself safe.
  • There are no rules, no wrong or right way of doing relationships with difficult people- even if they're family. Remember, you have choices. And, you can change your mind at any time. 
No one's as simple as a stereotype! We can transcend those patterns that have proven problematic. I'm rooting for us 100%! Our time together depends upon it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Happiness is...

The question, what would I most love to offer? has been on my mind a lot, lately- along with the question, what is there a need for? My passion is helping women create the lives that we desire and I am especially drawn to working with women who are down and have been hurt. This drive comes from my own past and the past of other women I've known. Has there been a time when you've desperately wanted a roadmap to help you feel better? We all want to be happy healthy women, but sometimes the way before us gets murky. How? is a question I hear a lot in my office.

I would like to offer a recipe not only for making it through the day but for crafting a happier healthier life in the process. If this sounds appealing to you, know that these ingredients have been gathered with care. They have been a long time coming. Some of them difficult to grasp. This is no expert's recipe but one that I hope will continue growing more potent through the years. I share it with you, now, because life is short and messy, as you well know, and has a mind of its own. Life doesn't wait for perfection so why should we? Your first tip: you already know more than you think!

Happiness Is...
Knowing that you have a voice and a choice in how you use it.
Saying yes to people, places, and things, that nurture you.
Saying no to people, places, and things that hurt you.
Knowing that you can change your mind at any time.
Freedom from the highs and lows.
Relishing in a calm life.
Knowing who you are- inside and out.
Resisting the urge to follow downward spiraling thoughts.
Following what inspires you instead.
Being thankful for what you have.
Allowing yourself to be loved.
Allowing yourself to cry.
Stopping when something is no longer serving you.
Asking for help when you need it.
Knowing that you deserve love and happiness in abundance.
Sharing your light with others.
Being open to and inspired by life's little signs.
Knowing the signals your body is giving to you.
Responding time and again with kindness.
Celebrating the small things, which are really the big things.
Making something out of nothing.
Learning how to trust yourself.
Accepting the contradictions that are you.
Starting small when you feel overwhelmed.
Not a constant- but sadness isn't permanent either.
Being willing to take reasonable risks.
Understanding that change is often uncomfortable.
Knowing you can handle it and emerge stronger.
Paying attention to how you talk to yourself.
Telling yourself, "I will no longer throw myself under the bus!"
Telling yourself, "I love you and I'm proud of you."
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in safe ways.
Knowing only good things remain when you let your guard down.
Taking the time to care for yourself by careful planning.
Not taking things personally.
Actively seeking out what makes you happy.
Making your healing the most important thing in your life.
Knowing each of us is on a healing journey.
Knowing you deserve your own time and attention.
Learning to stay with yourself when times are hard.
Learning to stay with yourself when times are good.
Appreciating instant gratification.
Taking the long view in life.
Knowing what's most important to you.
Living your life by putting your values into actions and words.
Forgiving yourself and who you need to forgive.
Accepting your imperfections.
Understanding that we all experience both the good and the bad in life.
Knowing in your heart that you can live a meaningful life.

Finally, add a generous heaping spoonful of doing whatever makes you laugh! This is hard work but you are the best possible person to do it! Be easy on yourself if things go awry. We've all been there. Thankfully, there are do-overs. This recipe isn't set in stone. You can always go back and change it- take something out that doesn't work for you or add something else in. Improvise! You are the head cook in your kitchen. I am rooting for each and every one of us and I wish you every possible success!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Recovery: Many Healing Journeys

No one single method of trauma treatment works for everyone. Rather, the road to recovery is made up of many healing journeys. I use the word "journey" to illustrate that recovery is a process that requires maintenance but gets easier with time. Treatment gives you a roadmap. A therapist can guide you but only you can read the signs and use the tools needed to rebuild a sense of safety in your life.

Treatment methods that have proven track records of reducing trauma symptoms include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and medication. CBT is a form of talk therapy in which you and your counselor work on your thoughts and behaviors. EMDR is a type of experiential therapy that uses a tool called bilateral stimulation or dual attention stimulus to help you desensitize traumatic memories. Antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been shown to be beneficial. As research continues, we will likely add more methods to the list of effective treatments.

The emphasis of trauma treatment has shifted across the board from focusing on processing the past to practicing safe coping in the present. Why? Past and present centered treatments have been found to be equally effective. Revisiting the past may never be needed after finding and using one's best coping strategies in the present. In any case, the past should never be revisited until we have established safety in the present. All effective trauma treatment keeps you in the driver's seat.

One present centered approach called manual-based treatment, in which the therapist draws from a book or manual designed especially for helping people heal from trauma, has proven helpful for 60% of people completing it. Combine this with the folk wisdom that we are more likely to change in a group that believes change is possible and you have two compelling reasons to consider joining a group. However, manual-nased treatment can be done in group or individual counseling formats.

If you find this topic a bit overwhelming, you are not alone. It can be hard to master all of the information available to us today but have faith. Your healing journey is worth it. My invitation is to keep it simple. Be wary of people who promise results with a particular brand of treatment. How could they know what works for you? Try things out, ask questions, take  a break if you want to, and come back when you are ready. Staying the course of your recovery is the hardest and best work you can do.

May your journey be meaningful and your support abundant along the way...

*In the service of being transparent, I offer all of the above evidence-based trauma treatment methods- omitting, of course, medication, as I am not a psychiatrist- and have found each to be helpful for different people. As the song goes, "different strokes for different folks." That's what keeps us adding new tools to our toolkits.