No one gets through life without being hurt by another person. We all have experienced the pain of a thoughtless remark, gossip, or lie. If you have experienced an unhappy marriage, the devastation of infidelity, or suffered physical or emotional abuse, you know what it feels like to be hurt. It is tempting to hold on to these feelings and build a wall of safety around yourself, but the best way to heal is to forgive the person who hurt you.
What Is Forgiveness?
When you forgive another person, you no longer allow their behavior to cause you anger, pain, bitterness, or resentment. When you choose not to forgive, you make the choice to hold on to your feelings of resentment, anger, and pain.
Why Should I Forgive?
Think of forgiveness as a gift that you give to yourself. It is not something you do for the person who hurt you. It is a gift to yourself because it enables you to stop feeling painful feelings and pushing others away. Forgiveness frees you from anger and allows you to restore your ability to have close and satisfying relationships with others.
Anger is a poisonous emotion that comes from being hurt. When you are consumed with anger and bitterness, it hurts you at least as much as it hurts the person who has harmed you. It is as if you are filled with poison. If these feelings are not resolved, they can begin to eat you up inside. You have two choices: to stay connected to the person who hurt you by keeping these poisonous feelings alive, or to let the feelings go and forgive the person who harmed you. When you withhold forgiveness, think about who is actually being hurt. It is more than likely that the person who is filled with anger and anxiety is you, not the other person.
What Forgiveness Is Not
Forgiving another does not mean you will never again feel the pain or remember the thing that hurt you. The hurtful experience will be in your memory forever. By forgiving, you are not pretending the hurtful behavior never happened. It did happen. The important thing is to learn from it while letting go of the painful feelings.
Forgiveness is not about right or wrong. It doesn’t mean that the person’s behavior was okay. You are not excusing their behavior or giving permission for the behavior to be repeated or continued.
When you forgive another, it does not mean you wish to continue your relationship with them. This is a separate decision. You can forgive a person and live your life apart from them.
Forgiveness can only take place because we have the ability to make choices. This ability is a gift that we can use it whenever we wish. We have the choice to forgive or not to forgive. No other person can force us to do either.
Steps to Forgiveness
The experience of forgiveness is a process. Since each situation is unique, it is impossible to predict how long it will take or which steps will be the most important to carry out. Here are some ideas for beginning the process:
- Acknowledge your feelings of anger and hurt. Sometimes it seems like it might be easier to deny the feelings or push them back down, because it hurts to feel them. In the long run, denying these feelings only causes you more pain and actually prolongs the hurt.
- Express your feelings constructively. No matter how badly you were treated or how angry you are, it is never acceptable to harm anyone else. You may need to find a neutral third party to talk to until you feel calmer toward the person who hurt you.
- Depending on the situation, the person who hurt you may still be a danger to you, physically or emotionally. It is important to protect yourself from being harmed again.
- At some point, you will see that you are harmed by holding on to feelings of hurt and anger. These feelings can take up space in your psyche and intrude on your sense of well-being. You may feel physically ill. This is when you will be ready to make the decision to stop hurting.
- Be willing to see the situation from the other person’s point of view. This will help you develop compassion, which will eventually replace the feelings of anger. One helpful technique is to write a letter to yourself as if you were the other person. Use his or her words to explain the hurtful things that were done to you. This takes you out of the victim role and helps you restore your power.
- It is not necessary to know why the hurtful behavior happened. Even if you do learn the reason, you probably won’t feel any better. Chances are, the person who harmed you isn’t sure why they did it either.
- Recall a time when you caused harm to another person, and that person forgave you. Remember what the guilt felt like. Then, remember what you felt when the other person forgave you. You probably felt grateful and relieved. Remember how this felt and consider giving this same gift to the person who hurt you.
- Make a list of the actions you need to forgive. Describe the specific actions that caused you harm. State what happened, as objectively as possible.
- Make a list of the positive aspects of your relationship with the person who hurt you. There must have been something positive, or you wouldn’t have participated in it. This helps you regain some perspective and not paint the picture in completely negative terms.
- Write a letter to the person who harmed you. This letter is for your healing; you do not need to mail it. Describe the positive aspects of the relationship and express your forgiveness for the hurtful behaviors. Express all of your feelings, both positive and negative.
- If you have decided to end your relationship with the person you have forgiven, have a ceremony to symbolize it. You may wish to burn the letter and the list, or you may visualize some kind of ending.
- Sometimes the person you need to forgive is You can begin to forgive yourself by realizing that when you made the mistake, you did not set out deliberately to hurt another person. If you had known how to make better choices, you would have. You did the best you could at the time.
- Make the forgiveness tangible. You may choose to send the letter to the person you are forgiving or tell a trusted friend what you have done.
Once you have let go of the pain and released yourself form past hurts, you will most likely feel a greater sense of freedom and well-being. Now you are free to move on with your life without bitterness and resentment. You no longer need to look back on your past with anger.
This is the second of a series of two posts that explore the dynamics of perfectionism. In my last post, you learned what perfectionism is and why people develop the need to do things perfectly. Today you will learn how to change your perfectionist behaviors and enable yourself to be more satisfied with yourself and your life.
You will have the greatest success if you read the first post and take some time to observe your own perfectionist patterns. Once you have accomplished that, choose a few of the strategies outlined here. Keep working at it until you understand what you need to do to accept your imperfections and humanness.
Create a Support Network for Yourself
Seek out people who are not perfectionists. Encourage your support network to not be rigid or moralistic in their attempts to keep you on an honest course. Look for people who forgive and forget when mistakes, failures, offenses, or backsliding occur. Ask them to tell you when they think you are being rigid, unrealistic, or idealistic in your behavior. Ask them to give you positive reinforcement for any positive change, no matter how small. Seek out people who have a sincere interest in your personal growth.
Do Some Self-Exploration
Explore the following questions in your journal, make some notes here, or discuss them with a trusted friend or professional counselor:
- Where do you see perfectionist behavior in your life?
- How do these behaviors create problems for you?
- What perfectionist beliefs do you have?
- How do you think these beliefs will affect your ability to change your behavior?
- What do you need to do to become less of a perfectionist and more relaxed about things?
- How can you use your support system to help yourself be less of a perfectionist?
Identify Alternative Behaviors
Make a list of specific perfectionist behaviors that you want to change. For each one, think of something specific you could do instead. For example:
- Perfectionist behavior: I expect my teenage daughter to pick up the clothes off her floor and make her bed every day.
- Alternative behavior: I can expect my daughter to clean her room every Saturday and I will close her door every other day.
Note your own examples here:
Lower Your Expectations
It is very important to understand that it is unrealistic to expect to change your behavior (or someone else’s) immediately or completely.
Make a List of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Perfect
You may find that perfection is too costly. Perhaps you will discover that relationship problems, endless working, and other compulsive behaviors (eating disorders and substance abuse problems) are too high a price for the results you gain from your perfectionist way of being.
Pay Attention to Your Behavior and AttitudesAs you see yourself behaving in a perfectionist way, take note. In the beginning, just observe yourself. Keep a log if it helps you see your behavior more clearly. You don’t have to make any changes until you have a good idea of your specific behaviors and thoughts.
Try Some New Thoughts and Behaviors
Begin to substitute the alternative behaviors you identified earlier. If possible, ask someone from your support network for feedback. Observe your feelings and thoughts as you try new things.
Review Your Goals and Make Sure They Are Realistic
By having achievable, realistic goals, you will gradually see that less-than-perfect results are not as disastrous as you thought they would be.
Set Strict Time Limits for Your Projects
When the time is up, move on to another task or take a break.
Make Friends with Criticism
Many perfectionists take criticism personally and respond defensively. If someone criticizes you when you make a mistake, the easiest thing to do is to simply admit it. Remind yourself that you are human, meaning you will sometimes make mistakes. The people who never make mistakes are no longer learning or growing.
Learn to re-frame criticism and see it as information you can learn from.
When you let go of the fantasy that humans must be perfect to have value in this world, you are less likely to feel angry or embarrassed when you make a mistake. You will see that criticism is information that you can learn from, and you will no longer need to avoid it.
What Is Perfectionism?
This is the first of two posts that address perfectionism. In this post, we will explore what perfectionism is and why it is destructive. In the next one, we will take a look at some strategies for both controlling the need to be perfect and living a more relaxed, satisfying life.
Perfectionists aspire to be top achievers and do not allow themselves to make even a single mistake. They are always on the alert for imperfections and weaknesses in themselves and others. They tend to be rigid thinkers who are on the lookout for deviations from the rules or the norm.
Perfectionism is not the same as striving for excellence. People who pursue excellence in a healthy way take genuine pleasure in working to meet high standards. Perfectionists are motivated by self-doubt and fears of disapproval, ridicule, and rejection. The high producer has drive, while the perfectionist is driven.
Causes and Characteristics
Fear of failure and rejection. The perfectionist believes that she will be rejected or fail if she is not always perfect, so she becomes paralyzed and unable to produce or perform at all.
Fear of success. The perfectionist believes that if he is successful in what he undertakes, he will have to keep it up. This becomes a heavy burden—who wants to operate at such a high level all of the time?
Low self-esteem. A perfectionist’s needs for love and approval tend to blind her to the needs and wishes of others. This makes it difficult or impossible to have healthy relationships with others.
Black-and-white thinking. Perfectionists see most experiences as either good or bad, perfect or imperfect. There is nothing in between. The perfectionist believes that the flawless product or superb performance must be produced every time. Perfectionists believe if it can’t be done perfectly, it’s not worth doing.
Extreme determination. Perfectionists are determined to overcome all obstacles to achieving success. This is also true of high achievers, but the perfectionist focuses only on the result of his efforts. He is unable to enjoy the process of producing the achievement. His relentless pursuit of the goal becomes his downfall because it often results in overwhelming anxiety, sabotaging his heroic efforts.
The Costs of Being a Perfectionist
Perfectionism always costs more than the benefits it might provide. It can result in being paralyzed with fear and becoming so rigid that a person is difficult to relate to. It can produce contradictory styles, from being highly productive to being completely nonproductive. Some examples of these costs include the following:
Low self-esteem. Just as low self-esteem is a cause of perfectionist behavior, it is also a result. Because a perfectionist never feels good enough about himself or his personal performance, he usually feels like a loser or a failure.
Gloominess. Since a perfectionist is convinced that it will be next to impossible to achieve most goals, she can easily develop a negative attitude.
Depression. Perfectionists often feel discouraged and depressed because they are driven to be perfect but know that it is impossible to reach the ideal.
Guilt. Perfectionists never think they handle things well. They often feel a sense of shame and guilt as a result.
Rigidity. Since perfectionists need to have everything meet an ideal, they tend to become inflexible and lack spontaneity.
Lack of motivation. A person who expects perfection may never try new behaviors or learn new skills because she thinks that she will never be able to do it well enough. At other times, she may begin the new behavior but give up early because she fears that she will never reach her goal.
Paralysis. Since most perfectionists have an intense fear of failure, they sometimes become immobilized and stagnant. Writers who suffer from writer’s block are examples of the perfectionist’s paralysis.
Obsessive behavior. When a person needs a certain order or structure in his life, he may become overly focused on details and rules.
Compulsive behavior. A perfectionist who feels like a failure or loser may medicate him- or herself with alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, sex, gambling, or other high-risk behaviors.
Eating disorders. Many studies have determined that perfectionism is a central issue for people who develop eating disorders.
The Perfectionist versus The High Achiever
People produce many of their best achievements when they are striving to do their best. High achievers, like perfectionists, want to be better people and achieve great things. Unlike perfectionists, high achievers accept that making mistakes and risking failure are part of the achievement process—and part of being human.
Emotionally Healthy High Producers
You can be a high achiever without being a perfectionist. People who accomplish plenty and stay emotionally healthy tend to exhibit the following behaviors:
- Set standards that are high but achievable.
- Enjoy the process, not just the outcome.
- Recover from disappointment quickly.
- Are not disabled by anxiety and fear of failure.
- View mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning.
- React positively to constructive feedback.
Once you are aware of the ways by which you expect yourself to be perfect, you can start to change your behavior. In my next post, I’ll offer some tips to help you get started. Until then, begin the change process by thinking about which causes apply to you and writing down examples of these perfectionist behaviors as you observe them.
Infidelity is more common than most people realize. It is also a topic that many people do not want to discuss. In fact, it is estimated that 60% of men and 40% of women today will have an extramarital affair during their marriage. I decided to learn as much as I could about it so I could help my clients prevent it, or recover from it when it has already happened. In this post, I will explore the forces that lead to infidelity and what must happen for couples to heal.
Forms of Infidelity
Infidelity takes many forms. Some people have sequential affairs—a series of one-night stands or short affairs. These affairs involve very little emotional investment and may be rationalized as harmless. There is always the danger of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. When such behavior continues for several years and finally is discovered, it is difficult to heal the years of deceit.
Other affairs are discrete events. These also involve minimal emotional investment.
Sometimes affairs last longer and become more serious. These affairs may be quite romantic and sexual. Sometimes they grow into more serious relationships and may last for years.
There is also an emotional affair. This happens when individuals are connecting with others on an emotional level even though there may not have been any type of sexual contact between the two individuals. These relationships are usually kept quite and can eventually lead to sexual contact.
Why Affairs Happen
Infidelity happens for many reasons. Here are a few of the common explanations:
- Sometimes people become bored with their partners and seek sexual or emotional excitement with someone new. The new person seems to supply the excitement that has been missing.
- Stressful times in the family life cycle lead some to seek escape in an affair. This includes things like taking care of aging parents, raising teenagers, and becoming new parents.
- People sometimes look for outside relationships because their expectations of marriage have not been satisfied.
- Some people seek outside relationships when their partners are emotionally unavailable.
- Other people begin affairs because they seek more affection than their partner can provide.
There are also many social reasons why affairs happen: factors that exist in our society that lead many of us to expect a fantasy version of marriage that could never really exist. When marriage doesn’t live up to this expectation, some of us keep looking for it outside of marriage.
Common Reactions to Infidelity
People who are involved in relationships in which their partner has been unfaithful say they have a wide range of reactions. These are a few of the common ones:
- A physical reaction, such as feeling like you have been punched in the stomach.
- Denying that anything is wrong.
- Blaming yourself (I didn’t pay enough attention to her; I wasn’t attractive enough for him; etc.).
- Blaming the relationship (We were too young; We were wrong for each other; We had different values, etc.).
- Blaming the lover (It’s all his fault; If it weren’t for him); transferring anger from one’s spouse to one’s lover.
Consequences of Infidelity
In addition to the emotional impact of infidelity, there may also be other consequences: sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, problems at work, and loss of relationships.
Even though infidelity has a devastating impact on marriages, many do survive. Let’s look at what it takes for a relationship to recover.
If You Were Unfaithful
If you had the affair and want to save your marriage:
- Stop the affair and tell the truth about it.
- Make the choice to practice fidelity.
- Understand your partner’s need to ask questions and understand what happened.
- Spend plenty of time with your family.
- Find a therapist and explore what has happened in your marriage.
- Expect to reassure your partner of your commitment to the marriage.
- Listen carefully to your partner and accept his or her feelings and thoughts.
- Admit that you were wrong.
- Make amends. Identify what it would take for you to deserve forgiveness. Then, do it.
If Your Partner Was Unfaithful
If your partner had the affair and you want to save your marriage:
- Acknowledge your anger and express it productively.
- Be aware of distorted thoughts that may fuel your anger.
- Watch out for negative beliefs that may make it harder for you to heal your relationship.
- Find a way to explore and express your feelings, such as writing in a journal or working with a professional therapist.
- Explore the advantages and disadvantages of saving your marriage.
- Establish a safe environment where you can learn about what happened.
- When you are ready, create a ritual for letting go of the anger and forgiving.
Finally, what are some things you can do to protect your marriage and keep it from becoming an infidelity statistic?
- Pay attention to your partner. Be aware of his or her needs and do your best to meet them.
- Think about how you behaved when you were trying to win your partner over. Do the same things now.
- Make intimacy fun.
- Look for opportunities to talk and listen.
- Be thoughtful and romantic. Send cards, flowers, gifts.
- Avoid high-risk situations. Discuss these with your partner and ask him or her to do the same.
- Be polite to your partner.
- Say nice things about your partner, in public and in private.
- Spend regular private time together.
- Greet your partner when he or she comes home.
- Show that you are glad to see your partner. Be energized and pleasant.
- Recommit to your values. Make the decision to live in keeping with what you believe is right.
- Accept that you are responsible for your own well-being.
- Be proactive about nurturing your marriage. This relationship is your most important investment; give it the time and attention it deserves.
- Look for ways to express appreciation and respect.
What Is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem literally means to esteem, or respect, yourself. Having high self-esteem means that you have a positive image of yourself. Let’s look at where such a positive self-image comes from.
In her classic book Celebrate Yourself, Dorothy Corkville Briggs makes a distinction between the real you and your self-image. She says that the real you is unique and unchanging. Most of your self-image—what you think is true about yourself—is learned. It is not necessarily accurate at all!
Where are your beliefs about yourself drawn from? Where did you learn them? If you think about it, you’ll see that they came from:
• What others said about you
• What others told you
• What others did to you
Your self-image is the result of all the messages you heard about yourself as a child. These messages added up to a set of beliefs about who you are. It may have nothing to do with who you really are.
For example, you may believe things like:
• I’m not very smart.
• I’m not very attractive
• I’m too old to start over.
• No one really loves me.
• I’m painfully shy.
• I will never be as successful in life as Michael Jones.
In addition to learning to believe certain things during our early years, there are certain situations that make most people feel inferior or lacking in self-esteem.
Some examples are:
• Being criticized
• Not being loved
• Being rejected
• Experiencing failure
What Low Self-Esteem Feels Like
In situations like these above, it is not uncommon to feel emotions such as:
Cognitive therapy is one of the most successful methods for helping people feel better about themselves. Cognitive therapists help depressed and anxious people feel better by identifying how faulty ways of thinking are making them feel bad. They believe that faulty thoughts cause us to feel bad, which makes us feel bad about ourselves.
Cognitive therapists call these faulty ways of thinking “twisted thinking.” Cognitive therapy is a process where the client analyzes his or her thoughts and beliefs, and learns to substitute more healthy ways of thinking and believing. These therapists help their clients feel better in four steps: First, identify the upsetting events that cause bad feelings; second, record your thoughts about the event; third, identify the distortions in your thinking process; and fourth, substitute rational responses. When the client successfully completes these four steps, the client usually feels better.
Thinking the right kinds of thoughts is one way to feel good about yourself. Now let’s talk about a second way to increase your self-esteem: by taking a look at your life environment and seeing whether it supports you feeling good about yourself. You may find that some nourishing elements need to be replenished. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do you have people in your life who:
1. Treat you with love and respect?
2. Encourage you to do and be anything you want?
3. Help you find out what you want to do, and how to do it?
4. Encourage you to explore all of your talents and interests?
5. Are thrilled when you succeed?
6. Listen to you when you need to complain?
7. Help you bounce back from failure without making you feel bad?
Take a moment to think about each of the items on this list. Note where your environment is providing adequately for you, and where it is lacking. This can give you clues to how to build your own self-esteem.
Strategies for Esteem Building
1. Pay attention to how you are feeling from moment to moment. Tune in to what your fives senses are experiencing.
2. Revisit your interests and goals. Make a list of things you’d like to do and learn. Today,
take one step toward learning more.
3. Spend less time with critical people and more time with those who appreciate you.
4. Spend some time with yourself at the end of each day. Review what happened and how you were feeling. Write about it in a private journal.
5. If you are feeling bad about yourself, consider finding a therapist to help you get your life on a positive track.
One skill that many people do not possess is the ability to ask for what they want. This does not guarantee that you will get it, but it makes it a lot more likely when you ask for it in the right way. Most of us know that assertiveness will get you further in life than being passive or aggressive. But few of us were actually taught how to be assertive. Here are some helpful tips.
1. Choose the right time. Imagine you’re dashing down the hall on your way to a meeting. Lisa passes by. You call out, “Can you have the project out by Tuesday?” Because you haven’t scheduled a special time to bring up the issue, Lisa has no reason to think your request deserves high priority.
2. Choose the right place. Discuss important issues in a private, neutral location.
3. Be direct. For example, “Lisa, I would like you to work overtime on the project.” Whether or not Lisa likes your request, she respects you for your directness.
4. Say “I,” not “we.” Instead of saying, “We need the project by Tuesday,” say, “I would like you to finish the project by Tuesday.” This gives you ownership of your request.
5. Be specific. Instead of, “Put a rush on the project,” say, “I would like the project finished and on Joe’s desk by 9:00 Tuesday morning.” We cannot expect others to follow instructions if we are not specific in what we ask for.
6. Use body language to emphasize your words. “Lisa, I need that report Tuesday morning,” is an assertive statement. But if you mumble this statement while staring at the floor, you undermine your message.
7. Confirm your request. Ask your staff to take notes at meetings. At the end of each meeting, ask your group to repeat back the specifics that were agreed upon. This minimizes miscommunication.
8. Stand up for yourself. Don’t allow others to take advantage of you; insist on being treated fairly. Here are a few examples: “I was here first,” “I’d like more coffee, please,” “Excuse me, but I have another appointment,” “Please turn down the radio,” or “This steak is well done, but I asked for medium rare.”
9. Learn to be friendly with people you would like to know better. Do not avoid people because you don’t know what to say. Smile at people. Convey that you are happy to see them.
10. Express your opinions honestly. When you disagree with someone, do not pretend to agree. When you are asked to do something unreasonable, ask for an explanation.
11. Share your experiences and opinions. When you have done something worthwhile, let others know about it.
12. Learn to accept kind words. When someone compliments you, say, “Thank you.”
13. Maintain eye contact when you are in a conversation.
14. Don’t get personal. When expressing annoyance or criticism, comment on the person’s behavior rather than attacking the person. For example: “Please don’t talk to me that way,” rather than, “What kind of jerk are you?”
15. Use “I” statements when commenting on another’s behavior. For example: “When you cancel social arrangements at the last minute, it’s extremely inconvenient and I feel really annoyed.”
16. State what you want. If appropriate, ask for another behavior. (“I think we’d better sit down and try to figure out how we can make plans together and cut down on this kind of problem.”)
17. Look for good examples. Pay attention to assertive people and model your behavior after theirs.
18. Start slowly. Express your assertiveness in low-anxiety situations at first; don’t leap into a highly emotional situation until you have more confidence. Most people don’t learn new skills overnight.
19. Reward yourself each time you push yourself to formulate an assertive response. Do this regardless of the response from the other person.
20. Don’t put yourself down when you behave passively or aggressively. Instead, identify where you went off course and learn how to improve.
Life is way too busy! Most people say they want to simplify their lives because they feel like they have lost control of their time. They want to have more time to do the things they want to do, both at work and at home. Every few weeks, there is another newspaper or magazine story about how people feel that they aren’t spending their time on things they enjoy. A recent poll, for example, found that 65% of people are spending their free time doing things they’d rather not do. Isn’t that crazy? It’s great if you have created a full and interesting life for yourself, but how frustrating if you don’t have the time to enjoy it!
The 80/20 Principle
The 80/20 Principle, first stated by Vilfredo Pareto in 1897, says that 20% of our effort produces 80% of the results. This means that a small number of resources are highly productive—and a large number (80%) are not very productive at all. Here are a few examples:
• 20% of the things in your house are used 80% of the time.
• 80% of the things in your house are used 20% of the time.
• 20% of your activities give you 80% of your satisfaction.
The challenge is to identify those few vital items that produce the greatest value for you. Focus on the activities that result in satisfaction, such as your spiritual life, relationships, better health, or more free time. At the same time, identify those many trivial items that don’t lead to things like satisfaction, stronger spiritual life, better health, or more free time. These unprofitable activities are taking up 80% of your time. Doesn’t it make sense to de-emphasize them in favor of the vital 20%?
Making Time Takes Time
The first challenge to simplifying your life is that it takes an investment of time. If you want to discover how to make time for the things you enjoy, you have to examine how you are spending your time now. If you keep living your life the same way you always have, it will stay complicated.
For some, the excuse, “I can’t slow down because everything is important,” is a way to avoid seeing what they don’t want to see: a relationship that is no longer fulfilling, a job that no longer satisfies, an emotional distance that has emerged between them and their family members. Some people keep their lives going at a furious pace to avoid seeing what they don’t want to see.
If you really do want to simplify your life, you will make the time. You don’t have to do anything radical; in fact, it is best to start small. Set aside just 30 minutes each day for a month. During that time, think about a simple question: What are the elements that contribute to my life feeling so complicated? Make a list of the factors in your private journal and write about them. Begin to think about what can be changed or eliminated.
Finding this time is not as impossible as it may seem at first. Maybe you can leave work 30 minutes early for a month and use the extra time for this exploration, possibly at home. Perhaps you can take the train instead of driving, or give up your exercise time for one month, or turn off the television during the evening news and write in your journal instead. Set aside 30 minutes a day for one month, ask yourself some important questions, and be prepared to learn some remarkable things about yourself.
You may think that this sounds too simple. Most people who seek to simplify their lives think that the answer is to get more help. But this probably won’t help. In fact, if you hire someone to help you get more done, you will actually have added another complication to your life rather than making it simpler. You probably don’t need more help; you probably need fewer responsibilities.
Learn to Say No
If you want a simpler life, you must learn to say no. In Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter, author Elaine St. James says that people get into trouble because they agree to do things they really don’t have time to do. This leads to a constant state of being overcommitted and frustrated. Our culture makes it difficult for us to say no to requests to attend extra meetings, dinner engagements, or to take on new responsibilities. Many of us feel obligated to always be participating at a high level. We are proud of our high productivity and involvement, but it comes with a high price: a complicated life that leaves to time for you. St. James suggests that you actually schedule time for yourself on your calendar at the beginning of every month; when you are invited to participate in something, turn down the request because you already have a commitment.
Clear Away Clutter
Get rid of things you don’t use. Think of all the stuff you have acquired in the past five or 10 years. Most of it is designed to make life simpler, but in fact most of it brings along its own set of complications. Think of what typically happens when you buy a new electronic gadget: Consider all of the time required to earn the money to pay for it, shop for it, buy it, set it up, learn how to use it, fix the unexpected problems it causes with another gadget, and then the time you spend actually using it. Most of us have rooms in our houses filled with stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time, but ends up sitting on a shelf or in a drawer, unused. St. James suggests that you go through your house once each year and get rid of everything you haven’t used during the previous year.
She also has an idea for not acquiring new stuff in the first place. She suggests a technique called the 30-Day List. When you start thinking that you must have a certain product, add it to your 30-Day List and wait. At the end of 30 days, ask yourself if you really still need it. Chances are, you will have lost your enthusiasm for the product and will cross it off the list.
Most of us experience times when we need help to deal with problems and issues that cause us emotional distress. When you are having a problem or dilemma that is making you feel overwhelmed, you may benefit from the assistance of an experienced, trained professional. Professional counselors and therapists offer the caring, expert assistance that people need during stressful times.
There are many types of mental health providers to choose from. The most important thing is to select a licensed professional who has the appropriate training and qualifications to help a person with your specific issues. You should also choose someone with whom you can feel comfortable enough to speak freely and openly.
Types of Problems
People seek the assistance of a mental health professional (MHP) for many different reasons. These are some of the most common:
1.You feel unhappy most of the time.
2.You worry all the time and are unable to find the solutions to your problems.
3.You feel extremely sad and helpless.
4.You feel nervous, anxious, and worried most of the time.
5.You have panic attacks.
6.You have a hard time concentrating.
7.Your emotional state is affecting your daily life: your sleep, eating habits, job, and
8.You are having a hard time functioning from day to day. Your emotional state is affecting your performance at work or school.
9.Your behavior is harmful to yourself or to others.
10.You are feeling impatient and angry with someone you are taking care of.
11.You are having problems with your family members or in other important relationships.
12.You or someone you care about has problems with substance abuse or other addictions.
13.You are the victim of sexual abuse or domestic violence.
14.You have an eating disorder.
15.You are having trouble getting over the death of someone you loved.
16.You or someone you love has a serious illness and you are having a hard time with it.
17.You feel lonely and isolated.
18.You are experiencing problems in a sexual relationship.
19.Your family has a lot of conflict and tension.
20.You are experiencing a divorce or marital separation.
21.You are having a hard time coping with change.
22.You often feel afraid, angry, or guilty.
23.You have a hard time setting and reaching goals.
24.Your child is having problems with behavior or school performance.
25.Your family is stressed because someone is ill.
26.You have a hard time talking with your partner, children, parents, family members, friends, or coworkers.
27.You are having problems dealing with your own sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of someone you care about.
28.You are planning to marry, and you have some concerns.
29.You have gotten a divorce and your family needs help adjusting.
30.You are part of a blended family and need help learning to live together.
Types of Mental Health Professionals
The most common MHPs in the United States are Psychologists, Marriage and Family Therapists, Social Workers, and Professional Counselors. Each state has its own licensing laws and standards that govern each type of professional. While all licensed MHPs can help most people with problems of living, each group has its own special training in specific areas that makes them more qualified for certain types of issues. In addition, each individual therapist has a unique set of experiences that makes him or her uniquely qualified to work with certain kinds of issues.
Psychologists generally have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree in psychology from an accredited school. They must complete a rigorous internship period and pass a state licensing exam. In addition to their undergraduate college degree, most psychologists spend five to seven years in education and training. They study scientific methods and the science of human behavior, building skills for working with people who have real life problems.
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) generally have a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a related subject from an accredited school. In most states, they must complete a supervised internship period and pass a state licensing exam. Marriage and family therapists are trained to work with people, focusing on how they relate to others. While they often work with an individual client, the focus of treatment is the set of relationships that surround the client and how those relationships impact the client. MFTs are trained in psychotherapy and family systems. They are licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples, and family systems. They work in a variety of settings with individuals, couples, families, children and adolescents, providing support and a fresh viewpoint as people struggle with life’s challenges.
Social Workers have a BSW or MSW from an accredited school. They must have completed an MSW and a supervised internship before passing a state licensing exam. (Each state has its own licensing regulations.) The social work profession focuses on individual happiness and well-being in a social context. It is also concerned with the well-being of the society that surrounds the individual. Social workers are trained to pay attention to the environmental forces that may contribute to the individual’s life problems.
Licensed Counselors have a master’s degree in counseling or a related subject from an accredited school. In most states, they must complete a supervised internship period and pass a state licensing exam.
Referral to Other Health Professionals
When it is in the best interest of the patient or outside the scope of the MHP’s license, therapists collaborate with and refer to other health professionals, such as physicians or psychiatrists in the case of prescribing medication.
Each group of MHPs has strict ethical guidelines governing privacy and confidentiality. Clients of licensed MHPs can expect that discussions will be kept confidential, except as otherwise required or permitted by law. Examples of times when confidentiality must be broken are when child abuse has occurred or where the client threatens violence against another person.
When you are looking for a mental health professional to help you address your issues, it is very important to ask about a therapist’s qualifications to treat your specific concerns.
Visit these web sites to learn more:
www.aamft.org (National Association of Marriage and Family Therapy)
www.apa.org (American Psychological Association)
www.naswdc.org (National Association of Social Work)
www.counseling.org (American Counseling Association)
Michael Jones is the owner of Renewed Vision Counseling Services. He has been in the mental health field for over 15 years.