Michaela's Counseling and Connections Coaching http://michaelas-counseling.com Thu, 15 Nov 2018 20:41:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 106242943 “My relationships always end after a few months” http://michaelas-counseling.com/relationships-always-end-months/ http://michaelas-counseling.com/relationships-always-end-months/#respond Sat, 27 Oct 2018 06:20:56 +0000 http://michaelas-counseling.com/?p=2359 “Why do I always end relationships just when we’re getting close?” “I always find myself wanting to break up when relationships get to a certain point.” Or, “I always burn my support people out after just a few months.” Different stories, but with some similar feelings and undercurrents. Someone tells a friend, “I don’t know … Continue reading "“My relationships always end after a few months”"

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“Why do I always end relationships just when we’re getting close?”
“I always find myself wanting to break up when relationships get to a certain point.”
Or,

“I always burn my support people out after just a few months.”

Different stories, but with some similar feelings and undercurrents.

Someone tells a friend, “I don’t know why…..I just start to despise the person I’m with. All of a sudden, it’s like he can’t do anything right. It’s a different reason every time, but……it’s frustrating! Is it just that I have high standards? Have I just not found the person for me? Is my “picker” broken and I keep getting with losers? Or am I being too critical?”
Another person gets dismissed after a few months, and has been broken up with yet again, and she wonders aloud, “What is this? Do I keep picking people who are unavailable and insensitive? Or am I expecting too much?”
Sound familiar? Some people experience this kind of thing anytime they get close to someone: friend, lover, therapist, even a group of friends. Others have lots of stable relationships, but particular ones and particular kinds of closeness elicit this kind of push-away.
The good news, if this is your struggle, is that there’s something really rich to be seen, heard, learned about, right in the middle of those sticky feelings right at that 6 month (or however many months or weeks it is for you!) mark.
That mark is right where your History is probably kicking in. Those old scripts about the world and about relationships. It’s where you’re confused, disoriented, sad, angry, and pained, that you are in touch with something within that can be transformed.
I had a client once who, whenever she felt people begin to like her, would begin to panic and to feel her dreaded need again. It was an agonizing need, a frustrating place for her to be, because she would feel, all of a sudden, LOTS of need for LOTS of contact and reassurance. At the same time, she felt terrible shame and fear. She had a long history of people rejecting her once she started calling too much. Close friends suddenly were accusing her of being too much, pushing the boundaries……and she knew they were right. Yet she didn’t know how to stop this pattern without a self-imposed, rigid exile from closeness. Turns out that this place in her that called people so many times was a place that really DID need help. A focused kind of help and attention that somatic, connection-focused therapy began to meet. There was a very young, scared part of her that needed help to feel seen, met, held, and safe. Once she could take that in, her grown up part became capable of doing relationships differently. And that little one in her could feel the care of others without that “more more more” thing kicking in. Big relief!
Another person I worked with began to dismiss people when they got to a certain point of closeness. He was an expert fault-finder, and could always see validly what in others was of concern. His biggest pet peeve, however? “Neediness.” People were always too needy, he said. Turned out that there was a young part of him that had unmet needs, a part who had learned early on to turn away from those needs — to suppress tears, to “get alone” to find himself where there would be no ridicule. Meeting this young part and helping the defender of this young part to relax both enabled him to embrace both his vulnerabilities and the vulnerabilities of others. His relationships improved a lot and others remark now on how much more open, soft, he seems to be.
Relationship healing can happen. It’s those bewildering feelings that keep coming up over and over again that offer the clues as to what needs healing within you.
Often, what feels like intractable behavior is something covering over precious parts of ourselves with simple needs, yearnings, desires. These places can be found, met, transformed.
And this can free you to be who you really are meant to be in relationships. And to begin to have relationships that last longer, if you want them!

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Join my Weekly DBT-Informed Skills Group in Corvallis http://michaelas-counseling.com/corvallis-oregon-dbt-group-dialectical-behavioral-therapy/ http://michaelas-counseling.com/corvallis-oregon-dbt-group-dialectical-behavioral-therapy/#respond Thu, 28 Dec 2017 01:00:04 +0000 http://michaelas-counseling.com/?p=2273 Looking for a DBT-informed skills group in Corvallis, Oregon? I have one! Give me a call at (541)224-6732 to sign up! First, the details: When: Saturdays, from 3-5 pm. Where: 260 SW Madison Ave, Ste 104-5, Corvallis OR 97333. How much: $60 per session, with a sliding scale that goes down to $30/session. You pay by … Continue reading "Join my Weekly DBT-Informed Skills Group in Corvallis"

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Looking for a DBT-informed skills group in Corvallis, Oregon? I have one! Give me a call at (541)224-6732 to sign up!

First, the details:

  • When: Saturdays, from 3-5 pm.
  • Where: 260 SW Madison Ave, Ste 104-5, Corvallis OR 97333.
  • How much: $60 per session, with a sliding scale that goes down to $30/session. You pay by check or credit card for 4 sessions at a time.
  • Starting date: You can join anytime! I’ll offer you the worksheets that will help you to understand what we’re about from the start, and our group is supportive and will help you to start to understand and use these skills right away.
  • Prerequisites: A working knowledge of English! And a willingness to use the skills between classes (that’s your homework). You do not have to be in individual therapy (Though I’ll advise it if you have needs beyond the scope of our skills group’s objectives,  so you’re well-supported.) . You don’t have to “believe in” DBT or be prepared for “deep” work in group. This is more of an interactive classroom experience.
  • Duration: 6 months to get through all the skills. As long as you like to keep getting support, seeing how others use the skills, and getting to understand more and more deeply how these skills can apply to your life.

What is My DBT-Informed Skills Group?

DBT lays out four sets of skills: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal skills. When you join my group, you’ll learn all four sets.

  1. Mindfulness. Ever been angry and curious at the same time? It’s hard to do! Mindfulness is getting big these days. When we’re curious, when we’re living in the moment, it’s hard to be freaked out. You can bring gentle focused awareness to any feeling, and it will change in some way. Mindfulness is now a core piece of many therapies. “Let’s get curious together” is a form of mindfulness. Mindfulness, as Linehan teaches it, is learned through structured practice. Her worksheets offer you tons of different ways to practice it so you can find lots of ways that work for you.
  2. Distress Tolerance: I word this, “how to get through the difficult moments without accidentally making them worse.” Because when we’re really upset or mad or scared, we can tend to do things that do make it worse! We’ve all snapped at someone in anger and wish later that we hadn’t said something so hurtful. Some of us have shut down when we’re hurt rather than talking about it. The people Marsha started out working with would sometimes do dangerous things, sometimes to contain their distress, and sometimes to communicate it in the best way they knew how. Distress tolerance offers lots of ways for you to bring the most intense feelings down fast. When we can do this, we can keep things from blowing up in our faces!
  3. Emotional Regulation: Often, people with lots of distress who do things impulsively have emotions that come to the surface very quickly. They suddenly feel despair, or anger, or cycle between angry and numb. Marsha offers tools to identify your emotions, name them (which helps all by itself!), and also offers very specific ways to help you to sort them out. So that emotions can be mined for information about what you need or want, and so you can start to take a step back from emotions that are overwhelming. And gain skills to work with them – to notice them with compassion and curiosity, and to try different skills for reducing the ones that are getting too much and making it hard to think or act.
  4. Interpersonal Skills: Lots of people LOVE these skills! Marsha has training in behavior modification, which is basically how to help people want to do what we want them to do. She gives concrete ways to make friends, ways to discuss conflicts, ways to make requests assertively but kindly — ways to get more of what you want in your relationships. And less of what you don’t want!

These are skills that we can all use! I won’t be just teaching these: I’ll be practicing them right along with you. We’ll have time and space to discuss our successes, our failures, and to brainstorm together about how to use skills in various situations.

There’s homework! Which lots of clients come to like, because it gives them reminders on what to DO in moments where they used to flounder or kinda react on auto-pilot.

I also endeavor to keep the group compassionate toward your experiences.  I bring in ways to use mindfulness to help you to identify and jump out of a memory, or how to have compassionate curiosity toward your moments where you’re feeling things from the past. We don’t process past trauma in the group, but if you have tough memories (like we all do!), I’ll help you to use these skills in ways that are self-validating and that honor the reality of the past’s impact on your current life. And that help you back into the present moment.

“Should I Join?”

You’re likely to be a great fit for my DBT-informed skills group if:

  1. A professional you trust has recommended that you take a DBT skills group. (What’s the difference between “DBT” and “DBT-Informed?” According to a recent course I took offered by Marsha Linehan, Dbt-certified therapists prefer to call these more loosely structured skills groups “DBT-informed” rather than “DBT”. We go through the same worksheets a full DBT program has, but a full program  offers comprehensive individual DBT therapy, certified DBT therapists, and skills training phone calls.  The closest one I know of is in Portland. It’s more extensive and more intensive to be in a full DBT program. I hear that my group is very welcoming, and that we get through the worksheets but in a more conversational manner. I don’t teach from a whiteboard; we sit together and talk through each skill together.
  2. You’d like to be with others with similar struggles, providing brainstorming, support, community, and examples.

“Sign Me Up!”

Ready to join my DBT-informed skills group? You’re welcome to join us after we talk to make sure this is a good fit for you. Give me a call at (541)224-6732 and we’ll take it from there.

Even More about DBT: How it came to be

DBT stands for dialectical behavior therapy. Here’s how it came about: Marsha Linehan, a psychologist, decided to do a research study and show how effective CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy) was.

Then, she made a discovery: Not all clients benefit from  CBT. Some don’t benefit at all. Some people, when they’re talking about their pain, feel really invalidated if they’re simply taught to “think differently about it” or to “behave differently to feel better.”

She’d tell them to change their thoughts and behaviors, and they’d say, “I can’t! Don’t you see how much pain I’m in?”

So she tried the opposite. She validated their pain.She was warm. She was empathic. She was reflective. That didn’t work either! Or it was a half-step forward. Clients started saying, “That’s great that you understand my pain. But now what are we going to DO about it?”

Marsha developed a treatment that does both: Validates the depth of the struggle, really grasping how very scary those hard moments are. A treatment that “gets” how hard it is to think straight when your heart is racing, your hands are shaking, and you’re freaking out.

But also an approach that gives you things to DO in those hard, hard moments. Specific things. Simple things. Things you can remember and do when you’re really struggling. And ways to make your life better in between, so those moments happen less and less often, with less and less intensity.

And more skills to make good moments happen more and more often.

Skills broken down into categories. Into simple, doable things. Lots and lots of things. Things to do, to try. Lots of coaching on how to get through the hard moments. And also, lots and lots of coaching to build more good moments.

This strategy worked. It works by combining validation with specific skills.

Its success has been repeated. Many times by many therapists.

I see it working with my group too, and it’s fun to watch and hear! Clients talk about these skills with excitement, and share new successes and realizations every week. When things don’t go quite as planned, we brainstorm together about other skills that might be useful or what may have kept the person from using the skills.

I hear that, as a group, we’re compassionate, fun, and that the setting is warm and welcoming.

We have fun and playful moments in every group.

Want to join us? Call me at (541)224-6732. We’ll welcome you!

 

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Help for disorganized attachment http://michaelas-counseling.com/healing-disorganized-attachment/ http://michaelas-counseling.com/healing-disorganized-attachment/#comments Fri, 11 Aug 2017 16:21:07 +0000 http://michaelas-counseling.com/?p=2159 I’ve been reading about attachment styles, and am wanting to summarize, in my own words, what I’ve been discovering about these different styles.  These summaries, by the way, are not about mental illness even a little bit. These are about ways we all learn to cope with how connection has been for us. Any of … Continue reading "Help for disorganized attachment"

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I’ve been reading about attachment styles, and am wanting to summarize, in my own words, what I’ve been discovering about these different styles.  These summaries, by the way, are not about mental illness even a little bit. These are about ways we all learn to cope with how connection has been for us. Any of us could have adapted any of these styles, or any combination of them.

Today, I want to review some of what I’ve learned about one of the most misunderstood styles, the “disorganized” one.

If you’re struggling with a disorganized attachment style, you are torn between two or three different impulses in relationships. It feels chaotic inside, and it can get chaotic in your relationships. You yearn for closeness, yet that very closeness you yearn for can bring on some of your scariest, saddest, hardest places inside.

The deeper, the scarier

You are fine with acquaintances, but once a relationship gets deeper…

You are fine with acquaintances, but once a relationship gets deeper, you start feeling some internal chaos — like you don’t know whether to get way closer, to run away screaming, or to split the difference somehow!

You find yourself feeling like you’re going in two directions at once in the same relationship, and it’s exhausting for you (and maybe the other person!). It’s like wanting to floor the accelerator and pound on the brake of a car at the same time.

You are afraid to get close to people, afraid of the chaos this might unleash.

You have a vague sense of dread in relationships. You may not be able to identify quite what this is all about, but somehow, it feels like you aren’t really safe with others. You can’t settle.

You feel out of control of your own feelings, impulses, and behavior.

You alternate between trying to avoid someone and wanting to be very close to them, and you often don’t know what’s governing these cycles of closeness and distance.

You say things that other people find to be inconsistent. Like you ask for help, but then if help comes, it doesn’t feel safe, or good, or like what you asked for. Maybe others find you hard to please.

You sometimes feel like giving up on yourself, or giving up on relationships. But you have intense yearning at the very same time.

You feel stuck in your relationships, and if you’re in therapy, often feel stuck there — like you, your therapist, or both of you, are being too difficult!

Relationships feel like a landmine.

And yet, you need relationships

You want to be close. (We all do!) When closeness stirs up memories of abandonment or hurt, though, it’s like your body starts doing something else. It’s as if you move toward and away from relationships at the same time.

Connection has gotten entangled with hurt. With fear. With rage. With desolation. With desperation. With conflict.

It makes sense that you’re divided!

This is what happens when, early on, some of the people who were supposed to take care of you, listen to you, and keep you safe were the same people who walked away from you, didn’t listen, or were the source of hurt.

As children, we can’t just walk away.

As children, we can’t just walk away. When we’re young, we don’t have the option to say, “Sorry, this isn’t working out. I’ll find other parents who are a better match for my needs.”

We have to connect to them. Even when it’s scary. Even when it’s confusing. Even when it hurts. 

But, when we’re being hurt — physically, emotionally, or spiritually — we also have other impulses, to flee or to fight. Our self-protective impulses kick in.

These are good impulses. But they aren’t safe with caregivers who are bigger and more powerful, than the moment, than you are. You end up with suppressed rage, an urge to run but nowhere to go, or …

And  yet still, the yearning for connection.

Often, this all gets so confusing that you freeze up — it’s like you don’t feel safe coming toward your caregivers, but there’s nowhere to go. It’s not safe to fight, but it doesn’t feel safe to connect, either.

As an adult, you feel like these same binds keep playing in your relationships over and over again. You may sometimes feel like you’re insane, and other times feel like the  whole world’s gone mad!

Things just don’t seem stable, or safe. You just can’t get comfortable. Someone feels great to be around one moment, and terrifying the next. It’s like everything keeps getting flipped upside down in your mind, in your world. It doesn’t seem to make sense.

Even when you’re with a partner, or a friend, or a therapist who demonstrates that they care for you over and over again, and who never hurts you, sometimes you still can’t trust them. And, on a deeper level, you feel like you can’t trust yourself.

So what can be done?

Therapy for disorganized attachment

If you see someone who has experience in working with these types of binds, your  sense of hope may start to come in quite soon. A lot of this is that when someone “gets it” about disorganized attachment, you can more easily  start to talk in a candid way about yearnings, fears, yearnings towards and push-aways — and this opens up a safe space for all of the parts of you to come forward!

You can also work, carefully, to help you through the traumatic reactions in your body — reactions to the “fear without solution” you experienced when you were small.

You might notice empathically together what’s happening for you. For some clients, this is the first experience they’ve had of getting explicit compassion for their conflict within relationships. We start to notice what’s happening together, and what might happen next.

One client of mine and I started noticing a pattern: She would feel connected in a session, like I was tracking her. She would start to share deeper things with me, to really start to kind of “land” — and then, all of a sudden, it was as if I couldn’t say anything right! The slightest shift in my tonality could be experienced as hurtful — and yet, it also didn’t feel safe if I backed off or was quieter to give her more room.

Knowing about this helped us both. We could talk, when she wasn’t in that fragile space, about what it might be about. We could connect, notice when she was feeling ready to dive deeper, and then check in with the part of her that might not feel safe to do that.

Therapy with disorganized attachment takes time. It takes delicacy!Transparency and genuineness are so deeply important, because you and your therapist both need to contend with being human beings who impact one another, and who can make mistakes and repair them. One of the big things that heals is when they stick with you, and you with them (Assuming the therapy is safe-enough and a good fit!). You might  look carefully together at both the moments that feel great and the moments that don’t feel so good — and find new experiences together. Experiences where you can come closer — and have your needs heard, met, seen, and understood. Experiences where you can have your terror understood, worked with, talked with directly, and soothed.

A skillful counselor can also gently bring behaviors to your attention that may be sabotaging relationships — but without blaming you or minimizing your feelings. This kind of feedback can be deeply healing when it’s done with empathy for you and the places your behaviors come from. Often, people with this type of attachment would yearn for someone to be real with them, to tell them how they’re really coming across — and others have walked on eggshells instead, further deepening your fear that your problems are too deep to even be talked about. With someone you’ve built trust and safety with, however, the behaviors can be spoken about directly.

In this kind of therapy, you learn over time to be more compassionate with yourself. You learn to tolerate other people’s mistakes without them feeling so dangerous. You learn to notice what’s safe and what isn’t safe. You learn to draw toward people at a pace that’s safe for you.

You and a counselor can find together the moments where you connect in a secure, kind, well-boundaried way — and you can notice this together! None of us are all one attachment style, so even though your relationships may have been fraught with significant conflict, there are still lovely moments that you have with people. In counseling, you get to notice what it’s like to come in to see someone and to just know that you’re welcome, or what it’s like to feel those tears of relief when your sense of urgent need is welcomed and understood.

Clients who do this deep work often report unexpected changes in their lives in a short time period: Sometimes, they feel an overall sense of increased calm. Sometimes, they find that they can take a nap when they’re tired and go to sleep at night, when this had been very difficult before.

Clients use words like “ease,” “safety,” “feeling welcome”.

Clients also use words like “relief” when they see and hear that someone “gets them” (finally!), and that it’s possible to work through the feelings that have been too hard to put to words — together.

Attachment wounds heal through relationships. So you and your therapist work to build a relationship that feels safe enough, steady enough, good enough. (Not perfect, because no relationship is!).

If you’re dealing with wounds from this attachment style, please know that therapy can help. Even if it hasn’t helped before. Even if you’ve had your attachment dilemmas pathologized or you’ve been blamed before for your “faulty thinking” or your “poor communication.”

Once you work with a therapist who understands trauma and attachment wounds and knows how to work compassionately with them (and there really are lots of us, even though finding one well-suited to you might take some time.)– well, it’s not necessarily smooth sailing. But it gets a heck of a lot easier!

Therapies for disorganized attachment

When looking for therapy for disorganized attachment, one of the biggest things I recommend is finding someone who has regard for you, and who you have regard for. Someone who remembers and reaches out to your best self, someone who knows that your struggles make sense — and who can work not to personalize it if you get mad or scared or conflicted. Someone who can sit with you through fear and anger and ambivalence and yearning – without blaming, or scolding. Someone who understands something about this, or who wants to understand. That way, you can be curious together about what unfolds within you and between you. This is a key part of how we develop security in relationships.

I’m particularly fond of experiential kinds of therapies  that have a focus on attachment. By having an experience in therapy rather than just talking about your struggles, you get to feel what healthy attachment looks like. You begin to know how it feels to have someone else who is attuned to your needs and curious about you.

There is no perfect therapy relationship (or any perfect relationship anywhere!). It turns out that in every healthy relationship, we go through a three step process over and over again:

Attunement

Rupture

And repair.

So it’s vital to find a therapist who attunes to your needs and feelings, as best they can.

It’s even more vital that they can be curious with you about those inevitable moments of disconnection, or of missing each other. So that you can begin to experience the relief of repair — of knowing that all relationships involve both moments of connection and moments of disconnection. The best therapies will help you to feel an even deeper sense of relief and safety as you heal the inevitable disruptions.

Disorganized attachment can heal. You can become securely attached. The yearning for safety and closeness you feel are not just yearnings, but a clue to what’s possible for you in relationships — both with others and with yourself.

 

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Abandonment fears http://michaelas-counseling.com/abandonment-depression/ http://michaelas-counseling.com/abandonment-depression/#comments Sun, 25 Sep 2016 19:53:10 +0000 http://michaelas-counseling.com/?p=2146 Pete Walker has eloquently put into words what many clients with abandonement fears feel deeply but can’t always put words to. Emotional flashbacks to abandonment Someone I’ve worked with used to call this abandonment depression “psychic death.” She described a place she went inside where no one was there for her. When she reached out … Continue reading "Abandonment fears"

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Pete Walker has eloquently put into words what many clients with abandonement fears feel deeply but can’t always put words to.

Emotional flashbacks to abandonment

Someone I’ve worked with used to call this abandonment depression “psychic death.” She described a place she went inside where no one was there for her. When she reached out for help, it was tinged with hopelessness and a “why even try.” She needed connection. But her body and her mind were already preparing for prolonged shut down.  She was in a flashback to early childhood or to babyhood, when care from the people around her was not at all certain.

Unfortunately, that flashback colored her communication, so that when she did reach out to people who were available for her, they couldn’t tell if she wanted their help or not! She was giving up before she’d even started.

And that makes sense. Because her abandonment flashback told her to just give up and expect the worst. It’s no wonder her requests were tinged with both passivity and anger—anger at herself for wanting something she was sure she couldn’t get, anger at others for not being there for her. It was a mess!

More powerful than you’d think

Often, clients are startled to be experiencing extreme distress when they feel that “other people have been through so much worse than me.” But being abandoned or ignored in times of distress, to our young selves, constitutes a big trauma.

This video of “the still-face experiment” shows what happens with a baby whose mom is usually present and attuned, but who goes still and unresponsive for just a minute. As you watch baby’s reactions you’ll see what I mean: Mom’s inattention here is a big deal for this baby. Mom comes back to full engagement in this video, so this has a happy ending. For those of us where our caregiver couldn’t quite come back to us, we can end up feeling pretty scared and pretty stuck.

If you experience abandonment flashbacks, then you know these debilitating feelings of hopelessness, despair, and shame. I suspect that some people with strong fears of getting to know people are actually anticipating abandonment or rejection, and experiencing panic to keep them from nearing what feels like the tortuous zone of the “still face” seen above.

There’s no denying it

“So why does this hurt so much?” you may ask. “I’m an adult, right?” One client reasons, “It’s fine for me if not everyone likes me.” But her emotions tell her differently.

When she sees that look of indifference in a coworker’s eyes, she sinks so deeply into herself that she feels tranced for the rest of the day. Or she asks a friend out to eat, the friend isn’t available, and she wilts, despairing that anyone will ever want to spend time with her.

Attachment is as necessary as oxygen

When we’re little, proximity to our caretakers is life. We need to be attended to. We need our cries to be met with love and reassurance. We need people. It’s how we’re wired. It’s good that we need people.

When we have caretakers who, for whatever reason, weren’t around to adequately meet our needs, we skid into despair. It’s like a part of us freezes, gets stopped in time. This part shuts down. They can’t get their needs met. They can’t stop the sense of need. They panic. They shut down, because their needs for soothing aren’t being met and they don’t yet have the capacity to self-soothe. How could they? We learn how to soothe ourselves through being soothed by others.

As you saw in the video, when we need soothing and we can’t self-soothe, we protest. As babies, we cry and maybe scream. After protest, if no one still comes, we shut down. It’s like a part of us gives in to the inevitability of no help. No help ultimately means death. Our bodies are hard-wired to know this, to feel this. And to shut us down if they anticipate no end to the need, no comfort, no help.

Two stages of abandonment depression, and becoming stuck between the two.

When we anticipate that our needs may not be met:

  1. First we protest.
  2. Then we give up.

The “protest” stage

A person in protest may be called “needy” by others, and may hate herself for being so. Or she may be extremely demanding and perfectionistic, demanding that other people meet her needs just right.

One person I worked with was so demanding that his wife do everything just right that the wife was fed up. He acted as if he had a huge sense of entitlement. What turned out to be beneath this imperious surface was a child part that was terrified of the smallest hint of abandonment. So he protested loudly, repeatedly.

Unfortunately, if you’re stuck in protest, it’s like other people can’t do enough. Why is that? Because in this state, the sense of distress, or perhaps of imminent loss, is overwhelming. You get time with someone, you are given attention—but a part of you can’t seem to trust it or take it in. This takes time and gentleness to work through, taking in nourishment one little bit at a time. It’s hard when you haven’t had a lot of care or consistency to trust that people can be here for you now. It can also be hard to tell the difference sometimes between the fear of “child you” and the real yearnings of “adult you.”

Also, a part of you has taken up the role of fighting for your needs, and that has been very necessary. Unfortunately, this “fight part” keeps you from a true sense of safety in connection, a true sense of being able to settle down and relax when things are okay. This “fight part” can push people away from true connection with you as they scramble to meet your needs.

This is a tough place to be!

The good news is that, as you work through your abandonment fears with a caring-enough other person, your sense of panic and urgency will diminish, and you’ll find yourself more relaxed in your relationships.

The “shutdown” stage

If you’re protested and tried very hard to enlist people to be there for you, and you haven’t had your needs met adequately (or haven’t been able to notice they have), you go into a terrible shutdown place. There’s suppressed longing, and despair, maybe a bit of rage. The protest has stopped, and now you’re mostly numb. You may sleep a lot, or do escape activities. There’s a giving up on others and on yourself.

Both phases at once

So in protest, we protest, sometimes furiously! In shut-down, we give up.

What happens if we get stuck between the two phases?

Well, we  get passive-aggressive! Or we reach out in ways that are less than effective. The near certainty of abandonment that you feel makes you feel futile in reaching out, but a part of you is also telling you that you must try to get help.

When these two strategies duel, you may end up asking for help in exasperating ways that preclude the possibility of someone else truly helping.

Well, why not? If you’re convinced nothing will help you anyway, why would you (and how could you) be precise in your request?

And once your helpers fail, and you’re all alone, then at least you’re on familiar ground.

Is there help for this?

Yes. This fear and anguish around abandonment and the fear of it is all about not really believing that help is possible, of course. So from the heart of these feelings, you might not believe me. And that’s okay.

There really is help, though. This really can change.

It’s hard to change this all by yourself. The antidote to abandonment isn’t self-help. The antidote to abandonment isn’t to do something in lonely isolation.

The antidote to abandonment is connection.

How do you connect when connecting is the whole problem?

Finding a counselor who can map your emotions to unmet young needs can be a big help. Certainly, finding someone with empathy who understands that your feelings make sense will help too.

 

 

 

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Connection Survival Style: When longing is mixed with dread http://michaelas-counseling.com/connection-survival-style-longing-mixed-dread/ http://michaelas-counseling.com/connection-survival-style-longing-mixed-dread/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 23:24:41 +0000 http://michaelas-counseling.com/?p=2137 A client walks into my office. She sits down, hunched over. Her face is pale. Her hands shake. I say hi, and she says hello robotically almost, a fake smile covering her face. Then she looks down, away. Then stares at me, trying to keep eye contact. She’s heard, after all, that it’s only polite. … Continue reading "Connection Survival Style: When longing is mixed with dread"

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A client walks into my office. She sits down, hunched over. Her face is pale. Her hands shake.

I say hi, and she says hello robotically almost, a fake smile covering her face. Then she looks down, away. Then stares at me, trying to keep eye contact. She’s heard, after all, that it’s only polite.

Her issues? They vary. People with the “connection survival style,” a phrase coined by Laurence Heller, often talk about a feeling of emptiness, and say, “I want to find out who I am.” Sometimes, they pride themselves on not needing anyone, but they are starting to feel twinges of longing, or they’re starting to develop a close relationship. But as their connection grows, so does their fear. Of being too much. Of losing their independence. Often, it’s a fear too old, too primal, to put into words.

She may have very well-rehearsed social skills. Or she may be huddled in her home most of the time, maybe spending most of her time with animals, or on nature trails. Whether she presents as sophisticated and poised or she presents as ill-at-ease, she’s likely dealing with the most fundamental of our emotional needs as an infant:

She didn’t get the level of connection she needed to really feel like she could be herself. She may not feel that she has a real self. She has been trying like mad to mirror others, in hopes that, by approximating the moves of connection, she’ll find her way in, find her way to being welcome.

At the same time, she’s terrified to reach out. Terrified to want. Terrified to connect.

Longing mingles with dread. Possibility and hope mingle with fear and despair.

She has a deep yearning for connection. But she fears connection too. Because it wasn’t dependable when she was young. Maybe her parents were ill, or preoccupied. Maybe they weren’t nice to her. Maybe they communicated to her, with their hurried way of tending to her young needs, that she was a burden. Maybe her birth had complications, leading to a less-than-warm and welcoming vibe in those very first moments, or she was ill as an infant.

Are you struggling with the connection survival style? Here are some indicators that you may be:

  • You feel like you don’t know who you really are.
  • You struggle with feelings of meaninglessness, emptiness.
  • You sometimes feel spacey, or like you’re floating, or disconnected somehow.
  • Other people feel foreign to you somehow, like you “don’t belong here”. Relationships don’t make intuitive sense. You don’t feel welcome or a part of things, no matter what. You may have learned lots of ways to compensate for this, but at heart, you feel like you’re acting somehow, going through the motions.
  • You experience unexplained fatigue, tension, and aches and pains.
  • You aren’t in touch with feelings of hunger and fullness. You may undereat or overeat, or forget to eat until painful hunger takes over, or until you’re physically weak.
  • You experience fear of interacting with others, and try to avoid social situations.
  • You long for closeness to someone, but once you do get close, you get scared. Fear of abandonment creeps in, or anger at unmet needs, or you cycle between feeling exhilarated and disconnected.
  • You feel this underlying sense of dread in the pit of your stomach almost all. the. time. It may attach itself to different things happening in your life, but it seems wordless, sourceless, everpresent. Sometimes it’s a dull background feeling, and sometimes it almost overwhelms you.
  • You feel a lot of shame about wanting anything, about making yourself known, about speaking up — about many things. You may, deep down, feel ashamed for existing.

2 Subtypes of the connection style — or, in other ways, two common ways people escape the pain of their unmet connection needs:

  • Intellectualizing. You escape into the world of your thoughts.  If people ask you how you feel, you tell them what you think. If you start to feel something, you start working to think your way out of it. Maybe you analyze everything. Maybe people tell you you overthink things. When the longing in our hearts feels crushing, we go elsewhere: One place we can go to is the safe world of thinking. Maybe you’ve developed research skills, or hidden in the world of books. You probably have a great breadth of knowledge. But somehow, all that knowledge hasn’t brought you closer to knowing who you are.
  • Spiritualizing. If this is a way that you’ve worked to meet your connection needs, you are likely very sensitive to the spiritual world. While this is a gift and a resource, Laurence Heller also hypothesizes that you may be so skilled in picking up on spiritual things because it “has never felt safe to land on the planet.” Not feeling connected to people, you connect to God or spiritual beings instead.

Here’s the good news:

We all have a fundamental need to connect, and we have the ability. You do too! The struggles you have just indicate that the need hasn’t been met for you. The ways it’s getting met now may still feel too “loud,” too “wordy.” Because in our first few months, we need softness, welcome. It’s possible you didn’t get enough nurturing for you to quite land within your own body and your own experience.

Your shame isn’t based on a badness in you, even though it feels so deeply that way. It’s based on very young stuff. When we’re too young for words, we can have these very scary, big, feelings. But in that time of our lives, we don’t have the ability to differentiate those bad feelings from us. Those feelings feel like the whole world!

As we get older, we start coming up with reasons we feel awful. One reason we can come up with is, “I must feel awful because I am awful!”

Also,  if we feel unwelcome or unable to deeply connect  for long enough, we can start to give up hope, without being able to give up the need. If we give up the need, we start feeling that our need is bad. That we are unwelcome, unwanted, unlovable.

But that’s not the case. The case is that, for whatever reason, you missed out on something we all need when we’re young. (This can happen for all kinds of reasons, even in really good families, by the way!)

This can change. It takes time, it takes gentleness, and it takes patience. It takes a safe relationship. Some people find this through a pet, and then later on, they find a partner.

Some people find this first in therapy or coaching that focuses on connection to their bodies and their emotions and to another person, safely, incrementally, step by step.

The connection survival style is a set of ways you learned to adapt, to survive, when your needs weren’t being met.

Now, the task is for you to connect to yourself, maybe for the first time. Sometimes, this starts with very simple things, like body awareness.

Often, we need a “safe enough other” in order to do this. A therapist who understands something about this survival style and how to work with your emotions, your body, your nervous system, and your spirituality — will have a good chance of helping you to navigate your way safely, gently, and gradually — into connection with yourself, and with others.

It’s beautiful work. Because the wounds of the connection survival style are preverbal, the therapy work we do around it is often difficult to put into words too.

But when people experience this work, they notice some things start to shift:

  • They start to feel a sense of safety, of welcome, first with me, and then with others.
  • They may notice changes in body temperature, like feeling warmer. Sometimes, they hadn’t noticed they felt cold! But the warmth, they notice.
  • They begin to notice and tend to their bodily signals, like hunger and tiredness.
  • They begin to reach out for connection with others, and to feel like it’s okay to do this!
  • They speak more easily. Some clients have told me that they had a throat constriction and that, in the course of this work, it loosens up.
  • They may even breathe more easily! When you’re unsure of yourself and your welcome, it can be like a trauma in your body. You may have tightened up, and you may be unconsciously holding your breath much of the time, or breathing shallowly. This work tends to help people to feel an openness in their chests, and to begin to breathe more deeply.
  • You feel settled, centered, calmer.
  • You start saying, “I would like….”, “I prefer….”, “I’m really feeling a longing for…..”
    And you can act on your wants and yearnings! Some clients say this gives their lives an organization that it’s never had before, that it’s like going from floating around waiting for things to happen to knowing what they want and feeling that, at least much of the time, they can make it happen.
  • Your shame diminishes, and as this happens, you get in touch with healthy anger. Anger helps you to set boundaries, to know when you’re not getting what you need, and to advocate for yourself.

The transformation in therapy with folks with the connection survival style is profound, as you can likely tell from this list.

This kind of work goes way beyond teaching you strategies or relationship skills. Clients who go through this work, and stay with it, say that they feel like they’ve finally come home. They say they feel like they know and like who they are.

They sometimes have difficulty putting into words how profound the changes are. But they do say that they can feel the shift in their bodies, in their emotions. Their loved ones say they too notice a deep difference.

You can experience profound shifts if you’re struggling with this style.

*This style and 3 others are explained in depth in Laurence Heller’s book, “Healing Developmental Trauma.” Laurence has offered a training called “NARM”, a method that combines Somatic Experiencing and relational work. But there are lots of people who know how to work with this. You’ll want to look for someone gentle and who can help  you to compassionately notice your present moment experience and who can help you to gently begin to get a sense of welcome, room for you to be, room for you to want things, room for you to know yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Autonomy survival style: “I just need more space” http://michaelas-counseling.com/i-need-more-space-understanding-the-autonomy-survival-style/ http://michaelas-counseling.com/i-need-more-space-understanding-the-autonomy-survival-style/#respond Sat, 06 Feb 2016 03:36:51 +0000 http://michaelas-counseling.com/?p=1884 I’ve been reading a book by Laurence Heller called, “Healing Developmental Trauma,” where he talks about four different strategies around connection we can develop depending on needs that may have gone unmet for us. This post is a summary, in my own words, of what he shares about “autonomy survival strategy.” If you struggle with … Continue reading "Autonomy survival style: “I just need more space”"

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I’ve been reading a book by Laurence Heller called, “Healing Developmental Trauma,” where he talks about four different strategies around connection we can develop depending on needs that may have gone unmet for us. This post is a summary, in my own words, of what he shares about “autonomy survival strategy.”

If you struggle with this “Autonomy Survival Style,” you are in a bind.

You feel pressured from all sides. You feel torn. You often feel victimized by people’s demands. And you don’t feel that she can speak up directly about your needs or feelings without endangering love. But the anger at feeling like you can’t be who you are has to go somewhere, and it often comes out sideways.

If this sounds like you, you came by it honestly. Here’s how it probably went down:

You reached an age when you were little when you could start speaking, and walking, and exploring. You had the natural impulses all little kids do: You needed to explore. You needed to say “No!” You needed to test the boundaries, and find out what your body and your words were capable of. You needed to develop a sense of your own voice, and your own space.

And then you were stopped.

A parent or caregiver, maybe without meaning to, stopped you. So you were not allowed to explore. Or you did not get to say “no”,  did not get to test the boundaries,  did not find out what your body and words were capable of. You did not develop a sense of your own voice,  your own space.

So you did what any child would do in that situation, what you had to do: You stuck close to the parent. You smiled, you cuddled, maybe you said “I love you” more times than you  wanted to. Or you maybe left your toys behind to stay close to Mommy or Daddy, because they needed you.

So it looked like you never developed your own independence, your own individuality, your own preferences. But not really. It was there. You hid it deep inside. On the outside, you were loving, compliant. But on the inside, a part of you stayed separate.  This part is isolated, hidden from the world, and perhaps hidden even from your own conscious awareness. The needs and behaviors driven by this part of you can seem uncontrollable, and like they come out of left field.

Suppose you had this history and this problem. What would you notice after you’re no longer a child, and you’ve grown up now? Probably, some of these:

  • You are good at figuring out what other people want.
  • You are intensely aware of other people’s needs and feelings.
  • You find it hard to say no.
  • You procrastinate.
  • You find yourself feeling inexplicably tired, fatigued, and ill.
  • You experience chronic pain or repeated injuries.
  • You are lonely, even in a relationship.

So why is this? Let’s look at it this way: You have two parts that developed out of your childhood experiences:

  1. The part that learned to live up to expectations. This part probably to learned to read other people. In fact, this part learned to stay one step ahead of others, perceiving what they want, what they feel, and what they need.  This part imagines that its sleuthing and pleasing is the only thing that makes you acceptable to others. Your self-concept may include only this part, and leave out this next part.
  2. The part that protects your independence. This part is fiercely protective of your space. This part is often hidden, and may feel guilty that it even exists because it is working at cross purposes to the “good child” part. Yet this part is essential.    This part is trying to maintain your sense of self, but has never been allowed to do this directly. This part sometimes sabotages the first part’s efforts to help others. This part sets boundaries indirectly, for example, through telling half-truths, through procrastination, through fatigue. If you’re not aware of the job this part has, you and people close to you can feel constantly blindsided.

These parts are both doing their very best to protect you. One wants to protect your relationships, and holds a deep fear that no one will really care about you or like you if you aren’t scrambling to always please other people. This doesn’t leave a lot of space for you!

The other part wants to make a space for you. It is often (quite understandably!) angry at the situation it finds you in, though you may not be aware of this anger.

And then, there’s you. You are more than the sum of these two parts. Much more. While both parts of you have something they contribute, they sometimes obscure how sensitive, caring, and perceptive you truly are.

When I work with someone with this style, I get very interested in helping you find out who you are. How do you do that?

You resolve the conflicts between these two parts, recognizing that they’re ultimately working toward the same goals. This, in turn, will give you your own authentic voice,  neither a pushover nor pushing away. You discover your sensitivity and your creativity. You discover that there’s more room for you within relationships. You discover a new softness and a new strength.

If you developed this Autonomy Survival Style, I know it hasn’t been easy. But along the way, you’ve picked up some tremendously valuable skills that most people don’t have, including an accurate sensitivity to others.

You learned to bury your deepest gifts and your depth and your passions deep inside. Maybe you’ve been pleasing, placating, distracting, “shoulding” yourself, and feeling angry and stuck for years. But who you are has been protected.

Now you can find who you really are. Easy? Nah, not really. Liberating? Very much so! Moving? Definitely. I love when people who’ve been hiding behind these defenses for years start to peek out and show who they are. I value their “no’s” as they flow genuine; I value their “Yes”es as increasingly trustworthy.

They learn to value alone time and relationships, and to stop pleasing and start connecting.

You can do this too.

 

 

 

 

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Feeling stuck in therapy? 5 ways to move forward http://michaelas-counseling.com/when-you-feel-stuck-in-therapy/ http://michaelas-counseling.com/when-you-feel-stuck-in-therapy/#respond Sun, 09 Aug 2015 06:37:25 +0000 http://michaelas-counseling.com/?p=1810 Feeling stuck in therapy? Change is on the horizon! Recently, a client and I were musing together:  “It’s so interesting, isn’t it? Being right on the verge of a breakthrough sometimes feels exactly like being stuck!” And that’s the theme. When you feel stuck, it’s often because something within you is ready to move forward, to … Continue reading "Feeling stuck in therapy? 5 ways to move forward"

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Feeling stuck in therapy? Change is on the horizon!

Recently, a client and I were musing together:  “It’s so interesting, isn’t it? Being right on the verge of a breakthrough sometimes feels exactly like being stuck!”

And that’s the theme. When you feel stuck, it’s often because something within you is ready to move forward, to do something new. You’re tired of things being the way they have been.  You’re ready for change.

That’s why feeling stuck in therapy can be a good thing. A really good thing!

But often, people feel, right before big change, like they can’t change. They don’t know how. They don’t know what’s next. Some people call this a “tipping point”: Things can’t stay as they’ve been, but they haven’t shifted to a natural new balance yet.

But other times, there’s genuinely something missing in the therapy. And how on earth do you tell the difference? How do you get unstuck?

Here are five tips for gaining more clarity about your stuckness.

1. Talk about it with your therapist!

Mention what you’re feeling. Notice the thoughts that go with the feeling of stuckness.

Work with the present moment. That means that, when you sit down with your therapist, let yourself notice what happens right then. Do you start to tense up and get ready to tell lots of stories? Do you notice a vague sense of unease, or boredom? Do you notice that there’s something you’d really like from your therapist, but you can’t put your finger on it? Do you feel an impulse to be a “good” or “interesting” client? Talk about that stuff — these realizations make for some of the richest sessions!

One of my clients calls this focus a focus on “form rather than content.” For her, it makes a real difference when we together shift our attention to how she’s speaking and how she’s feeling as she speaks, rather than focusing on the story.

How do we do this? When a client tells me a story, I will listen to what they’re saying and acknowledge the story, and I’ll also remark on the telling of the story: “And as you talk about that, it looks like you’re on the edge of tears, and then you smile and start talking faster,” Or, “Your body went very still right when you started talking about your ex.” You can do this for yourself, too, with practice! Start noticing what happens in you as you talk. And see what new directions that can lead you.

2. Do something different!

Sometimes, the feeling of being stuck in your therapy is maintained by doing the same things over and over again. That can include the little things: Sitting in the same place, talking on the same topics, doing everything the same way. So getting unstuck can be pretty simple, and you can get the momentum going again by doing most anything differently: Sit somewhere else. Talk on different topics. Do something, anything, differently!

3. Either go lighter or  go deeper!

Sometimes people start to feel stuck in therapy when their feelings are becoming so intense that they’re feeling overwhelmed. And then, something inside of them starts wanting to put the brakes on the feelings, and that looks and feels like being stuck.

In fact, it can be a natural impulse to “come up for air,” and it can be very helpful to support this sense of wanting to lighten the talk for a bit. Therapy doesn’t need to be all about hard stuff, and sometimes, it can be very helpful to spend a whole session focused on resources in your life, or things that you love to do, or the things that are working well for you, or on something you’re interested in. You don’t want to do this week after week, perhaps, but talking about something lighter can give you a chance to connect with yourself and your therapist from a different vantage point, and it can give you a sense of relief that supports going deeper, but with more resources.

On the other hand, if all you’ve discussed recently is daily life stuff, or the same old stresser, or the same story, you might ask your therapist to get beneath the surface, and to talk more about your emotions, or beliefs you hold about yourself, or a feeling or pattern that comes up for you over and over again.

4. Ask your therapist what they think!

Maybe your therapist and you both feel ready for a change. Or you’ve both gotten into a sense of routine, and it can help you both to talk about how best to move things forward together. You’ll learn something new about your therapist and about the quality of your collaboration together when you bring up your sense of stuckness. That is a good thing.

5. Maybe it’s time for a change.

Feeling stuck for a few weeks, or even for a month or two, can be the beginning of deep change, especially if you keep landing on the same difficult feeling, and you and your therapist continue to work with that. But if the feeling of stuckness is persisting for longer than that, it might be time for a bigger change.

Sometimes you might be in a therapy that was great for you a year ago, but no longer fits with where you are now. Part of how you can find this out is by discussing what’s happening with your therapist, and by seeing if things start to gain momentum. If they stay pretty much at a standstill, it might be time to say goodbye. When this move is done in the right time, the goodbye is a great chance to honor the work you’ve done with your therapist, and to have a solid goodbye done from a grounded place of knowing that you’re making a good decision for yourself. And that you’re empowered to do your next piece of healing in a new way. This is good news.

You can be surer that you’re making a solid decision by avoiding a hasty goodbye and really sitting with  the feelings the prospect of goodbye elicits. This can lead to a deeply healing ending, or to a beginning into a deeper, richer direction with your same counselor.

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Are your Worst Feelings Actually Emotional Flashbacks? [Video] http://michaelas-counseling.com/complex-ptsd-emotional-flashback/ http://michaelas-counseling.com/complex-ptsd-emotional-flashback/#respond Thu, 07 Aug 2014 20:36:29 +0000 http://michaelas-counseling.com/?p=1383 What is an emotional flashback? Emotional flashbacks are feelings in the moment that go back to times in childhood where you felt defective, helpless, abandoned, or despairing. They can be tricky to identify, because unlike a specific flashback with specific images, you experience very strong feelings of self-hatred, shame, abandonment, invisibility, or rage. And they’re not … Continue reading "Are your Worst Feelings Actually Emotional Flashbacks? [Video]"

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What is an emotional flashback?

Emotional flashbacks are feelings in the moment that go back to times in childhood where you felt defective, helpless, abandoned, or despairing. They can be tricky to identify, because unlike a specific flashback with specific images, you experience very strong feelings of self-hatred, shame, abandonment, invisibility, or rage. And they’re not linked to any one specific memory.

Here’s a video I’ve made on feelings like hopelessness and the feeling that you’re unlovable, and identifying the possibility that you’re having a flashback. Or if you’re looking for strategies to try right now, scroll further down and find my video that gives you three ways to work with an emotional flashback right now.

Times that you felt despair, shame, rage, futility, a sense of being abandoned or unworthy may be signaling a powerful feeling memory of what it was like for you when you were small.  Because these flashbacks often seem to be related to the present moment, identifying the intensity of your feelings as an emotional flashback is an important piece to healing.

When People Are Having Emotional Flashbacks…

Here are some things people tend to feel and do when experiencing emotional flashbacks:

They Feel Toxic Shame

You get this sense that you are not okay. Everything about you starts to feel pathetic, or worthless, or simply not good enough. Shame is a sense that there’s something wrong with you, something wrong with who you are. It makes sense that a sense of being so worthless would propel this next step:

They criticize themselves, Viciously!

This part of you, this inner critic, says you’re not worth it, you’re not good enough, that you never should have tried, or that you have no right to your feelings and thoughts. This critic often echoes the contempt people received in childhood. This critic demolishes your sense of self-esteem. This leads to the next issue:

They Abandon Themselves, Recreating Early Abandonments

You give in to your inner critic, and you give up on yourself. Some folks abandon themselves through “spacing out”, taking care of other people compulsively (without regard for their own needs), getting into destructive or dependent relationships, turning to food or sleep to dull their feelings, or turning to addictions. Giving up on yourself can be accompanied by suicidal ideation, compulsion/addiction, depression, and giving into the wishes of others to the exclusion of your own needs.

Fear of relationships/social situations

This fear of interaction with other people makes sense when you never developed the sense that you were okay, that people liked you, and that you were worth people’s time and attention.

Emotional Flashbacks Can be Stopped, and You Can Heal!

Here’s a video I did on ways you can work with an emotional flashback right in the moment you’re experiencing it. You might want to bookmark this page or favorite the video on Youtube so you can find it at a moment’s notice!

 

I coach clients from around the world via video, and locally here in Oregon. Clients suffering from emotional flashbacks express great relief once they understand that they’re not bad or crazy, and that their troubled emotions and relationships make sense. Once you know that you’re NOT crazy or defective, you can start the work of healing.  Healing is deeply rewarding, because as you learn to let go of toxic shame, to challenge your inner critic, to notice when you’re in an emotional flashback (and find your way out), you get to feel at home with yourself.  Life looks different. Your anxiety diminishes, your energy increases, and you gain a sense of love, belonging, and safety.

Healing can begin to occur in a safe relationship, often with a good therapist. Read my article about feeling safe in therapy.  People recover from these feelings every day. To recover, you’ll need to develop self-compassion, challenge your inner critic, and learn to care for the child you once were. As you recover, you develop a sense that you’re okay, that you can be safe, and that you’re worth it. You stop abandoning yourself and learn to embrace who you are. Healing happens one step at a time.

 Examples of Emotional Flashbacks

Here are examples of emotional flashbacks I’ve seen:

  • Mary comes to a session convinced that I won’t like her, that no one can like her. When we talk about these feelings, it becomes apparent that, even though I and many other people like her, there’s a part of her that keeps remembering the feelings of helplessness and shame and replaying the voices of her parents saying, “No one will ever want to be your friend.”
  • Thomas tells me he “freaks out” every time his fiance looks at him a certain way. When he remembers what “that look” reminds him of, he recalls the sense of impending doom he had as a child when his stepfather gave him a certain look before beating him.
  • Rose can’t stand for someone on the phone to say it’s time for them to go. It brings her back to a time in her childhood where she felt all alone.
  • When Harry hears that his boss wants to talk to him, he immediately panics and believes that he’s going to be reprimanded. When we talk it through, he realizes that he’s flashing back to a time that his mother saying, “Let’s have a talk” could only mean bad things.

Dealing with Emotional Flashbacks

How do you resolve an emotional flashback? First, you recognize the likelihood that it is a flashback.

  1. Recognizing your emotional flashbacks for what they are can save your sense of sanity. By recognizing these feelings as coming from the past, you can begin to let go of the fear or anguish now, and to be compassionate with yourself as you deal with the feelings from then.
  2. Recognize that you are safe now. When you were young, these experiences could feel life-threatening. But now, you’re in an adult body with adult resources. You’re safe now. You might check out my flashback halting protocol video for a format for noticing safety in the here and now.
  3. Understand your flashback as a message from a child part of yourself. This part still needs care and attention and validation, and didn’t get it when you were young. Now is the time to hear that child’s message. Rather than fixating on the current situation, focus on the feeling and tend to that child within.
  4. Recognize that this flashback will pass, and life will look different then. When you’re in the midst of one of these flashbacks, they can feel eternal. Worse, a part of you may criticize you or shame you, and these criticisms can feel like utter truth when you feel this way. They’re not truth. I promise! Right now, take care of you.
  5. Become an expert in emotional flashbacks. The more you know, the more empowered you’ll feel, and having the words to put to what’s going on will to keep you from getting stuck in a feeling. You can find stuff on my website and youtube channel, of course! 🙂
  6. And you can look at stuff that the guy who coined the term “Emotional Flashback” has written. His name is Pete Walker, and he offers a lot of useful information, written very compassionately. Here’s a link to his website, with articles that might interest you right on the left column.
  7. Realize that you can heal from this stuff. A relationship with someone who has compassion and a clue will help a lot, especially if the inner critic or feelings of shame keep taking over your thoughts and feelings, despite your best efforts. So consider seeking help from someone familiar with this stuff. If you already have a support network (Lots of people struggling with this stuff don’t yet have that, and that can change over time!), find someone safe to start sharing a little bit of this stuff with. And if you don’t yet have that, you might seek help from a counselor. One with compassion, and hopefully one who knows some of this stuff and can help guide you to a sense of self-compassion and curiosity. One you can connect with over time. One who can offer you a bit of a roadmap to where you are and where you can go. One who can, most importantly, offer genuineness and compassion in a way that will help you feel those things toward yourself more and more.

 

 

 

 

 

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Am I the right counselor/coach for you? http://michaelas-counseling.com/am-i-the-right-counselor-for-you/ Wed, 09 Jul 2014 01:14:04 +0000 http://michaelas-counseling.com/?p=1251 Work with me from anywhere in the world over Skype or Zoom video See me in person in Corvallis, Oregon Do any of these sound like you? Most of my successful clients have things in common. If you’re like them, I may be the right counselor/connections coach for you: You are highly sensitive. You’re okay … Continue reading "Am I the right counselor/coach for you?"

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  • Work with me from anywhere in the world over Skype or Zoom video
  • See me in person in Corvallis, Oregon
  • Do any of these sound like you?

    Most of my successful clients have things in common. If you’re like them, I may be the right counselor/connections coach for you:

    • You are highly sensitive.
    • You’re okay with acquaintances, maybe even popular or respected -but very close relationships can evoke tangles for you – fear of getting close, fear of being abandoned – lots of fear as you get close to people.
    • You feel a lot of shame, perhaps assuming your relationship issues are your fault or believing your sense of shame or unworthiness is “the truth.” (Spoiler alert: it’s not the truth!)
    • You have talked your way through counseling before, maybe sharing a lot and getting lots of support – but still, your deepest feelings and stuck places haven’t really shifted.
    • You have a lot of compassion for others, but are much harder on yourself.
    • You’ve been abandoned or betrayed.
    • You have sometimes doubted your own worth or your own take on things.
    • You dream of doing really cool things, but you have difficulty either taking on new projects or finishing them.
    • You often feel alone, unseen, unmet, yearning for something more but unsure how to get from here to there – or if you deserve to be deeply cared for.
    • You are the rock for others in your life, but no one is your rock.

    Did you resonate with some of this? If so, I’d love to meet you.

    Who I am

    I’m Michaela. I love to help people to connect: to connect back with their bodies, with their hearts and emotions, with others in their lives, with their deepest sense of self. I also like help intellectual and emotional connections to meet: To help join what you know in your head with what you feel in your heart and your body.

    I write about and work  mostly with connection tangles. Like the places within you that feel unmet and lonely no matter how many people are around.

    Or that place in you that feels inadequate, not quite good enough, even when you get accolades.

    Or the place that gets close to people and then feels all tangled: yearning and anger combine, perhaps, or you feel like you want too much, or like you can’t want anything or ask for help at all.

    Working interactively to notice and shift your experience, moment by moment. 

    How do we work together? Generally, with lots of compassion, humor, and gentleness. People tell me this work is very different from “just talking” or from trying to analyze what’s up. We take our cues from your emotions, your body, and from what happens as you and I connect. We try to find out what keeps happening that keeps you stuck, and to help replace your old relationship experiences with something new.  Here are some beliefs that deeply guide my work:

    Our bodies can convey what our words sometimes can’t. By noticing your body language together, we can tap into and deepen your biggest resources and strengths – and we can also discover and move through “stuck” emotions, old beliefs, and unmet yearnings.
    Our emotions tell our stories too (especially the emotions that seem to keep coming up that we can’t quite make sense of), and offer us a vehicle for resolution of those pained, scared, angry places.
    Our “weird,” not-so-good behaviors that give us so much shame are our best attempts at navigating the world we grew up in (and maybe the world we’re in now too!).
    Movement can heal. Connection can heal. I can’t heal you but I can support you, help you find the authentic voice that’s been waiting to be welcomed, support the movements that have been halted somehow, the pain that hasn’t been accompanied to resolution.

    The work is very different from mental health treatment and diagnosis. It’s more of an interaction than a discussion, more somatic and emotion-focused than analytical, more dynamic than still.  This work is best suited to people who are high-functioning but still not satisfied, who have unmet need or yearning. If you skate along but find it rather hard to feel connected, even when you are connected, this kind of work is an excellent fit. If you’re an overachiever who finds it hard to slow down and breathe and feel, it can likely help you too.

    If you have unresolved pain (And who among us doesn’t?) that gets in the way of feeling your own solidity, strength, and success, I’d love to help.

    If you want to enrich your experience of life and of connection, and if you want help to put some pieces together after some difficult life stuff, I’m  here and ready to accompany you on that.

    The best place to start is with a consultation to check with how you and I “jive”. That tends to be the most important thing – As much as I love all the techniques I’ve learned, they’re secondary to the sense of connection you and I can build. You can set up that consultation right here.

    What my counseling clients say:

    “I can’t believe how much easier it is for me now. I can get through the day without crying. I can go to work. I can talk to people. I haven’t felt this good in a long, long time!”

    “I was beyond burnt out on therapy before I met you, and never would have come to see you if we hadn’t met by chance. But I’m so glad I did meet with you, because you changed my idea of therapy, and showed me that I’m not just a ‘set of symptoms,’ and that there are things that can help me. I finally know how to keep my peace instead of going into a rage. I never would have thought this was possible before we met!”

    “It’s like there was this sense of being blocked — like concrete in my heart somehow. I can feel the concrete melting now. I’m crying, but with relief this time.”

    “I used to feel like I needed other people to take care of me, and I felt so desperate. It was a need that never felt like it eased up, and I had parts inside that wouldn’t work together. Now, it’s like the parts are along with me, and we’re working together. I feel like I can take care of myself now, like I have support from inside.”

    “At the end of our work together, I know I’ve come a long way. And I enjoyed our work, too! And I love how many approaches you use, and how you’re always learning new things and bringing them to our work. It kept the work so fluid and dynamic. We did hypnosis, and I had big breakthroughs.   The therapy that worked with my body helped me to feel a sense of boundaries and  solidity in myself. And your empathy helped me to feel what I was feeling, to stop suppressing my emotions.
    My relationships are better. I know what I want, and I can say it. I’m taking care of myself, and all the parts of me are working together.

    I know I’m ready to move forward. I was stuck, and you helped me to get unstuck!”

    I feel like you ‘get me’, and you know ways to help me to move through and past things that have been holding me back for a long time. I finally know how to keep my peace instead of going into a rage. I never would have thought this was possible before we met!”

    “I know it’s safe in here because your words, your posture, your laugh — they all tell me it’s really okay to bring all of me here. It’s a sense of safety I’ve needed for a long time.”

    “I suddenly had this epiphany — this realization — that most people are safe. Most people mean well. I hadn’t felt that before. I’d always been on guard without even knowing it.

    I used to be so hard on myself. Now, I can catch myself starting to do that, and I imagine your compassion. Your compassion for me is helping me to be compassionate toward myself, and that changes things for me.”

    “My energy is coming back, and I can focus now. With the things I’ve learned, I can settle myself and focus. I’m so much calmer at work, and that’s making my time there much more productive!”

    “My boss gave me a piece of feedback, and before, I would have just shut down and felt angry at her — and like a failure inside. This time, I saw her feedback as a true gift, and I was able to take it in and make real improvements. She noticed the difference!”

    “My partner and I got into an argument again, but I was able to calm down so much more quickly and speak so that he could hear me. He said this is the first time he’s seen me so at ease, and it’s so much easier for us to talk!”

    All these words above are from clients of mine, folks who started out feeling unsure of themselves. Some of them had to work hard to get themselves to therapy! But they did schedule to see me, and they followed through. For some clients, coming to counseling is a leap of faith, or an act of honoring themselves even when they’re not sure yet that they can get better.

    See Me in Face-to-Face or Over Internet Video

    My counseling office is in downtown Corvallis, Oregon, so I am also within easy reach of Philomath, Albany, Lebanon, Monroe, Monmouth, and the surrounding areas.

    And I offer connections coaching to clients  from around the world via Skype or Zoom video.

    To learn more, schedule a consultation right here.

    I'm ready for practical, interactive counseling!

     

    Get more tips and information

    To learn more, keep looking around! If what you’ve read and seen has connected with  you, or subscribe to my newsletter! I put videos regularly on YouTube as well.

    Michaela Lonning
    260 SW Madison Ave, Suite 104-5
    Corvallis Oregon 97333

    (541)224-6732

    michaela@michaelas-counseling.com

    The post Am I the right counselor/coach for you? appeared first on Michaela's Counseling and Connections Coaching.

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    Replacing “old scripts” in relationships http://michaelas-counseling.com/replacing-old-scripts-in-relationships/ Fri, 20 Dec 2013 21:02:31 +0000 http://michaelas-counseling.com/?p=753 Do you ever feel like you keep playing out the same old script and having the same old relationships, or the same relationship patterns? Have you married some variant on the same person over and over again, and do you consistently shrink yourself or fight in the same old ways? In therapy, you may also … Continue reading "Replacing “old scripts” in relationships"

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    Do you ever feel like you keep playing out the same old script and having the same old relationships, or the same relationship patterns?

    Have you married some variant on the same person over and over again, and do you consistently shrink yourself or fight in the same old ways?

    In therapy, you may also notice some of that “old stuff” seeping in. You may feel yourself withdrawing from me the way you withdraw from others, or find yourself talking lots and connecting little — or find yourself suppressing your own needs, or feeling overwhelmed by them.

    The beauty of a therapy that works well is that you get to bring those patterns with you, and we get to both have a real curiosity about your experience in the relationship here.

    We may make new discoveries together. And we may get to find options beyond that script you’ve played out in relationships a million times.

    Pat Ogden, author of “Trauma and the Body”, calls these scripts “procedural memory.” Your body and your mind are used to going through a sequence of steps in relationships — much like how your body and mind just “know” how to drive a car without thinking through each move, your body and your mind also instinctively respond in old ways in relationships.

    In counseling, we can actually be curious about these “memories” you relive together — and we can find gentle and compassionate ways for you to interrupt those “old scripts.”

    Here are some examples:

    -Every time a particular client feels misunderstood, she starts to withdraw, to “go into her own world” and to think about leaving the relationship. She feels misunderstood in my office, starts to “zone out.”

    Something new happens when I ask her to take me with her, to help me to understand where the misunderstanding happened. I work with her with feeling her feet on the ground, being aware of her own experience, and with telling me where I “missed the boat.” We talk the misunderstanding over — and she feels herself come back to life. We both feel closer than we did before the misunderstanding — and her body and mind have also replaced an old script, as for a moment, she feels like her voice and her feelings matter, like she can share them instead of running away.

    -Another client is used to talking…and talking…and talking. He often gets lost in his own words, talking faster and faster.

    I ask him if it would be okay to notice the speed of his thoughts, to notice his breathing, and to take a moment to just sit with what’s happening within him. As he and I make eye contact and breathe together, he feels a release of some emotion, and is able to feel more connected than he did when he was “just talking.” He’s replaced, just for a moment, that old script of hiding himself behind a wall of words.

    -A woman shares an important piece of her history with me, and then starts to talk about something else. I ask her to let the words she just spoke sit with both of us, and I ask her to take in my response to the depth of what she’s just said. I may even ask her to repeat her words and let herself feel them.

    She realizes that she hasn’t felt safe to let herself share deeply with someone for some time, and that by letting herself register my response to her sharing, new possibilities emerge within her — for feeling the importance of her own words, for feeling that she can be heard. She’s let go, for a moment, of that old script of feeling like no one can understand her.

    When clients can try, even for a moment, to play with a new way of being, of hearing, of speaking, of moving, they can start to identify their old scripts — and to learn ways to go outside their same old lines.

    This builds the foundation for new types of relationsihps, new ways of sharing, new ways of being in the world.

    No one should be confined by a script or two that they learned a long time ago. We all have the potential to learn new lines, to discard scripts that no longer work for us, and to try out new ways of being. Sometimes, it just takes the right support in being mindful of your old scripts and trying out new ways of being.

    The old script will always be there if you need it. But you can develop more options. And that’s the point — to have a choice about how we respond. To get to see what maybe wasn’t there before: Safety. Caring, kind people who want to hear us. The ability to make room for ourselves and room for others.

    I love helping people to discover their old scripts and to find their authentic voice outside all those old feelings and those “old lines.” If you’d like to talk about working together and you’d like some help to identify how your old scripts could be getting in the way of your current relationships, click here. I’ll be delighted to support you in having a new experience.

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